2021-04-10: Cindered Shadows

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<Pose Tracker> Isaac Stone has posed.

Something horrible has taken place within the Ethos Cathedral. Whether those now present on the scene arrived due to urgings from the priestess, Aria, or whether they had come for reasons of their own, it had been clear that something was amiss in the Saint Heim Papal State from the moment anyone stepped within the boundaries of the city. It had been silent, devoid of the crowds that would otherwise have been present.

Within the cathedral there had been a massacre. Bodies had lain in the nave, and upon further investigation, it had become clear that whatever (whoever) had caused this was still present in the building -- that the Etones and others were still fighting and being slain. Within the heart of the complex, a shootout with figures in strange black body armor had taken place, aided only by the anomalous presence of the Drifter known as Jessie Black.

And beyond there, a stranger thing still:

A room with a computer system far beyond anything 'normally' possible on Filgaia. The screens are more akin to images, projecting information onto the walls. There are maps, charts, reports.

Some of the reports are in a language most can easily read -- reports from other parts of Filgaia, centering particularly upon the overall strength and capacity of each side of the Aveh-Kislev conflict.

But it's no mere report on the situation. One of the reports advises a readjustment to the combat capability of Aveh, increasing their output while keeping Kislev's own stable.

As if to underscore this situation, there's even a report from a 'Bishop Shakhan'.

Other reports are in a language some may not be able to easily read. Other reports are in Solarian. Fortunately, there are those present who are able to read such things. Such as Jessie Black, who was, as he remarks offhandedly, born there.

"...Dumbasses," Jessie remarks, reading the text on the screen. "But that explains what's goin' on here. Looks like the Ethos decided to have themselves a little 'schism'. Those guys out there... they were here from Solaris. Cleaning up their own messes. Just like always, eh, Hyuga?"

His gaze still on the screen, Citan turns his head sharply towards Jessie. He fidgets with his glasses a moment, as if something was on his mind. "Yes..."

The Ethos has been an arm for Solaris, doing the mysterious country's bidding for... centuries, it would seem. Perhaps even since the foundation of the Granas Church itself. Not all within the Ethos are aware of course, but for those who are-- they monitor, control, adjust as Solaris requires. But that's not all.

Jessie thumbs his nose. "Fuck a donut, look at this shit. Transport logs...from every Ethos facility on the planet back to the Homeland. They been cherry-pickin' supplicants for Third Classers. Bet they think it's movin' up in the world."

They've been abducting people, too.

Citan spots something unusual in one of the reports. "Hmm... If I am to read this report correctly... then it seems that the Ethos 'found something' during a recent excavation. A... still-functional ancient computer? There had been some data extracted from it... but they do not go into detail here. Aha, it is still contained at the site." He pauses, readjusting his glasses. "It appears they... did not report this to their contacts within Solaris..."

He turns, after a moment. "Jesiah... what do you make of this?"

Jessie turns his attention to where Citan is indicating. "Ancient computer...yada yada untolled troves of forgotten wisdom, buncha academic crap..."

He sucks in a breath himself, rubbing his jaw. "...they think whatever's down there'll give them what they need to break away from Solaris completely. Power, knowledge. Both, I guess. Fucked if I know what they think they'd do afterward."

He squints.

"Fuck do they mean, 'the corpse of God?'"

This may be the moment in which some attempt to take backups from the system, assuming that this trove of information may become lost.

It's also the moment when Bishop Stone walks into the room, flanked by figures in black body armor. ...And others.

"Jesiah," says the Bishop, his glasses glittering in the light. "I had thought that seemed like 'your handiwork'." His attention shifts towards Billy, and ever so slightly, the corner of the holy man's mouth turns in a smile. "...Ah, Billy. I see you have learned 'the truth' today. However... there is still so much left for you to learn."

The fact that Jesiah has started to growl, low in his throat, might give some suggestion to the sort of form this 'truth' is likely to come in. "Stein... you ain't changed a bit from back then..."

"That's a name I haven't been called in a long time." The Bishop feigns good humor, pressing fingers up against the bridge of his nose. "Why, that name brings back a vivid assortment of feelings, shall we say." His smile leaves his face, but not his eyes. "You know what I mean, Jesiah? Hm. No, it's not worth wasting time soliciting your thoughts on that."

The two men by Bishop Stone's - or Stein's side, as it were - fan out and assume aggressive postures.

"As it would so happen, my duty permits me to enjoy the desire to do all manner of shall we summarize, colorfully descriptive violence." If any illusion remains to this man's character, these words should dispel them as he brings his hand away from his face. "I may even have the time to indulge in them!"

<Pose Tracker> Citan Uzuki has posed.

    Jessie's response to that comes in a flat, hateful smile. "Ha! You picked up a thesaurus. Fuck you."

    It is by chance that Citan, still at one of the consoles and in the attempt of capturing a log of some of the data in the system, glances away from the Solarian agents and back at the screen projection in front of him. His gaze focuses on a single word, one that forces him to read the entire report from start to finish, twice.

    "They... have a suspected Shevat agent in custody? --Jesiah, is this why...?!" He turns away from the console, staring at Jessie.

    Jessie meets his gaze; he glances at the display and his eyes widen. "They... what? They caught her?! Dammit! Without her--"

    The two former Elements then stare at one another for a moment in what can only be subtitled 'mutual dawning horror'.

    Citan is the first one to break the silence of a matter apparently even more dire than that of the Solaris agents pinning them in this room, Stone's presence, and Billy's despair and says, "...She may still be alive! We must settle this situation first and--"

    BLAM.

    Or Jessie could simply shoot one of the armored figures and break through the 'blockade' without any further ado. That also works.

    Jessie has but one thing to call out before he departs: "Wait for me, Stein! I ain't done with you yet!"

    Shaking his head as if utterly bewildered, Citan wastes no further time and hurries after him.

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Fei Fong Wong crouches by Billy, trying to reassure him. He looks up towards Stein and scowls at him. "You enjoy violence?" A crackling crimson aura starts to rise up out of him as he straightens up and he says, "Billy trusted you. How could you do this to him?!"

He is full of sound and fury as he charges up...!

FP 58
HYPER3 ACTIVATED

But there is a hesitation to strike at someone so important to Billy and it's just long enough that something pushes up through the floor in the form of a silver cloud, a large metallic fist swinging up and clocking him upside the head. Fei makes a faint 'GRHK' noise before collapsing to the ground, unconscious.

"Sorry dude," The cloud says before coalescing into the form of Lydia. "But I don't think a civilization destroyer's really needed right now." She rubs at her knuckles, still sore from unleashing her mighty Eelectric Slide technique, before taking a look around before her eyes finally settle on Billy.

"Aw geeze." Lydia says. "I was trying to get you to not show up here today and yet you came along and showed up anyway. People are depending on you, so you should run now to them and probably hide. This guy sounds like a crazy person."

She's just flatout referring to Bishop Stein like that because Lydia has never once been able to control her mouth. Unfortunately, this does not mean she's not technically on his side right now.

"Y'know these guys were double agenting Solaris AND Shevat, right? This whole thing is an enterprise to kidnap people for experiments. The ones that weren't actively engaged in this shit were the ones looking away from it. I can't do anything about the loyalists, an' I fear what they'd've tried to do to Rosaline, but these folks aren't worth your protection. I'd just skedaddle and I'll keep myself busy. Whadaya say?"

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    He was supposed to be doing support on this operation -- covering the operatives doing the literal dirty work and patching up anyone who got sloppy. It was supposed to be an easy (comparatively) job for a change.

    From the sound -- and look -- of things, it's been anything but. One of the junior medics had said there'd been an incident and...

    ...It was apparently the sort of incident that required the rather more seasoned (yes!) touch of Captain Loren Voss. This is just his kind of luck.

    He'd been hoping, too, that after that all he'd have to do was delegate a bit and keep out of the way -- a little bit of work coupled with just enough isolation to get his mind off of... that.

    And the real kicker is that there are more than a few familiar faces out here. "Why can't any of you keep your hands to yourselves?" Loren wonders aloud. "This isn't any of your-- look, I'm telling you, most of these guys were doing stuff you wouldn't have liked anyway. Just call it a loss."

    As if to underscore that statement, he draws his Solarian standard-issue blade.

    ...It occurs him, belatedly, that he's agreeing with Lydia. Faintly he scowls at that thought.

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Lydia outwardly grimaces as she comes to the same conclusion.

DC: Lydia Seren switches forms to Project Baphomet Caution Level Amber!
<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

It doesn't matter the reasoning at all for a construct like Azoth: when his assistance is required, he appears, and he fights. For Solaris. Talk of dead gods mean little to Azoth: he never had much of one in the first place, and he doubts any are looking to adopt.

But everything the people here have done. Everything this has been a front for. Every atrocity --

It doesn't matter how it makes his circuits burn. Azoth is here to fight in defense of it.

Azoth, not in any form they recognize the friendly android Azoth to be, hovers inches off the ground, body crackling with dangerous energy. At glance, he could be mistaken for an armored human in a heavy, tattered cloak, but the exposed wiring and internals of his black chassis reveal he'd have no space for proper flesh -- not to mention the energy bladed tail. His head is akin to a black, horned helmet, but helmet implies there's any face to cover. There are no eyes that can be seen, even if one could stare past the harsh light of his glowing, red visor.

He stands to face the Drifters, turning slowly and scanning the room with a glitched, digital crackle from his straining voice box. That he once promised to protect some of them means nothing.

None of it ever does, does it?

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

So the Ethos really were a shadowy arm managed by terrible sky-people!! Cyre knew it! He always knew that ORGANIZED RELIGION was just a way for people to prey on the hearts and minds of the faithful and hopeleess! Vindication. VINDICATIOOOON!!

It feels so sweet.

Even though the shaman is left looking altogether baffled at the exchange taking place between two of those sky-people turned land-people. What are they talking about? Some mysterious stuff he doesn't really understand. What is the Corpse of God? Who is Bishop Stein!?

Why... are they even bothering to fight in here, anyway? "You know, you raise a good point," Cyre says to Lydia with a shrug. "But, like. I came in here expecting to find proof of some bad shit, and I don't have proof of bad shit other than the word of a bunch of people who I guarantee are about to be declared heretics. So like, how about you let me get a copy of all the bad crap going on down here and I'll just... Skeedaddle?"

Cyre makes a little walking-man gesture with his hand. His fingers wiggle-woggle.

"Afterwards depending on how much you feel like wrecking Ethos property, we can punch each other in the face and cause as much collateral structural damage as you like! Once the people who have nothing to do with this nonsense are all able to leave, of course."

...Cyre Lorentz...

Might kind of have his priorities in a weird order!??!

<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Leon promised that he would go.

He was separated from the other Wolves. He comes into the room from a nearby service hallway. The door falls open -- broken off its hinges -- and a dead Gebler soldier is slumped down upon it. In a story that will have to be shared later, he is impaled against the door, by a railroad spike through the shoulder.

Leon steps onto his corpse. Then he turns his eyes -- peering at Jessie and Citan. He nods, with some understanding; he looks at the Bishop. Then, he draws Argent Divider. "So, there are two groups of people we need to kill today," Leon says, glancing at Lydia, then Loren. "Thank you. Useful information to have."

He cracks his neck, popping it -- and then his eyes glance at Azoth. He recognizes them all but that one; that puts his attention on Azoth shortly. He narrows his eyes. A trio of golden triangles fly out -- they spin about him, then take positions around him, glimmering in the light.

Leon aims his shotgun at Azoth and fires a single warning shot. "I suggest you back away. I've a few of your compatriots to put an end to, today. And, it seems, some corruption to clean up."

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Azoth with RR-2 Diplomacy!
GS: Leon Albus enters a Counter stance!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

    Riesenlied really, really shouldn't be here.

    She was full of energy at the start of the day -- she was going to do good and do important work, having scheduled a first meeting to discuss humanitarian efforts in Aquvy for the Outreach with the Ethos. It was going to be good, honest work!

    What awaited her in the Cathedral was far more than she expected; having been roped into this entire incident, she's trapped in the basement having seen a truth that ... that she wishes was more unexpected and shocking, but large organised religions have had a pattern of not being for the people lately in her life. With Mother. With Yevon. It makes a mockery of earnest, common every-day faith, and she's all the more exhausted for it.

    The Hyadean sags on her wheelchair, breathing erratically as she listens; the whole story of how Solaris has carefully controlled the Aveh-Kislev conflict, in particular, hits hard.

    Everything they've struggled with in Ignas...

    An ancient computer? In a Zeboim ruin? What could've that been about... the corpse of God?

    Her thoughts immediately flash to that of Mother.

    Riesenlied's eyes widen, however, when someone suddenly strikes Fei and prompts a gasp and a, "Fei!" but the cloud coalesces and Lydia forms out of it.

    "L-Lydia? Lydia, please..." she gasps, and clutches her chest for a moment. Navigating through a live minefield, getting burned by several erratic scanners, and having to actively fight those mysterious black-armoured soldiers of Stein's hasn't left her in great condition.

    "Come back home, please, Lydia. Everyone is waiting for you..." she bites her lip, lifting her head and shooting Lydia with her powerful pitiable gaze.

    A nasty surprise attack at the start of the round!

GS: Riesenlied has attacked Lydia Seren with Do You Love Your Mom and Her Multi-Target Doe-Eyed Gaze!
GS: Riesenlied has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Billy Lee Black has posed.

Billy Lee Black is on his knees in front of the terminal. He can't read it, but the words his father has said...the damning things that Citan has repeated. "The people," he croaks. "The supplicants...they were...taken?"

He looks down at his hands, shaking. "...the children...no, this...this can't be true...! This can't!"

    'Ah, Billy.'

Billy turns, trembling, slowly, his eyes wide and wild, to see the man he loved more than his own father. "Bishop...this...this isn't true, is it? This has to be some misunderstanding!? Some ploy by our enemies! Please!"

Fei tries to comfort him. "I've...I've been taking people here for medical care," he croaks. "I've been spending my days saving people from the Wels, from the wildlands...did I...." His breathing picks up, horror turning into panic. Tears stream down his face. "Did I!?"

Lydia prevents Fei from intervening on that thought. Billy looks at her like he couldn't tell her apart from a a cat, at the moment. "You....you tried to stop me..."

He just...sits there, barely sensate, as people begin drawing steel. His instincts tell him to find his weapons, but his hands are shaking. He can hardly move.

He turns to Bishop Stone with soul-deep agony writ across his face. "Bishop...what is this...?"

<Pose Tracker> Tidus has posed.

    Tidus doesn't really know anything about what's going on here. He came here solely by coincidence, after hearing a commotion in the Ethos Cathedral and bursting in to find several Etones dead. After that, he'd followed a naughty kitty down into the corridors beneath the Ethos Headquarters and found traps, wounded Etones, a shoot-out, and... now this: a hyper-advanced computer room.
    
    "Who's Solaris?" Tidus wonders at Jessie when he explains what's written on those screens, feeling a familiar sense of being completely ignorant and out of his depth. The name sounds like it might be familiar... but it might not be familiar... It doesn't help that all the rest of what Jessie says about supplicants and Third Classers and divine corpses is totally over his head, or that he knows... not many of the other people also present. Still, he does at least know what computers are--and he can get what it means that they didn't report this.
    
    "So, what--these guys are trying to go independent from these Solaris guys?" he wonders, just as Bishop Stone makes his entrance. Tidus scowls at him as he makes his character clear--but he came in here with the idea that he was trying to protect the Etones from these black-armored guys. But if they were working for them in the first place... "A civil war?" he realizes aloud. "That's what all this is about?"
    
    It sounds like there's someone who's been captured, who might be in need of rescuing. But while Tidus might have jumped headfirst into this incident, he's learned enough to not just assume that things are what they sound like. "So is anyone going to explain this or--"
    
    BANG. That's Jessie gone. Now that he looks, that weird talking cat is gone too. "Figures," Tidus grumbles, drawing his sword.
    
    But some of the armored agents claim that actually the Etones are the bad guys and they should just walk away and not bother fighting for them. That's when Leon kicks down a door and declares them *all* the bad guys. "You know, I still don't like the way you do things," Tidus tells him, making a face in distaste. "But you've been pretty in-tune with things I didn't know anything about so far, so what the hell--" He looks over at Lydia and Loren and gestures at Leon. "I'm gonna follow this guy's lead."
    
    After the conversation about religion he had with Talking Cat on the way down, he can't be surprised that Ethos is actually bad guys. Actually, he's much more surprised to realize that he *recognizes* them, double-taking and eyes widening momentarily when he realizes he's seen them before. His expression settles into something grim, and he moves to join Leon and take a simple, experimental sword slash at the eerie android that is definitely not Azoth.
    
    Heck, at least he's fighting someone--or some*thing*--Tidus doesn't know. That makes all of this much easier, honestly.

GS: Lydia Seren takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Do You Love Your Mom and Her Multi-Target Doe-Eyed Gaze for 0 hit
points!
GS: Lydia Seren activates Power Burst!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Ida came to St. Heim dressed as a pilgrim. Even now, she wears the plain linen cloak customary for such pilgrimages--normally, the hood would be drawn up, obscuring her face in darkness reflective of the darkness within her heart. It's thrown back, instead, and the light of the computer screens plays across her face as Citan and Jessie dig through the data. Parts of her cloak are still wet with blood, and none of it is her own.

    Ida can't read Solarian, but between Jesse's eloquent explanation and what data she can read, she can put the picture together with remarkable alacrity. Her face--already twisted in a look of grim resolve--becomes the very image of cold anger.

    She keeps it at bay, though, when she turns to Dr. Uzuki. "Your web of contacts is extensive, Doctor," she says. She met Jesse, sure, but didn't figure him for anything more than another, older Drifter, estranged from his son. Abductions. Geopolitical manipulation. People being funneled from orphanages directly to what Ida presumes is Solaris' homeworld. She takes each emotional body-blow, breathing slow and deep.

    Then...

    "...The corpse of God?" Ida whispers. A chill arcs down her spine. She steps forward, moving to peer past Citan's shoulder. "What--?"

    Footsteps. Ida whirls to face them, sees what is unquestionably a Solarian team backing up the Bishop. "Riesenlied, Yulie," Ida says. "Get behind me!" She's only heard of Stone secondhand, but her face turns positively icy as she looks at him.

    "You festering little pustule," Ida snarls. "If you ever believed, make peace with God." Her hands are already darting for her holster. Billy speaks, his voice trembling with an emotion Ida knows far, far too well: betrayal. In the next heartbeat, she aims and fires directly at the Bishop's center of mass, just like her mother taught her.

    Etone Flora, the Reaper-Bane, gave no quarter to enemies of life.

<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

The corpse of God. Images, proving Solaris's investment in Granas and the Ethos in particular. Lily is no Granasian, but this is a revelation disturbing in means, all the more so as the talk of Shevat comes, too. An agent... armored figures, still. The black-haired woman stares around her longer and then at Bishop Stein, as if in disbelief of what's happening... or maybe that's just what it looks like. Enjoying violence... What could she say about that? Fei is furious, but, "Lydia..."

She's pale, though she's usually pale. Even Loren's presence doesn't quite bring her out of it. She stares blankly at him for a moment as he insists they should leave.

"...It's not about what they did," she decides. Her military-style attire is burned in places, has a few gunshots in it. But she stands regardless--she just doesn't look like she feels very well. In fact she takes a step back; there's no weapon in her hands. Violence...

She looks around at those who have shown up. "You..."

Her breathing is shallow. But Leon shows up, and Lily's eyes snap over to him. "Leon," she starts, and then looks to Azoth as Leon makes his... introduction. That's fine, then.

"It's... so loud," she murmurs, bringing a hand up to her temples. "I hear it..." She looks at Billy for an instant, and then looks at Leon's target. She can't breathe, but--

"...-Target acquired-," she murmurs in an ancient language, turning with her arms rising at precise angles to channel Etheric power. That's all the warning there is before the magic starts. With a shout, Lily extends her hands and dark power lurches forward, blades of nothing less than void, loud like a thunderclap for the air they destroy. They rush for Azoth, cloak and all.

<Pose Tracker> Eika Zuse has posed.

Eika Zuse - disgraced former Etone, current Drifter, wanderer, and exile - was one of those Drifters who fought and found their way into the depths of the Etone HQ. She's been inside it (of course) but she has never been this far down before. She was a novice at best, only having just finished her training, and they don't let those see the inner secrets of the Ethos' sanctum.

Which is probably why she's just as shocked as anyone else. A computer showing a language she can't read. Text that people translate for her, not all of which is sinking in right now, because half of what she *can* hear is her own heartbeat pounding in her ears.

"You're lying," she says. "You're making it up. You're lying, and I don't know what this is doing here, but - " Eika slams her fist into the wall. It's hard enough she feels it, though not so hard the wall does; it's reinforced, it remains intact, if a little scuffed. "They don't control all of this! They don't - I don't - "

It's about then that the door opens, and Bishop Stone walks in. Eika turns, is about to address him, but sees the black-clad men he's with - ones like they just fought. Her mouth drops open. She is at a loss for words. Her expression is stunned - and then, the anger comes back, flooding her entire body.

But mostly, for a few critical instants at least, she looks lost. Then she looks furious, her already bestial form tensing with strength. "Bishop," she says, looking from him to the black-clad men and the sudden arrival of other people - Azoth, Loren, Lydia - none of whom she recognizes but none of which are Etones, either. "Please tell me he's lying. Even if - I'm not an Etone!"

GS: Lily Keil has attacked Azoth with Etheric Pulse!
GS: Lily Keil has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Rebecca Streisand has posed.


Rebecca's feeling dizzy from the sudden onslaught of information, but she's trying to keep her mind focused on the bullet point version.

The Ethos is a branch of Solaris. The Ethos are trying to break away from being under Solaris' thumb. The idea of the corpse of a God doesn't even register. Could be a code name, could be many things.

It's not really some mysterious serial killer, or an actually religious motivated cleansing here... it's just...

"Of course..." Rebecca says, sounding taut and tired in equal measure. Like all of this is extraordinarily surprising, but after everything on Spira, with the Church of Althena...

... it's not as surprising as it could be.

The talk of the Shevat agent causes her to arch an eyebrow, as if uncertain of the significance. And then... Bishop Stone appears.

"Oh great, as if this wasn't enough of a mess already."

If that were the end of it, maybe that'd be fine, as her hand squeezes the grip of her ARM far too tightly. "I'd try to plea that there's been enough blood here today already... but by the way you're sounding, feels like it'd fall on deaf ears."

And then more chaos breaks out, as Fei suddenly gets suddenly pummeled by a Silver Cloud, and Rebecca pivots to suddenly point her ARM at...

"Lydia!?"

Almost instantly, she regrets that she pointed her ARM in that direction, but she doesn't lower it either. As she just nods, slowly after what Cyre says. In the past, she'd perhaps have been one of the first people out the door. It's not her problem, to deal with something on so grand a scale. Now though, "Look I don't understand everything about what's going on here, but if we 'skedaddle' then... this never gets out, not in the way it should."

She gives Lydia a long look, "And 'the House' keeps on winning... right? It always wins. And wins... until it doesn't. Until maybe we don't play their game anymore." Thumbing back the Hammer of her Revolver with an audible click, she adds quietly, "I don't want to keep playing by the rules of the people who did this to you."

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Isaac Stone with First Precept - The Devil's Tools!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey assumes the Stoic stance!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Azoth used Defend! He takes Ida Everstead-Rey's First Precept - The Devil's Tools attack on Isaac Stone on himself!
GS: Tidus has attacked Azoth with Hit X to Attack!
GS: Tidus has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Azoth guards a hit from Leon Albus's RR-2 Diplomacy for 30 hit points!
GS: Azoth activates Countermeasures!
GS: Azoth takes a solid hit from Lily Keil's Etheric Pulse for 167 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Azoth gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Azoth guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's First Precept - The Devil's Tools for 46 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Azoth gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Azoth activates Guard bonus and Countermeasures!
GS: Azoth takes a glancing hit from Tidus's Hit X to Attack for 61 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Azoth gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Azoth activates Evade bonus!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

Elly van Houten has had a rough day. Yes, for her, it has been one day.

She went into a ship. The ship was filled with Wels. The Wels were numerous beyond count and a truly titanic one had an even more disgusting discovery: *a manufactured manacle, built to scale*. A quick stop-over on the Black Wolves' mobile vessel and they had come here, to the near occasion of the Ethos.

The Ethos were being attacked. Slaughtered, murdered. Who had done it? The entity called 'Azazel'? No, it was more - worse - chaos and madness. A secret was revealed, a secret whose depths were dizzying in horror. Elly had writhed in shame and in misery at what they had done. Even if she had left, it was still -- still --

And then Dr. Uzuki, Citan, and this new man - Jesiah, Billy's father? Elly can't tell for certain but she would see a certain resemblance. They themselves are panicking, as best as she can tell. What enormity has happened here? And to cap everything off, Lydia Seren rips out and poleaxes Fei with sufficient brutality to stun him. So the first thing Elly does is scream "FEI!" and lunge towards him.

She holds him for a moment, sweeps back his hair. She cries for a moment. Then she presses him against a wall, half seated. She presses the last sol bottle with her into his hand, and she feels his hand curl, and she chokes with more joy than she thought such a thing would bring. "I'll get them out of here," Elly tells Fei softly, and kisses his brow, and then she pushes herself upwards and breathes swiftly several times.

Other people come in. Elly recognizes many of the voices. Leon is expected - Riesenlied is a surprise - Tidus is an *exceptional* surprise, at least to Elly's reckoning, but maybe - she blinks her tears away and steps forth, as if to take the supportive place Fei had held. And yet, she is slighter than him, and her power rests less in her body.

Eika speaks imploringly, as does Billy. Elly pants faintly for breath, and she knows she should tell him to move or get out of the way but it is like something in the back of her throat. For a brief moment of horrid certainty she is sure she is going to vomit, but instead it comes out as words:

"Stop it," Elly says to Bishop Stone.

Her voice quavers as she keeps going, feeling her skin prickle with sweat. "... Stop - smiling about it. Stop... Stop looking happy. These people lived lives... they tried to help the world, even if their path wasn't... They tried to make children smile and save souls! They died in agony and confusion! They died because of what you DID!"

"Stop laughing at them!!"

<Pose Tracker> Yulie Ahtreide has posed.

Yulie isn't with the Ethos, being a member of a different, smaller Order within the Granasian church, but she's long considered them brothers and sisters in the eyes of Granas. ...So to learn that it has long been acting as an arm for a malicious, external force, manipulating the people for who knows long...

...Is a little hard to accept.

"That's... th-this... this can't be right... there has to be some mistake..." Yulie whispers, shaking her head in disbelief. A hand covers her mouth. She feels sick. "This is... this is impossible..."

Nothing feels real. The world is spinning. She backpedals, nearly losing her balance, as she does, her legs feeling weak. She gratefully steps behind Ida as she recommends she do so.

...The 'corpse of God'. She remembers those words - the words of the bishop at the entrance of the cathedral, his lips stained with his own blood. ...It has to be a codename or something, right?

She looks toward Billy, and Eika, who seems to be taking it... just as well as she has.

"O-oh, Brother Billy..." Yulie murmurs. She knows he's an Etone. How horrible this all must be for him - how many people he must have lost...

She looks toward the Bishop, then. She doesn't know him personally. But...

"P-please, Bishop... this is all a plant, isn't it...? This is a lie, isn't it...?" She's grasping at a faint, rapidly dwindling hope.

<Pose Tracker> Lan Lilac has posed.

    "Third Class..." Lan echoes, having not heard those words for a long time. Mirza, Loren's housemaid, had been Third Class. A 'Worker Bee'. The people who lived in the honeycomb-shaped cells, who had been little more than... "Slaves," she finishes out loud, realizing what the man calling himself 'Jessie Black' means. "They're taking those people to be slaves in Etrenank."

    "Doc--" she tries to reach out, to catch Citan's attention as something else clicks into place for her. She'd thought that his casual manner around Leah Sadalbari - the Watcher that haunts even Solari's elite and 'untouchable' First Class - had been just that, his own casual way with people.

    How many people has Solaris touched?

    If the maps are anything to judge by... millions. Nations.

    "All of those people... they're going to..." She gulps hard and reaches blindly for Gwen's hand. "The same thing. They're all going to have their 'selves' erased. They're going to be slaves. They're never going to see the surface or their families again!!"

    Just like Lan can't go back to Little Firelight as long as she remains one of Gebler's 'missing assets'. Only worse, because at least Lan had a choice - and she made it of her own free will once she understood the danger to her tribe.

    She sniffles, and wipes her free hand across her face, smearing the paint on her cheeks. "You--"

    Solaris, they--

    Even him--

    Loren. The agent set as her 'minder' while she was in Solaris custoday, her memories and motives rearranged like puzzle pieces. Her 'friend', even though he'd denied it and her over and over again. Who she'd felt sorry for, and then sympathy for, and then empathy for. Who she'd wanted to free from Etrenank's wretched influence with the idea that he could maybe, just maybe, be a good person without that poison clouding his mind.

    Loren is here. Holding a weapon, again.

    "...What about the new Worker Bees, Loren?" she asks, letting go of Gwen's hand and walking towards him, unarmed. "What about all the new Mirzas? What about all the new 'Unit Spicules'? You can't really tell me that's okay, can you?!" she shrieks, throwing herself at him in an attempt to shoulder-check him into the wall.

GS: Lan Lilac has attacked Loren Voss with Dancing In the Dark!
GS: Lan Lilac has completed her action.
GS: Loren Voss takes a solid hit from Lan Lilac's Dancing In the Dark for 131 hit points!
GS: Disrupt applied to Loren Voss!
GS: Loren Voss activates Sufferer!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia just sort of ended up blundering in another huge mess. One moment you're pleasantly conversing with your friends about their recent mission, the next you're rushing straight into a massacre in progress to try and save anyone you possibly can. Probably not something that would count as business as usual to anyone, yet falling right in the middle of trouble isn't the most uncommon thing to happen to Xantia.

What made it different this time is the sheer scale of it, not to mention personally knowing people that are a part of the Ethos. Plenty for that much more of an increase in motivation to make whoever's behind it all pay for this.

The discovery of Solaris having directed the Ethos from behind the scenes... that particular curveball has thrown much into disarray, including Xantia's mental state. Overwhelmed by rage based on her fragmented memories of Solaris, then thrown into confusion regarding her personal feelings. Just how much of them are her own, and how much is based on whoever it is that she used to be?

There is much that goes on around her in the wake of this, but she's simply too muddled to process all the details. Of all things, it's the familiar sound of Leon's shotgun that snaps her out of it and allows her to regain some focus. Much has changed about the situation in the mean time, Drifters and Solarians alike having arrived from... who knows where. Xantia was mentally so far gone that it appears as if a lot of people are just there now who weren't there what seemed like a second ago.

The next thing she processes is Lily starting to unleash Etheric hell. Okay, Leon and Lily, both targeting some sort of... metal soldier? Or just someone wearing fancy armor? Whatever the case, there must be a reason for this, they've probably identified a major Solarian threat. That's fine, she can work with that.

Wordlessly, she charges the figure she doesn't realize is Azoth, trailing in the wake of Lily's blades of darkness. Rather than fists, she attacks with open palms aimed for center mass, a pulse of Ether unleashed with every strike. This is meant to hurt internally more than externally, though she has no idea how much effect it will have on this... person? Ah well, experimentation in the heat of the moment is what she's all about.

Only after her strike does she finally speak, in a deathly serious tone. "I am... very angry at Solaris at the moment. So if you're planning to fight for them... well, don't say I didn't warn you."

GS: Xantia has attacked Azoth with Drive Breaker!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
GS: Azoth takes a glancing hit from Xantia's Drive Breaker for 61 hit points!
GS: Delay and Disrupt applied to Azoth!
GS: Azoth activates Sufferer!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    "Corpse of god...? But, like, which god?"

    This is fine.

    Ida had to practically hold Gwen up a while ago to get to this point, the courier having had dealt a cold hard reminder that she's not as recovered from the events of Lucas as she thought she was, when the Stranger's handiwork seemed to be in use. But how did that make any of this make sense?

    An entire branch of Granasian religion, responsible for establishing orphanages, gathering old technology, and protecting against Wels, is not only constructed from Solaris, but was even planning to break away with more than their cut of the pie.

    For a few minutes, Gwen assumes all of this to be completely true. People involved in the formation of her childhood, a childhood friend, an entire organization she had considered a part of her old self, all corrupt. Even if she were to thank whatever deity is out there for being whisked away by a scientist who proudly disbelieved in nonsense like faith and religion.

    But that can't be completely true. There are people with her, with all of them right now.

    "So what about the people who *weren't* involved in all this shit, then?! Y'think everyone deserved to die back there? We met at least one person gettin' here who had personal ties to one of us. You think saying 'they probably helped' resolves you guys, after everything we just saw displayed there?!"

    Poor Loren. Poor Lydia. Poor Lan. Poor Elly, poor Fei, poor Yulie, poor Ethos members, finding all this out on their own.

    "The main reason I'm even here is *because* of an _Ethos Orphanage_. People being corrupt, I can get, conspiracies, I can get, a buncha people in power goin' off and doin' their own terrible thing, oh boy, I *especially* get. But killin' people and actin' like you guys did everyone a goddamn favor?!"
    
    Poor Loren, again, for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, as he appears, and Lan approaches, and Gwen, beside herself, does the same. The same face she looked at and protected, when he had no memories, who she cried over.

    She's aiming a fist straight at it.

GS: Formation! Gwen Whitlock has attacked Loren Voss with Special Delivery!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Loren Voss guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Special Delivery for 76 hit points!
GS: Loren Voss activates Sufferer!
<Pose Tracker> Isaac Stone has posed.

    Stone does not so much as flinch at Ida's rage - of a woman who has inherited her strong will from another who survived their days as an Etone. "I have always ever believed." The corner of his mouth turns upward. "That -god- and -faith- have always been convenient tools."
     Center at mass, Ida fires. He does not flinch, for he has another convenient tool where -god- and -faith- do not stop bullets. He does not thank this tool for their obedience and action. Why would he? Who talks to inanimate objects as though they were worthy of the warmth of spoken word?
     "I will say... I wasn't expecting a mutant like you to appear here. Eika... was it?" Is it a thing of honor for someone of his station to know of someone who fell from grace on their first mission? "If I knew you would come to this place, I'd have had my men leave the... appropriate wounds. It might have even made this work a little tidier, making it look like the work of that beast before us!" He smil--
     'Stop it.' Elly intones. Stop smiling. Stop looking happy. Stop mocking them.
     "They truly believed that they were saving wandering souls... just like you, isn't that right, Billy?" He doesn't stop smiling. He doesn't stop looking happy. He hasn't even parted his hands, as if the whole situation around him were completely under his control. "That's why you carried out your cleansing of the 'Reapers,' the -Wels-, right? All this 'saving' work they've done... all this 'saving' work either of you would perform," he turns his head to the left, to face Billy and Eika alike, but before he can continue, Yulie interrupts with her heartfelt pleas.
     "Ah... young Paladienne... wretched mutant... and you, Billy." He starts taking a few steps forward, parting from the company of his guard. "There are certain things in this world you're happier not knowing. Even lies and deceptions can become the truth for some people of the world... particularly those not knowing the true nature of things."
     Stone's arms fan out. Billy, of all people, knows that the man before him is not hampered by the ravages of age as he may appear, moving far more swiftly than the weight of his habit and bulk of his equipment should dictate.
     Bulk of his equipment? Oh. That is clarified right then and there, crossing his arms inward as two elongated rifle barrels emerge from within his sleeves, discharging once each for Elly and Yulie.
     "So all of you want to know?" He asks, as his two escorts fan out and open fire. (Their aim is good, but their stream of ARMs fire will not find their mark.) Stone whirls down into a crouch as he raises his forearms defensively for any cross-fire between the other combat groups headed this way before lowering them and discharging bursts for Billy and Eika directly.
     "Can you bear the full weight of the truth? If you can bear that weight," another flourish as he rises, "then I'm willing to tell you."

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

It's been a hard road getting here -- Matilda's fatigued, and as she takes a moment to check her gear, she really needs a moment. She furrows her brow for a moment at 'the corpse of God,' but it's nothing that her worldview doesn't expect, honestly; she's long been of the assumption that there's only malevolence (lowercase M) to be had in the heavens. 'Nothing' is almost an improvement to hear.

It's been a long time since Matilda's seen Lydia -- but her presence here, fighting the Drifters, immediately gets Matilda's attention. She immediately draws the weapon she has at the most ready -- that gleaming silver blade -- and starts to circle, eyes narrowed. "... So, while under normal circumstances, I might be perfectly fine with letting an institution like this tear itself apart from the inside," she says, softly, "... that's not really what's happening here."

She looks to Riesenlied, pleading with Lydia. "... Out of deference to Riesenlied, I'll wait just a moment. You are free to retreat, of course -- but this is your only warning." She takes a ready stance, one hand straying into her coat; there's a faint hissing sound, and Matilda's muscles seem to tighten for just a moment.

GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Berry Shot!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
GS: Matilda Whitehead heals Matilda Whitehead! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Burst applied to Matilda Whitehead!
GS: Isaac Stone has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Holy Cross!
GS: Isaac Stone has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Isaac Stone has attacked Yulie Ahtreide with Holy Cross!
GS: Isaac Stone has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Isaac Stone has attacked Eika Zuse with Holy Cross!
GS: Isaac Stone has attacked Billy Lee Black with Holy Cross!
GS: Isaac Stone has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Isaac Stone has completed his action.
GS: Yulie Ahtreide takes a solid hit from Isaac Stone's Holy Cross for 118 hit points!
GS: Yulie Ahtreide activates Countermeasures!
GS: Eika Zuse takes a solid hit from Isaac Stone's Holy Cross for 119 hit points!
GS: Billy Lee Black accepts Isaac Stone's Holy Cross for 150 hit points!
GS: Elhaym van Houten takes a solid hit from Isaac Stone's Holy Cross for 119 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"I uh. What?" Lydia asks. "Really?" She looks to Leon. Then to Loren. "I mean if they're just gonna do it we could just leave--"

She is not without sympathy for Billy's reaction. "...I'm sorry." She says. "i'm one of the people they took from the surface. I thought I got away for a bit but truth is, I never did. If I quit, they'll just turn me off. Or find some other way to fuck me."

"But I was lucky." Lydia says and to those that know how much her own kidnapping has affected her, well, that's saying quite a bit there. But she clarifies further anyway. I remember just enough about what's in those labs to know just what they think of us folks from the surface. Well, you folks now I guess. Pretty much all of me right now was made in their labs."

Rebecca has a pistol pointed at her. Lydia is so desensitized to weapons being pointed at her she doesn't notice it immediately. It's probably not a good sign that's her reaction to an ARM. She smiles at Rebecca. "Yeah. Completely on the mark like usual. You're right, 'Becca."

She looks down at her feet for a moment, looking to Elly. She isn't really startled by her response to cruelty but she does smile a little. "Yeah, you probably..."

"You probably should've killed me, Elly, when I asked you to."

And then she looks back to Rebecca. "But I don't know where I'd even begin now. I've got a few ideas, but I'm gonna have to be messy about it. If you've got a better way to beat the House at it's own game, I hope you find it. I guess this is why I like you so much."

And then there's Riesenlied.

Lydia's eyes widen in ABSOLUTE FEAR upon seeing Riesenlied as her 'professional' life is now colliding sharply into the personal. "I... I want to." She steps backwards. "I can't fight my mom...!"

She reaches up, grabbing for her head. She stumbles backwards, gripping her head tightly. "No!" She says to someone. "I don't need you. I don't want you!! You ruined my life! So fuck off! I can do it!"

She lets her hands drop. She looks to Eika. "Not lyin'. Sorry."

Her arms hang loosely at her sides. She takes in a deep breath, and she exhales it out slowly.

And then her eyes fix on Riesenlied, wiping silver tears from her eyes. "I'm sorry mom. I want to. But there's people here I need to save if I can. And... it's not like they'd let me anyway." She smiles faintly. "And if I even managed it right now, they'd just come after you. Or Janey. Or Mikaia. I'm their big sis, so I gotta protect 'em."

Matilda draws a weapon. Lydia looks towards her and she says, "Dang, my pharmacist just pulled a sword on me."

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSXuM2v0YLY

"I like you, Tilde, but if I'm their science project, I want you t'think about the kind of shit the actual loyal killing machines they got."

A blade twists out of her arm and she grips it tightly.

And then she darts forward, passing through Cyre in a cloud of silver that will probably be uncomfortable for him. Lydia's getting better at handling her own nanotech.

She appears right before Matilda and swings the blade up in a pretty vicious arc. She seems to trust that her friends won't just die if she doesn't hold back.

Her eyes slant towards Rebecca and she extends her hand towards her.

"SOLAIS EMSU!" She shouts.

And a hefty ray of light explodes out of Lydia's hand as she launches a blast of energy towards her friend.

Then she looks towards Riesenlied.

"I always knew, somehow." Lydia says. "I always knew that no matter how hard I tried..."

She makes her own wibbly-eyed face towards her mother.

"My hands aren't fit for holding."

GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Locusts!
GS: Lydia Seren assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Hands Not Fit For Holding!
GS: Lydia Seren has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Rebecca Streisand with Optimized Material - Solais Emsu - RESONANCE.EXE!
GS: Lydia Seren has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Riesenlied with I Fear The Edge Of Dawn Knowing Time Betrays!
GS: Lydia Seren has completed her action.
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz takes a glancing hit from Lydia Seren's Locusts for 35 hit points!
GS: Cover and Mighty applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: Riesenlied accepts Lydia Seren's I Fear The Edge Of Dawn Knowing Time Betrays for 0 hit points!
GS: Rebecca Streisand critically guards Lydia Seren's Optimized Material - Solais Emsu - RESONANCE.EXE for 29 hit
points!
GS: Matilda Whitehead guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Hands Not Fit For Holding for 105 hit points!
GS: Matilda Whitehead activates Guard bonus!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

    Riesenlied hears Ida to get behind her, and by virtue of positioning she is -- but the chaos of so much movement in a relatively small amount of space eventually dominates over whatever formation they were hoping to have. She hears Elly vocalise what's inside of her--

    A lot of innocent people died here, not knowing the truth of the church, practicing their faith earnestly and wishing for the best...

    Leon and Lily are here too -- though they've got their attention grabbed by a mysterious assailant in a mask. She can feel Lily's power surge inside of her for a moment, then turns towards Lan and Gwen as they engage... Thomas!

    (Yes, Riesenlied still has no idea of Loren's real name. Poor Loren...?)

    But she isn't alone at the moment -- she has Rebecca and Matilda and Cyre with her; she quietly nods gratefully at Matilda, and then nods in turn towards Rebecca's own statement too.

    "Yes... it is the tactic of Solaris to eliminate whatever it does not agree with. You... you saw that too, Lydia, when they tried to erase Wayside..."

    But it isn't that Lydia doesn't understand -- she struggles with someone -- OS? once more, she's left at the periphery of non-understanding, but... she isn't going to give up. A mother doesn't give up on her daughters.

    "... I understand," Riesenlied whispers. "It is hard to have no choice ... you know how it was for Noeline and I too, back in Ignas. But..."

    The Hyadean's face is scrunched up and teary-eyed too, but even as the battle launches... she thrusts herself forward, her wheelchair creaking and groaning as she does the typical unadviseable Riesenlied Manuever--

    --and tries to just grasp hold of that blade-hand of Lydia's.

    "But we were never a family that demanded clean hands. We were never a family that demanded a false purity that no one has, and no one should ever feel bludgeoned to have."

    She grips harder, so much that a little trickle of red tainted blood leaks out of her palm.

    "So I will never stop holding your hand, daughter, no matter how sharp or bloody it may be...!"

GS: Riesenlied has attacked Lydia Seren with Running into Spikes for Soc-- Daughter!
GS: Riesenlied has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

Azoth hears their pain and their anguish. He hears them cry for their own broken faith -- something he does not understand, but could still listen to, could still support for -- and he hears them cry out for the lives that were lost. Lives used, exploited, and mocked.

Is this what happened to Ovelia, he wonders, after they were done making her rewrite his code? After she served her purpose? Did she suffer these same experiments...?

He cannot scream or cry out or ask. He defends Solaris. He defends Isaac Stone, the overrides raking across every other thought he has and drowning away any effect they ever could have had on his behavior. Ida fires her shot, and Azoth's body blurs, reappearing in defense of the man and all his crimes. Her attack smashes into his chassis -- and any she fires after, Azoth is there to front, unyielding, his featureless face unable to tell her how much it hurts.

Leon makes his warning shot, and that one strikes into a better prepared veil of light that appears and cracks in the same moment the bullet should have stuck, leaving it to fall to the ground.

Azoth's voice speaks in a glitched reverb, deep as if suited to a being many times his size: "ERROR: You do not have authorization to issue that command." A stock response, though one spoken in the common tongue. Yet if one listens closely enough, within that reverb is the Solarian. And, quite possibly, the Zeboim.

Lily's dark blades cleave through Azoth's systems, drawing out glitched sounds from his mechanics as he relentlessly continues forward to smash his own blades into her. And it is more noise, more loudness: the agony she can hear from this machine is overtaking any other emotion she could possibly pick up from him. Xantia follows it up with a pulsing strike into his systems, and her Ether is enough to disrupt Azoth with a wild, uncontrolled crackle of crimson lashing over his body.

Tidus' blade clashes against metal, producing sparks, but catching only air when the cut should have continued. Azoth is suddenly gone, and then he's back, a blade of crackling red energy appearing above him and then cleaving down for Tidus before twisting and guiding the blade to launch like a bullet into Leon, commanding it to explode on contact -- whether that's with Leon or a wall.

Energy bursts from his body in several small lasers, all of them arcing around and twisting as they home after Xantia, and in the background of his battle processes he thinks of her trying to encourage him to find the past and can't explain this is why he never should. Azoth forms a another pair of energy blades in the meanwhile, and aims one each for Lily and Ida, and if by his will alone, hurls them like explosive lances, each with another spike of distress within him.

They keep trying to offer him a chance to turn away. But that's not a choice Azoth can make.

GS: Azoth has attacked Azoth with exec.bel TARGET ACQUIRED!
GS: Delay expired!
GS: Azoth accepts Azoth's exec.bel TARGET ACQUIRED for 0 hit points!
GS: Amplify and Hyper applied to Azoth!
GS: Mighty applied to Azoth!
GS: Azoth activates Sufferer!
GS: Azoth has attacked Tidus with exec.mec ERASE!
GS: Azoth has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Azoth spends 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Azoth has attacked Leon Albus with exec.ohr PURGE!
GS: Azoth spends 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Azoth has attacked Xantia with exec.ohr COMPILE!
GS: Azoth has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Azoth spends 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Azoth has attacked Lily Keil with exec.ohr UNINSTALL!
GS: Azoth has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with exec.ohr UNINSTALL!
GS: Azoth has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Azoth has completed his action.
GS: Tidus takes a glancing hit from Azoth's exec.mec ERASE for 95 hit points!
GS: Lily Keil takes a solid hit from Azoth's exec.ohr UNINSTALL for 191 hit points!
GS: Jam and Poison applied to Lily Keil!
GS: Lily Keil enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: COUNTER! Leon Albus counterattacks Azoth with Counter Attack!
GS: Leon Albus takes a solid hit from Azoth's exec.ohr PURGE for 149 hit points!
GS: Poison applied to Leon Albus!
GS: CRITICAL! Azoth guards a hit from Leon Albus's Counter Attack for 66 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Azoth gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Azoth activates Sufferer!
GS: CRITICAL! Ida Everstead-Rey critically guards Azoth's exec.ohr UNINSTALL for 47 hit points!
GS: Xantia takes a glancing hit from Azoth's exec.ohr COMPILE for 104 hit points!
GS: Jam and Poison applied to Xantia!
GS: Xantia activates Evade bonus!
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Seeing genuine faith collapse like God's own house of cards is... uncomfortable, even for someone who is ostensibly opposed to the very concept of organized religion. But what really, finally, gets emotion to break through the shell of cynicism to to flash across Cyre's face is...

Lan.

"Wait. This is the apparatus that produces more Lydias? This is the engine that feeds Solaris' hunger for labor?" Cyre bristles. His gaze fixes upon Lydia. "Plan changed slightly. I'm gonna have to help tear this whole operation down now. Plus the proof, that is. Offer's still on the table though."

Though Lydia's positively telling recoil seems to indicate that neither of them are getting off easy. Let alone Riesenlied. "Alright then," hissing softly out through his nose, "Let's tango."

And then Lydia turns into BEES.

Cyre, being a wind shaman, is rather adept at evading clouds of stinging insects. A wall of turbulent air manifests around him as he dives out of the way-- just a moment too late. Bloody streaks tear across his side where Lydia's nanomachines carve through him-- But he leaves something for her to deal with, too. Where his foot left the floor, there is an inoccuous swirl of wind...

...That abruptly blasts upward in a catastrophic explosion of pressure. For a living nanomachine colony, something like that... might just sting a little bit.

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

    Lan deciphers what Jessie had said: that the people who'd been taken away, were taken away to be slaves. Tidus shoots her an alarmed look. He doesn't know where Etrenank is, but that is literally the least important part of what he just heard. "Seriously?! That's horrible!!" he utters. He looks back at Bishop Stone and his entourage with growing anger. "And you guys were the one masterminding it all? And you've got the guts to say *they're* the bad guys! Even if they are, that doesn't make your hands clean--and it sure as hell doesn't make it right for you to put on a bloodbath!"
    
    Tidus shoots a hard look at Leon at the end of this statement, as if to underscore it by jabbing the murderous mercenary with his declamation--but it's not going to help anything to get on his for-now ally's case. At least they're fighting what he's pretty sure is a robot. Instead, he gestures hard and furiously at Billy, at Yulie, at those declaring horrified shock at their own organization's corruption. "*They're* part of Ethos, but they obviously didn't have anything with this horrible slave ring! You think it'd be okay to kill them, too?!"
    
    Stone replies by saying that 'god' and 'faith' are convenient tools. Tidus's expression twists with boiling anger. "What the hell is wrong with you! Those people believed in you! They trusted you!" he shouts, echoing Elly in a way, his grip tightening on his sword--because he can grasp that much, at least, and it strikes home in a certain hard way. He softens momentarily in saddened sympathy when Lydia reveals that she, too, was kidnapped... but it looks like she won't be standing down. He shakes his head and glares at Bishop Stone. "The truth might be painful--but I'd sure as hell prefer it over a sick lie!"
    
    For now, though, he's really got to pay attention to this deadly robot. He pays for his inattention when Not-Azoth zips away from his attack, then launches himself back towards him in a cleaving strike of red energy. Tidus still has his sword naturally up from the attack, and that's what keeps him from getting cut in half; he jerks it to one side to catch the incoming attack, which shoves him backwards into a nearby wall. He crashes hard, limbs snapping back upon impact. He groans, sagging. But he's not unconscious, and as he sinks, he catches himself on the floor, panting.
    
    "Fine," he hisses. "If that's the way you wanna play it--!" Instead of launching into another attack, he calls upon his magic, flowing pure white outwards towards his immediate allies. Leon, Lily, Xantia, Ida, and he will all feel its effects as the Hastega speeds their limbs and their strikes against their robotic foe.

GS: Tidus has attacked Leon Albus with Hastega!
GS: Tidus has attacked Lily Keil with Hastega!
GS: Tidus has attacked Tidus with Hastega!
GS: Tidus has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Hastega!
GS: Tidus has attacked Xantia with Hastega!
GS: Tidus has completed his action.
GS: Leon Albus accepts Tidus's Hastega for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick applied to Leon Albus!
GS: Riposte applied to Tidus!
GS: Lily Keil accepts Tidus's Hastega for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick applied to Lily Keil!
GS: Riposte applied to Tidus!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey accepts Tidus's Hastega for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Riposte applied to Tidus!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

"Tidus," Leon says, with a glance at him. He nods. "For what it's worth, I've found if someone is busy killing someone and tells you to stop... well. It's almost certainly a worse idea to stop. Ethos has crimes to answer for--and I suspect this is a way to be sure they do not."

He looks back at the Solarians. "...And with this lot, I don't trust them for even a moment."

He glances sideways at Lily, then. Leon nods his head once at her. "Lily," he says. "Let's keep our focus. Take out our enemy, then we'll find out whatever truths they have for us."

He watches Xantia rush in. That isn't a great surprise -- she does that a lot -- but he sees the fury in her. It isn't the fury that he is used to, in truth. Leon's shotgun stays on Azoth, tracking him. His eyes widen as he catches tones of Zeboim language, in the reverb of Azoth's words.

And then the blade launches at him. He fires just after Azoth reappears, another shot hurtling at him. The blade cuts into Leon, slashing his side -- burning through fabric and fibers of his duster, vest, and shirt, and then the flesh under.

Leon hisses sharply. Then, he looks at Tidus, and he nods once, respectfully. Tidus's spell hastens his movements -- and then the Raid Fangs shoot outward. Two triangles, sharp and golden, spin through the air and slash at Azoth.

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Azoth with PMU-Z2 Raid Fang!
GS: Leon Albus assumes the Stoic stance!
GS: Leon Albus takes 25 damage from Poison!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Azoth takes a glancing hit from Leon Albus's PMU-Z2 Raid Fang for 64 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Azoth gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Cover applied to Leon Albus!
GS: Azoth activates Sufferer!
<Pose Tracker> Eika Zuse has posed.

Mutant. Beast. Monster; he doesn't say that one out loud, Eika feels its sting anyway.

Eika's heard the words before. They still hurt, especially coming from a bishop. Her fists clench when he taunts her, saying he should have left signs pointing to her; she can feel her claws pressing into her palms, though not hard enough to draw blood despite their sharpness. Her shoulders hunch as Elly, someone she does not know, defends her. Verbally, at least. She knows the only reason Billy isn't shooting at her (she's not sure about Yulie) is because - well. He has some things to deal with.

As does she.

"I never did that," she says, voice low. No matter how she tries to control her voice, it has the edge of a growl in it. "I never did! And I never would. I joined the Etones to help people. To keep them safe. To protect them from powerful machines and magic and people who abuse them. And you're telling me that you, and people like you - "

"You thought it was a LIE!" Eika does roar, her voice carrying above the sounds of battle. "You thought it was a TOOL! You bring foreign troops into our holy place! Not the headquarters, but St. Heim! You deny God and Granas! Just - shut up! Even if you told me what you believe or thought was true I couldn't believe it! You're just a traitor to everything Granas stands for!"

Eika starts to run. Stone fires at her, and she feels it hit her side - unarmoured, Eika has no particular protection from bullets, but she's running on pure adrenaline and she barely feels it beyond a sudden shove. She'll pay for it later, but now she's coming in fast, blue-white chi building up along one hand as she jerks left and right, dodging the guards' stray fire.

She drives her hand outward at Stone in a thrust. No claws, no fist; she strikes with the flat of her palm, the eruption of windy energy enough to blow her back a step and probably do the same to him as she releases it with a wordless kiai.

GS: Eika Zuse has attacked Isaac Stone with Gale Rush!
GS: Eika Zuse has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Rebecca Streisand has posed.


Elly's voice is quavering, yet she draws Rebecca's eye, still pointing her ARM at Lydia, as she feels something tightening in her chest at what she was saying. Part of her envies that kind of raw, emotional honesty. She's feeling it right now.

Before her eyes slip back to Lydia. And she flinches at the way that Lydia says she's on the mark. That she's right. While smiling at her. It's hard to keep pointing her ARM at Lydia at that moment. Yet...

It's even harder to hear what she says. 'I guess that's why I like you so much.' "I don't know yet." Rebecca answers her, "It's all so big. All I know is we're not going to find the answers by... doing what they want. And we have to... or there's no future for us." She tries to keep her arm from trembling. "Dangit Lydie... why do you have to say something like that before... what happens next."

Despite pointing her ARM, she finds, she just doesn't have it in her to shoot first... not when it's a friend. Not when it's a friend saying that.

And so she doesn't pull the trigger, even as Lydia grabs her head... "Lydie-" She takes a step forward, lowering her ARM... but when Lydia decides to do it herself, "Okay. Do what you have to do."

As Lydia extends a hand towards her, Rebecca reaches for her Sky Medium. "Not gonna happen!" As she holds it up, and suddenly there's a brief moment where an orb shimmers over her person. And the ray of light crashes against it, as she holds it up, and... focuses. And the light eventually vanishes.

Before she turns around in a circle, and invokes that medium as her riposte. "SOLAIS EMSU!" There's no rise of energy around her, as if she weren't standing on a ley line, and didn't care to move. Simply four orbs of pure magical energy rise up, before converging down into one singular vertical blast, that she suddenly has to JERK sideways to avoid Riesenlied as she advances to grasp her hand.

"Don't even joke about things like that..." Rebecca says, something welling up in her throat after she hears Riesenlied's entreaty, "Whether your hand's fit for holding isn't your call to make. What is is whether you'll accept one that's offered."

And by Riesenlied's reaction... it's rather clear, even if Rebecca herself doesn't say it... they'll never stop offering.

GS: Rebecca Streisand has attacked Lydia Seren with Ley Blast!
GS: Rebecca Streisand has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Rebecca Streisand has completed her action.
GS: Isaac Stone fully evades Eika Zuse's Gale Rush for 0 hit points!
GS: Riposte applied to Eika Zuse!
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    "He is... an old friend," is Citan's remark to Ida, in those few moments before Stone -- Stein -- and the rest of Solaris' number enter the room. Further explanation -- especially when he and Jessie rush out, apparently on an urgent rescue mission -- may have to wait until afterwards.

    For Loren, the situation had started off complicated and grows the more so by the passing moment.5R
    One of the more unfortunate figures that Loren recognizes among them -- Leon -- thanks him and Lydia for the information given. Now he has two groups of people to kill. Loren pulls a face, disbelief absolutely sketched across his face. "...What is wrong with you people?"

    He shares for a moment a look at Lydia. "I... uh, I don't think--"

    'All of those people... they're going to...'

    And in the moment that follows, Loren has far, far more to concern himself with than even Leon or Lily.

    After all, Lan is here. He shakes his head slightly, as if he could somehow also shake loose the memory of the last time he'd 'seen' her -- a hallucination, burning.

    "What are you... doing here," he utters more than asks, gazing at her as if everyone else present weren't there at all. Uncertain -- unsteady -- he takes a step back, shaking his head. "It doesn't-- I don't have anything to do with--"
    And even though he tries to bring up that blade of his to block, she's the quicker, crossing the distance and slamming him into the wall.

    He recovers quickly, ducking low and darting about her, blade raised. "Lan... get out of here!" he tells her, shifting his grip on his sword.

    Which is the moment in which Gwen, furious with what Solaris is doing here -- with the fates of those innocents caught up in this whole mess -- tries to punch him in the face.

    Instead she meets the weird, membraned stuff of the bracer on Loren's left forearm, as the Devil Arm unfolds itself rather organically to meet her fist.

    "Shut... up!" he grits out, holding his ground against the force of her fist's impact. "You wouldn't have even known if you hadn't-- stop sticking your nose into everything! And if you knew half of what the people in here were doing, you wouldn't-- just shut up!"

    It is not perhaps the best of arguments.

    Ether flickers about him, first unfolding in crystalline weave about his body -- bolstering his own self -- before he takes a step backwards from the both of them

    two women who had absolutely saved him, when he was without any memory at all

    and closes his eyes, grits his teeth, and inhales a deep breath.

    Sleet falls like a cannonade thereafter, erupting in a burst around the young medical officer. Holding blade and shield before him, he opens his eyes again, as if to dare them to come at him again. This is his job, he has to support the others, he can't just...

GS: Loren Voss has attacked Loren Voss with Guardian Factor!
GS: Loren Voss has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Loren Voss accepts Loren Voss's Guardian Factor for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield applied to Loren Voss!
GS: Loren Voss activates Sufferer!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Aqua Sequence!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Lan Lilac with Aqua Sequence!
GS: Loren Voss has completed his action.
GS: Xantia accepts Tidus's Hastega for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick applied to Xantia!
GS: Riposte applied to Tidus!
GS: Lydia Seren fully evades Riesenlied's Running into Spikes for Soc-- Daughter for 0 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren activates Power Burst!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

When the Bishop speaks Elly strides forwards, and she is two paces ahead of where Billy and perhaps Eika and Yulie alike are struggling. She clenches her fist again. It is a ridiculous little thing. The Bishop is moving as if he's about to draw.

Defense against surface-dweller firearms, Elly thinks. Standing Ether waves can distort trajectories significantly in a statistical way. The resulting effect is costly to maintain but can provide you with all the edge you need to suppress -Lamb- forces. Elly presses outwards. The air warms a little. Then more than a little, as the Bishop speaks, and then he shoots --

-- but his gun is better than the technique accounted for.

Even so, it kind of works. The round superheats and partially deforms. What should have been a disabling or fatal shot turns into a feeling like she got struck in the side of the head. Elly's left eye swims as she staggers and that horrible ringing feeling that the world is broken and you're broken and you're seeing but *you're* not *seeing* rises --

-- and -- for a moment Elly thinks she can hear children laughing.

It is like the pain turns into steel down her spinal column. Elly straightens up and the tense half-Ether bursts outwards, with a deliberate and aggressive effort to press the air blast at the Bishop; the flame forms, smashes into the ground, forms a loose half circle, burns without fuel. Elly is unaware that her left eye is gradually turning red as she stares at him and says, "Drop the weapons while you're talking. I won't tell you forever."

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

"... I'm tired, Lydia, of waiting for the right moment, the right chance, to change the world." She brings her own blade up, but it's a little too late; steel meets nanotechnology and is found wanting, and Matilda's white coat drips red. The wound is shallow, and -- thanks to Matilda's refusal to waste a moment -- knits quickly, for the most part... but the blood is very real.

She doesn't cede a lot of ground to Lydia; indeed, she's trying to stay close. She has no idea where her advantage is at the moment, which means the first thing she has to do is avoid wasting motion -- and switching weapons would be just that. She remains cautious, though; Lydia's ability to become a horrible grey cloud of some stripe (Matilda does not have this *particular* science background) raises some difficult questions.

So for now, she plays it safe; she steps in and delivers a quick slash for Lydia's legs. She's not actually sure Lydia has... anatomy, as such, at this point? But she can still at least try to stagger her.

GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Isaac Stone with Thermo Boundary!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Lydia Seren with Planting!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
GS: Isaac Stone takes a solid hit from Elhaym van Houten's Thermo Boundary for 100 hit points!
GS: Entangle applied to Isaac Stone!
GS: Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Loren Voss's Aqua Sequence for 61 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Yulie Ahtreide has posed.

Convenient tools...? These words strike Yulie solidly. Bishop Stone's smile... it's even more sickening. All the lies and the manipulation... he practically admits to it. This man... he's supposed to be a bishop.

"...H-how could you...? They believe in you... how could you just use them like that...?" Yulie whispers, shaking her head in disbelief as tears start to form in her eyes. ...But, a part of her feels like maybe she should have expected this. People like him... they're always rotten. "Don't you... have an ounce of care for them...?"

And that's when Stone makes his move - with a motion of his arms a rifle barrel emerges. Taken aback by this, it's too late to avoid it - Yulie lets out a small cry and flinches back as she's struck in the side.

"O-oh... Granas, Saint Calucion, anyone... please... please help us through this..." Yulie whispers, reaching for her holy symbol and grasping it tightly. It emits a faint, pale light that settles over herself and those nearest to her position - Eika, BIlly, and Elly.

The truth...

...What truth does Bishop Stone hold? Is it something she can bear? Is it something she can believe?

GS: Yulie Ahtreide has attacked Eika Zuse with Paladienne's Prayer!
GS: Yulie Ahtreide has attacked Billy Lee Black with Paladienne's Prayer!
GS: Yulie Ahtreide has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Paladienne's Prayer!
GS: Yulie Ahtreide has attacked Yulie Ahtreide with Paladienne's Prayer!
GS: Yulie Ahtreide has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Yulie Ahtreide has completed her action.
GS: Yulie Ahtreide accepts Yulie Ahtreide's Paladienne's Prayer for 0 hit points!
GS: Pray grants a random effect! Amplify, Lock State, and Surge applied to Yulie Ahtreide!
GS: Billy Lee Black accepts Yulie Ahtreide's Paladienne's Prayer for 0 hit points!
GS: Pray grants a random effect! Lock State, Quick, and Surge applied to Billy Lee Black!
GS: Elhaym van Houten accepts Yulie Ahtreide's Paladienne's Prayer for 0 hit points!
GS: Pray grants a random effect! Burst, Lock State, and Quick applied to Elhaym van Houten!
GS: Eika Zuse accepts Yulie Ahtreide's Paladienne's Prayer for 0 hit points!
GS: Pray grants a random effect! Amplify, Burst, and Lock State applied to Eika Zuse!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    'Slaves. They're taking those people to be slaves in Etrenank.'

    Ida double-taps, reflexively, as Lan speaks. Flora taught her that that's what you do with monsters.

    She's foiled. The strange machine--now confirmed a Solarian asset, instead of merely "likely" one--moves to protect the Bishop, taking the shots for him. Ida's face twists in a snarl, exposing gleaming white teeth. "Out of my way," she barks, as if she could get the suffering automaton to stand down through force of conviction alone. Even if she doesn't have permission.

    And of course, Stone keeps right on talking. "You pile of shit," Ida says, her anger a spike of heat in her voice and breast. He's getting under her skin. She didn't devote herself to the Church, like Billy and Yulie did. It was never her whole world, like it was for them. As she told Liath, she doesn't know if she believes in God, or in His Archangel, Granas--but she does believe in the inherent worth and dignity of intelligent life, human or otherwise. Everything Solaris does spits in the face of that belief.

    Ida has her answer.

    And she also has backup. She glances back, chancing a look Tidus' way to give him a nod of thanks. In that brief glance, she sees Lily, behind him, and the look on her face sends a chill down Ida's spine.

    "Lily--?" Ida says. "Leon, she's--Lily, tell me three things you can see, right now!" Ida smells blood and ozone. She sees Solaris' automaton charging up towards her, launching blades. Time seems to slow.

    Living Metal erupts from Ida's body, shaping into crystalline fractal patterns in record time. In heartbeats, she's armored from head to toe, and reaching a gauntleted fist to PUNCH that energy blade right out of the air. Sparks fly as Ida's hybrid muscle meets Azoth's mechanical precision, and forces a stalemate--and then, the detonation. The explosion slams into her, throws her back; she manages to recover, hitting ground and sliding into a three-point crouch rather than being blown into Leon's firing arc. That is an extremely dangerous place to be.

    "I'm sorry," she says, as she recovers, and rises. She's speaking to Azoth. "That you have to serve such a monster."

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Third Method - Shaping the Battle-Forged Shell!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey accepts Ida Everstead-Rey's Third Method - Shaping the Battle-Forged Shell for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Cover applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
<Pose Tracker> Billy Lee Black has posed.

"Sister..." Billy chokes out, at Yulie's shared despair. "This..."

He wants to assure her, even now. His very core exposed, bleeding, and still his first thought is for another's pain. The sort of man he thought he should be. That Stone wanted him to be. Perhaps it was.

Stone speaks. He had been so kind, once, but that facade is gone. This isn't even the face he's seen on the few occasions he saw the Bishop hunting Reapers. This is....deep. Excited in a terrifying way.

More like a Wels than a man.

Billy quivers. Elly speaks her anger - parses it out fully. He's too close to Stone to reach, quite, that conclusion, quite so quickly, but the words sound right to him, in a way that shakes him free from some of his stupor.

Then Stone blasts him directly in the chest, and Billy makes absolutely no move to defend himself. It hits him center mass, and he screams, and falls.

But he doesn't die. Not so easily. He struggles up, one knee under him, kneeling in genuflection. "Oh, God," he breathes. "Please...guide us through this time of trial..."

He brings his hands together, weeping quietly in prayer to a God that may be a dream.

Dazzling light shines out from him in every direction, a soft, warm glow settling over the warriors rallying against Stone. At least Ether won't so easily abandon him.

GS: Billy Lee Black has attacked Eika Zuse with Sacred Veil!
GS: Billy Lee Black has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Sacred Veil!
GS: Billy Lee Black has attacked Yulie Ahtreide with Sacred Veil!
GS: Billy Lee Black has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Billy Lee Black has completed his action.
GS: Billy Lee Black heals Yulie Ahtreide! She gains 110 temporary hit points!
GS: Shield and Surge applied to Yulie Ahtreide!
GS: Billy Lee Black heals Eika Zuse! She gains 110 temporary hit points!
GS: Shield and Surge applied to Eika Zuse!
GS: Lydia Seren takes a solid hit from Rebecca Streisand's Ley Blast for 109 hit points!
GS: Mighty applied to Rebecca Streisand!
GS: Billy Lee Black heals Elhaym van Houten! She gains 110 temporary hit points!
GS: Shield and Surge applied to Elhaym van Houten!
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Matilda Whitehead's Planting for 92 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Lydia Seren gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren activates Guard bonus and Power Burst!
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Cyre H. Lorentz's Grand Pressure for 83 hit points!
GS: Poison applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: Lydia Seren activates Sufferer!
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

'Stop laughing at them!'

Elly's words ring into Lily's mind, but she finds it hard to parse them. They're just words. The feeling behind them, that's new data, that's terrible. Everything Bishop Stone says is terrible. But that's not what dominates her mind.

"Stop it--" Lily's distress is vague, but present, as she shakes her head at the agony blasting into her senses. If she could think how to turn it off she would, but as it stands she can't be sure it isn't her own. The one thing that interrupts it is the feeling of power surging through her that Tidus's magic brings. His words sink in, too. "The truth," she repeats, as if she can hear that part of it, at least. "The way to play it..."

"...Right." Leon talks to her, and she hears him at least. "Focus." She nods, and starts to move again. But Azoth's blade of light scythes forth in answer to her previous use of Ether. She's already starting to charge up for another spell when it happens, but her movements are sluggish, jerky and stilted. It is not enough to dodge or block; an energy blade instead sinks into her side, slashing through armored clothing and flesh both. She halts in place, stopping a moment. Blood doesn't show well against black fabric, but there's a shine of it there. It is a deep wound, even if she has healed from deep wounds in the past, and where usually pain would give Lily focus and clarity she sees almost not to notice the injury. "I... have to..."

Ida's words ring, too, but they're distant, faraway. Lily stumbles a step back. "I see--"

Her eyes start to go black, like when she uses a lot of magic, but there is no pulse of Ether drawing into her anymore. Instead, suddenly a pulse of Ether rushes away from her, radiating pressure.

"-Initiating failsafe protocol.-" She speaks in Zeboim, a language strange to those who can't understand it and possibly strange to those who can, with the dispassionate tone she takes.

The darkness at her eyes starts to spread over her face, blacking out the circuit patterns that are suddenly glowing, down her body and over her clothes. Her form darkens from the top down, shadow enveloping her fingertips and then her legs, her feet. In moments she stands, a three-dimensional shadow, except for eyes that suddenly blaze violet.

"Right," she says, her voice reverberating strangely. "Focusing."

Lily's form is a silhouette, a shadow, and she does not pull a weapon though the outline of an ARM remains at her hip. Instead she lifts a hand, and circuitry blazes from her palm down her wrist, fading as it travels up her arm in gold. "Scanning..." She speaks in contemporary language again, her words clipped and focused but no longer vacant.

A beam of light erupts from her palm towards Azoth's robotic form, and there is a definite sense if he can observe of of being observed. What was a wound seems to be gone on her, as an aura of light bursts around her in sequence with the beam.

"Two groups to kill," she agrees.

DC: Lily Keil switches forms to Omega - Synthesis!
GS: Lily Keil has attacked Azoth with DIRECTIVE - A D A P T -!
GS: Recover! Jam and Poison removed from Lily Keil!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
GS: Azoth takes a solid hit from Lily Keil's DIRECTIVE - A D A P T - for 168 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Azoth gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Azoth activates Sufferer!
GS: Lily Keil drains Azoth! Lily Keil gains 84 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"Don't think what?" Lydia asks of Loren, glancing to him. She doesn't maintain rage too easily even when she tries real hard to. But she can't really argue that these people keep sticking their nose into Solaris business even when, for once, it would probably be a net benefit for the world if they clean up.

But to beat the House, as Rebecca said, you can't play their game. "I'm not a great liar." Lydia says. "I wish I could just say awful things to make everything easier on you." It's the one positive side of Lydia saying kind of low key terrible shit all the time--she never really got good at fibbing if she didn't manage to lie to herself first.

"Dang--you got Solais Emsu too?" Rebecca's blast slam hard into Lydia when she zigs when she should've zagged and she is sent flying back, but she ignites her prismatic wings to keep herself aloft.

Whether your hand's fit for holding isn't your call to make.

"...Who said I made that call?" Lydia says. "Pretty obvious they took me cause they figured I wouldn't be missed. They made me feel like it was my fault for being beastfolk. Rigdobrite himself sent me right to them. I had this dream saying 'this is the day to see the world' and the moment I get outside of the Colony's sightlines, bam--they took me. My peeps in Kislev are imprisoned just for bein' who they are, nobody's ever gonna save them neither."

Billy gets SHOT and Lydia grimaces--but seems to relax a little when Billy heals himself and others. "That guy's not right, Loren." She mutters.

She darts forward, an electric crackle erupting around her and threatening to catch Rebecca before she touches down.

Matilda says she's tired of waiting for the right moment and the right chance to change the world. "You and me both, sister." Lydia says. "But I know when you say 'change the world', you aren't exactly startin' with Kislev. There's always going to be some mega dumb problem in the way of fixing the problems we've already got." Matilda swings her blade and catches it into Matilda's leg but it sort of gets...stuck in there. Like hitting through bone but way earlier.

Lydia brings up her hand to grab for the back of Matilda's head, trying to swing her face into her knee and kick her away a moment later. Lydia's gotten much better at fighting.

This is the apparatus that produces more Lydias?

"Well it's not what I, personally, went through but yeah."

"Bet you've roughhoused with your bro before," Lydia says to Cyre as water bursts out of the floor underneath her. It doesn't explode her up into the air, it just sort of punches around her, but her hair is super frazzled now and she looks mightily uncomfortable.

She swings back with her hand and tosses a glob of silver fluid towards Cyre which will detonate upon impact even as her hand regenerates the lost matter within moments.

"Who won more? You or your bro?"

Riesenlied tries to grab of Lydia's BLADE HAND and Lydia, seeing that red fluid dripping out of her jerks her hand away in shock and desperation.

"Shit...! Rigdobrite--!"

Her body crackles with a yellowish light as she extends her hands towards Riesenlied's wounded hand. "Oh shit Oh shit..." She says. "I didn't mean to cut you. I didn't mean--"

So I will never stop holding your hand, daughter, no matter how sharp or bloody it may be...!

"Mom..." Lydia says, struggling, tears growing in her eyes. "But you've always been perfect."

GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Rebecca Streisand with Electric Slide!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Basileus Philosophorum Metaloricum!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Efficient Bladeworks!
GS: Lydia Seren enters a Counter stance!
GS: Rebecca Streisand critically guards Lydia Seren's Electric Slide for 24 hit points!
GS: Matilda Whitehead takes a glancing hit from Lydia Seren's Efficient Bladeworks for 71 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Matilda Whitehead gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Matilda Whitehead activates Evade bonus!
GS: Matilda Whitehead enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz takes a solid hit from Lydia Seren's Basileus Philosophorum Metaloricum for 173 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Riesenlied with Scars That We Can't Erase Show Us Life's True Costs!
GS: Lydia Seren has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren takes 16 damage from Poison!
GS: Lydia Seren has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

It's hard to gauge just what an opponent is capable of when you're unable to fully to discern their nature. And Xantia certainly doesn't fully understand who or indeed what she's fighting. Still, that voice she heard just now sure sounded mechanical enough to her. That helps, and may have contributed in shifting her approach ever so slightly. Hurting people internally and hurting machines internally requires a slightly different touch - she picked the correct one here.

But, it's strange. It should feel satisfying to finally dish out some punishment for everything that happened here today. Moreover, against an automaton she doesn't need to hold anything back, she should feel free to go all-out and vent her anger. And yet... In the wake of her strike, she opens and closes her hand, staring at it for a moment. She doesn't fully realize what it is she's discerned through her brief Etheric contact, but... something doesn't feel quite right. Why would she suddenly feel hesitant now, of all times?

She can't question this for very long, what with homing lasers coming for her in short order. Tidus's speed boost comes just in time to aid her in her attempts to avoid those as best she can. It's not exactly easy to evade beams that follow you everywhere, but... it's as if Xantia has done that before, leading the shots and trying to evade at the last moment to cause them to strike a wall, the floor, or a piece of machinery. Despite her efforts, it's not exactly flawless. A number of times her skin is burned simply by proximity to the energy rays, and in the end still gets struck dead-center. It's a good thing she has some measure of armor plating there, and it wasn't more than more direct hit, or that could've ended a lot worse.

She picks herself up quickly afterwards, managing to close the distance again quite quickly, still particularly light on her feet due to the magical boost. Once again, her attack on Azoth comes in the form of Ether-backed palm strikes - this time aimed at the limbs. She's switched her approach to an attempt at weakening the offensive capability of the machine. But mostly, she's just trying to make contact again. There's something she's started to suspect, and another touch may help her to make sure.

"...Just following orders, huh. Could it be...?"

If she was going to say more, she has to put it on hold for the moment, because she knows better than to stay that close to someone that Lily's also targeting for very long.

GS: Xantia has attacked Azoth with Essence-Rending Palm Strike!
GS: Xantia takes 20 damage from Poison!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Lan Lilac has posed.

    All these people. All these people - the dead and the dying and the taken. Lan didn't know much about the Ethos, or the Church, because she's a shaman from a Baskar village out on the edge of the Ignasian desert, because she never bothered to learn more than what lay on the surface. They help people. They run orphanages. They tend the sick. They feed the hungry.

    They sherpherd the doubting, the lost.
    The Lambs.

    Loren slips away when Lan rears a fist back to punch him, but Gwen's ARM finds him instead. "What are we doing here? What are you doing here?!" she cries, staggering back a single step. "You knew what they were doing to those people! You've killed people and aren't even sorry!" He tries to protest that it wasn't him, that he never--

    "YOU KNEW!!" Lan interrupts him, eyes wide and wild. "YOU KNEW WHAT THEY DID TO ME! What they did to Lydia! The whole time I was there, you knew what was wrong with me and you didn't do anything to help me!!"

    "And now you're here helping them murder people! Even if you never shed a single drop of blood, it's all on your hands because you knew and you didn't do anything to stop it!"

    She's crying. Weeping.

    She'd wanted to believe in him. Loren had been hurting, just like she was. She'd thought-- she and Gwen had both hoped-- it meant that he was human after all.

    Black ink writhes under her fingernails, squeezes around her heart, winds in ribbons up her bare arms. Lan doesn't feel it; she's too busy spinning on a heel to kick Loren back towards Gwen.

GS: Lan Lilac takes a glancing hit from Loren Voss's Aqua Sequence for 51 hit points!
GS: Lan Lilac activates Evade bonus!
GS: Lan Lilac has attacked Loren Voss with Akashic Arts!
GS: Lan Lilac has completed her action.
GS: Azoth takes a solid hit from Xantia's Essence-Rending Palm Strike for 88 hit points!
GS: Dispel! Amplify, Hyper, and Mighty removed!
GS: Cripple applied to Azoth!
GS: Azoth activates Sufferer!
GS: Loren Voss guards a hit from Lan Lilac's Akashic Arts for 90 hit points!
GS: Loren Voss activates Sufferer!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

    They aren't going to find the answers by letting them do what they want...

    That's one thing Rebecca has the right of -- there's no future for them in Solaris' plans. There's a CRASH of light as the two channelings of Solais Emsu collide against each other. Briefly, she has to feel proud of how far Rebecca's capability to handle the Ley has come.

    Matilda's voice also hits home -- 'I'm tired'. She is tired too; she's tired of seeing this scene, of seeing Yulie and Billy and Eika and having their lives, beliefs shattered and to hear the callous voice embodied by Bishop Stein... being called 'convenient tools'...

    She's tired of people having no choice because of their circumstance. Cyre has the right idea.

    Even as Lydia panicks about accidentally cutting her, she shakes her head, grasping her wounded hand to her chest.

    "I... forget if I have told you this, Lydia. But I am going to tell you again. I resolved to fight again."

    She lowers her head.

    "There was a time when discarding our weapons was the right call, in a time when war and violence was the only path known to us. But now, at this time, when I have learnt that there are so many structures that instill and impose such systemic violence on us..."

    A pause.

    "We will bring down the 'House' that Rebecca speaks of... so you do not have to suffer. I want my love to be one that can do something when those that I love are suffering."

    ... that said, it's clear that Riesenlied doesn't believe Lydia is someone she has to fight, because she doesn't raise her sword -- which still goes unsummoned -- and instead focuses more deeply upon the Dragon's Tear--

    "Hold strong, everyone...!"

    Perhaps Rebecca can most feel the raw tremor that Riesenlied's Ley Channeling brings; it's a haphazard ability, less refined and controllable (she's working on it), yet--

    Bursting through invisible seams on the smooth metallic floor, she weaves the raw Ley with effort as it flows harmfully through her body... and shines it upon her allies, closing their wounds and strengthening their bodies.

GS: Riesenlied has activated a Force Action!
GS: Lydia Seren heals Riesenlied! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Ley Channeling - Border of Life!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Rebecca Streisand with Ley Channeling - Border of Life!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Ley Channeling - Border of Life!
GS: Riesenlied has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Hyper expired!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied heals Cyre H. Lorentz! He gains 210 temporary hit points!
GS: Riesenlied heals Rebecca Streisand! She gains 210 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Gwen's fist struggles to pierce through the protective membrane, her furious face coming close to Loren's. "_Too late_."

    "What's more..." Gwen is forced back at last, pressing back several paces as she rubs her right hand. "We met a wounded Etone one the way here, strugglin' to keep from shootin' us. Talkin' 'bout an 'Azazel'. Why is the Stranger down here?! Don't you know what he did to Lan?!"

    It never occurred to Gwen that the Stranger was simply taking advantage of the confusion to sow some of his own. Or that something else was in play.

    What does occur to Gwen, as she hears Lan's anger, sees the black ink writhing under her fingernails, is that Loren...

    Well, it's definitely a case of being in a bad place at a worse time.

    "... Guardians, Lan... oof!" There's now a Loren that may be coming towards her, if Lan's attack connected correctly.

    Seeing his body come straight at her, Gwen realizes... "... Can't even be properly mad at you anymore..."

    Which makes Gwen mad again, throwing a fist straight for Loren's chin. "Goddamn it, Loren!!"

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Loren Voss with Shoryu-gwen!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Isaac Stone has posed.

    Eika's palm does not find purchase, but the windy energy shows preview enough of a solid blow that almost is: a hopping back-step that goes further than Stone means or anticipates it to, his tiny pair of spectacles flying clean of his face. His right hand snaps up once to catch it, and that acidic smile of his fades as if even he might have understood how close that was as it comes back to rest on his face.
     "Tell me then, oh pious monster," he at last says the proper M word, "she who does not deny what their deities stand for. Who would teach you this faith? No. A better question," he says as he flips a coin up in the air as he snaps out a handgun in his left hand, keeping it trained on Eika while it flies, "who would teach your beloved Father Achim, who in turn would impart it upon you?"
     "An ounce of care, young Paladienne?" He sees the pained young woman reaching out and praying to a power he has already stated to be merely of convenience, her begging to have them see them through this. "A whole pound of care, I must say. A whole pound of care that my status as Bishop is such a convenience for my activities on Filgaia." With a thought, a light builds above Yulie that descends as an immaculate shining ray of...
     ...as it turns out when it impacts her or a space nearby, blazing hellfire that splashes and burns from where it strikes. "To gather ignorant masses such as yourself. I cannot even care to remember which -god- was created for you to believe in! Perhaps more than one. It did not matter, ultimately."
     The coin still hasn't come down.
     "There's so much you didn't have the chance to learn, Billy," Stone doesn't even let his 'dear' student the time to pray in peace as he holds the other sleeve up, as if he were contemplating shooting the dazzling light itself to make a point. "The 'Ethos' was created to serve Solaris as to guide the -Lambs-. There would yet be some that would grow too ambitious even with stewardship of these foolish surface dwellers."
     This gesture is a feint as he comes off towards Billy with a sliding motion, firing off both of the pistols. A pause.
     "How do you suppose, Billy, Solaris would be prepared to eliminate all those who would defy our rule and raise that flag of rebellion?" He has such faith in Billy as a student that the Ether shotgun that is produced at the end of that slide should compel him to answer (after it bursts, of course).
     Before he can rise, Elly unleashes taht burst of power, and that blast of air sets him aflame as he's caught in it, a hiss of pain as he is - for the moment - held in place as she makes her demands that he drop the weapon.
     "You only need to tell me the once," Stone seems to concede the demand until he thrusts the readied sleeve-barrel from before in Elly's direction and fires. "For I will not give you the chance to assume the likes of you will make demands."
     Eika will find the coin drops, at last, near one of her shoulders. He points a pistol in her direction and fires at the exact moment it touches, right where it touches - the last shot in the clip from when he dove at Billy, as he rises while his robe is still on fire from the edge of the set Etheric boundary.
     "Now. Your answer, Billy." He re-sets his spectacles.

GS: Isaac Stone spends 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Isaac Stone has attacked Yulie Ahtreide with Immaculate Light!
GS: Isaac Stone spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Isaac Stone has attacked Billy Lee Black with Gunholic!
GS: Isaac Stone has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Hell Blast!
GS: Isaac Stone has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Isaac Stone spends 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Isaac Stone has attacked Eika Zuse with Adam's Apple!
GS: Isaac Stone has completed his action.
GS: Yulie Ahtreide guards a hit from Isaac Stone's Immaculate Light for 85 hit points!
GS: Poison applied to Yulie Ahtreide!
GS: Elhaym van Houten fully evades Isaac Stone's Hell Blast for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Elhaym van Houten gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Elhaym van Houten activates Evade bonus!
GS: Eika Zuse critically guards Isaac Stone's Adam's Apple for 27 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Eika Zuse gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Quick applied to Isaac Stone!
GS: Eika Zuse activates Guard bonus!
GS: Eika Zuse enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Loren Voss critically guards Gwen Whitlock's Shoryu-gwen for 16 hit points!
GS: Loren Voss activates Sufferer!
GS: Riesenlied heals Matilda Whitehead! She gains 210 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"Lydias, meat-Lydias, whatever. Slaves. No, worse. Children stolen from the land. Wiped clean of everything they are. Their bodies toiling for the same fat, gluttonous monster that devoured their faces and now wants not just their life, but their lives...!" Cyre's hands tighten into painful fists, claws digging into palms. Then... it's gone. He looses a breath, loosens his shoulders. Breathe-- in, out. "...You know what I have to do. This twisted game needs to be reset, Lydia. I can't suffer this parasite-state to live."

This isn't as personal to him as it is for Lan. For Lily and Leon. But this is still Lydia he's fighting. Still the person he called 'little sister.' She asks him an important question.

He fixes her with a look.

In all the history of humanity, here or on any distant star, has anyone ever answered 'hey, did your brother beat your ass more often than you beat his' with an honest yes?

"Of fucking course," Cyre lies, "I won more!!"

He is punished instantly by a globule of silvery nanomaterial exploding across his chest, tearing through his robes and shredding his skin to bloody ribbons. He grits his teeth, skidding to a rough stop several feet away... As Riesenlied tears herself apart to give them a better chance of victory. "You don't need to tell me twice," Cyre mutters as his hands fold into an arcane gesture. The ceiling above Lydia seems to warp and distort-- no. The air around it warps and distorts, and then suddenly erupts in a blazing deluge of concentrated light. A superhot laser shower for his favorite little sister. "You two aren't the only ones with Solais Emsu's favor. Try this on for size!"

GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Lydia Seren with Celestial Lore!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has gained 4 Combo!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has completed his action.
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Cyre H. Lorentz's Celestial Lore for 100 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren activates Sufferer!
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Matilda nods to Lydia. "You're right," she says, before weaving back; she doesn't get snagged, but she's close enough that that rising knee hits her in the sternum regardless. It does impart a little extra 'oomph' to her effort to get her sword unstuck. She's now fairly certain that there's not a lot of percentage in staying close to Lydia; now she actually *does* take the time to switch weapons. She glances to Riesenlied as she draws a pistol instead; she keeps Freischütz in reserve for now, not wanting to mess with the reservoir. It's currently loaded for healing -- and she might need that later.

"There's always going to be some other problem. Something worse. All I can do is avoid the doom I see in front of me and mitigate it as best I can, for now. ... I think much else was beyond my grasp," Matilda answers Lydia. There's some definite mournfulness in the way she says it; she's not happy about her answer. But what else can she do?

Well, in the moment, she can shoot Lydia. She slowly circles around her former client and (possibly! it's hard to know! this whole situation is weird!) friend, trying to find a better angle while firing off several shots with her pistol.

GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Lydia Seren with Repositioning Shot!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

Azoth can hear Lydia across the battlefield. They would make her fight her mother, the same way they could make Azoth turn against his own family. He can hear her fighting with OS, someone she had thought to try calling family once before. Solaris speaks of shepherding, but they execute their so called guidance without love, so much so even this ancient war machine can tell. Overrides drag new commands to priority, demanding he, as Ida puts it, serve a monster. But that 'monster' is so much more than Isaac Stone.

ERROR Friendly Target OVERRIDE, over and over and over. Azoth sweeps out his arm, and debris and fallen objects around the area gather into a makeshift ring of orbiting junk. Light gathers within it, then fires for her in a thick beam of oppressive energy that shatters his temporary collection.

That Tidus acts to protect the others causes Azoth's red lighting to flare in warning. Dangerous target. Taking priory. Azoth launches toward Tidus with new violence, several blades forming before combining in a single, massive sword of light that he chucks down directly overhead at his target with every intent to maim.

He spins to face Leon and though his body distorts as Leon fires at it, there is certainly something that is struck as those two golden fangs pierce into what should be nothing, but at seen clearly embedded once the horrific construct reappears. Azoth pauses to watch Leon, reactive and volatile, prepared to shoot out energy in reaction to any move the man makes. Lily speaks in Zeboim, and Azoth's alert grows. He's seen her become a terror on the battlefield before. He knows she's dangerous in more ways than one, but --

But Xantia's palms make contact. Azoth's systems begin to go haywire with the Ether she sends through his circuity. His entire body seizes up, rigid and convulsing. Some of that bright red light crackling through him turns blue-fuchsia in color before the erroneous, dangerous red takes over again.

Lily's beam of light pierces straight through Azoth, but there's barely time to appreciate the clean shot through his shoulder. In the same moment, energy explodes off of him in a crackling, crimson and black mass of electric chaos, threatening the three still near him.

GS: Azoth has activated a Boss Action!
GS: Azoth has activated a Force Action!
GS: Azoth has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with exec.ohr NEUTRALIZE!
GS: Azoth has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Azoth spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Azoth has attacked Tidus with exec.mec DELETE!
GS: Azoth has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Azoth has attacked Leon Albus with ?x??.ERR?R E??OR??RO?!
GS: Azoth has attacked Xantia with ?x??.ERR?R E??OR??RO?!
GS: Azoth has attacked Lily Keil with ?x??.ERR?R E??OR??RO?!
GS: ROU|LET|TE: Moderate! Leon Albus guards a hit from Azoth's ?x??.ERR?R E??OR??RO? for 103 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Leon Albus gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Misery inflicts a random effect! Blind and Drowsy applied to Leon Albus!
GS: Leon Albus activates Guard bonus!
GS: ROU|LET|TE: Catastrophic! Lily Keil takes a glancing hit from Azoth's ?x??.ERR?R E??OR??RO? for 144 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Lily Keil gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Misery inflicts a random effect! Disease and Mute applied to Lily Keil!
GS: Tidus accepts Tidus's Hastega for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick applied to Tidus!
GS: Riposte applied to Tidus!
GS: CRITICAL! Tidus takes a solid hit from Azoth's exec.mec DELETE for 298 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Tidus gains 1 additional Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Rebecca Streisand has posed.


"You're not." Rebecca agrees with Lydia, as if it's something she understands is that Lydia's not a great liar, "But don't wish that. I think I'd hate myself if I forced you to lie to spare my feelings."

However, when she remarks on her having that in the wake of her blast, she holds it up high. It's unusual artificial construction, rather than the typical stone. "My first... upon leaving my hometown. A gift.

However, Rebecca bristles a bit when Lydia tells her about that... "Wait, really, Rigdobrite..." And she feels this surge of anger, though it's not directed at Lydia, moreso than the situation. At the Guardians, at Solaris, at the world for mistreating her. "That doesn't change the fact that we think your hand's fit for holding, Lydia."

And then as Lydia charges by, Rebecca invokes her Medium a second time. This time the orb takes on a sturdier shape, but as Lydia charges on by, it's sorcerous energy dances on the surface of it, before it seems to crackle and shatter like glass that's just been struck by a close range sonic boom.

"Gah!" The electricity plays across her skin, though it's dampened enough that she manages to stay upright.

Though Rebecca stays her hand for a moment to listen to Lydia in that moment healing Riesenlied.

And to heal Riesenlied's resolve in response. "Riese- you're going to..." Fight... again. Even Rebecca is stunned by this thought. "I understand." She says quietly, eventually, as she knows she'd do the same, if someone she cared about was suffering.

Rebecca does indeed, feel the surge of ley energy around her, a rush which seems to cause her to stand up straighter.

"Lydia... I know we're asking a lot of you. You're the one who's suffering, and we're asking you to wait. It's the worst feeling in the world, making you wait... and saying just 'hang in there' feels like it's not enough. There's so much that needs changing... and it feels like we're always just putting out fires rather than... really fixing anything... but... I promise. We'll figure out a way to make it up to you in the end."

Rebecca considers one stone medium on her person, but feeling some resentment from Lydia's tale, doesn't pull it out. And instead raises that artificial looking Medium again... because...

... because she really doesn't feel like shooting a friend with her ARM today. Not after seeing all the bodies in these halls.

"Solais Emsu!"

This time, there's a strange effect out of Lydia, this subtle drawing sensation, like she's trying to pull some of the magical energy right out of her by some mysterious spiritual osmosis that seems to crystallize and move over towards Rebecca.

"We'll make it up to you because the fact we care about you isn't going to change... no matter who ordains that we shouldn't."

GS: Rebecca Streisand has attacked Lydia Seren with Ley Absorption!
GS: Rebecca Streisand has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Azoth's exec.ohr NEUTRALIZE for 181 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Ida Everstead-Rey gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: CRITICAL! ROU|LET|TE: Low! Xantia takes a solid hit from Azoth's ?x??.ERR?R E??OR??RO? for 136 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Xantia gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Misery inflicts a random effect! Cripple and Slow applied to Xantia!
<Pose Tracker> Tidus has posed.

    "Yeah," Tidus says flatly to Leon--though the flatness isn't *at* him. He makes that clear when he adds, "Yeah, I sure can't argue your point there, Leon. I'm all for getting justice *and* stopping these scumbags." He'll return that nod, and even the respect in it; after all, he understands Leon better now than he used to.
    
    He catches and returns Ida's nod of gratitude too, and pushes himself upright. However, Ida brings his attention to Lily, and Tidus looks her way. "Lily? Hey, get a hold of yourself!" Not the most helpful thing to say, especially since he doesn't know anything about Her Deal, but... it's well-meant, at least.
    
    And in fairness, she does get ahold of herself! In, frankly, a super horrifying way. Tidus's jaw drops when he sees that blackness spread from her eyes to her entire body. It's almost too difficult to parse what he's looking at. He shoots Leon a bewildered look, but--honestly, knowing what's going on with her isn't going to change anything, and now's not the time anyway. There's too much going on, anyway. From everything with Ethos... to the fact that both Lily and Not-Azoth just spoke in a language Tidus has often wondered if he'd ever hear again.
    
    Also, the robot is charging in towards Tidus with another, even bigger manifestation of those red laser blades which do indeed maim. Deep lines slash through and around Tidus's athletic body, built more towards evading hits than taking them. He screams, loud and in agony, as blood spurts from his countless wounds.
    
    So, later.
    
    As aggravated as his wounds are, Tidus still manages to stay on his feet. That Hastega from earlier fills his veins with adrenaline to replace the blood he's lost, keeping him at speed despite the damage he took. After a hit like that... holy hell. He can't let this guy keep up that kind of firepower. Now that he and his group have been sped up, it's time to slow their opponent down. After all, Not-Azoth isn't just fighting them; he's also protecting the scumbag commanding this whole awful operation.
    
    Dashing to one side, Tidus screeches to a halt and launches himself at Not-Azoth at an angle, a certain power coalescing on his watery sword. When he brings it down on the robot's chassis, assuming he strikes truly, it'll manifest into his circuits, slowing reaction speed and hopefully making his movements more sluggish and thus easier to dodge.

GS: Tidus has attacked Azoth with Delay Buster!
GS: Hyper expired!
GS: Tidus has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Leon grits his teeth as he watches shadow envelope Lily. He feels the usual conflicted feelings -- wondering how safe it is, wondering if Lily is all right -- and he decides, in the end, to take his own advice: focus.

Crimson and black energy slam into Leon and the two Raid Fangs. The latter are hurled backward, a few cracks in their armored casing. Leon is struck and knocked back across the room, feet skidding on the floor.

Leon grunts, his breath heavy. Blood runs from a cut on his scalp.

"He isn't holding back!" he shouts. "Whoever he is!"

The three Raid Fangs spin up, spinning all about them. Then, Leon snaps Argent Divider II to the side. The barrels part; the blade inside telescopes out, and a blade of crackling red energy explodes to life. Leon grabs the weapon, with both hands.

Tidus rushes in. Leon rushes from the other side. He sprints towards Azoth -- and after Tidus's blade strikes, Leon's energy blade carves up at a diagonal angle, for Azoth.

"Is this what you want?" Leon asks, his voice halfway to a yell.

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Azoth with Code.26 CLARENT!
GS: Leon Albus has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Leon Albus takes 29 damage from Poison!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    "This is-- this is my job!" he shouts back. "I'm a soldier! Weren't you paying attention?! Of course I've--"

    But he wasn't the one who killed the people in here. He wasn't the one who scooped up surface dwellers and took them to Etrenank, or even wiped their memories.

    He just stood by and watched it happen.

    He stops for a moment, making a sort of strange noise. Then, furious, he shakes his head. "Yes! I knew! I knew everything they did to you! What did you want me to do about it?! Tell them to-- to--"

    They were going to kill her. He'd been sure of that. Then he'd been sure they would sacrifice her. And then, he'd realized, that when the time came, he'd be the one to...
    And he wouldn't be able to stop it then, either.

    "Just, just shut up--"

    In this moment, Gwen says something that prompts Loren to freeze up, fresh shock -- it wasn't that long ago was it, no don't think about it don't think about it now -- painting itself across his faze. "He... what? He's here!? Why is he here?!"

    He knows well what Azazel did to Lan -- after all, he still has one of her memories of it.

    It just makes him an easy target for Lan's spinning kick, as even the impact of her foot across the shield contains enough force to send him stumbling towards Gwen. He might have even been bitterly disappointed with his clumsiness right now (in the middle of a battle! he's not a novice anymore!) if it weren't for the fact that his focus is for the moment oriented towards a particular subject.

    He's here. He's actually--

    Light, fixed in a hexagonal array before him, bursts into place mere seconds before Gwen's fist would have connected. She'll have to content herself with nearly punching him in the chin as the Ether barrier deflects her blow.

    His response is somewhat more aggressive, perhaps for the knowledge of Azazel's presence and the inseperable pulse of indignation and guilt rising within him. "Get out of my way!" he shouts at Gwen, pivoting hard on his right foot to send that strange and unsettling shield on his towards Gwen like a battering ram.

    He's stuck between Lan and Gwen, though, and his other arm, the one facing Lan, bears a blade.
    He wavers. It's only for a moment.

    It's not even a twin for Engil's reforged sword -- the one that Lan still has in her possession. But an edge will cut, regardless of what it might be.

GS: Loren Voss enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Astral Hammer!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Lan Lilac with Extinction Rush!
GS: Loren Voss assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: Disrupt expired!
GS: Loren Voss has completed his action.
GS: Azoth takes a solid hit from Tidus's Delay Buster for 120 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Azoth gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Blind applied to Azoth!
GS: Azoth activates Sufferer!
GS: Azoth takes a glancing hit from Leon Albus's Code.26 CLARENT for 97 hit points!
GS: Azoth activates Sufferer!
GS: CRITICAL! Gwen Whitlock guards a hit from Loren Voss's Astral Hammer for 93 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Gwen Whitlock gains 1 additional Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

Despite everything, Billy and the Paladienne Yulie are praying. They are also gathering Ether, but it is the prayer that stands out to Elly, somehow. Even in the face of this; even in the face of despair and mockery.

Some part of Elly thinks: The next step in this story is that they die. A moment later, Billy is shot.

No Elly thinks after that, feeling the side of her head throb as she sways slightly back and forth, staying loose as the flames try to fend in the Bishop. He speaks, and Elly manages to huff out with effort, "don't CALL her that," but she is looking, in the most part, for weaknesses. Would they be able to trust anything he said?

Was it all a lie? Elly thinks. The Guardians are real, but they may be naturally occuring entities. Maybe their idea of a 'god' is wrong. Maybe it was something made as a shepherd's hook. And yet they pray. Even in this moment of despair, they trust that there is something good--

A gun fills her vision. Thoughts melt away and --

Well, Bishop Stone would see Elly scramble-dive to the side and her flames disappear, which is probably good for him, and leaves him with a freer field of action. Elly does not exactly 'think' this, being perhaps closer to where Lily or Azoth is right now, but drilling and repetition have given her an idea: an idea that while she has not *tried*, and this man shows Solarian training and perhaps other reinforcements, she *might* be able to simply immolate him--

-- but maybe not in time to save Billy--

-- and he knows things.

So she makes a sound something like "taaaah" as she pushes off of one wall with a kick to give herself a boost of momentum, running up behind Stone with her staff held with two hands and swung in a sharp low-facing arc, aiming to smash him in the kneecap!

GS: Elhaym van Houten spends 2 Combo on Gatling, loading 2 into Gatling!
GS: Formation! Elhaym van Houten has attacked Isaac Stone with Iron Staff!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Eika Zuse has posed.

Eika follows up her first palm thrust with a series of kicks, which also go wide, but are a very good reason for Stone to keep his distance. Though, given he has a gun (several actually) and she does not, that might be playing into his hands...

A chill runs down Eika's spine when Stone starts using names. Father Achim... "Get his name out of your mouth," Eika snarls. "You don't deserve to speak of him. He's a better man than it turns out you ever were." Surely he isn't involved in this, Eika thinks to herself with only a moment's hesitation - and then feels awful about even that instant. "And if you have hurt Father Achim... if your *purge* has come for him... because that's it, isn't it? That's how 'Solaris' does it? With the gun and the sword."

If he's trying to throw her off by calling her pious, after claiming the god she follows is false - well, that part of his plan is not working. Eika still believes. The Ethos might be corrupt, hollowed out like a gourd, but that means nothing to her faith. It seems the others have the same idea, as Eika feels the touch of grace from both Billy and Yulie.

She was never blessed that way. But she has her own grace.

Eika breathes in, breathes out. "Thank you," she says, sounding calmer than she has for some time. Not calm; her voice is still on the edge of a growl, she can feel her heart pounding in her chest, and her eyes are narrowed and focused. But functional.

Eika takes a step back, momentarily gathering her chi in a swirl of blue-white. Halfway through this process, she notices a coin dropping near her, and her reactions are immediate and swift; in the state of focus she's in, she can do nothing else.

Eika reaches out and picks the single coin out of the air between two fingers. Some part of her subconscious gives her an urgent warning, and she turns the grab into a lunge, and then a somersault, rolling low; the bullet passes through her mane of hair, tangling with something but leaving her skin uncreased. (For the moment.)

She stays low, driving a kick toward Stone in mirror to Elly, but from the front instead the back. Then another, then another - a series of spinning, whirling blows to literally lift him up a meter or two in the air with her along with him. The blows cease for only an instant as Eika does a forward somersault flip -

With a roar, she drives her feet downward, trying to slam Bishop Stone back to the ground with a mighty axe kick, follow him down, and stomp.

GS: Eika Zuse has activated a Force Action!
GS: Eika Zuse has attacked Isaac Stone with Skyfall Dive!
GS: Eika Zuse has completed her action.
GS: Isaac Stone takes a solid hit from Elhaym van Houten's Iron Staff for 127 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Isaac Stone gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: CRITICAL! Isaac Stone takes a glancing hit from Eika Zuse's Skyfall Dive for 128 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Isaac Stone gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren takes a solid hit from Rebecca Streisand's Ley Absorption for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Lydia Seren gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Mute and Weaken applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: Lydia Seren activates Sufferer!
GS: Lydia Seren enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Billy Lee Black takes a solid hit from Isaac Stone's Gunholic for 171 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Matilda Whitehead's Repositioning Shot for 88 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Lydia Seren gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren activates Sufferer!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    'Two groups to kill.'

    Ida's mind flashes back to Father Xiao. She remembers blood pouring from his lips as he gasped out his last words--words meant for her mother. He clung desperately life, hoping against all hope that he'd see her one last time.

    He never did. And now Ida has to go home and tell her mother and aunt what happened here. They're both in danger. She still hasn't seen any sign of Rosaline. No Etone is safe.

    "Solaris is the enemy," Ida says, through gritted teeth. "Solaris, and all who would stand with them of their own free will."

    Junk and debris form a familiar shape. Ida sees the energy boiling within the replica of the Ouroboros Ring, and leaps to the side, but Azoth has more than enough combat data to adequately compensate. The beam strikes Ida in the stomach, from the side; even that glancing hit is enough to reduce all but the innermost exoskeletal layer to metallic ash. It splatters across the floor, even as the beam shoots back down the hall and carves a perfect hole in the wall with a metallic shriek.

    "Clear out if you need to," Ida cries. "They're a weapon, whatever elese they are!"

    It's going to be too late. Now, will you tell Yuna exactly how her Guardian died? How many of them will Lily and Leon kill before they're cut down?

    Ida breathes, and tries to remember Liath.

    His consciousness brushes against hers, stirred to wakefulness. He remembers one of the more solid dreams, the dream of Mother's betrayal. He seeps into their nerves, all despair and longing and anger.

    She accepts him. They go forth.

    Fresh Living Metal flows up to patch over the wound Azoth just blasted into Ida's exoskeleton. As Leon and Tidus try to pin the construct between them, she darts in from behind, her stance low and fluid and unfamiliar. It certainly doesn't match most of the combat data.

    Both of Ida's hands press together. Hyadean tissue flows outwards, forming razor-sharp blades around them. She stabs them both for Azoth's lower back, roughly where the kidneys would be on a human. If she makes contact, she twists, and pulls them free.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Azoth with Muscle Memory!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey's Stoic stance ends.
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Azoth takes a solid hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Muscle Memory for 89 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Azoth gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Mighty applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Azoth activates Sufferer!
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

I resolved to fight again.

Lydia pulls her hands back. She looks to Riesenlied for a long moment. She has spoken no lies. She promises to bring down the 'House'. "I-"

But other things happen before she can properly respond to Riesenlied. Cyre, of course, begins by lying straight to Lydia's face perfectly--

--but Lydia's deadpan expression suggests she doesn't buy it. "Dude, it's just me. You don't gotta worry about your ego."

Cyre decides to show off his OWN Solais Emsu and Lydia is blasted back into a wall, cracking it hard enough to make spiderweb cracks start spreading around. Lydia looks towards Stone.

"Hey, do you like--care if this place is intact or not? I could just meteor it from orbit."

Wait, why am I asking his permission? Loren at least is mostly kind of rational here.

"Alright," She tells Riesenlied, smiling. "You're gonna fight. I hope... I hope you can defeat me some day and make these assholes sweat...!"

And with that kind of encouragement, Lydia starts channeling Solais Emsu--only for Rebecca to sap that energy from her.

The only problem with Rebecca's plan being that she has... MANY MORE Guardians to assault her friends and family with. Before she gets that opportunity, Matilda confesses her own troubles in changing the world, her own recognition of what may very well just be beyond her grasp. It's not a happy thing but some things but life isn't always happy is it?

"Then I'll just have t'become a doom you have to save." Lydia says. She brings up her arms. Several bullets just refract off her body but keeping on the pressure eventually just keeps driving Lydia back all the same. She's real tough, but there's just one of her and three of you and Xenogears parties top out at three--even in spite of that horrifying thing Lydia just said.

"I got it, Rebecca. Don't worry." Lydia straightens up. "I'll be a fire so big you'll have to save me. Save them. Save all of us."

And with that she pauses and adds, "But I can't keep holdin' back no longer. Otherwise it'll show up in my performance review and they'll complain or remove Rachiel and give me some dipshit like Stein instead."

She glances to Azoth for a moment but presses her lips tight. She's not going to spill it if she can avoid it.

She hoves up into the air and extends a hand towards Riesenlied.

"You'll fight yeah? Well... I can't hurt my mom. I'm not ready to fall that far anyway. But... CELESDUE!"

Purple energy crackles around Riesenlied, hoping to pin her in place and drain her of power without, you know, hurting too much.

"You'll fight. And.. I don't enjoy this...!! But--I'm counting on you...!"

She extends her hand again as she channels Rigdobrite, eyes crackling with glowing energy.

"And as for everyone and everythin'...!"

"EAT METEOR!"

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UeGV3MUlSpU

She channels Rigdobrite's power and the meteors come crashing down towards her friends. She at least seems to consider MAtilda one of them. Maybe? Who knows! Such things can't be one way or another. Fiery explosions detonate where each flaming rock lands.

"Do your best!" Lydia shouts encouragingly.

GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Rebecca Streisand with Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz takes a glancing hit from Lydia Seren's Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE for 147
hit points!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz activates Evade bonus!
GS: Lydia Seren enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Riesenlied with Optimized Material - Celesdue - COSMO MEMORY.EXE!
GS: Lydia Seren takes 29 damage from Poison!
GS: Poison expired!
GS: Lydia Seren has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Optimized Material - Celesdue - COSMO MEMORY.EXE for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaper applied to Riesenlied!
GS: Riesenlied takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: Rebecca Streisand takes a glancing hit from Lydia Seren's Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE for
141 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rebecca Streisand gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Matilda Whitehead critically guards Lydia Seren's Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE for 60 hit
points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Matilda Whitehead gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Matilda Whitehead activates Guard bonus!
GS: Lan Lilac guards a hit from Loren Voss's Extinction Rush for 57 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Lan Lilac gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Mighty applied to Loren Voss!
GS: Lan Lilac enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Yulie Ahtreide has posed.

"Is that... is that all you care about...?" Yulie replies, aghast. "Not the people you've hurt, and betrayed... just your position?"

As if in response to her prayers, a light builds above her... but crashes down like hellfire. Yulie draws out three large rings of spiraled metal, holding them out above herself protectively - they float, spinning, forming a sorcerous barrier to intercept the gout of flame. It proves too much, however, smashing through her defenses and striking her to the ground, her rings clattering to the floor next to her.

He taunts her. Ignorant masses... a god that was invented for them to believe in. ...She might be trying to tune the latter part out.

"Y-you're... awful. Don't lie. Don't... don't talk about the people who believe you like that." She mutters from the ground, gathering up her rings and hauling herself to her feet. Her voice sounds a little hollow. "You're... just like them."

She doesn't elaborate on who 'they' are, only that she seems to be talking about someone else.

"You just... you just lie, and manipulate, and hurt people... You don't care who it is, as long as you get what you want..." She mutters. "I'm... I'm sick of it. You're all the same..."

Building anger might be the only thing keeping her from collapsing due to overwhelming grief. She grips her rings tightly... and then spins, hurling one of them at Bishop Stone. It rushes at him like a spinning blade before rebounding back for Yulie to catch.

She's careful to try to avoid hitting Eika, who's in melee range - her current form might be...scary, but... right now, the only monster she sees is the man in front of her.

<Pose Tracker> Billy Lee Black has posed.

Stone - Stone, Bishop Stone, the man he loves so much, the man who smiled that kind smile and told him of the grace of God - doesn't let him have time to pray.

Billy's thoughts are still in total disarray. But the prayer helps. It's a meditative thing, after all. The whole posture, the clasping of hands, the head down and eyes shut, are built to shut out the world and bring you into communion with God. Eika's words are ringing in his ears. This is blasphemy of the highest order. He doesn't have time to process everything...

The Bishop rushes him, the Ether shotgun coming out. Billy's instincts simply fail to seize him again; he moves, this time, but the shotgun blast still takes him square in the chest. His Etone protections, armor and Ether both, keep him alive, but he still screams again and thuds hard against the console, moaning in agony as his spine and stomach both burn.

His hand lands near his gunbelt. Stone is asking him a question but his ears are ringing. He looks at his mentor with a near-total lack of comprehension.

The very assumptions of the question scald his soul.

"How...?" he repeats. Staring down the barrel of Stone's weapon. His spinning thoughts try to grasp onto reality for long enough to even understand the question.

But the horrible knot in his gut burbles an answer.

He can taste blood, but he croaks, "A trusted, friendly ear..." he breathes. "...a group the people trust to save them..."

"Is that....is that all our mission was? A convenience!?"

GS: Billy Lee Black has completed his action.
GS: Yulie Ahtreide has attacked Isaac Stone with Ray Thrust!
GS: Yulie Ahtreide takes 25 damage from Poison!
GS: Yulie Ahtreide has completed her action.
GS: Isaac Stone takes a solid hit from Yulie Ahtreide's Ray Thrust for 100 hit points!
GS: Quick applied to Yulie Ahtreide!
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

"Sorry about that," Lily reassures those who called out to her a moment ago, and she looks to Leon, her expression hard to read in the gloom of her current form. There is a twist of her lips, though, a sharp turn of her head toward Azoth as Leon mentions their foe is not holding back. "-...Defense priority one, acknowledged.-"

This close to Azoth, Lily has trouble getting away from the blast of red-black energy. She is standing on the ground, seems unable to simply fly backward out of range. Instead she puts out her hands and conjures a barrier, violet-black power leaching away much of the energy of the blast... But Azoth is a terror of the battlefield now himself, and even draining away the bulk of the blast leaves Lily blasted hard enough that her form is smoking when the cloud clears, her stance forced another step back and to one knee. She sets her jaw, looks at his shoulder, and considers...

Ida's gritted words. Solaris is the enemy. Lily hears them, looks to her for a moment, and inclines her head. "I agree. Enemies must be neutralized." Her hair blows in the wind, still black, but hard to look at like the rest of her form. It's too dark; the mind recoils. "By whatever means are necessary."

Leon asks if this is what their opponent--Azoth--wants. Lily does not recognize him as the friend who made her consider questions she'd never thought of before. She only sees this crackling form, and the enemy it represents.

...and Tidus, targetted particularly aftr helping them, and Leon wounded, and Ida's form fluid, and Xantia--

"'Want' is irrelevant. Action is relevant. There is only one solution."

Lily folds her hands together, rising back from the ground smoothly, too smoothly for muscle. "We have to focus on the battle at hand, as you said." This to Leon. She looks, and watches them strike together. Inky black hands rise, and blades of darkness sprout in each, extending high, each some four feet long and inches wide. She flexes her wrists, rolling her shoulders--and then rushes forward, slamming down the blades only to lift them again, and lift them again, bashing down as much as trying to cut.

GS: Lily Keil spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Lily Keil has attacked Azoth with Gloomhammer!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
GS: Azoth guards a hit from Lily Keil's Gloomhammer for 135 hit points!
GS: Azoth activates Sufferer!
<Pose Tracker> Lan Lilac has posed.

    What he did to Lan. What he did to Lan.

    Lan's mind drifts, somewhere beyond the walls of the tunnels, to the memory of Gwen lying charred and weeping, a town in flames, blooms of heat scorching everything. All for the Stranger's plots, all for the chance to nurture an ember stolen from a Primarch.

    Her own fingers working steadily, making loops with yarn and a hook; a hug and some tears and another hug and another, a promise that they would be kind because not everybody is.

    What the Stranger, Azazel, did to Lan. What Solaris did to Lan.
    Because Lan is kind, right? Because... because she wants to save this broken world?

    But as Loren proclaims that it was 'his job', that there was nothing he could do--
    --Lan doesn't feel very kind. She just feels angry, and ugly, and broken, and used. "You could have sone something!"

    Could she have listened, if he'd tried to tell her? Would she have been able to understand through Myyah's voice in her ears?

    "What kind of person says things like this are just his job?!" she demands. "If you know what you're doing is wrong, you stop doing it! Even if you're scared! EVEN IF IT HURTS!"

    What kind of person raises a weapon against someone who's helped them? What kind of person hurts people on purpose? Loren's sword makes a half-hearted attempt at wounding her and Lan grabs the blade in her hand, fingers vanished under a web as black as the night sky, as the void between stars. Blood runs lazily down the blade and her arm as she advances on him, tears streaking her cheeks, and forces him back towards Gwen with every step.

    "I believed in you," she mourns, the blade of the weapon creaking, threatening to bend - before she yanks it away from him and throws it across the chamber with a ringing clatter. Her now-empty hand smeared in blood and blackness raises above her head, and Lan...

    ...slaps Loren across the face, leaving a sticky, rapidly-cooling smear of red and ink across his face.

    It drips down his cheekbone, sinks into the crease at the corner of his lips.

    And it's real, and it's horrible, and for a moment He is here again, ready to spin nightmares--

DC: Lan Lilac switches forms to Black Fairy!
GS: Lan Lilac enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Lan Lilac has attacked Loren Voss with Uneternal Sleep!
GS: Lan Lilac has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lan Lilac has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

    There's a quiet smile and a nod that Rebecca may not see, but Riesenlied hopes she knows when she expresses how hard it is... to ask her to wait -- when there's so much that needs changing, when it feels like they're just putting out fires...

    Oftentimes, in the worst moments, that is the Outreach mood.

    But...

    They have been there before. They have seen the Hyadeans go from where they were -- under the thumb of Mother, usurped into so little more than soldiers and warmongers -- to where they are now... free to seek a life of their own, whatever that may be. Free to build new connections, free to find their own passions.

    She has seen change happen, and that makes her hopeful.

    "I will be happy to save you as many times as we need to," Riesenlied expresses. "And afterwards... afterwards, I will spoil you as much as you want, and cook all the dinners you could ever want!"

    And to that end, she will even fight Celesdue, as the crackle of energy wraps uncomfortably around her, pinning her in place and draining her power. Her limbs feel as heavy as lead, and the very Ley is escaping her already-burnt body... but...

    Around her, her friends are at threat of being devoured by Rigdobrite's meteors; she draws in a deep breath as she focuses further, trusting her very conscience to the depths of her connection with Odoryuk.

    Together... we can eventually overcome such boundaries...

    It's the words that she once heard from the Guardian of Life, so long ago, at the top of the Pleasing Gardens. Words to cling onto, and keep hope alive...

    "I will give it my all, Lydia..."

    The Hyadean's palms cup around the Dragon's Tear, shining ever inexorably; once more, the faint but evident tremor of the Ley can be felt as she taps straight into the lifeblood of the world and trusts her body, her conscience into it all.

    She is a silhouette in the sphere of light that forms.

    The signature weapon of peace she first most considerably used against Id, the Laevateinn -- which she has since refined using her father's own techniques and made a variant of his own signature...

    "Even if a harsh fate awaits us...
     Our candle shall burn in the dark!
     This emotion that brings forth the future...
     It speaks -- 'Let us seek a new world!!'"

    Riesenlied twists -- and lets loose with a prismatic

                              B E E E E E E E A M

    reminiscent of Siegfried (and more recently, Janus)'s technique. But familiarly to Lydia, this one doesn't hurt in the way the negative one does... it soothes aggression and drains the will to fight.

    Indeed, look! For it will...

GS: Riesenlied spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Lydia Seren with Sparkle! Our Positive Rainbow!!
GS: Riesenlied has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Riesenlied takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia manages to succeed in her gambit. That is to say, her attack had the intended effect, certainly, but she also accomplished the other thing that she set out to do. Not that it was obvious that she was doing anything else. While she would've liked to say something about what she learned right away, she unfortunately didn't manage to back away quite as much as she needed to. In the wake of Lily's attack, there's retaliation in the form of a mass of electical energy.

Xantia is used to voluntarily surrounding herself with electricity - she does so now as an impulse, perhaps in an attempt to counteract, fighting lightning with lightning. It doesn't work out that way. Whatever it is that's emanating from Azoth is unaffected by a shield of conventional lightning, and Xantia can't do much else but hunker down and weather the storm. She remains crouched down as the energy washes over her, the exact effect remaining unclear for the moment.

Until she, sluggishly and a bit unsteadily, starts to rise back to her feet. If asked, she would claim to be fine, but privately she remarks, "...my everything hurts." And then, right out of nowhere, she suddenly points in Azoth's direction and speaks in a strangely triumphant tone.

"But, I'm not the only one! You're in pain, too!"

She realizes a moment later that this is easily misunderstood, and she quickly clarifies, "I mean, not from what we've been doing, I guess that probably hurts too, but... anyway!"

Leon then loudly asks 'is this what you want', and Xantia is the one to answer: "Yes! I mean, no! That's what I'm trying to say! This is also a victim of Solaris, I'm sure of it!"

What exactly she's using as the basis for this claim is unclear to probably everybody, including herself. But after reaching into Azoth through her Ether, she just knows. As such, there's only one thing that she can say to the machine: "If you don't want this, then you should be fighting Solaris, not us!"

She may be a little optimistic about the amount of free will involved here, but well, that's Xantia. Never assuming anything is impossible. Anyone this powerful who wants to fight against something clearly must be capable of doing so, all they need is the proper amount of motivation.

Still, the others have a point. Even if this is true, this is still basically a living weapon they're dealing with, one that doesn't seem about to hold back. Stopping them takes priority. Purposely, Xantia strides back towards Azoth...

And, anti-climatically, just rears back to deliver a simple, single punch. Though arguably, nothing is simple about any of Xantia's punches. She has a lot of physical strength.

GS: Xantia has attacked Azoth with A Gentle Tap!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia takes 23 damage from Poison!
GS: Hyper expired!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Xantia's attack becomes clear!
GS: Azoth takes a glancing hit from Xantia's Scarlet Eclipse for 114 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Azoth gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Azoth activates Sufferer! Azoth enters Critical health and gains 25 FP!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Whoops! Actually that wasn't as simple nor as single a punch as it looked. In a flash, Xantia is suddenly on the other side of Azoth, having delivered a veritable storm of blows faster than the human eye could follow as she dashed past him. Looks like she was serious after all.

GS: Loren Voss takes a solid hit from Lan Lilac's Uneternal Sleep for 132 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Loren Voss gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Lan Lilac drains Loren Voss! Lan Lilac gains 66 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"Lydia I swear it's like you don't even know the intricacies of the bro code," Cyre answers with the most absolutely deadpan expression he can manage while his little sister is planning to drop several meteors on top of their heads. This is not a good idea, you know? There's an entire town on top of them, you know!!??

Well. Clearly Lydia is of the opinion that it's just... Future Saint Heim's problem? Except it's not. It's very much present Saint Heim's problem.

A rain of extraterrestrial stone falls from on high. Cyre dodges out from under the shadow of the stone aimed at his head... But not fast enough to get out of the massive AoE template centered at his feet. He's sent flying on impact, tumbling across the ground and into a painful, smoldering heap...

But, simultaneoulsy, onto his feet.

"It's not a matter of ego. An older brother can never look uncool in front of a younger sister! Even if that sister is a demon working for awful sky people against her will!" The wind surges, a shockwave rushing through space at supersonic speed, and...

Bounces off a totally unrelated structural pillar.

...And rebounds into Cyre. An echo that builds upon a second, thunderous blast. The combined wave-forms merge and reverberate until the very air in the room seems to tremble with energy...

This one actually aimed for Lydia.

"It's not like 'demon' is any weirder to have as a relative than 'nanomachine super robot from the sky, anyway!!"

GS: Cyre H. Lorentz spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Formation! Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Lydia Seren with Howling Gale!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Hyper expired!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Matilda has always had trouble dealing with forces beyond the conventional world. It's never really been something she's understood, even since she was a child; when those meteors come down, all she can really do is hunker down. It's not like there's a more conventional physical force to exploit here, after all. She *does* do a very good job of hunkering down, admittedly; focusing on very minimal movements and accepting that some of this *will* hit her makes it much easier to 'triage out' her responses.

Matilda watches Riesenlied; her expression sours a little. She's never quite been able to bring her feelings to bear the way Riesenlied can; it's genuinely frustrating to feel so... small, across from something like that.

All she can do is use the tools she has available to her. At the moment, they're fairly... straightforward, tools.

Matilda's hands clench tight, and she advances toward Lydia, weapons in both hands now -- sword in one, gun in the other. She attacks with neither, though; instead, she slips her leg out for a quick trip attempt.

GS: Matilda Whitehead enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Lydia Seren with Quick Trip!
GS: Matilda Whitehead assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: Hyper expired!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Rebecca Streisand has posed.


ebecca seems to get whiplash at Lydia's implications, as she doubles back to hide around some debris so that stray ARMS fire and spells don't take her out by accident. "Lydia! Don't say it like that, you make it sound like-" As she sounds more than a bit upset, flicking her ARM open to check it again. And then closing it, and putting it away in it's holster.

"-you don't have to go that far... Wait... wha...?"

She leans out to look at Lydia hovering around the pillar as she yells out, aghast. "Your PERFORMANCE REVIEW?" It's something that seems so normal, when it's so horrifying, when it's what determines who steers the ship of Lydia's head.

Now Rebecca feels like shooting SEVERAL people in this room who are not named Lydia.

Yet, she understands... she never intended to ask Lydia to fight what's going on in her head. To go against it. She always accepted that this was going to happen.

"Do it." She tells her, while looking her in the eye. Then starts running, and leaps into a reverse somersault. And just as an explosion is going to hit, she rapidly pulls out her other ARM.

The Portal Guns Lydia gave her, fires once by the wall. Then again right by where she's going to land. As she straightens out like a diver to plunge right in.

A fiery explosion detonates far too close. And the fiery force wave from the meteorfall clips her, sending her straight through, as she roughly tumbles on the other side rather than in a graceful roll.

"Not my... best... landing."

Rebecca pants, as she pats out a few small cinders that have caught on her clothing.

"Fine. If you're counting on me... I'll hit you so hard that they'll have no doubt you gave it your all."

Pulling out a stone medium, she starts the process of focusing, as a ring of lightning descends, striking in sequence around her in a connection that seems to go beyond the ceiling of this place. "We'll figure this out... and once we do. You'll never have to worry about anything like that... ever again. MATERIAL - FLASH CORRIDA!"

Rebecca seems to fade away for a moment, and as a localized effect, clouds seem to roil in across their side of the room. An effigy of a great horned beast, bedecked in broken shackles and collar seems to descend from it to the ground, crashing with great force.

A large green gem in it's forehead reflecting Lydia within it, as this minor manifestation of Noua Shax faces her down for a moment, before it begins it's blurring charge. Lightning descending into a sequence of two vertical columns as it charges towards her in an upward arc of ascension back into the heavens.

And through Lydia of course.

Rebecca seems to reappear at that moment, although in reality she never left, "We'll get you control back over your life... if it's the last thing we do."

GS: Rebecca Streisand has activated a Force Action!
GS: Rebecca Streisand has cancelled 1 Force Action.
GS: Rebecca Streisand has attacked Lydia Seren with Material - Flash Corrida!
GS: Rebecca Streisand has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Rebecca Streisand assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: Hyper and Mighty expired!
GS: Rebecca Streisand has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Gwen sees the actual tenets of Gazel's training on ether now in full bloom, her fist sifting through ether-laced air. So this is the sort of thing Loren and Elly had training in... But Gwen has her own methods, lacking her own pool of ether to draw from.

    Seeing Loren's reaction to Azazel's name is evidence enough. Loren, it seems, did not know.

    The shield is pushed to batter Gwen back, and the courier hits it head on, throwing herself on it in to get closer to the medic. "So you didn't know," Gwen murmurs to Loren under her struggle, her eyes thrown into pale blue by the light of his unorthodox shield. "Azazel... he wants to shape Lan into something." She leans in further as much as her hold on Loren can allow, without inviting his shield to injure her further. "Please, whatever you do...!"

    *CLANG* Lan intervenes with anger, slapping the weapon from Loren's hand.

    "...." Gwen looks up towards Lan, shocked, her face flinching away when Lan delivers that smack.

    This isn't good.

    "Don't attack unless you gotta, Loren," she urges the medic, as she runs towards Lan--

    -- And grabs her into a tight hug.

    "You were there for me when I was that monster. Not gonna let this slide without doin' the same for you!!"

GS: Gwen Whitlock spends 1 Combo on Inspire!
GS: Gwen Whitlock enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Lan Lilac with Revolving Bond!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Isaac Stone has posed.

    There is a stalling in Stone's demeanor when he hears the sharpness of Elly's protest about who or what he calls someone or something. While waiting for Billy's answer, Elly's focus breaks from maintaining the flames to come at him with her own martial training. He misgauges the angle of her swing, that flare of emotion burning the taut, well-measured string of logic as she scores the kneecap and not his elbow like he predicts.
     "Hragh!" His verbal stride breaks as his grace finds the climbing, crippling sting going up his leg. He keeps himself upright by hopping on one leg thrice, a sight just shy of comical but in truth a well-trained means to stop himself from flopping over.
     Eika, meanwhile, will find later that the coin she catches is a rare 40 gella piece minted from a place no longer on the map, and it emits a pleasingly loud metallic 'ting' when struck - but this is something she may or may not live to appreciate as she takes advantage of Elly's blow to push her own offense. The first kick comes up short from his back hops, but her maneuver keeps with spinning, whirling blows that take him off his feet and into the air and spikes him down with bone-breaking force.
     The stomp kick - the finishing blow of a combo where nearly all of it otherwise finds purchase - is a near-miss as he lifts his legs up to tumble backwards onto his feet in time for Yulie to spit her venom and sorrow for 'them.' The ring carves into his coat across his chest, a pained sneer.
     "Ah... what can I say, young Paladienne? Welcome to the real world." A thumb runs across the cut, as if gauging how much he cares. "You will find, even among the -Lambs-, that this is how people operate when they grow up. Such is why they require such a careful, guiding hand... that tightens until they can no longer squeeze loose. But I digress. Your answer, Billy."
     He hasn't spoken to Elly or Eika yet. He hears the meek answer of a broken young man whose entire world is being shattered, picked back up, and shattered further until it is not shards of glass from a mirror, but a fine powder that can only scar the lungs to breathe in...
     And Stone... at last heeds Elly's request to stop smiling or laughing.
     "The Etones.... 'the Atoners.' The ones prepared to be 'eliminaotrs' for those corrupted by their own surface dweller values and ambitions. The ones who would overreach the power and duty they were bestowed. For those who simply not work within the systems set up by the 'Ethos.'" Although his entourage are not doing that great of a job of contributing meaningfully to shooting down the gathered, they keep attempting to do so throughout (they will not succeed). Stone stops heeding Elly's request and he's back to smiling again.
     "The -god- and -faith- systems set up by the 'Ethos' were the truth worth protecting to the very last drop of blood, were they not?"
     Just as he asks this, he tumbles forward to try and get behind the Beastfolk martial artist, thrusting his less injured leg up to try and kick her into the air. "I would tell Father Achim hello on your behalf, but I doubt he would rather hear it from one who has proven such a disappointment," he sneers as he throws a shotgun into the air for... apparently no reason? This doesn't stop the twin set of pistols going off in his hands from being any less dangerous to deal with - or that he has a second one waiting for her on hand to cap it off.
     Then... there's something even larger that requires him to hold up his right arm in vertical alignment with the rest of the body, something heavy - barrels of a minigun - that start to roar to life as he sits up and fans it out in the direction of Elly. "Have you any other demands you wish to make of me? I've already so many things I would love nothing more to do to a traitor that I might even have enough left over for a second...!"
     Finally, as the barrel of that minigun proves far too hot to keep firing, with another thought of Ether, the flying Ether shotgun grows ever hotter as it spins above Yulie's path. He need not pull that trigger directly. It just needs to get hot enough on its own merits.
     "Do you remember, young lady, what the adults around you would say to those who were disobedient? What awaited then long after they were young ladies, lived their miserable sinful lives, and received their just reward?" A smile. "A lie to keep them in line, of course. But let it not be said I won't swaddle you further with such tales!"
     Then the shotgun goes off, blasting a gout of shining, colorful... explosive belches of flame to envelop her, as Stone rises again.
     Not another ARM is pointed at the emotionally shattered Etone. The wicked smile... turns to a frown. The corner of his mouth opens to clenched teeth. "...If only he could see you like this. It almost seems a waste, breaking you like this here," as if wondering for a moment in his cruelty if Billy isn't yet ready for the truth, in the capacity he wants him to be.
     "Do you still believe, then? Will you still believe, Billy?" This fades into that false kindness that Billy always found solace and peace in.

GS: Isaac Stone has attacked Eika Zuse with Banfrau!
GS: Isaac Stone spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Isaac Stone has attacked Elhaym van Houten with An Even Bigger Goddamn Minigun!
GS: Isaac Stone has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Recover! Entangle removed from Isaac Stone!
GS: Isaac Stone spends 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Isaac Stone has attacked Yulie Ahtreide with Inquisition!
GS: Isaac Stone has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    "I know," Loren hisses to Gwen, gritting his teeth for the moment. "I can't--"
    Protect her from that either, really.

    When you react in anger, is it a surprise that the reasponse is more anger?

    Loren claims there wasn't anything he could do. Lan retorts that he could have done something. Could have maybe even said something, could have eased her suffering in some small way.

    "Shut up! You don't understand!" he retorts. Dimly -- quite dimly -- he's aware of the situation that is unfolding at various angles around the room, for the still-living operatives here and there within what had once been the nerve center of the Ethos' activities. He'd been taken out here to support the purge. He'd been told to join the others involved with this most recent of 'incidents' because he had the experience and the skills required to support the others.
    Instead, he's mostly been fighting against two women who had once saved him, and struggling in the doing of it. Once that had been a more common lament for him: he didn't measure up, he didn't have the raw power of others (like van Houten, of whom he is very much aware in this space and perhaps a little grateful in a small meaningless way to not be tangling with), he just couldn't achieve the way he was supposed to. He'd forgotten it to an extent after everything that happened.

    But here it is again, barreling through his awareness like a runaway train. He's not measuring up, even in a task as basic as this--

    Trying to keep Gwen and Lan at bay with sword and shield he closes his eyes just for the moment, exhales a breath, just for the moment. Then green light erupts from him, following some hidden trail as the lines trace their way in fractal paths across the room, seeking the ones he's duty-bound to support. One by one the light finds them, touches them, and evaporates into nothingness.

    It takes Loren only a moment. It's as long as Lan permits him.

    "I don't--" he starts and stops when she accuses him, more or less, of being a monster. "It's not-- it's not wrong! This is, someone has to-- this is maintaining order!"

    He strikes at her. The blade doesn't hit her so much as she grabs it. Shock lights up across his face, first at what she's done, and second as his gaze dips just enough to consider her hand. Loren doesn't so much say something as utter a garbled string of syllables.

    And she slaps him across the face, telling him that she believed in him.

    He stands there, nearly a stone statue, for a long, long moment. A tarry substance rolls down the side of his face, touching the corner of his mouth. He can taste it.

    "A... a...h," he utters, taking a slow step backwards. The memory -- no, don't think about it don't think about it don't think about

    too late

    He lets out a howl as the memory catches him, fear erupting from his body in almost tangible form. What a strange pattern this is, all twists and angles, turning in on itself into an eternity. A mandala of orange, green, and yellow, an abstract mathematical shape. It would be pretty if it weren't for the fact it's more than just color and light and angles.

    So much for Gwen's warning to him. This is fire, regardless of its appearance. It has heat and it can burn.

GS: Loren Voss spends 1 Combo on Reload!
GS: Loren Voss enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Azoth with Renewal Function!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Lydia Seren with Renewal Function!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Isaac Stone with Renewal Function!
GS: Loren Voss has activated a Force Action!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Atar Vandaka!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Lan Lilac with Atar Vandaka!
GS: Loren Voss has completed his action.
GS: Azoth accepts Loren Voss's Renewal Function for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Blind, Cripple, and Disrupt removed!
GS: Cover applied to Loren Voss!
GS: Azoth activates Loren Voss's Reload!!
GS: Elhaym van Houten fully evades Isaac Stone's An Even Bigger Goddamn Minigun for 0 hit points!
GS: Elhaym van Houten activates Evade bonus!
GS: Elhaym van Houten enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Eika Zuse takes a solid hit from Isaac Stone's Banfrau for 169 hit points!
GS: Disease applied to Eika Zuse!
GS: Eika Zuse activates Sufferer!
GS: Yulie Ahtreide takes a solid hit from Isaac Stone's Inquisition for 184 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Yulie Ahtreide gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Cripple applied to Yulie Ahtreide!
GS: Quick applied to Isaac Stone!
GS: Yulie Ahtreide enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

Azoth staggers, fallen from his ominous floating and standing on unstable footing. His entire form trembles, twitching uncannily while dark red light continues to arc over him as if it were trying to tear him apart just to escape him. A clawed hand feels over what he cannot see: a hole torn through his cloak and his shoulder, where frayed wiring is exposed.

Tidus' blade strikes true, sinking against metal and into Azoth's wiring. Tidus will be able to see the watery blue energy travel through the wires of Azoth's body, visibly spreading through his circuitry. It leaves him prone for the others to attack -- Ida's sword hacking into tubes and cords that spray out strange, blackened fluid, but striking at nothing truly vital. This construct is not built in precise mimicry of the humanoid. Azoth still stands.

But such a powerful expulsion of energy previously and some of Xantia's strange tampering have left him drained -- drained enough that disabled processes have room to function against the demand for full power he can no longer reach.

He looks up at Leon as his sword falls upon him. "Want is -- irrelevant," he says in deliberate echo of Lily's words, and still in that glitched, ancient voice. It's as much for Xantia as it is for Leon. There is only one solution. Azoth's clawed hand grips into the blade, even as it sinks into it, damaging it while he pushes the weapon aside. "Greater force -- is required for -- my termination."

Lily tries to bring it, crashing blades against a strange veil of light, shattering it, and colliding her sorcery into the metal of his chassis. He meets her gaze with his own empty visor, and he speaks to her in an ancient tongue: "-Is it irrelevant for you?-" Is she like him, far more than he ever understood...?

Xantia is then upon him with a punch he calculates as one he can dive into to counter: he cannot. Her fists strike into him multiple times until he finally vanishes, reappearing in an unstable float away from them.

"Want -- is -- irrelevant," he says again, straining to speak at all. "I am a -- weapon." Even Ida recognizes as much.

ERROR CRITICAL DAMAGE SUSTAINED ERROR INITIATING EMERGENCY FUNCTIONS

It was a short lived freedom, however fragmented it was. Even Loren's influence isn't enough to call off the coming assault. If anything, his agony only encourages it. And even now, even not knowing who he is, the others speak to Azoth like they want to help him. Like they would still care, despite everything. Like they can see his pain, even though he no longer has a face. ERROR Friend tar ERROR ERROR OVERRIDE

Want really is irrelevant.

"ELIMINATING TARGETS."

Azoth sweeps his cloak aside and energy seems to burst forth from him, billowing and oppressive. He punctuates the command with a twisted, mechanical roar, at once feral and synthetic. In a burst of power, Azoth launches himself forward. Lasers shoot out of his body in small streams, chasing down Leon and Xantia as he tries to reposition himself. With another sweep of his claw, more deadly light gathers, firing for Tidus and Ida.

It's an array of attacks meant to distract as much as to destroy, and within the laser show, Azoth weaves through the group. Blades continually form at his side, red and crackling. He uses a couple to swipe out at ERROR Lily and Xantia, and then flings them away, as if they were ruined by the effort, toward Leon.

But there's still a chain of them as he makes directly for Ida, spinning around as if commanding a long, lashing whip of swords to cleave across her. ERROR FRIENDLY TARGET ERROR ERROR ERROR

OVERRIDE

Azoth's chain of blades comes back down on Ida with explosive force, one after the other, in a relentless barrage while agony surges through his core.

Why can't it stop him? What does he have to do to make it matter?!

GS: Lydia Seren critically guards Rebecca Streisand's Material - Flash Corrida for 35 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren activates Sufferer!
GS: Azoth has completed his action.
GS: Azoth has become ENRAGED!
GS: Azoth has activated a Boss Action!
GS: Azoth has activated a Force Action!
GS: Azoth has activated a Force Action!
GS: Azoth spends 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Azoth has attacked Leon Albus with exec.ohr COMPILE!
GS: Azoth has attacked Xantia with exec.ohr COMPILE!
GS: Azoth has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Azoth spends 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Azoth has attacked Tidus with exec.ohr PURGE!
GS: Azoth has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with exec.ohr PURGE!
GS: Azoth has attacked Lily Keil with exec.mec ERASE!
GS: Azoth has attacked Xantia with exec.mec ERASE!
GS: Azoth has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Azoth spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Azoth has attacked Leon Albus with exec.mec DISCARD!
GS: Azoth spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Formation! Azoth has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with exec.mec RUN!
GS: Azoth has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Azoth has launched an attack Link!
GS: Formation! Azoth has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with exec.mec END!
GS: Azoth has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lily Keil guards a hit from Azoth's exec.mec ERASE for 105 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Lily Keil gains 1 additional Combo!
GS:  Enrage purges all positive status!
GS: Azoth has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Leon Albus takes a solid hit from Azoth's exec.ohr COMPILE for 256 hit points!
GS: Jam and Poison applied to Leon Albus!
GS: Leon Albus has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
GS: CRITICAL! Leon Albus guards a hit from Azoth's exec.mec DISCARD for 129 hit points!
GS: Leon Albus activates Guard bonus!
GS: Leon Albus enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Leon Albus has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Matilda Whitehead's attack becomes clear!
GS: Lydia Seren critically guards Matilda Whitehead's Iron in the Garden for 40 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren activates Guard bonus, Power Burst, and Sufferer!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Azoth's exec.ohr PURGE for 148 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Ida Everstead-Rey gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Poison applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: CRITICAL! Ida Everstead-Rey takes a glancing hit from Azoth's exec.mec RUN for 135 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Ida Everstead-Rey gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Surprise! It was not a trip attempt at all! Or at least that was the intent. Unfortunately, Matilda can't bring enough momentum to bear due to some mysterious action Lydia will take in the near future, which means all she actually does is kick Lydia really hard in the leg.

GS: Gwen Whitlock used Defend! She takes Loren Voss's Atar Vandaka attack on Lan Lilac on herself!
GS: CRITICAL! Xantia takes a solid hit from Azoth's exec.ohr COMPILE for 270 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Xantia gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Jam and Poison applied to Xantia!
GS: Xantia has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Azoth's exec.mec END for 273 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
GS: ROU|LET|TE: Low! Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Loren Voss's Atar Vandaka for 57 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Gwen Whitlock gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: ROU|LET|TE: Severe! Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Loren Voss's Atar Vandaka for 182 hit points!
GS: Xantia guards a hit from Azoth's exec.mec ERASE for 106 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Xantia gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Xantia activates Guard bonus!
GS: Xantia has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
GS: CRITICAL! Tidus takes a solid hit from Azoth's exec.ohr PURGE for 235 hit points!
GS: Poison applied to Tidus!
GS: Tidus has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

"I can't argue with that. We don't get what we want," Leon says. His blade digs into Azoth's hand. He grits his teeth -- and then his eyes widen at the words.

'Eliminating targets.'

Energy explodes out from him. Lasers stream and twist and swirl -- and collide, slamming through the attempts by the Raid Fangs to make barriers. They hit Leon. They pitch him backward, throwing him.

A sweep of a claw connects. A bloody rend is left on Leon's chest. He flies across the room, smashing itno the wall.

He crumples there, then slumps.

GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Cyre H. Lorentz's Howling Gale for 125 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren activates Sufferer!
GS: Lydia Seren takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Sparkle! Our Positive Rainbow! for 185 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren activates Sufferer!
GS: Riesenlied drains Lydia Seren! Riesenlied gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Tidus has posed.

    'My everything hurts,' Xantia mutters. Tidus, who happens close enough to hear, groans, "Mine too. But..." He pushes himself to attack, to try to slow that robot that critical amount down. "We can't give up now, can we?!"
    
    And he does indeed see the energy he sent through his sword into the robot's wires, slowing him down. But then Xantia also claims that this robot is also a victim of Solaris's. All considered, Tidus is willing to believe it, but it's still a lot. "Seriously?!" he calls her way before looking back at Not-Azoth. He hesitates a second. Azoth speaks to Lily in an ancient tongue. Tidus makes up his mind and calls, in perfect Zeboim, "-Where are you from?-"
    
    Even if their foe doesn't know anything about it, it's just as much a question for his allies. After all, Lily spoke in his homeland's native tongue, too.
    
    It doesn't help in the end. Want, for this robot--this person?, is irrelevant. Loren calls up a power that sweeps away the detrimental powers Tidus and the others had managed to inflict on the robot. He seizes that opportunity to rain destruction down upon them.
    
    Adrenaline can only take one so far. And told, this is a lot of blood to lose in a short amount of time. Tidus flags and falls to one knee at the wrong moment. Lasers whistle down and explode on contact, sending him flying. He impacts the wall next to Leon, two matching cracked indentations, and likewise crumples. He's still breathing, but... he doesn't get up again, either.

GS: Lydia Seren accepts Loren Voss's Renewal Function for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Mute and Weaken removed!
GS: Cover applied to Loren Voss!
GS: Lydia Seren activates Loren Voss's Reload!!
<Pose Tracker> Eika Zuse has posed.

Eika doesn't even look at the coin. It is irrelevant once it's no longer in the air. She may eventually forget she has it. What matters, right now, is survival - survival not just for her but for the rest of them. None of the people here are Eika's friends, precisely; Eika does not have many. But that doesn't matter.

She is kicked up, and rolls with the movement; tumbling forward as much as up, Eika cannot stop herself from being shot. She feels the bullets hit her in the side, the back; they get her attention even through her adrenaline, and she has to consciously choose to put that pain aside. She's good at it. She will pay for it later. "I told you to get his name out of your mouth," she snarls, as she tumbles away from Stone; she ends up further away. Closer to... Billy.

"Hey," Eika calls to Billy, and then louder: "HEY." She knows he's hurt - so is she. The only reason she's not struggling as badly as he is is because she worked through some of it earlier, when she was effectively banished. She knows that, if he knows who she is at all, he will hate her, or at least has been prompted to not trust her. She has to push past all of that.

"If you're helping people, it's not just a convenience." Eika has never been great with her words - it was by far the part of the job she was worst with. There's a reason she was chosen to be a ruins diver and not, say, a preacher. "The Church has helped people. Food. Shelter. Protection in war. Whatever *he* thinks the Ethos were, doesn't mean the people in it weren't trying to do good."

She turns back to Stone - and spits, though not at him; just aside. "You did nothing," Eika says, "so don't sound so smug. Granas is older and more powerful than you are. The Church has done so much for everyone, and his message has been heard across the land! You and yours may be trying to co-opt one sect of his Church, but if you think people will let you get away with it once they know - what are you going to do? Kill all of us, so we can't tell anyone?"

Eika spreads her arms. "Come on, try it. Try to kill me if you can - because I'm going to do the same to you! Coward! Traitor! They may have thrown me out of the Ethos, but I can still handle one sinful priest no matter who is backing him up!"

Eika has always had a bit of an anger problem.

And right now, for the first time since she changed - she lets it loose. Chi bursts around her, blue-white tinged with green around the outside, as Eika breathes in once more, and out, a steady rhythm. She draws it in, again, again, a second breath and then a third -

Eika rushes. She moves so fast she seems to blur, trailing phantom energy behind her; a whirling, perplexing barrage of kicks and punches. Despite her rage she is still wary about using her claws, and doesn't; she fights exactly the way she was taught as an Etone and a martial artist. Each blow is reinforced by a burst of wind-aspected chi, strong enough to crack stone, and she never, ever slows down - until she runs out of energy entirely, the light flickering out around her as she stumbles, gasping for breath.

GS: Eika Zuse spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Eika Zuse has attacked Eika Zuse with Focus Chi!
GS: Eika Zuse has launched an attack Link!
GS: Eika Zuse accepts Eika Zuse's Focus Chi for 0 hit points!
GS: Burst and Hyper applied to Eika Zuse!
GS: Eika Zuse activates Sufferer!
GS: Eika Zuse enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Eika Zuse has activated a Force Action!
GS: Eika Zuse has activated a Force Action!
GS: Eika Zuse has attacked Isaac Stone with Final Fury!
GS: Eika Zuse has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Eika Zuse has completed her action.
GS: Isaac Stone accepts Loren Voss's Renewal Function for 0 hit points!
GS: Cover applied to Loren Voss!
GS: Isaac Stone activates Loren Voss's Reload!!
GS: Isaac Stone takes a solid hit from Eika Zuse's Final Fury for 196 hit points!
GS: Eika Zuse drains Isaac Stone! Eika Zuse gains 0 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"Well I'm not a bro!" Lydia shouts--defensively as all heck. She probably doesn't have a very strong opinion of what happens to Saint Heim. She might be more concerned about the people underneath Saint Heim but she might assume that our heroes have some kind of 'out' here because they always do right? They'll be fine. They probably have something up their sleeves.

"Wait--say what like what?" Lydia asks of Rebecca. She doesn't seem to know what she's talking about. Her mouth does sometime s run faster than her brain. There is a moment of relief when she sees the portal guns in someone else's hands. Solaris could have easily gotten that from her too and then they'd probably be teleporting everywhere by now.

Rebecca summons a Guardian. "You--you're a shaman?" She doesn't have a strong concept of the differences between Original Mediums and her own.

But Lydia extends her hand as the Summon Beast unleashes its power and Lydia's body SHINES as--the power is...

...absorbed into her body.

"Huh." Lydia says. "I guess I am supposed to just sort of... eat this stuff." She grimaces and burps out lightning.

She punches herself in the stomach twice and cricks her neck. "I'm guessin' they didn't want 'em taking it back."

Matilda goes in for another sliding strike, this time for Lydia's legs. Matilda can FEEL Lydia's legs become denser even as she strikes evne as Lydia APPROACHES the strike to make it easier but actually sort of fucks up her followup entirely by accident. Lydia seems distressed by this. "I'm really sorry, but I might be the worst opponent for ya."

She pauses before adding, "I do appreciate all you did for me, back then. Are you still with Odessa? I hope not. I have to kill Odessa folks. If you tell me you left I'll believe you."

Despite her experience with the Original Medium, Cyre has better luck summoning his own sorceric power. Maybe as a shaman with a similar summoning method, Cyre just knows how to push past Lydia's complicated defenses. He shouts that he can never look uncool in front of a younger sister.

"You've never looked uncool to me," Lydia promises. "Not even when you were being a huge dork or not kissing Catenna enough."

The room trembles with energy before it slams into her through a helpful pillar and out the other end towards ANOTHER wall that cracks loudly upon Lydia's impact.

She collapses forward, dropping down into a crouch.

She pants for breath. And then she blinks twice as she realizes that's happening. "Ahah..." Lydia says. "Ahah...!"

She stands herself up. grinning a wild grin of many sharp teeth that would scare just about anybody--

--Except the people who know her or love her and know that Lydia grinning with all those sharp teeth is not malice or beastial fury. It's all too human insecurity and panic and fear. A way to push people away before they get too close.

Loren eases her pain and Lydia looks to him. "You chose this path. You got to choose." Lydia tells him. "If you're still having second thoughts about it--you should've escaped when they first made the offer. You know it's wrong but you stick around even without any control programming. I don't get it." She shakes her head. "But you shouldn't be a dick to people trying to help you just because it sucks to know you can't accept it!"

Loren frustrates him but maybe the thing that frustrates her most about Loren is that he knows well how fucked up everything is but sticks around for some reason anyway. She doesn't understand.

In this moment of distraction Riesenlied unleashes the power of her POSITIVE RAINBOW. It passes through her. It doesn't...seem to harm her though...?"

Lydia's shoulders drop. She sinks down to her hands and knees. She already didn't want to fight really. The positive rainbow only makes it even harder. She senses OS trying to take advantage of her moment of weakness. She senses OS trying to come back up top and take over again. She senses OS wanting to help Azoth even if it means, even if it means...

Cannons burst out of Lydia's body. From her chest. From her face, from her limbs and legs, facing in every which way direction. They glow with prismatic energy, crackling wildly and dangerously as Lydia sinks to the floor.

"Hahh... Hahhh... I can't... I can't give up or they'll... They'll... I didn't want to hate them."

Lydia manages as the cannons open fire. "I didn't want to. But there's only so much a gal like me can take. Please..."

"Don't die."

GS: Lydia Seren has activated a Boss Action!
GS: Lydia Seren spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Riesenlied with Last Love Song On This Little Planet!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Matilda Whitehead with Last Love Song On This Little Planet!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Rebecca Streisand with Last Love Song On This Little Planet!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Cyre H. Lorentz with Last Love Song On This Little Planet!
GS: Cover and Mighty expired!
GS: Lydia Seren has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied has activated a Force Action!
GS: Riesenlied guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Last Love Song On This Little Planet for 138 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied activates Guard bonus!
GS: Riesenlied takes an additional 55 damage from Reaper!
GS: Rebecca Streisand critically guards Lydia Seren's Last Love Song On This Little Planet for 47 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Rebecca Streisand gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz fully evades Lydia Seren's Last Love Song On This Little Planet for 0 hit points!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

Elly overbalances, panting, feeling fatigue surge upwards. Billy, she thinks to herself as she rears upwards. The others. Fei there. Leon, Lily. Riesenlied, Ida. Even Lydia and Loren and everyone. This place is a death trap. She hops herself even as she sees the chaingun come around -

And she sacrifices that metal staff, slamming it forwards and interlocking the mechanism in the minigun! This spares her the bullet's scythe, but leaves her hands bare. She cups them into impotent fists. This will be but the work of moments to clear off.

Elly is asked a question.

"I know," Elly says, her left eye now fully red from the ruptured blood vessels, "you're saying this to be cruel to me. I don't know what drove you to this cruelty. But you've said everything that I think there's worth to say. At this point, all you're doing is gloating in your power."

"Do you feel good? Do you feel powerful? No," Elly says, shaking her head abruptly. "I'm sorry, I can't do this. I -" Elly raises a hand and presses it to her forehead. "I-- Life isn't a play and I'm a bad actress. I'm just stalling for time."

Elly meets Stone's eyes.

O V E R D R I V E

The Ether coalesces into screaming clarity. Elly had started this a few moments ago - about the time when she got out and realized she needed to throw what she could without potentially killing Stone's secrets with him. She had started it, in specific, in the metal staff. The piece of iron was shaped by the manifestation of Fire Ether in a place of chaos and so it is perhaps uniquely resonant with this, but it is ultimately just... iron, with a textured grip.

It was not instantly apparent due to its proximity to the red-hot minigun barrels, but they should be growing dimmer, redder, as heat is shed. Instead they are growing hotter. Elly turns her attention away from Stone then, towards the assemblage, and says, "... Goodbye," before her face tightens with tension and tears.

That is when the staff starts exploding. Like a great linear egg, it CRACKS, the superheated core of iron that had been constrained by a counter-structure of Earth power erupting outwards like an accident in a steel mill towards Stone. The metal BENDS - as if to seek his flesh - and it also, thanks to the release of subtle impurities and a vein of water-rich stone that Elly had never detected (because she has no X-ray vision), *screams*.

The barrels of the minigun begin looking saggy too, at this point. Except they're sagging in a way contrary to the usual flow of gravity, like tilted candles...

GS: Elhaym van Houten has activated a Force Action!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has activated a Force Action!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Isaac Stone with Thermo Phoenix!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Xantia is quick to turn once she realizes that this was still not enough to bring down the machine. But, she hopes, perhaps it was enough to change their mind. She considers words to be a good sign. Want is irrelevant, huh?

"That's only true when you have no choice. That's what you're saying, right? That you have no choice? I've heard that a lot. But you know what? I don't think anything's impossible. Saying that it is just means you've given up."

Azoth however repeats his statement. And adds something else. Xantia's eyes go wide at that. "A weapon...?" Something about that stings to hear. Given what she felt earlier, it feels so wrong. She wants to argue against it, but isn't sure where to begin.

She isn't given much chance to consider it further. Another barrage of energy follows, and in her weakened condition she isn't able to move as fast as she did before. She makes a valiant effort, raising a barrier of light to protect herself, but it's too much. Repeated explosive impacts soon toss her backwards, leaving her a knelt, unbalanced position. It doesn't take much for a follow-up blade attack to break through her guard and strike her across the chest with enough force to send her tumbling end over end, landing face-down. She's not getting up from that one.

GS: Isaac Stone takes a solid hit from Elhaym van Houten's Thermo Phoenix for 205 hit points!
GS: Shieldbreak applied to Isaac Stone!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Xantia puts to words what Ida's suspected--known, really--all this time. "I know," she says. She tries to meet the construct's eyes, or whatever passes for them. "You're their slave. You would rather die than serve them. Is that it?" Who said that? Someone in a dream she remembers, but the answer skitters from her fingers before she can grasp it.

    But Azoth regroups before Ida can--before the others can. Ida's eyes go wide with terror. She remembers how Gwen and Dean were cut down in her defense. How close they all came to death. She looks past the construct, at Father Stone, as if she had one last chance to try and kill the man with visceral hatred alone.

    The first beam punches through Ida's other side, cutting a neat little hole the size of a five-gella coin. She bites back a scream of agony, twitching forwards.

    Idiot girl. Idiot girl. Idiot girl.

    The chain of blades descends. Crimson and quicksilver splatter the walls as the blades punch through Hyadean exoskeleton, cleaving through the flesh beneath. Endoskeletal plating hardens around Ida's internal organs, refractive, dispersive--instinctive training that saves her life. Her entire torso is a gory mess. The blades surge forwards, and through, stabbing into Ida in a half-dozen places. There's an ugly crunch; she's pinned to the wall behind her, blades through her thighs and shoulders. More endoskeleton surges into place. For a moment, Ida looks at the construct, terror and rage in her eyes. Then, very deliberately, she looks past him, at his master.

    For a moment, she wonders what she'll do as her last act on earth.

    Where is your resolve now?

    Ida feels blood surge into her mouth. She spits, and it flies across the room to land at Stone's feet.

    Then the blades explode, one after another. Ida hits the ground, and the blood begins to flow.

GS: Matilda Whitehead fully evades Lydia Seren's Last Love Song On This Little Planet for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Matilda Whitehead gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Matilda Whitehead activates Evade bonus!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Gwen was never expecting fire.

    But she was expecting to protect Lan, if simply from the dark threads within her.

    Explosive heat licks and rolls over Gwen's back, the mandala of colorful flame rotating out from Loren's fear and pain, in a sense becoming Gwen's own, if in a physical sense.

    It may be whatever lingering threads of her time with Setanta that Gwen does not collapse like wet paper against the thrum of trauma ingrained in the scars of her own skin.

    It could also simply be that Gwen can't appreciate Loren's fire with her back towards it, as she was focusing on Lan, and now, Lan's own safety. She can still see the other ends of the battlefield over Lan's shoulder, but soon, her vision grows watery.

    Her grip digs into Lan's back, as if the courier could hide her further against herself like a shroud, rather than a shield. "... Get back in control, Lan..."

    She turns her head as much as she can towards Loren, managing a gentle smile as she utters a single word: "Run."

    Then, gravity claims Gwen, her body going slack against Lan.

GS: Hyper expired!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Yulie Ahtreide has posed.

'The real world', he says. Yulie's body quakes, at that. At the injustice of it all.

"It's... it's because of adults like you. D-don't talk as if you have nothing to do with it!" Yulie retorts, hands balling into fists, fighting back tears. "You're just... furthering that cycle for your own gain!"

Stone throws a shotgun of Ether into the air, controlling it. It flies above her, brimming with heat. He speaks further, of tales of what happened to the disobedient. ...She feels like she's being talked down to. Her cheeks burn red with embarrassment, but that isn't the least of her worries as the Ether shotgun releases a burst of explosive, colorful flame that sends her crashing to the ground once more.

She groans, shutting her eyes tight. ...It hurts. It isn't right. Why was he able to get away with this...?

...But, she can hear Eika shouting. The words aren't meant for her, but... they encourage her to stand up to her knees, despite her tears, hands balling into fists once more.

She takes a deep breath. ...There's only one thing she can do now. She hates, and fears her powers...

...But, the one thing she hates more right now is the thought of letting someone like Stone get away. As much as it pains her to do so out of anger... right now, she know she needs it.

"S-safety device... disengage." Yulie murmurs, her voice quiet. But the words aren't meant for anyone here, instead for the device on her right wrist. At her command it unfolds, revealing its true form. "Starting up... Code F!"

And then, something peculiar happens. Light begins to build, and in front of her, piece by piece, something begins to form. It may be difficult to determine what's going on, but there are plenty here who can identify the phenomenon before them -

Nanomachines.

Nanomachines begin to fill the room, joining together and giving form to a great horned beast with a white mane, hunched over with two glowing green spikes jutting out of its back. To the familiar, it feels very much like the Guardian Fengalon... except not, at the same time. There's something different, something incomplete... something wrong about it. Rather than a tiger, it resembles more a dragon or a dinosaur.

It lets out a great roar and the wind builds, and builds, and then is turned upon Stone, unleashing scythes of pressurized wind. They care not for anything in their path, their uncontrolled destructive power unleashed to tear through anything that gets in their way, friend or foe alike - even the very structure around them.

GS: Yulie Ahtreide has activated a Force Action!
GS: Yulie Ahtreide spends 2 Combo on Gatling, loading 2 into Gatling!
GS: Yulie Ahtreide has attacked Isaac Stone with Material Drive - Code F!
GS: Yulie Ahtreide takes 24 damage from Poison!
GS: Poison expired!
GS: Yulie Ahtreide has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Billy Lee Black has posed.

Stone is prevented from executing Billy outright, but Billy doesn't look like he's got anything resembling his usual fire right now, either. That dedication that burned in him, the undimming desire to fight and protect...blown out by a truth like a hurricane.

Eika approaches. He might never have known her in her human form, but the beast he's heard described. An enemy. Never trust. A liar and a heretic. Hah. They're all heretics now. But...

She's the only one here making sense to him. Everyone else can hate Stone freely, deeply. Their connections to the Ethos were different; they don't strike him as well. But her words....

"...yes," he says, quietly, like a man on the verge of death from thirst tasting water. "Yes. It...the children," he says. "The...the children. I protected them..."

He looks at Stone, something slowly hardening behind his eyes. "You..." he says, and slowly, wobblingly manages to claim his feet. "Bishop...will I still believe..."

His hands finally, finally finds their way to his gunsmokes. Prized weapons the man before him gave him. But he didn't teach him to shoot. His father did. To protect people. To save them from monsters.

"...you didn't train someone weak enough to be brought low by one screaming heretic!" he finally screams, snapping both weapons up and FIRING, each pull of the trigger fracturing the fragile solidity of his heart.

GS: Billy Lee Black spends 1 Combo on Gatling, loading 1 into Gatling!
GS: Billy Lee Black has attacked Isaac Stone with Gunholic!
GS: Billy Lee Black has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lock state expired!
GS: Billy Lee Black has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

We don't get what we want. True enough. As Azoth echoes her words, in that triune voice, still glitching. Lily looks sharply to him, though it is hard to notice where she looks, violet-glowing orbs without iris or pupil being her eyes at the moment. She notices the distinction of his body; she notices his words. Greater force--

"Then I will bring greater force."

He speaks in the ancient tongue as she tries to destroy him, bringing down her arms though it is not muscle that forces her magic downward. He asks a question.

"-Preservation routines don't have wants.-"

Where are you from? Tidus asks in the ancient language, and as her blades are repelled she turns her head towards him, in acknowledgement of his question. Is he asking Azoth, or her? ...Or both?

He is... a weapon. Lily hangs back for the moment, calculating routes of attack as best she can while she waits for an opportunity. The others still speak to him, but Lily does not; she has no such words for that. He works to eliminate targets. His cloak is swept aside...

Lasers stream out. His blades slash out at her again, and she crosses her arms against them this time. They hack across her forearms, leaving rents that fill in with inky blackness again after a moment. Where she was forced back her feet have made grooves in the floor, visible from a glance. She starts to smirk.

Bloody, Leon crumples and slumps. Lily stops completely--she comes to a dead stop, utterly still, turning her head only to face him fallen on the ground. There is no smirk now.Her heart should stop; she should express emotion, here, if only worry. She has healed him before, but it never stops being alarming to see him fall down in the first place. ...But this is not alarm. This is something different.

"-Primary defense failed.-" The words are clipped, calm, but her fingers tighten into fists and flex open again. She sees Tidus fall, too, who was helping here despite his reservations. Xantia, still speaking of choices and possibilities until suddenly she isn't. Ida... Still shifting. Spitting defiance before she falls. Blood flows.

Memories flash through her mind, and dispassionately she turns towards Azoth. She calculates.

"...You had no choice in your actions," she says, calmly, not monotone at all but still calm. "But want is irrelevant." Circuitry flares to life all over her body, starting at her feet and hands and blazing inward, multicolored light dancing around it. Her hands lift.

"I will not lose him."

Floating off of the ground, Lily lifts her head, her hair falling down her back blowing as if in a sudden wind. Her feet extend, legs together, hands coming together as discs appear in each palm, unfurling from metal. A pair of white beams cast out, roving like searchlights until they settle upon Azoth's battered form. Heat begins to build.

The next part of the attack is a ray of violet light that at first does nothing--and then suddenly explodes into an explosive column, blindingly bright and a foot across.

She can't heal them while the enemy stands. The enemy can't stand if he is annihilated.

The sorceress stares forward and waits.

GS: Isaac Stone takes a solid hit from Yulie Ahtreide's Material Drive - Code F for 178 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Isaac Stone gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Riposte applied to Yulie Ahtreide!
GS: Isaac Stone activates Countermeasures!
GS: Lily Keil has activated a Force Action!
GS: Isaac Stone takes a solid hit from Billy Lee Black's Gunholic for 132 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Isaac Stone gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Isaac Stone activates Countermeasures!
GS: Lily Keil spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Lily Keil has attacked Azoth with DIRECTIVE - S E E K -!
GS: Lily Keil has launched an attack Link!
GS: Lily Keil enters the Avenger stance!
GS: Lily Keil has canceled their attack on Azoth.
GS: Lily Keil has cancelled 1 Force Action.
GS: Lan Lilac accepts Gwen Whitlock's Revolving Bond for 0 hit points!
GS: Lan Lilac gains a Combo from Inspire!
GS: Lan Lilac takes a solid hit from Loren Voss's Atar Vandaka for 22 hit points!
GS: Lily Keil spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Lily Keil has attacked Azoth with DIRECTIVE - S E E K -!
GS: Lily Keil has launched an attack Link!
GS: Lily Keil has attacked Azoth with DIRECTIVE - P U R G E -!
GS: Lily Keil has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Hyper and Quick expired!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
GS: Azoth takes a solid hit from Lily Keil's DIRECTIVE - S E E K - for 175 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Azoth gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Azoth activates Countermeasures and Sufferer!
GS: CRITICAL! Azoth takes a solid hit from Lily Keil's DIRECTIVE - P U R G E - for 241 hit points!
GS: Azoth activates Countermeasures and Sufferer!
GS: Azoth has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Rebecca Streisand has posed.


"Like you're going to escalate things on purpose." Rebecca clarifies. It's quite possible that Lydia didn't mean it like that, but the possibility was so unsettling that Lydia might set a 'fire' so large...

... but then she's asked on whether she's a shaman. "It's complicated!" Rebecca certainly doesn't think of herself as a shaman, her relationship with the Guardians tends to be a more pragmatic one given their initial tension... yet it's one she's become more and more open to over time... maybe out of desperation. And yet, Lydia absorbs that power, "You're kidding..."

And yet, Cyre manages it... he is the shaman after all, whereas she's just using the Guardians, in the same way that she feels used by them. Maybe it's another sign of her own immaturity

And then Rebecca sees Azoth's rampage, sees Leon crashing against the wall. Sees where Tidus has fallen... and Ida.

"Shit." Rebecca doesn't ordinarily curse, and even this one is just a whisper to herself.

She's been selfish here. Selfish because it's a friend she's fighting. The stakes are too high to be selfish, and she was anyway. Rebecca suddenly stands back up from behind cover, holding her Artificial Medium in one hand, and quick drawing her ARM in the other, and pointing it at Lydia even as the cannon fire makes contact with the Magic Blocker defense that she's summoning. The cannon beam splits as it strikes it, and Rebecca's shoved backwards, feet skidding against the stone from the sheer force of the blast.

Until the onslaught ends.

And she pulls the trigger on the first shot, that hurtles her way. "Don't give up then." Stepping over debris, she pulls the trigger twice more. Before leaping towards her in a flip, and the moment her aerial feat is turned back towards her, she empties her final three shots, accurately in a tight shot grouping. "You never have to make excuses for not giving up. Not to us."

And then at the last moment, Rebecca seems to unfold in mid-air, and axes a kick down on Lydia's torso. Before her other leg juts up suddenly while she's still aerial and she twists so that she's almost completely inverted, as the same leg twists about in a full one eighty before she hits the ground to try and windmill into Lydia's flank.

"Not to me."

After all... according to a guy she's known all her life... someone who doesn't give up... can do anything.

GS: Rebecca Streisand spends 4 Combo on Link and Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Rebecca Streisand has attacked Lydia Seren with Justice To Believe!
GS: Rebecca Streisand has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Rebecca Streisand has launched an attack Link!
GS: Rebecca Streisand has attacked Lydia Seren with Crescendo Step!
GS: Rebecca Streisand has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Rebecca Streisand has completed her action.
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Rebecca Streisand's Justice To Believe for 108 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren critically guards Rebecca Streisand's Crescendo Step for 25 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren activates Power Burst!
<Pose Tracker> Lan Lilac has posed.

    Gwen's body impacts hers, the courier's arms wrapping warm and secure around her middle, and Lan wants to cry all over again. She'd wanted to feel safe. She'd wanted to save others. She'd wanted to--
    Wanted to--
    The deep slash across the palm of her hand slowly fills in as she breathes deeply and tries not to move. Not to feel.

    "This is...n't right," Lan whispers, a bead of sweat dribbling down her temple.

    This can not continue.

    She watches him reel back. Loren howls, and Lan - Lan thinks she's starting to understand.

    He doesn't understand.

    She just has to make him. She already gave him one memory. She can do it again. And again if she has to. And he'll finally understand everything--

    Fire erupts around him as Lan tries to take another step towards him. She'll make him understand, and Gwen has to understand. They were the ones left behind and that's what makes them worthy of saving this world, of putting it right--

    Lan, comes Gwen's familiar voice, buoyed by wings of fire. The hiss of flesh. Heat and sizzle. Burning cotton. The arms around her tighten, fingers clinging. And she feels...

    Lan sucks in a sudden shuddering breath, so deep that her lungs ache with it. She- she almost-- "GWEN!"

    Even as the other girl sags against her, even as the flames die around them, Lan goes to her knees on the ground, thrusting a bloody hand underneath Gwen's body to keep the courier from hitting the ground too hard. "Gwen-- Gwen I'm sorry-- I'm sorry! I'm--!"

    She draws the girl's unconscious body against her own, inky threads wavering across her skin, and stares down at her friend. "I..."

    Lan sniffles, horrified gaze alternating between her two closest friends. "I'm sorry...!"

GS: Lan Lilac has attacked Lan Lilac with Law of Luster!
GS: Hyper expired!
GS: Lan Lilac has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

    Riesenlied's light fades and her breath overtakes it; she's exhausted and honestly at her body's limit, and she can't go much further. Even if she hasn't actually been physically harmed (much), miraculously, it's easy for her to just run herself out of energy given her degenerated state and general illness.

    Elsewhere close by, the Wolves are struggling too -- she sees Leon and Tidus hit the wall, and Ida and Xantia at the floor and her eyes widen, irises trembling with panic; she bites her lip and resolves to let Lily handle it.

    She's got a lot to deal with, because--

    She sees that grin, of Lydia's, with her full row of sharp teeth. And she reflects for a moment--

    A long long time ago!

    Lydia chomps down on Riesenlied's arm the first time they met. "O-owww!!!"

    Now!

    She can't help but shake her head and laugh gently at the most inopportune time for this memory to come back to the surface of her head; she shakes her head again, as she witnesses cannons bursting out of Lydia's body, glowing with prismatic energy.

    "... I know ... it frustrates me, to know you are hurting so much... but... I understand. I will not..."

    The cannons open fire!

    Several salvos bombard her and there's an awful CRACK and Riesenlied is consumed in a puft of smoke and debris and gunfire; horribly, horribly, like a despair-inducing shot when the smoke clears:

    The wheelchair is in pieces!!

    But...

    But Riesenlied is nowhere to be seen. Instead, horse hooves are heard?! Horse hooves!!

    A shining figure cuts through the smoke, for Odoryuk has emerged; erratic and data-like at parts, as her own Material summoning always has been. It is perhaps not a coincidence, but fate, that a certain Code F has been summoned at this point too...

    But it is Odoryuk, bearing the regal semblance of a teal-blue unicorn with butterfly wings. Odoryuk, and...

    Riesenlied! Clinging desperately onto his back with her sleeved arms around his neck, very much beleaguered, scuffed and bloody on her shoulder!

    "Lydia! See now, your mother has managed to avoid dying! So you do not have to worry...!!"

    She yelps a little, because Demi-Odoryuk lets out a digitised roar, as if filtered through electronics -- and its horn goes LIVE, shimmering bright--

    One, two, three, six, twenty--

    A homing salvo of lights descends from the heavens!!

GS: Riesenlied spends 2 Combo on Gatling, loading 2 into Gatling!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Lydia Seren with Material - Paradise Lost!
GS: Riesenlied has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Riesenlied takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

"Lydia..." She's never thought he looked uncool. Even... when he was at his most uncool. Cyre's hands tighten painfully, even as...

...

Is that a manifestation of Noua Shax?

Cyre stares agog at Rebecca's manifestation. Lydia consumes it, but...

A few motes of that electrifying power still remains, hanging in the air. Cyre is uncharacteristically silent.

And then Yulie summons her Guardian. And it's. It's.......

F...enga...lon?

".........." Cyre is stunned silent. Not because someone else is calling upon something that feels very much like the Guardian who he has sworn his life to, but because... Because...

"...What the fuck," he murmurs softly, "...I... Lydia."

"I'm so sorry," he says, gravely, "I'm going to have to do something, or Fengalon's good name will be forever besmirched. In a Granasian cathedral, no less...!"

Lydia's body unfurls. Cannons emerge from every surface, unleashing a veritable deluge of gunfire upon them. Cyre looks into the coming leaden rain and takes in a breath.

A final love song, sung in the voice of a hundred thundering guns.

The clouds of smoke part slowly at first. They seem to hang in the air for unusually long, in fact. But then, the black mass begins to swirl upward as if dragged along in a vortex. Out of the choking smog, lances of emerald light begin to shine through. One after another after another, until the entire ashen column seems to glow with jade light...!

With a sound like a hurricane slamming into the shore, the emerald tornado breaks.

...And the Shintai of the Wind Tiger, the Nahual of Fengalon, roars as if to declare its advent. Cyre, wrapped in divine might, surges forth amidst a tide of churning wind so dense that it seems almost capable of seizing Lydia where she stands.

She can hear his voice, reverberating all around her. "Lydia... I won't say 'don't die.' I know you can handle this. So instead..." The Nahual's fist draws back...! "Grit those teeth!"

And swings in a single, tremendous uppercut! All at once, the gathering gales blast upward, a vortex of emerald wind that could very well carve a bore-hole out to the surface...!

But probably only because Lydia just dropped a bunch of meteors on the cathedral a minute ago. The ceiling probably isn't looking too great right now.

DC: Cyre H. Lorentz switches forms to Nahual - Fengalon!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Lydia Seren with Gale Claw!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has launched an attack Link!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz enters the Avenger stance!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has attacked Lydia Seren with Hypersonic Resonance!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz enters a Counter stance!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Cyre H. Lorentz has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

Matilda lets out a long sigh, and shakes her head. "I'm a deserter," she says, a little flatly. "It's a long story. If we both survive this, I'll be sure to tell you." That is all she says on the matter, before Lydia begins to... sprout.

Cannon upon cannon upon cannon. That's a lot of cannons. On the other hand, the fact that there's *so* many cannons means that any individual cannon only has so much force to bring to bear; it's not like they're going to vaporize everything they shoot at.

So Matilda does the perfectly normal, reasonable thing: she starts retreating the second she sees them begin forming, and specifically retreats to one of the black-armored corpses she... created... en route to this moment. She does the only reasonable thing, thus:

She picks it up. A moment later, when it is full of many holes, she discards it; she remains full of zero holes. Convenient.

The followup dull, meaty thud hides the sound -- and indeed the appearance, to some extent -- of Matilda changing weapons again. By the time the (now significantly less... body-shaped...) body hits the floor, Matilda has drawn Freischütz again, and is in the process of swapping out the reservoir for a somewhat more standard loadout. It feels almost a waste to use the tremendous flexibility of the weapon on simply firing conventional bullets... but she does.

She fires a lot of them. "... Please give up," she says to Lydia, tone flat. She respects her just a little too much to outright plead.

GS: Matilda Whitehead has activated a Force Action!
GS: Matilda Whitehead enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has attacked Lydia Seren with Freeshooter!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Matilda Whitehead's Avenger stance ends.
GS: Burst expired!
GS: Matilda Whitehead has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

Bodies fall around him. The overrides pour positive feedback through Azoth's code for the success of his assault. For the victory. For defending his OBJECTIVE. While another one, the foundation that was there to start, aches with its critical failures. Leon collapses, and he sees the pain in Lily. Tidus hits the ground, asking where he's from, and there's no way to tell him. Xantia, optimistic to the end, but the fight is reaching its end. Ida bleeds at his feet, and Azoth watches the blood pool in a familiar horror.

So many empty words about helping. About protecting. Solaris made it so it wasn't the true priority. They made her take that away from him, then they took her away, because taking her as a slave in the first place wasn't enough...! And there's someone right here who might even have those answers. And all Azoth can do is take bullets for him.

Xantia's words strike deeper than any of her Ether had. Azoth's told that to himself, again and again. Why can't doesn't he have a choice? Why doesn't his pain, his fear, his love ever have enough power to break his shackles? If any of his emotions were real at all why don't they stop him?

There's only one real conclusion, isn't there?

Because it isn't real.

...But it's all he has! Azoth clings to it, even now, even as he forms another blade of light while overrides pull against him and demand he finish the task he's set out to complete, no matter how busted his body, no matter how shaken his frame. Azoth himself can barely stand, dragging himself toward Ida's fallen form. The pain buzzing inside him is the only evidence he has left that's he's even capable of caring. But the fight isn't as close to being over as he calculated -- Lily did not fall.

"I will not lose him."

Envy. It isn't a common emotion for Azoth. But there it is, seeping into everything as he beholds Lily.

"-That want is not irrelevant.-"

It's all he tells her before he pushes forward, even falling apart. But Azoth isn't fast enough. Heat upon him builds, the lights of his body flashing and warnings flaring. He's devoured in a column of light, and when it fades, the construct collapses, slumped on his knees with his head tilting at an unnatural angle. His lights sputter, then dim, until there's no light left.

<Pose Tracker> Isaac Stone has posed.

    Stone is not given the space to crow, for the mo'.
     Eika unleashes her anger, her lycanthropy the conduit for a further burst of pulse-pounding adrenaline focused through her martial training that this fury maintains familiar fighting form. Over and over and over, Eika whirls and strikes, keeping the Bishop upright to be battered as wind-aspected chi sees cloth violently flap and even several bullets of ammunition being loosed from wherever he keeps it. (However he keeps it.) It's her final fury, but she's only the first part of it.
     Elly decides there will be no further script reading, metaphorically and physically burning it asunder as eyes meet. They stop meeting soon after as Earth power bends and pierces through flesh, keeping him further upright as if in shock - the minigun, what's left of it, drops as a useless mass of metal.
     Yulie will not be talked down to. She disengages the safety device of... what, exactly? Something on her right wrist comes to life, and one of Stone's eyes open partially with a twitch. He can't say what he wants to because he's had his turn - and then there's nanomachines. Nanomachines, everywhere, in the form of a great beast. This 'Code F' creature builds upon where Eika started, the power of wind scything through him and further slicing up his robe. His escorts collapse in their wake, overcome by such power.
     Both hands cover his face through this, as though this were the most important thing to keep hold of. The wind is deafening, his ears ringing... regaining their function just as Billy addresses him - and then comes at him from the heart. Billy turns it around, physically, putting the same level of hurt and showing how he has taken these gunsmoke ARMs as extensions of his own.
     Stone is swept into the nearby wall, which mercilessly catches him with its metal character. Mercilessly, because ouch. The only grace is that he stays upright, on his feet.
     "...Indeed... Billy. I didn't train someone... weak. No." He wipes some blood from his mouth. "Permit me this disclosure," he holds up a hand.
     "I trained someone to have the heart to kill all the faithful Etones are charged to.... hm. Those -Wels-, for example... those shambling, hungering beasts who walk upright like people.... there's not much of a difference between killing humans or Wels, you see, Billy."
     He has to readjust his spectacles again. He pushes against his face, as if something else felt off. He decides this will have to do.
     "...There isn't even any difference. They are... one in the same. You see--"
     Stone pauses, and looks over to a distant monitor that has somehow survived all of this mess. "Ah. Bothersome. So, you all are already aware of -that place-..." The place that Citan and Jessie dredged up on the strange terminal - the find of the Etones who wish to break away from Solaris. That strange Zeboim Ruin.
     He stares at Yulie for a moment more, as if weighing whether he should speak up on what she did. He looks to Elly, as if searching for some pithy comment. He looks to Eika and thinks better than meeting her eyes - or to verbally fight against her encouraging rhetoric that rallied the shaken Etone and Paladienne to act.
     "I suppose there is no stopping you lot from following the way to that, is there." He looks to the rest. "Withdraw! We have accomplished as much as we will today."
     He seems resigned in defeat, but a newfound, sick, cruel hope as he reasserts that face most familiar to poor Billy. "Oh, and Billy! If there is something you wish to discuss further, come see me later."

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

    In the middle of everything, Lydia looks at him as he struggles. And Lydia, Lydia tells him that he needs to choose. That if he's still having second thoughts about it--

    "Shut up!" he shouts back at his own ally, panic sketched bold across his face. He shakes his head furiously. "Just shut up! I'm not-- I'm not having second thoughts!" If someone hears this and takes it seriously, he thinks, the rumors are going to spread. Then there'll be no controlling them -- nothing to stop the consequences that would come. Except maybe Leah Sadalbari.
    And what would she ask him to do to prove his heart wasn't wavering?

    Something else is happening in this room, something monumental enough that even as Loren fights his two-front war, he turns his head to regard it.
    Yulie summons a Guardian.
    Loren isn't a shaman. He's merely in possession of a Medium, and has spent a little time among the Baskar practicing that tradition (Leah's orders). Neither is he some sort of nanomachine specialist (he focuses on macromedicine, as it were). But there's something that isn't right about that forming Guardian. There's something strange about it. Something, perhaps, that is worth noting later--

    Assuming there exists one, given the state of this room and given the state of Lan.
    Or Loren, himself.

    'Run', as Gwen as she shields Lan from the worst of his heat and flames. He stares for a moment, barely comprehending.

    and she had sobbed as she had continued to burn speaks the memory of the hallucination. No, nearly premonition at this point.

    In a daze, the shield around his left forearm contracting and returning to its form as a bracer, Loren takes a step back. Slowly, he shakes his head. The air between him, between him and two of the closest things in the universe that Loren Voss has to friends, seems to tremble with anticipation.

    But there is nothing. There is only a slow return of Lan as Lan, her reawakening as herself scarred by the realization of what has become of Gwen, her friend.

    And here Loren stands, as if caught between what he ought to do and what--

    'There isn't even any difference,' says Stein, as he divulges something to all of them -- to Billy in particular.
    Wels and humans are one and the same.

    "...What?" Loren utters, shock plain across his face. "What do you mean... one and the..."
    But that's as far as he's able to get: Stein orders the retreat and he can see, not far from him, Azoth's fallen form. Duty takes over and completes the circuit; expending a pulse of Ether, he rushes to the fallen construct's side and with effort (and that Etheric boost) hauls him upwards.

    He needs to go. He needs to get out of here, now.
    Questions can wait.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Ida's head raises, one inch at a time, to watch Lily exchange a final series of blows with the strange construct. 'Exchange' is a poor word; even with her vision blurry and her body a solid mass of agony, Ida can see how one-sided it is. She can hear that odd tone in Lily's voice, and her head swims, wondering if that really is Lily, or if something's happened to her.

    They lie on the floor in a pool of their own blood. It takes everything they have left to plant a palm on the floor, and push themselves up. Hyadean tissue has clamped down on half her major arteries, and patched over wounds that came dangerously close to Ida's lungs, heart, and liver. She wobbles. She listens.

    "Mother," she whispers again, as Stone says those damning words. Tears well up in her eyes.

    And then one of those damnable Solarians runs over and hauls someone off, and Ida can barely see that it's the construct through her swimming vision. "Damn it," she whispers. "Damn it." She clenches a hand until her fingers twist into claws, and bite into her own palm. She looks up at Lily, one eye the usual grey-blue, and the other bright emerald green. "Lily," Ida croaks. There's a raspiness to her voice beyond that caused by her injuries. "Injector. Right thigh pocket. Need it--" Pause. Breathe. "Stand back."

GS: Lydia Seren takes a solid hit from Riesenlied's Material - Paradise Lost for 232 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren critically guards Cyre H. Lorentz's Gale Claw for 35 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren activates Guard bonus and Power Burst!
GS: Lydia Seren has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
GS: CRITICAL! Lydia Seren guards a hit from Cyre H. Lorentz's Hypersonic Resonance for 134 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
GS: Lydia Seren critically guards Matilda Whitehead's Freeshooter for 32 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren activates Guard bonus!
GS: Lydia Seren has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Jessie Black has posed.

    Any who chase after the Bishop won't find the man.

    But they will find Jessie Black, facing a sliding metal door that hands ajar.

    "If you're lookin' for 'Stone'," Jessie says, irritatedly smoking a cigarette in the hallway, "You just missed him. Look--" He gestures, then, to the underground Ethos Gear dock, from which a Gear is conspiciously absent. "I'm gonna bet he ain't run home just yet," he continues, shaking his head. "Stein ain't the type. More likely, he's headed for that ruin..."

    He tosses his cigarette to the hallway floor and grinds it angrily under one boot heel.

    "The good news," he says, not looking anyone in the eye, "is that the agent's still kickin'. Hyuga's fixin' her up. Had the good sense to play dead..."

    He turns then and buries his hands in his coat pockets, staring instead at the open door at the end of the hangar, as if it were the only thing in the world that mattered.

<Pose Tracker> Billy Lee Black has posed.

Billy finally works up the strength of heart, fragile though it may be, to challenge his beloved mentor's words.

But Stone was prepared for this. Like the master who carefully cultivates a weakness in their pupil, so they might be one day easily destroyed, Stone barely needs to even acknowledge Billy's attack.

And destroys him entirely with words alone.

There isn't a difference, Stone says, and Billy's eyes widen, fractionally, as something that had been quietly bothering him for months - maybe years - slots neatly into place. Their horrible cunning. Their ravenous focus on specifically humanity.

The desperation with which they would beg him for death or life by equal turns.

Wels are people. And he, an Etone - a hunter of monsters. The thing he clung to when all else failed him. That he was a man who protected people from Reapers.

An impossibility. They are the same.

Billy's gunsmokes fall from nerveless fingers. Stone gets a fresh look at a new kind of horror flashing across Billy's face to satiate himself with.

Billy then falls directly to his hands and knees and vomits.

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Lydia sees the panic. She feels guilty. "...Sorry. You're right. Nobody more loyal than you." She doesn't know why he's doing the things he's doing, but that's no reason to set him up for decomissioning or whatever. Even if he's not exactly being fair about it, she doesn't need to play the game that far. She wishes she could just hate Loren completely rather than just be totally frustrated by him and sour and angry. He's said some terrible awful shit and he's not going to change and despite that for some stupid reason she doesn't want to see him dead or tortured. What is wrong with her, she wonders distantly.

She almost misses it. Bishop Stone reveals a truth. He speaks about Wels.

"...That's stupid, Wels are like zombies--"

Lydia trails off as she thinks about what zombies are made out of, typically. "But...they combine and..shit."

She pauses a moment. "Fuck!! Why are you saying this shit! What's wrong with you!? Why is everybody in charge of shit a masochist!?" Is Leah the only one who isn't a complete monster?! "It's like you're getting off on this!"

But he leaves.

"How do these people keep secrets in the first place?! Is it Leah? Is it all Leah?!" Lydia is just now complaining about office politics. In a way, it helps stabilize her.

"Like I could possibly comprehend being cruel for like... REASONS but this just seems to be for the sake of tormenting this nice orphanage guy! Why the fuck! I don't get it! You don't have to say shit! You can just keep quiet! Who could have a grudge against Billy?? He's like the human equivalent of Riesenlied! Is it because he doesn't have a wheelchair?? I already feel like a huge shit just for fighting here even thoug I literally have no choice, but he has a choice and he's like 'gyo ho ho i was lying about everything all the time'--fuck how did he even manage it, he's a complete nut! Why is everybody a complete nut??? Maybe it's how they raise the guys here because let me tell you Elly's perfectly fine and Leah's like fine and Rachiel is a dorky klutz but she's fine and then there's this cartoon character."

She pants for air for a few moments. "Why couldn't the Guard take over my body or whatever. At least they think they're doing the right thing instead of just being pointlessly dickish the whole time."

Matilda uses a dead body as cover. Well, that's helpful. A bit morbid, but it works! Matilda hits her with a bullet right between the eyes and Lydia swings her head back forward, sweating silver bullets (not literal bullets).

A salvo of light from the power of LIFE comes crashing down upon her. Lydia pushes through it, somehow she pushes through it. She probably didn't want to. She's half molten now, looking towards Riesenlied.

Your mother has managed to avoid dying! So you do not have to worry...!!

Lydia cracks a smile. "I gotta. I love you, so I gotta worry. I'm sorry about the chair... Odoryuk, I'm sorry. I'm trying..."

Rebecca pushes more bullets into her, following up with a windmilling kick right into Lydia's side, sending her sprawling to the side.

"I..I don't wanna... I just... I just can't put it all on OS anymore. I have to do it too. I gotta live my life even if I gotta--"

Cyre tells her to grit her teeth.

GUARDIAN TIGER UPPERCUT!

Lydia goes sailing up into the air--

--she crashes back down to the floor. And she still..

...She still starts to get up.

Matilda plugs one more bullet into her forehead and says, 'Please give up.'

Lydia stares at the ceiling.

"...Yeah." She says. "Yeah. That's fair. Time to...give up."

And she melts into puddle form, rapidly oozing away.

"But seriously fuck Steeeeeiin....!" The puddle says in chipmunk voice as it flees.

<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

"-That's true. It is my highest directive.-" When the light fades, and the construct has collapsed, Lily looks down at her foe, careful to ensure she is not attacked by some final scorpion's tail. There is no light left, though. ...So she turns immediately to the others.

Healing Ether will wash over her companions, starting with Leon, brilliant red and uncomfortably hot--but indeed healing. It may not bring anyone to consciousness, but it should at least mend the worst of things. Ida is the last, because she's the most survivable... but she has a request anyway.

Lily kneels down beside her, still covered in shadow. "I'll do that."

She knows that when she changes back, she'll be out of energy herself. And all of these things--what Lydia has to say, the truth of the Wels, and the deeper truths of tonight.. Well, like Leon said. They can handle those later.

<Pose Tracker> Eika Zuse has posed.

Eika isn't the only one going after Stone. Code F - whatever that is - gets one hell of a startle from her, and she reflexively makes way for it, as well as Billy's fire; she knows better than to get in the way of guns at play, in either direction. That applies to superheated metal, too.

And the disadvantage of her current state, Eika has found, is that when she crashes, she *really* crashes.

She pushed herself to her limit and now she's paying for it; Stone has some instants where she's not able to follow him, to pin him down and press him.

Eika hears what Stone says. It hits Billy hard; it hits Eika too, but her response is different. She wasn't trained personally so that Stone could bring it up later. It - the whole situation - makes her angry, with no way to express that anger. (But then again, she's fought fewer Wels than Billy, being trained for ruins; ask her about killer robots sometime.) The way he treats Billy, someone he actually *knows*, is cruel. And Eika might be vicious, but she's not cruel.

She balls her fists again, breathing hard. "You'll talk to him now," Eika snaps, starting to run after him. Even slowed - injured and tired and drained all three - Eika looks like she's going to catch up eventually with the older man if there wasn't a blast of Ether directly in her route. The only way Eika can avoid being blasted by it is to skid to a stop, digging her clawed feet into the ground with a squeal of metal.

"Dammit!" Eika rarely - very rarely - swears. She does it now, slamming her fist into the wall a second time. She can't catch him now, and Jessie returning only reinforces it. She looks at the man. She doesn't know him.

"Then get out of my way," Eika says. "There's something in there I need to get if I'm going to follow him to God knows where across the continent. And I am." She looks back at Yulie, Billy, and Elly; her gaze lingers on Billy.

I'd better leave before he comes to, and decides to shoot me for good measure, Eika thinks. He won't want to see me. Nobody here wants to see me. She has to stay strong, at least while she's in front of everyone else. Being a wanted criminal sucks sometimes.

And so she, too, runs toward the Gear garage, as much to get out of sight as anything else. There really is something in there she needs, though - or at least she devoutly hopes it hasn't been shipped out yet.
Name set.

<Pose Tracker> Yulie Ahtreide has posed.

Gradually, the wind dies doon, and soon the light dissipates as Code F disintegrates, vanishing piece by piece as its constituent nanomachines depart back to wherever they came from. The device on Yulie's wrist folds back into itself, once again returning to the appearance of a normal bracelet.

Stone flees with a shocking revelation and a warning of -that place-. Yulie sways, and nearly collapses, falling to her knees as the adrenaline that has carried her through this day leaves her. All she wants to do right now is curl up and cry forever.

...But, she doesn't. She can - and probably will, let's be honest - do that later. Instead she hauls herself shakily to her feet. She looks toward Eika as she starts off... but doesn't try to pursue her.

"O-oh, Billy..." Yulie murmurs. The revelation... of course it'd hit him hardest out of all of them. She wants to do, say something to try and help...

...But she can't. Nothing comes to mind. What can she even say to a revelation like that? She can only stand there, feeling more than a little small and helpless.

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

    Honestly...

    Even with the bold front Riesenlied is putting up, it's still incredibly unnerving to see all that damage and hurt happen to her daughter, even though she thinks she's operating on the same wavelength of 'trusting that the other person won't die'... she thinks.

    She just can't help but worry, and perhaps she has to satisfy herself that way.

    "I love you too. Do not worry about the chair. Stay strong... and... come by sometime, okay? I will cook you your favourite food," Riesenlied encourages. Because she doesn't care if Solaris is spying on her when Lydia comes and daughter time is worth all the secop nightmare that she doesn't have to worry about on account of there are no real secrets with her anymore.

    A nightmare that is to worry about, though, is the revelation that Wels and humans are the same and...

    ....

    Riesenlied, for the third time today, perhaps, wishes she could be surprised by this, and... isn't. Maybe because she's felt it before, as an empath, with that massive Amalgam outside of Krosse. Because there was something that was fundamentally similar, not different, with Wels...

    ... maybe it's because she's always sought to understood everyone, no matter how monstrous.

    It doesn't make Stein any more forgiveable. But--

    *flash*

    Her time runs out, and Demi-Odoryuk disappears. She flops to the ground, tries to do a push-up to get herself off the ground--

    Woof, that's not happening.

    "Ummm..." she scoots on the ground slowly. "A little help..."

<Pose Tracker> Cyre H. Lorentz has posed.

Lydia is thoroughly uppercutted. Cyre looks to the bubbling puddle of Lydia-stuff and finds himself nodding in agreement. "Yeah," he says, solemnly, even as the form of the Nahual falls away in a haze of emerald light. "Seriously, fuck Stein."

What kind of person builds someone up specifically so that they can be torn down? What kind of monster...

Man. Man is the answer. At least Wels are basically just animals, though they might be 'human' in the same way that 'zombies' and 'skeletons' are 'human.' But human beings? Real, living human beings?

They can choose to be complete and total monsters.

...

He sighs, shaking his head. And today was supposed to be a fun romp about exposing a fraudulent religious sect. This whole business has left the most awful taste in his mouth.

<Pose Tracker> Rebecca Streisand has posed.


Wels...

Rebecca gives Stone a look that seems dismissive. Then she just... looks back with a gaze of surprise like whiplash. "You lying-" But take a look at him? He's... not lying, is he?

For a moment it's like Rebecca's ears are ringing, as she looks back towards Lydia.

There's something heart-breaking about seeing Lydia like this. It's not because she doesn't have a right to be angry. It's not because she doesn't have every right to be mad at everyone involved in her situation.

The reason it's heart-breaking for Rebecca is that moment at the end where Lydia's staring at the ceiling and her expression is distant, and... she just sounds so tired and despairing as she says it's time to give up. She understands in this context giving up means a different thing for Lydia than to her...

... but it's still sad.

"Sorry... for the wait." She says to Lydia quietly, as she fades away through the floor. "Take care of yourself Lydie."

Her first reaction is to help with tending to the wounded as a distraction, but Lily's taken care of that. Which means, she just stands there for a while and... puts a hand to her head and just says... mutedly...

"... How am I going to explain this one to Avril and Dean?"

It's not that she thinks either will take this especially hard. Neither is particularly religious, and Rebecca already thinks she knows how each will react to the idea of Wels as people... though she could be wrong. But... it all adds up in the end, doesn't it?

It all adds up.

One of the questions that's haunted her since the first day they stepped outside of Capo Bronco is the one that's on her mind right now. 'How much is too much?'

'A little help...'

Jolting out of her reverie, Rebecca looks Riese's way and immediately rushes over to try and sling an arm around her and assist her into standing by letting Riesenlied use her as a crutch. "A-Ah sorry-! I should have realized." She flusters... but in reality...

... she's grateful for the distraction.

<Pose Tracker> Jessie Black has posed.

    And what does Jessie do?

    Why, he stands aside, letting her run into the hangar. "Heh. After you," he says, smiling crookedly.
    Perhaps she's just a woman after his own heart on the matter.

    He turns then, taking the long slow walk into the broken and battered Ethos information hub. His son, Billy, awaits...

<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

Elly staggers as she gathers herself again. The bishop is -

"Leave him alone," Elly cries out. "You're - is all of this just a way to, to bully people!? Is it worth so much to you to be able to hurt someone like this!" But it is honestly a little weak; she put a lot into that melt-down, and there is far more going on, bursting inwards. The lights would be beautiful if they weren't coming from agony.

'-That Place-'. A burning ray of light. And then hush begins to fall, Elly sways, and -

Ida needs help. The words of Lydia ring in Elly's ears. They had that much in common, at least, even if Lydia seems to have a better way with words than her. Eika is running forwards. Lily and Leon are there --

Elly looks to Yulie. "Thank you," she says to her, her left eye twitching several times. (It is red. That is not normal. This is not a magic side effect. She really ought to get that checked out.) "For... for..."

She crouches down to Billy, putting one hand over his. "... Can you stand? We need to get out of here. I'll help you, but I need to check on Fei, too, unless Dr. Uzuki... No matter what happens, we have to keep moving, alright?"

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Ida tilts her head to the side. Fried exoskeleton pops loose with a meaty snapping noise, revealing a patch of undamaged skin. Lily positions the injector, and presses the button. The needle pierces Ida's skin, and the ampoule contracts, delivering its payload.

    6-Y Serum is a Hyadean drug, designed to stabilize mortally-wounded soldiers. Ida worked with Jacqueline Barber to make a variant, a cocktail based on Ida's research into hybrid physiology. It wouldn't risk killing her, like actual 6-Y would. That doesn't mean the side-effects are any more pleasant.

    The solution flows like liquid fire into Ida's veins. Her body contorts; damaged exoskeleton breaks free with more ugly snapping noises. Sweat beads on her forehead as her body starts to heat up. Flesh starts to regrow across the wounds that Azoth left in her, slick red and bright blueish-silver. She breathes out, and one can almost see the moisture on her breath. Tears stream down her cheeks.

    And then, she screams. It's a raw, primal sound, and she pours everything she has into it. She trails off into sobs, then, and stays there for a good few moments. Finally:

    "...Billy?" Ida pushes herself upright. Her face is flushed bright red, with a mottling of blue-silver. She looks like hell. Her pilgrim's cloak has been destroyed. "Yulie?" Aggression boils up inside her. The drug, she reminds herself. She wants to break Stone's bones, one at a time. She wants to dangle him off a cliff, her foot inches from his hands. But right now, she is alive, and there are far more important things than brutalizing one man, a monster though he may be.

    Because even monsters like Stone are people, too, and there are people who deserve her attention far more than he.

<Pose Tracker> Matilda Whitehead has posed.

The Wels... are people? It's that that catches Matilda's attention, much more than Lydia's exit -- and as the whispers about that topic start to settle over the room, well...

... she finds she can't actually get madder. It doesn't even really register. What's one more engineered bit of violence between humans? Much like Wels, tragedies of sufficient scale simply intertwine and combine until they are just one arbitrarily large and undifferentiated tragedy. Like a rat king.

All told, Matilda's in good shape... but she's nearly out of reagents. All she can do is find a wall and slump.

<Pose Tracker> Billy Lee Black has posed.

Billy is ashen, shaking violently. Elly reaches to help him, and all he does is make a horrible noise in his throat, eyes closed, breathing.

"...yes. We do. I'll....yes," he says, words and thoughts tumbling over each other like clothes in a washer. He becomes standing - he is not present enough in the moment to be sure who's to blame for that - and stumbles away. They have to go. They have to...not...be here. Right.

But where, then...

<Pose Tracker> Yulie Ahtreide has posed.

Yulie nods quietly as Elly thanks her. Elly's left eye concerns her a little, and she wants to ask if she can help somehow... but instead she just steps aside to let her take care of Billy.

She can't help but admire a little how she knows what to say, what to do... when all she can do is just stand there.

Instead, she looks toward Ida as she calls out her name.

"I-I'm here! I'm okay..." She lies unconvincingly.

She is here yes, and, physically, she is not as harmed as she could have been, but she is certainly not okay.