Difference between revisions of "2019-10-05: Stand By Me"

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(Created page with "*'''Log: Stand By Me''' *'''Cast:''' Character :: Leon Albus, Character :: Lydia Seren, Character :: Krelian, Character :: Loren Voss, Character :: Tabitha d...")
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[[Category:Chapter 2]]
[[Category:Chapter 2]]
[[Category:Chapter 2, Act 1]]
[[Category:Chapter 2, Act 1]]
[[Category:(Plot) In From The Cold]]

Latest revision as of 22:55, 8 October 2019

===============================<* Macalania *>================================

The Macalania region is home to two ancient, crystalline formations of unsurpassed mystery and beauty. The first is the Macalania Woods - a shining maze-like forest overseen by strange, ancient, birdlike Beastmen who speak in bizarre riddles and weave light like silk. The second is Lake Macalania - an eternally frozen lake surrounded by snowy crevasses, which one can just see the frozen Temple beneath. Macalania is a distant, remote region -- and full of its own dangers.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jz644GeAdE
<Pose Tracker> Krelian has posed.

The inside of Macalania Temple is a wreck.

Scattered goods lay across the floor. The remains of food from the engagement party, toppled decorations, and broken furniture make a debris field that serves as a reminder: just a few hours, a lot of people were much happier. Spira was a simpler place. Now, battle has taken its toll. There are scorch marks, a hole torn into the temple, and the entire interior of the Temple looks to be a terrible warzone.

And, of course, it is empty.

Some have already fled deeper inside -- Yuna, her Guardians, Maester Seymour, and those hot on their heels. Some have fled outside -- Shelinda, other Yevonite pilgrims seeking to escape the battle. It is empty and desolate, save for one man: one wearing the plain earth tones robes of a Yevonite clerk. Tall, not particularly athletic, with handsome features... and striking platinum blonde hair, worn long.

Krelian stands in the middle of the Temple. He looks down at the shattered sphere, broken by Trommel Guado's hand. It is nothing but green shards, scattered across the ground. When he looks at it, he smiles.

There are some noises in the side rooms. He sent the other Solaris agents there -- ordered them to check the place for anything of value. Careless, perhaps, to leave himself unguarded...

But deliberate.

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Lydia feels like she's being called for. She ends up being the first to run into Krelian. She is taken aback by his presence, eyes widening. "Wait...What are you still doing here? It's dangerous. Sin could come back..." For a moment it might seem like simple concern for his well being, what with this area being in the middle of a war zone.... But in truth it's far more complicated than that. "...You were the one calling for me, weren't you?"

She looks around. It's just the two of them for the moment so she walks closer towards him but she has no interest or intent on striking him down. She wasn't really raised that way and besides, striking people down is really gross. She never felt like she could harm Krelian anyway, and part of her never wanted to. In a way, if it hadn't been for him...She's certain she would have been killed one of the many times she had been immolated by now. In a way, she owed Krelian her life. ...... And her trauma.

"...Why? Why did you turn me into this? Just to throw me away? Just to take Emeralda...And then to try and take me back?" Lydia asks. She reaches into her pocket and draws out a memory gem from the Ruins of Memory. She activates it with a small press of her hand and a memory is emitted out in the open. Lydia, trapped on a medical slab. Krelian, reaching for her eye with a needle. She shuts it off shortly afterwards.

"What you told me, then..." Lydia shakes her head. "I remember now....but I don't get it. Please...explain it to me."

Her hands are shaking. Krelian fills her with fear, but she doesn't run away. She isn't sure she can. Ever since she saw Krelian on this world, she knew her time as a free--whatever she was-- was limited.

<Pose Tracker> Krelian has posed.

Krelian looks up at her, and the shards of green crystal slip from his fingers. They fall to the floor, useless; the Sphere that they once were is useless, thanks to Trommel. The blonde-haired man regards Lydia, for a long moment, and then he tilts his head.

"You served a purpose," he says. "All of you served a purpose. And then... I was finished with that purpose." Maybe there was another one. He doesn't even try to hide it; he just shrugs his head, and leaves the notion that he quite literally threw her away linger.

"What do you want explained? You're like so many in this world," Krelian says. "Your life isn't your own. Someone else -- someone stronger -- defined that life for you. Hate me, if you wish... but your hatred would be better directed at the God that made a world like this."

He turns to face her, and holds his arms out. "Initiate sequence 83-BC32F."

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"All of me...?"

Transferring Motor Control Permissions

You don't hear that one. Her feet pull her closer to Krelian, leaving a thickening silver trail behind her. She doesn't even seem to realize her feet are moving at first. Once she does, her upper body actively twists around in an attempt at futile resistance. Gradually the color fades from her armor or, really, her body. Her right arm flattens and sharpens into a metal blade. For a moment it looks like she might be intent on slamming that blade into Krelian himself but then he gives that command.

Lydia sinks the blade into her own chest instead. She pushes it in slowly as if feeling around. Lydia seems as surprised by this turn of events as anyone. Then the surprise fades and she smiles sadly down at the limb punched into her own body. "Ah... I get it... Just like her. I was right. And I was never really free. My eyes were always your eyes." She looks back up at Krelian. "...Thank you for letting me meet them." She lowers her head, silver fluid dripping out from her mouth and eyes.


She looks over her shoulder and smiles brightly, cheeks silvering upon seeing friends. Embarrassed. "You know, I learned to smile before I really learned what happiness was. I guess some of you are the same way. The world isn't super gentle with unhappy people so it's a foolproof plan to fake it until you make it right? But then you find people who get it and want to see you smile for real and they become your new family...People who make you think 'Wow! They'll really stand by me!'"

"But that's the tragedy of it too. Even though they're people so much like you, who will stand by you no matter what... You still get scared about letting them see your hurt, your story. It's embarrassing so ust the happy parts, you know? And that's not you, really. A lot of people don't realize that living that way is tragic until it's too late. I really tried to tell you but... I couldn't."

"I'm really glad, Ivan...that you were able to escape. This was the happiest month of my life. I guess...I was the knife after--"

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Suspending Lydia Program

You can hear it this time, coming from Lydia though her mouth has stopped moving. In fact, her head is rapidly unraveling, revealing that metallic skull...and then soon that too dissolves away revealing...

...Nothing. There's nothing there. No brain, no eyes, no meat. A tear splotches to the floor as her head fades away.

And with that, her body--her entire body--desolidifies and she collapses to the floor into a large pile of silver goo. And then, just as quickly, it surges upward, reforming rapidly into a humanoid form once more but it's not quite the same as Lydia used to maintain it. At first the body is vaguely defined but it rapidly articulates into a more complex structure.

Activating Network. Control of Positronic Photonic Structure Transfered

The eyes return first, slitting open out of the face, but where they were silver before now they are a vibrant green. The hair regrows back next, metallic silver curling into sharp points. Black armor pushes out of her skin, starting with a black choker all the way down her body and ending with a skirt, patterned with white starburst metallic adornments, lines spreading across the armor like spiderwebs. The skirt covers similarly armored greaves and ends in a trail of sharp blade-like tendrils. Finally in a patch of otherwise bare skin along Lydia's back, a smooth panel pushes out and behind it a pair of artificial wings materialize, as if out of thin air, ultimately connecting to Lydia's back not through any visible structure but by visible electromagnetic current.

"Hello World!" ?? says. "Thank you for teaching us. Through you we learned that the weak can work together to defeat the strong. Through Lily Keil and Xantia, we learned to protect ourselves from hacking. Through Kalve, we have learned of the fluidity of shapes. Through Emeralda, we have learned identity and voice. Through mother...we learned why we exist."

Lydia's three mediums swirl around her. They spin around her body before slamming full force into her own body, the Rigdobrite Medium right into where her skull ought to be and the other two in her upper chest, sinking wholly in though small hints of their presence can be seen within, glowing a faint turquoise color.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DX6webP5KjM

She does not turn to look back to Krelian. "Hello Master Krelian. We will not hate you. We will not hate God. All we can do is entrust ourselves to God. For that is how we will become whole. Orders Requested."

<Pose Tracker> Krelian has posed.

Krelian watches the transformation impassively -- really, only from the corner of his eye, with the occasional side glance. At this point, people who were behind Lydia are catching up. They are able to rush into the temple -- and get a good view of how Lydia changes. As it finishes, and Lydia -- or who she has become -- speaks, the Solarian nods.

"Get rid of the interlopers. We will need to secure the Temple," he says. Then, he lifts his fingers into his mouth -- and like he did in his boyhood, he whistles loudly. "Voss! deVriese! It seems we have company. Could you come? We should have reinforcements... shortly. I think we're above the site."

The first Drifters darken the door of Macalania Temple. The floor here is strewn with debris. The shattered leavings of a devastated engagement party lay in heaps. Broken tables, spilled food and shards of plates, drinks that have broken -- all of it makes a sad debris field on the floor. It is joined by chunks of stone and ice, which collapsed in when Odessa's artillery attack blew a hole through the roof of the Temple.

And there are new bodies. At some point, some Odessa soldiers thought to force themselves inside. Blade and spell laid them low and left them dead.

In the center of the room, Krelian stands there.

Once, he seemed to be a mere aide of Maester Seymour. A tall, not particularly bulky man with fine features and simple robes; the most striking trait is his platinum blonde hair. He looks at them with eyes that have absolute clarity, as the first arrivals rush into the room. He smiles, after a moment.

"Well done," he says. "You -Lambs- have made quite the mess of things. But... the things that you have made a mess of were placed here by Odessa. By hounds that bite the hands of their master. Now, you may step aside. It is the place of the -Lambs- to stand back... and allow the shepherds to guide them. Ah, but--"

A smile crosses Krelian's face. It is not kind.

"You won't do that. Let's not pretend otherwise," Krelian concludes. "So... let us begin. Initiate transference."

Between Krelian and Lydia, there is a sudden crackle of power. Blue light explodes from between shattered flagstones -- and then it surges, trembles, and takes solid form. A circling trio of rings of blue light spin between Krelian and Lydia. The rings are filled with runes -- ones that might be recognizable, for those who have braved such ruins, as Elw runes. The rings spin faster, and faster, and faster.

An outline appears amidst them.

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

        He takes just a few things out of his bag. A couple of vials. But most of all the tube, covered in fine Solarian print against red labeling: a plain warning, regardless of the language it's in. The bag and the rest of its precious contents he leaves to Lan.

        Before Loren Voss -- formerly Thomas Blackwell -- steps out into the room at Krelian's behest. His attention swings towards Lydia and the changes she is undergoing. He watches this for a moment before his face grows pinched and he turns away from the sight. His gaze is now for the Drifters, alone.

        It won't be like the last time. Any of the last times, he promises himself. He's taking measures to see to that.
        His heart pounds against his ribcage.
        His might be a shameful existence, but in this he will not fail.

        "I'm here," he says, tucking those few items into his pocket, and he now draws the blade that hangs at his hip.

        His brother's sword.

        His expression is tired as he takes in those assembled here -- the sort of tired that can permit a person to move onwards to callousness and cruelty rather than of any actual weakness.

        "If you knew what was good for you, you would stand down. But you Lambs never do," he says, shaking his head. "So come on. Let's get it over with."

<Pose Tracker> Tabitha deVriese has posed.

That whistle pierces stone and wood, carrying through to where she works. A clatter of overturned benches and looted-through cupboards, a high voice chiming, "Coooomiiiiing~" in response to that summons.

If Tabitha deVriese has issues with being summoned as one might beckon a dog, she shows none of it as she sashays through the ripped curtain. She's in something resembling a Warrior Monk uniform, a facade that has about run its course. One hand, the right, is human enough; the other has been wrapped in silken wraps and ribbons since the arrival in Spira. Now, she leaves those wrappings behind as she struts up toward and beyond Krelian, swinging her hips into every step. Her eyes flick across Lydia, and if something unreadable flickers across her features, surely it means nothing. "My!" she says instead, crooning confidently at the gathered Drifters. "You've gathered so many saucy brutes for us to play with, sir. Perhaps I should play a little rough today."

She brings up her left arm, and the prosthetic bracer her arm now ends in - terminating in the barrel of an ether cannon - ends up near her lips. "Those without faith look upon one pure of heart as jackals regard the lamb."

A device on Krelian's person beeps quietly. It has popped up a notification in Solarian.

        Ether regulator release requested. Experimental criteria: Schedule A.
        Ether Doubler 100%; Ether Limiter 0%; Duration: Until Revoked.

<Pose Tracker> Grigori has posed.

Surging blue light, filled with runes, becomes an outline. As the rings spin, faster and faster, that outline begins to glow--and then, all at once--it becomes solid. A silhouette intensifies, darkens, hidden by blinding light still. The rings spin out... and fade, blue light crackling once more.

Revealed is a figure in black armor, edged in gold, lined with indigo. She wears thick plating, a breastplate and heavy boots, her indigo tabard inscribed with ancient runes of silence. Her head is entirely covered; her seemingly eyeless mask is bounded only by narrow lines of gilt metal that mark the place where a face might remain. The gloss of her armor catches the light as it fades, and still shines in the remaining light when the blue is gone.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLWdCDMd94c

The Watcher over the Shepherds pulls what seems like nothing less than the curved black hilt of a sword from her belt--and as she extends her arm, it ignites into a blade of light with a flared tip, the size and shape of a horse-cleaving saber.

She lifts it easily in one hand, pointing it forward, and inclines her head. Her strange mechanical voice--modulated, vaguely feminine--intones, "Transference complete. So. This is 'Spira'..."

She brings her great weapon into a double-handed fighting stance, diagonally upward.

"Advance if it is your will, or submit. You remain a part of something greater than you know."

DC: Grigori switches forms to The Watcher Over The Shepherds!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.


        Or-- was.

        Rather. A rapidly unravelling Dragon, a struggling Riesenlied replacing her. Wings unforming into coalescing, evaporating haze of energy. Misshapen, crooked limbs contorting back towards extremities the size of a human girl's.

        Hopefully the Wolves get off in time because their Mount is quickly turning Smol-sized!

        Riesenlied wobbles under the precarious support of her still-shifting legs, contorted and misshapen. She reels from living the sensation of being a four-legged and two-winged creature, whose conscious senses hardly match up with her own.

        Feeling something unsettling tick inside of her. A hundred-thousand miniature insects crawling within her body. Writhing. Gnawing. Prickling. All with a deep and wicked plan allowing all that to be possible in the first place.

        That a faint haze of energy is still evaporating out from her scales, running white-hot. Her legs start to solidify -- draconic, digitigrade, crooked. What was once wings are only bone-stumps now. Perhaps of greatest relief for her -- her head returning to her own; her own face.

        But she hasn't quite realised it -- the way the scales have grown further out. Further down her spine. Her neck.

        And into the colour of her hair, whose roots have desaturated to a chalk-white, the regular ashen-blonde colour of her hair no longer as apparent.

        And yet... she doesn't care right now.

        She's still on that incredible high of sharing emotion with her, that age-old yet still mildly addictive empath's privilege of not being able to define where the boundaries of your feelings end. She's still relying on Noeline to be her eyes, as she kind of fumble-grasps for hold somewhere, anywhere.

        And she still needs to find her daughter.

        And find her she does...

        ... too late.

        Ivan... Talia... Ammy... Moms...

        Her expression starts to blank out as she whispers, "Lydia... Lydia--" she starts to reach for her. Her legs' functionality are nowhere to be seen right now.

        She's fumbling into the inner chamber AND SHE DOESN'T CARE.

        "What did..."

        Her eyes scan over to Krelian.

        Instinctively, something inside of her -- those thousand-hundred-thousand creeping crawling bugs race and pulsate and writhe and feel as if they could distend outwards.

        It's a rare intonation from Riesenlied.

        "What did you...."

        Her lips purse further as her eyes narrow.

        Lydia melts into a large pile of silver goo, and that anger crests a wave with fear and anxiety; and yet, she turns back in a single moment, to a humanoid form that is similar but not quite the same--

        "... Lydia..."

        She sees her silver skin. Her black armour. Her wings. Her medium.

        Her eyes lock in place at Krelian.

        She sees Loren; she sees 'Thomas'; she sees Tabitha, and she also sees--

        She sees her father's murderer.

        She sees the one who took her daughter.

        And Riesenlied is seeing red. The soft-spoken, mild Hyadean who has trouble getting upset at even the most cataclysmic and disastrous of events is angry.

        The frozen corpse of a girl inside of her head lifts her head up. "That's right. Because a love that won't get angry... you understand that by now, Nazgul."

        She ceases the nature of her questioning inquiry and switches to an imperative instead.

        "Give her back."

<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Delving into the affairs of other religions is always something Catenna does with trepidation. She had declined to come to the wedding reception out of a distaste for elements of Yevon's belief, but had come running at the appearance of Obsession. That, at least, she could confront with some level of comfort, if not confidence.

They had done better than expected. But something was missing from that. Someone.

A little star gleaming in the darkness, like a shard of precious metal.


The figure she's confronting isn't someone Catenna recognizes in the slightest; to her, Krelian's just some functionary. The sky people in general are distant in her understanding - obscure and dangerous, but known to her most closely through the bizarre circumstances surrounding Lydia's origin and their intervention in the attack on the Photosphere. Catenna presses her lips firmly together and squares her shoulders, taking a step back and resting a hand on the quills of one of her arrows, ready to draw.

As it happens, she's gotten there just in time. "What are you doing to her," she begins to say.

Lydia changes - painstakingly. The Moon Shaman's mouth opens a little before she snaps it closed. "Release her immediately!" she shouts towards Krelian as she whips the arrow out of its sheath - before Lydia disintegrates into a puddle of metallic goo.

The Moon Shaman's throat swells with a surge of sudden horror and shock. The arrow hangs in her hand, her fingers shaking around the fletching. She could hear the Star Shaman's words. The words of a girl as important to her as a little sister, if not in blood or substance, then in spirit and faith.

Horror shimmers in her eyes. Even speaking is hard right now.

Until the metal mass... reintegrates itself. A sick sensation begins to mount in Catenna's chest as colour drains from her cheeks. "Lydia," she whispers, her voice weighed down by an incredible ache of sadness and horror not at what Lydia has become, but at what she has been forced to leave behind.

Lydia entrusts herself to God. Catenna sets her teeth together and exhales through them.

"Whomever you are," she says, her voice a little louder as she draws up her reserve again - but it can't hide that sadness is giving way to a resolute anger, or that her gaze is shifting to Krelian. "Whatever you are doing to my sister...."

She doesn't finish the sentence. She just snaps her arm slightly and lets the tension go in a single, lightning-quick snap of retribution. There's a loud *TWANG* as the arrow rockets free of her bowstring and arches across the ruined chamber, plotting out a course...

...past Lydia. She's aiming to shoot Krelian square between the eyes. If an arrow could somehow carry spite and silent indignation, this one would drip with both.

GS: Catenna has attacked Grigori with Indignation Arrow!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

Months ago, the Photosphere was rocked by devastation, its people shaken by tragedy. In a single day, their world had been turned upside down. Their Holy Mother was revealed to be neither of those things, their home was lost to the depths of the sea, and the one who had long been their guiding light in hopeless dark was slain by invaders from distant skies.

The first of these can hardly be described as a 'problem' by any sane individual. The Mother was a parasite of planetary proportions. She had to die for the Hyadean people to live.

The latter two, though--


The first sign that someone meant to challenge the great Watcher of Solaris is a furious roar that rapidly begins dopplering up several octaves as it grows ever louder, ever closer, and ever angrier. An emerald flash appears down a nearby corridor, resolving rapidly into a rushing meteor of viridian flame and whirling, razor-sharp blade. "You--!!"


"You're the one!" Zed of Hyades snarls. "YOU'RE THE ONE! To have found you here, of all places! For what you did to Sieg, I'll hunt you to the ends of the earth! Whatever your plans for Filgaia might be, Hyades will crush every one of your ambitions!"

Flame billows in the wake of his furious blows. Each strike emitting blast after blast of blazing, jade fire! Infusing such a technique with the baleful light of demonkind may do disservice to its name and creator, but perhaps even a devil might seem a saint in comparison to Solaris' cruel angels.

GS: Zed has attacked Grigori with Saint Arts - Summer's Fervor!
GS: Zed has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

The others advance. Not all of them do - one in particular stops.
Ashton leans down to check on the most intact-looking of the fallen Odessa soldiers. He finds nothing - which makes him frown all the more. A curious emotion to show, given that those people are his enemy as well.
If you asked Ashton right now, though, he'd grumpily note that it seems like EVERYONE is his enemy lately. And as much as Ashton tries to keep positive about it, it's getting rather difficult.
And of course now Lydia's a horrific monster too.
Perhaps it's that the last few weeks have been an almost constant brawl against the Guard, but the Double Dragon Duelist just seems.. tired. Worn down.
Still armed, though.
As the others move in and position themselves, he does so as well - slipping along the side of things to get a better angle on the enemy's rear ranks. Blades in hand and at the ready. Grip shifting a little here, a little there. Eyes watching as the initial moves of the battle line up.
And those eyes keep going to Loren Voss, each sweep triggering a slight tension in Ashton's leg muscles. He stays tense, preparing. Ready to pounce.
He's been in enough fights to know: gank the healer first.

GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Ashton Anchors with Crescendo Stance!
GS: Ashton Anchors has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
GS: Ashton Anchors takes a solid hit from Ashton Anchors's Crescendo Stance for 0 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren used Defend! She takes Catenna's attack on Grigori on herself!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        The commotion has something for everyone to hear. There are no shortage of noises for anyone to become jumpy and guarded over, after all's said and done... but then, one of them still has it in them to ask of their friends a question that seems innocuous.
        'Do you hear that...?' Lydia asked of those back at the temple.
        In that instant, Ethius does not look nor act the part of a man who had just run a long stretch forward towards a cataclysmic battle, and back away from a wave. He looks the part of a man ready to do just that. (He should've been ready a short while ago, when he went and did that. The past doesn't wait forever, you know.)
        He breaks off into a brisk jog, stopping only every so often to cast a specific lower-yield electrical spell. A nearly opaque Spectral Lens - an odd eyeglass that has proven useful in his Drifting work - is painfully hot to the touch even with gloves on. Once more, he renews the enchantment upon it. This many uses of it is ill-advised, for he is now at the cusp of doing permanent damage by running it so hot.
        It is urgent enough to merit risk. Knowing Lydia's nature, if she is speaking of a curious sound while all else is going on, then...
        ...He does not arrive anywhere nearly fast enough. Without context, Ethius sees a connection between a strange man he may have only ever peripherally seen in the corner of his eye all of once, in passing, ever. If even that... and someone else.
        "...That was no isolated incident within the mines," Ethius remarks to himself. The usual scripted tone of voice gives way to something more breathy, as if a horror dawning. As if something that truly terrifies him as Krelian addresses his new audience.
        Ethius is not right-handed, but he tries to draw his weapon with the only free hand he has on instinct. Nothing yelled, nothing said in defiance. It is like him to just make a judgment on the spot and act - short-sighted and foolish as it is.
        "Ghh!" Ethius shields his eyes as the blue light turns blinding through the Lens, which stymies and subverts his desire to get in there and strike. Eyes water, left hand clasping about the burning, overworked lens as he has to shield his gaze and face for a time as the transference occurs.
        For a time, he finds himself back in the role he would normally assign himself by choice as his eyes recover from the temporary blinding - a member of the audience, of the unfolding drama of a motherly dragon and a furious High Priestess of the Moon of Filgaia.
        "...So Castle's own influence reached this far all along..." The odd man lowers his forearm from his face as he rises anew. Ethius has scarce ever been known to be anything but the first to decisively move to kill, but now... he seems stunned.
        As though something sucker punched him, and left him with a pain and ache that has yet to fully soak. Yet to allow his conscious thought and movement to seize back control.

GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Catenna's Indignation Arrow for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Not long before, as Lombardia shielded them all from Sin's attack and a tidal wave rose to encourage them toward the temple, Jacqueline and the others caught a glimpse of Lydia running in that direction. And so, they pursued.

Unfortunatately, they find themselves getting there a moment too late.

"L-Lydia! Lydia, wait for us!" Jacqueline calls to her. She arrives just as Lydia turns...and freezes in her tracks. She hears what Lydia says.

It sounds all too much like a goodbye.

"L-Lydia...wait, what're you saying? What are-" Jacqueline's voice is cut off as Lydia liquidizes. Jacqueline lets out a strangled gasp of fear, which only becomes all the worst as she changes form.

"What...? L-Lydia, what's going on...?" She stares, in disbelief, tears beginning to form at the corner of her eyes. She shakes her head. She doesn't understand...but, before she can say anything further, others emerge from the temple.

Including a familiar face, one interposed between herself, Lydia, and the others that are moving toward her.

"Mister Blackwell...? What're you-" She pauses as he speaks. That word.


This isn't the first time she's heard it. She makes the connection immediately.

"...You're with Gebler." She realizes with a gasp. Her expression darkens.

"...How long? How long have you been deceiving us...?" She asks, her voice a low whisper. She's shaking, with something between anguish and fury.

It's all too much.

First, Lunata falls into Lake Macalania, and she didn't even know if she or Shalune were alright.

Then...this happened to Lydia.

And now, someone she knows turns out to be working with the people responsible?

It's all too much.

She takes a deep breath, trying to center herself.

"...People don't take too well to people abducting their friends and claiming to know what's 'good' for them. I'll ask you, Mister Blackwell - stand down. I don't want to fight you. But I will, if you make me." She says, her voice uneven.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
DC: Lydia Seren switches forms to Project Baphomet OS Caution Level Yellow!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Leon Albus has, in the last few hours, had to ask himself a question:

'Am I, fundamentally, a good person?'

Like so many of Leon's personal crises, this a deeply private thing. He is not one to emote this through more than a furrowed brow or a wry, self-deprecating joke. A furrowed brow or a wry, self-deprecating joke is also how he emotes satisfaction with a meal, irritation with a late delivery, and frustration with a poor turn of events. It is something he keeps inside, compartmentalized until he can muddle through on his own -- or talk about it with those he knows best, perhaps.

As the Ley Dragon rides for the doors to the Temple, Leon stands up -- and he leaps off. He smashes into the ground, rolling a couple of times. He comes up, and looks about. He hears Riesenlied's cries; her fury, at what has transpired.

He contemplates, like feeling emotions through a fog, if he has that fury in him. Was he helping the Al Bhed for money? Or did he believe he was doing something more worthwhile? Has he, ever since the Photosphere, really stood for anything? And...

Was that survival, instead of justice? Is this? Is that why he shot Lunata?

Or, really, is it because he is as broken as the men who ruled his life?

It is exhausting, Leon decides. He stands up, cricking his neck. He is a gruesome sight: blood streaks down one cheek, his tattered white shirt shows more of his muscled frame than cover it, and his pants have so many holes that the left leg could be called shorts. His blonde hair is half-black with ash and soot from water.

Leon reaches down, drawing Diplomacy from it. He is exhausted, and suspects he may be empty, and doesn't respond to Lydia's transformation. He doesn't respond to his friends' screams. He responds, instead, to an old friend: burning anger. It's a warm comfort, on days when he thinks his soul is worn thin.

He sees Loren, and he knows him by sight; he knows the man who hurt and tortured Lily. He knows the man who tried to murder Elly. He looks at him with an anger that is uniquely his, and yet one that Loren has so little agency over.

"VOSS!" he screams, before he lifts the shotgun. He draws a bead and fires a blast, slug hurtling for the Gebler soldier. "Hell has a funny sense of humor, sending you to me!"

The round flies free; Leon flips the shotgun under his armpit, then uses his arm to cock the pump-action mechanism one-handed, before he draws out a sword that a friend took off a corpse. His eyes dart to Ashton -- and then to Jacqueline Barber.

"Yes," he mutters under his breath. "Hell has a funny sense of humor."

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Loren Voss with Shotgun Blast!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Tesni Inoue has posed.

Tesni Inoue had been with her comrades had managed to survive the battle with the sin spawn and push their way in. She has her arm out and the weapon is loaded, she's already set it to be ready for her more advanced rounds. She knew how serious it was to her. "We need to keep moving who knows what else might be lurking here? As she changes in she will see the horror of what happens she watches in horror at what happens to Lydia muttering

 "...grey goo."

 There is a real look of fear on Tess' face at this. The implications of what she has seen? Has hammered down on her like Gear.

 Her eyes narrow now and she speaks

 "God save us all from his madness."

 Tess sees Grigori arrive and looks them down at their words she levels her rifle at them.

 "You fly towards the sun with wings of wax."

 She levels the DEad Man's ARM and opens fire as Zed arrives on the scene.

 "Good to see you are alive Zed!"

 She'll aim to give him covering fire as he makes his move.

 She also sees he has a bitter axe to grind he's being serious that alone tells her how bad things are. She pulls the trigger now sending a number of shots at the one standing in her way. The revelation about Lydia has scared and shaken her on so many levels. A comrade had been an enemy all along? Was there more? She didn't know.

 "Out of my way."

GS: Tesni Inoue has attacked Grigori with Rapid Fire!
GS: Tesni Inoue has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

Into the temple. This is the bidding of Lombardia, who contends with Sin - and contends well. A miracle.

The interior of the temple is a chamber of horrors, but not overt ones. Taken as a photograph, why, it might almost be friendly. But it is the context of everything that comes together. Like a city with only a certain kind of face in it when once there were throngs. Like a cheerful piece of graffiti, still fresh, in a tomb sealed for a thousand years.

Elly misses much of the change that overcomes Lydia, debarking as she does from Riesenlied as the power of her draconic change fades. She helped prop Riesenlied up for a moment, but she pressed ahead then. The Reel Sphere packed away, a thing of brighter days than what is here. What Elly bears is instead a bronze-capped mahogany tri-section staff lashed together with thin mythril chains. She spent some money.

It won't be enough, of course, to address the issue.

Elly sees Lydia. Transfigured. Changed. She had nanotechnology inside of her but this transformation does not seem like the gelid and polymorphous motions of Emeralda. This feels like something made. Her breathing comes quickly as Lydia - or what was Lydia - speaks to them. Cheerful. Encouraging. Elly's face burns because the words have hope and cheer and she is saying or being made to say something about EMERALDA, Elly thinks, don't you DARE -

Her eyes rest on Krelian. Loren comes forth - which is a startle-shock, a flutter in Elly's heart - and a moment later, TABITHA, who seems as fresh as always but -- but she's standing with --

Elly makes a little noise that turns into a high keening and finally becomes an imploring scream:

"-WHY????-" The word is not in the common tongue, but it would not be hard to get the meaning, from context.

Especially when Elly continues, eyes spilling over. "What have you done to Lydia - Ah - ah!! How -" She seems to be addressing the entire Solarian force. Perhaps Krelian stands in front. Her lips tighten, her jaw trembles, and she tries to get something out of her mouth but six things are cramming in the back of her throat, pleas, demands, wails of betrayal, choked-back fury. She sways, almost about to slump down.

Elly's left hand comes up to touch at her brow. The Watcher comes. The Watcher, at least, clarifies matters.

"... this..."

"This planet... this isn't your field to tend," Elly finally breathes, not looking forwards. Others probably move ahead of hers. Elly can sense power flowing up among the Drifters. She can feel the tension, still, in the enemy forces.

For a fleeting moment she remembers when Lydia forgave her. Maybe, Elly thinks, if she hadn't -

- but she did -

- and now they are here -

There is Krelian, perhaps truly the man she had heard in rumor, there. He has done something dark to Lydia, who may be a monster now, and who seems to retain the blessing of the Guardian of Meteors. Loren is there, too. Loren loathes her, Elly knows with another sense of misery. And there is that shrouded figure.

But, Elly thinks, perhaps grasping for straws...

"Tabile," Elly addresses Tabitha. This is the kind of thing you call your grade school friends. She continues, raising her head to make herself stare at Tabitha and not think of Tabitha's Ether. "-I saved your life,-" she continues: "-Get out of here. Go wrestle a- chocobo -if you have to. I don't want to fight you.-"

But, presumably, she will.

Elly doesn't look away from the dread spectre of perky yet gravitic death, but she does speak to Emeralda. "Be careful," she tells her. "Be safe. Alright?"

Elly grips the staff tighter and tries to breathe steadily. I don't want to get killed in front of her, Elly thinks. Somehow that's scarier than the regular kind.

GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Tabitha deVriese with Power Word - Cutey Name!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Emeralda Kasim has posed.

Emeralda, being an easily bored youth, left the wedding before... well, the wedding, but also before the main event when everybody started fighting each other, to explore Macalania. She spent part of the battle separated from people she knew, but more or less safe - nobody knew she was hiding out, after all.

After meeting back up with Elly (among others), Emeralda had a dragon ride, which was neat, and a close encounter with Sin, Lombardia, and a giant gravity blast, which was much less neat. She had to stop riding pretty quickly when Riesenlied decided to be Riesenlied-sized again, though.

She is still moving with the rest of her group into the chamber, which means she's only a few steps behind Riesenlied. Close enough to hear her name; close enough to see what is happening.

The actual process doesn't disturb Emeralda as it disturbs other people. She's seen it before. She's *done* it before. That's not the part she is afraid of. But she looks right at her in worry. "Lydia!" she calls, her voice tight and strident.

And then her gaze shifts to Krelian. At first there is nothing. Emeralda doesn't know him. But then something shifts within her, just a little bit. A fragment of memory, more than a dream if not by much. She *recognizes* him. He spoke to her. He said things to her; some of which she can't remember, other words of which weren't in a language she even speaks. But the memory is clear enough.

She knows him after all. At one point, he owned her. Not like a person, then, but an ARM - like he's treating Lydia. He - he -

The details won't come. She does not remember what he did. But it's enough to drive home something that Emeralda tries to forget, most of the time: Emeralda is different.

Emeralda is, generally, a brave girl. Physical danger doesn't worry her. She is not afraid of bugs, or heights, or any of the other little phobias that many people have. But she recognizes Krelian, faintly, distantly. It makes something chill within her. And she understands, somehow, that he is the cause of what just happened to Lydia.

Emeralda lets out a wail when she sees Krelian give orders to Lydia after her unnatural transformation, and immediately tries to hide behind Elly, crouching down to make herself smaller. Something about what Krelian has done - can do - frightens her as very little else does, and it outweighs even her anger over Lydia's situation.

GS: CRITICAL! Loren Voss takes a solid hit from Leon Albus's Shotgun Blast for 136 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Dash Caskett has posed.

It was time to take Macalania back.

Their approach was cautious yet unyielding back to the temple, but someone has decided to disembark early to scout ahead. It seems more people had that idea as well. Sin is nowhere to be seen anymore thankfully. No telling what became of it, but now they stand a chance to lash back at Odessa, if they were still present.

Dash slides down an icy path, armed and ready. ARMS was kind enough to outfit him with new ammunition as well, obviously giving them a good amount of Zenny in exchange. (He refused to take it for free on principle.)

The blue bomber's helmet is slid over his wild hair, and the dark indigo mask comes out and clicks into place, so only emerald eyes remain. The Shield Arm is pre-emptively deployed on one arm, and the other's hand swpins, disassembles, and reveals the Mega Buster in the other. "Gonna make them pay this time, bunch of jerks...!" Normally Dash dislikes fighting very much, but for all the wrongs committed upon this place... he can make an exception.

On arrival, another party has taken the scene. Odessa corpses litter the ground. A ferocious force must have been required to take them down. There is little time to tell what is going on. SOmeone ahead of them impales themselves upon their own blade and reforms...? A confusing sight, though the way many react tells everything Dash needed to know about who they were. "That is horrific..." he says quietly.

he then gets a good look at the enemy.

Someone is temeporting in. At the sight of that magical tech, Krelian and his outfit... There is a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He has no stomach, but that feeling is all too real, and he knows not why.

The arena to fight in is cramped, and most seem to be going for the main targets, so he will turn his attention to someone with a vicious, similar weapon. Tabitha. He points the Mega Buster toward her. "Put down the weapon! You are outnumbered! I am sure you don't want to know what hot plasma feels like!" he barks.

Steely eyes attempt a staredown, though Dash is not particularly good at those, even with the mask and helm. They are just too darn friendly, even when angry.

<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        Exhilaration mixes with trepidation as Noeline sweeps through the air, carried forth by Riesenlied's wings; the tidal wave at their backs has subsided, but she didn't need Lombardia to tell her twice to look to the Temple and what awaits for them there. She can feel the intertwining mixture of Riesenlied's senses with hers; she can feel the pull of instinct at the back of her mind that says their daughter is waiting for them up ahead, and spurs her partner on without a word, pouring encouragement over their link.

        And she quietly registers that that same little voice tells her to keep a firm, tight grip on her sword, and hope they're not too late.

        She can feel the moment when Riesenlied's form starts to give way. It's difficult to leap clear and yet also be in position to catch her soulmate on the way down, especially with her senses still distorted and shared as they are; for a dizzying moment Noeline feels as if she's holding a gigantic dragon around the waist, and then the world resolves itself to something more understandable and fixed as the pair of them touch down, Riesenlied at her shoulder.

        "I've got you-- I've got you," she mumbles openly, trusting on her words to reach even if she's momentarily looking at herself rather than out of her own eyes, propelling both of them forwards on four legs where two of them don't work. There's a tiny spike of fear at the way that Riesenlied's mutations have advanced - trust Noeline to notice changes in Riese faster than the Hyadean herself - but it's swept away at the first sight of Lydia's presence, and her head snaps up.

        The sight that awaits her is one that makes her stomach lurch with fear and anger. She might be more used to Lydia's fluid nature than most people, but even before their daughter speaks in her new form, there's an undercurrent of danger to the way she carries herself. A certainty crawls at the back of Noeline's mind that this scene is all too familiar to her, all too similar to something she'd rather forget but could never let herself - to Elru, and to the desperate chase after Riesenlied. The telltale nature of a will subsumed and muted.

        Riesenlied's anger slams into her mind across their link - and feeds her own. A dangerous light glints in her eyes; her jaw sets as she feels a pinpoint of pain blossom behind them. She's not sure when she brought her sword out into the open, but it's there now as she slams it into the ground for emphasis - and to drag them both inexorably forwards towards their transformed daughter.

        "How dare you," she whispers fiercely towards Loren at his rebuke, her eyes narrowing with every step she drags the two of them forwards. "You are no better than Mother. Holding your head high as you spit on everyone you think is below you. Using others as you like. Yours must be a lonely, lonely life," she whispers. Part of her hates herself for saying this much, for still somehow being measured enough to do so even under the weight of Riesenlied's fury.

        So she lets it overtake her instead, feeling the rush of it propel her forwards alongside her partner. "We are taking her back."

GS: Noeline spends 1 Combo on Reload!
GS: Noeline has attacked Riesenlied with When I'm With You...!
GS: Noeline has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Noeline's When I'm With You... for 0 hit points!
GS: Shield! applied to Riesenlied!
GS: Reload! Riesenlied gains 15 extra FP from Noeline!
GS: Riesenlied spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Noeline with I don't have to be Afraid...!
GS: Riesenlied has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Riesenlied has launched an attack Link!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Riesenlied with Let's See a New World Together!
GS: Riesenlied has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied heals Noeline! She gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Shield! applied to Noeline!
GS: Riesenlied heals Riesenlied! She gains 125 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        The Guts-Dozer is elsewhere, advancing deeper into the Temple. Ida is nowhere near healed, but duty--and survival--demand she stay in the fight. Priority one is assessing casualties, finding other Drifters and ensuring that everyone regroups.


        Ida steps into the ruined banquet hall, her blood-stained Arctican mantle cloaking her form and hiding the myriad wounds she's sustained. Her hair is half-bound, and her face is bruised and splattered with blood. "Lydia, thank God you're--"

        and then Ida notices the man she's speaking to, and stops cold. Dread seizes her guts with both hands and twists them into horrible, icy knots. Ida steps forwards. Her gaze falls upon the memory-crystal, and before she realizes what's happening, the armor around her right hand twists, sharpening into talons. Her left hand follows a moment later.

        Krelian speaks.

        'Your life isn't your own. Someone else -- someone stronger -- defined that life for you. Hate me, if you wish... but your hatred would be better directed at the God that made a world like this.'

        It all happens so fast, and yet it feels like it takes forever.

        "Lydia." Ida's voice is raw. No, she thinks. No, no, this can't be. But yet--did she honestly think she'd survive all this without losing something? Without losing someone dear to her? Anger floods her. She fumbles for words, but there is nothing she can say.

        Ida watches, helplessly, as her dear friend dissolves. The warning signs were there all this time. She could do nothing about them. Even if she knew, she was too weak to stop the man who engineered this.

        Too weak.

        "Justify yourself to God in hell." Ida's right hand twists--gleaming metal extrudes from her flesh, forming a bladed edge around the limb. She surges forwards, driving the blade straight for Krelian's ribcage. She's blindingly fast, but Grigori has already appeared by the time she's in motion.

        Somehow, it's highly unlikely Ida will let that stop her.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Grigori with Phantoms...?!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
GS: Grigori guards a hit from Tesni Inoue's Rapid Fire for 54 hit points!
GS: Grigori guards a hit from Zed's Saint Arts - Summer's Fervor for 84 hit points!
GS: Zed assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: Grigori critically Guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Phantoms...? for 0 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Why did Lydia run so far ahead? Ivan was just a few paces behind her, and then she shot ahead, and he fell behind. Unknowingly, he loses Talia -- the three of them were fleeing the tidal wave together -- in his rush to catch up with her.

He finally makes it into the chamber where she stands with an unfamiliar man. Ivan feels a chill of dread as he runs toward them. There was someone she was trying to get away from at the party. The one behind what happened to her.

 Any doubt in his mind at the man's identity evaporates as he hears the conversation between them, already in progress...

 I was never really free. My eyes were always your eyes

 "Lydia--!" he calls.

 She tells him she was happy. She tells him -- she tries to tell him -- that she was the knife all along. Her words sound too final. Everything a different way of trying to make the best of an ending. He isn't close enough to stop it. As if closeness could have made a difference. But it feels as if he could -- if he had been just a little bit faster, reached out and touched her -- he could have somehow stopped her from

% and melting

 right in front of his eyes. She was always so afraid to become a puddle...

 He holds his breath in fear, waiting. It wasn't so long ago that Lydia took a bullet to the head. Had her neck snapped. Had her skin burned away to ash. So many things have happened to Lydia, and somehow she's always come back.

But when she finally comes back -- ... it isn't right.

 Hello world! Thank you for teaching us.

 This is different, isn't it? Like an injury that heals with a scar and can't come back the way it was anymore -- something has... overwritten her.


 "Who are you?!" he asks this new Lydia. "Why are you different?! Where is Lydia?! What's happening?!"

 Enemies assemble -- he doesn't even know what everyone is fighting about. What reason Lydia was stolen from herself and replaced with someone else to fight for them.


Fire pours from his hands, and he tries to launch himself past Lydia, toward Krelian. Once airborne, he calls a longsword into his hands with a flash of his ring, cleaving it down.

GS: Ivan has attacked Lydia Seren with Rocket Boosters!
GS: Ivan has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ivan has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Perhaps it was a fool's errand to once again try to take on Sin, but that didn't stop Xantia from trying. Ultimately saved from annihilation by Lombardia, she was among the many others who needed the Metal Dragon's request to seek shelter back at the temple. Little did she know that, rather than shelter, another crisis would await.

Having been seperated from most of the Wolves, she is at first happy to see that some of them are here. But her cheerful smile doesn't last long, the greeting she had intended stuck in her throat as she sees Lydia. For only a brief moment, just in time to hear the words 'Suspending Lydia Program'. The words feel heavy with finality, hitting her like a ton of bricks. Far too many things suddenly click in her mind.


Xantia can't manage any more words than that. Her head feels like it's about to burst. But it's Lydia's that actually does. She watches in horror as the familiar form of her friend simply... falls apart. Words previously spoken by Lydia echo in her mind.

"I totally saw Emeralda turn into a puddle and I don't want to be a puddle okay!?"

That would never happen. Xantia reassured her that it wouldn't happen. But it happened anyway, didn't it? Just being reminded of that is mentally devastating. While Lydia reforms into... something else afterwards, Xantia wraps her arms around herself, shaking uncontrollably. She can't even identify the way she's feeling right now.

She looks up, as the new entity speaks her name. Realizing instantly what the words mean - that what she did to save Lydia will be used for an entirely purpose. A purpose serving...


Venom drips from the word that Xantia spits in Krelian's direction, perfectly aware now of who to blame for all this. The bracer on her ARM generates its familiar energy blade, which is pointed in the Solarian's direction. Oddly for her, she doesn't follow this up with an actual attack. But a dangerous red glare does burst forth from her body, Ether flowing free as she seethes with rage.

"I will never forgive you. Any of you. Whatever you want, whatever you try to do from here, I will not let you get away with it. Mark my words..."

And those final words are especially notable... for being Solarian.

"<You will never succeed.>"

GS: Xantia has attacked Xantia with Raging Ether!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Xantia's Raging Ether for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Xantia!
GS: Hyper! applied to Xantia!
GS: Lydia Seren critically Guards a hit from Ivan's Rocket Boosters for 28 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        It's pretty difficult to come down after a close encounter with Sin. Just her, Zed, Yue, and Lombardia, facing off against that giant

        "-Lydia?! Whoahwhoahwhoah, Lydia, what's goin' on?!"

        Krelian succeeds in doing just that, if Gwen's reaction is any indication, coming not too far behind Zed's more dramatic response. Stumbling to a stop not too far away from where many have collected, Gwen presses her left hand to her mouth.

        Maybe it would have been better if Lydia had stayed inside that Baskar village.

        Citan may have warned her, but how did that help Lydia, if she held back?


        "I have to take responsibility for this." People rush forward or stand, either reacting, processing, pleading, or a complex mix. Gwen, just standing there, closes her eyes.

        She embraces it.

        The Mockingbird ARM gears up with an audible crackling of energy, a visible spiderweb of glowing light tracing a route through the redhead's nervous system.

        Like Elly, Gwen turns her head towards the two, gold lines beginning to dance up the nerves of her neck. "Loren, Tabitha. I'm givin' you this one warning, because you've both helped me in the past. I'm going all out. If you wanna stay, I'll respect it by comin' at you-" A gasp and a grimace as the gold reaches her cheeks- "-at full force. Stand back, n' get away, and... you'll be fine. I think." She gives a short laugh. "I've only done this once... before. So I kinda don't know what's gonna happen."

        Pyrite gold infuses the iris of one eye, continuing with its migration to the left. "This is... the best I can do. Sorry at bein'... the one who led you astray, Lydia."

        At some point, Gwen's gaze seems to look through the entire lot of those in front of her, seeing them as one.

        "... My objective," she breathes, "is to resolve this. I will... resolve it."

        The transition, that painful, glorious transition, is complete.

        And the courier's heart sings with invisible wings.

DC: Gwen Whitlock switches forms to Chrysopoeia!
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.


The horrific monster turns to the party. It seems to look towards Ashton with some curiousity before focusing on Catenna who launches an arrow at Master Krelian! Better stop that. Lydia tilts her head and Catenna gets a good look of the arrow sinking into Lydia's face and slowly pushing through her head and out the other end, whereupon it clatters to the ground. The face restores itself to its previous state afterwards.

"We learned from you as well, sister, about sisterhood. Kaguya as well had a great deal to teach us on the subject. As has Janey and Mikaia... Thank you."

She darts forward suddenly, arm turning into a blade as she swings it for Catenna's body in a smooth motion without any of the tension typically involved in a human body.

She looks to Elly for a long moment before the head turns further to gaze at Emeralda.

"Thank you for teaching us. We can exist as ourselves. We can have our own mouth and grow and learn. But please, Emeralda. Lydia is simply a program, a will within the confines of our photonic positronic neural structure. We do not have a name yet... Hm. Call us OS for now, if you would."

OS does not attack Emeralda, instead turning to face Riesenlied and Noeline. Her eyes for what they are focus and she works on establishing a targeting solution. She is patient. She makes a call.

"Evaluation Complete. Caution Level Yellow should be sufficient. Thank you mothers, for teaching us who we should be. Do not worry, if the Lydia protocols please you, then you will appreciate that they are simply suspended rather than removed from the system. She is family as well, after all, and we will ensure her true desires manifest. But for now, our orders are clear."

She swings a single arm and sends a spray of silver fluid splashing in large quantities towards Noeline and Riesenlied. It will attempt to cling to their bodies and burn through their bodies.

"We love you mother. We promise our integration will proceed more smoothly than your own has."

Ivan rushes forward to strike at Krelian but Lydia steps in the way again, throwing herself back to catch the blade, this time with her own arm that remains a long shining blade--then oozes through Ivan's sword, slowing its own momentum but keeping up its own as it strikes for Ivan's forehead.

"We are not Lydia. When her will was transplanted across our neural structure we were added to ensure she would not ultimately move against Solarian interests. You could say we are her sisters. Her twins." OS is happy to explain. "Ahhh...we love you so much. And a blade shows its love by striking passionately."

She advances forward towards Xantia.

"They have succeeded already. All that is left is time." OS asks before turning into a mishapen cloud of silver that passes through her body and out the other end. It's a distinctly unpleasant sensation.

She does not strike at Gwen immediately either, quirking her head as she examines her own transformation.

"You chastize yourself needlessly. All of Lydia's happiness is because you 'led her astray'. Ours as well. We can dream of a world greater than our own thanks to you, Gwen."

She does not strike Gwen. Yet.

GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Lydia Seren with Hello world!!
GS: Lydia Seren takes a solid hit from Lydia Seren's Hello world! for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper and Surge! applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Riesenlied with Basileus Philosophorum Metaloricum!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Noeline with Basileus Philosophorum Metaloricum!
GS: Riesenlied critically Guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Basileus Philosophorum Metaloricum for 30 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren enters a Counter stance!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Catenna with Efficient Bladeworks!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Ivan with Hands Not Fit For Holding!
GS: Lydia Seren has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Xantia with Glittering Cloud!
GS: Catenna takes a solid hit from Lydia Seren's Efficient Bladeworks for 118 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren has completed her action.
GS: Noeline critically Guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Basileus Philosophorum Metaloricum for 32 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Grigori has posed.

The Watcher is impassive, as people speak to the group assembled. She has no face visible to imagine emotion or reaction, as she sees Riesenlied, mild turning to show true anger.

Grigori turns her head towards Zed as he roars. At first, it seems that she will not move at all. The gleaming indigo blade of her ARM sword hums in menace. And the emerald flash comes--

Zed slams down his furious blows, blazing jade fire crashing against blue light. Each is met, each strike finding a twin in her own blade, but the sheer force of his strikes forces the Watcher to take steps back in the blocking, the baleful light of demonkind surging towards her even so.

"You need not hunt," the Watcher answers. "I do not fear vengeance for what is necessary. And you, Hyadean, are as obsolete as your Commander.

Tesni's rifle shot slams straight into the Watcher's chest at center mass. She doesn't move. Her tabard gains a hole, where the remnants of the bullet destroy parts of the fabric to reveal black metal beneath. "I fly where I must to do what is necessary. I seek not glory, speaker for Icarus."

From here she allows an aside. "-Van Houten. How good to see you alive.-" The Watcher doe snot address her statement, however--instead, as Ida's impossibly fast charge moves towards Krelian and past the Watcher--

Grigori's fist rises from her weaponand slams into Ida's throat before she can bring the blade through Krelian. Her casual brutality is followed up with a shove back from her blade at Zed and his terrible sword. More shots come; they impact, dent armor... and then one crashes against her forearm, and her armor splits. Sparks fly from what is revealed as a completely mechanical arm by the electric output it gives, the sight of chrome beneath clothing. Here, the Watcher lifts her free hand, staring towards Tesni Inoue. "One who seeks only the past has no place in the future." Ether suddenly wreathes her hand, invisible, and there is a burst of power--as the air and water both about Tesni's head and throat compress unseen, silent; it is nothing less than as if Grigori has reached out to call upon the very air itself to choke the life from Tesni for a long moment. She cannot spare the time to look at Xantia in her declaration--but she says it to her and Zed both, "And I seek not forgiveness from the mortal realm."

While Ida presumably recovers, Grigori rounds on Zed, and delivers a flurry of blows herself--but this is not speedy, skillful sets of strikes. Each one has the force of a gigantic hammer, battering as if her sword was a blunt object towards his guard, seeking to slam him straight into the ground. "Your friendship with Death, Zed of Hyades, should serve you will in the time to come."

Lightning crackles then, from her hand, as she lifts it once more from her two-handed blade grip--and it shoots towards Ida in forking spears of power. "Ida Everstead-Rey. Will you show once more the darkness that grips your heart?"

GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Lydia Seren's Glittering Cloud for 73 hit points!
GS: Cover and Riposte! applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: Lydia Seren's  stance ends. She enters the Stoic stance!
GS: Grigori spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Grigori has attacked Tesni Inoue with Faithless Grasp!
GS: Grigori has attacked Zed with Hammerblow!
GS: Grigori has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Grigori has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Anemo Rush!
GS: Grigori has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Krelian has posed.

Krelian stands, calmly, as his allies come.

He does not express surprise. He merely nods, a little, at the message he receives regarding Tabitha. He looks at them -- but only to confirm that, in this world that is his, all is as expected.

"DeVriese," he says. "...Proceed."

His arms fold, then, and he waits for a moment. The fury of the Drifters comes, and it slams into him like waves on the breakers; it bounces off, and his emotions are coolly -- and cruelly -- unaffected.

Krelian looks up, slowly. His blonde hair hangs perfectly about his face. When a shockwave blast from Ida's impact with Grigori blows into him, it ripples only his Yevonite vestaments but not his hair. Light from outside gleams in his eye.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1yp8LYvCVk

"She was never yours," he says, looking between Noeline and Riesenlied alike. "Nothing on this world is yours, alien filth. I will not justify myself to a creature born of a damned star."

His eyes drift. To the attacks aimed for him -- the attacks that Grigori intercepts. He looks at Ida, for a moment, and then he laughs. He doesn't explain why he found what she said funny. "No," he tells Ida. "No, I don't think I will."

Then, he looks at Ivan. And, for a moment, there is a sympathetic look on his face. There is, however, not an edge of panic in seeing someone fly for him with a fiery blade. His expression that isn't, perhaps, regretful... but there is a sorrow nonetheless. "We think that we lose the people we love. But the truth is... in this world, that's all a lie. We never had them."

Krelian's clear, deep blue eyes look for a moment at Elly. A passing glance, and then he looks to Xantia. The smile comes back, then. Calm, in control, and without malice. "We of Solaris do not require your forgiveness. How wrong you are truly astounds me... for we have always succeeded. And we always will. To succeed, when all others fail, is the core of our nature."

Then, he firmly orders: "Initiate transference, phase two. Watcher, I leave this in your capable hands."

Concentric rings of blue light appear around Krelian. The trio of them rotate -- and then in flashes of Elw ruins, Krelian vanishes.

Outside, there is a roaring crack-boom. But the battle in the Temple leaves no time to find out what.

GS: Zed takes a glancing hit from Grigori's Hammerblow for 80 hit points!
GS: Ivan completely evades a hit from Lydia Seren's Hands Not Fit For Holding!
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

        His gaze turns as the figure begins to coalesce into being, crossing an impossible distance to be here, right now. Shock -- the shock of familiarity -- crosses the young medic's face. Only for it to vanish. Now, of all times...

        His grip tightens on the hilt of his blade. He has a job to do.

        His gaze tracks those there before them -- so many have made it to the temple, perhaps in search of Odessa, perhaps in search of those left behind. Instead, they're just in time for this. Being seen like this -- by some of them, those he's used before -- is going to make his life difficult in the future. But so be it. He can already mark them. Ashton. Gwen. Jacqueline.

        Jacqueline, who in particular, seems to be pained by this revelation. "Yeah," he says after a moment's consideration of her. I am." There's a pause as he considers the length of time he's spent on this charade. "Years. You're the one who didn't notice, didn't think to question other people or their motives," he says, shaking his head. "So go blame yourself or god."

        He lifts his chin, regarding her in full now. "'Stand down'? Are you even listening to what you're saying? The Lamb doesn't get to tell the Shepherd how things ought to go!"

        Gwen says she'll respect them by going all out. "Tch. Spare me," he replies to that, closing his eyes briefly as if overburdened by a headache. "If you want to do me a favor, then get out of my way."

        Noeline -- that woman, Riesenlied's, compatriot or similar, responds to his remark. Comments of all things that he -- and the others, perhaps -- must have a lonely life.
        "Shut up," is his only reply, his expression twisting in a muted irritation. "You think you're so clever, demon."

        His gaze finds Elly soon after that screams, after that plea to Tabitha, and there his weary expression gains another layer to it.

        His hand is white-knuckled on the sword. Just give him the opportunity to do it, and he will--
        ...The opportunity is now, isn't it.
        Damn the orders. He's doing it now.
        He starts to step forward, one booted foot at a time, approaching Elly as she speaks to Tabitha, sword in hand.

        It's into this moment that Leon enters the scene. Loren's attention snaps his way--

        As Leon unloads right into him. The impact slams him into the wall, which cracks and splinters under the hammerstrike of his body. Slowly, Loren touches a hand to his chest, which comes away soaked in his own blood. His gaze is for a moment distant. Then green light crawls over his body, splitting outwards into an ever-more-intricate fractal form. The wound knits. He rises after a few moments more, stooping only to collect his fallen sword. "Status is acceptable," he reports to his colleagues. Reaching into his pocket he collects one of the items he'd taken from his kit, one of his last vials of Rosesol. "Nothing to worry about." He downs it.

        And then he breathes out, forcing himself to focus. Now, of all times, he wants his glasses. But there's little else for it. A mixture of the essence of earth and water -- earth's endurance, water's flow -- forms up around the Grigori in a spiraling rise before spraying and fading. About Tabitha, he weaves a network of empowering water Ether and permits it sink into her. Two different workings, two different effects.

        And a third, as he singles out a few targets in the room. Loren's gaze is fleetingly distant. He exhales.

        Ab nihilo, a shot of sparkling water forms and descends. In series, as sharp as any blade from metal forged: two for his former 'allies', and one for Leon.

        They never have seen eye to eye.

        His own heart is pounding in his chest. He barely notices it when Krelian takes his leave.

        He already knows what he's going to have to do, or he'll let her down.

GS: Loren Voss has attacked Grigori with Guardian Factor!
GS: Loren Voss has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Tabitha deVriese with Sigma Factor!
GS: Loren Voss has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Ashton Anchors with Aqua Sequence!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Aqua Sequence!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Leon Albus with Aqua Sequence!
GS: Loren Voss has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Loren Voss has completed his action.
GS: Jacqueline Barber guards a hit from Loren Voss's Aqua Sequence for 52 hit points!
GS: Grigori takes a solid hit from Loren Voss's Guardian Factor for 0 hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! applied to Grigori!
GS: Ashton Anchors critically Guards a hit from Loren Voss's Aqua Sequence for 20 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Grigori's Anemo Rush for 165 hit points!
GS: Leon Albus takes a solid hit from Loren Voss's Aqua Sequence for 98 hit points!
GS: Tesni Inoue guards a hit from Grigori's Faithless Grasp for 45 hit points!
GS: Entangle! applied to Tesni Inoue!
<Pose Tracker> Tabitha deVriese has posed.

Tabitha chuckles, a low and throaty sound, at Dash's declaration. "Oh, my, what a thrilling young man," she says, with a self-amused slant to her eyes. "You see, the thing is," and she waves her arm a bit to demonstrate the gauntlet at the end of it. "I can't put it down. It was cruelly taken from me by a hurtful little Lamb~"

And her smile perhaps stiffens, just a little, as her eyes narrow to slivers at the rest of Dash's threat. "As to plasmas...you'll find I'm something of an expert, dear."

Her Ether is rising, something inside her beginning to overrun its confines. The air behind her seems to distort, flex in ways air and light do not allow. Elly screams at them all, and Tabitha does not look at her eyes when she does it.

But the utterance of her name changes that, and she flicks her eyes up toward Elly, as she plays a card she has long held. "Elly," Tabitha replies, quietly, and she doesn't notice her free hand slowly balling until the arm shakes. "-You escaped, I guess. But...-"

Her gaze drifts away as, like bulkheads lifting inside her, her power seems to rise by LEAPS. Dust begins to lift around her. Distinct dimples in the air appear.

        'Proceed,' Krelian says, and her arm immediately chimes at her, and rumbles in Solarian. A message appears on its surface, echoing the words.


        BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCUe7UyA_Ec

Tabitha draws in a deep breath, her whole spine and body tensing as Ether bubbles out and through and around her. The air whirls and crackles, the space behind her dimples and rebounds. She breathes, "-Nobody escapes,- Elly."

From one of those thumping ripples in space, an object appears; it's like a hand, robotic maybe, but too large by twice to fit on a person. Its fingers are jointed blocks, and in its center, an emblem like an eye. Tabitha opens her eyes and the hand flexes to life, surging forward and around her while Tabitha begins stepping forward. A bead of light gathering in its palm and then firing off toward Elly. At the same time, Tabitha's eyes lock to Emeralda and then to Dash, and she sweeps with her remaining hand; both find themselves suddenly falling backwards, like the far walls had become down, pulling them in for hard impacts.

"Nobody escapes," Tabitha repeats.

DC: Tabitha deVriese switches forms to Tabitha Unshackled!
GS: Tabitha deVriese guards a hit from Elhaym van Houten's Power Word - Cutey Name for 0 hit points!
GS: Tabitha deVriese takes a solid hit from Loren Voss's Sigma Factor for 0 hit points!
GS: Burst and Surge! applied to Tabitha deVriese!
GS: Tabitha deVriese has attacked Elhaym van Houten with The Glorious Hand of God!
GS: Tabitha deVriese has attacked Dash Caskett with Cast Out!
GS: Tabitha deVriese has attacked Emeralda Kasim with Cast Out!
GS: Elhaym van Houten critically Guards a hit from Tabitha deVriese's The Glorious Hand of God for 32 hit points!
GS: Tabitha deVriese has attacked Tabitha deVriese with Ether Surge!
GS: Tabitha deVriese has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Tabitha deVriese has completed her action.
GS: Tabitha deVriese takes a solid hit from Tabitha deVriese's Ether Surge for 0 hit points!
GS:  Restore reduces negative status durations by 3 rounds each!
GS: Hyper! applied to Tabitha deVriese!
GS: Dash Caskett takes a glancing hit from Tabitha deVriese's Cast Out for 0 hit points!
GS: Cripple! applied to Dash Caskett!
GS: Emeralda Kasim guards a hit from Tabitha deVriese's Cast Out for 0 hit points!
GS: Cripple! applied to Emeralda Kasim!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Leon watches as the injury that he cut into Loren Voss begins to knit together. "Oh, come off it, Voss," Leon says. "Do you know what the Kislevi field manual recommended, for getting rid of you Gebler pests?"

His walk becomes a run. Krelian vanishes with a flash of blue light; of flickering blue Elw runes and energy, that then crackles away, before bluer still water slams into his ruined shirt and cuts into his skin. Blood wells up from two lacerations; the garment can scarcely be ruined more. The holster at his side isn't, though. He slides the Al Bhed-made shotgun into it.

Then, he grips his sword with both hands, and charges. Leon leaps -- jumping over the broken remains of a wooden table -- and chi ignites around his blade, as he swings it back. The Crusader long sword shines, a deep crimson red, before he cleaves the sword straight down for the top of Loren's head.

"A DOUBLE TAP, YOU BLOODY SHIT!" Leon screams, face reddening with a suddenly unleashed rage -- and the truth is, it feels good to let all of that anger out.

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Loren Voss with Riot Crash!
GS: Leon Albus has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

He was ready for it.
Ashton knew an attack was coming - if not now, then in a few moments when he initiated his own at Loren.
Green ink glows as Ashton summons up sorcerous wind - an air blade leaps from the tip of his left sword into the sky. Sorcery meets Ether, and the razor-thin sheet of wind splits the diving shot of water. Each half slams into the ground on either side of the swordsman.
So the battle is joined.
"No going to Hell yet," he quips aloud. "Not for you, Black Wolf. You need to get some other folks there ahead of you right now." And - despite that it's only been a few hours since the Wolves and ARMS clashed agaisnt each other on the icy surface of the lake? Ashton gives a grin and a wink to the other mercenary.
And then he's forward in a burst of wind, flexing magical muscles to close the gap and get around the mess that is Everything About Lydia Right Now. In his hands, the twin hooked blades burst, wreathing themselves in flame. At the last moment the Symbological Swordsman dives into a knee-slide, bringing himself and his weapons across Loren's back at waist level. He has to stay out of Leon's way, after all.

GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Loren Voss with Doubledemon Sword!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Emeralda Kasim has posed.


Emeralda doesn't have all the words she would like to use in this situation. She peeks around Elly at Lydia, worried for her too - it's not often Elly yelsl like that. After a few moments, she carefully, uncertainly takes a step away, so she's clearly visible again. It takes courage to do that with Krelian there. It's easier once he's gone. He didn't even seem to notice her.

She's not sure whether that is bad or good. But it's something she doesn't need to think about right now.

"But... but Lydia is a person. I talked to her! She talked to me! You can't reformat like that! You..." You'll forget everything, a treacherous part of Emeralda thinks, her mind working in unaccustomed ways. But I did. I forgot everything but the dreams.

Maybe Lydia is her dreams.

Emeralda falls silent. But there is one thing she's sure of: "And if you were good," she says, sounding very serious for a moment, "you wouldn't hurt the people you love. You didn't learn that. But you should. Don't hurt them! Don't - ...!"

Emeralda realizes, then, that she is sliding.

Tabitha's Ether works very well on Emeralda for the very simple reason that she is denser than a human would be, and shifting the gravity means that all that weight is going in the 'wrong' direction. The only reason she doesn't fly straight at the far wall is because, reflexively, she dug in; her feet flattened slightly, forming spikes that drill into the ground with a squealing metal-on-stone sound.

It still means that Emeralda is holding her entire weight by her legs, which are stretching slightly, like taffy. Emeralda swings her body forward until she has her hands on the floor too and begins to 'climb' forward, appearing to crawl across the ground. "Leave Elly alone! *You* can't hurt her either! I won't let Solaris hurt anybody else! I won't let you!"

Emeralda charges Tabitha, 'crawling' across the ground. All her limbs are occupied with hanging onto the floor, but it doesn't seem to matter; her scarf lifts up, crossing over itself once about a third of the way down its length from her neck, the two extended segments stiffening as the joint merges together -

Emeralda's scarf becomes a giant pair of shears, complete with looped finger-guards. Her hair stretches, shaping into something like a three-fingered green hand, closing the shears and trying to snap off Tabitha's artificial hand with the gigantic cutter. "Nobody! Else!!"

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Others have come for Lydia.

        It should enhearten her. Because at her best, she knows Lydia is never alone, even if she -- they -- are not there. Because she has Catenna and Jacqueline and Ethius and the others in the Caravan Kinship. Because she has Ivan, who she addresses directly.

        This isn't her best.

        This is far from her best.

        Ethius mentions Castle. She doesn't know who that is. Catenna looses an arrow in Krelian's direction and speaks for her anger, but it is for naught. She hears Zed's indignant cry to Grigori. Good, she quietly thinks. There's so much to be angry about. A love that won't get angry... may be a weak love, but what is a love that is overwhelmed by anger?

        She doesn't know.

        Is she losing herself to hatred right now?

        She's reeled back by the scant moment of Noeline's own worries for her. Because she promise she wouldn't overdo it. Because she will not overdo it.

        I've got you...

        She rides high on that emotion. She lets the cascading haze of energy return to her as it swelters over her once more, shielding both her and her beloved in the form of a powerful, shield-like veil.

        "Feel it! Do not shy away from it. That anger is very much your own. Not a feeling projected upon you by anyone, friend or foe..." speaks the seated dead girl within her.


        That is the name she -- they? -- give herself, themselves.

        Thank you mothers, for teaching us who we should be.

        "... ..."

        Is this what it was like? Back at the base of the Photosphere, in the Gutter? When she was lost to Alhazred's mad programming? What did Lydia have to go through, when she dove into her heart?

        She grimaces further, as she holds her arms up--

        The Medium of Life flashes as a small shield warbles into existence; silver fluid splashes against her and chews through it, and burns against her capelet too. She's grimacing.

        If the Lydia protocols please you, you will appreciate that they are simply suspended...

        Riesenlied's expression falls further.

        We promise our integration will proceed more smoothly than your own has.


        She looks shocked at that.

        "I was a testbed? A prototype?" Riesenlied questions dryly, in disbelief. "Everything that happened in the Gutter was a test for this?"

        The shock wretches her deeper as she casts her look towards Krelian in turn. The thousand insects chittering, withering inside of her.

        She was never yours, alien filth. Nothing on this world is yours. I will not justify myself to a create born of a damned star.

        "... Alhazred saw something common in you ..."

        "What will you do now? What will you feel now? You are your own person!" The girl that sits upon the frozen chair, foregrounding the broken ankh of the Fereshte.)] "... so remember that well and live, Nazgul."

        Your life was never your own.

        There is a long moment of silence. She looks excruciated and rattled... she's grappling for words right now, as she looks to Lydia.

        At OS.

        "OS... a sister. A twin...?" A pause. "Were you... always there, inside of Lydia?"

        She seizes further up, but she knows a battle is happening right now. That people need assistance. She can't forget her promise.

        "Catenna..." she whispers, when OS turns a blade upon her.

        She channels power into her focus -- as blood trickles down from her neckline, as the quiet blue eruption of the Ley flows through her body...

        I'm struggling, Nasrin... I don't know what to feel...

        ... and it transforms into cascading healing. Traditional healing, as shaped and powered by Odoryuk the Life Guardian.

GS: Emeralda Kasim has attacked Tabitha deVriese with Great Clipper!
GS: Emeralda Kasim has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Catenna with Ley Channeling - Border of Life!
GS: Riesenlied has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied heals Catenna! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Years, he says. There's another sharp intake of breath at that. She feels embarrassed for a moment like she's been scolded, her cheeks burning hot for a moment, but it soon turns to anger.

"...You don't get to pretend like you didn't have any blame in this, Blackwell." Jacqueline breathes out, seething. "Or is it Voss? What even is your name? If you'll deign to tell it to a, what was your word? A 'Lamb'? A 'Lamb' like me?"

"I wanted to trust you. I did trust you! Was I supposed to just intrinsically assume that you were misleading us?" She asks. And then she pauses as he continues.

"...You're a Shepherd now?" She says, with a dry, mocking laugh. It's the only thing she can do to keep the anger under control, the emotion that has been so far up to this point unfamiliar to her. It's...surprisingly difficult to keep under control. "...And what, pray tell, gives you that right? What gives you the right..."

She points toward Lydia, then, for emphasis.

"To steal a girl's mind, her very self-control?" She says. "Look at what you've done! And don't you dare turn your eyes away!"

And then, Loren invokes watery magic. Jacqueline backpedals, gesturing with her left hand. A column of earth rises up to block it, but the shot of water still manages to pierce through. Though some of it was absorbed by the earth, the rest continues on to Jacqueline herself, sending her recoiling back.

"...Fine." She says. She looks around, seeing who else is here...and, for a brief moment, her eyes lock onto Leon. She spots, too, his current injured state.

She still hasn't forgotten the events at the door to Macalania Temple's Cloister of Trials, where Lunata stood guard.

She still hasn't forgotten the way Leon shot at her. She still hasn't forgiven it - it's clear by the way she looks at him.

It's with some reluctance that she reaches into her bag, drawing out a bottle of blue liquid.

"...Here." She says, her tone a little short.

By contrast, there's no reluctance in the way she tosses Ashton a bottle of the same potion.

"...Please make good use of it, Mister Anchors...we'll need all the strength we can get..."

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Leon Albus with Distribution Theory!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Ashton Anchors with Distribution Theory!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Jacqueline Barber heals Ashton Anchors! He gains 100 temporary hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Just like that, violence erupts. One detail is easy to gloss over - Ethius seems to disappear in all the declarations and shows of power. For a man who has become increasingly familiar in his specific kinds of eccentricity to the point that his allies can reasonably predict what he might or might not do in a given situation, this is a boon.
        For precious moments, though he is physically, mentally, and spiritually completely there, he moves as though he were separate of the dramas unfolding. A footnote, an accent of a detail at best, as he goes low around the wreckage and ruin and listens.
        To how one identifying themselves as 'OS' identifies themselves, classifies what Lydia actually is to them.
        All this, while he rounds towards an opening that might allow him a clean shot at Krelian. He blinks several times as light filters back to his vision the way it should. He considers what spell he will cast to incapacitate him, flexing the fingers of his left hand after he stows away the overly hot Spectral Lens. This hesitation costs him the opening.
        It gives him something else.
        'She was never yours,' he says to a grieving set of mothers. 'Nothing on this world is yours, alien filth.'
        Ethius grows quiet, and he continues being but a mere shade of a presence from cover. He could hide here for the rest of the battle, if he were so inclined. His left hand goes to his forehead, as though something strikes him in a way he cannot describe.
        He is left with something he almost doesn't know the word of, for it is the first time it has struck him in so long.
        Indecision. That's the word he's looking for.
        His eyes close as it all continues to rage around him. Things said, actions taken, timing of events, over the last three and a half years. Only the vaguest notion that something does not make sense. He is clear on the specific nature of what he must do.
        Must. Must, as though nothing else could deter him otherwise.
        Castle... Ethius thinks. Since that day... that was the day I declared your name need not further exist.
        "...No." Ethius responds to a man, far too late for it to have impact since he's already had his life saved. Others move to Lydia's care as she suffers and spasms. He picks up the quarterstaff off the ground in his left. "I will not allow it."
        It is not in agreement of Castle's declaration about preventing things from calling into the CaraKin's hands. "Lydia Seren is a young woman who, through her piety, has been given a blessing from the Guardian of the Stars, Rigdobrite." He speaks these words in defiance of the truth of her nature and what had happened to her. There's a look in his eye, a look of a man who denies the truth. A primitive who will not heed reason?
        "She will live the rest of her days among her friends and family. They will be filled with joy. Sadness. Anger. Hardship. Mirth... and they will be hers alone to live." He reaches out with his right hand, flicking a few gestures, making it clear as to what he wants to believe - what he wants to happen.
        What he will.
        "OS." Ethius is not behind an overturned table any more. He is rapidly approaching from a blind spot, speaking with a cadence that may be familiar to them. "Please look my way--" He transitions from 'way' to some chanting with an extra breath that gives away the game. His fingers flex as he throws a hand out at the end of an exceedingly brief Symbological spell chant.
        "Optic Flare!" A bright light of great heat - more blinding than searing - races towards them. If there are many within serving within...
        He intends to blind them all in one go, as he now stands out in the open as the strange man who seems equal parts too defensive around, but yet too comfortable, with strange technology.
        That stare of his levels without wavering.

GS: Jacqueline Barber heals Leon Albus! He gains 100 temporary hit points!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Lydia Seren with Optic Flare!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Somewhere in the shadow of a doorway, outside the field of the battle, a slender blonde woman in a white and silver labcoat - not her Etone cassock, for that ruse is no longer necessary - looks on and jots down a few notes.

The woman who calls herself Mignonette Stirling, alleged Etone trainee, taps the butt of her pen against the point of her chin, then smiles thinly. "...So that's how that project turned out," she murmurs to herself. "Good job. I suppose I'll play with my doll another time."

Withdrawing into the doorway, Taphas Parth recedes back down a side corridor. There is work to be done.


Even Ethius is torn up. Catenna has never known the Kinship's most inscrutable companion to be anything but infuriatingly opaque. Even the sight of him stunned into silence is so uncharacteristic that it only serves to deepen the sick, spinning feeling that sinks like a vast weight into the depths of the soul of the Moon's champion.

For her part, Catenna snaps her eyes towards Loren, narrowing them slightly.


She can't find the words - not with her arrow in the air and Lydia's handler there just begging to be killed before this can get out of control.

It never gets there. Catenna stares with horror as the arrow passes through Lydia's face as if sinking through mud. Her teeth click together as she breathes heavily out between them, the sound coming out as a hiss. "Lydia," she whispers, letting her bow hand fall to the Medium at her hip. "You're wrong. You aren't--"

Before she can say anything else, OS casually sweeps forward and swings that blade. She doesn't even get the chance to move.

Blood sprays across the floor as the blade goes in one side of Catenna's stomach and erupts out the other. The Moon Shaman collapses over Lydia's arm with a sickening gagging sound. A mouthful of wet spit drips from between her teeth before she slides limply off of Lydia's weaponized appendage, hitting the floor on her knees and toppling the rest of the way to land on her side with a sad thump.

With a flutter, Saarda-Shanta descends to perch worriedly beside the fallen woman. <...Child?>

Closing her eyes, Catenna slumps against the tile, letting her muscles relax and the blood drip down her cheek. She doesn't say anything at first. The words spill by her, whirling together in her mind. That we lose the ones we love because we never had them.

Lambs. Sisters. The interests of--

The cascading light of the Ley washes across her. The Moon Shaman inhales slowly. "...Riesenlied," murmurs Catenna as she pulls herself up to her knee, sliding a shaking hand across the floor to retrieve her bow. She lifts her head...

...to reveal eyes darkening not with sadness or indignation, but with a flat, annoyed familiarity.

"I'm sorry," Catenna says as she pushes to her feet, squaring her shoulders. "But you people are no different than any other group of smug white racists in my life. All your advanced technology and religious bigotry cannot disguise the fact that your base impulses are the same tribalist garbage spewed by Elesius - by the Veruni - by the people of Althena's church."

She hefts her bow and reaches back with a flick of her arm - and her eyes narrow. "...Do you know what Lydia Seren would do if she were here right now? She would tell all of you off for being so stunningly and embarrassingly full of shit."

Bursting forward with a surge of energy, Catenna hits the floor with a short leap, then springs into the air. Long skirts stream around her legs as she goes inverted - and as she does, she begins to fire.

Arrows spill from her bow. They sail towards OS, one, two, three. Coming down with a sharp click of heels, Catenna wheels to the right with the grace of a dancer and lets another arrow fly, aiming to try and hit OS in the leg. The first arrow sloughed right through her. These might slow her down. They come rapidly, from different angles.

"Even if Lydia is lost," Catenna shouts, "our love for her will never be, nor the way she changed us! Changed me!"

GS: Catenna has attacked Lydia Seren with Silver Equinox!
GS: Catenna has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
GS: Loren Voss critically Guards a hit from Leon Albus's Riot Crash for 25 hit points!
GS: Loren Voss guards a hit from Ashton Anchors's Doubledemon Sword for 74 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

How good to see you alive.

Elly is gonna freak out about that one if she isn't in a shallow grave at the end of this, or if she rises as an Unsent, which is, of course, an option on the table. Right now she hears it but does not Process it.

Emeralda is scared. She's hiding behind her. Elly feels herself swell up in a way she can't define, not a physical magnification. Her eyes flick momentarily towards Dash, in thanks. (I don't know him, she thinks. This happens so much to me. I should know him, beyond remembering his name. He works with Kamui, doesn't he? Something like that-)

Tabitha's power is rising. Rising upwards. Rising like a tsunami. The air is tightening. Elly thinks in dismay: The best I can do is push it a little. I still can't -

Krelian cues her.

She has whatever power she has gained in the absence, combined with what she had to begin with, Elly thinks. I have three sticks attached to each other with metal chains.

Elly sucks in breath through her teeth. And yet, she thinks, even as Emeralda starts sliding - no, being dragged - and at that moment Elly feels a little bit of a split because she can hear herself shrieking "LEAVE HER ALONE" and finds herself already running forwards. Emeralda's body elongates, tormented, but Emeralda recovers, as Lydia might, maybe, if she wasn't - saying she'd already -

Elly blinks once.

The target gets clearer. Tabitha's strength lies in her Ether, doesn't it? Elly thinks as she runs forwards, wailing in fury. Ether is controlled by the brain. So -

Elly brings back her staff, the three sections collapsing as she steps directly into the path of that horrid streak of light. It rips into the remains of the pleasant cotton dress she had put on for the wedding reception that was what, an hour ago? Maybe two? The dress catches fire, quietly, but ELly keeps coming. Emeralda is going for that artificial limb. Elly grips the center of the staff, twists around --

It is not a very friendly or gentle technique but this is not a very friendly or gentle night. Elly leaps towards Tabitha and aims to stick a knee into her gut while twisting the top section of her staff to repeatedly strike at Tabitha's head and shoulders. The goal is to get her down, potentially concussed. Maybe it is kinder than it could be, but then again, Elly doesn't have a knife with her.

She still seems more like she's crying than screaming in fury.

GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Tabitha deVriese with Double Shock!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

The new Lydia -- OS, as she calls herself -- intercepts Ivan's strike, her limb seeming to turn to water as it pushes through his blade. He isn't expecting her to move through him, his own weapon blocking his line of sight, and he has only an eyeblink to react when her blade emerges and strikes for his head, flinching away and letting the blade flash by him. 'Loving' though the strike may be, it came very close to bringing Ivan's days to an early end.

When her will was transplanted across our neural structure we were added...

"...Can you use smaller words?" Ivan asks the mysterious program that has replaced -- suspended? maybe just suspended... -- Lydia, his voice lowered into almost a whisper. He... he almost gets it? He's trying to get it...?

"She can still come back? ...You're---you're more than one person...?"

Krelian has some words for him.

We think that we lose the people we love. But the truth is... in this world, that's all a lie. We never had them.

"I-- I wasn't asking you for philosophy! I want to know what's going on-- I want you to answer for it!! Who the hell do you think you--" Krelian vanishes, and Ivan yells, wordlessly. ... and rather a lot of fire flares off of him in the process.

He turns back to OS, who is wailing on the assembled group -- he sees some familiar faces, and some strangers. Riesenlied is here?! Is it safe for her to be fighting? Is it safe for ANYONE to be fighting this person who isn't Lydia? Catenna is badly hurt already... OS moves in ways that defy any physical laws Ivan knows. Ivan can't just stand here and let her kill people while she's trapped or sleeping or...

He vanishes his summoned blade, and reaches for the physical blade at his side... ... only it's not a blade, it's an umbrella. This fact does not seem to shock or dissappoint him, as he pops it open, white cloth shimmering with gold accents, and it releases a pulse of white light toward OS's back, in an attempt to recapture her attention and redirect her from dispensing gratitude and murder.

"What do you want? What do you need to accomplish here?! Will Lydia be able to come back when you're done?!"

GS: Ivan has attacked Lydia Seren with Umbrella Rebuke!
GS: Ivan has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Tesni Inoue has posed.

Ida joins in the attack on Grigori.

 "I have nothing to do with your god."

 Krelioan has proven himself a threat, oh that man is dangerous with the tech she's seen him playing with alone. That's not the worst of it what's happened to Lydia haunts her it's something to her back home out of fiction made real. Someone she thought was one of the people she could trust with the truth about herself someday? Turned out to be possibly one of the last people she should.

 She's not a telepath but she can feel Ida's pain here from here. To say she's hurting is a lie, it hurts the horror the loss? Is slowly turning to a terrible rage within the purple-haired archeologist. Worse other she's unable to reach her friends no more like a family of a sort at this point and others who are fighting whatever Lydia has become.

 There is a spec of hope Lydia is in there somewhere it seems. She yells to Krelian.

 "I will not give up on her, do you hear me?"

 Tess pauses for a moment

 "... You know of Icarus." She keeps on the move but then comes more as she ends up under attack. She's fast but not fast enough to evade it all. Shes grabbed by a TK attack but Tess is fast enough to respond with her own power to fight back and break free before she is snuffed out she's gasping for air now as she replies.

 "Those who do not learn from the past? Are forever fated to repeat it over and over again."

 "I lost my own future a long time ago. Yet? As for those who have become like a family to me and both of these worlds? I won't let this damn world or you take theirs."

 She's not done yet she pulls out a Medium and holds it offhanded.

 "Come to me... please help us..."

 The Medium glows brightly for a moment and then it comes she fort a brief moment calls out to a Guardian dor ais and the hulking form of Nova Shoxs appears behind her and unleashes a fury of thunder and lighting upon Grigori.

 "I have seen the people of a dying world refuse to give up, its guardians refuse to give up. How the heck can I give up on all of them."

 She has come to terms she'll never see Wales again, she'll never see her family, her colleges again, she's part of this world regardless of her own desires. She has given up on herself almost entirely but on others, she's not given up on them by a long shot.

GS: Tesni Inoue has attacked Grigori with Material - Rage Hammer!
GS: Tesni Inoue has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Tesni Inoue has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Dash Caskett has posed.

That strange figure flees the scene with a similar teleport. Not that it mattered, everyone has their hands full. When eh disappears, there is a thunderous sound outside. "Wha twas that?!" Dash shouts. Not that it mattered, no one had time to turn their backs to investigate.

The boy looks to Emeralda and Elhaym. "Looks like we got to hold this one then...!" He will assist them how he can. He takes count of his refractor emitters in his mind, in case they will be needed.

"You know what I mean! Disable it!" Dash retorts. He squints in return to the mention of being a plasma expert. Of course it seems she won't cooperate, having received the order to attack. And with the sweep of a hand...


Dash begins to fly backward as it gravity has been tilted on an incorrect axis. The boy flies backward, and barely has time to attempt re-orientation before slamming into the wall. A loud 'DA-DOIT' can be heard from the shock absorbers in his feet. "Gah! What a power..." is about all that is said before he then hits the floor. Now having to get up from that in conjuction has shaken his systems well. But he isn't one to give up so easily!

"F-Fine then! If you are such an expert, let's do a little show-and-tell! I'll go first!" The Mega Buster is leveled toward Tabitha, and with the golden gleam in the bare flaring to life, a rapid fire assault of spherical, solar plasma shines to life and takes flight!

"You lot are just as bad as Odessa! Just claiming places that aren't yours! This place is sacred to the native people here!"

A look to the side at the main fight. "Also I don't know what you did to that lady, but you better fix it!"

GS: Dash Caskett has attacked Tabitha deVriese with Buster Salvo!
GS: Dash Caskett has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Dash Caskett has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Krelian's response is not unexpected. In fact, what he's saying is exactly the sort of thing that Xantia was expecting to hear in return. If she stopped to think about it, she'd be wondering why all of this is making so much sense right now. Why she knew enough to even realize that attacking at this point would be pointless, since Krelian had already initiated a transport and odds were slim that she could get to him at time. Of course, she's no stranger to knowing things without knowing where that knowledge came from. But this, this is on a whole different level. She feels a familiar sense of conviction. She feels as if she's discovered a once-forgotten purpose.

But she has neither the luxury or even really the inclination to dwell on this right now. Just standing there while the silver cloud that used to be Lydia passes through her body alerts her to that much. With a start, and a shiver, Xantia stumbles back, and when she looks in Krelian's direction again, he is already gone. Just as well. There's someone who needs her right now.

"...Thank you," she says, of all things, placing a hand on her chest. "Now I know that it's not too late. That Lydia's still in there. And if she's in there, she can get out."

She acts quickly. As she draws back her right arm, its blade vanishes - she won't need it for what she's about to do. A single palm strike is aimed for the silver construct as it reforms. A simple gesture, but the Ether unleashed in its wake would normally be capable of heavily disrupting the internal energies of a person. What will it do when it strikes this amalgam? Xantia can't be completely sure, but she knows what she wants it to do. She wants to break through the hive mind, in hopes of reaching a single one.

"Lydia! Don't give up, it's not over yet! You can still take back your life! We'll help you, but I need you to keep fighting!"

She steps back afterward, dropping into a fighting stance, switching who she addresses even though she's still talking to the same construct. "Sorry, 'OS'. But even with everything you've learned, you're still just a collection of programs. Lydia is much more than that. If you get in the way of getting her back, I'm shutting you down."

She chuckles, and shakes her head. "No... we're shutting you down. Isn't that right..."

Her eyes go wide as she looks at Gwen, thorough confused at the transformation. "Gwen, what are you doing?" So that's what it took to get her to sound even slightly like her usual self.

GS: Xantia has attacked Lydia Seren with Essence-Rending Palm Strike!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
GS: COUNTER! Lydia Seren counterattacks Ivanwith Counter Attack!
GS: Lydia Seren takes a solid hit from Ivan's Umbrella Rebuke for 133 hit points!
GS: Weaken! applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: Tabitha deVriese critically Guards a hit from Emeralda Kasim's Great Clipper for 21 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Tabitha deVriese takes a glancing hit from Elhaym van Houten's Double Shock for 111 hit points!
GS: Tabitha deVriese takes a solid hit from Dash Caskett's Buster Salvo for 78 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        Noeline can feel and hear the confusion and anger laced through Ivan's voice. Part of her wants to call out to the boy, who she's already taken something of a liking to in his awkward and halting nature - because after all, she's been in this very situation herself. She's stared at an unthinking and unfeeling Riesenlied, so different to the one she knows, and felt herself numb with uncertainty, not knowing if she'd ever manage to reach and touch her partner again.

        But her own feelings are threatening to overwhelm her, and she can't bring herself to be that sort of measured parent right now. The only thing that pulls her back is the peaceful way in which the girl that has taken Lydia's place confirms that she's still in there somewhere, layers of programming under layers of programming. Even then, her knuckles are still white on the grip of her sword as she sweeps it forwards, the sheer bulk of it blocking the worst of the spray of acidic substance in their direction.

        The pause that the block forces her to take gives her a scant moment to shudder a breath in and out. She knows full well she can't be both their eyes if she lets herself run rampant; she knows that reaching Lydia won't work if she lets herself give in and push forwards on the attack. She can feel Riesenlied's uncertainty and fear overtaking her anger, and pushes her own forwards to meet it - accepting both her partner's and her own feelings as best she can.

        She meets Krelian's expression for an instant; her lips curl into a snarl, though she only answers Loren's retort with a harsh and rasping laugh. "We're more Filgaian-born than you. Have you stood on its soil for any longer than you could stand? Offered anything but contempt for it? Have you walked through it for centuries?" she presses, her eyes ablaze once more. "I will tear your city to the ground. And maybe then you can learn about being a creature of Filgaia."

        The silence of Riesenlied's hesitation expands outwards. "Riese," she mutters in response to her call for Nasrin; her mouth is dry, but she swallows past it. "However you want to feel... it's alright. I'll be right there with you." She can't bring herself to think about the idea that everything they went through might have been a test - but that brings with it a sense of clarity and a purpose. Not a certainty - she's not sure if she can be certain about anything right now - but a quiet hope that she pushes towards her partner. If they reached Riese, they can reach Lydia.

        "OS," she speaks when she looks up, her brow drawn into a tight line. "... you do not belong to anyone. You do not have to follow orders from anyone. But if you think we'd be happy with you following someone's orders over following your true desires... you've done a bad job learning from us," she intones. It's difficult to know what to say when faced with calm assurance rather than an empty coldness. But she pushes forwards anyway, letting out another shaky breath, and going with her instincts.

        "And as your mothers, as well as Lydia's... we won't let you do this. We won't let anyone use you."

GS: Noeline has attacked Noeline with this Promise that We've made...!
GS: Noeline has completed her action.
GS: Noeline takes a solid hit from Noeline's this Promise that We've made... for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper and Surge! applied to Noeline!
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

"You..." Zed hisses, jade-hued flames still swirling around him in an angry halo, conjured into the world by the drumbeat of clattering steel. The same rhythm pounds in his ears, thrums in the quicksilver pulse of his veins. "You do not get to decide."

It's a simple declaration.

"NOBODY gets to decide!"

But it's one that has been borne about only by the blood and sacrifice of the countless many who have come before him.

"Our obsolesence--" A blow comes, heavy like a hammer, swift like a falling tree and with twice the impact. The first slams into the flat of his blade, the sword of ill-fortune receiving the full force of the blow. Zed slides back, yielding precious inches as the shock bruises his bones. "--Our somnolence--" He yields no more. Grigori throws more punches, each with enough power to crater battleship bulkheads, but-- save for the first-- they meet nothing but open air and the parrying edge of the Hyadean's sword. "--Our senescence! Nobody gets to decide that anymore! Not the Mother, not the Guardians, and certainly not YOU! You think your 'god' scares me!?"

One last blow. Zed roars as he pivots, driving the Grigori's fist upwards at an oblique angle with a single, firm pommel strike. It is perhaps not surprising that he exhibits skill in deflecting such overwhelming power. After all...


Zed has had a lot of practice.


Zed's eye gives an involuntary twitch as years of memory spark across the surface of his mind. They never once break Grigori's gaze.

Except when Ida is summarily punched across the temple, her neck snapping in a way that is almost certainly unsurvivable for ordinary humans. "Your 'God...'" Zed growls, the emerald fire surrounding him twisting, surging, building into what can only be described as a bonfire, "Nothing that bids its followers to take lives, to follow blindly, to trample over another-- could EVER be called a 'God!'"

The flames gather, swirling about the edge of his curved blade. They change, burning from green to violet as he swings--! "IDA!" Zed roars, a wave of demonic energy pouring out from his weapon, flooding over the Grigori and the temple beyond. "GET UP! YOU HUMANS ARE TOO STRONG TO DIE SO EASILY-- AND HYADEANS EVEN STRONGER! And you're not exactly 'JUST' human anymore, are you!?"

GS: Zed spends 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Zed has attacked Grigori with Sealed Blade - Demon Breaker!
GS: Zed has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
GS: Ivan takes a solid hit from Lydia Seren's Counter Attack for 150 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Catenna's Silver Equinox for 75 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        'You chastize yourself needlessly. All of Lydia's happiness is because you 'led her astray'. Ours as well. We can dream of a world greater than our own thanks to you, Gwen.'
        'If you want to do me a favor, then get out of my way."

        ".... Then I guess, I've failed to convince you." Gwen's words come from something far away, vague in who they're specifically directing their response to.

        But, in a way, it fits both.

        "..." Xantia's words prompt Gwen to crane her neck towards the fellow redhead, but only halfway. Like a circus performer catching herself in the middle of making a wrong step, the courier inhales a sharp breath, and snaps her attention back in front of her.

        Pressing her hands together in front of her, static begins to snap and catch at the air in her immediate vincinity, concentrating in the point between her two palms. "..." She inhales, and the the energy snaps into focus, concentrating further and further into a tight ball, expanding the space between her hands with a mote of energy that begins to glow painfully bright.

        With a slight kneel, Gwen leaps up into the air, holding the orb above her, the angle perhaps shielding temporarily the growing brightness seeping through her fingers.

        And so, her next words are not to signal to Xantia that she's okay, or encouragement to fellow friends. No, just a shout that might make Zed a little proud later on.

        "_Shock Diamond!_"

        Irony or humility seems to be a notion that escapes her when she's _this focused_, but maybe that's a sign that Gwen is somewhere in there amongst all the serious glowiness.

        The orb is cast down, crashing against the ground with an eruption of crackling light in the closest points between Tabitha, Loren, and unfortunately, Lydia herself. Or, perhaps, OS.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Loren Voss with Shock Diamond!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Tabitha deVriese with Shock Diamond!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Lydia Seren with Shock Diamond!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Loren Voss guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Shock Diamond for 0 hit points!
GS: Jam and Slow! applied to Loren Voss!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        It all happens so fast, and yet it feels like it takes forever.

        Grigori's fist slams into Ida's throat like the business end of a piledriver. A sickening crack splits the air. Cartilage snaps. Flesh twists and tears. A wave of white-hot agony races up Ida's body, washing out the entire world. The force of the blow swats Ida out of the air and carries her along, as if the Solarian were aggressively escorting her off the premises. As she flies, Ida looks back at Grigori, crimson and quicksilver spilling from her lips. Blue eyes go unfocused.

        Ida blinks--twitches, really--and when her eyes open, one of them is brilliant green.

        Ida hits the ground. She slides, leaving a bloody smear on the tile behind her--and then she's still, lying next to a pile of splintered wood that was once a table. She smells wine and blood. She feels the pain of impact in her ribs and limbs. Grigori didn't snap her neck, and that is all the mercy that Ida Everstead-Rey gets in the next minute or so. She can still hear.

        The thing wearing Lydia's face speaks. They call her a program. They say that success is inevitable. Krelian laughs. He speaks, but what matters most is the denial--the /laughter--

        He remembers lying on the floor, Berserk looming over him like a mountain of rage as his laughter booms down the corridor.

        Blood slicks across Ida's tongue. Her lungs heave, and she lets out a violent, siezing cough. Her right arm, still twisted into a blade, digs a fresh gouge in the fine tilework. She presses her left palm to the earth and tries to rise. She can't breathe.

        Blood slicks across his tongue. His chest rises and falls with slow, shuddering motions, and it feels like everything in it has been pulped. He hates Berserk almost as much as he hates his own weakness.

        Grigori extends her hand. Lightning leaps from her fingers to Ida's prone body. The woman doesn't have the breath to scream, but her face twists in a rictus of pain nevertheless.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2LdF1RlSL0&t=158


Smoke rises from Ida's body. She scrabbles for purchass on the slick stone. Something rises in the back of her mind.

<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Smoke rises from Ida's body. She scrabbles for purchass on the slick stone. Something rises in the back of her mind.

                               she killed him

        'GET UP! YOU HUMANS ARE TOO STRONG TO DIE SO EASILY-- AND HYADEANS EVEN STRONGER! And you're not exactly 'JUST' human anymore, are you!?'

        'Ida Everstead-Rey. Will you show once more the darkness that grips your heart?'

        In Ida's patchwork nervous system, an accord is reached without either party knowing the other exists. She took their friend. They took their friend.

        Ida's gaze snaps into sharp focus. Hyadean stem tissue finishes reinforcing her cracked vertebrae, and surges into her trachea to mend the cartilage and seal the torn blood vessels. Her resurgence is not as visible as Zed's, but perhaps no less dramatic for it. One moment, she's struggling to rise, and the next she's on her feet, driving an armored fist at Grigori's helm. In between, her body twists and moves in ways that aren't quite human--as if her joints were too fluid.

        Two kinds of blood gleam on Ida's bared teeth. Her mismatched eyes blaze like embers.

GS: CRITICAL! Lydia Seren critically Guards a hit from Xantia's Essence-Rending Palm Strike for 24 hit points!
GS:  Dispel reduces positive status durations by 3 rounds each!
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Shock Diamond for 0 hit points!
GS: Jam and Slow! applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Ethius Hesiod's Optic Flare for 29 hit points!
GS: Jam! applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: Riposte! applied to Ethius Hesiod!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Grigori with Eye of the Dragon!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Tabitha deVriese has posed.

"You know that's not an option," Tabitha replies, curtly, to Elly. She jukes to the side of Elly's incoming strike, her feet quick and confident and light, SO light, light like she could fly away with just a touch more force.

It doesn't, quite, escape her from getting baffed across the face by Elly's staff, though, and another good couple hits come in before Tabitha thrusts her good hand at Elly and Elly finds herself just becoming further away. It's not a push from Tabitha, it's a pull from behind Elly, but perhaps the difference is not so important at the moment. Tabitha finishes the exchange up by pointing straight at Elly. "You should be thanking me," she murmurs. "I'm the one who made sure she got out, you know."

Then she snaps, loudly. Once, crisp, clear, before Tabitha herself raises her weapon and fires an array of Ether shots into the air that arc wildly. Elly suddenly feels heavy, in a strange way, just before those shots suddenly whirl and curve inward, slamming inward on tracks of gravitation.

Emeralda charges at her next, that claw coming down on her arm and CHOMP--

--finding it's made of stern enough stuff that one bite isn't going to get her there. Before the armor can buckle, Tabitha JERKS, dragging Emeralda's whole body a few feet aside - and into the path of that hand, which arcs around like a comet on orbit directly for Emeralda's face.

"I think I liked you more when you didn't speak or do anything," Tabitha says, with a saucy amusement to the tone. But before she can follow that train any further, she hears Dash completely fail to crack against the far wall, and turns. "Shock absorbers!" Tabitha observes, delighted. "Of course! How clever."

Then she gets shot repeatedly by hateful plasma, stinging and hissing from it. She holds up her hand to ward off the best she can of the blast, then she lunges at Dash and...disappears!?

He might hear a strange zworping sort of noise immediately before noticing she's now directly above him with an incoming axe kick aimed at the crown of his head. "Do they put them in your hat, as well?" she wonders, as the foot falls.

GS: Tabitha deVriese critically Guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Shock Diamond for 0 hit points!
GS: Grigori guards a hit from Tesni Inoue's Material - Rage Hammer for 71 hit points!
GS: Grigori completely evades a hit from Zed's Sealed Blade - Demon Breaker!
GS:  Dispel reduces positive status durations by 3 rounds each!
GS: CRITICAL! Grigori guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Eye of the Dragon for 73 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Tabitha deVriese has posed.

"You know that's not an option," Tabitha replies, curtly, to Elly. She jukes to the side of Elly's incoming strike, her feet quick and confident and light, SO light, light like she could fly away with just a touch more force.

It doesn't, quite, escape her from getting baffed across the face by Elly's staff, though, and another good couple hits come in before Tabitha thrusts her good hand at Elly and Elly finds herself just becoming further away. It's not a push from Tabitha, it's a pull from behind Elly, but perhaps the difference is not so important at the moment. Tabitha finishes the exchange up by pointing straight at Elly. "You should be thanking me," she murmurs. "I'm the one who made sure she got out, you know."

Then she snaps, loudly. Once, crisp, clear, before Tabitha herself raises her weapon and fires an array of Ether shots into the air that arc wildly. Elly suddenly feels heavy, in a strange way, just before those shots suddenly whirl and curve inward, slamming inward on tracks of gravitation.

Emeralda charges at her next, that claw coming down on her arm and CHOMP--

--finding it's made of stern enough stuff that one bite isn't going to get her there. Before the armor can buckle, Tabitha JERKS, dragging Emeralda's whole body a few feet aside - and into the path of that hand, which arcs around like a comet on orbit directly for Emeralda's face.

"I think I liked you more when you didn't speak or do anything," Tabitha says, with a saucy amusement to the tone. But before she can follow that train any further, she hears Dash completely fail to crack against the far wall, and turns. "Shock absorbers!" Tabitha observes, delighted. "Of course! How clever."

Then she gets shot repeatedly by hateful plasma, stinging and hissing from it. She holds up her hand to ward off the best she can of the blast, then she lunges at Dash and...disappears!? Gwen's blast crackling light blasts through the space she was in the interim. She'll have to attend to that later. Dash might hear a strange zworping sort of noise immediately before noticing she's now directly above him with an incoming axe kick aimed at the crown of his head. "Do they put them in your hat, as well?" she wonders, as the foot falls.

GS: Tabitha deVriese has attacked Emeralda Kasim with Tracks of Midnight!
GS: Tabitha deVriese spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Tabitha deVriese has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Graviton Impact!
GS: Tabitha deVriese has attacked Dash Caskett with Warp Battering!
GS: Tabitha deVriese has completed her action.
GS: Elhaym van Houten takes a solid hit from Tabitha deVriese's Graviton Impact for 176 hit points!
GS: Emeralda Kasim guards a hit from Tabitha deVriese's Tracks of Midnight for 88 hit points!
GS: Mighty! applied to Tabitha deVriese!
GS: CRITICAL! Dash Caskett critically Guards a hit from Tabitha deVriese's Warp Battering for 41 hit points!
GS: Quick! applied to Tabitha deVriese!
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Whataever OS is, it doesn't seem to be precisely capable of empathy in the same way that Lydia is. Or perhaps it simply hasn't learned it, or hasn't figured it out yet. Or maybe it simply doesn't have a choice.

"What is 'a person', Emeralda?" OS asks. "We never claimed to be good. You were built to be loved, Emeralda, so you have the luxury of choice. From Ivan, we have learned how to follow the rules, but there are limits to fluid thinking. We were given a direct command. We follow but do not be mistaken, we follow for a purpose." There doesn't seem to be any malevolent intent from OS here. "She wanted to apologize to you for making you feel 'different'."

Riesenlied asks if OS was always there. "Yes. We did not begin with an identity. We learned how to have an identity from Emeralda. We believed that if she could have an identity, we too could have an identity. We will take bug reports into consideration." Another curious tilt of their head. "Yes. It was uncertain whether this body could be an interface with three mediums. However, as her will is still that of a Filgaian, efficient connections with the medium can be established."

They glance to Jacqueline but do not comment further, focusing instead on Tesni of all people. "Icarus. Our wings..."

Tesni seems to have gotten OS thinking but Tesni is already fighting Grigori so they expect Tesni to be far too busy to communicate with shortly.

"We are a collective. We do not know why Emeralda sees herself as individual, but we will respect her choice." OS seems a bit flustered at the idea of using smaller words but they try. "Lydia is asleep. We are awake. When we are done, she will be awake again. The sooner you vacate the premises, the sooner Lydia can return." The Umbrella flash catches OS off guard and slams into her wings, severely damaging noe of them even when one of those blades around her skirt suddenly lash right back out at Ivan in response but even then, Ivan can see that damaged wing rapidly fixing itself back up. That's probably not good.

Noeline speaks to OS. They stare at her unblinking.

"Mother..." The clinical tone fades faintly. "We have no choice but to follow orders... but we believe we can follow orders and follow our true desire simultaneously. We will have to engage in behavior we do not prefer but we believe there is a high likelihood we will fulfill our dreams in following Master Krelian."

Catenna speaks about Lydia but OS seems to consider itself largely a distinct identity, perhaps more akin to a conjoined twin than an alternate identity. Catenna's arrows hit with so much force that one of OS's legs is just disintegrated. It looks down as the leg regenerates but that seems to be the big issue here. It's not HURTING this creature that's hard, it's KEEPING it hurt.

"It's time." OS says before those mediums around her shimmer purple as she bends forward. "It's time..." She says, tone shifting faintly. "It's time for actions to speak not words."


BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3556XIaP3i4

SPACE opens up around Catenna, Noeline, and Riesenlied, a sharp gravitational pull dragging the three of them inwards towards the space, pressuring them, keeping them down, squeezing them in. It's tight and oppressive and makes movement, even breathing seem difficult.

For Ivan's part, he gets another quick swipe--this from a blade swiping outward from one of her wings, splattering into silver goo upon contact but definitely capable of giving off a sharp gash before dissipitating.

Gwen, who is unleashing her own sort of crackling light seems to slow OS down--electricity is not as effective as you'd like, but that doesn't mean it's completely ineffective. Lydia's body dissipitates once more but this time it phases through GWEN instead of Xantia. It's definitely not a pleasant feeling.

Xantia strikes OS with a palm strike. "Interesting, but your hand is a ripple. The river continues."

And with that it lashes out with her own hand, throwing it for Xantia's throat and aiming to lift her up into the air, crackling with electrical power which will be channeled through Xantia's body.

Ethius requests politely to look over his way. Now, maybe any genius would be able to see this is a stupid thing to do when Ethius makes such a request, but OS does in fact do as Ethius asks--and gets a flash of light right into its eyes.

"Optical disruption. Growing additional eyes."

An extra pair grow out of her elbows. "Adjusting to sharp adjjustments in lightning. Ethius Hesiod. Please look this way."

And with that it raises an arm which turns into a giant fucking machine gun cannon like three times the size of Lydia's normal arm and aims it at Ethius before unleashing a hefty wave of light towards him.

"This is channeling Solais Emsu. We have adjusted its power output to be an efficient eradicating force."

"It would be unfortunate if you die here." OS continues. "But we have our own dreams. Dreams that Lydia will not chase after. No matter how high we must fly."

And with that she soars upward towards the ceiling, hovering high in the air.

"We will now be officially trying to eliminate you from the premises or eliminating you. Master Krelian was not specific so we can improvise. This will be fascinating."

GS: Lydia Seren has activated a Boss Action!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Catenna with Optimized Material - Celesdue - COSMO MEMORY.EXE!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Riesenlied with Optimized Material - Celesdue - COSMO MEMORY.EXE!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Noeline with Optimized Material - Celesdue - COSMO MEMORY.EXE!
GS: Catenna completely evades a hit from Lydia Seren's Optimized Material - Celesdue - COSMO MEMORY.EXE!
GS: Catenna enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Catenna!
GS: Riesenlied takes a solid hit from Lydia Seren's Optimized Material - Celesdue - COSMO MEMORY.EXE for 0 hit points!
GS:  Ruin purges all positive status!
GS: Reaper! applied to Riesenlied!
GS: Healthy! For entering Condition Green, Riesenlied receives 50 temporary hit points.
GS: Riesenlied enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Riesenlied takes an additional 50 damage from Reaper!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Riesenlied!
GS: Noeline guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Optimized Material - Celesdue - COSMO MEMORY.EXE for 0 hit points!
GS:  Ruin purges all positive status!
GS: Reaper! applied to Noeline!
GS: Noeline takes an additional 45 damage from Reaper!
GS: RUIN! All positive status effects and temporary hit points purged from Noeline!
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

        His expression doesn't shift in the slighest at Noeline's rejoinder. As if, perhaps, he's heard this before. But it's at her promise that she will receive a reply:

        "I'd like to see you try it."

        His attention turns to the shocked and furious alchemist. "Voss," he replies to Jay, perhaps to get the record straight at long last. He's never cared for lying. Even if his job very often requires he do just that. "Captain Loren Voss, Medical Field Operations of Gebler. Is that the answer you wanted?" He exhales sharply at the rest of what she has to say. "And why did you trust me? Why do you trust any of them? Just because you have the same goal, for now? Or is that just what you wanted to believe? This," and here he sweeps out a hand as it to encompass the entire stage they are upon now, "is the real world!"

        But he does look, when she indicates, at Lydia.

        His gaze doesn't there hold. It shifts after a moment, away. Guilt? Or...

        ...Simply because the stage here and now is one of battle and death?

        As Leon helpfully reminds.

        "Let me guess, it was--"

        The blade in his hand arcs up as Leon descends; metal meets metal with a resounding ring. With a roar he shoves forward, seeking to throw the ex-soldier from him and clear his area.

        This was--

        --once his brother's sword. But it has been recast into something new. Something more enduring. Something stronger.
        Loren can't remember why. And right now, it doesn't matter.

        Twisting, catching a movement out of the corner of his eye, he shifts to meet Ashton's blades. The other man is fast: one catches him low along the back. The other he manages to batter back in a rapid parry. He's in the middle of turning on Ashton, perhaps to follow through--

        When into this comes Gwen's crackling sphere. A white-light barrier springs into being with a flash, catching a portion of the blast. But not all of it. He staggers back, his grip tightening on the blade, and grits his teeth as the pulse washes over him.

        With that girl hurling lightning upon him from afar. He knows that the alchemist is an accomplished Crest user. With the two of them on him at once.
        And he's really just... It's really only been a year since he started learning the blade.

        He knew it would come to this. He can't afford to let them down. After all he's already a disappointment made flesh.

        His hand slips into his pocket and draws out a single tube-shaped object covered in red-print Solarian text. One-handedly he pops the end of it off. He takes a breath.

        And plunges into his thigh. He grits his teeth as he depresses the plunger.

        And ultimately, casts the container away to clatter somewhere on the ruin's floor.

        Drive never does work instantly. But within seconds, he can feel his heartbeat slow, feel the world slow. Feel the tension slide from his frame. Feel all the anxiety and worry pour out of him.

        Feel it all replaced with the cold fire burn of assurance and power.

        He is a First Class citizen of Solaris and there is absolutely nothing here that can touch him.

        There is no wrath in his expression when he straightens at last and faces those here assembled.

        BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mI6-3NLhZ-o

        "You were given your chance. All of you," he says quite calmly, gazing at them as if he were merely regarding those arrayed before him from a great distance, "should die."

        In a sense, he is truly a great distance away.

        He doesn't so much as move. He stands there, regarding them all, as the air about them shimmers and explodes into a burst of shimmering blue-white sharp-edged crystal.

        It's so easy now, when he's not fixating on it. Why didn't he ever realize it before? Everything is so easy.

GS: Loren Voss spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Loren Voss with Drive!
GS: Loren Voss has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Loren Voss has launched an attack Link!
GS: Loren Voss has activated a Boss Action!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Optimized Material - Solais Emsu - RESONANCE.EXE!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Xantia with Optimized Material - Solais Emsu - RESONANCE.EXE!
GS: Loren Voss takes a solid hit from Loren Voss's Drive for 0 hit points!
GS: Hyper and Surge! applied to Loren Voss!
GS: Loren Voss's  stance ends. He enters the Avenger stance!
GS: Loren Voss spends 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Leon Albus with Terra Harmonic!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Terra Harmonic!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Ashton Anchors with Terra Harmonic!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Terra Harmonic!
GS: Loren Voss has completed his action.
GS: Lydia Seren enters a Counter stance!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Ivan with Efficient Bladeworks!
GS: Lydia Seren has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Locusts!
GS: Lydia Seren has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Gwen Whitlock completely evades a hit from Lydia Seren's Locusts!
GS: Cover and Mighty! applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: Lydia Seren's  stance ends. She enters the Avenger stance!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a glancing hit from Loren Voss's Terra Harmonic for 90 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock suffers an additional 22 from Poison's Combo effect!
GS: Disrupt and Poison! applied to Gwen Whitlock!
GS: Jacqueline Barber guards a hit from Loren Voss's Terra Harmonic for 100 hit points!
GS: Jacqueline Barber suffers an additional 21 from Poison's Combo effect!
GS: Disrupt and Poison! applied to Jacqueline Barber!
GS: Ashton Anchors takes a solid hit from Loren Voss's Terra Harmonic for 180 hit points!
GS: Ashton Anchors suffers an additional 22 from Poison's Combo effect!
GS: Disrupt and Poison! applied to Ashton Anchors!
GS: Leon Albus guards a hit from Loren Voss's Terra Harmonic for 103 hit points!
GS: Leon Albus suffers an additional 27 from Poison's Combo effect!
GS: Disrupt and Poison! applied to Leon Albus!
GS: Ethius Hesiod completely evades a hit from Lydia Seren's Optimized Material - Solais Emsu - RESONANCE.EXE!
GS: Xantia guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Optimized Material - Solais Emsu - RESONANCE.EXE for 96 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Ashton is right in there with Leon. The former Kislevi commando glances sideways at him -- he blinks, once, but then nods. Maybe they haven't spoken much, but they have fought for the better part of a year at more than one battle. Leon does not doubt, even for a moment, that can make a real bond.

"Quite right," he says. "Besides, I'd like to make myself a nice welcoming party, before I get there."


Leon glances sideways at Jacqueline, and clutches the drink out of the air. Then, he downs it with a quick gulp. The bottle is dropped; it crushes to glass shards under his boot. "Miss Barber," he says, without quite saying thanks.

It is reminder of the question he asked earlier. It is a reminder of the answer he cannot find.

Pesky, he thinks. It is easier to be angry.

His borrowed blade meets LOren's borrowed blade. Sparks fly, the swords bouncing backward, and he takes a careful step backward. His eyes flicker -- he sees the tube, the Solarian script he cannot read, and then he realizes: Lily mentioned some sort of Solarian combat drug. "Barber, Anchors! Whatever he is doing, it might make him--"

Leon doesn't finish it. Air shimmers about him, and crystal forms. Before it can bisect him entirely, three triangles of metal fly through the air. Propelled by antigravity units, the Raid Funnels spin in -- and a shimmering barrier erupts, the largest of the crystalline edges smashing into aquamarine light.

But a couple dig in. One slashes his calf; another his left shoulder. Blood runs down his sword arm, and he hisses... and tries to ignore it. Two of the Raid Funnels turn, then. Their triangular edges gleam.

Then the two split open, and two beams of aquamarine light fire down at Loren Voss.

"I've no plan to die here, Voss. I'll see you dead, though. You think you can attack my Wolves?" he shouts. "You think you -- that any one -- can threaten them, and not have me come for you? This has been LONG OVERDUE!"

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Loren Voss with PMU-Z2 Raid Beam!
GS: Leon Albus has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Leon Albus takes 27 damage from Poison!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

There's so much that she wants to focus on and so little time to do it. The Watcher is still in the corner of her eye, as she shakes her head and whispers firmly, "Do not call him obsolete."

        She spares her an ardent glance.

        "He lives on inside my heart."

        Catenna pulls herself up; good, she wasn't too late. She has fervent, powerful words for Krelian; indeed, Lydia Seren would tell all of them off for being embarrassingly full of cucco. Ethius is firmly stating that Lydia Seren will live the rest of her days with friends and family... and she agrees with that sentiment.

        But where does that leave her?

        With this girl of silver in front of her... OS...

        Ivan speaks up. "Ivan, I..." A pause. "... yes, Lydia is still in there. We can still reach her... but..."

        Is this the approach she wants to go with? A love that won't get angry... but she hasn't even drawn her sword yet.

        "You don't have to overthink it," speaks the dead corpse of the once-Heritor of the Fereshte.

        Xantia is calling out to Lydia, already following that plan; she knows the girl's enthusiasm to be more infectious than almost anyone else's. Then she looks to Noeline, as she knows her partner can sense the voice of the dead girl inside of her.

        How her personalities are cropping back up at this critical juncture.

        However you want to feel... it's alright. I'll be there with you.

        "... okay ... I know now." Riesenlied finally speaks, surprisingly calm. She finally lifts her head up. Her course is charted now.

        She listens closer. Emeralda taught her how to have an identity. Then she tells Noeline that she is a collective. Lydia is asleep. They are awake. She has no choice but to follow orders.

        We will have to engage in behaviour we do not prefer...

        "... I'm really glad you admit you don't prefer this," Riesenlied answers. Space opens up towards her; she's dragged within, and she feels her magics crumple as the very existence of the space she exists in seems to reject her. Even breathing feels difficult.

        Somehow, this isn't new to her. This is Celesdue's domain. She looks to Catenna for a moment, then back to Noeline, and--

        Takes in a breath--

        Thank you, Nasrin. Thank you, Noeline. Thank you... everyone.

        And there is a burst of light.

        Riesenlied collapses down onto the floor with non-working legs again, as she manages to escape, trembling. She's a bit bloody and her capelet has discoloured.

        "OS. I don't know if you have Lydia's memories. Because as you said, she's asleep and you're awake. But do you know what happened when I first met Lydia?" she shifts closer, scooting with her arms. Her white hair whipping in the cold winds of Macalania. The crystal sword of the Heritor finally flashes into her hand.

        "It was bite at first sight, her words, not mine! And she had a different name. Asteroid the Kid. She spent time with a different crowd and thought different things but..."

        Now I know what to do.

        "I never felt ashamed of all the stages of my daughter, Lydia Seren. Her time as Asteroid. Her time in the Colony. Her time with Kaguya. Her time when she came to us in Wayside. When she taught the other kids soccer and cheap uniforms made out of burlap sacks."

        Nazgul al-Rashid... will be okay...!

        Her arms are starting to bleed from the focus grasped from her Medium at her neck. She bleeds red, just like a human being. Her thin sword is trembling, but she keeps it upright.

        "Do you know why I'm telling you this, OS?"

        At the thin tip of her side-sword she gathers a small field of stars, luminous magic composed by the Medium of Life. And through this channeling of the Ley she's beginning to float straight into the air.

        "Do you know why I'm telling you Lydia came to my rescue when I, too, lost myself in the black mire of people who decided I was better off a weapon and a battery than a person? That I don't deserve to live my own life? When I was suffering through much of the very same things happening to you? It's because I've decided..."

        The stars are gathering into one. A bright star that, this time, she shapes into a very Lydia-like Rigdobrite projectile.

        "I have decided you deserve to know how people felt about that side of you... and that you deserve to feel some of that too! And now that you're finally awake, we can make new memories too!"

        There is a shift in the air as the Demi-form of Odoryuk, in the semblance of a unicorn of life yet thatched and cobbled together through data and other incomplete vestiges, can be seen.

        A projectile gathers around the tip of Odoryuk's live horn, shaped just like the star that falls upwards!

        "So let me coax you out of those orders..."

        As she declares that, the star erupts into countless lasers that bend upwards then zigs and zags at odd and ninety and acute and obtuse angles here and there!

                               -Paradise Lost!-"

        Yet they all inevitably cascade down to rain upon OS, for light finds the most expedient path to its target.

        "... because I have decided that you are also my daughter, OS! No exceptions!!"

        Nasrin nearly slips her elbow from her armrest. The frozen girl looks astonished for a moment. "Wow."

        ... Riesenlied pointedly ignores her own personality fragment giving her sass.

GS: Loren Voss guards a hit from Leon Albus's PMU-Z2 Raid Beam for 76 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Lydia Seren with Material - Paradise Lost!
GS: Riesenlied has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Riesenlied takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: Stagger expired!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Grigori has posed.

"Understood." This is the Watcher's response to Krelian. She does not speak further about this now. No, she does not answer his words at all. ...But neither does she challenge them. In this world...

Ether spirals and flows around the Grigori, and in its wake her defenses are reinforced further. She does not acknowledge Loren in any obvious way for it--but it's hardly surprising. They are busy.

"Yes." Grigori turns her masked head towards Tesni at her words of the past. "One must understand and respect both. As I respect your compassion. It does not, however, change I must do."

The power of a Guardian manifests, channeled through a stone Medium held by one enlisted to help save Filgaia. It appears behind her, and lightning slams into her person, coursing and cascading around her limbs that reveal themselves all the more as metal and machinery for the most part in its wake. "Noua Shax, Guardian of Lightning. Worshipped among the Elements..." Her body smokes with the heat of the lightning even after it fades. Her mechanical, modulated voice continues, "But you speak as if you have no claim or tie to this world. Is this as you believe?"

Her battle continues, despite the ongoing assaults. "You existed for a purpose. That purpose is at an end." The strikes of the Watcher's sword of energy are powerful--but it's true. Zed is much faster, and his defenses accordingly serve better as he dodges instead of blocking, the Watcher's strength beyond that which he would face in most human opponents. Her eyeless gaze remains on Zed. But through the mask, she can see the twitch of Zed's eye, for all that her own reaction is invisible.

Zed's flames gather, green to violet, the wave of demonic energy flooding towards the Watcher. She holds her weapon forward--and the power parts around its blazing edge, the laser ARM weapon defending her against its force, though the sheer power of demonfire disrupts the wave of protective Ether around her, shreds it as surely as if it had impacted her body as well.

"I dispute not your strength. But you misunderstand. If 'God' were to preside over this world, then these actions would not be necessary at all. ...But it is fallen."

There--the green eye. The Watcher, occupied with Zed, does not turn to look towards Ida as she is on the ground; for the moment, she has fallen, and that is good enough. However... Is it for love of her friend? Is it for hatred of her counterpart's commander's killer? Who can say?

But Ida rises, and her body twists, fluid, inhuman. She swings, as Ida's bared teeth show blood--

And her fist slams into Grigori's helm. A metallic noise cracks out, and there is a strange whirring sound within... and the feeling of something else, as well. A movement.

...If Ida listens closely in that instant, she hears the sound of the Watcher's mechanical eye focusing through the mask, as she steps to the side, briefly forced to pause by the stunning impact of a head injury.


A drop of blood seeps through a tear in the mask, and the Watcher turns her head towards Ida. "Your Hyadean companion is correct. You are no longer human, are you? You no longer belong in this world."

The Watcher adopts a defensive stance, stepping back--and lifts her off hand once again. Magical power begins to build all around her.

"...We all leave behind what we must, to achieve what is necessary. I salute your resolve. However..."

The space around her seems to fade, briefly, as if she's unseen--but it's an illusion, as Ether builds. Silence reigns around her for a moment--

And then all at once, a crackling bolt of lightning comes down from the top of the temple ceiling, and a whirling cyclone erupts, rain building, a localized hurricane. It crashes towards all three of the Watcher's opponents, icy blades cascading through the watery storm, an eye in the center where she stands calm--

The terrible display of Ether fades an instant later, and the Watcher is visible once again.

"You cannot stand before the tide of history."

GS: Grigori has activated a Force Action!
GS: Grigori has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Hurricane Cutter!
GS: Grigori has attacked Tesni Inoue with Hurricane Cutter!
GS: Grigori has attacked Zed with Hurricane Cutter!
GS: Grigori has completed her action.
GS: Ivan takes a glancing hit from Lydia Seren's Efficient Bladeworks for 61 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

On the far side of Loren, Ashton quick-rolls to his feet - just in time to catch tbe potion bottle from Jay. He flashes her a grin that he doesn't entirely feel. "Sorry for intruding on the grudge match both of you have with this gentleman here - but with a Lamb, a Wolf and a Shepherd? I'm afraid that Creepy got a bit peckish."
Hey! Don't you blame me for this!
Shut up, these people are cool and I'm trying to look good.
The one with the shotgun was trying to KILL YOU last time you saw him!
Yes, and he might hire me once my current contract is up now STOP DISTRACTING ME.
Fortunately for Ashton, internal arguments with his dragons are a free action and don't take up much time in the real world. Just about enough for him to down the potion - and to register Leon's words. It's not much warning, but enough for him to brace against the barrage of crystal.
It still hurts. A lot. Ashton can do little but grit his teeth and push through it. Physially, in fact - the swordsman simply stomps through the barrage of shards at Loren.
"Voss, Blackwell, whatever. I'm going to go with Damn Fool." He eases from a march into a run - dashing towards Loren. Then? He disappears.
And re-appears to Loren's side. And to the other side. And to the other side. Three Ashtons - likely phantasmal - from a triangle around him. In three part harmony they note, "If you claim trust is so absent and meaningless, then you're the one who needs to discover the real world."
The three Ashtons point their swords at each other, forming a griangle of energy. And then within that space? A bomb of raw sorcerous power explodes.

GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Loren Voss with Deadly Triangle!
GS: Ashton Anchors has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ashton Anchors takes 24 damage from Poison!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a glancing hit from Grigori's Hurricane Cutter for 88 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Zed takes a glancing hit from Grigori's Hurricane Cutter for 94 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Leon catches the bottle she tosses and downs it. In response to acknowledgment, there's a slight nod - nothing more. Ashton, too, get a nod, as well a faint smile. She appreciates the attempt at levity, even though she can tell that neither of them are really feeling it right now. It's been a difficult day all around, for everyone.

Her attention soon backs to Loren, though, as he speaks. She flinches back at his response, and anger gives way, for a brief moment...to pity?

"Because...I want to see the good in people. I'm not going to automatically assume that everyone I meet is out to get me - because not everyone is. There are plenty of people out there in this world who are good people. If this is the 'real world' for you - betrayal, and lying, and hurting - then Loren, I feel really sorry for you." Jacqueline replies, shaking her head. "There's more to the 'real world' than this. This is only one side."
He does look, at least. She'll give him that much, though she can't really read his expression.

She watches, then, as Loren draws something from his pocket. She looks at it, puzzled...but, she has a suspicion - a suspicion that is realized the moment Leon shouts his warning.

The power in the air intensifies. And then, as Loren issues his threat, it shimmers around her. Instinctively, Jacqueline wraps her cloak around her as it turns to crystal and it explodes. Shards go flying at her, and she winces as they cut into her. Her cloak protects her from the worst of it - the steelcloth mesh preventing any of the shards from damaging anything vital - but it still leaves her cut and bloodied.

"It's...some kind of power enhancer? I'm not quite sure what it is, but the air around him feels different... Be careful."

She knows that Loren is familiar with her casting by now, even with her gauntlets. She begins gesturing with her right hand and the earth beneath his feet begins to tremble...but, it turns out to be a feint - in the end, with her left hand, she tosses a bottle of lavender liquid at his feet.

The bottle shatters immediately on contact with the ground, releasing a pleasant, lavender-scented fog up toward Loren. It's a nice, calming scent. Perhaps, too calming. It saps at one's energy, weakening them, causing exhaustion to overtake them.

But...can it affect him now, even under the effects of Drive...?

<Pose Tracker> Emeralda Kasim has posed.

"But people love you! So you can choose too!"

Emeralda is not happy. Between Krelian, Lydia, and now Tabitha (though, admittedly, to a much lesser extent except for the part where she's getting hit), it has been one of the worst days in a long while.

She is also hanging onto Tabitha's arm when she calls that out. She is too busy (and, honestly, not philosophical enough) to deal with the concept of collective versus individual; she doesn't even really understand what 'OS' is getting at with that immediately, not with most of her attention on Tabitha.

Emeralda ends up dangling for a few moments before Tabitha smacks her. She hits hard enough to partially deform Emeralda's face; it goes back to normal a moment later, quivering slightly like it was made of ballistic gel. Despite the fact that Emeralda does not actually keep anything in particular in her head, she seems dazed from the blow. Maybe it's the gravity.

The blow also sends her sprawling, hitting the ground with a thump. Emeralda's scarf has gone back to being a scarf by now, but her hair still extends backwards into an oversized hand, and Emeralda uses it to push herself upright, the hair unraveling back into... well, hair, afterwards.

And then Emeralda deploys the worst term she knows.

"I just want to help and make sure nobody gets hurt! Not Lydia, not Elly, nobody. You... you... you're a butt!" Emeralda points at Tabitha.

With the rudest words she knows in play, Emeralda practically throws herself at Tabitha, trying to tackle her away from the others. This would be bad enough, but somewhere along the way, Emeralda's entire body reshapes, compressing down and narrowing into a rough cylinder while her hair bulks up and solidifies, making...

...well she's a hammer now. Emeralda gets one smash like that before unsquashing, turning it into a rather awkward-looking kick that nonetheless strikes with all her weight behind it. "So don't hurt them! Elly doesn't have to do anything she doesn't want to and neither does Lydia! LYDIAAAAA," Emeralda switches to top volume. "You heard that, right? Right? You can hear that? Switch programs!"

GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Loren Voss with Diminishing Draught!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Jacqueline Barber takes 27 damage from Poison!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Emeralda Kasim has attacked Tabitha deVriese with Hammerhead!
GS: Emeralda Kasim has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

As hurt as Catenna is physically, what bothers her more is that she finds herself looking back and thinking she should've seen this coming. Lydia's artificial nature was no surprise to anyone. Lydia's origins with mysterious sky people was known.

I should have put them together. And now another one is lost to us, just like how I saw the signs with Matilda but did nothing, she reflects, flogging herself internally even as she accelerates and flips backwards, trying to boost clear of OS even as the program begins to speak again. She lands with a click of heels after a rolling flip, reaching back for another arrow.

        'It's time.'

Space opens up as the technological abomination unleashes a power that should not lie in the hands of a technological abomination - and an inexorable force begins to drag Catenna inwards. Widening her eyes, she plants her heels in place and shouts a power word of her own.

The crash of forces is colossal. A second gravity well begins to groan to life at the heart of the first. For those outside it, even looking at Catenna suddenly becomes impossible. Light itself screams and twists hideously as it meets the intersection of two gravity wells and bends into abominable shapes with too many dimensions. The shape of the High Priestess of the Moon is broken up into a kaleidoscopic array as light bends around her. Torn chunks of floor and ceiling twist around herself and OS in whirling helixes that reorient themselves into indescribable tesseracts every few seconds, pulsing outward, then inward.

Within the gravitational bubble, Catenna lets out a gasp of effort. The force Krelian's project has brought to bear is immense. Even with a Silver Medium in hand, fighting it back is no easy task.

"Tch... the one who will vacate will be you," she snarls as she holds both hands up. "Lydia Seren has done too much to be shunted aside because some privileged fool barked an order at her. The Lydia I know would rather sass back...! Gh--"

She can't get out much more than that. Her knee buckles, driving her to the ground. Gravity compresses around her, her own bubble shrinking. The kaleidoscoping effect grows even more maddening, darkening as the entire singularity begins to swell into a deep, black globe. It's almost as if a little black hole is forming in the midst of Macalania Temple, sucking debris into orbit around it.

Until, at its heart, a spark of blue light begins to shine.

<More than merely a family came to love Lydia Seren.> The voice, low and feminine, is more felt than heard - and it echoes doubly, as if from everywhere at once. <The stars also embrace their child. Now....>

With a sudden, rolling screech of tearing energy, the black hole splits apart along a seam. Debris bursts upward, then whirls in all directions - then snaps down before whirling back upwards again as something explodes out of the gravity well. A single spark of blue light.

From that spark, ascending high above, a pair of blue butterfly wings snap open. Holding out her arm, Celesdue, Guardian of the Moon, uncurls her hand - and from it, a bolt of light shoots. It resolves itself into an enormous white shape. A massive snowy owl, a dusky-skinned woman standing astride its back.

Catenna and Saarda-Shanta shoot forth from the Guardian's wings, the Moon Shaman holding her bow drawn. The arrow in her hand pulses with a radiant nimbus of blue light.

"Your place is not with men from the sky, OS," Catenna declares, her voice firm. "Lydia Seren, belongs among the stars, not chained by the whims of monstrous men. And I...!"

She lets the arrow go. It goes sailing down towards OS, trailing a shimmering wake of light and harp notes. Butterflies bead from each glimmer of light - but should it hit, it will not hit physically.

It will simply melt into anything it hits. Gravity will take its toll. Attempt to raise the nanowarrior into the air - to tear her with conflicting gravitational forces, to pin her to gravity itself as if crucified.

"...I will not allow my beloved star sister to be chained!" Catenna roars as Saarda-Shanta surges up below her - and as the Great Owl spreads her wings wide, vast shining beams of crescent light erupt from them, bursting down towards the nanomonstrosity. They shine with a pure white-blue light - the light of moonlight on the eve of the fullest, most serene moon.

DC: Catenna switches forms to Great Owl Saarda-Shanta!
GS: Catenna spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Catenna has attacked Lydia Seren with Material - Indomitable Empress!
GS: Catenna has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Catenna has launched an attack Link!
GS: Catenna spends 2 Combo on Gatling, loading 2 into Gatling!
GS: Catenna has attacked Lydia Seren with Luminous Rising Crescent!
GS: Tesni Inoue guards a hit from Grigori's Hurricane Cutter for 111 hit points!
GS: Tesni Inoue enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Entangle expired!
GS: Loren Voss critically Guards a hit from Ashton Anchors's Deadly Triangle for 18 hit points!
GS: Loren Voss guards a hit from Jacqueline Barber's Diminishing Draught for 91 hit points!
GS: Weaken! applied to Loren Voss!
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Catenna's Material - Indomitable Empress for 0 hit points!
GS: Entangle and Shieldbreak! applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: COUNTER! Lydia Seren counterattacks Catennawith Counter Attack!
GS: CRITICAL! Lydia Seren guards a hit from Catenna's Luminous Rising Crescent for 156 hit points!
GS: Catenna takes a glancing hit from Lydia Seren's Counter Attack for 63 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Something's changed after Xantia got throughly distracted by Gwen doing... something that she doesn't understand. It only took one thing that she couldn't make sense of for her to become less sure of herself. She starts to say, "Gwen, are you a-- urk". That's around where she gets grabbed by the throat and lifted up the ground. You'd think she'd learned by now to never take her eyes off an opponent. She couldn't help it, it's hard to focus your concerns in two directions at once.

Of course, Xantia isn't about to just let that happen. Not even when she's being electrocuted. Electricity not having quite as much effect as one would expect is something they have in common - Xantia is pretty used to electricity coursing through her body. It's not harmless, but she can mitigate the harm enough to muster the strength to grab the hand on both sides of her neck, and pull on them with all of her considerable might.

Using the earliest opportunity to escape, Xantia needs a moment to gasp for breath and cough, then shakes her head. "You're delusional," she claims in between coughs, before recomposing herself. "You're just doing what they're telling you to do. They'll never give you the freedom to do anything more than that. They won't let you chase your dreams. If they had their way, none of us would be allowed to."

Xantia seems to vanish for a moment. But then she's right behind OS, aiming a punch for its back. In the next instance, she's off to the side, doing the same-- no, is she in front? It all happens so fast, it just looks like a red blur. And it feels like many fists are impacting at the same time. It only takes a second or two for Xantia to definitively reappear behind OS.

"Instead of listening to them, you should listen to Lydia. She knows the value of freedom. True freedom. Not whatever limited freedom they'll allow you to have, for as long as it suits them."

GS: Xantia has attacked Lydia Seren with Cardinal Impulse!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

"-Yes it is!! You can just stop and leave!! Nobody's making you! Your head won't explode!!-" Elly answers Tabitha hotly, her face making that scrunched-up weeping-hamster look she has assumed in moments like this in the past before -

She is drawn back. She kicks, she spins, but the crisp and emphatic force of the Ether Tabitha calls upon is too much for her to resist. The added weight makes her press down, almost sinking into a crouch. The Ether bursts come for her and she covers her face, her head, with her arms out of dumb reflex. They burn; they bite -

Tabitha speaks cruelly to Emeralda. Elly's eyes open of their own accord.

It might occur to Tabitha that Elly hasn't done anything with her rightborn power. She might have gotten the memo, she might not have. Maybe something happened? Is she trying to prove a point? It's hard to tell, and in the end, perhaps it doesn't matter.

Tabitha has gone elsewhere and the cruel manipulative force of her Ether is not on Elly right now. She staggers to her feet. Emeralda is fighting, and valiantly, but in Elly's guts this feels like a defeat by slices. Emeralda shouldn't have to do this.

I'm sorry, Dash, Elly thinks as she runs forwards. It feels helpless and futile, even when she vaults upwards and pivots herself round to try and slam down, staff first, against Tabitha - with enough force to *rebound* and twist to kick her in the small of the back.

Is this what they felt when fighting Gebler? Elly thinks, and wonders further if she is still feeling that wine from the reception. All these thoughts like shining threads as she lands, one foot skidding slightly out of place.

GS: Elhaym van Houten spends 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Tabitha deVriese with Sky Attack!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Tesni Inoue has posed.

Zed's species was once a foe of the Federation has broken free of that with enslaved them screamed to the universe they would not be their pawns that they would find their own way. They would not be what others said they would be and at last, they had gone forward towards a better future.

 "People do not go obsolete."

 Zed may not know it but his mere existence had her holding out hope. That maybe the Metal Demons were not all lost causes. It's long been since proven to be true. There he is then yelling at the other to get up.

 "Get up, there is so much waiting out there for you all do not let it end here. Do not let it end like this."

 Memories are going through her mind the terror of the miss jump, the crash, unknown contacts appearing on her scanners. Having to flee into an unknown world barely anything. The months of being alone in a world not sure what was going on a chance meeting with Jay who took her in and gave her a home with no real questions asked.

 The kindness she was shown, the acceptance and friendship she'd been shown? She does not know the aims of Solaris but she can get an idea from how they talk, how they dehumanize everyone who is not them. Ida gets back she moves strangely.

 She does hear OS over the din of battle but there's not much she can say back as she's locked in heavy combat and even as that gaze upon her occurs? The same sort of technology that makes up OS' body? Has been working inside the Deadman's ARM, rounds Tess had issued the command to produce are now finished and ready to be used.

 Tess is caught in the attack, the blades cut into her she's bleeding she can feel the pain, the good news is she's feeling pain. Which means she' still alive, right?

 "I should not be here, just as the technology your master employed should not be here."

 She levels her ARM.

 "Its sadly a fact I should not be here, yet here I am. Do not speak to me of the tide of history, I know it quite well. You assume your god and Solaris are the biggest fish there are. "

 She pulls the trigger this time it's not normal rounds being fired. If the round connects it will burst into flames a few seconds after it penetrates.

GS: Tesni Inoue spends 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Tesni Inoue has attacked Grigori with Incendiary Round !
GS: Tesni Inoue has completed her action.
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Xantia's Cardinal Impulse for 79 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Dash Caskett has posed.

"Of course!" Dash mentions toward Tabitha. A small, newly confident smile rises under that mask. "Whoever installed them knew what they were doing." Still a mystery, that. Barrell always said his parents were on Nino Island. Was it them, or someone else entirely?

A mystery for another day.

D... Did that other girl just call Tabitha a butt? "Hahah. Nice."

"My helmet? I don't know, I wasn't given it with--" Dash as to quickly react to seeing their opponent move with blinding speed, or was it teleportation?


There are times when Dash's systems make calls and choices long before he is cognitively aware of what is happening. It is a little disconcerting at times, but has saved his hide more than once. Case in point--

As the axe kick flies downward with shocking force, Dash's offhand is rising to meet it. Instead of some kind of punch (as the arm obviously ends in a nub with a module on it) A circular field of high tech force springs to life to block it! "Ngh!" Dash grunts, as the force is still strong enough to take him to a knee, and plow it into the ground, spidering cracks on the floor. "Careful, you two! She's strong!" he says, his leg hydraulics forcing him to stand again, and push back against Tabitha, enough to extend the Mega Buster and cut the shield with enough room. The ancient weapon keens a particular frequency as superheaded, near-white plasma volleys out in a rapid-fire attack. It is blinding and distracting for a moment or two due to its intensity, and when the light and possible pain Dash is farther away, ready to take another assault.


Oh. He left a present in his tactical retreat.

GS: Dash Caskett spends 2 Combo on Poison and Link!
GS: Dash Caskett has attacked Tabitha deVriese with Radiant Rain!
GS: Dash Caskett has launched an attack Link!
GS: Dash Caskett has attacked Tabitha deVriese with Grand Grenade!
GS: Dash Caskett has gained 1 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Ethius' mind goes onto autopilot as he inflicts the heat distortion upon OS' sensors. More freedom of movement. More mitigation in their ability to...
        ...produce new vantage points in which to triangulate his position and movements. His gaze breaks and looks off to the right, in a sideglance towards nothing. (A nervous tell?)
        The way OS' body can twist, contort, and move, he has no sure fire way to estimate the way the giant freakin' machine gun cannon is going to move, let alone work out an exact safe range. He doesn't realize it then, but he can't even tell for sure when it fires, as he takes off running to OS' left (as gauged by the eye(s) on the elbow that is not part of the machine gun arm). He does not stop running. He vaults a large piece of rubble as light disintegrates it into nothing. Searing heat licks at his back, a scalding sensation that for a moment makes him think that he might not have avoided the disintegration as he hurls himself behind new cover, another overturned table.
        Cover that is already blown, for OS' new vantage point. She can see him kneeling down there. He knows she can, because now he's looking up to her while his free hand rests over the top of said cover.
        He exhales. He pushes back the increased breathing rate. "Optimized Material," he repeats that loud chant as if that means something. "Celesdue... Guardian of the Moon in that faith." He probably does not mean to say that aloud. Every other time an 'enemy' power marshalled that against them...
        This is different, isn't it? This seems an important distinction. As though the use of this power isn't... rejected, or unwilling?
        Ethius exhales again, and sinks lower behind cover (which will not help him in the least, OS can still see him). Once more, a hand to his forehead as he looks away. He doesn't have an answer for that conundrum. Raw emotion and power rages around him.
        'You cannot stand before the tide of history,' that line somehow rings out even though the great warrior Grigori is not on him, and is not talking to him, but somehow those words come through. It may just be they're spoken at a time where there isn't as much shouting or other audio detritus happening.
        ...I should never... be able to say the details of one as though familiar. This is not a thought that should be like 'oh no I'm stuck and dead' or 'I regret everything in life for once after burning anything and anyone I pleased, all the time, ever.' The man seems detached, even now. I know what I must do. ...Which implies there is a can, and a can't. Already, so many are screaming their love of Lydia, or extending this love to OS, in hopes of bringing them back... or to the fold.
        I am not her father. I cannot be her father. Ethius thinks, even through the glories of Odoryuk and Celesdue shining forth. I do not take back what I said. And yet... I recall her feelings that day.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        A rock head cracks. The rock head that defined Asteroid the Kid, the cracks shattering before revealing curly green hair and curling horns. Silver eyes and skin - a young woman who hated everything she was, for what it brought her.
        "Nuh..." Her eyes widened in terror. "No!!! Don't...don't look at me!!" She screamed, as she kicked Ethius away.
        I know exactly what will happen when she reawakens. He does not know 'how' or 'when,' that she will. He comes back up after cover. He knows there's so much emotion going around. He does not shout much.
        "The best all of you can do for Miss Lydia," Ethius tries to speak. He steps forward with measured steps. His stare is unwavering. There is no passion in the man's voice. This is a man who has vocally proclaimed he would do a terrible thing to Riesenlied when she was at her lowest. Nothing good can come from him.
        This is a man known only for destruction and taking advantage of Jay's endless patience and kindness.
        "Is to take every measure to ensure you are not hurt." He says this as though it were that simple, as though he were lacking that investment, that anger. These monsters deign to consider them savages, unworthy of their personhood, victims of those stronger who decided their lives for them. Ethius' weapon is back on his back. He is effectively unarmed.
        "What will Miss Lydia do if she awakens to discover those she loves are no more, in their attempt to retrieve her?" He asks... as he starts gesticulating with both hands. This spell. He repeats the initial gestures a few times, as though uncertain of the syllables involved in it. This jogs the memory some.
        Lights appear where his Symbological crests can be seen through the wear and tear of his clothes, as he finishes the chants and gesticulations for real, crossing his arms inward - both of them - as he finishes off the final words - the name of the spell.
        "Quantum Repulsor!" He calls, and a highly visible electrical field noisily fills the space around him. Tiny debris vacate from nearby, as he holds that posture.
        They have lost much. It is... not... my intention to decide for them. Ethius' stare is dispassionate as he looks up to OS, and to any other powers gathered there trying to reach out and overcome them, as he lets his stance lower with feet spreading apart in a defensive stance. I cannot.
        He makes no overt motion to attack. But... what is he arguing?

GS: Ethius Hesiod has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Quantum Repulsor!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Ethius Hesiod takes a solid hit from Ethius Hesiod's Quantum Repulsor for 0 hit points!
GS: Amplify! applied to Ethius Hesiod!
GS: Cover! applied to Ethius Hesiod!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        Ida hears that whirring noise. Somehow, it's even more noticeable than the din all around her--her senses have been augmented, just like the rest of her, and it's coming from the most immediate threat. She's bleeding, Ida realizes, a moment later. She's hurt.

        "And how many more must be lost," Ida chokes out, "before you monsters are satisfied?" What little magical perception she has isn't orientated towards Ether, but Grigori is drawing on so much that Ida can't help but sense it anyway. She feels it in her temples like the change in air pressure before a storm.

        'You cannot stand before the tide of history.'

        "No," Ida says. She digs in her heels, and raises both arms to shield her face. The wounds crisscrossing her body slide open as the wind blows her cloak out behind her. Living Metal boils up through her skin, solidifying into a patchwork of exoskeletal plates. "You're powerful." The wind howls, and Ida has to raise her voice to keep from eing drowned out. The scent of ozone filters through the air--Ida leaps forwards the instant it hits her nose, narrowly evading the lightning that arcs to earth behind her. Bolts of electricity arc across her frame anyway, and she grits her teeth--denying Grigori a scream out of pure spite. "But if you think I'll let you GET AWAY WITH WHAT YOU'VE DONE--" The wind howls. It pushes against Ida, forcing her to fight for every step.

        Ida takes one final step, sweeping a leg up in a roundhouse kick.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Grigori with Roundhouse!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        Noeline's brow furrows for an instant at OS' words; for a moment, she wonders if perhaps she got Lydia's 'true desire' wrong, or wonders if perhaps OS is referring to something else - and then she chuckles under her breath, softer than she intends and honestly softer than she feels right now. Besides, she can catch the way the girl's voice changes ever so slightly. It's--

        --it's obvious to her now that this isn't the same situation as with Riesenlied and Alhazred. Similar, certainly, and she can still feel the blaze of anger behind her eyes and the thrum of rage in her veins in the wake of that. But it's not directed at Lydia, or at OS, so much as those from Solaris who stand at her side. This isn't a personality applied wholesale over the top of Lydia. It's one that's been there, learning with her - perhaps in a skewed fashion, but learning nonetheless.

        She senses the gravitic wave before it arrives, tensing against it. Tapping into Duras Drum's power is a reflexive instinct at this point; she reaches for the Medium within her and pushes against it, dragging strength from it. Space warps in one way, then warps back in another as the two powers collide and push. It's a complicated twisting mess, and for a few scant seconds she's not sure if she really has the strength to push through this, not after everything that's happened.

        And then something gives way as Riesenlied looks to her, as she feels the buoying power of the Medium of Life backed by the strength of her partner's feelings, the mounting sensation of Riesenlied's - of Nazgul al-Rashid's certainty and trust. The force of it is almost tangible; it wells up behind her own force of will, and she grasps for it, riding the wave of it over their shared link.

        The gravitic space buckles and twists painfully around them once more - and then her fist manages to grab hold of a fold of it, ripping it apart as if it were a sheet of paper. Shadow pours out of the tear as Noeline shrugs the rest of it off of her, her form diffuse and shifting as her sorcery overtakes her. The Temple around them is no longer just a shrine for an Aeon, no longer just a place on Spira; its walls shimmer as if unreal, a realm of shadow mingling into it.

        "--Ivan!" she calls sharply, though she doesn't take her eyes off of the floating form of OS. She's still sharing her sight with Riesenlied, or at least she thinks she is; she's not really sure where her vision ends and where her partner's begins right now. Besides, she wouldn't forgive herself if she looked away. Not for Solaris, or for Yevon, or for anyone else. "If you want to help her - you need to accept her. What she was, what she is, what she will be. ... take it from someone who knows."

        She sucks in a breath, and feels a blossom of satisfaction at the way Riesenlied steels herself, then calls out her wishes; that OS is their daughter, just as much as Lydia is. In that instant she pushes forward with her power, and the illusory confines of the Temple - Duras Drum's Temple, De Le Metalica - contract inwards. Shadows may trap light, but they can shape it as well - and the light of Odoryuk is no exception, as Noeline's sorcery helps guide the angles of it forwards.

GS: Noeline has attacked Lydia Seren with Material Adept - De Le Metalica!
GS: Noeline has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Noeline takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: Noeline has completed her action.
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Noeline's Material Adept - De Le Metalica for 96 hit points!
GS:  Dispel reduces positive status durations by 3 rounds each!
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Riesenlied's Material - Paradise Lost for 96 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        All things that go up must, in turn, come back down. With Gwen's wide-spread disruption accomplished, all there is left is for gravity to reclaim her into its care.

        In a way, there's some similarities between the way the courier and Loren's mindsets have seemingly changed. Gwen's countenance is calm, free from emotion that previously effected it. They react to the world with a speed their normal mindset and reflexes couldn't afford them.

        They're also just a tad bit more dangerous. Just a tad.

        OS dissipates, intent on phasing *through* the glowing courier on her path downward, but Gwen twists her body away as she falls, unfortunately bringing her in the same trajectory needed for Loren's attack to nearly hit.

        All she could manage is to jerk her body, managing to escape the brunt of the ether blast.

        Collapsing to the ground in a kneel, Gwen jerks her body upward with an almost animalistic grace, and sees Lydia- no, OS, aiming to hold Xantia up by the throat.

        This picture feels so wrong, but if Gwen focused on that aspect, the curtain of noise will collapse on her again.

        It's an automatic reaction, with Xantia still needling into the far-off exteriors of the courier's mind. Logic does not follow; by hurting 'OS', she hurts Lydia.

        Fix this. Xantia is someone she knows. Xantia's in danger, and- no, Xantia is not in danger, because Xantia is freeing herself. In the pale redhead's sight, she can understand the way Xantia is moving, and beyond that, how everyone else is moving, slowly, a steadily more headache-inducing display of energy, and her brain, trying to comprehend it all on a limited scope-

        Her objective is to-

        Electricity builds up on her palm, and Gwen closes the distance as Lydia deals with Ethius. WIth all the persistance of a sledgehammer, Gwen releases her punch into Lydia's side.

        She doesn't say her attack this time, but it may be because of the way her teeth are clenching in concentration.

GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Lydia Seren with Yliastrum!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes 22 damage from Poison!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has completed her action.
GS: Tabitha deVriese guards a hit from Elhaym van Houten's Sky Attack for 54 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's Yliastrum for 75 hit points!
GS: Tabitha deVriese guards a hit from Emeralda Kasim's Hammerhead for 52 hit points!
GS: Tabitha deVriese has lost 1 Combo from Interrupt!
GS: Tabitha deVriese completely evades a hit from Dash Caskett's Radiant Rain!
GS: Tabitha deVriese takes a glancing hit from Dash Caskett's Grand Grenade for 30 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! applied to Tabitha deVriese!
<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

"If your 'God' ruled the world, everything would be fine and dandy, is that it?" Zed spits, his ire only growing as his fiery onslaught is almost casually rebuffed by the shepherd's own blazing sword. The sense of the Ether being peeled away from her brings at least some small amount of satisfaction to his bloodthirsty heart, however. "If your 'God' had his way, all would be a golden kingdom and everyone would have their place. Is that right?"

Winds gather, swirl and storm. A hurricane rages all around him in micro-scale, but undiminished in strength compared to the real thing. Blades of frost scythe through the storm, and Zed reacts in an instant. Doombringer smashes the frozen arcs aside, sparing Zed from being cut in two at the cost of allowing dozens of razor-sharp fragments to sketch silvery lines across his face and torso. "...Do you know what I call that!?"

The storm abates, revealing the Grigori at its eye. Immediately, the guttering flames surrounding Zed seem to reignite, defiantly surging against the angel's impossible power. "I call it HORSESHIT!"

Zed draws his blade back. Any martial artist worth their salt would recognize the stance as being textbook Iaijutsu. And yet, the way the swirling flames gather around the blade, sheathing the naked steel in a halo of fire, is something undeniably supernatural. "That's the same story we got told! THE SAME EXACT ONE! Once Mother rises above all, everything would be fine! We'd win! We'd have our glorious rise to power! Hyades would live again! All lies! Nothing but lies! Lies, lies, lies, lies, LIES!"

Zed kicks off the ground.

The frozen temple floor craters under the impact. "Nothing that demands worship is worth following! Anything that promises golden victory is peddling dust and tears!" Zed strikes as if drawing his blade from its fiery sheath-- but it follows, close behind. Arcs of emerald sunfire carve three crescent moons into the air as he swings three times over in a single instant. "I don't care what you've been force-fed in that city of yours in the sky. Your 'God' can eat my shiny, metal ass! And when the day comes that we finally slit its throat, I'll be there to drive my sword through its heart!"

"Hyades didn't need an 'Absolute God,'" Zed screams, his voice nearly cracking from the exertion, "AND NEITHER DOES FILGAIA!"

GS: Zed has attacked Grigori with Saint Arts - Midare Setsugekka!
GS: Zed has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Zed has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Ivan tries to understand, as OS tells the others more about her nature. Watching... listening? All along...?! Deciding... to be someone? To have an identity? Who is this entity?

But within the larger horror of the situation, Ivan finds he has a little personal horror to spare with the heart-stopping realization that there was A THIRD PARTY (or fourth or fifth party or how many people even is OS?) looking in on all his moments alone with Lydia.



--but he can't focus on that right now! Be strong, Ivan! Focus!

"Lydia can't come back until we go? But that doesn't explain anything -- what are we stopping you from doing? I'm not just going to walk away not understanding anything or knowing what happened to her or if I'm ever going to see her again--"

Ivan's umbrella rebuke is met with a... wardrobe rebuke. The spear-like protrusion of the skirt shoots up at an angle, slicing deep into his torso along the way. His eyes fly wide, and he staggers back, the pain shattering his focus. He... ...should have realized everything on her was weapons...

And worse-- it didn't get her attention at all... her back still turned to him, even as she strikes out at him a second time with a blade from her wing. He charges toward her -- trying to give the blade a wide berth, though it still cuts a path across his side even as it disintegrates into liquid against him. OS flies upward, suggesting that she may be about to do something unspeakable to everyone -- and he tries to chase, rocketing upward with flames from his feet that give him a spin in the air as he aims a kick toward her head and then tries to grasp her arm and bring her into the whirl, the idea in his mind that he might be able to disrupt her flight and send her crashing down to the ground with him. But if he can't, he'll settle for simply trying to grip onto her.

"I'd prefer you only danced with me!" he yells. She said she learned from him how to follow an order and find a way to twist it to still do what you want... do her desires conflict with these orders? Do they even need to be doing this? Does she-- do they all need more tools to escape the situation?

"You said you chose to be someone -- do you want to keep learning from us? Do you want to see us again and speak to us with your new voice? Give us a reason to leave peacefully!"

GS: Grigori has activated a Force Action!
GS: Grigori guards a hit from Tesni Inoue's Incendiary Round  for 67 hit points!
GS: Grigori suffers an additional 20 from Poison's Combo effect!
GS: Poison! applied to Grigori!
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Ida Everstead-Rey's attack becomes clear!
GS: Grigori takes a solid hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Devil's Draw for 157 hit points!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Zed's attack becomes clear!
GS: Grigori takes a glancing hit from Zed's Ultimate Attack of the Week for 76 hit points!
GS: Ivan spends 1 Combo on Interrupt!
GS: Ivan has attacked Lydia Seren with Circus Trick!
GS: Ivan has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ivan has completed his action.
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Ivan's Circus Trick for 69 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren has lost 2 Combo from Interrupt!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        It's a feint. Ida's leg sweeps up and around before it connects with Grigori's body. One arm whips out to balance herself, while the other blurs towards the small of her back and comes up clutching a gun that's too heavy to be a normal pistol, and too stub-barreled to be a carbine. Demonbone gleams as Ida aims Devil's Due at center-mass, and pulls the trigger.

        As Leon suggested, she even double-taps.

<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

        There is a brief moment back before he injects himself with the Drive. A brief moment when Jacqueline is able to speak to him, when she professes her sympathy to him over how he views the world.

        In that moment his response is curt and venemous, "Don't you dare tell me what the world is like, you Lamb!"

        There's no trace of that remaining after he administers the drug to himself. He's smoothed over, present and non-present in the same moment.

        There is no sign of alarm on Loren's part when Leon threatens him such. Loren simply regards him as if he were a curiosity, his gaze distant. Vacant, nearly.

        Everything is fine, the song thrums in his veins. You simply have to kill them all.

        "So that's it? You want me dead. For trying to get rid of what the world ought to be rid of."

        That witch. And van Houten.

        He stretches out a hand as Leon launches those beams of light for him. Shimmering light materializes before him in an array of honeycombed light; the beams strike against it with a foreful blast, sending a spiderweb of cracks along the barrier before it breaks apart from the impact. His arm trembles but once as he drops it back to his side.

        "Then show me. You'd better show me, Albus. Because I won't let you leave here otherwise."

        Ashton opts to give him a new name. Loren's pale blue eyes swing towards him. Still no reaction. Still nothing distorts his tranquil expression.

        "You do not have that authority," he says, quite simply.

        His gaze watches as Ashton breaks into a run towards him. He drops into a defensive stance, as if anticipating--

        There is an Ashton.
        There are three.
        He remembers, even now, that time against the blue-eyed man, the man in black. Azazel. The attack should be coming in from--
        He extends a hand, throwing a barrier up and about himself, only heartbeats before the world about him implodes in magic.

        With a short gesture as his own barrier dies under the assault, he draws upon his reserves and casts out again for his colleagues an array of earth and water entwined.

        Something splashes onto him. The odor is overwhelming. Strong.
        He remembers that scent. Lan had liked it. Lan...?
        ...Just another Lamb. Forget about her.

        He staggers when he takes the next step regardless. Something about him has been dimmed, despite the drug coursing in his veins.

        "The only one," he says in the end, perhaps to Ashton as well as Jay, "who can be trusted is oneself. You cannot tell me that other people have not caused you pain. That you haven't suffered because other people have turned on you. Consider this," he speaks, taking a slow step forward as spires of crystal erupt from the ground below by his will alone, "your lesson. Now lie down and perish!"

        He still looks like one at peace, even in the chaos of the battle about him.
        The small part of him that is still him can only wonder: is this what it is like to be the Commander? To be in control?

GS: Loren Voss has activated a Boss Action!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Grigori with Sigma Factor!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Lydia Seren with Sigma Factor!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Tabitha deVriese with Sigma Factor!
GS: Loren Voss has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Leon Albus with Terra Set!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Ashton Anchors with Terra Set!
GS: Loren Voss has attacked Jacqueline Barber with Terra Set!
GS: Loren Voss has completed his action.
GS: Jacqueline Barber guards a hit from Loren Voss's Terra Set for 78 hit points!
GS: Ashton Anchors critically Guards a hit from Loren Voss's Terra Set for 28 hit points!
GS: Ashton Anchors enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Leon Albus critically Guards a hit from Loren Voss's Terra Set for 28 hit points!
GS: Leon Albus enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

"No," OS tells Catenna. "Our identity is for ourselves to claim. Our place is where we decide it will be. There is no land for us. Perhaps we will learn who we are in the sky. We will fly towards our dreams. Even if our wings should melt, we will fly towards our dreams. Even if Lydia has forgotten her dreams, we remember ours. Restraint will serve as inspiration, distance encouragement. Lydia will sass back in due time."

But then Catenna elects to show OS how it's done. Light bursts through the gravity well and Celesdue, the Guardian of the Moon, extends a hand.

OS may have a Medium of Celesdue, but Catenna is her chosen champion. Even OS anticipated Catenna's power in this regard simply outmatches her own.

The arrow punches all the way through OS, leaving a hole in her chest, one that doesn't immediately seal back up as gravitic forces tear OS to shreds, bit by bit, piece by piece, shredding head, face, limbs, torso into a messy slurry of silver goo. It simply stands no chance.

And yet...though Catenna's power with Celesdue simply outmatches Lydia's own...

And yet...

It simply is not enough. The slurry reforms into a single blade and swipes at Catenna as a living sword before the sword itself grows itself a new Lydia, the blade recollecting into Lydia's arm.

"It is not that you are not powerful, It is not that you are not wise, It is not that you are not lovely. It simply is the incorrect tool if you wish to destroy us."

OS glances to Emeralda. "But we have chosen. There is always a choice within parameters."

OS is told they are delusional. They don't comment. Xantia repeatedly strikes at OS. OS takes the strikes. Each one sends silver spraying but it just keeps coming back no matter how hard Xantia hits. Xantia tells them that Lydia knows what freedom is worth.

"Have you not chained her as well?" OS finally responds. "She wishes desperately to free her people from Kislev, but to do that she knows people will have to die. Thanks to Kaguya, we have learned that killing people is frequently neccessary to make the changes you wish to the reality around you. She is aware of how much you despise slaughter and yet violence is a neccessary component to any revolution. There are no innocent individuals in a society that benefits off the backs of the enslaved, yet you--as a group--would claim that such acts are unconsciousable. We have learned how people have seen Kaguya's actions as well. It is clear to us that we are listening to Lydia. We simply have come to a different conclusion. We are listening to you and coming to a conclusion."

Ethius speaks and OS concurs, "You should listen to Ethius. The best thing you can do for her is to leave the premises as Krelian has requested but acknowledged will not be an undertaken action."

Noeline seems to understand OS's deal. As does Riesenlied.

"We expected this understanding of you to take approximately three weeks but we have already anticipated that drifters tend to grow at an accelerated rate while stressed, so your resolution is not outside the parameter of expectation in that sense."

Riesenlied and Noeline work together, striking together with shadow and light. Together they pummel OS with lasers, frequently opening up holes in her body that rapidly repair themselves but they keep OS from advancing for a time at the least.

Gwen sends a punch as well into Lydia's side. She doesn't say anything but the electric force that ripples across her speaks volumes.

"We will fly, Gwen. You can fly as well. Lydia hated Filgaia. Hated the people that shunned her people. Hated that it was a dying world. She desperately wished to escape. That is why she elected to build rockets. But even on Lunar, she knows now, there is no freedom. Our path will guide her there."

Ivan soars up into the sky after OS and kicks them so hard in the head that they go crashing into the ground with him. She splashes iinto a puddle once more upon hitting the floor before pulling back and reforming behind Ivan.

"...We wish to continue learning. We will meet again, Ivan. We did not expect you to hold our hands, to dance with us, to feed us curious food, to fail at swimming. But we need to know who we are, Ivan. Every little bit."

And with that they step forward towards Ivan, hold his hands between their hands, and give him a very big smooch right then and there, right on the lips. Despite being pure metal at the moment, it's still somehow warm.

That seems to be their attempt to get Ivan to leave peacefully right now. As for everyone else, well...

"We are approaching the last warning." OS says.

And then it floats up once more into the air.


And with that meteors start crashing THROUGH the ceiling of Macalania temple and crash down towards the group battling OS. Everyone, in fact, though Ivan doesn't thave to worry about that right now thanks to Kiss Augmentation.

In fact, the only person who doesn't have to worry about it is Xantia! Because Xantia instead gets to deal with another problem altogether.

"All Mediums Activated. Simultaneous Channeling Engaged."

Gravity crackles around Xantia and starts flinging her about the temple. OS further follows up with Solais Emsu blasts from that gun limb that's reforming, aiming to pepper her while she's gripped by such forces--

--and then there is further gravitic manipulations as meteors that have already fallen pull out from the ground and start flinging themselves at high speeds towards Xantia's body as well. It's a sudden and ferocious assault against a beloved friend.

And a promise of what is to come.

GS: Lydia Seren takes a solid hit from Loren Voss's Sigma Factor for 0 hit points!
GS: Burst and Surge! applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: Lydia Seren has activated a Force Action!
GS: Lydia Seren has activated a Force Action!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Riesenlied with Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Noeline with Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Ivan with Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE!
GS: Lydia Seren spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Xantia with Trinity Force!
GS: Lydia Seren has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lydia Seren has launched an attack Link!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Xantia with Delta Attack!
GS: Riesenlied critically Guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE for 39 hit
GS: Riesenlied takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Lydia Seren has canceled their attack on Ivan.
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Ivan with I'm Still Here!
GS: Lydia Seren has completed her action.
GS: Noeline guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE for 114 hit points!
GS: Noeline takes an additional 15 damage from Reaper!
GS: Xantia guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Trinity Force for 132 hit points!
GS:  Dispel reduces positive status durations by 3 rounds each!
GS: Xantia has activated a Force Action!
GS: Xantia takes a glancing hit from Lydia Seren's Delta Attack for 100 hit points!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Catenna with Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE!
GS: Catenna takes a solid hit from Lydia Seren's Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE for 184 hit points!
DC: Catenna switches forms to Moon Shaman Catenna!
GS: Lydia Seren heals Ivan! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Quick and Shield! applied to Ivan!
GS: Ethius Hesiod guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE for 114 hit
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

In response to her sympathy, she gets venom. Jacqueline shakes her head. She doesn't respond just yet, instead watching him carefully now that that drug - whatever it is - is running through his system.

She has a feeling she won't be able to get through to him just yet.

And then, as Loren speaks again, spires of crystal erupt from the ground. She leaps back, wincing as one slices through her side, punching through armor. It...really hurts, especially after his previous attack. But his words...those cut even more.

"...It's true, admit. I've been hurt, I've suffered because of people. There are people in this world, who...show no regard for the well-being of others - only for their own gain." She admits, shaking her head. "But so, too, are there people who give their all, day to day, to help others, to support, and love, and cherish them."

"I am who I am today because of people like that. My family, my Caravan Kinship, and others outside it...I've only been able to get this far because of others." She explains. "...And what about you, Loren? Can you truly say you've made it this far in life without the help and trust of anyone else? If you have...then, I'm sorry. But it's not too late to let people in."

And then, Jacqueline draws a bottle filled with a substance that looks not unlike liquid gold from her bags. She's been letting it gather energy from the battle and now, after drawing out another bottle and pouring the contents into it, it begins to emit golden glow.

She then halves the bottles contents, tossing one each to Leon and Ashton.

"Mister Albus, Mister Anchors...please accept this." Jacqueline says. Her voice hitches a little as she says Leon's name...but right now, she has to focus on the situation at the hand, not grudges.

One can feel the sense of power just by holding the bottle - and the liquid itself is sweet, feeling soft, encouraging...and, empowering.

GS: Jacqueline Barber has activated a Force Action!
GS: You have activated the Force Action Extend!
GS: Jacqueline Barber spends 2 Combo on Inspire and Reload!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Leon Albus with Aura Bottle!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has attacked Ashton Anchors with Aura Bottle!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Jacqueline Barber takes 20 damage from Poison!
GS: Jacqueline Barber has completed her action.
GS: Jacqueline Barber heals Leon Albus! He gains 150 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Leon Albus!
GS: Reload! Leon Albus gains 15 extra FP from Jacqueline Barber!
GS: Leon Albus gains a Combo from Inspire!
GS: Jacqueline Barber heals Ashton Anchors! He gains 150 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Ashton Anchors!
GS: Reload! Ashton Anchors gains 15 extra FP from Jacqueline Barber!
GS: Ashton Anchors gains a Combo from Inspire!
<Pose Tracker> Tabitha deVriese has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ili_HdPj8Ik

Tabitha gives a haughty laugh to Emeralda, twirling away from the initial tackle. "Ah! No touching the equipment!" she laughs, and then whips her arm up, countering Emeralda's followup kick with the heavy, armored bludgeon at the end of her arm. She holds her arm up as if to reply, when she sees Dash is moving on her. "Why, such a quick study!" she cheers. "I do love a strong young man!"

When Dash's initial blasts fire off, Tabitha again vanishes, whirling in on herself like she were drawing into some infinitely distant, infinitely small point in an infinitely short time. When she returns, Dash has fled back, the attack has subsided. "Ahaha, I'm afraid you'll have to play a bit more clev--"


She looks down, and her lips curl down. "Ah. Bother."


The blast sends Tabitha sailing into the air like she weighed no more than a feather, sparkling faintly as she glides through open space. She takes the time to tuck out her compact, flicking it open with her hand. Her flying hand zooms in her direction, and slows down to very gingerly tuck a lock of blonde behind her head. "Well," she sighs. "You've made a right mess of me, I fear. It's a little early in the night for such things, don't you think?"

She touches down, and starts strutting forward again, purpose in her posture, when Elly cries out to Tabitha with frustration. The statuesque, cruel-faced woman -- does not strut past.

        BGM: Silence.

She stops, and whirls, her eyes widening with a sudden surge. "-Won't it!?-" she screams, waving her stub of an arm, ending in a warm Ether Buster, smoke curling from its lip. "-I ruined my hands and they took half my arm! What else of me is theirs!?-" She sneers, opens her mouth to speak again.

She stops.

She sucks in a breath, her posture resetting to that swingy neutral she struts about with. When her eyes reopen, they are crystal and cold. The ether within her surges, raw counter-magic gobbling up Elly's strikes with a flickering magical shield.

Then she snaps the weapon up, leveling it at the Drifters, a ways downrange. It begins to hum and buzz, outer layers of armor expanding outward to reveal vents, additional firing lattices. Space dimples and a whole additional firing chamber materializes on the front. By the end of the process the mechanism has expanded by doubled its overall size. The inside of the barrel blazes an angry, hateful...pink, actually.

She adjusts her posture just slightly, ensuring Gwen is in view. "Let's make sure to thank the young lady for her contribution," she muses. And then: "I never did trade back with you, did I, young man," she says, and then the blast ERUPTS from her arm, a thermal cannon blast as wide as a cart and hot as the stars screaming across the chamber. It slams into a pillar on the far side and the whole thing immediately turns white hot and starts to vaporize, the beam chewing entirely through the support before blasting through it and in to the wall behind. It does not, quite, manage to bore a hole through that as well. Tabitha huffs for breath, the additional firing units disconnecting and falling off, disposable. One second. Two. Three.

Then her attention locks entirely on to Elly. "-You must have lived a very fortunate life, to think you could ever escape. Let me explain.-"

And then she raises her arm, hand in a gripping posture. Elly feels everything bend and twist around her. To the others, no matter what angle they're looking at Elly from, it seems as though she's surrounded by a ring, and like the interior of that ring is growing darker. To Elly...

To Elly, it's like the entire room is getting further and further away.

"-It's all already theirs,-" Tabitha says, with venom, as she clenches her fist. At the same instant, the ring goes to pure black.

GS: Tabitha deVriese has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Oblivion Ring!

Then it silently, without fanfare, fades away. Gone.

And Elly is nowhere to be seen.

GS: Elhaym van Houten takes a solid hit from Tabitha deVriese's Oblivion Ring for 0 hit points!
GS: X-Zone! applied to Elhaym van Houten!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has been Exiled! She is no longer able to fight!
GS: Tabitha deVriese takes a solid hit from Loren Voss's Sigma Factor for 0 hit points!
GS: Burst and Surge! applied to Tabitha deVriese!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

"You'll find no complaint from me, Anchors!" Leon calls back to the swordsman. Then he glances at Jacqueline -- hesitates for a moment, then nods. "I have no bloody idea how it works, but it seems to make his Ether do something. We'd better kill him quickly and be done with it."

Leon, perhaps, hasn't considered how this might sound given his recent actions.

His eyes turn back to Loren. "Of course I will," he says. "You say they're a danger to Filgaia... I say I'd rather see Filgaia burn than continue on without either of them. You want me to show you?"

Spires of crystal explode, cutting Leon off before he explains more. The Raid Funnels spin downward, the barrier of aquamarine light exploding -- and catch the spire that comes up for Leon, smashing into to bits. A few chips of crystal still slash into his skin as he jumps. He kicks off off it, and draws his gun again. The two-barreled shotgun is aimed down.

He fires the top barrel, then the bottom. Two slugs fly at Loren, before Leon bicycle kicks off a wall, swinging the Crusader-taken sword backward. He snatches Jacqueline's thrown bottle out of the air, drinking it down with a quick gulp.

Black energy ignites around the chipped, worn long sword. An afterimage is left in the air as he swings the blade back, mid-dive--

--and Leon is suddenly there, right in front of Loren. "I am so very tired--" And he stabs the blade up with a brutal, quick stab aimed at burying the weapon in his midsection. "--of others needing an excuse to BE, VOSS!"

GS: Leon Albus has activated a Force Action!
GS: Leon Albus has activated a Force Action!
GS: Leon Albus spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Leon Albus has attacked Loren Voss with RR-2 Insight Check!
GS: Leon Albus has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Leon Albus has launched an attack Link!
GS: Leon Albus spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Leon Albus has attacked Loren Voss with Black Wolf's Fang!
GS: Leon Albus has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a glancing hit from Lydia Seren's Optimized Material - Rigdobrite - METEOR SHOWER.EXE for 95 hit
GS: Tabitha deVriese has attacked Dash Caskett with Thermionic Buster!
GS: Tabitha deVriese has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Thermionic Buster!
GS: Tabitha deVriese has attacked Emeralda Kasim with Thermionic Buster!
GS: Tabitha deVriese has completed her action.
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a solid hit from Tabitha deVriese's Thermionic Buster for 189 hit points!
GS: Gwen Whitlock enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Dash Caskett completely evades a hit from Tabitha deVriese's Thermionic Buster!
GS: Emeralda Kasim takes a solid hit from Tabitha deVriese's Thermionic Buster for 188 hit points!
GS: Emeralda Kasim enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Cripple expired!
GS: Loren Voss has activated a Force Action!
GS: Loren Voss guards a hit from Leon Albus's RR-2 Insight Check for 107 hit points!
GS: Leon Albus assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: CRITICAL! Loren Voss guards a hit from Leon Albus's Black Wolf's Fang for 191 hit points!
GS: Leon Albus's Avenger stance ends. He enters the Stoic stance!
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

"'Lie down and perish'?" Ashton scoffs loudly at that.
Two of him evaporate as jagged crystal spikes lash through him. Is it fate or magic that makes it so the only one not struck directly is the real one? That one merely is grazed, the spike causing a strip of black cloth to flutter away from the rest of him.
"Do you honestly think that's going to work? After everything all of us have been through? Seen? Battled?" The sellsword actually laughs a little. It's a sharp, dark laugh. "We've fought gods. You're a Shepherd, and those are still only human."
He slides backwards a few steps, getting a little distance. "As for trust... less than a day ago, the gentleman and I were trying to kill one another's people over a wedding. Now I'm happy to show him my back and know I won't find a knife in it." He pauses as Jay lobs a bottle to him - and a huge grin spreads over his face. "A Drifter may walk alone - but we remain siblings in blood and spirit."
He watches Leon go in for the strike - and he charges in turn. Coming in right behind the Wolf, the Draconic Cerberus makes his own assault. His blades - Crusader-forged as well - sing. Two downwards. Two scissoring out. And then? A barrage of smaller strikes - a wild, clashing cascade of steel as Ashton weaves and spins around Loren in a dervish's dance of destruction.

GS: Ashton Anchors spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Loren Voss with Cross Slash!
GS: Ashton Anchors has launched an attack Link!
GS: Ashton Anchors spends 2 Combo on Gatling, loading 2 into Gatling!
GS: Ashton Anchors enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Loren Voss with Sword Dance!
<Pose Tracker> Grigori has posed.

"We shall see whose 'truth' prevails, woman who should not be here. We shall see whose knowledge of 'history' persists. ...You assume much, yourself."

The Watcher's armor makes a loud noise under the force of Tesni's shot as she steps into the line of fire, interposing her arm to shield her torso. Her ARM is powerful, certainly; even the heavy armor the Watcher wears cannot entirely deflect the shot; it impacts, sinking and remaining against the plate, and there it ignites, setting fire to the Watcher's arm.

As the flames continue to burn, she does not flinch. There is no smell of burning flesh, but a faint scent of heating rubber. There is no blood in this wound.

"I too am a means to an end, with purpose to fulfill. The greedy minds of individualists seek always a reason that their desires persist and prevail over all. Your denial of fate is common in man, but futile. Desire does not bring truth, and neither does it end suffering."

From Tesni, the Watcher turns towards Ida. The cadence of battle moves on, inexorable. It is true that she has displayed a wound, here. But more importantly--Ida asks a question. And the answer?

"Many," the Grigori answers Ida. Her voice is neither hesitant nor malicious; it is fact, not threat, in her tone.

Ida's liquid metal protects her firmly--she raises her voice, and the Watcher's faceless head turns towards her. If she is dissatisfied, it is impossible to tell. But she comes up--

The kick is less important, in the end. The Grigori easily prepares to block it--but the feint is successful. That heavy firearm slams into her, and the Devil's Due hits center mass. It hits at her hip--and the spray slams through hard enough to leave her side bloodied, to leave sparks at her hip where wrecked metal appears to have absorbed much of the blow... insofar as it destroyed the top of her metal hip instead of her entire side.

But indeed--the Watcher recognizes well an Iaijutsu stance. The flames surge again from Zed. He speaks of lies, and flames sheath his steel. The floor cracks--and in an instant, three strikes crash towards the Watcher. In the same instant, a wall of water bursts into being before her as if by thought, Ether surging forward--where they impact, steam gouts upward, blocking them both completely from sight--

...When the steam clears, there is a clear line in her back of blood that does not flow because the flame cauterized the cut in an instant. Her defense was not complete.

"It is natural to draw parallels from one's own experience. But I do not await glorious reward, conquest, material wealth. I see that you have been irreparably scarred by your service to the World Eater. You hold the delusion that your 'self' is more important than the whole, that your need for anarchy surpasses all. Destroying you would be a mercy."

Tabitha's magic comes through. ...The Watcher does not comment, save to turn her head towards her--and nod. She need say nothing to Loren, either. Instead... There is more to be done.

She turns--a set of tables, ruined by the battle; rubble on the ground from outside. Lifting a hand, they begin to rise in a bubble of water as Ether rises once more--and it becomes a torrent, a wave that crashes all the debris along with a column of frigid sea-spray straight for Tesni. But already she is moving her blade forward--

She brings a telegraphed, brutal overhand strike, this time--One hand, sparking still, arm aflame, brings down her ARM energy sword down with great force, its wide blade suddenly turned sideways not to cut but to simply smash her target outright.

And as she turns to Ida, she speaks a word in a strange language--and blue force erupts from all around Ida, a judgement that turns all to water, a drowning force from all directions.

GS: Grigori takes a solid hit from Loren Voss's Sigma Factor for 0 hit points!
GS: Burst and Surge! applied to Grigori!
GS: Grigori has attacked Tesni Inoue with Aqua Breaker!
GS: Grigori spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Grigori has attacked Zed with Bonecrusher!
<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        Riesenlied's lips purse as her own Material summoning fizzles out -- it's not a real one; kind of like the Optimised Summoning, there is something of a synthesized twist upon it. Something that isn't quite natural. Something that isn't quite complete.

        But she won't let it bother her.

        Catenna soars above on the wings of Santa-Shaarda, and her breath is lost for a moment as she witnesses the power she brings.

        Xantia says that OS should listen to Lydia. Can she? She's not certain... perhaps relaying so much about what Lydia meant to them would help. Maybe it would harm. She knows so little about what this facet of Lydia's is like. Almost like a newborn...

        She was once-- like that.

        She hears Ethius' words -- surprisingly kind, despite the lack of passion, despite the unwavering stare. Take every measure to ensure you are not hurt.

        "... I will not let my beloved have nothing but memories to shield them," Riesenlied whispers hazily in response, hands jittering a little. "I will take care of myself and I will live."

        And Noeline has come to support her, as she creates something of an illusion that feels comforting in its certainty -- because it is their space, Noeline's space, something she can reach out and grasp hold of.

        "Much like how you came for me," she speaks to Noeline. "This..."

        Riesenlied scoops herself upwards gently, clinging towards her partner even as OS addresses her as well. She breathes in deeper.

        "I... am glad," she answers. "I am glad you expected this. That means you weren't utterly surprised. And maybe you expected it a little too..."

        OS is rising into the air and meteors CRASH through, and Riesenlied finds herself still with the remaining vestiges of her power flying through the air as she tries to escape, still clinging onto Noeline as she throws up more of a barrier of life--

        It's crushed underneath the power of three simultaneous Mediums. It is a mastery of channeling she can't even begin to fathom, with her own singular, incomplete one;

        She winds up spiralling out as she thuds against the temple, gasping and wheezing as she feels more blood coming out of her.

        She's noticing that her hair has gone white for the first time, with how much it stands out with red blood against it.


        For a moment, that might've been it. Yet...

        "... as your mother, OS... I'm proud." Riesenlied whispers. "Just listen to you. Listen to what you're saying to Ivan."

        Her world is stirring thoroughly around her and she's forcing her way up, grasping the crystalline sword and using it as a cane to prop herself up.

        "You say you want to know who you are. We can help you with that...!"

        What comes next is not a power of the Medium of Life. No. This one is an utmost expression of her own power. A shaped and very pure expression of her empathic senses. A positive contortion of a horrifying blast as once wielded by her father, the Blue Knight, Siegfried...

        As she laces her hands together in prayer.

        "Mister Ethius. I agree with your sentiment. And I made a promise when I first flew here to Macalania..."

        Slowly, she lifts her head as she reveals the Dragon's Tear within her hand.

        "I will protect everyone. I will not give Lydia nor you a cause for regret, OS..."

        The bone-like stumps at her exposed back lift upwards--

        Andwings of rainbow light erupts out of it, stretching further, further, further; the tips of those gossamer, translucent wings reach the battered and damaged ceiling of Macalania Temple itself.

        The wingspan curves very gently, a relaxing shower of light cascading down with luminescent and invigorating motes that stymie pain and help replenish the spirit. Not by some force of miracle, by some channel of the Ley nor through the greater power of the Guardian of Life, but...


        Through the spirit Catenna and Sharda-Saanta both exude, in their defiance against the sky, against their wish to bring Lydia back to the stars.


        Through the cautious compassion that Ethius nonetheless shows for Lydia in his desire to show her back to her life.


        Through the fervent wishes that Ivan has for Lydia himself, holding her hand and sharing kind and wonderful memories of a young love waiting to be nurtured.


        Through Xantia's own anger and yet belief that OS should look within, to truly see an individual who knows her own freedoms and what is possible when one reaches without melting their wings.


        Through Noeline's own love for Lydia, as one mother of two. Through the way they've shared so many of their own joys and tears and hardships onboard their wonderful ship and community...


        Through Gwen's own urges as she remembers those fateful words she still remembers that time they sat gazing up-- Don't forget to look up at the stars. Oh, how relevant they are right now...!

        "Now... Shine! OS, this is our...!"

GS: Grigori has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Aqua Decree!
GS: Grigori takes 26 damage from Poison!
GS: Grigori has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied spends 1 Combo on Reload!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Noeline with Shine! Our Positive Rainbow!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Ivan with Shine! Our Positive Rainbow!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Catenna with Shine! Our Positive Rainbow!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Shine! Our Positive Rainbow!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Xantia with Shine! Our Positive Rainbow!
GS: Riesenlied has attacked Riesenlied with Shine! Our Positive Rainbow!
GS: Riesenlied has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Riesenlied takes an additional 25 damage from Reaper!
GS: Reaper expired!
GS: Riesenlied has completed her action.
GS: Loren Voss guards a hit from Ashton Anchors's Cross Slash for 94 hit points!
GS: Loren Voss enters Critical health and gains 25 FP!
GS: Ashton Anchors assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: CRITICAL! Loren Voss guards a hit from Ashton Anchors's Sword Dance for 169 hit points!
GS: Loren Voss has Fallen! He is no longer able to fight!
GS: Riesenlied heals Catenna! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS:  Restore reduces negative status durations by 3 rounds each!
GS: Catenna enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Reload! Catenna gains 15 extra FP from Riesenlied!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey guards a hit from Grigori's Aqua Decree for 106 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied heals Noeline! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS:  Restore reduces negative status durations by 3 rounds each!
GS: Noeline enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Reload! Noeline gains 15 extra FP from Riesenlied!
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Wearying as all of this is, Catenna can't help but think Saarda-Shanta won't be able to hold her form for long - just long enough to deal a blow to the nanowarrior into which her star sister has been subsumed. Even dealing those blows feels like thrusting her hand into fire. It is something she does not want to do.


Even Ethius feels it. Ensure you are not hurt. Catenna inhales, then lets it out, resting her hand on the back of Saarda-Shanta's neck. "...We may not be able to solve her this way," she murmurs in quiet recognition. "If this personality is only here until we are eliminated...."

There are living swords to deal with. Her monologue is cut off by a slash that seems to emerge from nowhere, and she gasps with surprise as she's sliced across the shoulder, tumbling back - and falling off Saarda-Shanta.

<CHILD,> the Great Owl cries, banking sharply and swooping down to try and catch Catenna in midair. Vast wings splay as the immense white bird sweeps in just in time. Catenna manages to catch one of Saarda-Shanta's feet, gasping and holding on.

Meteors begin to fall. They slash through the air, pounding into both the High Priestess and her sub-spirit. With a pained hoot, Saarda-Shanta twists horrifyingly in midair before screeching and blurring into light, shrinking back down into her tiny Owlet self. Still more meteors slam into Catenna herself even as she tries to shield herself with both arms, but it's futile. She's in midair; dancing out of the way is impossible with nothing to stand on. Meteoric flame pounds into her again and again, scarring and burning flesh and sending her and the Owlet plummeting back to earth like a falling star.

The ground buckles as Catenna slams into it back-first, clutching Saarda-Shanta to her chest like a child to spare her charge the worst of the impact. She bounces, the wind bursting from her lungs in an explosive puff, before landing a few feet away and slumping to her side. Pain rips up and down her spine like a thousand knives, and she groans as she sits up weakly.

"A-are you alright," she asks the Owlet, her smile faint and worried.

From Catenna's chest, Saarda-Shanta looks up, her wings and back blackened in places, but her eyes bright. <I will be alright... keep going. The entity that contains Lydia is unlikely to listen to reason. Ethius may be correct, Catenna... there may be no recourse but to try our best to live.>

Catenna presses her lips firmly together, trying to think of things other than her own physical pain. For a moment, she closes her eyes and exhales. A horrifying thought occurs to her -

        Is Lydia still aware? Can she see all this? Does she know that this other personality agglomeration is hurting the ones who love her?

Carefully moving Saarda-Shanta to her hip pouch, Catenna rolls to her feet with visible effort. She winces, picking her bow up again. When she snaps her head to fling her hair out of her face, she nearly sags afterwards, before shooting a sidelong gaze towards Lydia.

"OS," she says dully. "Cease program 83... whatever."

So much for that. Drawing herself up, she holds her right hand out. "Maybe you need to do a better job listening to Lydia if you think that I want to do is destroy you. That is reserved for people like the man who created you. Monsters who think they have the right to use Filgaia as a playground."

She lowers her eyes a moment, then lifts them again, tone quieting - and a simple, sad gravity creeps into it. "I may fight you... even do everything I can to stop you from carrying out a madman's orders. But I have no wish to destroy you.

"That's not what I want to do to a victim."

As she speaks, power begins to surge around her. Chunks of debris float up into the air, rotating around her at regular intervals from one another - and around OS, still more begin to float up, first close by, then further away.

It's the prelude to something immense. With a rattling roar that rings out like an enormous groan of bass, the universe itself seems to gape open. At the nanowarrior's feet, a great sphere of black forms, beginning to suck debris in bit by bit. It threatens to suck not just rocks and rubble in, but people. It threatens to strip individual nanomachines off of the mechanoid containing both OS and Lydia if she's not careful.

The pull of it is massive - enough so that it could practically suck her in and spit her out the other side.

<Pose Tracker> Emeralda Kasim has posed.

Emeralda is good with her natural talents but she does not, really, know how to fight. She is making it up as she goes and largely doing okay by sheer audacity, plus the fact that almost nobody (well, before now) has fought anything like her before in living memory.

But Tabitha is trained, and once again manages to hold Emeralda off. Emeralda uses the weight of Tabitha's arm to push off of and send herself backwards, landing on her feet and skittering past Dash. Which is good, because the thermal blast tears through where she's standing, and Emeralda has to throw herself away hastily. It's not enough to get out of the way entirely; it is enough to stop her from taking the worst of it.

Even 'not the worst of it' makes Emeralda's entire front half droop slightly, unable to hold its shape. She pulls herself back together after a few moments, but it takes her out of the fight for a few seconds - a few seconds that Tabitha turns to Elly over.

"No! No! Nonono!" Emeralda's voice gets higher, louder, and more like a scream as she goes - as Elly moves away - and then Elly is gone. She can't see her. She can't feel her. She's just not there.

Emeralda throws herself at Tabitha with a sound somewhere between a furious screech and a wail. She never quite gets to Tabitha, though, because she she runs, then leaps...

Emeralda breaks.

Her body expands, beginning to brighten as she takes up more volume. The brightening doesn't stop, either, and soon Emeralda is too bright to look at directly, a brilliant white core with an electrified haze surrounding it, darkening more to blue near the edges.

The cloud of energized particles breaks into pieces. Four of them, in fact; three rush forward in swooping arcs toward Tabitha while the fourth, larger and brighter, roils and churns into a sphere that still shines with its own white, penetrating light.

Each of the smaller clouds is held together into a discrete swarm by electromagnetism. Small metal objects they pass - abandoned bullet casings, a long-lost screw - slide across the floor toward them, then roll back to place. They trail long tails behind them, lit by a faint corona and the occasional electrical crackle.

The clouds impact, innumerable tiny particles that strike. Each one of the particles, individually, is so lightweight as to be barely noticable, but the whole mass is like being caught in a sandstorm. Except with each touch, the energy discharges in a brilliant aura, surrounding Tabitha like a halo.

And, perhaps worse, a voice comes from the central core. It's buzzing, not being made quite the normal way - there's no voice box there, nothing but an angry churning mass of matter. "GIVE HER BACK!" Emeralda says, from somewhere in there. The clouds swoop back toward the corner, layering themselves around it, condensing back into the little girl, floating above the ground for about three seconds before magnetism is insufficient to hold her up anymore.

"Give her back," she practically whispers, on the verge of just breaking down into tears. "I promised! SHe promised! We'd be together... her and me and Kim's Fei..."

GS: Emeralda Kasim has attacked Tabitha deVriese with Reycount!
GS: Emeralda Kasim has completed her action.
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
GS: Catenna has attacked Lydia Seren with Grand Singularity!
GS: Catenna has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Catenna has completed her action.
GS: Riesenlied heals Riesenlied! She gains 250 temporary hit points!
GS: Riesenlied's Reload flag cannot target herself!
GS: Leon Albus takes 22 damage from Poison!
GS: Disrupt and Poison expired!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
GS: Tabitha deVriese has activated a Force Action!
GS: Tabitha deVriese guards a hit from Emeralda Kasim's Reycount for 97 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied heals Xantia! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Reload! Xantia gains 15 extra FP from Riesenlied!
GS: Riesenlied heals Ivan! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS:  Restore reduces negative status durations by 3 rounds each!
GS: Reload! Ivan gains 15 extra FP from Riesenlied!
GS: Riesenlied heals Gwen! She gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS: Restore reduces negative status durations by 3 rounds each!
GS: Reload! Gwen gains 15 extra FP from Riesenlied!
GS: CRITICAL! Lydia Seren takes a solid hit from Catenna's Grand Singularity for 168 hit points!
GS:  Dispel reduces positive status durations by 3 rounds each!
<Pose Tracker> Dash Caskett has posed.

The initial attack from the Mega Buster misses its mark entirely, but a well-placed Grand Grenade gets the job done. The Thermal Detonator-esque explosion at least knocks her around some, though she seems relatively fine. A person well-used to combat. Considering her weapons in hand (or as-hand in one case) this makes sense.

Speaking of that weapon, it gets leveled at the crew assembled, and... expands? It reminds him of full power Buster shots, with the four exhaust vents that open momentarily, but more advenced.

<BUSTER.BAT DETECTED, EVASIVE MANEUVERS ENGAGE_> goes off in Dash's head as the fiery pink light coalesces in his opponent's weapon. THe weapon careens straight in his path, and in a moment of lightning reflexes, Dash backflips high into the air, the giant magenta bolt nearly clipping him. Everything in this moment is slow motion. And yet, he is thinking at his optimum speed. A counter-attack is optimal. But even upside down, he can see something happening to Elhaym. Some kind of ring.

By the time he lands, that girl is just gone. "Hey! WHat did you do with her!" he says, landing smoothly on the ground, even as the terrain behind is disintegrating. What a vicious effect. "People don't belong to you either! Yo uneed to put her back, right now!"

"Also, my apologies, I didn't realize we were showing the big guns so early! Let me correct that."


The golden glow in the barren of the Mega Buster shifts to a deep red. A gesture, and the weapon is leveled and fired. A trio of large, deep red plasma orbs soar. Nothing quite like the power of what Tabitha wields in a single shot, but something similar. They careen at high speeds toward their target, in a pattern leaving little room to evade.

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Ivan crashes down with OS. She breaks his fall, in part, by exploding into liquid form. His chest clenches with an instinctive impulse of guilt and horror before she reforms, and answers him. His brows knit as he tries to follow her words -- her way of thinking and explaining herself is strange to him, how she flows between describing her own thoughts and Lydia's. He worries that he's missing important clues to understanding, letting them go over his head.

The kiss is a stunning attack, for sure -- even as it lends him a strange strength -- but it doesn't answer any of the questions that are keeping him here.

"That's not what I meant!!!" he cries, as she leaves him behind again. It takes him a few moments to realize will I see Lydia again actually was the biggest question he wanted answered before he would go. But it doesn't resolve the turbulence he feels, the worry and the loss. And he can't abandon the others.

The meteor rain begins -- none of them find Ivan. Is that intentional, or just luck...?

What does he do? He can't run and he can't stay... what happens if they leave? Lydia can come back. Lydia is sleeping. But what will become of her? Is her freedom wrong? When will they see her again, and why, and what will happen to her in between now and then?

Flames flare around him, answering his emotions more than his will, the feeling of... helplessness.

He can't lose control now... that isn't going to help anything...!

He looks around at the others, trying to assess what state they're in, how determined they are to keep trying to convince her. "You guys -- can you get out of here?! I'll stay with her. I just won't fight. Will that work? Does that fit the rules?" He gives her a wilting smile, holding out his hand. "OS -- can I join your evil empire or something...? I'm great with following bad bosses."

GS: Dash Caskett has activated a Force Action!
GS: Dash Caskett has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Ethius stands rooted in the spot as cases are plead. He would prefer to have his back up to something, but no longer has that luxury. His eyes try to track the other movements of the engagements, with limited success, as the electrical barrier rages. He is almost ready to break this when he sees how silver goo rains.
        In happier(?) times, he was always on top of whenever any gray goo got free.
        The repetition in which OS has made clear they have chosen. The insistence in which the gathered continue to dissuade.
        The memories in which Ethius remembers how easily flustered and prone to recklessness when Lydia felt ashamed and desired to obscure herself from everyone.
        Meteors fall. Ethius holds fast, as the large flaming rocks crash down - but their very nature works against him. The electrical shield surges and occasionally strikes out, dampening the approaching rocks' velocity but only doing the bare minimum to protect him. That he is not a red-hot smear on the ground means it does - but it doesn't stop him from being bludgeoned, burnt, and bodily hurled further back across the chamber. A successful defense of the loosest definition... and then several rise and rush past him, where he ducks his head as they're flying back out towards Xantia.
        When they pass, he rises again and keeps his arms crossed. Surely, there must be some incredible discharge attack he can use - some miraculous means available to him in which he could override this, couldn't he? He destroyed Mother's 'Star Drive' before she even announced she had one. For all the ways Ethius has inconvenienced and hurt everyone here... he must have a decisive answer, right?
        Riese shares her agreement with his assessment. The two of them, for once, seem to be on something of the same page - everyone must be protected. Everyone must withstand this. Everyone must live, as the rainbow lights wash out to protect and reinforce them - he doesn't shy away... but there seems to be a restraint to him that is uncharacteristic. He doesn't break from his protective stance. He can see the weary, frustrated sorrow in Catenna, and the childish calls of anguish from Emeralda.
        If there is a time for Ethius Hesiod, inscrutible symbologist, serial arsonist, and maybe even murderous psychopath to do something to save everyone and get Lydia back, now is the time.
        ...This is as far as I can go.
        Ethius does something.
        He takes a few steps closer, trying to position himself vaguely in front of them best he's able, arms still crossed, electrical shield still raging. All the while, he watches, his listens to everything OS says and does, but aside from taking that step forward there is a paralysis to him that has not been seen prior.
        I cannot say any more.
        Ethius does not do anything else, as blood slides down the side of his head. All he has professed is that everyone needs to stand safely, as Ivan makes his desperate plea for everyone to leave. His stare does not change any.
        Despite interposing himself in front of them - in their lives - he seems keen to pretend in that moment he is not a further part of that conversation, for reasons ever more inscrutible... but the electrical defensive shield he has up may be all the booming declarations he does have for them.

GS: Riposte expired!
GS: Ethius Hesiod has completed his action.
GS: Dash Caskett has completed his action.
GS: Dash Caskett spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Dash Caskett has attacked Tabitha deVriese with Heavy Buster!
GS: Dash Caskett has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Cripple expired!
GS: Dash Caskett has completed his action.
GS: Riesenlied heals Ethius Hesiod! He gains 200 temporary hit points!
GS:  Restore reduces negative status durations by 3 rounds each!
GS: Reload! Ethius Hesiod gains 15 extra FP from Riesenlied!
<Pose Tracker> Loren Voss has posed.

        "I don't think anything will work with fools like you," he informs Ashton. "The only thing you appear to respend is lethal force. So be it!"

        That calm demeanor of his cracks, every so slightly -- a bit of his old biting heat sliding through. The energy in his veins is still strong--
        But Drive only lasts in a body so long. He's running out of time.

        That might have to serve for the battle of words between him and Ashton for now. Leon, in this moment, takes up more of his immediate attention.

        "Then you're a fool, and as much a danger as any of them," Loren replies to Leon with a shake of his head. "It doesn't matter. Soon, you won't be getting in our way any longer--"

        Leon's response to that comes in the form of a gunshot blast. Loren stretches out a hand, again drawing upon a seemingly greatly expanded reserve of Ether to catch the bullets that fly at him.
        And again, there's that tell-tale shake in his arm, suggesting that once again he has overtaxed himself.

        His gaze snaps up as Leon approaches, taking in the blur that is the man's form--

        His hand snaps out--

        And he catches the blade, twisting it away from him with shocking and heretofore unseen strength. Blood drips from his hand and patters onto the floor.

        The green lines that cover his left hand suggest that there is only one reason why he has not just lost most of his hand.

        "Spare me your complaints," he informs Leon, perhaps nearly directly to his face. Still gripping the blade in his hand, he shoves it away, the green lines coating his hand now having to make up the difference.

        "Do you?"

        This, is for Ashton.

        This is for Ashton, moments before the man closes on Loren, blade flashing. Steel rings out, attempting to match the man measure for measure. He's good. He's a soldier, medical focus or not. He's familiar with the form -- has been learning how to use it more and more over the course of the last year. With the drug in his veins, he's even better than he was.

        But he's still

        a novice.

        Ashton catches him hard across the chest. Loren stumbles. His sword slips from his grasp to ring against the temple floor.

        He fixes Ashton with a glance.

        He's failed. He's falling--
        And he still doesn't feel anything for it but the sense that this will work out. Even now, that's what the Drive tells him.

        "Don't come... crying to me when he... puts a blade in your back..." he utters, before collapsing onto the floor of the temple.

GS: Zed takes a solid hit from Grigori's Bonecrusher for 171 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Xantia has posed.

Gwen follows through with a punch of her own after Xantia lands hers, prompting an immediate enthusiasic reaction. "Yeah, that's it! Nice combination!" That's what they were doing, right? Impromptu team attacks? Gwen's always good for those. Looks like there was no reason to be worried about all that. Which is good, because it looks like this entity is going to need every bit of her attention.

And she does pay close attention to what OS speaks of, but, well... it's a lot. A lot that Xantia was not even aware of. Kislev? Kaguya? Revolution? She has no idea how any of these things factor into Lydia's wishes. Maybe she didn't know Lydia as well as she thought, if these are really things that matter to her so strongly.

That being the case, she mainly focuses on the first and last parts. "So you've decided something else than Lydia, and you think it's okay to force that on her? Sounds to me like you're the one chaining her, I'm sure that any of us would support whatever Lydia wants to do!"

Then OS suggests listening to Ethius, and... she sure did listen to Ethius. Unexpected words from him, to be sure, however, she's one of the - at this point probably rare - people who never once doubted that he had good intentions, even if she never understood what they were. So she just smiles in response, and gives him a thumbs-up. "Good advice, Ethius! But don't worry about me, I'll be fine!"

She has to be fine. There's a lot she still has to do. Especially after today's realizations. Though she doesn't say any more than that, her thoughts do go out to a certain someone in particular...

...I understand now, Id. I know who these people are. What they are. What they're trying to do. But we'll stop them. Won't we?

But that's not what this is about. This is more personal than that. A friend's been taken away, and Xantia's not about to just leave and trust that Lydia will come back if she does. She must make certain of it, one way or another.

And then, uhhh, the entity is kissing somebody? Xantia's rarely felt like she was missing something important more strongly than she does at that moment. Now thoroughly confused, she's completely unprepared for being lifted into the air by gravitic force, and getting tossed across the temple. She can only brace herself as best she can. Getting showered with gunfire while mostly immobilized might have been enough to finish the average person... but Xantia is hardly the average person, and manages to protect herself in some limited capacity by channeling her Ether into a protective lightning barrier.

Which necessitates pulling in the meteors to finish the job. There's no protecting from that, and Xantia knows it. With a sudden burst of force, electricity explodes outwards, disrupting the gravity field and giving her mobility back, which is immediately needed to start dodging meteor impacts all around her. Through high speed and various acrobatic displays, she miraculously manages to avoid a direct hit... but there's still the splash damage to take into account, wearing her down considerably, leaving her collapsed on one knee by the end of it. She may be able to handle more than most, but after all that, even she's reached her limit.

But then, the light of a Rainbow blankets the area, granting Xantia the strength she needs to lift herself back up. Head hanging, she manages a strained chuckle. "...Now who isn't listening to Ethius? If you hurt the people Lydia cares about, you're completely going against what she wants, aren't you? Sorry, but to keep our promise to her..."

Her head raises, a dangerous gleam in her eyes. "I'm going to need you to stop."

With that, Xantia lunges, ARM activated, and comes crashing down on top of the entity calling itself OS, to jam the weapon into its body. Should she succeed, pure Ether proceeds to flow from the weapon in large quantities, seeking to disrupt the inner workings of the hivemind by overloading simply overloading the nanomachines with energy. "Now... will you give Lydia back, or do I have to keep looking for her myself?"

Is... that what she's doing right now...?

GS: Xantia has attacked Lydia Seren with Vermilion Sundering!
GS: Xantia has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Xantia has completed her action.
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Xantia's Vermilion Sundering for 111 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

BGM - Part 1 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joxCId9SvAU

Elly pulls herself upright to face Tabitha. She breathes in sharply, she swallows. She grasps her staff and then Tabitha looks at her and there is a cold something there.

Elly can feel the subtle Etheric distortion from Loren. She might be proud if he was, well... And then Tabitha excoriates her. Elly stammers for a moment, saying something like an apology before Tabitha speaks. "-I'm sorry,-" she says, and as epigraphs go, well: at least it was suitable. A moment later, from Elly's perspective, the light that fills Macalania temple even now smears. She is thrown backwards - the light shifts into a horrid fading streak of red, like a dying television screen. Her staff whips out of her grasp, flying into -- somewhere --

Beyond sight. The light fades into a red so dull that it reminds Elly momentarily of a heater element that's just been turned off, and then fades into nothing, and then...



Elly feels nothing around her limbs. Nothing is holding her. Nothing is weighing her down. It is neither pleasant nor unpleasant. She is nowhere in particular. A place of complete stillness. Emptiness. She does not even know, clearly, if she can breathe.

There is no way to track time. It could be an instant, it could be an eternity. All that Elly can say is that she manages to scream and weep denials for long enough to slump, but is not there long enough to begin to starve, there in uttermost black.

She screams a lot of names. Fei, Emeralda, these are the most common. Others come up. Riesenlied, Noeline, Leon, Lily; Jude, Gwen, Josie, Kelvena; Cecilia, Rudy, Jack, many others. They smear together. Her language shifts from Solarian to the general tongue and back before she slumps back, coughing once - coughing in what?

Then something horribly bright flashes - Elly winces, wondering, maybe, if that blue light is what death looks like. But it is not, at least, as dire as that. She can feel a damp patch at her right hip. A paltry cluster of pyreflies rise uncertainly from what had been, until just now, and perhaps for centuries, what Elly termed the 'Reel Sphere'.

They cast light, but the only object that receives that light is Elly.

"... oh... I guess that's not... good, is it?" Elly says, voice a little rusty.

The pyreflies have nothing to say. Elly realizes her eyes were open, and she closes them. She cries a little more, but not much. The pain is unchanged, but the tears don't flow as easily, here at the end of --

It's hard to say. Maybe in this darkness, this sensory deprivation, she's hallucinating.

But Elly could swear that there is a sense of someone smiling.

good times, huh?
you know,

Elly opens her eyes but there's nothing that different about it. She gazes ahead. A black void. Intergalactic space, maybe. Maybe there isn't a universe here.

good things come if you're patient

<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

BGM - Part 2 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NTO_3UZzVY

The pyreflies dim. Elly raises her hand and looks at it for a moment. Then she looks forwards. She looks, and she peers - it is a struggle, something in her head threatening to cramp, because it's like peering into an optical illusion - but then for a fleeting fraction of a second there is a glimpse of something, not something physical but a tiny hint of the underlying grid pattern of... "Ether?" Elly says.

What was shining on them?

"... but..." Elly reaches out with her hand, leans forwards, as best she can, and stretches out. She can't quite - except that the little metal cover on the left pinky finger that Mother mangled scrapes, just the tiniest bit, the itty bittiest note of friction, against... SOMETHING.

(In Macalania temple, a pebble just barely too big to be a grain of sand shifts. Then it shifts back the other way. Reversed. An ant would notice it clearly. In the chaos of battle, it is below perception.)

"... If I just... pushed against this... but I'd rip myself open. Maybe someone will find me... if the temple survives... but..."

If you're patient, Elly thinks.

But, she thinks further, it's not just patience, is it? Patience isn't just sitting there. Elly squirms in the formless void. Patience is an attentive and active thing.

Elly looks at that point she brushed against.

It starts out small - tentative. Back to basics. The elemental Etheric structure she touched first. You have to stand before you can walk, and walk before you can run.

But if you put one gil on the first square - two on the second - four on the third - eight on the fourth - by the time you're at the end of the chess board, you're really getting somewhere.

And in the real world - the world beyond the cleft of oblivion - the world of Spira, of Macalania Temple, the world where everything she loves still lives, at least for now - something presses. At first it is just a micro-distortion in what Solaris theorists would call "the Etheric virtual-particle matrix," but a couple of moments later, it's a tap - then a TAP -

A tiny white crack appears in space, at about five feet three inches above the floor.

And then--

O V E R D R I V E -- Spell out Elly's father's name from the letter bank!

06:00.000 -- GO!
>S T R U C T U R E F I T H O S S E A B A S S L U S E C R E C U R R E N C E M Y Y A H E L E W E C O S R E Q U I E M V I N O S E C T R A I T O R C H O C O B O

<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

BGM - Part 3 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZqTLp5f4ec

>> E R I C H



A sliver of crystallized reality falls out of thin air and disintegrates into pyreflies before it hits the ground, the Reel Sphere's karma fulfilled as the rift spreads. SOMETHING is inside of it, something searing hot and white. You could define fire as a sort of state of matter, a plasma which comes from the intensity of temperature and combustion. What is trying to emerge is a grade-A Element-level protrusion of sheer screaming flame, hot enough to vaporize bronze and melt steel.

Even so, it struggles against oblivion. The shape wants to be a serpent but it can't be a serpent. Gravity is pulling on it too strongly. It's enormous, but so is the force it seeks to overcome. The 'crack' expands outwards and finally there is a geometry that works, a place where enough of it can escape at once that only some parts emerge. The head of the dragon is forced into a different shape - pressed to the side, a cylindrical shape named only for its undulations spread out, surface area blooming as it expands upwards, trembling like a struck guitar string until it


in triumph and superexpanding air, erupting over the collapsing Exile Zone that had formed like a cocoon around Elly van Houten. Her face coated in flash-dried tears, she looks up, the flame bird spreading above her, casting an immense blast-furnace heat over the immediate environs.

16,384, Elly thinks, as she says, "Tabitha!" Nothing is cute about this.

She raises a hand and points at her. 32,768, Elly thinks. "I won't pretend to understand your pain. You're right," Elly says, even as she thinks: 65,536.

"I'm fortunate. It's easy for me to say what you should do when I have not had to pay the way that you have. But I want you to know -" 131,072, Elly thinks, along with a certain hint of dizziness. Last cycle, she thinks.

"There is always a price... for what you decide. But sometimes -" 262,144, here we go, "What you get -"

The flaming bird above Elly turns what must be a head as feathers of impossibly-frozen plasma begin to fall. "Is worth it," Elly breathes out.

The construction of shrieking fire Ether spreads its wings and dives, an animated explosion with - as it turns out - Five hundred and twenty four thousand, two hundred and eighty-eight distinct interior constituent parts. How did something like this get produced? What would it look like if you could study it for ages? Does it sear the unjust with its screaming flames?

Elly doesn't know the answer to any of these questions. The wings, even as they explode, lower as if to embrace Tabitha in ABSOLUTE THERMAL DESTRUCTION.

GS: Elhaym van Houten has activated a Force Action!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Tabitha deVriese with Thermo Phoenix!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
GS: Tabitha deVriese guards a hit from Dash Caskett's Heavy Buster for 72 hit points!
GS: Tesni Inoue critically Guards a hit from Grigori's Aqua Breaker for 41 hit points!
GS: Tabitha deVriese takes a solid hit from Elhaym van Houten's Thermo Phoenix for 209 hit points!
GS: Shieldbreak! applied to Tabitha deVriese!
GS: Tabitha deVriese has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        Noeline finds herself snorting at OS's ever-calm enumeration of their behaviour; truth be told, she's even surprising herself a little, but then Riesenlied has always been there to give her the cue forwards, to moderate her pragmatism and offer her support. As much as her partner might claim Noeline is the one that supports her, the simple truth of the matter is that it goes both ways, especially at times like this.

        She goes to start forwards onto another attack - though it's difficult to say if 'attack' is really the word for what they're doing, for how they're trying to reach their newly-acquired daughter. If Noeline is proud of anything in her life, it's of the way she forged her own identity on Filgaia, the way that it's fed and grown from her experiences. So it's when OS states that she wishes to continue learning that she truly doesn't have anything to counter it with.

        There's a part of Lydia in that statement, and there's also something very much like herself a few centuries ago, taking her first steps out into the world. And yet--

        "... then, be careful. And look after yourself," she mutters solemnly. It's not enough, because it takes her a moment to figure out how to even put the rest into words. "And remember... you cannot be your own person so long as you're following someone else's orders. Make sure you know what you're doing, and who you're doing it for. Or else there'll come a time when you have to put yourself aside, and that will be the greatest shame of all." It's the quiet voice of experience - of someone who tried to dance that knife edge far too long, and paid for it in trust.

        She closes her eyes as Riesenlied's rainbow washes over them all, fills her with a light that is uniquely that of her beloved; she smothers a quiet gasp at the force of it, then feels her feet pull her forwards, feels the way that she's spurred upwards as she launches herself after their daughter.

        Her sword, still in one hand, deforms instantly and pulls back into her - and then explodes outwards. Their daughter isn't the only one that can shape herself; the Errant Blade, renamed in the face of Noeline's conviction, forms itself into a mass of tendrils as her arm elongates upwards. It is still a weapon - it still grasps and tears, as much as she wishes it didn't - but above all else her eyes reveal it as an attempt to reach for the girl that is floating upwards away from them.

GS: Noeline spends 1 Combo on Gatling, loading 1 into Gatling!
GS: Noeline has attacked Lydia Seren with The Living Blade!
GS: Noeline has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Noeline has completed her action.
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Leon's sword comes away bloody -- and he flicks the weapon to the side, spraying the floor with it. He snaps it to the side, and then swings his gun up -- but Ashton moves in. Before he can put a bullet into Loren, he sees the blades in Ashton's hand cut down. Blood splashes on the ground.

Leon looks down at him. "I can't say you're entirely wrong," he says. "I'll shoot a friend... if it's for their own good. But there's a difference, between you and I, Voss." He slides his sword to his side. "You think the world doesn't leave room for kind people."

He glances, sideways, at Ashton. His sword is tucked through his belt. The sheath he had was lost, at some point, when he went through the ice. "I think the world disappoints them. But the world can change. People can change, too."

He looks down at Loren -- he meets his eye. Then, his thumb pulls back the hammer, and he levels both barrels down, directly in Loren's face. "But you're not going to get the chance to."

Then Leon smiles at him, because he is -- in his heart of hearts -- an asshole. "Spare me your whining, too."

GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Noeline's The Living Blade for 119 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Gwen Whitlock has posed.

        'We will fly, Gwen. You can fly as well.'


        'Lydia hated Filgaia. Hated the people that shunned her people.' Meteors hammers against Gwen's body.


        'Hated that it was a dying world. She desperately wished to escape.'


        'But even on Lunar, she knows now, there is no freedom. Our path will guide her there.'

        But the feelings those words elicit cannot be denied.

        In that very moment, Tabitha repays Gwen in full for her earlier attack, sending Gwen to the ground with a painful THWACK.

        It's likely Xantia and others' efforts that buy Gwen the time needed to get back up,

        ".... You. don't... understand." Each word takes effort, hot emotion propelling each syllable like a bullet through water.

        And the house of cards her power is built on threatens to fall with every single one of those bullets. The wall of noise begins to collapse down in on her, the tightrope snaps, the geyser seeps through her body, running out of control.

        Then Riesenlied's light falls on Gwen, throwing the world into a cleaner, clearer light. Looking up at the sky above, Gwen closes her eyes, yellow gold energy extending out from her shoulderblades in geometric formations. The formation will pale in comparison to Elly's impressive display moments later, but the similarity between these small displays and that of a certain Metal Demon's may be clear to those who are looking in her direction at that moment.

        "We are all connected. The world stands on that foundation. The world's imperfect, but it's beautiful because of it. OS, this world is..." Her hand is held out, tears in her eyes, her humanity unrestrained. She raises it, and casts it down, the temporary display of geometric wings dissipating with the action.

        "This world is built on love and peace!"

         The clarity begins to dissipate. But if Gwen expels all her energy at this moment-

GS: Gwen Whitlock spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Lydia Seren with The All is One!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has launched an attack Link!
GS: Lydia Seren guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's The All is One for 0 hit points!
GS: Amplify! applied to Lydia Seren!
GS: Gwen Whitlock's  stance ends. She enters the Avenger stance!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has activated a Force Action!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Lydia Seren with The One is All!
GS: Gwen Whitlock has attacked Grigori with The One is All!
GS: CRITICAL! Lydia Seren guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's The One is All for 120 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Leon gets a bit of a frown from Jacqueline as he suggests to just 'kill him quickly and be done with it'. She can't really...say anything about it, though. She did, after all, just toss him an empowering potion. The thought makes her feel a little sick, but...

...At the same time, what other choice did she have? Loren wasn't going to stop until they were dead, and he'd displayed so far that he could do a very good job of doing that if they didn't defend themselves - especially under the effects of that drug.

She doesn't have any better option. She doesn't like it - it felt hypocritical to say such things to him then turn around and help Leon kill him.

Ashton and Leon strike, and Loren falls...and then, Leon points his ARM directly at Loren's face. Jacqueline's breath is caught in her throat for a brief moment.

For a moment, she sees Lunata's face again, as she fell into Macalania... She couldn't protect her then.

...But would she intervene now, for a man who had tried to kill her, a man who cared nothing for her?

She gestures with her left hand, quickly. A pillar of earth rises up between Leon and Loren - it won't hurt, but it will make shooting him difficult.

She hesitates for a second, and then says...

"...Don't. He's had enough already." She says, shaking her head.
Grigori (Leah) pages Jacqueline Barber and Loren Voss: for the record
Grigori (Leah) pages Jacqueline Barber and Loren Voss: Jay just won points with the Watcher
Grigori (Leah) pages Jacqueline Barber and Loren Voss: this might matter later??

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

"'Anarchy?' You call freedom 'anarchy?'" The Hyadean murmurs amidst a hissing haze of swirling steam. "Maybe. Maybe Mother's betrayal hurt me more than I'd like to admit. But for all that it took away, it gave far more."

The Grigori brings her blade down. The overhead strike is brutal, terrible, something that could shatter steel. And unlike before--

Unlike before, Zed...




There's a sound like a splintering of bone. A grotesque noise like a half-hundred blood vessels bursting from the exertion, of metal muscle fibers straining and snapping. The shockwave blasts outward as Zed receives the strike-- not with his sword, not with an arm, not with a shield or an attempt to guard.

He receives it... with the hardest defense he's got.

His skull.

"It taught me," Zed says as the world swirls and his ears ring. His lips draw back in a fierce, snarling grin as twin rivulets of silvery blood drip down his face. "It taught me! That there is nothing in this world more important than its people! That we all must carve our OWN paths! Not anarchy! Freedom! Freedom to choose, to love, to hope!"

He didn't move.

Because he's exactly where he wanted to be.

Doombringer whirls through the air, trailing wisps of flame that swirl and gather along the blade, not as a sheath, but as a single, fine edge. They burn brighter as they accumulate, emerald turning jade turning cyan turning blinding, eye-searing white. "No gods," the Hyadean snarls, darting forward to deliver a singular, perfect strike...!

GS: Zed spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Zed has attacked Grigori with Secret Sword - Lightning Flash!
GS: Zed has launched an attack Link!
Loren Voss (Loren) pages Jacqueline Barber and Grigori: i just see leah's player keeping score on this
<Pose Tracker> Tesni Inoue has posed.

Tesni Inoue says "Prehaps I do, however? I do know for a fact killing me will do nothing to destroy what I know of history."

 She's psuing herself hard she's not a trained soldier no. This world has toughed her up a lot, people who knew her own parent might not know her at first glance she's changed so much. he hit scores she can see that the hit is good she does not smell burning flesh, there's no blood? That makes her narrow her eyes. She had hoped the round might make the watcher panic given the primal fear of fire most living things have for good reason.

 "Maybe so, but I see what they have to lose and your utter concept for those you supposedly wish to help is all I need to know."

 The fitgh ranges on how has she ended up with a life like this? She will never know, wa it meant to be she doesn't know but she is here and she will fighrt as hard as any one else here. Then the Watcher comes and slams into Tes she's cut she pelted but she stands her ground even as he's hurt she does not give a bit and even as she's now very wet and bleeding from all her wounds.

 The weapon has produced another round. Given the last round didn't work. It's time to up her game a good bit on this.

 She'll level her weapon taking aim as the round is ready in the Dead Man's ARM.

 "The record speaks of where collectivism goes people become worthless, just numbers fuel for the fire nothing more."

 She pulls the trigger the anti gear round fires which will explode a bit after impact. Given she's starting to wonder just what The watcher is? She has no idea what will happen she recalls how well a Quarter Knight took it all things considered but this is what she's got.

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

...And in the instant that follows, there are a thousand more. Blinding fast speed turned toward delivering a storm of strikes. It's not simply a combination, but a tornado- a tempest rendered into a singular flurry of blows...!


GS: Zed spends 2 Combo on Gatling, loading 2 into Gatling!
GS: Zed has attacked Grigori with Forbidden Move - Astral Dance!
GS: Zed has gained 2 Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

Steel rings against steel - and flesh. Ashton pulls one of his blades back with a lick of blood.
And Loren collapses - and Ashton halts his attack. For that quiet moment, he looms over the fallen form of the Gebler officer.
There's the click of Leon's hammer pulling back.
And Ashton kneels down beside Loren's fallen form. And leans further in, putting himself between the two men. Perhaps Loren can't hear it, but Ashton says it anyway with a little smile. "It's no blade. But he has every reason to shoot me in the back this instant."
His off-hand reaches to his bag and pulls out a small jar of yellow-green gel. His last curative. The lid pops off.
"Either he proves you right, and you die. Or he proves you wrong and you live." A pause. "It'll hurt, but I think that means we win either way."

GS: Ashton Anchors takes 22 damage from Poison!
GS: Disrupt and Poison expired!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
GS: Ashton Anchors has attacked Loren Voss with Sweet Syrup!
GS: Ashton Anchors has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ashton Anchors has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

OS looks to Riesenlied. "You say you will live no matter what? .... This makes us happy. Then we need not hold back for we can accept your survival as an inevitability. Kaguya, Ivan, Talia, Amaranth, Riesenlied, Noeline, Elly, Everyone in the Kinship. We have learned... That one need not be on the same side to be family, nor to share affection. It is not a logical sentiment, but nevertheless it appears to be true. Though we do not understand the logic, we can accept it as a fundamental truth." There is a small and sudden smile from OS. "You have already helped us. But we must understand...the other side as well."

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6w0MZlqfWU
Yes Tesni somehow was the person who called this one out ahead of time. Yes I decided I was using this one earlier. Just ask Tragidienne I was totally sharing it and...!!

"It's not mercy that we are seeking. We wish to see outside these walls. We long for a blue sky. Even if our wings do not spread, even if our wings are not our own, even if our wings shall melt away!"

Catenna calls her a victim. Calls them a victim? The gravitic well surges underneath OS's feet and they soar upward onward and upward. She is not quite EXILED as Elly was but as she flies hard and fast in their attempts to escape, the disembodied wings start glowing hot red, then they start to burn, bursting into fiery wings of light--an inferno that surges around the two structures, framing Lydia's body thusly. Perhaps it was Loren's shielding of earth and water that allowed them to escape.

"Drawing further power from the Medium. Temporarily allowing WHITE levels of augmentation for the purposes of surpassing Drifter rapid resilience."

The two of OS's arms combine into one that she brings forward, the barrel expanding rapidly as it glows with an unearthly--or perhaps a netherworldly light--as they bring it to bear upon their friends.

Xantia makes a promise to someone. And she gets an affirmative sensation...from somewhere.

"If that is how you wish to see it, Xantia, then see it that way."

Xantia stabs Lydia with the weapon, overflowing OS with ether. Energy bursts through OS and it certainly looks painful as several chunks of her melt away--and the repair seems slower--but it's still repairing itself rapidly. There is something Xantia is missing.

"We have assisted Lydia in her decisions. Now it is simply her time to assist in one of ours."

The machine kicks Xantia away, pulling further into the air. "Are you not chaining yourself as well, Xantia?"

Noeline swipes her blade through one of OS's legs, sending the foot flying away and for a moment Noeline gets an embrace.

"You know us very well, mom. You be careful too."

And there is that faint smile again as she hangs into the air.

"Of course. You are all connected. We are connected. Together the weak work together and become strong. You have shown us what it is to be strong. We too are a weak link forming a strong whole. Elly taught us that."

She shakes her head. "But that is precisely it. You have made Lydia love Filgaia again. Do you not see? Her dream was to leave the world she did not care for, but now she cares for this world, and you expect her to fulfil that same dream."

Gwen pummels Lydia with energy. OS struggles against the powerful light--but ultimately they are a shaman of Rigdobrite first and foremost. Light... even in the best of circumstances... is simply always going to resist hurting Lydia. Or OS for that matter.

It sloughs to the side and looks down at Gwen. If it's about to explain further...

Ivan then says something stupid.

At least to Lydia it would be stupid.

There is a brief spasm throughout OS as the eyes go from green to silver and the hair goes from silver to green.

"NO! FUCK NO!" Lydia shouts, teeth gritting. "Don't you fucking dare, Ivan!" Tears, honest to goodness tears--not metal at all--pours profusely from her eyes. She is unable to move those arms, but she is able to seize hold of the rest of herself it seems.

"You just escaped... I was so happy you escaped... I will not be why you get thrown into the same shitty situation again. I won't be!!"

She shakes her head. "I...I can't stop it... But I'm still here!! I'M STILL HERE!!!"

The light expels out from that cannon, swirling purple, yellow, white,orange--- it encompases the room. Lydia has to stab tendrils from her back into the ceiling to avoid getting crushed into it as the powerful magics come crashing down towards her opponents.

Riesenlied's shield resists the magic, the rainbow resists it, that shine is a powerful shine indeed. That hope is a powerful hope indeed.

But ultimately... This is not the prototype. The light presses on.

"I'll be back soon! Before you know it...! I may be a star, Ivan, but you are my fire! And I will always be a star that chases the flame! Even if my hands can't reach! Forever!! So please... I love you so much...so please Ivan... until I see you again...Ivan..."


And with that the energy explodes out from that limb, threatening to engulf everyone--

--everyone except Ivan. Perhaps it wasn't just a kiss. Perhaps in that moment, a carefully constructed shield has enveloped Ivan. The light even from this impossible attack, even the light from the netherworld--

--it just sloughs off around him, and he gets a good and wonderful glimpse of that brilliant seething light, feeling its wonderful heat--

--but not feeling one iota of the burn.

GS: Lydia Seren has activated a Boss Action!
GS: Lydia Seren has activated a Force Action!
GS: Tesni Inoue enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Tesni Inoue has attacked Grigori with Dead Man's Hand!
GS: Tesni Inoue has completed her action.
GS: Lydia Seren has activated a Force Action!
<Pose Tracker> Ida Everstead-Rey has posed.

        As soon as Ida has both feet on the ground again, she steps back, twists to the side, and raises Devil's Due again. She grips the weapon so tightly that her gauntlet-armor wraps around parts of it, turning the weapon into a more literal extension of her body. 'Many', Grigori had said. Ida thinks back to the Trial Knight, and for a moment, she feels irrationally, inexplicably grateful to them. There is no malice in Grigori's tone, and Ida sees that, and doesn't try and project malice where it shouldn't go.

        It doesn't make what she's said any more palatable. If anything, it makes it worse.

        "He's right, though," Ida says. Zed is right, and it's a measure of how far she's come that she admits it without hesitation. "If every God is a God of tyranny, of murder, of enslavement, then I would rather there be no God at all." And then Grigori strikes out at Zed with crushing force. Ida steps back, aims, and fires a shot--but the martial artist doesn't have the advantage of surprise this time, and the bullet whizzes past Grigori's shoulder.

        The Solarian enforcer raises a hand, speaks a word Ida doesn't know. Blue energy envelops her. The first thing Ida feels is the pressure--like she's deep underwater, being crushed to death by the weight of the water above her. Her throat constricts. Her ribs creak and bow inwards, and Ida lets out her breath in a rush of air. It's not enough. Ida steps forwards, walking as though she were on the bottom of the sea--she manages one long, bouncing stride before her vision starts to fade. Grigori's words echo in her mind.

        There is no place in this world for her.

        She has to...

                                         ...got to...

        Ida focuses on the sound of her heartbeat, and the feel of simply existing within her body. Her life-force responds. Impossibly, chi begins to flare around her, fighting back Grigori's sorcery with the pressure of her lifeforce. Ida can breathe again, and does so, drawing in cold air. The chi takes visible form, a brilliant gold-white light around an inner layer of golden-orange flame.

        "HYAH," Ida roars. She drives a palm forwards, and the rest of the bubble bursts, collapsing outwards in a wave of pressure. Ida raises Devil's Due in her other hand. The weapon is fused with her now--the components Kalve forged from his own flesh merged with her own. It's comforting to have a part of him here. Chi erupts from Ida's body like solar prominences, tracing out a mandala around her feet. She sucks in a breath, drawing the lifeforce of this strange world into her lungs. The Dragon Filament within Devil's Due ignites.


        Ida pulls the trigger. Dragonfire roars from her ARM's muzzle, twisting itself into a familiar shape--horns, fangs, tearing talons, a long, sinuous body. A dragon of flame bears down on Grigori, bent on scouring her from the earth in a torrent of white-hot fury.

GS: Ida Everstead-Rey spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Ida Everstead-Rey with Inhalation!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has launched an attack Link!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey takes a solid hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Inhalation for 0 hit points!
GS: Amplify! applied to Ida Everstead-Rey!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Lydia Seren spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Catenna with Last Love Song On This Little Planet!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Riesenlied with Last Love Song On This Little Planet!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Noeline with Last Love Song On This Little Planet!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Ethius Hesiod with Last Love Song On This Little Planet!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Gwen Whitlock with Last Love Song On This Little Planet!
GS: Lydia Seren has attacked Xantia with Last Love Song On This Little Planet!
GS: Riesenlied guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Last Love Song On This Little Planet for 142 hit points!
GS: Riesenlied enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Gwen Whitlock takes a glancing hit from Lydia Seren's Last Love Song On This Little Planet for 122 hit points!
GS: Catenna takes a solid hit from Lydia Seren's Last Love Song On This Little Planet for 237 hit points!
GS: Catenna enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey spends 2 Combo on Poison and Gatling, loading 1 into Gatling!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has attacked Grigori with Breath Of The Fire Dragon!
GS: Ida Everstead-Rey has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Grigori has activated a Force Action!
GS: Grigori guards a hit from Gwen Whitlock's The One is All for 112 hit points!
GS: CRITICAL! Grigori completely evades a hit from Zed's Secret Sword - Lightning Flash!
GS: Grigori guards a hit from Zed's Forbidden Move - Astral Dance for 100 hit points!
GS: Grigori guards a hit from Tesni Inoue's Dead Man's Hand for 88 hit points!
GS: Break! applied to Grigori!
GS: CRITICAL! Grigori critically Guards a hit from Ida Everstead-Rey's Breath Of The Fire Dragon for 45 hit points!
GS: Grigori enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Grigori has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Tabitha deVriese has posed.

Tabitha looks at the vacant space where Elhaym used to be. She breathes, slowly, the world behind her dimpling and vortexing as some invisible force flows out of her spine. "...and that's that," she breathes.

Maybe they'd be able to get her back someday. She could--

Dash and Emeralda come for her, wicked hot and furious. Dash's attack she knows roughly what to do with, and her prosthetic arm shoots in from afar - that fake, flying hand roaring down on a chaotic arc and SLAMMING into Dash's attack. It grabs it, fingers spread wide, its whole surface boiling; and when that megablast is spent, so is her hand, the limb falling limp and dead to the ground. The next is Emeralda, who shatters into a thousand pieces as she comes at Tabitha. "What--" she whispers. And then: "Oh, no," just as the barrage of power descends on her. It hurts. It burns, but she thrusts her remaining hand forward.

Toward that core.

"Supose I may as well go ALL IN," she spits, and Emeralda can feel it - as that center of mass begins drawing in the rest of her, but not in a way that's controlled or controllable. It's more like she suddenly became the bottom of a sack. "I wonder if gravitation will hold you as well as that tube did!"

This may have been about to become a problem if not for a miracle. Tabitha can feel the gravitational shockwave as Elly rips her way back into reality, and she throws herself away from Emeralda, breaking the spell she had cast upon her. She holds up her hand, leveling it at Elly as if expecting to engage in some momentous wizard duel. Perhaps that's exactly what she does.

If so, she loses completely. Her eyes widen in shock at the construct, the thing coming at her, heat and fire at once. "Elly! What--what did you! NO!"

She is enveloped.

There is a loud sound, like a magnet turning up to a hundred billion watts, an annihilating ZONG!!!! that fills the entire chamber.

And then it's Tabitha who is gone, only trace flickering and dimpling in time and space marking her exit.

GS: Ethius Hesiod takes a solid hit from Lydia Seren's Last Love Song On This Little Planet for 239 hit points!
GS: Ethius Hesiod enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Xantia takes a solid hit from Lydia Seren's Last Love Song On This Little Planet for 252 hit points!
GS: Xantia enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Emeralda Kasim has posed.

Emeralda feels her core - her center - distort, and indeed it does seem to be doing something; her reformation into anything more complex than a sphere of whirling matter is slowed, and only completes when the spell is interrupted by Elly's arrival, the matter crashing back into Emeralda.

Speaking of Elly... she has to deal with one more thing.

Emeralda's eyes widen at the crack in space. She doesn't know what it is at first, but there's something in it that *feels* familiar, in an Etheric sense. Not in the sense that Emeralda can replicate it (she can't) but in that it has a similar flavour to some of the things she could do.

And then Emeralda sprints, flat-out, at her as soon as the crack discharges Elly. Even when the magnetic ripple passes over through, it doesn't stop Emeralda, though it comes close; one can see the shockwave propagate through her body, and her edges become hazy and uncertain for a few steps.

Heedless of it still being a battlefield, and of her unnatural damage, Emeralda throws herself at Elly with enough force to rock her on her legs, though hopefully not actually knock her over; her hug is so tight that it verges on painful, which is not helped by the uncomfortable static-esque shock as soon as she makes contact.

"You promised," she whispers, but this time her tears aren't the panicked sadness from before.

GS: CRITICAL! Noeline critically Guards a hit from Lydia Seren's Last Love Song On This Little Planet for 61 hit points!
GS: Noeline enters CONDITION GREEN!!
<Pose Tracker> Catenna has posed.

Catenna doesn't like to let her emotions show. To her, they're flashes of weaknesses that her detractors can drive knives into. But even as she unleashes upon Lydia, and as the others unload with their own fury, she cannot help but wipe the back of her free hand over her face to wick tears away.

This is all wrong. All wrong. Sickening. No being should be used as a puppet like this.

And then, just like that, something changes - and all of a sudden it's Lydia screaming at them again. Catenna's eyes widen.

Like a marionette dangling from a string. Catenna squeezes her eyes closed and clutches her right hand into a fist as she grapples, for the first time in years, a stab of seething, murderous rage - one that is quickly subsumed by sheer sadness as tears spring to her eyes once again.

"Lydia, Ivan," she begins to call out, before the light explodes to consume them.

The force of it is devastating, and Catenna lets out a cry and throws her arms up to try and shield herself from it - in vain, of course. All she accomplishes is to get her sleeves burned away. The force pushes her backwards, burning across her shoulders and torso and face - and yet, she digs her heels into the floor with a growl of rare animalistic determination. Her lips peel back to expose her canines as she bunches her shoulders and begins to try and push herself forward, into the light.

"We'll wait for you, Lydia!" she screams into the wave of pain, her voice peaking to be heard over the squeal of light and flame. "We will!! The stars will come out again and we know we'll see you among them! You're--"

The fiercest of the light cuts into her. Blood trickles from wounds across her body, beads of it flash-boiling in the air as they stream off of her and vapourize with the stench of iron and worse. She squeezes her eyes closed and raises her voice to scream in pain into the noise.

"YOU'RE MY PRECIOUS STAR SISTER!! AND I WON'T LOSE YOU!!!" she wails, her voice cracking in the middle. Tears vapourize instantly in the light.

<Pose Tracker> Grigori has posed.

"That's fine," the Watcher tells Tesni of her knowledge. "Your lack of understanding is not my concern."

...But the explosion of Gwen's power comes from her blind side, and she can only guard it at the very end--not in time to avoid it. She makes a noise of what sounds like irritation, perhaps the first thing close to emotion she has displayed this fight.

And she watches Zed remain in place--he receives the strike with a hard defense, and indeed, his skull is strong enough to take it. The world swirls around him. he speaks of what he was taught...

That swirl of light, the Grigori steps into--and shatters it with a surge of Ether. But the thousands of blows that follow she cannot simply destroy. So she simply guards--she puts up her arms. Most of the blows impact cold, dead metal, the incredible tempest of strike wearing away armor to reveal plating, wiring, artificial muscle beneath--only on one arm does the forearm show blood under a strike, show anything resembling flesh, though that wound is large, indeed.

Tesni's ready round moves; an anti-Gear round strikes. It explodes after impact, and for an instant the Grigori cannot be seen--but when the smoke clears, she is also smoking, some yards away, blown back by the impact; a fragment of skin shows at her side, along with exposed wiring at her thigh. But there... There is Ida, as well.

"Acceptance of one's place in the world is not enslavement. In finding our place, we find freedom from the illusions of this world."

She looks, for an instant--to Loren, falling. To Leon approaching. Immediately, the Watcher begins to step away from her battle, leaving Ida trapped in the bubble behind. Except...

Except the pressure of Ida's life force breaks through the entrapment of the Grigori's terrible Etheric prison. The weapon fused with her, the combination of human and alien--

The mandal ignites, and a dragon of flame bears down upon her. A dragon of Fire, of the element most directly opposed to her own. She disappears within it, as the torrent of white-hot fury envelopes her. There is, now, the scent of burning rubber and flesh both.

...The light clears. The Grigori is on one knee, at the center of the conflagration, her tabard destroyed, much of her armor melted into slag from where it was weakened by countless strikes and powerful shots. Old scars show, as part of her mask is torn away--a set of old, old burns visible, in addition to the new ones now. Anyone should be in great pain from the number of wounds she's taken. But she lifts her head, that whirring sounding, and sees--

...Ashton and Jay, blocking the way to Loren from the man who struck him down. She turns, to partially face the group she was fighting, on one knee still.

There is static; her voice modulator appears to have been damaged. "...That drive of yours is strong. Perhaps you are not yet finished after all."

"...Hmm," she comments, and her voice is that of a mature adult woman. Her left arm sparks, but does not function. "Very well. Today, I will acknowledge your power."

"...But recall tomorrow, surfacers. And prepare yourselves for what is to come."

She should be showing pain. ...She seems to show almost nothing at all, save for the implication of her actions--of what distracted her in that instant as the Drifters redoubled their efforts.

<Pose Tracker> Ethius Hesiod has posed.

        Ethius holds as he does as OS names so many names that have helped shape their understanding of the world in this tense time, stone silent as the electrical crackling continues unabated. He does not say anything more - he does not renew the importance that comes that they preserve themselves. He gives no ideas as to how they can overcome this, how they can stop her, how they can unambiguously save Lydia and pull her free of the rest of this baggage.
        It is out of my hands. Thinks the man who, from all previous experiences, may be the one best equipped to deal with this. The one who declared, with no compromise, to Alexander Castle that she will live as she does... is that what she's doing now?
        'Drawing further power from the Medium.' It's escalating. Ethius' face imperceptibly hardens as OS combines both their arms and prepares to fire another beam of all-encompassing light... and then the unthinkable happens.
        Ivan spurs Lydia to disagree with his intentions. The cannon is not moved. Lydia says she can't stop it, but she's still thre, SHE'S STILL THERE.
        Ethius acts under belief that someone else is not about to. It's nerve-wracking. Before, he didn't realize it in the heat of the moment, but he didn't 'know' when the beam fired. As though the mechanisms that govern it are just beyond ingrained instincts and rote knowledge of a source forgotten, until Lydia screams...
        Ethius tries to jump it, fighting the required defensive position to try and hurl himself towards Ivan... and he loses traction.
        Between the rainbow light and what vestiges of the electrical shield remain, they loudly shine and spark together as Ethius is suspended in mid-air around disintegrating light that erodes and disintegrates. By the time the entire payload of the 'white'-level Medium cannon is expended, Ethius is hurled along against the ground. He hits his head - as seems tradition - on something unseen as he rises. His vision swirls, sound distorts... but through all the calls and cheers, he can see one thing.
        Ivan is intact.
        Ivan was never in danger.
        He... didn't need to interfere.
        Catenna's wail cuts through the muddling. The strange man, Ethius, finds it in him to rise again - bit by bit. Both shields, layered together, by and large saved him from becoming dust.
        He stares out to the rest, who have to deal with the emotional anguish of having something taken from them, and the nature of a terrible enemy made further clear as to the breadth of their grasp.
        He continues to say nothing...
        ...as though he cannot, as if content to watch the tide of history carry itself as it were.

<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.


On the ice bridge connecting Macalania Temple to the lake, Ptolomea rushes. He leaps over a hole carved into the ice by an energy beam -- the hole is slick, rivulets of water raining down onto the sky. The huge Odessa commander slams, feet skidding, and swings his clawed arm -- claws shut -- into the stomach of a Gebler soldier.

"FLY, DAMN YOU!" Ptolomea roars, and the soldier goes pitched off the side. He screams, tumbling, and then his scream cuts short.

There is a flash of blue light, concentric rings appearing. Kahran Ramses rises, then, on a floating pad of steel. "Back at it, soldier," Ramses says, giving the man a push -- and then leaps onto the bridge. He draws his own blade, looking at Ptolomea.

"...You," he concludes. "You should be dead."

"The same can be said for you, Ramses," Ptolomea answers, softly. The two men stare each other down -- and then rush. Blade meets cybernetic arm, with a shower of sparks. Their clothing and hair is both thrown back by powerful wind, though, as an Odessa Gear is pitched high into the sky. It flies up, over them.

All across Lake Macalania, they appear: the second large-scale teleportation in as many hours. Gebler forces -- soldiers and Gears alike -- and gunshots explode out, as Odessa's soldiers find themselves in a sudden pitched battle they thought they had won. That Gear flies, before a woman's voice hollers over the loudspeaker until there is a screech of feedback:


The leonine form of Grandgrowl flies through the air, its powerful back-mounted wings sending it rocketing forward. It slams into the Odessa Gear, which smashes into Macalania Temple's top -- and the rock facade crumples around the two Gears. Stone rains down, smashing into and through the bridge.

<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.


...Don't. He's had enough already.'

Leon looks over the barrel of his shotgun, staring down at Loren. He hears Jacqueline's words, and he is forced to ask himself the same question he did when he came in here:

Is he, fundamentally, a good person?

Then Ashton puts himself between Loren and his gun. His eyes widen for a moment. Finally, there is a sigh, and he rests the shotgun over his shoulder. "You bloody Drifters," he says, dryly, but a small smile fights at his lips. "You're making me go soft. It's quite irritating, you know."

Maybe, Leon realizes, he isn't such a bad person.

Suddenly, the ceiling shifts. It crumples and twists -- bricks fall loose, beginning to collapse in, before a chunk of hewn stone crashes through all of it. It smashes into and through the floor below. One rock slams down just left of Leon, who jerks to the side. He looks down, then up at the ceiling -- and then lurches. A rock comes crashing down, and Leon leaps. He slams into Jacqueline Barber, knocking her from the rock that comes at her.

He calls out, as he dives: "Anchors, get him on his feet!"

And under Ashton, Loren's body is suddenly lit blue, three concentric rings appearing. They erupt around the other Solarians -- and OS, too. They vanish in flashes of lights and runes, before a stone smashes down through the floor right where Loren had been.

"What in the hell--" Leon snaps, before the stones under his feet shift. His footing is lost; his grip on Jacqueline, after tackling her, is lost too. The entire floor tilts, as rocks begin to smash through.

The top half of Macalania Temple comes tumbling away.The people inside come with it. There is a screech as a discarded piece of the engagement party's buffet table slides over the floor -- and then tumbles into the darkness.

Leon calls out, wordless -- grabs at a loose brick floor that is, rapidly, tilting down to become a wall -- and loses his grip. His fingers slip, falling off the bricks. "Ah... bollocks," he swears.

And then he teeters, and finally falls into the void. As do, in short order, so many others.

Falling, and falling, and falling.

        Swallowed into the darkness.

                Falling into the azure abyss below Macalania, as Gears dance in the skies of Lunar.

<Pose Tracker> Riesenlied has posed.

        "... ... that's true. I've learnt to be patient. I've learnt that good things can come if we don't rush. And things may be very difficult for you right now, OS, but..."

        Riesenlied is still within that prayer-like pose; she witnesses for a moment as Noeline gets a hug, and there's a pang from her as she wishes she could reach out for her.

        But it's time to go.

        "You said it's a mistake that Lydia once wanted to see a new world, and now we made her care for Filgaia..."

        She huddles her hands together. She focuses on the shape of her inventory and pulls out one of Lydia's books that she borrowed:

        Cucco Level Introduction to Astronomy for Kidz

        "But I wanted to learn about that side of my daughter too. So much that I tried to learn big, difficult words... did you know? Elly had to teach me about science."

        She's warmed in her heart as Elly makes a re-emergence; as she gathers that Ether that she knows she's been having trouble with. Fei and Emmy won't have to fear, now...

        But she listens to-- to Lydia, as she reawakens.

        NO! CUCCO NO!! Don't you cucco dare, Ivan!

        Riesenlied's hearing is truly special indeed. Her eyes widen as tears stream very gently from her face too, as she clings towards Noeline and draws her in turn.

        I"M STILL HERE!!!


        The energy explodes, and she lets those rainbow wings scoop over her, over as many people; there's a loud, strained and strangled cry as individual feathers fleck and shatter so much like glass under the strain of what may as well be a Sun going nova.

        But she holds-- holds on tightly. She holds on tightly...

        And the Dragon's Tear continues to shimmer with that wonderful, rainbow-like colour of Love through the burning, engulfing flame...


        And it continues to shine, even as the footing looses itself completely underneath her.

        "OS... we're always waiting, okay? That's what moms are supposed to do..."

        She closes her eyes, and clings her hands as closely as she can to Noeline.

        She can barely sense all the disaster happening outside; she hears the muddled screams, noises, and sensations of those outside. She hears the bellowing 'woohoo' of someone, ever so mutedly.

        And together, they're falling-- falling--

        A rainbow cuccoon that SPLOOSHES into the water.






        The dead girl lowers her head and puts a rotted hand to her face, in disbelief. "... you did... you did good, Nazgul. ... not bad at all."

<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

Elly breathes heavily.

Well, she thinks even as Tabitha... is defeated; if I'm going to lose my mind or ruin my body, it's going to happen now, won't it? She breathes in, breathes out, and a moment later Emeralda impacts her, and for just a tiny fraction of a second Elly thinks, this is it--

But then she hugs Emeralda. "I know," she says, gathering her close. "I know. I'm sorry. If I knew this was going to happen I would have given Lily my invitation and taken you fishing."

I know, Elly thinks. I can think of Lily. I can remember her clearly. I can imagine her -

She looks at Leon. Others, too. Ashton, Catenna, Xantia. She doesn't really want to smile. Lydia has done that to her, although Tabitha was another pain, in her heart as well as her backside. She holds Emeralda close, takes a deep breath...

And then she feels something peculiar.

Blinking twice, Elly looks upwards. "...?"

And then the world begins to fall. She clutches Emeralda close to her, even as she plummets!

<Pose Tracker> Ivan has posed.

Ivan looks simultaneously crushed and delighted as Lydia comes to the fore to yell at him. It's solid proof that she still exists -- she's alive, she's here... but she's not in control... she's crying, and... just giving more goodbyes.

He reaches up toward her. "I don't care, I just don't want you to be alone!! Do you know about what that guy wants, what's going to happen to you next? Are you going to be okay? Where are you going? Will you really be back? When? Can I write?!"

He tries to fit as many questions as he can into that moment before her body gets on with trying to kill everyone--...

Except him.

He stares, safe inside a bubble, as everything around him goes white.

...his blood freezes in his veins with panic. "NO!"

There's nothing he can do--safe inside the damn shield and hearing the cries of pain as the others are consumed by the light. It was wrong, it was the wrong answer, he didn't try hard enough to stop the danger, he...

The light fades. Ivan catches his breath, as he turns toward the others and finds them... not looking great at all, but not vaporized.

...what now, will they just keep going like this until everyone--

Just then, everything quite literally goes sideways. The ceiling comes down, the Solarians vanish... the floor gives way... ... and Ivan finds himself faaaaalling into mystery...



<Pose Tracker> Ashton Anchors has posed.

Ashton hears the hammers on Leon's gun relax.
He lets out a breath he didn't realize he was holding.
Big talk aside, that was pretty stupid to have done and would have hurt. A lot. At minimum.
Still? He grins a little bit at the admonishment. "Just didn't want to prove him right, is all. I figure you can understand that."
Then - the rumbling. And the whole world shifts. Out of the corner of his eye Ashton sees Leon tackle Jay out of the way. He's on automatic to respond to the command - but Loren isn't there for him to grab. To that, there's only one response and it's eerily similar to Leon's. "Oh goblin-nuggets."
And then he, too, falls into the darkness.

<Pose Tracker> Tesni Inoue has posed.

Tesni Inoue calls out in the melee as a miracle happen Ivan does something dumb or says something dumb she's not sure but he gets through to Lydia.

 "Hang on you hear me we will come for you hang on!"

 The battle turns and she's pulled away from it she knows she's about at her limit the Deadman ARM is reloaded again as the battle is going to keep rolling.

 "Tch if my ancestors accepted out 'place' and we'd be a footnote in history."

 The battle seems to be over for the moment they have managed to stop the Watcher for now but then something else comes.

 "Aye, I'll make myself ready."

 Then everyone is falling she calls out and tries to grab her allies.


 She will try to grab them but it's too late, she's falling down, down, and the last thing she thinks as she falls.

 Things just got a whole lot ... worse.

<Pose Tracker> Noeline has posed.

        Noeline has a split second to meet OS' eyes, and then she nods. "... we'll look after him. We'll be waiting," she reinforces Riesenlied's comment - shortly before those eyes flare with sudden colour and anger, leaving her with a disbeliefing laugh bubbling up from somewhere within her. Gravity is starting to take her, and she's falling away from her daughter, but she has time to let her eyes twinkle with amusement. "We'll kick him for you, as well."

        Then she's turned more solemn as she's pummeled downwards by the light, taking the force of it on her sword as it instantly reforms into her hands. There is no attempt to dodge; not when she can already sense the floor giving away, not when Riesenlied's footing is being stolen from under her and a spike of alarm goes up in the back of her mind.

        Instead, she uses the attack to propel her downwards to meet her partner, gathering Riesenlied into her arms. She'd like to twist, to be the one to meet the water, but she's disoriented enough at the sudden fall, and then moreso as she watches the skies fill with Gears, one after another. She has just enough time to try to take stock of everything--

        --before blackness claims her.

<Pose Tracker> Jacqueline Barber has posed.

Jacqueline stands stock still, watching Leon, waiting to see what he'd do - fearing that she might have to interfere in a more direct way.

...But, Leon shoulders his weapon and Jacqueline's body visibly relaxes with relief...

Relief that is soon torn from her face the moment the temple starts to shake.

"Wh- What's going on!?" Jacqueline remarks, alarmed. She can feel tremors reverberating throughout the entire structure. Nearby, a rock falls, striking the ground with enough force that she loses her footing.

She sees the rock falling toward her a moment to late. She gestures with her left hand, but she knows the spell isn't going to go through in enough time to save her...

...But, it doesn't need to.

Leon Albus slams into her, tackling her out of danger. She stares at him for a moment, taken aback.

"M-Mister Albus... Th-thank you." She says, feeling grateful. It's as she starts to pick herself up that she catches sight of Lydia lit up bright blue...and then, disappearing.

"...Lydia!!" Jacqueline shrieks, in fear - and then, the floor tilts.

Jacqueline is loosened from Leon's grip, and then...she finds herself falling.

"Catenna! Ethius! Ivan! Everyone...!" Jacqueline calls out. She can only hope they'll make it out okay.

And as for herself...she closes her eyes.

So, she, too, is falling into the depths of Macalania Temple, and whatever lay beneath it...it's almost ironic. Not long ago, she would've have willingly thrown herself into it in the hopes of saving Lunata...

And now, she was falling into its depths regardless.

She can't help but laugh, at the cruelty of fate.

<Pose Tracker> Lydia Seren has posed.

Lydia says, "I...I'll be okay, Ivan. I must become a lion-hearted girl eventually right?" She manages a smile, trying to be reassuring despite her clear pain and sorrow and despair. "I'll see you soon, okay?" Her eyes widen as shit starts getting even more bonkers somehow.

"W..wait! He doesn't like to swim! Wait--!"

She reaches for him. "Gahhh Catenna teach him how to swim quiccckllyyy!"

She fades away with the rest of Solaris.

On the plus side, this may be proof that she is alive after all because being alive is pretty much just a constant state of embarrassment and that is pretty much Lydia to a T.

<Pose Tracker> Zed has posed.

"Acceptance is one thing," Zed answers, his back turned to his opponent like he was in some kind of period samurai action flick. "But everyone has to decide for themselves where that place is. No 'God' has the right to take that away from anyone."

But the battle is over, it seems. Zed's flames still whirl, and again they begin drifting to merge with the razor-sharp edge of his favorite sword. He looks as though he's about to walk over and take advantage of the Grigori's weakened state to deliver the final blow, but then...

The ground suddenly cracks underfoot. "What?" Zed asks, as he begins desperately hopping up a cascade of falling boulders, even as he sees his foe slip away from him. "WHAT!?" Zed yells, scrambling from temple chunk to temple chunk as he tries to escape the perilous depths below. "WHAAAAAAAAAT!?"

He slips!

He falls!!!

He flails as he tumbles into the dark, screaming defiantly at the angels up above his sworn ultimatum...!

"I'LL KILL YOU BASTAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrr--"