"S-So, like this?""Yeah, like that, but remember to keep your knees bent and posture straight! Hiyah!"Justine
yelped as Lily
came in with a spinning tackle, and with a single slam knocked the girl into the water...Or she would have, before she unfurled her wings and flipped up into the air with a sigh."This is...Harder than I expected."
"At least you don't have a dolphin here to heckle you
Alexander said from the sides "Also, I realize I don't have the right to complain, but flying feels like cheating
""Yeah, Keijo is...Unusual with its rules,"
Justine added, and landed back on the platform.
The three of them, Alex included, were at the tropical islands for their training period before the Keijo tournament. At Lily's request, Dan had provided them a small swimming pool, like the type you'd see at the back yard of an estate, as well as a square-shaped floating platform.
After a couple more ringouts, Lily decided for them to take a small break. They were now sitting around a table with a parasol set to provide shade and cold beverages placed there by the Lesser Force's kindness.
Justine took a sip, a red towel draped around her shoulders like a cloak. "So coach, how does it look?"
Lily pouted as she thought about the question."Well...Fortunately your flying allows you some valuable maneoverability," Lily stated, "but you need to get the landing and dives worked out. Also, some footwork is necessary in case you get grounded. You'll need to-Oh!"
She looked past Justine, and when the latter turned to look she noticed a certain pair of guys approaching them from the distance."...Oli." "Hm?" "You look stupid."
Of course after the conundrum that was the announcement of a keijo tournament, moreso their run in with Sann and Dina, Finn and Oliver took a moment of respite to themselves. With nothing else going on, most of the latter's clones regrouped with him save for two. And that was cause one of them met up with Maura, who was concidering joining the tournament. So the two decided to meet up with her on the sunny side of the dimension.
Even if Oliver
was offended by Finn's comment, he snorted in response. "Says you! You're too chicken to even show some skin!"
He playfully retorted, lightly elbowing the other boy's arm. "I know, I know. I just didn't want my scars to be showing." Finn
explained, scratching at the side of his face, the side where his festive eyepatch was replaced by his normal bandages. "Maura should be here soon right? Guess we got here fir- Oh."
Before his sentence was finished, the two noticed the trio nearby. "Oh hey, didn't know this place was already occupied!"
The ghost grinned, waving at them.
Lily waved enthusiastically back at them, to the point she was leaning on the table, and shouted to them: "Hii! Did you also come here for training? We're on a break right now, so you can use the pool!"
Justine was not as excited about their arrival, however."Wait, I think I've seen you two before...Were you at Dan's feast over at the winter island?" "N-No thank you. We're just waiting on our patron to swing by."
Finn quickly shook his head, not wanting any part of the sport. Too indecent. "Not even sure they'll allow her to join. But, eh, she'll probably figure something out..."
Then Justine asked if they were at the feast. "Yep, but it got a bit nuts for us. So hey, why not explore the place?"
Oliver explained, then held a hand out for them to shake. "Name's Oliver, and this is my friend Finn!"
He introduced the two of them.
"'Nuts' is a rather tame way to say 'hijacked by a crazy person', but it's not wrong
" Alexander commented "Alexander
" He then introduced himself. "Hah! Ya ain't wrong either, fuckin' nerd managed to piss even Finn off!"
The ghost laughed, shaking Alex's hand. "She better have heed my warning..."
Finn muttered, appearing unsatisfied at how his talk with Rachel ended. "Oh, okay then! I don't know about Patrons playing, but I suppose Dan might let her if she asks nicely enough,"
Lily spoke, and nodded in agreement with Alex."Let's just hope that whoever gets to the finals is strong enough to beat her too. Otherwise it's gonna be bad!"
She then blinked, having realized what she'd forgotten. "Oh yeah! My name's Lily Lightning, but you can call me Lily for short!"
The green-haired girl cheerfully introduced herself. She then looked over to Justine; she reluctantly followed up with her own."...I'm Justine." "Nice to meet ya both!"
"Keijo is already a fucking mess, with magic being as varied as it is. Someone as powerful as a Patron playing might break what few rules there are.
" Alexander said, before thinking on it some more "...well...unless she's one of those small animal type Patrons. But that would mean that her body shape would just complicate things even more...probably. I don't fucking know, Keijo is bullshit.
After a second, Finn looked back at the three. "Though it might be good to deal some karma against that woman, assuming other nasties aren't participating- Er, besides that Sann lady, but she's a different case all together. I agree with Alexander though, I dunno if it's considered fair game or not."
He explained. "Dunno what Maura would want with that mirror anyways, much less this place."
Lily giggled at Alex' outburst."Oh, now I can't help but imagine Umu playing, that would be soo cuuute!"
Justine, seemingly uninterested in the conversation up to that point, blinked upon hearing their Patron's name."Are you speaking of Maura, the Witch of Death?"
She asked, having stood up to face the boys."I recently formed a pact with her. Does she know the two of you are here?"
"'Witch of Death'? That sounds pretty fucking ominous
" Alexander flinched "It also sounds like she might not have magic that's okay to use in Keijo. So I hope for her sake that that nickname is some kind of exaggeration.
""Do not worry, Mistress Maura is a kind Patron,"
Justine explained."In fact, she was the one who gave me a new chance at life, and promised not to let Father get to me again. Getting to be here, having fun with my friends...I owe everything to her."
Lily smiled, and hugged Justine."Aww, thanks!"
Both boys' eyebrows rose. "She did meet one of my clones so- Wait wait wait, Witch of Death? I thought she already ditched that title back in yester-year!"
Finn shrugged. "She did. Or atleast, I think she still did. Apparently there's been changes we weren't informed about. Some new faction she inherited that probably doesn't even like her."
His brows furrowed at the last part, taking note of Betty's reactions when he first met her. But he shook it off and looked back to Justine. He smiled slightly. "Of course we know Maura. I was her first magical- Er, accidentally. She wanted me kept alive and ended up making me a magical boy. Oliver got resurrected as a monster boy few years later. But that was centuries ago. Or was it few millennia?"
He asked, resting a hand under his chin for a second. He shook his head. "Regardless, I'm glad she decided to take you in. She's a kind one, yes, but I'm worried someone will take advantage of that kindness one day."
He frowned, glancing downwards. "...Just like people took advantage of mine..."
Finn uttered under his breath, a quiet hope that no one heard.
Justine nodded, a solemn expression on her face."That may be true, but I believe Mistress Maura has learned by now to be more cautious,"
she said, having remembered the less than pleasant response from the Cradle.
Lily didn't seem to know what they were talking about, so she quietly sipped on her drink. "Yeah, yeah. I've been meaning to talk with her. And possibly try and remedy whatever's going on."
Finn's frown then turned comical, scratching the back of his head. "Speak of the devil! Hey Maura, over here!!"
Having idly looked away for a moment, Oliver spotted Maura
emerging from a nearby shadow. Though she looked somewhat different. More youthful, yet her eyes remained their usual shade of red. Was she in her disguised form?
Maura looked over to their direction. Her eyes widened. Then without any warning, she ran over and tackled Finn and Oliver into a hug, earning a startled yelp from the former. "Boys! How long has it been?! You look great!"
She asked in excitement. "Hello Ma'am!" "Er, too long, didn't get any memos. Hi Ma'am."
They both hugged her back, before the witch released them. "You're using your disguise for the match??"
Maura smiled. "Would be weird otherwise, might as well try and fit in. Don't worry, it doesn't hinder me the slightest!"
She then waved to Lily and Alex, then her smile softened at Justine. "Have you been alright, dear?"
Lily seemed impressed by Maura. "Ooh, so this is your Patron, Justy? For a witch, she's really cute!" "Please keep it down,"
Justine placed a hand over Lily's mouth, blushing in embarrassment as Maura came up to her. "I've been fine, Mistress. Spending time with Lily has been, well, fun."
She averted her eyes. "Umm, I know you're busy with this Keijo business, but, um...When it's okay for you, could we have a private talk? I...met an old acquaintance of mine, and she told me something you should know about too."
Maura's smile faded. "Of course, sounds important."
Though she would've talked further through magicoms, she felt it might be more private through a temporary mental link. "If you want, we can talk through here."
Lily's mouth curled into a circle in surprise."Oh? Was it the girl in the feast hall?"
Justine nodded without saying a word, and Lily gave a reassuring smile. She then turned to Maura, and began speaking through the mind.I met with Reaver, a contact I had with the Ebon Mint and a servant of Odin. They have now taken on a new persona named Sanngridr. But what really surprised me was that she mentioned...My sister, Caroline.
Justine paused, looking pained.She is most likely lying about being able to locate her. But the fact she knows about her...It worries me. What do you think I should do?
Maura internally sighed. "Here I was hoping we could take a break from their lot."
Though a part of her was glad Justine trusted her to tell her this. She gave a reassuring smile. "Mayhaps it is a trap to corrupt you again. You know their type, tricky bastards."
She crossed her arms, resting her chin against her fist. Then, her smile turned into a mischievous grin that crossed her features. "Though there might be a way to turn it back onto them. And if they're true to their word, get your sister back."
Justine listened, her spirit soothed by Maura's wisdom.So I should play along with accepting her offer for now? "That is up to you, dear. If so, allow me to accompany you as your shadow. May take some convincing for the others to help with a possible ambush. But rest assured, they won't lay a hand on any of you and get away with it."
Justine, moved by her Patron's care and affection for her, something she had experienced little of, stood up from her seat, went over to Maura, and hugged her."Thank you, Mistress,"
she spoke quietly, causing Lily to d'aww in the background.
The temporary mental link closed for now, and Maura warmly returned the hug. "It's no problem at all, I strive to treat all of you with the same kindness, even if some say otherwise."
She smirked. "Now then! Would anyone care to spar with me for a few rounds?" "Oh, now you're gonna start?"
While Maura and Justine were talking, Oliver was stacking different sunglasses on Finn's head, while the latter talked with Lily and Alex.
Suddenly, Lily lifted her hand enthusiastically."Oh, I do! I'm not going to participate in the tournament, but I'd like to spar regardless!"
She winked at Justine."You can also watch and learn from a Keijo pro, Justy!"
" Alexander raised an eyebrow "I don't think you have enough experience to be called a pro. In fact, I think you've at least doubled your Keijo playtime today
" He then patted her on the head "Still, at least all that energy and optimism has to count for something.
Lily pouted and showed her tongue at Alex."Geez, thanks for the confidence, Alex!"
Maura snapped her fingers with a grin. "Excellent! Right this way!"
With that, she went over to the platform. "Well this should be interesting regardless."
Finn mumbled, knocking down one of the sunglasses onto his face with a tap. Nearly knocked them all over, a cause to his ghostly friend's dismay.
"I'm not sure if 'interesting' is the right word. I still have trouble believe Keijo is an actual thing sometimes.
" Alexander grumbled "Like, what kind of nutjob thought this up?
Lily smiled confidently. "Alright, you're on!"
However, Justine stopped Lily on her way to the platform. "Be careful, Lily. Mistress Maura may seem like a regular magical girl, but she possesses great power. You shouldn't underestimate her." "Aww, thanks for worrying about me, Justy, but I can handle it!"
She gave a thumbs up, and jumped over to the platform. She took a balanced pose, ready to brawl. "Ready!" "Good."
While with Maura, her stance remained calm, relaxed. Her grin turned determined, as she motioned for Lily to act first. "Now come! Show me what you're made of!" "Dont have to ask me twice!"
Lily's eyes glowed a brilliant golden color as she powered herself up, enhancing her reaction times and agility, sparks of electricity emanating from her body.
Then, she disappeared...Only to appear right behind Maura, her hips having twisted to perform a turning slam with her butt. Justine gasped."Whoah!"
Magic already, hm? One would think Maura would be concerned, but she was watching her opponent closely. Once she felt Lily's presence behind her, Maura's grin turned into a serious look. Powering up her dark magic, she braced herself to counter the other's attack with her hips. Upon impact, she slid a distance away from Lily. "Alright, my turn."
Turning to stand on her side, she launched herself forward, making sure her rear stuck out for the attack.
As soon as Lily's initial strike was repelled, she had already landed on the platform."Ooh, nice move!"
She complimented her opponent, and performed a Megaman 3-style sliding dodge, passing under Maura by removing the friction-inducing electrons under her. She followed up the move by performing a handstand-style rising uppercut. "Haa!" "Tch!"
Lily's uppercut managed to send Maura up into the air, but the witch quickly reoriented herself. Taking the opportunity, she performed a ground-pound, with a bit of psychic magic to disorient Lily back.
Lily rolled out of the way, though only barely due to Maura's spell, and she held her head, looking dizzy."Oof..."
However, before Maura could go in for another attack, someone blew a whistle: it was Dan himself.
"Foul! No use of offensive magic allowed!" He had appeared in a puff of smoke between Lily and Maura, and handed a red card to the black-haired Patron; a sign of disqualification in Keijo.
Lily stood up with a pout."What? It was an attack? To be honest, I couldn't tell what she did. I was busy enough keeping up with her~" "When in the green hills of fucks did he get here???"
Both Finn and Oliver's eyes widened at Dan's appearance. And Maura only groaned. "Psychic magic. Was trying to keep it contained into the right impact, but I guess it slipped out. Sorry..."
The witch explained, not bothering to get up from where she sat as she rest her arm on her knee, and her head in her hand. She looked rather dissapointed in herself.
"Wherever there's Keijo, I'll be there!" Dan bombastically replied to the boys, his fins at his sides. "Better not let people assume your intentions, Phindol!"
Oliver called back to Dan.
Lily went over to the dolphin and pet him."Aww, thanks for looking out for us, Danny! Anyway, you want to go another round, Mrs. Maura?"
"If you do, I'd like to give a reminder of the use of magic," Dan added.
"Applying a magical effect to your physical attacks is acceptable in certain cases, but not utilizing it directly as a weapon, either by projectiles or spreading effects. Magic to change yourself or the environment is an exception." "Myself or the enviroment, huh?"
Maura thought outloud. Her psychic magic seemed too unstable to use, and she didn't know how her spirit magic could help. So that left ice magic and darkness. Though she was surprised Lily didn't yell at her or something. After thinking a moment, she got back up. "Alright, I'll humor you. But we have got to do one round without our powers, I wanna see something."
Lily jumped to the platform once more, and hopped in place a couple of times."No powers? That's going to be interesting. Let's do it!" "This may be awhile."
Finn said, having taken a seat to watch the two practice. He then took off the sunglasses he was wearing and furrowed his brows. Did he really need them if only one eye was visible? Oliver on the other hand put the rest of the sunglasses back.
Justine continued observing as Lily and Maura went for a second round, and turned her attention to the boys. "So, are you two going to stay long in Penrose? I assume you're aware of the...volatile situation we have here?"
The two looked at each other, then back to Justine. "Well, we're getting a clear idea of what's been going on. Ascendancy's bothering Penrose, I'm assuming?"
Justine sighed, and twirled the tiny umbrella in her drink."That's putting it lightly. They've been locked in conflict with the local collection of monster girls, also called Sanctuary. They are led by their queen, Penny. You might have noticed her at the feast as the robot girl." "Hm. Think I did see someone like that at the snowball fight earlier, or atleast multiple. She wouldn't happen to be working with Miss Denisova, would she?""Yes, she is. Do you know her?"
Finn shrugged. "Made her aquaintance few moments back. Her and that strange Sanngridr. We planned on visiting the Sanctuary and see if it needs any assistance." "Frankly I am not above skinning that bird."
Oliver spoke up behind him.
Justine nodded at the mention of Sanngridr, biting her lip."Yes...In any case, I'm glad you're here to lend your assistance."
"A bunch of us were away for a few months
" Alexander chimed in "We were in the dolphin's beach dimension for a few days, only to find that a few months had passed while we were there. In that time, Penrose completed it's transformation into magical Detroit. I don't remember if I ever heard anyone confirm it, but I'm pretty sure that's why they came here in the first place.
Both their eyes widened at the mention of Dan, and his dimension being the cause of such trouble. "Christ, if that's why thing are tense, then can we even trust that guy??"
Oliver asked, now skeptical of their current location."I honestly can't tell,"
Justine answered. "But it seems a lot of others trust it, including Penny. Take that how you want."
"For all the crap I give the dolphin, I don't think the time dilation was meant to fuck us over. I think it was meant to be reversed, but he just fucked up somehow. He sketchy, but not outright evil
" Alexander explained "Besides, this time he has other Patrons watching him, and I don't think he's strong enough to defend himself if he pissed them all off. So I think he'll behave, if only for his own sake.
Finn nodded. "Makes sense. Dunno if my magic can work on patrons, but I could probably use it to chuck him into the water."
Justine found herself giggling before composing herself."That would be funny to see."
She turned her attention back to the pool, only to see Lily get knocked into the water by Maura. However, the cheery girl didn't seem upset by her loss."That was amazing! Patrons really are on a whole other level!"
" Alexander agreed "So much so that it feels unfair, even in a crazy sport like Keijo. I just can't see her in the tournament. Did she mention if she tried to register yet, or has she just not gotten around to it?
The duo looked back to see that Maura actually won the round. "Wait, you actually won that!? Nice one, Ma'am!"
Oliver congratulated the witch, who was genuinely surprised. "I did? I mean- I did??" "...You didn't play this sport before did you?"
Finn would ask her, Maura shaking her head in response. Though at Alex's imput he gave the other boy a quizzical look. The ramblings did irritate him a bit. "That would be up to the dolphin to let her compete. No more, no less. And frankly, anything works to put those zealots in their place."
He would calmly explain. Maura stepped off the platform and helped Lily back up on her feet.
"Eh, can't argue with that.
" Alexander shrugged "The sooner they leave, the better.
""That was a lot of fun! Thank you for letting me spar with you!"
Lily hugged the red-eyed witch, causing Justine to take a sharp breath."L-Lily!"
She quickly walked over to remove her, with Lily struggling cutely."Noo~!""I-I'm sorry Mistress. My friend here can get a little, um, overly affectionate. I hope you don't mind too much."
Maura did flinch at the sudden hug first, though between the little struggle between Lily and Justine, she ended up laughing it off. "Quite alright! Oh you two are so adorable, hahah!!"
She grinned, hugging both Lily and
Justine blushed, but graciously accepted the gesture."Alright, I think it's about time me and Justy get back to training!"
Lily spoke up, and patted Justine on the shoulder. The latter looked back at Maura."Um, would that be fine with you, Mistress?"
Maura smiled, ruffling Justine's hair. "Of course. We'll be off to the side if you need anything."
"It feels kind of weird seeing someone rub your head like a little kid
" Alexander told Justine "It's such a sharp contrast from what you were like when we first met.
Justine averted her eyes."I suppose it would be..."
Lily took Justine's hand, snapping her sudden spell of contemplation."Let's go, Justy? Now show me what you learned, ok?"
Justine couldn't help but smile back at Lily's overwhelming energy, and nodded."A-Alright then."