Some places are believed to be a nexus, a site where magical energies coalesce and spread out across the land. While blessed with such arcane force, they are also considered to be cursed, for they often draw in beings both good and evil: Patrons seeking power, peace, or even simple amusement for themselves. And yet, so many have turned their sights to Penrose of all places. Is it a true nexus, where Horrors can truly manifest, and Gods can enact their divine will? Where Lesser Forces ride on wings of destiny, and Puchuu seek great promise? Or is it by mere chance of fate that so many magical girls have come together to stake their claim on the ravaged earth, having now twice seen a near apocalypse up close?
Of course, the answer is simple: as fortune favors the bold, so do the winds of destiny push the vessels of yearning. Some are driven by power and greed, wanting what they yet not have, as they continue to possess more and more. Others seek chaos and frivolity, binding themselves to the yoke of desire. And yet some are driven by a powerful, world-destroying purpose: justice. The Beacon of Penrose once shared the belief of not granting mercy to any monster, no matter how human they seemed. But now, they have found a new justice; justice of equality for those scorned and persecuted.
A phone rang on a table near where Alicia was sleeping, having woken up from her slumber a while ago. It has been an hour since she had returned back to this world from a magical adventure, only to return back to a cold and dark Penrose. Snow coated the landscape, and what life yet remained on the streets moved quickly and cautiously. Even the sun, so bright and cheery in the summer, only remained for scant few hours in the sky before the long night settled in. It had become a city of fear, not only for the civilians who dreaded a new natural disaster, but also for the monster girls and dark magical. An old justice has come, delivering its fiery wrath.
When Alicia picked up the phone, she could hear Sylvia's shaky voice. "Alicia, are you there?" The voice asked. "Are you at your parents' place? We need to meet up." She paused, thinking of how to word her next phrase. "Listen, things have changed, and now...The Ascendancy's here, and they want me. But I can't do it just yet. I need time to think. Let's meet at the ice rink. My mom's still freaked out over me being gone, but I told her I need to go to school. I'm bringing Sally over too. Just sit tight, bye." Once Sylvia closed the phone while on the roof of her house, she took one last look at her house. "They'll be here any minute. I need to lead them away." Having steeled her resolve, she transformed, and ran off, leaping from rooftop to rooftop. ...
"She hung up," June stated after a moment, and turned towards the group of magical girls on the other side of the brightly lit hall; what once was the Hall of Luminous Valor, just next to the coffee machine, had been changed into something resembling a war room, with monitors hanging on the back wall, and a great table with a hologram of Penrose represented on it. "What should we do next?" She asked. The crowd of local magical girls and few magical boys silently stood by the sidelines, nervously eyeing the few magical girls who were seated around the table; they were members of the Beacon Ascendancy, a new force on Penrose, with a reputation of never failing in their missions in the Beacon community, and ready to do anything to purge corruption and heresy among those who fear them. One of them tapped the table.
"Can you trace the signal, Elora?" A serious-looking magical girl asked. The sound of fingers rapidly tapping on a keyboard could be heard in the chamber. After a couple of seconds, another voice rose from the back.
"Confirmed," Elora stated. "Sylvia is currently located at her home." She paused for a second, and swiped her hand up; suddenly, a visual representation of audio waves was inserted over the Penrose hologram. "She is calling one of the local units. Name: Alicia Hayden. Rank: Seraph. History: a participant of the JvV and S-incidents."
"So she's running to her cronies, huh? Want me to go bring her in? I could do it in two minutes you know!" A shorter girl in gas mask was sitting at the edge of the table, swinging her legs back and forth. "I'm bored of all this talking, and there's a heretic on the loose."
Leena rolled her eyes. "Right, right. You and your Trinity BS." She hopped on top of the table on her hands, and then flipped to the exit. "I'm going after the U-type lead we just picked up. Tsuki, you let me know when that chick's back, ok?"
The girl who first spoke scoffed and crossed her arms. "I'll also come in a moment. Take FanFan with you."
A glasses-wearing girl seated on the table adjusted them with a careful push of her palm, and frowned. "You should have scolded Leena for acting so brashly, Húdié" she spoke towards the mask-wearing girl. "You're giving a bad example to Dawn here." She gestured towards the girl who sat next to her, Dawn Astraea. She was the Ascendancy's newest member, brought to Penrose for her first international mission. "In the Ascendancy, we operate by strict protocol."
Húdié sighed. "I have seen the Liches in the Trinity, Rachel," she answered. "And I saw Leena. You know what that means." She looked towards a silently praying girl, her head leaned down. She looked up at her, and with a sad look, slowly nodded. Húdié turned to Rachel. "We need to send Dawn."
Rachel turned her head aside with an indignant huff. "Very well then. Dawn, you are to follow Leena and FanFan. Prepare for combat."
Cindy rubbed her hands together, and saw the static sparks that lit up. The lightning monster had returned back to the secret shelter, which has expanded since the time Penny last saw it; it had descended deeper and deeper underground in a network of stone corridors and chambers by a group of monster girls and dark magical girls that seemed to grow everyday. Not only did the shelter provide warmth and comfort as well as safety from the cold weather, it was also warded by the strongest of illusions and anti-scrying magic, preventing any being from finding it via magical means. However, the tunnels were not completely safe, as Cindy heard that cave-ins have occurred, sometimes trapping people for hours before they could be saved. "Penny laid a really good foundation, but it doesn't help if it continues going lower and lower. I wonder where she is now? Not to mention her..." She reminisced about her time in another world.
Surrounded by beaches and seas, girls in swimsuits and festive activities… A little bit in the past, still during the stay at the island paradise, Mariette had found herself asked to accompany a girl composed entirely by lightning, the one they called Cindy Ford, who’d previously announced herself to be the ruler of Penrose… who wanted to have a private word with Mariette. Very well, then.
As she accompanied Cindy towards the café, the white-haired girl in an eyepatch got seated on a simple chair at a table not far from where you ordered the drinks. Mariette was happy enough with just getting orange juice. Honestly, she didn’t get to drink that particularly often. Still, not the most avid conversationalist, Mariette kept her eyes on Cindy as she awaited what the shape of condensed lightning would say.
Cindy soon joined her with two glasses of juice, placing one on her side of the table before taking her own at the opposite side. “I ordered you a blueberry smoothie. Hopefully your taste buds find that agreeable,” the crackling monster girl spoke, and took a sip of her own lemonade. “I recognized your voice from the time I made my declaration to Penrose. You suggested that we should form an alliance. Now, I would like you to elaborate on that. Exactly what kind of cooperation are you offering to me?” She asked in a polite tone, slightly contrasting her dated vocabulary.
Blueberry smoothie it is. Mariette took a bit of it, and found that it was agreeable enough. Now.
Huhu. Did she suggest something like that? Perhaps she did. Let’s say she did.
‘… Very well,’ Mariette started, putting down the smoothie to look at Cindy. ‘I am, perhaps you could say, a princess from another dimension. I lead the forces of my patron, which are great in number, and support his desires. Now, he cares little for who rules in Penrose…’ which was true enough… ‘… but he needs me to supply him with resources every now and then. As Penrose is at the center of a magical flux, it’s a logical place to begin. So, the deal is as follows…’
‘You get a portion of our strength. We’ll help by deploying monsters in key positions, give you Magical Girls that will fight for you, and will give you information as needed. In exchange, you give us any monsters you fight, any prisoners or enemies that you think would be better spent thrown into the abyss, or magical items that you feel you can spare us. We’ll give you support proportional to how much you give us, but overall, I believe you’ll find ruling Penrose to be a lot easier if you have our help.’ … That about covers it.
Cindy listened intently, a pair of flickering strands of electricity on her forehead furrowing like eyebrows. “The Abyss, huh? Well, I suppose it is how you describe your inner demons.” She smiled. “We can always use information and new subjects...Even monsters too, should the Beacon threaten their safety.” She gave a curious look. “Your idea of equivalent exchange is unexpected, but adequate. Having a reliable means of disposal will prove beneficial to our rule. I may even be able to throw in an artifact or two, should you prove yourself worthy of your confidence, hm hm~” She glowed a bit, and took a sip. “I assume you have underlings prepared to gather any offerings I may have?”
‘Absolutely. … Well, not currently...’ Mariette said, gesturing a bit on the environment around her. It was hard for them to be prepared when they were all stranded in a beach dimension. ‘… But under the assumption that we will be returned to Penrose eventually, that will be the case. We’re keeping the city under watch and my followers are prepared to jump in whenever is needed.’
Cindy clapped her hands together, causing a bright light to manifest, like the snapping of a photo. “Excellent! In that case, I shall declare our alliance true.” She leaned over at Valerie’s direction. “Two beers here, tavern wench! We shall have a feast!” Valerie’s eye twitched, but she smiled and bowed. “I’m sorry, but we don’t serve alcohol...” “Hah! What kind of pub is this? Very well then, two refills of our drinks then.” She turned to Mariette. “Meet my advisor on top of the town hall on Saturday midnight; then, we shall discuss the details of your fealty.”
Well. That was decently easy. Fortunately, Mariette was saved from alcohol by Valerie. Besides that, was Cindy actually able to consume alcohol? Did she have a bloodstream for it to give her a high from? … These questions aside. ‘Very well. We will meet you there.’ With that said, she lifted her drink (blueberry smoothie) to meet Cindy’s glass, because that’s the form of gesture she got the feeling Cindy would appreciate. ‘For a fruitful united endeavour, then,’ Mariette offered, albeit her expression remained passive.
Cindy snapped back to hearing that members of the Ascendancy were on the move, and ordered everyone to hide themselves in the lair. Then, she bit the corner of her mouth hard as she waited in silence. They have already killed scores of her own people, and knew that if she attempted resisting their brutality, she could lose everything. Right now, it was a cold war between her and the Ascendancy, hatred boiling under the surface of the serene city.
However, despite the darkness that seemed to wrap the city in its deathly hold, a Glimmr of hope could be seen sparkling on the screens of devices all over the city...
What was a clandestine environment? Was it a dark alleyway? A grungy basement? A smoky nightclub? An isolated parking lot?
Nay, for magical girls, veiled from the eyes of the public by the Ignorance that kept men and women from being truly aware of the creatures that stalked the night, a clandestine environment was as simple as meeting them at the entrance of a train station. Dressed in all black, Dolly looked for once as if she matched the season, her warm fabrics and long sleeves complementing the dire weather that had descended upon Penrose. Few humans strode through the streets now, a chain of curious disasters having evacuated the majority, leaving only a stubborn minority of Ignorant behind.
Monsters and saints had eyes everywhere, but Dolly remained nonplussed. Standing beside the copper statue of a loyal wolfhound, she held a small briefcase in her hand and waited quietly for her contact to arrive.
Around the corner, a small girl in a fluffy coat a bit too large for her size came waltzing in, a childish demeanor about her. She was carrying a backpack filled to the brim with stuff, including a broom that stuck out.
‘Whoo wee!I’m really glad the stuff I collected was still in my shop when I returned. Thanks for keeping it all safe while I was gone, Agatha!’
‘����� ���� ��������’ Agatha, the floating ball that was Brittany’s lesser force patron, now in the form of a cute keychain on her backpack, quietly whispered.
‘I know, I know. But now that we’re all back that shouldn’t happen anymore, so no worries! Now, where’s my business partner...Aha!’ She walked right up to Dolly.
‘Good to see you again, Dolly! It’s gotten a bit chillier than last time, he he~’ She giggled a bit, and removed her backpack. ‘Now, here’s what I managed to find before we were whisked away.’ She took out a fragmented chunk of what looked like onyx. ‘This is a piece of the altar. It was nearly buried, but I managed to dig this up.’ Then she dug out a vial of black liquid. ‘This is really potent stuff, highly corruptive so handle it with care. I think it may be melted remains of what used to be Soth’s avatar. Ok, and here...’ Then she offered a piece of silver chain, a bone, and a tiny container of black goop. ‘And here’s the rest. So, what do you think?’
Dolly handled the vial of black liquid with care, but it was the silver chain that her flashing eyes lingered upon the longest. After a moment, she nodded, placing the briefcase upon the snow. A Matchbox was in her hand, and one by one, the gothic girl slid Brittany’s salvage into the small compartment.
“This is satisfactory. You have my gratitude, Brittany.” She stood there, motionless. Her head inclined once, her hands pulling the hems of her coat as Dolly dipped into a curtsy. “Your payment is within the suitcase. If any of your customers so desires a custom-made item, you may contact me with the details of the commission.
‘����� ���� ������������� ����’ Agatha spoke, spooking a nearby civilian as he walked away.
‘Oh, no need to thank me. I just did what was specified in our contract, that’s all, he he~’ Brittany replied, blushing a bit. ‘There’s going to be a boom in business if the beach trip is any indication, so I’m surely going to need more wares.’ She took the suitcase, and took a peek inside. ‘Just be careful, okay? Agatha told me that Penrose has turned dangerous recently.’
“Evidently so,” Dolly said, turning away, “but it will be more troublesome if it was your existence that was terminated rather than mine. Farewell, Brittany, and good fortune to Cindy’s reclamation of Penrose.”
And, like sand, the gothic girl dissolved, all traces of her presence dispersed by the winter wind.
Brittany pulled on her backpack, and then blew some hot air on her fingers. ‘Speaking of dangerous, I gotta get back to the shop or I’ll turn into a popsicle!’ Brittany then also took off.
Not long after, she flipped the sign of her shop from closed to open. She sat down, took out her pink laptop, and wrote out a simple message on Glimmr, the social media service of the magical world:
‘Grand Opening of Brittany’s Boutique! New artifacts for sale!’
When Alexander returned to Penrose through the portal, what greeted him was a bizarre sight. The city looked like it had been hit by some kind of life sucking blizzard. Alexander had seen a snow covered city before...but this was different. Mere seconds after his brain had finished processing what he had seen, he had suddenly felt a wave of dread wash over him. If the things looked this bad...this ominous, then what about his home?
...what about his animals?
That was why the bitter magical boy was transformed an in his Beast Mode, running as fast as he could home. Although he would have been able to get there faster with the help of his housemate, Lily, in his state of panic, he didn't think about that. He just had to get home, had to make sure that they were alright. When he caught site of his home, the few bits of blood splatter he was able to make out on the front lawn filled him with a panicked energy as he somehow picked up speed. Blitzing to the door, he unlocked and threw it open. But he never would have expected what he saw;
"Honey, where are my pants!?"
The TV was on, and on the couch was three familiar creatures; Bob the rabbit, Tim the weasel, and Dave the owl. All looking perfectly fine, Tim even eating raw bacon out of a packet. The noise he made coming in though grabbed their attention, and when they saw him, they all started flipping out. Dave zoomed over to his head and started making weird owl noises as he landed in his hair Tim started bouncing around (a 'war dance' if Alexander remembered right), and Bob rushed over to him and jumped at his stomach, somehow knocking him over "Gahhhh!" Alexander cried out as he landed on his butt. Dave still in his hair somehow, and with Tim now joining them as he dragged over the pack of bacon. Alexander took a few seconds to take this all in before he started laughing "T-thank fuck!" and then tears started to stream down his face "You...you fucking bums are okay! I don't..." And then he was just straight crying as he held Bob tightly to his chest.
"Right, so..." Alexander began, as he stared down the tree animals "None of that fucking happened. And if you ever try to tell anyone otherwise, then I'll turn you into that" He pointed at a plate piled with freshly cooked bacon. The sight of it caused Tim to start twitching, and Alexander sighed "Alright, fine!" Tim darted to the bacon, and began to feed. Alexander went to his bedroom to grab a piece of paper and pen, writing "Grabbing magic swag, be back later" on it before taking it to the living room where the animals were. He quickly noticed that bob and Dave had joined Tim in consuming the bacon. This caused Alexander to pause for a few seconds before he shrugged 'Meh, I'm sure it's fine.' He put the note on the table with them "Make sure Lily sees this if she comes back" A simple nod from Bob was all he got before he left. As he did, he thought back to that strange post he found on Glimmr, when he had been looking online for some answers as to what was going on "'Brittany’s Boutique' eh. He're hoping I can find something good." And with that, he rushed off to said boutique.
Shion sat alone in the back of a warehouse, waiting for two of her clones to return to her. She fiddled with her phone as she waited before nearly dropping it in surprise.
A hole in reality stood open before her. Floating in mid-air, a portal to darkness, just utter black on the other side. Then, a girl stepped through, a pale girl with long white hair, dressed in an elaborate dark dress, eye-patch over one of her eyes and arms around a white stuffed bunny.
‘I am Mariette Pedersen,’ she said. ‘Shion. I have an offer for you.’
Uh… Right. Okay, I can handle a random girl appearing from nowhere and wanting to make an offer. Not exactly the form I expected the devil to take, but…” She laughed. I’m just joking about that. I’d be interested in hearing how you found me though.”
‘Suffice to say, I have scouts scouring Penrose at all times, and one of them happened to overhear a very interesting conversation in the Pitstop,’ Mariette told her, assuming that to be enough. ‘Your gems. I command the ability to traverse dimensions, you see. Within my reach I have many worlds filled to the brim with mana, which your gems could collect plenty. You can even request the type of mana you’d like them to be filled with. Leave them with me, and I assure you they will be filled far faster than if you left them with the likes of Penrose Independent,’ so Mariette claimed.
‘In return, I want a portion of the gems. A third of them should do,’ Mariette told, gazing at Shion.
... That’s… quite the offer. I’m certainly interested, but I wonder if an individual can manage what a group like the Independent can. Each gem requires a one and a half Silver Coin investment. That’s why I went to them, because they can supply not only the bodies but the investment to grow perpetually. If you can afford the upfront cost, I’d be more than happy to take up your offer. A third of what you collect is more than fair if you’re telling the truth.”
Mariette stood silent for a second, squeezing her little stuffed bunny, considering it. While she had a large amount of money, she did not gain any new coins from her patron, and it was as such a limited amount, not to be spent on a potentially limitless amount of these gems. ‘Hm. My scout failed to inform me about the coin requirement. Very well. Before I confirm anything further, then, how large a quantity over how large a time-span are we talking? How many would want to have us work with?’
”The more the better. If you really can fill them like you say, it wouldn’t take… probably a month to fill up a full hundred or more gems, assuming we could afford that many. If I could just wish them into existence, I’d have you take... Shion paused for a moment to calculate. At a third of them for you, I’d say getting three hundred would pretty well set you up for life at a hundred, and would probably finish my goal as well. Shion laughed. But it’s obviously not that easy, and it’s costly. But keep in mind that the gems are reusable; once they’ve been emptied of their storage, you can refill them. I’m honestly surprised we’re getting away with it as cheaply as we are.”
‘Hm. I may not be prepared to make quite that big of a monetary investment. While my group has an excessive amount of magic, we’re not as intent on profit. Tell me, then. Would a deal of some form still work if my party simply stood for the magical charging of the gems? I promise that the speed and quality will be superior to anything the Independent can offer. If not… I suppose I could provide the funding for 80 gems, out of which I’d like 20,’ Mariette suggested, looking noticeably less happy.
”Of course. We’d be able to get you some gems to charge and you could keep a third, but if I may be selfish, I’d prefer to just give you twenty-five of the eighty you could afford. Twenty seems like a lowball to me, or maybe you could consider the five extra as compensation for charging some of the other fifty-five?”
‘How generous of you,’ Mariette said with a nod. ‘Very well. In that case…’ Mariette waved her hand in the air, and a portal opened in the air. A girl that’d been on stand-by jumped out, a blonde girl in a purple dress that immediately turned to Shion and smirked, waving a draped-over hand at her.
‘This is Suzette Laderoute. She is the one that will be in charge of ensuring the right sort of magic is put into each gem, and is also the one who will be meeting up with you when I am busy in other directions,’ Mariette explained.
‘Yo~! Pleased to meetcha!’ Suzette said, in an amused tone.
‘The funds will be…’ Mariette said, and then a portal opened basically right by Shion’s side, and an amount of coins just fell out of it. Somehow, it was the perfect amount of coins to pay for the deal that had just been agreed on. ‘… That should do. I suppose you don’t have the gems at this moment. Shall we plan for when to meet up again?’ So Mariette asked.
Shion’s eyes lit up. ”Wow… sort of expected it to take you a while to gather those up. Yeah, we can meet up again in… does two days sound okay? We can meet back here again, same time? Or would you prefer some other place and time?”
‘This place will be fine. And if it isn’t for any reason, we’ll simply pick you up. So you’ll provide the gems to Suzette, she’ll fill them with mana of the different types you request, and then we’ll give them back for examination. After that, you can give us our share. Deal?’ Mariette asked.
”Absolutely. Deal.” Shion held out her hand.
Mariette took a step or so forward, separated one hand from the bunny she was clutching, and took Shion’s hand, sealing the deal.
Minutes Before Leaving the Beach Dimension
Summer took her Ruby Coin, sat down on a beach-chair, and sighed. To be honest with herself, she had sort of wasted the vacation. Dark thoughts filled her mind until Shion suddenly walked up to her. "Hey." Summer looked up at Shion, who was moving around somewhat nervously.
"Uh... I was wondering if I could have that coin you just got?"
"What?" How selfish of her! Not only did Shion just get one of her own, but she had the whole vacation to make money through events!
"Look, I... I'm not the best at asking for favors. But I'd be eternally grateful if you would give me that coin. You aren't going to need it here, you know? And I could really use it..."
Summer thought for a moment. "Why do you want it so bad?"
Shion flinched. She had hoped to get away with not needing to explain. "I... I lost my brother a while back. Her voice grew somber. "I think that... with enough magic, I might be able to bring him back to life. That's my goal in life, now."
Again, Summer took a moment before responding. "I know what it's like to lose someone you love. I lost a brother too, before I became a magical girl. Well, he was my cat, but he was a brother to me. So I get the feeling of wanting to bring someone back... Do you really, honestly believe you can do it though?"
"I do. Absolutely." A moment passed in silence. "I'm sorry about your loss." Shion added genuinely.
Summer sighed and let out a small laugh. "I spent my whole time here sta-... I mean, doing something important to me, so I didn't really have time to just relax. Besides, I'm... not really that important to Beacon. I was sent to Penrose mostly to get out of everyone's hair, I think. Sure, I offered to go there to help out when I heard the situation there, but... I think it was only approved because they didn't want me anymore. And all I really did in Penrose was manage to destroy a landmark with a stupid use of my powers, so... I think I'll just hang out here for a while. As for you..." She flipped the coin towards Shion, who caught it. "Dan said these are made from our wishes, right? I guess I can lend my hope to your dream. Just promise me that you'll remember this and be generous to people when you can, okay?"
Shion stared at her in disbelief. "Y-yeah. Okay, I promise." With that, she turned away and walked towards the exit, turning and waving at Summer before going through it.
A Conversation Over the Phone
Yeah, there were a bunch of events where we could get magical coins for entering. You should've been there."
"Well, I personally spent the time relaxing. The only way to get a gold coin was to participate in a lesbian's wet dream sport of some kind, and weaker coins weren't worth the effort. I had my duplicates take pictures and video for the P.I., and it turns out that I now have profiles on most major players in Penrose. At least, before everything went to shit."
... ... ... ... ...
"Yes, I know your were worried. But you knew I was safe. Besides, you should learn to trust me more."
It clawed her up and ate her whole, smashing her soul to bits as her imaginary veins roared in agony. Before she had even breathed in the air of a changed Penrose, Amaryllis paid for her absence in full. The full burden of her neglected wish fell upon her, and she buckled upon the cold bedframe, her body rebelling against her. What happened? How could only a few days at that beach dimension end up with them all suddenly being shunted into a whole new season? Her throat burned, and blood coated her vision, the sheer range of her flexibility tested as she contorted at the face of such magical duress. It was the power of the Djinn that first kickstarted the creation of the anti-magic barrier, but now, that payment would have to be extracted from herself, torn from her core. Whatever energy she recouped from her vacation at the beach was exhausted now, the quicksilver of her veins straining to keep up with the sudden demand. No one else was inside the apartment, thankfully. No one was even in the city block.
Silence reigned as Amaryllis grit her teeth, suppressing the desire to scream. It was fine. It was alright. She wasn't going to kill the fucking dolphin for this. She was going to bear it all, and move on. Her nails dug into the side of the wooden frame until she could feel them tear against the wood. Monstrous power roared into her veins, her shell of humanity cracking under the magical duress. It felt endless, yet instantaneous, the draining of her magical power far beyond what she could naturally output. But Amaryllis held on, those silver chains reigning in the beast, reigning in her sanity.
And when it ended, when that translucent shimmer of magical power settled over Penrose again, the girl collapsed, exhausted.
She rolled to her side, staring at her Sword. For all her absence, it hadn't done anything at all in retaliation, huh? The girl poked it, and felt a poke back, right between her eyes. She squinted, frowned, and then let out a sigh. There was another prodding sensation felt around her neck, and soon after, her Healing Artifact hummed back to life. Warmth filled the cold, desolate room that was once her home. Silvered stitches sew together ruptured blood vessels and fractured bone. Her broken nails regrew, reformed. There was nothing in the room to quench her thirst and hunger, but even those pangs faded somewhat. A curious smile formed on Amaryllis's face as she shakily sat up.
Had her Sword thought she'd abandon it when she was spirited off into Dan's dimension?
The soul-shearing saber felt cool in her hand, and as she brought the mirror-polished blade up to inspect, memories of her period of absence flashed through her mind, a surge of disastrous images flickering one after another in rapid succession. The calamity of the heavens and the shattering of the earth. Monsters unchecked by a reduced population of Penrose's protectors. Horrors free to scheme, their machinations proceeding unhindered. It made her want to kill the damned dolphin all over again, but as her anger rose, a quick spike of pain in the back of her neck restored her clarity.
The barrier was still not yet complete.
And her Sword, after countless days of neglect, was hungry.
Later then. Her angst can wait. Her homework can too.
For now, what could the Knight of Rose do in this situation, but hunt down the monsters that had turned her city to a ghost town?
It had only been an hour since she had found herself back in Penrose, and yet it all seemed to have gone to some literal frozen-over hell in a hand-basket. Her Patron had been squeaking and creaking and rattling and the like non-stop in her ears at first, worried tones and concerns far more obvious than not, and she'd quickly jumped in her transport ship to go find someone. Not much chance she'd find her "ally" anytime soon...not that the maid lass didn't have enough to worry about as it was, it seemed. More than that, she only had one person she knew decently-ish that hadn't been trying to kill her as well. Goo Las-....Amaryllis. Yes, Amaryllis. Was a nice name, had a good ring to it.
Though a lotta' monsters needed killing as well, much to her own admission as well as the information provided by her patron. Bah. They were magical girls, they had a job to do! And no good pirate let a mate get drug behind before a good hunt! Lots of enemies were out and about, to be slaughtered and plundered for coin and riches!
Yet in the meantime...
"Oi, ah' git' yer' point, ya' creakin' squeakin' majesty....but ah' missed' ya' too, an' it seems like ya' saw a lotta' goins'-on in tha' meantime. Ah' jus' gotta search fer er' first, ok? Keep ah' lookout fer' er' as well, don't wanna' be tha' only one doin' this ere'. An' at maid lass' oughta' be fine as well fer now, ah' hope."
Such a needy ghost ship, not that its worries weren't unfounded in this case either.
Penrose had gone so very dark, so very cold while they all had been gone in that beach dimension. How long had time passed here in the meantime? Days? Weeks? Months? Clearly not years at least, much to her comfort, but eventually she'd decided she needed to check up on someone. Alicia. More than just the weather, something felt wrong in the air of Penrose that she could not shake. Even the warmth of the arms of her "fake" family couldn't seem to chase away the concerns and anxiety she felt bubbling up inside about it all. Eventually she'd excused herself to "go visit a friend who wasn't feeling well", and after agreeing to bundle up and "be safe" she had eventually been allowed out. Trudging through the icy cold and snow-covered streets of a city that had seemingly only seen disaster after disaster, the untransformed Serenity made her way towards Alicia's house. Maybe she'd be there? She had no idea right now, to be blunt.
Though she wouldn't do nothing in the meantime. Punching in a number and pulling her family-provided cellphone to her face, and barely tugging the scarf wrapped around her low enough to speak clearly, Serenity listened to the ringer go off over and over with baited breath. She couldn't hear anyone picking up yet, but that didn't mean something bad was happening...right?
"C-C-Come on, Alicia....please pick up...," the girl said under her breath, as if to console herself whilst she made the arduous trip just down the street a few short blocks.
The song of battle seemed to hang in the air, the darkness of night, the bitterness of the cold, and the prowling of monsters that had taken over the streets in the seeming absence of many of the city's protectors. Albeit it seemed they had all arrived back out of the blue an hour ago. A very strange occurrence, something she'd chock up to the gods' handiwork...or at least some potentially malicious being perhaps. Running from rooftop to rooftop, her attire billowing in the wind behind her, the transformed monster girl felt the thrill of the hunt coursing through her once more as she went about pursuing monsters that lurked in the shadows. It was like falling back into an old practice, and old habit, but without the struggle some might have at adjusting to such. So natural was this task to her, so ingrained into her being was the slaughter of monsters and her enemies, it was akin to breathing for the common man. Alas, with the other magical girls back she was unsure how long her time would last for his particular venture before someone else popped in. Some could get so territorial about their cities and places, not that she much cared about that after all these years.
Something caught Ninha's attention, causing her to stop on the top of a nearby building. Just as she'd found another bit of prey to slaughter as well.
"So those people are here somewhere as well. How peculiar...but unsurprising all the same."
A small smile came to the monster girl's face. Nothing she had to worry about right now, frankly. Knowing them, they'd be busy internally before they looked outwards perhaps. For now, she could just go about her business and maybe see if she ran into anyone interesting.
She could only stare out at the city before her. Eliza had appeared upon the rooftops again, but the dreadful Winter season that had waited for the mahou's return had left her frozen in fear. She regreted not destroying that vacation dimension while she had the chance, so many questions ran through her mind. How long were they gone? What could have caused this? Has the Ebon Mint announced her death, or put her under excommunicado?
What happened to Maura? And the other magical children under her wing?
Eliza had to find them, see if they're okay. Using a bit of her illusion magic, the angel fashioned a hooded cloak to hide her wings and face. It was too much of a risk to be discovered as a monster girl now.
Maura?? Maura, can you hear me?! Eliza tried to use her telepathy to check back on her patron, climbing back down to the ground with her ribbons. Where are the others?!
Before the angel ran off, Maura appeared behind her in a blue flame. Though instead of a girl appearing around Eliza's age, there stood a young woman, holding a scythe appearing much stronger than her Soprono's Cipher.
“M-Maura! You're okay!” Eliza spun around, and gave the Lesser Force a quick hug.
“I'm glad you're alright, but it's not safe for us to be out here for long. Follow me, I'll explain on the way.” Maura said, hoping to get Eliza to a safe place before they get spotted.
“What about Miss Veronica?” Eliza asked, holding the ruby coin in her pocket.
Maura shrugged. “I'm not sure what to do about our...partners, or the scarlet maiden. For now, let's just find the others and figure something out.”
Fingers drummed on wood, repetitive, like an unending drumbeat upon the wooden cabinet that Alicia sat next to in the lobby of Beacon HQ. It wasn’t like her to be nervous. Ask anyone and they would cite her as the picture of determined action, a caring attitude, and many other platitudes besides. Well, hopefully they did. And yet here she was, increasingly worried about what she had planned to do as the minutes ticked by,
It had been pretty busy recently. With the White Coin finally out there it felt like Beacon had finally sprung back to life, ready to face the tasks that were in front of it rather than just slapping on damage control. They’d seen a swelling of new recruits, and after some time Alicia had decided that she should spend some time with people other than Penny or Janet and Jenna.
Alicia could have done this with anyone really (though there were some she was unwilling to spend personal time with, in spite of their apparent newfound devotion to the cause), but in the end she had decided to meet with Serenity. She was probably the most unusual person here aside from certain individuals with Alicia’s ire, whether she liked it or not. After all, Penny being around meant that monster girls had become somewhat familiar, for better or worse. But a girl who had once upon a time been part of a world ending Horror? Now that was unique.
Though she couldn’t really claim that it was entirely selfless. She was curious and wanted to know more. And perhaps that was in error, but it had worked out with Penny. What were the odds something went wrong here?
So she’d talked with Serenity, and set up a time to meet. A time that was rapidly approaching, as she remained in place to be more easily found. She had no idea if this was going to work out like how she wanted, and the uncertainty was really starting to get to her. Maybe this had been a bad idea after all.
But she wouldn’t have too much longer to be obsessed with her own thoughts as the girl she was meeting with drew near.
...On the other end of the spectrum, a certain white haired girl was nervously making her way over towards Alicia. Her eyes were seemingly struck looking towards the ground, with minimal looking up save to see where she needed to go...and not run into anyone. Not that she hadn’t been approached by enough as it were in the last while, between questions from people, and the grilling by Beckoners, and the stares of mixed opinion. This was not even to mention the comments she had been hearing, ones about gratefulness to the “Star Seraph” for supposedly purifying her…
...Which frankly the “Star Seraph” hadn’t done, though the maid was a tad afraid to let that bit slip out. Who would even dare to believe her about the true story???
All of this combined had thusly made her prior conversation with said “Star Seraph” about meeting up and hanging out…well, all the more nerve-frying at its core. She’d held up as best as she could, agreed to meet at a certain time. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad? It was hard enough adjusting to her own skin with all of the attention and fear she felt, albeit physically her body felt entirely natural at least. It was at least one little benefit she’d been able to have after all of this.
”H-h-hi there...umm...Alicia,” the maid said, her voice sounding like she felt as she made her final approach towards the finger-tapping magical girl, all whilst decked out in her casual attire and in an (of course) untransformed state, ”S-Sorry for almost being late...umm...people kept...ah…”
By the Infinite Abyss, or maybe she should be thinking “Beacon’s Light” now, she hoped this day out would be a good thing! Maybe something to soothe her nerves, or at least get her away from the magical girls crowds here at the moment. Er...Alicia seemed like a nice girl, at least!
Thump, thump, thump-
Drumming fingers stopped abruptly as Alicia turned to face Serenity, with her agitation dispelled by the arrival of the person that she had been waiting for. There was a silent breath, all concerns and fears laid to the side as she approached this situation. Now they could only see how things worked out.
”Hey Serenity,” she replied with a small nod of her head. ”It’s okay, I’m just glad you made it.”
Rising to her feet, the Seraph took a moment to brush the accumulated wrinkles out of her shirt before getting to the actual reason they had met. ”Let’s get going. I don’t think either of us wants to stick around here longer than we have to,” she observed aloud, hands resting comfortable at her sides. She could do without feeding the rumor mill for a bit, if possible.
For now, she headed out, leading Serenity past the entrance and into the streets of Penrose. There was no destination in mind yet, merely determination to be somewhere else, where they didn’t have to deal with magical girls and responsibilities. Just two people getting to know each other better.
The new magical girl did her best to keep pace with Alicia, while glancing about at the various signs and storefronts as they were walking by. Clothing, jewelry, restaurants, and more seemed to unfold before her in an ultimately new way when it came to the mortal perspective. If the ‘former’ her had managed to incarnate...what would have really happened then? The expectations of Soth back then, would they have been proven true now or been shaken to their core? Or maybe things wouldn’t have changed at all.
Mysteries of unknown nature aside, Serenity’s face did light up somewhat as the duo were nearing a seemingly rare sight these days. A front for a large arcade, signs promising things like an in-house eatery, tons of games, crane machines, and more. The glowing lights from inside were even visible from the entrance, and for a minute the maid’s nervousness seemed to drop in favor of a genuine curiosity. She walked over to the door without thinking, glancing inside like a young child in a candy shop.
She’d seen a good many of these sorts of things in her former self’s conquests. But...well now in this form for the rest of eternity (she supposed) this sort of thing seemed to grab at her attention much more than it ever used to. Which is to say, it never used to at all.
”Ah...d-do you like g-games?” the girl asked, turning back to Alicia and asking her a question as her timid self seemed to come back once more.
Their wandering took them across a decent chunk of the nearby area, and a bit beyond. While there wasn’t much said at the time, Alicia did have the opportunity to gauge how Serenity reacted to everything, and learn a bit about her in the process. She hadn’t been sure how she would treat everything, given her nature.
The arcade had not been a conscious decision at first, but remembering that it was nearby had caused the Seraph to swing that way, exactly the sort of reaction that she got. Which was why she wore a smile as she joined Serenity at the front entrance. “I wouldn’t call myself a pro gamer, but I do enjoy it when I have the time,” she replied as she glanced through the glass door, before looking over to her companion. “And….well, you mentioned before that you had Soth’s memories, but you never said how many of those were happy ones. So I figured, why not try and make some?”
What better way to do that than playing some video games old school style?
Serenity blinked in surprise for a moment, letting Alicia’s words sink in before a small (albeit still a bit nervous) smile came onto her face.
”I, um...untold millennia of knowledge acquisition and world devouring since the beginning of time doesn’t usually make many happy memories…” the girl said, initially hesitating before she made that particular admission in her usual manner, ”B-but...that is in the p-past. L-let’s go in!”
”I figured,” Alicia concurred with a small nod as Serenity gave exactly the sort of answer she had assumed she would find. Horrors not being interested in warm and fuzzy things was hardly a surprise, though she supposed that it was possible she could have been surprised. Who could really predict what a Horror would do?
Still, it wasn’t hard to understand the desire to want to move past that, and she made no effort to dwell on the past. ”Right,” she agreed, swinging the door open and holding it for Serenity to enter the building.
Once inside she headed over to the front counter, handing over money to get a healthy number of tokens for the various arcade machines. She’d been spending a lot recently, and quietly she made a note to save up a bit in the future. But for now it should be fine as she passed off half of the tokens to her companion. ”So, what do you want to try first?”
The maid magical girl looked about, machines lining the walls, flashing lights, and games galore before her eyes as her timidness temporarily melted again before her excitement. Though in particular, her eyes settled on a more mundane machine...the crane. A fancy version of a crane game at that. Inside its casing were stuffed animals, gift cards of various amounts (some up to 50 dollars even), toys, and the like just staring back at her. Perhaps it was her old self’s habits of collecting bleeding over slightly, but the white-haired girl pointed over to the machine with a gleam in her eyes.
Without thinking she grabbed Alicia’s hand with her own free hand, and drug the other girl over. Serenity then plunked in a couple of tokens, a satisfying clunk ringing in her ears as the tokens landed inside, before getting hard to work. She grabbed the single joystick before her, equations and eldritch knowledge racing about in her head, until-
***DING DING DING, WE HAVE A WINNER!!!***
-...what? A small, white stuffed teddy bear with angel wings and tiny halo fell out of the bottom where prizes were supposed to go. The maid seemed to be elated, though...had she done this before? She’d just beaten a crane game on the first go.
Not much thinking about it, however, Serenity grabbed the bear up, gave it a hug, and then offered it to Alicia. Though as she came a bit back down to earth in the process, the maid magical girl tried to avoid direct eye contact, but kept out the offered bear with a small blush on her face.
Rather than being directly answered, Alicia found herself being dragged away from the counter towards one part of the arcade, her gaze slipping over the machines to figure out where they would end up. ”Crane game, huh? I’ve never been too good at these,” Alicia observed as she took a position next to Serenity.
Watching her at work was almost surreal, and the Seraph could only watch with surprise as the very first go at the machine ended up with a win. ”Not bad,” she congratulated Serenity, patting her on the shoulder. She wasn’t sure if it was just luck or not, but still. Figuring it out on the first go like that was impressive.
Gesturing to the toy that had been selected, she couldn’t help but add to her previous comment. ”That definitely fits with where you are now,” she noted as it was offered to her. That caused her to shake her head, giving it a gentle push back towards Serenity. ”You keep it. It can be a reminder of the fun we had here.” She needed that sort of thing more than the Seraph did. Alicia could always get a prize later. They had barely started after all.
”U-umm...t-t-thank you, I-I know lots of things...s-so this game to me is rather s-s-simple,” Serenity said, hesitantly pulling the bear back into a tight hug against her chest. The fur felt so soft, so nice...so gentle. She hadn’t felt anything like that before, really, albeit she had wanted to give Alicia some kind of gift for just being nice to her in general. Taking her out to hang out, no one had done that before, and she’d been too busy trying to explain things for the last long while and avoid getting locked up (at least in her mind) to visit the pirate that had appeared with her.
”W-Would you like to do s-something else?”
She wanted to be nice, ah, or at least was afraid to ask to stay here and drain this machine dry. That would sound so...mean. Even if it was ultimately possible for her personally.
The explanation provided was one that Alicia hadn’t really considered. Sure, she knew that Serenity knew a lot of stuff, but she had assumed it had more to do with magic and psychology and stuff like that. Not the complex physics of a crane game. But it seemed to have worked to their benefit in the end. ”You’re welcome.”
She didn’t dwell on it for too long, instead surveying the arcade to see what games were near them. Something for multiple people, so they could play at the same time…..!
Taking Serenity’s hand, this time Alicia was the one to pull her along as she guided them through rows of machines to the one that she had in mind. Specifically, Dance Evolution.. Getting on the left pad, she would guide Serenity to the other before moving to set them up. “So basically there’s going to be a song that plays, and on that screen in front of us there’s going to be four directional arrows and a bar on the top. You see those arrows on the pad? When the arrow reaches the top, you’re going to step on that arrow with your foot. If it’s stretched, then you’re going to hold it there until it ends. Make sense?” Finished with her explanation, she watched Serenity expectantly before she began. It might be a bit difficult at first, but she was confident that her friend would catch on quick.
”M-makes sense!” Serenity said with a little confidence this time, her bear held close after listening intently to her soon-to-be dancing partner explain the game, ”Um...r-ready?”
With a nod, Alicia inserted the required tokens into the machine. She frowned intently, scrolling through the song list and selecting an easier difficulty for Serenity’s sake. But she soon found one that sounded like it would be good, and confirmed her choice before stepping back to the center of the pad. ”And here we go.”
The song began, and Alicia’s knees bobbed with the beat as the arrows appeared onscreen. Soon enough she was moving, nailing most of them. It wasn’t the hardest that she could have done, but she was a bit rusty. It had been a while since she went to the arcade. Hopefully Serenity was doing alright.
Initially the hesitant maid attempted to stamp on the right arrows around her, and initially it seemed as if her panic was going to get the best of her. Her movements were initially sloppy, and her eyes seemed to hurriedly scan over her feet, Alicia, and the arrows on the screen in a nervous flutter. Yet as the song went on, Serenity’s focus seemed to be pulled steadily towards the screen, and despite her initial fumbling she began to hit the arrows more consistently as she continued on. Eventually even the look of panic faded into a look of laser-focused attention on Serenity’s face, and her body seemed to bob more and more in-line with the rhythm of the game...until eventually she was moving and stomping to the beat to a ‘T’ on the pad below her.
The song soon came to an end after several minutes, leaving the Seraph breathing deeply from the exercise as she compared their scores. It was much closer than she would have expected, at least from her first glance. ”Not bad,” she said to her companion. ”What do you think? Fun enough for another round, or should we try something else?”
The magical girl felt herself breathing heavily as well, though as she came out of her tunnel-vision led focus on the game she looked at her score. Eyes shot open wide at the closeness of her own score and Alicia’s, and a nervous pang shot up the girl’s spine as the worries hit her mind. Had she done too good??? She didn’t want to look like she was trying to one-up Alicia, heavens no! But after looking to the Seraph, as Alicia’s words reached her ears, Serenity felt the tension in her body slightly release. S-She had done good? It was ok? No “hey you have untold knowledge, that’s cheating”, or the like?
The news for a moment brought a face of elation to the surface, and with a smile she didn’t realize she had on Serenity nodded her head vehemently in the energy of the moment.
”W-We can do another round if you’d like!” the maid felt herself blurt out loudly, before realization came and she clasped her hands over her mouth...albeit still garnering a few eyebrow-raising stares from nearby people in the arcade in the process. Then as further realization set in about her word choice, poor or not, the maid’s face began to rapidly turn beet red. O-Oh no....
Taking things at face value, Alicia was more than willing to go for a second round. ”Alright then. Let’s see what we can come up with.” Obviously it would have to be a bit harder this time, now that Serenity knew what she was doing.
Settling on another song, she confirmed the choice before stepping back to begin. “I hope you’re ready,” she said with a glance over to the side. ”I’m not going to go so easy on you this time. She was clearly being a bit more competitive this time around
The sound began in earnest, and with the pounding of the guitar and drums she began moving along to the music once again. This time she moved just a bit quicker, a bit more accurate. All to keep up with Serenity’s improved skill. Now this was a real battle.
Serenity, upon seeing her dancing opponent get serious, did her best to put on a serious face in response. She was being taken...seriously! Not in a bad way, but something inside of her seemed to burn bright as she heard Alicia’s words was all. Something inside seemed to...not want to give in! Not in the face of this challenge!
As the new and much harder song began, Serenity began to try to get back into that “focused” state she had been in with the last song. The introduction began seemingly at a decent pace, albeit notably faster than the prior song, and the maid did her best to get into the proper rhythm with the beat of the song. The struggle to get into the proper movements, and a more noticeable trailing behind Alicia, were rather apparent though.
Yet as the words began to ring out she felt a sharp pang recoil through her body, as if stoked by the lyrics themselves. Her focus seemed to wane, and Alicia’s lead would continue to grow as the words and arrows passed on by.
“Ever on and on,
I continue circling,
With nothing but my hate,
In a carousel of agony.
Till’ slowly i forget,
and my heart starts
It was like the song had been chosen to hit home for her….or what she had been. Something that had brought about a cycle of tragedy over and over again, and had not the heart to understand those it affected or hurt or manipulated. Nor had “she” cared back then, nor was she free to do otherwise even if she had attempted to ponder such. Even as an extension of Soth, drawing from the seemingly endless main mass, her will had been the Greater Horror’s own naturally. She had done vile acts in the name of amusement, twisted innocents, had corpses stolen….
...and ruined the lives of two people who had come to love each other, genuinely.
“I’m slipping through the cracks of a dark e-tern-i-ty,
With nothing but my pain,
And the paralyzing agony,
To tell me who I am-
Who i was,”
Before the despair could grab more of a hold on her heart, the tightness in her chest becoming worse and worse, something seemed to suddenly rise up inside of her. Like a small, flickering light or candle held aloft in an unlit room. A ‘spark’ of knowledge, one could perhaps say, that led to words bubbling up within her mind.
Why had the Beacon even chosen to spare her? Why had that light chosen to free her from those shackles, and grant her former self’s dream despite her crimes rather than smite her away? Why had Alicia come out with her, rather than toss her to the side or smite her into dust?
“Maybe it's a dream,
Maybe nothing else is real,
But it wouldn’t mean a thing,
If I told you how I feel.”
This was a second chance at life, a dream beyond a dream! After all, there was someone who wanted to be around her at all. Alicia. The Star Seraph herself, who regardless of her position and everything had wanted to spend time with her despite it all. That meant something, genuinely and sincerely. It was like a new chance...a brilliant light to help her move forward! She wasn’t walking alone in the darkness anymore, because someone was by her side! Such a seemingly dull thing to her old self, but...now it was something she felt proud of.
Perhaps it was an overly emotional line of thought to have, but the hope it brought was more than worth it! She couldn’t turn back now! She could change, and be something more!
“If I step into the light,
Then I’ll never be the same,
and it all will fade to white-”
As the song neared its inevitable conclusion, Serenity seemed to steel herself visibly. Her steps became more deliberate, her focus renewed as the lyrics rang clearly in her ears. That pained look of hers eventually shifted to something of a renewed “resolve”, for lack of a better word. Though her score was stuck most woefully behind Alicia, however, the maid seemed to finally put her all into the game. Stomp. Turn. Stomp. Focus. Get into the beat. Feel the rhythm, and let it flow into the moves.
Unaware of what she had unintentionally brought on or the emotional realization that Serenity had made, Alicia was still focused on the game. Yet the divide in scores had not escaped her, and as the song came to a conclusion she could only draw one path forwards.
Another sigh escaped, the Seraph stretching a bit before she nodded. ”Hm, maybe we should take a break from that for a bit,” she observed aloud. She’d go for another round but it seemed like Serenity could use a bit of a breather from this.
Hands resting on her hips, she turned to survey the other available machines. “”Looks like we’ve got some shooting games, basketball, air hockey, a racing game...that one could be fun.” She wasn’t sure which one to go with, but it wouldn’t be a hard decision.
Feeling like her heart was going to erupt out of her chest from the exertion, Serenity looked over at Alicia as she leaned on the guard rail next to her dance pad. Some beads of sweat ran down her forehead, but at the same time she weakly nodded to Alicia. Something...more casual, perhaps, would be good after this workout. And emotions. Both those things were rather draining to the mind and flesh for humans like herself, as it turned out.
“Maybe...basketball...would be nice...for something less intensive?” the white-haired magical girl managed to breathe out as she caught her breath, eventually moving back off of the guard rail and letting out a small sigh of relief at not having keeled over.
”Sure, we can do that. Come on.” Taking heed of Serenity’s state, Alicia led her over to the basketball game. Time for them to do something a bit less stressful for a bit.
The game was a fairly traditional setup that you would see at a place like this. There were basketballs lined up in a chute, and two individuals could stand side by side to compete against each other. The person who was able to shoot the most baskets would be declared the winner.
Taking up position on the left, Alicia fed in the tokens that would get them set up to play. ”This one is pretty easy. Just get as many basketballs through the hoop as you can,” she told the other girl before picking up her first basketball to do just that. It wasn’t that complicated, unless you had particularly bad hand eye coordination.
She would take the first shot, then allow Serenity to do the same so she could get a feel of what they would be doing before she spoke up. ”So how have things been going since….you know,” she asked, giving a general wave towards the girl. ”I imagine there’s a lot to get used to.”
As Serenity tossed another basketball, listening to Alicia’s questions and looking at her out of the corner of her eye, she let out a small but audible sigh. The basketball seemed to bounce off of the rim of the basket as the maid seemed to think for a moment, before another basketball rolled out in front of her.
“I-It’s…been interesting, to say the least. New body, new me, and...I just can’t help but feel guilty about all of it somehow. And...scared, honestly,” she said, looking to Alicia for a moment before picking up her next basketball, “Scared everyone is going to up and kill me one day, that this...whatever this second chance that your patron decided to give me will be wasted…don’t even know why it gave me a chance at all….”
Doing her best to line up another shot, Serenity tossed the ball at the hope once more. Swish. Nothing but net that time, at least.
Alicia frowned, and though she could not picture the exact situation she liked to think that she at least had a grasp on some of Serenity’s concerns. This was a unique situation for everyone, she was pretty sure.
”Well, you’ve still got the Spark inside of you,” she noted, idly holding her next basketball in her hands. ”By the rules of the organization, anyone who did that would themselves be forfeit from Beacon. Though I’m not sure how much of a reassurance that is.”
She let out a small chuckle before tossing her next basketball. This one solidly hit the backboard without coming close to the net. ”I can’t speak for why the Beckoners did this, but they must have their reason for it.” Her confidence in those leading Beacon did not waver, when there was no reason that it might.
“...From you, those words are of some comfort, genuinely. In fact, you are the one who has been the nicest to me, and perhaps put me most at ease at this point, since I arrived at Beacon,” the white-haired magical girl said, distinctly happy in her tone for a moment before grabbing up another basketball, ”And today...has been the most at ease I have felt yet...it means a lot, truly. I wish I could be here with you and make this time last...forever, perhaps.”
Serenity tossed the basketball, after shifting it somewhat nervously in the grasp of her two hands, this time with the ball hitting the left side of the backboard before bouncing off and rolling back down. A light grimace then flashed briefly to the girl’s face.
”Yet...many of the girls still regard me like pet or some novelty, and just claim that you ‘purified me’ and enslaved ‘the wretched monster’. That’s not the most of what’s happened...but it’s not like I can blame them either after all I did before,” the maid said, the words lingering on her lips as she glanced briefly over to her companion for the day, a somewhat melancholy look in her eyes.
Pleased to hear that she felt that way, Alicia couldn’t help but grimace as Serenity amended her appreciation with how she had been treated by the others. It was the sort of thing that she did not want to hear, and it served to exacerbate her frustration.
”Seriously?” She grumbled aloud, sighing, as her palm came to rest against her forehead. She would have hit something, were she in the place to do so. But right now all she could do was express her annoyance. ”I’ve told them to stop doing that sort of thing, but nobody seems to listen.”
After a moment she shot Serenity a weak smile. ”I’ll talk to them about it. They keep crediting me for things I didn’t do.” And trying to correct them never seemed to work out, for whatever reason.
”I...I am sorry...I shouldn’t have said anything about this, and left you to be so frustrated. This...is supposed to be a happy day. Yet even the thought of lying to you didn’t feel right either...not after all you have done for me already,” Serenity said, light panic bubbling up again in the back of her mind, before reaching over and grabbing another basketball and making a half-hearted shot that missed the hoop altogether.
Pausing for a moment after, the white-haired girl then let out a long sigh. With one of her hands reached over to grab the hand Alicia had used to hit herself with, gently holding it between her fingers for a moment, ”You have stood by me so far, even, despite how little I have been around. I want to be able to help you as well...it doesn’t take millenia of knowledge to see how stressed you have been about things. My own slip of the tongue has somewhat confirmed my own fears at that...but please, let me help you in turn as best as I can from now on. As selfish as that is to ask, that is...”
Serenity let go of Alicia’s hand as gently as she had grabbed it, before placing her own hand back down on the new basketball in front of her, a small and genuine smile coming to her face, ”Yet I will work to prove myself to the other girls, and to you, even if it takes a few decades. That I promise. Then perhaps they will see reason one day, and will listen to your words.”
For the moment, the maid didn’t care how...emotional, potentially poetic, and unhesitant she was being. She had to ride out the high from this emotional realization of hers, because the high (at least) wouldn’t last forever. She hoped the lessons from it would stick, however, though she’d have to work on that part. While she could be so bold as she was being right now...she treasured it regardless, along with this day spent out with Alicia.
Alicia was quick to shake her head, lest Serenity think that there was blame being put in either direction at this point. ”It’s fine. No harm, no foul,” she assured her companion.
Yet in spite of that there was no effort made to stop heras they held hands for a moment. It was strange to hear such concern and appreciation from what she knew had once been a horror, even if it was a bit rude to think in such a manner. After all Serenity was no less human than she was now, even if she had a lot more memories to sift through.
”Part of it is just the circumstances too,” the Seraph admitted. Picking up her basketball, she would do a one handed shot that bounced off the rim before swishing in with a very satisfying feeling to accompany it. ”After what happened with Victoria and the Justine business, there isn’t a lot of trust from the outside. And we took a lot of hits. People are nervous, and looking for something to cling to for hope.”
She gestured behind herself to where her wings would sprout from her back. They weren’t there right now, if only because they were at an arcade in public, but she could imagine their presence nonetheless. ”They gave me these wings and made me a Seraph because of the assault on Justine’s castle, but to be honest I didn’t actually do anything there. I never even saw Justine herself.”
It was something she regretted, but there was nothing that could be done about it now. At the very least it was a lesson about not overspending your magic on worthless targets. ”Because of that being made a Seraph and having all this praise just feels a bit hollow to me. That fight at the graveyard was the first time I actually felt like I deserved to be where I am.” Her smile widened, even as she looked over at Serenity. ”As long as you keep trying, with time I’m sure they’ll accept you. It might not even take a few decades to do it either.”
”Heh...I will trust you on that as well! Though I will also say I believe you are most worthy of those wings of yours, and do not let yourself tell you otherwise. If there is one thing these old memories can tell me now...it is that growing into a position is part of the job,” the maid said, smiling somewhat wider in return as she looked back to Alicia, eyes almost beaming, ”Yet hope...trust...distrust...regrets...joy...being human truly ‘riding the emotional rollercoaster’, isn’t it? Though I would not have it any other way.”
It was touching to hear someone with such faith in her. Especially someone with so many centuries of experience to theoretically draw on. Differentiating between was a bit tricky, but she made sure that Serenity knew it. ”That’s the hope,” she assured her. ”It just feels weird getting all this praise for being at an event even if I didn’t affect how it ended.”
Reaching over, she patted Serenity on the shoulder. ”And that’s good to hear. I’m supposed to make you run laps around the base if we think you’re going back to that ‘destroy the world’ thing.” Of course, the grin she wore indicated she was joking. Mostly.
Serenity’s face dropped from its positive beaming, right down into the depths of a truly panicked expression that seemed like all the warmth in the world had up and vanished. The entire nature of it was far more comical than anything, however, though before the Seraph could speak more a sound quickly escaped Serenity’s lips. The sound was itself something akin to a dying llama or scared goat.
”AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!! Anything but the laps!”
THe reaction was very overdramatic, and very hard to take seriously. As such, Alicia couldn’t help but burst out into a fit of giggling that interrupted her basketball throwing. ”Relax, I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about. And I’ll be here to help if anything happens.”
Serenity seemed to calm back down a bit as Alicia reassured her, though regardless she puffed her reddening cheeks out a bit in response to the giggling of her companion, ”M-M-Meanie….b-but it's good to know you’ll b-be there for me…”
Serenity tossed the ball, without much looking ahead of her as she threw it, though a light “ding” drew her attention suddenly over to the game. Hey, she’d managed to score a point! Nice.
With Serenity’s focus returning to the same, Alicia did so as well. Not that either of them had been trying particularly hard up to this point. But now it at least had their attention again. ”Looks like we’re almost out of time,” she noted, glancing at the clock that was counting down with big red numbers. ”We’ll finish this up, and then see what else there is to try. Sound good?”
”S-Sounds good!” Serenity said, snapping out of the distraction of the game and looking back over at the other girl. A small smile began to form again on her face to boot.
With the agreement made, Alicia turned back to the game. The two of them made for an odd pair, especially to those who knew what they were. Nonetheless, it had been a fun afternoon, and Alicia did not regret the time she had spent with Serenity today.
The first thing that Alicia had noticed upon returning was the cold. It struck sharp and quickly, digging at her bones and causing her to curl up in bed. When one had just come from a comfortable tropical paradise, not being prepared for the dead of winter was understandable. It had taken her a bit to get used to that.
Much like many other girls across the city, what followed was to be expected. She had met with worried parents to console them that she was alright. An explanation was hard to come by, especially for those who did not know about her magical girl life. At least they had remained safe from everything that had happened. Then she had spent some time trying to catch up on what was going on, what had happened. It took enough of her attention that she had not really worried about anyone else.
At least, not until her phone rang. Hurrying over to it, she was quick to pick up. "Hello?" Her grip tightened on her phone as Sylvia spoke on the other end. She seemed worried, and her mention of the Ascendancy sent another chill down the Seraph's spine. She knew what they were, what this meant. They only went in when things looked desperate and local branches couldn't keep control.
And now they wanted Sylvia? Did they think that they had disappeared voluntarily? Surely there was some way to resolve this before anything got out of hand.
She was hardly going to argue in a situation like this. "I'll be there," she agreed swiftly. At the very least it seemed like a wiser option than sitting around and waiting for the Ascendancy to roll up on her too. She wasn't even sure if they would, but if they were after Sylvia it stood to reason that they would be after her sooner or later too.
Hanging up the phone, she turned to depart. "Mom, I'm going to go check on some friends," she called, quickly making her way downstairs. Once out the door she would take off at a brisk jog, headed towards the ice rink for the meeting, The message on Glimmr was ignored for now. She had bigger things to worry about, and Sylvia or the Ascendancy would not wait for her.
The following phone call from Serenity, however, would not. "Alicia speaking," she said. "Serenity, are you alright?"
Complete darkness. Mariette squirmed, but couldn’t force her way out. She couldn’t open a portal, that power had been taken from her. Fear. Fear surged through her veins. She could beg for mercy, but the effort would be wasted on the one who would hear them. An attack ran straight through her soul. She cried out in unspeakable pain. Her limbs trashed against the restraints. Darkness traveled across her veins from the place she’d been wounded, causing pain wherever it touched, and all she could do was scream in pain and terror…!
Mariette sat, breathing heavily, staring at the floor of her mansion. She sat alone at the great table where they’d had their meetings, turned sideways and just stared down into the floor, her hands shaking at the memory. She could still feel it in her soul, the punishment she had endured…
Asengav had lost his patience for her. She’d taken a team of his finest agents, and gone off on a vacation, thereby missing the deadline. Nevermind that it was an unsolicited vacation in a closed-off dimension. That just meant that Mariette had failed. Failed to stay focused on the goal by letting herself get kidnapped. Only because Asengav was understanding enough of the fact that Mariette hadn’t been able to do anything against the power of a Patron was she still here at all…
The mansion was mostly empty. The majority of the forces Asengav had spared for her had been sent on other missions that had become more critical during the time that Mariette and co had spent inoperable. Mariette had lost manpower. She had made deals which she had to follow up on, to Cindy Ford and to others, yet here she was, no longer at her strongest. She had been told by Lea that she still could borrow forces when needed, but she’d be limited to three at a time…
‘Mistress…’ Eli, her dark slime-harpy called for her, carrying a tray with tea and sandwiches for her. The distress was clear in her voice. Only Mariette had been punished, but that didn’t mean Eli didn’t feel it as well. Her voice made Mariette snap back into reality.
‘… What’s done is done,’ Mariette said, turning to the table and gesturing for Eli to come over. Eli did so, and placed the tray of food in front of Mariette. ‘We’ll overcome our future obstacles despite our setbacks. Thank you very much, Eli. I’m glad you’re here,’ Mariette said, in a tone that honestly shocked Eli. Had Mariette ever actually said something like that to her, with that kind of tone?
‘We need to get back to our meetings with Cindy and Shion. We must make sure Violet and Sakura are fine, too. This “Ascendancy” is a problem, we’ll need to watch their movements. Oh, and I suppose a visit to Amaryllis would solidify our relationship…’ Mariette said as she sipped on her tea.
‘…’ It hurt Eli, seeing Mariette like this. It wasn’t long ago that Eli had lost her sister, Deni, and that pain still echoed within her. Before that, Deni and Eli had always giggled and joked about the future. Yet, since her passing, everything had been doom and gloom around here, without Deni to lighten things up…
And now, Mariette was taking on this monumental task before her, and it felt more and more likely that Mariette, too, would one day find herself taking on more than she could chew, and that would be the end of them both…
Eli could but wish that some form of miracle would happen that would make everything right in the future.
Ko couldn't believe her luck. She'd just finished meeting with some older Puchuu when one of them gave her a Platinum Coin! She quickly put it in her bag, a small pouch that she carried around on her back, careful to not put it in her hammerspace bag for fear of losing it and ran off to find the nearest exit from the Overcity.
However, as she ran, one of her bags got caught on a corner. Thinking it was her hammerspace bag and therefor totally fine with a small rip, she simply pulled it until it came loose. Unbeknownst to her, as she got closer to the exit, the Platinum Coin she was so excited about fell out of her bag alongside a new ID she meant to give to Shion. Finally, after about half an hour she reached the exit and prepared to go find her charge in Penrose.
The Platinum Coin, bound with Ko’s power, fell on its edge rolled on over the eternal checker-patterned floor of the Overcity. It rolled, and as it did the rules changed. Did it roll for seconds? Hours? Days? Meters or miles? Straight on a plane or through multiple dimensions? None could say, but it suddenly hit the foot of a Gorelion and came to a sudden stop.
The Gorelion looked down curiously at the coin for a moment. Then it was about to lean down, bite it and release the power to itself… when a Sphinx slammed down its paw at the cheek of the Gorelion, and the two giant monsters growled at each other, both wanting the Platinum Coin. The two slammed into one another, not noticing that the force of their impact had caused the coin to fly off on another journey.
The coin flew and hit a Witch, who stared at it as she held it with bony fingers, before taking it with her as she flew off on her broom to a witch-meeting at her hut. She showed off the coin to the other Witches, and they were ecstatic about what could be done with the magic in it. They dropped the coin into a potion and watched as it bubbled… and then the cauldron promptly exploded, sending the coin flying out the window as the Witches cowered.
A Monster Girl wandering the Overcity was suddenly hit in the head by a Platinum Coin. She grabbed it, and blinked at it a couple of times. A Platinum Coin! She couldn’t believe her luck! … Exactly, she didn’t. Something so lucky would never happen to her. If she were to use it, there was no telling what curses and terrible fates were to be inflicted on her. Disappointed, she sighed and threw the Platinum Coin into the abyss of the Overcity.
The coin fell into a highway of mana, a current used by some patron to create an infinite swirl of mana directly into its mouth. It was a nice, gentle flow, which the giant leisurely drank of, and then the Platinum Coin was pulled along the flow into said mouth… The coin had more power than the Lesser Force could handle at once and the giant promptly threw up a giant explosion of mana, sending the coin flying once again.
It fell into water, water in the Overcity. It sunk to the bottom, where the coin lay undisturbed for a long period of time. How long did it lie there? Unknown. But eventually, a monster fish sensed its power, and swam in to get a bite out of it. Unfortunately for the fish, the coin was tougher than it could chew through, so the fish merely swam up to the surface again and spat it out. Once again, the Platinum Coin was in motion.
So the Platinum Coin, brimming with power, skipped and scuffled through the Overcity, until it came across a puddle. An unremarkable puddle which had been lying there for who knows how long. There, the coin hit down hard on its edge. It was slowed from the resistance of the puddle and fell over into the middle, a small splash announcing that it had reach the end of its journey through the checkerboard lands of the Overcity. And there…
It dissolved into the puddle.
There was green path, and she wandered it. There were trees around, men worked the fields for crops, and she was protecting them. Ah, this was life. But then, she saw them. Foes, servants of neighboring warlord, crossing the road from the other side like they owned the place, sizing it up for their invasion. She didn’t hesitate, and walked straight for them. She passed them, and they noticed. Hands went to swords. She swung around, her sword suddenly drawn. She was faster. They fell, their swords never drawn, as she sheathed her sword and smirked at their fallen bodies. Too bad, this place is under my charge~
No, wait, this is a dream.
She opened her eyes in the darkness.
She was… nothing?
This didn’t seem like anything.
That’s no fun, she was bored already.
She could just close her eyes, and-
No, wait. She’d done that before. That’s what triggered the dream.
She was locked in a series of perpetual dreams.
How long had she been here?
Impossible to tell.
She remembered, she remembered she-
Something hit her head?
She could feel pain here?
Something… something had landed on top of her.
It felt like it asked her a question.
Huff, she thought, feeling smug.
What kind of question was that?
Of course she could handle it!
The thing that hit her head withered away into nothingness.
She didn’t really understand, but-
Oh. It was cold.
She could feel?
She made a noise and sat up with a start.
Her confused eyes darted over the featureless landscape.
… Huh, wait.
She was… in the Overcity? What on Earth was she doing-
She had been… inside someone else. Fighting…
She had been hoping to lose, for she fought someone she loved.
Her loved one had won, and they had shared final words.
Oh. She realized with a start.
She had died.
But then, what was-
By sheer coincidence, she lifted her right hand to pull her hair out of her face. Her eyes widened. Hold up. Hooooooooooooooold up. Something was very, very off. Her hand wandered to her forehead, then down to her face, feeling the shapes and the texture. Her left hand moved to join it, only to hit something on her side which made a metallic noise. She looked down to see what it was, but instead her eyes fixed on her own hand.
It was a hand. The colour of skin.
The Horror’s Darkness… no longer coated her. He had… abandoned her? Cut the connection. To avoid having his darkness consumed… No patron was connected to her. Yet… here she was.
Alone. … In a human body, dressed in clothes, no longer a monster, and with a sheathed physical sword at her side. She had to feel around a bit more to ensure there wasn’t a gigantic mistake.
Wait. That was impossible. Without a backer, she couldn’t have gotten these powers. Without a patron, she shouldn’t have…
‘You know what?’ Deni asked out loud. She gripped the sword, placing one foot and the bottom of the sword sheath on the checker-patterned floor of the Overcity to support her, and stood up straight and proud.
‘I’m not gonna think too hard on it! Whatever happened, happened, and I’m not gonna dwell on it!’ So she announced, lifting out a fist of determination and a smile, with the emptiness of the Overcity as her only audience.
‘…’ Her brow furrowed a bit as she thought this through. Eli’s still connected to Asengav. And… as she knew now, somehow… he mind-bent his minions so they had no choice. Eli was serving a monster against her free will, and with all likelihood so was Mariette and the other champions.
‘Whelp, sounds like I have my work cut out for me, and this one’s gonna be a tough cookie to crack. With all honesty, I have no idea what to do,’ she said. Nobody replied. Eli wasn’t here. Deni smirked in amusement anyways.
‘Well! Nothing’s gonna solve itself by me just standing around here! Guess I got to find the way out. Now where am I…?’ So Deni asked, before she started her search of the Overcity for a way back home…
Name: Deni. Denise Walton.
Age (Magical Girl): 7
Age (Before Magical Girl): 15
Gender (Before Magical Girl): Girl
Appearance: Deni’s a seven year old little girl, currently when transformed gets a flowing blue and white outfit reminiscent of that which is archetypical of the samurai to wear, though Deni’s more of a tiny ronin. She wears sandals on her feet and has tied her long black hair back into a ponytail. She retains her orange eyes, and carries at her side a long blade with purple handle and a blue sheath.
She’s the same as she was before. Black hair, tiny body, likes little dresses and running barefoot. Regains her normal blue eyes despite them being perpetually orange since becoming a Magical Girl.
Specialization: Reinforcement. Deni’s naturally a Reinforcement specialist, capable of boosting the performance of herself and others around her. She can also form small barriers to block what she cannot dodge, heal small wounds and slowly cleanse an area of curses or negative energies. That’s what she does.
Weapon: Melee. The sword, formed from who knows what, is a long straight blade which is constantly reinforced by Deni’s reinforcement specialization and will match enemies with considerable sharpness. Thanks to Martial Training, Deni wields it with magnificent skill, too.
Power: Twin Soul. Eli still exists out there, that magic has still been taken out of Deni’s soul, somewhat weakening her. She doesn’t see this as a weakness, however. No way that she’d see Eli as a weakness. With her recklessness, she has put her sister through such terrible things. She’s got to find her and comfort her…!
Perks: Martial Training: Her one advantage over others is that her mind is filled with the proper usage of the sword she carries, and advanced techniques to stay alive on a battlefield. Flexibility: One way or another, bending out of the way as if she was still made out of jelly still comes naturally to Deni~ Fated: Deni didn’t survive for nothing. She wasn’t revived for nothing. Something’s looking out for her, almost like the universe itself didn’t want her to stay dead. Get out of Jail: Deni’s days of having her hands tied are DONE. She found a shortcut in Reinforcement magic that actually allows her to teleport, but only if she’s backed into a corner. Big Damn Heroes: Her token still lies with her sister. She can feel it. It’s her connection. If Eli’s ever in danger, Deni will sense it.
Patron Benefits: Free Agent: Deni’s free! She can work for whoever she wants! Genki Girl: Deni’s always been an inexhaustible girl, she basically cannot get tired.
Patron Drawbacks: Alone: Having lost her backer, Deni has nobody but herself to rely on now.
Fighting Style: Deni’s not the strongest, not the most agile, not the toughest, and certainly not the most magically powerful. What she does have, however, is skill. Like the little ronin she has somehow become, Deni does her best to use her Martial Training and Flexibility to their best to dodge and attack back, using simple but effective skill and a really, really sharp blade to determine the winner of her battles. Deni will be more skilled than any girl or boy that has no form of Training perk dedicated to their ability in combat, even if they can be far faster and stronger than her. This skill is what she’ll be relying on.
That said, thanks to Reinforcement magic, Deni’s physical performance is often higher than her stats would imply, and if she gets wounded she can but take a pause and heal herself. She can block attacks with barriers if she realizes she cannot dodge, and that’s just another bit to add to the skill she hopes to outperform the enemy with. Creating small barriers in mid-air for her to use as platforms helps her maneuverability, using the bare minimum of mana to overcome her opponent. That said, she’ll often be fighting as the underdog, and as such will avoid fighting those way stronger than her and seek out circumstances where she might be the most effective.
Personality: Deni’s an excited person who wants to head out and do things. She’s mischievous, playful and all-around happy. She likes to tease and look good, and there’s a certain style to her current appearance that she really likes. However, now, after dying and being separated from Asengav, she has a mission. She has to make sure nothing horrible happens to her sister, who’s in a far, FAR worse position right now! The determination burns within her! Let’s see what could happen!
History: Denise Walton was born with two personalities within her, the other being named Elizabeth for simplicity. They enjoyed one another but struggled to live in the same body. They prayed that something would separate them… and Asengav answered, splitting them up while also making them monster-girls fighting under his command. They had no idea their minds were being bent to follow his orders as they headed off with Mariette as her underlings. So it continued… until Deni was consumed by Caroline von Visceral, drained from reality and abandoned by Asengav.
Not wanting his essence consumed by the blood-soaked Father, Asengav disconnected himself from the doomed Magical Girl. … Except, after he pulled away, an unknown Platinum Coin was spent, one Asengav had not given. A similar one had been given to Eli, and if spent, Asengav would regain control of Deni. However, that was not the coin that was spent. Instead, the coin was one (accidentally) given by the caring Puchuu Kousai, the refreshing power enough to restore the young girl back to her original, intended shape. While very surprised at first, Deni was quick to adapt to her new form and embark, intending to reclaim her sister, one way or another.
So, technically, Deni had a backer for a moment, that being Kousai the Puchuu. Except, Kousai doesn’t even know it, and as such Deni went straight to becoming a Solo girl right after receiving the coin. Yupp.
Incantation:Harmony and courage, take a stand, support me as I head to where my life gains meaning! Deni! Here I go!
Additional Info: Deni likes to visit parks and school playgrounds to play with the children around there because it’s fun, enjoying perplexing teachers as she’s not one of theirs.
Deni still possesses the ability to change her body-shape at will from that time when she made a wish to the Djinn sisters. She’s not able to fight when in a different shape, this change is purely for the sake of style and appearance, though she can make herself look like an adult or a stranger to avoid people looking for her. She has to be transformed for it to work. In order to fight, she has to revert to her base appearance, though she could possibly use it for ambushing or so. She likes being adult occasionally, so it’s mostly for that.
Age: 7 Underdeveloped: +1 Mag. Specialization: Reinforcement. +1 Str, +1 Agi, +1 Mag, +1 Lck, +1 Vit out of costume. Weapon: Melee. +1 Str, +1 Vit. Costume: Flowing. +1 Str. Power: Twin Soul. (-1 to all stats) Perks: Martial Training: +1 Str. Flexibility: +1 Agi. Fated: +1 Lck. Get out of Jail Big Damn Hero
The return trip to Penrose was an odd one for Penny, mainly because she was awake the entire time. She hadn’t trusted Dan, if anything her trust for him had gotten lower once she had gotten proof that he was a manipulative self-serving fish. Hence why she had forced herself to remain awake for the return trip, not that the trip was very enlightening, it felt like she was falling upward. All the while a Technicolor nightmare churned around her.
Penny wouldn’t be able to say for how long it was she was falling, time didn’t feel like it was flowing correctly here, but she knew that the end was near before it came. She could see a point quickly coming closer, and from it she could feel her Lair, her Sanctuary.
Just before she reached home a Voice would thunder from beyond
Penny’s Lair had always been something of a point of pride for the robotic girl. It was the first proof that her life was starting to change, and that she might not have to keep up a life of wayward wandering at the whims of a jackass.
The outside of the building hadn’t been touched during the renovations; it still looked like an abandoned Warehouse. The windows were boarded up and the doors looked rusted shut and it seemed like it was going to collapse at any moment, but that’s because Penny had wanted it to look like that, as the first line in its defenses was to not look like a Lair in the first place. It was why so few people knew where it was to begin with, really just Thalia and Chloe.
The inside was a different story, gone was the massive piles of discarded junk and dilapidated shelving units. Penny had taken all of that and had reinforced basically everything. The floor, the roof, the walls, all of it had a layer of reinforcement with the metal that Penny used to live around.
That had opened up the inside space, which Penny had made loose rooms by placing dividers here and there. The places were marked more by what was found within them then by anything else. One area held a couple of boxes of food and water. Another only had blankets and pillows, as she hadn’t yet gotten around to making cots for it. One had doors and a ceiling so you could get some actual privacy if you needed it, though it was smaller than the others.
It was apparent that it was still a work in progress but it had the beginnings of what Penny had wanted to build; a place for the lost to seek shelter.
Penny would emerge from the Beach with a nary a sound. One moment she wasn’t and then she was standing exactly where it was she had been when she had been abducted. But things were different, she could tell. For one there were a lot more girls here then had ever been, but it was more than just that. Penny’s HUD was displaying a date and time that didn’t match up with what it should have for her being gone for only a few days. A quick search of the local news told of repeated natural disasters, with an equally quick search of the local Glimmer feed giving even more bad news. The store opening up was a bit of good however.
She needed information, badly, then she needed to get more supplies as it sounded like Penrose was a war zone.
But first things first, a quick text was written up
Chloe, I just made it back to Penrose and things aren’t looking good. Let me know how you are.
Next she skimmed the faces of everyone she could see, before calling out ”Cindy!” her voice cut cleanly though the chatter as most of the girls turn to the new presence. “The Hell is going on?” her voice was serious as she marched towards to self proclaimed Queen.
Waking up had been a chore, his bed was nice and warm, and he could tell the outside was cold and inhospitable. It was the Despair that suddenly kicked him in the side of the head that pulled Kyle out an about, and from there the world only got more and more gray. He had spent what time he could console his parents. While his mind raced trying to piece things together. Everything he had painted this as a disaster on every level.
Eventually he convinced them he had to go see his friends to let them know that he was okay. He promised them he was okay and that he had his phone on him and would call them in an hour. The moment he was out the door however he was gone in a flash of light.
The same instant he reappeared back in Beacon HQ, already in his transformed state. His phone was out as he walked, his cane held under one arm, as he was sending out text to everyone he knew in Beacon. The texts held the same few lines: Are you okay? What happened? I’m at HQ, do you need help?
He hoped that he got a response from any of them quickly. The Feeling of Penrose wasn’t a very pleasant one right now, and he could use a pick-me-up. Still he knew where he was headed; after all he had worked alongside the Ascendancy before.
Thus he wasn’t one to keep the silence when he strode into Hall of Luminous Valor “Ladies” He would say before giving a small bow “Perhaps I can be of some assistance?”
"I'd say it's nothing personal, but we both know that's not true. Don't worry; you'll all see each other soon enough--"
Kaito started, waking up from his perch where he'd dozed off. He blinked away his lingering sleep, and grumbled a bit under his breath as he looked out over the street below. It was official: Penrose City was a shithole. He stretched a bit, trying not to shiver so much in this blasted cold, before answering the "phone call" in his head.
"Sorry. Having trouble keeping myself awake."
"'Sorry' does not help you grow stronger, Champion. You must be vigilant- never forget why you came here in the first place."
He scoffed. Like I could forget. His chest still tingled with phantom pains sometimes, where the blade had pierced him. He sighed, breath misting in this unnatural cold. He'd been cold before. Duh, winter. But this... something felt wrong about it. Even without the chaos, the natural disasters, the literal wave of monsters that had swarmed the city soon after he'd arrived... yeah. It didn't inspire much confidence.
And that's without mentioning the Magical Girl Inquisition. Which is a sentence I never thought I'd think. Turns out people like him usually meant bad news. So much so that there was an entire organization dedicated to murdering things like him. Strangely, they'd been... well, not exactly pleasant to him while he'd been here, but they at least tolerated him for the most part, while the monsters were on the prowl. So long as he only drank their blood (the ones that had blood, anyway), or stuck to stealing blood packs from hospitals, he was golden.
Until now. These new girls were cracking down, and hard. And Kaito couldn't help but feel there were way too many people that wanted him dead at the moment. He sighed, standing up fully on the street lamp he'd been perched on.
"Any of your birds see anything suspicious going on nearby? A dark girl, or a monster?"
A pause. "...South. There is a creature on the prowl. Not far. It may be tangible. You may be able to feed again."
Kaito tried not to let on how much of a relief that would be; he'd run out of blood packs a few days ago, and hadn't had the chance to restock. And that gnawing thirst was starting up in his throat again. Stupid vampire powers.
"I'll check it out, my Queen," he said, flapping his wings and heading off into the night. Time to hunt. Again.
New faces. Unknown names. Hidden powers, and secrets greater still.
Dawn could sense as much in that war room. The sixteen-summers young lady sat with her hands folded neatly upon crossed limbs. She exuded a reserved demeanor, perhaps shy, but in truth simply contemplative and diligent. She was taking in as much information as she could. There were but a few names and faces she had already met with in the Ascendancy since the short days she moved to Penrose. Most here she would need to accost later, to say nothing of the multitude of bodies that were keeping to the shadows around them.
She, however, was given a seat at the table. That was a good sign.
Names were tossed around. Sylvia. Alicia. Deserters. Heretics. She'd been briefed beforehand about the nature of the leader of Penrose's Beacon Branch. Their disappearance. Their tolerance of corruption. As much as she wished herself to directly intervene on the Ascendancy's behalf to root it out, Hudie's words dissuaded her from outright offering to handle things.
The mention of her own name sparked a glimmer in her otherwise passive eyes. Protocol. She certainly preferred things to abide by protocol. This Rachel girl was clearly joking in the way that indicated protocol wasn't always followed, something Dawn would have scorned were it not for her acute awareness of a simple fact:
Young girls with magic powers rarely followed guidelines.
Dawn sighed, shrugging her shoulders at Rachel and Hudie.
"Perhaps some context would be pertinent?" she suggested, eyes wandering to the door where Leena and FanFan had exited, "What is this unspoken quality of Leena you're throwing around? Should I be concerned about her whilst aiding her?" Speaking about another Ascendancy member as if they were a potential threat seemed all too natural for Dawn in this environment. There was, after all, no mercy for the wicked or useless. In that darkened room, in that short moment, Dawn had learned a great deal of how things would operate here.
She had no fear -she would never fall short of expectations.
A tingling in her senses drew Dawn's ear aside to the door, and moments later at the sound of someone new entering the room she stood suddenly; she knew the meaning behind this sense. In the gloom she could discern a male figure bearing a cane and pristine white clothing. There was no mistaking that style.
Aurelio, one of Sylvia's underlings.
Dawn threw an open palm out, facing it downwards. As she lifted the arm, a bright white light cut into reality before it, and slowly a massive weapon slipped through the cracks. She drew the handle with a rip, pulling her arcane sword fully out, taking care not to swipe at Rachel sitting beside her. The breadth of the weapon whooshed through the cold air as it pointed towards Aurelio threateningly.
"You should know you are not welcome here," she growled.
God she was freezing. She hated winter. Why did she have to miss fall, the objectively best time of year? Katarina adjusted her jacket, tightening it around herself. She had only been back for a few hours, but she could already tell things had gone horribly in the past few months. She could accept the whole timewarp thing, but everything else? Beacon had really come in full force in their absence, hadn't they?
On one hand, that was a good thing. Less troublemaking monster girls and DMGs.
On the other, though...it left a bad taste in her mouth. How many did they just kill without a second thought? Execute without so much as giving them a chance? Rina wasn't naive. She didn't mind getting her hands dirty in the name of justice. In the name of peace. But there was a fine line between that and tyranny and bullying. Had the Ascendancy crossed it? She didn't have enough information to make that call.
But for now though, she must hunt.
The Ascendancy might have a tight reign on things, but they weren't omnipotent. And while things seemed calm, that was when one should remain the most vigilant. Bow in hand, Rina headed for the rooftops to find potential targets.
As soon as Chloe had been returned to Penrose proper, she was struck by the biting cold. At first she just considered it adjusting to the non-tropical environment of the beach, but the thought was quickly pushed aside as she observed Penrose. Winter?! They couldn't have been gone for that long, could they? She was out of contact with her city and the dragon, and the Archive for that long?
That's it. She was making boots out of that dolphins hide.
Her sense of control wavering as she landed atop a nearby building, Chloe carefully observed the city. She had woken up in her bed, Aurora, Divina, and Vi nowhere to be seen. Were they alright? They had been given jobs, so hopefully they were smart enough to use their head. She had so much to catch up on, so many things to speed up and readjust! She ground her teeth together, resisting the urge to blast something, but no. She needed to keep a low profile. She picked up her cellphone, quickly dialing Aurora's number.
"Hellloooo! You've reached the number of the number one luckiest magical girl, Aurora McKinzie! Who's this and how'd ya get my-"
"It's amazing that a week will make me forget how much I hated your voice."
"W-wah? So mean-wait!? Chloe?! You're alive! You didn't get got by the Ascendancy?!"
"Please, beacon will have to try much harder to kill me." Chloe huffed. "I need a sit rep. I'll fill you in on the details later, but we need to get to work. Where's Vi and Divina?"
"Vi's holed up in her little warehouse castle. Divina and I have been trying to help stray monster girls and DMGs avoid the Beacon Ascendancy." Aurora replied hurriedly. "Many are currently using that girls Penny's shelter as a base, even if its not entirely completed."
"I see. Meet me at the apartment. I'll be there shortly so you can fill me in." Hanging up, Chloe clenched her teeth more. So this...'Ascendancy' was responsible for turning Penrose into a ghost town. She didn't care too much, though that meant she had less to feed it. Not to mention, them just waltzing in like this. The audacity. Ah, she wanted to burn them. Crush them. Make them beg and lick her boots.
Patience, patience. She dialed Vi's number.
"Yo, hey boss! Aurora's already told me what's up!"
"Good, then you'll know I'm not dead." Chloe replied shortly. "We have things to discuss regarding our plans. Get in contact with Divina and let her know as well. You've been doing your usual security work? And laying the foundations for our little...party?"
"Heh, don't'cha worry boss girl. I'm not an idol for nothin', and let me tells ya, the sheeple on social media are always willing to blindly follow their little idols. So ya, I think we can go ahead with that little plan on Glimmr. I can have everything ready soon, heheh! It'll be my best work yet, bossy boss."
"Good. I'll be in touch." Chloe hung up, deciding to get around to that text from Penny she received.
Aside from freezing my butt off? You're lucky your not here otherwise you might actually see me when I'm pissed off. Other than that, fine. I'm getting into contact with some of my girls to figure things out. Things are bad.
...Penny, I don't want to sound like I'm demanding anything, but we need to talk. ASAP, so...actually, can we meet in your shelter? I might be bringing Divina and Aurora as well.
Love you <3
Chloe lowered herself to the ground, not bothering with her transformation. If the Ascendancy was Beacon's main force like she was assuming, then they'd be gunning for her anyways. A second text was sent to her Archive friends.
I know you were at the beach with me, but I need a status update on our agreement as soon as possible. I'm having to move a few of my own plans forward.
Sighing, Chloe put away her phone before walking into her apartment. She needed to be patient. Patience. Patience was key. She took a seat on her usual sofa, her magical orb erratically moving about, betraying her calm visage as she waited. She needed to get her feeling of control back, or no one would be happy.
Glimmr was a great thing. Social media, was a great thing. It allowed people to do all kinds of things. Connect with others that they normally wouldn't have even met. To make friends, mess around, and other things. It could make people famous, and people could even make a living off of making videos, or just uploading vlogs if they were interesting enough. It also let certain people spread their ideologies, no matter what they really were, if they were creative enough.
And on a certain Idol's Glimmr page, her own website, and in various other places, a video had been posted.
The video opened With the usual Chibi Vi-Chan twirling into view with nothing but a skimpy nurse-outfit and a giant syringe.
"Whasssup my deviously deviant crew? It's ya girl, Vi-chan here with a totally original character design!" She twirled the oversized Syringe giving the camera a playful wink and smirk. "...h-huh? It's not? Eh, who cares, I'm still adorable. Annnyways, my lovely little followers I got some pretty lit news for you guys." The Chibi Vi pulled off the nurse uniform, now wearing what some sort of professor or teacher might wear, and the background flickered from its white void to a beacon flag.
"First, a brief little rundown of events." She took out a pointer and tapped it against the screen. "So we can all agree the Ascendancy is bad news for everyone in Penrose! Like what the hell man. Coming on our turf and just taking over the place? Talk about power-hungry creeps who seriously need to have a lovely little dirge played for them." She chuckled darkly, winking at the camera with a malicious grin. The beacon flag switched into a different flag. It was violet in color, with silver trimmings around the edges, the middle depicting some sort of intertwining structure pointing downwards with a shining orb seeming situated within the structure.
"History lesson over! Seriously, you little piggie-ahem-lovely little fluffy adorable sheep should be paying more attention, and totally not because I put this together on five minutes notice." Vi-Chan moved closer to the camera, sitting on a table with her legs crossed. "You live here, after all! And well, if you don't then that's all you need to know. The Ascendancy are a buncha lowlifes that want my cute butt for themselves. Now my lovely little fans definitely don't want that happening, do ya? Yuck. the only one getting some of my fabulous butt would be a clone of myself or maybe one of you lucky sheeples if you impress me. Anyways, Penrose has been all doom and gloom ever since they showed up, so I'm gonna be doing a thing! I'm throwing a Party. That's right, a party. A little Monstrously Dark party for all of us downtrodden, poor little people of a darker disposition. Ya'll know the rules. Keep the fighting to a minimum or I'll have to get angry, and trust me ya'll reaaaaally don't wanna make Vi-Chan angry. You remember what happened last time, don't'cha? Normal magical girls are welcome too so long as they behave." She hopped off the desk, smiling darkly at the camera.
"Beacon though? You can come, but first you'll have to find it. I'm not giving a location, after all. My faithful little fans know what's up already. But on some off chance you do find us...ehehe, well. I'll play you all a lovely little Dirge. It's my best work. You could say it's so great it'll make you go brain dead! Ahahaha! Well, anyways. Toodles lovelies. Spread it by word of mouth to any that want to attend. I can assure you, you won't be disappointed!~~"
She pressed her face close to the screen the Chibi-version's face slowly contorting into one of a hate filled scowl.
"And beacon? Seriously. Fuck off and let us have a bit of fun. We don't mean any harm, unlike you lameo losers who go about murdering for no reason. You'll get your comeuppance soon, or my name isn't the Adorable Elvira-Chan."
The video then, cut out, and then within two hours it would have been deleted. The reaction of the magical world as a whole was probably not hugely great. After all, Vi was only popular right in Penrose in some surrounding areas. She did have a bit of a cult following in other parts of the world, so it was definitely going to get noticed. And for the past weeks, her Glimmr account and posts had been increasingly anti-Beacon, and many of her followers had begun to have a similar disposition. Even those who were only tangently related might have been drawn in to such rhetoric.
"Aaaaaahhh this is a terrible idea whywhywhywhywhywyyyyyyyy!" Back in her little base, Vi was faring far less well than some would think of someone who basically just declared some sorta war right to beacon. Vi spun in her gaming chair, rolling to the far side of the room and holding the top of her head. The chair hit a table, knocking itself over and sending her crashing to the ground. For a few seconds she laid there. She couldn't say she was entirely opposed though.
Chloe was right, and she knew it. She could run all she wanted too, but with the things that were happening, Beacon was going to find her eventually. And the things she had done, when she worked for the mint? Even if she had been forced to do things against her will, she doubted Beacon would let her off easily. At best they'd lock her up. Worse? Well...
She hugged herself.
She was a coward. The worst sort of coward. She'd betray anyone if it meant living a bit longer. It wasn't like her to do something like this, and maybe she was being driven by fear, but all the outcomes for her had begun getting increasingly worse and worse over the past few months, all because of Beacon. She just wanted to live quietly, without bothering anyone, in her little studio! Why was that a crime!?
But she was a coward that wanted to live, and if violence gave her the best chance of clinging onto life, then well...
She'd be safe for now. Probably. A little voice in the back of her head kept giving her doubts. She knew her way around computers and tech stuff. No way were they gonna find her. Even if they did somehow manage to trace stuff through her proxies, all they would end up with was a dummy computer running from an internet cafe that she had already cut her remote access too. Meaning that she was safe.
"...fuuuu." She sighed, standing up and adjusting her hat with a slightly trembling hand. "Okay, Vi-Chan. You're a badass. You've killed people. You've beat people over the head with an inflatable pool toy to kill them before. Badass!" She picked up her chair. She had a party to put together.
Mia Cooper couldn’t believe what was happening. Upon walking into her room at the Penrose Orphanage she had found an unnervingly creepy woman wearing a dark robe and mask sitting on her bed. That alone would have been shocking enough, but then the woman had gone on to explain that she was none other than Mia’s roommate and best friend Connie Williams. It was all so unreal. The woman looked nothing like Connie, but did sound a bit like her…
“Why don’t you tell me what happened,” Mia asked. “How did you get like this?”
“W-well, some of the other kids locked me in the cellar,” the woman explained.
What?! Mia roared internally. I’m gonna beat the crap outta those jerks… Even if this woman wasn’t Connie, Mia refused to tolerate bullying of any sort.
“A-and when I was looking for a way out,” the woman continued, “I found this really awful m-ma-mas…”
“Mask?” Mia offered.
The woman nodded, before giving voice to a shocked gasp.
“Oh my gosh… I-it… it… c-clung to my face…” she said in a whisper as her hands slowly reached up to touch the mask. “Oh no… I-I’m still w-wearing it?! Oh jeez, oh jeez, oh jeez…”
She was starting to tremble and hyperventilate, clearly at the beginning of a panic attack. Connie was deathly afraid of masks, after all, Mia reflected.
Holy crap, Mia thought to herself. She really is Connie…
What before she had doubted, she now knew with utter certainty, and with that knowledge came a renewed resolve to help her suffering friend.
“Connie, it’s okay, it’s okay,” she told her soothingly, while putting her arm around her and gently rubbing her back. “I’m so sorry you had to endure all that by yourself, but I’m here now. We’ll fix this. I promise.”
“B-but Miaaa,” Connie sobbed. “H-how can you do anything about this? T-this isn’t something s-simple like bullies… It… It’s some k-kind of h-horrible magic curse…”
It was at that moment that Mia reluctantly made one of the biggest decisions of her life.
“You’re right Connie,” Mia told her. “It is magic. You’ve become a magical girl.” She took a deep breath. “Just like me.”
“L-like you?” Connie asked in bewilderment.
“Yeah,” Mia confirmed with a sigh of resignation. “Listen Connie,” she added as she stood up and walked a short distance away from the bed. “I’m gonna show you something pretty crazy, so please try not to totally freak out on me, okay?”
“O-okay…” Connie replied.
With a nod, Mia closed her eyes and summoned up her magical power to initiate the transformation. Connie watched in disbelief as a glowing and swirling whirlwind of mystical green energy quickly enveloped Mia. There was a mighty flash, after which Mia was no more. In her place stood an emerald-skinned nymph-like woman of otherworldly beauty. Her green hair flowed down in luxurious waves to pool on the floor, while her outfit consisted of little more than a skimpy bikini made of vines and leaves.
“Nature’s Beauty! Nature’s Grace! Nature’s Power!” The demigoddess announced. “Behold! I am Gaia, Daughter of Mother Earth!”
Now it was Connie’s turn to be dumbfounded.
“W-who…Who are you?” she whispered hesitantly.
“Oh, dearest Connie,” Gaia said serenely, with a tone filled with warmth and compassion. “It is I, your cherished friend. What you see before you is simply my magical girl form.”
“M-Mia? Y-you look so different… You sound so different…”
“Yes, well, I am Gaia now. If you wish, you may think of Mia as the seed, while I am the blossom.”
“S-so you’re not Mia anymore?”
“It… is complicated. Just know that I am still your friend, and I wish to do all in my power help you.” Sitting back down beside her, Gaia put a comforting arm around Connie’s shoulder. “To that end, I believe the first thing we should do is reverse your transformation, and the best way to do that is to simply relax. Here, rest your head upon my lap,” she offered invitingly. “That’s it, just lay down and make yourself as comfortable as possible. Then, leave everything else to me.”
Gaia’s voice was so blissful and calming that Connie found herself gladly complying with her every request.
“Th-thank you for doing this, Mia,” she said sleepily as she felt her friend’s elegant fingers running through her hair. “Oh! S-sorry, I-I mean Gaia.”
“There is no need to apologize,” Gaia told her lovingly. “You are my dearest friend. You may call me by whatever name you wish, I will cherish the sound of it all the same.”
As Connie drifted into blissful slumber, her imposing transformation finally dissipated, leaving behind the gentle girl Gaia had known since childhood.
“Sleep well, my dearest Connie.” Gaia said, while she smiled down at her friend. “Know that I shall always be here to guide and protect you. The nightmare is over now. Everything will be all right. So vows Gaia, Daughter of Mother Earth.”
The nightmare was far from over. That much was plain to see. The man writhed in agony, assailed by a relentless tide of unimaginable horrors. What those horrors were could have easily been seen, had the two young women wished it, but both had decided that it was for the best if they simply viewed the external symptoms. As far as Gaia was concerned, that was unnerving enough, and she was sure Connie would be quick to agree with her on that point.
The two magical girls sat on the edge of the roof of one of Penrose’s tallest towers, one that directly overlooked the only slightly smaller corporate headquarters of Covington Industries. Their unusually long hair blew wildly in the frigid wind and they clutched the folds of their cold weather robes tight about them.
“I-is it just me, or has it gotten c-colder every night w-we’ve been out here?” Connie asked.
“It is not just you,” Gaia replied. “And this is not natural. Mother fears a dark force is at work, perhaps one inadvertently set into motion by that disgusting pig down there,” she added pointing to the man depicted by the orb Connie held in her trembling hands.
The weather had indeed gotten worse, Gaia reflected. And that wasn’t all. Several natural disasters had struck Penrose over the last several weeks, leaving the city partially evacuated and in a state of near shutdown. Thankfully, the Penrose Orphanage was located at the very fringe of the city, and thus had escaped the recent calamites relatively unscathed. Incidentally, and despite its location at the heart of Penrose’s metropolitan core, the same could also be said for the building below them.
It was only natural for the global headquarters of a mega corporation like Covington Industries to be built like a fortress, and CI’s HQ took that line of thinking to its most drastic extreme. The place was entirely self-sufficient and, with its advanced armored skin and array of robotic security systems (including, it was rumored, an entire army of battle robots) was supposedly capable of withstanding the assault of any natural disaster or military force. It was the perfect place for a greedy coward like Thane Covington, CEO of Covington Industries, to hole up in for the duration of any emergency, safe and secure in pampered luxury.
Of course, a direct assault wasn’t the only way inside such a formidable stronghold. Despite, or perhaps because of, his company’s status as a technological juggernaut, Covington had neglected to guard against mystical adversaries, and thus his penthouse bedchamber was just as vulnerable to Connie’s magic as any back ally dumpster a simple thug chose to sleep in. This thought brought a smile to Gaia’s emerald lips.
Thane Covington was the driving force behind one of the most corrupt and pollutive corporations in the world, and the Daughter of Mother Earth held no sympathy for a man who had hurt her beloved Mother so. Ordinarily, she would be the one to enact Mother’s retribution personally, and in a most direct manner. However, in an effort to give Connie more experience with her powers (as well as to appease her horrific patron) Gaia had hit upon the idea of using a subtle, but no less effective approach. Each night, for the past week, she and Connie would visit this overlook, where the Daughter of Mother Earth would watch with approval, while the Empress of Nightmares flooded Covington’s mind with a parade of horrific visions of the repercussions his actions were having on both the natural world, and his fellow human beings.
And this plan was most certainly having an effect…
“Oh my…” Gaia observed with mock surprise, while placing an elegant hand to cover her mouth. “It looks as if Mr. Covington has just wet himself.”
“Eeww… T-that’s so gross…” Connie said as she turned away. “I-I don’t know about you, Mia, but I really don’t wanna watch any more of this…”
“Very well,” Gaia conceded. “We can return to the Orphanage now. After all, I believe we have seen more than enough for tonight.”
“Phew…” Connie said, giving voice to a sigh of relief. “Thank goodness. I think I might freeze solid if I spend another hour out here…”
“Come on,” Gaia said with a laugh. “Let’s head home. When we get there, I’ll make us some hot chocolate.”
“Mmmm… That sounds reeeally nice…”
As they departed the rooftop, Gaia couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief herself. The city of Penrose had grown far darker and more dangerous in the weeks since Connie had become a magical girl, and while Gaia had done her best to keep her inexperienced friend away from major combat thus far, the odds of them encountering a truly threatening foe steadily increased with each passing day. And it wasn’t just monsters that worried Gaia, oh no. Rumors had run rampant of late that a powerful new force had arrived in Penrose, the so-called ‘Beacon Ascendency’.
Since her work often took her to places seldom frequented by other magical girls, Gaia had only a passing knowledge of The Beacon, but what little she did know said that they could be fanatical at the best of times, and from what she had recently heard, the members of this ‘Ascendency’ were even more fanatical than most. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be much of a problem. After all, she was no monster or dark magical girl. But Connie…
Over the past few weeks, Gaia had learned that Connie’s patron, while certainly horrific, was NOT a Horror. Thus, Connie was neither a DMG or a monster girl. Gaia knew this. But would The Beacon be so clear headed and rational as well? The Daughter of Mother Earth highly doubted it. With this at the forefront of her mind, she had done all she could to keep her friend’s magical girl activities ‘under their radar’ so to speak, while doing her best to improve Connie’s combat abilities. She only hoped that, when the time to fight inevitably came, her preparations would be enough.
Silhouette couldn't lie to herself -- she was ecstatic. Like a child who had just opened a Christmas present, Sil found it hard not to jump for joy at her new ability: teleportation. Now she could be Corvo Attano make her way around with a swiftness she couldn't before, and ultimately what sort of assassin wouldn't want this kind of power? Naturally, she decided to make use of her time to practice with the ability by hunting monsters.
Monster hunting wasn't very high on Sil's priority list unless Veronica ordered it, but that did not mean she entirely avoided it. Bigger threats required attention, and if she so happened to hear rumors or stumble upon one, she did not see too much reason NOT to deal with it. They were a sort of pass time when she wasn't occupied, but she definitely didn't go out of her way, either. Except right now.
She wasn't hunting anything particularly strong, either, and both she and the beast realized that. After it initially attacked her and she effortlessly deal with its offense, it became aware of the fact it was no match for her, and fled. She, naturally, gave chase. At any point in this pursuit she could've picked up the pace and made done with it, but it provided her the opportunity to get a feel for her power, and so she blinked across rooftops to grow accustomed to it. But there was only so much fun to be had here, and the monster was not tireless. Eventually, it started gasping for air and its pace slowed to a crawl. Sil found herself sighing as she slowly drew nearer to the exhausted beast, taking a casual stance with the blade. She wasn't in the least worried about it, and even if it did manage some sort of attack, it wasn't likely to do much to her. But just as she raised her blade to attack, it gathered what remained of its strength and made one last hope across a rooftop.
It had to know that was a pointless move, but maybe that was a testament to its desire to survive? Someone may have considered such tenaciousness to be respectable, maybe, but Sil was not that person. She felt nothing but a slight irritation at the inconvenience she was made to endure. And with all the effort one would need to open a door, Sil made the jump to the next rooftop, plunging her knife deep into the tired beast's neck as she came down. It was a quick, clean kill.
Pulling her blade out of the beast, she thought on her next move. Rumor had it that the 'Beacon Ascendancy' had made its way into Penrose while she was stuck in the beach dimension. They seemed to be the equivalent of Magical Girl Crusaders, so naturally this meant that they were going to be a thorn in her side, as they frowned upon the existence of Dark Magical Girls. "Frowned upon" being a very generous way to put their fervor. It would probably be best to spend her coins in preparation for an eventual conflict.
"I suppose I should..." her eyes trailed up, where she spotted a green-haired magical girl not too far from her. The two were far too close for Silhouette's comfort, so she immediately drew herself into an aggressive stance, the words "Ready to strike" essentially written on her face. "Keep your distance." she warned the girl, not discarding the possibility this may have been a member of the Ascendancy at first, but upon further inspection, it was clear to Silhouette that wasn't the case -- this wasn't a normal magical girl.
If someone cared to look in front of Brittany’s shop, they would see a young man pushing through the snow. The wind kicked up his trench coat as if it were a cape, exposing his white button down shirt and suspenders. He kept a hand on his coat, and another on his black fedora. Back in 1910, He looked like a well to do business man from the 1910s, if not a mobster. An odd thing for a boy to be wearing in this day and age, but at least the coat was warm.
”Sammy, I’m gunna smack some sense into ya when ya turn up.”
Nuncio was no detective, but he knew Sammy well. Certainly, he knew that she was not so absent minded enough to leave the city searching for clues. Nor was she the type to get jumped by your average group of monsters. Yet since his return he was unable to find her anywhere. That was where Brittany came in. He pushed open the door and stepped inside, causing a cute little bell to ring on top of the door. Even though he was worried, even though he was nervous, he forced a smile. ”If it ain’t my second favorite dame!”
Played by Ari
‘I’m gunna get rich off this chump!’
— Brittany, (probably)
Brittany was behind the counter, cleaning a pendant with a handkerchief before she waved a greeting. ‘Hi there, and welcome to-Second favorite?’ Her eyes sparkled, her mouth wide in amazement. ’I’m already your second favorite, Nuncio? I haven’t even shown you all my wares yet.’’ She climbed up on a stool, and put her hands on the counter.
”Heh, not like I’ve been in the area long myself.” Nuncio took off his hat and held it in front of his chest. The snow on his hair was already melting. ”Saw ya message! Ya opening for real now, that’s good!”
‘Yep yep, Brittany’s Boutique is all revved up and ready to go!’ She lifted a broom in the air. ‘It’s times like these when people need weapons and artifacts most, you know? Gotta strike the anvil while the iron’s hot! So, did you bring more products?’ She asked with barely contained excitement. ‘Those plushies have sold much better than I thought they would!’
He looked to the plushies at one side of her counter. ”I uh…” He folded his arms. ”I ain’t here to peddle anythin’ this time. I need ya help.” His face became stern while he spoke. ”You can divine the location of stuff, can’t ya?”
She then blinked and smiled in surprise. ‘Oh, you want me to help you?’ She leaned against the table with a mysterious smile. ‘That is in my repertoire of expertise, yes. But it depends on what you’re looking for...And the price you’re willing to pay, heh~’
”It’s Sammy. She ain’t in any of her usual places.” He placed his hat on the counter and ran his hand through his coat. ”As for cost, whatever it takes, ya know I’m good for it. If I can’t pay it all up front, I’ll pay for it with the next few dolls I make. If they sell, that should be good.”
Brittany’s lips curled in thought. ‘Sammy? Oh, you mean that cute little detective? She’s funny. But now she’s gone, huh?’ Brittany put a hand to her chin. ‘Okay, bring me another set of plushies, and I’ll work on finding your friend. After all, you’re a valuable business partner to me,’ she then said with a smile.
”Wa?” Nuncio was taken aback by the tiny girl’s cutthroat business practices. ”Brittany, We just got back from that vacation place. Ya not gunna tell me ya expectin’ more dolls so soon?” He leaned across the counter with both hands. ”Penrose is a frozen hell, and my angel is no place in sight! This is an emergency!” When Nuncio’s hand came flying out of his coat, it dropped three gold coins, five silvers, and three bronze on the table. The two Dan plushies also fell onto the table. With a sigh, he picked up one of them. ”This one’s for her..” He tucked it back into his coat. ”When I get her back.”
Brittany pouted, only to blink as she saw the coins. ‘Well, this is ample compensation.’ She took the coins, and placed the other Dan plushie on the shelf. ‘Alright, I’m gonna find Sammy. Any clue where she had been last?’
”Haven’t seen her since I got back” Nuncio took a deep breath. ”She was crashin’ at my place. She should have been there every night. I got no idea what day she vanished. Some folks at the pit stop said they saw her a day or so ago, otherwise I got no leads. ”
‘The Pit Stop, eh? Well, it’s as good a place to start as anywhere. Don’t worry, I have a knack for lost treasure hunting. And Sammy’s so precious she might as well be treasure too!’
”Thanks doll.” Nuncio sighed. He probably over payed for whatever type of sorcery Brittany was going to employ, but at least the extra coin ensured she would make it a priority. He was going to leave, but this was his first time in the store as a customer instead of a supplier. He didn’t have any money left, but it didn’t hurt to look at things.
”Back to Business!”
The bar was dimly lit. Only the neon signs lining the walls provided any sort of light. It was enough to illuminate Tetrad, who sitting on an old leather couch. The large buns on her head made her look like Mickey mouse from behind, but only if you didn’t look at the rest of her body. She had a petite shape hugged in a black and white corset. Her legs were clad in black netting, Which ended in black leather boots that came up to her thighs. Her arms were stretched out along the back of the couch. They were wrapped in bandages that covered old injuries. Her finger-less gloves had cuff-links, and neither one matched. There were also all manner of tool belts and harnesses draped across her outfit. If special forces ever decided to train casino girls for combat, they might look something like Tetrad.
She had not actually returned to Penrose. The genie twins had returned Tetrad to her international home, which was this bar she was sitting in. She had gone into Penrose since then, but the gambler returned here to decide her next course of action. Veronica had requested that all agents remain on standby. Tetrad’s boss was getting in contact with the agents that remained in Penrose to figure out what else was going on. was going on. Aside from the presence of Beacon special forces.
In Tetrad’s opinion, the arrival of the Beacon Ascendancy changed little. Veronica already had a lot of enemies, and Beacon had proven themselves to be incompetent on many occasions. If the Ascendancy was as big and bad as everyone said they were, they probably had bigger fish to fry than a few cradle agents. The leader of Crimson Cradle had disappeared for several months. There was the mint, Cindy’s Gang, the outer Penrose alliance, as well as a dozen or so other organizations that were run by horror worshipers and “less than pure” magical girls. It was unlikely they would be hunting them specifically for a while. There was too much going on to worry solely on the appearance of Beacon reinforcements. In fact, she was already tired of thinking about it, she needed something else to do.
The magical girl party on Glimmr sounded good. Parties were right up her ally. But she didn’t know “the place” having been out of Penrose for so long. Furthermore, she wanted to accomplish something. It was clear what she had to do. Shortly before her unplanned vacation, Tetrad and Emily were on the cusp of discovering a necromancer’s den. She was pretty sure that Emily would be up for continuing that. Tetrad immediately typed up a text message before remembering a new acquaintance she made over the beach vacation, and scrolled down to Amaryllis’s name. Surely she would also be interested in hunting a necromancer. Letting her participate was the least she could do for a fellow Keijo queen. Tetrad punched in an invitation and hit send, only to get a prompt that the message could not be sent because the signal was too weak. That was when Tetrad looked around herself and remembered where she was.
”Right, I should probably go to a dimension with internet service.”
“Everything’s gone to hell, but I like my hair.”
— Su Fang
Su examined herself in a full body mirror. Typically her long brown hair was tied into pigtails, but she decided to change it up after her vacation. Now her hair cascaded over her shoulders, with her bangs reaching her collarbones. The rest tumbled down her back over her Chinese dress. It was a more mature look that suited her well. Not much could be done about her magical girl uniform, but she wondered how she might look in a change of clothes. She would need some time to think about that. There was a lot of things on her mind aside from her appearance.
The first things Su did when she got back was talk to Boteg. The news that Penny no longer served Laat rocked Boteg’s world. His core reason for coming to Penrose many months ago was to pit his champion against that of Laat. It was with Penny’s death that the cowardly dragon would finally get revenge. A chance to spit in the proverbial eye of the one who committed genocide on his race. But it seemed all was for naught. Laat losing his champion like that was not a pleasant thing, But Boteg did not seem satisfied with the outcome. On the upside, there would be no repercussions. But then what would Boteg do? This was something the gold dragon would need to consider.
Boteg tried to tell Su about all that had happened, but she needed to look through the news to get comprehensive answers. Needless to say, there were many unpleasant surprises waiting for Su in Penrose. First was the winter season. Not her favorite type of weather, but worse was the catastrophic events. This was typically the busy season for a hotel, and recent antics inside of Penrose had driven almost everyone away. All that extra business was important to make ends meet, and she knew Boteg wouldn’t keep funding things, especially if Laat’s next champion remained elsewhere. Worse still was the Beacon Ascendancy. Su was a dark magical girl, and Helga was a monster girl. Lupa and the ghost twins were also monster girls that were unlikely to be well received by the Ascendancy. They would need to be dealt with at some point. But that was bound to bring the rest of the beacon girls down on her. She had seen how fiercely loyal Beacon was to its own members. Alicia and Abigail’s behavior over the vacation gave her little reason to think they would remain divided for long. But as frightening as the prospect of fighting them was, She’d sooner die than surrender her family to Beacon. Hopefully that wasn’t a sacrifice she’d needed to make.
But one thing at a time. First Su needed to make sure her family was safe. Mika and Lupa had since departed to play in the snow. Not the best time to do so, but they had told her that they would remain close just in case. For some reason Boteg seemed to be agitated by Mika’s presence, but she chalked that up to him not liking the news about Penny. Helga was still in the hotel, likely doing something in her room. A lot had happened, and she probably needed a moment to process it all. She was sure all the other guests were fine, including the non-magical people that agreed to act as the hotel’s security staff.
Which left the matter of drawing in more guests during such hard times. She would need to invest in advertising in order to keep her guest count up. Specifically targeting magical girls, as there wasn’t likely anyone else that would willingly stay in Penrose. Boteg wouldn’t like it, but these were hard times. Glimmr was becoming an increasingly popular platform for Penrose Magical girls. Su could put an add in there and buy a sponsored spot. She wasn’t the best with computers, but Helga seemed like she’d be good for something like that. Or maybe they could work on it together. Su was sure that with her artistic eye and Helga’s know how they could make something. That was when Su’s phone got a notification from Glimmr about a magic shop that opened up.
“It’s a good excuse to go for a walk.” Su stashed her phone and approached Helga’s room. With a knock she said “Helga. Wamma go for a walk? A magic shop just opened up.” She waited for a response. It was a chance to see how Helga was reajusting to her normal life, as well as talk about that ad idea.
Kaito would not be shown mercy. He was new to Penrose. He was unaware of how dangerous this city could be, and experience was not a merciful teacher. You are never on the top of the food chain here. Monsters, Magus, but mostly other magical girls. Something out there wants to kill you, steal from you, or capture you and do far worse things. While he prepared to hunt monsters, he himself was being hunted.
His pursuer was careful. Unlike Kaito, these streets were not unfamiliar territory to her. She had walked them all before, new their names by heart. The snow quieted her steps, and the storm made spotting her impossible. Given the circumstances, she might as well have been invisible. It was almost unfair, but unfair was a perfect one word summery for life in Penrose.
She flexed her fingers. This wasn’t even good enough to be considered practice. But that mattered little. She would get what she wanted out of this exchange. Without another thought, she dove into the street below. Her weapons ready. Kaito heard the attack much too late to do anything about it. He’d turn just in time to witness his assailant before they attacked him.
“Kidding! It’s just Mika!”
— Mika Sarraf
Fortunately, Kaito’s attacker was not out for blood. Mika dropped down in front of him while encapsulated in a large droplet of water.on impact, the water bubble exploded and splashed him and everything else directly around the girl. Mika probably soaked herself more than anything else in her surroundings. If Kaito bothered to observe Mika (who wouldn't?) he would notice she was dressed like an Arabian dancer. Her red uniform was covered in gilded accessories, and she also had a tail and pointy cat ears.
“Hi hi! I’m Mika!” She said with a friendly wave. “I don’t get to play with boys very often, and not ones with cool legs like that!” In a puff of smoke, Mika’s legs also transformed into that of an avian creature. “They’re animal-tommy correct! A lot of fantasy artists don’t realize the true shape of a bird’s legs, and just cut them of at the knees!” She giggled, without any intention of stopping her rambling. “Also, do you hop or walk? I’m kind of curious because-” Mika’ pupils dilated and her ears flickered. “It’s so cold! The water is so cold!” She extended her arms. “Quick! Huddle with me for warmth!” She hobbled towards Kaito with chattering teeth.
Finally, her call had gotten through! Yet Alicia's tone as she asked if she was alright seemed to prod the uneasiness building within Serenity's mind. It somewhat sounded to her as well like the Seraph was somewhere outside, much like herself, which sent off more mental alarm bells in her own current state.
"I-I'm fine, Alicia...b-but I'm not sure Penrose is. I feel like something even worse is going to happen, and I can't seem to shake the f-feeling. I wanted to come meet up with you, a-and m-maybe help find what's going on. N-Not much on Glimmr except for a new store being open.
Where are you right now? I-If you're busy, I can help if y-you'd like. Maybe I can head to the base and wait for you there otherwise?"
The cold wasn't helping her current effort to talk clearly into the phone.
How long had they all been gone? What had gone on other than the seemingly more obvious monster encroachment? Too many questions darted about in her mind as well, and untold millennia of memories and knowledge and experience proved to be a cluster of so many potentialities that it was almost maddening. In lieu of the local chapter being missing, other magical girls could have moved in, or taken over places as their bases, or something of the sort. Certain other potentialities she kept held back on the edges of her train of thought, things that she'd not want to assume unless someone told her. Regardless, the former horror continued to trudge through the snow as quick as she could briskly walk...all she listened for Alicia's response with rapt attention.
Hmm? Another hunter was in the area, perhaps, that much she could postulate from the palpable feeling of a monster's fear in the air. Such dark creatures, such merciless killers, and yet they sought to preserve themselves like their prey attempted to. In a sense it was poetic, the hunter behaving as the hunted would. Yet this aside, the other huntress seemed to finally notice her before taking up an aggressive stance. So stoic and cold was her expression, but so clear was her body language and the intent reeking from it. Perhaps one of the magical girls who had reappeared here an hour ago, returning to her turf? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But something inside of herself itched, scratched for activity that it hadn't had in a long time.
The reason for this person's appearance here almost didn't matter to Ninha, and turning to Silhouette the green-haired monster girl opened out her arms in a seemingly accepting fashion. Her small smile opened up into a larger and more gentle expression on her face, and for a moment she felt a small chill of excitement run up her non-existent spine.
"Are you one of the returned, come to join in the thrill of the hunt? Or perhaps you came to practice against the beasts or other intruders in this city? Haha!
Ah...apologies, I really am making assumptions here for a newcomer to the area. All without a proper introduction at that!"
Despite her cordial and very casual tone of voice, however, Ninha materialized her chains on her forearms as she spoke to Sil. Something about this girl made her want to...to fight! Was it the feeling of a killer that hung about her in the air? Was it the lifeless and unhesitating expression she wore as she went in for the kill? Was it sheer boredom of some years without her having a good PvP match? Whatever it was, it almost seemed to sing within her in this moment.
"Let us introduce ourselves the old-fashioned way,, at least to entertain ourselves for the moment? At least while the zealots are minding their own business away from this location."
Without hesitation, Ninha's body seemed to shift as it moved from a stance of open arms into an open charge directly towards Sil. Ninha's right arm also lashed out with the magically-extending chains wrapped around her forearm shooting out towards the other girl on what would be Sil's left. There was no hesitation nor emotion in the green-haired monster girl's actions, merely pure and predatory intent radiated outward to send a very clear message.
As she walked along Alicia couldn't help but nervously glance around as she trudged through the snow. It was hard to keep from being a bit paranoid, even when she was not in immediate danger. The atmosphere just lent itself to that sort of feeling. It didn't help that knowing the Ascendancy was looking for Sylvia made her worried for her own safety too.
"I'm traveling," Alicia replied when asked about what she was currently doing, before tensing up as Serenity suggested that she meet them at the base. Did Serenity not know? Surely her education when she had joined Beacon had covered that, right?
Well, no matter. She could do that herself. "Things went bad while we were gone. The Ascendancy has moved into town because of the monster attacks while we were gone. They're going after Sylvia, and I'm not sure what they'll do to you even if they knew your story."
She held back a sigh, instead replaced by exertion as she crossed the street. "I'm meeting with Sylvia and Sally to plan our next move. You can come too if you want, otherwise sit tight and try to not draw too much attention to yourself for now until we can get this all worked out." It wasn't the best plan, in all likelihood, but it was the only one she had at the moment. Hopefully Serenity would be alright with that.
The calls had been made, and now all Tetrad had to do was wait. Even she wasn’t entirely sure why she was doing this. As a Cradle agent, she should probably be catching up on what was going on in penrose. But it had been a long vacation, and that Necromancer was well overdue for hunting. It would also be interesting to see what Emily and Amaryllis thought of each other.
Tetrad waited in the back alley, beside a dumpster. The narrow alley didn’t let a lot of snow drift in, but the cold air blowing through did ensure the area smelled okay. It was cold though, and Tetrad’s outfit didn’t offer much in the way of protection from such mundane perils. She had just left a very warm vacation resort in another dimension, so the temperature change was especially unwelcome. She found herself subconsciously rubbing her exposed shoulders to stay warm.
”Brrr!” She grunted through her teeth. ”Good thing this outfit comes with substantial padding. It would be kind of weird to fight with erect nipples.” She chuckled at her joke.
At around the same time she said that, the presence of another individual was made apparent by the sound of footsteps on the asphalt. “Would you like me to warm you up, Tetrad?” the soft voice made it obvious it was Emily, who had just arrived on the scene. Either Emily was nearby, or she hadn’t wasted a second after she received the call, because she was there rather fast.
Tetrad’s smile vanished, and her eyes rolled over towards Emily. ”Eh, Um, Nah! Hahaha! Once I start moving I’ll be fine!”
Emily shrugged. It was her choice, but being a fire spec, Emily had no problems keeping herself and others warm in this weather. But regardless, there were more important matters to attend to.
The beach getaway, while certainly unexpected, had been enjoyable. But as Tetrad made clear, things didn’t just stop happening because they weren’t there to deal with it. It was painful to think of the potential victims that were taken because of their absence, but doing so would not bring them back. For now, Emily wanted to do what she could to prevent more deaths. “I guess we’ve played around long enough.”
From the alley’s entranceway came Amaryllis as well. In the cold of winter, the statue-esque girl finally had reason to wrap herself in heavy, oversized fabrics, and she rendezvoused with the other two magical girls in a puffy greatcoat and a plaid scarf. Hanging off her shoulder and sheathed in canvas was her Sword, making its way into her mind again. It was a welcome presence, after such separation.
The girl herself looked worse for wear that she had even been before the impromptu beach vacation. Her cheeks blushed red from the burning of the wind, and her eyes were bagged and bloodshot, a half-vacant gaze in them. Her hair too, silky and luscious as it was, had not been spared the fatigue of its owner. For once, they weren’t tied up in a neat ponytail, and stray hairs stuck out in every which direction, looking sorely in need of a combing. Amaryllis grimaced for a moment as she stood there, suppressing a yawn, before shaking her head to cast off her lightheadedness.
“Tetrad,” she nodded, then stared at Emily for a couple of moments. “Emily. Necromancer somewhere?”
“Ah, Amaryllis!” Emily’s expression seemed to brighten a bit when the girl appeared, but then she remembered the severity of their mission, and calmed down a bit. “Yes, and they’ve probably done some damage while we were gone, too!” she told Amaryllis.
”You guys know each other? Guess I don’t have to introduce you then!” Tetrad placed her hands on her hips. ”As for the necromancer, that’s kind of a weird deal. We tracked him down to the graveyard, but it seems like our vacation was a little longer in this world. By a few months. It could be anywhere. Fortunately, I’ve got access to a great big network of magical girls that track suspicious activity.” Tetrad pulled out her phone and scrolled through it. ”The lower population in Penrose has limited the number of effective places for ghouls to hunt, which the necromancer commands to collect skins.” She scrolled to a picture of a cemetery. ”It looks like the cemetery we tracked him to last time is still getting strange visits at all hours of the day. It’s possible with all the havoc it’s nothing worth noting, but I think our necromancer friend has grown accustomed to his base of operations.” She slid the phone into one of her pouches and looked to Amaryllis. ”At the very least, it’s worth investigating. If we don’t find the necromancer, we’ll find clues. Even if we just find something that belongs to them, I should be able to lead us directly to him.” Tetrad turned to Emily. ”Hopefully this time our investigation won’t get interrupted by a talking dolphin.”
“The sooner it’s gone the better.” she agreed. This thing was taking innocent lives, and considering where it was operating, there was a decent chance it would try to abduct some of the people on their way to the soup kitchen. An innocent life was an innocent life, but that those people were dear to her. With how long they’d been gone, it may have even happened already. “I’ll go on ahead to the graveyard, catch up as soon as you can!” so saying, Emily took off via thrusts with her specialization.
“Hrmm,” Amaryllis folded her arms against the winter’s chill, “same graveyard as the one Soth’s ritual occurred in? Best to get moving then.” Her eyes followed Emily as the fire girl arced through the sky, before regarding Tetrad again. “You got a ride?”
Tetrad lifted a finger, then after a moment of silence, she frowned. ”Uh… No.” She held her chin. ”However! I do know of a taxi driver!” Tetrad groaned. ”But it’s been a long time. I don’t even know if he works here anymore.” After a moment of thinking longer, Tetrad pointed to the sky and smiled. ”We’ll just have to run there! It isn’t too far!” Tetrad immediately broke into a sprint, one that Amaryllis was pretty sure she could outdo.
“No Uber, huh?” Amaryllis nodded, before following Tetrad with a clipped pace. A Penrose without people really wasn’t the same.
Eventually, the group assembled at the graveyard. It had been some time, but they hadn’t fixed all the damage that had been done to the place. The official story was that a tornado blew through, but everyone present knew what really happened here. Even with snow covering the ground, it didn’t hide the memories of this place. The snow was unable to fill all the empty graves, the craters, or hide the demolished Mausoleum.
”Man, I don’t really envy either of you guys. But I gotta say, part of me really wishes I could have been around for this one.” Tetrad looked around herself. ”We just have to find some evidence he was here. Preferably recently. That’s all I’ll need to start tracking him again.”
Emily sighed, thinking back to the graveyard fight. In hindsight, while everyone else seemed to be saving the world from devastation and uniting people from almost everyone organization, she was more or less just distracting some brainwashed girl. She felt she could've offered more for everyone. "I wasn't too involved myself, really..." Emily glanced around, looking for any signs of life in the place by searching for heat signatures in the surrounding area. "I wish I was though. I think that if I had been, then maybe I could've done more, and maybe then a sister might not have died."
“Best not to dwell on what has been,” Amaryllis replied, her own eyes lost in the half-covered devastation before her, “or we’ll be wondering why we didn’t try to investigate that Beach Dimension further.”
There wasn’t much of a lead to go on. There were no tracks in the snow, or anything to suggest that anyone had been here recently. Though the falling snow was to blame for that. The girls split up, but stayed in ear shot of each other. Tetrad hopped in and out of empty graves, and Amaryllis stirred the snow with her sword, seeing if it reacted to any foul energies.
Emily’s search took her to a cabin. It was likely used to house tools and supplies for the graveyard staff. What made it suspicious was the heat signature she could see coming from inside. Stranger still was that it was the only building in the area that was still standing, and the windows were all covered. It wasn’t long before Tetrad noticed Emily cautiously approaching the cabin.
”Did you find something?”
Focusing intently on the cabin, Emily hadn’t noticed Tetrad’s arrival. She let out a cute squeal in surprise as well as her turquoise flame silhouette, before turning to the girl. “O-oh, sorry. It’s just that something is off about this cabin. There may be someone in it.”
“Alright.” Without missing a beat, Amaryllis strode right up towards the door of the cabin and swung it open. They were three magical girls sniffing around a graveyard, practically the most obvious sight in the world. Whoever was in there was either not a threat, or already knew they were there. So, simply put…
“Hello, who’s in here?”
What greeted the girls was darkness. A solid sheet of black that obscured everything inside. The filtered light coming from the overcast skies did little to help the girls look inside. But while they couldn’t see, they could certainly hear something moving around in there. First the floor creaked, then came the sound of heavy boots marching towards their direction. The girls all took a step back, unsure what was coming out to greet them. With one last step, the stranger cleared the threshold of the door and stood up. He was taller than the entrance to the cabin.
Even if one could overlook his height, it was clear this wasn’t a normal human. His skin was as pale as a corpse, with the muscle definition of an Olympian and the scars and bruises of a prize fighter to go with them. His eyes were closed, and his grey, matted hair shot out in all directions. He looked like a double from an 80’s dystopia movie. The man was clad in a series of belt pouches with shoulder pads and a loin cloth. There were also a series of tubes running from his back into his mask. The mask only covered the lower half of his face. They could see that his eyes were shut. Had the man not walked out of the cabin, they might have thought he was dead.
”Now see here, see here girl!” The mask deepened his voice, but it wasn’t enough to mask his southern accent. ”Ya can’t just throw the door open to a man’s abode! Harder to keep this place warm than skeet shootin’ airplanes with a peashooter!” The man “looked” at the magical girls. ”Y’all like huddlin’ around places like this?”
”As for ‘who’s in here,’ everybody calls me Billy Black Cadillac, or Billy Black for short. Billy Cadillac, but I drive a black car.”
Tetrad looked around. ”I don’t see a garage.”
Emily turned towards Tetrad for a moment, then turned back. “U-um… hello, Billy Black. Pleased to meet you…” she tried greeting him politely, but her gut feeling told her that they wouldn’t be sharing a friendly relationship for too long, given the circumstances of the encounter. “So you live here? What it is that you do all the way out here, might I ask?”
Amaryllis was decidedly less roundabout than Emily. Was it the magical fatigue, or was it the fact that she was a very busy magical girl with a lot murder to be done? Regardless, it was a victory of restraint alone that she hadn’t immediately decapitated the monstrous-looking Billy Black. Instead, she went for the simplest question ever, even as her Sword rasped at the chance to finally cut something. “You a lich?”
Emily couldn’t help but give a soft ‘ah’ at Amaryllis’ blunt approach, but awaited Billy’s response.
Billy was about to answer Emily’s question, but then turned to “look” at Amaryllis. ”I say-I say-If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you know a game is afoot.” The giant opened his eyes, revealing two orange eyes. They had no irises, but had jagged black stripes scattered across them like cracks in an old sidewalk. Billy placed a hand on his chest as a giant sword appeared in his other hand. It was pitch black with “Cadillac” etched into the side of it. ”No sir-e I say no sir-e I am not a lich!” He hefted his sword up over his shoulder. It took barely any effort at all, like he was holding nothing more than a twig. ”Though if I’m gunna be perfectly honest with y’all, I could summon a few liches if I wanted to.” He removed his hand from his chest and cast it outward. It was briefly wrapped in a wreath of purple flames before the snow around the girls started to move. All around the graveyard, ghouls were clawing their way out of the ground. They looked like skeletons stuffed with matted fur, and their sunken eyes emitted a crimson glow. They brandished their hands, which had long talons instead of fingers attached to them.
At this point, Tetrad had drawn up a hand full of cards, which hovered around her head. ”I guess we know what you do here now.” She was grinning, but her eyes were moving over all the threats around them.
Emily had immediately lost any sort of innocence or warmth in her demeanor, replaced instead by an expression that was mostly stoic, but betrayed a bit of her anger beneath. Much like Tetrad, she was paying attention to the mob that had appeared.
”I’m a necromancer ya see? I say I’m a bona fide caller of the undead.” The spine of some long dead animal snaked its way out of the ground and few in circles over Billy Black’s palm. ”But my real passion- I say my real passion is collecting skins. And y’all got some mighty fine flesh!”
The ghouls broke into a run, shambling and growling as they approached. When they got near, they started to jump at the girls that they had surrounded. Some even flying over the top of Billy Black’s head.
Emily certainly desired to deal with Billy first, but the fact was that they were being set upon on all sides, so she would have to deal with that for the time being. Thankfully, she particularly excelled at dealing with crowds. The flame mahou, naturally making sure it was safe for Tetrad and Amaryllis to do so, released a concentrated burst of fire that acted more like a mini explosion that launched her above the others, high enough so she could essentially hover while keeping the other two in mind. From there, she began to lob fireballs at the horde. “I’ll do my best to keep you guys covered from these vermin!” she told them.
Amaryllis only raised a brow.
“Pretty sure they’re the same thing, Lichy Billy.”
And, just like she had planned moments before, the Knight of Rose drew her Sword and swung in a single motion. Monster girls were still half girls. Dark magical girls were just partially dark. But monsters were only monsters, and horrors were only horrors. The silvered blade whistled through the air, aiming for the throat.
Tetrad had drawn a lot of green cards, including a reverse. That was all fine and good, but stealth wasn’t going to be too helpful in her current situation. She wasn’t even sure if these monsters needed to see them to know where they were.
”Hell of a time to try new tricks, but I like my chances!”
A new trick Tetrad learned over the beach vacation was how to work better with others. In particular, she could change her uno cards into minor arcana cards from a tarot deck. These were more support orientated than her typical uno cards, and this seemed like a good time to try them.
”Give em’ hell, Emily!” In a flash of light, Both of Tetrad’s green 7s turned into 7s of wands. She threw the first one at Emily. Once she was struck by it, she could feel a surge of magic, sure to increase her magical capabilities. It wouldn’t last long, but Tetrad could only hope things would get a little less hairy. The second card Tetrad threw directly behind herself. It transformed into a giant spinning baton that swat aside any ghoul that got too close. For the moment, the girls didn’t have to worry about attacks from all three-hundred-and-sixty degrees. Tetrad looked at her remaining cards. A green 6 and Reverse, a red 3, blue 9, and a Yellow 6. ”Workable.” She said to herself before drawing more cards.
Billy’s eyes momentarily flicked up to Emily, but returned to Amaryllis once she made her move. Few things were as fast as the rose knight, but it was a simple matter for Billy to rock the sword that was already on his shoulder in front of the incoming blade. To do this properly, Billy had to turn his body sideways so that Amaryllis’s sword was coming at the back of his neck, where his sword was ready to defend. With a snap, the spine floating over his other hand launched itself straight up into the air, heading straight for Emily.
Attending to the horde trying to overwhelm them, Emily wasn’t able to notice she was being attacked until almost the last moment. By then, it was too late to simply jet herself out of the way, so the best she was able to do was try to smack the spine out of the air with Purgatory, while doing her best to keep herself afloat.
Amaryllis would barely have time to react as the giant swung its weapon overhead. Billy Black might have been large, but he wasn’t slow.
”As for why I’m not a lich, I’ll explain once yer dead!”
“Guess we’ll never find out then.”
Snippets of hair were scattered in the air as Amaryllis twisted to the side herself, the cleaving blade grazing her temple and smashing into the ground. Before Billy could pull his sword back up, the Knight of Rose stomped upon the blade, her boots protecting her from its edge and driving it deeper into the ground. The necromancer was fast for his size, and strong for his class, but that was simply the prerequisite for fighting any half-decent magical girl.
Streaming through the freezing air, Amaryllis lunged in and aimed for Billy’s rotten heart, intending on slipping her Sword through the gaps between his ribs and popping that lump of torpidity right out of his back.
The spine was not content with just making a single pass. It would return time and time again, trying to pierce Emily’s defense and strike a mortal wound. It was getting so hard to keep up that Emily didn’t have the chance to lay down suppressing fire. The ghouls were walking over their burning comrades to get to Tetrad and Amaryllis. This only served to feed the flames, which were gradually becoming an impassable ring of fire.
”Crap!” Tetrad Tossed her green 6 into the air, and hurled her yellow 6 at a group of distant ghouls. There was no real point to throwing the yellow card except to grant herself the ability to float. It would be necessary for the rest of her gambit to work. With a snap of her fingers, she was instantly teleported to the location of the green card, which happened to be right above where the spine was at the time. She then took hold of it, at which point the spine pulled away from Emily and attempted to shake Tetrad off of itself. She wasn’t especially strong, but it was a lot easier to hold on when she was so light. ”Kick his ass! Kick his ass!” She shouted while the spine thrashed her around.
Meanwhile, this was just enough time to pass for Amaryllis’s sword to find its mark on Billy’s flesh. The sword managed to make its way a few inches into his chest, but his opposing handshot over and enveloped her hand and guard of the blade. It was a stalemate, with Billy unable to to push Amaryllis back, and Amaryllis unable to grant her sword the death of the monster it so craved to partake in. Black blood oozed out of the wound, but Billy remained unflinching. He shoved her hand downwards, slicing himself all the way down to the hip. This didn’t phase him however, and he promptly threw his head forward in an attempt to smash his head against Amaryllis’s.
She hadn’t expected a spine to be this troublesome, especially when she was airborne. It was a lot more tenacious than Emily expected it to be, it moving around too much for her to grab a hold of it or burn it. And each moment she spent trying to get rid of it was another moment the ghouls had to press their advance.
Thanks to Tetrad’s assistance, though, she had just the opening she required. As the spine became occupied with shaking the girl gripping onto it, Emily darted towards the bone and seized it in her grip. “Let go!” she warned Tetrad before her grip ignited the thing, her goal obviously being to incinerate it.
The deadman continued to fight, his sheer brawn putting an end to Amaryllis’s thrust. The knight struggled for a moment, but the spike of pain upon the crown of her skull reminded her once more. Sheer contests of strength were not befitting a fencer such as herself. Nay, the arena she reigned in was that of grace and precision. Her Sword flew off to the side, shredding out of the monster’s body. Amaryllis twisted with that motion as well, one foot secure upon the blade as the other rose up.
It was good that Billy was so inhumanly tall; the distance between his skull and hers was enough that Amaryllis had the time to bend back and kick upwards, jamming the heel of her foot into his eye. At the same time, gleaming silver sheared into the open wounds of the necromancer, sealing in the putrid ichor of his gray-skinned body.
And from those silver-scored wounds, ivy-esque chains emerged, not bursting outwards, but tunneling inwards, metal tendrils digging through decaying veins to tear away at the monster from within.
Billy was a tough bastard. Even as the chains cut through his innards, he attempted to fight back. But it was no use. His tendons were being severed, and his bones were being ensnared by chains. All the howling in the world wasn’t going to make it stop. All the other girls could see was his skin bulge as the chains grew inside him. His white skin turned black from the internal bleeding, and he soon collapsed. Not even a second later, what remained of the spine fell from the sky as gray ash. It was only a matter of time before it was picked up by the wind and lost among the falling snow. The necromancer had been defeated. Emily and Tetrad landed beside their companion on the ground.
Tetrad stroked her chin. ”I think this is what the death heads call… BrUtAl! ” She proceeded to cross her arms over her chest and shaped her hands like two goats, before sticking her tongue out of her head.
And this was the part where everyone learned the difference between a necromancer and a lich.
There is no doubt that both entities are similar. A necromancer is one who practices necromancy, which is a sort of forbidden magic that deals with animating the dead. Anyone who knows necromancy can be considered a necromancer.
But it takes far more than just knowing necromancy to become a lich. That would be like saying psychopaths and sociopaths were the same thing. What makes a lich different is that they have to become one with their magic. That is to say that they themselves must become undead in order to take that final step into graduating into a lich. You can be the strongest necromancer alive, but you aren’t a lich until you’ve shifted off your mortal coil.
”I say, I say, I am reborn!” With a mighty leap, Billy tore away from all that held him back. The chains, his flesh, his breathing apparatus. It was all a cocoon for the necromancer’s true form. His skeleton was laid bare, with a dark flame burning in his chest. ”Common boys, we’ve got visitors!”
With a loud bang, two other giant undead emerged from the cabin. One was a fairly standard lich with a dark robe and a golden staff. He had massive bony pauldrons fitted with red orbs.
”I’m shocked you were finally killed. You were the strongest out of all of us. Well, only if we exclude your brain.” she grinned.
Ribbons of flesh came out of the cabin and coiled around Billy’s exposed bones, and before long he looked like an improved version of his former self. He was still wearing a gas mask, but his new flesh wasn’t pale and bruised. Billy extended his hand, and his sword flew out of the ground and into his grasp. ”I’m gettin’ kind of bored of laying low, aren’t y’all?” They nodded in unison. A giant ball of flesh rose out of the top of the cabin and hovered over Billy’s head. ”Given that they want to dig inta my skin collection so bad, I say we go collect some more! Come on y’all!”
And with that, the three liches flew off in three entirely different directions.
Tetrad groaned. ”Guess we’d better split up too.” Tetrad took to the air. ”Gunna go after the world of warcraft guy. Hopefully you all have a few favors to call in, I don’t think we’ll have much luck fighting them all divided like this.” Before blasting off, tetrad placed her fingers against the side of her head. Tetrad’s most reliable friends could be contacted via telepathic link. ”Hello hello, Tetrad here! I’m following a necromancer. You’re free to help me kill it if you guys aren’t doing anything. Trixy, I’d like you to make a post on Glimmr. I’ll keep feeding you details on the necromancer’s location while I pursue.”
”Gotcha sweet cheeks! Send me a picture with your phone if you have time.”
Amaryllis clicked her tongue. Unfinished business was unfinished business, and her Sword was displeased too at the stolen meal. She too was slightly irritated, not at Billy’s retreat, but at how...it didn’t make sense at all? What was a lich? Between the three examples that were presented, only one of them looked like a skeletal bastard, that was for sure. The Knight of Rose shook her head, before turning to the rest of them.
“I’ll go after Billy then. Good fortune to the rest of you.”
Like a shooting star, she streaked off after the undead barbarian, her own smartphone already ringing. If it came to slaying evil that simply wouldn’t die the first time around, Amaryllis knew exactly who to call.
“Then that leaves only one choice for me. Good luck!” she shouted towards the others, before taking off from the ground and pursuing the last lich.
She was aware of what they were, but Emily hadn’t had the chance to fight a lich before. Billy was certainly not the easiest foe she’d seen, so if he became even stronger by becoming a lich, they were going to need some backup.
I really hope this doesn’t cause too much trouble for them…
As she flew in chase of the monster, she grabbed her phone and hastily sent a message over Glimmr to a few acquaintances. Most of them replied that they were busy with some other task, though some offered to see if anyone they knew would help. She told them to go ahead and try, but wasn’t particularly confident that would turn up results. There was, however, another girl she’d met with she could try. “Umm, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble…” she kept her eye on the lich for any strange movement as she did her best to make a concise message explaining the events to a certain wolf girl she knew, Lupa. Hopefully she avoided too many typos, but given she was in the middle of flying at high speeds, it was rather difficult.
Having exhausted her contacts list as fast as she could, she put her phone away and focused on the task ahead. If she happened across any girls, maybe she’d call out to them, but otherwise she’d not let this monster out of her sight.
The Boss had come to feel the time dilation of the beach resort within moments of returning to Penrose. Before she could talk to Sasha, or any of the Agents, before she could acknowledge the colder climate, before she even knew about the movement of The Ascendancy - the months she had missed returned in a fraction of a second. At first it was pain. A sharp, white hot pain, which wracked her body and coursed through her form, threatening to tear her open from the inside out, while all she could do was grit her teeth and bear the brunt of the whiplash. Then it dwindled, from pain to nothing. Vertigo overtook, and everything inside her became weightless and numb.
Sasha had been concerned. The two arrived in the middle of The Nerine Vista, precisely as they had left, but to see her Boss, her friend, display any fraction of pain was a worrying sight. The Boss had assured her otherwise. The deadline hadn't come, and though months of absence had caused a feedback along the tether, there was no danger that the re-connection would fail. It would only take time, time that had to be spent recuperating, learning whatever had happened over the course of the forced vacation.
The moments the signals of The Surveyor App were reestablished for Christine, Rebecca, Olympia, and a number of other girls, the work began. A Magical Girl chef under Sasha, named Amelia, had worked on keeping The Nerine Vista in pristine condition for the eventual return of communication with The Independent, and The Boss was more than thankful. It allowed a safe place of work, especially among the circumstance. The past months had been a mess - with a majority of Independent Agents falling under the Dark Magical Girl and Monster Girl umbrellas, and the suspicion cast with the Janet Howell Trial report, Reporters and Journalists had been hunted down. Over twenty killed, and nearly a dozen captured, with their whereabouts unknown; almost all by The Ascendancy's hand.
The Surveyor Teams had been hard at work over the course of the disappearances, but their operations could only go so far without orders and direct support. The Beta Team had collected data on the numerous supposedly natural disasters that had struck across the city, The Alpha Team had records of an increased undead presence within Penrose, and The Gamma Team reported suspicions that another party had been tapping communications across the city. A huge majority of Magical Girls within the city had gone missing at the same time, and returned at similarly consecutive intervals. And a number of agents had gone incognito, as part of The Independent's Hurricane Protocol, in fear of being hunted. Some had even abandoned the organisation all together. By the time an hour of catching up had passed, The Penrose Independent was weaker than it had ever been.
"One of the shops was destroyed as well. Part of an Ascendancy raid," Sasha concluded, placing a folder onto a table, littered with documents. Christine sat nearby, looking over a set of balance sheets. To her right sat the heads of the three main Surveyor Teams, with documents, tablets, and folders strewn around their individual spaces of the table as well, "War will start soon. I don't think The Ascendancy can win, not with Penrose as it is now. Perhaps a bet on the Mint splinter group-"
"What, are we gonna treat this like a Poker game now or something?" queried a girl to Sasha's left, the head of the Alpha Team. While she wore an embellished, frilly dress, of various reds, pinks, and golds, and over the top of its white and black centre pieces. A number of jewellery pieces ran through the outfit, onto her arms, and through her hair - which cascaded down her back and the chair in a long ponytail, held in place with a large red and white ribbon. In a lot of ways, the girl looked like an idol, and though her words escaped her lips at speeds rivalling the most complex of songs, her expression remained a serious one. Concerned, unimpressed, and severe, "What happened to not gambling with the lives of Agents, huh Boss? Sasha? Working with people like that just puts a bigger Ascendancy target on everyone's backs. You think the Magical Nazis of Beacon care who's innocent and who ain't under the PI umbrella?"
"Effort has to be made to rebuild the ranks. Runner groups are too fractured and fanatical to rely on. We need numbers and equipment," Sasha replied. Compared to her colleague, her words were measured, and deliberate. While the other girl took to formulating her response, Sasha leant across the table, and pulled another folder from amidst the pile, "Besides The Cradle, Cindy Ford has been using Penny Asimov's expanded sanctuary. It has grown a large amount since Olympia last saw it. Penny still owes us a favour, too. If war is going to start, The Penrose Independent should be at the front. The more allies the better."
"Beacon is totally gonna be fragile right now. Betcha you could even incite a revolt. That's why you've got Rebecca, right~?" a second girl suggested, bedecked in a black dress and coy grin, deftly twirling an intricate, wooden stave between her fingers. Where the fabric of her dress met her shoulders, two padded, frilled epaulettes broke free down the top of her arm, in a similar design to the frilled, white, almost feather-like additions to the ends of her sleeves. The hem of her dress, too, matched, with black frills at the end of the barely thigh covering article.
"Is that seriously all you care about, Miri?"
"Cindy's gonna be the priority here," The Boss finally said, raising her head from between her interwoven fingers to address the table. The numbness was still present, eating away at her inside while the tether attempted to fully reconnect. She could feel the emptiness attempting to draw her in, consume every aspect of her existence, for every second she remained idle. It was an arduous task to keep herself stable, "Astrid's right - there'll be no gambling with lives. We shouldn't pursue The Cradle. Between Katelyn wanting to kill one of its members, Veronica as its leader, and their issues with The Mint, they're not worth the risk. Shion tells me Veronica was seen with Sylvia at The Beach, anyway. The Cradle will probably get involved with this regardless. If we've got Cindy at our side, they might ask us for an alliance instead. That's the best case with them."
"You can't be serious. I'm 'right', but you're still going to pick a fight with The Ascendancy? Are you insane?" Astrid began to shout. Yet The Boss displayed no sign of emotion. She had expected her to react, but nothing on her face gave it away. Astrid's face on the other hand was easy to read - she was exasperated, believed herself to be the only sane one at the table, was angry at The Boss for practically outright ignoring her plea, and simultaneously wracked with an inexplicable anxiety, "We try this and fail, it's all of our heads. Not just yours, not just Christine's, not just mine - all of us, from the top down. All those Monster Girls who just wanted somewhere safe to stay and earn some money? Dead. All those Beacon girls you convinced to snitch on their leaders for some extra coin? Dead. They've already started thinning us out, you wanna add more fuel to that fire?!"
"Astrid," The Boss replied, calmly. But though her words were level and measured, she shot Astrid a look. The emotion on her face switched from anger and passion, to something smaller, more afraid. Typically The Boss's stares were anxiety inducing, but the empty void that swirled with her as a result of the issues with the tether exemplified the gaze tenfold, into something violent, calculated, chaotic and vicious. Something Astrid had never seen, ”If I remember correctly, you joined us three years ago, right? A former Beacon Agent from outta town, come to Penrose for a fresh start, because you'd been Excommunicated. You and your friends lost a battle to corruption, and nearly resulted in thousands of deaths. So Beacon killed your sisters, and followed you here.”
”I know you joined for protection, Astrid, I’m trying to give it to you.” she continued, her stare softening into something welcoming, but forlorn. Most conversations with The Boss followed similar patterns. She would start off cold, and severe, but when she’d finished being threatening, it was hard to see her as anything but approachable, ”This is a bigger mess than I expected, and I don’t really know what the right answer is - but I do know something. We’ll be safe when we’re strong. I have a goal for The Penrose Independent, and it needs this organisation to be bigger, and we do that by eating the bigger fish. If we spearhead the assault on The Ascedancy, everyone will want to work with us, from The Mint to the Pro-Equality Beacon Agents - and we’ll keep going until we’re the biggest fish around.”
Astrid opened her mouth to respond, but no words emerged. She stood for a second, washing her gaze across the table, and her colleagues, and then nodded, quietly. A glaze of tears had formed in her eyes, born of painful memories from the past, and she shrunk back into her chair. Both she, and all the others at the table, understood the objective, and everyone looked to everyone else, not sure when to speak or in regards to what, as The Boss flipped through a series of documents in front of her, awaiting the next suggestion.
"I'll get Rebecca on working her way into The Ascendancy's ranks, then," Christine offered, clearing the silence and the air. She was already typing out a message by the time The Boss gave her the nod of approval. Among the suspicion that The Ascendancy could have communications tapped city wide, the messenger function within The Surveyor App had become all the more valuable, "The Beacon Informants might need some incentive to get back to duty, but I'll get Caleb to cover that. You said about The Mint - do you think it's worth having Lee introduce us to Al Scarpe? Maybe The Archive while we're at it?"
"Um, a-as well. Recently, a Magical Girl - or, I guess, Dark Magical Girl? Maybe Monster Girl - a-anyway, she’s called Vi, she’s a Magical Girl who's popular on Glimmr - she's pretty popular, I-I dunno if you've ever heard of her, Boss, popular, and cute, she has a large following, a-and-" the third girl cut herself off. A blush had formed around her cheeks, as she realised how much she was talking, and in an effort to hide it, she had begun to pull the large, wide-brimmed witch hat atop her head down to mask her face, "Sh-she, ah, um... she's been spreading some anti-Beacon propaganda over the past weeks, and recently announced this, uh, party, for all her fans, with a secret location - I've been following her stuff for, um... a while... H-here, just..."
The Witch-esque Magical Girl pulled a tablet out of a large, heavy bag from behind her, and opened a copy of the video Elvira had uploaded, and since deleted. The six girls present each sat in silence, listening and watching, some silently judging, both Vi and their colleague, whilst others considered the words, and their implications - The Boss more so than any of them. Was this girl attempting to incite a battle? Or merely spit in the face of The Ascendancy? In her mind, it sounded like a challenge. 'Come and get us', or something of similar effect.
"I'm assuming you think you know what location she's talking about, Ellie?" when Ellie nodded, The Boss nodded in response. She reached over with a gloved hand, pulling a piece of paper out from amidst her pile - a report compilation of some of the various girls who had arrived in Penrose over the past months, from Monster Girls to Ascendancy Agents. She could feel the cogs in her own brain turning, from deep within the tumultuous chaos and nothingness she called a body, "Alright then. Ellie, you and Christine'll coordinate regarding Elvira and this party. While you're at it, Christine, get in touch with Lee. I'll let you decide what to do with him. Astrid, continue monitoring the undead activity, and take joint control of the Gamma Team's operations while Ellie is busy. Miriam, I'll leave you in charge of Rebecca and the infiltration - don't do anything stupid, understand? Sasha will work with me."
The group of Magical Girls each gave a nod, and in turn, stood from the table, meeting concluded. More would inevitably be discussed in time, but each present understood their mission, and overall goal. One by one, the Surveyor Team Leaders and Christine said their farewells, and took off into the cold, winter streets of Penrose City. The only two who remained were Sasha, and The Boss, sat mere feet apart around the piled high and polluted table of documents. For a while after their colleagues left, there was silence between them.
"Are you sure you are okay?" Sasha finally asked, breaking the silence. Before The Boss could answer, she lifted her chair, and brought it over to practically right next to The Boss's, and sat down, inches away. She had attempted to hide her concern for the entirety of the meeting, but with nobody around to hide it from, she could finally let it out, "I can take over until you return - I would feel better if you returned now than when the time empties."
"No... not yet," The Boss replied, with a sigh. On an instinctual level, she agreed with Sasha. As always, she was right about matters related to her personal life, to a degree of accuracy that even The Boss couldn't attain. Unlike hypothetical others in her situation, she didn't find it strange or creepy. It was comforting. But it wasn't the time to return yet - the tether would stabilise without issue as long as the time limit hadn't ended. As uncomfortable as it was, she could bear it, "There are things I need to take care of while I'm here. I'd probably be gone for... well, a couple of days, I would say. That's too much wasted time."
With a solemn nod, Sasha stood from the table, and walked towards the double doors marking the entrance to the kitchen. Automatically, they swung upon, allowing her entry, while The Boss remained sat, contemplating, lingering in the emptiness of her newfound condition. Her gaze drew towards a large painting on the wall to her left: a rendition of Earth, splintered and cracked, with a ball of bright, blue light, illuminating its spider-webbed flaws from above. Things would get worse before they got better, she imagined. Rarely did she become nervous, but a creep of anxiety pulled itself up her spine, and into the base of her head. There was uncertainty, and dread, and doubt, and a hint of self-consciousness. So many pieces, so many potential moves, and so many objectives. But behind everything, an omnipresent sense of excitement gnawed against her common sense, edging her forward.
"D'you feel this too, Cynthia? How's your tether fairing?" The Boss asked to no one, talking to nothing, and chuckling into the empty air.
Christine today at 8:26 PM We're gonna have you work your way into The Ascendancy. The Boss thinks your best bet might by through some new girl, Dawn Astrea. New recruit of some kind.
Rebecca today at 8:27 PM you're fucking kidding
Christine today at 8:27 PM Nope. Miriam will be handling you for the duration. G-01 got a picture of this "Dawn" just after she entered the city. [Image File]
The Shinobi slumped backwards in her chair, nearly falling to the floor, accompanied by a long, arduous groan. Rebecca held her phone above her head, still fixated on the messages Christine had just sent her. It was absurd. Signing up to Beacon, becoming the first Tasker - she hadn't expected the extreme and heavy workload that came with it all. The beach resort had made her realise, that she missed her old job in The Penrose Independent. Following designated targets, watching them from afar, and reporting to a higher up if anything out of the ordinary happened. What she wouldn't have given to reclaim that lost career.
It wasn't a particularly far distance from the apartment The PI had set her up with and Beacon Headquarters. The short walk was perhaps the only benefit to the job she had. As Rebecca wandered through the hidden entrance to the building, she could only wonder why it was her that had to deal with it all. Had her family angered an ancient eldritch God who cursed her bloodline, and that curse only decided to activate once she herself had been born? Did she accidentally break some priceless, cursed relic, releasing a malevolent spirit which plagued her with misfortune? Did God hate Scottish people? The answer eluded her, and with every step through Beacon's halls, she descended deeper into the conspiracy theories of her own divination.
When she began to hear voices, she beelined towards them, and quickly deviated her course through the halls along the path of least resistance. She had spent a fair amount of time memorising the layout of the Headquarters - even where she was, a short ways off, she could tell that the voices were in the direction of The Hall of Luminous Valour. Just a short moment after Aurelio himself wandered in, Rebecca too unabashedly entered. The first thing to catch her eye was the sword the girl in front of them wielded. A girl who matched the photo Christine had provided.
"'Th'fuck'am 'Ah walkin' inta' 'ere?" she called aloud, taking a cautionary step back, half an act and half on instinct to seeing a Beacon Agent wielding a weapon in her general direction. Though she hadn't been present for it, Rebecca had heard about The PI Agent purge Beacon had attempted following the trial report. Between that and The Ascendancy being directly responsible for the deaths of Dark Magical and Monster Girl PI Agents, the sight had sparked her adrenaline. Every synapse in her brain told her to flee, but still she sidled up behind Aurelio and beside him, placing herself in full view as best as possible without pushing in front of him, "'Ah'm Rebecca. This where all that Ascendancy shites goin' on? Kinda new just off tha' graveyard thing, didn't get ta' do much before gettin' teleported ta' that fackin' beach and shite. D'you's take, like... I donnae' know, apprentices or anythin' like that? Been feelin' like I ain't doin' me part 'ere."
Thalia pulled herself into a hug, rubbing her gloved hands against her shoulders amidst the cold night of Penrose City. Despite her Fire Specialisation, she had sealed herself into her human disguise, letting herself feel the biting chill, and every shiver as a frigid wind tore clean through her jacket and fleece. The disguise felt unusual, like it didn't fit her properly, even despite the fox ears which emerged from her head - a side effect of her corruption. It had been months since she had bothered to utilise it when going outside.
The cold, to her, acted as an anchoring point. Anxiety had wracked her even prior to leaving her most recent lair, which the Meditation Stone Penny had gifted her dealt with, but navigating the streets of Penrose to a store that sold phones while focusing on the polished white stone was beyond her at the best of times. In its absence, Thalia relied on the chill, something distracting from the gnawing in the back of her mind. Something to keep her through the mission without losing control again.
When she finally found a store still open in the dead of winter and night, selling the item of her desire, she stood at the entrance, composing herself for a number of minutes. She wasn't going to lose control, she thought to herself, she could do it. In the midst of psyching herself up, Thalia pulled one of her gloves off and stuffed it into a pocket, instantly feeling the numbness on her skin. With her bare hand, she reached into her fleece, where the Meditation Stone was held. Her thumb brushed across its smooth exterior, and her eyes closed, allowing herself to drift into focus and clarity. And with a deep breath, she stepped into the store.
Instantly, a blast of warm air exploded from the interior, cutting through her clothes harsher than even the cold wind had managed. Momentarily taken aback, she took another deep breath, and cast her gaze around the room - sparce, filled with few perishable goods and food items, no doubt the effects of the past months events. Thalia hadn't learned much, but from what she had gleaned, things had gotten bad since everyone had vanished. Between natural disasters and The Ascendancy marking their claim, a part of her thanked Dan and his beach resort for keeping her - and The Vixen - away from such prime hunting grounds. She wanted to be rid of it, of her, as quickly as possible.
To that end she beelined towards a display of burner phones. She fumbled with the packaging for a second, as her bare hand ran sore and numb with pins and needles from the transition in temperature, but with a seconds composition to calm the trembling along her fingers, she grabbed at the thing, and brought it to the counter - where nobody stood. A tang of anxiety pulsed along her spine, sending a tingle up to the base of her skull, and forcing her hand back into her pocket, to the Meditation Stone she had begun to rely on so heavily since the talk with Penny. It helped, more than she had originally anticipated, and with her eyes closed, she drifted to a centre point. A collective, cumulative 'inside', to her definitive core, and for a moment she was at peace.
"-would'ya look at me? If that's everything Broad, it'll be twenty bucks 'ya hear?" came a voice, severing her connection to the inner point of focus she had attained. Her eyes snapped open, readjusted to the light, and focused on the man who had stepped behind the counter - fairly tall, fairly pale, with a close cut beard and hairstyle, and casual, worn clothing. He seemed annoyed, though not exceptionally so - Thalia couldn't exactly call it unwarranted. She stared for a moment, stunned. That he hadn't bothered to question the set of furry ears atop her head barely came to mind, as her head was flooded with possible responses built up from months of disconnect with conversation.
"S-sorry, I, uh, sorry, sorry... hold on, l-let me just," she sputtered, pulling off the second glove and reaching into the right pocket on her fleece, to pull out a worn, fabric wallet with a velcro strap. Before leaving, she had returned to the old storage unit she had used to keep her hunting equipment in. For once, she thanked her past self - she had wielded enough foresight to place nearly a two year down-payment on it, and everything had remained as she had left it. The bows, the rifles, and the cache of money she had saved up prior to becoming a Magical Girl. With a slightly trembling hand, she pulled a twenty dollar bill from inside, and handed it to him, "Sorry, uh... again. H-have a good evening?"
The man barely responded as she took her awkward leave, and returned to whatever he had been doing before she arrived. And Thalia, phone in hand, stepped out into the cold once more, pulling at the tight plastic packaging with her teeth and nails, attempting against attempt to force it open. For the first minute, she lost the struggle, but then the thing tore open, sending the phone and everything else in the plastic to scatter into the air. About as dexterous as humanly possible, her hands whipped out to catch the phone itself and sim card, whilst the rest of the plastic and assorted items fell to a puddle in the street beneath her - a single instruction manual among them, quickly overtaken with dirty water.
Hey Penny, it's Thalia! I got a new phone, and remembered your number and everything!
Thalia typed out, smiling near ear to ear as she did so. It had been an eternity it felt like since the two of them had texted. If she hadn't known better, she might have felt like nothing had changed at all.
Hope you don't mind me sending lots of messages? I haven't used a phone in a super long time. It's been even longer since we texted each other on them, so I really wanna catch up with things!
With a second message send, Thalia took off into the night, heading back to the centre in which her storage unit was held, intending to sleep the night there. A third message already sat typed out in the message box as she walked, but she paused for a moment, and deleted it, to allow Penny the chance to text back first.
"What is going on here? Hrrr, it's freezing!" Lily held her arms around her shoulders, shocked by the wintery realm she used to know as Penrose; she returned back to the rooftop she were on. But then, she blinked, and spread her arms to her sides. "Well, I don't have to breathe in cold air, that helps a bit. And it's beautiful...Aah!" She was startled by the sudden intrusion of a sound in her head; it was Ixion. "Lily? You are safe!" The equine spirit spoke, his neighs rippled with static. "Ixion, what happened here? Why is it winter?" "That is because you have been gone from this world for two moons. Our bond was somehow severed, something I thought impossible. But now that you're here, we can-" Lily poked the sides of her head with her index fingers. "Before that, let me just process all this with Alex-Wait!" But it was no use, as Alex had already bounded far into the distance, causing Lily to lean forward with her hands balled into fists. "Man, Alex can sometimes be a big goof. I know he loves his pets, but still, he shouldn't leav his girlfriend in the blizzard!" With a huff, Lily nonetheless summoned Ixion in his motorcycle form, and rode off after him.
Lily was faster than Alex, and could have reached him at their home, but decided to take it slower as she listened to Ixion's exposition. "So undead have been roaming rampant, and a new force of magical girls arrived to hunt them." "Not just the lifeless vessels, Lily; the entire city is their hunting grounds." "What does that mean?" She asked, though she received nothing but a crackling whinny from Ixion. But Lily was not deterred. "Well then, I guess I need to find out." Upon arriving at the apartment, she carefully stepped inside, having transformed back to human form. "Alex? Are you there? Where did he go this time?" Fortunately, Bob was vigilant, and immediately came over to greet the green-haired girl with a nuzzle. "Oh Bob, everyone! I'm glad you're alright! We didn't mean to leave you here for so long, I swear!" Bob didn't seem to care, and moved back to the kitchen. As Lily followed, she saw the note Alex left her. "Grabbing magic swag...Be back later? Wait, wasn't there an ad on Glimmr?" Lily mumbled, and sat down on the couch, turning on the TV as she handled her phone. She gasped at what she saw. "Oh, Brittany's opened her shop here! So that's why he ran off." She saw as the news mentioned report about the evacuation of Penrose, and frowned. "It's that bad, huh?" She heard Ixion bray a bit, and nodded with a pump of her fist. "Okay, as soon as Alex is back we'll go and help. Lily Lightning is back in town!"
Deni found herself in the middle of a vast field, patterned like a checkerboard. Forests of green could be seen from which jolly music could be distantly heard. Up above was a sky with countless shooting stars, as if it was raining starlight. Planets and star systems were visible with the naked eye and fantastic views could be seen all around, from floating islands to crystalline spires. Though she herself was not aware, this was a place her twin sister and former mistress had once seen.
In fact, it was the very shore of the lake where Eli had defeated Caroline.
The lake's water was still, reflecting Deni's changed countenance to her. She could see how she was no longer an amorphous monster that mimicked human shape, but instead a real girl. Next to her, she saw what looked like a set of stairs that descended down into a dark tunnel, facing towards the island on top of the lake. A great mound of rubble crowned the island; stone chunks scattered and broken, leaving only ruins of what once must have been a great castle of some kind. Deni then a magical girl resembling a valkyrie on the island, carrying a sign of some kind under her shoulder. The magical girl used a small hammer, and planted the sign before what once were the castle gates.
Once Alicia reached the ice rink, they saw Sylvia and Sally waving at them in greeting. However, the smiles they had were weak, and quickly faded as Sylvia spoke. "Alicia, are you okay? Were you followed?" She looked past their shoulder, and smiled again upon seeing Serenity, who also managed to reach the meeting spot. "Did you see Aurelio on your way here?" Sally asked, shivering from the cold, her bunny ear-shaped bow folded into themselves. "I'm worried he might have gone straight to HQ..." The girls moved from the entrance further into the ice rink, with Sally skating across the ice and nearly falling down. Sylvia however simply slid gracefully towards one of the walls of the rink. "We have a real situation going on here." She looked towards Serenity. "The Ascendancy came in here after we disappeared; they obviously reacted to the monster attacks that we were unable to repel, and came in to establish order. However, they won't stop until the whole city's purged." Sally frowned. "They're the big girls you call in when local girls aren't enough, you see." Sylvia nodded, and continued. "Even worse, they have been known to excommunicate entire branches of Beacon if they are judged heretics and traitors to Beacon as a whole. And...I think they may know-"
At that moment, the sound of a heel clacking against the ice caught everyone's attention. As they turned, they saw a petite girl in provocative military clothing slowly walk towards them, a cocky smile on her lips. "Target located," she spoke, and a Beckoner appeared; it resembled a small doll-like humanoid, with two yellow dots for eyes, and also wearing a military uniform. Alicia could immediately tell it was not a Beckoner that presided over the local girls of Penrose, as it exhuded a different air form the more merciful, plushie-like spirits. It nodded, disappearing once again. Then, more members of the Ascendancy appeared, surrounding the ice rink. One of them was a busty amazoness, wielding an oversized lance as effortlessly as any tool. Another was a smaller girl with a blue-themed outfit, her movements unnaturally graceful as she slid on the ice without moving her legs. The last one was a girl resembling a priestess, with flowing robes that hovered just above the snow behind her. Alicia could tell from their disciplined stances and fiery looks that these were members of the Ascendancy.
The first girl stopped once she reached halfway across the rink. "Well, if it isn't Sylvia Starshine, having returned at last. Did you really think we wouldn't notice what you've been up to?" As she reached halfway across the rink, she stopped, and put her hands on her hips. "You are hereby under arrest for the crimes of heresy, collaboration with monsters, witchcraft, neglecting one's duties, and abandonment of one's area of jurisdiction for an extended time." Sylvia bit her lip, looking panicked. "That's not...Exactly..." But she couldn't find the words to refute her. The girl slowly shook her head, smiling from ear to ear. "What a weak excuse. Now, assume your human form. We can do this the easy way...Or the hard way." As she said that, Alicia could hear the eager tone in the Ascendancy officer's voice.
Rachel looked at Hudie, who nodded at her, before she turned back to look at Dawn. "We must be ever vigilant, even with those we may call our sisters of battle. However, you need not concern yourself with such matters. Leena is one of our most skilled and dedicated of soldiers despite her impulsiveness. But, I advise you to keep your distance to her; her specialty does not discriminate from friend or foe."
Once Aurelio walked into the scene, sounds of surprise could be heard as the entire room turned tense, especially the local members who stood in the sidelines; some had shaky feet, some fanned their faces, and one even put her hands to her mouth to avoid unnecessary sounds. However, the members of the Ascendancy did not seem agitated; on the contrary, they only stared at the magical boy with cold glares. Even Rachel, who had a fiery blade drawn right next to her, did not react to the move. Instead, she simply stood up.
"Kyle Tanner," she spoke, and adjusted her glasses, causing them to glint in a menacing fashion. "Are you aware of the accusations made towards your officer, Sylvia Starshine? She is suspected to have collaborated with monsters and having taken most of the local branch away from Penrose, abandoning her duties." Hudie also stood up. "Have you come to repent for your sins?" She asked. "Unlike her, you have chosen not to run. As have you." She now addressed Rebecca, who just appeared on the scene.
Rachel lifted an eyebrow. "And this is...?" "Rebecca Suthers. She was recently purified and recruited by Alicia Hayden as a new member. She underwent the recruitment process just before the disappearance event," Elora spoke up, having clacked away at her keyboard. "Hayden reported that Suthers was infected with corruption during the graveyard incident, and had agreed to join on the condition of conducting purification on her person and locating her missing Twin Soul." Tsuki put a hand to her chin as she went to look at Elora's laptop screen. "...Wait. She works for the Penrose Independent?" "Ex-member," Elora immediately answered. "According to Hayden, she was fired from her position as journalist, likely due to the aforementioned reasons." Tsuki squinted at Rebecca. "That sounds a bit suspicious..." She then smirked. "Well, unlike some tabloid that spews out filth and treats its employees like slaves, we welcome the stray sheep who have lost their way into our flock. As long as they have proven themselves devoted to our cause." She approached Rebecca, and looked her up and down. "Amelie, take Suthers to the training hall. She will take the Test there." At that moment, a magical girl knight stood up from her seat, and gestured for Suthers to follow her. "Now come, lost lamb."
Meanwhile, Rachel turned to Aurelio. "Now, tell me...Where did Sylvia take you for two months? What is she planning? Follow me," she then ordered, leading Aurelio out of the room.
Tsuki returned back to Elora, whose eyes jumped open. "Huh? What is it, Elora?" Elora looked grim. "See for yourself." Elora clacked away at lightning speed on her keyboard, and swiped her hand up; it was Vi-chan's video. The normal Beacon girls gasped at the sight, while the Ascendancy members silently observed it and judged the person in the video. "Can you trace it?" Tsuki asked. Elora clacked away. "Almost...Just a few more cyphers...There." But then, her eyes widened, and she bit her lip. "It was a decoy, and she cut it." She had a menacing smile. "Clever move, I must admit. I'd need to get the dummy PC to check it's routing records, but she will have enough time to dispose of it." Tsuki turned red in the face. "Delete the video then! Don't let anyone see this blasphemy!" Elora shook her head. "I can't; she deleted it herself. Besides, it was already seen by millions online." "ARGH!" Tsuki hit the screen with her staff, causing it to shatter. The screen fizzled out with crackle of electricity. Elora sighed in response. "You shouldn't do that, you know. You'll spread glass across the table." She then lifted a hand, and the pieces began to form back into the screen, mending it.
Tsuki meanwhile paced around the room. "To think that a deviant like her is out there, tarnishing Beacon's very name...We need to snuff them out like rats. Elora, make sure to ban that account, and prevent her from uploading more slander!" Elora blinked. "I would advise against that. If we were to try to censor her speech, that would cause monsters to unite even more. I suggest we let her continue making new videos, so I may have more chances of tracing her location." "Elora is right," Hudie nodded. "We also need to find this party, and send in undercover agents there along with an extermination squad."
Cindy greeted Penny with a nod of her head, smiling with confidence upon seeing the robotic girl. "Penrose has entered grim times, Penny. Time has passed while were gone, and the city has suffered much. A force of Beacon known as the Ascendancy has also arrived, bringing doom to us all; they have hunted down my people, killing them in ways most brutal." She sighed, and looked aside at a gathering of DMGs and monster girls who were watching internet videos using a smart phone hooked into a projector. "These people were on the verge of losing hope. But now that we're here, we can make things right again, Penny. We can stop the massacre." She approached Penny, and put a hand to her shoulder; the metallic girl felt a pleasant tingle of electricity, finding it smooth like the caress of silk against her steel. "Please, help us finish this shelter. Though they have dug deep into the earth, it requires your help to make it safe." Then, the two heard some cheering as Vi-chan's video began playing. While the monster boys and dark magical boys were most vocal about their attraction to Vi-chan, even a few of the girls seemed to be infatuated with her. "Do you think she's into boys or girls?" They could be heard talking. "Nah, she ain't that kind of girl. She's a pure!" "She's my wife!" "No, mine!" Cindy's eyebrow frizzled, but she chuckled in the end. "That party does sound very pleasant, and would be a good place for me to rally support for my cause. Penny, would you like to join me in that when it happens?"
Helga was full of energy as she held an internet conference with her laptop, while also talking on the phone. "We're rebranding, Tony! Come see Penrose, the wintery disasterland!" Su could hear her scream out before she noticed her. "Whoops, sorry, gotta go." She put the phone down, and turned towards Su. "Hi Su. What's up?" Upon hearing her suggestion, she turned all smiles. "Oh yeah, the new shop by that girl! I saw the post on Glimmr. Sure, let's go." As they prepared to leave, Helga showed her phone to Su. "Yo Su, check this out; as I made a post on Glimmr advertising the hotel to magical girls, I saw this." it was playing Vi-chan's video. "Su, we gotta get in this party. Not only is it a great place to spread the know about Trove, but we'd also get to meet Vi-chan! Oh man, think about getting to sign a sponsorship deal with a celebrity like her! We'd get so many visitors!"
As Kaito and Mika shared in each other's warmth, they heard a disturbing laugh. Then they saw it; a bulky lich managed to float at respectable speed between the buildings of Penrose, cackling like a madman as it went. "Huhehee! Now, where was that entrance...Aha! There it was!" He pointed his golden staff at an allwyway, and conjured a black portal from that spot as he flew past it, continuing on his way towards the museum of natural history. "Come to my, warriors from the dead! Walk the world of the living, and reap its souls for me!"
Out of the portal stepped out grey-skinned humans resembling zombies, with completely white eyes and rigid motions. They were dressed in ancient armor, with spears and bows clutched in their long-clawed fingers. These were wights, more powerful undead than a mere zombie. About thirty of them emerged, and as a single swarm began to walk the street, attacking the few humans who happened on their path. This swarm was followed by seven large monsters; they resembled ogres, but had tattered, leathery skin and boils scattered all over. They were draped in fur cloaks, and used tree trunks pulled from the earth with roots and all as walking canes, their tips adorned with bear skulls.
However, the piercing sound of a gun could be heard in the air, and one of the ogres fell down, dissolving into earthly matter. The two then saw what looked like a magical girl down in the streets, rushing towards the monsters and hacking into the wights. But, she did not hold any gun, but a bladed staff...
Some fair distance away, Katarina spotted a magical girl with a rifle. She was aiming down from atop a water tower, guided by another magical girl working as a spotter. Then, they saw a third girl running away. If one were to see both scenes at once, they would realize that these three girls other than the sniper were triplets.
The bell jingled at Brittany's shop, and Alex stepped into the shop, followed shortly by Su and Helga. Brittany, already excitedly waiting behind the counter, lifted her arms up in a big cheer. ‘Welcome! Would you be interested in our selection of Weapons? Or perhaps you'd like to put on a new, warm Outfit for the winter season? Please, have a look around, and see if you'll find something you like!‘