2015-11-30 - The Beast Without 3

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Title: The Beast Without 3

Magical girls go to the Sea Dragon God for help with the Vermillion Beast, but have to pass through daring trials to prove themselves worthy.


Kuniko Saito, Lera Camry, Garnet, Steven Universe, Fuu Hououji

GM: Honoka Yukishiro


Test of Courage Cave, Okinawa

OOC - IC Date:

11-30-2015 - 09-12-2014

<Pose Tracker> Honoka Yukishiro [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Even for those who have been here before, as part of a school excursion -- the teachers tend to really enjoy setting up tests of courage as an actual activity -- or on their own time...

...tonight, the cave is unbearably creepy. Clouds hide any hope of moonlight, and what ambient light leaks into the entrance is gone in moments. One minute, it's much too quiet -- the bats are missing -- and the next, terrifyingly loud, as wind rushes into or out of the cavern, tearing screams out of the jagged rocks.

Into -- then out of. In... and out.

It's as though the darkness is breathing. Or the cave is breathing. Or something very large in the cave is breathing.

The smell, a nose-wrinkling combination of seaweed and barnacles, is almost comfortingly normal in comparison. But the path is not, and after a few minutes of scrabbling around it becomes apparent that there is a fork in the road, as it were. Tonight the cave has two branches.

The left branch descends deeper into the Earth, and is faintly veined with some sort of dimly glowing phosphorescent moss (or, possibly, magic). From the fork, the path winds around a corner and can be seen no more.

The right branch is flooded, first shoe-wetting, then knee-wetting, and finally a full on underwater tunnel, but more glowing is faintly visible beneath the surface, little blooms of green light that indicate a path picked out, continuing as well.

COMBAT: Kuniko Saito has fully healed herself.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Fuu has been avoiding the tests of courage as well as she can; if challenged, her reply has been that her courage doesn't really need to be tested. (Whether this is true or not, that's her story and she's sticking to it.) But on learning that this cavern is where the Sea Dragon God can be sought out for aid, she might have wished that she'd at least taken one trip into the cavern ahead of time.

Either way, she's prepared as well as she can for this expedition, showing the same sort of foresight that's marked her participation in the Library Island Exploration Club. A couple of flashlights, a first-aid kit, some rope if that could be acquired without too much trouble, a few other supplies that might be useful ... and since it's bad form to propitiate any deity without some kind of appropriate offering, her last stop before coming to the cave was to pick up some sashimi from a nearby restaurant.

Fuu hasn't transformed yet; she's identified a good spot near the entrance where she can duck out of sight if she needs to keep her identity secret from anyone else who's coming. The equipment she procured is in a small waterproof backpack - possibly school-issue - except for one flashlight, with which she's alternately surveying the surroundings and checking to see who else might be approaching.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [None] has posed.

S-S-Steven is not scared of C-C-Caves! No way! Even if it was a dumb dare those kids gave him... and the whole place is way creepier than normal... "Always gotta take dare, Steven... like a man..." he seems to quietly mumble to himself, climbing through a bush toward the cave.

Steven is currently dressed as close to some sort of expedition master as possible, including a small metal flask of water, and suitable expedition hat! Since when were they even made in his size?

The boy approaches the cave entrance on pins and needles, seeming to be paranoid as all get out! Everything is fine though, until he hears the face 'breathe' on approach, which causes him to screech like a little girl and jump into the nearest bush! All that can be seen is his wide spooked eyes peering out from it-- wait, isn't that that nice girl he met before? What was her name, Fuu?

"Psst! Hey, heeeey! What are you doing here?" he asks. The bush shakes violently.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Lera hasn't been in the cave before. She has been in other caves on the trip. Coming at night, she thinks, makes this altogether creepier. She frowns, as she starts into the cavern. The girl hasn't transformed -- a little talk with the Tuners has passed along what they learned, last time -- and she has a helmet on, with a headlamp. It shines down the length of the tunnel and she takes a deep breath. Her Library Island Exploration Club credentials may be useful.

She frowns, as they hit the fork, though. She stops then, and rubs at her nose for a moment, before she peers down the right fork.

The little blooms of green light feel right.

"Tell me if you detect something," she tells Soaring Sky, as she starts walking. The orange-haired girl begins to walk that way, amber eyes lit up a little by the light from her headlamp and the osft green glow. She looks back at the others entering the cave. "And stay close!"

<I'm watching.>

<Pose Tracker> Kuniko Saito [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Kuniko Saito has come to this cavern with concern in her heart. The scent of saltwater and seaweed is almost appetizing; the sense of something lurking, waiting, WATCHING... is not, really.

In her pocket is her Mise-en-place, which is all the preparation she needs... other than a forehead-mounted caver's light, which casts a cold and scientific ray of white light forwards, letting her avoid tripping over herself.

Her head snaps around when she hears whispers behind them - but the voice is recognized as another group, perhaps. Splitting up, she thinks to herself: decent tactics. She has been keeping vaguely close to her fellow Infinitoid, of course.

Who is at a fork. Kuniko looks - and grunts, before crouching slightly to start rolling up her pants legs. (She dressed casual for caving.) "How long can you hold your breath?" she asks Lera; her voice stays quiet, though, surprisingly hushed. It really does feel like someone might be... listening.

<Pose Tracker> Honoka Yukishiro [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

The right-hand fork's flooding eventually requires actual swimming. The water is salty but not stagnant, indicating that somewhere in this labyrinth, there is open exchange with the ocean. Thankfully the water is tropically warm.

Even so, it's a scary trip. There are places where doggy-paddling is possible but eventually and inevitably some underwater swimming through submerged tunnels is utterly required. In this place, up and down, back and forth, quickly lose all meaning.

Eventually, after a few opportunities to surface and catch one's breath in craggy, glowing pockets of air, there comes a tunnel simply too long and too dark for any normal person to swim it. An Olympian couldn't do it.

A magical girl...

<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

Garnet silently strides several paces behind Steven out of his view, and subtly camoflagues her colors to blend in with the night and plantlife. He didn't explicitly ask her not to come, but since going to the cave is a test of personal courage, she decides to treat it as such, and observe his growth as a boy, and a Gem.

And, just in case something happens and he needs her help, which... given the unusual amount of monster attacks on this vacation, seemed more than likely on its own, even without Future Vision. There also seem to be other children here, who might need her help as well. She tries her best to avoid their notice, if possible, not wanting to scare them in an already spooky setting.

She still is coming to grasp with the behavior of the non-gem monsters in Japan, and their resilient nature compared to the gem monsters of Beach City. Some they had seemed to definitively destroy.

Others... not so much...

Their threat is still out there, and until it's taken care of for good, she sleeps with one eye open. Which, while not as bad when you have a spare to dedicate to the purpose, still puts a damper on what would be an otherwise lovely vacation.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Lera takes a deep breath as they, finally, swim to the point they can't go without a deep breath. A deeper breath, Lera thinks, that almost no one could do -- not unless they had a spell for it. "Sky," she says, "you think you can do this?"

<Maybe,> the Device chimes. <It isn't my specialty.>

<Let me try.> Broken Ground chimes from around her wrist; Lera looks at the bracelet and the little square-shaped gem at the center of it. She nods, then. "All right, Ground."

<Make sure she doesn't drown,> Sky says. He would sigh if he could.

Broken Ground would grunt, if he could. <I'm no amateur.>

Lera holds her hand over her head, as she sinks down into the water. Light glimmers from her bracelet; she can't call out the words underwater, but there is shortly thereafter a brilliant green glow that erupts around her. She twirls underwater, currents flowing around her, as her T-shirt and shorts are replaced -- a silvery shirt, first, followed by long trousers. The coat, however, is different: a short-sleeved green one, ending at the waist instead of trailing out.

Lera raises an eyebrow at the shield slung across her back, on a strap made for it.

<I figured that long coat would be a pain to swim in. Let's go.>

Lera nods -- and then starts swimming, taking off through the water.

COMBAT: Lera Camry transforms into Barrier Jacket Aphelion!

COMBAT: Lera Camry has fully healed herself.

<Pose Tracker> Kuniko Saito [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Forward Kuniko wades. It becomes clear she can't get through without the water going above her knees, so her phone and other things are carefully wrapped in a plastic baggie she'd brought along. That's easy enough, but soon it gets worse. Several dunks, several wades forward - fortunately the cave light is water-resistant, if not waterproof quite -

"This is getting ridiculous," Kuniko says. She reaches underwater for her Mise-en-place, not sure exactly what is going to happen as she unfolds the blue short apron, waves it loose, wraps it around her waist, ties it as she always does -

But could the sea really deter a Poissonnier?

The experience is different, she thinks. Silver and green light washes over Kuniko as it often does, wriggling over her clothing, changing as things bubble up - indeed there's quite a lot of cavitation as she descends - but the familiar thrill, the determination, the strength flowing through every fiber of her muscles and skin and bones washes up through her -- something's only just a little bit different, Kuniko thinks, as she pushes forwards, wordless in the depths of the water.

That difference is simply and entirely that her chef's jacket - just as sea-green, just as shimmering, just as perfectly fitted - is, today, cut like a sushi chef's, with a crisp extended collar in an arabesque motif rather than the buttons and high collar of the Western style.

All Kuniko is noticing is that her arms feel a little freer right now. She paddles boldly forwards!

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

A helmet. That's one thing which Fuu didn't think to bring, and seeing Lera's reminds her of it - but there's no time to double back and get one, unless she wants to abandon this excursion. On the plus side, she *is* wearing a swimsuit - specifically, her Infinity standard school swimsuit, with a T-shirt worn over that for some semblance of extra protection. The whispering from that bush prompts a couple of surprised blinks from the bespectacled girl, and Fuu leans in to whisper back, "We're looking for a dragon god who can help us stop that scarlet sky monster. Would you like to help us search?"

And when the path forks ... well. We *are* looking for a Sea Dragon God, aren't we? Fuu takes an extra moment to pull on her glove-jewel, putting everything in her backpack except for one flashlight (rated for scuba diving; if that's not sufficiently waterproof, nothing will be) and strapping the backpack on securely before venturing into the underwater passage.

She also didn't think to bring goggles that her glasses would fit under. She makes the best of it that she can; at least she's got an elastic cord to keep her glasses securely in place ... and a piece of her wonders if this is what it was like for Ecco in the games focusing on that starry-marked fictional dolphin. Hopefully less dangerous ...

But then, it doesn't take monsters - or even wild sea creatures - to make a watery tunnel like this one 'dangerous'. She does her best to keep her bearings and maintain a decent supply of air in her lungs, but she has her limits like any other girl - and finding that deep, dark, flooded passageway is enough to send her back to the last air pocket. "No help for it, I suppose ..." She shucks her backpack, transferring it into her glove-jewel's inventory, and takes one last deep breath before submerging again, getting a head start before she wills her transformation.

She's not entirely sure what to expect when she's transforming underwater, so the results can't exactly surprise her - but might surprise others: a sudden, veritable storm of bubbles erupts around Fuu, slowly dispersing to reveal the Magic Knight of Wind. With that subtle but distinct boost to her physical strength and agility, she ventures onwards as well, relieved that her armor does *NOT* weigh her down significantly. It's still a distinctly bulky presence on her body, but it won't pull her inexorably down into the ocean's unforgiving depths.

Not so long as she works at staying afloat, anyway.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [None] has posed.

As Steven watches from his scaredy-bush, even more people go in! So he kinda recognizes! Lera is recognized, having seen her various places on this trip thusfar, and Kumiko, though less so. He remembers her at the airport, but that is about it. Why was everyone coming out here tonight? Were they going to ambush and scare him?! Was this whole dare a setup?!

"Oh uh, sure!" The boy says, hopping out from in the bush. "I was dared to come here alone and not be scared, but that sounds much cooler!" And more productive. forget those mean older kids! Actually... it may be thanks to them he got to come do this. Thanks, older kids!

At the fork in the path, the lighted one with bioluminescence (or something else) gets both their attention. "Oops, looks like we gotta go swimming! It also looks deep ahead. Wait, I have an idea!" Steven holds out his arm, though nothing happens at first. "Oh come on, please...?" Shaking his hand around some causes a rose tinted battle shield tp spring fron his wrist. There we go! "Okay! Let's go!" While everyone else dives in and swims, Steven ahs a better idea! He holds the shield upward, and seems to use it as some sort of mobile air pocket, floating with it to the best of his ability, once deeper water is reached.

"Hey!" Steven calls to Fuu. "You do that thing like me and Garnet does!" Does everyone have a special bubble pocket they can put stuff in?! Of course, even mroe surprising is Fuu's sudden alteraiton. It was so amazing! She had some kind of power! And familair looking, too! He attempts to say something, but realizes he is somewhat swimming underwater, and only bubbles come out. Steven surfaces to under his shield. "That was really cool," he says to himself, taking another breath and proceeding on. He swims slower than all these long legged people going on ahead. But with this extra air under his shield, he should be fine. Well, as long as he doesn't do another underwater outburst. That could cost him!

<Pose Tracker> Honoka Yukishiro [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

The final underwater passage is unending blackness, crowded by spots of light from the mind's patiently increasing urgency for air, until it isn't anymore.

<< You take the hard path, even when you know not why. >>

The voice briefly overwhelms all other perceptions with its combination of age, intimacy, and unfortunately a vague hostility, but there are others to be had, afterwards.

For the group has surfaced into a chamber, a bubble cave carved into the island by the sea over eons, and then carved again by forces unknown into intensely detailed facsimiles of ocean creatures -- not the family-friendly ones like dolphins, but the strange, few-eyed, mani-legged creatures of the deep dark. They are so unknown that many might mistake them for beings from another world entirely, and such a mistake would not be all that wrong.

There are stairs going upwards.

Suddenly, the stairs are veiled with a sheet of green fire, as unexpected in this wet place as a cup of cocoa might have been.

<< But who will take the hard path, knowing what they face? >>

<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

Garnet chuckles softly at Steven's jump into the bushes despite herself. She stops and listens as he's approached by a couple of girls. One of them, Fuu, she remembers meeting on an idyllic day on the Tokyo beaches. Sea Dragon God? To stop the scarlet sky monster? There is more to this trip than just a test of courage..! As they make their way into the cave, Garnet shadows them. She considers whether or not to reveal herself but decides to keep her distance for a little while longer, and watches Steven summon his shield and watches them all dive.

She stops to give them a while to get ahead of her, but then, she notices the large mass of air bubbles suddenly making their way to the surface, and fearing the worst, dives in!

Upon her splash clearing, Garnet spots Steven, and The Magic Knight of Wind(!) for certain, and is relieved to see that everyone is all right so far. But her "cover" is most definitely blown. She does her best to make herself clearly visible, and make no sudden moves after her arrival, for fear of startling anyone holding their breath.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Lera's eyes widen a little, when she hears that voice. She surfaces -- then looks around quickly, for Fuu and Kuniko, and Steven too. She hasn't known him as long, but she doesn't want him getting lost either. She looks surprised, though, when Garnet appears; she gasps, but she's above the water. Recognition is quick, though, and then she lets out a relieved sigh. "Looks like we have extra backup," she says.

Then she looks at the stairs, which are -- abruptly -- veiled in green fire. She grimaces, eyes widened; she sees the strange sea life, and they look even more eerie when washed in the light of green fire.

"Are you... are you the, uh, the sea dragon?" she asks aloud, her head tilting to the side.

&;t'I don't like the look of this, Camry. Be careful.> Broken Ground chimes; Lera reaches over her back, and pulls the shield off, onto an arm. She could stand to have a shield right now.

<Pose Tracker> Kuniko Saito [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

That voice almost startles Kuniko into inhaling water.

That would've been embarrassing. Fortunately, it didn't QUITE manage that. Kuniko does cough, slightly, once she reaches that chamber, walking towards those carved stairs and letting the sea water drip from her clothing. She takes off her fisherman's cap, sweeping her hair back and glancing behind herself. The Knight of Wind! Garnet... as well as the additional presence that is Steven.

"Hey! Don't slip," she calls back. It is the best advice she can give right now.

Her head turns towards that sheet of green fire. Her lips thin.

"Look," she says, her voice sounding thin and nasal to her. Kuniko takes a moment to breathe in deeply and start over.

"Look... We're here about the - the attack," Kuniko half-shouts into the damp and the void. She puts her cap back on, firmly pulling the brim down. Defiantly, almost! (She does not feel very defiant. Not this deep, with that strange a voice...)

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji transforms into Magic Knight!

COMBAT: Kuniko Saito transforms into Poissonnier Kuniko!

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

The sudden 'greeting' catches the Magic Knight of Wind very much by surprise; fortunately, her reflexive bolting propels her forward rather than backwards, into the cavern. She just focuses on catching her breath for a few moments, looking around at the sculptures ... and reminding herself of the old saying that 'truth is stranger than fiction'.

She gets back to her feet, looking at the stairs - just as those stairs are covered in green flames. "Technically," she murmurs, "we aren't entirely sure what we'll face yet ..."

The Wind Knight pauses, looking among her companions. "I'm fairly certain that it's a one-way 'speaker' at this point, Kuniko-san," she smiles, taking her glasses off for a moment to wipe away stray drops of water as best she can. "And if the fire on the stairs is going to burn us ... I'm reasonably sure that death by immolation is less torturous than death by drowning. Turning around and swimming out doesn't seem like it'll be doing ourselves any favors, either, so ..."

She moves to the foot of the stairs, not bothering to wring out her clothes - if anything, the residual water soaking the cloth may be *some* protection against actually getting burned. "Sea Dragon God-san ... I apologize," she bows deeply towards the stairs, "Sea Dragon God-*sama* ... we come to beseech your aid in confronting the fiery beast of the skies."

She straightens up from her bow, hesitating - she's scared as hell right now, no point in denying it. But rather than letting her fear drive her back, she raises her right leg and attempts to start climbing the stairs. The only way out is through, right?

How far she gets up the stairs is going to depend entirely on whether the fire actually starts burning her, mind you. She may be back on the cavern floor and casting Winds of Healing in short order.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [None] has posed.

Steven is quickly outpaced by Fuu, though if she is safe, so is he! As the boy swims through the dark tunnel, he wonders if any normal person could actually make this trip? He has only need 2 small breaths from his shield pocket - being half-gem has its benefits, such as needing much less air than a normal person.

Seeming to feel and hear water beng disturbed behind him, he looks... and sees Garnet! He shoulda figured she would be watching him! He goes to say something, but remembers the whole air/water thing much quicker this round, and gives her a beckoning gesture as he proceeds forward.

By the time Steven reaches the exit into the cave, the air under the shield was getting stale. Was just enough! "Whoo! I haven't been swimming for a while like that. It was fun!" he comments. "Hi! Miss... um." He tries to greet Lera properly, though name forgetting doesn't help his cause. "Well, hi anyway! Haha." A hearty hello is given to Kuniko as well! Less known than the other two.

"That was really cool!" Steven says to Fuu, or rather, the Magic Knight, tugging gently on a long flowing segment of her outfit. He then turns to Garnet, of course. "Did you follow me, Garnet? I bet you did! You are really good at finding me! I probably should have invited you with me. We are looking for a--" Before he can say more, green flames erupt into being at what looks like a set of stairs across the room.

"Uh, not that, I don't think," is added in after. He hunches behind his pink shield, expecting the worst from that fire. "Be careful!" He calls out to the Magic Knight. Meanwhile, he tries to look around the room from his spot as to where that voice could be coming from in here, if it wasn't entirely projected into ones mind entirely from no telling where.

COMBAT: Steven Universe transforms into Steven Quartz Universe!

<Pose Tracker> Honoka Yukishiro [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Some people ask questions, but Fuu Hououji walks into the vivid, raw green flame, and disappears.

After, there is a faint sense of approval from the presence that imbues this place.

<< Invaders seek help to defeat invaders. >> It's expressed as a statement of fact, as an unbearable burden, as the weight of stone upon sea.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

"Ah--" Lera stammers, then calls out far too late: "Wait!"

Indeed, she is far too late. Fuu steps through and she is simply /gone/. She opens her mouth, then closes it, and frowns. She hears the spirit's voice speak in her mind again. Lera sighs, before she forges forward.

Then she, too, steps in the green fire.

<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

Garnet follows the rest, nodding at Steven's beckoning, slowly bringing up the rear, since she doesn't breathe, she takes her time by comparison, so that she can help anyone who falters. Thankfully, that didn't seem to be necessary, and the emerges behind everyone. She opens her mouth to reply to Steven, but is interrupted by the flames as he was. She watches Fuu's disappearance with quiet wonder. She hears the voice for the first time, and senses the burden. This is the lair of another magical being. Fuu didn't seem to be in pain, less like she was destroyed and more like... transported? "Be careful everyone. We don't know what we're dealing with. " Then Lera walks into the flame as well. She wonders if that is indeed the correct course of action. She wishes she knew more about this being before arriving...

<Pose Tracker> Kuniko Saito [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Kuniko watches the Magic Knight speak. She's a better talker than Kuniko is; Kuniko knows this. She nods slightly as she's addressed, taking a deep breath as Fuu makes her formal apologies -- and then steps forwards to vanish from sight.

Kuniko's mouth hangs slightly open for two full seconds.

Lera moves forwards too. The Poissonnier stiffens, and says to Garnet, "I don't know either... but I can't just wait here. If they're going in, I'm going in too." And then, she marches forwards - and, inevitably, up as well!

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [None] has posed.

Steven, after waiting some time, begins to shuffle aroudn the room, looking around at the carvings. They almost look like some Gem Monsters fought before. Or giant bugs. Maybe both?

Time passes, and the voice seems to express benevolence toward the action of passing through the fire. The gril brave enough to do so does nto return through, which is worrying, but at the same time there aren't screams of someone about to visit a burn unit. "What do we do?" he asks. One by one, people begin to go through the fire as well. "Well, I guess that is what we need to do!" he says aloud. The boy gets clsoe to the fire, and puts up his shield before trying to quickly jump through!

<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

Garnet seeing the course the river flows, bows in reverence to the Sea Dragon God, and walks forward into the fire.

<Pose Tracker> Honoka Yukishiro [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Fuu is the first to experience it, but everyone, in the end, faces the fire alone. Spells, shields, even aprons -- none of these are a meaningful defense, because in the end this is not a fire that seeks to harm.

It is a fire of creation, and it fizzes in the veins, congeals in the breath. It is not hard to imagine humanity being wrought from magic such as this, in the distant past. While surely the local legends are not the /only/ truth, it seems more possible than it did before that they are /a/ truth as to the origins of humankind. The world beyond -- or perhaps below -- the sea. The dragons who live there, bestowing gifts and curses at whim, or at will, or perhaps as part of some greater, unknown plan.

On the far side, the chamber continues. There, at the end, is a shrine half-familiar to those who tested their courage against the ordinary cave, along the more normal path through this strange realm; like its counterpart, it is not dedicated to any single dragon or god. Unlike its counterpart, it isn't because time has worn the distinct features away, smoothing them into inoffensiveness. If the opposite could be true, it is; the dragon there is somehow every dragon, or perhaps any dragon, or maybe just the potential of a dragon. The idea of a dragon, as wrought in wood and other, stranger media, stones and metals and glass. The charnel of the sea.

It waits, as all shrines do, for an offering. One gets the feeling sashimi isn't going to cut it here.

There is a sound of inhalation, and warm air wafts through the chamber once more.

<< You have shown curiosity and courage, two of the better natures of your species. Now, lay your hand upon the shrine, and draw forth a memory worthy of me. >>

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

<The magic here is very powerful. Be careful.>

That, Lera Camry thinks, might be an understatement. The fire was incredibly powerful, but it didn't harm them; she still thinks her Device might be right. Lera's amber eyes lift, slowly, to the very worn down shrine there. She hasn't seen its like before, really. For that matter, she hasn't seen the one in the cave on Earth. She feels a pang of being from another world. The loneliness that comes from being with others, but not having the context here.

She bites her lip for a moment, and forces back that frustration. She glances around for a moment, looking at the strange surroundings, and then back to the shrine.

"Any... any ideas?" she asks, nervously.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

While she's waiting for the others to follow (or not), the Magic Knight of Wind takes in the view and the feeling of the shrine, a quiet awe settling into her mind and her heart and her soul.

She knows, without a doubt, that this is holy ground the likes of which the most sacred shrine or temple are only a distant echo. And she has to wonder if the sky-beast is also a god of some form ... because if so, then it represents an existence *FAR* beyond even the likes of Queen Metallia, who - while she confined herself to a physical form to battle with Princess Serenity and the other gathered magical girls at the North Pole - was ultimately defeated by those same magical warriors. The fiery beast of the sky, so far, has been battered into retreat - but not yet *defeated*.

Her contemplation and reflection lasts long enough for Kuniko, Lera, Steven, and Garnet to join her; the Wind Knight bows slightly to the others as they arrive, then turns her attention to the shrine itself, and the altar ... and the requested memory.

What mortal memory can be worthy of a draconic god of the sea?

"We've already shown curiosity and courage," she muses. "Do we offer memories that represent one or the other of those, or does a third trait need to be displayed ... ?"

She thinks for a moment longer; her thoughts keep returning to the battles she's fought - and one particular memory suddenly stands out, crystal clear. With that memory in her mind, the Magic Knight of Wind steps forward, pausing before the shrine to not merely bow, but to genuflect, kneeling and prostrating herself for a few seconds. Only after that gesture of respect and homage does she rise once more, closing the distance to lay her hand on the shrine's altar ...


Desperation and determination collide to spark a surge of mana, and a barrier of turbulence wraps around the airliner, long enough to smack the incoming feather-critters away again. It has to be a short-lived barrier; she doesn't want to disrupt the aircraft's flight. Cut off the flow of air over the wings, and it'll fall - which would be exactly the kind of flight-ending calamity they've been fighting so fervently to prevent.

It may be as much adrenaline as actual energy pumping through the Wind Knight right now, but as she releases the Winds of Protection, she shifts from defense to offense without missing a beat. "EMERALD CYCLONE!!" she calls out at the top of her lungs, gathering the gale from about herself and redirecting it to rip away at the hostile flyer, whether it's beast or spirit or somewhere in between....

That moment, frozen in her memory, is the Wind Knight's offering to the Sea Dragon God. A moment of desperate determination, an all-consuming desire to protect the young and helpless. The fact that it was a moment in battle against the fiery beast of the sky may count for something as well.

It's not a moment that Fuu especially wants to *forget* - but if the Sea Dragon God desires to take the memory from her fully, who is she to hold back on her own offering?

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

<The magic here is very powerful. Be careful.>

That, Lera Camry thinks, might be an understatement. The fire was incredibly powerful, but it didn't harm them; she still thinks her Device might be right. Lera's amber eyes lift, slowly, to the very worn down shrine there. She hasn't seen its like before, really. For that matter, she hasn't seen the one in the cave on Earth. She feels a pang of being from another world. The loneliness that comes from being with others, but not having the context here.

She bites her lip for a moment, and forces back that frustration. She glances around for a moment, looking at the strange surroundings, and then back to the shrine.

What the spirit wants her to do is, perhaps, obvious and not obvious. She glances about, before she looks at Fuu, then Kuniko. "Let's go," she says. "It's... I mean, it's pretty clear, right? A memory worthy of him. I wonder what..."

<Go with your gut.> Broken Ground chimes, then adds: <Something you feel is something you feel. Don't need to think too hard on it. Just... remember.>

"Right," she says, quietly.

Lera walks forward, then she lays her hand on the shrine. She closes her eyes and the first thing she can think of is simple enough -- and comes back to what it often does for her: her mother.

For a moment, inside Lera's mind, she isn't under the sea -- or under the Earth. She isn't in a place of fire and creation. There aren't dragons. It is, instead, nighttime. The sky has stars not seen from Earth, with three smaller moons hanging near the horizon. She could see it from her window, though she has to stand up on her feet to peer out the window. She isn't nearly as tall.

She stands up on her toes, pushing a blanket around her mother's shoulders. Her orange hair has tufts sticking from its bun, and her head is resting on her workbench. There, a few pieces of gold- and green-colored metal are scattered. The paper notes -- an anachronistic indulgence of Meria Camry -- have the words "Broken Ground" spelled across the top.

"Thanks, kiddo," the Device Meister murmurs, softly. Her hand rests over Lera's smaller one.

In the real world, Lera's fingers curl on the shrine, as if holding a hand that isn't there. She smiles when she does.

<Pose Tracker> Kuniko Saito [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

That fire! It surges through Kuniko as the more refined magics of the Mise-en-place did - where that resonated with the heart of a chef and the practiced mind of a trained sorceress of cuisine, this burns huge and vibrant. It is the difference between a stove burner and a joyous bonfire.

It scares Kuniko, a little. (And thrills her a little too.)

Then they're put to the challenge. Offer a memory worthy of - 'me'. Whoever 'me' is.

Kuniko steps forwards and, tentatively, reaches forwards to put her hand on the shrine as well.

What comes to her mind - is the moment of sick anticipation, that period when their finest efforts in the Cooking Club had been placed up to the mouths of the judges. Other memories flutter around - smelling fresh home made bread, a brief flash of trying to cut a sausage with knife and fork and having it splurt out and land on the rug halfway across the dining room - but they are dimmer, a warm baseline to that pivotal moment when Kuniko's heart stopped.

When she sat in judgment.

Despair warred in that moment with resignation and weariness, and then words rang out. A benediction. Victory. Even with tofu, she - no, they - had pulled it off.

Kuniko breathes in, and she smells not the air of the cave but that culinary battlefield, just for a moment.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [None] has posed.

Passing through the fire grants a strange sensation. The flame gives heat, but does not burn. It licks at the skin, but does not singe. It passes through completely, but does not harm. Steven lands on the other side, and shudders slightly. "That felt... different," the boy comments.

On the other side of the room is a shrine or statue to... if he could guess was a dragon, but different than the one depicted in the brochure mentioning the cave. That one looked like it was there forever. This one kinda looks like abstract art, clearly a dragon, yet trying to be something else.

The voice asks for a memory. What could it mean? Does it want an actual memory? The boy approaches the shrine as well with everyone else. "Sorry if I get this wrong, Mr Dragon," he says, touching the statue gingerly. Like a kid that is touch something highly breakable. He closes his eyes. Nothing seems to come to mind at first. All is quiet. a black expanse. He thinks to himself: 'Geez, what memory is good enough for a Sea Dragon? Wait, /Sea/ Dragon...'

A memory appears! It begins dark and bleak, bubbles floating gently in a deep void, only visible due to a light pink glow. When did he see that...?

A pink orb comes into view. What could be inside...? The opacity lifts, and inside is himself and Connie! Thats right! He went deep into an ocean trench with her in his Bubble Shield! It was magical down there. Such a different world from the one he lives in, such reverence for the ocean...

Steven laughs a little to himself as he stands there. "Yeah, that one..." Despite a small spat of an argument, it was definitely an important moment for him, in the heartland territory of a Sea Dragon God.

<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

Garnet relishes the experience of the fire of creation, in a state of pure calm, as if she were truly home. The feeling is not completely unfamiliar, she enters an echo of the state as a means to summon her gem weapons.

She often feels like an alien in the world of men, and clashes against the forces of evil magic as day does against the night, but in the presence of such powerful benevolent magic she feels... natural, like she is in her element at last. She opens her mind to the experience and any wisdom the Sea Dragon may offer.

Once she comes to, and hears the voice beseeching offerings, she enters her own state of attunement with all creation, and summons her gauntlets to her hands, not in righteous strength, like usual, but in peace and humility, to let her magic flow and be known for who she is.

The gauntlets themselves are a physical representation of her magic of her soul(s), and the bond of two magics becoming one, and she focuses on that bond, and offers a memory from a love, strong enough to shake the earth and enduring over millennia.

This memory is one of the many everyday joys of Ruby and Sapphire's long existence. One of the small drops that come together to build the ocean that is Garnet's magical and personal being, but even in its small size containing the essence of what is most important to her, what empowers her, and what literally defines her. She puts her gauntleted hand on the alter, and offers it forth.

COMBAT: Garnet has fully healed herself.

COMBAT: Garnet transforms into Garnet's Got Gauntlets!

<Pose Tracker> Honoka Yukishiro [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

<< Invaders committing violence against each other brings me no hope. Family, competition, wonder, love... these are why you were brought forth. >>

The memories remain, not sacrificed, only shared.

There's a rumbling sound, as though someone truly massive has shifted in their seat, though the statue itself is as still as stone.

<< I know the one you seek. They are not of this place, as you are not, any of you. Long has the Rising Sun set upon the shores of our islands, but we remain ourselves with the coming and going of the tides... >>

The literal aliens of the group aren't even who this being is concerned about -- it's an ancient cultural conflict between the islands of Japan, not all of whom have forever considered themselves 'Japan' at all.

<< But you, you, all of you, you are very much yourselves. >> This sounds like a compliment. << Your enemy is not, not anymore. She has been... twisted. She is being... controlled. >>

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Some of it is lost on Lera. She didn't know the ins-and-outs of Japanese history, and while she heard of Okinawa, its history isn't quite something she is familiar with. She nods, though, because she can understand the feeling; there are parallels on Midchilda for her to consider. The dimensional worlds have their own histories.

Her eyes widen at the remark at the end, though. The compliment -- if that is, indeed, what it is -- is nice. The revelation is anything but.

"Controlled?" she asks, pulling her hand to her chest. She bites her lip. Controlled and twisted. It's uncomfortably familiar. "Do... do you know who did that to her? There must be a way to help her, y'know?"

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

The Wind Knight blinks, backing away from the shrine (without turning her back on it) after her memory has been shared. "What kind of force could control a being as powerful as that?" she wonders out loud, her voice quiet. "And is that what we need to confront, or ..."

She falls silent again, wondering how many 'tiers' of higher powers there actually are in play. It's probably not impossible that a 'weaker' entity could control the fiery invader - that's what a lot of characters do in different fantasy stories, from novels to RPGs: make a 'deal' of some kind to draw on a force more powerful than oneself, or weave spells that can bend such a force to one's will.

But to *maintain* that kind of control ... maybe that's the only reason the massed heroines (and heroes) have been able to drive the beast off - it was compelled to retreat before the control could break, for whatever reason.

It's decidedly an unwelcome thought.

"Sea Dragon God-sama," the Wind Knight asks quietly, "how best may we free her from the force that twists her to its will?"

<Pose Tracker> Kuniko Saito [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Kuniko takes in a deep breath. She can recognize what the sea dragon speaks of, even if she does not identify herself as deeply as 'Japanese' as others might, in her heart. After all, her mentor, her friend, her teacher - he is American.

And also a rabbit.

Lera says the first thing that pops in Kuniko's mind. She draws back her hand. "... Yeah. Is there a way to wake her up? Because... What she's doing, if it's not her own idea... It's really hurting people. If this keeps going, she's gonna do something..."

Kuniko trails off. She isn't sure how to close that idea. 'Horrible.' 'Unforgivable.' Those both feel right, but not perfectly so.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [None] has posed.

Steven helps transmit his memory into the group, and hopes that is what the God wanted. Or whatever it was talking. Man, where is that voice coming from?! "Are we here to save someone?" Steven asks, being here only by fate. He thought they were here to stop that monster that snatched him off the moving plane?

"Well, I hope there is a way to save them," he responds after others speak, seeming to peice the puzzle together. The person might be the monster! "Or at least some clue to do that would be nice..." he seems to ask kindly to no one in particular.

Perhaps it was directed at the thing talking to them? It seemed to knwo a great deal about that creature already.

<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

Garnet stands as still as mountain awaiting the reply to the questions already asked by those before her, receptive to the knowledge of the answers.

<Pose Tracker> Honoka Yukishiro [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

There is a long pause.

<< You have passed through the water and fire and self without shrinking or complaint, so I will answer one of your questions, >> comes at last, and with it the sense of a pebble shifting on a mountain, the predecessor of a mighty avalanche.

In the mind, or perhaps the heart, a familiar image appears: that of a golden bird pendant, the one owned by one Mina Koruske.

<< She seeks the one piece of herself which remains... and when he holds the reins, he seeks to have her claim it on his behalf, that she might never use it to be cleansed of his influence. It is a conflict without as well as within. >>

There is another rumbling, shifting sound.

<< Bring the child, and the piece, and the Beast to the cave. Then you must defend them... and me. Brought close, the Beast will try to destroy me, as all invaders do in the end. You could allow her to do so. But then, she would not be saved. >> There's a strange detachment to this observation; this dragon, or idea of a dragon, may be defensive enough of its beloved islands, but is equally willing to allow humanity to guide its own fate.

Garnet says, "I understand. Thank you for showing us what must be done." Garnet says aloud, and bows in gratitude and respect to the Sea Dragon God. She stands patiently in wait of the rest of the group or for the Dragon God to say anything more, the God specified it would provide a single answer, which it did clearly. She's unfamilar with specific customs of the region, but usually in this circumstance, it would be rude to press for more, or overstay their welcome."

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Lera frowns for a moment. Then, she nods her head.

She knows the child they mean. "Mina," she murmurs, underneath her breath. The little girl who wanted to work the crane machine in the airport. She gave her a stuffed rabbit after they got to Okinawa. The amber-eyed girl looks down at the ground, before she looks back up.

"Thank you," she says, a little quietly. Then, she cracks a smile, and nods. "Don't worry. We'll do as much as we can to defend her, the piece, and you, y'know?"

<Sounds like her controller will make it hard.> Broken Ground voices. Lera nods, before she glances at the others, and then she looks back at the shrine. "Thanks, um... mister--er... godly--um, divine--"

She reddens. "--um, thanks."

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

"It's going to take all of us."

The Magic Knight of Wind is certain - it's going to take more than just the five of them who braved the watery tunnel and the fiery stairs, to offer their memories to the Sea Dragon God. To stave off the fiery beast of the sky - whatever her true name may be - while keeping both Mina and her pendant safe, AND preventing harm to the Sea Dragon God, is almost certainly going to take every magical girl they can gather from among the Sister Schools' trip to Okinawa. "And I presume you mean the outer cave, the one people can get to more easily; the watery tunnel would certainly snuff out even that beast's flames."

Which is almost certainly *why it's there*, she realizes.

The Wind Knight bows once more to the ancient shrine. "Thank you deeply for your assistance to us; I hope our assistance to you, small though it may be, will be some adequate measure of repayment."

<Pose Tracker> Kuniko Saito [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Kuniko frowns in thought. Her arms fold, loosely. That pendant.

"A piece of herself... you mean like, something that was stolen?" Kuniko asks, perhaps rhetorically. Then, she smiles.

And bows deep at the waist, hands pressing together. "Thank you very much for your guidance, Dragon of the Sea. If there is an offering that you would enjoy, it would be my pleasure to prepare it --"

Kuniko stops at the sudden wondering. Has that happened often? Surely she couldn't be the first to cook for a god.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [None] has posed.

It sounds like some folks know the girl being troubled by the flying thing. Or being turned into the flying thing against her will...? "Oh, uh, okay! So we bring her and the necklace thingy here? Will this cave still be open?" It sounds problematic altogether. How will the creature get in here? Will it swim and follow them?

Maybe Steven can be bait. Hahaha... ha... um...

"I will help fight it!" He pats the outside of his shield. It makes a slight vibrating noise with each pat. "Or um, distract it. Don't wanna hurt the girl if she is in there. Well, if I am understanding it right, anyway."

"Thank you, Mr. Dragon! We will try to help her." At least to the best of her ability. So far he has nto fared well against this creature. It picked him up like a toy and tried to crush him! Thankfully this time it will be in a cave and not miles up, but the crushing thing could still happen!

<Pose Tracker> Honoka Yukishiro [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

<< You are here to enjoy this land. Leave, when you are done. Take nothing but your good memories. >>

The world rumbles a final time, this time not like casual shifting but like the coming of a change. The water rises, extinguishing the green flames. It laps at ankles and knees, and then all at once crashes over the chamber in a massive tsunami!

Underwater is scary as usual, but also there's a smooth and floating sense of safety this time, as crazy cross-currents maneuver the visitors up and down and around, finally dropping them off at the entrance to the cave, out on the beach.

With a final sigh of the wind, the presence of the dragon is gone.