2020-02-15 - MGLN SeekerS: The Big Beginning 3

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MGLN SeekerS: The Big Beginning 3

Two days after Dark Heraut, Shadow Stern, and Black Sky introduced themselves to Tokyo by way of murderously strong attacks, the magical girls unite to defend the one of their three targets who has yet to be assaulted: Ren Aizawa. With new, stronger powers, the Midchildan and Belkan-type mages are able to repel the attackers... but the answers they receive only spawn more questions.


Steven Universe, Ren Aizawa, Lera Camry, Fate Testarossa, Setsuna Higashi, Niramo Umokeshi, Kasagami Araki, Vita Yagami, Signum Yagami, Endo Naoki, Fuu Hououji, Mikoto Minagi

NPCs: Dark Heraut, Shadow Stern, Black Sky, JAIL SCAGLIETTI

GM: Pink Moon Stick


Chofu Suburban District

OOC - IC Date:

2/16/2020 - 08-07-2015

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Chofu Suburban District (#508) +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
  Chofu was built on a vast natural terrace that reinforces the town against    
  the slope down to the sea. It has its own town limits, and it is large        
  enough that you can get anything you need without leaving them. It has        
  lovely houses and apartments, well-appointed town centers, and beautiful      
  green fields around it. But the Tama River that flows through and past Chofu  
  feeds into the main city, and the great splay-legged power lines that follow  
  its course at a safe distance link town to metropolis. This is and is not     
  Just fifteen minutes (and a scant 230 yen) by high-speed rail from Shinjuku   
  Station, Chofu is one of the largest "bed towns" for central Tokyo. Most of   
  the people who live here work in the Special Wards, the short commute buying  
  them vastly cheaper, less cramped lodgings, though some maintain local        
  businesses. While this makes Chofu a suburb of inner Tokyo, it is certainly   
  still Tokyo, and the expansive lawns and sprawling development one envisions  
  when thinking of a suburb are not to be found here. Still, there are no       
  skyscrapers here, and freestanding houses replace the massive apartment       
  buildings of Tokyo.                                                           
  Chofu's river banks host old-fashioned festivals that draw many from          
  surrounding areas at the proper times of year. In contrast, Chofu is also     
  home to the headquarters of JAXA, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency.  
  Though Japan is not yet involved in manned space travel, those interested in  
  Japan's satellite or other space-related technology can find ample materiel   
  for research or wrongdoing.                                                   
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.


A barrier falls across Tokyo.

And then Tokyo's defenders fall, too.

Three mysterious Devices -- the apparent twins of Soaring Sky, Souverain Heraut, and Fallen Stern -- strike with appalling speed and strength, decimating their foes.

And two out of three of them take something from their counterpart by force.

Black Sky and Shadow Stern complete themselves, at Lera Camry and Endo Naoki's expense.

That just leaves...


Ren Aizawa's house -- and it is a house, not an apartment, her parents are reasonably well-off -- has become a staging area, a barricade. Magical girls are posted at the inner boundaries of the magical barrier erected over it by the joint efforts of Yuuno Scrya and Lindy Harlaown (which, conveniently, means that no one has to explain anything to the rest of the Aizawas, who are all safely half a dimension over on the real Earth). Others patrol in the sky above it. This plan is a big red blinky-light neon arrow invitation for attack, which is its weakness.

It's also an open challenge for that attack, which is its strength.

Because something is different this time...


Hayate, surrounded by the patients of her makeshift hospital, looks down at the ones on her lap. Arranged delicately on a plump cushion are the twinkling, wondrous Devices -- many of whom took body blows equal to their masters'. They've been repaired, but... the newly practicing meister still looks troubled, as she gently, reassurringly taps the jewels and gems and miniaturized weapons, one at a time.

"It's easy enough to understand why you lost, from a perspective of raw power," she explains to the group, in her knowledgable, confident little voice. "The Devices you faced... were configured... to maximize raw mana output no matter the consequences. That is to say, normally a Device is designed to avoid doing its wielder any harm, at least under regular operation. There are protections in place. It's to the benefit of both Device and wielder; otherwise the tiniest mistake could do real damage, even cost someone their life."

She swallows. "But these Devices didn't have that. Their NORMAL operation completely disregards the safety of their partners; there's nothing built-in to stop them from channeling dangerous, harmful amounts of mana all the time. This puts everyone at risk... but mostly the wielder. It's up to the Device to exercise caution, to look out for them... and it seems clear that these Devices don't have that kind of relationship with the ones carrying them."

<< BUT WE DO, >> Bardiche chimes, firmly.

It's obvious what the Devices have in mind.

"Everyone has to agree," Hayate replies, firmer still, looking among the humans present. "The risks go beyond just burning out your bodies by passing too much mana through them at once. This is the next best thing to a true Unison... you and your partner will be truly merged, truly acting as one. You could find yourself accidentally seeing some of their memories, especially in the heat of battle, at the worst possible time... or they could find themselves seeing through your eyes, taking control even if they don't mean to."

She nods slowly.

"This strength they wielded against you... is only as strong as the connection BETWEEN you. It's as strong as your trust, your friendship, your bond. Their version of it... seems like it put the Device in complete control, but that isn't true strength, is it? That's just one partner getting their way all the time at the other's expense. What you'd be doing... COULD be much, much more."

<DO YOU TRUST US?> asks Fallen Stern.


"Well, decisionS, at least for you, Lera, and Broken Ground," Hayate adds, a little bit shyly, as they approach another topic -- related, but not the same. "I, um, was shown your mother's Aurora Horizon project. The three of us," with Sky and Ground, "Were able to finish it together. But it's... a one-way trip. There's no going back from where it leads. You all have to want it more than you want anything else, or it isn't going to work."

She nods a final time.

"I think that's true for everyone. You all have to want it more than anything, and you all have to believe in yourselves and your partners... in order for it to work. But if it does... it could be... wonderful, I think. What you have together... and the world you create together... could be wonderful."

Returning each Device to their wielder, she leaves them to their decision.

"Take your time," she advises them, as she rolls away. "I don't think there's any right or wrong answer. There's just, YOUR answer, y'know?"


Lindy Harlaown has opened up the local Midchildan/Belkan telepathy channels so that the magical girls invited to this operation by their friends and allies can hear each other, too, even if they can't so easily send messages.

<< Detecting Soaring Sky's signal, on approach. >> As Lera is on the premises, this is obviously her doppelDevice. << There are two other signals further out, it's probably the other Stern and Heraut. But the Sky will be here in one minute. We need to engage him INSIDE the barrier, so don't go haring off. >> (The neighborhood is covered, but not the entire city.) << Knowing Sky's capabilities, he'll probably open with a bombardment. Everyone get ready to intercept! >>

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

"Voices in mah head!"

Such is the cry of a small boy present at the Aizawa estate. Someone might have forgotten to give him the memo, but he recognizes the voice from previous encounters! He holds his head and looks around in this strange place. Once again, the dimension a click over, like the contrast blurring on an old CRT screen, it is right there on home turf, but not quite present.

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki transforms into Crimson Rose Duelist!
COMBAT: Niramo Umokeshi transforms into Sourisi!
<Pose Tracker> Ren Aizawa [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

The plan had been decided on and implemented. Ren stood in her room, staring out the window. Outside she could see her would-be bodyguards, some of them circling around overhead. The barrier made sure her family wouldn't get caught up in this, though she was still nervous about something going wrong and exposing them to this mess. Cupped in her hands is Heraut, the gem on the silver ornate ring pulsing slightly.

<We won't fail.> He chimes, reassuring his master. Ren blinks, snapping out of her thoughts, and looks down at the device, smiling slightly.

"Ah. Yeah, I know... Still..." She doesn't voice it but Heraut can certainly intimate what she's feeling. <Do not worry. We will defeat this menace.>

Ren only nods in agreement, summoning up her resolve to face what's coming...

...And speaking of what's coming. The mental communication rings clear through her mind, and her breath catches. << We're ready, Lindy-san! >> She telepaths, steeling herself. "Let's do this, Heraut... Set Up!"

A flash of light overtakes Ren, as her clothes unravel and are replaced by her barrier jacket. Heraut twists into his stately lance form, and a second later she's dashed out the window, floating in the air and watching the sky for the approaching threat.

COMBAT: Ren Aizawa transforms into Barrier Jacket Lustre!
<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.


Lera sits up a little straighter as she listens to the explanation from Hayate. A little part of her lizard brain, the part still feeling a phantom of frustration at how hard it was to be a Device Meister, wants to tune out. But, maturity and understanding keep her from that fleeting notion. She does listen, and she does understand.

But she is quiet. Her eyes glance up, slowly, and she takes the two Devices; a little pen and a bracelet. She clips the bracelet onto her wrist, then slots the pen onto the chain necklace. "...all right," she says. "Thanks, Hayate. I guess... I've got some thinking to do, y'know?"

There is a moment where she is quiet. But it's a familiar voice, softly spoken, that makes her look up. Her amber eyes meet Setsuna's red ones, and there's a moment that is private despite being in front of everyone. "Setsuna... thanks. We won't let you down, y'know?"

<Not we think you would be.> Soaring Sky chimes, and it sounds warm.

<We'll figure it out.> Broken Ground adds, after a second's pause.

"Yeah. Together, y'know?" Lera smiles at Setsuna, and she lingers in that expression, her hand hooked around her neck.

It is routine, after the facts have been stated and discussion made. Lera finds it comforting, in a way, to get back to something so ordinary.

Get showered. Get dressed; a shirt and jeans. The zipper of her jacket slides up, with a little click when it reaches the top. She tugs the light jacket down, then reaches her hands up behind her head, flicking it out. A few stray droplets of water fall down, before she takes a step off the porch, and the bracelet rattles and necklace swings.

She is quiet for a block, stepping over a couple of puddles from a summer shower that happened earlier. She rounds a corner, and mage and Devices are silent for about a block.

Lera opens her mouth. Then she closes it, uncertainly, but before she falls silent, she opens her mouth again.

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJQLmGPAA68

"So... what do the two of you think?"

The little yellow gem in the bracelet flashes, as Lera's arm swings. The flash reflects on some of the puddles at Lera's feet. <I'm with you. After everything... if you'd have me this far. I won't say no.>

<Ground. You don't have to. Whatever you did, in the past... whatever mistakes you're still beating yourself up over. We don't hold that against you.> Sky chimes.

"Sky's right," Lera says. "We don't want you here with us just because you're trying to make up for what you and Jaren did."

<The two of you... nnh. You're not very fair.> But there is, almost, a laugh in his mechanical voice when he says it.

<Of course not. I strive to be as annoying as possible. Besides... I always thought there were holes in who I am. Because I don't remember. Because if I can't, then... it means I'm incomplete.> Soaring Sky falls quiet for a second.

But neither Lera nor Ground fill the space, knowing better than to deny him the chance to collect his thoughts.

He finishes, after a moment: <But everyone has holes in who they are. Devices. Mages. All of us. It's those around us who fill those gaps in our being.>

"Mm." Lera smiles, her hand hooked around the back of her neck. She stops walking, short of the curb at a cross walk. She looks up at the traffic light -- a red washed out by the sun getting low in the sky -- and the sign flashing the word 'STOP' at her.

"Yeah. If it weren't for you two, for both of you... I don't think I'd be complete, y'know?" She looks down So, I guess..."

<Let's do it.>

<How could we not?>

"Mm!" Lera says, with a nod. She takes a step forward, off the curb, as the light changes to--


Lera slides her iPhone into her pocket. It slips in easily; the messages went out, earlier in the day. Individual ones, to those who needed them. Matter-of-fact and simple, though not lacking in her usual warmth. She didn't ask her friends to help protect another friend without making it clear that it meant something to her. Then, she lifts a hand.

She shields her eyes against the afternoon sun, her hand balled into a fist -- around a long piece of metal, with panel lines and two emptied sockets, each the right size for a Device's core. "You two ready?"

<Made ready.>

<Let's do this.>

Lera's eyes focus on a point unseen; a point where a copy of Soaring Sky will come into being. She nods her assent to Lindy's statement; she can be forgiven, she thinks, for not responding. There are a few moments of focus, eyes on the heavens. She nods her head in time with a rhythm of her own anxieties.

When she speaks, it surprises her: "Soaring Sky, Broken Ground. Set up."

<Get set!>

<Get set!>

The piece of metal in her hand glows. It gets brighter, and brighter, and brighter -- and Lera is lost in a titanic flash of golden light that bleeds white at the edges. It could engulf her; it could hide what happens underneath. It doesn't, fading to a nimbus rather than a screen.

Her jacket flashes out behind her -- shorter and ending at the waist now, and but a similar cut. The same feather charm flashes over her ear, blowing in the wind.

But, now, a necklace appears, too: a bar with two sockets, clasping her coat shut. They flash with light, then glow with little golden gems.

A third voice crackles, this one devoid of emotion, compared to the others: <<AURORA HORIZON INITIATED. OPTIMAL LEVELS OF RESONANCE CONFIRMED.>>

In her outstretched right hand, a sword appears. The blade is familiar: golden up the middle, double-edged, and those edges are silver. The pommel glimmers, a shining red light that flashes once. And, in her right, a gem swirls -- and then six pieces of metal expand outward, filled with a crackling energy field that connects them to the center.

Lera Camry takes a step forward, resting Soaring Sky on her shoulder, and holding Broken Ground up with her other hand. "C'mon, everyone! We're gonna have visitors soon!"

COMBAT: Lera Camry transforms into Barrier Jacket Dynamic!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji transforms into Wind Knight!
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.


Fate picks up Bardiche. It should be hard to imagine something so small being filled with something so massive. Yet they've been together for so long that that paradox no longer holds any meaning to her.

Bardiche is so important to her, that he's anything but small.

Fate simply examines him, bobbing her head to Hayate. And steps off outside without another word.

The girl finds herself sitting upon a fence, looking at the sky. Tokyo's light pollution keeps her from seeing too many stars, but there's one there. And another there, "You know - when I first received you. I thought you were Linith's final precious gift to me."

Bardiche doesn't say anything, from his place in Fate's palm.

"But I also think... I resented you a little. Because the day I met you... was the day she left. And the day everything changed."

Now Bardiche finally answers, in that same way as always, yet his affirmative feels nothing like the usual. <Yes Sir.>

The girl cracks a smile, "Before I knew it though - I didn't feel that way anymore. Because you were with me all this time - supporting me, protecting me, when I chose right, and when I chose wrong. Throughout my triumphs and my failures. If it weren't for you - I never would have met everyone."

Leaning herself down as she raises up her palm, she presses Bardiche to her cheek, allowing his warmth to flood her, and her own in turn. "Thank you." She whispers. "Sometimes I still wonder if she knew what she said in motion - when she introduced me to a friend like you."

Bardiche pulses faintly against her once, twice, thrice dimly, barely illuminating her face.


Fate pauses at the warning, then whispers, "... I'm worried too. But I know one thing. I know that whatever happens - we can face it - together."


Fate is sitting on the rooftop of Ren's home, or at least Ren's home half a dimension over. With Bardiche in her palm, she answers within the telepathic channel. <<Acknowledged. Bardiche and I will ready ourselves to intercept immediately.>>

Raising Bardiche up, he gleams within her hand, chiming his readiness before Fate says anything.

<Get Set.>

And the girl shouts in turn. "Bardiche Impulse - Set Up!"

Erupting out of Bardiche is an intense spherical glow of yellow radiance that encompasses her, lifting her off the roof on which she stood.

<Order of Set up - Accepted>

<Operating Check of System Has Started>

<Resonance Drive - Activated>

<Safety Locks - Released.>

<Optimal Levels of Resonance Achieved.>

<Drive Impulse - Ignition>

Suddenly Bardiche flies out of her hands, above, and as he does - purple lightning materializes pieces of his polearm into existence, each being attracted into the place where it needs to be. The parts fit together, twisting into place almost simultaneously to form a dark axe head sitting atop a yellow gem - atop a silver haft..

Yellow light shimmers over the girl's clothes, and where it touches, it transforms into what looks like a dark peacoat with red trim, that's open in the front. Adorned with yellow triangles. It has the feel not so much of military, but a stylish and sleek winter coat that one might see on the street on a particularly cold day. That is where the normalcy ends though.

Metallic gauntlets of interlocking plates fit over her hands, and Metallic boots seem to shift out into place over her feet. A dark cape falling onto her shoulders, that seems nevertheless more mature than what she's worn before. Like a child's fantasy of what she'd like to look like when she grows up come to life.

Fate twirls around once in mid-air, and catches Bardiche, continuing the motion in a flourish that seems to smash into the space around her from the mere air pressure.

Then stopping with one last cut of him in the air, she looks at Lera, and with a serious look says. "Bardiche and I have been fighting Soaring Sky longer than anyone. We won't lose to one that isn't in your hands - Lera."

<Yes Sir.> Her partner - her friend - agrees immediately.

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa transforms into Barrier Jacket Impulse!
<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.


"...It's up to the three of you," Setsuna Higashi says to Lera, to Soaring Sky, and to Broken Ground when Hayate leaves. She has not, herself, gone yet. She's seen Lera with the two Devices for a long time. Her own first meeting with Broken Ground, she can remember. It was indirect...

A girl falling from a rooftop. Acting on instinct, and catching her. Everything that came after.

Soaring Sky, who she's faced opposite before that day when the twin came. A friend, one who has understood her in turn for a long time. He was there, with Lera, at a time when she couldn't yet make decisions...

"But I believe in you. In all of you. And whatever you decide, I'll be out there with you. I thought it was important to say it, even if you know it's true already."

She smiles. ...She doesn't have to say anything else, there.


Setsuna Higashi stands a little behind Lera as she steps forward. She looks up to the sky, too, to that distant point, but then back to Lera herself when the older girl speaks. There is a glow--and a flash of golden light. Setsuna stares into it, into something like her own miniature sun through Lera's transformation. The voice comes--different, and then...

"Wow... You really did it!" The girl from Labyrinth beams at Lera and all of the rest, dazzled at least some by the light. "...But right. I won't stay behind."

"Kiiii~!" says a tiny fairy whirling around Setsuna as she pulls her Linkrun, the phone-like device now opening in her hand. "...Yes. We're going to help." She breathes in, and then--

Change! Pretty Cure! Beat... Up!"

The fairy dives into one of the screens of her Linkrun, and Setsuna is bathed in red light. Her hair lengthens, paling to a warm pink from its natural purple and extending down past the backs of her knees. On her glowing red form a dress appears, red with white frills, with beneath a black bodysuit. Her shoulders glow, and are padded next; her feet, and they are booted. Her arms, and each forearm is adorned with a white-frilled red bracer, and then the gems that make up her headgear shine into being; side, side, top, earrings. Finally, the four-leafed, four-colored clover emblem bursts into existence at her chest.

Cure Passion lands from the column of light again, clack-clack go her heels--

"Freshly ripened! Cure Passion!" And she adopts a fighting stance--and a grin.

"I guess you did get to him first," Cure Passion calls to Fate. "But I won't be left behind, either!"

A warm, certain smile spreads on her face, and she looks to both of them, settles on Lera in her new form. "I'm with you all the way."

COMBAT: Setsuna Higashi transforms into Cure Passion!
<Pose Tracker> Sourisi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

The assault that took place in the Easter Department Store was fast, destructive and overwhelming. Sourisi may have invited herself into the battle shortly after it started, but it doesn't change the fact that all of the Defenders of Tokyo who went forth to fight the shadowy doppelgangers fell one after another.

Getting turned into a pincushion by spears also really, -really- hurts.

A few days to rest from the magical assault is needed, but with dark clones of several Device Wielders running free and apparently gotten what they came for, it leaves Sourisi with a bad taste in her mouth. One of the targets from the previous attacks, the wielder of Fallen Stern, is met by a chance encounter just the previous night. A small conversation later about the twin assault and plan to bring the last remaining criminal to a battleground of their choosing, and Sourisi is quick to offer help without being asked. If they can throw a wrench into these new evildoers' plans, then that can give them a chance to stop them before it goes any further.

The location of the planned trap is a cause of concern for at least one of those lying in wait.

"Do we really need to draw them out here? Couldn't we have found a construction lot to use instead?" Down on the ground, Sourisi is tugging on the end of her braid out of nerves. Dark green eyes keep glancing around at the house, their bearer sporting a frown. "I know the Barrier is supposed to protect everyone and everything from what's going to happen, but this is pretty much letting whoever the puppetmaster is know exactly where one of us live."

The telepathic communication is sudden but expected, and Sourisi nods at the plan. "So, get the copy Soaring Sky inside then do our best to take him down? Got it!" Sourisi lowers her hands onto the grips of her twin tonfa and looks upwards at the clear sky overhead. "Let's try to air out our grievaces, then!"

But then, a burst of light envelops the grounds, very noticeable despite the midday sun overhead. The Miraculous User twists her head away from trying to see the incoming energy signal in the sky towards the source and gazes upon Lera, the newly christen Aurora Horizon ready for the upcoming battle.

A surge of air pressure presses the grass flat around the estate, Fate and Bardiche Impulse working together in unison to have a presence that could easily be felt.

Eyes widen in surprise behind their mask, and only one word comes to mind. "Whao."

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

"Voices in mah head!"

Such is the cry of a small boy present at the Aizawa estate. Someone might have forgotten to give him the memo, but he recognizes the voice from previous encounters! He holds his head and looks around in this strange place. Once again, the dimension a click over, like the contrast blurring on an old CRT screen, it is right there on home turf, but not quite present.

The previous encounters with these strange copy weapons was dire. The threat they posed was scary! It was like each were a model 2.0 or something. Or perhaps the users were just immaculate in their ability to wield Belkan magic. Whatever the case may be, Steven Universe was here to help out! He has so many friends among those who wear Barrier Jackets proud.

Though unlike them, he wears only a normal jacket, but is full of the same amount of spirit! Some kind of cardigan. A soft red affair. He otherwise wears his signature symbol, a shirt with a yellow shooting star upon it. Also realizing how much it hurt to walk on department store debris with just flip-flops, he has brought powder blue and white sneakers. So it doesn't get abliterated, the hamburger backpack was left behind.

As being present for the first fight, the boy was brought in again to assist! And glad he is than they think he can do something against these crazy style attacks! Well, interception and point guard is pretty important, actually.

It was time to take to the battlefield. "Good luck everyone! Try to stay safe!" he adds, as folks begin to take to the field by ground or sky. Or BOTH in one persons case! "Whoah..." eyes filled with wonder behold a new form for Lera! "Oh that is so cool! How did she do that?!" Fate as well! "Your explosions are going to be so much cooler now, I bet!" he says.

True fact; this is how they met. Steven knows how to make friends.

"Okay, that is super cool, but we gotta step up and be cool like them! Let's do it!" In a pink flash, the boy is armed. Or implemented, possibly a better word. He waves his shield about excitedly! "Ooooo! Badguys better look out! We're comin' for you!"

COMBAT: Steven Universe transforms into Serious Steven!
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Kasagami Araki observes the transformation of the renewed and reinvigorated Device Users, head tilted curiously at first. When it ends? Her coat and hair whips back from Fate's slashing of Bardiche, from the sheer magic emanated from her friends and new allies as she witnesses the fruit borne by the connection of hearts, mage, and Device acting as one! Something about it is utterly beautiful to the Duelist. Ignoring the slight thrumming her head has from all of the telepathy, she can't help but smile as she gazes upon the others.

Souls connected, fighting together, to stop something horrid that would take precious things away from others. Tears threaten to fill her eyes, moved as she is by it. Her heart hammers uncomfortably as her gnawing feelings of inadequacy, fear of old traumas and powerlessness nip at the heels of her burning ambitions that such a sight has her feeling keenly.

It's a lot to process. But she's able to shove aside her own internal problems for the sake of that precious bond these mages all have...and the ones that would dare threaten that only fill her heart with righteousness fit for a king! Confidence flows on the back of her friends' transformations. She turns to her side, reaching her hand into her coat as she pauses.

"All of you really do believe in each other." Whispers Kasagami, as she peers from Device, to wielder, to fellow friends of these mages. Her hands tighten. She remembers the sheer power and skill that the Dark Devices wielded. How could she, for all her effort and want, match up to it?

Can partnership really give such strength? With mental effort, she shoves aside her own musings once again. Slowly a grin comes to her face. Lera encourages them, Steven too seems confident. The hand where her Rose Signet rings resides runs through her hair and she flicks it through her dark locks. With a glint from the ring, the Duelist spins, back arced with her eyes closed as magic over takes her. Hers isn't the sheer shine of a Mage or a Pretty Cure, it's a trick of the light, a slow unfolding when one isn't quite looking. Her hand reaches across her back and beneath her longcoat where she draws her unseen overlong nodachi, spinning about gracefully and swiftly as mirror surfaces ensconce her for the merest of moments, alternating angles as her clothes take on more embellishments and her hair blooms a beautiful crimson highlight. She sweeps her blade down with both hands hard enough to send her hair and coat swaying dramatically as confidence once again shows in her visage.

A wild, royal grin of a Would-Be King is there as she grips her nodachi straight out.

"With such valiant knights taking the field, how could a King dare let imposters rampage without responding to these bandits' foul aims!? I stand in awe of such brilliant, soulful warriors that I have the honor of calling my allies and friends! Let's drive back our enemies and show them what we're truly capable of!" Offers the Duelist loudly and empassioned!

<Pose Tracker> Vita Yagami [None] has posed.


Vita had pulled herself apart from Shamal and Signum only with reluctance, to face the assembled people. Shamal had absolved her failures, but she still felt them keenly, seeing the tired people and healed Devices. She stepped up, nodding to Hayate, her master and friend and mentor and -- so many things, and reaches for Graf Eisen, pulling up the small passive Device, a polo hammer on an understated chain. "How you doing, Count?" she asks, stepping away as the group considers Hayate's offer.

<<~Sytems are fully functional.~>> the Iron Count replies, sticking to his traditional Belkan.

Vita grimaces, eyes cutting to the side. "You know that's not..."

<<~They defeated us but once, my Rider.~>>

Vita turns her eyes down to her chiming Device, tipping her head.

<<~I want my rematch!~>>

Vita barks a laugh. "Yeah! Let's get 'em!"


Vita sends back a confirming grunt to Lindy's call, and then hops to her feet, balancing on the wall she'd chosen to perch upon. Ever the vanguard. "Eisen. We're going."


Vita steps forward, thrusting the small iron hammer charm forward. It flashes with blazing red-white light, forming instantly into her full-sized polo hammer of a weapon. When Vita grips it by the handle at the far end,velvet gloves bursting into being, it's longer than she is, but she hefts it effortlessly, leverage be damned. As she sets feet on the air, iron greaves flash into being around her feet.

The vest and jacket of the upper layer superimpose themselves over her shirt and then replace it; the skirt unfurls in rolls of ribbons and light, scooting down until it's below her knees. The ribbon on the back, the long thing that looks like leather and is probably something impossible, blasts in time with her skirts as Vita's hat flashes onto her head, seconds before the girl soars off into the sky. "Nervous?" Vita asks, quietly; a vocal conversation meant only for her partner.

<<~Obviously. Only a fool does not fear his enemy.~>>

Vita grins, just a little, and lets him say what they're both thinking.

<<~But soon they will be more.~>>

COMBAT: Vita Yagami transforms into Crimson Iron Rider!
<Pose Tracker> Signum Yagami [None] has posed.


"Removing the protective configurations to save on their mana throughput... perilous," Signum says, muses really. She gazes towards the proffered devices. Towards Laevatein, so small, so slim, in this form. She meditates in silence, as she restores the Device to the thin chain round her neck.

Her hand rests atop the Device.

You have to want it more than you want anything else.

Signum gazes at Hayate as she speaks these words. Her lips purse, just a little. Her eyes crinkle, just a little. Is it pride? Awe? Such words are like sketches around the edges of this feeling.


<< Understood >> Signum replies in the telepathic link-up. It is a calm reply. The information is not a surprise, although, of course, she reminds herself, it could still hold a great surprise. They are at a disadvantage in intelligence, even now...

"A construction lot would be suspicious," Signum tells Sourisi. "Have faith in the barrier. We will fight together; our goal is protection, of one as well as all."

Bardiche flies above her, in unison with Fate. Lera Camry, resplendent in her armament. Signum remembers for a melancholy, wabi-sabi moment how long they struggled against each other. Ah, the fruits of willful pride. Her grasp tightens around the hilt of Laevatein, who she has held in the Device's sword-form...

Which metamorphizes into the schlangen-form... gently moves back into the bow-form...


It is not a private question. Signum is speaking with reflection as she levitates, her armored coat resplendent as she watches the sky. She is not high up. She is being restrained - a mountain restraining a lake. The dam will break - when the time is right.

<<I swore that I would fight in your stead, once. I am glad that this will instead, be a battle alongside you all.>>

COMBAT: Signum Yagami transforms into General of the Raging Fire!
<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.


Endo sits, his fingers curled tight around the roughly hewn purple gem in his hands. His fingers trace the jagged edges, running along dark veins and cracks in the surface. The rest of the house is dark, just him and his device, the reclining chair he sits on creaking quietly.


BGM: Stargazing - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Le36EZ8aWs

They've been together for a long time, though so many things in so many places; On the frigid sheets of the north pole and aboard an alien spaceship, in magical worlds and on the branches of the world tree. On the surface of the moon and lost in caverns deep beneath the earth. At moments of triumph and despair. At the end of the world.

"You could have let me die." There at the end of the world. He had, in fact, though not through any fault of Stern's. Even after he'd broken his contract the device had served him in one last desperate attempt.


"But you didn't."

There's a long pause in their mental conversation, a quiet static before the response comes: <ONCE I WAS GREAT.> There is another, longer pause before the device continues: <WITH YOU I CAN BE GREATER.>

"Aaah..." Endo's fingers squeeze around the gem in his hand, pressing it tight against his chest. Then, with a great exhale, he laughs. "Is that the nicest thing you've said to me? Did it hurt? Are you broken?" Some of the tension that had filled his body exits with that laugh, leaving behind something lighter. More hopeful.

"I need you too, Stern."


Endo Naoki stands waiting in front of the Aizawa household's door. His head is canted, paying close attention to the reports that come back from his allies in the sky. Occasionally his gaze stretches up to where Ren Aizawa is waiting, as if to make sure that she hasn't escaped in the few minutes between checkups.

And then the word comes.

Endo's eyes rise skyward, dark gaze searching the horizon. He grasps in inactive device once more, asking: "Ready, Stern?"


The boy extends his arm skyward. Not for a moment does he doubt.

How could a star be afraid to burn?

BGM: Once more... - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMrk8NNj6M8

"Fallen Stern - "


Purple light explodes from between Endo's fingers, flaring light tinged with streaks of inky black. It spreads over him in a rush, transforming whatever it touches. Purple flames burn away his clothing, leaving dark armor and white cloth behind. From behind him billows out a cape now marked by golden triangles, glimmering symbols that now appear etched across both armor and clothing.

The weapon that extends above his head now is much the same as before, an enormous piece of dark metal. Though just as ponderous as before now the edges of the blade ripple with violet energy, the metal along the sides receded back to be replaced by a thin beams of energy that trace their way to the circular point of the device.

Most importantly: Endo no longer stands. When the sword falls to his side it dangles in the empty air, several inches off the ground that the boy's feet no longer touch. His cape billows behind as he surges upward, into the air, to meet whatever assault the mirrored Sky is to bring to bear.

COMBAT: Endo Naoki transforms into Barrier Jacket Zerstörer!
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"Is it okay for me to be here..?"

Part of that nervous question is obvious - Mikoto had to be told the way to Ren's house because Mikoto has never been to Ren's house, on account of all the terrorising. This is the first time she has approached her without suspicion or ill intent, and Mikoto feels terribly awkward about it. The other part, of course, is that somewhere poor Midori has been left with an apologetic note on behalf of one of her SUMMER SCHOOL students. After months of neglecting school entirely, Mikoto is trying to catch back up..! ... but when she got this particular message, she decided there were things more important than formulae. She's done a lot of things to hurt Ren - but maybe now she can do something to help her. (And everyone else...)

It's fine. For some reason, that teacher is fairly understanding about extracurricular activities.

Which is good, because their reality could be described as extracurricular right now, too. Inside the barrier, Mikoto grasps Miroku, and she watches the sky intently from that front lawn.

She's not unused to hearing their voices in her head, at this point. None of them are trying to pass themselves off as Mikoto, so she's fine with those warnings not to run off on their own. "Right!" She says, with a firm nod - out loud, naturally - and she tightens her grip on her blade. It's the sort of tension which runs right through her body, remembering the strength which those Devices brought to bear - and feeling that bowstring-tightness she stops, takes a deep breath.

"It's okay," she repeats, for herself, but not just for herself. "... it's okay." These are strong enemies, but they don't need to fall to desperation. They're not alone.

She's here with Lera - Lera, whose message called her here and made sure she didn't lose her way, who stands resonant with Soaring Sky and Broken Ground, sword and shield in both hands. Lera, who Mikoto can trust to always make sure she's okay, even when consciousness fails her.

And she is here with Ren - who allowed her into her home to help, even though she'd acted so poorly towards them all. Ren, whose lustrous lance needn't terrify her any more, no matter the strength behind it.

Fate - who was a light at the end of that dark tunnel for Mikoto, and whose experience she still looks to now, as Bardiche goes to Impulse. Capes look better, she thinks, on someone who actually wants to wear one.

Vita, who Mikoto cannot thank enough for breaking through her barriers - and Signum, who Mikoto still remembers breaking bread with, in their fashion.


And she is here with Endo Naoki - burning starlike dark and light, energy along Fallen Stern as that boy sets up and for the first time takes to the air, without, Mikoto sees, a single Belkan magic circle beneath his feet.

"You're different," she reflects on those new unions, as she looks over - and up, and she exclaims out loud, too: "Endo's flying!" A smile crosses over her face, as she recognises that strength. "... yeah! Let's hit them hard!"

Shockingly, Mikoto is enthusiastic about increased capacity to smash things when it comes to her friends.

That much hasn't changed.

Her gaze turns to two of those girls in particular, though. "I started after Fate and Passion... but I remember how it went really good," it just happened, after all, though Mikoto doesn't say something so evident as she turns her attention to Lera. "So I'm all ready to help!"

Tense - but not strangled tight.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi transforms into HiME Mikoto!
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Even with healing magic, rare a gift as that is, it takes time to recover all the way from getting blasted unconscious by a sentient magical weapon. Physically, Fuu is well enough - she can walk around, even join her teammates at archery practice, and not seem any the worse for wear - but the aches linger. Or rather, one ache lingers that seems to take up all of her body, particularly when she doesn't have anything else to concentrate on.

Such as a message from Lera. Or the prospect of a second battle against those seemingly independent Devices who attacked them, all of them, at Easter Department Store.

There's a piece of Fuu which has to think twice about it; she's not so eager to throw herself back into the fray as to do so when the battle might just be a repeat of the first encounter. But she's not the one who has a plan for this rematch: the skeleton of the plan is in place, and the details are being laid in. Details which include her.

The rest of Fuu Hououji doesn't need to stop and think more than once - these are her friends, her allies, those she's fought alongside (and sometimes against) for higher stakes than most teenagers ever have to worry about. That part of her is ready to say 'yes' while the other part is evaluating whether or not it's a good idea.

But her answer to Lera, when it comes, is whole-hearted: "Yes, I'll be there to help however I can."

And she is. When the barrier shifts them half a dimension over, Fuu is just outside the Aizawa family's yard, barely within the perimeter. She wastes no time at all in pulling on her glove-jewel, briefly clenching her left fist under the fabric and crystal and filigree. The pain of being blasted unconscious in the Easter battle is nothing more than a memory at this point - even the lingering ache seems to have faded for good.

"Belief becomes power ... Winds, guide me!!"

There's little enough to see normally as the green-tinted whirlwind rises and enfolds Fuu, veiling her from the view of any onlookers (though there are none here); her summer clothes, casual yet subtly classy, fade like a memory to be replaced by her own armor. The echo of a middle-school blazer and skirt, dyed green by the power which made her a warrior, weave together about her; actual armor materializes over that clothing - breastplate and backplate, pauldrons and bracers and boots. And as the outward transformation takes place, so too does the inward: Fuu feels the power of her magic welling up within her, filling her heart, ready to make her will manifest.

The whirlwind disperses; the Magic Knight of Wind lifts her gaze to the sky, and her bow and quiver materialize, arming her for ranged combat. She wastes no time in pulling an arrow from the quiver, nocking it to bowstring - even though the enemy has yet to appear.

But she can still be ready for when they do.

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

The mood at the Aizawa house-turned-compound is more calm than grim, for the most part. Some are determined to keep it that way.

"It's the opposite, actually," a young man in a black battle coat, who happened to be nearby, remarks to Sourisi when she starts complaining about their plan. "Since they stole Soaring Sky and Fallen Stern's memories, they already know where she lives. By putting the barrier here, we're challenging the ones targeting her specifically. If we put it over Tokyo Tower, who knows who or what would show up spoiling for a fight? This is the safest choice. But, that's some good critical thinking. Keep it up."

Chrono Harlaown bites off the final word 'cadet' before it escapes his lips. He's not in a military organization anymore, and the Miraculous-user isn't a recruit in any case. Instead, he summons a big silver staff out of thin air, one that radiates chill, then soars off to join his mother and their ferret-changeling friend in reinforcing the barrier.

Two others have shown up before he even arrives: Arf and Zafira, who have taken their human forms and splayed out complex sigildry beneath them, glowing teal and blue respectively.

"We'll be feeding you additional power," Zafira says gravely.

"You're gonna need all the juice you can get to keep Fate and the others from accidentally breaking the barrier by SNEEZING!" Arf adds, excited.

"Thanks," Lindy replies in the softest of murmurs, her eyes closed and arms stretched wide, the magic passing from her, to her, and through her, causing her hair to billow widely around her in a vast, pale swirl. "Now shush. I'm trying to concentrate."

Chrono amiably -- and silently -- erects force fields around the barrier group, each spinning with intricate Midchildan syntax.

<< He's here! >> Lindy announces, broad-band.

He is.

<SoundTracker: Battle Music> Brynhildr In The Darkness Ver Ejected https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=581yuUMGQPE

The cloaked figure is approaching at a terrible velocity. Cruelly abused air ignites in their wake, while space itself warps around them with a transdimensional shimmer, as they're crossing a distance with a speed measured not only in meters and seconds, but also in cosmo-knots, Jeremy Bearimys. Best not to think about where they came from. By the time you finish the thought, they'll be where they're going.

They're here.

As predicted, they lead with a bombardment, so it's a good thing everyone's transformed and set for impact. Black Sky lengthens ahead of his carrier, crackling with raw power, and rips a slash in the very heavens. Arcs of plasma burst out of it like empyrean blood, arcs that rain down on everyone and everything with thundrous impact and a complete and total lack of discrimination as to target, let alone actual mercy.

Chrono's aforementioned force fields become very important, since the whole block was just taken out in a single great roar of fire and shattering glass and smashed concrete. Everyone inside seems safe for now. As is everyone outside the barrier he's protecting... as long as it holds.

<<YOU WILL SUBMIT,>> he announces, casual in his belief in this inevitability. It is a less-friendly way to call for surrender than most, and the first thing the 'completed' Black Sky has said to the group, rather than to his comrades. <<OR YOU WILL SUFFER ONCE MORE.>>

The black-gloved hands of the cloaked figure thump harshly together, and when they again separate, it's with Soaring Sky split into his dual-blade formation, each energy sword glowing with dangerously intense orange light. They beckon the waiting crowd.

<<THREE NEW RESONANCE SHIFTS DETECTED,>> he adds, presumably directed at his allies but arrogant enough to let his enemies here, too. <<IT WON'T MATTER.>>

Black Sky walks over from Tama Outer City.

COMBAT: Black Sky has used Plasma Arcs on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Plasma Arcs on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Plasma Arcs on Endo Naoki.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Plasma Arcs on Signum Yagami.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Plasma Arcs on Vita Yagami.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Plasma Arcs on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Plasma Arcs on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Plasma Arcs on Sourisi.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Plasma Arcs on Cure Passion.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Plasma Arcs on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Plasma Arcs on Lera Camry.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Plasma Arcs on Ren Aizawa.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa partially dodges 4 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Plasma Arcs, taking 18 Fatigue damage!  Black Sky is
Psyched!  Fate Testarossa's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi braces 17 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Plasma Arcs, taking 14 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  
COMBAT: Cure Passion dodges 10 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Plasma Arcs, taking 15 Fatigue damage!  Cure Passion's Fade and
Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki partially dodges 5 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Plasma Arcs, taking 19 Fatigue damage!  Kasagami Araki's
Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji perfectly dodges 27 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Plasma Arcs, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!
Fuu Hououji's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Sourisi fails to dodge Black Sky's Plasma Arcs, taking 32 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  
COMBAT: Steven Universe perfectly braces 29 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Plasma Arcs, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Brace!
Steven Universe's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki fails to brace Black Sky's Plasma Arcs, taking 24 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Vita Yagami braces 15 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Plasma Arcs, taking 12 Fatigue damage!  Vita Yagami's Block and
Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Ren Aizawa partially dodges 5 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Plasma Arcs, taking 21 Fatigue damage!  Ren Aizawa's Flash
ability activates!
COMBAT: Lera Camry braces 19 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Plasma Arcs, taking 8 Fatigue damage!  Lera Camry's Block and Parry
abilities activate!

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

"I didn't think you would, not even for one second, y'know?" Lera says, glancing sideways at Fate. She flashes her a bright grin, which reflects -- if at slightly uneven angles -- in the silver and gold panes of her sword. "I'd say to go make me proud, Fate, but... you already did that."

<And Bardiche? Try to not have too much fun.> Sky adds.

Lera rolls her eyes, but only in a good natured sort of way. Then she inclines her head to Fate, in a half nod, and then her eyes shift towards Cure Passion, as she steps up. They linger on her, before she cracks a smile. "I know, Passion. Stay close, y'know?"

She looks to the other side -- and that's when her eyes catch that Endo floats a little higher than she expected. She blinks a couple of times, then she gets a smile on her face. "Endo!" she says. "C'mon. We gotta keep Ren and everyone else safe, y'know?"

She looks ahead, then. Back up at the sky; back at where she expects the other Sky to come from. She nods at the others; at Steven's wonderment, at Kasagami's fierce praise, at Mikoto's shift from hesitance to eagerness in a heartbeat, Fuu's assurance, and certainly at the sheer, steadfast presence of the Wolkenritter. Their presence buoys her, heartens her, and makes it easier to take a step forward. The forcefields shine up around them; the barrier emerges and the sun that almost blinded her, earlier, is gone.

"Ren," Lera says, as Black Sky makes his appearance. "Stay safe, y'know? We're gonna make sure it's different, this time."

The plasma arrayed against her, scorching the heaven and arching down at her, is so familiar.

It lights the skies up, along Chrono's barriers -- and then comes down at them. Lera's eyes narrow, and two Devices cry out, one after the other:



Circles of red-orange and hexagons of pale gold appear. Plasma arcs, so familiar, slam into them; a dozen arcs meet a dozen barriers. Each explodes into sparkles, but the mage that steps through looks untouched. Lera Camry looks up, eyes narrowing. "Been awhile, hasn't it? Since we did that..."

<I prefer our current arrangements.> Sky's amused tone does not last. <Lera. Ground. He has my memories. The ones I've lost. I'm relying on both of you to make up for that.>

Lera nods.

<Affirmative. Crushing!>

Lera flies up into the sky -- directly into the path of Black Sky. She floats there, then swings Broken Ground. The circular, buckler-like shield expands the six solid portions outward. Motes of light flow about the gem at the center, which crackles. The shield's energy barrier, between those solid segments, flickers.

And then a dozen bolts of light fly out -- and then another dozen, and and another -- and they weave, dance, bob, and twist all together. The darts converge, like raindrops lifted and sent flying in defiance of wind and gravity, before they converge on Black Sky.

<Bombadier Cascade!>

COMBAT: Lera Camry has used Bombadier Cascade on Black Sky.
COMBAT: Signum Yagami braces 15 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Plasma Arcs, taking 12 Fatigue damage!  Signum Yagami's Block and
Parry abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

"Signum..." The girl says aloud. Before switching to mental communication. <<Whether that is the oath of a knight - or the promise of a friend. Bardiche and I are honored that you do not have to. We'll fight together - with you and Laevateinn.>>

Before the child smiles at Lera, eyes twinkling. "I feel the same way."

Before Bardiche responds to Sky with a simple chime of. <No promises.>

"A lot is different now." Fate replies to Mikoto, before saying, "Let's prove that - today."

As Lindy warns them - and Sky appears, Fate Testarossa rises up subtly in the air to meet him and his 'wielder'. "Submit?"

She repeats the word, questioning, and it has the feel of the child not comprehending the command - because it seems absurd to her.

As the orange light flies at her, the girl begins charging in, darting around, twisting through the haze of orange. The energy burning a streak across her cape as she pivots around in mid-air.

And then it feels like the girl has disappeared behind the haze of Lera's Bombadier cascade - as if she were using it to obfuscate her advance.


That sound comes from above - the girl trying to ambush Black Sky and his wielder from above, in a descending two-handed blow with her poleaxe.

The Mage immediately disengages, before engaging again, swinging her poleaxe all the way to the edge of her reach - axe head leading sometimes, the opposite end the others - the whirling device minimizing the openings in her guard.

"I've been fighting against Soaring Sky and at his side for two years."

Breaking each time Black Sky dodges - or she makes contact - before appearing at another angle - and swinging again.

Sparks fly on each hit.

"Saying Bardiche and I being closer won't matter is-"

Circling up and around - the girl comes at the Black Sky in an upside down somersault, her jacket's tails, cloak, and twintails twisting behind her in mid-air as she assails him with one final powerful diagonal strike that swings downwards.

It appears to be an attempt to smash him lower in altitude for the other magical girls that fight closer to the ground.


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

Ren's eyes fall to everyone who is assembled here at the moment. All of them were here to protect her... and to hopefully beat back these shadow device wielders who had so sufficiently wreaked havoc on their lives in such a short span of time. "Everyone..." She says softly, gripping Heraut tight. Suddenly she's filled with hope -- with vigor. They will win this. She'll give it her all like always. There's no time to be scared or worried. All she has to do now...

...Is fight.

But before the battle is to be started, new advantages are to be revealed. Ren watches as Lera, Fate, and Endo embrace the new forms of their devices. She can feel the power radiating off of the three of them, and it brings a genuine smile to her face. And Endo can fly now!

However, at the same time it doesn't escape her that Heraut wasn't keen on the upgrade that Hayate informed them all about, likely worried for Ren's safety. After all, he'd already lost a master to too much power being accessed at once. And with that, Ren simply resolved to make do with the power she currently had. As always.

Lindy-san sends another telepathic message about Black Sky's arrival, and Ren watches as the sheer force of the cloaked figure makes itself known. The proclamations of defeat echo ominously through the air -- but Ren ignores them, choosing to instead glare in defiance. Then Black Sky attacks, plasma arcs streaking out towards everyone. Ren jukes to the side, but it isn't quite enough to completely avoid the hit, which bites into her side and nearly causes her to bite her tongue.

Retaliation is already in the cards for that transgression, of course. Ren formulates the spell and launches it off, lances of phantasmal bronze light burning through the intervening space in the blink of an eye towards the devious imposter.

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Aerial Ace on Black Sky.
<Pose Tracker> Cure Passion [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

"I will," Passion says back to Lera, and looks around at each of the others, eyes weidening slightly to see Endo floating above. But then they go...

Or well, they stay. They stay, as the force fields go up, and the battle begins in earnest. Passion trusts in the barriers--and in her friends. SHe focuses on herself at the moment, and where Lera goes for shielding, Cure Passion dives to the side, dancing through one plasma impact and rolling with the next that she can't avoid, and the next, rolling along the ground after that to smother out the lingering heat. She knows them well, in another form--

But here and now, Cure Passion hops back up. She steps back up with Lera, her pink hair billowing in the wind caused by all this powerful magic. "Haah--"

Bending at the knee, Pretty Cure leaps upward just after Lera's bolts, coming in after the explosion already rotating mid-air to build momentum--

"I know Soaring Sky!"

And kicks mid-air once, twice, three times, aiming to take advantage of the impact to keep it going. "I know the girl he works with. I know all of the ones you're going after! Who treated me as one of them!" Kick, "And they're why I'm here now!"

COMBAT: Cure Passion has used Rising Passion on Black Sky.
COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has used Turbulent Blazer on Black Sky.
<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

Endo's eyes follow the blazing approach of the cloaked figure as he rises, lips set into a tight line. Through the corner of his eyes he can see his allies--and more importantly, he can FEEL Lera and Fate changing as he does. Mikoto's call even draws a tight smile from the boy, a hand raised to acknowledge the girl with the other dark sword.

"Okay!" He replies to Lera, "Everyone...let's go!"

It's a moment of levity that does not last. The sky opens up and plasma pours out, sheeting down in destructive arcs. Endo is still getting used to flying, and he doesn't trust he'll have the agility to avoid the burning attack.


A purple dome sparks to life in front of the boy, cracking and sizzling as the enemy Sky's attack collides with it. It doesn't hold as well as Endo would hope, burning through to flare against his barrier jacket and draw out a sharp hiss of pain.

It doesn't stop him from going forward, though. He's still Endo.

"Stern, let's show them what we can do!" Endo's fingers grip the device tight as he begins to form the spell. It's a little different this time, mostly because he's in the air.


Belkan triangles spin into existence in the air ahead of him, flaring to life in the afternoon sky. Each blazes with purple-black fire, and each one he passes through seems to double his speed. The air around the boy ripples and distorts as he leaves the last symbol, his body turning into a controlled spin. Even in the daylight he leaves fiery contrails behind, the glowing edges of his weapon cutting through the air.

The final spin brings the weapon around in a great cleaving motion straight toward the sinister copy of Lera's device and its wielder.


COMBAT: Black Sky braces 22 Fatigue damage from Ren Aizawa's Turbulent Blazer, taking 18 Fatigue damage!  Ren Aizawa is Psyched!
COMBAT: Black Sky cleanly braces 11 Fatigue damage from Cure Passion's Rising Passion, taking 2 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
Cure Passion is Psyched!
<Pose Tracker> Sourisi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Signum and the black-garbed newcomer both give good reasons as to why the fight must take place at the Aizawa household, but the praise from Chrono Harlaown is enough for Sourisi to gain a light blush. "That makes sense, and a fair point! I just don't want any innocents getting involved if I can help it."

The banter is light enough that the Miraculous User takes in a breath to calm her nerves. Kasagami, the Wind Knight, Steven, Cure Passion and Mikoto were here as well to help the Device Wielders in their plan, and they were expecting a fight on home turf. All they need to do is stick with the plan!

Lindy's announcement brings the mouse tonfa wielder back to the present, and it's hard to miss the incoming cloak figure almost being dragged behind by the dark Device. The bombardment is launched off from the weapon, and plasma lances downward from the heavens with a thunderous cry, and Sourisi leaps backwards just in time to avoid an bolt.

Only to leap directly into the path of another.

Stifling a cry from the shock (mostly due to contracting jaw muscles), the ravenette rapidly shakes her arms to loosen tightening arms and glares up at the hooded puppet. "That's pretty funny, you're not the first evildoer to tell us to back down and it won't be the last either!"

With the last traces of tingling nerves fading away, Sourisi pulls her tonfa free of the clasps holding them close to her calves. Polish rosewood reflect the natural sunlight, modest compared to the many weapons held at the ready, but the Miraculous User wouldn't want it any other way.

It doesn't have to be flashy to get the job done.

Twin tonfa fly heavenwards, earthly defiance against the heavenly assault just a moment ago, the wind whistling in their passing. "Everything matters, no matter how small you think it is, and everyone here will prove it!"

COMBAT: Endo Naoki has used Meteor Absturz on Black Sky.
COMBAT: Sourisi has used Crashing Tooth on Black Sky.
COMBAT: Black Sky partially dodges 5 Fatigue damage from Sourisi's Crashing Tooth, taking 21 Fatigue damage!  Black Sky's Fade and
Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Black Sky fails to brace Fate Testarossa's Aerial Ace, taking 33 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Fate Testarossa is
COMBAT: Black Sky fails to brace Lera Camry's Bombadier Cascade, taking 34 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Black Sky fails to brace Endo Naoki's Meteor Absturz, taking 72 Fatigue damage!  
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

He's here.

Here like a rocket or a shooting star, so fast that Mikoto for a moment does not recognise why her heels have shifted and her blade has turned, until her mind catches up to her instincts and she realises just what she's responding to.

Plasma arcs, and Mikoto's first instinct is to dive out of the way - but she's here to protect someone, after all. She digs her heels in, instead: she brings her blade up, braced defensive, and energy washes over her as she meets it. Her lips tug back to expose teeth, a growl belly-deep which has nothing to do with hunger.

The block is a crater, now, but she looks to the others and they, at least, are whole. Up to their foes, and her eyes narrow as Black Sky declares their submission.

BGM: III - Awakening Will https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQg_Jr6dPIw

"No," Mikoto replies, firm in voice and stance. "I've suffered enough. And I'm done submitting!" She is angry, but it is at least an anger distinct from the rage she threw at them so often, in her tenure.

She is not just angry.

And she's not lying to herself, the way she was then.

Just as Fate says - a lot is different now.

Mikoto cannot fly, like Fate or Lera or now - it seems - like Endo; what Mikoto can do, alarmingly well, is jump. One-two-three she charges forward and springs upwards, with a wordless roar of determination, blade swinging up. The flat of Miroku craters down just like she does - aimed right for the shoulder of Black Sky's wielder.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness on Black Sky.
COMBAT: Black Sky dodges 12 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness, taking 18 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto
Minagi is Psyched!  Black Sky's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

They knew the bombardment was coming, and it helps. When the Plasma Arcs start falling, the Wind Knight is ready - not so much leaping to one side as dashing, and letting a conjured tailwind propel her faster than her legs alone, cornering harder than she could by pushing off with her booted feet in a direction other than the one in which she was bound. And yet with every leap, she keeps her arrow ready on the string, as steady as though she were standing at the line in an archery tournament. The direction may waver, but the arrow stays nocked, shaft resting above the grip.

She wants to be *ready* when the shot she needs presents itself ... and a moment later, it does, thanks in large part to Fate's diving attack against Black Sky.

The Wind Knight twists about as she lands from her last evasive leap, raising her bow and lining up her shot, drawing back the string even as the wind swirls about her, seemingly blinding her for a split second when her hair lashes across her glasses. But the turbulence is tamed - was tamed from the start, perhaps - and once more becomes a tailwind, not for the Magic Knight but for the shaft that leaps from her bowstring, accompanied by a call of, "GALE ARROW!!"

And the arrow and the wind alike tear towards Black Sky, howling like the forewarning of an oncoming storm.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Gale Arrow on Black Sky.
COMBAT: Black Sky dodges 11 Fatigue damage from Fuu Hououji's Gale Arrow, taking 16 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji is Psyched!
Black Sky's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Signum Yagami [None] has posed.

<<Both,>> Signum answers Fate.

And then: The bombardment falls down on them like steel rain. Laevatein slides into sword mode in Signum's grasp; she casts a shadow in that screaming moment of light; it fades, and she remains, singed but still intact.

Laevatein gleams.

"SILENCE!" Signum shouts.

The blade is slid into its sheath as she faces the shadow-figure down.

"It matters not if you hold one blade, two, or a thousand," Signum speaks with that brass projection that she has revealed so rarely. "You have brought suffering into this world... you have hurt those for whom my heart pounds, by means direct and indirect. This is a thing that cannot be forgiven without remorse."

She clasps Laevatein's hilt. "I am Signum Yagami," she states. "This realm is mine to guard." She tenses back on one foot. "I shall not allow such luminous arrogance to spread further. Defend yourself!"

Signum's eyes widen. She leans forwards - the ground blurrs behind her as she snaps closer, letting out a rumbling alto "huuuwwwwhhh" that snaps into an enormous shout of "CHO!" as she closes the critical distance and, with a bursting magenta halation, Laevatein erupts out of the sheath in a strike of sufficient force to put a meter-deep divot in the road paving behind the cloaked figure.

Perhaps through him as well.

Signum does not stop there, twisting round into two more strikes and a single-handed chest-centered thrust before moving to disengage -- or perhaps move out of the way of someone right behind her...

"Thank you," she says to Mikoto Minagi as she crosses right behind her.

<<Do not let them flank us. If you can, separate them - we are a citadel and they are the invaders.>>

COMBAT: Signum Yagami has used Shiden Issen! on Black Sky.
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

As sure as the bird (Or Endo in this case!) flies, in comes the evil Device. On wings of malicious intent it flies, swifter than most enemies he has seen. What kind of person would be gifted so negative a position as to eradicate someone? It still defies the little boy's belief.

Talking it out may not work this time, either.

And the promised opening assault comes. Steven is ready. Violent energy is poured over a cityscape, blanketing the area. The attacks begin to rain down closeby, and Steven raises his shield. with an expanding motion, it increases in size several times, enough to be planted firmly in the ground and placed at an angle when the impacts come.

When spoke clears, a clean conal area is spared, with the boy square in the center of it. "Oh no you don't!" he says, returning the shield to normal size, the center of the bulwark rotating like a blooming flower returning to a bud.

Steven lacks the ability to join the combat above, so will need to wait for a proper moment to strike, and make it count! He will throw it with all of his might and try to bank it off a wall to strike Black Sky! "I wanna see some cool stuff from you guys and gals!" he shouts toward Endo, Fate and Lera specifically. Hopefully it doesn't distract him too bad.

It could be a problem if it is too awesome.

COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Throw Shield on Black Sky.
<Pose Tracker> Vita Yagami [None] has posed.

Mikoto seems so enthusiastic now. Vita can't help smiling, hiding it with rubbing her knuckles against her lips. But soon she has to face up against the oncoming foe, hammer out wide. The expected bombardment comes crashing down. Eisen's on it without prompting, Vita thrusting her hand forth; the expected shield comes, the blast of arcing plasma crashing against her shield. It forces her back, but not entirely off balance.

Then she sucks in a long breath. "Come and try it," she declares, and defiantly flashes up the back of her hand.

Instead of the possibly expected gesture, she has all five fingers held up, flashing a series of iron balls in the gaps. These she throws skywards, whipping Eisen around. <<I'll try to get him moving!>> Vita calls through the line, and then her Swallow Flyers launch with the DONG of metal on metal, the spheres, now the size of softballs, corkscrewing through the air, curving on impossible angles, bouncing off seemingly nothing as they arc to harrass Black Sky. Vita in turn launches herself, cruising away and down into the streets. One upside of the barrier: She can make use of the environment.

As long as it holds, anyway.

COMBAT: Vita Yagami has used Schwalbefliegen on Black Sky.
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaImUg1KcIg

Black Sky demonstrates his power forcefully, and with an arrogant tone that Kassie instantly hates for both it's familiarity as well as from the fact it's certainly not unwarranted. The sheer power of the blast is enough to send her skidding back a good foot even with the barriers in place. Kassie grits her teeth, but a mere glance towards the responses in word and deed from Fate, Lera, Ren, and Endo has her features sharpening.

He tells them to submit, and her gaze widens. Her shoulders tense, hands grip her sword tightly. The sky lights up with falling plasma, and the Duelist leans back on one foot. She spins, ducks, and waves out of the way in a flash that leaves the blast close enough to sear off some of the gold from her many tassles upon her clothes or a button or two. She can feel the heat. It makes her flinch in ways that are uncomfortable.

But with so many friends and allies, she clenches down on old memories harder. She has to be a King next to them, to help, to fight! How can she be anything but confident? That thought rings in her mind.

"So what if you do make me suffer!? Do you actually believe that's going to make me take one step back away from the side of those I care for? To stop striving towards my dreams!? Come, you're by definition a swordsman, aren't you?"

The Duelist spins once, twice, thrice as she makes light-footed, almost spritely motions down on the ground as her more aerial companions move directly to their enemy and even hammer downwards! It's what Kassie was waiting for! She moves again, and again, and again as her image starts to fade in on themselves with each graceful motion. And then when Black Sky is at his lowest point towards the ground, she springs forth with all of her alacrity.

If one smells at that moment, there's the lightest hint of sparks, like flint and soot in the air. But it could just be one's imagination.

"Then let's see whose skill is greater!" Comes Kasagami in pure challenge as she attacks the Device with his puppet wielder with her long, light blade swirling like a hurricane of steel coming into existance. Her footwork, speed, and grace all combine to make her a flashing, dissappearing wraith that lashes out and retreats back into the swirling morass of her own afterimages. Up, down, left, diagonal, her sword is more suggestion than solid line as she keeps building up momentum and speed, striking at the merest sense of an opening. And then it becomes all too solid, slashing away!

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Dance in the Petals on Black Sky.
COMBAT: Black Sky cleanly braces 28 Fatigue damage from Steven Universe's Throw Shield, taking 5 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Black Sky braces 9 Fatigue damage from Vita Yagami's Schwalbefliegen, taking 13 Fatigue damage!  Vita Yagami is Psyched!
COMBAT: Black Sky partially dodges 6 Fatigue damage from Kasagami Araki's Dance in the Petals, taking 23 Fatigue damage!  Black
Sky's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Black Sky fails to dodge Signum Yagami's Shiden Issen!, taking 35 Fatigue damage!  Signum Yagami is Psyched!  
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

Actions speak louder than words, but there were a lot of words proven out, as the group converges on Black Sky en masse and, largely, either connects or forces an extreme response to avoid such connection.

First the cloaked figure disappears within Lera's cloud of pale gold bolts; there's the satisfying sound of an explosion. Before they can even emerge from the shockwave, Fate is swinging for the fences, repeatedly, and she feels those big hits translate, vibrating with a furious hum, down Bardiche's haft.

Black Sky creates space with some force fields of his own (one of which intercepts the worst of Ren's phantasmal spear and deflects Fuu's arrow, Steven's shield, Sourisi's tonfa). None of those Midchildan constructs from more-confused days; these are full-on Belkan triangles, and they share the Belkan ideology of offense-as-defense, as well, creating a chainsaw-like whine as they accelerate, driving outwards at his foes.

Cure Passion leaps underneath the cloaked figure, directly into that newly created space. They're already in a defensive stance, however, and adjust their grip on the double blades, so that they're backwards along their arms -- it is this upon which the kicks are taken, and it is these that Passion must contend with as she falls away, explosions erupting in the wake of their counterswing.

<<I AM MYSEL--,>> the doppel-Device proclaims, in the face of her words, and it's more of a threat than a promise.

But it's cut off mid-word, more in parody than in memory of the former skip-stuttering that Black Sky suffered through prior to copying out Soaring Sky's memories, by the impact of Fallen Stern. The real one, as wielded by Endo; he gets a clean hit and, accordingly, sends the cloaked figure plummeting towards the earth. A rocket boost of released plasma gets their trajectory turned away from Mikoto's strike (and, not inconsequentially, fills their immediate vicinity with PLASMA), but it can't save them from what's about to happen.

It so happens they were above a playground at that moment. The impact breaks the last structure still standing: the see-saw.

From the bottom of the crater, they regard Signum's speech with the requested silence. They do not simply allow her to finish them off, though; even before Vita's schwalbefliegen were pouring in, they were on the move. Shiden Issen connects, but comes away with on-violet-fire bits of Barrier Jacket cloak, rather than the pound of flesh she would have otherwise butchered as easily as a goose in the kitchen.

There's little enough time to form a defense afterwards, but then, this was never a normal opponent. Kasagami finds the cloaked figure speeding up far too quickly, with an almost audible jerk to the body's frame, as she is matched strike for strike; the last of Vita's schwalbefliegen are bisected with a hiss of each of those dual blades, which proceed to approach her -- carrier in tow -- with more of that alarming velocity.


The twin swords trace the air as the wielder takes off again, higher, in manifold swipes, each of which becomes its own, distinct plasma blast.


There are a LOT of them, enough to threaten those who sent in strikes from afar, as well. The whole air becomes fire. It's an overwhelming feeling, scary because of the claustrophobia as well as the heat, all at once. Perhaps he SHALL remind them of what it was like.

The fall of Belka...

...was Soaring Sky there for it?

COMBAT: Black Sky has used Guardian Slasher on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Guardian Slasher on Lera Camry.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Aura Smite on Cure Passion.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Inferno Blazer on Endo Naoki.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Inferno Blazer on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Inferno Slasher on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Inferno Slasher on Vita Yagami.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Crescent Fangs on Signum Yagami.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Crescent Fangs on Ren Aizawa.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Crescent Fangs on Sourisi.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Crescent Fangs on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Crescent Fangs on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Cure Passion braces 23 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Aura Smite, taking 10 Fatigue damage!  Black Sky is Psyched!  Cure
Passion's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa braces 44 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Guardian Slasher, taking 19 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Fate
Testarossa's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Vita Yagami counters 12 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Inferno Slasher, taking 37 Fatigue damage!  Vita Yagami's Reverse
and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Vita Yagami's counterattack, Tödlichschlag, partially gets through, doing 10 Fatigue damage to Black Sky!  Critical
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi neatly dodges 28 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Inferno Blazer, taking 7 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi's
Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki partially dodges 10 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Inferno Slasher, taking 38 Fatigue damage!  Kasagami
Araki's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Sourisi fails to dodge Black Sky's Crescent Fangs, taking 53 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Stun and Trap applied to
COMBAT: Steven Universe fails to counter Black Sky's Crescent Fangs, taking 51 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  
COMBAT: Steven Universe's counterattack, Reverb Shield, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Black Sky!  
COMBAT: Ren Aizawa fails to brace Black Sky's Crescent Fangs, taking 47 Fatigue damage!  Stun applied to Ren Aizawa!  
COMBAT: Endo Naoki perfectly braces 40 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Inferno Blazer, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Brace!
Endo Naoki's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Lera Camry dodges 17 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Guardian Slasher, taking 26 Fatigue damage!  Lera Camry's Fade and
Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Signum Yagami dodges 17 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Crescent Fangs, taking 26 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Signum
Yagami's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Stun and Trap applied to Signum Yagami!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji braces 18 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Crescent Fangs, taking 15 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji's Block and
Parry abilities activate!  Stun applied to Fuu Hououji!
<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Lera takes a moment to grin, when she sees Fate and Setsuna both rush in towards Black Sky. She hangs back for a moment; the shield's extended bits slide down, and click back into place. The barrier on Broken Ground's surface ceases to flicker, and becomes as strong as it had been. The others rush in, too; Lera hangs back, steeling herself.

Though, at Signum's remark, Soaring Sky -- the one held by Lera -- chimes: <Honestly. He isn't that bad...>

<Really? We're doing this?>

<I... suppose you have a point.>

The barrier comes flying back at Lera. Lera moves, sharply, to the side. The disc-like barrier catches her side -- and with a whine and screech, it slashes into the barrier jacket, rather than flesh. She hisses all the same; the shorter green jacket flickers, before stabilizing.

<We're all right. We're made of sterner stuff.>

Lera nods, fiercely, and she swings to the side. The cloaked figure is sent hurtling to the ground. Lera stares down at the shattered seesaw and the crater left there. Her eyes widen at Black Sky's words. He took Soaring Sky's memories -- the ones he forgot. She draws in a sharp gasp. "What--what do you mean?"

Sky rises up -- and plasma arcs rain downward. Lera flies up through them. She weaves and bobs, with familiarity, and then she does a tight spin around one -- before she rises up directly in front of Black Sky. <I don't know what home you speak of... but the home that matters most is the one right here!>

Lera swings Soaring Sky down. The blade chops down, with a one handed stroke. The mage wielding the blade shouts, aloud: "Nova, trigger!"

And a Midchildan circle explodes under her feet. The sword crackles and wavers -- the air shimmers about it, like a mirage -- and then a wave of fire roils off it, exploding with a burst of light that fills with prismatic sparks, and a fierce wind.

<Corona Crash!>

COMBAT: Lera Camry has used Corona Crash on Black Sky.
COMBAT: Black Sky braces 15 Fatigue damage from Lera Camry's Corona Crash, taking 12 Fatigue damage!  Lera Camry is Psyched!  
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

The shield throw is met with a shield of its own, doing little, though expending energy to block it. Which has some possible value, as long as the source isn't infinite. Which it could be, these guys are nuts! Another shield winks into place. "You aren't gonna get away with this! The will always be someone to stop you, you know!" Chides Steven toward Black Sky.

Unfortunately, the opponent has a leg up on the boy when it comes to their weapon. His shields are just as frightening as a weapon. Evident as the spin at high velocity toward him! Quite a few of them in fact! He can't expand his shield again, it would take too much effort. The boy just has to try and block them the old fashioned way!

This was a bad idea.

Two, no, three get reflected away, but theres a good five more to meet him, and the boy barely makes it out with his head on his shoulders. A tuck and roll into hard debris, followed by a presicion cut on the calf. A squeak of pain comes from in the dust, though the boy walks out. That'll need some bandages. But later.

He can deal. It was time to be serious, after all!

He gets a moment to behold his friends' new poers though. What a sight. TO come so far, and grow together. TO fight the fights and live the lives they do. Are they happy? He likes to think they are. "You guys are doing great up there! Just keep it up! I wanna see all the cool things you can do now, together!" he calls to them. It isn't much, but--

"I'll join you guys in the fight soon!" he comments, as he watches them jump and fly at ludicrous speeds. "I just need a second." Mmf, that leg smarts. There has to be something around here he can use to help them. He jsut has to work smart, not hard!

COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Strong In The Real Way! on Lera Camry.
COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Strong In The Real Way! on Endo Naoki.
COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Strong In The Real Way! on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa accepts Steven Universe's Strong In The Real Way!, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Fate Testarossa is Cheered!
<Pose Tracker> Ren Aizawa [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Ren spins around in midair, putting some distance between her and Black Sky. Her lances weren't as effective as they could've been, but this is just the beginning. The imposter device wielder is pummeled soundly by everyone, though they are likely very far from being defeated if the original battle was any indication.

That turns out to be a very correct assumption in this case. Crescent Fang, a fearsome attack, is launched, and the air is absolutely on fire in an instant. "Heraut!"


A glimmering shield of energy coalesces around the Midchildan mage, but it's unfortunately not enough. The shield shatters and Ren is knocked back by the fiery explosion of it all, tossed about like a ragdoll in the raging conflagration. Thankfully she's eventually able to get free -- by impacting with the ground hard enough to create a small crater shaped like her.


It's not enough to completely take her out of the fight, and she's back up onto her feet with not even a moment's reprieve. No rest for those trying to stave off horrible shadow device-wielding jerks, as they say. She kicks off the ground, rushing back into the air, and comes to a stop as a Midchildan spell circle traces out in the air right in front of her.


The attack, typically emerging from the ground beneath the feet of her opponent, it instead emerges from the spell circle -- a single, monstrous lance of crackling mana that is intent on impaling Black Sky and his wielder.

COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has used Bane Spike on Black Sky.
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

The girl, empowered by resonance with her Device. puts up a hand as Soaring Sky comes in at her with those dual blades. Bardiche's cylinder twists, as it pounds a cartridge in. <Cartridge Load.>

And a large field of interlocking hexagonal field appears.


Energy flares off the edges of the hexagons as Shadow Sky makes contact.


The blades impact causes them to chip away, cracks appearing in old hexagons as new ones rise to replace them. Her face contorts as she maintains the spell, but eventually she twists to the side right as her spell shatters - the explosion reeling her backwards in mid-air, just as Shadow Sky presses the attack elsewhere.

And then - is the cheering from Steven Universe. "Did you hear that Bardiche? We're doing great." The girl manages a smile, despite how difficult fending off that last attack was. Her Device agrees, <Yes Sir.>

The girl twirls Bardiche in mid-air. "Maybe we should show him something new." <Yes Sir - Haken Form.>

Bardiche's axehead snaps back, becoming a narrow hook as the blade folds into it. A jagged hook of gold bathing the sky. Those who have seen her fight might think this is nothing new at all.

The girl sweeps the Scythe in mid-air, backwards. "You remember something awful - it only makes sense that you would think to act on it." The girl says in a sense that's anything but clinical. Like this subject hits close to home.

<Split Haken.>

Cutting Bardiche forward once, launches a spinning energy hook. The girl drops in altitude, cutting him again. And he sends out another.

The energy remains attached to Bardiche. And each spinning scythe blade slices through the air - before each crackles, and splits in twain, doubling into separate arcing paths.

Four energy blades converge on Sky from all sides - attempting to cut off any escape each one trying to crash - grind into both defenser spells and Barrier Jacket.

"I don't blame you. But just because I don't - doesn't mean I'll permit you either."

The girl reaches forward with one gauntleted hand.

"Saber Blast."

All four Scythe blades crackle, joining with an arc of electricity - mana coarsing from one to the next - to build upon each other into four massive explosions that erupt like plasma in a Tesla globe on that spot.

"Not when the places you threaten are so precious to my friends."

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Split Haken on Black Sky.
COMBAT: Lera Camry accepts Steven Universe's Strong In The Real Way!, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Endo Naoki accepts Steven Universe's Strong In The Real Way!, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Endo Naoki is Cheered!  
COMBAT: Black Sky perfectly dodges 23 Fatigue damage from Ren Aizawa's Bane Spike, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!
Black Sky's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Black Sky perfectly braces 51 Fatigue damage from Fate Testarossa's Split Haken, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
Critical Brace!
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Citadel and invaders, thinks the Wind Knight with a mental nod to Signum. The metaphor is apt enough, in her opinion - although there's a fine line indeed between dividing the assailants and being flanked by them. Still, keeping them from ganging up without letting them do a pincer maneuver shouldn't be impossible.

Two more thoughts follow that first one. First is a question - where *are* the other duplicate Devices? Heraut and Stern, the two who attacked at the department store, seem not to have joined the fray just yet - if they're even en route.

The second thought pre-empts the first one: Black Sky doesn't seem to *need* assistance, judging by the raw, overpowering intensity of the Crescent Fangs ... and while she might have dodged individual slashes, the inferno which accompanies them takes all she can muster to ward off while standing her ground in one place.

When the firestorm subsides, the Magic Knight of Wind shakes her head to clear it, wobbling briefly on her feet. She feels light-headed in the wake of that incandescent barrage ... but some of her allies are worse off, as a quick look-around reveals. She shifts her focus, swiftly and smoothly, keeping half an eye on their attacker even as she makes the mental jump to support mode.

"Winds of Healing!"

Signum is the first to receive the Wind Knight's healing, a soothing breeze wrapping around the fiery swordswoman of the Wolkenritter, balm in the wake of the incandescent assault unleashed by the renegade Device. From there, Fuu turns her restorative attentions to Ren and Sourisi, helping them regain their bearings and reclaim their equilibrium. All of them will need everything they can muster to continue fighting - and the Wind Knight can't help continuing to wonder if the dark duplicates of Heraut and Stern *are* planning to pile into the fray ... and what will happen if they *do*.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Healing on Signum Yagami.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Healing on Ren Aizawa.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Healing on Sourisi.
COMBAT: Sourisi accepts Fuu Hououji's Winds of Healing, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Cleanse! All of Sourisi's debuffs are cleared!
COMBAT: Ren Aizawa accepts Fuu Hououji's Winds of Healing, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Cleanse! All of Ren Aizawa's debuffs are
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Plasma floods the air as Black Sky dodges, and Mikoto --

Well, Mikoto is already falling.

She can't fly, remember?

She just falls a little fancier, in Black Sky's wake, tucks her limbs in close to herself and twists in the air to gain velocity. The edges of the plasma lick at her for a moment, but she is away - away, and when she comes to land she twists again and hits the ground rolling, bounce-bounce-bounce to redistribute her momentum and somehow Miroku doesn't catch on her in any of those cycles. Hand to the ground, and up she goes, weaving through the rest of the plasma.

So much plasma, as if the world were fire, and she is action and reaction for a moment as she moves from one instant to the next. She pulls herself from that snapshot - she turns to the Device.

"It's their home now!" Mikoto yells, to Black Sky, in the wake of his abjuration of Vita and Signum. "Tokyo has lots of people who came from somewhere else! We all belong here!" The home that matters, Soaring Sky says --

Mikoto looks to him, now, instead of his facsimile. "I forgot too," she tells him, and she is sterner in a fight but she still has room to be genuine, "but, it's okay! We can make new memories," here in this Tokyo which has accepted all of them, "and they're better."

Sometimes, she knows too well now, it's better to leave the past forgotten.

Sometimes the people who care about you are right here, right now.

The people who cared about Mikoto are the ones she's beside now, up here in the sunlight, and even if Black Sky turns the air to ashes she has no intention of backing down.

"What we found here," her voice raises, as she steps up, "it's better!"

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Foundation on Lera Camry.
COMBAT: Signum Yagami accepts Fuu Hououji's Winds of Healing, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Cleanse! All of Signum Yagami's debuffs
are cleared!
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Not having a body you care about turns out to be quite the advantage in swordplay. With the brief competition ending, Kassie reconsiders her options! Or at least starts thinking on the matter when Dark Sky is back up into his namesake. The exchange between Signum and Sky has her eyes opening a touch. It feels far too ominous.

The evil Sky wants to burn Tokyo, and sets about it starting with the magical girls that have come to fight against him. Then even as Lera's confronting him he makes true to those words, plasmotic fire seeking to engulf them with its fury!

Kassie doesn't hear her own scream amidst a desperate gambit to dodge the burning fangs sent after her. She leaps back, tucking her body close and towards the ground as she skids on her heels. Her sword slashes the air defensively, and it's just enough to ensure she isn't turned into ash. On the periphery of the blast, half of her coat is instantly burned away, and her body aches with an agony that's as much mental in nature as it is physical. Old wounds feel freshly layered in that special kind of pain that Kassie knows and so intimately hates. It's enough to make her heart quiver, her resolve briefly shake.

Kasagami falls into a roll, barely managing to put out the plasma-fire, clothes already smoking as her legs feel like jello. She peers at the others, rising again as they all continue to fight. The Duelist lets out a ragged breath. Sweat pours down her brow.

"Not...one step back!" She repeats to herself, as she hears Fate's words up in the air. Steven encouraging everyone, and so many brave clashes.

"If you know what it's like to have something you love burned away to cinders, haunting you every night with ash and old ghosts, then how could you possibly want to do that to someone else!? A King will not allow such a travesty to be repeated thrice!" Howls Kasagami, half in outrage, and the rest in utter terror for herself and the whole of Tokyo.

Fear gives a person wings, and the Crimson Rose Duelist is no different. One foot launches her into the sky, and Kassie spins end over end as ash and soot from her burnt coat is cleared away. In a whirling, spinning flip, her sword becomes a rotating motion as she seeks to repeatedly hammer into Black Sky, putting the whole of her body and heart into stopping the Device that would threaten her brave friends and the city with no less than another permutation of her own personal nightmares!

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Rose Flash on Black Sky.
COMBAT: Lera Camry accepts Mikoto Minagi's Foundation, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Lera Camry is Cheered!  
COMBAT: Black Sky decisively counters 27 Fatigue damage from Kasagami Araki's Rose Flash, taking 9 Fatigue damage!  Kasagami Araki
is Psyched!  Black Sky's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Black Sky's counterattack, Sentinel Flash, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Kasagami Araki!  
<Pose Tracker> Sourisi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Bursts of energy, lances of elemental forces and weapons of the physical are unleashed and the neighborhood is a victim of the clash of opposing sides. While it's only one against thirdteen, the sheer power of the Device and its' puppet easily makes up for the disadvantage in numbers.

Seeing her tonfa deflected is annoying to watch, a mental note that normal attacks won't be enough to break through those energy triangles. As her tonfa return back to their thrower, Sourisi is running along the ground and waiting for the ideal moment to strike. "He certainly doesn't lack for power, that's for sure. Come on...just need one good opening."

Like the rest of the 'puppets', though, the wielder of Black Sky (or was it Black Sky wielding the man?) is of the opinion on crushing everything before it can fight back. Each swing of those twin swords leave behind a waiting trail of burning plasma each, and there's enough that even trying to block the incoming flames with her tonfa seems like a poor choice.

But...maybe blocking them was what Black Sky wanted. It's a terrible idea, but maybe the only way to get an opening is to catch the Dark Device off guard by doing the unexpected. Sourisi glances over to where Kasagami and then Mikoto stood.

Time to take a leaf out of another book.

Instead of holding her ground, Sourisi rushes towards Black Sky as it decreed that their realm shall suffer the fate of another. Magical flames explode outwards with disturbing force as they impact the ground, scorching outfit and skin alike. More than that, the sudden change in tempature is enough to sear the lungs, making it feel like Sourisi has just inhaled a mouthful of smoldering ashes. That's causing Sourisi to wonder just how the Duelist and HiME do this all the time and regretting the wisdom of just rushing in--

Then the Knight of Wind makes herself known, a swirling gust of wind created by the green-garbed archer clearing the ashen air away. Her body stops aching a little, and Sourisi lets out one last cough before flashing a grateful grin towards Fuu. "Thanks, Breeze-san!" The nickname may not have stuck, but that doesn't mean the ravenette hasn't given up on it.

Able to think clearly for the moment, Sourisi shoved hard with her clawed boots against the ruined earth. She had to go through the center of the assault, but this might be her one good shot to catch Sky off guard.

Soaring without wings, Sourisi swings her tonfa in a practiced assault as soon as she was within reach, jabs flowing into spins and then an overhead hammer blow. "Yes, but this is our realm, and we're not just going to stand by if you try to bring the past to the present!"

COMBAT: Sourisi has used Mouse Flurry on Black Sky.
<Pose Tracker> Vita Yagami [None] has posed.

<<This is not your realm, Wolkenritter.>>

Vita stops cold. She draws in a shaky breath. She gets so used to nobody knowing what the old life was like; for all she grunts about it, an old soldier throwing around old scars, it's a surprise to hear someone who actually knows those words and can cut with them. Did she know that about Sky? She--

Has to respond! Black Sky roars its plasma scream, and Vita replies with a more verbal one, swinging Eisen in immediate reply. She loses that clash, but as Eisen carves through the plasma he releases a blast wave of energy that should rattle Black Sky and its bearer. Vita tumbles out of the sky, ejected from the explosion of the clash like a missile. She doesn't hit the ground, swinging her feet under her and skidding to a stop mid-air, above a street light.

Soaring Sky himself makes a better reply than Vita, and the small girl sucks in a breath, filling those prodigious lungs. She smiles down at Mikoto, a wide grin at the swordbearer's rally. She thumps her chest with her hand. "That's right. We've been to many worlds now...but this is where we belong! This is the one we can protect, not destroy!" <<Signum! I'll keep him busy! You line up a shot!>> "So I won't let you just do whatever you want, either!"

Vita blasts skyward - breakneck and straight-line, just how she likes it - toward Black Sky. As she goes, schwalbefliegen scatter around after her, cruising in even faster, slamming into walls and shattering building lights as she rises toward Black Sky, whirls her hammer around and SLAMS it into his guard, hoping to force him to activate defenses - and stand still.

COMBAT: Vita Yagami has started a combo targeting Black Sky!
COMBAT: Black Sky braces 12 Fatigue damage from Sourisi's Mouse Flurry, taking 10 Fatigue damage!  Sourisi is Psyched!  
<Pose Tracker> Cure Passion [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Explosions erupt from Black Sky's blades, and Passion twists mid-air among them, crossing her arms over herself and spinning down, passing through the explosions downward like a drill, burned but very much still in the fight. She keeps spinning, spinning, spinning down through the words that come, Black Sky's retort and the crater and the very air itself becoming fire. It's only amidst all of that that she touches down again.

"Sky? From...?" She voices the thought as she readies herself for another attack, spotting Ren recovering. "Ren-chan!" she calls. She shifts to an angle then, and sprints off, moving to go around Black Sky and the 'wielder' within, aiming to get closer this time to Ren. It's not exactly sticking by Lera, but it's for a good cause.

"Yourself," Passion repeats. "...All right."

She charges in here, now that she's angled; heels clack against asphalt, and then the sound is too quick to be noted, as Passion pulls back her fist and slams it straight for her foe, wreathed in red light.

COMBAT: Cure Passion has used Passion Punch on Black Sky.
<Pose Tracker> Signum Yagami [None] has posed.

The crescent fangs snap round. The chaos - the words from Black Sky -

"You dare," Signum answers Black Sky. It is the most defiance she can manage immediately. She is beset upon by the weapons - a blur of glittering magenta and steel as she's fenced away from the entity, kept in check and steadily pressed against. Indeed: <<This pressure->>

Winds of Healing!

A soothing touch to the singed spaces of her skin and the bruises beneath her armored jacket, woven through with spells but hardly a source of total invincibility. No: One must be at least somewhat vulnerable to truly be present. An inescapable dynamic. <<Thank you,>> she answers the Magic Knight.

Vita gets a silent acknowledgement. "Bogenform," she states as she sheathes the form of her Device again and pivots on her heel. "The realm that we claim is not some patch of ground," she states, "nor is it something we have taken: it is the place that our master calls home!"

The Device, now a bow integrating the sheath, is raised - Signum does not take long to draw back the shot and aim it, firing towards Sky. Past Vita. The arrows burst, adding yet more scintilliant points in the air - Vita knows where they are and where they will be, a silent experience with the Wolkenritter, but will Black Sky?

COMBAT: Signum Yagami has joined the combo started by Vita Yagami!
COMBAT: COMBO! Vita Yagami and Signum Yagami have used Knights of Iron and Fire on Black Sky.
COMBAT: Black Sky braces 11 Fatigue damage from Cure Passion's Passion Punch, taking 17 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Black Sky cleanly braces 108 Fatigue damage from Vita Yagami and Signum Yagami's Combo: Knights of Iron and Fire, taking
19 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

Endo comes to an uneasy stop in the air as Black Sky and it's shrouded wielder crash to earth. For a moment he hopes that'll be it, but the lull doesn't last too long. Soon the device is moving again, challenging the strikes from allies and taking to the air once more.

With a rush of air Endo makes a clumsy bank to meet the rising figure, changing his angle to meet their foe once more.

Then comes the heat.r

This time when Endo's barrier forms it comes to life more vividly, a triangular shield that strains against the oppressive temperature. The heat is painful, but the barrier holds.

"Steven-san-" The boy calls out, "Thank you!" He knows the other boy is doing his best, just like all his other allies. He's grateful for each one that's united in this fight, and he aims to do his part just like the rest.

Endo turns his blade toward Black Sky once again, the weapon arcing out in a horizonal swipe as the distance closes rapidly between them.

"Ren-chan!" He calls, "Be careful!"

COMBAT: Endo Naoki has used Blauverschiebung on Black Sky.
COMBAT: Black Sky dodges 20 Fatigue damage from Endo Naoki's Blauverschiebung, taking 13 Fatigue damage!  Black Sky's Fade and
Flash abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

<Of course this is the home that matters to you,> Black Sky agrees, bringing up another force field; it melts beneath the corona of flame, but not before enduring the worst of the heat. <It's all you can remember. Just like YOU are all that THEY can remember... these friends who speak of you so glowingly. They know you as well as you know yourself.>

Which isn't very well at all.

<You don't know any better, and neither do they.>

A tiny explosion, a burst of brilliant red light, erupts between Lera and the cloaked figure.


And then it's not so tiny, and the two of them have separated again, at least for the moment.

The shadowy figure jukes to one side, abruptly, as a Bane Spike brutalizes the space the would have otherwise been occupying. If they'd been even a hair slower, that might have been the end. But they weren't; nor could the Spike have been faster...

Sky knows who cast it.

<Confirmed the presence of Ren Aizawa,> he announces on a wide telepathic band, presumably to no good purpose.

Four more Belkan shields bloom in the path of Fate's four explosions.

<I don't need your permission,> Sky tells her. <And I don't blame any of you for not understanding.>

A small army of magical girls accuse him of wanting to reduce Tokyo to cinders.

<We're inside a barrier to protect this place, a barrier that last time, I cast,> he points out to them, collectively, as he summons more shields to defend against Kasagami, Sourisi and Cure Passion's myriad strikes, and slashes out in between them, in turn, trailing vast, burning golden light. He has enough for Endo, too, who he doesn't try to spot-shield, instead yanking his carrier out of the way in the nick of time. <REGENSHAUER. You know why I'm here, or YOU wouldn't be here, so enough hyperbo-->

Vita slams into his shield, hammer-first. <--le,> Sky concludes. If there weren't magical shadows in their way, they could have a real staredown right now, but there's no reaction from the carrier, no way to penetrate the umbral defense. Instead the tension builds between shield and Graf Eisen.

It should fail, right?

Why isn't it failing?

It takes Graf for far too long, and then starts pinging from Signum's explosive arrows.

It's... purple. Violet is snaking through the golden shield like food coloring, like veins.

Even then, even that cannot withstand the Wolkenritter to the very end. The shield starts to give, first cracking, then softly crumbling.

Unfortunately that's when Shadow Stern erupts from the ground beneath them. Hopefully he started that tunnel inside the barrier, or else something really grim is going to happen to the structural integrity of suburban Tokyo.

The massive blade swings in a huge arc, seeking to drive back the Wolkenritter; its air displacement creates a mighty thunderclap that threatens to deafen all nearby, or even knock them off their feet.

<I AM HERE,> he announces, unnecessarily.

<You are late,> Sky complains, immediately.

<SoundTracker> Darkness https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-s13XAZplI

The two cloaked figures form up, back to back, Sky's two blades slapping together into a single larger blade, hefted with two hands, which is nevertheless dwarfed by Stern's form.

They seem very comfortable working together, in a way that Heraut decidedly was NOT.

Shadow Stern walks over from Tama Outer City.

COMBAT: Black Sky has used Lanzebrecher on Lera Camry.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Regenschauer on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Regenschauer on Sourisi.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Regenschauer on Cure Passion.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Regenschauer on Endo Naoki.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Meteor Absturz on Signum Yagami.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Meteor Absturz on Vita Yagami.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Resonant Frequency on Ren Aizawa.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Resonant Frequency on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Resonant Frequency on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Resonant Frequency on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Regenschauer on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki cleanly braces 45 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Regenschauer, taking 8 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Vita Yagami neatly dodges 56 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Meteor Absturz, taking 14 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa dodges 42 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Regenschauer, taking 28 Fatigue damage!  Fate Testarossa's Fade
and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi perfectly counters 21 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Resonant Frequency, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
Critical Counter!  Mikoto Minagi's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi's counterattack, Obsidian Blade: Dynamo, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Shadow Stern!  
COMBAT: Ren Aizawa dodges 9 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Resonant Frequency, taking 13 Fatigue damage!  Ren Aizawa's Flash
ability activates!
COMBAT: Steven Universe perfectly braces 22 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Resonant Frequency, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
Critical Brace!  Steven Universe's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Sourisi braces 10 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Regenschauer, taking 15 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji perfectly dodges 25 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Resonant Frequency, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical
Dodge!  Fuu Hououji's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Lera Camry neatly dodges 32 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Lanzebrecher, taking 8 Fatigue damage!  Lera Camry's Fade and
Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Cure Passion dodges 37 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Regenschauer, taking 55 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Cure
Passion's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Signum Yagami neatly dodges 52 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Meteor Absturz, taking 13 Fatigue damage!  Signum
Yagami's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki decisively counters 69 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Regenschauer, taking 23 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
Endo Naoki's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki's counterattack, Machtiger Schild, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Black Sky!  
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"That's not fair!" Mikoto yells, when Black Sky says Soaring Sky doesn't know any better. "Don't push away all that stuff like it doesn't matter! It matters!"

Her eyes find Fate, in that moment, and she repeats: "... it matters."

But why he's here --

"Ren, be careful!" Mikoto calls to her, because they've confirmed her presence, now. They know, and there's purple to the shield, now. Cracking, and

so is the earth.

"You!" Mikoto roars, and her omae is as challenging as it's ever been, as Shadow Stern tears from the earth. The air rips, and she rips through it, carving though the shockwave even as it slows her. Eventually it arrests her blade's arc; Miroku does not reach Shadow Stern.

On that swing.

But Mikoto doesn't stop - she starts spinning, once and twice and thrice, whirling closer into Shadow Stern's space. The flat of her blade comes up, she digs in her heel as she brings it about, and -- "Sorry," she says, as she looks up to that shadowed figure, not the blade wielding them.

Because she's barrelling her full force into that person's hip, and even though she's not trying to bisect them, she knows it's not going to be nice.

"You're here," she redirects her attention to Shadow Stern, now, frowning, "but you won't get anything from us! So just go!"

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Destruction on Shadow Stern.
<Pose Tracker> Cure Passion [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Weaving in, and out--Cure Passion moves left from a shield, and Black Sky's blade goes left, too--the burning, golden light of that slash hits her hard in motion, and being off the ground in the moment moving, the red Cure is rocketed backwards. She slams through a wall and rolls, hitting another and coming out the other side to skid along the ground, leaving a deep rocky trail in ruined ground along the way. Her form is still smoking when she comes to a stop some distance back, well away from the melee just now, with a wide-angle perspective to theoretically view Stern's arrival... if she's looking, which isn't obvious at first. The battle goes on moment to moment before a hand emerges from the rubble.

Cure Passion drags herself back up, dirtied but standing again after the effort of getting loose. "We know enough!" she shouts from her position away. "This is a home we've protected with him!"

She's in motion in an instant, fading into a flash of red light as she crashes forward, knowing full well there's two of them now. They're back to back--so Passion moves in a blur to try to get in past the swinging range of Stern's blade, sending a barrage of punches and kicks at Black Sky and his 'wielder' both before she reappears on the other side in another flash of red.

COMBAT: Cure Passion has used Passion Flash on Black Sky.
<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Lera knows the spell that explodes between her and Black Sky. She used it not two days ago, against the version of Heraut that attacked the department store. The burst of red light explodes outward, a shockwave rolling towards her. She falls back -- and then rides just ahead of it. Light glows behind her, and she jerks, side-to-side.


But she rolls with that blast, then jerks to the side. Lera shoots through the air in a tight arc, and her eyes widen. "Ren!" she calls out. "Be careful! You have his attention!"

<We need to get it back!> Ground chimes.

Lera hears Steven's cry, and she cracks a smile. She glances down at him, then nods her head. "We'll do that! But be careful down there, y'know? We need to focus on Ren!"

She looks back, taking a deep breath. "Sky--"

<I don't care to admit this... but he is right. There is so much I forgot. That I could have known Ancient Belka at all is--> He hesitates. <What do the Wolkenritter do? Forgetting so much...?>

He flickers; the Device's gem actually dims, for a moment. But Mikoto's words reach. There is a chime -- and it brightens. <...yes. What we found here is important.>

Lera swings Sky up -- and then she gasps, as the earth shatters. The shadowed Fallen Stern explodes out after Sky, and the two form up, back to back. "Vita! Signum!" she yells. "I don't know what they know, now, but... it seems like they know you! Be careful!"

Her eyes widen -- and she shouts out in surprise, when Cure Passion is sent flying through a wall. "PASSION!"

She sees the hand emerge -- and then she flies in, soaring near the Pretty Cure, if overhead.

She swoops down, coming in for Black Sky from above.

Her hair blows backward. She raises up Soaring Sky, in one hand. The blade glints with light; fire and plasma dance off it, that stellar mixture of magic that seems ready to give it light. It flashes, and flares brilliantly. That same brilliance, though, covers up what she does.

She swings down Broken Ground. The shield glimmers, the gem at the center of it brightening intensely. A pale gold, that bleeds white, begins to gather and grow across the shield. It is formless, at first.

<I'm the shield that will protect them!> Ground chimes. <All of them! And you--whatever you know, whatever you remember, it won't stop me-->

A Midchildan circle, replete with runes, flashes into existence. It flashes out of existence as Lera flies through it. The formless energy becomes discrete: a ball of glowing, golden light before the shield. <--from keeping them SAFE!>

Lera bellows, and rams the shield for Black Sky. The ball of energy explodes, blasting outward into an immense shockwave that blows back debris from the broken ground.

<Terra Breaker!>

COMBAT: Lera Camry has used Terra Breaker on Black Sky.
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

It always felt good ancouraging others to do their best. Maybe he should be a teacher when he gets older.

The advantage is pressed against Black Sky, until they have few places to go. Unfortunately, that is when the doppel-cavalry arrives. "Ugh, not that guy again!" the Gem child points out, much to the dismay of everyone. Their cacophonous entry sending out shearing sound waves; Steven braces and leans into his shield to survive the blast and stay on his feet. "I am really not used to this new thing where badguys actually work together," he says, slumping over for a moment in dramatic fashion.

There is little time for lamenting the state of the battlefield. Action is needed! After taking a deep breath, to boy begins to run toward the pair that have come together. A flying tackle with the shield up front may knock him off his... hoverfeet? Air cloud cloak thing? Okay he didn't think this through too well, but the plan is to whomp him hard enough to knock him to the ground fully.

He can worry about the specifics later. "Okay, what's the plan! I feel like letting them stay together's a bad idea!" Splitting the party is worse, but... If they are working together, they could have some horrible team attack thing, which is way worse!

COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Shield Slam on Shadow Stern.
<Pose Tracker> Ren Aizawa [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Bane Spike is used... and is not very effective. Ren bites her lip, eyes tracking Black Sky as he dodges and continues to talk -- talk that does nothing to make what he's doing justified. Setsuna comes over to check on her, and Ren nods. "I'm alright..."

"You attacked my friends! I don't care about anything you have to say! You're just a cheap imitation! The real Soaring Sky would never do something like this!" Ren shouts, unable to contain her anger at the sheer audacity of this doppel-device. It's only response to her shouting is to mentally communicate her presence here on the battlefield, which only twists the knife deeper. "Yeah! I'm here!" She shouts again, feeling herself loose control. Mikoto's reminder to be careful falls on deaf ears it seems, the mage's mind too clouded. It also certainly doesn't help when Setsuna gets hit hard. "SETSUNA-CHAN!" Ren moves to go and check on her, prompting Heraut to ping urgently.

<Stay focused! Don't let- INCOMING!>

Ren snaps to attention at that, just in time to watch the ground below explode upward, revealing the Shadow Stern and his wielder in all their horrifying glory! She jerks backwards, avoiding them, but is still pummeled by some of the concrete debris they leave in their wake. She shakes it off, though, and holds out a hand, summoning up a magic circle that spins furiously.

"You!" She snarls at Shadow Stern, who will find a whole bunch of spear being launched his way all at once.

COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has used Lance of Faith on Shadow Stern.
<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

Endo's blow doesn't land home, but that doesn't stop him for long. He soars past Black Sky and its wielder, making an awkward turn to come about for another strike.

He's stopped halfway by the enemy device's attack.


The boy instantly recognizes the force behind it is something beyond the blasts of plasma that came before. "Stern!" He calls, hand rising swiftly toward the oncoming blow.


The barrier that forms this time is unlike anything that's come before. The triangular symbol that slams into place is bigger than the previous shields that his device has projected, a great magic wall that fills the sky in front of Endo. It crackles and grinds against the force of the attack thrown against it, shuddering as it absorbs the great blow.

Like the others it shatters, but it takes the brunt of the damage for the boy behind it. There's still enough energy left from the attack to send Fallen Stern's wielder streaking backward, plummeting toward the ground.

His landing has at least some semblance of grace in that he lands on his feet. There's still more force than necessary behind it, though. This also gives him an angle on the newest threat: The shadowed wielder bearing Fallen Stern's copy.

<IMPOSTER.> Warbles Fallen Stern, it's distorted voice registering something close to anger.

Endo takes the hint. He doesn't fly this time, instead he does something closer to his old tricks. A great, running leap and an overhead cleave toward the cloaked figure being dragged along by the this other version of Stern.

COMBAT: Endo Naoki has used Blauverschiebung on Shadow Stern.
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

The girl suddenly flies up - as Sky comes at her with twin blades gleaming golden light. Twirling around in an aerial somersault.

One blade comes up to skid along the length of Bardiche. Then another. It's golden light contending with his empowered haft.

It's a glancing blow, given Fate's aerial somersault over it. Yet all the same - Sky's twin blade strike cleaves right through Bardiche.

The blade comes within mere millimeters of her barrier jacket - Bardiche's protective fields working overtime in golden gleam as Fate rockets over it.

And when she rises back up in the air - Bardiche is halved.

She spins around his lower half - as if she were going to wield it like a baton on its own. However - she simply slams that end back into the top half, and Bardiche chimes.


With a shimmer - and a not inconsequential amount of mana - he's whole again.

Such things do matter. As Mikoto notes it. The girl closes her eyes. And yet all the same...

"I may have spoke too soon." The girl says quietly, as if acknowledging she might have erred. It's easy to feel like they're threatening the worst when they're comparing it to a realm that burned. However she thinks maybe Sky is right that it was hyperbole. Fate has learned over time that she doesn't always understand things as well as she thinks. That her assumptions aren't always right.

Right now she doesn't have enough information to think that she's right without a doubt.

Fate suddenly brings her cape up with a hand to shield herself from Stern's arrival.

"You can't ambush us that way twice."

The girl promises to Stern, before she raises Bardiche up.

<Blaze Ignition - Zanber Form.>

The haken like hook vanishes, as the blade cranks upright - before an internal blade crackling with darker energy arises. An outer blade of rippling energy erupting out of it with a boom of thunder. Easily several times as large as she is tall. And her dark cape shimmers into one that's decidedly white, like a photonegative in action.

"Even with two of you - things are different now."

For starters - that Bardiche only pounds in a single cartridge rather than three as he completes the transformation. And that this no longer appears to be her Full Drive Mode. Perhaps the Resonance Shift has allowed her to master it.

And yet - she sees how Passion, gets struck - Lera's cry. And her eyes fixate upon it.

Metal scrapes upon the hilt of her blade, as she inhales sharply with anger.

Hoisting the blade overhead with increased strength, she notes coldly, "I'm through with all of you pushing us around." She says as if they had acted as bullies on a playground before. Before flying around at a curve - then shopping short.

<Blade Impulse.> Slicing Bardiche's Zanber form down - the titanic slash causes a magical shockwave to ripple out to smash into Sky.

And to her horror - she sees Ren acts with a similar anger. The thought sobering her out of it as she sends out a message telepathically. <<Ren be careful. You and Heraut are their objective right now.>>

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa transforms into Barrier Jacket Blaze!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Blade Impulse on Black Sky.
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"I don't exactly trust the intentions of a puppet-Sword, barrier or no barrier!" Complains Kasagami, her voice with an Ohtori edge. She'd put in a complaint, but she doesn't exactly have a lawyer right now and doubts that Black Sky has a complaints department in the first place.

The Duelist faces down that slashing golden light and swings her own sword directly into it defensively! There's a brief clash and an explosion of sparks and golden flame respectively. Kassie is borne down towards the earth with her knees bending with unhealthy sounds and her wrists and elbows. She has to pull her ankles out of concrete, and she lets out a steamed sigh of effort from directly contesting the Device.

Shadow Stern's eruption into the battle, and the horrifying teamwork of the two evil Devices is certainly worrisome! All the more reason for Kassie to help split things up. With not a little relief at having an opportunity to get burnt up a little less, she instead follows Mikoto's example of leaping for Shadow Stern! Flash-stepping over in a blink, eyeing the over-massive copy of Endo's blade!

"Endo-kun! And you too, Fallen Stern! Don't be outdone by a pale imitation! Show that thing that you're the real warrior! A Knight is too honorable to fall against a fake!" Encourages Kassie, even as she lashes out twice with her blade, sword briefly becoming two lines of steel chasing Shadow Stern.

COMBAT: Kasagami Araki has used Rose on the Wind on Shadow Stern.
<Pose Tracker> Sourisi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

Sourisi's skyward assault against Black Sky doesn't work to quite the effect she was hoping for, but several good blows land close enough to the puppet that she's hopeful that she was on the right track. What the device is saying, though... "Aww, but hyperbole is what i'm good at!"

The radiant light unleashed at Sourisi from those twin swords isn't something she can just joke away, however. Held tonfa come up quickly in a deserpate guard and giving off angry sparks, and it's enough to save the Miraculous User from the worst of the assault, but the bone-rattling impact with the ground is enough to make blossoming burns to pulse in agony.

Despite seeing first hand just how destructive Graf Eisen was, the Device has to struggle to its' limits to break through the triangle barrier. Then the shadowly clone of Fallen Stern bursts from the earth to intersect, giving Black Sky a chance to recover from a potentially fatal blow. "Dang it! You were so close..."

With the first puppet now with backup and back-to-back, things are starting to look just as dire as the Easter Store battle. But with the two of them so close...maybe there's a chance to aid the others. Concentrating to focus her energy on her suit's tail, the Miraculous Ninja forms a large golden chain connecting both of her tonfa together, a pale light coming from the mana. This is desperate, but... "One thing isn't exaggerated, that's for certain. As long as we can, we'll keep on fighting people like you!"

Sourisi lets fly her makeshift bola towards the cloaked duo, willing her tonfa to ensnare around the duo and serve an annoying distraction.

COMBAT: Sourisi has used Squeaky Strike on Shadow Stern.
COMBAT: Sourisi has used Squeaky Strike on Black Sky.
COMBAT: Black Sky fails to brace Lera Camry's Terra Breaker, taking 41 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Black Sky fails to brace Cure Passion's Passion Flash, taking 46 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Black Sky perfectly braces 31 Fatigue damage from Fate Testarossa's Blade Impulse, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
Critical Brace!
<Pose Tracker> Ren Aizawa [Infinity Institute (12)] has posed.

Bane Spike is used... and is not very effective. Ren bites her lip, eyes tracking Black Sky as he dodges and continues to talk -- talk that does nothing to make what he's doing justified. Setsuna comes over to check on her, and Ren nods. "I'm alright..." She still hurts, but a lot of her sluggishness is gone thanks to Fuu's spell, "Thank you, Fuu-san!" And then, she turns back to Shadow Sky, eyes blazing.

"You attacked my friends! I don't care about anything you have to say! You're just a cheap imitation! The real Soaring Sky would never do something like this!" Ren shouts, unable to contain her anger at the sheer audacity of this doppel-device. It's only response to her shouting is to mentally communicate her presence here on the battlefield, which only twists the knife deeper. "Yeah! I'm here!" She shouts again, feeling herself loose control. Mikoto's reminder to be careful falls on deaf ears it seems, the mage's mind too clouded. It also certainly doesn't help when Setsuna gets hit hard. "SETSUNA-CHAN!" Ren moves to go and check on her, prompting Heraut to ping urgently.

<Stay focused! Don't let- INCOMING!>

Ren snaps to attention at that, just in time to watch the ground below explode upward, revealing the Shadow Stern and his wielder in all their horrifying glory! She jerks backwards, avoiding them, but is still pummeled by some of the concrete debris they leave in their wake. She shakes it off, though, and holds out a hand, summoning up a magic circle that spins furiously.

"You!" She snarls at Shadow Stern, who will find a whole bunch of spear being launched his way all at once.

COMBAT: Black Sky fails to counter Sourisi's Squeaky Strike, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Black Sky's counterattack, Aura Burst, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Sourisi!  
COMBAT: Shadow Stern partially dodges 13 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Destruction, taking 51 Fatigue
COMBAT: Shadow Stern fails to counter Steven Universe's Shield Slam, taking 19 Fatigue damage!  Steven Universe is Psyched!  
COMBAT: Shadow Stern's counterattack, Asteroid Eilen, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Steven Universe!  
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

And there's one of the other dark duplicate Devices, thinks the Wind Knight, wincing even as her fears of a moment earlier are realized. There should be the third somewhere -

The massive sword swings, splitting the air itself with lightning-like force, and the sonic shockwave tears across the local environs. But sound, however devastating it may be in its intensity, still travels through the air - and a swiftly-cast barrier provides just barely enough respite for the Wind Knight to avoid getting hammered by it, even though her ears ring with the thunderclap's passage.

"You both seem to be making the same mistake the Book of Darkness - excuse me," she spares a fractional (but wholly apologetic) glance towards the Wolkenritter while getting back to her feet. "The same mistake *NachtWal* made: copying so much from us, yet forgetting an important part of the meaning. You may demand that we submit to you ... but you forget, even from those whose Devices you copied, how determined we are to fight back against those who would subjugate or destroy us." The breeze picks up about her again, even as she divides her focus between Black Sky and Shadow Stern.

"Please let me remind you, then ... STORM-DANCE OF KAMAITACHI!!"

She whips her right hand upwards, never mind that the glove-jewel is on her left - and a localized, tightly focused cyclone erupts, trying to sweep the newly-arrived Shadow Stern in its grip and batter it mercilessly with those same winds.

COMBAT: Shadow Stern braces 3 Fatigue damage from Ren Aizawa's Lance of Faith, taking 5 Fatigue damage!  Ren Aizawa is Psyched!
Shadow Stern's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Storm-Dance of Kamaitachi on Shadow Stern.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern braces 7 Fatigue damage from Kasagami Araki's Rose on the Wind, taking 11 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
Kasagami Araki is Psyched!  Shadow Stern's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Shadow Stern dodges 0 Fatigue damage from Sourisi's Squeaky Strike, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  
COMBAT: Shadow Stern perfectly dodges 32 Fatigue damage from Fuu Hououji's Storm-Dance of Kamaitachi, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
Critical Dodge!
COMBAT: Shadow Stern fails to dodge Endo Naoki's Blauverschiebung, taking 37 Fatigue damage!  Stagger applied to Shadow Stern!  
<Pose Tracker> Vita Yagami [None] has posed.

It's not breaking. It should DEFINITELY be breaking. Vita's got that much faith in her abilities. Vita's lip curls back and she puts some more back into it. That staredown may be onesided but it does come, Vita glaring for that hood, seeking its owner.

That creeping color....what is that? Is one of his allies supporting him? That's not normally what that looks like! She's able to force it through, barely, but she's caught off-guard by the arrival of Stern, ripping through the ground between them. "Nuts!" Vita yelps, sharper curses bonked out of her by her kind master; she whirls, a whip of hammer and flying skirts as she veers sharply away from Stern's initial assault. The shockwave catches her enough that Vita actually touches down, shod feet slamming into concrete and tearing it up for a few meters before she stops herself. She slaps a hand on her hat, refitting it half-attentively. Bunnies secure. Nobody needs to die tonight. Cool.

Lera handles Vita's confusion nicely, at least. "Right. They obviously know something we don't." The Wolkenritters' memories are in better condition than some, but the ugly truth is that 'they destroyed a world' does not narrow it down....kind of at all....

Vita glances to Mikoto, nodding firmly. "It matters," she says. "And anyway, you guys were carpin' about destroying all Belkans so you'll have to forgive me if I feel a bit attacked!"

Vita's the vanguard; she doesn't particularly want to charge a two-man team, but she has to trust Signum's got her back, taking two quick steps and then taking to the sky. Like always, her flight is rocket-fast and straight-line, swerving at the end only to sharply swing Eisen's head for Stern - the one who got away! <<Tödlich!>> Eisen roars.

"SCHLAAAAAG!" Vita concludes, and a second after impact the hammerhead releases a blast wave fully capable of blowing in the front wall of the nearest street-level apartment, and hopefully also some of Shadow Stern's defenses, besides.

COMBAT: Vita Yagami has used Tödlichschlag on Shadow Stern.
<Pose Tracker> Signum Yagami [None] has posed.

The combination of the two Devices - users? - shadows? What they may be is not tactically essential. They are speaking, sending their thoughts.

<<I have done evil,>> Signum answers Sky. <<Yet this is the past. I cannot act in the past, only in this living moment. Even if you should wish for we who were made of Belka to atone for that nation's sins -->>

Her head tilts forwards, with a gleam of her eye. <<You seek Ren Aizawa, not us. Is this not so? If she were in that time and in that place, it was in another life entire...>> This moment of poesy and classical language fades in the face of that echo of Meteor Absturz, as so many other poems may have perished. The blade thunders -

Ah -- but Signum had been thinking of the thunder-stroke of blades recently.

She leaps away - into the air. The afterstroke slashes into her, buffetting her with vicious hurricane-force intensity. As she rises, letting the blow take her in the air to some extent, she whispers a word, and one may guess that word when one sees that Laevatein is breaking apart... no, forming a chain.

<<I take no offense,>> Signum answers Fuu with the ghost of faint amusement, around the edges of what she is doing. Her eyes narrow for a moment. She does not immediately announce what happens next--

Which is that the chain length that Laevatein has metamorphed into does not sweep forwards, like a whip. No, the serrated chain pools on the ground, rolls forwards like a veritable tide, and then the chevron-tip of the blade arcs forwards -- moving with great velocity, starting counterclockwize and aiming to make a widdershins-woven barbed next around the two of them.

"Cooperation has its perils," Signum says aloud.

COMBAT: Signum Yagami has used Schlanbaisen Angriff on Shadow Stern.
COMBAT: Signum Yagami has used Schlanbaisen Angriff on Black Sky.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern perfectly braces 21 Fatigue damage from Signum Yagami's Schlanbaisen Angriff, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
Critical Brace!  Shadow Stern's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Shadow Stern fails to brace Vita Yagami's Tödlichschlag, taking 36 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  
COMBAT: Black Sky fails to brace Signum Yagami's Schlanbaisen Angriff, taking 25 Fatigue damage!  
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

The cloaked figure carrying Shadow Stern falls back against Mikoto's sword-to-hip-check, stumbling against her momentum; against Steven's flying tackle he summons no defense at all, which could be strategic (it's Steven), an insult (it's Steven), or, perhaps, he tried and failed to get the spell off in time, as the boy blasted into him full-force (it's Steven!).

The carrier keeps their feet, though, and does begin to draw mana, to craft shields out of those motes, to intercept Ren's spear-barrage, Kasagami's slashes. They sidestep Sourisi's bola to the left, then leap to the right, letting Fuu's cyclone pass them harmlessly by. Signum's chain fails to arrest his forward motion. Fortunately, Vita's blast wave disintegrates that poise and those defenses -- and also his silence.

<NO,> he objects, as to 'destroy all Belkans', as his carrier again, more slowly this time, regains a proper stance. <I AM NOT SOUVERAIN HERAUT. I AM MYSELF. I WILL DESTROY BELKA'S ENEMIES... EVEN IF THEY ARE TRAITORS.>

And then they hoist the massive blade into the air, spinning it once in a full revolution, the obvious beginning of a huge attack...

...when Endo comes in, blade-first.

Stern meets Stern in a titanic blow.

And then Endo's whole world goes black.


You are in your dormant form, hanging above your master's chest. Close to his heart, with only knight's armor in between. Not that he would care about that. Not that you would.

He's speaking. You listen.

"We must act," your master intones, his voice a resonant basso. "There is little enough time left, and this is no hour for delay."

"We MUST act," another voice, a lighter tenor, agrees.

And then there's a burst of mana, a slicing sound.

<DANGER,> you report, immediately, as you spring into action and into your true form, lengthening, becoming heavy and becoming sure, grasped within your master's hand.

The two of you swing downwards as one, and lock, sparks flying furiously in all directions, with another blade.

Above you, the stars spin wildly. One or two pick out from the rest in your vision.


Shadow Stern realizes what's happening faster than anyone else, and that his carrier is still recovering from Endo's mighty blow is the only reason he isn't promptly brutalized. But there's only a second's delay, and that isn't much time for Mikoto, Steven, Ren, Kasagami, Sourisi and Fuu to prevent him from taking advantage of this crucially distracted moment (especially since THEY don't know what's going on with Endo).

What they DO know is this: a gigantic Belkan triangle springs into being beneath Stern's carrier, and then the raw power pouring off of it threatens to force them all back and away. Stern wants time and space to do something terrible, and is willing to burn tremendous amounts of mana in an unformed, spontaneous way to get it.

But there's nothing unformed about how he bears down on Fallen Stern, the original, letting that same excess of mana drive him upwards against the initial hit, then downwards.

Fallen Stern's edge is soon threatening Endo's face, approaching one centimeter at a time, pressed backwards by his merciless counterpart.

They'll connect in three... two...


A few feet away, Black Sky, too, is assailed by many forces. Cure Passion punches and kicks at his carrier; Sourisi sends out a bola and Signum those chains, and the best they can hope to do is escape. Driving them away from Shadow Stern, back onto the shattered playground.

They manage, through a terrific effort, to prevent Fate's Zanber from ending the fight then and there, but it involves two black-gloved hands smacking the energy blade on either side and catching it an inch from the end of the strike, before the shockwave can fire.

Their hands IMMEDIATELY start to burn, but the carrier makes no sound. Neither does Fate, as the redirected momentum of the moment sends energy coursing back into her through Bardiche, and her world fades away.

Black Sky drops Bardiche like the hot plate he is once he stops resisting, just in time for Lera to detonate Broken Ground's shield directly in their faces. Well, technically Sky doesn't have a face. But right now it's feeling kind of academic.

They don't go flying backwards because they were already on the ground, but they sink more deeply into the crater -- then explode upwards, driving into the shield, seeking its immediate and ultimate destruction with sudden, heated fury.

<Binding yourself to another... is weakness. Even if it's too painful for you to remember how you failed to stand on your own, it doesn't erase your failure. Or make this THING you've become a part of any less pitiful.>

The longsword-Sky superheats and begins to bore into Lera's shield from the outside in, indifferent to how it's partially made of energy. It's a terrible last thing for her to see, before she's somewhere else entirely.


Hot, hot, everything is hot, the whole world is on fire.

Your master's fist is clenched around you.

This is all wrong. YOU should be the one out there. YOU should be protecting HIM. But instead you can feel his skin crisping, crackling against your surface like paper.

<Please let me help you,> you beg, but he can't hear you chime, not over the dying screams of a dying world.

"You're more important now," he tells you, which makes no sense at all. His words burn more painfully than any amount of mere temperature, YOUR world turned upside down. "Just... hold on a little longer."

Finally, he finds a space that isn't in immediate peril; the flaming maelstrom is at least a few seconds behind. Seconds enough for him to recite a set of dimensional coordinates.

You repeat them back as runes, casting them around both of you, opening a portal.


<< The third one's here! >> Lindy announces, suddenly.

Just at the same moment that Dark Heraut materializes behind Ren.


Dark Heraut has arrived.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut has used Bane Spike on Ren Aizawa.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Mana Burn on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Mana Burn on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Mana Burn on Kasagami Araki.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Mana Burn on Sourisi.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Mana Burn on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Blauverschiebung on Endo Naoki.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Mana Burn on Vita Yagami.
COMBAT: Black Sky has used Inferno Slasher on Lera Camry.
COMBAT: Kasagami Araki dodges 21 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Mana Burn, taking 14 Fatigue damage!  Kasagami Araki's Fade
and Flash abilities activate!  Stagger applied to Kasagami Araki!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi neatly dodges 44 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Mana Burn, taking 11 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
Mikoto Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Lera Camry perfectly counters 64 Fatigue damage from Black Sky's Inferno Slasher, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
Critical Counter!  Lera Camry's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Lera Camry's counterattack, Mantle Heart, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Black Sky!  
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji braces 24 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Mana Burn, taking 20 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Fuu
Hououji's Block and Parry abilities activate!  Stagger applied to Fuu Hououji!
COMBAT: Vita Yagami braces 18 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Mana Burn, taking 15 Fatigue damage!  Vita Yagami's Block and
Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Steven Universe decisively counters 27 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Mana Burn, taking 9 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Steven Universe's counterattack, Bubble Shield, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Shadow Stern!  
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi covers Sourisi for Shadow Stern's attack, Mana Burn, taking it upon herself instead!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to dodge Shadow Stern's Mana Burn, taking 28 Fatigue damage!  Stagger applied to Mikoto Minagi!  
COMBAT: Cure Passion covers Ren Aizawa for Dark Heraut's attack, Bane Spike, taking it upon herself instead!
COMBAT: Cure Passion fails to counter Dark Heraut's Bane Spike, taking 56 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Cure Passion is unable
to keep fighting!  Stagger applied to Cure Passion!
COMBAT: Cure Passion's counterattack, Crimson Counter, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Dark Heraut!  
COMBAT: Endo Naoki braces 16 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Blauverschiebung, taking 13 Fatigue damage!  Endo Naoki's Block
and Parry abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.


The amount of energy peeling - or, perhaps, pealing - off of Shadow Stern is enough to threaten Mikoto's footing, and she moves with it, at an angle. It's a motion which brings Sourisi to her field of view, and the sight of her in the wake of Black Sky's assault makes her realise --

All a sudden she diverts her path, and instead of moving strategically with the force she cuts the shortest route to the mousey Miraculous User. Sword in one hand, Mikoto grasps Sourisi with the other, and gives her a shove - towards the route her instincts tell her is easiest to flee through. "Fly!" Mikoto snaps, just the way Sourisi helped her to, all that time ago.

For a moment, her body is what's blocking the flow of mana between Shadow Stern and Sourisi - a moment enough for her to get her feet under her.

And then the undertow grasps at her ankles, and she, herself, is flung with the force of those waves. She's a little bigger than Sourisi, but not by much - she goes flying, with an audible yelp.

It's fine. Eventually she hits something.

That 'something' happens to be the rubble of what used to be a neighbour's home, but it stopped her momentum, so who's counting?

Up - up she pushes herself, pushes a slab off of herself with a shower of debris. Cough, cough, cough. She blinks against the dust - Lindy sounds the alarm, and she looks to --


Her eyes squeeze shut, and it's not entirely the fault of the brick-dust. "Miroku," she says, just as Ren has heard her say it so many times - but not quite the same; "will you help us?"

If she really trusts in herself --

She plunges her blade into a dark portal, and the ground cracks in white explosions which tear the earth asunder - right under Dark Heraut's feet.

And Shadow Stern's.

And Black Sky's.

Mikoto can't be everywhere at once, but Mikoto doesn't have to be.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disaster on Shadow Stern.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disaster on Black Sky.
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disaster on Dark Heraut.
COMBAT: Lera Camry has saved her current combat state for later!
COMBAT: Cure Passion has saved her current combat state for later!
COMBAT: Steven Universe has saved his current combat state for later!
COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has saved her current combat state for later!
COMBAT: Black Sky fails to brace Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disaster, taking 28 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Shadow Stern braces 13 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disaster, taking 11 Fatigue damage!  Shadow
Stern's Block and Parry abilities activate!  Stagger applied to Shadow Stern!
COMBAT: Dark Heraut braces 16 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disaster, taking 7 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has saved her current combat state for later!
COMBAT: Signum Yagami has saved her current combat state for later!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki has saved his current combat state for later!
COMBAT: Vita Yagami has saved her current combat state for later!
<Pose Tracker> Sourisi [Juuban Public School (9)] has posed.

The bola may not have struck Stern, but it did serve as an decent distraction...unfortunately it didn't seem to do much good. More triangial shields are formed to block attacks that couldn't be avoided, and those that can are smoothly evaded. However, Vita shows that might can break apart a new path, but it only spurs Shadow Stern to action.

Now if only she could make heads or tails of what it was saying.

Endo moves in to counter against his evil counterpart, the air splitting and shaking from being so close to the epicenter of such forces. Sourisi's close enough to see how both of them seem to seize up for a moment, too quickly for the Miraculous User to try to take advantage of. Being such a close-range fighter does leave herself open to a sudden rush of raw mana, a wave of unfocused energy that would be hard enough to escape from if she was in peak condition

That's when Mikoto is suddendly in the way between Sourisi and Shadow Stern, a helping hand sending her literally flying from the shove.

Shock and concern is all Sourisi can feel for Mikoto, especially since not that long ago she had fought the wielder of the Obsidian Blade not too long ago, but she shoves it aside for the here and now. With this momentum it'll going to be difficult to come to a complete stop, but if she can use it to her advantage...

Slapping her empty palms against the ground the launch her upwards, the ravenette twists around in midair so her feet can intercept with what remains of a wall of a house. Coilining up like a tightening spring, Sourisi launches with enough force to shatter it completely, sailing right back for Stern's doppelganger, the power of the mana wave, Mikoto's shove and her own stregth behind the flight. Focusing most of her remaining energy and willpower into this attack, Sourisi twists around in midflight to direct both of her boots at Shadow Stern's sternum.

No words are said with this attack, just a wordless battlecry as the Miraculous User does her best to be a thorn in a puppet's side.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Sourisi has used Wild Claw Barrage on Shadow Stern.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern partially dodges 20 Fatigue damage from Sourisi's Finisher, Wild Claw Barrage, taking 78 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Black Sky has saved her current combat state for later!
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has saved her current combat state for later!
COMBAT: Dark Heraut has saved her current combat state for later!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki transforms into Barrier Jacket Zerstörer!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki has loaded him saved combat state! He is now ready to take on 1 opponent!
<Pose Tracker> Kasagami Araki [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

There are some things that are just obvious. Kasagami may not know what's going on with Endo after that Stern-on-Stern clash. But she does know what it means to have a large sword coming for one's face. She's even had that particular sword aimed at her once! And so the Duelist does not hesitate as Shadow Stern starts burning up his wielder's magic with abandon in order to try to lay purchase on the original!

And so even as that Belkan mage's triangle pushes her back and burns at her ankles, sending her coat flying off her shoulders, Kasagami takes up a sword stance! Holding her blade level at her shoulders, she twists herself to the side and concentrates!

"Endo! Wake up! Nothing can stop you and your partner if you put the full weight of your belief on the line!" Badgers the Duelist, before taking a single step forward!

Kassie's lungs fill with oxygen, and the Duelist readies herself. Her swing is singular, more defined this time despite being faster than her previous blows. There's no confusing footwork here, no using her own image as a defense. It's a single expression of intent: that this transgression upon friend won't be allowed if she and her blade has anything to do wtih it.

Five lines of swinging steel blossom all in the same breath as though reflected in a mirror, each intensely swift strike full of the grace and sublime skill of a girl passionate for and with her whole heart into her sword! Her greater nature surging, like royalty on the field of battle protecting a fellow swordperson! Each blow seeks to strike arms and critical-looking portions of the false Stern, to slow that blade's descend by putting all of her power into slashing away her opponent's own!

COMBAT: FINISHER! Kasagami Araki has used Crimson Rose Cage on Shadow Stern.
<Pose Tracker> Cure Passion [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

"I'm okay!" the red Cure calls to everyone at once who called out to her as she was down, now that she's emerged again. "I won't give up!" And Passion brings all her speed to bear against the doppel-Sky, whose name she won't contest; she knows something of names. This time, her speed pays off, and she can reach her foe to clash in melee with the sword and his 'wielder'. As Passion feels her blows sink home, she hits a knee landing opposite the action, breathing in sharply and working to re-gather her energy. Already the blows she's taken are catching up with her, but Setsuna Higashi has never been one, by any name, to give up easily just by being hurt. A pale hand gathers into a fist against the ground, and with a glint of jewels at her head, Passion lifts her head and stares out towards her friends and opponents.

She watches Fate and Bardiche's blade caught by hands she has not seen underneath the black. She sees the two clash, can spot Endo clashing with Shadow Stern, too. One... Two. Two of them here. Passion starts to rise, pushing against the ground and unbending her legs. As she does, she focuses inward, red eyes closing as she gathers up her strength. Straightened, she reaches out with her heart, preparing--

Her eyes snap open, and as Lindy's announcement starts to come, a blaze of red light erupts around Cure Passion's form--and she winks out. "R-"

The same instant, red light bursts behind Ren Aizawa, and in it stands a usually-quiet friend; pink hair billows from behind her as while still blipping back into existence, the red Cure swings hard for the beam of light itself, for the Device ahead of her. A dirty fist bursts forward--"-en-chan!"

But the punch is just too late, even near-instantaneous not quite enough for the power the doppel-Device brings to bear. Passion takes the full impact of the bright Bane Spike, having interposed herself between Ren and Dark Heraut. It was just moments ago that Ren was calling out to her, and before that the other way around. This one, though, seems to Passion to stretch out, as she's knocked from her feet and down. The ground cracks beneath the impact. It's finally more than she can take, and while she feels her awareness starting to swirl, Passion forces one thing--a turn of her head Ren's way, and a small smile. There are many things she doesn't have time to say to Ren just now.

<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Black Sky slams into Broken Ground.

Flame-wreathed blade and dark green shield meet, and lightning crackles between them. The smooth, metal portions of the shield begin to crack where Black Sky's blade dig in. It cuts into it, and the shield holds it. And, yet, there is no movement from Lera, from Ground, or from Sky. The sole movement is that shield being pressed back.

Because, for Lera Camry, the world is on fire.

It isn't her hand than burns and smolders. The heat is one she feels with a skin that isn't flesh; the heat is one that she detects with sensors, that for one terrifying moment, feel natural. She has no eyes to see; she has a different suite of senses, of light and radar, of sound and vibration, of subtle radiations. All to appreciate the heat more thoroughly.

Her lips move, a barely audible whisper. "What--what is--"

And Soaring Sky, too, is frozen. The memory is alien to him -- as alien as it is to Lera. He shares in it. For a moment, the two are one. But for him, one fact overrides all:

<How... how could I forget this? And why -- still! -- can't I remember what it is?>

It is, instead, for Ground that clarity comes. A memory of Sky's. Frederick Camry recovered him -- and he remembers, vaguely, voices from when Ground was only half-assembled, saying that this broken wreck of a Device could be fixed:

'The damage is severe. I barely pulled him out of those ruins...'

'I know. But... fixing a Belkan Device--he'll be practically new.'

'Hm. And this one... a sword, to go with a shield?'

'Soaring Sky, Broken Ground. They're partners, Frederick. Made for each other.'

'One day, then, I think you'll find the right wielder for them.'

Ground clings to that memory, holding onto it through a torrent of memories that are not his own.

<...I said...>

BGM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDPCXqiz2Kg

<...that whatever the past is--> A crack splits down one of the segments of Ground's form. The barrier shimmers, and flickers, before it renews. <--it won't stop me!>

And before the shield can break, the light forms. A single hexagon of pale golden light, which pushes Black Sky backward. Not all at once; by centimeters and inches, each preciously bought. A second hexagon flashes, connected to the first, and then a third, and the fire begins washing over each.

<From keeping them!>

A fourth, a tenth, a twentieth hexagon appears. They come rapidly, now, forming an interlocked dome of translucent energy. The pale gold light pushes, and pushes, and does it faster. The fire billows off it, blown backward, and denied from reaching Lera.


Then, the dome of interlocked hexagons billows outward, growing out over Lera. It knocks Black Sky's weapon back, and then explodes apart into little sparkles and shards of light. They come raining down around Lera. Her amber eyes blink into focus.

She sees Mikoto pushing herself up to her feet. The portals opening underneath the feet of three Devices draw her attention -- and, briefly, to Dark Heraut. "R-Ren-chan!" she shouts.

She doesn't move in time. Setsuna does. She sees the Bane Spike slam into Cure Passion; she sees her fall, and Lera's stomach sinks. Her eyes widen, and she looks back at the one in front of her. The way to Ren -- to Setsuna -- to Dark Heraut -- is through Black Sky. She looks down, and there isn't the anger from the first fight. Her lips tighten into a line, her eyes blaze, and she nods.

And then Lera kicks off the ground.

With a wordless cry, dozens of lights shoot into the heavens above Lera. They rise into the afternoon sky and shine, like half-a-hundred stars that gleam despite the sunlight above. Lera swings back Soaring Sky, still gripped firmly in her hand. Broken Ground is moved to the side, light flashing over the flawless gem and the cracked surface, where Black Sky bit deeply not a moment before.

<Calculating targeting sequence.> Ground's chime is a hint of what's to come.

"Flare, trigger!" Lera calls out. Soaring Sky's two-toned blade ignites, fire that burns a deep gold bleeding to crimson crackling and wavering up the whole length of the sword. Soaring Sky adds, after it: <Ignition!>

And then Lera surges forward, so fast that she becomes a blur. She resolves before Black Sky and his wielder, swinging the weapon up. The uppercut strike is punctuated by a starburst of plasma. Lera swings, again and again. Each strike leaves a curve of frozen fire in the air; of starfire that lingers.

Lera leaps up, at the crux of it; Broken Ground remains attached to her forearm, as she grasps Soaring Sky by the hilt, and the crescents of stellar fire stay all around. <Aurora!>

The points of light above resolve, as stars become blades. Dozens of copies of Soaring Sky -- each in pale gold, spectral yet solid -- come down from the heavens, raining down in terrific arcs of slash, stabbing blades of light; each directed with unerring accuracy by Broken Ground. <Galaxy!>

And then Lera's jump slash concludes. She swings the sword down for Black Sky's wielder's head. The flame on the sword, the fiery arcs left around it, and the dozens of pale gold blades all flash on her command -- and then explode, in a cavalcade of flame that shoots up, combining into a column that curves at the top like a terrific solar prominence.


COMBAT: FINISHER! Lera Camry has used Aurora Galaxy Divider on Black Sky.
COMBAT: Steven Universe transforms into Serious Steven!
COMBAT: Steven Universe has loaded him saved combat state! He is now ready to take on 1 opponent!
COMBAT: Ren Aizawa has loaded her saved combat state! She is now ready to take on 1 opponent!
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

The battlefield instantly becomes Chaos. It is to be expected given who was yet to arrive. And yet Sky grasps her blade. The girl tries to shove, to give more to break right through his grasp.

"You're not weak. But we're... strong." She asserts - as she tries to push her Zanber's blade right into SKy's Wielder's face so that her spell might fire off.

Before suddenly the unfired shockwave causes her to recoil backwards, sending her careening in the opposite direction, hurtling through the air.

Sky's words echo in her head. The assumption that the things she always knew were strength - turned on its head by a Device she thought she knew.

Maybe she doesn't know Sky as well as she thinks. Her last glimpse of the battlefield is the awful chaos intensifying. Passion hurt - protecting Ren... Lera and Endo in danger.

And her vision goes...


BGM Change: Smother - Daughter - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnkzvAXWV-0

Your world is sedate, floating within the fluid like a child that has yet to be born. It is hardly peaceful though, there's a sense of tension all around you.

You were made with nascent purpose, and even if you do not yet know what it is. You know you will not have a peaceful existence, simply because of what you are - though you know not the why or how.

You notice movement, as the shape of five fingertips press against the glass featherlight, and the one they belong to take shape

"You turned out to have such a rough shape." You see the faint reflection of a poleaxe can be seen against the glass overlaying her - like seeing a reflection of yourself on the surface of a pond.

You hear a woman's voice speak as she moves from indinstinct shape to more defined features, her bangs framing a thoughtful expression. Instinctively you know she is your maker, like it is written into your being. A cap rests upon her head, and a long lab coat encompasses the rest of her body. A bubble rises every so often, distorting your vision of her.

"But your frame is black - Fate's favorite color." You see her leave a single finger is left on the glass, as she traces it to point, "And your crystal is gold - like her magic."

Her palm flattens against it, and her forehead comes to rest against the glass, her bangs pressing in, her eyes close, "Please - hear out this; the small wish of your selfish creator. Even though you've only just come into being. I need you to become her power. Without you she can't use any of the magic I taught her in the way she needs."

Rubbing her head against it, you can simply feel her sadness from here.

A subtle little blur of wet distorts the view of her face. Like the first rain drop spattering on a windshield.

"Become strong, Bardiche. If I can give her nothing else - I want to leave her with the power to carve out her own path."

You know no other reply yet - save one.

<Yes Meister.>

You don't know yet that it is the only time you'll ever say that.


... but now someone knows the answer to her question. An answer that could not be conveyed earlier, even though the question had been asked. <-arning Resonance Fluctuation->

Her vision returns to normal, in the sunglare of battle, her ears hearing Bardiche blaring his alarm. And suddenly - just before she'd hit the edge of the barrier. Her course corrects.

"I know Bardiche." The girl says, her voice whisper thin - as tears contaminate her cheeks. "I know." There's something soothing about how calm her acceptance of his silence his in.

The sad things about her past - she's accepted them already. Yet accepting them does not mean that you cannot sometimes see a new facet to it - caught in a new light.

"It's okay..." The girl says, with those twin streams in her eyes. "It's okay... because... we're strong."

The assertion is a simple one. It is punctuated by the snapping of the enormous blade down in that position. The child says it again. It is not convincing herself. It is confidence. It is certainty.

Fearing disappointment of someone important to her is a familiar feeling.

Feeling confidence in the idea that she hasn't - that she won't.

"We're strong." As her voice drops to a whisper, "Let's show her just how strong..."

There is a rumble, like that of distant thunder. Fate Testarossa loves the storm. She remembers sharing it with Alicia under that tree. This time though, it is backwards, the thunder is prelude to the lightning. Midchildan circles form under her - as a distant beacon, a bright light - and the lightning begins to strike down from above overhead.

"Arcus - Cultus - Aegeas." The girl says the ritual spell words like a mantra, as Bardiche pumps in one - two cartridges through its revolving cylinder.

<Jet Zanber.>

And Bardiche grows much - much more longer in such a short amount of time. Reaching such a titanic height that it feels like a blade that is far too large for her - or anyone. Yet, it's also the right size. Exactly the size she needs.

<<Sky - I'm coming. I won't hold back.>>

The girl suddenly charges right off of that circle. The blade snapping up over her shoulder, as she suddenly brings it down on Sky with all the fury of the storm. Slashing the far too large blade diagonally through the space where its wielder and Sky wait. Her blade aimed to miss Lera entirely just as the other mage's jump slash of her incredibly bright spell lands first. The motion of Fate's owncleaving the ground as the blade tip meets resistance and carves a trench within the earth, a plume of dirt and rock erupting from the sheer violence.

"... because you're anything but weak." She asserts with a whisper.

A heartbeat after the slash, a terrifying amount of yellow and violet lightning begins to fall onto that space - striking again and again, building up into a compressed storm of energy before erupting outward into a window shattering thunderclap.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Fate Testarossa has used Jet Zanber  on Black Sky.
<Pose Tracker> Signum Yagami [None] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UN00p8MNajg

Belka's enemies... are they Belka's enemies? Can you be the enemy of something long gone? The thought flickers through the surface level of Signum's mind, the outer layer of the cloud. She breathes out as the schlangen-form device struggles to fence in Black Sky and Shadow Stern.

She raises Laevatein's hilt to her forehead, the trailing sword-chain something like a hair strand for a moment. There's a tension. A tightness...

The third one's coming.

I ask much of you, Signum thinks.

Laevatein's core pulses in her awareness. An acknowledgement.

Will you forgive me?

<<READY!>> says the Device.

"Then -- erupt!" Signum shouts.


And then Laevatein screams, in sheerest delight in war and struggle! No - the Armed Device does not scream, in the same that Signum would scream if faced with one of her comrades dead; nor in the same way that one might scream frustration at a cruel and cold universe in which you can find no love. Laevatein screams because as an intense pulse of magic rolls from Signum into the Device, as triangular glints on each of the subdivided blade's jagged edges shine, the metal is abruptly shrouded in magical light that superheats it.

The chains relent around Sky and then they burst down against the ground, their passage, in fact, smoothing the injuries done to that roadbed as they ripple out. More like petals than chains they burst outwards, the loops subdividing as Signum's arm slowly turns. The blades ripples -

In Signum's mind there is a moment of cold uncertainty. This is a battlefield-clearer. This field is largely her allies. She will have to dissipate -

Laevatein speaks with crystal clarity in her mind, like a rose-quartz bell (with apologies to Steven). <<All friendlies identified. Calculating geometry.>>

A moment later: <<Hold faith.>>

Signum's eyes half close. And...

The light of Laevatein fills the barrier as the chains rise upwards, like a snake - no, something grander than a snake - eightfold dragons, twisting and rising in a glittering silver-and-pink storm that sweeps down with chainsaw-intensity to grasp up and hurl aside the renegades! It passes harmlessly round those who stand with Signum Yagami in this high-noon conflict: not even the merest edge of a stray hair will be offended.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Signum Yagami has used Hiryu Issen on Black Sky.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Signum Yagami has used Hiryu Issen on Shadow Stern.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Signum Yagami has used Hiryu Issen on Dark Heraut.
<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

Endo's vision is filled with another place, words and dizzying stars. To the outside world he looks like a statue, still and vacant.

Endo! Wake up!

Kasagami's voice echoes across the field of stars, rebounding through the memory that Endo is cocooned in. There are other voices too, sounds of friends who need him, sounds of them in danger.

The memory cracks and breaks, and the present comes flooding back in. The shape of the other Fallen Stern comes sharply back into focus, bearing down with alarming speed--

And Endo's own device rises to meet it, weapon snapping up to catch the oncoming blow. The two swords meet with a thunderous crash, violet energy flaring from the current that runs along the dark metal's edge. The impact is jarring, but Endo doesn't budge. Instead the two Sterns lock for a moment, grinding together as they fight for dominance.

"Stern--" Endo speaks the word between gritted teeth, a half-question to his partner.

<READY.> The Device warbles back.

The gem set in the cross guard of Endo's weapon pulses once, a flash of warning before the while of the blade ignites in purple light. Energy consumes the length of the weapon, billowing outward and upward, the dark metal subsumed by a pillar of energy that stretches skyward.

"I won't let you hurt Ren-chan or anyone else!" The two Stern's break away, a deliberate step taken backward to make room for what comes next.

Violet light fills the afternoon sky as Endo extends his blade skyward, the great column of energy tinting thin clouds that swirl around its gravity. Maybe it stretches all the way to the stars.

Maybe when it comes down it falls from them.

The beam comes crashing to ground on the opposite sword and it's puppeteer's wielder with meteoric force, burning like fire as it comes to ground.

The second detonation comes after the first is nearly finished, the remaining embers igniting into a ball of purple-black star stuff in a final, explosive display.


COMBAT: FINISHER! Endo Naoki has used Stern Brecher on Shadow Stern.
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

There are times to be cautious in combat, and there are times when it was time to put out the hurt. These trio of nuisances need to be given the boot! The small child flies at Shadow Stern and connects! It is difficult to tell with what still, but it felt like a good hit.

The boy barely gets to land when the sound of someone else getting hit really hard is heard. "W-Was that Passion...?" he asks. He cant see her in the enemy fire! "You can't stop all of us, even when working together! Just give up!" he shouts.

The evil Stern retaliates with a tide of near-liquid mana energy, but the boy with a star on his shirt won't give him the satisfaction of such a defeat! Hands are splayed out, and a Bubble Shield forms to block the tide! It stands firm, and refsuses to follow the flow. If often disobeys proper physics as a bubble, and causes problems because of it.

Not this time. "You're gonna pay for hurting my friends!" he shouts, a mystical echo through barrier follows his voice. The mana is almost done, but he has a risky plan! The attack is almost over!


The final wave of mana comes, but Steven drops the bubble early, and assures his foothold!


With a spinning motion, he moves to backhand the plasmic wave of mana with the shield! Some invariably burns him, but he crashes through. He must persevere!

And the Rose Shield does what it always does when it comes in contact with magical energy. It begins to hum.


The spinning step ends bacing back toward Stern, the shield angled his way. With the final step of the motion comes a stomp, and a magical soundwave peals out in a blasting pattern toward Shadow Stern! To allies, it is soothing. To enemies, well... Best not to describe it. It could leave your ears ringing.

COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Reverb Shield on Shadow Stern.
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

And then, ultimately, there were three.

The Wind Knight remembers, again, what was said about not being pincered by the rogue Devices (and she wonders once again if they HAVE users, or if those robes are projected in some form; they might not be holographs, there might be substance to the robes, but there's more than one sort of 'projection').

Rather than retaliating against Shadow Stern, the Magic Knight of Wind tries - when she recovers from the tidal wave of raw mana vented by Fallen Stern's doppelganger - to turn her attention against the final arrival, Dark Heraut. Her attention is none too focused, but the battle was hard enough against *two* of the rogues; letting the third one join the fray fully is a non-starter in her book. She finally sucks in a breath that's less scorched by the magical fray, and calls out, "WINDS OF ADMONISHMENT!!" This time, the whirlwind that forms is aimed to wrap around Device and robed figure alike - not merely to hold them still, not remotely gentle, but as tight a capture as she can manage to inflict on them. She's not above putting some tears in those robes herself; part of her WANTS to see what's underneath them - if their enemies have an actual face, or if the renegade Devices are indeed the decision-making force as well as the embodiment of hostility.

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

Ren can feel her strength beginning to slip away from her. It's a terrifying reality giving what's transpiring here on the battlefield. Her arms quake, her body shudders, but she's determined not to give in to exhaustion. Not here. Not now. With so much at stake. And she knows Heraut won't give up, either. A promise made to one another to give it their all. It would be a shame to break it after all this time.

<< The third one's here! >>

The third one. That must be...!

<Look out!>

Heraut's ping is frantic as he is caught off guard by the sudden appearance of his doppelganger behind the two of them. Ren turns, eyes wide, the beginnings of a protection spell forming within her mind. It's too slow though. Entirely too slow.

But Setsuna's there. Sweet, amazing Setsuna she and Lera got ice cream with just a few days before all of this started. It was mint chocolate chip. She remembers this detail distinctly because they'd managed to snag the last three scoops for themselves, and enjoyed the treat greatly while talking.

Now, as Cure Passion falls to the ground, Ren watches in abject horror. And... she's smiling. The same smile she often gave whenever she was among friends. The same smile she gave when they sat on the park bench and enjoyed their ice cream together.

The moment Passion hits the ground, Ren is right there at her side, cradling her battered form tightly. "SETSUNA-CHAN! SETSUNA-CHAAAAAN!" Ren's voice cracks, high-pitched and full of panic. "THIS IS MY FAULT!" She grips Setsuna tightly, tears flowing down her face as she momentarily forgets that they're in the middle of a ferocious battle. The shock and anguish, however, is soon replaced by something else.

Pure anger.

"You..." Ren says hoarsely, setting Setsuna down gently, then rising to her feet. She wobbles a bit unsteadily, looking weary in her torn and scuffed barrier jacket. "You..." She repeats again, amber eyes focusing solely on the one responsible for Setsuna's current state. "Faker..." The word is said in a low tone. Or perhaps not so much as said as "spat out" in this case. "You... you're nothing but a fake..."

Up above, high in the sky, it's not a magic circle that appears -- but a magic loop, instead, wide and encompassing. Bronze and intense, it's positioned directly over where the Shadow Heraut and his wielder are present. Then, in a flash of light, dozens upon dozens of phantasmal lances appear within the confines of the loop, tightly packed together and humming with charged energy.


"Apex Torrent."

Ren delivers these words as if they are a death sentence. And with the way the lances shoot downward, screaming through the air like a deranged banshee, it might as well be just that.

A death sentence.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Admonishment on Dark Heraut.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Ren Aizawa has used Apex Torrent on Dark Heraut.
<Pose Tracker> Vita Yagami [None] has posed.

Well, now that they can speak, the confusion's starting to clear up. Sort of. In other words...

"Two factions?" Vita mutters. Yes? And also no? Never mind she's still confused. That'll be for Hayate and Shamal to figure out, she guesses; for now, she throws up her own Belkan triangle in counter to the blast of heat and force from Stern's carrier. Her feet grind against the air for several seconds before she's finally forced back, tumbling through the sky, pinwheeling helplessly, before she slams her feet into a wall right next to a sign advertising shampoos and cracks the bolts fastening it to the building.

Cure Passion falls protecting Ren. "The third one," she mutters. "Got to thin the herd, here...! Fine! Eisen!" <<Ja!>> "Time for the show!"

<<~I shall not be outdone!~ GIGANTFORM!>>

ka CHUNK ka CHUNK ka CHUNK, Eisen's cartridge chamber fires again and again, rattling Vita's bones as magic pours through her. Vita swings her hammer UP, and the line of his pole extends upward, elastic and impossible, twisting, eye-crossing impossibility of steel bending like putty. And at the top, Eisen's head inflates, the already-large polo hammer blooming outwared into a dual-headed sledge the size of a pair of busses bolted together, looming huge over the street.

"Honestly can't tell which end is up with you!" Vita bellows. "So I'll just have to do my job, and figure you out later!"

She thrusts her feet off the wall, whirling her weight forward. Eisen's head starts to curve, like a plane crashing down, the air around it parting in funnels.

Aiming to crush Stern flat against the concrete, and probably punch a hole through the street below besides.

COMBAT: FINISHER! Vita Yagami has used Gigantschlag on Shadow Stern.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut braces 7 Fatigue damage from Fuu Hououji's Winds of Admonishment, taking 11 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji is
COMBAT: Dark Heraut partially dodges 19 Fatigue damage from Signum Yagami's Finisher, Hiryu Issen, taking 75 Fatigue damage!  Dark
Heraut's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Dark Heraut fails to brace Ren Aizawa's Finisher, Apex Torrent, taking 69 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Dark Heraut covers Black Sky for Signum Yagami's attack, Hiryu Issen, taking it upon herself instead!
COMBAT: Dark Heraut partially dodges 29 Fatigue damage from Signum Yagami's Finisher, Hiryu Issen, taking 117 Fatigue damage!
Critical Hit!  Dark Heraut's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Dark Heraut covers Shadow Stern for Signum Yagami's attack, Hiryu Issen, taking it upon herself instead!
COMBAT: Dark Heraut braces 52 Fatigue damage from Signum Yagami's Finisher, Hiryu Issen, taking 35 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Shadow Stern counters 5 Fatigue damage from Steven Universe's Reverb Shield, taking 15 Fatigue damage!  Shadow Stern's
Reverse ability activates!
COMBAT: Shadow Stern's counterattack, Mana Burn, partially gets through, doing 8 Fatigue damage to Steven Universe!  
COMBAT: Shadow Stern fails to dodge Kasagami Araki's Finisher, Crimson Rose Cage, taking 153 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  
COMBAT: Shadow Stern braces 98 Fatigue damage from Vita Yagami's Finisher, Gigantschlag, taking 65 Fatigue damage!  Shadow Stern's
Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Shadow Stern fails to brace Endo Naoki's Finisher, Stern Brecher, taking 203 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Black Sky fails to brace Fate Testarossa's Finisher, Jet Zanber , taking 182 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Black Sky fails to brace Lera Camry's Finisher, Aurora Galaxy Divider, taking 201 Fatigue damage!  Black Sky is unable to
keep fighting!
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.
<SoundTracker> MGLN StrikerS: Cradle https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACZI5KMZ0jU

Dark Heraut steps over Cure Passion's body (and away from Mikoto's obsidian strike) with total indifference only magnified by the lack of expression allowed to its wielder beneath that magical cloak. It is wholly unstirred by Fuu's attempts to disturb it, which isn't super surprising -- the obfuscation on those cloaks is serious business, and they've already taken a whole lot worse. Still, the Winds of Admonishment have to be walked through and out of, and the seconds lost to emerging from their embrace are seconds that could have been spent erecting defenses against Ren's unbridled wrath, but were not.

He pays for it dearly.

He knows his own capabilities, and how to counter them, but simply lacks the time. He can only assemble three rotating shields, and not even overlapped properly, since those phantasmal bronze lances are coming from every direction. He positions them as optimally as he can, but it's not enough to stop her.

He vanishes entirely within a forest of lances, sticking out of the ground where he was, missing Passion by the length of a body.


Shadow Stern is unable to finish the job. His blade lock with Endo is SEVERELY interrupted. First by Mikoto's obsidian shard, which knocks him off balance; then by Sourisi double-boot-kicking at his carrier's sternum, which exacerbates this problem; and finally, more pointedly -- more pointingly? -- by Kasagami's fivefold strike.

This time when her blade comes away, it brings with it the blood it failed to collect last time, which shimmers its way down her nodachi until dripping off the end in a single, large drop.

He is in no way capable of stopping Endo from shoving him off and back. As more and more attackers close in, while Stern Brecher reaches towards the sky, it only distracts him further; he burns more mana, heedless of the consequences, against Steven's reverberation, sending it back in the way it came. He burns more still -- a LOT more -- surviving Gigantschlag, which does indeed punch a hole in the street, but leaves a shaky, half-shattered pillar in the center, upon which his carrier's feet yet stand.

Well. They've been forced to take a knee, actually.

And Hiryu Issen, that glittering silver-and-pink hydra that crashes like a chainsaw tsunami across the battlefield, is coming to sweep him away...

<IMPRESSIVE,> intones Shadow Stern, with the stoic emotion of a knight's sword about to meet his own demise.


<I am myself.>

Suddenly Dark Heraut is there, returning the favor of two days past, defending Shadow Stern with his last breath. Breaths. Many breaths, actually. There are some rips and tears in their Barrier Jacket, but nothing especially deadly.

His defenses weren't enough to stop Ren's ultimate assault.

But he was enough. Enough to endure it, and emerge from it, if not unscathed, certainly still able to fight.

<I am MORE myself than you are, now. I remember everything. It is you who is incomplete.>

Dark Heraut summons lances of his own, half in praise, half in parody, of the original; again the air fills with phantasmal bronze, though this time they're more slender, great extended lengths that the manifold chains of Signum's bladestorm can't help but wrap themselves around, as they're interrupted in their intricate, beautifully controlled paths.

It doesn't stop their destruction.

It just turns it away from Shadow Stern and Black Sky... and towards Dark Heraut himself.

<We are even now, Stern.>

He disappears beneath a wall of steel for the second time in half a minute.

And a moment later, Shadow Stern joins him; beneath starlight rather than spikes, but wielded by a Knight all the same. The column is wider than the Device, let alone his carrier; but the latter is maneuvered to protect the former. Shadow Stern shrinks into his dormant form, and the cloaked figure clasps him to their chest, them goes into a nearly fetal position, curled tightly around the Device, in order to take the brunt of the assault in his place.

There's no safe angle from the second explosion, however, and Device and carrier alike are sent flying by the nascent promise of a star's rebirth.


It's a good thing Dark Heraut elected to rescue both Belkan doppel-Devices from Signum, because Black Sky was in a pretty bad way even BEFORE now, having endured the righteous fury of Ren's defenders for quite some time before the others arrived, all by his lonesome.

But Dark Heraut can't do everything.

And the walls are closing in.

Black Sky's furious attempt to demolish Broken Ground -- an interesting choice, and perhaps a meaningful one, as he could have gone after either Device, or even Lera herself -- is thoroughly thwarted by the two Devices, old and new, Midchildan and Belkan, united within their Aurora Horizon. Broken Ground's shield not only holds but is downright resurgent, knocking the carrier away like a rag doll. They trip over Mikoto's obsidian shard as their arms flail, the Device unable to understand the nature of BALANCE well enough to right it efficiently, perhaps.

They're flat on their back, surrounded by what used to be the swings, when Fate brings Jet Zanber down, and this time, they don't try to catch it. Instead they bring up their Belkan shields, a formation six layers deep, spinning like beautiful, runic, interlocking gears.

They do not survive Jet Zanber, nor the immense jump slash of Soaring Sky.

Which means there's nothing left, when a giant column of flame, engorged into a crackling, electric maelstrom of burning lightning, detonates upon them.

A moment later, Shadow Stern plummets out of the heavens, crashing into the new crater created around Black Sky. Dark Heraut falls into it a moment later.

And there's a moment of silence.

But Black Sky's already much-abused barrier jacket cannot hope to survive all this (though 'hope' in itself was never really part of this magical equation); it falls off of the carrier in bits and pieces, shards of shadow that melt into black smoke when they impact the ground. The figure beneath wears a black bodysuit -- another layer of anonymity under the first -- but it's been torn open in places, too. A vast, mottling bruise purples the right side of the torso. The knees have split, and are full of concrete dust. The palms of the gloves burnt away fending off Zanber Bardiche. There are slashes, here and there, weeping a little red blood; proof of the magical girls' determination leaving marks, for better or for worse. The Device couldn't protect them from this. It's possible that he didn't even try.

Their hands are fists on the ground, then one splays flat to heave them up. They lift their chin as they rise, and the final scraps of the hood fall back, becoming only memory, one quickly replaced by the unforgettable sight of their face, a face that Lera tried to bisect only moments ago.

The curve of her cheeks, the sharpness of her chin, her cute little nose, even the roundness of her ears and their position on her skull, all familiar. Her head was shaved recently, but the stubble there is the same sunwrought gold.

It's unmistakably Fate Testarossa. Fate, if you put her through the Missing Child photo filter used to populate the backs of milk cartons. Anyone who ever wondered what she'd look like in her late teens, there on the precipice of young adulthood... well, now you know.

She shares Fate's eyes too, except in the ways she doesn't. They're properly crimson, and quite huge and long-lashed. Gentle eyes, or they could be, if they contained any self-possession. But they don't. They're just... empty.

Until they aren't. Focus comes to them abruptly, a flat stare rapidly overtaken by a cold, manically excited light that has nothing to do with any Fate at all.

Her lips move; are moved. The voice that emerges from them is not hers, either.

<SoundTracker> BGM Swap: Mars - Gustav Holst https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jmk5frp6-3Q

"Greetings, my children," declares a grown man with a feathery tenor. It has a tendency to rise and fall in cadenzas too unstable for normal speech. Overtones of arrogance. Undertones of madness... "It is so good to finally address you directly. I've been watching over you all for so many years... and my, how you've grown, even adopting your own Resonance Drives... I couldn't be prouder, really."

The other two figures, still cloaked, though fallen, straighten up to their knees. Laying one hand upon one of the older Fate's legs from either side, and the other upon the crater beneath the three of them, they summon a spell circle that twists and whorls with unfamiliar runes and a nauseating swirl of colors, everchanging hues.

It's a Momentum Eater, the more analytical among the group may understand later, when they have time to think about it carefully: the closer anyone gets to it, the faster their momentum is consumed. The truly desperate who try to reach the trio at all costs will inevitably turn themselves into statues, muscles locked in a painless but total rictus. Their eyes will be kept open, though.

The man wants them to see this. To see her, as her lips twist into a terrible facsimile of a smile. It belongs on someone's face, but not this face.

"I am, in a very real way, responsible for you all, you see," the man goes on with a bubbly little giggle. "I've been your chaperone into the wonderful world of magic..."

Those crimson eyes, and the one who looks through them, lock onto Lera.

"For it was I who hired Jaren Zestava to steal Devices and other Lost Logia, to serve many purposes, but in the end the deepest and most crucial of those purposes was to incite the reawakening of the one you call Soaring Sky. Well done, my dear. You truly are your father's child."

They look between Ren and Endo.

"I too am the one who brought Fallen Stern and Souverain Heraut to Earth and put them in the paths of those who could revive them. I'd gotten all I could from their dormant forms... and they rejected all attempts at activation. They needed," he snorts delicately through the older Fate's nose, "To be needed! All three of them did. And so they were. In your hands, they have positively flourished."

They look over Vita and Signum.

"After going to all the trouble of stealing the Book of Darkness and finding it a new Master, it's a shame I was beaten to the punch on copying the spells out of it," he continues inexorably, "But that was only ever gravy. I learned a great deal, sending you on those missions. Watching you struggle and suffer and die and be reborn. From the very beginning, what I was REALLY interested in was the four of you, and your Devices, and the true meaning of those connections. Artificial life is a particular interest of mine, you see."

They gaze directly, hungrily, into the other Fate's eyes, drinking in her expression like a fine wine.

"Project F... Precia Testarossa may have never accepted you as anything but a failure, but you were my first success along this road. And now look at what I've accomplished!"

The older Fate's arms jerk upwards and sweep wide, like a ringmaster showing off the main event.

"I have created, from nothing but my own skill and determination, a replacement for the shoddy and unreliable human heart!" The eyes smirk at Fate. "Oh, and vulnerable human heart, can't forget about that. It's funny: Devices able to wield themselves... free at last from the burden of needing another... make the most perfect tools."

She presses one finger into her cheek, performatively innocent.

"Isn't that ironic? Oh, maybe I shouldn't have said it out loud. I wouldn't want to hurt anyone's," another twisted grin, "Feelings."

But the doppel-Devices don't object, don't even respond. Perhaps they're too busy powering that Momentum Eater to even notice. Perhaps that's just another layer of his plan. Everything about this moment feels planned, like years and years of preparation all built to this. There's another word for that feeling.

"It's destiny," he declares. "My daughter, and the slaves of the Book of Darkness, joining the trio who reawakened the Threefold Question. And now, we're finally starting to get some answers. You all wouldn't believe me if I told you what puzzles we're going to unravel together. Oh, the places we'll go!!"

Laughter rips through her frame, clawing, bursting its way out of her throat like a parasite from a horror film.

"I'll spoil the ending, though," he assures them. "You're going to help me find and recover the ultimate memory, just as you've helped me with 'Fallen' Stern and Soaring Sky. Don't worry your little heads about Souverain Heraut. I'm sure we'll get there in due course, but I have MORE than enough data, now, to grow some of his memories like roses on a trellis. Enough to find the next stop on my journey, I think... the long-lost Pericosmic Array."

The older Fate winks roguishly.

"I invite you to try to beat me to it. You've all come this far, after all. I think you deserve to see the next stage of my plans."

A final smile.

"And I think you've earned the right to put a name to the face." The expression darkens, amused by his own joke. "I am the greatest mind of Midchilda! I am the one who will fulfill my own Infinite Desire: the discovery, and rediscovery, of Lost Logia, Al-Hazard, and Ancient Belka! I am the master of ancient secrets and the pioneer of new ones!"

She lowers her arms, folds them across her chest.

"I am JAIL SCAGLIETTI!!" he concludes, intensity at its peak. Then his voice drops a threatening octave and halves its decibels, mixing malice with delight into a dreadful whisper. "Don't forget it."

The Momentum Eater converts its collected potential energy into a flashbang; when light and sound and binding spell have all faded, the trio have escaped.