2017-07-29 - Ocean Gem

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Ocean Gem

Steven, Garnet, and their friends confront Lapis Lazuli, who has stolen the world's oceans.


Steven Universe, Garnet, Setsuna Meioh, Mai Mishou, Yumi Ohzora, Michiru Kaioh, Fate Testarossa, Saki Hyuuga, Fuu Hououji, Lapis Lazuli

GM: Hotaru Tomoe



OOC - IC Date:

07-29-2017 - 02-06-2015

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Oceans +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
  Geographers name five oceans on the earth, but unlike the continents, all
  the oceans are one connected body. Together, they cover over 70% of the
  world, providing transportation, food, and a sense of mystery to the people
  who live out their lives on solid ground. The island of Japan (and its
  coastal capital, Tokyo) has an especially intimate relationship to the sea,
  as fish is the mainstay of Japanese cuisine, and its boats have plied the
  ocean for this bounty since time immemorial.

  Every island has a special place for the ocean in its mythology, and similar
  themes arise regardless of era or geography. The ocean is the cruelest of
  lovers, arbitrary and terrifying. Its mysteries have an almost erotic
  appeal, promising the most exotic shores, the richest treasures, and a
  freedom unknown on shore, but it does not scruple to swallow up even its
  more devoted suitors on a moments' notice, and leave not even a corpse to
  bury. Again and again typhoons have ravaged Japan's shores, but so too has
  the ocean rescued Japan in its darkest hours, foundering the numberless
  Mongol fleets in the 13th century whenever they attempted to reach her

  Japan in particular is bordered on the west side by the Sea of Japan, which
  has less salt and weaker tides due to its enclosure by the Japanese islands.
  The east side, of course, is the Pacific Ocean.
<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.


BGM: I Am Lapis Lazuli https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaSTcCUFBRo

Lapis is proud in her freedom. Her chin lifts and if her eyes widen a little, if her shoulders tense, if Steven's silence falls upon her like a blow, well... it is a blow she will endure. She's endured far worse.


The corridor in the ocean slams shut, as though it never was. Garnet punches away her oceanic arm, and it doesn't reform, but there's a keen sense that this is a choice, not a consequence.

"Don't trust them, Steven," she advises, more grimly than earnestly -- and those words are loud enough to be heard by everyone on the beach.


A final abnormally fierce wave slams onto the beach, drenching the fortunate and pummeling the unfortunate, and when it has ebbed, Lapis Lazuli is gone.

The ocean is still, silent.

And it isn't obvious now, but it will be in the morning, when the winter sun beats down on an unveiled, bone-dry sea floor -- Lapis Lazuli has departed, and an inch at a time, the ocean is leaving with her.



BGM: Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Field (Desert) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wfIrkcutsM

The ocean is gone.

Onshore -- on what was an island -- there is a state of collective shock. Many are pretending nothing is wrong, that this is like a trick of the light or something. The most excitable are claiming it's some kind of artistic stunt. The most serious assume that it's a military exercise.

Mayor Dewey (now, in the relocation, Honorary Councilman Dewey-san) may not love these adopted beaches as much as his own, but he is, nonetheless, trying to fill it with water from his hose. He's not the only one looking on with worried eyes.

Offshore is more interesting. It's a whole new world, stretching off to the horizon.

All kinds of treasure lies beneath Tokyo Bay: trash of every conceivable size, shape and structure. Quite a lot of smashed-up ordinance from wartime, including sunken planes and submarines. It's like a ghost town, a landmark dedicated to waste and abandonment. Which isn't to say it there isn't beauty to be found, both in the garbage itself and in the complex ways that algae and barnacles coat much of the mass.

Further out, it becomes a wasteland, but not an empty one. There are intriguing, intricate rocky outcroppings unseen by human eyes until now. Vents that bubble steam from the very heart of the world. Every former island is really the peak of impossibly tall mountains, and the chasmic trenches are now the grandest canyons possible.

It is very dry, no puddles or dampness remaining, the water removed to virtually the last drop. And other than the true immobiles like barnacles, no life has been left behind to stink in the sun; there are no flopping fish, no miserable turtles. This newly uncovered land is vast in its lifelessness.

It is lonely.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Most of the people of the Tokyo Bay area don't know, but a scuffle took place there. At first, an army of ants that fused into one. Then, a strange blue figure made an appearance, made a statement of titanic proportions, then left as quickly as she appeared. What people do know, is this:

Over the past day, the beach waters have receded. Not a few feet, but gone entirely. Inch by inch, the waters creeped away from shore, until nothing was left but a desert with coral, wreckage, and other debris. People are gathering on the shores far and wide. Taking pictures and video, being worried for the future, and some even blaming it on conspiracies or natural phenomena. One final bit everyone knows as well.

This isn't good.

A different gathering is happening as well. A young boy on a pink Lion is going everywhere he can to hunt down allies. Whether it is people he knows, has heard of, or just finds out how to contact by the grapevine. The message is clear.

"We have to get the Ocean back!"

The boy waits ashore (or what used to be ashore) for others to arrive. Alongside him are of course Garnet, and some other figures. One is a slender figure with a long nose. a Gem rests in her forehead, and has a look of worry about her. Another is a stout female, not much taller than Steven, and sports a purplish hue when it comes to everything about her.

Another person, a gentleman of middle age is present. Boasting a balding head yet long flowing mane off the back, the rotund man is packing a stylized and painted van full of everything one could hope for in food and supplies. The van says 'Universe' on the side. Lastly, a young girl, about Steven's age, with a dark complexion and glasses with flowing chocolate colored hair.

They all seem nervous to a degree, but know what must be done. Steven can only wait with bated breath to see if anyone responds to his harkening call.

"This is all my fault. I have to fix this. Thanks for the help, everyone."

<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

"Earth's Ocean is not gone. It has not been destroyed. it has only been moved. And we're going to get it back." Garnet addresses all magical warriors, knowing there are likely normal people within earshot in such a public place, keeps things vague. Even in what could be considered apocalyptic times (how long can the Earth truly last without her Ocean?) Garnet, leader of the Crystal Gems is of few words, and gets straight to the point.

She doesn't seem to be the type to field questions, (but that certainly can't stop them from being asked by the assembled) so she doesn't volunteer information besides that for anyone who wasn't in attendance for Lapis Lazuli's asserting herself on the beach last night.

She might think word will already spread, Steven might take up the slack, or she may just hope to keep it all secret, but in any case, this whole event seems to be something she finds of the utmost troubling seriousness, and seems already in a mood to get there, get it done, and get it over with.

"Follow us."

Garnet nods to the man assembled and her little group gesture to a rather old style van with :"Mr. Universe!" on its side as the figurehead chariot of this most heroic procession.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

A day has passed, allowing both wounds and water to recede. When the call goes out for aid, the conclusion is foregone: this involves the sea itself, and deep deep mystery. The Outer Senshi return, even though the water does not.

They do not return alone -- indeed, Steven Universe has summoned a swell tide of reinforcements. But they do return in singular style.

Black and gleaming like an airborne chip of obsidian the helicopter comes, chopping through breezes that should bear brine but do not, should dance with the waves but instead blow strange and lonely, unhindered through the great basin. It makes for difficult flying, but Sailor Pluto is possessed of unparalleled concentration.

Over the headset she comments to Neptune, "Have you ever seen its like?" She means, of course, that bizarre bared seafloorscape that stretches out to the horizon.

Jaw set hard -- the only outward sign of the challenge she faces -- she sends hands flying across controls, flipping switches and easing the bird down against the flattest portion of sand she can find. There is no water left to spray away from the spinning-down blades, just dried-up grains of beach that scatter, no longer glued together by the sea.

Hopping out of the pilot's seat, Pluto alights on the sand and turns to offer a hand down to her companion, should she want it. "The strangest things happen in this place."

That said she walks to join the gathering crowd and hear the words of the woman who is normally her enemy. Some things are, even if only temporarily, larger than wars. A missing ocean qualifies.

COMBAT: Garnet transforms into Garnet!
<Pose Tracker> Mai Mishou [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

The ocean is gone.

It feels terribly, horribly wrong to Mai Mishou. She can't really say why it bothers her so much. It is horrible, of course. But it sends a spike of despair so deep into her heart that it nearly drives her to her knees. Standing here, as Cure Egret, she simply watches with violet eyes that look ready to brim over with tears. Her lips tremble, as they try to work, and she hears what Steven says... but she doesn't quite listen.

"It's horrible-chopi..." Choppy says, softly.

Cure Egret looks up at Garnet. Her expression is dim -- dazed, even. She looks almost unable to do this, but only almost. She looks down, her fingers curling into a tiny fist at her side. And then, she looks up, and she nods.

COMBAT: Mai Mishou transforms into Cure Egret!
<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Lonely. Wrong. ...Ruined. Looking over the state of the ocean now, Yumi Ohzora goes over and over again a sick feeling in her stomach, her sympathy for the Gem that was trapped and now freed that did... This.

Did she contribute to this? Did she make it worse, somehow? Or is even thinking that pointlessly selfish? It doesn't matter. She has to look into it. You can care for someone and not let them...


Yumi steps out of Sailor Pluto's helicopter too, and there's a flash of green as she does, letting herself lean first on her staff. She gulps at the long walk ahead of herself. "Good time to learn to fly," she murmurs. "Hey..." Yumi listens to Garnet, too, and sets to follow Pluto following Garnet. It's all wrong. It's all awful.

"But the animals aren't here," she murmurs. "That's better than what the Queen would do, isn't it...?" She doesn't know.

She sniffles, shakes her head, and keeps going. "Right, Sailor Pluto, Sailor Neptune. I'm ready."

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Neptune [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Sailor Neptune was simply agog at the sheer scope of the power that this Lapis Lazuli was able to demonstrate. She is not pleased even now, even if she's regained a certain amount of poise from long exposure.

"Yes," Neptune says. "But not when I was awake."

The landing of the helicopter lets her take off her headset in good order, and she accepts the offered hand of Time to descend. As one foot rests on the dry sea bed, a momentary look of profound sorrow crosses Sailor Neptune's face.

But it passes. Game face, perhaps, is now back on.

"Did you find the flight comfortable, Yumi?" Sailor Neptune asks the witch that came with them, her face the same as it were before. Looking around, Neptune then says, presently, "That's quite true, isn't it. Hopeful, perhaps. Let's hurry, before matters progress any further."

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

A small child glides over the ocean beds. The sight of it in all of its awful beauty with its treasures of trash and endless dry wasteland is surreal- as if just off the shore of Tokyo was another unseen world one in which the veil is now pulled back. One that feels surreal to her.

There's a faint gust of wind as she touches down not too far from Steven. "There's no water as far as I could see." She comments, as if instinctively acting like some scout due to being able to be aerial. "It... kind of reminds me of an uninhabited world I've been to." She mumbles after... that may sounda little ominous.

She nods in affirmation to Steven's comment about getting the ocean back, her eyes drifting curiously over the middle aged man and girl with him. But then Steven speaks- and so too does Garnet. She nods in affirmation as the Crystal Gem leader says that they'll get it back in agreementbut she's quick to address Steven. "You're welcome but- it's not your fault. You couldn't have guessed this would happen." Her scarlet eyes drift over to Garnet as she adds- "None of us could have."

She doesn't really believe Garnet knew Lapis was in there. She just can't believe that accusation, she has that much faith in the Crystal Gem leader after her time with the Chevaliers.

"We'll go find her together... and then you'll talk to her. You're friends now, so she'll definitely listen to you."

She also has faith in that too, in a way that seems almost cruelly naive.

And then when the word is given to follow, she glides off the ground flying and over to the side of the van. The chariot of the event- she flies around to one side of it, then the other, giving the paint job a long look. She then declares- "I like your van." Then a moment later her eyes alight upon the nearby helicopter- "It can keep up with a helicopter right?"

She must think the paint job indicates the van has magic powers or something.

<Pose Tracker> Saki Hyuuga [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

Saki liked to watch the bay from the top of the World Tree, the great shrine of the Sky Tree lodged within its gnarling branches offering a fine view of the sea. ...usually.

Its absence has brought her to the seaside like so many others, her breath cold in the wintry air. "It's just...gone...?" she muttered to her companion, then.

Which is approximately when Flappy pulls his head out of her phone case, and hisses, "Saki-lapi!" and nudges his head in the direction of a small boy on a pink lion; both familiar by now.


Cure Bloom approaches beside Cure Egret, her eyes scanning the waters. She looks shaken, but trying to hold it to a grim, frustrated look. But she tries to favor Steven with some semblance of her usual grin. "Of course we'll help."

Garnet's explanation eases her heart just a bit. She knows that 'destroyed' wasn't entirely off the table. If Dark Fall wanted, couldn't they, even...? What a terrible thought. So she sucks in a breath and buries it, turning to her partner and arranging a smile. "C'mon, Egret. We'll get it back, OK?"

COMBAT: Saki Hyuuga transforms into Cure Bloom!
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

'Scuffle' isn't quite how Fuu would have described the battle against the ants, but her mind is still reeling somewhat from first seeing Lapis Lazuli. Still, when asked for assistance, of *course* she agreed - Steven and the other Crystal Gems are counted among her friends and allies, she wouldn't leave them hanging. And if the oceans aren't restored, entrance exams are going to be a pretty minor concern anyway; how long can life be sustained on Earth if the oceans are all gone?

So the Wind Knight arrives at the rendezvous point, bowing politely to the others whether they're close friends, allies, or even occasionally hostile (if there's anyone in that last category, at least).

"Garnet-san, you seemed like you recognized Lapis Lazuli-san," the Wind Knight comments once the group has gathered. "Do you know anything about her capabilities that the rest of us should know before we encounter her?" Then she looks to the Sailor Senshi. "If your helicopter has room for me, I could definitely use the lift ... no pun intended," she adds a smidge sheepishly. She really *didn't* mean the wordplay.

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

"Holy moly!" says Greg Universe, the long-haired, paunchy driver of the Mr. Universe van (also father, little known rock star, and widower of the greatest wife of all time). It's not all the magical girls who prompted him to say it, but rather the arrival of the helicopter, which he looks over with a complex emotional mixture of wariness and adoration.

Pearl and Amethyst, currently in the back seat of the van, are less impressed.

Connie's riding shotgun behind Steven on Lion, and the roar of the rotors lifts her heavy hair straight towards the sky. She mashes it back down matter-of-factly, and smiles. "There are sure a lot of people here to support you, Steven! We'll get the ocean back for sure!"

And so the train of vehicles and other, more self-mobile magical girls, departs the shore for parts unknown.


It's a long trip. There aren't many rest stops but there is time for thoughtful conversation, time to think, time to snack. Time to gaze in open-mouthed wonder at this twenty-thousand-leagues-under-the-missing-sea journey.

The Pacific Ocean is a huge place -- the hugest place, as a matter of fact, and its bed quickly swallows the group. Quickly Japan is left behind, and there are no mountains, no valleys, no references at all. It is easy to feel very small in such a vast space. It is easy to feel alone, even in a crowd of friends.

The sky gradually transforms from gray, to brilliant endless blue, and finally starts darkening towards a bruised purple. The moon and stars come out. It's almost peaceful...

...except for the shadow.

At first it was so faint as to be a trick of the light, but as the trip has gone on this stripe of persistent darkness has become their path, their track, their guide. It is emanating from something in the far far far distance.

It must be very, very, very tall. From this far off, though, height has no real meaning. It's just an ominous, looming presence, one that's getting closer every minute.

<Pose Tracker> Cure Egret [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

"R-Right..." Egret answers Bloom, but that statement lacks its usual comfort in the face of this. She looks up at her partner, and she smiles, but it is the very definition of strained. "We will."

And it is a long trip from there. Cure Egret stares out at a dark sky -- and a barren place, where the ocean should be. Time hasn't made her more comfortable. She has gone from quiet to silent -- the way she is when she is truly bothered. Her eyes dip down, staring at the floorboards for a moment. Then, she looks up.

"What..." She catches the shadow. The way it falls over them, so dominating. "...What is that?"

It is the first words she has spoken in hours.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

There is room in the Outer Senshi's helicopter to accommodate a fair number of allies, whether staunch or temporary. Even those who have crossed weapons with Pluto previously are welcome. She is, as ever, capable of setting anything personal aside in pursuit of a greater goal.

The more weight it holds, the more strangely the chopper handles. Not much of a conversationalist to begin with, the tall woman lapses into the stone silence of pure focus. Any questions get curt head motions for answers at best as she holds the helicopter slow and steady behind that gloriously painted van at the head of their procession.

Any spare attention Pluto has is given to the seabed.

It is surpassingly rare for the Time Gate's eternal sentinel to see something she has never before seen, and she will not miss this chance. Strange and sad though the barren ocean floor is, it is also a wholly unique sight. It demands witness, and Pluto bears such as best she can.

When the light fades and her old friends peek out overhead, she shifts her spare time to them instead. The emptiness below unsettles; the stellar brilliance above helps to refill Pluto's heart, just a little. It helps offset the foreboding that far-off shadow engenders.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

On the tiny bright side of everything, Steven got ungrounded. Good thing mind you. You don't wanna know what Gems think 'grounded' means. Let's just say Amethyst had a shovel ready.

Slowly, magical girls begin to show up, each one making the boy a little happier. The first to arrive is, well, not what he expected, but was awesome! A helicopter of all things arrive, and out show up... Senshi?! "Y-You guys have a helicopter? Awesome."

The boy also notices a Cure is present! Cures... that is what they are, right? It is in front of their names. They are probably the girls Steven is most curious about. He has seen so many of them! "We have snacks if you need something," he offers towards Mai. "It will be a bit of a jog."

"Man, even the crabs are gone," the boy says aloud. "And the long crabs. What were they called again? Lobsters! Right." They must have followed the water leaving. At least no fish seem to have died. It would make him feel even worse if there was a bunch of flopping fish out there. "You're right," he says towards Fate. "The van? Uh." A sketchy look is given towards the vehicle. "...Maybe?"

Probably not. "We got this!" he shouts to his dad. Only a dad this great would go on magical adventures and not be a stick in the mud.


The trek is tiring, but not all boring. Having a group of friends makes it much more bearable. Lion keeps up with the van easily, keeping pace with everyone. The scenery reminded him of the time he was trapped in his bubble with Connie at the bottom of the sea. Except less freakout at the end. No wait, it may still end the same.

It is rather awe inspiring. So is that line of shadow. Wait, line of shadow/ Where is it coming... from...

The boy looks up, and sees a... pillar? Nah, it is too tall for that. He waves his hands in and out of the shadow after steering Lion closer. Yeah, it actually was a shadow. That means something is blocking the sunlight. But that is impossible. Isn't it?

"Huh." The boy doesn't really seem to have an answer for it at the moment. All he can do is keep heading that way.

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

Fate Testarossa once sleeplessly served her mother for many, many nights attempting to find and collect jewel seeds.

And yet even with the wind in her face and the gravity of the situation- she's still ten years old. As her eyes grow a little heavier flying across the endless expanse, hearing the endless thrum of a helicopter propellar... she can't help but suppress a yawn with a hand to her mouth.

That child in her wants to ask if she can take a nap in the van, but she's far too proud to actually take the leap and... ask.

Yet she feels so sleepy as the moon and the stars come out to greet her. "Maybe... noone would notice if I landed on top of the van... and took five min-" There's a sudden urgent tone from Bardiche. <Caution.>

And that causes her neck to whip up and her eyes to flare open. And what she sees is disturbing enough to stop. The child hovers in the air as the helicopter and van move on and she hovers there and stares in wonder.

Eventually she continues onwards, double timing it to catch up to the others.

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

"Ah--yes, sen--Neptune." Yumi straightens at the question. "Or... kind of. It made me a little nauseous," she admits, but the question puts her at ease. Yumi relaxes slightly despite herself, adjusting her glasses thoughtfully.

"Mm, right. We'll hurry." A beat, as she sees those coming, that it's time to get back into the helicopter and travel along. Fuu's request and Fuu's joke...

Yumi's not a Senshi, but she does manage to crack a smile at the joke. "You should've intended it. When things are terrible is the best time to tell a few jokes." A beat, "Call me Ivy, okay? Sorry if my staff pokes you while we're going."

She was going to change back, but...

Yumi doesn't really try toget Pluto's attention while she's piloting; Fuu in particular can notice that the gray-haired witch is a little nervous. Nervous turns to a different kind of uneasy at this shadow, and the gem of Yumi's magic glows softly, brightly, at the window, not so hard as to harm eyes. She gazed in wonder at this journey, but this... It is not peaceful enough.

Yumi shivers, and she's not sure whether it's from the cold. "...Right. Knight-san, everyone, we'll be fine. We can do this."

She's glad she transformed though. And that they aren't walking. "I couldn't even start to manage this if we were walking," she murmurs with a sigh.

<Pose Tracker> Cure Bloom [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

Cure Bloom rockets off as the group sets out; sparks of light from the spirits trailing her feet and hands as she soars. Free-flying, it's a majestic view, impossible and wonderful; but alien and wrong. It churns Cure Bloom's core the longer she has to look at it.

She occasionally bothers the van for snacks. About halfway through the day she takes a break for what turns out to be half an hour by landing on the struts of the helicopter, and another one a little while later, on the roof of the van. She's never flown for this long before. The power doesn't seem to be fading, but...she wonders if it will. The oceans have spirits too, don't they? Will they go away, soon...?

But as the day wears on, and no trace of ocean remains, she gets anxious too, in her own way. Egret grows silent; Bloom grows anxious, occasionally touching down and running, occasionally soaring off and away as if it will somehow change the scenery. It's like traveling with an anxious kid with a rocket pack, trying to give herself something to do that isn't panic. ANd in the end...

She touches down next to Egret again as the girl frets; unthinking, she reaches for her hand. Her grip might be just a touch too tight. "...where we're going, I guess," she says, quietly. ... Her feet shift.

"Bloom-lapi...is something-wrong-lapi?"

"It's nothing," she lies, and tugs a little on Egret's hand. "Come on. They won't wait long for us," she murmurs, and moves to take off again.

<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

Garnet is now riding on top of the van, in a deceptively relaxed pose. She'd begun the trip riding shotgun in the van next to Greg, until... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agpbaf-SJas .

Upon her return she assumed the position she's in now and while she's open to being chat with at distance by those who are able, she did pick this location for its blessed quiet. It gives her plenty of time to think.

She'd heard Fuu's questions, but had no good answers. The reason they wanted the mirror in the first place was to ascertain what was going on with it, what the dangers might be.

Garnet knows more than she's telling, certainly, but it has been a very very long time since she's had to battle another Gem. Recollection will take time. Besides, this particular Gem was quite damaged, cracked deep along its stone in many places, and there's no telling how that affected or warped its capabilities. So Garnet had to reply to Fuu with a simple "No."

Garnet did manage her only (internal) moment of levity when Fate complimented the van. She was glad she approved. Garnet liked Van Universe too.

She wonders idly at the helicopter. She hadn't seen many of them, and peeks up at it occasionally to make sure it's keeping pace or not screaming ahead. She checks on Steven and Connie riding on Lion. and finally, as the sun sets at the encroaching shadow and the odd structure in the distance she'd ascertained earlier that morning through her prescience.

Rather than rely on it now, when so much else may require her attentions, Garnet wonders, gravely, how long it will be until Lazuli knows they're coming for her.

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

"Could that be what happened to the ocean's water?" the Wind Knight wonders aloud.

It's a fairly simple hypothesis. The water had to go SOMEwhere, unless it was actually destroyed - and Garnet was fairly clear about the ocean only having been moved, not destroyed. And unless Lapis Lazuli was able to 'move' it completely off the planet somehow without moving it through three-dimensional reality, the water still had to be somewhere on Earth - and gathering it all into one place would have the same effect in terms of removing it from other places.

But even if that answers one question, it poses several more troubling issues ... such as, if their enemy can manipulate all the water of the oceans, what can she do in personal combat?

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Neptune [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

"Oh, certainly," Sailor Neptune says to Yumi.

But then, more journey to come.

Sailor Neptune has little to say during the rest of the journey. She is perhaps gathering herself for this confrontation, or meditating, or just trying not to think about things like 'can this be stopped' or 'what happens when the water comes back?'

"If either of you can spot out that woman, Lapis Lazuli," Neptune says as the sky darkens, "do point her out. I think that she is better known to the fellows in the van, however, so we may need to follow their lead."

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

Humans (and Gems) aren't always very good at accepting realities so bizarre and outlandish that they completely break their prior understanding of the world. It's easy to rationalize that shadow away as a mountain, as a tower, as a mirage even.

It's easier than taking in the truth, but eventually the truth asserts itself too powerfully to be ignored: it is the ocean, perhaps in its totality, consolidated into a pillar and steadily narrowing upwards, into the sky. Beyond the sky, even. It seems endless. The height alone is breathtaking, staggering.

It is also beautiful, the way the fading light filters here and there through the blues and greens. The missing sea life seems happy enough (under the circumstances, anyway), swirling in an endless, bountiful profusion of fishy life, fishy color.

"...guys, I just had the greatest idea for an album cover," murmurs Greg from the back of the van. Pearl's been driving for hours now, and she takes it up a slope to the large plateau where the ocean pillar is based, then puts it into park.

The Crystal Gems quickly emerge. Amethyst is unusually solemn as she surveys this unimaginable sight. Pearl is worried. "I don't understand," she complains. "What does Lapis Lazuli want with the ocean?"

"Look at all this!" Connie exclaims, overcome with amazed joy despite herself as she sees sharks, eels, turtles -- and yes, lobsters -- floating around. "It's just like a giant aquarium!"


The voice is amplified massively, great and terrible. It shakes the ground. It shakes the van. But it is, recognizably, the same voice of the mirror Gem who was released last night, who met people upon the beach dazed and wondrous and vulnerable.

Lapis Lazuli is here.


<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

"This is it. Lapis Lazuli is here."

Garnet dismounts from the van and moves down with Steven and the other Crystal Gems. At Lapis's first initial cry. Garnet replies cryptically: "She's sensed us."

Garnet stands back and lets Steven do his best to negotiate with his "new friend" and hopes some good will come of it, perhaps they can avoid what might be coming. She keeps an eye on Pearl and Amethyst, ready to hold them back should their emotions get the best of them during Steven and Lapis' talk.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

The group slowly heads towards that strange thing in the distance. "It keeps going..." he says aloud. The shadow gets deeper and deeper, extending into the horizon. Then he sees it. "No way..."

The boy looks up, and much like everyone else present, his jaw is agape. Lapis has to be the one doing this. The water... it is upright like a statue! Steven takes a step or two forward to look at the fish, the sealife-- all here. All safe. It was a relief to say the least. Then the voice comes. It causes tremors all around. The boy takes a deep breath.

"Lapis Lazuli! It's me, Steven!" A pause. "We're here to help!" Help her with what, he doesn't yet know, but she seemed like she could use some. Even if it was just someone to talk to. "We are Gems! We should be friends! Others are here on your behalf as well! We just want to help you!"

Being trapped in the mirror must have been horrific. The boy approaches the column's edge. He slaps the sides of the water. It actually has form and surface tension. Odd. "Regardless if you accept our help, we aren't leaving until you give us back our ocean!"

<Pose Tracker> Cure Egret [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

There is a tug on Cure Egret's hand. She was always prone to spacing out, and that is some of it -- but the way she stares into space, despondently, at the mud and empty barren place is... it isn't the way she stares into space normally. It isn't the discerning eye of an artist. She looks at her, blinking, and then her hand squeezes the other Pretty Cure's back.

"Oh--oh yes," she says. "I understand. We should... we should be sure we keep up."

She takes a step forward again -- and she releases Bloom's hand, only so she can leap into the air once more. She resumes her flight, twirling and leaving sparkles of silver light in her wake.

"How terrible," she whispers at the world below her.

But, they come to the end: the pillar of water, all gathered in one great tower, soaring into the sky. Cure Egret looks up at it, staring at the fish and everything else swimming inside of it. Her breath catches for a moment and she shakes her head, as Garnet and the rest of the Crystal Gems step forward.

And Steven makes his plea.

She comes to a stop in midair, hand placed over her heart, and then she calls out after him: "You can't do this! Our world needs water to keep it alive! The oceans... the oceans are so important! Our world isn't whole without them! Please!"

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

The approach motivates her not to sleep.

Fate gawks like a tourist at the giant columnar aquarium of wonders as Connie points it out. Her eyes going this way and that way and this way and that as all the creatures of the sea float by. "It's... incredible."

It also would have made the summer homework she was required to do before entering into Infinity a whole lot easier but that's a more distant fault.

However that same wonder also makes her wonder what they're dealing with. Something of this scale... it makes her think of magic on the scale of her mother. That whole thought causes the girl to shiver.

Right before Lapis' loud shout makes her quake.

A few moments pass- as Garnet declares that she's sensed us. And she floats down to be near Steven. She feels his words are the most important here of all. Lapis and him were friends. She would listen to him, she knew it!

After Steven finishes, declares they aren't leaving- she nods at him. She listens to Egret declaring the world needs the oceans to survive. She learned that in class how the ecosystem of the ocean is so necessary for Earth and so she adds her own plea just after Egret's-

"Lapis- I know you're upset from what happened to you but you shouldn't punish everyone! A lot of people are going to get hurt if this keeps up!"

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

The impossible rolls into view over the horizon. Sailor Pluto squints through her flight visor, mistrusting her excellent vision. As soon as she can spare half a second from her nonstop wrangling of helicopter controls, that visor gets flipped up -- her fingers linger by her temple, forgotten, until a needle pegs red on a gauge and the bird slides sideways on a shear wind. Then she's all razor-edge focus again, wresting the aircraft level again. Visor stays up; no time to snap it back down.

"Neptune..." But she can't find any words to follow that name. If she could, she'd look at her fellow soldier. As it is Pluto wonders what shows in those fathoms-deep eyes as they behold...

The astrophysics student and plain old science geek in Setsuna Meioh has read extensively on the theories behind space elevators. She loves humanity's reaching spirit, and in her own little way cheers for their efforts at space exploration, like one might root for a local little league team. Now she wonders with wide eyes if they could swim all the way up to the moon.

'YOU SHOULDN'T BE HERE!' Pluto swears she can feel the words through the rocking of the controls in her hands, like they have projected force all their own.

The bird sets down with all gentleness: Sailor Pluto sets her considerable mind to mastering the unusual wind patterns near this impossible column of ocean and refuses to allow anything less than the safest of landings. Dear friends ride with her today. She sees each down to the bone-dry seafloor before following the small group to rejoin the larger. Even this tallest of senshi with her towering staff feels exceedingly small, in the shadow of the gathered Pacific.

To those nearby, she murmurs, "I very much hope we have warning before the ocean restores itself." Sailor Pluto is not given to thalassophobia, but she has never felt dwarfed by the entire contents of an ocean's basin before, either. That said, she lapses into silence and plays witness once more, this time to the pleas of Steven Universe.

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

"Sure," Yumi says to Neptune. "If I see her, I'll tell you." Yumi is quiet for her part, adusting her glasses as she needs to (she never needs to really) and sitting awkwardly beside Fuu.

Once they get close, Yumi stares; the fish are here, the ones she mentioned, and they seem... fine? But obviously things aren't fine. Nothing is fine about all of this.

But that voice--That voice she knows, just from yesterday, and it makes her shake again.

Pluto sets them down, and the Witch of Lost Ivy clings like her namesake to the metal of the heliopter before she finally gets out, moves to stand beside Pluto with her own great staff. That thought of Pluto's.... "U-Um." Yumi looks a little green. "Y-Yeah, I really hope so..."

Steven speaks up to his... friend? And Yumi wants to say more, but what can she say? Pretty Cure says more, Fate says more...

Yumi takes a deep breath and raises her voice, "I don't really know you! I don't understand you. I wish I did, but I don't. But I hope there's a better way than this, what's happening now."

She lowers her voice. "Probably she doesn't have any reason to listen to me but... Being honest is better than doing nothing, isn't it? I hope that boy can get through to her."

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

This is not one of those times when Fuu particularly wanted to be right about something. Still, it does seem like her hypothesis (or her guess, if you prefer) was right. Pluto's comment elicits a solemn nod from the Magic Knight of Wind; even with the wind magic she can use, she'd be as doomed as anyone else if the ocean went from 'one surprisingly narrow and incredibly tall pillar' back to its normal distribution around the face of the planet.

And on that note ...

"Lapis Lazuli-san," the Wind Knight calls out, "*every* life on Earth depends upon the oceans. Not just humans like us, not just the fish that swim in the seas - the water cycle starts and ends in the oceans, plankton in the ocean help generate oxygen for other living things to breathe, and those things sustain every other living being on this world. Even if you're angry at Steven and Garnet and Pearl for some reason - and I don't fully understand what that reason *is* - to take away the oceans isn't just punishing countless innocents along with them; it will kill *everything*."

Admittedly, it's an argument from logic as well as an appeal to compassion - but she doesn't have the emotional proximity that Steven apparently does, so logic is kind of the strongest card she can try to play here.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Neptune [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Sailor Neptune feels a very slight lurch as she sees that vast column of water. It reminds her in a way that's half absurd and half charming of an aquarium tank, except that it continues up into the infinite vaults of the skies...

Someone tells them that they shouldn't be here.

"Do you think we should listen?" Neptune muses to Pluto. "Honestly, though; I feel a certain protective sensation over those waters." She adjusts the microphone over her lips in order to address the others, saying as she does, "This may be rather bumpy, but I have great confidence in Sailor Pluto. Save one, she is the finest pilot I have ever known."

Then the others speak. Sailor Neptune turns her head to look at Ivy's heart-felt wish to know someone better, and then at Fuu's summary of the hydrological cycle. With this, Sailor Neptune closes her eyes and smiles without much mirth for a moment, takes a deep breath, and speaks as if addressing a crowd from the stage.

"Lazuli-san," Sailor Neptune says. "The oceans are a thing of eternal beauty. Ever shifting and ever changing. Without the oceans, the wind could not blow; life could have never come to be. Perhaps your world is different, but not ours."

Neptune's voice raises. "I do not know your tale, but I am sorry for what you have suffered. Nevertheless! You do not ease your pain by inflicting other hurts on others. This is just a cycle as endless as rain falling and pouring down into the sea."

(Neptune glances briefly at Pluto, as if to say: What do you think? But this would be hidden to the other two girls, and perhaps even to Pluto herself.)

<Pose Tracker> Cure Bloom [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

Bloom slows as they get closer, awe leaking into her. It's horrible, yes; a thousand times over, terrible. But amazing, too. She certainly has no such powers. Pretty Cure of the Earth or no, she couldn't lift up Fujiyama...probably...she hasn't had to try, really...

Her thoughts are wandering from anxiety, but she can't resist them being pulled right back in by that thundering voice crying out that they shouldn't be here. "We have to be!" Cure Bloom calls back, cruising in to a stop alongside Egret. "We can't..." ....let this happen. Let you do this. "...please," she says, lamely, the passion that came easily to the others suddenly stuck in her throat.

COMBAT: Garnet transforms into Garnet's Got Gauntlets!
<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Mirror Match https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LC_mL-rm7R8

In response to Steven's address, a gigantic face forms on the side of the pillar, composed entirely of seawater. It's Lapis, of course, though her mirror-blank eyes seem blanker still when they're made out of the same substance as the rest of her.

She's glaring daggers. Her eyes are big enough to glare them at the whole group at once, so she does.


Nonetheless, she hears individuals' words -- claims of aid; pleas for mercy; demands that she, at the least, recognize the consequences of her actions.

The face morphs into a giant Steven head, interrupting the barrage of entreaties midsentence with a screamed "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!" perfectly in his voice. Once that's gotten everyone's attention, the head shifts back into Lapis'.

"I can't trust you, Steven -- I can't trust any of you. You're with the Crystal Gems. You don't understand... just leave me alone."

Obviously nobody is going anywhere.

With an impatient, disgusted sploosh, the huge Lapis face vanishes back into the whole. There's a moment of silence. And then she snaps:


A waterspout slams Steven back into Garnet, keeping him from the pillar. A waterspout attached to... the arm of a Water Steven, who is emerging from the base, a perfect aqueous facsimile. He's the one who shouted that -- in Lapis' voice.

He is flanked by Water Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl. Above him, Water Fate and Water Pretty Cures fly out. Beside the Crystal Gems, two Water Sailor Senshi, a Cute Water Witch, and a Water Magic Knight make themselves manifest.

They are accurate down to fine details; it's like looking into a mirror, if that mirror was reflecting your face at a time of intense fury, the kind of anger that makes you shake, that makes your insides squirm with contempt.

And then they summon weapons -- gauntlets, whip and spear; Water Bardiche and a Staff of Drowned Ivy and an Aquamarine Rod. Escudo sword, enchanted bow. The Water Pretty Cure clench their fists and their knuckles pop like gunshots. Water Sailor Neptune smiles coldly and draws more ocean from the pillar behind her, a tsunami that crashes down over everyone.

By the time the pounding surf has cleared, everyone's water twin is right in their face.

Battle is joined!

COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe transforms into Mirror Match!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Noitaludnu Evaw on Cure Bloom.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Noitaludnu Evaw on Sailor Neptune.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Noitaludnu Evaw on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Noitaludnu Evaw on Yumi Ohzora.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Noitaludnu Evaw on Sailor Pluto.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Noitaludnu Evaw on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Noitaludnu Evaw on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Noitaludnu Evaw on Garnet.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Noitaludnu Evaw on Cure Egret.
COMBAT: Cure Egret narrowly counters Hotaru Tomoe's Noitaludnu Evaw, taking 19 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Cure Egret's
Reverse ability activates!
COMBAT: Cure Egret's counterattack, Feather Flourish, partially gets through, doing 8 Fatigue damage to Hotaru Tomoe!  Critical
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji perfectly braces Hotaru Tomoe's Noitaludnu Evaw, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Brace!  Fuu Hououji's
Block ability activates!  Fuu Hououji's Parry ability activates!
COMBAT: Sailor Neptune narrowly braces Hotaru Tomoe's Noitaludnu Evaw, taking 15 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Neptune's Block ability
activates!  Sailor Neptune's Parry ability activates!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa narrowly counters Hotaru Tomoe's Noitaludnu Evaw, taking 16 Fatigue damage!  Fate Testarossa's Reverse
ability activates!  Fate Testarossa's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa's counterattack, Plasma Lancer, partially gets through, doing 11 Fatigue damage to Hotaru Tomoe!
COMBAT: Garnet narrowly dodges Hotaru Tomoe's Noitaludnu Evaw, taking 22 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Garnet's Fade ability
activates!  Garnet's Flash ability activates!
COMBAT: Garnet covers Steven Universe for Hotaru Tomoe's attack, Noitaludnu Evaw, taking it upon herself instead!
COMBAT: Garnet narrowly braces Hotaru Tomoe's Noitaludnu Evaw, taking 11 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora narrowly braces Hotaru Tomoe's Noitaludnu Evaw, taking 10 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Yumi Ohzora's Block
ability activates!  Yumi Ohzora's Parry ability activates!
COMBAT: Cure Bloom perfectly counters Hotaru Tomoe's Noitaludnu Evaw, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Counter!  Cure Bloom's
Reverse ability activates!  Cure Bloom's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Cure Bloom's counterattack, Petal Flash, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Hotaru Tomoe!
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto narrowly braces Hotaru Tomoe's Noitaludnu Evaw, taking 12 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Pluto's Block ability
activates!  Sailor Pluto's Parry ability activates!
COMBAT: Steven Universe transforms into Steven Quartz Universe!
<Pose Tracker> Cure Egret [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

The face appears on the water and Egret gasps, softly. She did not expect something like that. Nor did she remotely expect it to shift into a face that looks like Steven Universe's. The geyser of water shoots out -- and she yelps. She turns to look at Steven, gasping a little, before she looks back at the pillar of water...

...and what comes out of it. "Eeeh?" she asks, surprise registering on her face as the tsunami comes crashing down. She throws her hands out, and a sharp shockwave silver light rips a gap in the wave, but the force of the recoil throws her to her feet, to the ground. And she looks up, then.

She sees a watery mirror of Cure Egret, staring back at her. Her eyes widen -- and then she immediately lunges forward. Egret wheels backward, foot swung back, and delivers a kick to her aquamarine mirror. "Bloom!" she cries out. "What--what is this!?"

COMBAT: Cure Egret has used Sky Dancer's Kick on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

It's not the first time that the Wind Knight has faced her own visage in battle; seeing her watery double brings back a brief but vivid memory of the Legendary Spring Eterna, although even that mirror image didn't harbor the malice in her gaze that the doubles created by Lapis display so vividly.

Blade meets blade, as the Magic Knight of Wind meets the slash from her opposite number; it's too abrupt for her to attempt a riposte or an immediate counter, but simply surviving that first clash unharmed is a victory of sorts, particularly with the wave crashing down over the magical girls (and Steven). Fuu's calm, calculating gaze briefly meets the eyes of her liquid duplicate -

And then the blades disengage as she leaps back, blade exchanged for bow in flaring streaks of light. By the time the Wind Knight lands from that jump, she's already nocked arrow to string and is drawing the shaft back; she wastes no time in loosing it. At least she shouldn't suffer the wounds she inflicts on her double *here*, but the question remains of how much good a mundane arrow will do ...

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Trick Arrow Shot on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe narrowly dodges Cure Egret's Sky Dancer's Kick, taking 6 Fatigue damage!  Cure Egret is Psyched!  Hotaru
Tomoe's Fade ability activates!  Hotaru Tomoe's Flash ability activates!  Trap applied to Hotaru Tomoe!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe narrowly braces Fuu Hououji's Trick Arrow Shot, taking 8 Fatigue damage!  Hotaru Tomoe's Block ability
activates!  Hotaru Tomoe's Parry ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

Starting at the angry head of Lapis Lazuli, she then addresses Ivy. "Um. Well- words matter." Fate remarks before listening to Neptune's speech- which causes her to listen, her breath caught in her throat. Emotions in turmoil as she listens to it...

Her chin dips. She doesn't think she could do any better. In fact she knows she couldn't.

And then a scream in Steven's voice causes her to start again as if she's starting to realize how erratic this water sorceress is...

"Please... you can trust Steven. He would never hurt you."

And then she snaps.

And that's when a water image of her appears. "Bardiche!" She sweeps him to the side and he swiftly chimes, <Plasma Lancer>

A fusillade of electrified arrowheads fire off unto the waterspout stream stretching towards her at ludicrous speed.

It slaps her away to the ground, but as it does her spell makes contact- arcs of electricity spreading up through her mirror image.

For a moment, her twin crafted perfectly out of water is sparking. And Fate looks on in horror, "It's... me?"

For some reason the idea of someone making a duplicate of her so casually... it hurt. In ways she couldn't describe.

Especially since after it still stands appearing unharmed- staring at her with eyes that remind her of Lapis' empty ones. The girl picks herself off the ground, "We can't! Not while you're doing this!"

This all doesn't make sense to her. Why is it stretching up unto the sky? All she can conclude is punishing Earth as before- or maybe creating some aquarium sanctuary of solitude.

But she can't even take the time to question further- with everyone in danger...

Suddenly she surges forward, Bardiche held in both hands, "Haaaaa-" before she slashes downward into her duplicate with a vicious cut across the diagonal. "-AAA!"For a moment all seems silent for her in the wake of her cut...

But then there is an explosion of thunderous power cascading outwards into the water clone. She hopes it'll blast it apart into droplets.

But that might just be wishful thinking.

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Thunderous Clash on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to counter Fate Testarossa's Thunderous Clash, taking 30 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Fate
Testarossa is Psyched!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe's counterattack, Mirror Mirror, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Fate Testarossa!
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

The grimmest edge of a grin acknowledges Sailor Neptune's vote of confidence in Pluto's ability to handle the treacherous crosswinds. She'll take second-best to Haruka Tenoh.

Yumi sticks close and Pluto reciprocates, remembering a pledge made to Tama not so long ago. Indeed, she adds, "Stay near. If the worst should come to pass and the sea rushes back in... Well, we may have a chance." Privately the senshi doubts the Garnet Ball could withstand the deep-sea pressures as well as the long trip up to a surely-roiling surface. Still -- if it comes to that she will try, and she has recently been inspired to stretch its capacity.

She has made no plea of her own, as is often her custom, letting Sailor Neptune say her piece for the both of them. She trusts in the Senshi of the Deep and her unfathomable connection to that column of lifegiving seawater; she trusts in her friend's wisdom and insight, and in her ability to weave words wrought of both. Should the timing be kind -- and it often is, to its Guardian -- she looks Neptune's way just as the other woman seeks her eye.

Eyes closed, chin inclined: a small suggestion of a deep bow indeed, indicative of the same unshakeable trust Pluto has always had in her friends.

Unfortunately, it seems Lapis Lazuli is beyond the reach of Sailor Neptune's entreaties, as well as those of all the other magical girls. From screaming ocean-face to onrushing ocean-clones, this strange day continues in its strange way, and Sailor Pluto snaps the Garnet Rod up crosswise before her.

The aqueous Pluto leads in with her own Rod of Aquamarine, and the solid Pluto meets that rush with a great clash -- titanium holds, but the senshi is not sure if those were sparks or flashing droplets of water projecting from the impact. Over the weapons their eyes meet, and Sailor Pluto finds herself staring down her own killing rage.

It shocks her to her core -- she actually backpedals, with an awkwardness wholly unlike her. Pluto cries, "Get back!" without conscious thought as ice shoots through her limbs. With some effort, Pluto shoves the horror she's engendered in herself aside. But she does not meet that mirror-self's eyes again, instead watching its hands and its stance.

Well, she has some space; she'll use it. The Garnet Rod swings overhead and around, and at the end of that swoop it slings plutonic energy directly at the Pluto-clone.

<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

"Everyone, stay together, don't let them seperate yo-"

Garnet is punched back by her own supersonic double, smashed with a simalcrum of her own gauntlets that shimmer like sunlight on the surface of a fountain. She attempts to dodge in the brief second before contact and though she feels like she might have evaded just enough to avoid a direct hit, the results are arguable as she goes flying back with Steven still in her arms from Lapis' rebuke.

The Water Steven sees an opening to push them further with its waterspout arm, and blasts it right towards Steven!

A glow of transformative light and it hits Garnet instead, unable to move mid-flight, the Gem instead shapeshifted her armored hands to massive size in order to completely shelter her little one from his doppelganger's blast.

At last they stop in a trench of Garnet's own making, and she stands and sets Steven gently. "Steven. If you can, help one of the others, if it's too much for you, get to safety as quickly as you can." She tells him.

She looks around at all the mirror matches happening and sighs with resignation that her words went unheard.

Garnet rushes back in a blur of speed, a gleaming right hook prepared to face herself on the battlefield, before Water Garnet unleashes the power of teamwork on one of the genuine article's allies.

COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has used Garnet Blast on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Garnet has used Gem Grinder on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Neptune [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

"And leave you alone with all of our oceans? Well," Neptune says as her arms fold, her voice not raised to carry too far, "that feels like a choice I won't be making today."

Lapis Lazuli has a riposte nonetheless. Sailor Neptune frowns for a moment as her doppleganger smiles at her with an arctic chilliness, the tsunami-burst of water falling down towards them and leading the soldier of the deeps to raise her arms, a cross-block over her face as her teeth set and the seas wash over her.

After they pass, she smiles. It isn't so far off from the mirror image, is it? "Can you tell the difference, Sailor Pluto?" Sailor Neptune asks, her eyes peeking over her forearms as she regards her duplicate. Her right hand then comes back, as if to sweep the stray waters from the air -

"Hah!" That aquamarine water, force, whichever or both, sweeps back as if under Sailor Neptune's silent control, hurled back at the watery form of her mirror image.

"I don't like having an impostor around," Neptune then says, though she crouches slightly, hands drawn back in a primed and ready posture.

COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe perfectly dodges Sailor Pluto's Garnet Blast, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!  Hotaru Tomoe's Fade
ability activates!  Hotaru Tomoe's Flash ability activates!
COMBAT: Sailor Neptune has used Dolphin Wave on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to brace Sailor Neptune's Dolphin Wave, taking 50 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe narrowly dodges Garnet's Gem Grinder, taking 21 Fatigue damage!  Hotaru Tomoe's Fade ability activates!
Hotaru Tomoe's Flash ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Cure Bloom [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

Bloom is startled out of whatever she's failing to say but the mega-Steven's defiant wail. That's...actually kind of familiar. That reminds her of how Minori gets when the younger Hyuuga is feeling pouty; loud and insistent, refusing to let anyone else do anything. It's not often she sees it, because her precious perfect adorable sister is precious, perfect, and adorable, but...

Her fist slowly clenches. Not listening even a little...

The huge visage of Lapis retreats, and something else, much worse, appears. Her own face blinded with fury is a strange, unfamiliar thing. Egret's...makes her feel sick, somehow. That's not her partner. Something in her twists, offended by proxy; but the mirror Bloom is suddenly RIGHT THERE. Cure Bloom throws her arms up, sprays of golden motes suddenly blooming around her, an inchoate field of magic catching the Mirror Bloom's wild punch. "It's....copies!?" she squawks out, alarmed. The fight helps, in a way. Maybe it's bad, but...

She knows fighting. She reaches out hard, grabs the other Bloom's arm, and whirls around in midair to PITCH her down to the ground. "C'mon! Stay with me!" she yells, zooming after her foe. "We'll work as a team like always! And then...!"

.....then they may have to figure out how to do something nobody knows how to do.

COMBAT: Cure Bloom has used Bloom Pursuing Strikes on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe narrowly counters Cure Bloom's Bloom Pursuing Strikes, taking 3 Fatigue damage!  Hotaru Tomoe's Reverse
ability activates!  Hotaru Tomoe's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe's counterattack, Mirror Mirror, partially gets through, doing 32 Fatigue damage to Cure Bloom!
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

What is with Lapis?! Does she not care or worry about what she is doing? Is it really that bad to want to get away from the Crystal Gems... like this? The boy waits for a response. "Wh...!"

The sudden use of his voice and face throws him way off. It was so funny having the mirror copy his actions, making funny noises, talking to him. When its exponentially bigger than you though, It is uh. It is different. The boy's features sadden whe he hears he cannot be trusted. Be cause of who he is with.

Steven first looks to those he has grown up with. Garnet, Pearl, Amethyst, Greg and Connie. What was so hard to trust? Did this have to do with the Gem's past? The boy then scans the group of girls that have gathered on their behalf to save their ocean. How can trust be so flimsy based just on association? They didn't do anything either!

It actually starts to make the boy angry. Just before he makes an outburst though, A sudden wet force flings him far back...!

...Right into the hands of Garnet. "Th... Thanks Garnet. Okay!" The boy looks to Greg and Connie for a moment, before looking at all the fighting, heading into the fray.

Lion on the other hand, seems to not liek this Water Steven character. NOT AT ALL. The cat growls loudly and approaches the the anomaly. Lion opens his mouth, and a gout of sonic energy bursts forth, trying to disrupt and repel this impostor! THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE.

COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Just Lion Things on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Neptune's words honestly surprise Yumi, about what to do with pain and endless cycles. She blinks over at her. "Yeah..." But she isn't the only one who speaks up by or to Yumi. Fate, too, answers her and Yumi is surprised in a different way. "Yeah? You think so? Most of my enemies aren't really willing to talk..."

But there's Lapis Lazuli's voice, and her huge eyes, and Yumi startles. This is big; this is unpleasant. This is scary. And she just can't trust them, and Yumi's pink eyes stare out back at her. "Would I trust anybody? Or maybe there's a reason she's...?"

This is a reason.

What Yumi expects and this are not a diagram; they are two circles that have no relation to one another. The Cute Water Witch steps out of the water and Yumi stares. She stares worse because the fury in her own face is so unfamiliar, is something Yumi tries not to ever, ever think about. "I-I don't get that mad," she protests, "It's... It's fake. It's just--Aaah--"

The tsunami crashes down, and Yumi thows up her defensive spell in time to only be knocked backwards and not lose her weapon.

She needs it when she fades down the Witch of Drowned Ivy, staff to staff. "I don't--" Yumi panics slightly, "It's not like I'm lying to Mother!" Is that where she goes with this? Yumi's arms are not so strong though, and she manages to murmur, "Just hold still; be bound; move no more," and throws out her hand to make ivy erupt out of the barren ground to try to hold her duplicate in place. "Stop LOOKING at me like that!"

COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora has used Ivy Binding on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe perfectly dodges Steven Universe's Just Lion Things, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!  Hotaru
Tomoe's Fade ability activates!  Hotaru Tomoe's Flash ability activates!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe narrowly counters Yumi Ohzora's Ivy Binding, taking 2 Fatigue damage!  Hotaru Tomoe's Reverse ability
activates!  Hotaru Tomoe's Tactician ability activates!  Stun and Trap applied to Hotaru Tomoe!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe's counterattack, Mirror Mirror, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Yumi Ohzora!
<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

Cure Egret kicks her counterpart, and her heel meets only spray. Nonetheless this has forced the watery clone to step inward, closer still, and she reaches out with her aqueous hands to catch Egret's leg before it can return fully to the ground, in the hopes of sending the girl to the ground in her entirety, instead. Across her watery face, her watery lips mouu a pleased little smirk. Water Bloom on the other hand is grinning outright after intercepting a throw attempt with her own throw attempt, chucking Saki to the ground even faster than Water Egret could, and then splashing her while she's down with an endless barrage of soggy punches that do not feel super different from being deeply underwater, in the worst possible way.

Fuu's clone is expressionless. The arrow passes in through a shoulder, then back out again, with about as much effect as if one shot a swimming pool. Did she even feel that? It certainly hasn't slown her down, as she lowers her head, draws the escudo sword, and charges, hoping to slice the real Fuu vertically in half!

Meanwhile that's essentially what has happened to Fate's twin; her torso loses cohesion and the top half starts slipping sideways. Fate's explosion detonates and all that's left of the clone is two puddles, separated by about twenty feet.

And then a Water Fate rises out of each puddle, and they charge. Their Water Bardiches open, revealing a water-energy scythe blade apiece.

Water Pluto is inexorable as time itself. She seems to enjoy the horror reflected on her clone's face, and it's more horrifying still when she seems to evade the plutonic energy with all the ease of someone surfing the seas of seconds -- one moment she is there and the next she is not. And then she returns, directly behind Sailor Pluto, detonating her own Aquamarine Blast into the back of the green-haired woman's head.

As Garnet rushes to close with her counterpart, she notices Amethyst and Pearl fighting their own; Pearl would have already killed hers d-e-d dead but split it into two by accident instead, much like Fate, while Amethyst is having trouble -- apparently Water beats Rock, at least for the moment. Water Garnet probably doesn't have the benefit of Future Vision but sure moves like she does, ducking under Garnet's barrage, then matching it with her own, punch for punch and slam for slam. It is a rapid and terrifying exchange, and whoever lands the first solid blow may well land a killing one.

Sailor Neptune grasps a piece of that tsunami out of the air and sends it back at Water Neptune, who disappears entirely beneath the assault. Indeed, she's driven straight back into the column.

She emerges... taller than she was before. Like ten feet tall. The more mass the merrier! And instead of a third counter-tsunami, Water Neptune elects to instead try to axe-kick Sailor Neptune in the face with a spectacular oceanic bootheel. It's like two feet tall now! And if it connects, it will stick... and threaten to drown.

Lion's sonic blast goes totally and apparently effortlessly evaded by Water Steven, who counters with another slam from those waterslam arms, one that goes on far longer than it should be able to. Water just keeps pouring into Lion, trying to wash him away!

And Yumi manages to bind her own clone in true ivy, some of the only living green in for perhaps thousands of miles around. What a shame she's made out of water; she simply discorporates and reforms outside of the ivy, then, swinging the Staff of Drowned Ivy, brings forth her own magical chains. They're shaped like leaves, but made of stinging saltwater.

All the clones open their mouths and speak as one. They all have Lapis' voice. This is not freaky at all.

"You will not stop me! I WILL NOT be taken again!"

The passion there is absolute in its intensity.

COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Undertow on Cure Egret.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Torrent Torment on Cure Bloom.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Rising Tide on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Rising Tide on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Mirror Mirror on Garnet.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Undertow on Sailor Neptune.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Torrent Torment on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Gnidnib Yvi on Yumi Ohzora.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Aquamarine Blast on Sailor Pluto.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa narrowly dodges Hotaru Tomoe's Rising Tide, taking 10 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Hotaru Tomoe is
Psyched!  Fate Testarossa's Fade ability activates!  Fate Testarossa's Flash ability activates!  Stagger applied to Fate
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto fails to dodge Hotaru Tomoe's Aquamarine Blast, taking 42 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji narrowly dodges Hotaru Tomoe's Rising Tide, taking 15 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Fuu Hououji's Fade
ability activates!  Fuu Hououji's Flash ability activates!
COMBAT: Sailor Neptune narrowly dodges Hotaru Tomoe's Undertow, taking 12 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Cure Egret narrowly braces Hotaru Tomoe's Undertow, taking 3 Fatigue damage!  Cure Egret's Block ability activates!  Cure
Egret's Parry ability activates!  Diversion, Stagger, and Tangle applied to Cure Egret!
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora narrowly counters Hotaru Tomoe's Gnidnib Yvi, taking 3 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Yumi Ohzora's Reverse
ability activates!  Yumi Ohzora's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora's counterattack, Dark Beam, partially gets through, doing 17 Fatigue damage to Hotaru Tomoe!  Stagger applied
to Hotaru Tomoe!
COMBAT: Steven Universe fails to dodge Hotaru Tomoe's Torrent Torment, taking 33 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Garnet narrowly dodges Hotaru Tomoe's Mirror Mirror, taking 22 Fatigue damage!  Garnet's Fade ability activates!  Garnet's
Flash ability activates!
COMBAT: Cure Bloom narrowly braces Hotaru Tomoe's Torrent Torment, taking 14 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Cure Bloom's Block
ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Cure Egret [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.


The disturbing thing is that Cure Egret's watery clone does exactly what Cure Egret would have. Her hands wrap around Egret's ankle and swing her, sending her flying. She slams into the ground, mud spraying, and she rolls a few times -- but she comes into a three point stance, instead of a heap, and her head snaps up to look right at her. She lets out a shaky breath.

Cure Egret bolts forward, then, and leaps into the sky. Silver sparkles trail after as she flies at her water-clone...

...and then right by her, to jerk around the side of the other watery Cure here. Egret snaps to the left of Cure Bloom's mirror, before she swings out both hands. "HYAH!" she yells, as a barrier of white light explodes off both of them and smashes into Bloom's clone.

But, there is more than that. It might well hurl her in a specific direction -- right towards the clone of Cure Egret.

And, past that, too:

"Cure Bloom!" she cries. "NOW!"

COMBAT: Cure Egret has started a combo targeting Hotaru Tomoe!
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

Fate's breath heaves within her chest, as she spins Bardiche in a flourish. She's allowing the grip of horror at having to face her clone to ease in her mind.

And that's when two Fate Testarossa rises out of seperate puddles.

The existential terror returns in earnest. The girl's teeth press together and suddenly she makes a battle cry of determination mingled with fear. She jukes backwards, as one scythe blade cleaves overhead, and the other down low.

Turning herself horizontal in a breathtaking aerial feat, she passes through the two blades- her face only barely missing one, the edges of her boots the other-

Until one clone jerks their scythe blade downward- striking her with the water flat. Catching a faceful of surface tension hardened water the girl corkscrews away in flight dizzied, holding her face with a hand. Breathing hard, she snaps her wrist and Bardiche starts to shift- <Haken Form> - becoming a curved hook alit with energy.

Turning end over end on the pair in hot pursuit- she sweeps him outwards- <Haken Saber>

The energy curve detaches slicing outwards towards the pair. She doesn't wait for it to strike either of them. She simply yells at the top of her lungs- "SABER EXPLODE!"

The sky is alit with electricity and violet light in the glow of her explosion. "I'm not... a pathetic doll..." She says to herself in quiet yet growing panic as she tries to catch her breath and her hands shake, "I'm not."

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Haken Saber on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

There's no time to launch another arrow; the Wind Knight instead flings herself to the side, but not fast enough, and her counterpart's slash knocks her legs out from what needed to be 'under her' in time to land ...

So she splats face-first into the water, instead. (But she's very grateful for the protective quality of her boots.)

She scrambles back to her feet again, spitting out brackish brine, and glances from her adversary-self to the pillar of ocean which Lapis occupies - or, quite possibly, *is*, given how readily she controls it. But there's something else nudging at the corner of her thoughts, something that isn't quite adding up - an imbalanced equation, an undefined variable. Something that *isn't* known - but *needs* to be. Or rather ... something that's known only to their collective opponent.

Something that, as best the Wind Knight can tell, terrifies her.

"What do you mean by 'taken again'?" the Magic Knight of Wind calls out, executing a pre-emptive leap so that her aquatic duplicate can't zero in on her easily. "We're only fighting you because you threaten our world; if you hadn't stolen the ocean, we would have no need to chase you down and bring you to battle!" She gauges where the Watery Wind Knight is and dashes to her left, continuing, "We know nothing about you, Lapis Lazuli-san, except your name - we have no reason to hate you, *if* you return the ocean! Why take such a drastic step?"

She finally comes to a halt, sword materializing in her hands - but held at a defensive angle, rather than being wielded like she's ready to attack. "Why are you afraid of us - of *any* of us?" she calls out, challenging with words instead of with weapon. "What happened to you in the past, that you're frightened enough to lash out *now*?"

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Gentle Chiding on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe perfectly dodges Fate Testarossa's Haken Saber, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Critical Dodge!
Hotaru Tomoe's Fade ability activates!  Hotaru Tomoe's Flash ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

Fist against fist, hard light against hard water!

Garnet battles with her double A punch, a miss, a punch, a miss. The double punches low, and gets Garnet is the abdomen. She exhales in pain but can't afford the time to recover from even such a solid blow, so she falls back, and then leaps forward again, punching at the double over and over and over in hopes of keeping it on the defensive.

Garnet's fists blur with speed, until each thrust of her armored gauntlets appear as red-purple colored sparkles of light trailing behind the rushing air of nigh invisible impacts.

COMBAT: Garnet has used Adamantine Barrage on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to counter Fuu Hououji's Gentle Chiding, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Hotaru Tomoe is
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe's counterattack, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Fuu
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe perfectly braces Garnet's Adamantine Barrage, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Brace!  Hotaru Tomoe's Block
ability activates!  Hotaru Tomoe's Parry ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Steven runs out into the field, but it is far to chaotic to try and interfere with the current duels. The characters move too fluidly, knowing of each other's movement. Either out of speed or intensity, he gets hedged out of assisting others. A watery blast lands uncomfortably close to Connie and Greg. The boy decides to instead keep them safe! He can at least try and keep them out of the fight. "Are you guys okay?!" he asks them.

"Come on Lion, you can take me!" the boy shouts to his friend. Lion makes his best effort to stop the Water Steven, but is met with a geyser holding the strength of a firehose times ten. The pink cat flies across the arena, and right into the Universe-mobile, causing the side of the vehicle to cave in, and the animal slumps down, taking a moment to catch his breath.

"Grrr...!" Steven lets out, suddenly fumbling around in his bag for... a squirt gun? "Let's get her Connie! REVENGE!"

The boy lets out a battlecry as he runs toward the Water Steven, doing whatever it takes to stop it! "Stop it Lapis! This is wrong!!!"

COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Revenge! on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe narrowly counters Steven Universe's Revenge!, taking 5 Fatigue damage!  Hotaru Tomoe's Reverse ability
activates!  Hotaru Tomoe's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe's counterattack, Aqueous Maximus, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Steven Universe!
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

It's her fellow soldier's banter which restores Pluto's equilibrium. "Easily, Neptune -- your twin there is transparent in her attempts to mirror your beauty." Pluto even summons a twinkle to her eye -- she's no Uranus with perfectly honeyed words, but the most elegant of senshi still deserves her accolades.

That's all even its Guardian has Time for. Usually she is the inexorable one; this reversal has Pluto on her heels. She's still completing what could have been a graceful, balletic rotation behind the sweep of the Rod as that water-clone dissipates. It misses its chance to reap the shock in Pluto's eyes as she realizes that she cannot move, cannot dodge, not mid-twirl, and her foe could reform anywhere. On the balance of things, though, it reaps plenty.

A second splits. In its first half Sailor Pluto spins midair, that glorious mane of hers corkscrewing around her; in its second half she launches headfirst through the air, impelled by a coruscating impact at the base of her skull. She herself has no awareness of motion or even pain, at first, concussed into a semi-consciousness that her indomitable warrior's spirit rages against.

WAKE UP! it screams. DANGER! THERE IS NO TIME! It batters against the surging darkness and forces it back down through sheer will. For Sailor Pluto, it always comes down to the bare titanium core of her soul. And thus far, it has always been enough. Here, too.

Her limbs know what to do before her mind recovers, and as her eyes open Pluto finds herself leaping to her feet in a deeply-gouged furrow along the ocean floor -- one that is suspiciously senshi-sized, that ends behind her with a great pile of detritus. It is no difficulty to locate her foe, its false comet's tail of water mimicking her own evergreen locks, even with her vision tripled and a white-hot spike of pain shooting up into the back of her head.

The true Rod feels light and ready in her hands; the true Orb gleams at its pinnacle. If it can dodge a single blast of energy, perhaps a hail of blows is what's called for. She can provide. That titanium length blurs and shines, end-over-end, as Pluto begins to run. When she reaches the Water Pluto it will be nothing but the merest of silvery blurs, ready to deliver blows as countless as the seconds in a millennia.

COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has used Pendulum Blitz on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

"...Crap," the Witch of Lost Ivy says as her living green doesn't keep them bound. "Come one, I thought magic water had coherence!" But there's little time to complain; Yumi knows this spell, knows this magic, for all that it's different, and Yumi tries to step back out of it. "Noo no no--"

She talks a lot. She talks a lot because this is terrifying. These little babblings are a way to vent some of that. But now there's stinging saltwater on her arms and legs, and Yumi manages to counterspell with a great green beam for her duplicate's stomach as she drags herself to move through her own slow restraints.

It hurts. Do hers hurt like this?

"I don't want to take you!" Yumi shouts back in fear and frustration. Pluto said to stay near her, in case the ocean went, but she can't get near her. But even without that...

"Why are you still looking at me that way...? I'm sorry. Did I say I was sorry?" Yumi grits her teeth and jabs her staff into the sand. "Know the agony of hunger unfulfilled!" Another rune is cast, glowing briliantly green, "Hollow Curse!" Moving is so hard.

COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora has used Hollow Curse on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Cure Bloom [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

Cure Bloom's easy throw attempt is equally is dismantled. When power collides with power, technique prevails, and Cure Bloom applied poor technique, is what Flappy might say if he weren't currently making woogly noises while Cure Bloom lies half-broken on the ground. She groans, half-roused - and immediately finds herself barraged. "Hnnng!" she screams, throwing her arms up for another barrier. It's all she has to defend such a thing with. Fortunately it largely works, and rather than shattering against the ground and drowning ignominiously, her barrier holds off the worst of that attack, cracking slowly while Saki stares at that eager, elated expression. That....she never looks like that. Right? ...right?! But past that, she sees a tiny star, falling toward her....and she does let just a tiny smile crack her features. With a "HAAA!" she forces the barrier to burst, staggering the watery anti-Bloom long enough for Cure Bloom to quickly roll away, throw herself to her feet, and bullet away from her rampaging copy.

Also, just in time for Cure Egret to give it some attention.

Cure Bloom touches down some distance out, sucking in breath. She feels the earth and the wind. The symphony of the ten thousand gods, spirits of every kind, around them always. That's what had been bothering her. Something had been missing from this familiar feeling. The spirits of the water, entombed so close.

She opens herself to them, and cries out as the power of the spirits rushes into her from every direction, a blazing golden aura flaring up around her, sheathing her limbs in golden light.

'Cure Bloom! NOW!'

Her eyes snap open, and she shoves off, all that power gathering together into her hand. As Mirror Bloom rockets toward Mirror Egret, Cure Bloom comes in from the opposite direction at matching speed, and swings her fist in hard, full of Pretty Cure light.

The moment of impact is impossible to miss - because it's accompanied by an explosion of magic that disturbs the coral a mile away.

COMBAT: Cure Bloom has joined the combo started by Cure Egret!
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Neptune [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

"At least now the resemblance is looser," Sailor Neptune murmurs with narrowed eyes even as her foot comes up. Well: That's quite the heel, too, and Sailor Neptune ducks forwards to move forth and beneath it. This does not quite work; she twists, and so she catches it in the side, the watery surge rising up to engulf her nonetheless.

The words of Lapis Lazuli flow through the mighty Neptune-manifestation clearly enough to the sailor senshi. She cannot answer clearly except to think to herself that perhaps this is somewhat sensible. Did she not seem to come from some kind of sealed gem in a mirror? Which Steven, as Neptune recalls, was fleeing from his home with -

Yes, Neptune thinks, that makes sense. Now I am holding half a lungful of breath.

I should do something. Her hands come up and twist round and then aim to clap on the leg of her double-sized doppleganger - aiming to send enough of a ripple through the water that she can rip her head free and breathe. And blink the seawater out of her eyes, of course.

COMBAT: Sailor Neptune has used Aquatic Allemande on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: COMBO! Cure Egret and Cure Bloom have used Double Pretty Cure Spirit Splash on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe narrowly braces Sailor Pluto's Pendulum Blitz, taking 10 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Sailor Pluto is
Psyched!  Hotaru Tomoe's Block ability activates!  Hotaru Tomoe's Parry ability activates!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe narrowly counters Yumi Ohzora's Hollow Curse, taking 7 Fatigue damage!  Hotaru Tomoe's Reverse ability
activates!  Hotaru Tomoe's Tactician ability activates!  Cripple, Diversion, and Exhausted applied to Hotaru Tomoe!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe's counterattack, Mirror Mirror, partially gets through, doing 12 Fatigue damage to Yumi Ohzora!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to dodge Cure Egret and Cure Bloom's Combo: Double Pretty Cure Spirit Splash, taking 105 Fatigue
damage!  Critical Hit!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to dodge Sailor Neptune's Aquatic Allemande, taking 17 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Neptune is Psyched!
<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

The two watery Fate Testarossas simply blink out of the path of the real Fate's saber explosion; she can see their capes fluttering as they criss-cross overhead in twin flips. Do they have feelings like she does? Do they care that she suffers, now?

They summon identical blue darts, surrounded by rings, Plasma Lancers through the water mirror darkly, and send them hurtling her way like a barrage of buzzing wasps.

Nearby, Garnet and Water Garnet continue to go at it fiercely, until, finally, Garnet proves superior-- bisecting her opponent's head, afro and all, with a single mighty punch! For a moment Water Garnet's head simply explodes, but then it recoalesces around Garnet's gauntlet, while her own gauntlet lowers to sucker punch her right in her hard light gut.

The van's a little wrecked but it can still roll, and Greg drives it worriedly further away from the fight, starting slowly so Lion can be let down easily. He looks back over his shoulder at the kids -- Connie has joined Steven in his roaring rampage of revenge, chucking rocks at Water Steven -- and they aren't having much effect. Worse still, the clone, who seems to really like using his arms, is sending them out towards the kids' heads, trying to engulf them.

Trying to drown them.

Fuu meanwhile tries to talk down her clone. It doesn't work; she continues to advance, briefly shifting her head, on Water Fuu's body, into Steven's screaming "NOOOOOOOOOO!!" image. When even this doesn't shut Fuu up, Water Fuu shakes her head, narrows her eyes, and tries to blast her away with a gigantic cyclonic waterspout. It is, to put it mildly, scary fast, scary sudden, scary huge.

Sailors Pluto and Neptune contend with their clones in a way that is both similar and different -- they both smack them around. But Pluto hits many times without doing a great deal of damage; instead, in an echo of Garnet, they wind up in an intricate dance, trading staff blows back and forth, and only one of them has a watery body that can fill in the wounds. While Neptune hits her giant woman the once and manages to fall free of the leg entirely. Giant Water Neptune glances down at her own undulating thigh, then glares at Sailor Neptune. With a dismissive gesture, she brings down her mighty water arm, trying to squash the other woman like a bug.

Yumi's clone is similarly nonresponsive to both talking and cursing. Can water get hungry? Apparently the magic is doing something, because the Witch of Drowned Ivy's torso is filling with rising bubbles, as though it is boiling a bit. Her countercurse is also hot to the touch, but what happens next is all too typical of Lost Ivy's fighting style -- it's her turn to send out a sustained magical blue beam. As with the ones going after Steven and Connie, it will stick on impact, and drown if it hits the head.

Cure Egret and Cure Bloom demonstrate the awesome power of teamwork on their clones; in the end, as white barrier meets golden punch, there is nothing left of their counterparts but falling rain.

...falling rain that reforms into DOZENS of tiny Water Egrets and Water Blooms, none of them more than knee-high. All of them master martial artists. Watch your heels, here they come in a tidal wave of Water Cure wrath!

COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Water Lancer on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Torrent Torment on Garnet.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Double Bubble on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Sapphire Cyclone on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Ztilb Muludnep on Sailor Pluto.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used The Endless Elements on Sailor Neptune.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Double Bubble on Yumi Ohzora.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Torrent Torment on Cure Egret.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Torrent Torment on Cure Bloom.
COMBAT: Steven Universe narrowly braces Hotaru Tomoe's Double Bubble, taking 4 Fatigue damage!  Steven Universe's Block ability
activates!  Steven Universe's Parry ability activates!  Blind and Trap applied to Steven Universe!
COMBAT: Cure Egret narrowly dodges Hotaru Tomoe's Torrent Torment, taking 15 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Cure Egret's Fade
ability activates!  Cure Egret's Flash ability activates!
COMBAT: Cure Bloom narrowly dodges Hotaru Tomoe's Torrent Torment, taking 10 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto narrowly counters Hotaru Tomoe's Ztilb Muludnep, taking 22 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Pluto's Reverse ability
activates!  Sailor Pluto's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto's counterattack, Aoristic Fulcrum, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Hotaru Tomoe!
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora narrowly braces Hotaru Tomoe's Double Bubble, taking 9 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Yumi Ohzora's Block
ability activates!  Yumi Ohzora's Parry ability activates!  Blind, Cripple, Stun, and Trap applied to Yumi Ohzora!
COMBAT: Sailor Neptune perfectly dodges Hotaru Tomoe's The Endless Elements, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji narrowly braces Hotaru Tomoe's Sapphire Cyclone, taking 13 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji is Quipped!  Fuu
Hououji's Block ability activates!  Fuu Hououji's Parry ability activates!
COMBAT: Garnet narrowly counters Hotaru Tomoe's Torrent Torment, taking 20 Fatigue damage!  Garnet's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Garnet's counterattack, The Unstoppable, partially gets through, doing 10 Fatigue damage to Hotaru Tomoe!
<Pose Tracker> Cure Egret [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

Egret sets down on the ground, after the attack. Her sense of relief proves brief, for she sees that the water that rains down is not harmless water. It is, instead, a swarm of smaller versions of her and Bloom, who kick and punch at ehr heels. She yelps and leaps -- she only just rises over them, before she twists around in midair.

"Please!" she cries, looking up at the pillar. "You don't have to do this! Whatever--whatever happened, we can find a way to be sure it won't happen to you again!"

She swings her fist back, then.

White light gathers into it -- and she drops down, delivering one punch into their center of mass. Then, she sweeps out with her feet in a circle -- and tries to kick a number of them away from her and Bloom alike. "Bloom!" she cries out. "Are you okay!?"

COMBAT: Cure Egret has used White Wing Flurry on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe narrowly dodges Cure Egret's White Wing Flurry, taking 4 Fatigue damage!  Hotaru Tomoe's Fade ability
activates!  Hotaru Tomoe's Flash ability activates!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa perfectly braces Hotaru Tomoe's Water Lancer, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Brace!  Fate Testarossa's
Block ability activates!  Fate Testarossa's Parry ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

This fight is edging into frustrating, even for this most patient woman. Sailor Pluto sends the whirring ends of the Garnet Rod through her foe, repeatedly. Seaspray splatters and foams, making a big splash... and that seems to be about it.


The dance of combat between Rods Garnet and Aquamarine speeds, loses grace and gains hard-edged fury. Soon Pluto is shouting with each blow -- "Hah! Haaahhh!" -- as if her voice could somehow force them to count. They never do.

That Aquamarine Rod tallies a new bruise with every strike, though. Soon it is all Pluto can do to defend; she has no space or energy left to venture any retaliation.

Soon it is more than she can do.

Sailor Pluto has always been one to face the hard truths, and in this moment hers is that she is losing: giving ground and enduring far too many contusing impacts. The battle's tide is clear. She has to do get free, regroup somehow -- it is impossible to formulate any new plan of attack when she is being battered back down into the ground.

From the bottom of her heart she drags strength and throws it into a roundly clanging parry, pushing her oceanic twin back a critical half step. Enough.

It is easy to drop into a crouch, takes far more to rise back up from it, but she does so and then some. With a glorious backwards somersault she spins her boots toward the center mass of her foe, kicking out HARD at what she hopes is the perfectly chosen moment: her aim, to launch herself bodily away while maybe scoring some kind of a hit against this impossible enemy.

COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has used Sailor Pluto Kick on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Technically, the Wind Knight wasn't trying to talk down her clone; she was trying to talk down Lapis Lazuli herself. But given that the hostile Gem (?) is controlling the watery doubles directly and interacting through them, it pretty much comes to the same thing ...

And the follow-up Sapphire Cyclone isn't exactly letting her press her argument any further. In point of fact, it makes her wish profoundly that her fellow Magic Knights were here - Umi's own water magic would likely fare better than wind or fire, but it doesn't look like there'll be any opportunity to test that theory. The green-clad Magic Knight is a good bit slower (and a whole lot soggier) getting to her feet the next time ... but she still isn't giving up. "I would have liked to resolve this without as much violence," she says quiety. "I suppose you're not giving us that option, then ... so be it."

Then she charges; *this* time she's going on the attack - and as she approaches her counterpart, she not only brings her sword around in a slashing attack, but pivots with her whole body, trying to add force to the strike - and possibly to deliver more than one slash in the process. Even if her opponent is made of water and will likely reform behind each slash, it still takes Lapis Lazuli an effort of will to make that happen, and if she has to exert herself enough ...

The Wind Knight just hopes their opponent *can* be tired out.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Spinning Slash on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Neptune [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Sailor Neptune's reaction to that incoming arm is to simply fall down and get -

No. Of course not. While she does let herself drift downwards as if to yield, Sailor Neptune rolls to the side at the last moment, the vast watery forearm striking the sere ground of the former seabed and leaving Neptune momentarily prone.

Looking around, she purses her lips. It's a sea of dried mud. She knows what it ought to be, and what this mysterious woman has made it, through a power that Sailor Neptune doesn't like to think too much about. But she is not prone to argue with Lapis Lazuli. No: soon enough she is upright to do so.

Neptune backs away from the water pillar, watching her massive other self - she leaps. It is a suspicion she has, though as yet unvoiced. But she is also gathering herself, feeling the flow of this unnaturally elongated water.

This places her not far from the Witch of Ivy. "You know, that's a very evocative way to put things," Sailor Neptune muses as she gives the bubbling cauldron-witch a cold glare.

COMBAT: Sailor Neptune has used Fighting for The New Age on Sailor Neptune.
COMBAT: Sailor Neptune accepts Sailor Neptune's Fighting for The New Age, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Empower and
Surge applied to Sailor Neptune!
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Lion slowly comes to his senses, but he will be out of it for a bit longer. Colliding with a solid surface like that can knock anyone for a loop. He lets out a groan as he tries to make it to his feet.

Steven meanwhile continues his onslaught of fury with Connie! Pieces of coral bed, rocks, sand, and... whatever made Steven think a squirt gun full of water would do against the Water Steven. At least if he cannot defeat it, he can distract it, make it focus on him!

He gets more than he wished for. Water coalesces from the clone's arms and encapsules both his and Connie's head. He had enough foresight to take a breath beforehand thankfully. The boy tries to claw his way free, but finds no grip on the water. The outside of the bubble felt like wet glass. His hands grasp nothing.

The boy looks to the side. Connie seems to be faring much worse! This is bad...!

COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe narrowly braces Sailor Pluto's Sailor Pluto Kick, taking 6 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Pluto is Psyched!  Hotaru
Tomoe's Block ability activates!  Hotaru Tomoe's Parry ability activates!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe narrowly dodges Fuu Hououji's Spinning Slash, taking 6 Fatigue damage!  Hotaru Tomoe's Fade ability
activates!  Hotaru Tomoe's Flash ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Yumi doesn't know what to expect here; she's read of duplicates, of strange mirrors, but this is not what she read about. She just sees herself, in detail, frail and fragile and made of something that doesn't even let her pretend to hurt it. ...But her curse seems to work. Kind of. She sees bubbling from the other Witch's torso. Yumi feels a countercurse quickly and then suddenly there's--

A Watery Beam straight for her, and Yumi tries to block it with a bit of a magical shield but it just moves right around her, albeit deflected from her face to crash around her throat, her shoulders, her chest. It squeezes hard enough that while she's not drowning...

"You're not even listening!" She says, and brings her staff up closer, still trying to escape as her double is slowly binding her up with her own style of spells.

"Wrath of forgotten spirits," she intones, tracing green runes, "Dark Radiance!"

This time it's many beams bursting at the Witch of Drowned Ivy, as Yumi calls over it, "Aaah!" Her hat drifts up on her hair, but isn't off yet.

COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora has used Dark Radiance on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe narrowly counters Yumi Ohzora's Dark Radiance, taking 18 Fatigue damage!  Hotaru Tomoe's Reverse ability
activates!  Hotaru Tomoe's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe's counterattack, Mirror Mirror, partially gets through, doing 10 Fatigue damage to Yumi Ohzora!
<Pose Tracker> Cure Bloom [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

Bloom and Egret Combine to blow their copies the heck up, because nobody can copy Splash Star Pretty Cure! They are highly original.

Unfortunately, not only is that entirely wrong, but you can actually copy them A LOT. The raining water takes new shape in the form of TINY Water Cures, and Bloom says, "Oh wow you're kind of cuOW! OW OW!! OW!!" She bounds away, hurling herself away from the fiersome tiny martial arts masters. She touches down hopefully far enough away to give herself some time to talk. "We can't just stand by! We won't go anywhere! But we'll try to help if you'll just let us!"

And then one of the micro-Cures bites her knee. "OW!!" she yelps. Egret comes in for the save, and Bloom smiles at her; thin and strained, but seeing the actual shape of the situation, the cause of all this, is somehow reassuring. This is something Saki can react to. Formless, dreadful situations, she's bad at. This, she can hold together. "Thank you. We..." She half-shifts, to look back at the tower of the entire ocean. "...we'll figure it out," she says, quietly. Which is when she notices what's happening to Steven and Connie. "HEY! NO!" she yells, with sudden urgency.

She whips around, to the tiny Cures that may or may not be some kind of terminal to this....person, and jabs a finger down. "Please stop!" she begs, and somewhat contradicts her tone because the tip of her finger starts glowing, and then a bead of light fires down into the crowd of Cures, and also explodes.

Saki looks at her finger, as surprised as anyone.

COMBAT: Cure Bloom has used Petal Seed on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe narrowly dodges Cure Bloom's Petal Seed, taking 15 Fatigue damage!  Hotaru Tomoe's Fade ability activates!
Hotaru Tomoe's Flash ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

In most other battles, taking off the head of your opponent would be the (de-)crowning achievement of the conflict, and for a brief second Garnet feels the satisfaction of victory. Then Water Garnet's head reforms effortlessly, and brings its fist up again into Garnet's midsection. Garnet presses her fist down to block it and disrupts it with the force of her blow! Alas after Garnet's fist passes through it, it reforms, and slams Garnet in the gut, as planned!

Water Garnet then follows up with another punch that sends her sprawling back!

Unwilling to stop, Garnet forces herself to leap back at her double with a decisive blow, maybe if she can hit it hard enough, its whole body will disrupt, and be unable to reform... she hopes.

COMBAT: Garnet has used Decisive Punch on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to brace Garnet's Decisive Punch, taking 29 Fatigue damage!
<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

There's a rising sense that things are going more and more awry... spiraling further and further out of control. If anyone is tiring, it isn't Lapis -- she has the entire ocean at her beck and call, and is entirely willing to keep raising the bar when it comes to her own defeat.

Egret scatters a few tiny clones, and they fall into one another and grow back to more like half-Egret size, only to be detonated by Bloom and become tiny again. Pluto's kick sends her clone stumbling back, and yeah, it splits into two on impact, while Fuu trisects hers into three. Giant Water Neptune is taller than ever, Yumi and Water Yumi wind up in a brief but fierce beamwar that ends with blasting them both back and then there are two of her, too. Water Garnet has finally dispersed and doesn't seem to be reforming quickly, but... is it just a matter of time? Does it not even matter with all these other foes for her to face?

Over on another part of the plateau, Amethyst is all tied up (Water Amethyst is seated atop her triumphantly) and there are about eight equal-sized Pearls surrounding the real one.

And Steven is drowning. There's only one of Water Steven but he's more than enough to overcome Steven and Connie. Grimly, no joy in his face at all, he tightens his fists and increases the pressure on the two of them. Connie's the first to give out, losing the last of her air in a series of frantic bubbles, and starting to choke...

--until they're released with a splash, because Water Steven was just run over by the (smoking a little, creaking a lot) Mr. Universe van. Greg doesn't look victorious, just absolutely horrified. His eyes are huge in his face. "If this is what your magical missions are like, Steven, I don't know if I app--"

Water Steven explodes in a spout from underneath the van, knocking it twenty feet into the air! It slams down with a huge CRASH.

A moment of silence sweeps the plateau, and then Greg, thoroughly normal Greg, moans and emerges from the side of the van. "...I think my leg is broken," he whimpers.

Water Steven shows no more remorse than the rest of them, though all the faces have slid into an ominous expressionlessness quite at odds with some of their prior passionate looks. It's getting harder to tell them apart, simply because they're packed in so densely. This is the largest open space in the world (barring the huge pillar in the back) and it feels so crowded. The Plutos begin where Neptune ends, and so on.

In a many-armed and legged rush, the army of clones pours over and through the group. They're not a tidal wave -- they're a bursting dam. And they explode into their foes with the terrible pressure found at the bottom of the now-missing Marianas Trench.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Hotaru Tomoe has used Trench Warfare on Cure Bloom.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Hotaru Tomoe has used Trench Warfare on Cure Egret.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Hotaru Tomoe has used Trench Warfare on Sailor Pluto.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Under Pressure on Garnet.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Under Pressure on Yumi Ohzora.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Under Pressure on Sailor Neptune.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Under Pressure on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Under Pressure on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Under Pressure on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Cure Egret fails to dodge Hotaru Tomoe's Finisher, Trench Warfare, taking 129 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Cure Egret
is unable to keep fighting!
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto narrowly braces Hotaru Tomoe's Finisher, Trench Warfare, taking 51 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Pluto is unable to
keep fighting!  Sailor Pluto's Block ability activates!  Sailor Pluto's Parry ability activates!
COMBAT: Cure Bloom fails to brace Hotaru Tomoe's Finisher, Trench Warfare, taking 120 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Cure Bloom
is unable to keep fighting!
COMBAT: Sailor Neptune narrowly braces Hotaru Tomoe's Under Pressure, taking 16 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Neptune's Block ability
activates!  Sailor Neptune's Parry ability activates!
COMBAT: Garnet narrowly braces Hotaru Tomoe's Under Pressure, taking 19 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Steven Universe narrowly braces Hotaru Tomoe's Under Pressure, taking 34 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Steven Universe's
Block ability activates!  Steven Universe's Parry ability activates!
COMBAT: Yumi Ohzora narrowly braces Hotaru Tomoe's Under Pressure, taking 22 Fatigue damage!  Yumi Ohzora's Block ability
activates!  Yumi Ohzora's Parry ability activates!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji narrowly dodges Hotaru Tomoe's Under Pressure, taking 27 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji's Fade ability
activates!  Fuu Hououji's Flash ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Cure Bloom [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

Bloom had let herself start feeling in control, but as the fight goes on, it becomes obvious she's not really the one holding down the line, here.

She breathes. Focuses. The spirits are here. Mai is here. As long as she has those two things, Splash Star Pretty Cure won't be beaten!

They come. For a second, Saki doesn't understand. How can she create so many!? How can this Lapis Lazuli possibly control all this?! "There's too--many--!" she calls out. She reches, fingertips grasping, desperately, toward Egret.

She just misses, swishing in the space between bodies that is more like just being underwater, and suddenly it clicks in her mind.

This pillar, this tower, this water....used to fill this entire space, maybe for miles above them. Burying them here would be the easiest thing in the world.

She does try. She swings out, maybe strikes one; she blasts forward with her Pretty Cure magic. But you can't fight that, not really. "EGRET!" she screams, reaching, as the tide takes her, and Cure Bloom is washed away.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

To her immense relief, Sailor Pluto's kick not only connects but accomplishes its purpose, driving her foe back and gaining her some space. She alights with a dainty one-two step and dances back a few more, trying to ignore the way her head throbs with each quick motion. Then she squints and frowns. The double vision is back?

Too late, Pluto realizes that the only thing doubled is her foe. Sluggish nerves signal limbs leaden with bruises. They move, but too slowly, and all the senshi can do -- as she has ever done, the acrid thought flashes through -- is watch as they come, as they swing, as--

--one Aquamarine Rod smashes aside her laggardly attempt to parry, and another explodes against her temple.

Vision whites. In the most distant of ways the senshi becomes aware of the sensation of dropping, but it doesn't seem to be happening to her; she's outside of it, watching the tallest tree in the forest felled from far above. By the time her head hits the sand there is nothing in it at all, just black.

At least the headache is gone with her consciousness.

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa perfectly dodges Hotaru Tomoe's Under Pressure, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!  Fate
Testarossa's Fade ability activates!  Fate Testarossa's Flash ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Steven does his best to struggle against the sphere of water around his head. It is no use. Poor Connie gives out, and the boy trys to clamor free, but he even feels air begin to slip. The water pressure begins to tighen, and force its way into his nose and mouth. His ears hurt immensely.

Suddenly, a van flies by, and they both drop from suspension! The boy coughs and catches his air, and supports Connie as she coughs up water. "You okay?" he asks, before looking over at his dad.

He just saved them! Best dad ever. "You did-- Daaaad!" before he can finish his statement, the van is sent skyward, landing a ways off. The boy runs to hsi father's aid. "Oh man..."

Across the field, Water Steven stands, staring them down. An attack at the ready. "Lapis! I don't want to fight anymore!

No response. THe clone prepares to throw the attack. "I said...!"

The clone throws the attack, leveled right at Steven. He has to keep Dad and Connie safe...!


The boy readies for the attack, summoning his shield. He leans into the blow, putting all his might and feeling into it. The attack connects, and a beauteous reverberating noise echoes outward in all directions in response!

COMBAT: FINISHER! Steven Universe has used Lionheart on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to brace Steven Universe's Finisher, Lionheart, taking 75 Fatigue damage!  Hotaru Tomoe is unable to
keep fighting!
<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

The shield of Rose Quartz resounds with Lapis' strike, and the sonic waves engulf the entire battlefield. No one is spared. But the truly living hear nothing but the sound of beauty, while the water clones...

...they shake, they shudder, they shatter.

And they do not rise again.

A shocked silence falls across the plateau. Surely Lapis could renew her assault at any moment -- the towering ocean is still under her command. Even this moment it contracts a little more, becoming an inch narrower than it was, and a mile taller. Then another inch. Another mile.

But she doesn't. Instead there's a pause, a vacuum that waits to be filled.

Maybe Lapis doesn't really want to fight any more either.

Or maybe she's just waiting to see what happens next...

<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

Garnet is bowled over with the rest of the magical warriors at the pressure wave mass of water clones, her only comfort being that her own was not among them. Perhaps there was indeed hope.

The clones' impact was not a gentle one, and her "victory" against her own double came at a heavy cost to her hard light form, which is heavily scuffed.

She groans with fatigue, but as long as so many of these clones remain, she can't stand down for a second.

This is their legacy,

It was their war.

It's now their problem.

Until she can't get up, Garnet can't let this stand. She prepares to dash back at the clones and then..

A ringing.

And a familiar sight.

The shield. Her shield.

Seeing it shine so brightly...

Garnet watches in quiet awe as the reverberations cancel out the water clones. This was her power. So many thousands of years ago.

No, it's his power now. Steven is the one holding the shield, just as Rose did, and Garnet is silent.

Her heart fills with wonder, humility, and pride at the Gem, the person, Steven is becoming.

<Pose Tracker> Cure Egret [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

The wave of clones slams into Egret -- and run her over. She yelps, falling onto her bag, though a hand sticks up past them as they come over her. The hand is gloved and white as they run over.

And then it isn't.

When the stampede ends, Mai Mishou sits in the muddied ground of the ocean floor instead. Her school uniform is dirty and ragged -- and she lay on her side. Unconscious and breathing, but thoroughlys soaked through.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

The shield sings with the sound of melodies unheard before. And the water clones... the water clones seem to be adversely affected by it. Steven is shocked for a moment at this revelation, but takes a deep breath. Looking back at Connie and Greg for but a moment, he puts his arms out, fists balled up, and a stern look upon his face.

It was Serious Steven.

The boy reaches the very edge of the water pillar. He looks up and down it, as if stdying it. "Lapis, I'm coming up to see you." A pause. "So please don't drown me," he adds in quickly. Despite all the fighting and problems that have arose since meeting her, he is rather confident she wouldn't do that. Again, anyway. Perhaps she will hear him out.

The boy looks back at all the girls, having sustained injuries and worse; soggy ensembles. Steven takes a very deep breath, then jumps into the pillar, finding acceptance in the water, rather than being repelled on the surface.

He has faith in her. His beach fun buddy.

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

More watery clones. They may be smaller than the initial full-sized duplicates which Lapis Lazuli turned loose, but their smaller size doesn't make them any less dangerous, particularly in aggregate. Arguably, it merely increases the threat.

The Wind Knight still does her best to try and avoid getting smashed underneath them - and her 'best' doesn't quite let her get clear; she mostly keeps her head above water but she's still left helpless for a critical moment. And that moment ...

Is when Steven takes the whole brunt of his counterpart's attack, not merely blocking it with his shield but somehow, it seems, repelling it. Not the torrent itself, but the destructive will behind it.

And silence falls across the battlefield.

The Wind Knight lets out a breath - almost a sigh of relief, although not quite - and looks around to see what shape people are in. "If anybody requires healing," she says, softly but projecting, "this is probably a good window of opportunity for it ... ?"

She glances briefly at the pillar as Steven disappears into it - and very deliberately dismisses her sword. If the battle resumes, she anticipates enough warning to re-conjure either blade or bow ... and her *armor* isn't going anywhere, in any case.

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

Do they have feelings? Do they know how she suffers? That's a wonderful question.

The small girl wasn't a warrior born, she was a warrior trained to fight with her head- but most of all her heart. She falls into a place of panicked anxious reflex borne from so many fights out of desperation.

Identical blue darts catch a frantic scythe swing. Carving them into water droplets that splatter onto her face. She's can't distinguish between whether the seawater is cold or warm- just salty and stinging.

NOOOOOOO!! echoes into her head and into her heart.

And she's yelling too something inaudible. There's a rush of watery clones and she starts moving- constantly under pressure. One step ahead of the reaper. Bobbing and weaving and forgetting to breathe. She can't breathe and it feels like she's drowning underwater- even though she's only catching glancing pressurized slashes. She can't... she can't... she can't...

Calm down.

And then there's a reverberating noise like a gong that seems to shake her entire being.

Feito! Calm down!

The shock to her system feels like the warmth of a familiar voice and arms enveloping her from behind.

I'm here. I'm here.

The girl pinches her eyes back against the salty sting as she trembles and shakes... and surveys the damage done to the other magical girls and- "I-I don't either." It's so quiet it might be inaudible to anyone listening.

And tears which once were shed so seldom run down her face, as she clasps Bardiche in her arms and just tries to feel his warmth and chokes up until- Steven starts to walk forward. And suddenly she feels this sharp fear in her chest- she gasps and reaches forward with a hand. Then draws it back, and lowers herself to the sea floor.

Even frightened for his life- she was too scared to try to follow. She just had to trust in that friendship Steven made with Lapis.

No matter how hard that might be right now.

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Warring against herself is hard. That's true in normal cirumstances, but it's also especially true when she's having beamwars with her counterpart. But that doesn't last. Yumi is dazed when there are two Witches of Drowned Ivy, and she wants to handle that but she still feels stuck and this is all terrible until suddenly there is silence. The Water clones are awful and there and coming closer, and Yumi throws up more barriers in a near-panic to shield herself. It works... well enough, but scatters her backwards, sends her hitting too the ground and rolling across it until she hears that shout and the ring of that lovely shield and--


"Huh? A-ah..." Steven goes up into the water, and Yumi hesitates. "I don't think..." She glances at Fate and looks guilty, "I mean maybe words matter but..."

She starts moving over towards Cure Egret instead, "Hey, are you okay...?" Oh. She's unconscious, and she's on her side, which is safe. Yumi looks worried at the column of water. She looks over at Fate, "...Hey Fate-chan. It'll be fine." Quietly.

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Lapis' Tower https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3uctOkuJ2-U

A giant hand, almost invisible within the pillar, bears Steven upwards through the inside of the ocean tower. It's like the world's strangest elevator. The light changes constantly as they rise through layers of clouds and sky. Until, finally, he emerges at the top.

The top, which is apparently in low orbit.

The whole world is at Steven's feet. And the whole ocean, too, which continues to rise beneath him, stretch thinner and thinner towards outer space.

There's a whole lot of ocean.

There's a whole lot of space.


And all of this is reflected in the waters below, the flat wall of the pillar acting as a screen. The world reflects Lapis now, after all. Does she know that she's doing this? Very unlikely.

But then, her awareness does fill the whole space of the tower. Perhaps she can hear the others still, too.


The bubble containing Steven releases his head, allowing him to breathe. Either there's air up here somehow, or he doesn't need to breathe actual air as much as he thinks he does, but now isn't the time for such thoughts.

Lapis is all-consuming in her intensity as she turns to glare at him accusingly. There are bags under her mirror eyes -- the strain of the fight? Of... whatever she's doing up here? She's already so different from the free spirit released mere hours ago. So stressed. So exhausted.

So suspicious.

"What are you doing here, Steven?"

Lapis' question is not rhetorical, and one gets the keen sense that, if answered incorrectly, she will not hesitate to finally put an end to her beach summer fun buddy, once and for all.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Steven waits within the water a few seconds. The yseem to get long and longer, without a response. Did he choose poorly?! No, it seems. At least this time. A force below him bears his weight suddenly, and he can feel himself thrust upward at an incredible rate. Lights and reflections play out rapidly as he ascends. THe tower just keeps going!

Until it appears to be shrinking, and thinning. When Steven emerges fro mthe top. He is... He is in space! But he is sitll in a bubble! The boy begins to panic for a moment, until the water recedes around his head. The boy takes a few exasperated breaths. He hasn't held his breath that long in a while!

Lapis stands there. Anger can be seen in her face. Or was it stress? Or maybe something else. She poses a question, and the boy is unsure how to answer for a time, but then furrows his brow. "Wait, what are you doing here?!" he retorts back. "This tower, using the ocean. This is crazy!" What could it possibly accomplish?

"Can't we work this out? We Gems are supposed to be friends!" The bubble was uncomfortable, but he would have to deal with it. Why can't all Gems be friends? They were a cool group with cool powers that do cool things together! Isn't that what friends are all about?

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

She has a hard time watching as Steven is borne upwards... it's like she's afraid to watch.

The glance she gives Witch Ivy is initially paranoid in it's panic. But then the girl swallows and shakes her sodden twintails- scattering droplets as she kneels upon the sea floor.

"I know..."

But her eyes trail up the length of the water pillar into the heavens.

"...but she's in a place where... it's so hard..."

She takes in this lengthy breath and starts over. "She must have been feeling alone for so long, like she had nobody." She closes her eyes.

"And when you've been alone like that it's hard to believe in anyone... or anything. You feel noone can understand you. Everyone is against you. It's so hard to get through that."

She swallows a lump in her throat. "I just keep thinking of how she talked to Steven when she got free. She called his name. It felt like they'd become such good friends already and yet what she asked of him right away..." A hand clenches over Bardiche, "...it was too much and she must have felt so alone again and betrayed..."

She gives Witch Ivy a long look against the glow of the oceanic pillar. "...I'd hoped when we started to come here that him coming back for her. Proving he was here for her would be enough that he'd be able to get through to her. And then she attacked us but..."

She considers, then shakes her head once, "...she let him up. He's the only one who can do it now. We just have to believe in their friendship and hope his words can bring her back out of that place."

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Neptune [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

An innocent man's leg is broken and his son travels up the water bridge to the top of the world. Sailor Neptune sweeps a hand through her hair and lets out a small breath, having tended for a moment to Sailor Pluto.

"Rest for a bit," Neptune tells Pluto. She would propose something along the lines of 'get to the chopper' or 'let's depart,' but other than an obscure technique that she somehow KNOWS could be done, if only there were more of them present -

Well. The sea will come back one way or another. Perhaps Hotaru Tomoe will drown in it, Neptune thinks, without heat, as she steps forwards. Towards Fate, and Ivy.

"I'm surprised that you aren't making a dash for it," she tells Fate quietly. But then she hears why, and her arms fold loosely, and she looks thoughtful.

"I hate this feeling," Neptune says mildly. "But I suppose that all we would do if we intruded would be to harm matters, in this moment."

Sailor Neptune's eyes go to that massed pillar, rising impossibly high. "Ah -" she says, and for some unclear reason she laughs. She has to actually bite her lip to suppress it.

The reason is that she saw what she is quite certain is a humpback whale, swimming behind the eye of the boy called Steven.

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

Lapis is unashamed of her own naked desperation to be free, in the same way that a famine survivor is not ashamed of their obsession with food. She's earned this. She's entitled to this.

Why do Steven's eyes make her feel so sad?

Why does Garnet's admission -- and Neptune's -- make her hesitate?

Why does Yumi's own hesitation, and Fate's analysis, feel so piercingly bad?

She clenches her hand into a fist, frustration, but it's much less the cornered rage of an escapee, and much more the exasperation of an older sister.

"Don't you know anything, Steven? Your friends... they don't really care about other Gems. All they care about is the Earth. But I... I never believed in this place."

All the fight goes out of her at once, and she sinks down, sitting on the edge of the tower. Her knees draw up close to her chest.

The rest of Steven's confining bubble releases him gently onto the surface of the tower, which he quickly discovers will support his weight despite being made of liquid water.

"...I just want to go home..."

She's not ashamed of her naked, unfiltered longing, either. It fills her body to overflowing, emerging from her voice. Even her eyes glow with it. Or maybe that's the spectacular expanse of the heavens above, reflecting in those twin mirrors. Galaxies swirl. Distant stars twinkle, and they call her.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

Steven listens expectantly to Lapis. Her voice. They have lies upon them! ...but there is conviction there. She cannot be completely lying. No one would be able to pull off that acting. He hears her side out. After all! All stories have three sides. Two opposing views, and the truth, somewhere in between.

That Literature class is paying off!

Sadness overtakes Lapis, and his restraints are released, causing him to fall back into-- or actually onto-- the water tower. It seems to be a solid surface now! He scrambles to his feet as Lapis takes a seat on the far edge, looking outward into the vast expanse of twinkling stars and nothingness.

She wants to go home... His heart almost shatters. "I know how important home can be. That is why I am here. It is why all those humans down below are here, too. The ocean is an important part of our home.

"Without it..." he trails off. There is no telling what will happen.

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

Lapis side-eyes Steven and his fears, his love for his home. She can't look straight at him for long. It's easier to just look up.

"I'm only using the ocean because my gem is cracked," she explains, quietly, seriously, wistfully. And indeed, the gorgeous teardrop Steven liberated from the mirror that now rests between her skinny shoulder blades, while intact, is covered in profoundly deep gouges. Scarily spiderwebbed. "If I just stretch it far enough..."

Her gaze remains upwards, upon the distant stars. The tower continues to contract beneath them, and they continue to rise. And the stars... don't get any closer. Not really.

She slumps even further, her tense shoulders dropping. Even her hair droops.

Lapis' sigh is so deeply depressed that it's like she's exhaling the whole atmosphere.

"This is never going to work."

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

The Gem Child listens to Lapis' thoughts and wants, taking a seat next to her, listening intently. He may have freed her from a prison of untold amounts of hears, but now, she feels like she is back... at square one. In a prison. A prison called Earth. Everyone should be able to go home if they want... shouldn't they? A place the ycan relax, tell stories, and let go.

In her moments of desperation, he looks to her back. The Gem indeed was heavily fractured. It could be a huge problem! He stares at it, until--

"Wait!" Steven exclaims, hopping up. "I can fix your Gem! I have healing powers!" Well, sortof. Still, it was a good bet that it might work! "It's pretty great, right?!" Steven rubs his chin. How to go about this... "Okay, this might be a little weird..."

The boy takes a step back, and strangely, licks his palm, leaving a coat of saliva. The boy grimmaces a moment at his hand, then aims, and pats her right on the Gem!

There is a wet connecting sound. Ew.

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

Fate stares at Neptune for a while as she's being addressed- perhaps frightened and contemplating taking that dash. "I considered it... but..." But Neptune says she hates it then... the laughter. That brief moment of levity cuts through it.

She swallows and- "Is it really so bad?"

The girl slowly climbs up to her feet, regarding the Sailor Senshi who is so eloquent, so beautiful. She still didn't know what to make of her. How could someone make a choice like that? And still... words matter, and she wanted to reach her, "I keep thinking about it and wonder if this is how everyone felt watching Nanoha... fight me alone. Feeling like it was all up to her."

She manages the tiniest smile, as she looks upon the show of sea creatures up the pillar.

"I try not to think of it as being helpless." Her eyes follow unto Sailor Neptune, "It's not so bad relying on someone you can believe in like that after all."

Her shoulders lift, then lower as she takes a breath, "When I think about it like that... it's easier to believe in her too."

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

Do Gems even do spit, normally? Does Lapis know what it is? Maybe not. Maybe that's just as well. Maybe it's doubly good that he's behind her, that she can't see this.

Even so, she shudders when the healing magic makes contact, goosebumps rising everywhere at once. Steven feels it work -- they both do, connected in that moment by his magic. It spreads through her Gem, rejuvenating, reviving. As it did when it detached from the mirror, the Lapis Lazuli glows.

But this time, when the gorgeous white radiance fades... the Gem is whole.

And so is she.

Lapis rises, turns. Her eyes aren't the same as before -- Steven had never seen her true face, her healed face, and not even known it. Instead of mirrors, now they're just... eyes. Blue eyes, in keeping with the rest of her. Large, thoughtful. Beautiful, even.

Even more spectacular are the wings that unfold from her Gem; they're made of water, like the tower, but also unlike the tower. Like instead of stealing their substance from Earth, this matter came from within her, was drawn deeply out of her own heart.

Lapis gasps, twirls, already floating effortlessly above the top of the tower.

"Thank you, Steven!"

The stars are calling her still, but they no longer sound like the agonizing torment of something just out of reach. Now they sound like the welcoming paean of home.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

For a moment, Steven worried that it didn't work. Relief comes quickly though, as blue light begins pouring out from the Gem. His eyes, much like the sky above, are filled with stars. She blooms forth watery wings, and instead of reflective eyes, has deep blue ones. She looks much happier.

The boy can only look to her in amazement. Finally, he says something:

"N-No prob, Bob."


At least she can go home now, where she feels she belongs. He can only hope she may come back and say hello sometime!

Huh. Where does she even plan to go? Is it far away? Will she be okay? All these questions and more swirl in his head, but he is caught in the moment, unable to say anything more.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Neptune [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

"Mm," Sailor Neptune says. For some reason after Fate's words, she turns her head to look back... towards the distant patch that is Tokyo.

She reaches up to press back a small lock of her hair. "I know what you mean... I just wish that they were here. I hope you can forgive me..." Fate may have the feeling that the latter sentence is not addressed towards her.

But then something happens. "Ah!" Sailor Neptune says, turning her attention towards the pillar again.

"Perhaps you ought to go, Fate. I should be with my friend right now. Thank you, for listening to me."

With that she turns on her heel to walk over towards Pluto, glancing occasionally at that impossibly gorgeous pillar. She does not hasten; it feels forlorn, somehow.

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

Lapis blinks.

Helpfully, she reminds Steven... "It's Lapis."

She decides to not stick around to let things get awkward. Or stick around for any other reason. She can feel the solar winds beneath her wings -- she trembles with potential from the tip of her nose to the tip of her toes. Her time is now! Her time is here!

It's time to go.

"Okay... bye!"

And go she does. Lapis launches off the top of her oceanic space elevator and is out of orbit in no time at all, disappearing into the far reaches of space.

She does not look back.

There isn't much time to savor the view of her exuberant retreat, though -- the tower splits in half right between Steven's feet! It's rapidly decomposing into many smaller boulders of ocean, any one of which is huge enough to instantly crush everything below.

And Steven, a few miles up, has no defense against any of it, nor the gravity pulling him downwards.

  • FLASH*

Lion! Lion is there, the long-forgotten Connie astride him. She reaches out with all her might towards Steven--

  • FLASH*

--and the three of them emerge at the base of the collapsing tower. There may only be seconds remaining before everyone and everything is swept away!

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.


Steven glances away awkwardly. Well he ruined that moment. But at least she still seems thankful! The Gem preps her wings, and takes to space! A trail of prismatic drops of ocean water fly after her, much like a comet. It is a magical sight to see. He has never met another Gem before other than his amigos three.

He just stands there, taking i nthe view, and hoping the best for Lapis Lazuli. Well, until anything earthshattering happens.

The pillar rumbles, and a seam begins to form under him.

Well crap.

As much as he panics, he knows there isn't anything he can do, as chunks of the top of the tower break off, until there is nothing left to stand on, and he enters freefall. It is both terrifying and exhilarating.

Though suddenly about halfway up, Lion appears with Connie on his back coming to the rescue. He has never been so relieved! He reaches, reeeaches...!

In the end, he appears on the ground with them both safely! Which would be nice and all if it were for GIANT SHAPES OF WATER COMING DOWN. The boy begins to usher people toward the van. He has an idea! But there might be too many people here! He has never tried with such a large group AND a van...! "We have to do something!"

<Pose Tracker> Garnet [None] has posed.

Garnet spies Steven and the relief that he escaped unharmed from Lazuli herself, and that he survived the fall, is written all over her face! She runs over to him protectively and calls to everyone to consolidate their positions: "Everyone! Keep together!"

But... beyond that... what now?

Garnet does have powerful magics, but... attempting electric barriers, under the circumstances... may not be the wisest course of action...

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Yumi remains pensive, at the base of the pillar. Others have a lot to say, Fate and Neptune especially, but she isn't sure what she can add. The water is so beautiful, but here she just feels so very cold and lonely.

She'll remember it.

"...Whther you like it or not," Yumi says to Fate finally, "You have to rely on others sooner or later. People... Just can't get by in this world on our own. I used to think that was only people like me... But I like to think we can all help each other.

A pause. "But I'd like to believe in them. I really want to." She just... hesitates, like she did before. Hesitates, again and again. Neptune moves, and Yumi looks to Fate too. "I should... go with her. But let's talk, okay? I really want to."

Things change quickly; things get terrible. The tower splits and Yumi stares. "Oh my god!" She doesn't stare for long, looking over everyone in a brief panic, and settling on Sailor Pluto. "It's..."

She sets her staff before herself, "It's my turn to help. Staff of Lost Ivy!" Holding her weapon in both hands, Yumi lifts it, the tip glowing brilliant green as a barrier emits from it in a semi-circle towards the coming tower. Can more of them do this? Will it do any good?

Pink eyes, brilliant pink, stare at the incoming water. "W-we can do this! We didn't come this far just to--"


"I hope he's okay..." She puts her love for Sailor Pluto into what she can do. But suddenly Steven is ushering people over, and Yumi tries to move. "Right! Something good! Even if I manage this I--I'm only an apprentice!" It comes out in a squeak.

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

Fate is kind of stunned by the demeanor of the elegant Senshi. In a way that causes her to look kind of shy, in the way children often do in the presence of someone so awe inspiring. "You're welcome." Before glancing at Yumi and hesitantly nodding... as she watches her leave for the helicopter.

And suddenly the pillar trembles, and Fate looks up- to see LION! And Connie- and Steven- at the base of the tower.

The world is coming down, literally- or perhaps it's simply the depths of the sea and THAT IS MORE THAN ENOUGH!

There's no time to think, only react. Fate lifts off and shifts Bardiche under the crook of her arm- and then becomes a golden flash as she snatches Cure Bloom by the wrist- then Egret.

Fortunately they're Pretty Cure so the sudden desperate acceleration will at most only jar them as the spray of the sea comes down. But there's something else too. A small joybuzzer like shock out of her gauntlets. Like some annoying child just rubbed their feet on carpet and shocked them with a small amount of static.

She makes a beeline towards the van, and hoists them both inside the edge of the open door just as the shadow of all the water showering down looms larger. "Sorry!" She apologizes quickly.

Shifting Bardiche into her hand, she listens to Garnet's advice- "Together!"

Raising Bardiche high, she stamps the butt of him against the sea floor- <DEFENSER-> "-PLUS!" Device and Master shout in unison. A shimmering barrier like dome that extends into the sea floor, coruscating with brilliant yellow light becomes part of the van group's defensive array. Another layer in their efforts.

Given what was coming... every single one might count.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Neptune [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

The lion and the boy and the girl are safe, Neptune thinks. And as for...

The tower...

It's breaking.

Like the Tarot card, thinks the woman who has dealt with prophetic dreams all her life. Peering up into the high distance, Sailor Neptune exhales for a moment and raises her hands. She presses her fingers and thumbs to the crown of her head for a moment, stretching herself. The shape of that mountain of water, a melted cometary impact that's falling forwards.

The Witch of Ivy is gathering a barrier. Sailor Neptune steps towards her, looking upwards, her hands still poised like that. "I think it will be alright, if most of it returns, though I hate to think what it would do to - well - that's a problem for another day."

Sailor Neptune takes a deep, deep breath as she steels herself, and then her hands come upwards, fingers contorted. "Hahhh--" she breathes, and no doubt Yumi can feel the passage of a tremendous force, almost wholly unseen, which glows like an aurora on its way upwards, emanating out from the sailor soldier and up towards that toppling oblong of water.

And that particular sphere of water... moves... as if it is being poured into that great pastel channel... its passage slowed, the outer fringes shaking out and releasing raindrops.

Sailor Neptune doesn't stop the raindrops, which are, after all, harmless - even beautiful - and also, not nearly as perilous. She breathes like she's starving, eyes wide as she stares up. Her back tightens.

It feels wonderful. It also feels, she thinks, as if her head is going to burst. And... yet...

Sailor Neptune walks backwards, steadily, nearer to the helicopter, one slow heeled step at a time. Her arms are sinking gradually. That may not be a good sign. At least she is unlikely to stumble over anything, out here.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.


Waves of nausea and wincing tenderness assault Sailor Pluto's consciousness as it rises. With great effort she shoves them away, down, back: forces herself in, through, and UP. Her eyelids screw down tight, then finally crack. Boulders grind in her skull.

What she sees makes no sense at all. Great wobbling blocks of ocean, raining down from the sky? How could that be poss--

Memory thunders back, and even as she winces at the whitehot blooming spikes at the back of her head, Pluto rolls to her side and coughs out a mouthful of salt and sand. She straightens shaking arms, thrusts herself up from the dried out ocean bed, drawing up a Garnet Rod entangled with the wrecked leavings of seaweed.

Dimly aware of allies and friends rushing around her, she staggers, but stands. Plants the Rod. No time to wipe it clean, no time for weakness or thought. With a scream she does not even hear, Pluto rips her battered will away from its bed of pain and dives into the heart of the Garnet Orb, this time knowing she can, feeling the certainty and letting it inspire her.

A violet spark of a soul is she, and down deep she goes, pulling every pulse and vestige of power along with her and gathering it to the center of her Self even as she shoots to the center of her sacred weapon. For the barest of moments they make contact and brilliant garnet light FLARES!

With it comes brilliant, glittering protection, as the Garnet Orb blows outward with a great silent pulse to reinforce the efforts of others. Her mind goes with it, expanding outward to feel the complex matrix of combining magics. The green of Ivy's bravery and love warms Pluto, welcomes her, and she does her best to mesh smoothly with that barrier.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

The boy begins to frantically think of a plan. Water all around. Crashing down. What would he do if he was trapped in billions of gallons of water?! A glance to Connie, and the actions of others, spark the idea. "Yes!"

The boy begins to climb aboard the back of the van, and cracks his knuckles, before holding out his hands in one of the directions.

APink Shield, or at least a section of one, springs into existence with a warping sound. "If we combine our efforts, we can do it!"

Teamwork always saves the day!

<Pose Tracker> Cure Bloom [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

Cure Bloom is laid out where the tidal wave of mirror doubles left her; narrowly clinging to her power but drifting in and out of consciousness. Too battered to do much but lie there. It's out of her hands, now, anyway, she thought, as Steven was elevated up, and her consciousness drifted away.

Sadly she does not get to wake up in her nice warm bed, but from Fate zapping her awake and thumping her and Egret sort of into a pile in the van. "Huh?" she mutters, bleerily. It takes her a few seconds to get up; look around.

"CURE BLOOM-LAPI!" Flappy chooses this moment to SHRILL at her from her belt pouch, causing her to nearly jump entirely through the roof of the van. She doesn't, thankfully. "Ah!? What!? Why!? WHY!?" she yelps in increasing wakefulness. "Everybody needs you-lapi!!"

He can't point, but somehow she follows his head's gestures anyway, leaning out of the open van, to--

Oh. "Oh, that's bad," she says, with rapidly mounting horror. "O, okay," she breathes. "OK!" She looks down; with Egret, she could make an even stronger barrier, but... She purses her lips. "She's still out-lapi. She'll b be OK-lapi! But you have to fight now-lapi!" "I know that!" Bloom snaps back. She hops over to stand with the other people working on defenses, and sucks in a breath, and throws out her arms, and opens her spirit. "O Spirits of the Earth..." she breathes, normally the cue she uses to wake the spirits for Twin Stream Splash; now she does it more to try help her focus, to pull in as much magic as she can. She begins to glow, and a shimmering layer of Earthly gold forms around the van, propped up by Cure Bloom's considerable might!

She is holding her breath, as one might while exerting themselves to lift a particularly heavy load. She already can tell she's straining...something, something that doesn't quite exist and yet is more important than anything else. She feels like she used to after she overdid it at softball...and the hard part hasn't even started.

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

Huge globs of ocean smash into the ground all around them, but not upon them, by the grace of Sailor Neptune.

And now the light is rising.

It's the pink of Rose Quartz and the green of living things and the yellow of lightning and the gold of the Earth spirits and the garnet of time.

It surrounds the group -- the van -- the helicopter -- everyone.

There's the terrible ear-popping pressure of water all around them, but the only feeling is that of a gentle buoying. Of the rise of a floating bubble. Of the gentle lap of the waves.

How were they returned so swiftly to the beach of Tokyo Bay? Was it someone's magic, or an emergent property of their combination? Was it a final thank-you gift from the now-departed Lapis Lazuli? Was it the planet itself?

Regardless, they are home, and they are safe.

The shield winks out of existence. Gravity reasserts itself, firmly though not violently.

Nonetheless, the van shudders to the ground and starts to smoke.

The helicopter may also need some maintenance after all this.

<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

The Tokyo skyline is huge, but also suddenly smaller than before, put into context by the skyhooked oceanic pillar. At the same time, the World Tree, visible in the distance, rising above Tama, seems taller than ever.

Taller... and different.

Even though it's only February, tiny, tightly closed buds have appeared all over its branches. From a distance they look like a gray-green haze.

Perhaps the shock of the ocean's departure and return has jarred it that much closer to blossoming...


<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

It's a wild ride, and Fate can't watch. She can only focus as the pressure seems to seep into her ears- surprised they aren't already crushed. Surprised at how gentle the ride is.

And then they're on the beach. And she's so very shocked.

And she says with undisguised delight, "You did it Steven!" And then the van starts to smoke- and her eyebrows shoot up.

After a few moments she simply looks at Greg Universe and says- "Your poor van."

It takes a few moments before she adds a sad remark, "Keeping up with a helicopter was too much for it." Bardiche adds in, <Yes Sir.>

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (5)] has posed.

It takes a great deal of effort, but Steven manages to hold his end together the entire trip home. It seemed... shorter than he remembered.

The bubble pops, and he takes a few long breaths, winded. "We all did it!" he replies to Fate. He looks to every single attendant, and if they accept, recieve a valuable currency in the Steven-verse-- a hug! "I couldn't have done it without you all! Thank you so much!"

"I am happy to have friends like you guys. Man, know what we need? A hot dog cookout! Dad, you got your grill on you?"

<Pose Tracker> Cure Bloom [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

Cure Bloom breathes hard, grunts pained. They're never, quite, directly hit, which is good 'cuz Saki's not sure she could actually withstand force being applied to this barrier, but this--she can work with this. They'll be fine. She's just got to do this for another, what was that, fifteen, sixteen hours, maybe, until....something, somehow, happens. Yeah.

After what seemed like no time at all, the gentle thud of the van touching back down, safe and sound.

Thunk. Crack. Smolder.

...okay well mostly safe and sound. Cure Bloom flops back on her butt, and an explosion of light releases Saki Hyuuga from transformation, at the same time as she collapses back across Mai, groaning. "ohhhh goooood," she groans. "I didn't know you could pull your soul," she whines, and seems intent to just lie there staring at the World Tree with the ocean in view, a calm smile teasing at her face.

Then someone says the word 'cook' and she is immediately upright and star-eyed. "Oh boy I heard a good thing just now?!"

<Pose Tracker> Yumi Ohzora [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

It's so many of them. Yumi was worried about doing this alone, but she just said that people rely on others, and here she is. Pluto is awake again, and Yumi can't help but be struck by the beauty of the colors of their barrier. But she can't talk to everyone because...

She's in a helicopter, and there's only so smooth a ride one can get in this situation. The ear pressure is bad enough, and Yumi feels nauseous as she projects her barrier, doing everything exactly in tune with the Staff's magic, bending to it like plants shifting around a pillar as they grow. It's beautiful though. It's all so beautiful.

And soon they're on the beach, and Yumi sags when her shield--the shield of all of them--fades and gravity works. Yumi looks dazedly out the window, seeing someting different about the World Tree, but she can't think about it.

The helicopter door opens and Yumi stumbles out. She leans heavily on the staff. "T-that's not fair, the helicopter's..." Yumi breathes heavily, and cuts off in favor of accepting Steven's hug. Hers is weak, and not very warm, but sincere. "Really happy... I could help."

Cooking? Cooking. There's...

The Witch of Lost Ivy stumbles another step forward, "Please... Please don't talk to me about food..." She looks more than a little green before she finally pitches forward and falls face-first in the sand.

...She'll be fine.

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

Fate seems startled by the hug from the boy. But she accepts it. And after a moment returns it with a smile.

But then he mentions a cookout and- "Eh? Well maybe we should wait until later... Bloom and Egret are still recoveri-"

Suddenly Bloom shoots up with stars in her eyes. "-that was fast."

She says in wonder before adding mostly to herself- "Arf and her have a lot in common."

And then she hears Yumi collapse face down. She pauses, and considers- then adds- "... maybe we can have a cookout which is also naptime for our seniors."

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Neptune [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Sailor Neptune remains in the co-pilot's seat, unmoving. She looks fatigued. She has reason. She turns her head to look towards the enthusiastic Steven, giving him a warm but wan smile.

"You don't need to go to the trouble. But I wouldn't say no to a grilled saury right now, either."

With effort she looks towards Pluto. Faintly, inwardly, she sighs - if in a fond way. Then it's probably calling 'her' for a lift, Neptune thinks.