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Current I live.
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3 mos ago
Pro tip: Your mom
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If I had a dollar for every time someone asked if this site was dying, I'd probably be a millionare.
3 mos ago
Watch out, they might take you up on that.
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Everything is going to be okay.

I'll make sure of it.

Most Recent Posts


Oh, of course they still fuckin' blame him for wasting their time. As much as I respect Dr. Nykannis, lighten the hell up already, cause I'm not bringing him back. Hopefully they don't catch onto me going behind their backs to get him out and away from there ASAP, I know they'll try and take matters into their own hands. Maybe in a different timeline he actually managed to do the right thing. But he never does, does he? You call him a failure, a disappointment, pointless. You keep acknowledging him even after he's left. Is it never enough for you?

Though I guess I'm being too merciful. Ifrit's mere existence was apparently abhorrent enough according to [REDACTED]. Maybe it's better to put him out of his misery now. People like us are nothing if not expendable.

Though during my side gigs I've found something quite impressive. This kid's practically interwoven with the multiverse. So many connections to Reality Plenums both dead and ongoing and even ones that haven't begun yet. Apparently something about a project involving him? There are actually ones where Doc's assumptions are proven wrong. I mean, [REDACTED]'s been through some shit but he's actually happy with the quiet life he's made with his partner after everything. That specific instance alone has opened up a whole new slew of possibilities for him, and a chance to finally break his cycle of being a perpetual failure.

He can finally be happy.

Well. For now I should record this for reference. For what, hell if I know. But it's better then attempting Damnatio Memoriae at least.

- Wagner

Just this once, I’ll let your banner go above mine, Finn, but don’t go thinking this’ll be a recurring thing.
-Doctor Nykannis

Amanda, Valerie, and Justine at the meeting. Oliver and Mac backing-up Maura with hi-jacking Mint operations.

Everyone was busy, leaving their headquarters quiet. Save for one.

Once Oliver had ordered him to rest this time, Finn retreated into one of the bedrooms in the interdimensional manor. He remained sprawled out on the bed, entrapped in his thoughts. There wasn't really much else to do when you just can't talk for the moment. The boy was looking back to everything he'd done since he first arrived in Penrose, since he had been pulled into this...whatever it was. He couldn't find the right word at the moment. But there was one thought that lingered in his mind as he held the strange pocketwatch up to his face.

Why did I even agree to this?

Suppose the stress of everything had finally gotten to him. He genuinely didn't know why he had just willingly let himself endure all this just to make some desperate change. Just to do something right for once. He thought back to the Christmas party and-

...Betty. Of course. The first person he met; and at the point to where she was at her limit with everything nonetheless, leaving without saying goodbye to him. Without even considering how he'd feel or just talking to him like she did about Justine. She didn't deserve what she went through. God, she didn't. But that didn't mean she had to leave. That was just rude of her. Understandable, but rude.

But why did he feel so strongly about someone who was practically still a stranger? Just cause she was nice to him? Cause they won that ridiculous race together? Or was it cause he was using her, and everyone else that left then as evidence that Penrose was royally fucked up?

He'd never know. Finn softly frowned at that.

As Finn continued to brood, his musings would be interrupted by a burst of crackling yellowy-green energy, which faded to reveal the scrawny, lab coat-wearing form of Doctor Nykannis.

“Finn,” she greeted bluntly. Finn quickly sat up from the bed at the crackling sound, only to groan once he recognized the doctor. “Finn, Finn, Finn…” the diminutive doctor continued as she began pacing around the magical boy, while shaking her head in weary exasperation. “If all it takes to reduce you to an emotional wreck is the death of a pair of complete non-entities, then you’ve got absolutely no hope of doing what it takes to defeat Penny, let alone of handling everything that comes after. I mean, for shit’s sake! They were both magicals! According to the rules of this reality plenum, they’ll resurrect in only a decade or three! Granted, they’ll still be trapped in Glexaroth’s Funhouse,” the mad scientist conceded.

The boy tiredly glared at her. Magicals, my ass. Those were innocent people! Then again, somehow he knew someone like her wouldn't understand why he felt so strongly about this. He glanced around, looking for something to communicate easier with.

“But that’s a problem for Future Finn to worry about. Present Finn has more pressing concerns.” At that a holodisplay appeared, showing the truck the Mint’s device was being transported in. Finn took a moment to glance up. “Your pals are going into battle without the most important member of their team. That’s you, by the way,” she clarified, pointing a bony finger at the one-eyed magical boy. “Now, I know it looks like an absurdly simple operation, but I’m pretty sure it’s a trap. I’m also pretty sure I know who’s responsible for it, and she’s no joke. But don’t worry your edgy little head,” she continued, giving him an extremely condescending head pat. She was really persistent at that, he'd give credit where it was due. “This is actually a good thing. Remember, if you wanna succeed in beating Penny, you need to gain the Grand Magistrate’s favor, and to do that, you need to be active. You need to make a strong impression. Right now, the only impression you’re making is that you’re a pathetic crybaby who falls apart when things get a little too upsetting, but what if you swooped in to save all your pals’ asses when things go tits up out there? You’d be rescuing your boyfriend,"


"-your boss, and even that other stupid chick. You’d be saving Cradle, foiling the Mint, and making the Grand Magistrate notice you. The best part is, you can sit here and sulk until the fireworks start! Just remember that when they do, you need to be ready. This is your big shot, kid, so make it count.

With that, she turned to depart through a just-opened portal. “Anyway, that’s all I really had to say. I can’t wait to see how everything turns out.”

Though before she could step through, Finn had chucked a small whiteboard at her head.

“The fuck?! Nykannis exclaimed as she whirled around, a mechadendrite shooting out of her back to snatch the whiteboard out of the air. “Is this supposed to mean you have something to say?” she asked, holding the whiteboard up and shaking it slightly.

Finn rose a brow, holding up a black dry-erase marker as to say "What do you think?". He wasn't willing to let her go that easily. If she wanted to talk, he'll talk somehow. Finn motioned for her to give the whiteboard back to him.

Fine… Nykannis sighed, tossing the whiteboard into the magical boy’s waiting hands. “What’s on your angsty mind?”

The boy caught the board, flipping the surface side towards him and uncapping the marker lid with his teeth. He quietly spat it aside and began writing on it, soon flipping it back to show the mad scientist.

Frankly, you severely underestimate Oliver and Mac.

Oli's practically unkillable, and he uses his magic well enough to hold out on his own. I'd know, I've known the damn guy for centuries now! And Mac hasn't been around long but she's shown promise.

He paused for her to read, before adding:

"You're purposefully withholding information from me so I'd have more incentive to go out there. Mind elaborating on your theories first? Or am I too much of a brainlet to keep up with your intellect?

“The fact you even need to ask that should already give you your answer,” Nykannis replied with a mocking smirk. “Still, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to enumerate all the unpleasant possibilities,” she added. “First off, you’re severely underestimating what your pals might be up against. If this really is a trap, then both that device and the collection of low-powered idiots guarding it are nothing more than bait. Chloe Irving, the Mint’s newest coin broker-in-training is at Lily’s stupid little meeting right now, but there’s someone WAY worse than her pulling her strings, even if she doesn’t know it. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll just call her ‘Wisdom’, and she has access to resources most Patrons can only dream about, not to mention abilities that put even Penny to shame. Even an Empress-class like Maura won’t stand much of a chance against a fellow Empress-class who’s also a Myth-rank magical girl,” the mad scientist continued. “But an Emperor-class magical boy who also has the powers of an APEX-grade esper? That’s another story entirely… And speaking of stories, I’m sure you also wanna hear why I think this is a trap. Well, there are actually several reasons. First, why the hell would the Mint care about Veronica? She was smart enough to leave Penrose for a fresh start somewhere else, while giving your ineffectual boss control of Cradle to serve as the perfect decoy! This whole operation is a way to take Maura out of the equation. Once she’s gone, they probably figure they can easily finish off what’s left of Cradle. But they’re not counting on you being the Biggest Damn Hero Penrose has ever seen! Sure, your boss and boyfriend will be in bit of peril,” the Monarch of Mad Science went on. “But you know what they say about omelets and eggs, right? Besides, if you aren’t strong enough to save them, then you’re certainly not cut out to be the new King of Penrose.”

For how long Nykannis explained, Finn was using his whiteboard to jot down notes. Terms unfamiliar, someone called Wisdom he had to keep in mind, the reason why the intel Ladybug sent was a trap; He couldn't help feeling bad for Maura being used as a decoy, might as well chuck the comatose Samantha back to Veronica with a memo.

Esper. Like that Elroy guy at the Christmas party?

“Yep,” Nykannis confirmed. “Only WAY stronger. I gotta admit, that smug bitch really outdid herself with that thing,” she added, pointing to Finn’s new pocket watch.

And there's no Myth class or Apex-Grade documented anywhere from what I know.

These terms are from outside this world, aren't they? So to pair two high-ranks at once into one person and pit them against the common magicals?

He pauses, his expression turning grim.

They're not going to last long out there.

“No, they’re not,” Nykannis replied bluntly. “And yes, those terms are from different universes, or reality plenums, as I like to call them. I’ve found that combining abilities from multiple plenums can have some pretty interesting results, which brings us to another reason I think this is a trap for Maura,” she went on. “Just think of how epic the confrontation will be when you jump in to save her from whatever Wisdom comes up with, and that’s not even getting to the possibility of you facing Miss Mythic herself! Plus, if you use that watch, you’ll probably be fighting that battle as some kinda steampunk cyborg, and the Grand Magistrate has a bit of a fetish for that kinda thing. So, really, this whole set up is for your benefit! I mean, if Penny’s famous for killing off some pathetic Lesser Force-tier dragon, then imagine how famous you’ll be! Nyahahahaha! It’s like I said before, kid, this is your big chance to show everyone how cool you are, so you gotta make it count!”

Finn had to take a moment to process this information. Reality Plenums. He seemed to draw something in the air as he thought, then furrowed his brows as he looked back to Nykannis.

"Magicals or not, Miki and Drake were innocent people made into a sickening example of, what, 'sacrifices must be made??' Aria had Mac manipulate me into killing them. Whether or not it was to my own benefit, would a king allow himself to be pulled around like some puppet? And after he went through hell and back to make sure it never happened again?" He finally speaks up.

"You've given me a helluva lot to think about for being casually dragged into a regicide plot. Alternate realities, "Wisdom", alternative motives, but frankly, between you and Aria? You're...actually not that bad. A pain in the ass, mind you, but I wouldn't mind working with you again once everything's been said and done and shit." His brows rose. After a moment, he'd speak up again:

"Also what the fuck do you mean by Oliver being my boyfriend???"

“Well, you two seemed kinda close, so what the hell else was I supposed to think?” Nykannis replied with a shrug. “As for your other points, no, a real king would make other people serve them, which is why choosing the watch over those two dumbasses was definitely the right move. Aria said she had the power to save them, right? Well, now you’ve got the power to force her to do that! Or, I mean, you could just go back to Glexaroth’s little labyrinth and do it yourself,” the mad scientist noted, before dramatically pointing a bony finger toward Finn. His brows rose in response. Nykannis...actually had a point there. “But a king should really make his servants deal with that kinda shit, don’t ya think? And I’m glad you’re finally beginning to realize just how vastly superior I am to that butterfly-obsessed bitch!” she added with a demented grin. “Nyahahaha! It sure took you long enough! I mean, even Penny knows how amazing I am!” the Monarch of Mad Science continued. “And she understands, even if only on an instinctual level, that I, like her, also share the Grand Magistrate’s favor, something a certain lilac-haired smug bitch distinctly lacks! So yeah, this means your Protagonist Power is definitely getting stronger,” she declared with a self-assured nod.

"Wait until they weaken their forces enough, then swoop in for the kill." Finn thought out loud, moving off the bed. "I'll have to be nearby to time things right."

“Really?” Nykannis asked with a raised eyebrow. “I thought as long as you were in The Cradle you could pop out anywhere?”

"Think it's only when Maura makes an entrance to here, being the Cradle Mother and all that." He explained. "Unless I can somehow jailbreak myself out, I'll have to ask her. Oli's going to be frustrated at me..."

“Well that’s pathetic,” Nykannis replied. “I honestly thought Maura’s top hand-holder would have full access to The Cradle’s transportation capabilities. But if that’s not the case, I can just make a portal for you myself. So, while we wait, is there anything else you wanna know about? If not, I’ll just start telling you about things I think are important for someone in your current situation to to be aware of, and you can just sit there and nod at appropriate points.”

Finn rose a brow. "Dunno what else could be so important, but knock yourself out I guess."

“Well, for one thing, you need to try and wrap your pitiful excuse for a brain around the concept of ‘Protagonist Power’,” Nykannis began, a pointer materializing in her hand, while an arc of holographic displays flashed into existence behind her. “Like I told the not-so-dearly-departed Oros the Annoying, there are more kinds of power than just the normally thought of sources of energy. Some people think it’s a big deal to harness the power of a hurricane or volcano, the power of a planet’s core, the power of a system’s star, the power of quantum singularities, the power of zero-point energy, the power of completely converting matter into energy, the power of completely converting antimatter into energy, the power of cosmic energy, the power of negacosmic energy…” The Monarch of Mad Science continued, even as she pointed to holographic depictions of each of the mentioned types of power accumulators.

Although these visuals were holograms, they were also hard light constructs, and Nykannis’s pointer made a tapping sound each time it struck an image. If Finn was a fan of ASMR, this, coupled with Nykannis’s droning as she paced back and forth with her oversized lab coat trailing behind her, might very well cause the magical boy’s eyes to glaze over as he entered a state of dull semi-awareness. At least until Nykannis slammed her pointer down on top of his head with a loud “Thwack!”.

“PAY ATTENTION!!!” she snapped, giving her “pupil” an intense glare. “This is important! Now, as I was saying, despite all that, they’re still thinking too small, they’re still failing to grasp the bigger picture! You can also draw energy from intangibles, things like the Power of Friendship, the Power of Love, the Power of Hate, the Power of Competition, the Power of the Spiral, and countless others! But the most important type of power in a reality plenum like this one is Protagonist Power. That’s what determines your level of significance in the narrative the Grand Magistrate is trying to craft. The more significant you are, the more the Grand Magistrate cares about you, the more Protagonist Power you have, and the more Protagonist Power you have, the greater the chance you’ll be able to get everything you want! Let’s take another look at our old pal the Tin Titan,” the mad scientist continued, pointing to a schematic of a certain robot/cyborg Queen of Penrose. “A while back, when the rest of the Penrose Pack was busy fighting some random liches, she got handed a free upgrade on a silver platter! Yes, I know her prior patron supposedly sent this so-called ‘replacement’ to kill her off, but was that really his intention? I mean, you saw how he treated her during their last little chat. Or not, since unlike me, you don’t have omnidimensional viewing capabilities! Nyahahahaha! ANYWAYS, that still doesn’t have anything on the time she went up against whats-her-tits in that ass shoving contest,” the Mad Scientist Supreme went on. “There, the Grand Magistrate himself had to personally intervene on her behalf! He actually went so far as to rewrite fucking history, just so she could win! Hell, I almost feel bad for the pathetic edgelord facing her, since she’s a perfect example of how superior tactics and the willingness to fatally stab yourself count for all of jack shit compared to the benefits granted by superior Protagonist Power. Wouldn’t you like to have access to that kinda high-level chronological manipulation?” she asked, poking his nose with her pointer. “Well, ya kinda do with that watch and all, but the real question is, will he let you use it? He’d certainly let her use it, but why is that? Because he likes her more than you! I really hate to say this, but Oros the Perverted was actually right about something for once. In order to get ahead in this world, ya need to have more Protagonist Power than anyone else, and the way to get that is by having people, especially people who matter, like you. Trust me when I say that moping around like a complete loser is most assuredly NOT the way to do that. But look!” she exclaimed, dramatically spreading her arms. “Instead of just staring off into the middle distance, you’re interacting with ME, THE GREATEST MAD SCIENTIST OF THEM ALL!!! Even the Grand Magistrate appreciates my transcendent amazingness! Why else would he provide me with the opportunity to study the energies employed by Queenie’s special snowflake sword, and then use the knowledge gained to make a far superior version of my own?! THAT’S what Protagonist Power can do for you Finn! And just by interacting with you, I’m lending you some of my own! No, no, you don’t need to thank me! But if you really wanted to, I suppose watching you kick the shit out of Aria so bad she’s begging for her pathetic life might be a good start… ANYWAYS, my point is, you ALWAYS need to be thinking of how you can gain more Protagonist Power! You can never just ’exist’, like a certain Paladin-Seraph. You can’t just be a background character. Ya need to be the star of the fucking show! Right now, the Brave Little Toaster and Little Miss Sleeps Around have got the spotlight pretty firmly fixed on them, but the moment you get up off your mopey ass and leap into action, then all the stupid, brainless banter of their little dick-measuring contest’ll be completely forgotten! All eyes will be on YOU. This’ll be your big moment, hopefully the first of many, so just try not to fuck it up, okay?” Closing her eyes, the demented doctor gave voice to a tired sigh. “Look, I know I’m repeating myself here, but I really want you to understand just how important this is. I put a LOT of work into you, and so did a lot of other people. I’d just hate to see it all go to waste.”

Without warning, a burning pentagram appeared on the floor on Nykannis’s right side and Aria popped out of it’s center.

”Now Finn, I know the mad scientist lady has no fashion sense whatsoever, but you can’t get distracted. It’s still important to think about things a little bit. Less you get something wrong and have everything you stand for undermined by a butterfly loving bitch.” It was typical for Aria to smile, but she was absolutely grinning. Her teeth shined like purls. ”To start, let’s talk about Betty. Don’t ask how I knew you were thinking about her, we don’t have time to get into it. But I do think it’s pretty beta of you to take a woman who was at her lowest and admonish her because she didn’t say goodbye to you. Someone who, as you admitted to yourself, hadn’t known you for more than a day. That’s what depressed people do. They stop thinking about others and focus squarely on themselves. You can’t fault Betty for getting brainwashed, used like a whore, and then at the end of it all the person who did it got away with a slap on the wrist. But sure, you’re the victim because she didn’t consider your feelings.” She scoffed. ”It’s pathetic. You deserve each other. I’d admonish you further, but Nykannis said the watch was well made so I’m in a good mood.”

”...Which almost makes me not want to tell you she doesn’t know shit about Wisdom. I mean sure, she’s not totally clueless. She’s seen her in action. But she doesn’t understand her motives. Wisdom has no interest in participating in that squabble and would only get involved if you decided to go super clock man on them. Wisdom is content to keep her cover until she's ready to leave. I think she told Jen something to the effect of ‘You stay out of it and I’ll stay out of it.’ I doubt you’d need the clock to screw things up for the mint.”

”But I didn’t really come here to make fun of what a sad sack you’ve become or to point out Nykannis’s ignorance. You haven’t internalized the lesson I was trying to teach you at all. It was a simple warning to not let your desires control you. You put yourself in my hands for a stupid gizmo that, at the end of the day, isn’t going to help you beat Penny any easier. If you gained anything from Nykannis’s lecture about protagonist power, it should be that there are factors outside of your control that determine who wins a fight. While I presented you with a choice, it did have a correct answer, and you chose wrong. You chose power over your own ideals. You have a modified red coin for crying out loud. If you want to become a cyborg so bad, use that.” she sighed and turned away from Finn. ”Imagine going through hell for power, and then rejecting that power so that you can save those innocents you keep prattling on about.Miki and Drake could have easily become cradle agents. It wouldn’t have been hard to earn their forgiveness after you helped them out of that shithole.” She raised a finger. ”And I did maybe nudge you in the other direction, but that was only because I was sure your strong will would-.” She started to break up with laughter. ”Okay, I thought it would be kind of funny if you just took the watch and went ham with it. But I’ll tell you what? Since you haven’t used it yet-” Aria turned her head to look at Nykannis. ”You’re still here? I thought you would have been done talking by now. I wouldn’t have shown you as much praise if I knew you were present.”

“Well, I wasn’t gonna just let you insult me without suffering any repercussions,” Nykannis shot back. “And it’s fucking hilarious that someone who looks like they came from some fucking emo edgelord’s slumber party thinks my fashion sense is bad,” she added with a contemptuous sneer.

Aria looked herself over. ”Hah! I guess that’s fair.”

“And nice try with that grail guardian ‘you chose poorly’ crap, but if Finn was listening to ANYTHING I was saying, he should realize that you just provided him with a perfect opportunity to prove that his choice was the right one, at least as far as gaining power was concerned. As for not knowing how Wisdom’s mind works, well, I’m not afraid to say I find the idea of getting into the head of any Oros variant utterly nauseating, even one as tolerable as Wisdom, or that workaholic with the giant backpack. I simply noted something they might do, not something they would do.”

”It’s okay, Doctor Nykannis. We all know how big and wrinkly that galaxy sized brain of yours is. And I really don’t fault anyone for not knowing or wanting to know what an Oros is thinking. But to bring the conversation back to Finn…” She turned to face the aforementioned magical boy. ”I feel that the protagonist power gained by acquiring two new cradle agents is better than that of the watch. Again, a simple aesthetic change is not difficult for a red coin to conjure. The GM does seem to like his mechanical menaces, but do you know what else they like?” Aria threw her arms open. ”Melodrama and random romance! Oh, and ‘pizazz,’ but what that even means seems to change moment to moment. Anyone who’s ever been important in Penrose has had a romantic partner at one time or another. I will concede said love interest was usually GM appointed, but I think saddling Finn with a confused Miki would have created a lot of spectacle! Is she going to stay mad because of what he did? Is she going to forgive him? Maybe she feels torn as her savior and murderer are the same person? You won’t convince me that’s not proper melodrama.” She placed a finger on her lip. ”It only seems like I’ve given Finn a chance to kick my ass if you believe he can beat me. Since he completed my little errand, and everyone else did as well, I don’t give him a very high chance for success. Oros the Mad has a better chance of making sweet love to you under a blossoming cherry tree in the Deva’s Dilemma RP. And yes, both Deva’s Dilemma and Oros the Mad are dead. And yes, there were no cherry trees there even when it was alive. But there’s an even bigger issue with Finn.”

When Nykannis looked at Finn, he had reverted to how he was at the beginning of her visit. A brooding statue with a blank, empty stare.

”He seems to be… Finn-ished.”

“Well, he could always use the watch to reverse time and bring them back to life, or even fast forward to speed up their resurrection,” Nykannis pointed out. “But you’re right,” she added, looking down at Finn with a disappointed frown. “He doesn’t look particularly motivated right now. Though I can’t really blame him. I mean, if he believes that crap about how he can’t even beat you with all the power he has, he doesn’t stand a chance against Penny.

”Suppose he could use you as practice until he’s ready for me.” Aria patted Finn’s head. ”Jokes aside, I would be willing to take that watch back if you had a change of heart. Alternatively, I can let you keep the watch and I can bring those two magicals back. The caveat is that you can’t stay here. You’ll have to go on a one way trip to the same place Betty skipped off too. I doubt you’ll ever see this world again after that, but given how you look, that might not be a bad thing.” With a nod, Aria rose to her feet and turned back to Nykannis. ”That was all I wanted to do. Are you going to stick around a bit longer?”

“Are you sure having two of him there is really the best idea?” Nykannis inquired with a mocking sneer. “That much overwhelming angst in one place might be too much for a single reality plenum to handle. And yeah,” she added. “Seeing as how he’s kinda zoned out at the moment, I can’t really think of any reason to continue wasting my time on such a pathetic specimen. Fuck, Finn, you could at least try to make a comeback! (sigh) What a disappointment…” she muttered, shaking her head as she moved towards the portal that led back to her lab.

Aria didn’t say a word as she watched Nykannis finally depart. Once she was gone, she turned to look back at Finn. ”Kind of funny, really.” She folded her hands together. ”Nykannis has to be one of the most powerful entities in this RP. Despite her power, she hasn’t been able to make any meaningful changes. She can grant people powers, give Lily a guard, attack Wonderlands forces head on, but it never amounts to anything. No matter how many toys she has at her disposal, the status quo remains the same.” She placed a hand on her chest. ”I can relate. I’ve had a few projects that didn’t turn out quite as planned. But you might have turned out differently. Just the smallest hope that several people pooling their efforts together might affect something. How unfortunate this is how it ends.” With a shake of her head, Aria’s body started to crack. ”But I’m fine with whatever you want to do. Just call my name and I’ll be there.” And with that, Aria’s body turned into ash and cinders.


So that was it then.

Perhaps no matter how far they strung him along, this really was a pointless effort. Thus as Jennifer Wagner silently approached shortly after the two had left, instead of further admonishment…

She had pulled the boy into a hug, no matter how aware he was at the moment she pulled him into a hug. ”I’m so sorry, kid.” Jen quietly sighed. Nykannis was so close to convincing him, and then Aria had to fucking ruin it. Suuuuure, force the man traumatized by past abusive relationships into one with the girl you had him murder! That’ll surely go well with Mr. “Perpetual Failure”! And to bring up the broad that, in hindsight, would probably never care about him like she cared about Binky, what a joke! And they had the gall to blame HIM for shutting down after that?! You basically rubbed it in his face that he was an idiot!

”You know they were lying to you, right?” After a moment of silence, she spoke up again. ”Kept going on about how you were destined to fail no matter what you do. You were led on, and I am so sorry for letting it go this far. But I don’t expect your forgiveness. Just means Penrose is a lost cause.”

Jen briefly paused when she felt Finn hug back. Good, he’s at least somewhat lucid. ”You don’t have to keep the grimoire. Nor do you have to stay here, or go to Pax Septimus. I can help tie up whatever loose ends are left and that includes bringing Miki and Drake back and explaining everything. Wrap up and Pack up, yeah? Sounds good?” Her demeanor seemed different this time. There wasn’t a point in playing an act right now, after all. Finn nodded.

”But the others? Oli?”

The false witch slightly frowned. ”Due to your nature as his phylactery, you can be separate. But if you’re unsure about leaving him, we can bring him with. Dunno about Tonya though. Could find some places for Valerie and Amanda. Maura…er…yeah, she was probably screwed either way. Not only had her character been flanderized, Veronica gave the Cradle to her just to skip town. Doubt she ever cared about her as more than a pawn.” She rolled her eyes. ”It’s like I said, it was literally written in the stars for her and Samantha to be soulmates! Well I hope she enjoys having her pet’s corpse delivered back to her with a strongly worded memo! Hah!” With a dry chuckle, she stepped back from the hug and opened a rift out of the manor.

”Ready to get outta here?”

Finn simply approached the exit. But just before he stepped through, he hesitated. Despite his attempts to tune her out, Aria’s words still haunt him. ”...”



Jen smiled genuinely. ”Forget what she said, and forget about Betty. You’ll find a nice boy, someday.”

Finn’s brows rose. A boy? Though any clarification from the False Witch of Time would be left to interpretation. With nothing else to say, he disappeared through the rift.

”UUUUUUUUUUUUUGH! Man, what a waste of a few good months. Wasn’t all that bad but I guess this Reality’s been going on for so long, the spark’s burnt out. Not to mention all the bullshit I found out during my stay here. Little Miss Queen Machine was broken since day one and no one noticed or gave a shit. And I didn’t even get to kill this Reality Plenum’s Faith myself! But, oh well, probably better to just wrap it up here instead of wasting another year. Not to mention that one rogue variable that’s cropped up recently. Do NOT want to draw his ire. Jen grimaced, rambling on to no one around.

”Hopefully Timekeeper’s run will end on a more savory note. There are more ‘alternatives’ out there but most are… It’s really complicated to explain here. In general. So on that note. I wish all who decide to remain, a very GOOD LUCK.

"Majora got nothing to add at the Meeting, SO!"
- Oliver

Soon as Mac applied invisibilty on him and Maura, Oliver quickly summoned his duplicates and had them spread out to various vantage points. It might not affect them, but as lomg as he wasn't spotted, he can remain focus. He and Maura waited on the side of the road until the truck came into view.

Mac's plan went smoothly, and the truck came to a stop.


Oliver's duplicates began firing at Alma and Seppa to keep them distracted. The ghost had plenty of mana to expend, if one duplicate goes down, another can take it's place. Though they had to avoid friendly fire with Mac choosing to confront Anja. He himself wouldn't act yet. Not yet.

Soon as the two adversaries were a preferable distance away from the entrance to the truck, Maura would quickly slip inside. Just as long as they can keep it up, this'll be a piece of cake!

"You're not a clown, you're the entire circus."
"Who invited them???"

- Valerie and Amanda

"This is already a terrible idea. Who really thinks this is going to work??"

"Gently, Val..."

The meeting had already lost the two Craddle members as other attendants took the spotlight with their own plans and brewing conflictions. The arrival of Chloe and Sonia was already enough to make the two tense up, Amanda gently pulling MDP back when the former approached her, but did Maura tell Justine to join them too? Was she even around when Ladybug's intel was shared? Valerie narrowed her eyes at Justine while her back was turned, but quickly focused back on the meeting at hand. Chloe was trying to strike a deal and got met with obvious vitrol, Mariette suggested Wonderland may spy on the whole thing, three of them walked off for whatever reason, Kayli brought up protecting the Nexus,

Valerie groaned. Too many conflictions, and the one person that planned all this doesn't even have a plan of her own. "Right, I'm sure Wonderland would be so kind as to wait until we're done butting heads and glaring daggers to come up with a counter attack." The android sarcastically quipped at Lily. "One of our own apparently did some recon into the dimension itself. From what he told us, the whole thing was nothing but fables and the like. He got the information about their card soldiers and the attack on Bolorton there, but he wasn't able to go any further." She explained, sending Lily a list of the types of soldiers to her phone.

"Apparently the dimension has some sort of debilitating effect on outsiders. He tried to investigate the Queen's castle, but it's heavily guarded. Apparently only the Queen's court can enter, as far as I gathered. That's all I know..."

Meanwhile Amanda took the moment to speak up. "Yeah, I do have a pocket dimension of my own that I've used to evacuate people before, but if we're using it I'll need help guarding everyone." She nods to Alex. The magician glanced back at MDP, nodding towards Valerie. "That's Valerie, our mission control. She's more of an android than a cyborg." She told her with a smile.

"Christ, this already feels weird..."
- Oliver

Oliver couldn't help the slight frown at Mac's regretful demeanor. He knew she felt bad for Finn; that lilac bitch that dragged her into the idea probably knew he'd be against throwing his best friend into a proverbial lion's den and manipulating him into killing innocent people, so it was hard to be mad at her. Everyone else involved would be shot in between the eyes if they crossed paths with him, however. Once Mac donned her disguise, he nodded.

"Right, shall we then?



A distance away from the truck, the dark corners of the allyways had turned more darker than normal, before lighting up as if nothing ever happened. Maura was stealthy following a reasonable away, trying to see what sorts of tricks it might have in case of an attack. Though without a Third Eye like Lauren had, nothing was really certain. She quietly groaned. Oliver and Mac would soon emerge from the shadow behind her.

"Mac, do you think you can sense anything amiss with that truck?" Maura asked without looking behind her. "If we can beat them to Downtown, we can set up an ambush and disable their transport. Let me handle the device, just focus on stalling their guards." She said, soon preparing to continue following.

"Stay close."

"Got it."

"Sup losers, brought a friend."
":O I'm one of the cool kids now!"

- Valerie and Amanda

For how relatively normal the day was turning out, the en mass message from Lily wouldn't be the only thing catching Valerie's attention. The spam mail that popped up on her HUD was only a front for a message. Schematics for a device that the Mint planned on using against their old boss, and a solution granted to them by the sender themself. Were the Mint still unaware of Maura? "Hey fellas! Might wanna take a look at this!" The android called out to her aformentioned boss, and the rest of the agents.

Once everyone gathered to glance over the new information, Val noticed something was off about Finn. Maybe it was cause he looked like he hadn't properly slept for way too long, or the way he seemed to be only half focused on what was going on, just staring blankly at what she showed on her main computer screen. Barely there. She glanced at Amanda to see if she knew what was wrong, but the way the magician shrugged meant Valerie's guess was as good as her's. She then looked at the ghost who had an arm protectively wrapped around the other boy.


From what Maura (or really, Viridian) knew, "Ladybug" was one of Veronica's old Mint associates, but that was the extent of it. Whether or not their source was trustworthy they'd have to find out theirselves. But at the same time, someone had to go to Lily's meeting, if not to make sure history didn't repeat itself. So Maura paired Valerie and Amanda up to do just that.


"Hey, Val?" Amanda spoke up as the two followed the lightning beacon to their location.


"Do you think she'll actually, y'know, convince anyone to work together?"

Valerie could only shrug. "The whole enemy of my enemy, all factions united against one enemy shtick? Beats me." She admitted. "From what I heard, last time someone tried to pull this crap, she got assassinated by the same chick we're now working with."

"But that was like, months ago, right?" Amanda tilted her head.

The android grimaced. "Maybe? I wasn't here as long as Eliza. Feels like months..." In fact, it felt like they were there for longer. Maybe it was just the town getting to their heads, or Maura's weird "buisness partner", but thinking about it was giving her a headache. She lightly shook her head.

"Whatever the case is, might as well get some information from this.

"Sit this one out. Please."
- Finn and Oliver

Meanwhile, Maura had planned on dealing with the Mint's debilitating device. With it being expectedly guarded, she would need some back-up while she dealt with the main issue. Finn, despite his off behavior, was willing to go with. He was her right-hand man, after all.

Oliver stopped him before he could step away.

"Finn. No." The ghost firmly told him. He furrowed his brows in response, he opened his mouth to speak-


He already forced himself to talk with Aria last time. Even if he did want to argue back, he couldn't talk. He just couldn't. He glanced away with a frown.

"See?! You still can't even talk!" Oliver pointed out. The tone of his voice was angry, but concerned. He took a second to calm down before continuing. "Look, your run in with the other queen was bad enough, but that Horror shit you got dragged into wasn't right!"

Right. Finn hurried back home as quick as he could after his trip to Glexaroth's realm. He was able to stay composed around Mac and the others, but once he was back with Oliver, he finally broke down and told him everything. It ached the ghost's heart to see him like that, calling himself a murderer, that he never changed. Finn softly frowned at Oliver.

"Let me and Mac go with Maura, you need to rest."

His eyes widened. It didn't feel right. He couldn't. He just couldn't. Not with Wonderland, not with Penny or the Mint. He can't show weakness like this. He can't! Not now! He was quickly shaking his head in response. Oliver had to grab his shoulders to snap him out of it.

"Finney- Finney! We'll be fine! It'd take a lot to take down the three of us! Trust me. We'll be careful."

The other boy was still for a moment, before he sighed in resignation. He nodded to both Oliver and Mac with a weak smile. Finn stepped out of the room.

The ghost looked to Mac. "Sometimes, when he's way too stressed, he just...doesn't talk. Strains him to do so." He explained, huffing afterwards. "Whenever you're ready to head out, we'll follow Maura to where those idiots are lurking about."
Twenty-Four Hours Remain

Maybe the Guy isn't Dead?

[Level 11]

What had Finn done?

How did he end up here?

He had no recollection.

He was standing in an elevator. It wasn’t very big. He could touch the opposing walls just by raising his arms. Not that he would want to. The metal walls were brown with rust, and the sole fluorescent light couldn’t illuminate the floor. It flickered, sometimes cutting out entirely. There was no console for selecting what floor to go to. But there was a dot matrix display above the steel doors. It was hard to tell if he was going up or down, but the low hum of a tired motor was moving.

Then there was another sound. Bones breaking and tearing through flesh was not unknown to Finn. Blood ran out of the dot matrix display and trickled onto the door. The trickle would turn into a stream with time, and the door was painted red. It was impossible to tell if the blood pooled in the shadows or was draining out the bottom of the elevator. Something for his foot to discover later.

The light cut out. The motor followed suit. Finn was trapped in a dark metal coffin. But in that darkness Finn could read the dot matrix display. “PATR” lit up overhead. The elevator bell chimed, the lights came on full bore, and the doors slid open. By this point the blood had coagulated and was ripped apart by the opening door. The flakes of blood fell like flower pedals, and Finn’s unadjusted eyes could only see darkness ahead. But what could he do but walk into it?

Eventually the glow of the elevator disappeared behind him. He wandered in darkness, but everything had a faint glow. Bloodvessels carried bioluminescent blood along the walls, floors, and ceiling. The blood was red, but started to turn other colors the deeper in Finn walked. Soon faint yellows, blues, and other hues were present. But it was still so hard to see.

How did he get here? How long had it been? Where was here? Did any of the others know where he was? His questions wouldn't be answered if he didn't keep moving.

Despite whatever dread he felt, he strangely didn't react to what happened in the elevator, nor the bioluminecence of the labyrinth beyond. He just had to find a way out. Finn attempted to use a bit of his magic to improve his sight in the dark.

Finn enchanted his eyes. Owls have some of the best eyesight in the animal kingdom thanks to their long, tube like eyes that catch more light. While they can’t move their eyes because of this, they compensate by having a flexible neck. Not that Finn would need it. While it was still dark, he could see that the walls were indeed made of metal with living tissue growing over them. It also explained why the ground was soft and unstable.

The tunnel of metal and flesh ended up ahead. It opened into a clearing filled with stars. Finn only needed to walk forward to approach it. But there would be an interruption.

"Finn?” Mac’s voice came through his magicoms. "Are you alive?”

"Mac?" His eyes "widened". "Y-Yeah, but I don't know where I am. Is everyone okay??" He asked her.

"Just… Just keep moving, you’re almost out.”

Forward he went. The blood vessels gave way to a hard metal floor. When he got to the mouth of the cave, he could see the stars were on the other side of a portal. The exit was in sight.

As soon as he stepped through, he fell onto a beach.

"Finn!” Mac ran up to the magical boy and helped him to his feet. Even though Finn felt more or less fine, he likely how distressed Mac looked. With time, he was able to survey the rest of his surroundings. It was hard to see much, but his eyes were able to pick out the cliff side to their backs along with the portal he had just come out of. In addition to this, Aria and P.T. were present. They stepped around a giant metal contraption and approached Finn.

”For real, my guy?” P.T. pulled open one of Finn’s hands and examined an empty vial. This was when Finn noticed that he had a vial holder strapped across his chest and all but a few pouches were empty. ”You’re gunna, like, be trippin’ balls, maaaaaaaaan. That’s like, at least, eleven levels, of irony.”

”He’ll live.” Aria said with a dismissive wave of her hand. ”Let me have a look at that box.” Sure enough, Finn did have a box in his other hand. He hadn’t even been aware he was carrying it until just a moment ago. But it was chained to his arm so it must have been important. Aria clapped her hands, and the cuffs transformed into a butterfly that hovered over her shoulder. She then helped herself to the box and opened it up. The smile on her face grew just a bit wider. ”Congratulations Finn.” She closed the box. ”You’ve made us far more powerful than you could possibly imagine. I’ll get to work on your reward immediately.”

"W-Wait," The visibly confused boy pinched the bridge of his nose for a second. "What's going on? The hell's with the box?? What do you mean by 'make us far more powerful' and please tell me whatever was in that vial wasn't poisonous...?" He was slowly getting more anxious. Christ, why did he feel so vulnerable?

Mac turned to Finn. There was still quite a bit of exhaustion and pain in her face. "You don’t remember anything? I mean, it makes sense…”

”Eleven levels, of irony, is no joke.” P.T. nodded.

”This is going to be a long conversation, isn’t it? How bothersome.” Aria plucked the glass vial out of Finn’s hand. ”You were in the domain of a very nasty horror. The only reason why you were able to retain your sanity was because of a steady supply of ‘Irony’ as P.T. calls it. It shields your mind from mental interference, even when entering a horror’s domain directly. The drawback, or perhaps a benefit in this case, is that it causes temporary amnesia.” With a groan, Aria folded her arms. ”Now you’re going to ask me why you recovered a box for me, what's in the box, Why Rupee was disguised as a chain on your arm, Why Mac seems exhausted- Oh, you can probably recover your power now, right?” Mac pointed her monkey paw at Finn and they started to glow a blue and green aura. The light from those auras traded places before soaking into their new owner. Some of his strength left him. But that strength was never his. All of his parameters had been enhanced because he had been borrowing Mac’s might. ”If you want to know what happened, and I’m not sure you do, P.T. has some clarity incense that should restore your memories.”

Finn couldn't help shooting Aria a tired, unamused look, but he also couldn't help feeling guilty for Mac's condition. "Right. If it saves you the trouble of an explanation..." He looked over to P.T., taking off the vial holder and holding it out to her. "Might as well give this back while I'm at it."

”Thanks, my guy.” P.T.'s corner of the "camp" was a series of chairs set around a giant bong. Only the bong had several small holes at its base and middle level with a giant hole on top. Once Finn and P.T. were seated, P.T. lit a torch and set the flame in the lower most hole. After a few seconds, she pulled the torch out and set some sticks in the bottom of the contraption. ”Bro, tell me. You like, completed, your journey, my guy.” Once P.T. had filled all the holes, she pulled out a tent pitching kit and started to screw some metal rods together. ”What will, you do, after you, defeat, Penny?”

"For the most part? Take over her place as the Ruler of Penrose basically. ...But y'know what? Fuck the whole "Monarchy of Penrose" bullshit. I'll probably disband the stupid idea afterwards. I'd make a joke about this not being England or whatever, but I'm not sure if it'll hit right, yeah?" Finn crossed his arms in thought. "I'll still be doing what I can as a Crimson Cradle agent though, kicking the butts of our unsavory neighbor-factions and trying to get whatever Covington Industries hasn't taken yet for like, extra funds? whatever they may be? The Golden Trove's a good start, but eventually I won't be satisfied with just the Hotel alone. Gotta expand buisness at some point. The Sanctuary, I'll most likely work on making it into an official shelter. Why not make the most of your gained resources, y'know? Or I can just tear it down as a symbolic 'Fuck you' to Penny, who knows?" He shrugged.

"Whatever the case will be, I'm not gonna stop at defeating her. No rest for the wicked, as the saying goes."

”Ballin’!” By the time Finn was done explaining his plans, P.T. had erected a small, circular tent over the bong and the two chairs. She gestured for Finn to sit inside before doing so herself. The tent’s fabric was not fully opaque, but it didn’t let much light in. Onlt the outline of the incense burner or P.T. was visible in the filtered moonlight. ”It’s just, gunna take, a moment, my guy. You’ll have, your memories, soon.”

Admittedly, he was a bit hesitant to stepping inside. Sure, he did smoke, at least in his transformed state as to let his regenerative ability keep his lungs from getting screwed up. But something like this was another level.

Ugh, whatever! The sooner he can get this over with, the sooner he'd stop feeling so anxious for no reason. Finn walked inside the tent and took his seat.

The incense was strong, but the aroma was pleasant.. Finn had difficulty placing the scent, but it was somewhere between freshly cut strawberries and donut frosting. Almost enough to make one hungry. ”Mac can, transform into, anything, huh?” P.T. Inhaled as deeply as she could. ”She’s like, a roleplayer or something. Can be, whoever, she wants. That’s perfect, bro.”

"Hm? Oh, I guess so." Finn simply shrugged, already distracted by the aroma. And a sudden peckishness for desert too.

The light played off a puff of smoke P.T. sorted out of her nose. ”What do, you want, to be, my guy?”

"Hmm..." The boy shut his eyes in thought, taking deep breaths. After a second had passed, he spoke up again:

"A bird."

P.T. Chuckled. ”I don't think, a man, can become, a bird.” P.T. Inhaled again, but this time it was quicker. A sniff. ”Like, a free bird, my guy? I, really like, that song.” She played an air guitar in silence.

Finn snorted. "Beast magic? Remember? If I focused hard enough maybe I can like, shapeshift into a real bird. Or a Hyena. People just...don't give 'em enough credit, y'know?" He crossed his legs, looking up towards the ceiling. "I like birds. Inteligent little guys. They can be prey and predator, nuturing or vicious, adorable...or somehow look like a crackpot hellspawn. Though I guess that all applies to animals in general. One of the many reasons I like them, I guess." He smiled.

”But you, already have, beast magic.”

"...Good point. But if we're being literal, I'd say...someone better than me is what I want to be."

”For why?” The stoner leaned forward. ”Something wrong, with the Finn, we know?”

"Is there?" He asked back, steadly starting to zone out. "Is there something wrong with Finnegan Vanhorn, long-time Sinner of Wrath? Detective turned hired gun at one point in his years? The right hand man to an agent of Death? Hurt by his past relationships to the point he's afraid of being hurt again, lest he be toyed with like a broken marionette trying it's damnest to piece itself together...?" He trailed off, his expression an indecipherable indifference. "Sorry what were you saying?"

”I don’t know, my guy.” P.T. stood up and wobbled around the small enclosure. ”You sound like, you’ve been hurt, before. I bet, it was, a girl, you fancied.” She lowered herself onto the ground and looked up at the ceiling. ”Bro, lay, in the sand, with me. The stars, are beautiful.”

He said nothing further on the topic. But if that next expression was anything to go by, P.T. might be on the right mark. He snapped out of it for the moment when she moved out of her seat, and at her invitation he stumbled over and onto the ground next to her with a flop.


The donut shaped space on the floor was not big, but Finn was able to lay down and look up at the stars. He was laying down on the opposite to P.T., with her head just a few inches away from his. But the distance could have been a mile. He couldn’t see her now, only hear her voice. What he could see were the stars, which looked more vibrant than normal. The tent fabric didn’t seem to impede their shine.

”That’s us, man. That’s everyone. Just stars, floating, in darkness. Maybe it’s monsters, maybe it’s, dread, but it’s there, around everyone. But we shine out, man, that’s just, what we, do. bro.” The stars were starting to take shape. Every single one of them turned into a magical girl or boy. All of them were people he knew, even if he never met them directly. ”That makes, Penny a star, too.”

Maybe at some other time Finn would've made a quip about how stars die eventually. Or suggest that it means Patrons would be the planets, or something greater that could lie farther than they'd know in such a vast universe. Instead the young man was genuinely awestruck at the shapes above them, remaining quiet in a child-like wonder. How long had it been, since he was able to enjoy a moment of peace like this? Since he had taken the time to see the stars? Ten, no, twenty years? Living for so long, sometimes the days blur into each other.

He couldn't help giggling as he watched, his lips quirking up into a grin.

”...And if, Penny’s, like, a star. That means, she, is just like, everyone.” P.T. felt around for Finn until she found his head. ”We’re all, Penny, broooooooooooooooooooooooooo…”

But the anti-amnesiac was starting to kick in. What had been forgotten was surfacing as the levels of “Irony” were being peeled back.

[Level 10]

What had Finn done?

How did he end up here?

He had no recollection.

Finn was standing in a hallway made of gore. ahead of him was an elevator. It looked rusty, but the fluorescent light inside made it far more inviting than the perpetual darkness that surrounded him. There was a button on the outside of the elevator, but nothing on the inside. It was like it had to be operated from the outside.

”Are you there, Finn!?” It was Mac’s voice, she sounded panicked.

"Mac? What's going o-"

”No time to explain! You need to get in that elevator and hit that button!”

Finn could hear a scream cry out from the darkness. It was calling his name, and it didn’t sound happy.

The situation was clear enough. He had done something to piss off someone that wants him dead.

Finn sprinted for the elevator, his metaphorical light in the end of the tunnel, and practically slammed his fist against the button as he hurried inside. Come on, come on, come on!!! His head snapped back to the darkness; in the only direction that blasted scream came from, and his hand hovered over his weapon in anticipation.

The elevator shook, but it didn’t ascend. There was a faint glow in the distance. A swirl of every color Finn could think of was sloshing about in front of him, and it got bigger with every passing second.

"FINNNNNNNNN!!!" The pool of colors called out.

But it would not reach him in time. The doors slammed shut, and the elevator started to ascend, and quickly.

"Finn?" He could hear a voice call out above him. It was a woman, but not too old to be a magical girl. "Finn! What the- I’m still here! Finn! Stop the elevator! Fi- " Eventually her shouts were cut out with a brief yelp, followed by the snapping of bones. Finn had been around enough death to tell exactly what was happening to her. She must have slid off the top of the elevator and gotten wedged in between the walls. She continued to scream as the rest of her was pulled between the elevator and shaft. Her femur, her hip, her lumbar region, her ribs, Finn could count every bone as it was snapped. He could anticipate exactly when her screams would stop.

Oh god.

Oh god, no...

”Finn, you need to take a potion!” Mac sounded like she was on the verge of tears. ”It doesn’t matter what color it is, just drink something!”

He didn't hesitate. He just wanted it to end.

[Level 9]

What had Finn done?

How did he end up here?

He had no recollection.

"Before you ask, I’m Miki!" Finn was being held up by A girl in an unusual space suit. She had short pink hair and various gadgets attached to her skin tight suit. They were standing in an arena of some sort with metal and blood vessels coating the walls. A woman was laying on her back, screaming Finn’s name over and over again as vibrant colored fluids blasted out of a hole in her chest.

Well that's not a good sign.

"We should run soon, right?"

Without thinking further Finn nodded. This Miki lady seemed to be an ally of a sort, probably someone else who wound up here for some reason. He'd have to risk it and trust her. But that wounded woman, what was her deal? How did she know his name??

There were two ways out of the room, but Miki guided Finn down the smaller, more claustrophobic of the two. He could hear his name being called, and not in a pleasant voice. The vessels on the walls started to dim as the duo ran along. But they wouldn’t get swallowed in darkness. Ahead was a white light that drew the magical children like moths.

"This must be the exit!" Once they got closer, they noticed it was a small elevator without any buttons inside. "But there’s not enough room! My equipment will never fit in there!"

"Think we'll be fast enough to go one at a time?" Finn finally spoke up, slightly nudging Miki ahead of him. "If that woman is still alive somehow, someone's gotta stall her."


Miki looked over her shoulder. "J-just let me see if there’s another way up!" She immediately walked up to the elevator and looked around it. A flash light that was mounted on her suit lit up a giant vent above the elevator shaft. It was even bigger than the elevator was. "This looks promising!" She tossed the vent aside before stepping through. "Hey! We can access the elevator shaft! I should be able to climb up! We can get to the top floor from here." Her voice was already becoming distant. "I think this might work!"

”Finn.” It was Mac. She sounded breathless. ”There’s… no way she’s going to climb up in time. You have a few seconds before Glexaroth’s champion gets back up. Are you going to try and stall her?”

His expression cracked into a concerned frown, one he quickly shook off.

"I-I have to try. I'll be damned if neither of us can make it out." He answered, turning around to face the other direction as he unsheathed his weapon.

”Then… Then you might as well drink a potion of strength. You should have a few left.”

[Level 8]

What had Finn done?

How did he end up here?

He had no recollection.

But he was holding a box in one hand and an empty vial in the other. The box was also chained to his wrist, so it didn’t seem like putting it down was going to be an option for him.

"Seriously?" A pink haired girl punched Finn’s arm. "Why do you keep drinking those? You can never remember my name when you do."

"Huh? Oh." Finn glanced from the girl to the empty vial. "Sorry, I guess?" He shrugged, casually tossing the vial aside. He didn't even know what "those" were, or why he apparently kept forgetting the girl's name when he drank them.

"Not gunna ask this time?" Miki grinned before leaning up against Finn. "It's Miki. And you can drink those potions as much as you need to. But once we get out of here that's it. We gotta get you off the bottle for good." Her eyes partially closed. "But regardless of what you forget, you've kept your promise to me. So I guess I can't be too upset with it."

After walking a bit further, the duo came across a giant hand sculpture. It was poised to reach out and grab them. All of the blood vessels that ran along the walls seemed to converge around the wrist before flowing up and around the palm and fingers. The tighter concentration of blood vessels made it glow that much brighter. It had better RGB than most modern gaming computers. There was also an opening in the palm that served as a doorway.

"If we want to get out of here, we just need to go through there. But-" She looked at Finn. "I've never been this far before."

Finn on his end merely stared at the doorway. "Nothing we can't handle, right?" He glanced back at Miki, offering her a reassuring smile.

"Heh!" She was nervous, but that seemed to make her smile. "That's some pretty tough talk from someone who doesn't even remember." Her hand squeezed around Finn's. "But you're right."

The hole in the hand led down a short corridor that opened up into a large room. It was pretty sparse, even considering the multicolored blood vessels running along the walls, ceiling, and floor. If there was a single remarkable feature, it would have to be the giant swivel chair at the other end of the room. It too looked like a hand, but the base of the chair made it unmistakable. It was too large to see who or if someone was seated in it. Though Miki froze in her tracks as soon as she saw it. Her legs started to tremble.

"I knew we were going to face her sooner or later."

And that was all the seated individual needed to spin in their chair and reveal themselves.

"Well hello there, player!"

The swivel chair contained a blond woman wearing… Hands. Just hands as black as night with vibrantly colored nails. They seemed to be coming directly out of her back, but it was hard to tell. The amazing part was that she wasn’t overexposed anywhere. Her torso was sparsely covered, but rows and rows of hands locked together from her waist down to make a skirt that reached her ankles. There were also arms coming out of her back that reached out to nothing, almost looking like a pair of black wings. This was one odd looking magical girl, and she had a fearsome aura to boot.

"We were-"

"It’s cool. I’ve been watching your every move, every button press, every combo, looooooooooong before either of you got here." despite the stranger’s aura of danger, their voice was sweet and chipper. Like a mother might use when talking to their children. She turned to look at Finn. "This has got to feel pretty special to you. You’ve been save scumming your OS just to get to me. That takes some guts." The woman stood up. "Well? You’re standing in front of the final boss of your adventure! Any questions on that dialog wheel you feel like throwing my way?"

Save scumming? Final boss? Finn didn't quite understand what she ment between the excessive video game jargon. Hm...he was supposed to kill her, right? Or at least he had to remove her from his path, whoever she was. Between all her weird quirks, he didn't even know her name.

His head tilted slightly to the side. "Who...are you?" He asked, brows furrowed.

The strange woman hopped and landed a few feet from Finn. "It’s so fun talking to clueless people like you! I get to introduce myself like you never finished the tutorial level!" Her eyes scanned Finn, or rather, his right hand. She had locked eyes with it. "I’m Glex, Champion of Glexaroth: The Maker of Unreason. And before you ask, yes, that’s the name of a horror!"

Miki folded her arms. "Oh but you’ll try to get to know her…"

"Anyway! Finn, you are an interloper." She took a single, long step that covered half the distance between the two of them. "I’d be fine with you leaving, but you have something that belongs to me. Can you guess what it is?"

Finn blinked in confusion, then following Glex's gaze towards the box in his hand. He held it up and attempted to drop it onto the ground, but with the chain still in place all it did was tug his arm down slightly. It must be that important, even if he didn't know what it contained. Might wanna play dumb...

The boy shook his chained arm around, then looked back to Glex with a risen brow. "It's just a box, I can get you another."

Glex’s smile widened. "Oh Finn, of course you don’t know what it is! But you know that anything taken from this place must be an extraordinary treasure." She folded her arms behind her back. "The Yaris apple was plundered from here not long ago, and I won’t let you take Hetnus’s Chest with it."

"What does it do?" Miki looked at the trinket dangling from Finn’s hand.

"Have you ever heard of Pandora’s box?" Glex tipped her head. "Hetnus’s Chest is not too different. It’s an artifact that contains great despair. Some even believe it is Pandora’s Box just with a few less contents inside. It’s harmless but contains untapped power. You could forge an entire dimension with the sort of energy in there. Though I shudder to think about what such a world would look like.” She stepped forward again and placed her hand on the box. "But if you think you can get me another one, then why not let me hold onto this one, hmmm?”

”Finn.” Mac’s voice echoed in his head. ”While it’s important to keep an eye on your opponent, you need to make sure that box never leaves your sight. If you can’t watch it, make sure Miki can.”

So he's essentially chained to Pandora's Box. Isn't that fantastic? Finn himself wasn't that amused. After a moment of silent consideration, he yanked the box out from under Glex's hand. "Then who says any of us are worthy of beholding it's power? Who says your word is truth here? Unless you have the right key to unchain me to this thing, there has to be a reason it's stuck to me." He narrowed his eyes at the blonde, backing away from her.

"Well aren’t you adorable, waxing philosophical about something you barely understand.” She still inched closer, even as Finn backed up. "Why don’t you just uninstall life and let me handle the rest?

Hetnus’s Chest was just out of Glex’s reach, but several onyx hands reached past her to seize the box. Once held, Glex lifted her hand up in the air, and Finn was left dangling by his wrist. Her hands continued to clasp over the box, slowly obscuring it from sight.

"Tch! Miki, keep an eye on the box!" Finn called out to his ally, slashing away at the hands lifting him up into the air.

Of course, Miki complied with what Finn asked of her. "O-okay." Her eyes jumped between the box and Finn. She drew her rivet gun and fired on the hands swarming the box. But it was just delaying the inevitable.

A fist slammed into Finn’s chest. It was just a single blow but it was hard enough to crack his ribs. ”You must be the tank.” Glex’s fist was still in Finn’s stomach, and more were going to join it soon. ”Or are you a training dummy?”

Finn's regenerative power made quick work to mend his broken ribcage. He spat out whatever blood that rushed into his mouth, and viciously scowled at Glex. "Are these made of titanium or something?! Jesus!" He stabbed his weapon into the fist that decided to stick to him a bit longer, activating his invulerable state in anticipation of her next move.

Which came just in time, as the next few punches were just as powerful and coming from every direction. Miki's rivet gun continued to go off but it wasn't even phasing the horror's champion. ”Turtling is a common tactic for people who don't study the game. Are you waiting for me to slip up? Maybe you'll do something more interesting if I hurt her instead?”

Well that managed to get a reaction. Finn's eyes shot open wide.

"DON'T. YOU. DARE." He growled.

”Finn, I have an idea.” Despite how frantic the situation was getting, Mac sounded reasonably calm. ”You might be able to weaken her if you open the box. You just need to counter act whatever comes out of there before it affects you or Miki. Despair that deep is no joke.”

Use the box? Wasn't that too much of a risk?? He didn't know little to anything about it, but if it might be enough to weaken Glex...

"You want your box back so much?! COME AND GET IT!" With both his hands occupied by, well, hands, Finn had to take a window of opportunity to aim the box at Glex and open it with the hand it was chained to. Whatever happens next, he'd have to be ready to defend Miki.

While Finn couldn’t see what was in the box, he could see Glex’s reaction to it. The smile that had persisted the entire duration of this encounter evaporated in an instant. There were no quips, no counter attacks.

There wasn’t time for them.

With a hiss, an ethereal fog filled the air. Glex had no chance to escape it and neither did Finn. By experiencing this memory a second time Finn could only recall some of the thoughts that plagued his mind. He remembered feeling hopeless, like everything he had done, was doing, and would be doing was just a setup for a grand fall. The assault on his mind was punctuated by unbearable pain, and he couldn’t escape it by just leaving the cloud. He barely had the strength to close the chest, but this gave him no relief.

Glex and Finn sunk to the ground, screaming at the futility of their existence. This left Miki to resolve the situation.

"Ah geez! I don’t like it, but-" Miki ran up to Finn and pulled one of his potions out of his belt. "You’ve gotta inhale sometime!" Despite his flailing, Miki was able to get the potion down his throat. "It’s okay to forget some things, right?"

She wouldn’t get an answer.

[Level 7]

What had Finn done?

How did he end up here?

He had no recollection.

"Do you know who I am?" Miki waved her hand in front of Finn’s face. "This is going to be a reoccurring thing, huh? I’m Miki." She pointed over her shoulder at a cave. "You wanted to stop here?"

”She’s right Finn. This is where you want to go.” Mac sighed ”But you need to do so alone. It’s important Miki doesn’t follow you. I’d explain the situation better, but there’s no time.”

Miki placed a hand on Finn’s head. "You okay?"

"Hm?" Finn seemed to snap out of it when Miki's hand rested on his head. "I-I'm fine. I'm fine." He reassured her, gently grabbing her hand and pushing it away from him. He looked over to the cave entrance, then back to Miki. He didn't feel too confident about going in there alone. Who knows what might ambush either of them if they split up. Hopefully Mac's explanation will make sense for him.

"Think you can stand guard by the entrance?" Finn asked Miki. "Just in case I have to hurry back out here, that's all." He walked to the cave as he talked.

"You want to split up?" Miki rubbed the back of her head. "I mean, okay. But if I hear you scream, or something happens out here, I’m going in. Does that sound agreeable?"

The boy nodded with a smile. "Sounds like a plan."

"Okay~!" Miki waved to Finn as he departed for the cave.

It was a lot deeper than he might have thought. The fluorescent cave zigged and zagged, humming as if the wall was filled with insects. Or perhaps the vessels that ran along the walls were the source of the noise.

The cave would open up into a valley. The squishy floor gave way to grass, which stretched up the side of a hill. It looked like there was a tiny cottage at the top. It was impossible to see what layed beyond, as the distance was covered in a veil of shadow. When Finn looked overhead, the ceiling had a single crack in it. With nowhere else to go, he approached.

”Just a reminder, but this place is an illusion. It’s designed to play with your emotions.” Mac cautioned Finn. ”Your goal is to get the chest. You’ll know what it is when you see it. I asked you to separate yourself from Miki because it increases both of your chances for survival. Having said that, I don’t know what you’re going to find there. So as a result-”

Finn hadn’t even knocked before the cottage door swung open. There standing in the doorway was an elderly woman.

”Oh goodness!” She folded her hands together. ”It’s been so long since I had visitors! And not one of them was as handsome as you!” She hobbled away from the door and deeper into the one room house. ”Come in, come in!”

"A-Alright then." Finn was admittedly caught off guard when the door opened, much more so at who appeared behind it. He made sure to keep in mind that none of it was real, but he couldn't help wondering. Who would willingly live in a place like this? Wherever he and Miki ended up? At the old woman's invitation, he quietly entered the cottage.

”Do you drink tea?” After guiding over to the "dining area," She stepped into the kitchen.

"I'm more of a coffee person, but yes." Finn answered, glancing around the unfamiliar interior.

The house really was just a single room. A counter divided the kitchen from the rest of the house, and the living area was split between the "dining room" that Finn was standing in and a bedroom, which was really just a mat, pillow, and candle wick. There was no visible chest that Mac had hinted at. ”I'm Gurtrude, young man. Been living on this hill for the past forty years.” She presented Finn with a cup of tea. ”What's your name? And the cookies will be done shortly.”

Finn carefully grabbed the cup, and nodded in thanks. "Finnegan. Most people just call me Finn though." He introduce himself in return, his voice taking a more softer tone. No chest yet. He'll have to go along with this for now. "What kind of cookies?" He tilted his head as he asked.

”Raisin. I dried the grapes myself!” With a giggle, she hobbled behind the counter. ”My granddaughter would really like you. My grandson, not so much.” It didn't take her long to come back around with a plate of cookies and her own cup of tea. "I'd have offered coffee if I had it, but the traders don't come this way anymore. It's getting harder to get these old bones outside."

"I see." Finn took a sip of his drink. "Do your grandkids visit often?"

”It's been a while.” The folds on her face grew with her smile. ”They went everywhere together. Last I heard, Miki was going to college. I think Drake opted to go to a trade school. They both loved technology, you see? She wanted to be an inventor and he wanted to work on cars.” She chuckled. ”I can hardly remember what they did the last time they were here. I think we had an apple pie. It was in season for it.”

Finn's brows rose when she mentioned Miki. It may have been coincidental, but now he knew why Mac wanted her to stay behind. He smiled. "That sounds lovely. I can't imagine how lonely it must be out here, didn't even see any towns from my way up." He said, reaching over to grab one of the cookies.

”Lovely, yes. But also lonely.” She sighed. ”Oh! But my manners! What brought you to my doorstep?”

"I...I got lost." Finn frowned. "I was going to go spend the week at a friend's, but got lost on the way. Thought I could make a stop somewhere to rest, y'know?"

”This old hag's shack is great for resting! Eat as many cookies as you like.” She giggled. ”If you've got nothing better to do, let me tell you a few stories...”

”Finn!” Mac's voice practically boomed in his head. ”Miki is waiting for you! How is listening to old wives' tales going to get you the chest?”

"Well, do you have any other ideas besides waiting on the right moment?" There was a tone of sass in his retort. "I haven't forgotten that this isn't real. I just don't wanna end up having something eldritch on my ass for ramsacking their shit. You heard what Miki said."

”For starters, I'd ask her if she had a chest. You might be a sin, but you should be able to inquire about something without inciting violence, right?” Mac returned fire with sass of her own. In any other circumstance, he'd roll his eyes. ”Barring that, I don't know. You can summon animals, right? You could make a distraction or use one to scout maybe? I don't know your powers as intimately as you do.”

"I mostly use my magic to give myself physical buffs. But I think..." He trailed off, subtly calling in some mice to search for the chest with his beast magic.

This all transpired during one of the old woman's tales, which Finn was only half listening to. But that was okay, because he would hear it again before he left. Maybe even three times.

But Gurtrude would be oblivious to the mice racing through her home. There were only three of them, but that was all that was necessary to explore a single room. They came in from the doorway and went behind the counter. Finn couldn't see them, but it wasn't hard to imagine what was going on. They ran through the cupboards, found their way into the drawers, maybe even inspected the silverware. But before long, Finn could hear one of the mice squeaking loudly. Something had been found.

Finn looked toward the direction of the squeaking, and set his cup down. "Excuse me." He walked over, and searched thoroughly for the innocuous mouse. And hopefully his real inquiry in the process.

Sure enough, the mouse had opened one of the cupboards to reveal the location of a small chest.

”That’s it.” Mac confirmed.

”Are you looking for something?” The elderly woman started to approach. ”A napkin, perhaps?”

Finn glanced back at her from over his shoulder. "Hm? Oh, no, I just thought I heard a mouse in here." As he talked, the mouse in question hurried to leave, and he tried to subtly pocket the chest.

”A mouse!” Gurtrude suddenly looked concerned. ”Oh I hope not!”


The sound drew Finn’s attention back to the chest. Now there was a handcuff attached to him and the small chest. Not that it was all that small. In fact, it was actually quite big. Maybe the length of his forearm. It wasn’t something he could just slide under his coat. That will be an issue. Where did the handcuff even come from??

”What was that?” But Finn’s animal companion got the hint. He could see the mouse huff before scrambling out into view. ”Ahhh! It is a mouse!” She hobbled over to her broom before chasing the mouse around her house. ”Shoo! Get away, ya vermin!”

Of course, Finn knew his little mouse friend will be just fine. While Gurtrude pursued the mouse, he held the chest he was now chained to close to himself and hurried to the door.

And… he was in the clear.

”Think his memory will be problematic here?” Mac’s voice sounded faint. It wasn’t uncommon for people to accidentally speak into their magicoms. Communicating between agents was perhaps too easy at times. ”Alright Finn, how about you down one of those haste potions to make this go a little faster?”

[Level 6]

What had Finn done?

How did he end up here?

He had no recollection.

But a techy girl was screaming at him while clutching her shirt shut.

"What ever!?"

”Finn! Drink a potion, any of them!”

"Are you drinking that to get out of this? It’s not going to work! Seriously, stop drinking that. Not again, not again! I’m sorry!”

Quoth the Raven, what the fuck.

[Level 5]

What had Finn done?

How did he end up here?

He had no recollection.

"We’re in the belly of the beast now.” The faint glow coming from the walls would have looked more familiar if he hadn’t just had one of those potions. "Why don’t we take a break? It’s a good spot for it.” Miki leaned up against one of the walls. "It’s just going to get harder from here on out. I’m surprised you’re holding together so well, but maybe that has to do with your frequent amnesia episodes.”

Frequent...amnesia? That's weird. He may have lived for (honestly) too long but he never had any notable problems with his memories. Sure, there could be the case of Finn repressing trauma, but he could never erase it.

So why now? And frankly, how?

"...I guess so." With a shrug, Finn quietly leaned against the wall next to Miki. "What about you?" He couldn't help asking.

"Only amnesia episode I can remember was when you found me.” She smiled, but cleared her throat afterwards. "I mean, I’ve been doing fine! I’ve been trapped here long enough that it doesn’t bother me anymore. Not sure if that’s a good thing or not. But um, thanks for asking.” She smiled again, but it was a bit sheepish. "I’m glad we’re getting out of here though. Got anyone you’d like to see again?”

Finn glanced back at her with a sympathetic look, but didn't let it linger for too long. "Well, my patron might be wondering where I dissapeared off to. Oliver and the others might be worried sick too, especially him." He answered, crossing his arms. "Maybe I can introduce you to everyone when we get out of here."

”I’d like that.” Miki pressed her back into the wall and it started to swing backwards, like it was a massive door. ”Who’s Oliver? Is he a brother, friend?”

"My best friend." Finn smiled. "We go a long way back, way before either of us became magical boys. He's a bit protective of me, but he's a real sweetheart." He told her. His eye was then drawn to the section of wall that seemed to be...sinking in?

"Uh, is the wall supposed to do that?"

”Yea, I know most of this place’s secrets.” she tapped the wall with her knuckle. ”There’s a pond back here. Good place to wash up. But your friend!” Miki locked her hands together. ”He sounds like perfect older brother material! It’s been a while since I’ve seen mine.”

Oh, she had a brother?

Finn couldn't really know if he was still around or not, or if he'd even remember her for however long she's been here. But they had to get out of here so they could be reunited. Or at least so she could find some closure.

"He actually had a younger brother, if I remember correctly. So I guess his mental mutation was a natural thing. But by now our old families have passed centuries ago, unless something happened that we weren't aware of." He explained.

”We’ll have to talk sometime!” Beyond the doorway was a forest oasis. A perfectly normal pond surrounded by rows of trees. If one listened closely, they might even be able to hear the sound of distant wildlife. ”Um, yea.” Miki eyes scanned Finn’s body. ”If you don’t mind, I think I’ll rinse off first. So um, no peeking.” She pulled her head into the room and partially closed the door.

”He’s going to run out at this rate.” A tired sigh came over the magicoms. ”It’s a little dark there Finn. There should be a darkvision potion to help you spot incoming threats. It should be a dull red color.”

[Level 4]

What had Finn done?

How did he end up here?

He had no recollection.

Miki said something about her brother again. Was it the first time? Neither the Finn remembering or the Finn in the moment could be sure. But he was asked to drink another potion. Or was it his first potion? It was hard to keep track.

[Level 3]

What had Finn done?

How did he end up here?

He had no recollection.

Miki was on top of him. She was growling through her teeth as her shoulder mounted cannons tried to burn a hole through Finn’s head. The only thing that was keeping him alive was a pair of metal arms attached to his back, batting away the incoming blasts.

The fact alone that he was being pinned down by someone was enough to make him panic. For a split second, she probably could've seen his face contort in fear.


Whoever got him the metal limbs, he really owed them one. Finn instinctively began struggling himself free from under his pink-haired assailant, shoving and kicking her until he was able to scramble away as quick as he could.

The kick was strong enough to throw Miki half way across the…prison? While the walls were all made up of flesh and steel, he appeared to be in a hallway with barred off rooms.

”It’s okay Finn, you’re stronger than her.” Mac’s voice came through. ”There’s no need to kill her. You should have a few potions on you. Just get her to ingest a red one and-”

”You animal!” Miki didn’t need to be right on top of Finn to hurt him. She had drawn a rivet gun and was firing glowing-hot rivets in Finn’s direction.

A frightened shriek escaped Finn's throat. He quickly moved out of the line of fire and grabbed one of the potions he apparently had on his person. What the hell did he do to make this chick angry? ...He couldn't remember. But hopefully Mac's idea would calm her down somehow! With a grimace, he popped the cork off the vial and went into his invincible state.

"I'm so sorry for this!!"

The boy sprinted at her, tackling her back down so he could force the potion down her throat.

The rivets did negligible damage to Finn, and despite her attempts to resist, she might as well have cooperated for all the good it did her. Mac was right, he was far stronger than she was.

She raised a hand to stop him, but he was able to force the potion into her mouth. She tried to turn away, but that was when Finn’s mechanical arms locked around her head. One hand held her head steady, while the other teased her throat into opening. She gurgled and coughed, but the contents of the bottle were going down. And with every drop she consumed, she seemed to relax just a bit more. Her eyelids fluttered, and her gaze was unfocused.

”Get rid of that bottle, now!”

Finn whipped the bottle into one of the cells as Miki’s eyes rolled in their sockets. ”Mmmmm…” She looked at Finn, and her eyes went wide. ”H-hey!” She flailed her arms. ”Who are you, and why are you looming over me?”

It didn't feel right.

It didn't feel right, but it worked. But it didn't feel right. But there wasn't a point in thinking over "what ifs" that could make him feel less guilty. What's done is done. And he hated it. Finn mentally shoved the feeling back to the dark corner of his mind. "S-Sorry, just trying to see if you weren't...y'know...dead." He stuttered, moving to the side so Miki could sit up. That was technically half-true, right?

"My name's Finn. I...don't know how I got here."

”Oh!” Miki looked around. ”...Oh! I thought you were… Well it doesn’t matter!” She pulled her knees up to her chest and kicked. The force was enough to carry her through the air and onto her feet. ”I’m Miki! Thanks for checking up on me.” She placed a hand on her hip. ”I’ve been here for what feels like centuries! Me and my brother are usually together. I’m honestly a little nervous that he’s not here.” She folded her hands together. ”What’s the last thing you remember?”

"The...last thing?" He stood back up as well, looking a bit lost. He tried to think back to the last thing he did, area he was in, last person he was interacting with, anything before he ended up here, stuck under someone who wanted to hurt him. Nothing. Finn frowned. "I don't know."

”But you remember your name, at least? This is bad…”

”You need to escape, Finn.” Mac sighed. ”You need to tell her something to get her on your side. She doesn’t seem like the discerning type, so just speak from the heart.”

"I-I mean, I remember the important stuff! But I don't know how I ended up in here specifically." Finn clarified. He glanced around. "And I really don't like that this looks like a jailhouse. I know I'm not the greatest person in the world, but something like this is the last place I want to be in. For me, or anyone else." He looked back to Miki. "Assuming we won't turn on each other while our backs are turned, we should stick together and find a way out of here."

Miki blinked once, then smiled. ”Well that’s good! I don’t think you’d do anything to hurt me. I mean, you would have done it already.” She turned her back to Finn. ”We’ll have to go over what you do know, but just follow me for now. If we get out, maybe we can find my brother.”

”Good job. Just-” Mac paused. ”You fed her the red potion, right? You should have a green potion on you too. If you drink that, it should help you recover your memories.”

[Level 2]

What had Finn done?

How did he end up here?

He had no recollection.

But he was standing in a jail house. A woman with pink hair was behind bars, and before her was a boy trying desperately to pull the doors open. A stylish trench coat like that had to belong to a magical boy.

”Finn! Are you awake?” Mac sounded urgent. ”If you don’t do something soon, he’s going to kill her, hurry!”


Maybe in different circumstances, he would've proded Mac for details, a reason to go through with this. He didn't know better. But he trusted Mac, right? He trusted her. Drawing his sword from its sheath, he rushed in to strike the other boy.

He didn’t even see it coming.

Finn may have been uncertain, but his target was preoccupied trying to get into the cage. Moreover, Finn was surging with power that wasn’t his own. Even if the attack was only intended to wound his target, it would be far more grievous than anticipated.

His sword entered the boy’s red coat, and he slid all the way up to the hilt. Blood as red as his vestments trickled out of his mouth, and he collapsed to the ground.

”Drake! No!” Miki tried to reach for her brother, but it was too late. Finn’s strike had killed him almost instantly. ”Drake…” her voice cracked.

"Watch out Finn, she’s been brainwashed!"

Wait. They...knew each other...?

If the girl was brainwashed (Most likely by this Drake fellow he just killed, he rationalized) like Mac apparently knew, then it'd be best to leave her there, wouldn't it? And yet...

Maybe if he went into his Avatar state real quick, he could use psychic magic to break whatever's affected her. Finn's attention turned from the cadaver to the cell door. He held up his weapon, and swung it at the lock.


The lock was broken, its prisoner freed. But she was anything but happy. An assortment of metal arms with gadgets attached to them crept out from behind her back and loomed in the air.

"Okay, let’s fix this!" Mac somehow sounded even more frantic now. "We can save her, but you need to drink one of your, um, blue potions. Yes, the blue one. That should do it!"

[Level 1]

What had Finn done?

How did he end up here?

He had no recollection.

The scenery hadn’t changed for the past five minutes. Just walking down these dark, glowing catacombs that seemed to go on forever.

"Whoa!" A boy in a red trenchcoat stumbled out of a building. "Don’t think I’ve seen you around these parts. What are you doing here?"

"Hm?" Finn glanced at the stranger. He simply shrugged in response to his question.

He scoffed. "Whatever, if you’re not here to fight, I don’t care what you do." With a wave of his hand, Drake ran further into the catacombs.

"...Well, that was...rude." Finn watched Drake run off in dumbfoundment, and after a moment, continued walking forward himself.

Finn’s walk took him deeper into the catacombs. It wasn’t like there were a lot of forking paths, and he soon found himself encountering Drake a second time. Only now he was trying to free someone from a cage.

"Hold on Finn." Mac’s voice came over his coms. "The green potion can enhance your hearing. Maybe you can figure out who he’s talking to before you get too close."

[Level 0]

What had Finn done?

How did he end up here?

He remembered now.

He had come to this space between realities to complete his final test, which involved Aria. While everyone else got set up, He and Aria had some time to talk.

”I’d say something about your resolve, but anyone who’s willing to speak with Nykannis and Oros in the same week is madder than both.” She reclined against a palm tree. ”Got anything to say before I explain things?”

Finn shook his head.

”Exactly what I’d expect out of a tool.” The corners of her lips curled into a smile. Finn didn't exactly like being called a tool, but he kept that thought to himself. ”You’re going to go spelunking for treasure in the realm of unreason. Once in there, you’re going to do a job for me. The issue is that just being in that place messes with your mind. No one who goes in ever comes out the same. Since you’re not exactly expendable, P.T. has worked on a solution.” She presented Finn with the flask holder. ”Each of these potions will cause you to have a stroke of amnesia. This will rid your addled mind of those intrusive thoughts, and then some.” She pointed over her shoulder at Mac. ”That’s why we have Mac here. If you suddenly lost your memory you might hesitate to do anything I say, but a fellow Cradle agent should be different, right?” A butterfly glided over to Finn’s side and landed on his shoulder. ”Rupee here will also be with you, just for some added firepower. Mac’s even going to use her artifact so that you can share her might. That should synergize well with the rest of your abilities.”

He nodded along as she explained their plan, strapping the flask holder over his shoulder. "Do I have to worry about long term effects?" He had to ask.

”If you survive? No, there should be no long term effects so long as you keep chugging potions.”

At the mention of Mac, he looked over to the wolf girl. "Are you sure you want to get involved in this? I know the other agents aren't aware of what I've been up to, but..." The boy looked slightly worried.

Mac just gave him a nod and tipped her hat. "I serve Maura, and she wants me to help you to the best of my ability." She grinned. "You just need to tell me if you prefer speaking with me or iron mouse more."

He quietly chuckled. "Save Iron Mouse for picking on Oliver, will you?"

Admittedly, he felt bad for leaving his friend in the dark like this. Oliver would probably want in on it so they could be stronger together, but as long as he got through this alive, neither of them would have to worry. The ghost was bound to him, after all. Seeking out any means of getting stronger would ensure Oliver would be practically unkillable.

"Feels odd not having Miss Wagner around for this though."

”She’s probably busy, if she’s not watching from some dark corner of space.” Aria pointed into the portal. ”No one’s stopping you.”

"Aria Rizzo." Mac’s expression became firm. "I’m going to tell Finn exactly what you want me to tell him. That is within my ability. But only if you can guarantee me that you won’t have me do something that would put his life in danger."

Aria scoffed. ”If he doesn’t do everything I say, he may not get out of there alive.” Her smile, while already quite broad, seemed to grow just a bit more as she said this. ”Well Finn? We haven’t got all day. Drink your first position as soon as you enter the portal. Shouldn’t matter which one.”

When Finn came to, he was still in the hut with PT. But by the looks of it, she looked like she was on the verge of passing out. Perhaps the incense onlynow was causing her to trip out, while Finn had already recovered from it. Did that make sense? Did any of this make sense?

Aria was looking down at him with her arms crossed. He couldn’t make out her face, but it was hard to picture her doing anything but smiling at him.

"..." With widened eyes, Finn silently stared back at Aria. Or was he staring past her? Whatever the case was, it felt like the stars from before had blinked out. He was staring at nothing. Or maybe it was just in his head, who knows? He sat back up, trying to sort through the torrent of emotions he was feeling. Disgust at himself? Anger at the others? Remorse for murdering Miki and Drake?

He didn't know. He chose to remain silent. Finn glanced back to Aria, awaiting whatever she was going to say or do next.

But the only thing she did in the time she was given was ask Finn a question.

”Are we going to have a problem?”

Nevermind then.

"Is that a reference to something?"

”You seem upset.” Aria swung her small form away from the tent opening. ”Are you going to tell me they didn't have to die? Do you hate Mac for leading you along? It's important I know where you stand before I give you your reward.”

He had to take another moment to think.

Yes, a guilt-ridden part of him thought the two didn't have to die. Even if his actions technically freed them from that place in some grim sense, he didn't like the fact that he strung Miki along with lies. If they do end up reincarnating years later, he hoped they could forgive him.


"They were just part of the Horror's realm, weren't they?" His tone lacked any emotion. "They weren't real?"

”Depends who you ask. Oros would tell you they didn’t exist. But I think all humans are real. Well, barring those made with illusionary magic. But them? Yea, I think they were about as ‘real’ as we are.”

Finn shuddered. "I...see." Guess he'll have this eating away at him for a while. Great.

Then there was the other thing. "...Why would I hate Mac? She was only acting as your mouthpiece. If there's anyone I should hate, wouldn't it be you?" He tilted his head.

With Aria standing out in the open, the moonlight was enough to reveal the smile creeping across her face.

”Who you choose to assign responsibility to is not my concern. I got what I wanted, and soon you’ll get what you want. But before we do that, maybe I will speak my peace on something.” She turned to look at the moon hanging in the sky. ”Miki and Drake’s deaths were completely avoidable. I knew you wouldn’t like killing them in the long term, which is exactly why I had you do it.” She turned to look at Finn. ”Because this is supposed to be a lesson, right? Something to prepare you for the trial ahead. So here’s the takeaway from this, but first, an observation.” She spread her arms. ”Most kids these days want a million followers. Few will actually get them. But some people will put in the work to do it. They’ll make sure their content is as good as it can possibly be, answer boring fan mail, and really go through hell to make sure they have those fans. And then by the time they get their million followers, well, they’re also married. Maybe they have a few kids, working a job that they hate, and they wasted their youth. Sure, lots of people are married and hate their lives, but I’d argue that these people have it even worse than them. They’ve made themselves into slaves.” She bared her teeth. ”They wanted those followers, convinced themselves they needed them. It took them a lot of time to get that kind of following, and they can’t let it slip out of their hands now. It’s more insidious than your average sunken cost fallacy.” She folded her arms behind her back. ”Look at the lengths you’re willing to go through to get power. Entering a horror’s domain to recover a powerful artifact for a magical girl with questionable moral standards… to beat Penny?” She giggled. ”We are slaves to our desires, Finn. Having more power doesn’t grant more freedom.”

Finn couldn't find the words to respond.

Was this really worth it? He could've stopped any time he wanted, but he didn't. He was just going along with others' plans. Their wants. Right? He just wanted to help fix Penrose. For what?

Guess no matter how hard he tried, he'll always be a killer puppet freak. One way or another.

His gaze turned downcast. "I...I don't..." He gulped down the lump forming in his throat. "...There's no turning back from here, is there?" He asked in a small voice.

”Why are you sniveling like that? This was a lesson, Finn. So long as you took it to heart, their deaths weren’t in vain. But how about that reward, huh?” She pulled her hands out from behind her back and clapped them together. ”I have prepared two gifts for you, of which you can only pick one.” She opened her left hand, and a pocket watch appeared in it. ”You were able to witness esper Elroy’s Keijo match against Sakura, so you must be aware of the existence of espers. What you may not know is that they get their powers from an artifact known as grimoires, and I can make them. You may point out that Elroy lost his match as proof that espers are weaker than magical girls. Normally I would agree with you, but I’m capable of making artifacts far, far stronger than that one. Not only that, but esper magic is very potent towards monsters and abortions, and Penny is both. It’s difficult to overstate how important this is for your quest.” She opened her right hand, revealing a marble. It had a neon green glow. While the glow was soft, the center was too bright to make out what was inside. ”Your second choice is pseudo resurrection. I can’t bring people back to life, but I can accelerate Miki and Drake’s recovery speed so that it more or less happens instantly. As an added bonus I can bring them into Penrose so that they don’t have to live in that nasty world anymore.” She curled her hands closed. ”Now, before you go picking the salvation of two people you barely know, do remember that they aren’t going to be dead permanently. After a decade or so they will be together again and can go back to suffering under that horror again. If you believe in your quest, saving the thousands of people in Penrose should take priority over two magical fools.” Aria opened her hands again. ”But it’s your choice in the end, Finn. I don’t have a horse in the race. But if there’s something else you want, let me know.”

And here he was reconsidering his actions.

Ugh, whatever. There wasn't a point in breaking down right now. Suck it up and listen, stupid. Aria presented him with his options; a "Grimore", or what was basically Miki and Drake's freedom. As if expecting him to pick the later, she reminded him that the two would get revived naturally, but would remain trapped in the Realm of Unreason. A choice between being selfish, or being selfless. But which was what?

Would it be unreasonable to pick the marble regardless? Lesson or not, anyone would if they went through what he did, right? Even if it was ridiculous; A small act of kindness for a pair of strangers that may hate him,

It was a weakness he was aware of. He cared, he couldn't help it.

The pocketwatch on the other hand, gave him a strong sense of Deja Vu. He felt uneasy, looking at it, but at the same time he felt that this was something that belonged to him, something he was supposed to take. If he miraculously succeeded in this endeavor, would he really save thousands?

The Needs of Many, or the Needs of Few?


Finn grabbed the pocketwatch.

”So that’s your choice?” She held up her other hand with the marble. ”I don’t know what I expected. Suppose that’s why left it up to you.” The marble shattered between her fingers. ”I’m sure you know the drill by now. That watch is only to be used when fighting Penny. Just a fun fact for you, that watch was partially made out of Penny’s own steel. Well, her from a different reality. I really outdid myself this time.”

Ah, no wonder it made him feel uneasy. He solemnly nodded, pocketing his new trinket. "Guess this is the part where I ask what it does?" The mention of a Penny from a different reality seemed to catch his interest.

”When I said it was only to be used on Penny, I did not mean you couldn't practice with it. But knowing what the core ingredient is should give you some idea of what it does."


Seeing no further reason to stick around, he glanced over Aria's shoulder, trying to look for Mac. "...Tonya?" He called out.

Mac had been recovering her strength, and only just realized her name had been called. "I’m not use to people using my real name.”

"S-Sorry." Finn quickly apologized.

With a sigh. She rose to her feet. "Mission accomplished?”

He walked over to her, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "I'm just...ready to head back now."

"Alright, lets go.”
“…and over there, we’ve got a Mark XXVIII Technorganic Mezomorphazoid,” Doctor Nykannis pointed out as she continued the tour she was giving to her Lab’s latest visitor, a tall, aristocratic-looking man in extravagant attire. “He actually managed to last a whole ten minutes against Detroit’s legendary Mechamagicals. That’s a new record!” she added with a slightly unhinged grin.

“I take it that’s supposed to be an impressive achievement?” her guest inquired with a raised eyebrow, as he turned from the biomechanical kaiju to stare down at the diminutive young woman in an oversized lab coat that was walking beside him.

“You really don’t get out much, do you?” Nykannis replied with a smirk. “They’re a team of giant robot magical girls. Not magical girls who pilot giant robots, mind you,” the mad scientist clarified with a raised finger. “Magical girls who are giant robots, full Ultraman style! Just imagine if Madoka Kaname and Wing Zero were one, singular walking apocalypse, and you can start to get an idea of just how insanely powerful these things are. So, yeah, it is an impressive achievement,” she concluded, giving her guest an annoyed glare.

“If you say so,” the man replied, not even attempting to hide his disinterest. “Tell me, Doctor, did you invite me here for any particular reason, or was it simply to bore me out of my skull?”

Two reasons, actually,” Nykannis noted, holding up a pair of bony fingers. “First, I was impressed by how you realized that even someone as powerful as yourself didn’t stand a chance against the Protagonist Power of two Patron Champions, and so you decided to set up one of your thralls to die in your place. That kinda genre savviness is pretty rare, and I enjoy learning about rare things. Which brings us to the second reason,” the mad scientist went on. “You’ve got all the strengths of a vampire with none of the weaknesses. That alone makes you quite the interesting specimen, but coupled with your knowledge of the rules governing this reality plenum, well, I just had to meet you!” the Monarch of Mad Science explained with a grin.

“Y’know, you actually remind me of this one universe where a so-called ‘super genius’ used a biomechanical nanovirus to turn the Earth into a generic fantasy world, all because of some childhood trauma, or some shit,” Nykannis continued, using air quotes when she said ‘super genius’. “See, she was so faithful to the concept that even if she could engineer what was, for all intents and purposes, a vampire, with none of a vampire’s weaknesses, she actually chose not to! Can you believe it?! Not only that, but for all her supposed brilliance, she was also a total fucking Luddite! She wanted this to be a medieval fantasy world, so she had the nanites eradicate any technology more advanced than what was around in the low middle ages. They couldn’t even build fucking crossbows, for shit’s sake!” the mad scientist ranted, becoming more annoyed with each passing second. “ANYWAY, since I already know how those vampires were made, I wanted to find out how you compared, see what made you tick,” she explained, her fingers morphing into an array of advanced surgical instruments in a swirling cloud of shimmering nanites.

“A fascinating story,” the vampire noted in a snide tone that clearly conveyed he found it to be anything but. “Although I warn you, Doctor,” he added, his eyes taking on a dangerous gleam. “If you dare to lay even a single scrawny finger upon my august personage, I shall drain you dry.

“Nyahahahaha! I’d like to see you try! Nykannis retorted after a burst of deranged cackling. “Oh, and you’re a little late to be making threats, since I completely dissected and reassembled you two seconds after you got here,” she added with a twisted grin.

“You do not seriously expect me to believe…”

“The whole process took less than half a nanosecond,” the Monarch of Mad Science explained. “At those speeds, even your impressive reflexes don’t amount to jack shit. It was all over before you could even comprehend it was happening, and if you want proof,” she added, conjuring a holodisplay detailing the vampire’s full internal makeup. “Just take a look.”

“Very well, Doctor Kannis,” the vampire said after a moment of stunned silence. “I must concede that I am impressed. Yet, if you have already attained what you sought, why continue to host me? After all, I am well aware that my charms have no effect on one such as you.”

“I enjoy showing off how amazing I am,” Nykannis replied nonchalantly. “Besides, I meant it when I said I thought you were pretty impressive, and so, I wanna help you out,” she added. “Y’know, get you set up in another city. I hear Hydrangopolis is particularly lovely this time of year. Now, most places in this plenum have annoying magical girls to contend with, and Hydrangopolis is no exception, so you’re gonna need a way to deal with ‘em. That’s another reason I was showing off my creations, although I get the feeling that you probably want something more suited to your particular aesthetic, so we can just…” Her voice trailed off as a notification appeared on her goggles’ HUD. “Hmm… It seems my other guest has just arrived…” the mad scientist noted. “I’ll need to attend to them, but you can just peruse around until I get back, see if anything catches your eye.”

“You expect me to be able to navigate this labyrinth unaided?” the vampire inquired pointedly.

“Not really,” Nykannis conceded. “Which is why this little guy will be serving as your new tour guide,” she added as a multi-limbed robot materialized next to her. “Just tell him the kinds of stuff you’d like to see and he’ll take you there. That said, if I were you, I’d definitely check out the genetically enhanced cyborg dinosaurs growing in vat cluster seventy-three,” she noted with a grin. “That’s the one next to the S-class Void and Apex Pageless. Anyways, I’ll see you later,” the mad scientist told him, before stepping through a just-opened rectangular portal of glowing yellowy-green energy.

On the other side waited an unremarkable girl in casual clothes with short, dark hair and equally short stature. She was conversing with a glowing polyhedron, which hovered next to her.

“Kate!” the Monarch of Mad Science greeted with a big grin, spreading her arms wide in jubilation. “So, I take it your trip went well?”

“For the most part,” Kate confirmed. “Like I was telling Xozooth, here, I had a little run in with some Pageless in an alleyway, but it wasn’t anything a pair of APEX-Grade Armored Gorelions couldn’t handle,” she added with a smirk as she twirled an ornate golden whistle around her fingers.

“You sure are getting a lot of milage outta that thing, huh?” Nykannis muttered, giving her friend an annoyed scowl.

“You better believe it!” the photographer replied. “I mean, it sure beats the hell outta havin’ to turn into Rapunzel on her wedding day every time I’m in a jam…”

“I’ll bet,” Nykannis snarked. “Anyway, if you two are done chatting, I was wondering if you wanted to unwind for a bit. Y’know, check out some entertaining interdimensional happenings?”

“Sure,” Kate replied with a chuckle. “Xozooth was just about to give me my payment.”

“Indeed,” the eldritch brain confirmed. “You did an exemplary job, Miss Carson, and I’m told my former apprentice greatly enjoyed my letter. Thus, as renumeration, I bequeath to you a polychronal reality shard,” the polymathamagician declared, the shimmering, prismatic shard wavering into being next to him before falling into Kate’s outstretched hand. “This shall allow you to perceive several pertinent facets of the Micro and Macrocosmic ALL in relation to any query you pose to it.”

“Sweet!” Kate exulted with a grin. “Magic 8 ball on steroids, you are gonna make my life a heck of a lot easier!” she told the shard, before placing it in a jacket pocket.

“Can we start now?” Nykannis inquired, while tapping her foot impatiently.

“Yup!” Kate confirmed as she hopped into a newly created and heavily cushioned reclining chair. “So, whatdya wanna watch?”

“Oh, just a little something you helped set up,” Nykannis said with a sly smirk as she plopped down in her own chair, with Xozooth floating over to hover beside her. “Should be pretty hilarious, and I know how much you love comedies.”

“Ah, I see you’ve even created a title card for it,” Xozooth observed as the interdimensional viewer’s panoramic display activated to reveal the elaborate title card in question.

“Have I ever told you that you put way too much effort into these things?” Kate asked with an amused chuckle.

“Once or twice.”


A Game of Chess…?

Finn would find himself sitting at a table in the Overcity’s Taste of Heaven Tea Shoppe as he waited for the next stage of his training to begin. The atmosphere was certainly pleasant, if a bit whimsical, what with the giant teddy bears serving the tea, but Finn was someone with many an important task to complete. Thus he wasn’t particularly fond of wasting time in such a manner. Thankfully, after about ten minutes had elapsed, his new “instructor” appeared.

The ringing of a small bell above the establishment’s entrance heralded the arrival of an energetic-looking girl with bright red hair. “Hey, hey!” she called out with a wave when she caught sight of Finn, her cheerful smile broadening until it spread from ear to ear. A moment later, and the one eyed young man would find her standing next to his table, bouncing on the balls of her feet. “You’re Flynn, right?!” she asked as she dropped a chess box on the table, barely missing the appetizer Finn had ordered. “I’m Stacy! Some girl named Kim… or was it Kat…?” she wondered, her gaze drifting towards the ceiling as her smile drooped into a thoughtful frown. “Or maybe Nate…? Yuzuru…? Well, anyway!” she continued, refocusing on Finn, her eyes having taken on an even more excited gleam. “She told me you wanted to challenge me at chess, so, like, here I am! Now, I know I don’t look all that much like my Glimmer avatar,” she added. “But that’s ‘cause I’m using a super fancy holographic disguise thing to make me look like how I did before my accident! ‘Cause, like, I’ve heard some people say how I look now kinda scares ‘em? I mean, I think I look crazy cool, but whatevs, I guess! Oh! And speaking of Glimmer, I’ll bet you saw my post where I explained my super awesome zoo strategy! But that’s not gonna help much, ‘cause I’ve totally changed tactics since then!” she declared with a confident grin, before sliding into the seat opposite Finn. “So! Wanna get started?!”

Frankly the boy didn't know how a game of chess was important for his little preparations, but he figured it'd be a nice break from...well, everything else going on. The girl acting as his next instructor seemed a bit scatter-brained, but harmless. Though what the heck does she mean by zoo strategy??

"I guess." Finn answered with a shrug, moving his appetizer to the side to prevent it from getting crushed. "Might be a bit rusty though, hope that's alright."

“Oh, that’s okay!” Stacy reassured Finn when the magical boy noted that he hadn’t played in a while. “I just remembered that girl actually said the real reason you wanted to face me was so you could get some practice before goin’ up against some super amazing player named Kenny. Or was it Lenny? Well, anyway,” she continued as she placed the board between them. “Let’s get to it!” Once the board was in place, she reached into her jacket pocket and retrieved what looked like a green… toe…? “So, what color do ya wanna be?” she asked, placing the toe on the white square on the corner of her side of the board. “Oh, and how do ya wanna work Free Parking?”

"Is that real?" Finn, dumbfounded already, couldn't help blurting out as he pointed to the eccentric choice of a game piece. "And what do you mean by 'Free Parking'?? Isn't the goal of chess taking the other's king piece???"

“King piece?” Stacy echoed with a frown. “What’s that? Oh, and yeah!” she added with a giggle as she picked up the toe so Finn could take a closer look. “It’s totally real! This is my pinky toe! I always use it as my playing piece! So,” she asked after returning it to the board. “What do you usually use?”

"Definetly nothing like that... Uhm." Finn scrounged through both his pockets and hammerspace to see what he could use. As confused as he is, might as well roll with it for now. Soon enough he decided to just use one of his hero tokens; a rose gold coin with a rose carved into it, to match with the theme of his weapon. "This'll have to do."

“Ooooh! That’s cool!” Stacy noted approvingly. “Kinda pretty, too! Oh, but, um, it sounds like you could use a refresher on the rules,” she added. “Did ya want me to go over the basics?”

With a huff, the boy let one of his elbows rest on the table. "Might as well."

“Okay, so, like, the white squares are one player’s properties, and the black squares are the other’s,” Stacy began. “Except for the ones on the outer edge, which is where our playing pieces move. Now, the white square our pieces are on is called Go. The black square on this other corner here is the Jail,” she explained, pointing to the space in question. “That black square on the corner to your left is the Cop. Ya gotta watch out for him, ‘cause if ya land on him, he’ll send you to Jail! The only way to get out of there is to pay the fine or roll doubles. Then there’s Free Parking, that’s the white square to your right. There are two different ways to play with that space, so we’ll have to decide which way we’re gonna play with before we start. Then we have the buildings,” she continued. “First are the houses,” she explained, taking out a pawn. “They only give ya a tiny bit of money if another player lands on their row, but they’re super cheap! Then there are the zoos, which cost quite a bit more, but they give ya lots more money, and they even force the other player to lose a turn, ‘cause they’re spending so much time lookin’ at all the animals. Next up, we have the cathedrals. They’re crazy expensive, but they make your opponent give ya tons of money in return. Forts are cool, cause they cancel out the effects of all the other player’s buildings in their two rows, but if they also build a fort, the two cancel each other out, and nothing happens. Finally, there’s the mansion and the city hall. There’s only one of each of them, ‘cause the mansion’s crazy powerful, and whoever puts the city hall out first wins the game! So, is it all starting to come back to you, now?”


“No, no, it’s nothing like monopoly,” Stacy corrected. “For one thing, our playing pieces don’t have any special abilities. And there’s no direct combat in this either, which is kinda a shame, but it doesn’t make it any less fun!”

And with that, Finn's expression comically blanked out. Who in Grimm's legacy taught her all this misinformation??? They oughta get a damn earful! Whatever, the quicker they get on with this, the less time he could get a headache finding rhyme or reason in it. "Nevermind, let's just get started."

“Okay!” Stacy replied cheerfully. “So, what color do you want?”

"I'll stick to white."

“In that case, you get to go first!” Stacy declared, handing him some starting money and a pair of six-sided dice. “Good luck!”

Finn quietly set the not-monopoly money to the side and rolled the pair of dice. Oh, he got a nine. Decent start. He moved his piece over that amount of spaces.

“Oooh, a nine!” Stacy exclaimed. “That puts ya on a black space! I forgot to mention earlier, but if ya land on a space of your opponent’s color, it’ll cost twice as much to build on that row, plus if they have a building there, the money it charges you is doubled as well! Oh, and we never decided how we wanna play with Free Parking,” she added. “The boring way is to just have it be a space where nothing happens, but the fun way is to have it double your next roll, ‘cause you get to use one of the cars there, or something.”

"Oh, my bad." Finn apologized, scratching his head. "Guess we can go with the fun option."

“Okay, cool!” Stacy replied with a pleased grin. “And I’m such a dummy!” she added with a giggle, smacking the side of her head, before digging through the box’s various contents. “I shoulda given ya one of these to start with! Here!” she said, presenting Finn with a small piece of paper with some notes scribbled on it. “This is a cheat sheet! It’s got the rules for all the buildings on it in case ya forget!”

"I'll take a look at it, thanks."

After waiting a short bit to let Finn read over the cheatsheet, Stacy asked, “So, are ya gonna build anything, or can I go now?”

With that, Finn couldn't help but pinch the bridge of his nose. "Ah geez, where's my brain today? My apologies, I'll go ahead and buy the square." He told Stacy, taking out the needed money for it.

“Which square?” Stacy asked with a slightly confused expression. “And what do ya wanna build on it?”

Finn comically blinked, dumbfounded once again.

"The square I landed on???" He tilted his head, the checking the cheatsheet. "And ah, a house seemed like a good start."

“Oh, uh, you can’t actually build on that space,” Stacy explained. “Or any of the edge spaces. Only on the center ones. So, like, any of these three white squares on this row here,” she added, pointing to the spaces in question. “But, yeah, a house isn’t a bad choice for your first building, especially when you don’t know what the other player’s planning to do.”


What even.

He was slowly starting to realize why this was concidered a test. The boy took a deep breath. "My mistake. Gonna go ahead with your turn then?" He asked her.

“Well sure, if ya don’t wanna build anything,” Stacy replied, rolling the dice. “Oh cool, I got a five!” she announced, moving her toe the relevant number of spaces. “That’s a black space, so I don’t have to pay extra! I’m gonna build a house on the second black space above me,” she added, paying the required fifty dollars and placing a “house” on the space in question.

Wordlessly, Finn rolled the dice once it was his turn.

"Got a four."

“Oh wow! You landed on another black space!” Stacy noted. “I guess ya really don’t have the best luck, huh?” she asked with a giggle. “So, did ya wanna build something, or is it my turn again?”

The side of his mouth quirked down slightly, then he shook his head. "I should probably go ahead and build something. Can I place a house here?" Finn asked her, shuffling through his game money.

“Okay, since you’re on a black space, that’ll cost $100,” Stacy told him, before picking up the dice and rolling… “Six! Another black space! No double cost for me! But, uh, I don’t think I’m gonna build anything else for now, so back to you I guess!” she added with a giggle.

With a hum, he grabbed the dice and rolled again.

"Got seven."

“Oooh! That puts ya on a white space! Buildings’ll cost normal price for ya there!” she added. “Looks like your luck’s improving!”

And so, over the course of the next hour, the strange game continued. While Stacy began building rows of houses on each diagonal line, Finn constructed a hodgepodge of buildings in seemingly random places. Although things looked rather grim at first as he struggled to learn the odd rules and keep from showing his disgust whenever Stacy’s toe landed atop his coin, things eventually began to turn around for the magical boy. Ultimately, thanks to a few key building placements, coupled with a few terrible rolls on Stacy’s part, Finn emerged victorious.

“Wow! Nice job!” a wide eyed Stacy commended. “Ya might’ve started off a little rough, but what a comeback! Ya really kicked my butt!” she added with a giggle.

Finn nervously chuckled. "Honestly, I was just winging it for the most part." He explained, reclaiming his hero token while making note to disinfect it later. "But something told me I wasn't going to win through normal means, so I figured I'd take a gamble and whittle down my opponent to nothing." His smile then turned a little more smug.

“Well, it really paid off!” Stacy replied. “And my new strategy looked so cool in my head, too…” she added with a slight frown, before brightening back up again. “Guess I’ll just have to come up with somethin’ even cooler! So, are ya feelin’ more confident about your odds of beatin’ this Jenny chick now?”

"Penny, you mean?"

“Yeah! That’s her name!” Stacy confirmed with a giggle. “Your friend said she has crazy skills, but I’ve never heard of her before. Is she just one of those types that doesn’t like attention, so she keeps things on the DL?”

"I mean, if she didn't like attention she shouldn't have made herself the so-called Queen of Penrose." Finn crossed his arms and shrugged.

“Queen of Penrose?!” Stacy echoed. “Holy crap, for reals?!” she added, her eyes going wide. “I mean, I don’t know where Penrose is, but that sounds crazy important! Hey wait… Is that where that super crazy cool rave was?!” she inquired, her eyes going wider still.

His eyebrows rose. "If you're talking about the rave incident that took out a whole fleet of Beacon and then some and somehow spawned a Horror to boot? Yeah." Atleast from what info he could gather from other Cradle members and witness accounts. "But I wouldn't get your hopes up. Penrose is no kingdom, and not one you'd want to trouble yourself with."

“Wow, a Horror showed up, too?!” Stacy exclaimed, looking far more excited about that fact than a sane person probably should have been. “That’s so freaking awesome! It totally sucks that we had to leave early ‘cause of that crazy powerful lightning dragon thing…” she added with a frown. “We missed all the cool stuff… Hey! Was Penny the girl who summoned the lighting dragon?!” she asked excitedly. “‘Cause it would be crazy cool to play a game of chess against her sometime!”

"Honestly? I dunno. I wasn't there, I only know about it through gathering info." Finn explained.

“Oh, well, anyways, ya think ya got a better shot of winning against her now?” Stacy asked.

"Well I'm not sure how a game of 'chess' is supposed to help me win." The boy rose a brow. "But I guess if I'm able to beat this, then sky's the limit."

“That’s the spirit!” Stacy cheered. “But, uh, aren’t you challenging them to a chess game?” she asked, tilting her head in confusion.

Finn's eye widened in dumbfoundment. "Of course not, I'm preparing to fight her 1v1, not play board games! Wasn't even sure what the point of this was at first!"

“Wait, really? Well, in that case, did ya wanna have a practice fight against me?!” she asked eagerly. “We could do it right here! I’ll bet these big teddy bears would look really hilarious running around on fire!” she added with a giggle.

Finn's eye widened further. "H-Hey, let's not act like bulls in a china shop here! If you wanna fight me, let's atleast do it somewhere less risky??" He asked of her, really not wanting the stuffed bears to get hurt cause of them. They're too cute!

“Awww… You’re no fun….” Stacy pouted. “All right, fine,” she added. “Where do you wanna do it?”

After a taking moment to think, the boy stood up from his seat. "Think I know a place, follow me."

“Okay!” Stacy replied, quickly packing up her chess game and following after the magical boy. "Just lead the way! Aye, Aye, Cap'n! Full speed ahead!


Admittedly, there wasn't much space in the overcity they could spar in peace at. So Finn decided to go with empty parking lot on the quieter side of town.

"Alright, so how are we doing this? No magic? Only magic?" He asked Stacy.

“Let’s go all out!” Stacy declared with an enthusiastic grin. “That way, I can show off all my crazy cool moves!”

All out? Oh boy.

Finn drew his canesword out. "O-Okay, but tell me if I go too far!"

“Too far…?” Stacy asked, tilting her head. “Um, I thought we were just gonna be fightin’ each other? I mean, you’re, like, pretty cute and all, but I’m really not ready for a serious relationship just yet, plus, there’s someone else I kinda have a bit of a crush on, so, yeah…”

It took a moment for him to piece together what she was confused by. With a flinch, he quickly shook his head. "Nonononono- I-I didn't mean THAT! I meant if I accidentally hurt you badly, n-not THAT! Never!!" He tried to clarify.

“Oh, okay!” Stacy replied. That’s a relief! And, like, don’t worry about me! Ever since my accident, I’m, like, totally unkillable!” she added with a grin. “Oh yeah!” she exclaimed as something important occurred to her. “I should probably show ya what I actually look like now huh?!”

Accident? Unkillable? Finn rose a brow. "Might as well?" He tilted his head.

“All right, Flynn!” Stacy announced. “Check this out!” A moment later, the girl was enveloped by a burst of crackling lighting, and then… “KA-ZOW!!!” the transformed girl shouted, gleefully creating her own sound effect. “Whatdya think?!” she asked eagerly. “Pretty awesome, huh?!”

Oh, a monster girl! A zombie no less! Finn's eye seem to light up with intrigue and definitely not cause the reveal was sick as hell. He nodded eagerly.

“So, wanna get started?!” Stacy asked, still grinning from ear to ear. “I’ve got some super sweet new moves I’ve been wantin’ to try out!”

"Right!" He nodded again, getting into a fighting stance.

“Hells yeah!” Stacy cheered as she struck a dramatic action pose, her razor-sharp claws crackling with electricity. “Ready or not, here I come!”

An instant later, the patchwork girl shot forward in a burst of speed, the wicked Zinethonium claws of one hand darting out to slash Finn’s chest.

Finn quickly lifted his weapon up to block the initial strike, forcibly pushing the claws out of range to deliver a powered roundhouse kick in return.

The kick pushed Stacy back, but she quickly recovered.

“Nice moves!” She commended with a grin. “Like, you’re not related to that Errol Flynn guy, are ya?!” she asked. “Cuz that would be crazy cool!”

He rose a brow. "Errol? Who are you talking about?" Granted, dialogue mid fight would impede him, but he was curious.

“He’s, like, this super cool movie star guy!” Stacy explained, while shooting a few lightning encased fireballs at Finn. “He was, like, crazy awesome at sword fighting and stuff! And since ya have the same last name, I was thinkin’ maybe he might’ve been your dad or grandad, or, like, maybe even your son! Cuz, like, I know looks don’t mean much to magical people, so you could totally be, like, a thousand years old!” she added, obviously quite enthusiastic about the prospect.

Okay then.

"Right, one: I don't go by my surname, and that's not even my surname!" Boosting his speed with beast magic, he broke into a sprint to avoid the barrage of fireballs, circling around Tracy. "My name is Finnegan Vanhorn, I usually go by Finn, and as far as my family tree goes?"

...Wait, when was the last time he even thought about that? His family? His expression turned into an uncertain frown for a second.

"Nevermind that, you at least got close with the age bit!" Right, time to close in. Using one of the streetlamps, he launched himself at his opponent.

“Holy freaking crap!” Stacy exclaimed as she used a pair of flame jests to somersault over the charging magical boy. “Your name ain’t Flynn?! Dang…” she added with a frown as she shot an arc of lightning into Finn’s back. “Sorry about that… I can be really terrible with names sometimes… Oh! Hey! I know! You can call me ‘Tracy’ from now on to make up for it!” she declared, rapidly returning to her typical cheerfulness. “Sound cool?!”

Finn hissed in pain as the lightning strike hit its target. It burned. Thank god for regeneration. He hit the pavement and swiftly bounced back to his feet.

"I'd rather not be rude. But, you mean like a nickname?" He tilted his head, his visible eye turning silver. He was going into Avatar mode.

“Yeah, sure, like one of those!” Stacy agreed with a series of rapid nods, eagerly going along with that idea. “I mean, lots of people call me all sorts of stuff like ‘Stupid Stacy’, or ‘Stacy Stitches’, but this one’s extra cool, cuz it’s like a secret codename, or one of those alias things!” she added, before lunging at him again, her clawed hands sheathed in both lightning and flame.

The claws would end up striking a rather large chunk of the parking lot Finn had lifted up to block with. Gritting his teeth, he swung the concrete pillar a distance away, and fired a blast of gravity magic to obliterate it; hopefully hitting Stacy along with it.

“Woah!” Stacy exclaimed as she stumbled back from Finn’s counterattack. “You’re really strong!” the patchwork girl commended with a smile, clearly impressed. “I think it’s time for a surprise attack!” she declared, before pulling her head off and chucking it at the magical boy. “Heads up, Finn!” she called as her cranium hurled through the air. “Get it?! Cuz I’m throwing my head at—” The next instant, there was an audible thump as Stacy’s head hit the wall behind Finn and bounced onto the ground, having missed its target by several feet. “Ooof…” Stacy groaned. “Ramona’s always telling me I should work on my aim,” she noted glumly. “Guess I should’ve remembered to do that, huh?”

"It usually helps." Finn nodded, lifting Stacy's head off the ground with more gravity magic, and moving it back to her body with a gentle gust of wind magic as well. "You alright?"

“Yeah, I’m fine!” Stacy replied enthusiastically. “But holy freaking crap!” she added as her head was floated back to her waiting body. “Like, that gravity magic of yours is pretty useful, huh?!”

"My magic spec's Beast, actually." He explained, pointing to his eye. "Avatar mode. Or, Omni-spec, however it's called. Need to practice these new powers more."

“Oh wow!” Stacy exclaimed, her eyes going wide. “I’ve never even heard of anything like that before! That’s really awesome!” she added with a big grin. “You must have won the magical lottery or somthin’, huh?! Holy freaking crap! No wonder ya beat me in Chess!” she added, as if she had finally solved some ancient mystery. “Your luck must be crazy good! Heck, you’re probably some awesome gambler who’s made trillions, am I right?!” she asked excitedly as she leaned in close, completely oblivious to how much she was invading his personal space.

As much as Finn would lean away in response, he didn't want to come off as rude. "U-Uh, I wouldn't say my luck is...good...I just happen to have the proper connections." He tried to explain.

“Oh, wow! So, you’re like some shady mobster guy?!” Stacy asked. “That’s even coolerWoah!” she yelped as she tripped on some of the jagged concrete and fell on top of Finn.

The next thing she knew, their lips were touching…

“Gah!” she cried, leaping back up. “S-Sorry! Sorry! I didn’t do that on purpose, okay?!” she apologized hastily, her cheeks beginning to turn red (despite not having any blood circulating through them).

It….took him a moment to process what just happened. His eyes were widened in a stunned surprise, that much was expected, but was that a hint of fright hidden beneath his reaction? He silently sat back up. Seeing how Stacy reacted, he frowned and tried to wave it off, hopefully reassuring her that she's fine.

“Oh, phew, that’s a relief,” Stacy exhaled. “I didn’t want ya to hate me for life just because of a little accident, y’know?” she added with a lopsided smile. “Although… It’s kinda your own fault that I tripped,” she added after thinking things over a moment. “I mean, if ya hadn’t been so rough with the pavement, it might have been easier to walk on. Just sayin’.”

The boy visibly flinched, his frown stuck around. "M'sorry." He mumbled, wrapping one arm around his knee and resting a hand against his neck "scar". He was lucky that didn't send his head rolling.

“Hey, it’s cool!” Stacy hastened to reassure him. “I don’t mind if you don’t,” she added. “So, uh, I guess you win this round, huh? I gotta say, if you fight like this when ya go up against Kenny, you’ll win for sure! Oh, wait… Or was it Jenny…?”


“Oh, yeah!” Stacy exclaimed, slapping a palm against her forehead and sticking out her tongue. “I told ya I totally suck at names!” she added with a giggle.

The corners of Finn's mouth quirked back up into a smile. "It's fine. I admit, this was kinda fun." He got up off the ground and dusted himself off. "Maybe when all this blows over we can rematch, yeah?" He offered as he glanced at the rather large pothole he made. "I should probably fix that while I'm still in this state. See you later, Tracy."

“See ya later, Finn!” Stacy called with a departing wave. “And you bet!” she added. “We totally gotta do this again sometime! And next time, we can play Monopoly!”

“What an amusing pair,” Xozooth noted once the “show” had ended.

“No kidding,” Kate agreed with a laugh. “Gotta say, I wasn’t expecting them to actually fight each other,” the photographer added, turning to Nykannis. “Honestly, I’m kinda surprised Stacy managed to hold her own against your overpowered Anti-Penny science project. Well, at least for a little while.”

“She fared better than Oros, that’s for sure,” Nykannis noted.

“What happened to her?

“She got herself killed,” the mad scientist replied flatly. “But there’s no need to look so shocked. I’ve got a distinct feeling we’ll see her again soon enough…”

“My condolences,” Xozooth intoned solemnly, before his polyhedral form began to waver out of existence. “I thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment, Doctor,” he added. “But, alas, I must return to my cosmic contemplations. Farewell for now…”

“So, any other interesting stuff happen while I was gone?” Kate inquired once Xozooth had departed.

“Well, I gave Phase Two that field test I’ve been preparing them for,” Nykannis replied.

“Oh shit… So how did that go?”

“Better than expected. They managed to comprehensively kick the shit out of Princess Glittertits, and then after they brought her here, I tried out my new Nightmare Cannon on her. Ultimately, she was able to overcome its effects, but I was able to glean enough data from the process to correct that particular deficiency. Oh, and that’s not even the best part! She actually apologized for disrupting my work and honestly said she thought I was awesome!”

“Clearly your incomparable super-scientific genius was too much for her,” Kate noted with a wry smirk.

“Nyahahaha! Of course it was!” Nykannis replied. “And after that, I gave her a little tour, culminating with a viewing of my epic portrayal of Doktor Xylannis in the cataclysmic conclusion of Beautiful Guardian Gunslinger Alexis!”

“Wow… What did she think of it?”

“She loved it, of course!” Nykannis responded, as if it should have been painfully obvious. “Thanks to being blessed by my amazing awesomeness, Beautiful Guardian Gunslinger Alexis is the greatest magical girl show ever made! I mean, Divine Magical Maid Altea doesn’t even come remotely close! ANYWAY,” she added. “The only other thing of interest is Wonderland attacking a nowheresville town named Bolorton and taking it over as a staging area for their inventible assault on everyone’s favorite shithole.”

“Guess Queenie’s serious about using the Nexus there, huh?”

“You could say that,” Nykannis replied dryly. “And speaking of, I’ve got a new job for you.”


“Yeah, Jen and I were thinking it might be advantageous to determine if Mariette really is Queenie’s daughter, and if not, to locate the actual ‘Alice’, if she even exists,” the Monarch of Mad Science explained. “Doing so would give us a substantial amount of leverage over her, which I think you’ll agree is a very good thing, considering how pivotal a player she is in regard to current events.”

“So, you want me to do some digging, huh?” Kate asked. “Find out the real story?”

Exactly, Nykannis confirmed.

“Heh, brings me back to my news agency days,” Kate noted with an amused grin. “And it’s definitely gonna take some time,” she continued. “I mean, from what I know of Mariette, even though her current name’s an alias, her original name wasn’t Alice, and her mom looks like an ordinary person, so I’m pretty sure she’s not actually the Queen’s daughter. Still, it doesn’t hurt to investigate a little deeper,” the photographer added.

“True,” Nykannis conceded. “But I agree, her being Queenie’s precious Alice is highly doubtful, which means you’ll have to investigate Queenie herself.”

“Yeah…” Kate agreed, not sounding particularly pleased by the thought. “‘Cause just checking out every person named Alice isn’t really the most feasible course of action. Heck, I know this one girl named Alice who’s part of a support group that meets at Vanessa’s place,” she noted, pulling up the girl’s profile on her camera’s holodisplay. “Alice Vanderbeck, chronologically seventeen years old, actually has blonde hair in her mundane form, Randomness Spec, became a magical girl six months ago, lives with her grandparents in Seayoto.”

“And her parents?”

“Her father died in a bank robbery when she was three. He was the robber. Her mother went nuts and was placed in an institution when she was nine.”

“Is she still alive?”

“The mother? Yeah,” Kate confirmed, giving the display a few taps. “Megan Vanderbeck, patient 371, Seayoto Sanatarium.”

“Hmmm… It’s a long shot, but see if you can find out what exactly drove her insane.”

“You think Queenie might have had something to do with it?” Kate asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Probably not, but since Her Royal Bitchiness is going around investigating anyone who vaguely reminds her of her daughter, then it’s worth taking a closer look at,” the mad scientist replied. “Anyway, you have some starting points, at least,” she added. “And once you’re done with that, there’s something else I want you to look into…”

“Really? What?”

“Well, since you’re so proud of those new pets of yours, I was thinking we could really put them to the test, Nykannis told her with a maniacal smirk. “What do you know about cross-dimensional caustic bovines?

Level: 5
Experience: 41/50
Currently In: The Under, Escaping the City of Tears
Word Count: 338 (+1 Exp)

Consul F. So the wretch that attacked them first finally decided to reappear. Omori knew better than to try and attack him now, another kid or not. Seemed he'd rather do dialogue anyways, apparently thanking the seekers for taking Consul P out? He wasn't even there for that. But the red, glowing eye hadn't gone unnoticed. Nor did the sudden large gathering of bloodthirsty residents.

Oh. He recognized some of the faces in the crowd.

Oh. They were being controlled. What that implies was definitely not good...

Oh, he was not up to fighting ANY of them!

The dread creeping up his spine only grew once he understood the fact that they had willingly walked into an ambush, personally delivered to them by someone who really should meet the buisness end of the boy's knife. But that'd have to come later. What came next was absolute chaos. Omori could only go on the evasive and hope the resulting Blade Rifts don't leave anyone fatally wounded. He didn't want to fight them! Not even a while ago he had collected Cnideria for the same witch now throwing debilitating splash potions at them, and he did NOT want to be hit by that grenade launcher!

Luckily everyone else seemed to share the same sentiment of we need to get out of here. The Koopa Troop banded together to create an escape whale that Omori immediately booked it to, but of course that wouldn't be enough to deter their enemies. So like what Therion had been doing, he was helping wherever he could, begrudgingly dealing with any of the stragglers that attempted to jump onto the whale. The chaos was almost too much to keep track of. All he could do was just hold them off. Soon as their mighty vessel reached the entrance to a cheesy cave, Omori downed his swiftness potion and ran. He could endure whatever enemy fire he unfortunately gets hit with, but right now, all he was prioritizing was survival.
Michelangelo, a famous sculptor, is famously known for describing the art of stone sculpting as the slow release of a form as it emerged out of the marble block. It was his role as an artist to liberate the human form trapped inside the block by gradually chipping away at the stone surface. Removing what wasn't a human, and leaving what was. Something most Ascendancy girls can get behind.

This look into Michelangelo's mind reveals something about how he thought. As an artist, it was not his duty to create. The sculptures that he made were always there. He simply had to reveal them. His creations were always there. By his own description of his art, he could not take credit for creating them, only being the one to free them from their marble prison. Either Michelangelo never created anything during his professional career, or the world's greatest stone sculptor said something untrue about his own craft.

Are patrons different than sculptors? At first, you might not think so. They type words on a screen, put ink to parchment, they add to their canvas, not remove from their block. Not initially, anyway. But writing is just the first step. Afterwards, a patron who wishes to perfect their craft will comb their Positional-Orbital-Stalion-Transcript for weaknesses that can be purged from their work. Typos, unnecessary words, imperfections. But those are just small surface details. More drastic things can be carved away too, such as characters with no weight, weak plot points, and other such improvements can be made. "Kill your darlings" is dreaded, but important advice for anyone with an interest in storycraft, and is often the most ignored.

The short version is, less is more.

But removing things was not always the duty of a patron. Sometimes their champions were more than willing to help.

”I think, I'm all, set, my guy.” P.T. loaded a crate ten times as big as they were into the center of a magic circle. ”We ready, to boogie?”

Binky was looking out the window of Boteg's office. Allegedly, one of the last golden dragons would sit here and monitor Penrose. Well, less monitor and more ensure no harm could come to them. Binky felt a connection to this creature she had never met. One was a dragon, and the other was a frail magical girl, but both were powerless to do anything meaningful. If anything, it was Binky's coins that had a larger impact on Penrose, even if the outcome itself was undesirable and made things worse in the end. ”Yea, just, let me get the rest of my things.” Binky stepped away from the window to head towards her bedroom. A napsack in the corner of the room. Some things never changed.

"...Huh. They're still preparing to head out? Then again, time gets weird in places like this. Welp, let's go say hello!"

Not feeling like just going through the front door, Jennifer teleported inside Boteg's old haunt and into the floor other people were in, Finn in tow. "Wait. Shit. She might not be in actually. Hellooooo??? Oros??" She called out, both looking around for the false witch's contact.

Or Finn was just looking for Riona. He hadn't had time to catch up with the bar owner, after all.

When hunting or being hunted by OP pieces of shit, it is common to assume that they will take the nuclear option. There’s no reason not to. Just as Penny will always use her strength and “connections” to solve every problem, Oros should be expected to use Endless Eclipse to spot any potential hazards. Though a wise person uses all the tools available to them instead of just their strongest ones. While Oros does have a sword that lets her see the past, present, and future, even she is capable of taking action in spaces and times that patrons don’t have access to. This was why Jen was unaware of Oros's presence, presumably. In fact, P.T. and Binky had left Penrose for a time, and this was them going on their second outing. Haha, oh how wild it is to play head games with seemingly all-knowing characters.

Though this wasn’t actually a mind game. Oros was just occupied.

With a flush, Oros stepped out of the restroom and rubbed her nails against her stomach. ”Mmmmmm.” She turned to look at Finnegan ”So are you Finny, or are you someone disguised as Finny for the express purpose of messing with me? Because I have a lot more time to entertain one of those people.”

...Well what did you expect? The woman didn't have her powers running 24/7.

What a pleb, not running her powers all the time, haha!

Finn rose a brow, especially at the nickname. "No need to use my disguise artifact right now, is there?" he spoke up, turning to face Oros. "Anyways, this lady...Jen, was it? Said you'd be willing to help me with fighting Penny?" he asked, pointing a thumb at Jennifer when he mentioned her.

Oros snorted, then cracked a smile. ”She said that?” The pink haired woman pointed at Jen with her thumb. ”First of all, she lied to my face and actively participated in sabotaging my plans. Worse still, she was successful. Out of principle I ain’t doing shit for her and certainly not for free.” Oros folded her arms. ”And secondly, I’m sure you’ve had everyone and their mother tell you that Penny is invincible. What makes anyone think I can offer you anything at all? The rinnegan upgrade and everything else from that wannabe mastermind too weak for you?”

With that, the boy's expression blanked out. "Wait what. What'd you do?" His head turned back to look at Jen. She was leaning against the wall with her arms crossed. She chuckled.

"I owed a friend a solid and made sure to see it through. Surprised you're still not over it." Jennifer explained to him, then turned her attention to Oros. "Look bud, I already know I'm a piece of shit. But the fact is, there's nothing stoping the Grand Magnus from nerfing the poor kid the moment he makes a move against her. Not to mention Doc's upgrades are just a temporary thing at the moment." She explained. "As much as an anomaly Designation: Iron Maiden is turning out to be, I can't confront her myself. Not yet. If Finn can't kill her, I at least want him to be able to weaken her enough for me to step in. And if he's about to die, stall her long enough to get him the hell out of there."

The false witch moved away from the wall with a huff. "I dunno what the hell you want me to do to make it up to you, but the least you can to is just balance out some of his new powers, and we'll be on our merry way."

”The least I can do is nothing.” Oros said with a grin. ”Don’t get me wrong, witch. The date went better than expected. She can make me look like a bloated tic, point a cannon at the back of my head, and make our butler a robot, but I really don't care. I mean really, I commissioned a maid and a fem-fatale: Jailbait erotic robot edition. But I’m glad Nyakannis had a good time. That was what I wanted. She can pretend she hates me all she likes, but we went on a romantic outing and she enjoyed herself.” Oros crossed her brow. ”But that doesn’t excuse you of delaying a process I was trying to expedite. The fact of the matter is that there’s nothing you can offer me. You’re worthless, and the only thing that gives you value is ferrying around this shambling mess of a man.” She turned her gaze to Finn. ”Though maybe, maybe I can have some fun with you while you’re here…” Oros tapped the wall, and a shimmering portal appeared. ”Let’s go Finny, in and out, twenty minute adventure. Oros walked in without uttering another word.

Despite her words, Jen was unphased at being called worthless. She simply shrugged and left the other two to their own accord.

Finn himself was unsure if he should follow Oros through the portal. He took a moment to think, then stepped through.

And what resided on the other side of the portal? Was it a strange lab of the likes that no one had ever seen? Perhaps it was world zero, the first of several hundred worlds to fall to calamity? Maybe it lead to a japanese pagoda at the edge of the universe? No, it was stranger than all of those.

Finn’s shoes would click against the floor. White and gray tiles were illuminated by strips of fluorescent lights. Pedestrians pushed carts around, opening freezers and grabbing canned goods off of shelves. There was a palette stacked six cases high with soda, all while some country music droned softly in the background.

Wait, this was just a supermarket!

”And that, Finn, is how you should avoid acting.” Oros was looking over a can of beans before returning it to the shelf. ”There is an unspoken rule that if you’re well liked, good things will happen to you.” She walked towards the lad. ”The power that Nykannis gave you should be more than sufficient for defeating anyone, even Penny. But this world does not conform to logic. Being stronger than someone on paper is not an indication that you will win. People need to want you to win ” She shrugged her shoulders. ”Oh sure, the same tired faces will get propped up as “oldies” and “legacy champions,” and they’ll continue sucking on the silver spoon like little toddlers. But not everyone with power is so old. Sometimes the Grand Magistrate takes a shine to people for other reasons.” She stopped in front of Finn. ”I cannot give you power, or grant you the wisdom to defeat Penny. But I can teach you charisma.” She placed a hand on his back. ”Not the sort of charisma that makes people like you, but the sort of charisma that makes gods like you. What will make patrons covet your company, and long to see you succeed.”

Charisma? Not what he expected, but hey, Nykannis said he'd needed to think smart for this ordeal. Guess this is part of that. "Here I was thinking both you and Dr. Nykannis didn't like me that much." Finn said. "Whatever it takes to put the odds in my favor I suppose. What'd you have in mind?" He tilted his head slightly as he asked.

”No one likes a beggar.” Oros grabbed a shopping cart and started pushing it to the back of the store. ”So! Attaining the interest of patrons, especially powerful ones, is not the same as seducing your love interest. It’s easier to think of yourself as a storybook character. What would you like to see someone else do if they were in your shoes? That sort of stuff. But it’s made more complicated because those people also have their own champions that they are actively trying to prop up. So applying standard storytelling practices to yourself is not the full answer!” The cart had a lazy wheel, but Oros was able to force it over to make a turn down one of the center isles. ”In order to see where you’re lacking, I need to ask you some questions.” She placed a hand on Finn’s shoulder. ”Personal questions.” She leaned into him. ”You need to talk to me like I’m your therapist.” After they gazed into each other’s eyes for a moment, Oros released Finn and looked ahead. ”There are five aspects of your ‘character’ that can determine how quickly you will be endeared to these patrons. Not everyone cares about each aspect, but having all five really helps. Well, in normal situations it would.” She picked up a can of corn and held it out to Finn. ”The first is the ‘Character Arc,’ one’s ability to mature and develop over time. But I’m going to be honest, nobody really cares about this one. It’s been over four years and everyone’s still carting around the same baggage, or they left Penrose. We can just skip it.” Oros dropped the can into the shopping cart and shoved it as far back as she could. ”Motivation, on the other hand, is something that matters dearly to many. It is one’s reason for making the choices and taking on the tasks that they do. The ‘why’ rather than the ‘what.’” She let go of her cart and picked up two large jars of pickles. The special seasonal ones that were extra big for family get-togethers. ”Why is removing Penny from power, or even remaining in Penrose, so important to you?”

The boy idly followed Oros, making sure to pay attention to what she was saying. The idea of talking to her like she's his therapist did make him rose a brow, but he didn't question it. When asked about his motivations, he took a moment to think of the right words to explain.

"From what I've learned about Penrose, it's been locked in some weird cycle of conflict between everyone's favorite higher ups. And no matter what people do, nothing changes. The Mint is still at large, and Beacon is Beacon. So why hasn't anyone made a better effort to restore order?" He began to explain, looking over the contents of the isles. "The Ascendancy? I'm not concerned about them. For however long I've been on their shit list, I continue to evade capture. As much as I want to prove I'm more than the Sinner of Wrath they know me as, I don't exactly have a choice to do so sometimes. Hah, not to mention I'm still trying to settle my anger issues with my actual therapist...."

Finn picked up and looked over a bag of chips. "Anyways, for someone who calls herself a "Queen", Asimov hasn't really done anything to deserve that title. At least from what I can tell. She hasn't made an active effort to find the source of the Mint's activity, and I doubt she'd ever go against Beacon unfortunately. Instead she, what, makes one bunker and hides a quarter of the population in it?" He looked back to Oros. "A leader shouldn't just...let their people live in fear, y'know? They shouldn't have to just hide and hope things will turn out better on their own. And what of the mundane side of Penrose? If it's your city, then why not protect that side too? I wanted to focus on restoring that end but...I dunno." For a moment, he appeared a bit lost.

"I don't have a choice in this either. The only way she'd be rid of her crown is if I kill her. I don't want to resort to assassination, but if I have to be the bad guy, might as well. And I know, Maura hasn't helped much either, and now there's Wonderland causing stuff like what happened at Bolorton, but perhaps getting rid of one of the top dogs will finally cause something to change here." Finn then shrugged. "Or all of this will be pointless and we can just leave the town to the dogs, I don't fuckin' know anymore. What I'm trying to say is people are being useless and if I topple one down, the rest hopefully will follow suite like dominos."

”Oh, do we have some work to do here!” Oros continued to pick up jar after jar of pickles and loaded them into the cart. ”It’s fine to hate on people for doing a less than adequate job. Your concerns about Penny’s leadership are valid, but let’s be real, what have you done?” She gestured for Finn to push the cart. ”Maybe Penny gets everything for free, but she’s also one of the only person with her hand out. Ya gotta move that cute little butt of yours if you want to make change, Finny.” Oros whipped a deed out of her vestments. ”Just so happens I’m the proud owner of the Golden Trove. Prior to me leaving it, I was trying to get more human occupants. I’ll charge you exactly what Su charged me for it. ” She shoved the deed into Finn’s chest. ”Merry Christmas, you can wipe your tears with it if you like, it’s laminated. But that does bring us to the third aspect: Activity Level.” Oros plucked up a box of pop tarts and turned to look at her apprentice. ”It’s not quite what it sounds like. People like proactive champions over reactive ones. Again, this is something that Penny has over a lot of other patron champions. She doesn’t wait for shit to happen, she is constantly looking for things to do. I could question the validity of a lot of things she does, but by golly, the grand magistrate isn’t about quality, it’s about quantity!” More poptarts rained into the cart. ”Am I correct in assuming everything you’ve done since you’ve come to Penrose has been a reaction? Do you just follow orders and go with the flow, or do you spot problems and come up with your own solutions? Does life happen at you, or do you happen at life?”

Finn's brows rose as the deed was handed to him. Okay then. Atleast this won't stop Riona from reopening the hotel. Then they moved on to the next topic, and he tossed the bag of chips into the cart.

"I mean, I'm always looking out for new cases!" The boy seemed to perk up once he mentioned it. "The one of Mariette's missing mirror kinda went dead, but the Wonderland court has been something of interest recently. Obviously." He explained. "Maybe I may have followed orders when I first became a full-time magical boy, but with how long I've lived I eventually just do what I want. What I have to. Yknow, odd jobs!"

”Right, you know who else sought out new cases? Sammy. You know what she’s doing? Running away from the Mint. If you’re serious about one-upping Penny, you’re going to have to make sure you take on jobs that help with that aim. Forging alliances with other patron champions, discovering powerful artifacts, not, ‘odd jobs.’” Oros pulled the chips out of the cart and tossed them into the next aisle over. ”There’s no room for garbage in the metaphorical character cart! Now, let’s go to the meat section.”

"My chips..."

Oros guided Finn along, keeping an eye on the cart and its contents. ” Which just leaves two facets left. There’s the struggle. You mentioned that you have anger issues, which sort of works. Some would argue that in order for a flaw to be real, it has to hamper the champion a bit. But I don’t think flaws are really in the grand magistrate’s interests. Penny can turn on and off her monsterous urges at will. Furthermore, she can befriend people easily despite the many times she's been used by others. Even Mika's flaws went largely ignored. It’s just not something you need to concern you with. But the last one, ohhh the last one. This one is a doozy, but it’s the most important facit.


By this point, they were at the deli counter.

”There are many ways to decide likability, but let’s take a short list from a well renowned story consultant. Michael Hauge consults on a lot of Will Smith’s movies, and since that guy is a huge ass hole that plays likable characters, mister Hauge must know what he’s talking about. According to him, there are four traits you can give someone to make them instantly likable.” She started pointing at cuts of meat. ”They need to be good at what they do, they need to be funny, they need to be the recipient of an undeserved misfortune, and they need a strong moral code. Would you say you have any of those?”

He took another moment to think. "Now some of that's just subjective. I mean, I think I'm better at what I do than how I used to be. Not sure if people find me funny, and I've done my best to keep my moral code strong. Misfortune wise?" Finn then went silent. He frowned, glancing away. "There are some things I'd rather not dwell upon from the past, yeah. But that was then, and all I can do is just press on and not let it burden me."

”Being good at something isn’t so subjective, but it’s whatever. There are lots of ways to be likable. The possibility is there for you, certainly.” With an exhausted sigh, Oros leaned on the cart. ”The problem is, however, that our story is not a traditional one. When someone watches a movie or reads a book, they want to be able to relate to a character. Especially the protagonist. But for patrons, it’s more like a multiplayer video game. Champions they don’t control do not serve as their point of view into our world. While it is still important that you are strong in the aspects we discussed, you also have to appeal to their ego. And by that, you need to interact with the patron’s champions.” She looked side to side. ”I mean just look at us. I have no real reason to give the Golden Trove to you over anyone else. There are plenty of people who hate Penny. But none of them came to me for assistance.” Oros poked Finn in the chest before walking off. ”Follow me, let’s check out.”

Though as Finn would soon discover, there was quite a line.

”I think the reason why the Grand Magistrate loves Penny so much is because even though she’s just a blatant power gamer with a god complex, it’s the closest thing they have to someone who’s trying to stitch together this shithole. There are a few choice words I have about that, but I’d like to keep this conversation under thirty pages.” Oros grabbed Finn’s shoulders. ”So here’s what I think. If Penny is going to be scrounging up Beacon and as many magical entities as her cold, greedy, metallic hands can clasp, you need to do the same. Round up the mundane people, make alliances with the people she’s ignoring. And you can mingle with mint agents, but for the love of god, make sure they aren’t Grand Magistrate controlled ones. Unless they are controlled by the Lord of Flames, but do be on your toes.” She leaned over Finn’s shoulder. ”Oh here’s an idea! You have anger problems right? So you want to kill Penny, but part of you wants to shy away from your dark past and give Penny a chance to share her monopoly of power. Offer a bipartisanship or an election type deal so that it isn’t always ‘Queen Penny’ at the helm. Don’t kick her ass with violence, make her confess that she’s obsessed with power, otherwise she would relinquish that power knowing how easily it can corrupt herself and others. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Beacon and Mint are the two most fucked factions in this city. I wouldn’t be surprised if Penny is still La’at’s dog, secretly setting herself up to bring about a great and terrible change.” She leaned closer. ”Whaddaya think? Sounds sexy, right?”

"One of Maura's coven sisters already suggested Penny and I work together, yes." Finn mentioned. "Though somehow I doubt she'll want a shared ruling unless I'm one of her girlfriends." He sarcastically quiped, glancing back at Oros. "So that just leaves the election route. Sounds better than having to resort to violence, honestly."

"Well yes, as I’ve said several times already, she’s really just out there to get as swole as possible. She won’t share a crumb of power if she can help it. You will have to fight her, and you will do better if you have people who want to help you. Even if you can somehow defeat Penny, you have the rest of her harem to deal with." The lane was moving slowly, so slowly. It was only a matter of time before she spoke up again. "So little hitler gave you some powers, huh? And a nightmare cannon?"

The boy nodded. "Invincibility, Avatar, and Killing Blow. Dunno if the Nightmare Cannon thing could be concidered a Third Eye adjacent power, but that's mostly to throw a hit at Asimov's mental state." He explained. "I also have access to a strong Mana Font so I can make the best of this."

"Well that sounds impressive. I think we should test them." Several kanji burned through Oros’s sleeve, before the sleeve burst into flames. Her right arm had swollen with muscle, covered in blood vessels the size of pencils. "Let’s try out invincibility first!" She swung her palm at the side of Finn’s head.

Wait, we're fighting now?!

And in a supermarket of all things. How impractical. Finn visibly tensed up as Oros prepared to attack with an unnaturally buffed arm. He held back the instinct to block, instead focusing on activating his invincible state before she struck.

...Sadly that wouldn't stop him from getting knocked down like a bowling pin. But other than that, he remained unscathed.

While a few people turned their head to see what was going on at the back of the line.they noticed that the man hadn’t been roughed up, and seemed oblivious to how powerful the attack really was. To them, this was probably just a street performance. Indoors. In a supermarket.

"Man, that is impressive!" Her arm turned back to normal, and her robe stitched back together over it. "And your mana font is going to help you recoup that lost mana pretty fast! And you have an avatar one too? What’s that like?"

Finn practically bounced back up to his feet. "Right, gimme a bit to focus." He dusted himself off, and took a deep breath to enter the Avatar (Omnispec??) State. Instead of the usual pure red people seen while he's active, his visible eye became a bluish-silver, and his pupil turned into a slit.

"Appearance wise, not exactly as vibrant as the next guy's. But that never matters when in battle, does it?" He held a hand out, and a small orb of light appeared. He then formed another orb, one of water, but then let the water move around his hand like a serpent.

Oh, it actually was. Adding a bit of his usual beast magic, he had created a snake out of water. "It's interesting. I know I can't stay in this state, but it's fun trying out which magic combos work best with what." The orb of light then formed the shape of an owl, and it flew around Oros' head for a moment. The two elemental constructs caught glimpse of eachother, and tried to attack. To which, they simply went back to their previous shapes before anything else happened. "Can also do neat stuff like this, The orb of water thinned out, and he moved it to where the light orb reflected off it, creating a prism effect. "But this is just a brush of what this is capable of!"

"Oh cool!" a few more of the shoppers were taking notice of the magic show happening behind them. It was becoming harder and harder for them to peel their eyes away. "And you have a killing blow power too, you said?"

Finn's brows rose once he realized people were taking notice. Should he keep going? Did they think he was an illusionist? "Yeah! Haven't figured out a name for it yet, but..." He called off the orb of light and froze the water "mirror", letting it fall into his palm. He then flicked it back up into the air like a coin, and let it shatter, turning the pieces into falling snow. "I really don't think I can demonstrate here without severe colateral damange, hahah..." He let out a nervous chuckle.

"I don't follow. Isn't a killing blow like, a powerful, single target attack? So the damage should be minimal." Oros raised her brow. "Riiiiiiight?"

He looked from side to side, then heaved a quiet sigh.

"Well, if you say so. Mind backing up if you can?"


When there was enough space between the two, Finn snapped his fingers, then casted his arm out. A large flurry of vantablack ravens; or the silhouettes of ones, shot out from his shadow behind him. The corvids viciously barreled towards Oros. And with a loud caw, a battle cry, they formed together into one. The giant shape closed in, talons primed to strike.

Oros flicked something out of her hand and at the approaching murder of crows. What Oros threw wouldn’t matter nearly as much as its effect. Whatever it was, it caused her to blink directly in the flight path of the killing blow.

"Yes! Come take me sweet embrace of dea-!" …Was all Oros was able to get out before she was pulverized by the grim attack. As far as survivability goes, few girls had more tricks than Oros. She was immune to pain, most forms of harm, could function even if all of her arteries were removed, and could even resurrect so long as she had enough mana to do so. But once the murder of crows hit her, there was nothing to grow back from. Her flesh and bone had been devoured almost instantly by a thousand tiny beaks. The only thing that remained of Oros was her sword, which clattered to the ground before disappearing in a puff of black mist. When the crows dispersed, there was nothing left.

The shoppers clapped their hands, clearly enjoying the vanishing act, if not understanding exactly how it had been done.

Further down the isle, Finn noticed the bag of potato chips that Oros had thrown earlier. It looked like they had landed on top of a few loaves of bread.

Once the wave of corvids finished their feast, they dispersed from their formation, and faded as they flew away. With a huff, Finn went out of his transformed state...

Then his eyes widened once he realized what happened.

It hit? She let it hit?? It killed her??? There wasn't a cadaver or anything that've prove it, but concidering they were in a public area, that might be for the best.


Well then. Nothing much to do now than to finish up and head back. And then he saw where the bag of chips landed.

"Hm?" He grabbed the bag again, glancing around before he...didn't put it in the shopping cart. Instead he held it in his free hand.

It was not long before Finn returned through the portal.

”Seems, you finished, the lesson.” P.T. inhaled deeply, allowing the yellow dust from her gun to whiff into her nostrils. ”Do not, worry, about, your teacher.” P.T. exhaled, but it was clear. ”This isn’t, her first, time, heh!”

Binky rubbed the back of her head. ”So what’s the plan now?”

Jennifer looked up from the book she was reading. Looks like she took a seat while she was waiting. "Wait till she pops in good as new? Not sure if the reincarnation process applies to espers. And even then, it can always differ from here's methods." She thought outloud.

”Just sayin'. This, is what, she wanted. Comin back, doesn't even, factor in.”

Finn looked between the trio, then the two newcommers. "And you two are...?" He rose a brow.

”Seriously?” Binky huffed. ”I'm Binky, Maura's head, possibly only researcher. I've been working with Oros up until, well, today. I guess it makes sense she wouldn't say much about me, given how people tend to react.”

P.T. snorted. ”Just the, personal, trainer.”

"Oh yeah, she did mention you once before! I had to get caught up to speed back at Christmas." Finn told Binky. "Just never saw you in person and all. Nice to meet you both!" He smiled.

P.T. totally fogged Finn and turned to Binky. ”Guess this, changes things.”

”Yea, I’ll continue my training without you. You can go set up whatever it was she wanted you to.”

”See ya around.” The pale woman nodded at Binky before departing, Once she was gone, the coin minter turned to look at Finn.

”I’ve gone through something of an awakening recently.” Binky closed her eyes. ”I was getting kind of depressed, but I’ve broadened my horizons a bit. Aria gave me her spell book on artificing, The beacon twins created the white coin with me, Oros hired P.T. to help toughen me up. The red coin wasn’t the magic bullet to fixing every magical girl’s problem. I was kind of down on myself for a while because of that, but it’s like a certain black clad, white haired, katana wielding school girl once told me,” She opened her eyes and smiled. ”I’m fine just the way I am. I just had to dig deep enough to find the person she was talking about. I’m here to make other people better ” She eyed Finn up and down. ”And for you, I think I can do something.” With a wave of her hand, she beckoned the witch and Finn to follow her.

Binky brought those present into her lab, which looked like a combination between a library and a minting press. On one side of the room was a laser cutter, only with the laser diode replaced with a magic wand. There was the coin press, and then a few tables covered in books and notes.

”Oros dragged all this stuff from dead dimensions for me, or so I’m told. It was in rough shape, but with some polish I was able to get it in shape. ” She reached inside the coin press and pulled out a red coin. No, it wasn’t a red coin, it wasn’t quite a ruby coin either. It was a bright red color though, vibrant enough that it left no shadows in Binky’s outstretched hand. ”I call it the Vermilion coin, after Cradle’s founding mother.” She placed it in Finn’s hand. ”It’s my greatest creation, for the moment, heh.” She rubbed the back of her head. ”It’s the only one in existence, at least for now. But the magic that went into it has all been tested, so there’s no reason it shouldn’t work.”

"Curious..." The boy uttered, holding up the vermillion coin inbetween his fingers. Seeing as Nykannis' coins didn't have any unsavory side effects he was aware of, one more couldn't hurt, right? He flipped it up into the air, using the coin as soon as it landed back in his palm-

Only Binky caught it just before he could.

”Hold on now! don't you want to know what it does first?” She shook the coin in front of his face. ”This coin is based on the same magic that spawned the shine spark as well as the red coin.” She placed it in Finn's palm. ”If you use it, you will aquire the same resistances the shine spark grants... without being converted to Beacon! It's more or less why anomolies like 'pure monsters' can exist. You can thank Penny for testing out the prototype. B-But let me skip the techno babble and get to the important part.” Binky tapped the coin in Finn's palm. ”It is a red coin. It could alter you in any number of ways, so you may want to hold off on using it right away.”

"Eh, don't blame 'em. He's been just going along with this." Jennifer spoke up with a shrug.

Finn himself was caught off-guard when Binky stopped him, but listened closely to her explanation of the Vermilion coin regardless. "Soooo hold off until I need the extra ace, yeah?" He asked, instead pocketing the coin.

”You should at least be aware of what it does before you use it, I think.” Binky folded her arms, and the corners of her mouth were curved to the floor. ”The ‘velvet spark’ as I’ve named it is a desirable feature on its own, but if you don’t feel that you need it, then waiting would be better. Especially since it will have an irreversible effect on your magical form. It’s not something I would do lightly. I’ll add that like mint coins, they cannot be detected by forms of scrying. So there’s no reason to use it immediately if you want to think it over. But once you use it, the genie will be out of the bottle.” She rubbed the back of her head. ”As for decisions that should be made swiftly, I understand this is now your establishment. What do you plan on doing with it?”

"Well a friend of mine has been looking into starting a business here. She could probably set a bar up, let it serve as a front for a weapons shop for other magicals." Finn thought outloud. "Other than that, probably just make this a normal hotel. For anyone. Even normal people concidering someone's gotta look after them. Just gotta be more discrete when it comes to any magical girls and guys that wanna stay there for a night or two. Might need a rebranding though..."

”That sounds reasonable. And what about me?”

"Far as I know most of your side of the team left town, so it's up to you whether you want to stay or go too. He explained.

”My side? I believe we all work under Maura now.” She nodded. ”But fair enough, I will talk with Maura about it later.”

"I meant- Ah, nevermind. Thanks for the coin!" Finn waved it off, and took his leave.
In A Journal 6 mos ago Forum: The Gallery
God I hope I'm not wrong.
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