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Curie blazed through the air like a jet plane, leaving behind numerous slashes while weaving around the various attacks aimed at her. While she was immune to Penny's thrown projectiles due to the aura of stone-melting heat she now emanated around her in her fully powered state, the same couldn't be said of the Engine's giant glowing blades; she got a grazing blow delivered to her despite her attempts at predicting her, and the impåact sent her flying back, towards the moon. Curie now had blood dripping form the corner of her lip, and snarled as she shook her fist.

"No! I can't lose! I have to...Protect the castle...I have to protect the world...from this monster!"

Then she was shot by the lightning bolt redirected from the gauss discharge, and she screamed; her aura now grew so bright as to resemble the sun bomb from earlier, and her body began changing even more; her skin distorted, and her muscles expanded even more.

"So this is the end...Well then, I will make it my final firework!"

She then took her sword, now ablaze with fierce flame, and pierced it through her stomach.
Her body seemingly absorbed the sword, and the fire spread to encompass her entire body.

"LADY JUSTINE, WITNESS ME!"

With that final scream, she charged right at the Engine of Destruction, wreathed in flames, and tackled the giant construct into the lake, pushing her underwater. She didn't stop, no matter how many blades and spikes would strike at her. And then, she blew up in an earth-shaking atomic blast; if it wasn't for the magical dampening effect of the lake's waters, the entire landscape would have been consumed by the explosion. Instead, a massive pillar of water bizarrely resembling a mushroom cloud appeared as the lake contained the blast, meaning the entire force of the attack was directed on the Engine. As a consequence, the massive construct's parts scattered everywhere, and Penny's broken cyborg body launched high up, and landed on one of the remaining floats of ice. But miraculously enough, she was alive; Sol's blessing of invincibility had weakened after Penny absorbed the Earth Bastion, but the protective magic had been strong enough to prevent her death. But now, she had lost her limbs.

Doris was hit in the Ice Golem's arm by the metal slug; while not as powerful due to the lack of electrical energy that powered the projectile previously, it was enough to make a crack spread through the arm. Alicia took advantage of the distraction, and with radiant light blinded her, melting the golem into a loose enough shape for her to break free.
Doris covered her eyes with her arm as a reaction, but then looked confused as she opened them again; her eyes no longer had a dull sheen, and instead looked around in a panic, unlike her emotionless demeanor before.
"Huh? Who are you? Where am-"

She did not have time to finish her sentence, as she was pierced by a brilliant blade of light that smashed through the fragile crystal shell. She clutched at the blade, and looked on with horror as she saw the blood spread from her stomach.
"Aghhh! W-Why? I...d-don't...understand..."
She whimpered as life left her, and tears dripped down her pained face, before they froze into sparkling crystals, and she turned still.
The Ice Golem melted into a patch of pure white-snow, only to be tainted by crimson as the innocent magical girl's corpse landed on it. Alicia now felt a different cold from the one that lingered from her freezing after her victory; it was a chill in her heart.



Eli dashed through the dark tunnels, now a bit dank as splashing water had flowed down from the stairs. She easily spotted Ilia, who still lied unconscious, and reached the dungeons, where numerous magical girls have been collected. Eli recognized the girls, as most of them were kidnapped by Mariette, and offered to Justine. The girls didn't react when Eli arrived, but when Mariette stepped inside, she could feel eyes drawn to her in the candle-lit cells. The candles had enough distance that the dark magical only felt a slight pain in her chest. And then, they slowly turned their heads towards them, and slowly walked out of their open cells. "You...You brought us here...Witch..."
She could hear them whisper, the doll-like girls' movements stiff and creepy as they approached her. "...It's your fault..." They ghoulishly moaned. If Mariette attempted to walk away, she would realize the magical girls would follow her, at a slightly faster pace than she moves. However, she would hear what sounded like a train ahead in the underground corridors...



Sonia walked nonchalantly toward Makoto, confident in her victory, when the squirrel girl made her comeback.
"No, impossible...Not even Minnie could turn back time!"
When she was sent flying by the Killing Blow, she broke through the ceiling, and landed in the foyer just as Scout, Anaya, and Shade arrived there, kicking up a cloud of dust. She weakly reached out towards the high ceiling of the room.
"Lady Justine...Forgive me...For failing you..." She muttered before she turned unconscious. She was then surrounded by the various maids; until that point, they attempted to scale the magical walls Alex had set up, and some even attempted forming a pyramid to reach the top. But now, all they cared about was carrying Sonia to a different room, ignoring the magical girls completely. Now, the only thing between them and Justine were the magical boy's barriers.




Justine clenched her fist, and bared her teeth after she heard Alexander speak.
"You dare call me a coward? She snarled. Her wings now beat harder, and her posture turned more agitated, her spear pointed at the magical boy. She looked like she would have been ready to attack, but as Sue asked for her opinion, she curiously lowered her spear, her eyes wide as they glared with nearly uncontrolled hate; it seemed Sue had managed to reach through to her with her voice despite the vampire girl's unstable mental state.

"You have no idea what you're talking about."

Her lips turned into a mocking smile, though a careful eye noticed a twitch on her lower lip.

But how predictable; you dismiss anything that doesn't fit in your narrow-minded conception as stupid, like the pathetic sheep that you are."

"Alex is not a sheep!" Lily spoke up, but then yelped as Justine once again looked at her.

"Caroline..." She repeated the name, and seemed to reminisce for a short moment.

"My sweet sister...She means the world to me. But what I feel for her...It can't be called love. No, something so horrible, so painful...It could never be love. I did all I could to make her happy. I even let her scar me. But no matter what I did, she would be hurt, with tears in her eyes. And then...She wanted to be hurt. If the world calls such despair love..."

She then clenched at her chest.

"The only way she can be free...The only way the world can be saved, is if I make the pain go away. I'll clean everyone's hearts, make them pure again...Hers, and mine."

By the end of her monologue, she had descended down to Lily's level, the sacrificial dagger pointed at her.

"Do you not want to save this world, Lily? Is that not our sworn duty, as Mahou? IT is your destiny."

"I...I..." Lily wavered, and shook as the vampire approached her.
Sonia was not prepared for her spell being used against her, and shrieked as the knives were shot at her, covering her front with her arms; two knives embedded themselves on her left arm, one on her shoulder, and one on each of her legs before she teleported away. However, Makoto was not left unscathed; three knives behind her were unaffected by being turned towards Sonia, and struck into her body; one above her tail, one on her shoulder, and one between her shoulder blades. Makoto saw her reappear much farther away, about 500 meters in distance.

"Both gravity and time? You indecent vermin!"

She spat out as she magically ejected the knives out, and held her bloody arm with a vicious glare.

"My knives are useless, it seems..." She spoke, but then grinned with uncharacteristic glee.
"I did not imagine I would need to use my ultimate attack, but it seems nothing less will be enough for such a festering infestation."
With those bitter words, she held her arms before her with open palms, and a massive magic circle appeared.

"High-Impact Hell!"

She triggered another spell. Then, Makoto saw it; a bullet train came charging at her at full speed from the circle, filling the corridor entirely.



Curie blocked the first punch, and was sent sliding back a good ten meters. She was surprised, of course, but more than that, she smiled.
"Now this is strong! Finally, a worthy opponent for me to test my mettle! Come, clanker; let's dance!"
At first she tried to stand her ground, her teeth grit as she countered with her own swings of her irradiated sword. However, she quickly realized that the Terminator-like monster would not stop for a single moment, even if she sliced through her tough armor, and so she resolved to dodging and leaping out of the way, trying to get strikes whenever she can. It was an awe-inspiring sight to behold, as the titanic fight raged on between the two, evenly matched.

But then, the sounds of groaning metal could be heard coming from the lake.

"What the-!"

Curie's eyes widened; Earth Bastion resurfaced on the lake like a submarine, only to shake profusely. It glowed with a brilliant light, which then turned red, and the ship broke apart as the pieces were drawn to Penny, forming into a fearsome construct:

Penny felt that she had become truly one with Earth Bastion; at the moment of Amber's demise, her connection to the ship had weakened, and now the Engine of Destruction had fully assimilated it, replacing it with her own, left in the materials given to her by Al'O.

"So you also have a golem of your own! Very well then, I shall accept your challenge! FULLL POWEEEERRR!"

Curie shouted hot-bloodedly, and she developed an even greater aura, her hair now blue as it flickered like fire atop her head. However, her body also changed; charged with so much nuclear energy, she grew freakishly muscular, resembling a steroid-using freak rather than the beautiful woman she was before. She once again took flight, using her magic to propel herself through the soles of her feet with rocket-like streams of fire, flying fast and striking hard.

The fight also escalated against Doris, who seemed to have the upper hand as she had her Ice Golem stand in the way of the castle gates. It was undeterred by both Scout's bullets and Anaya's dolls, their blows glancing off the surface of the golem's hard body and unable to make it budge an inch.

"Exterminating," Doris spoke with barely any emotion, and the Ice Golem lifted its arms. But just as she was about to slam down on the two girls, the ground beneath it exploded into dust and sand.

"Earth magic detected," Doris spoke with a hint of alarm in her voice as she realized she could not move. She saw the great stone spike launched at her, and the Ice Golem split horizontally in half; it's upper half launched off, leaving the legs stuck in the quicksand and destroyed by the spike that hit them, scattering the pieces as snow into the air. The legless Golem landed on its hands, right next to Alicia, still stuck in her icy prison. Then, standing amazingly dexterously on one arm, it used the other to grab the Beacon girl, holding her tightly. By now Alicia felt how the ice had cooled her body and calmed her head; her magic reserves had partially returned. Not to the extent that she can go all out, but she could use her powers once more, to a reasonable degree.

"Surrender now, or she will be shattered. This is your last chance to retreat."



Lily was in a dream; she was on a tiny boat caught in a rainstorm, thrown about until the boat fell over. She sank into the depths of the sea, and the more she struggled, the more she sank, and she closed her eyes as she hit the seafloor. But then, in the dark abyss, she felt a hand on her cheek. She opened them, and saw a familiar pirate girl stare right into her eyes with her signature cheeky smile, her lips mere inches from hers.

"Amber? It is you, isn't it!" Lily thought, but to her shock, she was caught in an air bubble; it rapidly floated up, and Amber waved up at her, smiling softly as she slowly disappeared from view.

"Amber, no! Don't leave me! AMBER! Wait, huh?"

Like a catapult, Lily sat up screaming the pirate girl's name. Her jaw dropped, her eyes wide as she took in the hectic chaos around her before her; there was strange mist in the air, and sad singing that clutched at her heart. Then she felt warm blood on her cheek. She touched the hand that left the print, and recognized it belonging to a woman, lying dead over her, and it caused her to scream in fright. Then she screamed more when she saw the magical girl flaoting in the air she didn't recognize who reached out for her with black tentacles, as well as numerous clones of Alex that were running right at her. She looked down, panicked as she saw the white gown she was wearing, and then began kicking the tendrils away with tears in her eyes.

"No, don't! I'm not suitable! I'm not actually pure! I'm dirty! President Dirty of Dirtlandia! ALEEEX!"

She screamed in despair, fully affected by the song.
Helga was in even more despair than her; she was devastated by the sight of Amber's corpse, and fully embraced being thrown, using it to spin her body around with her claws extended into a drill-like motion, only to miss Janet. She landed on Sue's small cyclone, at first looking like she might explode from pure fury and transform, but instead collapsed to her knees to weep. Ammy! Lady Ammy! Nooo..."

"SILENCE!"

But then, just as Sue's tentacles were taking hold and she was lifted off the stone altar, a bright red beam of intense magical energy shot over Lily, vaporizing the black appendages in its path and sending the clones flying off, their barriers blown away as easily as cardboard. When Janet's song ended, and Sue turned to look, she saw a crimson magic circle, with intricate runes spinning on it; Justine closed her outstretched palm, and looked down on everyone present, her fangs now showing from her evil smile.



Lily gasped, and covered herself with her arms. Justine then gripped the dagger in her hands tightly, now glowing slightly red with a phantasmal blood-like haze around it, and took a deep breath.
"Ignorant fools...Why do you struggle so much, and cling to your despicable emotions?"
She spoke coldly, and opened the palm of her other hand outwards. Her long red nails glistened in the moonlight.
"You throw your worthless lives away, only to be betrayed and hurt by those you love. But no matter; once Father has blessed this world, and love is eradicated, it won't matter anymore."

Lily's lower lip trembled, but she now stood up from the altar, her hands clenched into fists.
"But why, Justine? Why do you hate love so much?" She asked, her eyes determined.
"There must be a reason! If you only tell us, we can help-"

"You can't! Nobody can!"

Justine howled, her scarlet eyes wide and glowing; her ladylike composure had given way to behavior not too unlike Caroline's.

"There is no soul that walks this cursed earth that can comprehend the agony I have gone through! Love ruined my sweet Caroline, and broke my heart...For centuries, I had to endure it. But no more! I won't stand for such injustice, such a deplorable existence..."

A red orb of blood swirled from her fingers, and extended into a red spear, even more complex and sinister-looking than the one her little sister wielded. She pointed with her finger, her eyes swirling with insanity.





"I WILL BRING FORTH A PURE AND BEAUTIFUL WORLD, AND GRANT SALVATION TO ALL!"
Irina immediately left once she was confronted by the other pilots without a word, and only gave them a cursory glance with eyes as hardened as stone before she stomped out of the party, her hands still clenched tightly. She completely ignored Maria as she passed by the entrance to the laboratory, which was uncharacteristic of a strict woman like her. The door's window slit was opened, and Lorenzo's wrinkled eyes looked down at the pilot. "I'm busy, pilot! Go away!" He grumbled, before shutting the slit, until it was opened again when Ana came in. "Inside, Ana. Now" His tone was stern as he opened the door, keeping a hawk's eye on everyone as he only let Ana in, before he slammed the door shut. No matter how long Maria or anyone else would knock on the door, no response would come out. Lorenzo gave a lecture about staying too late at the party, and forbid her from having sleepovers before he retreated to the lower level. And so the party came to an end, and attendees left murmuring rumors about both Irina and Elora.

The next day, Ritsu announced through the loudspeakers that squad Sigma be summoned to a briefing once again. She waited until everyone was present, which curiously included Irina; she scoffed and leaned against the back wall, doing her best to not make eye contact with anyone. Ritsu activated the holo-projector once again, and this time, it showed a planet familiar to Zim: Fortress. "The Cruxi have managed to invade Fortress, a planet considered one of the most durable against a siege. As you know, we must take it back, and your mission is to spearhead the assault on the planet's capital and clear it of defending forces. Due to the importance of this mission, high command has given clearance on the use of three assault packs, to be distributed by the squad's lead officer." She gave a nod to Katya. "There will be a couple of changes to your squad, however. First off, Sergeant Steinhart, your request has been granted, and you may partake in this mission." Elise smiled, and raised her arms with a grin. "Yes!" "However..." Ritsu continued with a frown. "Due to the crippling injury you have sustained, you have been demoted to the rank of pilot, and will be held as a reserve unit." Elise clenched her teeth, but nodded. "Understood. If that is the price I must pay, then so be it."

Ritsu sighed. "Ace pilot Irina has been assigned to replace her in the squad, in addition to the new arrivals." Irina gasped, and gave an angry glare, looking like she might blow up. "Captain!" She stood up straight, and lifted a hand to ask a question, as per proper military conduct. Once given permission, she asked: "Executive Officer Lorenzo had ordered me to stay at Solaire for the time being." Ritsu shook her head. "This order came from the Colonel. He specifically stated your skills would be needed in this mission." Irina took in a sharp breath, and made the motions to speak again. "Captain, I...Never mind." Her eyes reflexively jumped at Ana before they returned to Ritsu. "Very well. However, I request that I may be permitted to be deployed separately from the squad." Ritsu lifted an eyebrow. "Romanovna, what is your opinion? Do you agree with her?"

Sonia's knives impacted against Alex' barrier, and dropped to the floor after the magical wall was destroyed.
She flicked her arm to her side, and new knives appeared between her tightened knuckles. Helga nodded, and wrapped an arm around Alex' waist. "Roger! Try not to get killed, Big Mac!" She shouted, and leaped up through the hole on the ceiling, carrying Alex with her. Sonia scoffed as she glanced at the two before they disappeared, and her eyes then moved down to squint at Makoto.

"Vandals are to be punished with death. Iron Maiden!"

She threw a knife with a red gem at the hilt of it. The gem glowed once Sonias finished her incantation, and suddenly knives replicated at an alarming rate from the original knife. They formed a complete sphere around Makoto, their bladed ends pointed right at her as they stayed still in the air for just a millisecond before they launched, leaving her no room to dodge.

Alex and Helga found themselves in the foyer of the castle, fitted with candles and broken mirrors, with a great chandelier at the ceiling. They didn't have much time to marvel at the interior decorating, however, as they saw shambling shapes emerging from shadows; it was a horde of girls wearing maid outfits, and their arms were stretched outwards, their glazes glazed like zombies as they shuffled slowly towards them. "Dammit, I forgot Justine employed normal humans as servants. They're also controlled by her." She punched one out of her way. "This way, through that door; it's a bit into the castle, but I know the way to the central staircase. Try to keep them off our flanks!" She then shouted, and threw off several that jumped on her as they waded through the swarm of ensorcelled servants.



Penny made a mighty leap just as Doris' ice golem dropped Earth Bastion, her strong legs kicking her off like a rocket towards the colossus and aiming at the weak point at her flank. Doris responded by bringing a fist down at the magical robot girl in a great slam. Penny was ready, and shot her gauss discharge, fracturing the icy arm right at the shoulder, causing it to fall as well. But then, just as she was about to hit the crystal, she was parried by a red sword. Penny managed to drop down to land with an earth-shaking thump, and saw that it was Curie who intervened.

"I don't know how you managed to survive my ultimate attack, but I swear on my honor; you won't last a minute against my Atom Slicer technique!"

Her one eye showing past her bangs of air seethed with fury, and she also landed on the island, her stance wide as she pointed the sword at her. Then, she drew in a breath, her eyes closed, and let it all out in a great scream.

"Hi-YAAAAAHH!



A shockwave of power blew out of her, sending rocks flying around her. Like a Super Saiyan, she and her weapon developed a red aura that glowed around them. Her hair also turned spiky, and seemed to be less affected by gravity as it slightly lifted, waving behind her. Fully powered up, she charged right at Penny, and delivered a slash on her torso. Penny, the most durable magical girl out of them all, realized that not only did the attack cut through her metallic body like a hot knife through butter, but it also left the wounds tainted with painful radiation, preventing her from regenerating them.

Alicia, Scout and Anaya managed to swim or swing their way out from under Earth Bastion as it hit the water, carrying the former easily to shore with a big wave. They saw how Curie and Penny fought each other, but had little time to help their ally as Doris turned towards them.

"Removing all limiters. Transforming into Super Mode."

The golem remolded, shrinking down to about the size of Earth Bastion. However, instead of a fat monk, it took the shape of a muscular Shaolin monk with legs, and jumped to the shore. Then, it drew in air, and blew a breath of cold right at the three girls; Scout and Anaya fared better, and only slightly slowed down from the freezing effect of the magical spell. However, Alicia was less fortunate, having been drenched from the cold water; magical ice formed around her body, freezing her in place. She was protected from hypothermia thanks to her Enhanced Outfit shielding her body from temperature changes, but she was unable to move her limbs.



Amber had no desire to pursue treasure at this time. She wasn't stupid, Justine's plan was bad news. All the loot in the world wouldn't make a lick of difference in her “new world.” There was nothing stopping Amber from collecting the booty once the threat had been taken care of anyway. Besides, it was too convenient. If Justine had a huge horde of treasure, she would probably be smart enough to keep it someplace far away from any entry or exit from the castle. That was more than likely a trap to put off would-be burglars. Without making a sound, Amber allowed water to run out of the end of her cannon. She ascended the stairs, careful to duck below the mirror's reflection. As she approached each candle, the pool of water she was walking in would come up like an octopus’s tentacle and extinguish the lights. Amber doubted they had any magical power, but staying out of the light was how she typically did things.

Amber avoided having her scattered reflection shown in the mirrors, and doused the candles, leaving only faint moonlight coming from the windows to illuminate her ascent. She soon got to the archway, and what she saw took her breath away; the hall she peeked in looked like a cathedral, or a ritual chamber, with stone pillars running down both sides of a red carpet that lead up to a stone altar. A familiar girl was laying on it, dressed in a white gown of pristine condition; Lily. She looked like she was peacefully sleeping, though the pirate girl knew it couldn’t be of natural causes.

Behind the altar, the hall stretched out to accommodate a massive glass window, which fully showcased the nearly complete blood moon, casting the entire room in a reddish tinge. And there, sitting on a throne in front of the window and looking straight at her, was a girl dressed in luxurious gothic attire. But even without her appearance giving it away, Amber could tell who she was:





"Why hello there, Amber Bianchi," Justine spoke, with words both courteous yet seething with contempt. Amber didn’t respond. She just approached her, the water building behind her with each passing second. But Justine was unphased.
"I did wonder why the candles in my tower were snuffed out. I assumed pirates were more rambunctious thieves." She giggled, though it sounded more menacing than friendly.
"What does bring an outdated outlaw to my humble abode? Surely there are better targets to pillage from, hm?" She asked, and lifted up a golden goblet filled with red, viscous liquid. But she would get no response. Expected. She continued.
"Or are you so foolish as to try and rescue Lily? What would you even have to gain? Or...Was it the Mint who sent you?"
Justine smiled at those words, and sipped on her goblet.
"Indeed, it was I who had your ship sabotaged. I have...Spies with the Ebon bankers myself. Talented schemers, the lot of them...But awfully prone to getting entangled in their own webs. Perfect spiders for a bat to snack on, hm hm~"
She crossed her slender leg, and leaned on her arm, looking amused. Then, her smile turned into a frown.
"Janet, be a dear and eliminate this meddling mariner. I have far more important business to matter to than dealing with mere peasants."

”Yes my Lady.” A voice echoed through the room. It’s origin seemed to come from all around. Stepping into view from behind a column, Janet’s red eyes glowed with anticipation. Since becoming one of Justine’s followers she had really only been able to do one thing. She had waited to be called upon to do another service for her master. ”I was told about you. I didn’t anticipate getting the chance to kill you so soon.” Of course she placed herself between Amber and both Justine and Lily. Her disguise melting away the girl’s monstrous water form took shape.

During the entire exchange, Amber had remained silent. The water gently sloshing behind her was the only response Amber gave her new foe. As tense as the atmosphere was, Amber couldn't help but grin. Even the appearance of Janet's new form didn't shake the pirate. ”Do you really want to know, Justine?” Amber had her cannon pointed at the floor. She didn't look especially hostile. ”I think you must have a pretty interesting reason to go forward with such a ritual. You were even willing to sacrifice your sister for it.” The pirate extended her hand. ”Wanna share?”

Amber’s words never reached Justine as the sound in the room dropped off. There was an unnatural silence where not a sound was heard. Janet raised a finger to her lips as if so shush the other girl. Justine smiled in return, and gave her servant a thumbs up; an ancient sign Roman emperors used to signify that the winning gladiator in the arena executes their opponent.

The pirate sighed. ”Oh well, was worth a shot.”



Amber fired a cannon ball directly at Janet and let the recoil carry her backwards. The water pooled behind Amber shut around her like a clam. The water around Amber started to build up speed. Amber would need to grow her water barrier a bit before she became a real threat, but for now, she had much more mobility. The pirate floated inside her barrier, which was rolling straight for Janet.

Were Janet still simply a magical girl then Amber’s particular set of skills would have easily outmatched her. However, thanks to the boost in magic granted by Father she could better hold her own. Bending back the cannon ball made contact but her fluid body deformed before bouncing back into place. Not that it didn’t hurt but she was well suited to reduce most high impact damage.

With the ball of water barreling toward her the monster girl opted to test their strength. Rather than avoiding the attack she reached out with a hand to touch it. Both were manipulators of water. Focusing her control Janet tried to disrupt the flow of water and collapse the barrier.

Amber was ready to split Janet apart with her high speed water barrier, but it became apparent very quickly that Janet's magical affinity was not only water, but that she was magically stronger than Amber was. The pirate noticed right away that her barrier was slowing down, and despite how hard she focused on the barrier, she couldn't stop it from splitting apart and landing on the ground in a puddle.

”Um...”

Amber was dumbfound. But her shock didn't last for long. The pirate used the puddle to slide backwards with the momentum of her next shot. The projectile was a a rope net with large ball bearings to make sure it opened coming out of the barrel.

Diving forward the water that made up her opponent's body stretched out and split. Weaving between the netting she reformed on the other side. Drawing back one of her limbs, Janet struck out at Amber. Though it didn’t show the monster girl did still have her weapon. Integrating perfectly with her form the water rushing forward became a solid razor edge aiming to run the pirate through.

”There she blows!” Good thing Amber was trying to gain some distance. If she hadn't tried to slide backwards, she'd be in range of Janet's vile blades. But the distance gave the pirate girl enough time to to put her cannon between herself and the attack. Janet was much stronger than she looked though, and the blow threw Amber backwards even faster. Almost too fast. The pirate grunted while she attempted to regain control of her feet. ”Stronger magically and physically huh?” Despite this terrifying realization, the pirate was still grinning. ”But if everything passes through you, how will you stop me from doing this?” The pirate fired her cannon again, this time the projectile was a spear with a rope attached to it. But Amber didn't fire at Janet. She seemed to be firing at the altar that Lily was laying on top of.

It didn’t take but a moment for Janet to realize the new target. Despite not being in the direct path to intercept there was still the rope. The additional limbs granted by her transformation kicked into action. Though she was made of water, Janet didn’t seems to have issues solidifying herself. Wrapping two tentacles around the rope they bent and kinked the line to slow or stop it’s movement. To prevent potentially getting dragged back though she raised one arm and slashed through the rope.

”You have a lot of tricks” Whirling around in place the harpoon that had been fired came whipping around back at Amber. Letting it go as it would fly at the Ebon girl she wanted to use it as a distraction. Flexing her own ability to manipulate water a jet of what had been thrown around the room launched Janet at Amber once again. Distance was not her friend, though she did have more options than when she was simply a magical girl.

”Scurvy rat!!” Amber cursed to herself. The pirate would have loved to flap her jaw some more at Janet, but she needed to put her feet into action again. Or at least the water under her feet. She swiftly slid to the side, and the spear smashed into the floor hard enough to punch through it. The pirate gave a quick huff out of relief, but Janet was still flying towards her opponent. Sliding backwards would not be enough this time. Amber brought her cannon to bear. ”No kissing!” she blurted out before firing a round of grapeshot point blank.

Already in motion there wasn’t much changing direction when Amber took aim. Janet made the briefest expression of disgust before getting a face full of pellets. The impacts caused her body to blast apart and water splashed everywhere. Wriggling and writhing for a moment the water seemed to try and come together before settling into several puddles on the floor.

”Hah! In your face!” Amber wiped some of the slime off of her face and took a few steps forward. ”Alright Justine, Hand over Lily and nobody else has to get hurt.”

Justine had done nothing but observe the fight that unfolded, and raised the back of her hand to her mouth for a giggle.

”Bold till the very end...But it is futile.”

As Amber walked across the pooled water it began to stir. Rising up around the girl, watery tentacles wrapped around Amber’s legs. Drawing back together Janet’s form came together and snaked its way around to restrict her movement. ”It’s not that easy pirate girl.” Due to the health saping that came with her conversion Janet had to sit quietly with her hunger. But she now had prey in her grasp. Her fingers becoming sharp she slashed across Ambers arm to draw blood. Grasping the wound it bleed directly into her hand and mingled with her liquid form.

The pirate barely had time to yelp before the monster girl had her in her clutches. Amber wasn't especially durable, only slightly more so than a baseline human. She certainly didn't have the type of vitality that would allow her to withstand a blow from a monster like janet. And with nearly all of her limbs ensnared, Amber wasn't able to wrestle free from her opponent. The pirate's foe was stronger than her, faster than her, and more magical than she was. Amber failing wasn't an outcome that should have surprised anyone. With her limbs held firmly in place, there was little Amber could do but wait to become Janet's lunch. Even so, she wasn't without hope. The pirate had an ace up her sleeve. She always did. One last card to turn the tables.

”Ahhh, I see your game plan!” The pirate chuckled, despite the grievous wound to her arm. ”You know I'm Ebon Mint. So of course I'm going to have a black coin on me. If you can get me to use it, you'll have that much more leverage over everyone. But you made an error.” Amber grinned. ”The difference between a pirate and a bandit is that a pirate's heart is fueled by adventure. A bandit is all about the booty, but a pirate cares equally about the risks, the thrill, and the effort they put into getting their hauls. Using the black coin would cheapen that, which is why I don't carry it with me.” Her hand shot up to point at Justine.

”A blood sucker like you, someone whose diet consists of nothing but insects smaller than herself, will never understand how a pirate's heart ticks. ”

Justine’s smiling lips revealed a fang at the corner of her mouth as it turned into a scowl. ”What game are you playing?”

Amber rammed her cannon at the ground. ”You might one day have the world Justine, but you'll never possess the heart of Shining Scale!”

Amber fired her cannon. With nowhere for the cannon ball to go, the ground erupted into stone shrapnel. Justine braced her face with an arm as the air was filled with smoke, and both combatants disappeared from view. But as the smoke settled, Amber could be seen shuffling closer to the altar where Lily laid. Only Amber was no longer a small pirate girl, but a mature looking woman. She looked like she just left her retail job a few minutes ago. Though she was tired. Her classes were cracked, and her platinum blond hair was filled with dust. Her uniform was totally disheveled; torn and soaked with blood. Despite the excruciating pain she had to be feeling, she was smiling at her new body.

”M-my body, I have my body again! Haha!” She hugged herself, but she was shaking.
”Now I can pick up guys at the tiki bar and run with them on the beach!” The woman didn't take another step. She immediately collapsed to the ground in a heap. Shining Scale's quest was over.

Thrown about by yet another blast it took a moment for Janet to piece back together. The move was one of the last things she expected. But perhaps there simply was no other option. This nonsense was wearing on her. Good for her that Justine had invested a significant amount of magic into her conversion. Not going to take chances that the woman that just collapsed was playing opossum she approached. Justine said nothing, her expression indiscernible.
”I must admit, I wondered if you were up to the task, my dear Janet, but you have proved yourself in the end. You may feed from her blood. Then, guard the entrance. I cannot waste any more time.”

Janet’s arm turned into a blade; she intended to drain the body dry to try and quench her blood lust. Getting into a fight just kicked that into high gear. It was similar to when she attacked the Beacon HQ. Some victims that hadn't died right away learned the hard way. There were still others outside trying to interrupt her Lady and she had to remove this factor.

“H-huh?” Sue had just come up the stairs. She was in human form, and was tightly holding onto Amber's hat. The familiar had seen a picture of Amber's original body once, and she was able to identify the businesswoman laying on the ground. “No...” Janet's blade was still wedged in Amber's body, and Sue could see the vampire sitting behind the altar. That must have been Justine. Yes, the Justine that was responsible for Deni's death. The one that had Lily kidnapped, and now the murderer of her closest friend. It was difficult to take in, or even accept that it was real. Sue wanted to believe that she was mistaken and Amber was just hiding somewhere out of sight. But as a familiar, she could feel her special link with her magical girl. And the woman laying on the ground was undoubtedly her. Sue's breathing changed, and her eyes became wet. She wanted to scream, she wanted to drag Amber and Lily out of there. There was even a part of her gentle spirit that wanted to see Justine slain by her own hands. But she was weak. Too weak to save Deni, too weak to save Amber, and too weak to retrieve Lily.

But it didn't have to be that way.

“I-I...” Just need to become stronger. Just a little stronger. She refused to become a monster. But that didn't mean she wasn't going to dip into some dark power to protect what she cherished. With a trembling hand, Sue lifted the black coin out of her vestments. It was so black that it was impossible to discern its shape. It was like looking directly into a shadow, even when held out to the light. When she tightened her fingers around the coin, she could feel a spike of pain. Yet she kept her hand closed around it. Her blood vessels were turning black, an onyx flame consumed her, and she screamed as a pool of black tar oozed all around her feet. But just as quickly as it all started, it came to an end.



Sue was no longer before the monster girls. Instead there was a blond woman in steampunk attire. Two massive black wings sprouted out of her back, causing the woman to groan in pain. ”Ahhh!” She hugged herself, but the pain had stopped at that point. ”Uhh...” Her eyes were still wet, but there would be plenty of time to dry them later. ”Alright.” Sue lowered her arms to her sides. ”I'm not going to forgive you for this, Justine.”

The tears had already dried on her cheeks, glistening like stars. ”But you, you can still live if you stay out of my way.” Sue didn't wait for a reply,. She immediately started to march towards the altar.

Justine turned her head, and her eyes widened at the sight of Sue. She grimaced, and stood up from her seat.

”Another intruder! You know what to do, Janet.”

No rest for the wicked it seemed. No sooner had she dispatched one enemy did another appear. Turning as she removed her arm, the red of the blood began to dissipate and Janet returned to her blue color. The intruder presented a black coin before using it herself. Was it the one Amber had mentioned? It didn’t really matter as the woman transformed before her eyes. So this was the power that the Ebon Mint offered to their followers. Whatever the threat Janet had a singular task, and that was to protect Justine no matter the cost.

Ignoring the opportunity to stay out of the fight the monster girl rushed to intercept the dark magical girl. Though the blood she consumed didn’t sate her hunger it did help bolster her from some of the drain the battle had inflicted thus far.

”You are not allowed to interrupt my Lady.” To draw attention she let loose a jet of water to bar Sue proceeding.

The stream of water was moving pretty fast, but it swerved to avoid Janet’s target. At first, she wasn’t sure what had caused her shot to miss. But Janet could feel the air moving in the room. It wasn’t just her water, dust and stone was being kicked up into a cyclone. Before long, Sue's body was completely surrounded by a small scale hurricane.

”I gave you one chance, you fuckin' hussy!” Sue spread her legs apart and placed her fists on her hips. Not unlike a karate master. ”Now I'll bury the lot of you together!” Sue's fists flew forth like bolts of lightning, punching towards Janet. While punching the air in itself wasn't harmful, her strikes were causing distortions in the air. The projectiles themselves were invisible, but the air currents carried dust and debris in their wake. It was at this point that Helga and Alex managed to make their way to the bottom of the staircase; they could make out the sounds of fighting at the top.

Justine’s four black bat wings flapped gracefully as she quickly ascended to avoid Sue’s air magic. She knew from first glance that she had to hurry with her plans.
”Take her out of the room, Janet. Keep the sacrifice safe, at all costs,” she ordered, and flew outside to the balcony through an open door. She spread her arms, and basked in the red light of the blood moon, an ornate dagger wrapped around her red nails.

The blood moon had fully formed.

”Yes...It is time.”
@t2wave
Stay safe on your trip!
Helga closed her eyes and shook her head with her arms at her hips; she bent her wrists so her claws faced away from her. "Alex, I know you want to save your girlfriend and all, I really do. But you gotta learn some teamwork. Just saying, kiddo." It didn't take long before Makoto was back to full health, her wounds healed by the holy power of Sol Invictus. "Now come on, we got to save Sleeping Beauty from Maleficent." After she waited for a response, she grumbled before she led the way to the dungeons.. "Damn kids don't know about classics..."

The dungeon was unlike anything Alex or Makoto could have predicted. In fact, aside from iron bars that split the great hall into square-shaped cells along the wall, it looked more like a costume party than a dungeon; each cell was lavishly furnished with furniture and interior design fitting for a period drama, with a table set with tea and cake, and the girls that sat in their seats all dressed in frilly dresses and wore fancy hats, like life-sized porcelain dolls. But they could tell the girls looked dazed and sickly, with bite marks on their necks and pale skin as if they were suffering from mild anemia. Alex didn't see Lily among them. "So Justine wasn't lying about collecting dolls for Caroline..." Helga mused. "They must be brainwashed by her magic. No use trying to talk to them. Let's just bust down the doors. We gotta keep moving."

After the cells were opened, the trio entered a long, windowless corridor that seemed to have no end as they soon realized. "What the...We should have reached the stairs by now!" Helga growled. She looked back, and saw that the way they came was also stretched beyond what eyes could see..
"There is an infinite space going forward and back. There's nowhere for you to run."
Sonia suddenly appeared, as she always did, and stood about 50 meters down the corridor from them.
"You are too late; Lily has already been delivered to Lady Justine." she said, and with a flick of her wrist three knives extended from between her delicate fingers. She stood poised and non-chalant like a distinguished servant, not a single muscle moving on her face.

"She has given me an order to stop you at all costs. And I shall not fail her."



With those dramatic words, she threw her knives, and more seemed multiply out of them as they were launched; nine knives were now flying through the air, three aimed at each one of the three infiltrators.



Kimble's great hurricane had now reached the Earth Bastion, and the ship began to turn and lift from the force, out of the water. It seemed she planned to throw the ship away using her power, and kill everyone on it from the impact. But then, Sue came in for the rescue, and shot the last magical shell on the ship, aiming it right into the eye of the storm. The beam passed through the tornado, and knocked Kimble back, causing her to roar in pain before she fell over, unmoving; it was difficult to tell what happened to her. Regardless, her magic ended, and the weather calmed down, dropping Earth Bastion back into the water...Or at least, that's what the crew thought.

"Activating Ice Golem. Refraining from bad ice puns."

With a great clang that caused the ship to shake from the vibrations alone, causing the girls on board to tumble, Doris had emerged back to the surface, looking pristine as ever. She was encased completely in a giant statue of ice formed from the surrounding lake water, which had dropped in surface level. It resembled a Buddhist monk in design from the waist up, the rest of it a pillar of ice that reached into the bottom of the lake. She could be seen piloting the mech-like construct from the stomach, where a crystal-shaped inner chamber was located. The ice golem carried the ship above it with massive arms, and then tipped it upside down, sending the girls on board to fall down; they had a couple of seconds left before they hit the icy water.



While the others were distracted, Amber took her chance, and sneaked into the castle. She entered what looked like a crossways section of the tower, splitting into three paths; up and down the spiral staircase, and across the room to an archway with a "Treasury" sign above it. She could see that there were candles mounted along the staircase, but even stranger was the series of broken mirrors under each one, illuminated by the candlelight.
She could see a dim red light coming from an archway at the very top of the tower, and hear a young-sounding, sinister voice of a girl:

"Yes, just a little more...Father..."

Amber knew there was little time before the blood moon fully formed in the sky; she had to decide between pursuing her booty, or confronting the mistress of the castle alone.



By this point, Curie's radioactive fireball had grown into an awe-inspiring sight, resembling a spirit ball from Dragon Ball Z. Her laughter carried easily in the wind, and Mariette recognized it as the same laughter back when she visited the Overcity on her own. And as she recalled, she created an explosion strong enough to wipe out a monster the size of a mountain with one blow.
"Hahaha! Time to get a suntan like you've never seen before!"
She screamed, and tossed the sun bomb right as Penny threw the ice block, melting it in a flash; however, it also shrunk the fireball to some extent. It seemed as if nothing could stop the magical bomb from annihilating the brave Earth Bastion crew. However, at the last moment, it was redirected by Mariette; she used the last of her strength to create a portal big enough for the nuclear projectile to pass through before she fell into the sand from exhaustion, saving everyone in the process. The other side of the portal opened up right at Doris and her Ice Golem; the magical girl did her best to dodge with the lumbering giant, but was hit in the arm; the magic forces cancelled each other, and the fireball dissipated, melting the arm away alongside a chunk of the golem's flank, exposing a small part of the crystal inside. Unable to carry Earth Bastion, Doris was forced to drop it into the lake, creating huge waves that washed over both Eli and Shannon.
Asengav's looming shadow crept out of the mirror Mariette held, using it to support her frail, beaten body upright. It was followed by a couple of tentacles, blacker than the night and darker than that cruelest truth. The Horror did not seem amused to be summoned so lightly by her Chosen, but the cosmic being's attention was quickly drawn to the unconscious girl laid down on the sandy shore. Asengav was pleased at the opportunity to obtain the chosen of his sworn nemesis, and to further his master plan using the girl's tremendous power. But as the tentacles coiled around Caroline's limbs and lifted her in the air, the dark magical girl felt a burning pain stinging her back.

"I won't allow anyone to harm Lady Caroline," Sonia spoke with a harsh tone, and pressed the candlestick's tip against her dress; the shoulder piece was set aflame at that point, causing her to drop the mirror. It landed on the soft sand with a thud, and Caroline flailed in the air as Asengav was confused but not willing to let go of its prize. It tried to reel in the vampire girl's body, and managed to pull her lower body into the mirror.
"Nobody defies Father's will!" She screamed, and grabbed her hand out. Mariette could tell from a slight glow that she was about to teleport and take Caroline with her. But then, a mighty earthquake raged through the shore; it threw the sand up in a cloud, and nobody could see what happened.
"Lady Caroline! NO!" Sonia screamed, and appeared elsewhere on the shore, clearly distraught. "A dimensional rift...How did I let this happen? Lady Justine will be furious." And as Mariette felt, Asengav was also angry, as Caroline also eluded his gaze.
She gave one last gaze at Mariette.
"Once I have dealt with the others, you will be next, Mariette Pedersen." And with that, she disappeared leaving yet another in a seemingly endless series of threats.

Shannon's earth-heacing spell did more than cause Sonia to fumble with her Space magic; it spread through the lake, cracking the ice like an egg shell, until only floating pieces remained. Earth Bastion was consequently freed from its cold prison, although the blocks that did reach the deck still lingered there.
"No! My beautiful landscape!" Doris cried out, and powdery snow began swirling around her hands as she charged up. Her eyes then widened in shock as ship's cannon aimed at her, and fired a powerful beam right at her. Doris reacted by forming an ice platform and a thick wall of ice over it, and it succeeded in stopping the beam from reaching her. However, due to the downward angle of the beam and lack of stable footing, the ice wall broke off from the platform, and Doris was pushed along with the wall under the water, disappearing from sight.

The beam quickly shot up, and attempted to shoot at Curie, but she simply moved her sphere before her, and the dazzling fireball absorbed the energy of the beam into itself, growing many times bigger; it now resembled a miniature sun, shining upon the lake; the result was a bizarre sight, as if the sun itself struggled for dominance with the dark night and attempting to turn it to day.
"You fools! My Atomic Flare shall leave no survivors in the fallout!"
She spat out, her eyes glaring with hatred as the Earth Bastion sailed forward; it would reach the island in but a moment.

Umeko aimed at Shannon's heart as she stood still. She smirked, believing she would get a killing shot. But then, her eyes opened wide upon hearing Amber's voice. She did not have time to turn before the cannonball impacted against her; the pirate girl heard how her spine made a crunching sound, and she fell from the battlements, as if Caroline herself had thrown one of her broken dolls away. A couple of seconds later, she heard another crunch as a gauss discharge hit her, courtesy of Penny, and her mangled body was left laying at the castle gates.

Despite Alicia's heavy wound, the Beacon girl summoned her will to fight for her world, and used her powers of Light to slightly dull out the pain with some modicum of warmth; it was not a permanent solution, but it was enough for her to not collapse right on the spot, as the light helped alleviate the clouding magical pain.
Then, she took aim at Kimble. Instead of going for normal sized arrows like she usually operated, she unleashed a barrage of a smaller scale, and a swarm of thin needles were launched towards the sneering catgirl.
The smaller projectiles, though less powerful, were able to out-speed the wind-using girl's agility, and successfully hit her, causing her to land on the small island the castle was situated at. Kimble softened her landing with a gust of wind, and hissed; she looked absolutely livid after she was drenched in the icy water.
"I've had it, damnyan! This is the nyaend!"



Kimble dropped her sickle, and lowered herself to all fours. Her tail turned into a jagged pattern, and the irises of her eyes turned completely slit, like a cat's. She bared her fangs, and gripped the earth with claw-like nails, arching her back as she meowed, gradually turning into a lion-like roar. Wind began picking up around her, and it quickly turned into a raging hurricane, with her at the center. The stormy statue reached high up past the battlements, and nearly sucked Amber in from the force of it; fortunately her strength was sufficient enough for her to hold on.



In the underground tunnels, Ilia's ploy to poison the infiltrators turned useless, and before he could slip away he was caught by Makoto. Like a fish out of water, he flailed around, slapping the magical girl with his tail, but to no avail.
"Hrgh! Damn you, squirrel girl! Ghhh!" He spat out, even as he was choked.
It seemed as if that was the end for the minion, but Luck was on his side; Alex' hamster ball of death slammed right into Makoto's back, piercing her with numerous spikes, and she let go of Ilia as she now laid on the floor. She managed to resist the crushing mass of the barrier, but the numerous wounds left her bleeding profusely; if Alex did not focus on her, she would soon share Minnie's fate.
"Phah, hah! Idiots! " The snakeboy gloated, but not for long before Helga gave her a punch right in the face, knocking the slimy reptile out. "Finally he shut up. Now, you broke it, you fix it!" She shouted at Alex, looking like she might punch him next.
"Ehehe...That's right, play with Caroline, bring Caroline all the toys. Caroline wants to play more, more, MORE!"



The onslaught upon Caroline persevered, and in fact only intensified when the crazed girl revealed yet another horrifying power. With the giant axe dragging behind her, she giggled heavily, and began moving towards the girls, undeterred by their efforts to stop her like a slasher movie villain; as tentacles and vines attempted to pierce and rope around her, they could not hold her malleable form. They saw how one of the Shadows launched themselves at her once its limb struck through her, only to be greeted by a maw-like opening that appeared at her side that swallowed the minion whole; her entire body now actively attempted to envelop and absorb the various attacking appendages that lashed at her, like a gluttonous blob. She seemed to ignore the portals that appeared at her eyes, causing a chilling effect on Eli as she had to contend with the pure, crimson madness that emanated from the two mirrors to her broken soul.

By this point, Shade had moved forwards and created just a bit of distance between Mariette and herself, her only confirmation to the portal-girl's earlier instructions being a determined nod. Her current intention was to be in a position where she could support the others and, if the situation allowed it, also go on the offensive. She had not let the possible futility in her actions go unnoticed. If this foe was able to avoid blows in such a manner, then "Shade" had very little she could pull off here. It wasn't possible for her to get a good running start and punch with enough momentum behind it to blow the girl away due to where they were fighting, and if the countless tentacles among other things wasn't doing their job, then why would Shade's own punches?

Mentally, the DMG would prefer leaving the area and abandoning everybody, but that would result in a very unhappy Veronica, she imagined. So, she'd stand her ground and assist how she could.

‘Tsk.’ Mariette clicked her tongue again. As her Shadows proved ineffective she commanded them to stop their attacks, instead setting them on trying to unearth boulders from the tiled floor for projectiles. That probably wouldn't work. Mariette focused more on rerouting Suwako's arrows hoping they'd be more effective. To use the extra awareness that now went unused, she created portals under the surface of the lake, letting the water gush down from one portal into another to gain speed before blasting these waterfalls at Caroline from different directions, high-speed water appearing from portals to try to attack the girl and throw her off-guard to be peppered with arrows. Mariette wasn't actually sure how effective the water would be, but she was running out of options. She'd make arrangements if Suwako's arrows couldn't go through the water, and keep making sure Eli would be gazing into Caroline's eyes if at all possible.

Eli shivered, chills running through her due to the madness within the eyes she was looking into. Yet, she had to gaze ever deeper if she was to find the bane. The darkness harpy braved her fears, her eyes narrowing as she resolved to keep looking.

Caroline was unfazed by the splashes of water Mariette sent her way; though they did seem to slow her down a bit, it was not enough to make a noticeable difference, and only made her more vicious. She made a provocative move towards Suwako, and Shade stepped in, ready to defend the bow-using Beacon girl. However, Caroline had other plans for the two, and swung her arm to her side. At that moment, Suwako felt how Shade's stasis-frozen knuckles impacted right against her face, knocking the poor girl out with one punch. Shade then realized what happened: Caroline used the blood that splattered on her arms to control them from a distance.
And then, Caroline swept down, forcing Shade to drop down to her knees as her arms swung against the ground. There, the blood from the rain had coalesced as the battle had gone on, and Shade's arms were stuck in the crimson pool of liquid, unable to pull them out. With her legs soon following suit, she could only look on in horror as Caroline brought her attention to Mariette; she gave her another bout of deranged laughter, and turned the axe into a rapier.

Frustrated at how terribly this was going and that she hadn't been quick enough to create portals to prevent what had just happened to her allies, Mariette opened a portal beneath her feet to quickly relocate herself out of Caroline's reach, but...

"You've been a fun to play with, Mariette! The most fun Caroline has had in centuries!" She suddenly dashed right before her, and gripped the Dark Magical Girl by her neck before she could fall, lifting her to the air. "Caroline had never had a friend like you, you know. So Caroline will let you have fun too! You get to see how Caroline plays with Ellie! And then, Mariette sees how gentle Caroline will be...Hee hee..."

‘Kh...!’ Mariette made a complaining sound, hanging uselessly in the air, her hands hanging by her sides. Dark tentacles tried to spawn under Caroline's hand to give her breathing room, numerous portals gazing at the scene from angles to prepare to open portals for self-defense. She knew that was pointless, however. At the mention of Eli, Mariette quickly threw open a portal under Eli to send her far away...

Except Eli saw it coming by Third Eye and sidestepped off where the portal opened, keeping her eyes focused at Caroline. Eli was shuddering, expression one of panic seeing her mistress in such a state, yet she had resolved to stay. Mariette could but grunt in frustration that the girl refused to be saved.

Caroline only squeezed tighter as Mariette continued resisting, until she was gasping for air, and her portals closed. Then, with a cackle, she threw her to the ground, her clothes and hair dirtied as wet sand stuck to her. In but mere seconds, even the Reflective Witch herself was brought to such a degraded position, helpless before the demon-like girl. Then, she turned towards Eli, who shuddered as the eyes of the devil once again met hers.

"Ellie...Caroline has waited for...this moment...Ever since Caroline had a taste, Caroline couldn't stop thinking about you." She slowly walked towards her, her eyes unflinching as they gazed on Eli's own. The harpy staggered back a few steps as Caroline approached, fear coursing through her, but ultimately she steeled herself and gazed back, despite her fright. She wasn’t there yet. She couldn’t see the deepest parts…! She winced as Caroline started speaking again.

"Hmm...You're quiet, Ellie...Did you see something?"

With that said, the vampiric girl's body began changing. Her dress turned black, her hair fell and grew straighter and purple. Her body and facial-structure changed, and Eli gasped as she realized what Caroline was changing herself to. Standing right before Eli was now her twin sister, her Twinned Soul, Deni, exactly as she remembered her to be, yet her smile was gone and she was frowning with sad eyes at her. A severe pain struck through Eli, like she had been stabbed in the heart. Those eyes, which Eli knew so well, showing such sadness. Eli could see straight through them, and there…

There she saw it.

‘What do you see?’

‘Love.’

Deni’s eyes widened, her lips turned into a horrible snarl.
‘L-L-Love? LOVE?’



Eli took a deep breath, gathered her thoughts, and then focused again on the being before her. The words came naturally to her as she spoke.

‘Deni… You were always the original. I was the intruder. When people looked to us, it was “Denise” they called for. By all rights, I was the inconvenience, the one that shouldn’t exist…’ Eli took a step forward, lifting a hand and stroking it along the cheek of the false Deni before her, the eyes of the slime harpy leaking with fluids replicating tears.

Caroline’s teeth now showed from her disguise, twisted into a growling expression.
‘Hate! I Hate you!’ But despite her protests, she did not move, her mind grinding to a halt.

‘… Yet you didn’t hate me. You teased me endlessly and got me into trouble for your amusement, sure, but you accepted me as your sister, your twin existence, and loved me. The first thing you did when we got our own bodies was not to run away with your new freedom, but you hugged me. You loved the world and those in it, you had so much love to give. I… I’m so sorry, that you never got to experience true freedom…’ Eli leaned forward, letting her wings close around the Deni-copy, hugging, pressing their bodies together. Deni… was in there, wasn’t she? Absorbed by Caroline…

Deni’s body shuddered, trying to fight back, but she was paralyzed by the act of love that Eli gave to her. Bright red veins could be seen coursing through her limbs and cheeks.
‘Ellie! You can’t! It hurts!’

Eli repressed her powers, she didn’t need them. For right now, she established her disguise, visually changing her body back to that of a tiny girl with black, short hair, currently wearing glasses because it was part of the disguise, and a school uniform. So now, she was but a normal girl, hugging what remained of her sister.

‘No! Noo-’NOOO!"
Now Caroline’s voice came out of Deni’s lips, and the disguise began slowly melting away, like snow, returning her back to her true form. Her red dress roiled and bubbled like a boiled pot of water.

‘Th-thank you for everything, Deni. I… I love you, my sister.’

"AAAAGHHHH!"

With a final scream, Caroline turned limp, her posture slumped, only held up by Eli’s embrace. Her dress turned normal, and the blood in the lake shore seemed to dry away, freeing Shade. Eli felt that Caroline was still alive, but only barely; she had been knocked out. Caroline was defeated.

And there, as if carried by a wind of magic, Eli heard the smallest whisper.

‘...I love you too...’



A sound of rumbling could be heard coming from under the lake, as Makoto struck against the tunnel wall, creating a thick hole to the other tunnel where Ilia was. The monster boy was caught by surprise, and the debris hit him with great force, sending him flailing back.
"Ouch! I knew you bastards would try to worm your way through here!" He spat out, visibly wounded, as he swiftly coiled around back up. and brought his Toxic Censer to bear; it exhuded vile fumes as it was swung around.
"Makoto, you idiot!" Helga screamed as she dashed around the corner to Ilia. She struck at Ilia with a claw, only to realize it was only his duplicate as it soon faded into green mist.
"These catacombs will be your tomb!" He spoke about 50 meters down the tunnel, and drew in a deep breath. He then exhaled, and a wave of poisonous mist blew through the tight confines, filling the air with poison strong enough to weaken Mahou. Helga scratched at her cheek in fury. "Now look what you did!" She managed to speak amidst her coughing.




Alicia succeeded in carpet-bombing Earth Bastion's vicinity with her arrows, piercing through the thick ice and cracking it into several large pieces; the ship swayed a bit as it was now capable of moving around, if only in place, as there was still some distance of ice in front of them.
"Ice integrity compromised. Commencing restoration."
Doris, undeterred by anyone, held her open palms before her, and soon enough the floating pieces were brought together to form walls around Earth Bastion, preventing it from turning. The ice crept up the side of the ship, until it reached the deck.

Alicia then attempted to shoot at all four of the Curie Corps with her arrows, and it turned out to be a mistake on her part; with her still recovering from going all out against the Gorelions, and with no clear target to focus on, she ended up creating a fireworks show, arrows exploding in the air randomly. However, it did mean that Kimble ended up being too busy dodging the explosions to attack, flying around rapidly and hissing like an irritated cat, ignoring Sue as she took the gunner's seat.
"Fnyack nyouh!"

Curie kept her eyes on the ship as she swayed back and forth to avoid the random explosions that were still forming in the air.
"What have you to gain from this assault?" She asked with a hateful glare.
"Answer me, or be purified in the fires of nuclear fusion!" She then lifted a hand up, and a fireball began forming and expanding over it; it glowed brighter than regular flame, brimming with energy.

Amber launched herself up into the air before she performed a landing roll, her hair now frazzled. But appearances were a small sacrifice to having finally reached the Visceral castle, and its upper parts to boot. She sneaked around to the other side, and found Umeko still shooting down towards the lake. With a resounding boom, she landed a shot right through Alicia's distracting lightshow, and the bullet hit her through the elbow, causing the Beacon girl to drop her bow as she was overcome with not only physical, but mental pain, knocking her down.
”Don't you dare, you bitch!” Penny screamed, and shot her gauss discharge at Umeko, and it hit her in her leg, causing her to crouch down.
"Damn..." Amber could hear her mutter to herself.
"I'm not paid enough for this."
The air itself seemed to faintly shimmer with magical energy as Mariette's fury resounded through it, causing ripples to form in the surface of the lake. And in a single moment, all hell broke loose; portals rapidly opened in every direction around Caroline, and out of them poured out a force beyond imagination. In addition to the tentacles familiar to all, grasping and whipping like a roused kraken from the deep, there were also creatures of the dark that jumped out at the vampire girl, the kind of minions only a Dark Magical Girl could bend to her will. While any other girl would have been utterly overwhelmed at the sheer malevolence that Mariette unleashed, Caroline only giggled at the sight, insanity coursing through her crimson eyes.

"Hahaa! Toys! Toys!" She screamed in utter delight, and spun her spear in place, deflecting the first wave of tentacles before jumping up; a Shadow was suddenly pierced by her red spear as it was thrown, leaving it impaled in gruesome fashion. Just as Mariette knew from personal experience, Caroline was a fighter unlike no other; unlike Minnie, who fought with grace and composure, the terror before her was like a deranged madwoman, her movements precarious and contorting. Yet, there was a method to her madness; as if she was simply dancing around, she extended elongated nails from her fingers, and performed a wide scratch around her as she dashed through the air, tearing the surrounding Shadows and tendrils apart. She also grabbed one of the Shadow's arms, and met the creature's rubberband attack with a giant snap of her jaws, biting the neck off the summoned being. She shot blood out of her palms, solidifying it, into a a pair of curved scimitars that she swung around with wild abandon, slashing faster than the naked eye could follow. However, despite her efforts, she could not close the distance to Mariette.
"More! MORE!" She cried, and continued fighting, kept busy by the portal-based barrage.

"Holy crap...I sure am glad I never had to fight Mariette," Helga commented, only to realize this was their chance to slip by Caroline while she was distracted. When Alexander ran up to her, she nodded, and began running towards the secret entrance, gesturing for the magical boy to follow after her.
”Roger!” Penny did the same, and jumped up to the deck of Earth Bastion, preparing to storm the castle with all of her might as she charged up in electricity, her fists clenched as she stood with legs apart, teeth grit as she powered up. The ship hit the water with a big splash, and soon enough was afloat, sailing swiftly across the lake, soon leaving Mariette, Eli, Suwako and Shade ashore to fight with Caroline.

"Oops! Big sister will be mad! Come in, Curie!" Caroline screamed amidst her fighting, and threw up a sphere of blood into the air. Once it reached the apex, it exploded, causing red rain for a couple of seconds.

"Freeze!"

A young woman's voice could next be heard coming from the castle as Earth Bastion approached it. And then, a sound of crackling could be heard; like a rapid wave of cold, the lake was instantly frozen, causing Earth Bastion to be stuck in place.
"Who dares trespass upon Lady Justine's estate?" Another, more mature voice could be heard. And then, the crew on the ship saw her: floating high above, with the soles of her feet pushing out bright flames like rocket jets, and with her arms crossed over her chest, they saw her:



"The Curie Corps, gatekeepers of her holy land, will not tolerate this intrusion! Doris, attack! Kimble, flank them! Umeko, provide covering fire!"
She screamed, and pointed with her giant sword.

"Understood. Beginning purification."
The crew saw another woman floating over the ice, her hands tucked to her sleeves as she approached the ship, in full visual range:


The crew then felt how winds began picking up around the ship. They then saw a gust of green winds rapidly blow in their direction from behind them.
"Nyaaah, I'll slice them to ribbonyah!"
Far away, thanks to their enhanced vision, they could see a catlike form that seemed to ride the winds:

The bestial girl then swung what looked like a sickle in her hands, and a gust of wind was shot at them; it sliced at Scout's leg, causing her to drop to one knee from the wound.

”Scout! Watch out-AGHHHH!” Penny cried out as she was suddenly shot on her shoulder, and the harsh sound of a ricocheting bullet could be heard; the nearby girls were fortunate their magical bodies were protected from deafening. It was a far distance, but Alicia managed to see where the shot came from: standing atop the castle rooftop was a familiar face aiming a sniper rifle at them: Umeko.
”Not you again, dammit!”

However, despite the danger, Amber felt that the winds of fate blew in her favor, as Earth Bastion was now just 200 meters away from the castle: she could reach the rooftop of the castle by flying, if she chose to do so.


Helga, Alex, and Makoto ran through the gloomy tunnel for what felt like a long time, and noticed that the way split up at several points in a mazelike fashion. "Damn, it's confusing in here. I think it's...This way?"
However, Alex also felt how fate pushed him to walk a certain path, and as he led it he could sense a magical boy just like him lurking the passages. As he peeked around a corner he saw Ilia, the snakelike monster boy, slithering about, clearly patrolling; if they waited, they could let him pass by without him noticing them, and they could go on without alerting him.




Meanwhile, the fight was heating up on the lake shore, as Suwako joined in the attack and Mariette began performing more complex attacks, using her portals to redirect attacks and multiply her output. At that point even Caroline, the ferocious vampire, began to struggle; she kept slashing and biting, but to no avail. And soon enough, one of the vines pulled out a scimitar from her hand, while another struck from behind, vines and tentacles now wrapping around her as she was stunned for an eyeblink. However, the moment the tendrils touched her body, they slipped right through, as if grasping viscous liquid.

"HAAHAAHAA!" Caroline laughed, and her red dress bubbled on the surface.
"Caroline can play pudding, and play sweet red! Dennie taught Caroline how!"
Taking advantage of the surprise, she then swiftly dashed in, her arm raised in an overhead swing, aimed at Mariette.
"MARIMARIII!"

Suddenly, sparks flew in the air, and Caroline's eyes turned to slits as they saw how Shade parried her attack with her fists. Some of Caroline's blood spilled on them, and Caroline leaped back, snarling.

"Go away! Caroline only wants to play with long-haired dolls!" Her dress flowed as if bustled by harsh winds, and blood began puddling around her as she summoned a battleaxe with a wide blade.

"Caroline will be gentle..."
Looks pretty dope. I like it.
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