2023-02-24: Delicious Friends

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<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

With the Lord of Calamity defeated, Artorius's Throne is not the scene that it once was. The Malevolence has cleared. That leaves it looking almost mundane -- a ruined but once grand castle. White walls, which stand tall -- except where they have been shattered or worn down by time. Cold, crisp air, at this time of year and this altitude.

Many of those who gathered have left. The Vile Fiends, however, had another goal: Pentagulia. After so long, they are about to reach it.

Those going to Pentagulia with the Fiends now stand before the way ahead: a magical circle, glowing bright blue, on the flagstones in one of the Throne's courtyards. The glow began once all of the gems, gathered from the Trials, were brought into one place.

Talia stands among them. She looks at it, eyebrows furrowing; she is back in shape after being injured, and has a hand resting on her hip. That hip doesn't have a sheathed blade at her side. Her sword was broken fighting K.K.

She opens her mouth. "Is it--"

The magical circle flashes. Then, a large portal opens -- a rippling rift in the air, lined in blue light, and showing a city of white buildings and stone streets. The surroundings are dark; this portal, it seems, opens up into a small alleyway.

"...Ah." She looks sideways at Hiro. "At long last, no?"

<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

Hiro's been keeping somewhat to himself after the Lord of Calamity. It's been affecting in ways which have required some measure of introspection. Victory came with a high cost after all.
Today however, he shows up with a smile to Artorius' Throne, to the Magical Circle. "So do we have to actually do anything or-?" Ruby who's sitting on his shoulder says, "Maybe shake them?"
The stones light up and, Hiro taps some of the ones he carries, then raises it to an ear like a seashell, then hands it over to Lucia, because obviously she'll know what to do.
The Magical Circle flashes, that portal opens and he holds his breath, as they step through... "Whoa! I've heard it was impressive but-!"
Hiro rubs at his eyes, and looks about, entranced briefly, "Yeah. It feels... unreal, kind of. We've been trying to get here so long." He taps the ground with a boot as if to confirm, "Afraid I'm going to wake up and find out it was all a dream. But-"
His eyes then slide over to Lucia, and his smile grows as if trying to discern her feelings in the moment, as he notes quietly, almost reverently, "Hey Lucia." He waits a moment, then reaches out as if to take a hand, if she allows it. Giving it a small squeeze he adds, "We made it."
As if, her being here makes it seem all the more real to him.

<Pose Tracker> Magilou has posed.

    "A trip from the Throne... what a black omen this is," Magilou muses, aside, to herself. She taps her lip, swaying back and forth on her heels. "Maa, maa, but it's closer to home... so don't worry at all!"

    Magilou wasn't hanging around the savepoint the whole time, of course; at some point she jaunted off to save Rixia from jail. But she's here now!

    "A watched portal never boils," she advises Talia, with a bright grin. And so --

    Magilou steps out, in her characteristic jester's (WITCH'S) raiments, all jaunty and oddly-coloured and hat split about the middle. She sweeps her hands out, and twirls, in loose movements through the alleyway.

    "Ah! It's the Holy City, Pentagulia," she says, and she's still grinning. "Unfortunately, you'll have to go to some trouble to find an open bar..."

    A sly look to Hiro, and she adds: "Though I'm sure that won't trouble all of you." Mean!

<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

Ruby leans over to explain to the group what Magilou means, "He STILL orders milk whenever we go to a tavern."

<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

Jean's been keeping ready. She's had a lot to do... A lot to take care of. Including Hiro, for one. But here they are. She looks at Hiro, then at Talia. "At long last," she agrees.

Of Hiro ordering milk, "That's fine," Jean says. "That means twice the beer for me!"

Though... No, they aren't likely to find an open bar, are they?

Jean looks around. "That was some magic," she says, and then turns... to Lucia.

"We made it," she agrees.

<Pose Tracker> Lucia has posed.

Lucia did know what to do, but now that they're here, she seems a little bit unsure. She allows Hiro to take her hand, but doesn't squeeze back. Her eyes are on everyone else; those many whose causes and journeys brought them along with her, since they shared a destination; but whose company she might, therefore, no longer be allowed to enjoy.

Everyone has their own purpose...

Her green eyes glimmer with something like loneliness. Nah, it couldn't be. It's Lucia. She barely remembers to need HIRO most of the time, let alone anyone else.

"This is... where we had to go," she confirms, strangely reluctant, like each word has to tear itself from her lips. "It seems as if our journey just began, and yet it's already over..."

Her hand drifts up to rest lightly over her chest, without seeming to realize it. "When the thought that we may no longer travel together passes my mind, I..."

She trails off, distant in her grief. But the grief itself is remarkable, for her.

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.



He is... no longer tan.

YES! The greatest and most unspeakable of offenses! His hard-won bronze patina has been ELECTROCUTED AWAY by one lightning-tossing Seraphim in the midst of a heated battle for the fate of--


Actually Zed's not really sure, that particular fight was more for fun and also to help out ~tomodachis~, so the EXACT details of what he's doing here and why are a bit murky to him, to be completely frank.

Well. Almost.

"So, that's Pentagulia..." Zed says, narrowing his eyes at the portal. "Careful. Alleyway that dark, they might have set up an ambush or something. But don't you worry. I came prepared...!"

Zed sparkles, his skin translucent. His backpack also sparkles-- somewhat more ominously.

what are you planning, zed of hyades

<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.


Margaret did not have much time to go meandering. She was, in a word, pancaked, and in two words, fucking cashed after the battle last time, but in time there was a catch-up from good old Dollie -- who had not gone deeper into the depths, perhaps knowing herself well enough to have not wanted to dare the density of Malevolence.

"Hm," Dollie said, examining Margaret's right hand. "Right. Well, I suppose you were a little wasteful with your swords, weren't you?"

"I wouldn't say wasteful," Margaret says. "I won, didn't I? And we've prepared, what, thirty?"

"Thirty swords in Houndstooth," Dollie says, looking up towards the sky, looking for the Blue Star. "Which would be..."

"You've made your point," Margaret said, waving her pipe around irritably. "I suppose we can hardly sojourn all the way back."

"Aye, well," says Dollie, before tugging her robes aside to reveal two things: Paisley-white leggings, and also, a trio of swords in rusted metal scabbards lashed together with cheap rope. "WE can't, but I came prepared!"

Margaret's eyes widen in wonder.

* Margaret got Cunningly Prepared Blades x3!


"So it's a sort of... bar game, then? But you say it uses metal," says the innkeeper in the place from which they had all sallied forth. "These [Steel Balls]."

"Indeed," says Eillod, the shrouded merchantwoman, gesturing at the tilted wooden table.

"Aye," concurs Tera Gram, the shrouded heroine.

That's Margaret's miniquest.


Dollie, having expended most of her useful baggage, is loitering on the edge of the gathering. She is probably going to follow and stay in the shadows, because she has an *incredibly* distinguishing feature.

Margaret, on the other hand, has remounted her swords, the three blades hanging on her right side. Her right hand is tucked into her dress pocket among them, resting with relative ease. Her left hand rubs the bridge of her nose. "After so long," she murmurs. "I wonder if the Lord of Calamity knew upon what he rested." Margaret has her concealing cloak but is not making any pretenses right now.

And then the portal opens...

And through it she goes.

On the other side, in the great city of Pentagulia, Margaret raises her eyes to gaze around. She snorts at the jibe Magilou makes, and then gives her a brief poke on the shoulder: "Any old stories? If this doesn't work out, perhaps you can go into tour-guiding."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

    Sorey has passed the baton to those who have found a new way, allowing him freedom to pursue his own aims to see to the healing of Maotelus, and Seraph Lanval remains among them when the time comes to at last open the way to Pentagulia. (There has been some humor from overworld conversations with Normin about 'how cool Lailah looked when she defeated the Lord of Calamity' and then having to be corrected. He has taken this in good cheer.)
     "Mmmm." Lanval steps forward, stroking away at his beard from his chin. "We shure did, Hiro. We shure did."
     "Ha ha ha," he has a good laugh at Magilou's mention about the 'open bar,' but he settles down on that some. He's lived over five-hundred and seventy years (by the reckoning of another Seraph who was very into the calendar around his earliest years, anyway), and the troubling events of Althena's decree and actions only make up a truly small part of it, and yet...
     They've also been some of his best years, making all the friends and allies he has. And making off with drinks sometimes.
     "There'sh no tellin' what we're gonna shee when we get there," Seraph Lanval says, "sho... hold true ta why yer here."
     Lucia expresses sorrow for the idea that they may have to go their separate ways before long. He closes his eyes, and nods a few times. "Even the besht shtory ya overhear while othersh're drinkin'... they got an end."
     "...Shure don't shtop anyone from continuin' ta make 'em! And thish... ish oursh~"

<Pose Tracker> Shige Kiwako has posed.

Sure she was trying to avoid thinking about this place too much for the past few weeks. She's gotten better though. That's why Shige's returned. Lantern at her belt, opposite the mask and wearing a full cloak and.. you know, slightly more durable traveling outfit. Better than ruining nice work clothes.
 Admittedly, she's dragging her feet, almost literally. Still, she's here. A hand goes up to the others and she puts her cigar out against her bootheel before pocketing it. The smoke having that strange kind of 'ritual' smell to it as she keeps it away from the others.
 "Milk's good for most people" She offers, catching the tail end. "Liquor's where it's at though." Her pack clinks. She's packing a few bottles as usual.
 There is however, a figure she doesn't recognize and she's looking at Lucia curiously. Trying not to be rude in basically, all, but staring.
 Also as is tradition, a hand goes up along with the greeting of, "Mr Poltergeist too huh?" She couldn't resist.

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

There is a flash of light, and... Ivan gazes upon the holy city of Pentagulia!

"We're actually here!" he says. As Hiro notes, it's been a long road. And it's still not quite over. They have to help make sure Lucia can deliver her message to the Goddess.

... are they really going to meet the Goddess?? Is that a real thing that's going to happen??

"It doesn't seem real to me either," Ivan observes, giving himself a light clap on both sides of his face.

The group begins to speculate about beer. Ivan shakes his head. "I bet everything is illegal here. We should be careful not to breathe too noisily or whatever."

Lucia seems about ready to give her goodbyes already.

When the thought that we may no longer travel together passes my mind, I...

"...What will you do when this is over?" For some reason he hadn't imagined her abruptly parting ways--particularly not from Hiro.

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    Avril had been with the Fiends ever since the battle against the Lord of Calamity. Talia had been injured, after all, and there had been other wounds to see even after the Lord of Calamity had been seen to and the taint had at long last begun to dissipate from this place.

    And after that, well. She had already come this far. Why should she not continue on to the ends of this journey? Save but to perhaps travel from the Throne to see to supplies (perhaps with Gwen, perhaps with another) Avril has indeed scarcely left this spot.

    And now, the way forward has presented itself. "In Bevelle..." she begins to say, frowning as she gazes at the portal.

    "No, we must take caution. They may be anticipating us. It would not do to become captured again. We may not be as lucky a second time."

    She does not hesitate, though.

    "Yes," she says to Ivan, once she is on the other side. "I know that it is illegal to drink and dance. It may now be impious to do other things, though I know not what they might be." She frowns, as if in thought.

    "It was impolite to speak loudly in the Nisan church," she offers at length.

    ...That's not the same thing, Avril.

<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

There's something of a melancholic feeling, looking upon Artorius's Throne after the fall of the Lord of Calamity. Layna regards it for a moment, hat tipped over her eyes.

She has an interest in Pentagulia too, of course - and a need to see it for herself. She's already let Dahlia and the rest of her crew know she's going to be gone for a while.

Everyone steps through the portal... and Layna steps through along with them. When her vision clears she stops and takes a look around at her surroundings.

"...So, this is it, huh? The Holy City." Layna murmurs, and then chuckles. "...Can't be that holy if I'm still standin'."

She looks toward Magilou with a smirk. Open bars, huh?

"Well, I've got my ways. Worst comes to worst, I've come prepared." Layna comments with a shrug. She looks toward Lanval, then, with a nod.

"Well said, lad, well said." She replies with a grin.

<Pose Tracker> Rixia has posed.

    Rixia returned to Lunar in the end, despite getting into a big fight with nobility in Pendrago and being thrown in jail and having to subsequently be rescued by Magilou, Margaret and Shalune... and now she has no idea where her place in the world is. But when she heard that people were going to Pentagulia, she thought... she had to be there, at least for the people she cares for.

    It's kinda awkward... isn't she still part of the Guard? What's even being part of the Guard good for anymore?

    "I don't even know... what's special about this place," Rixia mumbles, shifting. "Wonder where Mister Leo and Miss Hilde are..."

    She breathes out, heart sinking. "Was coming back the right idea?" She scratches her head. "If the Guard knows you're here, they probably won't be so happy. I should... probably go. It'll be more trouble."

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    At long last, the reason for all Gwen's saving is finally here. All the days of roughing it, using Halycone as a makeshift tent pole, quietly exchanging that gella saved up for items that could be used for bartering on Lunar: jewelry, small tinkets, metals, fabric, and other things that could be slipped away and taken out. While she did try to exchange some wares for silver in a few jaunts to Lunar ahead of time, it felt safer to place it in wares instead.

    After all, maybe the silver market on Pentagulia might just up and crash overnight.

    So, Gwen is here, dressed in the nonassuming bright colors of Lunar garb, with the addition of a familiar yellow scarf (To Zed, anyway). A lot of it, because she managed to exchange some gold for some nice threads. Avril being there only helped settle the merchant's nerves. "... Okay, no one spend this stuff all in one place, y'hear?" She plants her hands on her hips. "We'll look like easy prey for scammers, n' we got enough on our plate as it is, haha!"


    She does pause, running her gloved hand through her head of light red curls. ".... Though, guardians, n' I thought I had it rough with Ganondorf. You guys went through a lot. I'll be sure t'hit the ground runnin' to earn my keep as the Fiends' Official Courier!"

    Lucia's comments do concern her, though, as do many of the Fiends' general demeanor, especially Hiro's. Rixia is worried, having returned right back. Gwen frowns. ".... Journeys are like that, eh? Feel like forever, but near the end, it's like it's just been a day. But that don't mean you can't have another, right?" She grins. "It's the Holy City, as in 'Holy Cow, We're here' City! It's time t'be excited! Let's go find a good place to enjoy the local cuisine~. Maybe you have recommedations, Rixia?"

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

"Portals boil?" Talia asks Magilou, with a glance over her shoulder. She gives her a longer look than usual; something about the hard time she had at the Throne. She might be trying to keep an eye on her. (Something about former assassins and tools having to do that.)

"Hm." Then, she looks at Ruby -- cracks a smile -- and she nods at Hiro.

No beer...

She tries to not make a face. She looks at Margaret, then she shakes her head. "Who can say? It sounded like he knew more than we thought," she says. "But... was misguided all the same, no?"

She glances, then, at Lucia. Her expression turns sadder, to see that. She glances at her brother -- letting his question speak for them both. Besides, Layna makes a remark.

And Talia sputters out a laugh.

She glances at Rixia, then, and she shakes her head. "It's okay, no?" she says. "You've got to see for yourself. And make your own decision, no?"

She flashes a smile at Gwen, too. This is a cheerful occasion! Right! No need to let anxiety and worry get her. ...Right?

They enter the portal. They can only go a couple at a time, at best.

The good news is this portal empties out into an alleyway. As fate would have it, the portal is in one of Pentagulia's order parts -- and is mostly forgotten, as the harbor district is less closely watched than the upper parts of the city. Still, the buildings here are all taller than many parts of Lunar.

Pentagulia was only built within the last hundred years. Unlike many cities, it did not arise organically. It has been meticulously planned; things like this alleyway show that deviation from those plans has happened, but it isn't the norm. The buildings all have fanciful sculptures -- of Dragonmasters, Shepherds, famed Seraphim, the Four Dragons, and the Goddess -- built into them. They're individually beautiful. But, there's something wrong about them, too.

They're all the same. The same beautiful sculptures; the same praise to Althena and her Church; the same intricate architecture, done repeatedly and one after the other. The city stretches out, iterating upon itself, repeatedly.

No one spares them a glance as they step into the street.

<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

Jean is also trying to keep an eye on Magilou... But she can only do so much, because while she's noticed the hard time she's had--well...

Her eyes are mostly for Lucia at the moment. Lucia, in her sadness and in her grief. "Lucia," Jean starts, and her face falls a little despite her effort to keep up a bright face for everyone. "...We'll have to figure out what comes next, right?" she says. "When you--when we finish here."

What does come next? IT was always 'go to Pentagulia', never... what happened after.

She smiles at Lanval, anyway. Journeys and memories... and then at Avril. "Ah, yeah. Talking too loudly... That's a big one."

But they should avoid being...

Ivan has the same question as hers. And Talia.

Into the street... "I have a bad feeling," Jean admits, quietly, looking to Magilou again after all. But then she considers Rixia, and...

"Hey," she says. "They won't know a thing if you don't tell them, right? Why don't you stick around for a while? I'd hate to see you on your own in a big city like this."

<Pose Tracker> Magilou has posed.

    "Factually," Magilou says to Talia, on portals boiling, and we leave whether she's lying to her face to the viewer to decide.

    "You'd think there'd be old stories," Magilou says, sashaying over to Margaret and earning a shoulder-poke for her trouble. (Her own arm slings over Margaret's taller shoulder, on the side opposite to that hand in her pocket; Magilou leans on her, companionably, and with no apologies for sharing the space.) "But you know, the funny thing is that Pentagulia's quite the young city -- comparatively speaking. Weird, huh?"

    She straightens up, and taps her fingers to her temple, grinning to Lucia. "When you think about that, you wanna cry, right?" She issues, to her, and the words are shaped sharp as the teeth in her grin.

    She folds her hands behind her head, shrugging, loosely. "But there's no changing the destination, is there...? Maybe you should have just gotten more boring people to come along with you... looks like you're stuck with us, for the whole miserable conclusion." It sounds cruel, certainly, as Magilou buries the lede and her reassurance.

    She saunters over, though, to pat Rixia on the shoulder. "Don't worry about it," she says. "We're all wanted as help in the window, so you're not going to make us any more notable or notorious. But hey -- you might know more about what's popped up recently than I do!" It's not entirely dissimilar to Gwen's own efforts. "And Jean's right! You should stick around! We're a right party."

    With a glance to Lanval and Layna, she adds: "Even without the bar. You bought enough to stock one, right?" This question to Layna, of course.

<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

Magilou has joined in on team 'Women who tease Hiro for fun.' and he turns a shade redder, before nodding quickly to Ivan. Whereas Gwen makes him think about scammers, "You really think there'll be scammers in Pentagulia?"
Hiro may be something of a numbskull when it comes to figuring out how people feel, but when Lucia doesn't squeeze back he looks puzzled, and then his expression softens.
They're not unlike thoughts he's had, the longer and longer this journey has gone. Did he really ever want it to end?
Ivan asks a question about her intentions, but Hiro stammers out, "H-Hey what are you talking about Lucia? This doesn't have to be the end."
Hiro smiles, but even he seems uncertain, perhaps a touch afraid in ways he can barely comprehend, "After you and Althena send Zophar packing, we can keep on traveling together. It feels like we haven't seen nearly enough of the Blue Star."
While he definitely awaits her response, eventually he'll step out on the street too, the people here are just ignoring them.
"Huh. Part of me kinda expected at least one 'Get them'. Then us yelling 'Scatter' and having to regroup in the harbor or something???"
"That is usually what happens..." Hiro asides, but mostly he's looking about, lost and a little impressed.

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

There is much sadness among the Fiends. Zed is meaningful in his silence. For those who have found true companionship to live in fear of losing it is not something he will make light of.

So instead he walks on ahead, vanishing into the portal and onto the back streets of Pentagulia. He glances from side to side, squinting at the various murals and bas reliefs. The whole place smacks of some kind of grandiose holy site. It reminds him of Nisan, but Nisan was warm and inviting in spite of the mighty cathedral at its heart, this...

Something about this feels odd. Wrong. Some part of his brain wonders why he feels for a moment like he's just stepped back into the Photosphere.

Nah, can't be. This is all art, right? It's not like they had wall paintings back in Mother's Cradle.

"Hnnn, my demonic senses are afouled by this place," Zed grumbles, tugging his scarf up over his nose and mouth. "What is it...? Lunar is so alive, so why does this place feel so dead...?"

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.


Zed flashes Gwen a thumbs up, "Nice scarf!!"

Even in creepy cathedral towns, compliments must be given!

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

    Lanval doesn't hide himself when he goes through the portal. He's here in Pentagulia for a reason, and to hide here of all places would betray his resolve to seek out the reason for Althena's judgment in... a whole lot of things, even if he's working for the embodiment of another world's water. He still has stake in his own people and their well-being here, after all.
     "Mmm." He looks to the impressive architecture beyond the alleys they emerge into - and then from, in short order. "Yer right 'bout that, Hiro."
     Zed speaks of demonic senses being afouled. "Aww, c'mon," he throws a hand down to Zed dismissively. "Shee? I could tell ya 'bout that famoush Seraph right there, from 'bout... three hundred yearsh back, maybe? Heck. Almosht like I passhed 'em a shecond ago~"
     Lanval stops, turns around, and looks over his shoulder to that same carving of that Seraph. Back over to look at that Seraph he's pointed out. Then back over his shoulder.
     "...'caushe I did. Huh."
     He takes a sip from his drinking gourd as he considers the other identical likenesses, as though this bit of historical trivia he knows suddenly takes a backseat to this curious sculpting feat of nigh-identical decorum between buildings.

<Pose Tracker> Rixia has posed.

    Talia mentions she has to see for herself. And make her own decision. Is... is she ready for that?

    Jean, Gwen and Magilou all encourage her to stay, though Rixia admits, "I haven't been here before! And Mister Leo and Miss Hilde aren't exactly the type to recommend fine dining or even good places to eat... especially not around here. But... but you're right. I'd just be lost on my own. Though, this place feels..."

    A pause, as she looks up towards the individual sculptures. She frowns. "... obsessed... with heroes..." She drapes her arms onto her elbows. "... statues don't bleed. They don't carry the smell and weight and pain of sacrifice. What's the point in making statues? A hundred years later, kids passing by the park think of a statue as something to climb on... for a doggie to mark its territory... no one can really feel what happened from a statue alone..."

    Lanval, though, has a different opinion. "... mm. I guess for longer-lived people, statues mean differently..."

    She shakes her head a little, then looks to Ruby. "Yeah... I'm a bit surprised too."

<Pose Tracker> Lucia has posed.

Ivan (and Talia's expression) asks a question, and Jean, Gwen and Hiro hasten to answer it, each in their own way.

'What will you do when this is over?'

'We'll have to figure out what comes next, right? When we finish here.'
'That doesn't mean you can't have another, right?'
'This doesn't have to be the end.'

Lucia lets her friends' answers, answer for her. And she tries on a smile, though it does not fit her face as well as some smiles have.

Is... is this what sadness feels like? ...But, why am I sad? I will finally get to see Althena, after all we have been through. And once I meet with her, my mission will finally be complete. So why...

She shakes her head to clear it, which sends her blue mane fanning out behind her in a great silken wave. Like the ocean. Like a banner. Like both, and neither.

"Thank you," she says to them all. "You have all been so kind and helpful to me, throughout this journey. I truly appreciate that... Regardless of what the future holds... I'll never forget what you've done."

She follows the others out into the street, eyes wide, quietly taking it all in. The 'holy' city. There is sometimes the sense that she has been in places before, in times long past, but that isn't the case here and now. For all her height and gravitas, she seems like a very small, slight person, surrounded by -- overshadowed by -- this massive and solemn fortress.

<Pose Tracker> Shige Kiwako has posed.

Shige Kiwako catches up to the main group. Looking the city over as the portal drops them in a fascinating new place. Something creepy about the place to her. Too neat and orderly maybe. Sure she keeps her workplace neat and organized, but it's not this clean.
 "There are scammers everywhere. Some are even lingering shades. It's why I don't like seances." She's probably joking, right? She says it deadpan enough. She has that cigar in hand like she's contemplating it again. Something about this many buildings this neat is just weird!
 There's mention of scattering that gets a scowl, albeit briefly. The liquor bottles are considered now. Running from the authorities is always more fun with a little bit of a removal of concern right?
 Zed's comment gets those cat ears to perk up and focus. "What?" She asks, tensing up visibly. She's seen him fight and protect others, he can't be, right? Her knuckles go white as she clenches at the gunbelt she stores so many things on. Except the aformentioned gun itself.
 Instead she focuses on the others. Trying to bury down whatever is welling up beneath the surface. Maybe she misheard him. That'll do it for now. Definitely misheard it.
 Though another familiar face did join them. "Rixia! Glad to see you." Which, to be fair, she is. And she's trying to be welcoming too.
 Everyone seems more focused on the statues though. Which normally she'd be all over, but the... it's all wrong and she's avoiding that too.

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Faint footsteps precipitate the presence of another. A woman, shrouded in thick mummy-like wrappings but for one arm of cold flesh--and wearing thick dull brown robes--has approached the party. Slung across her right shoulder in a gloved hand that doesn't seem to fit the glove quite right is a large farming implement known as a scythe. Beneath her cowl are two pinprint glowing red eyes. Some of you know her already, either having run into her at the Crimson Castle or during Seraph Harmaus's kidnapping extravaganza as she was one of his 'victims', some of you don't. She has a bag strapped to her back that is fairly rudimentary. She didn't arrive through the portal like the others did.

It's Belle! Marivel's attendant!

"What a... place this is."

Her head turns towards Shige first, focusing on her. Her eyes widen faintly, the beads of red lengthening--and then...They relax to their normal pinpoints. "Ah, I see..." She murmurs, her voice rattling like shaking bones. Shige will recognize her as undead, far from Ge Ramtos's reach--either having taken herself there or having been pushed away. They place that cold dead hand on Shige's shoulder for a moment, staring into her eyes--

But then her gaze shifts towards Zed and she turns from the Death Shaman, making her way to Zed.

"Zed." She says. "That is you, is it not? The way you speak...And you match the description..."

She walks towards him, pulling free her bag as she does so with that one flesh hand, using the scythe as a cane more than anything to keep her upright.

"My... 'Pen Pal', as you called it?"

<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

Layna grins as her remark gets a response - and then another toward Magilou as she asks her the question.

"Aye, you know it." Layna says, patting her coat for confirmation. No bottles can be seen, but she says it in such a deathly serious manner that it's hard to say she's lying.

And so... Layna steps through! She gets her first good look at Pentagulia, with that, and, more importantly, the decoration. They're nice to look at, the first couple of times.

"...What the hell is this?" Layna says, shaking her head in disbelief. "That's, uh... I'm not the only one who thinks that's kinda creepy, right?"

Even on multiple renditions of the same figure there'd be some difference or alteration - chipping or weathering from the passage of time, but this...

"...I gotta say, I wasn't expecting this."

<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

"While there are patterns," Margaret answers Talia, "knowing things and being a better person don't associate very strongly. We call that a LOW SALIENCE relationship in magical studies, Talia; HIGH SALIENCE is 'after you drink, you become drunk.' It's when you're in the middle that things get tricksy."

Magilou comes up besides Margaret, and she smiles. Her right arm shifts a little, snuggling against the shorter woman as she reaches up with her left to get her cloak hood in better position, perhaps out of sheer anxiety.

"I mean your standards of what's young aren't typical," Margaret tells Magilou. "You, my lady, have a *skewed baseline*. You are well beyond the average, and should not be included in any table of estimates."

Margaret gazes on Hiro and Lucia for a moment, with a sort of provisional benignness. She smiles, just a little. At what Zed says, she looks at him. "What? You can sense what now?" Margaret asks, with a sort of faintly-acrid skepticism that doesn't manage to have much heat to them.

Which also means she looks at Belle... but other than straightening up, she doesn't snap or bark. She does glance towards Layna, pursing her lips to the side, before turning her head to search for Rixia and gesture her over, discreetly. Yes, come to the witches. They may have cookies.

I suppose one of these days, Margaret thinks bleakly, I'll have places that are only memories for me, too. The melancholy of this keeps her from saying anything saucy *just* this moment.

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    "Oh, I see," Avril replies, carefully lowering her voice. "Then, to fit in, we must be quiet."

    Nisan had been different. Zed isn't alone in thinking that for as they slowly slip into the streets proper, she too is struck by the similarities and the differences. There is the same sense of grandeur -- of age. The scale staggers the mind as she turns this way and that like a tourist...

    But, perhaps that is the other thing that sticks out to her here. This not a city that invites the eye or welcomes the body. There is beauty, but it is a cold beauty: a bare tree in winter, but without the hope that spring will come in due course.

    Even a graveyard has more life than Pentagulia's avenues. Avril turns her gaze this way and that.


    Involuntarily, she shivers.

    "Something is wrong," she says at last, shaking her head. "I know not what it is. Yet, I cannot deny it. There is something amiss with this city."

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Lucia does not really commit to staying or going. Ivan casts a worried look to Hiro and Jean, and then to Talia. Maybe she doesn't know? After all, there is Zophar to deal with. Hopefully her uncertainty doesn't have to do with concerns about the consequences of the curse that was set on her...

"There's a lot to take care of and figure out first, I guess... But if you've got nowhere else you've urgently got to go after...it would be great if you could stay, right?" The question mark seems to be directed at the others in the group. While Ivan has gotten a little braver at expressing friendship, it still seems EXTREME to him to declare such a thing unilaterally.

The group moves on. They witness awe-inspiring statues... and then witness those same statues again and again.

"Why would they make so many of the same ones? How did they make so many of the same ones?" Magic? A gigantic mold? Aren't sculptures normally... sculpted?

It's true that they haven't been accosted by anybody wanting to arrest them yet, which is strange.

"Maybe we're being really good at keeping quiet," he says. Though they're a pretty distinctive group. Perhaps some disguises would have been a good idea before they hopped in.

They are approached, though, not by authorities, but by Marivel's somewhat terrifying attendant. "Er... hello!" he says.

... ... this is not going to make the group less conspicuous, he fears. "Can we... help you?" He thinks he knows this zombie. If not, this may be very awkward.

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

"Low salience...?" Talia repeats, back to Margaret. She squints. "Like salt?"

She didn't have a great education.

It's not some sorcery that makes the people here ignore them. Or, maybe, it's a different sort of magic; the spell cast over a place where things out of the ordinary just don't happen. If someone is here, they were meant to be. That can be sure in the city of the Goddess.

"So do I," Talia says to Jean. "Keep an eye out, no?" she says. "Avril is right. There's something... off about this place."

She looks at Rixia. She seems worried, for a second. Then, she scratches at the back of her head. "I think it's a thing people do, so they remember, no? But... it's what Lanval says. The repetition, it is... weird, no?"

Then, she looks at Lucia. Talia's expression becomes drawn for a moment. "I'm sure, no?" she says. "I am very unforgettable." She winks at her. "But... we'll have lots more to talk about and do, after we're done here. So there is nothing to worry about, no?"

She glances at Belle -- not knowing her -- and then she looks at Layna. She nods at the pirate, before she frowns. "I wasn't either," she says. "You know... they say most people pay a fortune to live here. I can see why. But it is not for me, no?"

'Ammy would hate it here,' she thinks. And then there is a pang of sadness. She still hasn't been in touch with her, since she went down into the Earthpulse. Maybe...

No, later.

"I don't like any of the answers, brother," Talia says, with a shudder. "Stay close to me, no? I don't like this place."

The street that they take leads onward, until they reach one of the main avenues. It is busier here -- and more like other cities -- but there is a certain orderliness that feels, as Zed put it, not quite alive. Carts move along in orderly lines; when teamsters yell orders, it is met by brief affirmative cries; people stick to sidewalks, not entering streets for carts.

The lines outside of businesses are orderly and quiet. And, everywhere, people are cleaning -- and must be paid to, given the frequency and number. The alabaster walls are kept that way because of an army of people paid to constantly sweep and scrub.

It's beautiful. But it's eerie, too.

And then, of course, there is the flash of light in front of them.

<Pose Tracker> Ghaleon has posed.

"Hm, hm, hm."

The murmur comes before the flash ends. As it fades, there stands the Dragonmaster. Dreadfully handsome, even beautiful, with his elven features. His grey and violet armor makes him imposing, though his height would, too.

And then, with utter grace, his hand flicks out. And, then, it leaves his hand: a trout. It lands, flopping, at Ivan's feet. The Dragonmaster looks at Ivan for a moment, then smiles. Then, he looks directly at Hiro and Lucia.

"I see you've finally made it to Pentagulia," he says. "You've done well. Bravo."

His eyes, pointedly, never meet Magilou's.

<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

What the future holds... Jean watches Lucia for a few more moments, and makes herself put on a smile. "Right," she says. "We could never forget you, either, Lucia."

She looks to Rixia, and shakes her head. "A statue well-made can communicate a lot of feelings. It can give people a sign of what was, of what people want to remember. It's art. ...But these don't seem to me to do that. They're all just saying the same 'thing', not like art at all..."

She considers Magilou. It does sound a little cruel, but that's Magilou for you. "Magilou..."

Jean, though she is neither Lanval nor Layna, obviously brought her own booze. Obviously.

Avril feels it, too, and so does Talia. Eventually, though, people are cleaning, and there is beauty, and there is--

"Ghaleon?" Jean says with a blink. There's the Dragonmaster, all right. Jean hesitates, her instincts telling her at once to prepare for a fight and that there's no point preparing.

"...They made it all right," Jean says instead, moving to stand beside them.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    There is no choice to be made, here: Gwen shall assume not only the title of the Fiends' Official Courier, but the one who won't have the weight of those trials weighing her down. This is her quest, despite there being several others likely doing the same.

    It's just autopilot for Gwen, really.

    Still, Lucia's sadness seems of a different sort of caliber. Maybe, later, Gwen could just sit down and have a chat with Lucia.

    Finally, it's Gwen's turn, and the courier steps through the portal, and into...

    .... and alley.

    In all of Gwen's travels, there's few places she could point to that would have the same 'feel' as this place. Certainly, there's mansions and displays of outlandish wealth, or sterile cities that feel cold regardless of the weather. This place, though, hits different.

    ".... It's a new city, eh?" Gwen comments softly, as Magilou explains. "Feels that way. Not even the Ethos Headquarters felt like this..." So this is what it's like, when a conspiracy's too new to gain enough traction under the weight of its own march through time? "... Feels more like the worst idea for an amusement park come t'life, really..." Magilou's pointed comment to Lucia draws a cough from Gwen. "... You could stand t'be a little nicer."

    The approach of an attendent draws Gwen's attention. ".... The.... Grim Reaper...?" Gwen gulps, and steps aside, motioning to Zed. "Alllll yours, Zed."

    She's stepping to the side, one step closer to--

    Why hello there, Ghaleon.

    ".... Oh hey, you're that guy!" She's pointing towards Actual Dragonmaster Ghaleon now, making a point to try to position herself as some sort of Gwen-wide shield, should push come to shove. Ghaleon *is* a face of the Guard, after all.

    "Mr. Ghaleon." She sticks her hand out for a friendly handshake, in order to try to gain his attention. "Dragonmaster, right?"

<Pose Tracker> Magilou has posed.

    "There are scammers everywhere, Hiro," Magilou informs him, gravely. That grave look passes to Shige, for a moment, before she orients on the swordsman again. "Yes, even the dead want your money... that's why you should pay me 200 silver for my expert anti-scammer consulting course!"

    Imagining the Jaws theme over this statement is optional but encouraged.

    She laughs, to Gwen, and says: "I could be nice, or I could be right. The truth tastes better!"

    Magilou grins, to Rixia, in turn. "Nah. A statue's just a statue. It's a thing, like a medal, or a skull. Lanval's just a sentimental old man!" She laughs, hand to her hip as she looks to Layna. "It is creepy. Remember what I said? This city's not old. There are no bones to build on. Even by your standards," she sniffs, haughtily, to Margaret, "everything here was made because the people of today wanted it made! Yes, all these same ones," she adds, to Ivan.

    And here, there's a light beat of a pause,

    "You know, today, a hundred years ago. That's basically the same thing, right?" It is not.

    "This city..." She starts, looking to Avril, and doesn't finish her sentence.

    The air brightens.

    Magilou's hand lifts, to curl at her chin; her gaze veils, over her eyes. They are both elven, did you know?

    "Oh...?" She asks, the sound lingering. "How interesting..."

    That he would congratulate them, and not look to her in the salutation.

    "Yes," she agrees, mildly, pleasantly, "here they are."

    And what isn't said is as fascinating as what is.

<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

When Lucia smiles, he doesn't second guess it. Lucia is smiling after all! He remembers when she didn't even really do that, ever.
There is something about her words though that, make him wonder, "Of course Lucia. I'm just happy we were able to be there for you. We made a lot of precious memories together along this journey. I wouldn't trade them for anything!"
It truly was - is, the greatest adventure of his life.
When Magilou offers her anti-scammer course, he almost immediately fishes out and hands over 200 silver. "Hey thanks that's real thoughtful of you! I always have trouble spotting schemes like that, you know?"
Hiro says, as he falls for yet another scam.
He does agree with Avril and Talia, "Yeah something feels strange about th-"
Hm, hm, hm.
Hiro knows that sound, and indeed his eyes shoot forward in alarm. "Ghal-!" a trout lands at Ivan's feet. "-eon?"
He can't help but stare at it.
Ruby flies up to Ivan, Hey if you're not gonna have that... do you mind?"
Hiro though levels his eyes back up on Ghaleon, "You did dare us to find our way past the barrier and find our way didn't you?" He notes, "And so we did. Though we would have found our way here anyway."

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

    "Weird, no? Weird... heck yeah," Lanval says, stops, and then bows his head in a moment of humorous (but heartfelt) humility. "Nah, shouldn't rib ya on shpeakin' quirksh like that... yer right."
     He looks to Rixia. "Mmm. After a point... what would ya do ta represhent that? How would ya chooshe ta memorialize or remember shomethin'? Ya can't shtop time from marchin' on from when it happened..."
     He doesn't voice his own discomfort now that he notices the 'sameness' in the Pentagulia architecture - it's empty. It's without joy. It's just... here, once protected by a seal held shut by the power of the eight Althenian elements.
     Then Ghaleon appears, suddenly. Seraph Lanval remembers all too well his relaying of being forsaken by the Goddess. Anathema to Her, and then there's a trout. A floppy trout, thrown towards Ivan's feet.
     A tense moment passes, in which half-lidded eyes open before the Dragonmaster, and...
     "Hi." He raises a hand in passive greeting, from behind Hiro.

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Talia expresses some trepidation about the city. "Right. Let's stick together..."

And the first threat that appears before them? A fish flopping against the ground. Ivan looks down at it with a twitch of startled disbelief, and then a weariness comes to his expression as he traces his gaze upward to the inevitable Ghaleon who threw it.

"It is good to see you again too," he says, flatly.

Might it be? Who even knows what to expect from Ghaleon, anymore? He still has that ocarina...

But, whatever Ghaleon's personal motivations... there is the distinct complication that he is aligned with the powers-that-be they've run afoul of. Ivan steps forward as well.

"Is it a problem for you that we're here?" If they have to fight the Dragonmaster... ... well, that kind of thing is why Lucia needed a whole group to help her out with this mission, right?

Hey if you're not gonna have that... do you mind?

"Please do, it would be the first time one of these fish served a purpose other than to make my head hurt."

<Pose Tracker> Rixia has posed.

    Margaret beckons for her, and she approaches closer. "... I kinda agree with that. The more you know, the harder it gets to just stay polite even with all you know."

    There's quietness, and then Jean states that she disagrees. "Mmm... maybe I'm not that kinda person. If it means something to someone, though, then I guess that's not bad." Though Magilou thinks more like her. A statue's just a statue. Lanval's just sentimental! Perhaps...?

    Shige greets her as well. "Oh, you're here too... is it okay? I mean, I think everyone's technically trespassing... there was a barrier and everything." Belle arrives. It's hard to not notice a woman in bandages and a big scythe. This is a really suspicious crowd she's going with...!!

    There is a flash, however, and an impressive looking person appears. Rixia squints for a moment, and it takes a few others to spell it out to her -- the Dragonmaster.

    And a trout.

    "... you shouldn't... waste food. Let's cook that..."

<Pose Tracker> Lucia has posed.

Jean and Hiro speak to Lucia of precious memories. Lucia's wide eyes glitter. Just a little.

"Jean, Hiro, I... you..."

She swallows, more thin and drawn -- almost nauseated -- by the minute. "If I... This world of yours..."

She swallows again, harder, and any greenness around her gills is swamped by a sense of firm resolution; a more typical Lucia, though perhaps also a more powerful one. After all, being weak and sick is more the Lucia of the curse than the one Hiro saw at the very beginning, the one who stepped out of a crystal and into his life. For the first time in a long time, she seems more like the latter than the former. "...no. Never mind."


She is not alarmed by Ghaleon's arrival. If anything she seems to have expected him as much as she was, obvious, expected. Her head inclines in greeting; silent, but not unfriendly.

Some others seem to want to have words with him; she waits her turn, lingering in the back of the group. This time, she's the one to take Hiro's hand, instead of the other way around.

<Pose Tracker> Shige Kiwako has posed.

Shige's glancing around, not at all concerned, but concerned at the same time. Place feels funny. She's trying to put her finger on it really.
 Magilou's attempted extortion is given something of a laugh, but she doesn't try to stop it either. Not her place! For now. "Sometimes it's more than just your money, to be fair!"
 Rixia's question is met with a shrug, "Wouldn't be the first time I've trespassed doing work. Some people like creepy hauntings lingering around even if the haunting doesn't want to be around anymore." Speaking of which...
 Belle is given something of a look in return. One of curiosity more than malice. She IS prone to trying to encourage moving on rather than forcing it unless they're a problem of one stripe or another. Though the hand on her shoulder and the attempt to... is it intimidate or just read her? She's not sure. Returning the look, there's a shift in her demeanor. A serious look, just for a moment as she places the cigar back between her lips, lit or otherwise. Still smelling faintly of various plants usually associated with exorcisms. "I'm here if you ever need help." Is the only thing she says. She's clearly not bothered by the creepiness of any of it and... she doesn't seem hostile right? Or is she just that skewed these days. Hard to tell.
 Layne's question is met with a shrug, leaning back, "Nah. This is pretty standard. You should see the places that have screaming faces in the walls." Again, it's hard to tell if she's joking. This has helped put her at ease, amusingly.
 "Graveyards have a feeling of life around them. The living clearly cared at one point. This looks like..." she gestures around. Replying to Avril, "This looks like a mockery of a monument almost." Maybe its the lack of life. Or- "Maybe its the lack of imperfections?" She can't put her finger on it.
 She tilts her head, focusing back on the zombie and gesturing around. "Got to ask, how do you see this place?" Metaphorically speaking, probably.
 There's suddenly a guy she doesn't know, but he doesn't exactly give off cozy vibes. "Friend of yours?" she asks in an undertone to the zombie. Mostly becuase she's trying to not slip into a dour mood, yet.

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

There are those who DOUBT ZED'S SENSES. Even the Seraphim, who shows off all these neat statues! Look! That one's his friend! And so is that one, and that one, and that one, and they're all exactly the same. They doubt. This is to their detriment. For Zed's senses are mighty indeed, and nurtured on a steady diet of far too many kitschy Zeboim-era animations that love to hide tiny visual cues in every other screen to suggest future developments in the plot THAT YOU COULD JUST WAIT THREE EPISODES TO SEE YOURSELF.

But then, Zed watches recordings. It was different when they were broadcast live, surely.

"Hmhm, you cannot sense it?" Zed arches a brow at Margaret. "Look, it's as if this habitation block were tessellated over its neighbors. But more importantly..."

He strokes his chin through his scarf. "...This place. I was wrong. Death at least allows life to spring forth from it. This place is sterile. This place chokes the life from those who walk its streets. Removes from them their sense of place and belonging, and thus strips their identity. It's as if the people here are insects in a manmade hive, honeycomb cells repeating infinitely in all directions. And all this while painting its face with a deathmask honoring those who fought so this star could have life. This is not a city of a goddess of life and love. This is a machine that slays the spirit, murders the mind, hemmorages the heart."

"Even the Photosphere had life in it, twisted and cancerous though the spider-Mother squatting at its heart was." That might confirm it for Shige-- exactly what this person is. This swordsman with the green hair, the gold eyes. If he was in the Photosphere long enough to know it from the inside out...

He can only be one thing.

And that thing is...


"Eh?" Zed perks, breaking from the crushing gravitas that had gripped him. He spins on his heel and stares agog at the mysterious zombie. "You... You have read my letters...?" Zed... clutches his hands together, his eyes sparkling, "I always knew there had to be someone reading them! Yes, yes! That is I, Zed the Dark Hero, the Ultimate Macho Man, the Grim Reaper's Pen-pal! And that must make you a grim reaper...! It's so nice to meet you! The last reaper I knew couldn't talk at all!!"

This one is not a reaper, though. She is... a zombie. Of a sort.

Also a zombie of a sort:


"You... Have a trout?" Zed blinks at Ghaleon, then the trout. Then back at Ghaleon. "...Weren't you dead in Spira? Did you... did you walk back here? Why don't you have a tan...?"

<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

"Yeah, don't think it's for me, either." Layna agrees with Talia with a nod. "These vibes are a real mood-killer. Someone should splash some paint here and there, aye?"

She shrugs.

"I'd say it's the kinda place but I'd wanna visit but wouldn't wanna live... but that'd be a lie."

She nods, too, to Magilou. That's right - this city is young. That's... pretty dire, when she thinks about that.

They walk through the streets, and the eerie feeling only intensifies as they continue. No one bothers them...

...At least, until there's a flash light, and Ghaleon appears before them. She moves to step closer to Lanval protectively, before offering Ghaleon a tip of her hat.

"Ahoy there, long time no see. Feelin' mighty honored, that you'd come to greet us personally." Layna greets. Her tone is polite, but in a rare instance she isn't grinning.

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Belle glances the Ghaleon as he arrives but isn't about to interrupt the Dragonmaster for the time being because her attention is actually arrested--by Ivan! She turns her head to face him. Can he help her?

"Ivan. Hello there again. Tis good to see you are well."

CAn she be helped?

"Yes," Belle glances at Shige for a moment before looking back to Ivan. "But I have one more piece of unfinished busiuness." This seems to be her way of answering both Shige and Ivan at the same time. "A debt I have been asked to repay."

She exhales out smoke.

She opens up her bag and hands a stack of letters which she offers to Zed, giving a small nod to Gwen. "Yes. Though I no longer able to serve Ge Ramtos in an official capacity, I still...help where I can."

"These are my replies through my understanding of Ge Ramtos's teachings throughout the ages."

Belle doesn't argue about being a Grim Reaper. "There is another Reaper here as we speak." She chuckles briefly.

Then she looks to Ivan. "Yes... I'd like to share a story, if I may? I don't want to intrude on..."

She glances over to Ghaleon and...whatever's going on there.

"And then I'll be on my way."

<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

"Not quite," Margaret tells Talia.

She looks around now. "So close," she answers Magilou, "and yet so far. Even I might feel a hundred years. At least the first hundred..."

She looks around, perhaps prompted by everyone else's growing disquiet which she can't attribute to Belle, and Margaret *sees* it. She sees three different statues and the eyes of the elves are keen, so she sees them *clearly*. Because they aren't three different statues.

They aren't even 'oh, these must have been from the same artist, or workshop, or something.'

Margaret makes a little 'tt' in the back of her mouth.

She looks back--

-- and sees the Dragonmaster Ghaleon. Margaret stares at him for long seconds and takes a slight step forwards, brow furrowing as she raises her left hand, lips almost parting as if to form a question as her eyes narrow to small, peering slits of semi-wonder--

There's a trout. Rixia calls Margaret's attention to it. Her hand inclines slightly to point towards the trout, not Ghaleon. It seems to deflate some of the uncanniness of the situation, at which point she straightens back upwards.

Zed addresses the shoopuf in the room. His words make Margaret frown, and straighten further. She does not strike nor even reach for her weapon but it's a much more closed, tense stance than before. Her eyes flick back towards Belle, but instinct is telling her she's not a threat. At worst: weirdo like Zed. (Margaret learned the word 'weirdo' in secondhand stores on Filgaia.)

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    "Yes," Avril echoes Shige. "Graveyards are where people bring flowers."

    That had been one of her earliest lessons upon awakening. The dead are buried and laid to rest in the earth. To the place where souls forever sleep, the living bring flowers.

    A remembrance, perhaps? Of what was. Or, is it a promise to the future?

    Avril has yet to understand it.

    What she does know is that there is none of that here. The city has life: blood flows in its veins. Here there is the bustle and murmur of Pentagulia's residents. And yet, it is utterly lacking: even the meanest street of the Badlands boasts a life more vibrant than Pentagulia's well-hewn plazas.

    Avril pauses here, watching the people work in silence. "To where might we head now?" she asks, in the moment before a nagging sense at the back of her mind prompts her to turn about.

    She's just in time to witness Ghaleon's arrival. Avril gazes for a long moment him before turning her gaze towards the trout as it flop-flops on the ground before Ivan.

    Which is when Avril puts voice to the burning question of the moment. "Whyever have you brought him a fish?" Avril asks of Ghaleon, a man who she neither knows nor recognizes. She glances towards Jean and the others "Is this another custom of Pentagulia?"

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

"Hiro, I don't think--"

No, nevermind, Talia thinks. No stopping Magilou on that. Besides, even if she doesn't like her being mean to Lucia, it is a little good to see her having some bite in her. Maybe she is feeling better after everything that happened.

She frowns, though, at his words. She doesn't like this.

"Some paint," Talia agrees. "And maybe buy some new decorations, no? The repetition is nauseating."

The Dragonmaster prompts a stare from Talia. He always tends to; he is less a person, more a mythological figure to her. Though, when said mythological figure hurls a trout at her brother's feet, she stares.

And keeps staring. What on earth is happening?

<Pose Tracker> Ghaleon has posed.

"So I said. And they brought company," Ghaleon says to Jean. His eyes shift towards Lanval. "Bold of you to show your face here once again. But, never learning is one of your positive traits, isn't it? Hm, hm."

Then, he turns his head -- regarding Layna. "Well! I appreciate good manners," he says. "I'd say to consider it my pleasure, but I don't intend to consider your opinion at all."

He looks to Rixia, then -- and he smiles. "It's hardly wasted. I'm sure Ruby will find some use for it," he says. "Perhaps you should find Sir Leo, Rixia? I'm sure he will be... distraught. Ah, if he isn't already."

His eyes turn to Ivan. He considers his question for a moment. "It may be a problem," he says. "If I decide that it is a problem. So, we'll see if I need to decide that!"

A beat.

"Have you spread your wings, Ivan?" he asks, with a slightly mocking tone. (If you glance in the background of this shot, Talia is making a >_< face.)

He notices Belle -- but says nothing at the moment. (Internally, he is wondering why a zombie is here and if he needs to get a cleaning crew out.)

Gwen steps right up to him, hand extended for a handshake. He looks at her for a moment, and he doesn't bring his hand up to shake hers. "Yes. Dragonmaster. Chosen of the Goddess. The entire reason that your merry... well, not so little, now... band is here."

And he looks to Avril. He considers for a moment. "A most serious one. You..." His eyes narrow. "...You're an interesting one."

But he doesn't dwell on that, for Zed asks him a question. "I walked it off," Ghaleon says, with a glance back at Zed. "I'm allowed."

Ghaleon looks to Hiro, finally. "I did," he says. "And you did. And I even congratulated you, did I not? Hm, hm--you should try to keep up, Hiro." He tilts his head to the side then. His eyes meet Lucia's, for a moment, before they're back on the group as a whole.

Watching. Waiting.

<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

Never mind, Lucia says. But what had she meant to say? It troubles Jean. But she isn't going to start pushing her now. She has faith in Lucia.

She is a little busy fixating on her dear friend and the terrible danger to consider Belle's story at the moment; even the trout is a secondary concern for her just now.

She says nothing else of art, or decorations, beyond to Rixia and Magilou both, "It should mean something to people. But I don't think this means more than domination." Instead, she narrows her eyes at Ghaleon, as he gives his... Ghaleon-ic words and approaches. If he decides it's a problem...

She glances at Lanval. "I think a lot of us are too stupid for our own good," she says boldly, and then sets her jaw, looking to Ghaleon.

"So if you want to make a problem, then make it a problem. Otherwise..."

"Hiro, Lucia. Let's go."

Magilou and Ghaleon. What does it mean? She doesn't know. But whenever Magilou says it's 'interesting'...

Something's going to happen.

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Belle would like to share a story. Ivan makes a weird face as his eyes flash back and forth from her to Ghaleon. "Well... this does seem like kind of a weird time -- let's figure out if we're about to have a fight first, maybe..."

He casts an anxious look to Ghaleon, who answered his question on that count with something like 'maybe' and proceeded to taunt everyone.

Have you spread your wings, Ivan?
"What-- why do you know about that? Do a lot of people know about that??" He shakes his head. That's just an effort to get a rise out of him, right??

"Are you... hoping we'll say or do something in particular? Would you like thanks for the fish?"

Jean suggests just going rather than trying to appease him like he's some kind of riddling gatekeeper. Maybe that's wise. "If you don't need anything..."

<Pose Tracker> Magilou has posed.

    Magilou pockets Hiro's money, and advises him: "A fool and his silver are easily parted."


    Lucia brushes her feelings off, though, neverminding the lot of it -- and Magilou remarks, internally, that it's a shame. If she could say what's eating her out loud... but then, even if Magilou needles her for a hundred days, it might not matter.

    Sometimes people write tragedies. There's no helping that. Whatever tragedy has caused Lucia to feel so badly about the end of the journey...

    Well, even if she wanted to, she can't focus on it for long.

    Ghaleon's here, and in full force.

    "Will you soon ask him why birds fly, I wonder?" Magilou issues Ghaleon, with a glance back to Ivan. "In a city like this... it's very reasonable, isn't it? Why, their reason... it's unwavering. Unchanging, unchallenged, bereft of flaw or indecision..."

    She turns back, sweeping out one open palm towards the alleyway. "... but still not perfectly so," she says, and doesn't directly invoke the way the city changed enough to create that little avenue between buildings.

    "Don't you think that's interesting... Ghaleon?"

<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

"Magilou!?" Hiro seems aghast as she scams him. "Are you the only scammer in Pentagulia!? Magilou???"

Lucia's comment draws his eyes, and even he can sense that, she's upset to some degree, but given the presentation, he wonders if it's just that she's all choked up, overwhelmed in this moment.
He may be correct in that regard, but he completely misses the context, as is typical for him.
Still when she says nevermind, he just takes it for that, "Okay, but if you wanna talk about it later? Me and Jean would be all ears."
When Lucia takes his hand, he squeezes it, comfortingly, even as he keeps his eyes on Ghaleon.%r
As Ivan gives her the goahead Ruby contently gobbles up the trout which is probably not evil, or undead! Or many things, because that'd be ridiculous. However, she does look up as Ghaleon asks if he's spread his wings, "Feels a little mean to bring that up?"
To Ghaleon's response, "It's because even when you congratulate us, it always sounds real insincere - no matter how you mean it."
There's a pause and- "I really don't get you, the Four Heroes hindered us almost every step of the way here - but you?"
He doesn't sell Leo out for, not doing that as of late, or discuss Blue Master Lunn's affiliation... yet.
Jean indicates for them to move on - and... "I don't think he is going to give us any problems right now."
He seems quite ready to move on with Jean, though he gives Magilou a long look, as if trying to consider her implications and perhaps falling short.

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

    Lanval is happy and welcome for Layna coming to his aid. It used to be he was just desperate for any sort of friendship or contact with anyone, at all, after being ostracized by his own kind over what happened to his place of power. (Before or after the Guard burned it down? The answer is: yes.)
     He meets Jean's glance back in turn, before looking to Ghaleon.
     "Ahhh, what can I shay," Lanval lowers the waving hand to take a drink from his gourd, working up a little smile. "I don't even have a brain. Only got a Lanval, 'n that'sh me~"
     He straightens out. "'n the Fallen Seraph ish shtanidn' shtraight up, right here... give or take... ten, twenty degreesh," he waves a hand, "y'know what I mean, figuratively."
     He gives a look over to Belle in the moment, recognizing her from the castle - he had a lot of fun hanging out there with all the parties from time to time, but what brings her all the way out here?
     He levels what is open of his gaze back to Ghaleon.
     "Gonna take more than a name like 'Fallen Seraph' ta get me ta take it all lyin' down."

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    "...." If Gwen didn't have secret tasks of her own, the nature of what remained unsaid with Magilou and Lucia would irritate her more. But there's a lot here Gwen is missing. It's to her advantage if she realizes the advantages of that, on top of being an outsider.

    "Wait, no, Hiro, she's...." Gwen's shoulders sag as she takes out a small piece of gold, offering it to Hi....-no, she secretly offers it to Ruby instead. ".... Keep this just in case, okay?"

    Then, she turns to the fiendish of fiends, Magilou. "That's still young in city terms," Gwen says, not missing a beat, as she sighs. "I mean, in the Badlands, things get weathered quickly, and it's the same with anythin' close to the ocean. Pollution, smoke, the ease n' flow of people going n' leavin'... I 'spose even a hundred year old city'd look ancient. Here..."

    Zed says it with more eloquent terms, comparing to the Photosphere-- no, worse. "... I get what you mean, Zed. The Ethos Headquarters was corrupt, but there were still people there, living in it." Had lived.

    Like Ghaleon. "..... See, I was just gonna assume there was some logical explanation for why he wasn't," Gwen says, as she holds her hand out to what might be a complete zombie. As he walks past her, Gwen tsks, drawing her left hand away. "... I keep forgettin' handshakes ain't always the default. My bad."

    She casts a worried glance aside towards Lucia, seeing as how Ghaleon is focused on her. Magilou knows more about the situation, as well, and Bella mentions a story.

    ".... I take it, then, that the powers that be know we're here, then? Or will shortly know."

<Pose Tracker> Lucia has posed.

Lucia meets Ghaleon's eyes unflinchingly. Acceptingly. As though she knows why he's here. It's even possible, just possible, to read in the set of her face that she's pleased he has come. Somewhere in the straight line of her mouth. The smoothness of her brow -- rather than the wrinkles that the Dragonmaster seems to engender in most others... if anything he says troubles her, it's the part where he needles Ivan. She doesn't much like that. Nor when Magilou hustles Hiro. But there is too much at stake to demand his currency be returned.

Jean tells her it's time to go. But she has other ideas. Or, no. It's worse. She has the same idea. It IS time to go.

After a squeeze that, in retrospect, contained a dreadful finality, Hiro's hand is suddenly empty. Later he might get the feeling that she isn't really planning a 'later' at all, when it comes to talking about her feelings. Or anything else.

She steps forward, away from the group. Between them and Ghaleon. Close enough that HE could take her hand, if he willed it.

"Ghaleon. I am ready to meet the Goddess."

As usual, Lucia is the undefeated champion of the direct approach. They could have snuck in; they could have broken in.

But she simply asks to go.

<Pose Tracker> Layna Manydays has posed.

At Ghaleon's response, Layna finally does grin - as wry as it is.

"...With a tongue as sharp as that, I dunno why you even need a sword." Layna comments. She looks back toward Lanval as he takes Ghaleon's comments in stride. She sends him a proud nod.

Whatever comes of this, she has his back. Though, all being told, she'd prefer they both get out of this without a knife in either of theirs.

Her attention is drawn briefly toward Magilou. She's clearly making a Point, though the significance is lost on Layna. ...Interesting.

<Pose Tracker> Rixia has posed.

    "I guess... if you're sure," Rixia nods gently at Shige. "Just... stay on your toes, I guess. The Guard can be weird at the best of times..." Says the girl who joined them in the first place.

    Rixia looks back to her and addresses her, though, and she cows for a moment and bows gently. "Um--" Wow, she's really surprised he knows her name. "Yeah, I was going to go look for him... is Mister Leo here? I wasn't sure." Distraught. "... yeah."

    Chosen of the Goddess. Dragonmaster. Rixia fidgets further, and looks back to Jean, as she speaks a bit more of art and what it means to people. "Mmh... ..." She can feel the tension start to rise in the air, and she mumbles, "Yeah, I'm... I'm going to go find Mister Leo and Miss Hilde." She looks to Jean, Magilou and Margaret. "I'll be okay. ... I think." She's not sure of anything. That's okay, though, right? That's still better than running away? She's not even sure about that.

    She starts wandering off in the closest direction to something that looks like an official building. "What'm I doing..."

<Pose Tracker> Shige Kiwako has posed.

Shige's response to the yes, then the explanation is met with a nod. "Wouldn't have expected any different. Usually deal with the more... incorporeal admittedly." The smoke does get her to lean back a bit. Reflex mostly. Force of habit even. "Just let me know and we'll get you where you belong though." She's trying to sound reassuring and not completely lost. This is definitely outside of her usual stomping grounds after all!
 The trout? That's a weird one. She's shifted her focus there, ears twitching a little. She does like fish like any good fisher cat would.
 "Memories as much as the flowers. Pictures, engravings, epitaphs. You get that vibe even in the most run down haunted places. Hints of... life." She shrugs. It's hard to put a finger on it.
 "Who's he" She murmurs to anyone nearby. Probably Rixia since he knows her. She went unnoticed and that's probably a good thing!
 There's a statement from Lucia which leaves her looking again though. Less uh, concealed this time. This is probably something she should have asked about prior. Oops!
 Looking to Rixia on that note, "Weird's a constant companion, it'll be fine." She sounds confident at least. Kind of. In an undertone she adds as Rixia tries to wander off, "You okay? You sure..?" Not sure which is the better question, she tried both.

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

He... walked it off.

Ghaleon... walked off... being dead.


Zed fixes Ghaleon with a stare.

He shrugs! "Makes sense to me!" Zombies are powerful like that, he guesses!

More importantly:

There is a package for him. His eyes sparkle even more brightly as he seizes the big pile of letters. "Oh, a retired reaper! I didn't know you all had a retirement program! Thank you! I will read these carefully. Finally... replies...!"


"Eh? There's another Reaper here...?

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    "You are... the Dragonmaster."

    Even she knows who that is, in Lunar.

    Avril regards Ghaleon with an unflinching gaze. It's not defiance. Neither is it rightly something akin to anger or anything of that sort. She gazes at him as if neither of their respective stations mattered -- as if they were equals in stature, nearly.
    And as if she were trying to ascertain his intent and did not care if he saw her attempting as such.

    "...Interesting?" Avril echoes, wrinkling her brow. "Whatever do you mean?"

    She does not ask about the fish again, perhaps because she has just noticed that Ruby has gobbled it up. And--

    It no longer matters. Lucia requests to meet with the goddess.

    "Then, that is where we must venture as well. Dragonmaster Ghaleon, will you guide us to her?"

<Pose Tracker> Marivel Armitage has posed.

Belle isn't without menace but it is clearly dwarfed by the city itself and she is presenting as mild mannered. Belle is not a zombie but nobody has explicitely told her they think she is a zombie so she doesn't actually correct anyone. "Ah," She says, apologetically. "I was just being polite. I don't really understand this discussion around trout you are having."

But she looks back towards those creepy statues.

"Yes Zed," Belle nods to Shige. "She is...a current Reaper."

The Gwen Reaper counts too--Reaping is a bit like being a delivery woman after all, but Belle isn't going to spill every secret.

"You're welcome Zed. Would you mind listening, then? I might not have a chance...to share a story of my own."

She looks back to the statues.

"There was once a city state--a nation that Pentagulia, now that I am here, reminds me much of. It was called Jehenna and it was my home."

Belle looks at the statues, still staring at them with those red eyes.

"I was called to Ge Ramtos at an early age. I served him faithfully as I was raised to. I traveled the world, easing the dead to their proper rest. Much like that young beastwoman over there." Referring to Shige.

"But as time pressed on, I found myself called back to my most important work back home, in Jehenna. It was to be my task to deter that nation from its experiments into eternal life. Some of you have seen the end result of that experiment--and some have met one of its victims. Nevertheless, ere that came to pass I was to put a stop to it."

"I failed." Belle says. "And this was my punishment as a result. My forced retirement--watching the stories unfold before me, yet unable to join them until the day a Reaper would come for me."

Her lips twist into a cracked smile.

"But a more dire fate befell Jehenna. It was bathed in nuclear fire, those who had not grasped the secret were blasted into ash, the buildings expunged into dust, scarcely an echo would remain of its people when the Great Conflagration ended."

"And those that had survived became howling beasts, suffering forever until their minds melted away into pure bloody instinct."

She takes in a breath and lets it out slowly, more an affectation than a need. "I expect there will be much screaming ere long."

And with that she starts walking away on her own, story delivered without another word.

<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

The fish is evidently part of something else. Margaret glances at Ivan. Margaret is unfamiliar with whatever fish-based flirtation customs he may be engaging with in his communication with the Dragonmaster. Wisely, perhaps, she doesn't butt in.

She does make a very distinct c__c face towards Avril when she asks the obvious question. Margaret agrees with that.

"Sometimes stupidity is the wisest position of all," Margaret says, echoing Jean.

But there's still that tension. That feeling, the silent invocation of Starlight Express, rests on her lips. Rixia... "I understand," Margaret tells her, even if inwardly she's thinking 'dangit! if he strikes the three god realm would be REALLY USEFUL! don't go come back and fight us rixia!' and it may be showing in the slightly anxious look on her face. She really is looking a bit closer to a nifty fifty than she usually does.

And he's going to take them - or at least Lucia - straight to the Goddess? Margaret's lips twist now as she feels a droplet of cold sweat on the back of her neck. She coughs once, quietly. But there is something else -

A story from Filgaia, Margaret assumes. It sounds like a Filgaian story. Her eyes turn towards Belle as she speaks. Ge Ramtos - yes, the Guardian, Margaret thinks. And...

There was a great nation... and this strange figure failed to stop them from doing something... and a great fire came...

I wish I was still worrying about the trout, thinks Margaret, with a certain whiff of despair.

<Pose Tracker> Ghaleon has posed.

"You should," Ghaleon says to Rixia. "Ta-ta."

He does glance at Belle -- and his eyes narrow. He makes a note of it, mentally, but that is a thing that he makes a not to delegate. Such is the burden of leadership.

His eyes shift back to Jean.

"My, my. Testy, aren't we?" Ghaleon says to Jean, his eyes briefly falling on her. "I didn't say I want to make it a problem."

Then, he looks back at Ivan. His eyes linger on him for a moment -- and he shakes his head once. He isn't explaining if he knew more about Ivan's transformation. But, Ghaleon has never played fair in such matters. "Requiring thanks for a gift is so... gauche," he says. "And I'm anything but. Why, I would never wear socks and sandals."

Then he looks to Magilou. He considers, for a moment, her question. And her observation. "Hm, hm, hm... is it interesting?" he asks. "I don't know, Magilou." He tilts his head. "...I hadn't noticed."

A dodge, if there ever was one.

"Why would I?" he asks Hiro. "Call me insincere, if you like. I've been called worse." He smiles thinly. "But I challenged you... and you met it."

And speaking of challenges.

Ghaleon looks back at Lanval. His good eyebrow arches -- and then he nods, once. "So I see. Well. It's one thing to stand. Quite the other to keep standing, now, isn't it?"

Then, his eyes flicker to Layna. He hesitates for a second. "Well. A sword is better for putting holes in things."

Then, he looks to Shige -- having heard her question. "Dragonmaster Ghaleon," he says. "At the Goddess's service, not yours."

He looks back at Gwen -- and Ghaleon laughs at her question. There is mirth in it, but it isn't kind. "The powers that be? Hm, hm--yes, I would say they do. After all, I am here."

Lucia, though, actually makes him hesitate for a moment.

"Are you?" he says. "Well, then. I'm sure that she will be glad to meet you. Come, Lucia," he says, before he steps closer to her. He looks at Avril. "Hm, hm. No. The Goddess has a... busy schedule."

He smiles, his eyes meeting Hiro's. But he speaks to the group. "I'll send someone to fetch you and the rest, when we're ready. I'm sure that you have..."

He waves a hand. "...errands of some sort to do."

Ghaleon steps closer to Lucia. Then, there is another flash of light. It shoots up into the air -- and when it fades, both Dragonmaster and Lucia have vanished.

<Pose Tracker> Talia has posed.

There are a few sparkles of light falling, from where Ghaleon and Lucia teleported away. Talia is staring -- a little red-faced with anger, after how he spoke to her brother -- and her expression quickly goes from anger to shock to distraught.

"I think... I think we should find where they went," she says. "And start looking around the city."

She stares.

And she puts a hand at the back of her head. "...I feel like this just got a lot more complicated, no?"

<Pose Tracker> Jean has posed.

"A little, yeah!" Jean answers Ghaleon about the matter of being testy. At least Margaret has her back on this one. But, instead of all of them leaving--


'The rest of them.'

"Well, fuck."

The assassin-turned-dancer-turned-something? sighs, and shakes her head. "...Mm."

"We should," she agrees with Talia, and regards Avril. "He's like that," she says.

Rixia goes. Lucia and Ghaleon are gone. ANd of course, they 'know'...

"We have to believe in Lucia," Jean says to Hiro, seriously. "She'll do what she came to do. And us?"

"We better find out where they went, like Talia said. And get there, to back her up."

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Belle starts in on her story. "Errr, you're already telling it, okay."

Ivan can't quite make heads or tails of it -- there's a lot going on right now. Who is it for? Probably not for him, right?

Lucia steps right up to Ghaleon and asks him to escort her to the Goddess. Ivan's mouth falls agape. Is... that how it works? That can't be how it works! What if she ends up escorted to jail?

He grows more serious. "If ... that is a thing you're willing to do... then it's got to be all of us. We're here to assure her safety."

Unfortunately, Ghaleon is having absolutely none of that. With a quick flash of light, he and Lucia both vanish. "Oh shit!" says Ivan.

I think... I think we should find where they went

He turns to Talia with an urgent nod. "Yes -- let's get moving!!"

<Pose Tracker> Hiro has posed.

Lucia lets go of his hand, it won't be until later that he realizes she perhaps... isn't preparing for a later conversation on the matter.
"That's exactly what I mean..."
Hiro says to Ghaleon, perhaps even more confused, like he still just doesn't get it. Get him. From the way he acted during their battle with Id... onward.
They were making to leave, when Lucia just asks outright. "Lucia?" He's not precisely surprised by her just asking, but something about the way Ghaleon meets his eyes unsettles him, "Fetch us? No wait! I'll go with-"
The two disappear in a flash.
And Hiro seems stuck, affixed to that spot. It's not that he has any suspicion of the Goddess, as Lucia trusts her but-
He's not sure if he can say the same for Ghaleon, and his intentions. Standing in that spot, he stews in that sudden anxiety, as he reiterates in a soft echo, "Fetch us... from our errands."
Hiro glances sidelong at Jean, "I do, trust her." He's just not sure if he can say the same for Ghaleon, even if he is the Dragonmaster.
Talia presents a plan of action and he nods quickly to that and Jean's agreement with it, "Agreed. We can figure out the 'errands' part later. For now - we scope this place out, can't be hard to figure out where he took her."
Right? He expects the Goddess must have the tallest building around, that feels... obvious.

<Pose Tracker> Shige Kiwako has posed.

Shige Kiwako shakes her head and holds up two fingers, "That's twice now I've heard parts of that story and both times I disagree with it." She taps those fingers against her chin now. Scowling. "I need to do something about that. Punishment without an end in sight doesn't.." She shakes her head and mutters, "Later. Later later."
 Her brain catches up to the rest of the conversation, ears twitching back to Zed. She had had hunches, but now she knows for sure. There's a mix of emotions showing on her face. Already agitated by the idea of people being trapped from the very thing she tries to guide them towards. Another situation in her mind of Guardians lapsing. She's already focused on the lantern at the realization. A creeping shadow zig-zagging along. The thing half raised from the ground. Long hair formed, shrouding its face, dripping malice, hatred, sorrow. She catches herself. Embarassed. Ashamed that she acted so quickly. With shaking hands she turns away, the shadow creeping back towards her own. The cigar at her lips fumbled and lit as she tries to get herself under control. He hand't sounded any happier about the situation. Everyone has regrets. Right? Wasn't that what started this whole journey to another world? To get this far?
 The response from Ghaleon's poorly timed. She glares at him, "That's nice." Voice dripping with misdirected venom. Or maybe not. As he tries to grab the unfamiliar, but clearly important woman, that curse remanifests. Faster. Less subtle as it makes it's presence known... too late. "Dammit." Mostly directed at herself. She lost focus. Lost what actually mattered.
 Later. She can deal with her problems later. She lifts the lantern properly and begins to hurry, looking for any signs. Any lingering clues. Anything that might help guide them even.

<Pose Tracker> Magilou has posed.

    Magilou gives a sympathetic look to Rixia, but... she can't stop to explain, right now. The situation has grown too tense for asides.

    "Has it been that long?" She wonders, oblique. That he wouldn't notice...

    Lucia, of course, is terribly brave, and Ghaleon...

    "You're really forcing the issue," Magilou murmurs, as she looks between them. And who is she speaking of, as she says it?

    The light flashes, and Magilou remarks, momentarily dour: "... he won't have her killed." It's a particular phrasing of reassurance, but she sounds perfectly confident in what she says. "Even so... you'd best get moving."

    With a wan, almost apologetic smile to Hiro and Jean, she says: "I'm going ahead. Good luck." And a look to Margaret: "Keep an eye on them, won't you? This is quite the unsettling locale."

    It's Talia and Ivan, specifically, who she glances at as she suggests: "Stay sharp."

    And then she flounces off in the opposite direction, cutting a sharp contrast between the orderly crowds around her.

<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

    Belle's story draws a shiver down Gwen's spine. ".... You mean...."

    The same thing that happened in Gehenna... is it just an analogy, or something more direct?

    Ghaleon confirms Gwen's suspicion, and the courier groans and shrugs. "So much for bein' sneaky. I was hopin' to *at least* t'be able to- h-hey, waittaminute!"
    'Believe in Lucia.' Gwen tries to hide her worried frown.

    For once in her life, Gwen doesn't feel committed to the role. She believes in Lucia to do the task set before her, but... There wasn't exactly any talk of what would be next if this Althena was a fake, and that might be what is causing Lucia so much anguish.

    "We need t'designate a spot t'meet up if any of us gains info. I imagine the second we get to where she is, there's no turnin' back." She draws out a piece of white chalk from her leather bag, and marks the alleyway wall with a small catface. A Ruby face, perhaps.

    ".... Magilou's right," Gwen says, tucking the piece of chalk back and dusting off her hands. "Though, hey, Magilou, mind tellin' us any insight you might haaathere she goes." The redhead sighs, head flopping downwards. "Maybe I should've not spent so much time drawin' the kitty face..."

    She glances Hiro's way, then. "Just promise me, whatever you do, don't be a ....... you know."

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

"Oh no, not at all! You're my friend, my pen PAL. That means it's only right for me to listen to your story! Nahahahaha~" Ghaleon has been forgotten for the time being. Zed is enraptured as Belle tells her tale.

The Tale... of Jehenna...

"Eternal life, huh...?" Zed frowns, his expression pensive. His own life can be considered 'eternal', long lived as Hyadeans are by 'virtue' of their physiology, twisted though it may have been by the Mother. Living metal, when healthy, does not succumb easily to age. "...Nn. Nuclear ARMS... that was a hallmark of the Zeboim civilization, wasn't it...?" So she is an elder of the reapers. "...Thank you. I will have to relate this story to my <<Little Brother>> the next time I see him. I'm sure Ratatoskr would find it even more interesting than I have."

But then, she's off, leaving Zed with an armful of letters and... a new story.

And also, new knowledge. He looks at Shige... Just as her shadow servant disappears back into her own. "...Another Reaper, huh...? A younger reaper. Mm. Mmmm..."

Someone else... to receive his letters...!

But there's something about her. She's troubled by something, but what...?

Lucia vanishes. Zed watches as the sparkles vanish into the sky. Believe in her, huh...? Will that be enough for Hiro...?

"...Well." Zed huffs, slinging his pack up onto his back. "I think we... should probably figure out a way to not get separated, huh? This place, it is good at that. Maybe we should... leave marks of our passage? Yes?"

<Pose Tracker> Seraph Lanval has posed.

    Lanval hears out that ominous story about Jehenna, and Belle's little smile before talking about there being much screaming 'here long,' he's scratching at his chin again and watching Rixia wander off. He doesn't give chase, in the moment, given all that's riding here as Ghaleon's eyebrow arches and speaks of how it's one thing to keep standing.
     He doesn't answer back, as Lucia requests her audience and is taken.
     "Mmmm... yeah, we should." He hears Magilou's murmuring about how he 'won't have her killed.'
     "...'ll take yer word for it," Lanval takes Magilou at face value there, as he looks to Layna. "Y'know, shtartin' ta wonder, if maybe the... repeatin' decor might be shome kinda way ta make ush be... losht," as if he's trying to find some sort of logical idea for why there's this unsettling sameness to the objects of worship everywhere, wondering also if those who are here are aware of where they are, why they're doing anything at all.
     He really would think this place would be much happier in its atmosphere than it turned out to be. Althena's appearance after a thousand years of silence should be a joyous occasion, it was thought years ago when she made her decree, but there's none of that...
     "Sho, dirty li'l shecret," Lanval says to Zed, as an aside, for his dirty little secret, "I ushed ta ushe potholesh in the ground fer landmarksh."
     "'n there ain't any..."

<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

Ghaleon, at least, is how Margaret remembers him. Dying didn't change him much, Margaret thinks, the distant memory of shipborne follies on their way to carve a bloody revenge for Azado washing through her mind. How many of us were innocent then, Margaret thinks; a pain in her right hand, as it fails to tighten.

And how many of us were still alive.

Lucia advances towards Ghaleon--

-- who teleports away with her.

Margaret immediately says, "HELL AND DAMNATION!" while kicking at the air. Tension breaks, for her, a little; the kick helped. "I knew it was going to be SOME damn thing or other. Crap, piss, and alchemical waste! Argh!"

Then Magilou glances at her. A look. Margaret meets it.

"..... naturally," she says, with a toss of the hair with her left hand. "I'm surprised you - UGH!!" Because she's immediately left.

Zed and Lanval speak of a problem. And from the alleyway steps forth Dollie, who had been hanging back the entire time. "Scuse me, your lordships," she says, from beneath her hood. "How about this: I'll stay here and eat my lunch at a leisurely pace and you can use me as a landmark. I swear to you I won't move without checking in with the Captain," Dollie says, tilting her healer's staff to indicate that that meant Margaret.

"Don't put yourself at risk," Margaret tells her.

"Oh, don't worry about me, mam," Dollie says as she reaches into her robe and brings out the first of several apples. "I brought a big lunch."

THEME OF IMPROMPTU SAVE POINT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LzPplBE75tQ

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    'The Goddess has a... busy schedule.'

    "Then, we shall await her summons," Avril replies, her gaze leveled at him still.

    But it's Lucia on whom he focuses his attentions -- Lucia, to whom he extends a hand.

    The both of them vanish in a pillar of light.

    "...There are no errands to which I must attend," Avril says at last, turning to face some of the others, Talia and Jean in particular. "I agree. There is something amiss here, and I mislike another left alone to face it, whoever they may be." She closes her eyes as if to contemplate what Magilou has said.

    "No. I do not think they shall hurt her. Yet, this changes not my feelings, Magilou. Whether or not they shall let us enter..."

    She trails off, then shakes her head. "Whatever the risks, we must not give up. Surely, there is someone here who knows something more."

    And if all else fails, they have Dollie as a landmark.