"There! That's the way!" Link called up, patting the side of the ship like it was his favorite horse as she took the potion and gulped it down. Link glanced back to see the effects, a load of Shippy springing back into existence all at once. At the rear He saw two shipgirls put their back against her and start to push her back on course, it only taking him a moment to recognize The Princess and Ms. Fortune despite their new powers. They had the back covered, so Link flexed his good hand and swam forward to grab onto the ship's prow and put whatever was propelling him through the surf into full gear. "Just a little further. Look, you can see it right? Little river, right there. That's safety. We're going to be fine. You're going to be fine."
He could just barely with his face up out of the waves, make out the river that they had been fighting all day to reach. If he could see that so could she. What he couldn't see was very many Abyssal's left. The battle lines must have been pushed far enough forward to leave only the stragglers for them to deal with, and in the face of those stragglers he laid his free arm across the front of the ship and fired without mercy at any that were foolish enough to attack from the front. He heard most of the conversation behind him not that the sound of battle was growing distant, Bowser crashing down, the Cadet leaping at the chance to avenge them on the monster that had fired at their ship, Ms. Fortune zooming off after him. He wished he could go with them, but someone had to stay and protect the ship. Besides, looking like he did, that was asking for friendly fire.
Eventually they didn't need to guide her anymore. The enemy fell away behind them, the Healing of Blazermate's beams finally fully outstripped the damage she was taking, and Link was able to let go. He didn't move from his spot though, keeping one eye underwater just in case more came from underwater. The last of the resistance they faced was practically a joke, a handful of Abyssals and fish monsters the Navy had hardly even taken notice of. He opened fire along with everyone else, but this battle had at least one casualty. One of his armored fists, armor worn down under the constant assault of the sea monsters and gun barrels beginning to warp from fire, exploded off his arm in a cloud of blue shards. He winced, his broken fingers exposed and no longer set by the patting within the glove, but the battle was over soon after. As Shippy passed the mouth of the river and started sailing up it and Link gave her one last thumbs up before diving down and making sure to collect the remains.
Afterward he jumped up out of the water like a dolphin, caching the railing of the chip with his good hand and gingerly cradling the spirits he'd collected in the crook of his arm. He let them spill across the deck as he pulled himself up, put his feet on the deck, and was instantly hit with the worst vertigo he had ever experienced in his life. He flopped back downward, hitting the deck like a sack of potatoes and ending up back flat against the railing as he surveyed the damage. To his great relief most of them seemed to be around. The Witcher, the fighting girl, Glenn, Blazermate. Cadet would probably be back any time now. Still, it wasn't all of them. Just one look at the Princess was enough to tell him what had happened to Chou, but that didn't sting nearly as hard as the absence of their Captain. He had feared it from the moment he had seen the chunk of Shippy that had evaporated, and had been trying to ignore it to focus on getting the rest of them out, but Sakura's grief confirmed it for him.
It was like being stabbed, a twisted and wretched feeling that started in his gut and spiraled out across his entire body. It flowed easily, as though running along cracks that had already been etched into his soul. Cracks etched by trauma so heartfelt that even if the vent had been largely forgotten the damage remained. In that moment he felt like everything that they had fought for today had been for nothing as he was lost in the infinitely large gulf separating "most" from "all." He heard Sakura try and pull some good out of it, some wisdom she could use to better herself, but it did nothing to abate the feeling of profound loss.
Then, like his mind tossing him a life preserver, he remembered meowing.
As he sat there, head down, the dark thoughts that had begun clouding his mind suddenly fell away. "He might not be dead." He said suddenly, lifting his head. His face shone with desperate hope. "This isn't going to make much sense, but does anybody remember hearing cats? Seeing cats?"
He tried to stand again, didn't manage it, and toppled forward onto his hands and knees. "I was killed by a dragon yesterday, and I woke up in a cart in Lumbridge. Me, the Euden Kid, and a machine. Hauled there from a floating island. By cats!"
Of course even if he was alive thanks to a recurrence of cat miracles that still left the problem of Shippy. No one really knew her. There didn't seem to be hardly anyone to know until...Hylia, it was hard to tell time when you were fighting like that...around an hour ago?
This thought was interrupted when he heard a voice calling from the shore. He couldn't see the guy from where he was, but apparently there was some kind of...another living boat thing up ahead? Some kind of new Abyssal. He flopped backwards, pulled himself up on the railing, and used that as a way to make his way to the front of the ship. "Shippy." He called out over the raining as he reached it, looking down at the figurehead. "Can you stop for a while? Take a breather until we're sure what's ahead. You've earned it."
Merge Rate: 30%
Location: The Previous Night - Snowdin ~
Linkle pondered the motel as they approached it, dragging her sled along behind her. The building was pretty big, too big to be someone's house. So this was like a...
The question was answered when they walked into the main office. So, a motel was what people from Modern Times called an inn. She took a step back when she saw the two fat monsters behind the desk, looking almost as startled for a moment at their appearance as they did at hers, but relaxed as soon as the two started talking. Even if these two were monsters by the sound of it they wouldn't be very dangerous ones, but they were very good at making her feel self conscious.
Albedo tried smoothing things over. She smiled awkwardly when he said so, maybe a little too wide. "I could probably find a place to lie down outside." She said. "I'm used to it. I don't think I'd freeze or anything."
That matter was settled soon enough, with the two getting over their bad feelings and sliding a pair of cards over to them. As he added the cost of her stay to his own tab Linkle became acutely aware that she was racking up another debt, but didn't say anything except a good night to the pair of them as she followed Albedo out the door. They crunched snow as they past by the rows of darkened windows and doorways, past of pair of glowing boxy machines that gave off a light hum, and finally to a pair of doors.
Albedo inclined his head to her, and offered her sweet dreams. "Hopefully. Nighty night." She said, then he entered his room and Linkle was left alone in front of her own door. She slid her card inside the slot above the handle just like she had seen him do, heard a high pitched beep, and pushed the door open. The room in front of her was dark, a shaft of light from the open door only showing the corner of what looked like a bed. Making sure to kick the snow off her boots on the doorframe she made her way inside. There had to be a light in here somewhere, right? Some kind of button or switch she could push? She started running her hand up and down along the inside wall as she moved forward. She found a square that was fastened securely to the wall, nothing happening when she tried twisting it. She banged her ankle on what felt like a small table and found a little box that displayed some glowing numbers. She pawed at that a little, pressing all the buttons she could feel, but only succeeded in triggering some kind of screeching alarm that was torture on her ears! She fumbled with it, clumsily trying to press all the buttons she had before, and thankfully the hateful thing stopped wailing long enough for her to put it down. She looked toward the door, expecting something to happen, but nothing appeared. She kept moving, crawling over what was definitely a bed and bumping her head on...something? A bell? She crawled under it, using what felt like the headboard for guidance, until she felt something on the wall. Switches! She turned one, and suddenly the room was flooded with light from the bell things she had felt earlier.
Linkle collapsed back onto the bed. "Da da da daaaaaaaa!" she sang, almost sighing the last of the jingle out before sitting up again and pointing an triumphant finger at the room in general. "I solved your light puzzle."
It was the first real view of the room she had gotten. Just looking at it felt strange. It was like the complete opposite of Mr. Kashiwagi's place. Survive had been a pub, but at the same time it had felt like someone was living there. Here? Even though it was a bedroom, even though you were clearly meant to live here, it didn't feel like anyone was supposed to be living here. Even the inn's back in Hyrule, she had heard, had a certain homeliness to them. It had a black screen sticking off the wall, a little cooler box like Kashiwagi's tucked away into the corner, a painting of what looked like the Dead Zone when it was still alive, but no spirit at all.
At least the bed was comfortable, she thought as she sat up on the edge of it and bounced up and down on it a few times. Springy. She bounced a few more times, a little harder. Very springy. She tore off her boots, leaving them and her bows in a crumpled heap by the side of the bed, and stood up. She felt herself sink in, then with a delighted giggle she began to jump. Very, very springy she decided as she bounced up and down on the bed. Springier than any bed she had ever laid in. She reached up and easily brushed the ceiling with her hand, then spotted the other bed in the room and did what anyone with even a semi-functional inner child is tempted to do when they're staying in a hotel room. She leaped, flipped over once, and belly flopped onto the other bed. She bounced one more time before settling. She hadn't realized how much she had missed having a bed. What she had told Albedo earlier wasn't exactly true. It wasn't just that she hadn't slept in a bed since she had gotten free, she hadn't slept in a bed since she had left home. From the moment she had set out it had been goodbye blankets and big feather pillows for her. She rolled over, laughing like she was a decade younger.
She saw that the door was still open.
She should probably close that before anyone saw her acting stupid.
Jumping up she went out, gathered her things from the sled, and parked it next to the door. As reliable as she knew it was nobody was going to be stealing something that was made of sticks and looked like it was held together by hope. Door shut and locked, loot crate and spirits safely inside and thrown onto the bed, Linkle pondered what to do next. The problem was that, despite the events of the day, she still wasn't particularly drowsy and just being alone in a room brought that into sharp relief. Idly she picked up one of the black things covered in buttons off the little side table and started fiddling with that. The television suddenly switched on, but unfortunately it was a rerun. She shut it off and didn't touch the remote again.
There was a door she hadn't explored near the back of the room. She walked over and opened that one. Still dark, but the light from the room helped her find the switches for this one quickly. There was a hum as the room's single light flared to life.
The bathroom reminded her of the one in Peach's castle. Even though peaches was definitely nicer her heart still did a triple backflip when she saw there was a shower in this room. As she stepped inside toward it she caught her reflection in the mirror and instantly turned away. Then, after a pregnant moment, she sighed and turned back. She walked over to the sink and leaned over it to give herself a good examination. She didn't look any better than she had in the ice, and whenever she leaned in too close the light of her eyes reflected back and made it so she couldn't see anything. She would have to keep in mind that, for now, she looked really creepy and try to find a way to mitigate her more monstrous look. She didn't want to give people like Clark a fright, after all. That's not what heroing was about!
She pulled down her hood, letting her rabbit ears pop on up like two cheery dandelions. She flopped them from side to side. Well, that would be a start. No one looked threatening with rabbit ears on. Her hair was also in kind of rough shape. It was tangled, dirty, and still had bits of gunk in it from the monsters that had shown up when they'd first gone to the dead zone. It needed a good scrubbing or else she was going to have to cut it off. She couldn't do that. It wasn't just her hair anymore, it was Blue's too.
It was simple to figure out the controls for the shower, and only a little harder to figure out how to get out of her suit. She had never had a reason to take the thing off before, but after some pawing she found the zipper. She hadn't realized how damp most of her now outer clothes were before she started taking them off, so those she laid on the thing along the wall that was radiating heat to dry off before she stepped into the warm stream of water and let all the tensions of the day just wash away.
After giving herself and her hair a thorough scrub, scrub, scrub to make doubly sure there was no blood, bone dust, or residual green gunk anywhere on her body she set the plug, let the tub fill up, and just soaked in the warmth until she was nice, pruney, and tired. The water had sucked all that excess energy she had built up right out of her. She walked out of the bathroom ready for bed, but frowned when she saw she still had a little business to attend to.
The spirits of the wolves still floated in the bottle on the bed nearest the door. She looked down at the pile of clothes she wasn't wearing to sleep in her arms, the pouches sitting prominently on the top, and crossed the room to set them down beside the bottle. She snapped the pouches open and pulled out the spirits she had collected today. She had to use these before they faded away. She dug into the pouches, pulling out the spirits from the now muddy dust they laid in. One by one she took all the spirits in her possession and crushed each between her fingers.
You have Acquired: Wolfhook x2 A berry with thorns that often gets attached to the pelt of passing wolves. Their tartness is invigorating, and if mixed into food or made into juice will give a temporary attack buff to whoever has it Wolf’s Blood Swordgrass A leaf signifying duty fulfilled by the Watchdogs of Farron, who stand beside the old wolf to ensure serenity to those at rest. Depicts a swordgrass leaf stained with dried blood. Long ago, the swordgrass leaf quietly identified members of the Undead Legion. In the rotted forest rest the spirits of warriors past, their acceptance and gratitude toward their guardians is expressed eloquently by the humble leaf Blue Materia A sphere of crystallized Mako, support type. When inset into equipment alongside other materia, it enhanced those materias’ effects, and it works similarly for other magic gems Alternator Few but the Vargyl survive Reisum's coldest storms--the ice that roasts, the wind that rends. A long gun with decent damage, firing 9 rounds per second, with a magazine of 32 shots. Its ideal range si 17m, its max ammo is 224, and it has a 5% crit chance per shot. When subjected to extended use it builds up power for its Weapon Mod, Incinerator, which will spew a barrage of 11 fireballs when triggered Nunu’s Hat - an adorable long-earned snowcap, guaranteed to keep the ears warm and the brain in good working order even in a snowstorm
Linkle examined every item before putting it down on the bed. The berries were prickly to the point where she didn't think you could just eat them. The pretty gemstone, that could be the solution to her financial woes, she laid down carefully beside them. One of the wolves spirits, oddly enough, a small pair of dried leaves with a bloodstain running across them. She turned those over, struggling to find some meaning in it. Before today she might have dismissed it as just trash, but Albedo's talk about the "pool" dissuaded her. If he was right than everything you got from a spirit was a prize. It had value. Maybe it was some kind of medicinal herb or a charm?
The gun was a far more substantial prize. It was a crude thing, not at all like Michael's clean and deadly weapon, looking as though it had been scrounged together from parts of different guns and, much like her sled, held together by hope. On instinct, the guidance of the spirit stirring inside her head, she turned it over and checked the magazine. Counting her shots. She could also tell there was something more to it, like the bounce effect she had gotten on the rabbit gun, but couldn't quite tell what it was. She flipped it back over and braced it against her shoulder, aiming at the TV to let the thing know she meant business just it case it got any funny ideas in the middle of the night. One thing she was sure of, carrying this thing around wasn't going to make her look any less threatening.
As though to mitigate that the last spirit gave her a frankly adorable hat. With its rounded, stuffed up ears and button eyes it was even able to make a wolf cute. She pulled it only her head, where it fit snugly. This would be pretty warm. So, not exactly for her right now. She pulled it off, setting it beside its more realistic cousin. It would look great on one of the little kids though, Junior or Hatty...
A bead of loneliness coalesced in her heart at that thought. She sat down on the bed, busied herself with gathering the dust that spilled out of her pouches into her spirit bottle, but the activity wasn't enough to shake off the feeling. She hadn't known them for very long at all, any of them. She had know people in her village for far longer than she had the eclectic collection of personalities that made up Bowser's army, but she had nevertheless hardly spared the other villagers a thought. She worried about them in the general sense, but being away from them didn't hurt like this.
Up to this point she had been fairly rare breed in the word of light. She had been largely free of connections. She didn't have anyone she desperately needed to see. Tora had his friend Rex, Bowser had been missing his son and dad, it had nearly killed Mina to have to fight Junpei, and even Din had been holding out for her hero. Those were just off the top of her head, too. Who else was motivated to travel in this world mostly to recover the people dear to them? She could only imagine it was most of them.
She had never looked out into this world with the sort of pain Albedo had shown when he thought of Sucrose. Not until now at least. Just being alone here also brought that into sharp relief.
With that thought fresh in her mind and crawled into the bed farthest from the door, pulling the covers snug to her body and burying her head in the pillow. Thankfully the sleep she drifted of into was the dreamless rest of the dead.
"Morning!" Linkle replied cheerfully to Albedo as she stepped into the office. Her hood was down, her ears bouncing as she walked, and behind her her hair swung pendulously from side to side in a single long braid like the two she had in front of her natural ears. It had taken some time and a couple of restarts, but the result wouldn't get quite so dirty quite so easily and she would be able to keep her hood down without the stuff flying everywhere.
She was about to give him something, but he immediately launched into an explanation about coffee. "Ha ha! I finally know something that you do." She said playfully as he finished. "They have this stuff in Castle Town cafes. At least, that's what I've heard." She had never actually tried the stuff before, but she was always open to trying new things. She waited behind the motel manager, arms behind her back, as the new batch was brewed.
As she collected the liquid in a little ceramic cup and gave it curious sniff the boy asked if she had slept well. "A lot better than I have in a while." She replied, taking a sip. It was really warm, which she was finding more and more to be an important factor of the things she liked, but despite that her face scrunched up. That was the most bitter thing she had ever tasted. She immediately set to work with the sugar and cream, pouring them both in to see if that helped. "At least until the screaming box woke me up. That scared me half to...well, more like almost fully to death I guess." She took another sip. Oh, that was much better! So much so she pocketed a few of the sugar packets in case she had to sweeten up something else. "How about you?"
Downing the rest of her the coffee, she laid her mug down and made her way over to the couch and sat down next to the the dog. After fiddling with her pouches for a moment she pulled out the bottle of dust and handed it across the dog to him. "Here you go. It's what I managed to get yesterday. And speaking of yesterday."
She held up the other thing she had gotten out, the faintly glowing blue gemstone. "Pretty, isn't it? Do you think this is enough to get you a new coat? If we wind up having to go far out again I don't want you ending up shivering like that, it scared me. Soooo, first things first I thought we'd head to the shop and see what they have. Don't worry, I already found a good hat."
"Then," She said, leaning back and rubbing her hand along to puppy's back while thinking. "Grilby's, for a couple of reasons. First, I want to see if my mysterious man in black has shown up yet. And, when our wildman friend showed up yesterday, nobody seemed surprised when he landed on the roof. How often does he show up in town?"
Feat. Linkle (8/90) 30% and @Lugubrious Albedo’s relief was practically palpable as Linkle escaped her slump with renewed confidence. Most days he didn’t know what to make of people, let alone say to them to life their spirits, but somehow he’d chosen the right words for the job. Her resolve allowed her to reconsider the path of resurrection with renewed clarity, which also spelled out that she had been asking for her own sake, rather than that of a lost comrade. The alchemist had assumed that the procedure would be for someone already gone, which made more sense than dying on the hope of coming back anew. The realization surprised Albedo a little, but it wasn’t much of a leap in logic to conclude that she only considered that route out of momentary desperation. As long as she didn’t lose her grasp on herself, it seemed, she wouldn’t actually consider such a risky plan.
It was getting to be late in the evening, and even after receiving the rejuvenation of a Friend Heart Albedo felt his body longing for rest, but more important matters were at hand. The Skullgirl offered to shed some priceless light on the vital subject he’d spent so much time on, and he wasn’t about to tell her to save it for the morning. First, she asked him a question, and when he strove to remember an answer he found it easier to recall the past than ever before. It was though a fog on his mind had been lifted, or perhaps a radiance so bright that it had forced him to look away.
“The last thing...I was in Mondstadt, the City of Freedom. It was the Windblume Festival. That morning, the Honorary Knight collected the ingredients by which I could restore an ancient flower to life for the sake of my assistant, Sucrose. She was happy for hours, well into the afternoon. We were running some experiments, but she seemed embarrassed by something, and kept making things explode. I attempted to console her, but she told me there was something she wanted to ask me. We went out of the city toward Windrise. Before we got there...the sky was filled with light, and everything disappeared.”
His brows narrowed as he remembered the look of abject fear on his poor assistant’s sweet face--the way she turned and held him, so tight he felt like he would choke. Then everything went away. Albedo couldn’t help but glance at the door, thinking that if she was out there, she would need his help.
Linkle nodded along, deliberately choking back an “awwww” at his situation just before Galeem had intervened. She could add breaking that up to the pile of grievances she had with the Lord of Light. “If it makes you feel better, there are plenty of places like Snowdin she could have ended up.” She said sympathetically, following his gaze to the door.
“But, that light you saw? That’s what brought us all here, and it’s not just something that happened like rain or fire. It’s an enemy.” She said solemnly. “You can see it if you go out there and look up. It’s the sun. Galeem, the Lord of Light. It took all of us, mixed us all up into this world, and put a bunch of light into each of us so we wouldn't realize it was there. That’s the stuff you’ve been noticing in everybody. It’s actually amazing you were able to figure out something was wrong.”
Although Albedo didn’t appear too comforted by his new friend’s assurances and compliments, he refocused himself on the present to think about what she said. “That does explain a lot of things, not the least of which is that I may have gotten far closer to understanding things than I realized.” His mind raced back over all his accumulated findings, his theories, his hypotheses, his conclusions. “In my own world, and assumedly most of them, the answer to the eternal question of creation is the deepest and most primorial secret. Yet in this World of Light things seem far less enigmatic. Dust, the matter of creation, and spirits, the essence of character. In my own way, I suppose I’ve followed in the footsteps of Galeem.” He stood and walked to the window of the bar and peered outside, searching for the entity Linkle mentioned. When he found it, he peered at it with his arms crossed. “Hm. Has it done anything since you’ve been aware of it?”
“No.” Linkle said, following him to the window. “Well, maybe? I’ve had a couple of weird dreams that felt like they weren't mine, kind of like how I can tell the Skull Heart’s voice apart from my thoughts. They were trying to make me give up and accept the world as it is, and I think if I had the light would have gotten back inside me. It happened to a friend of mine. But as far as actually moving or attacking? Never.”
She thought for a bit. “We have been harassed by this hand, though. It shows up whenever we get too close to a Guardian. Like a glove, like mine, but all white and it talks! I think it might speak for Galeem. When it tells people with Light inside them what to do they have to do it, they don’t have any choice. It makes people fight us.” She looked down, sadly. “Imani was one of them.” Suddenly, she looked back up as a thought occurred. “It didn’t show up for the Stranger though. Maybe he’s too wild to risk being around?”
The alchemist thought for a moment. “I see. The Stranger I can’t speak for, but he certainly seems unhappy with his current situation. He was willing to let me carry out several experiments to see if I could ‘make him feel’, even, which is oddly self-destructive behavior. As for Galeem…” He turned away from the window, frowning. “It’s almost disappointing. Discovery is a wonderful feeling, but finding that a subject has nothing else to offer afterward is a cruelty. The realization that the ocean you stared into with wonderment is only so deep…”
“I guess. So far it just seems like your typical bad guy to me. Grab what you want, set up a bunch of stuff to keep the hero from getting at you, then sit back in your dark castle all day.” Linkle said, turning from the passive ball of light in the sky. “I’m sorry the truth turned out to be such a cliche, but at least that means the way to fix everything is simple.”
Back in his seat, Albedo raised his eyebrows. "Oh? There's a way to fix everything?"
“Yeah.” Linkle said. “There always is, right? You beat all the minions, break through all the defenses, and take out the bad guy. That’s what me and my friends have been doing since we got freed. Did you see that barrier around Galeem? Every layer of that barrier is connected to a Guardian somewhere down here. That freak that wants to feel something? He’s one of them, that’s why he came after me. If we beat all of them we’ll be able to fight Galeem, and when we beat Galeem everything should go back to normal again. Everyone gets to go home.”
After a few quiet moments of contemplation Albedo gave an all-encompassing nod. "Then we have busy days ahead of us. I'll need to rest well tonight."
Her ears perked up when he said we, and her smile spread across her face. “Yeah! Though…” She wasn’t all that sleepy, but that was normal for her. She hadn’t really had a plan for what to do tomorrow, but it was definitely late enough that she probably couldn't do much now. “I guess the most important things are finding out more about the Stranger, trying to get in contact with my friends, and meeting the guy in a black cloak that shows up at Grillby’s sometimes. Those guys are involved in this somehow. That seems like stuff we can handle in the morning.”
Albedo stood and placed some money down for the bartender, enough to cover the bentos of both guests. He drained the last of his water and prepared to leave. “Very good. I’ll show you to the little motel I’ve been staying at. Not the nicest or the roomiest, but since it never has more than one or two permanent guests, it’s as clean and as cozy as one could ask for.” He waved to Mr. Kashiwagi and held open the door for Linkle.
Linkle gave the man a wave as well as she exited. “You know, this is the first time I’ll have slept in a bed since I got free.” She said as she followed the boy down the snowy street. He was right, they had a busy day tomorrow. Worries like the Skull Heart and the Stranger still loomed in the back of her mind, but for the night at least they would be held at bay.
The ball wasn't launched soon enough to prevent the Harbor Demon's giant gun from firing, but luckily enough the first shot had just been to gauge her aim. Another shot would have undoubtedly blown the admirals flagship out of the water but the ball of magic that shattered fragments off her arm redirected her attention to them. This was made apparent when he next giant handful of Abyssal's fell all around them like rain. Link took a deep breath and dived again, taking aim at the disoriented monsters and firing again to try and clean them up before they reoriented themselves. He even managed to get a few of them.
Then came the surge. A push and pull much like when Shippy had expelled them earlier. From under he saw the ship rock violently back and forth as he was sucked underneath it along with the water rushing to fill the space left by what could only be the giant Abyssal's gauging shot. He pushed himself forward, propelling himself in the direction he was being pulled and shooting upward to survey the damage.
He surfaced in time to see Sakura jumping up onto the ship itself, but that was about all he could see from where he was in the water until he spotted another glow cascading off the deck. Was that the old koopa again? No, it was different. In a moment another attack was launched from the little ship, a bright beam of light moving so fast he could barely see it. The beam, though, was answered in kind. To his horror he heard the rattling boom and saw the entire back half of the ship get obliterated in a spray of debris. What was left twisted like a wounded animal, a full body groan of pains sending ripples out across the water around it.
His mind was gripped with immediate panic, but he forced it down and thought. Had that hit anyone? Was everyone okay? Was the ship going to sink? No, no, he could already see the rear half stitching itself back together. That was proof enough that Blazermate at least was still kicking. Could they get hit like that again? Looking at the Harbor Demon he didn't think so. The way she was slumped she would have to devote herself to fending off the Navy. He didn't think she would be able to concentrate enough to send any more shots at either them or the Admiral. That was good at least, because the ship wasn't moving forward anymore. That shot had taken off the entire area where the wheel was, and Shippy was now drifting. That meant there was so one in control. That meant...
No, he forced that thought down as well. Save that for later. Right now Shippy had to get moving.
He zoomed around to the front of the ship, pulling out the potion the Cadet had given him and gazing up at the ship. The pain the ship was in was visible across both its faces, but which face were you supposed to put the potion in? "Hey." He called up, shaking his head as he unequipped the helmet. "Hey, look at me. Don't give up yet, you're almost there. Catch!" He threw the potion up the girl on the headboard, hoping that if she couldn't catch in her arms the big mouth could at least stick out its tongue to get it. "You only have to endure it a little longer. Drink that, it'll help."
There were a few things Link had to attend to before he began his undersea assault, the first of which was the Cadet tapping him on the shoulder. At first Link looked at him incredulously, in a "why did you come down here this is the opposite way you should have gone" kind of way, before the Cadet handed something over to him. A liquid swirled around in a bottle. He wasn't sure what it would do exactly, but he was familiar enough with potions himself to recognize one when he saw it. Might have been healing, judging by the Cadets spore trick from yesterday. He nodded and gave the Cadet a big thumbs up as the boy turned and began swimming to the surface, letting the potion vanish into the slate where he could get at it quickly.
Two more things. First, helmet back on. It was dented, but that dent was proof it had saved his life. Next, new shoes on. Unfortunately the slate recognized everything on his lower body as one article of clothing, so he was left with just the new boots and his underwear. That was whatever. It wasn't like the Hylian Trousers would block the abyssals shots or teeth, and he could already feel the reduction in drag from a few experimental flutter kicks. The only downside was that it felt uncomfortable exposed.
He raised his arms and aimed toward the abyssals above him. Maybe, just maybe, he could get one of them to drop the pants.
So Link went on the attack, zooming around under the water, keeping pace with the ship easily, and shooting at the exposed underbelly of any abyssal unfortunate enough to ender his range. Of course there comes a time in any surprise attack the enemy realizes what's going on, and the abyssals were no different. Some alarmed peeks beneath the waves by survivors led to diving attacks on the imposter in their midst. Link was fast underwater, but only as fast as any random abyssal and far less experienced with their underwater movement. The little bit of reduced drag more than once was the difference between swimming free and being caught in the jaws of a monster. Link maneuvered as quickly as he was able, keeping the backs of his arms between him and his pursuers whenever possible so that he could block their shots and return fire. When he had to breath he did so in purposely distinctive style, shooting to the surface and breaching several feet into to air to catch a quick breath. Once he had done this what he judged to be enough times that those on the ship could recognize it was him he started leaping for these breaths near the ships gun battery, leading his harassers right into the range of Ms. Fortune's relentless lead assault.
He was just cutting back through the stricken results of one of these displays, grabbing up and smashing at least four of the spirits Ms. Fortune had blown away and crushing them in his quest for pants, when a loud BOOM rocked the waters surface and he watched in horror as one of the ships guns crashed into the water behind him. He was so taken of guard he momentarily forgot about the remains of his pursuers until he saw a few red hot shots whizz past him in the water. He shot forward toward the gun, pulling out the slate and selecting the rune that had appeared in it this morning.
It a moment the descent of the battery ceased as chains of light wrapped themselves around it, binding the thin in space. He pulled his arms forward, unleashing a withering barrage of artillery fire on the broken piece of equipment, but strangely it didn't seen to react in any way. Link dived, ducking underneath it before maintaining his original course.
"3..." He counted to himself. Timing was everything for this.
The abyssals followed, right on his tail.
He spun and faced them, shields raised, ready to make a stand.
Then he suddenly shot up as the battery thundered through the water like a cannon ball, slamming the attacking group in the backs and scattering them like broken nine pins. He watched with pride as they dissolved and the battery sped off into the distance. At least he still had the timing down for that. He swam after the ship, taking the momentary respite he'd bought himself to notice something odd floating in the water. Curiously he picked it up and squished it a couple of times in his hand. Pliable. Brown. Cylindrical. He turned it over. Yep, that was definably mea..."
A moment later Link burst up from the water and tossed the segment of Ms. Fortune's calf he had found, overarming it back onto the deck like he had Frog and Blazermate. "Sorry!" He shouted, unnaturally pale face slightly red. He shook it. "I mean, are you okay? Is the rest of you still up there, Ms. Fortune?"
It turned out, however, that they had bigger problems to worry about. Much, much, much bigger. In every way. The door they were fighting toward was thrown open and what awaited them on the other side was both a woman and a monster. He looked down at his own hands as the thing reached down and pulled up a squirming horde of abyssals. He suddenly felt very inadequate. That thing could crush Shippy in one hand.
Now that he was on the surface he could hear properly again. The explosion's. The churning of the water. The voice of a girl. He looked over to see Sakura leave on the abyssals floating on the surface, alive but out of the fight. He had passed by a few when he had come close to the surface. So that explained that. It was an indecisive way to do things but he couldn't blame her for it. He had never killed something that looked as human as some of these, at least to his knowledge.
He also couldn't figure out a way to get the giant monsters attention attention away from the Admiral's ship, at least not from a range like this. Luckily for him the old Koopa seemed to have a plan. A ball of light began to float above the circle of wizards, growing bigger and brighter with each passing second. Unfortunately that might as well have been a giant "come kill me" sign.
"HOI!" He yelled over to Sakura. "Don't let any of them interrupt the spell!" With that Link turned his cannons on the next wave of enemies and let loose, actually standing his ground. They couldn't afford to let any bored this ship right now.
Merge Rate: 30%
Location: The previous day, in the Frozen Highlands ~ Snowdin ~ Bar Survive
Much like her own words, Albedo's left Linkle with a lot to unpack. The first thing, the quick right hook that had knocked her out of the funk she had fallen into while telling her story and made her sit up, was that comment about her being too pure and good for this world. For the first time today she was made aware of an advantage her lack of blood flow provided, because if the plumbing had been working her face would have been as red as a fresh picked apple. There was a certain implication that, yes, morally speaking the Hero had to be a cut above other people and have a nearly unshakable characters but...just...Goddess, hearing it put like that was embarrassing. Like winning a race because the kid in front of you tripped, it felt wrong. She wasn't that good. She couldn't be that pure. If that was Linkle, than what was Princess Zelda? The Princess would have to be completely inhuman, like the sun shining at the center of the universe.
As far as opening salvos did, though, it performed wonderfully. It was so jarring it knocked all her other thoughts out of Linkle's head and left her open for the rest of what Albedo has to say. That was what really built her back up, and slowly the girl felt herself start smiling again.
"You've got that right." She said confidently, even is she didn't know what a preschool was. "I've been at this ever since I could hold a slingshot." She pounded on her chest, right above where he heart would be. "Now way this thing will ever get the better of me. You're right. It's just like the Stranger. If you're invincible why try more than you have to, right? Just wait." Linkle hadn't even been close to starting to give up. No way. No Way! It was just nice having someone else confirm it with stuff like reason and logic. The Skull Heart had just noticed a tiny chink in her heart and gone for it, but that only proved its desperation. It was just a starving animal scratching at her door.
"Still, I don't think I can beat it by swapping bodies like that." She said, a little more level headed than before. "Even if there were enough really bad people to gather the dust from I don't think I would be the same after doing it. The way you described it I might just come out of it evil anyway from all that evil dust. So it looks like I just have to find the right seam and give it a tug."
Suddenly, a thought occurred. Spurned on by this talk of their imperfect world Linkle looked him in the eye. "Right! That reminds me. I still haven't told you anything about the world." She knocked her knuckle against the side of her skull. "Sorry, I lost the track a little. Get ready for this, because before you wouldn't have believed it. First of all, what's the last thing that you remember before you were brought to this world?"
Ziebach was thankful for Galeini's help. He knew he should have taken notes during orientation. The flashing lights of the panel perplexed him, but at least the castle stopped shaking as it was melded in place and held by the great tree. That was a hemp to his concentration, yet still it wasn't enough.
Wait. He stopped concentrating on the blinking light. What did he need the password for? What he not an artificer, a forger, a creator of machines? Why should he have to be bound by the petty machinations of his predecessors? In the tunnels, when the dwarves fond their efforts to mine stymied by particularly tough rock, flooding, or breaking into a cave full of demons they did not despair. They didn't let the problem cut their productivity. If an impassible obstacle presented itself you did not stop, you cut into the wall next to you and circumvented the obstacle entirely.
They called it HACKING!
Ziebach's fingers began to move very fast across the buttons, arcane sparks jumping from them as worked. "Ahhhhh-tatatatatatatatata!" he deadpanned as he did so, without really knowing why. He did not search for the password. He would create his own. He was going to hack the castle and bring it under his control to stop the avalanche.
Link felt something wrap around him and begin to pull. He wanted to fight it, but in that moment he began to change. He went momentarily blind as He felt himself stretch, like some Hinox had taken him by the arms and legs and started pulling him like a wishbone. It should have hurt. This sensation should have hurt, his mind kept screaming that, but it didn't. Then the weight, like something else had taken his arms, pulled them straight down. It was only when he finally got his sight back, sight that saw clearly through the waters, that he saw the familiar green skin of the man pulling him toward the shining light of the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs Blazermate rested, standing on the floor like the water didn't even matter to her and occasionally flicking her healing beam off the ship and attaching it to him, Glenn, or...
He followed it and it led him to the Cadet fighting his own struggle against the water. Link knew he still needed to breathe, but even as he tried to be rational he couldn't stop himself from wanting to go back for him. Then to his surprise he felt himself begin to move, his body responding to his will. For a moment he felt Glenn's grip on him tighten as Link moved against it.
Then things began moving very fast. With his new eyesight he saw it clearly, Shippy's mouth at the far edge of the hold swing open. A current formed against Glenn as the water began to spew outward. Link wrapped his arm around Glenn and swung the other to grab the wall of the ship but his fingers couldn't find a grip on the newly metal walls still slick with seawater. His fingers slid uselessly against the inside as everyone in the hold was ejected from the ship and into the open sea.
Link tumbled in the water, still clutching Glenn as he tried to get his bearings. The dark abyss of the ocean stretched out before him, teaming with uncertainty. If that wasn't enough to tell him he was upside down spotting the medabot plunging past him into the depths certainly was. Without even thinking he reached out his free hand and willed himself down towards her, grasping. He immediately discovered two things. The first was that he was fast. He shot down through the water like he was free falling through the air, the only thing he could compare it to was the feeling of ascending a waterfall. Moving through the water felt as natural to him as running through a field. Is this what the Zora felt like all the time?
The second thing he discovered, only after he reached Blazermate, was that his hands were huge. He hadn't had time to notice before, and the difference in the size of the hand he had stretched out in front of him threw off his perspective enough that he accidentally open palm slapped the medabot in the chest because he thought she was farther away than she was. Recovering, though, he just wrapped his fingers around her waist like a child would a doll. She was surprisingly light for something made of metal, something he was glad for as he turned toward the surface and forced himself to zoom upward. He veered only once, extending the arm holding Blazermate in order to catch the Cadet in the crook of it during their ascent.
When he pierced through the veil with his passengers the deep and greedy gulp of air he took in tasted like smoke. He emerged surrounded by floating flings and, to his horror enemies. At first he mistook the giant thing in front of him as one, but when Ms. Fortune cat-womaned one of its gun turrets and opened fire on the Abyssals that still choked the water around them he realized that the massive abyssal looking creature in front of him must have been the ship they had ridden in on. Spirit fusion, like he had suspected. Gunfire ripped up the Abyssals that swarmed around them, and when one like the ones that had boarded the ship earlier closed in on them a shadowy Bowser Jr slammed into it saw first giggling like a madman. He even heard Sakura's voice calling out across the water, spotting the girl on her approach.
That wasn't the only help that appeared. As Heinrich swung around and tore a rift of destruction through any abyssal coming from their left side Link confirmed one more thing: that woman's work was even more impressive up close. More so when she ordered a full concentration of fire on some approaching planes, reminding him of just how many of the shipgirls were around. In his current state that was comforting and terrifying in equal measure, especially given the zeal of their commander. She had the presence of mind not to mistake him for the enemy and blow him out of the water, but in the middle of this battlefield he wouldn't blame anybody if that happened. So long as that didn't happen, though, he was forced to accept this good thinking on Cia's part.
He found himself on a whole feeling much better. Even though they were out here in the thick of it, explosions cracking across the sky and enemies on all sides, it felt less oppressive than it had looked in the hold. Shippy was still under viscous attack, but if they were able to work together like this then they just might be able to do. No more ghosts, at least not today.
Of course, the others wouldn't be much use stranded in the water like this. He extended his arms, Blazermate in one hand and clutching Glenn in the other. Anyone on the ship could defend it. Anyone protecting them was less focused on protecting the ship. This wouldn't be gentle, but at least it would be fast. "Man those guns! Fix the ship!" Was all that he said before flinging his arms forward, one after the other, putting all his strength into tossing the medabot and the knight back up onto the safety of the deck.
He turned to do the same to the Cadet, but in that moment he heard something burst out of the water next to him. He turned to face it just in time to have one of the big mouthed To-class slam into him. If he hadn't had that helmet that massive jaw would have crushed his skull instantly. As such he only watched as the helmet began to crush inward toward him. Thinking quickly, Link wrenched his head backwards as hard as he could while simultaneously unequipping the helmet. The monster's jaws snapped shut just inches from his nose, the extra freedom of movement saving him from certain death. Unperturbed the monster pressed onward, driving Link forward and slamming him against the side of the ship. That massive jaw came down again for the death blow, but this time Link reached forward and grabbed its lower jaw as he willed himself downward. Link felt three of his fingers break as it snapped down on them, the armor and padding the only thing keeping them from being chopped off completely, but it worked. Link shot down, flipping it and pulling it upside down along with him.
It was hard to express something when you didn't have any eyes, but the way the thing thrashed told Link enough. Nothing had ever tried this before. Of course they hadn't. Their enemy, the shipgirls, skated along the top of the water. Why would it ever have to worry about an enemy pulling it under? It adapted quickly, pointing one of its shoulder cannons at him, but that moment of confusion was all Link needed. He pulled the To-class in with one arm even as he reared back with the other, slamming the big fist into the things chest. It gasped, letting go of his fingers as its shots went wild, sinking into the black abyss below as the force propelled the monster upward. In a way as instinctual as propelling himself he willed the cannons on his arms to move. The guns rose in place as he held up his arms, and with one last act of will they fired a wild barrage straight. The To-class vanished in a cloud of smoke and dust, and Link propelled himself upward to catch the spirit left in its wake in his uninjured hand. He crushed it for later use.
Here now, back under the water, and looked up and saw the battle raging overhead. He had to admit, some part of Heinrich's speech must have gotten to him. He still had a surprising amount of breath left, and the thought of how surprised those Abyssals up there would feel if they were suddenly attacked from an unexpected direction momentarily overcame his concern for the Cadet. After all, he could breath now, he was resourceful, and he had those zombies that had been attending to Blazermate in the hold up there to keep him safe until he figured something out.
He raised his arms again and took as careful aim as he could before he started blasting at the abyssal firing line focusing on Shippy from underneath. He wondered how long he could go with these things before they wore out and crumbled to nothing?
Merge Rate: 30%
Location: The previous day, in the Frozen Highlands ~ Snowdin ~ Bar Survive
The only reason Linkle seemed so calm was because the woman in the television had triggered some kind of primal freeze response in her, as though she were a rabbit in the sights of some huge predator. She let the song play for around seven seconds before she got control of herself back and pressed the button again, switching the black box off before it attacked.
She reconsidered her feelings on modern technology. Maybe it was for the better that they didn't have it.
Her attention was arrested as Albedo began to speak again. When he said "theoretically possible" she only heard the possible part, and as he pulled out his sketchbook she stepped over to look at it over his shoulder. As he explained, however, her face started to fall. Some of it admittedly went over head but she had picked up the gist, and the gist was...
Well, well, there is your solution. All you have to do to make it a reality is gather enough dust just like you. Oh, but where oh where will we ever get that much dust?
Linkle's fists tightened as the smug voice echoed through her skull.
Let's see what we have in here. There were those men from the badlands, but their dust is long blown away by now. Moving on to other options. That Cid fellow you owe money too, the Junpei boy who made a fool of you, the king of dice if you make sure to cut off his head. I'm sure you could use that man trapped in the frozen hell once you find a method of murder that sticks.
She tried to drown it out with the grinding of her teeth.
Oh, but he'll need to test won't he? Do you have enough enemies for that? Of course, minor sacrifices could be made. The Lumbridge sheriff, even if it would break my heart to leave his poor doggie all alone. The adorable chicken man, he stole from you anyway. Those two men from the lake were Hylian, they would work extra well. Pile on a few heroes too, do we really need more than one running around? I'd suggest Ryu but you would probably just lose again.
Mr. Kashiwagi brought them their bentos, the steam pouring out when Albedo pulled up the lid. It smelled so good. Focus on the smell.
Have you considered that gender matters though? In that case I'm afraid your options are more limited and a lot more familiar. There's that nice girl from the guild. You know? The one the Cadet likes. Annnnd the fortune teller. I guess Dante would count as well. You could use Din, if you could work up the nerve to hit her this time. Or that girl Mina who decided she couldn't hack it after you tried so hard to make friends with her. But wait, you don't want to see her in your state. After all, you promised to be less reckless.
Albedo was talking again. Just listen to him, not this. Just listen to...now he decides to be succinct! No, tell the entire history of Inazuma. A place where people eat with sticks, that's got to be fascinating! Please!
Stop. Shrinking. Away.
Linkle sat at the bar, hand around the cup Albedo had passed her ready to slam the noodles like a shot of whisky in the hopes that taste or pain might work. The last thing it had said wasn't condescension or mockery though. It was scorn, like being scolded by a teacher who had always had it out for you.
You understood the implications when you asked. You understood where the dust would have to come from. How many enemies have you seen collapse? You knew it would take more than just the dust from your own body, why deny it? Not even you're that stupid. Somewhere in your mind you can look at these people and see nothing but resources to be spent. After all, they're not important. Not as important as you.
That was a lie.
Then why consider it at all? It's not as though their sacrifices would be in vain, and you can't deny that your wonderful skills are uniquely suited to creating vast quantities of dust. They would be giving up their lives to save the world as well. It would be a great honor, being mixed into the clay that will become a great hero. That's how you can rationalize taking in spirits so readily, isn't it? They're not really gone, even he said so. You'll just carry them along with you. By your own logic it wouldn't be so wrong.
For just a moment she could imagine it, or maybe it imagined it and showed it to her. Her, normal, standing on the ramparts of a resplendent castle, larger than even the great city of Alchamoth. A noble hero, master sword raised high in the air, surveying the land. Evil vanquished, princesses saved, Hyrule safe. But as the wind blew bits of the castle were carried away with it. It was made of ash, and no matter how far Linkle gazed she couldn't find any people upon the land.
The facts are, child, that now you have a method to save the world from a great evil. All it takes is the courage to carry it out. But, speaking as your heart? I can't feel a drop of the stuff.
Just then Linkle heard something start up. The tinkling of fingers sweeping across a pianos keys. The steady, repeated strum of a string. She looked up from where she had been staring, vacant, down into her noodles and over at the record player but the song it had been playing had long since ended. Nevertheless, she heard it thrumming along in her head.
Ooh Buckle up tonight You wanna get away Forget it, baby Got you in my sights They never got They don't ever learn
Hell, for heaven's sake In just a moment's time, you'll wonder why you Ever thought you'd ever look For more than you've got 'Cause, baby, you You've got you and me
As the music faded away Linkle was left shivering as though all the cold of the day had finally settled on her. Albedo was asking her something, and she shook her head and took a few deep breaths to try and compose herself and listen. It was about being dead, and she felt herself grimace. "I...uh..." she started, haltingly, looking down. Settling down. Settle down!
She took her hands and rubbed her face with them. Don't show them. Don't be...whatever it was that the Skull Heart wants you to be. Weak, sad, don't be that. Be stronger than that. Be a hero. Be the hero that you are. Linkle suddenly opened her eyes, reached down, brought the noodle bowl up to her face, and began to drink the broth. She felt the liquid course down her throat. It hurt a little, but the warmth settled there in her chest and began to radiate across her room temperature body.
Sighing into the bowl, she set it back down. "That was just what I needed." She said, trying to sound cheerful. At least the shivering had stopped. She turned to Albedo, "I'm going to be as straightforward as I can." She said, just repeating the phrase seeming to give her a little extra resolve. "I told you I hadn't been dead long. What I meant was, I died earlier today. Me and my friends were trying to find...you know the crazy guy who can't die? Every area in the world has a guardian like that and we were after the one in the Dead Zone. We had to fight a girl named Marie to open the way, she was a dead girl with a bunch of skeletons she summoned up. Some of them shot me, that's why I have..."
Linkle stopped and pulled open her cloak, pointing to the bullet holes still in her suit. "I didn't see a lot of the fight since that happened at the very start, but it's not how I died. I got up from that. When the fight was over a lot of the skeletons collapsed. Some didn't. Some became friendly. I never saw her make a "living dead" out of anyone that wasn't a pile of bones beforehand. If you're talking about just the skeletons some died and so did Marie. She left behind a spirit and everything. But she also left behind...an...evil talking skull that was inside her. It was called the Skull Heart, and it offered every girl there a wish so long as the wish was pure. I took it because I thought I could outsmart it. I thought I could make the most unselfish wish possible, but I don't think anyone can outsmart it. I think it will always see the worst in you, no matter what. Now it lives in my chest and it was just now mocking me for thinking I could get rid of it."
"So maybe I'm not dead dead but I was definitely alive before I felt all my blood stop and now I'm something else. I guess back home they would call me a ReDead or a Gibdo or maybe a Stalinkle. You're right, there should be a word for what this is." She reached down and took another shot of broth, slurping up a few noodles this time in the process. "You're a great cook, Mr. Kashiwagi. These are really good."