Difference between revisions of "2020-07-26: The Keys to the Door"

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Revision as of 20:00, 27 July 2020

  • Log: The Keys to the Door
  • Cast: Josephine Lovelace, Leon Albus, Elhaym van Houten, Fei Fong Wong, Lily Keil, Id
  • Where: Northwestern Aquvy
  • Date: July 26, 2020
  • Summary: Josie has located the site to which the tiles she's collected are connected, and leads an expedition with the Black Wolves. However, there were a few things she hadn't told them.

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

    The approach to the site requires coming in by cover of darkness.

    It wasn't unknown to others, as Josie had discovered -- though fortunately it was only seemingly known by a select few. It's safe to assume that if it became clear that they had the keys, they would face opposition and whatever was behind the door would be lost to them.

    Tucked away on an island far to the west of Sielje, the fabled door to which the tiles were the keys could nearly -- very nearly -- be said to stand more in Elru's waters than Aquvy's.

    The island itself is rocky; littered with fields of stone between rising peaks capped with snow. Ice recently glazed this part of Filgaia; it glitters even in the darkness of the night.

    Josie is, herself, tense -- this marks the end of a long journey spanning nearly a half-decade for her.
    What lies in wait behind the door?

    The entrance is but a simple retangular metal-and-concrete protrusion, jutting out of the side of one of the island's mountains. It's warped, as if it had received a heavy strike from some devastating weapon in the distant past; the external door is no more. Ice glazes the pathway inwards, making the sloping journey downwards slightly treacherous.
    But the secondary door, perhaps 500 feet in, is still standing. The lights lining the hallway down are still lit.

    That door opens with a mere tap of the pad -- it isn't the door Josie had shown them in the photos. Zeboim script lines the walls beyond the second door -- instructions, procedures. Warnings.

    It's very much as it was in the photos. Exactly as it was in the photos, all the way down the rest of the sloping path into the chamber below.

    To that massive door.

    And the four tiny slots alongside it. Zeboim script, again, provides perhaps some instruction --

    But even a scholar might have trouble deciphering the highly technical text.

    "Well," Josie says, approaching the door. "Here we are."

    She digs in her pockets and produces the four tiles, offering them out for Leon and Lily.

    "Time for you to do your thing. I'd hate to try guessing, who knows what kinda bullshit this place's got, yeah?"

<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Leon didn't hesitate to offer Josephine help. He offered it to the Wolves as a matter of course. Some of it is friendship and loyalty; some of it is tactical, in the way that a lot of Leon Albus's life is tactical. Keep his subordinates happy; see to their needs. He believes it pays dividends, and that way of thinking sometimes privately disgusts him.

Now, he follows after Josephine. Argent Divider II is sheathed at his side, as a shotgun; he has his finer clothes on, with the heavier duster and pants that are suitable for entering a ruin. He walks after her, not paying much mind to the first door.

No, his eyes are are on the larger door in front of him. He glances at Josie, then at the four tiles. He takes two, and looks at them. He tips them over, then he looks up, eyes on the door. He wrinkles his nose.

"Quite so," he agrees. "I've developed little trust of the designers of these places. They had it out for their descendants, I think."

He steps to the door -- and he starts to look it over, scanning the door thoughtfully.

<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

Elly van Houten is here. There's no need to fear! (Terms and conditions apply.)

Elly was pleased to help Josie, of course, and she thought, hey, at worst, I can try out that new trick against some free-roaming drones or hobgobs or something. Hob steak for dinner, etheric technique refined. Everyone wins. She has brought along her happy new staff, which is six feet long and made of iron, with a rugose and grippable stone haft near the top for, well, holding. She pulled this out of the guts of the Earth, but she was kind of tripping then.

"We were actually talking about that a little," Elly says to Leon: "though mostly about more recent things. I do wonder, sometimes... maybe everyone was becoming very paranoid towards the end of their civilization..."

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei definitely owes Josie one. Even if he's pretty sure the proper way to get through a mysterious door is to hit it real hard from his understanding of archaeology--but he'd really like to help Josie out. He really owes her. And there's only one thing he can really do about that and that's to lend her a hand whenever she needs it!

He has come along with Elly as you might expect and is kind of smiling distantly.

"I guess it's not really paranoia if your civilization is about to end though." Fei says. "Though my guess is--the paranoia is probably partly why it all came to an end."

He looks to Lily. "Just a hunch anyway. How're you feeling?"

He is dressed as he usually is, though he has the weird 'FEDERATION MEDICAL TRICORDER' at his side like some kind of comfort blanket.

<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Of course Lily Keil is here. She was bviously going to help Josie, even if she hadn't been interested in the ruins for the sake of Zeboim-era knowledge anyway. There was no need to spread around the knowlege of the keys, and whatever is in wait behind that door...

Well, they'll handle it together, won't they?

"Here we are," Lily agrees, and looks to the tiles, taking the other two and examining them thoughtfully. She looks to these, and to the walls. Even a scholar might have trouble deciphering the highly technical text... But Lily can read many technical things.

"Might've been," she says to Elly of paranoia. Then to Fei, "Hm. Guess that's true... Self-fulfilling prophecy, maybe?"

It might even be true.

Lily runs her hands over the warning as if that would help her translate, murmuring ancient words in that language as she does. It's important, after all; it's not just any ruin.

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

    Distrust. Paranoia.

    The end of a civilization.

    Something, after all, had nearly buried this place. Something massive, long ago.

    "You remember what Lombardia said," Josie remarks, after a moment more. She gazes up at the door, as if to take in the enormity of it, resting the black shotgun she prised from the depths of Linaweyul against her shoulder. "This world's been dying since way on back. Doesn't surprise me none if the wounds go even deeper."

    She hands out two to each of them then, her attention breaking from the door just long enough to regard both of them in turn.

    To Lily, the charred Vayu tile and Prithvi, from Aubefort.

    To Leon, Agni from Ash Hare and Apas, from Almaryyt on Spira.

    They may be the only ones that can read the writing on the wall--

    WARNING: AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY
    PLEASE INSERT KEYS IN THE APPROPRIATE ORDER TO PROCEED TO ENTRY. VIOLATORS WILL BE SHOT.

    This may answer the question about the price of failure. But, wait a moment here-- what's the proper order?

    A slight suggestion presents itself on the Prithvi key itself -- 'initiator'.

    And on the Vayu: 'terminator'.

    And a further line of text, below the warnings:

    Earth smothers fire. Fire boils water. Water drowns air.

    Josie meanwhile has reached out stiffly with her bad right hand, the fingertips of her heavier glove brushing against the door.

<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

"Could be," Leon says to Elly, with a glance at her, and then a nod at Fei. "If the world's ending... I suppose all bets are off."

He blinks -- his eyebrows furrow. He looks the door over for a moment, then he tilts his head to the side. "It seems they would rather not have us here. They're assuring us that violators may be shot," he adds. He cracks a smile -- and then his eyes narrow, as he looks at the keys.

"Earth smothers fire, fire boils water, water drowns air," he says. "Then... earth, fire, water, and air, perhaps?"

He looks at Lily, then back at the others.

Leon knows his mindset well. He knows that mindset does not have much in the way of patience for riddles.

<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

Elly trails off in thought as she considers the melancholy question of the decline of Zeboim. Are we all dying from the day we were born? Elly thinks. Does that extend even to worlds, to societies, to people?

These thoughts come as she leans a little against her iron staff and does not try to offer help on the puzzle. She got lucky once.

<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei looks to Josie who brings up Lombardia. "..." He looks at the floor. "...Ugh..."

Fei can read Zeboim just fine if his various personalities are so inclined but he figures Lily and Leon have got this one so he doesn't fret it too much.

What he does say is, "What's the point of a password system that is spelled out for you like this?" because he is that kind of RPG protagonist. He exhales out a long breath. "Maybe it's a trick? An it's actually like Air Water Fire Earth?"

He shoves his hands in his pockets. "I guess it's reasonable to assume it's not a trick though."

"..."
"..."

He readies his stance suddenly. "Uh but just in case...!!!"

<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

What Lombardia said--yes, Lily remembers that. And she can tell something buried this place. If the world's ending, though, all bets are off. Still--Leon translates for the group and Lily sees that good, laughing faintly. "Specifies shot, too, so that's nice."

Lily looks back to Leon, and to the others.

"Vayu... Air. Terminator. Prithvi... Earth. Initiator." Lily looks over hers thoughtfully. "Agni, Apas--Fire, Water."

She doesn't focus on the melancholy so much as on the practical, holding up the tiles next to the slots to confirm that they fit according to the theory they're coming up with.

"If it's a trick, well, we've all been shot before, right?" Lily shakes her head. "It might be that only an authorized person is supposed to have these in the first place--they do say 'please don't keep if you're not authorized."

Lily moves to set them into place. "Well, let's see what's here, right?"

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

    "Heh. I remember what you said the other day, Red," Josie remarks, though, if one catches a glimpse of her face, she's not grinning in spite of little bark of laughter. "Someone going in a ruin and switching all the signs around, wasn't it? Or was it... eh, forget it. Unless anyone's got a better guess, we might as well go with what's on the sign, yeah?"

    She exhales a long breath, then shakes her head.

    "Maybe there were a lot of guards in here once. Maybe the keys were kept safe. Who knows..."

    Her right hand drops back to her side. "Well, either we're about to open a door or about to get shot. Get ready!"

    The tiles slide into place easily -- only the partially damaged Vayu tile gives anyone any grief, and even then it's only fleeting. There's a moment of silence and stillness, perhaps long enough to give rise to paranoia and trepidation. Was that instruction on the plate incorrect in some way--?

    But it begins to slowly rise, revealing light beyond that once-barred gate. Within is a hallway -- no, within is--

    But further inspection of what is within becomes suddenly, terminally interrupted.

<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

An explosion booms over the heads of the Black Wolves. A thundering shockwave, which rolls out, and a blast of fire in the air. The flame is mostly hot, being too high to scorch. The shockwave of the explosion, though, does enough. The concussive force of the blast dents the wall in above the door. It throws Leon Albus to his back, with a meaty SMACK that echoes.

But that echo is lost in the other sounds coming from behind them: footsteps. All are booted, though one set is heavier. A dozen Odessa soldiers, in their dark uniforms, stand behind, with gunsmoke rifles raised. And, at their head, is a tanned and muscled man; one eye is scarred over, simply gone; his vest reveals both scars and musculature. And, moreover, one arm ends in a three-clawed prosthetic arm, which smoke wafts from.

Ptolomea, member of Cocytus and field commander of Odessa, stands there.

His eye shifts. To Leon, who starts to push himself to his feet. To Fei, then Elly, and then Lily. Then, finally, to Josie. That one good eye lingers and regards her for a long moment. Ptolomea nods, respectfully, in her direction. "Good work, Lovelace."

Leon stands up, legs shaking. His silver eyes dart from Ptolomea, to Josephine. And, despite the way that he often acts nonplussed and hardened, there is shock evident on his face. It turns to a pained look.

"Josie?" he asks.

<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

    The face meets Leon's is absent any shock. It is also absent any mirth, regret, or anything else that someone might expect on someone's face at a time like this, in a situation like this. Josie simply regards him -- that look on his face -- for a long, calculated moment.

    Then she looks away from him and over at Ptolomea.

    "Ptolomea. I'll hold them off here. You'll need your lot to handle what's inside, I reckon," she says, swinging the shotgun off of her shoulder. She takes but one step to the side to clear the path to the door, her gaze flitting towards Lily and Leon -- perhaps still at the slots for the door -- before intoning thus:

    "O, thou lightning--"

    There is a snap of ozone, as the shot of sparks arcs across the few feet towards the pair of them.

    BGM: Galgaliel for Breakfast : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16Wljahr82k

    Josie is off and running after that, vaulting over a low stretch fencing separating the immediate door area from the rest of the chamber using her bad hand as the lever. A wince distorts her expression as she lands; she cracks off a shot in the next instant for Fei and Elly alike, hardly hesitating between actions.

DC: You switch forms to Odessa Irregulars Agent Josephine!
DC: Josephine Lovelace switches forms to Odessa Irregulars Agent Josephine!
GS: Josephine Lovelace spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Leon Albus with Bolt Lance!
GS: Josephine Lovelace spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Lily Keil with Bolt Lance!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Figure of Eight!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Argent and Sable!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
GS: Leon Albus takes a solid hit from Josephine Lovelace's Bolt Lance for 152 hit points!
GS: Fei Fong Wong guards a hit from Josephine Lovelace's Figure of Eight for 99 hit points!
GS: Elhaym van Houten critically Guards a hit from Josephine Lovelace's Argent and Sable for 30 hit points!
GS: Lily Keil takes a solid hit from Josephine Lovelace's Bolt Lance for 143 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Lily, too, is thrown from the door and the wall, hitting another wall as she tries to move in the half-moment she has. It's not as noisy as Leon's impact, but it's not a pleasant one anyway. She slides groundward, and in the moment she doesn't think to so much as look at Josie. No, she blinks through the stars in her eyes towards the footsteps, and--

Good work, Lovelace.

She scowls at Ptolomea. "Don't be ridi..."

Josie looks to Ptolomea, and Lily stops mid-word. She turns towards Josie and stares, for an instant almost blank, like a computer encountering an error. She doesn't get it, but she does. The shot of sparks arcs towards them--

It hits Lily full-on, doubling her over against magic she didn't think to defend against. The noise that accompanies it is unpleasant, and Lily doesn't rise immediately.

She stares into space for an instant, as her mind makes connections... and as her mind makes one important determination. Of who is the Enemy.

"I..."

Still on the ground for the moment, Lily lifts one hand, and curls it into a fist. A black aura appears around her, the shadows in the room lengthening as the same dark aura begins to appear around each of the Wolves...

Minus one.

"Josie, I..."

Lily remains on the ground for the moment, hand shaking, as if--no, no 'as if'. Actively trying to control something.

"I--"

GS: Lily Keil has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Dark Aura!
GS: Lily Keil has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Dark Aura!
GS: Lily Keil has attacked Leon Albus with Dark Aura!
GS: Lily Keil has attacked Lily Keil with Dark Aura!
GS: Lily Keil has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
GS: Lily Keil heals Lily Keil! She gains 150 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Lily Keil!
GS: Mighty! applied to Lily Keil!
GS: Lily Keil heals Leon Albus! He gains 150 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Leon Albus!
GS: Mighty! applied to Lily Keil!
GS: Lily Keil heals Elhaym van Houten! She gains 150 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Elhaym van Houten!
GS: Mighty! applied to Lily Keil!
GS: Lily Keil heals Fei Fong Wong! He gains 150 temporary hit points!
GS: Hyper! applied to Fei Fong Wong!
GS: Mighty! applied to Lily Keil!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

Elly laughs, quietly. "But these are old, right? It wouldn't be easy to change them around."

Presumably.

The door opens and --

They're facing a military outfit.

Elly's mouth hangs open and stays that way for a couple of seconds, long seconds. It is a baffled look, a look of total astonishment. How could this be so? Did they just teleport in? She raises her staff, but iron as it may be, it's a stick compared to a platoon with firearms.

A dreadful sense of deja vu rises in Elly's gut, even as her eyes crinkle for a moment, as they moisten. She looks at Josie for a moment, mouth starting to work again. A moment later after that Josie calls on the lightning. This is how it goes, she thinks with a dreadful certainty, and then --

-- well, it would be a mistake to say it is "a series of visions," because while that is a dramatic way to describe it, the actual effect is more like a sequence of firing neurons sparkling at once, a range of ideas, presences, glittering to bright prominence as Elly tightens upwards. A gun is pointing towards them. Somehow what Elly thinks of last is not Fei, or Leon and Lily, or Emeralda, or even Josie: it is a vision of Setanta glaring at her.

There's a ripple in the air,a curtain of distortion. The bullet flies through it and a close examination would reveal that the lead, already hot, *flashed to liquid* - and was diverted, splashing hot agony on Elly's calf, but not penetrating the center of her body, nor even a limb.

A moment later the curtain ignites with a slam of heat. It splits apart then as Elly stares at Josie and the little salted streaks on her cheek glisten as the water evaporates for them completely. The dark aura rises; the curtain of flame forms a loose loop, as if pulling aside.

"I --"

"I won't let you hurt them!!" Elly cries out. The flames rip forwards, spiralling like snakes in the air and aiming to surround Josie, to box her in with the exciting alternative of 'go where I want you to' or 'get extremely burned.'

GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Thermo Boundary!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a glancing hit from Elhaym van Houten's Thermo Boundary for 46 hit points!
GS: Entangle! applied to Josephine Lovelace!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Leon's defenses are not readied.

He does not have the Raid Funnels out; nor, for that matter, does he have Argent Divider II drawn. The bolt of lightning explodes towards Leon, the air reeking of ozone, and catches him full in the chest. Sparks explode outward; his vest singes, parts of his white shirt burn black, and he is hefted and hurled through the air. He hits the ground, rolling a few times.

He comes up kneeling. One hand reaches down, finds a button on his belt, and presses it with a click. The Raid Funnels drop down, triangular pieces of metal falling -- then lift, unfold, and crackle with light between them. He also reaches to his side, and draws out Argent Divider II. The wood-paneled shotgun is leveled -- aimed -- and a bead drawn on Josie.

An aura flashes around him, Lily's familiar spell infusing him. He hears his heart, hammering in his ear, and it's with some effort that his expression becomes colder than it was before. Elly's flame dances around Josie, and Leon draws the bead.

"Why?" he demands of her, his voice becoming cold. And then it breaks, into a ragged and enraged scream. "WHY!?"

He pulls the trigger. Argent Divider II recoils backward, a flash explodes from the muzzle, and then a slug goes hurtling towards Josie.

"Move!" Ptolomea shouts to his soldiers, over the sound of battle erupting. Sparks fly, lightning tears through the air, bullets whizz by, and bedlam becomes the rule of the day. The old soldier cannot grasp what this means; he can spot a betrayal, but he doesn't know the contours of that. "Go, go, go!"

Ptolomea's soldiers charge. They split about the Wolves, and then run for the opened door. Ptolomea charges after, too. The light gleams along his prosthetic arm -- and his good eye is, briefly, on Josephine.

And then he and his men are through the door.

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Josephine Lovelace with RR-2 Suggestion!
GS: Leon Albus has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a glancing hit from Leon Albus's RR-2 Suggestion for 67 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! applied to Josephine Lovelace!
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei blinks upon see Ptolomea. "Huh?"

He blinks a few more times. "You must be thinking of her father not--"

Josie starts saying what she's going to do. Fei snaps his head towards her in dumb diisbelief. "What?"

He walks backwards a step. "...You're joking, right?" He pauses. "Oh--I get it--you were doing some kind of spy thing, right?" He smiles. "I get it now, you were just...playing them. We can take him on together, Josie. It's not going to be--"

The crack of a bullet goes off.

Fei blinks. He looks down at his chesst. He stumbles back, hands shaking as he looks down at his wound. The spreading blood on his shirt.

He looks to Elly. "Elly...I..."

"It's a joke right?" He asks, stumbling back. "She doesn't mean it, right? It's impossible. Not Josephine."

He slips on a splatter of his own blood and lands on his back.

"We'd been through too much together.... There's no way..." He gapes up at the ceiling. "That it'd happen again..."

A dark aura surges around Fei and his eyes close.

He slumps on the ffloor, going still.

GS: Fei Fong Wong has completed his action.
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

    Josie turns for a moment after taking that shot at Fei and Elly, and like someone taking a glance back at a city consumed by a cataclysm, looks at Lily.

    Looks at Lily, and the expression on the younger woman's face.
    Something for a moment flickers behind Josie's dark eyes.

    And then she jerks her face away from Lily, as if to tear herself free.

    It may be just as well: Elly has her own statement to make about Josie's turn of allegiences, and it's one that forces the wayward archaeologist to pay attention. A wall of flame rises: close, far too close, enough to cause the right sleeve of her jacket to be set alight even as she reflexively flinches away from the serpentine spread of flame. The small fire doesn't last but it serves as a reminder that some boundaries cannot be crossed.

    Even in the darkest of nights.

    "Tch," Josie hisses, cradling that arm -- her bad arm, her burned arm -- against her stomach. "You think I need to reach you to hurt you, Elly?!"

    Neither, as it happens, does Leon. He screams a single simple question at her before opening fire; her vision of him obscured by the flames, she's unable to cleanly dodge his bullet.
    It zigs right past her face, scoring a line of crimson there.

    "'Why'?" she echoes, blood trailing down the right side of her face. "Ain't it as plain as day, Leon Albus? I've been using you and yours. I needed to get this door open," she says, swinging the shotgun up in his direction -- to shoot at him through the fire and flames that keep her pinned to this corner of the room, "and you lot could read the language. Simple as that."

    There is chaos in the chamber. Between flame, lightning, gunfire, it's a gauntlet that the Odessa soldiers need to cross to make it to the opened door. For one lingering moment, Josie turns her head at the right time.

    Her gaze meets Ptolomea's own.

    And she looks away, just in time to see Fei crumple to the floor through the haze of heat. "..."

    Her gaze may meet Elly's again as she begins the incantation of a spell. But it's not for her -- as might be thought -- but for--

    "Painra!"

    For Elly's boy.

    Almost as an afterthought does she twitch the black gun for Elly herself.

    The flames swirl about her. She may be boxed in, but that doesn't mean she will stand there. She turns, breaking into a dash. Is she attempting to jump through--?!

    She is. She does.
    She catches fire.
    Or at least, her coat does.

    She rolls along the ground as she lands, shedding the longcoat as quickly as she can. The snaking tendrils of the flames are speeding to catch up to her, to create for her a new prison, but for the moment her sight is clear--

    And she takes that moment to aim.

    Right.
    For Lily.

GS: Josephine Lovelace spends 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Leon Albus with Scarlet Tiger!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace spends 2 Combo on Poison and Interrupt!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Fei Fong Wong with Painra!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Elhaym van Houten with A Bitter Pill To Swallow!
GS: Sneak! You have gained 1 Combo! Only you see this message.
GS: Josephine Lovelace has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace spends 1 Combo on Interrupt!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Lily Keil with Liquorice Piercer!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
GS: Leon Albus critically Guards a hit from Josephine Lovelace's Scarlet Tiger for 26 hit points!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Josephine Lovelace's attack becomes clear!
GS: CRITICAL! Elhaym van Houten critically Guards a hit from Josephine Lovelace's Silver Hook for 11 hit points!
GS: Lily Keil takes a solid hit from Josephine Lovelace's Liquorice Piercer for 90 hit points!
GS: Lily Keil has lost 2 Combo from Interrupt!
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

    It wasn't an afterthought, as it happens-- Josie twists her wrist just a fraction of a degree, turning an incidental shot into something more... deliberate.

GS: Elhaym van Houten used Defend! She takes Josephine Lovelace's attack on Fei Fong Wong on herself!
GS: Elhaym van Houten takes a solid hit from Josephine Lovelace's Painra for 0 hit points!
GS: Poison! applied to Elhaym van Houten!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has lost 2 Combo from Interrupt!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

Josie's shotgun fires. The bullet hurtles towards Leon, and it would doubtless do no small amount of damage. This time, though, he is ready. Two of the Raid Funnels swing down, the triangles turning over each other, and then a sheet of aquamarine light appears. The bullet slams into that sheet, before the barrier shatters, and the round goes off to the corner, smashing into the wall.

"You--"

Leon's lips curl back into a snarl. His fingers tighten on the hilt of his firearm, and then he sees the way that Josie turns her attention to Lily, and tries to strike her deliberately. His eyes snap to the side -- to Fei, on the ground, and a dark power surging from him. He knows what that could mean. His heart pounds in his ears.

"Fei!" he yells. "We've spent our lives being broken by betrayal! We may not be able to stop this betrayal, but--we can keep ourselves from breaking!"

The Raid Funnels spin. It's with a glance that Leon sends them -- three elongated triangles, each gold in color, with a glowing green gem at their center -- and they sweep in, trails of light left in the air, and then slash one after the other across Josephine, harrying her. At the same time, Leon snaps his weapon to the side. The barrels split; the sword telescopes out, and locks into place.

"And that is all we were to you?" he snaps. "A means to an end, Lovelace?"

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Josephine Lovelace with PMU-Z2 Raid Fang!
GS: Leon Albus assumes the Stoic stance!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
GS: Josephine Lovelace guards a hit from Leon Albus's PMU-Z2 Raid Fang for 56 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Josephine Lovelace gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Cover! applied to Leon Albus!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

When Fei falls Elly's attention turns towards him. A couple of things happen. One is that the fire that Elly has called up and sent spinning abruptly flares up to a hellish agonizing blue-white -- before dissipating, spreading out with a ripple of plasma as she squeals in dismay.

She throws herself towards Fei. It's like a dodge, in that she moves abruptly and quickly away from where Josie was aiming - and that is perhaps why she does not join Fei sprawled out. From Elly's perspective a hot bloody red line streaks along her lower back, trending downwards, clipping flesh as she stumbles but ends up next to Fei. She clasps his hand in both of hers. She doesn't cradle him closer. That impact - if -

I wish I could heal him, Elly thinks. She remembers the people who called her a destroyer. In this moment she feels that and the feeling is like swallowing a ball of iron.

Her hands squeeze Fei's.

"Hold on," she pleads. "Please, hold on." She squeezes tighter.

Lest Josie feel unloved, the fluttering, rippling witchlights swirl round each other, compress, compact, *reignite* with a flare of light and shadows - the pained spell washes into Elly as she cries out again, agony making her sag forwards even as her spell keeps driving. The approximately diamondoid shape dives towards Josie, swirling, sweeping. It flits upwards then -- perhaps in consideration for Leon.

GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Thermo Crystalmelt!
GS: Elhaym van Houten takes 21 damage from Poison!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a glancing hit from Elhaym van Houten's Thermo Crystalmelt for 65 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Josephine Lovelace gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Can Lily understand that flicker? She doesn't know, in the moment--it's hard to understand much of anything. But she looks back, all right.

The questions, the demands--they all ring in Lily's ears as she works to contain her emotions and her power with them. She knows--Fei fell. Leon and Elly started fighting... And Lily's eyes begin to cloud, as if ink might've been dropped into them.

Soldiers split past her, and she does not move to stop them. There's no way, Fei says.

But Josie explains. She explains, and Lily remembers a time that she used Josie, a secret she kept. Was it to keep her with them? ...Has it failed, now? What if...?

"I--"

Locked up, she thinks of the language she knows, and she looks around. "Don't..."

Lily's eyes are still darkening, and Lily is moving, when the shot hits, but not to dodge. It embeds itself in her flesh, hits the bone of her shoulder instead of something else. Intentional, or no? But Lily doesn't make a sound from it, though blood sprays the wall in answer. "...Don't..."

Lily's eyes finish clouding over, completely black. She stares into space for a moment longer. Her voice sounds tonelessly in the ancient tongue. "...<Releasing limiters.>"

Lily rises smoothly--too smoothly for her muscles to be at work, as instead she simply floats from her seated position until her feet dangle down. Blood runs down her arm, but becomes hard to see in short order as her form clouds. Multicolored circuitry pulses, gleaming, at her hands; it spreads up her arms, up her neck and face, down her torso to her feet. It makes a prismatic pupil and iris, and spreads from her shoulderblades spectral wings.

'We've spent our lives being broken by betrayal! We may not be able to stop this betrayal, but--we can keep ourselves from breaking!"

"<Ether... output...>"

Her eyes, which had closed, snap back open. "I..." Her mouth opens and closes, working without sound at first. "..." Her expression slackens; it's reminiscient, if anything, of a time long ago in Bledavik. Her hand rises slowly, levitating as much as muscle working, and extends towards Josephine Lovelace.

The temperature drops precipitously; ice begins to gather on the walls beside Lily's position as she points one finger at Josie and the air begins to freeze between them, a column of mist that turns to jagged crystal on the heels of Elly's flaring spell.

Tracks of liquid on her face freeze in place, too.

DC: Lily Keil switches forms to Omega - Awakened!
GS: Lily Keil has attacked Josephine Lovelace with The Grief of the Snake - Ice!
GS: Lily Keil has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Lily Keil assumes the Avenger stance!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
GS: Josephine Lovelace guards a hit from Lily Keil's The Grief of the Snake - Ice for 88 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Josephine Lovelace gains 1 additional Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Fei Fong Wong has posed.

Fei...

???

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lxke2YUjBcM

He sees a small child. He... He's crying.

It isn't Id.

"Josie..." The child sobs. "She betrayed us... We're betrayed again...!"

Fei rests a hand on the child's head, patting it with his own. "...Again?" He asks.

"Id should deal with it! Everything's his fault anyway! Just stay with me..."

The small boy picks up a small ball. "We can play."

Fei feels his pants leg getting tugged and he looks towards the source. He sees a second child, hair covering his eyes.

"It's inevitable, Junior."

"Don't..." Fei says. "Don't call me that. That's her word for me. Don't call me that!"

"It's the truth of this planet. Look... I've been saving a movie for you."

He pulls Fei along towards another screen and...

MEMORY OF THE MURDER - Exploration - 4 - Combat - Vault

It is raining.

A man and a woman run by. The woman's hair is light, red perhaps. The man has a long brown ponytail and is barefoot.

Chasing after them is your Emperor. He rides his palanquin, born by a group of his worshippers. He wears his golden mask, the one that resembles the skull beneath all our faces.

Four lights blossom around your Emperor. They throw heat, light, and a sense of power, unquestionable, undeniable. They throw back the cold, the wet, the dark. His intention fills the air, aimed at the heretics before him who flee. The man and the woman.

If you want, you can rush out. Battle his minions. Perhaps you will save them. Perhaps your Emperor's justice will fall on you, denied by foolish action. Even the will of a god can be stymied, for a time. If your legs can obey you. If you can take your eyes away from him. But you must move your stubborn legs, and act quickly.

And you can not strike at your Emperor. Something like that is impossible.

Justine gonna leave you
Gonna leave you full of fears

Fei grabs at his head. "No... Shutup... I thought... I thought we were getting along...! What about Emeralda? What about Elly? Are you just ... going to wreck their world too??"

A voice rings in Fei's head.

Fei! We've spent our lives being broken by betrayal! We may not be able to stop this betrayal, but--we can keep ourselves from breaking!

"That's right..." Fei says, stirring his courage. "I don't have to break! I...can handle this...!"

Id is quiet for a long moment.

Then: "heh."

"Too bad... Your will only counts for so much. I'm being called to do my duty."

HERE

Fei's eyes flutter open. He grabs at Elly's hands and squeezes them, gently.

And then with no warning gives a kiss full on Elly's lips it's a real bad time for this, but that's what he does.

And then he kind of grins, stands up, stretches his hands above his head, and looks to Josie.

"...You must've known something like this would happen, right? So I can say you were asking for it...right?"

A red aura crackles around him--his hair turns red and his skin goes pale. He still stumbles forward, still bleeding from a dreadful wound.

And then fires a bright red chi blast right for Josie with little charge up time.

"But an A for effort, Captain. He really put up a good fight. It's too bad--it didn't really matter what he wanted."

GS: Id has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Crimson Shot!
GS: Id has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Id has completed his action.
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a glancing hit from Id's Crimson Shot for 81 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Josephine Lovelace gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Disrupt! applied to Josephine Lovelace!
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

    "Got it in one, Leon Albus," Josie drawls, though the usual warmth in her tone is utterly lacking. Her gaze flits past him and his furious expression once, for the door--

    Odessa's agents are long gone now. It's just her and them. Her, against her former allies.

    The Raid Funnels move, apparently intent to converge on her as much as the flames might; she breaks into a dash here, her heels ringing against the metal flooring as both harry her. It's just a matter of time: she can't hope to outpace them forever, and ultimately -- as she arcs the shotgun in an partial parry -- that's exactly what they do. The flames begun to snake about her as two of the Funnels arc past her guard, tracing a line across her shirt that soon stains red.

    As the flame dives down to encircle and consume her once again.

    She is reminded, for a flickering moment, of a burning house.
    Of the beams falling in.

    Lightning gathers at her hand -- her wounded hand. Her burned hand.
    And she thrusts that hand outwards, sparks spreading as if to catch the inferno.

    It almost works.
    Some flame diverts around her in curling tongues and blasts of heat. The rest breaks on through, evoking a sudden scream from the archaeologist as she's engulfed for a split-second. Before the curtain of fire rises.

    And on its heels comes the ice. In the middle of this, Lily has changed, the realization thereof which can be seen for merely an instant in Josephine's widened eyes.

    She's the daughter of a magus -- whatever her flaws, she was taught thoroughly. And she's had reason of late to refine these abilities. Lightning again erupts in a localized blast from Josie's wounded hand, an attempt to winnow down that hailstorm of grief that has been birthed her way. Some of the bladed crystals slip past the barrier; she gains further wounds and rends for her trouble. Some sublimate into steam, rising for the ceiling of this ancient chamber.

    Josie staggers in the aftermath, before righting herself. Taking but one breath, she flips the shotgun one-handedly, working the lever in the same motion. The shells ring upon the metal floor.

    In her right hand she suddenly cups a sphere of light. Casting it towards the ceiling, she calls out thus:

    "Light Flare!"

    But the burst of light is localized, even if it might for a moment dazzle the two magic users in the room.

    Josie's ARM arcs towards Fei as he begins to stir.

    "Figured you'd come out to play... Id," she says, pressing her lips thin.

    She dodges left in the next heartbeat; it's not nearly fast enough. It catches the half of her; she pitches forward only to roll into it as she tumbles onto her back and snaps back up to her feet, circling in an arc about the Demon of Elru and the Captain of the Black Wolves both.

    The light in here is still intense.
    But Josie knows approximately where they stand, and perhaps here and now, approximate is good enough.

    She veers and runs for the nearest wall. She runs up it, thwarting gravity for a heartbeat or more.
    Then kicks off of it, squeezing the trigger twice towards the places Id and Leon should still be as she rains down bullets at an angle.

    "Now, come on! Show me that you mean it!"

GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Heart and Dart!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a solid hit from Josephine Lovelace's Heart and Dart for 0 hit points!
GS: Amplify! applied to Josephine Lovelace!
GS: Mighty! applied to Josephine Lovelace!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Elhaym van Houten with Light Flare!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Lily Keil with Light Flare!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Id with Blinded Sphynx!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Leon Albus with Blinded Sphynx!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
GS: Lily Keil critically Guards a hit from Josephine Lovelace's Light Flare for 0 hit points!
GS: Id takes a solid hit from Josephine Lovelace's Blinded Sphynx for 167 hit points!
GS: Leon Albus guards a hit from Josephine Lovelace's Blinded Sphynx for 132 hit points!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Leon Albus enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Elhaym van Houten takes a solid hit from Josephine Lovelace's Light Flare for 0 hit points!
GS: Slow! applied to Elhaym van Houten!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

His full name, not Lion.

How much, Leon wonders, was an act? He feels his pulse quickening. His eyes are on Lily for a moment; the crystallizing ice on her cheeks. And Elly, by Fei, trying to defend him. He swallows, eyes back on Josie.

'Id.'

Leon's eyes widen -- and he looks sideways, to see Fei -- because ultimately, that is Fei -- but also the Destroyer of Elru. His blood turns to ice, as it has so many times before. He knows how terribly outmatched he is; he knows how terribly unpredictable Id is. Leon has no illusions that this battle could very well become more complicated.

And Josie, damn her, attacks them both. The bullet slams into his side, blood splattering on the wall. He spins with it, whirls, and faces Josie.

Leon shouts, this time, with pent-up frustration boiling over. "You have direly underestimated me, should you think I do not mean it! Mercy is never something I've had to spare!"

His blade ignites. A flash of red light explodes up it, crackling and shifting, and then solidifies into a long blade of crimson light that sheathes the thinner blade at Argent Divider II's center. Leon swings the weapon up, over his head, and then comes crashing down for Josie -- and swings down with the sword, chopping it for her.

GS: Leon Albus has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Code.26 CLARENT!
GS: Leon Albus has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a solid hit from Leon Albus's Code.26 CLARENT for 176 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Josephine Lovelace gains 1 additional Combo!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

Elly clutches Fei's hands. Her tears drip outwards even as Lily draws deep into SOMETHING ELSE, as Leon screams out. Elly cannot see the memories. Fei moves, and her heart trembles. Then he leans up and kisses her --

It is a moment of shock and delight.

-- Elly is startled enough by this to topple back onto her backside with a hiss of pain from the bullet graze. "Fei, don't push - yourself -"

But it's not Fei, now is it.

Elly looks upwards. For a fleeting and terrible moment she sees that his hair isn't too different from hers, and his skin's not too different from hers, and Elly wonders in a mixture of terror and, guiltily, shamefully, RELIEF -- because if the Slayer of Elru is HERE...

... then come what may, whatever secrets this ruin hides won't...

Except he's swaying.

Elly van Houten briefly considers what is going on in her life, in the middle of the trough of several different conflicting realms of chaos and horror and joy and despair. Because Id is here but *Fei's still injured*, perhaps fatally, or nearly so.

She turns round. She remembers that trick she used. She should still be able to do it even if the Ether is harder to grip now, just - superheat the air around Josie until it's too hot, until she passes out from transient hyperthermia. They can put her on ice afterwards, tie her up, someth-

FLASH

Now I can't see anything, Elly thinks. Fudge.

She sucks in a deep breath.

From the ground, because she can't do anything else until she can see again, Elly shrieks. It means that what she is saying is DEFINITELY audible, even over everything else.

"JOSIE!! If they're FORCING you then TELL us and STOP and we'll TAKE THEM DOWN! Do you understand?? They're JUST AHEAD. Any of us can DESTROY ALL OF THEM! They won't be able to HURT YOU!! PLEASE!!!" Despite the threat of horrific violence, it feels weak to Elly, impotent; and yet, even so, loud, as she struggles to get back to her feet.

GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Screamer!
GS: Elhaym van Houten takes 31 damage from Poison!
GS: Hyper expired!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a solid hit from Elhaym van Houten's Screamer for 0 hit points!
GS: Disrupt! applied to Josephine Lovelace!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has lost 1 Combo from Interrupt!
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

Lightning meets Lily's frost. The scream registers for Lily only after her spell is loosed; she regards it not as distantly as she might like, a dull ache that pierces like a hammer on sheet ice. There is a stagger, there--and shells ring. But next is light--

Lily meets the bright light with just as dark a shield of gloom, a hemisphere of raw power erupting before her and blocking out the effects of the spell; she doesn't even have stars in her eyes when vision passes. Darkness, after all, is one of the easier elements for Lily to utilize, though it still requires split-second reflexes afforded her by her transformation. It is not simple.

But the red aura comes and Lily turns, regarding Id and his words, his red blast. Her mind tries vaguely to reason it out, but finds its mechanisms frayed beyond simple understandings.

The light is still intense enough that it weighs on her nerves. Talk of meaning it. Of course Leon does. This is something real. And Id...

"But I don't," Lily says in a strangely calm tone of voice. "There's not really much reason to be angry. I know you; I know the sort of person you are, have for a long time..."

Ether pulses through the air, drawing towards Lily in a visible wave.

"...Leon... Id. Elly..."

Lily shakes her head. "No... I should have known. I was blind by how I feel."

Lily lifts her hand, and the power that was gathering around her collects into her hand. She breathes in, and it washes around her, a dark aura visibly distorting the air.

Shadows burst into being around Josie, outlined in faint reddish light. It darkens and brightens at the same time, suddenly bursting all around in a pulse of raw dark power, emotion made manifest.

It does not burn. But it aches; it is a broken heart, translated to power.

"...I... don't..."

GS: Lily Keil spends 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Lily Keil has attacked Josephine Lovelace with The Brook of Repentance - Tears!
GS: Lily Keil has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Mighty expired!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Josephine Lovelace takes a solid hit from Lily Keil's The Brook of Repentance - Tears for 261 hit points!
GS: Poison and Shieldbreak! applied to Josephine Lovelace!
GS: Charge!! You gain 55 FP!
<Pose Tracker> Id has posed.

Id usually, after killing the people who made Fei suffer, goes around and tries to clobber all his loved ones immediately after. It might be prudent to be cautious around The Destroyer.

He weaves between Josie's bullets, his body flickering with after images as he moves--but after the last one he trips over his own feet and collapses to the ground again. He coughs repeatedly on the floor before getting up again, placing a hand on his wound. Sadly, this Xenogears protagonist has never had the best luck with cutscene bullets.

"Oh I like the Captain." Id says. "I think he means it, kiddo. He's going to kill you dead if you push him." He grins, spitting out some blood to the side. "My kind of captain. Maybe I should sign up for the Black Wolves too. You hiring, Captain?"

He pauses to slump against the wall. He exhales out slowly and then punches the ground, sending a burst of flame exploding along the ground to ultimately encompass Josephine if she isn't quick on her feet.

"Guess you're your father's daughter after all, kiddo." Id says. "I figure even Timotheus is gonna be proud of you today. But I don't blame you. I'm a father's son, after all."

GS: Id spends 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Id has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Inferno Burster!
GS: Id enters a Counter stance!
GS: Id has completed his action.
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a solid hit from Id's Inferno Burster for 166 hit points!
GS: Poison! applied to Josephine Lovelace!
GS: Charge!! You gain 35 FP!
GS: Josephine Lovelace enters Critical health and gains 25 FP!
GS: Josephine Lovelace enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Entangle expired!
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

    She twists as she completes the arc, angling her body so that she lands in a roll and as before snaps back to her feet again. She whirls towards Leon, already advancing upon her, the shotgun raised before her almost as if she were intent on wielding it as a sword and not a gun.

    "Wasn't counting on your mercy," Josie retorts as he closes, making to keep the shotgun between her and him, taking a step backwards as Argent Divider II ignites. Almost, as if her intent were to evade it entirely, even, if the attempt at a parry failed.

    Neither works. He is for her, rising overhead like a furious storm. There's nowhere to run. There's no time to even offer up her ARM as a sacrifice. The blade cuts into her, deeply, leaving a deep score along her torso from shoulder to hip. She staggers back, her right hand grabbing stiffly, uselessly, for wound that she cannot well staunch. Once, this would have fallen to Lily to so tend, but--

    But.

    She gazes at Lily for a moment across the room, and here, for just a moment, it feels like time stops. Josie's lips part. On her face is a complicated expression. "Never... did," Josie gasps, reeling in that next moment from her wound, "get why you didn't... tell them," she utters, before Lily breathes in.

    Nothing is as painful as a broken heart.
    Nothing is as merciless.

    It swallows up the glitter still present in the air, consuming Josie's spell whole. It swallows, for a moment, Josie up too.

    "A...ah," Josie gasps, but even that pained cry turns into a broken chuckle.

    But she stands up straight, she again flips that shotgun over in her hand, ejecting the shells once more onto the floor. And she snaps that black weapon towards Lily, squeezing the trigger once, twice, three times, the last angled towards the ceiling as if in a sort of herald of what is to come.

    "But don't think I'm gonna... hold back any just 'cause you knew!"

    And she runs suddenly for Lily. She runs right for her, she looks right at her, eyes wide, and she unloads into the woman she'd once talked back from the brink. The woman she's been through thick and thin. The woman she--

    Elly screams at her, then. Elly screams at her with enough force that she's sent staggering backwards under the weight of her words and wounds alike.

    Into this moment, Id, the Destroyer of Elru, throws flame.

    Josie is flung sidelong into a wall with a decided crunch; she slides down its length for a moment, sprawled against it there. And here she breathes, once, twice, the blood from the wound that Leon gave her slowly pattering onto the floor. "You think... you think I'm being forced?" She laughs again, shaking her head slowly. "Elly. Elhaym. I don't do nothing I don't want to. Open your eyes and get your head out of the clouds, girl!"

    Get your head out of the clouds, girl.

    Her father's daughter.

    If ever there was a bitter smile, it's on Josie's lips now. "Guess so," she breathes, the look in her eyes flat, nearly dead.
    Guess so, on both counts.

    Her hand twitches; she snaps off a shot, seemingly in an erratic direction. But--

    When she rises to her feet again, she rises by inches; blood leaves a trail behind her as she pushes off the wall and lopes forward like a wounded wolf.

    "Hit me-- like you mean it--"

    As she again ejects shells from her ARM. As she unloads while still running, swinging the black weapon in a crescent's arc.

GS: Josephine Lovelace spends 1 Combo on Link!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Lily Keil with The Herald!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has launched an attack Link!
GS: Josephine Lovelace spends 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Josephine Lovelace enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Lily Keil with The Flame!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has gained 1 Combo!
GS: You have finished a Link/Follow chain. Remember to +round!
GS: Sneak!! Your feint does not reveal that you spent 2 Combo on Headshot Better get that pose addition ready.
GS: Josephine Lovelace enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Elhaym van Houten with It's A Hard-Knock Life!
GS: Sneak! You have gained 1 Combo! Only you see this message.
GS: Josephine Lovelace has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace spends 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Id with Crescent Dart!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes 24 damage from Poison!
GS: Josephine Lovelace spends 1 Combo on Poison!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has attacked Leon Albus with Crescent Dart!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes 20 damage from Poison!
GS: Mighty and Shieldbreak expired!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has completed her action.
GS: Sneak! The true nature of Josephine Lovelace's attack becomes clear!
GS: CRITICAL! Elhaym van Houten guards a hit from Josephine Lovelace's Silver Cloud for 120 hit points!
GS: Cripple and Jam! applied to Elhaym van Houten!
GS: Id takes a glancing hit from Josephine Lovelace's Crescent Dart for 71 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Id gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Poison! applied to Id!
GS: Reaction bonus! FP up!
GS: Lily Keil takes a solid hit from Josephine Lovelace's The Herald for 0 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Lily Keil gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Dispel! Hyper removed!
GS: Jam and Slow! applied to Lily Keil!
GS: Lily Keil takes a solid hit from Josephine Lovelace's The Flame for 173 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Lily Keil gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Poison! applied to Lily Keil!
GS: Infect!! All debuffs' duration extended by 2 rounds!!
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

    Or not so erratic at all -- the bullet ricochets off the far wall and does a lively dance off pipes and assorted girders before finishing its long trajectory and flying for... Elly.

GS: Leon Albus critically Guards a hit from Josephine Lovelace's Crescent Dart for 38 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Leon Albus has posed.

"I'd hope not!" Leon shouts back. He feels that flash of guilt -- seeing, easily, how hurt Lily is by this -- and a little more guilt, for how he can't rein in that anger. Argent Divider II's energy blade slashes into the floor, burning into the metal and stone floor. A deep, glowing red gash is left in the floor, as Josie staggers back from him. He looks up at her, with murder in his eyes.

He has killed former comrades before. He has no real expectation that he will stop.

But he is given pause as she runs right for Lily. He turns, whirling; his coat flutters after him, and he sees Id's flame hurtle at her. He sees her smashed into the wall, and then he hefts up Argent Divider II. The weapon is gripped in both hands; there is a flash of light in his silver eyes, as they narrow. It illuminates, for a moment, the stubble on his cheeks and his gritted teeth.

Bright enough to make someone wonder.

And then Argent Divider II ignites. The blade expands outward, rocketing out until it is a good ten feet long. It shudders, it crackles; it bends and moves like a thing uncontrolled, and Leon swings the weapon back.

And then he cleaves it down, slashing for Josie, the wall, and the rest alike.

GS: Leon Albus spends 2 Combo on Gatling, loading 2 into Gatling!
GS: Leon Albus has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Code.34 DURANDAL!
GS: Leon Albus has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Hyper expired!
GS: Leon Albus has completed his action.
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a solid hit from Leon Albus's Code.34 DURANDAL for 158 hit points!
<Pose Tracker> Elhaym van Houten has posed.

Elly's vision is clearing. They knew? Who knew? She isn't sure. Lily, was it, or was it Id? No, it was Lily. She blinks twice - and then she takes in a deep gasping breath. A moment later, a bullet hits her in the head and she sways.

But there is luck on Elly's side.

Normally when you think 'a bullet hits you in the head' you basically think 'that's the end of THAT guy,' right? It's typically a pretty definitive end. However, the skull is a tough organ, and there is a lot of material around it. In this case it can be said with great honesty that Elly's big stupid hairstyle probably saved her life, because the bullet strikes at somewhere just above the ear on a lateral trajectory and has to push through thousands of dense, bushy red hairs.

To Elly's perspective it is like someone just cut into her scalp with a knife. This is not inaccurate. She staggers forwards, landing on the outstretched palms of her hands. Blood gouts down the side of her neck.

"I..."
"Don't..."

"BELIEVE you..."

And the words start to come out of her mouth as her eyes turn upwards towards Josie. "Because I don't think you're a sadist... if you were a sadist you would have organized this... better... you wouldn't have brought... Fei and I... you would have only brought Leon, or Lily... or even asked them for the tiles."

"So either you were... hoping we would stop you... or you were hoping... that we would help you."

Elly trembles, but she pushes past it. It's a tremble she thinks her entire body would rather have, a convulsion, but that can wait for later. "I don't know... how to help you... I don't even know... -What it is that you would- -- what it is that you would need our help with..."

"But - I can't believe you would... pretend this long... if you didn't mean it. You called me 'that'," Elly says, and this may be cryptic, "and you didn't mean it cruelly... and that means you can't be like them, not at your heart."

Aw.

The fire that Elly called up which has kind of been floating around begins to increase. It expands. It heightens. It starts to glow blue again.

"Please... don't fight this," Elly says. And then the fire leaps towards her -- and much like it had, not so long ago, the fire dances around Josie, swirls around her. The heat is crushing, radiant - like being shoved into an oven. It's something that tries to wring the sweat from the body. But even here she stays clear. It's a fence, a space. Something to scorch, to stun.

Of course, Leon is doing something else. But the hell of it is that it does make it a little harder to dodge, doesn't it?

GS: Elhaym van Houten has activated a Force Action!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has activated a Force Action!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has cancelled 1 Force Action.
GS: Elhaym van Houten has cancelled 0 Force Actions.
GS: Elhaym van Houten spends 2 Combo on Headshot!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Thermo Incinerate!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has gained 1 Combo!
GS: Elhaym van Houten takes 22 damage from Poison!
GS: Poison expired!
GS: Elhaym van Houten has completed her action.
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a glancing hit from Elhaym van Houten's Thermo Incinerate for 99 hit points!
GS: Reaction switch bonus! Josephine Lovelace gains 1 additional Combo!
GS: Mute! applied to Josephine Lovelace!
GS: Hyper! applied to Elhaym van Houten!
GS: Josephine Lovelace enters CONDITION GREEN!!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Lily Keil has posed.

To be sure, Lily Keil's attention is partly anchored on Id. ...But not because she expects him to turn on them. No, it's for a different reason, and yet the same as why she stills and cannot look away for the instants Leon slashes through the other woman.

Time does seem to stop, for Lily too. Just briefly. That breath seems to last for a while, to her.

A chuckle. Josie snaps the weapon towards her, and Lily does not move. Josie says she won't hold back.

"If you were going to hold back," Lily starts, but shots slam into her, one after another. They ripple against her form, shadowy, and each one knocks her backward a little further, each one disturbs the placid surface of her expression. Lily does not express pain, but though it's somewhat difficult to see the details in her dark clothes and darker aura, there is the shine of blood at her chest.

"...If you were going to hold back," she says more quietly, "You wouldn't have done this at all."

She hovers for a little while later, a phantom in strange colors with wide black eyes. She answers Id where Leon doesn't. "...We don't want that kind of help, remember? You told me so yourself." Her words are dull, still, but there is an edge of pain in them that can't completely hide.

She watches Leon's attack, stares for an instant at his eyes. "Leon..."

Elly speaks--she speaks a lot, she says many things, even before she speaks through fire too. "Elly--"

"...I..." Lily begins to gather more power. It is not darkness this time; instead, above her hand begins to crystallize a length of ice, shimmering into being a bit at a time over the course of the next three seconds. It grows, and grows, becoming blocky and jagged, like dozens of icicles all put together into one spear longer than Lily is tall. It hovers there, light funnelling towards it, until there is silence for a moment, or perhaps just the magic eats the sound.

"I--..."

Lily's fingers stretch towards the icy spear, her hand outstretched, held above her head. She stares down, and--

Something in her eyes--no, on her face--cracks, and she hurls it forward without touching her weapon.

She stares, still.

GS: Lily Keil has activated a Force Action!
GS: Lily Keil has activated a Force Action!
GS: Lily Keil has activated a Force Action!
GS: Lily Keil spends 3 Combo on Gatling, loading 3 into Gatling!
GS: Lily Keil has attacked Josephine Lovelace with The Precious Reed of Enmity - Spear!
GS: Lily Keil has gained 2 Combo!
GS: Lily Keil takes 26 damage from Poison!
GS: Lily Keil has completed her action.
GS: CRITICAL! Josephine Lovelace takes a solid hit from Lily Keil's The Precious Reed of Enmity - Spear for 243 hit
points!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Id has posed.

"I said you didn't want that help." Id tells Lily. "Leon...I'm startinng to wonder."

The Destroyer of Elru is still suffering from Fei's wound. Normally such pain gives him strength, but a wound is a wound--even if its effects on a demon are not quite as strong as the mortal its possessing.

The weapon catches against Id's face. For a moment it doesn't seem like it hurts him but he stumbles forward onto his knee, panting for breath.

"Damn it... You really got him good. He... probably wouldn't even be able to stand."

He laughs and spits out more blood into the flloor. He doesn't stand up for a while, hanging there. "Elly... Do you remember... When we made her?"

"When we made Emeralda? I... I don't remember. But I know what came after."

He shakes his head. "Okay... I guess... the break is over." He stands up again.

"Isn't she incredible, Josie? Even now, she doesn't believe... in the world that she doesn't believe in you. Wish... I had her strength. But I don't. Never did."

An eruption of light detonates from Id, crashing towards Josie--just a simple burst of brilliant light. It's not fancy except in its potency, radiating out from Id like a miniature sun.

And it's gone in an instant, like a life.

"Lily needs a real surgeon. Or at least, a real nurse. Too bad... Ffilgaia doesn't really got any of those any more."

GS: Id has attacked Josephine Lovelace with Radiance!
GS: Id takes 21 damage from Poison!
GS: Id has completed his action.
GS: Josephine Lovelace takes a glancing hit from Id's Radiance for 102 hit points!
GS: Josephine Lovelace has Fallen! She is no longer able to fight!
<Pose Tracker> Josephine Lovelace has posed.

    "Yeah," she says to Lily, in that spare moment she has between the strokes of violence. "You're right."

    As she had said once to Lily, you can't unring a bell.

    She turns to face Leon gamely, only for -- for an instant -- a note of bafflement to rise amidst an otherwise grim orchestra.

    It's a moment he needs, a moment that costs here. His blade cuts deeply. Through the wall, through--

    It's a partner for the wound he left her on the right, this one a deep scouring slash from collarbone to hip. Josie's grip on her ARM spasms; her knees buckle. She presses up against the ruins of that wall against which she's found herself.

    And into this, Elly speaks.

    "Better... start believing," Josie hisses, closing her eyes for the moment. "Better start thinkin' about the world different, Elly... Elhaym. Better start lookin' out for your own damn self--"

    Flame rises about her, a fence. A wall.

    She can see her but she can't-- reach. There's too much burning debris in the way--

    Her eyes open a slit, as if stirring from a dream, and focuses on of all people, Id. "Heh heh... even you," she slurs at Id, "can't believe I... can agree with even you... there..." Something causes the flames to flutter. Josie, barely hanging on against the wall, opens her eyes fully to see what it is.
    Lily's magic.
    And in spite of herself, she smiles lopsidedly.

    Even as that spear cuts right through the flames.
    And smashes into her.

    The black shotgun slips from her grasp, falling to clatter noisily upon the floor.

    Then, there is light. Behind her is a scorched crater upon the already greatly damaged wall; Josie herself pitches to one side like a sinking ship, reaching out in extremis for the unruined section of the wall with her left hand.

    Then, down she goes, sliding along the length of the wall to slump at its base. Her lips are parted, her eyes are heavy-lidded but still open. Her chest rises and falls with the effort of breathing. Her wounds are great, but Josephine Lovelace yet lives.

    The door, the door that lead inwards to the heart of this place, at this moment slams shut. Portholes slide open from various points in the wall, from which emerge weaponry which soon train on the occupants (Josie's fallen form seemingly excluded) and without hesitation (considering their age) release pinpointed blasts of hard light upon the Black Wolves. The chamber becomes very quickly a dangerous place to be in.

    An escape may have become necessary.