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Hidden 9 mos ago 9 mos ago Post by Gentlemanvaultboy
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Word Count: 2714

LEVEL UP x 2!!! Level 7 - (7/70) + 3

Level 9 - (87/90) + 3


Location: Carcass Isle


It was cold here. That was the first ting he noticed. It was cold, and wet. He could feel rain falling on him, mud and muck clinging to his body. Despite it all, he somehow wasn't so numb that he couldn't feel the pain. His body was a patchwork of aches and pains, but that was the only thing that let him know he was alive. That was all right, he supposed. He had to get up. He still had work to do. He forced his eyes open.

He wasn't surprised. The scene was exactly what he had expected. Green fields. A boundless sky, one that could be beautiful if it weren't for the storm blotting it out. The only lights he could see where the sparks that flittered across landscape from the fires, so distant yet so large. Hyrule was burning. His majesty was dead. All of his friend's had surly perished, taken as off guard as the castle had been by Ganon's overwhelming assault. The only living things on this plain were him and the crawling Guardian's the circled the tree he had been leaned against. Four. Five, it looked like. It was hard to tell, the way they crawled over and behind the dozen or so carcasses of the ones he had already killed. They circled him cautiously, like scavengers unsure of whether their next meal could still muster up the strength to still take at least one of them with it.

The Princess, at least, must have gotten away. Sought shelter at Fort Hateno with what was left of the Royal army after he had fallen. The rest of the Guardians must have traveled on, leaving just these few cowards to finish him off. If he moved at all he didn't doubt they would fire on him, but for now they scurried and waited. Part of him wished they would just get their nuts in order and go in for the kill, he couldn't swing his arm to parry one of those beams if he had tried, but he also knew that every moment they were warily watching him was one more moment the fort didn't have to deal with them. He could hold on, just a little longer. For that at least.

The staredown continued, with only the noises of the rain and their footfalls echoing across Ash Swamp. The longer it went on the more unnerved Link became. What were they waiting for? Were they really afraid? He had never seen them act like this before, had never known them to appear so...eager. It made no sense, but that was the only way to describe it. Thought their mono eyes betrayed no emotion he could tell. They were waiting in barely contained anticipation. What what going on? It was too quiet, as well. He should have been able to hear the sounds of battle from Fort Hateno, the rallying cries of men, the slicing sound the Guardians beams made as they shot though the air, the explosions from where they found their mark. There was nothing, though. Had the fort already fallen? Was Zelda all right? Why were they keeping him alive.

It was then that, through the sparks and the bodies, he caught movement. Just a flicker of a shadow disappearing behind one of the Guardians corpses. He scanned the field, alert now, unease building to terror. He saw it again, the edge of some kind of robe peeking out from behind another Guardian that slowly slid behind it. Closer this time. Coming closer. The shadow flicked around the rows of Guardians, always just glimpses. A dainty hand, a slender form half obscured by a guardians still sparking leg. A flash of white that was gone the next moment. Closer. Always moving closer.

Finally he spotted it full on, the form of a familiar woman gliding down the row right towards him. He struggled, tried to get his arms to move. This was it. This is what they had been waiting for. What was she doing here?!? He lifted his back off the tree for a instant, but felt himself slam back down as the lady increased her speed. She stretched out her black hand towards him, and just as she was about to break the semi circle of Guardians and force her way into the small patch of field Link had claimed with his blood one of the still living Guardian scurried past. He lost sight of her, and by the time the guardian had passed the Lady was gone again. But where? Where?

His answer came in the form of a frigid hand wrapping around his chin and pulling his head to the right. His entire flied of vision was taken up by that dreadful white mask poking out from behind the tree as The Lady extended her other hand and laid her fingers upon his forehead. Immediately there was pressure, unbearable pressure, as his skin was forced flush to his skull, as as he felt cracks began to form in his bone. His head sang with pain as the force came down, crushing, crushing, crushing...

Crushing pain seared its way into his cranium as Link's eyes flew open, his screaming half in terror and half in agony. He could move though. Now he could move, for as much good that would do against her. His hands flew to to his head, where he felt his knuckles knock into something metal. Metal? He grabbed onto it and pulled, and after a few moments of desperate struggle the pressure abated as he wrenched off the helmet and threw it forward. It bounced off the sand a few times before splashing down in the surf as Link sprang up, sword in hand and eyes wild.

The beach around him was desolate, filled with dead animals and the wrecks of great sailing vessels. Where was he? He looked down to the sword in his hand and felt a sting of surprise. Why was that surprising? He looked over at what had been on his head and found his answer. The helmet from The Maw sat there, moved gently back and forth by the surf. So snug as it had been as a little child, as a teenager it had nearly crushed him. What a terribly embarrassing death that would have been.

He signed. For one brief moment he had thought The Maw had been nothing but an awful nightmare, but it all came flooding back to him. The mage, the Kid's sabotage, the awful jolt as they had run aground. He instinctually reached down to make sure he still had his sheikah slate, and when he found it hanging there he caught a brief bout of euphoria. It felt like it had been months since he had been properly equipped.

His spirit was lifted even more when he realized that it wasn't just he that had made it. He trudged over to where he saw Mirage, lying on the beach sharing warmth with some disgusting looking dead fish. Down the way he spotted Ms. Fortune, the Abyssal's, and their precious cargo trying the same thing to greater effect somewhere out of the rain. Bending down he shook the sodden man. "C'mon Mirage. Get up. You're gonna catch you death out here."

Right, death. They were all still in danger here. He had to act quicker. "Butcher!" He commanded, but no craven cannibal appeared to aide him. What?

"Were you looking for someone else?" came a voice from beside him. Cia stood there, concern written on her face. She reached out to pace her hand on his briny, mud covered face. He jerked back from it, instantly on edge, much to the sorceresses displeasure. "What happened?"

"Help me with him." Was all he said. Maybe it was something in his tone but Cia complied, helping untangle the legend from his makeshift pillow and drag him part of the way to the outcropping before vanishing in a shroud of darkness and leaving him to drag mirage the rest of the way. He spotted a few more comrades on the trip over, and by his count it seemed like everyone was still alive. Everyone that hadn't died in the Maw, anyway. Geralt was going to be a pain to move for anyone that wasn't Bowser, and Bowser was in a hard spot anyway.

"I hope I'm not interrupting anything, ladies." Link said as he laid Mirage under the corals before stopping to take a breather. It kind of looked like the practical exam of a Voe and You class under here. "It looks like we all made it. Have you seen anybody else. The Chefs? The kids? Any of the guests?" He cast a glance as the massive, wrecked form of The Maw sitting just off the beach along with the of the ships as he shivered. He could probably climb back into the house of horrors to check if it wasn't for this rain. He hated the rain. The shipwrecks looked promising, though, even if they did cause images of Shippy in a similar state invade his mind. They needed a fire or heavier cloths to shake off this chill before it did any permanent damage. "Stay here," He said. "I'm going to go see if I can find a way to keep warm."

With that he set out back into the rain toward the wreaked vessels to search for...he didn't know. Flint? Cloaks? Anything flammable? He would take anything.


Merge Rate: 32%

Location: Frozen Highlands ~ Wildwood Glades

It was lucky for both of them that the Legends had never shown the hero to have any reservations about digging through someone's private things. In fact, to the critical eye, there were a lot of cases where The Hero had just outright gone into peoples house and taken things that weren't strictly his. Never anything big, but rupees, bombs, arrows they had lying around, a book one time. Linkle had gotten curious about this once, asking why it was okay for him to take other people stuff. Her grandmother had made a curious expression, then explained that it was "like taxes." People could afford to chip in a little bit of what they had lying around the house when it came to saving the world. Linkle had then asked why the Hero didn't just tax the potion shop, or the bomb shop, because surly they had some extra just lying around.

Her grandmother had then quickly whether or not Linkle wanted her to finish this story and Linkle had clamed up and had never brought it up again. The point was stealing was okay so long as it was for the sake of saving the world, provided you didn't steal too much.

The witches hut, unfortunately, didn't really have anything worth stealing. As Linkle searched, being sure not to make even more of a mess than she already had, she just found a lot of normal stuff and a ton of herbs she was sure a witch god would know what to do with but whose purpose eluded here. There wasn't even any real food, and considering it was lunchtime by the way Galeem hung in the sky that was almost as disappointing as the lack of clues.

At least, there wasn't anything strange until they discovered the basement. Even the basement wasn't so strange until they found the alter. Linkle lit up as they approached. "Now that's what you should find in a witches house." She said as she approached. She leaned over the alter, thinking this must be where they find something, and as she did the pair of bones on the alter began to quiver. She tilted her head, then jumped back with as "Aack!" as the two bones jumped up at her and spilled onto the floor.


Linkle looked down at her chest, scowling. "Did you do that?"

You did that. Your power grows steadily, and the bones wish only to serve. That one especially.

Linkle got the impression of the shadow of a finger moving across her eye pointing down at the round one with the odd carving.

Your nature goddess has been consorting with something dark. And the other bears the stench of undeath.

Linkle frowned, and decide to get a second opinion. "Albedo, do you smell anything on those? The Skull Heart says they're evil."

Regardless of the Alchamist' opinion, she wouldn't object if he wanted to keep them. They were the closest things to clues the pair had found. The only other thing of note was the sad worm. Linkle crouched down next to it, staring through the glass as it wriggling its arms at her. Linkle had never particularly liked bugs. She had eaten a few on dares before so it wasn't like they disgusted her or anything, but she had never been into collecting them like some of the village boys had. This one, though, she to admit was kind of cute. "If she doesn't come back, poor little thing is gonna starve." She examined the top of the jar to see if there was any mechanism to open it, but failing to find one she just hopped back and and kicked the side of the jar. The side of the jar shattered, then the whole thing crumbled around the grub. It managed to hump twice in the air, arms spready joyously wide, before diving into the earth in front of her and burrowing away as she watched. "You're welcome." She yelled down into the hole, only to find it refilled behind the grub.

That was it if they didn't want to keep going deeper into the cave, and Albedo didn't think the witch would have left anything behind anyway. If they wanted answers they would have to search another spot. Linkle considered her options. The Mystic, The Dungeon, or the Hospital? "Albedo, you've seen all these places." She said, happening upon an idea. "Did any of them look, you know, 'modern?' Like Mr. Kashiwagi's place or those pictures that are hanging in the hotel rooms?" She flashed back to the cityscape she had hanging on her rooms wall. "Father Guerra was dressed pretty modern too, like my friend Michael. If we go to a place that's modern, we could find an internet and ask it about all this."

Level 2 - (8/20) + 3

Location: Hammerhead


New Red Team pulled back into the town of Hammerhead, no missing people stronger but also no worse for the wear if you didn't count some bruising, some wrinkles, and a few new grey spots hear and there. They had certainly come out much cleaner than the last two teams that had tackled the Dead Zone, but then the other two teams hadn't been chased out almost immediately by accursed rain that killed anything that got caught in it. All things considered, after their bumpy escape, it was decided that they should take the opportunity to stretch their legs before the return trip to Smash City Alchamoth.

When the door opened Yuri was the first to step out into the badlands heat, a sensation she almost appreciated after seeing the rainstorm that protected the Qliphoth tree. She noted with satisfaction how calm and cloudless the sky was here as she stretched. This wasn't just a pleasure stop, though. Yuri had something in mind, now that they had confirmed that nothing living was hanging around the former Dead Zone. She stepped aside as the others cam out, turning to Banjo. "You did say that this Linkle girls bike was being repaired here, right?"

At the bear and birds conformation Yuri nodded her thanks and set off toward the garage the pair had indicate with a "Thank you. I'll be right back." Along the way she passed by the garish purple convertible they had initially driven in here, which looked to be under the care of the pretty blond woman that had given them a tow. The mechanic spotted her and gave a quick wave before going back to her work, one Yuri worked up the nerve to trepidatiously return. "Um, excuse me." She spoke up, wary about interrupting the woman's work. "I was told that a girl left a broken motor bike here. I was wondering, may I see it?"
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Hidden 9 mos ago Post by Rockin Strings
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Rockin Strings Mechanically intelligent, musically inclined.

Member Seen 4 mos ago

Delsin Rowe
Level 1 [0/10]
Gateon Port - Carcass Isle

Delsin stood on the dock with a frown. It looked nothing like home. The last thing he remembered before this new place was the memorial he'd made for Reggie. He had began searching for Fetch, Eugene, any of the Akomish tribe, anyone he knew. He'd even take a DUP as an ally if it meant getting back home.

"You ready, lad?" the captain asked, starting Delsin.

With a hand to his chest and a slight chuckle, the Conduit nodded, "ready as I'll ever be."

It was supposed to be a few days' travel to the nearest port across the water. They had barely lasted a single day before they were set upon by monstrous storms that drove them south into the dreaded Bottomless Sea. They crashed, stranded on an unknown isle. A few of the men decided to try to scavenge for food and useful items. Instead, they brought back a disease, one that transformed them by something referred to as the "Pelagic Plague" into what the others called fishmen. They were monsters. Big, fish-like, animalistic monsters. There was nothing left of the men they used to be.

That was 3 days ago.


How long had it been? Delsin was huddled in the corner of the ship. He was in a strange world without his powers, left alone. Was anyone coming for him? Did anyone even know the ship had crashed? It didn't seem like anyone even knew he existed.

It seemed like a week ago and a few hours ago at the same time when the crew of the ship he'd been on began changing. Some type of disease. The captain had protected him.

Looking across the room, he saw the spot the captain's body had turned to ash in.

He had to get out.

Moving from his corner, he began walking around, just to stretch his limbs. It was at that point he heard voices. After grabbing some of the dry, broken wood that would really only be useful in a fire, he followed the sounds, though he had to sneak by more than his fair share of the fish monsters that used to be people.

It had taken a while but he did find the group making noise. At first glance, they all appeared to be people. As he got closer, starting hidden behind large rocks and trees, he noticed some of these people weren't humans.

Some of them were definitely turtle-men, another who looked like a robot, and there was no telling how different even the ones who looked like normal people were.

At least they looked like they were setting up a camp. Maybe they were friendly? There was only one way to find out.

But could he do it? Was there a chance of them becoming fish monsters too? Would they accept him?

"Reggie, help me," he whispered.

Delsin approached the camp, appearing non-hostile. "Room for one more?" he asked with a slight chuckle. "I got firewood."

He stood near enough to be seen and heard, though still far enough away that he could easily still make a run for it if he needed to. He hoped he didn't need to. It was difficult enough with the monsters who moved on instinct. He didn't need intelligent enemies chasing him. Where would he even go?
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Hidden 9 mos ago Post by TruthHurts22
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17/20 EXP

Location: Sandswept Sky - Tostarena Town

Lining up to beat Tora and watching Tora get beat was a weird experience. It almost felt normal to him, training his abilities while being watched and judged, but in slow motion. He probably just got used to too much of a breakneck pace back home, so being on this semi-mundane train ride and punching at a glorified training dummy - no offense Tora - was almost relaxing. Raz wasn't the only one feeling this way, obviously, since his train-going companions were a beanbag creature and his robotic assistant, a flying imp with a hand for hair, a gigantic bee lady, and what he suspected was a man who was half-saxophone. It would be rude to just ask.

Though 'relaxing' might not be the right word. The trip was more demoralizing than anything else. Once everyone who wanted to give Tora a good smacking gathered, Raz was first up to bat. He gave it his best, which... wasn't good enough at all. Tora was deceptively quick with his shield, blocking any dive, roll, or lunge Raz could throw at him, and his only means of good offense at the moment, his Psi-Blast, could barely push the Nopon back! It was an exceptionally easy act to follow, leaving Raz to mope in the sidelines at the cooler and more experienced members got their licks in. Raz tried to offer his own advice, "Lean into the fall!" and "Pivot with your hips, not your knees!", though it was all talk and no bite. Sure, he was only recently made aware and had to play catch-up in the group, but it still stung to be faced with the reality that he sucked now.

This thought stuck with Raz even after the practice was over. He hung out by one of the side railings of the train, watching the blistering desert whip past them, and looked to the looming mountain that could be seen for miles in any direction. They were going to be climbing that thing, which was dangerous enough without the Champion that they were going to face down. Raz didn't want to be a liability when the stake were so high. He also didn't want to die, which, well, could definitely happen, but that was a thought best kept on the backburner.

As the train pulled into Tostarena Town, Raz's fears only doubled, so close to the mountain that you could lick it, if that's something you wanted to do. "Yup, really big, really high, really scary..." he muttered, disembarking with the rest into the last bit of reprieve they'll have for a while.

Looking around the place, up to the mountain's peek, then down to his shoes, Raz posited an important question. "Does anyone think this quaint desert town sells snow boots?"

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Hidden 9 mos ago Post by Thatguyinastore
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Thatguyinastore Just a Store Guy

Member Seen 11 days ago


Tostarena Town
Rank 1
3/10 EXP

@TruthHurts22 @DracoLunaris @TostarenaGang

Amidst the blistering heats of the quaint little tourist sight was someone no one from our group of otherworldly heroes knew just a yet. A smaller, younger girl - one who was perhaps extraordinarily... unremarkable compared to the others. She had no special abilities (aside from her advanced hearing - which was really more of a technique than anything), and all she had on her in terms of weapons was a dinky little pistol. Effective against other humans and infected alike... but no so much against the kinds of foes this group was used to facing.

The girl in question was named Ellie. She'd been here for a while. How long, exactly? She wasn't sure. Being honest, it wasn't exactly something that she kept track of. This was due in part to the fact that she... really didn't think anything was wrong here? Call her crazy - but she really just didn't find any issue with... well, any of this. One would consider it weirdly out of character for her, had anyone here actually known her. After all... she pulled guns on grown men and women alike during her time. You had to do what you had to do to survive, right? And survival meant never letting your guard down. It was something Joel had taught her. That, and making every shot count.

But before, Ellie was defending Joel. She was making sure that he didn't die after that injury he'd suffered way back when. Now, though? Well, now he was fit as a fiddle. In fact... she'd argue he'd never been better. Happier, either. Had you told Ellie that Joel would have not only learned to smile, but also crack jokes? He'd grown a lot since they'd met, that was for sure. They both had. And at the end of the day... that was something that Ellie appreciated more than anything. She'd been more than happy to grow alongside what was essentially her father figure. They'd both helped each other open up. To learn to love again. To... well, to care about others.

He'd been gone a bit, to be fair. But Ellie knew how long these supply runs of his usually took. The materials they needed were getting more and more scarce by the day. So... it made sense that he was gone for a while, right? She trusted him to look out for himself. He'd been in this game a lot longer than her, after all. And if she could make it on her own for this long? Then she trusted that he could, too. Hell... he'd been the one who'd saved her ass from that David fuck when he was the one with the major injury. This? This was nothing. Just a supply run, that's all.

And during Joel's time out, Ellie had decided to go out and explore shit on her own. The world was a lot bigger than the community she'd grown up in, after all. Her cross-country adventure with Joel had shown her that more than anything. Everywhere you looked, there were small communities. Each with their own set of rules and standards for living, of course. A majority... well, they weren't exactly friendly, to put things bluntly. Quite the opposite, really. Quite a few of those struggling survivors were more than willing to blow your head off if you so much as looked at them wrong. Hell, they'd do it anyways a lot of the time. Some of them just needed a good reason, after all. A lot of psychos were out there.

But she was happy to report that this place wasn't one of them. At least, it really didn't seem that way. Ellie had made it a point to avoid major cities during her time out. Too many infected were there, and a lot of the good spots had been more or less cleaned out a long time ago. The smaller cities and more open areas were the smarter places to stick to. A lot more breathing room, and a lot less infected. It was a tactic that had worked so far, too. Perhaps a bit too well, though. Ellie had hardly run into any infected at all. She was sure she'd heard a few things... but the fact that her chamber was the exact same size since she'd set out was a miracle in of itself. But that was a good thing, of course. Less infected meant more of a chance for Ellie to relax.

And here in Tostarena Town? Ellie did indeed relax.

The town was such a nice little spot. And one with very friendly faces, too. Ellie had made sure to keep her distance, of course. The room she'd managed to score was a nice one with only one bedroom. She kept her shit with her at all times, and always made sure to check three times a day to make sure nothing had been stolen. But other than that? Life was pretty good here. The boney residents always laughed at the puns from her joke book, which was a plus. The music was nice, too. She'd used her time here to brush up on her guitar skills - something that Joel had taught her to do in the first place. But when she wasn't singing and playing for the town's residents, she was busy enjoying the local food, as well as the music.

It was during one of her days here that everything changed, however.

It started with the sound of the train pulling in. Ellie had gotten used to it running by now. After all, it wasn't totally abnormal to get some old generator working to power things like that. Repairing old cars to their former glory was something that people did all the time, even long after everything went to shit. So it happening to a train wasn't exactly weird. Besides... weren't those things powered by like, coal? She'd never bothered to ask, nor had she taken the time to step in and look for herself.

But it was the people that stepped off that seemed odd to her.

From a short kid in goggles and a thick jacket (which, like, who the fuck wore jackets in this kind of weather?) to some floating... imp thing? It was definitely something weird to Ellie. Not like, alarming or anything. Just... they all rolled in at once off a train, almost like a gang or some shit. It was enough to give Ellie some bad vibes, was all. She'd been in the middle of singing her cover of "Take On Me" for a small crowd when the train had rolled in. It was one of her favorites - not just to sing, but also just in general. The lyrics really spoke to her, especially given the context of her own life. In a world like her's, you really had to take a chance and cherish every precious moment. Take that shit for granted? Well, you'll soon find yourself dead with nothing accomplished but pure survival. Ellie didn't wanna go out like that. She wasn't sure anyone did, really.

But anyhow.

"I'll take a raincheck on this," the younger girl had said as she placed her guitar down, much to her crowd's dismay. They really enjoyed her singing... which like, that was cool. She was happy that she could make people happy. But these guys? They were just giving her bad vibes all around. The last thing she needed were for these guys to pull out a shitton of guns and hold these people at gunpoint... either for supplies, or just because they felt like it. Both were equally bad in her eyes.

For now, Ellie opted to stay out of sight. She hung back in the town's center, a bit away from the train. There was a shop nearby that she'd backed away in, using her smaller height to hide a little bit behind the door frame. She may have looked weird, but that didn't matter to her. She just wanted to make sure these guys stayed safe.

So for now, Ellie crouched behind the door and closed her eyes, using her advanced hearing to focus on whatever these people were saying. Hopefully, it would give her some insight as to where they were going - and more importantly, what they were planning.

1,389 Words
+3 XP

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Hidden 9 mos ago Post by DracoLunaris
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DracoLunaris Multiverse tourist

Member Seen 3 days ago

wordcount: 1,340 (+3)
Midna: level 7 EXP: ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (10/70)
Location: Sandswept Sky - Al Mamoon Northeast - Rocket Inc.

You had to admit, and Minda certainly did as she watched Tora take all the comers that came after her own sky shooting starting gun to affairs, that their portly protector’s sheer tenacity was incredibly impressive. The rotund tank could shrug off blows like nobody's business and without showing as much as a hint of pain in the process. Midna was in the midst of making a theory linking his external numbness with his eating habits (and ogling habit) as a compensation for that lack of sensation when things finally died down, the nopon’s energy reserves depleted after one hell of an extensive training session. He certainly seemed to have learned a lot, which was good for him. If she was going to take one thing out of it herself meanwhile, it was putting Tora between her and the enemy was definitely a sound strategy.

Another thing she had learned in the interim was learned when Primrose had asked for volunteers, which had resulted in the two of them dancing on the train (with completely dissonant different styles/rhythms it might be added) to combined the dancer’s Sealticge's Seduction with the princess’s Dragon Dance, allowing the monumental speed and damage boost provided by her draconic energy to be spread across an entire squad, something she was quite sure would be devastatingly powerful if they got the space to set it up in an actual battle.

How much of a musical smackdown could Big Band put out, souped up like that? What impossible cuts could Yoshitsune slice with that dragon energy coursing through his veins? How absolutely ludicrously fast could she go riding atop the back of a dragon boosted wolfos?

The princess could hardly wait to see how well this new strategy of theirs could play out.

Unfortunately, wait she must, as they had plenty of train riding left to go after the onboard entertainment (clowning on Tora) was all over. The princess began wishing she had bought a book at some point as she returned to sulking in the shade. The only real interesting thing, baring some small-talk/chattering with the others, that went down during the rest of the trip was getting her mask custom fit by Tora. or half of it to be exact, as the rest was cut up and discarded so that the bottom and right side of it could fit up snugly underneath the fused shadow, giving her a complete face covering (the remains of the gas mask slotting up against the quarter of the ancient artifact to cover her mouth, nose and one exposed eye that the missing pieces of the fused shadow left out in the open) when she needed it to block out her own sand based attacks.

It should also help her up the mountain if there were any snow storms, protect her from gas attacks and also just armor her face a bit more, which was nice. The one glowing eye also did a bit to help improve her day vision, the electronic lens allowing her to filter out some of the excess light coming from their luminous foe on high. Whether she would get any use whatsoever out of the chem inhaler part of it remained to be seen, but she certainly wasn't planning on it.

It’s one major flaw, in her opinion, was that its porcelain white shell that completely clashed with her darker aesthetics, but that was nothing a bit of shadow magic couldn't fix. With a bit of work and arcane tinkering the bleach white mask had been dulled down to match the hue’s of the fused shadows and ‘threads’ of shadow magic had been woven onto its edges so it could ‘link’ onto the side of the helm and hide the break between the fused shadow and the futuristic mask when the two were pressed together. With that set up she added some nice inscriptions and engraving to make it fit in near seamlessly with the artifact of her people, creating a melding of technology and magic she was rather proud of, all things told.

While it might be practical and aesthetically consistent, its face obscuring properties probably did not help her first impressions to the town’s people in general or a certain guitar playing youth in particular. She was trying out wearing it when they arrived while also practicing her new found athleticism (and getting used to using her tail to improve it) by parkouring around on the many guns of their train when it rolled into town, before leaping off it and landing in the dust of the railway yard they parked in like a tiny ninja. Only then did she remove the mask, letting it hang down around her neck as she took a look around the colorful looking town.

”Pretty place’” she commented, before doing a double take at the place’s primary occupants, namely a host of equally colorfully painted Stals. The skull-faced people didn't seem to be the least bit as threatening as their monstrous cousins back in Hyrule however, so she quickly relaxed and then listened with interest as their head honcho gave them some info on the mountain they were going to scale.

She then helpful reported this back to some of the others, including one of their newly acquired member Razputin who was worried about whether his attire wouldn’t be up to snuff when it came to scaling the mountain. In this she had to agree, not that her own bear-chested getup was much better. The little jacket around her shoulders she had just gained from her Orendi fusion didn't exactly insulate very well, which was a boon in the desert yes, but it would be useless up in the mountains.

”The kids over there” she said, giving a side nod to the thieves ”picked up some cold weather gear we really should check if it fits. And it’ll probably only help with the cold, not the climbing part”

Razputin had brought up a good point in worrying about simply walking in the snow, and Minda was somewhat regretting giving back the mercury treads at that moment, despite it being the right thing to do. Those were made of the right stuff for precarious climbs, while her slippers 100% were not. She could just ride and float the whole way, true, but that would be a bit of a waste of all her recently gained foot slogging experience, and that wasn't going to help the rest of them get up unless he carried them, and this she 100% did not want to do.

”The friendly Stalchild in charge of this place mentioned a ‘sports shop’” Midna informed Razputin in regards to his/their lack of snow shoes ”with regards to mountain gear. Might not be the kinda grade we need for where we’re going, but could be worth checking out if you have money to spare. Which I do not” she said, that final part something of a self reminder. She added it to her list of needs, which boiled down to the following:

First, she coordinated with the others holding on to the Phantom Thieves' acquired cold weather gear to work out what they actually had and what they might be missing in terms of mountain survival.

The second was to check out what was on sale that might help them climb the mountain with whoever else went over to check out the aforementioned sports shop.

The third was to take a nose around town, rapidly skipping from shadow to shadow or through streets and across rooftops on wolfos back, to see if there were any jobs that could help them afford said gear. It didn't exactly look like a palace that had demons lurking in old churches that needed to be taken out, but Galeem’s world was a dangerous one, so you never knew who needed a large amount of magical violence done on their behalf.

Finally. Lunch. It would be no good climbing a mountain on an empty stomach. Or a stomach full of cereal bars.
Hidden 9 mos ago 9 mos ago Post by Lugubrious
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Lugubrious Makes the big edits

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Red Team Neo

Location: Hammerhead, Paved Wilderness
Banjo/Kazooie’s @Dawnrider, Pit’s @Yankee, Yuri’s @Gentlemanvaultboy

Like the others Nero stepped out of the van to stretch his legs, appreciative of the clear sky. The whole ride back had been overcast, figuratively when not literally, by what they’d encountered in the ruined land where the plague-infested Dead Zone once stood. Just age-accelerating rain by itself, and the long sessions of self-examination undergone by its victims to determine the extent of the damage, would have been heavy, but that wasn’t all. During their hasty escape something else had gone done in the back of the van while the others were getting thrown around. Not being privy to whatever it was in the slightest, Nero couldn’t even hazard a guess, but it only intensified the solemnity that settled over the vehicle. Not even listening to the radio lightened the mood. Now, at least, far from the tar-splattered crater and the moss and the rain, the mercenaries could put the experience behind them.

He did feel some curiosity about what exactly Yuri might have in mind when she went off, and watched with discretion from afar as she solicited the mechanic girl for help. Cheerful and bubbly as ever, Cindy was only too happy to lend a hand. “You betcha!” she replied, straightening up from her current project without an ounce of hesitation. Being the quintessential extrovert and not by any means lacking empathy, Cindy quickly got a sense for Yuri’s trepidation, and did her best to be as sunny and inviting as she could. “You ain’t by any means talkin’ about that rabbit-eared gal, are ya? Sweet-thing with crossbows on ‘er boots? We figured she’d be back to grab that cute li’l bike o’ hers sooner rather’n later, but we kept it clean as a whistle, don’t you worry! Over this way, c’mon!”

After watching Cindy lead Yuri off to where Hammerhead stored its vehicles, Nero went a different direction on business of his own. He found somewhere isolated and took a deep breath, shaking his head as he couldn’t believe he got roped into whatever he was about to do. “Well, guess I’ll give it a shot,” he muttered, then in a louder tone asked, “...Moogle?”

A poof of smoke promptly went off in front of him, revealing just the fluffy white creature he’d hoped, if not expected, to see. This one, however, seemed to be none too animated, and just flapped there with arms crossed. “...Need something?” she said after a moment, her tone deadpan.

Emboldened by the idea of dealing with a no-nonse, sensible Moogle rather than a cutesy, whimsical one, Nero proceeded right ahead into his report. “Yeah, I was gonna relay what we found out for the Dead Zone survey.” He paused as the messenger produced a notepad and pencil with which to write down his account in a quick but elegant hand. “The whole place is one big crater. That bomb destroyed everything but the Qliphoth. It’s still standing, right in the middle, same as ever. We didn’t see any monsters or anything, and it would be a straight shot there if not for the rain.” Scowling, the devil hunter scratched at a sore spot on his neck. “The rain in and around the crater is cursed or something. It makes anything it touches age real fast. We got out of there alright, but anyone headed that way’s gonna need to figure out a way to deal with it.”

A moment later, the Moogle’s scribbling came to an end. “Uh huh. I’ll pass it on. The boss wanted to ask your group something though. We still don’t have anywhere to put the cars, and we don’t wanna make everyone drive all the way across the Land of Adventure again and again. So he was hopin’ you do some recon while in the Wilderness.”

“Another mission?” Nero considered it. Although his priorities lay with the Dead Zone and he didn’t want anyone wasting his abilities on busy work if he could help it, he couldn’t make any progress on his goal at the moment. Just about anything sounded better than another huge stretch of driving, too. “Vandham just want us to look around or something?”

Even with closed eyes, the Moogle looked bored, maybe even regretting a role where she had to explain so much. “I mean, kinda. He doesn’t want you wastin’ time fartin’ around empty space. Wants to check out the Rocket League Arena. Northwest. Maybe see if there’s any other points of interest.”

“Okay, I’ll tell the others.” Without further ado the two parted ways, the Moogle back to Alcamoth and Nero back to the van. Once everyone got back from their various breaks or other excursions, he mentioned the assignment, as well as the recommended locale. “We could ask the people here about other places,” he pointed out. “So let’s ask around. Grab a bite to eat, stock up on supplies, whatever. Then we’ll head out. Sound good?” He looked around the motley crew of angel, bear, bird, and schoolgirl, and wondered when he’d accepted the responsibility of chaperoning these people. He didn’t want to lead, but if he had to, he didn’t want his team going hungry.

Wildwood Glades

Location: Frozen Highlands
Linkle’s @Gentlemanvaultboy

Albedo observed the reaction Linkle’s contact with the rune caused with his interest piqued, although an explanation that readily sprang to mind removed a lot of mystique from the interaction. “These must be bone,” he observed, reaching the same conclusion that the Skull Heart provided to his companion. “Not human, of course.” Linkle’s request for him to smell the things bemused him, making him wonder if he should have stuck to the technically untrue but easy-to-understand concept of elemental sight after all. Does she think I’m a dog or something?

Still, he consented to examining the artifacts without a word, turning them over in his hands. “It’s faint, but I do think it bears traces of Hydro. Maybe these bones belonged to a sea creature before they were carved. There’s something else though, an unusual sort of magical signature, as subtle as it is strange. I’m afraid it’s beyond my power to identify.” With nobody around to suggest otherwise, he followed the example so earnestly set forth earlier by Linkle and pocketed the anomalous objects for further study.

The alchemist then watched his new friend free the captive grub, and though he might have wondered what purpose the bulbous creature served either in captivity here or in being released, the topic failed to interest him. Besides, if its disappearance into the earth meant that he’d missed his opportunity, what purpose did it serve to entertain idle what-ifs? A much more important matter still lay before him, and with it clear by now that the Witch spoke the truth in telling her guests that they’d find nothing here of value, both young blondes planned to move on.

“Modern…” Although a foreign concept to him originally, the idea had indeed taken form during his travels of the world, cultivated into not just an aesthetic but an identifiable sensibility by a sharp mind all too used to differentiation and categorization. This idea went beyond the fact that Survive or that hotel featured various remarkable devices capable of incredible feats of mathematics, utility, and convenience; rather, it was the incredibly nonchalant treatment of such things by those whose worlds they came from as totally mundane, when for comparatively less ‘modern’ worlds, such achievements would be looked upon with awe and even reverence. Making sense of the anachronistic World of Light was no mean feat, but Albedo understood enough of the modern perspective. “Not the dungeon, not by a long shot. It’s a dangerous place, buried and best left forgotten. The Mystic doesn’t fit either, and bears some thematic overlap with the monastery, anyway. The hospital, however…” Albedo ran a hand through his voluminous hair, brushing off the cave’s dust. “A term that refers to a large-scale establishment where many patients receive medical treatment. I did not like the look of that place, so I cannot say for certain, but I believe it best fits this idea of ‘modernity’.”

Having reached a decision, the duo began to retrace their steps. They left the witch’s cottage and its overseer turtle behind, but as soon as they reached vegetation they found out that their former host had left behind more parting gifts than lukewarm tea and stinging rebuke. Her hostility seemed to have seeped into the woodland itself, at least within a certain range, creating a nigh-impenetrable obstacle through which every step was a terrific hassle. Grass snares sprang up underfoot to grab and tie together one's feet, while vines and creepers dangled dangerously, just waiting to lunge at and wrap around unwary limbs before hauling their owners into the canopy, like fish on a line. Fruits and nuts rained down to pelt and splatter the duo, while roots rose to bar their way. Even if liberal use of Linkle’s cryomancy would do wonders for clearing the way, it was slow going until the two finally broke free of the witch’s domain and back into the forest proper, where her vengefulness held no dominion.

From there their objective became the flagline that brought them into the misted valley in the first place, since scaling the mountains by hand was a prospect that not even an undead would savor, let alone an ordinary human. With each crimson copse and wildflower runway rather similar and few landmarks to guide them, they ended up wandering a little despite continued attempts to get above the treeline and see what’s what. Luckily, they didn’t get too lost, and arrived back at the flagline quite early in the afternoon.

Before they could ascend, however, something else caught Linkle and Albedo’s attention. An ugly blot on the landscape drove their eyes away from the tree that anchored the flagline, since neither remembered it being here before. Their detour brought them to a sprawling patch of twisted black briars, with thorns the size of wolf fangs that blazed a fiery red toward the tips. As they circled around the mess, trying to make out the odd heap that lay crumpled beneath the briars like a dying animal, they spotted a familiar figure on the far side. “Mr. Tuley?” Albedo asked, recognizing not just the bearded little badger fellow sitting before him on a tree stump, but that there was something wrong. Tuley looked crestfallen, utterly devastated, slouching limply like a child’s toy, his cheeks tamp with tears. Around him were scraps of vegetation, ruined vegetables and discarded flower petals, amid a field of weeds. A lone, unused dagger lay in the brush a stone’s throw from the stump. Only then, following the gardener’s hollow gaze, did Albedo realize that the thorn-ridden wreck before him must be his home, destroyed as if by giant limbs like a galleon in the grip of a tentacled sea beast, and then viciously overgrown.

Already weighed down inside by a sinking feeling, Albedo asked, “Mr Tuley...what happened?”

Sniffing, the gardener looked up at the sky, as if to blot out the destruction that surrounded him. “It...it was ‘er. The witch. She said...said I shoulda kept my mouth shut. Then she...she went mad.” He gestured weakly at his surroundings. “Tore it all up. Replaced all my hard work with weeds and thorns.” His eyes watered up once again as he looked between Albedo and Linkle. “I...I don’ blame you or nothin’, it’s just...why?” Burying his face in his claws, he shook his head from side to side. “She’s always been kind to us li’l folks. What’d she ‘ave to go an’ do this for? All the power in the world to give and grow, an; she chooses to... I don’ understand what I was s’posed to do. She never said anythin’...why take it out on me? This place...this garden’s a part of me. I can’t...I can’t…”

Tuley lapsed briefly into muted sobs, unable to speak any further until a little comfort helped him pull himself together. Then he cleared his throat and glared at the knife in front of him. “The witch said she’d put everythin’ right back to how it was if I cut the rope once you left. But I’m not about to throw myself on the mercy o’ someone so cruel. Wouldn’t be the same anyhow. Not the house I built, not the garden I grew.”

The realization that this little old badger had an infinitely stronger moral fiber than a supposed goddess almost made Albedo laugh out loud, though not quite. Even he, a stranger to social convention, knew that now was not the time to be insensitive. Still, he couldn't deny that this tragedy lit a fire inside him, and he felt rather positive that Linkle's burned far brighter. If the encounter at the witch's hut didn't make Freya's character clear, this certainly did; she would do whatever she could to accomplish her goals, even if it meant traumatize and manipulate a helpless old gardener. "You're a fine fellow, Mr. Tuley," he said simply. "Maybe we could arrange for you to stay in Goat Village? The townsfolk seem friendly, and could help you cultivate a new garden." As Tuley said, one couldn't simply replace what had been taken from him, but maybe this could help him move forward. Or maybe Linkle had a better idea.
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Hidden 9 mos ago Post by Dawnrider
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Member Seen 3 mos ago

Level: 7 (38 -> 39/70)
Location: Edge of the Blue - Bottomless Sea -> The Maw -> Carcass Isle
Word Count: 572 (+1 EXP)

Hat: Default
Item: Necro Smasher (Loan)

If there was anything worse than deliriously waking up shipwrecked on a storm-sodden beach facedown with a mouthful of wet sand, it was shortly finding out soon after your senses adjusted that the mouthful of sand you just spat out had been blackened and saturated with a visibly long history’s worth of decay. Hat Kid practically retched to clear her lungs of salt water and mouth of putrescent earth before the realization fully reached her, thereafter prompting further involuntary expulsive response. The good news, considering, was that she had a none too generous supply of rainwater to wash the rest of the fouled, muddy grit from her tongue, palate and cheeks with, going so far as to submerge her face agape into her flooded top hat after the first couple of spit rinses failed to suffice. Better still was that she managed to escape the Maw with life and limb intact, with psyche being a matter of probable debate that perhaps time alone would warrant. Naturally, the story of her time aboard the nightmare vessel circumstantially differed from that of her travel companions as a consequence of their separation early on into it, and she wasn’t sure if it was a story she would ever care to tell. What was another Diary entry left blank?

Lucky enough to be afforded a chance at having more days ahead of her, hopefully far better than the one she was having (for it would be hard to make for one worse), she couldn't complain. Well… at the moment she could, actually. Things were, frankly, terrible, but who among them could stand to hear it, even if she cared to voice their shared discontent? Beaching the colossal submarine of horrors on a desolate isle of death and rot was her 'brilliant' idea, after all. Though, she didn't have the best track record of safely guiding ships over sea, thus didn't trust herself to venture it back after coming this far, or trust the Maw to peacefully dock anywhere. So the only conceivable outcome happened to be the closest to ideal, for what that was worth. Where better for something like THAT to end up than where things go to die? Neither it, nor any culpable body aboard it, deserved a fate any better.

The last forlornly pensive gaze she cast upon the Maw held a sense of triumphant vindication for having personally seen to it meeting its ultimate end. As if to say her good riddances, she spitefully spat her last swig at the ground facing the ship's direction before turning away to take her first steps ashore away from it, on her way to anywhere else. To find out exactly where that would be, she needed the internal waypoint finder provided by her Hat, minding not the near gallon of water she emptied on her head donning it. It wasn't like she could get any more soaked than she already was. Still, that was no reason she had to linger in the lighter (but still monsoon-esque) portion of megahurricane weather, so she took her place among the survivors of Blue Team beneath the first patch of shelter they could find. She would sit for at least long enough to (try to) relax, regain her bearings and confirm their heading while they were out of the rain, all the while playing a soothing, familiar tune in her head in a quiet effort to ease her nerves.
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Hidden 9 mos ago 9 mos ago Post by Zoey Boey
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Member Seen 2 hrs ago

Level 6: 27/60
Location: The Maw: The Stage -> Carcass Isle
Word Count: 1347
Points Gained: 3 +15
New EXP Balance--- Level 6 : 45/60

Kasugano Sakura looked down at her child body, wishing it would change back to normal. Still, with the Lady nothing more than ash, she was just happy they had finally freed this place of its terrible leader. Even if seeing that cruel Larry as a helpful striker gave Sakura the creeps, at least it was better than nothing. Adrenaline faded, the roar in her ears dulled. But she felt...good. Hopefully Ryu-san wouldn't be disappointed in her for finding joy in the death of another person. Even if the act of killing would never get easier for her, the consequences of the Lady's death were surely nothing but positive. Though even Ryu-san would agree to take the life of a truly evil person if there were no other options, considering his track record with M. Bison. He'd blown the evil dictator the hell up a couple times.

Once inside evil Lady HQ, they could see the entire Maw on the various screens. "What a rotten place." Sakura surmised.

There, they encounted a very strange man doing something very strange with magic. As he said he wasn't doing anything while clearly doing something, Sakura couldn't help but smile. He was like a character from a european fairy tale. He made her want to say 'What an odd fellow, indeed!' or something like that.

"Keeping the lights on? You don't have to worry anymore, Mister. The lady has been defea- WOAAAH!" Sakura tumbled forward as the entire Maw jolted. Sakura grunted, "Nngh!", As her back slammed into the railing. "Owie!"

Her friends quickly concluded that they were about to crash. "Oh, no!" Sakura held onto the railing tight. But as the Maw hit the sea bed, she bounced hard off the railing, soared breathlessly through the air, and smacked into the wall. "Uaaah!" Shouting in pain, she felt herself fall and get taken by the tide.

Sakura's rocked head had no time or energy for dreams. The girl, now back to her young adult self, was soaked to the core. If nothing else, while cradled in Bella's arms, her sleeping expression looked peaceful. Her cat tail and ears had returned, though both were limp.

"Nnh...ooh...itaiii..." She groaned, stirring to life, her eyes shifting under her lids. Her ears twitched. Coughing up some extra salt-water, she turned her head to the side away from Bella. Fortunately, as a street fighter, waking up after getting her ass kicked wasn't exactly an unknown phenomenon. Sakura brought a hand up to her pounding head and cracked one eye open. Unusually, she found she was pretty comfortable. As she observed the area around her, she found she was basically being hugged by Bella. It was always a bit embarassing to be unconscious in front of others, as it was impossible to maintain one's dignity in such a state. Just a senseless ragdoll that has to be dragged and carried everywhere. The very definition of a burden.

"Oh...hey, Bella-san." She said quietly, straightening herself out. Shivering a little, she let out a shaky breath. They were all gathered under a little shelter, on the least fun looking beach Sakura had ever seen.

Blinking slowly, the gears in her mind began to restart. She saw everyone gathered around the shelter, using each other for warmth. Reading the mood, she instinctively surmised that all of her friends were account for. Moving her head away from Bella, she looked up at her. "Hey, you're- you're back to normal. That's great, that's really great." Sakura rubbed her eyes.

"...Back to normal?!" Sakura shot up into a full sitting position, glancing down at her form once again. She was back! While Araisho was still lending her some of her strengths and weaknesses and her outfit, there was no doubt Sakura was back to her old, athletic self.

"Ya-ttaaaaa!" With a triumphant shout, she kip-upped to her feet. "We made it, we really made it!" As if pure elation and relief washed away all her pain, she ran out onto the carcass ridden beach like it was sandy and sunny. She dropped onto her hands and knocked out twenty perfect form push-ups in twenty seconds. Then sprang off the ground, back to her feet, and jumped fifteen feet into the air, flipping backwards before landing back on the beach light as a feather. The only thing that slowed her down was her harness. Testing it out, she went to fire it into the sea. There was a small cannon shot, and it splashed into the rocky waves. Next, she gathered her hands and fired off a mighty blue fireball into the ocean, the force carving through the water before dispersing. "Yosh."

Her excited energy was subdued by the sheer horror of the wasteland around her. Smiling nervously, she rubbed the back of her head. "Oh, man. Woah." Chilled in the rain, she saw the submerged Maw, gargantuan, in the distance. "I don't think all those people escaped."

Arms drifting to her sides, she let her eyes drift over the decay and rot. Thinking about all the people that didn't make it out. Carl, Glenn, Duerage...so many. Too many. The crash probably destroyed the sushi chef, too. Even the clothes she was wearing now was a result of the death of a stranger. But now these losses only strengthened her resolve. Gazing up at the grey, thick clouds above, she was surprised to find herself emboldened. She wasn't going to give up. Not now, not ever. After being so thoroughly humiliated and helpless for such a long time in the Maw, the street fighter had a chip on her shoulder. Now that she could help others again, she would. It was as simple as that.

Sakura returned to the group, a resolute, contented look on her face. "Sorry I kinda ran off there. We're using each other for heat, right?" Sakura sat back down next to Bella.

Rubbing her hands together, Sakura took deep, slow breathes. Heat built in her core. Blowing into her palms, she extended them outward and summoned the warmth of the Hado. Despite it's appearance as a blue, flame-like energy, it wasn't actually hot enough to burn. Instead, the temperature of her fireballs matched Sakura's own body temperature. The warmth wasn't much, and didn't have a great deal of range, but it was pleasant compared to the chill. Sakura crouch-walked from Seeker to Seeker, offering what little warmth she could. Especially to the ones who were just waking up, and Hat Kid.

Once most of everyone was gathered, Sakura spoke. "I still have a bit of a headache. But I'm ready to go when you guys are. I don't think anything can be tougher than the Maw, so I'm ready to get out there and kick some ass. Plus, this beach smells awful. I can't imagine the inland smells any better but...I mean, we'll never know until we try."

She pulled at the collar of her off-shoulder shirt, and twitched one of her ears. "I suppose I'll keeping borrowing Araisho-san's power for now. I might ask you to take it away from me later, Peach-san, just so I can be fully myself again. But there's a pretty big chance I might need to use the water-walk ability at some point, right?" She shrugged, speaking mostly to herself at the end.

Still happy at her hard-earned strength being returned to her, Sakura crouched on one leg only, letting her other leg hang horizontally in the air. Like a piece of perfectly balanced one legged furniture, she stuck her tongue out slightly and concentrated. While she could normally hold this pose for an entire day, the harness still attached to her body dragged her back down into a sitting position after a few minutes. Still, it was far, far, FAR better than before. Blue fire between her hands she hopped around underneath the shelter, continuing to share her paltry warmth.

"But, man! As bad and sad as this beach is, compared to that stupid boat? It's a vacation."

Sakura stood up straight as she heard an unfamiliar voice. Turning around, she spotted a handsome American man approaching, carrying firewood. And he didn't look like someone who lived on an island like this. too friendly, and his fashion was all avant garde punk stuff.

"Hello!" She waved cheerily over to him, hand still emitting some blue energy. "Yeah, we got room. We're, uh, survivors of a ship crash. We're all a bit cold and wet, so I think we would be very grateful for the firewood. I'm Sakura, by the way!"
Hidden 9 mos ago Post by Archmage MC
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Archmage MC

Member Seen 3 days ago

Level 9 Blazermate - (62/90)
Carcass Isle

It was over, the Lady lay 'dead' in front of the group, and blue team had control of the maw. While she thought they might have to fight the onlookers afterwords, none of them seemed to really care the lady had died, applauding all the same. Making sure no one could become a new lady, Blazermate grabbed the spirit as the others were regaining their senses and crushed it, as if in retribution for almost getting crushed by said lady.

Following hat kid, the group made their way to the helm of the maw, which was already making its way to the location of the area boss. And while they did manage to land on that island, it wasn't the best of ways to land as a weird mage made the maw crash into a very ghastly island full of corpses and other macaab things.

Blazermate didn't land in the most dignified positions, being face first and waist deep in some muck and being there for quite some time until she was pulled out by Nadia, now fully grown. Blazermate noticed that she too had her previous enhancements since entering the maw as well, and when she looked at Geralt, he was back to normal too! Well 'normal' for abosrbing a giant spirit and being a giant himself now. Nadia, in a bit of a panic, asked Blazermate to help her search for the others, which the medabot did. Her scanners let her pick up people that were half buried like her far easier, as well as heal those who were injured either way.
Hidden 9 mos ago Post by TruthHurts22
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Member Seen 1 hr ago

18/20 EXP

Location: Sandswept Sky - Tostarena Town


There was a twinge of jealously towards Midna, the imp-y girl able to float, fly, hover, and other air-based verbs, while Raz's own ability to levitate was still out of his reach. If only there were some other Psychonauts around that could, maybe, take a look in there? Dislodge a few things, perhaps? Though given how powerful this Galeem seemed to be, it was probably easier said than done. That wasn't even getting into any possible long-term consequences of being under its influence and Raz didn't feel like opening that can of worms.

"Do you want some?" Raz rooted around his jacket's pocket, pulling out a small handful of golden coins. "Even though I was more of a PR stunt back in Al Mamoon, I still got paid for the job, so I've got a bit to spend. Here." He handed the money off to Midna, giving her a little nod. "Don't worry, I've got more on me."

Looking to the Phantom Thieves, Raz sighed. "It'd be a lot simpler if I could use Pyrokinesis," he said, mostly to himself. "Then I could keep us all a lot warmer." Whatever that could mean was a question to be answered another time, since Raz decided then to split off from the group. "I'm gonna go see if there's anything useful around here!" He called over his shoulder, hurrying off into Tostarena Town proper. It was a half-truth. If Raz found something to help on the climb, that'd be a bonus, but really the feeling of being out of his depth, and out of his league, was starting to get to him. He was used to having to surmount impossible odds and stop the world from ending or just things getting really bad. This whole Galeem business, though, was a different kind of impossibility.

Psychic death tanks? Raz understood those. Brain theft? Easy! An otherworldly, uber-powerful godlike figure that can make whole worlds and impose its will on people's thoughts? That was above his paygrade.

Wrapped up in his worries, Raz wandered the town, not really paying attention to where, until he ended up heading inside one of the many shops this tourist stop had. By a seeming twist of fate, this shop was the same as Ellie ducked into, though Raz walked right past the girl on his way inside. His mind-reading was on the fritz, too, which really tanked his spatial awareness.

"...hope they don't end up leaving without me," Raz muttered, half hoping that they ended up leaving without him. Probable deniability and all. As he was looking at what this store had to offer, a thought struck him, making him perk up considerably. "Oh, I totally forgot!" Raz was probably one of the more normal looking members of the group to Ellie, but what he did next would definitely shatter that idea. He dug out his bacon from his backpack and waved it next to his ear for a good few seconds. And then the oddly-shaped head of Ford Cruller grew from that side of his head, like a weird mushroom, with only a small stagger from the boy.

"I'll just take a few strips of that sweet bacon..." Ford said in a bacony trance, quick to snap back to reality. "Ah, Razputin! I was wonderin' what ya been up to."

"Ford! You won't believe what I ended up discovering."

"Won't I? I'm in your head for cryin' out loud, whatever you see, I can see too! Not that I, uh, peek around in there often, of course."

Brushing aside that remark, Raz pressed forward, not caring how this might look to an outsider. "If you and I are here, does that mean others are too? Milla, or Sasha, or Lili, they could be out there somewhere!"

"Could be," Ford responded, "but the world's a big place, Razputin. I wouldn't get too excited about runnin' into 'em. They can handle themselves, you should focus on yerself now. Can't have ya dying up on that mountain."

"Yes, sir," Raz said, like the elderly man growing out of his noggin was a stern teacher. With their little debriefing concluded, Ford disappeared back into Raz's head, leaving him to continue browsing the shop, unaware that anyone might've overheard.

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Hidden 9 mos ago 9 mos ago Post by DracoLunaris
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DracoLunaris Multiverse tourist

Member Seen 3 days ago

The Koopa Troop

wordcount: 1,571 (+3) (+15)
Bowser: Level 10 EXP: //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (93/100)
Bowser Jr: Level 8 EXP: /////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (116/80)
Kamek: Level 9 EXP: ////////////////////////////////// ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////(33/90)
Location: Bottomless Sea – Gateon Port - Carcass Isle
Feat: Rika

It was over. Or it was supposed to be anyway. The cursed prince silently raged as it became clear that the death of the malevolent mistress of the Maw was not going to undo its bayful polymorphs, leaving them all still trapped by her and her minion’s magics despite their demise. In the end there was nothing really for it but to move forwards once more and pray salvation lay on the bridge of the ship. The dancers in the dark were joined by the last remaining chef bro, baring the spirits of his fallen comrades.

The bridge, sadly, did not hold a cure (only some stranger who seems to be acting like a living battery for the vessel) but it did have one bit of good news onboard. It turned out that the hat wearing child had really been all over while they struggled through the Maw, to the extent that she had already commandeered the bridge and turned it towards their destination. Unfortunately, it looked like the kid was something of a jinx when it came to piloting.

”So, is crashing ships just a thing for you kid or...?” Bowser asked Hat-kid, casually referring to the state of her own ship as the Maw began to share its fate, the vessel running aground with the shallows around their destination and beginning to violently shake apart beneath their feet

”Oh no, not again! not again!” Was Kamek's far less relaxed response as he hurriedly glanced around for an exit as the Maw went the way of so many a koopa airship and began to crash after its boss was defeated. Lacking his trusty broom which would normally get him out of this kind of mess, he ended up pulling himself and Jr towards the closest thing akin to a lifeboat onboard the cursed vessel (Rika) right before everything went to hell.

Calling what Rika had done to save the two smaller koopas ‘holding’ was generous, due to her hands being too constrained to really hold anything while wearing her gauntlets. Instead, the two (still rather small even back at their old sizes) turtles were found clinging to her waist where they were straight up lashed to her body via Hook’s chain. Undignified? Yes. But it meant that the ship girl had been able to focus her everything into guarding them all from shrapnel with her gauntlets and righting herself, rather than on holding onto the pair and increasing the risk of getting sunk by the carnage in the process. She got thanks from Kamek for her aid and childish insistence that he ”Would have been fine” from a red faced Jr as they were released to the blighted shores upon which the Maw had run aground.

The rest of the troop not lashed together had been scattered all over said beach, and finding them all had its fair shares of relief and tragedies.

Bowser was found awkwardly trying and failing to climb down from the back of a massive whale with Peach in his arms, the king looking over the edge and failing to find a bit of ground he trusted to survive the impact of him just jumping down. It was a situation that was resolved with the princess extracted herself from his unwelcome grasp and parasol floated down to join the others on her own, leaving the king free to cat claw slide down the side of it. The resulting mess marring his temporary fur was rapidly lost to the rain.

Mimi was found cowering under Jr’s clown car (both having become separated from the prince during his return to his old self midway through the crash) her state an early warning of the lingering effect the Maw had had on the Troop. She practically threw herself at Jr when he discovered her, the little mon taking back her spot at his shoulder despite the lashing rain. The clown car, still dead from whatever had knocked out all their electronics, was going to need some work to reboot, and so it was hauled back and left by the impromptu camp along with Hook.

The fate of the final chef bro was found in a cluster of four softly glowing spirits, which Jr claimed for his army of strikers.

Finally, of Tyrant there was no sign, nor any of the other of his ilk: BB. The prince’s pig had fled into the dark during the battle with the lady, so it was unclear where he had been even before the crash. That didn't stop Jr from searching and trying to call out to the beast, though a certain lingering fear meant he insisted he be accompanied in his attempt, by Kamek in this case.

”Young master, we should take a break. You’ll catch a cold if we don't get out of this rain soon” Kamek, once again old and now really feeling his age thanks to their brush with youth, suggested after they had been at it for a while.

”But-” Jr attempted to protest, only to be interpreted by the sodden false head of Mimi bapping against his cheek. The picture of drenched misery staring up at him from his shoulder caused him to reflect on his own soaking state and to reconsider what he was doing. ”-fine” he conceded, not happy with just leaving the Baby Behemoth out there, but understanding that he collapsed from the cold there’d be no finding him.

Kamek sighed with relief before optimistically suggesting that ”Perhaps your father has managed to start a fire by now? That will be a relief. It won't do for us to freeze to death after all we’ve been through after all”

His optimism was misplaced. They returned just as Delsin showed his face and offered firewood. Sakura gladly accepted, while Bowser merely huffed that ”Not going to help though. Nothing here wants to catch!” before demonstrated by flame roasting a sodden pile of ship junk he’d collected, and getting nothing but smoke for his efforts. Not that his firewood was exactly a choice collection, he had just ripped bits of nearby sailing ship up and dumped unceremoniously on the ground and believed that with enough flame anything would burn. In this he was wrong.

”If we could get out of the rain, that might help. So hold onto that for us would you, whoever you are” Kamek suggested as the sodden mage walked right by the man, entirely unafraid of the stranger, using his drooping broomstick as a walking stick, and followed closely by Jr.

“Only place with an inside is the Ship” Rika pointed out, nodding back to the sinking Maw “I don't think going back is a good idea” despite the fact she was entirely capable of doing so, she was loath to go back to it on her own “for anything other than checking for survivors?”

”The other ships are junk too,” Jr complained, glancing round at the wrecked sailing ships ”So I guess we’re just stuck here? On this soaking wet ship scrap heap”

”We’ve still got the airship” Bowser pointed out offhandedly, and was immediately pressed by the rest of the Troop, who had not know this ,on as to why he hasn't shared this information before, to which his awkward back of the head scratching reply was ”Well, uh, it came back in my hands when I turned back, but it was the ship or Peach so...”

A few minutes after that revelation, the shrunken airship had been hauled up out of the surf by Bowser and Kamek’s magically summoned minions, dumped next to their impromptu campsite and resized back to its true dimensions by the magi-Koopa. The brief spot of hope for escape (or at least benign able to turn the heating on) was dashed a few moments later when it became clear that something was foiling up the drive core of the ship, and it wasn't anything internal.

”There’s something off with mana in this place. I can feel off somehow, though I can't exactly say why” Kamek concluded after he and the prince had had a look at the arcane engine of the vessel.

”What does that even mean? Does it hate ships or something?” Jr asked, before the two glanced outside at the ship graveyard, shared a look, and gave up on the vessel as a means of escape for now.

What it had provided was somewhere out of the rain that would fit them all, namely the cargo bay, and some dry-ish material in the form of a torn up mattress that Bowser ended up combining with Delsin’s firewood in an attempt to give them some kind of heat that wasn't burning his (or Jr’s) stamina reserves for a quick blast of fire.

As far as food and rations were concerned, it turned out most of those had been left on Shippy, an oversight that left them with basically the continents of Jr’s clown car’s glove box for sustenance, something the prince was loath to share. Car sweet weren't exactly a meal either, but a bit of sugar might take them going a little bit longer while Bowser worked on the fire (to which he ended up added 2 molotov cocktails worth of gasoline after finding those in his pockets). As he did Jr worked on using Mimi as a spark plug to restart his clown-car while Kamek and Rika mostly just tired to get dry and warm, which resulted in the former abyssal sitting with her diminutive first friend sitting in her lap, while the porcelain doll she’d impulsive carried all the way out of the Maw leaning against her side with the unused winged key sitting in its lap.
Hidden 9 mos ago 9 mos ago Post by Yankee
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Yankee God of Typos

Member Seen 2 days ago

Word Count: 1028 (+2 exp)(+15 collab)
Level: 8 - Total EXP: 50/80
Location: Edge of the Blue - The Maw

Consciousness came slowly to the monster hunter. Blackness gave way to gray, and numbness gave way to ache. Spatial awareness faded in, and the Cadet could tell he was sitting up even if he couldn't see it. His eyelids were crusted shut with sea salt, and the effort to open them was too great at the moment. Everything felt heavy. There was something slick on the back of his neck. ...am I bleeding? His thoughts came slowly too, but once they'd caught up they wouldn't stop.

He remembered that they had all headed to the Maw's helm, still stuck in their child bodies. That the Maw's course had been altered thanks to a certain Seeker. That there was a man in iron cuffs, and that the Maw had struck the sea bed.

And then...? Well the whole sub must have run aground. It would have been disastrous. Wherever he was now, the smell was almost worse than the Rotten Vale - there must be corpses around. He really needed to wake up and check things out.

But the Cadet was cold and damp, making him sluggish. His limbs felt heavy and there was something pressed up against his side. There were familiar voices speaking softly around him, so maybe others of the group were all okay and had woken up first. Fighting through the last of the fog clouding his mind, the Cadet let out a stuttering sigh and raised the arm that wasn't currently draped over something to scrub at his eyes. He reached toward the back of his neck, but his hand found just wet hair - longer than he recalled having - tickling his nape. No blood, which was lucky. Wait... The Cadet blinked at his hand, where it was covered by a thick leather glove and green scale vambraces.

He was suddenly very aware of his whole adult body, including the ship girl rigging he'd obtained by fusing with Jamaica.

"Holy jumping jaggis," he breathed, "we're back to normal." Or at the very least back to their pre-Maw selves. The Ace Cadet let his head drop backwards in relief, and knocked it on the coral shelf behind him. "Ow."

Now fully awake, he could see a majority of the group gathering under the makeshift shelter. Sakura, Bella, Mirage, Hat Kid, Rika, Bowser, Peach, Kamek, and Junior... he didn't seem Blazermate, Link, or Geralt just yet, but out of everyone those three were pretty tough, they would probably be back soon. Those that were gathered all looked back to normal too. Further attempts to move showed that the "something" pressed into his said was Nadia, tucked under one of his arms. Though his awakening was not as animated as Sakura's, the allayment of the Maw's dismal pressure and the sheer relief that they'd escaped brokered a smile on his face despite their losses. He squeezed Nadia into a strong one armed hug. "We made it pawtner."

Sure they were soaked, cold and shivering, but they had made it out.

And now they just had to stay alive. It would be very lame if they were beaten by the elements of all things. The Cadet couldn't truthfully say he was a survivalist, but he knew a thing or two. His second priority though, after confirmed that everyone was alright, was checking his gear.

He'd trapped Nadia in the hug for longer than he'd intended. Hopefully untangling himself from her wasn't too painful, given not just his rough armor but the rigging and weapons strapped to his person. Frankly he was amazed that his equipment all seemed to make it. Maybe they'd returned to normal after the impact had settled? The greatbow was whole, all of his arrows were intact, and his swords were looking okay too. Well, the blade of the Master Bang could use a sharpening. He'd get to that in a moment. Even that hammer nestled in his belt was still there. He flexed the ship rigging, and found that everything was still working properly. The blades there would need some touching up too though.

After making sure his livelihood, the weapons he carried, were fine the Cadet practically ripped off one of his gloves and vambraces. His arm was totally normal, back to the post-fusion slightly darker shade with no enlarged pores to be seen. To be safe he tried flexing it a couple of times and nothing usual happened. Phew. He re-donned the armor, the armor skills meaning he'd recover any dings or scrapes soon enough. Finally, he checked his items.

"I don't know if I've got anything fire-worthy," he stated, sifting through various coatings, powders, and other miscellaneous items he had. All were water logged. They definitely must have reverted at some point after the crash was over, because otherwise his vials and jars of potions would have all completely shattered. As it was, a couple had cracks running through their glass containers but he counted it a win that not all was lost.

About that time they were approached by a stranger. The Ace Cadet peeked out of their campsite, looking around at the desolate beach, ruined ships and buildings, and sea creatures corpses. Were there actually other people in a place like this?? Regardless the Cadet motioned the man over once he got a few approvals by the others.

"I guess we warm up a little, and once everyone wakes up or gets back we can head further in, gather what we can." He glanced at the bodies of the creatures again, curious as to how they weren't huge piles of ash but more curious about what they could be used for, but he didn't want to be carrying a bunch of body parts around with unknown dangers sure to be lurking about. Most looked too rotted to be good for food either. Ugh, food... the Cadet was sure his usual appetite would come back quickly, but so soon after the Maw he didn't want to think about it. He sat back down next to Nadia, rolling his shoulders. He looked to Delsin, questioning him. "How long have you been here? Do you know what's around the area? Place looks totally dead..."

Word Count: 798 (+2 exp)
Level: 6 - Total EXP: 48/60
Location: Sandswept Sky

𝙱𝙿 ●●●●
ft. Lugubrious
The conversation with Robin on the train proved both fruitful and unexpected.

"Ah, yes..." Both Robin's face and voice took a more serious turn as he recognized just what Primrose meant. He slid his hands into his pockets. "Actually, I had wondered if anyone might question that. On my own it could have been mistaken for an ability unique to me, but when Tharja followed suit, it certainly begged the question, didn't it?"

Realizing that his preamble might be mistaken for avoiding question, the tactician cleared his throat and proceeded. "Well, I don't know too much about it. I am no scholar, with no interest in magic beyond how it can benefit me and mine during battle. It was several weeks ago that I saw it used--an astonishing, overwhelming power. I didn't realize it at the time, but that aura bears a striking visual similarity to that of someone about to use a Final Smash." He waved his hand as if to put any new questions on hold. "Before you ask, I participated in a multi-world tournament some time ago. In that tournament, a glowing orb would occasionally appear during matches, and whoever broke it would gain the power to use a Final Smash. These are essentially reality-bending all-out attacks, unique to every individual. And it would seem that in this world, that power lurks within us all, no orb required."

As he laid his hand over his heart, his expression darkened. "But that doesn't mean they incur no cost. What I saw led me to believe that the price of a Final Smash is the user's own life. After putting one's whole being into an attack... not even a spirit remained." He shuddered despite the desert heat. "I dare not consider the implications. In that moment of desperation, no price seemed too high... but if I had gone through with it, things could have turned out so, so much worse." Robin shook his head with a sigh.

The information surprised Primrose. That tournament Robin mentioned she'd seen sort of first hand, or at least something similar during her time at the Alcamoth, but she'd never seen the orbs he spoke of during the exhibitions there. Regardless, she had confirmed that the power was one accessible to her - at a steep cost. That put a damper on any thoughts she might have had about harnessing it. "...I see," she said after a moment. It had seemed incredibly dangerous when faced with it in the temple, but knowing it went for both the user and their opponent was not exactly a comfort. At least they could be on the lookout for something like that in the future though, and they wouldn't be caught off guard. She told the pair as much, and thanked them for the information before parting.

It was a thing to ponder, the "Final Smash." She wondered if there would ever be a situation she could see herself using such a power in, but none came to mind. Her drive was too strong to sacrifice herself. Eventually the information was tucked into place in her brain, and she relaxed for the rest of the ride.

The town they pulled into was warm and colorful, even with the daunting loom of the mountain surrounding it. This close up, the climb seemed tougher than ever. Maybe she should have prepared more for that part, and not just the cold part. Raz brought up a good point about boots, and the dancer agreed with Midna that this being a tourist town surely they had recreational gear. "I wonder if the gold passes would work all the way out here, if this town falls under Al Mamoon's jurisdiction..."

A question for Ciella perhaps, but the captain didn't seem like the type to want to entertain mundane questions like that. Best to leave her alone and just try it out.

Primrose waved Raz off as he went to explore. With a group as large as theirs, it seemed impossible not to be able to find each other after splitting up. This town was much smaller than the city they'd just left after all. Eventually after sorting out everyone's inventory, she went along with a couple of others to the sports shop. "We'll meet you all soon for lunch," she called back to rest of the group. Some good footwear would suffice, and getting it sooner rather than later might give her some time to practice dancing in them. Primrose noted that there were some small crowds gathered, chattering about a musical act and wondering where the girl playing for them had gone, and figured that just like any town public performances would be a decent way to raise funds once her own supply had run out. Hopefully not too soon though.

Word Count: 390 (+1 exp)
Level: 2 - Total EXP: 9/20
Location: Paved Wilderness: Hammerhead

The angel flitted out of the van, very much appreciating the sunshine. Whatever was going on with that rain, it was super dangerous. The droplets of water, or whatever it really was, had stung his skin and feathers, but he'd made out better than the others who'd ended up with spots of wrinkles and gray hairs. One of the perks of being a long lived angel. He jumped up onto the top of the van, plopping down cross legged and stretching his wings in front of him to inspect them. He ran his fingers through his feathers, feeling for any damage. His wings, while not exactly delicate, were really important to take care of! The spots the aging rain had touched had subtle difference in texture, but otherwise it seemed fine.

While Yuri and Nero split off, Pit kicked back and laid on the roof of the vehicle. He folded his arms behind his head and one leg over the other. "Wonder how anyone's supposed to get by that," he said, thinking aloud. He couldn't imagine anyone with a normal human's lifespan getting through the storm. Maybe if they moved really, really fast...

Well, they'd cross that bridge when they got to it. Or someone would. Pit would definitely join the strike team once they figured out a way to reach the Qlip-thing without everyone turning old. As it turned out though, Vandam had another assignment in mind for the interim.

"So like exploring?" Pit asked after Nero explained what the Moogle had told him. Pit was no scout, but honestly it beat hanging around Smash City and doing nothing but patrols. Plus, technically, the mission they'd just been on was just to check out what was going on in the Dead Zone anyway. So... maybe he was a scout!

"Sounds good to me!" he said with a grin. That arena looked exciting, so it would be fun to scope it out. Though there were plenty of crashes and explosions that they'd passed too, maybe not the safest place for cars. He hopped down from his perch, stretching his arms over his head. "I'm sure there's some interesting places around. Since the world is mashed up, we could turn a corner and find robots, or aliens, or anything." He started off toward town to see what they could find out.
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Hidden 9 mos ago Post by Zoey Boey
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Member Seen 2 hrs ago

Level 5: 24/50
Word Count: 571
Location: Tostarena Town
Points Gained: 1
NEW EXP balance--- Level 5: 25/50

Jesse compressed her lip, impressed, nodding at Midna. "All right, good to know." That sounded handy.

(Think of all the lawn flamingoes we could carry around with us if I had a power like that.)

As for Tora's training proposition, Jesse elected not to participate. Obviously her bullets would bounce off Tora's shield if she just stood there and shot them at it. And she did not feel like ripping up pieces of the Railway Gun and throwing it at Tora. Probably a bad call.

"This place is pretty great." Jesse concluded after their warm welcome. Looked like it was Dia de Los Muertos all year round. The oncoming mountain with the boss apparently near the top, was an intimidating sight. Hopefully the bad guy's hide out was obvious. If it wasn't, the main issue was going to be finding the damn thing.

(Think you could help us out with that, Polaris?) A glowing blue ring appeared over her vision, illuminating the distant mountain peak. (You're the best.)

"Five hundred miles high?" Jesse said to Big Band. "We'll have to pack our space suits."

Raz, the big-eyed kid, asked a question about snow shoes, and Midna answered. "Of course they have snow shoes. If only people lived directly in snowy areas sold snow shoes, how would people who needed snow shoes by them?" She tapped her temple and widened her eyes, like she was revealing eldritch truths to Midna and Raz. As people started to disperse, Jesse stuffed her hands in her pockets and huffed. Another new town. Rolling in on a heavily armored gun train and hopping out like a band of goons. Navigating social spaces in these extraordinary circumstances was very strange. This was a mass mind affecting AWE of unprecedented scale. All of these eyes on them and their group- made her a little uncomfortable. Jesse was used to either being in charge, or being a nobody. Now, she wasn't quite either one. Plus, the feeling of being watched in public brought back unpleasant feelings.

As she loosely trailed behind Raz, not wanting anyone to leave that weird kid by himself, he did something very odd. A head came out of his head, and he began to talk to it.

"Mkay." Jesse said flatly, filing a mental note in her head. Raz seemed none the wiser to how attention getting his little bacon conversation was. Instinctively, Jesse covered for him, scanning the nearby shops, carts, and crowds. Some comedically traumatized part of her brain had her looking out for the 'men in black' that observed her for almost half her life.

Instead, she saw a girl, probably early teens, who was remarkable for a couple reasons. One, she looked like she was being sneaky. She probably would have gone unnoticed if Jesse hadn't followed Raz in. And two, she looked...really, really normal? Like someone Jesse might see walking down the street back on Earth. Probably with a parent or guardian, or atleast a gaggle of other teenagers. Instead she seemed to be by herself. And maybe concerned? Understandably so.

She gave a little wave to Ellie (though Jesse didn't know her name yet) and smiled apologetically, trying to get her attention without being threatening. "Hey there. Uh. Sorry about the...theatrics. We're new in town. Subtley isn't really our thing, apparently." She shrugged.

"If it helps, we're just passing through. Kind of on a mission." The Director said. Jesse Faden was a human woman in her late twenties, wearing casual if practical clothing, and red hair tied into a loose bun.
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Hidden 9 mos ago Post by Potemking
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Potemking Command Grab / Bottom Text

Member Seen 3 mos ago

LOCATION: Sandswept Sky - Tostarena Town
WORD COUNT: 815 (+2)

All the while as Tora tried to train himself, Mao spent his time distancing from the situation and instead just watching the desert fly by as their transport went along. Aurox, taking Tora's invitation as a welcoming to kill him and wanting to use his ears to swing him around like a tubby club, found utter disgust in the idea of not taking up the offer to beat the crap out of him. Mao refused for a number of reasons, though one he wouldn't admit was Tora's health. One he would admit, however, he that he didn't trust Aurox to not 'rip the stuffing out' as he succinctly put it in one of his arguments for taking the fight. Was it unproductive? Yes, but it also kept things from escalating in a way that wasn't in his favor.

"WE COULD THROW HIM OFF THE TRAIN." Aurox commented in an attempt to coax Mao from within his mind.

"He'd probably roll all the way back to Al Mamoon." The overlord replied aloud, not wanting to have to go back and get him. "I wasted enough time there, we don't need to make a return trip for the tub of lard."

Aurox though about this for a moment, before shifting his offer: "WE COULD THROW HIM UNDER THE TRAIN."

Mao went silent for a moment, hand raising to his chin in thought. "Maybe we'll see some roadkill on the way." Aurox found amusement in the fact it wasn't an outright refusal of the concept, knowing Mao was momentarily entertaining the idea at least mentally. Thankfully for the overlord, as well as his general standing with the group, such a thing wouldn't be coming to light anytime soon.

Having not cared much for the idea of stopping, Mao figured he'd stretch his legs at least rather than stay on board. Accepting the drink from the small skeletal beings without much hesitation, it took the edge off the heat of the desert for a moment at least. As much as he hated the sand, going up into the snow would be just as bad, if not worse. He didn't figure they needed much of a pitstop either, but one last moment of peace before the chaos started wouldn't be terrible. The overly positive vibes of this town were making him feel a little queasy, but there wasn't much he could do on that front. He'd have to, in his typical fashion, scowl and bear it. Though what exactly he'd be doing was still an uncertainty.

On one hand, better gear for the hike sounded great. His large scarf tucked away could help out a bit, but that and his fancy ruby-centered headwear were about all he had going for him. The last of his money had went towards feeding Klee and himself yesterday, and the last fact you wanted to note about yourself when you wanted equipment was that you were a broke punk. He didn't exactly have much to pawn off, either. Noting he should've robbed the museum while he had the chance, he'd blame Aurox for being a damn distraction and an annoying pile of rocks for distracting him and leaving him flat in the currency department.

Although... Raz was quite generous to Midna, notably having money on him due to actually having a job and not being a mind-controlled Resistance hobo that had been living in a haunted abandoned train graveyard. Mao wasn't a beggar, and though he was definitely a bully, he'd punched Raz enough for awhile. He'd tough it with what he had if it came down to that, though finding some work around here he could do would be ideal. Preferably killing, for the sake of getting Aurox to shut the hell up about the whole Tora thing, sating him so he wouldn't think about how far he could chuck these little skeletal guys. Last thing Mao needed was to nearly get arrested again, over the span of a few days. That being said, he wouldn't be here long, so slipping out with something and never coming back was potentially an option. Unless everyone decided this was where they'd go after their victory against Galeem's chosen, which would make things pretty damn awkward.

"Probably best to keep it legal." Mao noted in a dull tone, quiet and to himself. He raised a hand as a short farewell as he departed off into the buzzing town on his own, a dismissive wave being the last of what he offered as he had no reason to go into any stores at the moment or follow after the others. If he was stuck here until they departed again, he might as well kill the the time by looking for something productive to do. Or maybe something not-so-productive, given the utter tourist attraction this place was. He wasn't exactly on guard, so getting pulled into some shenanigans wasn't exactly off the table...
Hidden 9 mos ago Post by Potemking
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Potemking Command Grab / Bottom Text

Member Seen 3 mos ago

LOCATION: Carcass Isle
WORD COUNT: 991 (+2)

Although an absolute wreck, Mirage was indeed alive atop his blubbery pillow he washed up with. Though, he was still unconscious, instead indeed getting dragged by Link all the while mumbling about porkchops and how a certain Makoa wasn't about to beat him when it came to cooking. Slumped into a relatively safe place by the heroic swordsman, he slowly stirred and came to with a bite of his own tongue, an unfortunate backfire of dreaming of his signature family recipe, it'd happen to anyone who'd tried it once. His eyes slowly scanned the immediate area, noting the wrecked ship and the disgusting dead sea life around them. For a moment his eyes cautiously eyed the rain, reaching a hand out and finding relief in the fact it was actually water and not some sort of god-awful acid that'd sink through his body.

He noted the paleness of his hand, before looking over his own body. He was a little sticky for reasons that were obvious to anyone who knew he'd been on top of an icky fish, but for the most part he was actually happy to see his smaller but still older body be returned. And with it, his mighty Wingman tightly in it's holster. Though he had liked that Dart Gun, it seemed to be dislodged from him during what was clearly a major crash. Silently he overlooked the carnage of the land they had washed up on, his newly-freed mind trying to piece a whole lot of things together.

Everything that felt so normal before seemed so wrong now. Creatures he'd seen were absolute abnormalities to anything he could process, and nothing felt like anything from home he'd seen before. This wasn't Solas, or any Outlands planet for that matter. Hell, he doubted even somewhere as far off as Gridiron could have a bunch of species like these roaming about. Aliens weren't a thing, humans were the species of the galaxy. Or so he'd thought until now. He recalled his quest to find his mother with ease, but why would he of thought she was here, anyways? She was back in the hospital. He just needed to find a shuttle and get off this god-forsaken rock. Get back to work, before the money ran dry. Those hospital bills weren't going to pay themselves, and those promotional events weren't going to advertise themselves, either!

But a lot of things didn't make sense, even with the logic this was just some batshit planet. Why were the dead turning into these 'Spirits'? He'd never seen such a thing, it came off as a red flag compared to reality where people were buried when they died, not absorbed for their potential. But he couldn't even deny it, as a fusion was the result of his current form. Though, realizing he has a spirit at his command, he picked up a nearby rock and tried summoning his Tempura Wizard with a few different commands, from 'I Choose You!' to the still (In his opinion) brilliant 'Bamfoodzle' wordplay he made earlier. No dice, however, meaning the currently hungry man was going to stay that way a bit longer. Grumbling with discontent, he threw the rock aside as if it was worthless, before eyeing the situation around him in more detail.

"Ooh, man. Haven't felt like this since I was on the receiving end of an airstrike." He complained, slowly managing to stand. The rain was cold, he was very cold, but for the moment he saw some of the others scavenging, and figured he might try and do the same. Long-term goals were getting home, but short-term goals were not dying to the freakin' Maw, and damn sure not to freaky rotten isle. For a moment he toyed with his tech to make sure his suit was still functional, glad to see that he could easily form a decoy, which took a one-way trip into the ocean as he let it run free, just glad the suit was functioning. Second, he tried his visor: Wiping the grime away from the inside, he put them on and found his view functional, even his enhanced zoom. Functioning gear was a great start, though he'd need more than that to stay alive around here. Though, how long did they want to stay around here, anyways?

"She's got the right idea," Mirage added to Sakura's eagerness to continue. "We can get our bearings here, then push on? Doubt we're going to find a way out of this nasty place by making an S.O.S signal." He pulled out his Wingman for a moment, giving it a twirl. He felt a lot safer with his gun at his side, especially after what they'd just experienced. As a new individual made his presence known, however, Mirage momentarily gripped his weapon tighter, but as he seemed to express peace the Legend holstered his Wingman in hopes of not starting a problem. Especially with Sakura approaching this new figure, not wanting the girl in any sort of crossfire.

"Deader than dead." Mirage somewhat childishly commented along with Cadet's question, eyes once again scanning the horrid-smelling viscera. If this guy had something dry they could make a fire with, he wasn't about to turn the guy down. Though he didn't exactly look like he belonged around here anymore than they did, so the whole idea of him showing up in their time of need was at least a little suspicious. Mirage ended up not doing much, glancing about but mostly keeping an eye on their new friend, perhaps a little paranoid or cautious from the whole Maw experience, but who could blame him? He just wanted to make sure one of those in his group didn't end up in danger from a sudden stranger, especially after what happened with those damned chefs. He kept his hand off his holster as to not appear hostile, but still was ready to draw sooner than later if something here went south.

Hidden 9 mos ago 9 mos ago Post by Rockin Strings
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Rockin Strings Mechanically intelligent, musically inclined.

Member Seen 4 mos ago

Delsin Rowe
Level 1 [1/10]
Carcass Isle

Delsin smiled softly as the group seemed friendly, despite the largest, and spikiest, of the turtles seeming unhappy about anything. "I'm Delsin Rowe and I'm a Conduit. Where I come from, Conduits can control parts of an element. The stronger the Conduit, the more they can do with their element. I'm a special case, though. I can absorb powers from other Conduits." Looking at the group, it didn't look like any of them had any Conduit powers he could copy. "What are your names?" he asked, curious about the possible allies in front of him. "What can you do?"

"Some time ago, I had to save my tribe from a corrupt Conduit who misused her power. I lost my brother in the process. Next thing I remember is a port town. I think it was just a few days ago when we set sail. We got caught in a storm that blew us way off course. After we crashed, weird things started happening to the crew. Nobody else survived. I've barely been surviving on the few rations left after the crash."

Looking at the others, he sighed softly. "I just want to get home at this point." He began setting up the firewood before the big turtle mentioned a ship. With a tilt of his head, he watched the ship get pulled back up and grown to its full size. It was a safer place.

With the firewood and a bit of kindling, they soon had a good-sized fire going. With a small smile, he offered the spiked turtle a handshake, not knowing of the possibility of gaining a Conduit power. He reminded Delsin of Eugene when he went "angel-mode."

He primarily stayed quiet, watching the others interact with each other. He didn't know what to think about them. He just hoped he didn't regret joining them.
Hidden 9 mos ago Post by Gentlemanvaultboy
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Ghosts 'n Moblins

Word Count: 2397

Level 2 - 11/20) + 3

Level 9 - (90/90) + 3

Location: Hammerhead


Yuri blinked a few times, trying to put together the image the mechanic had described. "I suppose." She said hesitantly as the woman led her inside the garage. That was quite the description, one she was ashamed to say she hadn't gotten before they had left. Her mind instantly shot back to Mr. Arcade Bunny, a person she had run all over Alchamoth for searching for badges that had been misplaced around the city when everything had become mixed up. Was this girl a rabbit like him? No, surely she would have described Linkle as a "rabbit-girl" in that case.

"I'm afraid we've never met. She's gone missing. We're actually here looking for her and a few others that vanished in the Dead Zone. I think the bike may help in my investigation." She continued, trying her best to channel the air of professional confidence Hisoka maintained when speaking with a client. She was by no means the ace detective you read about in mystery novels, but it was always a good idea to see what information you could glean without using supernatural means. "You didn't happen to see anyone else pass through here coming from that way, did you? Besides the four boys?"

The Master Cycle Zero was sitting inside a nearby garage, the deft hands of Cid and Cindy having restored the piece of torn up scrap scattered across the highway into a pristine motorbike. Yuri took a moment to gawk at the unicorn head mounted on the front, almost alive and ready to whinny right in front of them. "May I?" She asked, approaching it, and at the mechanics nod she drew up beside the bike and tried to find the best place. She had never used a token this large before, if it even counted as one. She supposed the best was was...

Lifting her leg, she straddled the Master Cycle and sat down on the seat before reaching out and grasping the handle bars. She didn't turn it on. Truth be told she hadn't the foggiest how it worked, but then again she had no intention of roaring down the road with no protection like this. A ten speed was more her speed. No, she just needed to concentrate. Be where the girl she was looking for had been. Dig into the machine and find some Trace of her lurking within it.

Make a connection.

There was a sudden chill in the garage, inexplicable under the blistering heat of the midday sun, as Yuri spotted the ghostly white figure of a girl before her. Her features were indistinct, save for two long ears growing out of her head. Yuri's eyes followed it as the figure began to move, the odd gliding walk of the trace carrying it quickly out the open garage door and out of sight around the doorframe. Yuri hopped off the Master Cycle, making sure to keep one hand on it at all time, before turning back to Cindy. "Can we roll this outside, please?"

With the mechanics help they walked the cycle out into the sunlight. Yuri concentrated again, the chill less noticeable out here but still present as Yuri watched the Trace move through Hammerhead. It walked up the road a ways, and Yuri's heart sank as she thought it could be heading up the same path they had just used to return from the Dead Zone. It turned off the path, though, and started to trek out into the desert. She watched it go for as long as she was able, until it vanished into the heat haze. It never stopped moving straight north-west, only deviating when it had to avoid a scrub brush or a particularly large rock. When Traces moved they took the shortest unobstructed path they could to where they were going, as though they were living humans. She wracked her brain picturing the big map that had been shown to them, remembering what was in the direction it had so unerringly pursued. Neither of the teams had embarked in that direction. Peach's Castle could be ruled out, she understood it was connected my roadway to Hammerhead. It would have taken the road in that case. No, wherever it was going had been very far away to make it choose to trek across the badlands.

She let go of the bike and bowed to Cindy. "Thank you very much. It might not look it, but you've been a great a help. I've managed to narrow down the search area considerably, and confirmed she wasn't lost in that explosion." Of course, that search area was still a quarter of the whole world but she didn't feel the need to spoil the mood. She stood back up. "If you wouldn't mind, would you be willing to hold on to this bike for just a little longer?"

Yuri returned in brighter spirits, though given how reserved she was it was nearly unnoticeable. A small, childish part of her brain enjoyed playing at detective. This didn't feel like Mt. Hikami, which she supposed would be counted as her last "big case". That had been less of an investigation and more of a war of attrition against the mountain, slowly chipping away at its defenses until she was strong enough to make it all the way to the top. Any mysteries she unraveled were more of a byproduct of her bullheaded pursuit of Hisoka. This time she felt like she was actually doing the job Hisoka had trained her for.

As she arrived back at the Van she found the others waiting, pit taking the opportunity to sun himself on the roof like he didn't have a care in the world, and Nero ready to lay out a new mission from Vandham. For a moment she wondered how he had gotten in contact with the mercenary captain until she remembered the moogle network. Nero didn't look pleased, but Pit was all for continuing their investigation and it was hard not to get infected with his attitude considering her previous train of thought. As her started to head off, she piped up with a quick. "Um, speaking of investigating..."

She stopped. "Mr. Vandham should hear this as well, I think. Moogle?"

The moogle that appeared before them was a morose looking fellow that Yuri noted, uncomfortably, had a Hitaikakushi wrapped around its head. "Kupoooooo?" it groaned.

Yuri straighter her shoulder. "I've confirmed that Linkle was not caught in the Dead Zone explosion." She said, delivering her report perhaps too formally given the circumstances. "I believe she is somewhere in the Northwest quarter of the world. So, The City Without a Name, the Frozen Highlands, The Swordland, or the northern part of The Under. Or the Empty Space. Anyone traveling to those area should be informed and rminded to keep on the lookout. This concludes my report."

"Pooooooo..." replied the Moogle as it faded away. Yuri desperately hoped it would be able to actually relay that as she relaxed and looked back toward the small rest stop. "Do you suppose any of these shops sell lunch boxes?" She asked as she watched Pit's back. "We should get something to carry with us, along with water. Some first aid wouldn't be unwelcome either."


Merge Rate: 33%

Location: Frozen Highlands ~ Wildwood Glades

"Whoa, a whole bunch of people?" Linkle said as Albedo explained the concept of a Hospital to her. Linkle had gotten sick very rarely, but when she had gotten scraped up Grandma had been the one to take care of her. It was like that with most people in the village. If something really bad happened, like a broken bone or a fever that would break, they sent for a healer from castle town who would reset the bone or mix up some concoction out of herbs and monster guts to give them. Healer's had to knw all kinds of things, so a place where a lot of people got healed should be a great place to find something holding All Human Knowledge. Even if it didn't look like such a nice place according to Albedo she didn't imagine it contained anything she couldn't handle. She had been to the Dead Zone, after all. "Why don't you like the look of it? Is it full of monsters or something?" She asked as the pair made their way out of the cottage.

Of course, Freya had no intention of making their trip any easier. Around the third time a branch had snuck up on her and jerked her into the air she let it know her frustrations with an explosion. Now that this place was actively hostile to them it seemed like Linkle had no compunctions about spoiling the natural beauty. She continued on, crossbow in hand. If something looked ready to lash out at them, it got a bomb. If something rose up in their way, bomb. If they were doused in nuts and fruit, well, those trees got off with a warning. It was like weeding. If you let plants start attacking you eventually your field would get overrun with Deku Baba's. Even still, it took some doing to finally emerge from the goddesses territory and Linkle could stop eyeing the tree with suspicion. Linkle sighed with relief. She had imagined that the entire forest might have turned against them. She didn't want to spoil the scenery for everyone else that lived here just because one God was upset with them.

The Goddess Freya, it seemed, had no such compunctions.

As Albedo had stepped forward to ask Mr. Tuley what is was that had caused this devastation Linkle stood stock still, looking at the briars. The knife. The kind little man. She just stood there, rooted to earth, listening to him talk. Listening to him cry. Shaking. Grinding her teeth. Clenching her fists so hard that, were it not for her gloves, she would have pierced the palms of her hands with her fingernails. When Albedo turned to look at her, to get her opinion, he was met with a great intake of breath. The sound before a scream of pure and righteous, the prelude to a volcano blowing its top, but it never came. The air caught in her throat, held there as Linkle became very, very still. Slowly her hair changed. Not with a flash. Gradually, from the top of her scalp all the way down to the tips of her braids, her hair became icy blue and when she released that breath it came out as a cloud of mist that drifted down and settled around her feet. It was joined soon enough by mist that began flowing off her body as though she were made of dry ice. The air temperature dropped sharply in her immediate vicinity, and when she finally looked up her eyes did not blaze with any kind of emotion. She wasn't calm, however. Just cold.

"That brat."

She reached out and put her hand to one of the briar vines ensnaring the old badgers house like twisting serpents. Then, with a effort of will, it began to freeze. Ice burrowed its way inside, bursting from inside the plant as the water within froze and expanded. It raced along the vine, spreading down into the roots and then back up along every part of it until the plant was completely frozen inside and out. Satisfied, Linkle drew back her leg and kicked it. At her touch the entire plant shattered like glass, what remained of Mr. Tuley's house collapsing into the space it had once filled. Without even looking up she knelt down and began shifting the stones, searching the wreckage for anything that might have survived.

"It looks like she's not so much of a coward she won't pick on the helpless." She said, even her voice cold, as she placed everything salvageable into a neat pile off to the side. It wasn't clear whether she was talking to herself or Albedo, but he next words were direct. "Albedo is right, Mr. Tuley. I don't think she's coming back. She's a liar. But you shouldn't be here if she does and finds out you didn't cut the rope. I don't know why she didn't just cut it herself."

Do you wish to?

Linkle looked up, spotting the vaguest impression of a shadow swirling in the mist in front of her.

Had she cut it herself after taking her vengeance he could have lain all his anger and regret at her feet. But in making him choose he is now accomplice to his own suffering. To cut the rope and abandon your morals, or to remain steadfast and see everything you have built crumble forever? No matter which he choses he has inflicted a wound upon his own heart, and he will always be afflicted with those most accursed of words: What if? Presenting the choice itself is the goddesses true vengeance.

"You're sure?" Linkle replied quietly, and she felt a certain sense of smug satisfaction from the back of her mind where the whispers lived.

It's what I do. I quite enjoy seeing you in this state, let my insight feed your rage a little longer.

She didn't reply, just kept at her work until she was done gathering what was left of Mr. Tuley's life. "I'll carry this stuff. Albedo, you have to carry Mr. Tuley. I can't right now." She looked down at her arms, a fine layer of frost falling off as she moved her fingers. "I'm sure the Goats would love to have your thumb." Carrying the load over to the stump, she knelt down and picked the knife up off the ground. "I'll be informing her mother about what she's done here." She said, slotting the knife into her her belt. "And I'll return this, when I see her."

It was at that moment that horrible realization hit her, though it didn't show as anything more than snap of her head in Albedos direction. "I told her where she could find Skadi." She said in a voice approaching urgency. Standing up she secured everything she had gathered and started for the rope line. "We have to go. Now."
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Hidden 9 mos ago Post by MULTI_MEDIA_MAN


Member Seen 4 days ago

Geralt of Rivia

The Maw- The Kitchen

Lvl 7 (95/70) +15 XP (collab) -> Lvl 7 (111/70)

Word Count: 676 words

The assault on the Maw's Helm passed quickly, and though Geralt was glad to see the Hat Kid again for her triumphant return, he was less glad when they all realized that she had completely and utterly sabotaged the ship, rendering it essentially inoperable. He refrained from scolding or otherwise insulting her decision, however, as it was both pointless (as this ship did need to be destroyed) and too late (as the Seekers were being hurtled about the bridge like a child's playthings). The last thing he thought before unconsciousness took him was I really hate this place.

The next sensation he experienced was the stench of rot and decay forcing its way into his nostrils, a quick surge of adrenaline forcing the giant up, head turning this way and that before quickly scrambling to his feet. He noticed something off about the movement, however, and looked down at himself-and everybody else-before realizing that he was once more giant. "Ah." He breathed, nodding and looking about once more.

The place they'd wound up was disgusting. But it was also vaguely familiar. Not in the sense that he knew this specific place, but in the sense that he'd spent enough time in corpse piles that a sense of calm flowed through him. Not peacefulness, but the calm a practiced warrior feels against an opponent he understand intimately. His breathing deepend as trained muscles prepared for combat, his unconscious mind ready to face off against Drowners or Ghouls.

None came, of course, but Geralt was ready nonetheless. When he finally really took a look at the others, he was relieved to find that all that went into the final battle came out (minus the pig-like creatures that the Cadet and Junior had taken along, but those were of minimal importance to Geralt at the moment).

So, they'd survived the Maw, with only Glenn as a casualty. Not ideal, of course, but within expected parameters of success.

Huh. That might be a warped outlook on things, Geralt pondered for a moment. Was he cursed to be surrounded by misfortune and death, or was he simply just that competent at what he did? Or was he blessed to live and experience the joys he had with his family?

A philosophical matter for another time. They had matters of actual importance to attend to. Patting himself down, Geralt found that his equipment had been returned to him in much the same condition he last remembered it being in, though he found the lack of the Nail to be a big of a let down. He went about searching for the weapon, and after a short while managed to find its sling. Humming at the good fortune, Geralt gave a quick whistle and held out his hand, the Nail obliging and flying directly into his outstretched, oversized hand. "Ah, right. We were small in there." Looking at the diminutive weapon, Geralt shrugged and left the wreckage. He could hand it off to one of the others at some point and let them use it.

Joining the others, Geralt frowned at the state of the group. Physically they were doing well, but there was one thing missing. "Do we have any other food? That won't last very long at all." Junior's stash was pitifully small for a group of this size, and while Geralt knew that it wasn't intended to be more than for Junior, their situation would likely demand that it be split among them.

Delsin's offer of firewood was quite helpful, and the overhang that the oversized coral provided allowed them to make a small fire. "Do you know if that village is safe?" He asked the Conduit. It would only make sense to check there, following the river upstream. Frankly, the place looked ominous, but Geralt had conversations with Werewolves and all sorts of "monsters" before, so he wasn't as quick to judge on appearances and aura of ominousness. They could find out about just how horrible it was through direct experience.

That was how it usually went.
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Hidden 9 mos ago 9 mos ago Post by Dawnrider
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Member Seen 3 mos ago

Level: 6 (45 -> 48/60)
Location: Sandswept Sky - Al Mamoon; Outbound -> Tostarena Town
Word Count: 2675 (+3 EXP)

Ahead of the final boarding call, Fox made his way to the front end of the train deck to get a leading view of their destination, the divided peak highlighted by the morning desert sun as it came into view, and Al Mamoon began to shrink from it. At no point during the initial stretch of their departure did he bother to look back. Whatever problems they may have left behind them they would have to leave there; to entrust them to their comrades elsewhere. The apparent exception to this was the Grimleal archer, Ciella, coming unexpectedly aboard with them at the last minute before takeoff, which he hadn’t failed to notice. It would have been hard not to on account of her stature alone, as she occupied already limited space on the train. Whatever the reason for her involvement, that was her risk to take, for she would soon be well past the point of safe return. Perhaps after getting a good look at their “noble goal”, she would come to her senses and see the truth of the matter, but that may have been expecting much. Either way, her best chance was with them now.

Moving on from the thought, Fox proceeded down the length of the train to find a place to settle in, conducting a cursory rather than thorough examination of its workings to familiarize himself. He had contended with weaponized locomotives in the past, and could figure out easily enough how to make a giant gun work, knowing the extent of what one could be good for. Common sense sufficed to fill in the blanks on that, its utility obvious enough to place some of them seemingly under the impression that all of their work thwarting the Resistance was to secure it. In his mind, they actually did it to save one of their own. The Railway Gun was simply supplemental to that; a welcomed asset to aid them on their journey, to be sure. He was just glad to have the right people on it with him… and then some.

While they had an apparent surplus of time to do little else, Fox thought to make rounds checking on the team individually, starting, by request, with Tora. The Nopon proposed an open challenge to anyone and everyone to hit him with whatever they had in an impromptu training session aimed at sharpening his defensive acumen, for which a majority of the team’s worth of takers almost immediately formed a queue. This proved to be beneficial for just about everyone in attendance, be they participant or observer, affording them all a good look at the abilities and tactics of one another while Tora got hands-on lessons in dealing with them. Casters, supports, and variable heavy hitters got their turns before Fox eventually tagged in between rounds, and as much as Tora was clearly learning from it all, there was a simple, more specific, yet critical point he wanted to help get across while he had the opportunity.

On Tora’s mark, Fox advanced swiftly on him with a two count of advancing Impact Shots to provoke his guard while he closed the gap between them. Quick as Fox was, Tora now had a few rounds of fresh practice behind him to prepare him for an aggressive rushdown assault. Even attempting to get around his guard proved difficult, to say the least, as the Noponic defender was able to move his guard accordingly to fend off a ceaseless series of varying foot blows that fell ineffectually upon his shield. A satisfied smirk threatened to form on Fox’s face, admittedly pleased with the result. That Tora could defy appearances and expectations by being able to respond evenly with an overwhelmingly faster opponent in single combat made for a commendable showing of situational awareness and threat response on his part.

There was just one problem…

With both feet planted firmly against Tora’s shield, Fox kicked off to go airborne in a back layout, readying and squeezing off a Charge Shot aimed directly at the Nopon from point blank before his feet hit the floor again. Again, the shot hit nothing but metal, amounting to little more than a mild concussive stagger at most. However, it was enough to buy Fox a literal second to do what he really meant to, which was to blurdash in, push past the shield with one hand, grap Tora by the collar (or the base of his wing-hand) with the other, and drive a hard right hand into his sternum--or where he approximated it to be. He continued forward, following through with a pivoting reverse leg sweep to force momentous leverage that allowed him to toss Tora bodily over his shoulder at the end of his rotation. From there, he stayed on top of him for the remainder of the round, allowing him no space or time to recover. Their bout ended with the last hit of a juggling kick flurry that kept them both airborne for its duration, whereafter Fox softened his stance to ‘at ease’ at the realization that their exchange had reached a natural conclusion.

Big Band, having clued in to the purpose of the demonstration by way of shared experience, was keen to verbally break down the lesson for Tora that Fox attempted to illustrate for him in action, as he was content to leave to one more eloquent than himself. Any point worth making was worth making clearer, and in Tora’s case, it was that he couldn’t block everything. A straightforward defense, no matter how solid, could only combat a straightforward offense. The lesson: Be flexible, adaptable, and remain dynamic! To settle into a complacent combative routine is to become predictable, and is a simple recipe for defeat. If you allow your opponent to mentally download you in full, then you've already lost. Never exhaust your every option prematurely, and always have a new answer ready.

Of course, part of this lesson--that Tora couldn't afford to get locked down into his own defense--started setting in for Tora just before Fox decided to step in. Though, it was seeing the prior performances that made him, specifically, want to apply the lesson in person. Fox was hardly the mightiest or most versatile among their troop, or even the fastest or most skillful any of them would ever meet. If he could pry open his guard, then just about anyone could, and he didn’t need bypass-capable magic, augmented brute force, gimmicks, gadgets or otherwise to make that point. All it takes is a swift, strong, steady, or sure free hand.

Fox’s turn was up, and it was time to let someone else have their go at Tora, as soon as he caught his breath. He would take this session as a reminder to humor Joker with marksmanship lessons later, as per their verbal contract. That would have to wait for after he was finished answering a call that he stepped away to take, and turned out to be more imperative than his default composure and subdued register betrayed. The ensuing rounds of one-way sparring served as suitably distracting spectacle for most while Fox went below deck into the hold to attend whatever business drew him away.

A narrow walk through a dimly lit hallway of extraneous cargo and supply crates stacked to the ceiling on both sides led him to nothing of immediate note or import at first, until a moment of searching took him further into the back, toward the greater concentration of the clutter, to find one such crate with its top left conspicuously ajar, offset just enough to give away that it had been opened previously. Peeking into what turned out to be a shallow crate of munitions and small ordinance, he found that it was nowhere close to being at capacity--less than halfway at most--but curiously, the sides, bottom and cargo had been lightly stained crimson with what could unmistakably be identified as dried blood. It appeared that they had a stowaway among them, only Fox both expected and welcomed this one. He turned his head to look and listen for them practically before he felt a blunt point gently nudge his shoulder from the shadows right next to him.

“I was starting to think you forgot about me,” joked Sly, wearing a casually confident smile and a tattered pancho he no doubt lifted from an unattended stall managed by an unsuspecting vendor to better keep his profile down.

“Took you long enough to call,” Fox responded flatly. “Thought you might have missed us.” Looking him up and down, he gestured to a stray splotch of red that all but compromised his stolen cover and gave way to injuries it may have been intended to conceal. “What happened?” he asked calmly, honest, dutiful concern for an ally lacing his tone.

Lifting open the drab garb to reveal amateurish, self-applied bandaging work and the wounds that bled through it, Sly responded, “Let's just say that the mark had some teeth… literally.” That was just one in a series of details about his quiet heist that he would rather not leave out, should any of them ever return for more.

Nodding, Fox called through his headpiece, “Morgana! I need you down here below deck, in the cargo hold. Bring Primrose as well. Quietly. The emphasis on subtlety came as more of a precaution than a necessity with a Grimleal lieutenant aboard, uncertain if it had anything to do at all with their resident gentleman thief (however doubtful), or how far they saw fit to extend their jurisdiction otherwise. Her turn taken with Tora would make eluding her notice easy enough in any case. “Did you get it?” he asked simply following a short pause.

Obligingly, Sly rummaged through an unseen inventory of contraband and stolen goods to fulfill part of a private exchange that seemed to be entirely between these two, and pulled out, of all things, a Spirit to hand to Fox. He gingerly took the Spirit in hand, examining it to confirm that it was in fact the one he was looking for: that of the slain Assassin, cut down in an unfair act of spiteful recompense by the vindictive Azwel. Unsurprisingly, THAT particular detail of the Resistance case never once came up, during yesterday’s hearing OR the morning’s demonstration. Even after learning everything they had, he doubted it would have changed anything in the eyes of the court, other than worsening their already tenuous relationship with the crown right after having reached a resolution. Now, they had a witness, nay, victim who could testify in the unlikely event they ever had to, and more importantly, they had a valuable new asset; an new ally, perhaps.

“There’s plenty more where that came from.”

Fox simply nodded in reply, gratefully presenting the Spirit back to its retriever as an expressive gesture of approval and gratitude.

“Sorry I put you up to this.” Sincerely, Fox hoped and expected the Devious, Thievious Raccoonus to come away from the task he evidently charged him with unscathed, and was more remorseful still about being unable to personally compensate him at the time, knowing he would likely owe him back later. As a mercenary, he understood that such assignments didn’t come for nothing. Then again, thieves, especially of Sly’s calibur, didn’t usually take jobs, as far as he knew, so he had to have a reason of his own. “Glad you’re alright, though. I hope you got something out of it for yourself...”

“Don’t worry,” Sly began with a chuckle. “I’m not in the business of leaving anywhere empty-handed. Buuut... that MIGHT just depend on what those are good for,” he clarified, pointing to the Spirit in Fox’s hand with his cane. “Care to let me in on that?” Of course. He was curious, as he should have been. He was owed that much at least, to know what he risked his own hide for. It seemed a demonstration was in order, and what better time for it than while they waited for Morgana and Primrose to come down and provide him with needed medical attention, whereafter they could explain themselves to one another.

Fox regarded the Spirit with a discerning eye, considering what he might do with it now that he had been presented with his first opportunity to do so. It belonged to Ezio Auditore da Firenze, legendary master Assassin, founder and mentor of the Brotherhood, storied enemy to the Templar Order, and far more. He, too, came from murdered kin, tragedies that propelled him irreversibly into a lifetime of adventure, discovery, personal loss, and fighting a shadowy faction war for the fate of the world that would far outlive him, and would never see public mention in recorded history, despite its profound effect on it. This, in short, was the legacy of a man who proudly embraced his family heritage.

While he couldn’t intuit any of this, Fox could almost feel a similar ‘Kindred’ energy radiate from it that him by an unseen towline to Sly before. It was a pure shame, he thought, that someone like this would be executed in their prime in unwitting service to a false cause, lured in sympathetically by the idea of it. This was precisely what he didn’t want to happen, and part of why he saw fit to intervene to begin with. In this World--in all worlds, really--the uniquely gifted were precious, and they couldn’t continue to lose them fighting among themselves while ‘God’ watched unappeased. There was only one suitable option he could see for rectifying such a wrong…

“It wasn’t your time...” Fox began softly, head hung somberly, gazing at the Spirit as he spoke to it. “You deserved better than to die in a crypt, taking orders from some imp that got in your head.” Had he only known Midna’s history… “You only wanted to fight for what you thought was right, in the best way you knew how. I would know...” He paused at the thought, blinking with a sigh, then continued. “You still can!” he started, his tone tightening ever so slightly with a renewed sense of focused determination. Our fight’s not over yet; far from it, and we could use more like you. Come back! Take up a real cause. Help us take down a real tyrant, the one responsible for all this, and once this is all over… you can finally rest easy.”

Redemption. THAT was his answer. Take back what you can of your life, and dedicate it to freeing the World. It was the best one he could come up with. He hoped the Spirit of the Assassin would accept it...

Just a few hours into their trip, the Railway Gun came to its final stop at a quaint, festively themed adobe village situated near the foot of the mountain, small enough that the train they rode in on could have run over it. This would be their last stop for supplies and respite for any who wanted it before getting in a full day of leg time, Fox himself even electing to savor what he could of it along with everyone else on a relatively relaxed walkabout through the town. Not long after disembarking did the question of provisions for the long, arduous march up the frigid peak ahead of them come up, for which some wondered if the town could provide. As a point of almost pure curiosity, Fox wondered the same. Did they get visitors to the mountain often enough that they were prepared to adequately supply passersby for a journey? They had only now to make good on it if so, so he decided to accompany his teammates to the directed storefront/s to see if they had anything he thought he couldn’t live without. Although, chances were he would have to, being frustratingly still outside of his means to afford anything on his own (on not looking to be any further in debt, as it were), and he wasn’t exactly the best at haggling.
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Tora and Poppi

Location: Sandswept Sky - Tostarena Town
Level 9 Tora (99/90) Level 9 Poppi (99/90) Level 5 Big Band (38/50)
Midna’s @DracoLunaris, Fox’s @Dawnrider, Jesse’s @Zoey Boey, Sectonia’s @Archmage MC, Primrose’s @Yankee, Yoshitsune and Sora’’s @Rockin Strings, Mao’s @Potemking, Raz’s @TruthHurts22, Ellie’s @Thatguyinastore
Word Count: 2142

As pleasant as Tostarena Town seemed to be, nobody deluded themselves into thinking that they’d be here long enough to enjoy its various diversions, refreshments, and amusements. Anything beyond a quick meal and a visit to whatever shops might offer the heroes aid on their upward journey could wait until after they’d finished their mission. A reward to spur them onward would serve them a whole lot better, after all, than a distraction to swindle their progress. Still, it took a lot of effort for Tora to shut out the spirited symphony of guitarrónes, vihuelas, marímbulas, and maracas that the Tostarenans had struck up once Ellie’s performance died down. Even after the long train ride and his grueling defensive training, the delightfully lively mariachi music -a total novelty to him- made the Nopon want to bust out dancing, so it was with a heavy heart turned his attention away from the spectacle and to the matter at hand.

He rejoined the conversation just as the topic of mountaineering gear got into full swing. Midna pointed out that the Phantom Thieves had already done some groundwork for them, but while Skull grumbled about the vertically challenged Twilight Princess calling them ‘kids’, Panther spoke up to set the record straight. “Er, actually, we couldn’t even get enough for ourselves, to be honest. We didn’t have a lot of money left over, and there wasn’t, like, a great selection, either.” From her inventory she produced her own acquisition, a hefty overcoat made from the thick fur of a sand seal. “Aside from some scarves and earmuffs, this is it, basically. Mostly ‘cause the boys are pretty much covered, while I’ve got…” she gestured broadly to her red snakeskin catsuit, which thanks to her Lamia fusion couldn’t even be zipped all the way up anymore. “Y’know, this.”

It didn’t take long to realize that just about everyone else shared in the Thieves’ financial woes, too. Raz gallantly offered Midna some cash, which earned him a couple stares from the other broke heroes, but luckily nobody stepped forward to pinch any more of the youngster’s pennies. Still, that left the vast majority of the heroes without suitable preparation for an arduous, freezing climb. Remembering the frigid depths of Tantal made Tora shiver despite the desert heat, although he also remembered the solution employed by a certain Welsh catgirl during those wintry misadventures. “Poppi,” he began, turning to his artificial blade. “What think about switch to Fire core and give Tora piggyback ride on mountain? If Nia get through Tantal by clinging to Pyra, then surely Tora can do same?”

Poppi looked up at the frosty peak with a hand on her chin, considering her Masterpon’s suggestion. “Not bad idea. That way we save on money, and also not get separated even during snowstorm. Plus, can even fly with Tora on back in QT mode if something go wrong.” She glanced back down at Tora with a smug smile playing about her lips. “Plus, Masterpon in terrible shape for rock climbing. Not nearly agile enough on own.”

“Exactly, meh!” Tora agreed, happy as a clam. In one fell swoop he’d just ensured that he would not only stay warm thanks to the ambient heat of Poppi’s ether furnace, but also not need to exert any effort!

“Just make sure that Masterpon keep sharp eye out,” Poppi added. “If Poppi going to be doing all work, Tora need be ready to point out threats and defend Poppi at any moment.”

And there it was. By now Tora expected some sort of catch, although in this case he’d been planning to watch out for his partner anyway, so he didn’t begrudge her one bit. “You got it, meh!” With that taken care of, he dispersed along with the others, heading to the town’s fountain to watch his comrades figure out their own cold-weather accommodations. A number headed over to Deportes Bienes, the sports shop, but his attention quickly drifted when a tantalizing aroma drifted past him on the breeze. “Meeh!” he marveled, breathing in deep the fragrance of Mexican cuisine. “Tora think it good time for lunch!”

Rather than the least bit surprised, Poppi looked amused, as if she’d been running a stopwatch in her head to see how long it would take her creator to broach the subject. “Shocking. Lead way, Masterpon!”

While they scoped out a restaurant where they could grab a table for everyone, Big Band and Peacock joined the crowd inside Deportes Bienes. Raz wasted no time consulting an inner voice of his, albeit in a pretty weird way even by World of Light standards. Even if it took Ellie by surprise, though, the display with Ford didn’t even register for the other teenage girl in the place. Being more or less a living embodiment of zany madcap hijinks thanks to the Avery Unit, goofs were Peacock’s bread and butter, and her baritone chaperone couldn’t have been around her for long without getting at least a little desensitized to such things, too.

Peacock wasted no time getting down to business. “Awright fellas, watch the merchandise!” Eschewing the polite moderation showed by Primrose, she summoned her thuggish pals Andy Anvil and Tommy Ten-Tons to help her scour the place for anything useful. Jesse quickly found herself with even more to be apologetic to Ellie about as they rifled through the place, shouting back and forth.

“Hey, take it easy, kid!” Band admonished. Rather than join them turning the place upside down, he headed for the counter to get help from the wide-eyed cashier. “Hola, amigo. My crew and I are fixin’ to come to terms with the monster flyin’ ‘round the mountaintop, and we were hopin’ to grab some gear for the trip.”

Between the trio of hoodlums perilously close to ransacking the place and the heavy metal giant looming over him, the Tostarenan looked more than a little nervous. “Hahhah, uh, c-certainly! W-well, uh, we’ve got just about everything anyone could...could, uh, possibly need! Cleats, ropes, climbing spikes, bounce pads, zip lines…”

Toward the back of the store, the Heavy voiced his dismay over the hat selection. “What is this puny headgear?!” he bemoaned. “Where is ushanka? Heavy need keep ears warm!” He tossed a baseball cap behind him, which Blue Poison -currently trying on a dark gray cloak sort of thing that went down to her knees- only narrowly avoided.

“Oi!” the Scout, also present to gear up for the ascent, pulled a giant yellow weapon from a nearby shelf, an industrial tool nearly as long as the dwarf was tall. “Wot’s the idea, mate? This is the same Platform Gun the Engineers use back home!”

“Platform...gun?” Band’s eyebrows went up. With his trench coat and mostly mechanical body allaying the need for warm clothes, he considered himself in the market for anything that might make the climb easier. “Not bad! Guess I gotta have me one o’ those!”

The Scout nearly leaped out of his skin when Tommy jumped over and crashed down next to him, his massive weight shaking the whole store. “You ‘eard ‘im!” The toon grabbed hold of the Platform Gun and attempted to pull it away.

“Piss off!” the Scout erupted. “If the Engineer ain’t around it’s moine! Besides, finders keepers!”

The sharp note of Band’s trumpet blared through the store to calm the chaos. “Take it down a notch, folks!” Although the argument subsided, the detective’s efforts did little to set the cashier’s mind at ease. “Hey now, don’t fret. What else ya got?”

Clearing his throat, the rather overwhelmed Tostarenan continued. “Well, uh. We’ve got lots of our best sellers in stock. The Indie Mantle is, uh, weather-resistant, nice and cozy, and...inconspicuous? And our Basic Glider means you don’t have to worry about falling ever again!”

His eyes were drawn to a comically large pile of items headed his way, mostly Indie Mantles and Basic Gliders, carried by Andy Anvil with great difficulty. With a groan he dropped the goods on the checkout counter, then stood there wheezing while Peacock sauntered up. “Greetin’s! We’ll be takin’ this to go!” Tommy stomped up behind her, having lost the Platform Gun but gained the imprint of a heavy-duty boot in his forehead, and crossed his arms.

The cashier eyed the heap of items. “Er, right, uh...well, I’d need a minute to make sure, but that’ll run you at least a…” Despite having no throat, he managed to swallow. “A thousand gold?”

Band’s eyes widened. “Hold up, we don’t got that much even if everyone chips in.” Two mechanical arms deployed, one to raise his hat and the other to massage his scalp. “Hmm. I don’t s’pose you take credit?”

“Credit?” The Tostarenan looked confused. “What does that mean?”

Peacock grinned. “Means I’ll gladly pay ya Tuesday for a knuckle sammich today!”

“Y-you mean I give it to you today and you’ll pay later?” Tugging at his collar, the cashier looked unhappier than ever. “N-not to, you know, be rude or anything, but how do I know you’ll actually do that? This doesn’t seem like a good idea!”

“Oh?” In an instant Peacock’s mood turned. “Wise guy, eh?” She reached up over the counter and with menacing slowness deposited a George Bomb.

Band deployed a mechanical arm with which he swept the George off and into Peacock herself, in whose face it exploded. When the smoke cleared it revealed her pretty much unharmed, though. “‘Scuse us,” Band said hastily. “That was just a joke, she don’t mean a thing.” He cleared his throat. “So no credit. That’s fine. But what if we just borrow the stuff?” The cashier’s incredulous look did not deter him. “We’ll give it right back after we get done. Look, you can take my word for it. I ain’t just a detective, but also a personal friend of King Validar. Ya know, the head honcho over in Al Mamoon? Check it.” In quick succession he showed the cashier his badge, even though it meant pretty much nothing in this world, then the Gold Pass. “Listen here. If you ain’t down, I’ll respect your decision and get these fools outta your hair. But I ain’t puttin’ on the ritz here. We gotta go up either way, and if we don’t got what we need, some of us might die. So I’m askin’ ya. Will ya lend us a hand?”

The cashier looked skeptical, but after considering his options he relented. “Um...well, okay. I’ll just take whatever you have on you right now as collateral. And if you haven’t paid by Tuesday…uh, well, you’ll be terrible people!”

Peacock whooped in triumph and immediately began gathering up the new loot with her gang. Band, meanwhile, held his hand over his heart and gave a solemn nod. “Don’t you worry, sir. We’ll get it all back in your hands before ya know it.”

A few minutes later, the shoppers found most of the other heroes gathered at the Happy Hongo, Tostarena Town’s main restaurant. Midna’s best attempt to find quests, secrets, or other ways to get rich quickly bore little fruit; aside from a handful of purple coins found floating throughout the place, this town seemed to offer only ways to spend money, rather than make it. In a stroke of luck, however, Happy Hongo didn’t actually seem to charge for food, so everyone could forgo the tomfoolery that went down inside Deportes Bienes and enjoy a tasty lunch. After meeting Ciella and receiving an explanation from her, a pair of local heroes, Juan and Tostada, were on hand to both keep an eye on things and get to know the new arrivals better.

Once the whole group was together the Conductor, having left his train to take advantage of the free lunch, could reach a more-or-less accurate headcount while everyone munched on their tacos, tamales, enchiladas, and chimichangas. “Eh?! Twenty-peckin’-four of ya’s are all gonna climb yer way up that gigantic mountain?” he questioned, incredulous. “Don’t that seem like a wee bit too many?”

Not so distracted by the smells that she couldn’t consider the situation, Poppi spoke up. “It would be hard to keep track of everyone. There lot more that could go wrong, and not everyone have skills or powers for big climb.”

Tora quit stuffing his face for a moment to chime in. “But if we do boss fight, we need everyone we can get!” He went right back to chowing down as the discussion that would pave the way for the coming ascent continued.

Ms Fortune

Location: Carcass Isle
Level 6 Nadia (38/60)
Koopa Troop’s @DracoLunaris, Blazermate’s @Archmage MC, Hat Kid’s @Dawnrider, Geralt’s @MULTI_MEDIA_MAN, Ace Cadet’s @Yankee, Sakura's @Zoey Boey, Link’s @Gentlemanvaultboy, Mirage’s @Potemking, Delsin’s @Rockin Strings
Word Count: 2342

Seeing everyone okay did wonders to lift Nadia’s spirit, even in such a wretched place as this. Sakura’s sheer joy at being returned to normal warmed the heart, and though not everyone could find it within themselves to express their relief with quite so much exuberance, she really did speak for all of them. The Seekers’ escape from the hellish bowels of the Maw, now just another of this foetid island’s lifeless, beached ruins, as well as the return of their true selves, was something worth celebrating.

Closing out that abominable chapter of their adventure also meant any even greater communal debt to Blazermate. Full-size and flight-capable, she could have left the kids behind at any time inside the Maw to save herself, but instead she remained behind to see them safely through. Without her medical aid, the acid rain sustained by just about everyone in the Depths might have been the end of the Seekers’ tale. Now, with everyone collected from the pounding surf, she could practice some well-earned self care.

The only other team member not to see a substantial size increase was Hatty. Though she didn’t look happy by any stretch, the little girl was okay, and seeing that even the group’s smallest and possibly most fragile member made it out of that nightmare alive and well (or at least, as alive and well as one could hope) put a lot of worries to rest. Now that everyone knew how much it sucked to be both miserable and tiny, the Seekers were only too happy to share with her what comfort they could.

Nadia was relieved to see that the Koopas made it out in one piece. It honestly came as a surprise to the feral how integral the troop of goofballs had become. At some point, with nobody noticing, that oddball family of dragon-turtles came to be both the physical and emotional core of the team, which made the realization that Junior especially was back to normal all the more impactful. Still, the lack of Chef Bros and baby behemoths was a sobering reminder of the danger they’d all endured.

Accompanied by Peach and Rika, both shipshape in their own ways, the Koopas joined the others in their coral shelter with an extra surprise in store. A little magic from Kamek restored the Atomos to its full size, instantly providing the whole group with a dry and spacious refuge from waters above and below. A quick examination confirmed that something about this accursed island rendered its magitek engine practically nonfunctional, but given the circumstances, any blessing was a welcome one.

Nadia was also glad to see the team’s offensive backbone of Link, Mirage, and Geralt okay. Although the’d been sort of cute and surprisingly capable as kids, the team needed their full might now more than ever, and though all three weapons experts would be indispensable, nothing screamed ‘full might’ more than the giant Witcher’s imposing size. No matter how many monsters lay in her team path, Nadia felt certain, their own monster would reign supreme.

Nobody’s welfare, of course, struck her quite so much as Ace’s. For a minute there Nadia had begun to worry anew that maybe all of the monster hunter’s layers of gear had gotten so soaked that no warmth could reach his body, or that maybe one of his many weapons wounded him during the tumult. But Ace’s never-say-die attitude would not be so easily extinguished, and when he stirred at last Nadia heaved just about the heaviest sigh of relief in her whole life. Although her instincts just about made her jerk away when he started moving, she stubbornly stuck it out beneath his arm, hoping with held breath that he didn’t mind. Her worries came to an abrupt end when he suddenly squeezed her in a hug, which left her red-faced and grinning like an idiot. It was hard to explain, and even kind of hard to think, but for some reason no amount of cold, rain, brine, muck or corpse-stink could wipe the smile off her face.

After another moment they slid apart, with the hunter needing to make sure nothing on his person was amiss. Nadia tuned into what Sakura was saying, and agreed that lingering here didn’t make a whole lot of sense when they didn’t know what awaited them elsewhere on this island. The street fighter also mentioned her fusion with Arashio, which made Nadia remember the state of her own. “Oh, that’s right!” she hopped up and went over to Peach, grabbing her by the arm. “Can you undo mine? I can’t use my guns or water-walking any more because I’m out of oil, so I guess I’m ‘ship’ out of luck. Might as well go back to Ms. Fortune Classic.” Nodding, the princess obliged, extracting the spirit of ill-fated Northampton from Nadia’s chest. When the light died down, the feral was back to her original self from head to toe, and not just that--every trace of water and grime was gone, leaving her as clean as could be. Her ears perked right up the moment she realized, after which she twisted back and forth, looking herself over. “Whoa, hey! I thought I’d be soakin’ wet fur-ever!” Given the heavy rainfall she wouldn’t be dry for long, of course, but even just a few moments of comfort would be wonderful.

The idea of re-fusing with Northampton, and hopefully regaining her powers at full, hit her a moment later, but when Nadia tried to insert the spirit again she found that it wouldn’t go in. “Yeah, I guess that makes sense,” she allowed. “No use tryin’ to game the system.” She glanced around between the others and offered the spirit. “Anyone want her?”

It was at about that time that a stranger showed himself, an ordinary-looking human who looked only a little less put-upon than the refugees from the Maw. In a place like this Nadia couldn’t help but be suspicious of anything she didn’t know, but the wood that Delsin offered wasn’t just real, but also dry. Before the Koopas could light a fire inside the Atomos’ cargo bay Peach wisely pointed out that the smoke buildup inside could present a hazard, which left the group’s shelter beneath the coral trees as the best option. With added material from the airship’s inside the team got a lively campfire going in no time. It plus the privacy of the airship’s rooms meant everyone could warm and dry both themselves and their clothing, undoing the damage done to them by the elements. That left only the possibilities of food and rest, but given the atrocity of consumption they’d suffered through, the heroes could make do without eating for now, and with all the energy lost during the Maw voyage undo, another few minutes’ rest would be enough to get everyone going. Nadia sure as hell wasn’t going to eat these dead things, after all, no matter how much she liked fish.

They spent part of that time learning about Delsin, and though those who questioned him were more concerned with his presence on this island than anything, the Conduit -as he called himself- went ahead and prefaced his explanation with a few shreds of his life story. Another shipwreck, huh? The mention of weird things ignited the cat’s curiosity. “Miss Fortune,” she told him, encompassing both her name and his situation. “I split apart. What kinda weird stuff, dude? Anythin’ you can tell us, we wanna know.”

Delsin didn’t know much about the island or the village, but his account of the sailors’ fate certainly complicated things. A few moments into the conversation, however, a lightning strike brought it to an abrupt end. The bolt struck the Maw, it being the highest metal object around, far enough so that it endangered nobody but still close enough for the flash and thunder to take everyone by surprise. In the moments that followed the heroes were quiet, with no noise except the rainfall and the occasional squelch of parasites hard at work eking a living from the carrion, such that it was. Peach took a deep breath. “Well, I hope everyone enjoyed being dry for a little while. Let’s go.”

Nadia steeled herself for the wet and the cold as best she could, then stepped out into the rain.

Going inland along the river that emptied into the sea, the heroes found the terrain quickly getting dicier on either side. Large outcroppings of rock, encrusted with barnacles, grown over with seaweed, and forested by ghost-white corals, rose precipitously. Everything looked hard, sharp, and slippery, making the idea of climbing both difficult and dangerous. If something ambushed her group the moment they stepped into the village, Nadia worried that everyone crammed into the little river valley would make for easy pickings. Luckily, nothing jumped out at them as they approached the first buildings, each nestled tightly against the rock and packed together like sardines, showcasing a certain economy of construction. Maybe whoever built this place cannibalized their ships in order to make these homes, requiring them to make the most of every plank. The result, however, was a claustrophobic and squalid cluster of hovels, and with everything horribly overgrown by sealife it was nigh impossible to tell where one house ended and the next began. Gurgling, sucking noises issued from within that Nadia didn’t care for one bit. She ran her fingers along the wood, found it soft and slimy, and shivered. Although the stink of death had faded, a fishy foulness so thick she could taste it had taken over, and the feral couldn’t say that she liked it better.

The group proceeded down the street, sloshing through the ankle-deep water. It looked like the whole village lay under at least six inches of water, though at least the earth beneath turned out to be mostly even. They found signs of life straight away, taking the form of sea maggots among the barrels and nets. Slow but extremely tough, they spewed stinging brine at anyone who got too close, then retreated into their shells when threatened. Nadia gave one an annoyed kick and moved on, unwilling to spend any effort on the pests. With the others she splashed by a lone lantern sitting out in the rain, its candle long since extinguished, then passed beneath a crude bridge silhouetted by that bizarre, sickly yellow moon. It was at that point that the Seekers entered the village proper.

They found themselves at the edge of a wide-open area surrounded by walls of decrepit, sealife-infested shacks, some two or even three stories high and many connected by ropes if not bridges. The ground fell away in front of them, forming a basin in the roughly circular plaza, at the center of which it abruptly rose again to create a little island topped by a well, upon which grew a number of hideously pulsating sacs. Many of the buildings featured little piers and boats, suggesting that this sorry hamlet may have always been submerged. The chief issue, however, wasn’t the water. It was the monsters. A multitude of glassy-eyed, slack-jawed fishmen scuttled around the place, some agile, some bloated with pus, and a few ghoulish things with organic lights dangling from their foreheads. Most of them seemed intent on the area’s east side, where the water deepened into a harbor ringed by leaning, peaked shacks, and a great pit down through the island into the depths provided ocean access. A huge and especially horrid carcass was lodged there, perhaps having come up through the tunnel at some point in the past only to get stuck. The murlocs chipped away at its still-living body, harvesting it piece by piece for food and materials to make their weapons. Still, a good few murlocs lurked throughout the town center, and when gangs of them spotted the intruders they moved to attack. They slid through the water with eerie fluidity, then emerged to hop through the shallows in a jarringly inhuman gait, wielding their weapons of bone.

Nadia’s lip curled, and she bunched her muscles before leaping into the air. She climbed onto a nearby building, ready to do her fighting somewhere the fishmen didn’t have an advantage. The creak and bend of the rotted planks beneath her gave her second thoughts, but any cat worth her salt could be light-footed enough to make do. “Up here, fishsticks! Who wants to get chummy?” With claws at the ready she waited for murlocs to come after her, eager to slice them to repugnant pieces, and when a handful leaped up onto the roof after her she got right down to business.

A good twenty-five murlocs infested the fishing hamlet’s center, fourteen green, seven blue, and four glowing. As she fought, cutting and drilling through the monsters’ flesh, Nadia spotted an unusual fishman who looked tougher than the rest hanging back near the well. Meanwhile, the two shark giants didn’t hold back one bit, instead plowing forward both through the water and across the land to tear the Seekers limb from limb as they roared. Even if they couldn’t reach Nadia on the roof, the rest would need to be wary of their brutish power. Even worse, if anyone got too close to the jellyshrooms growing here and there, a crabsnake would lunge out to grab the hapless hero and try to drag him or her in, creating an opening for the fishmen to do their worst. It was a tough fight in a terrible arena and awful conditions, but after the Maw, everyone was itching to do some damage.

Red Team Neo

Location: Hammerhead, Paved Wilderness
Banjo/Kazooie’s @Dawnrider, Pit’s @Yankee, Yuri’s @Gentlemanvaultboy

While typically just about anyone would loathe the prospect of being assigned additional work after just barely scraping through a previous assignment, the members of Nero’s little team took the news pretty well. Pit seemed eager to see the sights that the ultra-variable composite world had to offer, and Nero couldn’t really blame him. Though not the type to go on safaris, hikes, and travel abroad in search of novelty, this crazy realm sure did have an awful lot on offer. Mostly an infinite smorgasbord of various monsters to fight, according to Nero’s experience so far, but finding something could would be a nice change, and the name ‘Rocket Arena’ left the devil hunter cautiously optimistic.

Though not nearly as jazzed by the idea, Yuri at least seemed to agree to the exploration mission, and to Nero’s surprise the thoughtful kid immediately paid some mind to practical concerns like food and water. It struck him as funny and maybe a little sad that this high-schooler was being more responsible when it came to team welfare than he was. “Yeah, yeah, let’s do that,” he said quickly. “The diner can probably box some food up for us. How about it, Banjo?” If the bear and bird consented they’d be given a portion of mission funds to buy some meals and drinks for the road. Meanwhile, Nero made for the gas station shop. “I’ll find us a map, see if I can figure out a route for us to take.”

Several minutes later everyone reconvened in the Minotaurus, plans made and rations acquired. Cindy cheerfully waved farewell to Nico and the rest as they pulled out of Hammerhead and took a road headed north. “Good luck, fellers! See y’all real soon~!”

The Paved Wilderness was pretty large, but compared to the Land of Adventure, it wasn’t that big, especially going north-south. Northward travel also had the added benefit of bringing the van and its passengers steadily closer to the unfathomably vast black pit at the center of the continent, giving them a better look at the vast array of asteroids, planetoids, and other cosmic debris floating up from below. Nero could only imagine, as crazy as it sounded in his head, that some sort of space-themed area must exist down there. He’d only been on the brink once, back in the Dead Zone’s Charnel lane when the Suffering attacked, and he’d been a little too busy trying to save the van to peer down into the depths, but that was the impression that his brief glimpse gave him. Of course, that beggared the question of if -and how- the forces of Alcamoth might operate in such an impossible region. For now though, he didn’t want or need to think about any of that. Exploring the Paved Wilderness was his mission, and that started with the Rocket Arena.

Nestled next to some pretty extreme crags, which themselves featured industrial pipes big enough to drive trains to and a giant skull big enough to flatten an apartment building were it to fall, was a glass-domed arena surrounded by towering multi-tiered spectator stands. In front of it stretched an immense parking lot home to vehicles of all kinds, from relatively standard cars and sports cars to more futuristic hover bikes and racers to mega machines like the Apocalypse Sasquatch and the aptly-named Mammoth. Naturally, a whole bunch of vendors lined the parking lot, mostly food trucks of various stripes. The whole thing made for one crazy sports supercenter, and Nero knew he’d be lying if he told himself he wasn’t at all interested in seeing what a game of Rocket League actually looked like.

“Well, looks like we’re here,” he announced as Nico pulled into an empty parking spot between a tough-looking buggy and a bathtubmobile. Everyone vacated the van and set off through the parking lot, headed for the main building. As Nero watched, a car rode up the inside of the glass well, defying gravity through sheer speed and grip to intercept a soccer ball as big as tall as a two-story building. His eyebrows rose. “Huh. Well I guess this won’t be boring, huh?” He glanced between the others. “Any thoughts? We probably wanna get in touch with some locals, figure out what we can about the area. Probably no need to stick together, either.” As the group neared the stadium, he listened for any suggestions from his company.

The Chalk Prince and the Skullgirl

Location: Frozen Highlands - Alpine Skyline
Linkle’s @Gentlemanvaultboy, Frisk’s @Majoras End

Even if he seemed rather impersonal at times, Albedo remained a living being at the end of the day, and that meant he couldn’t stand the aura of extravagant cold that radiated from Linkle in the midst of her tranquil fury. He backed away, giving the Skullgirl a wide berth as she approached the remains of Tuley’s home. Her every step crystallized the grass and soil in a small area around her, a couple feet in diameter, leaving behind a flash-frozen trail. When she reached the briar patch, however, she allowed the true, lethal strength of her cryomancy to really shine. Her frigid touch glazed over and then into the entire loathsome plant, chilling it to the core foot by foot and yard by yard, until all that remained was an ivory-white sculpture spiked with icicles. Then it shattered, its brittle mass crumbling to nothing under the power of Linkle’s kick.

It was a more symbolic than functional act, since that alone wouldn’t restore Tuley’s livelihood, but it helped take the edge off Linkle's temper. Her aura of absolute cold faded away, though it would be a while before the chill left the air, and a while longer before it left Albedo’s spine. Throughout his travels with her so far the alchemist had seen so much of the girl’s warm, friendly side that he’d almost forgotten about the side of her that trapped the Stranger beneath a mountain of ice. He was glad that this young woman, a veritable avatar of cold and death, was a good person at heart--and not the monster either the goddess Freya or the detestable Skull Heart made her out to be.

For now Albedo didn’t spend much time wondering what drove the witch of the woods to do exactly what she did. Instead he moved forward to lend a hand. Once Linkle went quiet, he picked up the slack. “She’s right. It would be unwise for you to stay,” he told the little old gardener. “We will help you as best we can. It is only fair that we do our utmost for you, seeing as our arrival played a part in this debacle. You did nothing to merit such cruelty.” When it came to helping with Tuley’s things, he made overt use of one of his more subtle abilities, stowing the gardener’s various belongings in an invisible Inventory on his person that did not burden him in any way.

In short order everyone was ready to go, and a good thing too, since Linkle realized something important. Albedo nodded and picked up Tuley, following Linkle to the flagline. Just as before, they rode the gravity-defying rope banner skyward, flying up through the mists with their little passenger held tight. After ascending past the clouds Tuley gawked at the glory of the Alpine Skyline with wide eyes, seeing for perhaps the first time in his life a glimpse of the world’s vastness. With no time to waste, the teenagers took flagline after flagline between the peaks and soon arrived at Goat Village, where they explained the gardener's situation and pleaded for the villagers to lend him a hand in these trying times. Luckily, the mountain folks accepted wholeheartedly. Before he knew it Tuley found himself surrounded by villagers eager to help him get situated, offering to carry the seeds, tools, and other things the pair salvaged from Tuley’s ravaged home.

Now that the sorry affair had as happy of an ending as they could hope for, Linkle and Albedo sped onward, zipping higher and higher still until they reached the Cold Monastery. Father Guerra was surprised to see them again so soon, and when confronted by their urgent questions and warnings assured them with placating hands that there had been no new arrivals or disturbances since their departure. A thorough search, with the battle priests and priestesses helping, turned up no sign of Freya. Skadi, meanwhile, was just as the blonde teens left her. Nothing seemed to be amiss.

“Plants, hm?” Guerra mused, rubbing his whiskers. “Might be her power’s limited up here in the cold. Whatever the case might be, rest assured we’ll keep a sharp eye out. We’re a peace-loving place, but anybody who might think us weak is in for a rude awakening. The average monk here is a master of kung fu, the clergy can weaponize their faith, and even I...” With a rather dark chuckle, the good father crossed his arms. “Well, I have my ways. If this Freya is as bad as you say, she will not escape justice. As they say, may God forgive her, for I will not. Peace be with you, my children...”

With no sign of the errant goddess and the Cold Monastery about as secure as it was going to get, there wasn’t a lot left for Linkle and Albedo to do other than follow their original plan. Since Albedo didn’t know a way there other than one from Snowdin, that meant retracing their steps across the icy cliffs and through the pine-dotted snowfields. There, they got the chance to re-experience the delight that was constant ice elementals and, just when they thought they found somewhere to hide, the deceitful and painful Tree Women lashing out at them with icy breath, whiplike branches, or ember clouds. By the time the pair finally made it back to Snowdin, it was mid-afternoon, and even if Linkle was raring to forge onward they couldn’t set out straightaway, either.

“I am sorry, but I need a moment,” Albedo gasped after entering town, his already soft voice weaker than usual. “The cold has set in. The ice from the mountains most likely melted while we were down in the glades, dampening my coat and decreasing its protection. If I go too much longer, I may risk serious and perhaps permanent damage.” He pointed in the direction of Grillby’s, and the two hurried inside the alchemist’s usual haunt. Albedo removed his coat and with Grillby’s permission hung it by the fire to dry, then eased into a booth. “Hot cocoa, if you don’t mind,” he requested, and with a nod the dapper flame elemental got to work. Rubbing his hands together, Albedo did what he could to get the heat flowing through him once more, and not keep Linkle waiting too long.
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