2015-08-16 - Sealing and Stealing

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Title: Sealing and Stealing

Now that he has Citadel, Jaren Zastava makes a final bid to claim the Intelligent Device of Ren Aizawa and her friends! However, Citadel's true goals are revealed -- and quite a complication besides!


Lilian Abarth, Ren Aizawa, Lera Camry, Duck, Fuu Hououji, Seika Miuchi, Endo Naoki, Citadel, and Jaren Zastava.


Tokyo Tower

OOC - IC Date:

08/16/2014 - 08/16/2015

The summer heat is here, but that is hardly enough to keep away the crowds. The reports of the incident at the marina on Tuesday didn't scare people away. Even now, though, an electronics store across the street from Tokyo Tower has the news flashing across one of the teleivions. 'Marina damaged by JSDF drone experiment gone awry!' scrolls across on one of the banners on the bottom.

The crowds nearby don't pay attention to that, though. A little boy licks his ice cream cone, while a couple of foreign tourists stare up at the great red-and-white radio tower. What are the chances that it could occur again?

Pretty good, actually.

The air shimmers with light, tiny rainbow-colored displays rippling in the sky. Unlike before, they do not immediately attack. The pill-shaped things, with the golden gem in the center, send their red-colored cable arms afluttering, before they all point downward. Nevermind the beginnings of a ripple of prismatic light on an immense scale -- likely the herald of Citadel's arrival.

They flash down spotlights onto one, central position. A Midchildan magical circle appears there, as the teleportation spell flashes into effect.

Appearing amid flickering rings of light, accompanied by the hammering of a drumroll he personally programmed into the hovering drones, he fades into being, finishing the transit with a flash of light: Jaren Zastava, with his smug grin and sideburns sculpted to immaculate perfection, running parallel to his cheekbones like gelled hair spikes. Around his neck hangs a strange pendant; a bronze pen with a cracked red gem at the top. "Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls! And whatever else happens to populate this weird little city of yours!" He sweeps his Device, Broken Ground, in a wide, showmanlike arc. "I have a little business with your dumb tower, here, so if you could all be good little sheep and buzz off, I'd really appreciate it!" He pauses. "Unless you happen to be someone who already knows what's happening, because if you could all transform and line up in an orderly fashion and let me beat you and steal all your toys that'd really help on my performance review! Ha ha!"

His grin fades as he cuts his eyes to the side, watching Citadel transfer in. He reaches up to gently tuck that pen into one of the pockets on his Barrier jacket, not wanting it to get in the way in the fight. "OK, big guy. We need to use this for the transition, since the local gateports are all run by people who don't realize I'm such a big deal. While we do that, though, there's a couple, uh, rogue mages whose Devices I need to reclaim. For, uh, the Magisters. You know. I mean, we're already here, may as well do two things at once, right?"

COMBAT: Jaren Zastava transforms into Youma Form Jaren Zastava! COMBAT: Jaren Zastava has fully healed himself. COMBAT: Jaren Zastava has fully healed himself. He is now ready to take on 2 opponents!

Closely following in Jaren's wake comes a second transference - this one heralded by the appearance of triangular spell-sigils scaled up considerably. The second appearance, as it happens, is considerably larger - twenty feet tall at the shoulder, and a wolf-like quadruped with a tail longer than the body itself.

It's not entirely lupine - the head and tail distinctly draconic in style, and the entirety of the creature is covered in blue-grey armor plates. How much is beast, and how much machine?...anyone close enough to answer that question would likely be inside its mouth already.

Citadel, Guardian of the Ten Thousand Points, rests low on its clawed paws. That great tail lashes back and forth in agitation as it surveys the unfamiliar landscape, the towering crimson monument, the people screaming in fear...and finally arches its back to survey the skies above. As bright as the sun might be, keen eyes might still discern the light of stars beyond...

The tail lashes back and forth again. "...UNDERSTOOD. HOW FAR FROM THE HEART OF THE EMPIRE I HAVE FALLEN I KNOW NOT..."

From its back, the stubs of wings unfurl - and kaleidoscopic rainbow light spreads out to form the Lost Logia's wings. Armor creaks as hackles raise, keen eyes surveying the terrified crowd for opposition. "...BUT PLEASE. MAKE LITTLE DELAY. I CARE NOT FOR THE OTHER MAGISTERS' DESIRES, ZASTAVA - I WISH ONLY TO RETURN TO GUARD MY HOME."

COMBAT: Citadel transforms into Youma Form Citadel! COMBAT: Citadel has fully healed himself. He is now ready to take on 8 opponents!

It bothers Miuchi Seika - it bothers her immensely. It bothers her that she couldn't discourage Lera Camry from going off alone. It bothers her even more that she does not know what happened to the girl.

"Masque Feu, why are you so worried about that?" Augustine questions as he flutters alongside her, the pair sprinting away from the black BMW of the Miuchi family driver. "That girl is an experienced fighter with strong magic. I am sure she can handle herself. Besides which - you barely know who she is!"

Seika's eyes harden as she looks up at the tower ahead. She doesn't answer immediately. She can see something sparkling ahead.

She dips a hand into her purse; slips behind a mailbox.

"I did not know Fate, either," she says, her voice soft.

Augustine blinks a couple of times. "Masque Feu," he murmurs, before trailing off.

Seika leaves it at that. She bows her head, lowering her face into the Blessed Masque of Flame, and whispering the blessed words. Coils of flame whip around her for a second, leaving her shining, then melting away into the tabard of one of the Soeurs of the Silver Star - or rather, the only such Soeur.

Seconds tick past. Then more.

A sharp high heel suddenly descends with an imperial click to the top of a postbox in the tower's shadow.

"This tower belongs to the people of Tokyo, not to you," declares Masque Feu as she sets a hand at her hip, hair rippling behind her as she levels a steady gaze upon Jaren and the Lost Logia with him. "The attitude that you demonstrate is unseemly - that all things are simply yours to take. This tower. The will of your companion, who only wishes to return home. Though I do not know you well, one thing is abundantly clear--"

The Soeur levels a finger upon Jaren. "You, sir, are a user," she declares. "And I, Masque Feu, do not like those who cynically use others for selfish ends...!"

COMBAT: Seika Miuchi transforms into Masque Feu!

Someone had come to her - pled their case - and after two seconds of stony silence, Lilian Abarth could not ignore their plea. Reluctant in some ways though it may be, she is spurred from "playing a DS" (she likes Charlotte!!) and into action.

And so shines forth...


Who, in her overcoat and silver jumpsuit, should be sweating. But she isn't - because her clothes are magical, and thus air conditioned. She flies from a direction not linearly traceable to Infinity Institute, firmly clutching the baton of Silver Scorpion as she cruises forwards. Nearer yet. When she sees Citadel clearly from further away than she really wants to, she starts frowning.

<That creature...> says Silver Scorpion.

"I suppose we know that Lera was not kidding," Fiat Silver mutters to herself. She then clears her throat - and zips up, with a hint of sparkle, to float in front of Jaren and Citadel's field of view. "Pardon, pardon - you there, yes, you with the teeth -" She points her baton towards Jaren, albeit merely to indicate him.

"It is very strange," Fiat Silver says, slapping her baton in her palm with an audible smak!. "I could have sworn that we had never met before. And that is a little interesting, because you are now operating within the territory of the Fiat Group, you see, and... Hmmm..." She taps her lips with the tip of the baton. "Yes, I think that you are talking about stealing /more/ Devices? Of course that must be a mistake, something must have gone wrong, because surely, surely you would not have so casually infringed upon our territory...?"

It's good that the mask hides her eyes because she is totally watching Citadel even as she talks smack to Mr. Zastava.

COMBAT: Lilian Abarth has fully healed herself. COMBAT: Lilian Abarth transforms into Barrier Jacket!


The knock on Lilian Abarth's door was a little plaintive. But, Lera Camry knew where Lilian lived. She knew that she was a Device wielder, too, and she knew that her friends could use a mage. She didn't have an Intelligent Device anymore -- no, she corrected, she didn't have one at the moment. She had a Storage Device, though, that her mother provided her. Radical Freeband existed for one purpose: communicating telepathically and detecting magical outbursts.

Lera stood there, when the door opened. Her expression was a little worn. She didn't like the idea of explaining again, but...

She could get a little back-up for her friends. "Hey, Abarth," she said. Her tone was more measured than usual. "I... I have a favor to ask."


Lera Camry is sprinting down the street. She turns a corner, breathing hard, and has a small camera-like piece of technology in her hand; it is big and fat, shaped like a handgun camera, but colored a garish neon green instead of a reasonable color. Radical Freeband was built for show business, not for this purpose. The girl slows to a stop, and then she glances up.

She sees Fiat Silver standing up on a roof; she smiles, before she glances at Masque Feu. Her eyes widen, and then she ducks back behind a dumpster. Tokyo Tower -- well -- towers over her. She swallows, as she stares at Jaren. She feels a cold, sharp spike of fear; then she remembers the sensation of falling.

Then, slowly, she looks up at Citadel. "He's huge..."

Ren's been waiting for the other foot to drop. So she's not entirely too caught off guard when Jaren and Citadel appear in such a public and outrageous fashion. Still, it's distressing how willing he is to endanger the citizens of Tokyo who have no clue what is going on.

"Jaren...!" Ren arrives on the scene, touching down on a lampost nearby, turning to briefly make sure Endo is still behind her before looking back up at Jaren and Citadel. She remembers her talk with Lera -- the girl's sadness and willingness to blame herself. Her grip on Heraut tightens instinctively.

Of course, Lera herself showing up is expected, too. "Lera-chan..." Ren winces, hoping the girl doesn't try to do anything too brash given her lack of device.

COMBAT: Ren Aizawa transforms into Barrier Jacket!

The JSDF has drones? That's slightly new news to Fuu, but maybe she should have been paying better attention to reports in current technology. Certainly the REST of the world has drones ...

She might believe the story a little more readily if she didn't recognize the date and place of the incident as the spot where an extradimensional thief awakened a powerful semi-autonomous artifact. Fuu shakes her head a bit, pulling her attention away from the TV, and bends her steps towards the crosswalk. She texted Umi this morning to see if the fencer from Ohtori would like to meet at Tokyo Tower; there's been no response yet, but Fuu intends to go up to the observation deck anyway.

And that's *still* her intention when Jaren and Citadel appear in front of the Tower's main entrance, along with a whole bunch of smaller drones floating in the sky. That's going to interfere with the view, for certain. Rather than screaming and running, Fuu calmly turns to look around. Other magical girls are arriving; civilians are generally withdrawing to a safe distance from the looks of things ... and there's a clothing store she can duck into briefly and 'borrow' a dressing room. It'll do; she heads inside, then up a couple of floors.

A couple of minutes later, the Magic Knight of Wind emerges quietly on the store's roof, bow already in hand. She glances about for drones that might be spotting her, then creeps quickly to the corner of the roof, nocking an arrow, drawing it back, and letting it fly.

Specifically, at one of the drones that WOULDN'T have noticed her. She's still certain to draw retaliatory fire from the others if she hasn't already, but if she can get the drop on one of the drones ANYway it should make life much easier. Her attention were filter to Jaren once there are fewer drones to worry about.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Trick Arrow Shot on Citadel. COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has finished attacking. COMBAT: Citadel narrowly braces Fuu Hououji's Trick Arrow Shot, taking 6 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit!

More drones, more trouble.

Why isn't Hikaru Shidou surprised? Because she's become used to the way that trouble always seems to pop up when you least expect it here in Tokyo. Of course, that's why there are the Magic Knights to help put an end to things like this. Unfortunately, Umi hasn't been heard from in awhile, so she's out of the question. But Hikaru has a strong sense that Fuu-chan will be there, albeit as the Magic Knight of Wind. So Hikaru takes the time to find a quiet spot to change into her Magic Knight form.

Taking out her glove-jewel and pulling it on, she recites the incantation: "Belief becomes power. Flames guide me!" And with a fiery flourish, Hikaru becomes the Magic Knight of Fire!

As she arrives at the scene, the Magic Knight of Fire is unsurprised to see her buddy there already. Although she is surprised at just how chaotic things are right now. She steps back a little and begins to mentally plan things out, realizing this isn't going to be as easy as last time.

Duck was, of course, concerned about Tokyo Tower when she heard the news. (A JSDF drone, really...?) And although she knew the accident was unlikely to repeat itself, Duck has found herself with a reason to be at the Tower today. Even if nothing happens - which, of course, it won't - there are surely interesting sights to be had here! And it's not so easy to get lost, with the towering Tower /right there/.

'It's a good thing, too,' Duck thinks, 'because it's so easy for me to get lost in the city! Oh, if only it were as simple as it is in town.'

Unfortunately, fate has other plans, as creatures most certainly not normal and /probably/ not drones (though Duck has never seen a drone) come into view. She doesn't know what's going on, but she can put two and two together, and so she ducks behind a hedge...

Princess Tutu leaps up upon a signpost, balanced there as if it were the most natural thing in the world. She cups a hand at her ear, miming 'listen' as other magical girls appear and speak.

This man wants to reclaim the 'devices' of rogue mages. Girls appear and claim that he's stealing them. Given that he has appeared here, scaring everyone, Princess Tutu is willing to accept that explanation until a better one arrives.

"Excuse me," she calls, to Jaren, "but why must you steal from them?"

COMBAT: Duck transforms into Princess Tutu!

Endo is, in fact, right behind Ren. His path through the city is marked by a blur of purple, a ball of light that ping-pongs between buildings, across rooftops, and occasionally soars in long leaps between empty spaces. His cape billows out behind him, his overside device lugged along for the ride. He's been waiting for this, like Ren has. And it's hard not to spot a bunch of flying robots and a giant wolf attacking Tokyo tower, no matter where you are.


"I'm glad you like it so much." Endo does not. It's big. And scary. But he'd fought it before, and he'd fight it again. There are others already on the scene, and at least that lifts his heart a little bit. He's never alone out here.

"Ren! Be careful!" And, when he spots Lera, he echoes that statement: "And you too, Lera-san! And everyone else!"

COMBAT: Endo Naoki has fully healed himself. COMBAT: Endo Naoki transforms into Barrier Jacket!

Jaren grunts. "I'll get right to it, then," he says, putting Broken Ground forward into a battle-stance. "If we gotta cut and run, I've already given you the transmission information, right?"

And then, they start showing up and sassing him. Siiigh. "Oh, right, I keep forgetting you folks get these /ideas/ about being halfway competent," he laments, and rolls his eyes at Silver. "I don't know what you're sellin' lady, but /you/ are on /my/ turf, and therefore you're on /his/, and therefore drones and/or Citadel, buddy, please smash her."

He starts hovering off the ground, boots leaving the Earth to settle into flight and sweep his eyes across the field. He's only really interested in two people, today...

...but Princess Tutu is in his vision when he finishes his ascension, and he cocks his head to the side with all the grace and composure of a dazed seal. "'Steal?' Man, who gives out these lines? I am /reacquiring/ them from /untrained amateurs/ who are going to firebomb somebody's apartment or something." Rassum frassum Sailor Moon. "'scuze me," he adds, and then boosts away. "CITADEL!" he adds, voice twisted by dizzying speed. "I'M STARTIN'!"

He shoots down like a bullet, lands directly in front of Endo and kicks up dust with the landing. "HEY, BRAT!" he adds, with a cheery voice. He is already in the process of swinging Ground directly at him, a shockwave of light and energy encompassing the head to slam him clear across the field with strength far greater than the actual impact would impart. "WHAT'S UP!"


"See it!" he calls, and whips around, and levels Ground straight at Ren. "Stone Torch!" <SMASH.> A ball of stone-grey light flickers into being in front of Jaren, and he winds up and bats it straight at Ren, hopefully bowling her over.

COMBAT: Jaren Zastava has used Magmatic Crash on Endo Naoki. COMBAT: Jaren Zastava has used Stone Torch on Ren Aizawa. COMBAT: Jaren Zastava has finished attacking. COMBAT: Ren Aizawa narrowly braces Jaren Zastava's Stone Torch, taking 4 Fatigue damage! Ren Aizawa's Block ability activates! Ren Aizawa's Parry ability activates! Cripple applied to Ren Aizawa! COMBAT: Endo Naoki narrowly counters Jaren Zastava's Magmatic Crash, taking 11 Fatigue damage! Jaren Zastava is Psyched! Endo Naoki's Reverse ability activates! COMBAT: Endo Naoki's counterattack, Asteroid Rush, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Jaren Zastava!

There are fewer drones today, and all of them devoted to supporting Jaren Zastava's spectacle. Rattling drumrolls, spotlights, a couple of them turning upward to illuminate Tokyo Tower with an impromptu laser lightshow...they seem content, for the moment, to ignore the arriving warriors of hope and justice. Even an impromptu arrow, flying through the air to neatly spear one drone in a cable-arm, seems to go ignored for the moment...

Up until Jaren commands them to smash, at which point they spread out to do just that.

Citadel, for all its bulk, continues lashing its tail back and forth as Jaren starts to speak. "...YOU HAVE. THE STARS ARE NO LONGER AS I REMEMBERED THEM...BUT THE PATH HOME BECKONS. FOR THIS, UNTIL MY DEBT TO YOU IS REPAID..."

A few voices speak out against Jaren, and the tail goes still, the Lost Logia baring its teeth. Fiat Silver challenges based on territory, and the mighty creature intones as Jaren's rant concludes. "HOWEVER FAR I HAVE COME...NOWHERE IS BEYOND THE REACH OF THE EMPIRE. IN SERVICE OF THE TEN THOUSAND POINTS, HERE I STAND." Seika's words, however, Citadel seems to bear no objection - perhaps the mighty creature agrees with her assessment of Jaren's character?

And when Princess Tutu asks why Jaren seeks to steal Devices...Citadel seems to pay very close attention to the answer. ...it seems acceptable enough that the tail continues lashing back and forth.

The drones swarm forward, lashing out with their cables...but compared to the other night, it's half-hearted. They aren't in as much force, and several of them seem to have forgotten their combat instructions...or perhaps, if a soulless drone can feel fear, they are intimidated by the dragon-wolf that stands behind them.

Jaren has charged towards Ren and Endo, and those who rush in recklessly are terribly hard to protect...but the ground quakes as the beast takes a step forward, eyes catching each of the others present. "I AM CITADEL - GUARDIAN OF THE TEN THOUSAND POINTS. THE LIGHT OF BELKA SHINES FROM MY WINGS... HERE I STAND AS THE GREATEST GUARDIAN. CHALLENGERS AGAINST MY DUTY SHALL PERISH!"

COMBAT: Citadel has used Here Come The Drones on Fuu Hououji. COMBAT: Citadel has used Here Come The Drones on Fiat Silver. COMBAT: Citadel has used Here Come The Drones on Masque Feu. COMBAT: Citadel has used Here Come The Drones on Duck. COMBAT: Citadel has used Here Come The Drones on Hikaru Shidou. COMBAT: Citadel has used Ancient Guardian on Citadel. COMBAT: Citadel has finished attacking. COMBAT: Citadel accepts Citadel's Ancient Guardian, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Citadel is Reinforced by Citadel! COMBAT: Masque Feu narrowly braces Citadel's Here Come The Drones, taking 5 Fatigue damage! Tangle applied to Masque Feu! COMBAT: Duck narrowly dodges Citadel's Here Come The Drones, taking 7 Fatigue damage! Tangle applied to Duck! COMBAT: Fiat Silver narrowly dodges Citadel's Here Come The Drones, taking 8 Fatigue damage! Fiat Silver's Fade ability activates! Fiat Silver's Flash ability activates! Tangle applied to Fiat Silver! COMBAT: Fuu Hououji narrowly dodges Citadel's Here Come The Drones, taking 4 Fatigue damage! Fuu Hououji's Fade ability activates! Fuu Hououji's Flash ability activates! Tangle applied to Fuu Hououji! COMBAT: Hikaru Shidou fails to dodge Citadel's Here Come The Drones, taking 11 Fatigue damage! Tangle applied to Hikaru Shidou!

Problem 1: incoming drones, and more of them than the Wind Knight expected. Solution 1: Dodge them by jumping off the roof and down to street level. Except that leads to ...

"Eeep - !! GYAH!!"

... Problem 2: Get ensnared by drones *anyway* .... Problem 2a: ... and dangle upside-down by your ankle for an extremely precarious few seconds.

"WINDS OF HEALING!!" the Magic Knight of Wind calls out - maybe with more force than necessary, but she just FELT her ankle twist in the cable's 'grasp' and she doesn't want to land on it. Mending her ankle from a sprain when the sprain hasn't had time to swell up or anything makes for easy enough healing, and she directs the restorative breeze to bathe both the Fire Knight and Ren in its soothing magic as well. Hopefully that'll also spare Hikaru from any cable-related injuries; she's less sure about how much it'll help Ren. Hopefully 'enough to keep fighting,' but from the Wind Knight's perspective that seemed like a pretty bad hit.

Anyway. The Wind Knight manages to flip around and land on her feet ... and only then does she realize that Citadel-san could probably take one step forward, maybe two, and just swallow her whole. She looks up at the mechanoid dracowolf ...

And bows, deeply and politely, to Citadel. "Pardon my inquiry, Citadel-san, but I've been curious since you awoke - what are the 'Ten Thousand Points' of which you speak?" ... hey, sometimes asking a question elicits a useful answer, and it doesn't usually hurt to be polite even in mid-battle.

This could still turn out to be the exception.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Healing on Fuu Hououji. COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Healing on Ren Aizawa. COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Healing on Hikaru Shidou. COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has finished attacking.

Lera's eyes are drawn to Ren and Endo. She sees them running to engage Jaren Zastava, and a storm of thoughts rushes through her mind; a flood of emotions pours through her heart. She feels guilty that they have to do this without her, because she rushed in so foolishly. She feels proud that they haven't faltered, despite the guilt she saw in Ren's eyes. She bites her lip.

She can't leave her to do this alone. Nor can she ignore the situation. She has to be careful -- and that leads Lera to begin to tip-toe between alleys, until she gets to near the plaza. She places a building between herself and Jaren.

She feels that spike of cold fear in her stomach. Without a Device...

'So /act/ like it, child!' her mother's voice says in her ears. She grits her teeth and nods; Lera picks up the neon green camera-gun, holds it up to her forehead, and takes a deep breath. "Storage Device," she says, "activate."

<OH YEAH~ Radical Freeband online!> the Storage Device chimes. The AI system is hardly as advanced as an Intelligent Device. It is limited -- mercifully -- to its stock phrases. <I've got a good feeling! Let's take some calls!>

Lera's eyebrow twitches. But, then, she activates the telepathy -- and broadcasts her thoughts to Ren, Endo, and Fiat Silver. She only addresses one.

<Ren-chan! It's me! You can do this! Don't... don't let your guilty feelings get to you! Don't let yourself be scared of him. Remember what I told you, about where our strength comes from, y'know?>

COMBAT: Lera Camry has used I Believe in You on Ren Aizawa. COMBAT: Lera Camry has finished attacking.

"I thought the Fiat Group was a car company," Seika murmurs with a blink in Fiat Silver's direction.

More girls dash into battle. Masque Feu winces as Fuu comes in firing; so much for any chance of trying to convince the Lost Logia that Jaren's a jerk with stupid sideburns, she can't help but think. SOmething else, though, catches her eye.

She glances sidelong; her eyes, for a moment, meet Lera's. Her expression doesn't change much; her lips relax just a bit, a slight softening in her normally cool and controlled features.

Jaren starts mouthing off; Masque Feu mentally tunes out most of it to a dull 'WOMP WOMP WOMP' in her head. At least, until he starts moving. She bends her knees a little, ready to jump or hold ground. What comes is less furious than she expected; she crosses her arms and drops to a knee to try and hold off the drone wave. Weaving arms snare her about the thighs; she winces, knowing the fight is already a little closer to lost for her, that without being able to move she is simply a target for the massive Lost Logia.

"Masque Feu," Augustine exclaims, "quickly, we need to hit it as hard as we can! If we can defeat the creature before it can power up--"

"No, Augustine-sama," Masque Feu says with a shake of her head. "I do not think that is it."

Springing forward as best she can, Seika wrenches herself free of the tangle of limbs; her legs ache, ensuring she won't be doing quite as much jumping as usual. But the leap is not a long one anyway. She lands on both feet and begins to walk forward -

And she holds her hands out at her sides, as she walks slowly towards Citadel. Her steps are steady and calm despite the Lost Logia's size and the battle going on around her.

"Onegaishimasu... Citadel, listen to me," she says with firm politeness, her voice level, but carrying. Ojou-sama does not have to shout to be heard.

"When we battled prior, you departed despite the force some of us cast upon you," she says, eyes steady upon the vast being. "You say that your only wish is to return home. The Blessed Flame is a flame that burns evil - and I refuse to turn it upon those who do not fight with darkness in their heart. But...."

She sets her jaw, bringing a hand up to her collarbone with fingers curled. "...you must see that a man such as this Jaren, who takes from others so freely... this is not the sort of man whose heart is so good that he truly wishes to help you...!"

COMBAT: Hikaru Shidou accepts Fuu Hououji's Winds of Healing, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Cleanse! All of Hikaru Shidou's debuffs are cleared! COMBAT: Masque Feu has used The Question That She Asked on Citadel. COMBAT: Masque Feu has finished attacking.

Again, magical girls not even directly involved in Jaren's sinister scheme show up, and Ren feels her chest swell. Fuu, Duck, Hikaru, Fiat, Masque all earn her eternal gratitude. Together... they'll persevere.

Jaren chooses the next moment to act, springing forward to deliver attacks at both Endo and her. Ren is swift enough to raise her device up in front of her. Heraut chimes out.


And she's shielded, though the force knocks her off her perch, down onto the ground, back impacting with the hard, unforgiving concrete. But she's been battered around in much more brutal fashions than this. And getting Soaring Sky back is all the impetus she needs to pop back up onto her feet and fly at Jaren with a scream of anger.


The scepter in Ren's hands temporarily disappears, and her gloved-hands glow bright white with power as she goes in on Jaren, delivering a flurry of punches from multiple directions. At the same time she can feel Fuu's healing energy wash over her, empowering her further, as well as hear Lera's encouragement to continue onward. Once she delivers her last strike she jumps backward, turning to Endo.

"Now Endo-kun!"

COMBAT: Ren Aizawa accepts Fuu Hououji's Winds of Healing, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Cleanse! All of Ren Aizawa's debuffs are cleared! COMBAT: Ren Aizawa accepts Lera Camry's I Believe in You, taking 0 Fatigue damage! COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has started a combo targeting Jaren Zastava!

Endo's sword comes up to meet Jaren's hammer, the boy setting his stand and swinging Fallen Stern's bulk up to meet Broken Ground with a crash of metal and flare of purple light. They connect, and Endo goes flying. He's like a croquet ball. It's a short lived flight, and the street is always there to break his fall. When he rolls to his feet and drags his sword up, he faces Jaren once again.

"Yaaa, alright, if you want my device, I'll give it to you!" And Endo charges. He'll give it to him right in his dumb face.


Ren's assault provides the opening he wants, and as soon as the girl leaps back he's coming at Jaren from the other side. His movements are sweeping turns, one arc of his weapon coming in high, a second slash low, the knight twirling like a top and leaving garish purple-black streaks of energy in his wake. COMBAT: Endo Naoki has joined the combo started by Ren Aizawa! COMBAT: COMBO! Ren Aizawa and Endo Naoki have used Combo: Beat 'Em Up!, composed of Shear Battery and Radial Velocity, on Jaren Zastava. COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has finished attacking. COMBAT: Endo Naoki has finished attacking. COMBAT: Citadel narrowly dodges Masque Feu's The Question That She Asked, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Citadel is Taunted!

The Magic Knights, the Princess Tutu, the Masque Feu - others are here, even if Lera Camry is lagging behind. Fiat Silver, frankly, thinks she should stay in cover. But such is life.

She answers Jaren tartly. "No, sir, it is YOU who are on MY turf. You have never heard of us? Then you must be truly small time indeed!" She tilts her head back as if to look down her nose at Jaren; airborne, of course, it's easy. Especially when -

Wait. Uh oh.

Drones are swarming forwards, full of cables. <Where did they get all of these!> Silver Scorpion declares in dismay, as Fiat Silver throws herself down towards the ground, tumbling along and finding her right leg pinioned downwards.

"Maybe the Logia created them," Fiat Silver says. "With... with the power of a Lost Logia!!"

<When you put it that way, madame...>

Fiat Silver is struggling still with these drones, of course, but the baton of Silver Scorpion's militant mode manifests a sparkling ribbon of day-blue light which is thrashed and spun arouned, aiming to crush every drone Fiat Silver can say, from Logi-A to Logi-Z!

COMBAT: Fiat Silver has used Scorpio Telson on Citadel. COMBAT: Fiat Silver has finished attacking. COMBAT: Citadel narrowly braces Fiat Silver's Scorpio Telson, taking 1 Fatigue damage! COMBAT: Jaren Zastava fails to brace Ren Aizawa and Endo Naoki's Combo: Beat 'Em Up!, taking 83 Fatigue damage!

Unfortunately, the Magic Knight of Fire has no idea of what the drones are planning untill it's too late. Their attack catches her off-guard and knocks her down, leaving her a bit out of it for a few moments. But then the Magic Knight of Wind uses her magic to help Hikaru get back up and onto her feet. "Thank you!" She calls out to her ally in armor. Then she looks towards the drones. "This is not going to end well for you!"

She raises her hand and summons the magic of fire. It forms into the shape of an arrow. With that she shoots it off at the drones!

COMBAT: Hikaru Shidou has used Fire Arrow on Citadel. COMBAT: Hikaru Shidou has finished attacking. COMBAT: Citadel narrowly braces Hikaru Shidou's Fire Arrow, taking 15 Fatigue damage!

Jaren's introductory slam-in is met by IMMEDIATE TEAM WORK.

What is a teamwork. He has never once a teamwork. So while Jaren's pretty pleased with himself for slamming Endo across the street and bonking Ren off her pole, they strike. "Oh, cool, so you'll just hand it over?" Jaren laughs at Endo. "You're smarter than I thought, kid! Ha ha, like I actually think th--whoa!"

He's got to move fast; snapping Ground up to try and ward off Ren going all Kenshiro on him. "Wh, what the hell is this business?!" he squawks, a little shrill. "Nobody told me about boxing!" She lands solid hits on him, each blast staggering him back with a hit, and a hit, and another hit, and then - then Endo comes at him, one, two, three - and the last hit smashes Jaren back, toppling a whole line of trees before he slams hard into the side of a building. He emits a low groan.

The drones very helpfully flash a multicolored spotlight on him and play a jaunty fanfare. Then they shoot a spray of confetti. Jaren emits a low wheeze as he starts to sort of collapse out of his crater; but he catches himself on one foot before he actually lands, sucking in deep breaths through pained lungs. "Oh, OK," he whispers. "We're playing that game. OK. Cool. I gotcha." And then he's screaming. "GROUND! WE'LL PICK THE DEVICES OUT OF THE RUBBLE! TECTON RISE!" <MASTER. THAT ATTACK IS-> "WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO DO *RIGHT NOW* YOU GLORIFIED IPOD! TECTON! RISE!"

... ... <AS YOU WISH. SMASH.>.

The whole hammerhead of Broken Ground glows with crackling magmatic red, and then Jaren SLAMS it down; the Earth fissures, a sudden, glowing crack that shoots down the line and straight toward Ren; the ground rises up with the horrible screaming of broken concrete and steel reinforcement as it attempts to simply smash Ren between two slabs of Earth, grinding her down to dust.

And while that's happening, Jaren bursts toward Endo, screaming, "WHAT'S UP!" before sweeping Ground at him sideways; when he stops short, a blast wave of overwhelming magical energy erupts from Ground's hammerhead, hopefully smashing Endo into the nearest tree.

COMBAT: Jaren Zastava has used Tecton Rise on Ren Aizawa. COMBAT: Jaren Zastava has used Fault Ascension on Endo Naoki. COMBAT: Jaren Zastava has finished attacking. COMBAT: Endo Naoki fails to dodge Jaren Zastava's Fault Ascension, taking 23 Fatigue damage! Stun applied to Endo Naoki! COMBAT: Ren Aizawa fails to counter Jaren Zastava's Tecton Rise, taking 61 Fatigue damage! COMBAT: Ren Aizawa's counterattack, Quartz Guard, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Jaren Zastava!

There are many drones. But they're uncoordinated - getting in each others' way as much as anything, and easily diverted. A handful break off their attack to illuminate Jaren's embarrassment, while still others get caught up in Fuu's healing breeze. Their fleeting attempts to form back up are met with precise strikes from Fiat Silver's flashing whip - herding them together enough for Hikaru's bolt of flame to slam into a large cluster at once.

The drones are not alone, however - behind them stands the ancient guardian called Citadel. Fuu's question is met with a long stare - as if the Lost Logia cannot comprehend why the question was even asked. Masque Feu's polite request, however, pulls the Logia's attention to hear that respectful request.

For a time, Citadel is silent. Its speech, already bearing the ponderous weight of the ages, is slower still. "PURITY OF HEART...IS NOT MY CONCERN. THERE IS ONLY DUTY AND HONOUR - AND THIS MAN HAS SWORN TO RETURN ME TO THE HOME LOST TO ME." Silence, again, as Citadel turns its gaze to the blue sky. Longing drips from its voice as it searches the skies above. "...HOW FAR MUST I HAVE FALLEN...THAT THE PEOPLE OF THIS LAND DO NOT KNOW MY MASTER?..."

The pace of Jaren's battle with Ren and Endo picks up - even Citadel, musing about distant realms, cannot miss noticing Jaren's detriment and escalation. That long tail lashes back and forth, uncertain, and the voice booms louder. "...ZASTAVA. I CAN NOT GUARD YOU FROM HARM WHILE YOU FIGHT - ABANDON THIS, THAT WE MIGHT RETURN." Rainbow wings spread wide - and Citadel turns to the others.

"THIS IS YOUR FINAL WARNING - BEYOND THIS POINT I CANNOT GUARANTEE YOUR SURVIVAL. BEGONE!" Rainbow wings flash brilliantly - and light erupts from the ground in answer, in a brilliant cascade against all who stand before it.

Perhaps wisely, the drones scatter, and retreat to a safe distance.

COMBAT: Citadel has used Ten Thousand Lights on Masque Feu. COMBAT: Citadel has used Ten Thousand Lights on Fiat Silver. COMBAT: Citadel has used Ten Thousand Lights on Fuu Hououji. COMBAT: Citadel has used Ten Thousand Lights on Hikaru Shidou. COMBAT: Citadel has used Ancient Guardian on Citadel. COMBAT: Citadel has finished attacking. COMBAT: Citadel accepts Citadel's Ancient Guardian, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Citadel is Reinforced by Citadel! COMBAT: Citadel has adjusted his boss levels. He is now ready to take on 5 opponents! COMBAT: Fuu Hououji accepts Fuu Hououji's Winds of Healing, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Cleanse! All of Fuu Hououji's debuffs are cleared! COMBAT: Citadel has finished attacking. COMBAT: Fuu Hououji narrowly braces Citadel's Ten Thousand Lights, taking 16 Fatigue damage! COMBAT: Fiat Silver perfectly dodges Citadel's Ten Thousand Lights, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Critical Dodge! Fiat Silver's Fade ability activates! Fiat Silver's Flash ability activates! COMBAT: Hikaru Shidou narrowly dodges Citadel's Ten Thousand Lights, taking 27 Fatigue damage! Blind applied to Hikaru Shidou!

"He isn't fighting like a man of duty and honor, though, is he?" the Wind Knight replies - and then magic erupts all around her; all she can do is brace herself and try to endure the barrage, even though she's basically *standing on it* - or at least on part of it.

Maybe she shouldn't even be trying to talk to the ancient artifact; maybe she should be pouring all her power, physical and magical, into trying to bludgeon it out of being a threat. But at least Citadel told the Device-thief that they should probably retreat instead of fighting ... is that a good sign?

She can only hope so.

"I want to talk to you and understand better who you are, where you're from!" the Magic Knight of Wind calls out to Citadel. "But if our only option is to physically *make* you listen ..."

"Winds of Admonishment!!"

Citadel is too big for the binding whirlwind to envelope fully, but the Wind Knight does the best she can - trying to wrap the confining winds around Citadel's head and neck, hoping to limit the movements of that part of his body and see how much that restricts him otherwise. It's a difficult spell to manage in this way, but short of actually running away or going on full-attack mode, it's the one thing she can manage at the moment. Still, she manages to call out, over the shriek of the winds she just summoned, "Is your 'master' fighting like a man who actually keeps his oaths?"

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Admonishment on Citadel. COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has finished attacking.

Holding her arms out at her sides, Masque Feu continues to walk forward, showing no signs of an intent to actually attack. "I understand, Citadel-sama," she says, her voice quiet and grave. "I see the honour in you. But I also understand what honour means - and what it does not."

Masque Feu walks forward. She watches as Citadel spreads his wings. The drones scatter.

Masque Feu keeps walking.

"Look out!" Augustine cries from the background. Masque Feu raises her chin, quietly defiant.

The light pours forth - and Masque Feu stops in place. She holds her arms out at her sides - and faces it. She makes no effort to defend herself.

Energy blasts across the Soeur of Flame. Her hair blows back in a wild stream; she arches for a moment as her muscles scream with pain, a silent protest soon joined by her own pained scream. Her feet give way; she's hurled from her feet and blasted backwards, defenseless as a baby duck. The dark-haired Soeur hits the ground on her back and skids, kicking up dust. Her tabard is tattered around the edges, ugly scrapes and little burns marring exposed skin.

She groans - and, reaching out with her right hand, pushes herself to her feet. She struggles to stand, managing it after a few seconds.

And she holds out her arms again - once again, making no effort to defend her wounded body against the coming assault.

"Your honour is beyond doubt," she says, her voice laced with pain, but steady; the blue-grey eyes behind the Blessed Masque of Flame do not leave the titanic Lost Logia. "But it is not your honour that I would ever have questioned. I come only to ask you a question."

She jerks her head to one side - to indicate Jaren Zastava.

"This man with which you travel," she says, "is not an honourable man. The suffering of Lera Camry... the pain he inflicts upon her friends... these are proof of what he is. So I ask you, honourable Citadel-sama...."

Her eyes harden, for a second. "Do you believe Jaren Zastava is honourable? Do you truly believe it is honourable to fight alongside a man who simply takes? And do you think that he will truly help you...

"...Or shall he take you?"

COMBAT: Masque Feu has used The Answer That She Sought on Citadel. COMBAT: Masque Feu has finished attacking.

Trails of smoke waft upward from Ren's hands as she stands back panting. Her and Endo's one-two strike is pretty effective by all means. Jaren certainly didn't expect it, and probably has to start taking them seriously now. Which... might be a bad thing. Though Ren is angry enough to take whatever he dishes out.

...Which is good, because he comes back with a vengeance. The ground cracks from the thunderous slam Jaren delivers with the warhammer-like device, splintering its way towards her. Ren holds her hands out beside her, Heraut reappearing in the air in front of her to bark out a response.


A dazzling array of shields spin up into existence around her just in time to meet the two slabs of rock that seek to make her mincemeat.

<...SHIELDS CRITICAL!> Heraut warns after the continued grinding begins to wear down at Ren's defenses, causing her to grunt. "Just a little longer! Come on!" But she can feel the spell unraveling, and before she can try to move out of the way there's a loud CRASH as the shields break apart, leaving her open to the crushing force as it presses in around her. Ren lets out a scream, getting battered around, barrier jacket flaring as her last line of defense. It holds, thankfully, though Ren's body is wracked with pain, her device clutched tightly to her chest now.


"I'm... alright." She insists, glaring up at Jaren. "We're not done yet." And again she's moving forward -- a bit slower than before, but still moving forward. The scepter glows brightly as she closes the distance and brings it around to slam into the sideburned jerk.

COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has used Imperial Slam on Jaren Zastava. COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has finished attacking. COMBAT: Citadel fails to dodge Masque Feu's The Answer That She Sought, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Citadel is Quipped!

Once again, Jaren Zastava employs excessive force with Broken Ground. Lera wants to cry out, desperately, to her friends. She hasn't mastered that guilt, yet, and while it may be lessened, it hurts to see Ren and Endo torn into that way. The crack in the street makes her stare for a moment. She swallows, hard, before she considers something else.

Once again, Broken Ground didn't want to employ such force. Is he...?

She shakes her head, and then she sprints out onto the grounds. She dives to the side -- just managing to get behind a car. She looks, nervously, at Jaren. And then she looks up at Citadel and she hesitates. She yells up at him.

"Your name is Citadel, right?"

This is where Sky might tell her to be more careful. Lera, however, only has Radical Freeband. He instead chimes, apropros of nothing: <Talk about a top hit!>

She glances sideways at Masque Feu, then. She looks -- for a moment -- bewildered. Right now, she is a girl in a white T-shirt and jeans. She isn't a magical girl, anymore. Or...

'So /act/ like it, child!'

Lera's courage comes back, and she looks up at the hulking Lost Logia. Her expression is firm -- but not angry. Determined, but not enraged. If Jaren Zastava looks in her direction, he can be sure of one thing: he hasn't beaten her yet. It might be like Eas said: she keeps getting back up.

Her words, though, are for Citadel: "We don't wanna hurt you, we just--we wanna try to help you!"

So the lights flash and then they attack, or something to that effect. Hikaru tries to get out of the way, although she's not entirely sure where she'd be going in a situation like this. In this case, she finds herself getting hit hard and not knowing what exactly to make of it. But she does know that Citadel must be stopped at any cost.

"You won't learn the easy way, so it seems we're going to have to teach you the hard way!" Hikaru's sword glows with the power of flame. With a slash she sends forth that blast of fire at Citadel. "You give us no choice!"

COMBAT: Hikaru Shidou has used Red Hot Blade on Citadel. COMBAT: Hikaru Shidou has finished attacking. COMBAT: Citadel narrowly braces Fuu Hououji's Winds of Admonishment, taking 6 Fatigue damage! Fuu Hououji is Psyched! COMBAT: Citadel narrowly counters Hikaru Shidou's Red Hot Blade, taking 13 Fatigue damage! COMBAT: Citadel's counterattack, Devout Corona, partially gets through, doing 16 Fatigue damage to Hikaru Shidou!

"Good job, Ren!" He'd stop and give her a high-five, if he could. But there are more pressing things to worry about.


Endo turns to guard against Jaren's newest assault, but he doesn't expect the magic. His attempt to form a barrier comes too late, and the energy is rocking him backward, sending him sailing once again with a gasp of pain. This time he just bounced a few times, until the weight of his weapon brings him to a stop.


"Right. Sorry." Endo's eyes flash over toward the mass of drones and Citadel, and the magical girls swarming around it. He catches a glimpse of Masque Feu engulfed in light, and he grits his teeth. He wants to help. But he can't. Not with Jaren there.

"I'll show you what's up..."


"I'm sick of you! That's what's up!" Endo shouts it once he's back on his feet, his fingers gripping tight around his Device. He lunges forward again, kicking off and closing the distance between himself and the other mage with alarming speed. It's another slash this time, not as violent, but quicker, aimed to strike along with Ren.

COMBAT: Endo Naoki has used Blueshift on Jaren Zastava. COMBAT: Endo Naoki has finished attacking. COMBAT: Jaren Zastava narrowly braces Ren Aizawa's Imperial Slam, taking 11 Fatigue damage! Ren Aizawa is Psyched! Jaren Zastava's Block ability activates! Jaren Zastava's Parry ability activates! COMBAT: Jaren Zastava fails to dodge Endo Naoki's Blueshift, taking 23 Fatigue damage!

Jaren's savagery relents after that hateful blow, taking a long, deep breath. "Alright, that's better," he mutters. "Y'all gotta learn to respect someone as important and majestic and suchlike as myself." He puffs up, and then while Ren and Endo are pulling their heads out of the ground, turns up to Citadel. "Yo, Citadel!" he calls up. "Uh, sorry about the...mess, here. I need another couple minutes! Don't worry about me, just keep the rest of these folks busy for me, 'kay? You're a peach!"

At which point Broken Ground throbs, <PROTECTION.> Ren's sluggish rush at him slams into a defensive screen, and Jaren turns to glare at her with a smug look. "Slowin' down, shortstop?" he taunts. "Only got one trick up your sleeve!? Lemme FIX that for y--"

Endo sword chops him in the neck and the Barrier Jacket flares in response, bowling Jaren over mid-sentence. He doesn't get outraged this time, at least; staggering to his feet to drunkenly glare at both mages. "OK, look," he says, shaking his head out to clear the spinning stars. "I know we've said some things you're going to regret, and I know, you know, I'm /maybe/ not the best with kids who aren't doing exactly like they're told like you should, but, I feel like, uh." Pause.

Tilts his head. "You know what I don't know where I was going with that, the point is you're both horrible brats and I want your Devices. Ground!" <YES.> "Smash 'em!" <PROCEEDING. MOLTEN BOLT.>

Two orbs of fiery red light form, one on either side of Jaren's body, and Jaren thrusts Ground forward; they race downrange toward Endo and Ren, splattering on contact into shifting, gluey strands of binding magic. COMBAT: Jaren Zastava has used Molten Bolt on Ren Aizawa. COMBAT: Jaren Zastava has used Molten Bolt on Endo Naoki. COMBAT: Jaren Zastava has finished attacking. COMBAT: Ren Aizawa narrowly braces Jaren Zastava's Molten Bolt, taking 5 Fatigue damage! Ren Aizawa's Block ability activates! Ren Aizawa's Parry ability activates! Cripple applied to Ren Aizawa! COMBAT: Endo Naoki perfectly braces Jaren Zastava's Molten Bolt, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Critical Brace! Endo Naoki's Parry ability activates!

A howling windstorm, conjured by the knight of wind, envelops Citadel's head entirely. For a moment, the winds seem to bind the monstrous foe in place - but then there's a flash of light, and the tempest shatters like spun glass. From the side, Hikaru comes in with sword ablaze - only to be met with a rainbow wing, slamming into her attack and her with full force. Sheer force seems to do little to stymie the monstrous Lost Logia, which stalks forward with terrible inevitability.

But there are words, as well.

'He isn't fighting like a man of duty and honor!' Citadel's gaze wanders over to where Ren and Endo are battling Jaren, judging the fight in progress...but there's no conclusive answer to be had there. "THIS MAY WELL BE HIS DUTY...TO PURSUE THIEVES, AND DELIVER JUDGMENT." Even the booming voice seems uncertain, though...

'Do you think he will truly help you...or shall he take you?' Masque Feu rises again, accepting brutal wrath in exchange for a chance to talk. Devotion worthy of consideration - and a blasphemous idea uttered in exchange. Stone splinters as Citadel's claws flex against the ground below, that terribly long tail lashing back and forth even more. "THROUGH TRICKERY WAS I SENT HERE. THROUGH HONESTY MIGHT I BE RETURNED - AND JAREN ZASTAVA HAS NOT YET LIED TO ME. WHY..." Citadel trails off.

'--we wanna try to help you!' From Masque Feu, Citadel's gaze veritably snaps to Lera. Slowly, the Lost Logia finishes the thought it began. "...WHAT CAUSE HAVE I TO BELIEVE YOU OVER YOUR ENEMY?" That tail lashes in Jaren's general direction, as if in indication. "HE HAS KEPT HIS WORD - TOLD ME WHERE MY HOME LIES. WHEN THIS LAST TASK IS COMPLETE..."

'You're a peach!' Citadel's musing, gaze driving to the heavens above, returns to Earth abruptly. The tail's lashing stills, the lengthly appendage coming around to curl protectively around the monstrous machine-beast itself. No lies, no...but the attitude is not exactly...

"...YOU HAVE YOUR HOPES. YOU HAVE YOUR PURPOSES. BUT FORCE WILL NOT DENY ME!" The coiled tail flicks out - swift strikes lashing out at Fuu and Hikaru both as answer to their attacks. And then...it stills, as that gaze bears down on Lera and Masque Feu. "...STAND WHERE YOU ARE...AND YOU WILL NOT BE HARMED. WHEN ZASTAVA'S BATTLE IS CONCLUDED...THEN HE AND I SHALL RETURN. TO MY DUTY OF GUARDING THE TEN THOUSAND POINTS. TO BELKA."

COMBAT: Citadel has used Raging Dragon Tail on Fuu Hououji. COMBAT: Citadel has used Raging Dragon Tail on Hikaru Shidou. COMBAT: Citadel has finished attacking. COMBAT: Fuu Hououji narrowly dodges Citadel's Raging Dragon Tail, taking 39 Fatigue damage! Fuu Hououji's Fade ability activates! Fuu Hououji's Flash ability activates! COMBAT: Hikaru Shidou fails to dodge Citadel's Raging Dragon Tail, taking 44 Fatigue damage!

Augustine the Heretic is finally beginning to catch on. He stares at Masque Feu's back for a moment - then flutters towards Lera. The girl is suddenly treated to a turtledove hovering near her on brisk wingbeats. "That's right!" he chirps. "We do not want to challenge you - we wish to help!"

Masque Feu, meanwhile, waits for the attack.

It does not come.

She tilts her head back - then looks to the side with a blink as she realizes Lera has come out of hiding, without her Barrier Jacket or magical device. She swallows a hard lump in her throat. Jaren Zastava seems to have taken more from Lera than Masque Feu realized. A powerful urge to walk over and put an arm around the girl seizes her.

She forces it down. That would be unseemly. And she wants to talk to Citadel, not provoke the massive creature from a world she scarcely understands.

"Lera Camry is not someone who would call me a personal friend, Citadel-sama," she says in that same quiet tone that carries anyway, though this time, her voice has lost a bit of its hardness. "But I have watched from across battlefields, and seen the way she has conducted herself, when our paths have crossed. This girl is a brave person. Her love for her friends, for those who stand with her... I have seen the fullness of it. Perhaps it means something that even I, who understands nothing of her life and your world, can see that she is one with a heart that does not take - for she is one who gives.

The lone Soeur clasps her hands together and bows her head, her eyes closing. "Jaren Zastava called her friends brats," she says, voice quieting. "But as you look at them... at these people who only fight from the goodness of their heart... surely, Citadel-sama, you do not see brats, but love."

COMBAT: Masque Feu has used Maria-Sama Is Watching on Citadel. COMBAT: Masque Feu has finished attacking. COMBAT: Citadel perfectly braces Masque Feu's Maria-Sama Is Watching, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Critical Brace!

When Lera hears that name, her eyes widen with shock.

She doesn't know a great deal about Ancient Belka. Her father was an archaeologist and historian from the modern Belkan Autonomous Region, but she remembers far less of his work and research than she remembers of his smile and how he held her. He passed away when she was four. What she knows, she mostly heard in school -- and learned from her mother, later, in passing.

From where she stands, Citadel might as well have said that he came from Atlantis or Mu. Lera opens her mouth in confusion.

"The Ten Thousand Points--then that must be--" She stammers it out, her words racing with her mind. But, she can't quite form a coherent sentence. "Citadel, you can't--you don't understand!"

She reaches a hand out -- and then feels the rush of wind from the tail swing. Her head snaps away from Citadel and Masque Feu, then to the Magic Knights. Citadel, true to his word, didn't strike them. But the power in the Lost Logia's body is apparent. She looks worriedly at the lone Souer, hesitating when she hears her words. It's a wonderful description of her.

After talking to her mother, she even believes it.

Ren /is/ slowing down. After delivering her blow against Jaren's shield she immediately feels most of her reserves sapped in that instant. Endo is thankfully there to pick up the slack, batting Jaren aside while she takes a sight breather. Heraut has been monitoring his master's status and chimes up with his worries. <YOU ARE RAPIDLY APPROACHING OPERATIONAL LIMITS.>

"I know Heraut but-" That sentence gets interrupted by Jaren jumping back into the action, Ren raising the device to snap up her admittedly-weakened shields, which thankfully keeps her mostly safe. In a swing of her device she dispels the rest of Jaren's attack and then leaps for him again, not caring if she's overextending herself. Too much is on the line. She'll let herself be Jaren's punching bag in the hopes that it wears him down enough. It's foolish... but her mind is made up.

The dracowolf automaton's tail turns out to hit REALLY hard, and both Magic Knights are sent flying off their feet by its impact. The Wind Knight fetches up against a lamppost with enough force to BEND IT OVER; how the impact doesn't shatter her shoulder or some ribs is an impenetrable mystery. Maybe, she thinks, it actually did break and she just can't feel the pain ... ?

She moves her left arm experimentally. It hurts, but not like broken bones. She breathes in, then out. Same.

She opens her eyes. Everything is blurry, but it's a familiar sort of blur - her glasses must not have survived, or at least didn't stay in place. Citadel is an extremely large target, though, so there's no way she can miss even if she did launch an arrow ... which she isn't sure she has the energy for.

The Magic Knight of Wind pauses in her train of thought, reconsidering that last one. That's not a good sign, is it? She tries reaching for her magic .. and it's there, at least, but she can't quite focus enough to gather it up for a spell.

Hopefully the Fire Knight is in better shape; she didn't see how far Hikaru-san got sent flying ... but there's one thing she wonders, and with an effort, she pulls the question together, arranging it into words.

"Duty and honor ... are they defined by your master? Or were they defined by something else, older than humans .. ?"

COMBAT: Jaren Zastava fails to dodge Ren Aizawa's Rending Uppercut, taking 7 Fatigue damage! Ren Aizawa is Psyched!


Endo's shield flares to life around him, the ball of energy smashing into it a second later. For once, Endo is ready for it. Not that it doesn't hurt. He can feel the heat burning across his skin as energy cracks and sheers off his shield, a few steps taken back to catch his balance before he's ready to do again. Too close for comfort.

And then Ren is throwing herself forward again. So Endo does too.

"Stern! Let's hit him hard!" He keeps close to Jaren, as close as he can, supposed Ren with another slash of the blade, trying to press the other mage back and keep him from doing too much harm to his partner.

COMBAT: Endo Naoki has used Blueshift on Jaren Zastava. COMBAT: Endo Naoki has finished attacking. COMBAT: Jaren Zastava narrowly braces Endo Naoki's Blueshift, taking 8 Fatigue damage! Jaren Zastava's Block ability activates! Jaren Zastava's Parry ability activates!

Jaren knows he's got Ren beat. He clobbered her good and she's been staggering ever since. It gets him smug. He rolls his eyes as she swings at him, taking an easy step back to dodge, and stubbing his boot heel against a crack in the pavement, making him trip and allowing Ren to clobber him right in his dumb face.

He staggers back a few yards, hand coming up to check his jaw for blood or misalignment. Neither. "Feisty," he spits, displeased. "Alright. I've let you two play long enough, I think."

<ROUND SHIELD.> Jaren's eyes cut to the side and he throws a hand up; a spinning Midchildan magic barrier forms, just in time for Endo to slam into it. Jaren yields a step from the transferred inertia, and then looks up to where Citadel is...busy. "I'm out of time," he decides, and turns the full weight of his glare on Ren and Endo. "So let's finish this, then," he grunts, and shoots up into the air. It's a clearing tactic; both can follow him with relative ease. Except: "Ground, we're finishing this."


"...no lip?"


"Ha ha! Damn right we are! Let's do it, then, buddy!" He throws up his hand, and a bead of red light forms above his palm. Ground chimes: <STRATA EXECUTOR.> as the ball pulls in rays of light, energy gathering together until the ball is the size of a beachball.

Then Jaren roars, "I WIN!" as he lobs the sphere down at the hurting duo, and Ground confirms, <SMASH.> It hurtles downward, accelerating rapidly, and then SLAMS into, hopefully, Endo's precious little head; and then EXPLODES, releasing a ring-shaped shockwave that topples trees, sends cars flying, and hopefully knocks kids unconscious so Jaren can take their stuff.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Jaren Zastava has used Strata Executor on Endo Naoki. COMBAT: FINISHER! Jaren Zastava has used Strata Executor on Ren Aizawa. COMBAT: Jaren Zastava has finished attacking. COMBAT: Ren Aizawa narrowly braces Jaren Zastava's Finisher, Strata Executor, taking 52 Fatigue damage! Ren Aizawa is unable to keep fighting! Ren Aizawa's Block ability activates! Ren Aizawa's Parry ability activates! COMBAT: Endo Naoki narrowly dodges Jaren Zastava's Finisher, Strata Executor, taking 57 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit!

"Ren!" It burns. It doesn't burn his head off, but it's close. When Endo spots the sphere coming his first impulse is to get out of there as fast as humanly possible.

The job he does is barely passable. He goes up, throwing himself into the sky as the world erupts in fire beneath him, energy swallowing him up and searing through his barrier, across his barrier jacket, and burning through his skin. For a second, he vanishes beneath the destruction, consumed and swallowed by agony.

<BROKEN GROUND.> Fallen Stern's ugly, reverberations echo.


And then there's Endo. Burnt and battered, but still going up. The sword is burning with ugly violet light, steaming and smoking, raised high into the sky as the knight reaches the top of his arc. He seems to just stay there, feet planted on nothing, weapon held high. The dark metal bursts into nothing more than a pillar of light, a huge streak toward the heavens.


He puts everything he has left into it. His anger at Jaren for hurting his friends. His desire to protect Ren, Tokyo Tower, to help Lera, Masque Feu, Fuu, Hikaru, Fiat Silver, all the others before it's too late. He brings it down. One big, final drop as the beam of light comes crashing down to earth. Down on top of Jaren Zastiva.


COMBAT: FINISHER! Endo Naoki has used Absolute Magnitude on Jaren Zastava. COMBAT: Endo Naoki has finished attacking. COMBAT: Jaren Zastava accepts Endo Naoki's Finisher, Absolute Magnitude, taking 139 Fatigue damage! Jaren Zastava is unable to keep fighting!

Hitting Jaren is cathartic as always. Especially so when she actually gets that uppercut in, putting all of her remaining strength into it. She wobbles and has to use Heraut for support as a result, breathing heavily as her vision begins to blur. She can feel the weight of her fatigue and injuries so vividly. Heraut chimes: <MAGIC LEVELS CRITICAL. YOUR MAJESTY I->

"No Heraut! Soaring Sky is still..." She looks to Lera and feels a pang of desperation. "I'm sorry Lera-chan... I can't afford to be careful anymore..." And then she kicks off into the air after Jaren, despite the fact that he's winding up for a devestating attack. Ren pushes herself further, speed increasing. If she can just reach him before-

<INCOMING!> Heraut's warning comes just before Jaren hurls the sphere. Ren holds out a hand desperately, the beginnings of a shield being formed. It sparks in front of her pathetically though before fizzing out completely, and Ren's left there with widened eyes as the orb bears down on her.

<DISCHARGE!> There's a ringing tone as time around Ren seems to slow and ripple as the orb moves ever closer. In a flash her barrier jacket disperses, and a crystalline-substance begins to form around her, shaping itself into a protective cocoon. <BE SAFE, YOUR MAJESTY...>

And then time "resumes", the magnitude of the attack washing over her. She can feel the heat -- so much so that she passes out -- but remains unscathed. The crystal around her cracks and splinters but holds firmly. Then, it drops down to the ground as gravity takes over, and with a SLAM impacts with a quake that shakes the entire area, leaving a smoking crater behind. Ren is still.

And Heraut goes tumbling through the air, content with having protected his master.

Jaren grins as he watches Ren's defenses collapse. His eyes widen with delight as Heraut breaks off from her entirely. "ONE DOWN!" Jaren roars with laughter, and like the fool he absolutely is, completely forgets about Endo, figuring he must have burned much the same. He rushes down, moving to collect Heraut's falling form and claim another Device as his own.


"I know, he's losing patience, Ground! Second, man!"


"The hell do you--" ... "THE KID!" he shrieks, shrill and horrified, and whips around to see...it's less of a beam and more of a column, a titanic punishment of screaming light slamming into Jaren Zastava's gut and driving him into the ground in a neat little crater right next to Ren's. But the light's not all that's screaming:

"NOT AGAIN! NOT AGAIN! YOU BRATS! HOW DO YOU DO THIS!" He throws himself against it; casting shields, protections. Each shatters under a mere moment's caress from Endo's Absolute Magnitude. "We're the strongest! WE'RE THE STRONGEST! /I'M/ THE STRONGEST! HOW DO YOU KEEP--"


Jaren snaps his arm out and the biggest Protection spell he can muster at the moment shields him for a few seconds, already cracking under the apocalyptic doom. "NO! If we fail again, he'll--!"


Jaren whips around, watches the shield cracking. "Screw you! You're not the boss of me! NOBODY IS! I won't...BE--!!"

The final hit comes home, and the street ruptures under the force of the impact. His shields fail.

Jaren lays at the bottom of the crater, barely conscious, finger clawing in Heraut's direction. "Not...again...!" he breathes, with the last of his strength.

There's a bird. Citadel tracks its movement for a few seconds, evaluating it as a threat...but this tower isn't the place the Lost Logia was built to guard. The Ten Thousand Points are nowhere to be seen, and that...is perhaps, concerning. Words from the humans implied that some of them had never heard of the place...what might that mean?

How long has the guardian neglected the duty?

Fuu - staggering to her feet in the wake of that lashing tail - steps forward with a question. The tip of the tail cracks the ground open before her in warning...but Citadel does not strike again. Not yet. As for the question... "EVEN THE MAGISTERS ARE HUMAN. MY DUTY IS TO PROTECT MY HOME, MY RULER...NO MORE, NO LESS." It's a simple duty, a simple rule...

Masque Feu is more direct - speaking of the virtues of those who still stand, of the better portions of Citadel's foes rather than try to highlight the flaws of Jaren. The behemoth does not answer with words - instead its gaze wanders from Masque Feu to the other fighters to Jaren, once more. Finally... ...I HAVE NEVER WORRIED FOR THE VIRTUE OF THOSE WHO STAND BEFORE ME. INTRUDER OR NOT - SUCH IS ALL."

And Lera...Lera is practically panicking. The guardian of the Ten Thousand Points stands up straighter, more confidently - encouraged by Lera's recognition. At last, proof that the Belkan weapon is not alone. "LONG HAVE I WAITED. BUT AT LAST..."

There's a scream of pain from Jaren - his triumphal blow interrupted by a vicious counterattack. Orders were orders, but... "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!" In answer to the pillar of light claiming victory against Jaren, three more pillars of rainbow light burst from the ground - none close to combatants, mercifully. Citadel springs back, wings ablaze with radiant light - and like a curtain, a kaleidoscopic wall begins to be drawn between the three beacons. A barrier - one that nearly sears the eyes, that portions the Tokyo Tower apart from the rest of the world.

On one side of the barrier, Citadel and the fallen Jaren. On the other, those who stood up in opposition. As the curtain is drawn, as the distance becomes impassible, Citadel speaks to all present to listen. "JAREN ZASTAVA. YOUR BATTLE IS DONE - I HAVE FULFILLED MY DUTY. OUR BARGAIN...WE WILL GO. FAR FROM THIS PLACE AND TO THE TEN THOUSAND POINTS." The rainbow light closes, sealing Citadel and Jaren off from their foes with a nigh-impenetrable wall. The dragon-wolf arches its back, gazes up into the distant sky.


Masque Feu looks on with quiet awe as Endo simply pours his heart and soul into knocking Jaren into next week.

The barrer rises. The girl in the mask sucks in a startled breath, shielding her eyes with one arm, to little avail. "Lera, be careful," she calls to the girl as she vaguely catches sight of her barreling in like a maniac. The lone Soeur does no such thing.

Only after a moment does she start forward, moving close enough to the barrier to look up at it in wonder.

"It's days like this I wish vampires were /all/ I had to deal with," complains Augustine.

The Magic Knight of Wind isn't capable of much more right now; she didn't so much 'stagger back to her feet' as 'get lodged in a lamppost and stuck in a sort of upright position'.

Making further conversation is a little out of her league right now. She could probably use some help vacating the area, for that matter - or risk her secret identitty ceasing to be quite as secret. And some of her friends here already know that the Magic Knights have deadly enemies who don't care about secret identities.

"No, you don't understand! Citadel, listen to me! He's lying! He--"

Lera cries it out with a yell, her hand thrown out in front of her. The girl goes charging forward, while pillars of light slam into the pavement. Stones, torn concrete, bent rebar, and rolled over cars are all around her. She doesn't care. She can't even spare a glance at Jaren, at the moment, except to hope that Sky is okay. She can only briefly chance a look at Ren.

Her eyes are on the enormous Lost Logia, as the air shimmers and he takes to the air, and lands on Tokyo Tower. She sees the magical triangles appear -- and she sucks a gasp in. The shimmering wall of light appears, a rainbow bulwark suddenly cutting Citadel, Jaren, and Tokyo Tower off from all of Tokyo. Her fingertips touch it.

And come to a stop, with a crackle of static. Lera pulls her fingers back, then stares up at the tower. "Oh, no..."


The room is poorly lit. Despite the presence of windows, one would be hard pressed to say whether this is day or night. Long shadows are cast across the tables and chairs here. Those shadows fall across the man at the desk, standing there coolly. They shade everything but his mouth, as he lifts a communicator shaped not all that unlike a phone to his mouth.

On the screen in front of him, reflected in his amber eyes, the battle at Tokyo Tower is plainly visible. His eyes lock onto Jaren, laying in the middle of that crater that Endo punched him into.

"Mister Zastava," he says, calmly, into the receiver. "I'm a results-oriented man. You need to secure and deliver those Devices, because I'm tired of waiting for results. Otherwise, I'll be forced to terminate your employment."

His lips curl, slightly, into a smirk. "And my employees enjoy lifelong contracts."