2019-09-08 - Pax Delenda Est..? Wait, Peace Must Be Destroyed?!

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Title: Pax Delenda Est..? Wait, Peace Must Be Destroyed?!

The First Annual SURFBOARD COSPLAY COMPETITON is underway, this Monday afternoon..! But there's something in the water, and it's not a real big fish.


Mikoto Minagi, Kasagami Araki, Eri Shimanouchi, Fuu Hououji, Setsuna Meioh, Michiru Kaioh, Steven Universe


Shitamachi Low City - Tokyo Bay

OOC - IC Date:

2019-09-08 - 2015-06-29

.**************************** Shitamachi Low City *****************************.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Tokyo Bay +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+
 Once known as the "Inner Sea," the shelter Tokyo Bay once provided for
 merchants and fishermen helped Tokyo develop into the powerhouse that it is
 today, nor is it less useful today. Japan's largest shipping ports operate
 out of the Bay, as does its own navy and that of the US Forces. Herculean
 efforts dredge up its silt to create artificial islands, and factories drink
 its water to soothe their smoky throats.

 To most residents, however, the Bay is simply blue water glittering,
 salt-seasoned breezes, and gently drifting sails. The aptly named Rainbow
 Bridge crossing the bay enhances rather than damages its beauty, its white
 towers lit many nights by an artificial rainbow. A provincial visitor might
 consider Tokyo Bay to be trimmed like a garden hedge; it has a number of
 oddly geometric islands with arranged greenery, and any land touching the
 water often makes the best of it with a park, intake valve, or other
 imposition on nature. To a city-dweller, though, it is a miracle of open
 space and calm.
*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Players +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

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

In underground halls of black, black stone, cold and imperious, the Obsidian Lord holds his court. At his right hand stands the younger of their royal line, enforcer and emissary --

Mikoto Minagi.

And she looks down at that black stone, brow arced up in sad reflection, though it is difficult for her to think of what precisely troubles her. Perhaps it is the way he smiles to see the girls crying on the myriad viewscreens which hang above them... though surely he has a perfectly sensible reason. They need the power of those girls' suffering, and so their suffering is good. It's nice, just as he tells her.

It's nice, she tells herself, as she looks away and her lips form a thin line of understated discontent. And because it makes him happy, she'll keep saying things to hurt them. She'll keep fighting them...

'So you're saying if your brother ordered you to fight Mai you do it without a second thought? Is that what you're saying, Mikoto!'

Mikoto blinks heavily, once, twice, the corner of her lip scrunching up. A disconcerted little noise escapes her as she pushes away the implications, tongue pressed against her teeth.

"Mikoto," her Lord Brother murmurs her name, turning to face her, and when she looks up he is all she sees. His hand finds her shoulder, brushing down the fabric there with contact marked by ease. She can hear his protective care and concern, as he rumbles low: "... those girls are troubling you."

"Yes, Lord Brother," Mikoto answers rote, the words downcast, and it makes perfect sense when she says it. She would not feel badly if they did not insist on saying what they do.

"You know what you have to do," he says, voice and fingers light.

She looks up to him, and finds she cannot look away from eyes as bright and gold as hers. She's not entirely sure why she feels a distant sense of malaise, when his presence is the most comforting thing in the world.

She hears herself say: "Yes, Lord Brother."

He does not tell her what she must do.

She has lived amongst them long enough to know how to escalate, after all.


BGM: Fatboy Slim - Soul Surfing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nFFm0mQM1E

The first annual Masked Surf Meetup is an event eagerly prepared for by some particularly enthusiastic souls. Flyers have gone out to all the Sister Schools, delivered by travellers who have seen the waves of Hawaii or Brisbane or California - or by students who wished they had. On this historic day, Monday the 29th of June, they will combine their passion with the true strength of Tokyo's nerd culture to bring about: surf cosplay.

The event has transformed this popular section of coastline. Several tents have been set up, some hosting refreshments, others convenient for changing costumes, and one specifically for injurious mishaps. There are plenty of umbrellas and shade-cloths scattered around, too - a convenient thing, when the sun is shining so brightly. There are beach towels laid down in every colour of the rainbow.

Wetsuits are the name of the game, for a lot of the souls gathered here: decorated in water-resistant frills and baubles are a broad spectrum of characters, including superheroes, witches, knights and lords, and even a few cat-eared individuals. Many of the gathered crowd have surfboards - this was, after all, an event planned by enthusiasts of the sport - but there are categories of the competition which don't involve going into the water at all, a nod both to everyone who would prefer to stay dry and those with more delicate costumes.

After the first round - beachside photoshoots, everyone's mostly still dry, except for a few little incidents like a Majestia who tripped on her cape and fell back into the water - everyone's beginning to gear up for the most exciting part of the afternoon. Skits and performances! In a crowd everyone mills around, waiting for the organisers to call them out. One of those cat-eared boys finds himself next to a girl all in black who's just inserted herself into the crowd, and his colourful surfboard stands in stark contrast to what she's holding.

"Hey," he asks, "why's that gear so weird, dudette?"

"... European."

"Oh... oh!" He claps a hand to his forehead. "Right, it's a foreign board! Duh! It's so obvious! I kinda thought it was a prop or something --"

"I'm taking this," the girl interrupts him, striding forward and snatching his board from his hands as she passes.

"What-?! Hey, not cool! That's my board! Come on--!! Aw, man, she just shot through..!"

His plaintive wailing fades into the crowd, as the thief steps up to answer the announcer's call for the first contestant. Dressed in splash of ten different pastels arranged in artful squares, with hair bleached to a sandy shade of blonde, the announcer smiles. "There anything you need for this one?" She asks, moving her microphone aside.

"Stand back."

"What, is there gonna be -- hey!" It's too late - she's already stepping out.

"O..kay then." Picking up her microphone, the woman puts on her announcer's voice again. "Well, folks, we've been advised to stand back for this first performance..!"

Her patter might well fade into the background now, though, because that girl has broken away from the throng of the crowd to stand by the shoreline, and perhaps certain individuals might notice that she isn't really wearing a costume at all. Red cape, magenta-trimmed black uniform, vambrace and spaulder, obsidian bead about her neck...

A black claymore in one hand, and an orange-purple-green surfboard in the other.

Mikoto Minagi, enforcer and emissary, looks back at the crowd, black braid tumbling down over her tilted cheek.

BGM Cut: Thousand Foot Krutch - Hand Grenade https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKAoSY5bhSw

Acrobatic legs bend, and all a sudden that tiny girl launches high into the sky. Framed dark against a bright sun, she is spinning --

Hurling that board into the shoreline waves, with such force that the water crashes out to spray the crowd. Embedded in the sand, lapped by water, the insignia emblazoned on it is clear: PAX DELENDA EST.

Most of the gathered crowd, at this point, are taking the advice to back off well to heart, scrambling away from the coastline. Amidst the confusion, one boy can be heard wailing about his surfboard - but a girl in candy frills ushers him away too.

Perhaps it's for the best.

Because what goes up must come down, and Mikoto is a friend of gravity. With supernatural balance she crashes down on the tip of that surfboard, embedding it another few centimetres into the ground, only to kick off of it and spring back to the shore again. Sand showers out in the wake of a heavy landing, splattering against shade-cloths and tentsides.

To a coast already much more empty than it was a moment prior, she yells: "Show's over!"

A show she interrupts in broad daylight - with a throng of civilians now scattering to the winds.

'Know your limits, and only then can you get stronger.'

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi transforms into HiME Mikoto! COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has fully healed herself. She is now ready to take on 5 opponents!

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

Arms stretch, knuckles pop, and as the grand, acrobatic gestures of one Mikoto Minagi declares the show over, there's a loud, boisterous laugh from within one of the changing rooms! A tall young woman exits into the sunlight. One hand goes to her hip, the other holding something over her shoulders! With a tilt to her body, she leans jauntily, and gives a one-eyed wink!

Black-and-red tips betray golden-brown temporary haircoloring! A bright red wetsuit with hints of black and green, like something a race car driver might wear! The '02' at the chest as well as the wild twin-tails and red-plastic 'buns' might give away this particlar cosplayer's bent for tonight!

"Maybe you've been listening to me after all, Mikoto-chan! That's right! Only by realizing your limits can you go further and gain the power of a King! Ambition is the true way!"

Grin! That thing over her shoulders is....well, a surfboard. With a red, white, and orange robot on it! Kasagami Araki points the thing threateningly at her feline friend!

Pause. Ahem. She drops the surfboard, soon slashing the air with her nodachi amidst a flurry of sweet-scented roses.

She's still wearing that ridiculous plug...err, wetsuit. "But a King won't allow even you to destroy the spirit of competition on the waves! These bodacious battlers of the surf are totally righteous enough! How about you, Mikoto!?

"Are you a bad enough dudette to face me!?"

With a grin, the magical girl steps off with her heel, 'sliding' through the air in perfect wire-fu like form. She hauls her sword back, preparing a fast horizontal strike towards the surfboard-perched Mikoto! Only at the last second, she ducks lower, stamps her other foot, and makes an uppercutting motion with body and blade as one! Her nodachi is quick despite it's length, becoming blurring suggestion of steel towards the one who's given Kassie so much emotional grief as late!

After her talk with Setsuna, this almost feels cathartic.

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki transforms into Crimson Rose Duelist!
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Rose on the Wind on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to dodge Kasagami Araki's Rose on the Wind, taking 15 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Kasagami Araki is Psyched!
<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Eri Shimanouchi is not part of the contest. No it's not because she's too cool for it. She's just not a cosplayer.

Right now she's in line at a shaved ice cart nearby, a bag and a towel over her shoulder. She's dressed in a bikini with a tiered skirt on the lower half and a pair of flip flop sandals. "Let's see... Coconut... Mango... and could you add a snow cap?"

"Right away. Anyone you're rooting for in the contest?"

"Mmm... well I think I saw one of my favorite characters in there. You wouldn't think of her as a surfer - but that's kind of the point right?"

"Exactly. You get it! I'm personally rooting for the Sailor V I saw over there. Her swimsuit is so cute! She's such a babe."

Eri considers that point for a lengthy span of time before she weighs in. "I could actually see Sailor V as a surfer though."


"Yeah she is..." The girl coughs into her hand, "I mean she strikes me as... the type."

"I must marry her."

"Well... good luck with that." The girl says mildly as she taps at her phone to disengage with the conversation that took a turn for the awkward, humming to herself as the cart attendant packs the ice together with glove covered hands.

Little does she know that behind her that Europeans were taking over the skit.

"Thank you so much." The girl says with a happy smile as the cup is handed over. Using the wooden spoon to bring the first bite up to her mouth.

It's then that Eri Shimanouchi looks up - at a shape high against the dark sun. The spoon is still in her mouth, "S'at?"

The spoon goes lax against her lower lip, hanging out like it might simply drop to the floor.

Sand suddenly showers and the girl turns around all to squat over and shield her shaved ice with her body, squealing as her back and hair are covered in it.

She knows she ought to transform right now, but her first act is to rapidly start spooning shaved ice in her mouth. There's no sense in not enjoying any of it and just letting it melt. She keeps spooning it in until suddenly the motion slows

"Guh." Putting her opposite hand up to her temple, the girl's facial expression spasms. "Brainfreeze. Thanks Mikoto."

Putting down her bag and towl atop one of the cafe tables, she tilts the umbrella to shield it from more sand.


"Mikoto..." Eri is stepping up across the beach in a slow walk, showing herself covered in sand granules in her hair, in her glasses, her expression still looking like it's in a little bit of pain.

"You're making me waste perfectly good shaved ice. Is this your Lord Brother's doing? Choosing this place?"

There's a sigh, as she slips forward her hand, the ring upon it shimmering as it becomes a gem spinning in the air, she reaches out to catch it, as it bursts into a kaleidoscope of green that carries the scent of rain, as she adorns herself in herself in frills and lace that looks as sharp as thorns, pulling a lash out of one of the sparkles of light by the handle, before her gem reforms on her head.

Then there's a distinct pause as her eyes slide over to Kasagami.

"Dudette?" She asks with a light smirk as she takes on a teasing tone, "I'm not sure I've ever even heard that word used in a sentence before Kasagami."

COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi transforms into Puella Magi Eri!
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has fully healed herself.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has used Can I blame your Brother on this - or is it all you? on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi accepts Eri Shimanouchi's Can I blame your Brother on this - or is it all you?, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi is Taunted!
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

While Fuu isn't exactly a stranger to cosplay, surfing is a rather different category of interest for her. It's not like she has a problem with the water, mind you - she enjoys swimming - but swimming doesn't usually require much more in the way of gear than a decent swimsuit, a swim cap if you're worried about your hair, and maybe a pair of goggles. Surfing takes a bit more of an investment than that, and Fuu has never really gotten that interested; she'd prefer to watch others with the patience and desire.

So being invited to the Masked Surf Meetup was rather a surprise. More surprising than that was *who* came to her with flyer in hand, and an offer that she couldn't easily refuse. Specifically, a group from the Infinity Middle School Visual Arts Appreciation Society.

Leaving aside the details of what bargains were struck (they involved table space at Comiket), the event finds Fuu wearing a sleekly flattering wetsuit of dark silver, with overlaid pieces in green and gold that resemble stylized, futuristic armor fastened at shoulders and hips and elsewhere, including a 'skirt' flaring out from her hips, and close-fitting gloves and boots highlit in a bright sunny yellow. The 'costume' is completed by an elaborate mask that falls, in design philosophy, somewhere between lucha libre and tokusatsu: green and yellow 'feathers' arranged into fins that splay out and back from the front, with further suggestions of a beak that frames large green lenses. Really, it all makes a rather fetching futuristic bird motif, and having seen how she looks in it, Fuu's been left wondering if maybe this wasn't a bad idea after all.

She's even posed for a few photos, and made arrangements for photos to be sent to the Infinity Middle VAAS (so she can see how they turned out, without exposing her own contact details). She's actually come around to enjoying the event, although she doesn't have any plans for a stage presentation; others of her kouhai will be doing that, she's just here to support them (and help raise attention for their club). She is, however, fairly sure that nobody's plans (except Mikoto's) involved an air-to-surface ballistic board impact.

The flight of civilians from the area and the immediate counterchallenge presented by Kasagami give Fuu the chance she needed to retrieve her clutch from the club's booth and disappear into a changing booth. The ruffle of wind rippling against the canvas from within, however, may hint that the 'changing' within is far from mundane ...

And not long after *that*, the Magic Knight of Wind makes her presence known more directly, leading off not with a spell but with an arrow - threading it as cose to Mikoto's cheek as humanly possible, perhaps moreso.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji transforms into Wind Knight!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Trick Arrow Shot on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi dodges 6 Fatigue damage from Fuu Hououji's Trick Arrow Shot, taking 9 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!

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

Setsuna Meioh dressed for a breezy day at the beach (as opposed to in the ocean). She's in a long loose striped shirt which is loosely belted over the hint of a floral dress. Its hem peeks beneath the shirt by a few inches over legs which are brown without the influence of the summer sun.

She's not in costume, but is rather part of a very specific audience. Her eyes are the first upon Kasagami Araki-Soryuu when she emerges in all her fiery glory, temporarily diverting the senshi from even the serious situation now unfolding.

There's still the hint of a smile on her lips as she turns to regard their black-clad friend, but it fails to linger. "Mikoto-chan," she says, simple and solemn.

Then she runs and dives -- for the ocean, rather than her friend who would be foe. In her shirt and dress she leaps and dives, breath and trust both held deep inside her chest. The ocean is the domain of her soldier sister, and even its shallows hold a glimmer of her mystery. Evergreen hair arcs and beneath the waves she goes...

There is a pulse beneath the blue-tinged green, like some garnet heart beating.

Sailor Pluto emerges from the waves with an impossible leap to land by the bereft boy. With that still-solemn mien she returns to him his stolen surfboard, and then she is away again. "Seek shelter! You would not want to surf the waves this storm will kick up."

Her other hand holds her sacred staff before her, between Pluto and the figure in black-and-red some small distance away across the beach. "Eri-chan," she calls to their mutual friend, with a look over her shoulder. It's greeting and reminder all in one of their recent conversation. Displaced sand showers down between them, and through its veil the senshi turns.

Then a torrent of plutonic energy is screeching for Mikoto and her grand obsidian blade -- because to target one is to target both, is it not? It scuds through the air to one side of the quicksilver swordswoman, pulling at Kassie's dyed hair as it seeks the HiME beyond. "We are here, Mikoto-chan. This is where you want us, correct?" There is no challenge in her voice.

COMBAT: Setsuna Meioh transforms into Sailor Pluto!
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has fully healed herself.
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has used Garnet Blast on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi braces 8 Fatigue damage from Sailor Pluto's Garnet Blast, taking 12 Fatigue damage!  Sailor Pluto is Psyched!

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

MICHIRU KAIOH had watched the Masked Surf Meetup from the fringes, not in costume - or perhaps more accurately, in costume as a curious local woman - but she was not trying to make a fuss. She was curious, and it is, in a sense, on the way home.

Of course, there is more than that afoot.

When she reads the words on the surfboard, Michiru Kaioh frowns.

"What an ill wind..."


"With the protection of the planet of the sea," speaks a voice from the waves: "Fighting for the new age -"

"Sailor Neptune," says the titular individual, standing with insouisant precision upon a surfboard, approaching the scene of this crisis from a lateral direction, the sea breeze tugging at her modest and wavy locks as she rests one hand on the blouse of her uniform. She shifts her weight almost imperceptibly as she lowers her gloved hands, raising her hips a fraction as she steers the board, momentarily, away from where Mikoto is.

To herself, Sailor Neptune thinks: Well, at least this isn't as bad as someone stealing the ocean. At least not this part of it, she corrects herself. I should never rule out the worst. Her gaze turns towards the shore once more as her hands raise up and--

-- a sphere of aqua-and-magenta light streaks ahead, skimming the surface --

-- to burst in echelon with Pluto's own garnet-hued strike, even as the rising wave steers Sailor Neptune's borrowed board to shore. She steps up and off of it, tilting it up to an upright position and revealing a picture of a certain premium character with pale blue hair wearing a violet yukata at night, at least for a moment.

"It's good to see all of you again," Sailor Neptune says. "Would that the situation were merrier..."

COMBAT: Michiru Kaioh transforms into Sailor Neptune!
COMBAT: Sailor Neptune has used Dolphin Wave on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Sailor Neptune has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi braces 42 Fatigue damage from Sailor Neptune's Dolphin Wave, taking 18 Fatigue damage!

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

There is a van.

A van amongst the entire event on the sand. stylized like something straight outta the 70s. Auburn and sandy color schemes with blueas and whites made of starts. 'MR. UNIVERSE is on the side in some far-out font.

Its back is open, and an almost non-euclidean amount of sound equipment and speakers jut out of the back. A portly man stands in front of them with a microphone and guitar. He sings quite well, a vibrant vinyl record of greens, yellows and reds spin on the player. Very island-y music, for sure! A giant pink cat seems to be enjoying themselves with spare cords and shiny sound equipment.

Meanwhile, out on the water, a sparkle of pink among the waves can get other's attention. It gleams brilliantly in the sunlight, and stands as a visual focal point for young Steven Universe, who is catching some right now, Beach City-style!

...Which isn't any real particular style, but you say those kinds of things when you are out of town, right?


The boy is on a galaxy-studded longboard, wearing only cotton candy pink swim trunks. "Wooooooo!" he calls out from out to sea, though is hard to hear him over the din of the crowd. Greg shoots a thumbs up from his spot at the mic.

And of course, fun days are ruined. Because why wouldn't they be. There is a vicious crash of water up at shore, and Steven is still a bit out. "Lioooooon!" Steven calls out, and the cat hears, bolting upright.

"Ya might wanna go help him!" Greg says to the cat as he quickly stops the music and starts packing it in. "I am getting the van away from this! I don't want it getting totalled again by some beach mishap...! Take care of Steven, won't you?" he asks Lion.

Lion looks to him, and bolts to the ocean! A sideglance as he runs spots Mikoto. It is hard to tell what he is thinking, but there is a peculiar look in his eye for a split second before paws meet water.

And across the surface of the water he runs, as if solid ground. "Come on, buddy!" he says, snapping off his safety line from the longboard to leave it out there. But instead of hopping aboard Lion as he passes, he throws the free side of the line to the giant cat, who grabs it in his mouth. A leap off the board, and a Rose Shield springs to life at his wrist, is quickly released, and placed underfoot to serve as a boogie board! "Yeah! Cool powers, activaaaate!"

They close distance fast on the situation over the water. He sees who is causing the disturbance. It is hard not to recognize her, especially when she has been on his mind a lot lately. "Mikotoooo!" he shouts on closeing it! You gotta stoooop!"

He catches a small wave and treats it like a ramp, gliding on his shield with a spray of ocean water to reach the shore! "You are scaring people! Lets just talkGOMF--"

Ooooh. Didn't nail that landing at all. Steven has practically buried himself. A muffled "I'm okay!" with a very sandy thumbs up appears in the small drift. Lion just looks from him to Mikoto a time or two.

COMBAT: Steven Universe has fully healed himself.
COMBAT: Steven Universe transforms into Serious Steven!
COMBAT: Steven Universe has used AND STEVEN! on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Steven Universe has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi perfectly dodges 0 Fatigue damage from Steven Universe's AND STEVEN!, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!  Mikoto Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!

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

'... I wonder if Kasagami's okay...'

And Mikoto sees her there, making her declarations. Kasagami is fine... and she really is like Kintoleski, Mikoto thinks.

Though, it's not... quite... the same.

Kintoleski would never menace her with a surfboard --

Ah, there it is.

Mikoto leaps over the nodachi on her way to shore - only for the blade to catch at her, the combination of no room to manoeuvre and the nodachi's speed colliding to a solid hit. Perhaps kicking up all that sand wasn't entirely on purpose; she lands heavily, though she quickly corrects herself.

Straightening after her declaration, she smells the rain, and her eyes turn towards Eri. It's not an inverse, any more. The scent is a bittersweet sort of victory, when she's on the other side. And Mikoto ruined Eri's snack...

She opens her mouth to reply, only to sink back, looking down. "I chose it," and it is meant as insistence but it comes out a shade too dismal. "It's an order, but Lord Brother didn't say how."

Which means she ruined Eri's snack all on her own.

Mikoto looks up and narrows her eyes and insists to herself that's what she meant to do.

It's a good thing she finds her grit at that moment, because a fraction of a second later her eyes widen - they've just seen the arrow coursing towards her. With a hiss of air through her teeth, she springs aside. Even surprised, she's able to move quicker than a bowstring's propulsion - but not quite quickly enough that it doesn't lance past her forehead, loosing a few short hairs as the air whistles around it.

WHILE THE SAND IS ATTRACTING ALL THIS ATTENTION: Sailor Pluto emerges from the waves, board in hand. She easily finds the cat-eared boy, and his eyes widen to delighted saucers as he accepts his beloved board again. "Whoa!" He exclaims, a smile on his face again. "You're so cool! I mean, you're way past cool! You define cool! I mean -- uh -- shelter, yeah! Loud and clear! Thanks!" He scrambles off, to see him and his board to safety. He likes flaunting danger, but there's a line between loitering and whatever this is!

Also, there's a young lady making an elegant entrance from the ocean. And Steven! Whose father Mikoto has rudely interrupted. At least he has the sense to leave, too. Mikoto would be happy about that if she had the space to think about it.

She does not, immediately, turn to deal with the seaward arrivals, because Sailor Pluto advances. She whirls to catch the plutonic blast with her blade, lips curled in a snarl to centre herself as she absorbs strength with strength. "Yes," she replies, and there's no mockery in her voice either.

But soldiers don't fight alone.

At the last moment Mikoto hears the way the water splits, and turns to catch the Dolphin Wave on Miroku's broad edge, too. Her heels sink into the sand as she's pushed back, away from shore, and she blinks against the glittering aqua, with a wordless noise of effort. Inwardly, she curses her luck: Sailor Neptune belongs to the sea, and the sea is right here, and that makes this situation so much more dangerous.

She hears Steven, yelling about how she has to stop, how she's scaring people. "That's the point!" She snaps back, only to find herself shouting at a pile of sand.

Mikoto grunts, and springs away from her pinned position, putting everyone in front of her rather than surrounding her. (She spares a thought to Lion, here, who must regrettably be counted as an enemy, no matter his feline affiliations.) "I know your limits!" She yells, defiant. "I know you don't want these people to get hurt!"

She does not look at Eri as she says it.

"... so, here I am!"

Springing forward, Mikoto's blade crashes towards Sailor Neptune in an overhead swing - she's identified the heaviest hitter in this situation, and she goes for her first. Whirling from her position, her blade lashes out in a horizontal arc for Sailor Pluto, next; she knows striking one must enrage the other. Like dominos, she leaps after her assault to meet Kasagami - a diagonal strike from above - and charges forward to harass the archer Fuu in close quarters, bringing her blade up in a slamming strike. She doesn't linger, jumping to empty space again, where she plunges her blade into the sandy earth. Spires of darkness open from yawning black portals, and black energy wreathed in red aura lances in towards Eri, seeking spirit rather than flesh.

Finally, she twists her blade in the sand, and an explosion of energy rocks the sand Steven found himself in, pushing cold sand up to the surface as the ground quakes. There might also be a grumpy mollusc, woken from its slumber.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disequilibrium on Sailor Neptune.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness on Sailor Pluto.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Devastation on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Dynamo on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Darkness on Eri Shimanouchi.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disaster on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi perfectly braces 21 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Darkness, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Brace!  Eri Shimanouchi's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji neatly dodges 40 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Dynamo, taking 10 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto cleanly braces 28 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness, taking 5 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi is Psyched!  Sailor Pluto's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Steven Universe braces 15 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disaster, taking 12 Fatigue damage!  Steven Universe's Block and Parry abilities activate!  Stagger applied to Steven Universe!
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki partially dodges 6 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Devastation, taking 24 Fatigue damage!  Kasagami Araki's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Stun applied to Kasagami Araki!
COMBAT: Sailor Neptune partially dodges 11 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disequilibrium, taking 44 Fatigue damage!

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

With the scent of rain and the cascade of green in the corner of her good eye, Kassie's grin turns into a smirk, as a brow rises. She knows that voice!

"Never let it be said that I don't come unprepared for competition, Eri-chan! This is a Royal Surfing Original...Though give me sword fighting over dead message board scrounging any day!" Shudder. The 90's 'tude is mortally cringe-worthy.

The eyes of a particular Senshi only help buouy Asukasagami's will to fight, and the gravitic power that Sailor Pluto sends skidding towards the onyx blade of their opponent has the Duelist's extra-messy perfect hair fluttering that much more!

The Wind Knight and Sailor Neptune's arrivals have the Duelist smiling, even if Neptune and Pluto earn some worry in Kassie's heart. Can the Senshi still fight together?

And Steven crashes in on Lion! The young man's powerful shield may well be useful, the Duelist ponders!

It's not long before Mikoto pounces, and the heavy black of Miroku is upon her! The spritely Duelist is amazing on her feet as always, gripping her sword in both hands and bringing it close to her body! Both heels smash the sound with magical strength into the beginnings of diamonds, giving her just enough time to avoid all of a direct hit. Her family sword and Miroku trade grey and black before the edges slide away, and the impact sends up a small mountaint of sand from Mikoto's strength! A narrow dodge, and Kassie leaves a trail of sand once she lands! Part of her glorious cosplay is ruined, one of those red hair-triangle-clips cut asunder!

"So observant all of a sudden! ...We've fought each other now, and with each other. You kept some of your strength hidden, but each time I get close to understanding your limits! Shouldn't you be worried!? It's sad, your Lord Brother sending you back out all alone!"

Kassie eyes that amulet. "If it were me, I'd be fighting alongside you! Don't you miss that?"

The girls' eyes grow sharp, and it's the Duelist's turn to kick high into the air. Spinning, rotating, and flipping, she brings her sword two-handed down towards Mikoto's noggin!

Luckily she's aiming to konk her right back on the back of the head, rattle her feline brain!

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Rose Flash on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi decisively counters 33 Fatigue damage from Kasagami Araki's Rose Flash, taking 11 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Kasagami Araki is Psyched!  Mikoto Minagi's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi's counterattack, Obsidian Blade: Defence, partially gets through, doing 22 Fatigue damage to Kasagami Araki!
<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"When in Rome... speak like a surfer I guess?" Eri quips back to Kasagami.

"The details are beneath him." Eri's lip twists in an expression that's two parts disdain and one part lingering brainfreeze. "I get it."

She might as well say Mikoto is beneath him, by the way she says it. Not just in the idea of authority, but in the hierarchy of importance the girl has in her life.

However, then arrives Pluto, "Pluto." There's a smile on her expression. "Glad you could find the time to be here to set her straight." It's a light tease - wait is she literally punning the word time? What a low-hanging fruit.

And then comes Neptune on a- "Is she?" Eri's lower lip tucks in as she's struck by the Outer Senshi's elegance. "Showing off for the occasion I see - Sailor Neptune." She teases in a way that tries not to show she was struck by the blinding glare of her brilliance.

Eri starts unravelling her lash as Mikoto yells at Steven that it's the point. Eyes narrowing as she says that people won't get hurt. She is not so changed from before that she shouts, 'I won't let you.' And she understands the thread of exception within it.

"Here you are." Eri answers drily, even as Mikoto starts to work herself into a berserker's momentum. "Disrupt her momentum. If you keep interrupting her rhythm she'll falter." The girl offers the others as a minor betrayal of Mikoto by offering advice on how to defeat her in combat. "If you let her get going then she's unstoppable."

However, Eri expects the frontal attack, she senses the spirit spikes only a moment before they lance out of the ground. The girl is already leaping aerial, straight up. However as the lances come closer to her, she suddenly tilts her body mass forward in a forward somersault, and her whip follows overhead in a wheel that streams around her, encircling her as she falls.

The energy may seek spirit, but the vine disperse the energy of the attack in a single whirling parry, right before she touches down on the sand, her whip falling down at her side.

"So what is it this time- proving to him that you're still loyal?" The girl takes up a wide stance, and starts whirling her arm overhead. Each time she does, she suddenly jerks her wrist forward. It begins a barrage of lashes that dance through the air, smashing into Mikoto's position with loud cracks each time it does. If one length manages to get ahold of her though... she'll hardly complain.

"- or is it more that you're proving that to yourself - over - and over - and over again?"

COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has used Moidon's Grasp on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to dodge Eri Shimanouchi's Moidon's Grasp, taking 38 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Tangle applied to Mikoto Minagi!
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

The arrow doesn't draw blood. Which is absolutely fine with the Wind Knight; she didn't *mean* it to draw blood. But she's tussled with Mikoto often enough in recent weeks to know that there's little chance of talking the black-haired swordswoman down when Mikoto is on the attack - so such a pointed if nonverbal statement was pretty much her best opening gambit.

She's not going to stop *others* from talking to Mikoto; Kasagami and Eri both know her better than Fuu does, they're closer as friends (or at least they were before 'Lord Brother' turned Mikoto against her fellow magical girls). But the green-clad Magic Knight is more concerned with physically disrupting the threat posed by Mikoto and her sword ...

And trying not to be disrupted, in turn, by them.

So when Mikoto leaps at her, leading with (to the Wind Knight's surprise) the flat of the blade, the bespectacled blonde Magic Knight leaps away as hard as she can, mostly evading the force of the strike. Miroku's tip still swipes against her ankles, but it's not a debilitating injury, and the Wind Knight manages to land more or less on her feet. Slightly off-balance, but nothing she can't recover from.

Some of her allies seem to be worse off; Kasagami seems to have taken the worse side of that exchange of slashes, and the silicate spray that erupted all but underneath Steven is enough to make the Wind Knight worry about her young ally. (It doesn't even start to think of surprising her that Steven and his father were around for a surfing-related event.)

"Winds of Healing!" calls the green-clad Magic Knight, directing half of her restorative attention in each of two directions; she has to track with Kasagami's leap, but that's not a particular complication. She's more concerned about making sure her allies - her friends - can keep fighting at best effect, especially this early in the melee.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Healing on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Healing on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki accepts Fuu Hououji's Winds of Healing, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Cleanse! All of Kasagami Araki's debuffs are cleared!
COMBAT: Steven Universe accepts Fuu Hououji's Winds of Healing, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Cleanse! All of Steven Universe's debuffs are cleared!

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

There is no smile on painted lips when the boy heaps stunned praise upon Sailor Pluto -- to react so plainly would ruin her vaunted cool, after all. But, is that a straight-faced wink before her long hair swirls to obscure her face? It happens so quickly, who can be sure?

The ocean is not the only place aqua-tinged beauty might be found, today. It bursts in tandem with Sailor Pluto's garnet energy and reflects her eyes, too -- once then, and again when she angles her head to behold her soldier sister, who emerges from her element with all elegance.

"Whatever the situation, it is still good to see you again," she replies; she agrees.

The situation makes herself an all-encompassing concern then, and Pluto returns her attention to the black-braided girl with her black blade. "Neptune!" she shouts as that edge makes for the battlefield's most puissant threat. Then a crosswise whistle of split air interrupts as Mikoto rightly anticipates the Guardian's reaction.

The Garnet Rod is as unyielding as Miroku's obsidian edge is terrible, even if the senshi muscles supporting it suffer from the impact shock that even a sacred weapon cannot ward. Pluto's lips are tight as she dances back on dark bootheels...

...but then she dances right back in again rather than allow for the dubious safety space might afford, to press the attack and buy the endangered Kasagami and Neptune some breathing room. She will protect those dearest to her by whatever means possible. The Rod bites the air between them, pressing forth in a dizzying swirl impelled by Pluto's twirling hands. "Alas for the perfection of your cosplay, my love... but she cannot face every direction at once!"

She stares right at Mikoto through the swirl of weaponry, a steadfast challenge in her unblinking gaze. She's listening for the person among them who knows this fearsome Dark Fall representative best of all: she's listening for Eri Shimanouchi, and what she will say to Mikoto Minagi. It turns out, it is what she says about Mikoto Minagi, instead. Tactics, then. A nod, comrade to comrade, confirms without Pluto's eyes leaving their darkness-sworn friend.

There's a wicked hum of titanium through air as the Garnet Rod becomes a gleaming blur, amd Pluto pushes her weapon's arc ever further into Mikoto's space. She does her level best to be as unignorable as possible, her very proximity the challenge her voice lacked earlier.

COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has used Pendulum Blitz on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi braces 21 Fatigue damage from Sailor Pluto's Pendulum Blitz, taking 9 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Sailor Pluto is Psyched!
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

He can hear the shouting of familiar voices, even through the sand embankment. Concussive forces of attacks ripple in the sand. He wrests his head free shortly afrer Mikoto turns away from him. He managed to catch what she said. He is utterly coated with sand stuck to him, much like how a donut would be frosted with powdered sugar. "Pfffphbphbpfph..." Yeah that isn't coming out until he rinses his mouth. "Mikoto, why scare people that can't really do anything?! Come oooon!" He slaps the sand with both of his palms, now free.

He won't be given a chance to get free without retaliation however. The sand rumbles around him. "Uh oh."

And explosion of sand sends to boy skyward, before crashing onto the beach, his shield landing next to him. There is a very miffed crab in his hair. Attempts to remove him are met with fierce opposition. "L-Lion, go help the others, I'll be right behind you!"

The giant pink cat tears off into the fray, eyes glowing white. His paws grip the sand preternaturally. THe desert was his domain, this wasn't very different. He attempts to tear sand-blasting circles around Mikoto, then blast her with a sonic roar from the clouds, pink rings of reverberation fly through the air, and almost make the sand sing as it dispearses as quickly as it was kicked up.

Meanwhile, Steven, tussling with a crab, is relieved of dealing with it, and the clinging sand, as magical winds shed is problems away. He recognizes the gentle pulse of magic they carry too. Eyes dart around and find who they are from. "Thaaaanks!" he calls toward Fuu, with a thumbs up. The boy hops up, grabs his shield, and begins to run in to join the battle himself in earnest as well!

COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Just Lion Things on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Steven Universe has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi braces 10 Fatigue damage from Steven Universe's Just Lion Things, taking 8 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Tangle and Trap applied to Mikoto Minagi!
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Neptune [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Sailor Neptune crosses her arms as the blow of the great sword comes towards her. It is, at least, one that leads with the flat. Neptune sees it in a moment. She is of course relieved when it strikes home with sufficient force to rattle her teeth, to jar her body, to push her hair out of alignment; she staggers back, one step, two: up to her ankles in the surf.

The pain washes through her forearms.

She's not playing, Neptune thinks.

Neptune, of course, hastens in. There is the Magic Knight with her familiar if younger winds, and Eri and Kasagami are addressing Mikoto directly. "Ah," she says. "Caught in a trap, reliving the endless pain... it's a sorrowful waltz," Neptune says.

Neptune says, and she stays away -- cowardice?

No: She watches Mikoto, quite closely. Eri spoke of rhythms, but there are many complex sorts of rhythm, she thinks. She lets her mind relax, as best it can. To reach for the truth within these motions, beyond the pain in Mikoto's voice.

COMBAT: Sailor Neptune has used Ripple of a Dream on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Sailor Neptune has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi perfectly braces 0 Fatigue damage from Sailor Neptune's Ripple of a Dream, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Brace!

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

Mikoto can hear Eri's betrayal, but it's a distant thing compared to the ring of battle. She's not surprised to find Miroku matched with ancestral nodachi - nor by the brief struggle, or Kasagami slipping away. Fuu takes flight with the wind, the Senshi are rattled yet unbroken, Eri abjures her darkness...

Well. At least Steven's being kept busy.

She wrests her blade from the ground, shaking her head. But even though she shakes and shakes, she still can't shake the memories of the Book of Darkness's world which Kasagami summons. The time she dreamt of a partnership --

'... and my Lord Brother was always too important to get involved in fights with me.'

-- and realised it was part of the lie.

It's just as Eri said. The details are beneath him.

"My limits," she echoes, again, but this time it is dismissive instead of ponderous. "... what limits?"

She would recognise a sharpening gaze anywhere, though, like a grey reflection of her own. She is observant - of this, at least; she whirls to meet Kasagami's acrobatic leap, blade rising to meet blade crashing down. Force against force, and gravity plays favourites: while Mikoto manages to turn the flat of her blade aside, she only grazingly breaks through to the girl behind it.

She doesn't have time to correct it, though. Neither to disrupt Fuu in her healing, because Sailor Pluto is upon her now. Their challenge is wordless and she hears it fluently, forced to bring her blade up to defend herself from the encroaching reach of the Garnet Rod. Length to length, one outmatches the other: Miroku is almost as long as Mikoto is tall, but Mikoto is still, after all, a diminuitive girl. Finally she bullies forward, pushing broad side to broad side - and kicks at the Senshi, heel to knee, to try and gain some distance. Mikoto whirls with the motion, seeking to catch Kasagami with the flat of her blade in a wide arc.

Before she can press the attack any further, Eri's varied lashes come in. "I am loyal!" Mikoto yells, even as the ice grips her heart and she cannot keep the horror from her face. (Is she doing something wrong?) She springs away from the whip - but perhaps it's a little too fast, or perhaps Eri's questions cut a little too deep, because it catches and coils about her ankle and sends her sprawling to the ground.

She tries to push herself back up, only for Lion's sonic force to slam her right... back... down.

But she isn't really thinking about that.

She's loyal, she thinks to herself, over and over. She's loyal. She's loyal to her Lord Brother.

She doesn't want anything to be different. She doesn't want him to be in danger with her. She's content with how things are.

This is the staccato beat Neptune tries to listen in on - the erratic motions of a storm at sea with no moon to guide its waves. It's impossible to find purchase, and perhaps the origin becomes clear as a magenta glow washes over Mikoto, when she finally pushes herself standing again. Chop, goes Miroku against those clinging vines. Her pendant's giving off a warm light which cannot possibly be comforting to anyone other than her.

"I am loyal," she insists, again, voice atremble, but not quite for the reason which might seem obvious.

Thinking... thoughts are...

... difficult.

Mikoto whirls, and the shockwave of the sudden movement might do as much damage to Neptune and Fuu as any threat from her exclusion zone. A moment later she finds herself charging Eri, though there's something defensive to the way she lashes her blade out diagonal, as if she's expecting to abjure an attack even now she's on the warpath. In an eyeblink - for her it is an eyeblink - she finds her sword crashing down towards Steven. Hopefully, his shield, because she's not minding her strength or her edge right now.

"Oh," she says, eyes widening.

No, she wanted to --

Mikoto shakes her head again.

"It's not sad," she insists, springing back to glare at Kasagami. "I'm not sad!"

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Arts: Assault on Sailor Pluto.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disequilibrium on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Decimation on Sailor Neptune.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Decimation on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Defence on Eri Shimanouchi.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disequilibrium on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used The Obsidian Pendant's Purification on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki partially dodges 12 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disequilibrium, taking 48 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Kasagami Araki's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Exhausted applied to Kasagami Araki!
COMBAT: Steven Universe cleanly braces 51 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disequilibrium, taking 9 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Steven Universe's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Sailor Neptune braces 37 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Decimation, taking 16 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Sailor Neptune's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji braces 30 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Decimation, taking 13 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto partially dodges 3 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Arts: Assault, taking 12 Fatigue damage!  Diversion applied to Sailor Pluto!
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi partially dodges 4 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Defence, taking 18 Fatigue damage!  Eri Shimanouchi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!

<Pose Tracker> Eri Shimanouchi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"Are you? You think I don't remember his standards?" The girl offers then a rhetorical question, "Who can be loyal enough?"

The answer feels like one of those riddles from myth. 'Noone.'

"A sorrowful waltz is it?" She asks Neptune, "Shame I never took those dancing lessons..."

Yet, it feels apt all the same. How many of them are dancing it? How many of them were dancing it in the past.

Mikoto comes at her in a diagonal slash, and Eri suddenly bends over backwards to avoid the cut lancing across her at an uncomfortable range. The momentum of the slash causing her to lose her balance and fall over heavily, as she scrambles to the side on beach sand to rise.

"Deny it all you want Mikoto..."

The girl eyes the tip of her lash to make certain it's still attached to Mikoto's leg. And then suddenly, she upturns her whip up and over and jams it into the sand. The sand ripples with emerald light as several of the tendrils disappear into the sand.

"... but I'm disappointed."

Suddenly sand bursts in several directions, as thorned loops erupt into jagged circuitous patterns all over the beach. It's familiar to Mikoto from their last few battles.

What is alarming though, is the tendril attached to Mikoto's leg suddenly goes taut.

"I thought you thought better of us all than to think we're foolish enough to believe that."

There's this yanking motion, almost like a gardener pulling up a flower bed to reveal the full breadth of the plant where it cannot be seen. The loops contract swiftly upon Mikoto's position with a promise of a brutal rending from this cage of thorns... if she's still there.

COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has used Jubokko's Sanguine Roots on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Eri Shimanouchi has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to brace Eri Shimanouchi's Jubokko's Sanguine Roots, taking 36 Fatigue damage!
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

With how hard Mikoto hits? Kasagami is more than thankful for the healing winds of the Wind Knight! Her hair flutters even more wildly, those buffering winds soothing the scrapes and pains of trading blows with Mikoto. And more importantly, knowing she has a friend and ally in the Wind Knight only helps her keep fighting!

As does the mourning of her cosplay! "It's fine! ...Just an opportunity for you to pick out my next one!" Comes Kassie! Pause.

"Not that I'd enjoy anything extremely nerdy! This is just showing Ohtori pride!" Through mecha cosplay, it seems!

But she has more pressing matters, such as the massive sword that has just nearly hammered her again! Her own blow thrown aside, Kassie keeps her eyes on Mikoto. The short girl whirls and slashes out! The Duelist can't adjust in time! So instead, she lets herself fall backwards as the strike comes! Sucking in a breath, she gets caught by the last bit of Miroku's flat! And sent tumbling! Her breath blown from her body!

She coughs and hacks hard, shivering, before leaning on her sword to get to her feet. "No limits, huh!? I'd believe it from you, Mikoto." Cough. She wipes her mouth. "...But you're wrong. You are the saddest person here, right now. It's written in your sword. And who could blame you? Your own Lord Brother is making you fight people that care about you. No matter how much pain it causes us, it's going to reflect ten times as much sadness inside of you."

Kassie grins. "And that's the greatest limit you could ever put on yourself! Or rather, that your Lord Brother is chaining you with!"

The Duelist rushes Mikoto bluntly, brazenly, swinging her blade around her head! Dancing, almost waltzing towards her friend and would-be Little Sister, partner, she stamps down her right heel and sends herself into a tornado of rotations on her side! Her blade becomes a blurr once more as she repeatedly spin-cuts at her friend's defenses! She then lands on her other foot's toes, kicking away as Eri begins her attack tendril'd loops from amidst the sand!

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Falling Petals Cut The Soul on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to dodge Kasagami Araki's Falling Petals Cut The Soul, taking 52 Fatigue damage!

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

Greg has gotten the van all packed up, though finds it difficult to tear his eyes away from the magical fighting. Hes been around fights with the Crystal Gems and Rose Quartz enough to know this isn't just some show. He wants to get the van away, but when your hid is in danger, its a hard decision, you know?

Meanwhile, Steven is just now realizing the number of Senshi here on-scene. Man, he doesn't have his comic on him! Alas...! It will have to wait again. In the blurring motion of battle, Lion finds his mark, to help Steven and his friends out. No claws or teeth are brought to bare on their adversary, just a stunning roar to assist their efforts. And when others close i nto attack themselves, Lion backs off himself, but does not leave the field of battle, tailing the target fro ma short distance.

THe battle takes a step overhead, wich clashing occurring skyward. Keeping eyes up helps, as a downward cleave aims right for the boy.! "Eep!" he squeaks, as he holds his shield out, and makes an expanding motion, ordering the defensive implement to expand exponentially for a moment. It takes heavy effort to do so, but blocks the blow, as a singing tang sounds in the air. "Mikoto, we don't have to fight! You did all sorts of cool heroic things before, you shouldn't change now! Don't you want to help make a happier tomorrow?" he asks through the translucent spiral engravings.

With the size of the shield, Steven brings it to bear, and forces the invisible force it anchors to forward suddenly, attempting to thrust her backward with strong force!

"How many times are we going to have to do this to just talk it out?" he asks her. The giant shield winks out, as another is formed on his wrist, properly sized. "Yo uare different from every badguy I have ever fought, because you are my friend, Mikoto! You can talk to me! You can talk to us!"

COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Repelling Shield on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Steven Universe has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to brace Steven Universe's Repelling Shield, taking 19 Fatigue damage!  Diversion applied to Mikoto Minagi!
<Pose Tracker> Sailor Pluto [Infinity Institute (U)] has posed.

Pluto's offense-of-a-defense serves its purpose for a brief span, even as the young woman employing it reaps no satisfaction from this. For all her serious mien she has no desire to seriously harm Mikoto.

Neither can she stand aside while Dark Fall threatens. The realities of the Tokyo of Here and Now as an Outer Senshi are never simple.

And in this exact moment Dark Fall's sensibly-clad heel directly threatens the graceful bend of Sailor Pluto's knee! She twists but only enough to deflect, not evade, and staggers sideways a step upon a throbbing joint.

The reds which flash at her peripheral are both familiar and unfamiliar, thanks to that plug- err, wetsuit. Pluto catches herself in time to see how thoroughly her love suffers Mikoto's titanic aggression, and she retreats even as the swordswoman goes flying. "Kassie, no!" is her cry then, and her heart thuds in her chest.

It beats double when the swordswoman defies pain to make her magnificent combined counterattack of heartfelt sword slashes and heartfelt words. The pendant about Mikoto's neck, that precious and fiercely defended bauble, shines and Pluto draws from it only discomfort. "You are one of the most loyal people I have ever known, Mikoto." The eternal guardian does not engage in insincerity, and holds loyalty in high esteem among the virtues.

"You only need to look around you to see who returns that loyalty in full measure. Can you say the same for him? Loyalty is a covenant, not shackles. That is called slavery." It may be the rare instance of unfortunate timing from Time's Guardian, considering these words land just as Eri's vines erupt and try taking better hold of Mikoto's limbs.

Pluto allows little space to consider this, though, as she dances back in with the silvery haft of the Garnet Rod leading in a blunt spearing attack. If she can she'll just roughly shove Mikoto back and off balance, taking whatever advantage those grasping green tendrils allow.

COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has used Aoristic Fulcrum on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Sailor Pluto has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi cleanly braces 6 Fatigue damage from Sailor Pluto's Aoristic Fulcrum, taking 1 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi is Quipped!  Trap applied to Mikoto Minagi!

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

The shockwave from Mikoto's erupting motion rips at the Wind Knight - but to little avail: a shockwave like that is just a particularly violent movement of the air, after all, and the green-clad Magic Knight uses such movements beyond-regularly through her spells. That said, the shockwave still buffets her, its force carrying past her conjured-and-upraised sword and through the quickly-conjured wind barrier ... but it does little in the way of actual injury, all the same.

And then she sees Miroku coming down on Steven.

A piece of Fuu knows she probably doesn't need to worry; she's seen Steven in action often enough to know that his shield is pretty close to impenetrable, and he's certainly protected her behind it on more than one occasion. But those are *rational* thoughts, intellectual, analytical.

The teenaged girl leaping to the aid of a younger boy isn't particularly focused on sweet reason.

A loud yell erupts from the Wind Knight's throat, speaking wordlessly of focus, of intent, of determination, of will made manifest - and then her sword comes around and up, clashing against Miroku. If she can disarm Mikoto outright, even for a moment, that's great; if she just forces the claymore away from Steven, that's her main focus.

She does not swing at Mikoto directly. It's probably still going to hurt even so; the Magic Knight of Wind knows how vibrations still travel through a sword you're gripping tightly when something hits it ... like, say, somebody else's sword swung with violent intent.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Unorthodox Swordplay on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to brace Fuu Hououji's Unorthodox Swordplay, taking 17 Fatigue damage!  Stagger applied to Mikoto Minagi!

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

A burst of force and Sailor Neptune's efforts at reaching out -- to find understanding, to find a pattern, to find something that is there beneath the surface -- has failed. Perhaps that is the peril if you have a mirror; you will at some point find another mirror, and you will see only an endless hall...

And in that hall of reflections, you will have to hope that you do not see that one of the reflections looks back at you, as if finding notice, as if finding -

"Kuh!" Neptune says, her arms brought up to guard herself.

"Loyalty is a peculiar thing," Neptune then says, her eyes not quite visible. "It is like air. You do not notice it until you fear its lack..."

Neptune lowers her hands, and then she brings them together before her with a sharp clap and an intent look of the face. Nothing, apparently, happens.

EXCEPT-- have you ever heard of the seventh swell?

It's a funny thing, if you're watching the tide. It's as if it pauses for two entire cycles, holding its breath, and as if it is waiting -- until suddenly it surges upwards, washing forwards at the legs of the errant girl, at perhaps the worst possible time.

"This is a tricky one, isn't it?" Sailor Neptune remarks to Sailor Pluto, quietly. "I'm concerned what will happen if this spreads further." Will she be driven to greater action? There is, after all, ANOTHER mission to consider...

COMBAT: Sailor Neptune has used Wave Undulation on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Sailor Neptune has finished attacking.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to brace Sailor Neptune's Wave Undulation, taking 45 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Mikoto Minagi is unable to keep fighting!

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

Who can be loyal enough? Surely it is Mikoto - Mikoto the enforcer, Mikoto the emissary, Mikoto who loves her Lord Brother so much.

But Eri remembers the standards dredged from Mikoto's subconscious, and Mikoto knows something else, too:

Those standards were idealised, just like everything else in the Book of Darkness.

Mikoto crashes down on Steven, but she finds something else - the Wind Knight's blade. And for a moment she snarls feral, but perhaps the vibrations shake her from her reverie, at least long enough for her to realise where she is again. She is not disarmed - is so rarely disarmed - but even if her sword's in her hands, there's a shift in her mind which might mirror it.

"... Fuu," she blinks. "You, too." Wielding a blade, screaming determination.

She doesn't have much room to explain, though, because Steven's shield expands out, and she has to bring her blade around to stop it from pushing her too far backwards. She digs into the sand, hissing through her teeth.

"Am I different?" She asks Steven, eyes narrowed. "Did I change?"

But it's just as Kasagami says: his standards are her limits, and she is dancing that sorrowful waltz, each tear amplified tenfold. All suffering for the harvest, all feeding...

"It doesn't matter!" Mikoto yells. "Even if I'm sad, you're sad too! It's for the future! Our future! Everyone's future! With your pain, I am making a happier tomorrow!"

She tries to spring away from that striking blade, but one spin becomes two becomes ten, and she cannot move quickly enough. She snarls as she shifts herself to avoid egregrious injuries, struggling to keep up and keep the fog of war at bay both. In the end, she chooses to latch onto her conscious thoughts, rather than her instincts. "Kasagami don't understand that," she hisses out through grit teeth, "playing at kingship. Kasagami's - not even in the court."

Finally, she manages to spring away. Mikoto snarls, gaze snapping to Eri at her words - only to dart down to her ankle a moment later. Narrowed eyes widen as Mikoto realises what she had missed in her rage: she didn't cut all the vines.


The briar patch approaches, and Mikoto tries to pull herself about to cut her binds - or, as Sailor Pluto says, perhaps she should call them her shackles. (A slave obeys, she thinks. And she --) She never manages to complete the motion - she has to divert her blade, midway through carving, to meet the lance of the Garnet Rod's haft.

They work in concert, and this is what happens: Mikoto is tugged down to the earth, lashed down by thorny vines which batter at her, and she struggles against them and they only cut.

And that is when the wave floods in.

Caught in Eri's vines, Mikoto cannot move to defend herself: the swell washes over her, crashing and battering in its own fashion, and she is dashed against the thorns. She cries out and finds water in her mouth where air should be, and coughs when the undulation finally recedes.

Soaked to the bone, it's obvious how small she is. A cape can't hide that.

She grimaces, and wonders if her decision against Kasagami was the wrong one.

If perhaps she should have sacrificed her thoughts for the sake of her strength, no matter their health.

Perhaps then she would not feel so battered; perhaps then she would not shake as she forces herself free, tremble on the rising. She makes sure to cut all the vines, this time.

"Believe what you want," she snaps, sullen. "You don't need to understand." And when every hall is a mirror, sometimes things inside get reflected out.

"My Lord Brother - believes in me," she says, looking to Pluto, the words punctuated by another little cough to protest all that water. "And I believe in my Lord Brother. That's why... I serve him. It's always been that way."

She doesn't know just how much Pluto understands that statement.

"I have to... I have to... get back," Mikoto places the words with difficulty, blinking sluggish against the pounding in her head. "... back to... my Lord Brother's side." There's danger mounting, and it's not even solely in herself: she's still wary of Sailor Neptune's oceanic aptitude.

She takes a step, stumbles. Ah. Gravity. She thought it was her friend.

The next is sturdier - the next still has her springing away.

Strength enough to flee, at least.

In the wake of the magic fading, the contestants begin trailing back in. The announcer finds her microphone - a little banged-up, but still functional, save a little feedback - and exclaims: "Well! I can't say I followed all that, but what a show..!"

... they think it was all part of some elaborate skit. Perhaps it's for the best. After all, Mikoto's gone now, and they don't need to know their festivities are mismatched to the waltz.


Sometimes it's easier to slip away unnoticed in a crowd.