2017-08-20 - The Tols and the Smols

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The Tols and the Smols

It's the height of the high school entrance exams, and Labyrinth has decided to induce and drain the despair of all the ninth graders of Tokyo by creating a... disruption. It's up to the senpai and kohai of the 9th graders to make their stand to protect their friends' futures!


Takeo Akamizu, Fuu Hououji, Setsuna Meioh, Soular, Chibi-Usa Tsukino, Fate Testarossa, Michiru Kaioh, Saki Hyuuga, Usagi Tsukino, Eri Shimanouchi, Madoka Kaname, Utena Tenjou, Anthy Himemiya, Setsuna Higashi, Inori Yamabuki, Nori Ankou, Makoto Kino

GM: Hotaru Tomoe


Nishitama Park District

OOC - IC Date:

08-20-2017 - 02-11-2015

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

The time is now.

The time is here.

There's no more time for hope -- or fear.

But something in the air is queer...



"Get out your mask, Kimiko-san, because a pollen storm is making it hard to breathe in Tokyo!"

"That's right, Taro-san, and it's a scientific mystery! No one knows exactly what kind of plant it is. But it seems to be having serious impacts on the population. Stay inside if you can!"



Schools aren't closing and exams aren't cancelled, but it was a whole lot harder to study -- or sleep -- last night, given swelling throats and eyes and noses. Students are tired. Stress is high, and it was already at the breaking point.

Fortunately, there are energy drinks being provided at the gates of many schools, including all three Sister Schools. They're in big neon green cans emblazoned with a swirling logo: GUZZLE

Apparently this is a promotion for Guzzle. Anyway they're free and well-timed, so many, many students are taking one on their way in! Opened, the liquid is as neon green as the cans, and very sweet -- not quite too sweet, but it's right on the borderline.

Initially it gives quite an impressive buzz.


The bells are ringing.

"Open your exam books to page 1..."

Pencils are sharpened, books are put away. The room is full of so much tension that it's ready to explode.


OOC: For this first round, please pose any and all of your 9th-grade alts that you want to pose! Establish them within the context
of the plot, and have them start their exams. If you don't have a 9th-grader, you are welcome to pose your Tol or Smol starting
their school day. Otherwise, tol/smol poses are not expected or required.

<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Just another day at Ohtori as Takeo arrives and walks into homeroom. He takes his seat and yawns, as he arrays his books and takes out a small juice box. He arranges the desk just so, placing a book in the middle and the juice box in the upper right. He gives a quick stretch, and looks around the homeroom, nodding to friends as they enter and take their seats. He suddenly brightens, as if remembering something.

He stands and walks over to a desk, pulls out a folded piece of paper and places it on that desk, and then moves back to his own seat. He looks at the desk tapping his chin thoughtfully. Then he nods, turns the book so it is sitting sideways. Then, with a final nod to a classmate and a quick wave, he face plants onto the desk. The book positioned so that he didn't break his nose upon impact with the desk with a soft THUD. Not even moments later a soft snore escapes Takeo.

Just another day in Ohtori, Grade 11 Class A.

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

If it weren't for the fact that each exam is on a specific subject, there would be a dreadfully high chance of them all running together. And with the amount of studying Fuu has done, she still occasionally catches herself trying to remember the Nobunaga Theorem, or trying to remember whether Pythagoras was a sculptor or a painter ... but she's been quick about sorting out which subject is which, and her scores on the mock exams have been, if not perfect, then at least acceptably high.

All of that was before hay fever season hit like the Pleistoscene Impactor, of course. Copious amounts of TLC (which also translates to 'tea,' 'lemon throat drops,' and 'chicken soup') have helped her get through the past couple of days, and she went so far as to get a filter mask blessed at her family's local shrine for use on exam days ... but her eyes are still rheumy behind her glasses, and she's constantly trying to stifle a cough or a sneeze.

It's an unfortunate truth that exams wait for nobody, so with some uncertainty, she picks up a can of Guzzle on the way in, nudging her mask aside long enough to take a cautious sip. Sugar aside, the caffeine level probably gives Jolt a run for its money - which should, really, be her first warning. Soda-induced sugar/caffeine buzzes wear off quickly and lead into pretty severe crashes, but ... honestly, even with that risk, she needs it.

Shortly thereafter, she's at her desk, exam in front of her, pencil ready, every book except the exam itself in her bag. Fuu squeezes her eyes shut for a moment, willing her vision to clear and offering up one last brief prayer to the gods of academic prowess.

When her eyes re-open, there's a brief flash of extra-strong determination and confidence. The word is given, and she sets to work.

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Meioh [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

To her teachers' mixed surprise and relief, Anthy Himemiya shows up on time for each and every exam. She carries with her a neat little notebook and a pencil case, her winter uniform as crisp and clean as it ever is, and takes her seat with a beatific expression. Indeed, she is a practically unfair ray of sunshine amongst the harried and stressed studentry of Ohtori Academy.

Exam papers get passed out, and she starts humming a cheery little ditty. It might arouse the ire of her closest deskmates, whether their nerves are jangled by neon green beverages or not.

Out comes a freshly sharpened pencil, and Himemiya gets to work! Is she lost in concentration? Does this betoken effort, did she study?! Look at that pencil fly!

If anyone is so foolish as to try and crib off of Anthy's answers, they'll get an eyeful of strange illustrations that progressively fill every margin of her answer sheet: little Chu-Chus, bento boxes, winding vines and so on. Once there is no space left for doodling aside from the, you know, actual answer space... she shifts to staring out of a nearby window, because of course she has a window seat.

Aquamarine eyes seek a nearby hill, the tree atop it, and a spot that gives shade in the summer and sun in the winter. Idly, her pencil encircles one of those sketched bentos with a heart -- it's unremarkable, of course, just another girlish illustration.

<Pose Tracker> Soular [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

"Yes, it's part of an initiative on behalf of the Infinity Institute 12th Grade Student Council," Shun Minami explains calmly from behind a pollen mask, sitting with legs folded at a desk loaded with GUZZLE bottles. "Since it wasn't possible for the schools to close in light of the pollen storm, we thought it only right to give students working on their high school entrance exams an extra edge. They're completely free, as they were donated to us, so please feel free to take one. ...Hm? Who donated them to us?"

Shun thinks back to the dark and dank corridors of the Dark Kingdom, bereft of youma or any other life, its Queen having been vanished by the searing light of the Silver Crystal. Shun, as Soular, could take any number of unused energy-plot supplies as he wished, and on Northa's orders, he would.

"By an old and respectable institution that has sadly gone out of business due to being unable to keep up with the times," he concludes calmly. "They haven't expired, so please, don't feel afraid to take one."


Makoto Kino is stressing the heck out. She's done her absolute best to study for the upcoming entrance exams, thanks to her friends and particularly one Ami Mizuno, and she *was* reasonably confident she could at least pass them with decent if not stellar grades--but even she's not immune to the effects of this pollen, despite her affinity with plants. Why did this have to happen *today*, of all days?!

She's racing into Juuban, having overslept right through her alarm due to pollen-induced grogginess and misery, when she sees the desk out front with the sign reading GUZZLE ENERGY DRINKS!. Perfect!, she thinks, and grabs one without hesitation on the way in, not thinking twice about it. She'll need that edge if she wants to make Ami proud and join her friends in Juuban High. She just *has* to pass this!

In her classroom, Makoto thrums with nervous energy. She blows her nose, wipes her eyes, and takes a drink of her GUZZLE. ... ...wow, that's actually really good?? She takes another solid swig, then smiles, body filling up with energy. Right! She can do this! She picks up her sharpened pencil, mind thrumming with energy, and the second the teacher says go, she's off like a shot.

BACK TO INFINITY: Shun, for his part, smiles politely, tightly, as the last of the bottles are claimed. Then he picks up his school briefcase and walks into the building.

He has not taken or saved any of the GUZZLE bottles for himself.

<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (4)] has posed.

Setsuna Higashi has had trouble sleeping thanks to all this pollen; she's trying to stay positive, but at best all this weather is frazzling her right now while she's trying to work as hard as she can to move up to high school.

But she had her study guide, and she was going to do her very best!

And now this morning, she steps groggily up to those handing out drinks. She blinks at the can and then stands up a little straighter, glancing between someone beside her and the cans. "Ah, Love!" Setsuna says, and smiles as she takes two cans and hands one to the other girl. She'll drink it with her on the way in!


Setsuna is sitting in her desk, abuzz with delicious energy drink. She loves the awful, cloying taste of those, and she feels so much better already. There's so much tension, and Setsuna is still tense, but she thinks she's ready. It's time for this. She opens her exam book...

Setsuna starts, and hopes she'll do well. She just has to do it one question at a time...!

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

Usagi was miserable.

She'd gone through three boxes of tissues trying to review last night. Impressively, she took zero breaks, but nervously had chewed through three pencil erasers instead. Her family had offered eye drops, nasal sprays, antihistamines... nothing had worked. She'd tossed and turned all night, and woke up in sneezing fits six times.

When her chicken alarm clock finally rang, she thought the universe was playing a cruel joke on her. On the way to school, her pace was pathetically languorous. Her shoulders were drooped, her blonde twintails nearly touching the ground as she emulated the living dead. "Morning Naru-cha-cha-cha..." She only barely managed to cover her mouth and nose in time, "-PBT-BLECH!" "Usagi-chan... you look terrible. Did you get any sleep at all last night?" "Sleep? Wuzzat?" "Oh Usagi-chan..."

All she could think about was her dreaming of them all wearing the same high school uniform together vanishing in the morning mist. Her friends all leaving her behind...

But salvation had come. And it came in a can. Popping the top, she took a long sip. Usagi Tsukino's eyes went wide. Her back straightened. Her sinuses cleared- temporarily. She drank a second. Then a third. She strutted into school cheerfully.

Sitting down at her desk, she seemed all pepped up and ready to go, cheerful as cheerful can be- even vibrating a little. To anyone who knows Usagi Tsukino... this might be a surreal experience, "Is everyone ready to take a test?"

She didn't wait for an answer, immediately pumping a fist in the air, "Because I know I am!" Leaning over towards Makoto Kino's side of the room- she cupped her hand over her mouth, "Mako-chan... Mako-chan! Let's do this- and make our Spring of new uniforms and romance a reality!" Taking out her pencils at the examiner's instructions... there she goes, filling out answers at warp speed.


Eri Shimanouchi finishes a long night of hunting. A set of earbuds drone on and on with a history review. Dark circles ring underneath her eyes... she takes a sip of Guzzle... blinking her eyes several times. She pulled out the earbuds. "Enough with the review already..."

For once she was smiling upon entering Saotome-sensei's classroom to take her exams.

Not far away-

Inori Yamabuki now knows the suffering of people with pet allergies. Coughing into a surgical mask... she texted quickly on her phone to three friends.

TXT to Setsuna Higashi, Love Momozono, Miki Aono, Hibiki Houjou, Kanade Minamino: Good luck on your exams today. <3 *Cheering Cat Emoji*

"Good luck on mine too..." A long sigh. What if she didn't get into high school? What would that mean to her dreams of becoming a Veterinarian?

Taking off the side of the surgical mask- she takes a sip of the energy drink she picked up at Ohtori's gate.

Not long after~

Inori talked excitedly to the girl in the seat beside her, "Did you know that the reason dogs curl up in such a cute way because of an age old instinct to preserve body temperature?" "Uhh..." "And that they have wet noses because it helps absorb scent chemicals..." "Yamabuki-san..." "And that there's a breed of dog that doesn't bark but instead they yodel..." "I don't think... any of this is going to be on the test." "... ... ... I just thought it was neat."

<Pose Tracker> Michiru Kaioh [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Nori Ankou is wearing an elegant patterned silk breathing mask on her way to her courses, and as she passes the stands for the energy drinks, a small pair of paws dart out of her bag and secure one.

While filing in, she is given it, and tries it out, sipping daintily. Her lips purse at the sugar, but it IS encouraging.

With a momentary prayer to gods veiled and unveiled at her seat, Nori picks up her pencil and gets to work!

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


Madoka chews on one of her hair ribbons, shaking like a leaf from the effects of the caffeine -- never mind her own insecurities. This is it. This is when she's going to shame her family and friends. She won't go on to high school with Sayaka and Eri and Homura and Usagi (...and many others), won't get to meet Mami in this better place.

Across the room, a seat in front of Anthy, Utena is playing it super cool. She didn't even take a Guzzle, because that would indicate fear. Most of her fears are for Anthy (and wasted thereupon, not that she knows), but some are for herself. Either way she's not going to stress anyone out by showing stress.

She pulls her cap rakishly down over one eye, leans back in her chair, and when the exam starts, takes it slowly but steadily.

Play it cool.

Be cool.

We're cool.



Out in the forests of Nishitama, Northa -- tall, imposing, black-robed, long pale green hair, beautiful like a poisoned apple is beautiful -- is circling a cauldron like she's on the set of the Scottish play. The pollen is thickest here, little green-gray particles that seem kind of mosslike except that they're in midair instead of on a tree. And it's thickest of all over the cauldron, because that's where it's coming from.

The sorceress stretches her hand out over the cauldron and murmurs a few words of soft encouragement.

"Yes... grow strong with sorrow... blossom with despair..."

The magic in the cauldron responds, creating a neon green column of magic, gushing straight into the sky like a Himalayan-sized geyser. Anyone can see it from anywhere in Tokyo, if they have the magical eyes to see.

But who can respond at a time like this?

OOC: If you want your 9th graders to see the geyser and extra panic over it, that's cool; mascots might be reassurring forces to
keep them in their seats. (No, you can't leave, unless you want to fail to go to high school.) Everyone else is welcome to be
drawn by the lodestone to the source of all this trouble... though some of you may need a hall pass...

COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe transforms into Northa!
COMBAT: Setsuna Meioh transforms into Sailor Pluto!
<Pose Tracker> Takeo Akamizu [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Even as Homeroom goes on, a Detention slip merely taped to the top of Takeo's head, he snores on. Dreaming, and perhaps even enjoying some dream bacon from that magical tree he found once. A small: "Mmm Tree Bacon ... " Escapes him in a whispered tone. However the green column blasts into the stratosphere and Takeo suddenly bolts upward and snaps his hand into the air. "Bathroom. Emergency. Gotta go pee."

The rest of the class blinks at him even as the Detention slip slowly drifts off his head to the desk top.

Minutes later, Takeo is transformed into Lancelot and is mounted on Sparkles racing toward the epicenter of the green light. He has both blades out and ready, trailing lighting as he goes. It isn't long before Sparkles is leaping form rooftop to rooftop on their way to the location.

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

At the moment that the column of magic erupts from the forests of Nishitama, Fuu's eyes are closed as she carefully blows her nose - trying not to get any of it on her exam sheet; maybe it wouldn't invalidate any of her answers, but it would still be rude. Even when she puts her handkerchief away, opens her eyes again, and realigns her mask to cover her nose once more, she dismisses it as a trick of the light abetted by still-watery eyes.

Next question.

Why is her gut churning? It has nothing to do with either exam jitters or unaccustomed hay fever ... and that's when she actually *looks* out the window. (None of which was the actual next question on her exam ...)

Oh. That's why it felt familiar, in a 'this is completely wrong' sort of way.

She turns her gaze back to the exam, *again*, and tries to read the question precisely. The text on the page resolves just long enough for her to grasp the question, and she considers the answers - not hurrying, not dawdling, but her mind racing nonetheless.

The exam just started. She has dozens of questions to answer - preferably *correctly*; she isn't sure whether Infinity penalizes random guessing, but she's in no mood to find out when it's her high school admission at stake. There are how many dozens of magical girls in the greater Tokyo metropolitan area? They can't *all* be ninth-graders preparing for high school this year ...

Focus. Answer the question, fill in the oval, proceed to the next. She can only wonder what's going on in the forest, but she has to trust in her frequent comrades. Sailor Senshi, Puella Magi, HiME, Crystal Gems, other mage knights, magical girls of too many varieties to count; with a terrible beacon like that lighting the way, surely the matter will be handled before she finishes this exam.

Next question ...

That doesn't keep her from worrying.

She wouldn't be anywhere near her best anyway - probably more of a liability than a help. Certainly not much good if she were fretting about an unfinished exam.

Next question. *Focus.* Read, consider, solve, answer.

Next question.

Focus ...

Her concentration breaks again, this time at an overheard 'Puuu~!' from outside and the shape of a familiar rabbit-eared, egg-shaped puffball bouncing past on a branch outside, with - a banner? - trailing behind Mokona.


If they needed a Magic Knight, surely Mokona would try to convey as much. Fuu smiles wryly behind her mask and reads the question she's on again. Hopefully the winds blow favorably for Tokyo's available defenders ...

<Pose Tracker> Michiru Kaioh [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Nori's eyes come up from her test paper for a moment, and if Madoka is looking towards her, she gives the pink-haired girl a smile. She has an inner confidence in the courage of the pinknetted girl, because she's been there for Nori - and what better vouchsafe of character could there be? (There is more to it than that, of course, but that is where the root lies.)

For herself, Nori is not so sure. She got a few questions right early on but she's now feeling a weird mixture of sleepiness and anxiety in the pit of her belly. The main thing that has kept her from being thrown was the confidence of Kozue in the Chevaliers, last night. The taste of that crepe is still on Nori's tongue. The crepe of shameful doubt abjured and friendship inwardly renewed. The tears she left on Sayaka's shoulder!

The green light of -

Nori glances towards the window.

Her legs tighten up and shift around the school bag there.

They're striking when we're weak, Nori thinks.

But then a small paw rests on her calf from within the bag. Nori relaxes. Somewhat. But...



Michiru Kaioh has a study period in her first section on Wednesdays and it is very convenient, especially in the gracious tea room that the culinary program operates. (Kuniko Saito is firmly ensconced in the kitchen, preparing chicken and salmon shawarma for hundreds. Protein. Brain food!!) Michiru is in uniform, but it's sitting well on her. She's just finished a light tekkadon breakfast concept, and remarks to her breakfast mate as she raises a cup of Scottish breakfast tea: "I didn't think the spices would work with the raw egg, but it did 'cook' nicely enough, didn't it? A change of pace, but not too different from -"

Michiru falters, just a little, when she looks out the window, whose light is distinctly green-gel-like, and sees... well; all of that.

Michiru tips her tea cup back to drain it quickly. "French was review today anyway," she tells Setsuna as she rises.


"Pardonnez-moi," Sailor Neptune says from a tree branch not too far from where Northa is, and well above the ground. "May I inquire what you're doing? I'm not fond of the shade of green that you -"

Neptune takes a moment to press her wrist to her mouth to stifle a cough.

"Regardless," Neptune concludes; "Acting with grace for the new era - Sailor Neptune, the warrior of the seas!"

"You should stop now," she concludes, tilting her head to look down upon Northa: "While you have the opportunity."

COMBAT: Michiru Kaioh transforms into Sailor Neptune!
<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (4)] has posed.

Chibi-Usa even brought Usagi more tissues once or twice. She's been trying this week to help, not that she'll come close to admitting it. The larger Tsukino's hard work has not gone unnoticed.

Chibi-Usa even thinks about how Usagi might do, without immediately concluding that she'll fail. It's a quiet optimism that she keeps to herself.

Setsuna for her part sees an awful column of magic and worries, looking at Love sitting beside her. But they have to keep taking their tests. They may not have Tarte or Chiffon with them, but they have each other, even wordless.

But Chibi-Usa sees the magical column and stares at it, shivering immediately as she imagines its power. But she thinks of the girls who have helped her before... And she thinks of Usagi, trying so hard to pass her exams. Looking up in class she looks to her teacher, and sits up, "Excuse me!"


She had to sneak out of the school, climb the wall, and run away, but she got to the train... Likewise stealthily. Now, Chibi-Usa Tsukino is high up on a building overlooking the forests, pulling safety-goggles down over her eyes. "Stupid Usagi... Don't give up now or this won't be worth it...!"

Chibi-Usa leaps--!

Through the trees it's hard to see a pink parachute falling to the ground, but fall it does, gently. Chibi-Usa gets stuck and urks slightly as she flails and then in a puff of pink smoke her flight suit and parachute disappear to become a black ball of cat.

She sneaks further, hiding behind a tree as she looks out at Northa. She's... very scary-looking, but... Obviously, Chibi-Usa doesn't come out from hiding yet. She may be very obvious to Northa, however... Pink odango are not subtle.

COMBAT: Chibi-Usa Tsukino transforms into Chibi-Usa Tsukino!
COMBAT: Takeo Akamizu transforms into Chevalier Knight Lancelot!
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!  Empower and Surge applied to
Sailor Neptune!
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Exams aren't a stressor to Anthy, and the window doesn't hold her attention too long -- she looks to the tall girl seated in front of her, the way she's bent over her own answer sheet, and encloses that doodled bento in another concentric heart. Her long legs drum the floor a bit, one-two, one-two, heels bouncing.

Fervid green shoots into the sky, and goosebumps pebble the back of Himemiya's neck. Impossible to say which came first (perhaps if Miki and his stopwatch were present...). She startles back to the window and what it shows, with a gasp and wide aqua eyes. Then she looks back forward, again, to her Engaged.

Anthy chews her bottom lip. For the first time she looks as worried as the rest of the students. Her pencil finds paper again, adds sharp little thorns to each length of vine, scribbles in more creeping graphite greenery until there is more dark than light. Only that bento in its protective double-heart shield remains bright and clean.

Well, the bento, and... she still manages to not fill in a single answer bubble. Anthy sneezes rapidfire and reaches for a stowed kerchief, her nose reddening. Eventually this much pollen will get to even the Rose Bride, it seems.


As she is a university student, it's unremarkable that Setsuna Meioh is instead in street clothes -- if elegant ones -- rather than a school uniform. Still, shouldn't she be in a lecture just now...? Well, that is neither here nor there.

With a mouthful still of this new dish, she can only nod an emphatic agreement before washing it down with her own tea. Swallowing, she follows her friend's gaze, then follows her in rising as well. Her cup finds the table with a soft and careful *clink*.

"We got to finish breakfast. That is itself a small victory, as these things go." She shares a wry smile with Michiru as they set off.


Possessed of her own tree and branch as well as her own shade of green, Sailor Pluto once again agrees with her elegant fellow, and cannot resist adding a model's perspective. "She's right, you know -- that color goes with nothing." She's otherwise more quiet, as often befits this statuesque senshi when accompanied by her friends.

Evergreen hair trails her descent; she alights on the crunching forest floor, twigs snapping like little bones under her boots, to flank Sailor Neptune. The Garnet Rod shines, the Orb atop it fighting green glow with crimson radiance. She lifts her sacred weapon with narrowed eyes and seeks Northa through it.

It's the only reason she misses pink puffs that would otherwise immediately beckon her eye.

"What do you intend -- and who are you?" The questions reverberate, deep and low, and the Orb flares and sears brilliant golden afterflares into the corneas of any who look her way. She seeks more than Northa. Sailor Pluto seeks Northa's past, her present, her future: and any weaknesses revealed therein.

COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has used Golden Eternity Lens on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe narrowly counters Sailor Pluto's Golden Eternity Lens, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Analysis performed by Sailor
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe's counterattack, Power Overwhelming, partially gets through, doing 44 Fatigue damage to Sailor Pluto!
<Pose Tracker> Soular [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Makoto, having already taken a drink, only grins back at Usagi's confidence. "Let's give it our all!" she replies with a wink and a thumb's up.

Some time later, she of course sees that pillar of sickly green light and leaps to her feet, causing some consternation. However, Luna gets across a reassurance via communicator that others are on the job so they can relax and focus on their exams. Makoto's reluctant, but... well, she *can't* afford to skip this exam.

...besides, her magic's still been drained. She has no choice but to have faith in the others. She nods to Usagi, apologizes sheepishly to the room, and then gets back to her test.

Out in the clearing where Northa has worked her foul magic, Soular strides out from the treeline, arms folded. He stops nearby his commanding executive and gives a cold look out at Sailor Neptune and Sailor Pluto--but his brows are creased slightly. "Sailor Senshi..." he murmurs.

Then he flips his hair contemptuously with one elegant, gloved hand. "If you don't already know, I see no reason to alleviate you of your ignorance," he replies to questions of who they are. He does glance at Northa, though; perhaps she'll be more willing to play ball.

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

Usagi Tsukino doesn't notice the column. Nor the communicator on her wrist texting her-Usagi-chan don't panic. Don't panic. Just take your exam.

For once in her life a strange thing happens. She is totally engrossed in taking her exam.

Eri Shimanouchi definitely does notice. And she finds herself staring outside the window a little overlong... her eyes then move over to Homura, Sayaka, and Madoka in turn... before returning to her test.

Inori Yamabuki drops her pencil upon seeing it, it rolls halfway across the room. She gets up and apologetically whispers- "Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry-" Before retrieving it and getting back to her seat. "Why now?" She sighs long and hard. Elsewhere a baby bear fairy starts to cry.

Fate Testarossa's hand shoots up- this would definitely take longer than just a simple bathroom break, "Sensei. My stomach hurts. I have to go to the nurse's office." Arisa Bannings hand shot up, "Sensei! As the nurse's aide for our class I'll take her."

In the hallway- Fate was walking extra fast- "Arisa... it's alright. I can find my way there." Fate Testarossa turned a corner about ten paces ahead of her- "As if I'm going to let you go by yourself when you're feeling s-" Arisa turned that corner a moment later to see an empty hallway- "Where'd she go!?" She took off running down the hall, "Fate-chan!?"

Fate slowly inched out of the alcove she was hiding in and went the opposite direction, "I'll have to apologize to her later." She whispered, <Yes Sir.> When she slammed through the stairwell, there was a flash of golden light and arcs of electricity.

A golden flash finally just stops near the column, a girl with a black cape fluttering hovers in mid-air near the tree and geyser of green energy as she addresses Northa, "Today is an important day for so many at my school! Their futures depend on the exams they're taking. Whatever you're planning to do right now while they're distracted- we won't allow it!"

She points the poleaxe Device that was the other half of the- 'we' as Bardiche pings in agreement. <Yes Sir.> "Fate Testarossa and Bardiche Assault are here to- A-Ah-ACHOO!" The girl sneezes once.

Then twice, then again, as she wipes her eyes and nose with a gloved hand. Her moment ruined, she looks straight at Soular as he steps out, and answers the Senshi in his place, "It's Labyrinth. They're trying to conquer all worlds and bring them under the rule of Lord Mobius."

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa transforms into Barrier Jacket Assault!
<Pose Tracker> Saki Hyuuga [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

Saki Hyuuga had a long, fascinating discussion with Flappy last night that lasted until like three AM, mostly concerning WHAT IS ALL THIS POLLEN BUSINESS. Turns out despite being a spirit of flowers, Flappy claims no responsibility for what Flowers get up to in the privacy of their own meadows. ('IT'S NOT PRIVATE IT'S LITERALLY INSIDE OF MY FACE' did not dissuade him.)

Fortunately, she doesn't take exams today, so she's just thumping to school like usual. She slips into her desk, and the usual gaggle of classmates; her two softball friends in front of her, Mai--apparently still at art club...? Sure that's cool. Saki finds her usual sadness at Mai's presence tamped down by the fact she can barely think right now.

And then she finds her entire head whipping to the side at the sight of a huge COLUMN of .... stuff, gushing into the sky. "Hey, do you guys see that...?" she wonders. "Is that a publicity thing or somethin'?" she wonders.

Hitomi, the thinner of the two, looks over her shoulder at Saki, then out the window at nothing. "Huh?" she wonders, blankly.

Flappy takes this moment to - he doesn't scream the way he usually does, it's more of an exhausted whine. "Saki-lapi...there's a really gross power-lapi..."

Saki looks down at Flappy and blinks. "...are you budding," she mumbles back.

"Don't worry about that-lapi! Get moving-lapi!" he manages with something like heat, and Saki sucks in a breath at the sudden noise. Everyone was too busy with their conversations, she guesses. "Uhhhh, hey, ok, Hitomi, tell Shinohara-sensei I'll be right back OK!"

She gets up and buzzes out before Hitomi can finish reminding her of the six other things Saki is already in hot water for.


A streak of gold light races across the open sky! Cure Bloom arcs in across the distance, coming down hard on the ground because she's a big girl who breaks tree branches. "I don't know what you're doing!" Cure Bloom declares, boldly, and points defiantly at the cloaked woman and her super cauldron. "But stop it right now!"

COMBAT: Saki Hyuuga transforms into Cure Bloom!
<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

Northa does not occupy traditional values of time. She comes from somewhere else, somewhere not of Earth or even of this universe, at least as it's defined in physical spacetime. It is not a place that Pluto can surveil. But somewhere in the metaphysical darkness that welcomes her reconnaissance... there are eyes, or at least the idea of eyes, the principle of eyes -- eyes that stare back.

They meet the Sailor Senshi's, and then everything erupts in black fire.

In the forest, Northa's lips curl with a very slight smile; the pollen in the air starts to boil ever-more rigorously, sending out another flare of light.

"Youth in this world have no dedication, no discipline. Your presence here is a sign of weakness... one I will gladly exploit. COME, SOREWATASE!"

The liquid in the cauldron explodes outright.

And from the now-opaque cloud of pollen emerges a massive, filthy root, a curling vine. A crown of sickly yellow blossoms, all of them disgorging still more of the stuff. And, at the heart of the creature, a brilliant, burning red eye.

"Please kindly suffer as much as possible, thank you..." That's the last anyone will see or hear from Northa, but the cauldron remains, bubbling at the feet (...roots) of the Sorewatase, and so does the monster itself, of course.

Vaguely Accurate Visual Aid: https://cdn.anisearch.com/images/character/screen/23/23427/full/176270.jpg

COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe transforms into Sorewatase!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Choking Pollen on Cure Bloom.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Choking Pollen on Sailor Pluto.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Choking Pollen on Sailor Neptune.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Choking Pollen on Lancelot.
COMBAT: Lancelot narrowly dodges Hotaru Tomoe's Choking Pollen, taking 26 Fatigue damage!  Stagger applied to Lancelot!
COMBAT: Sailor Neptune fails to dodge Hotaru Tomoe's Choking Pollen, taking 35 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Cure Bloom narrowly counters Hotaru Tomoe's Choking Pollen, taking 27 Fatigue damage!  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 Choking Pollen, taking 17 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Pluto's Block ability
activates!  Sailor Pluto's Parry ability activates!  Stagger applied to Sailor Pluto!
<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (4)] has posed.

Chibi-Usa should definitely not be here.

By all thoughts of safety and good sense, she should've stayed away, like any other little girl. But instead, wearing her Juuban uniform and unprotected by any transformation, the pink-haired girl watches Northa as she talks about youth, and shivers just looking at her. Something about this woman just exudes terror. She has no words for her. But the cauldron's liquid explodes and there is suddenly a... creature...

Chibi-Usa shakes a little, but she looks over to Sailor Pluto, as she was staring, and closes her eyes before she nods. She's here. That means...

There's a puff of pink smoke again, and suddenly Chibi-Usa is a cheerleader with pom-poms. "Go! Go! Whack that overgrown weed!" She looks for Pluto in particular, but won't call her out. They have secrets, after all.

...And after her big cheer she'll hide behind a tree again.

<Pose Tracker> Soular [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Soular isn't particularly ruffled when Northa doesn't spare him a glance or a comment, opting only to summon her Sorewatase in order to combat the magical girls that have so helpfully walked into her web. He does chuckle at least at her parting remark, albeit coldly and without humor, and he looks back at Fate with a smile frozen on his lips.

"How kind of you to do the introductions for us," he tells Fate--and then slides his eyes over to Cure Bloom, who immediately after says she doesn't know who they are. "Not that it seems it's done much good." It doesn't occur to Soular that maybe Cure Bloom just doesn't know who Labyrinth is, even after hearing the name; he just assumes she's ignorant and failing to listen.

"Regardless," he continues, raising his arms into a combat stance as the monster arises from Northa's cauldron to send out a cloud of choking pollen (he seems to be immune, and for that Soular is glad), "now that you're here, I'll have to deal with you directly." Wait, really? Why? It's not as though he couldn't leave Fate to Northa, right? Whatever Soular's logic is, though, he darts out towards the blond with a feint of a punch, followed up by an actual kick lashed up to her side.

COMBAT: Chibi-Usa Tsukino has used Puu-wer Up! on Sailor Pluto.
COMBAT: Soular has used Pointed Jab on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa narrowly counters Soular's Pointed Jab, taking 7 Fatigue damage!  Fate Testarossa is Quipped!  Fate
Testarossa's Reverse ability activates!  Fate Testarossa's Tactician ability activates!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa's counterattack, Blitz Rush, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Soular!
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto accepts Chibi-Usa Tsukino's Puu-wer Up!, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Pluto is Cheered!
<Pose Tracker> Lancelot [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Sparkles and Lancelot arrive right on the scene just in time to run into a cloud of choking pollen. Lancelot isn't allergic, so while he suddenly sneezes, it is Sparkles who clearly has the allergy. The Warhorse stops dead in her track and lets loose with a series of titanic sneezes that would make anybody shudder. This sends Lancelot flying over the head of the repeatedly sneezing horse where he hits the ground HARD. As he sits up Sparkles sneezes all over the back of his head twice.

Blinking, he looks back to Sparkles who SNIFFS and neighs once in apology. The Kngiht quickly gets back onto his Horse in a quick action and then points his blades at the Sorewatase. "Hey! I think you need some Pruning!" He spurs Sparkles forward (Who replies by sneezing instead of winnies), and charges slashing wiht both blades as he closes in wiht a cry of: "LIGHTING IMPACT!"

COMBAT: Lancelot has used Lightning Impact on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Through crimson and gold Sailor Pluto looks, through space and time she seeks. She is determined that this unknown threat become known. Fate's answer echoes in her ears, chasing Pluto's awareness as she chases understanding.

Instead she finds both nothing, and her answer. The nothing freezes like deep space, an encompassing temporal emptiness -- more accurate to say it freezes her like deep space should, for this Senshi of the Outer Planets does not normally feel that chill. The answer chases ice with flame, scorches frostbitten synapses into deeper blackening.

Where she stands, Sailor Pluto bends backward, her spine spasming to a painful arc, and while her mouth and eyes fly wide, she does not scream. Instead she trembles for a suspended moment, then jackknifes forward to thud to her hands and knees. She hacks up a knot of agony and expels it with a wheeze.

A cheerful, tiny voice breaks through. She looks up, around, and sees her. Sees Small Lady. Her heart squeezes, her chest feels tight -- Chibi-Usa is here! She is so vulnerable, so small, so...

But Pluto's heart warms, beats more strongly, for all the ice and fire charring her soul. She gains her feet, renews her grip on the Rod, all the while keeping eyes full of worry and love on her smallest and dearest friend.

She'll whack that overgrown weed, alright.

Renewed fury in garnet eyes, Sailor Pluto turns to face the oncoming cloud of pollen, rushes through it with her mouth sealed. It doesn't keep that noxious cloud from invading her nose, and she suffers for the rush -- but she also pushes through, eyes streaming in reaction. The Garnet Rod leads, blurring a path like a spinning helicopter blade might, aimed for the tree-creature's roots with a certain sense of deja vu for fighting poisonous... well... tree-creatures.

COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has used Pendulum Blitz on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe perfectly braces Lancelot's Lightning Impact, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Brace!  Hotaru Tomoe's Block
ability activates!  Hotaru Tomoe's Parry ability activates!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to dodge Sailor Pluto's Pendulum Blitz, taking 31 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Pluto is Psyched!
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

"You're wrong. That we're here to back up the others on a day like today... it's a mark of our strength." The liquid in the cauldron explodes, and she shields her eyes as the tree Sorewatase emerges. Frowning, she flourishes her partner. Only for her to start sneezing anew. She hears something- cheering and- "Chibi-Usa?" She says aloud, as if confused. But when she looks in that direction, she's already hidden

And that's when Soular announces he's going to deal with her directly. Her grip on Bardiche suddenly flexes. She always knew a day like today would come but-

It's still upsetting when it happens.

And then he's on her.

Backpeddling in mid-air, his feint criss-crosses her head, smacking a twintail out of the way and thumping her ear- right as a kick comes up and-

<Blitz Rush>

It feels like Soular's foot made contact with something solid- but he doesn't get the satisfaction of the follow through. Because there's a flickering after-image.

And then he hears a ping overhead, <Cartridge Load>

A cylinder spins, something pounds into place. And she's descending upon him in a two handed overhand strike. Even if she doesn't make contact- there's a sudden flash of yellow, and a detonation of thunderous energy that washes over the area. "Do you think I'm going to back down because it's you...?"

She says in the wake of that, "... if anything- it makes me more resolved-" She points Bardiche at Soular, "-to win!"

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Thunderous Clash on Soular.
COMBAT: Soular narrowly dodges Fate Testarossa's Thunderous Clash, taking 4 Fatigue damage!  Fate Testarossa is Psyched!  Soular's
Fade ability activates!  Soular's Flash ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Neptune [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Sailor Neptune is not particularly allergic to pollen, but at certain densities you have problems whether you want to or not. It's like having dust thrown in your eyes, shot up your nose...

Nonetheless, Sailor Neptune leaps down from the tree with only some coughing and a closing of her eyes. They're a bit red and watery when she opens then again and looks up at the sight of that massive tree, even as a small voice identifies it correctly as an over-grown weed.

Coughing once, her vision clears just in time to see that Sailor Pluto is already leading the charge. Rubbing her brow with the back of her glove, Sailor Neptune says, "That's an excellent trick, but I wonder how quickly your limbs can move. After all, a tree can overcome any stone -"

And with this she leaps forwards, doing a split-second of a handstand to push off into a sweeping kick past the thing, aiming to smash the heel of her palm into the trunk of the mighty creature on its way, letting out a "hora!" of effort before she comes to land, now on the creature's flank. "But without water, it won't get very far."

"Pluto! Be careful - its size isn't neccessarily a disadvantage!" she calls to her comrade, perhaps without need, but better to apologize later than regret your silence. She's against silence, after all.

COMBAT: Sailor Neptune has used Aquatic Allemande on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to dodge Sailor Neptune's Aquatic Allemande, taking 18 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Neptune is Psyched!
<Pose Tracker> Cure Bloom [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

Cure Bloom, who just kind of talks when words occur to her brain, actually restocks the situation, and her finger tracks to Soular. "You!" she yells. "You're...that jerk!" HE ERASED HER MOM. NOT OKAY. "You work for those people Setsuna-sempai used to! I remember that! I'll beat you both up!"

Actually she will beat up zero of the two people in question because the cauldron explodes and a huge tree monster comes out. Northa also just entirely peaces out, but Saki finds herself mostly conending with a wave of horrible pollen. She throws her arms out, sparks of yellow motes clashing with the waves of pollen choking her.

The result of the clash is mild success and literally ten increasingly painful sneezes. "OwCHOO! OWWWCHOO!"

"Darn...tree!" she mutters, sniffing loudly and wiping her nose on her sleeve (G R O S S). And then she sucks in a deep breath and hollers a defiant cry, and then charges in, fist pulled back. Cure Bloom deals with defiant trees as he does everything else: PUNCHES. When her fist crashes home, there's a loud PANG of power as her magic discharges into the beast!

COMBAT: Cure Bloom has used Fistful of Flowers on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe narrowly braces Cure Bloom's Fistful of Flowers, taking 6 Fatigue damage!  Cure Bloom is Psyched!  Hotaru
Tomoe's Block ability activates!  Hotaru Tomoe's Parry ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

The Sorewatase is a lot more than an overgrown weed; it's not just huge (though it is huge, taller than the forest itself by a considerable margin), and it's not just dense (though it is dense, spreading Lancelot's lightning on impact into scorch marks, Bloom's light on impact into same, and dented but not decisively broken by the thucka-thucka-thud of Pluto's rod and Neptune's fabulous fisticuffs) -- it is terrible.

Terrible as in 'great and terrible.' It exudes wrongness precisely in the way that a plant with liquidized, weaponized despair pumping through its veins, rather than chlorophyll, might do so. There's more haze in the air than the toxic pollen, which is itself magical yet on some level far from the most potent magic being wielded.

Pollen chokes, swells. Despair drowns.

But it beats magical girls up the old-fashioned way, too. Roots explode outwards to try to latch onto Cure Bloom and drain as much of Pretty Cure's fury and frustration as it can. Vines spontaneously sprout plantly jaws, teeth, and try to clamp over Pluto and Neptune in a single massive maw. Lancelot has to contend with an explosion of petals and extra-nasty pollen from the blossom-tree crowning the thing, right in his face.

And its eye -- its eye fixes onto Chibi-Usa, behind the tree.


It starts to lumber towards her.

COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Roots of Darkness! on Cure Bloom.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Venus Girl-Trap! on Sailor Neptune.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Venus Girl-Trap! on Sailor Pluto.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Blossom With Despair on Lancelot.
<Pose Tracker> Soular [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

The sound of a small girl cheering. Soular glances to one side, and his green eyes widen, then narrow, at the sight of a tiny pink-haired girl pom-poming the magical girls before ducking back behind a tree--drawing the Sorewatase's attention in the process. "..."

Then Cure Bloom shouts and points at him, and he frowns in return. He lifts his chin imperiously at her declaration and replies, "My. You're going to beat up Setsuna? I'm sure that she'll appreciate your gratitude for all her needless sacrifice."

That's of course not what Bloom was saying; Soular is deliberately misinterpreting what she means by 'both,' simply to fluster her. But then the cloud of pollen hits Bloom, and Soular returns his focus to Fate. ...Let the Sorewatase deal with these other interlopers. He is here to deal with Labyrinth's former ally and current enemy.

He makes the first strike, wheeling in midair in a lithe kick off the ground to avoid her initial counterstrike, then landing lightly on the balls of his feet. This is in time to hear the Cartridge Load above him, and without wasting time looking, he backflips to avoid Fate's overhead strike. However, it's not without its cost--having to move so immediately after his last attack takes some effort, and it shows when he lands with the slightest of grimaces. Fate is no weakling; he doesn't like to think of what would have happened had she gotten that attack off on him clean.

"I had no expectations of the sort," he replies calmly, nonetheless. "After all, you and I are enemies. Given Labyrinth's stance against the so-called Cure Passion, did you really think I would expect mercy--" He clenches his fists, then launches himself forward towards Fate, arms flashing forward in a flurry of punches so fast the eye can barely follow. "--much less show any?!"

COMBAT: Cure Bloom narrowly dodges Hotaru Tomoe's Roots of Darkness!, taking 34 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Hotaru Tomoe
drains 14 fatigue from Cure Bloom!
COMBAT: Soular has used Flurry of Blows on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Sailor Neptune narrowly braces Hotaru Tomoe's Venus Girl-Trap!, taking 14 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Neptune's Block ability
activates!  Sailor Neptune's Parry ability activates!  Stun and Trap applied to Sailor Neptune!
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto narrowly dodges Hotaru Tomoe's Venus Girl-Trap!, taking 38 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Trap applied to
Sailor Pluto!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa perfectly dodges Soular's Flurry of Blows, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Critical Dodge!  Fate
Testarossa's Fade ability activates!  Fate Testarossa's Flash ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (4)] has posed.

Chibi-Usa uses what words she can; even a huge, terrible monster seems a little less terrible with her beloved Sailor Pluto there, who fought for years the monsters of Chibi-Usa's bad dreams. However...

The monster is horrific. It is terrible. The despair it brings into the air can choke at her, too, and Chibi-Usa quails, thinking more now of right here and less on out back at Juuban because there is so much and she is so, so very small.

"A-aaah..." Chibi-Usa watches Pluto's difficulty and she bites her lip, drippling Luna-P who has appeared before her again and calling, "Luuuna-P...! Transform!"

In a pink burst of smoke there is a fan before Sailor Pluto, black and pink, blowing away pollen. It starts to tilt backwards.

Chibi-Usa herself is staring at the Sorewatase as it starts to lumber towards her, stumbling back and then finally stumbling back and hitting her seat hard, staring up in terror. "N-No..." It chokes her. She stares. What can she do? She can't even move!

COMBAT: Chibi-Usa Tsukino has used Luna-P: TRANSFORM! on Sailor Pluto.
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto accepts Chibi-Usa Tsukino's Luna-P: TRANSFORM!, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Accelerate applied to Sailor Pluto!
Cleanse! All of Sailor Pluto's debuffs are cleared!
COMBAT: Lancelot narrowly braces Hotaru Tomoe's Blossom With Despair, taking 14 Fatigue damage!  Lancelot's Block ability
activates!  Lancelot's Parry ability activates!  Blind, Diversion, and Exhausted applied to Lancelot!
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

Soular is on her again in a flash, and it's everything she can do to avoid it. It's not just that Soular is as fast as her but he's even more cunning in the placement of his blows. One nearly boxes her throat, another glances off her auto-protection spells. Still more and more and more-

She's twisting, and juking, and jerking in an aerial ballet to try to desperately avoid each and every one of them, unable to find a gap for a counterattack.

Eventually she takes a gamble, and pulls up in a streak of gold. Soular's fist snaps near her solar plexus as she begins the motion and it almost proves to be a costly mistake.

Fortunately she's just fast enough that instead it just misses her boot. She flies higher. Trying to get out of his range, then flourishing Bardiche in a circle he begins to shift. <Haken Form.> Similar and yet different to what Soular has seen, the axe blade folds into a black crescent, an energy blade lining it.

"If you're not expecting mercy..." Swinging it in a wide arc, the blade detaches with a ping- <Haken Saber.> "...then you aren't paying attention. Mercy was given to me when I didn't deserve it..."

The spinning blade careens across the gap. "...and to Setsuna too..." And then it attempts to drive into Soular's guard and smash him backwards. "...and after I win, we'll offer it to you too. ... Saber Explode."

Arcs of violet electricity play across it, before it detonates into a titanic explosion. In the clearing smoke she says, "... all you have to do is desire it, and we can give you a new life. One which won't be jeopardized every time there's a setback... or a failure... you don't have to live in fear of that."

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Haken Saber on Soular.
<Pose Tracker> Lancelot [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

As Sparkles and Lancelot ride past, the kngiht manages to deflect most of the vines that come at him. His blades slashing through them, butone manages a good solid THWACK across his face which nearly dismounts him. He lets out a slight frustrated sound and turns Sparkles back around to come at the Sorewatase again, his twin blades trailing tendrils of lightning.

As he and the Warharse pass, he suddenly leaps from the saddle swinging both blades at the monster plant of allergic pollen doom. Each swing sends a wave of lightning that arcs and flashes toward the Sorewatase as he calls out, "LIGHTNING SLASH!" He hits the ground in a roll, coming to his feet in a dead sprint to intercept where Sparkles is arcing around to come and pick him up. His tiwn blades trailing that lighting still, blue and white forks crackling wiht energy as he goes.

COMBAT: Lancelot has used Lightning Slash on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to dodge Lancelot's Lightning Slash, taking 21 Fatigue damage!  Lancelot is Psyched!
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Neptune calls for caution and, as ever, Pluto listens -- this great horrific tree creature quails even a mighty heart, just a touch, up so close. When the ocean warns one is best served by heeding. She lands a solid, damaging hit, then tucks and dashes away, running low in an attempt to duck the worst of the spore-heavy air. Her first attempt at rejoinder is nothing more than a phlegmy wheeze followed by a frown.

Clearing her throat, Sailor Pluto tries again and finds a voice next try. "Yes, and those branches give it reach!" For the briefest of moments, the Guardian of Time considers scrying this new foe. The very thought throbs burning pain through her skull, occludes vision briefly with black-tinged red. She decides against it.

It's hard to clear that scorching from her head, and she's caught trying when a great planty maw snaps down toward her and her fellow senshi soldier. By the time Pluto moves there's nowhere to go. Teeth made all the more horrible by being Not Teeth At All chomp down across her midsection, shredding senshi silk and abrading her back and stomach. What sounds of pain Pluto makes get swallowed by the plantmaw -- perhaps only Neptune hears her clamp a scream behind teeth and lips.

Hands and Garnet Rod outside, torso and head plunged deep until she feels like a fly in a pitcher plant, and hopes it is just her imagination that creates the sensation of being drawn deeper in. She starts to thrash, which further scrapes tender skin but may also be her only escape--

'Luuuna-P...! Transform!'

-- her breath clears; her eyes sharpen; the air comes fresh and sweet to burning lungs, even here. The constriction around her midsection loosens, and that is her chance --

Sailor Pluto flexes her shoulders against the goopy green and it cannot contain her, not with the strength of love flowing in her veins! She has a Small Lady to protect! She pries plantjaws wide with angry arms and bursts free, and once clear she only has eyes for Chibi-Usa.

Garnet finds red through that dissipating cloud of pink, so much cheerier than foul choking spores, and then she is running! Sailor Pluto skids to a thundrous halt between the Sorewatase and her beloved, "Small Lady! I am here, you are safe! Stay back!"

Her attention flashes to the horrific thing that DARES threaten Chibi-Usa Tsukino. Wrath spins in eyes and Orb both, and the latter rises overhead in slender arms, spins once, and unleashes shrieking plutonic energy. A warning shot meant to hit square on. She can barely stand, uniform in tatters and body battered, but barely will always be enough when it comes to the safety of the ones she loves.

COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has used Garnet Blast on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Soular fails to counter Fate Testarossa's Haken Saber, taking 49 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Soular's counterattack, Pointed Retort, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Fate Testarossa!
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Neptune [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Neptune's blow did not fell the tree. This doesn't surprise her too much, but she certainly was hoping for a nice big woody CHUNK to come out. Her lips thin, and then vines sprout around beneath her. Neptune tries to leap up and away from them -

But they catch her leg! Clinging toothily, Neptune hisses in through her teeth, which of course means the pollen gets into her lungs again. Coughing, she squeezes her eyes shut -

When they open again, Sailor Pluto is speaking to Small Lady. Sailor Neptune lets out a small breath which has way more yellow powder in it than she enjoys, but sheer will is keeping her from coughing again. Her hands raise up in an elegant dual loop and then press downwards, even as she observes to Pluto, "Do you know what happens to a plant that the sea rises to meet?"

A surge of seawater thunders down from Sailor Neptune's gesture, a wave out of place that nonetheless thunders and crashes, the salty sparkling freshness of the air perhaps helping fractionally with the pollen! (Naturally, Neptune will keep it from harming the park, but the Sorewatase doesn't need to know that.)

COMBAT: Sailor Neptune has used Dolphin Wave on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe narrowly braces Sailor Pluto's Garnet Blast, taking 9 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Pluto is Psyched!  Hotaru
Tomoe's Block ability activates!  Hotaru Tomoe's Parry ability activates!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe perfectly braces Sailor Neptune's Dolphin Wave, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Brace!  Hotaru Tomoe's
Block ability activates!  Hotaru Tomoe's Parry ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Cure Bloom [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

Cure Bloom may be the Pretty Cure of Earth, but she has trouble with vine monsters a lot, for some reason...Case in point: The tree (....thing?) explodes up around her, and she tries to leap away!

She fails in this entirely, the vines curling up around her and latching on. It manage not to take hold too much of her spirit, but it drains her body just fine, and she screams in pain as the power leeches out of her. "Nnngh...!" she groans, trying to flex her powers against it. Will drawing out more power just cause it to drain her more? She hsa to risk it! She screams, drawing on her Pretty Cure might, until a blast of power erupts out of her, forcing the vine apart just enough that she can throw herself skyward.

She comes down some distance away, hitting the ground hard with heavy, painful wheezing. But her eyes cut up as she sees its attention turn - down and away. To the person who's helping Sailor Pluto. ...wait "Who is that!?" she asks, because she apparently wasn't paying attention. "I--I won't just let you!" she hollers, and bursts upward, lashing out with a sweeping kick at the Sorewatase's side. The forces of the impact sends her wheeling away, but her feet come down on a tree; she whips her eyes up, finding her target, and throws herself right back in, zooming in with a crashing punch!

COMBAT: Cure Bloom has used Bloom Pursuing Strikes on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe narrowly dodges Cure Bloom's Bloom Pursuing Strikes, taking 12 Fatigue damage!
<Pose Tracker> Soular [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Although Fate might not be able to get in a counter-attack against Soular's attacks, but neither is he able to land any, either. Fate leaps up to avoid the final blow, and Soular nearly overbalances in his attempt to get her. He manages to right himself and spin around on his heel to face her at the last moment, but--either way, she's evaded his reach, hovering as she is in the air.

He grits his teeth, hidden behind the thinning of his lips, when she begins to have Bardiche change forms. He's seen the form shift before, but not this *particular* form. It makes sense that she'd have gained new powers since last they met--she was always strong, and it's been a long while since they clashed. But what she says about mercy...

"And who is this 'we'?" he says coldly. "Was mercy offered to the Dark Kingdom? As I recall, all of its ranking members were slain." In fairness, not all of them were slain by magical girls--some were executed internally--but Soular is more than willing to ignore the inconvenient parts of what he says.

All the same, he knows that weakness in his argument is there. Perhaps it's because of that, perhaps it's because Fate so insists that there is some mercy that needs to be offered to him, perhaps it's because of her talk of a new life where he needed live in fear of failure, that when he snaps his hand back to hurl a copy of his Data Diamond at her, he hesitates just long enough for the spinning blade to strike him instead. He snarls in pain as the violet electricity crackles and then explodes, sending him flying to land violently on a tree, which cracks under the force of his landing.

He groans, then sinks down to his feet, gasping for breath as he clutches his chest. "If... you're so concerned about what would happen to me... in the event of failure..." He snaps his hand out again; once again, a copy of his Data Diamond materializes, but this time, several copies of them. He swings his arm forward towards her, and each of them fly towards her like throwing daggers. "...then kindly fall!!"

Hit or miss, though, Soular's main aim is to get Fate to concern herself with his attack rather than what he's about to do next. Fingers splayed, he tucks a hand into his jacket, grips a bottle of a certain energy drink which is now brimming with magical energy, and turns towards the Sorewatase with cold imperiousness. "Sorewatase! Drain this liquid--both here, and all across the city!!"

"SOREWATAAAASEEEEE," the giant plant monster groans. It lifts its tendrils as Soular hurls the GUZZLE into its cauldron, and liquid glows and pulses a sickly, neon green, at first slowly and then with greater speed.

Across the city, everyone who had had any of the GUZZLE finds that the energy they'd been suffused with suddenly... drains, right out of them. Makoto Kino's in the middle of solving a math problem, one she actually *understands*, when her eyes lid, her vision wobbles, and she slumps across her desk. "Wh-what's... happening... to me...?" she mumbles, one hand on her forehead.

She's sure she knows, though. It's that column of light in the distance. She grits her teeth and attempts to keep going... but it's so *hard*--she can barely even see the numbers as they dance across her vision!

COMBAT: Soular has used Pointed Retort on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used GUZZLE! on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru has not concluded their actions. Reactions are not yet available.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe accepts Hotaru Tomoe's GUZZLE!, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Empower and Surge applied to Hotaru Tomoe!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa narrowly braces Soular's Pointed Retort, taking 8 Fatigue damage!  Fate Testarossa's Block ability
activates!  Fate Testarossa's Parry ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

The Sorewatase begins to bring its trunky viney arms down towards Chibi-Usa's tree, the one she's hiding behind, but it is strongly and totally interrupted. It is interrupted first by Lancelot, who has lightning go in one side and out the other with a cacophanous roar, and the job is finished by Pluto, Neptune and Bloom. The Sailor Senshi send out brilliant blasts that send all that momentum going backwards, and then Pretty Cure lays the monster out on the rebound punch off the tree.

  • CRASH!!*

The ground shakes, and other, more normal trees pitch and yaw with awful speed. One or two actually smash to the ground into splinters.

Unfortunately the monster itself does not suffer the same fate. It is still in one piece, and after Soular commands it, it's... more than it was.

Energy from across the city pours into the cauldron of pollen, and therefore into the monster itself. It grows, abruptly, disgustingly, unnaturally. Pulses of hard-earned strength, of brilliance, of simple, painful effort... they race up the Sorewatase's veins, disgorging chlorophyllific muscle.


Madoka swoons, her head clunking onto her desk. She's out like a light.

Utena manages to keep her eyes open, somehow, but spots dance in her vision and what's left of her hair all seems to droop along with her shoulders.


It doesn't so much rise to its rooty legs as it grows six more, and now it's a spider, a spider crawling and crushing and consuming the forest and everyone in it. Nowhere is safe.

OOC: Feel free to pose your imperiled 9th graders (with more detail than I did, by all means, about their exam-so-far!) as well as
your avenging Smol/Tol angels!

COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Grow Strong With Sorrow on Cure Bloom.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Grow Strong With Sorrow on Sailor Neptune.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Grow Strong With Sorrow on Sailor Pluto.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe has used Grow Strong With Sorrow on Lancelot.
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto perfectly dodges Hotaru Tomoe's Grow Strong With Sorrow, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Critical
COMBAT: Lancelot narrowly dodges Hotaru Tomoe's Grow Strong With Sorrow, taking 58 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Hotaru Tomoe
drains 23 fatigue from Lancelot!
COMBAT: Cure Bloom narrowly braces Hotaru Tomoe's Grow Strong With Sorrow, taking 18 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Cure Bloom's
Block ability activates!  Hotaru Tomoe drains 7 fatigue from Cure Bloom!
COMBAT: Sailor Neptune narrowly dodges Hotaru Tomoe's Grow Strong With Sorrow, taking 46 Fatigue damage!  Hotaru Tomoe drains 18
fatigue from Sailor Neptune!
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (9)] has posed.

Her vision is blurring again; Fuu pushes her glasses up to swap at her eyes with a corner of her handkerchief that's still dry. There should be a few clean ones in her bag - she overpacked, knowing what state she was in - but even reaching into her bag *during* the exam would bring the teacher down on her in a storm of righteous wrath, and she's not going to risk it. The mask over her nose and mouth feels stifling, but she's too focused on the cycle of question and answer to pull it off or push it out of the way.

Next question. Focus. Read, consider, solve, answer.

Except her eyes aren't clearing now. Never mind the handkerchief; Fuu takes her glasses off and tries to wipe the lenses with her blazer's sleeve; it's only in the middle of the process that she realizes two things. One, things are exactly as blurry with her glasses *off* as they were with them *on*. Secondly, her desk is looming a lot closer all of a sudden.

Oh right, she thinks. That energy drink - what was it called again? - must already be wearing off. The sugar/caffeine crash she was worried about. Just need to focus, try to keep going.

Her head is throbbing. Her heart is pounding. It's too hot. FOCUS. She puts her glasses back in, carefully, closes her eyes -

Then they fly wide open. The green of the drink, the green of the pillar ... the same green? She can't even remember.

She takes a deep breath, rides out a coughing fit. Tugs her mask down, breathes in again, quickly covers her mouth.

She can't fight. She has to trust others ... again. Pass the exam, she can lie down in the nurse's office until time for the next one. How many questions left? She pages through the booklet, paper rustling loudly, ignoring (uncharacteristically, hopefully her nearby classmates will forgive her) the displeased looks from neighbors and teacher.

Back to the question she was on. Focus. Read. Think ....



Fight through it.

<Pose Tracker> Lancelot [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Lanelot sprints for Sparkles, and leaps to try and both dodge and get on his warhorse. Instead he finds himself slammed to the ground, his energy leaking out and away form him He pushes himself to his feet, teeth grit in a determined look as he looks at the monster that is sapping his energy.

He jams a blade into the ground to use as leverage to get to his feet, then plants one foot and pushes hard. He shakes wiht the effort, one eye closed. "Yer hungry huh?" He says through gritted teeth. "Want some energy?" He manages to get to his feet and then slams both blades of Arondight together, "FEED ON THIS, HEAVEN'S WRATH!"

An explosion of energy erupts from the blades, sending crackling tenderils of electricity to dance and play around the blades, and coalesce into one larger bolt of lighting that flies directly toward the creature. Lancelot plants his feet, pouring everyhting he can into this one desperate strike to try and hurt the monster.

COMBAT: Lancelot has used Heaven's Wrath on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe narrowly dodges Lancelot's Heaven's Wrath, taking 5 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Blind applied to Hotaru
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (4)] has posed.

A pause in the cadence of the fight causes her to see those pink twintails, and to realize, "It is her..." Suddenly she's looking between her and the Sorewatase, trying to lurch as if she were going to go to the aid of the normal girl. But she knows- against a foe like Soular. It would cost her. She had to trust in the Sailor Senshi... these Sailor Senshi. And yet that Sorewatase...

She winces at Soular's statement on how all of them were slain. But her expression sharpens as she turns her gaze upon him. "Do you know that it wasn't?" She's not so certain herself- but the Sailor Senshi, those Sailor Senshi...

She takes a deep breath as Soular sinks down, then tosses several copies of his data diamonds like daggers. Desperately she whirls Bardiche into place smashing several away with a swing- though two- three- four sink into her golden barriers of her auto-protection spells. And then it bursts like glass. A fifth causes a yelp out of the girl as it sinks in.

Biting back pain she says- "I won't! Failure was the only way... the only way I learned that my mother was wrong!" And then Soular throws something-


Usagi Tsukino's sudden burst of energy is gone- the girl's vision is blurring, she's crashing hard. Normally she'd already have given into it but- "Can't sleep... don't sleep... uniforms... together..."

And then she's out like a light.


Eri Shimanouchi tries to shake it off, as if she were shaking off concussive head trauma. It's not working, her vision is blurring. Taking her pencil, she jabs the point into her hand. Even the pain isn't working. She feels numb... she looks over at Madoka... "Sensei... Madoka-chan's... not looking... so..." She's out for a few moments, before she jerks upright, trying to shake it off... and then she sits there on the edge of consciousness.


Inori Yamabuki has cute kittens dancing in eyes. Each one represents a cute kitten she'll one day take care of as a vet. And yet right now they were blocking her view of the test. "...have to... believe... Love... get... happiness..."


And she sees the results. She knows that Labyrinth's MO means... "Soular... you..." Her lips press together. "... I won't let you succeed here. I can't. Everyone's future is riding on this..." Perhaps even Soular's, in her mind- whether that thought is misguided or not, <Sonic Drive-> "-Ignition!" Her cloak disappears, all armoring disappears, her skirt is instantly replaced by a pair of shorts, and a pair of golden wings appear on each ankle, each wrist.

Her barrier is now pathetically thin, and thus this form is a double edged sword but- she's moving at Soular faster than ever, on him in a flash.

The golden blur he sees is actually her a half second ago, a flickering after image as she drives into him. Her scythe whips downward in a singular cleaving strike- <Haken Slash> - but it's at such a high speed that it's going to strike with far more force than usual.

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa transforms into Barrier Jacket Sonic!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Golden Flash on Soular.
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

The gargantuan tree-like horror absorbs surging green, sapping studiousness and all that nervous energy for its own twisted growth. It creaks and towers and SPLITS, making trunkroots which crash and smash and splinter its smaller and more normal forestbound siblings like dry twigs. People, in comparison, seem very breakable indeed.

Puu cannot protect Small Lady if she falls. One leg-like spike of wood skewers the forest floor where she was only seconds before. Evergreen and garnet blur, pure effort burning muscles to produce blinding movement.

Where does Sailor Pluto go?


Elsewhere on the Ohtori campus, Anthy Himemiya's heels drum more slowly beneath her desk, even as other students slump and in some cases thud headfirst onto incomplete exam sheets.

One-two. One- two. One... two. One...


Pencil skids off paper and draws a long skittering line across Anthy's desk. She begins to snore, head cradled in the crook of her arm. "Choo... choo..."


Sailor Pluto launches herself straight back. A quick two-step and she kicks into an arcing somersalt, corkscrewing through the air with a shimmering comet's tail of hair twirling behind. Even with senshi silks tattered and skin beneath darkened by bruises, the Outer Senshi is all grace and glory.

She lands in a careful crouch, boottips sinking into the brown underbrush with nary a crunch, right beside the cowering Chibi-Usa. Sailor Pluto promised to see her safe. And so it is that the Smallest of Ladies gets scooped into a careful single-armed carry, tucked close against Sailor Pluto's chest.

The steadfast guardian rejects that there is anything that might keep her from protecting Chibi-Usa, no matter how thoroughly dangerous the forest has become. "You are safe," she murmurs into one pink puff. Some promises are worth repeating over and over, as many times as they are felt from the heart.

Then they're flipping back again, another trunk-foot crashing down right after. Luna-P whirrs away from the rising debris, a bit dirty but otherwise fine, and ducks and weaves through branches after both of her mistresses.

They wind up between two sturdy trees, thus far uncrunched by the rampage. Pluto keeps holding Small Lady close, whispers, "Shhhh. Cover your ears, Small Lady. Just for a bit. I'll let you know when it is okay." Only once tiny ears are well and plugged does she set the Rod in the ground haft first and turn her gaze once more upon that awful, poisonous monster of a thing.

Sailor Pluto inhales; dredges darkness and death and deeping distance from somewhere within, some place those things lurk and gather and await this very summons. Sailor Pluto exhales; her lips move, form shapes, and the souls of the time-displaced fallen provide the voice:

"Dead... Scream...!"

Visible as violent purple, the howling sussurus comes, seeking nothing less than to engulf the threat before it can cause further harm to anyone. Most especially, to the precious girl she's hugging tight.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Sailor Pluto has used Dead Scream on Hotaru Tomoe.
<Pose Tracker> Chibi-Usa Tsukino [Juuban Public School (4)] has posed.

The monster is too strong. Chibi-Usa is afraid, looking up at it, not even able to look at those here who she would know as her friends. They're all fighting so hard, but she's learned that fighting hard doesn't always win the day.

But suddenly Sailor Pluto is beside her, and Chibi-Usa blinks as she's picked up and then buries herself in Pluto's arms. "Aaah--! Puu!"

Cover her ears, Pluto says, and Small Lady looks at her, then nodds, plugging her ears as directed. Then, only then, does she watch Sailor Pluto use this magic, as best she can held against her.


Back at Juuban, Setsuna Higashi is upright, more or less, her posture good... except that she's leaned well over, snoring away in perfect time to another set of lungs at the desk one over.

COMBAT: Soular perfectly dodges Fate Testarossa's Golden Flash, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Critical Dodge!  Soular's
Fade ability activates!  Soular's Flash ability activates!
<Pose Tracker> Cure Bloom [Infinity Institute (8)] has posed.

Bloom bounds right back off, dropping down with hands at her side, ready for another round. But--

"No!" she gasps. She feels kind of crummy but - that magic, that power! She remembers those drinks, kind of? They were handing them out at school! "You...!" she seethes. "You play with peoples' families and futures!" Her fists ball up, even as she watches the horrible thing grow, and grow... "Sempai....all the others, too...they've been working so hard to make sure that this went well for them! And you want to just ruin it!" A different kind of power whirls up around her, blasting power through her, exploding golden light of the spirits rushing off her body. "I won't forgive you!"

She explodes off the ground. She can't, really, do much more than she already has; but she does that as well as she can, crashing into the growing, horrible, empowered spider-tree with one fist, and then attempting to just punch the thing a bunch.

This never goes very well but at least she's trying.

COMBAT: Cure Bloom has used Petal Clash on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to dodge Sailor Pluto's Finisher, Dead Scream, taking 88 Fatigue damage!
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe narrowly dodges Cure Bloom's Petal Clash, taking 5 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Cure Bloom is Psyched!
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Neptune [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Sailor Neptune frowns. It would seem that this mean green mother from Northa's place is not so easily dissuaded by salt water. Shortly thereafterwards, the creature rampages...


Nori Ankou rests her forehead on her desk, feeling the pressure of that green light. She's feeling cold and clammy and that sense of weariness and frenetic anxious energy is filling her. Her grip on her pencil tightens as sweat runs down the back of her neck, the seagreen-and-pink-on-black silk scarf she'd worn for good luck damp with it now.

She's being, somehow, sapped. Nori thinks. Or else she was drugged. And whatever happens, there's an apocalypse of some kind on the horizon out there.

but, she whispers to herself, it's going to be fine out there, because mami tomoe is already in high school and if that is not enough then kozue is a year younger than her, somehow, and what Mami Tomoe cannot shoot, Nori is very, very sure Kozue can clean out like a landed salmon, roe to gills.


Sailor Neptune, battered and bruised, has raised her arms up high, as if she is conducting a great orchestra. And perhaps she is. She stands several paces from Sailor Pluto, and her expression is as grim as a hurricane cloud on the horizon.

"Enough of this," she says. "I'll show you what comes of terrifying children. This new era won't dawn in the face of something like you!" And then Sailor Neptune's head tilts back.


The ocean joins her. Rising up from the soil, which was, of course, in its time something deep beneath the seas of earth, it rises: Surging, forming a tower around her, cresting like the perfect wave eternal. The sense of the sea-shore may be easing to Small Lady, but Sailor Neptune has no conception of this in the moment. She knows Setsuna is protecting that girl --

And honestly, she would have to admit to herself: Sailor Neptune envies that, just a tiny bit, somewhere in her heart.

The tidal rise fades, a sphere of sea green forming above her upraised hands. Sailor Neptune pirouettes as a limning ring of light forms around the sphere, giving it a suggestion of sheer volume that deceives the eyes. "SUBMERGE!" she cries as she throws it - lowering itself near the ground, rising up again, trailing magenta halations as it rises once more towards the mighty plant!

COMBAT: FINISHER! Sailor Neptune has used Deep Submerge! on Hotaru Tomoe.
COMBAT: Hotaru Tomoe fails to dodge Sailor Neptune's Finisher, Deep Submerge!, taking 139 Fatigue damage!  Hotaru Tomoe is unable
to keep fighting!
<Pose Tracker> Soular [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Does he know? Soular frowns at Fate but doesn't answer. Technically he doesn't; after the Dark Kingdom's Queen Beryl made it clear he was unwanted and unwelcome, he avoided going back. The fate of its generals, of its Queen, came back to him via reports and whispers on the Dark Fall grapevine. Still, not knowing something for certain has never stopped Soular from *acting* as though he does, and so he scoffs and announces, "What a ridiculous question."

The Sorewatase has been giving its orders, been fed its noxious energy-draining drink. The rest, he'll leave up to the creature. If nothing else, even if the Senshi and the Precure and the Knight manage to beat the creature back, he doesn't want to leave having lost to Fate. It's a matter of personal pride, after all--especially since Northa is no doubt still watching. She's always watching. She's the right hand of Mobius-sama, after all...

"Your mother was cruel and delusional," Soular snaps back at her. "Mobius-sama is nothing like that!" Everyone's future is riding this? "Indeed--everyone's future *is*. A future where they need not struggle and suffer needlessly on a pointless, miserable test that can make or break the rest of their lives! Is *that* the future you desire? One where children are crushed under the weight of expectations beyond their ability?! *Everyone* has a place in Labyrinth! And as long as they *know* their place, no one need ever be miserable!!"

And no one need ever be happy either, but happiness is an illusion anyway--right? Regardless, despite how heated he's allowed himself to get, Soular doesn't expect Fate to actually listen to him. When she dives down towards him, outfit transformed and scythe whipping down at him so fast that he couldn't possibly hope to get out of the way in time, it seems as though she might crush him and his argument.

So he doesn't try to get out of the way, per se. Instead, he moves *with* Fate, a dance that synchronizes himself with her despite all his talk of their different points of view. She closes in and he closes in with her, one leg arcing around as she lands with immense force, then falling, *striking*, aimed to smash into the small of Fate's back, before the explosiveness of the landing sends him flying.

He twists in midair and lands with grace--but he's not smirking, not gloating or taunting as he arises.

After all, this is a battle of who can land the final blow *first*.

COMBAT: Soular has used Hell or High Kick on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa narrowly dodges Soular's Hell or High Kick, taking 26 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Fate Testarossa's
Fade ability activates!  Fate Testarossa's Flash ability activates!  Stun and Trap applied to Fate Testarossa!
<Pose Tracker> Hotaru Tomoe [Infinity Institute (6)] has posed.

Lancelot's response to a brutal energy drain is to try to feed the Sorewatase more than it can take. This is not a good bet, but as the lightning gushes through the creature's veins, there is one singular and vital benefit -- it is very BRIGHT.

And a Sorewatase's single eye is a gigantic, sensitive target. The pupil narrows to nothing reflexively; it cannot see anything at all. Like, for example, Cure Bloom coming in with all the punches, forever. Any single punch is not a game-ender, but she winds up finding a good spot with a nice big gnarled knot on it and hatchachachachachachacha -- the knot falls away, leaving weakness, beneath.

The exposed flesh of a Sorewatase beneath the bark is a wriggling roiling maggot-like mass of tiny green viney tendrils.

Sailor Pluto and Sailor Neptune may not have aimed for it deliberately; their attacks are massive, the target small. Nevertheless -- where tides and time wear uselessly away at impressively, frighteningly strong bark, they inject directly into that weak point and chase Lancelot's lightning upwards. Like garnet and aquamarine clots in a blood vessel, they swell... and burst.

There's nothing left of the Sorewatase afterwards, just the last of the pollen falling to Earth. The cauldron itself is entirely gone, and the Guzzle energy -- it scatters back the way it came like a fountain of rainbows.

Children stir from their rest and pick up their pencils, feeling clear-headed at last. And already, it's far easier to breathe.


Not here, but not far, a dark woman waits in a dark place... with a dark purpose.

Meticulously, Northa measures the despair created by all this drama and excitement, both in the hearts of the ninth-graders of Tokyo, and in that of their protectors.

She is satisfied.

"When you are done playing, return, Executive Soular."

That this was not an immediate command, but rather one that allows him to exercise his own discretion, is perhaps the highest compliment she's ever paid him.

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

Other students might stir, or shake their heads free of the drained haze.

Anthy just keeps on snoring the rest of that exam away, seeming quite content. She's 'done' with her answer sheet, anyhow.

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

Focus. Focus. *Focus.*

Keeping her eyes open takes more of an effort than Fuu can muster; she's lucky to get a clear enough look at the next question to engrave it on her mind and try to come up with a correct answer while her eyes are closed .... which means she has to not fall all the way asleep. The teacher won't notice, at this rate. She can hear some of her classmates snoring. It would be so easy to---



She takes a deep, cautious breath, pulling the mask away just enough to fill her lungs with air rather than phlegm. She blinks, her vision clearing, her brain coming back up to speed. She looks at the question, fills in the correct circle.

And the next question.

She glances up at the clock, counts the remaining pages in the exam booklet, and continues working. Her eyes are still somewhat rheumy and she still wishes she could go back home and sleep the day away, but she already feels much, much better ...

And whoever faced the day's danger - if she ever manages to sort out who *did* respond to the threat posed by Labyrinth's newest scheme - she owes them hot chocolate and a jumbo cookie of their choice. She may never get to pay that debt off, but if she does, she'll make good on it at the first opportunity.

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

Cure Bloom finds a likely spotand relentlessly releases the punching power of Pretty Cure! "HAAAAAAAAA!" she cries out, a seemingly endless barrage of Pretty Cure might!

She wheels back for a final, finishing punch, and with it, releases the HORRIBLE GOO beneath! "Wh...what is this thing!?" she yells, and throws herself back as more and more firepower falls down, and when she hits the ground, the Sorewatase is already no more.

She sniffs, once, red-nosed, but smiles just the same. "Sempai...I've done my part. So now you have to do well on your own!" she says, to the sky, and hopes her dream will reach....!

"You have class-lapi," Flappy suddenly notes.

"OH NUTS, UHM, BYE," and then a trail of golden sparks shoots off into the distance, pursuing a rocket-speed Cure Bloom to her next great battle: Convincing Shinohara-sensei not to make her do laps for the rest of her natural life.

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

Your mother was cruel and delusional.

She knows that.

The words still hurt more than she can express. The dissonance between not her and her, past and present.

Is that the future she wants?

Her rush is also a cry- but not one of denial. Soular becomes her dance partner, as he synchronizes with his incredible agility and reflexes. He closes in with her, and at the last moment of her strike, she rolls to the side. That evasiveness is faster than a bolt of lightning- but the kick still makes contact-

And as light as her barrier jacket is, it sends her hurtling throughout the forest just as the Sorewatase's death kneel resounds.


Usagi Tsukino's communicator starts to ring like an alarm clock. Usagi wakes up with a panicked sound, blinks her eyes a few times and- once she realizes starts shaking her wrist until it silences. "Wow... that power nap really helped." She inhales once... sinuses mostly clear too. Picking up her pencil, she hums quietly as she starts again.


Eri Shimanouchi falls out of her chair. The impact causes her to wake back up. Scattered laughter and sniggers and shhhs happen from the kids who are already fully awake. Climbing back up to her desk after a moment, she starts again. After she has filled in a few answers, she turns to check if Madoka is awake, smiles, gets her a furtive thumbs up, then keeps going.


"A FERRET! THERE'S A FERRET ON THE LOOSE!" One Ohtori classroom has a ferret fairy enter through a crack in the door, bounding across it, to leap up onto a desk and smack Inori Yamabuki on both cheeks with adorable paws- The girl jerks up, and shrieks. The ferret fairy looking deeply offended then takes off before hall monitors can catch up. Inori, still shaking, gets back to her exam.


Fate recovers in time, spinning around in midair before she'd strike something critical, but she makes her back feel like it's splitting open. <Be Careful- Sir.>

Flying back through the forest, Soular might get the impression a strobe light is coming.

Fate doesn't come at him one time, she comes at him from multiple directions. They're all light blows, glancing really- but they're coming so fast, and they're coming from so many ways. "Was Mobius nothing like her-"


"-when he tried to execute Setsuna?"


"Maybe everyone fearing for their future based on a test-"


"-isn't right. But you fearing for your life-"


"-is even more wrong!"

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Golden Rush on Soular.
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Neptune [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

As the Sorewatase fades, Sailor Neptune breathes out. Her leg is throbbing, but it's getting better now. As she straightens up, she cups her elbow in one hand, the other cradling her own chin as she says, "It's a shame when they go rotten, isn't it? But it's even worse when somebody helps them along."

Cure Bloom is reminded, and blooms off to her flowery fate. "I should really get to French myself," she murmurs to Pluto, but as she does she looks to Chibi-usa.

"It's a pleasure to meet you... Small Lady. Please take good care of our dear Pluto, would you?"




Tension eases. A last cough and Nori blinks gum out of her eyes. Her pencil starts to move shortly therafter, writing with some haste to catch up with what is lost. Warmth engulfs her heart as she keeps on going. In her bookbag, Batiste's little heart swells with pride as well. He cannot know what happens in Nori's heart, but he can learn much from stance, from tension, from subtle motions.

Even so, it may be hoped that Ohtori has an escalator program, at least for boarding students...

COMBAT: Soular fails to dodge Fate Testarossa's Golden Rush, taking 28 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
<Pose Tracker> Soular [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

The Sorewatase is defeated in spectacular blasts of light and elemental force, and the draining of energy reverses, reviving those who suffered its effects.

"--oh!" Makoto jerks upright, suddenly wide awake and alert and sinus-problem-free. She looks around, bewildered. Was that... because of the magic pillar outside? Or... No, she don't have time to worry about that! She looks back down at her test, at the question she'd been in the middle of before her whole body shut down, and smiles when she realizes she still knows the answer.

Okay. She can do this. Time to get back to work!

But Soular is still here, and although Northa has shown in him a vote of confidence by bidding him to return only at his discretion and not immediately, she still called what he was doing playing around. He frowns as he glances to one side, hearing her words. He nods, because he can do nothing *but* not, and he knows he should be honored by her show of trust, but...

No. He can't afford to think such banal things. He turns back and focuses on Fate--as well as her companions. They seem to be content with their victory over the Sorewatase, but with the creature defeated, they'll soon remember that he's here and come to their ally's aid... or so he assumes, anyway--for all that he spent some time disavowing Fate's claims.

Then Fate flies in through the woods at immense speed, so quickly that it seems like there's half a dozen of her all at once. Soular cries out in surprise, attempting to raise his arms to block the high-speed blows, but there's too many of her, and he has only so many arms. They all zip in and strike true, wham wham wham wham, as she. At the end, he drops to one knee, grimacing in pain--but still glaring at Fate and what she says.

"Eas betrayed him. She put on a false image of obediance while fraternizing with the enemy," Soular growls back. "I'm nothing like her. I have no reason to fear for my life! Once the Sorrow Gauge is full, then you'll see." He staggers up to his feet with as much grace and elegance as he can muster in his injured state, and laughs coldly. "That time won't be much longer now. You'll see very soon, Fate Testarossa...!"

And, cold laughter ringing through the air, Soular turns back into the woods and disappears among its interwoven branches.

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

Fate inhales through her nostrils as Soular starts to laugh at her, she raises Bardiche once more and- "... ... ..." And then she lowers it as he starts to walk away, "... I hope you're right." Wait what? "That you have no reason to fear for your life."

Looking once over her shoulder at the Sailor Senshi with Chibi-Usa Tsukino... seeing how they treat her.

Once again it hurts, to think about how it would be different if Chibi-Usa's best friend were in the same position. Yet they've spent the whole battle looking after her. She has no cause to fear the life of her friend.

After a moment she turns around and starts flying back towards Infinity.

Fortunately like this she is very, very-

Arisa Bannings bursts into the nurse's office, breathless. To see the nurse giving Fate Testarossa a checkup on the edge of the bed.


Storming right up to her- she doesn't care that the nurse is right there checking her up- "What made you think it was alright for you to just run off on your own to the nurse's office!? If you're feeling sick you shouldn't overdo it- I just can't believe you'd be this stubborn!"

The nurse thinks to intervene. Then thinks better of it. Fate sits there on the bed, eyes closed, mouth open, a sweatdrop beading on her forehead, as she laughs a little nervously, "Arisa..." She says softly, she feels like it's going to take a while to get a word in-

And that's when Arisa grabs one of her hands with both of hers, "Don't ever scare me like that again. I really care about what happens to you, you know?"

For a moment the girl just sat and starred, then a smile breaks upon her lips like the sun coming out after a brief summer shower, and she just slowly starts to nod, "I know. I'm really sorry Arisa."

The nurse coughs once and- hands Fate a pink pill. "Seasonal allergies. Take this and head back to class. It might make you feel a little more tired throughout the day but it'll clear you right up." "Well- take it." Fate gladly downs the pill- then hoists herself up to bed, and walks back to class at her side.