2018-06-24 - LOTUS RECURSION: Dream within a Dream 2

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Title: Dream within a Dream 2

Another dream comes from a long time ago.


Vita, Steven Universe, Fuu Hououji, Mikoto Minagi, Niramo Umokeshi, Signum


A place that doesn't exist.

OOC - IC Date:

2018-06-24 - <time is but a window>

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ 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.

The dream returns. Is it the next time you slept, or days later? Is everyone even having them at the same rate...Perhaps it doesn't matter when or where. What matters is that your eyes close in the world of the Book of Darkness...

And you come to your senses in the halls of a fortress. The space is far from palatial - this is a castle of the old school, built to defend against attacks rather than show off one's wealth. The castle of a ruler, but not one of tremendous stature. Yet it has been transformed - the halls decorated with riches pillaged from ransacked castles of greater status. It is cramped, now, and garish, to. The master of this place must surely already have her eyes on a more luxurious place, suited to the grandeur that came into her hand.

That woman is before you. Important business comes to the Master of the Book, after all; she roams wherever she pleases. Queen Ascona might have been a beauty once, but spite and stress have worn grooves that three successive beauticians have yet to defeat. Her grimoire is open in her hands, scowling at the paltry three hundred and forty seventh page that is filled within it. Her nose curls as she considers it, and then her eyes slash up to you - proud and capable Belkan Knights, all. "It seems I've managed to run out of errand boys before I've run out of errands," she says, with a point like this were somehow your own faults. She certainly makes it your problem: "Find my Guardian Knights in their den and tell them Vespa is found. They are to set out at once for the North. They'll find her soon enough. She's marching with an army." Ascona scoffs. "As if she could get near."

She turns on her tall heels, waving you off with a dismissive flick of her fingers. "Ride out after them, too. I know you aren't quite so fast as they, but you'll do for mop-up."

...She stops. Half turns. Her eyes burn as she glares back. "But remember...nobody dies until they are harvested for my Book."

She storms off, and you find yourselves with instructions below your station. and no time to kill. Fortunately, your feet know where the Guardian Knights can be found.

Which is how you find yourselves before the entrance to Ascona's dungeon. The guards grimace at you but open the double-door to let you pass.

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

It was all fake. All a ruse to confine the warriors inside the book. It killed him to face Rose like that. But Fate helped him see the truth beyond. That a world, an imperfect world, lay outside the book. One that needed their help.

If he actually had the choice in this manner, would he have done this? Would he take a chance to see a figment of who he wished would have always been there? More than she already is though. She is always with him.

Steven thinks he would. How much it hurt in the moment was indescribable. But coming away from it was... Enlightening? It is difficult to say. But even if Rose was nothing more than a dream. It felt good to say those words to someone, despite not actually being who they represent, and them reacting to them in such a caring manner.

And so, Steven set out to help others, trapped in a false reality.

Unfortunately, even in a dream, sleep must come, and the boy found himself sleeping in the nearby park, under the stars...


Vision grows clearer as the scent of clean ozone fills the nose. A place, a stronghold of sorts, line with some of the most decadent trappings and treasures imaginable. A woman, somehow familiar, lay before Steven. Or was it Steven? It was a familiar sound, a familiar memory that peaks within his mind, of the name Dondai.

Eyes land on that book, which in this dream and even beyond elicit some sort of respect and fear. "Yes..." comes out a slow voice. Not this again. "Orders... received..." he states, and looks amongst the others dubbed 'worthwhile' to undertake this task.

He then turns and heads toward... well, to be honest, he has no idea where he is going. But some part of him does, so he just goes with the funky flow. The dream edition. Sounds like a good remix album cover.

Eventually Dondai mees at the dungeon entrance, ready to proceed. The Queen's elite guard must be found, as it is imperitive they answer her request. She demands it, and it must be so. A nod is given to the guards as the knight makes his way inside the dungeon proper.

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

On the one hand, their liege has said that the Guardian Knights are to set out "at once," which normally would mean the message needs to be delivered with all due haste and then some.

On the other hand, while Jetta maintains her usual polite demeanor (so familiar to those who know Fuu), she seems to be laboring with a certain lack of enthusiasm for her current duty. In point of fact, she's looking at the entrance to the dungeon with as little enthusiasm as though she were reporting to a cell which was going to be locked behind her for however long the Queen deemed suitable, rather than simply notifying some of Ascona's more treasured servants of their newest duty.

But that doesn't quite stop her from continuing onwards, inwards, whichever-wards the path needs must follow. Because really, what good would an act of open rebellion do here and now? Most likely she'd find herself immobilized, the gleaming spark of her Linker Core dislodged by one hand or another, suffering out her last moments as her magic, her mana, her very essence were transmuted into whatever eldritch ink prints the pages of the Book of Darkness.

"That's all anyone is to her now," Jetta murmurs under her breath. "Not an enemy, worthy or otherwise. Just ... pages. And we're only servants instead of pages for as long as having bodies to call our own aids her aims."

And by this point, it's already hard for Fuu to discern which dream she 'prefers' to be stuck in. The gilded cage constructed to keep her from interfering with the Book of Darkness - or the dreary grimness of serving Ascona. At least being Jetta offers some vestige of insight into the Book's past history ...

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

Dreams on dreams on dreams.

A dream where Mikoto could protest -

- a dream where the Belkan Knight Golf cannot.


Queen Ascona is before her; her head is bowed. There is so much fear, in the cramped halls of this castle. It is not a place for love, or affection, or hope.

"Yes, my Queen." And it's automatic and it's so easy, how there was never another response to be had. It's so easy to acquiesce.

Nobody dies until they're harvested.

Golf feels a little sick as she realises just how broadly that must apply. A pit in her stomach as she realises the woman she's sworn fealty to views everyone as so much meat for the grinder. Yellow eyes squeeze tight, for a moment - a sharp breath inward. Steadying.

Her devotion does not come with qualifiers.

If this is what she has become, there is nothing she can do.

Nothing -

- and Mikoto Minagi thinks of her own lessons, and behind the knight's eyes she feels so helpless.

The dungeons, then.

Their den is hardly that. Their station is the lowest in the castle - and Golf wonders, sometimes, how deliberate it is, keeping them in a place so dark and damp.

In plate armor, it is not difficult to hear her. But she does not kick or stomp, as she enters there, though her footfalls are necessarily heavy.

She just clears her throat.

<Pose Tracker> Niramo Umokeshi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

The homely bedroom of Niramo Umokeshi is dark and still, given the time of night, but the occupant was not actively trying to sleep. Where once was confidence, it was replaced with self-doubt and questions as more odd thoughts come to her ever since she woken up from that strange nightmare. Was Sourisi' uniform always so frilly? How were her parents not worried about income if they didn't work? Surely Yamane has friends in school, being such a happy and bright girl, right?

Questions like these has Niramo toss and turn in her bed, before her mind tires itself out, and slowly she sinks into darkness.

Laika of House Melmidoc keeps her gaze humble before her Queen at her command, years of service and practice stopping the shudder her body tries to make before it starts. A knight must learn quickly in their Lady's service that they are at fault for whatever is decided to be their fault, least they become one of the pages her Queen scowled at earlier. "At once, your Majesty. Vespa shall be brought here to be harvested for the Book, as well as those fools that tried to support her."

As Queen Ascona turns away, Niramo wonders at the words that came swiftly to her lips, as well as the knowledge of this strange dream...it was a dream, right? A part of her knew that she has never seen or heard of a Queen Ascona or a Lady Vespa, but another part knew her to be a sword enemy of her Queen.

A quick look around makes note of the violet plate mail she wore, as well as the half-helmet that is just barely visible on the edges of her eyesight. Strangely enough, unlike some that serve their Queen, Laika does not wield neither sword nor a shield. The violet maces that are holstered on her hips make not a sound has she walks towards her destination--wait, she had been walking somewhere and didn't realize it? This was not the time to be lost in her thoughts, in a strange dream and in a strange castle!

A curt nod towards the guards is all Laika can offer to those that had the most boring and dreadful of guard duties. Words could be twisted and distorted, made to fit another's designs...or to bring down the scion of a noble house. And all Niramo can wonder...why is the elite guard in the dungeon?

<Pose Tracker> Signum [None] has posed.

The den. It suggests something homey, doesn't it? Something pleasant. Something where you can lair. Something wherein you can nest. A private place, perhaps not luxurious but definitely comfortable and personal.

This is not the case for the Wolkenritter.

The room - it's a large cell, one that was probably originally used for transient prisoners, so it is fairly accessible and there is only one access point. It is not actively guarded, though the door has not been taken down, either. There are lights, and there is furniture, after a fashion, but that is about where it ends.

The furniture is the cheapest kind and has as its primary praiseworthy factors being "intact" and "not too rotted or stained." There are two chairs, two cots, and a small heap of filthy blankets that is currently occupied by the curled-up form of Zafira, the guardian beast.

Signum, the General of the Raging Fire, sits with her back towards the doorway, which may seem strange to those of a certain attitude. Shamal is seated on one of the cots, mending something of dirty linen. Something else, linen-wrapped, is laying on the cot - Vita, recovering, it seems. Bandaged.

If Signum, at least, hears people coming, she doesn't react. Her shoulders - clad in plain metal armor, not the embroidered battlewear that may have been more familiar to others - slump. Perhaps she is giving away a baleful anticipation.

<Pose Tracker> Vita [None] has posed.

Vita, the Crimson Iron Rider, is a girl. A small child; her body appears to be five or six years old, though she often carries herself, much as the other Wolkenritter do, with a certain ageless confidence. Her armor is off and she is dressed in common linens, bandages on her arms and legs and wrapped tight around her chest. She grimaces, rolling her head at the sound of approaching foot-steps.

Her eyes are a beautiful, crystal blue. They are devoid of nearly all spark.

"Time again, huh," she rasps, and her arm hits the frame of her cot, finding the strength to force herself up. "Sounds right." She grimaces as her weight lands on a particular rib, but forces herself the rest of the way up anyway with gritted teeth.

"Vita," Shamal says, looking first up at the arrivals, briefly scanning them before she turns her attention over. "Please. Even you need more rest than that. Your magic won't have recovered yet."

"'s my own fault. Wasted too much on that springs guy," Vita mutters, though she also doesn't rise to her feet. She breathes heavily, with the quiet dread of a person who doesn't entirely want to find out what happens when they stand. "Besides..."

Her eyes carve a path to the Belkan Knights - the servants of Ascona - the magical girls of Tokyo - who have come to them. "...Master's got a mission, hasn't she?"

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

Some of the group assembled are familiar somehow, as if comrades in past fights. Some part of him recognizes them in small ways. Perhaps knowing them outside of war, even. It is difficult to tell.

It is strange to see the Queen's most elite knights being in such strange quarters. Not at all lavish or well-appointed. Quite the opposite. They seem worse off than memories of chambers past for himself. Whether or not they are actually Dondai's is irrelevant. But why? Such loyal and powerful denizens deserve their own rewards, do they not? For serving a monarchy, rewards are just and well deserved for righteous actions on behalf of the crown.

It shakes him inside to see them like this. If this is what lay in store for rising through the ranks, then was effort worth it?

Even a poor little girl, with mighty strength yes, but left to decay in this rotting hole as if discarded once a mission finishes. Something in Steven's chest tugs at him. "Yes..." comes that slow voice. He has had enough of that!

Dondai can be seen purshing his lips, and then speaks in a lighter tone, and much faster than his super-slow drawl. "Why are you down here like this? I was always told stories of how lavish you live, and that one day if I worked hard enough, I might..." Dondai trails off.

"Surely this isn't where you stay?" A curious tone takes charge of his voice. There is no malice to his voice, only Worry.

And possibly a little regret.

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

"Less of a 'mission,' more of a hunt," Jetta says - not even trying to hide her distaste. "One of her enemies approaches. You are to go and hunt her down, as you've done to Her Majesty's other ..."

She trails off, hands slowly balling into fists. "When I came into my magic, when I was trained to fight with bow and with blade, I was taught of honor. Of loyalty and duty, yes, but also of respect towards my enemies. The ends you've meted out to your ... prey ... forgive my discourtesy in asking so plainly, but what are you - and what is that Book?"

Dondai's question draws a slight wince from Jetta, but also a nod - she was wondering that too. And if this is how the Guardian Knights are lodged for their *successes* ...

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

It's not right, Mikoto screams.

It's not right, it's not -

The dungeons are a prison, and their destitute decorations only drive it home. The rest of this castle is crammed with jewels and pilfered baubles; here the blankets are not even clean. The Belkan Knight Golf grunts, glancing aside, because it's not right for the soldiers who fulfill their Queen's every need to live in a place like this.

"Yes," she replies, so simply, to Vita's first rasp. "Your service is required."

But there's something beneath the pity. It sparks as anger, first - even a vicious feeling of satisfaction that Vita has suffered injuries like she's given. It's the sort of feeling from someone who can see the way her weight shifts on that rib - from someone who remembers the way she tried to exploit hers -

- but this is someone else's dream, and Golf's seen the lengths Vita goes to and the gratitude she receives for it.

The lengths she is forced to go to.

Mikoto hisses through grit teeth, tongue pressed against them in a sharp noise. It feels like Lera trying to get her to sympathise, again.

Is it worse when she's being faced with a ghost?

Her voice is a woman's; the tone is all wrong. "Vita's always done this." Accusatory and guarded, a shade uncomfortable, and entirely, entirely ambiguous. It is a question; it doesn't sound like one at all.

Her eyes are still yellow - that much is true, as they shift from Zafira to Shamal to Signum and finally to Vita again. The hair is impossible to tell, behind her helm. "... always been this." Because Vita is still a child. Signum and Shamal are still women. Zafira's still... Zafira. There's no change at all.

(The Belkan Knight Golf is taciturn, but not to this degree. Perhaps she just doesn't want to waste too many words on the Queen's servants.)

Thin lips press together; she makes a gutteral sound towards the back of her throat which reverberates into her chest as her eyes fall on Signum again.

Because she remembers something, from the last time she's dreamed of this.

"... flat."

<Pose Tracker> Niramo Umokeshi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Heavy footsteps rattle armor as Laika descends into the dungeon, a frown growing on her face as she and the others head deeper into the bowels of the castle. Despite the service the Elite Guard has done for Queen Ascona, these were not lavish chambers and hallways like as above, overflowing with the wealth stolen from those that dare resist the Queen. The dungeons were not refurbished with comfort or reward in mind, and the pit that grew in her stomach as Laika takes in the furniture barely fit for the slums feels as if it could consume her whole.

Laika knew that these were the strongest warriors ever to have fought for her Queen, the finest jewel in their armies.

Then why treat those that fight the hardest and win a great deal of your victories as if they were not worthy to be on your shoe? It's all Niramo can do to just wish her dream self, this Laika, to realize just how wrong this was.

Perhaps Laika already did know, and knew there was no way to escape even if she wanted to.

The Guard Beast of the Shield, the General of the Raging Fire and the Knight of the Lake made no motions to rise, but it was the familiar, heart-wrenching and unfamiliar form of the Knight of the Iron Hammer that raises first, and has an uneasy twist of heartache in Niramo's chest as Laika looks at her? Wasn't she one of those people that were absorbed by that strange...book? Wasn't all of those in this cell from her nightmare?

No words seem to come to Laika's lips as Dondai and Jetta speak up, and she looks aside at just how true Jetta's words were. Her maces were tools of war, to be used to harm and capture those that would try to challenge her Queen. She accepted that she was a tool to Queen Ascona's eyes and lived in the barracks, the armory of her Majesty's troops. But this was not an armory fit for serfs, let alone the greatest warriors of them all.

This was the refuse pile, to be cast aside into and to reluctantly search through for items of value.

Looking upwards, Laika focuses entirely on Vita's dull eyes, how she seems so devoid of life. "If you are being punished for failures, I have not seen any in all my time. Surely this can not be the 'reward' for your duties? Even the newly made squires live better than this."

<Pose Tracker> Signum [None] has posed.

Signum looks over her shoulder at Dondai for a moment. Her eyes are a little glassy but she focuses on him. "This is our designated billet," she tells him. "We do not require or benefit from what you describe. I hope that you found the stories motivational."

More people are talking. Signum looks at Fuu. "We are the Wolkenritter," she tells Fuu. "The Book of Darkness is what it is. I do not fully understand your question; I am not a technical mage."

Mikoto speaks. Signum's eyes turn to the floor for a moment and she doesn't reply. She does shift in her seat, hands resting upon her knees. To Niramo, she says, "Rewards are pointless. We serve the master of the Book of Darkness. This location is secure and physically adequate. It is better that limited resources benefit you, who benefit from such things. Your concern is laudable, but unnecessary."

Her eyes turn over the others. With a hint of an uneasy pause, Signum states, "We are in a recovery mode. Please excuse our failures of readiness. If you will explain the nature of the mission, we will doubtless be prepared by the time you are finished."

She sounds like a phone recording, if a phone recording was a little halting.

<Pose Tracker> Vita [None] has posed.

Her eyes scan to 'Golf'. There is no trace of particular recognition. "This is my life," she says, quietly. No trace of ambition.

Her eyes turn up, toward Jetta, who seemed the most interested in telling them what's going on. "Vespa finally turned back up?" she asks, quiet. Guessing, maybe. "...probably the last person who'll give us a real fight, then." Her eyes hang down, but they slowly shift over toward Signum, and at the General's order, she sucks in a breath, and forces herself to stand, her legs not entirely steady for a moment. Shamal has already stood and offers a steadying hand.

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

"Vespa," Jetta confirms. "Marching from the north with her army. Her Majesty has ordered that none of them should be slain ... until they are -" She can't even make an effort to hide her distaste as she finishes the sentence, "added to the Book. You are to meet her forces first; we are ordered to ride out behind you, and ... ensure that none escape."

Tools, thinks Jetta. Are any of them more than tools any more?

And Fuu thinks, deep inside the Belkan knight of wind, that the dream in which she is a schoolgirl is better than this. But if there's one thing she *can* do ...

"Vita of the Iron Hammer. I don't know if my healing magic will assist you much, but ... to see you march to battle while still wounded, when I might see it otherwise, would be its own stain on my honor and my dignity as a mage and a knight. You call yourselves tools, but any tool or weapon must still be properly cared for - and how much more so for a person, who moves and breathes and speaks? Linger but a moment, allow me to cast a spell, and if it aids you, soothes your pain, I should count it as worth the effort. If it has no effect ... I lose nothing of great value by the attempt." Jetta's gaze rests on the other three Wolkenritter in turn. "And such I offer for the rest of you as well. The choice is yours; I shall not force it."

Fuu has some trouble believing she's making the offer; the Wind Knight of Cephiro has only known the Wolkenritter as foes. But they're on the same side in this dream; she can at least make the offer ... even if, as she admits, nothing might come of it.

<Pose Tracker> Niramo Umokeshi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Vita's admittance that they are constructs has Laika's frown deepen. If they were indeed constructs, then surely it would be more efficient to have them not feel pain, to not need rest or bandages to help settle ribs? The Knight of the Iron Hammer is correct about just how they were pretty much tools, designed for killing.

The idealistic part of her that is Niramo wants to scream that a person is still a person, and not a weapon for the sole purpose to wage war. She could think, act and breath for herself, a true weapon couldn't...right?

Signum's words has the mace knight scowling, not at who is speaking it, but just how true those words are if the Elite Guard was indeed constructs. The fact they're not able to eat explains why they never partake at a feast. "Perhaps so, but morale is just as important as a secure room, for healing and recuperation. Though there is little I can do, I would feel better on the battlefield if the Elite Guard was well-rested."

Coming to herself at Vita's words, she nods towards Signum, bowing her head slightly. "Forgive us for our questions, but Vita does have the right of it. Lady Vespa is approaching here as we speak, with an army. You and the rest of the Wolkenritter are to ride forth and meet her in battle, but none are to be killed outright. Lady Vespa and all of those that chose to oppose her Majesty Queen Ascona are to be...collected...for the Book of Darkness. We will be riding afterwards to assist with the clean-up and capture of the...harvest."

In the privacy of this chamber, Laika lets a hint of distaste color her words, but nothing more than a taste. The full mention of the Book has Niramo's thoughts focus on the half-remembered nightmare, of the grimoire that absorbed the void that tried to devour the stars. Was there more to the nightmare than she realizes, even if it didn't come through the Veil of Prophecy?

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

Silence says things.

There are so many people who don't realise how much a lapse in conversation says. Who don't recognise the message in the way the body moves instead of the tongue. There are so many people who think it's dismissive, or meaningless.

And maybe sometimes it is.

And maybe sometimes it really, really isn't.

Mikoto answers silence with silence and it's not a dismissal at all, as eyes track those movements and chin shifts in something akin to a nod.

She doesn't need an answer because the answer is plain as day in the way she responds to their questions and concerns -

- their bleeding hearts.

That makes Mikoto sneer, which is a strange expression to see on the Knight's impassive face, curled lip to display upper teeth. It's an automatic reaction - of course she isn't concerned with the fate of her enemies. It's insulting to suggest it.

Of course she isn't...

The thought trails off as Vita keeps talking, and Mikoto finds she has to look away.


Tools which are good at killing.

A gauntleted hand reaches to chestplate to try and find a pendant which cannot be there. It falls to her side; grips there. Golf, distantly, must wonder why she would make such a strange motion.

Vita answers her and Mikoto snorts derisively. Clipped and irate: "No. It was."

She does not explain what must be utmost treachery, in the context of the dream. It's her host's turn to scream, now.

But perhaps just as strong as the bonds of friendship, in the midst of the dream - are bonds of adversativeness. Strong enough to bring anger to the fore, strong enough to disregard the rules of illusion.

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

That response is not near what he expected nor wanted. She sounds brainwashed or controlled. Likewise his companions' answers come the same. No emotion or remorse for their situation whatsoever. The child at least has something to her voice. An emotion of some kind. But the two do answer what they are at least.

"Far be it from my place to say," Dondai says towards Vita. "But even a tool deserves fair treatment." One of his companion arrivals says it better, Jetta. "I mean, how fast do you recuperate? It could start to become a liability. Vespa is important, but do we have other methods to reach her that don't risk you in your current condition?"

GOlf nearby seems bothered more than the rest. Perhaps they understand their plight more than others present.

Steven can feel himself becoming more... himself now. Like the person he is supposed to be in whatever this is is beginning to bleed out and overtake this role, rather than be along for the ride like last time.

<Pose Tracker> Vita [None] has posed.

She doesn't really emote to the word collection. The pregnant pauses every time they talk of it. "You should consider taking the scenic route," Vita says, suddenly, bluntly. "There'll be a lot of killing to do."

She doesn't shy from it, her eyes down and dead. She knows this is her fate. Something she cannot avoid. Her eyes scan to steven and she grunts. "The Master commands," she mutters. "We obey. That's life."

But Mikoto - Golf - barks something else, and Vita glowers at her. "How ya figure?" she quips.

<Pose Tracker> Signum [None] has posed.

"You need not waste your energies," Signum says, rising from her chair with a little - not much - difficulty. "But I praise your virtue once again, madame."

She breathes in and lets it out.

She regards Dondai(?) and tells him, not unkindly, "It is not an optimal situation in terms of our performance. But a tool can be sacrificed without fear to win a great goal. When Queen Ascora completes the preparation of the Book of Darkness, it will be trivial for her to restore us - even from what you might believe to be death."

She attempts a small smile. "It will be well," she says. "You will receive, I am certain, great reward for your service." Then she takes a deep breath, lets it out - and her attention looks towards Golf for a moment. Then she returns her attention to Laika.

"It is not pleasant work. You will do well. I am confident in your ability," she tells her. It is, absolutely, rote.

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

Vita hurt her. Vita is her enemy.

It's not Golf, glaring at her from behind that helm. It's Mikoto Minagi.

And Mikoto is not being kind.

"Vita's dead," she states, bluntly. Those golden eyes slide to Signum, to the others, and she is not quite as unkind as she adds - "Everyone." Not 'everyone here', but 'every one of the Wolkenritter' - though perhaps everyone here is dead as well.

And the shock at that thought is like a distant memory, as Golf is horrified by the idea of her own death.

Mikoto frowns, a frustrated click of her tongue against her teeth. "... Vita deserved it, but not like that." The animosity in her voice is clear. The undercurrent of discomfort isn't something she can hide, either. It feels like helping her. It feels like helping a ghost. Both of these things are unpleasant, but with the context she has here - "Vita said a name, when we..."

Mikoto shakes her head, taps gauntlets against the links of her faulds. An irritated puff of breath through grit teeth. "... doesn't matter. Vita's dead anyway." It's pointless to help a dead girl out of a lie. It's verboten to assist an enemy. She doesn't even know why she's still talking. Maybe it's easier to try and disregard this particular lie - maybe it's a bit too uncomfortable, for Mikoto Minagi.

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

Jetta inclines her head, reaching for the hilt of her sword - not to draw it, but just to help channel her magic. It's her left hand that rests on the hilt; her right hand reaches out to the Wolkenritter as she utters, "Winds of Healing."

And the gentle breeze gusts about the dungeon cell before enfolding Vita, attempting to help repair her ribs, mend her other injuries, and soothe her pain.Her physical pain, at least; the emotional scars she might be harboring, and those of the other Wolkenritter, are well beyond her ability to do anything about ... for both Jetta and for Fuu.

"Warfare is far from pleasant, even under the best circumstances," she admits, lowering her hands again. "But what she's had us do - all of us, including the four of you - since she claimed the Book ... is worse. And I no longer doubt that Her Majesty would doom any one of us to that same fate, if she felt our usefulness to be at an end."

She looks over at Golf/Mikoto for a moment, then bows her head. How many of her friends has Fuu, the Wind Knight, seen ensnared and drained, the same way Jetta has seen her enemies obliterated by the power of the Book and its servants? Even the Wolkenritter themselves, in those heart-stopping, infinitely terrifying moments before the Book trapped them all ...

Vita suggested taking the scenic route. Jetta and Fuu would love to take a *very* scenic route, if not for the chance that Ascona would have her hunted down and added to the Book out of spite. Trying to hinder the Book's completion, she would be used to add still more pages ... there doesn't seem to be a way to avoid it. Not even for honor's sake.

<Pose Tracker> Niramo Umokeshi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Laika gives an uneasy glance around before letting out a nod. Her fellow knights were also disgruntled over the mistreatment of the Elite Guard, so perhaps she could speak freely here. "There should be more to life than just serving a single Master, be it the Book of Darkness or her Majesty. You speak about being tools, but you are not and neither are we, even if our Masters believe otherwise."

Tapping a hand to her chestplate, she taps twice over her heart. "You say we have bleeding hearts, but I wager that you have bleeding hearts as well, capable of feeling emotion even as you try to suppress it. Why else would you suggest us to take the scenic route when you and yours are exhausted? Even if we are slower, it would be better if we meet the enemy together, as a group and comrads."

Reaching up and removing her half-helm, Laika looks once again upon the Wolkenritter to once again look upon them again. Tired, weary and clearly ready to just rest, the Elite Guard does not look like to be the group ready to engage the enemy, nor do they look like those that were being attacked in her nightmare. These were people, the same as any other, and they have lives as well.

Laika--no, Niramo smiles upon the four and gives a nod. Perhaps her life is so confusing right now, but surely she could make a difference, even if this is a dream. "You said that you are unable to eat, but let me at least make the effort to try to make all of you a meal you can enjoy, be it now or when you are 'restored'. It is often me who handles the kitchen when it's time to cook for the others, and even with the food that the knights are given, i'm certain I can make you a meal that will have your taste buds cry out in joy!"

Signum's words shrinks that smile on Laika's lips, and she gives the room another glance over to make sure that none of the guards were standing in the shadows, listening in. "...if you don't mind me saying so, I believe we should look for another way for you to be restored, together." With a bit of Laika's lingering self still on her mind, she shakes her head. "The Queen considers us all to be fruit, to be wrung of all our juices in stopping her foes or to be 'harvested' by that blasted book of hers."

It's strange just how open Laika is against the Queen now, but it is here that she can finally vent her fustrations. "She doesn't care about neither you or I and our safety, especially if this is how you live. No offense, but I highly doubt that she will actually try to restore you once she fills the Book of Darkness. Now, if other methods were to be used...well, I want to help to fix this. We are all people, not tools to be discarded or cast aside."

Looking over at Golf, her memory goes back to when the 'Wolkenritter' were absorbed by the Book of Darkness in that nightmare sky, and the heartache she felt by just how final it seemed in her dream.

Surely a nightmare wasn't going to stab her heart that hard, right?

"Golf is right...I had a...vision, nightmare or dream, that in another land and time, all of you died. All of you were only considered a 'harvest' for the Book of Darkness in the end, no matter how hard you fought for it. It may be strange and traitorious it is for me to say, but please, do not serve the Book of Darkness and her Majesty. Perhaps we can use this mission to escape, and just ride away." Laika and Niramo both turn her head and scowls towards the door of the dungeon. "Even if it means that we might face being absorbed into the Book, I would much rather be my own woman than a mere weapon."

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

Dondai-- no, Steven has about had it with these four. "That doesn't give her the right to treat you this now!" he says, un a rather loud voice suddenly. "S-Sorry, just, I don't know! You might be some kind of construct or whatever, but you deserve better than this! I'm just a kid and I have a room bigger than this!" Wait, was he a kid? YEAH, HE WAS.

He's done with this dream stuff. after everything with Rose, he has checked out of the schtick. "Don't the tools get to have a say in how they are used?! Some grunts have bigger rooms than here!"

And Golf says something that piques his attention. He did remember seeing soem folks that appeared similar perish. "I... I recall something similar."

"It is difficult to describe, but I forgot what it said. But that book undid, for lack of a bitter term, a group of four that you four look like. I think. Was that what happened?" Steven says towards Golf. He wonders if that person is someone like himself, in this dream but impersonating someone.

Dondai holds his head. "I honestly don't know where I am right now." Even Laika recalls something similar. "I feel like I am somewhere I am not supposed to be. I didn't want to say, but since everyone is bringing up odd changes and visions of far-off lands..." He didn't want to be labeled insane or a heretic or something. In the chance this was all real.

Steven hasn't had a great day.

<Pose Tracker> Vita [None] has posed.

They speak up - to try and calm their hearts, to try and calm the Wolkenritters'. Healing works fine, it looks like, and then Vita just...looks, at Niramo and then at Steven. Then she chuckles, a couple rough laughs, and starts walking out. The other Wolkenritter glance among themselves, gathering their things together.

"She's right," Vita says, as she passes 'Golf'. "The Wolkenritter are dead. NachtWal tore their programs apart."

There's a horrible noise, a loud, annoying droning sound, starting low but getting louder and louder...

"That's the only reason this data got lost anywhere you could see it. It's not attached to anything anymore. They're gone. We're just...shadows."

Then the screaming starts in the palace. Vita sucks in a breath, red light washing across her as the Knight Armor she's worn here - dull, unremarkable violet - flashes into being around her. She whips Graf Eisen up onto her shoulder.

"Just like it's going to do to you, if you ever get out of here. So good news, I guess."

The ceiling explodes inward, and the sky is thick with...something. Vespa's final attack...? It moves like a swarm, metallic creatures, like bees with a ring round their heads. Lights flicker in those rings, sparks that seem to be eyes. They search - they examine - they seek - and the lights all flash like tiny flashbulbs, pointed inwards. Signum, seemingly on reflex, draws her blade; Zafira rises up, tenses, and leaps THROUGH two of the things, which burst into a shower of flinders of crystalline metal.

That was two of them; there are at least thirty of the horrid bee-monsters. The Wolkenritter are surrounded by crystalline prisms as a shower of shrieking coruscant light rains in, burning and agonizing. They're safe. The storm passes, and Shamal seems to be saying something. The thing wearing Vita's face looks over at the dreamers, as dead-eyed as ever.

"You won't have to worry about what happened here anymore."

There's a shape in the sky, wielding a blade, striped like the others, wielding a great weapon - the shape's a blur -

The world erupts. And then you wake up.