2021-11-20: Not All That Glitters

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<Pose Tracker> Asgard has posed.


Maybe you heard the rumors of infamous outlaw Janus Cascade with a Golem in tow heading towards the Sylvara Great Woods. Or perhaps instead... you received a call from your connection to the Guardian of Earth. Either way...

It led you to this point. A hillside well hidden amongst the ancient and stately trees. Being a drifter you might expect a dark dungeon delve through a cave. Yet upon entering you're immediately met with light everywhere as beautiful, natural crystal formations of all shapes and sizes are shining incandescence upon every angle of the caves, casting long and eerie shadows.

Upon piles of corpses. Corpses upon corpses of monsters that have been pulped and crushed, beaten, stabbed and mutilated. Bipedal Baboons with bulging biceps, quadripedal lizards, all cut a bloody and macabre trail throughout the caverns, creating a winding trail through natural passages throughout the caverns. High and low, over and under rock bridges and through one chamber to the next.

Until suddenly blood trail gives way into a dead end rock wall...

Or so it seems. Whoever's first to it, upon quick inspection will find that a loose pile up of stones is plugging up an entrance to what lies beyond. It may take some effort to move them. Long enough that they'll be joined by more Drifters, and more... voices being heard upon the other side as they move more and more of them.

On the other side... a large chamber, the stone of the cavern carved to look like many Guardian shrines, the glowing crystals still growing naturally out of many sides, stately columns that reach the ceiling. Halfway across the room is a familiar massive Golem to those who have fought him, standing at 4 sharls tall. His blockade an obviously drawn line in the sand. "Greetings."

Across it on the opposite side, an alcove, with a crystalline formation that's been carved to resemble a monument, marked by one of the many runes that symbolize Grudiev in the center... and between the Golem and it, is another figure...

"We... have been waiting for you..."

<Pose Tracker> Janus Cascade has posed.

The last anyone heard from Janus Cascade, he was barely controlling Glumzambor, the Dark Spear, in response the tremendous, horrific wickedness of the leadership of Yevon, and proceeded to obliterate one of the maesters to his component...spiritrons?? Anyway there was a great big hole in Bevelle after that.

Now, the man(?) in the red jacket has assembled himself, with the theatrical disregard of a man who has been carefully staging the scene for several minutes (asgard can precisely tell you it was 474 seconds, actually), leaning calmly against one of the crystal formations.

Of course, calling him a man now is a bit of a stretch. His flesh is gone, replaced with rigid Demonic carapace. His face frozen in an alien grille, his arms studded with strange nodules, fins like a fish...and looking like it has the texture of lost Zeboim armor, flesh that resists impact like steel.

He can't grin, not with that frozen face, but his eyes pierce and glow as he looks up at the coming Drifters. "Well, howdy," he says, casually, standing up. One hand holds his weapon - the Dark Spear Glumzambor, relic of the Quarter Knight Siegfried. He has it propped up against his shoulder, casually. "I see you folks are as punctual as ever. Guardians may not be good for much, but I guess I gotta let 'em have their due: They're alright at screamin' for help real pretty."

<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

Xiumei heard the rumors -- reported through ARMS channels -- and decided she had to go. Varius and Avile know Asgard, and yet, he seems so utterly unlike the Asgard from their time. Except that Asgard has changed, more and more, wih each meeting. This gives her pause; this makes her wonder.

She slows as she reaches the cave. Her eyes are aglow, and cast a pale green light over the piles and heaps of dead monsters. A bloody trail for them to follow.

She swallows, holding back her bile.

And she keeps moving -- until coming to the pile-up of stones. She sets to work; with the armor she wears, she has greatly enhanced strength. And, when they emerge on the other side, she finds the very golem that she considered.

And Janus Cascade. She only really knows him by reputation -- and the transformation. She draws in a soft gasp. Her eyes shift, then, to the shrine.

Then, finally, back at Asgard. "...Asgard, what are you planning?"

<Pose Tracker> Kaguya has posed.

Kaguya heard the rumors. Chasing down towards the Great Woods... but she's just here to get her readings. At least, that's what she's willing to claim to anyone who asks; she is indeed in the cavern when people gather up, kneeling down before some rocks and working with strange equipment to gather readings by the light of the crystals. But even the small Veruni notices the trail of blood here. So many monsters cut down...

Why? Kaguya's curiousity gets the better of her, and she wanders through the cavern, her footsteps trailing in blood as she kneels beside some of the monsters to examine them, take samples of their ruined flesh, and move on. This takes us to here, where she is taking some samples from the rock wall, examining her tablet thoughtfully and then looking to the others as they arrive.

"...?" Kaguya wonders, turning to face the others. Her ARM is holstered at her back. And the tablet in her hand is going, "DING... DING... DING.' "...Something's weird here," she says, and turns back to the cavern. "In here."

She turns off her electronic device and stows it in her bag, starting at the stones. She is with Xiumei working on it, likewise possessed of incredible strength, though for her the reasons are different.

She has color in her cheeks. She looks pretty healthy, in fact, compared to her usual.

"..." There's some tension, probably. Some confusion. But Kaguya does help, ths time, and when the place is open...

"Janus?" Kaguya asks, blinking in surprise as she steps inside. "Aren't you dead?" She asks. And then pauses. "...And not a fish?"

It should be funny, but in the muck and the mire and the blood and the stone, there is very little humor in Kaguya at the moment. She considers the monument, and Asgard.

"Why...?"

Why are they waiting? Why haven't they done what they came to do?

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Boudicca has posed.

    ... the earth cries out...

    And here, its answer.

    Boudicca is not Grudiev's Oracle; regardless she has been summoned to the defence of the Guardians, standing together, in bulwark. The alarm which flowed into her is a thing intuitive; she takes it and translates it, through the radios given to ARMS, to a message which can be understood by her friends, who would help just as surely as she.

    "Grudiev is beleagured... let us embattle the the earth, that we might avert the tragedy what shall be held in Gemstone!"

    (Someone might need to translate Boudicca's translation. It's fine. These things have a way of proliferating.)

    Boudicca, six feet tall, all clad in steel and silk and horns stretching from her helm, at first strides through the great woods to that hidden hillside in confidence. Hers is a protective anger, well-centred, and she has her intention to shout down whomever has come to trouble another Guardian.

    Had. Had the intention.

    She lurches to a stop, when she comes to that cave, finds all the things which would harry their advance made into some grotesque art display. An armored hand claps to her mouth; that confidence in her eyes shatters, shaken in an instant. "How... how terrible..."

    Boudicca shakes her head; it doesn't quite translate all through her braids, dark brown with green tips all the way down by her legs. She takes a breath, a breeze through the cave. It only serves to carry the scent of new death. Regardless, she continues.

    Once they get through that pile of stones -- Boudicca moves them, just as well as anyone else, because even if she could phase through, they cannot -- she steps into the chamber, to the shrines. "Asgard," she recognises him, looks further --

    "Ah!" Boudicca exclaims, braids all picked up into the air from an alarmed updraft, to see such a fate given to a man. "You --" Kaguya got through, too, and she names him, helpfully, in a way Boudicca never wanted to. "... Janus?" A frown crosses her face, clouds over sky. "And you mean to cause their screaming? What do you intend, now?!" Janus has wronged someone dear to her, and that's enough for Boudicca to be angry, too.

    She looks to Asgard, again, and presses, hand to her chest: "You mean to help him, Asgard..?!"

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

    It shouldn't be a surprise that Seraph Lanval is about as close to being on 'speed dial' as it gets. While he works for Schturdark, it doesn't take much urging for the very earth of Filgaia to get the other facets of its existence to call for help. He happens along the grisly scene, opening his eyes half-way when he catches notice of the trail. What even happened here? The urging continues him on, and... he has a time navigating the caverns. There's just so many strange, precarious ways the path bends and gets filled with crystals that...

     His appearance before where the key reasons for the call for help does not present much in the way of dignity, tumbling and rolling onto his seat as he holds his drinking gourd cclose - and takes a sip.

     "Mmmmph... yer not here for a tea party, are ya." He staggers up to a stand, eyeing the three of them. (Why is he lumping Kaguya into this?! She's innocent, this time!)

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    All is not well.

    The planet had cried out and Avril -- senstive to such things and furthermore struck by the nagging sense even prior that something was about to happen -- had been quick to respond, rallying to the point that the Earth Guardian had indicated. Or, to be more accurate, that her connection to the Earth Guardian through the Star and Ice stone Mediums had indicated -- the Original Sea Medium remains as silent as ever in this affair.

    She may well be a form of persona non grata to the Guardians for reasons they will not divulge and she cannot remember, but their present-day plights had called her to their aid and she had, of course... answered. Even now, there is the sense that some enormous debt is not quite answered--

    But such thoughts are cast to the wayside once she arrives within the cavern and sees what has been lain here.

    And also sights Kaguya, walking about as if taking readings of some sort. She had made an accord with Kaguya, but--

    She lifts one hand to her chest and her eyes widen. What has... Kaguya done here now?

    Perhaps if she had not been so recently in Alcidamas, she would not have immediately lept to such conclusions. If she hadn't had such a strange experience in Alcidamas. If she hadn't heard strange stories about Kaguya in Alcidamas.

    As she stands there, rooted to the spot, Kaguya vanishes from sight.

    It still takes Avril a moment more to rouse from her reverie and hurry after her.

    Even now she's reaching for her fellow Veruni as she plunges into this chamber.

    And freezes, her hand hovering inches from Kaguya's shoulder. "You are... Asgard? Why are you... and..."
    The mind, at first, reels.
    "...Janus? No... it cannot be you...!"

    Her attention tears from the both of them. "Kaguya... what are you doing in this place?"

    She always has been rather blunt.

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Marivel Armitage ... hasn't met Janus before. Or if she has, she has completely forgotten who the guy is. Asgard, on the other hand, is someone she knows near and dear.

Marivel mutters, "This well again," as if this happens all the time and then just sort of turns into a bat and flies on down, reverting back to her humanoid form as she easily follows the blood trail. She shoves her hand into a monster partway along the way and eats it like a Jojo villain--through her hand. Monster now drained and not wishing to overeat, Marivel continues her walk.

"Thank you for the meal," Marivel says, smiling lazily.

She sees Janus. She blinks. Then she cocks her head--her gaze is traveling right towards the Glumzambor.

"...Glumzambor, you picked a kind of scrawny guy this time around huh?" Marivel asks rhetorically before adding, "Yo yo, if you're carrying that weapon and you're greeting us like this, you're the one responsible for feeding me? Gotta thank you for that. Thanks."

She waits a moment. "Asgard, if you tell me what you're doing here. Maybe I'll fight you. For real."

She hasn't decided whether or not she's lying yet.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Ida is not an early riser, most of the time. When Boudicca's voice issued from her radio, speaking in cryptic riddles, it took her a moment to rouse herself, and a moment to shake free from instinctual, gut-churning panic. It took yet a moment longer to figure out what the hell was going on--to make sense of her Oracle's words. It was one of those rare moments where the titles 'Oracle' and 'Seer' become literal.

    But she's out of bed and dressed and geared, and she even stole five minutes to shower. Ida's been to the Gemstone Caves before. The place--long relegated to academia and tourism--is officially closed, but there are ways in that aren't on the official, tourist-facing maps. The Seer follows her Oracle into the cave, footsteps echoing off the walls. Ida's hair is pinned back in a messy bun, still damp from the shower, and while her covertly-armored trenchcoat and gear belts are in good shape, her face tells another story.

    As important as this undoubtedly is, it also reminds her of all the times Lola woke her in the middle of the night, whining to be let outside. And then they come across the bodies, and Ida's guts do a flip.

    "Someone was busy," she says. "This way." The blood and footprints lead deeper in. Ida is already bracing for what they might find. Who, of all people, would dare intrude on a Guardian sanctum? Is it Seymour? Is it K.K.? It wouldn't be the first time either of them had done so.

    And then two alien figures come into view, and Ida's heart leaps into her throat as she remembers what Boudicca told her. "Cascade," she growls, stepping back and shifting into a wary stance. "Come to desecrate something else, have we?" Ida glances at Asgard, and that tightness in her chest only grows. The last time they fought, they made a mess of part of Meria's business district, but she barely managed to scratch him.

    ...sieg...? ...the prototype...?

    Anxiety presses against Ida's mind. It's not hers. She touches a hand to her temple, and blinks--and in that moment, her left eye goes from silvery-blue to bright emerald-green.

<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

Azoth only knew a few things about Janus Cascade. One was his connection to Gwen, which was still wrapped in mysteries, but Important all the same, and another was that Azoth had been there when that hole got put in Bevelle. That last bit made 'outlaw' seem something of an understatement in what the man was capable of. But the mention of a Golem... Azoth has faced the Golem Asgard before, but not like this. In another form, fighting a different battle, unrecognizable as he is now (or will he be, if there is a fight, and if Asgard identifies enough patterns?). Though Asgard was programmed for battle and enjoyed all the data gained from the experience, Asgard had still abandoned it prematurely when a more important priority came up.

It made an android curious, to say in the least.

There's no false cheer to give in the carnage leading the way, and once Azoth finds the chamber, he looks to the fish creature that is Janus(?), and past him to the Golem. A weak, waning smile does not compute as quite accurate to the sense of gravity that's beginning to sink over the situation, Guardians involved, but it's what Azoth has to give. Waiting for them. That's not a good sign.

"I'm guessing all of this wasn't just to start a fight." He gestures back out the way they came, to where the trail of violence lies. "Not that you don't seem eager."

<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

Venetia Vuong does not hear the Guardians' cry, at least not directly. But when she receives a call, she comes. For it is in a cavern, is it not? They'll surely need an expert.

Venetia reserves her magical powers as the rocks are moved. With many hands, the work may be light. And you do need to put something into those big ones she's brought along with her. (It's a new leather Crest pouch, Charlie Brown.) During the clearing, she says: "They must have been going out of the way to slaughter the wildlife. Not exactly a conservationist mindset."

And once they are through...

They are greeted.

Venetia looks up at the great mass of Asgard with a certain thrill of subtle awe. The Golem is an imposing figure, however removed... and however ill guided. But this moment fades as her eyes turn towards Janus Cascade, or what sounds like him. A metalized face: a distorted body. He is bearing that dark spear - or is it truly him? Has he become a Hellion? Venetia wonders. Or something stranger.

She takes in a deep breath. Steady, she says to herself. Overcome this. The resentment's old; like a child remembering the feel of a childish shirt.

"Janus Cascade," Venetia says, "I recognize you and your attempt at the destruction of the world, alright. If you have something to say, you had better say it fast," and here Venetia's voice elevates upwards, projecting, "because you're already getting on my sour side with torment of Filgaia's Guardians. You could have written a letter, but I suppose that lacks PANACHE."

Venetia slides a hand into the Crest pouch. "And you'd better think about putting something in that statement about repenting your evil deeds, bucko milad, or else you've yeed your last damn haw. You've earned complete obliteration, and I think you know it."

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline awoke to an intense pressure from her Earth Medium. A warning of incoming danger... or, perhaps a request for help. She's no shaman - she may follow the Guardians, but she doesn't have the same strong connections to them that a shaman does. But here and now Grudiev is calling out to her and so she answers - making an immediate detour to follow that call.

It leads her to a sign of horrible bloodshed, a massacre of monsters. Jacqueline can't help but grimace at the sight of them, but it's enough to force her to move onward. Fortunately, they've left a trail... and when she arrives at the end of it she sees Asgard and Janus, as well as others who've arrived following a similar call.

"...You really didn't have to leave out the red carpet. If you wanted us, you only had to ask." Jacqueline says, her tone measured. Her outward confidence is something of a mask, though - she's still looking a little pale. She'll never get used to seeing that sort of unrestrained carnage. It puts her a little off-balance... but she can't let them know that.

She looks between Asgard and Janus, her gaze lingering on the latter.

"I expected Asgard, but not you, Mister Cascade. I wasn't aware you were following the Prophets' orders now." Jacqueline asks.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    It's better to just say that Gwen has a filter for any mention of 'Janus' and 'Cascade', which has led to some particularly awkward situations, like whenever someone had decided that 'cascade' was their word of the day, which, if it ever happens, is one too many times.

    After a while, the words lose their meaning when they are separated from each other, and Gwen was happy to imagine Janus finding a nice place to chill out in with his spear, content to live life to the fullest.

    Which brings her to here, now, the courier walking into the place with little to no regard for decorum or her safety. It's not as if she expects her safety to be guaranteed, but the monsters littering the place certainly make her way much easier. The familiar faces of allies who were also summoned, for various reasons, much more so, but with the way she walks, it's clear she was just going to walk in, regardless of what was in her way.

    Of course, she *did* choose this time, as opposed to earlier, so who's to say she wasn't opposed to being there to help people, if it came down to it.

    Asgard's greeting, confuses the courier, as do the amount of others that show up around the same time as her. "... Asgard... I admit, I'm a little lost on this part here, but, like, I'm leavin' my mind open n' I bet one of my buddies here'll fill me in! Just, like, wait a sec?"

    Of course Janus was setting the stage. The casual disregard, the way he just leans against one of the breathtaking crystal formations, the angle of his head, the smirk--

    He can't smirk, he has no lips. He has no mouth.

    Gwen's breath hitches, getting another good look in how the way her childhood friend had changed.

    Look him in the eyes. Don't look away. He's still Janus, warts and all, just without his face. "... You're a sight for sore eyes," she continues on with a small smile, turning her face back up to look at him, directly. "Didja get a hair cut?"

    She rubs the back of her neck, looking back towards Kaguya. "It's the spear that's responsible for his current get-up, if I 'member right. But, it's still him, for better or worse."

    'They're alright at screamin' for help real pretty.'

    ".... eh?" Gwen jerks her head back towards Janus. "... Wait, what is that all about? I mean, I was kinnda hopin' you'd take up the mantle of the dark antihero if you ever showed back up. Or, just found some place you were could kick yer boots up n' relax."

    She doesn't actually believe this would be a thing that could happen.

    After all, Gwen is here.

    "Janus. C'mon." Her voice shakes, hearing the ire of her friends. "If y'need your freedom from those creepy prophet people, I'm sure I can get a big ol' team of people and grab your freedom right back."

<Pose Tracker> Janus Cascade has posed.

Janus still can't smile. But his posture sure acts like he is. "Ah, well, ya see, they can be mighty persuasive when they get their claws in yer neck," he says, casually, to Jay. "Besides, they give me such fun toys."

"Why yes!" Janus laughs at Ida, scuffing a toe, twisting it against the stone. "Gods are dead, we're in hell, scar my name in the bones of the world, you know the ol' song and dance. Well, I know a bit better 'n' that these days."

"Why, you're very welcome," he says to Marivel, because it's polite to respond to thanks offered sincerely. "I think you know a thing or two about the kind of mess a person can make gettin' through a hole like this."

Shifting his attention to Xiumei, he puffs up. "Ah, my plan, actually! Asgard's not so much the brains, yeah? More of the, uh, terrible stone sinew."

THen his eyes turn to Gwen, and they glow in their deep sockets. "...not how the game works, Gwen," he says, quietly. THen he says, "Anyway, I got a job to finish, the siphon'll be about done soon enough. But I know how you roll and the Guardians too, so I figured, oh, let's set a little stage for y'all!"

He pulls out a small device with his offhand, a fist-sized object with a big red button on one end.

"Oh, ah, sorry."

He clicks the detonator.

"Just to be clear, by stage, I mean trap."

<Pose Tracker> Asgard has posed.


"What... am I planning?" The Golem turns to Xiumei, the plate jutting out of his torso hiding his mouth. Yet his answer still reverberates clearly. "To fight... to adapt. To grow stronger... to win." And then... he adds suddenly with an emphasis which seems eerie, "To... live." As his gaze crosses towards Azoth, "Eager." He repeats the word again as if deciding to put that word to a feeling, "Eager. Yes... that is correct..."

Kaguya's question however receives no answer, his systems are working, but they don't have enough context to understand what she's asking, or to even know she's speaking to anyone but Janus. Yet as Gwen mentions the spear is responsible for Janus right now... eerily, she might feel the Golem's eyes on her, at the invocation.

Whereas Boudicca, he finds her without fail, whereas before he couldn't even conceptualize her, but before he answers, he looks to the Ice Queen. "Yes. I serve... Janus Cascade." Marivel though... the prospect of fighting her for real, suddenly it compels him to answer, "I... we... are here... to remind the people of Filgaia... that... we are here."

They are here to remind the people of Filgaia that they are here? Is he talking in circles? Yet no, one gets the sense that he is telling a lie, incapable of true falsehood.

And then Janus hits the button.

"And we are..."

OST change: Cheap Trap - Trails of Cold Steel III - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVC_uv36U6A

There are suddenly an eruption of countless red blinks on the Drifter half of the cavern, explosives hidden behind various crystalline formations, presence hidden by being far too close to the bright light. "... alive!" It is the only warning they receive before bombs chain off into a series of <<explosions>>!

The shockwave is bad enough, even before the floor disintegrates beneath them on their half of the chamber, opening up into a giant cavern below, and it's sheer drop. The only way to avoid this is to grab a <<handhold>> as you fall and start the climb back up, assisting your fellows as you see fit!

However, the climb turns out not to be a simple matter, because as you climb, the shadow of Asgard reaches the edge of the pit, and he's hauling a colossal <<crystalline formation>> over his head. He wastes no time hucking it down at those which are climbing back up. The crystalline structure splinters into numerous smaller pieces with each impact with either Drifter or stone wall, creating a painful rain that hinders the progression of those on their way back up.

_____________________________| QUICK TIME EVENT!!!|_____________________________
_                               The Cascade Effect                             _
_                                                                              _
_                                                                              _
_  Zhang Xiumei, Seraph Boudicca, Seraph Lanval, Venetia Vuong, Marivel        _
_ Armitage, Avril Vent Fleur, Kaguya, Ida Everstead-Rey, Jacqueline Barber,    _
_ Azoth, and Gwen Whitlock:                                                    _
_  +qte/react <guard/evade/charge>/<guard/evade/charge>/<guard/evade/charge>   _
QTE!!! Challenge Result: Full Success! Seraph Boudicca takes 0 damage and gains 15 FP!
QTE!!! Challenge Result: FAILURE! Kaguya takes 145 damage and gains 60 FP!
QTE!!! Challenge Result: Moderate Success! Venetia Vuong takes 75 damage and gains 30 FP!
QTE!!! Challenge Result: Low Success! Ida Everstead-Rey takes 109 damage and gains 45 FP!
QTE!!! Challenge Result: Moderate Success! Jacqueline Barber takes 75 damage and gains 30 FP!
QTE!!! Challenge Result: Full Success! Azoth takes 0 damage and gains 15 FP!
QTE!!! Challenge Result: Low Success! Gwen Whitlock takes 114 damage and gains 45 FP!
QTE!!! Challenge Result: Moderate Success! Avril Vent Fleur takes 74 damage and gains 30 FP!
QTE!!! Challenge Result: Low Success! Zhang Xiumei takes 110 damage and gains 45 FP!
QTE!!! Challenge Result: Low Success! Marivel Armitage takes 108 damage and gains 45 FP!
QTE!!! Challenge Result: FAILURE! Seraph Lanval takes 146 damage and gains 60 FP!
<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

So many people have come to face them. Xiumei understands the Guardians in an academic sense -- but the outrage that Boudicca and Avril voice speaks of the seriousness of the issue. Her eyes narrow for a moment.

Then, she glances back at Azoth. She makes a surprised noise -- then nods her head. "I think so. But... he sounds different, than the last time I fought him," she says. "Do you think...?"

She isn't sure what she thinks.

She looks at Janus -- then her eyes narrow. "The brains, is it? That's--" No, it's a trap. She registers this, even as Asgard speaks. The word 'eager' sends a shiver down her spine.

The floor explodes -- and Xiumei leaps, with a shout, going airborne, but not in a controlled way. She flies at the wall -- and grabs onto a handhold. She starts to climb up -- and grunts sharply when several crystalline fragments slam into her.

When she gets near the top, she kicks off the wall. She twists, going flying, and comes in for Asgard. Her hand is held out -- and with flashes of data cubes, a cylinder appears. A beam of pale green light explodes from it.

And Xiumei lands, slashing the Pulse Saber down for Asgard. "Why... why are you so eager to fight us, Asgard?"

GS: Zhang Xiumei has attacked Asgard with Pulse Saber - Jump Slash!
GS: Zhang Xiumei has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Zhang Xiumei has completed her action.
GS: Asgard suffers a terrible blow from Zhang Xiumei's Pulse Saber - Jump Slash for 129 hit points!
GS: Asgard activates Countermeasures!
<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

Venetia hears Janus speaking pretty negative things and so she gets out a Crest Graph, probably intending to blast him into oblivion mid-sentence, except he's speaking to Gwen, kind of -- she hesitates -- and hears the word Siphon. The Crest is raised up and Venetia takes a deep breath:

KRAKOOOMOOOOBOOMOMOMOBOOOM rattuel crackle DESCENT. The ground beneath Venetia's feet ripples with shockwaves and then falls away and from behind her mask she is, for a moment, utterly and completely consternated. As she descends, she makes for the sides -- and the Crest Graph in her hand begins to glow pecularily.

There is a throbbing pulsation in the Ley...

"Cavern of the Crystals!" Venetia declares, as a webwork of calcite crystals erupt out of the cavern walls some distance beneath where the group writ-large is falling, catching debris - and providing something nearer to a safety net! Turning towards the wall, Venetia pockets the Graph in favor of climbing upwards, with bloody-minded determination.

"I'll drink your blood you little shit, you and your damn tamed golem you've taught to crack wise so you can sit back and drink cheap beer," Venetia mutters to herself, which is a habit she has done in many other ways. An enormous crystalline chunk crashes forwards, shattering flinders rolling down onto her and making Venetia freeze in place, breathing heavily - did she - no -

Fear. She was scared there, Venetia thinks.

The thought fills her with fury.

"CASCAAAAAADE!!" Venetia bellows, from ten Venetia-lengths down, where she finds a shortage of outcroppings. Panting with momentary fury. "You'd better pray to whatever gods you worship because you'll be meeting them in five minutes!"

Venetia prods the stone there. It feels... friable, she thinks. Should I...?

Another Graph comes out. Held upwards, with that same gradual throbbing heartbeat. There is a sense of something damp filling up a space, and then a feeling of a river, the passage of something... and weaker stone erodes, pouring downwards. The conglomerate forms drooping stalagmites, but more to that point, it creates channels-- thin trenches that can be entered, positively *run upwards*, and which may give the opportunity to hide from SCREAMING GOLEM WRATH, as well!

Venetia starts pulling herself up one. "Four minutes and forty seconds!" she continues, just to keep her hand in. The channels, though handy, are unfortunately somewhat near a few people in particular-- but hey, everyone could use a little help sometimes.

GS: Venetia Vuong has attacked Kaguya with Scablands Sign ~What The Waters Carved~!
GS: Venetia Vuong has attacked Marivel Armitage with Scablands Sign ~What The Waters Carved~!
GS: Venetia Vuong has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Scablands Sign ~What The Waters Carved~!
GS: Venetia Vuong has completed her action.
GS: Gwen Whitlock accepts Venetia Vuong's Scablands Sign ~What The Waters Carved~ for 0 hit points!
GS: Pray grants a random effect! Regen and Shield applied to Gwen Whitlock!
GS: Pray grants a random effect! Cover applied to Venetia Vuong!
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

The earth cries out for aid. Who is there to heed its call...?

...You might be surprised.

The ground stirs. It's as though something were boring its way through the thick crust and impenetrable gemstone shell surrounding the ancient Guardian temple. It's as if... someone were piloting a powerful drill, aimed straight for the heart of this cornerstone of the world. Could it be another attack? Another force that seeks Filgaia's destruction? Or could it be . . . ?

"Zedder....!" A voice, so very distant, rumbles from far, far away. It's almost... impossible to tell where that voice is coming from, it's almost impossible to tell that there is even a voice at all. Maybe those particularly sensitive to the trembling of earth and soil might have better luck detecting its approach. But amidst the din of the explosives, as the rocks tumble down all around them, even that might be missed.

At least... Until the earth overtop of Asgard cracks, and finally, FINALLY that voice echoes loud and clear through the cavern--

"DRIIIIIIIIIIIIIILLL!"

It's... It's...!

Zed...! Spinning like a top...! Dropping a heel directly at Asgard's noggin from above!!

But-- what is he doing here? Why now? Why pick this EXACT MOMENT!?!?

(Because Zed can only dig so fast, give him a break, jeez.)

GS: Kaguya accepts Venetia Vuong's Scablands Sign ~What The Waters Carved~ for 0 hit points!
GS: Pray grants a random effect! Burst and Shield applied to Kaguya!
GS: Pray grants a random effect! Cover applied to Venetia Vuong!
GS: Zed has attacked Asgard with Zedder Drill!!
GS: Zed has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Asgard takes a glancing hit from Zed's Zedder Drill! for 69 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Asgard gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Asgard suffers a terrible blow from Zhang Xiumei's Pulse Saber - Jump Slash for 109 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Asgard gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Asgard activates Countermeasures!
GS: Marivel Armitage accepts Venetia Vuong's Scablands Sign ~What The Waters Carved~ for 0 hit points!
GS: Pray grants a random effect! Lock State and Shield applied to Marivel Armitage!
GS: Pray grants a random effect! Cover applied to Venetia Vuong!
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"Ugghh Asgard..." Marivel says. "I know you're not lying but an answer like that isn't going to work--"

The ground explodes.

Marivel hangs in the air for a moment, looking right at Janus. "You're despicable." There's no ground under her feet for a solid 6 seconds before she falls in a delayed reaction like a cartoon character.

She launches a claw arm (it looks like a toy) and grabs hold of the handhold and then slowly starts making her way up.

A giant rock slams into Marivel's everything and a spray of blood explodes out from behind it, like a different kind of cartoon character.

Venetia provides some cover and Marivel ducks into the little trench she opened up and mulls to herself for a while.

Then ultimately she says, "Alright then."

She rolls out from the hole shortly after, propelling herself forward on a geyser as she rears back with her hand and fans it out towards Asgard! A blue pulse ripples out from her and aims to strike into Asgard!

"Don't mistake this as me fighting you for an answer like that!" Marivel tells Asgard. "This is simply SCHEMING!"

She grins, with fangs.

GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Asgard with Skill Drain!
GS: Marivel Armitage has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Boudicca has posed.

    "What are you..."

    It's a question directed to Janus, not Asgard; Boudicca may not like his ethos of evolution through execution, but she understands, at least, that what Asgard is doing here is a devastatingly simple thing.

    Unfortunately: Boudicca never gets to finish her sentence. What Janus supplies is not, precisely, what she meant to ask.

    The look on her face, like the bottom has dropped out of her boots, is probably still priceless.

    "Ah--!!" Boudicca yelps, as the bombs explode. She flies a few metres, with the first, before her heels dig in, little grooves on the cavern floor, made larger by the rest of her step. Suddenly the feeling of having nothing to stand on isn't a metaphor, because that heat, washing over her, crashed down, too.

    It just so happens, though, that Boudicca is a creature of the air.

    She billows in to the side of the cavern, and her tailwind might well help blow some of her allies to handholds, too. A bounce off one of Venetia's crystals, and she's surging upwards, rolling in the empty space to flow between two of those crystal shards Asgard tosses down. The wind forms a slipstream, around Avril and Ida, who she sees in her ascent; not only does it help steady them as they climb, it helps blow the debris away from them, too.

    "What siphon," she demands, as she finds her way up, "do you speak of, Janus?!"

GS: Seraph Boudicca has activated a Force Action!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Fortifying Tailwind!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with Fortifying Tailwind!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has completed her action.
GS: Asgard takes a solid hit from Marivel Armitage's Skill Drain for 86 hit points!
GS: Marivel Armitage drains Asgard! Marivel Armitage gains 43 temporary hit points!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur accepts Seraph Boudicca's Fortifying Tailwind for 0 hit points!
GS: Burst, Quick, and Shield applied to Avril Vent Fleur!
<Pose Tracker> Kaguya has posed.

Kaguya doesn't even notice Avril's approach at first. She's too focused on Janus and Asgard. But then she speaks up, and asks Kaguya a question--so the smaller Veruni turns to her, and blinks. "What am I doing here?" she asks. Then she considers Lanval's suspicious look, and the time she blew up a Guardian statue mostly out of spite.

"...I'm not with them," Kaguya answers. "I'm taking some readings on the environment--they're weird readings. But..." She turns and looks back towards Asgard and Janus. ARMS is here, too. Kaguya doesn't mind a chance to see them in action. But what she does mind... is this.

Kaguya nods to Gwen. "Siegfried's spear. I remember." She pauses. "...Be careful, Gwen."

Kaguya gets her answer regardless to 'why'; of course it's a trap. "Son of a bi--"

Explosions happen."JANUS!" Kaguya shouts as the detonator works, and the explosions knock her from her feeet, into still more explosions. It's a sheer drop; she can't get a holdhold and she doesn't, falling back down at first until she starts down, down, down...

Until she finds a channel that Venetia brings into being. Her gloved hand crunches into the stone with enough force to spread dust down beneath her, and she grabs, and starts to pull herself back up. The great mass of crystals too slams into her, and she keeps hold only by virtue of her incredible strength, battered hard already by the opening salvo.

"Thanks!" Kaguya shouts to Venetia, and pulls herself up one-handed, suddenly leaping up into the air again towards the ground. Mid-jump she throws out her hand and calls, "Avril!"

"Smash now, I'll explain later!"

The scents of unfamiliar(?) flora burst around Avril, spectral vines and flowers suddenly cascading around her in a rush of sudden power.

GS: Kaguya has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with Bloom Rush!
GS: Kaguya has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Kaguya has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

At Asgard's words, Azoth's face loses its expression. Fight, grow, adapt. Become victorious. It's how most organisms have evolved to be, he thinks. Because that is what it means to live -- to experience, to learn, to overcome and to repeat. He glances back at Xiumei, offering a faint, reassuring smile. "What's important," he says to her, "Is that he thinks."

There's so much more going on here. Guardians. Prophets. Gwen's distress and somewhere in this, Ida's eyes changing a color that sends worry through Azoth's calculations. But all paths lead to the same destination: they must fight. And if they must fight... Azoth might as well give Asgard a good one, if that's what helps him learn and change.

His stance shifts, and then Janus pulls out a little device. Azoth's shoulders droop. "Oh."

Everything erupts. As the room's consumed in explosions, Azoth holds his ground, watching the patterns of red and making calculations off every tremor reading as his eyes glow bright within the chaos. He knows the ground will give before it does, launching from it toward the wall just a the fall happens. He sinks his fingers into the cliff side, then launches himself back up from one ledge to the next in quick hops. A splinter spears a hole through his hood, and another nearly catches the side of his cheek. One almost crashes through his shoulder joint, which would surely end his ascent.

But all only almost, Azoth's circuits bright through his clothes and skin as he moves with unnatural speed to pull himself over the ledge in a roll toward Asgard, leaping in an upward strike with a blur of energy blades trailing after one another, his circuits burning visibly through his chassis like bright veins.

"Request accepted. Target engaged."

GS: Azoth has attacked Asgard with Overvoltage!
GS: Azoth has entered Hero Stance!
GS: Azoth has completed his action.
GS: Asgard suffers a terrible blow from Zhang Xiumei's Pulse Saber - Jump Slash for 114 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Asgard gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Asgard activates Countermeasures!
GS: CRITICAL! Asgard takes a glancing hit from Azoth's Overvoltage for 48 hit points!
GS: Quick applied to Azoth!
GS: Asgard activates Countermeasures!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey accepts Seraph Boudicca's Fortifying Tailwind for 0 hit points!
GS: Burst, Quick, and Shield applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

    "Why didn't ya call it a trap firsht," Lanval pipes up before the explosions go off. well, they go on first because a button was pressed, but then they go off - and the Water Seraph seems to disappear into the waves of flame and explosive shockwaves. He appears to miss the chance to grab the handhold, and the crystalline formation explodes on impact with such a shine of shimmering shrapnel that his survival might already be written off.

     ...He floats up in a self-contained bubble, kind of pressed against it like he might've slammed face-first into it and is currently whirling about inside of the rising thing. If anyone else is looking like they might lose their hold and fall, well, it's a large bubble. It'll get them up.

     And then it'll pop over solid ground that's not a huge drop down, LAnval ending face-flat at the end of that sequence as dramatic declarations and existential questions are made. "In retrosphect, if ya mentioned it firsht it wouldn't be a trap."

     The levity - such as it is - fades as Lanval comes upright, whirls the drinking gourd around once as a piece of the water of Filgaia itself spills around him (this counts, for those playing at home, as 'dibs') and swings the thing into the impenetrable fortress that is Asgard.

     It only looks like a simple drinking gourd - but it is heavy with the weight of the world's water and the staggering in his follow-through might not be an act.

GS: Seraph Lanval has attacked Asgard with Layabout's Lariat!
GS: Seraph Lanval has completed his action.
GS: Asgard solidly guards Seraph Lanval's Layabout's Lariat for 74 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Asgard gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Riposte applied to Seraph Lanval!
GS: CRITICAL! Avril Vent Fleur suffers a terrible blow from Kaguya's Bloom Rush for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper applied to Avril Vent Fleur!
GS: Charge!! You gain 30 FP!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur activates Arcane Font!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    The Prophets. Ida's suddenly looking through Janus, rather than at him--remembering an encounter on Spira, a woman who'd impersonated her, and unleashed Asgard on ARMS and their friends when the ruse was exposed. "You could've fooled me," Ida snaps back, raising both fists. "Do your masters have any idea what they're doing to this world? Or do they simply know better--"

    Gwen steps forward, and Ida trails off; part of her wants to tell Gwen that the man she befriended all those years ago is dead, ground down to nothingness by a cruel, stupid world. The rest of her respects Gwen enough to let her speak, even though that bright green eye of his widens, the narrows, tic-like, when Asgard says whom he serves.

    ...the spear. The spear. No. He can't still--no, Mother, no--

    The detonator comes out.

    Of course you didn't expect it, idiot girl.

    A roar of fury erupts from Ida's lungs. An explosion blooms behind her, pelting her with bits of rock; she throws herself to the dirt, tucking and rolling, but there are detonators everywhere. Hyadean flesh pours down Ida's shoulders, encasing both her arms. She covers her head, even as chunks of rock bite into her, and heat blossoms close enough to burn.

    Then the ground gives away. Ida drops, twisting upright through reflex alone. "VENETIA!" she screams, as she sees the sorceress plummet into the pit as well. Ida swings a hand upwards, and a long, thin tendril-ligament lashes out from just behind her wrist. It embeds itself, dagger-like, in the stone, and she swings towards the pit wall. Ida hits with the soles of both feet--pain shoots up her legs, mingling with fear and fury. But she still hears Venetia's voice, and in the next moment, a webwork of crystalline growths erupt from the walls.

    Ida retracts the line and starts to climb. She hauls herself up, using Venetia's crystalline spikes as hand and footholds. A shadow looms above. Ida grips the wall as tightly as she can. Exoskeleton flows up her neck, and down her torso, adding a gorget, headgear, and breastplate to the gauntlets. Splinters of jagged crystal fall like rain.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    One taloned hand, armored in gold and blue, grips the edge of the pit. A moment later, its mate does the same. Ida half-hauls, half-throws herself over the edge, trailing droplets of crimson and quicksilver from the dozens of cuts Asgard's attack inflicted. Her face twists in a look of raw fury, and she reaches for her gear belt--one could easily guess she's going for an ARM. She's not.

    Ida pulls out something else instead: a hexagonal disk of alien metal, bearing the sigil of Dinoginos. It gleams in the light as Ida holds it up, her voice rising in what can only be furious, defiant prayer.

    "THE MOUNTAIN STILL STANDS!" A saying oh-so-common among the Guardianists of the Voids, those who have little place in Skyside society.

    The raw force of Fray and Geo flow through her. A phantasmal titan rises in front of her, dwarfing even Asgard in its immensity--the projected shape of Dinoginos himself, a mountain-giant of metal and stone. The might of geologic ages washes through the room, clinging to Azoth, Xiumei, Zed and Venetia.

    There will come a day when the mountains will be worn down to the sea. Today is not that day.

GS: Your FP has been set to 84.
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Azoth with Material - The Mountain Still Stands!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Venetia Vuong with Material - The Mountain Still Stands!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Zed with Material - The Mountain Still Stands!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Zhang Xiumei with Material - The Mountain Still Stands!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Venetia Vuong accepts Ida Everstead-Rey's Material - The Mountain Still Stands for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield applied to Venetia Vuong!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

"Hmm, I see." Jacqueline replies to Janus's comment. They must have something over him, then... which she can only assume is related to his current form which kind of really sticks out. She looks around at the others, gauging who's here and what kind of support she can expect. And then Asgard speaks. To remind the people of Filgaia they are here... it's strange. She doesn't quite understand what he means by that, but it'll be something she'll have to figure out later.

"We'll put a stop to it." Jacqueline says, as he mentions the siphon. And then, Jamus pulls out a device. Jacqueline grimaces.

"I should have known you'd pull something like this." She says, even as he presses the button and explosions detonate all around them. She shuts her eyes tight with a wince, wrapping her cloak. She can still feel the impact of the explosions, and she can feel the floor breaking out from beneath her feet.

But the earth is all around her - this is something she can work with. As she falls she gestures quickly with her left hand, a rocky shelf extending out to catch her.

"Is everyone alright? Hold on, I'll - look out!" She interrupts herself immediately as a crystalline structure is shattered, sending a rain of shrapnel their way! Once again she pulls her cloak tight around her, wincing as she's pelted by crystals.

"That siphon... we'll have to stop it, but we have to get through them first. Does anyone have any ideas?" Jacqueline says. She doesn't know what the situation is like up there right now after that explosion, and she's not wholly familiar with the layout - Jumping up there wouldn't be safe.

So instead she reaches for her bags, drawing out a bottle of lavender colored liquid. With a Mystic touch, the liquid inside evaporates - and reappears in a glimmering, strength-draining cloud that expands around Janus and Asgard both.

In the meantime, she makes a few quick gestures of her left hand, extending a few other shelves out around the perimeter of the pit.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has activated a Force Action!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Janus Cascade with Sapping Solution!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Asgard with Sapping Solution!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Azoth accepts Ida Everstead-Rey's Material - The Mountain Still Stands for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield applied to Azoth!
GS: Asgard critically guards Jacqueline Barber's Sapping Solution for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Asgard gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Shield applied to Jacqueline Barber!
GS: Asgard activates Guard bonus!
GS: Asgard used Defend! He takes Jacqueline Barber's Sapping Solution attack on Janus Cascade on himself!
GS: CRITICAL! Asgard solidly guards Jacqueline Barber's Sapping Solution for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Asgard gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Weaken applied to Asgard!
GS: Quick and Shield applied to Jacqueline Barber!
GS: Asgard has gained 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    "That you are... here?" Not just him -- not just Janus, Avril realizes. The ones who control him. That strange man in the Forest Temple--

    Her hand remains hovering there by Kaguya's shoulder a long moment more when Kaguya begins to explain. For all that they are allies, still, it would seem that...
    But Avril draws her hand back at last and answers her fellow Veruni with a tight, shallow nod. There are questions to be had, but current parties being as they were, she...

    ...turns her attention over towards Gwen. That's right, Gwen had said that Janus was her--

    Misgiving floods within Avril. Something is amiss and she's been given to realize all too late that the reason is here. Right here, in this chamber.

    Because it's a trap.

    "No--!"

    The room around her flares white as the detonator goes. She throws up a shield, using the Original Medium. But even that only works in partial measures: the floor gives way below. There's a chasm below! With a cry, Avril drops.

    She manages to grab onto a side of the wall, hanging for the moment by a hand from an auspiciously-sized for just this purpose crystal. In the midst of her attempts to pull herself up, Asgard rains stone and crystal upon them all. She's struck. Her hand slips. There isn't even room for the realization that she's lost her grip, that she's started to fall, that...

    The winds -- Boudicca's winds -- see fit to save her. For a moment, she is kept steady and still in the air, and in that moment, she grabs ahold of the crystal once more and this time ascends to a (temporary) sort of safety.

    There is far further to climb yet.

    Kaguya calls out to her, before she's gotten more than a couple feet up the wall of the chasm. "--I understand!" she calls back, as flower and vine -- fleetingly -- swirl about her.

    In the moment that follows she is hanging by one arm only, one foot precariously wedged to balance herself against the wall. "...Asgard. This shall not stand!" In her other hand she bears Absolute Zero's hilt, empty. A finger finds its trigger, and she jerks it up towards the Golem.

    It's less lash and more a long coil of burning light, streaking like a great spear across the distance that separates her and the Golem. Even from this place, she will not hesitate. ...So speaks the silent promise in her eyes.

GS: Avril Vent Fleur has attacked Asgard with Spiral Edge!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has completed her action.
GS: Asgard suffers a terrible blow from Avril Vent Fleur's Spiral Edge for 116 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Asgard gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Quick applied to Avril Vent Fleur!
GS: Asgard activates Countermeasures!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    "I know, Kaguya," Gwen softly replies back, giving her a slight smile. It's not a warning that is falling on deaf ears, entirely.

    The hairs on the back of Gwen's neck prickle as she feels the weight of Asgard's eyes on her.

    If she had more time to think, she'll definitely make something of it, but something in the way Janus doesn't even give her the dignity of a proper quip back redirects Gwen's attention.

    ".... Not how the game works? _Not how the game works?!_"" Gwen plants a hand on one hip, and points her left index finger straight at the Spear's Successor, just as the detonator is clicked. "_Since when were you the one who played by the ruullllll--"

    Rules. She meant to say 'rules', but Janus's trap has been sprung, and gravity is a harsh mistress, especially to those with a little more weight to carry on the account of it being ARMstuff.

    "Kaguya," Gwen shouts, as her right hand clawing its way into a handhold. "Exhibit one, ttttttwo, ghh... tttttthree--!" Rocks chatter away as Gwen tries to hoist herself up. "Ffooouuuurrrohshit." Crystals shatter as Gwen just shoots through it, the glittering spray cutting red trails as it falls against her cheeks. Her grip fails, and she falls, briefly, against an outcropping of one of Venetia's crystals. Oh thank the Guardians Venetia knows her crystals..

     "... I think that's five more right there but that was Asgard who did that, but you get the gist. The fact that... gh... Asgard is kinda goin' with it, is kinda weird, but!" She hoists herself up onto the surface, the exposed parts of her right ARM beginning to glow.

    "... That's a Janus move, alright. And that--"

    Gwen points up, towards the drilling Zed, grinning widely. "That is a Zed move!"

    She presses her right hand to her chest, and releases the charge she had building in in the Mockingbird's makeup.

    "And this...!"

    A field of yellow gold light expands out from Gwen, radiating out over Janus and Asgard like the inside of a giant static ball. "... is mine!"

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Janus Cascade with St. Elmo's Fire!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Asgard with St. Elmo's Fire!
GS: Gwen Whitlock gains 60 THP from Regen!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Asgard partially guards Gwen Whitlock's St. Elmo's Fire for 0 hit points!
GS: Disrupt and Jam applied to Asgard!
GS: Asgard activates Countermeasures!
GS: Asgard used Defend! He takes Gwen Whitlock's St. Elmo's Fire attack on Janus Cascade on himself!
GS: Asgard suffers a terrible blow from Gwen Whitlock's St. Elmo's Fire for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Asgard gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Disrupt and Jam applied to Asgard!
GS: Asgard activates Countermeasures!
GS: Asgard has gained 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Asgard has posed.


Azoth's ascent is surprisingly quick, and even with all of his calculations, her blow still rips across his barrier with unnatural speed, causing it to flicker, showering sparks. "You... are." The Golem pauses, as if trying to optimize all of this new data and coming out uncertain on his conclusions save one thing...

"... Yes. Yes. Engage me... with all of your strength."

...that this entity is strong. Immediately he seems to adapt in kind, his speed suddenly sending him towards Azoth as a ground pounding Juggernaut, his charge trying to crash another artificial lifeform through one of the remaining crystalline pillars that hold up the room.

As Xiumei descends through the shower of crystalline shards, Asgard brings up his hands, to clap them down upon her Pulse Saber on each side, the ARM burning into each palm with a sizzle as he looks into Xiumei's eyes. The question does not strike him as being congruent with his data on Avile, so he answers to her as if she is a seperate entity, "Because... I can grow... stronger."

Suddenly he twists her Pulse Saber aside, wrenching it and her away, following it up with immediately scything a fist at her side in an attempt to knock her back into the pit if he strikes her back with enough force.

Which is when an unexpected element enters the fray! A spinning Zed, driving a heel directly at his noggin. The Golem's Barrier shines in effect, as Zed makes contact with the concentric circles of force. "Pleasing. You are here... as well."

Unceremoniously, he reaches out to try and grab Zed's leg in mid-air, and turning him upside down, suddenly rears back his head, and head butts him full on with the center of his helm to send him sprawling. "I greet you... with your preferred... method."

Marivel however... says that he won't fight him seriously for an answer like that, "Disappointing... that you see it... that way... but..." Feeling a blue pulse draw something out of his barrier field, Asgard immediately ripostes with a drawing his fist against his body, then smashing it outwards, striking him with the same skill she drew from him! "... I will... find a way... to draw out... your concealed... power."

And then, a Gourd swings right into him, heavier than expected as it smashes into him, driving the Golem back a second step, as if he'd been struck by a whole pond. "Volume... defies... mass calculations." He responds by drawing his fist back and smashing it right into him. Just as Jay invokes sapping Mist... sensing it reaching towards Janus, Asgard suddenly shifts his barrier in a way which seems to cut right through it, redirecting the Mist back towards him in what results in an abrupt drop in power output. That same abrupt shift in his barrier causing all of Gwen's static electricity to be concentrated right onto him.

Whereas Avril sends a long coil of burning light towards him, in a weakened moment. "And yet..." He raises his fists in an attempt to ward her off. Her burning lash striking against his forearms again and again, sparking off of his barrier. "... I stand... Avril Vent Fleur... Bring... her out... call... Lolithia. Just... like last time."

Asgard suddenly seems to pause in the cadence of the battle, "Optimizing Data. Calculating..." As the energy of his barrier seems to just abruptly... rise. "... optimal course of action determined." As an arc of electricity suddenly glides of of him towards... Glumzamber? Connecting the two for a moment, though strangely... it seems the connection is coming from the Golem.

And then a sudden pulse of his barrier energy smashes across the Drifters, seeking to drive so many of them backwards and away... doing his level best to keep them all away from Janus Cascade.

GS: Asgard spends 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Asgard has attacked Azoth with Savage Analogism!
GS: Asgard has attacked Zhang Xiumei with Iron Fist!
GS: Asgard has attacked Marivel Armitage with Barrier Knuckle!
GS: Asgard has attacked Seraph Lanval with Barrier Knuckle!
GS: Zhang Xiumei accepts Ida Everstead-Rey's Material - The Mountain Still Stands for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield applied to Zhang Xiumei!
GS: Zhang Xiumei suffers a terrible blow from Asgard's Iron Fist for 119 hit points!
GS: Disrupt applied to Zhang Xiumei!
GS: Asgard has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with Barrier Pulse!
GS: Asgard has attacked Venetia Vuong with Barrier Pulse!
GS: Asgard has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Barrier Pulse!
GS: Asgard has attacked Kaguya with Barrier Pulse!
GS: Asgard has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Barrier Pulse!
GS: Asgard has attacked Seraph Boudicca with Barrier Pulse!
GS: Gamble: Moderate! Jacqueline Barber solidly guards Asgard's Barrier Pulse for 21 hit points!
GS: Dispel! Quick and Shield removed!
GS: Azoth suffers a terrible blow from Asgard's Savage Analogism for 147 hit points!
GS: Gamble: Moderate! Seraph Boudicca suffers a terrible blow from Asgard's Barrier Pulse for 34 hit points!
GS: Zed accepts Ida Everstead-Rey's Material - The Mountain Still Stands for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield applied to Zed!
GS: Asgard has attacked Zed with Skull Cracker!
GS: Asgard spends 1 Combo on Reload!
GS: Asgard has attacked Janus Cascade with Devotion!
GS: Janus Cascade accepts Asgard's Devotion for 0 hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade activates Asgard's Reload!!
GS: Asgard has attacked Asgard with High Powered Barrier!
GS: Asgard accepts Asgard's High Powered Barrier for 0 hit points!
GS: Restore! Disrupt and Weaken removed!
GS: Quick and Shield applied to Asgard!
GS: Mighty applied to Asgard!
GS: Asgard has completed his action.
GS: Gamble: High! Kaguya takes a solid hit from Asgard's Barrier Pulse for 62 hit points!
GS: Dispel! Burst and Shield removed!
GS: Kaguya activates Guard bonus!
GS: Kaguya enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Asgard has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Barrier Pulse!
GS: Mighty expired!
GS: Asgard has completed his action.
GS: Gamble: High! Ida Everstead-Rey suffers a terrible blow from Asgard's Barrier Pulse for 70 hit points!
GS: Dispel! Burst and Quick removed!
GS: Gamble: High! Avril Vent Fleur suffers a terrible blow from Asgard's Barrier Pulse for 82 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Avril Vent Fleur gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Dispel! Burst, Hyper, Quick, and Shield removed!
GS: Marivel Armitage takes a solid hit from Asgard's Barrier Knuckle for 74 hit points!
GS: Gamble: Low! Venetia Vuong takes a solid hit from Asgard's Barrier Pulse for 0 hit points!
GS: Dispel! Cover and Shield removed!
<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

Xiumei's blade bites into Asgard's pals. The energy blade flickers, and she looks up -- her green eyes are bright because of holographic lenses over them, with streams of data and lines moving in them. Her eyes widen. "That's your goal?"

Asgard twists the blade -- and the blade flickers away into so much particles of light -- and punches her. She yelps, flying back. She jumps off thin air before she falls into the pit, then lands in a crouch.

"I'm not sure if it was his or Mister Cascade's scheme, Marivel," Xiumei says, with a furrowed brow, when she glances in the direction of her boss-slash-friend. Then, she glances back at Azoth. She hesitates -- but she nods.

"And thinks more and more, I think," she says, and it's a mixed feeling of relief and panic. Panic because Asgard is trying to defeat them in a fight.

She lifts her hand -- and her handcannon forms, gleaming when the light hits it. She pulls the trigger, and sends a rapid burst of three energy blasts hurtling off towards the Golem. "Asgard... Varius says that--that there'll always be a reason to get stronger! It doesn't end! There's some things strength can't overcome!"

GS: Zhang Xiumei has attacked Asgard with Pulse Cannon - Triple Burst!
GS: Zhang Xiumei has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Zhang Xiumei has completed her action.
GS: Gamble: Moderate! Gwen Whitlock suffers a terrible blow from Asgard's Barrier Pulse for 44 hit points!
GS: Dispel! Regen and Shield removed!
GS: Gwen Whitlock activates Countermeasures!
<Pose Tracker> Janus Cascade has posed.

"See? The lush gets it," Janus says, as Lanval clarifies how traps work.

As for the rest of the invective coming at him...his eyes drill toward Venetia, first, as she falls into the abyss. "Well me-oh-my," he says. "I haven't had a woman come onto me this hard since -- ah, but we mustn't corrupt impressionable young minds, eh?" He laughs. "And my drink's whiskey, actually."

Drifters clamber up back into the arena, or just open fire from the abyss he cast them into. He trusts these attacks to Asgard...but he does wiggle his weird fingers down at Kaguya. "Why hey there Kaggy!" he laughs, like he were greeting...well, Gwen, basically. "Sorry, did I blow you up? Well, I know you can handle that. Weird you're here? Oh, you were just following the meters? Eh." He shrugs. "Tell ya what, stay down there out of the blast zone and I'll fish you out later." He looks down at his hands. "Uh, no pun intended. Heh."

Then....he moves. He brings up the Dark Spear Glumzambor, pointing it first at Jay, then at Gwen. "Shoulda known you wouldn't stay down. Ah, well," he says, and each receives a blast of Uncertain Light from the edge of the spear. It...it makes a gun sound? For some...reason...?

"Oh, hey, Asgard, got a present for ya," he adds, and then pulls a literal actual apple out of his pocket and tosses it to the golem. "Not sure golems can use, like, vitamins, but Melody swears there's meat in that crab ass o' yours somewhere."

GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Bolt Action?!
GS: Janus Cascade has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Bolt Action?!
GS: Janus Cascade has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Asgard with Power Apple!
GS: Janus Cascade has completed his action.
GS: Asgard accepts Janus Cascade's Power Apple for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper and Shield applied to Asgard!
GS: Hyper applied to Janus Cascade!
GS: Asgard takes a solid hit from Zhang Xiumei's Pulse Cannon - Triple Burst for 127 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Asgard gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Mighty applied to Zhang Xiumei!
GS: Asgard activates Guard bonus and Countermeasures!
GS: Jacqueline Barber solidly guards Janus Cascade's Bolt Action? for 60 hit points!
GS: Jacqueline Barber activates Guard bonus!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Janus Cascade's Bolt Action? for 129 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Gwen Whitlock gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock activates Countermeasures!
GS: Gwen Whitlock enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Seraph Lanval fully evades Asgard's Barrier Knuckle for 0 hit points!
GS: Healthy! For entering Condition Green, Seraph Lanval receives 100 temporary hit points.
GS: Seraph Lanval enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Zed partially guards Asgard's Skull Cracker for 78 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Kaguya has posed.

Avril's nod is good enough for the moment. Avril is one of the few people Kaguya could explain any of this to... though even that comes with risk. But soon there is a bttle on their hands, and Kaguya is sailing through the air. Avril says she understands, and starts hitting. And Gwen...

"Yeah!" Kaguya shouts to Gwen. "You get it all right!"

She notes Jay's focus on the 'siphon', and debates for a moment whether it's her problem. Certainly, they can handle it. And Janus has made her an offer to stay out of the blast zone...

"Tempting!" she calls to Janus. "But--"

Call Lolithia...

"But your golem buddy is CRAZY if he wants her to show up! No can do!"

Kaguya lands in a crouch, looking up sharply. "Looks like it won't be a Gang Reunion after all, Janus. I've moved on to bigger crimes anyway."

The barrier smashes into her, just like the others. Kaguya noes that blast of electricity as she leaps back, but the barrier is faster than her unstable footing. She's hit hard, and perhaps it's the durability she gained in Alcidamas that helps, because she hits the ground again hard and rolls, getting to her feet only after a moment. "Asgard, buddy. We have gotta talk about your addiction problems."

Kaguya pulls her ARM from its holster at her back, finally, and loads up a glowing green cartridge into its chamber, closing it up again with a cla-CLACK. Then her eyes set. "Let's see how tough that armor is!"

Kaguya leaps upward again, and calls in the air, "My idea is OVERWHELMING FORCE!"

She pulls her shotgun and aims, and with a roar, fires. Pulsing waves of concussive force crash down towards Asgard, to batter at his defensive barriers and weaken his shell.

She doesn't go for the rocks Lanval dibs'd. Or get near him at all, for that matter.

GS: Kaguya has activated a Force Action!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Asgard with Concussion Rounds!
GS: Kaguya has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Kaguya has completed her action.
GS: Asgard has activated a Force Action!
GS: Asgard takes a solid hit from Kaguya's Concussion Rounds for 94 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Asgard gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Shieldbreak applied to Asgard!
GS: Asgard activates Countermeasures!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Boudicca has posed.

    "Lolithia...?" Boudicca asks, looking from Dean's dear friend -- who seems, thankfully enough, to at least have made the ascent safely enough -- back to Asgard. She looks on, as electricity arcs to Glumzamber; Janus said Asgard wasn't the brains of the operation, but it seems, to her eyes, that it's his strength feeding that connection.

    And then energy washes over them -- and Boudicca leaps into it, slipstream, using her winds to carve a point of access. It still blows her back, of course; it is Asgard's barrier. But with a little clever aeronatical steering, she ends up by one of the walls of the cavern, instead of blown back into that endless abyss Janus opened with so many explosives. "Asgard--!!" She howls, with the wind. "I have neither time nor patience for your haling devastation this day!"

    Boudicca sounds... a mite cross.

    But can anyone blame her?

    This isn't the first time the Prophets -- or even Asgard -- have appeared by Filgaia's devotion for malignant ends.

    Her knees press into the wall; all gusting around her; she lunges away, and it's not Asgard she's crashing towards, quick as a whip. Her tonfa in hand, she moves diagonally down; those sticks, in her hands, move to crash in somewhere to the region of Janus's knees, if indeed he still has those, given his recent changes.

    Whether she'll get there is another matter entirely, but it seems Boudicca knows who to hit.

GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Janus Cascade with Rabid Lunge!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Aurora, who doesn't pay taxes because she doesn't have a country and her last residence exploded and is probably hopped up on 'too much' magic... frowns faintly but can't really think of an argument against. In time she's sure she will. Eventually.

"I'm not very sneaky so I didn't think about it--" Aurora says. This is true. Aurora literally glows most of the time. Not the makings of a stealth agent even when she's a little less radiant than normal. "I'll try to be more obvious in the future!"

She says, "Ohho, are you telling me that was the complete answer? 80 percent of an answer isn't 100 percent of an answer, after all...! Very well Asgard...if you're able to do that... then I suppose you've earned it! But for now...!"

She gets punched in the face by a Barrier Knuckle. Her body distends at a 90 degree angle at impact and snaps back into shape with sickening crunching noises.

Marivel exhales faintly there and says, "As I was saying... For now..."

"I want to see how your new pal handles yours!"

She twists suddenly, a barrier crackling around her fist as she throws it towards Janus! THe mighty... BARRIER KNUCKLE!

In Marivel's tiny body. It's not going to be as effective unfortunately. She's a total nerd.

GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Janus Cascade with Barrier Knuckle!
GS: Marivel Armitage has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    It feels wrong. The power is alien, it should be rejecting him, and dissonance worms through him as Ida stows the Medium in its appointed case. She sets her feet, well aware she has a pit at her back, and Asgard's overwhelming power could send her tumbling into it, again. But deep discomfort scratches against the back of her mind, and it isn't hers, and she puts a hand to her right eye, feels the skin on that side growing hot.

    "That blade still isn't yours," Ida growls, and when she pulls her hand away, blood-red geometric tattoos trace down that side of her face. They're lopsided. They should be on the same side as the green eye.

    Asgard's barrier washes outwards. Ida realizes there's nowhere to dodge, but forwards; she turns to the side, so it hits at an angle, but when it does the impact is still staggering. Boudicca's power keeps the breath in her lungs, keeps her ribs from being cracked outright from the impact--Ida's learned to simply work with it, now. They rely on each other.

    Ida flies backwards, his muscle memory taking over through the pain. Her body twists. Her feet kick off a massive crystalline stalactite, miraculously undamaged by the explosives. Ida sucks in a ragged breath and lets it out in a roar:

    "CASCADE!"

    She sails past Asgard--or tries to--whipping something free from her belt and lighting it in the same smooth motion. The flare grenade hits the ground at Janus' feet. Ida hits ground a moment later.

    "You're the same as ever," she snarls. "A malicious little boy grasping at whatever toys give him power. You know nothing of our people--" "Our?" Hell of a slip. "Or what they've suffered through! Even Siegfried deserves better than you."

    The grenade cooks off with a blinding FLASH and deafening BOOM.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Janus Cascade with Flare Grenade!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Asgard used Defend! He takes Seraph Boudicca's Rabid Lunge attack on Janus Cascade on himself!
<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

"Then let's give him something to think about," Azoth says to Xiumei with another faint smile. And, in turn, they will get their own data to process. That's the cycle. But how much can Asgard change with it...? And why is it Azoth never can?

The power of Dinoginos' Geo fuses with steel, metal reinforced by earth -- fortunate for Azoth, because it reinforces his frame before Asgard slams into him. Azoth's sent flying, his body shattering the crystalline pillar he's launched into from the force of Asgard's powerful blow, tumbling onto the other side with a distorted beep.

He rolls himself back upright, pink traveling through the blue of his circuits like a command given, command received, and he charges back toward Asgard, undeterred by the brutality.

"Maximum power output prohibited without user authorization," Azoth tells Asgard, his voice losing all human-like inflection, reverberating with a mechanical echo. "Adapting to Guardian energy signatures and activating emergency systems to optimize for mission parameters."

The more alive Asgard starts to sound, the less Azoth does.

A sword manifested from bright energy blinks into existence beside Azoth, chasing him with a streak of light particles. Light gathers, brighter and brighter, and he commands it not with his grip, but like a conductor, guiding it with flicks of his arm to rise up and impale into the earth beside Asgard. It erupts in a rattling, blinding explosion.

GS: Azoth has attacked Asgard with Flash Drive!
GS: Azoth has completed his action.
GS: Asgard used Defend! He takes Marivel Armitage's Barrier Knuckle attack on Janus Cascade on himself!
GS: Asgard used Defend! He takes Ida Everstead-Rey's Flare Grenade attack on Janus Cascade on himself!
<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

The mountain still stands. Doesn't it? It does, and the reminder is valuable. Validating, perhaps. A titanic figure appears as Venetia's rage seems to deepen in intensity and power. She drags herself out of her slit trench JUST in time for that spike in barrier-force rises outwards, pulsing downwards. It smashes at Venetia --

-- who is still partially in that trench she carved!! Even so, momentum is lost, and panting for breath, she doesn't rise, instantly. Instead, a moment of thought. Preparation. Hatred.

"You'll be drinking it through your precious siphon in hell, you miserable maniac!" Venetia says, as she reaches her planned point. Leaping out of the slit-trench, she lands with a Crest Graph in hand. The Gemstone Cavern's walls begin to gleam peculiarily; echoes, perhaps, of the somewhat orthogonal way that Venetia's strange arts draw on the energy of the world.

A violet circle appears around her, and a purple shape above her upraised hand. It's a big amethyst. Yeah, she's done this one before. It's a pretty good trick, and it's certainly left a lot of large purple stones laying in strange places, probably meaningfully deflating the value of amethyst on the ornamental stone value.

BUT:

What's new is the thirteen smaller amethysts which appear around Venetia, about one Venetia-length away and orbiting in a tight counterclockwise loop. They begin to make a noise, whirling as fast as they do; the air of the cavern stirred around their length.

Then a second layer, this one rotating clockwise, appears, one and a half Venetias away. The sound grows louder, a subtle crystalline harmony.

"Now take your medicine, Mr. Metalhead!" Venetia declaims. "GO:"

The outer ring suddenly veers off, like a switch was thrown, the invisible track the stones followed suddenly turning to one following JANUS CASCADE, ATTORNEY AT CRIME. The stones are flying, perhaps, at baseball speeds: each of them perhaps five pounds and jagged.

A moment later, the inner ring joins the attack. "Perish in beauty!" Venetia concludes, before striding forwards to hurl the central crystal, not so much AT Janus as TOWARDS him - is she going to hit him on the rebound with a giant rock!? This technique has served humans well, throughout the ages.

GS: Venetia Vuong has attacked Janus Cascade with Amethyst Sign ~Second Month's Decision~!
GS: Venetia Vuong has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Venetia Vuong has completed her action.
GS: Asgard partially evades Seraph Boudicca's Rabid Lunge for 45 hit points!
GS: Shieldbreak applied to Asgard!
GS: Asgard has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Asgard solidly guards Azoth's Flash Drive for 48 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Asgard gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Blind and Delay applied to Asgard!
GS: Asgard activates Countermeasures!
GS: Asgard's Break Ward prevents an effect!
GS: Asgard suffers a terrible blow from Marivel Armitage's Barrier Knuckle for 65 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Asgard gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Asgard solidly guards Ida Everstead-Rey's Flare Grenade for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Asgard gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Blind applied to Asgard!
GS: Asgard activates Countermeasures!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

    Lanval staggers and pirouettes in the follow-through of his swing, and then spirals right on back on one bent leg, one raised, and another hand on the ground as he plants the bottom of the drinking gourd on the ground for his other hand to hold onto. The displaced air from the weight of Asgard's fist rolls through him, making his lips flag open to reveal a wide, even comical grimace as the barrier upon this knuckles makes the tiniest graze past his head.

     "...I know 'm intrudin' on shomeone elshe'sh convo," Lanval holds up a finger, "ya keep doin' this fer theshe people, ya ain't gonna have much more time ta grow shtr--- oooah."

     The bariers pulse - while Lanval is pushed back harmlessly by proxy, the pulse of the barrier effectively resets the range between the two of them as Lanval is sent rolling back, up a crystalline stalagmite, and then...

     Stopping atop it, balancing upon it precariously by the tip of his toe as his eyes open to a bright aquamarine. The aura of water in all its forms grand and... not (do not elaborate, just take the 'not and move on). He takes better stock of the issue with the siphon, the way Janus is being protected from interference so that this siphon can go off. He dramatically leaps off in tandem with Boudicca's rapid movements, twirling in the air with arms free and the drinking gourd whipping about as he comes into the apex of his leap...

     And starts to come down upon Asgard with the **LEGAL CUSTODY PENDING** of all belly flops, like he's carrying something more than the weight of a mere lake within him.

     "'Tis short-lived joy thou seek!"

GS: Seraph Lanval has activated a Force Action!
GS: Seraph Lanval has attacked Asgard with Body Of Water!
GS: Seraph Lanval has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline notes the way Asgard intercepts and redirects her Mystic-applied potion - she'll have to remember he can do that for the future. But for now, though, she has another problem - namely, Janus is pointing Glumzambor right at her.

That's... not ideal.

With a gesture of her right hand a chunk of rock is hurled toward the blast of light emitted from the Dark Spear. The rock is destroyed, but it did enough - when the blast impacts her, its with less force... though still enough to send her recoiling back a couple of steps.

"Well, I'd hate to be a bore after you spent so much time setting it up for us..." Jacqueline replies. She takes a moment to leap up over to the next shelf before turning her attention to Asgard. If she tries to attack Janus, it seems as if Asgard will just intercept - it'd be better to conserve her energy.

"I have a message from Grudiev for you." Jacqueline says... and with a gesture of her left hand, sends a pillar of earth rocketing right toward Asgard! It's dangerous, but the true goal is providing herself with some cover.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Asgard with Pillar Crash!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has entered Stoic Stance!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Asgard partially guards Seraph Lanval's Body Of Water for 98 hit points!
GS: Asgard fully evades Jacqueline Barber's Pillar Crash for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Asgard gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Cover and Quick applied to Jacqueline Barber!
<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    "Gwen, we cannot--"

    Gwen gets it, prompting a slight -- weary -- smile from Avril along with a nod. Perhaps under these trying circumstances it may have to do.

    Avril, hanging there by one arm and supported by one foot as she otherwise dangles a distance up the side of the rock face, gazes up towards Asgard. "You wish me to...?"

    The barrier's pulse follows, taking with it the benedictions she had received in one fell swoop.

    There is enough time, as she struggles to keep her grip on the stone with the pulse of the barrier's light, for the passage of several heartbeats. There is enough time for her to feel that submerged part of herself reach out towards her, towards the wall that it cannot pass. To hear it whisper: she only needs to invite it over her threshold.
    Then she would have power enough to resolve this situation.
            And if she would wish, resolve everything else as well.

    "...I refuse," Avril tells Asgard at last, still even before Kaguya argues for the same. She directs that bladeless hilt towards the Golem once more, though this time no great beam of light erupts from it. Rather, it seems to be used as a focus: small nuclei of ice manifest in the air about her and rapidly grow into finger-sized crystals that hang in the air about her momentarily before speeding through the air for Asgard like a flock of angry birds. If it's the Ice Queen he wants, as perhaps her intent may be understood, then it is the Ice Queen (if a few steps removed) that he'll get.

GS: Avril Vent Fleur spends 1 Combo on Gatling, loading 1 into Gatling!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has attacked Asgard with Courant Glaciaire!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has completed her action.
GS: Asgard takes a solid hit from Avril Vent Fleur's Courant Glaciaire for 120 hit points!
GS: Asgard activates Evade bonus!
GS: Asgard used Defend! He takes Venetia Vuong's Amethyst Sign ~Second Month's Decision~ attack on Janus Cascade on
himself!
GS: Asgard solidly guards Venetia Vuong's Amethyst Sign ~Second Month's Decision~ for 51 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Asgard gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Asgard has gained 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

Yes. This is an extremely Zeddy attack. Gwen is correct in this judgment. Eminently correct, in fact. So correct that it's basically trivial for her to predict his next few actions with such terrifying prescience that it's as if Gwen is able to see him move before he ACTUALLY MOVES. It's like anti-afterimages, but only Zeds!

"Nahahaha!" Zed grins as his heel grinds against Asgard's barrier, which materialized exactly as he thought it would. This IS Asgard, after all. There's a certain floor of performance that Zed has come to expect from Asgard, and this... this is well within expectations. "That's right...! I couldn't just leave you hanging after you went out of your way to organize all this! What kind of friend would I be if I did that!?"

While the barrier wasn't a surprise, what Asgard does next... kind of is? "This--" Zed starts as Asgard rears back. His eyes widen with sudden recognition and he, himself, rears back as well...!

AND MEETS ASGARD'S SKULL WITH HIS OWN.

There's a sound that reverberates through the temple. It is, unmistakably, some kind of gong.

Gongggggggggg~

"Hhhahahaha--!" Zed gasps, knocked... not onto his ass-- but enough away that he goes skidding across the ground in a three-point landing. Three, because his sword is in his right hand. "Good job! That's exactly it! Aw man, you did pay attention after all, I'm touched!"

He sluices forward, blade igniting like a comet streaking through the skies. With characteristic exhuberence, the alien swordsman swings his equally alien sword in a fierce, three-step combination, each strike erupting in a scintillating flare of starlight! "So what's all this about anyway, Asgard? Why're you following that graverobber over there? Like, his sword is cool but mine is absolutely cooler, so if that's all that there is, you should be coming with me instead!"

Is he serious? It's... hard to tell.

"Besides, this is a Guardian temple, you know? If you guys hurt them too hard, there won't be a planet for us to keep fighting on! And that'd just be sad!"

GS: Zed has attacked Asgard with Saint Arts - Starstrider's Valor!
GS: Zed has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Zed has entered Avenger Stance!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Asgard solidly guards Zed's Saint Arts - Starstrider's Valor for 73 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    It was an impressive trick, absorbing her energy field into himself. Gwen frowns. "Bah, it doesn't feel so swell when someone can do the same trick as you..."

    As focused as Gwen is at Asgard, in that single moment, she sees and, on a fainter level, feels the tug of that current of electricity in the way that her ARM naturally jerks subtly with it, moving a millimeter in the direction of Janus as she begins to stand up.

    Which is precisely the moment Janus pokes her with that Uncertain Light like a gleeful goblin on the edge of a pit of hell, sending Gwen falling right back in for the sin of Forgetting that Janus is Here.

    So much for assuring her friends that she is well aware of Janus being, well, Janus.

    "_Ow_! That friggin' hurt! Why the hell are you actin' like it's a gun?" Gwen says this, still in the pit, sitting on one of Venetia's formations. It is not a gun, but it's not as if that would keep it from hurting any less.

    Hearing Xiumei's conversation with Azoth, the freckled redhead looks up to the opposite end of the pit, towards Asgard.

    It just.... feels odd.

    This is also, Gwen reflects, a very nice vantage point for an unexpected attack, especially on a being that is, she estimates.... four sharls? That is, _a literal golem of legend_. Who is calling on Avril to call yet another golem of legend for a happy get together.

    It's suspicious.

    ".... Can't shoot anything real crazy from here, but..."

    Gwen makes a note to apologize to Cecilia for this, wedging herself against the wall and the crystal. She aims and lines up her shot, taking note of Lanval, then Avril, then Zed, making sure to not hit one of them, or reflect one of Jay's earthen spikes.

    "... Got a package for ya," she mutters, and releases the shot.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Asgard with Coil Cannon EX!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Asgard suffers a terrible blow from Gwen Whitlock's Coil Cannon EX for 107 hit points!
GS: Asgard activates Countermeasures!
<Pose Tracker> Asgard has posed.


Asgard suddenly catches Janus' Apple. "I... accept." The whole crowd of Drifters may wonder in that moment, if he's going to eat it. Suddenly he tilts his head back at an odd angle. His mouth opens wide...

The apple vanishes into that maw. He doesn't even chew.

There's a pause, and then suddenly the energy of his barrier flares up around him even more so, like an aura of blue energy that's painful to look at, the Golem's image shifting like it's in a heat haze of its own barrier.

"Vitamins... Apple... Meat." The Golem resounds, like he's trying to parse Janus' statement. "Yes... there is meat. And power!"

Zhang's rapid three energy blasts hurtle towards him, and the Golem tries to deflect them, but the energy seems to bore a hole in his barrier for however briefly. The Golem suddenly takes one slow step at her... then is suddenly right in front of her. The Golem tries to grip her by the barrel of her hand cannon, and crush it with a squeezing grip as he lifts her off the ground. "Unable to confirm... veracity. More data... required." He looks Xiumei in the eyes with his own red ones, as if he were equating data to battle experience, "You have... much data to offer."

It's at that moment that Kaguya fires off concussive rounds at his armor. The answer to her question is... pretty tough-! All the same, the force of the rounds cause him to lose whatever grip he may have had on Xiumei, a crack forming on one side of his armor.

"Overwhelming... force? Thesis... accepted."

The Golem is suddenly rushing at Kaguya, charging at her with pounding footsteps in an attempt to simply run her over before she can fire another shot.

"I require... not... your patience." Asgard says as Boudicca crashes against his sudden interposition, her lunge opening wider the crack Kaguya made. Whereas he catches Marivel's barrier knuckle in his hand, "And it was my answer... I omitted... nothing... of my intentions."

At that moment Ida's flare grenade, he calculates the vector, and suddenly reaches out to snatch it in mid-air, taking the blast head on in the face. "You..." His tone at Ida... did he sound... more vicious...? Upset? "Do... not-!"

Azoth's sword suddenly causes a blinding explosion in his midst, cutting off whatever he was about to say, and perhaps... redirecting his attention. For a moment, the Golem seems to look right at him. There's a pause and then... "Affirmative. Authorization of Master required for release. Deferral accepted." For Avril... for Marivel, he demanded their full power, tried to draw it out. And yet for Azoth... he's just accepting that?

The numerous crystals of Venetia's attack come at Janus, and suddenly they're consumed, rippling against blue barrier, even before the central crystal ricochets and... suddenly he's placed himself bodily in it's path, it shattering against him, "Is... beauty... strength?"

Lanval hits him with a belly flop during this time, which he raises his forearm against. The impact causing his feet to crack the footing he's standing upon. "Data acquired... does not expire." As he suddenly pushes his arm out, knocking him back and away. Jay's pillar of Earth though makes contact with his barrier and the force of it seems like it's more than enough to drive him upwards and smash him to the ceiling... yet... before it goes too far, it seems to disintegrate as if his barrier had simply shredded it.

"Message accepted. Will respond... in kind."

Just as he's about to though, Avril's refusal rings through the air. The Golem suddenly swivels its head towards her. Taking a step, then another step towards her, he's seen this attack many times... and yet he's perhaps, a fraction of a second too slow. The numerous ice projectiles jut out of his armor. "... Why? Why... do you conceal... such... power...?"

Zed suddenly swings his alien sword at Asgard, his laughter still hanging in the air, and the Golem meets each blow of his blade with a palm slap that tries to knock it off course. "Why... aren't... you?" The Golem eerily responds to Zed's question on why he follows Janus... meeting his unserious question with a completely serious one. At that exact moment, another arc of barrier energy crosses the room, joining to meet with the spear... as if it were telling. "I will remain... in his service."

At that moment, Gwen's blast from across the room connects with his forehead, the Golem suddenly being rocked away, which gives Zed an opening for his final blow of his combination. Even as he responds to Zed's assertion that the planet will not survive messing with the Guardians too much. "That..." The Golem says, raising his fist, "... is no concern of mine." He answers, with a statement not unlike before. Raising his fist into the air, and suddenly driving it down right at Zed's feet, making him the epicenter of the blast wave. His barrier coursing outwards in the already tortured floor of the remaining Guardian Temple... and showering many within the room with a riotous wave of all consuming blue light that seeks to blast so many Drifters upwards.

GS: Asgard has attacked Zhang Xiumei with Iron Grip!
GS: Delay expired!
GS: Asgard spends 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Asgard has attacked Kaguya with Savage Analogism!
GS: Asgard has activated a Force Action!
GS: Asgard spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Asgard has attacked Marivel Armitage with Barrier Flood!
GS: Asgard has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Barrier Flood!
GS: Asgard has attacked Azoth with Barrier Flood!
GS: Asgard has attacked Venetia Vuong with Barrier Flood!
GS: Asgard has attacked Seraph Lanval with Barrier Flood!
GS: Asgard has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Barrier Flood!
GS: Asgard has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with Barrier Flood!
GS: Asgard has attacked Zed with Barrier Flood!
GS: Asgard has attacked Seraph Boudicca with Barrier Flood!
GS: Asgard spends 1 Combo on Reload!
GS: Asgard has attacked Janus Cascade with Devotion!
GS: Quick expired!
GS: Asgard has completed his action.
GS: Kaguya has activated a Force Action!
GS: Kaguya takes a glancing hit from Asgard's Savage Analogism for 76 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Kaguya gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Seraph Lanval partially guards Asgard's Barrier Flood for 130 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Seraph Lanval gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Seraph Lanval activates Guard bonus and Gleam!
GS: Seraph Lanval enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Venetia Vuong takes a solid hit from Asgard's Barrier Flood for 197 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Venetia Vuong gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Venetia Vuong activates Guard bonus!
GS: Zhang Xiumei solidly guards Asgard's Iron Grip for 30 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Zhang Xiumei gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Slow applied to Zhang Xiumei!
GS: Zhang Xiumei enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey solidly guards Asgard's Barrier Flood for 91 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Ida Everstead-Rey gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Marivel Armitage takes a solid hit from Asgard's Barrier Flood for 213 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Marivel Armitage gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Marivel Armitage activates Evade bonus!
GS: Marivel Armitage enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: CRITICAL! Avril Vent Fleur partially evades Asgard's Barrier Flood for 214 hit points!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Jacqueline Barber takes a solid hit from Asgard's Barrier Flood for 192 hit points!
GS: Azoth suffers a terrible blow from Asgard's Barrier Flood for 204 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Azoth gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Zed takes a solid hit from Asgard's Barrier Flood for 212 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Zed gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Zed enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Janus Cascade has posed.

People come at Janus harder, now. He's given away enough to know that what he's doing is important, or at least something behind him is. He jerks a thumb over his shoulder at one of the crystals, idly quipping, "Oh, yeah, the siphon. You know, consuming the power of the Leyline, biting bloody chunks out of Grudiev's composite forces through the old Chocks? I think?" He scratches the back of his head. It makes a sound like steel wool on a metal pan. "I think. Is that what she said? She's the kind of woman you have to really carefully balance what you listen to and what you ignore, ya know? Anyway don't worry about it too much, you're gonna have a grand old time in Hell in a few minutes." He watches Venetia's defiant screaming...again, his face can't move. He's stuck with that horrible mask. And yet...it's all so easy to tell he's grinning like mad, somewhere deep down, as Asgard speeds to intercept those flying stones. Indeed, he seems to fully trust that the Golem will intercept it all. Marivel's Barrier Punch clashes with a barrier, annihilation-light blinding all for moments as the two equal forces collide. The others...

He doesn't entirely hear.

Ida said the magic words, you see. His eyes rivet to her, deep red spikes of light tracing her every move as she surges. The flash doesn't even do anything. Asgard's shield prvents it.

"That was what ya said last time, too," he says. "What do I gotta do, eh? Be a hero to Demonkind? Hah. Bullshit. That's not how it works. And you should know that."

"You're more like me than you'll ever be like him."

And then he finally takes a step forward. Boudica's strike slams into Asgard's barrier and it repels her, sending her skittering back, before Janus reaches reaches into a pocket, and pulls out...a single, white flower. A rare, unimaginably delicate thing. He looks at it. Considers it for a long few seconds. Like he were breathing in a fragrance it can't possibly still have.

Then his eyes flare, and the eye in Glumzambor's hilt creaks open, and there is a sound like a SCREAM except Kaguya's instruments detect total silence, as soul-to-soul, Glumzambor's awakening roars.

"The blade is mine. Never doubt that."

GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Janus Cascade with War Respite!
GS: Janus Cascade has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Janus Cascade accepts Janus Cascade's War Respite for 0 hit points!
GS: Burst applied to Janus Cascade!
<Pose Tracker> Zhang Xiumei has posed.

"I'll do my best to," Xiumei answers Azoth with a slightly lop-sided smile.

The smile fades after a moment of listening to Azoth speak. He sounds robotic -- more than usual, perhaps -- and when she glances at him, there is concern that she can't quite hide from her eyes.

Especially because Asgard is barreling down upon her. Xiumei's hand cannon is grabbed -- but the weapon, when crushed, simply explodes apart into more cubes of data. She sucks a breath in, and looks up into thos red eyes.

"I don't think--" She ducks away, as Kaguya's shots slam into him, and she holds a hand out to one side. Cubes of light form into the shape of a cross, and Xiumei whirls. The weapon is thrown -- shooting across Asgard, as it glows with a bright green light.

Then it bounces off the floor, slashing across Asgard again, and then again and again, as it bounces off the ceiling and walls, before hurtling back towards her hand.

"I don't know what data you're hoping to get from me... but Avile and Varius both want you to remember, so if this will help...!"

GS: Zhang Xiumei spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Zhang Xiumei has attacked Asgard with Barrier Cross - Ricochet!
GS: Zhang Xiumei has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Disrupt expired!
GS: Zhang Xiumei has completed her action.
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Venetia Vuong with Glumzambor Howls!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Seraph Boudicca with Glumzambor Howls!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Glumzambor Howls!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Glumzambor Howls!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Marivel Armitage with Glumzambor Howls!
GS: Janus Cascade has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Janus Cascade has completed his action.
GS: Venetia Vuong takes a solid hit from Janus Cascade's Glumzambor Howls for 191 hit points!
GS: Venetia Vuong enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Asgard takes a glancing hit from Zhang Xiumei's Barrier Cross - Ricochet for 102 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Asgard gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Asgard activates Countermeasures!
GS: Seraph Boudicca critically guards Asgard's Barrier Flood for 62 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Seraph Boudicca gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Seraph Boudicca takes a solid hit from Janus Cascade's Glumzambor Howls for 261 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Gwen Whitlock suffers a terrible blow from Janus Cascade's Glumzambor Howls for 235 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Gwen Whitlock gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock activates Countermeasures!
GS: Gwen Whitlock enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey suffers a terrible blow from Janus Cascade's Glumzambor Howls for 216 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Ida Everstead-Rey gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Kaguya has posed.

Meat. Power. That's a little weird, but Kaguya just sort of notes it. But he accepts her 'thesis', and Kaguya grins. "You haven't seen the start of what I can do, buddy." He rushes her; Kaguya waits until he's close by, and then shifts to the side, spinning on the ball of her foot out of his path and suffering only the energy required to move in such a rapid burst, instead of the true battering power of his attack.

"Power has a cost, Asgard." Kaguya narrows her eyes at him, especially when he mentions the planet's survival is not a concern. "Some costs are just too high. I won't deny that conflict spurs growth, but..."

She looks to Xiumei, who seems to want Asgard to remember something, and back to Asgard--before suddenly, Janus has her attention. Janus's weapon SCREAMS in total silence, and Kaguya wavers on her feet for an instant. "What the shit?" she asks of Janus, and looks between him and Ida. "That shouldn't be possible--" But Ida's battle is Ida's, and Kaguya has no encouraging words for her. Instead, reconsiders her plan.

"You don't need to worry about the world, huh?" she asks. "That's real nice. Real, real nice. But some of us do. Some of us have to worry a LOT about this stuff and I am not going to sit here and--"

She shakes her head. "Fine, Asgard. You want violence?" Kaguya stows her ARM behind her back and rolls her shoulders, before bending at the knee and taking off at a sprint over what remains of the floor, leaping up into the air. "Then I'll give you violence! she shouts as she rises into the air, suddenly hanging on nothing at all with her fist reared back behind her, picking up light and intensity as she slows suddenly, as if time itself has gone quiet. Her fist gathers up power, and suddenly she is moving again, extending it forward with a brilliant white blast as she charges down straight for Asgard with bunker-busting force. She shouts on the way down, voice echoing in the cavern, "Taste the violence of the Veruni!"

Something is going to break.

GS: Kaguya has activated a Force Action!
GS: Kaguya spends 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Asgard with Falling Star!
GS: Kaguya has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Kaguya has completed her action.
GS: Asgard takes a solid hit from Kaguya's Falling Star for 184 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Asgard gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Dispel! Hyper removed!
GS: Cripple and Jam applied to Asgard!
<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

Did. Did Asgard just eat an apple. Is -- Is eating the answer. Is that what it is.

Asgard mentions his Master. There are always limitations, and there is kinship in the way Asgard is able to accept Azoth's own. "Acknowledged."

There may also be kinship that, despite this, Azoth is diverting as much power and processing to his combat efforts as he can squeeze out of his current limitations. He might accept, as the others try to inform Asgard, that, logically, trying to grow and learn from battle would be damaging. But Asgard isn't human. Neither is Azoth. His own personality -- not that mask he wears, but what lies below it, the one that determines the mask should be as it is -- was forged in the crucible of combat.

(On second thought, maybe that's a good argument against it.)

And if what Xiumei says about there being something to remember is true, then... all the more reason to push onward.

Azoth erects his own barrier shield, but the force of Asgard's is greater. They collide, Azoth's shattering like glass made of light as he's thrown, smashing back against more stone and crystal and landing into a shaken stumble. "Error... Shielding systems compromised..." He twitches, like a glitch in real time, eyes flashing. "Continuing combat operations."

His joints are beginning to spark, but he dashes forward, two blades formed with him as he tries to blur past Asgard and cleave past him.

GS: Azoth has attacked Asgard with Wireless Charge!
GS: Azoth has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Azoth has completed his action.
GS: Asgard suffers a terrible blow from Azoth's Wireless Charge for 102 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Asgard gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Shield applied to Azoth!
GS: Asgard activates Countermeasures!
<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

Another blast; another burst; Venetia is thrown upwards, clutching at her effects to avoid having them fall out. Remembering, perhaps, that grinding period on Filgaia with hardly any Crests, or simply having a deep rooted reflex. The blow sends her upwards, aerial for a horrid moment.

When she lands, Something is screaming. It hurts - it hurts on some deep resonant level. In her teeth, her spine, her soul. She pushes herself upright, the motions of others flickering on the fringes of her awareness. He's yelling something at Ida -

Venetia puts it together, a little belated.

Is that what happened to him? The same as Ida? Venetia wonders for a moment. Only a moment, however, because there are multiple interlocking perils. 'Ripping bloody chunks' out of a Guardian offends her, in some subtle way; it is not simply frightening, it's wrong. Why? Venetia thinks, even as her eyes flicker behind her lace mask, following Xiumei as she moves with her wonted fluidity and grace.

Because Grudiev is a part of this world, Venetia thinks. Part of *my* world.

She slides her hand into the crest pouch again. "To answer your question... Asgard."

"YES!! Beauty is power. Power, strength, are in a thousand different ways. Wisdom is when you understand this; when you realize that nothing, ultimately, is weak or dead. If you could study a single SCRAP of stone for a hundred years, you would understand a great many things. But so many are blinded by their lust for power and position that they see things only in certain lights... and the Hell of it is, Asgard, that *some things you can't come back from.*"

"In that sense, I suppose, there are some things which are 'more powerful'... but those who have wisdom rightfully call this 'evil'!"

ENOUGH WITH THE LECTURING. Venetia draws out another Graph, holding it upwards. The strange scribing on the bronze tile gleams, a strange light in the etching. Venetia shifts her grip to hold it by the thinner ends, the Graph held outwards and tucked in her thumbs.

"Cascade! I've had enough of your nihilism. This is something Asgard can't protect you from. Are you enjoying these transfigurations of your body? Did you like, perhaps, that there was now METAL in your FLESH?" Venetia continues: As she speaks, the luminous gleam in the Crest Graph is forming a sort of black bucket in front of her. It's very utilitarian.

"I hope you're going to enjoy having more of it," Venetia concludes. The black bucket suddenly begins to glow-- because it isn't a bucket at all!! It's a foundry crucible. And there's something in it. Steam billows out of the container, and some more subtle vapors. It goes from a faintly highlighted black to a dull red. Then a brighter red. At this point, it begins to rise upwards, silently ascending on magical guidance.

It tilts... because it is now descending again, and it is coming towards Janus Cascade. It bobs up and down several times as it closes distance, even banking merrily to the side with another evil vaporous hiss, before -- at a key moment, when nobody is quite engaging the man -- it tilts forwards to pour out a healthy quart of so of molten bronze at him. Perhaps on him.

Swaying around again, pivoting round widdershins, it comes in for a second pour - a *third* - even a *fourth* - before finally terminating with a final rise and a pause at the apogee...

In time to flip 180 degrees and slam downwards with a titanic CLANG!, the cauldron bursting asunder when it hits the ground!

GS: Venetia Vuong has activated a Force Action!
GS: MYSTIC ARTE! Venetia Vuong has attacked Janus Cascade with Foundry Sign ~The Statuary Garden~!
GS: Venetia Vuong has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Venetia Vuong has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

Being at the epicenter of a catastrophic burst of pure force is exactly as awful of an experience at it sounds. Zed sees it coming before Asgard's fist makes contact with the ground at his feet, but he has nowhere near enough time to react. Bracing with his blade only gets him so far, and only results in Zed producing a doombringer-shaped outline on the metal demon's chest where he clearly tried-- and failed-- to block.

He's sent flying, hurtling across the ground, skidding almost to the mouth of that yawning, empty pit. Zed grunts, pressing his knuckles into the earth to force himself upright. "Why... don't I follow him? Isn't that obvious...?" His stance widens, blade glinting meaningfully. "Because... Siegfried gets to rest, after all this time. He deserves to rest. Nobody dredging up his spirit is worth following. Especially not someone who claims that a power he's dragging out of a weapon is somehow his just because he's got his mitts around it. If a weapon is more powerful than the one who wields it, then who is truly controlling who?"

A flash of blazing light erupts around Doom Bringer, a corona of coruscating starfire that scatters the shadows smothering the room. "Power is pure power, but without the strength to wield it properly, it has no meaning! To bring out the power of a weapon, one must become one with it... But if they are less than the weapon they wish to wield, then how much of 'themselves' is left!?"

"Why would I follow such a person...? Heck, why would I follow anyone!? I've had enough of taking orders from people, especially somebody carrying that thing around!" He charges, darting forward with his sword burning with that blinding light. Zed swings, unleashing that accumulated power in a catastrophic burst at the very moment he feels Asgard's barrier-- or the golem's sturdy body itself-- resist his strike...! "I filed my resignation years ago! I'm a self-made ent-rapier-neur now! Nahahahahaha!"

GS: Zed has attacked Asgard with Zedder Drill!!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
GS: Zed has canceled their attack on Asgard.
GS: Zed spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Zed enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Zed has attacked Asgard with RayBlade - Zed Saber!
GS: Zed has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Zed enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
GS: CRITICAL! Asgard takes a glancing hit from Zed's RayBlade - Zed Saber for 121 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    Janus says something about the Leyline. The Guardian Chocks. "Are you... disrupting the Leyline?"

    She might not get an answer as such. Asgard demands a particular bit of focus, especially considering of what he is asking of her.

    Why doesn't she use that power of hers?

    Avril shakes her head. "I cannot. To use such power without heeding the consequences... I cannot permit myself." Kaguya may state the matter more plainly -- that power has costs.

    How many times can she invite that part of herself forward without there being a price to pay? It is her, it will always be her, to herself she will return, but even so.

    Even so, that is no excuse to give in.

    The barrier erupts, with Zed as its epicenter. Cast upwards from her precarious perch, Avril feels for a time as if she is floating in a violent sea, a sensation not undermined by the tumultuous wave that has so flung her.

    And that blade in Janus' hands -- Siegfried's it had been, once? -- awakens with a scream. Avril, in that moment, twists about, still floating/falling in the eruptive wave.

    There is no sign of her blade. No sign of the Original Medium, or even that mirror. What she holds in her grasp is a single stone Medium, held to her chest as about her, light -- caught in a halo of ice crystals streaming out behind her -- shimmers in a glorious arc. "This has gone far enough," Avril says, opening her eyes and raising the Medium before her as if in offering. "Material!"

    Somewhere in the heavens far above, there streaks a stone. It has come a long, long way, this stone. Fleetingly, its passage through the atmosphere leaves a burning trail across the sky. But the rock still descends, illuminated from within by a number of yellow, glowing eyes. It falls, with unerring accuracy, for the caves. And the temple within.

    "Ultradark Impact--"

    And for one figure in particular, within the temple.

    If she can but force Asgard from the field or keep him occupied, goes the thinking, permiting the others to focus on Janus. And stop this.

GS: Avril Vent Fleur has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with Gloire!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has launched an attack Link!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur accepts Avril Vent Fleur's Gloire for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper applied to Avril Vent Fleur!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has attacked Asgard with Material - Ultradark Impact!
GS: You have finished a Link/Follow chain!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has completed her action.
GS: Asgard solidly guards Avril Vent Fleur's Material - Ultradark Impact for 74 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Asgard gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Disrupt applied to Asgard!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

    Impact isn't a great experience for Lanval himself - the way his body contours around the raised forearm, he might look like he just got clocked himself. With Asgard's counterpoint given, the Oracle of Schturdark is flung off to parts kinda well-known, in that 'it's in a cave' and 'it's full of crystals, many sharp' and 'there is no soft place to land.'

     "Mmmm... what'll happen if there'sh no one around fer that, uh, data--" Lanval either gets or doesn't get an answer, depending on how fluent he is at Barrier Flood. (He is not very fluent.)

     He holds the drinking gourd close to himself as the wave of barrier force pushes outward, and the stalagmite behind him holds fast only long enough to make sure he won't be launched back down the pit of the exploded abyss. It also means he has to deal with the crushing brunt of a flood of barrier energy that would shatter about any bone in his body had he had any, a humbling effect as the Water Seraph decompresses by lying down for a handful of critical seconds and sneaking a drink from the gourd. IT is a subdued reaction to the Ley being siphoned as it is.

     His eyes widen when he hears that scream, without the colorful glow of power, and that's enough to get him up. "Mmmmph."

     It starts to... rain? Water is leaking from above, at an injurious velocity - like tiny little pin-pricks - attempting to bear down upon Asgard's position - an attempt to stress the barrier.

GS: Seraph Lanval spends 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Seraph Lanval has attacked Asgard with Rain of Terror!
GS: Seraph Lanval has entered Avenger Stance!
GS: Seraph Lanval has completed his action.
GS: Asgard takes a solid hit from Seraph Lanval's Rain of Terror for 131 hit points!
GS: Poison applied to Asgard!
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

"Ohho. Alright then. If that's how you wish to play it--"

She is physiologically incapable of prying her hand from Azoth's without ripping it off and, so, Marivel briefly becomes like a red cloud mist due to the might of Asgard's barrier flood. Her body practically disintegrates under the strike or, as ARMS is starting to understand regarding Marivel's nature, 'A Saturday'.

The red mist does not dissipitate. This is rather far underground, far from the hateful sun's rays. The crackling, bubbling red mist grows claws, it bares dripping fans. A slew of eyes open up and slant towards Asgard.

"I modeled my Asgard off a mech a touch like you." She says. "You are...precious. But if this is your will..."

She extends a claw towards Asgard. Eldricht energy gathers there. It SEETHES. A long deceased sorceric power, nearly extinct.

Or as Marivel would put it, the blood legacy she never asked for.

"This is just one atomic weapon. But my true power... I'll show you soon."

A flash of energy erupts out of Marivel's arm, lancing out directly towards--NOT Janus, but Asgard himself, as tempting as it might be to turn on Janus.

A vibrant explosion is going to erupt centered on Asgard, there will be a flash of scalding heat that erupts out from around him--mitigated briefly by a hastily erected barrier around the Golem Warrior itself. To protect those around him. Just in case.

GS: Marivel Armitage has activated a Force Action!
GS: Marivel Armitage takes a solid hit from Janus Cascade's Glumzambor Howls for 159 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Marivel Armitage gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Marivel Armitage enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Marivel Armitage has activated a Force Action!
GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Asgard with Megaton!
GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action.
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Marivel Armitage's attack becomes clear!
GS: CRITICAL! Asgard partially guards Marivel Armitage's Red Power for 198 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Brief confusion flashes through Ida's mismatched eyes as Asgard pops the apple into his mouth. Should it be able to do that? He doesn't know what emergent properties the Prototype's gained since its--his?-- last activation? Ida's puzzlement has less to do with that, and more to do with knowing Azoth. But when Asgard's tone changes, Ida digs in her heels, baring teeth in a snarl. "Do not what, Asgard?! That imposter--"

    Asgard's barrier swells again, blooming outwards. "Is that it?!" Ida roars, crossing her arms before her and leaning into the wave of force. "He's like me, but with Siegfried instead?!" She raises her voice, shouting to be heard over the crashing, inexorable swell of energy. "That blade's changed him, but he's still--"

Authors of our fates
Orchestrate our fall from grace

    'That was what ya said last time, too. What do I gotta do, eh? Be a hero to Demonkind? Hah. Bullshit.'

    That's not how it works, idiot girl, and you should know that.

    Glumzamber howls, and it's like a thousand needles stabbing directly into Ida's brain. It's like the gut-wrenching sickness of Valmar-taint, but on an entirely different frequency--it's not unnatural, but a something warped into a form it should not take. What was it Citan said...? Ida can't remember the words.

    Two-tone blood drips from her ears and nostrils, and the hundreds of pinprick cuts in her skin.

    'You're more like than you'll ever be like him.'

    It's irrational. Siegfried hated her. Ida can feel him scrabbling against her consciousness, confused and hurt and angry, but she's hurt and angry, too. She'd told Siegfried that if he wouldn't protect his people, she would do so in his stead.

    She's still trying to figure out what she meant. Was there any truth in it?

Poorest players on the stage
Our defiance drives us straight to the edge

    Ida's slow-motion charge through the relentless, shearing force ends with her standing at Asgard's flank, but she's still focused with laser-intensity on Janus. "Strength is freedom," Ida croaks. "Power is freedom. As long as others have power over you, you will never be free!" A statement of fact? A guess at Janus' intentions? As she speaks, she moves, launching a single straight punch with her gauntleted right hand. Her face twists in a rictus of... something. Pain? Anger? Indignation? Or is it simple defiance?

    If he's more powerful, what hope does she have of defeating him?

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Janus Cascade with Fourth Method - Blind Prophet's Decree!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    'You're more like me than you'll ever be like him.'

    Pushed back by the recoil of her cannon blast, Gwen barely manages to hear that line, uttered to... who? Ida?

    She hears a scream, or more like _feels it_, like the way a punch can send your teeth chattering so hard you hear it in your skull.

    'The blade is mine. Never doubt that.'

    _Janus said that to Ida._

    And with that, Gwen's folly at dancing over a pit of despair on the top of a crystal has been delivered to its proper conclusion.

    The crystal cracks. Gwen falls. She screams.

    A flash erupts from the courier's right hand, a brief flash shaped like claws instead of metal painstalkingly shaped into the digits of fingers, her panicked scream overlaid with the shriek of something eternally newborn.

    The claw catches onto the rock.

    ...

        .....

            .....

    Janus is right: Gwen would never stay down.

    Gwen's hand reaches up from the pit, the fully bare, glowing metallic hand. The rest of Gwen pulls herself halfway up without a word, panting through an open mouth. Gold slips up the spaces between her ARM's plates in pulses, each wave drawing a wince from Gwen as it forces itself through into her skin.

    Called by her own panic and need.

    "... _Ida_."
    
    There's reassuring weight behind the name.

    "... You were the one who came to stop me that day. Not the other way around." Guilt drips from her hoarse voice. But also... "Not the one who burned her friends. Not the one who hid from them."

    Gratitude.

    "... You were the one who came to save me from burning my stupid ass self out."

    And awkward admittance of guilt, in front of Janus himself. "I'm the one you should've used those words at, Janus. Not Ida. I can take it."

GS: Gwen Whitlock enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Bounding Flight!
GS: Gwen Whitlock enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Gwen Whitlock accepts Gwen Whitlock's Bounding Flight for 0 hit points!
GS: Amplify, Hyper, and Quick applied to Gwen Whitlock!
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Boudicca has posed.

    "Avril!" Boudicca calls to her, seeing her in danger. "Please, hold on!" Literally, or...

    She doesn't have time to intercept right now, though. Rather, Asgard intercepts -- and Boudicca, in the last moment, takes advantage of Kaguya's assault to try and crack his armour. Her winds carry her past him, until finally she rights herself. "No concern?" She presses Asgard, when he responds to Zed's quite salient point about destroying the Guardians destroying the planet. "No concern?! Even your limited existence ought recognise the implications of a world undone! Who will fight you when we all are as dust, Asgard?! Who stands over oblivion...?!"

    She's evidently handling the aggrieved speeches today. Luckily, Lanval is here to throw his weight around, so she's got backup. Tragically, Asgard is the backup, and as ever, there's no talking him out of it. Is that part of why Boudicca speaks to him with such frustration..?

    (Boudicca, for her part, prefers evolution through elocution.)

    Janus, on the other hand, evokes an entirely different type of frustration. "You would... tear into the very pulse of the earth?" She asks Janus, where she stops, and here, now, she is a little more shaken. A moment's pause, breathing, and she shouts: "Do not compare yourself to Ida, fiend!"

    The blast wave washes over her; she catches herself in front of one of those shrines, as if she could protect it with the lie to the world the ley manifested. It is perhaps a measure of her internal steadiness -- however shaken -- that she manages to stop before it, rather than tumble into it.

    Maybe that's why she doesn't move, when something screams through a layer which almost seems to sidestep the manifestation of her ears entirely. "Aaaaiiiiieeeee..!" There, at least, is an entirely ordinary scream, hands clutched about her head. She struggles to bring her gaze up, to focus on Janus -- there she sees Ida, abandoning all sense and reason to fling herself into him. And...

    It's kind of funny, really, that she can show that concern for Avril, and still give Kaguya such a concerned look when she howls about Veruni violence. But then, there are a lot of things that Boudicca doesn't know about the world.

    Like: just what DID Janus Cascade do?

    (Aside from what he is currently doing. That much is pretty obvious. Answer for your innumerable crimes, etc, etc.)

    "You... you...!" In agony Boudicca howls, and her face all scrunches to a pained point, as a Seraphic glyph alights around her. Asgard wishes to be struck -- Janus is outright daring it. But they are in pain. Or is she in pain? Who is she, aligned to they? The world. The world is screaming!

    "The world..." Boudicca gasps, all breathless air, before that green light pours out from around her. "... exhales! Soothing Breeze!"

    The room is shortly filled with a spring breeze, and perhaps it might even chase off the distant scent of rot, back there.

GS: Seraph Boudicca has activated a Force Action!
GS: Seraph Boudicca spends 1 Combo on Reload!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Soothing Breeze!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Soothing Breeze!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with Soothing Breeze!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Marivel Armitage with Soothing Breeze!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Venetia Vuong with Soothing Breeze!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Soothing Breeze!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has completed her action.
GS: Gamble: Very High! Janus Cascade suffers a terrible blow from Venetia Vuong's Foundry Sign ~The Statuary Garden~ for
271 hit points!
GS: Shieldbreak applied to Janus Cascade!
GS: Seraph Boudicca heals Jacqueline Barber! She gains 125 temporary hit points!
GS: Jacqueline Barber activates Seraph Boudicca's Reload!!
GS: Jacqueline Barber enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Janus Cascade solidly guards Ida Everstead-Rey's Fourth Method - Blind Prophet's Decree for 47 hit points!
GS: Seraph Boudicca heals Avril Vent Fleur! She gains 125 temporary hit points!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur activates Seraph Boudicca's Reload!!
GS: Seraph Boudicca heals Ida Everstead-Rey! She gains 125 temporary hit points!
GS: Quick applied to Seraph Boudicca!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey activates Seraph Boudicca's Reload!!
GS: Seraph Boudicca heals Venetia Vuong! She gains 125 temporary hit points!
GS: Quick applied to Seraph Boudicca!
GS: Venetia Vuong activates Seraph Boudicca's Reload!!
GS: Seraph Boudicca heals Gwen Whitlock! She gains 125 temporary hit points!
GS: Quick applied to Seraph Boudicca!
GS: Gwen Whitlock activates Seraph Boudicca's Reload!!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Asgard unleashes a terrible blastwave. Jacqueline moves to take cover behind what remains of her conjured pillar of earth... but the power of Asgard's barrier tears right through it and screams toward her, hurling her back into the nearest wall. She slams into it and begins to fall, a wall gesture of her left hand bringing up another shelf to catch her.

"Th-that's not good..." Jacqueline winces out as she forces herself to her feet. This shrine is beginning to fall apart already... and so are they. There's no telling how much longer they'll last under this barrage.

But the world exhales. The spring breeze fills the room, picking her up - renewing her vanishing strength and conviction. Jacqueline shuts her eyes for a moment and inhales, taking it in.

"...Thank you, Boudicca." Jacqueline says.

She listens, though, as Janus speaks. Biting bloody chunks out of Grudiev... she takes personal offense to that. She reaches into bags and draws out her Earth Medium, still seething with that immense pressure, and rests it against her heart.

"Grudiev... I hate to ask you for help when you're suffering right now. But we need your help. Please... lend us your aid, so we may help you in return." She whispers.

And in response to her call, the earth rises. Debris is lifted into the air... and spreads out in a shining dust, to provide others with a protective, glimmering shell.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Seraph Boudicca with Material - Earthen Embrace!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Seraph Lanval with Material - Earthen Embrace!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Zed with Material - Earthen Embrace!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Azoth with Material - Earthen Embrace!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Kaguya with Material - Earthen Embrace!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Zhang Xiumei with Material - Earthen Embrace!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Jacqueline Barber heals Zed! He gains 215 temporary hit points!
GS: Shield applied to Zed!
GS: Jacqueline Barber heals Azoth! He gains 215 temporary hit points!
GS: Shield applied to Azoth!
GS: Azoth enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Jacqueline Barber heals Kaguya! She gains 215 temporary hit points!
GS: Shield applied to Kaguya!
<Pose Tracker> Asgard has posed.


Even Asgard stops to look at Janus as he regards the flower... as he says the blade is his. It's not uncommon for the Golem to stay silent as those he serves speak, and yet right now, the silence is eerie. All the same, he still serves. He serves as the blade screams in silence. Can he hear that too? He offers no clarification.

The Golem answers Ida... or perhaps someone else distantly, "He... is Janus Cascade. He has made... no deception, with his identity."

Xiumei's cross ricochets across the ground in an indirect arc that then strikes the ceiling and walls and the Golem stands still save his neck, as if calculating the trajectory. Then at the last second he lashes out with his arm. The cross like projectile scythes across the back of his arm, carving a laser like line across it, smoking, as he says. "It... all... helps... Xiumei."

Which seems to be Azoth's hypothesis perhaps as well, for good or ill, and Asgard cannot know that. So when he speaks of his shielding systems being compromised. Asgard looks at him again. Right at him. "Affirmative." He understands, unless he has orders towards self-preservation, he cannot stop. And so he has determined the most likely possibility is that Azoth too cannot stop. The twin blades blur past him, and the blade digs into Asgard's armor with a shriek of metal. "Finesse duly noted." The Golem turns on Azoth's new position, and... suddenly tries to match his speed, despite his mass, as he seems to just glide right up to him, trying to smash his fist into his now unshielded chassis once, twice, "Assessment..." Before he attempts to grip one of his blade arms, lift him up, and swing him over to the ground, using his greater mass as a weapon, "... ongoing." Before releasing him.

Kaguya however rails at his lack of concern for the world. He reiterates, though it is slightly different, "My directive is not... to protect... Filgaia." The Golem says, before... 'You want violence?' "Yes." The Golem responds, as if he had never wanted anything more. Kaguya's fist suddenly meets his own swathed in barrier energy. "Commencing Assessment." Two forces meeting each other, energy against energy, which then suddenly explosively erupts outwards in a shockwave that rattles the place and shakes the ceiling.

When the haze of energy clears. The Golem's barrier seems much diminished, and he's been knocked back several whole meters from her. "Veruni... data... updated."

Zed's answer to his question though takes all of his attention away from Kaguya. As suddenly he stands up straight, takes one step over to him, then another as he forces himself up right.

Boudicca though calls him out on the consequences of a destroyed Filgaia, "You speak as if a world... undone... is the end. It is not. You do not... possess, necessary data... in your assessment."

Zed though, immediately draws his attention before he even finishes that thought. "You speak of cessation of function... not rest." The Golem seems to rebuke Zed's assessment. "I have ceased... function... once..." The Golem's red eyes reflect on Doombringer's surface as it contact his barrier, "But now I am here." The Golem suddenly scythes his arm out to meet Zed's blow knocking it away from his barrier. Before immediately following up with three blows of his left arm, his stronger arm with a pound of hydraulic force against Zed's abdomen, his chest, his jaw. "... and I am alive."

The Golem's head suddenly jerks up as Avril says a word he's learned to react to immediately, 'Material!' And swivels abruptly, pivoting to meet it. The rock descending to meet his open palm. It does its job though, the Golem is being driven into what remains of the cavern floor... and Janus is wide open to Venetia's attack. "Janus... Auto-Defender... protocol... comprom-" The Golem for a moment vanishes beneath the impact of the spell. And Lanval's spell seems like to keep him pinned down beneath it longer as rain like spikes press against his barrier each time he tries to rise from the dust.

And just as he gets up, Marivel detonates him yet again, in the scenter of a minor atomic eruption. For a while, Asgard's position is utterly still. And then there's a metallic shriek of shifting joints. "I see... another Asgard." He doesn't understand. There are many things he doesn't understand. How Varius and Avile know him for example, how Marivel claims to. He's certain his data recovery was completed properly. Yet some things cannot be explained unless Marivel is lying and based it off the Earth Golem, and his data suggests so far she hasn't lied to him. "Cast in my image."

The Golem seems to be processing this for many long moments, before... "Query... Marivel... Can your creation do this?"

There's a sudden shining pulse of the remnants of his barrier energy, which seems to gather in on his central chassis, before erupting outwards in a series of chaotic arcs that flood the room, scything the walls and floors and ceilings, erupting in strange monochromatic hues that seek to annihilate anything caught within them.

And one final arc... connects with Glumzambor yet again, always sparing more and more energy to that infernal spear...

GS: Asgard has activated a Force Action!
GS: Asgard spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Asgard has attacked Azoth with Iron Impulse!
GS: Asgard spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Asgard has attacked Zed with Iron Impulse!
GS: Asgard has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Asgard has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with Barrier Storm!
GS: Asgard has attacked Azoth with Barrier Storm!
GS: Asgard has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Barrier Storm!
GS: Asgard has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Barrier Storm!
GS: Asgard has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Barrier Storm!
GS: Asgard has attacked Kaguya with Barrier Storm!
GS: Asgard has attacked Marivel Armitage with Barrier Storm!
GS: Asgard has attacked Seraph Boudicca with Barrier Storm!
GS: Asgard has attacked Seraph Lanval with Barrier Storm!
GS: Asgard has attacked Venetia Vuong with Barrier Storm!
GS: Asgard has attacked Zhang Xiumei with Barrier Storm!
GS: Asgard spends 1 Combo on Reload!
GS: Asgard has attacked Janus Cascade with Devotion!
GS: Asgard has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Asgard takes 27 damage from Poison!
GS: Asgard has completed his action.
GS: Jacqueline Barber heals Seraph Boudicca! She gains 215 temporary hit points!
GS: Shield applied to Seraph Boudicca!
GS: Janus Cascade accepts Asgard's Devotion for 0 hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade activates Asgard's Reload!!
GS: Seraph Boudicca takes a solid hit from Asgard's Barrier Storm for 155 hit points!
GS: Seraph Boudicca activates Guard bonus!
GS: Jacqueline Barber takes a solid hit from Asgard's Barrier Storm for 150 hit points!
GS: Jacqueline Barber activates Guard bonus!
GS: Jacqueline Barber enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Venetia Vuong partially guards Asgard's Barrier Storm for 111 hit points!
GS: Venetia Vuong activates Guard bonus!
GS: Venetia Vuong enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Kaguya partially guards Asgard's Barrier Storm for 102 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Kaguya gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Azoth has activated a Force Action!
GS: Zed takes a solid hit from Asgard's Iron Impulse for 173 hit points!
GS: Zed activates Evade bonus!
GS: Azoth solidly guards Asgard's Iron Impulse for 79 hit points!
GS: Azoth activates Guard bonus and Gleam!
GS: Azoth enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Azoth solidly guards Asgard's Barrier Storm for 73 hit points!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has activated a Force Action!
GS: You have activated the Force Action Accelerate!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur takes a solid hit from Asgard's Barrier Storm for 181 hit points!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: CRITICAL! Ida Everstead-Rey solidly guards Asgard's Barrier Storm for 84 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Ida Everstead-Rey gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: CRITICAL! Gwen Whitlock suffers a terrible blow from Asgard's Barrier Storm for 200 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Gwen Whitlock gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock activates Countermeasures!
GS: Seraph Boudicca heals Marivel Armitage! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Marivel Armitage activates Seraph Boudicca's Reload!!
GS: Marivel Armitage enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Marivel Armitage suffers a terrible blow from Asgard's Barrier Storm for 162 hit points!
GS: Jacqueline Barber heals Zhang Xiumei! She gains 225 temporary hit points!
GS: Shield applied to Zhang Xiumei!
GS: Zhang Xiumei enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Zhang Xiumei solidly guards Asgard's Barrier Storm for 96 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Zhang Xiumei gains 1 additional Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Janus Cascade has posed.

"Asgard, get ready for full defense," Janus says to his...partner? Perhaps. But this is the only order he gives.

Between that command and the failure of the autodefender, things get hairy for Janus. He gets that warning just moments before Venetia releases the full depth of her power on him, The crucible of her power blasts all over him. The barrier absorbs molten bronze, but not all of it; and soon the autodefender means that Janus feels something for the first time tonight, and what a bad time for that! "Oh, SH-!" Janus yelps, as he is encased in metal and killed, forever, the end.

Wait, no. The crucible slams down on him, and moments later, Ida crashes into it, and there is a big explosion.

But everyone does not fall over. A SHOCKWAVE of light and power roars outward, clearing the debris away from Janus as he stands...barely even scuffed. Oh, burned, scorched. But even the jacket survived. Black flames rise up from him, licking the air with cursed light.

Then he swings the sword down on Ida and tries to cut her directly in two. "Yeah, probably," he says. "But this is pretty good," he says, and twists it as he rips it out of her side.

Then he shifts stance, leveling Glumzambor like a gun again, this time at Venetia. "...That was pretty good," he says, and chuckles, and then discharges a laser the width of a small house at her, crackling blue-white novalight scorching the ground.

And then he takes a few steps back, assessing the scene. He swings the blade up, leveling it at Gwen, and then sweeps it, once, and a crawling force lashes along the ground, stripping away stone as it reaches out. "Gwen, if I were the kinda person to stick to picking on people who can take it do ya really think we'd be here right now?"

And then...he moves. He's hardly an Accelerator; someone like Jack could beat him hands-down. But he's far, far faster than most, as he cruises across the field to smack Zed across the face with Glumzambor, possibly entirely because he was talking shit.

GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Blasphemous Stab!
GS: Janus Cascade has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Venetia Vuong with Nova Blaster!
GS: Janus Cascade has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Janus Cascade spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Demon Fang!
GS: Janus Cascade has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Zed with Dark Spear!
GS: Janus Cascade enters a Counter stance!
GS: Janus Cascade has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Janus Cascade has completed his action.
GS: Zed partially evades Janus Cascade's Dark Spear for 74 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey's Cripple Ward prevents an effect!
GS: CRITICAL! Ida Everstead-Rey takes a glancing hit from Janus Cascade's Blasphemous Stab for 67 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Ida Everstead-Rey gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Hyper applied to Janus Cascade!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey activates Evade bonus and Power Burst!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Janus Cascade's Demon Fang for 170 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Gwen Whitlock gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock activates Guard bonus!
GS: Venetia Vuong suffers a terrible blow from Janus Cascade's Nova Blaster for 147 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Power prevents Asgard's retaliation from impacting Marivel at full strength. And that power...

Is the power...

<3 OF FRIENDSHIP <3

Marivel's head turns towards the source, Boudicca, and holds her fingers in a peacesign at her. She smiles.

Enough power gets through that the Monster is smacked against a cavern wall. The protective barrier shimmers and falls shortly after, having absorbed the worst of the impact.

"Yes, yours. I'm sure of it now. Somehow... But yet, you are yet different--"

But can hers do this?

"No spoilers, Asgard. You'll just have to keep forging them until they're ready. That's right, Asgard. My full power is not my sorcery... my power..."

She taps the side of her head. "It's brain power."

She extends her hand, dark energy coalescing around her hand.

And this time she does just like fuckin' turn her hand, point it at Janus Cascade, and unleash a heavy dark energy beam right towards him. She might be counting on Asgard presuming that she was going to stick to the duel after unleashing that earlier brunt of power.

"So I mean. Only my inventions are a proper display of my talents. I'm a machinist. Sorcery is just sort of the family business, you know?"

GS: Marivel Armitage enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Marivel Armitage has attacked Janus Cascade with Erg Phasor!
GS: Marivel Armitage enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Lock state expired!
GS: Marivel Armitage has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Seraph Boudicca has posed.

    Annihilation, is it?

    I am alive, says the mechanation, and it claims space -- HE claims space -- with one little question, barrier exploding into the world. Boudicca plants her feet. Boudicca's feet, hencewith, are forcibly removed from the ground; Boudicca goes flying. Boudicca hits the ceiling, and shortly thereafter, the ground.

    He is alive, and should she be, after something like that..?

    Something goes crunch, because it really should.

    Regardless, she picks herself up.

    "Venetia--!!" Boudicca calls out, now, as that gun is levelled at her. Always there is someone else to worry after.

    Janus is fast. Boudicca remarks on this, internally; she is the wind, so few things register as terribly quick, to her. He, she thinks, is doing an admirable job. But Asgard is still feeding energy to Glumzambor, Janus is moving to Zed --

    "ENOUGH!" Cries Boudicca, still quite shaken. Another glyph lights beneath her, and now she gathers about her a storm, screaming winds which she unleashes -- "Howling Gale!" -- to crash into the space between Asgard and Janus. Air spites electricity, don't you know? It's hard to get along, even if it's sympathetic.

    If that tearing gale happens to catch either of them in its wake, well... Boudicca is worried about many things before Janus and Asgard, today.

GS: Seraph Boudicca has activated a Force Action!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Janus Cascade with Howling Gale!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has attacked Asgard with Howling Gale!
GS: Seraph Boudicca has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    The violence of the Veruni. Avril might demonstrate her own particular brand of such, as the meteor screams through the ceiling and towards Asgard.

    She lands, mere moments after the heavens send down their wrath, standing now atop the shattered temple floor. Asgard still stands.

    But, she expected nothing less than that. After all, he is the ultimate shield.

    All she can hope for is to force him to retreat, or keep him occupied. Perhaps she has managed the latter, if not precisely in the manner of which she may have preferred. After all, while Janus is open to her allies attacks--

    ...that doesn't mean that Asgard cannot also strike at them.

    There is no escape from the strange energy that rips through the space they now all occupy. She twists her body, a cry slips from her. But there is little that can be done but endure this.

    Steadying herself against a nearby wall, Avril forces herself forward in the aftermath of that twisting explosion of force and color. Can they sustain themselves long enough to end this?

    But there is the scent of spring in the air, and Avril can but hope. As long as you don't give up, anything is possible. So to that end--

    One Medium is traded for another. In her arms now she bears an octagonal, metal Medium, striped by a number of glowing lines. It is shimmering. "Lucadia," Avril intones, drawing upon the power of the Sea Guardian.

    She doesn't pick, as it happens. She simply wills from the heart of the Medium the assistance they now need and through the Medium -- a roiling shimmer of sea-scented spray, gliding through the air -- the Guardian's power is shed upon one in their number.

    The sea spray swirls around Zed as he is suddenly so blessed by Lucadia, and perhaps for an instant, there in the spiraling droplets, there is suggested the form of a great sea serpent.

    Then it is gone, with only the bolstering force -- and mended wounds -- remaining behind.

GS: Avril Vent Fleur has attacked Zed with Sea of Crises!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Azoth has posed.

For the second time today, Guardian of earth bestows Azoth's chassis with the energy to keep going. With his shields down... the reinforcement is appreciated. "Assistive input acknowledged," he says to Jay. That's robot for thank you.

Guardians. Ley lines. Beauty and power. Weapons and power. Power and freedom. Gwen reaching for something that was, but Janus refuses could be. Ida grappling with identity. There's a lot of data to take in -- a lot of feedback to have for all of it, twisting in turmoil.

But Asgard... would be correct. There is no stopping once it begins. Not until specific parameters are met -- and they haven't been. The fighting continues. Because it's what they were built to do. The assessment continues, violence for violence, because it's how they were designed to operate. Without shields to absorb the blows, Azoth has to rely on strength of steel alone, each impact crashing into him as he braces for the impact with calculated shifts of his footing. Something gives with a horrible creak, and yet even dented, sparking, and stumbling, Azoth staggers without falling. His face is no longer opting to show pain, but there is a deep discomfort to the way he cannot get quite upright, and the way something inside clicks where he once ran quiet.

"Initiating assessment assistance," Azoth says, the same robotic reverb stuck in his speech. His glowing circuit-veins brighten even further, shining off the crystal around the chamber in blue and fuchsia. "Dispensing requested data."

Several blades form, matching the gradient light that now reaches Azoth's eyes. They form behind him in a circle -- a ring -- then fan out like wings when he dives for Asgard again. One slams into him, a test, and then Azoth tries to kick himself off of Asgard's larger, more solid frame, sailing through the air and firing off his collecting of energy blades into the Golem, each detonating on contact -- whether that's with Asgard or the area around him.

GS: Azoth has activated a Force Action!
GS: Azoth has activated a Force Action!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur heals Zed! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper applied to Zed!
GS: Azoth spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Azoth has attacked Asgard with Overclock!
GS: Azoth has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Azoth has launched an attack Link!
GS: Azoth has entered Avenger Stance!
GS: Azoth spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Azoth has attacked Asgard with Blade Server!
GS: Azoth has completed his action.
GS: Asgard partially guards Seraph Boudicca's Howling Gale for 123 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Asgard gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Asgard takes a solid hit from Azoth's Overclock for 43 hit points!
GS: Mighty applied to Azoth!
GS: Asgard activates Countermeasures!
GS: Asgard takes a solid hit from Azoth's Blade Server for 249 hit points!
GS: Asgard activates Countermeasures!
GS: Asgard enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

"After a thousand years of non-stop fighting, after witnessing the deaths of so many friends-- 'cessation' can be the same as rest, Asgard," Zed's voice is... grave. Or at least, bereft of the usual joviality that characterizes his overall existence. "You're right. Being alive-- being really, truly alive is something incredible. And I wish that Siegfried were still here to watch us, to help us, to see how far we've come and how far we'll go, but I know that he would never be able to rest if he were here."

"For you and I, the centuries to come are ours to weather-- but Uncle Zeik... The only way he could rest is cessation." And maybe that's selfish, and maybe it's only something that Zed can imagine his abstract 'spirit' being capable of doing, where in reality the non-existence of 'cessation' is something far colder, far lonelier than anything else-- but after enduring the slow grind of ages, after shouldering that much pain for so long and being twisted by it and the Mother's lies into a cruel mockery of himself, it's impossible for Zed to think of death as anything but a mercy for the legendary Azure Knight.

Though to be fair, it's also impossible for Zed to think about much of anything for a few seconds after Asgard's swift triple-punch combo, which terminates in a brain-rattling haymaker that sends him reeling. But the Metal Demon's skull is on record as being one of the strongest substances on the planet, and by the time Janus closes the distance to strike, Zed has raised his guard. Glumzambor and Doom Bringer clash for not the first time, and certainly not the last time. The impact sends tremors through Zed's arms and shoulders, but he grins through the pain, even as rivulets of quicksilver blood trickle from the wound on his cheek.

"What was that you said earlier," he asks Janus, even as Lucadia's power swirls around him in a fine mist, even as the might of the earth and mountains bolsters his body. A Metal Demon receiving the blessing of the Guardians... and not falling apart screaming in the process? What is this world coming to? Or perhaps... it has something to do with why he even knew to come here...? "'That blade is yours?' But how much of 'you' now belongs to 'it...?'" Zed slams his foot into the earth, a shockwave of concussive force breaking the blade lock. In the same motion, he brings his own sword to his side-- and steps forward.

In an instant, he has closed the distance with Asgard, in the process dragging his blade in a lightning-swift slash at Janus' midsection. The moment he reaches the golem, he becomes a roiling galestorm of violence, bounding off rock and wall and crystal to slash and slash and slash...

And when he finally finishes, when he's finally done, it's as though the lines he traced in the air still humm with dangerous, deadly intent...!

GS: Zed has activated a Force Action!
GS: Zed has activated a Force Action!
GS: Zed spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Zed has attacked Janus Cascade with Secret Sword - Lightning Flash!
GS: Zed has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Zed has launched an attack Link!
GS: Zed has attacked Asgard with Forbidden Move - Astral Dance!
GS: Zed enters a Counter stance!
GS: Zed has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
GS: Asgard suffers a terrible blow from Zed's Forbidden Move - Astral Dance for 209 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Kaguya has posed.

Rails is a good word for it. "I should be able to respect that," she admits, when the dust clears. Kaguya is now some distance from Asgard, resting on one knee from where her strike made her land. "It's not your objective... we all have our own problems, our own concerns. That's logical. It's what a machine would claim."

She avoids Lanval's rain, not targeted for her this time as it is. She eyes Marivel, and her atomic power. And Ida... "Heh. Strength is freedom, huh...?"

"Then I guess I'm not that strong after all. Is anybody?"

Gwen speaks. Kaguya is focused on Janus again, despite Boudicca's scream. She is focused on Asgard, even as Jay's Material power washes over her, her intention enough that this once, Kaguya can enjoy a little of the sustaining power that Grudiev has to offer. Just a little bit. Just enough.

"...Well."

"I don't respect it. You're playing at games while the world burns, Asgard. Janus here? He's not a master who'll get you anywhere. I tried things his way for a good while... and it doesn't go anywhere."

"My people believe in war. In the glory of battle, in the prowess of warriors. But fighting, for me, was always that annoying thing Mat made me do. Then for a while, it was a way to work out my aggressions. It worked for a while."

"...But I'm tired, Asgard. I'm really tired. I just want to make everything better. And I know, now, that there's no express path towards it. There's no... easy call."

"But I'm really hoping, Asgard. I'm really hoping that this time... I'm onto something."

"...Onto somethiing that's maybe a little better than violence."

Kaguya extends her hands; as she's speaking, she begins to channel forth green energy that suffuses her in moments, bringing with it the scent of strange flowers, of unknown trees from a world away.

"...I'm ready to grow up, Asgard. And maybe I'll die before I do. But maybe not."

Flowers bloom from the ground all around her, thorned and bright and brilliant. Vines erupt from the earth. But not just towards Asgard; the flowers of a forgotten planet race towards both of their foes, and seek to grow up and entwine both of them, Asgard and Janus alike, before plunging their terrible thorns into each. "...Maybe not."

GS: Kaguya has activated a Force Action!
GS: Kaguya has activated a Force Action!
GS: Kaguya spends 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Asgard with Bloom Thorn!
GS: Kaguya has attacked Janus Cascade with Bloom Thorn!
GS: Kaguya has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Kaguya has completed her action.
GS: COUNTER! Janus Cascade counterattacks Zed with !
GS: Janus Cascade partially guards Zed's Secret Sword - Lightning Flash for 148 hit points!
GS: Mighty applied to Zed!
GS: COUNTER! Zed counterattacks Janus Cascade with !
GS: Zed takes a solid hit from Janus Cascade's  for 189 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Zed gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Zed enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Asgard takes a solid hit from Kaguya's Bloom Thorn for 180 hit points!
GS: Poison applied to Asgard!
<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

Wind blows through Venetia's hair, perhaps her soul as well, and she hears screams and gasping. They're doing something horrific. She can't understand it, it isn't her attunement. But...

BUT...

Asgard's showing a certain sort of pattern, perhaps a capacitor of some kind that needs to be filled. Venetia puts the Graph away, keeps her hand in the pouch at the ready as she keeps her eyes on the dubious prize of Janus Cascade. The industrial cacophony of his fiery embrace and his eruption from that tomb of sorcerous iron and bronze brings Venetia to look at him, eye to eye.

"Was it?" she asks him. A moment later, horrible force is coming at her from two directions. Venetia raises her arms as if to shelter her face, her head, and something seems to rear out of the ground around her-- but when the barrier-lights and the novablast fade, all that there seems to be there is thickly strewn rubble.

For a heartbeat.

Two.

The rubble shifts.

A particularly large pillar of some kind of sorcerously-regular conglomerates is pushed aside. Rising upwards, her mask hanging halfway loose from her face, bleeding from a half dozen little places and hunched over as if she's hurting in four others, is Venetia Vuong.

She grins.

It is not a happy grin in and of itself. It's the kind of grin from a wolf that is about to bite your throat, or from someone who's just seen the critical flaw in a court-room argument. Perhaps it is arrogance, but is that new?

"Do you think that was the last that I had...? Do you think that you are facing mere Drifters? Pfah. This group are heroes who history will remember even after we overcome this," Venetia says, clenching one hand into a loose fist that becomes a tight fist. "You've acquired great power from your adoption of that ARM... from whatever you, or Odessa, did to the Golem... but you're a child, playing with a toy!!"

Venetia's eyes go wide, even as she reaches up to tug her mask into place again: "I have encountered interstellar mystery, Cascade. I have learned the true name of God. Your arrogance and your cruelty are like that of the wasps that lay eggs in live beetles. I'll send you packing, to your new owners or to Hell, or one then the other! You set a trap for a mine-witch, and instead, you caught--"

"The world's greatest magician!"

Another Graph, this one with a simple and ominous mathematical symbol on it, is raised above Venetia's head. "Reflect upon your misdeeds, and repent!"

And now, Venetia thinks, eyes cutting towards Asgard, to live up to my own boasting. "Dreams become real... The equation has proved it! GROW!" Venetia shouts, as two loud sounds like leaden bells chime. "Erupt and rend the foe... HYPOTHETICAL ROOT!"

A great SOMETHING erupts from Venetia. It can be sensed with magic even if it cannot be seen. It dives, it stretches, it expands. Two-tenths of it goes towards Asgard, spreading out as a tree root would. But the greater body of it spins, expands outwards in a great invisible blooming. Then it rests.

A moment later, the invisible lines erupt outwards, rending stone and filling the air with a certain early-summer freshness, the motion and expansion roots of a forest undisturbed for a thousand years filling the area (primarily Janus Cascade's area) in the snap of a finger!

GS: Venetia Vuong has activated a Force Action!
GS: Venetia Vuong has attacked Janus Cascade with New Derivative Sign ~Hypothetical Root~!
GS: Venetia Vuong has attacked Asgard with New Derivative Sign ~Hypothetical Root~!
GS: Venetia Vuong has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Venetia Vuong has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline sends Azoth a nod in response to his thanks. It looks like both of their defenses will need to be tested soon enough, however, as Asgard unleashes the might of his barrier, energy. With a gesture she surrounds herself in a shell of earth. Even so, Asgard's barrier shears right through it - only slightly dampening the attack.

It sounds, though, like Asgard's ability to defend Janus might be compromised... in that case, it might be worth trying again.

She draws out another bottle of liquid - this one far more potent than the last, draining strength and stamina both to dampen the fighting spirit.

"We have to finish this quickly..." Jacqueline says, looking around. She doesn't know how much time they have left before the siphon's work is complete. Do they have enough time?

...She doesn't want to take any risks. So, once more, a Mystic touch is applied to the bottle. The glimmering cloud that expands around Asgore and Janus is thicker this time, and carries the distinct scent of lavender. It's quite nice, if one doesn't mind having their energy drained.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has activated a Force Action!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Janus Cascade with Diminishing Draught!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Asgard with Diminishing Draught!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Janus Cascade suffers a terrible blow from Marivel Armitage's Erg Phasor for 243 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

    Ida's mismatched eyes widen, the green one slightly more than the blue. The Prophets, she thinks. Those /people/--they have to be responsible. Did they reprogram Asgard, force him to prioritize their commands over his original orders? Or is he following some deeper orders, left in him by his creators? Why is he /doing this, Fafnir, Ida thinks--as if she could reach across the neural divide again, and force the dead man to speak.

    Frustration and anger flood up against her mind, and Ida doesn't know if she triggered them, or not.

    Venetia's conjured crucible bathes Janus in molten bronze. Ida can feel its heat on her face moments before impact; the cool breeze of Boudicca's sorcery envelops her, shielding her from heat that would--should--incinerate flesh. The shockwave blows Ida back, but the wind blows in her favor. What should be a careening tumble turns into a graceful leap backwards. Asgard's barrier boils outwards again, its color washing out everything else.

    "Enemies, then," Ida says, her face tightening. "Nothing's changed." She digs in her heels. Fresh exoskeleton flows outwards as energy flows over her, reducing the original layers of armor to powdery ash.

    Janus rushes her a moment later. He's moving too fast for her to dodge. Ida sucks in a breath.

    Glumzamber cuts through her armor like butter. The flesh beneath fares no better--but Janus might sense something's wrong from tactile feedback alone. A body has layers of muscle, fat, and bone, and everything inside her feels dense and thick and difficult to cut through. When he pulls Glumzamber out, Ida pitches back, exposing the giant rent he made in her abdomen--

    A gash entirely devoid of human tissue, because those organs moved as Hyadean stem tissue surged in. Blood drips from Glumzamber's edge, but it's all quicksilver.

    "Ghk," Ida says, and she spits more quicksilver onto the ground. "Not good enough."

    Ida sucks in more fresh air--another gift from her friend. The severed flesh starts to stitch itself back together; the outer layers solidify into more of that exoskeleton. Ida bares teeth in a bloody smile. "You heard Venetia," she says, "and Zed." She clenches her right fist, and the Breath within her coils, curling through every nerve, every muscle, every bone. "Get out."

    Ida's fist ignites. It glows like a sun, the outer layers of golden-white encasing burning fire. The air screams as Ida drives it forwards in a single, perfect strike--it could blow clean through Gear armor, and this time, Ida is holding nothing back. She can't afford to.

GS: Janus Cascade suffers a terrible blow from Zed's  for 184 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Janus Cascade gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey spends 5 Combo on Headshot and Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: MYSTIC ARTE! Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Janus Cascade with Unbroken Lotus Fist!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has entered Avenger Stance!
GS: Shield expired!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Janus Cascade partially guards Ida Everstead-Rey's Unbroken Lotus Fist for 235 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Janus Cascade gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: ROU|LET|TE: Severe! Janus Cascade solidly guards Venetia Vuong's New Derivative Sign ~Hypothetical Root~ for 65 hit
points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Janus Cascade gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Entangle applied to Janus Cascade!
GS: Janus Cascade suffers a terrible blow from Kaguya's Bloom Thorn for 210 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Janus Cascade gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Poison applied to Janus Cascade!
GS: Janus Cascade enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: CRITICAL! Janus Cascade partially guards Jacqueline Barber's Diminishing Draught for 92 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Janus Cascade gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Delay and Weaken applied to Janus Cascade!
GS: Janus Cascade activates Guard bonus!
GS: Janus Cascade takes a solid hit from Seraph Boudicca's Howling Gale for 123 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    That barrier breaks in monochromatic hues, briefly dulling the pyrite gold glow veins on the upper right side of Gwen's body. Boudicca's healing magic blunts the sting of most of it, leaving Gwen barely worse than she was before, when she had just emerged from the pit Janus's explosive trap had made.

    So when Janus makes his next point (pun fully intended) Gwen grasps out her ARM, catching the mighty blade Glumzambor in order to deflect it away from the softer parts of her person.

    Is this a dumb tactic? It sure is, if Gwen's agonized grunts and watery eyes are of any indication. As is the bit tongue.

    She wants to make a quip back, but a cough and a spittle come out from her mouth instead as she backs away.

    But in the delirium and adrenaline of it all, something feels so clear, ever since she yelled out towards Ida.

     The heart of her, beating, existing in the shadow of her will, but a part of her as her own breath. Something unborn, coiled around the egg of potential, eternally unopened but existing at the same time. Grasped, alive, but fossilized and inert. Infinite inside, but finite outside.

    The crossroads of three worlds: Hyadean, Human, and Veruni.

    A glowing dot forms above her outstretched palm, rotating in a circle until it reaches its beginning point, glowing brighter with each rotation.

    "You know... you got a point," she croaks. "I know you can take this, Janus." Her smile drips slightly with the weight of that melancholy.

    The palm shifts from Janus, to _Asgard_.

    "But I ain't sure 'bout them."

    The eternal ring shines like a brilliant circlet, intelligible letters radiating outwards. "Take the whole of me as I am, and know the potential beyond!" The circular beam shines outward as a line, beaming straight at Asgard.

    "Ringshine!"

GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: MYSTIC ARTE! Gwen Whitlock has attacked Asgard with Ringshine!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: ROU|LET|TE: Severe! Asgard solidly guards Venetia Vuong's New Derivative Sign ~Hypothetical Root~ for 86 hit points!
GS: Entangle applied to Asgard!
GS: Asgard takes a solid hit from Jacqueline Barber's Diminishing Draught for 120 hit points!
GS: Delay and Weaken applied to Asgard!
GS: CRITICAL! Asgard solidly guards Gwen Whitlock's Ringshine for 159 hit points!
GS: Asgard activates Countermeasures!
Kaguya says, "Takes argument fingerset PLAYER FIELD VALUE. VALUE can take multiples separated by |. FIELD must be one of
the valid fields listed.";"
<Pose Tracker> Asgard has posed.


"Auto-Defender... compromised... working... will... defend." The Golem looks like he's been pushing himself especially hard to keep Janus protected, maybe too hard even at this point. And yet, even with his systems overwhelmed, he's still going to try.

"Intelligence is... strength." Asgard agrees with Marivel, still cooling off from his attack, wisps of steam and smoke wafting off of every joint of his body from the sudden overheating that overwhelmed even his insulation. "Janus... stated... being smarter... than the other guy... is strength too."

It might be dubious whether Marivel finds it complimentary that Janus' idea of strength lines up with the idea that her intelligence is her source of strength.

And yet, Asgard stands, trying his level best to get to Janus. Even as Boudicca shouts 'ENOUGH!' and her winds blast into his frame, causing him to falter for a moment. Rebalancing himself, squaring his feet, his plodding gait takes him closer, and closer.

Azoth offers assistance, and the Golem... even though right now it can no longer be his priority... some part of him, there's a tingle. A fluctuation in his data, about the acquisition of more. Even now, in this situation. The Golem sees the blades scrape across his armor from behind, as the Golem suddenly whirls around, only to get his chest kicked off of by the construct. More and more energy blades assail him, each one showering him in smoke. "R-Results... exceeding projections... logged." The golem warbles with that single telltale note of dissonance. Even in this state of needing to reach his master... "Efforts... recognized." Perhaps he's feeling gratitude, even if he can't put words to it. Part of him wants to ask him his designation.

His directives don't give him time to query, this question of identity.

Zed however, tries to reach out and say that... cessation can be the same as rest when it comes to Siegfried. And the Golem... "No. U-Unacceptable. Logic... Malfunction." He says, unclear what part he's even responding to about what Zed said is unacceptable, or if the malfunction is his or Zed's. as he suddenly tries to charge ahead towards Janus. Only to catch the center of his golem storm of violence. Which ends with slash after slash across his carapace.

While he's still reeling from the blow, Kaguya tries to reach out to him. And...

"Energy depletion... noted. Hypothesis... flawed..." The Golem looks her way, "... acceptance of mortality... u-unnecessary..." Suddenly seeing the growth, he charges ahead, tearing through the plant growth, even as the thorns jab into his hide, and catch him and hold him back. Even as a shadow erupts from Venetia... her spell's force nearly bowl's him over from the growth of so much magical energy of her growth rending stone out from beneath him.

Staggering forward, Jay's cloud expands about him, and like before he tries to bring his barrier up... but unlike before... it consumes the energy of his barrier even before it's fully raised. (The Golem cannot smell lavender.)

The Golem is about ten paces from Asgard when Gwen directs her attack at Asgard... that ring expands into a circular ray that hits him square in the chest. And the Golem slumps. Before his eyes flash red. "I... am... s-s-still... h-here."

Raising his hand with the barrier emitter, a final sparking wave of energy crosses between him and... Glumzambor, using his last available reserves to empower it.

GS: Asgard spends 1 Combo on Reload!
GS: Asgard has attacked Janus Cascade with Devotion!
GS: Delay expired!
GS: Asgard takes 35 damage from Poison!
GS: Cripple and Disrupt expired!
GS: Asgard has completed his action.
GS: Janus Cascade accepts Asgard's Devotion for 0 hit points!
GS: Janus Cascade activates Asgard's Reload!!
<Pose Tracker> Janus Cascade has posed.

Janus finds himself bladelocked with Zed. It's a swift, rapid series between them, withering attacks exchanged in seconds, but Zed escapes with the final blow before zooming past to harry Asgard. Janus, with Asgard's barrier in tatters, soon finds himself beset. He's nearly cut Ida clean in half, but nearly isn't enough on someone like her. "You were right about one thing," Janus snears, as she gathers herself - he knows that fist will hurt, but he's got to brace for it. "Come on, partner. Come on! COME ON!"

Glumzambor flares with light and Ida's flaming fist crashes into him. It should strip the flesh from his bones; not even ironclad Metal Beasts could survive a full-power strike like that. The shockwave shatters crystals behind him.

But when the light clears, Janus' sunken eyes peer out from behind the Dark Spear. "As long as I'm standing above you, you'll never be free."

Jay's concoction splashes across him, withering; Venetia's newfound forest blasts up around him, Filgaian life that SHOULD drain the strength from a Demon...but he's not really a Demon, either. He's something else, something new and terrifying, and though he takes a while to emerge, emerge he does, stepping forward with firm footfalls. "World's Greatest Magician?" he laughs. "...I gotta respect someone with the balls to just say it. Good." He kicks Kaguya's stuck roots aside, reaching a leg up to yank them from his flesh. "I'm feeling it more and more...the pain of these attacks, the responsiveness of my body....everything's in better alignment, this time." He pops out another of his apples, rare, precious commodities of power, and mashing it into his weird face-grille. It sort of...shreds.

Then Marivel blasts him right in the god damn face, which he was not expecting. It leaves a scorch mark. The metal sizzles. The apple is vapor. He shifts his head, tilting toward Asgard. "You alright over there, buddy?" he prompts.

... hm, nope.

"...yeah. You are. You and me, Asgard. No matter what, whatever this masked chick or Mel may say..."

He grips Glumzambor, and it stirs again. The eye widens to a terrifying stare. Power explodes out from him in every direction. "We're here. You and me! And we...ARE ALIVE!"

He raises it as chaotic anti-color explodes around him. "REMEMBER IT, DRIFTERS!" he screams.

"Remember it. Greatest Magician of All," he laughs.

"ULTRA--!!}"

The rest of the scream is cut off by a sonic shockwave that cracks every surface in the place. He swings Glumzambor down, chaotic, swirling lights corkscrewing into a rope-tight knot of chaos-light toward -- Venetia, who has given him the most lip. She alone gets to hear the rest.

    "--NEGATIVE!"

Once the first beam slams into Venetia it ERUPTS like a cluster grenade, light and power firing in every direction like it refracted off her soul, searing every surface, exploding in catastrophic flame that hunts down and explodes for every single one.

GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Janus Cascade with Power Apple!
GS: Janus Cascade has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Delay expired!
GS: Janus Cascade accepts Janus Cascade's Power Apple for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper and Shield applied to Janus Cascade!
GS: Janus Cascade spends 4 Combo on Link and Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Venetia Vuong with ULTRANEGATIVE!
GS: Janus Cascade has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Janus Cascade has launched an attack Link!
GS: Janus Cascade has activated a Force Action!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Gwen Whitlock with R-A-I-N-B-O-W!!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with R-A-I-N-B-O-W!!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Jacqueline Barber with R-A-I-N-B-O-W!!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Kaguya with R-A-I-N-B-O-W!!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Zed with R-A-I-N-B-O-W!!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Avril Vent Fleur with R-A-I-N-B-O-W!!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Seraph Boudicca with R-A-I-N-B-O-W!!
GS: Janus Cascade has attacked Marivel Armitage with R-A-I-N-B-O-W!!
GS: Janus Cascade has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Janus Cascade takes 26 damage from Poison!
GS: Janus Cascade has completed his action.
GS: Marivel Armitage partially guards Janus Cascade's R-A-I-N-B-O-W! for 156 hit points!
GS: Venetia Vuong takes a solid hit from Janus Cascade's ULTRANEGATIVE for 220 hit points!
GS: Venetia Vuong has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
GS: Jacqueline Barber suffers a terrible blow from Janus Cascade's R-A-I-N-B-O-W! for 178 hit points!
GS: Zed suffers a terrible blow from Janus Cascade's R-A-I-N-B-O-W! for 194 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Zed gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Kaguya has activated a Force Action!
GS: Kaguya takes a glancing hit from Janus Cascade's R-A-I-N-B-O-W! for 200 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Kaguya gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Kaguya activates Evade bonus!
GS: Seraph Boudicca takes a solid hit from Janus Cascade's R-A-I-N-B-O-W! for 252 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Seraph Boudicca gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Seraph Boudicca activates Evade bonus!
GS: CRITICAL! Avril Vent Fleur takes a solid hit from Janus Cascade's R-A-I-N-B-O-W! for 244 hit points!
GS: Avril Vent Fleur activates Evade bonus! Avril Vent Fleur enters Critical health and gains 25 FP!
GS: Marivel Armitage used Defend! She takes Janus Cascade's R-A-I-N-B-O-W! attack on Gwen Whitlock on herself!
GS: Marivel Armitage takes a solid hit from Janus Cascade's R-A-I-N-B-O-W! for 177 hit points!
GS: Marivel Armitage has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey suffers a terrible blow from Janus Cascade's R-A-I-N-B-O-W! for 200 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Marivel Armitage says, "Did you just add 'Ultra' for kicks??"

Marivel doesn't have a strong opinion of Janus so she's perfectly willing to accept Janus's words as a compliment. Sure, he seems like an asshole but he's not 100 percent a dick. Or okay, maybe he is like 95 percent a dick, but the point is is that Marivel hasn't formed a strong mental opinion of Janus. Well, except for the fact that Janus just took an Erg Phasor to the face and it made him give Asgard a look. Normally it's a little more unpleasant than that.

Nevertheless, Marivel moves like someone who has had to endure this sort of technique before. She throws herself in front of the chaotic lights, the ones heading straight for Marivel. One punctures a wing, the other pierces through one of her eyes. Marivel shrieks in true agony before she body checks Gwen to the floor to take another twin colorful blasts.

The creature slumps afterwards and collapses to the floor, oozing crimson smoke and ichor.

"Ah," Marivel says. "You're still human enough. A shame about him. If only he..."

She melts into a charred black puddle.

"Stayed on that path..."

A wisp of smoke is what remains.

<Pose Tracker> Asgard has posed.


"You... and... m-me." The Golem repeats, with this strange sense of devotion.

As low as the emotions get in the room, feeling like they can go no lower with Janus' invocation of Glumzambor's most iconic powers...

... there is suddenly an abrupt dark pulse throughout the room. A wrongness. An inversion. It's difficult to describe the sensation. A nauseating sensation in the gut.

And then it recedes.

"It iii-is at... c-capacity."

The Golem as wracked as he is by so much structural and system damage, forces itself to stand, interposing himself just slightly in front of Janus.

"We... depart. Remember... that... we are... h-here."

There is a shine of white light, as the two begin to lose dimensions. "And we... will... r-return."

Then they are gone.

What does Grudiev say to those who came in his defense? It is unclear... but it is also unsettling. Just...

What did they do? What are the consequences?

Noone knows, and the fear in that ignorance is perhaps the worst part.

<Pose Tracker> Venetia Vuong has posed.

When the ULTRANEGATIVE came for Venetia, she was, to a certain (and very large) extent, caught off guard. Her Crests can be defensive, but the Hypothetical Root seems to not be so good for that. A trump card with a downside.

She is not immediately in evidence during the last words of Cascade and Asgard. Some examination would reveal her, sprawled against a cavern wall. Clothing burnt. There is more blood. She isn't moving. It would look grim - grim indeed.

But...

Venetia twitches a little. She makes a ragged gasp. And...

Something suddenly relaxes in the Ley. It was a tension easily overlooked, given the fact that, you know, there was a Golem, and like three Crest Sorcerors, and Zed, and a bunch of explosions and general carrying-on.

Venetia's neck makes a loud pop and she shudders, as if suddenly startled awake. "Gah!" she says, and then curses too vigorous to be a sign of imminent death. She staggers upright, thinks better of it, and then gets up again very slowly. Rubbing the back of her neck, she mutters, "Downsides... there's always a catch."

Venetia leans against the wall, staring around.

"... Did we do it?" Venetia says; not quite ready to ask, instead, 'did we win.'

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

The Ultranegative Rainbow is unstoppable. Jacqueline can only try to survive it, bringing all of her defensive sorceries to bear. When the smoke clears, she's collapsed on her chosen shelf... but, she's still conscious. With a groan she forces herself to her feet... but only gets half-way there, leaning against her wall. Venetia asks a question... and Jacqueline's quiet for a moment, unsure.

"...I... don't know." She admits. She holds her Earth Medium tightly, resting it against her heart. ...They'll have to find out. "I'll... see what I can find out."

...Assuming there's anything even left to investigate.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    The beam shines towards Asgard, and makes an impressive dent on what she shouldn't be able to blast in her current state, but it isn't enough.

    In spite of everything, for better or worse, Asgard and Janus still are able to bite back.

    "... Can't... do another one of those..."

    They're alive. As if there was a question.

    Gwen bows her head slightly, murmuring a response to Janus's exclamation, a slight smile.

    It gets eaten by the shriek of Glumzambor, but it wasn't in vain.

    It probably didn't need to be said at all; Janus and Gwen know each other well enough by now.

    Weakened by that last gasp of power, Gwen tenses, ready for one last leap.

    Marivel helps her, knocking her out of the way. "Gh, wa... Marivel?!"

    Still human enough.

    "... Marivel... " Gwen crawls over to try to grasp that smoke, tears in her eyes. "... Damn it, Marivel...."

    Gwen Will Remember This.