Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by AtomicNut
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Sanngridr's sight rested on Miko. For a brief second, she stood silent, before she tilted her head. "Sanngridr was helping. I healed the younger sister alongside with you. But It wasn't enough. So I took her to a place of less chaos. Sann is tired, of fighting stupid wendigos who are more unworthy than the grass we step on. Oh, so tired. Tired that every single stance of her help got only a polite rejection at best, just because her creed, or the fact that she speaks like she speaks." She ventured to say. "Justine... is safe and not panicking. Caroline is stable. Sonia's blades never reached you, and everyone is safe and sound."

Her eyes rested on Valerie, then Miko and Ronin, and finally Connie. "If this is the reaction Sann gets for essentially half-solving the situation by herself, and offering back up of substantial quality... then Sann is afraid there might not be...next time." The valkyrie harumphed, as she took flight on her wings.

This won't be the last time we meet, Connie. She thought to herself, as she distanced herself in the air, flying and obviously annoyed at the judging stares. Valerie she never expected reason from her. Gaia was just a paranoid helicopter pseudomother. But Miko and Ronin? She should've stomped on them with force.

They had shared a meal and a fight!







Sakura weakly protested as soon as he saw Sally's enthusiasm "Oi you-" . Her protests were quelled cold as she felt herself wrapped in a heavenly embrace, her battered head resting against something soft and mellow. Of course others talked, they were doing such, but for Sakura, this was background noise, like the flow a river. She didn't even register Aurelio's qualm nor Alicia's protest.

Oh please, let me stay like this for a while, before I remember how much of a shithole this city is. Sakura said, as her wounds seemingly were being healed out of nowhere. (It was probably Aurelio.)






After carefully picking the device, she gave the tiny component a glance, before giving up to ascertain their function, and instead instructing a raven to deliver it to Penny herself. She was the tech expert, after all. Dina was just an old, single grandmother in the form of a half cat woman.

There was some rambling from the dragon girl, but Dina choose to politely ignore them.

"There's war in the horizon." She half hissed, obviously not relishing at the situation, as she hugged herself. "Younglings these days don't know about the cold, hard teeth of war, but I do. Magic is involved and will make things even worse." She breathed. "I am patronless, what a blunder. Not that Dan would have helped with this kind of conflict. It is anathema to it."

Dina breathed in deep. "I can't believe what I am about to say but...I will speak with the Mint. Moneylenders and war don't go well, even if they are foul. I will also seek out all of our potential allies."
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Roxanna

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Roxanna... kind of lost track of all the people who were hanging around at the moment. She had gone through a big day, fought some freaking monsters, still have some work to do before she could turn in for the night and get some sleep...

Feeling the weight of the day pressing down on her body, Roxanna took a deep breath as she strove to keep things together long enough to get home. "...Look, I'm happy to share my number with people and get numbers in return. However, I've got to get home and purify the kamifuda and kifuda that got dirtied due to the wengidos attacking my stall... melt some wendigo hearts on said fire as well to make sure they can't reform because nothing like a cleansing holy bonfire to deal with the unholy... Maybe we can meet up again under better circumstances, alright?" This wasn't the undying declaration of friendship that MDP was likely hoping for, but 'I'll give you another chance when I'm less grumpy and tired' was the best she was going to get.
Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Ariamis
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Lily sighed in relief when Roxanna, despite initially looking like she was about to reject her offer, reluctantly took the piece of paper from her.

”Y-Yeah, that’s fine. To be honest, I’m feeling a bit tired too, haha~!" She lied, still energetic as ever. Once MDP gave her last words and subsequently ended up distracted by Snoopy, Lily turned to Alex. She nodded in agreement with his suggestion to check around the city or contact people for intelligence.
”Good idea, Alex!” She was about to speak up when Penny addressed the crowd, and informed them that most of the monsters had been taken care of.
”If that’s the case, then me and Alex could take one last tour around Penrose before calling it a day!” She took Alex’ hand, noting Dina’s words.
”A war, huh…Well, anyway, thank you for your help, everyone! Let’s continue to keep Penrose safe for everyone!” And with that, the two rode off. Though Lily wasn’t as successful with making a new friend as she hoped, at least she managed to create a possibility for it. And Lily was happy settling with just that.





Justine lifted her red eyes up from Caroline to Miko, her expression unmoving like a portrait.
”...I will protect my sister,” she simply stated, and afterwards turned to Maura. Her expression turned to relief when she saw the purifying potion.
She looked up to Sann once she left, feeling bittersweet about their encounter. On one hand, she genuinely was grateful for Sann, yet she also felt pity for the ire she drew from the others. Nonetheless, now was not the time for her to think on such matters.

”...Thank you, Mistress,” she softly expressed her gratitude for being given the potion, and gently fed the tonic to Caroline. Soon enough, the comatose girl glowed a white light, and once the light faded away she opened her eyes.

”...”

Caroline did not speak, and slowly blinked. Justine caressed her hair comfortingly.
”It’s okay, Caroline…You don’t have to say anything…”

”...Big…Sis…” She whispered.

Justine gasped, and a tear emerged from the corner of her eye.

”That’s right, Caroline…Big sis…Is here.”

She sighed, and let Caroline stand up with a wobble, holding her close as she turned to Valerie, and nodded.
”Yes, I’m ready to go now.”



“Well, sometimes you need to try your luck~” Sally responded playfully to Alicia, “Especially when it comes to cake. There’s so many flavors out there you might never know existed until you try something new.” She then hoisted Sakura over her shoulder, causing the serpentine girl to flop comically. “Of course! I bet Sakura will also love to have some cake.” Soon after, the Beacon Mahou disappeared with the monstergirl in tow. And in her bliss, Sakura would only later realize that she had to foot the bill.

But was there truly a price to put on pure bliss? Nobody can say.



Later that day, the missing Beacon girl arrived at headquarters, still wearing the bandages from the doctor that Mariette brought to her. She was greeted with cheers from having survived the insurmountable odds, and there was much rejoicing.

However, elsewhere, there was grumbling.

“...Yes, that’s right. Covington is secure, and the P-Project is on schedule.”

In his monochrome office, Al Scarpe was speaking on the phone.
“However, our agents have reported that Wonderland is on the move. No, they just made an initial scouting move. Likely tipping their toes in the water in Silverburg. No, you don’t need to worry. I’ll…Handle it. Goodbye.”

Al placed the handset of the antique telephone back on the base, and placed his head on his leaning hand.

“Geez Louise, she just had to decide to come here first, didn’t she?” He leaned back on his chair, and lit a cigar. “I don’t have time to deal with her bullshit…I need to round up walkers, and get in talks, fast.”
Al puffed a ring of smoke.
“After all, can’t let this dump burn to the ground…” He chomped on his cigar, causing it to drop on his desk and light it on fire. He simply stared into the fire.
“Not when I’ve worked myself to the bone to make it profitable, dammit!”
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Hearing that the monsters were mostly cleaned up was a relief to Alexander 'But where did they all come from? Sure, there's always been the occasional monster getting loose and going nuts, but this was way too many.' He thought as Lily grabbed his hand and dragged him back to her motorcycle "Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. No harm in being thorough." He responded to her saying that they were going to take one last lap around the city to sweep for monsters. Yet as they rode, the words of one girl stuck with him 'A war huh? I'm really hoping that girl is just crazy, because this city really doesn't need another war. Not after everything it's already been through.'
Hidden 3 mos ago Post by AtomicNut
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It was a dark night, as Dina, guided by Sanngridr, was led to one of the many back-alleys of Penrose. It was an inconspicuous location, yet it harbored a secret entrance; Sanngridr lifted a hand before her, and a section of the wall was engulfed in shadow. Then, in the darkness, a doorway appeared. Beyond it was what looked like a jazz club of ages past, only it was monochrome in hue. Once inside, the portal closed behind the two, and a shadowy figure appeared, holding a glass of wine in his hands. The figure had a menacing demeanor to it, but the stranger’s smile promised hospitality.

“Miss Denisova, welcome to my humble abode. I am Al Scarpe.” He bowed, and afterwards let a shadowy wisp float another glass to her. “Would you like something to drink? It’s on the house.”

Dina Denisova peered in the dark of the room, a dirty monochrome permeating the whole place. Others found it disturbing, but for Dina… it beckoned of her youth, of ages past. She turned her head to the sides, admiring the decoration. “It’s been ages since I have seen this kind of place, mister Scarpe. You know your craft.” The catgirl eyed the glass.

“Vodka… and leave the bottle.” She said back, before eyeing Al Scarpe.

"It's not so much craft as simply an eye for style. Nonetheless, I am flattered by the kind words."
A Shadow extended over to the bar counter, and a bottle of vodka was brought before Dina.
"I didn't take you for a woman of such fine taste, Miss Denisova. Most guests would rather have American drinks."

Dina took the bottle on her hand before pouring a generous serving of the spirit, and in a single gulp chugging it down, before licking the back of her hand in a most catlike fashion. She then poured another shot.

"Well, I come from a… fancier background than most people of this city. I was… in my youth a retainer ot the Romanovs. Does your file say that?I bet it does." She would eye Al.

Al lifted an eyebrow. "An interesting bet you've made there, Miss Denisova, considering what you're implying." He shrugged. "But I suppose it would be an accurate deduction; I am aware of your venerable career with the Russian tzars, yes. It is an honor to have such an esteemed person in my abode." He bowed.

Dina let out a small, haughty chuckle. "Do not take me for one of the whelps you can cajole with sweet promises of power, signore Scarpe." Dina added. "In order for the Mint to be the Mint, it has to know a lot of things. Fingers in…everyone's pies. Even in Beacon. Even in Sanctuary." Dina would then add. "Shall we go straight to the point, then?"

Al chuckled, seemingly amused by Dina's forward nature. "Of course, Miss Denisova. But first, I would like to apologize."
He set his glass to float next to him, and brought out a small black notebook. "Some time ago unsavoury individuals trespassed upon Sanctuary." He closed the notebook, and tucked it back in his pocket.
"It seems that unbeknownst to me at the time, some Mint agents were sent to sabotage the community's peace. I learned that another broker attempted to wrest control over Penrose from me by means of sabotaging the friendly relations I have attempted to establish here, and to agitate Penny Asimov and Beacon against me. Of course, I have dealt with the wiseguy in the appropriate manner, but by then it was too late to prevent the tragic aftermath."
He bowed again.
"I apologize for the disruption my less scrupulous associates caused."

Dina spun her glass, raising an eyebrow at Al's declaration, as she placed it. "So that is how you are going to play it, isn't it." Dina said. "Would you please call Sanngridr in here?"

"It would be my pleasure," Al responded, and snapped his fingers; the entrance to the jazz club opened again, and Sanngridr stepped inside.
"It seems Miss Denisova would like to speak to you," she spoke to the agent, and took out a cigar.

Sanngridr tilted her head, before entering with a huge grin. Her eyes locked with those of the regent.

"Varangian." She said. "Please kill this churl. He has insulted my intelligence."

Sanngridr seemed to reach for her sword, but hesitating.

"Can't do it? Well that much was expected. It's a hard order to comply. After all…we all know where your loyalties are."

Al lifted a relaxed hand. "Please, there is no need for violence, Miss Denisova. After all, that was not the reason you arrived here, correct? Otherwise you would have brought arms to bear against me."
He lit his cigar.
"No, I believe you came here to discuss business."

"Realpolitik as they say." Dina sighed, as she waved Sanngridr away. "Most people don't survive enough to realize this is a thing. Well, the powers that be use teenagers with more hormones than sense. People like me are anomalies." She drank another gulp. "Your folks have been quite the brigands lately. But there is so much you can coerce and money pinch with war knocking at one's door." She added. "War is bad for business."

Al's friendly disposition subtly tensed once the topic of war was brought up. "Indeed." He took a puff of his cigar, letting the smoke disperse quickly into the air.
"It has come to my attention that a rogue by the name of the March Hare was spotted in the Industrial district. If that is the case, it can only mean that Wonderland has mobilized." He glanced over to the bar counter. "In time, Penrose will become a warzone."

Dina sighed. "We must row in the same direction… and not be picky about extra arms." The catgirl nodded. "I do believe there is something the Mint would love to do… but it needs backing." Dina elaborated.

"After all you can't risk losing your footing and for example San Francisco Silvia Bialletti or some other broker takes your slice of pie, right?" Dina added.

Al's eyes sharpened on mention of Bialletti. However, they quickly relaxed.
"You are quite well-informed, Miss Denisova. The Mint would view Wonderland's current moves as a possible liability to their business, considering their unpredictability." He then put the cigar away. "With that in mind, I am interested to hear your thoughts on it."

Dina took a sip. "Good old fashioned plunder, Al. I heard privateering can be quite profitable… and the magical world does not adhere to the Geneva convention. But in this case It's not Beacon. Nor Sanctuary as a target." Dina said. "The current… Queen is too aligned to even dedicate her time for such unwholesome methods."

Al nodded, a hand on his chin. "That is understandable. What would you propose then?"

Dina would polish the glass. "You get to keep everything you plunder. I tell you where to disrupt this peculiar army in terms of logistics. Make some real noise… like that…time." Dina said, narrowing her eyes. She still remembered all the trouble Oros caused.

"I will also convince the current Beacon loving monster girls to not attack you on sight."

An evil smile formed on Al's lips. "Hmm…I do like the sound of that." But then, his expression turned back to neutral. "The Mint is willing to contribute to this collaboration in the manner you have described." He then reached his hand in his coat, and produced a golden scroll.
"Let's make it official, shall we?"

Casting her sight on the contract, she nodded as she waited on Al's offering to sign the parchment. "We should also convene the means to get in touch."

"That won't be a problem at all. I'll arrange one of our agents to act as the contact point." He gave a black walkie talkie to Dina, and began writing on the golden scroll with a similarly gilded feather quill. "You may use that to contact the agent. However, I suggest you do not tamper with it, magically or otherwise. It is set to melt away upon sensing foul play. A safety precaution, you understand." Once he was done writing the terms, he let it float over to Dina. "You may modify the terms yourself as well, and once we both are in agreement the contract is formed."

Dina then read upon the terms, frowning at some points, but overall seemingly satisfied at the terms. "Well that is one thing out of the way." She added before extending a hand. "I hope for a seamless and fruitful cooperation."

"Likewise, Miss Denisova," Al said as he took one last look at the finalized document, and then added his own signature to it. The scroll flashed brilliantly, and Al placed it in his pocket.
"He then shook Dina's hand in a gentlemanly manner, and a Shadow brought another vodka bottle.

"There might be something else that I might discuss with you." Dina added.

Al lifted a curious eyebrow. "Oh? And I was about to toast to the beginning of our mutually beneficial agreement." He lowered the glass with an interested look.
"What do you have in mind, Miss?"

"Well…" Dina began to search her mind for the words, only to not say anything. "Nevermind. To the end of this war." Dina said, trying to shift the topic after a moment of hesitation.

Can't let them know how shaky the lack of patron can make me. Weakness unto strength, Dina. They need you. Penrose needs you. Running away is not an option. You’ve become too involved to turn back.

Hidden 3 mos ago Post by twave
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Back in this shit hole.

Oros preferred to stay as far away from Penrose as possible. With her patron having left this reality plenum, sticking around felt weird. Moreover, there were a lot of things she couldn’t stand about the place. One of the more bothersome aspects of Penrose was its magical girls. It wasn’t their behavior, just that there were so many of them. Worse still, some of them were many people.

Janet Howell had been everything from a member of Beacon, a monster who opposed Beacon, two members of Beacon, and now was her fourth iteration where she didn’t really have anything to do with Beacon anymore. That last part was especially hard to find out. All Oros had to work with was a ritual hex blade that could see into different times and realities. A powerful tool to be sure, but limited when you didn’t know what to look for. It was an awful lot of work for what Oros might get out of the deal.

And she needed to go into a school of all places!

The cultist didn’t get the appeal of schools either. Yes, Japanese school uniforms looked cute on everyone, but in America there was little appeal to be had. Schools weren’t supposed to be interesting places anyway. They had a bunch of bored teachers drone out a lesson or two before collecting a paycheck. TV made school look fun, sexy, and smart, but nobody really wanted to be here. The fact that so few magical girls ever showed up in school was proof of that.

Oros had her sword up, and was examining its reflection to find her mark. There had to be a trace of it somewhere.

While there could be a number of magical girls attending the school, Oros had the advantage that there were only a small handful of magical women. The details of how Kayli had become an adult weren't all that important. Simply that by the end of the Christmas party Kayli had somehow aged into a 30-something. So after some meandering the blade led to the biology lab where the only adult there was the teacher.

It wasn't long after that the bell rang. Students began to filter out and after a brief talk with a few that had questions all others had left the room. Oros stepping in, the blonde woman could tell there was something different about this girl. Not that that meant anything in particular. Since taking this position she was occasionally approached by magical girls or boys when they wanted to talk to a neutral party about more than the mundane. "Hello there. Do you need help with anything?" She said as she adjusted her glasses and greeted with a warm smile.

”Yea! You could get these things off of me! Don’t touch that!” Oros smacked one of the children on the hand. While most were inclined to ignore the strangely dressed woman, Oros’s unusual robe was a bit too enticing for the average school child.

“Are you a wizard?”

“She’s a samurai! Just look at her sword!”

“A jedi!”

“Or a sith? She looks evil.”

”You’ll find out if-” With a groan, Oros reached for the heavens, and several lollipops appeared in her hand. ”Look, it’s, hng, gehana!” She flung the sweet treats out of the room, and the children flocked into the hallway. This had not deterred some of the older ones, but they had already lost interest in Oros and had to get home for whatever they occupied their time with. Regardless, Oros and the teacher were alone-ish for the time being. ”Alright so.” Oros waved her hand over herself. ”The change isn’t quite as dramatic as yours, you probably remember me from somewhere, right?” There wasn’t much reason to drag this out. Oros didn’t really have anything with Janet, and she doubted that would change now with the way things were. ”Maybe you know where I could find… my nooooooooose?”


Looking over the girl for a moment the resemblance seemed to click for Kayli. The reference of the nose pretty well clarified things as well. "Oh I see. How is it you…" She waved off the question before completing it. How it was the Oros found herself purified wasn't important. Opening a drawer of her desk she retrieved her purse and took out a small case and set it down on the desk before Oros. "I'm sorry that this took longer to get back to you than it should have. The twins had a way of taking on more than they could handle." She gave a warm smile. "You should find it better at helping you track down corrupted magic. I hope that's alright."

”That’ll be plenty helpful. I wasn’t expecting anything, so this is good.” Oros looked her nose over. It was hers alright. The flesh on her face peeled back until a cartoon canon was exposed, which she unscrewed. Then she pushed her other nose in place, which melded into place. ”Finally, reattached to its rightful owner!” Oros sheathed her sword before looking at the teacher. ”Oh wow, I can smell forever now.” She sniffed the air a bit. ”What smells so good? Oh! That’s me!” The beast woman grinned. ”I guess we’re all settled up then? Don’t need my credit card number or any favors?”

The woman would shake her head. "No. I think Penrose has enough people wheeling and dealing as is. I might no be able to stay out of it forever, but I can do my best to stay a neutral party in the meantime." She put her purse back away.

Oros folded her arms. ”I was less thinking of me pulling a magical bullshit device out of my ass and more like going shopping somewhere. But if you’re cool, I’m cool.”

Scooting a notepad over she wrote down a number and handed it to Oros. "If you find yourself in need of something feel free to give me a call and I'll see what I can do. I can't perform miracles, but I can provide a safe place to rest if nothing else."

”Oh-hoh! A number.” Oros accepted the piece of paper. ”I mean I can traverse dimensions, so I doubt I’ll have a use for something like this. Well, not for the reason you handed it to me anyway.” The note disappeared, presumably going into Oros’s hammer space. ”Right so, I guess I do have two burning questions you could answer for me.” She counted off her fingers. ”So if you want to be neutral, why offer to help everyone? Seems like a good way to tick someone off”

"A fair question. It would be easier to stay quiet and completely out of things. Much like my predecessor though I feel that doing nothing isn't really an option. For better or worse I am a product of ideals that are hard for me to ignore. One could argue that once you've been dragged into this kind of business there's no real getting out though." She gave a light shrug. To be honest it had crossed her mind to leave town and make change elsewhere. That was prior to accepting to become Connie's adoptive mother though. Physical changes aside, the mental ramifications probably had a greater impact with her maternal instincts becoming front and center. And in a world made up of mostly magical girls and boys it was hard for her not to immediately see them as children even if she knew it might not be the case.

”That uh, didn’t really answer my question. Whatever! I Second question…” Oros blushed a little bit. ”You uh, you kept my noise in your purse?”

The second question was a bit more odd to her. "Where else would I keep something I might need on hand?"

”Wha?” Oros covered her nose with both hands. ”The hell do you need a spare nose for!?”

Blinking a couple of times she chuckled aloud. "Oh, I see what you mean now. I had it with me so I could return it to you if we should meet. I found a number of loose ends left behind that I've returned or resolved. I believe your nose was the last to deal with. I'd rather not be responsible for someone else's possessions." Doing her best to reassure she hadn't tampered with the nose any further than what the twins had already done.

Oros had her eyes squint through the teacher’s entire explanation. ”...You’d better not be kidding.” With a sniff, her eyes opened up. ”Alright, I guess I’m gonna go then.” She turned around. ”Yep, just gonna leave.” She stepped towards the door. ”Just gunna-” Oros looked over her shoulder. ”So you’re serious? You really don’t wanna do anything? You’re just gonna, what? Go home?”

She would look at the clock for a moment. "Well, regardless of what I'd like to do I have a few more hours on the job." She would put a hand on a stack of papers. "These aren't going to grade themselves after all. I probably will be headed home afterward though. I have other responsibilities to attend to." In this case, Connie and Mia.

”Well alright, if you say so.” Oros shook the paper in the air. ”I’m gonna use this number soon though, so you’d better make yourself available some time.” She waved before closing the door behind herself.
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Miko blinked a bit in surprise at Sanngridr's response. She didn't really understand why her question warranted such defense. Still, her words rang true. 

‘You did, you're right. Justine, Caroline, all of us are still safe. Thank you, so very much for your assistance,’ Miko said, bowing to Sanngridr. 

‘See? Everything will be fine! Just because it doesn't make sense to us it doesn't mean it didn't help! So, thanks!’ Ronin continued with a grin. 

Miko still had her doubts, but there was no denying nothing bad had happened, so...




Mariette had already visited the Overcity College of Magic once before when she prepared for taking classes in the Sealing Fundamentals course, but this time she used her portals to arrive directly outside the classroom itself before entering. It was a wide-old-styled classroom, with wooden flooring and wide windows set against the back wall. Instead of a chalkboard, however, there was a wall-wide LCD screen, and the wooden desks were implemented with smaller flip-up computer screens: signs of new technology that nonetheless didn’t take away from the antique feel.

At the front of the room were various devices and tools that Mariette had seen before, and even more that she had never seen until this moment. Some were more conventional, like an ouija board, or a magic circle drawn with white chalk right before the teacher’s desk. Others were stranger, like combinations of magic and technology, such as an astrolabe in the corner that blinked with various lights. One wall was dedicated entirely to shelves of books, their size varying from tiny fairy-sized leaflets to table-sized doorstoppers.

However, what caught Mariette’s attention most was the presence of other students, recognizable by their uniforms: one student with brown, curly hair happily tapped away on her desk as she hummed a cute song up to the very front of the desks. There was also a gloomy student with black hair nearly covering their face in the very back: Mariette couldn’t tell if she was asleep or not. Soon after she arrived, three other girls came after: they were flashy, extroverted types who sat on desks, their school uniforms were not properly worn, and spoke brazenly about various topics Mariette was not interested in. They ended up sitting right next to Mariette’s desk, and continued conversing and giggling loudly.

“Like, she gave some pixie dust like she thought I was gonna, like, fall for it, but I was like, OMG, no way I’m touching that limp stuff~!”

“Totally! Pixie dust is like, so lame~! Unicorn blood is where it’s at~!”

In accordance with the rules of the school, as far as Mariette knew, she’d changed into the proper school uniform for the school. If fitted her in the shortest skirt that Mariette ever has had to wear and she didn’t understand why, as dark blue as the vest she wore over a white shirt tied together with a blue ribbon just under her neck, yet over all that was also the robe that was assumed part of the school uniform; a dark-blue witch’s robe that just hung around her and down behind her further than her skirt like some form of cape, almost. Felt weird to Mariette.

She’d learned that alumni at the school were allowed to wear special witch-hats that adorned their heads. Mariette… kind of wanted to wear one.

As for the girls, Mariette didn’t have a single clue what they were talking about and was kind-of intimidated and didn’t really come here to make friends or anything like that, so the white-haired girl whose hair hung way down over her robe sat down at an appropriate location, by a… computer, which Mariette frowned and stared incredulously at. She didn’t really know how to use it. She pushed it aside, and placed her necessities in front of her. Notebook, pen, and Bunny the stuffed rabbit. All she needed.

She was still wearing an eyepatch and her usual head-ornament that looked like two long rabbit-ears… that Mariette hadn’t considered the fact she’s wearing for a significant amount of time.

As other students filled up the classroom, Mariette noticed that the bubbly girl had approached her desk with a smile.

"Hi. I like the bunny you have. It's cute," she said.

"I'm Rennala. What's your name?" This caught the flashy girls' attention, who glanced at Mariette and gossiped among each other in whispers, or at least attempted to:

"Ugh, that eyepatch is trying way too hard~"

"Is she trying to look cute with the cripple act? So sad~"

"And what's with the stuffed toy? This ain't, like, kindergarten~"

Rennala puffed her cheeks. "Don't listen to them, they're just bullies."

Mariette blinked and looked up at the newly arrived individual. It was odd being spoken to like this, and a little surge of nervousness went through her. That was part of school, wasn’t it? Making friends… and such. This wasn’t exactly a normal school, but still… 

‘I’m… Mariette,’ she answered, a bit of her nervousness leaking into her voice. ‘Thank you,’ she said, referring to calling Bunny cute. Then there were the flashy girls laughing… and Mariette tilted her head, fundamentally not understanding what the idea was. Still, her eyepatch… ‘Hm… I suppose I don’t need this right now,’ she said, reaching to remove her eyepatch, to reveal a completely fine blue eye behind it. She looked to the girl again, and she kind of wondered…

‘Why are you taking this class?’ she asked, for she couldn’t currently imagine reasons beyond her own.

The flashy girls giggled once Mariette took off her eyepatch, but then quit once they realized Mariette didn't respond to their teasing.

"Because I'm fated to," Rennala answered with a smile. "It's my destiny to graduate. In fact, I'm next in line to do that. My mother graduated from here, as did her mom, and her mom…"

Mariette noticed the black-haired girl shuffle closer. Rennala blinked.

"Oh, how about you, Ebony?"

The girl had one eye showing from her locks of hair, and she shyly answered: "I have…A demon inside me. I was told I need to control it, so…I hope I can learn to. He can get…Hungry…"

‘I… see,’ Mariette replied to their reasoning, a little surprised another girl had come close to them. She still wasn’t entirely comfortable with this setting, but, huh. ‘I… hope that you’ll succeed,’ she managed to press out, hoping that’d be something good to say in these circumstances.

“I hope so too,” Ebony answered with a sad smile, and Rennala nodded enthusiastically. “And so do I! It’s not a good thing to be possessed by a demon!”

That was when the door opened, and Mariette saw the teacher enter: a magical girl wearing a prominent steepled witch hat and flowing robes, and thick, round glasses. She was carrying a tall stack of books; the topmost tomes dodged to avoid the top frame of the  lower doorway before returning back to the stack.

“Settle down, class!” The teacher ordered, and both Rennala and Ebony returned back to their seats alongside the rest of the normal students. “See you later,” Rennala whispered to Mariette before leaving with a smile.

The teacher placed the books on top of her desk, and glared at Mariette…Or rather, at the rowdy students next to her; they were still chatting away, seemingly ignorant of the teacher.

The teacher then hatched an evil smile, and lifted a glass bottle to the front of the desk, opened the lid on it, and then summoned her magic staff. Mariette then heard her chant, as her eyes glowed a bright purple, and a swirling mist formed inside the bottle. She slammed her staff bottom against the magic circle, and that also began to glow. Then, she pointed the staff at the girls, and like a fishing rod, made a reeling motion with it.

“So anyway, like, he was cute, but, like I don’t know if he’s, like, my type or-Huh?”

The girls noticed that they were starting to slightly move, as if drawn by some kind of force.

“What the hell? Is someone pulling-Ahh!”

The teacher made a heavy yank, and the girls flew across the classroom. As they fell towards the wooden desk over the magic circle, the circle flashed, once for each girl. And as it did, the girls shrunk to the size of tiny insects, and ended up in the glass bottle. The teacher then closed the lid on the bottle; Mariette then realized what the holes on the lid were for.

“I am Magus Tuuletar, and this is Sealing Fundamentals,” she then announced, and lifted the glass bottle up for the class to see; the three girls inside cried and sobbed with tiny squeaking voices as they banged desperately on the glass.

She then opened the glass bottle, and casually threw the girls out of the bottle; they returned to normal size as they fell on their butts, visibly shaken by the event.

“While dialogue is necessary for developing higher understanding for the mysteries of the arcane…I will not tolerate any inane chatter or distractions in my class. If you wish to speak, I expect a raised hand asking for permission to speak. Understood?”

She asked the girls, who promptly apologized and returned to their seats; their faces were pale.

Mariette nodded to Rennala, before focusing on the teacher. She was definitely curious about the books dodging the top frame on their own, and kept her attention on any sign of magic. She wondered what a Third Eye user would have seen… then she watched the teacher's gaze, got momentarily scared she was glaring at her before she realized it was at the girls next to her.

Mariette most certainly learned a lesson by what followed. While making a mental note not to do anything to annoy this teacher, her pen went at it, writing down what the teacher had done, what she had chanted, the items available… as best as she could. Unfortunately, Mariette wasn't used to writing, either, so it didn't go fast and with plenty of spelling errors, but what she was good at was memorizing.

So while the teacher continued, Mariette did her best to write down what she had experienced, her eyes darting from the notebook to the teacher. Managing portals with Awareness made her good at multitasking.

By the end of the lesson, as the students scattered, Tuuletar stopped Mariette from leaving. She had a stern look to her.

“Mariette, first of all, good work in taking notes. This generation has been attention-deficit, but you actually paid attention even for the history section, which is commendable. However…I would like to have a word with you regarding the toy.” She looked down at Bunny. 

“I would prefer that you leave it at home, as I fear it may distract you from the lesson at hand, especially once we begin the practical section of the course.”

Mariette had sighed out as the lesson ended. She’d written down a lot, but she wasn’t sure how much of it she’d actually learned, or how much of it was relevant. She had a lot of studying ahead of her, she figured, as she picked up Bunny to leave. When Tuuletar stopped her. Mariette got a little wide-eyed, thinking she was in trouble for some reason. Turns out, no, she wasn’t… kinda. First she calmed a bit from the praise, but then the next point… Mariette looked sad and squeezed Bunny tightly.

‘Would it be too dangerous for him…?’ she asked in a vulnerable voice.

Tuuletar sighed softly. “Well…It can be. You see, during this course, we will practice sealing away lesser magical entities like boggarts, sprites, and imps. However, if there is an object with totemic features, for example an animal totem, one of these entities could attempt to possess it during the sealing, and essentially bring it to life. And if that were to happen…” She pointed her staff down at Bunny. “I would be forced to destroy the vessel.” She then lifted her staff up. “However, it would require the subject to detect the toy in the first place, so if you insist to bring it along, then I can cast cloaking magic on it before the practical session begins.”

‘Ah,’ Mariette made a scared noise as she turned away with Bunny, shielding him instinctively from Tuuletar’s staff. She of course knew he wasn’t actually in danger for the moment, but she just instinctively defended him. She turned back and looked sadly down at him. ‘I… I suppose I should let him stay home with his wife. I’ve been keeping him away from her for too long, I suppose… I can’t make her jealous…’ she idly said, looking almost teary-eyed at him. ‘… Okay, I’ll… I’ll leave him home…’ Mariette said, before giving a defeated, sad sigh.

That said, there was something… she wanted…

‘… Would it be possible… for me to practice ahead, somehow? I… I need to become good at this… as quickly as possible…’ she said, hoping that some kind of support from her teacher.

Tuuletar leaned on her staff, in deep thought.

"So you wish for extra lessons?" She pointed her staff at a bookshelf, and drew a book with some flower markings to her. "I understand the feeling, having had many courses to study at times myself…" She flipped through it, her eyes skimming the contents.

"I can grant you after-school lessons at 4PM on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and at 5PM on Fridays, for about an extra hour each except for Wednesday where I can hold it for two hours. However, these are not included in your scholarship, so you have to pay an additional fee of a Silver per week for the additional lessons. Is that acceptable?"

‘…’ Mariette bit together, listening to Tuuletar’s words. Oh. She was willing. But, it was at the cost of an extra silver per week. Mariette breathed in, the extra cost giving her a shiver. It was fine. She just had to hunt some more dangerous foes. ‘It is,’ Mariette nodded. ‘Thank you… so very much,’ she said, bowing to Tuutelar, all while trying to consider what kind of hunt she’d have to go on in order to earn that money…

Tuuletar nodded with a curt smile of her own. "You're welcome, Mariette. Now then, if you'll excuse me, I must prepare for my next class. Goodbye."

Once Mariette finished talking with Tuuletar, Rennala and Ebony peeked out from behind the doorway; the former waved her hand at Mariette, while Ebony simply stared. "Wow, you're going to get extra lessons? I'm so jealous~" Rennala spoke with a friendly teasing manner. "You must be rich to afford her fee, huh?"

Ebony averted her eyes. "All my coins are spent on paying for all the food Damien eats. It's honestly a bother…"

Mariette looked after Tuutelar with thankful eyes… though also somewhat lamenting how much this was going to cost her. Ooooh, she better put her back into hunting monsters… Oh. 

‘Ah!’ Mariette made a noise as she realized Rennala and Ebony were peeking at her. She looked away for a bit, somewhat ashamed, then looked back at them again. ‘Er… not really… It’s going to take basically the last I have…’ Mariette replied. She didn’t really have a reply for Ebony’s words, other than silently hoping her problem would be solved one day.

Rennala looked surprised, but then giggled. "Well, I'm sure you'll manage, Mariette! You seem like the hardworking type of girl~"

Ebony also nodded with a slight smile. "I hope I'll see you two in class again."

Rennala beamed. "Of course! Won't we, Mariette?"

‘… I do, do I…?’ Mariette asked, lamenting the moniker a bit. Then again, it wasn’t as if she could help it. Still, as she looked over Rennala and Ebony… She supposed she did look forward to seeing them again. ‘… Yes,’ she eventually replied, nodding to them and giving a little smile.

‘Yes, we will!’

And so, the three girls chatted together a bit longer before going their separate ways for now. For now… Mariette was decently happy with her choice to come here.

Hopefully, she wouldn’t lose sight of why she really came here.

Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Shifter_Master
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.:⋮Meetings⋮:.


It was later in the day after the incident with the wendigos that a high-priority meeting was to be held at Penrose Beacon's headquarters. The meeting was held in a private meeting room, and included Ishtar, Rachel, Elora, and Alicia, with a special invitation given to Penny. Once the attendees had gathered, Rachel began to speak.

"As the members of the Beacon who have arrived already know, this meeting was meant to be held earlier today. However, due to the wendigo outbreak, it had to be postponed."
She read out of a document she had prepared, while Ishtar continued praying with her eyes closed and Elora typed away on her laptop.
"As a result, we now have more topics to cover on our agenda today. Let's start with the more urgent one."

She activated the projector at the back of the room, which showed an image of the letter left behind by the March Hare.
"As you can see, this letter is directly addressed to the magical community of Penrose. Paladin Seraph, have similar messages been delivered previously to this city?" She asked Alicia.

Seated nearby, Alicia was somewhat concerned and annoyed. She’d thought things had wrapped up well, only to suddenly learn that they hadn’t. That was Penrose for you, she supposed. Always some new problem cropping up.

She looked over the message for a few moments before shaking her head. ”The only one I can think of is when Cindy rolled into town to try and become Queen. But that’s the only one that comes to mind.”

“That also was more to claim the city as her territory.” Penny would add sitting not far from Alicia. “Not to try and convince people to leave their Patrons. It was more a local and personal thing compared to this”

“This Wonderland also has another goal.” She would add. “I didn’t hear it personally, but according to a couple of magicals that were on site at the industrial district, the one who left that letter was overheard talking about the Nexus.”

"Cindy's proclamation was indeed noted in the local records," Rachel responded, taking a folder out from the pile of documents in the table. "But no other written messages." When Penny mentioned the Nexus, Ishtar's eyes opened, alarming Rachel.

"The Nexus…" Ishtar spoke; her words were gravely serious in tone. "If what you said is true, Penny, then…Penrose is in peril."

Rachel adjusted her glasses. "Cardinal, I believe this is not a matter to be concerned about. The Nexus is but a theoretical concept to explain the convergence of magical phenomenons. It has not been proven by the arcane community."

Ishtar looked saddened by the rebuttal. "It is real…And because it is, it is sought after…And we all will pay the price."

Alicia shrugged, conceding the argument where Cindy was concerned. Sure, it didn’t line up perfectly but it was the closest she could think of where a blanket message such as this was concerned. She continued to listen as Penny mentioned the Nexus, something that proved concerning to Cardinal Ishtar.

“Well, even if it is real, I can’t imagine that it’s that easy to harness. Otherwise everyone would have done it by now,” she observed

“And even if it isn’t real, the fact that Wonderland thinks it is, and is here, makes it a concern anyway. They’ll do whatever they think they need to do to exploit the Nexus one way or another I’d wager.” was Penny's opinion on it. “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best."

Ishtar nodded with a concerned look."Yes, we must prepare in any case, so we can resolve this matter peacefully." Rachel crossed her arms.
"In that case…Penrose can officially surrender once Wonderland's so-called liberators arrive."

Ishtar gasped. "Inquisitor, surely you don't mean that?"

Rachel nodded. "We do not have the numbers or power to mount a meaningful resistance. While we have made progress, the Ascendancy has not recovered yet from the massacre at the rave. The local Beacon troops are also too few in numbers and too undisciplined to keep the line."

Ishtar trembled. "But…Aren't you supposed to be Beacon's best? Their most valiant crusaders?"
Rachel sighed. "Our task force is sent to handle problematic communities, not warzones. This is a political matter anyway, and not our responsibility."

Alicia did a double take, glancing between Rachel and Ishtar as the former revealed her strategy for dealing with this problem. Immediate surrender wasn’t something she’d have expected from the stern leader, though she chafed at the opinion of the local branch. For a moment she wondered if mind control was involved, but she quickly dismissed that from her thoughts. They’d dealt with that already, right?

“Leaving aside the matter of an actual battle, we’ve co-existed with local rulers before. It will only become a problem if they force us to renounce the Spark and our sworn oaths. So we need to figure out what their end goal is.” She then shifted to look at Elora. “Do we know anything about these Wonderland guys?” Hopefully her access to the archives would yield some answers.

“Wait, you can’t be seriously considering just standing aside and letting them sweep in!” Penny would interject, honestly baffled and more than a bit angry at the presumed plan. “They’re responsible for the death of at least five Beacon members. You can’t honestly think that they will make Penrose a better place, or even just leave it as it is!”

"You don't understand the situation!" Rachel slammed her hand on the table. "Of course I want justice for our fallen comrades! But we aren't talking about some rag-tag group of renegades here, but a sovereign nation! Even if we pitted all of our forces, it would be meaningless!"

While Rachel and Penny were arguing, Elora projected a new image on the wall; this time it showed Wonderland's coat of arms, resembling a stylized heart with the letter W inside it.
"Wonderland is an independent kingdom ruled by the Queen of Hearts. As for the rest…" She closed her eyes. "...That information is classified."

Ishtar was distraught. "Classified? But why?"

Elora shook her head. "This is a very sensitive matter to the Beacon organization. Any further intelligence has to be approved by the Choir, if not the Ecclesiarch herself."

Ishtar closed her eyes, and sighed. "Then…I suppose we must. Paladin Seraph, you understand, right?"

Rachel adjusted her glasses. "Wait, you don't actually mean…"

Though they had information, it seemed that actually getting to it was more difficult than expected. Alicia wasn’t about to go into this encounter blind as she frowned. Especially when, as Penny noted, they needed to teach these Wonderland guys a lesson.

“That’s not good enough,” she mused, before looking to the Cardinal. “...We ask nicely, and if it doesn’t work then we hack the servers?”

“Sounds like more than a fair idea to me” Penny would nearly snarl as she stood from her seat. “I will not abandon this city, nor anyone within it.” She’d give a pointed look at Rachel as she spoke “Or have you decided that my title was merely for show Inquisitor? If this queen wants a war I am more than willing to meet her with force. With or without your backing.”

Rachel was nonplussed at Alicia and Penny's suggestions, particularly the latter one. "Don't you dare! Hacking the Choir's servers is treason against the organization! Even suggesting it could be tried as heresy!"

Once again, the table was slammed, but more softly by Ishtar. "It won't come to that! Because I believe that we can receive whatever information we need, even if we were to ask from the Ecclesiarch herself!"

Rachel grunted, and crumpled the paper she held in her hand. "So you're going to take these two with you to Beacon's most sacred home? A Paladin Seraph with little experience and a monster? An outrage!"

"But one I have to make!" Ishtar had a determined look on her face. She then turned to the other two. "One of the other topics was for me to personally report on Penrose to the Choir. Will you join me on my journey?" She asked. "This could be your only chance."

“When would we leave?” Penny would ask, shifting her attention to Ishtar. “Because if I know Penrose, we won’t have a lot of time before Wonderland makes another showing, and since they are a significant threat preparations are going to be needed.”

The outburst by Rachel earned an internal smile from Alicia. Now that was what she expected from Rachel. Not that she was wrong, but generally speaking Alicia was not about to back down on this.

"Well, I'm not taking 'no' for an answer when they're knocking on our door," she pointed out. Leaving aside anything else, that would be nigh suicidal. Still, the thought of meeting with someone so high placed was thrilling. It was validation, once more, for how far she had come. ”Of course I’ll go,” How could she refuse?

Ishtar smiled, seemingly relieved that the two had agreed. "It is decided. We'll leave tomorrow morning." Rachel adjusted her glasses with a grumble. "Bah! Go ahead then, see if I care!" She quickly skimmed through the rest of her papers, and then grabbed them. "We can end the meeting here. Elora, send a message that the Cardinal is to attend with two representatives." She stood up from her seat and walked towards the door. However, she stopped there.
"Penny, Alicia…Good luck. You're going to need it." Leaving those parting words in the air, she left.

Ishtar sighed. "Now then, I must prepare for the journey. I advise you two do the same. Goodbye." She bowed, and also left with slow steps, leaving the two alone with Elora, her typing filling the dead air.

Penny let out a disgruntled huff at Rachel’s departure. The fact that the rest of Beacon at large would be willing to simply abandon this city was so far out of what Penny had expected might be a possibility she was still having trouble processing it.

She’d take a moment just staring at the sigil of the Wonderland court. Eventually she would shake her head and turn towards Alicia. “I’ve got things to take care of I suppose” She’d say. “I just want you to know that regardless of what they say I’m not going to be giving up Penrose or the Sanctuary without a fight.”

“So I’ll keep a room open for you if you end up needing one.” Penny would toss one last look at Elora, face a neutral mask, before she too turned to leave. She had a scientist to call and a ship to bring in.

Alicia wasn’t sure what Rachel expected to happen, but she wasn’t too concerned about the outburst and her all but storming off. That said, she was more worried about this Wonderland business at the moment. She’d go to whomever she needed to in order to get answers about what was on their doorstep.

Turning to Penny, she flashed her friend a smile. ”Thanks, but we’re not out of luck just yet. I’ll see you tomorrow.” They just needed to have a good plan, she was sure of it. For now though she also went to return to the business that needed tending to. It seemed life was about to get very interesting.
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Flamelord
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Matters of the Heart


If there was one thing that could be counted on, it was for the Overcity to be filled with the strange, mysterious, and unusual. Insulated from the chaos that tended to engulf Penrose, the Overcity was home to a mishmash of people and beings from all sorts of realms. Life continued on as normal there, and three magical girls did not stick out.

Summoned for this bounty, Dina and Eliza had been met upon arriving in the Overcity by the one who had hired them. Finn, as she had introduced herself, had informed the pair that the location her friend had been deposited was far from where one could conventionally walk in normal space, if it even corresponded to a location on Earth to begin with. So they had to meet her here rather than going directly to it.

Her white cloak rippled and swayed, coming down to her shoulders while a black dress picked up and carried lower. It did not inhibit her movement of course, but it was very flowing. Her pointed ears were also notable, though those did not stand out much in a place like this.

Winding their way through tight alleys and clustered buildings, brushing past other beings going about their day, Finn glanced back at her companions. “Thank you for doing this,” she said to them, happiness clashing with worry as her smile shifted and fought to keep from sinking. “Like I said, fighting isn’t really my thing. And everyone knows you Penrose girls are tough as nails! If anyone can do it, it’s you.”

Dina stood tall, her arms crossed as her tail lazily rested in a down position, her eyes peeking into the contractor. "No need to thank us yet. We haven't even started." The catgirl said, eyeing her companion. She had hoped she would be trustworthy.

"I am loath to fight though, but I too, was once abandoned by a patron for an stupid reason." She said.

"You can leave the fighting to me then, just back me up and keep the girl safe." Eliza was trying not to appear nervous. Maura had suggested she'd take another bounty now that she was stronger, but after the last failure with the Red Nest, the witch was scared of screwing up again. She tried to reassure herself, keeping a grip on the meditation stone in her pocket. Now wasn't the time to be stressed.

"Is there anything we should look out for?" she asked Finn.

Humming, Finn furrowed her brow in thought as she considered what to tell Eliza. "Most of it are things that an experienced magical girl should be able to handle. As far as her patron is concerned, a normal human wouldnt be able to survive unaided."

She looked both ways before crossing the next street, a wise decision as a steam powered caterpillar type vehicle moved past moments later. Carrying onwards, she did provide at least some information. "I know there's a plain of magical fire with nasty monsters on it, but my patron wasn't the most informative. I'm sorry I cant give you more."

Dina eyed her companion. She also had doubts about this hunt. She did not show it externally, but internally she decided to chastise herself and get a grip. There was a girl who needed to be extracted, alone and confused. Probably fustrated.

"We'll need some scouts, then. Please allow me." Dina said as she focused, creating a summoning circle, from which a murder of crows sprang forth. With a flick of the wrist, she also reinforced said crows to stand the harsh environment. "Please report if you find a suitable person with the description." Dina indicated. She did not choose this kind of bird by mere choice. They were surprisingly low on mana... and crows did recognize people's faces easily.

The crows swept into eldritch skies, quickly adjusting to the unusual air currents that they needed to navigate. Due to the walk they had already undertaken, they quickly passed beyond the walls of the Overcity into the wilds beyond.

After a barren expanse with the occasional roaming monster, they would arrive at the fire plain that Finn had predicted. Withered trees burned as fiery torches, plumes of fire rose from the ground and arched over the land. Flying was made more difficult by the ash that filled the air from all of these fires. Amidst the heat monsters moved, some of them seemingly lava given humanoid form, others more bestial and wreathed in heat. With those hazards, plus the cliffs and canyons, there was no doubt it was dangerous for anyone involved.

Past that fire plain was an ominous looking mountain, where thunder crackled and rain burned the rocks themselves. It looked like there was a path inside said mountain, but it was difficult for the birds to see if their person was inside, due to the rain that they were not immune to. Nonetheless, they had provided some useful information.

Dina sighed, as she looked at Eliza. "There might be a path inside, but it's surrounded by volcanic hazards. Also monsters. We'd best prepare a protection and move carefully." Dina said to Eliza.

"Sounds fun. Don't think you got some fire resistance spell we could use?" the witch then glanced down to one of her gauntlets. "Maybe my dark magic can snuff the lava out. Though if that works, I might need to add some time magic depending on how long until it gets hot again." she thought outloud, and looked back to Finn with a smile. "No need to apologize, any information can prove valuable."

"I can manage something." Dina said, as she extended her reinforcement aura alongside the trio. "It's not fireproof, but it should be able to help. I can extend barriers on demand too."

Finn breathed a sigh of relief as she glanced between the two conversing girls. "I'm glad to hear it. We're almost at the edge of the Overcity, there should be a gate just ahead. I guess I will be waiting for your triumphant return," she finished with a grin. If there was anyone who could manage such a dangerous trek and back, it appeared to be these two.

Eliza nodded to Finn, then turned to Dina. "Right, let's go then. I'll keep an eye out for any monsters."

Dina nodded, silently as she deployed her Ruler's Aura and began to apply barriers and reinforcements to Eliza, as she walked behind her. A frontline fighter, she was not..

Leaving Finn behind, the duo made their way through the city gate that the crows had flown over. There was a lot of walking and not much else at first, though one could certainly enjoy the exotic environment of the Overcity along the way if they chose.

The first sign they were drawing close was the heat. There was little surprise in a plain of fire being hot, and they would be subjected to that rising temperature before reaching the actual location as it moved into uncomfortable ranges. Not unbearable just yet, but they would see how long that lasted as they arrived at the edge of the field the crows had spotted before. It was time to put their plan into action.

Dina's tongue clicked, seeing upon the conditions of the plain getting hotter and hotter. "I might need to get an extra protection." She said to Eliza ."It might get a little gross though."

"Hm..." Eliza looked between Dina and the plains ahead. "Let's see if this works." she casted a hand out, testing if her dark magic could snuff out the fire.

Dina for her part, began manifesting a gross-looking but definitely effective fire salamander mucus. While it was rather slimy and disgusting, it would help to stave off the higher temperatures for at least a limited amount of time. "Do you want some?" Dina indicated, her ears downcast and chafing and looking pretty unrefined as they did so.

Eliza looked back to Dina, an eyebrow risen at the sight of the mucus. Whatever helps, she guessed. "Eh, screw it. Hit me with some." Once they both had the unorthodox fire resistance on, she'd buff it up with a bit of time magic to make it last longer.

Dina then applied herself to cover Eliza in slime, and that's all the detail we need because this is a hunt, not a tale of other nature.

The application of the fire salamander mucus would be effective, sharply reducing the heat that both of them felt. They could now enter the fire plain safely, though direct contact would probably not be advised if they could avoid it. The fire didn't seem to be magical either, so Eliza's darkness magic would be effective in snuffing it out, if she chose to keep doing that.

Seeing as her theory rung true, Eliza continued taking out the flames, providing the two an easier path to go through.

"I'm gonna need a bath after this, mew." Dina said, her cat side getting the better of her briefly. She surmised most of the things she could summon here would drop dead on the heat. So she tried to turn this on her head. She tried used her Beast specialization to call out any native animals or myth beasts they could help her in their fetch quest.

A lot of walking followed, as tended to be the case with these sorts of things. Thanks to their diffusing of the heat they would be able to enjoy their surroundings, though admittedly there was not much to enjoy. At least not right now.

They would soon reach their next challenge. A river of molten fire cut across the landscape, its turbulent flows hissing and bubbling akin to lava. And it was a bit big for Eliza to just snuff it out with her darkness magic. At least in limited application. Would they try to walk across, or find some other method?

Dina focused, as she tried to create a set of platforms above the river to bridge the gap and walk on top of the molten fire river, hopefully.

While she might not make a bridge across the entire expanse, she would succeed in creating several platforms to jump over the river. With that in place it would be easy enough to get across, though they'd need to dodge the fireballs launched p arcs at irregular intervals. While it might not hurt thanks to the fire salamander, it did run the risk of knocking them in.

With a bit more time magic, Eliza would give her and Dina better timing hoping across the platforms.

The use of time magic gave them greater opportunity to adjust their angle without worrying about being suddenly swatted by an incoming fireball. With careful jumps they soon made it to the other side, no worse for wear. It might be awkward doing it with a normal person, but they could always just carry her across.

For now the trek went on. They were not close enough where the mountain was looming over the horizon, but they would soon be at that point. For now, they just had the roaming monsters to worry about.

From there on Eliza would put her scrying on auto-pilot, her eye behind her mask glowing a vivid gold. In a flash of dark magic, her sword would appear in her hand, prepared to attack any monsters she sees approaching. Or if she could, hide both her and Dina to avoid conflict.

Dina for her most part, reacted to Eliza's increased hostile readiness by pulling out her weapon, and waringly, using her senses to scan the scorching wasteland, a step behind Eliza should they need to fall to a defensive position.

Proceeding with caution, there was a close call as a fire lizard of sorts, its skin hardened but laced with fiery veins, drew near them. But it did not push the point once they directed their attention towards it, allowing them to push forwards.

Soon they had left the fire behind and arrived at the next part of their trek. Acidic rain fell from the sky, scouring the land and leaving it barren. This stretched from where they were to the mountain, and presented the next obstacle they had to deal with, one that would likely be a challenge on the way back as well. Whatever solution they used could not be a one time deal.

"Acid rain. Troublesome." said Dina as she extended a barrier in the shape of a parasol above the duo, to shelter them from the acidic precipitation.

The duo could hear the hiss of acid as it impacted the umbrella-shaped barrier. yet there didn't seem to be much risk at the moment as long as they stayed away from the edges. They moved on at a moderate pace, once more steering clear of the monsters. Those that could survive here would likely be tougher than normal.

Reaching the mountains that they had seen in their initial scouting. With the environmental factors it was likely that the person they were trying to find was not exposed on the surface, and they soon found an entrance to a cavern near a jagged rock formation. Hopefully it was what they were looking for.

Eliza simply walked forward. Her specialization in dark magic helped her see through the darkness inside, though if Dina needed help, she'd be more than willing to create an orb of light to serve as a lantern.

Dina for her part, enchanted her eyes with even more feline augmentations. She dismissed the crows now that they were about for a cave, exchanging them for a flock of bats. Their echolocation would prove a far better alternative.

"In we go, then." She breathed deep, once more. She disliked engaging in close quarters in a cavern, but it was the only option.

Proceeding with all due caution, they moved deeper into twisting tunnels and caverns. It wasn't too hard to keep track of where they were going, with little in the way of branches and alternate paths to be concerned about. And the bats Dina summoned helped a lot with guiding their path forward too.

Dina's bats also saw the threat that was coming around the next bend before it arrived. Leaping out around a corner with a battle cry in her throat, a girl with dark brown hair and tattered clothing leapt out and swung a makeshift rock tied to a stick at Eliza.

The witch casually caught the makeshift weapon in her gauntlet, before summoning a harmless orb of light in her free hand. "Yo." Eliza softly smiled at the girl. "Friend of yours sent us to find you. Hope we didn't keep you waiting." Especially in a place far from the Overcity. What the hell were they doing out there?

Dina would just create a barrier as a result of the attack, before taking a second look at the figure. "You look haggard. What is your name?" She would add, offering a helping hand.

Shock rippled through the girls features, as if she had not realized what she was really faced with until after she swung. The axe clattered from her grip as she stumbled back, colliding against the rock wall with a modest thump. Her eyes were wide as she looked between them. “F-Finn sent you?” she asked. After a few moments she was able to regain her balance, and stood up rather than leaning against the wall.

“I’m Erica. Thanks. I wasn’t sure anyone would come.”

"Don't thank us yet, we still have to keep you safe on the way back." Eliza mentioned.

"But fear not. It's only a matter of distance. We can shift back once we're in range. Anything you can tell us? Do you require medical assistance?"

Looking her self over, Erica quickly shook her head. "I'm alright. Well, my former patron left me powerless in the Overcity to either face a slow or agonizing death because I failed him too many times, but other than that I'm alright. Bastard."

"No kiddin'." Since Erica appeared unharmed, Eliza led the way out of the cave. "Tell you what, once we get back, I can introduce you to my patrons and see if they can take you in. One of them, atleast." She offered to the girl, making sure she stayed close to her and Dina.

"I also know a few people." Dina added."Well now that our target is located... we could say goodbye to being subtle and rush all our way back. What do you say, Eliza?"

"If she's fine with a bit of air travel, then might as well."

Glancing between them, Erica shrugged. "Finn also offered to let me join her patron. I guess Ive got a bit of deciding to do. Though revenge may factor in a bit, just to give you fair warning. As for air travel I'm fine with it, so long as I don't die of acid along the way."

Eliza chuckled, giving Erica a piggyback ride. Even if she lost her wings, the dress that eventually made itself a part of her new form gave her another means of flight. "Whatever the case is, the choice is yours. Now hold on! I'll be careful flying back to the Overcity!"

Dina pondered. "I can provide the barriers and the transport, but I will be virtually defenseless. I'll be counting on you to shoot down threats." She added.

"Alright, lets do it," Erica agreed as she let herself be carried by Eliza. They at last reached the entrance of the cavern, so it was now time to put whatever plan they had for getting back into action.

"Okay, let's hope this dress works." Eliza thought outloud, backing up a few paces before taking off.

And if THAT somehow goes wrong, she could always cast a quick time spell to keep them both from falling to their death. But mainly Erica.

Dina for her part, would blink for a second. Youths and their rush to do everything huh. If it was for a few seconds ... It should be fine. Using her beast magic, she allowed herself to grow wings, after of which she applied reinforcement on herself to avoid the dangers of corrosion and took flight.

With magic enchanting them, the trio soared back along the path they had initially taken. The acid hissed as it scored against fabric and barriers, but it did not stop them from passing through that zone unscathed. They then moved through the fire region they had passed through, where they were fortunate enough to avoid the attention of larger monsters thanks to their swift movements. The only obstacle were errant balls of magma ejected into the air, which they were forced to dodge.

Soon they neared the edge of the Overcity proper, with the familiar figure of Finn waiting by the gate, just like she had said she would. Erica seemed to brighten the closer they got to civilization, heralding a no doubt satisfactory conclusion to their bounty as they began their descent.

This...seems too easy.

Maybe it was Eliza being anxious again, but she half expected to get attacked at this point. As they began to land, her masked eye glew again, checking to see if anything would try and ambush the trio.

Dina did notice Eliza's overall easiness and also did her best to scour for any threats, after having followed the duo.

However concerned they might be, there was no sudden last second development to justify it as they came in for a landing. Sometimes, people did just get that lucky.

Once safely on the ground, Erica was quick to hop off of Eliza's back. She swiftly moved around the girl to embrace the other girl in a warm hug. "Finn, I'm so glad to see you!"

The embrace was returned just as heartily by Finn, who wasn't thrown off too much by the turn of events. "I'm just happy to see that you're safe Erica. Ive got a bath, a meal, and new clothes waiting for you back at my place."

Breaking the hug, Finn and Erica turned to face Dina and Eliza. "Thank you for your help," Finn told them with a small bow. "I knew you were the right people for the job."

Ah, so it was that easy.

With a breath of relief, Eliza looked back up to the two girls with a smile. "It really was no problem at all."

"Be wary of deals in the magical world. Being used and abandoned is common." Dina would venture to say. "It happened to me."

Erica snorted as Dina made her astute observation. "Yeah, I think I figured that one out," she grumbled Now there was nothing left for her to do but to recover and plot her revenge. However that might come about, at least.

Reaching into her pocket, Finn then stepped over to place gold coins into Dina and Eliza's hands. "As promised. Don't spend it all in one place."

She then returned to Erica's side, and the two began slowly walking towards the gate near them. "See you guys around," Erica called with a wave. "I may be in touch, depending on how things turn out!"
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Shifter_Master Atrast Nal Tunsha

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So, now that we've got a banner, do you think Plat will actually remember who I am?

I wouldn't bet on it.

-Kate and Nykannis


The Over City was a vast, strange, and at times inhospitable place. Especially if you went looking for such places. And this was just such a location, a vast sprawling sandy wasteland occasionally broken up by pools and rivers of runoff muck.

The soft crunch of sand under foot was the only sound for miles and the source of those footsteps was one of the only bits of life that was present. Not that Penny particularly cared for this location. She knew that it was a dumping ground for the more populated parts of the Over City. She was here because it was empty, and because it was empty there was no one here.

A good place for the meeting that was now due. A quick check in with Snoopy, who was happily floating about the robot girl's head, and she sent off the coordinates to this little bit of nowhere.

There was a crackling of yellow-green energy as the dimensional fabric was rent asunder. Two rather diminutive figures stepped through the resulting tear, which swiftly closed once their passage was complete. “Nice place,” Nykannis remarked as she took a quick look at their desolate surroundings. “I trust it’ll ensure we won’t be disturbed by any uninvited guests?”

Meanwhile, Kate greeted Penny with a peace sign and an easy-going grin. “Hey, Penny. Thanks for letting me tag along.”

Penny would nod her own greeting to Kate in return, appreciating the relaxed girl's atmosphere. “It’s also so I don’t have to worry about collateral.” Penny would say to Nykannis “Either on touchdown or if I feel like demonstrating any of the weapon systems. As the Earth Bastion is rather massive.”

“Feel free to set up some sensors before I call it if you want.” Penny would go on to say. Their deal for the Mirror fell through so Penny was willing to be a bit more forthcoming at the moment.

“Oh, I was planning on it,” Nykannis replied with a smirk. A moment later, several swarms of nanites shot forth from the mad scientist’s open palm to take up position at regularly spaced intervals around the perimeter of the area. Once in place, they coalesced into a series of bizarre, glowing, multi-eyed sensor clusters, each crowned with a wild profusion of trans and sub etheric detection antennas, spy ray projector dishes, miniature crystalline pyramids of unfathomable function, and several frenetically spinning and fluctuating protrusions of technomystic gadgetry that defied easy description. “There,” Nykannis declared with a satisfied grin. “Now, shall we begin? I gotta say, I’m really interested to see if this little toy of yours is as amazing as I’ve heard it is.”

“Well let me know if it lives up to the hype” Penny would say with clear amusement. She was always vastly curious as to what the rumors about her said, since no one wanted to tell her themselves. Still she would turn her gaze skyward as she reached inward to the undeniable connection she had with her ship.
“Coordinates locked and uploaded.” She would intone softly as a sudden and massive thunderstorm materialized above them from nowhere. Without further warning a gargantuan bolt of lightning would strike down behind Penny and somewhere between the flash of light and the crack of thunder the towering form of the Earth Bastion would manifest, the ground rumbling from the impact.

The Tank ship easily dwarfed everyone here, as it stood hundreds of feet tall. Easily casting its shadow over all of them if not for the sun being directly overhead. Without any obvious action on Penny part the front loading ramp would drop open, the lip of it missing Penny by scant millimeters.

“So.” She would say smugly. “Ready for the tour?”

Kate whistled in approval and Nykannis grinned broadly as the Earth Bastion made its dramatic appearance. “You better believe it,” the mad scientist replied when asked if she was ready to take the tour. “I gotta admit, that was a pretty impressive entrance, Penny. I’ll bet this thing could make even a Bolo jealous. Come on, Kate,” she instructed. “Let’s take a look at what’s inside…

“Right behind ya,” Kate acknowledged after snapping a quick picture. “Nice landship, Penny,” she told the robotic girl. “So, uh, was this a gift from your patron, or were you lucky enough to just find it somewhere?”

“Neither” Penny would answer as she followed her way up the ramp, her feet partially melding into the ship with each step leaving her gait oddly soundless. “I stole it. Or inherited it. Depends on how you look at it.” She would go on to explain.

“It originally belonged to a Magical girl by the name of Amber back in Penrose. I only met her a time or two, and our first meeting was when her ship, the Sky Bastion, was taken out by the Ebon mint. Which was a problem because there had been plans to use the Sky Bastion to assault the base of a crazed Dark magical girl to stop their ritual to eliminate Love in the name of their Horror Patron. The gathering of Magicals who were opposed to the crazy all pitched in to help rebuild the Sky Bastion however. With more than a few Patrons pitching in as well. That is how we got the Earth Bastion.” Penny would gesture to the ship around them at that, as the Earth Bastion’s engines roared to life in response.

“Amber and her Patron, A gold dragon, still owned the ship at that point though. It wasn’t until during the assault that I obtained ownership. It was during a fight with one of the castle’s guards. I was assimilating the ship to get more material to work with at the same time that Amber was killed. She didn’t enter the cycle though, she got out either by her own means or her Patron abandoning her I don’t know exactly. But the timing of it means I took over the connection to the Ship at the same time her’s snapped.”

“I’ve a few theories as to why the connection stayed solid even after things settled down, but magically I’m not sure the mecanicas behind how it happened.” Penny would shrug a bit as she looked around at the ship in appreciation. The loading ramp they had used led into a large cargo hold. Which Penny knew was the largest of three located within the Earth Bastion. Originally this cargo bay was empty, but now it housed a small contingent of additional vehicles. None as impressive as the Earth Bastion itself, but still useful.

“Where are you most interested in poking around?” Penny would ask as the loading ramp closed behind them. “Earth Bastion is military in design so most of the rooms are going to be rather samey. And I mean besides the Engine room, because that’s obvious.”

“Wow, Penny, that’s pretty ballsy,” Kate observed with an amused chuckle. “Aren’t you afraid that Amber’s patron might, uh, try to take it back?”

“Of course she isn’t,” Nykannis answered before Penny could give a reply. “She’s Penny Asimov, the most powerful being in Penrose, and quite possibly this entire reality plenum, considering she’s got the favor of the Grand Magistrate himself. You’d have to be totally nuts, or incredibly suicidal, to even think about doing something like that.” Looking around the cargo hold, the mad scientist nodded in approval. “I think the bridge, or wherever it is you interface with the ship from, is the most important stop,” she replied when Penny asked the mad scientist what she’d like to see first. “After all, that’s where I’ll need to go when it comes time to give this thing the upgrade I promised. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the Engine room. I want to see exactly where this baby gets all its power from…”

“I’m actually surprised that they never accosted me about it if I’m honest.” Penny would correct as she started to lead them deeper into the Earth Bastion. “But last I heard the dragon left Penrose. So I’m not sure I’ll hear from them again.” She would give a shrug, not entirely surprised that Sue left, but still surprised that she hadn’t gotten more flack over her taking of the Earth Bastion.

The engine room was nestled deep within the ship. Lower down and near the aft, It took a sizable chunk of space altogether. It was however a magitech marvel. The power source was a massive crystalian object that seemed to be constructed out of condensed mana. Magic was siphoned off of it and converted into electricity that was both stored in massive capacitors that lined the room, and directed to the generators that ringed the Crystal.

The Crystal didn’t seem to be depleting at all from the siphoning either, it was regenerating itself at the same rate it was being depleted. Effectively making it a perpetual motion machine at this base output.

“A self-sustaining, sempiternal metaphysical aetheric numiosphere accelerator matrix, huh? Very nice,” Nykannis commended. “But then, I expected nothing less. Question- At what point will the rate of energy consumption outpace the rate of replenishment? If I’m going to add in all the improvements I have in mind, I need to know if this thing will be up to the task of meeting the energy requirements. Otherwise, I’ll just have to upgrade it, too,” she added with a grin.

“It’ll keep pace up to all systems running eighty percent max output. Propulsion, Weapons, Scanners, Life support, Shields & Communications. Even then it is capable of sustained output at that level for half a day. Maxing out all systems will degrade that time down to about six hours. Combat configuration depends on the firepower of the opposition, but in theory equal force could deplete it in three. Assuming that things aren’t optimized on the go.” Penny would explain. She knew that the Earth Bastion was a frighteningly potent ace, but it was that same potency that made it so difficult for her to fully make use of. It was too big, and too specialized for day to day use in Penrose, and situations that allowed for its usage were few and far between.

“If you do need to upgrade it, I’ll need you to either walk me through the upgrades or hand over a manual so I can maintain it. I understand how it works now, not sure that would be the same after you got done.”

“Sounds like I’ll need to upgrade the engine, too,” Nykannis observed. “And don’t worry,” she added with a chuckle. “You can fully interface with the Earth Bastion now, right? Well, you’ll still be able to do so after I’ve finished making my improvements. Once you do that, you’ll have full knowledge of its new capabilities, although maintaining it won’t be a problem. Once I’m through, it’ll be fully capable of maintaining itself indefinitely. But if it makes you feel better, you’ll still be able to do it yourself, should you want to take a more ‘hands on’ approach.”

“Mainly just worried about not being able to understand it” Penny would admit without a problem. “I’ve seen what kind of math you can take advantage of after all.” The data cube she had gotten from Nykannis on Christmas still made her head spin. “Still let me know if I can help. As you guessed correctly, I can interface with the ship.” And was partially interfaced with it right now as a matter of fact.

“Well, I’ll try to use small words and provide plenty of visual aids,” Nykannis replied with a smirk. “As for how you can help, once we reach the bridge, I’d like you to give me full access to the Earth Bastion’s systems. See, I like to take a hands on approach, myself,” she explained. “It won’t take more than half a second, but I’ll need have complete control over the process in order to ensure the upgrades are integrated properly.”

Penny would hesitate at that. Not because there was anything particularly valuable hidden within the Earth Bastion's systems. It wasn’t even a matter of trust. It was because the Earth Bastion was Penny’s, one of the few things that was truly hers. And handing it over like that, even if it wasn’t truly handing it over at all, wasn’t something she wanted to do. “Alright.” She’d say after her moment of pause. The upgrades to the ship were necessary after all. And she’d be able to sweep the Earth Bastion herself afterwards to double and triple check everything was on the up and up.

“What can you tell me about the upgrades right now?” She’d move on, “Engine upgrades are easily understandable, but I’ve not had a chance to poke around a S.E.P. generator before.”

“Oh, I’m planning on adding a LOT more than just the S.E.P field generator,” Nykannis replied with a maniacal grin. “There’s the transdimensional teleportation system, of course, and the full suite of stealth systems: holographic masking, phasing cloak, perception filter, and so forth, but I was also thinking of improving the Earth Bastion’s offensive and defensive capabilities as well. Y’know, crank ‘em up to 1123 out of a possible 5. And while I’m at it, I think I’ll increase this thing’s mobility as well,” she added thoughtfully. “I’ll give it full counter-grav capability, along with the fastest STL and FTL engines you’ve ever seen. By the time I’m done, you’ll have to call this the Star Bastion!”

That. Was a lot more than Penny was expecting. And honestly she was a little worried about all of that being added to the Earth Bastion. And really she had only two things to say to that. “I’ve still got the remnants of the Sky engine that used to make the ship fly when it was the Sky Bastion.” Was the first thing that came from her. Rather nonchalantly as well. "Might be helpful for you."

“Yeah, that’ll definitely come in handy,” Nykannis agreed. “It’s always nice to have a starting point.”

“And why all the upgrades?” Was the next, much more curious. And wary, though that was hidden, it seemed like a vast, vast over payment from what they originally hashed out. That made Penny worried.

“Why not?” Nykannis replied with a smirk. “You should know by now that I don’t do half measures. When I take on a project, I take it all the way.

“Queen of the Mad Sciences” Penny would remind herself softly after a moment of mulling over the response given to her. It made sense, Nykannis was the type to go all out simply because she could from what Penny had experienced. Plus, it probably helped that Nykannis was likely trying to get in Penny’s good books as well, the Mechanical girl hadn’t forgotten what it was Nykannis wanted from her originally after all.

“Fair enough” She would acknowledge with a nod. Penny would still recheck everything, but she’d take the gift as well. “And I’d be willing to rechristen it if you want. Your upgrades might make it more a new ship than anything else after all.” She’d offer up “Because from the sounds of it the only issue I’ll have to deal with when you are done is limited space.”

“Limited space?” Nykannis echoed, seeming somewhat perplexed. “Why would that be an issue? When I’m done, this thing’ll be a lot bigger, plus it’ll have access to multiple pocket dimensions for additional storage. You’ll be able to fit ten copies of your little homeless shelter inside and still have room to spare!”

“I should have known” Penny would reply with a sigh, though she was smiling as well. She had confirmation now that, even if Nykannis hadn’t thought of the space thing before she had now. Which was useful. A tad bit worrying, as it was a lot of space to suddenly have access to. She’d be able to monitor everything well enough, but it did seem like the Sanctuary was growing a lot faster than she had been planning for.

She guessed that she’d just have to keep up as best she could.

“Anything else you want to take a look at before we head to the command deck?” She’d pose to her guests. She was getting a lot from this, so best to pay back what she could now.

“Nah,” Nykannis replied with a dismissive wave. “Once I interface with the Earth Bastion, I’ll know everything I want to know about it and then some,” She added. “I don’t suppose you have internal teleporters installed yet, so lead the way.”

“So, uh, you mentioned that a few Patrons actually helped out with upgrading this thing in the past,” Kate spoke up as they made their way to the bridge. “Anybody I might know?” she asked with a grin.

“Hard to say” Penny would answer Kate as she led the way to the command deck. “The original Dragon helped out, as well as two gods. Neither god is well documented either, so unless you’ve been hiding out in Penrose long not sure if you’ve heard of them before.” She’d explain. “Most of the work was done by magical girls however, so if you consider that as an avenue of help everyone from Mint to Beacon had a hand in helping out with it.”

“The Dragon’s name was Boteg, one of the gods is called The Cleansing Sun” She’d shrug, They still have magicals out there so might be able to learn more about them if you go looking.

“Huh, can’t say I’ve heard of that particular deity,” Kate admitted. “But if memory serves, Boteg used to own the Golden Trove hotel, right?”

“Yeah,” Nykannis confirmed. “Before he had the good sense to get the fuck out of Penrose. Still, this thing sure has one hell of a pedigree, though I suppose it’s not too surprising for something belonging to the Queen of Penrose and the Grand Magistrate’s personal favorite.”

“Pretty sure he left due to learning that there were other gold dragons out there somewhere. Word has it Boteg was originally operating under the assumption that he was the last one left.” Penny would add.

“What I’d love to know is how the heck you managed to get all those various groups to work together in the first place,” Kate observed. “I mean, I’ve manipulated a few high profile individuals before, but that’s way more impressive than anything I’ve ever done.”

“And you are giving me far too much credit.” Penny would rub the back of her neck as they walked. “I had nothing to do with getting everyone together. It was a mix of circumstances as far as I can tell. Mint operations and Horror plots crashed into each other with a majority of Penrose natives right in the middle of it.” It was a fluke from Penny’s perspective, a stroke of luck that probably saved Penrose at the end, but still only luck.

“If anyone should get credit, it would be Lily Lightning. She was actively trying to get people together to take on one of the Horror plots. Without her I doubt as many people would have been there when the Sky Bastion was taken out.” Penny wasn’t even in the driver seat back then.

“I was just in the right place at the right time to profit from it all”

“So, basically, you just got lucky?” Kate observed. “Man, I wish I had that kinda good fortune,” she added with a chuckle.

“Hey, you know me,” Nykannis shot back. “Thanks to that, you have the most powerful camera in the omniverse, and the opportunity to take pictures of incredibly amazing stuff, like the Earth Bastion, here. What more do you want?”

“Relax, I was only messin’ around,” Kate told her, clearly enjoying the sight of the mad scientist getting riled up. “I still think you’re the most interesting person in the omniverse,” she added as she put her arm around Nykannis’s shoulder. “But Penny’s definitely a close second.”

“You’d have to be a complete moron to not think that,” Nykannis replied with a snort. “She’s clearly the most amazing individual in this entire reality plenum, outside of yours truly, of course. And Kate does have a point,” she added, addressing the Mechanical Monarch. “It’s precisely because you have that kind of luck, that I find you so incredibly fascinating. So don’t for a moment think that getting all those different factions to contribute, willingly or not, was just ‘something that happened’. It happened the way it did because you were the one it happened to. You’re special, Penny, far more than you realize. Then again,” she added with a sigh. “Perhaps it’s best if you don’t dwell too deeply on that. Lesser minds have a hard time coming to terms with the full implications of what that path leads them too. I don’t currently know if your mind is strong enough to handle such knowledge or not, but, well, just look at Oros. Do you seriously want to risk winding up like her?

Penny would give a visible shudder. “No thank you. Talking to Find and Replace was more than enough.” Oros was plenty of warning enough about the dangers of knowing too much. “That said, I am aware, to a degree, of my unique situation. Though how deep it goes is more than I’m aware of. If what you are implying is true. But it’s impossible for me to miss, even if it wasn’t for my ability to sense the metaphorical weight of something.There is a long string of impressive coincidences in my recent history.” She would restrain from adding a gesture to the Earth Bastion and adding ‘Like here and now’ because this did seem like another one to her. Though it wasn’t quite the same degree as the others.

“I’m grateful for the windfalls, but viewing it as simply luck means I’m less likely to assume that it will keep happening for when it stops.” She’d expand. “Plus I truly don’t know why some of the things happened, so luck is easier to tell people.”

“That’s fair, I suppose,” Nykannis conceded. “I mean, who knows? Maybe the only reason you’re getting placed upon such a lofty pinnacle is so that it will hurt all the more when something comes along and knocks you off it. Not that I think something like that is gonna happen, mind you,” she added. “Just that it’s a possibility. Trust me, I know from painful experience…”

“I’m not surprised to hear that.” Penny would say, somewhat subdued by the implication that everything that had happened to her was just a prelude to a personal fall. It was unsettling, because she couldn’t fully discount it.

Regardless, before the conversation could continue they would arrive at the Command deck. It was one of the highest points on the Earth Bastion and was a large seemingly empty room with floor to ceiling windows spanning every wall of the room. In a traditional location the panoramic view would give a rather breathtaking view of everything around, but seeing as they were in a wasteland it was rather unimpressive.

“Welcome to the Command Deck” Penny would say as they stepped into the room, and with a gesture dozens upon dozens of monitors and control interfaces would meld out of the floor as the glass walls shrank and were replaced with smaller less structurally weak ones to make room for some of the computers that rose up.

“These stations monitor the various different sectors of the Earth Bastion, with the more important ones being located closer to the center.” She’d explain “That one is the central command and is connected to everything” A gesture towards a notably larger bank not far in front of the group.

“Nice,” Nykannis noted with a grin. “So, with your permission, I’ll just plug in and get to work,” she added as she made her way over to the central command console and rested a hand upon it.

Penny sent a long look at the central console, and to a normal outside observer that was all she was doing. But in truth, she was withdrawing from the internal systems of the Earth Bastion. It was a slow process, relatively speaking, as she was making sure to scrub as much of her own traces from the computers. She knew that she’d not be able to remove everything, some part of her was too intrinsically tied to the ship, but that didn’t mean she had to make it easy for the mad scientist.

Penny was also taking her time as she still didn’t feel comfortable letting go of the Earth Bastion in such a way. But for the Sanctuary, she was willing to risk it.

“System is open” She would say at last, though it was the work of a minute at most. “You are free to get on with the Daft Punk”

Nykannis grinned maniacally, her smile stretching from ear to ear as her eyes seemed to shimmer with a crazed gleam. “Harder, better, faster, stronger like you wouldn’t believe!” the Monarch of Mad Science confirmed. “I’m gonna plus ultra the SHIT outta this thing! Nyahahaha!” she cackled with insane glee as she assumed her monstrous combat form. However, instead of weapons, her myriad appendages were now tipped with a dizzying array of bizarre technomantic tools, which glowed with barely-contained power. A second later, and every cybernetic servo arm and tentacular mechadendrite had plugged itself into the Earth Bastion, in some cases phasing into and fusing with the very walls, ceiling, and floor. Nykannis’s grin only broadened once she’d fully interfaced with the massive vessel, her multiple eyes glowing with deranged delight. “You weren’t kidding, Penny!” the Mad Scientist Supreme exclaimed excitedly. “Some pretty high-level Patrons really did have quite a hand in designing this thing! Nyahahaha! This is even better than I expected!” she continued to gush. “I always prefer to work with the highest quality materials available, but this might just be the fucking jackpot! All right!” she announced as the build up of starkly astounding and exceptionally esoteric energies reached a world-shattering crescendo. “It’s time to begin, so just sit back and enjoy the show!”

With an utterly inconceivable expulsion of hyperomnienchantech power, Nykannis began working her super-scientific sorcery. Every system of the mighty vessel was upgraded to the Nth degree, while a myriad of new systems were added, augmenting the landship’s abilities to previously unimagined levels. Its very form shifted and grew to stupendous size, and that was only what could be visually perceived. To those with higher levels of awareness, it would become abundantly clear that the Earth Bastion, or rather, the Star Bastion, wasn’t just expanding in height, width, and length, but into several hyper, mega, and ultra dimensions as well. It was now a true omninaught, capable of traveling anywhere and anywhen, throughout the vast infinity of infinities, and of doing anything once it arrived. True to her word, Nykannis was never one for half measures, and the Monarch of Mad Science was pouring every ounce of her incomparable technomantic powers into her newest creation. Indeed, for the briefest of moments, Nykannis was the Star Bastion…

But only for the briefest of moments.

An instant later, the work was complete, and Nykannis fully withdrew herself from the Star Bastion and returned to her diminutive mundane form. “Mmmm…” she sighed wistfully as she closed her eyes and ran her fingers over the central command console. “This brings me back,” she added with more than hint of nostalgia. “If you ever felt like leaving this dump and traveling the omniverse, this would be a suitable vessel for such a voyage…” After taking a moment to savor her accomplishment, Nykannis opened her eyes and spread her arms to encompass the mighty vessel around them. “Well, there you have it, Penny!” the Monarch of Mad Science announced. “The Star Bastion! A warship even more powerful than the mightiest of my hypernaughts! Heck, you could probably kill a deity with this thing,” she added with a sly smirk. “If you were so inclined.”

It was a dizzying sensation for Penny to witness; The emergence of the Star Bastion was unlike anything she had ever seen before. Because despite not being equipped for it, not being interfaced with it, she could still feel it growing and expanding. In all directions.

A look of wonder was on Penny’s face as she traced her eyes across the room. Softly she stepped forward and also rested her hand on top of the central command station. Taking a moment to brace herself Penny once again connected to the ship.

And instantly had her breath taken away again.

Because while it was only at the height of her powers that Nykannis was one with the Star Bastion. But it was easier than breathing for Penny to reach in and close that gap herself, and it would last much longer than a single instant. And if she could cry she was certain that tears would be streaming down her face.

As for the first time since Jason had left. Since the first time she had become independent, Penny felt like she was home. The Sanctuary was Jason’s dream, one that Penny supported and adopted, just like how the warehouse was Jason’s home long before it became Penny’s.

But this here, was Penny’s. A place she retreated to when she was tired of watching her human host self destruct again. Somewhere that used to be more dream than reality. A bastion she had stolen for herself. Freedom, protection, and home all wrapped up in one. A figment she had thought lost, but had now regained.

Suddenly she was struck with the near violent urge to run away. The multiverse was vast, and she now had everywhere and anywhere at the tips of her fingers. Anywhen and everywhen as well from the sounds of it. All she had to do was pick a place and they would be gone.

Gone and free to find who she was without Jason’s ghost or Penrose’s insanity hanging over her.

She could even just find a dead point and spend years learning everything about what her ship could now do. Because even as connected to it as she was, it was still a bit out of her league to simply understand all of it. But that would come with time.

Thus she was so very tempted to simply accept Nykannis’ offer to go exploring. But she didn’t. Because she wanted her word to mean something, and she had already given it out to people in Penrose. That did little to blunt the want however. “I’ve got your number.” Penny would say quietly. “You will be one of the first to know when that road trip happens.” She would promise. Because unlike many of the other magical’s, Penny already knew just how long eternity could stretch on for. The patience of Metal, and the mind of a machine. Time did not hide from her perspective. Earth could only be her home for so long. This was something that Penny was well aware of.

She had a feeling that Nykannis knew that about eternity too.

“For now I’ve still got to stay in Penrose.” Penny would say, carefully packing away at the thoughts and wants that had come to the fore with the new reforging of her ship. Along with those thoughts, the ship itself was also shifting. Chameleon circuits were activating, along with dimensional shifters and good old physical rearrangements.

A moment later it was impossible to tell much of anything had ever happened to the Earth Bastion. As everything looked just like it had, save for a new set of consoles displaying the stealth systems. Deeper within the ship one would also find the engine upgrades and wormhole generators also still inplace, even if the majority of their capabilities were hidden. One would also find that the inside of the ship contained a fair bit more space than it should, but not so extensively as to draw extreme suspicions.

Everything else was simply hidden away, out of sync with the rest of the ship. Both dimensionally and otherwise. Penny could still sense the rest of it however, no matter how well she had hidden it she would always know her ship, but that was because it was hers more than anything else. She wasn’t ready for the star’s just yet, but she would be one day.

“I’ll pass on the god slaying as well.” She’d add with a shake of her head. “I’m a bit too young to deal with the fallout of that I think.” Penny wasn’t sure if the ship was capable of that, but didn’t really want to find out one or the other right now. “Don’t want him dead anyway.” It wasn’t hard to guess the implication, at least if what Penny thought Nykannis was implying was correct anyway.

“That’s fine,” Nykannis replied, seemingly unbothered by Penny’s commitment to her obligations in Penrose. “I was just noting the possibility. And I’m glad you like it,” she added with a pleased grin. “I always take great pride in my work, and I think I really outdid myself this time.”

“You can say that again…” Kate agreed. “This thing makes my camera look like a piece of old junk.”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Nykannis corrected. “I’d say it’s definitely one of my top five greatest inventions. Still, for now at least, this has got to be number one…”

That comparison would draw Penny’s attention to the innocuous looking camera Kate held. “Now I have to ask.” As Penny could sorta understand why the Star Bastion was ranked how it was. It was a work of art and a technological and magical marvel all in one after all. “What does your camera do?”

“Go on, tell her,” Nykannis instructed. “We have no secrets here, and there’s no harm in sharing.”

“Well, it does a lot of things,” Kate replied. “But mainly, it’s like the Snapshots Perk. On steroids,” she added with a chuckle. “It’s got a ton more features, but they’re only accessible when I transform, and I try to avoid doing that if I can help it.”

Penny pulled her attention up from the camera to give Kate a slightly bewildered look. "You came out here untransformed?" That was either crazy or the photographer had great respect for Nykannis' ability to protect her. Or both.

"Gods that must be nice as well" Penny would add after a moment. It was a rare moment when she could feel safe enough to power down. Life outside of Penrose must be so slow paced.

"Still that only raises more questions about the camera." Penny would shake off the momentary ponderings of a life outside Penrose again. “I already figured that it was good for information gathering, but what else can it be used for? You can stick to broad strokes if you don’t want to tell me details.”

“Nah, it’s fine,” Kate reassured her. “So, the main feature is that I can make ‘negative copies’ of anything I take a picture of. Once I do that, though, it removes the image from the camera’s memory, so I only use it when I’m in a jam, mostly as a distraction while I make a quick getaway. And yeah,” she added with a chuckle. “I go most places untransformed. I prefer not to attract too much attention, y’know, just blend in with the crowd. I’m more of a passive observer, as opposed to a fighter,” the photographer explained. “I basically just gather information for various clients. If I get in a situation where I’m forced to transform, then that means I’m having a really bad day. As for other features, I can speed up or slow down a target, disorient them, and even freeze ‘em in place. But that last one requires them to be perfectly still,” she clarified. “So as you can probably imagine, I don’t really make much use of it.”

“Blue magic, extensive information gathering, and limited Time spec. And functional both inside and outside of a full transformation” Penny would summarize giving the camera an appreciative look. “I’d guess it’s got its own mana capacity apart from yours and is protected from theft and tampering as well based on what I know of her” She would add, gesturing to Nykannis.

“Oh you better believe it,” Kate confirmed with grin. “Anyone messes with this baby, and they’re on a one way ride to agony city,” she added, tapping the camera in question. “Although I think you might have misunderstood how many of its abilities I can use when I’m untransformed. Right now, all I have access to are its information gathering capabilities,” she explained. “If I wanna do any of that other stuff, well… ‘Impractical outfit’ doesn’t even begin to describe it…”

“That camera sounds awesome.” Penny would claim with a chuckle. It was hard not to enjoy spending time with these two. “Just try not to use my or the Bastion’s copies in Penrose. And if a copy of me ever mentions anything about starting a phase five. Run.”

“Uh, okay… I’ll be sure to keep that in mind…” Kate replied. That was definitely something to look into later… “But, uh, like I said before, I’m not really one for combat, so I don’t think you’ve got anything to worry about.”

“And if you’re smart, you won’t take a job anywhere near Penrose to begin with,” Nykannis added. “No offense, Penny, but your city really isn’t the best place for one’s health.”

"Preaching to the choir, Nykannis" Penny would say with a sigh. "I've been hit with Killing Blow twice in Penrose related madness, kidnapped to the Over City and beyond, and I've met more lesser Horrors than anyone would like." Penny knew her home was a very dangerous place. "It's one of the reasons I'm sticking around, not everyone else is built to thrive in those conditions, much less survive. The ones stranded there need somewhere to be safe."

"There are some unique perks to Penrose though." She'd add before turning back to Kate. "For example, there is a shop that sells Artifacts for Coins, and one line of artifacts are uniform modifiers. Everything from accessories to full outfit changes. If you'd be willing to pay for the Uniform and a bit extra for delivery I could do the shopping for you."

“Thanks, but, uh, it’s not exactly that simple,” Kate replied with an apologetic frown. “My transformed appearance is indelibly linked to the camera,” she explained. “Only Nykannis can change it…”

“Yeah, and that’s not gonna happen any time soon,” the mad scientist agreed. “I mean, I’ve gotta get my amusement somehow, she added with a grin. “And she fully deserves it, after what she did to me that one time on Melloanth….”

Penny would shrug at that “It’s Penrose. You want to bet that they won’t be able to do the unexpected?” She would challenge, but otherwise wouldn’t press the topic. There was something else that was more immediately interesting.

“That aside, it almost sounds like you’re her Patron, Nykannis.” Penny would say turning a raised eyebrow back to the mad queen. “With how her abilities are tied to a gift of yours that only you can change.”

“Heh, I guess you could say that,” Nykannis conceded with a chuckle. “But I don’t control her actions or anything like that. She’s free to do whatever she likes.”

“Yeah, Nykannis only made the camera,” Kate confirmed. “I’m still very much a free agent, though I’m more than happy to do work for her, as long as I’m compensated for my trouble,” she added with a grin.

That didn’t dissipate the similarities in Penny’s opinion. If anything it just cemented them even further, as that was how things felt both now under Beacon and before when she was under her old patron. “Fair enough” She’d conceded anyway, no need to argue the point when she could hear the truth from them regardless.

“I suppose that concludes our business for today then?” Penny would ask, turning back to gaze at the command deck again. A moment later the consoles would sink back into the floor allowing the windows to once again dominate the walls.

“It would certainly appear so,” Nykannis confirmed.

“Will you two be disembarking here or do you want to see the maiden voyage of the warp gate?”

“As enjoyable as that sounds, I’d rather like to avoid going anywhere near Penrose and its assorted stupidity, if I can help it,” the mad scientist replied. “Besides, I have some other matters that require my attention… Anyway, enjoy your new toy, Penny, and be careful out there. Complacency kills, although you of all people should be painfully aware of that by now.”

“And thanks for letting me tag along,” Kate added with an appreciative smile. “This was a lot of fun.”

“No problem Kate” Penny would say with a nod “And yeah I get that Nykannis. Keep your eyes out as well. Disconnected as you are, the city has a way of dragging people into it. And someone is gunning for Penrose but it sounds like they will be starting outside the city first.” She would warn.

“Well, if they try anything stupid in Silverburg, they’re gonna regret it real quick,” Nykannis replied with a malicious grin. “But hopefully they’re smarter than that, for their sake…”

“They are gunning for Penrose. I think that says everything about their intelligence it needs to” Penny would respond dryly.

“Good point,” Nykannis conceded with a chuckle.

“You want me to walk you outside or are you just jumping from here?” She’d go on to ask.

“Oh, no need to trouble yourself,” the mad scientist replied with a dismissive wave. “Right here works just fine.” As if to prove it, a crackling dimensional doorway opened next to the diminutive doctor, who promptly stepped through it, followed by Kate. “See you around, Penny,” Nykannis said with a wave, the ultratechnomantic landscape of her lab glowing, blinking, and bubbling behind her. “And don’t worry about your favorite mad scientist,” she added with a grin. “It’ll take a LOT more than some Wonderland reject to stop my plans…”

“Later!” Kate added, while throwing up a peace sign.

An instant later, the portal winked out of existence with a loud vorp!, leaving the Mechanical Monarch alone once more.

Penny stood there for a few moment’s simply watching the space in which Nykannis left from. Eventually she would nod to herself as she turned back to face the open horizon. Slowly, her color would drain away. Leaving her with only matte grays, the only parts that were different were her hair and eyes. Her hair was stark white, and her eyes were electric blue.

Silently she melded into the Star Bastion. Becoming indistinguishable from it. For a few minutes nothing externally happened. As Penny brought the full weight of her machine self to the fore and scoured every single line of code and system within the Bastion. She might not understand what everything did, nor the science behind all of it. But she did know everything that her ship would do by the end of her examinations.

After that, she re-encrypted everything using a different base code. She didn’t find any back doors, and if she did she closed them, but that didn’t mean she trusted the one who gave her the ship to not have a way of looking in. Penny doubted it would really stop Nykannis, but it might stall her.

After that Penny pulsed her Titan’s Reignment through the ship. Stripping any magical ownership of anyone who wasn’t Penny herself. She’d been burned by that before after all.

Finally she would strengthen the ties of importance between herself and the Bastion. She had no real idea what that would do, but it made her feel better to have touched the reborn ship with all of her magics.

After that it was time to leave. But Penny wasn’t heading to Penrose first.

As she started up the wormhole generator Penny afixed her destination in mind as best she could. She didn’t have the coordinates, wasn’t sure if where she was aiming to go actually had coordinates if she was honest. That didn’t mean she didn’t know where she was aiming for however.

With a sound like a crashing tsunami the gateway tore into existence underneath the fearsome battleship, and a moment later it was gone. The gate snapping closed the instant the ship had cleared it.




The Earth Bastion landed with a surprisingly soft thump. Or perhaps not surprising when one looked around. This new place was vast in a way that defied description. The very atmosphere itself made the full might of the dreadnaught seem insignificant in comparison.

There wasn’t truly a ground, even as the massive ship rested upon something, what it tread upon didn’t stop one from seeing in all directions. And everywhere one would look they would see an endless vista of stars and nebulae. It was the entirety of space packed together as far as the eye could see. Gaps were rare, and there were no truly empty portions anywhere.

But what really commanded Penny’s attention was a figure in the distance.

They were humanoid in shape, male if physique was to be trusted, and even though they were impossibly far off, they towered over the Earthbastion. The figure was little more than a silhouette against the glow of a nearby star undergoing a supernova. But within that silhouette was yet more stars and swirls of color.

Silently the figure turned to regard the Earth Bastion, its gaze unerringly focusing on Penny, regardless of her sublimated nature at the moment. Penny matched the figure’s gaze with one of her own.

They stayed watching each other for some time. Silent. As there was nothing that could, or should be said at this time. Yet that did not mean the simple acknowledgement was any less important.

Eventually the Earth Bastion would vanish from sight, enshrouded in every stealth system it had at its capacity. Not that it deterred the watching figure. With a sound like cracking ice another portal would rip open below where the ship was hidden from view, and a moment later it would snap shut.

The figure would wait a moment longer before giving a single deceive nod. Then they would return to their work.
Planes away, tucked away as best it could be in the harbor of Penrose, still under several layers of stealth shielding, sat the Earth Bastion. Penny would emerge from her ship once again full of her normal coloration. “It was good seeing you again.” She would speak, breaking the silence. Knowing that they would hear her.

Shaking her head, Penny would plot a course for as near to the Sanctuary as she could manage. It was time for everyone to move to a better home. One that could keep them all safe. As things were starting to pick up in Penrose, as they always did.

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Epilogue


“Holy crap…” Kate whispered as a stunned grin spread across her face. “I can’t believe you actually pulled that off!”

“Seriously?” Nykannis asked with a raised eyebrow. “We’ve known each other for centuries, and you still doubt my super scientific supremacy?”

“Oh, I didn’t doubt that you could do it,” Kate clarified. “I just can’t believe you had the balls to risk her Mechanical Majesty finding out that you did do it.”

“What? I gave Penny exactly what I promised. She’s now the proud owner of, and has complete control over, the most powerful warship in this reality plenum. She has absolutely nothing to complain about.”

“Yeah,” Kate chuckled. “But you have the original Earth Bastion!” the photographer added, gesturing to the enormous omninought hovering above them for emphasis. “Er, Star Bastion,” she corrected herself.

Technically, they’re both the original,” Nykannis clarified. “Ship of Theseus and all that. As are these, she added as several dozen identical vessels shimmered into being amidst arcs of yellowy green lightning. “Although one of them will have to be upgraded even further to serve as the flagship for my new armada…” she mused thoughtfully, before said upgrade was applied to one lucky vessel in a swirling of ultratechnomystic energies, its already colossal form growing even more massive with each passing second. “Yessss… That’s more like it! Nyahahahaha!” Nykannis declared with an approving grin. “I think I’ll call it… the Argo…

“Pffft! That is so wrong…” Kate observed with an amused chuckle.

“Anyway, back to what you were saying, I was challenged to do it by a certain pink-haired pervert, and you know I never turn down a challenge.”

“Yeah, I can’t really argue with that,” Kate conceded. “Oh, but speaking of, you never told me how your ‘totally-not-a-date’ went.”

“About as well as could be expected,” Nykannis replied with an annoyed sigh. “Although I’m sure you want to hear all the cringey details…”

“Damn straight!”

Fine… Let’s go somewhere a bit more comfortable, and I’ll tell you aaaall about it.”

.

..








Oros examined her reflection in a mirror. She hadn’t gone on a proper date in a long time, but thought she did a good job dressing up. It was a white button down shirt with a brown dress. But Oros knew the difference between a “meh” and “great” look were the accessories. Thigh-highs that gave her legs just enough squish, a choker adorned with a tiny bow, and some flowered bracelets took her from a six to a nine. To get to a ten, she’d take some honey suckles and stick them in her hair. Others with inferior taste might disagree, but she knew she looked absolutely irresistible. It would have been better if she could get something more formal, but most of Chii Aruel’s artwork was either fetishy or combat orientated. Most patrons were going to click the links and read the colored text. Gotta keep the core audience in mind.

After one last twirl in front of the mirror, Oros stepped out of the ruined bed room. The room had been sawed in half by a monster attack, and a swath of destruction laid just beyond that. Though it was hard to see much of it as the sun hadn’t shined here in about fifty years. The only thing that kept the world warm was the residual heat from the mother brain. 

But now wasn’t the time to dwell on the past. Oros needed to focus on the rest of her preparation.




As per their agreement, Oros was going to choose when they arrived at the Garden de Lux. That meant Oros had a free invitation to show up whenever she wanted. So long as the intention was to start the “date” they had planned. 

Just before Oros’s arrival, Nykannis had been sitting in her comfy command throne, watching a closeup of a weeping girl’s face on her interdimensional viewer’s panoramic display.

“Yesss… That’s it…” the Monarch of Mad Science cooed as she stroked the bizarre creature
 sitting in her lap. “Harness that sorrow, that rage… Forge yourself into the instrument of my…”

Her voice trailed off as Oros made her grand entrance, the Mad Scientist Supreme swiftly closing the interdimensional viewer and whirling around to face her guest.

Oros’s entrance was a bit flashier than last time. The fabric in Nyakannis’s reality was torn asunder once again. A giant black lotus lily appeared in her domain. Once the lily had arrived, the black pedals peeled back to reveal a plushy red interior. Oros was also inside, already dressed up for the big meeting. She was playing a video game on a hand-held. 

”I’m here!” Oros waved her hand without looking away from her game. ”Get dressed and we’ll be on our way.” 

“Where the hell’s Aria?” Nykannis asked as she rose from her seat. “I thought she was coming along, too.” The eyes of her eldritch “pet” went wide at the sight of the pink-haired visitor, before it was thrown into a portal leading to a distant corner of The Lab, where many similar creatures were gathered. As Nykannis walked over to where Oros was playing on her handheld, a swirling swarm of nanites transformed the robe she’d been wearing into the green dress the pink-haired lunatic had “gifted” her with, although she still wore her lab coat over it. “Or did she have her memories wiped again?” the mad scientist asked, while fixing Oros with a look of annoyance.

Oros turned to look at Nykannis ”Oh she uh-” The smile disappeared from her face as soon as she saw her. Now, Oros had seen her fair share of girls in and out of cute dresses. It was a pretty old novelty at this point, and it wasn’t like she hadn’t seen the artwork for it prior to their meeting. But seeing her actually wearing it and not fussing about it, had her taken aback. Well, she looked a little grumpy, and she still wore her lab coat over it, but she was wearing it! Oros coughed into her hand while using the other to put the game in her hammerspace. There was little point in pausing a game or putting it in sleep mode when it was going to be locked in stasis. ”She uh, she was going to come, actually.” Oros folded her hands together. ”But I told her that you and her got to pal around a lot on that project without me.  This was my way of catching up. I’d be a third wheel if Aria was around anyway, right?“ 

Yeah, that was kinda the idea…

Oros lifted her fingers and counted them off. ”No touching, you decide the place, Aria, Binky, and I are sworn to secrecy. I pick your outfit, I choose when we cum and go, you be on your best behavior.“ Oros wiggled the six fingers on her hand. ”Those were the stipulations. I’m not going to be a hard ass about it though. If you want her to tag along, I can pick her up. You might, well, not want her around later. I don't think it's a good idea, but it’s gunna be your call.`` 

Nykannis gave voice to a lengthy sigh. “Fine,” she conceded. “If you think it’s for the best that Aria doesn’t join us, then I guess I’ll just have to trust your judgment.”

Oros raised an eyebrow at Nykannis’s statement. In truth, she was expecting her to insist that she bring Aria along. She wouldn’t have even insisted on more stipulations, even if the temptation was there. But this way for the best. Oros wasn’t lying when she said she wasn’t going to want Aria around. As for why, well, you’ll just have to read ‘till the end of the P.O.S.T. to find out!

”You uh, you look nice. “ Oros folded her hands behind her head. All the same, Oros was curious if she was wearing the baby doll underwear under it. Probably not, but the uncertainty was titillating. 

Not if it’s coming from you, is what Nykannis thought. What she said, however, was, “Well, I sure hope so. I mean, you’re the one who picked it out, after all. Let’s get going,” she added, sounding more tired than anything else. 

”Oh! Yea! Hah!“ She chuckled. ”Just uh, take a seat anywhere.“ It took some willpower to resist offering her lap, but she managed. Contrary to what many might think, Oros didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable. 

Not yet anyway.




An instant later, the pair would find themselves standing at the entrance to the main dining hall of the Garden de Lux. Located atop one of the tallest towers at the heart of Sliverburg, the restaurant boasted panoramic windows, as well as a large outdoor balcony, both of which provided a spectacular view of the city’s futuristic skyline. While many of the various tables were occupied, more than a few remained empty, as did a large swath of the floor near the center of the hall. From their place upon a raised dais at one corner of the room, a small ensemble filled the hall with soothing mood music. No sooner had Oros and Nykannis arrived, then the impeccably attired head waiter approached them.

“Ah, Doctor Kannis!” he greeted, while giving a small bow. “How good it is to have you dine with us again,” he added with a wide smile. “As always, your usual table has been reserved for you. Please, right this way.”

Leading them to a table next to the large window overlooking the outer balcony, he gave a curt nod to the waiter already stationed there, who provided them with a pair of menus. However, instead of accepting hers Nykannis merely held up her hand. 

“I’ll be having my usual,” She informed him. 

“Of course,” The head waiter confirmed with a deferential bow. “Please, pardon young Marcus. He has only recently joined us and is still learning the preferences of our most esteemed patrons.”

“I suppose I’ll let it slide this once,” Nykannis replied with a smirk as she turned her full attention on “Marcus”. “After all, I’m sure you get a lot of high profile people in here,” she added, before fixing the young waiter with a glare that could burn through a planet.  “But you’d do well to remember who I am, and, more importantly, what I like to eat. 

“O-Of course, Doctor Kannis,” Marcus stammered, while bowing in humble apology. “I shall endeavor to never disappoint you again.”

“You do that,” She told him dismissively, before removing her lab coat (don’t want to get food on it, after all) and taking her seat. “So,” She added, once the waiters had departed. “What do you think? Are there enough items on the menu to satisfy even your appetite?”

”Without looking, I know what I really wanna eat isn’t going to be on the menu.“ Oros smirked before picking up the menu.  ”I mean I’m not Hilaria. For real though, It’s got a pretty cozy atmosphere. There aren’t any robots, so that’s a plus.“

That’s what you think…

It had been some time since she had eaten in a place this nice. The atmosphere reminded her a bit of the Nerine Vista back in Penrose. At least once per reset, she’d take whoever she was romancing there to eat. Though each time she did, it felt less special. All magical girls did in their free time was eat and talk about their feelings. More often than not, those places were as fantastical as the girls themselves. Everyone else was scheming or fighting. Though Oros was amused Nykannis would enjoy a place like this. One would have thought the “Queen of Mad Science” had more productive things to do with her time. Though getting to know someone better was the entire point of a date, so seeing this side of Nykannis was welcome. 

”Holy shit! This is a huge menu! It has pages!“ With some amusement, she flipped through it. Truth be told, having a lot of menu items wasn’t always a good thing. That was usually the realm of casual dining and fast food. Making dishes with a degree of consistency was tough. True fine dining establishments kept their quality up by offering fewer menu items. Oros had eaten at places that offered only two main courses, but wow were they good. She would need to try the food to be sure, but she’d need to retard her expectations to avoid being disappointed. 

“Lots of options, huh?” Nykannis asked with a smirk. “And they’re all made with premium ingredients, I can assure you. See, thanks to yours truly, this place is the only restaurant on the planet to boast its very own energy to matter food replicator. But it only provides ingredients, mind you,” she was quick to clarify. “Not complete dishes. I wouldn’t dream of taking the culinary genius of Leonardo Angelo Giordano out of the equation.”

Ah, good. That little bit of exposition came in time.

Before long, Oros raised her hand. A waiter that was standing against the wall approached. “Yes ma’am? Are you ready to order?”

”Oh yea! I’m feeling kind of saucy today so…“ She took a deep breath. ”I’ll have exactly what Doctor Kannis is having. Entrees and everything, double ‘em up. Also I uh, I can’t pronounce it but um. This one, the tart.“ She pointed at a picture.

“The frangipane tart? Ah yes. Frangipane is a pastry filling made with ground almonds. The dough is both sweet and tart, and we add different types of fruit depending on the day. Today’s tarts are made with apples, which were picked right in Silverberg.”

”Yea I knew that.“

“I apologize if you didn’t want an explanation for what a frangipane tart was.”

”It’s cool, I’m a lot sweeter than Nyan is.“

Rather than respond, the waiter breathed and scribbled in his notepad. “I’ll get this to the chef post haste.” He took the menu when Oros offered it to him. Once he departed, Oros turned back to look at Nykannis. 

”The verdict on this place is out until I have the food. “ Oros tapped the edge of the table with her fingers. ”So yeah! We’re having a meeting! Just between the only two people who know what’s going on in the multiverse.“ She leaned back in her seat. ”What did you wanna talk about? The progress of Rupee? Any of your mad schemes? The multiverse itself? How adorable Marcus is? Pick a topic and I’ll keep up.“ 

Nykannis’s earlier smirk only grew wider upon hearing that Oros would be having the same thing as her, and not even the pink-haired girl’s subtle slight could diminish it in any way. To say that the good doctor’s tastes in food were a bit peculiar was something of an understatement, and she was very interested to see what Oros would make of her impending meal. The Monarch of Mad Science’s maniacal grin persisted as Oros went on to mention several possible topics of discussion. After all, if the pink-haired pervert was going to spend the next few hours leering at her, then she figured she should be able to enjoy herself, too. “Hmm… Seeing as we have plenty of time, how about all of the above?” she asked. “Well, except for that last one,” she added with a slight twitch of one eye. “I gotta say, though, I wasn’t expecting you to have the guts to try my favorite dish without even knowing what it is. I’m actually a little impressed.”

”Heh! “ She shrugged her shoulders. ”What can I say? I can have pizza any day of the week. Might as well have what you’re having.“ Of course, Oros wasn’t stupid. As cute as she looked right now, this was a disguise for her. She was a monster, and her diet was likely a little strange. But Oros was trying to endear herself to the scientist, so eating the same food as her was a must. It wasn't like Oros was normal herself. If she listed what she was capable of ingesting, the average person would faint or call the cops. 

As if on cue, a waiter (Not Marcus. He was probably busy being told off by the Maitre D’.) arrived with a gleaming chrome serving cart.

“Ah, the appetizers have arrived!” Nykannis declared, while rubbing her hands together.

The waiter proceeded to place upon the table two plates filled with five-cheese breadsticks, bountifully covered with several types of seasoning. A second waiter produced a pair of baskets filled with heaping piles of doughy sweet rolls, all lathered in butter, followed by a pair of complementary bowls of cheese and sour cream dip for each. Finally, a third waiter filled two elegant, vase-shaped glasses with a bubbling, slightly glowing lime green liquid and placed them before each young woman. Of course, none of this was all that strange, but then, it was only an appetizer…

Though really, how weird could any of this stuff really be? This was a fine dining restaurant at the end of the day. Even if this was fine dining, they probably didn’t serve radioactive material or the like. Even if the ingredient-making machine could spit out whatever they needed, a chef still had to make it. Oros wasn’t intimidated by anything present. The liquid was a little strange, but hardly the oddest thing she ever ingested.

No sooner had the trio departed, then Nykannis raised her glass to her lips and took a sip. “Mmmm… Simply sublime…” she sighed blissfully. “Truly, even the very nectar of the gods can’t compare… So,” she added, grabbing a breadstick and dipping it in both cheese and sour cream. “Let’s talk about Rupee. As I predicted, work proceeds apace, and I should have her (Him…? It…?) finished by the originally specified time. If there’s any potential issue, it’s what’ll happen when you bring her back to Esper World.” She paused while she took a bite out of the breadstick, chewed for a bit, and then gulped it down. “I mean, something as overwhelmingly, transcendently powerful as her tends to have a bit of a destabilizing effect on a reality plenum, y’know? Or is that the whole point? Did your crazy patron really just make that entire universe simply so you could destroy it yourself? ‘Cause that’s pretty fucked up, even for you.”

Oros mirrored Nykannis’s eating habits, rather than demolishing her food like she normally would. ”I think this is the third time we’ve crossed paths, and I’m still not sure what I’ve done to piss you off.“

You exist, Nykannis thought to herself. “I just find you somewhat… grating, the mad scientist replied with as much tact as she could manage. “But something tells me you already knew that.”

”Maybe.“ Now that Oros had a chance to watch Nykannis interact with people outside of herself, she was starting to get the image of a self-important brat who thought the world revolved around them. Or at the very least, wanted it to. In other words, they had something in common. ”My patron and I have a thing going. In order for me to exist as I do, I need to be able to do what I want. Even if that means doing things they don’t want me to.“ She held the glass up to her nose and sniffed it. Afterward, she sloshed it around a bit. ”But anything that enters their reality plenum needs an explanation as for how I got it. Something about how patrons like seeing things happen without watching various reality plenums. So it’s less that anything I take over there is going to get hard cucked and that I can't explain why it's strong. So short of dragging you off to esper land, not a lot I can do about that. But, I’ve got another idea.“ Oros took a small sip. After letting the fluid rest on her tongue, she went for a much larger sip. Small bumps ran down her throat as she tipped the class higher. Once her glass was half full, she set it down. ”Anyway, as long as my patron can keep pretending this place isn’t “canon," I can do as much weird shit as I want. It’s a little more complicated than that, but as someone once said; who the FUCK cares about Oros, anyway? Billy is where it’s at. Maverick best not fuck up.“ Oros dipped a sweet bun in one of the provided cheeses. ”For someone who’s so happy to be in this reality plenum, you sure do spend a lot of time studying the other places. Do you enjoy watching people struggle? That might be something we have in common..“

“Only people who matter, Nykannis replied with a smirk as she reached for a sweet roll. 

”Am I one of them?“

“And let’s make one thing clear,” she continued, not even bothering to acknowledge Oros’s question, much less answer it. “I’m not residing in this reality plenum because I like it so much, I’m here because I CAN’T GO ANYWHERE ELSE. Not while THEY still exist anyway…” she added, dipping the roll into both cups before shoving it into her mouth. “And before you ask, THEY are a collection of unimaginably powerful beings who want nothing more than to see me stop existing. Mind you, I once had powers comparable to what you call eldritch horrors, so that should put into perspective just how freakishly strong these things are. Thankfully, Grand Magistrates are stronger, at least within their own reality plenums, so I just had to find one who was receptive to making a deal with me. Needless to say, I found one, and as long as I don’t fuck with Penrose, or Penny, I get to stay here, safe and sound, while I work on removing THEM from the picture. Then, I’ll be able to travel the omniverse freely, as I once did. Obviously, that will take some time, and since this place is so fucking boring, I needed to find things with which to occupy my attention, hence my work on The Artifact, and your little projects, of course.” She paused a moment to take a few gulps form her drink. “Speaking of, now that I think about it, even if ‘Rupee’s’ reappearance does cause the collapse of your new home, that’ll still serve my purposes rather nicely. After all, I’m nothing if not adaptable.”

”Well, I wouldn’t count on it. My patron’s kind of an old hand at this sort of stuff. If it implodes, it implodes at their whims.“ She cleaned her ear. ”I can’t say it affects me too much either way. I can go where I please more or less. Boy am I glad I’m not rooted here like a tree. Holy shit that’s gotta suck.“ She rolled her neck until it cracked. ”I think we’ve talked enough about patrons and arbitrary power levels.“ The temptation was to talk about Penny, given that Nykannis brought her up, but there wasn’t much to say on the matter. She was far too mature to obsess over- ”And speaking of arbitrary power levels, I didn’t expect to hear her name tonight.“ Oros used her finger to slice open a sweet roll and poured cheese into the crevice. ”I got the feeling you were all buddy-buddy with her. You were empowering her with Christmas cheer and doing everything you could to secure her a win. Seems like you have been screwing around with her.“

​​“Not even close, Nykannis replied with a sneer. “I just thought it would be amusing to watch her kick your ass, and one-upping your pal Aria in the augmentation game was a nice bonus.”

”Only because none of the magistrates in this plenum know how to count. You’d think with all the college grads acting as magistrates they’d be a bit better with their number keeping.“ Oros said very as-a-matter-of-factly. ”Unfortunate that you’ll have to settle for imagining my ass getting kicked. It’s been a long time since any Penny has bested me in combat. I consider taking Penny and dropping her in world zero a win. I couldn’t do anything about the grand magistrate’s choice to allow her to escape a P.O.S.T. later. Cept- Oh wait, yea, Penny did kick my ass. Well, she jolt-countered me without jolt-countering. But I was in such bliss after kissing Magical Dream Princess that I couldn’t retaliate.“ 

Nykannis couldn’t help but snort when Oros brought up her kiss with MDP, although the mad scientist quickly composed herself. ​​“But seriously, Penny’s pretty cool. Anyone with that kind of power is worth looking into, something you clearly agree with. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have brought me her Esper World analog to make into your personal plaything.”

It wasn’t evident on Oros’s face, but she was a little relieved that Nykannis had missed the mark with Oros’s true intentions. she wasn’t known for having a good brain to mouth filter, and she was talking to someone who could eavesdrop on her at any time. ”I brought her to you for upgrades. And you can call me a hentai as much as you want, but this is totally for Aria. I’ve gotten freaky with as many robots as I care to.“

​​“Yeah, well, forgive me if I have a hard time believing that,” Nykannis replied with a smirk. ​​“But anyway, since we’re on the subject of robots, word is your favorite mechanical monarch is currently in possession of a certain something that used to belong to a close friend of someone you used to think of as a maternal figure. How would you like to have it back?

The pink haired girl grinned and rolled her eyes. ”It has little value to me. It’s going to be hard enough to justify Rupee coming back. The original never had much use for the ship anyway.“  Oros rapped her fingers on the table. ”I’d be up for taking something from Penny though, but there’s three problems.“ Oros wiggled her fingers. ”Firstly, no way in hell is my patron coming back to Penrose. Secondly, You said you couldn’t do shit to Penny, and third, I’m fresh out of shit to trade you.“

“Oh, no, you misunderstand,” Nykannis informed her with a sly grin. “I’d be doing this for fun, to watch how people react when you make your grand entrance while riding aboard an enormous transdimensional, interstellar warship. Like I said earlier, I get bored rather easily, so I’m always looking for things to occupy my attention, and there’s nothing quite like watching shitstorms unfold… You are right about one thing, though,” the Monarch of Mad Science conceded. “There’s no way in hell I’d be able to steal it from Penny without earning the Grand Magistrate’s ire, so I was thinking I’d just replicate it instead! I mean, her metallic majesty personally requested that I give her little landship an upgrade, and since she was kind enough to invite me inside, the least I can do is use the opportunity to learn everything I can about it! Once I’ve done that, it shouldn’t take me too long to create an exact duplicate.” 

Oros rubbed her chin. Truth be told, her “death lotus” was big enough to transport her and Aria all over the multiverse. It had no practical use, and it would be absolute murder to justify it existing in “esper land.” With Penny getting to keep the ship at the end, there was almost no point in accepting Nykannis’s offer. But Oros was a total chadette when she wanted to be, and knew it would mean something to her if she went along with it. Oros pretended to consider things while eating her cheese-loaded sweet roll. ”Well okay.“ She said with a smile. ”Only because you’re cute and we both need the amusement. Though if you were gonna do a real gamer move, you’d swap the original with the duplicate.“

​​Nykannis paused for a moment to consider Oros’s suggestion. “Hmmm… That might actually be possible,” the mad scientist conceded, tapping a finger against her chin thoughtfully. “And I’m certainly up for the challenge,” she added with a twisted grin. “I’ll need to transpose the original with the replica at close to, if not exceeding, the speed of light, but if I work things just right, the only way she’ll notice is if I flat out tell her what I’m doing, and while I do like to brag, I’m not an idiot. This’ll just be our little secret.”

Oros closed two fingers together and drew them across her lips. ”That was one of your stipulations, wasn’t it?“ 

“It was indeed,” Nykannis confirmed with a nod. “I’m pleased to see you remembered.”

A moment later, the mad scientist’s attention was drawn to the returning trio of waiters, and, in particular, the two large, domed, platters upon the cart Marcus was pushing. “At last!” she exclaimed, eyes gleaming as the metallic domes were removed to reveal the main course for the evening- The Garden de Lux’s unique iteration of Macaroni Pie. Now, while it might have resembled nothing more than a particularly (if not outrageously) extravagant pizza, at least to the casual observer, a closer inspection would reveal that this was a culinary creation all its own…  

Atop a deep, doughy foundation was piled several layers of noodles, in the style of lasagna, along with plentiful amounts of sauce and cheese. Especially cheese… There were at least seven different kinds by what could be seen alone, and possibly more tucked away inside hidden pockets between layers of noodles. Atop this, was the macaroni itself, lathered in even more cheese, and mixed in with long strips of bacon, buttery chunks of potato, and no small amount of seasoning. 

”Wah?“ Was Oros’s reaction to the strange concoction. 

“Dinner is served,” the head waiter announced.

Inhaling deeply as her platter was placed before her, Nykannis sighed in utter bliss. “Aaahh~ Now this is what I’m talkin’ about!” Grabbing a knife and fork, she didn’t even wait for her glass to be refilled before scooping out a large piece of the artery-clogging concoction and stuffing it into her mouth. “Mmmm~ Delicious as always!” she declared with a supremely satisfied smile. “My compliments to the chef!”

“Of course, Doctor Kannis,” the head waiter confirmed with a bow. “I am sure he will be most pleased to receive them. If you have need of anything further, please do not hesitate to call upon us.”

“Don’t worry,” Nykannis replied amiably, while chowing down on another mouthful of her precious pie. “I won’t.”

”Oh, actually, Marcus?“ When the waiter (cautiously) approached Oros, she took a folded up piece of paper and slipped it into his pants pocket. ”Give it a peek after your shift ends, alright?“ she patted him on the shoulder. ”That’s all sweetie, off ya go.“

“So, whatdaya think?!” she asked Oros once the waiters had departed. “Best thing you’ve ever tasted, right?!” 

”Uh.“ Oros looked down at her plate. She knew something was off when the entree came with two different cheese dips, but anyone would start to feel constipated just looking at the main course. Not that a lack of fiber was a problem for Oros. Pizza was one of her favorite foods. But Nykannis sure loved cheese. She might have been a magical mouse or something. More like a rat, if her unkempt hair was anything to go by. ”I mean, it smells good.“ It did smell good. Oros had a mighty impressive nose and she could pick out every spice and herb wrapped up in all that cheese. She was pretty sure there was some olive oil in there too. She didn’t mind greasy food, but this was not at all what she expected. ”Guess I’ll have a bite.“

Oros curled her lips into her mouth. She used her fork to cut through what appeared to be a lasagna pizza. Layers of noodles spilled onto her plate, each slathered in one type of cheese or another. Before long, there was a pool of oil on her plate just under the noodles. Without any hesitation, she drove her fork through several layers of noodles and shoved the mess into her mouth. A string of warm cheese ran from the corner of her lips that bridged to the rest of her mea.. But she focused on cheering her food. She turned the noodles over on her tongue. A symphony of cheeses fell across it, mixed with tiny slivers of bacon. Her eyes dilated. Her mind stopped.

Euphoria.

”It’s pretty good.“ She used her fork to break the cheese strand and set her fork on her plate. The corners of her lips were pulled into a gentle smile. ”So in terms of your plans, did you have anything else going on that you care to talk about? Or is building a boat and Rupee the only thing you’re declassifying?“ Oros was well aware that people like Nykannis probably liked to keep some secrets, so it was understandable if she didn’t want to announce something where some patron would overhear it. 

“Well, you already know about how I’ve completely unlocked The Artifact,” Nykannis replied as she took another bite. “And how I’ve used it to create the first production run of Phase Two. As for who’s gonna be the lucky individual to participate in their first field test, just take a wild guess. Besides that, there’s an artifact, small ‘a’, that I’ve recently learned of, which I’d like to take a closer look at, and then there’s a certain secret project that you probably already know about. Of course, those are all just ways of killing time until my REAL plan is complete.” She added with a maniacal grin after slurping up a long string of mozzarella cheese. “But before we can get to that, I need to lay the groundwork first. These things must be done in the proper stages, after all,” She continued, while taking hold of the gravy boat the waiters had brought along with the Macaroni Pie and pouring half its contents over what remained of her meal. “Yesss, the path to perfection takes many steps,” she added with a nod of satisfaction as she placed the gravy boat back onto its small dish and began licking her lips. “And even perfection is capable of being improved upon,” she concluded as she devoured another large, gravy-drenched piece of her pie. “Sooo, let’s talk a bit about the multiverse, or rather, the omniverse…

Oros kept her hands folded together and did her best to look attentive. Nykannis just took a very long time to not say anything at all, which was probably the point. Though as the scientist droned on, Oros was having a harder and harder time preventing herself from losing interest. Fortunately she could give herself a time out by just looking at Nykannis’s outfit and trying to work out if she was wearing the underwear or not. That was the sort of mystery that could keep Oros invested! Oros had become painfully aware that Nykannis was entering full-on “lecture mode”, and although the pink-haired girl was free to make her usual color commentary, nothing was going to stop the Mad Scientist Supreme from completing her little “dissertation.” This made adding in such commentary pointless, especially if all it would really do is tick her off when Oros corrected her every time she got something wrong. No offense to Nykannis, but few people got to see the big picture the way Oros did, and just because her view of “the ‘verse” wasn’t compatible with most people’s sensibilities didn’t make her any less right. 

By this point, the Monarch of Mad Science’s grin practically stretched from ear to ear, as not only was she getting to have her favorite meal, but she was now getting the chance to talk about one of her favorite subjects. “First off,” she began, raising a finger for emphasis. “The multiverse is infinite. Any possible combination of variables exists somewhere ‘out there’. Even more than that, some people go so far as to claim that every possible fictional universe, including ones they dream up themselves, are real places that actually exist, with their stories unfolding even now, as we’re sitting here having this chat. They think that ‘if only I could get there, I could meet my special snowflake original character (do not steal), and then I could finally find someone who loves me for who I am, and I could have their babies, and everything would be perfect.’ And as sad as that is, they’re right. Now, some self-important idiots don’t agree with that idea. They like to presume that while there may be an infinite number of universes in the multiverse, you won’t be able to find every possible universe you can dream up. They like to say that you can have an infinite number of apples, but still have no oranges. This example is actually fucking hilarious, since it gets SO close to the true nature of things, but falls just short. Let’s explore that example for a bit, and I’ll show you what I mean.”

Oros was not going to say anything while Nykannis droned on. Of course, Oros loved to chime in when people talked for long periods of time. Listening to people was hard. It was once said that humans have two ears and one mouth because they’re supposed to listen twice as much as they speak. But Oros felt that she needed a lot more ears for that to make sense, and it just wasn’t worth the mana expenditure. If only Nykannis was talking about something interesting, but Oros couldn’t bring herself to enjoy hearing someone drone on about how they thought the world worked. It was comparable to someone with different political views than you going on about how wrong they thought you were. But maybe Oros was judging too harshly. Perhaps Nykannis had a point with this theory of hers. 

“Let’s say those infinite apples are on a tree,” Nykannis continued, creating a holographic image of said tree with a wave of her fork. “An apple tree, but right next to it there’s another tree filled with oranges. And next to that is a pear tree, then a plum tree, then a banana tree,” she continued, a holographic representation of each new tree appearing as soon as she named it. Then you get into the fun stuff, the pizza and spaghetti trees, and even crazier ones than that, enough trees to fill a forest that goes on forever. Each of those trees is a multiverse with an infinite number of universes growing on them. If you know your trees,” she went on, the holoprojector she’d built into the table continuing to provide visual aids. “You’ll know that most of them have a trunk, with several branches splitting off, with several dozen more branching off from them. A multiverse is the same way, only with an infinite number of branches. In fact, this is the reason why parallel worlds are often called ‘branch universes’. As even you may be able to guess, the trunk is the most important part, as it holds all the core information for every universe connected to it, the indelible commonalities pertaining to every aspect of each one. To borrow an expression Objectivists like to spew, ‘a’ is ‘a’. It may be upper or lower case, serif or sans serif, in one of ten trillion fonts, in any color of the rainbow, (or maybe it uses a gradient fill, or no fill at all, just a stroke), but it’s still ‘a’. So, for example, different iterations of a certain individual might have different biological genders, different hair colors, heights, ages, ethnicities, painfully pretentious last names, etc., but they’ll all still be vampires. That’s their indelible commonality. Looking at universal clusters themselves (also known as multiversal clusters, yes I know it’s somewhat confusing and contradictory, deal with it), we’ll see that one branch, and its myriad offshoots, all contain a city on the North American east coast called Penrose. You should be fairly familiar with them, since you’ve visited quite a few. As you can probably attest, although there were some plot differences, the basic setting was the same, as were most of the characters. However, if we direct our attention to this separate branch over here and its collection of offshoots, we’ll find that there’s still a certain shithole city on the east coast of North America, but now it’s called Pax Septimus, or whatever. But although the plot, setting, and characters have all been drastically altered, there are still certain indelible links to the core tenants of the trunk. We’re still dealing with apples. We’re still dealing with ’a’.

Oros hadn’t been smiling for a while. She was starting to leave boredom and enter innue. She wanted to call Nykannis things, insult her intelligence, just to get her to change the topic. If this was anyone else, she would have her sword drawn already. No, that wasn’t quite right. If this was anyone else, she would have ignored them or zoned out while looking at their cute outfit.

After pausing for a moment to have another cheesy, buttery, gravy-soaked piece of pie, Nykannis continued. “Hell, I’ll bet your new home even has a version of Silverburg, though it’s probably got some pretentious latin name to keep with the established theme.”

It doesn’t, trust me. 

“But anyway, the point I’m making is, every universe on the ‘tree’ is connected in some way, however tangential, and because of that, I can make use of them for my own purposes…” 

Oros sighed. Nykannis was smarter than most, but at the end of the day, she didn’t have the same grasp on reality that Oros did. Or maybe she was one of those patron champions that a patron makes to live out their fantasies. It didn’t really matter to Oros. She understood that just because they were both “mad” didn’t mean they were mad in the same way. Though all the same, listening to long shpeels like this was very tiresome, especially when Oros knew it was wrong. It took all of her strength not to say anything, which was already starting to wane. 

Nykannis paused again to have a sip from her drink. “Tell me, have you ever heard of the Kardashev Scale?”

”Mmm?” It took Oros a minute to shift gears from listening to engaging with Nykannis. Most of this stuff was totally bullshit to her, but she had decided to watch some videos here and there so that she could participate in discussions that Nykannis might find interesting.”Uh, that’s where they measure a civilization based on the amount of power they harness, or some shit like that?” Oros looked at the gravy boat and dragged it to herself. 

“Wow, that wasn’t half bad,” Nykannis conceded, her surprise clear in her voice. “I’m actually kinda impressed. Yes, at its most basic, it deals with the amount of energy a civilization is capable of employing, should they need it, although that’s a somewhat modified version, as the original had a lot of loopholes in it, but that’s neither here nor there. The important thing to note is that there are astronomical leaps between stages, and currently, the civilizations of this world are only type zero at best, and are probably closer to type negative one. After all, getting to type one would require the complete harnessing of every form of energy available on this entire planet. Type two would mean harnessing all the energy of an entire star system, typically by encasing it in a Dyson sphere, or other megastructure. Type three can draw power from every aspect of an entire galaxy, while type four can harness all the energy of a universe. Most people like to end the scale here, but it actually goes way beyond that. Type five, the stage I am currently limited to, can harness all the energy of an entire multiverse. And not just the normally thought of types, mind you. Just looking at this planet, you have the aptly named fossil fuels, wind power, solar power, hydroelectric power, geothermal power, and nuclear power, but you also have all the untapped sources- erupting volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, all of these could be harnessed to provide incredible amounts of energy, and we can take things even further… I’m sure you’re aware of the more esoteric sources of power, like cold fusion, antimatter, zero-point energy, captive singularities, and so forth, but what if I told you that it was possible to draw power from intangibles, like hope, joy, friendship, and love? That stupid brat Justine wanted to 'destroy love’ a while back, right? Well, instead of destroying it, why not harness it? Bend it to your will? And not just love!” she added, her eyes beginning to bulge and twitch with maniacal intensity. “There’s hate, annoyance, indignation, despair, and apathy! Competition energy! Potential energy! More different kinds of power than you can possibly imagine, and I can harness every last one of them! And not just in this universe alone! No! While it’s certainly the most active, the most rich in these resources, it links to tens of thousands of parallel worldlines, and worlds even farther afield… Your new home, for instance. Yes, there’s a reason I’m interested in your lord and master’s pet project, a reason beyond simple boredom or a need for revenge. Your new world is almost as rich in energy forms as this one is, and, multiversally speaking, it’s right down the street! I spoke of Dyson spheres earlier, well, imagine, if you can, a construct that can encapsulate an entire multiverse! One that can syphon every last particle of energy from an infinity of realities into a battery, a power accumulator, for the ultimate omnidimensional weapon! A weapon TO DESTROY THEM ALL!!! NYAHAHAHAAA!!!”

At this point, nearly everyone else in the vast dining hall had turned their attention to the source of the insane cackling, but upon seeing that it was only the well-known, and famously unhinged Doctor Kannis, they quickly returned to their meals. 

“And THAT is how I shall finally be free of THEM, finally free to travel the omniverse to my heart’s content, to return to my full, nigh-omnipotent glory! Nyahahaha! So?! What do you think of THAT, Miss Magical Monster Girl Esper Whatever-The-Fuck-You-Currently-Are Discount Deadpool?! Even if I’m only a mere fictional character in your fucked up, batshit brain, you’ve gotta admit, that’s still a pretty fucking amazing plan!”

The gravy boat sat empty at Oros’s side of the table. Her plate had been cleaned short of running her tongue over it. There were a few crumbs from her macaroni-pizza, as well as a puddle of gravy that it use to sit in. Beside that was a pool of chili sauce. an empty tabasco bottle, mustard, traces of both peanut butter and jelly, and some crushed dorito chips that might have been used to garnish the abomination. It seemed like Nykannis was just going for the weirdest, fattiest meal she could make, so why not add a few items she had from her own hammer space? Oh! And Oros added some frosted mini-wheats just to ensure her fiber levels didn’t get too out of whack. She had just finished licking her finger when she turned back towards Nykannis. 

”Sounds cool.” Oros folded her hands together in front of her chin. ”Though I never said you were a fictional character in my brain.” Oros didn’t find the Kardashev Scale especially useful for determining a civilization or person’s level of power.  Nykannis was a type five and she was trapped in this hell hole of a reality plenum. Oros’s patron pretty much ran on tuna sandwiches and could conjure whole multiverses. Though her plan was at least interesting.

Regardless of how you split the science mumbo jumbo, Oros was enjoying herself. If she was going to rate her interactions with Nykannis tonight, she’d give her an eight out of ten. She wasn’t the sort of thing Oros sought out, save for maybe having a disguised form that was about as petite as petite could be. Normally bratty, all-knowing types got on Oros’s nerves, and her view of the omniverse was a bit grading. But that was only because they were so close to being on the same page.

Endless eclipse appeared in Oros’s hand, and she pushed the hilt just enough to reveal part of the blade. Oros was no mind reader, but it was possible for her to look at portional optical serial transcripts with her sword. Even ones that had yet to become proper transcripts. She raised a brow when she noticed how much more of her inner monologue was being written this time around. It was unsettling, but it was mostly just her surface thoughts, so nothing to worry about. Though perhaps even more troublesome was that swaths of their conversation had been changed in a process patrons called Enhance Directly Inside Transcript, or just E.D.I.T. for short. She was going to have to be careful from here on out. 

Well, enough of that. It was time to really get things started. 

”This was fun, Nyan.” Oros placed her hands on the table. ”There’s something that warms my heart about seeing your small shape bend and twist as you talk about revenging and scheming, and I think I would feel the same way even if you were still wearing your lab coat.” She leaned forward. ”I think that I’d like to end the evening talking about something that I’m passionate about.” She folded her hands in front of her chin again, but was still leaning forward. ”Nyan, you desire freedom from this hell hole, correct? You’re building a weapon so that you can be free. But what are you going to do once you have that freedom? You don’t just want freedom for freedom’s sake, right?” She squinted her eyes. ”Some sort of dream, perhaps?”

“I suppose you could say that,” Nykannis conceded, before taking a bite out of the final piece of her pie. “To have freedom is my dream, freedom to become truly omnipotent, to learn everything there is to know about every universe, every reality plenum, across the endless infinities of the omniverse! Even after having lived for several hundred millennia, even after having traveled to more places than you could possibly imagine, there’s still so much I’ve yet to see, so many worlds to explore, so many experiments to conduct, and so many inventions to build with the knowledge gained by them! So, yes,” she added, while dipping one of the few remaining sweet rolls in her almost empty gravy boat. “If we’re being simplistic, freedom is my goal. Is there something wrong with that?” 

”Freedom is pointless if you don’t use it. But you want to see the rest of the ‘verse, which is, relatable?” Seriously, who’d have thought some super-duper old person with Nykannis’s intellect just wanted to see more stuff. Though after thinking about it, traveling was the only thing old people seemed to want to do. ”I also need freedom to do what I want. I’ve had this thing I’ve wanted to do for a very long time, but there’s never been an opportunity.” Oros shook her finger. ”I mean, oddly, magical girl land has a lot of nice things going on with it. I call Penrose a shithole, and I stand by that. There are freedoms here that I do not get to enjoy in esper land. But the one thing I was never able to do, not across a single reality down this ‘branch’ of the multiverse, was be a hero.”

Oros avoided making eye contact with Nykannis, like she had just admitted some great shame.

”You can’t really be a hero in Penrose. Your choice is to be a survivor or a villain. Saving the world from Justine, horrors, monster attacks, that’s not good. That’s not heroic! That’s just protecting your home. Protecting your way of life may be brave, but it’s not heroic. For heroism, you need to stand up  to something outside your circle of influence. But I haven’t been able to be heroic, ever. And even when I tried. Even when I attempted to overthrow our evil mechanical overlord-” 

”Your frangipane, madam.”

Oros opened her eyes, and placed before her was that dessert that she vaguely remembered ordering. The waiter had since departed. 

”Um.” She looked up. ”That was uh, awkward, killed the mood.” She picked up a clean fork and split the tart, causing it’s filling to be exposed. It was so thick that it didn’t run out of the tart. ”One second, I’ll have this taken care of.”

“A hero, huh?” Nykannis asked, clearly more than a little surprised. “I suppose that’s an admirable goal, if a bit unattainable for someone working for a horror,” she added, as she began to slice apart her own dessert, something that looked like a deep dish pizza, topped with a decadent, multi-layered chocolate cake, covered in hot chocolate fudge and chocolate icing. “Though if you ask me, being a hero is overrated. After all, one person’s hero is inevitably someone else’s villain, so why even bother?”

”Hey!” Oros pointed her fork at Nykannis. ”I was goin’ somewhere with it! Just let me finish!”

A moment later, a flash of light and a clap of thunder drew their attention to the center of the hall, where a cloud of smoke was swiftly dissipating to reveal several strange figures.

“Speaking of heroes and villains, it looks like the ‘floor show’ I mentioned earlier is about to start,” Nykannis observed. “Don’t bother getting up, this won’t last long.”

“But what if I wanna?” Was what Oros wanted to say. Beating up things was one of the few things she found as enjoyable as eating or romancing people. But if Nykannis wanted her to remain seated, she would comply.

“Pie-hoy, mateys!” the leader of the bizarre beings called out in a cartoonish voice. “The Pie-rate and his crusty crew have popped in to pillage your precious peace and happiness by giving you a pie in the puss!” 

What, the, hell? Oros did some weird things in the past, but they weren’t this cringy. At least, she didn’t think so.

The formerly tranquil melody being played by the restaurant’s musicians now shifted into a far more menacing and suspenseful arrangement, as a whimsical-looking cannon was aimed at the nearest table.

“Pie-yarrr!” the Pie-rate roared, and at the sound of this battle cry, the cannon fired off a volley of five pies. However, before even a single startled visage could be marred, the peculiar projectiles abruptly froze in mid air.

“Not if we have anything to say about it!” an energetic voice declared, heralding the arrival of a colorful team of young women. 

“Mirror, mirror on the wall,” intoned a blue-clad maiden as unused glasses and the massive window pane separating the dining hall from the balcony broke apart and reformed into ten ornate mirrors. “Heed my bidding, and make them fall!” 

An instant later, the launched pies were once again set into motion, flying through five of the mirror portals and out the corresponding mirror to smash into the faces of five of the Pie-rate’s motley minions with a loud “Splat!”.

“We’re the Silverburg Seven,” the lead girl announced with a grin as the musicians began a heroic-sounding piece and the lights dimmed, allowing a glowing, five pointed star to shine a radiant beam upon the group. “And in the name of love and justice, we’re gonna kick your butts!”

“Silverburg’s flagship, and only, magical girl team,” Nykannis explained, perhaps unnecessarily. “Complete with sappy speeches, color-coded outfits, and everything.” 

”What about the army girls that magical dream princess nuked last season?” But Oros’s question went unanswered as the display continued. 

“Shiver me toppings! You’ll not take the Pie-rate without a fight! Avast, me hearties! Have at them!” At this, the crusty captain and his equally crusty crew sprang into action, filling flintlocks and crusty cutlasses raised.

For all the good it did them…

Before the cream-filled corsairs even realized what was happening, roughly half their number had fallen through a shadow in the floor, which was pulled up like a sack by the equally shadowy figure that was simultaneously rising up in dramatic fashion. “Batter up, Penny!” she called with a smirk as she flung the shadowy sack to a girl in a green maid’s outfit who was wielding an enormous rocket hammer.

“Thanks, Astrelle!” Penny replied with a fierce grin, before swinging her hammer with all her considerable might. Sheathed in crackling arcs of lightning and spewing forth torrents of blue flame as its rocket jets engaged, the titanic weapon dissolved the sack and blasted its contents out of the hall and into the sky, the sound of a sonic boom rattling glasses and silverware as they broke the sound barrier. “Have a nice trip!” Penny called after them.

“Wow, that’s gotta be a new record,” Nykannis noted as she adjusted her goggles and squinted into the distance. “They’re already halfway to Alpha Centauri. Y’know, that’s another multiversal commonality I’ve noticed,” she added. “Why is anyone named Penny always the strongest member of their respective peer group?”

”A lack of creativity on the creator’s part, perhaps?” Oros was only half paying attention, as her eyes were transfixed on the events as they unfolded.

Meanwhile, a crimson-haired swashbuckler was successfully holding off three of the Pie-ratical pillagers without even breaking a sweat. As the band provided suitable musical accompaniment to the very one-sided battle, the “audience” gave voice to amazed gasps and excited cheers.

“Getting tired already, boys?” the redhead asked with a melodious laugh. “We haven’t even made it through a single song yet!”

“Precisely how long do you intend to toy with them, Nicole?” an aristocratic girl inquired as she froze four of the baked buccaneers in pillars of ice with a wave of her snowflake-tipped staff, before swiftly dispatching them with an elegant flourish of her rapier.

“Aww, come on, Vanna,” Nicole teased with a playful wink. “Can’t a girl have some fun?” she added amiably, before blowing a kiss to her “dance partners”. This seemingly innocuous action conjured a mighty whirlwind, which scooped up the stunned trio and hurled them through the air. “Okay, Dana!” Nicole called to her grinning, gold-clad teammate. “Time to do your thing, babe!”

Twirling her gleaming, chrome energy pistol around her finger like an old west gunslinger, Dana took careful aim and snapped off three bolts of condensed light at each of the frazzled freebooters, causing them to explode in showers of colorful confetti. 

“Nice work, Dana,” Penny commended with a nod. “Now all that’s left is Captain Crunch himself.” 

Undaunted by the loss of his crew, the Pie-rate pressed his attack. “Pie-yarrr! It be time fer a broadside!” the baked buccaneer declared, as he readied his comical cannon. 

“Don’t worry, guys!” Dana told her team. “I got this!”

A moment later, the cannon blasted out a stream of pies, one after another, but Dana merely stood her ground. Grasping her pistol in both hands as particles of gleaming energy gathered around its barrel, the golden gunslinger grinned broadly… and fired.

A blinding beam of incandescent annihilation shot forth to vaporize each pie in rapid succession, before ultimately striking the cannon itself, causing the whimsical weapon to explode in a shower of cream and crust.

Shaking his hooked hand at the gathered magical girls, the now thoroughly pied Pie-rate vowed, “Ye haven’t seen the last ‘o me, mateys! The Pie-rate shall have his revenge!” With that, the creamed corsair vanished as abruptly as he had appeared.

“And we’ll be waiting!” Dana shot back.

At this, the crowd rose to their feet and gave their heroes a thunderous applause, which they accepted with appreciative bows.

“Thanks everyone!” Dana told them with a cheery wave as her azure-clad teammate returned all the glass she’d employed to its proper places. “That concludes our show for tonight! I hope you all enjoyed it!”

While the rest of the team went about the various tables to take pictures and sign autographs, Astrelle leaned against a column and sighed. “Well that was easy…” she noted dryly. “I didn’t even get to use my scythe,” she added with a disappointed frown as she conjured her sinister-looking weapon.

“Tell me about it!” a lavender-clad girl commiserated. “I only got to freeze those pies at the start! And I had a whole routine worked out, too! I was gonna make a bunch of duplicates of Dana, and then I was gonna use Cordelia’s mirrors to… Well, I guess it’ll have to wait until next time…”

“Hey, don’t worry, Lucy!” Dana called out as she ran over to her two brooding teammates. “During our next battle, we’ll make sure you and Astrelle really get to show off all your tricks! Promise!”

With the pair seemingly mollified, the smiling sharpshooter returned to mingling with her adoring fans.

“See?” Nykannis asked. “Over in less than two minutes, nothing got damaged, and no one got hurt. That’s what all monster attacks are like here, just simple entertainment for the ignorant masses,” she added with a chuckle. “When you think about it, this place is basically the anti-Penrose. The Metropolis to its Gotham, or the Argentum Civitatem to your Pax Septimus, if you prefer. And yes, I just made that up,” she confirmed, while spearing her fork into the final slice of her dessert. “Creation is an act of sheer will, or so a wise man once said, and I have plenty of that to spare.” 

”I’m not sure I agree.” As Oros had ordered one of everything Nykannis was having, she too had an over-the-top dessert to eat. Though she wasn’t sure if she was ready to eat something like that quite yet. ”I mean yea, Penrose is darker than this place, but let’s be frank, nothing super bad ever happens. People die, but never the important ones. There are setbacks, but they are easy to overcome. So long as you aren’t going against someone with plot armor, you’re going to turn out alright. Penrose wants to be a dark edgy shithole, but it ends up just being a shithole. And don’t compare Pax to Pen, ever. They’re entirely different… Magic circles.” Oros tipped her head back and smiled. ”Speaking of magical circles, I didn’t want to interrupt you earlier, but you believe everything gets to exist? That time you thought about murdering your friend but never carried it out? That random shower thought you had is a reality for someone? Every jerk-off fantasy a teenager experiences is a reality too, probably? And you think people who think otherwise are the self important ones?” Oros didn’t fault people for wanting to think this way, of course. Weaklings and children pretend to be people they aren't, or have some fantasy to live out. They just don’t think of the ramifications if such places existed. ”I mean okay, maybe some of them do, but a patron had to put effort into a world to get things to that point. As an example, we had to appear in a joint Patron Observation Situation Transcript for our meeting to happen.”

It really shouldn’t have surprised Oros that Nykannis viewed things this way. If she were trapped in a reality plenum, she’d probably want to think her thoughts somehow manifested entire civilisations.

”I know you’re supposed to be a genius, but come on. You’re boiling things down to something as simple as trees and what grows on them. You’re even making use of something as crazy as infinity. I mean Infinity works as a concept. I can use a knife and a piece of wood to carve shit. I can carve infinite things. But I can’t own infinite pieces of wood. Maybe it would be better if you thought of the world as a computer monitor.” She rubbed her chin while working out the math. But that was too much like work, so she summoned some notes, because Oros was vain enough to prepare for this discussion in particular. ”Each pixel can be filled with red, green, and blue light. They can mix two-hundred-and-fifty-six levels of each color, much like a normal computer monitor can. Technically the lowest level is no color, but I digress. A single pixel can show sixteen-million-seven-hundred-and-seventy-seven-thousand-two-hundred-and-sixteen different colors. Now that sounds like a lot, but we know it’s nothing special. That’s just one pixel on your thousand-by-thousand pixel screen. Such a screen could display just about anything you could see. People kissing, a horrific monster, the aforementioned jerk-off fantasies from earlier. Anything you can see or think about seeing could be displayed on a computer screen. But do you think that’s anywhere close to infinite? ‘Cus it’s not! You’re left with sixteen-Trillion-seven-hundred-and-seventy-seven-Billion-two-hundred-and-sixteen-million possible screens. Wanna increase the resolution by a thousand times? I think that’s cheating, but it’s still only sixteen-Quintillion-seven-hundred-and-seventy-seven-Trillion-two-hundred-and-sixteen-Billion combinations. But pixels are colored this way based on the limitations of the human eye. We have three types of color receptors. Butterflies have five,so your pixels would need to mix five colors to appease their eyes. A single pixel alone now has one-trillion-ninety-nine-billion-five-hundred-and-eleven-million-six-hundred-and-twenty-seven-thousand-and-seven-hundred-and-seventy-six colors. But a mantis shrimp has been said to have as many as twenty-nine rods. So to make full use of a mantis shrimp's crazy fuckin’ eyes, your pixels would need to mix twenty-nine different colors to use their entire vision. A single pixel would incorporate more possibilities than even our three dimensional screen. Even if we made it for a butterfly. But those colors don’t exist for humans. They exist beyond reality. All things, in reality or not, are finite.`` Oros folded her arms. ” At this time, there are roughly eight-billion potential patrons moving about rather than an infinitely vast forest with infinite shit growing on each one. Patrons can be inspired by each other, copy each other, steal from each other, but the number of true, tangible realities is limited to what they choose to make. The fact of the matter is that two patrons are communicating with each other on some sort of Reality Plenum Grid thing, and that’s the only reason two singularities like ourselves can have this discussion in Silverberg. You could say Pax and Pen are close, but then why not toss Madoka Magica into that too? It’s just a bunch of magical girls fighting witches in a shit hole.”

Nykannis simply stared at Oros with a blank expression, as the pink-haired girl gave her little commentary on the mad scientist’s earlier “presentation”. It was only when she finished that the Monarch of Mad Science would concede a small smirk. “That was quite the ramble, Thanos, but just like Big Purple Nutsack Chin, you’re totally batshit. But then, maybe I’m just being too harsh? You probably only think that way because your mind is simply far too small to fully grasp the true, transcendent majesty of the omniverse, in all its multifaceted micro and macro cosmic glory. Naturally, this lack of full understanding limits you to only consider the minds of those living on this one, small planet as capable of creating universes, but you completely failed to consider minds on other planets, or other galaxies, or other universes. And that’s not even getting into the fact that universes aren’t even created by sentient minds. They’re created by possibilities… Or maybe that’s not what’s bothering you? Maybe you think that if what I’m saying is true, it would mean your precious lord and master doesn’t actually exist, ‘cause such a being couldn’t possibly coexist with an infinity of infinities, right? Well, lucky for you, there’s no need to have an existential crisis. There are, of course, an infinite number of spaces beyond realities as well, unrealities, if you will (although they’re also known by many other names, like pocket dimensions, temporal null levels, transplannar realms, in between, the void, the space beyond space, the time beyond time, the twisting nether, the warp, the elemental chaos, and a billion and twelve other things besides), just like there are spaces between trees in a forest.”

Oros shrugged ”Right, should have seen this coming. We’re in different magic circles. Guess we might as well talk about what that means.” She slapped the table and stood up. ”So in game theory, you have these things called magic circles. Say you spot a chess board. To anyone unfamiliar with chess, it’s just a bunch of wooden pieces on a board. But if you’re more familiar with chess, there’s more meaning there. The rook and bishop moves a particular way, you can call check, blah blah blah. It’s chess, you likely know the rules. If the goal is to put the king in check, I could just arrange my pieces around your king, skipping turns and all. Checkmate! But the magic circle is in place to create a game. Now I can only move a single piece on my turn, and we have something strategic that rewards forethought and observation.” Oros tapped her chin. ”I think this applies to more than just games, Nyan. It applies to realities too. Like here, you have agreed to some terms so that you, well, exist in magical girl space. The grand magistrate wants things one way, and we all agree to it. I believe that in this space, the omniverse may work as you have described it. But it may not work that way elsewhere. But that’s not the magic circle I really wanna talk about now.”

Oros drew her sword and thrust it into the ground. The floor had been marred when the blade entered the floor, but all in attendance had just seen a magical girl fight. They didn’t have any reason to think this was going to be anything more than a cute play. 

”I think this could be really fun!” Oros threw out her hands. ” I suppose you have an advantage, but you’re not Penny, and I did pretty well against her anyway.” She leaned against her blade. ”My preferred rules are T1, but anything goes. Well whatever! Let’s have a fight to the death, baby!”

“You want to fight me?” Nykannis asked, unable to completely hide her incredulity. “Here? Now? Whatever happened to ‘no touching’?”

”Please Nyan, it’s me!” She cackled. ”You had cute little workarounds for all of my stipulations. Don't tell me you think I’m gonna play clean after something like that.” Oros folded her arms and rested her chin on top of them, still allowing the sword to hold up her weight. ”The problem with ‘absolutely no touching’ is that if we follow it to the word, we wouldn’t be able to eat our food or wipe our asses. You don’t want me to kiss or hug you, which won’t be a problem because the only thing I’m going to touch you with is my sword.” She lifted a finger. ”Another minor detail, I never explicitly discussed the condition in which the date ends, just that I get to decide when it does. Rather than waiting for a set time, how about the date ends once one of us is dead?

Nykannis sighed in annoyance. “Why am I not surprised you’re one of those psychos who conflate sex and violence… Okay, fine, she relented. “I suppose I could give you a total fucking curb stomp, make all your sick little masochistic fantasies come true and whatnot, but wouldn’t you rather have a chat with an adorkable, underdeveloped girl who actually wants to meet you instead? ‘Cause it just so happens I know someone who checks all those boxes. And no, it’s NOT me. Besides,” she added as she removed her goggles and began cleaning them on the lab coat hanging from her chair. “If we went through with your public humiliation, I’d have to unveil Phase Two, and I was really hoping to have their grand debut come at later date, against someone we both despise. Oh, and that reminds me, you made that offhand remark earlier about a military magical girl team you probably thought I didn’t hear. Well, to clear up any misconceptions you may have, they were the first of the four teams that compose Phase One. And yes, they did get their asses handed to them by her royal ditziness, but that’s only because they were merely my crudest beginnings, little more than beta testing prototypes! Phase Two, on the other hand… Weeell, you’ll just have to wait and see, but I promise you’ll enjoy the show. Now, how about I get that little moe blob I mentioned?”

”You ramble worse than I do.” Oros squinted her eyes. ”First of all, I said I wanted to fight you. I don’t care how powerful your phase one, two, three, or twenty-five are. Aigorost has a host of champions that could do me in with a flick of their finger. We’re not involving them with our thing here. Secondly, I do not ‘conflate violence with sex.’  Those two things along with eating just happen to be among my favorite things to do! And  lastly…” She groaned. ”...She wants to meet me?”

“Okay, first, Phase One and Two only exist because of my unparalleled super-scientific genius,” Nykannis replied, choosing to completely ignore Oros’s latest insult. “And I like to think I put a little bit of myself into all of my creations, so you would still technically be fighting me. Second, that doesn’t particularly surprise me, and third, yeah. Apparently, she has a fascination with ‘fellow 4th wall breakers’, or whatever. Supposedly, she wanted to visit you in Esper Land, but the rules wouldn’t let her or some shit? I don’t fucking know, but anyways, you wanna meet her now?”

Meeting a moe blob, or going out in a blaze of glory…

Tough choice. 

It wasn’t every day she got dominated by a seven-hundred-thousand year old loli, but there were a lot of unknown variables surrounding the second option. Nykannis had, perhaps expertly, forced Oros’s hand. Because while fighting Nykannis was a heroic action, it was far less so when you realized she was denying someone a chance to meet her. She had to weigh the pros and cons for a bit. With a growl, Oros rolled her eyes.

”Sure, send her in.”

With a snap of her fingers, Nykannis opened a crackling portal, through which stepped an adorable young girl in a black dress. “This is Jennifer,” Nykannis explained as the portal closed behind the new arrival, and a glob of nanites formed a chair for her to sit in. “Jennifer, this is Oros. Well, have at it, I guess.”

The ashen blonde glanced around as she stepped out of the portal. Even if she could simply teleport into the restaurant herself, she didn't expect Nykannis to help out with that. She made note to thank the scientist later. "Nice place." Jennifer said, sitting down with her legs crossed. "And you two haven't killed each other yet. I assume the not-date is going well then?" The girl added with a polite smile, looking between Nykannis and Oros. 

”I mean I wanted to...”

She settled on looking towards the latter though. "Designation: Ouroboros, aka Oros. How've you been?"

Shit, it was another one of those science nutjobs. There was nothing cute about this. What a scam. ”Uh, acceptable?” Oros looked at the side of her blade. ”Weird, you don't have a Champion Script, and you're totally unknown to me.” She squinted her eyes. ”Who are you exactly?”

Despite Oros' suspicions, the girl remained calm. "Hahah, unsurprising considering my circumstances." Her smile turned sheepish. The last thing she needed was someone to figure her out completely. "Can see about getting a Non-Patron Champion script together for reference later. There's...alot to work on that's been put off. At least Penrose wise." Jennifer shrugged, her expression turned to indifference for a moment.

"As for who I am specifically, let's just say it was only a matter of time before I made an appearance." She hinted, idly swinging her legs in place.

”There's an appeal to the mysterious type, but you're not giving me much to work with here.” Oros tapped her foot. ”Stroodle cat said you wanted to see me. Well, at your service. What can I do ya for?”

Jennifer's expression comically blanked out. Truth be told, she hadn't planned far ahead. "Well ah, I'll be honest I didn't really have a goal in mind. Just wanted to bother you guys for a while." She let an arm rest on the table. "It gets boring waiting on the right time to appear when things are going at a snail’s pace, so I figured I’d poke around a bit ahead of time. See if there's anything I can do before the inevitable demise of another reality." She explained with a lop-sided smile.

”Alright then, here's something you can do.” Oros handed her sword over to her. ”End my suffering. or give me a hug. Your choice.”

Was...she kidding? Whether or not the girl decided, her choice would probably prove moot. Jennifer was aware of how difficult the meta-breaking cultist was to put down, so what was she planning? In a public place at that. She held the sword with both her hands, looking between it, Oros, and Nykannis with uncertainty. "...Okay then."

With a hollow, cold stare, she rose the sword above her shoulder,

"Off with your head."

Then swung it down, aiming at Oros' neck.

Except her head didn't roll. Instead Jennifer stopped her momentum a perfect inch before the sword met skin and bone. Instead, she moved the blade to lightly poke Oros' nose with it's tip. "Boop." Her smile returned. Oros pulled back her nose and snorted.

"I may be an idiot, but I'm not stupid. I know you'd survive bullshit like decapitation. Maybe I could've pulled something much cooler like speeding up the rate that you age until you're nothing but ashes or locking you in a death loop like that one sorcerer did but... Eh, I'm not in the mood." With that, she set Endless Eclipse down, and pulled the pink-haired woman into a hopefully quick hug.

Oros accepted the hug, squeezing Jennifer back just a little too hard before letting go. ”I think you’d be surprised how vulnerable I am after listening to Nykannis spout shit in that dress of hers. Death isn’t all that permanent to creatures like ourselves. We can just pick other Reality Plenums to invade.” Alright, now this was something Oros could work with. The ‘boop’ had her enticed for sure. ”Anyway, that’s my favorite personality test. You scored pretty high.” She gazed into her blade again. ”I’m kinda tapped out on things to talk about though. I’m gunna skip going over the science nonsense, but you can read back through the Portable Oscillating Special Transceiver if you’re itching to talk about ‘science’ stuff.“ Oros scratched under her arm. ”Guess I gotta add you to the chart. Uh, so you mentioned a collapsing reality. Something happened to your base one? What’s the story on that?“

Jennifer's smile faltered slightly. "More like I got locked out of my reality. Can't confirm if it's erasure but I wouldn't be surprised if it is. OR if my reality's dead as hell by now." She shrugged, avoiding talking about the past in more detail. "But I meant your Penrose collapsing. Usually without a proper finish, Reality Plenums eventually just...die out. You can salvage some junk here and there beforehand, but it takes some work in giving the fraction a new residence." The girl explained.

”Oh, the Code Vein thing. I thought it might be that.“ The pink haired girl grinned.  ”Well, this place can do what it wants. Doesn’t feel like it’s collapsing to me, but I say that as someone who’s jumped already. There’s not really much reason for hanging around here.“ Her eyes moved over to Nykannis. ”But someone called me a coward, so I had to come back here, challenge them, and I guess they want me to play with you because they are too scared to go through with it.“ She looked back at the cute girl, who might not have been all that cute with the threats of death loops and aging curses. ”There’s no rush, regardless. Finding a place to settle down, I mean. Waiting is sometimes the best option. Unless you worship a horror with grand agendas, then you’d best not linger long.“

Well, she can't exactly answer for Nykannis, now could she?

"Oh! Uh, I didn't mean myself per se. I've come to terms with my circumstances. I meant...hmm." Jennifer took a moment to think. A list, a tablet seemingly made of holographic light formed in her hand, and she took to looking through it. "Take Designations: Pinocchio and Inferno for example, you may know both as Finnegan Vanhorn. Truth be told, he was only supposed to show up in Pax for a fresh start but something cropped up and well, there's two now. Though Pinocchio's a reboot, Inferno's a continuation, but both had to have their memories altered and edited to become stabilized." She then grimaced. "For the most part on One-Eye Jack's end, but you know what I mean."

”Yea yea, pin and Ifrit sound cool. But they aren’t you. They aren’t even as cute as you.“ She rubbed her chin. ”Well okay, maybe Pin if he can get older and still be a cinna-bon he stands a chance.“ She lowered her hand. ”But I get it, it must be hard to talk about yourself when you don’t even have a history to gab about.“ Oros looked the small girl up and down. ”So what’s a seemingly sweet thing like you doing with someone like Nyan?“

The girl was almost tempted to say "Stalling." to make something happen, but then this conversation would be a moot point so...

"I just met up with her before this, is all. There's not much to do back in my little slice of the Inbetween. Could go bother the other witches or something but they..." She trailed off. After a pause, she furrowed her eyebrows with a tired look. "We don't talk much."

”I see, I see.“ Oros extended an arm around the girl’s shoulders. ”You know it’s okay, I get it. Nyan is pretty resourceful, but she can be kind of scary. I don’t blame you for talking to her. I can only imagine what that must have been like. Without a world, just kind of floating around….“ Oros trailed off. ”Hey, can I tell you something a little personal?“ 

Oh boy. 

"Sup?"

”I think you may wish to divorce yourself from the cruel mistress that is ‘fourth wall breaking.’“ She rubbed Jennifer’s shoulder as she said this. ”I must sound like I’m being greedy, but trust me, it’s not like all that other stuff. It’s not like that time Mariette’s patron made a coin smith because they were too creatively bankrupt to find other avenues of power. That might irk my patron, but not me. Understanding the world as we do is a curse, and there is a reason there aren’t many of us around. We just sort of suck the magic out of everything. I mean look at Nyan.“ She pointed at the small scientist. ”She’s not quite on the same level I am, that we are. She can claim to be the queen of mad science, a seven-hundred-thousand year old loli genderswap of Oan Kyouma. But I know that her thoughts come from a creature that lives beyond the veil of our reality, something that will never be born into it. I’d be willing to wager the one controlling her isn't even thirty yet. She’s a sock puppet for a horror, and she is unaware of this.“ She looked out of the corner of her eye at Jennifer. ”And what’s worse is that these horrors live incredibly short lives. On paper, they live about as long as normal humans. But take this monolog I’m spouting right now. It’s going to be a few seconds long, right? Maybe a minute? But it took my patron far longer than that to write. The entirety of the magical girl saga may have happened over the course of a few months, but it took several patrons years of toiling to make it happen. And we are not ensured to stick around nearly as long as they are. They are fickle creatures, and once we aren’t of interest to them anymore, well, who knows?“ Oros released Jennifer and leaned on the table. ”Maybe we continue on our adventures, multiple versions of us playing out in the minds of all the patrons that witness us. That’s a happy thought, something that pleases Nykannis and her infinite forest I imagine. But what if we cease to exist all together? What if we never really existed in the first place?“ She tapped her fingers against the top of the table. ”I hope when you finally settle down, you aren’t as mad as I am.“

The girl's eyes widened. Was she trying to convince her to back down? Jennifer had to run by Oros' nihilistic ramblings again in case she hadn't heard wrong. The mention of multiple versions of them caused her to unwillingly tense up. Did she know more than she let on? Was she suspecting something? Well, she could see why despite their rivalry, that Oros and Nykannis tolerated each other. Some weird case of opposites attract despite the running theme here.

So where did that leave her?

After a moment to think she spoke up again. "It's rather charming that you assume the near best of me." Jennifer mustered up a smile. "Though it's also sad that you've resigned yourself to such a downer's mindset. Call me stupid for using theatre terms, but so what if we're just puppets to a fool's play? Yes, there are cases where actors must be replaced or let go, but that's merely the case of bad luck or circumstance. As long as the memories of us stay strong, even someone like me won't fade into obscurity, not for long at most." She motioned to the scenery around them. "Look around. You're here, aren't you? You feel anger, sorrow, love and hope, if Aigorost didn't care about you then you wouldn't be standing here now, would you? Hell, they decided to transfer the rest of Cradle and then some to the next isle over for a reason, instead of making a new motley crew from scratch, right?" She then glanced towards Nykannis. 

"Both of you make valid points about how the Inbetween works as a multiverse. You make compelling cases, but then...who keeps the monitor from breaking down, or keeps the forests alive? Someone has to, right?" Jennifer looked back to Oros. "What I'm trying to say is, even if we're all mad here, the higher beings you speak of seem to care enough to keep us here. Even whoever's behind my strings was stubborn enough to bring me in cause of a fucking running gag, or to give Finnegan a new home. I might not be able to go back to my reality, not now, but as the Witch of Time, I have a job that needs to be done." She sadly smiled. "You don't have to worry about me getting into worser trouble than this for now. Not only am I not supposed to tamper with an active timeline, but I'm pretty sure I'd get kicked out if I didn't come in visits." Jennifer glanced away with an indifferent frown. "That, and in a way, I've already had my time in the spotlight. As foolish as she was. ...Sorry."

"Makoto and her friend seemed to have a similar idea on how all of this worked.“ Oros rubbed her chin. ”Something  along the lines of acquiring freedom rather than ceasing to exist when this all ends. But isn't that too simple?“ Oros continued to mumble to herself.

"Who knows?"

Jennifer remained silent for a moment, then sighed. "Oi, Kannis, you done with whatever you're-" 

"Hey hold the phone!“ Oros pointed at the doll-like girl's head. "You're a witch now? This is what I'm talking about. 'Oh, I don't have anything to talk about. I just happen to be part of a collection of magi who's power is comparable to some of the strongest people in the setting.' Like what the hell is that about?“ She folded her arms. "I don't use this term lightly, but you're starting to seem more than a little sus.“

"Wha'dya take me for, an imposter?" Jennifer joked. If I could reach that far I'd strangle you both. Though whatever joking grin she bore gave way to unamusement. "No shit, Sherlock, how the hell would I be able to do shit like time travel if I haven't broke through the bounds of my old reality? Technically, I'm a weirder cases then those idiots you know already. The title of Witch doesn't exactly apply to me anymore." She explained. She looked over to Nykannis, waiting to see if she'd do anything.

...Guess not.

"Is it too late to mention this isn't what I actually look like?"

At first, Nykannis had been content to simply listen as Jennifer and Oros had their little chat, but when Oros had begun her ‘meta awareness’ rant, the Monarch of Mad Science decided it was time to offer her own contribution to the discussion. And when Jennifer had begun disclosing potentially awkward information, she knew she definitely needed to intervene. 

“As entertaining as all of this has been to listen to, I’d like to interject a little something here. In particular, I’d like to correct miss ‘Find and Replace’ here’s little misconception about how much ‘meta knowledge’ I actually have. While it’s true I don’t consider myself a fictional character, I fully understand that there are levels of reality far beyond what anyone in this multiverse can readily perceive. Even when you’ve reached the furthest boundaries of infinity, or your quintillion googolplex pixel monitor, there’s always more, always another layer, just out of reach. So we’re all characters in someone’s story? So what? There are several billion mundane morons on this one planet right now who could potentially be dreaming up stories, dreaming up universes, at this very moment, and they live in a world that many people believe is just some elaborate simulation, while others think it was all created by some almighty God, but really, what’s the fucking difference?! Everything that exists was created by something, by someone. And who do you think created them?! I have no fucking idea, but you can bet your ass I’m gonna find out, and incidentally, your little nihilistic ‘everything is pointless’ rant actually proved my point about the nature of infinity, so congratulations. I win, you lose. Oh, and as for you, she added turning to Jennifer. “I don’t know why the hell you’re so hung up on there being two of everyone’s favorite misanthropic failure. I mean, most people have analogs in other worldlines. I mean, take the Silverburg Seven. Did you know that, in another universe, they all attend magical girl school in a post apocalyptic future? Well, all except Lucy. Like the three of us, she’s something of a singularity, since that’s the kinda thing that happens when an eons old time abyss decides to settle down and start a family. ANYWAYS, that little ‘thing’ I was working on was finished a while ago. I’ve just been enjoying watching the two of you interact.”

"Did I really say that? Geez." The girl rose a brow.

If Oros was in a calmer state of mind, she might have asked Nykannis to clarify how anything she said pertained to an infinite anything. She might have also reminded Nykannis about the magic circle talk they had not even a few minutes ago. She definitely would have said something about Jennifer’s suddenly less-cutesy way of talking and acting. But Oros was not in a calm state of mind. On the contrary, she looked quite volatile. The whites in her eyes turned black  Her pupils stretched and warped into something more akin to a lizard or feline, and then with a blink, it was gone.

"I’m sorry sweetie, Jen, can I call you Jen?“ She smiled  and leaned into her palm. "I was told you looked like a cute moe blob. What do you really look like?“

"Depends on which one you're referring to."

With a snap of her fingers, the time witch deactivated the disguise, revealing what she normally looked like. "Hope you won't hold this against me."

Even if they were bound to fight. She knew that look in the cultist's eye.

Oros growled. If she was supposed to believe that this was what Jenifer looked like- no. No! There was fuckery afoot. Oros was sure about it. "A shape shifter? Illusionary magic? The hell is this shit?“

“Yeah, the only reason I suggested she wear the fancy dress to start with was because I thought when you saw her in the 404 t-shirt you’d get the mother of all nosebleeds,” Nykannis replied with a wry smirk. “I’m glad to see I was wrong.”

"Bullshit! No way she’s flat! This was a lot more amusing on ‘rise up’ with broken links.“ Oros leaned back in her chair. "I guess this is it then.“ She raised her hands at the table, which was filled with nothing but dirty dishes at this point. "I would have settled for an epic death or hugging a moe blob tonight, but you have deprived me of both.“  She pulled Endless Eclipse across her lap. "I guess we’re done here?“

“I don’t know, you tell me,” Nykannis replied with a grin. 

”Fine, I don’t give a shit anymore..“ Oros pulled an apple out of thin air. 

“Gotta admit, I for one actually enjoyed this,” Nykannis conceded. “Maybe we can do it again when you come to pick up the Star Bastion.”

"Ooh, space upgrade."

The pink haired girl froze, her teeth had just bitten into the flesh of her apple. "So you want a second date?“ Oros chuckled. "Well I had no idea you’d be up for a second one! I wouldn’t have had this one end with a death. This is kind of awkward now. But I have an idea.“ Her apple vanished. Inside her cleavage. "Since Nyan here believes in infinite realities, I’ll just narrate a scenario in which one of us dies. Does that sound agreeable? ‘Cuz I don’t care! Don’t worry, I’ll narrate everything with my low, ASMR style voice.“ Oros folded her arms, closed her eyes, and started to whisper.

"We’re having a nice time at the lux.

Nyan says that she’d like to do it now.

We were just talking about the fine art of entering realities, so I was confused. But I picked up on her innuendo. It was a double entendre, possibly even a triple entendre.

We go to the women's restroom, because we’re women. Nyan ushers me in with a giggle and slaps my ass. I’m surprised, but I say nothing.

Nyan can’t wait for the door to shut. She jumps on my back and bites my neck. After spinning in circles , I get her onto the diaper changing counter. We’re holding hands, hers are soft.

We’re both nervous, I just hide it better.

I reach for her hair, but she guides my hand elsewhere. My fingers glide along her marble white skin. They catch on her green dress and pull it off of her torso.

I can’t avert my eyes.

She wore it.

The baby doll underwear!

I can see the red frills popping out. The color matches the blush in her cheeks. 

I foam at the mouth.

Too much blood rushes to my nose, and a vein ruptures. 

It’s like a rocket. I’m propelled into the air.

Nyan’s innocence alone cleanses my monstrous nature. My mana runs dry trying to heal the damage, but nothing stops the geyser of blood. 

She calls my name, it’s no use.

Even the greatest scientific mind couldn’t foresee this, and she’s powerless to do anything. 

Jen leaves a stall. She finished taking a leak and spotted me laying there. 

You both wonder what to do when there’s no way to save me.

Nyan gives me mouth to mouth while Jen acts as a pillow for my throbbing head. You switch positions when Jen suggests her larger body means she can deliver more air. It’s just as futile. 

Your concerns for my life become conflated with the growing desires in your hearts. Mine too.

While you would never stop trying, I can’t take your desperation.I tell you both that I love you, and pass.

You weep. 

But not for me, as waiting a few decades for my resurrection is nothing for creatures that have existed for the better part of time itself. 

You are sad because you were right. You are living in someone’s fantasy, which proves that the ideas of a word can spawn an uncountably infinite number of realities. But this also means you need to relinquish the foolish notion that you are a singularity, because singularities can’t exist in such a space.“


Oros opened her eyes and grinned. "I realize one of your stipulations was no touching, but I just couldn’t keep you off of me. Was my death a good enough punishment?“ Oros stood up and tucked her thumbs into the rim of her skirt. "Guess I’ll bounce then. Might bring Aria around next time if you behave yourself.“

The time witch blinked in bewilderment, before looking back at the scientist. "Well I suddenly need a drink, does this place have any bourbon?" She asked with a comical look.

“Yeah,” Nykannis replied in a shell shocked deadpan, one of her eyes having begun to twitch. “But I think you’re gonna need something a LOT stronger than bourbon after having to sit through whatever the fuck THAT was…”

Jennifer tiredly chuckled. "Whatever works."

Oros scoffed. "Really? Nothing? Hmm.“ She spoke a bit quieter. "We uh, we are doing this again, right?“ 

This wasn't the end to tonight that Oros had hoped for, not by a long shot. But she would have another shot in the future it seemed.

"Next time...“

Oros spun on her heel and faded out of reality.

“Is she gone yet?” Nykannis muttered as she glanced back at the table. “Good,” she exhaled in weary relief. “Sorry about that,” the mad scientist added as she removed the filter over Jennifer to reveal the Time Witch’s true appearance. “I just didn’t want to cause any potentially unfortunate drama if Oros saw what, or rather, who you really look like. Speaking of drama, I’m glad there wasn’t any, otherwise I’d have needed to use the Dream Cannon I’d surreptitiously positioned behind her head. Thanks for the distraction, by the way. I’ll cover your drink, and anything else you might wanna have. The food here is fucking amazing.”

"Honestly I could've just swapped to a different disguise, but nice save." Jennifer smiled. "She'll figure it all out at some point though. Hopefully it'd just be my problem by then and not yours. Anyways, let's see what they got..." She trailed off, grabbing a menu.

“Oh, I have no doubt,” Nykannis agreed with an amused smirk. “But it’s like I told you earlier, the way around her stupid sword is just to make sure the stuff you plan gets added to the Grand Magistrate’s Incident Chronicle after those plans actually come to fruition. Like just now. Everything that just happened between your arrival here and us having this chat should make it painfully obvious to you and anyone else who happens to be watching this that, while Oros may be broken, she isn’t unbeatable.”

“Ah, Doctor Kannis!” the head waiter called as he approached the pair. “Will you be leaving us now?”

“Nah, I just need to speak with the mixologist. My associate and I need something extra strong to get the taste of that out of our mouths…”

“Oh! W-Was your meal deficient in some way?” the head waiter asked, his nervousness plainly evident in his voice.

“No, the food was exemplary, as usual,” Nykannis reassured him. “The company on the other hand…”

“Oh, I see…” the now considerably relieved man said with growing understanding. “If I may be permitted to be so bold, the gentleman you were with earlier did seem a little… odd…

That’s putting it mildly,” Nykannis replied, while doing her best to suppress a shudder.

“Ah, but you mentioned the mixologist! Please don’t trouble yourselves with seeking him out. I shall fetch him for you at once!”

“So, wanna head back to our seats? Now that ‘Ouroboros’ is gone, it should be considerably more pleasant.”

The woman nodded. "After you, Monarch. ...Wait, gentleman??"




The Golden Trove looked dead on the outside, but in the recesses of Boteg’s old lair, something was happening. 

A white haired girl with a body suit and a large dart gun arrived with a bag filled with groceries. She had left her newest student in the hotel to train. But you could only train for so long without rest or food, and that was why “P.T.” had returned. While pain might be weakness leaving the body, food could be looked at as strength entering it. 

P.T. had been grilling her student pretty good. She had been forcing her to meditate in a room filled with magical incense, then pit her against her own clones for an hour or so to measure her growth. Normally It would probably be months before her student was ready for a gentle sparring session. It wasn’t just her form that needed help, her spirit was weak too. She’d let a mouse walk over her if given the chance. 

Sure enough, P.T. found her green haired student hanging from a ceiling fan. Her underwear had been pulled over her head, and then suspended on a fan blade. It was rather humorous, but P.T. had hoped to see some progress. Magic incense was not cheap, and she wasn’t sure if Binky would ever be worth it. P.T. trained the strongest fighters, and she knew what potential looked like. This wasn’t it.

”Binky.” P.T. sighed. ”Maybe, this is, not for you man.”

Though when P.T. looked further down the hall,, she could see many more “Binkys” in humiliating poses. One had been wrapped into a pretzel, another had a towel tied around their face, and another had been tossed in a hamper, with her legs draped over the edge of the basket.  

”Bro?” P.T. exhaled. ”Seriously?” 

Up the stairs, round the corner, right into Boteg’s old office. Binky was doing more than just resisting her clone’s attempts to humiliate her, she was giving them a bit of their own medicine. Three of her clones tried to run past P.T., but one of them was unfortunate enough to get caught in Binky’s clutches. 

”Get ten of your friends if you want, it’s not going to stop me!” Upon noticing her personal trainer, Binky released her clone, who scampered off. ”O-oh! I um.” She swallowed. 

”Broooooooooooooo.” P.T. patted Binky on the shoulder.  ”I am, like, so proud of you bro. I thought one of those, clones, was you.  Their beat down, was totally righteous. ” The trainer smiled. ”You’re like, doing well now. We should, keep it up.”

Binky stood up a bit straighter. ”Then I do have potential?” 

”Totaly, man.” But P.T. couldn’t praise Binky forever. This was a huge first step, but it showed that her abilities had outstripped that of her clones. She’d need to get even stronger, and ideally, her clones would also get stronger. Though maybe now they would respect her a little bit more.

Her phone beeped. It seemed that she got a text from some guy called Marcus. Though after reading the contents, it became clear there was a bit more going on here. 

”Ah. It’s like, almost time, bro.” The trainer pocketed their phone. ”Is your body, ready man?”

”Not when you word it like that!”

Oros faded into reality as she waved her hand at Binky. "Change of plans!“ 

”Hey, moneybags!” P.T. took a whiff of the air. ”How was, the date, my guy? Did you, have fun?”

"I mean… It doesn’t matter!“ Oros plucked the flowers out of her hair and shirt.

Binky raised her hand. ”So where are we going?”

"To pick up some hitch hikers.“ Oros pointed over her shoulder with her thumb. "We ready to depart?“

P.T. gave the room a casual glance. ”Gotta, move the, clones around. Then we can, go.” she raised an eyebrow. ”You good, my man?”

"I’ll be better once I get this off!“ Oros started unbuttoning her blouse while walking back down the hall.  "Shit! Did I eat that much? Binky! Help me out of this thing!“

Binky took a few steps forward before P.T. offered her a pipe with golden smoke wafting out of it. ”Be brave, my guy.” 

The green haired scientist nodded, took a quick puff, and passed the pipe back to P.T. before marching down the hall. 

"I hope I still fit into my uniform!“




Upon returning to her lab, Nykannis gave voice to a tired sigh as she settled into her command throne, her dress reforming itself into the robe she’d been wearing before Oros had shown up. While the pink-haired lunatic had been as cringey and annoying as expected, the Monarch of Mad Science had actually found the evening somewhat enjoyable. Indeed, just the look on Oros’s face while chatting with Jennifer had made all the usual unpleasantness of interacting with the pink-haired pervert more than worth it. The fact that said chat had defeated Oros’s pitiful attempts to manipulate the evening’s events was merely icing on the proverbial cake. And that was to say nothing of the other ways the Mad Scientist Supreme had chosen to amuse herself, ways that Oros had been completely oblivious to, but would inevitably learn of in the fullness of time. The fact that she’d ensured one of the waiters was actually a robot of her own design, for instance, or that said waiter was the only person present (aside from Jennifer and herself) able to pierce the perception filter she’d placed over her pink-haired dining partner, which caused everyone to view the meta aware girl as a middle aged, balding, bespectacled man, a man who was about a hundred pounds overweight…

Now, however, it was time to relax and unwind, and what better way to do that, then to once again check up on one of her favorite ongoing projects? Activating her panoramic interdimensional viewer, Nykannis located the reality plenum in question and found that her unwitting agent appeared to be even more distraught than when she’d looked in on her earlier. Where before she’d been weeping, now the poor thing was practically bawling her eyes out and generally seeming quite pathetic.

This wouldn’t do.

This simply wouldn’t do at all…

“Perhaps I should give her a little pep talk?” Nykannis mused aloud, a grin spreading across her face as she opened up an interdimensional communications link with The Vessel’s chosen bearer.

“W-Why do I even have these powers if I can’t help anyone with them?” the girl was sobbing.

“But you can…” Nykannis told her as she gently stroked the small creature that had just now rematerialized in her lap. “And you will…”






..

.

“So, yeah, that’s basically what happened.”

“Wait, hold up. Who’s this ‘Jennifer’ chick?”

“Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you about her. We met a few hours before my little ‘dinner engagement’ with Oros. It’s actually quite the story.”

“Well, I’ve got nothing better to do.”

“All right, I suppose now’s a good enough time to tell you. And I know a certain pink-haired pervert will be interested in hearing about it as well, so listen up, Oros, cause you’re gonna love this…”
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Just the Right Time to Pop in for a Spell


The universe you may know is theorized to be one of many. A vast array of timelines and alternative worlds reaching out ad infinitum. Even the slightest change or choice can create a new branch, or destroy it all the same. Regrets aside, if one were to traverse in between without any preparation or experience, they can find themselves lost. In Space, and in Time.

So of course there had to be someone to keep THAT balance in check too, to oversee the progress of even the most strange parallels. In a space where the turning of gears and the ticking of clocks broke a dead silence, A woman in red paced to and fro upon one of the few platforms within. She had been waiting for the right time, nay, to see if she'd be needed to salvage whatever she could out of an obviously certain reality. That or to just purge the damn place, who knows? Things were running on a snail's pace and she was bored as hell. The woman groaned. "Ugh, maybe I can just pay a quick visit?? Not like I'll be able to spice things up but, hey." She'd say to no one in particular. Maybe she could say a quick "Howdy'do!" to the Witches? Nah, there was a reason they avoided talking about her. Maybe she could provoke one of the factions and see what ticks? Then again, that could be a deathwish depending on who it is specifically.

Maybe she can toy with that half-blind fella?

...Definitely not. Well, maybe.

The woman groaned again. "God damnit, there's gotta be something I can work with! I'm getting tired of waiting!!" Despite her frustration, she thought through it some more before shaking her head in resignation. "Might as well be someone's problem for a minute." With a shrug, she summoned her weapon in hand, and set off to find one of the only other people with full knowledge on the multiverse.








Deep in the biomechanical bowels of her labyrinthian lab, Doctor Nykannis was gazing into the bubbling depths of her retro-regenerative resurrection well, in which hung suspended a steadily growing humanoid figure. The swirling energies of no less than seven hyper dimensional metaphysical aetheric numiosphere accelerator matrixes infused the gestating being with untold levels of transcendent power, while living strands of cosmic string knitted together its various ultra and hyper dimensional components on a sub quantum level. “Mmm… Looks like you’re progressing rather nicely,” the Monarch of Mad Science noted approvingly. “Should be finished right on schedule,” she added with a satisfied nod. “Now I think I’ll check up on my little pet project… See how she’s coming along…”

Regardless of whether or not the Woman in Red decided to be stealthy in her arrival, she had no doubt that Nykannis would take notice. With a *fwoop!*, she had teleported inside the Lab-yrinth. A dimension man-made by the will of one, such was a curious sight to behold. She decided to look around for a bit, taking care not to mishandle or break anything.

No sooner had Nykannis settled into her comfortable command throne, then she was alerted to the presence of an intruder… “What the hell?!” she snapped, as she activated a holodisplay. “Who do we have here?” she mused as she gazed upon the rather mundane-looking woman simply strolling around her lab with no particular purpose in mind. Since she hadn’t appeared directly before Nykannis, it was highly likely that the woman was here for sabotage, or at the very least, espionage, but then, why wasn’t she moving with haste? Although she obviously had access to incredible power, if she was able to enter The Lab in the first place, she also had to know that she would be discovered almost immediately, right? Perhaps she actually thought she could viably oppose the Monarch of Mad Science in her own Lab, but if so, she was VERY mistaken…

As the woman continued her meandering exploration, she would hear an annoyed voice call out from behind her. “Ya know, I’m starting to think anyone and their dog can get into this place. If you wanted a tour, you could have just sent a request.”

"I'm more of a cat person. Besides, I doubt you'd be that willing to let someone visit unless it's for business." The woman in red calmly replied back, turning around to the annoyed source. With her she carried a blade shaped to look like a clock hand, but decided it wasn't needed until she decided to leave, so she simply dispelled it. She gave a casual smile. Designation: Monarch, AKA Doctor Nykannis. Glad to see you haven't been killed off yet."

“You’d be surprised,” Nykannis replied with a smirk. “I rather enjoy showing off my work to people who can actually understand it. And exactly what do you think is even capable of killing me?” she asked with a contemptuous scowl. “More importantly, just who the hell are you supposed to be anyway? The big sister of that one bitch who used to work for Justine?”

"Who knows? I'm mainly talking about the Grand Magstrates deciding to dispose of you for some reason or another. Doubt it though, you're pretty interesting." The woman shrugged. Though at the nod to one of Justine's old cronies, her smile faded. "See that's one reason why I'm hesitant in joining the little pow-wow in Penrose. I know that reality has had several instances of two Champions having the same...Facade? Can't think of a proper name for it, but still, I'd like to avoid something like THAT. I don't even have a dialogue color yet." She grimaced for a second. "As for who I am? I doubt the title of Witch of Time applies to me anymore, I'm mainly known as the Exodus of Time... or you can just call me Jennifer. Whatever keeps your boat afloat." She had a bit of a tired look as she introduced herself.

“I doubt it too,” Nykannis agreed. “Especially considering the fact they found me so interesting is the main reason they even allowed me to stay in their stupid reality plenum in the first place. So, Jenny, what made you think breaking into my Lab uninvited was such a good idea?”

"I'm bored and I crave chaos." Jennifer answered bluntly.

"That and it was either visit you or visit Designation: Ouroboros, or Oros as you know her. And since the neighboring reality only allows one Champion at a time, reasonable, honestly, I figured I'd have to be your problem for a bit." She explained further, a hand resting on her hip. "But yeah, mostly boredom."

“Well, fuck… Did I lose the lottery, or what? First Oros, and now you… Hell, if you stick around long enough, you might actually bump into her, though why the fuck you’d want that to happen is anyone’s guess. Anyway, if you’re not here to fuck with things, then I suppose I could give you a little tour… What did you want to see first?”

At Nykannis' reaction, Jennifer slightly frowned. "Sorry, I guess. Though better me than her, huh?" she tilted her head.

“You can say that again,” Nykannis chuckled.

"I'm fine with seeing whatever first though! And erm, perhaps find something that can give me a different Facade while we're at it?" The witch looked herself over, before looking back to the scientist.

“You want me to change what you look like?” the mad scientist asked with a raised eyebrow. “I mean, I could do that in my sleep, but, uh, do you have any preferences for the ‘new you’, or do you want me to get creative?

"I mean, if I'm gonna AT LEAST visit Penrose once or twice, I don't want people to think Minnie's been resurrected or some shit." Jennifer held a fist under her chin. "Though I do want to be able to switch between looks, kinda like how a Disguise Artifact works, yeah? As for preference-wise..." She folded her hands behind her with a smile, but her furrowed brows could give off a subtle warning if one assumed. "I'll put my faith in your judgement.

“Well, being able to adapt is easy enough, and rather practical, too,” Nykannis agreed. “I’ll just infuse you with a metamorphic overlay, but as for the new form, I’ve got three initial choices. First, we have the ‘Loli’ option, guaranteed to make Oros invite you over to her new home, regardless of its Grand Magistrate’s stupid restrictions. Then we have the more mature option, perfect for garnering respect, and making people who aren’t into little kids fall head over heals for you. Finally, there’s this, and although it’s my personal favorite, it just might cause you even more trouble than your current look. Of course, if you like them all, there’s no reason we can’t incorporate all three. That way you can pick the right appearance for whatever situation you may find yourself in. So, what do you think?”

"Hmm...You do make a good point." Jennifer nodded with a grin. "Utilizing all three 'guises can prove useful if anyone gets suspicious of me and tries hunting my ass down. To kill or likewise." The witch looked over her three options again. "Gotta say, they're all pretty charming. BUT!" She looked at the third option. "This is more my style! Troubles aside, I see why you like it!"

“Well, you know what they say about great minds,” Nykannis replied with a smirk. “All right, well, if you’re satisfied, I guess we can go ahead and apply the overlay right… Now!

With that, a swirling swarm of nanites swiftly weaved a form-fitting shell of morphic energy particles over Jennifer, which, upon completion, fully melded to her metaphysical structure, creating an indelible link to her very soul.

“There, that didn’t take long, now did it?” Nykannis asked with a grin. “I trust you’re pleased with the results?”

The time witch looked over her new disguise with a grin. "Oh yeah, now we're cookin'!" She cackled. Though something crossed her mind, and her expression blanked out. "Guess I should repay the favor huh?" She asked Nykannis.

“What exactly did you have in mind?” Nykannis inquired, still a little unsure of how much Jennifer was actually capable of.

"Glad you asked!" Jennifer continued to grin a Cheshire's grin. "As you've probably guessed Witches, in terms of Penrose's reality are master sorcerers. We've got every magic specialization down to a T, even Oddballs for the rarer cases!" She explained. No longer content in staying in one place, the witch paced around. "Though uh, we still have to follow the Grand Magstrate's rules here and limit ourselves unless it's an emergency. That or adapt. Like if some Greater Horror decides to try and eat a universe we're working in while it's still alive or some shit. Eh, just means more mana for us to use!" She chuckled.

"As for myself, I'm sort of an overseer type for the multiverse. I mainly intervene if something, anomaly or not, tries to tamper with the natural progression of the timeline. As far as anyone's concerned, I do not exist. But I can give and get you info. Knowledge on anyone or anything you're curious about. Can also help speed up one of your experiments if you need to help." She turned back to the scientist. "That or I can get you supplies from some of the dead universes."

“How very interesting…” Nykannis noted with a grin of her own. “I already have most of what I need in order to complete my various projects, but knowledge is always appreciated, especially if it has to do with multiversal facets my interdimensional viewer can’t access. Although… I suppose there is one other thing you could assist me with…” she added with a thoughtful nod. “Since you’re obviously one of the big shots of this particular multiversal cluster, I’d like to study you a bit, find out just how powerful you really are. Then I’ll be able to apply that knowledge to Phase Two, or any of my others projects, for that matter. It wouldn’t hurt, of course,” she hastened to clarify. “And it won’t take more than half a second, so what do you say? Would that be doable?”

"Half a second?" the time witch asked. "Here I was assuming you'd be testing my prowess in combat, or the limits of my time magic. But I'm cool with this if it saves any trouble." She said, stretching her arms up over her head.

When Jennifer raised her hands, Nykannis raised an eyebrow. “What the hell? You, uh, you don’t need to do that. Or anything, really. Like I said, this won’t take but a moment, and it’ll tell me everything I’d learn from seeing you in combat and then some. Besides, fighting you here, the only place where I’m still virtually omnipotent, wouldn’t be all that fair, now would it?” she added with a smirk. “Now then, let’s get started…”

With that, several nanofluidic tendrils, each tipped with a different bizarre technomystic apparatus rose up around the time witch. An instant later, they bathed her in streams of prismatic energy as the data accumulation beams went to work gathering every conceivable (and inconceivable) aspect of information pertaining to her vast history, her equally vast powerset, her mental, physical, and metaphysical make up, and so forth. And, true to Nykannis’s word, the process was utterly painless, and was over in less than a second.

“Thanks, that should do nicely,” Nykannis said with a satisfied nod. “So, how about that tour?”

"I didn't need to stretch?" Jennifer watched as the tendrils made literal quick work in gathering info, letting her arms rest behind her head. Once it was finished as quick as it started, Nykannis had reminded her about the offered tour. "Oh right, lead the way!"

“What would you like to see first?” Nykannis asked as the roughly circular area they were standing on detached to form a floating platform. “There’s my legion of biomechanical titans, my armada of interstellar, transdimensional warships, my various power accumulators, Rupee… Oh, but if cute things are more your style, then perhaps the petting zoo would be the best place to start.”

The time witch looked around. "Well the titans do sound neat right n- WAITAMINUTE." Her eyes widened once she made sure what she heard was correct. "You're telling me you have a petting zoo, HERE??" Jennifer looked back to Nykannis with curiosity.

“Of course!” Nykannis confirmed. “I mean, what kind of mad scientist would I be if I celebrated the completion of a grand project without a fluffy little thing in my lap?”

The jovial girl's eyes lit up, and she began to bounce in place from excitement. "Then the hell are we waiting for?! Let's get going!"

Making use of a few convenient portals, it wasn’t long before the floating platform reached the “petting zoo”.

“Allow me to introduce you to some little friends of mine,” Nykannis said as she stepped over to a large, bubble-like chamber, filled with thousands of bizarre creatures, which seemed to warp the fabric of reality itself as they moved around. “Adorable, aren’t they?” the mad scientist asked as she reached into the forcefield bubble and grabbed an armful of the creatures. “I’m told most evil overlords prefer cats, but fuck that noise. These are the perfect companions for a mad scientist supreme,” she declared, while depositing the strange little fur balls on a large floating table. “And I’d know, since I made them all myself! Nyahahaha!”

"Hm. I get that." The time witch nodded, then turned her attention to the peculiar fluff-balls moving around on the table. "Heheh. Funky little dudes." She laid her arms on the surface of the table, and lowered her head to look at the creations more closely.

“Yeah, I’m kinda partial to this blue guy with the eyestalk,” Nykannis noted, scooping the creature up. “But they all have their unique quirks and oddities. Charm points, if you will. Like these guys with the springs coming out of the bottom of ‘em, or this little wormy guy here… He really likes to travel and explore new places. Just look at him go… Phasing though the others and everything. Y’know,” she added after a moment. “Speaking of going to new places, it’s not really all that hard to visit Esper World. You just have to find the right loopholes, and pick the right time. So what if the Grand Magistrate of that particular reality plenum has a limit on the number of Patron Champions that can reside there? You’re not one of those anyway, so I figure you can go wherever the hell you want. As for the timing, well… Let’s just say it's best to be discreet. Visit someone when they’re alone, when nothing else is going on. Then, you can just pass yourself off as a simple hallucination, a voice inside their head, a figment of their imagination. Shouldn’t be too hard,” she added with a smirk. “After all, as far as your pal Oros is concerned, we’re all figments of someone’s imagination. Speaking of Oros,” she added. “She thinks she’s sooo special with that stupid sword of hers. Y’know, the one that lets her read Patron Observable Event Transcripts? Well, it may make her nearly omniscient, but there’s a big fucking difference between ‘nearly’ and ‘completely’. See, unlike a universe’s Akashic records, the Grand Magistrate’s records don’t include everything that’s ever happened in their reality plenum, just the ‘important’ stuff, the stuff that helps them create an interesting narrative.” At this point the colorful worm-like creature had reached the end of the table, only to be teleported back to the other side, where it continued its little journey. “To better illustrate what I’m getting at, let me tell you about a certain multiverse I once came across in my travels. It was less of a reality plenum, and more of a worldline continuum, but the main thing is it was home to a particularly powerful eldritch entity. This thing could tank the full power of multiple deities and not even notice it was under attack. It destroyed whole universes by singing a children’s lullaby. And it also seemingly had the power to alter history. ‘Seemingly’ being the key word here, as it didn’t so much rewrite history as add to it. Remember how I mentioned the Grand Magistrate wanted to create an interesting narrative? Well, what about the uninteresting parts? The parts that happen off panel, off screen, off page? The in-between places? It’s kinda like the Observer Effect. I know you’re familiar with that. Basically, as far as this entity was concerned, observed history couldn’t be altered, but unobserved history? That was its own personal playground. It would ‘fill in the blanks’, mold unrecorded events to suit its whims. As long as something wasn’t explicitly stated to have or have not happened, it could make things unfold however it wanted. That’s the key to beating the Grand Magistrates, and more importantly, to beating Oros. If she can’t read it, she won’t know about it, at least, not before it's too late to matter…”

Jennifer hummed in thought as she listened to Nykannis' ramblings. Even if her focus seemed primarily on the little creatures that roamed the flat surface, she was simply in thought. She lifted her upper arms up and folded her hands together, resting her chin on them. After the other girl was done talking, then she added her two cents.

"Y'know she might be spying in on us now, right?" She chuckled. "Anyways, it can't exactly be helped that a Grand Magistrate would focus more on the plot than the side stories, gotta have SOMETHING done before the reality meets it's ever-reaching demise. Though one does fancy a bit of worldbuilding from time to time. Why'd you think the other Witches and a bit of Maura's group got introduced? Or hell, my coming to visit you can be considered a side-plot to spice things up!" Though she paused as she realized something. "Oh right, you probably don't know Maura besides a passing mention. I do know you met her two magical boys though! My condolences. Anyways, if you're talking about screwing with say, Designation: Pinnochio, then...hm...I'd have to think on it. Part of me would rather let him take his piece of the spotlight, than to try for a pointless encore, y'know? Then again we ended up with two of him at once." The time witch mumbled the last sentence, before continuing.

"The existence of Endless Eclipse is a slight concern though. I know Oros was brought in to be the fucking Deadpool of the group, but...say someone else got their hands on that level of clarvoyancy. Say, someone weak-minded, or yet to slip into hellish madness. What would they do with that knowledge? What kind of Pandora's Box would be unleashed unto that world? I know my power's kind of on the same vein, but not only did it take eternity to get on this level, but at least they'd have to pry my goddamn eye out first."

“Well, for one thing, this little conversation hasn’t been entered into the Grand Magistrate’s records yet,” Nykannis noted with a smirk. “So while I’m sure she’ll eventually find out about it, she won’t do it in time to actually effect anything, that is, in the hypothetical case of us plotting something against her. As for all that ‘plot importance’ shit, I really couldn’t care less who has the spotlight. In fact, I prefer to work ‘behind the scenes’. You have more freedom that way. And I wouldn’t be too concerned about anyone else getting their hands on Endless Eclipse. That thing’s bound to Oros on a metaphysical/metafictional level. And as for you, most people have no idea you even exist. You could slip into Esper World and fuck with Fable, give him advice, or whatever the hell you want, and most people, time boy included, would just pass you off as nothing more than a fucking fever dream. You want chaos? Just mess with people’s minds. A subtle voice in the back of your head is a lot more powerful and insidious than some world-breaking demigoddess. Trust me,” she added with a maniacal grin. “I’d know.”

"Hmm...you make a good point. Again." Jennifer glanced back at the table. She poked one of the creatures. "So now what?"

“Well, you said you wanted to see the titans, right?” Nykannis replied as she stepped back onto the transport disc, while still gently petting the small creature she was holding. “We can head over there now, and these little guys can come with us,” she added, as the table floated along behind her.

It wouldn’t be long before they caught sight of the vast, mountainous wall of cybermantic technowombs, each bubbling and pulsing as a gargantuan biomechanical engine of destruction grew within.

“These guys were pretty badly damaged in the conflict that forced me to seek the aid of this particular reality plenum’s Grand Magistrate,” Nykannis explained. “In fact, I had to regrow a large number of them from scratch,” she added. “And to ensure the survivors fare better in their rematch, I decided to make them even larger, among other improvements.”

"Larger, huh?" Jennifer looked up at the titans. "You made sure to up the defenses around the lower body, right? Large as they are it'd be a damn waste for some vagabond to trip them for an easy win." She shook her head. Something did catch her ear though.

"Wait, rematch? You considering revenge or something?" She asked. "What'd you do that warranted an escape to here anyways?"

“I’m always considering revenge,” Nykannis replied with a maniacal grin. “As for what I did, well, it was really nothing more than what I always do- push beyond boundaries. Let’s just say I went where others didn’t want me to go, and saw what others didn’t want me to see. I ‘overstepped my bounds’, so THEY decided to erase me from existence. Needless to say, THEY failed, and soon that failure is gonna come back to bite them in the metaphorical ass,” she added, while gazing up at the looming form of the nearest titan. “And yeah, you’d better believe I upped these guys’ defenses, although even without ‘em, you’d have to be the size of a mountain yourself to trip them up. Besides, they have full teleportation and counter-gravity capability, so they don’t even need to walk anywhere. Impressed yet?” she asked with a smug smirk.

"Hah! If I wasn't impressed, I wouldnt've been curious now, would I?" The time witch looked back to Nykannis with a grin of her own. "Though from what I'm hearing, seems we're in a similar boat, you and I." She noted, arms crossed.

“You don’t say?” the mad scientist asked with a raised eyebrow. “So what’s keeping you from going wherever you please? Clockroaches? Pesky Timelords? The TVA? That last one was a joke, by the way.”

At the question tossed back to her, Jennifer's smile faltered. "Well it wouldn't be fun if we learned my past this early, wouldn't it?" She tried to joke. After a brief pause, she looked back up to the titans. "But really even I haven't figured it out yet. I do think it had to do with me pursuing forbidden methods of time magic back in my original timeline. Y'know how in Penrose, time travel is seen as impossible, yet the 'perk' of being Void-Touched exists? Yeah, that didn't really stop me and my stubborn stupidity. It costed me alot. I flew too close to the sun, and got locked out."

With a frown, she glanced aside. "I got erased. Or as far as I was concerned, everyone I knew turned out better off without me. I know I was nothing but a fucking joke, but come on! Was I really that bad to the point of hindering progress??" Her frown broke into a scowl, before she shook her head to recollect herself. "BUT I've learned to focus on the positives of my predicament. I was free. I didn't have to hold myself back, repress how I felt anymore! I could do whatever I wanted, travel anywhere I wanted, unbound by moral restraints!!" With a maniacal cackle, she spun to face Nykannis, arms spread out.

"I thought I was alone, but I never was! For I have TIME ITSELF WITH ME!! People may be fickle, but with Time, I AM A GOD!!!" A manic grin. The time witch quickly realized how she might've looked, and calmed down, clearing her throat. "Sincerest apologies. Lost my cool for a moment there."

“Huh.” Nykannis observed. “Yeah, one of the Grand Magistrate’s big rules for this reality plenum is ‘no time travel’, but it sounds like getting ‘banished’ opened up a whole multiverse for you to explore, and then some. I’d kill to have that kind of freedom again! After all, what the hell do you think all this is for?!” she asked, spreading her arms to encompass the monolithic mountain range of cyberwombs, as well as the tens of thousands of moon-sized meganaughts and hypernaughts floating overhead. “I should be out there, exploring and conquering the myriad infinites, but instead I’m stuck here, kowtowing to small-minded magistrates and building fetishistic playthings for…” the mad scientist’s voice trailed off as an idea occurred to her. “Y’know, I just thought of something else you can help me with,” she noted with a twisted grin. “I’ve got an upcoming meeting with a certain pink-haired pervert, and in the event of that lunatic deciding she wants to fight me in my favorite restaurant, I’d like you to step in and mollify her, or at the very least distract her while I find another way of resolving the situation. You think you can do that?”

"Oh yeah, she dragged you into that not-date thing." Jennifer held a finger up to her chin, then nodded. "Yeah, since you've put up with me this long, I guess I do owe you a solid. Could probably grab you something that'd help you escape in a blink if it comes down to that."

“Glad to hear it,” Nykannis replied with a grin. “But I won’t be escaping,” she corrected. “I refuse to concede even a nanometer of ground to that bitch. I just need a way of occupying her easily-manipulated attention. Although it would be cool if you could actually convince her to give up on whatever annoyingly inconvenient stupidity she might have planned. With that in mind, make sure you come in your loli form,” the mad scientist instructed. “She has a… thing for that particular body type. It’ll hopefully make her more receptive to whatever you have to say.”

A tired look again. The time witch couldn't help but sigh. "Right. But if she tries anything funny with me I'm punting her into the wall." The innocuous masquerade would prove useful in letting people's guard down, but still. Ew.

Nykannis snorted in amusement. That I would love to see.”

The pair continued to chat and tour the vast technoscape a while longer, but eventually, it came time for Jennifer to depart. After the Witch of Time had returned to wherever and whenever it was she called home, Nykannis had decided to return to what she’d been doing before being interrupted by her uninvited guest. Settling into her comfy command throne and activating her interdimensional viewer’s panoramic display, the Monarch of Mad Science grinned as she gently pet the small creature she was still carrying. Now… Let’s see how our little Ashley’s doing…”






..

.

“Wow… That was certainly a stroke of luck, just happening to meet the perfect girl to distract Oros, right before you needed said distraction in the first place.”

“I hardly think ‘luck’ had anything to do with it,” Nykannis replied with a smirk. “Jen’s the Witch of Time. Odds are, she already knew when Oros would be dropping by, so she decided to be preemptive. Smart move, I gotta admit. Smart girl in general,” she added. “It’s not often I get to chat with someone possessed of an intellect so close to my own level, so I cherish the opportunities when I find them. Plus, she’s a hell of a lot more pleasant to be around than Oros, that’s for sure…”

“Yeah, she seems pretty fun,” Kate agreed. “I’d love to meet her sometime,” she added with a grin.

“Something tells me you’ll get the chance sooner or later,” Nykannis replied, ignoring the photographer’s obvious pun. “If she’s as bored as I am, she won’t be content with just two visits. Besides, something occurred during our little powwow with Oros that I think she’ll be rather interested in.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, I noticed a familiar chronometric signature enter the reality plenum for a brief moment before noping the hell out. Not that I blame him,” she added with a derisive snort. “This place is a fucking train wreck on the best of days. ANYWAY, speaking of reality plenums, wanna join me in watching a few?”

“Sure. Like I said, I’ve got plenty of time to hang out.”

“Enough with the time puns already… Fuck, you’re almost as bad as that cheap Penny knockoff we met at the party…”

“Alright, alright, I’ll stop,” Kate reassured the mad scientist with a chuckle as they took their seats in front of the interdimensional viewer’s massive display. “So, what are we gonna watch?”

“Hmmm…” Nykannis murmured as she flipped through various universes as though she were changing channels on a tv. “Well, looks like Ashley’s still recovering from her visit to Justin’s funhouse, Olivia and her new friends are fighting a spectral storm cloud Pageless, Team 3’s battling a giant robot… Well now, what’s this?! Oh, this is great! Sarah and Stephanie are about to fight Draygon, and discover his true identity! Can you imagine the delicious emotional anguish that’s gonna generate?!”

“Yeah, you always did love drama,” Kate noted wryly. “But maybe we could watch something a little more lighthearted,” she suggested. “Y’know, something comedic?”

Fine… Nykannis conceded with an annoyed sigh. “I think I know just the thing…”






That’s ME!!!

-Stacy

in


The Great Brain Robbery!
(Bold and italics employed to denote importance.)

Starring Stacy Stitches


That’s ALSO me!

-Stacy


Huh? Who turned off the lights? Stacy wondered groggily. She could vaguely make out a distorted voice giving instructions, a voice which grew louder and more distinct with each passing second.

“PerFECT! N-ow, M-ove thE oTHER appenDAGE a little to thE LEft…”

Slowly opening her eyes, Stacy was greeted with the sight of her various body parts being arranged in different positions around a large chamber by several hovering, gold-plated spheroid robots. In particular, her arms were being hung upon a far wall, and appeared to be engaged in a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Meanwhile, one of her legs was apparently being employed to serve as a stand for an eldritch lampshade.

“Hey! I remember that movie!” Stacy exclaimed with an excited grin. “That’s the one where that kid in the orphanage loses that sled signed by Victor Lazlo, right?!”

“AH Ha! I see you have now REgained consCIOUSness, chiLD,” the voice declared. “Y-OU, who dARED to set foot WITHin the gilDED palACE of BlorlOnEOUS BloorthEO, Grand High MerCHANT L’ORD of the EterNAL HalCyOnian EmPIRE! I know not the rEason for your unINvited intruSION, but, sINCE I hAVE BEcome wELL A-ware that you are capABLE of SURviving WITHout the use of your interNAL orGANS, I THought it a mOST fitTING punISHment to add you to thE collecTION, DISplayed hERE, in my inNER sancTUM’s art gallERY!”

“Wow! That sounds crazy cool!” Stacy marveled. “Like, for a moment there, I thought I was havin’ a flashback to when Doc Zinestine was putting me back together after my little ‘accident’! It was super weird, just like this! See, one moment, I was walking to school, and the next thing I knew, I was in this crazy cool lab with this crazy cool scientist guy, and I was like, ‘Hey! Can I be the beautiful lab assistant who gets to say ‘It’s ALIVE!’ and all that stuff?!’, but he was like, ‘No! You’re actually the monster!’ Talk about a plot twist! So, anyways, I was like, ‘For reals?!’, and he was like, ‘YES! Just look in this mirror thing!’, and then I was like—”

“Si-LENCE!” Bloortheo bellowed. “I hAVE choSEN to spARE you L-ife, in orDER that yOU may be interrOgated forthWITH! N-OW! I DEmand tO know wHY yOU cAME hERE!”

“Oh, uh, full discosure? I have no idea. I mean, Doc Zinestine probably had a really important reason for sending me here, and I think he might have been telling me about it a little while ago, but I wasn’t really paying attention to him, ‘cause I just got this super cool new game on my phone, where ya help these cute little robot bird things fight against these mutant pig guys, and… Oh! I just remembered something! So, if my body parts are all over there, where’s my head at right now?!”

“IMbecilic chiLD! I have choSEN to pLACE your CONtemptible craNIum U-pon a statUette of an AbaloTHEian abunDANcy danCER, which yOU decaPItated durING your unINvited entRY!”

“Oh wow! I gotta see this!”

Straining for a moment, Stacy’s head shuddered as her sole remaining eye bulged out, before popping free from its socket to roll in front of her. Now able to clearly observe her predicament, the ditzy girl gave voice to a delighted squeal. “OMG! I look like one of those bobble head things! This is too cool! And, like, holy crap! Is that you?! she asked, upon noticing the bulbous golden visage looming over her. “You’re SO freakishly BIG! Totally not judging here, but have you ever thought about going on a diet? ‘Cause I’ve heard that the grainless diet is super good at helping you lose—”

“Si-LENCE!” Bloortheo roared. “You wILL tELL me what I wISH tO knOw, or I sHALL—”

“Ooooh! What’s that crazy lookin’ glowy thing over there?!” she asked as a crystalline polyhedron covered in shimmering circuitry glyphs caught her eye. “It looks kinda familiar… Say! Do ya think I might have ever seen it before sometime?!”

“Ah HAH ha! SO, your purPOSE is nOW REvealed! I should hAVE knOWN it was tHIS you S-ought!”

“Oh wow! You really think so?! That’s so cool! So… uh, what is it, anyway?”

“T-HIS, my PAtheTIC chiLD, is none oTHER tHAN thE BIphasIC B-RAIN of XoZOOTH thE XorCERer, thE greaTEST polYmathaMAgician of tHEM all!”

Stacy gasped at this revelation. “No way! That guy?! For reals?! I mean, I have no idea who that is, but he sounds crazy important! So, uh, did he perform at birthdays, or somethin? ‘Cause my birthday’s comin’ up soon, and I was really hoping I’d get to have a magician come to my party and make those super cute balloon animals! Y’know, like plankton and parameciums and stuff?! Like, I asked my friend Ramona if she could do that kinda stuff, and she was like, ‘I don’t make balloons, I pop them’, and, I mean, that’s super fun too, but, like, how can ya pop them when they don’t even exist yet, y’know? So, anyways, if that is what Doc Zinestine wanted me to get, then why’d ya put me so close to it?”

“PiTIful foo-EL! You are UtTERly helpLESS! I hAVE, of COURse PREvented you from moVING your appendAGES, by pLACing each OF them in a staSIS FI-eld!”

Stacy grit her teeth as she attempted to wiggle just one finger, but no matter how hard she tried, it wouldn’t budge an inch. “Huh, well that sucks…” she noted with a frown.

“AH ha! AH ha!” Bloortheo chortled. “Do yOU nOw sEE?! YoU sHALL nOT bE sTealing anYthing, nOR SHall yOU bE resCUed, fOR nONe cAN enTER my innERmost sancTUM, UNless I aLLOW it!”

“How right you are,” an amused voice agreed.

“Hey! I know that voice!” Stacy exclaimed as she bounced her eye back into its socket in time to see a shadowy form extend from her lamp stand leg to pool in the center of the floor. A moment later, the dark puddle rose up into the smirking form of a dark-haired young woman with piercing red eyes. “Ramona!” the patchwork girl cheered, a big grin spreading across her face.

“WhAt is thE meanING of thIS?!” Bloortheo bellowed. “H-OW did yOU get IN hERE?!”

“The same way Stacy did,” Ramona replied. “I bonded myself to her shadow,” she explained. “Not the most pleasant experience by any means, but as you can see, it got the job done.”

With a flick of her wrist, the shadowy sorceress deactivated the stasis fields binding all of Stacy’s myriad body parts in place, allowing her patchwork pal accomplice to regain full control over them once more.

“Wow, thanks!” Stacy told her totally-not-friend, before her head, torso, and various appendages flew into the center of the room, where they began reassembling themselves, although not without some mistakes…

“Your head’s on backwards,” Ramona noted in a dry deadpan. “And so is your right foot.”

“I was wonderin’ why everything seemed a bit off!” Stacy replied with a giggle as she readjusted herself. “There! That should do it!”

“Now, let’s get down to business,” Ramona declared with a wicked smirk. “Fatty, your voice is an affront to my eardrums, and I should just stick your bloated carcass in a chamber of eternal torment, but since I’m feeling uncommonly generous, I’m willing to make a deal. Give us the brain, and I promise we’ll leave peacefully. Otherwise, things will become decidedly more unpleasant.”

“Wow, so we really are tryin’ to steal that weird glowy thing? Sweet!”

“H-OW dARE yOU?! H-OW dARE yOU utTER sUCH efFRONtery tO mE, in my O-wn sancTUM, nO less!”

“What better place is there?” Ramona asked with a cocky sneer. “You’ve got the best security in the nine unified galaxies surrounding this place, but inside it, you’re completely helpless. It’s actually rather pathetic.”

“Ah HAH ha! FooLISH chILdren! A-mong thE reLICs CONtained hereIN, are thE trapPINGs of my priOR L-ife, and as yOU shAll nOW witNESS, it is indEed a gloRIous THing, to bE a PiRATE K-ING!”

Reaching a segmented limb under his desk, Bloortheo produced a small gold and jewel encrusted chest, which, in a blur of mechanical motion, swiftly reconfigured itself into an enormous energy cannon.

“N-OW!” the merchant lord declared as his massive weapon began to charge with destructive power. “D-IE!”

“Wow! That’s, like, super crazy cool!” Stacy exclaimed, her eyes gleaming with excitement. “But I’ve got something even cooler! she added as a crackling orb of energy manifested between her hands. “Check this out!”

Seeing the size of Bloortheo’s weapon, and, perhaps even more worrying, Stacy’s response to it, Ramona’s eyes widened in alarm. “Stacy, wait…!” Ramona began, but it was already too late.

With a deafening peal of thunder and an energetic declaration of “Super-Mega-Ultra Zappy Zap!”, the patchwork girl unleashed her Killing Blow, an almighty torrent of chain lightning that promised to utterly incinerate anything and everything in its path.




“Huh, is it just me, or does everyone open with Killing Blow these days?”

“I know, right? (sigh…) Creativity is well and truly dead…”

“Well, I guess ya really can’t blame em’, especially since they never seem to miss.”

“Heh, wanna bet?”




Indeed, while Stacy’s raw power may have been vast, her accuracy left more than a little to be desired… Thus, the full, unmitigated fury of her massive arc of actinic annihilation fell not upon Blorloneous Bloortheo, but rather, the polyhedral brain of Xozooth the Xorcerer…

Shit…

“Whoops! Wrong target!” Stacy announced with a giggle.

“Y-OU Foo-EL!” Bloortheo cried in horror. “WhAT hAVE yOU dONe?!”

Even as this was said, the besieged brain began to shudder and glow with even greater brilliance as the energy from Stacy’s Killing Blow streamed into it.

“ThE bRAIN is beING overLOADed!” the merchant lord shrieked. “Its deLIcate equiliBRIum faTALLY DISrupTED! Y-OU hAVE dOOmed us all!”

“Whoah, really?!” Stacy gasped, while still blasting away, and seeming far-too-happy about that revelation. “That’s awesome!”

“No it’s not, you idiot!” Ramona snarled. “That’s the thing we were supposed to steal!” Giving voice to a sigh of utter exasperation, the red-eyed witch grabbed Stacy and pulled her through a just-opened interdimensional doorway, shutting off her lightning beam in the process. “Come on! Before that thing goes critical!”

“WretCHED sWINE!” Bloortheo bellowed. “Y-OU wILL P-ay for tHIS! Y-OU wILL—”

The merchant lord’s cries were cut off as Ramona slammed the door to her interdimensional home shut, a moment before an earsplitting detonation violently shook the frame.

“Wow! That was really intense, huh?!” Stacy asked, to which Ramona merely rolled her eyes.

After waiting several seconds, the shadowy sorceress slowly opened the door to see what remained of Bloortheo’s inner sanctum. “Holy shit…” she whispered as she beheld the sight that lay beyond.

“Wooow…” Stacy agreed, as she poked her head around Ramona’s witch’s hat.

Where the merchant lord’s palace once stood, there was now a gaping chasm in the heart of a glittering metropolis, a smoldering crater still glowing in its depths.

“I hope you realize this is all your fault.”

“It was?” Stacy asked with a confused frown. “But, like, I wasn’t the one who put that super fragile brain thing out in the open where it might get zapped! I mean, if it was really so dangerous, that big gold guy should have put it somewhere safe!”

“I don’t think anyplace is safe from you…” Ramona grumbled as she closed the door. “(Sigh…) Whatever… I’m in no mood to get reprimanded right now, so would you like to play a game?”

“Sure! Wanna play chess?!” Stacy asked eagerly.

“Actually, I was thinking we might try monopoly,” Ramona replied with a smirk. “I’m pretty sure you’ll find the rules somewhat familiar.”

“Oh, cool! I love that game! And I call the big cannon thing!”

“You mean the artillery piece?”

“Yeah! Not only does it attack with three dice instead of two, but it gets a bonus shot before combat even starts!”

What…?

“Oooh! Oooh! And the race car, too! That guy’s so fast, he gets an extra move!”

“Of course he does…” Ramona replied with a resigned sigh. “How could I have ever forgotten that…”




“Hahaha… Oh man… That was great!” Kate declared between bursts of hysterical laughter as she wiped a tear from her eye. “But, uh, if that was the brain of Xozooth the Xorcerer, then wouldn’t having it absorb that kinda energy have blown up the entire planet, if not the entire star system?”

Very perceptive,” Nykannis commended with a sly smirk. “And yes, it would have actually released enough destructive force to annihilate that entire galaxy, if it hadn’t been a fake.

“A fake?” Kate echoed. “Then where’s… Oooh…” her voice trailed off as the appearance of a glowing polyhedron in Nykannis’s lap brought sudden understanding.

“Did you seriously think that the paragon of all polymathamagicians would allow himself to come into the possession of someone as intellectually bankrupt as Blorloneous Bloortheo?” the mad scientist asked with a raised eyebrow. “Beings of his vast intellect seek out those of equal, or surpassing brilliance,” she noted.

And who share my sense of humor, (italics employed to denote an otherworldly voice) a disembodied voice added. As such, it is a pleasure to finally make your acquaintance, Miss Carson. Doctor Nykannis has spoken quite often of your love for pranks, and, if you are willing, I should like to employ your services in that regard.

“You… want to hire me?” Kate asked somewhat incredulously.

Yes, Xozooth confirmed. It concerns an old pupil of mine, whom I have very much been wanting to get back at for a prank he pulled on me several millennia ago.”

“I, uh, guess I could do that.” Kate replied hesitantly. “But, um, what exactly did you have in mind?”

Most splendid. Most splendid indeed. His name is Thyerg’Xolys, and this (bold employed to denote emphasis) is what I’d like you to do…
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Shifter_Master
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&

Roxanna


.:⋮Belated Welcoming⋮:.


Penny kept her gaze on the horizon as contemplated her next course of action. It had been a few days since the Wendigo attacks and she had found herself with a rare open block of time. Nothing needed her direct attention and she had no plans for the moment. She mulled going and seeing how Alex and Lily were, it had been a long time since they had a chance to simply hangout afterall, but that thought brought her to another person instead.

Roxanna.

Penny hadn’t had the chance to actually talk to the other girl before the group had broken up and went their different ways, but she had exchanged numbers. So seeing as she had time, she decided to give the girl a call. Penny had plenty of reasons to check in on the new girl, Beacon responsibilities, Sanctuary responsibilities, Queen responsibilities. But it mainly came down to the fact that Penny liked to help people, and she had a feeling that Roxanna was new to Penrose.

On the outskirts of Penrose, where a quick walk was all that was required to leave behind the works of man and find oneself in the midst of nature itself, Roxanna unplugged her phone charger from the public terminal and started to walk back to her tent in the camp grounds. It wasn’t the most luxurious or comfortable of homes; the tent itself had enough blankets, pillows and cheap camping mattresses to try and combat the cold that she felt like a caterpillar making a cocoon everytime she got into it… but it was for the foreseeable future home.

Without really any plans for the night beyond checking out the app on her phone to see what kind of critters and beasts needed their skulls smashed in… if they had skulls… Roxanna was slightly surprised as her phone started ringing. Not recognizing who’s number it actually was since… Well, she hadn’t gotten around to listing names for everyone who she had gotten the number of a week ago, she took a deep breath as she hit the answer button and responded “Hi, this is Roxanna. Who’s this?”

"Hey Roxanna, this is Penny." Penny would answer "We traded numbers back in the aftermath of the mass Wendigo attack. I wanted to both check in on you and thank you." She was quick to explain. "I live not far from that attack with a few other girls and you being there helped them get away alive from the sounds of things."

Even though they were having the conversation over the phone, Roxanna’s tone betrayed the fact that she was bashfully reaching up to scratch the back of her head. “Aww, you don’t have to do that. I like helping people… Hell, I didn’t even know that there was anyone in danger in the area at the time, but I’m glad to hear they’re doing alright.”

Pausing for a moment, Rox was quick to add “By the way, have you checked out some of the jobs on the app lately?”

"All the more reason to thank you." Penny would reply. "And no, I've not really had time either. Penrose is a madhouse at the best of times, and I've got a number of responsibilities on top of that." Beacon, Sanctuary, and personal projects all took time. And Penny needed to sleep one of the three would likely have to be cut.

"Anything interesting pop up?"

There was a slight click of the tongue on Roxanna’s end as she answered “Hard to say. I’m kind of new to Penrose so I don’t know what’s interesting, weird or day to day here. But I saw a job about helping a girl who seems to be dealing with the mental backlash of some kind of haunted house… Maybe my own psychic abilities can help her.” There was a small pause, likely Roxanna shrugging her shoulders as she asked “What are you up to?”

Penny kept her satisfied smirk to herself. She had assumed that Rozanna was new to Penrose for a few reasons, but being right was still nice. “I really hope this isn’t the prelude to a rise of hauntings.” She would say with a groan instead “I had to exorcize a school a few weeks ago due to a ghosting calling gone really bad.”

“And I’m not really up to much at the moment.” She would answer. “I’m patrolling I guess” Which was true enough after a fashion. “Oh! Since you're new in town you’ve likely not found Brittney’s shop yet have you?” Penny would ask “It’s an artifact shop for the most part, but they do have more mundane things in stock as well. Easily one of the best places to shop for the Maho here.”

“Oh? Where do I find it?” Roxanna asked, a degree of curiosity in their voice as they took a seat at the front of their tent.

“She’s got her store set up just off of Jackson’s and Summer street.” Penny would answer. “Give me a sec” A moment later Roxanna’s phone would receive a pair of texts. One was a map pin of where Brittney’s show was located. The other was a picture of Penny herself waving. “There we go.”

The second picture couldn’t help but get a small, playful smirk. “Thank you for that. If there is anything Penrose has going for it, the presence of so many beautiful girls makes it amazing.”

“I know what you mean” Penny would reply “It feels like the only karmic balance in the city sometimes.” Not that Penny actually disliked the chaos of Penrose most days. Though she figured that had more to do with her monstrous nature more than anything. “In the interest of full disclosure, I do have a girlfriend, but this city is honestly filled with beauties.”

“You can normally find a few girls loitering around Penrose central.” Penny would go on to say, another pin popping up on Roxanna’s phone as she did. “It’s the closest to a completely neutral zone as you can find here. East side of the city is more Beacon, but you can find them all over the place since they’ve got teleporters. The west side is understood to be the Sanctuary’s domain, but they are pretty relaxed so long as you don’t stir up trouble intentionally.”

“...Forgive me for sounding silly but… what exactly is the Sanctuary?” Roxanna asked, slightly embarrassed.

“It’s not silly.” Penny would counter, her smug grin not translating over to the phone at all. “The Sanctuary is a Penrose exclusive thing as far as I know. And it’s what it sounds like; The Sanctuary is an open sanctuary for anyone who needs it. It’s a home and refuge, free of charge and expectation.”

“It tends to cater more towards the more corrupted members, Monstergirls and Dark magicals. But that's more because we don’t have as many people looking out for us, or at least we tend to have more people actively out to abuse us. That said, The Sanctuary doesn’t turn anyone away. Not if they need the help.”

There were a few moments of silence from Roxanna’s side of the phone… before something of an amused puff of air escaped her nose with a distant ‘I’ll tell her’ before she spoke directly into the phone again. “Sorry, my patron was just talking to me for a moment. He wanted me to inform you that they are proud of the work you do Penny. Not the magical girl side of things, but your work with the Sanctuary. Ideally the world would be filled with people willing to offer the disenfranchised and abandoned comfort and respect because humanity is only as grand as it treats the least of its members. Even if you didn’t know it, there are powers that admire the work you do.”

“That being said…” Roxanna continued with some amusement “They haven’t actually told me what kind of work you and the Sanctuary does because they felt like I was better off asking you that question.”

‘Welp, busted I suppose’ Penny would think to herself as she dropped her face into her hand. She couldn’t blush, but that didn’t mean she didn’t feel the phantom sensation of an embarrassed one on her face.

“Fair enough, since I built the place.” Penny would reply, her tone a tad bashful “And my first patron was a near forgotten deity. So while I don’t know who your patron is, I’m aware that there are all sorts out there.”

“As I said, the Sanctuary is open for anyone who needs it. We offer shelter, food, protection and solace.” She’d explain a bit more in detail “I’m working on finding a way of being able to employ some of the girls who live there so that I can pay them. Setting up a scholarship program with the Overcity college has been another idea that I’ve been tossing around as well.”

“Honestly I’m just trying to give all of them a way to get their life in order, and a safe, stable place to fall back to if they need it.” Her voice was wistful as she spoke. “My first six months in the magical world wasn’t pleasant, my patron was a prime asshole, but I have the capability now to make it better for those that get dropped into here. So I am.”

Roxanna… couldn’t help but smile a little as she listened to Penny saying her piece. “...I admit my patron has gone by a few different names over the eons, but as of late he has been going by the name Socialism. I might be speaking for him just a little Penny but you’re the exact kind of person that he adores and believes brings out the best in humanity… and I would love to help you do that.”

There was a slight pause… before she glanced around at her tent before saying “I mean… if you’ll have me. I don’t want to impose or anything…”

“Do you need me to repeat the part of everyone being welcome?” Penny would ask and Roxanna could almost swear she could feel the look Penny had to be sending her from her phone.

“Many hands make even mountains small” Penny would go on to say. “I welcome any help you wish to offer. And even if there isn’t anything you can do, the door is open anyway.” Another map pin would follow that declaration.

“Okay then… I guess I’ll see you there soon then.” Roxanne offered after a few moments.

"I'll meet you there." Penny would retort before ending the call. Seems she had found something to do after all.
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Majoras End
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Finn finally arrived at the Overcity College of Magic, the most prestigious and acclaimed school of learning the art of magic and the numerous ways it has been applied in the arcane community. He headed out to Entrance-level Exorcism, and arrived at the classroom just as the teacher, Magus Ilmatar, called out a certain name: "Finnegan Vanhorn! You're late! What do you have to say for yourself?"

Finn visibly tensed up as his name was called. "M-My apologies! Had to stop a vicious monster attack! Wendigoes. Way too many wendigoes..." He explained, shaking his head at the end, then hurrying to his seat in definetly-not embarassment.

Ilmatar looked surprised. "A monster attack? Well, I suppose that is a justifiable explanation. Anyway, let us begin..."
As Ilmatar began by opening a PowerPoint presentation on exorcism, Finn heard a little giggle from next to him; it came from a girl with long, black hair that covered one of her eyes. Upon being noticed, however, she made a little "eep".
"Oh, I'm sorry! I, uh, didn't mean to laugh...You just had a very funny expression..." The girl then lifted her textbook to hide her reddened cheeks.

"Hm?" Finn glanced over to his raven-haired desk neighbor the moment he heard her giggle. Even if his attention was divided, he tried his best to listen to the presentation as well. "Ah, it's okay! I probably looked ridiculous coming to class late huh?" He whispered back with a soft smile.

The girl peeked out from the top of the book. "Y-Yeah...Sorry, I'm a bit nervous." She noticed how the teacher glanced in their direction, and lowered to a whispering voice. "But we need to be quiet. In the last class I was in, some loud girls were punished by being put in a glass jar. I hope I'm not punished like that..."

"Hah, sounds fun." Finn couldn't help but sound a bit sarcastic. If that was how her last class got punished, what would this one cook up? He took a moment to jot down some notes. "Just make sure you pay attention, K?" He'd whisper without looking away.

The girl nodded, and followed Finn's example of taking down notes as the class continued. By the end of the lesson, Magus Ilmatar announced: "The final evaluation of the course consists of performing a successful exorcism before the class. For this, you will pair up with another student. The spirit you are to exorcise...Will be this." She opened a suitcase on her desk, and showed tiny colored vials. Each held a tiny creature within them.

"These are sprites. Cute little creatures, but capable of mischief nonetheless. They are trained to seek out totemic objects and possess them. The responsibility for keeping the sprite will be shared between the students of each pair. Make sure to take a vial on your way out for practice. Class dismissed."
The black-haired girl blinked, and then looked around; it seemes nobody wanted to pair up with her as the class of students went to grab the vials. She sat on her desk with her head leaning on her arms, looking slightly depressed. "I guess it's just you and me, Damien...Like always..."

Except when Finn prepared to leave, gathering his things and going over to grab a vial, he looked around to notice his desk neighbor hadn't got up to grab one yet. He glanced back to her, then the vial in his hand, then walked back to the girl. He held the sprite vial out for her to take instead. An offer.

"I'm Finn." He introduced himself properly with a smile.

The girl looked up with a blink of her visible eye, looking surprised. "I...I'm Ebony," she shyly introduced herself. She then looked at the vial...And she fidgeted, averting her eye. "I-I'm still missing a partner, so...Maybe we could...You know..."

Finn snorted. "Why'd you think I'm handing you the vial? Of course I wanna partner up with ya!"

Ebony blinked. "Y-You do? Okay then, we can be...partners." She blushed a bit, before snatching the vial from him. "L-Let's do our best, then," she blurted out, and took off of the classroom, waving as she did so. "Bye!"

"Ah, careful with that!" Finn called out as she left in a rush, waving back regardless. After a moment, he left the classroom as well.



Meanwhile, Oliver went to the workshop classrooms located in the basement level of the school for Magical Engineering Mechanics: he noticed how the room had all kinds of glowing and shimmering contraptions and devices in addition to workbenches and more traditional tools. The teacher of that class was a skinny and nerdy-looking magical girl with oversized magitech goggles that extended and retracted like a pair of eyestalks on a snail. She was working on some kind of glowing cube even as the classroom filled up, and the time of the class had already passed by a minute.

A basement? How oddly befitting for him. Oliver curiously glanced around as he made his way downstairs. It was kind of charming, seeing that they mixed in the traditional tools with the more advanced stuff. His teacher also looked interesting at first glance, but he wouldn't dwell on that further. The spirit went ahead and took his seat.

More time passed as the teacher continued tinkering with the cube, until one of the students cried out: "Miss Marjatta, shouldn't you already start the lesson? We are five minutes over the appointed time." Oliver noticed how the girl was sitting at the front, and had curly brown hair and tapped jubilantly on her desk.
The teacher was seemingly woken from a trance of sorts.
"Oh! I was supposed to be teaching now, wasn't I? I'll solve your mysteries later, little buddy."
She tucked the cube away, and addressed the class, her robotic eyestalks twisting around. "I am Miss Marjatta, and I will be teaching Magical Engineering Mechanics this semester. During the course, you'll learn the basics of magical engineering, or magitech, as the cool kids would say. By the end you will build a magical device for your final evaluation. Any questions?"

"Well I'm not sure if this is relevant to anything but, what were you tinkering with exactly??" Oliver asked in genuine curiosity.

"Oh, isn't that the question!" Marjatta took out the cube and lifted it up for everyone to see.
"This is a marvellous artifact recently discovered in an ancient tomb! Having analyzed it, I have come to the conclusion that it is a power source of some kind, but how does it work? How was it made? How much energy does it contain? Maybe if I-"
"Miss Marjatta, the lesson please!" The girl again called out.
Once again the absentminded teacher was brought back to reality. "Ah yes, the lesson! Now, open your books to chapter 1031..." She mumbled, as she kept looking at the cube.

The spirit quietly giggled. Perhaps one of them could make a device that helps analyze that artifact further. For now he did what he was told, and flipped his book to the right chapter.

The class continued despite Marjatta's lapses in attention, and eventually Marjatta gave the class their first homweork. "Read up on those chapters and deliver a two-page essay. Also prepare for the assignment next week. Oh, and while the final evaluation is done independently, the weekly assignments are to be done in pairs."
The curly-haired girl raised her hand.
"But why? Shouldn't we complete these assignments on our own? What if somebody leaves all the work to their partner?"
Marjatta initially didn't respond, having returned back to examining the cube, until she snapped to attention.
"Oh, I'm sure nobody will try to cheat during this course. Also, I have come to the conclusion that pairing up leaves me with 50% less homework to grade."
She nodded to herself.
"It is very efficient, don't you agree? Anyway, class dismissed."
The girl groaned as everyone packed up. "Fine. I'll just have to pick someone...Hey there!" She waved to Oliver. "My name's Rennala. Wanna pair up with me for this course?"

"Hm? Oh." Oliver looked over to Rennala when waved at. "Oh, sure! Why not? I'm Oliver!" He told her, walking up next to the girl once he was done packing up for the day.

"Alright! But don't think you can just loaf around while I do all the work! We're doing this together!" She announced with a determined smile, and attempted slapping Oliver in the back...Only to whiff completely. "Whoah! Nice dodge!"

Oh, he turned intangible for a moment. Must've been a reflex.

"Thaaat wasn't on purpose." Oliver puffed a cheek out. "Ghost thing. If it wasn't obvious."

Rennala smirked, and attempted to poke Oliver's shoulder. "Oh, how interesting. Well, that's fine. Even if your body's empty we can do this as long as your head isn't. So, should we exchange contact information or decide on meetups? I'm fine with either."

"Exchanging contact info sounds good. We can discuss where to meet from there." Oliver said, pulling out his phone.

"Alright! Here's my number," Rennala said as she showed her phone: it had a little owl sticker and a feather keychain hanging from it. Afterwards she punched Oliver's number in, and sent a text through Glimmr. "Yep, this works. I look forward to working with you! Gotta go to Potions Basics bye!" She then left, turning the corner.

"Later!"
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Shifter_Master
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.:⋮Moving Day?⋮:.


There was an unnoticed sense of relief that flowed through Penny as she closed the door to the Sanctuary behind her. It also came with a sense of satisfaction, she had been worrying away at this particular issue from the moment she returned from the Beach the first time to see the warehouse filled with people already.

She nodded at Ashlyn as she walked further in, the taller girl always found watching the front door relaxing. Even more so if Monica was cooking, though that wasn’t the case at the moment. The Queen would wade her way across the room, returning greetings called to her as she went.

Normally she would have lingered and spent some time with the people she had chosen to protect, but right now she had someone she needed to find and bring the good news too. With that in mind Penny would focus her senses looking for one presence in particular. Dina would like this turn of events, Penny was sure.

Deep down in Dina's chambers, Penny would find that the usual neatness and demure that permeated the Regent’s room was gone in a flurry of chaos and restlessness. Here and there, scattered papers, half-written letters and empty vodka bottles littered the room. Her prized Dream Orb was being used as a paperweight, and she had taken a purification potion out of the usual place, hanging as an odd pick me up, yet still unopened right next to a half finished bottle of spirits.

A single cat maid was doing her best to scrub a waist height stain of wine, alongside a shattered glass against the wall, who bowed in respect before resuming her task. It was safe to say Dina had not had a good day.

A figure stirred underneath crumpled blankets, before letting a small annoyed hiss. “For the last time, churl, I have told you not to disturb me with your brainless Valkyrie antics.” She replied to the footsteps approaching her.

Looking about the room Penny was made uncomfortably aware of just how stressed Dina must be feeling right now. She kinda knew it was bad, but this was the first true look at just how bad. “Remind me to deck Sann next time I see her” Penny would reply to the rude call out, knowing that her voice would be all that was needed to let the Regent know it wasn’t her Valkyrie that had arrived.

“I knew you were stressing over this.” Because honestly who wouldn’t be “But that she let it get this bad without telling anyone is a bit much”

The sheets moved and shuffled slightly, only for a tired cat head to pop out of them, before letting a long drawn sigh. "Sanngridr is not the one at fault for this kind of situation. A regent must be able to keep her poise in public. At least she got that right." Dina would add as she crawled out of her bed, clad in a stylish nightgown.

"Decking her would only make things worse. And despite how she acts, the fact that she serves Odin makes her slightly more aware than anyone in Sanctuary about the situation." She would answer, before grabbing a half finished vodka bottle and emptying in a rather undignified manner.

"What can I do for her Highness?"

Penny would concede that Dina most likely had a point about Sann having a better idea than most about what was coming, same with keeping poise in front of the rest of the Sanctuary, but. “Still think she should have let me know if no one else. It is my responsibility to make sure everyone is doing alright, and that does include you.” She would state before letting the matter drop.

“Either way. I wanted to show you something. It’s been my next location for the Sanctuary for a while, just getting it here has been a pain.” Penny would explain. “Solved that issue a few minutes ago however. Wanted your input on how to set it up and ideas on how to get everyone moved over.”

"You never trusted her, why would she confide anything to you?" Dina would quip. "Well, better news than my call for help. I only got replies from Dan, some crystal entity, Odin… and a certain Romanian gentleman. I told Sanngridr to scour Penrose to get more volunteers as she is among our fastest flyers." She sighed. "Alright, show me…"

“Because she’s supposed to be your varangian.” Penny would return “And I am your queen. Your well being should be her first concern if she is taking her oaths seriously” Which was just one more reason for Penny to be unfriendly towards Sann, but that could be dealt with later. Preferably without fists, as that would likely just encourage her.

“Regardless. It’s a small walk, I currently have it in the bay.” She would go on to explain. “We can head out when you are ready.”

"Varangians are blunt instruments. Would Belladona, even think of reporting to you in the same situation? I think you are reading far too much into this. Sanngridr is not what you think she is." Dina would quip back.

True to what Penny said it wasn’t a far walk, at least not for a pair of magicals, and upon first look there wasn’t anything that Dina would be able to see sitting in the bay. Or at least nothing out of the ordinary. But there was an unmistakable smirk on Penny’s face as she looked at something in the distance.

“Have I ever told you much about the ship I got?” She would ask after a short moment. “It is something I got from a Dragon, by accident.” She would reach over and lay her hand on Dina’s shoulder. “It was something that I knew would help the Sanctuary since I got back from the Beach the first time.” As Penny’s hand touched Dina, the Regent would notice the air in front of them shimmer and suddenly the Earth Bastion would fade into view towering above them.

“What do you think?”

Dina eyed the massive mechanical monstrosity, a twinkle forming in her eyes alongside a purr. "It's wondrous. Truly a fortress."

But it was then when she reigned herself in. "But also a poisoned gift."

"How so?" Penny would ask shifting all her attention to Dina. She wasn't doubting the older cat girl, not with this, but she did want to know what she had overlooked. "The dragon themselves have left Penrose and none of their girls are in town as far as I'm aware." She would explain. "And I'm pretty sure that neither Beacon nor the Mint know I've smuggled it in."

"What am I missing?"

"With this no one in Penrose answers to you. Your position might be stronger than even Cindy in her heyday." Dina tilted her head. "It would draw a lot of attention. Not to mention…"

She trailed off, hesitant of what she was about to say. "I supported you despite your Beacon ties, but… If Beacon wanted, this fortress could easily become a prison, with you as Warden."

Penny mulled over that for a moment. "Is my open ties to Beacon really that detrimental?" She would ask,annoyed. The idea that she would turn the Bastion into a prison was so far off base as to be insulting. She would never, it was contrary to the entire reason she built the Sanctuary.

But she did remember how everyone reacted to her revealing that she was part of Beacon, even though she had never hidden it.

"I wouldn't do that. But would so few of them trust that?"

Dina averted her gaze, as she let the breeze outside sway her hair gently. She looked at her own feet. She did know Penny had delivered up until now. And yet…

"I don't really know." Dina would look. "I do not think your standing has improved that much ever since you took charge. There were advances, but the carnage of the tournament fiasco remains." The Regent would answer truthfully.

“Damn it” Penny would mutter as she removed her hand from Dina’s shoulder and ran it through her own hair, the mighty ship vanishing from Dina’s sight in the same instant. “Do you think asking up front if the rest of the girls would want to move in would help?” Penny was glad that she showed this to Dina privately first, even if it was annoying to learn that the girls at the Sanctuary hadn’t brought up their issues with how she was running it to her.

“I got it here, so it’s not going to be leaving anytime soon, so at the least we will have it for an emergency fallback. But getting everyone moved now would be a lot better.”

"You should make it a briefing." Dina answered, now noticing the tap on her shoulder. Dina's body flinched in response, as she drew apart from Penny. "It would be best, yes but forceful relocation is always traumatic." She eyed Penny. "I will make sure we don't get raided from the Mint again for the time being."

“Point” Penny would say with an absent nod, her mind whiring for a moment on the brief she’d need to set up. As well as a timeline that would work for everyone at the Sanctuary. It was a touch frustrating, but also good to be reminded that not everyone could simply roll with the punches like Penny could.

“Good luck with that.” She would say setting aside enough processing power to deal with the briefing in the background. “I doubt the Mint is going to be as brazen as last time. Though we are lucky they didn’t try anything with the Wendigos, that would have been a nightmare to deal with.”

“Curious as to what your plan is though”

"Penny pinchers and misers. You just grant them Corsair status and point them in the right direction." Dina would say. "It worked for Sir Francis Drake."

“You want to hire the Mint?” Penny would ask slowly, her tone cautious. “Have you done this already or are you meeting the contact later on?” There was a notably calculating look in the queen's eye as she regarded Dina.

"I…took a gamble. For the sake of getting allies fast." Dina answered. "A very dangerous gamble." She admitted as she produced the document with the conditions for Penny to see.

Penny looked over the contract with a wary look. “As much as I hate to say it, you might have been right to do so.” It was a simple thing, the terms that Dina had signed were rather straightforward, but Penny didn’t trust it as much more than a way to open the door further for the Mint. Still, “If they ask, you convince me to leave them alone, but I’m only honoring it until they betray us or Wonderland is taken care of.”

“Normally I’d have not even bothered to humor them, but it seems that politics has the Ascendency ready to simply stand aside and let Wonderland take over.”

Dina looked at Penny, her scowl accentuating. "So much for the Beacon's elite. It seems we are beneath them." Dina sighed. A voice in the back of her mind wanted to raise alarms. "Penny, if you want to take everyone in the Bastion and leave this place, I will not stop you any further."

“If you mean the warehouse I’m a step ahead of you I think,” Penny would return the document to Dina “But if you are talking about leaving Penrose all together I’m not sure I’d be able to leave personally. This city means a fair amount to me, and I’m not willing to simply leave it without putting up any resistance.”

Dina breathed in deep. "Okay." She seemed to have something gnawing at her mind. "Would you walk with me, if you are so kind?"

“Of course” Penny would gesture for Dina to start walking “Lean on and I’ll listen”

"I don't want to die. I am afraid." Dina would bluntly state. "Half of me is screaming to leave this forsaken place already. " She began to walk away. "But…too many people are depending on me." She began to walk away. "Someone has made me an offer. Well, several people. But this person is both worshipped as a hero and reviled as a monster. I got lucky with my monster girl traits. But if I take this offer… it will mean I will become something else."

“If you’re worried about how I will handle that, don’t.” Following alongside the Regent Penny had an understanding look. “I’m much less human than I look, I’ve just gotten lucky that my inhumanity is easily hidden. If you are worried about how it will affect you personally? The Sanctuary still has a few Red coins and a few potions, so we can change things if you need, or at least try. In the end the responsibility we have due to our positions is not worth damaging your sense of self over.”

Dina would just lead Penny into her chambers once more, as Dina dismissed the maid in there and picked up a few letters. "Dan, Odin, Crystal entities… Hera, Volos the god of Earth… and this one." She produced a single letter, with a dragon eating its own tail. "He said he will give me power over the dragons. And unlike Volos, it might be no prank."

In the back of the letter, in elegant words… an ominous name was revealed to Penny. "Vlad III, son of the dragon."

Penny looked at the name on the back of the letter with a bit of awe. “Tepes contacted you?” Penny would ask, though she doubted it could truly be anyone else. She wondered how the man joined the magical world in passing, but more than anything she could see the appeal in his offer. While she doubted that Vlad was still a classical human, he still understood what Penny and Dina stood for, and would be the last person to blanche at what might be needed to defend one's home.

“I can see why they are at the top of the pile.”

"Looks like my birthright still matters in some circles. Zmey Gorynych put a good word for me. And thus how I got Volos and Tepes interested." She admitted. "There is a catch though."

“And what would that be?”

"He will not take a cat for a bride." Dina admitted.

“Ah” Penny would turn silent for a moment, obviously mulling over that bit of information. “That’s really up to you. I’m assuming that the legends about him would be, at least guiding in what you’ll end up as. But I can’t make that choice for you.” She would explain, before giving a shrug. “For me the sticking point would more be the fact that he wants to make it a marriage, but I’m pretty sure that’s more to do with my age than anything.”

"A purification potion and the Orb of Dreams should make it work." Dina admitted."But…in the event I go out of control, I want you to personally take me down." Dina sighed. "It is fine. I had been groomed for this. It arriving 90 years late is of no consequence."

“As long as you’re sure” Penny would prompt one last time. Searching Dina’s face for any sign of uncertainty. “But you have my promise; if you are to lose control I’ll make sure to stop you before you cause any damage.”

"Thank you…" Dina added, before one of the maids arrived at the entrance, obviously frazzled. "Regent! Your Highness! There is trouble at the entrance!"

Penny was more curious than worried at the maid’s sudden entrance. Whatever the trouble was it wasn’t an attack so the queen didn’t see any reason to be worried. “No rest for the wicked” Penny would quip as she started on her way to the entrance, checking only once to see if Dina was going to be following or leaving this to her.

Dina for the most part, frowning, wondering why she was called instead of the guards. When they arrived they had an inkling why. She wasn't really sure but someone had conjured a storm, a literal storm indoors. Here and there, frantic cat minions were trying to avoid getting the papers of a reception guest soggy with various degrees of success. The first reaction besides facepalming was to cover the desk in barriers.

"Well, you people wanted me to know what I am capable of, so here you go you fucks! Hah!"

A certain pink dragon girl was at the center of the ruckus, her gaze directed at the desk.

Penny would take a quick look at the minor chaos going on and would hold back a snort. Noting the barriers that Dina put up, Penny would let out a sharp whistle to gather everyone's attention.

Her presence would suddenly demand attention as she strode forward, some of the rain being to swirl about her as she went. "Please don't torment the maids." Penny would state calmly as she walked over to the dragon girl. "They do so much for us, the least you can do is be polite."

"Oh, you the boss of this place, swiss knife-chan? And the neko-baba too. Just tell these nekos to set me up. Isn't this the Monster Syndicate or something?" said the dragon girl while Dina was making a very strange face of repressed anger.

“Sakura?” Penny would ask, a touch surprised at the drastic change in appearance from the last time she had seen the other girl. She wouldn’t let that surprise distract her too much however. “We are closer to a refuge than a syndicate, only me and Dina have much say in how things go.” She’d explain. “And we can easily get you settled if you need it. Mind calling off the storm cloud?”

Sakura huffed, as if proud of herself. "I am turning into a dragon. Cool huh?" She said as she dismissed her own power. "I'm even immortal or something like that! So what do I get? A pile of treasure to sleep?"

It was then, when Dina offered a polite smile as she approached. "We can manage something close to such tastes." The cat girl would add, her tail swishing uncontrollably.

Sakura didn't have time to react when Dina struck the mighty dragoness on her face with a mighty slap.

<<"You stupid asshole">> She would say in Sakura's own tongue. <<"Bow down and show some respect">>

"Oi you-"

Slap.

Dina did it again, her face a scowl, before Sakura reluctantly bowed down.

"It's a start." The Russian former noble answered. "You shall serve me as my handmaiden. You don't have enough training and finesse to even attempt to be a regal dragon."

Penny hadn’t yet bothered to go and compile an understanding of any other language, so the short stint of Japanese went over her head. That wasn’t to say that she didn’t catch the gist. She turned a sharp look on Dina and raised an eyebrow. “Why exactly are you browbeating a newcomer into being your handmaiden?” She would ask calmly. Her calm tone belaying the anger that spiked though her at the seeming abusive action of her Regent.

Dina's bluster would be evident. "Well, would you let a 65 yr old crook under a deceptive appearance loose on the Sanctuary girls? She was an old Yakuza prior to this." Dina said, not bothering to hide her distaste for Sakura.

Penny’s eyebrow didn’t lower, but the edge of her look did relent. “Yes.” Came her answer, annoyance in place of anger. “My second friend I made in Penrose was a 67 year old convict who embraced the new life as a second chance.” And she did miss Janet, but she was never sure if she should put up something for her in the memorial or not. She was gone, but she wasn’t exactly dead. It was difficult to categorize.

“Everyone deserves a space where they can be safe, even if that means from others' expectations.” Penny would go on to say. “Besides, most of the girls here can take care of themselves, and if not I am not afraid of standing in for them if they need it.” Her recriminations lacked true heat. Penny was annoyed, but she could see where Dina was coming from.

“Sakura.” She’d turn back to the now dragon girl, “You're free to stay here for as long as you need, and you don’t have to do anything to earn that. If you want to work with Dina, that’s your choice.” She’d say gently. “And only your choice.”

Dina's patience would be tested as the dragon girl in a fast fluid movement, hung her arm around Dina's shoulders, completely destroying her personal space. The poise of a noblewoman and the irated face of a cat about to bite were coexisting on her face.

"Well you heard Swiss Knife-sama. We should get along, Neko-chan. I'm her friend." She cheered with a lawyer's smile."I am sorry for your loss though…come to think of it, my bust is bigger than yours."

It was at this point that Dina extricated herself and began to walk away. "I will be in my room, your Highness." She said.

“Have a good evening, Regent.” Penny would call out to her as Dina left. “And let me know if there is to be a ceremony.” She’d add before turning her attention onto Sakura, a look of disappointment appearing on her face.

“Did I not tell you to be polite just a moment ago?” She'd ask, her voice echoing over to Dina even as the cat girl ostensibly left earshot. “I mean being abrasive to the staff is bad enough, but Dina’s the one who hired them, not me, if you want to get poor service keep it up.”

"I was being polite! When I hear that queenly voice I imagine a tall lady, not a neko loli baba!" Sakura would reply before a sharp pain made her wince."Ow!" She saw one of the maids scamper off after kicking her tail.

"Everyone is being a jerk lately! I fisted Card Liner Piston Cereal just like her sister Juice Tin! And everyone got mad because she was a child! She is not!"

“Physical based discrimination is a lot more common to Monster girls.” Penny would say, not remarking in the least about Sakura getting kicked in the tail by the maid. “And not everyone gets an appearance that they enjoy. Dina’s older than all of us here, far as I can tell anyway. She was a nobility back when she was human. Might be again here soon as a matter of fact.”

“As for the other parts of everyone being jerks, who is Juice and Card?” She would ask, tilting her head a bit in curiosity. She figured those were nicknames, but that did nothing to help her actually narrow down who Sakura was talking about.

"The titty leech! Vice Cereal! Or was it Vicky Real?"

“Von Viceral?” Penny would ask, though she figured that was right. Or at least Penny wasn’t aware of another set of sisters in Penrose other than Justine and Caroline. “My best guess on that end is that you ran afoul of the Crimson Cradle. Justine is a member of theirs now, though I’ve not got a full idea of how that happened.”

“Were you able to take Caroline out for good or did they interfere?”

“I just gave her a good smacking but everyone said she was going to die, including Green-chan and Bunbun-chan, and then the weirdo-chan with the black wings healed us all, so I kinda left. Juice even thanked me for stopping her sister or something. There was Ronin there. And the copy.” Sakura would add.

“Yeah, it sounds like the cradle was trying to capture Caroline for Justine.” Which was a really rapid response plan for them, but then again their memory network would make such plans easy for them to formulate at the drop of a hat.

“Not exactly sure who weirdo-chan is, but I’m guessing you might run into her around her if I’m guessing correctly.” Penny would say. “She’ll try and provoke a fight out of you, if you go with it stick to the gym and no lethal hits.”

“Ronin and Miko make it out of there alright?”

"I think they did. That Sanwhatever, weirdo-chan, kept them close." Sakura added. "I mean I don't like hitting girls but then again I could use a few challenges."

Yup, weirdo-chan was Sann. “She’s a valkyrie and a follower of Odin. Combat is kind of her thing.” Penny would explain.

“You want the tour, or are you good just exploring by yourself?” Penny would ask. Normally there was a third option of having one of the maid’s to give them the tour, but Penny doubted that any of them wanted to deal with Sakura at the moment.

"Can I get the cow lady? She seemed nice." Sakura would add.

“Monica’s not one to give tours” Penny would remark “But if she’s in the kitchen she’d be willing to make you some food if you're hungry.” She’d half turn in her explanation “We can go see if she’s there and ask at the least.”

Sakura just chuckled to herself, muttering something about mama-sans and drinks. But she seemed to be content with just…finding her way out and and about.

“If you want drinks you're going to want to talk to Ashlyn.” Penny would say “She’s the one with the stash. I’ll introduce you so she knows you’re good for it.” She’d add as she turned to guide the way, afterwards she’d leave Sakura to her own. There was plenty of stuff to take care of in the Sanctuary after all, even without everyone moving just yet.
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Ariamis MonMon

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.:⋮Meetings P.2⋮:.


It was just about twenty four hours later and Penny was waiting in the teleporter room for the Cardinal and for Alicia. The unceasing advantage of not needing sleep meant that Penny had taken full advantage of the time between last time she was at Beacon HQ and now.

She truly did hope that this next meeting would work out better, but as she said before. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. The fact that she was walking into a place where someone like her had never been before was cold comfort to her nerves.

“I’m feeling like I’m back at the park.” she would muse to herself. The thought would draw a soft smile from her, she had come much further than she would have expected since that night.

“Hopefully not too similar. The last I recall, someone died at that particular meeting,” Alicia said as she stepped into view. She’d gotten some sleep, prepared her arguments. She was as ready as she could be for this particular challenge that lay ahead of them.

"Not the meeting I was thinking of." Penny would say as she smiled at her friend. "I was thinking back on our first introduction. I'd love a repeat of that turn of events, but I'm not sure we will be that lucky." It was easy to see that despite her dour words Penny had relaxed upon Alicia showing up.

It might not be much, but at least Penny knew she wasn't going in alone.

Cardinal Ishtar arrived a short while later, a white purse slung over her shoulder.
“Now then, it looks like everyone’s ready to depart,” she spoke to the two, and stepped inside the teleporter. “Penny, I am taking you to the Choir to decide your fate. That is not a lie or even an omission of the truth, as your fate is one with that of Penrose. However, you must follow my lead.” She gave one last nod to Elora, who was in charge of the machine’s operation. Elora nodded back, punched in the teleportation coordinates, and the three were off.

Once they arrived, they saw that they were in the Overcity, more specifically the Beacon embassy. It was an imposing building of white and gold, and resembled a lighthouse with the shining, circular chamber at the top. The building was heavily guarded by Beacon magical girls; they looked serious and devoted to their jobs, and Alicia noted that they resembled the Ascendancy troops in attitude.

“Halt!” One of the guards immediately shouted. “Identify immediately!”

Ishtar nodded, and opened her purse. “Cardinal Ishtar, supervisor to the Ascendancy task force.” She showed what looked like a document through her smartphone screen. She then closed her eyes as the guard cast some kind of spell over the three of them; Penny felt like she was prodded for illusions. “Understood,” the guard said afterwards. “These two are the representatives from Penrose?” She asked, and Ishtar nodded. “Yes. I have an appointment with the Choir, branch 47.” The guard turned her attention to the other two. “Very well. Now, it is your turn to identify yourselves.”

Penny would have no shame in admitting the fact that the Beacon embassy was at first a tad intimidating. The presence of the place was unmistakable, and the Cardinal’s words were front and center in her mind as she took in everything. That warryness evaporated and was replaced with exasperation when faced with the guards. She knew what to expect from the Ascendency, she figured she knew what to expect from these people.

She fought off the temptation to more brazenly display her mechanical nature and instead simply replied. “Penny Asimov, Penrose resident and Beacon initiate.” She thought of announcing her other titles, but felt that would be more harm than good at the moment. Though she wasn’t going to deny them if pressed.

Stepping forward after Penny, Alicia faced the guards. One might consider security excessive, but after everything she’d been through it was hard to fault their caution. Considering this was a major location for a large faction, infiltration attempts were probably common. So she didn’t hold it against them. ”Alicia Hayden, Paladin Seraph of the Penrose branch of Beacon.”

The guard’s expression didn’t move as the two girls identified themselves, and another guard punched in the names into their device. “Penrose, huh? That is where the Ascendancy currently operates, correct?”

Ishtar nodded. “That is correct.”

Then the guard’s eyes tightened as she kept reading. “...What is the meaning of this, Cardinal? Why is a monster accompanying you?”

Penny could tell the air turned tense as every guard’s eyes were on her, their weapons held in their arms.

“I am here to take Penny Asimov to the Choir, so they may decide her fate. She is an abnormality that requires scrutiny of the highest order.”

The guard grimaced. “No corrupted permitted beyond this point. She is to be immediately-”

Ishtar suddenly stepped closer to the guard; Alicia and Penny saw her eyes shine with an unbending will. “She is not corrupted, as you see in that report. Therefore, by Beacon jurisdiction, she is allowed to pass. Or do I have to file a report to the Choir that my duty was obstructed by ineptitude on behalf of the embassy?”

The guard grit her teeth, looking furious, but then sighed and relented. “Let them pass.”

The door to the embassy building opened, and the three passed through to the inside, which was a veritable fortress; the sheer scale of the place was enough to make the Beacon headquarters back in Penrose resemble a shed. But Alicia and Penny didn’t have long to take in the sights before they stepped into a large, elaborate teleporter.

The three of them were surrounded by light, and once they could see again, they realized they were no longer in the Overcity, but on another world completely. They were in what looked like a sea of pure, white clouds, out of which jutted out buildings and other architecture made of resplendent golden and white materials. The blue sky was clear, with no sun or other source of light in sight, yet everything was illuminated brightly, as if light existed all around them instead of coming from specific sources, making for a disorienting first experience for the newcomers. In many ways, it resembled a mix of the Christian view of heaven and Mount Olympus of ancient Greek mythology.

“Penny, Alicia…Welcome to Luxia,” Ishtar announced. “The home of the Beckoners, and the seat of the Choir.”

Indeed, the two soon saw that the place was teeming with Beckoners; some more familiar looking like the ones back in Penrose, while others took on more strange or even abstract appearances. Yet they all shared a theme of light and benevolence, even if the theme varied in interpretation. Ishtar made a circle in the air with her fingers, and the clouds parted to reveal a road made of golden bricks. She then began to walk on it, and as she did, the golden bricks themselves began to shift and wave, causing an escalator-esque effect of propelling her movement. “Now, stay close to me. We will soon reach the Choir.” As she said that, the clouds further parted to reveal a gargantuan building in the far distance; it was made of countless towers built on the surface of what looked like a rotating miniature sun, the cracks between the towers shooting out rays of light like they were beams of golden energy.

Alicia’s head was practically on a swivel, eyes wide as she took in everything that was presented to them of Luxia. So this was where it all came from. She could have been annoyed at how ostentatious it was, but so close to the heart of the organization she’d turned her life to supporting, such thoughts were far from her mind. “Wow.”

Penny was in much the same boat as Alicia, the entirety of this place was simply awash with splendor. She was more aware of the ostentatiousness of it, but that was to be expected when she spent most nights sitting on a concrete floor in an abandoned warehouse, but she wasn’t holding it against the people here.

As they came to the end of the golden-bricked road, a magical girl approached them; she was dressed in white robes, and had a holy air to her, as if she were a priestess. “Cardinal Ishtar…We have been expecting you. Come, let us go to my office.”

The Choir member cast a spell with a golden seal, and the three felt themselves being drawn up by a gentle pull of gravity. They flew up to one of the towers on the bottom of the sun; the moment they stepped inside, gravity corrected so they stood on the floor. The inside was extravagantly luxurious, with modern technology blended together with a church-like aesthetic.
“Please, take a seat,” the Choir member spoke with a gesture to the chairs, which slid from the back wall to before them as the Choir member took her own seat behind her office desk.
“Now then, before you give your report…May I ask why you brought these two?”

Ishtar bowed, and then took her seat. “Lady Louhi, my report is related to these two. As you are aware, I was tasked with supervising the Ascendancy as they were sent to stabilize Penrose. However, some unexpected complications have arisen over time.”
The Choir member took a sip from a white cup. “Such as?”

“The Ascendancy suffered casualties due to a local group of terrorists posing as a media outlet. We have evidence of a suspected attack on the city from a force beyond the city’s current defenses. There is also something very notable about the local magical population. I have brought Alicia Hayden and Penny Asimov to testify on the matter.”

The Choir member looked down her nose at the two.
“...Well? Speak up, then. I do not intend for this meeting to last more than four minutes and twenty seconds of my time, so make it quick.”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen” Penny would remark quietly, more to herself than to the Choir member, but it wasn’t said quietly enough that it would go unheard. “Penny Asimov.” Penny would once again introduce herself. “Spark carrying member of Beacon and Monstergirl.” This time she leaned into the fact that she was more machine than human and let her chest fold open like a massive complicated flower, her Shine Spark gleaming brilliantly in the center.

[color=9e0039][u][b]“We are here to ask for information about Wonderland, as they’ve more or less declared their intent to invade Penrose,” Penny would go on to say after a moment of letting Louhi look at her opened chassis and Spark. [color=9e0039][u][b]“We were told you had that information” Penny would let her chest fold close.

Alicia nodded to Penny as she raised the first reason for their being here. ”That’s a big part of it,” she agreed. ”There have also been questions of the Branch’s conduct towards the principles of Beacon, and I’d like to address that too.” They might have a time crunch, but she did not intend to let it unnerve her.

Louhi raised an eyebrow at Penny's initial whisper. "And who are you?" She asked her, sounding offended. When she got the answer in addition to her presentation of her inhuman nature, her face visibly tensed, and her eyebrows furrowed. "What?!" Before she could further voice her shock and disgust, Alicia spoke up, and she scoffed. "Principles? You mean this affront to Beacon's very purpose? This apostate sacrilege?"

Ishtar now spoke. "Lady Louhi, what you see is not sacrilege. Penny underwent purification according to the tenets of our order, and was cleansed of corruption."

Louhi was not convinced. "But how is she still an abomination?" She pointed her finger at Penny. "You must have corrupted the very ritual! Rotted the Penrose branch!"

"No, the branch has not been compromised. Inquisitor Rachel can attest to that." She put her hands together in prayer. "What happened to Penny is a sign that times have changed, and that we can no longer hold firmly to our old traditions. We must change if we are to keep the light shining bright!"

Louhi slammed her table. "Preposterous! Purification is one of our oldest and most sacred of traditions. Are you suggesting that it is flawed, Cardinal? I won't allow such heretical thoughts to taint this hallowed domain!"

Penny refrained from rolling her eyes, but from her body language it was easy to see that she wasn’t enthused with the turn in conversation. “I’ve no idea how I would go about twisting the ritual.” Penny would say “Lightning and Metal aren’t magics that can really do that to my understanding.”

“Also I’m pretty sure my joining Beacon as I am has the backing of, at least one, Beckoner.” Turning to Alica “On that, let me know if you see her, I’d like to give her my thanks. Something I’m not recalling ever doing before.”

Alicia held back a sigh and an eyeroll as things escalated between Louhi and ishtar. Things were going about as well as she had expected they would, though they could take some solace in the fact that they had not gotten angry first. Then again, they were used to it enough that it was unlikely to have happened anyway.

She glanced over to Penny and then shrugged. ”I’ll try to remember,” she offered. It had been a hot minute since then after all, so the name did not immediately spring to mind.

For now her focus returned to the discussion at hand. ”Purification is still important, but forces such as the Mint have been able to deceive and mislead girls into being opposed to us. To say nothing of times when the strengths we had turned out to be hollow. Unless we can recognize our own failings, this will just keep happening.”

Louhi's eye twitched, and she took a deep sigh, attempting to calm herself. "Mint…Is it true, Cardinal? That the Mint really has developed new ways of corrupting Mahou?"

Ishtar nodded solemnly. "It is. Penrose branch has developed new ways of protection against such forces in the form of the White Coin. Penny here contributed to their initial discovery by the Howell twins, I believe."

Louhi's eyes widened. "Really now? Are they safe?" "Yes," Ishtar answered. "Inquisitor Rachel has deemed them suitable for wider distribution."

Louhi shook her head, amazed by the turn in the discussion. "I can't believe it…A monster, in the ranks of the Beacon, and having assisted in new ways of combating the Mint…Still, I can't deny what I clearly see and know to be true. And if a Beckoner made such a decision, then it must mean they have somehow seen beyond the veil of fate…” Louhi sighed, rubbing her temples with her hands. Finally, she made a forceful groan.
“Well, putting that aside for now, you mentioned that Wonderland is targeting Penrose? But why would they be interested in such a hostile region?"

Ishtar's head lowered. "I believe…They are after the Nexus there."

Louhi gasped. "Oh my goodness…"

Alicia sat back, pleased that her efforts had found fertile soil in Louhi’s mind. At least, enough to bring an end to the debate for now. She didn’t expect this to be the end of things, but it was good enough. For now they returned to the pressing matter of Wonderland. ”That’s why we need you to allow us access to the files related to Wonderland, so we know what we’re up against. Because they’re coming whether we’re ready for them or not.”

Penny was more wary of the easy seeming success. She guessed that Louhi was either easier going then she first guessed, or that she trusted Ishtar more than Penny had guessed. One or the other. Still, now wasn’t the time to look a gift horse in the mouth, she supposed.

“Rachel also mentioned that there might be political issues with our intention to defend our home.” She would add to the topic of Wonderland. “Any information on that end would also be appreciated.”

“Yes, that would be true.” She tapped her fingers on her desk. “Now, what I say here cannot be disclosed to the public. You see, Wonderland is an independent nation. While the Beacon is committed to upholding peace and order in both the mundane and magical communities, legally we cannot directly interfere with their actions. However, we can apply sanctions on them-”

“Sanctions?” Ishtar interrupted. “Wonderland is invading, and all you do is send them a letter saying you don’t approve? Is that it?”

Louhi shook her head. “You don’t understand the situation. For a magical nation, Wonderland has a significant military might. And…They have been confirmed to possess weapons of mass destruction.”

“As do we…So there is a chance that if Beacon escalates the conflict between them and Wonderland, it would result in catastrophic damage,” Ishtar followed up.

“Exactly. So if Wonderland decides to claim Penrose, then Beacon has no choice but to quietly give up the territory and withdraw their local branch…Even if it results in them obtaining the Nexus.”

“But there has to be something we can do!” Ishtar slammed her fists on the desk.
Louhi sighed, and then lifted a finger.

“...There is one way. If Penrose were to declare themselves a magical nation and formed an official alliance of defence with Beacon, then Beacon would be committed to ensuring its independence is respected. However, no lone city has ever accomplished that in the history of magic.”

Without a word Penny would stand up and start pacing the length of the room just behind the chairs. She didn’t care how either Ishtar or Louhi took her doing this in the middle of a conversation, as after learning the context of how bad Penrose’s situation was this time, it was either indulge in her humanity or disconnect from it.

She was on her third lap when she spoke a question, her eyes never deviating from her pacing. “What is involved in declaring ourselves an independent magical nation?”

Louhi began to type on her desk computer; soon enough sophisticated hologram screens appeared in the air.

"First of all, you need to have an already established magical government,which seems to be the case based on Rachel's report," she noted as she went through various links. "While very small, it seems you have managed to create a foundation for a functional society of Mahou, which is rare. However, this has yet to be formalized. You need to fill out paperwork for various aspects of your fledgling kingdom and establish Penrose as either unified or otherwise stable to accommodate your rule, with a certain degree of agreement in the magical populace. I'll send you the paperwork which includes the exact terms."

Ishtar bowed her head in gratitude. "Oh thank you, Lady Louhi. You don't know how much this means to us."

The Choir member shook her head. "I am simply giving advice, no need to thank me. But back to the topic of Penny…I have made an appointment with the Ecclesiarch. She is to see you in two days at 3.45 PM."

Ishtar blinked. "Huh? But why?"

"While I can handle the bureaucratic side of things for the suggested alliance, only the Ecclesiarch has the authority to sign any treaties Beacon may form with other organizations or nations. She also needs to assess you for your…unusual circumstances."

“I have a question,” Alicia said as things seemed to be reaching something of a conclusion. Aside from the part where she’d thought they already had that meeting scheduled. But maybe she was just mistaken. Still, there was something else bugging her. “If Wonderland is willing to move in with force and brush aside or expel any Beacon presence operating in the area, why would any formal arrangement stop them? Especially if the Nexus is as important as you guys are making it out to be.”

Penny kept to her pacing, seeming to ignore the fact that she had a meeting with an even higher up Beacon. Which was the case actually, she had more important things to work out at the moment, mainly Penrose, as she doubted that she actually had the pull to get ‘legally’ instated as Queen.

She did turn gaze away from her pace route to Alicia at her question, her own curiosity on that topic open to see.

"There are a couple of reasons," Louhi responded. "First of all, while we were aware of Wonderland's recent mobilization, we did not expect them to actually go after the Nexus in Penrose. As far as our organization was concerned, our international relations matter more than a singular population."

Ishtar grit her teeth, finding her words painful to hear.
"So you don't actually care…"

"Of course we would have preferred to avoid such a situation, but the risks with interfering outweighed the estimated benefits for such a problematic city. Even the Ascendancy suffered casualties trying to stabilize the area. No offence, Paladin Seraph."
Louhi took a sip of her cup before she continued.

"The other reason is putting pressure on Wonderland. When they see that Penrose is legally on equal grounds as them and backed by Beacon's interests, there is an improved chance they are willing to negotiate instead of just coming in and claiming what they want by force, because they would knowingly meet greater resistance. Is that a sufficient explanation?"

“That sounds like we’re making a lot of assumptions,” Alicia observed as she leaned back in her seat. Her arms were folded over her chest, and she now wore a small frown as she took in what Louhi was saying. ”They’re already willing to fight Beacon, and a formal declaration of a polity won’t change the forces arrayed against them.”

As she said it, an idea occurred to her. It was probably crazy, but it seemed like it was a good way to level the odds that seemed to be against them. There was no harm in bringing it up. “If they want it so badly, why don’t we use the Nexus?”

Louhi's eyes widened at the suggestion. "The Nexus? Are you out of your mind?" She slammed the table. "That would mean meddling with the crucible of magic itself. In only this millenium have we even begun to understand how they work. But throughout history we have seen civilisations like Atlantis and El Dorado fall for attempting to use them. It's too risky."

Ishtar's brow furrowed as she thought. "What if instead of using it directly, we just draw magical power from it? Even a little bit would surely help."

Louhi pondered. "Well, I suppose that in moderation, it wouldn't be impossible…"

“This is all predicated on Beacon staying in Penrose.” Penny would chime in still pacing back and forth. “Formally establishing us as an independent magical nation isn’t as cut and dry as you seem to be thinking. Just under half of Penrose dislikes Beacon purely on the prejudiced principles it enforces.”

“Sanctuary is the best bet of a formal governmental center in Penrose, and while they are willing to work with Beacon, the vast majority there won’t willingly serve under Beacon at the moment.” She would explain. “And as an aside, I’m with Louhi on tampering with the Nexus. The inherent chaos of the city leads me to believe that messing with it is a bad idea, unless you are willing to radically shift your perspective on Monsterization.”

Alicia conceded the point with regards to the Nexus, simply pleased to have more information than she had before. So she did not belabor any additional details as Penny raised her own problems with the plan of action that they had before them.

“Pretty much,” she agreed with a shrug. “In that vein, can we take this to mean you’ll allow access to the files on Wonderland?”

Louhi sighed, and took a sip of her cup.

"...Very well. I shall grant you access rights to the files. However, you all must swear a sacred oath of using this information only to protect Penrose and its citizens, and not for selfish or immoral reasons."

As she said this, she stood up, and held her hand forward, the palm pointing down. Golden wisps of magic flew around it.
"If you break this promise, you will be met with a divine punishment. Now then, what is your answer?"

Ishtar held her hand out. "I swear by the light of justice."

Penny looked at Lohui’s glowing hand with a notable amount of suspicion. She figured that Light users could do something like this but she was still wary about putting herself under a magical contract. It hardly mattered that Beacon was more like Archons than Devils, the loss of agency, even if it was in line with what Penny would have done anyway, rankled.

Nevertheless “To protect and serve” Penny would agree with a nod as she mimicked Ishtar, and held out her hand.

“I swear,” Alicia agreed without hesitation as she raised her hand. That was one that didn’t require much thought.

The girls placed their hands over Louhi’s, and felt as the Choir representative’s magic washed over them as if a warm breeze had passed. When it was over, Louhi withdrew her hand, and swiped her hand. “It is done. I have granted access to you two, Ishtar and Alicia. Penny, you may also receive it, but only if the Ecclesiarch deems you worthy.” She sat back down on her seat.

“That is all. Now, the allotted time for this meeting is about to end, and I must return to my work. Goodbye, and may the Beacon guide your path.” Ishtar let out a sigh of relief once the three returned back to Penrose. However, it was still not quite the end, as far as Penny was concerned...
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by AtomicNut
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Sanctuary


Work, work never ceased. Dina kept running all the combinations through her head, as she shifted the turns of the maids on Sanctuary. For the most part it was working like a well oiled engine, and yet, like dark clouds in the horizon, the shadow of conflict kept approaching. She had strained herself too much, and that had been seen by Penny. But she would need to do it even more. None of them understood how big a war could get. What was to lose your life overnight.

Only Viktoriya, and she was gone out of reach.

A waft aroma caught to her senses, as the familiar clinking of a porcelain was heard by her, alongside shuffling. She closed her eyes, focusing on the smell, before taking a delicate sip, very much like a cat from one of the cups that had been offered to her by her efficient maids. She found the taste odd, yet tantalizing.

"New recipe? I can't say I am a fan of green tea usually, but this one is superb."

"No, It is what I usually brew, Neko-sama." A voice was heard besides her, and it wasn't one of her maids. The realization hit Dina like lightning, and she jumped out of her chair in all fours, herself standing and hissing like a scared feline. Sakura. THAT churl was here serving tea.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE!?" She hissed back. "As if I didn't have enough problems with things as they stand!"

Sakura would just tilt her head. "Wow, you went and jumped like a cat! Hah!" She jeered, before coughing. "Okay let's do this again. Ah yes, I brought a simple offering to your Grace." She would offer a slight bow. "And I must apologize before thee for my overly rash behaviour earlier."

Dina blinked at what she was seeing. Was that churl trying to act...composed and proper? She had a small knack for it, but deep down she knew otherwise. "What do you want, exactly."

Sakura sighed. "Penny told me not to cause problems. The catgirls bully me. So I have to make do with you, Neko-sama? Aren't you like, the second strongest here?" The dragongirl would continue to serve a tea, and drink.

"...wish I was." Dina moved back to her chair. "That might be Shane or Sann." She swirled the cup and took another sip. "Very well, I accept your apology. I'll tell the maids, now shoo." The catgirl would say.

"Is that winestain on the wall?" Sakura would comment. "It looks like a rabbit."

At this point the cup Dina was having clattered against the tray once more. "Look, I'm rather busy. We might get invaded and I need to make preparations. So... could you just leave? I'm not mad..." Dina would say, her teeth beginning to grind at the dragon girl.

"Oh." Sakura said, as she realized something. "OH! So that was it!" She would say.

"Why...aren't you leaving yet." Dina would add. "I wish Tenebra was still with us to send you away. It would make things easier." She eyed Sakura. "And you...took her now that I remember. So...could you just leave? Why must you torment so? As if Sanngridr wasn't stupidity incarnate enough!"

Sakura would sigh, before pouring another cup. "She needed a rest outside Penrose. I sent her with my former family. Severed her contract. It led to me becoming this." The dragon girl added. "So...she worked for you. Fine then. I will help you in her stead."

Dina would look at the cup, an urge to flip it over Sakura's face rising. "What can you even do? You are just a violent thug!"

Sakura's eyes faced Dina. "I was Yakuza. I have honor. A sort of old code." The dragon girl would reply, before drawing closer. "Penny told me you were a princess of sorts. You need loyal servants."

Dina blinked.

"I will drink sake with you. You know what that means." Sakura would then say, without missing a heartbeat. "And if there's war I will fight however enemy you face."

Dina grew very silent, the sudden changes still catching her flat footed, as she drank another cup. "But...why? We don't get along. We are from different worlds, you and I."

"We're both old people, Dina." Sakura added. "It's all about teaching young people how it's done." The dragon girl said. "You look like you could use that."

Dina, for the first time, seemed to relax in the forrmer thug's presence. "I will hold your word on to that." She said. "Will you swear on your life and honor for it?"

"Duh." Sakura would offer a grin.

"Then Sakura, promise me you will defend Sanctuary should both Penny and I fail. You might die, but you have to save these girls." The catgirl would say, her voice almost a whisper.

"We already died once." The dragongirl shrugged. "Not a big task." She would then grab the tray. "More tea?"

"...If you would be so kind." Dina said. Well, at least her problems had diminished by one.
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Majoras End
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"Right. Glad that problem was settled."

After Valerie and the Visceral sisters left the Bank, the former reported back to Maura about what happened. However, Sann apparently shifting Justine away and back unharmed drew her suspicions as well. When she tried to look back at the vampire girl's memories, she saw that the connection was blocked somehow. And with what Justine told her about what the vaklyrie said at the christmas party...

Whatever. She didn't have much to work off of, so she decided to just focus on something else for now.

"Hey. You sure you wanna try and convice the unstable one to join us??" Lauren spoke up. The two of them have been watching the monitors of Valerie's supercomputer for a while now.

"Caroline? That'd depend on if Justine trusts me enough to take them both in. Why the question?"

The emerald haired witch frowned. "There's something off about what happened at the Bank. I'm sure you know."

Maura nodded. "Sanngridr."

"Other than her creeping on that poor masked kid, why did she feel the need to shift the Viscerals away just to heal the younger one?" Lauren asked. "If it was just to heal the younger sister, she wouldn't have set up a barrier against Williams, would she? She was only hostile to the winged runt until that happened, and yet..." She groaned, sitting back in her chair. "We might have a fucking rat."

The reaper felt concerned. "You really think Justine would...?"

“Would what? an amused voice asked. “Decide to abandon you for another, stronger Patron? One who wasn’t as spineless and indecisive as you? I mean, it’s a distinct possibility,” the voice continued, although its source remained unseen. At least, until a tear was rent in the fabric of whatever constituted The Cradle’s reality, beyond which a diminutive girl wearing goggles and an oversized lab coat was siting in a hover chair, grinning maniacally as she gently stroked a small eldritch creature. “Wanna find out?”

The two witches tensed up at the sudden appearance of Dr. Nykannis, both with different reactions.

"Wh-What?!" The truthful jabs at Maura turned her concern to dread. She had to be lying, right?? RIGHT???

While Lauren unfurled one of her bladed fans, eyeing the mad doc in case she tried to attack. For someone who managed to tear through reality into somewhere as secure as the Cradle, she had to be dangerous. "Here I was thinking the little shit just made a bargain. How do we know you're telling the truth??" Though before the Witch of Order got an answer, someone else decided to pop up.

"Because, my dear friends!!" From the background of Nykannis's location, the deranged "Witch" of Time called out. Popping into view as soon as she donned a different visage. Something about her presence seemed...off-putting, even without the other intruder being here. "She's not the only one who saw what happened!" Jennifer vouched for the scientist. Then she looked towards Maura with an amused grin, much to her dismay. "Gotta say, I almost feel bad for you. But it'll be goddamn hilarious to see your reaction to the real deal." She stiffled a cackle.

Lauren shuddered. "Okay. Definetly don't trust you. ...In fact, don't I know- Oi!" Her attention quickly turned back to Maura, who was walking over to the other two. "The hell are you thinking?!"

"I'll be fine." Maura looked over her shoulder to the green haired girl with a frown. "Something tells me I have to do this. Just wait 'till Val gets back, okay?"

Once Maura had entered Nykannis’s lab, the hole in the dimensional fabric closed once more. “Glad to see you still have at least some backbone,” the mad scientist told her guest. “As for what actually happened during Sann and Justine’s little ‘secret chat’, well… See for yourself.”

With a snap of her fingers, the ultratech lab around them would be replaced by the shore of a lake in the Overcity, beside which sat Sann, Caroline, and Justine.

”Well, now you got your minute,” Justine was saying. “Make it count.”

After watching the scene play out, Nykannis turned to Maura. “So? Whatdya think?”

As Maura began to watch what happened, Jennifer walked up next to her. As the former slowly felt mortified, seeing the consequences of her action come full circle, the latter's amused grin turned sinister in nature. And once it was done with, once Nykannis addressed the Witch of Death again, there was only one thought she had in her mind:

"What have I done...?" She said outloud, eyes dreadfully afixed to where the scene once was.

“You gained possession of the possibly Penny-tier champion of an eldritch horror and then forgot to put her on a tight enough leash,” Nykannis replied. “Or on any leash at all, actually. Y’know, if memory serves, one of your little minions told you that something like this was probably gonna happen, but you obviously didn’t consider it all that likely, huh? How about now? Oh, and, I gotta say, if someone who fatally stabbed herself to win an ass shoving contest is the genre savvy one, you know you’ve got problems. Thankfully, I’m here to fix things for you,” she added with a twisted grin.

Letting Nykannis say her piece, Jennifer spoke up next. "So how does it feel, hm?" She spoke in almost a low whisper, taunting Maura. "To lose one agent, and risk your reputation with the rest, just cause you wanted to play nice to a stupid girl who'd rather be the girlfriend to a psychotic angel than to stay with you?" She circled Maura as if she was prey. And she might as well be. "To be one-uped by an Empress class Magical Girl that doesn't deserve to put up with someone as spineless as you?"

"Go to hell..." Maura tried to block out their words, ignore her stare, her only response to the lunatic witch being a low growl. Though that was short-lived when Jennifer shortened the distance between them, looking her dead in the eye with a deranged grin. She flinched in response.

"How does it feel knowing you're the most pathetic, weak-willed agent of Death I've ever had the displeasure of associating with?!" Her grin twisted into a genuine scowl. "Like, man alive, Morri-

"It's Maura!" The Witch of Death tried to snap back.

"WHATEVER! Do you really think playing nice with these fickle fucks would always end with sunshine and rainbows?!" Jennifer backed up, spreading her arms out in emphasis. "People are selfish, Maura! No matter what you do, they'll be looking out for themselves, one way or another!" She put a hand on her hip. "Like I know Sann's goddamn desperate to get some fuck, but you should've been more aware of this. You don't need kindness, ou need respect! fear! For once, her cheshire grin became somewhat normal.

"People need to fear death, Maura. They need to fear you.

The Witch of Death went silent in thought. A short moment passed, and she turned to look at Nykannis. "...What do you have in mind?" Her brows furrowed.

“I’m glad you asked,” Nykannis replied. “To start with, I’ve heard that one of the hand holders you brought in, ‘I must restore my honor’, not Casper the friendly ghost, seriously wants to fight the Brave Little Toaster herself, so I thought I’d give him a not-so-little power boost. I mean, he’s almost guaranteed to fail, but I thought it might be fun to see just how strong I could make him. Besides,” the mad scientist added. “I’ve been needing a good test subject to try my new types of Cosmic Omniversal Infusion Numiouspheric Synthesizers on, and who better than someone who’s crazy enough to take on the Grand Magistrate’s favorite Patron Champion?”

Maura's eyes widened, despite the extra jabs. "You mean Finn??"

“That’s right,” Nykannis confirmed. “I had the dubious pleasure of running into him at the Christmas Party, and he seemed to be having a not-so-low-key panic attack over all the shit going on in Penrose.”

"Still prefer calling him Ifrit or Inferno, but yep. Still don't know where the honor part came from." Jen looked back to Nykannis. "And if he does fail, that'd mean I have to step in. Since I wanna try and avoid that outcome, we'll have to test the waters first before taking the dive. I'll explain further when we get our dear vessel here." She then turned her attention to tinkering with her disguise tech.

“Yeah, a test run would certainly be preferable,” Nykannis agreed. “And keeping yourself out of the spotlight is definitely for the best. You’re fun to chat with, and I wouldn’t want the Grand Magistrate to get annoyed and have you accidentally erase yourself from existence. Still, who, or what, were you thinking of testing him out on?”

"There's plenty of options back in Penrose! But I'm mostly talking about the Wonderland court." The time witch spun back around to face Nykannis. "Could also sick 'em on someone like Rachel, but apparently these fellas are not to be taken lightly. It's perfect timing, I tell ya!"

"Hmmm. I'll see about dragging him here." Even though Maura didn't know how he or Oliver would react to just Finn being subjected to this, she went ahead and called the latter through Magicoms.

“Think you can manage that?” Nykannis asked, not even trying to hide her derision. “Otherwise, I could just open a portal to wherever he currently happens to be brooding.”

Maura simply rolled her eyes, continuing to explain to the boy what the deal is through their coms. She walked over to the nearest shadow and formed a portal to the Cradle there, and reached in to gently tug him through. Looks like he was untransformed at the moment.

Soon as he stepped out into the Lab, Finn's eyes lit up, looking around the new sights before following Maura back to the other two. "This place is fucking amazing." He said to no one in particular.

“You better believe it is!” Nykannis declared. “Welcome to my Lab! Now, how would you like to have an upgrade?

"Well, I've been long overdue for one, yeah. Maura already let me know what's up." He shrugged, then appearing uncertain. "...This isn't gonna hurt, is it?" He asked, arms crossed.

“Only if you want it to,” the mad scientist replied with a maniacal grin.

"No thanks on that end." Finn quickly shook his head.

“All right,” Nykannis said with an amused chuckle. “Then let’s get started!”

With that, five palm-sized coins flashed into being. An emerald coin was positioned before the magical boy, while an amethyst coin floated behind him. To either side hovered a diamond coin, while above him shimmered a multi-colored prism coin. Suspended around these was a shell of twelve Topaz coins, which along with the others, glowed with ever-increasing intensity.

“By focusing my ultratechnomystic power through the lens of these new COINS I’ve developed, I can multiply my enhancement abilities a hundred fold! Nyahahaha!” the Monarch of Mad Science declared with a deranged cackle as tentacular mechadendrites emerged from her back and her hands morphed into bizarre manipulator arrays. “So, got any particular improvements in mind?” she asked as her various appendages positioned themselves in front of each suspended coin. “Or should I just go all out?”

With widened eyes Finn looked at the coins that floated around him, coins that not even he knew were possible. He was starting to feel a bit nervous, but...

"No preference. Just do what you have to." He took the moment to transform, just in case. His eye remained it's original color. Maura and Jennifer stepped back, even if the former appeared worried.

“Nyahahaha! That’s exactly what I wanted to hear!” the mad scientist cackled, before setting to work, swirling clouds of transphasic metaphysical nanites assisting her various manipulator appendages to enhance Finn’s various physical and magical attributes to previously unimagined levels, while simultaneously imbuing him with truly staggering levels of power. There was a blur of motion, followed by a loud *Zeeshoom!*, and a mighty flash of prismatic light, after which the various manipulators and nano swarms dispersed and retracted, leaving Finn standing visibly unchanged, aside from a swiftly fading glow. Internally, however, much had changed. In particular, the magical boy would find all of his stats had been quadrupled…

“Nyahahaha! So, whatdaya think?!” Nykannis asked eagerly. “You now have the abilities of an Emperor-class magical boy, with your various perks and powers being enhanced accordingly. Plus, you’ve now got activateable invulnerability, access to the omnispec state, and the option to use a Killing Blow attack, although the chances of it actually hitting its intended target are entirely out of my hands. And to ensure you have enough Metaphysical Aetheric Numinousphere Accelerator to fuel all those additional powers, I’m letting you tap into my own personal power accumulator pocket dimension, which you can basically think of as a mana font on steroids. Oh, and I gave you an extra special treat as well,” she added with a crazed gleam in her eyes. “See, even if you were a billion times stronger than Penny, she’d still wipe the floor with you in a straight up fight, simply because the Grand Magistrate won’t let her lose. HOWEVER, only a total idiot would ever engage her in a straight up fight in the first place. An intelligent person would exploit one of her MASSIVE weaknesses, in particular, her paranoia, and her generally brittle as all fucking hell mental state. Like I was telling Jen here a while back, when it comes to overpowered Mary Sues, you need to mess with their minds… And so, to facilitate that, and to really synergize with the whole chunni ‘my demon eye holds an awesome power’ look you’ve got going on, I implanted a nightmare ray into your eye socket. The one that’s covered up. It’s a little less powerful than the nightmare cannon I recently created, but it should serve you just fine, so long as you only use it on Penny. That’s another thing,” the mad scientist added, raising a finger for emphasis. “These upgrades are only intended for use against her Mechanical Majesty. I mean, you could use them all the time, but something tells me the Grand Magistrate would take objection to that, so while I REALLY hate to say it, this is one of those rare situations where less is more.” She paused for a moment to stare intently at the empowered magical boy. “You get all that?”

The boy quickly nodded. So this was like some weird Cinderella type beat, huh? One chance to be able to do something he wanted before things went back to normal. As much as he atleast wanted to keep the boost in strength, he understood what the mad scientist ment.

Then there's the deal with his bandaged eye's little upgrade that made his brows rose. "I only cover that eye up cause a failed experiment left me partially blind." He explained, unamused at how she described his appearance. "But...thanks." Regardless, he gave her a crooked smile.

"There's a bit of a problem though." Jennifer spoke up, one of her eyes having changed back to it's original gold. A screen-like window through reality appeared in front of her face, looking back into Penrose. "Since Beacon's caught wind of the Wonderland court, Penny's gonna be out visiting some higher ups to get more information about them. Unfortunate that Valerie got walled off from hacking further into their database. Anyways, unless you want to catch her before she leaves or some shit? Yeah..." She slightly frowned.

“Oh, my pleasure,” Nykannis replied with a grin. “And I wouldn’t be too bothered about that, she added once Jen had voiced her concern. “Penny won’t be gone for long, and something tells me ‘tall, dark, and brooding’ here is gonna need a LOT more help if he’s serious about overthrowing her Mechanical Majesty. I mean, I could just give him all that extra stuff now, but where’s the fun in that? This’ll kinda be like a quest, a journey of self improvement,” the mad scientist explained. “Y’know, your very own training montage. The Grand Magistrate loves that shit. It makes for a better narrative. I mean, who wants to see someone get everything they want without putting in any work for it? That’s no fun to watch or read about. So, yeah, I’m sure Jen here knows a few people who might be interested in helping you out,” she told Finn with a smirk. “Though I’m not so sure you’ll actually enjoy working with them.”

The false witch turned her attention back to Finn, who gave Nykannis a quick unamused look. "That's where the test run comes into play. If things look fine and dandy into next downtime, I can introduce you to another friend of mine. You might have seen her at the Christmas event." She explained to him. "She's kind of a weirdo, yeah, but her old goals and yours currently align. I know she'll be willing to help." Jen smirked.

"Okay but...who are you exactly? Why are you wanting to help??" Finn rose a brow.

"All you need to know is that I'm a friend that's rooting for ya." She shrugged.

“And I am Doctor Nykannis, Queen of the Mad Scientists! Nyahahaha!” Nykannis added. “As for why I’ve chosen to bestow the gifts of my super-scientific brilliance upon your angsty, edgelord self, well… To quote my cryptic friend here, let’s just say because I was bored.

Finn gave the duo a comical look, before pointing at Nykannis. "Understandable." He turned to Maura. "Guess we should head back by now?"

"Yeah. I have a lot to think about." The reaper nodded, feeling disgusted both at herself and Justine, but also determined to set things right.
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Flamelord
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Connie was painting in her room, when she heard a knock on the window. Going over to it, she was greeted with the cheerful visage of Magical Dream Princess. “Hi, Connie Wonnie~! (giggle!)” the bubbly visitor said with an energetic wave. “Like, can Magical Dream Princess pretty pretty please come insidey widey~?”

“O-Oh! O-Of course!” Connie replied, a little startled by her friend’s sudden appearance. “P-Please come in!” she added with a smile as she opened the window.

“Like, thankie wankies~! (giggle!)”

After stepping inside, MDP gave voice to a squeal of delight, her eyes going wide. “Wowie zowie~! You have sooooo many super duper adorable worable stuffed animal wanimal thingy wingies in heresie~! (giggle!) And, like, so many pretty witty picture wictures, too~!” she added, jumping up and down with childish glee. “Like, did Connie Wonnie paint all of them herselfy welfy~?!”

“Y-Yes, I d-did,” Connie confirmed. “W-Well, all e-except that one,” she clarified, pointing to the drawing Oros had given her. “A-And t-thanks so much!” she added with a slight blush and a big smile. “I-I’m r-really glad y-you like them!”

“Like, they remindy windy Magical Dream Princess of the picture wictures Priscilla Willa makey wakies~! (giggle!)” MDP noted as she took a closer look at each painting in turn. “She’s a friendy wendy who works at Daddy Waddy’s company wompany~!” the bubbly girl explained. “She’s, like, super duper brainy wainy and super duper talented walented and super duper nicey wicey, too, and Magical Dream Princess thinky winkies Connie Wonnie would like her lots and lots~!”

“S-She s-sounds really n-nice,” Connie agreed.

“Magical Dream Princess just wishes she could make pretty witty picture wictures like Connie Wonnie and Priscilla Willa, too…” MDP said with a small frown.

“U-Umm, i-if you’d l-like, I c-could teach you s-some of the b-basics,” Connie offered, causing her friend’s demeanor to brighten up considerably.

“Wowie zowie~! Like, could you~?!” MDP asked excitedly. “Could you~?! Could you~?! Could you~?!”

“S-Sure!”

“Yaaaay~!” MDP cheered. “Painting wainting party~! Painting wainting party~! (giggle!) Oh!” she exclaimed as a realization finally worked its way inside her ADHD addled brain. “Like, where’s Mia Wia~?” the whimsical girl asked, tilting her head in puzzlement. “Isn’t she always heresie weresie with Connie Wonnie~?”

“O-Oh, M-Mia’s out on a d-date with her b-boyfriend,” Connie explained. “I-I think t-they went to f-find s-some rare f-flower and then h-have a m-meal together.”

“Golly wolly~! That soundy woundies super duper adorable worable~!” MDP observed with a joyful smile as she plopped herself down on Connie’s bed and began idly kicking her legs. “Like, Magical Dream Princess would wuv to go on more dates with Penny Wenny, but we’re both sooo super duper busy wisy…” she sighed, before brightening up again a moment later. “So, like, does Connie Wonnie have a super duper special wecial wuvy dovey person werson, too~?”

“O-Oh! U-Ummm, n-not r-right n-now,” Connie stammered, her face turning a bright crimson. “I-I m-mean, i-it’s n-not t-that I d-don’t w-want a b-b-boyfriend,” she continued. “I-It’s just t-that I-I’m p-perfectly f-fine w-with w-waiting! B-But, u-umm, w-why d-don’t w-we t-talk about y-you and P-Penny?” she asked, desperate to change the subject. “I-I’ve a-always been c-curious about h-how t-the two of y-you met.”

“Oh, Magical Dream Princess would totally wotally wuv to tell Connie Wonnie about that~! (giggle!)” MDP replied happily. “So, like, Magical Dream Princess first met Penny Wenny when she was helping welping protecty wecty the Sanctuwantuary from those meanie weanie Minty Winty people weple, and, like, as soon as Magical Dream Princess saw Penny Wenny, she got a super duper big crushy wushy on her~” the whimsical girl explained, her face taking on a particularly dreamy expression, while a blush began to color her cheeks. “But, like, she couldn’t tell Penny Wenny how she felt right thensie, ‘cause, like, Penny Wenny had lots and lots of super duper important wortant stuffy wuffy to do, so, like, Magical Dream Princess knew she had to wait until the right timey wimey, and it was a super duper good thingy wingie she did, ‘cause, like, a few days later water, she and Penny Wenny would have their very wery first date togetherwether~! (giggle!) Like, it all started when Magical Dream Princess read about how this meanie weanie ghosty wosty was bothering wothering people weple at this schooly wooly placey wacey, and she agreed to helpy welpy make it go bye bye…”




Test of Courage


Starring:
‘Mister Roboto’ Penny Asimov
“Tastes like sprinkles” Magical Dream Princess

Outside of Penrose proper, life continued on mostly as normal. There had been an influx of people evacuating the city that had disturbed things for a bit, but life had soon returned to normal. People worked, played, lived their lives, did normal things. Some day Penrose would return to that norm, though today was not that day.

It was to one of the high schools in a nearby town that Penny and Magical Dream Princess would be summoned. It was night time, when they would be able to work without being disturbed by civilians getting in the way and possibly putting themselves in danger. The school was a modest three story building, made of brick and stone in a ‘u’ shape. It was an older building, that much was clear from the design and layout of the place.

Across the street, a girl stood near a bench and a street lamp. She all but exuded anxiety, glancing between her surroundings and her watch as she waited. This was her first time placing a bounty, and even with her desperate situation she was still nervous about how it would go. Who knew what the girls she had hired would actually be like?

Unfortunately for her, it was a bit too late to simply cancel the whole thing. They’d be here any second now. She could only hope that they would be up to the task they had agreed to.

While the girl glanced around nervously she would perchance happen to notice a small flicker of light from above. At first it was little more than a twinkling star but that light would rapidly descend as a mote of pure white seemingly descended from the heavens to land gently at the meeting site. It would stay there twinkling softly for a moment before rapidly ballooning in size before just as rapidly contracting into a silhouette.

From there the light would slowly fade away revealing Penny in all her casual glory. She was relaxed and unhurried and held herself with a notable amount of confidence. She would examine the surroundings before giving the nervous girl a nod and moving to stand near her. “Hey there, you the one who posted the bounty about the school?”

Before the girl could respond, a sparkling pink cloud appeared overhead, with a cheerful looking girl riding atop it.

Recently, Violet had taken to scanning Glimmer as a way of locating problems that she might assist with as Magical Dream Princess. The bounty listings, in particular, had been an excellent discovery in this regard. Indeed, it was due to one such exceptionally urgent cry for help catching her eye, that the refined heiress-turned-whimsical magical girl now found herself in front of an old school building in the middle of the night.

“Ta daaa~!” MDP announced as she slid down a glowing rainbow and struck a cute pose. “Magical Dream Princess is here to make that big scary wary meanie weanie go bye bye, and, like, give everybodywody sweet dreamy weamies again~! (giggle!) Wowie zowie~!” she exclaimed after realizing that she wasn’t alone. “Like, Penny Wenny’s heresie, too~?! Goodie woodie~! (giggle!)” she squealed with delight. “Like, Penny Wenny and Magical Dream Princess can fight that big meanie weanie together wether~! This is gonna be, like, sooo much fun~! (giggle!)”

“Eep!” A startled yelp escaped as the girl flinched backwards with the descent of the two magical girls. Wide eyes first fell upon Penny, Foreign metal, looming and intimidating even in a lithe grace. She felt inadequate just standing next to the girl. Then the other girl made her entrance. The contrast was about as stark as night and day. She was exuberant, whimsical, almost overwhelming for someone whose nerves were as frayed as the girl already were.

But she managed to hold it together, small steps carrying her forward as she did her best to keep herself from trembling with the myriad of thoughts that swirled through her head. “T-T-That’s right,” she confirmed quickly. “I….I set the bounty.”

A hand rose, pointing to the darkened school that rested across the street. “It’s in t-there.” She just wasn’t sure where. After it had all gone wrong, she had not been able to work up the determination to really go and investigate personally. It was much too scary.

Penny would regard MDP with a smile “Good to see you again Dream Princess” She would say giving the excitable girl a wave. “This hunt is going to be a good one if you're along for the ride as well I can feel it.” Bringing Hope to the downtrodden, getting a chance to play around with an amazingly fun magic, and punching ghosts in the face? Yeah, this whole thing was right up Penny’s alley.

Turning her attention back towards the nervous girl she would soften her smile to a more reassuring one “Don’t worry, me and Dream have got this covered easy.” She would offer a hand to bounty poster “I’m Penny Asimov, pleased to meet you. Will you be staying out here or joining us?”

“Like, it’s totally wotally okie dokie if you don’t want to~!” MDP told the clearly frightened girl with a reassuring smile. “Like, that’s what we’re here for, after allsie~! (giggle!)” The girl reminded MDP a little bit of Connie, which just made the whimsical magical girl want to help her even more. “But, like, Magical Dream Princess totally wotally forgot something womething super duper important wortant~! She, like, totally wotally forgot to ask what your namey wamey was~! Friendy wendies should, like, always know each other’s namey waymies~!” she added, holding up a finger for emphasis, as if she was imparting an extremely important fact. “And we’re, like, totally wotally friendy wendies nowie, so we should, like, totally wotally do that~! (giggle!)”

The girl seemed to get a bit more comfortable with time and exposure, though only some. She was still fairly awed and overwhelmed by both girls that she had hired for this bounty. But if there was anyone who could handle her problem, it seemed to be them.

Carefully the girl reached out to gently shake Penny’s hand, though she pulled back almost on instinct when her hand was released. “I’m Leona,” she replied, before quickly shaking her head. “I’d….prefer to stay here.” She had messed things up plenty already. She didn’t want to make it worse.

Penny was sure to keep her grip light while she shook hands, and didn't take Leona's skittishness personally. "That's perfectly fine Leona." Penny would say with a nod. "Only one last question in that case. Is there some kind of focus or totem keeping the thing here?"

“Like, it’s super duper nice to meet you, Leona Wona~! (giggle!)” MDP told the timid girl with a happy smile. Then Penny asked her question, and the whimsical girl’s smile grew even wider. “Wowie zowie~! You’re, like, sooo knowledgeable woledgable about ghosty whosty stuffy wuffy, huh, Penny Wenny~?! Magical Dream Princess thinks that’s, like, sooo super duper cool~! (giggle!)”

“Ummm….” The girl paused, racking her brain as she sought to answer Penny’s question. Knowing that she didn’t need to go in there personally made it a bit easier, though there were still some scary memories related to the event, “I-I’m not...sure. But I d-dit the tt-thing in the second story art room. It...It would be there p-probably.”

Penny would glance at the school for a moment, her eyes glowing brighter for a second before nodding. “I feel bad for Miss Grotke.” She would murmur before turning back to Leona. “We’ll take care of it, thank you.”

And with that Penny would turn and start walking towards the school. Hesitating only so long as it took to verify that MDP was following along as well. “Not sure I’d agree to that last compliment.” She would say once they were enough distance away from Leona. “I’ve just got access to google twenty four seven and a willingness to ask it questions whenever I need to” She would dead pan. Even though it was true that Penny knew a fair amount about how Spirit magic worked, but out of old fear and new hate.

“Side question, how good is your magic at repairs?”

“Wowie zowie~! Penny Wenny can use google woogle all the timey wimey~?” MDP asked as she skipped along next to Penny, seemingly oblivious to their forbidding surroundings. “That’s gotta be, like, super duper helpful welpful~! (giggle!) Especially wecially right nowie~!” the whimsical girl added, her cute voice filled with excited energy. “Cause, like, Magical Dream Princess’s memory wemory is, like, super duper terrible werrible when she’s Magical Dream Princess, but, like, that won’t be a problem woblem if she’s with Penny Wenny~! (giggle!)”

Penny went on to ask MDP if her magic was capable of repairing things, and the childish girl’s face took on a thoughtful expression. “Weeeell… Magical Dream Princess never really tried to use her magic wagic to fixy wixy anythinigie wingie beforesie, so she, like, doesn’t really know if she can… And, like, all the thingie wingies she ever wever used her magic wagic on kinda winda went back to normal wormal whenever she stopped being Magical Dream Princess…” The formerly bubbly girl was looking rather glum by this point. “Super duper sorries, Penny Wenny…”

“Don’t worry about it Princess” Penny would say waving away the dour reply. “I’m just thinking ahead. Rampaging ghosts tend to throw things, so I’m wondering if there is anything we can do to help fix the damages that might come about.” She would explain, intentionally omitting that she felt that most of the damage would come from Penny being the one thrown around.

“And yeah I’ve got access to all the wonders of the internet” She would admit with a chuckle “Makes normal patrolling much less of a slog when I’ve got youtube up in the background.” Plus any number of other things she could be scrolling though. She tended not to bother with such in fights though. She preferred to give those all of her attention, even if her opponent didn’t need such.

“Ouch, seems like a steep drawback” She would wince a bit at MDP’s admittance about recall issues while transformed. She couldn’t help but wonder if it was due to the Dream Magic, or MDP’s Patron that were the cause of it.

“Would a dream journal help?” Penny would ask “Because you could probably make a book with your magic that holds the memories that are more important for you so you aren’t as lost in dreams while you are transformed.” She would offer up as an idea. She had no idea if it would work, but who knew with Dream magic.

“Maybe waybe~?” MDP replied, her countenance brightening up a bit. “Magical Dream Princess doesn’t really know all that much about how her magic wagic works, she just does what feely weelies right~! (giggle!) And, like, she normally wormally doesn’t really mindy windy how terrible werrible her memory wemory is, ‘cause she’s having, like, sooo much super duper fun~! (giggle!)” MDP explained cheerfully, apparently finding her memory issues more amusing than troublesome, as was often the case for the childishly carefree girl. “But, like, sometimey wimeies she really really needs to remember wember something womething super duper bad, and then she has a big problem woblem! It’s okie dokie, though,” she added with a wink and a happy giggle. “Cause, like, that’s when she does the thinky winky dance, and then everythingie wingie is aaaaall better~! (giggle!)” she explained bouncing up and down with glee. “But, like, Magical Dream Princess is totally wotally gonna make one of those dream diary thingie wingies, ‘cause it soundy woudies like it’ll be super duper fun~! (giggle!)”

Conjuring a glittery jump rope, she began skipping backwards with it, so she could face Penny while they talked.

“Like, can you believe that Magical Dream Princess actually wactually has a photography waphy memory wemory when she’s not Magical Dream Princess~?!” the playful girl asked with a great deal of enthusiasm. “Cause, she, like, totally wotally does~! (giggle!)” she added with a pleased smile, clearly proud of that fact, even as her whimsical magical girl self.

“Lucky” Penny would remark about the ability to just go with the flow of one’s magic. “My specs are all too grounded to be able to really do that” She would add, not to mention her aptitudes meant that active casting required much more focus then one would normally need. Still she noted that it sounded like an inherent quality of Dream magic, which made sense due to the flighty nature of dreams.

She would also let out a chuckle at the backwards skip rope demonstration. Tempted to join in, she refrained as it would leave quite the trail if she wasn’t careful. Instead she would mimic the Dream conjuring to make a yo-yo, a sky blue yoyo with a large smiling star on either side. One which she easily started to yo-yo with as the two of them walked and talked.

“I take it you’re rather smart then” She would go on with the conversation. “Do you pretend to not remember inconsequential things? As I do that, tends to freak people out less.” She would explain, figuring that MDP was smart enough to also pick up on what Penny wasn’t explicitly saying.

“Magical Dream Princess is, like, super duper smart, when she’s her normal wormal selfy welfy~! (giggle!)” MDP replied happily. “She’s, like, a total wotal genius wenius~! But, like, why would she pretendy wendy not to remember wember something womething~?” she asked, sounding rather confused. “Like, when Magical Dream Princess is her normal wormal selfy welfy, it’s super duper important wortant that she lets people weple know just how super duper smart she is~! She would never ever pretendy wendy to be a dummy wummy~!” she continued, seemingly finding the idea of hiding her intelligence utterly inconceivable. “Like, the only reason she acts like a dummy wummy when she’s Magical Dream Princess is because she really is a dummy wummy when she’s Magical Dream Princess~! (giggle!) But, like, if Penny Wenny does that, then she must be a super duper smarty warty too~!” the whimsical girl exclaimed, her eyes filling with stars.

Her admiration for her mechanical companion only grew a moment later, when Penny seemed to manifest a yo-yo out of thin air.

“Wowie zowie~! Penny Wenny made that pretty witty yo-yo out of nothing wothing~! Does that mean she has nanowanotechnology wology stuffy wuffy~?!” MDP asked with childish wonderment. Her jump rope was spinning so quickly now, she seemed to be encased in a sparkling prismatic bubble. “Does she~?! Does she~?! Does she~?!”

“I don’t do it to pretend to be dumb” Penny would say “More so to appear more human, most people get a bit sketchy when you can recall everything they have done.”

Penny didn’t bother to stop the laugh that bubbled up at MDP’s joy of the yo-yo creation. “No, this wasn’t made with nano tech” She would say, holding up the Yo-yo for better examination. “This was made the same way you made your skip rope. My magic is unstable, always in flux, so I can mimic magic that I’m close to. I can’t start jumping around myself without wrecking the floor, but I can yo-yo so, Yo-yo” She would explain before returning to yo-yoing said yo-yo.

“And I do have nanites, but no ability to nano forge.” She would answer the enthusiastic question “They are closer to a grey goo start up” Though she might be able to make use of the grey goo to create something afterwards. Something for her to ponder over at another time.

“So, like, Penny Wenny can use dreamy weamy magic, too, as long as she’s with Magical Dream Princess~?!” MDP asked, her joyful excitement only growing with this new revelation. “That’s, like, the most super duper coolest woolest thingie wingie ever wever~! (giggle!) Penny Wenny is, like, sooo totally wotally awesome wawsome~!” the whimsical girl continued to gush, her face taking on an incredibly dreamy expression. “And, like, Magical Dream Princess just wuvs being able wable to spend timey wimey with her like this~”

“Yup!” Penny would agree with a joyous smile as she popped the ‘P’. It was refreshing to spend time with someone who didn’t take everything so seriously, something that Penny knew she had a habit of doing. “It’s fun to be able to play around with all sorts of magic whenever I meet someone new. Especially since I wasn’t really capable of really casting magic, much less mimicking it, until recently” She would add as she pushed open the front door to the school. The lock being easily dealt with due to her Metal spec.

“And I feel you there” Looking around the school Penny would feel an odd mix of nostalgia and wonder. Of what School would have been like for her, and what school was like in her memories. “Being able to go out and help people and not worry about the politics and everything else is good” She would send a beaming smile towards MDP “But grand company makes it wondrous”

“That reminds me, how long have you been a part of the Community?”

“Awww~ Thankie wankies, Penny Wenny~! (giggle!)” MDP replied, her cheeks turning bright red at the robotic girl’s compliment. “And, like, Magical Dream Princess hasn’t wasn’t been a magical wagical girl for very wery longy wongy, just a few weeks, but, like, she’s already made sooo many wany new friendy wendies, and helpy welpied sooo many wany people weple, and had, like, sooo much super duper fun~! (giggle!)” The bubbly girl proceeded to gleefully jump into the air, dispelling her sparkly rope as she did so, the mystical creation dissolving in a shower of glitter. After all, the inside of a school wasn’t the place for jump rope.

Following Penny inside, the whimsical girl struck a cute pose, and, standing on tiptoes with one hand shielding her eyes from the non-existent sunlight, carefully surveyed the school’s interior.

“Has Penny Wenny ever wever gone to schooly wooly beforesie~?” MDP asked as she peered into the darkened halls. “Or was she, like, always a super duper smarty warty mechanical wanical person werson~?”

“I’ve always been a machine” Would be Penny’s answer as she stretched her senses out, feeling the subtle pings of the various bits and bobs of technology that are always strewn about inside buildings. “But I do have memories of school. They weren’t mine to begin with, but I’ve integrated most of them to one degree or another. Helps with emotional understanding and context.” It was why Penny was capable of appearing so human despite not being so.

“I’m kinda curious what it would be like to actually sign up for school though” Not that she felt she had the time to devote to such an endeavor, but it was still a thought. “Penrose makes it kinda hard though. I’ve been a part of the magical community for just over a year, and I can tell you Penrose is stuck on fast forward. Most cities are nowhere near as chaotic as ours is.”

One of her eyes would flicker to an electric blue and a smirk would come across her features. “The Camera’s are mine” She would say switching through the feeds “Doubt it will help against a ghost, but who knows”

“So, Penny Wenny was always a mechanical wanical person werson~? That soundy woundies like a really interesting winteresting story wory~! (giggle!)” MDP observed. “And, like, Magical Dream Princess would just totally wotally wuv to hear it some timey wimey~! But, like, we should probably wobably start searching werching this placey wacey nowie, huh~?” she added, skipping along next to her robotic companion.

“Like, Magical Dream Princess would kinda winda like to know what going to schooly wooly feels like, too~! (giggle!)” the whimsical girl told Penny as she ran a short distance ahead of the mechanical monarch with her arms out to her side like airplane wings. “She’s only ever wever had tutor wuter people weple teachy weachy her stuffy wuffy,” she explained, while spinning around in childish delight. “This is, like, her very wery first timey wimey inside a schooly wooly, and she’s just imagining wagining what it might be like if there were other wother people weple in heresie~! (giggle!) But, like, being alone with Penny Wenny is kinda winda nicey wicey, too~” she added, blushing a bit.

Then, Penny took control of the school’s cameras, and MDP was once agin overcome with admiration for her cybernetic companion. “Wowie zowie~! Like, Penny Wenny has controly woly of all the camera wameras~?!” MDP exclaimed excitedly. “Goodie woodie~! (giggle!) Like, that means Penny Wenny can make a recording wording of her and Magical Dream Princess’s very wery first date together wether~! (giggle!)” the bubbly girl cheered as she jumped up and down, hugging herself tightly. “Oh…” she added, sobering a bit as her face turned bright red. “Magical Dream Princess wasn’t supposed to say that out loudy woudy…”

That… That wasn’t what Penny expected. Yes, the two of them had more or less low key been flirting while also getting to know each other. But a Date? That wasn’t something Penny had even started putting together plans about. Slow and steady was her aim at the moment, but there was a difference now then there would have been earlier.

Penny could tell that MDP was being honest, and sincere, and that kinda blew the robot girl away.

The surprise would remain on Penny’s face even as everything else leached away. Her eyes would both turn the same shade of electric blue and her skin tone would fade to the same white as her platting. It would last only a second or two and in those moments where she set aside her humanity she would examine what she wanted and how she felt. Then with a blink and her colors would return and along with it a confident smile.

“Can’t say that exploring and exercising a haunted school would have been my first idea when it came to our first date” She would say casting an appraising look about the building. “But” She would snap her hand with the yo-yo out to the side suddenly before pulling it back just as suddenly. The yo-yo would seemingly snap due to the force exerted on it breaking into a cloud of sparkles. Said cloud of sparkles would then condense in Penny’s hand forming a single Ipheion flower, which was rainbow colored.

“As the Princess wishes I suppose” She would tuck the flower behind MDP’s ear with a soft smile “Shall we?” She would ask before slipping away toward the stairs leading up to the next floor. She wouldn’t go too far, that would be rude, but giving MDP a chance to recover seemed appropriate. After all that was rather more over the top then she was expecting Penny was sure.

Besides, this way Snoopy could still catch the bubbly girl's reaction without her knowing that Penny was watching. Because honestly, the blushing was very cute.

At first, MDP thought Penny might have been offended by what she’d inadvertently blurted out, but it soon became apparent that such was most assuredly not the case. The whimsical girl’s face might as well have been a tomato as she watched her robotic companion create a colorful flower and gently place it behind her ear.

“W-Wowie zowie~” MDP sighed, her eyes closing as her countenance took on a look of dreamy bliss. “Magical Dream Princess feels, like, soooo happy wappy right nowie~” she added, while clasping both hands over her heart.

For the next few moments, she simply stood there, basking in the warm glow that seemed to surround her, before finally realizing that Penny had begun moving towards the stairs.

Gleefully skipping after her, a still-blushing MDP stopped in front of the mechanical monarch and struck a coy pose, looking off to the side with her hands clasped behind her back.

“Like, super duper thankie wankies, Penny Wenny~” the childish magical girl told her sweetly. “Magical Dream Princess just wuvs the pretty witty flower wower you gave her~”

Unlike most haunted buildings, there did not seem to be anything wrong in particular with the school. It had been used for quite a while after all, and both Magical Dream Princess and Penny would not see much amiss. Rows of lockers, classrooms filled with desks and various informational diagrams on the walls, stuff like that. It was essentially what you would expect from your typical school.

However, the deeper they went the more things seemed to shift. It could just be the isolated hallways, and the darkness that was only broken by the light the girl themselves made. But the fact that they could proceed so far without a sign was unusual.

As such, it might come as unexpected when when Penny found some of the cameras she was linked to momentarily flickering and being disrupted by static. They quickly returned to normal, and it was not impossible to excuse them as technical failures from underfunded public schooling. But with what they were dealing with, technical failure was not the only reason that was likely.

Oh, and the shadowy figure she would momentarily glimpse standing in the doorway of the affected classrooms didn’t help with that assumption either.

“I’m glad you enjoy it,” Penny would say with a smile. She had no idea how long the flower would last, she was still feeling out Dream magic, but it was a fun magic. The cheesy thought was that ‘it was a dream come true’ but she kept that to herself. She wasn’t that confident. Yet.

Unfortunately her attention was also somewhat split. The small signs of the haunting were unmistakable, and while Penny did not fear spirits like Jason did, they still put her on edge to some degree due to their connection to less palatable memories. A small hum would start up from Penny as she began reinforcing her chassis with magic. The light from her Core port brightened as it took over maintaining the spell.

“I can’t promise that it will stick around once we are done here, but I can promise to always give you a new one when I get the chance” She would go on to add. She was truly thankful for MDP’s presence here. Penny came here to exorcise more than just the ghost that haunted the building, she had some demons of her own she wanted to conquer as well.

“Like, that’s okie dokie, Penny Wenny~! (giggle!)” MDP replied, blissfully oblivious to the various supernatural events occurring around them. “Magical Dream Princess knows that it’s the thought that counts~” she added, while fluttering her eyes at her robotic companion.

Magical Dream Princess’ presence provided a stark contrast to the atmosphere and setting around her. Certainly no efforts to intimidate seemed to work, even while Penny prepared herself for a fight.

Still advancing, things seemed to subside for the moment. Nothing on the cameras, no signs of life. Yet with each step forward things seemed to get ‘darker’, if that was possible. A chill hung in the air, though every reading Penny could find indicated it was the same as it had been when they entered the building.

As they neared another classroom, the duo would hear the sound of someone writing on the chalkboard. Though the school should be empty, from what they had been told earlier.

“Flatterer” Penny would tease with a smile. She was tempted to default entirely towards her combat routines, to slip off her emotional processing to escape the grip of fear that echoed out from her memories. She didn’t. Because Jason was gone and she wouldn’t let his memories chain her anymore.

“Seems we have company though” She would say with a reluctant sigh “So we will have to get back to such thoughts later” She would check the number of the room where they could hear the writing happening. Checking with the school records to see if it matched the art room. “Because I’ll admit to being curious as to what thoughts you might have on the topic”

“Okie dokie~” MDP replied with a wink. Looking around she added, “Like, is it just Magical Dream Princess’s imagination wation, or did this placey wacey get a lot more creepy weepy~? And, like, what’s that soundy woundy~?” she asked, her love-struck reverie having prevented her from hearing the phantasmal writing until just this moment.

Finally the reality of the situation had started to dawn on Magical Dream Princess, while it had remained a constant for Penny. Utilizing her uplink, Penny would be able to tell that the art room was just ahead at the end of the corridor, even as the scratching of chalk ceased.
They had made it a few steps past that particular classroom when static would start to creep into the sides of Penny’s vision. Her limbs would feel like lead, hindering her forward motion immensely. Meanwhile Magical Dream Princess would feel a sudden and intense cold, that while not debilitating might nonetheless be uncomfortable.

As the static resisted all efforts to modulate or dispel it, Snoopy would suddenly do an about face and begin flying the opposite direction. Penny was still connected to it, but it was no longer listening to her commands. That was definitely the work of their spectre

Holding in a snarl the mechanical member of this exorcist party would gesture towards Snoopy before harshly drawing her hand to herself. The sudden gravitational, magnetic, and telekinetic pull bringing Snoopy forcefully into her hand “It’s been like this for a little bit” Penny would say through grit teeth trying, and failing, to keep her voice light. She would place her familiar into his docking port and lock him in there with a soft apology whispered across their network. She would then sever her connection to the school’s system and pull in her senses a bit.

“That sound was, to my understanding, chalk on a chalkboard..” She would go on to say putting most of her effort into simply continuing to take step after step. She didn’t know if it was some kind of emotional effect that was bypassing the Spark, or some inherent weakness to spirits due to her damaged soul, but Penny wasn’t going to simply stop. Neither was she going to retreat from her emotions, they were hers now and she would accept them even as she ignored what they were trying to have her do.

“Seems kind of old fashioned.” Penny’s eyes would brighten as she brought the Spark’s light closer to the surface. She had no idea if it would do anything to the Specter, but feeling it linger just under her ‘skin’ helped keep her focused. “But then again no idea how old this ghost is”

“Chalky walky~?” MDP asked after Penny explained the source of the strange sound. “That ghostly whosty is kinda silly willy, huh?”

“Golly wolly~!” MDP squealed as the sudden wave of cold hit her. “Like, Magical Dream Princess feels super duper chilly willy all of a sudden wudden~!” she added, hugging herself tightly and rubbing her hands over her shivering body. “But, Magical Dream Princess knows just the friendy wendies to helpy welpy with that~! (giggle!)” In a flash of light and a burst of glitter, two colorful mittens with cute, cartoon faces appeared on MDP’s hands. “Ta daa~!” she declared, before hugging herself again, while playfully swaying back and forth. As she did so, a feeling of warmth spread out from the mittens to fill every inch of her body, thoroughly banishing the spectral chill. “Like, Magical Dream Princess feels all comfy womfy cozy wozy nowie~! (giggle!) Thankie wankies, Mister Mitten Wittens~! Bye bye for nowie~! (giggle!)” After bidding her friends farewell, the whimsical girl turned her attention back to Penny.

“Like, is Penny Wenny okie dokie~?” MDP asked, slightly concerned by her mechanical companion’s somewhat stressed out demeanor.

“Not really” Penny would answer honestly “Not sure the reason but the ghost is making it hard to move forward and the static and atmosphere are making it very tempting to simply turn off emotional processing.” Which Penny wasn’t even sure would help. Even if it would help, it felt too much like letting her adopted demons win. So she would deny that for as long as she could. She would cut them off before she redlined though, that wouldn’t help anyone.

Drawing on the ShineSpark, Penny would find that it did have an effect. The static sharply lessened, movement was easier, and overall the effect seemed to have lightened. As for Magical Dream Princess, well, she had dealt with her own problem with ease. For a moment, there was calm once more.

Then it was shattered. The doors to the next classrooms slammed against the wall with an abrupt force, heralding a deluge of books, chalk erasers, chairs, paperweights, a miscellaneous deluge of school supplies thrown at Penny and Magical Dream Princess. A bit less subtle and a bit less spooky, but perhaps inevitable nonetheless.

The feeling of static receding and the return of her mobility was a great one. Once again she was grateful that she was allowed to carry the portion of Hope that she was blessed with. But before she could get too immersed in that feeling there was a sudden onslaught of school supplies.

In response to this attack Penny would suddenly draw MDP in close, a feeling of static would roll across the peppy girls skin as the machine girl did so. Less than a moment later the reason for that feeling would become apparent as the outpouring of school supplies would slam into an invisible barrier that closely encapsulated both Penny and MDP. “Gotta love electron force fields” Penny would remark as she continued onward, wading through the flood of supplies without a care, save to reach out and grab some of the larger metal paperweights that would crash into the first of her defensive barriers.

“Golly wolly goodness woodness~!” MDP exclaimed as the deluge of school supplies tumbled towards them. The next thing she knew, Penny had pulled her close and deflected the onslaught with some kind of energy shield. “Wowie zowie~! That was, like, sooo totally wotally cool~! (giggle!)” she told the robotic girl, her eyes beaming with admiration. “And, like, thankie wankies for the huggy wuggy, Penny Wenny~” she added as a blush began to color her cheeks. She had never been this close to the mechanical monarch before, and while some might have found the sensation of being pressed against smooth metal disconcerting, as far as MDP was concerned, it felt really nice.

After finally letting go of her partner, MDP would look around the room they had entered.

“Like, is this that art room placey wacey Leona Wona told us about~?” she asked as she searched for anything out of the ordinary and doing her best to focus her limited attention span on the task at hand.

Having fended off the devious school supplies, the duo entered the art room at last. There was plenty of open spaces, some easels propped against the wall ,and stuff like that. The sort of typical thing one would expect from an art classroom.

Unfortunately there was no immediate clue, no giant summoning circle with candles and the like for them to dismantle, as this classroom had been used since then. Still, a keen eye would spot some symbols in the four corners of the room, where it would be hard for a normal person to notice them.

The fact that the attack of the supplies ended when they made it into the art room was something that kept Penny on her toes. As either that meant they were in the wrong room, or the specter was preparing for something a bit bigger than throwing things at them.

“You are very welcome” she would reply as she scanned the room for oddities, a small smirk peeking out from her focused demeanor at the blush. It really was very cute. “I’ll make sure to get you added to my IFF so that you can surprise me with them as well” Currently there were only two other people that wouldn’t trigger a barrier reaction, Alicia and Dina, but adding MDP to that list made sense seeing as where their relationship was headed.

Walking over to the nearest corner Penny would get closer to the symbol she had noticed, careful to keep an eye out for any sudden poltergeist activities. “I’ve found something.” She would call out glancing over her shoulder to track MDP. The lack of Snoopy was felt all too well, but risking him wasn’t worth it. So she would rely on her own sensors for the time being.

“Markings in the corners of the room, no idea what they are for, but they are hidden away somewhat.”

MDP’s eyes went wide when Penny pointed out a new discovery. Bouncing over to join her, the childish girl’s fascination only grew upon catching sight of the strange symbols located there. “Oooooh~! What are these thingie wingies~?!” MDP would inquire, bending over to get a closer look, and giving Penny an unobstructed view of her panties in the process. Today’s pair were covered in colorful images of cute caterpillars and butterflies. “Like, they look all crazy wazey and stuffy wuffy~!” she observed. “And, like, if Magical Dream Princess looks at them for too longy wongy, they kinda winda make her head start to hurt…” she added with a frown, before standing back up and gently massaging her forehead.

To those who had that knowledge, one could tell that the symbols were a bit off from how they should look. They had not been drawn properly, which was likely why Leona had suffered such a disastrous failure. As it was, fixing them would likely only keep the spirit contained to this room at this point. Still, it might provide some insight into how to dispel this thing for good.

The sudden and unexpected look at MDP’s more personal choice of apparel caught Penny off guard. Both because of the unexpected nature of it and because of the sudden clashing internal thoughts that arose from such. Freezing those lines of thought, because now was not the time to be dealing with the existential issue of who she was. She refocused on the sigils.

Because while Penny herself didn’t fully have the knowhow to identify the runes, Beacon’s database did and a quick look into such got her the information she was hoping for. There was likely more information on these particular ones in there as well but the robotic girl didn’t want to keep that connection open too long. The HQ was protected, but that was still no reason to invite a haunting into it. [color=9e0039][u][b]“Hmm, they are the tethers for the specter if I’m not wrong”

“And I think I can fix them.” She would say glancing around the room, “But I’ll need something to sketch with. Mind magicing up a paint brush and some paint?”

“Like, Magical Dream Princess would be happy wappy to~! (giggle!)” the whimsical girl replied, while excitedly bouncing up and down. With a wave of her wand, she conjured a pair of large, glittery paint brushes and several cans of colorful paints. The cartoony paint cans had cute smiling faces, along with tiny arms and legs, and they greeted the two magical girls with a bow, removing their lids in the process. “Here you go, Penny Wenny~!” MDP told her robotic companion, handing her a bright blue brush, while keeping a pink one for herself. “Magical Dream Princess is gonna helpy welpy, too~! (giggle!) She just wuvs painting wainting with her freindy wendies~! (giggle!)”

Penny’s own contribution to the repainting process was much less magical in appearance. As she would just pull from a slot in her arm a collection of templates. She would hand off one set to MDP “These will make sure we don’t make the same errors that Leona did.” She would explain with a smile, “Be careful with the marked locations, but go wild everywhere else if you want” A bit of magical paint wouldn’t hurt the school. At least Penny didn’t think it would, or at least not Dream paint.

Turning to the paint cans, which had gotten a chuckle out of her, she would point at the can of blue and green paint. “You two are with me” and would then move over to a different corner. Mainly to avoid a repeat of the flashing incident. At the next spot Penny would get to work, she would scrape off the mark already there, place the template over the same spot and then apply a coat of paint, whichever color was closest, then wait to see if anything happened. Before repeating the process with the next location.

“Okie dokie~!” MDP chirped, while winking and giving Penny a playful salute. “Magical Dream Princess knows that it’s super duper important wortant to color wolor in the liney wineies if you want a picture wicture to look pretty witty~!” she added, sounding adorably serious. She then set to work reapplying the mystic mark (after letting Mr. Spongy Wongy wipe away the old one first, of course). After that was finished, she painted a few smiling flowers, bees, butterflies, caterpillars, and snails, before moving on to the next corner and repeating the process. [color=DeepPink]“Like, this is super duper fun, huh, Penny Wenny~?!” the whimsical girl asked as she finished repainting the second mark. “But we should, like, totally wotally do finger winger painting next timey wimey~! (giggle!)”

Symbols were swiftly corrected, restored to how they should be for proper spirit containment. Nothing seemed to happen, but that would likely occur once all the symbols had been fixed. For now, they were still fixing the equivalent of part of a broken fence.

Yet the spirit was not finished so soon. Just as it had lifted the school supplies and furniture, Magical Dream Princess would feel its attention as the ethereal force lifted her into the air. It then flung her towards the window, seeking to eject her from the school and back to the ground below. It wasn’t what one would call much of a permanent solution, but it’d have been pretty dangerous for a normal person.

At first, MDP gave a startled gasp as she began flying across the room, but her surprise soon turned to innocent joy at the experience of soaring through the air unassisted. “Weeee~! (giggle!)” she called out, arms raised over her head as though she were riding a roller coaster, and completely oblivious to the window she was rapidly approaching.

Penny was in motion before MDP’s reaction had finished shifting to joy. Three of her hidden limbs unfurled as she moved to intercept the rambunctious girl. As she jumped to grab hold of MDP, Penny’s unsheathed limbs lashed out, two imbedding into the floor at the center of the room, the last mimicking the actions but planting itself into the ceiling.

Once MDP was secured. Penny would start searching the room once more, looking for where the primary anchor for the ghost might be located.

Magical Dream Princess’ flight was abruptly arrested by Penny, despite the efforts of the spirit. It quickly turned to trying to remove the limbs obstructing it, though it did not much success. In turn Penny was able to quickly identify the remaining symbols in the corners of the room they had not yet reached and then correct them.

A sharp wind kicked up, scattering papers and chilling them. After several moments it settled, and the force attempting to stop Penny ceased. From the database, it seemed that the spirit was contained once more. It was just a matter of having Leona say the proper incantation to dispel the spirit, and this whole thing would be resolved.

“Like, thankie wankies, Penny Wenny~!” MDP told the Mechanical Monarch when she felt herself being enfolded by several metallic spider limbs. “Magical Dream Princess just wuvs huggy wuggies~! (giggle!) Especially wecially if they’re from Penny Wenny~” she added with a slight blush.

Once she had been safely returned to the floor, MDP watched in amazement as Penny set about locating and correcting the few remaining symbols around the room with a swiftness and precision only someone of her mechanical nature could possess. No sooner was this task completed, than a fierce wind blasted through the room. The chilly gusts lifted MDP’s skirt, but the whimsical girl didn’t seem to mind in the least, if anything, finding what was presumably the spirit’s last-ditch attack more amusing than anything else. “T-That tickle wickles~! (giggle!)” she cried in childish delight. All too quickly, however, the wind quieted, leaving the two magical girls alone in the presumably spirit-free school. “Like, did Penny Wenny make the meanie weanie spirit wirit go bye bye~?” MDP asked innocently.

Penny spent an extra second verifying that the sigils were working before she retracted her spider limbs. “No, I’m not really capable of that.” She would explain checking over the damage that she inflicted onto the room with an absent eye. “It’s more we got the genie back in its bottle. We still need Leona to banish it, but other than that we are good.”

“Yaaaay~! (giggle!)” MDP cheered, while jumping up and down with glee. “Like, we should go findy windy Leona Wona and tell her that she doesn’t have anythingie wingie to be scaredy waredy of anymoresie~! (giggle!)”

“Sounds like a plan.” Penny would agree as she started on the way back out to Leona. “I’m surprised that it was that simple to lock the thing down” She’d say on their way out. “But I guess we were just well suited for the task.”

Retracing their steps, the duo found Leona waiting for them barely a step from where she had been before. Her hands were clasped together as she watched the school, yet when her gaze fell upon them she all but sagged with released stress. “D-Did you do it? Is it over?”

“Yeperoonie~! (giggle!)” MDP confirmed with a playful wink and a peace sign salute. “Like, that meanie weanie ghosty wosty won’t be bother wothering anybodywody anymorsie~! (giggle!)” the whimsical girl declared, placing her hands on her hips.

“We corrected the seals so the spirit is locked down tight. Neither of us are Spirit specs however, nor the original summoner, so we couldn’t banish it. But It’s not going to be getting out anytime soon so it should be free for you to take care of it from here.” Penny would explain a bit more.

“There was a bit of property damage, as it threw a bit of the school supplies at us, but nothing drastic overall.”

Leona nodded as Penny and Magical Dream Princess relayed the outcome of their foray into the school. “I see…” She was glad that it had been resolved, though the damage and trouble she had caused still made her feel bad.

“Thank you both,” she said after a few moments. “I…I wasn’t strong enough on my own. I just got so angry and I thought I could use my magic to make them feel how I felt, but I just caused more trouble for everyone.”

Penny would rest a hand on Leona’s shoulder “I get it. Lashing out was probably the only thing that felt like it would do anything. We’ve all done something dumb because of these gifts.” She would say warmly. “But you also took responsibility for what you did, and got help when you realized it had gotten away from you.” Penny continued with a smile. “You’re already better than them.”

“Like, Penny Wenny is totally wotally right~!” MDP agreed. “Lenona Wona might have made a mistakey wakey, but, like, her friendy wendies helpy welpied her to fix everythingie wingie aaaaall up~! (giggle!)”

Leona tensed as Penny touched her, though that quickly faded with the comforting words. “Y-You think?,” she muttered, her head downturned before looking back at Penny. “I’ve had to figure it out as I go. I…don’t have many magical friends.”

“I’d say you're learning better than I did.” Penny would chuckle as she rubbed the back of her neck. “I kinda flattened a storefront by accident during my first month.” She’d admit with a sheepish smile.

“And” She would go on “Me and, Princess here, would be more than happy to be your friend if you wanted.” It was perhaps a bit presumptuous of her to offer MDP’s friendship without asking first, but MDP was the one to refer to them as friends of Leona first.

“Like, totally wotally~! (giggle!)” MDP agreed. “Heresie~! This is Magical Dream Princess’s super duper special wecial friendy wendy huggy wuggy~!” the whimsical girl declared, before promptly wrapping Leona up in a warm embrace. “Now we’re officially wically friendy wendies forever and ever~! (giggle!)”

Leona was further buoyed by Penny's words, the sort of validation that she had been lacking. Considering how this had turned out it was reasonable that she might not think well of herself, so it was a needed boost in her confidence.

Her eyes widened at the professions of friendship, though they became tinged with panic as she stiffened amidst Magical Dream Princess' hug. Such an open show of affection was foreign to her socially isolated mind. "T-Thank you!" she stammered past heated cheeks. A few moments were needed to compose herself and return to normalcy. “I s-suppose I should finish what I started,” she said once she had done that, looking towards the school. Though there was a modest coda to that. “And maybe we can hang out sometime? If it’s alright?”

When Leona mentioned possibly hanging out together, MDP squealed in delight, a brilliant smile spreading from ear to ear. “Like, Magical Dream Princess would absodutlylutely wuv too~! ‘Cause, like, that’s the kinda winda thingie wingie friendy wendies do after allsie~! (giggle!)”

“Of course” Penny would also agree. “Why don’t you go take care of the banishing then when you get back we can exchange numbers?”

“A-Alright.,” Leona agreed with a surprisingly firm nod. She then turned and headed towards the school, only glancing back over her shoulder once along the way. It seemed the duo had succeeded in their bounty in more than one way this time.

Penny would wave at Leona when the girl glanced back. Before letting her extra limbs extend out from hiding and cradle her, making a chair as she settled in to wait for Leona to return. It was a quiet night tonight, so there wasn’t anything that would force Penny to go back on her word to wait.

MDP would also wave to the still somewhat unnerved girl, before turning to face Penny, her previously bubbly demeanor shifting to one of timid embarrassment. “P-Penny Wenny?” the whimsical girl asked tentatively. “I-If Magical Dream Princess made a really really bad mistakey wakey that she was super duper sorry for, w-would Penny Wenny forgive her? A-And would she still want to be her super duper special wecial girlfriend wirlfriend?”

Penny’s attention when it shifted to MDP was light and openly curious. This demeanor wasn’t something that Penny had seen on MDP before. Tuning in more closely, Penny spent a moment actively scrutinizing the other girl. There was a weight to this moment after all.

Penny would give a sure nod. “Yes I would. To both questions.” That was a bit of a lie, firstly there were three questions, even if one was only implied. And there were mistakes that Penny wouldn’t be able to tolerate. But those mistakes hadn’t happened, the two of them wouldn’t be sitting here talking if they had.

Shifting a little to more easily face MDP Penny would go on to ask. “Do you want to talk about it?” At the same time Penny extended her senses out as far as she could, scouring everything nearby in order to ascertain if they were alone here and now. MDP did choose to wait until Leona had left after all. The least Penny could do was try to ensure that privacy was maintained.

“W-Weeell, ummm, b-back before she became a magical wagical girl, Magical Dream Princess’s daddy waddy was being attacked by somebodywody using magic wagic,” MDP explained, her trepidation clear in her voice as she swayed from side to side, like a child who had been caught stealing from a cookie jar. “She tried her very wery best to find out who was doing such a nasty wasty thingie wingie, but, like, she couldn’t find out anythingie wingie… B-But, like, then s-some evil wevil people weple showed up and said they could helpy welpy, and Magical Dream Princess was soooo worried about her daddy waddy that she signed their contract wontract thingie wingie, b-but, like, s-she didn’t know they were super duper evil wevil!” the whimsical girl insisted as tears began to well up in her eyes. “She pinky winky promise womises she didn’t! Like, she didn’t know anythingie wingie about them! Not until they did all that horrible worrible stuffy wuffy to Penny Wenny’s placey wacey! Magical Dream Princess is sooooo super duper sorry for ever wever working with them! S-So, like, p-please don’t hate her for making such a terrible werrible mistakey wakey!” she pleaded, clasping her hands together and falling to her knees as tears streamed down her cheeks. Please, Penny Wenny… Please don’t hate her… Pretty pretty please…”

As MDP explained it was painfully easy for Penny to visualize. It was how the Mint worked after all, finding those who were desperate or ignorant or simply alone. Offering poisoned helped, with no end of strings attached.

Softly, but not quietly, Penny didn’t want to surprise MDP too badly, the mechanical girl would move closer to MDP. And gently pulled her into a gentle hug. “I could never hate you for being tricked by the Mint” Penny would say softly. “That’s just how the Mint works. They prey on those that don’t know, or have no other options. I won’t, can’t, hold that against you.”

“P-Penny Wenny’s not angry wangry?” MDP asked as she returned the cybernetic girl’s hug. “Like, that makes Magical Dream Princess super duper happy wappy~” she added, her tears now ones of joy. “But, like, Magical Dream Princess still wants to prove that Penny Wenny can trust her, and, like, since Penny Wenny and Magical Dream Princess are super duper special wecial wuvey dovey girlfriend wirlfriends nowie, Magical Dream Princess would like to show Penny Wenny her secret wecret identity wentity, okie dokie~?”

“I’m not angry at you” Penny would say, because she was angry, but as always when it came to the Mint there wasn’t any outlet that would suffice. “And I do trust you, so don’t feel you need to reveal anything to me to earn it.” She would add. The perks of being able to hear truth and lies made trust rather easy to give. Besides, “I know what it is like to reveal a connection to the Mint to someone, there doesn’t need to be anything else tonight.”

“But, like, Magical Dream Princess doesn’t wanna keep any secret wecrets from her super duper special wecial wuvey dovey girlfriend wirlfriend,” MDP insisted. “‘Cause, like, that wouldn’t be very wery nicey wicey, and, like, Magical Dream Princess’s normal wormal selfy welfy is, like, super duper different wifferent than how Magical Dream Princess is nowie, and Magical Dream Princess really really wants Penny Wenny to like that sidey widey of her, too…”

Penny would let out a soft huff, but the smile on her face spoke to her amusement. “Alright then. Can’t exactly argue with that now can I?”

“Okie dokie~” MDP said with a smile. “Magical Dream Princess is gonna changey wangey back to her normal wormal selfy welfy nowie~”

There was a bright flash, and when it faded, Magical Dream Princess had been replaced by a very different girl, one who seemed the whimsical magical girl’s complete antithesis. With her access to various forms of information gathering, Penny would immediately realize the young woman before her was none other than Violet Covington.

“S-So, um, this is who I really am,” the heiress said in a soft voice, her eyes still red from crying and her cheeks a bright crimson. “I-I know I’m nothing like my magical girl self, s-so I understand if you don’t find me as attractive when I’m like this…” she added hesitantly. Despite the poise and confidence she was normally renowned for, it was clear to see that Violet was very nervous, so much so that she couldn’t even bring herself to look at her girlfriend. “B-But my feelings for you haven’t changed in the slightest!” she hastened to add. “I-I think you’re absolutely amazing, Penny, a-and I would very much like to be your girlfriend, i-if you’ll have me…”

At first all that Penny did was lean back a bit to get a better look at Violet. The moment that Penny recognized the heiress an eye brow was raised, but that was it for a moment and then “You’re Violet Covington.” Penny would say with an amused tone, “Of Covington Industries. The leading manufacturers and developers of both robotics and artificial intelligence. Which, correct me if I’m wrong here, Is at least in part due to your own contributions. After all, you are a certified genius and something of a virtuoso when it comes to code.”

“Please tell me why you think I would find you less attractive upon learning that of everyone in Penrose you happen to be one of the few people who would truly be able to actually understand what it means to be me?” Penny would ask with a softly teasing tilt of her head. “Honestly we are approaching celebrity cush becoming real territory here. And that’s only mostly because I’m one of the people who would actually consider you a celebrity.”

Violet’s face turned an even brighter shade of crimson when Penny complimented both her intelligence and her status as something of a celebrity, although she also couldn’t help but smile in relief. “T-Thank you Penny,” she replied softly. “Hearing you say that means more to me then you can imagine. I-I’ve… never been in a relationship before,” the heiress admitted, clearly more than a little embarrassed by that fact. “S-So despite my admittedly vast knowledge of a varied array of subjects, my experience in romantic matters is woefully lacking, and I… I just don’t want to accidentally ruin things between us. I know I can come off as cold and harsh,” she continued. “And I wouldn’t fault people for assuming the only reason I find you so fascinating is your status as a synthetic life form, but you are so much more to me than that! You are so very strong, and yet so very gentle. You could easily rule this city as a tyrant, and yet you choose to protect and care for its people instead. That’s what I admire most about you, Penny,” she added placing a gentle hand on her girlfriend’s cheek. “That’s what made me fall in love with you.”

“I’m probably cheating myself when it comes to relationship experience.” Penny would say unable to maintain eye contact at the moment. “The story of how I came to be my own person is kinda out there. But suffice it to say I’ve got insider information on bad relationships. Though I can’t say I’ve ever had one myself.”

“And who cares why we were initially drawn together?” She’d go on to ask, pulling her eyes back to meet Violets. “So long as we work together to keep ourselves together. I think everything will workout fine.”

She’d give Violet a softer smile, one slightly tinged with regret. “I can’t say I love you, and mean it, yet. After all I only just met both sides of you. But I’d love to spend the time learning so that I can say it.” Penny didn’t want to lie, not about something so fundamental to the relationship. “That said, I don’t think it will be that hard to fall for you in your entirety.”

“Thank you for being honest with me, Penny,” Violet replied, her face continuing to glow a bright crimson. “I fully understand why you’d want to take things slowly. A-And I’d like that very much. To spend more time with you, I mean,” the heiress added. “With that in mind, I suppose I should change back now. After all, I would rather not have Leona see me like this.”

“I’ll make sure you get my contact address” Penny would say as she, reluctantly, took a step back. It was hard to say how another girl's transformation would affect someone, and better safe than sorry for now. “My phone number is closer to a routing number, contact address is closer to my IP address.” She’d add.

Giving a nod of acknowledgement, Violet closed her eyes and began her incantation. “Hearts, Candy, Sparkles, and Balloons~!” she intoned, her calm and mature voice becoming increasingly high-pitched and cutesy with each syllable as her body was consumed by a glittery, pink whirlwind of mystic energy. “Sunshine, Glitter, Unicorns, and Rainbows~! Taaa daaa~! Magical Girl Super Cute Pretty Pretty Magical Dream Princess is here~! (giggle!)” With that, the whirlwind dispersed in a bright flash, the refined heiress having once again returned to being the embodiment of bubbly hyperactivity and childish innocence.

Striking a cute pose, she flashed Penny a playful peace sign salute, before presenting the robotic girl with a glitter and sticker covered pink rectangle. “Like, this is Magical Dream Princess’s super duper special wecial magical wagical girl phoney woney~! (giggle!)” she explained cheerfully. “Like, Penny Wenny can put her contacty wacty stuffy wuffy in heresie weresie~!”

Penny couldn’t help the smile that came to her face, but neither did she want to. It was always interesting to watch someone’s transformation; it could tell you a lot about their magic, or at least where it came from. MDP’s magic obviously lived up to her chosen name.

Taking the phone Penny would simply look at it for a moment before she looked at her new girlfriend and smirked. Penny’s eyes would flair for a moment before she handed the phone back, her contact information added. She also snooped around the phone a little with that little trick, though that was more to see if the phone was a magical construct or a transformed version of Violet’s civilian model.

Upon taking a closer look at the phone, Penny would discover that it was simply a mundane device, albeit one that had been set up in such a way that what little contact information it contained was very easy to locate. This wouldn’t be particularly surprising, considering it belonged to someone as addle-headed and forgetful as MDP, and the mechanical monarch would quickly find out that there was nothing on the device that might link it to her girlfriend’s mundane identity.

Once contact info was exchanged and Penny had returned her phone, MDP giggled in delight, overjoyed at having a way to contact her girlfriend whenever she wanted. “Thanky wanky, Penny Wenny~” she told the cybernetic girl with a smile as she gently took hold of her hand. “Like, Magical Dream Princess had sooo much funsie wunsie with you, and she totally wotally hopey wopeies she can go on another wother date with Penny Wenny real soon~! (giggle!)”




“And then we waited for Leona Wona to come back, and then Magical Dream Princess invited her to the Christmas Wistmas Party, but she said she couldn’t come ‘cause she had family wamily stuffy wuffy to do, and then we said ‘bye bye for nowie~!’, and then Penny Wenny and Magical Dream Princess shared their first super duper magical wagical wuvey dovey kissy wissy~” MDP concluded, her face turning a bright crimson as she smiled dreamily. “Magical Dream Princess was soooo happy wappy, and, like, even with her terrible werrible memory wemory, she just knows she’ll remember wember it forever and ever and ever~! (giggle!)”

“W-Wow!” Connie exclaimed, her own cheeks having reddened significantly as well. “T-That sounds s-so romantic!” she added with a smile as she placed her hands over her heart.

“Totally wotally~!” MDP agreed. “It was super duper romantic wantic~! (giggle!) So, like, can Connie Wonnie teachy weachy Magical Dream Princess how to painty wainty nowie~?” the whimsical girl inquired. “Like, she knows that Connie Wonnie usually painty wainties pretty witty landscapes, but, like, Magical Dream Princess was wondering if she could painty wainty a portrait wortrait instead~”

“O-Oh, s-sure!” Connie replied. “I-I don’t d-do them to o-often, b-but I t-think I c-can help you w-with the b-basics. I-I mean, I-I painted a p-portrait of M-Mia once, a-and I think it came out p-pretty good! S-So, um, d-did you h-have a r-reference y-you’d like to w-work from?”

“Yeperoonie~!” MDP confirmed with an enthusiastic nod. “Right heresie~!” she added, proudly holding up her phone, upon which was displayed a picture of Penny. “Like, Magical Dream Princess would really really like to painty wainty a super duper pretty witty picture wicture of Penny Wenny to give her as a present wesent~! (giggle!)” the whimsical girl explained. “And, like, even weven if Magical Dream Princess isn’t wisn’t the best painter wainter, she knows Penny Wenny won’t mindy windy, ‘cause Penny Wenny will know it was made with wuv, and that’s, like, the most important wortant thingy wingie of allsie~! (giggle!)”
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Of Queens and Dragons

Dina and Robert



It was a regular day in Sanctuary when Dina was going about her business, performing her administrative duties with the experience of an octogenarian.
However, it was when she had moved to inspect the bazaar when she heard the voice of a magical boy near one of the stalls:
"Greetings, miss Dina. May I have a word with you?" She saw as a white-haired boy wearing a dapper suit approached her; he was composed and polite, with a charming smile that put Dina at ease despite her caution.

Dina, for the most part, sighed and mumbled to herself something about "lax security" before adresssing the newcomer. "I do not give audience casually. There are proper procedures." She would add, but tilted her head. "Do...follow me ."

The regent would turn on her heels, before signalling a certain serpentine girl who was struggling with a rubik cube.

"Sakura... fetch us tea. We have guests."

The dragon girl would examine the newcomer, but slithered away to find the ingredients, all while muttering something about "Stupid Ikemen."

The magical boy bowed. "Please forgive me for my improper manners," he said as he followed Dina with a gentlemanly demeanour. "I was unaware of how to properly address your ladyship." Dina led him to secluded location where the two could enjoy a cup of tea in private, and the magical boy lifted his top hat. "My name is Robert White. Pleased to meet you."

"Dina Denisova, Regent of Her Majesty Penny Asimov, rule of Penrose." Dina said, as she held three things on her hand, the Dream Orb, a letter and a Purification potion.

"You may adress me as Regent or my lady." She added.

Robert smiled, and took the cup of coffee in his hand. "Regent Denisova it is then." He took a sip of his tea. "Mm, how delicious. Your Highness has a refined taste." He set the cup down. "On behalf of the Queen of Hearts of Wonderland, I have come to offer a proposal for an agreement of non-aggression. You see, my queen is willing to offer mercy, and will not harm the people of Sanctuary. In exchange, you are to offer the same sentiment, and withdraw your forces and magic away from Penrose and it's neighbouring cities."

Dina would allow the tea to simmer, as she cradled her cup. "Leaving in peace... huh." Dina pondered. She did not want to die. It was ab effective surrender with banners still high. Nevermind the deals she had to break.

However she would be risking her own life regardless, and the girls... well some of them would be unable to adapt.

"Robert, how much do you know about us and Sanctuary?"

Robert took another sip. "I know that the Sanctuary is intended as a home to all kinds of magicians, including the persecuted." He nodded with a pleasant smile. "Queen Penny is certainly admirable for having built such a place, not to mention your graceful authority and charming presence. The two of you make quite the industrious team."

"Flattering." Dina would say, before drinking her own drink in a single gulp. "But there is a second reading to all of this." She would then indicate with a gesture for Sakura to bring more tea.

"We don't have anywhere to go."

Robert nodded with a sympathetic look. "Yes, that is true. You would be forced to vacate during Penrose's liberation." He looked as if he was in deep thought, before he realised something. "Oh, I just came up with a thought. What would you say if your people were to be invited to Wonderland? We have plenty of room, and my queen would surely be pleased by a mutually beneficial existence."

"A fair observation I suppose." She said as she eyed Sakura bring yet another tray of green tea, the hot water not even making ripples as she moved. Two of Dina's fingers reached her own neck and rubbed it softly, most as an afterthought.

After a small bow, Sakura left the room. And Robert could heard the doors being locked.

Followed by Dina's most intense stare at the man.

Robert's eyes briefly glanced over to the locked doors, yet he continued to politely smile. He didn't seem to be intimidated by Dina's glare. "Pardon me, did I say something wrong?" He asked.

"No. But Wonderland's hubris might have condemned you." Dina would then reply. "First you unleash your monsters unto us, and then try to cajole Beacon. Failing that, you come here, to our abode to offer a magnanimous eviction."

Robert didn't seem fazed by the accusations, and kept his polite demeanour. "Oh, I assure you, my queen is not possessed by something as base and vulgar as hubris," he stated. "You see, my queen is quite humble with this offer. After all, she does not demand you show fealty or allegiance to Wonderland, correct? Simply that you step aside momentarily until Penrose is freed from the tyrannical Powers." His expression then shifted to look softer, causing Dina's glare to slightly falter. "Please reconsider your position in this matter. As Regent, you are committed to the safety of your people. This arrangement would guarantee it, does it not?"

Dina's stance did falter for a second. Her stare faltered, as she grabbed a letter. Reinforcement magic was present. On Dina's mind and on the doors. "I will accept the terms."

Robert returned back to his polite news, visibly pleased by the answer. "Excellent. I shall return to my queen with your answer. If you wish, I can also deliver her a letter signed by Your Highness, if you wish to further affirm your stance on non-aggression."

"HIS terms." Dina would then say, before drinking the purification potion, the dream orb glowing back to life in a radiant explosion. It was...like the birth of a new magical girl.

"Hm? Who are you referring to-"
Robert stood up, shocked by Dina's sudden move. "What...What is the meaning of this?"

A sultry, even more Regal voice answered from the figure that emerged. "It means we are in an alliance with the lord I just entered a bethrodal with."

Dina began to walk, swaying her hips and closing the distance, before whispering to Robert's ear. "The son of the Dragon."

Robert froze, taken aback by her new appearance, and hitched his breath as Dina whispered. "You don't mean...Him? But why?"

"Because we don't need liberators. Nor saviours. As a mortal, I lost many things to people who thought they were in the right, but only madmen." She coyly drew a finger through Robert's neck. "So I bent the knee to a madman who eventually did right by his people." The vampire lady answered. "Using first a gauntlet and then the glove is poor form... and you will pay for it."

Robert grit his teeth with a pained expression. "I am but an ambassador to the Queen of Hearts, and a voice to her will. I have diplomatic immunity!" He reached for his pocket. "But if you don't listen to reason-"

A set of red strings cut deep into the offending arm, as Dina unslung her own weapon with haste, intent on quickly disarming Robert.

A golden pocket watch attached by a chain fell out of Robert's jacket when the strings buried themselves into his arm, causing him to grunt in pain and hold his arm. His polite and friendly mannerisms were gone, replaced by fear. "There's a camera on me that has sent footage of this transgression!" He shouted out, sounding panicked. "If you kill me, you will declare open war with Wonderland! The Queen will not spare you if that happens! You would doom your precious Sanctuary to assured destruction!"

"Diplomatic Immunity depends on mutual respect. Your little pet scouts here attacked a civilian hospital." Dina would say, her words a harsh growl. "You already declared open war." With a swift motion, the creature that had become Dina sunk her fangs in poor Robert's neck, a monstrous hunger compelling to her actions. His blood tasted way better than any tea or aged wine. Yet exercising phenomenal restraint, she did not drain him whole, as she kicked the watch away from him.

"Sakura." She cooed, as the barriers of the door disappeared. "Chain this fool to the wall. Tell her Highness we have someone to wring his secrets out."

The dragon girl blinked, upon seeing the scene. "Neko-sama?? Did you become a titty leech yourself?"

"Silence or you are going to be the second dish."
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