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It was defiance.

It was futile.

Perhaps she wouldn’t have done it if she knew that the last survivor was looting her horse.

Perhaps she wouldn’t have done it if she was the sort of person that would ever look behind.

But those were never possibilities, not for Ettamri Belarence, the descendant of a knight that fought the King of Corpses, who fought the Ogres of the Mist-Shrouded Nation, who fought and fought and never gave any quarter. Love was death, and death was destiny. Her time simply came earlier than her forebearers, but that too was fate. How many buds were crushed before they could bloom? How many lives were lost before one rose above that mound of death?

It was inevitable.

She let go.

She never let go.

And though it was nothing but an empty show of defiance, nothing but wretched futility before the unkind world that would surely grind her to dust, Ettamri raised her bracers regardless. To deflect a spear that she wouldn’t be able to deflect. To rebel once more.

The rending of steel, the cracking of bone, the shearing of flesh was proof enough of what happened afterwards.

Miracles were miracles, after all, because they rarely happened.


But life goes on.

And they live on.

No matter what they have to become.

No matter who they must depart from.

For that alone is their duty.

Their sole deliverance from this unkind world.

~✦~
"A criminal?" Allereun looked visibly concerned. "I dunno if she is but...MAY! GET DOWNSTAIRS! SOMEONE'S LOOKING FOR YOU!"

The brunette alchemist put on his best stupid smile soon after. "Sorry 'bout the hassle. She'll be here shortly, sirs."

Late Morning///Floor 1


Well, this chain of events was hardly surprising for Varanense now. Casually pulling back the string of his oversized crossbow, he watched as the three warriors cut through the kobolds almost immediately, reducing numbers by half within seconds of the fight starting. Nice to see everyone was still energetic. There was a click as the bowstring locked in place, and Varanense hummed a cheery tune as he strolled into the room, largely ignored by basically every adventurer and monster. Pressing his back against the closet pillar, the archer eyed the situation briefly. One on Castor, one on Oben, two on Kori. Normally, he wouldn't have even bothered approaching while the fight still raged, so certain their victory was.

But then again, things lined up oh-so well.

The air in the dungeon was always stagnant. The distances he was working with may as well be considered close-range. Both targets were distracted and locked in place. It was, as his father used to say, free real estate. Varanense calmed his heart. Counted the beats. Raised his crossbow. Sighted it properly. Wondered if Dahlia prepared lunch for them. Prayed that Floor 2 was just as easy as this.

Fired.

It was not like a ballista bolt. It was a ballista bolt, thrumming through the air like a harpist's fingers through the strings. With hardly a sound, it shot through the body of the first kobold before flying towards the next, the sheer force of each bolt penetrating unarmored flesh with ease. If all went well, it would be two for one. If all went perfectly, the bolt would still be intact at the end of this. If all went poorly, it'd be one for one. If it went to hell, Varanense can just use this as an excuse not to contribute in the next fight.

Really, this shitty archer was alright with any and all results.


Metal element and axe attribute to augment the fact that Alice and Charlotte were both bruisers with guns and an assortment of other stuff, hm? It was only slightly worrying that Paul was new to the whole rift-diving business, but hey, Albrecht trusted his instincts, and his instincts told him that this was going to be fine. He mentally filed all these nuggets of knowledge in the back of his mind, before nodding once more.

“Rift’s not going to go anywhere, yeah. Let’s just enjoy ourselves, take it easy, and sleep off the jet lag, alright?” A pause, and then a grin in the direction of Xu Jian. “Try not to give yourself a stomachache before this.”

Well, the good thing about this party was that, if Alice was as proficient as described, they’d all be fine even if everyone walked into this with terrible indigestion and nausea. With that in mind, Albrecht decided to indulge as well, ordering another platter of spiced lamb.


Morning came early on the plains, and they were ready to go before the sun had fully risen, Albrecht having already made arrangements for a chaffeur to bring them over to the site of the rift. Riding easily down the endless tracts of flat roads that made up much of Mongolia’s landscape, Albrecht spent much of the two hour drive offering snacks to the others or simply enjoying the breeze. And of course, what sort of road trip would it be if they didn’t sing along to an endlessly looping song? That was fun too, even if not everyone in the group was fully down for it.

Eventually, they reached the base of Bogd Khan Mountain, blue skies and a bright sun lighting up the green peaks of the sacred mountain. Albrecht had to jump through more than just a few bureaucratic hoops to get permission to head into a rift here, but few problems could not be solved with money and connections, and as the truck grinded to a halt, he hopped off first, opening the back trunk to reveal all the preparations he made.

Body armor, gas masks, utility belts filled with a variety of tools and kits, accompanied by an assortment of self-defense weapons, from stun batons to bear spray. If the party had been composed of more military-types than just Charlotte, the scion of the Dietrich Conglomerate would have doubtlessly provided a full rack of firearms and ammunition as well, but, alas, he had some common sense at least in not freely giving dangerous weapons to unlicensed explorers.

Then again, those machetes looked mighty fierce.

“Well then, take what you’re comfortable with and let’s hop in. Heard from some of the initial explorers that this is going to be a cemetery sorta area, so dress accordingly, aight?”

The grin came easily, Albrecht’s tone consistently light.

“And if any of you need to make a last pit stop ‘fore we walk in, waste-containment bags are in the far back. Remember, keyword here’s ‘nothing’s left behind’.”
@Katthaj
Okey doke, just a few things: so since all the player characters are incoming first years, they probably wouldn't have any S-rank stats yet. S-ranks are rare, and usually reserved for experts.


Just dropping this here to save Drowsy the hell that is having to repeat this statement with almost every CS that comes in. XD


Kress blinked at the sudden change in her expression, amethyst eyes widening at the flash of…hostility? Enmity? He peered with no small amount of curiosity at the crest that she showed, but if he recognized it, he gave no indication. A more well-read person may have connected the dots that lead this young witch to Arkus Academy, but Kress remained uncertain what exactly that was supposed to mean. State Iron Works? So…she was someone working in the ship?

So rather than mull in his perpetual confusion, Kress did what any reasonable young person with an excess of confidence and curiosity did: he asked a question.

“Yeah, I am!” he beamed, sticking out a hand to shake, “Kress Alstein, at your service. Sorry ‘bout that bit of faux pas, by the by. Figured all the students would be at the observation deck, really, and you looked like you belonged here as an apprentice or somethin’.” Kress took a breath from his rambling, before stuffing his tome back into the folds of his clothing as well, sticking the pen above his ear. “By the way, I don’t really recognize that crest, actually, so could you be so kind as to enlighten me to its meaning, miss? With something like ‘Iron Works’, I’d thought you were already working.”

Another grin, vibrant eyes catching the large wrench.

"With a tool like that, you certainly look the part."


When it ended, there was nothing but a baptism of blood, accompanied by the scrap metal rain.

Nothing remained of the monster that lurked within the crypt, nothing but errant flesh, dying off as silver consumed it. The last rusted petals fell upon the desecrated earth and dissolved into nothingness, leaving only the sanguine Knight of Rose, foul blood covering every inch of her body. She faced the sky, eyes closed, as her sword, for once, was silent.

It was over. It was dead.

She was dead.

And like this, Amaryllis found it harder and harder to pretend. It was tiring. The weight of the world was heavy, and every time, it seemed as if what she did wasn’t enough. They always slipped through her fingers like sand, the lives of those she’d sought to protect. What was the point of talking about the future? What was the point of sparing her to begin with? What was the point of all this, and of none of this? She was never late, but she never stuck the landing. She was never weak, but she never was enough.

Always confident till the end, only to be left with irreconcilable regrets.

Your wish is my command.

And then, the connection was cut. The clover vanished. Their bond was no more.



The Sword scraped against her back, reminding her that there was someone else nearing and, with a slight narrowing of her eyes, the Knight of Rose turned to face them. The Seraph bearing the Star Bow, her own countenance unsatisfied too with the turn of events. Regina escaped, didn’t she? Another burden then. So many burdens, like stones placed onto her stomach, as she sank and sank and sank…

Amaryllis wiped her bloodied hand on her equally bloodied shorts, before shaking the offered hand. “Amaryllis Evenings,” she returned, only a trace of pretense remaining, “She’s dead, you know? Annabelle.” Her voice caught in her throat. Murderous rage wrestled with inexplicable grief. “I don’t like it. We always save the world, but my hands never reach the one that called out for help to begin with.”

A bitter, pained smile creased her features.

“I won’t ever like this.”

There was a sense of finality there, as she cleaned her Silverlight until the surface became mirrored once more. Nodding once more at Alicia, who had already headed off to deal with the newcomers, Amaryllis glanced casually towards the maid, wondering whether to behead her immediately, just out of spite. The scent, distorted as it was, remained a constant. Soth, one way or the other, still ended up getting what they wanted. Annabelle, on the other hand, had nothing now, all her dreams and hopes and wishes and desires dying with her final efforts.

Amaryllis’s right hand trembled at this injustice. The rage exponentiated. It'd only take an instant.

But even though her Sword may lust eternally for blood, the Knight of Rose remained pitifully lenient. If an eternity of servitude could grant this monster absolution, then she will let Beacon do as they desired. She took a sharp breath, and walked out of the crypt, dipping down to graze the cats that flowed in. Sammy was easy enough to find, the only one that didn’t belong. The one that had to bear witness to all this.

Kneeling down beside her, Amaryllis nodded slightly in Aurelio’s direction, before putting her full attention on the younger girl. Every part of her felt like scattering into bits, but if it was just a mask, she could put it on just fine. “Hey there, Super Sleuth,” Amaryllis smiled, brushing her tears away with her thumb, only to leave bloody streaks behind, “It’s been a rough day, huh? Can you tell me what’s got you feeling so down?”

And then, impulsively, she hugged Sammy.

Disgusting.

She hated how weak she was.

"I'm sorry. I'll do all that I can to make things better."
@Flamelord@BrokenPromise


Perhaps it was better for them, that the environment gave them all so much to worry about. As the sudden storm bore down upon them, a thousand pings ringing harshly in her ears, Cecilia let out a breath, turning her face upwards, fat, heavy droplets splattering against her face and washing away the sweat and the grime that had built up from six hours of continous combat. It was exhausting now, but at least it was over. Lightning fell, striking the ground rather than one of the many dark buildings in the city, a warning shot by the heavens for the disorderly mass of adventurers to disperse.

What did she want right now? A bath, for one. Then hot food, for another.

What did she need right now? More Potions, for one. Then the level 15 actions, for another.

She was at full HP and MP from the level up. The Chilled debuff may be a problem later, but she was still fast regardless. Enjoying the cold rain and roaring wind for just a while longer, Cecilia pressed herself against a building before quickly changing outfits, pulling on her travelling boots and her raincoat. Would have been nice if she had time to sew her wolf pelts together into something to keep the chill out, but whatever. This was a new environment, and these rough conditions, in a town that offered shelter everywhere, provided the perfect oppurtunity to acclimate. With the majority of other players heading immediately to the Inn, there'd be no line ups either. And even if it turns out her trip was wasted due to those facilities being closed, it mattered not.

Cecilia knew that the moment she checked in at a tavern, she'd be spending the rest of the night sleeping, even though she was maxed out on all important resources. If there was anything that could be done today rather than tomorrow, it would be a net benefit.

So she pushed out the alleyway and into the storm again, hood pulled over her head, marching resolutely to the shadow of the largest building in the vicinity.

She needed to be faster, still.


While the others drew odd looks for their curiously low-brow outfits, such oddities were soon alleviated by the presence of the young man who had lead them to the lavish restaurant to begin with. Even in his own casual clothing, which consisted of a custom-tailored collared shirt and trousers that combined was probably equal to the amount of debt one of his teammates carried, Albrecht Dietrich was still instantly recognizable from a distance, his coiffed blond hair and magnanimous smile ever present, a handsome mask that hid the terribly powerful business acumen underneath. At a mere nineteen years old, he had already made himself known as one of the sharpest angel investors in the business world, specializing in the very rifts that he himself delved into. Accruing billions from the dozens of businesses he invested early in, there were many that thought his true attribute was Alchemy: anything he touched became pure gold.

Which was basically all lost upon Albrecht, as he dual-wielded lamb skewers like a mongoloid, enjoying the rich textures and the savory juices that accompanied each bite, followed by the numbing, tingling aftertaste of the spice. Though the rate in which food came was relatively slow, there was still never a moment where the table was wholly empty, and he really did have to praise the flexibility of the staff in the kitchen. A la carte must be a pain for them to deal with, after all, but they were pulling it off pretty well!

Maybe he’ll tip them double the value of the bill.

“Right, right,” Albrecht said, washing down the lamb with a glass of goat’s milk, “To confirm again, we all know what we’re here for, yes? Largely gonna be a debut run for Alice over there to see how well she can perform in a Rift, so as much as possible, we’ll let her have the first go at any obstacle we encounter. Scouts reported that we’ll be in a graveyard area, so as far as precaution goes, I’ve prepared headlamps and gas masks, as well as general first aid kits. Hm, anything else…right. Pretty sure y’all know me, but let’s get a proper set of introductions here, eh? With the whole Attributes n stuff tacked on.”

He coughed once, clearing his throat for no reason other than to just signal the start, before saying, “I’m Albrecht Dietrich, the organizer for this particular job. Got a Fire Element Attribute that lets me set things I touch on fire, but it doesn’t set other things on fire unless I touch those things, so there’s no worry ‘bout it spreading. Pretty safe, ain’t it?”
@banjoanjo@OwO@AdmrlStalfos19@Savo@Asuras

Decided to take matters into my own hands. Segments that may have collabs will have them linked. @ me if you add to it, or if you plan on just solo posting for it. Mana loses 30 bond points with Kouta. The woman calling Marc out looks like this. Imma go back to real work now.

Remember, Sunday is deadline day from now on.
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