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@PaulHaynek@The Irish Tree@Crowvette

Terauchi Temple



"I see, that makes sense." Shizuka said, listening to Io's explanation. "Unfortunately, therein lies the problem. Alice-san seems to be the type that's secretly prideful, and doesn't like to involve others in here affairs. With such difficulties approaching her, it may prove to be quite the daunting task. Although..." Shizuka trailed off for a moment, as if pondering something else.

"What also concerns me is not just the cursed weapon, but also another id within her psyche. I sense an archaic chi flowing from the mushroom on her head. I've of some strange parasitic species of fungi that attach themselves to individuals and cause them to undergo certain 'changes'. I feel that perhaps the id of the fungus and the weapon are perhaps at odds with other another, and my primary fear is that struggle for dominance will continue to take more and more of a toll on her body and spirit."

Pausing again for a moment, Shizuka signed as he looked off into the distance. "Hopefully, I'm just overthinking all of this and Alice-san herself will be able to weather through the storm of conflicting chi flowing through her. After all, having no idea of how long she's had the weapon or that fugus on her head she may very well already be used to it."

The swordsman quickly turned to Liliana who also wanted to do whatever she could to aid their fellow teammate.

"Of course, Liliana-san. While it may be presumptuous of me, I would ask if you have any knowhow of various forest fungi and what effects they may have on an individual."

He asked Liliana, but it was mainly not to be rude and to acknowledge her feelings of concern. Honestly it may be better if Io was the one to answer the question...
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House By The River

NO PLACE LIKE HOME



As Skarsneek and Kerry fought the bulk of the Varjans, Yuki and Samael had infiltrated the occupied house and had to tangle with some archer Footmen inside. The Oni and her companion were victorious, but they found no sign of the family taken hostage. They emerged from the home and told Skarsneek and Kerry the news.

The male Goblin feared the worst, and began searching the unusually large bonfire. He found naught but ash, but they could be from the wood. Just then, the man arrived to the scene. "Yokai! You've beaten them! But... where's my wife and son?"

"...hehe...hahaha..."

The cold laugh came from the now-conscious Kalaj. "...hahaha-- argh!" He tried to get up, but that only caused his body immense pain. The Scarce legionnaire realized he was stuck on the ground, but he continued laughing. "Your... *cough* your family... in there, in the flames." Kalaj revealed. "Burned them as an honor. They stood and fought to the death, both your teenage son and your wife. Sure, they were cornered, but you... you ran away... YOU LEFT THEM TO DIE! AHAHAHAHA!"

"YOU MONSTER!"

The villager took an axe and brought it down on Kalaj... only for the legionnaire's thick armor to completely block the attack. "Hahahaha!" He swung again. Blocked. "You're... pathetic! A weakling!" Another swing. Blocked once more. "You have monsters fighting for you! How can you call yourself a man? Ahahaha!"

The man kept swinging the axe, but he was simply too weak to even dent Kalaj's armor. The sight was pathetic, in all honesty. The taskforce was watching a man fail to kill an immobilized person.



Unknown Sawmill

THE HEADMAN

~ @Hammerman, @AzureKnight (ATS & HIN) ~


This sawmill was always going see battle in the wake of the Varjan invasion, but one would probably have not foreseen Shizuyaman bandits duking it out with yokai here.

While the yokai taskforce took their enemies down non-lethally, Sorae was not yokai. She would rather die than become one, but such thoughts did not occupy her mind at the moment. Right now, she was lost in her rage. Slicing and dicing through the untrained thugs foolish enough to stand in her way. Fortunately, only a few came her way. Some were swiped away by the purple flames of Atsuha, others fell to the ground from Hinami's shuriken and there were bandits carried by conjured winds and spun in the air by Lunatea.

But there were still some fighting force left, the remaining Wako bandits that Sorae pointed earlier had joined the fray. A couple of them shot their arm-mounted crossbows at Sorae, only for the yokai to witness something extraordinary. The last Tokinomiya retracted and stood on one leg, like a crane bird. The bolts then passed through her harmlessly, as if she was an illusion or apparition.

Unfortunately, Hinami was behind her so she was hit by the bolts instead. Fortunately, her sister had cast a protective spell on her so the bolts bounced harmlessly from the Jiangshi. Of course, one cannot miss the purple coating on the bolt's heads...



Shizuyama Wilderness

THE HEAVENLY STRIKE

~ @Restalaan (GRI) ~


"BRING OUT YOUR STRONGEST, GRINGOR IRONHIDE IS HERE!"
Gringor Ironhide


The Varjans were about to attack but the sword student Gringor pointed at brought up his hand to stop them. The standoff was accepted.

The sword student, alone, confronted the male High Orc, standing right in front of the latter barely a meter away. His hands were on his blade's sheathe and hilt. The rest of the camp waited to see who would strike first, and who would win.

Gringor and the sword student stared at each other for a few intense--

*WOOSH*

The sword student suddenly disappeared in a blink of an eye, and the male High Orc felt a powerful slash on his body. His monstrous physiology protected him, but the attack still hurt.

Behind Gringor was the sword student, who nodded at his allies. The prompt to attack the High Orc in earnest, starting with four zealous Brigands with swords.



Terauchi Temple


~ @AzureKnight (SHI) ~


"Everything you've done will follow you to the afterlife anyway. Live and repent, Kasseros Telmar. To continue to live through disgrace, ridicule, hate, fear, shattered dreams, and even a broken heart. That is what it means to be human. It may surprise you that many mamono understand this viewpoint as well."
Shizuka Kannazuki


"Lotta words just to say 'I'm too much of a chicken to kill anymore'. You've gone soft, swordsman!" Kasseros replied as Shizuka walked away. "You call me a coward, yet you walk away?! Afraid to take a life? Hah! Don't make me laugh! And who are you to speak for humans when you dilly-dally with monsters?! Have you nothing to say to that?! Come back here! We're not finished!"

---




(I'll let you three continue. Don't forget that any tales can be undertake anytime.)

------


~ @The Irish Tree (EUL) ~


Eula arrived in Otomo Village in the island of Akamagaseki at daybreak. The rising sun illuminated the small armada of ships docked on the port, with humans and monsters loading the vessels with supplies and armaments, while also arming themselves. One would think Lady Kyouko was preparing an invasion force if they did not know that all this was to counter an actual invasion force.

Lady Kyouko quickly greeted the Automaton and took the latter to her estate atop a low hill. It was then explained to Eula that the Varjans have surrounded the island of Shizuyama and while puncturing the blockade would be trivial to her forces, making landfall while the ports were occupied would be quite difficult and may result in more casualties than Lady Kyouko would like.

Thus, Eula will have to be teleported to the island, to the taskforce's base in Terauchi Temple, with instructions to help the taskforce and the Oja Clan as best she could. Leading the Automaton to the middle of a magic circle, Lady Kyouko and a hooded, but clearly powerful, individual combined their mana to cast a teleport spell upon the Automaton. The circle glowed and crackled with magic and soon, Eula's sight was consumed by white...

---

When the white resided, Eula found herself in a chamber that was clearly Zipanguese in design. It seemed to be a shrine of some sort based from the statues and candles in one side of the chamber. A sliding door into the chamber opened and in came a silver-haired woman. "Hello! Welcome to Shizuyama! I assume you are here as part of Lady Kyouko's taskforce?" The woman approached Eula and happily shook her hands.

"Oh my, an Automaton? I must say, I haven't met one before in my life. Anyway, I'm Ayu and while most of the taskforce and Lord Takeshi Oja are out in their missions, some of them are here. You should go meet them."








~~ TAKESHI'S JOURNEY ~~






~~ TAKAMORI TALES ~~




~~ SORAE TALES ~~


~~ TALES OF SHIZUYAMA ~~






~~ LEGENDARY TALES ~~
Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Enkryption
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"I am... I was... Integration into this place... The kingdom I built... lost... was disconnected from Wonderland..." Alice frowned, she didn’t like remembering that event, "I’m the curious sort, despite my reservations and my soft-spoken tone. I love to learn; though my learnings had given way to a weak physical nature and a sense of apprehension that has plagued me since childhood," she says, "I was Human, once, like you. All Mad Hatters are, you know? Another courted me and my husband, after we fell into a March Hare’s hole, and wound up in Wonderland. That was decades ago..."

Alice seemed to withdraw; her expression turning wistful, as if longing for an impossible solitude. Underneath the veneer of insanity, and the impression of royalty, that he’d seen back there, hid a woman - not a monster - hurt by a clear trauma they were asked to recount.

"To answer your question, I followed a March Hare here - ironic, I know - but, she promised me a wonderful tea party. And, what a wonderful party it was... for her... and her friends for a season." Alice drew back; her eyes focused on some distant point before she returned to Takeshi. "I still love tea, but I’m even warier of strangers, now... less trusting... I’m only open to you, because She That Smells of Snowflakes asked I be receptive to a man with your name," she confessed, "Truth be told, I’d rather be in the cave I was left for dead in, but Carroll has cursed me a second brain - braver, but ignorant, and apt for making decisions I wouldn’t, otherwise."

"Unfortunately, Carroll is oft in agreement with that second brain, as well," she lamented, leaving Takeshi to ruminate on the less-than-savoury implication of that statement and her story in silence.

His question answered, and then some, Alice fell into a quiet that was almost deafening. It would seem, small talk was over, if Takeshi didn’t inspire more.
Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by The Irish Tree
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Liliana



Shizuka would see Liliana's eyes sparkle as her offer for help was taken, the little fairy disappearing in a flash of light before returning to her big size, likely a surprise for Io. "Alright, let me go over everything I know!" the fairy said, before drawing her sword and excitedly holding it aloft.

What would follow would be the least helpful Fairy lecture ever given. Not because it was necessarily unhelpful, but because fairies didn't name things in the ways known to most humans and monsters. Too lazy to have sensible words or taxonomic documentation, Liliana would tell them about "Zoomy Shrooms", "Purple Gulpers", and "Bad-Blues". Liliana knew a ton about plants but...the names...the names were just nonsense. "Oh, and there's also a ton of plants from Wonderlands that does crazy stuff to people. And I mean, really crazy. Mushrooms that make you think you're a king, plants that make you bigger or smaller, caterpillar tobacco, and Mad Hatter mushrooms. The last of which are sort of like...big human hats that make you go crazy."




Eula



Within the village of Otomo sat a young woman with a soul and body of steel. Until she was approached by Lady Kyouko, all walking by might have thought her a strange statue before she rose and followed the woman of means. While it was apparent that Lady Kyouko had the resources, she didn't wish for all-out assault to occur on the Varjans. A sensible decision, tactically speaking. It was much easier to defend a location than to assault it from sea. As such, Eula would have no objections to the plan and would faithfully adhere to Kyouko's instructions. Taking her place within the magic circle with a packed lunch of local food hanging off of a stick slung over her back, the Automaton would wordlessly accept the teleport, shutting her eyes and waiting for the magic to pass.

Upon being greeted by Ayu, Eula would nod in response to her question of being part of Kyouko's task force, as well as being an Automaton. "Correct. This unit is designated as Eula 039. I will seek out those in need of help and eliminate obstacles to Shizuyama's people. Priority Order received: Greet others."

Wasting no time to depart, Eula would march off in search of other individuals that were clearly out of place, finding three such members of the task force having a discussion in the temple. Peeking from around a corner, she would observe the three before walking up and bowing. "Eula, 039. A pleasure to meet you." Before anyone could get a word in edgewise she would depart, leaving Io, Shizuka, and Liliana with her greeting interrupting the conversation.

Feeling more than ready to take on so-called "quests", Eula would disregard the stares being thrown at her. While many monsters could pass as human, the shine of metal on her cheeks was unmistakable. Her fashion was about as minimalistic as one could get as well, not helping her avoid the whispers of citizens. But that was okay. She didn't need to be liked to protect humans. When she would come upon a woman crying by a tree in the temple, Eula wouldn't hesitate to hear her out.



"Understood. While this unit is incapable of killing humans, I will gather allies in order to defeat these criminals."

With her promise made, Eula would begin to hunt for both information on the bandits, and allies that could help defeat or kill a large number of bandits. The three she'd seen in the temple seemed occupied with the human male among them looking tired, but there had to be others she could persuade to assist. After all, there was the very real possibility that in the event of fighting humans, Eula would pull her punches and be defeated.


After the strange metal girl bowed to them and left, Liliana turned to her talking-buddies. "...Uh...a-anyways, mushrooms, right..."
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Io at Terauchi Temple


@The Irish Tree @AzureKnight

Io nodded at Shizuka's explanation. "Interesting. That is a rare situation." Io felt like it might be worth studying for the sheer combination of factors at once. Io had to wonder how popular Alice was to get that many things vying for control.

Io had to rapidly sift through the torrent of information that Liliana went over - it was almost like a puzzle, where part of the explanation made sense, and the other part was encoded. Or rather, that was the only way Io was going to make heads or tails of it. "From the description, a few of those could be the offending mushroom. The last one you said, particularly." Though she feared that the answer might make less sense than the information before it, Io had to ask: "Do you know of any remedies for these mushroom's effects? ...Could we simply take the mushroom off of her...?"

Io felt like whatever was going on might be above such simple logic, but it was worth asking. Given the strange effects, there was a high likelihood that the remedies would require something that defied a normal approach to curing parasitic infections. Io wondered if any restorative magic she attempted would simply bounce off, given the otherworldly nature of Wonderland.
Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Nakushita
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Yuki


@rezod92 @Restalaan

Yuki had been disappointed to not have found the hostages where they had searched for them. Much to her horror the realization had dawned on her what may have happened to them much like it had to Skarsneek. Moving over towards the pile of ash now herself as she took a handful of it as she let it sift through her fingers as a frown came across her face. Her eyes narrowing at the mere thought of this potential ash having been the hostages that they had been searching for all of this time.

Turning her head towards the commotion that was ongoing nearby between the man and Kalaj hearing what he had admitted to doing. Her own fury and rage building up inside of her about what he had done as she could barely contain herself. Forcing herself to stay where she was at even as the man tried to take out his desperation on Kalaj. Watching the man swing away to no avail as his blows got absorbed by his armor as if it was nothing. Even while immobile and unable to fight back, his armor proving to be too much for the devastated man. It took Yuki everything she had to keep herself from rushing over to deliver a blow of her own.

Gritting her teeth as she finally broke her silence in her disgust. "What kind of warrior or man can he even consider himself, murdering women and children and finding it amusing, there is nothing amusing about it, I want to rip him limb from limb myself....what he has done...it just isn't right, no person right in their mind would ever commit such a deed, he is pure evil straight to his core...." Yuki muttered bitterly as she glanced towards Skarneek and Kerry. Wondering what the two's reaction and actions would be in this situation as Yuki herself was still quite new to the force. If it was up to her, she'd deal with Kalaj herself and make him suffer and pay for his heinous act. But she decided to wait for those more experienced to determine the next course of action. Not wanting to step out of line or cause unnecessary trouble, even if she bitterly hated Kalaj.
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But there were still some fighting force left, the remaining Wako bandits that Sorae pointed earlier had joined the fray. A couple of them shot their arm-mounted crossbows at Sorae, only for the yokai to witness something extraordinary. The last Tokinomiya retracted and stood on one leg, like a crane bird. The bolts then passed through her harmlessly, as if she was an illusion or apparition.


What in the- what was that?! Lunatea looked in awe.

But she couldn't afford to watch her for long as one of the bandits charged at where she stood. Naturally, his axe never reached her head as she already blasted him away with her wind spell.

Was that magic? Or some sword technique? Either way, I don't think it was illusion magic since she's still there in the flesh.

@PaulHaynek

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"Your... *cough* your family... in there, in the flames."


Horrifying realization dawned in Kerry's mind as she slowly turned toward the bonfire, suddenly understanding Skar's actions. No wonder Yuki and Sam couldn't find anyone. The mother and son were dead.

They were already dead before help could arrive.

"Burned them as an honor. They stood and fought to the death, both your teenage son and your wife. Sure, they were cornered, but you... you ran away... YOU LEFT THEM TO DIE! AHAHAHAHA!"


"Shut up...", she whispered, fury and rage swelling within as her hand twitched toward Mort, the temptation to silence the Varjan becoming more and more convincing as the devastated father/husband struck uselessly against the Warlock's armor.

"Hahahaha! You're... pathetic! A weakling! "You have monsters fighting for you! How can you call yourself a man? Ahahaha!"


"And how can you call yourself A FUCKING HUMAN!?", screamed Kerry as she sped toward Kalaj, interrupting the poor victim's next swing to deliver a brutal kick to the Varjan's head. Hopefully that knocked him out....or shattered his jaw. Either way, Kerry was too livid to care at the moment. Plus, if the Warlock didn't stop talking.....she would've killed him.

"What kind of warrior or man can he even consider himself, murdering women and children and finding it amusing, there is nothing amusing about it, I want to rip him limb from limb myself....what he has done...it just isn't right, no person right in their mind would ever commit such a deed, he is pure evil straight to his core...."


"I'll tell what kind, Yuki.", the hornet somberly replied, kicking dirt of the downed enemy. "The kind that is heartless. Soulless.....barren of empathy and love. The kind that would kill any innocent just for the sick pleasure of it, the thrill of taking everything that a man, woman or child has.....and crushing it."

It was times like these that reminded Kerry just how awful and scary some humans can be.
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Skarsneek of the Red Hills

Seeing naught but ashes, it didn't comfort him at all as he looked around until the man finally arrived.

The next few moment had Skarsneek grimaced like he had bitten a lemon, then his face flushed with anger as he quietly looked at the man smacking the thickly armored opponent. Then seeing Kerry gave a football kick, Skarsneek hoped that it didn't kill him or knocked out.

No no no, it wouldn't do after all if the person was unconscious for what HE will do.

Clicking his tongue and shaking his head, Skarsneek stepped in. "You're all doing this wrong."

Moving towards Kalaj then gently but firmly pushing the man away with the axe, Skarsneek started to drag Kalaj around. His strength allowed him to do so with some difficulty.

"You see, his armor protects from most blunt force. An axe isn't going to do much unless you hit it right in the eye or joints like the back of the knee and elbows." He explained as he continued on. Ensuring that Kalaj didn't see where he was going as Skarsneek looked at the grief-stricken man and nodded towards him to follow for some payback. "It'll still take some time to get past all that metal though."

Then roughly rolling Kalaj so he was face first into the ground, the latter was finally greeted with a splash of water, mud and the edge of the river. Skarsneek continued on as he held Kalaj by the arms now to prevent him from struggling out of it, water slowly coming higher to Skarsneek foot and then knees.

"But funny thing. It doesn't even take a foot of water to properly drown someone." Skarsneek promptly used his legs to grind onto Kalaj's armor, pinning it firmly onto the ground and enough of a distance for the man to still breathe erratically by tilting his neck backward.

Skarsneek turned to the widower and then to Kalaj head.

---

Gringor of the Ironhide Tribe

Steadying his breath as Gringor raised his weapon with gusto, eyes wide and readied to react to the attack as it came down to an exchange.

A moment passed before he blinked for a moment-

Then pain, just pain struck and flared from the side of his body like a hammer. Narrow, concentrated and precise.

It didn't brought him down, yet Gringor eyes flared and turned bloodshot.

He didn't see it.

Skidding backward on his feet, hunched forward as he breathed hard more from shock than pain.

He didn't see it.

Gringor barely noticed the rapidly approaching enemies as he touched the area where he was struck.

Then with a fierce smile and a single arm, he swung once in a wide arc when the zealots was close enough. Aiming to catch all four of them at once.

This time, instead of simply letting their spirit energy drain. He directed and take all of the energy for himself. Granting himself a little second wind as he stood upright again.

Turning his back and swirling around towards the one he challenged, Gringor charged forwards, fast and hard as he left an imprint on the ground. Axe in one hand and fist in another, Gringor purposefully left a wide opening of his right side from where the axe would come.

Then at the last moment, should the swordsman go for it. He'll lash out with a brutal and short front kick aimed right for the hips rather than chest.
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Liliana



Liliana would clear her throat and get to answering her new wizardy friend's question right away. "I'm pretty sure it isn't that simple...I mean, its not just the mushroom, its also that the mushroom made her into a Monster. I think that happens a lot with other species in women...some kind of corrupting thingie turns them into a Monster. So...I guess a good question is, has any Monster ever gone back to being human?" Sitting down, Liliana looked up and frowned.

"Basically, I have no idea...but I am pretty sure just yoinking her big mushroom hat off won't do anything. Aside from maybe make her super mad. Plus, Wonderland stuff works on different rules. Normal Magic there is way weaker due to everything being crazy...even the air. So...maybe she's just crazy? What exactly happened anyways?" Liliana asked. The small fairy felt very out of the loop on why they were talking about yanking mushrooms out. That sounded really painful.
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Terauchi Temple



Many of the peculiar names Liliana flew mostly when over the swordsman's head, hiding the fact that it all just sounded like gibberish to him. All except the last one mentioned. That one apparently had the effect of making a person think they're royalty. "That..." He thought to himself for a brief second. "Is rather interesting. A mushroom that causes a person to think they're a ruler does sound like the case, but would it cause another separate conscious to spring forth?" There seemed to be many pieces missing from the picture, made all the more tedious given the nonsensical nature of Wonderland phenomena.

There conversation was soon interrupted by another member of the taskforce arriving on the scene. An apparent automation that identified herself as Eula. This was the first time Shizuka every met this type of mamono, having only heard of them in rare passing. A type of sentient being construction through ancient and arcane means. It was possible that such beings existed native to Zipangu, but if they did he certainly wouldn't know. After a brief introduction, she promptly offered her assistance to one of the locals and make her way off the temple grounds. Shizuka stared at the girl for a moment before turning back to the other two.

"Well, I...suppose it's nice to meet another ally for the coming challenges..." He said with an awkward smile and a sweatdrop appearing on his head. "At any rate, I don't think it's a good idea to pluck the mushroom off of her head." Shizuka continued, responding to Io's suggestion. "As for what happened, I had arrived a little after the scene played out, but there was a slight between Alice and Gringor it seemed." He said, responding to Liliana's inquiry.

"However, I think it best to hold those thoughts for now. I'm going to accompany Eula on her mission, as these recently ones have proven there to be safety in numbers. If either of you would like to join, you're more then welcome to." He said to his teammates as he began to follow after the automation, inviting them to tag along if desired.








@PaulHaynek@Hammerman

The Headman, Onrai Woods



"Sorae-san, watch out!" Exclaimed Atsuha, seeing the onslaught of arrows headed her way. Fortunately, it seemed the Tokinomiya clanswoman had a few tricks up her sleeve as well. Assuming a stance, the bolts completely phased through Sorae as if she were a phantom or spirit of some kind. However, as she was standing in front of Hinami the bolts instead struck her. Thankfully the bolts harmlessly bounced off of her due to Atsuha's reinforcement spell.

"Hinami-chan, are you alright?" asked Atsuha.

Yes, I'm fine Nee-san, thanks to your spell!" Hinami responded reassuringly.

Atsuha looked at Sorae briefly, eyes filled with frustration. She must have known that Hinami was standing behind her, why would she put her in danger in such a way? Looking at the bolts on the ground, she noticed that the tips were laced with a purple substance. She quickly turned her attention to her allies after coming to the realization.

"Everyone, be careful! Those arrow bolts are laced with poison!" She warned. She began to shoot a fuchsia wind toward the men in order to subdue them. The wind was also laced with sakura petals that would hopefully block more incoming projectiles, while the wind itself would cause their enemies to become drowsy and unalert.
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House By The River

NO PLACE LIKE HOME



The sharp kick from Kerry knocked Kalaj out cold. His incessant laughter instantly gone. He was then dragged to the river by Skarsneek. As he was unconscious, he was unaware that his life dangled on a thread, on a river that might be his ultimate tomb. His fate will have to be decided without his input. At least, the male Goblin need not struggle to keep him from escaping.

"...He's right, you know?" The villager started. "I should've stayed and fought. For my family, and for my home. I am a coward." He turned around and approached the bonfire where his family was put into. It seemed he no longer cared if Kalaj lived or not, leaving the taskforce alone on how to deal with the unconscious Warlock. Falling to his knees, he stared hard at the fire. "...Thank you, yokai. I know you failed but... you came to help. That matters."

Fishing his pockets, the villager took out a small scroll and tossed it absentmindedly at Yuki. "I am privy to the location of a sacred artifact of Shizuyama. That map will lead you to its location... but I heard it is locked by a complex mechanism. You will have to ask for its legend if you want a clue on how to unlock it."

"Now then, can you all leave me alone? I need time for myself."

The taskforce's mission here was over. They can either go home, or go somewhere else if they so wish.



Sawmill

THE HEADMAN

~ @Hammerman, @AzureKnight (ATS & HIN) ~


The fighting continued, Sorae and the taskforce gaining ground with seemingly little effort. Some of the bandits began to flee, knowing that they had not the ability to stand not only against yokai, but a renowned warrior of the Tokinomiya Clan as well.

Soon, only the Wako bandits remained. There were about five of them still fighting but Sorae, ignoring Atsuha's warnings, overextended in her rampage and one of them managed to shoot a point-blank poisoned bolt into her lower limb. The Tokinomiya warrior pulled out the bolt, but soon found herself unable to move a muscle. The five Wako bandits were about to descend upon Sorae when one of them stopped. "You idiots! Don't turn your backs on the yokai! Go after them! I'll take care of the Tokinomiya woman!"

The four Wako thugs went after the Hangai sisters and Lunatea, shooting their arm crossbows at the yokai while charging with their battle sickles. Meanwhile, the last Wako bandit loaded his crossbow and aimed it at the immobilized Sorae.



Shizuyama Wilderness

THE HEAVENLY STRIKE

~ @Restalaan (GRI) ~


With one powerful swing, Gringor repulsed the Varjan Brigands and sent them to the ground. He then charged at the student warrior who had landed a hit on him, but the Shizuyaman did not fall for the male High Orc's bait. Instead, the student warrior deftly rolled away from Gringor's attack.

More Varjans came at Gringor, while the student warriors hung back. A Varjan Warrior charged recklessly at the male High Orc with his axe. An attack easily defended from, but then Gringor felt a nasty slash upon his body again... and a student warrior suddenly appeared on his side. The slash still did not draw blood, but it allowed the Varjan Warrior to tackle the monster to the ground.

More Varjan Warriors surrounded the fallen Gringor, who then received numerous kicks from armored boots. Meanwhile, the Shizuyaman warriors continued to stay back. These were patient men.



Shizuyama Wilderness



"...I'm sorry that all that happened to you. Perhaps I could brew you some of this island's finest tea, though." Takeshi offered his sympathies as they rode. "Although, I am a bit confused. Who's Carroll? Your axe weapon?" He guessed, correctly.

But before their conversation could continue, the duo reached a large wooden hut on the edge of a forest. The abode was still standing, but debris littered its vicinity "Here we are, but it looks like the place is ransacked and abandoned." Takeshi released a deep sigh and disembarked his horse to take a closer look. "Still, we should take a look inside. Maybe there's still something left that we can use."

Upon joining the young lord, Alice and Takeshi entered the potions hut to find it had indeed been ransacked... Or at least, simply messed up. "Look, mana potions." The Oja pointed at several bottles of concentrated spirit energy scattered on the soil floor. Some were broken and empty, but most were still strangely intact. "These may be common, but they are still valuable. Why... were these left behind? In fact, I see other potions still sitting on their shelves..."

The strange situation had Takeshi wondering, imagining what could have happened for a seemingly-looted potions shop to be still filled with loot. The answer soon came crashing through a wall.

*ROAR*

Takeshi was flung away when a large, black bear burst forth from a wall. The bear then bit into the fallen Oja's foot and toyed him around a bit before flinging him away again, sending him through a wall and to the outside.

The angry bear then turned its bloodthirsty gaze unto the Mad Hatter, charging at her not shortly after.



Homestead

HONEY TRAP

~ @AzureKnight (SHI), @The Irish Tree (EUL) ~


Joining forces, Eula and Shizuka made their way to the devastated home of the villager woman. It was close to sunset when they reached their destination.

Their travels took them to a ruined homestead by the side of a cliff with a shallow river nearby, a burnt cart to the side while miscellaneous items lie scattered on the ground. A small group of four bandit Swordsmen occupied this desolate home. It appeared they were the ones who attacked this abode and were now busy looting it clean. These were no Varjans, but they were just as wicked.

The Swordsmen have not seen either Shizuka or Eula coming, too busy in their spoils. However, the duo did spot one of the Swordsmen holding his blade sheatheless. A blade made of pure glass.



Terauchi Temple




(Still letting y'all continue~)








~~ TAKESHI'S JOURNEY ~~






~~ TAKAMORI TALES ~~




~~ SORAE TALES ~~


~~ TALES OF SHIZUYAMA ~~




~~ LEGENDARY TALES ~~
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@PaulHaynek@Rezod92@Nakushita

Skarsneek of the Red Hills

Looking at the fisherman, who seem resigned and thus, not going through his decision. Skarsneek lowered his shoulders even as he continued to have Kalaj held upwards.

"Well, if you say so." Skarsneek said before he slung Kalaj over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. Frankly, he'll ditch Kalaj into the river if he was alone but he can prob get some use from that sturdy armor of his. They'll need all the resource they can get.

Before leaving, he stopped at the fishermen's side. "You're a coward."

"But you survive." Skarsneek pointed out, after all, one can't do anything when they're dead. Most of the time. "Survive, and live for others."

With that, Skarsneek left him behind and walked away. Mood already soured from this.

Though with this, it meant that at least lodging and a village was technically free. The colder side of him echoed.

"Right," He rubbed the back of his head as he sorted things out and spoke aloud. "This village can be used, we just need some patrols and manpower. Tear down the walls, scavenge whatever equipment and resource available. Get some food and fresh water, move anyone who wants in. I'll have so much to do for Takeshi-"

"What, this piece of shit?" Skarsneek answered if someone asked what he planned to do with Kalaj. "Dismantle his armor that he's so proud of and turn him into a prisoner. Should make it fun. Might even ask him to dig a grave before I bury him."

"Keep a close eye on that map, maybe Takeshi or someone in the village would know something about it." He motioned his hand to Yuki and a nod of his head.

For Skarsneek, he was heading home. Hopefully he can make it in time for helping his wife.

---

Gringor of the Ironhide Tribe

Seeing the warrior didn't fell for it and hitting air, Gringor had snarled between gritted teeth as he was once again interrupted. One charged at him recklessly and was ready to swat him aside before another slashed occurred.

This time, Gringor felt it. Not the pain, rather, the speed and timing.

A blink of an eye, but it was still enough for him to judge the time.

He barely even noticed the armored kicks, it might as well be as effective as mittens filled with cottons as the blow rained on him.

So with a sharp hammer blow, he rang the varjan warrior that held him down right in the temple. Shaking him down to the spine before feeling the body go slack to unconsciousness. One stomp came, a flash of a hand to catcher before simply pushing it back like a adult to a child, sending the warrior tumbling down but not letting go.

The other came and Gringor swung the other like a doll to crash into the former, arcing around once and then twice before he finally stood up leisurely. A ring of men down, injured or out cold before he finally let go of the improvised human weapon. Imprint of his hand left behind deeply as it swell to a blue and black color.

With the nuisance taken care of, he reached for his weapon and gestured for another round. Then he charged.

This time, he used everything. Nose, sight, sound and feel. Eyes focused on the warrior.

Raising his weapon for a downward strike, Gringor will commit to it this time. Not taking any unnecessary wild swings as he changed his way of fighting. A much more conservative way as he aimed for positioning. Making sure the rest of the other warriors are in his sight as well even as he focused on the lone one. He wanted to enjoy this fight.

If the Shizuyaman warrior dodges, then he'll continue and advance till he pressed the former into the cliff walls.

Roll away, he'll reset his positioning and follow

Parry, then Gringor will slide his weapon and fist forward for a counter attack.

Block, and he'll overpower.

Attack or counter-attack without that flashy thing, then it'll be a dual exchange.

Attack with the flashy thing-

Gringor will slide backward, weapons raised and to block it desperately. The timing was already there, and he can roughly feel it. Something that was born from sheer fighting experience.

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Io at Terauchi Temple


@The Irish Tree

Io nodded at Liliana's explanation. At least she herself admitted that Wonderland was crazy. It was obvious, but something about it being directly acknowledged comforted Io. "Things are never so simple. But it was worth asking." After listening to Shizuka's farewell, she thought more on the situation. "The best course might be to simply observe." Of course, that was usually her response to most things - but this time it probably was also the right move for others as well. "Trying to 'fix' things may worsen the situation. Too many variables."

She watched Shizuka take off... With an automaton? Io quickly realized that she was so focused on the issue of Alice to the point of not noticing that another task force member had appeared. "Ah." Io's hyper focus was rapidly becoming an issue. Her previous endeavor had her alone for such long stretches that she now found herself missing things as they happened. "Liliana. Remind me to be more in the moment." She said it, though she wasn't sure if the fairy would quite get what she meant.

'This fairy is a good model for living in the moment... Actually, perhaps too good of a model.' Io thought to herself. She doubted she could ever reach such a level, nor would she want to, but she was working with living things. An adjustment of time scale was necessary. She gave an ever-so-slight smile as she stole a sideways glance at Liliana. '...Her sword is still an abomination, though.' This time Io reviewed her own thoughts with amusement. '...A lich calling something else an abomination? What a strange day today has been.'
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Liliana

@Crowvette


Liliana had frankly had enough of fighting many people for one week, and opted to instead continue speaking with Io for the time being. She really felt like they were clicking, the two INCREDIBLY intelligent pink-haired magic users that they were. Io was even listening to her warning about the mushrooms not being super easy to deal with, and asking Liliana for a favor!

"Mhm! Living in the moment is SUPER important to fairies, so I'll be sure to remind you!" Flapping her wings, Liliana would carry her sword on her back and plop down atop a paper lantern sitting on a cupboard. She'd wave at Io once she looked at her. "Remember! Momentai! ...That's what that means, right?"

Thinking for a moment, Liliana would sit up. "Ooh, wanna share magic tricks? I could...um...summon a cow. Most likely. That's been happening a lot more than any other spell for some reason. But I'd really like to see your book at work!" The fairy unsheathed her sword, holding it up above her head. "Oh, I can also do fire-rocks, Magic-breaking fields, and make someone as strong as a giant! ...Sometimes. The sword picks the spell."

Eula

@AzureKnight


Eula had to admit, she wasn't quite sure about taking a human along with her for combat purposes. Not because she doubted in his abilities, but simply due to Mamono being...well, "stronger". Not to mention that her core programming would also mean that if push came to shove, she'd 100% have to sacrifice herself to protect him. But from the way he walked, the muscle definition visible on his body, and the high-quality blade he possessed, she was sure that he was less likely to be a hindrance than she herself was.

Her optics would focus on the man holding the "glass" blade, looking to Shizuka as they maintained position for a moment behind a corner. "Before we begin combat, I believe it is important for me to divulge this Unit's functionalities. Enhanced Durability equal to six-inch steel plating, Polymer-Muscle fiber enhancements to give the punching weight of a bear, and Demonic Stun-Gun," she said, holding her hand out as several "bullets" ejected from her arm silently, glowing a dull purple as the general shape of a tube was made along the length of her wrist from demonic energy. "This Unit is incapable of directly causing harm to humans, as such, you must be the one to eliminate threats if it comes to that. I can, at least, stun them for up to sixty seconds per round that makes contact with them."

Gripping the side of the wall, Eula was ready to vault over it to attract attention, before looking to Shizuka. "I shall create a diversion, and focus their attacks on me so you may strike from behind. Is this course of action acceptable?"
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Io at Terauchi Temple


@The Irish Tree

Io stiffened almost imperceptibly at the mention of a magic-breaking field. While she had contingencies for that, it was mildly concerning that such a thing could come at seemingly random - and from a teammate, even. While she was sure that Liliana wouldn't intentionally dispel all of her scrolls, Io wouldn't want to have to transcribe all new ones. Io quickly tried to de-escalate the situation by picking an example that was relatively benign. "Tricks... Like this?"

Io gently brushed her hair with her hands, letting her pale pink hair flutter in the wind for a brief moment, and pulling her hood back down once more. Mouthing a quick incantation, she invoked the scroll that she used to disguise herself as a normal human. Her pallid skin turned to a more natural tone, and her unnatural hair color dulled to a blonde. "It's a disguise. Down to the skin's warmth. Though, I think I may need to alter the hair color..." Io suspected that a blonde wasn't a common sight, but that may have just been a coincidence. She'd need to see more people of the island to be sure. "It's not quite on the same level of summoning a cow, though... I wonder how you could use that to your advantage...?"

Io wondered to herself if Liliana already had summoned cows to Shizuyama... and what confusion could stem from such large terrestrial animals appearing from nowhere. 'Hopefully the locals can make use of them, I suppose?' Io figured that would be a safe enough bet, provided the cows didn't have some kind of magical strings attached to their summon. She made a mental note to check any she saw Liliana summon to see if they were truly mundane cows and not some strange Wonderland variants.
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@PaulHaynek @Nakushita @Restalaan (SKA)

"...He's right, you know? I should've stayed and fought. For my family, and for my home. I am a coward....Thank you, yokai. I know you failed but... you came to help. That matters. I am privy to the location of a sacred artifact of Shizuyama. That map will lead you to its location... but I heard it is locked by a complex mechanism. You will have to ask for its legend if you want a clue on how to unlock it. Now then, can you all leave me alone? I need time for myself."


"You're a coward. But you survive. Survive, and live for others."


Kerry would give a disapproving glare at Skar as he walked by before giving a sigh as she approached the grieving villager, laying a gentle hand on his shoulder.

"I wouldn't say it as bluntly as my teammate did, but he is right.", Kerry spoke in a reassuring tone. "If you wish to serve penance for your flight, then pay by living. That's the best way to honor their death. Mourn for now, but for them...live."

Finishing her piece, she left the man to his mourning and joined the others. A scowl marred the hornet's features as she gazed at the unconscious Kalaj being carried on the goblin's shoulders.

"What do we do with him?"

"What, this piece of shit? Dismantle his armor that he's so proud of and turn him into a prisoner. Should make it fun. Might even ask him to dig a grave before I bury him."


"As much as a big part of me very much wants to see him dig his own grave, taking him back to the temple as a prisoner is a better idea. The more info we get, the more prepared we are for anything the Varjans throw at us. Besides, we should take care that, while fighting these fuckers, we don't become as bad as them."

And with that, the trio began heading back toward Terauchi Temple.
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@PaulHaynek@The Irish Tree

Homestead



Having made their way to their destination, Shizuka took note of the four bandits ransacking the ruined house. He made special note of the one that was holding a blade made of...glass? Before he could ponder further he listened to Eula's explanation of her functions and combat capabilities. It made sense that killing humans went against her programming, she was a mamono after all. He glanced for a little bit at the serrated weapons she made from her arms and the strange glowing pellets that she apparently used to stun her foes. After her explanation, she offered to use herself as a distraction while Shizuka took them from behind.

"I don't have an objection to that plan per se, but I feel we should be wary of that glass blade that one swordsman appears to be wielding. The first thing one would presume is that the blade is very brittle and would shatter upon a strong enough force. However, that would also entail shards of it getting everywhere. It could also possess a hidden quality that we're not yet aware of. Perhaps it may be best for us to stun him first to avoid any complications." He said, still eyeing the glass weapon. "I suppose that sword may also be lighter, thus allowing him to swing it faster as well. But that doesn't really matter to a person like me."

At that point, he placed his hand on his sword's grip. "Alright Eula-san, when you're ready, go ahead and let loose on them. At that point, I'll have then downed before their eyes even register the scene..."








@PaulHaynek@Hammerman

The Headman, Onrai Woods



The number of bandits were slowly winding down, thankfully. Seems the local brigands weren't well equipped to deal with yokai. Sorae, of course, continued to tear through the enemy ranks with reckless abandon. It seemed her brashness finally came back to bite her, as a stray bolt struck her in the leg. The damage was made minuscule thanks to Atsuha's defensive spell, however, than wasn't the main issue. The sisters watched in bewilderment as Sorae was rendered immobile by the toxin laced on the bolt. A lone bandit with a crossbow was about to land the final blow to end the Tokinomiya clan's bloodline right then and there. Not having time to think, Atsuha began shooting a torrent of sakura blossoms at their oncoming foes, aiming mainly for the crossbow wielders.

"My sister and I will handle these cretins! Luna-chan, please save Sorae-san!!" At that, Hinami took on the two sickle wielders by herself. Her hand glowed again as she summoned a hanabo, spiked with demon realm silver. Her plan was to neutralize one of the assailant's sickle chains by stomping it to the ground, then running up and clobbering him with the club. She would then jump up and hit the other man square on the head with the heel of her foot if her plan succeeded.
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@AzureKnight
"Everyone, be careful! Those arrow bolts are laced with poison!" She warned.


"Poison?!" Lunatea cocked her head towards the jorogumo. Tch, of course they would lace their arrows with poison! Everyone who's fought off arachnids knows just how deadly they can be!

Indeed, she had faced off against one in one of her ventures to the many ruins she visited as part of her research. It really stemmed from a simple, silly mistake. She believed she was stealing her prey, a human boy she met while in said ruins. Apparently he was there as part of his coming-of-age ritual, a tradition from his village. In the end, she and the boy succumbed to the poison, and she only got out of the place alive because the boy asked the arachne to spare her.

She never saw the boy after. If she had to guess, he had become the arachne's husband, just like the arachne wanted.

She could only hope that the poison these humans used was not as potent as hers.

@PaulHaynek
The fighting continued, Sorae and the taskforce gaining ground with seemingly little effort. Some of the bandits began to flee, knowing that they had not the ability to stand not only against yokai, but a renowned warrior of the Tokinomiya Clan as well.

Seeing some of the humans fleeing brought a smile to the wererabbit's face. Finally! Some sense! Just flee if you know you're outmatched!

That smile disappeared the moment Sorae collapsed to the ground.

"Sorae!"

She charged up a tornado to blow away the humans surrounding her but one of them fired their arm crossbows at her, forcing her to cancel the spell to dodge. Another one then charged at her location, drawing his battle sickles. Thankfully, Atsuha was there to pick up the slack, her sakura blossoms buying time for the now immobilized human warrior.

"My sister and I will handle these cretins! Luna-chan, please save Sorae-san!!"


"Got it!" Lunatea nodded, letting her take on the sickle wielders.

Her gaze then landed on the crossbow-wielder. He was reloading his weapon, no doubt planning to fire it at her again.

I won't let you!

Lunatea dashed forward, stopping right in front of the man, who was now in full panic mode.

Too slow!

She launched a swift spinning kick with her right foot, hitting him right on the head.

Knocking him out in an instant.

Even though she had no combat training whatsoever, she was still a wererabbit.

And like all wererabbits, she had exceptional strength in her legs.

The way's open! Now's my chance!

She rushed towards the fallen warrior, snatching her up without listening to her protests. And then, before the humans could attack her, she jumped upwards, once again utilizing the strength her leg muscles possessed.

And then, once they were in mid-air, she prayed.

"O Sylph! By your grace, grant us a safe landing!"

With her dress blowing in the wind, the wererabbit slowed her descent, landing somewhat away from the fighting, giving her the space she needed to administer her treatment.

"O Undine! Wash away the poison from this woman!"

She held both hands near the wound, her palm gently glowing with the light of restoration.

A/N:
Yes, the arachne thought Lunatea was after the boy because she kept flashing her undies to him.

@AzureKnight
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Liliana

@Crowvette


Liliana watched, impressed by Io's ability to completely disguise herself...at least, as far as her skin and hair went. Did that mean she was some sort of Mamono as well? Liliana had honestly just figured that most wizards were deathly pale from staying inside and reading all day. Still, It was rather impressive to the fairy who had only ever seen her Queen weave illusions. Sometimes, Liliana wished that she could be as multi-talented as their Queen, but...well, Queens were born, just like Knights. Nobody had much control over their station.

With Io's trick complete, Liliana would show off her own and grow to human size, coming up to being just a bit shorter than Io. The sword had grown with her too, showing that it did on some level bear a connection to Liliana's physical state. "I can't change my hair color or anything, but I can change size like this! ...Well, uh...technically I can only change between 'person' size and 'fairy' size. But still, that's a trick I can do without the sword."

Liliana was also racking her brain at the moment on how to explain WHY the sword thought summoning a cow might help. Every time, save for the one that landed on Fatal Pulse, it had wound up being less helpful than any other spell but...maybe there was still a point? "I think the cows are meant to be sort of a distraction...I mean, I know I'd be pretty shocked if I was expecting a big demon to be summoned and its a normal cow. They go back to wherever they came from after a while too, I think." Io might start getting the correct impression that the fairy had either not been explained what her weapon did at all, or wasn't aware of the gravity of randomly teleporting cows to and fro by accident. "Oh, by the way, your hair looks nice blonde. But the pink was nice too. Kinda biased on that color," the fairy said, holding a lock of her own hair and holding it up a bit before releasing.

Eula

@AzureKnight



With their plan confirmed, Eula readied herself for the assault, her hand forming a finger-gun as the series of magical energy bolts formed around her wrist. She could shoot a fair dozen at a time on each hand, but imagined that suppressive fire wouldn't be good with Shizuka in the midst. The best option was an initial blinding barrage of bolts to keep their attention solely on her while Shizuka cut them down from behind. "Mission Commence, Eula said before getting into position. Standing up, both of her arms would now be in their "firing" states, arms held level in front of her as she unleashed a non-lethal barrage of bolts upon the glass-swordsman, making sure to pepper as many of the others as she could with shots before she had to reload.

It was likely that they would make a move once the hail of stunning energy stopped, so Eula moved one hand back to normal, to engage in hand-to-hand if necessary. While doing so, she would announce herself further by projecting her voice, increasing her volume to shout: "Bandits of Shizuyama, you have been accused of ransacking, looting, murdering, destruction of property, and general misconduct. Turn yourselves in peacefully or I will be forced to use maximum force!" Thankfully, there was no rule in her programming that she couldn't LIE to humans. In truth, those stunning rounds were her maximum force. The best she had after that was punching them in the face.

She only hoped that Shizuka was capable of ending this as quickly as he said, otherwise she may be forced to retreat with him in tow. Running the calculations in her head, she figured it was certainly possible given his physiology and weapon level. Still...some part of her couldn't help but be programmed with excess concern at humans endangering themselves.
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