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Lackeys and Associates

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A sharp whistled was heard beside Apia, a cold weight plopping itself right beside her. If Mastephos cared for personal space she didn’t show it, saddling up close to the bee girl. “That’s some fancy sword she’s got there,” the wolf commented, snickering knowingly from the Nephy card Kanbaru summoned. “I should know when I have the real thing~” Before she could elaborate, before Apia could even question her, the arena suddenly dissipated like unraveled threads around them.

“Aww what? Lame,” the unhinged wolf said, the seats beneath reverting away. She easily found her footing but caught Apia in her arms in case the bee girl fumbled from the change of reality. If she was an astute guest with even Kanbaru’s grace, she supposed she could let the bee girl free without much mauling. She looked around for the source of their interruption, only to find Yui was gone. Perhaps she was yoinked out the Casino by the higher powers that guided her. Perhaps.

“Killjoy,” Mastephos growled, their environment changing back into the casual atmosphere of Harley’s Casino, Kanbaru standing not too far away. “Hey did that weakling run off after your big speech? If so, she wasn’t worth the time of admission. Should have killed her when I had the chance,” the wolf lightly seethed, motioning Apia to return to Kanbaru’s side.

Further away was Katie’s group and Riku still proudly displayed front and center. "You’re not one to talk you know, ‘Abyssal Angel’,” Katie told Erika with a surprising amount of lightness to her tone. She could have been a lot harsher, she realized. Something else caught her attention, a change in the air that led her vision towards a secluded corner of the Casino. Something was happening that she needed to see through. “We need to go,” she suddenly told her cousin.

She grasped whatever money the blonde had, plaque and all, and thrust it at Thomas. “Buy her back before anyone else does. You have one job, don’t mess it up,” she told the boy firmly. Then she grasped Erika by her wrist and slowly but firmly led her away from the crowd, away from the Casino. “There’s something I need to do. I can’t do it by myself,” she told her cousin quietly.

Valeria’s grand display wouldn’t go unnoticed. As was expected, several school staff and older Magical Girls took account of the sudden extra building extending out from the ground’s usual castle structure. Only, unlike the main buildings, this architect was darker and wafting with haunted flare. If the moats and spooky interior wasn’t a clue for the décor, then the aesthetic fog wafting from the castle’s open drawbridge like the noxious breath of a monster most foul certainly was. And the students clamored around its entrance dressed in assortment.

Some older staff only shrugged the appearance of a new castle, either too used to the abnormal activity around Marrywell or assuming it was a renovation plan. After all, additional fortification for the school after a recent attack was expected. Others of course, had to be quelled swiftly by the Crimson Comet, who assured them there was nothing wrong with the students needing a relaxation period after Roma’s incident. Indeed, several other little get togethers hobbled the school grounds though most kept their gatherings secluded to their dorm rooms. None were as extravagant as Valeria’s great castle.

What mattered most was the Grand Minister did nothing to stop either the building of such an elaborate party room or the party itself. Charlotte had a suspicion their leader would wave away justifications as simply more fortification for the school when they were done because that was exactly the excuse the redhead came up with just in case. When all was said and done, a small crowd hovered between the usual school grounds and Valeria’s castle.

“Hey that’s a good point Tesni. You get a gold star!" came Charlotte’s voice behind the group. “Rumors and superstition may as well be real in the magical world we deal in. A castle sprouting in the middle of the night seems about as convenient to me as anything else around here,” she said with a wink towards Olivia. “What do you know, I just so happened to be dressed for the occasion.”

The Crimson Comet sided herself beside Chinami, expression as bright as usual. “Long time no see there. Looks like we had the same idea for costumes huh? Well, since Suzuya’s correct that this is open school grounds, I don’t think anyone would mind me tagging along right? Not like I’m gonna rat you out anyway. Who do you think I am, a teacher?” Charlotte waved her arms in dramatic fashion, painting wide circles in the air as if to emulate one of the staff. When she was finished, she directed the students towards their open castle with another arm sweep, keeping beside Chinami.

“After you of course. Never thought your first appearance back would be at a sleepover. Maybe you really are a Magical Girl after all Chinami~” Inside lay the grand room whose doors led to spiraling mazes and dungeons with too-realistic looking skeletons dangling from the walls. Of course, for those of the simpler crowd, the staircase led to their bedrooms for the night as well. Charlotte herself spied a couch near the fireplace as if silently calling dibs on it.

Moonlight Tsubasa would see nothing but a cold stone wall covered in a slick wetness, bars on the window that allowed a modest amount of light into her prison cell. In the lower levels of Marrywell it's ancient history became more apparent. This was pronounced with the several medieval inspired torture devices Valeria made sure Roma passed by on her march to the cell to make her aware of the consequences of displeasing the ministry. How intent Valeria was on using them would be left vague.

Chains click as the twisted magical girl has her hands wrenched above her head, steel manacles holding them toward the ceiling in a tight grip. The same is done for her ankles which are spread to part her legs just enough to where she can remain standing but uncomfortably so, unable to retract her legs together. She was arranged in the center of a barren cell, Valeria walking around her with a sour face as a final pat down is administered to make sure Roma had no more tricks up her now exposed sleeves.

"So it's come to this then. Look at what you've got me doing, dumkopf. I'm here doing the Minstry's bidding again because of the damage you've caused. I don't care how noble you think you were, putting innocent people at risk like that. I'm very very angry with you, and I have a mind to take out all of that anger onto you right here and now. But I'm not, not yet. I hope you are aware of how close you are to having the longest and most painful night of your life."

The mechanical girl stomped around, observing her caught target like a hawk. Her hands would gesture forward, clearly intending to do something to that vulnerable body but managing to restrain herself as a door opened nearby. She'd finally look away from Tsubasa and towards the newcomer striding down the hall.

"Go ahead and make your choice while you still can."

Marrywell had a basement. Of course it did. A building as old as this under the Grand Minister's watch was going to have a basement but the décor looked as outdated as the middle of the last century or so. As they passed down grimed walls and barbaric torture devices, Charlotte, transformed from her magical state, noted with little humor that more than half of what they were looking at was probably illusion, crafted by their enigmatic leader. Maybe it was to intimidate any Magical Girls who actually found their fates down these depths, who challenged the Ministry. Still, it only meant Lillian had some gallows' humor to put in place.

Charlotte tailed Valeria from behind as she led the way. The others were no doubt still licking their wounds, carrying on with their lives, doing whatever they did as carefree, albeit hardened now, Magical Girls. "How did we end up as interrogators," Charlotte mused with some bitterness in her tone. As Roma was chained in place in crude fashion-the Grand Minister only said for Valeria to do her best in extracting relevant information-Charlotte stood off to the side to watch. Roma's Grimoire, the Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, hung loosely at her hip while the redhead crossed her arms.

"Why do we even do this if the Grand Minister knows what she already wants to hear," Charlotte wondered aloud. Her fingers moved in slight motions only the adept could see as the air became lightly tinged with crimson magic.

"You two are doing this, because the Minister wants to make certain you know what will happen should you express your individuality a little further out of line." Roma sounded...amused? The unbreakable monotone was gone, replaced with a wry amusement that didn't fit her current situation at all. Then again it was the first time she was untransformed, the statuesque woman replaced with with who barely looked pubescent to begin with. The short, traditional Japanese girl still managed to stare at them with unblinking eyes that panned from cyborg to witch.

"After all, who else here expresses any dissent but you two? No, you'll be both torturer, audience, and victim in one. Lillian's cruelty is truly a horrific master stroke of manipulation. Regardless, it is a wasted effort. I will not simply turn into a mindless drone for Lillian and I shall not lift a finger to undo what I have done. So I suppose we shall simply have to see if you two develop a new fetish or leave me here till the school collapses under the weight of its own tyranny."

Valeria was getting tired of the depowered Roma continuing her rants against the Minister. She'd join at Ozma's side and give a small smile as finally there was something nice in this old dungeon to look at.

"I don't want to think about it. I just didn't want to make you become an interrogator on your own and handle this by yourself."

The girl wished to admit she did not wish to inflict any harm on Roma, but saying that in front of her would be foolish if she sought to intimidate her. She'd instead keep her tough act up and return to her side.

"We have your grimoire. You know, the source of your power and the tool that you use to wage your war on the Ministry. We can lock it away, seal it off. Somewhere you'd never find it. You might get free of this dungeon and out into the world again but you would never find that grimoire. I think that's a fitting punishment for what you've done to other grimoires tonight. What about you Ozma? Couldn't you arrange something like that?"

Charlotte was only half-paying attention in truth. Her mind was elsewhere and she nodded along or frowned when it was expected of her. As old as she was, she was used to answering people what they wanted when she had to get "serious". Her fingers thrummed against Roma's Grimoire as if tapping together a spell and she finally flicked her gaze back on the two girls as if roused from deep inaction. "That may just be a crueler fate than killing you. Death isn't something we Magical Girls are fond of so I don't see why we can't lock your book away Roma."

She tilted her head, staring at the chained girl with an unreadable expression. There were two core questions they needed answer to tonight and the first was-"Can Revised Grimoires be reversed? We'd like your answer and cooperation for that Roma." There was hardly any need to intimidate when the brimming and brewing German was right there. "The quicker you give us an answer, the quicker we can move on and leave to your thoughts."

"Really you jump directly to the existential threats? I am willing to give my life for my belief, and if that means abandoning my Grimoire then so be it. I've already demonstrated there are other avenues to power if I must continue the fight in its absence. And should I lose my ageless status then I can know I have but one life to give, and give it I shall." The pint sized terror of Marrywell met Val's threatening gaze, the boorish German having a rather commanding presence that kept her focus from Ozma's murmuring to herself.

"As for the Revisions, I am happy to answer your questions, and I would be grateful if you shared any information with the other's outside. They have no need to fear these girls shall rampage and hunger for stories. They are the same friends, partners and rivals they always were. Only less....restricted. I have channeled the more destructive impulses of the Pageless from devouring the contents of stories to eating away the borders. The fringes that make the ending and beginning while the journey is left whole. Perhaps a new theme or message is imparted, but it is truly up to the individual and their merged Pageless at that point if I am not holding the pen to paper."

"But can they be reversed? I have not a single clue to offer. And I do truly mean that. I never even looked." A touch of cruelty tinged Roma's lips as a vicious sneered bared her teeth in the low dungeon lighting. "Even if you plucked every nail and shaved my skin till the muscles wept rivers of blood, even if Lillian poured all her magic into compelling the truth from my lips, I simply have nothing to say to undo my plan now that it is in motion."

"Von gott! You whine so much! Your plans are not very good if they led you to this situation!"

Valeria's patience on good days was low, but now it is nonexistent. She thrashed the chains above the prisoner to make the girl swing around, jerked by metal.

"Big metal chains wrapped around your arms huh? Not so fun? Ja ja, imagine living like that," Valeria sneered, flexing her own metal limbs with cold dark humor.

"You reversed and tampered with those girl's grimoires, their connection to the magic that keeps them who they are and you didn't even care enough to find out if they could be reversed. Maybe if the girls didn't want to join in on your insanity. Just another radical type that thinks they have it all figured out and they'll enlighten everyone else by force. Tch."

Val gestured towards Ozma. "I can destroy her book right here and now." As she said this, a flame sparked at the end of a mechanical palm bright and shining like a candlelight.

"We can just end this debacle now. It's not like she has any clue what's going on anymore or even understands the consequences of what she's done..."

Charlotte sighed, more so at the mess this became. Of course, of course Roma had no idea how to reverse the process. It never even occurred to her twisted little mind. Still, in a world of magic and miracles, curses even, hope was not lost. They still had Eins to tamper and study the infected and, if truly need be, the Grand Minister herself. But the Crimson Comet would rather look at the infliction herself before ever letting their leader get near the Revised. Charlotte mused over this, watching Valeria take out her frustrations on the hapless Roma. She didn't bother to stop her. After all, Magical Girls were used to grotesque abuse on the field, the damage done by Pageless attacking their very stories, damaging their very souls. Besides, she knew of more than a few people above ground who'd endorse the treatment.

"That's for every student you scarred from your desires," Charlotte noted as Valeria finished her display, aiming a bright spark of flame at Roma's Grimoire. Charlotte moved her hip, keeping the book out of Valeria's sights. "If she doesn't know, she doesn't know. We can't change that; only hope Eins and I find a way to reverse the method. We also have unfinished business with her and with or without her magic she's just said she'll bite," Charlotte reminded her. She'd turn a curious stare back on Roma with, "That's one thing answered. Why did you do it? All of this, and you still never gave me a straight answer. I know you're not so dumb as to think making Magical Girls like Pageless accomplishes anything. There's something else driving you."

There was contradiction in Roma's words anyway. How could there be no fear of the infected turning ravenous like Pageless when they were injected by the same feral instinct and desires that drove them? Even if Roma's theories somehow remained true, what of the girls who couldn't survive the process? What stopped them from consuming each other's stories? Evidently, these obvious points manifested in Charlotte and Valeria's heads. But there was something else.

"What is it Roma? What's this really about." A pause, much like she did in the mall. "Is this about Bastion?"

Val's bad cop routine was getting tiresome, already bounced to the furthest extreme such that Roma really had no option but to call her bluff for what it was. After all, as sickening as she was, Lillian did want Moonlight Tsubasa for herself and not Roma Bhakti. When she stopped swaying from her chains being jerked she calmed herself and considered Ozma's words.

The words that made something vile twist in her gut and the girls nails bite into her palm as they clenched under a sudden swell of emotion. "You say her name with the weight it is due. Good. I would not be happy if her killer was cavalier with the life she stole. Yes, I will not deny I do this for Bastion. My partner, my closest friend, and...."

"When you came into our room, did you see her atop me and think you were saving me from a mindless beast far beyond reason? I saw her eyes even as her claws ripped into me. She was still there. Still swimming back to the surface after a plunge into the deep. You robbed the first Naturally Revised Magical Girl of even a chance to grow, so I have come to repeat your greatest failure and give the whole school a second chance. Perhaps you can return them to what once was, but it will not be quick. It may take decades. Centuries. Will this dungeon be filled with the Revised, or shall Valeria here begin the mass book burning?"

There was no mistaking the venom dripping from each word and the hatred in Roma's eyes as she pulled against her chains, braying with a long contained resentment that had finally been directed at it's target. "Burn my book. Put my head above that gate and leave my body in a ditch. I want to see you set the precedent that others will follow, and I hope you hate yourself for every Magical Girl killed because you chose this. And so, I have given you all your crisis, and even now with all that said I have a tiny hope I am wrong. That same hope is why I do not fear merging Pageless with Grimoires."

"Because I believe in Magical Girls. That we are stronger then the beasts, we are greater together, and there is nothing in this world we can not conquer if we did not live as sheep to be slaughtered at the leisure of a Minister and her pet Comet."

The book burning comment did stay Valeria's hand and make her put away her flame. She'd take in Roma's speech, realizing she was connected with Ozma's past and the team she had before. At that moment she felt out of the loop and had to step back and figure things out for herself.

"I believe in Magical Girls too and that we need to stick together against the Pageless. It's why I think one day you will set aside your dangerous delusions and come back to rejoin magical society. And you will work until your hands are raw to the bone to undo the damage you've done. Maybe you had good intentions at some point, but this is clearly just your own personal fuck ups. You can tell the rest to the Minister, I'm done with you."

Roma was prepared to die and carry her convictions beyond the grave, a true maniacal cult leader to the end. It is very difficult to threaten someone like this but Valeria thought of the one thing Roma couldn't stand to lose. Her ability to speak.

"Ozma are you done asking questions? I think we've gotten all we can and I'm tired of her." The German began to craft a leather muzzle, strapped together and stitched with magic connecting it together. It's raised to Roma's mouth to deny the would be martyr her chance to rant and rave about all her perceived injustices.

Valeria also wanted to know a lot more about Bastion and Roma, but knew that'd have to wait until later.

Charlotte narrowed her eyes and quickly caught Valeria's look. A brief gaze between them was all that was needed for communication, Charlotte's confirmation that she had no idea what Roma was talking about. At least, partly. "I see. Your madness must truly be far gone if you're misremembering events," the redhead said, raising two fingers flimsily in front of Roma. "But there are two things wrong with your narrative. The first is that Bastion was long gone. By the time you two were found, she was beyond saving, as feral as a Pageless, the result of Revision. And if Bastion wasn't strong enough to bring herself out of that state, what makes you think others would be?"

She let those words sink in for the other girl. Whether she implied the weakness of Bastion's heart was up to her partner's interpretation. "Secondly, I only know all this from reports gathered from the event. I was never there that night," Charlotte said. "I'm not going to pretend I don't have sins to my name or questions about my title as a Magical Girl, but I'm also not going to accept a crime I never committed. I don't know what you're talking about," Charlotte continued. There was something else, something left unsaid, but these thoughts could be deterred to later. Even so, there was enough conviction in her tone to relate she was telling some truth. That only led to more questions that made the Crimson Comet frown to herself.

Because she was lying. There was more to what the reports said about Bastion's incident. And she didn't like the idea of not knowing what was going on. It only led her to more and more puzzles, a question of who was sent out to destroy a Revised Magical Girl.

"We're done here," she affirmed to Valeria. While there was little they received in answers to the problem immediately before their eyes, they obtained information pointing to a motive and something else further. Was there someone in the school acting on unsaid orders? That shouldn't be the case, not when the Grand Minister gave her word it was never going to happen again. For some reason, Roma only felt like one obstacle in their way.

Charlotte's fingers made their motions one final time and the barrier of magic, layered upon layer with spells only she knew the curse of, dissipated. She wasn't about to let someone break through her magical field a second time, least of all the Grand Minister. It was a small hope to think her spells could keep their conversation blind from Lillian but it was hope all the same in her mind.

"Hey. A little birdy told me there's a nice party happening tonight. Why don't we give ourselves a night off and crash it~?" she suddenly said to Valeria, melancholy sprouted into her usual smirk; maybe she sensed the other girl's reaction from all this. For now, they deserved that much. The festivities should have started any moment now.


Just to confirm, you are rejoining the RP right?
I think if I do jump in, I might want to lead off with a flashback collab post (or segment at the start of her post) to her and Ozma's (and I guess Maria too now, lel) conversation if that is feasible.

A flashback post is fine by me but probably only with Ozma involved to not complicate things.

Guess I need to decide why Camelot was absent. Heheh.

Can just say what we said for Lucette, that she went on an overseas mission.
Oh, you're back. It's been at least two whole anime arcs.
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