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.:⋮Shop Stop⋮:.

Penny couldn’t help but feel interested in the whole situation. Granted it still seemed very suspicious to her and she wasn’t planning on eating any of the food, but the chance to relax for a bit was very tempting. Plus the chance to play around and get some Coins for it as well wasn’t something that she would ignore.

There was a snowball's chance in hell of her joining in Keijo with any actual interest of competing however.

Regardless there was something the mechanical maiden wanted to deal with first. If for no other reason then to avoid getting randomly jumped later, and to accomplish that she needed to track down Mika. Which wasn’t very hard a prospect in truth, as seeing the Beast girl go sprinting off towards the shop gave her quite the simple trail to follow.

“Here goes nothing” She would mutter to herself as she jogged off towards the shop as well, she doubted that there was anything there that she would need but she would only know once she got there.

Penny was able to see Mika bolt through the doors to the shop. She was only out of view long enough for Penny to grab the door and open it again. At that point she could see the other magical girl barreling towards her. Mika had a lotion bottle in each hand, a few pinched between her arms and torso, and even a few sticking out of the “keyhole” in her swimsuit. “GAAAAAAH!” Mika dug her heels into the ground, but still ended up bouncing off Penny. One of the lotions in her swimsuit fell out and bounced on the ground. “The terrible one’s champion...” Mika looked Penny up and down before fretting her brow. “Are you trying to give everyone on the beach a sunburn? Is that why you’re barring my path?”

Though Penny was caught flat footed, not expecting Mika to have already nabbed everything she wanted it was still instinctive to slip into a stable stance before frantic girl rushed into her. “...No?” Penny would reply before giving herself a shake, this whole illusionary contact was starting to get really old.

“I was actually wanting to talk with you about that title” She would explain as she kneeled down to pick up the lotion bottle that had fallen. “I recently broke away from him. Glad to have done it in fact, as your Paton’s name for him is appt.” she would go on offering the lotion back “I was more wanting to let you, and any of the other girls that are under Boteg know that I’m not with Laat anymore. Figured it would be best to get that taken care of first so we can all enjoy this place more readily”

“Really?” Mika examined Penny. “You do look a little different from last time.” The feline magical girl circled her. “Who do you serve now?”

“Yup” Penny would reply letting Mika circle once before she started turning to keep face with the other girl “The change is more noticeable in my standard transformation, right now I look more akin to how I do when I’m depowered.” she would mention glancing down at herself as she did so.

“Right now I’m with Beacon, they were the ones who helped me get out from under the jackass but...“ She trailed off for a moment as she did a quick check for any of her Beacon sisters “I’m likely going to end up butting heads with a lot of them. I’ve spent more time as a monster girl then a magical one, so I’m more willing to live and let live with that part of the community. Hell one of my closest friends is a DMG” she explained tossing the lotion bottle back and forth between her hands as she spoke.

“Hmmm…” Mika’s tail waved side to side. “Well, Dan doesn’t want us to hate each other anyway. So even if I don’t fully trust you, I trust Dan.” She smiled. “I’ll tell everyone what you told me.” She hopped forward. Mika timed it as such so that as soon as the bottle of lotion landed in Penny’s hand, her chest would envelope the cyborg’s hand. When Mika backed away, she had the lotion again. “Good practice for Keijo, right?” She winked at Penny before turning around. “I’ll talk to the others. Maybe we can hang out later.” Mika sprinted away as fast as she could.

“That’s all I can ask for” Penny replied with a relaxed smile, relieved that this little encounter had went as smooth as it had.

Then Mika reclaimed the bottle of lotion and Penny froze. Thankfully Mika didn’t stick around afterwards so she missed the shock bleed into anger as electricity started to spark off the hand that had been enveloped.

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. This illusion was starting to get really, really annoying. Finally she moved deeper into the shop to take a look around at the things they had on display, and later, when the fact she was a teenage girl caught back up with her, she had to fight down a blush at the lingering sensation of how it actually felt.

Which wasn’t all that hard, or at least it hadn’t been. Until the stray thought of what it would have been like had it been Chloe, or Alicia, that had done such an action... or perhaps bo- Penny slammed the sunscreen bottle she had been holding back down on the counter as she violently ended that line of thought before her blush became luminescent.

Mechanically she turned and left the shop, heading for the beach. She need to go dunk her head in the water and cool off.

‘Stupid friggin swimsuits...’

.:⋮Hurdles on the Horizon⋮:.

Sally and Tabitha and Kimble and Sylvia @Ariamis, Alicia @Flamelord, Summer @DarkwolfX37, Serenity @Crusader Lord, Jenna and Janet @t2wave, Regina @BrokenPromise

Penny didn’t flinch at Sally’s first touch, though she was thankful for the impressive illusion that was placed on her, and when Kimble got placed on her shoulders the only thing that happened was is that Penny went very still. It was when the lucky girl leaned up against her however that she flinched badly and quickly moved away from Sally.

“Don’t. Do that.” Penny would say flatly, hoping her eyes hadn’t started glowing. Had she not been carrying Tabitha Penny’s reaction would have been much more along the lines of an active assault, as the illusion worked both ways.

But Sally had been lucky.

Penny cut off her thrusters and chose to walk across the glowing platform that Janet and Jenna had conjured, using the steady feeling of walking to push down the feeling of static under her skin. She made sure to keep an arm’s length between her any nearly everyone else. The only person she didn’t keep the self-imposed distance from was Alicia, and she didn’t care how obvious she was being about it.

“Hey Regina” Penny would greet the newest member of Beacon’s forces. She had always tried to be nice to the new girl, as she didn’t really have any issues with Regina. She understood that Elroy was in there in some capacity, but having never met the female side of the twin soul it was easy not to let that grudge bleed over. To say nothing of Penny’s understanding of being ostracized within Beacon.

She was perhaps the only one who didn’t drop into a defensive stance when the bushes rustled, once again because she was carrying someone else, and the only easy to do such would have been to drop Tabitha.

Following along with the group Penny let out a low whistle at the sight of the resort they had found themselves at. It was quite the ritzy place, a true tropical paradise. That fact did nothing but raise suspicion within Penny as it made her think of the Lotus Eaters far too much for her comfort. Still she was quick to break off from the rest of the Beacon members.
“Going to go set Tabitha down in that Pavilion” she would mention to the group at large as she walked away, taking little time in accomplishing her task.

Afterward she would hop on top of the building and take a look around, making good use out of her vision magnification as she did, before she let out a sigh. There were a lot of other magical girl here, and Penny recognized quite a few of them.

“This is going to be complicated” she muttered to herself as she continued her surveyance. Lots of people from all walks of the Community were here and Penny had some connection to most of them. It begged the question as to why all of them had been brought here, and Penny wasn’t sure she was going to like the answer.

-=Ǝ Challenge Complete E=-

‘Now that is adorable’ Aurelio would muse to himself and the light hearted crush that Kimble had going for her. Her soft muttering and subtle drawings had not gone unnoticed by the acutely aware magician and he would not be ashamed to admit that he was toying around with the idea of playing match maker with the two of them. He just needed to make sure that was Alicia’s preference first.

Due to those wondering thoughts he was once again was caught off guard by the sudden surge of emotion that came from Penny. A potent cocktail of Fear, Disgust and Rage roared into existence strong enough that none of the Aurelio’s could help but snap their attention at Penny.

For a moment they all worried that Sally was going to be attacked, and once again they couldn’t help but wonder what caused such a violent emotional reaction from the normally laid back girl. Hell if it wasn’t for the fact they could actually feel her emotions they wouldn’t have really noticed much out of place, as Penny had one hell of a poker face.

”Seems we still got a bridge anyway” One of them would speak up pulling the attention away from Penny, just as the bridge popped into view.

The many hims kept a running conversation on the walk over, with themselves, about the stage magic show they were planning on throwing. Mostly to keep attention off Penny, Janet, and Jenna, as they could tell none of them wanted any more attention and partly to fill the silence.

“Hey there” Aurelio’s would greet Regina kindly, though it was somewhat hollow. While he didn’t condone any of the repugnant actions done towards the new girl, Aurelio did not have fond feelings toward the newcomer. Her prior actions left a mark that was impossible for him to miss as an empath.

Still he would stick to his Vow, and treat her with kindness. He just wouldn’t go out of his way to show it to her.

“I think I see the help desk” he would say pointing towards the small desk after they had all given the place a look over. “Shall we go give it a ring and get some answers?” he asked rhetorically as he started off towards their goal.

.:⋮Between here and there⋮:.

Sally and Tabitha and Kimble and Sylvia @Ariamis, Alicia @Flamelord, Summer @DarkwolfX37, Serenity @Crusader Lord, Jenna and Janet @t2wave

“Makes sense” Penny would reply turning a critical eye out towards the space she had to work with, Glad to focus her attention elsewhere lest she fell to the same fate as Tabitha. Sally had a figure that was hard to ignore on the best of days, her overly affection gesture did nothing but exacerbate that issue.

Regardless Earthbastion could fit, that much was for sure. Plenty of open water for it to sit but the summoning of it would be tricky. Tapping on the link to her unique possession she saw the ghostly outline of the battleship fade in too view as she took stock of all the places she could summon it, which had a rather limited range due to her magical capacity.

“Earthbastion’s not…” She had been turning back to let people know about the downside of summoning her tank-ship when she saw the little by play between Alicia and Kimble. It was a little thing, nearly unremarkable, but it stung the monster in hiding all the same. “…Going to be a good idea if we all want to pass the challenge.” She continued, her pause not lasting more than a moment “Limited range when I pull it over, so one of us is going to get splashed.” She would explain before moving to pick up Tabitha, wrapping the passed out girl in a towel as she did so.

Penny hung near the back of the pack as they walked closer to their destination, her mind doing what it does best and fighting with itself. She knew what she told Chloe was true; she could fall for the spirit mage. But that didn’t remove the fact that she was still crushing on Alicia at the moment.
‘Gods I’m a mess…’
She had spent hours dealing with the left over emotions from what happened with Thalia, and Penny would like to think she was over the Fox girl. She wanted to be able to return Chloe’s feelings, but she had to tear down some of the pedestal she had put the Dark magical girl on to do such. Then there was Alicia, a near literal angel, that had swept in and illuminated the path to getting cleansed of her corruption.

It was a messy internal snarl of emotions and thoughts that deep down Penny knew was going to end with someone hurt. Sill they would reach the point closest to the center island in good time causing Penny would shelve her thoughts for another time, knowing that she hadn’t made any headway.

“Don’t worry about it Kimble” Penny would say with a chuckle as the cat girl hid at the thought of trying to carry the mechanical girl’s bulk. “I might have my own way over” She would add as she glanced down at her legs for as light started to pouring out from them as her tattoos reappear, shortly after she lifted off the ground just a bit. “Still got my hover systems” she would announce “So I can carry someone, maybe two, to easy the load distribution”

“So we got four people across easily, six if we push it” She would muse aloud “Janet and Jenna could make a platform for them to walk across. Similar idea with Serenity and stopping the water, so that bumps us up to ten if everyone helps one other person. So someone’s got to carry an extra, unless someone else has another persona route over.”

-=Ǝ looking for a hop and a skip E=-

“I aim to please” the magician would reply with a mock bow before allowing himself to get dragged away by Sally along with one of his clones. “I hope you won’t hold it against me, if I’m not able to top this one?” He asked “As I’ll take the opportunity, but you have to admit this is setting the bar rather high.”

As the main Aurelio got dragged away one of his clones stepped into his place. “Still I’m not sure if the people who brought us here are planning a trap. There are some huts a bit into the forest, that’s where I woke up and found the drinks.” He would explain to Sylvia easily able to tell that most everyone else had been lost to the appeal of a Beach holiday already. “We’ll be playing in to this beach vacation narrative, but our eyes and ears will be open.” The clone explained before moving to pick up the cooler again.

And though they didn’t openly react all of the Aurelio’s noticed the spike of Jealousy and Hurt that came from Penny, as well as the absolute mess of emotions that played over her during their short walk to a different Beach. Many of them shared a look with each other, wondering what had caused all of that.

Though two of them had to drop that line of thought rather quickly as they suddenly had to support Sally.

“Much too far to make a bridge of me’s” One of the Aurelio’s would pipe up as he peered across to the central island.

“Yeah that would whipe us out before we made it more than half way, besides I don’t want to get walked on.” Added another as he grabbed another drink from the cooler.

“Might have a way to get some of us over, would take our Wonder though.” Chimed in the main man “Summer, got anything fancy you can pull?”

.:Starting in the Sun:.

There is always something to be said about waking up slowly, to slowly find oneself in that state of half awareness that is a mix of soothing and comfort, to slowly regain connection to the rest of the waking world. For Penny such an occurrence was a rarity, and normally one she would have fought to maintain, but the sound of voices drifting in from the distance shattered that chance.

When her eyes snapped open she was expecting to see the roof of her lair, as the last thing that came to her mind was her having finally finished remodeling it in to a sanctuary. Thus the sight of a bright blue sky and a beach umbrella stunned her. Sitting up Penny noticed that she was on a beach, and her confusion only grew. Looking around she caught sight of the other members of Beacon further down the beach, and a forest behind her.

“What the…?” she wondered aloud before jerking back in surprise at her voice, It sounded normal, but even without looking Penny could tell she was in her unsealed state. Looking down at herself Penny was caught in a mix of embarrassment and confusion.

She looked human, but none of her tattoos were visible. She poked her stomach and she could feel both unflinching steel and soft skin. She could pull up her HUD but the hum wasn’t there. It made no sense. Leaning back in the chair she was in Penny did her best to keep breathing as she fought down the urge to freak out.

Taking another glance at the beacon members down the way, Penny decided to try something out to solve her confusion and with a bit of focus she felt her hand disconnect. Glancing down at it she felt relief to see her disconnected hand had reverted to its metallic state. A quick glance also revealed that the inside of her arm was still as she expected it to be.

She let out a sigh of relief as she let her hand reconnect. Watching it quickly return to her human looking one.
“So someone has put quite the potent illusion on me…” she murmured, wondering all the while why someone might do that. Glancing again at the Beacon members she closed her right eye and triggered the magnifying aug in her left eye.

Before quickly shutting her eye and hiding her face in her hand as she fought off a blush. Everyone was in swimsuits. This was going to be hell for Penny, it was quite easy to ignore the skimpy outfits of people in the middle of a fight to the death, but a beach vacation was another thing altogether.

With a sigh of resignation she stood up, noticing the sheer pareo she had, and trekked over to the rest of her comrades, determined to just play it cool for as long as she could.

She ended up arriving just in time to overhear Alicia mention something about her having a Boat. “Why would we need Earthbastion?” She would ask walking closer to take a look at the sign everyone else was looking at.

“Not really sure” Penny would answer Janet as she turned to look at the twins. “But the center island might be able to answer that”

-=Ǝ Paradise E=-

Aurelio had woken up not on the beach, like most of the other on the island had, but just barely into the forest. He had woken up on a bed in a small bamboo hut and the first thing he had tried was teleporting back to HQ. He was mildly concerned when that failed.

Getting up he found a small cooler at the foot of the bed that had a variety of glass bottles of soda in it, kept nice and cold by a large amount of ice and a table with some chairs at the far end of the hut but nothing else of any importance.

Raising his arm he snapped and three other him’s poofed into existence, to his mild surprise, and it was at this moment that he and himself noticed what it was he was wearing.

“Not bad…” He would murmur as they examined their enforced outfit.

“No idea where we got it though.” said another as he checked over the jacket

“Not as good looking as the suit,” continued the third as he examined the top hat, surprised, and glad that a deck of cards was still hidden inside

“But the sandals are comfy.” finished the last as he tapped the new foot wear against the dirt floor.

“Hey, I think I hear others” broke in one of them gesturing at the door as he did.

The rest of the Aurelio’s stopped and turned towards the door to the hut and after a moment they could in fact make out voices, ones they recognized.

“Seems we got a vacation?” said the original with a smile at the odd turn of luck.

“Sounds like a plan to us!” said two of them with enthusiasm.

“Shall we share the drinks?” The third inquired as he gestured to the cooler

With a collective nod the squad of magicians left the hut, stopping for a moment to take in the breath taking beauty of this island paradise.

“Hey everyone!” They called out with wide grins as they approached, the two in the back hoisting the cooler up as the continued “We’ve brought drinks!”

The two carrying it cooler brought it over and placed near the majority of the beach chairs, one of them grabbing a cream soda before stepping away from it.

One of the clones wandered over to take a look at the sign that was still the center of attention.

While the main man walked over to Sally “Seems our date has gotten an upgrade wouldn’t you say?” he would ask with an easy smile and a chuckle.


A Night Off

“Hmm, this should go here,” Alicia remarked to herself with a frown, picking up a book from where it lay on her desk to place it in a different spot on the shelf above said desk than where it had started. Taking a step back, she surveyed her room with an approving look as her hands rested on her hips. Her room was clean (relatively speaking) and all ready for tonight. After all, she wanted to put on a good impression for her guest, even if they might not care. She took it as a point of pride, and her parents had suggested that she do so anyway.

With that as motivation, she had spent about an hour or so getting things in order, and making sure that she had some activities prepared for them to do. She wasn’t sure how long they would spend on anything, so it helped to have some ideas in her back pocket for if she needed them.

Glancing at the clock, Alicia took a deep breath as she noted how close it was to five clock. With her room in order she turned and headed downstairs to wait for the arrival of her guest. It shouldn’t be very long at all.

Just a little ways down the street the awaited guest was checking her backpack for the sixth time. Most of what was in it was to be expected, a set of pajamas, an extra set of clothes, and hygiene supplies. The half pound of assorted hard candies, deck of cards and filled water bottles were slightly less expected, but still not outside of the realms of explainable. So long as it wasn’t discovered that the water bottles were filled with Vodka, but dammit if the encounter at the graveyard didn’t call for a drink or two.

Taking one last deep breath Penny zipped up her bag and focused on drawing her magic in as deeply as she could. A few moments later there was a soft flash of light and Penny was in her human guise. Nodding to herself she quickly made her way to Alicia’s front door and knocked on it a few times in a 1-3-2 rhythm.

Around the end of the sequence, Penny would be able to make out some shuffling from inside. Moments later there was the audible click of a lock being disengaged, before the door swung open to an older woman who took but an instance to assess Penny before breaking into a smile. “Hello there. You must be Alicia’s friend.I’m her mother. Alicia has told me so much about you.”

The pleasant and welcoming atmosphere that she radiated did not fade as she swung the door open and gestured for the magical girl to step inside. “Alicia, your friend is here,” she called over her shoulder, where the girl in question could already been seen descending them from the upstairs bedrooms. She would close the door behind them, but remain nearby for the present just in case. Call it a motherly curiosity to see if word lived up to fact when it came to their guest.

Not disturbed by or even really noticing that, Alicia approached Penny confidently, if a bit awkwardly due to not being in her magical girl outfit. “Hey,” she said with a grin of her own. “How are you doing? Have any trouble finding us on your way here?”

“Nice to meet you Ms.Hayden” Penny would greet the mother with a smile as she entered the house taking a quick look around as she did. Silently affirming that the decision to have this over at Alicia’s place was definitely the right choice, as it was much more comfortable then the other options they had open to them.

Before she got much further then that, Alicia made her appearance, causing Penny’s smile to morph into a matching grin “I’m doing good, and nah no issues.” would come the response as she moved closer to her friend to give a quick hug “My Dad was the one to gave me a ride.” she would add as if that explained it, more for the floating parent then anything else.

“Oh, where should I put my bag?” She would ask slipping the item in question from her shoulders to hold up as she did. It would be best to make sure it was safely stashed away in case one of the parents decided to be nosy considering the drink she had hidden. Not that she expected such, but better safe than sorry. Especially as Alicia was the one who would have to face the consequences if it was found.

Alicia returned the hug warmly, aware of the deception but making no issue of it. “We can put that in my room,” she replied when asked about the bag. It was as good a place as any. Stepping back, she motioned to the stairs in order for Penny to follow, before heading that way herself.

Her mom turned to watch her go as the two of them departed, remaining where she was. “Your father should be home soon,” she called after them. “I’ll let you know when dinner is ready, but don’t be surprised if he checks in on you.”

“Got it,” Alicia called back with a glance over her shoulder. It was a bit more attention than she got in her old life, but she didn’t mind. They were only looking out for her well being. Besides, it wasn’t like Penny would do robot mode while she was here, so there was no risk of revealing something with magic.

After a short walk they arrived in her room. The walls were green and studded with a couple posters of popular soft rock music groups. There was a desk off to the side, some small bookshelves, a window out to the yard, a stand and a tv with a game system connected to it, and a bed up against the wall with open space on the floor nearby.

“So this is my room,” she explained with a sweeping gesture. “Put the bag down anywhere you want.” She would wait until Penny did so before speaking up again. “I have board games, video games, we could just chat, or I could give you the tour.” Falling silent, she waited to see what her guest was most in the mood for.

Penny gave an appreciative whistle as she took in the room, as compared to her own it was a grand thing. She plopped her bag up against the wall near the bed, taking the chance to check out the backyard as she did so “This is a nice place” She would comment before mulling over the options tossed out. “What games do you have? It’s been a while since I’ve kept up with the new releases” She would ask meekly scratching her cheek a little as she did. She hadn't realized just how out of touch she had gotten to the normal world.

Humming in thought, Alicia walked over to the tv stand and opened up a door on the bottom, revealing the games inside. “Well, we could play Battlefront 2, a racing game, Minecraft, destroy our friendship in Mario Kart….we could do Rock Band, though I’d need to get the instruments from downstairs.” She listed off a few options, waiting to see if there was one Penny was interested in.

Perhaps due to her rather action filled life that she now lead Penny was finding the idea of playing Minecraft or Rock Band much more appealing then any of the other options on the table. Mario kart wasn’t a bad idea either, yet the usual association of ruining friendships had Penny shying away from it.

“Rock band’s not a bad idea, chilling out in minecraft and just talking doesn’t sound too bad either.” She would toss out as she sat down across from the TV. “Brought a deck of cards as well if your interested” she would admit before tossing a glance towards the door to check that they were for the most part alone “and something to drink if you want some, considering what happened recently figured we deserved one.” She would finish softly so her voice wouldn’t carry too far.

“Minecraft it is then,” Alicia decided with a nod, going for the option that was easier to set up in the short term. Turning back to the tv, she quickly set them up with a splitscreen game, and took a seat on the bed as she passed a controller over to Penny.

Soon enough the game was booted up and they were in an unblemished world, running around and building themselves a nice base to expand from. “I figured it’d be a nice change of pace, since you usually break things rather than build them,” she noted aloud as her character mined out part of a cliff wall.

“Agreed” Penny say nodding as she went about gathering wood to start expanding upon their starting area. “At the same time this” she would gesture at the room “is also a nice change of pace. It’s been a while since I had a normal night off”

Leaning over she would zip open her bag and pull out the bag of candy and nab a few pieces before dropping it on the bed “Help yourself” she would say before crunching on the first piece she had grabbed.

Alicia nodded, leaning back to grab a piece of candy when it was offered. “Sure, but not too much,” she warned as she joined Penny in enjoying the treat. “I don’t want to ruin my appetite before dinner.”

Delicately maneuvering along the cliff face, she did not take her eyes from the screen even as she continued on that topic. “Speaking of which, any preferences for dinner? I know dad is going to want to grill something, but if you’d rather we have pizza or something normal we can work that out too.”

“Brought them less for eating myself” Penny would remark as she crunched pointedly on another one “More as a replacement for my bucket of nails” She was using her collected stores of wood to make a couple story log cabin. Making sure there was space for storage and crafting as well as beds and decoration.

“If your dad wants to grill, I say let him have it” Would be her answer before shaking her head slightly “And I’ve got to ask; Is it as weird as I imagine it being? living with parents and acting as a kid again?”

At the moment Alicia was getting a lot of cobblestone but not much else. She’d at least angled downwards, to increase their chance of finding something besides coal, even if they needed that too. A nod escaped as Penny explained the candy thing, since otherwise Alicia probably would have assumed that she did have something of a sweet tooth. At least she knew better now.

Food decided upon, she addressed the next question. “A bit, though it helps that I was pretty much out of college when I became a magical girl, so it wasn’t too much of a backwards step for me. Still, it has its perks.” Especially when it came to food. And they’d always be there for her, which was nice when she had to deal with all this magical girl related nonsense. “Why, worried you’re out of touch with the younger, hip generations?” she asked with a grin.

“Oh please, I doubt I’m that much older then you” Penny would chuckle with a roll of her eyes “It’s just the whole dual lives things always seemed like it would get weird to deal with, heck normal tends to be weird for me at this point.” She was currently arranging the stuff in the house she had built rather fastidiously. Placing things down, before breaking them and placing them again slightly to the side till they met some unspoken criteria.

“Another question, Is your birthday still the same? Or did it shift when you joined the community?” Penny would ask after a lull. The house was finished in a basic way, but had plenty of room if they wanted to improve upon it later. Penny had shifted goals towards gathering Iron, in an effort to go hunting after Redstone.

Joining Penny in her mining efforts, Alicia was quick to answer that question. “Same day,” she replied. “The memory alterations they set up your family help with that.” She could hear the garage opening downstairs, meaning they would have company soon. But for the moment she wouldn’t worry about it too much.

That aside, it was time to ask her own question. “So what does a nail taste like anyway?” she asked, her curiosity piqued by the candy.

“Depends on the nail” Penny answered with a shrug “The age and what it’s made of can change the flavors but the most common remind me of beef jerky, with extra crunch. Found one that I swear tasted like dark chocolate though.” she shook her head at the memory, she had spent weeks trying to find another nail like that but hadn’t faced any luck.

“Pretty sure my sense of taste changes though” she would add as an afterthought as she kept an ear out for the sounds of someone coming up the stairs “Different things seem more or less appealing depending on which I am.”

“Huh, okay.” That was not the sort of answer that Alicia had expected to get, but it seemed like her curiosity had been worth it to find out. On the other hand there really wasn’t anywhere she knew to go with that conversation, so she kept that topic as a solo point of conversation for now.

A good thing too, as Penny would rapidly hear footsteps approaching after a few minutes. They would pass the room by at first, only to return several minutes later. “Hey guys,” Alicia’s dad remarked as he poked his head into the bedroom with a war smile. “How’s it going?”

“Good,” Alicia replied with a look to match as she glanced away from the game to make eye contact with her dad. “This is Penny, she said she’s willing to try your cooking even if it ends up tasting like charcoal again.”

That earned a huff from the man, though he took it pretty well. “Hey now, that only happened once,” he challenged. That said, his attention quickly refocused as he offered a hand to Penny. “Anyway, nice to meet one of Alicia’s friends. Make yourself at home.”

“Nice to meet you Mr. Hayden” Penny would reply as she stood to shake the offered hand not caring too much about the game, It was minecraft after all. “I’ll keep my mess to a minimum”

Shaking hands, Alicia’s dad kept a friendly look. “You’ve got a pretty firm grip there,” he noted aloud, making a show of rubbing his hand once it was free. “But don’t worry. I’m sure there won’t be any trouble.”

With a small wave, he stepped back towards the door. “Well, I’m going to get to that grilling. You girls have fun.” The door would be closed at that point, and they would be able to hear him head back downstairs as he got to the work of grilling dinner for the four of them.

“So, what do you think?” Alicia asked, once they had some privacy to themselves.

“They seem like nice people” Penny would reply slightly bemused at the thought of being somewhere around the same mental age as them, yet having to act like a teen. “Back to twenty questions?” she would ask sitting back down in her spot in front of the bed.

“Sure,” Alicia agreed as they returned to their game and their idle conversation. “So if you were stranded on a deserted island and could only three items, what would they be?” she asked. Besides a boat, of course. That was just cheating. Besides, if you had a boat then you weren’t really stranded now were you?

"I'm going to just assume that community advantages are not included" Penny would say aloud as she mulled over the question. "Otherwise Earthbastion is just cheating. So I'll go with… hmm a tent, a knife and a large piece of flint." She would decide as she went back to mining.

“I’ll go with a classic; What’s your favorite color?” Simple and nearly as old as time, yet potentially useful in a lot of situations. Besides if she was going to relax like a teen, might as well take the chance to act like one.

Hm, very practical answers, Alicia mentally decided. Very like Penny. Though she wasn’t sure if she would even need a tent with her particular powers. Or a knife for that matter. Then again, sometimes precision was called for.

“Orange,” Alicia decided when asked the simple question. “It makes me think of Fa-creeper!” An explosion rocked the screen, bringing the conversation to an end in the face of swift panic.

About a half hour later, dinner was served. A plate of simmering burger patties sat in the middle of the table, circled by various toppings, condiments, and buns. There was also a small bowl of fries, like the kind you’d buy at a store to prepare quickly. Alicia and Penny would be seated at a corner, Alicia’s parents at the opposite corner of the table. Food was free for the taking, and Alicia already had a burger with lettuce, tomato and mustard on it

“So Penny, tell us about yourself,” Alicia’s mother began, after sampling a bit of the burger to make sure that it tasted good. “Alicia has told us some things about you, but I’d like to hear it from you personally.”

“Uhh...” Penny stalled in the process of neatly (over)loading up her burger with a bit of everything as she turned to face her friends mother. “Well, I like to build computers, kinda like tinkering around with machines in general really.” She would start, recovering from the unexpected question.

“That being said, not the biggest fan of cars or at least driving them. I like to fixing them up or taking them apart.” She would continue returning some of her attention at preparing her first burger “Prefer walking, or skating, to get places. Plus there is a lot of cool places tucked away off the roads that you would never find otherwise.”

The two parents listened calmly as Penny rattled off the things she was into. “Alicia did say that you were something of a gearhead,” her dad remarked, glancing over at the girl in question. His burger was more traditional to the American style, though whether that said something about his personality was something that one could muse on at length.

“Roger, be nice to her,” her mother commented, shooting him a warning look even if she refrained from elbowing him. “She’s our guest after all.”Alicia would roll her eyes though, not surprised by the lack of tact.

Roger raised his hands in protest. “I am being nice,” he assured her. Having expressed his intent, the conversation resumed its focus. “I mean, it provides a lot of useful skills, especially when it comes to creativity and problem solving. It’s like what I was telling Alicia recently.”

“Is that why you ended up calling a handyman to fix the shower a couple weeks ago?” Alicia asked, gesturing upwards to the second floor while wearing a slightly mischievous look.

Once again her dad was on the defense, but Roger took on a solemn demeanor, closing his eyes as if imparting divine wisdom. “Part of being successful in life is knowing your limits,” he assured those currently gathered. Giving them a moment to take that in, he took a chunk out of his burger, enjoying the savory taste and the brief moment to reorient himself. “So, how did you wind up getting into that? It’s not the sort of hobby kids your age would normally pick up.”

Penny watched the easy going humor pass back and forth between the family and couldn’t help the longing the rose up within her. She missed that level of comfort with others yet at the same time she was glad she didn’t have a false family to live under. Her actual mom and dad were still alive after all, even if she couldn’t see them again.

“I’ve always been a fan of computers” she would reply after enjoying the first bite of her own burger, she also resisted the urge to roll her eyes at the age comment “Not really sure where it first started, they just always did. Messing with machines started when I was seven, I think. I had found an old Commodore 64 in the basement. It was my dad’s, but I didn’t know that at the time, I just wanted to know why it looked so weird for a keyboard and started taking it apart. Later my mom had found me surrounded by all the bits and pieces of it with a paper and some crayons trying to map everything out.”

“Dad found it hilarious, and helped me put it back together. It didn’t work, but that was also why it was tucked away in the basement. After that I started taking allsorts of things apart before putting them back together, or at least trying to.” She would explain rubbing the back of her neck at the final addition “took apart the toaster once but couldn’t get to go back together correctly” she would add with shrug sheepish smile.

“What about you two?” Penny would ask after another bite of her food “What kinda hobbies do you enjoy?”

Penny’s explanation was received with an unsuspecting sincerity, though for her part Alicia suspected that it wasn’t all entirely true. But her parents didn’t know about the magical girl thing, so why would they have a reason to doubt her close friend?

The topic swinging around, her mother was the first to answer. “Oh, nothing too major. Jigsaw puzzles, knitting, some zumba,” she offered with a somewhat dismissive wave. They were fairly sedate, especially when compared with computers, or Alicia’s after school activities as far as they knew.

“Model trains, when I’m not gardening,” Roger answered in turn. “My set up is in the basement. I’d be glad to show it to you after dinner if you want.”

“Ah, I’m a fan of Zumba as well” Penny would exclaim with a smile “Mom made sure that I had something physical to do to off-set my computer habits. Zumba and martial arts are the two I stuck with.” She would add, lying through her teeth “And I’ve never seen a full model train set up sounds interesting enough. Do you have to put the trains together first?”

“Some of them, though usually it’s just the paint and the wheels, if that,” Roger answered, pleased to find that there was someone interested in his hobby. Both of the other members of the family were used to it by now, so genuine interest was a rare experience.

Her mother was intrigued by the other part of what Penny said. “Oh? What kind of martial arts?” she asked, before glancing over at the other magical girl. “Alicia did Karate for a year or two, but eventually she decided that it wasn’t the thing for her.”

Perking up, Alicia nodded, about halfway done with her first burger at this point. “The relaxation and directing energy stuff comes in handy though.”

“Aikido is the one I enjoy the most but I hopped around for a while trying out different styles.” Penny would explain after swallowing another large bite of her burger “I was hoping to find someone that could teach me Jeet Kune Do, but there wasn’t anyone in my last city that could.”

The parents nodded, though to be honest they didn’t really know what either of those things were. But it sounded interesting, and that was good enough for them.

“I see.” After a moment Alicia’s mother took the conversation on a different tack. “Still, it’s nice to meet you. It seemed like Alicia was always so busy with after school activities or helping out at the community center. Just spending time with friends is a nice change of pace.”

That caused the girl in question to roll her eyes. “Mooom,” she protested. “It’s not that bad. I’m usually spending time with friends at those things anyway.”

“She’s got a point though Alicia. Yeah, most of the time your there with friends, but as they say: All work and no play, makes Alicia a dull girl” Penny would tease in a singsong voice.

“Traitor,” Alicia grumbled as she leaned over to give a light karate chop to Penny’s arm. That would teach her for siding with her parents.

And speaking of said parents, her mother was looking quite pleased with her friend’’s input. “See, Penny gets it.” She gestured towards Penny before her gaze fixed upon Alicia in turn. “I mean, at this rate I’m never going to have grandkids.”

“....” Alicia started to sink into her seat. God, kill her now.

Penny chose to show her age and maturity and just stuck out her tongue at Alicia before returning to her food.

Only to start choking on her next bite, due to the massively unexpected comment from Alica’s Mom. “She’s only a teen, isn’t that a bit early to be expecting grandkids!?” She’d near demand incredulously once she got the offending food dealt with.

Smiling, Alicia glanced over at her friend and the support that came with it. Not that it would make much of a difference, but it was appreciated nonetheless.

“Calm down, it’s just a joke,” her mother assured Penny. “I mean I wouldn’t mind it in the future, but I’m not in a rush.” She was perfectly willing to let Alicia chart her own course. Romance was not something that one could hurry along. At least not in her mind.

Huffing, Alicia finished eating and reached across to get another burger for herself. Maybe that would help her recovering heart.

“Right” Penny would say somewhat shakily before blatantly shifting topics “What kind of Movies do you all like?”

Dinner had continued well enough after moving past the embarrassment that had happened. Penny had made sure to spend a bit of time to take a look at the model train set Rodger had set up in the basement but didn’t stick around for long. It was too tempting for her to break it all apart.

“Well that was… A thing” Penny would comment once they were back in Alicia’s room, not really sure how else to call it seeing as she had completely the wrong upbringing to even try. “They often like that?” she wondered as she pinched the bridge of her nose. She could feel a migraine coming on, and with it all of the other little irritants she had been ignoring so far were going to become unbearable.

She sat down on Alicia’s bed suddenly looking very, very, haggard. She needed to drop her disguise for a bit before it fell apart.

“Yeah,” Alicia confirmed as she joined her friend in resting for a moment on the bed. “Sometimes it’s annoying, but the rest of the time it isn’t too bothersome. You gotta take the good with the bad when it comes to family.”

Glancing over at her friend, she couldn’t help but notice Penny’s state. It had been a long day for her, so it wasn’t too hard to surmise that she might need a bit to reset and work out the kinks of her monstrous nature. “Looks like this is as good a time as any for that special treat you brought,” she observed. Then she paused, waiting to see if Penny would agree with her. It felt odd to be the one to go for the drinking first, but there didn’t seem to be a reason to not indulge, not with what they had both been through the past couple of days.

“Hmm? Oh, yeah..” Penny would say bringing herself back to the present “Kinda funny, actually, Rina was the one who gave me the idea.” She would explain more for the sake of talking then anything. It gave her something to focus on other then her body starting to reject the disguise. “Though I doubt it was intentional. She mentioned wanting a drink after the Stadium incident, and I figured that I could probably order some from Laat. I was right but he only had stuff that was also flammable so it’s strong.” She stood up from her pack holding the two large water bottles she had stashed at the bottom. She started turning towards Alicia before she stopped as she wobbled a bit.

“Damn…” She cursed as the migraine flared up “Mind if I borrow your roof for a bit?” She would ask static lacing her voice softly “It’s the only place I can think of that I could hide out for a bit without being noticed.”

Oh, I see. It didn’t seem like your normal thing anyway so I guess now I know where that came from,” Alicia replied. When asked, she moved over to the window and slid it open, before popping out the screen to give them access to the exterior of the house. Having done so, she retrieved some of the candy and other snacks to bring with her.

With those items in hand, she rejoined Penny at the window. “Just be careful. It’s not exactly an easy exit,” she informed her. That was why Alicia went first, making the jump over and up to the rooftop. That way she could grab Penny if there was any trouble from her current state.

Penny let her friend lead the way, not really surprised that Alicia had left through the window before, she was a Magical Girl after all. When she followed after it was notably slower, more of a wall crawl then a jump, as Penny was in no mood to fall. It wouldn’t hurt much but trying to explain things would be a pain.

When she reached the roof she gently sat down before slowly letting her disguise unravel. She took it slowly on purpose trying to minimize the sound and lights that came with revealing her true form.

When at last she was completely out of her disguise, Penny gave a sigh of relief. Already she could feel the tension in her frame being soothed away. “Whelp, we’ve got a bit before I can power down again.” She would say as the top two of her extra limbs popping out to help hold things.

She unscrewed the cap on one of the bottles and took a swig before grimacing “Still tastes nasy” She took another swig anyway “Mind if I ask a question?”

Joining Penny atop the roof, Alicia sat down next to her as she watched the monster girl transform back into her normal form. She had become used to the mesh of human and machine, and relaxed comfortably as she joined in unscrewing the cap off of the other bottle before taking a sip.

First there was a grimace and then a cough, the magical girl left taking deep breaths as she glanced at the label with her eyes watering. “God, it burns,” she hissed. “I have to get used to drinking this stuff again.”

Alicia decided to recover before having another go at it, her head tilting over to look at Penny as she propped herself up with her arms. ”Sure, go for it.” It wasn’t like they had much else to do at the moment besides chat.

Penny took a moment to just watch the city off in the distance before she spoke up “Why did you decide to join the community?” She would take a glance at Alicia as she asked “And did it turn out as you were expecting it too?”

A sigh escaped in response to Penny’s question, one that was filled with memory as opposed to exasperation. Alicia’s gaze turned to the horizon and the city beyond as well, as she reflected on how it had happened. “Well, this Puchuu showed up, said one of my ancestors was this important magical girl and that I should follow in her footsteps and that they really needed help. At the time I was kind of a wanderer, looking for meaning, for purpose in my life. So I figured this could be it. And being able to protect people from the monsters under the bed, that made for a nice incentive too.”

Having described her reasons, she moved on to her impression of the whole thing. ”As for expectations, not entirely. I figured we’d just fight monsters and darkness, one big sisterhood. I didn’t expect all the dumb politics and mistrust and world ending apocalyptic threats to go with that stuff. It can get….frustrating, at times.” She took another sip of the vodka, doing better at it this time even if it still tasted bad. But at least she didn’t have a coughing fit this time around.

“Sounds like you” Penny would agree with a rueful chuckle before taking another pull from her bottle. She could tell already she would need a lot more for the alcohol to actually have much of an effect on her. She was also of two minds on that fact. “I wish I could say I joined for the same reason, but I don’t really remember my first night in the community and from what I can figure about Laat I doubt I was actually given a choice.” she just shrugged in a ‘what can ya do’ way.

“Not from Penrose to start, came from East Drake City, but politics is everywhere sadly. Makes me wonder what could get done if everyone united for more then just stopping the apocalypses” she took a couple of the hard candies she had brought, but rather then eat them she slowly started to grind away at one of them with her fingers, slowly turning into so much sugary dust.

Alicia could only frown as Penny explained her own entry. Somehow she wasn’t surprised by that, though perhaps it was merely because her friend was a monster girl. She couldn’t think of too many people who would voluntarily want to be stuck like that, having to do all of the things that she did on a daily basis.

Hearing about the politics caused her to take a longer drink, the burn from it reflecting the anger in her own heart. “No kidding, but it’ll probably never happen,” she grumbled. God, she was going to need a lot more of this vodka to distract herself from this nonsense.

Nonetheless, she elaborated. ”It just gets so ridiculous. Like yeah, we do go overboard, I get that. But people fall for that ‘woe is me, I was an innocent girl unjustly attacked by Beacon’ schtick way too much. They’ll tolerate us during the apocalypse, but after that it’s right back to how things were. Like that girl from the hospital. Shannon, I think she said her name was? She just waltzes in to shut down the fight, even after we point out that there’s a legitimate reason for the fight this time. And people think that we’re pretentious.”

Her speech was interrupted by the necessity of another drink before she continued. I was the only way to deal with the rising anger. ”Just...if everyone’s so pissy with us, then why don’t they just point us towards the actually bad girls who go after humans? Why don’t they accept purification? I think I’ve had one Dark Magical Girl voluntarily accept purification, and she became a DMG this morning.”

Another sigh escaped as she slumped, head coming to rest on the roof as she laid there with her simmering anger. “Sorry. It just feels good to get that out.”

“I know how it feels when you need to vent, and hey, you’ll hear no complaints from me” Penny took another drink from her bottle focusing on the burn of it for the moment it lingered. “I mean, I know just how dangerous I can be and I’m only half monster most days. Going full monster just adds to my understanding of why Beacon is needed. That mindset is terrifying, to say nothing of what I could do if left unaccounted for.”

With a flex of her hand the candies in it were reduced to powder instantly. Brushing off the mess on her leg she reached over and grabbed another handful of the replacement nails slowly grinding them down as well. “At the same time I can see where they are coming from. Part of it, I feel, is that not a lot of the girls on the streets know that Beacon can purify them. Lots of rumours and hearsay for sure, but none of the ones I’d met could say they met someone who was purified.” She would explain, pulling from her own experiences before joining up with Beacon. “Hell, Janet is still the only one I know of”

She took a moment to stop and drink before continuing on “It makes it hard to try and seek help. Especially when most DMGs and MonGs are attacked on sight. It ends up seeming like a life or death choice regardless if it’s true or not. As for why they don’t point you at the girl’s that are actually causing trouble? Who knows, maybe they think they can do a better job at redeeming them?” she took another pull from her bottle “Not that they have a good chance at it, but what else can I say?”

Alicia grunted as Penny provided her reasoning, eyes adjusting to the point where she could make out the pinpricks of stars in the night sky. She knew there were legitimate reasons for this fear, but it still ate at her that in spite of all their efforts and everything they did, they couldn’t make any headway.

“I guess,” she conceded with a groan, a hand falling over her face as she swirled the vodka in its bottle. ”We need to hire a PR firm or something. Cause all it takes is a fake sob story and the regular magical girls snap it up like gullible idiots. Meanwhile we get our HQ blown up and no one bats an eye.” It wasn’t the worst idea, though there were some obvious difficulties to that sort of plan. Oh well, she could wish.

“Well with what we just got through, I doubt as many people will be so willing to look down on Beacon. You were the first responders, the main force behind repelling it and the clean up crew for the mess at the Graveyard.” Penny would offer “Gotta think that would bring in some good will” She would take snag another candy, popping it into her mouth this time before crunching away at it before washing it down with a draw from her bottle.

Alicia joined Penny in downing more of her vodka, the buzz starting to kick in a bit past the burning that almost made her eyes water. ”God, that fight,” she said with another groan. She should feel good about it, they had stopped the end of the world after all. But she couldn’t bring herself to be content with how it had happened. ”If I ever get my hands on Regina or whoever it was that let them get away, they’re going to rue the day that they were born.”

Teeth grit as her cheeks flushed with that surging anger. With what they knew about Regina and her activities, and what they had been able to learn about the other who she had controlled at the graveyard, she was up for some payback. Especially since, deep down, she couldn’t help but blame herself. If she’d just been faster, stronger, if she hadn’t let Regina walk away that first time, none of this would have happened.

Her silence hung for several minutes, those thoughts working through her mind as her mood sagged. “Sometimes I wish I was like you. Yeah, there are downsides, but you’re so strong, and fast, and you take whatever gets thrown your way. Meanwhile I have a bow and get frozen in ice blocks.” Her face tore into a scowl as she glanced at the vodka. ”I just can’t help but think of how many people I could save if I had that kind of ability.”

“Regina just up and fled from what I remember” Penny would say vividly recalling her stare down of the shadowed flames that would have killed her. “But I’ll hold her down for you. When we catch her.” She promised with a cruel smile. Penny didn’t have much against Ragina personally, she felt that mind control was abhorrent sure. But she’d never actually talked with the Monster Queen, Elroy on the other hand “At least her brother won't be causing any more issues.” That was a hate born purely from conflict, but one she had been glad to bring to an end, as unsatisfying of an end as it was.

Penny ended up draining most of her bottle in the silence that followed. And was still both annoyed and relieved to find that her regen had countered the effects of the alcohol near instantly. She was contemplating just how much she’d have to drink to get a buzz when Alicia spoke up again.

“You..” Penny started a cruel temptation nearly spilling forth, before she shook her head and starting over. “You’ve also got your Light” Penny would add turning to look at her friend. “That’s not something I can really equal up to. Yeah I’m effective in a fight, but all of those capabilities end when I’m off the battlefield. You? You inspire people, you lead people. I’m barely good enough to keep myself in one piece.”

“I wonder though…” Penny would add softly “If there was someway one could be both purified and a Monster.” It was a thought that Penny had had before, for as much as she didn’t want to admit it aloud, she had grown to like being inhuman.

Lingering on the topic of Regina, Alicia shook her head to clear up events for her friend. ”I tried to use my magic on her while the others went in to hit her, but someone deflected it so I missed. That’s why she was able to get away as easily as she was.” And there was no way it could have been Regina herself. She didn’t have that kind of power before.

She appreciated the effort to try and cheer her up, and she was glad that Elroy was gone. But she couldn’t quite seem to pull herself out of that hole, especially as the effect of the alcohol pushed her further down it. Unlike Penny, she wasn’t quite so immune. She was nigh motionless, listless eyes roaming over the stars above.

”I guess,” she huffed, unable to meet Penny’s gaze. ”Still, I use one big spell and I’m tapped out for hours. You just keep going and going. And I’d feel better if my main accomplishment was more than just being a nice person. Having a sense of decency shouldn’t be treated as something special.”

“That's just great…” Penny grumbled upon learning about Regina having allies, before finishing off the rest of her Vodka before starting to munch away at the bottle, figuring it would be easier than keeping it hidden.

Her personal gripes didn’t hold much weight when faced with Alicia’s mood though. She put a hand on her friend's shoulder “I…” she trailed off, not really sure what to say. She wasn’t really capable of offering up much help when it came to magic. “I can be your training dummy” She offered up, the only idea she could really think of “As you said I can take a lot and just keep going. That way you can get feedback on what works and what doesn’t.”

Penny suggesting being a target dummy was certainly not what Alicia had planned would come from this conversation, and she was left unsure as to how she should respond at first. ”Wait, what?” This did prompt her to shift, glancing over at the monster girl leaning against her.

”No way, no way,” she said in a sharp refusal. ”I’m not going to use a friend as a training dummy. That’s what the actual training dummies are for.” A light nudge accompanied her statement, just to get the point across.

Her mind was focused, yet it did wander a bit as a strand of thought intruded. ”Actually, while we’re on the subject, what happened to your arms, during the fight against Elroy? I didn’t think he could do that.”

Penny raised a hand in surrender, willing to let the idea drop if Alicia wanted to. She’d keep working on other ideas in the meantime. “Training partner then”

“Normally I don’t think he would have been able to” Penny would answer glancing at one of the spider legs that she had out “But these didn’t come standard, they were my first modification actually” Reaching out Penny grabbed on to the limb furthest away from Alicia and waited. Shortly after there was a sound of something being unscrewed at a high rate. With a grimace Penny detached the limb and held it up so Alicia could look at it.

“I can’t conjure metal, and it takes me a long time to enchant it as well. So I traded for some. Got gypped though, as it turns out the metal I got was enchanted by Elroy.” She would explain “That’s what gave him the chance to blindside me with it, otherwise I should have been able to notice him trying to influence my parts.”

“Still” She reattached the Spiderleg “I’m not going to have to worry about that happening again regardless. Stole his trick to seal off metal from external influence.”

”Training partner sounds good,” Alicia agreed with a smile, giving Penny a thumbs up in the process. That was a lot better than just using her as a target and nothing more. At least it made her feel better to think of it that way.

Watching Penny mess with her various augmentations was nothing new for Alicia at this point, so she was fairly calm as Penny explained what had happened while removing her leg in the process. So, that was what had gone down? She didn’t read much more into it than there seemed to be on the face surface. ’Ah. Well as long as it doesn’t happen again then I guess we’re good,” she conceded. ”Besides, he got his just desserts in the end anyway. And his sister will soon too if we can ever find her.” Unfortunately, finding her was the hard part.

As for the source of this barter, she didn’t ask. She was too distracted by her own thoughts, and the effects of the vodka, to really consider it. Whether that was lucky for Penny or not.

“That he did” Penny would agree warmed but the trust Alicia showed by not digging into the trade that Penny made. She was also uncomfortably aware of her Black Coin, knowing that it too had come from that deal brought up a fresh source of guilt over it. “And she can’t stay hidden forever. You’ll find her.”

“Here, let me take care of that” Penny would say plucking the other bottle of vodka out of Alicia’s hands before draining and eating it as well. Unvoiced was the belief that Alicia had likely had enough to drink tonight.

A quick check told Penny that she would be able to reply her disguise and keep it up till everyone went to sleep, but she was enjoying sitting up here with Alicia. And wasn’t wanting to head back in just yet.

”Oh, okay,” Alicia conceded with a small frown. She didn’t think she had had too much, but made no move to stop Penny as she devoured the other bottle of vodka wholesale. Now that was weird to look at, even more than the leg. But she merely shrugged, and went back to laying down on the roof.

Silence descended, fully in the act of enjoying company with her friend as they rested on top of the roof. It was a good night to be out, with only a few clouds in the sky. She was able to watch the stars, twinkling lights in the sky far above. They were pure, untainted. Though the light from the city around her meant that it was hard to discern them in their full glory. And as she watched them a question rose to her mind. Unbidden, but there anyway.

”Hey Penny,” she asked without turning away from the view above. ”If there are actually aliens up there in outer space, do you think they have magical girls too?”


“Hmm, I might have leapt at this a bit hastily…” Aurelio murmured to himself as he looked at the door in front of him. His departure from the graveyard had been a simple one, if you count the fact that he left it about eight times in a row without ever leaving simple, but that was the beauty of clones and being keyed into the teleporters.

At the same time the true Aurelio had left on foot, chasing after a blaze of raw emotion that raced across the sky. It was only as the two ventured into the dwelling he was now standing in front of that he recognized that Lily was one of the people he had been chasing after.

It also left him in a bit of a predicament. How to explain why he was chasing after them? With a mental shrug he walked up to the door and knocked on it. He’d figure it out as he went, a moment, and puff of smoke later. Kyle stood awaiting whoever it was that might answer.

Alexander (who had just transformed back to normal), was the first at the door. He opened it to see an unfamiliar boy roughly his age there “Yes?” He asked with a raised eyebrow. Behind him, Lily warily watched with heavy eyes, adjusting her glasses. "M-Maskless Tuxedo Mask!" She weakly exclaimed upon her realization, followed by her running back to the apartment.

"Oh geez oh geez oh geez, why’s he here? This is bad!" She escaped to her room, took a deep breath, then ran back.
"Well, I think there has been a misunderstanding here. But still, I would like to ask: why are you here?" She asked, her face bright red.

Kyle just blinked and looked down to make sure he was out of costume while Lily ran off to her room for a moment “Nope i'm in my civies” he would say aloud before looking back to Lily “Most people don’t recognize me that quickly without the cape”

“Would you believe that it was an accident at first?” He would ask scratching his cheek “But where are my manners” Kyle would offer his hand to Alex “Kyle Tanner, or The Great Aurelio while I'm transformed. Lily helped me and a few of my friends out back at the Graveyard”

Alexander gave a grunt of understanding ‘Ah, okay. He’s part of the magical world. Right, this is starting to make sense.’ After a brief moment of hesitation, he took the other boy’s hand and gave a couple of weak shakes before taking his hand back “Right. So, I’m still not sure why you’re here...but I’m guessing it’s not something we should be talking about where other people can see.” He turned around to go back inside while gesturing for Kyle to come inside. Lily was less enthusiastic, but decided to go along with Alex’ suggestion with a meek nod.

“As I mentioned, it was something of an accident.” Kyle would reply as he stepped into the apartment easily sensing the mood of the two who lived here. “I’m an Empathy mage, I have a greater sense of emotions then most as I can use them as fuel for my magic. I was following after quite the output of good vibes when I saw Lily and you dip into here. I hadn't gotten the chance to thank Lily for helping out so I figured I would stop in and see how she was doing” He would explain, before giving Alex another once over. “I figure you were there as well, if you got Lily out of there, so you have my thanks as well.”

Alexander’s eyes narrowed as Kyle explained his magic “Wait a second...emotion magic?” He paused ‘This might be just what I need!’ He gave the other boy a once over before asking “So can you only sense what emotion a person is feeling...or can you also sense what they feel about certain people?

Lily went to the kitchen to prepare glasses of cola when he heard Alex speak in the living room, and accidentally spilled some of the soft drink into the sink, her eyes wide.

“I can only sense what people are feeling,” Kyle would answer “But that can be used to find out what people's feelings are towards someone else, after all most people can’t stop themselves from feeling things.” His eyebrow would quirk up as he glanced between Alex and Lily as he fought to keep the smile on his face from turning into a massive grin. ‘They are, but they don’t know each other is as well’

Lily sighed out of relief, and stepped out of the kitchen with the tray of drinks.

“Why do you ask?”

Lily set the tray on the table; she was still smiling, though it wavered as panic started to rise up within her.

Alexander thought for a few seconds before saying “Yeah, I think I can work with that. Okay...” He walked over to Lily and pulled her into a hug, the tingle quickly returning “Tell me what I’m feeling.

Lily squeaked, and her entire body trembled as Alex had snatched her in his embrace.
"E-Eeeehhhh? W-What is this?" She pushed him off, and in the wild motion happened to knock a glass down, shattering it.
"Oh-a-broken-glass-wow-I’m-clumsy-better-go-clean-it-off-be-right-back-teehee!" She rapidly mouthed off the words, and in cartoonish fashion disappeared to her room, locking it tight.

Alexander just stared in the direction that Lily ran “...Well that was odd. She didn’t do that last time.” He folded his arms in compilation “Was I doing it wrong? I mean, I’ve only hugged someone a few times, so there might be some procedure that I just don’t know about...” He shook his head before turning to Kyle “Anyway, was that enough to get a good reading?

Kyle was supporting a wide grin as Alex turned back to him, he was also holding in his laughter as it would be rude to laugh at this turn of events, but the amusement was still clear in his eyes. “More than enough, and the reading was crystal clear, for both of you” He would answer moving to sit on the couch “And I wouldn't say you were doing anything wrong but sometimes such displays of affection tend to bewilder.”

“Short and quick answer; You Love Lily. She was feeling Surprise, Embarrassment, and Joy He would explain gesturing for Alex to take a seat, as he had a feeling it might take some more time to fully explain things.

Alexander sat down with a huge grin on his face “You have no idea how amazing it feels to finally have some kind of label to attach to what I think about her. It saves me so much trouble.

Alex’s admission hit Kyle’s mood a fair bit, the fact that Alex did not, or could not understand that it was Love pained the magician. Not that he let it drag him down far “Well my friend, you have gained a treasure beyond value. Love is one of the three great emotions if you ask me. The only thing better is when you find someone who returns those feelings, which I have a feeling you have.” he would say giving a pointed look at the room that Lily ran in to.

Alexander shot up “Oh, that’s right!” He then jogged over to Lily’s door and knocked on it “Hey Lilly! He said I’m in love with you, and that you probably feel the same way. I’ be honest, I’m not sure what comes next. So...what do we do now?

It was taking every ounce of willpower Kyle had to not fall down laughing at this point. Alex was just the right mix of clueless and blunt to make this heartwarming moment hilarious to watch.

Lily had wrapped herself in the bedsheets like a cocoon, facing away from the door. She felt like her heart might launch right out of her chest with how much it was beating.
"Uhh...I...I guess we...," There was a pause.
"We go on a date?" She managed to calm down as she came to think of the idea. She slowly opened the door, her hair even more frazzled than before.
"Yeah...I think we should do that."
She went to Aurelio, and shook his hand. She leaned against his ear, and whispered:
"Aurelio...Um, thank you. I owe you one." She then withdrew, and made a mighty sigh as she came to grips with what has transpired.

Alright, awesome!” Alexander clapped his hands together. “ we go do something right now? Also, what makes a date different from just a normal outing with friends? Is there something I’m expected to do?

“No problem, glad to have been a help” Kyle would reply quietly before stepping back to adress Alex again. “The main difference between a date and an outing with friends is intention. Both are for fun, and both can be whatever you want them to be, but on a date you are either trying to get to know each other better, or convey what you feel for feel for each other.” He would explain sitting back down.

“In other words” He would add with a snap of his fingers triggering his transformation. “While with friends your out for Enjoyment he would reach out one hand a happy orange glow emanating from it giving off subtle waves of Fun and Excitement. “A date is about showing them that you Care.” he would extend his other hand a Pinkish glow coming from it giving of soft waves of Love and Happiness.

He would hold the magic for a moment before another puff of smoke enveloped him and he was once again just plane Kyle “Make sense?”

Huh” Alexander mused “Yeah, I think I get it. That’s actually a lot of help.

Lily smiled widely.
"You’re like a love guru, Aurelio. You should come with us on our date!" She blurted out, before she realized the implications and hastily shook her hands before her. "I mean, as a friendly teacher type of friend! Not because I want to date you too! I mean, I’d like to hang out, but it might be weird and-" She stumbled a bit in her place, and leaned against the doorway.
"S-Sorry. This has been a lot."

The magician in question just laughed and waved off Lily’s worry “Don’t worry about it, I know what you mean” before turning to the side as a thought occurred to him, “If you don’t mind, I could go see someone about turning this into a double date, that way I can still help offer advice without it being as odd,” he offered up as an alternative as being the third wheel was always awkward regardless of being able to feed off emotion or not.

Alexander scratched the back of his head “ that okay? I mean, I’ve heard about double dates before, but I didn’t think they were actually a thing. Having other people there, it kind of makes it sound like it’s not a date, and more like some kind of outing with friends” He said “I don’t know. Maybe I’m completely wrong about this; but it sounds like this is going to be like those times Lily drags me off to do something, only with romance? And we did those just fine before, so I’m pretty sure we won’t screw it up.

Lily now leaned against Alex, showing more life in her exhausted expression. "A double date? That’s a wonderful idea." She looked up to Alex. "It’s just like a date, but with double the fun. We’ll be happy to do it. Right Alex?" She smiled, and now hesitantly hugged his arm.

Alexander still wasn’t too keen on the idea of a double date, but he also found it extremely hard to say no to Lily “...sure, I guess.” he shrugged, not sure what else to say. He couldn’t really think too well with Lily hugging his arm like that, the sensation made his arm feel like it was on fire in a very good way...somehow.

“They happen all the time” Kyle would answer Alex’s question “Going out with three people when two are dating can be kinda awkward for the one going stag as those dating tend to give each other more attention. A double date evens the numbers and helps make sure no one's left out.”

”Sounds like a plan” The empathy mage would announce with a grin “I’ll be right back, you want to pick the entertainment or the food?” he would ask as his body started glow “You two pick one and we’ll pick the other” He explained just before vanishing with a flash and a small pop.

With that Kyle was off to HQ to ask Sally about a double date.

Alexander jumped in surprise “Wait, he can teleport!? Dammit, I want to be able to teleport. How does emotion magic even let him do that? Total bullshit...” He mumbled the last two words to himself.


It spoke to something about Penny that she didn’t even flinch when the lumbering abomination stumbled over to where she sat next to Chloe; she hardly spared the thing a second glance in fact. Instead her eyes were scanning the recent battle ground, even as she responded to the girl next to her “With the day I’ve had so far rest sounds nice...”

Most things were skimmed over but some important things to her stood out. She saw Lily tackle Alex, the back of her mind noting the new look for the both of them. The large amounts of Beacon members who showed up to assist with the cleanup and kept track of those closest to her due to paranoia.

She noted Mika, more due to the girl’s phone signal then anything and thought she saw Sil but didn’t bother trying to verify, along with a half dozen other girls she couldn’t place.

She saw Rina and Amaryllis taking to each other; she made a mental note to thank them both again. Rina helped with Elroy and Penny assumed that Amaryllis helped Alicia deal with whatever was going on in the Crypt. She noted a small girl wondering away, followed by a pack of cats.

She even spotted Aurelio here and there, his Clones spread around talking with some people, helping others.

But she didn’t see Alicia and part of her longed too. Memories of the warm light her angelic friend gave off rose unbidden. Penny turned to Chloe as she spoke “I want to make sure Alicia is alright firs-“ her voice died as she received Janet’s broadcast. Penny understood perfectly what was being said, knew the implications of what was being said, of what Chloe was being charged with.

“Chloe“ Penny would say softly, with inhuman level of calm as her eyes started to glow. “You need to leave, now” she would continue as she clenched a fist tightly enough that you could hear the metal groaning in protest.

“They want to apprehend you” it was easily apparent that Penny was preparing for combat once again, even as she stayed seated. Her emotions were being put off to the side and the soft hum of machinery cranked up a gear as Penny rerouted all spare mana to regeneration.

“And I can’t fight all of them” There was only two people that Penny trusted with her life and there was little she wouldn’t due to keep those two safe if she had the means and opportunity. Chloe was one of them. Thus Penny couldn't bring herself to care about what her friend had done, so long as she was safe.

“Please” because at the end the day, despite how well as she played at being human, Penny wasn't, and the scars from her forcible inclusion by Laat'AlOfan ran deep.


The Aftermath of any conflict is always a rough time, more so when it ends with a bitter note. Regina had escaped, and gone to ground most likely. Several of their allies and friends had perished in the fighting. And several more were still missing in action.

And few could feel the full weight of the disappointment and loss as keenly as Aurelio could. The field was an ocean of suffering and bittersweet victory. It was times such as this when he was most grateful of his chosen Vow as well as most frustrated by it

‘Start small’ he reminded himself a short lived smile playing about his features at the incidental pun.

He nodded towards the cats that were venturing off while looking at one of his clones, before planting his cane in the ground. Then he took off his hat and his cape, placing them at the foot his cane, and sat down next to Sammy.

“I’m sorry to hear that.” He would respond honestly placing a hand on the small girl’s back. He would glance up and return the nod that Amaryllis gave.

“We” he corrected her “We will do all that we can to help”


“Sorry about that…” Penny’s reply would be soft and weak, as the emotions she had shunted off to the side all came flooding back at once. Today… there were no words for Penny to try and describe today. Nothing seemed to want to go right today.

Finding out about Thalia, actually seeing Thalia, meeting Cindy, being betrayed by Veronica (no real shock there), and fighting Elroy. Today had just been one long string of bad events. And now she was trying to handle all of that emotional impact all at once. It just compounded with the pain and exhaustion that had built up due to fighting Elroy, but it was the light sensation of Chloe running her hand through Penny’s hair that led to the wounded girl breaking down.

Silently Penny curled up next to her friend, seeking desperately the comfort that was being provided, as her mind was awash with the anguish that she had been forcing away.

The world was forgotten about as she silently cried, her battered and broken body to exhausted to do anything else but weep and seek one of the few people that Penny trusted with her life.

It was only when Janet placed the enchanted breastplate on Penny that the robotic girl was broken from her spiraling torment. Instinct had her devouring the gifted metal before she could really comprehend her own actions, but the results were instantly apparent. As the regeneration ward placed upon the metal worked alongside Penny’s regeneration leading to a very rapid recovery.

Pushing herself up to a sitting position Penny surveyed the area and finally allowed herself to wonder what exactly she had walked in the middle of. “Thanks for the save back there” She would tell Chloe as she wiped away the proof of her tears, yet she stayed close to the petite spirit mage.

People could come to her if they wanted, she just wanted to stay where she felt welcomed for a bit longer.

-Eye of the Storm-

The clone of Aurelio eyed Rebecca with open worry. He could tell plainly that something was wrong, both due to her apathetic feeling and dazed look. The fact that she hadn’t noticed that the original him had already left was another point of worry as well.

Then she went and left before he could try and make sure that she was doing alright. With a sigh the clone took off as well trailing after everyone else. His attention primarily on the welfare the girl that just spoke to him, He would carry the message to Alicia if he could but that wasn’t his priority.

Further ahead at the sight of the ruined crypt the true Aurelio would be called to action by the most surprising of things, his Vow. The out pouring of emotions that flooded the area gave him a rather clear idea of what was going on in most placed, especially when wound add in his superb perceptive capabilities.

Thus when he glanced over the battle field that seemed mostly in hand, he moved to the one person that was giving off simple sorrow. A few poofs of smoke later and three normal clones would stand as look outs in case things changed.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” The magician would ask kneeling down outside the ring of cats that surrounded Sammy.

-Never ending-

Countless error messages and warnings scrolled across the engine’s HUD as it dragged its self forward. Its outer layering had been shredded, vision had been hampered, and its right primary limb was no longer functional. To make the situation worse the exchanged hits of final blows had burned its magical supply, causing a short circuiting of its regeneration.

Yet as always, it did not seem to comprehend to concept of stopping. The target was unaccounted for, this was unacceptable. Thus it crawled back towards the place that the two attacks had clashed. The one good optic sensor it had constantly surveying for any sign of Elroy.

Said sign fell directly in the Engine’s path. As Elroy’s severed arm landed not far from the wounded monster. It kept its gaze locked on the limb calculating the probability of Elroy’s survival as Regina descended in to madness.

It was on the cusp of judging Elroy’s demise within acceptable parameters, and rebooting its emotional capabilities, when the limb vanished. Elroy’s demise was no longer certain. Before it could continue its search for Elroy, a dragon appeared in front of it, a dragon that sought its demise.

The engine reached out for the nearest source of metal. Intending to consume whatever it could to try and refill its reserves and kick start its regeneration.

Once again it was interrupted, as someone else literally swooped in and removed it from the line of fire. On instinct it nearly struck out at the interfering party, but stopped when it registered who it’s savior was.

C.̢̨.̶̕͟C̷͟h͠l̵o̶̢͡.̧e̛̕? Came the heavily distorted voice of Penny “I̱͕̪̙̠͠ͅ.̝̯̣̮͇̯̻.̧̯̬͓̻͈̹̩C̱̮̫̟̙͕̻͟͡ơ̷̖̹͢ų̤̣̮͢l҉̻.̀҉̧̱̟͚̜͉͚.̴̰͖͕̱͜d͎̯̠͡ ͏̭̟̥̠͡U̘̫̳͚s̷̡͕̞͖̫̦̻̗̲̕ḙ̻̟̯̹̫ ̜̥͎̫̺͚S̟͖̘̦̼͟ó̴̯̤̯ḿ͕͍͚͎͚̗̱̥ę̼̭͍̟̞̳̯.̴̫̥̹̺͕̝͖̥͡.҉̩̟̭͉͍t҉̩̬̯̮̺̪̬h͚̟̲͙̬̗͔̗̮͠.̧̩̘͓͇̗̱͕͕̜.̖͔i̷̦̤ņ̩̟̭̤̻͟g̪̠̝̪͔̠̝̤͝.̛̛͓̯̩.̸̻͖̺̩̱͞t̮̜̫͇̞̲̼͎͠o̸̳̤̗͉͠ ̳̥̰̞̬͉͖̼E̴̺̮̗͙̘̩̞͢a̶͘҉̥͙͈̙t̢̲̺͈̼.̨̯.̤̳̤̯̳͉̳͢͞ͅ”̖͈̪͎̺̘̮̕” She forced out as color started to return to the battered Monstergirl. Her metamorphosis slowly reverting.

-Finish Him-

As one would expect the Engine did not take being chained down kindly. It thrashed about wildly as it tore at Elroy’s shifting form with everything it had. View ports would open across its form as it struggled to tear itself free, up until it noticed the other change starting to overcome the regal boy.

For it recognized this for what it was, as it too housed the ability to perform a killing blow.

Shortly before Elroy launched them both in to the sky the Engine had stopped trying to escape the chains that kept it bound to the runaway train. That wasn’t to say it stopped attacking, never that, it was just rather than seeking to break free it turned nearly all of its attention towards inflicting as much damage as it could possibly do, almost as if it was seeking to bury in to the train.

The assault would only get worse when the two of them broke in to the clouds that were hanging so far above the graveyard. As the lightning that was housed within the storm clouds were drawn to the metallic monsters that raced through them. Lightning would rapidly strike at them, or more accurately, at Penny. Each strike would lead to a rise in tempo for the Engine’s relentless attacks, as it fed off the natural lightning use it to further bolster its already formidable offensive capabilities. Causing bursts of electricity to spark off each limb at they stuck at their foe.

This boost, this gift from the heavens, would be received once again during the return trip back to the earth far below.

It was during the decent that the Engine would prepare its escape. For Elroy had made a very simple mistake it his assumptions about Penny and her monstrous form. Externally nearly nothing changed, it still was savagely attacking at Elroy with all available options, but near it end of the long serpentine form it held, just above the tip of its tail a hatch was forming. Within that hatch was a rail launch system, for the error that Elroy had made in regards to the Monstrous nature of the Engine and Penny herself, was that she couldn’t just abandon the metal she had taken.

Moments before they impacted with the ground, using timing only made possible by a machine’s mind, the hatch would open, and from it would come the roaring discharge of the gauss system. As the Engine ejected its core components from the worm like body it forged from the forgotten scrap and offered steel.

The discarded form would instantly cease activity, like a puppet with its strings cut; none of it would lose its connection to the Engine soon however. So for now it was just dead weight.

The core of the Engine would arc out away from the impact location, and would come to a gentle landing not far from, nor long after, Elroy did, using a mixture of its hover systems, boosted by the lighting, and magnetic telekinesis, similarly boosted, between itself and the housing it had just left behind.

Upon landing it would immediately start it way towards the wreckage of Elroy’s attack. On its way it would slam its fists together and in response all the color that was around it would be blown away and along her form countless runes would begin to glow on ominous red.

It would rip its fists away from each other and twin incandescent blades overflowing with color would sprout from her knuckles as she did. Echoes of Penny in every form she had ever taken could be seen trailing in its wake.

It was going to end this.

-Once more-

Aurelio rolled with the push when it came, which wasn’t much of a surprise as there was a sudden shift in Abigail’s emotions right before it happened.

“Glad you’re back” He would try to say shortly before an exploding monster over shadowed his attempts at cheering her up. He wasn’t willing to let a chance of getting a mana refresh go to waste though and both he and his clone drew in what they could.

He was tempted to tell Abigail to hang back, but got the feeling that such an idea wouldn’t go over too well with the recently rescued girl. So instead he just shrugged and moved to follow after her, his cane dancing with a few lights as he did so.

Later, once this was all over, he would sit down and talk with Abigail and the others. For now there was a day that needed saving, and Beacon was great when it came to saving the day.

The clone Aurelio just ran a hand down his face at his own actions before turning to face Jenna and the rest of the group, a hand on Lily’s should to help keep her steadied in case she needed it. “I Doubt too many people are going to want to head out right now, but I can give a ride if you want one. One way trip and destination is Beacon HQ. Otherwise, out best bet is to try and regroup with some of the others to either help them out or get us all patched up. Relief is great for healing people after all” He would advise but otherwise wait to see what they were planning on doing, as for a small time he really could be in two places at one since he was effectively a super clone for the moment.

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