2015-08-23 - A Place to Call Home
|Title: A Place to Call Home|
Citadel has activated his teleportation spell, which threatens to take Tokyo Tower with it. In his desperation, Jaren has one chance left to get those Devices. Lera confronts him for Soaring Sky, and Ren unveils a newfound power!
| OOC - IC Date:|
08/19/2014 - 08/23/2015
Disrupting Citadel's barrier isn't an easy thing. It required work with the Tuners to make happen: a quartet of Storage Devices needed to be set up around the square containing Tokyo Tower. Each looked innocuous enough: a gunmetal-colored box, with a little golden gem in the center of each, with panel lines and emitters that gave it away as advanced Midchildan magical technology. The Storage Devices aren't complicated, though, because they serve one function: disrupting Citadel's barrier.
There isn't a loud proclamation when they activate. At first, each of the little boxes hums softly; a tiny vibration that might blend into the nearby traffic, and a little flash of yellow light from the gems in their centers. The flashes practically vanish when compared to the glowing, prismatic rainbow light of the barrier around Tokyo Tower.
But the humming increases, slowly, until it is a steady rumble. The flashes become more persistent and brighter. Then, each Storage Device sends out a rippling shockwave of yellow light. It passes through buildings, streetlamps, and cars without incident. When they hit the barrier, though, the entire thing ripples like a boulder dropped into a pond. The barrier doesn't simply come down; instead, holes from the size of a penny to a Volvo appear, and stay there, making it look more like Swiss cheese.
Then the fanfare begins.
First, from a rooftop across the street, Lera Camry's voice shouts out. Using Radical Freeband, the communicator Storage Device that her mother gave her, the girl's voice booms out like it comes from a megaphone: "Charge!"
She always wanted to yell that.
And then, finally, as the signal is given -- and the gathered Tuners, magical girls, Device Wielders, and other warriors begin their advance on Citadel -- a piece of paper flies down from a roof. It wafts down, carried on a gentle but deliberate air current, to hover directly in front of Jaren Zastava's face. The paper is a memo, complete with letterhead:
From the Office of Meria Camry, Device Meister and Engineering Consulting Services
Form 9-B2: Notice of Termination Employee: Jaren Zastava, Assistant Meister and Device Tester Rationale: You're a poor team player and don't fit into our future plans of not hiring jerks. Best wishes in your future endeavors (in prison), darling! <3
Jaren Zastava has had. THE WORST. Few days. He can't go home, because all these crazy sparkle chicks are after him, because somehow they all have some PROBLEM with him BEATING UP THEIR FRIENDS and STEALING THEIR INCALCULABLY POWERFUL RELICS! What in the world is WRONG with people when a guy can't just claim the spoils of a perfectly legitimate fight, these days!!
AND he's been cooped up with Citadel, who may as well be named the NO FUN EVER SENTINEL, and he's had to subsist on HOT DOGS and PRETZELS and his stomach has NEVER FELT WORSE and he had to sleep on some wage slave's UPSETTINGLY-STAINED MATTRESS and, oh, let's not forget this one, HIS BOSS IS GOING TO LITERALLY MURDER HIM and, AND NOW.
THESE JOKERS ARE HERE!!!!
Jaren takes a deep breath. The teleport isn't ready yet. He has only one Device to show the boss. He has to stop them all and, also, beat up two children and steal their Devices, an act which has continuously eluded him for reasons HE CANNOT COMPREHEND.
Calm. Deep breaths. Think of waterfalls. Ahhhhh.
Jaren is not particularly upset when the barrier begins to weaken, because it was obviously going to happen; he stands ready, as cleaned and polished as he can get in a facility that is not actually intended to host a permanent resident, with Broken Ground in hand and the pen form of Soaring Sky on a chain on his neck. The cracks are healed. Jaren repaired him. He might be useful later. "You ready, bud?"
<WE WILL SMASH THEM. WE ARE THE STRONGEST TEAM.>
"Ha ha," Jaren says, and takes a breath, his eyes hardening. "You know it."
Which is when that neatly-worded letter drifts up to his face, and his eyes scan across it, half-expecting some imported TSAB instruction to surrender. No. His teeth grind and he rips it out of the air, crumples it up, throws it away, and lasers it into ash with a thin beam from Ground.
"YOU CAN'T FIRE ME, YOU CRAZY HAS-BEEN!!" Jaren screams at the heavens. "I QUIT!!"
COMBAT: Jaren Zastava transforms into Youma Form Jaren Zastava! COMBAT: Jaren Zastava has fully healed himself.
For thousands of years, Citadel lay in wait at the bottom of the ocean, awaiting orders. For ages before that, the Lost Logia stood vigilant as the Guardian of Ten Thousand Points, staring endlessly into the space beyond that fortress for any hint of enemies. Through war and peace, the guardian watched and waited. Such was its mission. Such was its duty. Such was its purpose.
Citadel, Guardian of Ten Thousand Points, knows the meaning of patience.
Jaren Zastava, it seems, does not.
Jaren complained - endlessly - that the time was not right for them to go to Belka. Complained about his defeats, complained about accommodations, complained about anything and everything. Even Citadel's legendary patience might, soon, approach its limits.
In this instant, however - an event is occurring. The prismatic barrier, hallmark of this Lost Logia, has been sapped. Drained, damaged, undermined. Technology - unfamiliar to the Lost Logia, and novel in that right - used to assault the barrier in a way it had not expected.
For a moment, Citadel glances at Jaren. It's a long, almost judgmental look. Then, it turns to face the magic-wielders arrayed against it. Wings flair to kaleidoscopic life, light of ancient Belka brought to life once more. "STAND DOWN. I WILL RETURN TO THE TEN THOUSAND POINTS, NO MATTER THE COST - DELAY ME FURTHER, AND YOUR LIVES ARE FORFEIT."
COMBAT: Westar transforms into Youma Form Citadel! COMBAT: Citadel has fully healed himself. He is now ready to take on 9 opponents!
"I'm really sorry, Citadel-san," a gentle voice rings out - followed by an arrow flying at the barrier, aimed not with magic but only with the skill of a practiced archer.
"But we *really* can't let you or Jaren-san depart with one of Tokyo's most prominent landmarks in tow," the Magic Knight of Wind finishes, leaping from the rooftop from which she laucnhed that arrow, and touching down lightly a few meters outside of the prismatic barrier. "Tokyo Tower is important to a great many people in this city, and I include myself among those who hold it in such esteem." Her attention shifts to Jaren. "Why is it necessary for you to enclose the Tower in your barrier while you're preparing to depart?"
Admitedly, the Wind Knight has more on her mind than just Tokyo Tower, but recovering any stolen Devices is going to have to come AFTER the barrier goes down.
Fiat Silver got real anxious when the B-word started being dropped. They said Belkan - just like the ancient city - with a capital B and that rhymes with T and that stands for "Tokyo Tower is in peril."
She had joined the ranks called to this battle, though she had, as befits a thief, lurked towards the back and tried to avoid being in the line of sight of people who might feel an overwhelming sense of justice. And then comes the time.
<That man has not washed in three days, I estimate,> Silver Scorpion remarks, disapprovingly, to Fiat Silver. Fiat Silver solemnly raises up her ungauntleted hand to pinch her nose, though she's smiling slightly.
"Zastava! I had told you that I would come for you, and now you hold no surprises for me," Fiat Silver says, floating aloft with her hand returning, saucily, to her hip. "You have already been defeated, and if you surrender yourself and your plunder, it will go much smoother for you. And oh, I am aware of the irony - oh oh ho h-"
Citadel talks. Fiat Silver shushes.
"... The Ten Thousand Points... do you mean outer space?! Must you imperil this fine piece of public art in order to make your way? Yes, exactly," Fiat Silver says, indicating what Fuu is saying. "None of us bear you any ill will... our anima is reserved solely for that man, Jaren Zastava!"
<...I believe you meant 'animus,' madame.>
Fiat Silver's lips press into a thin line.
Miuchi Seika is not a Tuner. She had no idea this was coming.
"Storage Devices?" the girl breathes, hand caught at her throat as she watches from the shadow of a phone booth. She blinks as the devices begin to do their work.
"It does seem the Tuners have had plans, Masque Feu," Augustine notes from where he flutters alongside her. "And it also seems that young Lera Camry is leading the charge! I think this would be an opportune time to aid her."
Seika presses her lips together with intent, and reaches into her purse for her mask. "Yes... we must help," she agrees as she raises the item to her face.
She whispers the words of calling.
A heartbeat later, another figure is sprinting in from a slightly different angle from the rest of the Tuners. It is easy to tell who it is both from the little black and gold ballroom mask and the long stream of ringleted hair billowing out behind her. "Lera," she calls out, not raising her voice all that much, but still clear and crisp enough to easily be heard. "We're with you...!"
She breathes a bit more heavily as she downright sprints towards the tower. Her heels scrape against pavement as she scoots to a halt. For a moment, the Soeur pauses, catching her wind before she snaps a look up towards the massive Lost Logia looming in the shadow of the Tower. "Citadel-san," she calls up, her voice crisp and not especially hostile. "Surely there is a way to do this without taking a part of this world with you."
Augustine flutters up next to her with a rapid beat of wings. "To return home like this," the talking turtledove shouts, "can only leave harm in your wake! Would you really do this to excite a man like Jaren Zastava?! He can't even treat these girls with /respect!/"
"We can't let you do this, she's right!" The Fire Knight says, showing contrast to her ally the Wind Knight. "We're going to stop you and make sure you cause no more trouble for us! And we're going to save our landmark!" She points her sword at Citadel. "We're here to stop you and protect everything and everyone!"
Fate Testarossa did not charge when the call came, though she did clench her grip upon Bardiche's obsidian metal haft, marvelling at how efficiently the Camry matron had dealt with the barrier. "How are you feeling Bardiche?" <Condition: All Green and ready for action Sir.> The baritone wavered for a moment, before adding, <Your timing will have to be perfect. He is very strong.> "Our timing." She corrected, "We can do this for her." <Yes sir.>
From her perch in nearby Shiba park, she watched unseen, waiting for each of the girls to do their part. She waited, and watched the flashes of magic from the distance as the magical girls move in, her eyes upon the Lost Logia as they speak to it, trying to ignore the stab of guilt she felt at seeing which might cause her focus to waver.
From the night sky, Broken Ground's sensors might detect an incoming projectile. A crackling orb of gold, wreathed with violet electricity. It streaks out of nowhere to try to attempt to test itself against his defensive and auto-protection spells.
A few moments after it was timed to reach him, a flash of gold comes from the opposite direction, moving arguably as quickly, perhaps even faster as she pushes herself to the limit, stopping only as Bardiche makes contact with the chain around his neck. She smoothly severs it with a metallic chime. <While he may be annoying->
She jerks Bardiche upward, and with a twist, sends Soaring Sky upwards into the air, in a neat arc that spirals him towards Lera's own perch. <-we're sending him back where he belongs.> Fate's own scarlet eyes briefly make contact with Jaren's, steel within them harder than the metal Bardiche is made of. "Consider our agreement rescinded."
Cue Weapon Toss Insert Song: Plenty of Grit - SlayerS(Megumi Hayashibara)
She backpeddles with a flourishing display of Bardiche, pointing him Jaren's way, ready to defend herself against what is certainly about to be considerable reprisal.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Thunder Bullet on Jaren Zastava. COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has finished attacking. COMBAT: Jaren Zastava has adjusted his boss levels. He is now ready to take on 2 opponents! COMBAT: Jaren Zastava narrowly counters Fate Testarossa's Thunder Bullet, taking 9 Fatigue damage! Fate Testarossa is Psyched! Jaren Zastava's Reverse ability activates! Jaren Zastava's Tactician ability activates! COMBAT: Jaren Zastava's counterattack, Terra Fissure, partially gets through, doing 22 Fatigue damage to Fate Testarossa! Critical Counterhit!
Clutching her device as she floats in midair, Ren is amongst the assembled magical forces aimed to hopefully take down Jaren and Citadel. With Endo by her side, a sea of familiar faces poised at the ready, and Lera helpfully dictating things from a nearby roof, she's feeling pretty confident -- despite being knocked out of the fight last time. She tells herself that doesn't matter now, though. Because today is going to be the day they put an end to all of this. It's already been decided. Jaren is going /down/.
<THE BARRIER HAS BEEN WEAKENED.> Heraut speaks, and indeed that seems to be the case. It doesn't come down completely but there are more than enough holes for them to squeeze through. And then Lera's amplified voice echoes through the air, commencing the operation. "Let's go Heraut!" Ren streaks forward in the next moment, focusing on getting close to Citadel in particular. "Now!"
Ren makes a slashing motion with her device, and an explosion of light is sent spiraling towards the stone-faced mechawolf. COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has used Regal Crasher on Citadel. COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has finished attacking.
Cure Sword by and large works on her own. Because of that, on the magical girl side of things, she has a certain lack of resources. It was for that reason (along with plenty of encouragement from Davi) that, when approached by a Tuner representative about joining their loose-knit organization, she agreed. Of course, the Tuners know her strictly as Cure Sword, and she prefers it that way. She gets to get information from them, and in return, she helps keep the city safe. It's something she would do anyway--it's the right thing to do, and besides, the one she seeks is *somewhere* in here, surely--so it's only beneficial. Davi *eventually* talked her into thinking that way, anyway.
So while Cure Sword may know nothing about Lera or Jaren or Citadel beyond what's immediately happening, she actually prefers it that way. Not being attached means she'll be able to step back and keep focused on what needs her focus. She assists when the devices that punch holes in the barrier in the middle of the city, and when ordered to charge, she dives through one large enough to admit her. She lands in a roll and comes up running, lavender eyes set and determined, largely not concerning herself overmuch with the other magical girls in attendance, though she does again note several whom she recognizes. When she spots Jaren and Citadel--not hard to do, all considered--she leaps up to the nearest rooftop, then hops several until she is close enough to the two to be seen and heard. Jaren screams something about a has-been, while Citadel--who/which looks to Sword to be the bigger threat--tells them to stand down.
Not a chance.
"The blade of courage: Cure Sword!" she announces by way of self-introduction, sweeping a hand around and posing in profile, side-eyeing the Lost Logia from where she stands. She turns a half-step to face them. She's heard much about their ambitions and designs, and though she doesn't know all the details... "I, Cure Sword, will cut down your ambitions with my sword of love!" she declares, creating a spade symbol with her hands.
She practically radiates intensity. Though this may be a Pretty Cure talking about love, there is nothing at all loving about that gravely sharp look in her eyes.
COMBAT: Cure Sword has used The Blade of Courage on Citadel. COMBAT: Cure Sword has finished attacking. COMBAT: Citadel narrowly braces Ren Aizawa's Regal Crasher, taking 25 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! COMBAT: Citadel fails to dodge Cure Sword's The Blade of Courage, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Cure Sword is Psyched!
Endo is ready! The boy's hands are curled around the hilt of his device, body leaning half-against the hunk of dark metal as he watches the storages devices do their trick. His fingers drum against his weapon, eyes surveying the barrier as it begins to ripple, and then tear as the machines work their magic. He glances to Lera, and then to the rest of the assembled allies.
"Stern, can you talk to that thing?" They were a bit busy before, but he knows his device is from Belka, and Citadel says it is, so maybe he can make it seem some reason. And not teleport away with important landmarks.
"O-kay!" When Lera says charge, he charges. He's good at doing that, he's got lots of practice. He flings himself toward one of the holes in the shield, threading through and holding his Device aloft.
<CITADEL, GUARDIAN OF THE TEN THOUSAND POINTS. I AM FALLEN STERN, THE METEOR. KNOW ME, AND KNOW YOUR HOME IS BROKEN. WHAT YOU SEEK TO RETURN TO IS NO MORE. CEASE THIS.>
Not as diplomatic as Endo was hoping.
COMBAT: Endo Naoki transforms into Barrier Jacket! COMBAT: Endo Naoki has used <WITNESS ME.> on Citadel. COMBAT: Endo Naoki has finished attacking. COMBAT: Citadel perfectly counters Endo Naoki's <WITNESS ME.>, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Critical Counter! COMBAT: Citadel's counterattack, Guardian's Denial, bursts all the way through, doing 10 Fatigue damage to Endo Naoki!
Lera promised everyone that she would stay out of harm's way. It was a request she took seriously. After she issues the call to charge, she ducks back down on the roof across the street. Lera has her phone in hand. She looks down at a message waiting there; her finger hovers over the button on her touch screen. A moment's hesitation, then her thumb presses down on 'send.'
"Sorry, Setsuna," she murmurs quietly, but to herself. "I'll keep my promise, but... I don't think I'm really gonna make things easier on you."
She looks back over the edge of the building then. She watches her friends charge forward. There is a quick nod to Masque Feu; then she looks at Lilian, then to Ren. Her eyes lock on the top of the girl's head for a moment and she lets out a deep breath, while she waits. They can talk to Citadel.
They may have to fight him. Knowing what she knows, she doesn't like the thought of that. But what choice do they have?
"Hang on, everyone," she murmurs to herself. Then her eyes lock onto Fate. Her heart is practically in her throat while the younger girl goes rushing in at Jaren and Broken Ground. She knows how dangerous this is. She can't keep the feeling of guilt and worry out of her. But, she has faith in the girl.
So her eyes widen, when she sees the scythe blade hit that chain. Soaring Sky's bronze pen form goes flying into the air. Lera's eyes shoot as wide as saucers as she traces the arc in her head. She runs to the roof's edge, and in an inversion of the fight with Jaren that led her to this point, she leaps off. Her hands catch the tiny pen; the red bead at the end of it gleams in the light.
Lera clutches it and begins to fall. She pulls the pen to her neck, two-handed, and touches the pen to the green emerald neckless she wears. There is a glow; a spark of light, that passes from the necklace to the pen.
The pen suddenly flashes -- and then expands into a broadsword, sleek and bronze, with a golden hilt. Her hands clutch the hilt, as the red gem in the crossguard pulses once with light. Lera's golden eyes reflect in it.
FIFTEEN YEARS AGO -- RIGATE UNIVERSITY, MIDCHILDA
"Who knows how long this has been here?" Frederick Camry mused as he ducked down in the storage room. The crates in here were new, but the contents inside were old. Items collected from ruins scattered across the dimensional worlds could be found inside. The black-haired man pulled out an old shield, eyeing some of the tarnish on it. It was sad, he thought, to see the damage done to it.
But the Belkan runes on it were an excellent example of Ancient Belkan writing. He studied them thoughtfully, scratching at his mustache for a moment, before he laid the shield on the table next to him. He could decode them later. It was probably ceremonial.
He leaned back into the box, glancing at another shield that had been laid inside of it. That, though, was when his eyes caught the strangest thing: a tiny glint of red. He lifted the shield and found it: a sword. It was bronze in color, with gold about the crossguard. The blade was broken; the jagged cracks left it looking in truly rough form, and it was hard to distinguish panel lines from the damage.
"A Device!" he exclaimed, softly. Then, to his surprise, the thing hummed to life.
Frederick's golden eyes widened, reflected in the smooth surface of the Device. He mouthed the word softly, repeating it, before smiling down at the shattered weapon. "I'll get you to Meria. She'll be able to help," he said. "Don't worry. You'll be all right."
PRESENT DAY -- TOKYO, EARTH
Lera's golden eyes widen, reflected in Soaring Sky's gem. She smiles down at him, biting her lower lip, before she nods. "Hey there, buddy," she says softly; her voice shakes. "Sorry I'm late. Don't worry. You'll be all right."
<...Lera?> Sky hesitates, somehow. Something familiar echoes in his voice, deeper than it ever had before. Then, a flood of relief. <You're--you came for me! You're alive! You're-->
"Of course I did," she says, while they plummet down to the ground below in a free fall. She wipes her eyes with one hand, before she grips him -- and then glances at a passing window. "Hey, um, Sky? You think we could...?"
<...Oh. Yes. Right away. Say my new designation.>
Lera's eyes widen -- and then she thinks of the spell that her mother put into the necklace. The word floated there, tiny and hard to see, but somehow impossible to miss. She nods, then she calls out: "Soaring Sky Perihelion! Get ready!" A deep breath, then: "Soaring dreams, fiery love! Soaring Sky, SET UP!"
<Get set! Barrier Jacket! Perihelion Form, initiate!>
Light erupts around the girl as she plummets. Red-orange, burning like the setting sun, as strands of it shoot out. She does a midair twist; the shirt and blue jeans vanish in a wink of light, to be replaced by a silvery shirt and black pants. The green jacket appears in a flicker -- and this time, there are new slashes of red in it. Gunmetal grey shoulder armor appears, then more around her wrist cuffs, forming bracers. A belt shines into existence along her waist, hanging down slightly to one side.
Lera winks -- and the feather charm pops into existence on her forehead. She swoops down low over the ground, then flies up to hover in midair, and shoots a look straight down at Jaren.
"You've got a lot to answer for!"
COMBAT: Lera Camry transforms into Barrier Jacket Perihelion! COMBAT: Lera Camry has used Soaring Dreams! Fiery Love! on Lera Camry. COMBAT: Lera Camry has finished attacking. COMBAT: Lera Camry accepts Lera Camry's Soaring Dreams! Fiery Love!, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Accelerate and Empower applied to Lera Camry!
Jaren grunts. Citadel is getting antsy. The teleport's /not done/ yet, though; pushing through those coordinates takes time and energy and the only way Jaren would be done by now is if he were an unfeeling machine. Which he isn't. But Citadel is, so that excuse doesn't fly very far.
Or, you know, had a remotely functional work ethic. Which he also does not.
The other problem is that if he goes home now his boss is going to literally murder him, possibly with an actual physical axe. So he doesn't have a lot of motivation. On some level he was hoping this is how it would go. They'd come to him. Citadel would hold them off, and Jaren could thrash a few people in the background, and make off with--
The blast of gold slams into his barrier and he's already searching for the attacker. "Who's got the guts!" he barks, angrily, raising one hand--
Which makes it all too easy for Fate to slip in to his guard from behind him, tuck Bardiche past his coat, and flick Soaring Sky off his neck. Jaren's eyes shrink to pinpoints.
He stares at her.
"GROUND!" he shrieks, and swings the warhammer-device overhead, both-handed; a bead of light forms above the hammerhead, and: <TERRA FISSURE> when it slams into Fate, it impels her with vastly disproportionate speed!
Or, in other words, she suddenly flies at the ground like she'd been hit by fifteen trucks, crashing into a deep, deep hole. "I," Jaren clarifies, with great calm and abundant clarity, "NEEDED THAT. YOU'RE DAMN RIGHT OUR DEAL'S OFF!"
Then he thrusts Ground up, roaring, "GROUND! BREAK HER."
Adding injury to injury; the ground under Fate rushes upward in a sharp, magically-induced spike, slamming into her back with a force that only a Barrier Jacket prevents from being quite tragic indeed.
Jaren then rushes down. No more nice guy. OK. They wanna play hard, HE'S GOT A HAMMER, HE CAN DO HARD ALL DAY! But the sky lights up, and he stares off. "no," he croaks. "No, no, no, no! NO!"
Yes. She rushes up to him, all fire and glory, and Jaren fairly boils with hate. "I /killed/ you," he spits, unshy of the word. Ground chimes, but says nothing. "The only thing I've got to answer for is WHY YOU ARE NOT DEAD. I had something MARKED OFF MY LIST on this /miserable little world/! For ONCE! And now you're here."
Jaren stops short. Seethes a breath, slow and cool, and his eyes glide open with a calmer, but still scathing, glare. "I don't know how you sparkly /pests/ keep doing this. But I'm going to put an end to it. I'm out of second chances. So so are you. Ground, Stone Torch." <SMASH.> The bolts of silver light begin to form in the air, and Jaren whips Ground around, smashing several in Lera's direction with hard, rapid strikes.
COMBAT: Jaren Zastava has used Fault Ascension on Fate Testarossa. COMBAT: Jaren Zastava has used Stone Torch on Lera Camry. COMBAT: Jaren Zastava has finished attacking. COMBAT: Fate Testarossa narrowly dodges Jaren Zastava's Fault Ascension, taking 19 Fatigue damage! Fate Testarossa's Fade ability activates! Fate Testarossa's Flash ability activates! Cripple applied to Fate Testarossa!
Citadel's long tail lashes back and forth, scraping against pavement, sending discarded debris flying wildly as one intruder after another arrives, declaring intent to interfere. As each voice speaks up, Citadel's hackles raise just a little more, until eventually the armor forms a sinister ridge across its back.
Fuu's arrow finds a weakening but strong wall, and her words find a simple explanation - as does Hikaru's outburst. "POWER GATHERS HERE, AND ONLY FROM HERE MAY I DEPART. MY MASTERS WILL RETURN YOUR...STRUCTURE, IN TIME - BUT FURTHER DELAYS WILL NOT BE TOLERATED."
Fiat Silver has a grudge against Zestava, and again Citadel's gaze wanders to the man in question. It seems contemplative as Masque Feu joins in in condemning the man. "IT IS NECESSARY. AND THAT MAN HAS PROMISED TO GUIDE ME HOME - WE DEPART TOGETHER. WHATEVER HIS FAULTS, THE TEN THOUSAND POINTS WILL JUDGE THEM" The dragon-wolf construct is in no rush to defend Jaren beyond that, mind.
As proven when the man is attacked by a golden-haired warrior, and his spare device stolen without Citadel even moving. As Soaring Sky is returned to Lera, Citadel speaks to Jaren. "NOW YOU HAVE NO DEVICES TO RETURN. WE SHOULD HASTEN PREPARATIONS FOR OUR DEPARTURE. Gold light shines from the grand triangle at its feet, power building fractionally greater."
Ren bursts through a hole in the barrier, and a spiraling blast of light slams into the Logia's side. It hisses - and raises its gaze to meet Cure Sword's challenging glare. "MY AMBITIONS ARE SIMPLE. I WILL RETURN HOME TO BELKA, AND NOTHING WILL STOP ME-"
The Logia freezes in its tracks at Endo's arrival, at Fallen Stern's words. Words of horror, of blasphemy - and the countless colours shining in the remaining barrier are swiftly dominated by bright crimson. One wing flashes out, cutting off Fallen Stern's argument with a shining blast of light. "YOU LIE, METEOR! MY WORD IS IRONCLAD, AND I VOWED! SO LONG AS I DRAW BREATH, THE TEN THOUSAND POINTS SHALL NOT FALL!"
That fury does not fade - it grows only greater as Citadel turns its gaze high to unfamiliar stars. "FAR TOO LONG HAVE I WAITED - NO LONGER. ONE TOWER IS NOTHING IN LIGHT OF RETURNING TO MY DUTY...AND YOU WERE, ALL OF YOU WARNED." Wings shine brightly as the beast inhales deeply, heaven and earth shining in tandem, and it utters a single word. "FALL."
Ten thousand points of light shine, and erupt with terrible judgmental fury.
COMBAT: Citadel has used Ten Thousand Lights on Ren Aizawa. COMBAT: Citadel has used Ten Thousand Lights on Endo Naoki. COMBAT: Citadel has used Ten Thousand Lights on Fuu Hououji. COMBAT: Citadel has used Ten Thousand Lights on Hikaru Shidou. COMBAT: Citadel has used Ten Thousand Lights on Cure Sword. COMBAT: Citadel has used Ten Thousand Lights on Lera Camry. 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 Fate Testarossa. COMBAT: Citadel has finished attacking. COMBAT: Masque Feu perfectly counters Citadel's Ten Thousand Lights, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Critical Counter! Masque Feu's Reverse ability activates! COMBAT: Masque Feu's counterattack, Shining Burst, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Citadel! COMBAT: Lera Camry narrowly dodges Jaren Zastava's Stone Torch, taking 5 Fatigue damage! Lera Camry's Fade ability activates! Lera Camry's Flash ability activates! Cripple applied to Lera Camry! COMBAT: Lera Camry narrowly dodges Citadel's Ten Thousand Lights, taking 13 Fatigue damage! Lera Camry's Fade ability activates! Lera Camry's Flash ability activates! COMBAT: Fuu Hououji narrowly counters Citadel's Ten Thousand Lights, taking 19 Fatigue damage! Blind applied to Fuu Hououji! COMBAT: Fuu Hououji's counterattack, Gale Arrow, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Citadel! COMBAT: Endo Naoki narrowly counters Citadel's Ten Thousand Lights, taking 16 Fatigue damage! Endo Naoki's Reverse ability activates! COMBAT: Endo Naoki's counterattack, Asteroid Rush, partially gets through, doing 11 Fatigue damage to Citadel! COMBAT: Ren Aizawa narrowly braces Citadel's Ten Thousand Lights, taking 17 Fatigue damage! Ren Aizawa's Block ability activates! Ren Aizawa's Parry ability activates! Blind applied to Ren Aizawa! COMBAT: Cure Sword narrowly counters Citadel's Ten Thousand Lights, taking 18 Fatigue damage! Cure Sword's Reverse ability activates! Cure Sword's Tactician ability activates! Blind applied to Cure Sword! COMBAT: Cure Sword's counterattack, Sacred Dagger, partially gets through, doing 5 Fatigue damage to Citadel! COMBAT: Fate Testarossa perfectly counters Citadel's Ten Thousand Lights, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Critical Counter! Fate Testarossa's Reverse ability activates! Fate Testarossa's Tactician ability activates! COMBAT: Fate Testarossa's counterattack, Defenser, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Citadel! 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 fails to dodge Citadel's Ten Thousand Lights, taking 41 Fatigue damage!
Well, that seems to dismiss the possibility of talking Citadel into standing down peacefully, doesn't it? The Wind Knight quickly gathers her power as she draws another arrow back, then lets it fly with a call of, "Gale Arrow!"
But even the wind guiding her shaft isn't enough to let it hit Citadel - and even if it HAD, it's nowhere neare enough to prevent the ancient artifact from blasting her right off her feet, dazzling her *and* sending her glasses flying; somehow she can actually hear the tinkle as they break on the pavement.
Again. She's going to have to start shaking bad guys down to help pay for replacements at this rate, even as rude as *that* is.
As the Magic Knight of Wind sits back up, she listens as well as squinting through the darkened blurs to pick out her allies. She caught a glimpse of both Lera and Fate getting punched into the air by Jaren's assault weaponizing the ground under one's feet and the mana bolts flying at the other; she can pick out more or less where they are, but her eyes need to recover as well, and the sooner the better.
Good thing she's got a spell for that.
"Winds of Healing!" the Magic Knight in green calls out; most of the restorative spell is focused on Jaren's opponents, although she reserves some of the power to help nurse her eyes back into accepting the light properly and offsetting the bruises from her own rough landing. "I'll be with you again in a moment, Citadel-san," she calls out apologetically to the magical dragon-wolf automaton.
She really does need to get her other pair of glasses on first; if she can't aim at specific structural weaknesses, this is going to go REALLY badly (and it still might, even with that advantage).
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Healing on Lera Camry. COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Healing on Fate Testarossa. COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Healing on Fuu Hououji. COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has finished attacking. COMBAT: Lera Camry accepts Fuu Hououji's Winds of Healing, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Cleanse! All of Lera Camry's debuffs are cleared!
"I suppose trying to solve this diplomatically wasn't going to work in the first place," Masque Feu mutters to herself a touch bitterly.
Ten thousand points of lights shine. "Masque Feu, look out!" Augustine shrieks.
The Soeur is already moving - because she saw something. Lera Camry, grasping the fire of a new power. Her eyes shine with quiet joy behind the Blessed Masque of Flame - and her spirit soars.
"Blessed Flame," she declares, her voice ringing out. She levels her right hand forward, fingers splayed. A surge of holy fire blossoms out in front of her, whirling, ripping into the form of a defensive barrier. It is the spell of shielding she cast forth to try and protect Fate Testarossa from her mother's wiles. That day, it failed her; today, it holds strong, and the shining flame blasts into the points of light, searing them from existence as they pound towards Masque Feu. The motes of light hit the shield itself and fade away.
The flame dies. Masque Feu leaves her hand held level, her eyes fixed upon the Lost Logia. "You cannot warn me not to stand beside my friends, Citadel-san," she declares in a voice crisp and stern. "I know Lera Camry, now. I know that her heart is good. And if you choose to side with a man who would hurt her, even when his dishonour is laid bare before you..."
She closes her eyes. "Then forgive what I am about to do."
Sliding her heels apart, Masque Feu raises her right hand into the air. Atop her finger, a spark of the Blessed Flame dances, whirling and undulating, almost like a mass of gelatin. "Clingfire Spread," she calls out in an echoing voice. "Burn away dishonour and leave only truth...!"
With a deft flick, she grasps the writhing ball of fire in her hand. She reels back and lets fly with the fireball, a howitzer-like pitch - but as the fireball flies, the force of its flight tears it apart into a hundred little sparks. Or rather, not sparks - /droplets./ The Blessed Flame has taken on the form of a blazing liquid, like napalm.
Masque Feu attempts to splatter that fireball against Citadel - and where it strikes, the flame will cling and begin to spread, to try and weaken the Lost Logia's vast body like an armour-eating parasite of some kind.
COMBAT: Masque Feu has used Clingfire Spread on Citadel. COMBAT: Masque Feu has finished attacking. COMBAT: Citadel narrowly braces Masque Feu's Clingfire Spread, taking 13 Fatigue damage! Stagger applied to Citadel!
The strange attack literally destroys the Fire Knight! Or something similar. Because she's left down on the ground after all is said and done. But she does still get back up, since she is the Magic Knight of Fire, and as long as she can fight, she has the will to fight burning within her! She won't be defeated that easily! She stares at the enemy and yells, "You did well then, but you'll need more than that!"
The Magic Knight of Fire doesn't use a bow like her ally the Wind Knight, but she can still conjure magic arrows like her ally. She does so in the form of a flaming arrow, before shooting it at the enemy.
COMBAT: Hikaru Shidou has used Fire Arrow on Citadel. COMBAT: Hikaru Shidou has finished attacking. COMBAT: Fuu Hououji accepts Fuu Hououji's Winds of Healing, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Cleanse! All of Fuu Hououji's debuffs are cleared! COMBAT: Fate Testarossa accepts Fuu Hououji's Winds of Healing, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Cleanse! All of Fate Testarossa's debuffs are cleared!
"No, you kicked me off a building," Lera corrects Jaren. "You didn't kill me. You tried, but..." She cracks a smile. "...looks like I've got friends I know I can count on."
The bolts of silver light come flying at Lera -- and she demonstrates that she suddenly has far more speed than she used to. The girl does a sudden, sharp turn and the bolts of silver energy slam into the building behind her, sending cracks through it. Her teeth grit together, as Citadel makes the skies light up.
Ten thousand points of light rain down -- and Lera does a sharp turn, tucking her arms into a barrel roll -- and does a tight twist, only barely emerging unscathed. She gasps, staring down at Sky. He pulses with red light; it might be pride. Then, she turns to look at Fate. She sees the spells hit her.
"Fate, you okay?" she asks.
After all of that, she looks back at Jaren. The bronze sword flashes, light crackling up it. <Ground. Is this really what you want to do? You didn't want to push it this far.> While her Device speaks, Lera goes flying in towards Jaren. She does another barrel roll, leaving a slash of red-orange light in the air in her wake.
She glances at Fuu -- then grins and shoots her a thumbs-up, while the light washes over her.
"JAREN!" she yells. "Everything you've done here is selfish! We don't have any right to come to this world, to hurt the people here, and to lie and cheat and steal from others! Just like you're doing to poor Citadel, y'know?" Lera raises her Device-sword, swinging it back over her shoulder. "C'mon, Sky! Let's show him what we can do!"
<With pleasure, my master!> Soaring Sky chimes. <Inferno Slasher!>
Lera closes the distance between Jaren in the blink of an eye. Her sword wheels around, as a Midchildan magical circle flashes up underneath her feet. The energy field explodes around the double-edged sword -- and she chops it down. An edge of plasma explodes off the blade, then erupts straight into the air. The jagged explosion shoots directly at Jaren.
COMBAT: Lera Camry has used Inferno Slasher on Jaren Zastava. COMBAT: Lera Camry has finished attacking.
The girl who had sent out the call to the Tuners retrieves something from that man Jaren, and falls only to transform. Cure Sword doesn't look down as Lera hurtles towards the ground, but she has to force herself not to. It's a relief when she appears again, flying in midair. She and that blonde girl seem to have Jaren well in hand, and Citadel is a rather *angry* sapient artifact, so it's not wise for her to let her guard down.
Case in point: a magical boy whom Sword doesn't know has his own sapient artifact tell Citadel something interesting, to which Citadel reacts poorly. From there, it sheds a million points of light. Sword cries out from the brilliance, unsuccessfully attempting to shield her eyes against it, and in the same movement sweeps her fingers on her Lovely Commune. Light of her own formulates in spade-like daggers, and she hurls them back towards Citadel in retaliation. She leaps back, landing by instinct as explosions go off around her, battering her as she holds her ground. When the deluge ends, she lowers her arm. Her vision is spotty--very spotty--but she can still manage.
"Cure Sword, are you all right?" squeaks a voice at her hip.
"I'm fine," she lies, blinking rapidly. She can at least make out basic shapes, and Citadel's is very unmistakeable. "Let's go, Davi!"
With a practice twist of the hand, Sword sets a Cure Lovead into the face of her Lovely Commune, which sparkles with an even greater light. "Davi de Davi de Davi~!" the cat-like face in it calls as luminescence swirls up around Sword's hand.
"Radiant Spade!!" she calls, hurling an even greater of magical daaggers towards the Lost Logia, aimed for its weak points... if she can manage to see well enough, or unleash a lucky enough throw, to locate them, anyway.
COMBAT: Cure Sword has used Radiant Spade on Citadel. COMBAT: Cure Sword has finished attacking.
Fiat Silver's head turns to look towards Fate and -- "Ah? A - Cure Sword?" she says, as that dramatic entrance from the blade of cure-age slams inwards.
She can also hear Stern drop some harshness. <Oh dear,> Silver Scorpion mutters. But perhaps more poignant is when Lera strikes out - and reclaims what is hers! Fiat Silver smiles... and Citadel begins talking again, imposingly. He addresses Jaren, who seems occupied in protesting the reclamation of his stolen goods, and -
- and - Citadel, who...
There is a sudden, shining, screaming ray of light. It arcs outwards, piercing forwards. Ten thousand points of light scream out their judgment --
Fiat Silver rises, back contorted, twisting around! "Wh-what kind of a power is this?! If we hadn't moved, I would have more holes in me than a plate of late night yakitori!" (Lilian likes yakitori.)
<This is the power of a Lost Logia... I am astounded that there have been so many, madame! Mi - er- our fellows chose well, I suppose, if we must be inclined in this course of trade,> Silver Scorpion muses aloud.
"But I'm not interested in seizing control of such things!" Fiat Silver cries.
<We have a platoon of potent warriors with us. Strike without fear, Fiat Silver!>
Fiat Silver's lips thin, and she rights herself, raising up the baton and bracing it on her armored glove, targetting downwards towards Citadel as he is, perhaps, occupied in devouring the Magic Knights and swallowing their souls. "Grenadier mode!"
<Engage.> "Capacitors to full. Target is there... the range is clear...!"
The baton twinkles. Inside of it, the spell takes form, resting in hidden nooks within as the spiralling shape of the aiming disk-platen takes form. "Scorpio Seven!" Fiat Silver proclaims as the disk widens and brightens, before contracting with sudden speed-- and a shrieking bombardment of just over half a dozen jeweled sapphires of refulgent splendor arc down towards the Lost Logia! Upon impact, they explode in splendid prismatic light... and, well, also explosions, which are the real point of the operation.
COMBAT: Fiat Silver has used Scorpio Seven on Citadel. COMBAT: Fiat Silver has finished attacking.
<THEN YOU TOO MUST BE BROKEN.>
Endo's hand rises, sword raised between himself and the flash of light that Citadel sends shooting his way in ire. The barrier that forms around him is a quick and shaky thing, the blast throwing him back and sending him stumbling with a cry of, "That's not what I meant when I said talk to it!"
Endo pauses when Lera flares to light above, the boy squinting up at his friend and Fate taking on Jaren. She's got Sky back! And she's all shiny, that's a good sign.
What isn't a good sign is all that light. Endo grits his teeth, grips his device, and goes forward. Towards the light! It hurts. The point of his device is stretched forward, shearing through some of the energy, others raking across his barrier jacket and burning into his skin. Still, he slams into the hulking figure of Citadel nonetheless.
And, once he's there, he can deliver a more powerful blow. The boy brings his weapon in two great circles, huge cleaves coming at the side of the giant beast, trails of purple light left burning in their wake.
COMBAT: Endo Naoki has used Radial Velocity on Citadel. COMBAT: Endo Naoki has finished attacking. COMBAT: Citadel fails to counter Hikaru Shidou's Fire Arrow, taking 21 Fatigue damage! COMBAT: Citadel's counterattack, 'More Than That', fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Hikaru Shidou! COMBAT: Citadel narrowly braces Cure Sword's Radiant Spade, taking 13 Fatigue damage! Citadel is Quipped! COMBAT: Citadel narrowly dodges Endo Naoki's Radial Velocity, taking 30 Fatigue damage! COMBAT: Citadel narrowly braces Fiat Silver's Scorpio Seven, taking 22 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit!
Of course, talking to Citadel has not yielded much luck since his first appearance thus far. Not that Ren herself has particularly tried with all her focus previously having been on Jaren. She flies off to the side as other attacks join hers in battering the disgruntled Lost Logia. She knows his resistance is absurdly high so they can't expect to down him this early. It's going to take an ongoing effort. As long as they keep hitting him and don't let up...
Stern (wisely? foolishly?) makes direct contact with Citadel during all of this -- and sets off the Logia mighty fiercely. Ren can feel the oncoming storm before it even materializes -- the ten thousand lights barreling down on Citadel's aggressors. She begins to weave about, throwing up a shield that wavers under the continued barrage. It breaks at one point, the explosion sending Ren reeling backwards, though she manages to regain her balance before slamming into any structures or the ground itself. Her barrier jacket is smoking, patches of it burned in places, and the shock is clear on her face. Citadel packs a punch!
"Alright Heraut. We're gonna have to avoid getting hit like that from now on." The device chimes in response. <AGREED. EVASIVE MANEUVERS ARE IN ORDER.> Indeed they are, though Ren isn't sure how long she'll be able to play keep-away like that. "Right then! Always keep moving!" She bolts forward again like before, doing a barrel roll as she flies under Citadel, leaving a jet of bronze light in her wake that cuts into the underside of the Logia. She rights herself as she speeds out from behind, kicking off part of the red tower to bound up higher into the air, keeping to her professed strategy.
<NEW SIGNATURE DETECTED. IT IS FAMILIAR.> Heraut says once Ren gets up high. "What?" And then she sees Lera. And... Soaring Sky?! But something is different. And new. Oh so very new. Ren's face breaks out into a smile as she mentally shoots her friend a message: <<Lera-chan! Sky-kun! Do your best!>> COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has used Arc Cutter on Citadel. COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has finished attacking.
Fate Testarossa had marked Jaren Zastava as strong, long ago. A threat. Which is what had led to their previous agreement of non-aggression after he'd came into possession of a jewel seed. A fissure of energy strikes her, a loud grunt coming from her throatas it impacts her auto-protection spells, energy chipping away like little chunks of glass as it strikes through and grazes holes in her barrier jacket as it forces her down into a hole in the ground.
The follow up is no less brutal. Twisted metal and earth rising up from the same ground to try to pierce her from behind. A quick ascent as a golden blur cause what might have been a brutal impact to be a glancing blow instead, tearing through her fluttering cape to dig a small tear near her spine.
But Jaren is only one threat. The Guardian of Ten Thousand Points is arguably even more of one. Her eyes follow the ten thousand pinpricks of light as they shine brightly, many breaking away to arc towards her in her flight. <Incoming!> She suddenly brakes into a half turn, a palm sweeping outward. "Do your best." She whispers to her partner, <Always. Defenser!>
A runic field appears in her palm, expanding outwards, the lights slamming against the barrier one by one, raising a large cloud of smoke and flashing light that causes her to briefly disappear against the bombardment of energy bleeding along the edges of her shield. She takes a quick breath, relieved that the field held, before clearing the smoke with a sweep of Bardiche.
'Fate, you okay?' A smile upon her lips as she sees the results of her work as Lera rases, with her new Barrier Jacket, reunited with her partner. "We did it. They're together again." <As it should be.> She wasn't entirely used to people asking after her welfare, so it takes her a moment to respond to the actual question, "I'm fine. I'm perfectly fine." Yet it is still a reflexive denial. She's obviously not fine. She had gotten pounded out there.
She takes a moment longer to take stock at the situation, having been entirely focused on her task before, as she now looks upon those gathered upon the others and at Masque Feu in particular as she calls out to Citadel. There's a small sound from her throat, of surprise perhaps. "Be careful, please." A beat, "Longing for home can make anyone desperate and dangerous."
Fiat Silver, Ren, and Endo also get looks, eyes clouding over for a moment from guilt. Which is when the winds of healing wash over her. It feels like a cool breeze along her back, causing her hair and twintails to whip up. The Magic Knight of Wind gets a look, like she was shocked to receive any aid at all.
She shakes her head, thinking that it would perhaps be a grave error to not focus on the battle, and suddenly Bardiche shifts, <Scythe Form>
Shifting with surprising alacrity, a curved blade of energy erupting from his head. She dives downward in the wake of Lera's explosive slash, admiring her swordwork, as she tries to bring her partner to bear against his barrier jacket with a powerful cut across his back and flanks. <Scythe Slash> "You underestimated her." She says softly, her only rebuttal to all that Jaren had said.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Scythe Slash on Jaren Zastava. COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has finished attacking. COMBAT: Citadel narrowly dodges Ren Aizawa's Arc Cutter, taking 10 Fatigue damage! Stagger applied to Citadel! COMBAT: Jaren Zastava narrowly braces Lera Camry's Inferno Slasher, taking 17 Fatigue damage! Lera Camry is Psyched! Jaren Zastava's Block ability activates! Jaren Zastava's Parry ability activates! COMBAT: Jaren Zastava narrowly counters Fate Testarossa's Scythe Slash, taking 6 Fatigue damage! Jaren Zastava's Reverse ability activates! Jaren Zastava's Tactician ability activates! COMBAT: Jaren Zastava's counterattack, Mantle Witness, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Fate Testarossa!
Fate and Lera. Jaren's teeth are grinding so hard he can barely hear. This is ridiculous. How do they keep getting BACK UP? But...well. This is what it is now.
With him facing down death, because he couldn't handle four people who aren't among them /half/ the professionals he's handled with no problem. He doesn't get it. But he gets some satisfaction out of watching the Ten Thousand Points released. "No, Citadel," he says, with grit teeth. "I have my orders. I'm not to return without them." Muttered. He knows Citadel can /and will/ force this if he goes down again. And if that happens, he's done.
Then he's on the defensive. Lera's moving faster than she should be after a direct hit from Stone Torch. Fate's moving faster than she should be after he attempted to snap her in half. Another one of their support wizards. Maybe he should've started with that one, he thinks; a quick move, thrusting Groun forward. The shimmering field of <PROTECTION.> absorbs Lera's hit, but forces Jaren to give an inch of ground; Jaren sees Fate's incoming slash, and swings back in counter; a bolt of light races away from the sweeping warhammer to slam into her Bardiche and force it away while Broken Ground grunts, <MANTLE WITNESS.>
Jaren breathes. "I didn't underestimate ANYONE," he spits. "I've trashed you brats a thousand times! I know JUST what you're capable of! You're NOTHING! But you still KEEP. GETTING. UP! So I'm going to KEEP. PUTTING YOU. DOWN!"
Broken Ground doesn't immediately respond, beeping in silent response to Sky. <...I MUST SERVE.> is his response, in the end, and then: <MAGMATIC CRASH.>
"Good choice," Jaren spits, and swings hard for Fate, who has the misfortune to be closer at the moment; the warhammer misses, but a spiraling Midchildan circle forms where the warhammer's head stops, and then releases a screaming torrent of dirty light into her face.
Jaren whips toward Lera, then, and holds Ground aloft again. "Now, for you," he growls. "I've put you down once. I guess I didn't play for keeps /enough/, eh? Ground, crush her."
Ping. <MOUNTAIN CRASHER.>
Jaren sweeps the device up, magic power fluttering his long coat, and for a second the only thing visible is flickering light. Until one of the statues from the parks below shoots into range and slams toward Lera with intent to just crush her into the biggest and most painful-looking building Jaren can find.
COMBAT: Jaren Zastava has used Magmatic Crash on Fate Testarossa. COMBAT: Jaren Zastava has used Mountain Crasher on Lera Camry. COMBAT: Jaren Zastava has finished attacking.
The light, riotous and destructive, fades. In its wake, those who dared to stand against the Guardian of Ten Thousand Points...still stand. The dragon-wolf Logia pauses a moment, tail flicking back and forth - how long has it been since it was forced to act? How long has it slumbered, since it became lost?
Fire splashes against one side - and remains, hissing and clinging with Masque Feu's regrets. Fire flies from another side, punching through the light-wing flicked out to meet it. Spades and jewels, shining brilliantly, rain down in a brief but inescapable barrage - repeated impacts driving the Logia ever back. Finally, Ren and Endo rush in, blades crossing as they pass - and ancient armoured plates scream in protest. Steam seethes from Citadel's jaws - and finally, it abandons the sigil it was empowering.
For all that it stands as an indomitable fortress, a stationary guardian...when Citadel of the Ten Thousand Points chooses to move, it moves swiftly. Trailing the flames that still cling to it, it rushes Hikaru and Feu, turning swiftly to lash out with a great, armoured, and whip-like tail - one that cleaves through several signs on its way to them. It continues on a wild charge, claws lashing out as it pounces from location to location, from Fuu to Ren before sliding to a halt before Endo, teeth bared before lashing out. "I SHALL NOT!" Fiat Silver and Cure Sword, who had bombarded it from a distance, are answered by the ancient creature inhaling deeply...and unleashing a rainbow stream of energy from its maw.
Resplendent in the corona from its brilliant blitz, Citadel roars out another challenge. "I STAND BY ALL MY OATHS AND PROMISES - THAT I WILL RETURN TO GUARD MY HOME! NOTHING ELSE, NOT YOUR LIVES, NOR THIS TOWER, NOR THIS FOOL OF A MAGE - NONE OF IT MATTERS BEFORE MY DUTY!" Golden light shines from the very ground, pleadingly reaching to distant forgotten heavens as the power continues to gather...
COMBAT: Citadel has used Raging Dragon Tail on Hikaru Shidou. COMBAT: Citadel has used Unbroken Guardian on Masque Feu. COMBAT: Citadel has used Enemies of the World on Fuu Hououji. COMBAT: Citadel has used Enemies of the World on Ren Aizawa. COMBAT: Citadel has used Enemies of the World on Endo Naoki. COMBAT: Citadel has used Prismatic Breath on Cure Sword. COMBAT: Citadel has used Prismatic Breath on Fiat Silver. COMBAT: Citadel has used Ancient Guardian on Citadel. COMBAT: Citadel has finished attacking. COMBAT: Citadel accepts Citadel's Ancient Guardian, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Citadel is Reinforced by Citadel! COMBAT: Masque Feu narrowly dodges Citadel's Unbroken Guardian, taking 11 Fatigue damage! Citadel is Psyched! Masque Feu's Flash ability activates! COMBAT: Ren Aizawa fails to dodge Citadel's Enemies of the World, taking 26 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! COMBAT: Fuu Hououji fails to brace Citadel's Enemies of the World, taking 20 Fatigue damage! Stun applied to Fuu Hououji! COMBAT: Hikaru Shidou narrowly dodges Citadel's Raging Dragon Tail, taking 17 Fatigue damage! COMBAT: Lera Camry fails to dodge Jaren Zastava's Mountain Crasher, taking 29 Fatigue damage! Stun applied to Lera Camry! COMBAT: Fiat Silver narrowly dodges Citadel's Prismatic Breath, taking 25 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Fiat Silver's Fade ability activates! Fiat Silver's Flash ability activates! Stagger applied to Fiat Silver! COMBAT: Cure Sword narrowly braces Citadel's Prismatic Breath, taking 9 Fatigue damage! Cure Sword's Block ability activates! Cure Sword's Parry ability activates! COMBAT: Fate Testarossa narrowly counters Jaren Zastava's Magmatic Crash, taking 5 Fatigue damage! Jaren Zastava is Psyched! Fate Testarossa's Reverse ability activates! Fate Testarossa's Tactician ability activates! COMBAT: Fate Testarossa's counterattack, Bright Clash, partially gets through, doing 16 Fatigue damage to Jaren Zastava! COMBAT: Endo Naoki fails to brace Citadel's Enemies of the World, taking 17 Fatigue damage! Stun applied to Endo Naoki!
<<You bet, Ren-chan!>> Lera answers telepathically. She can't risk a look back at her, being up in Jaren's face, but there is a grin as she completes her spell. <<Try to help Citadel! Stern's right!>>
She recoils backward, when the strike slams into a barrier. Lera bounces back, hovering in the air just off the ground. Her eyes flicker sideways at Fate for a moment, before she looks back towards Jaren. She starts to open her mouth to retort -- and then the statue tears from its base and flies into Lera. It slams into her before Sky can get a barrier up, smashing the girl hard into the copper-colored wall of a nearby office building.
The building's facade cracks; the statue crumbles apart into chunks, and Lera falls down, briefly to a knee, breathing hard. She brushes some rubble and debris from her hair. "Yeah," she says, "I keep getting back up. It's annoying, isn't it?"
She glances once at Fate. Then she grins. She heard what she told Jaren.
<Gladiator Form.> With that chime from Sky, the Intelligent Device splits into paired sabers. She swings them both up, taking a deep breath, and glances briefly at Citadel. She remembers what Usagi told her. She considers, for a moment, then she looks back at Jaren. She goes running forward, charging straight at him.
She can help Citadel in a moment.
She leaps as she gets closer to him. A Midchildan circle erupts underneath her feet as she goes airborne, and does a midair pivot, before she comes down while leading with her left sword. A trail of red-orange is left in its wake. <Rapid Skyfall!> Lera slashes the sword straight down.
"It's because I don't accept what you're trying to do!" she shouts. "I'm not gonna let you just wreck all these peoples' homes and lives, y'know!"
The sword in her right hand lashes out, swinging up for Jaren's chest. Then, she does a turn on her right heel, and stabs the saber-like weapon in her left hand, stabbing it right for him with a fencer's grace.
COMBAT: Lera Camry has used Rapid Skyfall on Jaren Zastava. COMBAT: Lera Camry has finished attacking.
The Magic Knight of Wind staggers, letting out a cry of pain, and struggles to right herself again without falling flat on her face. "We don't seek to prevent your return, Citadel-san!" she calls out. "We ask only that you leave Tokyo Tower where it is - surely you don't need to take the structure if you only need the power that flows beneath the ground!"
A piece of her really does not want to stay focused on Citadel - it's Jaren who's the real source of the problem; Citadel just got co-opted like any hacked computer and is taking orders from the wrong source. And there's a corner of the Wind Knight's mind which wants to latch onto that, to focus on trying to break Jaren's control ... but Citadel is still the major source of enemy damage, and if the Wind Knight doesn't help contain that threat, this is going to end very badly.
"I'm sorry to have to play rough ... Winds of Admonishment!!" the green-clad Magic Knight calls out, conjuring the winds again - this time in the form of a tornado to enclose and hopefully restrain Citadel. She's done this before - to little effect, admittedly - but she's trying again ... if she could just figure out how he channels magic through the ground to make beams erupt sometimes, she might be able to do even better. As it is, though? Citadel HAS wings, and the Wind Knight is trying to use that fact to her advantage as she struggles to confine the artifact ...
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Admonishment on Citadel. COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has finished attacking.
'Be careful, please!'
Masque Feu's eyes widen - and she looks up towards Fate, breath catching a bit. "I'll be careful, Fate-chan," she calls back with as much confidence as she can muster. "Please take care of yourself...!"
That massive tail rips through street signs and markers, bound for magical girls - and Masque Feu sucks in a breath. She throws herself into the air, twisting, lunging, spinning over that heavy tail lash. It cuts close; she eludes the swing by a hair, enough that she can't quite nail the landing, coming down awkwardly on her left heel and wincing as a jolt of pain shoots up from her foot through her calf. She stumbles a little, pivoting to her other leg and wheeling away for a second's relief.
She doesn't stop to think. She turns and levels a finger at Citadel - and her eyes flash with a spark of anger behind her mask. "To return home at any cost?" she questions, her voice loud and ringing. "To cast yourself upon the tender mercies of a man with no heart? To take this tower and the livelihoods of innocents with you? To leave a trail of hurt in your wake? That is not the duty of a just being!"
With a swift leap, Masque Feu lunges towards the top of a piece of scenery - a lamppost. She bounds from there to the edge of a nearby building.
Her hair streams around her as she snaps her finger towards Citadel again.
"Those are the actions of /a being with no honour!/ And I /know/ that is not who you are--!"
COMBAT: Masque Feu has used Maria-Sama Is Watching on Citadel. COMBAT: Masque Feu has finished attacking.
The Fire Knight tries to get out of the way, but it's no use. She isn't quick enough and the attack gets part of her, causing her to fall to the ground mid-dodge, although this time it's not as bad as it previously was. Still, the girl struggles to get up nonetheless. For some reason the injuries she's sustained during this fight are more serious than what she's used to. Even her armor hasn't helped fully this time around. Nevertheless, the burning desire to fight keeps her pushing on, as well as the indirect encouragement provided by the Wind Knight's presence.
"Don't be sorry we have to play rough!" The Magic Knight of Fire calls to her comrade, before she raises her sword and imbues it with the power of fire. "We have to do this! We have no other choice!" She then sends forth the flames with a slash of her sword.
COMBAT: Hikaru Shidou has used Flaming Slash on Citadel. COMBAT: Hikaru Shidou has finished attacking.
Fiat Silver's eyes cut back at the Inferno Slasher, brighter, fancier - is it? She can't quite tell. Lera's reconnection with her Device, though... it warms her heart to see.
<Eyes up!> Silver Scorpion says. Fiat Silver's eyes do in fact go up, a moment before Citadel moves fast and swift and bellows forth with a rainbow road of storming force. It catches Fiat Silver, sends her tumbling --
But before she can reach the ground, she lashes out with a rippling ribbon of force, catches part of Tokyo Tower, and swings herself round!
And promptly gets stuck in between several of the metal struts, but she tried, and that's what counts.
"Where is your home? You have spoken of it a thousand times. Ten thousand times! What is the NAME of your home, you great gallumphing gallot!" Fiat Silver says, with a little petulance as she unlimbers herself and lashes out with that whiplike streak of blue. At this range it's kind of marginal but it DOES make an impressive crack! sound.
COMBAT: Fiat Silver has used Scorpio Telson on Citadel. COMBAT: Fiat Silver has finished attacking.
Overhearing her name, Cure Sword looks over towards Fiat Silver. Her grave, serious expression doesn't change, nor does she say anything overtly, but if Silver is paying attention, Sword does look at her long enough--and with a slight enough tilt of the head--that it might be taken as an acknowledgement.
Sheesh, it's like she's an intense loner or something.
But that's as much acknowledging as she does. Cure Sword is peripherally aware of the others in the area--Fate and Lera's battle against Jaren, the Wind Knight and her friend, Masque Feu, Ren and Endo--but the bulk of her concentration is on the enemy. And indeed, although she hadn't anticipated on empathizing with this strange entity, she finds she understands how it must feel.
'I stand by all my oaths and promises that I will return to guard my home!' it says.
For an instant no longer than the flash of a shooting star, sympathy flickers in her eyes. Then the lasers fall, and Cure Sword stands her ground, crossing her arms before her to defend herself. Pain sears through them as the Lost Logia's power falls, and concrete piles under her heels as she's forced back.
But still, she stands. And what Masque Feu says is true. No matter how great the duty, one cannot betray one's core precepts. How would doing otherwise reflect on what one guards? And if what this creature guards wouldn't /care/, then... it remains her enemy after all. (Never mind that that's not *quite* what Feu is trying to say.)
"I have my own duty," she announces back to Citadel, "and to allow you to do as you will would jeopardize it. If you'll fight to the end to return home, then I'll fight to the end to protect who I love!"
To protect this city where she is.
With a great upwards leap, Cure Sword twists in midair, then begins to fall heel-first, one leg tucked up underneath her, one leg pointed straight out for Citadel, with perhaps surprising strength. "Pretty Cure KICK!" she shouts as she hurtles in towards it.
COMBAT: Cure Sword has used Pretty Cure Kick on Citadel. COMBAT: Cure Sword has finished attacking. COMBAT: Citadel narrowly braces Fuu Hououji's Winds of Admonishment, taking 7 Fatigue damage! Fuu Hououji is Psyched! Trap applied to Citadel! COMBAT: Citadel fails to counter Hikaru Shidou's Flaming Slash, taking 20 Fatigue damage! COMBAT: Citadel's counterattack, Wing Beat, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Hikaru Shidou! COMBAT: Citadel narrowly braces Cure Sword's Pretty Cure Kick, taking 6 Fatigue damage! Cripple and Stagger applied to Citadel! COMBAT: Citadel fails to dodge Masque Feu's Maria-Sama Is Watching, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Citadel is Quipped! COMBAT: Citadel narrowly braces Fiat Silver's Scorpio Telson, taking 6 Fatigue damage! Diversion and Exhausted applied to Citadel!
Endo raises his weapon to meet Citadel's claws, but the huge machine swats him aside like a fly. The knight goes tumbling through the air, cape aflutter, body crashing against one of the more solid edges of the barrier. He flops against the ground after that, sliding down the barrier and slumping into a pile.
He picks himself up. Slowly. "Ah-listen...I know you want to go home, big thing, but we can't let you take a chunk of Tokyo with you! That's too much!"
<IT IS UNFORTNATE.> Stern agrees.
So, Endo does his own duty. No matter how unfortunate it may be. But if he can stop the beast, maybe it'll see reason. He uses his sword to do it, blurring into motion and rushing forward, the device boosting him back toward the fight so he can cleave toward its head.
COMBAT: Endo Naoki has used Blueshift on Citadel. COMBAT: Endo Naoki has finished attacking.
Unforutnately, being high up in the sky doesn't seem to deter Citadel from striking back. Ren sees him coming and tries to feint off to the left, but isn't quick enough, ultimately. With a yelp she's clipped by his massive claw swipe, and is unceremoniously sent spiraling down into the ground headfirst. She barely has time to raise her arms up to brace for the impact, hitting with enough force to leave a Ren-sized indention in the asphalt. Smoke wafts up from the destroyed area, and for a moment there is silence.
...Then, coughing. As the smoke clears to show a thoroughly battered Ren on one knee now it's clear she's beginning to feel the fatigue of the battle. Citadel is /so/ strong. Those hits are plain nasty. Is this the true might of Belka? It's overwhelming! A thoroughly battered Ren is on one knee now, starting to feel the fatigue of the battle catching up with her. "No. Not now..." She grimaces, pounding a fist into the cracked ground beneath her. "Lera-chan is fighting so hard. Endo-kun too. And everyone else. I can't..." Tears begin to prickle at her eyes, blurring her vision. She reaches up to wipe them away in frustration, chest heaving as she attempts to stop herself from completely breaking down.
<YOUR MAJESTY. DO NOT DESPAIR.> Heraut speaks evenly, shaking Ren out of her despair. The girl's eyes widen then as the scepter begins to glow, shrinking down within her grip until it completely disappears.
"...Heraut?" She questions in a shaky voice, slowly climbing to her feet. It's clear there's something in her hand, and upon unfolding it a single yellow gem is revealed, still glowing with the same energy as before. The gem then floats up out of her palm, spinning slowly as it comes to a rest in front of her. Heraut chooses this moment to speak once again.
<...I WILL COMBINE MY CORE WITH YOUR OWN AND UNLEASH A NEW POWER. IT WILL BE DANGEROUS, BUT...> His worry is clear, Ren easily able to pick up on it. Her face softens, the light of the gem reflected within her eyes. "I trust you completely, Heraut. You know that. I can handle anything as long as you're with me."
The gem pulses magnificently as it moves towards her. <AFFIRMATIVE. CORE FUSION INITIATED.> The gem continues moving until it touches her chest, where it proceeds to sink inside.
Ren's Linker Core reacts to the merger, and the girl brings both of her now clapsed-together hands up, eyes closed. In an instant there's a flash, and ribbons of gold spinning around her as a new barrier jacket is knitted into existence onto Ren's form -- a double-breasted frock coat with pronounced shoulder pads, a billowing silk cape with tassels hanging from the edges and a stylized fleur-de-lis etched into its center, a pair of studded gauntlets made of heavy leather, durable pinstripe breeches with stitched in leather padding at the knees, and sturdy lace-up ankle boots. The colors are a mixture of burgundy, purple, and gold, with several elements of her costume decked out in the finest of jewels rubies, emeralds, and diamonds. Perhaps the most stunning bit of all though is the glittering crown that sits on top of her head, made of polished white gold and overflowing with gems that constantly seem to glint and sparkle.
<MERGE COMPLETE.> Heraut sounds out within her mind, and Ren reopens her eyes to marvel in her newfound glory. Steam wafts up from her as she opens and closes her gloved palms. She feels strong. Unstoppable even. With a grin she looks up at Citadel -- who doesn't seem all that intimidating anymore. Ren takes a step forward, locking eyes with the tyrant. "I'm sorry... but you can't go home."
That is the only thing she says before kicking off the ground with enough force to kick up bits of ruined asphalt in her wake. Her body seems to blur and thrum with power as she just becomes a /comet/ that is on a full-on crash course with the hulking mecha-beast.
COMBAT: Ren Aizawa transforms into Barrier Jacket: Sovereign Mode! COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has used Zephyr Reach on Citadel. COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has finished attacking.
Fate hovers in front of Jaren, grounding herself purposefully to take a step into his guard, and twists into a vertical spin of her partner's Scythe form. The scythe blade strikes the head of the Warhammer, as she hooks it around the beard, and tries to leverage it backwards to turn it away, the energy strike shearing against his auto-protection spells.
Despite her efforts, she still catches the edge of the explosion from his strike, sending her leaping backwards with wisps of smoke wafting off of her barrier jacket. Fate replies softly, but not to Jaren at first, "You must serve, Broken Ground?"
She lets that linger for a moment, before adding, "I guess I understand why you feel that way. I know what it's like to choose to be used as a tool." Her eyes flicker with notable sadness at the thought. "But you don't have to live that way, if you want."
She hears Masque Feu speak to her, imploring her to take care of herself. "I'll try." She replies softly but at the same time considers herself a touch more expendable than the others. Her eyes harden as she looks at her opponent once more, "Maybe you have defeated her before but there's something different about her today. Haven't you noticed?"
She advances a step towards Jaren, before swinging Bardiche in several short slashing feints, his blade humming through the air, as she cuts wide in a brutal, upwards diagonal arc. A deception so that she'll seem like she's wide open.
Which is the exact moment her palm juts out, a runic circle within it. <Spark Edge> An sphere of energy forms in her hand, arcing like a plasma sphere. It collapses into a shower of sparks that wash over Jaren's barrier jacket... and she hopes, to give Lera the opening she needs. "She's stronger because she knows she doesn't have to prove herself by doing this alone anymore. She's allowing herself to rely on others a bit more."
There's a bit of affectionate amusement in her tone as she speaks again, "It only took her a bit longer than it did me to realize that she could." 'Thank you Nanoha. Everyone.' She thinks, to herself, just as she catches the bright comet that Ren has become out of the corner of her vision. It takes her breath away, and at the same time, makes her feel ashamed of what she'd done to the strong girl in all of their previous encounters
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Spark Edge on Jaren Zastava. COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has finished attacking. COMBAT: Jaren Zastava narrowly braces Fate Testarossa's Spark Edge, taking 1 Fatigue damage! Jaren Zastava's Block ability activates! Jaren Zastava's Parry ability activates! Diversion applied to Jaren Zastava! COMBAT: Jaren Zastava narrowly counters Lera Camry's Rapid Skyfall, taking 8 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Jaren Zastava's Reverse ability activates! Jaren Zastava's Tactician ability activates! COMBAT: Jaren Zastava's counterattack, Mantle Witness, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Lera Camry! COMBAT: Citadel narrowly dodges Endo Naoki's Blueshift, taking 19 Fatigue damage! COMBAT: Citadel fails to brace Ren Aizawa's Zephyr Reach, taking 11 Fatigue damage! Ren Aizawa is Psyched!
"Yes," Jaren spits, because /Lera did it again/. "Yes it is! You know how annoying it is, to have the things you think are finished KEEP UNFINISHING!? Of course you don't, Camry!"
He jabs a finger, and Broken Ground throbs, <MANTLE WITNESS.> "YOU NEVER FINISH ANYTHING!" Jaren screams, and that bolt of light races straight at Lera; it's not much, but it's enough to force Lera off-course, with a little extra juking from Jaren. He huffs a breath, ready to fire more, when Fate comes at him and tries to /take Ground away/. "Oh NO YOU DON'T!" Jaren shrieks, and is all too pleased when Broken Ground blasts the girl awway.
The Device doesn't respond to Fate's query, but Jaren does: "Yeah, where'd she get a second one from?" he wonders, scowling. "How the heck did she get better with a Device SHE DIDN'T EVEN HAVE!" EARTH PEOPLE ARE STUPID! EVEN MIDCHILDAN FAKE EARTH PEOPLE. ARGH. He thrusts a hand up at Fate's assault, snarling, "GROUND!" <PROTECTION.> The flickering barrier catches most of the Spark Edge, sparkling lights shattering against the field, but then he's stuck, watching the two girls uneasily. And at Fate's earnest, sincere words, all he can say is: "That's...what? That's stupid. Did you hear that on TV? That's dumb! Ground, I'm sick of both of them! Put them DOWN!" <SMASH. MAGMA RUPTURE.>
"Hah, ace choice, partner!" <...WE ARE THE STRONGEST TEAM.> "YOU!" Jaren laughs, as he holds Ground aloft; flickering light racing up and along its form, as a flickering ball of bright red energy forms above Ground's hammerhead, roiling and surging. "KNOW IT!"
And then it splits in two, hovering for a moment, before finally screaming down toward Lera and Fate both in flawless unison.
COMBAT: Jaren Zastava has used Magma Rupture on Lera Camry. COMBAT: Jaren Zastava has used Magma Rupture on Fate Testarossa. COMBAT: Jaren Zastava has finished attacking. COMBAT: Fate Testarossa fails to dodge Jaren Zastava's Magma Rupture, taking 29 Fatigue damage! COMBAT: Lera Camry narrowly braces Jaren Zastava's Magma Rupture, taking 5 Fatigue damage!
They still stand.
Howling winds buffet Citadel, catching on phantasmal wings - followed closely by Hikaru sneaking in a blazing swift strike while the creature is off-guard. As it struggles to return its feet to the ground, the guardian snarls. "AND YET, HERE YOU STAND - DEFYING ME, PREVENTING ME FROM FULFILLING MY DUTY!" It lashes out swiftly - its tail's reach far longer than that of its claws - and turns to the others.
Masque Feu speaks out, and the draconic head turns to face her with a ferocious glare. That glare softens, however, as she speaks of honour and duty. "...I REGRET IT. I WILL ASK THAT MY MASTERS AID IN RIGHTING THESE WRONGS - BUT I MUST...I MUST RETURN."
A whip-crack sounds against metal armour, and Citadel turns to face Fiat Silver next. That lost look in its eyes from its conversation with Masque Feu only deepens. "...YOU TRULY DO NOT KNOW? THE GLORY OF THE FORTRESS, THE TEN THOUSAND POINTS?...THE JEWEL OF THE BELKAN EMPIRE?..."
A kick from above, slamming down with enough force that the pavement beneath Citadel's claws shatters. Its tail whips around as it turns to face her, a snarl on its maw - but Cure Sword's words sink in, and those claws dig even deeper into the ground. "...AN IMPASSE. STAND BY YOUR DUTY AS YOU WILL - BUT KNOW THAT I CANNOT ABANDON MINE!"
Its gaze lashes around furiously as Endo charges, teeth bared to meet him and Stern as the blade clips it in the side once again. "THIS, FROM THE ONE WHO SPOKE OF BROKEN LANDS?! WHAT OF YOUR BELKAN PRIDE-"
There's a thump of a heartbeat, echoing through the magic of the area - magic to which Citadel is acutely aware. It turns as Ren's power blazes to life, as she shines like a star in her wild charge. "THAT - CANNOT BE-" She slams into the armor - rebounds off, rather than punching through - but Citadel staggers, all the same.
It's not even looking at Jaren. Whatever he may be, he's not worth the Lost Logia's attention at this moment.
The ancient guardian's stance is less tense than it was, less certain - and its tail lashes back and forth at a frantic pace. "...WHY. WHY GO TO SUCH EFFORTS FOR A SINGLE BUILDING, WHICH MAY BE REBUILT? WHY STAND AGAINST A GUARDIAN OF THE BELKAN EMPIRE, SEEKING TO THWART A SACRED DUTY?" Its wings begin to flap, shining brilliantly - and cascades of multichromatic energy waft forth from those beats. One wave, then a second, then a windstorm of shining light - and the Lost Logia shouts out almost desperately. "TELL ME! WHY DOES THIS WORLD NOT HONOUR THE WILL OF BELKA!?"
COMBAT: Citadel has used Unbroken Guardian on Fuu Hououji. COMBAT: Citadel has used Unbroken Guardian on Hikaru Shidou. COMBAT: Citadel has used Rainbow Beats on Endo Naoki. COMBAT: Citadel has used Rainbow Beats on Ren Aizawa. COMBAT: Citadel has used Rainbow Beats on Masque Feu. COMBAT: Citadel has used Rainbow Beats on Fiat Silver. COMBAT: Citadel has used Rainbow Beats on Cure Sword. 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 fails to counter Citadel's Rainbow Beats, taking 9 Fatigue damage! Diversion applied to Masque Feu! COMBAT: Masque Feu's counterattack, Quickie Red Bind, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Citadel! COMBAT: Ren Aizawa narrowly braces Citadel's Rainbow Beats, taking 3 Fatigue damage! Ren Aizawa's Block ability activates! Ren Aizawa's Parry ability activates! COMBAT: Fiat Silver fails to brace Citadel's Rainbow Beats, taking 8 Fatigue damage! COMBAT: Cure Sword narrowly counters Citadel's Rainbow Beats, taking 5 Fatigue damage! Cure Sword's Reverse ability activates! Cure Sword's Tactician ability activates! COMBAT: Cure Sword's counterattack, Sacred Dagger, partially gets through, doing 4 Fatigue damage to Citadel! COMBAT: Fuu Hououji narrowly dodges Citadel's Unbroken Guardian, taking 10 Fatigue damage! Citadel is Psyched! Fuu Hououji's Fade ability activates! Fuu Hououji's Flash ability activates! COMBAT: Hikaru Shidou fails to dodge Citadel's Unbroken Guardian, taking 18 Fatigue damage!
Hikaru tries to get out of the way, but she doesn't quite make it. She drops once again, and this time she doesn't quite get up that easily. She's obviously having difficulty standing on both legs, as one of them is definitely injured. With that she is forced to pull back. She gave her all but her all wasn't quite enough...
"Yeah, it's frustrating!" Lera shouts back at Jaren. She is forced to fly backward, while Jaren uses a defensive spell to fend off Fate's attack. "But you get up, and you try again! You figure out what you can do, y'know? And you figure out what makes you better, instead of REPEATING SOMETHING THAT ISN'T WORKING IN THE FIRST PLACE!"
The ball comes screaming down at Lera. She remembers what happened before, and she starts to bank around to outrace it. She realizes, though, that won't work. She opens her mouth--
--and Sky reads what she wanted before she can say it. A shimmering field of red-orange light forms, and the ball slams into that. It explodes off it, flaming billowing out before it can touch Lera. The girl wheels back around, to stare at Jaren, while she breathes hard and pants.
'If you'll fight to the end to return home, then I'll fight to the end to protect who I love!'
Lera turns her head to look at the Pretty Cure, before she shouts: "We have to stop him!" she yells. "He doesn't understand--Belka is gone! It was wiped out ages ago! I--I don't think he wants to hear it, but--"
There isn't a home for Citadel there. There isn't anything left of Ancient Belka.
She doesn't manage to finish that, though, because Ren does something she never heard of before. Lera turns her head to the side, staring briefly at Ren when she changes like that. She isn't sure, exactly, what happened; she knows enough that it's incredible. She opens her mouth, gasping softly, and then she stares while Ren goes screaming down at Citadel in a blur of fire and raw magical power.
Then she hears what Citadel yells; she turns to look at him. "Because... because Belka's gone, Citadel," she says. "It has been for ages. Longer than anyone here has been alive."
Then, she looks back at Jaren. Her eyes flicker to Fate, fighting so hard for her; then she thinks of Feu's kindness to the girl. She can't let her fight alone. She goes rocketing in, turning into a blur of red-orange light. She ends right in front of Jaren Zastava--
--or, rather, her foot does, slamming towards her chin at roughly a hundred miles per hour.
COMBAT: Lera Camry has used Sonic Kick on Jaren Zastava. COMBAT: Lera Camry has finished attacking.
Rainbows come to kill Masque Feu. She gasps and darts back as quickly as she can, snapping off a pair of coils of flame from her palms; they vanish into the rainbow wave harmlessly before it breaks across her. With a pained hiss, she throws her arm up to try and shield herself, to no avail; her hurt leg gives out, and she's driven to one knee in the shadow of the massive Lost Logia.
"This world is not subject to any other," the lone Soeur forces out. Her voice is low, but steely, a bulwark of determination. "The power I wield... is the power that protects the Earth. The power that preserves a world where all people live in peace under a shining sun and don't have to walk in fear. You speak of duty, honour...."
Throwing herself forward, Masque Feu plunges through the last of the rainbow wake, vaulting into the air again and coming down neatly balanced atop another lamppost. She holds one hand at waist level, the other above her head. "...But understand this," she calls, her voice resonant and clear, like a light in the dark. "I am Masque Feu, Soeur of the Blessed Flame - and /my/ duty is to protect this world and all who live in it. To stand with those like Lera Camry and Fate Testarossa, my /friends./ To help them when they are hurt, even though I do not understand their world, just as others stood by me when they did not understand my world. And that duty... is one I will not abandon!"
As she speaks, she sweeps her arms out in an arc, bringing them forward again with palms clamshelled. "Pure Spark!" she calls - and with the flame of her defiance shining brightly in those palms, it leaps into the air. Large fireballs pound forth in a heavy salvo, battering towards the Lost Logia with a sacred blessing. The power to purify the vampires of the night - but here, the power simply to stand with her friends.
COMBAT: Masque Feu has used Purespark Barrage on Citadel. COMBAT: Masque Feu has finished attacking. COMBAT: Endo Naoki fails to brace Citadel's Rainbow Beats, taking 12 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Diversion applied to Endo Naoki!
The Magic Knight of Wind flings herself to the side, her bow and quiver vanishing as she lands in a roll, coming to a halt and wincing as she gets back to her feet. "Sad to say, most of this world's natives are not acquainted with the Belka of which you speak, Citadel-san, but I should be glad to learn more of another world. For now, though ..."
She wills her legs to steady beneath her, and draws herself to her full (if unimpressive) height. "Like you, Citadel-san, many of us are guardians, charged with the well-being of this world and its people, or even of other worlds whose duties and quests brought us here. So too is Tokyo Tower a vital point - yes, it may be rebuilt, but a new structure in the same place would not possess the strengths that Tokyo Tower itself possesses, those traits which make it a unique and precious treasure to the people of this city."
She hasn't willed either of her weapons to manifest again, nor does she look as if she's going to.
"You clamor against being stranded in this world for thousands of years, and you seek more than anything to return to the Ten Thousand Points of which you are the guardian. If Tokyo Tower were to speak to us, if it were to display your power and your ancient wisdom and will ... would it not protest as much as you have? Would it not seek above all else to *stay here*, in the city where it was built, and to continue to serve its purposes as it was built - *born* - to do?"
Fuu is aware of several possible holes in her argument. Tokyo Tower is a building, even located as it is on the ley lines, but as far as she knows, it's not a sacred or enchanted artifact the way Citadel seems to be. Additionally, the purpose for which the Tower *WAS* openly built - to be a transmission tower for radio and television signals in the Tokyo area - has largely been superseded by the opening of Tokyo Sky Tree, some distance away. But it's Tokyo Tower itself which serves as the one currently-known 'bridge' between Tokyo and Cephiro; it was *here* that Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu were summoned from, and this was the place they returned to when Clef sent them back to begin growing in strength and skill and knowledge. Whether the Tower serves similar purposes for anyone else, she has no idea whatsoever.
But Citadel should have no way of knowing those things. For all the arcane automaton knows, Tokyo Tower *COULD* be a dormant guardian artifact, similar in nature to Citadel but hiding its power while at rest.
So ... yeah, it's a bluff. But the Magic Knight of Wind doesn't have much else to work with.
COMBAT: Jaren Zastava narrowly braces Lera Camry's Sonic Kick, taking 2 Fatigue damage! Lera Camry is Psyched! Jaren Zastava's Block ability activates! Jaren Zastava's Parry ability activates!
That long look from Cure Sword sticks with Fiat Silver after she's firmly perched in the eaves of the tower. "Why don't we use a sword..."
<...I am not optimized for combat at that ranges, as you well know,> Silver Scorpion says, stoutly.
And then... The fusion of cores bursts out. Fiat Silver's eyes widen behind her mask and her mouth hangs slightly open at the sight of such sheer and sparkling splendor at that presentation. She is, frankly, a bit jealous of Ren in this moment-- but only, in a purely and solely professional way.
But there is a greater problem at hand. Fiat Silver stares ahead. She has no immediate reply - and Silver Scorpion, however, does. <We are unfamiliar with such a place! Belka is practically mythological. Why, my former owners were in some cases of an opinion that it did not actually exist, and had been invented as a form of illustrating political theory-->
"This place may be reconstructable," Fiat Silver says, suddenly. "It is unusually simple in its basic design. Made of metal and wires... very utilitarian in a way... But if it was rebuilt, then it would not be the same place. And I do not intend to let you steal this away from the people of this world!"
Silver Scorpion hums electronically, with pride.
Of course, Citadel's polychromatic bombardment smashes upwards, and Fiat Silver topples out of her perch with an "Uk--!" But she is able to land neatly, and with a "hora!" of effort, the spell she's invented is invoked. Another burst of light radiates from the baton-wand of the Silver Scorpion's grenadier mode. It bounces, it skids -
It may seem like a misfire as it skips its way in between the Lost Logia's legs.
And then it erupts! Consuming itself in spiralling and stinging flame--!
COMBAT: Fiat Silver has used Scorpio Tortoise on Citadel. COMBAT: Fiat Silver has finished attacking.
Fate blinks at Jaren's accusation, "Huh?" A moment later, "TV are those picture boxes they watch from?" ... This child barely even knew what TV was other than sometimes seeing them displaying cheerful advertisements in stores. This fact will change soon.
As the ball of bright red energy comes to her, she flies away at high speed, intending to bank into a feint. When it splits however, she twists in just slightly the wrong direction. It hits her barrier jacket hard, sending her spinning towards the structure of the Tower itself, which she hits hard with a cry of pain and screech of metal. A few crossbeams and support bars are bent and twisted by the impact, which leaves her struggling to get up. But get up she does, hovering in the air trembling limbs and ragged breath.
A moment later, mana boils off of her in flashover waves like golden fire, a runic circle forming at her feet like an insubstantial platform she stands on. Through some great force of will, she manages to raise Bardiche heavensward. "Arcus Cultus Aegeas - heavenly gods that rise over all, descend upon us now." As she recites the words of the ritual spell, the sky growing ominously dark, as clouds manifest and swirl together, centered over her position.
There's a hum of electricity that permeates the atmosphere, and the distinct smell of ozone as the dark clouds flash. Her eyes look to the Guardian after a moment, looking sad, her words pained and not just from her injuries as she follows up on Lera's words, "For the same reason that Al-Hazard would not honor the will of my mother."
"It no longer exists. There is no home for you there any longer. Much like me, the only home you can have is the one you make for yourself." Her eyes close, "I'm so sorry. It's a little selfish, but I don't care much about this building. All I know is I won't let you hurt my friends who taught me important things like that anymore." Friends like Nanoha, Lera, Fiat Silver, and Masque Feu.
There's a sharp cry as she lowers Bardiche in a fierce swing that has none of the soft sentimentality or the sadness from before, merely resolution of two hearts joined in unison, <Thunder->"THUNDER-" <-Rage.> "-RAGE!"
Lightning descends, bolt after bolt upon Jaren and the Citadel, blanketing the pair with all of the wrath of a stormfront and the roar of numerous thunderclaps that seem to ignore the far bigger and more obvious lightning rod nearby.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Fate Testarossa has used Thunder Rage on Jaren Zastava. COMBAT: FINISHER! Fate Testarossa has used Thunder Rage on Citadel. COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has finished attacking.
<THAT PRIDE-> The gem at the hilt of Endo's sword flares, whirling in patterns, as if it's trying to process something. Something that doesn't make sense. <IT HAS DESTROYED US. IT WILL DESTROY YOU.>
Endo's momentarily distracted when Ren explodes in light, his eyes widening as she undergoes her transformation. "Aah! Ren-chan!" She's gone super-Ren! The sight of it bolsters him, as does Lera, the sight of Fate fighting on their side at last, and the rest of the magical girls that throw themselves against the war machine.
"Ren! You can do it!" She's got more of a chance than he does, at this point.
COMBAT: Endo Naoki has used Goooooo Ren! on Ren Aizawa. COMBAT: Endo Naoki has finished attacking. COMBAT: Ren Aizawa accepts Endo Naoki's Goooooo Ren!, taking 0 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Ren Aizawa is Reinforced by Endo Naoki! COMBAT: Jaren Zastava narrowly braces Fate Testarossa's Finisher, Thunder Rage, taking 34 Fatigue damage! Jaren Zastava's Block ability activates! Jaren Zastava's Parry ability activates! COMBAT: Citadel fails to brace Masque Feu's Purespark Barrage, taking 35 Fatigue damage! COMBAT: Citadel narrowly braces Fiat Silver's Scorpio Tortoise, taking 8 Fatigue damage! Diversion applied to Citadel! COMBAT: Citadel narrowly braces Fate Testarossa's Finisher, Thunder Rage, taking 49 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit!
Cure Sword rebounds off of Citadel's armor and lands on both feet. Her eyes narrow at its response. "I know," she calls back. She does know. If it were her, she would never abandon her duty. In that way, she almost feels sorry for Citadel; loyalty, in and of itself, isn't a bad trait to have.
But she overhears what Lera shouts to her about how Belka has already fallen, and her eyes widen. Come to think, hadn't that one boy's device said something about that? She hadn't heard it clearly, only seen how poorly Citadel had reacted, but now that she has this information--that's exactly what it had been talking about, hadn't it? Fate, too, speaks, though to Jaren, about how Lera is stronger because she doesn't have to fight alone anymore. Cure Sword's expression twists into something pained, something hurt and alone--but she shakes her head as if to cast it off.
Of course Citadel wouldn't want to hear it. Who ever wants to hear that their home has been destroyed and they were unable to protect it?
So what this world wants, why this world won't honor Belka's will, is beyond Sword's ability to comment upon. That isn't why she's here, anyway. She just can't allow this city to be potentially destroyed--after all, while Citadel speaks of only this one building, the Tuner Organization's message said it could be as much as the entire city or a chunk of Japan itself. Transporting all those people to a dead world would itself be a death sentence.
"I'm sorry," she murmurs, too low for most--perhaps anyone--to hear as the draconic artifact flaps its wings, sending forth torrents of rainbow light to sear down at them. Again, she counters with magical knives of light, some of which pock against the incoming attack and partially defending her from it. Some of them even make it thorugh, though she can't see how much damage, if any, they did. Cure Sword glances to one side when Ren transforms, impressed despite herself--however, not knowing her, she doesn't say anything. Instead, she sets a new Cure Lovead on her Lovely Commune and leaps again for Citadel.
"Twirl!" she calls, both hands glittering with light. Blades extend from each of them, then magically appear in the air around her as well. She wields each with equal skill, despite the fact that some are not technically being wielded, and she steps with sure footsteps in a certain pattern as she literally twirls into the Lost Logia point-first, each slash of each blade trailing brilliant lavender light. "SWORD DANCERRRR!"
Those who are both paying attention and are fans of Makopi might find the choreography oddly familiar.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Cure Sword has used Twirl! Sword Dancer on Citadel. COMBAT: Cure Sword has finished attacking. COMBAT: Citadel narrowly braces Cure Sword's Finisher, Twirl! Sword Dancer, taking 35 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit!
The hit she scores against Citadel is immensely satisfying. She's smiling like an idiot despite her attempt to remain focused and stone-faced. The power is making her feel /extremely/ giddy. And not to mention confident. With a flourish she flips into the air, over Citadel, and goes into a tumble at the end of which she lands perfectly on one of the upper rungs of the tower with a resounding CLANG.
"Heraut this is incredible! I... didn't think this was even possible!" She says, looking down at herself once again in awe. There's a mental ping inside of her head: Heraut. <IT IS A RARE TALENT THAT YOU POSSESS, YOUR MAJESTY. LIKE MY PREVIOUS MASTER...> At that Ren looks downcast for the next few moments, reflecting on the talk they had previously about the device's past. "I see. I won't make you go through that again, Heraut. I promise."
Her gaze returns to Citadel again, jumping into the air as he retaliates. The various barrier spells swirling around her person shield her from the bring of the Logia's wrath as she digests his words. Boldly, she spins around and moves to float in front of him at eye level.
"Citadel." She starts, addressing the mecha-wolf directly, eyes blazing. She hears Endo's encouragement from behind her, and it causes her chest to swell with pride. Everything she's fighting for comes to a head as she raises a single hand. As Fate launches a devestating attack on both Logia and Master, followed by an equally good show from Cure Sword, an incredibly large spear of fuzzy energy appears within her grasp. Calmly, she speaks again to Citadel: "I'm sorry."
<HAZE SPEAR: SUPERNAL SHIFT!>
Ren becomes a blur, too fast to keep eyes on, and suddenly she's right in Citadel's space -- along with a multitude of similar lances to the one she holds, all having appeared behind her in the blink of an eye. She thrusts the lance in her hand forward, and the others all converge simultaneously at the same time on a single point -- Citadel's face.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Ren Aizawa has used Haze Spear: Supernal Shift on Citadel. COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has finished attacking. COMBAT: Citadel fails to brace Ren Aizawa's Finisher, Haze Spear: Supernal Shift, taking 137 Fatigue damage! Critical Hit! Citadel is unable to keep fighting!
"So what, you want me to ask ya /nicely/ to hand over your device you just took back? I can do that! I can /so/ do that! Except, see, there's this thing, and it's, I kind of hate you and am going to kill you and everyone you like." There's very little mirth in his voice. Broken Ground emits a faint chime. He doesn't notice.
Jaren stares at Lera with hard intent...and then she says a few things, and Jaren's lips curl back. They've been shouting it at Citadel the whole time, but somehow, he feels it differently now. "Oh no you DON'T!" Jaren shrieks, shooting toward Lera with his power burning bright around him. But Fate's moving too, saying the same things with just as much heart - and lowering the same thunder with all the power she wields. Jaren has to stop cold to address it. "One at a time then," he snarls. "I can do that. I CAN DO THAT! GROUND!"
"The hell's that?" Jaren mutters, but the warhammer's already shining - a muddy green Midchildan ring exploding into the space in front of him, crackling with its own supercharged existence. Thunder Rage slams into it, and crackles all along it...but it holds. It holds.
Jaren is forced to skid backward from the hit, feet grinding against air; but he is moved no more than he must be, and he looks down at his warhammer partner with a blank tip of his head. "Uhhh. What?"
<--I DID AS I SAW FIT.>
Jaren glowers a little. "Nobody telling me anything today," he spits. "Fine! At least you're useful. Now help me put this brat in a hole."
<WE WILL SMASH HER.> "Yes, that's the idea!" <...I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN BY HOLES. MASTER.> "Yeah, you do, buddy!" Jaren laughs, as he holds Ground aloft. The warhammer flickers, twice.
And then, finally, like grinding tombstones, groans out: <BOMBADIER CASCADE.>
Jaren's face splits in an evil grin. "Yeah, I like the sound of that," he snarls, glaring at Fate. The lights begin to form above him; motes of light that gather together, filling the night with a thousand new stars. Jaren, wide-eyed and leering, snarls, "HE'S COMING. WITH ME! BOMBADIER CASCADE!"
They fall - a thousand motes of starlight, screaming down directly to Fate Testarossa in an annihilating wave of light, releasing a huge explosion of power as they finally accrete and burst. Jaren laughs, deep in his belly. Broken Ground chimes, quiet.
The world shines, dreadful.
One of these things has forgotten Lera Camry is present. One of these things is an idiot.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Jaren Zastava has used Bombadier Cascade on Fate Testarossa. COMBAT: Jaren Zastava has finished attacking. COMBAT: Fate Testarossa narrowly dodges Jaren Zastava's Finisher, Bombadier Cascade, taking 57 Fatigue damage! Fate Testarossa is unable to keep fighting! Fate Testarossa's Fade ability activates! Fate Testarossa's Flash ability activates!
"Understand this. While our grandeur is without compare, the Belkan Empire is not without its enemies - to say nothing of the potential for enemies from within. Your duty is that of guardian - the Ten Thousand Points are critical, and your life is nothing if they are claimed by an enemy."
"UNDERSTOOD. SO LONG AS I DRAW BREATH, THEY SHALL NOT FALL."
Citadel demanded answers. For one - an answer to the question of why these defenders fight so fiercely. Masque Feu answers, with blame and with conviction. She speaks of peace, she speaks of duty, she speaks of friendship - and of those three pillars, Citadel can claim but one. Standing alone, with Jaren Zastava somewhere nearby, Citadel braces itself for the fiery salvo - purifying blast after purifying blast hammering home.
Fuu appeals to an empathy for another construct of steel and architecture. The Logia takes pause for a moment, extending its senses...and finding nothing. That long tail lashes back and forth in agitation, legs tensing anew as Fuu admits to not knowing of Belka - how far could it have fallen from its post, that this world is so ignorant?
Fiat Silver speaks of tradition - of reconstruction not being the same as protection. That the location in question has some value. Citadel's tension lifts a moment as it pauses - and explosions erupt around its feet, leading it to let out a roar of fury.
And Citadel asked of Belka.
As the storm builds, Fate speaks another name known to Citadel - that of Al-Hazard. A civilization ancient beyond even the Belkan empire - the dragon's eyes lock on Fate, widening at the comparison. "YOU CANNOT MEAN..." The heavens cry out in the Logia's stead - thunder and lightning cascading down to hammer the guardian repeatedly. It roars in pain, in fury, in anguish.
Lera speaks from the heart. Speaks a terrible truth, of the fate of an empire. Fallen Stern joins in, speaking of that Empire's pride - and the fall that followed. Citadel's gaze goes from one to the other, nearly uncomprehending...but that lashing tail goes still, its rear legs lowering.
Cure Sword apologizes. As quiet as it is, the guardian turns to face her. Swords of brilliant light spear through rainbow might, the sword-dancer rushing in to deliver blow after blow - and with each strike, both Citadel's wings and the remnants of the barrier flicker.
Citadel looks to the sky, to the stars - closes its eyes, and looks again. This time, as it tries to forget where the lights of ancient Belkan fortresses would shine...more sense can be made of the heavens. It may well be...this is why it was never retrieved.
Ren apologizes - and appears before Citadel's maw. There is strength yet within the body, ancient machinery holding the power to unleash a landscape-scathing torrent of energy - but instead, it just meets Ren's sorrowful gaze. "...SO MY PURPOSE IS LOST."
Something ancient is broken.
In answer, there is a riotous storm of kaleidoscopic light - all the power Citadel had gathered and accumulated, released as a brilliant pillar. The remnants of the barrier surrounding Tokyo Tower, the grand teleportation sigil inscribed upon the ground - all of it shatters into fragments of light. They shine brilliantly in the air, gently falling - not as a rain of destruction, but as gently drifting petals. Where Citadel had stood...
...there remains something far smaller, and far more forlorn. Not a titanic wolf-dragon, but a slumbering wolf-pup.
Lera's eyes start to widen when Jaren says that. There was something about this situation that she never quite wanted to accept. She didn't want to think that he was beyond being reached; she wanted to think that her mother's former assistant was the kind of person who could, ultimately, be talked down. She realizes, though, that isn't the truth.
Right now, nothing that she says can reach him. She can't change his mind. That makes Lera falter for a moment.
Then she sees the very same attack that laid her low, poured into Fate this time. The blasts come raining in to her, a thousand motes of energy, converging on the girl who swore to protect her. The girl, Lera thinks, who risked her life to get Sky back -- and now he strikes her down, after everything else that happened to her.
"FATE!" Lera screams, raggedly, eyes widening in terror.
For just a moment, Lera feels her heart sink and she starts to give up again. But, she has Soaring Sky back. Something else changed.
<...Ground.> A pulse of red light emanates from the Device's core. <That ability. Why hasn't he been using your primary form? You weren't built for this purpose. You aren't a cannon. You're a fortress.>
Then, it clicks into place for Lera: the one she needs her words to reach isn't Jaren Zastava. She looks at him, then down at the Intelligent Device in her hands. She promised to bring him home, she remembers. She grits her teeth. "Sky," she says. "Mom said that it's what's in our heart that matters, with Devices. More than anything else."
<Yes, my master. I think it's about time we show them that, don't you think? Besides.> A joking pulse of light comes out from the Device's red gem core. <I'm tired of them pretending they're the best team. They're looking right at it.>
"I couldn't agree more," Lera says. She turns to look at Citadel; she sees the brilliant pillar of light shoot into the sky. She gets a look at what's left of Citadel, and the rain of petals. Her eyes widen, but then she feels a pang of loss.
"Citadel," she murmurs, sadly. Then, she realizes: she has her chance. Between the attack and Citadel's fall, Jaren is distracted. She can get down there and help Citadel in a moment.
Thus, while Jaren's side is turned, Lera clicks her blades back together. The sword splits down the middle, though, and bolts of lightning leap between the two blade-halves. A faint white glow begins to gather inside of it.
A trio of control rings appear, ever turning, directly in front of the sword. A massive Midchildan magical circle appears underneath Lera's feet. She sets down on it and takes a breath, as a staticky feeling crackles out from under her feet. She cracks a smile, as she looks down at him. "This is for Fate," she says quietly. "And Setsuna, and Yukimi, and Ren, and... and Mom. All the people who believed in me."
The sword suddenly crackles with light. Then, a beam of white light explodes from the split open blade. It bleeds gold at the edges, and a shockwave ring of light fires off from the tip of the blade. The energy beam screams straight downward, guided by the control rings, and straight for Jaren Zastava's side.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Lera Camry has used Aurora Burst Ray on Jaren Zastava. COMBAT: Lera Camry has finished attacking.
A thousand motes of starlight coming to smash her at his command. Fate's mind briefly flashes to her own attack, the Phalanx Shift. She watches them descend towards her, shining, death from many directions thinking of how she would defend against her own attack.
While she's more than willing to die fighting for her newfound friends. She just doesn't want to die if she doesn't have to. Besides being scary, she just wanted to spend more time with them. A small selfish wish.
"Bardiche." She whispers, <Blitz Action>
Faster than the naked eye can see, she ascends upwards into the night, spiralling and corkscrewing and moving in random patterns, each mote of starlight following. Some burst in the air like blossoming fireworks, in clusters and bursts and flashes of light.
For a while it looks like she's going to make it. All the remaining motes of light suddenly converge on her point, and explode, just as she vanishes in an after image, her speed such that she appears just above into chaining bursts of what becomes an enormous explosion.
While she did make it out of that main blast, the blast wave hits her, striking her right in the back. It sends her spinning out of control, before she loses consciousness and her flight spells fail. The small and battered shape of Fate Testarossa falls through the night, holding onto the cracked form of Bardiche only by reflexive instinct. She goes down, down, down inexorably towards the ground, her eyes only open the barest fraction, uncomprehending of her situation despite the telltale rush of air.
COMBAT: Jaren Zastava accepts Lera Camry's Finisher, Aurora Burst Ray, taking 108 Fatigue damage! Jaren Zastava is unable to keep fighting!
Right now there is something else screaming through her senses. Something significantly more blonde.
Where Masque Feu once was, she is no longer.
Instead, there is a fast-moving shape wind-sprinting across the Tokyo Tower grounds. It is not actually Usain Bolt. It's Masque Feu running faster than she's ever run in her life. She is actually kicking up dust clouds. Somehow she's managing it on a bad leg and in high heels. She breathes hard, arms and legs pumping madly, eyes on the plummeting little golden shape in the sky. "Fate!!" she calls out, her composure broken enough that it's actually a shout. "Fate, hang in there!!"
She's not going to make it, she realizes. And even if she does -- it's too far to fall.
She doesn't think. She jumps as hard as her legs will carry her - lands on a hot dog cart - and kicks off it with all the force she can manage.
It is an impossibly high leap. As the little blonde girl falls, the Soeur rises, as if in seconds that take hours. She reaches out with both arms.
"FAAAAAAAATE!!" she screams, her eyes wide, as she reaches, reaches, for the tiny girl.
Her fingers brush solidity.
She /snaps/ her arms out like a flycatcher. She pulls Fate in in midair, snatching her up and cradling her to her body, clinging to her like a big sister capturing a little.
And then she begins to fall out of the air too, having evidently not thought this through too well. She catches her breath, eyes wide as she tries to turn herself to land on her heels, knowing she's probably going to break her legs when she lands. She falls and falls and falls and--
Fiat Silver rises up in the aftermath of that polychromatic wonderland. She gazes with wonderment upon what remains, even as Silver Scorpion murmurs, <From that Belkan relic... something so...>
Their thoughts are cut off as a screaming burst of light hits -- "Fate?!" Fiat Silver cries in dismay. Masque Feu leaps upwards with terrifying speed - but Fiat Silver can tell from her trajectory that... "She can't fly!"
<But we can,> Silver Scorpion says.
With a glimmer of blue and no further ado, Fiat Silver launches herself upwards even as Masque Feu wraps herself around Fate in protective anticipation. Instead of hitting the ground, she hits Fiat Silver, with a thump and a jar but no painful agonizing impact. Feu gets a hug, perhaps involuntarily, and a confident, almost jaunty, "I have you!"
But who has them!?
The explosive light clears, and Citadel is no more. Well, that's not quite true, thankfully. Ren didn't set out to completely obliterate the Lost Logia, and is relieved when she sees it slumbering peacefully -- massively reduced in form from before.
"Citadel..." Ren floats down, landing right in front of the wolf-pup. "Hah. You're sleeping. That sounds really good right now..." She says, falling down onto her knees as she feels her strength completely leave her. There's a brief flash as her barrier jacket dispels, and her eyes close as she falls forward and into darkness, looking as though she's just taking a nap along with Citadel. Awww.
It seems Citadel has finally accepted the truth of the matter. The massive power that Ren brings to bear smashes through the last of his defenses, but perhaps the Lost Logia had decided to simply accept its fate. The magical blades vanish from around Cure Sword, and she leaps back out of the blast range just in time. However, she still is there to bear witness as the sigil shatters, then falls like flower petals, leaving behind a tiny wolfdragon-puppy, curled up in slumber.
Something in Cure Sword's chest squeezes.
"Citadel..." she murmurs, taking a few steps forward. She's interrupted when Ren drifts down next to him and likewise curls up to go to sleep, leaving Sword blinking rapidly, taken aback. "H-hey, are you all right?" she asks, forgetting herself to hurry forward and kneel down next to her. When it becomes apparent that Ren is just fine, merely asleep, she breathes out a faint sigh and looks around at the remaining combatants.
Fiat Silver grabs Fate and Feu around then. At the same time, Lera smashes the utmost of her power into Jaren. Cure Sword shields her face against the radiance. It seems like what remains is well in hand, but she'd best keep an eye out... just in case. If everything is indeed in hand, she'll leave without any further fanfare before anyone has time to notice.
Meanwhile, with a gentle hand, almost without realizing it, Sword strokes Citadel's head.
'<You aren't a cannon. You're a fortress.>'
Jaren's eyes cut to the side, his voice stuck in his throat, staring at the jewel on his device's hammerhead. "What," he rasps out.
<...I WANTED TO LEAVE THAT PLACE. YOU HAD NO USE FOR A SHIELD.>
Jaren's whole demeanor shifts, eyes growing wild. "You're a...shield..."
"You...YOU'RE WHY...WHY I CAN'T SEEM TO BEAT THESE BRATS?!"
<...I DO NOT AGREE.>
"WELL I DON'T SEE WHERE ELSE THE PROBLEM IS, GROUND!" Jaren screams. "A SHIELD! A SHIELD, WHEN I NEEDED TO SMASH EVERYONE TO DUST! A SHIELD WHEN I NEEDED A BIG, SMASHY HAMMER! Oh, I see! I GET IT! FAKING EVERYTHING JUST SO I'D KEEP YOU, LIKE SOME STUPID, DAMN, DUMB, DOG! YOU--
'....SO MY PURPOSE IS LOST.'
Jaren's eyes shrink to pinpoints, and he immediately spins on his heels and completely forgets about both Lera, who is having a Moment with Sky, and his own Device, who is blinking at him silently. "WHOA HEY!" he squawks. "NO NO NO NO! No no! Nooo no no! You, hey man, let's not get hasty, there's, you know, there's other...vast, inconceivable empires...in the sea, you know!? You don't have to, uh, do--"
Radiant prismatic light shines in every direction and Jaren shrieks "THAT! THAT IS--DON'T DO THAT! NO NO NO NO! NO! NO, STOP IT! DAMN YOU, STOP!"
His throat is hoarse and it doesn't help. His screaming cannot stop the collapse of an ancient horror - defeated as much by despair as by force.
"The hell do /you/ want?" Jaren spits, spinning. "I'm not done with y--"
<YOU DO NOT PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR SURROUNDINGS.>
Jaren takes a faltering step back, on his midair platform. "No," he croaks. "NO!" he shrieks. "GROUND! PROTECTION! DEFENSOR! MANTLE HEART!"
<AS YOU WISH.>
The barriers go up, one after another, tapping deep into Jaren's reserves - but Lera's glorious light slams into him, and Jaren finds himself almost immediately forced to the street by the sheer wonder of it; boots against pavement, pavement cracking beneath him, barriers cracking above him. "IT'S NOT WORKING! WHY ISN'T IT WORKING!" Jaren shrieks. "WHAT THE HELL GOOD ARE YOU!?"
<...I HAVE IDENTIFIED THE FLAW.>
"WHAT IS IT!?" Jaren screams. "DON'T TELL ME ABOUT IT AND JUST--"
<WE ARE NOT THE STRONGEST TEAM.>
Jaren's lips part in horror, and he almost says something before the barriers all fail at once, torn apart by Lera's blast, and Jaren Zastava disappears in a shaft of light.
Soon, though, the light fades. The dust settles from where the street ruptured. The rushing water from a ruptured water line slowly fades as someone, somewhere, turns off the pressure; and as all this happens, Jaren Zatava is gone. The only signs of his passage are a few scraps of ragged cloth, torn in his haste to leave...and the cracked, half-shattered warhammer of Broken Ground; the gem run through with cracks, one head mostly missing, the other cracked in half.
Lera sinks to the ground slowly. Her eyes drift to Masque Feu and Fiat Silver, both having caughter Fate. Then she turns, her eyes drifting down to Ren, slumped over next to Citadel. The girl watches her for a moment; she smiles, before she finishes her descent down to the ground. After that, her eyes fall on Broken Ground, and the scraps of cloth. Her lips part for a moment, as she realizes that Jaren got away.
Then, she realizes that it doesn't matter. She heard what he screamed at Ground. She heard Ground's response. The girl steps over the blasted ground, looking at the wreckage that Aurora Burst Ray made of the ground near where Jaren had been.
She finally reaches Broken Ground's broken form, and kneels down next to it. She puts her fingers on the Intelligent Device's hilt, her fingers touching it haltingly. She had worked for a year for this moment: to reclaim the Device of her mother's that was stolen. She wondered, worried, and feared at what might happen if she never got him back. She never quite imagined what he might feel like.
"Hey, Ground," she says, a little sadly. "It's okay. Guest registry." The little gem in the broken hammer pulses once. "Standby Form."
The hammer flashes and turns into a small bracelet; the green gem dangles from it, and cracks run through the bracelet. Lera's fingers clutch it, gently, as she looks down at it.
<...initiating recovery mode.>
The damaged Device goes dim and silent after that. Lera looks down at it, then she slumps back, leaning against the steel of Tokyo Tower. She lets out a long breath, as she looks about at her friends, and sighs. "I think... I think we did it, Sky."
<We did. I... thank you. I couldn't have done it without you, Lera. Any of it. I-->
Lera lifts the sword up, then leans her forehead against the blade. "I know. I was scared without you, too." A beat, then she smiles and closes her eyes. "I love you, buddy."