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6 yrs ago
dissertation done. can actually post again. yay.


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wordcount: 2,636 (+3)
Midna: level 9 EXP: //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (52/100)
Location: S.O.U. hideout
Warp Charges: 1

“Double-shot of espresso, stuffed silly with sugar,” Giovanna announced as she sauntered into the meeting room, coffee mug in hand. “In other words, a doppio dolce.” She extended it for Sandalphon to take. “Enjoy.”

“Thank you.” The archangel seemed intent on doing so. She didn’t so much as accept the coffee from Giovanna as she did seize it, using both hands to grab the mug with almost feverish speed in order to press it to her lips and start gulping it down. Her eyes remained open as she drank with uncharacteristic intemperance, continuing to observe her array of screens so as to not waste so much as an instant. Then she set the mug down and, without missing a beat, resumed her work.

The display left Giovanna astonished, both eyebrows raised. “Whoa. Guess you were really fiending for the stuff, huh?”

Sandalphon did not look her way as she replied, her tone imperceptibly more terse than normal. “A comparison to a fiend is something of an aspersion on my character. Have I given offense in some way?”

Her response threw Gio for a loop, a mixture of confusion and incredulity on her face. She knew her tendency to not mince words sometimes led to unintended offense, but this was a stretch even for her. “Uh…no? I just meant to say it kinda looks like you got a coffee addiction or something.”

“I wouldn’t consider myself addicted,” Sandalphon responded impassively as she continued to type.

“I mean, have you tried stopping?”

Nodding, Sandalphon dragged a popup from her left in front and used both hands to upscale it. “I have. Unfortunately, doing so resulted in a migraine of such severity that I became unable to give my duties sufficient focus.”

Giovanna snorted. “That sure sounds like addiction to me. Aren’t you, uh, worried about your health?”

“Not at all. I’ve optimized my work schedule,” Sandalphon replied matter-of-factly. “I have determined the exact point at which my activities would result in long-term self-damage and how to consistently reach that threshold without surpassing it. Given the gravity of my work, and all those who depend on me, doing anything less would be gross self-indulgence.”

For a few seconds, Giovanna stayed quiet. Then she spoke up again, her voice a little harder. “I know you’re not human, and you seem like a smart cookie, but that’s a pretty stupid line of thinking.”

Sandalphon didn’t look her way. “How so?”

Giovanna furrowed her brows, her lips pressed together. “I mean, I know we just met today, so it’s probably not my place to say. But life’s about more than efficiency this, optimize that, you know? Plus, I dunno who you were working for before, but we don’t wanna see you work yourself to the breaking point. You don’t have to be happy if you don’t want, we’d be sure happier and safer knowing our guardian angel’s feeling good and rested.”

“Your constructive criticism has been noted,” Sandalphon told her. “Thank you for your concern.”

“Yeah? Well…you’re welcome.” Shaking her head, Giovanna turned and left, heading down the hallway. On the far end lay a room with a black and red ‘KEEP OUT’ sign, and that seemed to be where she was headed.

”Well I suppose you tried” commented a shadow leaning against one of the corridors’ walls, one that had been apparently listening in with its pointy ears.

The unexpected reveal prompted raised brows from Giovanna, though she only slowed down for a moment until she realized who that voice belonged to. “That’s a neat trick,” she said off-handedly, continuing on her way.

”Not quite as good a disappearing trick as yours, I’ll admit” the princess replied, her tone light despite the accusatory turn of phrase, and then observing ”because I’ve just realized I have no idea what you’ve been up to on your lonesome” before stepping from shadow to shadow to get ahead of Giovanna again and asking ”don’t suppose you have the time to fill me in?”

Imagining the effort it must take to make such a dramatic display of such a mundane topic made Giovanna amused. “What, don’t trust me? I guess we have been on different teams since we arrived. It’s a long story, kinda, but I don’t mind telling ya. C’mon, in here.” She stopped in front of the door at the end of the hallway, then peered around in the dim light. “I can let you in, but before I do you gotta promise me you won’t tell anyone what’s in here. Especially Goldlewis.” She crossed her arms. “Deal?”

Midna tilted her head to the side in curiosity, before nodding and accepting the bargain ”Well I can’t say no to that now can I? Deal”

“Aaalright, you’d better not come crying to me then.” Pulling an ID card from her pocket, Giovanna swiped it on the magnetic lock beside the doorknob. It clicked, she pressed down on the handle, and opened the door to dart inside.

Within lay what looked like an apartment bedroom in a state of shocking disarray. An unmade bed piled with pillows and blankets caked with long green dog hair, like the carpet. Laundry haphazardly piled throughout, like drifts of snow, and absolutely none of it folded. A desk that hadn’t been dusted since the stone age with a beanbag in front of it instead of a chair, the trash can next to it (which lacked a trash bag) overflowing onto the floor with crumpled receipts, bottles, and tissues, and at least a dozen empty plastic water bottles beside a monitor stacked right next to the PC tower. There were also crumpled beer cans. “Ah,” Giovanna sighed as she stepped into the pigsty. Rei manifested beside her and trotted over to the bed. “Home sweet home.” Once Rei jumped up, taking half the bed herself easily, she rolled over to have her belly scratched. Giovanna obliged, then turned away to grab a brochure with coffee stains from the bedside table. Rei, who wanted more petting, wiggled on the bed pleadingly as Gio pulled out her phone.

”So was it your need for a live-in maid what I was going to be crying about or..?” Midna teased as she joined Giovanna, before deciding to add to the mess via introducing a second wolf into the room, namely her still unmodified wolfos. As the beast padded over to introduce itself, tail wagging as it went, Midna found another shadow to half lean into, in a poor replacement for the floating lazily in the air she really wanted to do at this moment. There was no way this carpet was clean either after all, and she thanked the goddesses a fusion had given her sandals at some point.

The teasing was much less than Giovanna expected. After dialing and tucking her phone in between her chin and her shoulder, she gave Midna a questioning expression. “I’m getting takeout before I starve to death, you want anything?” She offered the brochure, which turned out to be a menu full of low-resolution images of various less-than-authentic Chinese dishes from orange chicken to pork lo mein to beef with broccoli, all very affordable. Various line items had been circled with different-colored pens in the past, and the stain that looked like coffee from a distance smelled faintly of soy sauce.

The princess’ stomach rumbled at the mere suggestion, and so she accepted the stained brochure with little complaint. That said, she wasn’t exactly familiar with most of the dishes, and so after examining it for a few moments just decided to request simply that ”I’ll have what you're having?”

“‘Kay, uhh…” After another moment, someone picked up, and Giovanna gave her order. “Two garlic shredded porks. Two tubs of wonton soup, two cartons of rice, aaand two tubs of spare ribs. Yeah, okay. My address should be on file, just buzz the sixth floor office when you get here. ‘Kay, great. Good night.” She hung up and tossed the phone down, watching Rei cautiously sniff Midna’s wolfos. While not aggressive, the wolf spirit didn’t seem playful either. Once convinced there would be no issues, she turned to Midna again. “You mind if I get changed real quick?”

The princess, whose visible eye was a little wide at the amount of stuff that had just been ordered, refocused upon being asked that question. ”I mean you can already see all of me, so I don’t mind” the technically but not actually naked princess replied teasingly, before offering ”Buuuut I can also turn around and look away if you insist” even as she did so without actually needing to be asked. Her wolfos meanwhile seemed a little disappointed there would be no play, but didn’t badger the other beast for it either. Instead it padded on back to Midna, who promptly used it as a seat while she waited for the other woman to change.

The princess’s little factoid resulted in a mildly surprised look. “Huh.” Once given the go-ahead, Gio changed with very little ceremony, and by the time Midna turned back around she was out of her rather unorthodox work attire and clad in a pair of green athletic shorts plus a black tank top that didn’t quite cover her midriff. She draped her work clothes over the back of her chair, then went over and climbed into bed to lay on top of Rei like she was a big, fluffy green pillow. “So, what did you wanna know again?”

”What you’ve been up too while we’ve been making a whole lot of noise” Midna reminded her, before herself being reminded of something, namely ”Also I’m probably not going to be able to help bring in the food, as I’m pretty sure I’m now a wanted criminal due to foolishly not killing someone”

Gio looked quizzical. “I don’t think the delivery guy’s gonna care.” Stroking Rei with one hand, she used the other to gesture and help her explain as she began to spill the beans.

“Well, Jessie got a call from Bridges. That, uh, probably doesn’t ring a bell for you, but Bridges is a shipping company the SOU is pretty friendly with, and they’re also working with a group called the Centennials to connect and protect different communities around the world. A couple days ago their ship got stuck in the desert way down southeast, but they finally got it fixed and flew back to base, some place called Alcamoth.” She paused, stone-faced, for a lingering moment. “Uh, after that, they hopped around the Land of Adventure a little bit, then headed up here to link up with us. That didn’t go so well though, ‘cause halfway here they got attacked. Some crazy guy in a flying chariot or something, throwing lightning. They got away, but something got fried in the process and they landed out by Port Meridian, west of here. They needed a hand, so Vernon had Duke fly me and the twins out to give ‘em one. Things got pretty crazy actually, but it ended fine, so after you’re all done here they’ll be ready to fly you…wherever, I guess.”

Midna nodded along with this explanation, before pausing and going ”Wait a moment” before asking ”Was the ship called the, what was it again, the Virgin Victory?”

“Uhhh, yeah, that sounds right,” Gio shrugged. “Sorry, I don’t really sweat the details.”

”Huh” Midna replied, before giving a single laugh at the irony of the situation, and then filling the other woman in on it ”Well if you had I could have let you skip the flying over part. Those people are with us, and I have a portal leading to the ship. Good to know they’re doing well mind, and thanks for helping them out when we had no idea they were in trouble.”

Giovanna pursed her lips. “Oh. Well…you’re welcome.“ She flopped back down into Rei’s fur, sighing. “That all you wanted? If so, you’d probably better stake your claim on one of the better rooms. Only room for two in here.” She patted Rei on the head.

”I mean I also want to eat now that you’ve ordered, but I can get out of your fur till it shows up if you’ve got things to do” she offered, thinking of maybe checking in with the VV’s crew just to touch bases, before asking ”how much do I owe you anyway?” lightly gesturing at the brochure to clarify what she meant.

Giovanna rolled her eyes back as she thought. “‘Bout twenty zenny. It’ll probably be about half an hour, let me know where you’ll be and I’ll get you when it shows up.”

Midna’s visible eye did the same when she got the answer, though not because she was thinking, but because she was looking somewhere else. A moment later a small portal opened on the ground next to her, and spat out a sequence of zenny that the princess deftly caught before handing it over. By the time she’d done that she had her answer, which was simply ”Back in the meeting room I suppose”

“‘Kay, see ya then.” With no particular interest in Midna nor inclination for idle talk, Giovanna relaxed, happy to take it easy until her late dinner arrived.

The princess got the message, and proceeded to go find a way to kill 30 minutes. First she tried to get in touch with the crew of the Virgin Victory, but while her portal to the ship worked just fine, there turned out to be no one aboard. While mildly concerning, the fact that the ship seemed to be neatly docked next to a perfectly normal (and not, say, in the midst of burning to the ground) port town surrounded by massive amounts of farm land didn’t indicate anything was amiss. If she were to guess, it would be that the crew had found lodgings within the town, which would make finding them a pain. So instead she simply left a note letting them know she’d been here, and then headed back to base.

She arrived back at the meeting room with ten minutes to spare, according to her watch, and found the Sandalphon still within, now slumped over the meeting table in her chair, asleep. The archangel‘s eyes were still open, displaying softly blinking Zs, and her mouth hung open as well.

Midna couldn’t tell if this was funny or disconcerting.

Either way, she hung around for a few more minutes, then sighed and went and found a blanket to softly drape over the overworked archangel, lest she get cold overnight. That successfully burned the last few minutes, at which point the food had arrived, nice and punctually.

There was, as she had predicted, far too much for someone her size. Fortunately she had a pair of beasts to help her with her plentiful scraps.

She used the brief resulting burst of energy to perform repairs on her Darknut minion, doing so in the Seiran Clinic to avoid waking anyone with the hammering she had to do to get its psychically warped plate-mail back into any kind of working order. As for the thirty foot tall mecha wolf bear, she had absolutely no idea where she was going to start with repairing that, and thinking about the enormity of the task was enough to take the legs out from under her, and for the exhaustion of the day to fully catch up.

Having failed to take Giovanna’s advice about securing a room, the princess once again found herself on a couch, but with the warm and fluffy companionship of her wolfos, this wasn’t half as bad a way to spend the night as it could have been.

It certainly couldn’t be worse than last night’s nightmare, or at least so she prayed.

??? — Burnt Town

Initially things looked grim for Rayne’s hunt for survivors, as she came across only bodies. Yet at the same time she came to realize that they didn’t add up, as there were far fewer dead than the number of houses suggested there would have been living here.

Her resulting guess was that either there was some kind of stronghold, or the two children they’d found hadn’t been the only ones who’d fled into the woods, and as it turned out, the former at least turned out to be somewhat true. The hunters lodge, or at least that was what she guessed it was, wasn’t exactly a fortress, but between being just a bit out of the way and full of bow armed hunters, it had, fortuitously, allowed a number of people to survive.

While initially suspicious, a combination of her raising her hands to show they were empty (not that this actually demonstrated she was unarmed due to how her magic worked, but the thought was there) and her very distinct from the Herald’s garb quickly got everyone on the same page. After a man named Jeire introduced himself, thanking her for her and the group's help (causing her to gain Link in the process) and then gave her a quick low down of their situation..

“Mine is Rayne, and of course I’ll help” she immediately agreed, before pausing for a moment to think of how exactly she’d do that and landing on “I’m going to get right back to looking for other survivors, and I’ll move them.. here? Or wherever you want them. But I’ll also let the others know you're here and in need of aid. At least one of them has some kind of healing powers”

That was, she knew vague, and she began to apologize “sorry I can’t say more than that about them, we got sort of thrown together and-” before cutting herself off and refocusing “- I’ll tell you about our deal once no one else needs help”

With that she gave a little wave of farewell and then moved back out into the village, floating up into the air to see if she could get a better idea of where any other survivors might be from up there. It was while she was doing this that Lewa spotted her and then got her attention.

“Glad you're alive too” she called back down with genuine relief to the sentient golem, offering a wave of her own, before informing him that “I haven’t, but I've also just started looking for them now!”

As luck would have it, her drifting through the air for only a little bit longer found her line of sight of some of the others, the Knight Witch calling out “Lily! Sanae! I’m glad your ok” both to get their attention, and to fill Lewa on who she had found, before doing the same in reverse by telling them “I’ve got also Lewa over here too, and he seems to be in one piece”

“I found some of the people here in a hunting lodge or something right next to where we came into town too” she then informed all of them before asking “Some of them are hurt, so I don’t suppose you have any magic that could help with that?”

“I don’t, it's all for fighting, but I can teleport people with me, so I’m going to start searching for anyone else who’s alive, and will try to move or direct them to that lodge if I can. It seems like as good a palace as any to regroup and then get some answers once everyone’s safe” she then added, before pausing for any replies.

If they didn’t need anything more from her, the Witch Knight would get right back to searching for survivors, calling out once more, and covering both areas that she either hadn’t been to yet, as well as prioritizing investigating any damaged buildings that people might have gotten trapped in.

The Koopa Troop

wordcount: 1,348 (+3)
Bowser: Level 14 EXP: ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (97/140)
Bowser Jr: Level 13 EXP: //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (115/130)
Kamek: Level 12 EXP: //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (94/120)
Rika: Level 8 EXP: //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (78/80)
Location: The Under - Mercy Dreams

After exiting the marsh room and reporting in, the troop started to head down to catch up with the others. They didn’t end up running into any of the lanturn carriers fortunately, but they still managed to get held up from reaching the bottom of the prison when they ended up passing by a rather unusual door.

”Gah! Come on Galeem, it's not that hard to stick to one style!” Bowser complained as he gestured with both claws at a futuristic looking automatic door that had slid open as they passed by it

”I’m not so sure, it looks positively ancient in there” Kamek replied as he peered inside, both with his own eyes and with a wisp he’d sent to scout through the wall.

”Even older than you?” Jr joked, which got a groan of complaint from Kamek, at which point Rika had already waltzed into the room to take a look herself, forcing the rest of them to scramble to catch up. Fortunately, the princess didn’t prompt a massive battle with her recklessness this time.

Instead when the last of them caught up with her they found the ship girl poking a rotten, desiccated and also headless corpse with the butt of her spear, and wondering aloud ”Why are there zombies just laying about here? Are they sleeping”

”Ah, I think those are just, well, dead bodies. I believe some of the others mentioned running into these as well” Kamek explained softly, and then when Rika, who was functionally native to the world of light, looked confused, clarified ”They must have been like this before Galeem consumed this place, which is why they haven't turned into spirits, as that is something they themselves introduced as a feature of reality”

”Oh” Rika replied, as she ceased her prodding, before thinking for a moment and then declaring ”That’s weird”

Kamek wasn’t entirely sure how to respond to that, but with the ship girl’s worries about them getting attacked put to rest, they could all take a look around the room.

The dark round room featured a fair amount of futuristic looking alien technology, most notably being the pods lining the room, inside some of which the headless bodies Rika had been poking one of could be found. Despite this advance tech, Kamek’s initial analysis that it was old also turned out to be 100% correct, given the layer of dust that coated everything (at least until Bowser sneezed and sent a bunch of it blowing everywhere) as well as the fact that there were stalactites hanging from the artificial ceiling.

”This must have been abandoned for an eternity before Galeem scooped it up” Kamek guessed, based on the fact that ”Stalactites only grow a few cm in a thousand years you see, at least if I remember rightly”

”You’d think it’d stink less after all that time, sheesh” Jr complained through a nose pinched shut by an iron clothes peg he’d made, before grumbling and producing 3 more of those as a result of drawing attention to his innovation.

The source of the stink turned out to be the plentiful amounts of black goop slicked around the place, that others might have recognised as the stench of death, but which the troop just thought smelled bad in general. They avoided it as they explored the chamber, which resulted in Rika getting ahead of everyone again as she grappled or just sailed over the slime. In doing so she found herself up a flight of stairs, and before a glass window looking into a chamber filled with green fog.

A small device of some kind sat in front of it, one that produced static out of a speaker when its singular button was pressed. This latest piece of advanced machinery inside this clearly ancient place might have been existentially terrifying to some human or other, but Rika didn't know any better, while for the Koopas it was a whole lot of nothing burger. Aliens and ancient advanced (admittedly magically advanced) civilizations were nothing new to them after all. As such they were far more interested in what was on the other side of the glass than wondering about how in the world they place they where in could be in the first place.

”Maybe there’s keys in there? Or at least something useful?” Jr theorized, before complaining that ”This place has been a dump so far”

”Or it could be deadly poison” Kamek warned, pointing out the simple fact that ”The gas is, after all, green”

”But it isn’t purple, so it's probably just stinky, and thanks to me, we’re all protected against that!” Jr countered, flicking the clothespin he was wearing while taking credit for supplying the troop with stretch protection despite having had to be talked into giving it out in the first place.

Either way, that turned out to be enough of an argument for both Bowser and Rika to get right on down to business. Fists were wound back, and then, in tandem, swung forward, kinetic strike module and vault breaker punches landing simultaneously.

This only slightly cracked the glass

”Wow. That’s tough” Bowser said as he pulled his hand back and shook it, before deciding that the durability must mean that ”There’s definitely something important in there if they want to keep us out that bad” before both he and Rika got right back to punching the glass.

”Or something they want to keep in” Kamek worried, but as jr pointed out ”Eh, the cells outside didn’t budge at all. So if there is something in there it's probably weaker than the crazy people in there”

As it turned out jr had been right not to be worried, but not for the reasons stated. Instead when the glass was smashed open after several consecutive synchronous punches for Bowser and Rika, and the gas spilled harmlessly out, they found no prisoner inside. They did, however, find a set of armor that might have belonged to one. Or rather prison clothes, given the manacle and straight jacket components.

Rika, again, was first into the room, and, also as a result, also the one who ended up picking up the outfit. ”Ooo, I think I just got a bit stronger from holding this” she noted, before asking ”Think I should put it on? It's not like it’ll fit any of you I mean”

”Ah, perhaps not” Kamek replied, but not for any of the obvious reasons inherent with the outfit itself, but instead because ”that thing just fell out of it when you picked it up”

That thing in question was an absolutely horrible looking blob of biomater atop a double helix like stem which caused Rika to gag as she backed up from the solidified bile

”That… is disgusting” Jr stated the obvious, before putting words to a feeling they all had but had no idea why they had it, which was ”So why in the world do I wanna take it with us?!?!”

Indeed, they seemed to know that leaving it behind was something they would regret, but hadn’t the faintest idea why. After a few moments of confused discussion on the topic, Jr ended up creating an iron box, into which the bile was awkwardly poked via more iron, and then promptly welded inside of.

With the source of the disgust stored for unsafe keeping, attention returned to the outfit Rika was carrying, her feelings on which she made quite clear ”No way I am wearing this now. Plus I guess it was never gonna make good armor anyway it's barely protecting anything. Maybe I can just kinda, carry it?”

”I could always shrink it down to charm size” Kamek offered, but Jr had a simpler solution, which was ”We could always just melt it down in that crucible thing Sectonia has?”

That got all around agreement, and so after they confirmed this was indeed all there was of value in the chamber, they set out to track down the queen and make use of one of her very useful items once again.

??? — Burning Town

“I tried to not kill them either!” Rayne shouted after the retreating boy, but she didn’t give chase. He was, after all, functionally doing what she had told him to do, even if as it turned out his adoptive family was a bunch of village burning murderers.

Plus, there were the questions first of what those beams of light were, but a quick dash chain up into the air answered that question, as she saw the other Heralds backing off and retreating. Presumably, she guessed, in response to the beams that had prompted the boy to run away. Which meant it was over. Well, as long as no one on their side went after them. Rayne most certainly wasn’t going to be one of them though.

Instead she took one look at the burning village, and then dashed back down into it, heading first for the buildings that had collapsed due to the boy’s reckless destruction, in which she checked for survivors. If she didn’t find any, be it for good or terrible reasons, she’d begin moving around the rest of the village till she did find the people who were living here, calling out “The Heralds are gone! Please, if you are trapped, or hurt, call out so I can find you! I’m Rayne, a Knight Witch, and I’m here to help!”

That said, her ways of helping were limited. Back in her world, she’d be able to teleport anyone she had a link with back to the safety of the children of Gaia (the Knight Witch’s parent organization)’s home base. Here, however, there was no such place to send people, and so the best she could do was use sword, spell, and might to clear rubble, and then either apply first aid to the injured or fly them to someone who could do better.

And that is if she found anyone at all. The Heralds had had the run of the town for much too long, and she hadn’t exactly seen anyone alive while they’d been fighting. She could only hope that they’d hidden themselves well, rather than being, well, dead to the last.

The Koopa Troop

wordcount: 4,717 (+5)
Bowser: Level 14 EXP: ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (94/140)
Bowser Jr: Level 13 EXP: //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (112/130)
Kamek: Level 12 EXP: //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (91/120)
Rika: Level 8 EXP: //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (75/80)
Location: The Under - Termite Kingdom Ruins

The rest of the mind flayers fell in short order, especially once Mimi copycatted their stun spell, which turned the four on one of Jr, her, Ganondorf and Bowser vs the coming at them in dribs and drabs squidmonsters from just unfair to a practical cakewalk. Add in Rika, Kamek and his shadow clones coming around the other way, and the whole enterprise was sorted out in short order.

Numbers, the monsters in the jail really had no answer to them. Or, well, the things down stairs probably did with their baleful light, but as it turned out the Troop would not be facing those.

Instead they ended up grouping together outside the room Ganondorf and Jesse had come in after doing some spirit gathering, and happened to look inside. The heart that had dropped in alongside the hero and villain was not visible, and neither were the ugly centipedes that had crawled out of it, so the Troop had no idea those were there. Instead what they saw were a number of huts and a trio of ritual pyres, all linked by plank walkways, seemingly built around a single much larger plank house. As in one 4 times the size of the others.

”Must be a big guy around to live in a house like that” Bowser commented, while Kamek was convinced that ”Surely no one sane lives in a place like this?”

It was a question he immediately regretted asking when Rika helpful replied ”I can go check!” before going to do just that, stepping onto the marshy water and then sailing across it towards the nearest hut before anyone could stop her. As she got close, two things happened at once. The first was the hut’s door slapped open, and large fishperson came running out of it towards her, claws bared as it shouted “Glor! Go away!”

The second was that a large spiky tentacle burst from the water right next to her, which then attempted to whip her with its entire body.

The troop all called out in alarm, but Rika was already moving, maneuvering thrustering out of the way of the tentacle lash while thrusting a gauntlet hand towards it, palm raised. From the center of its hand, the gauntlet blasted out a burst of her grizco blaster’s ink shots (she’d freshly reloaded the spit supply before they went on the attack) while at the same time a torpedo dropped into the water from a hatch that opened on the underside of that same gauntlet.

The tendril didn’t seem too perturbed by the ink, but it was a sitting duck for the torpedo, which slammed into its base, and promptly blew it to high heaven.

The princess then smoothly pivoted to deal with the fishman, only for the explosion to prompt three things that were gonna make the situation messy. The first was all the other huts popping open, divulging more fishmen, though oddly rather than all charging forwards, many simply stared at the intruders into their home.

The second was a roar, as from out of a side chamber a giant red centipede who’s nap had just been disturbed emerged, looking for something to take its anger out on.

The third was a series of just awful gurgling chittering, rasping sounds as the noise alerted the man centipedes that they were not alone, prompting them to scuttle up the sides of the pit their hearty home had been dropped into.

All three of these groups of monsters promptly saw both each other and the troop, and none were pleased by what they saw. The big red centipede saw intruders into its reliable respawning food supply, while the man centipedes simply hated anything that wasn’t them. The fishfolk meanwhile were mostly panicking with cries of “Gloooorph!! Glurph glot! Glurph glot!” and “It come to destroy us!” at the sight of their red chitined butcher, but this did not stop the one coming at Rika from continuing to do so.

It lashed at her with sharp claws attached to powerful arms, and then was smart enough to kite back a bit when it missed. Unfortunately for it Rika’s new gauntlets made her far more versatile, and the ship girl promptly teleported her spear into her new hands and then thrust it forwards, delivering a nasty puncture wound to its chest with the needle sharp top. Unfortunately she misjudged where the heart was on the hulking creature, and it did not fall.

Rather than pull back, she teleported the spear back to her back and smashed forwards with a punch filled with Brachydios strength while pulling back and charging the other, and at the very same time having her hull claws lash out. Her first fist smashed it in the face, her claws raked its belly, and then she went flying forwards, delivering a vault breaker to it, smashing it up into the air, before pivoting and ripping open its back with her wrist mounted chainsaw when it landed, finally putting it down.

“Flurgle noooo!” came a call from one of the other fishfolk, but the rest were a bit too busy worrying about themselves as the man centipedes came scuttling across the bridges or through the water to attack them. Several got into a tussle with more tentacles bursting from the water, or tried to take on the larger red centipede, but the rest fell on the fishfolk, spewing acid, stabbing with their tails, or just bodily ramming them with their grotesque melted human faces.

”Good job Rika, you made a real mess” jr told his sister sardonically, but she didn’t pick up on it at all, and instead agreed that ”Yup! Look at them fight each other, cleaning up should be easy”

She did sort of have a point, but that didn’t mean there weren't still foes coming for them, mainly due to both Bowser and Kamek launching indiscriminate fireballs and a wide energy beam into the mix, which certainly got some attention.

”Dad! Might be time for that strategy with the cannon we talked about” Jr called out as the foes started coming, which got a nod from his father.

The king promptly took a more turtle-y pose on all fours with his boy facing side on to the incoming foes. The side of his shell facing them slit, exposing 3 turrets which promptly opened fire, while a volley of spikes launched from his back to create a deadly hail, and the king himself turned his head to the side to spit fireballs. The new part of the strategy however, was twofold. First, the prince healed his dad despite him being fit and healthy, prompting a great deal of vines to sprout from his shell. Most of these he promptly slammed into the wet earth beneath the plank walkway, while the rest were wrapped into the port at the bottom of the cannon turret they had acquired.

All together this formed a stable, and not spike-covered, firing platform onto which Jr stepped, stabbing his paintbrush into the dirt and grabbing both of the turret’s handles.

His two pokemon, Mimi and Dazzle (the latter of whom had been called out while Bowser was setting up) joined him, and then together all four of them began blasting out at the incoming attackers with a hail of firepower. Despite all that, some of the man centipedes still got close thanks to their sculpting speed and monstrous durability, and at which point the other half of the plan came to fruition. When the first of the scuttling things broke past the no-mans land (having dodged past tentacles, shells, water bullets, electro balls, and more) an entire tree promptly burst up out of the ground infront of it, which it promptly crashed into due to the surprise.

In the moment it was stunned and disorientated from unwillingly headbutting a tree, jr turned his gun turret towards the awful creature, and let it have it haf its own serving o f high explosive firepower. The other foes got similar treatment, being stabbed by roots, tripped by spiky bushes or obstructed by other foliage that prevented them from getting close.

Even with how effective that was, if that had all they had, the troop might have still been in trouble. Fortunately Rika and Kamek’s additions made the battle against the charging man-centipeds and odd fish person a breeze, with Rika summoning her while whale via pokeball like spinner so it could unleash its cannonfire and adding her own disruption cannon blasts to the fire power, while Kamek decided on just start dropping some dark energy mines in between them and the foes, blowing the few that did get past sky high.

Unfortunately, in focusing on cutting down the herd, they failed to target the actual biggest threat in the room. The Beast, that towering centipede large as two Bowsers wo had been woken up from its nap, had made short work of anything and everything that had tried to take it on, and due to its life draining bites, it wasn’t even scratched. Worse, when it came for them they never saw it coming, because the first moment they were aware of its approach was when it burst out of the ground next to them, the Beast having borrowed over to them while they were busy with the lesser foes.

It seemed to laugh at their shocked surprise, and then lunged its horned head forwards at Bowser’s back. Jr, Mimi and Dazzle all abandoned the ship that was Bowser, tossing themselves out of the way, but the rooted King himself could do no such thing. Instead the Beast was free to slam its noggin into the turret, smashing it to bits and smashing the king into the ground in the process.

It then pivoted, trying to snap up Dazzle in a single bite, only for the water pokemon to leap into the marsh’s waters and swim out of reach. It growled in frustration in response, and was in the process turning to find another target when Rika vaultbreaker punched into it, knocking it back a few steps.

”Papa! You ok?” she asked as the spent gauntlet hung by her side. The king grunted in affirmation as he started to pick himself up only for the Beast to breath in noisily as if to say, no you won’t be, before it unleashed its poisonous breath upon them all. Bowser, Rika and Mimi were all left coughing and choking, their lungs and veins burning from the poison, while Jr had managed to pull his bib up over his nose and mouth to block most of the attack.

He fought back now, shooting small iron spikes from his wrist, and then when that did nothing, forming and hurling a hammer at its head, which did do enough to piss the Beast off. Sick of trying to bite through the vines protecting Bowser’s back anyway, it pivoted and charged the prince, smashing him aside.

Now it was Kamek’s turn to get involved, the untouchable flying mage smashing a summoned magic fist down on top of the beast’s head, knocking its face into the dirt for a moment. It took this as a cue to bury itself in said dirt again digging under it with alarming speed and protecting itself from harm.

Not that this actually gave the Troop a moment of rest. With the beast itself no longer splitting their attention, the man centipedes had won the battle against the fishfolk and tentacles, and now their remaining number came streaming towards the last targets in sight.

They were, at least, not uncontested as they came in. Rika’s great white whale had slipped into the marsh’s waters, and along with sea-lion like Dazzle, unleashed its firepower upon the man centipedes. Cannons roared alongside much less impressive watergun shots, but when the abominations got close, that was when both of them showed their aquatic metal.

The great whale, large as the centipedes themeslves, could surge forwards in the water with alarming speed, open its jaws wide, and deliver a devastating multi jawed bite to them, which was often more than enough to take the wounded ones down. Meanwhile Dazzle’s dire penguin fusion combined with its aquajet move allowed it to leap out of the water and then crash down atop its foes with breakneck speeds, staggering them and letting him then kite back away from them while hitting them with icy winds and its disarming voice.

Still, despite their efforts, several of the man centipedes got through, making an already messy fight even messier, as the still reeling from having their position blown apart by the Beast’s bursting into it Troop scrambled to recover.

Jr raised a crude shield through which a pointed tail of a man centipede stabbed straight through, the wicked tip stopping only a breath away from his eye. To his credit, the prince only flinched for half a second before wrenching the shield aside, and promptly hucking a fireball right into the monstrosity's many faces, leaving a patch of napalm burning on them all. The creature shrieked in pain, stumbling back, and giving the prince enough space to form and fire a shotgun blast of iron shards into its core for good measure. Then he promptly turned his attention to curing everyone of the poison that was eating away at them.

”I’ll hold them off!” Rika called out after she was cleansed of the toxins, stepping onto the water again, and then summoned her cloyster striker to turn that specific patch of swamp into a ”Whirlpool!” which dragged in and slowed the man centipede trying to cross it. Then she used her rune to leap over one that came in to flank her, floated above it charging a vault bearer, and then came slamming down right on top of it, sinking it into the muddy water, before leaping off, but not before leaving it an explosive present that finished it off when she was clear.

Bowser and the Beast meanwhile were now duking it out, the towering mass of chitin slamming its horns down to bash the king on the head, snapping off one of the king’s tusks in the process and eliciting a roar of pain from the koopa king. Fortunately he was not fighting alone, and a full restoring burst of healing followed by poison curing from Jr got him back in the battle, while a shimmering amber shield wrapping around him courtesy of Kamek ensured he’d not be taking hits like that again.

It took the Beast a moment or two to realize this however, as it first boldly charged the king, only to find itself stopped by a palm strike, and then going horns to tusks again only to find itself coming out the poorer of the two afterwards. Then it was Bowser’s turn, and the king wasted no time in slamming a rocket assisted right hook right into the Beast’s raised front half, smashing it back and away.

It roared at him, but rather than come back for another go, it dove back underground again, no doubt looking to sneak up on a softer target to chow down on to restore its health.

”Not this time!” the king roared, before more or less belly flopping forward, slamming all of his shell sourced vines into the ground at once and sending a rolling shockwave of foliage bursting out the ground before him, some of which caught the digging Beast as it grew out of the soil and dragging it back to the surface. It scrambled in the treetops for a moment, incredibly disorientated, before being unceremoniously dropped down to the ground as the foliage evaporated beneath it, leaving it sprawled on the ground as Bowser came charging in on all fours.

Regrown tusks met the Beast’s body, and promptly hurled it into the air. As it flew, it sailed past Kamek, who had been spending all this time freely blasting foes from on high. Explosions prompting quad beams, dark energy mines and shadow clones of Bowser had been dropped from the sky atop the hapless man centipedes, along with a fair number of basic fireballs. He’d also picked up Mimi from the ground battle at one point, and the Pokemon was now riding at the tip of his broom like a witch’s cat, merrily copycatting his most powerful spells and using her tail stick like a wand to direct her own devastation down upon their foes.

That had been quite a boon, because Kamek himself had been running dry of mana, but at that point hardly mattered, because all but the last of the swarming foes had been dealt with.

That left only the Beast as a real threat as it crashed down again onto the marshy ground. However, despite the beating and the fall, it still promptly rolled over back onto its legs again, and once more looked for a target. It found one when a young prince piped up with ”Wow that thing is pretty tough huh? Oh! I know! I should make a recording of it!” and then proceed to pull out and click on the relevant button on a tape player.

The Beast lunged for the boy, only for vines to sprout up from the ground and to lash around its tail, halting it in its tracks for a moment. Then came a cry of exertion and a rapidly flying woman as Rika vaultbreaker into it right as Bower’s plant based bindings broke, smashing it up into the air again for a moment.

Despite this knock up, it landed cleanly and whipped its head around to try and take a bite out of her, only for a spear to appear in her unstunned hand, its shaft paced right in the way of the incoming bite. It didn’t stop the lunge forwards, but it did cause the shipgirl to be pushed back as the Beast ended up pushing the spear forwards with its jaws, and her along with it Then right on time the gauntlet she had vault breakered with came back online, letting the ship girl bring it up and blast the Beast point blank in the eyes with her grizzco blaster.

It pulled back, hissing in pain and shaking its head to clear the ink, before having half a mind to curse the spear in its jaw, only for it to jump back to the princess’ hands. She then thrust it forwards, but sadly for her the thin tip harmlessly glanced off the Beast’s red chitin. Something that did not glance off of it however was the spray of acid launched from Bowser’s shoulder cannons, which caused the natural armor to fizz and hiss as it was weakened.

Having fought other foes that used acid both today and in the past however, the Beast knew what to do, and promptly rolled over in the swampy water, diluting and/or washing off the acid in a single move. Then it went for Rika again, not with claws or horns but simply careened into her with the force of a van, smashing into her arm as she tried to dodge, and sending her spinning across the water.

Before it could capitalize however, Bowser had charged back in, forcing it to face the barrier encased king once again. Going on what had worked well before, the Beast sucked in air, and once again unleashed its poisonous breath, which bypassed the physically resisting shield and set Bowser to coughing and thumping his chest as if that would clear the toxins.

With the king’s charge halted by the poisoning, and Rika batted away, the Beast tried to return to its original target, the child with the tape recorder passively documenting the fight, only for those who had just finished dealing with the other centipedes to come to his aid. Magic bolts and electro balls lashed down from the sky thanks to Kamek and Mimi, while Dazzle and Rika’s white whale blasted it with water gun shots and small cannon shells.

It tried to dive under the surface again to escape the deluge, only for Bowser to slam the ground again and pop it up out of it using rapid tree growth once more. Unable to back off, it made a final lunge for Jr, only for Rika to come smashing into it again using her still good arm, knocking it up, and then having her ichor queen striker cleave down onto it with her massive four handed sword.

The blow split the Beast’s armor right across the neck, in what should have been a killing blow (and Jr complained as much by moaning ”Hey! I was recording that”) only for the Beast to not fall. It too seemed confused by this, and the way the massive singer benign jabbed into it and filling its veins with poison did nothing either, but it was more than happy to capitalize, lunging its jaw forwards and crushing the leg of the ichor queen, both healing itself somewhat and harming RIka a fair deal in the process.

Bowser smashed it in the face before the Beast could take another bite out of the now wounded on two limbs Rika, and followed it up with two more strikes before it just powered through and smashed him in the face with its horns again.

Kamek swooped over, dropping a dark energy mine beneath it, blasting it to high heaven, and then even air dropped his diminutive Tonberry striker onto its back so the little thing could deliver its incredibly lethal knife blade stab to the Beast, only for this to do seemingly nothing as well other than give the Beast another striker to chomp on inorder take it off of the death’s door it seemed to have no interest in passing through.

”Ack! This is absurd! How tough is this thing?” Kamek cried out in disbelief through the pain of the recoil.

”Why won’t you die!?” Bowser demanded as he delivered a series of rapid (for him) punches concluded by a kinetic strike module empowered blow he delivered in tandem with one of Rika’s vault breakers, the two of them slamming the Beast back.

The Beast itself didn’t seem to know either, looking rather confused about its still functioning body, before laughing at them with the madness of something that had just found out it was indestructible. That laughter was cut off however by a call of ”Got it!” from Jr, and a click on the tape recorder reaching the end of a tape, at which point the beast promptly exploded as it received a dozen delayed death blows all at once.

”What?” Bowser asked after a few moments, putting words to the question on everyone’s mind as the ash and spirit of the Beast slowly settled on the marshy ground.

”Did you know recording monsters did that young master? Is that why you sounded so confident?” Kamek asked, having worked out the source of the Beast’s deathlessness, and was about to demand to know why he had held that information back when the prince shook his head and informed him that ”Nah. I just thought that no matter how strong that thing is, it wouldn’t be able to take both you and a copy of itself on”

”I see. Well then…” Kamek replied slowly, before sighing and concluding that ”Well, at least we know now, and got something worthwhile out of this mess at least”

”We also got a load of spirits!” Rika pointed out to which Jr also added ”Plus there’s those bonfire things, bet if you light them all something good happens” indicating to the ritual pyres, two of which were already glowing thanks to stray fireballs.

”Also it's a bit weird how the big hut never opened, huh?” Bowser pointed out, which got them all looking at the fishpeople dwelling that was 4 times as large as all the others.

After a short rest, the troop acted on that information. At the end of it everyone was healed up, and positioned around the hut in a close but not clumped up this time formation, at which point Kamek used a fireball to light the last pyre. It blazed to life, and then it and the two others roared hotter and brighter before three beams of light lanced into the giant hut. An eerie glow started to peek out of the cracks and under the door, building up and up and then spilling out when the door was flung open, causing a giant fishfolk shadow to sweep across the marsh, causing all to tense up.

At least until they saw that the shadow was coming from an ordinary sized fish person who was just close to the light source inside the hut. It was however wearing some cultist like robes, which made Kamek to start calling out a warning not to take it lightly, only for Rika to step out from the side of the door where she had been positioned in ambush, at which point she stabbed it clean through the eye with her spear, stab it in the gut with her hull claws, blast it with her disruption cannons, and then finally just cave its chest in with a punch using a her gauntlet.

”Well that was disappointing” Jr commented as he relaxed, before thinking and then admitting ”Though I guess an oversized one of those fishguys woulda looked kinda silly”

Other than the fishperson cultist, the other things of note inside where a book called ‘on tentacles’ which seemed to be somewhat magical, and a scroll titled poison cloud which could be used to cast the spell of the same name a few times. There was also a pile of food, including a large number of spiky durians, but also notably no meat. These made for a good after battle snack, particularly for Rika who needed the fruity hydration after refilling her grizco blaster again. Bowser meanwhile was a bit disappointed by the lack of meat initially, but found he rather liked the spiky and pungent durians, claiming they were the him of fruits.

As they did that, Kamek had some toadies collect spirts, adding them to a bottle store to be used for crushing down the line. In the process he actually discovered the heart, now lacking any man centipede defenders (or rather parasites, not that they knew that), which once they were done eating the Troop promptly bombarded into oblivion from the top of the pit and then added it to their spirit collection.

All in all, despite all the commotion, their little root around the room could summarized by stripping it down to just what Kamek relayed via earpiece to the others: ”No silver keys or boss progress items in the marsh room on floor three, but we did acquire a fair few new spirits, though I do not expect anyone to be interested in fusing with them, as they are quite grotesque. The young master also made a cassette recording of a large red centipede, so if you see one in future please check that it isn’t him before attacking if you please. Oh, and finally we did find a magic scroll that can be used to make poison clouds, and one that seems to be able to summon tentacles. Please inquire if you are interested”
The Tricity area grand tour

Thirty seven thousand feet above the lands of origins a figure floated above creation, but she was no god. Instead she was the product of chaotic chance, as all beastfolk were, and in her case the dice had been kind in some ways and cruel in others. She was one of those cursed to be without mortal arms, and instead she had the wings of a vulture stretching out from her shoulders. She was also small as a goblin would go from the other half of her gamble, which was what let her fly better than most bird-folk. She had the bird’s eyes too, and it was with them that she gazed out from her lofty perch, having reached it by riding thermals.

She hadn’t come up here for fun, but rather to feed her belly and her flame, for one of the rich folk of her city had promised her a feast if she would ascend and get him a report about the invading beasts they’d all been warned about. Unfortunately, even with her enhanced eyes, the invading forces were just dots. Or had been. Until something that was markedly not a dot had come striding over the horizon.

Egrioth. She became transfixed by the titan, and so rather than swooping down to report, she stayed up there long enough to witness the spec that was Allianthé fly out to battle the titan, and then her failure as she was sent flying back to the great tree at the heart of the land’s of origins.

The beastwoman hovered there for a few moments before summing up all she had just seen with a simple “Oh fuck” and then diving back down towards the city she called home.

A few hours after the vulture-goblin had witnessed the divine battle, Lilly, ‘discoverer’ of the art of speaking with one's past lives and secretly daughter of Asheel, excited a council chamber within which she had just heard a retelling of said battle.

From those steps, she paused to look out over the rest of Tricity as she mulled over what she had just learned. True to its rather literal name, Tricity had started out as three separate cities, all of them built into and atop the hills and cliffs that ringed the land of origin, and specifically the spot where the eastern river entered them.

The oldest settlement was the one she was currently in, spreading outwards from the cave of painted memories, a site holy to Asheel within which generations of folk had left their artworks to be remembered for all of time. Naturally it was a popular place to make a home for the devout, and so it was surrounded by the well of citizens of the city, and, by extension, most of the important buildings, such as the council chamber themselves which sat within view of that temple/art gallery.

As did her own family home. Or rather, the family home of her mother. The Mother. Despite her divinity, the building was not the most impressive or richest place around, though the sprawling stone structure still represented a great deal of wealth and influence. Not the goddess’s own however, for none but Lilly knew that was what she was.

Instead it came from her large and successful family, though certainly she’d had a hand in their triumphs.

Still, when Lilly returned home it wasn’t to speak with any of them, and so she traded only brief hellos with the goddess’s varios partners and descendants and promised that she’d fill them in on the council decision soon. Goblin families were large, and not at all monotonous, so even the large home was still bustling, and so it was something of a miracle that she managed to find the Mother alone as she did. Or, well, almost alone

“Hello dear, I take it you’re here to see me?” the slightly wrinkled but not as much as she should be goblin asked from where she was sitting by the fire and rocking one of her grandchildren in her arms. Her garbs were a comfy cotton robe dyed a cozy red, and her slightly graying hair was done up in a pair of buns. She was not wearing any kind of hat.

“And youz already know why,” Lilly replied, rather combatively. This wasn;t the first time they’d talked about the impending crisis after all.

“I’ve heard a thing or two. That city wide announcement for one. Somewhat large monsters coming from the south, which I assume that emergency council meeting was about” the goddess summarized, disregarding the tone of the question, before saying “So I assume you have come to your dear old mother for advice?” not unkindly before requisition she “please, come, sit by the fire with me. But do keep your voice down, I only just got this little one to sleep”

“No, I came to ask why you iz still here, and where is the goddess who saved gobs and beasties from the desert? The voice said the gods was handling things, and yet youz still here!” the goblin replied, even as she obliged the request to keep quiet via whisper-shouting her accusation.

“I’ve learned to delegate, my dear. I can’t be everywhere, and for the world to be stable people need to be able to handle themselves instead of waiting for me to show up. I tried that back in the day, and believe me, it was an endless parade of putting out fires” she replied “You can handle these beasts, I know you can”

“Handlz them! One just smacked a goddess outa the sky! What are we gonna do bout summit that can do that!?” Lilly threw her hands up, unable to believe the Mother really thought they could do that.

“I… I’m sorry, could you repeat that?” the goddess replied slowly, looking genuinely shocked

“You… you don’t know?” Lilly replied, almost as shocked and yet, somehow, a little relieved.

“Darling dear, I’m not omniscient or all powerful. Or all that powerful at all at the moment” she explained and didn’t explain before asking “so could you tell me more about this… concerning news” to which her daughter obliged.

A few moments after she was done, the doors to their family home’s garage open, and a family six wheeled buggy came rolling out with the Mother at the helm and a soon to be road sick from her mother’s erratic driving Lilly in the passenger’s seat.

The Buggy rolled down the streets from the wealthy district towards the shore line, weaving around other buggies and more traditional bug drawn carts. Lining that shore where the north bank docks, bustling with activity as resources and food were shipped in, and worked goods from the artisans of the city were shipped out, all of it carried either on the backs of large boat beetles, on barges either pulled by dozens of smaller ones, or powered by buggy technology to spin multiple paddlewheels. On the far side of the river was another set of docks, sat to the second of three cities, but neither of those docks were going to be involved in the way the pair were going to cross the river.

Instead they took a turn, and swung onto the main road, one that led to the third city, and also a way across the waters.

In the center of the river sat an island, a craggy rocky thing that stood in the face of the river, splitting and widening it by its very presence, and in doing so, shallow and slowing the waters, forming not quite a lake, but something close enough to it. This width should have made it harder to cross, and indeed in the past it had, resulting in the island being used as a home for a community of goblins who, after being exiled from the land that had become Harrowfane, had tunneled into the rocky cliffs and turned it into a fortress from which to launch retaliatory raids back into the lands they had been created in.

Retaliatory strikes from the fowl-folk had eventually put an end to that, and the island had lain sparsely inhabited until it had been learned that the more calm waters made building in this part of the river safer. The extensive piers strutting out from both shores were the first use of this, but the two goblins were riding towards the newer and grander construction: the two sisters.

Built and constantly maintained by teams of aquatic beastfolk, the two sisters were a marvel of engineering. Hundreds of stone columns encased in biocrystal waterproofing rose up out of the water, all of them covered with circular carvings for strength, while the plank walkway they supported had the same symbology freshly painted on it every few months. In addition to this, numerous shrines to Tuuni had been erected all along their twin lengths, to which travelers offered thanks and tribute, further strengthening the bridges against the force of nature they straddled.

It was also the source of one of the world's first major pieces of congestion, as anyone and everyone who didn’t want to or couldn't afford to charter a beetle boat used it to travel between the three cities. As a result it took a while for them to get to the center island, which was now part military high command because of its central and defensible location, and part entertainment district because of its central location that sported a lot of foot traffic and off duty soldiers.

Lilly and her mother had no time for the peddlers of trinkets, snacks and the oldest profession attempting to get their attention however, and after passing through the central cavern and out the other side, where soon buzzing across the south bridge towards the poorer side of town.

On either side of them stretched more docks, these rather than exporting finished goods instead exported the cities actual primary resource: the bounty of the earth. Mining was the name of the game in the south, as the hills before them where pockmarked with goblin sized mining tunnels used to extract ores (including the now all important tin used to make the bronze backbone of their civilisation) and gems from their depths, or simply torn apart by beastfolk wildbloods who’s strength had been put to use quarrying out vast sums of stone for use in construction both in the city itself and beyond.

The hills on the north were pristine by comparison, because no one in their right minds dared risk disturbing the cave of painted memories. Desecration of a site holy to the goddess to whom they owed all was unthinkable after all.

What was mirrored on both the north and south sides however were the farms to the east, stretching out as far as the eye could see. They were the rowdy domain of the snouters, although the pig folk were only a plurality and not quite a majority. It was there they were heading as it turned out, though there was one stop they had to make apparently, and that was to the grand market situated just a street away from the river side ports.

“Lilly darling, do you have anything to barter for a shovel or two? I seem to have forgotten to bring anything but the cloths on my back, and the Pollies will need their feed if you want to get home” The Mother said to her daughter, who ended up having to trade an earring and a quick lesson on past life seeking meditation to a happy if bemused pangolin-dwarf while her mother doted on and hand fed their buggy’s bug motors.

The goddess did not dain to explain why they had purchased those shovels till they were both out digging a hole in the middle of a field, which was the point at which Lilly finally snapped “Mother! I’z had it up to here with dis! You goddess, why can’t just. Fix!” her goblin accent fully slipping back in as she did so.

“I don’t have my hat” the Mother explained without explaining, before saying “now please, less talk, more digging we’re almost- ah, there we are” only for her shovel to thunk against something solid. A few more scoops, and she had unveiled a crystalline substance Lilly had never seen before. What was even stranger was when the Goddess pressed a hand to it, and caused it to open up somehow, before she hopped inside with a call of “Take care my darling!” to her daughter.

Lilly was too shocked by her sudden disappearance to reply, and then when the ground started to collapse around the hole they had dug all she could do was run. As if a great object had been suddenly removed from beneath it, the dirt spilled into a great pit, and yet up from that pit burst a smaller mono wheeled buggy adorned with spikes and made of unknown metal and crystal.

It landed next to Lilly with a crash, revealing its rider, now far more wrinkled and grinning beneath her purple hat.

“Mother?” the goblin asked, but the goblin before her simply barked out a laugh and replied
“Hah, not on your life. That fool wanted to play mortal, so she locked our power away in this ol thing” she gave the witch’s hat a flick “and locked us both away again too. Well, now that she’s come crawling back and let us out of the cage so we can solve this little problem of hers, she can have a turn in time out instead of us”

“I… Little? Dat thing took on a goddess!” Lilly replied, both aghast at this dismissal of their fears, and also suddenly coming to the realization that the very same might happen to her mother.

“Oh yes, showed Life who’s boss it did. But so what? She makes things that she never wanted to end. Me? I Break things” she said, before revving her super cycle, and then blazing away from the scene, leaving Lilly to explain to a very angry snouter where half his field had gone.

The goddess herself was long gone before the snouter arrived, roaring southwards. First she rolled past the Tricity area’s borders, where the state’s troops: shield, mace and crossbow equipped goblins, billhook armed Snouters, and eclectically armed beasfolk, had seen off the first scouting beasts. No state in the riverland survived if it couldn’t overcome the military strategy of an all wildblood army, and the tactics vs those were rather adaptable towards fighting the larger monsters.

Once she was out of the lands, she found the first thing they would struggle with, as she ramped clean over a wave of refugees fleeing north. They came from all around the south of the lands of origin and represented all those who could not fly or swim with beasteal prowess, and were too destitute to own rivercraft or beetle boats, or who would be denied entry into the goblin city states. All of them were heading for the bridge Lilly and her Mother had just crossed, the only place where the waters that split the world in too could be crossed by all forms of mortal life.

Only then she encountered her first beast, one that was literally hounding the straggling refugees as if driving them towards the city was part of a greater plan. Before it even knew what had hit it, the Breaker did just that, her blade armed super cycle cleaving it clean in half. Cackling, the Breaker rode on, slicing through every beast she came across, or at least those on the ground. An army of beasts had been coming for Tricity, it seemed, and she rolled right through it as if its forces were air, before continuing on, weaving to and fro to further cut down the numbers the city would face as she headed for a date with the titan.

??? — Burning Town

Rayne dodged, weaved, blocked and fired until she finally thought she had her foe cornered, pursuing them down the alleyway. It was a bit of a double edged sword however as it made it nearly as hard for her to dodge as it was for them, the knight-which complained exasperatedly “how are you not out of arrows yet?”

It didn’t really matter in the end how endless their quiver was, because as she closed in, she saw her chance to end his ability to fire its contents. She dodged under the last arrows they fired, not really thinking about how easy it had been this time, and then summoned and swung her blade in one motion, cleaving through the bow. She let out half a breath of relief that it was finally dealt with, only for things to explode behind her.

“Wha-?” she exhaled, glancing behind her, only to see the buildings on either side starting to tip down towards them, the shattered remnants behind pulling the rest of the walls down in a rapidly approaching wave.

“Why?!” she began to demand to know, but the sniper, no, the young man, no the boy, was already answering, and it left her shocked. Part of her mind reeled at the implication, that it seemed to be that he only thought she wasn’t trying to kill him because she wanted to enslave him (and what that meant about the world she’d ended up in), but the rest saw a child about to be crushed and reacted accordingly. All the mental buildup to do the ugly deed that needed to be done was annihilated in an instant as who Rayne really was at her core came racing back to the fore. The only reason she had the power to kill in the first place: to save people.

With an impassioned cry of “no!” she blinked forwards, grabbed him by the front of his garb to stop him from falling, pulled him close, and then turned to light again, this time, for the first time, using the fact that she still had collision in that state to drag him after her. Then before the blink screeched to a halt she hurled him forwards, giving him all the momentum he was about to lose and sending him tumbling clear from the incoming collapse.

Then she did stop, and in the moment she had to wait to blink again, the building was going to crush her. Rather than face her fate, a hand flicked a spellcard and used it to form a massive ornate ax in front of her, one near as large as the buildings themselves, which then cleaved up over her head at breakneck speeds, careening into the debris and literally annihilating it, wood and stone vaporizing under the blow, and buying her just enough time to blink again and out of harm's way as well.

Dust swept fourth over her even though she was out of the way of the debris after she stopped. It was a thing that wearing her goggles would once again have helped with, but as it was she had to clear the air by waving her hat around, before setting it back on her head and then, if the boy was even still here, would ask “hey, are you ok?”

A moment after she’d remembered what he said and then ad “and I don’t want to enslave you! I would never, that’s just horrible. I just don’t want anyone else to die. So just … run. Leave. Go home to your parents, before one of the others does kill you” her genuine concern for his life clear on her face, no matter how foolish it was to let someone who had just tried to kill you live.

wordcount: 1,419 (+3) (+4)
Midna: level 10 EXP: //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (79/110)
Location: Suoh
Warp Charges: 0

Despite having not put an end to the slaughter occurring at the daycare, Midna still took her parting words as a win. It was petty, oh it was ever so petty, but she’d take her victories where she could. Plus, it really did mean something, because part of the problem they had been having is that bringing down bits of the regime had also brought down bits of the forces defending the city. Here, at least, she had a methodology to repurpose part of it into something more useful than it had been before.

The fact that mass-producing pokemon for war wasn’t the most ethical thing either didn’t really cross her mind, given her own usage of warbeasts. Instead it was running through how to convince people to do things her way right up until the elevator arrived deep down into the earth. Or at least that was how she thought it anyway, but it was entirely possible that they were still above ground due to how tall Midgar was.

At any rate, they entered into a world for which the princess had zero context for, because apparently this was what computers looked like inside. ”So do they all have miniature buildings? Wait, are they just run by tiny people?” she asked, but upon closer inspection there weren't any people in sight, at least not through the thick fog that prompted Minda to slip her mask over her mouth and nose to avoid breathing it in.

”Well, we’re here, and that was easier than it should have been” Midna said, thankful that no one had thought to post guards or cameras just watching the entryway. As it turned out, there were some looking at the fancy looking platform that was apparently a teleporter, and also the way forward ”Good thing we were planning to stop here anyway”

Rather than hang around here any longer than need be, the princess instead moved to her designated task, namely setting up their way in and out of here. She found a nice looking pylon a bit away from both the door and the teleporter, and also out out site of both, and did her magic, punching a small hole in reality, and the causing pixely black squares to spread out from that hole, widening it as they went till above her it yawned.

Task done, she turned back to the others and held out three hands and asked ”Shall we?”

Once everyone was done nosing around, and had accepted a proffered mit, they were off. The 4 heroes turned into particles of twilight and raced up into the portal and across the city, with their souls along for the ride. Then a few moments later a portal in the S.O.U. Building opened, depositing them back at their city HQ.

”Goddesses, it feels like it has been months since we set out this morning” the dead beat princess said as she let go of the other’s hands, and then gave a stretch and cracked her knuckles, real hands above her head, magic behind her back, before she dismissed the latter and called out ”Anyone home?”

She waited a few moments, but there was no answer.

”Ah. Well. I guess we are the ones with the fastest travel” she tried to play it off, before adding ”Oh wait actually let me just” and then disappearing back through the portal. A minute later she returned empty handed, and reported ”No one’s at any of the other city side portals either” too tired to hide the hint of concern in her voice.

She got to distract herself from that worry for a bit by taking the chance to wash the blood, sweat and ash from body, but soon enough there was nothing but the contents of the building and views of the city to distract herself. One was dull, and she was really starting to get sick of the other. It had its moments, but between the politics, man made horrors and external threats, it really was suffocating.

”I really could do with some air” she realized, before muttering ”But its not that it's any better out there, all smoke and fumes and-”

She paused, glanced at her portal, and then hopped up onto her feet to ask the others ”Anyone up for taking a break from this place? I’m thinking of just going up to the top of the split mountain for some fresh air and a nice view. We can leave a note for the others if we all go”

If she got any takers, then she’d happily link hands with them beneath the portal again and then once more skim them along the space between day and twilight, bringing them much further away this time.

High above the clouds to the south east of the massive city they had just been in, the princess and her companions arrived on the precipice of a great cliff. Down below, she had almost frozen to death, only to be carried to this safehaven of land bathed in the glow of the split mountain’s peak that sat just a bit further up the mountain.

It had, unfortunately, seen better days. Only a little ways away was a great pit within which a bell had once sat. Now it was split open at the side, creating a massive gash in the side of the mountain, rubble spilling from it and down its slopes in a trail of worm made destruction.

”Ah, I forgot we messed this place up a bit. The boss was here, and well. That’s the result of its running off into the desert. We had to blow it up with a train” she explained vaguely.

Still, while it wasn't quite as picturesque as it had been, it still had a stark beauty to its stone terrain surrounded by fluffy clouds, including some which, if someone were to look close enough they might see marble structures built atop of them.

Also on up there in the sky could be seen some pokemon that looked like small and lage balloons drifting serenely through the air with no children attached, flying pigs, the odd cloud that was not a cloud and most notably a colossus of fur, stone and wing sailing majestically through the air.

”Don’t mind that one” Minda said as she pointed up at the titan, explaining simply that ”He’s a friend” which might be unbelievable where it not for the distinct lag of red glow in its four eyes.

The land itself wasn’t entirely quiet either. Friendly dog lizards could be seen and heard digging through the rocks and stones the sundering of the mountain had tossed about, seeking out for glowing gems that the proceed to scarf down, while penguin-esque creatures and bears in pajamas, all only knee hight, engaged in 0 stakes dance battles with each other around them.

Down below, they could see where they’d spent the last few days. Roughly see, anyway. The city of Midgar was only really identifiable by the extinction belt hanging above it, for the city itself was smothered in a cloud cover of its own making.

”Ok, looks like I really did need the fresh air, because just look at that” Minda said as she looked down on the consequence of industry, before breathing in the clean crisp mountain air, and then letting out a relaxed sigh. Then she plopped herself down on the ground, removed her mask and helmet, and then just lay back in it and really relaxed for the first time since breakfast despite it not being the most comfortable of surfaces.

In doing so, she ended up looking up, and in her relaxed state, really taking in the night sky for the first time. She hadn’t exactly lived beneath the stars of Hyrule for long so there was no immediate foreignness to their pattern as there might be for others, but even she managed to find a fair number of out of place celestial bodies, the largest of which was a rather twisted looking moon that took that moment to reveal itself from behind a cloud.

She frowned at this ugly blot complaining ”Galeem just has to take the worst things huh, I mean couldn’t have put something nice looking up there?” and drawing attention to it in the process, before letting her eyes keep wandering, focusing on very little as she mostly just let them rest from the harsh artificial lights of the city they’d soon have to go back to.

??? — Burning Town

Rayne mentally cursed as her triple shot spell ran out more or less as soon as she had started to really make use of it. With the volume of fire that seemed to have forced the sniper to keep his head down subsided, the arrows started to fly again, and they were, ironically, faster than her bullets. It was, as a result, a lot easier for her foe to get a bead on her than for her to do so on them, particularly because Rayne was not used to evasive foes (Golems and monsters didn’t really have human survival instincts) but mostly because her big glowing bullets where slow and unsubtle.

As a result of this she was put firmly on the defensive, blinking, blocking until two more mystical bolts flew above and below her. Light and sound exploded above her, deafening her- but not blinding, for the Knight Witch’s distinctive wide brimmed hat saved her eyes from much of the light. The goggles sat on that hat did nothing however, when ironically if she had been wearing them she would have been entirely fine.

Still, it meant that when she instinctively flinched her gaze down and away from the flash, her vision was still clear enough to see the verdant growth lashing up at her. It wasn’t quite enough time to stop the first lashing vine from wrapping around her leg, but it was enough for her to have already started pulling out the solution.

Runedge crashed down, cleaving through both the vine wrapping around her ankle. For a moment she looked like an actual knight, sword and shield in hand, but as the blade was made for a woman twice her size, she had to banish it away immediately after lest it rip itself from her grip. In its palace the gun rune reformed and blasted out, vaporizing the away the next vine, after which she blindly fired it downwards, pumping shots into the plant, as she checked above her for threats, but fortunately the blast had only been light and sound, and not a volatile birth of something to perform a pincer maneuver on her

The archer however was still an issue, and more arrows flashed forth, prompting her to blink away. She did not, however, chase her foe right away. Instead she took advantage of the stationary target that she had no ethical qualms about taking down, blasting away as she dove down towards it, briefly swapping out her battered shield for her masterwork sword, and driving Runedge right into the eye of the plant.

Mana that had bubbled off of the plant when she’d struck/shot it pooled into her as it withered around her, filling her to the brim, and then some more as she equipped a new weapon, this time doing it so in advance so as to not waste mana.

Then she was off after her target again, but this time when she opened up it was not with a triple shot, but a whole grapshot’s worth of bullets. They might have all been individually weaker, but the resulting cones of damage were far harder to evade.

She gave them one warning shot and a request to “please surrender!” and if she wasn’t getting that she’d use the shotgun as a suppressive tool as she closed in to try and disarm them via a blade to the bow.

And if that didn’t get her a surrender, she’d do what she had to, even if she hated it.

The Koopa Troop

wordcount: 2,901 (+3)
Bowser: Level 13 EXP: ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (219/130)
Bowser Jr: Level 13 EXP: //////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (107/130)
Kamek: Level 12 EXP: ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (86/130)
Rika: Level 8 EXP: ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// (70/90)
Location: The Under - Termite Kingdom Ruins

As the troop was organizing the key drop offs from the top floor and not being particularly subtle with their chatter there came a banging from one of the cells right next to them. Five heads (Mimi had been brought out to help out) turned towards the sound, before they all traded glances.

”I mean. Only one of the people that got let out where crazy” Bowser pointed out from what they’d seen/heard from their vantage point ”and the other two were alright, that’s, something like, 90% chance whoever's in there is fine and won’t try to kill us like the one Sectonia got”

”Sixty six point six recurring percent your mathmaticalness” Kamek raised an index finger to correct, during which Bowser plucked a key from the mage was holding onto and headed for the door.

”Wait! Sire!” Kamek called after him, while Rika asked ”Why are we using a key to let someone out?” not really understanding the altruism of the situation, while Jr just said for them to ”get ready as he started forming an iron barricade to use for cover.

There was a click as Bowser undid the lock, followed by one more bang on the door as the occupant came careening out of it surrounded with magical power and with her fist outstretched before her. Bowser was cleanly smashed to the side by the woman who was screaming at the top of her lungs, while Kamek yelped in surprise as he took to the open air above the central shaft and Rika leapt to the side, leaving Jr behind his shield still in her path.

Vi, which was presumably her name going by the tattoo under her eye, proceeded to cleanly blow through the iron and into the prince, who was launched up into the air. Then as he came down she slammed another punch into him, sending him sailing over the banister and down into the central shaft. With another cry Kamek swooped after the prince, leaving the king and princess to face the madwoman together.

Vi, who had finished screaming and was now laughing maniacally and shouting something about “I get it now Jinx!”, was now encased in some kind of energy barrier, which cleanly absorbed Rika’s first spear thrust. In response to the failed strike pivoted, and bodily grabbed the head of the spear with her gauntlet, yanking it from the ship girl's hands.

The blade promptly teleported out of Vi’s hands and into Rika’s again, but madness was a great vaccination against surprise and so the woman simply did what she did best, and drove a regular punch towards the princess. In response Rika brought up both her hullclaws and spear to block, only for the impact with them to send a shockwave pulsing forwards, battering her back.

The followup punch did the same and managed to bring down her energy shielding and dent the backs of the claws, but at that point Rika had enough of her wits about her to retaliate, and did so by firing her rigging mounted disruptions into her foe at point blank range. They knocked down whatever magic barrier was protecting the madwoman down, punching straight through and sticking to her, sapping her strength, and making the third blow she landed a little bit weaker.

Despite said weaker punch, Vi seemed to draw power from it, her fourth punch coming in with close to half the delay that there had been between the last. It was rather fortunate that she wasn’t thinking straight enough to do anything but wail on the guarding shipgirl however, because it meant Bowser had plenty of time to recover and come charging into the fight at last with a roar.

Said roar alerted Vi to his coming of course, and so she pivoted, pulled back a fist, seemed to start charging it, and then, before Rika could drop her guard and go on the attack, went flying back towards the king in much the same way she’d come flying out the door. Running on all fours as he was, the king’s head was right in the way, and so he got a nasty smash to the face as Vi knocked him into the air and into the ceiling, before pivoting and starting to try and give him a beat down as well.

She got a nice hit in with her follow up, but when her third came Bower, snaring past a cracked tusk, was up and ready to take it. Forming a boxer’s guard he blocked the hit, and then swung one of his own, only for Vi to step out of the way and jab at him again. Furious, the king lashed out with the vines from his shell, thorned tendrils tearing and zapping at Vi, only for her to deliver another shockwave punch that obliterated them all in a single strike.

She was quite the foe it seemed, but sadly for her, or perhaps thankfully given the loss of her mind, she was outnumbered. Rika entered the fray right after the vine blasting strike, becoming a hammer to the anvil that was Bowser himself. Her spear jabbed forwards, and then flipped around, inverted in the blink of an eye so she could bring the helbard like serrated spine up in an under swing of a chop.

Bleeding, Vi stumbled back, and then got absolutely anvilled when Bowser drove a kinetic strike module empowered punch straight into her, sending her tumbling clear across half of the upper floor.

She still got up again, snarling at them thro bloodied teeth, which was exactly the moment that Kamek, with Jr hanging from the bottom of his broom, floated back into view. Her gaze flicked to them and then, despite (or perhaps because of) them still floating above the drop to the bottom of the prison, she reeled back a punch. Rather than charging up any power however, an ethereal connecting line lashed out and linked her to the dangling prince, at which point she started flying through the air straight towards them, following that guiding line.

”Oh dear” Kamek exclaimed as Jr instead yelled ”Fire everything!”

The prince immediately launched a hail of metal shards from his ferromancy arm, as well as a swarm of strikers consisting of the toothy Flukefey and clever armed Vespikan, while Mimi hurled an electroball but all of this was blown aside by the unstoppable Vi, no matter how much it hurt her to do so. She also sailed clean through an explosion caused by a convergence of 4 of Kamek’s dark magic beams, and a hail of fire from Bowser’s shoulder cannons.

Then, as she was just moments from crashing into the floating pair and to send both plummeting down Rika surged forwards, in her own mad charge that saw her leap off the spiked banister around the pit and to then leap forwards, firing her maneuvering thrusters and intercepting Vi mid air, driving her spear directly into the fast but predictably moving woman’s throat. She burst into ash that fell alongside Rika for half a heartbeat before she smacked into the abdomen of her Vespikan Queen striker when she summoned it below her. She grabbed on with both hands, letting her spear fall away down below. She only had scant seconds before it timed out, but in that time a paintbrush was lowered down to her by jr, onto which the princess grabbed.

She also took the liberty of grabbing Vi’s falling spirit while she was at it.

Up above Bowser ripped up the banister to the central shaft, reached out, and grabbed Kamek’s hand, before effortlessly hauling his family back to safety. They all then sprawled onto the solid ground, catching their breath for a moment, before quickly slipping into conversation about what had just gone down

”Let’s actually set up before we do that again next time” Jr suggested while is papa awkwardly scratch the back of his head, ”You know, disposable minions at the front, rest of us spread out, that kinda thing”

Rika meanwhile was more interested in the result, asking ”So, who’s going to use this anyway?”

”You took her down, you can have her” Bowser decided for everyone, after which Rika decided ”I like how she looks, so I think I’ll just use it as it is, no snacktivator” and then popping it into her chest

”Huh. Guess I got some more armor” she noted as she examined her body, before doing a few practice punches, not finding anything different and then wondering ”Huh, I wonder what it did?”

”Uh, sis, check out your gauntlets” which got another ”Huh,” then and ”oh yeah!” and finally an ”Oh. Wow” as she pulled them up front, and took in the mechanical mitts she was now equipped with.

”That is just … perfect!” she declared, giggling with glee as she slipped them on, having them lock smoothly in place, and then flexing her new hands. Mechanical digits perfectly articulated to her whims, one of the first of which was booping her papa on the snoot. Her second was examining the twin guns now set into the gaunlet’s palms, careful to not actually point them at herself, and then finally summoning her spear from down below into her mecha hands, and twirling it around with masterful dexterity.

”Ok, I totally see why unlocking that door was a good idea now” she said, quite clearly delighted with her transformation. While Bowser of all people tried, badly, to explain why you should help people (his instinct to do so was not his own after all) Jr gave the gauntlets an inspection, equally impressed at what had happened to them.

”Way better than all my hacks I gotta admit, though there is one flaw, and that’s that you can't really use that feather fall rune any more, right?”

”Oh, yeah, shoot. Guess not” Rika replied, spirits dampened a bit, but Jr was already prepared to pick them back up, becking her to give her both a hand and the rune, before he used his ferromancy to simply weld it to the bottom of her ;eft palm in a place where she could squeeze down on it using a single massive mechanical pinky.

Rika enthusiastically declared this ”Neat!” before saying that ”This’ll make going down the central shaft way easier!”

This inevitably got her some questions, to which her answer was simply ”It’s faster than using the stairs, plus we won’t have to worry about those tough flailing guys we saw Nadia handle. So it's a good way to catch up with the others”

With that there was little argument to be made, but based on the previous event Jr did manage to sit his papa down for a few moments so they could hash out a strategy.

A few moments after that, they sent down one of Kamek’s wisps to do some recon. As it passed the fourth layer it attracted the attention of a few bishops, who floated out into the central shaft. They were promptly showered with acid from Bowser’s shoulder cannons, metal spikes from Jr, fireballs from Kamek, and Disruption cannon globs from Rika, against which they had little defense.

The wisp then floated on down further to the third floor, at which point it was promptly blasted by half a dozen glowing magic missiles fired by the beaked mind flayers roaming those halls. They got to stew in satisfaction at having seen two foes off now for a few moments, before all hell descended upon their layer.

First came a squad of five shadow clones of Jr, accompanied by flukfey and Vespikan berserker strikers who swarmed the closet mind flayer. It blasted several of them with a shocking orb as they came in, causing a brief shout of panic from on high as the paralyzing feedback hit jr, but the rest kept going and in moments teeth by the dozens, cleavers, and clown car boxing gloves where laying into it, overwhelming it with both numbers and strength.

A moment later, Kamek dropped into view, and promptly quad lasered a second flayer who had come in response to the frantic ringing and then silence caused by the attack upon and then death of the first. A third was sicked by the remaining jr clones as the real thing came sliding down using the Grapple Worm as a zipline down from floor 5. Rika floated down with her rune to land next to him as the prince reached down and formed a platform of iron sticking out of the closest support pillar, one that allowed Bowser, who had been using his Meowser form to cat scratch down said piller, to stop his descent and step into the room.

”Smooth work” the king complimented his son, but the prince replied ”We still got stuff to do, so let’s deal with the rest of these squid faced guys already!”

Rika was already ahead of him, reeling back a gauntlet and then slamming forwards in exactly the same way Vi had, smashing a mind flayer up into the ceiling while it was distracted by one of the jr clones. The gauntlet she had used to slam forward went dead for a moment, causing her to tilt to the side as its anti grav failed, but she still had the strength to pivot, raise the other one, and use the grappling hook to reel the mindflayer in so she could cleave into it with her hull claws.

Another stepped into view as she finished it off with her chainsaw bayonet, hitting her with a stunning blast, but Kamek was there to take it on in her place, first smashing it with a magic fist summed above it, and then blasting it with his own magical bolts.

On the other side of the room the same kind of teamwork played out, a stunned Bowser being protected by Jr and Mimi, who struck it with a combination of electroballs from the pokemon, and a mix of fire, earth, and metal projectiles from the prince. These drove it back long enough for Bowser to recover, at which point the towering king promptly punched their foe through a wall.

Said wall incidentally turned out to be right next to where Ganondorf and Jesse had come in from, which meant that a moment or two after they’d made their check in the King came stomping through the hole he had just made, dusting off his hands as he did so. He then, quite contrary to Nadia’s suggestions, loudly called over ”Hey! How’s it going?” prompting his son to pop his head into the same room a moment later and request that they ”Come help us punch up some squids!” while the sound of spellfire and more Vault Breaker powered punches echoed through the halls behind them.
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