2018-06-22 - LOTUS RECURSION: Dream within a Dream 1

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Dream within a Dream 1

The dreamers caught in the Book of Darkness find even their own dreams aren't always their own.


Vita, Steven Universe, Fate Testarossa, Kasagami Araki, Fuu Hououji, Mikoto Minagi, Signum


Belkan-affiliated kingdom ☞︎❒︎♏︎♏︎♒︎□︎●︎♎︎ on planet ✋︎❒︎❒︎♏︎●︎♏︎❖︎♋︎■︎♍︎♏︎

OOC - IC Date:

6-22-2018 - <Data corrupt>

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Dimensional Space +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+
  Where the vast wonders of outer space extend in all directions within
  Earth's primary temporospatial dimension, many other 'magical worlds' occupy
  another dimensional space entirely. There are as many theories as to their
  origin, 'true' location relative to the Earth, geography and greater meaning
  as there are visitors to these realms. None are conclusive.

  Unlike Earth, Magical Worlds often utilize magic publically and prolifically
  to improve their societies, though many remain feudalistic, and others
  outright barbaric. When magic itself ceases to be secret, the necessity for
  a magical girls identity to be hidden diminishes as well, and recognition
  inhibition is weak or absent in many such worlds.

  Methods of travel between and within dimensional spaces are manifold. The
  simplest are permanent portals, often attached to sites such as standing
  stones, which can create bridges through space or time. Dimensional
  transport spells can be invoked by more powerful magi, and at the extreme of
  fancy footwork are entire mobile fortresses, from starships to floating
  towers, that whisk whole families or armies between, and beyond, the stars.
<Pose Tracker> Vita [None] has posed.

It's almost unfair. The realization that this is all some strange magical dream-simulacrum doesn't rid the body of its need for rest, doesn't remove the weight of exhaustion from your eyes. Everyone still needs to sleep, even out amid the slowly-unifying dreams.

And one night, when you close your eyes...

Screaming. No - shouting, roaring, the clang and clang of steel on steel.

You snap to your senses in a new place. The surroundings are chaos, a press of shouting bodies, but with a few moments of luck and possibly a little bit of flinging power around, you are able to get your bearings.

And you're in the middle of a war.

You are inside the courtyard keep of a castle of the old European style, with stairways to either side. All around you are people in violet, armed with sword and shield and dressed in armor emblazoned with triangular magic sigils that sit dull and lifeless. They are in turn holding off a group in green - and a little further down, people in brighter armor, gleaming with magic.

They are all screaming in what sounds to the ear like German, and to the heart like Japanese.

"KNIGHTS!" one of the violet army yells to you. "We need your strength! For Her Majesty! For Ascona!"

(OOC: This is a dream sequence occurring to your characters while they sleep within the Book of Darkness' dream world. You have found yourselves projected into the roles of Belkan Knights who mysteriously have all your usual magical girl combat skills. This will be OOC combat because I worked overtime today and didn't have time to make a youma *COUGH*)

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

It isn

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

She only intended to rest her eyes for a moment...

And then her eyes flare open. Fate Testarossa's armor is decidedly violet. The only thing stylized about it is the helm - which is more a half mask covering up to her nose, a yellow gem at the apex, her blonde hair flowing freely out of it. It has no eye slits - but she can still see. "Dame Sofie Benz Sohne - you have my sword! For her Majesty!"

It had been done so reflexively that she didn't know what she was saying. Her real name comes to her immediately of course - as does who she is... she has the sense that she's older than that right now.

Yet right now on the battlefield - does it matter? Her gauntlet clenches around her hand and a half sword as her head turns to survey the battlements overhead.

"Where... am I?" She asks quietly to herself.

Checking her shield's coat of arms... a wolf...

She then straightens up and stares straight forward at the army the others are holding off in the ranks ahead in the bloody magical, then sidles to the side, one half-step two to another soldier in her current line of ranks. "Ah... excuse me." They'll be upon them any moment and yet - right now she asks quietly, "Who are we fighting?"

It might feel like such a ridiculous thing to ask when they're seconds from actually fighting - and after she made such a declaration.

Hopefully she hasn't accidentally caused the only rout in ancient history where an entire division was routed by face-faulting.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

It was everything he had hoped for. How could it not... be... real...

It hurt so bad to look at her now. To hear her voice. To see her do the little things she does that make herself laugh. It was a life she deserved. One she fought for And yet? Is gone. Given up. taken from her. Or was she?

A charade in the cruelest sense. Steven is even unsure what is real now. Was this real? Or fake? Even the possibility has shaken him to his core. His pillow is wet from tears muffled away, hidden like some dark secret away from those he loves, in case this was indeed reality. Left to dry and disappear, unremarked on like so many things he wishes he could say.

But would they actually listen even if he said them? Would they feel if they could? A lost child bereft of a mother in a possible world that may already be undone?

A boy falls asleep, only able to have his mind wander between two possible aspects of his life. If he could choose, would he even want to leave...


Sounds. Loud ones. Fighting, screams, anger, pain. Steven's senses coalesce amid yet another location. A battlefield of import, within fortress walls. People trade attacks and shouts. "Where..." Steven says slowly, having to quickly move to avoid being engaged by a sudden insurgence of green armored folk.

The boy then realizes that he wears the same armor as those around him behind attacked. An urgency sets in, these were sided fights of some kind. A person calls out a rallying cry. And he feels something inside him want to attack those armored in green.

Yet one thing remains that is the same, an anchor between all these strange changes. An emergence of pink flourishes into a roseate shield. A symbol, that despite everything, always is there when he needs it in some form.

Knowing almost nothing of the situation, Steven still readies himself to fight. Questions can come later as to what exactly is going on. The important part is obvious though-- purple guys are good, everyone else is bad.


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

Her Royal Highness Kasagami Araki feels the lips of her Mother touch her brow, a tear slipping down her good eye. Sleep overtakes the conflict within her, and then, darkness.


Yelling, and Kasagami's eyes shoot open. She's upright, eyes briefly dozed off. She's clad in violet armor stylized with protective pauldrons. The young woman flexes her arms and legs, letting the feeling of the armor weigh on her body. Up the faceplate of the helmet goes, and she gazes around the courtyard.

Questions like 'Who are you?', 'Where am I?', 'Who are those green jerks?', and other such minor matters are put off as she realizes that they're near a battlefield. And a castle no less. Reaching over her shoulder, hands grip the solid, long handle of a blade. Pulling it out, she inspects the long, heavy zweihander. Both hands find it's solid weight. Somehow, it almost feels familiar.

A grin. "LONG LIVE THE QUEEN! MAY THE ENEMIES OF ASCONA TREMBLE BEFORE OUR MIGHT!" Howls Kasagami fervently. At the very least, an enemy to fight in a dream is a pleasure, uncomplicated and easy. This is one she can enjoy.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Sleep has its uses, as Fuu learned - the hard way - when she was a couple of years younger. Far from merely being time lost out of the day, it's time that the brain and body need in which to refresh and renew themselves. And having had her eyes opened to the fact that she was, in fact, trapped in a dream of putatively-hostile making ... well, the irony of needing sleep inside of a dream is not lost on her. And if it weren't for that fact - that this *is* meant to hold her captive - she might even be willing to play along with it. So many of her friends are there, the troubles and travails of magical girlhood are safely confined to a shared fantasy ...

But that's just it. The world of the dream, sweet and soothing as it may be, is keeping her captive - her, and countless others. And somewhere outside, in the waking world ... the world is *ending*. Along with her non-magical friends, and her family, and gods know who else.

At least, Fuu thinks as she burrows into her bed, she knows where Ferio is ...


"FOR ASCONA!!!" Jetta echoes with gusto, glaring bitterly down at the green-clad army. How dare they wear her color, she thinks, bow taking shape in her hands; she reaches over her shoulder for a set of arrows, and nocks them to the string, raising her bow and drawing back her shafts. Easy enough to aim over her allies and into the enemies' ranks. It means she can't flex her magical power along with her archery, but ... best to save her trump cards for when battle is truly joined.

With a soft *twang*, her arrows go flying, arcing over the non-magical warriors' engagements and hurtling down amongst the enemies whose armor is actually shining with magic.

And behind Jetta's eyes, Fuu Hououji wonders at the details of the dream. To join the battle seems *natural*, and yet - the larger dream-prison seemed just as natural, in the way of dreams. Even as Jetta's hand reaches for more arrows, Fuu's mind tries to catch whatever details she can ... the recognizable powers (and personalities!) of known allies among them.

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

And sometimes it hurts, being torn from slumber, sometimes it's painful to let go of lies, and oh, how sympathetic are the liars now? And how strange to walk amongst the lies and know them, and know them, and oh, to see them reflected there.

And how strange to see the world as if through a mirror darkly, with all its attendant foibles, that the world is the world even as facts warp and events change. And sometimes it is so real it hurts, the need for those human things like rest -



The Belkan Knight Golf stands in gleaming violet armor, greatsword clasped in gauntlet-clad hands. It's like being jolted awake - it begins with the shout. A piercing battle-cry, the way it's followed so closely by steel matching steel.

A single beat, like the pulse of ancient magic or perhaps a heart realising its precarious situation -

Yellow eyes widen as the pieces slip into place and Golf realises the steel was that of an ally, matching sword to sword as they covered her momentary lapse in concentration. "What's the matter, Knight?!" A glance - a man beside her, snapping in irritation, a woman at her other flank. She brings her greatsword up, roof-stance clasped above her head, the obsidian blade behind her where it won't cut into her brethren.

A sword glances out, strikes against breastplate; it slides to the side, unable to catch raised arms or find the gaps in the armor. The greatsword comes down, and the woman in green is defeated.

This wave is defeated. But there is a call, to the knights, and this knight would surely respond -

- except -

'I can't be Kasagami's knight...'

- Mikoto Minagi has never been noble enough to be called a knight, and the realisation shakes her all at once. It feels different, this time. She's never been close to this person, whoever they are, and yet here she is...

And the Belkan Knight Golf knows that she has sworn to fight for Queen Ascora's sake until her end of days. So eager is she for victory that she leaps forward with lesser infantry, inspiring them on the front lines. Does she mean to lead them - or does she simply mean to destroy the enemies before her?

Perhaps it's not so strange, then, that Mikoto is here, behind this woman's eyes.

Because Golf sees the threat incoming just as Mikoto would.

"Hold the line," she grumbles, to the infantry, and breaks away with practiced steps to join the other Knights with shining armor. Her voice is lower, here, painted with years of experience, and it sounds so strange to Mikoto's ears.

Strange, too, to know just what Golf would say to the collection of knights: "For Ascona." Two words, fervent and quiet, because the Belkan Knight Golf does not waste her breath on speeches either.

<Pose Tracker> Vita [None] has posed.

Fortunately her question is answered by the green-clad Knights busting into the quad, flanking out in each direction. "KWA HA HA!" one of them declares, boldly standing forward. A man in violet runs at him with sword drawn and is summarily punched aside.

There is a horrible crunch at the impact and the violet man goes flying. The green man watches him fall and grunts. "You brought peasants to hide behind. How common of you, Knights of Ascona. I am BOLT!"

The man next to him holds forward, with an axe whose head is nearly the size of his entire muscular torso. "And I am VOLT!"

They both explode with electric power!!

"And we'll teach you DOGS OF ASCONA A LESSON, won't we!" they jeer in unison, leering menacingly at Fate--no, at Sofie.

Jetta's arrow slams into a Belkan triangular magic circle, leaf-green in hue. "My name is Ser Leaf," the caster declares, bold. "Your upstart empress may have bought your miserable loyalties, but true honor will show us to victory!" And so saying he fires, bolts of light racing away in whipping, whirling chaos to try and cut through the line to slam into Jetta. They'd of course have to get past the shield of Rose Quartz to do so...which they surely won't.

In the background, voices rise up: "THEY COME! ASCONA'S DEMONS ARE HERE!"

Something explodes far back, beyond the walls, but men get sent flying over the battlements, crashing into the ground. The tallest of the green knights stands forward, her long hair whipping in the winds of chaos. "So your queen finally gets serious. Know me as Avalon," she declares, and produces an Armed Device - a hefty broadsword, visibly different from the weapons of the others as it hisses with power. "Witness my partner, Gram."

Ice crawls along the ground toward the dreaming Belkans - and then lashes up in a wave of icicles.

"And tremble as you die!"

<Pose Tracker> Signum [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuSSXOQ-1bI

The icicles rise upwards and yet they seem to be blunted by a mysterious force. There is a great sense of heat, of pressure, from behind the lines of Ascona.

There is a shrieking fiery arrow, sudden and swift. It erupts with a shape reminescent of a bird - the heat washes downwards, melting the ice the rest of the way.

Then it descends. At first the streak of magenta is almost impossible to fully rationalize, to comprehend, but everything seems to become slower, almost more leisurely. The world grows crisper, gently aliased, everything seeming to accordion into perspective as the blur of magenta forms the shape, perhaps familiar to some, of Signum.

And Laevatein.

Laevatein is surrounded by a graceful plasma. In this eternal crystal vision the flame seems like an undulating thing, cauterizing and beautiful. The initial strike comes downwards with both hands aimed at the midsection of the knight Avalon, Signum landing in front of Avalon, a bit to the left. Avalon offers little resistance.

Signum brings the blade back around.





Something glitters like a jewel and Signum reaches inwards as if she were gently disentangling a fruit from a slightly sickly tree. The Linker Core glows as she raises it. Laevatein is swung around --

BURST! With a sound of roaring thunder and a furnace-hot blast, Avalon is not present any more other than some residual greaves and boots.

Signum looks over her shoulder towards the others. She is expressionless but that is not new. "Forwards," she shouts, voice flat but extremely loud.

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

And then it becomes moot because the green clad knight is there. The ranks beside her goes flying. Raising her shield though - a Belkan triangle forms in front of it. Skidding her back a half-step as it strikes it.

And the words come to her far too easy. "Such names - even if they strike fear into the peasantry - did you think it would be the same with me?"

Her bastard sword elongates in a glowing blade of energy overshadowing it - as violet bolts of lightning begin to strike it. "I don't think you even know the meaning of the storm."

She's about to engage. When suddenly the demon comes. And suddenly Sofie's attention isn't on her opponents.

Eyes wide beneath her mask - she watches as Signum demolishes Avalon - "Signum..." It's so strange to see her flat - emotionless. She's so... so...

"You heard her! Bastardschwert! STURM UND DRANG!"

Dashing inwards, her feet showering sparks, she makes a series of quick feints - striking again and again at Bolt. It feels far too elegant the way she's wielding it - like it's weightless, before she flips it upright and overhead. It sends violet lightning showering over the area in an umbrella pattern.

Catching it as it arcs back into her hand, she pivots into a brutal chop - that detonates into a massive explosion onto Bolt's partner.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

The fight rages on. around them all, though the encounter in the courtyard is just beginning, Steven takes a moment to regain his composure, and thoughts, memories come to him. a person named... Dondai? Something like that. It sounded familiar as if it had been spoken a million times already and yet not at all.

A pair of violent green armored soldiers step forward. "Who...?" the boy asks. His speech is slowled, he is beginning to realize. He isn't talking as fast as he wants to. Is this person just one of few words? "Enemies..." he utters, near rasps, seeing a purple knight get tossed to the side like an aluminum can. However, more immediate threats happen.

A curse uttered and a wave if deathly rime forms, and Steven can do naught but brace for impact.

THe ice however is halted with a powerful combation of fiery attacks. Shortly thereafter, the one who said such foul things against the knights is for all intensive purposes vanquished. A woman stands tall and proud, holding her prize. Something swells within Steven, though he has no idea what it might be.

The boy looks for the next option. Those two electrified knights look like quite the threat, and a knight is lashing out against them. There is something about their armor, their fervor that pushes Steven to strike against them.

In a rush across the courtyard, he holds out his shield, coming in fast for a vicious shield bash at the nearest of the pair. "You... will fall!" is uttered, though Steven wonders if it was him that actually said it. The line had to be held.

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

"Indeed," says the Belkan Knight Golf, and somehow her low voice still carries, "hell is empty, and all Ascona's demons are here." They are formal words, deadly words. They promise retribution. They promise destruction. Because she knows what is coming; she can hear the sounds of battle behind them. And it is all she says, though she looks to the infantry punched aside with sympathy.

She brings her obsidian blade around in a fool's guard - the Alber, echoes the memories of Golf in her mind, who has lived and breathed Belkan tradition her whole life - point lowered between her legs, foot swept back. These Western stances, so useful to apply to a claymore, seem now to be the most natural things in the world to fall back on.

As if she had lived her whole life with the dedication of a knight, instead of...

Of course, there's no need to counter the icicles which rage forward. There's no need, because there is fire, here, and its owner is familiar to the woman wielding and to the girl behind her eyes. That knight - because she is a knight, this time, not a pretender wearing a veil as Mikoto does -

- it's always strange to see the dead.

(Here an ache, pushed aside.)

She has not heard her voice enough to know its matte quality as anything other than normal; and her command is eminently reasonable, with enemies ahead. She nods, to Signum, and her foot sweeps forward, sword coming to the side as legs bend behind plated greaves. It's more difficult to move, in such encompassing armor, but Golf has had a lifetime of experience.

She lowers; she leaps. And that obsidian claymore comes overhead, diving not for the front line but sailing overhead to bring the assault to the mage standing behind. Ser Leaf may be more comfortable at a distance - but the Belkan Knight Golf is known for clearing distances.

And that blade comes down, in an overhead slash.

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

Kasagami...err, Heinkel, stops her vigorous cheering to face those that fall upon the horde of violet foot soldiers with a swiftness! Heinkel stares through the Belkan Knight's eyes, the many powerful enemy knights appearing. Their power, their entrances all call to the knight's warrior spirit, adrenaline and desire for battle forcing a grin under the helmet and the thumping of a heart primed and ready to leap forth!

But it's when the ice wielding Avalon appears that her demeanor brightens, and hands squeeze around the handle of her large weapon. She rolls her shoulders, one of the flanges on the weapon grinding against her own armor as she does so.

She can feel and hear the presence of those around her. Mikoto in particular gets her attention, followed by Fuu and lastly Fate. Her confident smile dips some at noting the Chevalier, but she puts it aside. There's plenty of enemies here, and it is a dream, right?

Especially as Avalon streaks ice towards them. Kasagami wheels back her weapon, Heinkel's long legs stretching to form a solid stance as dark red roses gather all around this odd Belkan Knight. And then...

An explosion, and Kasagami recognizes one of the Wolkenritter. The cleaving of Avalon has the knight pausing, all of that fire about her sword causing Heinkel's heart to skip a bit. Kasagami pauses. Inside her helmet, her face flinches. Teeth grit, and even as her mind tries to slip from this dream to a nightmare, she jabs herself with a flange harder. It doesn't help much.

Suppressing every fear and desire, she takes her gaze from Signum to Volt. It's a dream. Time to play Heinkel.

The Duelist, and quite possibly the one whose body she inhabits, lives for bravado and volume. It helps, banishing some of her trauma. "Sir Volt! Have at thee, you son of a curr! For the glory of Her Highness, I'll display your inelegant weapon over my nightstand after I cleave it from your hand, knave!"

She points that zweihander at the knight, and then she rushes forward with a laugh that's half nervousness, and half refuge in a fight. Don't worry, swing, mind on the battle. Nothing else matters. Her Mother's words, so fresh from her own Dream, flit about in her head.

The Belkan Knight Heinkel leaps high into the sky, flipping once, twice, thrice before leavering the rose-petal coated slab of metal over her shoulder with both hands and lets gravity do the rest. She falls like a comet.

"House Schweitzer technique! Crashing Rose Eruption!"

Even as electrical sparks slam and scorch both her armor, hair, and blade, a crimson tide of roses erupt from her sword, light and the scent of a spring Ohtori evening accompanying their magical sharpness.

<Pose Tracker> Vita [None] has posed.

Volt and Bolt, already preparing to fire, shriek in horor. "KNIGHT COMMANDER!" "NO!!" Leaf stumbles back, hands rising up in a perhaps familiar invocation of some mystic device, the winds whirling around him. "Demon! I'll not be taken so easily!"

While Sofie and the shielder Steven and the warrior Heinkel all descend on Volt and Bolt, Leaf finds himself with another problem. His hand flashes up, a barrier of magic repelling Jetta's blast of might. But Golf descends in a massive overhead swing, and his second shield can't hold them both. His Device chimes - it's hard to hear but everyone who does recognizes is at a rapid-evasion spell, anad Leaf zips away to the other side of the courtyard, whirling his hands around each other in sacred geometries. "Then I shall see you handle HRK"

A hand protrudes from his chest - not thrust through him, but rather extending from some mystic portal placed upon him. He shudders, horribly. "Ah. I missed," a chiming voice declares. Then the hand comes back out and THRUSTS through again - this time, holding a glimmering, flickering Linker Core. Leaf rasps, his eyes wide in horror. "Demons," he rasps. "That accursed...b---book!" he spits, gripping for the hands that hold his very soul...as it grows dimmer, and dimmer...

On the level above, a woman in uniform violet armor - rather like the dull sets worn by the regular soldiers, MUCH less vibrant and polished than the sets worn by the Belkan Elites the dreamers inhabit - has thrust a corresponding hand through a portal in front of her. "Your life and dreams mean nothing," she says, coldly. Shamal, though unlike she's ever been seen before; with something terribly chilling in her eyes and voice. "All your life amounts to is a way to keep that magic fresh for our mistress to take. Vanish."

Leaf's Linker Core winks out, and the man sucks in one last, horrid, ragged breath, and then collapses forward, off of Shamal's hand. Dead.

Volt and Bolt stagger back under the assaults upon them, but mostly hold their own. But even they are beginning to stagger under the combined attack, especially as they try desperately to make sure Signum doesn't sneak up on them. Not like they could do much if they did, given how she rather handily took care of Dame Avalon.

A new interruption comes, in the form of a knight clanking out of the main hall and in to the courtyard. "DAME AVALON! SER VOLT! Lady Vespa is away! You must--disen..."

He stumbles to a stop, his eyes wide. A quake runs through his entire body. "No," he whispers, in emotional agony. "Monsters," he croaks, and falls to his knees. "MONSTERS! HOW CAN YOU DO THIS TO US!? WHAT DEMON KING GIVES YOU THE RIGHT TO ATTACK FELLOW BELKANS SO!?"

Then there is a sick, horrid crunch as the man's chest is smashed in by a polo hammer, and the he goes flying into Volt, who is set off his balance by the impact.

Kasagami very nearly cleaves his head right off, before another surprise presence appears - a man in the same violet armor as Shamal, with fluffy dog ears poking out of his white hair. He catches both Heinkel and Sofie's weapons with his gauntleted hands. "You have them on the ropes," he declares. "Kindly wait for Shamal to drain them." His eyes cut to the other newcomer.

That being a girl with fire-engine red hair, cascading messily down her back. A literal child, she stands over the blubbering, shattered man she has just dealt a fatal blow to.

Her eyes have a silent, cold fury in them as she stares at him. "Why are you here, if you're so weak?" she spits, and then turns on her heels. "Shamal! Hurry up! I broke one." ... She turns back and glares at the blubbering man again. "Another one," she amends. She looks across the Knights of Ascona, then scoffs. "So this is what's become of Belkan Knights," she says, and the tone is so dead it's impossible to tell what she means, before she starts skulking back into the halls of the main building.

There's a gutteral scream from Vita and a corpse goes flying through the window fifteen seconds later.

<Pose Tracker> Signum [None] has posed.

Signum breathes in and breathes out as war rages.

"It's true," Signum answers Vita. "A hundred years has made a great difference..." A large portion of Avalon lands on the ground with a sudden brutal thump and it's like someone struck a cymbal and played this horrid scenario out.

There's a moment of nothing much. It's kind of restful. Have you ever put on those headphones at the doctor that play increasingly soft peeps to try and get you to see just how deaf you've gone listening to the sound on your DS through earbuds at max volume? It's a bit like that. Almost restful.

There's a faint sound, almost the memory of a whimper - a canine whimper -

And everything comes back into place as QUEEN ASCONA has just finished administering one hell of a wound-up kick at the ribs of the Guardian Beast Zafira, who had, it seemed, resumed a canid form for the occasion. "Useless!" she shouts.

Queen Ascona is a tall woman and she is in armor that is at least somewhat practical; she is bearing a grimoire in one hand; her face is contorted with fury that has worn grooves into her eyes even though thick kohl tries to conceal it, like mortar in a rotting wall. Her teeth are slightly irregular, and her mouth is painted like a slash. Did you expect red hair? It's actually a boring honey-toasted dark blonde.

"And the rest of you three were AT MOST barely adequate! By the purple hells of Palain, do you think that we are doing this for fun? Did you have an enjoyable ROMP? Did everyone enjoy their OUTING to the house where only MURDER lives?" the Queen declaims, clutching the air with her free hand.

Signum is standing with her head bowed.

Ascona's attention turns to the others.

"You!" she says, pointing to Fate. "Barely adequate. You!" This to the others. "And you, and you, and you AND you - come forwards. Come serve your queen! You're not getting your slap -" A pause as she tells Steven, "not you, step all the way forwards."

Having made this imperious statement of royal command, this objectively awful person takes a deep breath and closes her eyes to center herself. Maybe it isn't so bad.

"So, sweetling dears and stargazy pies," she says, eyes opening again with as much human compassion in them as the aforementioned pie featuring a dead fish: "I'm going to give you a question to answer."

Oh no. Questions.

"Sophie. Sugar brisket," she says, to Fate. "How did the tall one do?"

"Golf, honey hamhocks, come here - tell me - how did Greenie do? That one," Ascona indicates Shamal, "not THAT one."

"And you -" Ascona looks at Heinkel and then says, "I don't remember your name, but assess the performance of Little Hammer."

Ascona then waits. If Steven gets close he gets an indifferent, loud, but not particularly painful smack in the head. He may have the obscure impression that this is the preferable option.

<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

The battle is fierce - and over swiftly. It's so strange to see the Wolkenritter join. It's like they're the same people... but things are...

"... different."

It's fast becoming apparent how Hayate changed the course of their lives. Of history. And that fact makes her sad. What if she never sees them again? What if this is the end? What if they win and defeat the Book - and the next cycle everything about them is different... erased...

And they're like that again.

Breathing hard as she watches the aftermath of the violence - she winces as it's not quite the aftermath.

Because the Master of the Book of Darkness is here.

Or... what?

Fate gives her a good long look, as she kicks Zafira. And Fate nearly lurches forward - only barely restraining herself.

It takes a supreme act of willpower not to do anything. To just stand still and watch as he harangues him - calls him useless.

She seems so normal - and it becomes apparent so quickly. This is a petty tyrant that inherited the book.

That's all she is. And yet it's... it's all it takes. Bristling as she's called barely adequate.

Closing her eyes bneeath her mask, she takes a shuddering breath.

Taking a few steps forward at her command. She then drops to a knee - sword point down in the ground. "Your majesty. Our enemies may call them your demons but..." She steals a glance at Signum from the side. Hesitating and then...

"Signum..." She says rather than 'tall one, "...fought more fiercely than most Knights I have ever known. Her efforts are worthy of my respect."

She does not deign to say Queen Ascona's respect - because she does not think her Queen is worthy of her respect. But all the same she understands the wisdom in holding her tongue in that direction.

<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

Steven, or rather Dondai, makes his maneuver to force the two fighters into tighter spaces by denying space, letting the others attack fircely. The longer this fight goes on, the angrier he gets at the sight of these two. It is an unknown hatred that wells within. One with purpose, yet with unknowable origin.

The edges of his sight show unusual methods of defeating enemies, as in the swirling melee, he swears he sees a hand plunge through a chest, retrieving that which makes a knight powerful. In a moment of thought, the purple knight holds a hand to his stomach. An almost instinctual reaction seeing items pried from their bodies.

A vicious strike sends an opponent flying across that chaos and into one of the foes they currently faced. Before their foes can be finished however, another knight appears, hopefully on their side. He stays their attacks. "You... sure?" is asked. The small girl is looked at with curiosity. How does she have such power? Though she seems to hold those lesser than herself in low regard.

But none of these matter compared to the air of the woman that comes next.

There is a tightening of the chest, a deep, respectful fear that settles over Steven on her approach as she lays into a canine of some sort. Her voice a command of disdain, toward those that fight. He purses his lips, once again out of instinct somehow.

"Yes..." comes an immediate tone, a respectful response, not one of Steven's control, almost, obeying command without question.

And he gets struck for his reward. There is a touch of a flinch as the hit comes in, but unlike what Steven would have done, which is full pull-away, something keeps him rooted there to accept it, and accept it gladly. "Ahm... apologies..." and Steven is found bowing to Queen Ascona in apology.

Why is he acting so funny?! Why doesn't he just say that wasn't nice and that these people fought really hard?! It is like something within drives him to do something else.

Considering the power they all hold, perhaps a discimplary hit to the head might be the best option, and past encounters have almost bred the correct reactions into him.

<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

There's a look of something very much like anger in Jetta's eyes as Leaf falls prey to Shamal. It's not directed against the Wolkenritter's support mage, exactly - but it's the pride of a warrior who was going to take her own opponent down, thank you very much, and did *not* need the assistance.

Even if there was some semblance of a 'greater prize' being battled for.

She doesn't have time to get properly mad, though, because her liege has arrived. Jetta knows where her loyalties must lie - as they always have; this country was good, once, even under Queen Ascona's rule. She settles her bow across her back, and draws near as bidden, settling down on one knee before Ascona with her head bowed *just enough* to be properly deferential to the Queen.

She is, however, kind of relieved that she isn't being quizzed about the Wolkenritter's performance.

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

The Belkan Knight Golf turns, armor clanking, as Ser Leaf zips away - only to be grasped by the firm hand of Shamal.

And again.

And as Golf watches that Linker Core grow dimmer and dimmer, there is a part of her, entirely foreign, which feels viscerally ill. Mikoto has felt that pain before. It is a terrible thing for any person to experience. A terrible thing which that little girl made her experience - and hatred joins the sympathetic pain as Vita enters the battlefield.

The Knight watches quietly as their enemies are felled, and does not flinch, because this is what her Queen requires.

Perhaps it's not so strange at all...


... Golf lowers her head as the Queen berates them, thoroughly chastised. She steps forward as she is bidden, and she knows they have failed her, and this is the price. And Mikoto knows fear, because this anger is something she has been trained so well to avoid. The anger of one they serve - but it's different, this time. It's different, because this anger feels so much more common. So much less justified.

She is silent as Zafira is kicked. She is silent as Dondai is slapped. She cannot possibly raise a hand against the Queen she has sworn to serve. She is silent as she bows, gauntlets grasping the hilt of her blade.

She only speaks when she is bidden. This is the proper way of the world.

Queen Ascona bids her to come, and she does. Yellow eyes shift to regard Shamal, for a moment, before they return to the woman with the book - never quite looking her in the eyes.

(There is something about this which makes Mikoto scream, in the back of Golf's mind, because it's wrong, it's wrong, she should not be this cruel. That the wrong answer will surely see Shamal to ruin. And yet it's hardly enough to counter the fact that this imperious woman holds their hearts in her hand as surely as any Linker Core. It's hardly enough to break upon the chains of two lifetimes of compliance.)

"She missed, my Queen, if only once. Regardless, she defeated her enemy." The Belkan Knight hesitates, eyes shifting down to the ground as her heart hammers in her chest as she dares to speak scant words in her defence: "... her obedience is without question."

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

Heinkel's blade falls into the hand of the fuzzy eared man, and Kasagami halts. She struggles, briefly, the glare given the wolf man furious before it all ends. The Queen calls, and suddenly Kasagami is all ears.

Particularly after that kick. Heinkel shakes off her blade and sheathes it. There's a moment where she eyes the Queen, sizes her up, and a million thoughts spring through her mind as the woman launches into a mini tirade.

Boring hair, horrific makeup, and Queen Ascona fits the looks and then demeanor of a tyrant without the nobility Kasagami sees in lines of royalty. Her hand trembles for a moment in rage. Was she on the path to becoming like that? Shallow and arrogant and ugly? It makes her soul quail just a bit. Still, she's all too cognizant of stature, and Heinkel's worries let the young Duelist form a plan. And so so as much as it enrages her to do so, she kneels before the Queen and offers her assessment.

"As you wish, Your Highness! Her combat skills were impeccable, as always! Fearlessly crashing into her enemy, swinging her weapon heedless for her own life or limb, nor that of the scum opposing your might! A brutal, efficient warrior's tact that I find myself in awe of..." She trails off, a single beat, before she lets out a sigh of 'admiration' for the hammer wielding one that's all high drama. Medieval plays and myths sway through her mind as she continues.

"However." The switch is sudden.

"She works without elegance, or fury. The woes of her youth, perhaps." A shrug, as if it's simply a minor flaw. There's only a tiny hint of venom.

"A firm hand guides the follies of youth, or so this meager knight has been told, your Highness!" Her head down, blade before her, and the slightest of smiles as she tries to play the eager knight and potential advisor. Kasagami can only pray that Heinkel knew how to play courtly shifty knight in this scenario, given the Queen's power. As she well knows, an angry and arrogant tyrant can make mistakes.

And when Kings make mistakes, they can be thrown from their thrones by Princes.

<Pose Tracker> Signum [None] has posed.

Ascona smiles. "Yes," she says - "My demons. From my grand grimoire..."

Fate's words float in the air.

Ascona remembers Fate's there. "Yes - thank you, indeed, dismissed."

After giving Dondai his smack, Ascona seems to forget he exists. It's a visible sort of thing.

Her attention rests on Jetta... and then over towards Golf and Golf renders a report. Frowning, Ascona says, "She missed? Waste of energy." Her voice raises slightly. "If this was some kind of FEINT tactic I could, JUST, understand it, but you know why we're here, aren't you aware? Did you forget?"

Ascona looks at Vita, eyes flashing. "PAGES! Pee Ay Gee Ee Ess! This miserable little castle and THAT one, they had garbage! Trash! You didn't botch the transfer, did you?" Her tone is accusatory to them, but then Heinkel starts talking with energy and vim. Ascona is successfully distracted.

Her eyes narrow after Heinkel finishes... but tension passes. "You flatterer," she says. "Don't think I don't know what kind of game you play~."

And then she turns on her heel. "This place stinks like a slaughter house," she states. "Clean it up; put these fools in the ground. I'm going to go lay down."

And with that, the queen saunters off. Her boot heels click heavily on the drying blood of the flagstones.

<Pose Tracker> Vita [None] has posed.

Her next footfall isn't in the castle, or, it's not in that castle, but another. The edges seem to flicker - of your vision and the whole scene both, the shift in moments grabbing and pulling you forward across time.

Ascona's voice. "My knights! I've found that wretch Vespa this time! You will retri e v --"

A sense - not even a full presence in the space, but a certainty that you were approching the dungeons.

And then you wake up, the world of the dream gone with a jolt of wakefulness. Perhaps another will come, another night. It leaves behind an aching feeling, a question that burns dangerously bright.

What was that?