Difference between revisions of "2020-02-07 - MGLN SeekerS: The Big Beginning 1"

From Battle Fantasia MUSH
Jump to: navigation, search
(Created page with "{|class="toccolours" cellspacing="2" |- ! style="background:#CC6699; border: 2px #CC0033 solid; font-size: 110%;" align="center" colspan="2" | '''Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha S...")
 
 
Line 1,314: Line 1,314:
 
<METEOR ABSTURZ> plows into Endo from behind.
 
<METEOR ABSTURZ> plows into Endo from behind.
  
TO! BE! CONTINUED!
+
[[2020-02-08 - MGLN SeekerS: The Big Beginning 2|TO! BE! CONTINUED!]]
  
 
  Shadow Stern arrives from Yamanote High City.
 
  Shadow Stern arrives from Yamanote High City.

Latest revision as of 17:55, 9 February 2020

Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha SeekerS: The Big Beginning 1
Summary:

It's a beautiful day to go to the Depaato. But when a mysterious attacker arrives wielding Ren Aizawa's Intelligent Device, Souverain Heraut, that's only the first in a series of impossible things that threaten to challenge everything the magical girls thought they knew.

Who:

Lera Camry, Setsuna Higashi, Steven Universe, Signum Yagami, Fuu Hououji, Endo Naoki, Fate Testarossa, Mikoto Minagi

GM: Pink Moon Stick

Where:

Easter Department Store, Yamanote

OOC - IC Date:

2/7/2020 - 08-05-2015


<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.
<SoundTracker> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yZGwvBKTCg Innocent Starter ~Instrumental~

From high, high above, it's an ocean of lights. The sun rises, and it becomes an ocean of people instead.

Tokyo.

Almost forty million people. Every single one of them is an answer to a question someone else doesn't yet know to ask.

What am I missing?

Who do I love?

Why am I alone?

How do I decide what to believe?

Where is my home?

Forty million answers.

Sometimes you can't just wait for them.

Sometimes, answers must be sought.

After a long wait, the new season, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha SeekerS, begins!

---

<SoundTracker> Junes Theme https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MV4FWaDxFEs

There are as many reasons to spend a lazy August afternoon roaming the Easter Department Store in downtown Yamanote as there are stars in the sky. A modest sub-selection:

  • You need to buy a gift for a friend.
  • Your parent sent you there for an errand.
  • Your sibling somehow compelled you to take them to the toy store.
  • You're hungry; there are lots of restaurants inside.
  • It's like, a hundred degrees outside, and Easter Depaato has AC.

"Welcome, valued customer! How may we help you today?"

Whatever your reason, cheerful, uniformed employees are here to greet you at the door (...of each store, of each elevator, of each floor...) and satisfy your every request. With a smile!

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

Lera Camry's eyes are, briefly, fixed on the heavens. Amber eyes look upward, her expression half-slack, mouth open in a little 'o' of amazement. Lights dance in her eyes.

The lights of commerce.

That is when that open-mouthed stare of wonderment becomes something else. Lera does a little twirl around, her height not meaning she lacks any grace. Her hair spins out, long and a little unkempt; her sidebraid bobs, more controlled, at the side of her head. "That's the store!" she says, pointing up at one up top. "Aaah, I think it should have the new line of figures in--" The cute, animated dogs that have a figure version that Lera won't quite stop raving about.

She looks at the whole group, and the crowd with a big, bright grin and bright eyes but it's the hands of one Setsuna Higashi that she clutches.

"C'mon," she says, tugging. "I can't hardly wait, y'know?"

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

Setsuna Higashi really only needs one reason to spend her lazy August afternoon here at Easter Department Store, and her name is Lera Camry. As Lera's eyes fix on the heavens, Setsuna's fix on hers. She beams, and nods firmly, having learned everything she could have wanted to learn about these adorable puppies between Lera's enthusiasm, a little personal glancing, and maaaybe asking another friend too. "Okay!" she answers, and squeezes Lera's hands back with a little laugh. "I'm coming!" she answers, pulled along a little at first but keeping up fairly well. "Hmm... That phrase," she starts thoughtfully, tilting her head--

"Oh if they have them did you pick a favorite?"

She travels along with Lera through the crowds, and if she happens to stick a little close to Lera in the mass of people, that's not unusual at all by now.

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

A lazy day in the Universe household. A day for everyone to take a break from all the work being done, after after recent events. Even the veteran members of the Crystal Gems are taking the day off. Garnet sitting on the couch, doing, uh, something? She usually just sits there when taking time off, a small smile on her face. It sounds like she might be occasionally... giggling?

A boy peers over his loft edge down at a finely styled square of hair. Is she using Future Vision for nefarious purposes?! Or maybe just something to laugh at. Hard to tell.

Amethyst is in the kitchen, making an Everything Sandwich. Which usually means it will be time to load back up on food soon.

Pearl seems to be reading some sort of important looking book. Possibly history? She did seem to like the culture here. Something about 'drinking deep of the lore like a fine tea.' Whatever that meant.

As for Steven, he has been playing a cute little game where animals have houses in a neighborhood. "He wants more money again! Buhhhh...." The boy's hands go limp as he drapes over the edge of a giant bed, his controller clattering to a wood floor. He grumbles into his bed, muffled to all who could hear.

Something else makes a sound on the wood floor. A vibrating sound. His phone! A pudgy hand reaches out and grasps it as he looks at what caused the disturbance.

His eyes go wide.

"OkayIgottagogonnahavefunbye!" Is said in about a third of the time it would have normally taken as the screen door flies open, and he is gone down the beach.

---

"Mikoto! Mokotoooo we gotta find it!" Little Steven Universe says, jumping around like a kid in a, well... "Like, I found my new major hook! I still really like Cookie Cats, but I found this other thing too!"

The boy pulls out his phone and shows a photo of a desert most native would know by sight alone. "Melonpaaaaaan! I know they have some here, too!"

The kid is positively hyper to be on the hunt for this exotic (to him of course) treat. High and low he searches for this holy melon grail.

"...Thanks for hangin out with me! I missed gettin to, ya know? Feels like forever. Oh! Did you wanna get something here too whiel we are at it? I'm buyin'! Oh also, Lion says hi."

OUTSIDE

A store operator stands by a 'No Pets Allowed' sign, with a pink Lion about as tall as they are sitting next to them, jsut staring at them because they wouldn't let him in.

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

SIGNUM YAGAMI - and she is very glad about that - is here on a mission. A solo op, one that only she can complete in an efficient and effective manner. A solo mission to...

Shop.

Signum is wearing an extremely light trainer jacket purely for the sake of additional pockets. Her hair is up in a high ponytail; otherwise it is shorts and shirt and sneakers, because this is a very casual sort of experience for her. Nonetheless she is as crisp as you can be when it's 100 degrees F outside, and has been efficiently gathering her purchases at each stop.

MISSION DETAIL!

  • New tea set with a cute pattern, ideally pink -- procured. Current status: In bag.
  • Interior planter speculation -- intel gathered. Securing deal after future house meeting to accomodate weather, sunlight pattern, etc.
  • New sundress for Shamal -- procured after extended consultation. Current status: In second bag.
  • New bowls for Zafira -- delayed due to uncertainty in procurement requirements. Consultation ongoing.

CURRENT STATUS:

Signum is standing in the entrance of the book shop and thoughtfully examining a history of the Kamakura period while holding several shopping bags. She turns her head at the distant sound of a familiar voice, registering in its peaks of sonic enthusiasm over the noise of the shopper crowd. She is entirely visible from the toy store's general vicinity. This is the power of height.

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

It may be summer vacation, but for the Infinity Computer Club, 'vacation' is defined as 'more time to do geeky club-related things' ... actually, that's probably true for a *lot* of the clubs, if not at Infinity specifically, then among all three of the Sister Schools. And *this* summer vacation is, the ICC collectively hopes, to mark one of the club's crowning achievements since its founding:

The release of a club member's game at Comiket.

Even if the member in question - namely, Fuu Hououji - is more of an adjunct member of the Computer Club, her senpai and kouhai alike have rallied around the project she's been working away at, helping createevaluatepixelate sprites and backgrounds, composing suitable music, designing the cover art, all kinds of additional tasks. Right now, a couple of members are burning copies of the DVD that the game will be physically distributed on.

The rest of them, Fuu included, are raiding Easter Department Store for supplies they'll need to properly adorn their booth at the upcoming 88th Comic Market, a week and a half away. It's going pretty well so far, as these things are concerned - although as always, the electronics department is a terribly dangerous place for a bunch of young computer specialists. There are so many other games coming out this summer, and for all the efforts of the Computer Club, they can't exactly compete on the same level as Nintendo or Atlus or Level-5 ...

Not for lack of ambition, mind you.

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

A great tragedy has stuck the Naoki household in the passing of the venerable family Roomba. After several failures to resuscitate and a necessary mourning period (used to place an order at the Easter Department Store), Endo was sent to collect a new model. One with more blinky lights and features than is strictly necessary for a vacuum that crashes into walls all day.

The errand has gone without hiccup, and a large bag now sits at Endo's feet, scooched under the tiny table he's seated at. From his seat in the restaurant he watches others hurry on their own errands, gazing out the window while he waits for his meal to arrive.

When it does he breaks chopsticks carefully, reaching to pluck up the thinly sliced piece of katsu placed in front of him. There are few more presently content than Endo Naoki.

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


A part timer returns to a desk, and says simply. "I'm terribly sorry but I'm not sure we can help you."

An elementary schooler stands in front of the Customer Service Desk. Right now it's the break, so she's wearing a dark blue blouse, a white skirt, and a pair of sneakers. Around her neck is a simple pendant, and her blonde hair is bound up in white twintails. "Oh - but the front desk sent me this way."

She slips a piece of paper on the desk, keeping her fingers on it. Adding helpfully in the next instant. "I have a receipt. We purchased the extended warranty."

The part timer sighs, then takes a look sideways at an assistant manager, who shakes his head.

"I've been informed that our terms of service doesn't cover accidental damage of this nature."

The focus shifts off the two - to a crushed cell phone already up on the desk, with clawmarks gouging out parts of the screen.

"I see. Thank you for your time."

-=-=-

As the girl left the desk with a bag over her shoulder, she was already in the middle of another conversation, <<No luck. They don't cover 'pet damage'. You'll need to tell Lindy about it and hope she gives you the money.>>

A mental voice sulks back at her. <<Nnngh... you should get back in there and be more forceful Feito.>>

<<I'm not doing that. You need to be more careful.>>

<<I couldn't help it Feito! That push alert took me so off-guard- it was right there that my favorite show was being cancelled!>>

<<Go tell her.>>

The contact was broken off in a sulky huff.

The child passed by a clothing boutique, and suddenly found herself back-tracking, her eye caught window shopping some accessories and ribbons that were being put up for sale. One of them was a teal, two layered set that looked strikingly familiar to her.

Eyeing it, she finds herself lifting a hand as if she was going to touch her hair, but stopping... smiling as she takes a step back.

"They're more your style than mine."

The girl decides, to noone that's in sight, before she keeps walking, her eyelids fluttering as she sees a familiar figure by the book shop. The girl's eyes light up in realization.

"Oh! Signum. I didn't know you were going to be here today." The girl calls out from a short distance away, "Looking for something to read in your spare time?" She asks curiously, trying to look over the edge of one of the shopping bags.


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

"Mm-hm!" Lera grins back at Setsuna, with her answer. She takes a couple of big steps backward -- her backward stride purposeful and intent, until it stutters. Until all of Lera stutters; her foot comes to a stop. She, as a whole, stutters, as she hears one question:

'Oh if they have them did you pick a favorite?'

Lera's eyebrow twitches. "W-Well... the malamute is adorable... but the bloodhound is cute, and the dachshund is very long, y'know, and--um--" She stammers a little. "--I-I think there'll be time to figure it out before we get there!"

She steps on an escalator, backwards. It begins to ascend as she laughs, nervously, and the hand that isn't clasping Setsuna's scratches at the back of her neck.

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

What do I want?

Today it's a question she answers thus, as Mikoto reaches out to another of her friends: she wants to go out shopping with Steven! ... well, to be fair, her first thought was going to the park with Steven, but then she realised just how hot it was, and a quick enquiry led her to instead suggest the Easter Department Store. (And its air conditioning.)

"Yup!" She bobs her head in an energetic nod, as Steven notes how sure he is that melonpan is here. Melonpan is certainly here! Mikoto knows this because Mai has lots of odd jobs, and some of them are here, and of all the essential information Mikoto needs to know to reintegrate into society...

... well, where the best snacks are is obviously one of the things she's been talking about.

Somehow her scholarship has survived, so she's not totally penniless, but she still looks relieved when the boy suggests he has money with him too. She's recovered her very cute cat purse, but, well... she just doesn't have the resources to throw yen down and disappear before collecting her change, any more. It hangs over one shoulder; the strap of her sword-case rests on the other. She carries it differently, now. Who she's protecting...

"Steven!" Mikoto chirps, happily, remembering her verbal response too. "I'm really happy," she smiles, "I missed Steven, too. Come on! Let's get melonpan!" She grabs his hand, drags him over to the stall, and of course she'll get melonpan too because this is sweet bread and not curry bread --

Which is when she spies someone else in a restaurant.

"Endo!" Mikoto notes, and for the first time Steven will hear her say his name enthusiastically instead of like a curse. Melonpan in hand, Mikoto slips into that resteraunt, waving over her head with her free hand. "Endo! Endo, hi!"

The fact that most people don't bring other food into a restaurant completely flies over her head as she approaches his little table, beaming.

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

Big steps! Setsuna's smaller stride means she has to step a little more quickly in order to keep up. It doesn't seem to stress her to do it though--stepstepstep, and she looks up placidly at her girlfriend as she stutters. To anyone else it's not much change in her expression, but the right people would recognize a certain knowing quality to the specific tilt of her eyebrow then.

"Yes," she says simply, and laughs faintly, shaking her head. "I had a feeling you hadn't..."

Setsuna steps onto the escalator the normal way instead, and she and Lera might stand out as a pair to those currently looking all around as you do. If nothing else, Setsuna herself looks around as they rise on the escalator, naturally on the lookout for... food...

"It's more fun watching you decide anyway," she announces, entirely too pleased with herself with this prediction. "...Aa, it's so much cooler in here, too..." What a relief!

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

Signum glances over. "Ah! Fate," she says. "What a pleasant surprise. It's my task today to obtain some items." (Fate gets a glimpse of the side of a wooden box - it looks heavy and relatively expensive, if not with the slick grace that suggests it was SUPER expensive. But a tea set is an investment...)

"I am waiting for Zafira to make a decision before I complete my purchases," Signum continues. "What is your task, today?"

"I am going to purchase this one," Signum then says, closing the book. "It's strange... It feels good to do things like this, even if they aren't, ultimately, of great conse..."

"I believe I hear Lera Camry," Signum concludes, "but it may be a quirk of the echo. Do you detect her, Fate?"

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

Endo is busy enough with his meal that he doesn't spot Mikoto and Steven immediately-but the yelling eventually makes the girl hard to miss. He pauses mid-chew, head swiveling toward the sound of his name.

Then, after a quick swallow, the boy smiles. "Mikoto-san! And Steven-san!" There's not much room at the little table, but he scoots to make more. "Did you come here just for bread?" He declines to comment on the legality of said melonpan inside of the restaurant, however.

"Ah, let me see if I can get more chairs"

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

Some vehement negotiations ensue - mostly between members of the computer club, once or twice with a store employee - before the Infinity Computer Club decides on their purchases. It's a convenient excuse to get new monitors that can be used further after Comiket, upgrading the displays that the club's workstations have been using - and since it's (technically) a school-related expenditure, it can (technically) come out of the club's budget, rather than the member's pockets.

Delivery terms are negotiated, and the club disbands for the time being; there's more shopping to do later, but it's as good a time as any to break for lunch ... or to browse independently. Fuu, for one, heads for the escalators with intent to go down a few floors; there's a deli she wanted to get lunch from. "Hm? Lera-san, Setsuna-san," she calls out in friendly greetings as she spots them coming up. "Is your shopping going well?"

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

"I-I can't get much by you, huh?" Lera laughs, her voice a little sheepish -- and a little awkward -- as she steps off the escalator. She turns around, not minding (and not entirely noticing) that there are people stopping to look at them. They do stand out, but she doesn't really mind.

Her hand squeezes Setsuna's, and then she steps forward, and lets out a sigh. It's a sigh of relief.

"It is, y'know? It's a lot nicer here, than outside. And I usually like the outdoors, but... that kinda heat is... y'know..."

She almost seems to deflate. Lera came from a mountainous region; one closer to Switzerland than Japan, in terms of Earth's climates. "...kind of a lot, y'know?"

Which is when she hears Fuu. She looks up -- blinks -- and flashes her a smile. "Hey, Fuu-san! The shopping journey has just began!"

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


"Returns."

Fate digs into her bag. And holds up a shattered cell phone with claw marks in the little plastic baggy she returned it to.

"I didn't have much success."

She says without embarrassment and a sense of light humor. Figuring she might understand.

"It doesn't sound strange to me at all." She confides.

Before her eyebrows raise up at the knowledge that she'd heard Lera.

"Lera's here?"

Fate doesn't even spare a glance into the book store. Instead she turns around and instantly her eyes fall on the toy shop as her first option, having discarded the others.

Maybe she just knows Lera that well...

"Oh there she is."

From a distance she stands on her tip toes and waves to the opposite store.


<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Dark Hour Transition https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZkcmsXEtoKI

There's a sudden whisper in the air, and then a lasting tension.

Sweeping from the top of the building to the bottom, a MAGICAL BARRIER falls -- which is to say, something causes everyone to shift a half-dimension to the right.

Everyone magical, that is. The general population simply vanishes as they're left behind on Actual, Real Earth, like a giant dry-eraser hit Easter Depaato and then slid downwards. Don't worry. They're quite safe. That's the whole point of these things, after all.

Within the barrier, the air quickly becomes one breath too stale because it's one hair too still. Everything is very, very faintly tinged with green; not enough to spoil every other color, but enough to make things gloomy, to make things just a bit dark.

The barrier was cast from above.

Going up?

You'll have to press your own elevator button this time, or else take the stairs.

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

"Nope!" Setsuna answers brightly, stepping off after Lera having failed at first to spot their other friends around. There are a lot of people, after all! But the shorter of the two looks back Lera's way and continues to smile at her before they start moving again. "Mmm, yes," she replies about the heat, starting to come up with a reply and a greeting for Fuu when her next step comes, foot rising--

Shift.

Foot falls. Setsuna blinks, immediately tense, as she looks around and suddenly can spot more people, because she can see many, many fewer indeed. "...Lera," Setsuna says, and she's more serious, "Fuu-san. Did you notice anything...? It seemed to start above..."

But she has no idea why. Instead, she looks around, and starts over, turning the next escalator and moving up it like stairs even as it moves, this time maybe being the one to tug Lera's hand.

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

Lera catches Fate's wave -- and then her amber eyes widen for a moment. She grins, turning from Fuu and Setsuna both to wave at her. She even calls out, across the mall -- happy enough to shout in public, without any hesitation. "Faaaaate! Signum!" she calls out. "We're headed up--"

The world shifts.

The shadows on Lera's face get longer and deeper; the world around them seems to lose much of its color. The people around them are gone, shifted out of existence. With that shift, Lera's breath catches, but it's a familiar thing to. A thing of NachtWal; a thing of battles with Jaren Zastava and, even, Fate Testarossa. A thing that puts her, immediately, on edge.

Her eyes turn back towards Setsuna. Lera looks at her -- really looks, and her expression is more serious. Setsuna tugs her hand, and Lera follows after. "Right," she says, softly. She looks at Setsuna, then Fuu. "That was a barrier. Let's be careful."

Her mind reaches out, too. Telepathy touches at Fate's and Signum's minds. She doesn't see Endo, yet. <<Do you know what this could be?>>

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

Fuu shakes her head to Setsuna, "Nothing before the transition itself ..." She fishes briefly in the left pocket of her skirt, drawing out her glove-jewel and pulling the accessory onto her left hand. She doesn't go so far as transforming yet, but having it ready will be helpful, especially if - as she expects - she may need to transform in more of a hurry.

She follows Setsuna and Lera up the escalators, but she's only just barely letting them lead the way, even as she chews over the questions which accompany barriers like this one.

Questions such as, who cast it?

How large of an area is enclosed?

And why would somebody want to ensnare anyone at Easter Department Store for what will, most likely, be a magical throw-down?

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

The quest for melonpan wit hfriends is the best quest to ever have. "Have you had it before? Its super good and sticky and sweet!" Being with Mikoto again feels like the first time he moved her. Like seeing a long lost friend after so long. It is a feeling he has felt but once before, but would always enjoy feeling it again.

"I dont remember where the bakery place is that has them though..." Mikoto's hand grips hsi own, and before he knows it, in front of the melonpan stall they are! "M-M..." He eyes are full of stars seeing so many good baked goods. "Let's load up!"

It isn't long before bags are full and half a pastry is crammed into Steven's gullet. However, an exclamation from Mikoto gets the boys attention. "H-Hey Endo!" he says, mouth full. "We came to conquer the nation known..." he holds out a piece of a mouthwatering treat. "...as Melonpan."

He tries to look super serious as he says this.

Then everything changes. For the worse. "I-I'm sorry! I was kidding about that! I just wanted a few loaves!" he says, freaked out for a moment. But this feels familiar. Too familiar. Too recent. "I think it came from up in the sky! the boy says, peeking around at the now pink skyline. Greens now become the primary color hue with the change in atmosphere.

"Ima head up to the roof, try to find an elevator or something!" Flip-flops clatter on the ground in an unearthly echo in their new locale.

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


As Lera responds... abruptly Fate's wave stops, and her weight falls back on the heels of her sneakers. It's like she feels it in the air. Even a moment before Bardiche chimes with a...

<Caution.>

In that same instant where it feels like a wave of gloomy color shift passes over, consuming the pedestrians as it goes.

Fate looks up abruptly, "Who!?"

A worst case scenario crosses her mind. And the girl suddenly takes Signum's hand, tugging her one way.

"Signum. Let's not transform right away. Whoever it is... we shouldn't let them get a fix on our position before we know what we're up against."

And then she starts to take off, towards an emergency escape, leading her along at a pace that's full of nervous energy.

As Lera's mind touches hers and Signum's, she tries to respond as they go.

<<It could be Jaren. If he found another device. Or the TSAB found a way to overcome the dimensional distortions and are acting in secret. I'm not sure.>>

Bursting through the emergency stairwell, she begins taking off up the steps.

"I'd normally think to take the elevator but..."

One flight...

"...you and Laevatein once demonstrated how unsafe elevators can be when you're under attack."

Another. Once they get to the rooftop door, she doesn't... burst through it, but rather pushes the bar and tries to nudge it open with a foot.


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

Mikoto grabs a chair from a nearby table - there's a fellow at a laptop there, so he's probably not using the extra seating space - and swings it around so she can sit near Endo. "I got it!" She announces, cheerfully. "It's cool in here," she goes on to explain, "so we're here! Bread's here, too!"

She holds it up as if it explains everything, and takes a big bite. Omph. It's good! It really is good, now!

It's in the middle of chewing - that reality shifts a little to the side. Mikoto's nostrils flare at the sudden stale air; she swallows, as she looks to the side to find the salaryman and his laptop gone.

Along with everyone else.

Except...

Mikoto lowers her bread down, as she looks back to Steven and Endo, concern written on her face. "Something's happening..." It's probably not due to their bread takeover.

Her teeth find her bottom lip, as she glances beside her to her sword-case. She takes a breath, looks to Steven as he realises where it came from - and then to Endo. "I want to help," Mikoto decides and Mikoto offers.

She'll stick by Endo as they make their way up, though, a hand grasping the strap of Miroku's case. Endo knows what's going on best, here.

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

"Ah," Signum says.

She narrows her eyes at the phone. "... Ah," she says, as the moment of visual interpretation comes, and Signum fully realizes what it means.

"It's difficult... the electronic systems here can be so fragile," Signum continues, before -- the air tightens and changes, and the clerk, the eight patrons visible in the bookstore from the entrance, and the entire crowd simply... disappear, in a passing as if a door was shut and the air cut off.

Signum straightens up. (She also replaces the book where it was, despite the Barrier's intervention.) Her eyes turn upwards, towards the roof. "From above... an aerial attack? Or..."

A signal! <<Unknown. Do you have further information?>>

Her hand is taken. Signum begins to move. The grasping of her hand - it feels somehow correct, almost comfortable. "Understood," she states aloud, pausing for a moment to stash her purchases behind a potted interior tree. She moves then to keep pace; her free hand comes up to clasp Laevatein's minaturized form as she answers Fate's statement with a faint smile and a rueful, "Heh."

Fortunately it is not hard to climb the stairs. Fate takes a tack Signum would not have, but it seems meet in this moment. <<Lera Camry. Tell me of Jaren.>>

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

A chunk of katsu falls from Endo's chopsticks, plopping onto the plate it came from. His head swivels around in surprise, squinting at the green-tinged department store walls. "This isa barrier!" Endo announces this with a mixture of surprise and apprehension.

He makes a quick an affirmative nod to Mikoto. "We should go up." And Steven is beating them to the punch. So, with one forlorn look at the rest of his meal, Endo makes a quick jog toward the nearest escalator.

"Steven! Don't go too far ahead!"

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

<<He was... my mom's former assistant. Who stole Broken Ground, and he tried to steal Ren's Device, too. We stopped him and sent him packing, but... I can't rule out what Fate said.>>

Aloud, Lera lets out a little sigh. She doesn't explain that to Fuu and Setsuna -- but she gives her girlfriend a look. It's the one she she gives when she has a telepathic conversation. The look, in a way, says more than Lera's silent conversation does: 'I'm worried, Setsuna.'

<<Let's just be careful, y'know?>> comes Lera's telepathic reply, as she reaches the top floor -- and the roof access door -- with Setsuna, and Fuu just behind. She turns and looks back; she spots Endo climbing, with Steven ahead, and Mikoto, too. Her eyes widen. "Mikoto-san! Endo-san! And... Steven?"

<Camry.> Broken Ground's chime rings out. <Let's not get distracted.>

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

Up the escalator they go, there are the others --

"I'm here to help!" Mikoto assures Lera, as they join up. After everything... she can understand if they might be a little worried. But she is determined in her sincerity, even if she looks a little nervous, looking around the green tint of the world. This was supposed to be a nice day of shopping...

<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.
<SoundTracker> Kyuushuu https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l76w8gil5Ts

The sky is a blank greenish-purple, as skies so often are inside barriers, and the rooftop garden is curiously bare; whoever cast this thing cast it THOROUGHLY, so much so that flora, as well as fauna, have been excluded from the dimensional shunt sideways. The structures remain: flower beds and boxes, planters and trellises, like a graveyard, like a metaphor for the fleeting nature of beauty. And isn't that the lesson most plants were born to teach anyhow?

And in the center of the garden -- the once-garden, the future-garden when the barrier lifts, but is it really still a garden now? -- someone waits patiently -- mysteriously -- ominously -- to be received.

They are tall, very tall without being monstrously tall. Gaijin tall, maybe. Adult tall, definitely. Dude tall, probably. 'Height' is their only visible feature at first, however, because they're a silent figure in a flowing black cloak and cowl. Anyone could be beneath all that.

But only one person has ever been seen wielding the scepter they draw from within their voluminous folds. It's an ornate item, heavily weighted at one end, studded all over with gems and jewels, embellished further by engravings, royal regalia.

It's unmistakably Souverain Heraut... Ren Aizawa's Intelligent Device, wielded on the side of the angels countless times.

<< EFFULGENT KNUCKLE, >> announces the familiar voice.

Fluidly -- probably with blinding speed, but in the moment it feels like slow motion, terrible motion, every detail visible, memorable -- a black-gloved fist lowers to touch the roof.

<< STRIKE. >>

Concussive magical force ripples outwards in concentric circles, chewing up concrete and rebar as efficiently as some people chew up melonpan.

The roof shatters in an instant, sending everyone falling towards the now debris- (and soon-to-be-magical-girl) -strewn floor below (restaurants, some casual and some less so).

It's going to take more than a roomba to clean up this mess.

Dark Heraut arrives from Yamanote High City.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji transforms into Wind Knight!
<Pose Tracker> Setsuna Higashi [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Nothing before the transition; Setsuna's eyes turn to Fuu and she nods once to her, thoughtful and as hard to read as ever. She catches Lera's worry, though. And as they make the roof access door--

"Right!" Setsuna echoes Broken Ground, nodding once to Mikoto too before she steps out with the others onto the rooftop. The first thing that strikess her...

The first thing is that the plants are gone. Gone, like in much--not all--of a place she knows well. The comparison makes her blood chill except where her hand remains joined with Lera's, but there is little time to focus on that feeling. The silent figure ahead demands her attention next...

Red eyes widen as she recognizes the Device. It is not the first time she has been opposite its appearance, and yet...

Everything feels slow, in the way when each instant is clear. The fist lowers to the roof, and there is the word. Setsuna can see the rooftop shattering even before it reaches her, though there is not even a breath's space between.

A girl with purple hair falls, and her free hand moves immediately to her belt, where hangs the case of her Linkrun. As she closes her fingers onto the magical device's form, a red shimmering light bursts out from it to envelop her all over. In the span of a heartbeat, she is light itself--

When she re-emerges from the debris that covers her, she is dressed all in red, her voluminous pink hair spread out behind her as it falls a little more slowly than solid form; she's dropped into a crouch, a bare fist touching the ground much like the one above--but she destroys nothing with it yet. Instead, she lifts her head, and the jewels adorning her head glint with her eyes, catching the light as she rises from there to stand up. She wears a red dress, frilled in white, sleeveless save for caps on the shoulder and cloth bracers at her arms; short boots over black leggings... And a four-leafed clover in four colors at her heart.

"...Freshly ripened... Cure Passion!"

Only after she turns her head towards the mage beside her does she let go that girl's hand, nodding sharply to Lera and adopting a ready stance with arms raised. Only then does she demand of the figure--

"Show yourself!"

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

"Mikoto-san..." Lera looks down at her, and there is a moment's pause; a moment's hesitation as she considers Ground's warning. Finally, she nods at her, and the smile comes back. "I'm glad, y'know?"

She turns -- looking out the door, and peering towards the sky that has turned that unnatural shade. Unnatural, but not unfamiliar. She looks, past the over-turned garden, and to that figure. The height is noticed, of course. The robe is noticed, too; she worries about that massive, billowing robe. But the real emotion, and the real fear, comes when she sees the Device drawn from within.

Souverain Heraut.

She feels ice in the pit of her stomach. <<Endo-san. Where's Ren?>>

She sends such a message telepathically, and her voice still cracks with fear, even in her own mind. Her eyes widen, though -- and she knows that spell. It has never been turned on her. Concrete and rebar shatter; the ground under her becomes a crumbled mess, falling. Lera tumbles -- and yelps -- and then shouts, higher-pitched than she plans to: "Broken Ground, SET UP!"

Her hand squeezes Setsuna's, as they fall, disappearing into the rush of debris. Through it, though, a Device chimes out: <Get set!>

There is a flash of light, a sunburst corona behind the eclipse of a falling chunk of rock. Then it crashes down, smashing into the ground below. Rock shatters apart, rebar pieces flying and rolling across the ground. Lera comes down a moment later, landing next to Setsuna, smashing into the ground. Her green jacket flutters out, after her, and then she lifts her head.

Her amber eyes lift, sidebraid whipping, and hair doing the same. Cure Passion shouts her demand, and Lera steps forward. She feels it coming back. Familiar emotions, like an old friend -- or maybe an unwanted guest. A tautness, in the muscles of her neck. A thrum, in her blood vessels. A tightening, in her eyes.

Ren, she thinks. Black-haired and smiling. Telling her a joke. Teasing her. Beating her at video games. Hugging her, when Lera needs it but won't say. Her best friend.

So when she is, abruptly, shouting and red-face, it might seem sudden, but it's anything but. That old friend is back, and Lera lets it into her heart gladly: anger.

"WHERE DID YOU GET THAT!?"

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


The door starts opening, just enough that Signum and Fate can see that tall figure. Cloaked in that hood and cowl. It's not until that scepter comes into view that the girl's cautious determinated changes into startled surprise.

"It can't... be..."

She has time enough to say. Before the spell is cast, and that fist descends to the roof. "Signum-!"

Too late.

It is faster than she can reach to her pocket. It is slow enough that every detail is made painstakingly visible to her eyes.

The roof shatters, and the girl finds herself in freefall as the stairwell crumbles beneath her. The steps beginning to cascade collapse like dominos, albeit crumbling ones.

The girl's footing is taken out from under her before her hand can make it to her pocket.

And then she's falling. Mid-fall, partially inverted, a gleaming triangle of gold slides out of her pocket.

And her hand reaches out to catch it before it can fly too far from her.

BGM Change: Lightning Assault - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UdLBFcHGYQ

"Bardiche Assaulto- SET UP!"

The Device Chimes in response, with a telltale gleam of life.

<Get Set - Drive Ignition.>

It begins with a flash of light that consumes her. Concentric circles of runic light forming beneath the girl as she falls. Lightning strikes the hem of her blue blouse and trails up it, transforming it as it goes into her dark barrier jacket, then trailing down her arms, bringing metallic gauntlets into existence. From her waist down, arcing lightning strikes the edge completing the barrier jacket in the other direction, a different white skirt framing her barrier jacket. Long stocking like armor with metallic boots. The white ribbons of her hair, too precious to go into battle, changing into darker ones.

The triangle itself begins materializing pieces of itself into existence, arcs of electricity joining piece after piece with great precision. The original standby form becomes a yellow gem at the head, as he comes to a rest in her hands.

The girl pulls up just before she hits the ground. Corkscrewing into the sky, twisting to face where the figure last was.

Her grip fractionally increasing on Bardiche as she hovers in place, "It couldn't be - maybe - from the ship?"

The battleclad mage asks, speculatively, trying to spot where he's gone. "Heraut would never let anyone else use him..."

Still the thought that something might have happened to Ren... it does occur to her, causing a surge of anxiety. As she demands in the air.

"Explain yourself - we won't let you off easily if you've done something to Ren."


COMBAT: Fate Testarossa transforms into Barrier Jacket Assault!
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

Normally, the presence of so many friends and allies would be a comfort to Fuu - and really, it still is, when you get right down to it; whatever's going on, there are plenty of them here. Mikoto's presence, alongside Steven, draws a noteworthy smile from the bespectacled blonde - after so long having to worry about Mikoto whenever she showed up, seeing her as a friend again is a massive relief. But none of that is enough to counteract the question at the back of Fuu's mind: if whoever cast the barrier has *any idea* how many magical warriors were caught up in the barrier ... then either they should be trying to make good an escape, or they're confident enough in being able to *handle* this many people.

And reaching the building's roof, with only one heavily robed individual there to await them, is enough to crystallize Fuu's concern into active worry. Hearing the Device's voice announce a spell is the only cue she needs to invoke her own transformation - not even bothering with the spoken invocation, just wrapping the wind and her magic about herself, replacing her civilian blouse and skirt with her Magic Knight armor, and drawing on the wind to arrest her fall.

Nor is that updraft confined to the Magic Knight of Wind; there's a stiff vertical breeze beneath Steven and Mikoto as well: not enough to keep them airborne, but sufficient to soften their descent for a comfortable landing, rather than an unceremonious drop to the hard floor beneath.

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

Lera gives her information. Worked with her mother. Stole Devices. Be careful. Signum frowns. If she isn't able to report in -

Her stomach tightens, but resolve stiffens her spine. The door opens, and reveals--

The absence of trees. But why not, Signum thinks, though it is a curiously chilling thought. She can see through the crack and see the tall figures, in their garb and their cowl. When the heavy rod of authority, Souverain Heraut, is raised, Signum says aloud, "FATE-"

S M A S H ! ! ! !

The roof sunders like a poorly made wall. "Hgh!" Signum says in the chaos. She topples backwards, and in midair, she says aloud, "SET-" as she clasps Laevatein in her hand.

Glorious light flies around her. Magenta streaks. Gone, gone, ye summer attire - glow and shine, and interpose / Cloth and Belkan sorcery wove, a valiant garb - a general's fire!

Signum's boot hits the wall and puts a small crack into it - miniscule, comparatively - as she looks towards the set-up Fate near her, holding Laevatein in both hands at a fifty-degree angle to the consensus understanding of gravity's direction.

The blade remains in its long, stout form as Signum streaks upwards, her stance poised as she states in a louder, clearer tone lacking any of the calm delight seen just now (well, heard, really): "You have erected a thorough barrier. Explain your intention, immediately!"

COMBAT: Signum Yagami transforms into Cloud Knight!
COMBAT: Setsuna Higashi transforms into Cure Passion!
<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

Hurried steps take Endo the rest of the way to the roof, up elevator stairs and along with the small group he accompanies. There's time on the way to wave his hand toward Lera, a feeling of relief washing over him as more familiar faces start to crop up by the time that they reach the department store's summit. He doesn't transform on the way, perhaps taking a cue from the others still in their civilian forms.

The sight that greets them earns a dumbfounded stare from Endo. "Souverain Heraut?" He asks, unable to form further words for a moment. Just a second, and then he continues: "Where'd you get that?"

<She's-I don't know--> He begins to respond to Lera, before that thought is abruptly cut short. The roof underneath their feet crumbles and the boy lets out a cry, tumbling down. The fall is uncontrolled, but not for long.

"Fallen Stern, set up!" Purple light flares, streaks of black and ugly violet spreading from the point of contact between Endo's fist and the stone it's clasped around. Energy washes over him, dark metal forming on his wrists, pauldrons on his shoulders, armor on his chest. White and purple fabric spills out to cover the rest, barrier jacket flaring out to take shape in an instant. It's his device that hits the ground first, the point of the enormous sword buried into tile and Endo landing in a crouch behind.

He rises swiftly, gaze turned upward, his cry joining the others: "Who are you!?" He calls, "Show yourself!"

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

They're tall, and Mikoto can't help but bristle as she sees them. But that's not the most defining feature - of who's standing there.

This isn't the first time she's faced off against Souverain Heraut, even if it was operating differently, back then. This time...

"That's not yours!" Mikoto insists, speaks, but there's no time to ask why, or who, or for what purpose. Because the answer she receives is an assault --

And there's something familiar about that, too. Time drags out; she's standing on the other side of it, now. Fingers pressed the rooftop - the ground protests. They're going down.

Falling has always felt so helpless. Nothing to hold on to; nothing to slow her down...

Except - now she's really falling - that's just not true.

There's an updraft.

With a sharp breath, Mikoto's eyes widen, and she twists in midair. Retrieving her blade has always been a matter of one smooth motion, release the zip, throw back the case. It flutters away in the wind; she and Miroku are heavier - point down and it slams into the ground when she does, a pillar to keep her standing, though she sinks low in the impact.

She's still in her white t-shirt, of course, kittens splayed across it - still in her green shorts. The purse, like a cat's face, is even still there, though she slips it off her shoulder as she hefts her blade from the ground. She'll pick it up later, like her sword-case.

Her armour was never part of a magical transformation - it's why it had to be repaired. Now she's standing here with everyone, again the truth of the HiME is plain: her transformation does not reach her outfit.

It's got everything to do - with that Element in her hands.

Mikoto looks to Endo as she straightens, a frown of concern crossing her face. She grasps her blade, calls up: "What do you want?!"

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi transforms into HiME Mikoto!
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

The run to the roof feels like a trip to a place Steven never wants to go. He knows what lay up there ends this lovely day. Ends the peaceful vacation the boy was having from this line of work. But duty calls, and a Crystal Gem doesn't shy away from it. Well, an upstanding one, anyway! And he has to prove himself to be that.

"It's fine! Don't worry! We gotta get up there!" he shouts back to Mikoto and Endo.

The darkened air outside makes the garden normally enjoyed to be a foreign place, one that normal folks should not tread. But this group of boys and girls aren't quite normal. Not by a long shot, Steven finds. Everyone normal seems to be gone!

But someone meets them at the top of this lovely garden. Among the flowers and shrubs is a cloaked figure. One with a familiar weapon. "Wait, isn't that, uh..." The boy is trying to put things together when a roof-shattering attack erupts, sending everyone flying!

Steven gets propelled off the roof and into the food court they were just in. Fuu's supportive winds help slow his fall, though a painful impact with rubble is prevented by the unfurling of a pink bubble that encapsulates him.

Smoke and silt begin to settle and pink shines through. "I'm okay!" he says, slightly echoing qithin his containment.

It winks out just as quickly as it came, with the difference of the boy now holding a shield once it is gone. "Looks like we are going to have to do something about this person..."

COMBAT: Steven Universe transforms into Serious Steven!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki transforms into Barrier Jacket Aufprall!
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

"Who are you!?"

<< I AM SOUVERAIN HERAUT. >>

"Show yourself!"

<< I AM MYSELF. >>

"WHERE DID YOU GET THAT!?"

<< I AM NOT A THAT. >>

"Heraut would never let anyone else use him..."

<< NEVER AGAIN WILL I BE USED. >>

All this back and forth is somewhat revelatory in a way that goes well beyond the actual words; the more Heraut speaks, the less he sounds like himself. It's a complicated set of distortions, though. Part of it is the emotionlessness: even in his earliest days with Ren, the Device was unmistakably, well... haughty. 'Regal' might be nicer. 'Snotty' might be closer to the truth.

But now Souverain Heraut almost entirely lacks inflection. The first time it appears is with a distinctly angry emphasis on the word 'used'.

There's something else, though, too. He didn't quite say EFFULGENT KNUCKLE, or any of these other phrases. It was more like EFF*LGENT KNUCKL*, it cut out a bit, it clipped. Like there's static on the telepathic line, or -- more complicatedly -- like some of the syllables were a little too fast. A scratched CD gets at the sense of it.

"Explain your intention, immediately!"

"What do you want?!"

<< DESTROY. ALL. BELKANS. >>

Suiting action to words, Souverain Heraut leads the way, dragging himself sideways in a dramatic, sweeping gesture that trails Midchildan runes behind. The enshrouded arm holding him... comes along for the ride. The figure had floated downwards calmly, silently -- and there is a distinctly eerie sense that Heraut is telling the truth, here, that he's the one doing the driving.

That's impossible, though. Intelligent Devices can't just run themselves. They require a master -- social implications aside -- because they require a heart, the engine of all genuinely powerful magic, the inescapable, unavoidable, central truth of all realities, all dimensions. It isn't a skippable ingredient. Midchildan or Belkan-style meisters know this, and so does every magical girl on her very first day, if only instinctively, unconsciously. Forget magical theorizing; it's just the way it is, truth on the street. A Device, a Linkrun, an Element... they can't go it alone.

Until now, maybe. Because the HAZE SPEARS (another one of Ren's signature moves, double-spiked javelins of pure golden energy) that whisper into existence in every direction are very real and very deadly. If anything they seem moreso than Ren's, the way they blur from the speed of their vibration turned up a notch or ten, making them fully invisible until something slows them down (like, say, a person).

It's not a targeted set of homing missiles, but a massive barrage, and javelins also sprout from walls (which crumble, merging the burger place with the beef bowl place), blast through tables and chairs, decimate kitchens.

That being said, the density of spears is a LOT HIGHER around Signum, Lera, and Endo. It seems Heraut is serious in his intentions to target the Belkans (and Belkan Devices) of the group.

COMBAT: Dark Heraut has used Haze Spear: Launch on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut has used Haze Spear: Launch on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut has used Haze Spear: Cascade Shift on Endo Naoki.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut has used Haze Spear: Cascade Shift on Signum Yagami.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut has used Haze Spear: Launch on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut has used Haze Spear: Launch on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut has used Haze Spear: Cascade Shift on Lera Camry.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut has used Haze Spear: Launch on Cure Passion.
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa fails to brace Dark Heraut's Haze Spear: Launch, taking 32 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Dark Heraut is
Psyched!
COMBAT: Cure Passion fails to dodge Dark Heraut's Haze Spear: Launch, taking 24 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji braces 19 Fatigue damage from Dark Heraut's Haze Spear: Launch, taking 8 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji's Block
and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi fails to dodge Dark Heraut's Haze Spear: Launch, taking 25 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Lera Camry braces 31 Fatigue damage from Dark Heraut's Haze Spear: Cascade Shift, taking 25 Fatigue damage!  Lera Camry's
Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Steven Universe braces 21 Fatigue damage from Dark Heraut's Haze Spear: Launch, taking 9 Fatigue damage!  Steven
Universe's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki counters 13 Fatigue damage from Dark Heraut's Haze Spear: Cascade Shift, taking 39 Fatigue damage!  Endo
Naoki's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki's counterattack, Asteroid Eilen, partially gets through, doing 9 Fatigue damage to Dark Heraut!  
COMBAT: Signum Yagami braces 56 Fatigue damage from Dark Heraut's Haze Spear: Cascade Shift, taking 24 Fatigue damage!  Critical
Hit!  Signum Yagami's Block and Parry abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Cure Passion [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Cure Passion only speaks at first to bring their enemy forth--to find and identify their foe, the foundation she might say of much else. But what they get is something beyond a face, or a name alone. She narrows her eyes in thought, piecing each clue together. Not that; will not be used... And the voice's strange qualities--

'Destroy. All. Belkans.'

"I can't allow that," Passion answers, but she does not follow up this statement with an immediate show of force; quite the opposite, she is forced onto the defensive by an impossibility, and golden energy suddenly blurs around until the Cure finds herself hit by three at once, her proximity to Lera both maybe part of the problem but also something that is no longer as true when the dust and debris show Passion again, farther back and on the ground picking herself back up. She presses her lips together in frustration, but forces herself to look away from that problem towards another. "It's not her!" She calls to the others, "So we just have to push through and find her!"

She has friends here who are mages, whose magic takes the form of blasts. ...But hers has a rather simpler expression right now: "I'm going in!"

Passion sprints forward, a flash of red and pink as she spins out and kicks at the body holding(?) Souverain Heraut, once, twice, three times, spinning in succession upward like a top as she tries to get up close and personal to their foe.

But Cure Passion, of all people, has no words that speak against a desire not to be used.

COMBAT: Cure Passion has used Rising Passion on Dark Heraut.
<Pose Tracker> Lera Camry [Infinity Institute (11)] has posed.

Endo doesn't know where Ren is.

And Lera doesn't, either. But this strange opponent makes something clear to her, the realization coming in inches and starts. Her eyes widen, at the emotionless reply that Heraut gives them. "Fate! Endo-san... Th-this is--"

<Heraut. Acting on his own. But he's not quite right...> Broken Ground sounds, for a moment, shaken. After all, the Device had once been party to trying to take Souverain Heraut; the Device had, once, opponed all of them. The clockwork shield on Lera's arm sags. From her neck, a pen dangling there gleams.

Soaring Sky speaks, instead. <Destroy all Belkans? Heraut! You'd better stop this nonsen--> Sky's complaint is cut short, as he shouts out an order: <Ground! He's after me!>

<Cleaning up your messes, as usual. Protection!>

Interlinked hexagons of light appear, all linked together, and the enormous swarm of spears comes crashing down around Lera. Many of them slam into the barrier, blades of light becoming bursts of light instead. A rain of motes that rains down -- until one shatters through a hexagon. It cracks like glass, and then one slashes along Lera's left arm and sleeve.

A few torn threads blow in the wind, and Lera looks up, gritting her teeth. "Heraut! What--what are you doing!? Why are you saying this? And where... where is Ren?"

She glances sideways, at Cure Passion. She isn't surprised to hear the words, 'I'm going in!' There is a moment's pause, before Lera nods to the Cure. "All right. I'm with you, y'know?"

Lera swings Broken Ground ahead of her. A Midchildan magical circle spins up, underneath her feet; rotating circles and lines within, with runes also moving, in patterns intricate enough to distract the eye.

<Heraut. I won't let you harm these Belkans.> Ground rumbles -- and then the former Device of Jaren hesitates. <Stand down. I don't want to hurt you again.>

Lera's expression softens, as the shield lights up, the square gem at the center flashing -- and then a rippling wave of golden energy explodes out from it. It slams into a concrete pillar, leaving a deep CRACK, dust billowing, and then bounces up towards Heraut's side.

<Fault Siege.> Then: <Stand down. Please.>

COMBAT: Lera Camry has used Fault Siege on Dark Heraut.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut braces 4 Fatigue damage from Cure Passion's Rising Passion, taking 3 Fatigue damage!  Cure Passion is Psyched!
COMBAT: Dark Heraut perfectly dodges 20 Fatigue damage from Lera Camry's Fault Siege, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Dodge!
Dark Heraut's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

It's... Heraut?

There's something about that which chills Mikoto to the bone. There have been times she has felt Miroku's influence, but - even at its loudest - it's always been her thoughts it pressed into, her actions, her feelings. She didn't experience the other side of things until...

Well, her head was crowded for a while there.

She thinks: if Miroku could work on its own...

And then she shakes her head and reaffirms to herself, to the both of them: she's going to show it a better way. They'll reach it - together.

"Souverain Heraut!" Mikoto yells, a new snap of anxiety to her words.

But she's not used to trying to talk through things like this, even if she's gotten more experience with talking in a fight over the past few months.

She doesn't have time to finish her thought - before the javelins drive in.

The debris of a table catches her first - her first instinct is to move from them - and those scraps of wood were only the herald of so many spears. It's a different sort of anxiety which grips her heart, as she's caught in the side and goes flying. Roll, roll, roll - she pushes herself up with her dwindling momentum, springs forward towards the Device and its cloaked figure.

"Let them go!" Mikoto yells, with targeted insistence, as she closes the space to the scepter and who holds it. "Heraut can't get out of being used by using someone else! If something's hurting Heraut, hurting other people the same won't make it better! It won't!"

It's something Fate told her - when she did just that thing.

It just took her a while to realise.

Landing for a moment, she looks back to Lera, to Soaring Sky - to Signum, and Endo - and then back forward, as she finishes her charge to the shrouded figure. "... I don't really get it, but I'm not gonna let Heraut hurt them! Those Belkans --" a thought to ramen-stands and twisty bread, "-- helped me!"

It's not just a thought - it's a twirl, as the last mora of that sentence are punctuated by a spin once-twice-thrice, and the flat of Mikoto's blade arcs up to strike the arm holding that scepter, like she's hoping to knock it away from whatever host it's using right now.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness on Dark Heraut.
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.


"What?"

Fate's eyes get this more startled quality as 'Heraut' replies to her. It doesn't sound quite like him, but enough so that she doubts herself a little. Especially with the exchange between Lera and Ground. "Is it really him?"

But it makes its intention clear quickly enough.

"We won't let you!"

There's no time to debate this. She knows there was tension between Heraut and Stern on that ship. Yet something doesn't sit right - the sheer amount of enmity suddenly coming forth now after everything they've gone through?

The girl banks as if she's going to attack, yet suddenly the haze spears are everywhere. "Bardiche - Cartridge Load!"

The cylinder like chamber at the bottom of him swivels around, before pounding one in, causing an eruption of magical energy within Bardiche in defense.

<Load Cartridge. Defenser - Plus>

Circular shields of the Midchildan style spring forth from her palm to face down the storm. As suddenly double-spiked javelin after double-spiked javelin rams right into it.

Her eyes grow wide as it starts to crack. It breaks apart before she can redouble her efforts, collapsing.

And two haze spears ram into her barrier jacket. The girl gasps as they jab right in. One near her shoulder. The other in a thigh. The force of impact nearly pitching her out of the air outright.

Gritting her teeth, the girl raises Bardiche, and slams down his haft through both energy spears causing them to dissipate.

The damage is done though.

"We're... not going to give up our friends... to settle some ancient grudge."

Snapping Bardiche off to the side, his poleaxe blade shifts back into a metallic hook, energy erupting out of him a moment later. <Haken Form.>

The girl then takes off - at a languid speed at first that shows how injured she is, but picking up momentum swiftly. Flying around at a dizzying speed in an attempt to flank the cowled being wielding the device.

"If you're really... Heraut - you should know that better than anyone."

The blur that is her movement stops, with Bardiche drawn back as if she were going to slice into him.

Instead, she swings him forward from where she is. <Haken Saber.>

The curved blade seems to take the momentum from her swing and launch straight at the thing. It careens at the mysterious device wielder, spinning end over end as a slicing energy projectile.

It's only when it would get close to contact that she calls out. "Signum - strike through!"

Right now it feels like less a command, and more a show of solidarity with the Belkan Knight she once sought so desperately to understand.


COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has started a combo targeting Dark Heraut!
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

The Wind Knight frowns as the conversation continues - and then it devolves into battle.

'Destroy all Belkans,' the hostile Device claimed before launching those spears; the green-clad Magic Knight chews that over even as she whips up a wind barrier and draws out her sword, focusing on defense for the moment. Why would a Belkan Device - at least, Fuu thinks Souverain Heraut is Belkan in origin - want to destroy members of the culture that created it (or is 'him' more accurate)? The most obvious answer is some form of rebellion, but given that a Device *needs* a wielder ... or in this case, it appears, a body ...

Something doesn't add up. And the Magic Knight of Wind has seen enough of Midchildan and Belkan magic in action to know that terminology notwithstanding, they function best when the relationship is symbiotic.

A break, a brief respite, in the onslaught - and the Magic Knight of Wind seizes that opening, shifting smoothly from defense to offense. She doesn't charge into melee, nor does she change weapons to unleash arrows from her bow. Instead, her attack is purely magical, trying to confine the rebellious Device and hinder its movements ...

"WINDS OF ADMONISHMENT!!"

The call rings out, and the winds converge, a tamed whirlwind coalescing in an effort to trap Souverain Heraut. But the spell isn't the only thing the Wind Knight shouts; instead, she follows her invocation with a question. "What do you gain by destroying all Belkans, Heraut-san?!"

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Winds of Admonishment on Dark Heraut.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut decisively counters 24 Fatigue damage from Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Dauntlessness, taking 8 Fatigue
damage!  Mikoto Minagi is Psyched!  Dark Heraut's Reverse ability activates!
COMBAT: Dark Heraut's counterattack, Majestic Crasher, partially gets through, doing 47 Fatigue damage to Mikoto Minagi!  
<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

"That doesn't sound like Heraut..." Endo is well familiar with Ren's intelligent device, and this is far from what he'd expect from it. He my not be ready to believe that anyone but Ren could use the real thing, though the device-whatever it is--proves to be just as dangerous in the hands of the cloaked figure as it does in Ren's.

<UNLIKELY.> Fallen Stern warbles in response to Heraut's directive. <COME AND TRY.>

It becomes more likely immediately after as spears begin to blossom into existence all around the ruined restaurants. The speed at which they move is incredible, and there's no way Endo can move completely out of the way. His charge, in fact, likely begins him even further into the way.

Fallen Stern is lashes out in an arc, a sweep of dark contrails that hew through several of the speeding spears. Others crash into Endo's barrier jacket, the briefly erected dome of purple cracking and breaking under the strain, the armor underneath scoured and scarred by several more javelins.

<FORWARD, TO CHALLENGE.>

But he still moves, gritting teeth as he follows through with the momentum. Another spear stops him short, blade extended, the tip managing to just barely pierce several strands of the cloak draped across his opponent. A minuscule tear, though one that the boy aims to make bigger with his next motion. He lunges to the side, sucking in a breath before he brings his weapon around in a slashing arc.

COMBAT: Endo Naoki has used Blauverschiebung on Dark Heraut.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut dodges 10 Fatigue damage from Fuu Hououji's Winds of Admonishment, taking 7 Fatigue damage!  Fuu Hououji is
Psyched!  Dark Heraut's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Trap applied to Dark Heraut!
COMBAT: Dark Heraut braces 16 Fatigue damage from Endo Naoki's Blauverschiebung, taking 13 Fatigue damage!  Endo Naoki is Psyched!
<Pose Tracker> Signum Yagami [None] has posed.

DESTROY ALL BELKANS.

As a Belkan, of sorts, Signum's lips turn down into a momentary frown. She tightens up as she contemplates this, this impossibility - a Device could not operate like this, there must be someone in there, however faint, however muted. Perhaps they could let the Device take the command, guide them, but then...

Maybe something changed.

Signum snaps up Laevatein in reflexive posture; she calls silently out to raise a barrier; and both of these things work in the sense that they avoid her casual devastation. But the barrier in its platonic-solid form has multiple breaches in it by the time the barrage is spent - and Signum herself had been forced back nearly five meters *off the side of the building*. She floats forwards, of course - her spells are ancient and powerful.

She does not look cheerful. Not even for her.

Her eyes flick towards Fate for a moment, and she twists her grip on Laevatein. The sword shifts, glittering splendidly as the spine of the sword undulates, the blade extending out into separated serrations. "Belka is gone," Signum states. "Its legacy is not yet wholly extinguished, but to conquer what remains proves nothing."

"Hn!" she answers Fate, even as she stares ahead. "Schlangbaisen--"

As she snaps her hand up, the serpentlike form of Laevatein's long-ranged mode snaps upwards and forwards. Fate told her to strike through - the blade does aim, in a curvilinear way, to snap forth and wrap round the side of the Dark Heraut, to try and constrain this form the Device has brought forth. An illusion? The thought passes her mind - perhaps it is Aizawa, merely somehow overcome -

Maybe that adds a fraction of hesitation. But only a fraction.

COMBAT: Signum Yagami has joined the combo started by Fate Testarossa!
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

Whoever or whatever is beneath that robe seems to have someones weapon artifact thing! He forgets what they are called. But the mention of Belkans sounds familiar. Thats folks like Endo right? Like Fate? Like Nanoha? "But you are just a staff mace thingy! If it is jsut you, why does it look like someone is holding you? Wouldn't you just be flying around alone?" Actually who is he kidding, he has seen crazier. But it looks like someones under there.

Perhaps some kind of puppetmaster or person who avoids the light?

And then it retaliates. Blink and you'll miss them. Don't blink, and you get more of the same. Spears, familiar ones, fly out in all directions. The vanish med flight, but the area they spread toward encompassed the entire vicinity in their aim. Steven takes a knee and expands his shield, holding and bracing it with his forearm at an angle. Several Haze Spears impact and deflect off, shoving the boy backwards from their swift and vicious appearance. "You don't just show up and want to destroy people! That is super rude!"

When a moment is provided, the boy snaps out a hand and grabs the edge of his shield, and discus throws it at a slanted angle toward this hostile invader! "I shouldn't have put off asking more about this kind of stuff!" he says blearily as he catches his balance afterward.

COMBAT: COMBO! Fate Testarossa and Signum Yagami have used Combo: Snake Strikes in Blade's Shadow, composed of Haken Saber and
Schlangbaisen Schneiden, on Dark Heraut.
COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Throw Shield on Dark Heraut.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut perfectly dodges 100 Fatigue damage from Fate Testarossa and Signum Yagami's Combo: Snake Strikes in Blade's
Shadow, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Critical Dodge!  Dark Heraut's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Dark Heraut braces 17 Fatigue damage from Steven Universe's Throw Shield, taking 14 Fatigue damage!  
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

"It's not her!"

Are you SURE, though?

That cloak is not just immensely voluminous, layers upon layers of diaphonous shadow creating a singular opacity, but magical as well, a Barrier Jacket that is not easily torn, dispelled, or even blown around in the high winds generated naturally by high-power combat. The cowl might as well be welded in place, and no amount of flashy-light Midchildan or Belkan magic is illuminating any features within. It could be anyone in there.

For that matter, all that height could be fake if the person holding(?) Souverain Heraut was floating all along. Nobody has seen any feet at any point, and that gloved fist wasn't too large to be Ren's. It was about the right size, actually, a fact showcased again as--

<< EFF*LGEN* KNUCKL* -- ACCEL*RATE. >>

--the figure rushes into tightly-locked combat with Cure Passion, matching punch for kick three times, trailing glitter behind each strike. They are, for a moment, a gold blur and a red blur.

And then there's no blur at all, as the figure and Heraut simply vanish out of the path of Lera's wave of energy. They reappear at a distance from both figures, floating above a series of deep fat fryers.

<< FA*LTLESS BARRAG*. >>

Heraut's cheating or something; certainly he's displaying flexibility well beyond Ren's use of him; because up until now he's been pulling tricks out of her (and his) Sovereign mode, but that was straight from Arete: gems, not unlike Broken Ground's own form, materialize in midair, sparkling, then are fired off as a blast back at Lera. They don't normally make a gatling gun sound when they tear through the air, either.

"If something's hurting Heraut, hurting other people the same won't make it better! It won't!"

"We're not going to give up our friends... to settle some ancient grudge."

"What do you gain by destroying all Belkans?"

Heraut's response to Mikoto, Fate, and Fuu, is simultaneously super immediate and firm and incredibly, exceptionally distorted, which is weird, like he knows what he means and means what he says but has trouble getting it out.

<< DESTR*YING BELKANS IS M* PU*****. >>

Mikoto spins in and Heraut summons more of those glittering, multi-color gems, which heat up and spin with enough force to kick up an impressive gust, a headwind against her approach. It slows the bulk of the impact -- she manages to tear a couple layers of sleeve, though not enough to show what lies beneath -- and then coalesces to fire off as a wide, blistering, burning beam of raw magical energy. At point blank.

<< MAJ*STIC CR**HER, >> Heraut says as a sort of afterthought. Normally Heraut would have said it really smugly, but, as almost an insult to injury, he now lacks that enjoyment, is just kind of clincial in his success. He's unable to follow up, because that's when Fate and Signum close in, driving the figure back, straight through Fuu's whirlwind and Steven's shield, which slows them down but not enough for the coordinated big hits to land. Bardiche and Laevantein don't so much whiff as demonstrate a truly unfair ability to suddenly accelerate on the part of Heraut. Maybe he can't feel gravity, or doesn't care about its effect on the cloaked figure?

The deep fryer does not survive, the stagnant air momentarily smelling beautifully of fried croquettes before it goes back to smelling like concrete dust.

As for Endo, Heraut, unusually but perhaps inevitably, meets Stern head on: the sword meets the scepter with a mighty CLANG. So mighty, in fact, that its sonic force contributes to Lera's critical hit to the structural integrity of the tenth floor.

  • rumble*

One can almost hear the missing elevator girl announce, "Going down. Ninth floor: toys, books, ceramics."

Well, two out of three of those things are still true after Heraut, still in a weapons-lock with Endo and Stern, declares:

<< GEML*GHT FUSIL**DE... >>

One of Ren's original huge hits, rarely used anymore.

<< ...WID* *REA SHIF*. >>

Well, THAT'S new.

A powerful stream of mana-infused globlues fire off of the end of the scepter, in every direction (though especially Endo's face, 'cause he's right there). Upon impact, they explode into smaller globules, which in turn explode into even smaller globules, and on and on until all the mana fizzles out. Pop rocks crossed with caltrops crossed with mana grenades.

There are no more ceramics on the ninth floor, afterwards, and probably not an especially long wait to reach the eighth.

<< TH* BELKANS M*ST BE S*OPPED, STERN. >>

Interesting that he never stutters on 'Belkans'. He doesn't stutter on 'Stern', either. And although it's still fairly emotionless, there's something in the phrase that sounds a little bit... like it's been said before, maybe repeatedly. It rings of an old argument, but not one Stern can remember.

COMBAT: Dark Heraut has used Effulgent Knuckle: Accelerate on Cure Passion.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut has used Faultless Barrage on Lera Camry.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut has used Gemlight Fusillade: Wide Area Shift on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut has used Gemlight Fusillade: Wide Area Shift on Signum Yagami.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut has used Gemlight Fusillade: Wide Area Shift on Endo Naoki.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut has used Gemlight Fusillade: Wide Area Shift on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut has used Gemlight Fusillade: Wide Area Shift on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut has used Gemlight Fusillade: Wide Area Shift on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji dodges 13 Fatigue damage from Dark Heraut's Gemlight Fusillade: Wide Area Shift, taking 19 Fatigue damage!
Fuu Hououji's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa partially dodges 8 Fatigue damage from Dark Heraut's Gemlight Fusillade: Wide Area Shift, taking 33
Fatigue damage!  Fate Testarossa's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Signum Yagami neatly dodges 32 Fatigue damage from Dark Heraut's Gemlight Fusillade: Wide Area Shift, taking 8 Fatigue
damage!  Signum Yagami's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Cure Passion fails to brace Dark Heraut's Effulgent Knuckle: Accelerate, taking 13 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!
Diversion applied to Cure Passion!
COMBAT: Lera Camry perfectly counters 45 Fatigue damage from Dark Heraut's Faultless Barrage, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical
Counter!  Lera Camry's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!
COMBAT: Lera Camry's counterattack, Mantle Heart, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Dark Heraut!  
COMBAT: Steven Universe braces 33 Fatigue damage from Dark Heraut's Gemlight Fusillade: Wide Area Shift, taking 14 Fatigue damage!
Steven Universe's Block and Parry abilities activate!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi neatly dodges 36 Fatigue damage from Dark Heraut's Gemlight Fusillade: Wide Area Shift, taking 9 Fatigue
damage!  Mikoto Minagi's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Endo Naoki braces 18 Fatigue damage from Dark Heraut's Gemlight Fusillade: Wide Area Shift, taking 15 Fatigue damage!
Endo Naoki's Block and Parry abilities activate!
<Pose Tracker> Cure Passion [Juuban Public School (10)] has posed.

Passion has just taken the foe's word for it. Whether or not that's a good idea is anyone's guess--trying to match force for force definitely seems not to be on her part. The red Cure moves quickly, blurring still, but when the figure's glittery form disappears out of the way of Lera's blast, Passion hits what remains of the floor, breathing heavily and needing time to recover herself. "...Strong," she breathes, shaking her head. She was trying to convince Lera to focus; it's just hard to do so herself, all of a sudden.

"Purpose..." She looks up at Lera then, and forces herself to her feet. "Right! I'm fine!"

She is for the moment,k at least, her time recovering meaning that when the explosions come, she merely has to contend with the entire floor blasting out from beneath her, briefly suspended in free-fall before she lands in another crouch. "How...?" She wants to ask the others, but she doesn't want to distract them. She wants to get it, but she doesn't know where to start. But that last part--what he says to Stern--

"But Belka was already stopped!" Passion calls. "That mission is already complete!"

"...Sky, be careful," Passion worries in the direction of Lera's original Device, setting her jaw and starting forward again. If the last approach didn't work, then--

"Haah--!"

Passion blurs out of sight completely, even faster than she moved before; not even red light can keep up with her through the next flurry of attacks, visible only as afterimages as a set of spinning kicks and hard punches before she reappears on the opposite side of her opponent--

But as fast as Heraut has been, Passion doesn't keep her back to her foe for a heartbeat longer than she has to, and starts turning back as part of a spin jump back up away from the precarious floor.

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

<I'm not sure. Something's wrong!> Soaring Sky answers Fate's question. <But... it seems like him...> There is a moment's pause. <I know, Passion, but...>

Sky is not sure. For that matter, Lera is not sure. She feels her jaw tense, clenching, and it is with a sense of fear, this time. Her fingers tense, curling around the handle on the inside of the shield. She looks at Heraut, eyes wide.

<Heraut! Listen to me!> Broken Ground says. He shouts, then, and his voice crackles with static and feedback: <HERAUT!>

A dome of interlocked golden hexagons erupts around Lera. The gems slam into it, cracks spiderwebbing across the panes of joined magical light. The barrier dome cracks, but does not break, as the gem stones bounce away and then fall down.

<Mantle Heart.>

Lera's heart is in her throat, as she sees Endo and the masked figure -- Stern and Heraut -- clash like that. The floor beneath them breaks, shattering down, and the rain of energy comes down -- a couple of stray shots slam into the dome of hexes. It breaks apart, motes of light wafting away on the breeze. Lera's jaw sets.

"Heraut! We've all fought beside each other!" she calls up. "Midchildans, Belkans, it hasn't come between us!"

She hefts up her shield. A moment after Passion's leap up, a Midchildan circle appears in front of Lera's outstretched hand. The circle's insides flash -- along the lines, then the outside circle, and then the runes last. A large crystal appears, layers of light stacking until it has the gleam and shine of a real diamond.

<Geode Burst!>

The gemstone rockets up into the air. It curves around a falling piece of concrete, then comes slamming at the side of Heraut's mysterious wielder.

COMBAT: Lera Camry has used Geode Burst on Dark Heraut.
<Pose Tracker> Fate Testarossa [Infinity Institute (5)] has posed.


"Maybe while we were in that ship... remember when they were using Stern's spells?" The girl tries to answer Sky. It's the only thing she can think of besides Heraut and this one being one in the same. "But... how?"

The cut off word of purpose is one that Fate can only guess strongly.

That idea doesn't cut as hard as it used to be.

Fate feels a kind of triumph upon seeing Signum's Schlangbaisen slice through the air in curved lengths towards her attack.

That triumph only lasts long enough for it to reach it and to start curving around-

They're not there the sudden acceleration carrying the figure out of the way.

"Fast..." She notes to Signum, "Should we try to bind t-"

The Shockwave of the impact from the others being stopped by it causes her to shield her face with an arm.

Right before it calls out one of Ren's signature spells.

And yet there's a new twist. The girl had already started moving in an attempt to dodge what she thought she knew. Yet suddenly - the wide area shift variant takes her off guard.

Stopping short, she abruptly tries to change in an uncovered variant. Twisting through the air in a dizzying aerial dance to try to avoid the wide burst of the smaller globules of the fussilade

One clips through her cape. Then another passes by and detonates, the force of the explosion buffeting her down to a lower altitude amidst a series of explosions.

The girl regains control before she crashes down all the way to the fourth floor in the center of what's left of the mall.

The girl rises up, panting, a hand held against her side. Each breath growing just further and further apart as she adjusts to the pain. "Just because... it's your purpose... doesn't mean it's right. A lot- a lot of us had purposes that... weren't... and we changed it. So if that's your purpose... then..."

<Sonic Drive - Ignition.>

It might just be the desperation of the situation that causes her to make this decision but her barrier jacket shifts. Becoming thinner. Armor plating disappearing.

Twin wings of mana appearing on each wrist and each ankle.

She and Bardiche came up with this form to give them a chance against an implacable foe like Signum. And if there's even a chance that it will give her an edge here, she feels she has to take it.

"... we'll stop you - until you find a new one!"

With a twitch of each wing, she flies straight at the figure - in a flickering drive - image after image of the girl appearing like a trail behind her, as she shouts, Bardiche held at the ready at her side.

"Haaaaaaa-!"

Trying to anticipate the figure's sudden movement, she slices Bardiche forward in a terrible arc, trying to see if like this she can outstrip their speed. <Haken->


COMBAT: Fate Testarossa transforms into Barrier Jacket Sonic!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa has used Golden Flash on Dark Heraut.
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (11)] has posed.

"Ah..." This time the winds are not supportive, though they are hot. Mikoto has just enough time to begin a thought as she sees the coalescence into light, and then --

Well, it's the same sort of syllable, but less understated realisation, and more sharply pained yelp as she's blown clear across the floor.

She lands, and one of the few tables to escape spearing doesn't make it out alive - splinter-CRACK goes the wood, just the way her bones don't... but really should have, were she not girl with the force of a titan.

"..." Mikoto says, in deliberate elision, as her rattled brain catches up with the rest of her.

Is that how that feels.

She's on her feet just in time to have a new threat to deal with: Geml'ght Fusil'de. The connection might be patchy, but the attack certainly isn't. Mikoto remembers too keenly how powerful Souverain Heraut is, and she is quick this time to scramble from her debris. Down another floor --

She has to twist in mid-air to avoid that magic, and a few still manage to find her, as she lands.

"Wait!" Mikoto cries out, because she can see the way the two of those Devices meet - hear the way it addresses the other. "Hasn't Endo been showing Fallen Stern a better way?! You don't have to destroy!" Neither of them --

None of them.

And Mikoto has never just talked with Ren and Heraut, doesn't know it for haughty, only knows its devastation - but it catches up with her, anyway. As if echoing Soaring Sky: "Something's wrong, right?! Just - just stop, and --"

... and... what?

Mikoto doesn't really know what to do here. She heard so many convincing speeches, but now it comes time for her to use her own words, she finds as her words hitch in her throat that she doesn't know the right ones to try and reach a Device who feels wronged.

Maybe it just hits a little close to home.

What makes Miroku happy...

She stops, there, a grimace on her face, frozen for a moment - until she hears Fate speak up. Mikoto looks to her, and takes a breath, swallowing down her fear and nodding.

"If Heraut won't stop, we'll stop Heraut!"

Mikoto charges again, Miroku carving a path through broken china like the proverbial bull, and swings the flat of her blade around to meet Heraut and his host again.

COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi has used Obsidian Blade: Disequilibrium on Dark Heraut.
<Pose Tracker> Steven Universe [Juuban Public School (6)] has posed.

THe shield is pitched, but deflects off, leaving little in the way of motion stopping power. Endo and company always fought on a worrying level of power. At least they had the curtesy of bringing them to this strange dimension to fight.

He wonders if there was someone they didn't want to see them as they fought...?

Another shield is summoned. Just in time to avoid a strange series of attacks-- he hasn't seen one like this before! Usually it is lasers, or weapons or shockwaves. Instead it is a series of replicating explosives. Some of which bounce his way! "Oh boy."

A series of concussive blasts later, and Steven still stands, though buried under rubble. It takes some effort to climb his way out from under it all. "If they keep this up, the whole store will come down!"

The royal scepter attempts to speak. It almost said why it was doing this. "Are they all glitchy? That isn't normal, right? Maybe it got electtrocuted or something?" Attempts at childlike reasoning won't win the day every time sadly. So instead, with all the high speed combat, the boy will lay in wait for an opening, and attempt to use what he has available-- magic muscle!

...Noted that Magic Muscle makes for a cool masked character name for later.

When the timing is right, Steven will try to check Heraut with a flying shoulder tackle, with the shield planted firmly between himself and his foe!

COMBAT: Steven Universe has used Shield Slam on Dark Heraut.
<Pose Tracker> Endo Naoki [Juuban Public School (12)] has posed.

Endo strains against the weight behind Heraut, fingers clenching tight against Fallen Stern as the two weapons lock in a desperate struggle. He doesn't gain ground fast enough to prevent what's coming, though.

<BREAK.> Warbles Fallen Stern, a short warning before Endo shoves backward from the glob of mana that nearly blows his face off. <BARRIER.> This time he doesn't challenge, taking shelter in the dome of energy that his device brings to bear. The boy winces as explosions ring out, the concussive force enough to smash through his defenses and send him tumbling in a freefall to collide with the next floor down.

He is obscured for a moment by smoke and debris, lost briefly before the ugly glow of a belkan triangle brings him back into focus. "Aaah...Mikoto's right. I don't know if you're the real Heraut or not, but we're going to stop you either way!"

<YOU ARE FAULTY.> Stern informs their enemy. <YOU REQUIRE CORRECTION.>

The triangle under his feet pulses again, flaring with light before Endo launches from it like a rocket. He surges forward under the tide of magically induced speed, rotating in one sweeping spin. Contrails of ugly light flare out in his wake as he spins once, twice, and then brings the weapon down in a great overhead plunge toward the shadowed figure.

<METEOR ABSTURZ.>

COMBAT: Endo Naoki has used Meteor Absturz on Dark Heraut.
<Pose Tracker> Signum Yagami [None] has posed.

Nothing that Heraut says right now is encouraging to Signum.

There is a certain animation in what she does now. A feeling of something to lose. In a day not so long ago she might have hurled herself forwards, to end a threat to her master even at the cost of her own blood or life. There would have been no hesitation.

Now there is hesitation - a little. The bursting and subsidiary globules assail Signum even as she turns away; Laevatein coils back into its sword configuration as she is pushed back, rocking on her heels for a moment, until she bulls her way up, crests the wave.

While there is that hesitation, it is brief - and now there is something else in Signum's motion; something that is beyond the relentless logic of battle, the efficiency of tactics. Now there is something to fight *for* - because what is beyond this boundary is precious beyond counting.

"Shiden--"

There is no word from Laevatein, although if that Device were to speak much it might side-eye Fallen Stern's stone-cold firmness slightly. What does come is Signum, falling from above to smash in a barrage of sharp, brutal strikes at the center mass of the figure. Inadvertently, the two cooperate - rhetorically, perhaps, this is not the most decisive statement, but sometimes action is its own remark.

<<Fate: Maintain range... This shock offensive may not be enough.>>

COMBAT: Signum Yagami has used Shiden Issen! on Dark Heraut.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut perfectly dodges 40 Fatigue damage from Cure Passion's Passion Flash, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical
Dodge!  Dark Heraut's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Dark Heraut braces 18 Fatigue damage from Lera Camry's Geode Burst, taking 15 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Dark Heraut fails to dodge Mikoto Minagi's Obsidian Blade: Disequilibrium, taking 45 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Dark Heraut braces 42 Fatigue damage from Fate Testarossa's Golden Flash, taking 18 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  
COMBAT: Dark Heraut perfectly counters 17 Fatigue damage from Steven Universe's Shield Slam, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical
Counter!  Dark Heraut's Reverse ability activates!
COMBAT: Dark Heraut's counterattack, Sterling Guard, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Steven Universe!  
COMBAT: Dark Heraut dodges 21 Fatigue damage from Signum Yagami's Shiden Issen!, taking 31 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Signum
Yagami is Psyched!  Dark Heraut's Fade and Flash abilities activate!
COMBAT: Dark Heraut braces 37 Fatigue damage from Endo Naoki's Meteor Absturz, taking 16 Fatigue damage!  
<Pose Tracker> Fuu Hououji [Infinity Institute (10)] has posed.

"Stopped -"

It's very rude to interrupt somebody with an area-filling barrage when they're trying to ask a question, but since when do the bad guys (which category seems, now, to include Heraut) care about good manners? The Wind Knight only gets the start of her question out before she gets a faceful of Gemlight Fusillade, and then she's scrambling to avoid additional servings of sparkly magical mayhem - boosting one sidestep with a quick gust of wind, diving under her own power through what seems like a gap in the barrage, and so forth.

She's still not sure who Heraut's 'wielder' is; if there's an actual person inside those robes - that Barrier Jacket, she would guess - then she doesn't want to hurt them. The trick, then, would be to focus on the Device itself ... if she can.

And then an opening presents itself, giving her just enough time to materialize her sword and dash in, aiming her slash at the mace-like Intelligent Device.

COMBAT: Fuu Hououji has used Sword Strike on Dark Heraut.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut counters 3 Fatigue damage from Fuu Hououji's Sword Strike, taking 10 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Dark
Heraut's Reverse ability activates!
COMBAT: Dark Heraut's counterattack, Majestic Crasher, fails to get through, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Fuu Hououji!  
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

"But Belka was already stopped! That mission is already complete!"

"Heraut! We've all fought beside each other!"

<< BELKA ALM*ST D*STROY* *HIS W*RLD **** M*NTH* AG*, >> Heraut reminds Cure Passion and Lera -- experiencing unintelligible distortion on the word 'four', the Book of Darkness was fully unleashed back in April. Something about how he said it seemed more directed at Signum, the cowl turning her way in the moment.

Distraction does not initially create danger: he matches the Pretty Cure speed for speed, disappearing out of the path of her flurries -- without countering them, this time.

But others begin to really catch up with the shadowy figure all at once, and there's a brief moment where they're a bit cornered. Lera's great crystal slams in first, ruffling the cloak as it penetrates.

"We'll stop you - until you find a new one!"

"If Heraut won't stop, we'll stop Heraut!"

<< YO* *AY TR*. >>

Try they may, and try they do.

Heraut extends upwards to take Bardiche the way he took Stern, the point of the energy scythe a bare inch from the cowl, but that means he's held COMPLETELY in place for Mikoto, who bludgeons her way in from the opposite of Lera's approach.

Miroku shifts the entire cloak to one side for a moment, and everyone is clearly able to see a body underneath. A body all in black on black on black, so details are iffy, but there's definitely, officially, absolutely for sure, someone under it all, it isn't just a pair of black boxing gloves and an animated cloak.

"Are they all glitchy?"

<< *TERLIN* GUAR*. AL*O, I AM *OT A GL*TC*. M*JESTI* CRASH**. >>

Tired of having his personal space violated, Heraut activates his force field, Sterling Guard, which intercepts Steven, bouncing his shoulder block off, then detonates the mana into another Majestic Crasher, creating a rocket-fuel like effect that simply accelerates the cowled figure most of the way out of Fuu's path, and Signum's, also, though a few of her strikes come away with a bit of that cloak's shadowstuff on Levantaein's edge.

In response, the Device shifts in the hands of the figure, lengthening, sharpening. Heraut, a scepter no longer, has become a slender but frighteningly deadly (though still near-comically ornate) lance: Lustre mode.

The anger drains out of his voice as he incants.

<< *ANE SPIK*. >> The haft of the lance lengthens behind the figure's back, and then the spear is plunged into the floor. Mighty phantasmal replicas sprout beneath the feet of many of her nearer assailants: Mikoto, Fuu, Fate, and Steven.

<< PART*Z*N*ARE. >> Yanked sideways by the lance, the figure is caused to wave their hand, and still more spears appear, these of light instead of shadow. They rise up, taking out the last of the ceiling, then plunge downward around Lera and Passion on one side, and Signum on the other. These Partizan Snares create makeshift prison bars, threatening to pin them where they stand.

COMBAT: Dark Heraut has used Bane Spike on Fate Testarossa.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut has used Bane Spike on Mikoto Minagi.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut has used Bane Spike on Fuu Hououji.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut has used Bane Spike on Steven Universe.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut has used Partizan Snare on Cure Passion.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut has used Partizan Snare on Lera Camry.
COMBAT: Dark Heraut has used Partizan Snare on Signum Yagami.
<Pose Tracker> Pink Moon Stick [Admin] has posed.

But then...

<YOU ARE FAULTY.>

<< I AM N*T AT FAULT!! >>

Oh, Heraut's pissed. Especially because he was unable to prevent Meteor Absturz's impact. It dug deep into the layers of cloak. It may have even hit something underneath, though it comes away bloodlessly. (Which doesn't mean much, there's a lot of plasma and whatnot flying around.)

There's a moment where this could be it, could have been it. Endo could have detonated some mana off of Fallen Stern, perhaps, following up with a massive explosion. The others could have closed in around the stunned figure once more.

But it isn't.

Don't blame Endo.

It's not his fault.

<YOU ARE FAULTY.> agrees Stern... but this time, his voice came from another direction.

It came from below.

A second shadowy figure rises up from the exposed seventh floor (kimonos). Apparently they can fly, which is, all things considered, exceptionally unfair.

Because they're holding a second, identical Fallen Stern.

One which is glowing with an intensely powerful version of the attack that was just unleashed. The violet flares coming off the sword are edging into the spectrum invisible to human eyes, but everyone can feel the heat behind them.

<METEOR ABSTURZ> plows into Endo from behind.

TO! BE! CONTINUED!

Shadow Stern arrives from Yamanote High City.
COMBAT: Shadow Stern has used Meteor Absturz on Endo Naoki.
COMBAT: Endo Naoki cleanly braces 85 Fatigue damage from Shadow Stern's Meteor Absturz, taking 15 Fatigue damage!  Endo Naoki is
unable to keep fighting!  Endo Naoki's Block and Parry abilities activate!

COMBAT: Fate Testarossa decisively counters 30 Fatigue damage from Dark Heraut's Bane Spike, taking 10 Fatigue damage!  Fate
Testarossa's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!  Stagger and Stun applied to Fate Testarossa!
COMBAT: Fate Testarossa's counterattack, Blitz Rush, interrupts, doing 0 Fatigue damage to Dark Heraut!  
COMBAT: Cure Passion decisively counters 0 Fatigue damage from Dark Heraut's Partizan Snare, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Cure
Passion is Taunted!
COMBAT: Cure Passion's counterattack, Crimson Counter, partially gets through, doing 25 Fatigue damage to Dark Heraut!  
COMBAT: Lera Camry fails to brace Dark Heraut's Partizan Snare, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Lera Camry is Taunted!  
COMBAT: Signum Yagami fails to dodge Dark Heraut's Partizan Snare, taking 0 Fatigue damage!  Trap applied to Signum Yagami!  
COMBAT: Fuu Hououji dodges 21 Fatigue damage from Dark Heraut's Bane Spike, taking 32 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Fuu
Hououji's Fade and Flash abilities activate!  Stagger applied to Fuu Hououji!
COMBAT: Steven Universe fails to dodge Dark Heraut's Bane Spike, taking 38 Fatigue damage!  
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi counters 14 Fatigue damage from Dark Heraut's Bane Spike, taking 14 Fatigue damage!  Critical Hit!  Mikoto
Minagi's Reverse and Tactician abilities activate!  Stagger and Stun applied to Mikoto Minagi!
COMBAT: Mikoto Minagi's counterattack, Obsidian Blade: Dynamo, partially gets through, doing 23 Fatigue damage to Dark Heraut!