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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Letter Bee
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Mission Three - Assault on Jinghong Dam

Timeskip, Mekong River, China - 10/25/2022, 6:10 UTC+8

Noel Alonso was soothed by the smooth whirring of the patrol boats' engines, a dangerous mood while wearing a stolen PLA Marine uniform that barely hid his dark skin tone and non-Chinese facial features. Between the muddy, almost black waters barely lit up by his boat's faint headlights and the high banks that blocked the scant illumination from the moonless sky, there was a lack of things to do but to wait for their group to reach their destination or be stopped midway, either briefly or permanently.

Well, there was stargazing, but he had just turned eighteen. It was the middle of a combat mission. There was no way he could just sneak a look at the starry sky -

He did so anyway for the fifth time of the journey; the North Star was barely visible through the mass of other glimmering pinpricks of light that demanded their share of attention, but it guided their path anyway - North, then West, to Jinghong City and the Jinghong Dam just beyond it.

Trying to bring his mind back onto the mission, Noel glanced at a disguised Qingshe right beside him; Myron was driving the lead boat and using night vision goggles and a gas mask to hide his pale skin and his distinctive American-Asian face. Then he dared a glance behind his boat engine's barely foamy spray to look at the group's second boat, where Henri, Nil, Marta, and Cristina were crammed worse than he was - One of them was driving the vessel and keeping up with Myron as the latter navigated the central length of the strangled Mekong River.

Two headlights; another boat was approaching, slightly more slowly - The group would have to rely on the PLA symbols that marked their boats as official Chinese property to pass beneath the notice of the opposing patrol. As the enemy craft passed them by, Noel let out a breath he did not know he had been holding back in his chest; a flashback to the old days, when squashing terrorists was the worst he could dread. Good, the worst was now over -

Oh no, Noel thought as the faint lights of the patrol boats lit up a giant chain, with floating buoys strapped to it, that was strung out across the shrunken Mekong River to block all passage upwards; each end of the chain was tied to two concrete guard towers that had gears and cranes that allowed for the chain to be raised up and down at will. This was not in the intelligence reports, but it was a tactic that made sense; to block potential infiltrators to Jinghong City, whose lights just lay beyond the guard towers and the chain between them.

Voices in Chinese could be heard through the radio, but Myron, in a fake Mandarin accent, talked fast, answering every question or order... Before handing the tower guard a small box that Myron had told him and Qingshe on the trip contained a bribe of heroin. Gross, but as the chain was lifted and the two boats were permitted to go through Jinghong City, where PLA Soldiers and Marines swarmed as ants, weapons at the ready, and drones flew overhead taking surveillance footage, Noel felt small again as Task Force Obsidian moved through the better-lit river, where tank columns could be seen patrolling the riverbanks and the occasional firebase could be glimpsed behind buildings.

Jinghong City was an armed camp; the Dam, just up ahead, was much worse.

There was another long chain, made up of heavy steel with plastic buoys attached, but this time, each end was attached to two small bunkers of reinforced concrete, whose domes were covered with mud and earth to camouflage them from aerial view. And in the bunker to their left, there was a window, and beyond the window was Huo Ren, their Task Force's greatest still-living foe...

@Lewascan2@Gerlando@Nimbus@QJT@Amidatelion@Digmata@Chiro
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Chiro
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Henri


Henri took a final look at his camo face paint. The first part of the mission was more stealthy than average, and the gear worn matched accordingly. The other arms masters were still making their final preparations, so he had time to make sure the boat was ready to go.

The boat wasn't one Henri was used to, but he did have some rudimentary knowledge on how driving watercrafts, and the controls didn't seem that different from baseline. Also, for this group he was the one who could be trusted with a vehicle like this out of all the Arms Masters on board.

"Fuel tank" He said aloud as the checked the tanks. It was full. "Check"

"Motor" He tried the motor a couple of time, and it worked. Henri shut it down again. "Check"

Finally he went to the front of the boat and tested the radar. It showed the expected dots. "Radar...Check."

The boat was ready, now for the Arms Masters. "Okay, everybody! Roll call!"

Henri called the names of the group that would join him and he checked their names one by one.

"Okay, now for the equimpent." He told, going through them one by one.

"Weapons..." The group showed guns, knives, grenades, all the mundane weaponry "Check. "

"Support gear"Next came medipacks, extra ammo and assinged visors[color=00aeef]"Check.

"Noble Arms."Henri activated Leonidas, and the other Arms Masters did likewise with their own"Check. " With that check, the Arms disappeared again, until later use.

"Finally, let's see if we all have watches synchronized." Everybody presented their watches. They all showed 6:27, as was needed. "Check."

"Okay, everyone, on board!" He told as he took position at the front. With everyone in place and the motor running, the boat began its journey up the Mekong River.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Gerlando
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Nil


Mekong River - 10/25/2022

The engines bustled and the pair of boats moved along in a not so straight line, the river twisted and turned in a not so abrupt but still noticeable way, in the distance the city lights could be seen slowly coming closer.

Nil just had to sit idly and not think about, well anything, not the chinese finding them, not the boat bouncing around and not the water they were on. Nil took a moment of peace to cover her eyes with the neck cover. Of course now she didn’t see the river but could very well feel as the boat sailed.

”whirr whirr.”
She said quietly, almost in a hum.

Not long after someone shook her to signal they were closing on an inspection post, the eye cover was now removed.

They were not even near the city before they made their first stop, Nil just sat in one of the back seats, fully covered in a drab chinese uniform complete with hat and headset. After a while the boats began their journey again and again they stopped, the PLA has various posts and Nil just repeated the process of just not panicking, which previously seemed to have worked.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Digmata
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Mekong River - 10/25/22

Only the sound of the engines filled Cristina's ears as the boats slowly march through the Mekong River. For Cristina, it is her first time operating outside the country, or as part of Task Force Obsidian.

When war first broke out she promised to herself that she won't let it distract her search for Basilia, only to realize that to find her she really need to walk into this mess.

She doesn't know the Descent did to her sister but she will save her, like she had done countless times on her.

And that is why she is here trying to make her closest impression of the wind as the boat stopped at a PLA checkpoint. They will managed to get past it like they did to many others.

But it won't last long sooner or later, they will be forced to fight their way in. Especially when they encounter other Arm Masters.

Let them come, she will be ready regardless of who they are.
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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Deide
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Ernesto


Ernesto was excited as they closed in to their objective,the boat they were on making a racket as they steadily moved along the river. He couldn’t help it, it was his first actual mission, and a dangerous one at that. Infiltrate the Dam and rescue the PoWs so that they could airstrike it to their heart's content, it seemed like something straight out of a movie.

Looking at the defenses, he could already feel his blood boiling at the prospect of charging against the guards head on, and engaging in a life or death battle.Not even the uniform they gave him, that still felt one size too small, could dampen his anticipation.

His excitement quickly evaporated when he saw his comrades tense up as a PLA boat came close, or when they found themselves blocked by a chain of all things, and Myron had to frantically respond to the guards so that they could be let pass after a…bribe.
‘Right’,Ernesto Thought ‘Important mission, everyone is risking a lot and they don’t see things like I do’.

With that revelation, he focused, hunching himself a bit now that they were in a better-lit area, so as to seem smaller to any wandering eyes, as his own scanned his surroundings, looking over the PLA forces. While he thought that he himself could take them, that wasn’t accounting for his own squishy team, or any enemy Arm Masters that are sure to be here.

‘Winging it is probably a bad idea,isn’t it?’, their disguise wouldn’t hold up to intense scrutiny, and if they tried to fight now, they'd get bogged down. Unless they wanted to fight through all of the PLA ‘which,as nice as that sounds, we don’t’, They probably needed a plan.

As they reached yet another Chain blocking the river, Ernesto spoke up. “Hey,err,Sirs?"He remembered to add,even as he felt strange saying it to such younger people than him "I don't know how long we can keep this up. Sooner or later they're gonna find out we are just impersonators.” Especially since security seemed to ramp up even higher the closer they got to the Dam
“If we go into action or we are found out, do we have a plan on how to proceed?”
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Amidatelion
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Mekong River, China - 10/25/2022

Sitting at the corner in a small boat, pulling at the collar of a counterfeit PLA Uniform and trying her best not to further disrobe, Marta Rocha realizes she is not having a good time. She knew this was a humid subtropical region, but good grief, this...

"...This is worse than a hot Lisbon summer. And it's October."

She had even tried to get permission to wear her usual habit, but even from afar, the presence of a nun on a PLA boat would raise some eyebrows. A modest military uniform wasn't bad, but honestly, if she had worn the entire habit, she'd be cooking alive, so it was almost a relief to be mandated to wear it. Not that she was unused to hot climates - she'd been wandering the world for some time now, and Portugal itself isn't precisely Iceland - but she still really hated it.

Shifting in her seat, she barely acknowledges the tension and looming threat around her. She's not one for nerves - problems will either happen or they won't, and there's no point fretting until they fall on her lap. Her enemy at the moment wasn't the PLA; it was the shimmering heat and the many mosquitoes, who, among all of the Lord's creatures, most tested her patience and ability to sit still. As they reach the next barricade, she rises quietly to observe.

"I'm not really sure what the plan is... I'm not exactly a fine military mind. Just say the word and I'll jump to it."
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Letter Bee
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Mission Three - Assault on Jinghong Dam

Jinghong Dam - 10/25/2022, 22:00 UTC+8

It was 22:00, aka 11 PM, one hour till midnight, in the New Moon. Yet the stars were giving way to the light of premature dawn as bright orange wisps of superheated gas began spinning together in the sky just above the chain, rolling themselves into a nebula, then a consolidated proto-star, and then, as Myron hurriedly took off his night vision goggles, a brilliant artificial Sun that revealed all of their faces to the full view of the person behind the bunker window to their left. As Noel cursed his luck, Huo Ren glared at all of them and said, "Where is Nico Makri?"

Myron was already snarking back, "Out of your reach, you obsessive scumbag. Nice to see the reports are right that your priorities are skewed. Now please withdraw and give back the prisoners you took or we'll shoot; we have a plan to get rid of you."

It was daylight, yet it should not be. Right now, the skies were lit, rendering Noel's trump cards useless but also exposing just who or what was rendering them such. They needed to get rid of Huo Ren, but how would that be possible when the riverbanks were brimming with mundane troops, hidden behind sandbags and trenches dug on the dried riverbanks on each side of the shrunken stream? Noel Alonso could see red dots on his hands and the others could see one on his head; he'd reckon. With just one signal, Huo Ren could order these people, who had Anti-Materiel Rifles, to fire, and even their enhanced physiques would not be enough to withstand such an assault... Wait, they had Qingshe.

Even as Noel saw that beyond the sandbags, there were mortars, recoilless rifles, rocket and grenade launchers, and even light artillery, he smirked as he knew that although Lei Qingshe had a habit of just holding back and letting the group do things on their own, Huo Ren didn't necessarily know that. And Myron grasped that truth too when he followed up with, "Don't throw your lives away now; you know who we brought."

He turned to see Huo Ren grin and say, "You're not hiding behind that snake's nonexistent coattails; you forget who worked with her for a long time."

The shadows below shrank as the artificial sun rose higher, to deter any intervention from Lotus Squadron or allied air forces; if it rose high enough, it could act as its own Anti-Aircraft asset that was itself airborne. But as Huo Ren concentrated on keeping his constructed star flying, there was a flicker of inattention in his eyes as he raised his brow.

A decisive blunder on his part; Noel just needed to distract him so that the others could act, assuming that Cristina, Henri, and Marta would work together with Ernesto and Nil to form a plan to take out Huo Ren so that Noel could unleash his Noble Arm's strongest power. And he knew just how to do that, assuming that he guessed Huo Ren's reason for wanting Nico Makri here right...

"Hey," Noel blurted out, breaking the moment's silence, "You know that I'm eighteen now, right? Why inquire after Nico Makri's whereabouts when quite frankly, I'm a better target? After all, he managed to defeat you, but I managed to slay Tian Fei. That and I can fight as hard as he could, should it come to a one-on-one between us..."

Be vague, Noel, be vague, said the eighteen-year-old to himself. Don't vomit at the very thought of getting his attention.

Huo Ren raised an eyebrow, and looking at his face showed that he was no longer thinking about the battle, that he was successfully distracted, and that he was holding back the troops under his command, as well as his own artificial sun's beams. He then smirked, and said in a light, giddy tone, "You know I only want to fight as a prelude to capture; I prefer to hunt down my targets, not to have them delivered pre-processed. But yes, I will force you to surrender; I will not have you hand yourself over to me, Noel Alonso - You know that won't be any fun..."

His eyes were no longer focused on the battlefield, where more troops were driving in under the cover of Armored Personnel Carriers; three of them for each bank of the river and each carrying a complement of Chinese Marines. Which side would squander their advantage first?

@Lewascan2@Gerlando@Nimbus@QJT@Amidatelion@Digmata@Chiro
Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Deide
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ERNESTO

(Adrenal Surge:High Superhuman)

As Ernesto looked at a Sun, rising in the night sky and illuminating all of them, he found himself Thrilled. This whole Soldier gig was already to a great start if they got to fight people with such overwhelming power.

Assalto Implacabile already in his hand, he could feel the surge of power in him. His blood boiling, pumping faster and faster, his sharpened reflexes seeing the world as if slowed, his muscles singing to exert themselves. No matter how many times he experiences it, the sensation of his body getting empowered by Assalto Implacabile never gets old.

Unfortunately, his mood fell as he heard Alonso talk on the radio with who he assumed to be the fabled Huo Ren. A phenomenon that lately,to his dismay, started happening far too much for his liking. One had to wonder if every mission would be like this, or if he'll ever get a chance to enjoy himself before getting his excitement hamstrung.

And then he saw it, a moment of hesitation. Hopefully enough to get them out of this situation.

With his enhanced form, he moved, His arms shooting out to grab and secure both Myron and Alonso, electing to leave Quingshe to her own devices. Afterall, from what he understood of her power, if she couldn't get out of this situation, then the mission was as good as failed already.

“Sorry in advance for the rough ride”, and with that, he jumped, his feet leaving indentations on the boat as he propelled himself and his human cargo towards the coast.

One moment he was in the air, feeling the air rush over him, the next he was landing, taking the brunt of the crash so as to not shock his passengers more than his actions already did.

Settling his superiors on the ground, Ernesto started to look around, afterall they still weren't out of danger zone and the sooner they dealt wit-

Discomfort, he felt as if every muscle in his body cramped for a moment before it passed, and his surroundings changed. Similar to before, but far more different, as if someone took black paint and threw it all over the world and then used glowing white to outline how the world was.

Alonso and Myron were gone, but he didn't worry, for he could still see Huo Ren, momentarily dazed from the shift.

As he charged,trying to take advantage of the situation, he felt a bit disappointed. This must have been the work of Cristina, and he probably will never get the chance to go all-out against her.

Alas, there was no point in wondering about what-ifs, especially when he already had his hand full with someone like Huo Ren.

‘Let's see if you are as good as they say you are’

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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Amidatelion
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Jinghong Dam - 10/25/2022

In the precious few moments before everything kicked off, when everything was still tense standoffs and the rising threat of stellar annihilation, when information could still be hurriedly whispered and indicated, Marta had shuffled off to the back of the boat as unintrusively as she could, perhaps masquerading her movement in the guise of being intimidated - which in truth, she somewhat was.

When people suddenly began to move, she manifested the Left Hand of Wrath; the gauntlets' shine like a shimmering beacon in the darkness. A sign that the time for stealth and subterfuge had already fallen by the wayside.

"No time to explain! Hold on tight for dear life!"

With one last sideways glance to confirm the direction, she gathered as much energy as she dared into her left hand and pushed back downwards with a left straight.

The kinetic energy struck the water and compressed the air like the fist of an angry god. With a resounding shockwave and a massive splash, a plume of water tens of meters high sprayed from the surface of the water, the wake spreading down the river as Newton's Laws of Mechanics took hold, and the boat - and everyone on it - was suddenly being subject to very sudden and rude acceleration.

Thanks to the angle of force being applied by the ballistic impact of the punch, the boat soon cleared the water entirely and crashed through a series of fences and barricades. The boat would reach the hostage holding area by hook or crook, but it probably wouldn't be boat-shaped by then.

"Dear lord," thought a screaming nun as she contemplated the approaching ground, "Please let there be no one right below us at the moment."
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Gerlando
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Nil


Mekong River - 10/25/2022

As Nil made her best attempt at staying immobile and less eye-catching as possible, the group’s stealthy approach failed dramatically, and as can be assumed they were now in the gutter. The Sun suddenly formed in the middle of the night, right in front of them no less, Nil scrambled to cover her eyes by turning her head and raising her neck-cover once more to cover her sight, and then took another second to bring it down after adjusting to the new light, while presumably everyone was already looking around.

Indeed even an unperceptive Nil could realize they had been surrounded, more by instinct than actual sighting of the enemy. Nil had a hard time staying calm between the boat rucking, the Sun in the night sky and someone tracking all the way back behind the boat, making the swaying of the vessel even more apparent, the situation had become tense as a guitar string, ready to snap at either side’s discretion, and indeed it wouldn’t be long before it did.

In a surprising move for which Nil was totally not prepared for, the whole boat catapulted to space with surprising acceleration along with the whole crew onboard.

Bracing yourself in the moment, or even just a millisecond before, was just not possible, the girl wacked her head on the back of the seat, fortunately the seats had the decency of providing a headrest to prevent extreme head whip.

’Shit bitch fuck fuck fuck’
Those were the only things that passed through her head at that moment, along with being the only swears she could remember, or many more would have come to mind.

If there was one positive at least the ‘driver’ had been careful enough not to launch them directly into the sun, plus the high view could be quite pretty for someone not as unnerved as Nil.
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Henri


This was not a good situation to be in by any means. This Huo Ren fella had the power to create artificial suns, after all. Or, well, technically they were only fireballs that resembled suns. A real sun much smaller than that, say, the size of a pea, would kill all life in a radius of thousands of miles or so. Henri couldn't remember exactly, what the description in that children's science book he read as a boy was, but the memory of that made him conclude Huo Ren didn't create real stars.

Not that it made the Arms-Master any less dangerous. Plasma is a deadly substance. Currently the greatest saving grace was that Huo Ren seemed to want to do things personally. The soldiers were kept back. For a moment Henri considered if killing Huo Ren was a good idea. After all, his death could mean that the PLA soldiers would swarm in. Then he remembered that Huo Ren was already blasting them with fire, and remembered they didn't exactly have a choice in the matter.

Besides, this is where Henri's strength lied. While Leonidas offered some protection from conventional arsenal, it was ultimately an Anti-NA weapon. It had helped with one Chinese elite Master, it would help again.

Henri released Leonidas, but didn't activate its power yet. For now, he simply observed the situation, and hoped the boat didn't stop flying before reaching ground. Foolishly, he hadn't considered the need for parachutes.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Digmata
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Cristina
Mekong River - 10/25/2022

And with a bang they went in. Cristina could only do nothing but gawk at the sun that is shining in the close to midnight, hopefully her position at the back would keep anyone from noticing.

So this is Huo Ren of the Zodiac.

She watched as Noel nervously gave her time to prepare herself. That man blocking them was his worst match-up and the task force had brainstormed together a plan on how to stop him from stopping their trump card.

The first involves shady agent Myron and his ability to turn people into data, the main problem was setting a situation for him to use that ability. The one that involves her however only needs to lure Huo Ren at her range. She hatched ideas on how she is going to lure him in.

Only for the man to conveniently at her range begin. He must be ignoring everyone else with the way his face looks.

Big mistake.

Using this skill early on is probably a mistake but in a task where time is of the essence, it would be perfect at containing monsters like Huo Ren.

[Mirage Space]


For the perspective of everyone who stayed in the Real World they would see Huo Ren suddenly disappear without notice with the artificial sun he made dispelled at the night returning, the more perceptive would notice that some members of Task Force Obsidian will disappear as well. Not that it would matter as they will soon succumb to the might of those who stayed.

For those who enter and the forcibly dragged Huo Ren, they would find themselves in an outline of the world.Everything was painted in the darkness of the cosmos with glowing light.

“I apologize for my intrusion but you need to pass through us first.” Cristina demurely walks in the air before sending a glowing light sword slash at the 5th Seat of the Zodiac.

The battle has begun and this man shall not pass her.
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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Letter Bee
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Mission Three - Assault on Jinghong Dam - GM Post Part One

Mekong River - 10/25/2022, 22:05 UTC+8

Huo Ren had vanished; darkness had returned to the Mekong River, and with it, an opportunity for Noel Alonso to turn the tide. The young man conjured up his scythe as soon as they landed on the shore, and after vanishing from everyone's view thanks to La Luna's Veil of Night, shouted, from out of the blue:

"A curse on you, you flipping pricks!"

The rows of PLA Infantry and Marines behind their sandbags shook, before some of them, the most vulnerable, the ones who had hidden mental cracks and strains caused by the horrors of war, began screaming, seeing their own friends and allies as monsters; Hungry Ghosts and Zombies and Vampires as well as more beastial creatures with the heads of snakes and oxen, lizards and crows. These began shooting into their own comrades and allies, and the spilled blood, which gave a coppery tang that could be smelt much more strongly in the haze of madness, began infecting those more resistant to the illusions with rage and hatred; the emotions that they had buried against themselves and the enemy and their own superiors.

Now it was all bursting forth, drowning the battlefield in the blood of those who should be sharing the same cause.

To overcome the drowning tide of insanity required an iron will or a sufficiently powerful Noble Arm, and in this universe, the first pushed the development needed to awaken the second, a result that Noel Alonso had not foreseen, and now, it was too late as two of the Chinese Marines were glowing, two brothers who had managed to overcome the mental compulsion to see each other as monsters and enemies.





White light filled the scene for a moment, before these two young men, who not just had a Noble Arm, but also distinctive costumes produced by them, faced Noel and Myron... And the anger in their eyes showed little mercy.

Jinghong PoW Camp - 10/25/2022, 22:05 UTC+8

Marta and Nil landed safely beyond the minefields and the concrete wall with barbed wire on top that made up the outer defenses of the Prisoner of War camp. Noel had managed to curse the enemy just as they were getting their bearings, and the first thirty seconds after landing would be enough for them to bring down a few maddened guards even as the various captives that had been working the fields, captives who now realized that they had a shot at freedom, began using what tools and weapons they had to rebel against their captors as the latter slew each other; they were exempt from the madness while the guards weren't, and so they could just bash the latter with shovels and hoes and those large scissors used for cutting vines.

Then two of the guards, a man and a woman, glowed brightly, and both manifested their Noble Arms, which had morphed their uniforms into new costumes somehow, freezing to death or cutting apart with glowing strings, several unfortunate rebels. These two stomped towards Marta and Nil with disdain in their eyes, coldly cutting through their own folk and fighting PoWs both.





But then things grew worse, as several arrows of light were shot at their feet from up in the air, and almost immediately, their source zoomed into their view, letting them cast a glimpse of her, before soaring upward to the point where she was a small dot in the night sky... Which was now raining two dozen arrows per minute at the ground below, hitting both maddened soldiers and PoWs to clear the way for the two new Arms Masters while also attempting to force Nil and Marta to dodge or block or run.



Ai Chen had arrived.

@Gerlando@Amidatelion
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Mission Three - Assault on Jinghong Dam - GM Post Part Two

Mirage Space - 10/25/2022, 22:05 UTC+8

It was a three-on-one as Huo Ren adjusted to this unfamiliar zone, and the Arms Master adjusted accordingly, swinging his spear to launch a volley of five balls of superheated gas, gas that he took care to keep from harming his own body; a weakness he concealed. These fireballs were followed up by a spray of burning plasma from the tip of his spear that resembled a solar flare; his hope was to break up the formation of the enemy and force them to scatter so that he could leap backward and swing his left hand in a sweeping gesture that scattered more superheated gas, deliberately heating this pocket dimension's confines to the very limit of what an Arms Master can tolerate.

Normally, the fact that he had to exert conscious effort not to let his flames affect him was a liability, same for considerations of collateral damage. But now, as he looked around and saw that he could not affect anyone else but the trio who faced him, he realized that he could cut loose without any need to spare his cannon fodder.

So he now had a crude strategy; heat up this area until the enemy faints from exhaustion, while at the same time, as he took a side glance at the white outlines showing the people and events of the 'Real World', Huo Ren cackled and said, "Ha! It seems your trump card just awoke more superior beings! Now you have one chance; surrender to me or perish!"

And he let loose another volley of fireballs, this time not intending to actually hit his foes, but to measure exactly what the boundary of this pocket dimension was.

If Cristina was already flying, she'd feel the hot air rising as per the laws of thermodynamics (albeit slowed down a bit by magic). She'd also see the second volley of fireballs whatever she did.

As for Henri, his Noble Arm would negate all of Huo Ren's attacks that directly hit the metallic shield's surface, but not the heat the fire and gas caused unless he used Fighting in Shade... Which was likely to destroy this Imaginary Space pocket dimension. This would be within his knowledge.

And Ernesto... Huo Ren would have done nothing that would indicate that he could fend off a quick rush by someone with sufficient endurance, speed, and regeneration. But that required him to be able to endure very hot temperatures. Then again, burns were not the same as debris, so the only thing Huo Ren could lodge in him was his spear.

Oh, and Huo Ren also moved only as fast as a normal human could, albeit a very athletic one...

@Digmata@Chiro@Deide
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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Lewascan2
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It's almost nostalgic.

That was Special Liaison Lei Qingshe's predominant thought, as the infiltration convoy sailed down the Mekong River, packed like sardines into two small boats. In the lead boat, with Noel, Myron and Ernesto, the Snake largely kept to herself, her body clad in standard military garments and gear. She was fiddling with a rifle in her lap, one she'd made herself, of course, even if it was the same as those her comrades were carrying. Today was a rare opportunity to see Qingshe actually make an effort to fly below the radar, having donned the trappings of the mundane and even going so far as to physically modify her green hair to a short, wavy jet black, no longer flying free and strikingly colorful. She looked like any other soldier you might meet, if perhaps a bit more beautiful than the average, but she'd gone out of her way to actually combat her own "perfection", deliberately applying a number of those little visual flaws that every person had to one degree or another.

She hadn't spoken much this whole time, having remained apparently lost in thought.

How long had it been since she shed the skin of an Arms Master and worn mundane garb? How long had it been since she'd actually needed to play things safe? How long had it been since she'd actually resorted to mundane weaponry and methods? It was honestly amazing to consider in hindsight. It felt like so long ago that she was just another conscripted soldier, being sent on borderline suicide missions just because she was a replaceable face in the crowd. Her country had so many Arms Masters at their disposal, that they could afford to waste them, and until she had proven her worth, she'd just been one more expendable asset at their disposal.

Those were not good times, not even the times after -once she'd officially donned the title of The Snake, but in some strange part, she couldn't help but look back on them fondly, almost like they were "simpler times". She knew that was nonsense, of course, probably some level of Stockholm Syndrome in spite of everything, but China was her home. It hurt to see what it had become these days...

As the convoy of two boats passed through the first chain checkpoint seemingly without issue, Qingshe finally put into action a plan she'd been concocting since before they'd even left. She hadn't said anything about it at the time, not back then and not in an official sense, as it was clear that -regardless of her efforts- ASEAN had severe information leaks. The enemy always seemed far too prepared, far too ready at just the right time and place, had even concocted plans with countermeasures specifically attuned to members of the Obsidian Task Force. Therefore, the only safe plan was one that was made on the spot, mid mission.

Slowly standing from her position, as the second checkpoint came into sight, Qingshe squeezed through the other people in the boat to lean over Myron's shoulder, her voice a whisper that anyone else would struggle to hear.

"Eyes forward. No need to respond," she spoke, as one hand came down to rest beneath his right arm, her oozing shadow bubbling out from beneath it into his lap, unseen. Her hand pulled upwards, withdrawing a small, circular device that looked almost like a landmine. Though its purpose was far more benign. Holding the device up just enough that Myron could glimpse it, the fingers of her other hand casually teased open a pouch, sliding the device inside. "This device will emit a powerful and secure wireless signal," she whispered. "It will be connceted solely to several other similar devices and should serve you well as a transport beacon. This one shall act as your anchor to the network, which I shall be setting up once we make landfall." She didn't elaborate further, but she hardly needed to. It would be obvious to someone with Myron's power that this would give the team exceptional mobility... provided the Snake could set up the network fast enough.

Her piece said, Qingshe stepped back and returned to her seat. The second checkpoint was looming ever closer, and her gaze narrowed at the dark bunkers and the former "comrade" she could see within the left one, The Dragon, Huo Ren.

What is he doing here? She couldn't help the thought being tinged with over frustration, lamenting the OPSEC of ASEAN once more. Huo Ren, after all, happened to be a particularly specific counter to Noel's own power. Oh, sure, there were plenty of other people and Noble Arms he "countered" simply through sheer firepower, but still, Qingshe couldn't help but think his presence here was no coincidence.

And then Huo Ren summoned a sun, and a lot of things started happening in rapid succession.

The second light bloomed in the sky, Qingshe had reflexively spread her shadow about the floor of the boat she was in, tensely staring up in internal disbelief that their cover was blown so totally and without hesitation. She barely paid attention to the back and forth between Noel and Huo, only flying into motion once Ernesto took the initiative in Huo Ren's distraction.

As the burly man had guessed, the Snake was quite familiar with handling herself, and in this moment, she dropped into her shadow near entirely, a strip of her ooze flowing over the side of the boat onto the surface of the water and flashing toward the shore in seconds. Qingshe dove under without hesitation, briefly catching sight of the other boat being catapulted towards the shore by Marta's Noble Arm.

And then, the Snake's vision was swallowed by her darkness. For a moment she was alone, able to rage to herself just a little in the privacy of her shadowy world, swimming through an endless sea of thrumming black and green ooze. Her thoughts were a whirlwind that was rapidly being tempered by rationality, as she searched for the best way to salvage this. Yes, she had considered the possibility, but she hadn't expected things to go tits up this fast!

There's a major leak! There has to be! She found it hard to comprehend that the enemy could always be this ready for them! At least she had made some preparations.. So... yes, this should still be workable. She was feeling a bit calmer now, her temper less incited by the spurt of annoyance. She was just... so sick and tired of things not going to plan. Was that so much to ask for? Maybe it was. But she was perhaps used to it by now. Regardless, this was no time for lollygagging. Every second she was here was a second she wasn't helping Task Force Obsidian survive this ambush.


As she carefully peeked back out of her shadow, which now composed a small puddle on the shoreline, the world Qingshe returned to was one of darkness, madness and blood. Clearly, Alonso had unleashed his power, and the results were distasteful to see, friend tearing into friend in a maddened frenzy of violence and waste of human lives. Screams of fear, rage and agony filled the night air, and the area was rapidly becoming far more akin to the gruesome sight of an open battlefield.

Noel and Myron were facing off against two Arms Masters that hadn't been there before. A trail of destruction had a been carved in the direction of the prison camps, which was probably where Marta and Nil had gotten off to. Qingshe could see no sight of Huo Ren or his sun, nor the three other members of the Task Force that had come along, so she had to assume the Dragon's absence was the doing of one of them.

Which meant she was not in a position to deal with him herself.

Lucky him. I'm not in the mood to play around today. Lips tightening, Qingshe glanced around, eyes fixing in the direction of the prison camps. She decided on her target, deciding Noel and Myron could handle themselves. Besides, if her plan went the way she was hoping, she'd be helping them regardless, even without personally aiding them in battle. For now, the priority was the mission they'd actually come here for.



Meanwhile, elsewhere inside Qingshe's shadow, inside a vast complex of black and green cyberpunk aesthetics, there was a room. There were many like it, of course, but this one was especially set aside for more militant matters. The room was a large, circular affair, occupied primarily by a massive roundtable, lined with chairs. In the center above this table, there dominated a holographic display, upon which was displayed a running feed of information.

There was a visual display that had only moments prior shown the team's stealth being very much compromised. Another display showed a running record of every bit of speech that Qingshe heard, sorted by who had spoken it and the context, as best she was able to provide, granting onlookers a running transcript of the situation. This feed had briefly cut off moments prior, as the Snake ducked into her shadow to make evasive maneuvers, before reestablishing to the sight of overt carnage. Noel's power was in full effect, and the bloody rampage of its victims was already making mass casualties... along with even apparently revealing more enemy Arms Masters.

"I don't like this." Qingshe's voice came from overhead, as if from speakers, practically omnipresent in the room's space. "How could things go this badly already?" The feed was moving quickly now, zipping across the landscape, as Qingshe slipped between the maddened masses while half submerged in her shadow. Her gaze kept drawing towards the trail of destruction left by Marta's launched boat, only to flick over to where Myron and Noel were, as the insane enemy slaughtered themselves in droves. "Is this the power he's been talking about making use of all this time?" Her voice was quite lacking in levity, an apparent rarity. "It's quite amazingly horrible."

“First off, gonna need you to turn down the volume a tad. Hearing’s still a bit sensitive.” The Greek volunteer sat in the shadow world created by Qingshe with his Noble Arm active, scanning and compiling the information being presented as best he can. Even still, he wasn’t a genius, and some thoughts were cast to the wayside for the sake of attempting to be prepared. But the sight of the carnage wrought by the power of Noel’s scythe made his stomach turn. Thank heaven that’s on our side.

After spending a few seconds rubbing his thoughts together and praying for a spark, the beginnings of a plan came together. More a concept than anything, but a concept founded in logic and reasoning. “So, the Lieutenant’s Noble Arm is this, huh? Makes the nun seem almost pleasant.” Even as he spoke, his thoughts were branching out, trying to figure out a solution to at least a problem with the time and knowledge they had. “Three comrades and the paper dragon are gone. Four unaccounted Arms Masters appear, and now we’re getting shot at by a flying lady. Not great.”

And still, he kept looking for a way to success, regardless of the odds. It was truly all he could do. And then, a bold thought popped into his head. Three on two’s better odds when the two are green to begin with. It was not the most sound plan, or even a surefire strategy for combat, but Nico was more than confident in his swordplay. And the focus of Sunsetter only made him more sure of this tactic. Even if the battle dragged on, his absolute trump card would be enough. It had to be. “I can take the two green Arms Masters with Lieutenant Alonso and the greaser. Got a way to put me near them?”

"Hmm?" There was a note of interest in Qingshe's voice, before the volume lowered ever so slightly. "And here I was sure I was keeping things fairly mild. Enhanced senses?" She chuckled. "How interesting." The words were playful, as usual, but her heart didn't seem fully in it.

In the corner of the visual feed, Qingshe's gaze could be seen passing around the outside of one of the bunkers and ducking behind a bush, her hand reaching into view to secure a circular device to the side of the structure. This, Nico could easily identify, was one of the wireless beacons the Snake had promised to Myron to assist the team's mobility.

The holographic data feed had another display. This one was pulsing with signals on a map, the positions of all the beacons Qingshe had set down so far. One still on the intact boat she had rode on. One on the shoreline where she'd first touched down. Another on the side of the left bunker. One in Myron's possession, and another far back down the Mekong river on a distant shoreline, a prepared escape route and evacuation point to transfer prisoners to if need be.

A grim little chuckle escaped Qingshe, as she glanced back at Noel and Myron. "Yes, I can get you there easily enough." Her gaze tracked to the figure in the sky. "And I... shall deal with Ai Chen." There was a strangely vehement loathing in her tone. "It's long past time we settled things, and based on what I know of her... proclivities... I shudder to imagine what she'd be doing at a prison camp."

In the visual feed, Qingshe's shadow shot across the battlefield in a strip only inches across, the tip blooming into an opening of several feet once it got near Noel and Myron. Down inside the room Nico occupied, a section of the very air seemed to bubble and melt, creating a humming gateway to his allies.

Despite himself, Nico smiled softly, trying to seem brave in the face of uncertain odds and unforeseen events. Hearing the words of the Snake but not feeling the conviction made him want to bring a bit of levity to the moment. “I’ll tell you what: if you kill Ai Chen before I can beat these newbies, I’ll owe you a favor within reason and vice versa. Fair?”

A foolish thing to say in an active war zone with two enemy Zodiacs and god knows what else, but Nico knew how to dispel his own doubts. Stray thoughts were death, and he refused to die until he was ready for the inevitable. Even if Qingshe was a snake, she was still a comrade, and a good one at that. She stuck up for me before Mischief Reef. I’ll repay her someday. I must.

He walked towards the gateway and looked through it, gripping his Noble Arm tightly. He had to make it back, so he could sleep another night. To save someone else. To prove he could be someone reliable. “Well, there’s my stop. I’ll be back when I’m done.” As he prepped his thoughts, he whispered a thank you and a quick prayer, before leaping through the gateway.



As Nico finally took to the field and left her shadow, Qingshe huffed to herself, racing towards the prison camps and closer to where she was sure Marta and Nil had disappeared to. The POW camp was nearing with every step, as she had left her shadow entirely by now, the bubbling ooze racing underfoot in a small radius around her. She was still wearing the disguise she had donned prior... Though, unbeknownst to any here, this "disguise" was just a return to an old visual form, the Qingshe of the past, long before she had modified her body in her transhumanist pursuits... before she had become the Snake.

Mostly to herself, long after Nico would have been in a position to hear it, she also muttered, "Hah... don't be ridiculous. This isn't the time to be making bets." Golden eyes shifted towards the sky and the ongoing rain of light arrows, her lips curling into a snarl of disdain, as her pupils narrowed to reptilian slits. "I'm simply setting the record straight, just like I should have..."

-from the very start.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Gerlando
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Gerlando The Unchosen One

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Nil


Mekong River - 10/25/2022

In the few seconds before the landing Nil had the good instinct of activating her Noble Arm, not that it would save the boat or the other passengers but at least it would ensure the impact itself wouldn’t be much of a problem for her, all that needed to be accounted for were the bits and pieces exploding and stabbing from all sides.

But while the shock was no problem, a broken shin with a piece of steel stuck in surely is.
The pain sharply rushed up all the way up from the left leg, for a split second the outside world ceased to be made of things that can be seen but only that can be felt and heard. In a fuzzy return to consciousness Nil’s head filled with continuous, annoying buzzing, slowly she went through the motions of getting out of the crashed vessel, plane, glider maybe? Then as she crawled out, pain, static, not good, and pain from the left leg once again as the hydrenaline subsided, accompanied by a headache, not so much from the crash but from the continuous buzzing of sounds.

Slowly composed herself, if anything because she’s not meant to be loud during combat, especially without, no, the headphones broke… damn again… if they can’t make them anti-missile at least could they be anti-boat crash?

The rest of the crew? After getting out of the wreck only one more poor soul could be seen, at least someone else survived but it certainly doesn’t look like a safe landing, unless a car crashing into a concrete wall could also be considered safe.

But where was everyone else?

Nil knew there were other people in the boat, like Henri… aaand that’s the only person she knew the name of, actually who was this person who also survived the crash?

”Uh, where everyone?”
Nil quietly asked, as if expecting the other person to know, fortunately after a brief introduction and assessment of the situation the other Arms master revealed themselves to be a healer, and that would take care of the pain in the left shin, but not so much the increasing migraine. Of course a healer can’t bring back the rest of the crew either.

Anyway, it was not the time to dwell on those who weren’t here.

Walking around the camp was a struggle, but at least possible with a healed leg it was possible, not to diminish the torment of their surroundings, for most people it would be the tense sneaking as the ongoing carnage rages, taking away the lives they were supposed to save, for Nil however it was the accursed sounds of said carnage, fully automatic weapons accompanying screams of terror and madness, from literally every single direction.
Hands on her head Nil summoned various copies of Stang and tried to follow the nun in a quick firefight with some guards maddened by Noel’s power, launching a couple of them to quickly dispatch these foes with… yet… another… boom.

But of course the reverberations of gunfire did not stop, not while the entire camp and area around it continued to be an indiscriminate slaughterfest, but it was the sounds especially close that irked Nil the most, the almost omnipresence of screams of both maddened guards and the revolting prisoners, and the constant sound of rifles fulfilling their firey purpose both far and near.

All of it just stuck in Nil’s skull, at least the sharp metal was removed with enough pulling and blood, but this was just an aggravatingly constant ache.

”SHUT!”
The girl yelled as half a second later her voice was covered by the booming impacts of the glowing Noble Arm, fired to all directions from where sounds were once heard, no regard to differentiate prisoners from guards.
A mist of dust and blood all that was left from most shots, along with cracks of what once were walls now partially or fully demolished.

Fortunately the remaining guards were unable to recognise friend from foe and were too distracted shooting each other to be a real danger, but it was not like so for everyone, and sure enough the scene had attracted unwanted attention, if the flying boat hadn’t given them away already.

While the newly awakened Arms Masters approached, Nil was still recovering and trying to piece out the situation they were in, but after seeing the two PLA guards cutting their own to close the distance it quickly became obvious. The not super fast reaction eventually came as Nil formed three copies of Stang, preparing to engage the rookies.

But the real threat was from above.

Multiple scaldingly hot arrows rained down on the camp, accurate enough to endanger the ASEAN Arms Masters while sparing the PLA ones, these small flashes of light cleared the camp of many ravingly mad guards and the poor prisoners in the crossfire. Nil was almost thankful as the gunfire noise slowly became more distant, almost thankful, if everyone died it would be a failed mission and no one at HQ would be happy about it.

Nil tried to back away from the approaching enemies, and slowed down their advance by throwing her staffs, two on the boy with ice abilities and one on the girl with strings of light. As a flying Ai Chen suppressed the team, Nil just about missed her targets, but the impact blast would still be enough to rupture internal organs and cloud the masters perception with deafening impacts and a cloud of dust. Particularly Liu Xi would be hard-pressed to resist double the impacts.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Deide
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ERNESTO

(Warform:Supernatural)


As Ernesto saw the veritable wall of deadly flames rushing in his direction, the heat already warming him up to an uncomfortable degree, he found himself grinning. This is what he expected when he signed up for this whole Soldier thing! Not the skulking and bribing around, not the creepy uncomfortable back-and-forths,but to get himself in situations such as these,Where his very life's on the line! And nothing was gonna bring his mood down this time!

Rather than slowing down, he pushed harder, his Warform enveloping him, making him stronger,tougher,faster, and propelling him forward at an accelerated pace. His blood pumped in excitement, his muscle coiling in anticipation of what was going to be the best fight he ever had in his life. As the flames neared, his grin widened. ‘Now we're talkin'!’ he thought, his excitement almost tangible.
‘This is gonna be so much fun!’



‘...Uh’

The flames' touch was far more bearable than he thought. Sure, His skin was sizzling and charring already, and he was sure that if he stayed in them too long even his regeneration wouldn’t be able to save him, but as things stood he would come out of it still relatively fine. It seemed that Huo Ren was still not taking them seriously, something he aimed to change.

“I'm disappointed, flame boy! Ya gotta try something better than those measly flames!” he taunted , as his still claw breached the flames edge. Another step and he launched out of them and straight towards Huo Ren,body still burning and the Warform sloughing off in the thinner places,but not stopping. The bunker's window frame in between him and his target offered meager resistance before shattering like the glass it once held and letting his full bulk pass.

“Or you’re gonna face the consequence of underestimating us!” He was already upon Huo Ren, his enhanced speed closing the distance impossibly fast, Claw already poised to take a chunk off of him, and even if he somehow dodged the strike, he would still had to deal with a 3 meters tall Arms Master-shaped torpedo rushing him without stops.

Ernesto couldn’t be happier.This is what he has been made for.The rush, as if High on life itself. Truly, nothing could bring his mood down now.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Digmata
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Cristina
Mirage Space


As the rising hot air began reaching Cristina, she only had a single thought.

The place was too hot, it felt like someone tied in the middle of the desert to die.

Fortunately for the freelancer however Huo Ren cannot or didn’t summon another sun inside her domain. She was pretty sure that the battle would instantaneously over if that occurred furthermore it appears that the group who stayed was doing better than she thought.

She won’t have the bravery that Ernesto showed as he brazenly ignored the flames from the Dragon of the Zodiac, it would be foolish for her to take the man head on despite the power-up she gained by the virtue of being in this domain.

So she did the one thing could do.

With sweat trickling down on her body, she flew her way from Huo Ren’s back, as much as she wanted to return his own attacks,she would have to make do with this.

She threw a blinding star behind Ernesto, making Huo Ren see a stream of light while he’s busy fighting the titan that is Ernesto.

Furthermore she summoned three Starfires, ready to strike him down in a moment.



This place was too hot, they need to kill this man as soon as possible.

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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Amidatelion
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Amidatelion

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Sister Marta Rocha

Mekong River - 10/25/2022

Traveling through ballistics is no one's idea of a fun ride. It sounds amusing to catapult oneself directly into the heavens at vertiginous speeds, but it's much less fun when you realize that you will impact the ground about as fast, and your thoughts become occupied with the negligible difference between bone and crumbly croissant dough in these circumstances.

The local self-proclaimed nun was of much the same opinion - though the blessings of the Left Hand would protect her from this impact with little more than bruises, the supernatural resilience of Arms Masters might not be enough for the other passengers to walk away from the wreck. Maybe in the future, she would worry about controlling the Hand of Might's recoil more carefully because her current vision felt like one out of Hell itself.

Her first instinct was to switch to her right hand as swiftly as possible, to heal anyone who'd been injured in the crash as well as those refugees who suffered wounds in the frenzied melee. If any Chinese soldiers were restored in the crossfire... well, call it a happy coincidence. She wasn't here to passively preside over slaughter and hoped no one gave her trouble over it. It's always awkward to walk into a war on one side and then explain that you prefer it when the enemy doesn't die.

She was about to rush over to help the desperate evacuees when the enemy Arms Masters appeared, and the battlefield turned into a bullet hell. Left with no alternative but to wait for the full thirty-three seconds for the Left Hand to return, she was instead left screaming and jumping desperately across open field and cover to cover to avoid the enemy attacks - A somewhat distracting display that only made her more open to fire, hoping her experience in avoiding enemy fire would spare her for the necessary half-minute.

"Valei-Me, Santa Barbaraaa!"

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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Chiro
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Chiro

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Henri


Mirage Space

Out of the frying pan and into the fire, much more literally than Henri would have preferred. Huo Ren had turned Christina's Mirage Space against them, rapidly turning the area into a giant pressure cooker.

They would need to get out of there. But simply deactivating Mirage Space might ruin whatever plans Christina and Ernesto might still have. Of course, leaving Mirage Space as it is was also dangerous.

Henri was already feeling dizzy from the heat, and the sweating was getting excessive. That meant heat cramps were advancing. And the other two were already in danger, being in close proximity to this solar spearman.

No, no more pondering. Henri needed to act before they all died there. Luckily Huo Ren seemed distracted by Ernesto and Christina. There was the opportunity. Henri took his rifle and moved as much behind Huo Ren as he could. Hopefully the Arms-Master was susceptible to bullets.

However, should plans fail further, or Henri feel like throwing up, he'd try to use Fighting in Shade. It might be for the best to shut down Mirage Space anyway at that point.
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