The world around her continued to move as she waited. Everyone fled, Cradle was alright, Bolorton was Wonderland's. She didn't exactly react to it. Until...
Jennifer's brows rose when the Queen managed to get a hit (albeit a slight one in) against Nykannis. And lo, more of the Queen's ranks flooded in soon after. And her commanders, more than willing to rain hellfire back at the Mad Scientist and her team. She didn't act yet. She allowed the Queen and Nykannis to converse for a bit longer before the latter finally left. Then the former finally acknowledged her pressence.
She smirked. Couldn't turn me down, huh?
"Quite the collective you got, Sweetheart! But this event has been going on for long enough. Can't we settle this over a nice cup of tea?" She fearlessly approached the queen and her guard. No weapons, no tricks in sight. "Though if you still wish to try your luck against me, well, how can I turn down such an offer~?"
"Halt! None may approach Her Highness!" The centaur-shaped girl ordered as she landed between Jennifer and the Queen, unfurling her wings and baring her claws. The soldiers around pointed their weapons. But then, a voice rang out from behind her: "Stand aside, Gryphon. I want this vessel to carry me for the rest of the day." The Queen had unsummoned her weapon, and waved the monster girl away dismissively. Gryphon grit her teeth, but then slowly stepped to the side, and the rest stood down. "Besides, she has piqued my curiosity..." She met Jennifer's gaze with her own, displaying a royally haughty disposition. "What do you think could be settled here in the first place?"
At this, Jennifer allowed her glided clock eye to be revealed. "Oh, just a little theory I wanna confirm!" Her intense gaze remained even as she tilted her head with an ever prevalent smile. "We bear a similar power, you and I, do you not?"
The Queen looked disappointed. "Ah. I see. A mere pawn, playing at a Power." She slowly shook her head. "Yes, someone like you would assume I also possess a boring ability like glimpsing into the future, I suppose." She sighed. "Did I get that right?"
Close, but not quite!" Jen winked, tapping the side of her head. "Sure, the concept of the Exodus of Time was limited to seeing into future willingly or otherwise at first, but since this reality's more magic based, it gives me more freedom against those dreadful limitations!" The jovial woman explained further. "The Powers-That-Be couldn't stop me from breaking the rules against time travel, could they? Hahah!"
She folded her hands behind her back. "But you can't really blame me for being curious, Queenie! How you spoke to Finnegan and Mac, your talk about being the one to "shatter" the rules of this reality, and how you will see that it reaches its rightful conclusion? Ever the more curiouser~" She tilted her head to the other side. She purposefully left out one other detail, but the color of one's eyes was a relatively minor detail.
The Queen grimaced at the mention of the Powers-That-Be. "That's right. Once I attain the Nexus, I will be able to reach beyond this plenum, and crush the Grand Magistrate. But I am merely wasting my time on the likes of a puppet like you," she afterwards said, and turned away. "The only one who could truly understand me had already left."
"Cute little analogy, but you're still no different in that regards." Jen puffed a cheek out. "Trying to release yourself from your own strings or not, you're still this chapter's bad guy. Your plot armor ain't gonna keep you safe forever! The bad guy must be defeated eventually, as all stories go." She rocked in place on the balls of her heels. "Do you even know where the Nexus is? What's your motivation for doing all this anyways?"
"Is it really all just for Alice?"
Ugh, saying that name outloud left a sour taste in Jen's mouth.
And as she gulped, she felt cold steel against her throat, the Queen having drawn her weapon in the blink of an eye. How could she not foresee this? It was as if the action was outside their perceived reality. "...Mention her name again, and it is off with your head." She kept the weapon completely still, gauging the Witch' reaction. The latter could tell her words had affected her deeper than her expression let on.
Jennifer wasn't smiling so much either. In fact, something about it seemed to trouble her as well.
"Trust me, I never wish to speak of that name ever again. This will hopefully be a one time thing, if I have any say in it."
As much as a small part of her wished to know more, the rest forbade it.
After a grueling ten seconds, she lowered the sword. "This is not just for any single person, but for us all," she afterwards spoke. "I took on the role of a villain, for only then will the script develop as I want. Their precious Penrose must be challenged and in mortal peril for the stage to be set...and for the Nexus to fully manifest." She smiled disturbingly. "That is how the letters form on the parchment, how the sentence is punctuated, right on the dot. Powers they may be, but in the end, even the Grand Magistrate bow to the laws of narrative."
The false witch listened closely. "For what good is a plot without a proper narrative, right? A willing villainess, ready to bend the world to her whim so that her desired ending may be achieved..." She noted. With that, her smile returns.
"Mayhaps we are leagues apart in strength, but our goals still align, nonetheless. Perhaps we can arrange something!"
The Queen lifted an eyebrow. "And what, pray tell, would that something be?" "Your Highness, If I may be excused." The Mad Hatter spoke up, having listened to the conversation from the sidelines. "Witches are not to be trusted. She is simply luring you to her peppermint house so she can cook you in the oven, if you pardon the metaphor." The Queen glanced at the dapper inventor, and looked back at Jennifer. "He makes a good point. What reason do I have to trust you?"
Jen pretended to be flabbergasted. "In name only, Hattie! You really think they'd suddenly exempt their rule against witches of time and space now? I only go by the title to blend in!"
She turned her attention back to the Queen. "You're not gonna get anywhere with Penrose with their current hierarchy. I know you tried to parlay with Miss Paragon-of-Penrose back there, but she was never gonna hear you out!" She told her. "BUUUT I believe if your theory holds any weight, getting rid of Penny should cause enough chaos to draw the Nexus out of its hidey-hole!"
The Mad Hatter seethed at the insult. "That's Mister Hatwington to you, hexlet!" Jen simply stuck her tongue out at him in response.
However, the Queen put a hand to her chin in contemplation, ignoring the verbal scuffle. "Hmm...That would be the kind of development the Grand Magistrate would not tolerate, considering how favoured she seems to be..." She smiled. "Yes, that might be the key to all this. So, you wish to co-operate in this, yes?"
"Yup!" Jennifer nodded.
"Excellent. Well then, I look forward to hearing about your success," The Queen spoke with a wave of her hand, followed by opening a portal. "Now, I must depart. There's so much to do and so little time."
"Hmmm, yeah, we've been prolonging this a bit too long. See ya!"
Though once the Queen of Hearts and her army finally left, Jen stayed behind for just a bit longer.
"...You got all that?"
”I don’t know what to say. I probably shouldn’t say anything… Let’s meet up with Nykannis later!”
The thought helped him manage a weak smile. "Y-Yeah." Though before Finn could talk further, Mayra had begun attempting to reattach his head. He quickly caught it when the first attempt didn't work.
"Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow-"
Hammering it back down onto his neck didn't work either, if his reaction meant anything.
And then Mayra suggested welding.
Finn quickly shook his head. "HELL NO!" His short-lived fright would change to unamusement when Mayra's reaction implied she was joking. He remained silent as the dragon girl updated Penny on his condition. The implications that he was technically a monster boy now didn't exactly sound great to him like she thought. For years he tried to avoid being corrupted, and now...
It couldn't be that, could it?
Then Iron Mouse finally reappeared, thanking Mayra for getting him out of there. God, he felt mortified being reduced to this in front of the new agent. "Mhm." He answered when Mayra asked if they knew each other. He would've nodded but, yknow. Iron Mouse suggested they grab Oliver and retreat, though she worded it funny.
God, he hated feeling so vulnerable. Hopefully Oliver won't be livid when he sees what happened to him. It may have reduced him to half his mana, but they did it! Everyone was evacuated.
"Sorry fellas, but I gotta look for my teammates! Good luck to you all!" The real Oliver would call out, hurrying off to look for Finn and Iron Mouse.
I swear to god if either of you got hurt-
The ghost would overhear Iron Mouse calling out for him. It took him a bit to get what she was refering to. Pandora's Box. Things have escalated out of their control. He ran over to them. "Jesus, I was starting to get worried!" He grinned, looking between Mouse and Mayra.
And then he saw Finn.
Oliver's eyes widened, and he could feel his blood starting to boil. "Who the FUCK-"
"Please don't scream!" Finn quickly spoke up before the sentinel spirit got any bright ideas. "Please. Let's just...get out of here."
The ghost took a few deep breaths, for Finn's sake. Whatever happened out there must've really scared him if he's like this. "Right, we're done here."
"The place is done for Justine, come on! We're leaving!"
"Good work out there, agents. But Finn, that was really wreckless of you! We're lucky you're still alive!" Once all the cradle agents were regrouped, they'd hear Maura talking to them through their coms.
"You've done wonderfully for your first mission, 'Miss Mouse'. I'll see what we can do with these hearts we got."
Now what of dear Jennifer?
Maybe if Nykannis' rain of killing blows doesn't stop the Queen, she could have a little chit-chat with Miss Storyslayer herself.
While the meeting at the Soul Sanctum was ongoing, Omori finally found somewhere to clear up some space in his inventory. Though it did take him a moment to decide what to part with. He had a lot of weapons now, and that was discounting his trusty knife. Sunny might need something to defend himself with, so he decided to keep the combat knife. The boltok pistol was doing good for him, even if ammunition is an obvious concern. Luckily he picked up some more during sewer recon. Revolver might be worth something, but it felt interesting wielding a sword (or at least something along those lines). He had yet to see how the Boxing Glove would fair, so that leaves:
- Dance Instructions - Endless Summer Life Preserver (x2) - Serrated Knife - Machete and Pistol
Amount Earned: 820 Geo
Surprisingly, not a bad payout! Maybe he could’ve sold more of his collection of weapons, but eh, maybe someone would need one in a pinch. Now, what to do with this money…
There was an amusement park nearby…
Among the colorful and whimsical atmosphere of the amusement park did the black-and-white color scheme of the boy stick out. He could be seen stopping on occasion at various game booths to test his skill and luck. Definitely not cause he wanted some of the prizes! Though with how tightly he held the stuffed animals in his arms, maybe he kinda did? Omori stopped short in front of one of the roller coasters, dampened by the endless rain. He didn’t want to get his plushies drenched, but maybe it’d be fun to ride. Right?
“Oh hey! Omori!”
As the boy debated the merits of a roller coaster ride, and whether or not it would be worth a thorough soaking of both self and property, he heard a familiar woman’s voice shout his name. He turned to see none other than Ms Fortune trotting toward him beneath the colorful canopy of circus tents, a cheerful smile on her face as she waved hello. To think, it had been just over a day the two had known each other by now, and yet they’d already been through so much together, from the perilous river ride to the scrap with the pirates to the mad dash through Nyakuza Metro to the untold horrors of the Basement. So far though, it had never been just the two of them. Now seemed like a good time to rectify that.
“Heya, how’s it goin’? Saw ya from a mile away, you bein’ the only thing not done up in rainbows and polka dots.” She crossed her arms, grinning at the boy’s haul of stuffed animals. “Now there’s a nice sur-prize. Guess we both got busy. A bunch of us worked our way through this creepy place called the Soul Sanctum. It was kinda freaky, if I’m bein’ honest, but not as in-tents as the circus!” Nadia giggled to herself, tactfully and unabashedly reusing the pun she said with nobody around earlier.
Well, the unintentional tendency remained unintentional. ”I’d bet it was.” The corner of the boy’s mouth quirked up as he hugged his new plush collection close. Something was still wrapped around his neck, so perhaps he was trying to obscure it from view. ”What did you find out?”
“So here’s the deal. We found this wizard guy named Gallo, and he gave us the scoop. We’re definitely goin’ after that crappy li’l Consul who’s been pushin’ us around, P-brain. And to make it easy, we’re takin’ out his lackeys first. The one I’m lookin’ for in the Amusement Park is their top assassin, disguised as a redhead girl named Monica. I thought it’d be easy to find her ‘cause the people here are like ninety-nine percent monster, but I haven’t seen a damn thing.” The feral furrowed her brow, scratching her head. “Only human girl I saw was by the throwin’ knives, but she had, like, orange hair. Not red.” She glanced at Omori. “Wanna gimme a hand lookin’ around?”
An assassin? In here? Well, it’d be easy to slip through the crowds with how busy it is. Would anyone notice if someone conveniently disappeared? Omori nodded. He hadn’t been able to fight alongside just Nadia yet, so he was more than willing to help his friend out.
”You sure he didn’t mean like, ginger hair or something?” He had to ask. ”... Were you looking for literal red hair?”
For a moment Nadia stood there staring at Omori, her mouth slightly ajar as she blinked a few times. “...Oh.” Then she clapped both her head with wide eyes, squashing her ears beneath her palms. “Oh! Oh-oh-oh! That was- she- hot damn, I walked right by her and didn’t even think twice!” The feral’s arm flew out like a lunging snake and snatched Omori’s hand. “C’mon! We gotta get back there before she makes like a banana and splits!” With a big heave she pulled him off his feet and onto her shoulders for another impromptu piggyback ride, forcing him to hold on tight to his stuffies as she took off running through the crowded fairground.
After a few minutes, and a couple wrong turns, the two arrived at the knife-throwing game. This section of the circus actually hosted games that featured a number of throwing weapons, including axes and shuriken, as well as a couple popgun shooting galleries. Once she slid to a stop and deposited Omori on the ground, Nadia tried to calm herself down, despite her pounding heart. Gotta be subtle, she thought, taking a deep breath. With a killer assassin on the loose, and possibly in her direct vicinity, she couldn’t afford to be conspicuous. Gotta be stealthy. Come to think of it, though, her dynamic entrance had already drawn a couple stares. Had she already blown her cover? “Just act natural,” she hissed, as much to herself as to Omori. A cliff-faced nod was what he’d respond with.
She cleared her throat and put on the most genuinely excited expression she could muster. “See, there it is, just like I said!” she told Omori, hamming it up. “Just you wait. I’ll have more prizes than you before you know it!”
”And embarrass yourself even further? No way!” The boy would say in a faked amused jab against her.
Not the best setup in the world, since it not only made it look like she was competing with a little kid but also losing very badly, but she couldn’t back down now. Trying to salvage a little dignity, Nadia sauntered up to the throwing knife game and plonked down some Geo. Soon she was hurling dagger after dagger at the big painted target on the wooden backstop and…well, she wasn’t great. At least half of the knives didn’t even stick in the target, but bonked against the surface and dropped down into the moss. Those that did lodge in the wood seldom did so anywhere near the bulls-eye. As the game went on, Nadia’s groans got louder and louder. For some reason she thought that as a rogue she’d have a natural knack for knives, but as it turned out, knife-throwing was a skill that demanded as much cultivation as any other, and for a feral who fought mostly with her claws and sometimes with a sword that skill didn’t come easily.
Doggedly unwilling to admit defeat, Nadia kept at it. She also kept an eye out, though, and in the course of her repeated attempts to ace the knife-throwing game, she took note of several bystanders in the area. Naturally most were monsters of some stripe and focused on their own friends, family, and diversion than the feral’s less-than-stellar performance, but whenever a human appeared in her periphery she feigned (or at least exaggerated) a show of disappointment with herself to catch a glimpse of said person with her exasperated eye-roll. This meant that when a young woman in a fine bit still functional mage’s outfit of leather and pink cloth showed up, Nadia couldn’t help but take notice. This girl wore a cape as crimson as her eyes and short, tomboyish hair, and though hers was a pretty face, she tarnished it with an ugly expression: a derisive, condescending smirk. Whenever one of Nadia’s thrown daggers fell short, went wide, or bounced hilt-first off the target, she let out a corresponding titter or giggle, not even bothering to stifle it. Her schadenfreude rubbed Nadia the wrong way, and after a minute or so of this, she couldn’t stand it any more.
The cat burglar turned to the scoffer and gave a resigned shrug. “‘Knife’ to meet you? I’m glad someone’s havin’ a good time, at least. You gonna stand there snickerin’ all day?”
“Depends on how long you’re planning to do this, I guess!” Unabashed about her gleeful spectatorship, the other woman stepped forward into a normal range for conversation. “You’re doing it all wrong, you know. It’s honestly kind of pathetic.”
Nadia’s eyes narrowed. “What’s your problem? It’s just a game, ya know. No need to chew meowt.”
The mage chuckled, crossing her arms. “Hey, games are important. Anything can be fun if you turn it into a game.That’s why I’m always smiling.” She flashed Nadia her pearly whites, pointing them out for emphasis with double finger guns. “Still, you gotta play to win. No half-assing it, eh?”
Nadia threw her hands up in exasperation. “Well, how am I s’posed to do it, if you’re so smart?”
“Not too proud, huh? Weeeeell…I’ve got a minute or two. Guess I can give you a pointer. First of all, take that case off. It’s shifting is throwing off your balance.” Once Nadia propped her box cutters’ blade case against the stall, the stranger moved in. Without hesitation she laid hands on the Feral, guiding her shoulders, arms, and waist into the proper position. Nadia could feel the shorter woman pressing up against her back, a little too close for comfort, but she pursed her lips and allowed herself to be maneuvered. “Your technique is sloppy,” the stranger murmured, just a few inches away from Nadia’s twitching ear. “Ever hear the phrase ‘the more haste, the less speed’? Well, it’s true. Striking true with a blade is all about timing…and positioning.” After carefully turning the knife over in Nadia’s hand so that she held it by the blade rather than the hilt, she steered the cat burglar into a solid throwing stance. “You’ve gotta wait patiently for the perfect opportunity. Don’t rush it. ‘Cause at the end of the day, it’s the slow knife…”
Nadia suddenly jolted, paralyzed by pain, and her knife fell from her nerveless grasp. She tried to cry out, but her voice didn’t answer, only a dry, strangled gasp. Slowly she looked down to find a curved blade sprouting from between her ribs.
“...That cuts deepest.”
When Nadia tried looking over her shoulder, she found a devilish, sadistic grin on Monica’s face. Try as she might, the feral couldn’t speak, or muster the energy to move; her body was in shock. Only one thought filled her mind: that she’d been stabbed in the back. Again. Son of a bitch, she thought, gritting her teeth. On her a backstab like this wasn’t fatal, and her numbness meant she wasn’t going to black from the pain or anything, but it still hurt like hell. Her would-be assassin, however, no doubt expected her to die. “What, did you think I didn’t hear you asking around for a girl with red hair? Moron! Hurry up and die already,” Monica hissed. Nadia complied, letting out a convincing death rattle as her body went limp.
Monica withdrew her blade and stashed it in a flash, then immediately changed gears, projecting her voice. “You passed out again? Girl, you’ve gotta stop going ham on the beer tent. Coooome on, let’s get you somewhere to rest.” Slinging Nadia’s arm over her shoulder, Monica dragged her away from the game stalls as if supporting a half-conscious tippler, chatting cheerfully the whole time. “Seriously, I know you get depressed down here away from the sun what with all the rain, but you’ve gotta lay off the booze! One of these days you’re gonna get ten pints deep, blunder straight into a canal, and who’s gonna help you then? Not me, that’s who! Man, how’d you even get sloshed this fast? It isn’t even lunchtime yet! And why…the fuck...are you…so heavy!?”
The sneak attack against Nadia hadn’t gone unnoticed by Omori. But he knew she’d be fine, it’d take more than a stab to keep her down. Quietly, he pursued the two, keeping at a distance and using his prizes to obscure his face.
By the time Monica reached the ferris wheel, her muscles were sore, her hair was bedraggled, and her face was shiny with sweat. While dragging Nadia over she’d found out that she weighed almost three times as much as she looked, which was a lot of dead weight for a 5’2” assassin to handle. With a gasp she plopped Nadia down on a bench in the little dining pavilion, then thrust bottle after empty bottle into her hands to make it look as if she’d passed out. Nobody around seemed to notice anything wrong the whole time. “Whew!” Monica breathed, wiping her brow as she stood up straight. It would be hours before someone realized that this catgirl had been sitting there a little too long. “That was fun, eh? Minus the whole you secretly being like four hundred pounds or something. Let’s do it again sometime.” She giggled as she turned to go. “Oh wait, you’re dead.”
“Dead wrong!” Springing from the bench, Nadia smashed the bottle she’d been given against the back of Monica’s head, dropping her to the floor. The sudden sound of shattered glass caused every monster within a few dozen yards to rubberneck in surprise at the source of the noise. Nadia detached her arm and waved it around, spraying blood everywhere. “Aaaaaagh, help!” she cried, the visual part of her display more than making up for her lackluster acting. “My arm! My poor arm! There’s a killer on the loose, everyone run!”
A chorus of screams rang out as parents took flight with their traumatized children. Chortling, Nadia stuck her arm back on and turned to face Monica as she stood to her feet, holding her aching noggin. “D’you know how hard it was not to bust out laughin’ while you were sweatin’ your ass off carryin’ me here? Real fureakin’ hard!” She bared her fangs and, with her blades back at the throwing games, sharpened her claws. “Compared to that, a little payback’s gonna be a walk in the amusement park! Now that the jig’s up, why doncha show me your true face, Kronya?”
The mage’s pained grimace twisted into a malicious grin. “Ooh, this kitty’s got claws. Lemme guess, nine lives?” She shimmered as her glamor dispelled, revealing a deathly-pale harlequin in scant black leather. Orange, Nadia realized, looking at the assassin’s hair. As Kronya crouched down into a stance, ready to pounce, the odd straps that dangled from her waist arched like scorpion tails as if alive. Her dagger whirled into her hand, and she even went as far as to lick the blade. “I sure hope so. That’s a lotta lives to murder my way through!”
“Come and get ‘em then, pasty!”
Welp. It seems like their target forgot somebody! Slipping through the fearful-crowd-in-flight Omori quickly took cover behind a table, reloading his pistol and opening fire on Kronya while she was distracted.
For the second time in as many minutes Kronya suffered a surprise hit to the back, and like any good shot this one did a lot more damage with a lot less volume than the bottle. “Agh!” the assassin gasped through clenched teeth, gripping the wound that Omori’s bullet sliced through her thigh. In a flash a fan of knives flew in his direction, hurled with frightening speed and accuracy. “You miserable insect-!”
”Tch!" Omori was forced to duck back under cover and hope the table could take a stabbing or two. Right. Should’ve expected taking the ranged approach wouldn’t be easy.
She then whirled to face Nadia again, but with the swift-footed feral already just feet away, she could do much more than throw her hands up for protection as her enemy struck her with a headlong tackle. The moment her noggin made contact, with her ears hardened into spikes, she unleashed her pent-up blood pressure to launch her head like a drill. Propelled like a rocket by the bloody stream, it pushed Kronya back, her feet carving furrows through the mossy grass. When its blood loss brought its momentum -not to mention Nadia’s train of thought- to a halt she ended with a sneeze to send her head flying back before Kronya could turn her blade on it. Her body caught her head as she ran in again and rolled it like a bowling ball. The assassin flipped neatly over the low projectile and met Nadia’s claws with her blade in a loud, metallic clash, three times in quick succession.
Aiming to punish her foe’s next whiff with a knockdown, Kronya went low for a spinning leg sweep, but Nadia jumped up to perform an overhead axe kick. This Kronya dodged in turn, dashing backward with almost spider-like speed and fluidity. As the cat burglar landed her foe lunged forward with a vicious revolving slash at her belly, her dagger in a reverse grip, only for Nadia to separate at her lateral midriff scar and pop her upper body into the air. Before she could come down with a curtain-shredder claw slash Kronya delivered a door-buster kick right to the pelvis that bowled the feral’s lower half over, causing her to flinch. When her torso landed her foe double-handed her blade to plunge it down into the stump of her neck, but at that point Nadia’s head scooted in from behind and knocked Kronya’s legs out from under her, toppling her long enough for the feral to put herself back together. They leaped up at the same time and met with a terrific trade, triple-tail slam versus Limber Up, that sent both flying backward, Kronya in a corkscrew launch and Nadia with a ground bounce.
Laying on the moss where she’d fallen, Nadia propped her head up on one arm with a cheeky grin. “If you’re a killer clown, shouldn’tcha go for the juggler?”
Kronya treated her to a scowl as she pushed off the ground. “Vile worm. Your end is near!”
With Kronya’s special dagger Athame both boosting her attack and speed as well as lowering Nadia’s defense, these two seemed fairly well matched, the former with the edge in lethality and the latter more versatile. That meant things could go either way, unless the feral received a helping hand.
He just had to wait for the right moment.
Swapping out his gun for one of his knives, Omori rushed in to take a stab at Kronya while Nadia could still stall her.
“Omori!” Nadia yowled, suddenly panicked. The boy clearly meant to capitalize on what looked like an opening, but the moment Kronya hopped back up he’d be dead meat. She was faster, stronger, and longer-ranged, not to mention a trained assassin with who knew how many kills under her belt. Taking aim, Nadia fired off her left forearm in a spurt of blood, still attached by stretched-out muscle fiber. As Omori drew close, Kronya leaped up from the ground like a coiled serpent, Athame poised to rake across his throat. Instead her well-honed blade neatly took the head off one of Omori’s new stuffed animals as Nadia contracted her arm muscles to bodily yank him out of harm’s way by the wrist. A disappointed sigh escaped Kronya as she saw the plush elephant’s severed head flew through the air, knowing that the stuffing she’d scattered could’ve been blood.
Then her attention snapped to Nadia as she summoned her monstrous Striker Idea. Its veiny, milk-white heads split open to assail Kronya with a swarm of grasping tongues, and though the nightmare succeeded in grappling her, the assassin sliced through the tongues binding her just as quickly. Before Idea could slam her into the ground she sailed away, tore through the striped tent canopy that hung over the dining pavilion, and disappeared into the rainy dark.
Nadia knew this wasn’t over. After spitting out blood from the fresh cuts on her tongue courtesy of Idea’s damage transfer, she jogged over to Omori. “I know ya wanna help, little guy, but you gotta understand. This gal’s crazy, but after gettin’ a taste of what she can do, I can tell ya she’s crazy good at what she does. If you fight her straight-up you’re gonna die. I appreciate the help, but you gotta leave the cuttin’ to me, ‘kay?”
The only response Nadia would get was the genuine stunned silence of the boy. Omori’s widened eyes stared at the innocent plus life taken too soon, its body and head. That could’ve been him. But he had let that poor elephant take the hit for him.
It was clear enough. This woman needs to go. But Nadia had a point, rushing in would be a deathwish. ”Keep my distance. Right.” He nodded.
“Nooo, what? You just gonna let that airhead tell ya what to do like that?” Out from between two nearby fair attractions, Kronya strutted back into view. Her hair was a little mussed and her white skin shined from the rain, but she seemed to be in good spirits. She twirled Athame in one hand, as she withdrew another fan of dangers to clutch between the fingers of the other. “C’mon, you almost had me. One more try can’t hurt, right?”
“Gotta get through me first!” Revving her forearms like drills, Nadia charged toward her to kick off round two. With Kronya boxed in on either side, her room to dodge was limited, and the feral had a great idea. In the middle of her sprint she jumped up and shot off both legs in a blood-propelled dropkick. Kronya dodged it easily by crouching and raised her hand to hurl her fan of daggers at her opponent when she fell, but Nadia contracted her muscle fibers like rubber bands, snapping her at high speed toward her feet. “Hey, Pasty!” Before the assassin realized what was happening Nadia slammed into her head. “Take a seat!” Like a bear trap her thighs closed around Kronya’s neck in a high-pressure headlock, and her momentum promptly carried both to the ground in a brutal slam, the killer’s head nearly flattened beneath her opponent’s weight. “Guess you were right when you said my end is near!” Nadia cackled. “No if’s, and’s, or butts!”
Kronya replied by curling up and hammering the back of the feral’s head with her knee. “Me-OWCH!” she yelped, rolling off her opponent and to her feet. Nadia turned with a roundhouse kick only for her foe to catch the leg against her ribs, and the next second Athame sliced upward. She cut through the scar tissue around the calf’s separation point like butter to easily part foot from leg, then hurled the limb behind her. Suddenly off balance, Nadia hopped back on one leg and then shot off her right arm to try and slug Kronya in the face. After narrowly dodging it the assassin snipped off the connective fiber with another upward slash, then pivoted like a ballerina to hurl her fan of daggers straight into Nadia’s torso. “Damn it!” she gasped. Before she knew it Kronya was in the air, Athame descending like an eagle’s talon in a lethal overhead stab. With no other options the feral fell back onto the ground, spending even more blood to replace her lost limbs with Copycat prosthetics, and bet everything on her reversal Fiber Upper.
Luckily for her, Kronya had been too focused on the kill to try and bait anything out. She took this double-kick straight to the gut, and with a victorious yowl Nadia snapped up to her to combo off the reversal. She struck with the one-two kicks of Footloose followed up by a tail-slap backflip and finally Claws for Alarm to spike Kronya back down. The assassin slammed into the Test of Strength minigame and sent the puck shooting about halfway up the tower. Though stunned by the impact, Kronya managed to look up in time to see Nadia hurl down a level one Purrge of Vengeance, and in a blink she dodged out of the way. In the watery blast that ensued the high striker’s puck flew all the way to the top, triggering a cacophony of flashing lights and sounds.
Nadia landed as the residual water washed over the area, looking this way and that. She’d lost sight of her opponent before the explosion went off and she couldn’t hear her thanks to that racket, either. A moment later, though, the feral had her answer; a black, white, and orange blur zoomed out from the shadows. Nadia tried to block, only for Kronya to dash right past -or maybe through?- her, those magic straps that trailed behind her wrapping around the feral’s limbs. The cat burglar found herself yanked off her feet, hurled over Kronya’s head, and straight into the house of mirrors. “Ow, ow, ow!” she yowled as she smashed through mirror after mirror, finally sliding to a stop with a bunch of new cuts. Wincing, she got into a crouch and called upon her cultist striker to heal her up while she surveyed her surroundings. She’d ended up inside a maze of reflection, lit by round lights from above. Everywhere she looked she saw more Nadias, many of them distorted by the mirrors’ contours into all manner of wacky shapes. “Ugh,” she moaned. “Well, at least I’m in good company for a change.”
A sinister chuckle reoriented her to the task at hand, and when she saw Kronya appear she lashed out with a lunging slash, only for her claws to scrape off yet another mirror. “Uh oh. Which one’s the real me?” she heard the Agarthan taunt. “Better figure it out before I getcha in the ribs again, heeheehee.” Nadia whirled around, peering at the spots where the mirrors met their frames to try and figure out which of the Kronyas around her wasn’t a reflection, but before she could a fan of daggers flew her way. Nadia rushed to block them, then launched her head like a cannonball in the direction the knives came from, but her forehead just bounced off another mirror. As her noggin headed home, she heard Kronya again. “I just love that you’ve got so much blood to spill, but I’ve gotta wonder. If I cut your heart, can I kill you for real? I guess there’s only one way to find out!”
Once she popped her head back on Nadia’s left eye sparked blue. “Y’know, I’m gettin’ real tide of this.” Suddenly, a beam of pure liquid Hydro surged out from her eyes, pulverizing every mirror it plowed into as Nadia span her head like a sprinkler. “CAT-ARAAAACT!”
When the torrent tied down, Nadia could see clearly through the labyrinth of broken glass and cracked reflections to where Kronya hunkered down, covered in new scratches and trying to protect her face from any more shards. As she got to her feet the feral summoned a gang of three Copycats, and together they charged forth. Teeth gritted, Kronya whirled to face them, her daggers ready as she took the doppelgangers on. They dashed or leaped in, one after another, with overhead axe kicks, low slides, or rushdown swipes. Athame carved into their watery forms again and again, but this strategy countered her weapon of choice, and the cuts and bruises they inflicted began to pile up. “Water you waitin’ for?” Nadia taunted, circling around the action. “I thoughtcha wanted to see more of me!”
Suddenly she dashed into melee range, stopping inches from Kronya’s face. “Boo!” she jeered, making the Agarthan flinch. Enraged, she thrust her dagger at Nadia’s face, but she’d already bent low with Hand in Hand. With a thief’s dexterity she snatched Athame right out of Kronya’s hand, then drove an elbow into her gut that sent her staggering backward, winded. That gave the three Copycats all the time they needed to jump in together and perform a triple Outtake all at the same time. With a wail Kronya hurtled straight through the wall and out of the house of mirrors to roll along the moss.
Nadia stepped outside, reabsorbing her Copycats in the process. “I’ll give ya li’l credit,” the feral grinned at her, twirling her new blade. “Your knife skills were cuttin’-edge. But in the end, this kitty’s just a cut above.” She leveled Athame’s end at her exhausted opponent’s face. “Get the point?”
“Worthless scum. Enough the damn puns!” Kronya growled. Refraining from a low blow, Nadia watched as her opponent pushed herself to her feet. A dim black aura seemed to surround her, and her eyes shone a more vivid red. “I’m not done yet. Not with Desperation on the table. Now the first strike is mine, no matter what. Come at me, if you dare!”
Heaving a sigh, Nadia let her shoulders sag down. “That sounds rough.” Sticking Athame into her belt, she pulled out the Bait Launcher. “Think I’ll de-fur this to a purrfessional.”
Foom. A prime stack plopped down on the moss a couple feet in front of Kronya. She snickered, producing two knife fans like claws of her own. “A bad joke, even by your abysmal standards. The only dead meat here…” With a manic laugh she hurled her knives. “Is you!”
Her daggers stopped short as they lodged into the belly of a tiger that poofed into existence in front of her. She froze, watching in horror as the tiger looked down at its perforated middle, then back at her. “S-Solon!” she cried out. “Help!”
But no help came.
A few moments later, Nadia stooped to collect Kronya’s spirit. Fusion with such a skilled assassin seemed very tempting, but no, not with a personality like that on her. Plus her whole aesthetic would clash big-time. Still, maybe there was a way to get around an all-encompassing change. For now though, she just pocketed the spirit. “Pain in the ass,” she sighed, turning to go. “If you’ve got nothin’ knife to say, ya shouldn’t say anythin’ at all.” She set off at a brisk pace, needing to hunt down a couple things and split before the mermaid corps arrived.
At some point, the boy had lost sight of the two. As much as he intended to back Nadia up, the feral more than proved she had it covered. So, he had doubled back to the knife throwing game to look for the blade case she left behind. Carefully holding it in one hand, he went to reunite it with his feline friend.
…It really sucked not being able to do much.
As if she’d rung a bell for him, Nadia spotted the first ‘thing’ on her list. “Omori! There you are!” she called, glad to see that he’d given the deadly knife fight a wide berth. As a former child herself, she knew just how little kids liked being told what to do. When he offered her the box cutter blade case, she was genuinely touched. “For me? Aw, you shouldn’t have!” By now, the chaos had died down and she’d cleared the disaster area, so things were starting to return to normal in the Amusement Park. After strapping the case back on, Nadia tousled Omori’s hair. “Thanks, buddy. Tell ya what, since that con-knife-in’ assassin girl did a number on your li’l friend, why don’t I buy ya a cotton candy or somethin’?” She put her hands in her pockets and a big grin on her face.
Omori had opened his mouth to speak, but after Nadia offered to get him some cotton candy, he simply breathed out a sigh of relief. ”Sounds good.” He smiled.
”So I guess you got her?” He’d quietly ask.
“Uh-huh,” Nadia replied, choosing not to go into any more detail. Even if her target had been a piece of work, ending another human’s life -even indirectly- felt pretty bad. Better to put that behind her, and focus on a brighter future ahead with an indelible smile. She set her sights on the fairground’s other dining hotspot, far enough from the chaos that its stalls of turkey legs and funnel cakes were totally untouched. Y’know, it’s gettin’ to be lunchtime,” she said, barely suppressing a giggle at her upcoming pun. “I’ll be frank: it’s been ages since I’ve had a good coney.”
Defeat the enemy, everything would be over, right? His plan seemed so perfect. He even ditched the camoflague once he was close enough.
The queen was injured. Still standing, but injured. Why didn't she do anything to prevent that?
His reckless plan seemed so perfect. It was too perfect.
And he payed the price for it.
It was far too late once Finn's sword collided, and in a flash of light and a sickening sound of a page torn asunder he felt himself being flung away, hitting the ground with a hard thud. It took him a moment to regain his senses, and when he did, he saw something very dread inducing.
Briar Rose, his trusty canesword, broken.
No. Nononono- How is this even possible!? Magical weapons were meant to be unbreakable, but as he kept summoning it back to himself, it remained broken.
...Why was he still laying on the ground anyways? He had to keep fighting.
Finn willed himself to get back up. But as the body in front of him rose to his feet, his perspective didn't change. No, not one bit. Its movements were strangely sluggish too. And then he glanced up.
And his dread turned into horror.
The Queen. She had decapitated him. But he was still alive. His head was detached from his neck. But he was still alive. There was no bleeding, or exposed flesh and bone, and he was still alive. The Queen, that damn woman that could've killed him, approached his severed head. The words that followed her sickening grin only made his heart race. Even when he tried to remain composed, glaring tensely back at the mad monarch, he was afraid. Afraid of what she might do to him next.
And then she reached down towards him.
Luckily for him however, Mayra had stepped in and diverted the Queen's attention off him.
It was admittedly hard to keep up with what happened after that. If anything Finn just wanted to grab his head and get out of there. As he tried to maneuver his body back over to where his head fell, Mayra grabbed both and rocketed the both of them back to the town.
"Th-Thank you.""Damnit, what was he thinking?! Mac, Finn's still alive! I don't know how the hell that bitch did her parlor trick, but I don't feel our mental link being severed! He's okay!" Mac would hear Maura quickly informing her of Finn's condition. "Mayra's getting him out of there, but Oliver's position is being compromised, he might need some hel- Or maybe not." Things were going well on Oliver's end. The teleporter was quickly finished, the twin samurai were helping speed up the pace of actually getting people out, and a cute magician dude was offering to give him a lift outta there.
"Thank ya' for the offer, but I ain't that willing to leave my teammates to walk." Oliver grinned. Half the populace was teleported out by now, maybe they can actually relax?
Oliver casually glanced at the teleporter defense being broken through. "Oh. Okay." Well then, he had plenty of mana left to expend. Maybe he can send out a few toys for them to play with. Along side whatever summons were helping with the teleported, the ghost summoned as much armored spirits and clones as he could with the full intend of stalling (or even overwhelming, on a good day!) the encroaching army.
Level: 5 Experience: 31/50 Currently In: The Under, City of Tears Word Count: 385 (+1 Exp)
Despite his hopes that only he could see the entity trailing behind him, that hope quickly died once Jesse pointed Something out. Omori tensed up, his eyes widened as he gauged out how everyone else reacted to its appearance. "You can see it." Was all Omori could say. Whatever this thing was, it seems the two had history. And not the good kind. Most of the other seekers were reasonably unnerved, even Nadia wasn't able to greet him!
Then there was Bowser, who wasn't phased by Something. In fact, he even welcomed it to the team. That managed to snap the boy out of his shock. "You could've atleast been less obvious?" He glared at Something. Surprisingly instead of just sitting there menacingly, the entity shrunk down into a scarf, catching Omori off guard. Okay. Looks like it won't be budging. This is fine. "Unfortunately...or...fortunately, this one can't really do much beside be annoying. It'll just retreat if any of us tried anything." Omori explained. Sure he was leaving out the fact that the wasn't the only Something, but the fact that he hadn't seen the other variants yet was a good sign in his eyes.
Then the meeting started. The main goal was finding more mask shards (The Knight wasn't exactly happy to hear what happened to the Dreamers' masks) and they found 3 in total so far. Then there was something Omori could barely wrap his head around. Lifelight. The flame clock. An endless cycle of fighting and fighting and fighting. The boy was already more than willing to take out the Consuls, and one of them just happened to be nearby.
Then there was the letter Nadia wanted to address, from someone named IGV. The mention of a Soul Sanctum caught the Knight's interest. A group was formed to go investigate, the pale bug included. When it glanced back at Omori, as if asking if he was going to join, he waved it off. "Go on ahead." He said, perhaps unwilling to get himself beat up once again this time.
But that just left one question for him.
What was he going to do now?
After finishing breakfast Omori and Scarfthing Something headed out the door. He hadn't had the chance to explore the town last night, why not do so now?
Level: 5 Experience: 30/50 Currently In: The Under, City of Tears Word Count: 334 (+1 Exp)
Before Omori was able to go looking for any open shops, Ichiban had hurried back over by him. Albeit, still out of breath from their sewer recon. He tilted his head as the man offered to guide him to a hotel he could stay in. On one hand, he really had to clean out his inventory sooner or later, somehow. On the other...yeah, he wasn't that rude to turn down well intentions. The boy stepped aside to let Ichiban lead the way. He'd just have to wait 'till morning.
The two arrived at the Habbo Hotel and approached the front desk. Ichiban fished out enough money for the both of them to stay a night. Omori remained quiet for most of the exchange, shaking his head as his temporary companion offered to help with anything else.
"You've done enough. Thanks."
Ichiban could see the corners of the boy's lips quirk up into a faint smile.
Omori hadn't intended to arrive to breakfast late. It wasn't that he slept in (though depending on who asked, that might've been reasonable), moreso that something popped up unexpectedly. The same Something that followed him from the front desk to the dining-lobby-thing. It didn't seem hostile, nor did it seem willing to stray from the boy. But it carried an unnerving air with its unblinking eye and dark form. Omori just did his best to ignore the fact that Something found him. If Something was here to annoy him like usual, it just means its not haunting Sunny.
Better him than Sunny, Omori thought to himself. With the Troop, Sectonia, Nadia, and the Knight having gone out, that just left him, Therion, Primrose, Jesse, and...
"Real classy, Mr. Kasuga." Omori quipped, walking up next to Ichiban with an empty plate. He reached over to grab what he can to add to the plate, and a drink to occupy his free hand after.
...The others wouldn't happen to be able to see the one-eyed thing right behind him, would they?
Ace delt with Barq and Byte, Red engaged Stryker; followed up by a baton pass from Big Band, Albedo went after Nightingale,
So what of Frisk?
She may have been struggling with her realized sense of inadequacy, but she really didn't intend to be stuck waiting for a window of opportunity again. She remained behind cover, peeking out to see Band take his fight with Stryker out into the streets and-
Frisk flinched at the sound of a shotgun being fired, and her eyes quickly widened at the sight of Albedo wounded. She would've rushed over to him if he hadn't immediately bounced back in retaliation. Her face twisted into a conflicted grimace. Come on, think! There's gotta be something you can do!
Then the alchemist managed to rid Nightingale of his shotgun.
...Well, she did concider stealing one of the cops' weapons.
Buckler shield raised in case Barq and Byte wanted to try and stop her, Frisk sprinted towards the shotgun and snatched it up. She took aim at Nightingale. "MOVE!!" Was her only warning to Albedo before she fired. Any further time wasted would've given the officer time to act. Like hell she'd let that happen.
[Center][b][i]Everything is going to be okay.[/i][/b]
Symphony of Espers - [color=7F2A3C]Fable[/color]/[color=goldenrod]Timekeeper[/color]
March of the White Rabbit - [b]Various[/b]
World of Light - [color=67a4e0]Frisk[/color] and [color=gray]Omori[/color][/i][/center]
<div style="white-space:pre-wrap;"><div class="bb-center"><span class="bb-b"><span class="bb-i">Everything is going to be okay.</span></span><br><br><img src="https://c.tenor.com/KDktGcZk73kAAAAd/tenor.gif" /><br><span class="bb-i">Current Haunts: <br>Symphony of Espers - <font color="#7f2a3c">Fable</font>/<font color="goldenrod">Timekeeper</font> <br>March of the White Rabbit - <span class="bb-b">Various</span><br>World of Light - <font color="#67a4e0">Frisk</font> and <font color="gray">Omori</font></span></div></div>