Cyril's capture galvanized the remaining fighters into action. Whether or not they knew or liked him, they knew that as soon as they started getting picked off, this arduous struggle would be over. As the darkness began to close in on the pinned vanguard, Souta became surrounded by a fiery glow, and before the eyes of those still able to see a powerful blaze consumed him from nowhere. Juniper stood agape, wondering if her last standing ally had been somehow immolated by this unknown force, until a surge of water followed the flames to give off a burst of steam. When the breeze carried it away, the smith looked nothing like himself. A strange stone armor, haphazard in its forming enough to make him resemble a demon, now covered Souta.
With the ample weight and protection the power of his unique, unknown power, the enigmatic metalworker stepped forward into the cascade once more. Yet, as easily as before, he was carried off his feet and thrown back. The voice echoing from the jagged, asymmetrical helmet afterward managed to convey its immense disappointment and frustration despite the strange headwear's distortion. “Are you kidding me? This water can't be physical. Nothing like that should be able to move me when I'm in Trigger. Must operate on different rules...” The invisible foot of Howell's vengeful entity crashed upon him again as he stood, but this time he practically shrugged it off. All that defense would not save Cyril, however, who appeared to have blacked out.
Juniper clenched her fists, mind racing. Hotheaded as though she might appear, she had been paying attention. These two appeared to be using some sort of magic that completely disregarded conventions, but she got the nagging feeling that the trick for the vortex specifically was actually quite simple. There wasn't time enough to puzzle it out, but as much as she wanted to, she couldn't let Cyril be crushed to death. The pettiness of revenge aside, he did have her soul, after all. Concerning the problem at hand, she could rattle off a few things about it. First: the torrent was not insurmountable, for somehow some progress had been made. It had only been when she got back into the fight that Souta and Cyril suffered a reset of their progress. Second: the torrent cared not about the weight of objects introduced to it, nor the effort with which they strove to conquer it. Third: when the flow didn't repel an assailant, it was only when two of her trio were fording it together. Maybe it has a set amount of force it can bring to bear at once, and when confronted by several enemies, it has to split the force into multiple, weaker ones.
There were holes in her theory, but it was better than nothing, and time was -of course- of the essence.
“Souta! Let's jump in at the same time!”
Even without his face visible to show his feelings, Souta appeared desperate enough to try anything. “'Kay!”
One of Juniper's new metal legs went down into the water, and though the push was there, it felt terribly weak. What. It's that simple!?
She took another step, then another. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Souta doing the same, and as their confidence waxed, their speed picked up.
In the eye of the storm, Raleigh and Howell shifted from one-hundred-percent self-sure to surprised and fearful in a second flat. Their foes were employing some sort of strategy that seemed to be working; no countermeasure had come up during the afternoon of testing. “How could you have figured out a weakness when we couldn't find a single one!?” The sunken man demanded. Still floating overhead in the grip of Howell's entity, Cyril was suddenly cast down to tumble along the ground. At one, two forces descended upon the assailants, but the moment they hit the water, they were repelled. Souta's stony facade and Juniper's outstretched hand breached the eye of the tempest at that moment, and in a splash of ethereal water the cascade dissipated.
Raleigh's scream was cut off by Souta's fist which, alongside bloodying her nose and teeth, knocked her out instantly. In a flash, Juniper delivered a snap kick to Howell's jaw, flooring him. He hit the cobblestones first, and Raleigh's limp body fell on top of him, but his eyes remained open. Pressure closed in on Juniper from all sides, and before she knew what was going on, the invisible hand yanked her toward the sky. All became a blur as she shot upward at impossible speeds. Blue became black in a matter of seconds, and she could focus on only one thing: a star in the far-flung reaches of space, just a twinkling speck to someone on Earth. When it started getting visibly larger, she began to brace herself, and the next second slammed into something blinding and yellow.
When her head stopped spinning, Juniper opened her eyes. She was laying on a hard, flat, brilliant surface that expanded infinitely in every direction. Dumbfounded, she could only look around. The incredibly brightness of the ground met the pitch-black void of space at the horizons, and as she scanned the sky, she could see a single star glowing brighter than the rest. In silence she considered what might have happened, pondering the ludicrousness of the idea of being snatched and taken to a star untold googols of miles away, until she became aware of two shapes on the ground nearby that looked just a touch darker than the rest. Their outlines gave the impression that they were feet, and as Juniper stared, something began to move. Only detectable by the shimmer it gave off its ghostly body as it moved, it was gargantuan, on par with the titans of myth, yet strangely emaciated. Though humanoid, its head could only be described as some sort of grotesque, immense flower, and from its back there extended a huge, curved protrusion that resembled a crescent moon. It raised its hand to crush her, but before the shimmering mass could descend, everything dissolved into a blur once again. Juniper's last fleeting look of the thing was as she zoomed by it, in the direction of the bright star. Still shocked, she glanced over her shoulder, but all that remained of the bizarre plain upon which she lay for but an instant was a sparkling dot in the unnamable distance.
In a few seconds the blur faded away once again. The martial artist could see the cloudy sky of late afternoon, and feel the cobblestones at her back. An outstretched hand appeared, the last chunks of sorcerous stone turning to dust, and she reached out to take it. Nearby, Cyril was making a laborious effort to stand up himself, and while he worked at it Juniper glanced at the bodies of the College employees. The woman still breathed, albeit through a destroyed mouth and nose, but the man sported a skull that had evidently met the wrong end of Souta's hammer while Juniper had been...'away'. “He cast some sort of illusion...a hallucination. It must have been.” Juniper told him.
Tired and confused, the smith shrugged before turning to walk in the direction of a restaurant. “C'mon,” he told both Cyril and Juniper, “We could use a few drinks after whatever the hell that was.”
The Fungal Knight
Location: the Big Top@Banana
BoBonesword's revelation -that the egg timer affected the gravity of the user- proved exactly correct as he began to fall upward. The hammer that he clutched, however, remained decidedly in the purview of its wielder, affixed instead to conventional gravity. Thus, when the skeleton-turned-clown's grip failed, he found himself on the ceiling of the Big Top's capture chamber in a matter of seconds. A handful of meters below, sporting a quizzical expression, the ogreish clown stared up at him. No clear avenue of attack remained for the freak now that his enemy lay out of his reach. A few moments passed before an idea popped into the carnie's head, and with the hammer in hand he shuffled to one of the wacky-colored doors. Its motion sensor activated as he drew near to let him pass, and the clown made a beeline for the nearest wall-mounted weapons catch. Several goofy-looking ray guns and one flamboyant bazooka hung there, but given his build the clown could not be said to be making good time.
Location: What Lies Beneath@Kapuchu
Lily's caution earned her another half-hour of waiting a short way off from the mushroom garden, but in time she did become aware of the low whine of a second drone, eking from between the between the dimly luminescent stalks. It grew steadily louder as it came closer, but no other noise could be picked up even in the oppressive silence of this massive cavern.
The kitsune's foe did, however, appear.
He walked out from a bundle of spindly mushrooms, his steps slow and halting. Unmasked by a helmet, Teller's features were plain to see, and his glazed, languid countenance told of a decided lack of wellness. Black goop coated his futuristic armor, especially thick around his hands and forearms, where it besmirched the rifle he held in his grasp. In front of him floated the drone, but he did not glance at it when it reangled itself to face in Lily's direction. Instead, he reached out and grabbed it, his fingers working quickly to shut it down and attach it to his belt, before he turned his dull eyes from side to side. Their gaze looked over the scenery beyond the pseudo-forest's age.
“I knooow where you aaare...”
Of all things, his voice sounded wet. Before he turned to face Lily, somehow fixating in her direction despite the lack of guidance, a few more strange things could be glimpsed. From his lower back sprouted a gooey black tail, its tip a spade, and his shoulderblades gave rise to winglike extensions that lacked membranes.
“Your souuul...I need it. Give it, sooo tasty. Won't ask nicelyyy...I must feeeeeed.”
The soldier's face began to bubble and boil, the sky turning to jelly. His mouth grew to take up his whole face, the teeth yellow-green pillars that gnashed together again and again before opening wide. Two additional arms sprouted from his ribs and reached into his maw to retrieve a pair of curved swords from within his gullet. When the mouth closed, it shrank back to its normal size, Teller's liquidated human features reappearing. Black slime flowed from his lips to cover the top of his head, where it altered into a horned military helmet with a microphone. Music, energetic but distorted in parts into a hideous-sounding remix, began to echo through the underground.
“Coming for you, tasty!” came the garbled ultimatum, through the noise.
While the tree Pieter inhabited harbored no more leaves on its boughs, the remnants of Weird Autumn swirled like a stormcloud of oranges and browns above and around their controller; after all, in a world where a single mature oak could have two hundred thousand leaves, a single twister made no difference to the whole. Jin's dash toward Pieter proved to be a shortsighted maneuver as a portion of the original tree's magicked leaves swooped down on him from the front, and those of his former cover closed in from behind him. The two waves hastened to crash together with the assassin in the middle.
Blood-curdling shriek after uncanny shriek sounded out from the alley as Malveil grew closer, intensifying until the very moment he rounded the building's corner to peer down it at the abhorrent things within. When he turned his gaze upon the horrible noises' source, however, only trash looked back at him.
The next second, blasts of blackness appeared above him, in every direction. Murky dust expanded into a nebulous cloud that blocked out the sun, and from the sudden dark descended a squadron of shapes blacker still. Misshapen, abominable, and with no two quite alike, the nightmarish things cackled at the surrounded fool that had fallen for their ambush. Wasting little time, the ghouls mounted their bloodthirsty assault, the first
lashing out with its twisted limbs to gouge Malveil's flesh from his body.