2021-12-14 - Return To The North Pole 3

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Return To The North Pole 3

The continued adventures of our heroines, who fight their way to the North Pole through possessed scientists and the inherent dangers of the Sea of Sorrows, which has taken over the world's oceans, with dire implications for the human spirit in general and Christmas in particular.


Pink Moon Stick, Mikoto Minagi, Yumi Ohzora, Nori Ankou, Nagisa Misumi, Usagi Tsukino


The Sea of Sorrows/The North Pole

OOC - IC Date:

12/14/2021 - 12/24/2015

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

It takes a little doing in the storm, but eventually all five scientists are safely abed, or at least as safe as anyone can be in these conditions, which is not very. But short of a full-out capsize they are likely to be all right. And being placed under blankets, even spidersilk-strange, sorrowful ones like the ones in the forecastle, is probably good for them, too. They're much too pale.

Next it becomes obvious that a wave or two from now, it will be possible for even the least mobile of the group to jump from ship to ship, because they're becoming quite close again. To then prevent collision, however, some steering will be required...

"Don't make that FACE-mepo," chides Mepple, whose paws rest like a pair of lemon drops across 11 o'clock and 1 o'clock of the wheel (because that's how far his arms can spread). Naturally in order to achieve this, he needs some height, and so is standing on Tama, who is standing on Luna, who is standing on Batiste, who is glaring at Nagi (who is still up in the rigging, silently giggling at this sight).

All they need is a trenchcoat... but apparently four mascots, working together, can manage to add up to one pilot.

"We'll be fine-mepo!" he says, probably more confidently than he feels, though knowing him it's possible that completely off-base bravado is real.

And so the group leaves the ship behind in hands dubiously better than 'none'. As they leave it, if they look back, they notice the figurehead in profile. It is a girl with arms outstretched. The face of that beautiful girl depends very much upon the eye of the beholder, however. It is someone loved, and someone missing; someone who should be here, but isn't, whether that's because they're back in Tokyo or because they're dead and gone. A partner, a sister, a friend. Usagi sees a figure with an entirely blank face, no carvings of features at all.

In contrast to the ship that carried them here, the research vessel is very REAL. It stinks of fish and also of human, of humans on it for much too long. That becomes especially the case after the deck, empty of anything but hatchwork-frictioned metal hull, some winches and things that are probably research equipment, is searched, then abandoned for the indoors.

It doesn't just smell like living human, though. Mikoto may have been shocked that, sans animating energy, those scientist victims were still alive; but here, nostrils flare to the unmistakable smell of human death. It isn't overpowering, perhaps because -- melting polar ice caps or no -- it is very cold, clammily unpleasant, in the bowels of the ship.

Violet energy lurks here and there like litter rolled up into a ball and tossed into corners, or perhaps an underwhelming fog machine. There's no single, obvious source; the impression given, rather, is that there's so MUCH of it that it has inundated the whole boat, and now little bits of it are just wafting around, like tumbleweeds on a prairie, like the world's least fortunate potpourri.

The density of both -- the smell of death, and the presence of darkness -- increases, the more deeply the group ventures into the ship.


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

Usagi says it's not okay to leave the boat out there, and Mikoto, showing actual distress, replies: "Then we should help them, right?!" Nagisa and Usagi, at least, may recognise it as the precise emotion of someone who was pretty sure something was going to be on a challenging test, only to find that the test was about something else they'd never studied for...

(This, of course, is a feeling Mikoto has felt far too often over the course of the recent finals.)

Perhaps it's lucky that there is justice in this world, and this test ends up being exactly what she'd studied for. (Studying is hard. Being good is, too.) Once they manage to get the possessed scientists down -- Mikoto says sorry to one of them, not that he can hear her right now -- she takes a moment to dispel her magic through means other than exhaustion or death, which is always a shade strange. Miroku was never designed to back down, but with some quiet insistence from Mikoto, that overshadowing sword sparkles into nonexistence.

She thinks: they can't destroy the ship, Miroku. There might still be people over there, and they have to help them. It's okay.

It's okay.

A hand to Sailor Usagi's arm on the deck, and Mikoto frowns, glancing aside, an uncertain hum through her lips. "Usagi knows her, right..?" Obviously she's friends with Sailor Moon; the Senshi's mascot is here to keep an eye on her today, and the memory of the moon runs strong through the ship. With a shade of awkward apology, she finishes: "... I won't stand aside this time. It's okay."

Mikoto thinks she knows very well why Usagi is being targeted. But if she reassures everyone nervous, maybe she'll stop feeling on-edge like this, too. It's okay.

She can at least feel relieved, looking over to the the stack the mascots have arranged themselves in, that the other mascots seem to trust Nagi as much as the HiME do. Some feelings are universal. "Thanks," she tells the stack of cats and sea-cats and nebulously-round-creatures. (And not Nagi, who knows what he did.)

Fearlessly Mikoto leaps from one deck to the other, sword grasped at her side; her knees bend as she lands, and the violet ship receives her, lowering her centre of gravity to absorb the motion. The way she bows is a coincidence, but it does nothing to stop the prickling at the nape of her bare neck, like a bad smell lurking just beneath the surface. It's the feeling of walking unwitting into an audience to ruin her, but it's an emotion devoid of solid notion -- she puts it down to some half-remembered meeting or another, puts it out of her mind.

It's easy for her to do that, because when she looks back to make sure the others made it, she sees, "Mai..?" Mikoto invokes her name, apropos nothing, as her gaze falls on the figurehead. Mai is missing, Mikoto thinks -- isn't she? Mai would be here, if Nagi had visited her instead. (Mikoto doesn't get so far as to wonder why Nagi would visit Mikoto instead of Mai, for a task like this.) Wouldn't Mai would have wanted her friends and allies to be safe? Mikoto is quite sure of the thread which weaves through her mind, thinking of the most important girl in the world. She nods, with an affirmative grunt; Mai isn't here right now, but surely Mai would understand, if she heard it.

It means: she will protect them, too.

It becomes clear to Mikoto, as they search the opposing deck, that her mind didn't go to bad smells as mere metaphor. "Not here," her nose wrinkles as she pokes at a winch while searching for signs of life, something vaguely distasteful she can't quite place. "But, they were. A long time..." It's a lived-in smell, she thinks, a life made of eating fish. Something about it unsettles her, the way human-smells typically don't. Perhaps it's just the atmosphere.

One would think Mikoto is used to being wrong, at this point.

Because she makes a voiceless noise of discontent as they make for the doors, as she watches the handle turn, open to air. For some reason, the fearless Mikoto is behind the rest of the pack, with all the usual suspects back here. Her grumbling rises to a gag all hitched in the middle, as she makes herself step inside, enveloped by the olfactory undertow. One hand releases her blade to fly to her mouth, her nose, and it might well be surprising, to everyone with less sensitive sniffers. Mikoto has detail they don't.

Now and then, they explored the woods where they grew. Late one winter they found a deer who didn't make it. He said that weak creatures wouldn't survive the chill; she crouched down to poke it with a stick. Maybe it was cruel, or maybe they were children. In some ways, it's not so different to the thaw, all the ones who didn't make it. But even dulled by cold, animals smell like animals, and humans smell like humans, and when they're gone, they --

"It's like this?" Mikoto whines, voice thin as warmed ice, because she always left their bodies where they lay. Hers was not to be concerned with the thereafter. All spilt on grass and concrete, whether whole or cut --

Forcibly she tears her mind from the torture of whether they were buried, spared the rot, icy slow or summer-fast. Forcibly she shakes her head, scrunches her lips and her nose. "It's okay," she says, again, and this time she isn't talking to anyone else. "Let's keep going."

Perhaps it's no wonder horrors skip so easily into her mind, the way darkness plumes violet under her feet. It's only getting thicker, only getting sicker -- that smell of men forgotten isn't getting any easier to put out of her mind. She wanted to help them, but, Mikoto thinks, is there anything here left to help?

She doesn't voice that depressing thought, either; it's all kept in her knit brow, expression troubled in more than one way, as she watches the darkness roll down the metal.

She can't bear to bring herself to open any more doors down here; she's just watching everyone's backs, as they move through. Her excuse is clutched tightly in her hands, Miroku's hilt keeping them soundly full. The temptation to swing it about and open the internals of the ship to open air sits constantly at the back of her mind, as the mixture of darkness and death combines to something like a coffin in her mind.

<Pose Tracker> Seawitch Ivy [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Yumi lingers watching the figurehead for a few moments. "...Hanae," she murmurs, looking anxious at the space where others might see someone else. But she hasn't hardly seen her at all, lately. Why is she seeing her now...?

Yumi continues on anyway, walking with the Staff, broom hidden away until she needs it again later. And the cold is real. The cold, and... something else. Not just fish, but...

Yumi's nose wrinkles. It's not overpowering, no, but it is familiar, and Yumi does not like it very much. She looks to the engergy, here and there, and narros her eyes, awlking on, and on....

Yumi is near the front. "...It's like this."

It is not the same as hospitals and sterility. It is very, very different. ...But it's what always lingered on the edge of imagination for her. What there were glimpses of here and there, because sometimes people in the wards didn't 'leave' as such.

"...whether there's more people here or not," Yumi says, turning to the others as she pauses for a moment, "We need to get to the bottom of this."

<Pose Tracker> Nori Ankou [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

Batiste stands up alert, straight, holding steadily onto the wheel before him. He is trying not to tremble, because even for an otter, this is a lot of weight. It's good that he's down low - imagine he, an organism weighing a number of kilograms, standing on Mepple!It'd be a bad scene, mepo.

Having left the ship in these care, the thin but warm blankets wrapped round the researchers, la Sirene knows destiny leads her onto this other ship -- if only to understand what is going on. She is, perhaps surprisingly, not one to look back behind her at this moment.

And when they are aboard...

"Augh!" la Sirene says, when the vissicitudes of the wind and breeze bring the scent to her nose. She throws an arm over her nose and mouth, visibly reeling. "This ship...! What could have happened to it? It's like a dumpster - no, an abattoir! I assume," she says, stepping to the railing and taking several deep breaths -- which do not help.

She regains her poise, with a visible effort. She touches her cheeks with her right index finger - first left - then right - and then upwards, breathing out with force. She is, if Mikoto watches closely, breathing through her mouth for the most part... it helps.

"Just... just so. The bridge, or the steersman's house," la Sirene answers Ivy, "should have... something. If there is nothing there, then, below decks, of course. That should tell us things. This was a research ship, so we will have to look quite a ways... perhaps they found something they should not have."

The thought then - more people here. La Sirene frowns in thought.

"Just so," she says. "Be ready, though... if they should come for you. Don't split up, more than we must."

She steps ahead, then - perhaps the captaincy is guiding her. The bridge should not be high up. The worst, of course, will be what lays beneath.

COMBAT: Nori Ankou transforms into La Sirene de Diamant!
<Pose Tracker> Nagisa Misumi [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

"The Dark Kingdom?! Seriously?" Nagisa turns an unhappy gaze towards the cold horizon. "I guess it's the North Pole." Nagisa has a vaguer idea of the institutional structures of her enemies than her supernatural guides might hope, but a clearer one than anyone who had seen her grades might think. She spends a lot of time thinking about Cure Black business.

When Nagisa sees Honoka as the ship's figurehead, she takes it literally, and it takes her aback. She is not used to the dream-logic of the subtler realms of reality. Cure Black and Cure White are Emissaries of Light, protectors of one stark bright principality against the stark dark principality seeking to tear it down. There are metaphors in the Garden of Light, but they are not subtle ones; they are defenses between the infinite and her small human mind. "A-arienai," Nagisa murmurs, struck simultaneously by the beauty of the figurehead, and the strangeness of seeing it here. Honoka danced with Nori recently; they're friends, maybe Nori wants a reminder of the most wonderful girl in the world now? Nagisa shoots their captain a curious glance before looking back at the figurehead. Or maybe the Sirenes make their ships by mystically commanding them to be as beautiful as possible, and that mandates that the figurehead look like Honoka? That sounds weird to Nagisa.

But before Nagisa truly has to make a choice between stupefied disbelief and dazed acceptance, Mikoto saves. Of course, the best way for Nagisa to realize that the figurehead of the ship is not objectively Honoka Yukishiro is comparing notes with her friends. One of them will make a remark that does not accord with what Nagisa sees, and Nagisa will object, and the two of them will figure it out. Unfortunately...


"Oh!" Nagisa laughs awkwardly, blushing. She almost doesn't clarify, because this is really embarrassing to her. But Mikoto's a teammate and all. "That's actually Honoka... Mai wears her hair more like this, kinda." Nagisa grabs a ball of her own shaggy orange hair and plumps it up atop her head. But to Mikoto, Nagisa displaying her orange hair to compare it to Mai's may mean something different. "And Mai's a little younger, so she's shorter and stuff. They look a lot alike, I know."

Mai Mishou, wherever she is, has a little Christmas Eve sneeze.

When they depart for the other ship, Nagisa sighs the sigh of a parent leaving a toddler in charge of the house. She's had to do this enough times to know that it usually works out somehow, but she knows that she would hate to see the tape and find out how. "Good luck!" she calls, specifically to Luna, Tama, and Batiste.

"Keep it, mepo," Mepple calls back, like he heard it in a movie. "You're gonna need it-mepo!"

"You keep it!" Nagisa fumes back at a yell. "Good luck!"

"Good luck to YOU-mepo!"

"I said good luck!"

"Good luck to the person who says good luck next mepo!"

"Good luck--augh!"


Folding her arms, Nagisa returns her attention forward grumpily. She glances to the side at Nori, wondering if she should ask about the whole figurehead-of-her-girlfriend thing. She's not worried or anything, but confused? Yes. "But is it really that weird for Ohtori girls?" she debates herself sotto voce. Maybe Nori has figureheads of all her friends. But the topic is laid aside thoroughly by her arrival on the research ship. Nagisa, unarmed save for her arms, and aware now that those have no supernatural strength at all, stays near the middle of the group. She pauses at times to let her eyes linger on the mothballs of violet energy, feeling their sickening familiarity. Her jaw clenches more and more as they move deeper, her heart starting to pound with anxiety. She is afraid of what might happen, but even more afraid of what has happened. Of what she may learn.

"I hate this," she murmurs. "When you want to know... and you don't want to know." Her hand moves to her face. "...stinks," she worries.

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Usagi-chan [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Usagi nods slowly at Mikoto with a resolve that's warring against fear at the moment. While she knows she'll ultimately go, she's always been scared of moments like these. Though as Mikoto puts a hand to her arm, she looks her way with an expression of confusion which becomes eyes wide and staring as she gets it.

"Ah! Um... well... y-you could say that I know her... pretty well!" She awkwardly stammers out her excuse, uncertain if this is the time for secret reveals - even if it sounds like Mikoto has figured it out. Especially with LUNA right there! Who generally is not very happy about Usagi revealing such things. It's not so much that she's afraid of the Mikoto that she fought. She isn't. It's just more that she's worried about upsetting anyone before going into this situation.

Then her eyes soften and she says to her, "Alright. I'll be relying on you in there."

As the ship comes close, Usagi finds herself staring at the figurehead - rather than wondering how well Mepple can steer atop the mascot pile. The eerie blank face causing her no small amount of disquiet.

Until she blinks her eyes as if coming into the conversation half-way to Mikoto and Nagisa. "Huh?" As she looks back and forth to the figurehead, then gives them both a puzzled look, "Is this like one of those games with clouds?" She says, unknowing that she only sees a blank face.

Eventually she puts one hand on the rail, and vaults over to the other ship as her narrow sailor shoes tap tap down on the deck of the other ship. Her nose crinkling a bit at the smell, as she looks nervously about.

"I don't know what that is Sirene-chan... b-but it sounds pretty bad..."

And smells worse, she doesn't say, but as they move onward, Usagi finds herself just glad they're not splitting the party. The violet sickening energy keeps her on edge, until she hears part of Nagisa's murmur, and she says quietly, "I hate it too. But... at least we're not looking for the answers alone..." She looks ahead, briefly abstracted, her voice more hushed... her mind on memories elsewhere, "I think I'd hate that more than anything."

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

The bridge is woefully empty of life, instrumentation and person alike. Perhaps someone WAS here, but they are here no longer. And the research vessel itself feels like a corpse, too, without a captain. The absence is stark, poignant. Is that what the girls' ship feels like, now that they are gone? What it felt like before it formed, out of starbeams and the memory of teardrops, wherever it was before it was here?

Then there's no place to go but down. Down, into the dark. Nagisa's luminous tattoo provides some ambient light, before anyone thinks to invoke lanterns and staves.

The boat creaks now and then; beneath a small foot; beneath a massive wave. It is a metallic shuddering, a moan further enhanced in unpleasantness by the white noise of the storm itself. But even as the latter diminishes the former seems to intensify. Something is moaning. Someone.

It turns out to be another scientist. Well, two. But one of them is dead.

The living scientist is the oldest of them; more grandfatherly than fatherly, without many research cruises left in him, surely. White hair. Spectacles. Laugh lines transformed agonizingly by grief on his rice paper skin into something much worse. He wears the same garb as his five presumptive teammates back on the boat; pale Arctic gear with a name patch on the front breast. 'Shiro Akasaki', in this case. Maybe the younger Akasaki is his son.

Shiro Akasaki is conducting a funeral.

He is using the supplies on hand. This hold might have been a shipboard laboratory, once, and there are bunsen burners lit at either end of the largest counter; their blue flames are the only illumination other than what the girls have brought themselves. There are no flowers, but there is incense, or at least something burning that smokes and smells, smells sickly and oversweet, like one cookie past the point of what you'll regret later on.

In permanent marker, which also stinks, he has drawn concentric half-circles of words around the subject of this ceremony. They are no runes that anyone can read. But they are faintly recognizable, from the last time people were at the North Pole, as the sort of writing one might find in the ruinous caverns of the Dark Kingdom.

But the body is not. Recognizable, that is. No sweet cryosleep, this; freezer burn, and the beginnings of decay, have done damage over time. The clothes are curiously similar-but-not-the-same -- a darker hue, a different cut, another expedition perhaps -- another ship, another trip, another time. Another, similar-but-not-the-same North Pole. Before the warm came. Before the melt.

Poor condition or no, the body is lying in state on the counter. Behind the runes, and between the flames.

"He showed me," Akasaki-sensei says, without turning around, in an unexpectedly normal voice -- his own voice??

"I looked and looked. Season after season. Then he showed me. He showed me where she was."

His arms, which had been at his slumping sides, begin to lift with the jerky motions of the resisting marionette. "But--" he stutters, arms lowering slightly then lifting higher. "But then--"

When they're parallel to the floor, he spins like a top to face the group.

"Run," he rasps in warning. Then his palms are slammed together, and a shockwave of violet energy roars across the room towards the girls.

NOW his eyes burn with it.

"RUN," mocks same hoarse voice shared between five scientists. The voice of the storm itself.

The voice of the damned.

<Pose Tracker> Seawitch Ivy [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Yumi--Ivy--doesn't have any answers about what could've happened, not really, not anymore than the other girls do. But she appreciates Nori's direction there; something to look at on a ship, somwhere to go... and she agreese with her idea not to split up, all right.

But when they reach this place, even Yumi with her boldness here cannot keep her eyes on the body there. She grimaces, and looks back to Shiro, to his strange burners, to the smell that she doesn't like very much either. But there are runes... she doesn't know the runes. Showed?

"...Showed you what?" Yumi starts, and then--where she was. Where... she was?

His arms move, and he rasps a warning. Yumi does not run. She begins tracing runes in the air of her own, a circle with markings inside it that gleam green-bright in the darkness. The storm comes, and Yumi's runes flare brilliantly, becoming a great cyan shield, touched by the sea like her power has been in this place. She points the staff towards the runes and the shield, to bolster it further.

"We won't run!" Yumi calls out in defiance.

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

Mikoto nods to Usagi, with a firm noise of assent, and a small smile. She hasn't quite figured out that she's asking Usagi if she knows herself; she is content not to ask those questions, as anyone is. What she knows is that Usagi is relying on her, and she will be reliable, for her.

Nagisa tries to correct Mikoto, and Mikoto cants to the side, slightly, in confusion. This is not to say she tilts her head, as much as to say she tilts her head, and then her chest, until everything north of her hips is at a baffled angle. "...?" She vocalises a question mark with perfect accuracy.

"Honoka's in university...?" That's what Mikoto takes from that entire clarification, because apparently, Honoka is older than Mai. She straightens up, with a thoughtful noise. "Oh... yeah, makes sense." Honoka is, after all, one of the most devastatingly intelligent people Mikoto is aware of, and her model for smart cookies -- one Setsuna Meioh -- is, indeed, a university student. Obviously Honoka is in university. Is she taller than Mai..? Mikoto can't quite remember that, but maybe Nagisa can't quite remember, either. After all, she's mixed up that one stray lock of hair of Mai's for an entire bun.

(She's forgotten entirely that a girl she once yelled rough encouragement to on Tokyo Tower is also called Mai, of course.)

It's topics like that which manage to keep her centred when they're in the open air; stepping inside is another matter entirely. Fishy night and fatal day.

Mikoto asks, Lost Ivy confirms: it's like this. With a few moments to think, it's a stark recontextualisation of how unpleasant the smell of hospitals are. Where else would Ivy know about something like this..?

She hums affirmation, but she leaves the others to lead them, regardless. La Sirene is not just leading by position; Mikoto adopts the way she copes with that too-fishy smell, lips parting to huff uncomfortable breaths through her mouth, instead. Part of her fears to taste it, but it's inarguably better than that assault on her sensitive nose. She's just glad that Nagisa's markings are glowing, there in the middle. It's light enough for her to see by, a little blessing amidst the curse.

"They went in," she says, when la Sirene posits what they may have found. The old court is surely no better than the new, when it comes to hazards for anyone with a heart. They had to sleep it off, or become hard, or stand aside... could a normal person do anything like that?

The boat is moaning, steel creaking against the waves, except it's not the boat, not steel. "Someone's..." Mikoto starts, trails off, looks to the offending door instead. She doesn't charge in on her own, but she'll go with everyone, to find out.

He must be from the same group, is the first thought Mikoto has, seeing his dress. The second, as she takes in those too-hot little flames, the choking cover of a new smell, is one which spills from her open lips: "What are you doing?!" Mikoto doesn't sound like she recognises any of this -- because she doesn't -- and that might be as informative as the stress in her words.

She doesn't know what's going on, but she knows that it twists at her stomach; if she were thinking clearly, she might well have just echoed Nagisa's words back again. She hates it, and she doesn't want to know as much as she knows she has to.

But, the way he's moving...

Mikoto braces, behind Yumi's shield, unbudging. Yumi says it, so she doesn't have to -- but when her shield drops, Mikoto doesn't waste any time charging forward, spinning once, twice, and three times before her blade slams into --

The counter, not the old man who is so certainly someone's precious Grandfather.

With a horizontal sweeping motion, Mikoto is aiming to destroy his entire sacrificial altar, and whatever sick purpose he's being made to complete.

She has the power to break it, now.

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.

"It might be, but it is also the Sea of Tears, or..." la Sirene answers Nagisa, though she wasn't really asked as such. She does turn her head for a moment, but by the time she was prompted she does not look for the figurehead, not just yet.

If she has a figurehead collection of all her friends, it is for her own reasons.

"Yes," la Sirene answers Nagisa. "It's painful..."

The bridge is empty.

Further down. Before la Sirene can reach for her Pharos, the light of Nagisa's inscripting scrollwork helps them. Helps them even if they wouldn't really want to see this. The creaking and the shuddering makes la Sirene think for a moment of the difference between steel and wood, here in the storm. Steel, wood... and something that moans.

The room reeks; it smells of marker and of some horrid incense; someone is there, someone who is cold and who is now found and is dead and who is being attended to and -

"He showed you what?" la Sirene asks.

RUN, they say.

The voice that isn't the man's.

La Sirene is buffetted by that harsh incoming wave of force, throwing an arm up again even as Mikoto moves and Ivy expresses her defiance. She is not shielded, but seems to bear up, if with a moment of sway. As Mikoto strikes against the altar, la Sirene turns her head to lock eyes with the Thing inside of the Man.

"No," she says. "I shall not run; it is my duty in this seas to rescue those who are in need. Perhaps I may yet come too late, but that will not stop me from trying. Thou unclean thing, leave this man alone! He has suffered enough, trapped in ice and melt and horror, and I won't let you add to the tides of this or any other sea!"

La Sirene's hand crooks - and she says, this time, almost whispers instead of shouting at stentorian volumes, "Les Mysteres --" Her right hand raises, as always, and comes down - a gentler strum, not a power-chord: "Come!"

The bloom of ink and silver washes forwards, towards the shadowy man. Not to strike him and bowl him over, but to wash - perhaps to wash clean. And if naught, then perhaps to batter the wicked, spare the innocent.

<Pose Tracker> Nagisa Misumi [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

"Definitely," Nagisa agrees about Honoka being 'in university', with a mixture of a girlfriend's pride and a bonkler's resigned inferiority. If it's not exactly how she'd have phrased it, well, Mikoto's grammar has always been as stripped down and simple as a cleaving blade. "Any university she wants."


Coming to an abrupt stop with the group, Nagisa covers her mouth and nose with the hand she had kept hovering near them, her eyes wide. Tremulous, she shifts her gaze over the Honoka's-club-room accoutrements, here found in an alien and horrific context. She's never seen dark magic written in permanent marker before, but the medium is not always the message, and she's seen this message more times than a few. After the possessed scientists turned out to be, as she had hoped--quite alive--her eyes linger on the corpse for some time, hoping for a sign of life. But cold has been unkind to this body, scorching it, wizening it. Something died down here, Nagisa had known. She had just hoped it was not human.

The hand she had over her mouth and nose shifts, and Nagisa covers just her mouth with it, a wet retch coming from her throat. The tattoos on her upper arms pulse softly, and Nagisa relaxes just slightly. She manages to keep her gorge down, slowly standing straight again, her face suddenly diaphonous with sweat despite the cold, and her own bare-armed state of dress, here in her red uniform vest.

'Where she was'...

Nagisa looks at Usagi, worried. "Who?" she asks the man weakly. "What happened to... all of you?"

But the flames rush across the group. Nagisa instinctively lets her arms fly up to cover her face, but when the expected searing does not come, she opens her eyes, letting her arms down slowly. The tattoos, glowing sharply like raised, warning eyebrows, dim down again as if they too realize that Yumi has protected them.

Nagisa's breath catches as she sees Mikoto looping forward with her blade. There is so little time for communication, but so it always is on the field, and Nagisa speaks a second language there. Condensed, the point first. Not dissimilar to how Mikoto speaks.

"It's a funeral!" she shouts. And probably it is not the first that this crazed man has had to perform. "Mikoto!"

<Pose Tracker> Sailor Usagi-chan [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Usagi upon seeing the body, just sorta points with a shaky hand, "T-T-T-Thats!" Everything she's seeing now has a horror movie quality, and Usagi has never been a fan of those. Whenever she's pressured to watch one she shrieks, she cries, and she begs it to be turned off or leaves the room.

However... this isn't a movie. It's real life. And because it is, it reminds her of those girls who died at Tokyo Tower, their life force consumed by a Protodaimon. Just because there's no monster apparent...

... doesn't mean there's not a monster, she seems to understand that, stammering out nonsensical sounds like someone who believes any moment now it'll show itself, show itself and GET HER.

Nagisa asks 'who'... and she shakes her head in ignorance. It's a quite understandable mistake to think she might know, given what she had been pointing at, but instead she was pointing at the simple display of death - a primal fear of it. Unknowing of who is responsible or what's happening here.

The moment though he rasps 'run', she freezes with her clinched fists held up to her cheeks, eyes wide, like someone struck by a certain horror of realization. The negaenergy swells within the room and her throat catches as the voice thunders into her ears.

"AHYAYAYAAAAAAAAYAYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!" She shrieks incoherently as she initially hides behind Nagisa who she's seeing as Cure Black right now rather than Nagisa Misumi, so it's fortunate Yumi raised a shield. And somehow between the shrieks she manages to wail, "AAAAWHYNOOOTTAAAAAAAAAA!"

Shaking her head no as Yumi and La Sirene decide both to defy the command. However, it's far too late, for Mikoto's already leaping at the altar. Now slightly hoarse from the screaming. Sailor Usagi says as she finally steps back, clinching both fists, one around her rod.

Still scared out of her mind but oddly now having mood shifted into strangely psyched up by the display of all of the others working in tandem. "Fine! If it's do or die then I'll do-!"

Pointing her rod forward, she cries out, "Moon Twilight-" A welling up of silvery energy rises up from the point of it. "-FLASH!" Before blooming outward as an array of bursts of moonlight that seek to cleanse this awful energy out of the elderly man performing the creepy funeral rites.

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

Energies collide, and Yumi, who was never at the North Pole before, briefly learns what it is like to feel the wrath of Queen Beryl -- or at least a memory of her, an echo of what was and is no more. It is horrifyingly powerful, and that she stops it at all is a triumph. But a crack appears in her shield, and it spiderwebs in wholesale defiance of what her usual force field is supposed to be like; she braces harder, and so can slow its collapse, but not -- entirely -- stop it.

But what hits her and the others is thus merely painful, but not lethal. It is cold, not like ice but like millennia of hatred. It is sharp, not like glass but like an ending jagged in its abruptness, its unexpectedness.

And then the others advance.

La Sirene speaks to her enemy, with word and with deed. And Les Mysteres do come forth, and pour and pour and pour upon the man, who screams as the other scientists screamed, to feel silver where there should be shadow, and shadow where there should be only his own skin. There is no one else for him to form a sentence with -- for HER to form a sentence with? -- and one word does seem to be all she can muster out of a body as she's forced to exit it. She keeps it simple, this time.

Commanded to leave -- and forced to, also:

"NO!" she screams with Akasaki-sensei's lips.

And out of his body rises a featureless violet silhouette.

Mikoto demolishes the funeral altar. Her blade sweeps the whole thing off -- well, not the runes, since they're drawn on and not sweepable per se, but the makeshift 'candles' go flying (and keep burning even as they dangle from their hoses, at weird angles above the floor, though any non-bonklers in the room would clearly understand that this is preferable to the alternative -- also someone should really really really turn them off).

And the body goes flying too. Like so much rubbish, it slides off the surface and onto the floor.

Now that sensei has told you it's a she, it's easier to see it, though only because of what the brain fills in, not because of any transformation of the body. But yes: the cut of the gear is not only different, but feminine; and there is something of shapeliness too, since this meatsack is still much more than bone; the curve of hip is more pronounced than it might have been, perhaps.

She died a long time ago, and is still dead now. There is nothing left for Mikoto to defeat there. And there is something pitiful about the body sprawled on the floor, no longer neatly arranged, just a mess, a mess of the past newly arrived in the present.

The silhouette looks at each of the girls, obviously and correctly assesses them as 'not viable targets', and finally with some reluctance slides ethereally towards the corpse. She moves like darkness beneath the water -- predatorially -- and quickly too, all at once taking the body's chin between her palms as though to kiss her awake, but--


--disappears, instead. Rei is going to be so proud, or so pissed, or both, to have missed out on an exorcism that Usagi and Nori performed instead. It didn't happen quite in an instant; there was just enough time to really SEE the moonlight penetrate the... spirit, ghost, remnant, whatever; to see it force motes of dark energy apart even as it replaced it with itself; and then, at last, torn so asunder as to be nothing, becomes nothing in truth.

Perhaps because she isn't full of literal or figurative battle energies, Nagisa is the first to realize what happens after.

How it becomes very quiet. Even silent, compared to the sounds that came before the battle.

The storm must have ended...

Still, the body remains. And so does the smell. She's fallen twisted, half-side-up and half-side down. The up-side is the side of her chest where a name tag would be, where it is, on the others. But it's missing. Just a little patch of velcro.

Akasaki-sensei's grief is just as great as before, even freed of his unexpected rider, even freed of consciousness. Whatever darkness his mind dwells in right now is an unhappy one, and he will not awaken soon.

<Pose Tracker> Seawitch Ivy [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Yumi knows she can count on the others to aggress as they need to; she has to put all her energy into maintaining this shield, precluding offense for the moment. It's hard; she has shielded against many powerful things, but she never met Queen Beryl.

Yumi was an ordinary witch in an ordinary hospital, back then. Now...

Even the memory of that wrath is enough. Her grip on the Staff of Lost Ivy is white-knuckled, white like the wood of the Staff, and those cracks defy her shield. When the ice comes, she shivers--not from cold, but because of what she feels, and the quiet sadness the Staff sometimes radiates intensifies in that moment. "Ah--"

Yumi gasps for breath as the others advance. "Go, Mikoto!" But it's not just her. Nori voices what she couldn't voice in the moment, so focused on her defiance alone, on defending her friends.

Despite the pain--maybe because of the pain--she feels a certain satisfaction in the fact that they aren't dead/, but that quickly gives awy to alarm as she sees the siilhouette emerge from the man and rise. She can't focus on the dead woman; she wishes she could, but her eyes just don't track there, her gaze going anywhere else instead. And the others...

"Is everyone OK?" Yumi asks, and finally can look to the body, as it gets quiet. She iwnces... and starts forward.

"...I think you did the right thing," she says to Mikoto, "...But we can't just leave them like this..."

She thought it was some dark ritual, too. She looks back at Nagisa with a weak smile. Then to the others, again, La Sirene and Usagi, before she approaches the body. She isn't sure what they're going to do yet; she doesn't realize the storm has ended. But she knows at least enough to do this, gently.

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

Once again, HiME offends Pretty Cure -- not that Mikoto properly recognises that, either, but she certainly hears Nagisa's protests. Hearing them is another thing entirely to stopping; it's hard for Mikoto to divert the momentum she builds up, past a certain point in the dance. Yumi tells her to go. Her eyes widen, her teeth flash. "It's--!"

That's all the explanation -- or, perhaps, hesitation -- she manages, before she smashes through the countertop, sends everything flying. (Every thing...)

There's another rotation for Mikoto to complete before she's able to slow herself to a stop, a little wobble-stagger of her feet as she halts her movement, turns from twirling devastation to a girl again. She turns, to see what she saw in the arc, now all the motion has halted. Defeated by the cold, if she was lucky; strewn on a counter like some of Yumi's ingredients, now tossed carelessly to the floor.

"I..." She starts, doubt settling in. Was it a funeral? She's never seen one, after all. She sinks, a little, in her stance. But when that silhouette looks to her, Mikoto looks back, and Mikoto says: "I won't let you!"

It's not quite an explanation of what she saw, looking at the corpse of a woman, remembering the voice of a woman. It's not quite a discussion of where her mind went, in that moment. But maybe there's something of her logic in the way that energy moves reluctantly to the one remaining vessel in the room, all empty, all discarded.

There's Moon Twilight Flash, and she can imagine its power, given to Usagi, as it tears into that memory. Memories go away. Do powers like this...? Or will the Lords of their courts ever reign over the bones, waiting, waiting...

Yumi isn't focusing on the dead woman, but Mikoto can't seem to look anywhere else. She's quiet, for long moments.

"Mm," she responds to Yumi, finally. "... but I don't feel good about it." Even if it was a ritual...

... is something like this really what she can do?

<Pose Tracker> La Sirene de Diamant [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0t_wb0lUW0


The altar is breached. The old man is stunned, burdened now only by sleep. And as la Sirene lowers her hand and looks, she sees the shadow moving towards - towards the body. A moment later, there is a flash of moonlight, twilight, something of romance and mystery. The shade is dissipated, like smoke on the breeze.

And what is left is, perhaps, the embers.

La Sirene looks towards the able crew-woman, Sailor Moon. She does not smile, but she does dip her head once slowly, and then she exhales.

She breathes in.

Her heart is trembling.

"No," she says, "We cannot."

It smells bad, Nori Ankou thinks. It stinks and it's scary and it's spooky and I don't want to BE here, not HERE here, not right NOW, not on Christmas Eve, not even with these people, I want us all to be somewhere else and having hot pot or something or staying dry and not standing here in a dark and stinking bowel-tract of a half-derelict ship and--

La Sirene's eyes squeeze shut, then open, and she walks towards the body.

"I do not know what happened here," she says, "but I think... perhaps it was something. A funeral, maybe, or something else. I won't ask any of you to do this, but, if you could bring me a sheet of canvas..."

La Sirene looks down at what was once a woman, and finds, to her mild surprise, that she does not feel horror; it's as if it all blew away. There is pity; some sympathy. Her eyes well up, and she sucks in a deep breath, one small teardrop falling as she turns to look at the others.

"If she were one of ours, I would take a lock of hair... and the rest would be for the sea. That's what you do, on a voyage..."

She looks back down. "But... oh! But I can't do that to the others, can I." The survivors, it seems. "It is their decision. We cannot..." And then she crouches downwards.

She is not quite courageous enough to touch the body proper, but clothing, however soiled and sorrowful, is clothing. La Sirene's fingertip brushes the velcro patch. "... It's missing; that's strange... I wonder where it has gone."

<Pose Tracker> Nagisa Misumi [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

For a moment, Nagisa's hair stands on end as Sailor Moon(ish) hides behind Nagisa, who is not even a little Cure Black-ish right now. If this was dodgeball she might try to swap places with the little blonde, but this is an emergency, a life-and-death-situation. And Nagisa cares much less about how resilient Sailor Moon is, and much more about how scared she is. If she wants protection, she will be protected.

And, as it turns out, it's more needed than she realized. Nagisa and her white tattoos only got a moment to relax before Yumi's shield faltered, having taken the brunt of the blast. Raising her arms again, Nagisa felt the tattoos roar to righteous life, sparing her mortal skin what it could never have survived intact otherwise. Without her transformation, the feelings inscribed on her skin are 'only' a mystical protection; it takes the power of Pretty Cure (whether Black, White, Aquamarine or otherwise) to make feelings protect directly from a punch. But positive feelings can always protect against negative feelings. And what is the Power of Darkness but hatred and despair?

Still, Nagisa recoils into Usagi, bumping her before she drops to a knee, her skin stinging, her teeth bared with pain. Her nose, swollen and bruised across the bridge, hurts her eyes again. It's Sailor Moon's turn now, to flee or to...

Do. Nagisa's eyes widen as Moon Twilight Flash brings the sort of energy she normally has to produce with Honoka herself, the mystical healing light of kindness. Nagisa lifts a hand a little, tempted to touch it as it passes over her head. She refrains, but...

She'll remember getting to see Moon Twilight Flash from so close up. She's always pretty busy during Rainbow Storm.

When the attack is over, Nagisa wobbles to her feet, panting lightly from adrenaline and some pain. She holds an arm out across Sailor Moon at first, not because she was afraid earlier, but because she remembers how the possessed researchers sought her, and because she knows who else had their last rites here in the icy polar north. Grimly, she looks down at the scattered items from the table, then, at last, to the corpse.

Resting a hand on Mikoto's shoulder consolingly for a moment, Nagisa gives it a squeeze.

"We need to know," she says quietly in the general direction of the Smart About Magic Girls (Nori and Yumi). "What happened on this ship."