2022-09-14 - Showdown At Dark Burger 1

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Showdown At Dark Burger

Kyouka meets the Yagami Family, but cultural explorations of fast food are cruelly interrupted by Shadow Stern, who is spoiling for a fight.


Signum Yagami, Mikoto Minagi, Endo Naoki, Setsuna Higashi, Kyouka Okazaki, Fate Testarossa, Shadow Stern, Hayate Yagami, Shamal Yagami, Zafira Yagami


Dark Burger

OOC - IC Date:

09/14/2022 - 01/12/2016

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Dark Burger +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
  There's nothing dark about Dark Burger; the fluorescent lights may wash out   
  most colors on the walls, hard tile floor, and simple plastic tables and      
  chairs into a thoroughly corporate beige, but they allow few shadows. Grease  
  and desperation fill the air (the former from the deep fryer, the latter      
  from the fry cooks) but so does gaiety and laughter, from the children        
  eagerly consuming their treats to the surreptitious adults indulging in the   
  same. This is a place where dreams come true, if only little ones, but at a   
  price, if only a little one.                                                  
  Fast food, like all food, is rather expensive in Tokyo, and regular visits    
  to the eatery strain less replete allowances (and belts). That makes the      
  opportunity to consume all the more precious, and Dark Burger delivers.       
  Their fries are always hot and crispy, their burgers (beef, shrimp, and       
  croquette!) are juicy and their shakes thick. They are definitely not run by  
  an evil organization bent on sucking the excited and gratified energy out of  
  their customers.                                                              
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.
<SoundTracker> The Arcade - BSSM OST - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBCCk7bCCSc

Dark Burger has really taken off in the last few years. There was a time that WcDonald's was synonymous with childhood, but it has been pretty thoroughly replaced, at least in Tokyo, and especially in Shitamachi. Whether or not this is the FIRST Dark Burger is impossible to know -- the nature of Dark Burger is such that no single franchise seeks to distinguish itself from any other. But Juuban kids might have been the first to go. This storefront is particularly conveniently placed, only a couple blocks from school. On a Friday afternoon like this one, it is thronged with students. The line is continuously long, even if it is quick-moving, and every table is packed.

The January Special Item is... fries! What better way to combat the malaise of a long winter than with hot, crispy potatoes? For added fun, there are numerous shake-on options this month. Garlic, sure, but also a spicy option, a teriyaki-ish option, a matcha (double ish) option, and a saccharine one that kind of makes them taste like yams, only not really.

The front counter is all staffed up by energetic part-timers. Many of them are in school themselves. None of their friends get a discount; discipline is pretty strict back there, apparently. But everyone, friend or no, gets a smile.

Seated at a soft plastic table by the front window is a brown-haired girl, elementary school-aged. She's not in uniform, either, but rather bundled up in a white sweater and tights, and a sleek pink skirt that fits her too well to be off the rack. She seems quite amazed by her surroundings, though possibly more interested in the other kids rather than the food in front of her. Occasionally her hand reaches for a fry, but they never seem to quite make it to her mouth... once she clears the table, she absently drops them.

(How messy! No, wait -- she is treating the huge, thick-ruffed blue dog under the table. It's quite a feat for him to even fit down there -- he's taking up most of the space where legs should be. He seems to be enjoying his fry feast VERY much, and always catches them before they can touch the floor.)

The chair next to her is filled by her companion, a blond adult in a snug green winter coat. Despite the heat of the restaurant, she's still buttoned up.

"This doesn't seem very healthy," Shamal Yagami says to the dog -- no, surely the girl beside her.

"I don't think people come here to be healthy," Hayate Yagami points out, her rich Kansai twang in no way undermining the gentleness of her voice, which is like a direct extension of her smile.

They look nothing alike, but they're obviously related. There's something familial in their intimacy. Not just ease, but closeness. And, curiously, although surely twice her age, the adult seems to take her cues from the child.

Shamal samples her croquette burger cautiously, then takes a second bite. "We should try making this at home," she suggests.

"Mm, yeah, Vita would like that," agrees Hayate. "She's going to be mad when she finds out we went here without her." This doesn't seem to bother her too much; she says it warmly, even fondly, in the tones of someone accustomed to that kind of hot-headedness. "Anyway, I'm glad we could go... it's been too long, everyone!"

The two of them look across the table at their companions.

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

A figure approaches the Yagami family. Walking with precise and exact steps, moving with the silent grace of a born warrior, it grows nearer and nearer, coming in from a direction within the blind spot of the guardian warrior Shamal.

"I believe this cuisine is suited for a festival," says the approaching figure, "or for long marches. Even so..."

That figure - the sweater-wearing, lavender-scarfed form of THE GENERAL OF THE RAGING FIRE - sets down, across from Shamal, setting down her tray as she does. Resting upon that tray...

  • A cup of warm oolong tea
  • A fresh grilled Double Dark Chicken, with two reasonably-generous slices of chicken breast meat seasoned with a chili-and-herbs powder blend which has been burned to a black and terrible crust (which, when moved even slightly, reveals the delicious meat beneath, along with the lettuce, tomato and spread on the darkling bun... there's a little flag on the top of an evil-looking chicken head, to indicate a Special Order)
  • An extra-large order of fries, which has been carefully partitioned to allow for a vigorous shaking of garlic (on one) and spicy (on the other).

Having seated herself, Signum picks up a sliver of fried potato...

... and eats it! *cronch*

Though her expression is rather stony, as it so often is, there is a sense of warm satisfaction and contentment radiating out from her. (That was a spicy fry.)

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

"I'm glad too, Hayate." Fate says back to Hayate, with a bright smile, which becomes subdued with her next thought, "I wish Nanoha could have made it, but her family is having a hard time right now at the Midori-ya."

Before she then asides, on the subject of the croquette burger, "I bet you could do it better, Shamal."

Fate says supportively, she's not some food snob, even if she's enjoyed all the cuisine Earth has to offer. She just truly believes in Shamal, despite her sensitivity to criticism over her cooking.

Fate feels the scritch scritch scritch of Arf in orange lupine puppy form against her leg. She's in colorful stockings, a longer skirt, and a grey winter coat that's opened to reveal a lighter jacket beneath it in yellow. Mittens and Earmuffs lay over her bag.

Fate reaches down to scritch Arf, even as Arf telepathically sends her a message, <Feiiitoooo - Fries! Fries!!>. Apparently jealous of Zafira's feast.

Fate simply takes a handful of hers, and holds them under the table, oblivious of the reasons of needing to hide them.

Arf just happily munches them, before laying back down beside Zafira, now at least partially sated.

Fate tries a fry from a small sampler of different kinds of fries, the yam one. Shortly after Fate munches one of them, Arf has more fries.

The yam flavor could use some work, in Fate's mind, but she isn't complaining aloud.

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

Endo has decided to indulge in today's special. Which is to say, he has a big carton of fries and a drink planted in front of him. The drink is out of necessity, because he's decided to slather his meal in the spicy sprinkling available. Maybe too much, considering he has to take a pause after every bite to sip away the heat.

"It's been a long time since I've been here," Endo replies. His fast-food option is usually konbini food, which is usually sadly lacking in french fries. So, he's making up for lost time now.

"It's nice to get together with everyone too," He adds, offering a bright smile to the friends gathered around the table.

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

Places like Dark Burger are... nostalgic, to Mikoto, though it's hard for her to pin down exactly why. Well, maybe it's something like...

'...depends on what you really want to do here.'

... no, she can't really remember. It's a strange feeling, though, two tastes layered on each other, things which support each other even when perhaps they really aren't supposed to.

Just like sweet fries!

Mikoto follows Fate's example, chomping, vigorously, on the Yam Fries. "It's good!" She declares, because she enjoys the combination. Her sensible Ohtori flats are over long, thick black stockings, today, short legs all curled in under her chair to allow Arf and Zafira as much space as they please; her yellow skirt is cheerful and bright, and up at the table...

No one told Mikoto she was supposed to put her ugly Christmas sweaters away for January.

This one has a cat tangled up in wrapping paper, with a real ribbon on the front where it's resting on its head. It is BRIGHT yellow and LOUD red and INCREDIBLY green. There is glitter stuck on half of it. It remains a crime.

NOMPH, a chip disappears, "Mai's working right now," omph gnomph, two more fall, "but I'm here!" Nibble chomp nomph, there is no escape. "Lots are! It's good!"

To Signum, she points out, brightly: "Festival was a couple days ago! There was parades!" The Fireman Festival, that is, with the parades of firetrucks and ladder performances. Most of the ones in the city were uninterrupted, anyway. "... it counts!" Mikoto decides, with a big, broad grin, as she chomps another chip.

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

It simply cannot be overstated how much Setsuna Higashi loves Earth food, fries very much included. It does not need to be very healthy. It is not why she came here, either! She came... for frieds.

Also for this burger she's having. It's a big burger.

"Me, too," Setsuna answers Endo about not having been here in a while. "It is." Nice, to get everyone together.

Setsuna is just in uniform for the moment, since she hasn't been home yet. It's fine. Her Juuban uniform is not particularly rare here.

Festival food... "Yes," Setsuna agrees thoughtfully, tapping her cheek. Then she resumes Fooding because that's very important.

She seems very happy. An she brought an additional friend!

<Pose Tracker> Kyouka Okazaki [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Kyouka makes no secret of her love of food--half of the lunches she brings to school she's prepared herself (she takes turns with her mother preparing meals, so the other half are made by the elder Okazaki), and is also often bringing healthy snacks to the Track and Field club, or even the odd training session (also made by hand.) And while she's not a picky eater--she'll try anything once or three or seven times--her appreciation for the art of cooking does mean she has a definite preference for... let's say, quality preparation.

Fast food does not often fit that standard. Not to mention that she didn't have a lot of access to various fast food places in the far-flung corners of the Earth she's visited, so she honestly never quite saw the appeal.

Still... when she got the invite from Setsuna, it was hard to find a reason to say no. She might prefer to cook the perfect burger at home on a grill, but she's not a snob, and besides. Her desire to fit in with her peers and meet new people easily outweighs the other considerations. And by accounts the food isn't bad.

She's also in her uniform, same as Setsuna, since it was easiest to just come over with her after club was done so she didn't get lost making her way here for the first time. She's known to a couple of people here, but to the rest--well, she may be unfamiliar, but the way she stops as she approaches the table with Setsuna to peer, curiously, at Arf and Zafira under the table--it's clear she sees what they really are and is trying to process it, and not just wondering about possible health code violations.

She tries to play it cool though as she sits down next to Setsuna, but her nervousness at meeting so many new people at once is a bit evident. "Uh, hey, Naoki-san, hey Testarossa-san, everyone else." She's also a bit stiff with dropping down to more familiar forms of address sometimes.

She hasn't quite matched Setsuna's large burger, but she's still gotten a double, with fries and a chocolate milkshake. Training is hard work, after all, and gotta get those calories in. She can work them off later.

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

Hayate gives Signum a similarly adoring look when she sits down -- the same loving way that she was looking at Shamal a minute ago. "Maybe by summer festival season I'll be able to go without my wheelchair!" The matsuri scene is always kind of an accessibility nightmare, which has denied the girl the opportunity to participate in a lot of its events. And yeah, there is her chair, against a wall and safely out of the way of the crush of kids all over the place.

As some people know, Hayate is in rehab for her legs. A long trip across town is too much to ask of them, but she does carefully move around her home without the chair now, most of the time. Progress!

"We should go surprise her, Fate-chan," the girl suggests. "Give her a cheering-up visit!" Like the ones Fate and Nanoha have given her, so many times.

She continues to only pick at her food, giving most of it to Zafira, who budges over a little bit to make room for Arf.

"You're right!" Shamal gushes to Fate, with perhaps dire consequences for the Yagami household. "What a good idea." She pauses after taking another bite of burger. "By the way, Mikoto-chan, I love your sweater!"

Hayate shares a smile with Endo and Setsuna. "You must be Okazaki-san," she says, greeting her happily. "I'm Hayate Yagami, and these are my kids, Shamal Yagami and Signum Yagami and Zafira Yagami!" (That last one must be the dog, since she nodded at Shamal and Signum in turn.)

She must be kidding, since she's the youngest person here except for maybe Fate.

"Setsuna-san told me all about you," she explains, "And I wanted to be sure to meet you. You see, we are--"

She freezes, her very blue eyes widening.

A split second later, every Intelligent Device in the place softly whispers a telepathic warning: an extraordinarily powerful being is on approach. Shamal almost knocks over her chair in her haste to rise, and from the rings on her fingers come a pair of pretty green diamonds.

A green rune triangle -- somewhat like Endo's, and unlike Fate's Midchildan circle -- springs into existence beneath her, and in the same moment, it gets very quiet in the Dark Burger, as all the ordinary people fade from view, now safely half a dimension away.

<< BARRIER IST MAXIMA >> announces her Device.

"Thank you, Klarwind," Shamal replies. Her voice is steady, and so are her hands, especially now that the civilians are out of harm's way.

And none too soon, because a heartbeat after that, the front wall of Dark Burger is no more, absolutely blown to bits by a thundrous blast of violet energy. What's left of a poster of clownish mascots crumbles to dust in a passing wind.

A figure wholly shrouded in a black cloak flies through the debris cloud. It is holding what looks exactly like Endo's Fallen Stern, right down to very fine details of the immense weapon.

<< GREETINGS, IMPOSTER. >> chimes the dark Device at his counterpart. That's honestly pretty talkative for Shadow Stern.

More energy crackles around the figure; it is obviously not here to talk, despite the momentary pleasantries. But why is it here at all? He's already defeated Endo and taken something of Fallen Stern into himself. It's Ren Aizawa who is still being hunted, and she's not here.

Shadow Stern walks over from Shitamachi Low City.

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

"Yes," Signum answers Mikoto, musingly. "There is always a festival here, in the capital. Somewhere, or other."

Signum looks up at the others who are arriving - Fate receives a firm nod as Signum picks up her sandwich, pressing the components slightly for the sake of efficiency and taking a single bite. Crunch crunch crunch, swallow. To Endo, Signum says, "Have care with your diet. Too many animal fats, over a long time frame, can weaken your battle power."

Setsuna is given a firm and respectful nod of acknowledgement, because there is no greater award Signum can easily give. Also, her mouth is full, and she will be dipped in Pocky sauce before she appears any more undignified than strictly necessary. One sip of oolong tea later, and she greets Kyouka with a, "Good afternoon; you are a comrade of theirs?" that has a positive tone to it.

Hayate speaks then. And here Signum smiles, gently. "It seems likely. If you encounter difficulties, of course..." But another prospect has arisen. The prospect of Shamal presenting them all with fries. Signum contemplates this while picking up another piece of fried potato and munching it in thought. Shamal's cuisine is impeccable; she has made miracles of healthy and satisfying rations... but...

Is it the thing itself, salty and fatty and crisp? Or is it the ambiance in which it is prepared?

Or is it --

-- Signum quickly finishes the last of the fry as the warning devices begin to speak, Laevatein's clamor in her ears making her rise upwards and step forwards, reaching up to her necklace to touch the pendant-form of the Armed Device.

The great sword appears in a glitter of magenta light, before Signum pivots it round, gently inserting the tip of the ancient Device into the tiled flooring of the Dark Burger franchise. Resting her hands on the pommel grip, her scarf fluttering slightly, Signum looks up towards the shadowy figure.

"You have miscalculated," Signum informs the figure. "Depart immediately." Signum straightens then, grasping Laevatein by the hilt and drawing the weapon into a one-handed and defensive position, mentally preparing the armor-jacket invocation routines while staring directly at the cloaked figure, absolute focus on them.

<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Are surprises nice? Ask Setsuna again in a few minutes.

She is happy to see Hayate, in any case, as well as Signum and the others. And happy to get to introduce her New Friend to the group! But that freeze during the attempt makes Setsuna pause too, and she frowns sharply when she notices Shamal's rising and the sudden arrival of a Barrier. Setsuna stands up, too, and there's the blast with the figure in the cloak...

"This is one of the ones I was talking about," Setsuna explains to Kyouka. She pulls her Linkrun a second later, "Pretty Cure! Beat... Up!"

Somersaulting backwards, the Juuban student shimmers in red, falling into a deep ocean of light and rising once again clad in crimson herself. Her sturdy boots tap tap at the ground, as she stands, arms crossed. Her long, pink hair flows back, the wings at either side of her head white despite the darkness.

She steps immediately in front of Kyouka; she hasn't seen her new friend fight, yet, but knows how dangerous this dark Device can be.

"...The Barrier means we can fight without worrying about collateral damage, to people or to things. But be careful. He's very strong."

Somehow, she doesn't think Signum's advice will be taken...

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

"Are there animals in the french fries?" Endo asks of Signum, turning a suspicious eye toward the stack of starchy treats in front of him. He's never really considered just how anything at Dark Burger is made.

Further consideration is interrupted, however, by Fallen Stern's ping:


The crash energy against the wall and its subsequent destruction makes Endo wince, what remains of his spicy fries scattering to the wind. When he raises his head again his eyes take in the newly vacant space where there was one part of a building, and the figure that hovers menacingly in it.

An instant later Endo is clad in his barrier jacket, dark violet light washing over the boy and leaving behind an armed and armored knight in his place. In his hands he holds Fallen Stern ready, a mirror image of the weapon wielded by the cloaked figure. His fingers grip the hilt of the blade tight, mouth set in a tight frown.

< COUNTERFEIT. > Fallen Stern warbles in reply, the device's ugly voice resounding in reply. < I WILL BREAK YOU. >

"Setsuna-chan's right," He calls to their newest Device user. "Be carefulhe's dangerous!" He doesn't know if anyone has had time to warn the new girl about the shadow devices, but he hopes that'll suffice.

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

"Do it, do it!" Mikoto insists -- encourages? -- when Hayate suggests she and Fate engage in operation cheer-up. A moment later, she beams, as Shamal compliments her sweater. "Thanks! Me, too!" She is competely unironically jazzed by her sweater, which remains outrageously bright. Shamal thinks it's good, and Shamal would know!!

She looks to Signum with alarm, though, as she mentions that thing about animal fats. "Really?! But hunting's good practice..." This sounds like a perfectly reasonable sentence to say, to Mikoto. She looks to Endo, though, and argues: "There's no animals. I'd taste them!"

(Mikoto's skills as a food critic are fearsome.)

But Setsuna has brought a Plus One, and Mikoto notices her, too. "Hi!" Mikoto chirps, cheerfully, to Kyouka. "I'm Mikoto!" There's a pause which lasts long enough for people to wonder if she's forgotten the rest of it, or if maybe Mikoto is the lot of it, before she completes her name: "Mikoto Minagi." Her voice is still quite sunny, still quite warm... but there's a moderation of her exclamation points, as she introduces her last name. They come back an eyeblink later: "I'm Setsuna's friend, too!"

Mikoto looks to Kyouka and Hayate for the latter's introduction, in turn, not even blinking at the description of these adults as her children -- but she does when Hayate freezes, sunny cheer interrupted by a frown. The querying grunt she issues, tongue to her teeth, is wordless and concerned.

It might not have been magic, of course. If Hayate were troubled by her health, Mikoto would be worried about that, too. (Mikoto has gotten a lot of experience worrying about the health of her friends over the past year.) Mikoto doesn't have an Intelligent Device whispering to her, despite the black case leaning against her chair; hers is a different domain. She doesn't know precisely what's happened, in that eyeblink of a moment, until --

Klarwind speaks, and the world shifts to the side, and that soundly answers her question. All the gentle curves of her face go to sharp edges, as the cheer falls from her face, replaced with something more focused and intent.

"Mm," she hums acknowledgement, a short nod to Shamal as she stands abruptly from her chair. She grasps the strap of her black sword-case, something which so easily might have looked like a golf case at first glance, and unzips it -- grasping an obsidian-black claymore in her hands, not a moment too soon.


There's a dark blur -- with festive streaks -- as Mikoto, who so thoughtfully stood up, finds herself blown off her feet by the explosion. She yelps as she hits the opposite wall, but she's up a moment later with no lasting harm done, as if she's entirely used to this sort of thing happening. (And, let's be fair, she is. She's quite small.) One hand grasps the red silk of her blade's hilt, as the other jabs, pointing accusation to Shadow Stern.

"Leave Endo alone!" This is a demand, and it isn't encouraging, sharp and angry. She scrambles up to stand beside him, and -- well, she doesn't even stand five feet tall, but she looks plenty dangerous with a sword as large as she is angled to one side of her anyway.

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

Fate's eyes light up, "Oh that's a wonderful idea. Maybe we can skip dessert, and swing by after?" She's utterly oblivious to what she just inflicted upon the household. As she gives Signum a serious look, "You think it'd be suitable as trail rations? I will keep that in mind." Before nodding at Endo's sentiments.

Before she hears Kyouka's voice and, "Oh! Hello. I'm glad you could show up. It's good to see you. Have you met everyone yet?"

She's about to do those introductions, when she gets a telepathic warning from Bardiche. <Caution.>

Fortunately, Shamal's on it as she erects a barrier. The wall of the Dark Burger disintegrating a moment later, as Fate swiftly stands up, the debris cloud settling into her blonde hair as she grabs Bardiche between two fingers. "Bardiche!"

<Get Set.>

<Drive Impulse - Ignition!>

Alit in lightning, it's a fast transition as violet lightning and twin helixes erupt over her form, the poleaxe materializing and fitting together in the blink of an eye, as she points it at them.

Shadow Stern greets them, and while Fate feels upset from how it addresses Stern and Endo...

Fate greets... the figure wielding it. "Can you hear me?" She suspects not given past experiences but, "Even if you can't, I'll figure out a way to reach you."

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa transforms into Barrier Jacket Impulse!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki transforms into Barrier Jacket Zerstörer!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi transforms into HiME Mikoto!
COMBAT: Setsuna Higashi transforms into Cure Passion!
COMBAT: Signum Yagami transforms into Cloud Knight!
<Pose Tracker> Kyouka Okazaki [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Kyouka is... largely silent, unless directly addressed, mostly just taking in all of the interactions around her as she eats in silence. It's hard being the new person--both to Japan and to magic, and everybody else clearly already knows each other.

But she does give Fate a warm smile, and a gentle shake of the head. "No, not yet--"

"It's the oil they cook it in," she remarks offhandedly when the topic of animal fats come up.

But she does give a nod to Signum as she inquires of her 'comrade' status-- "I suppose you could say that." She directly greeted the other two people she knows, but she walked in, ordered, and walked up with Setsuna.

Kyouka gives Mikoto a smile as she introduces herself, waiting just a moment for that last name, and then as she's about to go ahead and introduce herself Mikoto provides it. "I'm-- Oh, nice to meet you. I'm Kyouka Okazaki."

She hastily swallows her bite of burger when Hayate addresses her. Though her immediate reaction is to make a face and mouth the word 'kids?' to herself, glancing at the other two and then back to Hayate, she quickly recovers. "R-right, that's me! Kyouka Okazaki. Nice to meet all of you." She's listening intently to what Hayate has to say when--

Her gaze snaps down to her right wrist as all of the Intelligent Devices let out that whine, including her Strike Wolf. She puts a hand on the table and the back of her chair so she can push off and jump to her feet in a single fluid motion, right after Shamal gets the barrier activated, but hardly has time to wonder about that before the entire front of the restaurant is completely wrecked, shielding her face from the debris. And there--

What was it Setsuna and Fate said? All in black, masks, strange devices--she's no expert, but she suspects, given the circumstances, that an exact copy of someone else's device counts as 'strange'. And just as she was about to ask Setsuna for confirmation, she provides it. And then she transforms.

Setsuna told her about it, but still, seeing it for the first time is... Contemplate that later. She steps in front of her, explains about the barrier, and Kyouka smiles a little, though it's a bit of a grim smile. "Got it. That's one worry off my mind, at least."

She's grateful for Setsuna's protection, but from behind her she hears Kyouka calling, "Strike Wolf!" as she brings the device's standby form--a purple, five-sided gem on a leather bracelet strapped around her right wrist, to her chest.

"Set up!" <Set up.>

She's engulfed in surging light purple energy, and soon her own barrier jacket is revealed. Tank top, vest, shorts, visor, and armored gauntlets and boots, with her device resting on the back of her right hand. She steps up to stand side-by-side with Setsuna--No, Cure Passion. It's almost like getting to meet her friend for the first time all over again.

She sees Mikoto go flying--wait, is that--No, later, focus on the enemy in front of you.

An enemy Fate is trying to talk to. Curious, but given everything else that's happened, not the most concerning thing. She tenses, shifting halfway into a ready stance as she waits for everyone else's cue before acting.

COMBAT: Kyouka Okazaki transforms into Barrier Jacket Wolf Fighter!
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

The cowled figure gives no reply to Fate.

<< I WILL BREAK YOU IF YOU GET BETWEEN ME AND THE TARGET. >> replies Shadow Stern pugnaciously; guess he's not here for Stern and Endo. Though this is addressing the latter, it seems like it's directed towards Mikoto too, a bit, when it suggests: << PLEASE GET BETWEEN ME AND THE TARGET. >>

Shadow Stern likes fighting other giant swords.

With a soft chime from the Device, the cowled figure rotates towards Signum. << CONSTRUCT. >> Bold word from an Intelligent Device! Pot kettle black? << YOUR PRESENCE WAS CALCULATED. >>

Zafira emerges from under the table, much more a wolf than a dog, which is obvious now that he's in full view. With a shimmer, he shifts into something else entirely: a man, with that same blue hair, dark skin, a barrier jacket, and battle-tested gauntlets.

Shamal continues to focus on the barrier.

Hayate does not transform. Nor can she flee easily; she is not in her chair, and it would be slow going to get into it; and even then, there are chunks of rock all over the floor, now. But she doesn't disappear, either. She must be magical, too, like the rest of her family.

Wiping her greasy hand on a napkin, she touches the heavy golden cross that she wears like a pendant.

"You're being used!" she tells Shadow Stern. "But we won't let you do whatever you want!"

<< METEOR ABSTURZ, >> he chimes by way of reply, the sword transforming from black blade to violet energy.

Dark Burgers are close quarters, indeed. A single massive swing, taken in a broad three-sixty, is enough to threaten everyone, and also turn the table -- and several other tables -- into slag.

It is a phenomenally powerful attack. Kyouka has gotten into a few fights, but those opponents are not on this level. One clue as to this truth is how the shockwave from the blow shatters every window in the place. The air fills with glass, and another wall, which had been hanging on by a thread, gives up the ghost.

The roof is about to fall -- everyone will need to move. Shadow Stern is already taking flight.

COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Meteor Absturz on Kyouka Okazaki.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Meteor Absturz on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Meteor Absturz on Endo Naoki.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Meteor Absturz on Cure Passion.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Meteor Absturz on Signum Yagami.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa partially dodges 12 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Meteor Absturz, taking 50 Fatigue damage!  Fate
Testarossa's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Signum Yagami fails to dodge Shadow Stern's Meteor Absturz, taking 65 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Cure Passion partially dodges 19 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Meteor Absturz, taking 77 Fatigue damage!  Critical
Hit!  Cure Passion's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Meteor Absturz on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Kyouka Okazaki dodges 29 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Meteor Absturz, taking 43 Fatigue damage!  Kyouka Okazaki's
Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi counters 14 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Meteor Absturz, taking 43 Fatigue damage!  Mikoto Minagi's
Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi's counterattack, Obsidian Blade: Dynamo, partially gets through, doing 11 Fatigue damage to Shadow Stern!  
COMBAT: Endo Naoki counters 30 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Meteor Absturz, taking 30 Fatigue damage!  Endo Naoki's Reverse
and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki's counterattack, Meteor Absturz, partially gets through, doing 37 Fatigue damage to Shadow Stern!  
<Pose Tracker> Cure Passion [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

It is another Setsuna entirely--Passion has a different posture, a different stance. She is the same girl... but she's also Pretty Cure. And all the seriousness she once put into her work she puts in here. So she tries to offer explanations. However...

"The target...?" Passion wonders, for a moment. Could it be? So soon?

But Fate of course tries to address the figure. Passion looks to Mikoto for a moment, sure that she'll be helpful, and back to Shadow Stern.

Passion immediately starts to dash out of the way as Stern makes that powerful attack, but it isn't to be. Oh, she dodges the blade itself, is untouched by the powerful swing that reduces tables to so much rubble. But that's because she doges into the next wall, which collapses right after. Cure Passion disappears immediately under the rubble with a shout of surprise, and for a few moments there is nothing more from her.

The rubble stirs, and shakes, and is still again. Then, there's a faint popping noise--

Cure Passion appears above Shadow Stern and his wielder in a flash of red, and spins her way into a kick that becomes too fast for the eye to see, smashing down towards he ground hopefully through her foe. "Hah!"

COMBAT: Cure Passion has used Passion Flash on Shadow Stern.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern perfectly dodges 38 Fatigue damage from Cure Passion's Passion Flash, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical
<Pose Tracker> Kyouka Okazaki [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Kyouka hates being in the dark. She loves a good fight, but this is clearly something else entirely from any schoolyard or back alley scrape she might've gotten in. Even the ogre, while massive, seemed less threatening.

Thankfully, more allies come out of the woodwork--or out from under the tables, as the case may be. Devices, thinks that seem like devices but not quite, swords and otherwise. Including a blue dog that's actually a wolf and also a man. Process that later (also saved for later: she sees those gauntlets, wonders about a possible spar)-- ror now, eyes on the target.

Well, her target, anyway. She's got a sinking feeling as she hears that device talk--though maybe that's just her own concerns about the unknowns with Strike Wolf coming into sharp focus for her at the moment.

She tries to dart backwards from that blow, but isn't expecting that ferocious shockwave and gets caught up in it, grunting through gritted teeth as it washes over her barrier jacket. "You still intact?" <Affirmative.>

Cure Passion takes a hit and then takes her blow, and Kyouka nods to herself. "Our turn!" A spell circle appears briefly at her feet as she charges a jump for the briefest of moments before surging forward, past Shadow Stern--but then another circle appears for the briefest of moments and she rebounds, surging at the enemy's back. "Piercing Fang!" Energy briefly engulfs her gauntlet before it hopefully makes contact.

Time to see what this new attack can do.

COMBAT: Kyouka Okazaki has used Piercing Fang Strike on Shadow Stern.
<Pose Tracker> Signum Yagami [None] has posed.

"Then you know what enemy it is you face," Signum answers Shadow Stern, perhaps over-imperiously. Perhaps! It's something that is largely true in the 20-20 vision of hindsight. Her eyes narrow for a moment. Zafira rises near her --

Hayate chides the Device if not necessarily its user. Signum feels a sense of satisfaction and pride briefly BECAUSE

The sword is coming with its crackling aura of violet. She has almost no room to maneuver. Signum is able to make the correct decision - that is the decision which is not likely to actually hurt or harm those within the barrier- but there are costs indeed. Her barrier jacket rises around her but it is not quite entire-formed when the blade reaches her, a bursting roar of flame from Laevatein as blade strikes against blade, a sound of profound force ringing outwards as Signum cries out in fury and, perhaps -- worry?

When the rubble is falling - when the shock and clash is ended - Signum is already swaying. A great score rests, glowing faintly magenta, over her abdomen. "... Fate," Signum implores, "Zafira, harry him--"

She brings her blade back then, sweeping it into the space below the table just now occupied by Zafira. A momentary glance back -- she's well clear of Hayate -- and so with a sweeping draw upwards, the blade carves another furrow in the flooring...

But as it comes past Signum's foot it erupts into flame--

And bursts forwards with a shout of "KOUGA!"

Breathing heavily, Signum looks towards Kyouka. "We have - hardly but met - but I trust you will comport yourself well, in the face of this provocation!"

COMBAT: Signum Yagami has used Kouga! on Shadow Stern.
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto would be pleased, if she knew Passion were so certain she'd be helpful. She is trying to help, now, which might explain why she hasn't already attacked Shadow Stern, as much as that really seems like the most reasonable course of action.

But when Shadow Stern asks Mikoto -- rather politely, in fact -- to get in the way, Mikoto snaps: "I was gonna!" There's a thread of discomfort about her words. It's not so much that she's uncomfortable with the situation, though, as much as...

... she's uncomfortable with stopping to talk.

(But she's getting better at it.)

Fate has something important to say, though, and Mikoto hears it just the same. The person being wielded... Hayate, too, she thinks, as the girl cries out.

Mikoto doesn't have time to reply to them, though, because -- oh, she recognises the power of a full revolution. Meteor Absturz completes its rotation, and --

With a wordless scream, more akin to some terrible beast than a girl, Mikoto gets between Shadow Stern and the target. Her legs bend -- she launches forward; she spins in counter-motion, to meet the crashing power of that shockwave with her OWN titanic swing. The black power reports with a sharp, short explosive noise, and it is by virtue of Miroku's cleave that Mikoto isn't blown away by the process.

She follows her blade, a waifish accessory about its hilt.

And then the roof comes down on her.

Smash! Clatter! The drywall impacts, and for a moment, the girl disappears. But then it shifts, and a great slab is shoved to one side, as Mikoto emerges from her pile of plaster to leap out into the street.

(She still, you see, cannot fly. Endo knew her pain, once.)

"Hayate, you okay?!" She yells over her shoulder -- thinks to check; she trusts the others to take care of her, but she knows that Hayate can't get away as easily as she can.

There's another Device User here, too, and Mikoto spares a thought to her -- wonders whether she's the target, given Endo's already been targeted. Just one, though. She has precious few rattling about in her mind, given the focus she has to hold here.

That, and this, which she yells to Kyouka: "That person isn't in control right now! Be careful!" Of what they can do?

(Of them.)

It's as much a reminder to this new girl as it is to herself, taking a moment to assess, before she leans down again. With another yell, she springs UPWARDS, the black claymore called 'Miroku' swinging up over her head to meet the Device copying Fallen Stern. She is, at least, aiming to crash her Element into that Device, rather than the human wielded by it.

But restraint is a difficult thing to master, isn't it?

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness on Shadow Stern.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern counters 8 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness, taking 24 Fatigue damage!
Mikoto Minagi is Psyched!  Shadow Stern's Reverse ability activates!
COMBAT: Shadow Stern's counterattack, Asteroid Eilen, partially gets through, doing 13 Fatigue damage to Mikoto Minagi!  Critical
COMBAT: Shadow Stern partially dodges 2 Fatigue damage from Kyouka Okazaki's Piercing Fang Strike, taking 10 Fatigue damage!
Kyouka Okazaki is Psyched!  Stun applied to Shadow Stern!
COMBAT: Shadow Stern cleanly braces 34 Fatigue damage from Signum Yagami's Kouga!, taking 6 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Shadow
Stern's Block and Parry abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

Unfortunately, Fate expected no reply. She hardly even knows what state Jail has left them in, where the Device is the dominant party. All she remembers is those empty red eyes, mirrors to her own.

Her eyes narrow as it threatens to break whoever gets between them and the target.

Arf by now has transformed alongside Zafira into a woman with lupine features, a halter top, short shorts, with a half cape framing her shoulders, and an open skirt around her shorts. Which may or may not surprise Kyouka, if she's never seen familiars (Or Guardian Beasts) in action. "Aren't you full of yourself, thinking things are going to go your way?" Arf is perhaps not wrong to put her faith in such a large group of her comrades but...

... Shadow Stern strikes.

The large three sixty sweep is one that Fate can see coming, and while she knows she can trust Shamal and Zafira to prioritize her. She also knows how powerful these Shadow Devices are. There's a flash in the moment the blade strikes, and Hayate finds herself being swept up faster than she can blink - right as the blade strikes.

The titanic blow is one that Fate tries her best to dodge, but instead it shaves against her barrier jacket with brutal force, giving her a sharp haircut, and slicing a gap in her barrier jacket in her back. What's left of her cape, she uses to shield Hayate from the falling glass.

"Are you alright?" She tries her best to keep her voice steady, to not let Hayate know just how powerful that blow was.

'harry her...' "Signum needs me, Hayate."

Arf is even worse off than her master, but still up, and so she hands off Hayate to Zafira and her, "Get her to cover. I'm counting on you both." "R-Right Feito" Arf says, perhaps regretting her arrogance in this moment.

Fate flies back into the battle, and what does she do? She harries Shadow Stern and their wielder. "Yes-" Moving quickly, it's like her blows encircle them, trying to strike them from all sides with brutal swings of its polearm.

"-our turn."

It might be part bravado, but she still has faith they can turn this around with all of them together.

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Aerial Ace on Shadow Stern.
<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

"Mikoto-chan." Endo's voice is grateful when his friend places herself at his side. "Thanks." How far they've come.

Sadly, there's not much time to reflect on his fellow greatsword wielder.

Because he knows what's coming. Intimately.

< METEOR ABSTURZ, > Fallen Stern responds in turn, eager to do violence to the imposter in front of them.

It's a second circle, a mirror of the first. A great and sweeping blow that comes with the full rotation of the knight's body. Light floods out, contrails of energy left in Fallen Stern's wake as dark metal meets dark metal with a horrific bang.

There are no immovable objects here, just unstoppable forces. The clash reverberates through Endo's weapon and body, the blow throwing him back several feet from the violence of that impact.

The roof is coming down by the time he regains his balance, and he too takes to the air. Into the sky, above the crumbling remains of the Dark Burger.

"Sternlet's show them what we can do!"

< PREPARING. > The device responds. < ENGAGE: ZERSTORUNG DRAN. >

Once again purple light flares from the device, vivid light that burns along its edges. Circuits along Stern's surface burn with energy, tracing jagged lines across the dark metal as vents open to begin pouring out even more purple-black light.

Soon the entirety of the blade is swathed in a cocoon of burning mana, ready to slag through anything it touches.


COMBAT: Endo Naoki has used Zerstorung Drang on Endo Naoki.
COMBAT: Endo Naoki accepts Endo Naoki's Zerstorung Drang, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Empower applied to Endo Naoki!  Cleanse! All
of Endo Naoki's debuffs are cleared!
COMBAT: Shadow Stern dodges 12 Fatigue damage from Fate Testarossa's Aerial Ace, taking 8 Fatigue damage!  Fate Testarossa is
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

It's really quite unfair that something with a weapon THAT big is also THAT fast. This is something that Shadow Stern and Endo do NOT have in common. One wonders if it has more to do with the Device or its wielder; the latter seems like a total non-entity, jerked almost puppetlike around, the sword always leading every motion. Those motions must be harsh on the body, indeed. Maybe that's how it's going faster.

Which is to say that when Passion teleports above it, at the same moment that Kyouka leaps at its back, it ALSO teleports... or close enough. It's a black blur, and in the muted colors of the barrier... pretty much invisible for a sec. Pretty Cure's spin-kick shatters the Dark Burger mosaic on the floor (which is, appropriately enough, that of a dark burger). Kyouka grazes the cloak, but not much more.

Landing closer to the Family Yagami, the Device draws itself up crosswise to firmly block Signum's flamesword -- the two swords crash together so hard it rocks the city block. Zafira it calmly sidesteps. Fate and Bardiche... less calmly; it falls back hastily from those rapid swings. Harried, indeed.

It is then that Mikoto leaps upward, and Shadow Stern is forced to put a foot down again in order to pivot, hard, to match her blow for blow. << ASTEROID EILEN. >>

Hayate, for her part, gripped her golden pendant harder, but before she was forced to make a difficult choice, Fate rushed her out of the way. "Thanks, Fate-chan! I'm okay, Mikoto-chan."

She meets the other girl's red eyes again before she flies off.

"You don't have to shield me." From the knowledge that they're dangerous? Or in general? Her own blue eyes seem very old, in that moment. Old not just beyond her years or Fate's years, but... older than time.

Shadow Stern was driven back, but not for long. He seems ready to charge towards the Yagamis again, but is momentarily distracted by Endo's light show.


And now both of them are all charged up--!

COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Zerstorung Drang on Shadow Stern.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern accepts Shadow Stern's Zerstorung Drang, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Empower and Surge applied
to Shadow Stern!
<Pose Tracker> Cure Passion [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Passion might tell Mikoto about it later. Not now, though. Just like she doesn't comment on Hayate's statements. But her thoughts about a 'target' are interrupted by the sheer speed at which Shadow Stern and his wielder move. She smashes the remnants of a sign and sets her jaw, looking up again sharply with red eyes. She doesn't do any trash talking herself. She's stoic for that much, and frankly, spending most of her energy on keeping up at the moment. But there's little else she can do against another attck like that. ...So when it doesn't come, she sees an opportunity.

"Endo!" Setsuna calls. "I'm with you!"

Then she rushes forward again, this time merely blurring instead of outright teleporting, with a series of sharp kicks whirling up and up and up in an effort to take Stern off-balance to help Endo approach.

"We won't let you have anyone else!"

COMBAT: Cure Passion has used Rising Passion on Shadow Stern.
<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

"Got it!" Endo calls to Cure Passion, sparing a raise of his fist toward his companions before he focuses on the task at hand. He can only hope the distraction gives the rest of them an opportunity to strikeand that the newly powerd-up enemy won't have a chance to use their newfound strength.

When requested, Endo comes at the dark device. The space between them is cleared quickly and Fallen Stern is raised in a sweeping cut, a heavy vertical slash aimed straight at the weapon rather than the wielder.

COMBAT: Endo Naoki has used Blauverschiebung on Shadow Stern.
<Pose Tracker> Kyouka Okazaki [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Kyouka Okazaki says, "Give me anything you got!" She's already on the move, eyes focused on her new target--that device now, not the girl holding it. Attacks coming from multiple directions, and when she sees her window she takes it, charging from behind with the strongest axe kick she can muster--the boot being reconfigured by Strike Wolf moments before it makes impact with the weapon."

<Pose Tracker> Kyouka Okazaki [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Signum asks Kyouka to make sure she comports herself well, as Kyouka is surging past on her way to make her first attack--a quick "Got it!" as she blazes past is the only reply she can afford in the moment.

And then she just barely grazes--drat. Too slow!

She feels a little guilty--she heard mention of and saw that wheelchair, but didn't think to try and get the girl to safety. That the cloaked figure went after her--she's equal parts guiltily relieved that she might not be the target, but that Hayate is--and also angry that someone would go after a girl in that condition.

Kyouka darts back after her attack, glancing over to Mikoto at the shouted warning. "That would be useful information to know beforehand!"

But, message received.

to Strike Wolf, she says, "We need to do something to take out that device. Gimme your best shot."

<Insufficient time-->

"Give me anything you got!" She's already on the move, eyes focused on her new target--that device now, not the girl holding it. Attacks coming from multiple directions, and when she sees her window she takes it, charging from behind with the strongest axe kick she can muster--the boot being reconfigured by Strike Wolf moments before it makes impact with the weapon.

COMBAT: Kyouka Okazaki has used Fangbreaker Strike Mk1 on Shadow Stern.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern cleanly braces 11 Fatigue damage from Cure Passion's Rising Passion, taking 2 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
Cure Passion is Psyched!  Shadow Stern's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Shadow Stern fails to counter Endo Naoki's Blauverschiebung, taking 36 Fatigue damage!  Stagger applied to Shadow Stern!
COMBAT: Shadow Stern's counterattack, Blauverschiebung, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Endo Naoki!  
COMBAT: Shadow Stern partially dodges 6 Fatigue damage from Kyouka Okazaki's Fangbreaker Strike Mk1, taking 25 Fatigue damage!  
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

Mikoto is... familiar, yes, with just how much faster one can move without regard for the body. Perhaps it's why she called that warning.

"Okay!" She calls, to Hayate, and trusts that she'll be fine. Mikoto's hands are full; she can't easily carry a girl and her blade at once. Call it a metaphor.

Asteroid Eilen meets Miroku; the clash ends with Mikoto crashing back to earth, a fleeting aerial meeting. Shadow Stern responds to the challenge -- and there, Mikoto thinks, deliberately, is such an important detail.

"Endo! We're counting on you!" Mikoto issues to him, sharply, and has to hope her meaning carries through the short words; the longer they can challenge Shadow Stern, the longer he's kept away from the target.

The target, Mikoto thinks, aside, as she thinks on Shadow Stern's attention before Endo stole it -- Hayate?

Regardless, Shadow Stern is fast. Terribly, unfairly fast, breaking the back of human capability. Even if his host is held captive, she can't hesitate. It's unpleasant, but she is someone who can do unpleasant things.

Like this.

"Miroku!" Mikoto invokes, as she sweeps her blade in her own three-sixty revolution about herself, sparks flying from the ground where the claymore digs a deep groove about them. She plunges her sword into a dark portal, white light lashing from it like strikes of lightning -- her shadow twins, in the harsh lighting;

And four more of those dark portals open, as spires of darkness lance up to trap Shadow Stern among them -- held like chopsticks between shadowy forces which have their own terrible aura about them, entirely unlike the horrific power that copy Device wields. If there is anything which can be said for the shadows, it is that they do not pierce... flesh.

No -- not flesh.

But this is the only way she can try to hold him in place.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Darkness on Shadow Stern.
<Pose Tracker> Signum Yagami [None] has posed.

Signum draws her sword back.

'You don't have to shield me,' she says behind her, and Signum wonders.

She wonders at the courage behind those words. The time was not long ago when she would have simply ignored a statement like that as foolishness, a sign of misguided self-sacrificial aspect. 'Oh, you can leave me to my suffering' -- proof of the nobility of Hayate's heart...

But that was then.

Now it is simple truth-- and in its way, an instruction.

"Understood," she answers, if with a silent outreach - the mental-magical equivalent of a glance - to Shamal. If all else should fail. Oh, she thinks, how mournful; a minute ago or less, we were simply dining together. Yet isn't this the nature of battle?

Endo has drawn attention, but he cannot stand alone in Signum's estimate. The pain in her belly reminds her, if she had forgotten, that she does not know if she could either. And yet here they all are:

"Come, Laevatein," Signum murmurs aloud beneath her breath. A jewel pulses.


It happens in a flash; the blade is slung forwards, swung in an upward arc as Signum surges forwards, aiming to strike at the device and its wielder from below -- a feint at the last moment, the Device itself let go for the merest fraction of a second to grasp it in a different angle and then

As the blade bursts into flame

SMASH downwards, concluding with an almost desultory kick to the side, a blow to try and PUSH the foe back.


COMBAT: Signum Yagami has used Shiden Issen! on Shadow Stern.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern fails to brace Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Darkness, taking 19 Fatigue damage!  Trap applied to Shadow
COMBAT: Shadow Stern fails to counter Signum Yagami's Shiden Issen!, taking 39 Fatigue damage!  Signum Yagami is Psyched!  
COMBAT: Shadow Stern's counterattack, Asteroid Eilen, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Signum Yagami!  
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

Fate meets Hayate's eyes, and at first she seems startled. Then slowly, her face draws back into a serious expression as she nods gravely in what seems like understanding of that courage.

Even if she doesn't time to respond verbally before she flies back at Signum's orders. Stern though seems ready to charge, but Endo's distraction...

<Haken Mode.>

... as Bardiche shifts into that hooked Scythe. Fate waits for that moment when Kyouka attacks. While she doesn't consider her a liability, she considers her someone she has to watch out for, as her mage-senpai.

Thus the moment Kyouka attacks, is the same moment that Fate flies up behind Stern, swinging it as if setting up for a devastating sweep

<Haken Slicer.>

Except the moment the blow falls, the blade detaches, at close range. The whirling blade growing instantly into a circling buzzsaw that tries to drive into Shadow Stern and wielder relentlessly, like a magical buzzsaw blade that tries to grind through all layers of defense.

"There's more than one way to find 'sufficient time'." She notes.

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Haken Slicer on Shadow Stern.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern dodges 18 Fatigue damage from Fate Testarossa's Haken Slicer, taking 27 Fatigue damage!  
<Pose Tracker> Shadow Stern [Juuban Public School (11)] has posed.

Cure Passion charges back in, kicking and kicking and kicking. This time rather than evacuating, Shadow Stern stands his ground -- or, rather, the figure does. Her kicks sink into its cloak. They find purchase but... not enough. And on the last one, abruptly the sword shifts in front of the figure so that she punches IT instead. Since it is covered in violet light, it's quite painful.


Passion is shot by an immense blast right at point blank, but the rest of the barrage misses. Then Endo's coming in, and << BLAU-- >> There isn't time. The two swords crash together, violet energy spilling everywhere, but Shadow Stern takes the worst of it by far. The force of Endo's blow sends the weapon downwards. His edge cleaves deeply into the ground pavement. In those long seconds that the bearer tries to tug him free, Kyouka closes, and again there is not time -- this time, not time to fully retreat. She feels her foot strike something fleshy underneath.

Mikoto's shadows grasp him just as he was about to be clear of the ground. And then Signum comes in, and he cannot BLAST free of the ground in time either -- only free of those shadows. Still, they were there for exactly long enough. The General of the Raging Fire's blows land true.

Free at last, Shadow Stern falls back again, this time from Fate.

It's right about then that the 'missed' shots from Galaxy Strum start to fall from the sky like deadly rain. It seems Shadow Stern has figured out how to turn them in midair. A skill learned from watching Fate? Or just something Fallen Stern has forgotten he could do? Either way... they are massive, even more frightening than usual, as though their extra time in the sky acted as some kind of accelerant.

This time the entire block goes up in dust.

In the aftermath...

"That's enough," says Hayate.

A white Belkan triangle is rotating around her where she sits -- no, floats, now. She is clad in a black and gold mini-dress, and seems very small in it, very slight, almost paradoxically weaker rather than stronger despite her transformation. Maybe it's because of what isn't there.

"Mistress," Shamal gasps. "You mustn't! You said that Schwertkruz isn't ready!"

"I can make another Schwertkruz," Hayate replies, too calmly. She is sad, beneath. The cross around her neck is in her hand, now, and a great staff grows from it like a sapling. "But perhaps that won't be necessary."

She closes her eyes.

"I've got the barrier," she says, tensely, as the power transfers over. The staff emits a very soft, almost totally inaudible hum, which is felt rather than heard in one's teeth. "Shamal... now, you can do what you do best."

Shamal nods, sharply. "Klarwind!" she calls, and her pendulums chime. Healing winds rush to encompass the others, soothing their hurts almost as quickly as they were made. Not only that... they feel filled with energy, refreshed... reinforced.

<< TARGET CONFIRMED, >> announces Shadow Stern.

COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Galaxy Strum on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Galaxy Strum on Signum Yagami.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Galaxy Strum on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Galaxy Strum on Kyouka Okazaki.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Galaxy Strum on Endo Naoki.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Galaxy Strum on Cure Passion.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick transforms into Shamal!
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used Healing Wind on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used Healing Wind on Signum Yagami.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used Healing Wind on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used Healing Wind on Kyouka Okazaki.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used Healing Wind on Endo Naoki.
COMBAT: Pink Moon Stick has used Healing Wind on Cure Passion.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa braces 31 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Galaxy Strum, taking 25 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Fate
Testarossa's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa accepts Pink Moon Stick's Healing Wind, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Fate Testarossa is Cheered!  Fate
Testarossa is Reinforced by Pink Moon Stick!  Cleanse! All of Fate Testarossa's debuffs are cleared!
COMBAT: Cure Passion counters 14 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Galaxy Strum, taking 43 Fatigue damage!  Cure Passion is
unable to keep fighting!
COMBAT: Cure Passion's counterattack, Crimson Counter, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Shadow Stern!  
COMBAT: Cure Passion accepts Pink Moon Stick's Healing Wind, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Cure Passion is unable to keep fighting!
Cure Passion is Reinforced by Pink Moon Stick!  Cleanse! All of Cure Passion's debuffs are cleared!
COMBAT: Signum Yagami accepts Pink Moon Stick's Healing Wind, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Signum Yagami is Reinforced by Pink Moon
Stick!  Cleanse! All of Signum Yagami's debuffs are cleared!
COMBAT: Signum Yagami braces 18 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Galaxy Strum, taking 27 Fatigue damage!  Signum Yagami's Block
and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi perfectly dodges 55 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Galaxy Strum, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical
Dodge!  Mikoto Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi accepts Pink Moon Stick's Healing Wind, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Mikoto Minagi is Cheered!
Mikoto Minagi is Reinforced by Pink Moon Stick!  Cleanse! All of Mikoto Minagi's debuffs are cleared!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki braces 27 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Galaxy Strum, taking 22 Fatigue damage!  Endo Naoki's Block and
Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki accepts Pink Moon Stick's Healing Wind, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Endo Naoki is Reinforced by Pink Moon Stick!
Cleanse! All of Endo Naoki's debuffs are cleared!
COMBAT: Kyouka Okazaki fails to counter Shadow Stern's Galaxy Strum, taking 46 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  
COMBAT: Kyouka Okazaki's counterattack, Howling Wind Barrier, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Shadow Stern!  
COMBAT: Kyouka Okazaki accepts Pink Moon Stick's Healing Wind, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Kyouka Okazaki is Cheered!  Kyouka
Okazaki is Reinforced by Pink Moon Stick!  Cleanse! All of Kyouka Okazaki's debuffs are cleared!
<Pose Tracker> Cure Passion [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

So, with Endo, Cure Passion charges in. Her kicks impact cloth, but it's not enough. Then her fist slams into the sword's violet light, and she grits her teeth as it burns her bare fingers. "I won't--"

That blast slams into her outright and Passion is knocked backward with enough force to slam straight into the rubble, despite her swinging around to try to counterattack. It doesn't go well, regardless; the Cure hits the pile of debris and rolls, disappearing as the blasts turn most of the remaining block into dust. However...

Klarwind's power washes over Passion, too, and from the pile of rubble there's a familiar cough as she starts to drag herself out of the broken stone, one difficult movement at a time.

But she won't be able to help more directly in this fight, falling from where she'd started to push herself back up once she's partly free. "...Be... careful..."

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

Fate seems to sidestep the first shot of Galaxy Strum. It's only when she senses the magic coming around behind her as with her Plasma Lancers, that she suddenly puts her palm out. <Defenser - Plus.>

The magical protection spell manifests in a circle of concentric rings. The blast powering against it. The spell circle starts to crack, and Bardiche loads in a cartridge, as the spell flares to new life, enduring for another precious few seconds.

The mage looks right at Shadow Stern during the whole process, sweat beading on her forehead. However, she refuses to be beaten by her own trick. No matter what it costs her.

"That's mine." The girl says possessively, as if assuming one outcome over the other - perhaps not believing that the Device could develop something that Endo himself hasn't yet, Bardiche may not have been copied as the other Devices were.

"I won't let him have a single thing that's mine."

Hayate though, as Fate watches her transform - perhaps the Schwertzkruz isn't ready, but she'll honor that courage. "We won't waste this." She promises, as Shamal brings her healing might to bear, "Thank you. Both of you."

And it's that moment that Fate raises Bardiche, and another three cartridges are pounded in, the tattered remnants of her cloak become a stark white.

<Blaze Mode - Zanber Form>

Bardiche unfolds into a three pronged hilt, as a blade grows, and grows out of it until it's three times her height. And Fate sweeps the blade up, lightning cascading all along its length...

<Sprite Zanber.>

... and then she brings it down in a decisive diagonal slash. As a spell designed to deny magic itself slashes the air, with a crack of thunder that seems designed to shatter all that gets in its way..

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa transforms into Barrier Jacket Blaze!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Sprite Zanber on Shadow Stern.

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

Mikoto feels the air shift, as something begins to fall -- looks up -- and in that instant she is moving, before her conscious mind connects the meteoric Galaxy Strum to her own safety. Her instincts are immediate and thoughtless, as she springs back before the first can land -- as she leaps back again to evade another -- as she charges forward, and zigs and zags about the block, each moment just a moment ahead of the impacts. She doesn't lose her balance, even as Galaxy Strum turns the block into a starry field of craters, and the footing on the ground becomes precarious and churned.

It's only AFTER she stops moving -- after the shots have all fallen down -- that her thoughts catch up to the rest of her, and she marvels: "But, it missed..."

Mikoto's fought Endo, and she's fought Fate, and she's familiar with both of their tricks -- which makes it all the more baffling to see one echoed in the other, here. She hears Fate's possessiveness, just the same, and cannot fault her for a moment.

Her attention is stolen in short order, though -- by Hayate, floating in that dress. Her golden eyes grow wide, and then she frowns, hearing the sadness in her voice. "It's dangerous, right..?" She presses Hayate, gently -- she doesn't know the Schwertzkruz well, but she knows the emotion in that tone. With a sharp nod, she affirms: "Count on us!"

It helps, certainly, that they now have Shamal and Klarwind's help. Just like that, all the aches and pains of the roof coming down on her are blown away -- it's an encouraging feeling. "Thanks!" She flexes her fingers, against the hilt of her blade, and confirms she's all in order.

Shadow Stern has confirmed his target, but --

"I'm STILL BETWEEN!" Mikoto yells, a whole full sentence, and the last coherent words which leave her lips before her lungs occupy themselves with her snarl. Miroku drags upon the ground as she hefts it, circular, in revolution; sparks drag and obsidian screams against the ruined ground, once, twice, three times --

"rrrrraaaaghhhHHHHH," perhaps, is the transcription of her rage, growl rolled in her throat until it reaches the fever pitch of a howl, as her momentum builds far beyond anything she can stop, all the purpose and power of a runaway freight train.

Spin, whirl, crash! She charges into Shadow Stern, all but hurling the flat of her great claymore into his sphere of influence, the rest of her just along for the ride. She's able to adjust her assault that much -- the broad side of the blade, rather than its edge -- but in this moment, she is concerned less with restraining her own power and more with making sure it doesn't happen again.

He's confirmed his target, and that just means she'll have to keep herself in the way.

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

Kyouka flashes Fate a grateful smile when she and Bardiche lend an assist to her own attack efforts. "Thanks!" She's doing her best to make do as she is, but it gladdens her to know she's being looked out for--and it makes her all the more determined to be someone that can be relied on in turn.

Alas it seems that she hit the user and not the device--well, she tried, at least. She's regrouping, considering her next moves when--well, several major things happen all at once. First, Galaxy Strum comes crashing down for them all. She recognizes that trick, saw it just the day before from her teacher, Fate. And so she reaches for one of her newest tricks--

<Howling Wind.>

It's new, mostly untested, but against a city-block destroying attack-- She sets her stance, drawing her right gauntlet back as a band of neon purple magic, inscribed with runes, encircles her fist. A miniature twisting, raging maelstrom of wind gathers around her hand and at the last moment--up it goes, fist pumped into the air as all of that pent up energy spreads outwards into a disc. Kyouka braces her arm, pours all the energy she can into the barrier. To push back, knock aside the blow, direct that incoming energy, to do something, and--

When the dust clears she's down on one knee, panting and drawing in sharp, ragged breaths. Her barrier jacket is... in tatters, torn and shredded and barely held together. But it is still held together, still functioning, and she's not out yet. "Gotta... gotta work on that one more," she says between pants.

<Affirmative,> comes the response from Strike Wolf.

And then--Oh, Hayate too, huh? She does something, Kyouka's not entirely sure what, which frees Shamal and Klarwind to Kyouka inhales deeply when the healing winds sweep through, drawing in that fresh, vibrant air, new strength flowing into her. She pushes herself to stand upright, and sets her stance once more.

She echoes Fate's sentiment with a grateful, "Thank you both." Kyouka hears Fate talk about stolen tricks--she's thoroughly lost on what's going on but she knows one thing for certain--if a kid like Fate can keep fighting, she can't do anything less.

Then she sees Cure Passion is down. And that makes her blood boil. "Damn-- I'm coming, Cure Passion!" It's her turn to return the protection offered just moments ago. With a detour to direct her ire to Shadow Stern. "I don't know what you or your boss' problem is, but we were having a pretty nice time before you showed up!"

She may not have any fancy forms or cartridge loads to pull out, but she'll still do the best she can. She dashes forward, jumping high over the cloaked figure in a tight summersault--and when she reaches the height of her arc she kicks off the air and surges down from overhead. She twists as she dives, unleashing the strongest kick she can at the mysterious device wielder. "Kyyyyyaaaaah!"

And if she does everything right, when she rebounds from the kick, she'll land right in front of Cure Passion.

COMBAT: Kyouka Okazaki has used Tricky Kick on Shadow Stern.
<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

There are stars falling from the sky. The projectiles raining down over the street and what remains of the Dark Burger are cause for Endo to raise his weapon in attempt to defend himself.

This time not in an attack, but in an effort to shield himself with the bulk of his device and the defense it provides.

The knight grits his teeth as he's swallowed up the detonations, feeling the burn of energy even through his defenses. He sinks lower in the air, struggling to maintain flight. He manages it after a few seconds of turbulent wobbling.

"Passion!" He calls out, his face flooding with worry.

He feels bolstered by Shamal's spell, and by Hayate's courage. Enough that he sets himself to enter the fray once again.

"No you don't!" The boy cries out, leveling his weapon at the enemy once again. He wields it like a battering ram, aiming the end of the weapon toward the Dark Stern and rushing forward like a comet to clash blades once again.


COMBAT: Endo Naoki has used Asteroid Eilen on Shadow Stern.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern dodges 19 Fatigue damage from Fate Testarossa's Sprite Zanber, taking 28 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Shadow Stern braces 26 Fatigue damage from Kyouka Okazaki's Tricky Kick, taking 21 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Kyouka
Okazaki is Psyched!  Shadow Stern's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Shadow Stern fails to dodge Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Destruction, taking 69 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Shadow Stern braces 37 Fatigue damage from Endo Naoki's Asteroid Eilen, taking 16 Fatigue damage!  Shadow Stern's Block
and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa transforms into Barrier Jacket Blaze!
<Pose Tracker> Signum Yagami [None] has posed.

Signum breathes heavily as she strides forwards. The pain is considerable, but the enemy is pressured. She raises up Laevatein into a two hand grip, before the bombardment spreads despite the barrier. "Tch--"

And then behind her, a voice speaks.

Signum turns her head. Just long enough to see. "My lady," she begins to say, even as Shamal protests as well. But then there is a sensation - the subtle feeling of the flow of power coming from Shamal being transferred, with the seamless ease of mastery, to another provider.

The staff hums. Cooling and refreshing air rises, and Signum feels a prickling at her eyes as she turns forwards. "... as you will!"

Fate and Mikoto are closing in to clash against the enemy blade. Mikoto, perhaps, must; Signum has learned as much by observing her. Fate has the option, but has clearly made a tactical choice. The newer person, whom she had just met-- ah! The Pretty Cure is disabled. Yes:

The Device is powerful, but the wielder is another question. The sword begins to ripple in her hands, mechanical complexity appearing manifest as a sorcerous wave washes over Laevatein, the weapon's hilt turning in mere fractions of a heart beat into the grip of a bow. The blade reconfigures, and a neon-magenta string appears.

"If you will not be still, then be revealed," Signum says. The drawstring is nocked. "Roar! Yougan-yajirushi!" The bow is drawn with force, a momentary linear ray of burning light turning into a roaring flash, bursting to flinders to bombard the cloaked figure in blinding luminosity!

COMBAT: Signum Yagami has used Youganyajirushi on Shadow Stern.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern dodges 7 Fatigue damage from Signum Yagami's Youganyajirushi, taking 11 Fatigue damage!  Blind applied to
Shadow Stern!
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

When Cure Passion goes down, Shamal adjusts the flow of her Healing Wind to cocoon her. This may not be the wisest tactical option; this is starting to feel like it may be a fight to the death, in which case keeping other people up would matter more to the former Labyrinth-dweller's fate. But the heart wants what the heart wants, and the Lady of the Lake is determined to see no more harm done to this girl who just gave everything to stand against their foe. To be fully within the height of her power is to feel submerged, without drowning. The air is a lake, too, if you know how to open yourself to that truth, and Shamal connects to this profoundly. Now Setsuna does, too.

Hayate doesn't argue. Perhaps out of kindness to them both; perhaps because this is the first time that she's taken the field since the blossoming of the World Tree; or perhaps she is ruthless enough and confident enough to have done so anyway, but is simply too busy concentrating. Her eyes are half-lidded.

The barrier expands and expands. It is impossible to see from inside, of course. But where Shamal's protective veil spanned a few blocks -- Hayate's has already engulfed the entire city and is starting to gobble up the countryside. This is probably unnecessary. It may even be accidental.

At any rate, if anyone was worried about the battle getting out of control, it is no longer a concern... as long as Hayate stays up.

Schwertkruz crackles, not with lightning, but with a raw white mana, and the hum it emits grows a little bit louder.

She does not answer Mikoto in any other way, which is answer enough...

A sword can't smile and the cowl is still intact on his bearer, but something about Shadow Stern seems eager to face everyone all at once. The blade howls as it slices the air, already beginning to rotate as Fate, Mikoto, Kyouka and Endo surround him. The bearer is dragged FORWARD, directly along Bardiche's Zanber Blade, into ultra-close-range, which is disadvantageous to Fate's immense weapon. It is also disadvantageous to Shadow Stern, but given the problem of numbers, perhaps a reasonable strategy.

It also helps with the matter of Signum's projectiles -- it is much easier to dodge them with Fate so very nearby.

Kyouka's kick and Endo's blow arrive simultaneously. Fallen Stern and Shadow Stern bladelock again, a huge shockwave spiraling away from them both, swirling with the dust of mashed-up Dark Burger building and lit that hideous violet. In the same moment, Kyouka nails the head of the bearer, and as she's pushing off, the cowl slips backwards.

Everyone gets to see what happens when Mikoto swings her hardest and Shadow Stern is unable to get out of the way: to mitigate the damage, he ensures that the strike goes to the bearer and not himself. A frightening opposite of the kind of sacrifice so often levied by the likes of Raising Heart and Bardiche, who would willingly destroy themselves to protect their masters.

Some have seen already and some have not: the bearer has a familiar face. Age -- or something like it -- has replaced some of the sweet roundness of youth with a fuller flowering of beauty, but it is Fate Testarossa all the same. Her blond hair is worn down, instead of in twintails. And her crimson eyes are... blank, absolutely empty.

Mikoto's blow absolutely disintegrates their outer armor, the rest of the black cloak crumbling to nothing. The sleek, hypermodern bodysuit beneath -- no Knight's Clothes, these, but a Barrier Jacket -- is black also, with lines of Fallen Stern's purple along many contours, glowing with his mana.

One of their eyes twitches with something that suggests a physiological reaction to pain. But there is still no... sentience. No consciousness. Just a void, where a soul SHOULD be... and isn't.


That doesn't mean he's just going to sit there, evidently. He has a secondary mission, or maybe just goal, which is to kick the ass of all these unworthy opponents!

An enormous leap does not bend his bearer's knees; it is powered by his magic, and as they break the bladelock, it is his turn to soar. Contrails of power follow him, gathering, gathering.

Endo recognizes this one for sure.

It's very bad.

The bearer's body trails behind the sword as it swings three-sixty. Blood drips between her fingers. That arm must be wounded, perhaps from Mikoto's mighty strike. It does not seem to mute the brightness of the star of Shadow Stern's determination, which falls from the heavens less like a beautiful celestial body and more like a nuclear bomb.


COMBAT: FINISHER! Shadow Stern has used Vernichtung Brecher on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Shadow Stern has used Vernichtung Brecher on Kyouka Okazaki.
COMBAT: FINISHER! Shadow Stern has used Vernichtung Brecher on Signum Yagami.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Vernichtung Shockwave on Endo Naoki.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Vernichtung Shockwave on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa counters Shadow Stern's Vernichtung Brecher with Jet Zanber , initiating a BEAMWAR! Please see +help
beamwar for further information.
BEAMWAR! Fate Testarossa and Shadow Stern's attacks collide. Shadow Stern has the advantage!
BEAMWAR! Now accepting mana bids for the first of three rounds! Now accepting new BEAMWAR entrants in this round only!
COMBAT: Signum Yagami dodges 71 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Finisher, Vernichtung Brecher, taking 107 Fatigue damage!
Signum Yagami is unable to keep fighting!  Signum Yagami's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to dodge Shadow Stern's Vernichtung Shockwave, taking 58 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Mikoto Minagi
is unable to keep fighting!
BEAMWAR! Kyouka Okazaki counters Shadow Stern's Vernichtung Brecher with Shining Moonlight Strike, joining Fate Testarossa's
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

At close range, her blade's length is a liability. She tries anyhow. The best defense right now is a good offense. If they don't finish this and soon, Setsuna might not make it. Not unprotected in this space.

It is the moment that Mikoto's strike reveals her face, older - with eyes empty. Devoid of that spark that makes Fate - Fate. Or perhaps, Alicia - Alicia. This is what her big sister would have grown up to look like too. That her expression grows subtly angry, in the way her expression stews upon what Jail Scaglietti has done. The sheer violation of her personhood.

"Mission accomplished? Is that what this all was? A test?"

<Get Set.>

"No." The girl, the mage, only perhaps little more than half the age of the empty figure wielding Stern declares. Even as Shadow Stern leaps.

<Jet Zanber.>

Two cartridges are pounded in as the cylinder turns. And Bardiche simply grows, and grows - the clouds darkening over the Dark Burger, as lightning erupts down the length of the blade. Until the blade is as absurd length, and the as the figure swings in that devastating three sixty blow. Fate meets it's blow, with a simple vertical swing of her most powerful spell to parry it.

"I won't allow you - OR HIM - to do this to us again!"

And yet, for all she's said, Shadow Stern has proven that it is more than her equal. It seems doomed to failure. That is... if she's alone, but perhaps even then. All the same, it might stall long enough to prevent the worst possible outcome.

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

Who is that?

Signum stares with some astonishment. Is that even a person, an intelligence, within? Anomalous. Empty? What -

The Device is speaking.


Signum cannot answer these questions. She has to move; to think rather than to rely on training, on instinct, is the same as death. Swift as it became a bow, Laevatein becomes a sword again, and with a tightening of the jaw Signum surges upright to meet the blade --

An enormous burst of magenta followed by a much smaller object flying out of the cone of approach--

But though Fate may wonder, she is not alone. For even though it might have been such a short time ago that Signum stood against Fate Testarossa in battle, it is her that Signum has shielded, long enough to load her cartridges, to prepare her counterattack.

To Signum, the world is gray agony with distant lights, though she did not fall far. But in her heart there is one single thought, sent to someone with whom she is not in magical communion. A heart felt wish to Fate:


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

It's simple calculus. Cure Passion went down; Hayate's accessing a risky power. It's under control right now, but it's still a desperate situation, isn't it?

But Mikoto's always been bad at maths.

Miroku sunders their -- her -- outer armor, and in that instant she can meet her eyes, see the twitch, the tension, the utter lack of recognition.

Mikoto has never looked into a gaze like yellow headlamps, the singular glowing delineation of features on shadowy black. It was impossible for her to see what she looked like, when she wasn't. She wonders, looking into those eyes, if it were anything like this.

And then she keeps going.

The terrible thing about Mikoto's momentum is that she can't stop HERSELF so easily, either; having crashed into Shadow Stern's wielder so horribly, she keeps going, past them. Miroku angled up to meet their centre of mass, and now it slams DOWN, into the earth, buried thick into the rattled pavement.

She looks down at her blade, blinks dampness from her eyes.

Would he have

He would have

let her be carved in twain before he took any damage at all.

If she had approached just a little differently... but then, if she'd approached differently at all...

"I'm not satisfied," she insists, voice wavering, teary-eyed. "I'm not!"

She looks up, as Shadow Stern soars -- grits her teeth, and yanks at her blade -- but she can't quite muster the will, in this moment, seeing what her will to fight did to Shadow Stern's wielder. "Nnnh--" she grunts, in pain, in frustration -- she PULLS --

Evidently, Mikoto is very, very fast. She was able to outrun meteors; perhaps she could even outrun a nuclear blast.

But not when she's unwilling to leave behind her buried blade.

The shockwave of Vernichtung, at least, blows the both of them free -- sends them sailing off, to impact a ruined building. "I," she starts, pushing herself up

and she thinks of what she can do

and sinks back down to rest again.

"... Fate... you can do it, right..?"

COMBAT: Endo Naoki perfectly counters 44 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Vernichtung Shockwave, taking 0 Fatigue damage!
Critical Hit!  Critical Counter!  Endo Naoki's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki's counterattack, Machtiger Schild, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Shadow Stern!  
BEAMWAR! Endo Naoki adds his Meteor Absturz to Fate Testarossa's BEAMWAR!
<Pose Tracker> Kyouka Okazaki [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Kyouka lands right in front of Setsuna, but she can already see that Shamal has protected her--she flashes the other mage a grateful nod. Proper thanks will have to come later when time isn't so precious.

The next thing she sees, aside from the general hecticness of the melee, is the results of her last attack--and that face.

That face simultaneously elicits both understanding--seeing how Fate reacted today, how she reacted in their first meeting--yet also elicits still more questions to add to an ever-growing list. But if the others are still fighting, if Fate is still fighting, she won't hold back.

All throughout the battle she's been watching--how the others attack, how magic works, how she and Strike Wolf synchronize, how everyone has joined together in a common cause, how easily they accepted her and covered for her, how fiercly she wishes to protect all of them. And when she sees Shadow Stern leap, to unleash an attack that will surely, mean only bad things if it lands--not just for them, but for Setsuna who can't even defend herself--

Her anger is not the same as Fate's, but no less blazing in its sincerity. And in that moment it all comes together for her, even as another ally falls, she's still standing, and she can draw breath. She holds out her right hand as a rune-inscribed circle appears beneath her, as another band appears at her hand. Bright, violet mana gathers. The words come from her or Strike Wolf, she can't even tell in the moment.

"From warded den, through hallowed glade..."

Brighter and brighter it builds, as she draws from everything she has, draws from the knowledge that if she fails, her newfound friends may all fall.

"To bright moon watching overhead..."

She grasps that bright sphere of mana in her hand and her gauntlet is suddenly ablaze with radiance, and still it builds brighter.

"Lend your strenght, light my path..."

And now she's crouching, drawing her hand back as the mana flows over her whole body to envelop it, to guide her movements, but the guantlet shines brightest still.

"And guide your guardian's hand!"

"Shining Moonlight Strike!" <Shining Moonlight Strike.>

Something peaks, the power flares and she moves--in an instant she's right next to Fate, gauntlet joining in the clash with the strongest strike she can muster. "I've got you Fate!"

<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

Endo is going to make sure Fate isn't alone.

The preceding shockwave from Shadow Stern's attack blows through the ruins of the street, washing everything away in a tide of destruction.

But Endo knows what's coming. Enough that he weathers the initial blast, a Belkan triangle burning to life in front of the boy. The shield that forms burns with magic, mana sheeting off in waves as it withstands the enormous pressure beating down upon it.

To the sky, from around the crumbling barrier, comes a booming roar:

< WE DEFY. >

Endo's weapon flares to life again, a purple-black flame that burns through the sky as the knight rushes to his allies' side.

"Fate! Kyouka! I'm here too!" He calls. His body is weary from repelling the titanic strength of Stern's mirror, but Endo joins the struggle still.

< COME! >

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

Fallen Stern is not nuclear, and so Shadow Stern isn't either. (Or perhaps it is the other way around.) Although one could characterize their mana output as RADIATION, it isn't radioactive. (Thankfully for Endo.) No, what made Shadow Stern's Brecher feel terrifyingly like a bomb rather than a star is simply this:

Stars are born, but bombs are made by man.

And whoever made Fallen Stern... whatever he is, what all Intelligent Devices are... he is not a THING. He isn't even a weapon. Or at least, not only a weapon.

Shadow Stern, for all he claims that he's the real original who reclaimed some of himself from Endo's stalwart companion... is.

In no way is this more evidence than his continued lack of regard for his bearer -- 'carrier' is more accurate. The older Testarossa remains limp, but for her grasp on the weapon, which seems more like the rictus of a corpse. And she's becoming more corpselike by the moment. Some Midchildans store power in their Devices like a battery.

This feels distinctly like the opposite.

She is sheet-pale, and her soft skin, so similar to her own counterpart's, is fast approaching translucence.

As the gathered energies fall, the center of gravity shifts, and the dust and chunks of concrete start to fall... up.

Jet Zanber, Shining Moonlight Strike, and Meteor Absturz rise too, to meet this supercharged Vernichtung Brecher.


A second shockwave explodes off the surging energies. If Mikoto and Signum hadn't already fallen, this might have done them in; as it stands they're in terrible danger.

A soft grunt: Shamal has diverted some of Cure Passion's healing towards the two of them. They feel themselves surrounded by glittering green motes as much as they see it.

Hayate, for her part, does not join the clash. Cannot join, perhaps. Her arm is outthrust, her staff parallel to the ground. Her other hand is grasping at... nothing, palm up in a practiced way, as though it's expecting to hold something that isn't there.

She is beginning to tremble from her own, separate exertions. The stakes could not be higher for that barrier now.

<< FALL. >> chimes Shadow Stern, audible only because of the native telepathy of his kind. Otherwise it is quite impossible to hear anything but the roar of energies crashing against each other, testing, seeking weakness. For Endo, Fate and Kyouka, it feels like their weaknesses are being sought by a hurricane; an endless and profound wearing away, a continuous explosion that could level cities, flatten mountains.

It is questionable whether the elder Testarossa feels anything at all. Would it be better or worse if she did?

BEAMWAR! Shadow Stern has placed her bid! Endo Naoki, Kyouka Okazaki, and Fate Testarossa still need to bid!
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.

The world is full of small wishes. And as Signum falls, Fate hears it.


A small wish, like Nanoha's wish that began all of this. She steels her heart in her attempt to fulfill it.

'... Fate... you can do it, right..?'

Can she win against this man who toys with her? Who takes her very life and turns it upside down anew to fulfill his twisted greed and infinite ambition?

In this moment at least, she thinks so.

Fate's twintails are streaming behind her from the force of that shockwave upon contact, the blades meeting at one singular point. Bardiche's shining blade bleeding off lightning energy. And behind her she hears Kyouka's incantation, not unlike a ritual spell. It even surprises her. However...

... as she learned with her recently, sometimes it's asking the right question, the right situation - in the bond between a user and Device.

'I've got you Fate!'

Just knowing that her, a new Mage, is joining in causes her to resolve to deepen. She does not consider her a liability. However... she does consider her - her responsibility.

And then, Endo...

'Fate! Kyouka! I'm here too!'

Fate sees the girl, the mirror image of herself when she was older - yet knowing who here is truly the elder. She sees what Jail is treating her as...

"Then it's time to strike back-"

<< FALL. >>


Her younger elder sister may be beyond saving. There may not have been anything to save to begin with. However there's only one way to know for certain.

And that is to win.

Bardiche has few remaining cartridges left. And as it spins along the length of the hilt, it pounds in two. As the lightning redoubles and - sings a song of resplendant power to try and beat back a hurricane. Though it feels as if it has no chance... not without the other two.

BEAMWAR! Fate Testarossa has placed her bid! Endo Naoki and Kyouka Okazaki still need to bid!
<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

Endo's teeth are bared as the three device users stand against the torrent of energy pouring out of Shadow Stern. His fingers clench his own weapon tight, pouring his mana into his swordhis partner.

"Let's do it!" Endo's sentiment echoes Fate's, a cry of assurance lost in the swirl of energy.

Fallen Stern offers no retort this time. Nothing but the burning fury of a meteorite thrown back definitely into the face of a darkened star.

BEAMWAR! Endo Naoki has placed his bid! Kyouka Okazaki still needs to bid!
<Pose Tracker> Kyouka Okazaki [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Kyouka is--almost definitionally--of one mind with her device.

At least, Being in a normal synchronization--even she can tell, despite her inexperience, something strange and unnatural is going on with Shadow Stern and its captive.

But all the same, she can't help but agree with Fallen Stern's sentiment of 'We defy.'

And Strike Wolf shares it too. He provides both of their responses in that impossible maelstrom of sound and fury, an answer to Shadow Stern's command to fall.

<We shall not.>

She refuses to be the weak link, to fall or let her fallen friends' efforts be in vain.

"We... can.... do this!"

And that flame she imagines in her heart burns brighter, the light around her gauntlet bruning brighter to match.

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

Mikoto feels the clarity of Klarwind. She hunkers down, close to the earth so keen to embrace her, and focuses on the glittering green for a moment. "Shamal..." She's grateful; she's sad, and concerned, just the same.

It must be hard on her, she thinks.

But -- Endo and Fallen Stern aren't about to be overturned by Shadow Stern, and -- and Kyouka, she jumped in to help Fate so readily.

... and Fate is still fighting them, even seeing what Mikoto can see.

It's a difficult situation... but, if Fate is fighting... if Fate is fighting, that means quite a lot, to her. If she's made that decision...

"... do it!" Mikoto raises her voice, from the rubble-pile she's found herself in. "Do it!"

BEAMWAR! Kyouka Okazaki has placed her bid! 
BEAMWAR! Endo Naoki, Kyouka Okazaki, and Fate Testarossa rally, overwhelmingly driving back Shadow Stern! Endo Naoki, Kyouka
Okazaki, and Fate Testarossa have the advantage!
BEAMWAR! Shadow Stern takes 19 damage! Endo Naoki, Kyouka Okazaki, and Fate Testarossa each take 0 Fatigue damage!
BEAMWAR! Now accepting mana bids for the second of three rounds! No longer accepting any more BEAMWAR entrants!
BEAMWARNING! Shadow Stern must regain the advantage this round, or they will be unable to continue fighting!
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

The carrier does not contribute any words, of course. Only mana. The puissance of the Testarossa line, which is superior.

And yet, the point of contact, three attacks against Shadow Stern's one, begins to... retreat.

And then further.

If the carrier can feel anything, surely they would feel... heat. Heat, from the backed-up Brecher being compressed into a smaller and smaller attack. Heat, from Fate's lightning, Kyouka's moonlight, Endo's own energies.

Pray that she does not, because surely far worse would be the feeling of being drained harder, further, far beyond what any Linker Core can safely handle -- or, possibly, handle at all.

The Wolkenritter's victims know what that feels like.

The core that is emerging from her chest is violet rather than gold, but it must be hers all the same. And mana is streaking out of it at a terrible rate, spidering across her chest and into the contours of her bodysuit, until, ultimately, it mingles with the blood on her palm, and through her grip into Shadow Stern.

His power is building... but perhaps not fast enough, with the way the beams' collisions is beginning to draw the carrier's hair downwards, instead of everyone else's hair up.

Can they finish Shadow Stern in time?

COMBAT: Shadow Stern has saved her current combat state for later!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has saved her current combat state for later!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki has saved his current combat state for later!
COMBAT: Kyouka Okazaki has saved her current combat state for later!
COMBAT: Cure Passion has saved her current combat state for later!