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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by twave
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Sanctuary - Gathering Everyone to Level 1

Shane was moving with Penny and the witches when he paused for a moment to send out another pulse of vibrations to get an idea of where everyone was. People were scattered about and working on various cleanup or mulling around, probably trying to figure out what happened. There was also seemingly someone digging through the ground? "Someone is burrowing nearby. I'll keep tabs on that while I try and gather everyone up. Probably a lot of confused girls looking for things to fight." He would step away.

Most of the lower floors weren't all that big, so locating and directing people to head up was a simple task. Assuming they listened everyone would end up in the larger space above eventually. He saw a couple eating ice cream? Where did... oh. The pink cheery one was changing the remaining magic stuff into ice cream. Interesting. Guess they could keep doing that. He turned his attention to who or whatever was digging in the ground though to get an idea of where they were headed.


Sanctuary - Level 1

As more people she knew arrived, and they were being herded up to the first level, Melisa relaxed and came back down. "S-sorry. I didn't realize you were here to help. Dina is here, she needs healing badly!" The box she'd been moving opened up to reveal the injured cat girl. Not really sure what to do she stepped back. "We were attacked by this girl that turned into some kind of monster. Dina threw something at her though and she changed and left. After that I just hid us." She hung back to let others more capable handle things.

Her attention was drawn to something else going on. Dreams. It didn't feel the same as how dreams she would enter though. Like a moth to a flame she tuned out and made her way down to where MDP and Hilaria were. This was... dream magic? How did that work? Could she consume it? Should she consume it? She had no idea how it was going to work without organs, but she stepped on over and scooped up a little bit on her tiny finger and attempted to eat it.
Hidden 1 mo ago 1 mo ago Post by Ponn
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MDP was really enjoying herself. Eating yummy ice cream was always so much fun, and it was even better when shared with friends! At first, it was just her and Amanda, but they were soon joined by a tall girl in armor, who seemed to like ice cream a very great deal. She introduced herself as Hilaria, which caused MDP to giggle. It was a silly name, and one MDP really liked the sound of. MDP also liked how friendly and helpful the girl was. She would clearly make a very good friend.

“Like, thankie wankies for the helpy welpy~! (giggle!)” the whimsical magical girl told the new arrival with a happy smile. “Magical Dream Princess is, like, sooo super duper happy wappy that you like the yummy wummy ice cream she made~! (giggle!) And, like, wowie zowie~! Hilaria Waria even brought her own spoony woony, too~! (giggle!)”

Although she had lots of questions she wanted to ask her new friend, MDP could see how intensely the girl was focused on consuming the ice cream as quickly as possible, and so she decided to hold off for now. This decision was made easier by the fact that there was still a lot more ice cream to eat, and she didn’t want the armored girl to finish it all by herself. Digging back in, the childish magical girl was surprised a moment later, when she caught sight of a small figure tentatively tasting the ice cream with a tiny finger.

“Like, wowie zowies~!” MDP squealed with delight. “You’re, like, a super duper adorable worable dolly wolly person werson~! (giggle!) Magical Dream Princess thinks you’re, like, soooo totally wotally super duper CUTE~! (giggle!)” she added as she knelt down and treated the tiny girl to her biggest smile. “Like, Magical Dream Princess would just wuv to pick you up and give you the biggest wiggest huggy wuggy ever wever~! Like, can she~?! Can she~?! Can she~?! Can she~?! (giggle!)”
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.:⋮Diplomatic relations⋮:.


All at once there was everyone else. Were she not so focused on the matter at hand it would have caught Penny off guard just how many people had arrived to assist with the Sanctuary. It was actually kind of worrying if she was being honest. With this many people being aware of it was only a matter of time before the Ascendency learned as well, but making sure that this place could act as the shelter it was meant to be while also being hidden enough to avoid conflict was a nigh impossible balance to strike.

Put that logistical nightmare aside for the moment Penny strode forward towards the minor crowd that had gathered. Her eyes scanned those that had arrived, and she took special care to note those that she hadn’t met before. Of which there were a few. Her examination of them was rapidly derailed however, as Dina was revealed. In a very sorry state. ‘Shit’ She immediately made her way over to the wounded Cat girl to start evaluating her state.

Snoopy would float around, eavesdropping on the various conversation that Penny wanted to keep an eye on while she attended to more pressing matters.

“Bring them here when you can” She would call out to Shane as he walked off to round up the girls who had been taken to safety. “I’m getting a lot of signals in the nearby buildings, most of which is going to be them I wager. The buildings around here are otherwise abandoned.” She would explain. Never fully taking her attention away from Dina.

Oros was quickly placed near the top of Penny’s hit list as she took stock of Dina. As if Melisa was correct, and Penny didn’t doubt the doll girl at the moment, she was responsible for at least half of this mess. The short-lived conflict below was going to come in handy at the moment though. Placing her hand on Dina’s sternum Penny’s hand would quickly shift until there were needles in place of her fingertips each once wickedly sharp. Rolling her shoulders, a fair amount of mana would be concentrated along Penny’s arms and a moment later, with barely a twitch each of the needle tips would be pushed into Dina, though not deep enough to cause harm. Seconds later they would pump into Dina’s blood stream a dosage of gray ooze.

Instantly the ooze would go to work, acting as a temporary Regeneration for Dina. Sealing wounds and refilling Mana.

Dina's unconscious state was patent, after the ordeal she had by pushing Oros back, her breath ragged and inconsistent, as if she was the last flicker of a candle about to go off in a storm. The catgirl's mind was busy trying to implant the ominous thoughts the madwoman had exerted upon her. The negatives outweighed the positives, much more when strange matter and power began coursing through her veins. She had not died yet, but she would die soon if this kept up.

The newfound energy triggered a surge to live, as Dina's eyes blinked and twitched, before opening wide as she rattled her wounded body, teeth showing and hissing as her nails swatted at Penny's face, her cat hairs puffing up in fear and anger as she stood defiant at her supposed aggressor.

Had it been most other people the scratching at the face would have been enough to get them to back off. Penny didn’t even blink. “Good, it’s working.” She would say calmly as the claws failed to even scuff her face plate. Instead she focused on pushing another dose of regenerative ooze into Dina’s body. “It’s just me Dina, you’re alright.” She would say a bit louder as she kept her hand firmly where it was. Using her other hand to keep Dina down if she needed to, but not bothering to stop Dina from clawing at her. “The attack is over. The Sanctuary is safe for the moment.”

"Mew?" Dina squeaked in surprise as she took a better grasp at her current situation. Her eyes squinted at Penny. "You have returned, your Highness…" Her gaze then rested on the other assembled people that were surrounding the place.

"Hardly a sanctuary these days. " She said bitterly as she tried to get up and start healing on her own.

“Would have been here quicker, but jumping dimensions isn’t an easy thing to do” Penny would reply, retracting her hand now that she knew Dina was recovering. “But thank you for doing what you could while I was away Regent” She made sure to catch Dina’s eyes while she said that last part. They needed to have a longer talk about it, but it was important that she knew that Penny’s word choice wasn’t an accident.

“And it’s still a Sanctuary, just not as hidden as I would have liked.” She would continue, tossing another glance over the new arrivals. “I know some of these people, but not others. But no enemies among them that I am aware of” She would note Maura, though she didn’t know it was Maura, as she had seen the girl before back at the Rave. “Cradle I’m guessing for most of them.”

“I guess a welcome would be in order.” Dina said, as she wobbled into a standing position, managing to look somewhat composed by sheer force of will. “But as you can see, we have been hit pretty badly by marauders...and misguided people like Oros.” Dina said, as she said the name with a hint of sadness in her voice. “I would like to extend my thanks to those involved…” She paused. “And...yet...I would like to know how is it possible that half of Penrose rallied here. Perhaps later.” She said, before leaning in Penny, faking a stagger.

“The timing is… way off. And I don’t like how...calm some seem about the whole disaster. We need to dismiss them politely. There are wounded or dying people as we speak.” She whispered into the robot.

“Shane is off gathering those that were evacuated by Mariette” Penny would whisper back “Soon as I can send these people I’ll move to help who I can”

Making sure that Dina was fine to stand on her own Penny would turn back to the gathered people before calling out, her voice amplified by Gravity so that everyone would be able to hear it. “Thank you all for coming. You should be aware that there is currently nothing to fight against. I can only assume that it is all of your arrivals that lead to this. There was a Mint raid underway alongside and a Monster attack, also caused by them. It is for the quick halt to these that I thank all of you.” She would give a deep nod, a show of respect, but little else.

“For those of you unaware, I am Penny Asimov, Queen of Penrose and founder of this Sanctuary. I would ask of you all, who you are and how you all came to learn of our plight here so that I might further give thanks.” As she spoke her the weight of her presence would magnify drawing people’s attention towards her. A rather more indirect application of Gravity magic that many of the crowd here would be able to gather, but one that was still rather useful.

It wouldn’t pull anyone from what they were doing, but those without anything to do would find themselves drifting towards Penny. For the quicker she could tell them to leave, politely, the sooner she could get to putting her home back together.




Everyone at Sanctuary:@Ponn, @twave, @FamishedPants, @BrokenPromise, @Card Captor, @Ariamis, @Majoras End
Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Ariamis
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Reaver found the grip of a familiar hand on his shoulder; onlookers saw as a wrathful Sonia had appeared right behind him, and whisked him away.
He knew where he'd end up: Al's office. The man himself had his chair turned away.
"Good job with the distraction, peguci. You bought time for the rest to make their escape before they were overwhelmed by reinforcements. You'll get the payment later, with bonus for...adaptability." He puffed his cigar.
"Miss Sonia here explained the situation." His hand could be seen lazily waving fingers at Sonia's direction, who had crossed her arms.
"You were taken against your will, and did not jump on me. However, I advise you to be more careful, and not let others mark you in the future. I won't tolerate another mistake like that. Dismissed."




Lily felt power surge within her from Alex’ Reinforcement, her green hair glowing with emerald hues. “Not bad, floofy boy.” Helga didn’t seem too impressed by the showy enchantment, however, but she did give a small nod in affirmation of Alex’ skills before she joined Lily in demolishing the obstacle.
“Don’t call Alex a floofy boy! You’ll hurt his feelings!” Lily cried out in defense of her boyfriend, probably embarrassing him further in the process.

After they reached the others and Lily stopped to take a small breather, she sighed as Alex chastised him.
“I know how to pace, uh, myself,” she blurted out an excuse, and then closed her eyes as the healing magic rejuvenated her, bringing her bright smile back as she lifted her head up.
“See? Now I’m all better!”

That was when Lily heard Melisa apologize to her. But as she was about to respond to her, Dina was revealed, and she gasped. “Oh no! Alex, can you-” Penny was already on the scene, administering an injection of sorts with creepy fingernail syringes.
“-heal...her?”
Lily’s legs shook a bit, and she placed a hand on Alex’s hand as he moved closer to examine the catgirl and the procedure Penny had performed on her. It seemed the green-haired girl had been frightened, but she still managed an uneasy smile at Melisa.
“I-It’s fine. You were just trying to protect the people you care about. And we did kind of barge in without notice...Sorry for the confusion,” she apologized, a hand on the back of her head.

Dina opened her eyes, and Lily sighed in relief, having desummoned her weapon when it became clear that the fight was already over. She listened as Penny conversed with Dina, and her eyes widened when the former brought up Sanctuary’s hidden status and the Cradle.
She felt like she wasn’t supposed to be listening, and turned away with an uneasy back-and-forth swing to her heels.

Finally, Penny expressed her gratitude, and Lily smiled back the best she could.
“No need to thank us. We didn’t reach this place in time anyway, so we don’t deserve any credit, haha.”
“We did see a pink girl handle the slime on our way here,” Helga mentioned.
“You might want to thank her when you get the opportunity.”

Lily nodded at the mention of the Mint, and sighed.
“Why is it that whenever anything happens in this city, it’s them?”
She whispered to Alex, and then addressed Penny, finding herself drawn by Penny's metaphorical pull. Helga did not budge, her demeanor kept firm.
“I’m Lily Lightning. We’ve met a couple of times before, but I don’t hold it against you if you don’t remember me,” she said, stepping back.
“Dan asked us to come help you, and dropped us at the entrance to this place.
“I’m Helga,” the toothy girl answered with a bored tone with her arms crossed before her, a thumb pointed at Lily.. “Also sent by Dan.” Helga then spoke in a whisper to Su, subtly using Sound magic to hide the sound of her voice from the others. “Looks like the cat managed to claw her way up into a high position. We might be able to use this.”

”Well, now that the Mint’s gone, I suppose me and Alex will be going now,” she spoke, and summoned her motorbike.
“Let’s go back to Dan and tell him the good news. Mission success!” She exclaimed, and lifted her hand up in an attempt to high-five Alex as they rode off.
Meanwhile, Helga approached Dina with a polite curtsy.
“Regent Dina, I am glad to see you be well again. We must be off now, but if you were to be interested in our services at the Golden Trove, our doors will be open to you.”
She then waited to see if Su had anything else to add, and then bid their goodbyes to the Sanctuary court before they also departed. Not long after, Dan had appeared.
“Dina! You’re safe! Oh, what a joyous da-” he was then scratched by the irritated catgirl, knocking him right through a wall and leaving a dolphin-shaped hole behind.

His head popped out from the bottom of the hole, stars circling his head.

“...Personal space...Right.”
Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Card Captor
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“Don’t call Alex a floofy boy! You’ll hurt his feelings!” Lily cried out in an attempt to defend him

"Meh, I've heard much worse. It's going to take a lot more than that to get a rise out of me." Alexander simply shrugged 'Still...they both look pretty fresh. Either they were able to deal with whatever fights they got into with ease...or there wasn't much, if anything, to fight. We haven't seen much since getting here, and that's starting to worry me a lot. Are we too late?'
---
Alexander responded to Lily with a lazy high five "Kind of feels like we just wasted our time here. I mean, we didn't really do much of anything. But it is reassuring that things seem okay, or at least stable here." He said, as he rode with Lily back to Dan's resort "But when did Penny become a queen? I know I'm not the most social of people, and am therefor likely to be left out of the loop, but you did hear anything about this?" A sudden thought occurred to him "Oh wait! If we're going to stay at Dan's place for awhile, we need to stop by home and pick up the freeloaders first. I still feel bad about when we left them alone for so long before."
Hidden 1 mo ago Post by twave
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While sampling the strangely magical ice cream, the brightly colored and cheerful girl was able to grab the doll's attention right away. For a moment she seemed a bit baffled. That however didn't last long as MDP's child like excitement caused the doll to slip into the character her patron fashioned for her. "I could use a hug!" Melisa said excitedly as she hopped up to embrace the girl.

“Yaaay~! (giggle!)” MDP cheered as she pressed the small girl against her chest and spun around happily. “Magical Dream Princess always wanted to have a dolly wolly of her very wery ownsie, but, like, her daddy waddy wouldn’t let her!” the whimsical magical girl explained. “She would just, like, totally wotally wuv to play with you, and brush your hair, and have a tea party, and cuddle wuddle, and… Golly wolly~!” MDP exclaimed as something important occurred to her. “Magical Dream Princess is, like, super duper sorry~! She, like, totally wotally forgot to introduce herself~! (giggle!) Magical Dream Princess is Magical Dream Princess~!” she told the doll, holding the small monster girl up to her smiling face. “And, like, what’s your namey wamey~?!”

Melisa's pink eyes were shining. All those things sounded wonderful to her. For what she could only assume was the doll's doing she easily got sucked into activities that younger girls would do. Hell she was playing tea party just earlier. Giggling a little bit at the name she smiled brightly. "My name in Melisa. I would love to do all those things!" She answered excitedly.

“Goody woody~! (giggle!)” MDP shouted with glee as she jumped up and down. “And, like, Magical Dream Princess thinks Melisa Wisa is a super duper cute namey wamey~! (giggle!)” MDP told the doll girl happily. “Oh, and, like, that’s Pastel-chan,” she added, gesturing to Amanda, who casually waved back at them. “She’s Magical Dream Princess’s most super duper best friend in the whole wide wordsie~! (giggle!) Like, does Melisa Wisa want to be Magical Dream Princess’s friendy wendy, too~?!” she asked, her eyes sparkling with excitement.

"I would love to be your friend." So far all of this was sounding perfect. Really her friends were few since becoming a monster girl. Oddly most she considered friends weren't at the Sanctuary like Trixy and Eliza.

“Hooray~! Like, that makes Magical Dream Princess sooo super duper happy wappy~! (giggle!) She just wuvs making new friends~! (giggle!) So, like, has Melisa Wisa always been a dolly wolly, or is this just what she looks like as a magical wagical girl~?” MDP asked. Her new friend was just so adorable, and she just had to learn more about her.

The tiny girl shook her head. "Well, I gues this is how I look now. This is really new to me as I used to just be a woman. It used to just be a doll in a case until I started messing with it and it turned me into it or something." For the most part she still didn't really understand how this all worked.

“Golly wolly~!” MDP exclaimed, her eyes going wide. “That sounds super duper crazy wazy~! Does Melisa Wisa like being a dolly wolly~?” the childish magical girl asked. “Magical Dream Princess wuvs being Magical Dream Princess, but being a magical wagical girl can be kinda strangey wangey, at least at firsty wirsty~ (giggle!)”

Considering it for a moment, complete with a full thinking pose with her hand against her chin, she made the best shrug she could given her body. "I don't know if I mind it. I think the trouble is there's a whole lot going on that I don't understand and it makes things confusing. I thought this place was safe, but now I'm not really sure. I can't really go home. At least not for very long until someone starts looking for the normal me." She mused a bit, partly to herself.

"Erm, pardon my intrusion but,"

Their conversation would be interrupted by a young woman approaching them, parasol in hand. In all honestly, Maribel didn't know how to act. First there was another nightmare mage, now her antithesis seemed to have returned? The dream magic near her did seem disorienting, but she shrugged it off. "I heard there was a dream magic user around here and wanted to introduce myself! I'm-"

"Maribel Whitley." Amanda finally spoke up, hurrying over to stand between the witch and MDP. Somehow, she knew who the woman was. "What business do you have with us, Nightmare Witch?" Amanda's tone was cautious, but her expression seemed more of a scowl.

“Like, that’s terrible werrible!” MDP declared with a frown when Melisa told her she couldn’t go back home. “Melisa Wisa can come stay with Magical Dream Princess if she doesn’t think its safe wafey heresie wersie~!” the whimsical magical girl offered, not quite thinking through the repercussions of such a suggestion. “Or, like, maybe waybe, she can stay with Danny Wanny~! (giggle!)” she added after a moment. “He’s this super duper adorable worable dolphiny wolphiny person worsen, and he’s got, like, his very wery own beachy weachy placey wacey, and⏤”

MDP’s hyperactive ramblings were cut short with the arrival of a somewhat creepy-looking girl. Amanda seemed to know her, and called her a ‘Nightmare Witch’. That was somewhat troubling to MDP, as nightmares were no fun at all, but then, Connie used nightmare magic and she wasn’t a bad person by any means so perhaps…

“Like, Hi~!” MDP said cheerily, while waving at the newcomer. “Magical Dream Princess uses dreamy weamy magic~! (giggle!) It’s, like, super duper nice to meet you~! (giggle!) Are you, like, friends with Pastel-chan~?” she asked innocently.

With wide eyes, Maribel looked Amanda over. Then she looked to the spellbook in the smaller girl's hands, then to MDP once she introduced herself. "So you truely have returned..." Her eyes lit up like a curious child. "Not only that, but there's two dream mages as well! This is amazing!!" She grinned, slightly bouncing in place.

Once asked if they knew eachother, Amanda scratched the back of her head. "It's hard to explain...she knew my predecessor. They worked together in the same coven."

"Surprised you managed to keep her old memories! Though the process of remembering does take time, I suppose." Maribel hummed with a hand on her chin. "You even have her old almanac!"

Having no idea what was going on, Melisa hurried over. For a moment it looked like there might be some kind of trouble, but then things seemed to calm down a bit. Seemed like some kind of reunion...maybe. "Uh, let's try and play nice yeah? Nice to meet you Maribel, I'm Melisa." She offered a tiny hand to shake.

“Wowie zowie~! That’s, like, sooo totally wotally cool~! (giggle!)” MDP exclaimed with her typical excited wonderment. “And it’s, like, super duper crazy wazy that you found us heresie, out of all the placey waceys we could have been~! (giggle!) Hey~!” she squealed, as a thought occurred to her. “Like, do you know Connie Wonnie~?! She uses nightmare wightmare magic, too~! (giggle!)”

Maribel glanced over to Melisa, and her eyebrows rose. "My, aren't you a cute one! A pleasure to meet you~" she smiled, gently shaking the doll's hand with a finger. Then she turned her attention back to MDP. Connie? Was that their name? "Oh, I already knew there was a nightmare user around here. I've wanted to meet them, whoever they; Connie, you said, might be." Maribel giggled.

"She may need the assistance. Just be careful with her, when you meet. Connie's a bit of a nervous girl."

“Yeah~! She’s, like, super duper shy and stuffy wuffy,” MDP added. “But, like, that’s what makes her so wuvable~! (giggle!) And, like, Maribel Waribel and Connie Wonnie can be super duper best friends forever wever, just like Pastel-chan and Magical Dream Princess~! (giggle!) Oh… But, like, that might make Gaia Waia sad…” She frowned and thought for a moment, before brightening once more. "Magical Dream Princess knows~! (giggle!) You can just be normal wormal friendy wendies~! (giggle!) Yaaay~! Magical Dream Princess thought of that all by herselfy welfy~! (giggle!) That’s, like, super duper hard for her when she’s Magical Dream Princess~!” the hyperactive magical girl explained with a cute wink.

"Thank you." She sat by a bit as the others talked. All this she didn't really understand. She was however extremely interested in what was being discussed. Her gaze drifted a bit to the book Amanda was holding.

“Sooo, like, does Melisa Wisa have any friendy wendies of her ownsie~?” MDP inquired.

She thought about it. "Well, I know Penny obviously. The first ones I met that were really nice to me were Trixy and Eliza. They helped me find this place." Most of the other people she didn't really know or hadn't had the chance to interact with much.

“It’s super duper nice that you have so many friendy wendies~! (giggle!)” MDP told the tiny girl. “And helpful welpful ones, too~! Magical Dream Princess didn’t have any friendy wendies before she became a magical wagical girl, but now she has lots and lots~! (giggle!) But, like, Magical Dream Princess was wondering, what is this placey wacey~? It’s, like, so super duper gloomy woomy and stuffy wuffy…”

"Someone attacked us here. I guess a lot of us are outcasts and this is kind of like a shelter. Some people don't like us for whatever reason so finding a place to hide is tough. It doesn't really effect me so much, but keeping everyone fed and comfortable is hard too." Her more logical side was creeping back in as she was recalling her experience and some of the conversation Penny and Shane had early on.

“A shelter welter~?” MDP asked with a frown, clearly somewhat confused. “Like, why would anybodywody want to hurt you~? They must be some really extra wextra awful wawful meanie weanie heads!” she declared with a cute pout. “Like, if they were still heresie, Magical Dream Princess would just wuv to teach them a lesson wesson~!”

"Unfortunately, not everyone shares your kindness, Dreamy." Amanda sighed. "There are normal magical girls, then there's corrupted magical girls; or even monster girls. The latter two make up most of the residents here, if what Eliza told me still stands. With Beacon's Ascendancy and the Mint hunting them down for their own reasons, they're forced to hide here. But now here isn't even safe." She frowned.

Maribel silently listened to her explanation, thinking. The witch appeared concerned regardless. "That bad, huh...?"

Frowning a bit she shook her head a bit. "I think with a little help things could be better. Just have to figure out how." Giving things a bit of consideration she had an idea that maybe she could bring up to Penny. It was a rough idea though.

MDP frowned with a mixture of sadness and indignation as Amanda explained things. “Like, maybe waybe the people weple heresie can go stay at Danny Wanny’s placey wacey~” the childish magical girl suggested. “Nobodywody can fight theresie, so, like, it should be super duper safey wafey~!”

"Maybe we can suggest that to Penny? Dunno the capacity of Dan's place, but it can't hurt to try."

"Perhaps me and my sisters could stick around to help~?" Maribel finally suggested. "At least until whatever's going on is over.

Melisa smiled as everyone seemed to be on the same page. "Yeah, Penny is in charge so we can talk to her. I don't know who Dan is but I guess it's worth asking." There were so many suggestions she was beginning to get a little lost.

“Like, then let’s go see Penny Wenny~! (giggle!)” MDP declared. “Oh, and Danny Wanny’s a totally wotally adorable worable dolphiny wolphiny person werson~!” she went on to explain. “And he’s, like, really super duper friendly wendly~! (giggle!) Magical Dream Princess thinks you would just absodutelylutely wuv him~!”
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The Mint Squad turned, prepared to address Reaver's question. He was likely not going to enjoy the answer, which in turn meant they might have to get rough with him just like they had with Viva. but that was something none of them felt particularly bad about.

before they could say anything, a figure appeared beside Reaver and swept him away in the blink of an eye. The Squad looked at the spot where he had been for a few moments, before turning away. Varjo scowled, pouting as she was deprived of her fun.

"I guess Al's got it under control," Alma mused. With that they headed away, dodging the security around here as they did so. Their work here was done. It was time to move on to other assignments.
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@Ariamis

Reaver looked at Al as he did the curt debriefing, choosing not to show his evident displeasure at being taken away in the middle of a question. His eyes then were set for a couple of seconds, before hearing his dismissal.

“Just one thing. Where is the last member of the raid party?” He said, choosing not to mince words this time around.

Al sighed deeply, and tapped on his cigar, letting the ashes fly off as if carried by a breeze. "Ah, that's right...I almost forgot."
He turned his seat, his hulking figure draped in shadows, his yellow eyes gleaming from the darkness. "Miss Viva proved to be quite a useful woman, once we learned of her connection to you. I see family resemblance, yes."
He paused, letting the air turn heavy and oppressive, before he continued.
"She is currently safe, if that is what you wonder. And she will be, too. But, as you know, nothing the Mint provides is free. So, you need to make sure you continue working, so you can pay for mommy's debt as well. Very simple."

Reaver in turn, simply laughed. “That is how we are going to play, capo?” He tilted his head. “The hostage card? You keep amazing me.”

"We prefer the term *insurance* peguci," Al responded,and clasped his fingers together on the table. "And only until the Penrose operation has reached full fruition. There's more chips stacked on this table than you'd know. The Beacon's hit, but they still got plenty of freelancers to outsource blood. I can't afford more carelessness from you or any other member of the family."

Reaver’s face went serious all of a sudden, as if someone had switched him off. “A counter offer then.” He said. “Filling the shoes that these past months have done on the Mint must have not been easy, capo. In the wake of Veronica’s fiasco, you’ve been tasked to pull all stops to plug the gaps.” He paused. “As much as you pride yourself in the family, the position has not been that hectic in years.”

“And of course, you wish to micromanage. Put insurance on everything. A commendable effort, capo.” Reaver’s eyes locked with him. “Regrettable though, that you could not have paid attention to read some things better. Like little ol’ pathetic me.” Reaver said.

“So I am going to just say that these times are trying, excuse my performance. And you release mother.” He paused. “Otherwise, well… what could happen? People who work under coercion make very big mistakes, capo. Unpredictable ones.”

For a long time, Al simply stared at the man in black armour, a fog of foul vapours between them. Reaver could hear that when he cracked his knuckles, that same sound could be heard from various points around him, like an entire mob surrounded him.
"I must admit, I am flattered. A lesser man would not have kept so cordial." He rested a hand on the table. "...What is your ante, peguci?" He finally asked. "The guarantee that you won't betray me?"

“I’m a misanthropic warmonger. I don’t give a shit about many things as long as I keep doing glorious battle to cleanse this mediocrity, which other faction would allow me to go as wild you?” Reaver said. “And besides… confidence has to go both ways.”

Al burst out in a laugh, causing him to cough and heave. "Funny joke, that was!" He took a moment to lightly punch his chest and clear his throat. "You try to spin that yarn on any other broker, they'd have broken your fingers. But you have balls, peguci. I like that."
The vapours seemed to thin out, and the darkness gave way to the faint striped light of a closed shutter.
He lifted an antique black rotary phone to his ear, and uttered a single sentence to the receiver: "The birdy is outta the cage."
He hung up on the call as fast as he picked it up, and lit up a new cigar.
"There. I'll get stabbed in back, but I'll have a good laugh about it. Confidence, hah! Funny joke!"

Reaver sighed, relaxing his stern expression, before smiling once again. “ Yes, funny indeed. But businesses always need a little.” Reaver simply said.

Al puffed a big cloud that circled the ceiling. "I'll have her dropped off at Jameson street. From then on, it's up to you if you wanted the family reunion or not." As Reaver was about to leave, he heard Al cough again. "You're a real joker, you know that? Sometimes I forget the value in a good laugh…"

Reaver let out a chuckle. “Death smiles at us all. All a man can do is smile back.” He said as he took his leave. “Marcus Aurelius.”
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"You were so concerned with whether or not you could keep adding to this collab that you never stopped to think whether you should."

"Yeah but it's kinda funny when it takes four whole seconds between hitting "preview" and it actually giving me a preview, so it was worth."





Park benches were not exciting things to most people. They offer people a place to sit and wait, or enjoy some vista within the park itself. But Oros was captivated by the one she was sitting in. She wore a wide eyed expression and ran her hand along the all metal construction.

”Metal has a texture? And it can feel cold?”

Oros was aware that most players had reservations about their characters becoming normal magical girls. Her loss of power was certainly regrettable, but she had gained something else. It had been a long time since Oros could feel anything, and now she was really in tune to all of the extra sensory output she was getting. The cold was uncomfortable, her body ached from her last fight, but this bench felt comfortable. She couldn’t remember the last time she enjoyed sitting anywhere. Not only that, but it was strangely therapeutic to run her fingertips over a rough metal surface.

As for why she was waiting, well, isn’t that obvious? This is Penrose! Nobody meets through careful, deliberate placement or circumstance. Oros was at a park because she wanted to meet someone. If she was here, someone important was bound to run into her eventually. Wait, wasn’t this an NPC way of thinking? Isn’t the main character the one who runs around to encounter people?

Confirming her suspicions, Samantha appeared immediately as the thought crossed Oros’ mind some meters away on the sidewalk. The sidewalk would lead her next to Oros but it was clear by the glances she cast around her she was looking for something or someone else. For the moment, however, it looked as though they were the only two here.

Once she had gotten close enough to Oros that she wouldn't have to yell, the black-haired girl opened her mouth to speak, but then closed it as if debating on something. She quickly opened her mouth again, presumably deciding on 'why the hell not'. "Are you well? You're making that bench a lot more comfortable than it is...oh," she made a fist with her right hand and tapped it to the palm of her left. "You're under the influence, aren't you?" she realized.

Oros blinked. Thinking back on it, it was rather short sighted of her to think she could get away with such strange behavior just because she was alone. Fortunately, this was clearly a collab between herself and this other person. She wouldn’t have to worry about a third party butting in. That made her feel safe.

“Oh! No. Well, I mean maybe I was? I just woke up and-” She stroked the bench. “It’s just I can’t believe I fell asleep on something made of iron. Normally benches like this are made to be uncomfortable to lay on to prevent vagrants from sleeping on them.” She sat upright. “Anyway, the hell are you doing here, Silly? Thought you had better shit to do than just randomly walk around.”

Walking around the park was her way of cooling off when she wanted to separate herself from the others at the hotel. She would have to make an important decision soon, and she was kinda hoping to meet that other girl she often ran into here. They helped her calm down and think, though she wouldn't admit it.

Samantha had been doing some detective work of her own after hearing some concerning rumors. It appeared as though someone was actively seeking her out. They probably weren't doing that for any good reason, so she wanted to figure them out first. Of course, she wouldn't tell this stranger about that. "Please do not act like we're close and give me... a nickname...?"

Silly?

There was one person she thought of that called her that, but they weren't here anymore. This girl was probably just saying it was silly for her to be walking out here or something. She shook her head. "Anyway, I'm trying to enjoy a quiet evening. Don't you have something better to do than rub against a park bench? You remind me of a... cat."

Even if Silhouette was an assassin, Oros always felt at peace around her. This was partially because of their history together, but also because she was so fuckin’ fragrant! Mint haters smelled good, Beacon haters smelled good, so naturally cradle agents smelled exquisite! And while she was a bit on the tall side for Oros, that personality of hers sure was infectious.

“A cat huh?” Oros’s lips curled into a smile. “Mmm, do you like cats? Perhaps I should rub up against you instead.” She leaned over the edge of the bench and took a sniff of that… rather ordinary smelling woman. “Wuh?” She leaned closer to Silhouette, still sniffing the air around her. “Um, meow!” She pounced onto Samantha and went on a sniffing spree. Though her brow became increasingly cross as she wasn’t being rewarded with the unique fragrance of a cradle operative.

"I said you remind me of one, not that I want one! Stop smelling me and get off." Samantha took the palm of her hand and shoved it into the girl's stomach, providing her an opportunity to break out of her hold. She used this moment to get to her feet, glaring at Oros.

She was upset, but Samantha could only think of a certain person acting like this. Something was up here. "Who are you?" she would demand once Oros recovered. "Seriously."

But Oros didn’t recover. She laid on the ground howling. Not unlike a spoiled child that was told they couldn’t have an ice cream because they threw their lunch all over the back seat of the car. Only difference was that Oros was at least a teenager (in body) so if there were any authorities around, they most likely would have come running to the woman’s screaming. Oros had not counted on her new form being able to feel pain at all. She had to have gone through hundreds of timelines without feeling as much as a pin prick. Earlier this week she had pulled her heart out of her chest and threw it at an ascendancy girl. Now her organs were crying out the only way they knew how. They were important, even getting a little bruised was a big setback for Oros. She curled her legs into her chest and started to dry heave. This was the worst.

When Oros was done screaming, only the pain remained. Her eyes were watering, and she was desperately trying to fill her lungs with air. “I’m-” she said between breaths. Once her breathing had calmed down, she closed her eyes. “Pet me.”

Samantha could not remember a more awkward moment occurring in her life up to this point. In this silent park, only the groaning of Oros could be heard and it dragged out far longer than it should have. Sam looked at her hand, then clenched it. There was no way she put more oomph into that hit than she meant to, right? She ended up deciding it would be better to leave that ambiguous, for both her sake and Oros'.

Though the secondhand embarrassment was present, Samantha tried to listen to what Oros said after pulling her to her feet. "Pet?" As strange as the request was, she went ahead and complied, placing her palm on the top of the girl's head and giving it a rub. It felt familiar, somehow. Everything about this girl did.

She looked Oros in the eyes. "...Mika?"

“S-sort of.”

Oros was not able to fully appreciate being pet by Samantha. Her stomach was still a little upset, but it also didn’t make her feel the way she was expecting it to. Normally when something made Oros feel good, it made her feel like taking them to the bedroom. But she wasn’t getting that kind of reaction from this. It just felt nice to have a pair of fingers lovingly stroke her hair. Now that Oros thought about it, she hadn’t even felt that way about Dina after getting purified. Kissing her on the forehead did nothing for her. She had heard that after a few weeks of not smoking, people usually find food tastes better. Perhaps it was the same way with corruption. Only it seemed that there were no withdrawal symptoms, just that she found things pleasant in different ways. It had been too long to know if she had been this way before she took Aigorost’s sword.

“I’m not your Mika. It might be easier to think of me as Mika from the future.” She really didn’t feel like explaining this again. Especially if she was going to get overwritten by some flashback sequence. “I wanted to balance the scales between Beacon and Mint, mostly because a hot piece of ass was waiting for me if I did. But I kind of failed, and I don’t even know if I could fully appreciate the ass I was going to eat in my current state.” It was more than likely Samantha wouldn’t understand any of this, but that probably didn’t matter.

Samantha looked a lot more intrigued than she did confused. "You're from the future? Then you really aren't the Mika that I've made pizza with..." Silhouette firmly believed that time travel was impossible for a magical girl. She had countless hours of research and experimentation to back her up, and Oros' wording had given her no reason to doubt her stance. "That doesn't bode well at all, does it?"

Since it was a rare occurrence, Samantha couldn't help but think of many different questions she'd want to ask. How was she here? Whose future did she come from and why exactly did she leave it? But then...

“So um, you okay? You and Veronica enjoy your date?”

Sam’s questions left her mind instantly. “D-date…?” she shook her head, hiding a small blush. “I-I’m with Trixy. Dating Veronica would be problematic…I think?” Did Mika even know Trixy? Hell if Sam knew. But relationships were difficult for Sam, and it wasn’t like Trixy was helping her understand certain intricacies and faux pas. Most people wouldn’t care to see their girlfriend grope someone else in front of them, but Trixy encouraged it. Samantha might accidentally piss someone off if she and Trixy didn’t work out for some reason and she wound up dating someone else.

“Oh! Hah! Trix, right! Yea, that’s right. Sorry, it’s been a while, Pretend I didn’t say anything.”

Oros needed to remember that each of these realities tended to have small differences in them. So it seemed that Silhouette and Veronica didn’t hit it off in this world, but instead she started going out with Trixy. Interesting, given how pants on head stupid Silhouette is with romance. Trixy had to be pretty frustrated, but it wasn’t like she was beating them away with a stick. As perverted as she was, perhaps any attention was enough to make their relationship last.

“What about you?” Sam turned the question around. “You were talking about,” she hesitated to quote Oros, but sighed and did so anyways. “A ‘hot piece of ass’? What’s with that?”

“Oh man!” Oros hugged herself. “Yea, I mean first she looked like this really cute chick with braids? But I guess she looks like Megumin now? But if you look at her character sheet she still has the old image? It’s really confusing, and I like it.” She ran her hands over her stomach. “But forget that, she had a really good waffle. I could eat that thing over and over again, with a side of eggs and hash browns, maybe. I normally don’t feel bad about disappointing people, but I dunno about this one.” Oros wasn’t very good at explaining things to people. Well, at least they tended to not understand. “Maybe you’ve heard of her though. I call her Em, but I think it’s, um, Em-ily?”

That was exactly who Sam had been hoping to meet here at the park. Sam wondered if Mika was toying with her right now. “I’ve seen her around this park on occasion. Very idealistic and weak to pressure? Yeah.” she answered, assuming that ‘Megumin’ was someone Mika had met after she left and ignoring that bit. It was at this point Samantha wasn’t sure if Oros was being literal with the waffle or if she was making some sort of innuendo that was flying past Sam’s head. She imagined the latter, but merely sighed and crossed her arms. “I’m doubtful she’d hurt a fly, which makes me a bit worried for her.” As evidenced by earlier, giving Mika a hit when she went too far was clearly the optimal strategy when dealing with her.

“I could take you to her house if you want.” Oros pulled her hood over her head. “But I’d have to stay out of sight. Can’t meet her after failing like that.”

Samantha couldn’t help but imagine Emily’s living conditions. Her attitude betrayed an innocence only one who had lived in fortune could afford. Sam had been wealthy in life but her means of obtaining said wealth had denied her that childishness. She wouldn’t be surprised if Emily lived in some mansion or expensive apartment building even before the evacuation. “You didn’t say what sort of thing you failed at, exactly, but she doesn’t seem like she would mind.” Sam recalled how eager she was to make a friend. “How nice is her place?”

“It’s not really about that. I just don’t want to talk to her about it, Silly.” Oros would rather die than admit she gave up on something. But telling Silhouette that wasn’t going to make things easier. Come to think about it, it was kind of weird that Oros was even bothering with this conversation. It didn’t really seem to be going anywhere. If anything, capturing Silhouette was a surefire way to get the attention of the mint. Regardless, it was kind of enjoyable. “Uh, I mean, maybe I’ll get in contact with them another way. Then I can tell her I was successful.” She sat back down on the bench. “Her house is a total shit hole though. Just a crummy apartment, really. I’d be surprised if she wasn’t using food stamps to get by.”

“I-Is that so?” Samantha coughed into her hand out of mild embarrassment. Well, there was a saying about assumptions. She tended to mind it when it came to more pressing matters, but clearly she wasn’t consistent in her application. At least it wasn’t as bad as sitting on a bench, hoping for interaction and wondering why said interaction wasn’t particularly meaningful. Did they even have a direction for this conversation? Really, there had to be some point, right? It wasn’t just interaction for the sake of interaction, right?

Samantha nearly tumbled over after being pushed from behind. Sam turned around to see a girl wearing what were essentially rags. A torn shirt that barely covered her breasts and jeans that were just as damaged, exposing quite a bit of leg. She had bandages wrapped around a leg and an arm, where a small, dried blood stain formed. Despite this, she stood upright and her movements betrayed no signs of pain, except her face, that appeared remorseful. “Hilaria is sorry~! She meant to stop a bit earlier, eheh~”

The sudden shove did seem to irritate Sam, but she shook her head. “Well, watch where you’re going next time.” Sil then turned to face Oros again, but she didn’t feel the other girl leave. After a delay, she turned around to a smiling face.

“...”

“...”

“...”

“...”

“...”

Fed up with the silence, Sam growled. “Do you mind?”

Hilaria shook her head. “Oh, sorry~ Hilaria was going to wait for you to finish so she could ask you something~!”

“Uh, what? Just spit it out.”

Hilaria grinned. “Hilaria wanted to ask if you were hungry~!”

“Wha…” Silhouette rubbed the bridge of her nose. This girl was quite strange. Not that that was difficult to tell. What sort of weirdo speaks in third-person like that? She also seemed a bit ditzy. In any case, she imagined there had to be some reason this girl started speaking to them. Maybe she recognized Mika? “Do you know her?” Samantha asked Oros.

“Um.” After staring for a bit, Oros broke eye contact with Silhouette. “No.”

Hilaria didn’t seem to mind much at all. “Mmm, Hilaria thinks she’s seen you, though~?” she looked at Samantha, interestingly enough. “Steak...Mmm...Why are you steak~?”

“...what.”

“Oh, Hilaria remembers now~! You were that rude girl near High Steaks, weren’t you~?”

Sam narrowed her eyes. “Rude? You’re one to talk.” Hilaria had shown up to HER collab and HER park and had the AUDACITY to insult her character. Sam snapped. But that name… she had heard it before. Wasn’t it right across from where she liked to get her coffee? Now that it was brought up, she kinda remembered getting upset at someone over there. Was that her? How’d she even remember something dumb like that? “...I guess? But you bumped into me then too!” How many people had this girl knocked over in her life?

“Hilaria would like a do-over~! She is looking for people to enjoy a nice, tasty meal with~ She would like to invite you two~!” she explained, even glancing at Oros as she did so.

“What reason would I have to do that? Just going to eat with some random girl when I’m not even hu--” Samantha’s stomach growled rather loudly, and she found it difficult to look Hilaria in the eye “..h-hungry.” Silhouette really needed an out or something. Thinking on her feet, she crafted only the most perfect lie imaginable. “Besides, we were having an important discussion…” Her eyes now begged Oros to cooperate.

Oros fret her brow. She got kind of annoyed that Silhouette’s part of the collab would have the audacity to put down their totally directionless conversation, only for her to use it as a scapegoat later when it served her.

“What she said.” Oros pointed at Samantha. “You’d have...”

Hmmm, Oros knew she had to be careful here. She wasn’t omnipotent, but she had an idea that things would get really weird with that girl if they went anywhere together. “What do you have to eat anyway, Hilarious?” It had been a while since she had actually tasted anything. Maybe this could be interesting.

It was now apparent that Hilaria was holding a grocery bag, almost as if it had been summoned spontaneously. Though she didn’t bother to open it and show them, the indent on the bottom of the plastic bag suggested there were cans of some sort in it. “Hilaria just bought some beans and sauce at the store before it could close, and there should be beef at the apartment, so she could make chili~!” she offered. It was probably her intended dinner. “Mm, but if that doesn’t sound good she could do something like sloppy joes~”

Samantha shrugged, resigned to her fate. “I’m not especially picky.”

There was no world where Oros could hear someone mention sloppy joes and not laugh like a demon afterwards. Except for the one where Samantha BRUTALLY PALM BLASTED HER IN THE STOMACH.

“He- ow. Hah!” Oros rubbed her hand against her belly. “Well if you’re serving, I’m eating.”







Now Oros was starting to realize why it is always a good idea to be the one running around bumping into people. At least when you initiated, you had an idea what you were getting into. Because she was just sitting around on a park bench, she allowed Silhouette to find her. She could forgive the sucker punch, but then ANOTHER magical girl showed up. She was pretty sure she remembered Hilarious being at the spin the bottle party, but it seemed like after getting purified she didn’t remember her. That was just as well. Regardless, she wasn’t even supposed to be here. This was going to be a quiet collaboration between Silhouette and herself, and now there was a third wheel rolling them to some place to eat. Well, at least it wasn’t like there were three different writers for this thing. That could always get confusing. And that meant the number of characters at the scene couldn’t possibly increase. She knew her player wasn’t going to bring in anyone else, and it wasn’t like the other player had more character-

Hold on a second.

Oros looked around herself. She couldn’t be a hundred percent sure, but she was starting to pick up on the faint smell of someone familiar. No, it wasn’t possible! There was no way Hilarious could possibly be bringing her to Emily! That just, that, it was just so… Of course something this ridiculous would be done by Hilaria!

“Shit!” Oros raised her finger. “I just remembered I left my check engine light on in my car. You guys keep going, I’ll catch up with you soon.” Oros spun around on her heel and walked back the way she came.
Oros would find her feet moving, but she was not. The reason for this was Samantha's grasp on the back of her clothes. "You wouldn't abandon our kind host so suddenly after accepting the invitation, would you?" Sam asked her in a calm, murderous tone. She clearly intended to make Oros suffer with her. Hilaria seemed a bit upset as she watched their interaction.

Oros growled. Her eyes flashed red as she looked over her shoulder at the assassin. She summoned her claws to her hands. Very well, if she wanted to play like this, Oros could oblige.

“GAH!”

She collapsed onto the ground and started to roar. It was almost identical to that time in the park a few minutes ago. The yelling, the hacking, curling into a ball, it was all identical. Only at the end of it all, Oros seemed to pass out on the ground.

Giving a confused squint, Samantha watched the act play out in full. Her crimson eyes dwelled on Oros, but Sam didn’t seem especially concerned. Hilaria, however, moved over to get a good look at the ‘injured’ Oros, frowning. “Did you harm her, Hilaria wonders~?” Samantha dismissed the idea with a shake of her head, and sighed.

Crouching down, Hilaria gave Oros a light shake. “Hey, hey~! Are you dead, Hilaria wonders~?”

Blood trickled out of Oros’s eyes. While it probably looked grave to any onlookers, Oros was just mimicking horned lizards, which could release blood through their eyes as a defence mechanism.

“Hilarious.” Oros whispered. “Hilarious, I’m dying, and I need your help.” She took hold of Hilaria’s arm as weakly as she could. “You must take me to safety.”

Hilaria’s lip trembled and her eyes teared up as if she worried this would be the last time they would ever speak and she had been holding years of feelings back. “Don’t die~!” she cried out dramatically. “Now’s not the time to be dead~! We won’t be able to eat together~!” she scooped Oros up in her arms after making sure there weren’t any visible injuries elsewhere and thrusting her grocery bag to Sam. Picking her up required some effort, however, as Hilaria wasn’t transformed unlike the other two. She started to look around and then when something had apparently dawned on her, she turned to Sam. "Hilaria doesn't know where the hospitals are here~ Do you~?"

"No." Samantha lied, releasing her transformation. "I'm sure she just needs to lay down or even have a bite to eat, that'll definitely help."

"Hilaria sees~" She paused, noticing a small, devilish smirk on Sam’s face come and go like a blink of the eye. She ignored it in favor of helping Oros. "There's a place where she can rest and eat~!" so saying, she took off with the 'injured', clawed girl in hands. Of course, if Oros had cared to take a gander at where they were headed, she would've found that her ruse did not have the intended effect.

“NOOOOOooooooooo...”

...
...
...

They reached their destination almost instantly due to them having already been headed there to begin with. The apartment and the surrounding area could've been a bit less dirty, but the building itself didn't seem like it was going to collapse, so that was a plus, maybe. Samantha didn't recognize the place, but Oros surely did. She'd been here before, after all.

Hilaria rushed to the door to the apartment and gave it a knock in the form of a soft kick with the front of her foot a few times, both her hands occupied by Oros, whom she was still carrying. From the other side of the door, one could hear a muffled yelp, perhaps from being startled, before the person came to the door. After the noise of the chain and deadbolt being unlocked finished, the door slowly opened with a rather face greeting them and then noticing who was in Hilaria's hands.

"O-Oros!?" Emily stuttered in surprise, and then quickly motioned for Hilaria to come in. It was only after Hilaria had gone inside that she noticed the third member of their group, Samantha, who seemed just as shocked as Emily when their eyes met. Emily, however, decided to save this bit for later, worried about Oros, clearly. "Come in, come in! Close the door, could you?" she left Sam with these instructions, which she followed before setting the grocery bag down on the nearest available surface.

Now people were gathered around Oros, who had finally been set down on the couch. "What happened, Oros? Can you hear me?" Emily worried.

Of course Emily being Emily, she wasn’t really alone. Her nature made her a magnet for certain kinds of people, and strays. One of such was a pink haired girl, who had been hovering around Emily for quite a while. First it was because of training, but these days was more of a routine, really. Someone had to keep an eye out for this cinnamon bun… And that weirdo sexy hag of Hilaria, as capable and strong as she was, had the discernment of a hungry boar sometimes. The other ones? Those were new, but one of them also felt familiar.

So Sakura, having finished her important meeting with the toilet, she scratched her back in a very unladylike manner, and eyed the whole scene. “This is bigger than a stray cat, Emily. Who the hell are these people? Hold on - The oppai Miko???”

She then eyed Oros. Not half bad as always, but she had a bad case of bleeds in the eyes? Still the body language was telling something was off. “Okay, step back, I should be able to defib her. “

She began charging her hands with a static jolt.

Sakura would not be able to approach, however. There was something long and sharp being held at her throat. Oros was awake, and holding her sword on the small girl.

“There’s only room for one pink haired magical girl in this outfit and it’s- Oh, hey! I feel a lot better now!” She gracefully hopped out of Hilaria’s arms. “This may look like a sword conjured by a horror whose existence defies all reality and understanding, but it’s actually a personal space stick. I just find sharp tips tend to let people know when they are getting too close.” The sword seemed to vanish into thin air, being replaced by a roll of paper towels that she used to wipe her eyes with. Yes, the entire roll of paper towels. She was rubbing it all over her face before peeling away the soiled layers and dropping them in a waste bin. “Where was I?” Oros turned to Emily and froze. Then she smiled. “Wow! Just the sight of you seems to have healed me completely!” She chuckled.

Emily scanned Oros' face for any signs of damage and only when it was clear to her there was none did she breathe a sigh of relief. "Oh, I'm so very happy to see you're alright!"

"Hilaria thinks so, too~!" she chimed in. Samantha, however, remained mostly stoic. If anything, Emily grabbed her attention more by the occasional glances towards her.

"Um," she turned to Hilaria. "Why did you bring her here, though? Wouldn't a hospital have been a better place if you thought it was serious?" she asked the ancient.

Hilaria smiled. "Hilaria doesn't know where a hospital is~!" she exclaimed almost like she was proud of it. "We were coming over for dinner anyways~"

"I-is that so?" By the tone of Emily's voice, one could easily discern that this was the first time she was hearing anything about this visit. Still, Emily didn't end up saying anything about it. Instead, she turned towards the dark-haired girl who had been quiet up to this point. "Sam? What a pleasant coincidence! I didn't know you guys knew each other."

Sam nodded. "Penrose does feel rather small at times, doesn't it? Anyway, I am not exactly familiar with your... friend here," she motioned with her head towards Hilaria, who had by this point grabbed the grocery bag and entered the kitchen. "She's just really concerned with feeding us for some reason."

"She does love to eat with people. I don't think anyone has a bigger appetite, and she comes and goes almost like a stray cat... Oh, but she does bring a lot of her own ingredients and she can cook delicious food, so it's nice having her around." Emily smiled. "I wish she would at least call beforehand so I could prepare..." Emily suddenly perked up. "Oh, I need to introduce you to Sakura!" she urged the little yakuza over and would continue once she was ready. "Sakura, this is Sam. We see each other at the park sometimes."

"Hello."

"Sam, this is Sakura." she looked at the girl, as if to say, 'go head'.

Sakura eyed Oros warily. She had underestimated her crazy attitude. Definitely not safe to keep her around Emily. But it was too late to point out. Like mould, the presence of these colourful types seemed to grow and fester. Hilaria wasn’t that bad too. She only appreciated food. But Emily was too lenient.

“Hmph.” Sakura scoffed “She was never that harmed to begin with, Emily”. She answered to Oros cheap antics, before focusing on the newcomer. This Sam individual… did have a different aura than Emily. It was a very familiar sensation. But she had never expected to find it here. She was a capable killer, that much she was sure. Some kind of crook very much like himself, but with a better non tiny girl body. “Well met. If Emily says you’re welcome. You’re welcome.”

And don’t overstay it. Sakura didn’t add, but she kept tense and at the ready. Maybe she should go trim a bonsai for the time being.

“Oh man, I was starting to feel unwelcome here. Glad tiny said something.” Oros stretched her arms. “Think I’ll keep hilarious company, since I’m here and everything.” She threw back her hood and walked after the abominable magical girl.

"Oh, okay!" Emily watched for a second as Oros left, then turned back to Sakura and Sam. "Um," she glanced at the couch. "I don't know what Hilaria is making, but there's no reason to stand while she's cooking. Would you like a seat?" she motioned towards the couch.

Samantha shrugged, moving her gaze which had been on Sakura until now to the piece of furniture. "Sure." Not that the couch was especially large, but Sam took a seat on the end of one side and there was more than enough room for the other two. "And Hilaria mentioned making either chili or sloppy joes for dinner."

Emily had taken a spot in the middle of the couch. "Is that right?" she glanced at the two of them. "Would you prefer to vote for it? I could go for some chili, but what about you two?"

Sam shook her head. "I don't have a strong opinion one way or the other."

"And you, Sakura?"

“Can’t we have some noodles?” She sighed, tired. She really missed cooking her own food. “Chilee it is. At least it doesn’t sound awful.”

Emily heard their answers and then raised her voice to inform Hilaria of the votes. She received an "Okie~" in response, and then Hilaria presumably went back to preparing.

"So," Sam eyed Sakura, perhaps sensing something similar to what Sakura had. "If you don't mind my asking, how did you two meet?"

Sakura’s gaze did not leave Sam’s at any moment.”Training. Magical bodies sometimes take time to adjust.” She curtly stated. “Afterwards, Emily needs a person who can say “no” because she can’t say no for herself.”

Emily went to object, but Sam beat her to the punch. “She does seem like the sort.” Sam’s tone was neutral, in contrast to Sakura’s as she commented. “By ‘adjust’, you mean you’re new to all of this?”

“If you spent your whole life as a man among men, this does take adjusting.” Sakura blurted out. Had she ever told Emily about this? She couldn’t remember. But the off-ness of Samantha was keeping her on edge, and prone to not think through.

“I didn’t know that.” Emily confessed. “But I hear it happens quite often. I’m sorry about that since I’m sure it’s difficult!”

Sam nodded. “It is certainly one of the less convenient side effects of the transformation. The ones who aren’t forced to change are lucky.”

Emily faced Sam. “Are you speaking from experience, then?” she asked. “Oh, but you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to!” she added, hoping not to offend.

That caused Samantha some pause, but she closed her eyes and ended up answering in the end. “I am,” she confirmed. “I wasn’t as attached to that form as Sakura seemed to be, but even then I didn’t adjust immediately.”

Sakura’s stern gaze was briefly broken by Sam’s admittal. “...Yeah it’s kind of hard, Emily. One day you’re a father to a cute potato, and are married to a smoking hot wife, the next you have a car accident, and a rat tells you to become THIS.” Sakura said, pointing to herself. “No one ever takes me seriously anymore, I have to go through loops to get sake, and I can’t even fucking reach the counter in some places.” Sakura said. “I’d be crazy if I couldn’t trim my bonsai.”

“Not even a consolation prize.” She muttered under her breath. Maybe if she had Hilaria’s size, she’d not be so grumpy about it. “But I guess that’s the prize of being in the Yakuza. Instead of a pinky I lost… something else.”

“Yakuza?” Sam repeated. “Ah, yes, then… well, my condolences. Suppose even I am fortunate in comparison.” There was at least at least genuine sympathy in that statement. “And… ‘rat’? A puchuu?”

Emily nodded. “We were introduced by our puchuu, actually.”

“So you both…” Samantha rubbed the back of her neck. “Careful around them. They’re worse than the Mint when it comes to trustworthiness, or so I hear.” she warned.

Sakura tilted her head, upon hearing the words. “I know. There’s very few trustworthy people in this world. Like Emily.” She added, her eyes on Sam. “Actually you know what? Chili is bound to get us very thirsty. We should get some more drinks... Tall-chan.”

“An honorific? Oh, I suppose you are Japanese.” Sam shook her head. “Guess it doesn’t matter. Call me what you will. But I could use a drink,” she agreed and stood.

Emily seemed to jump up too. “Shouldn’t I grab the drinks?” she asked, but it was almost like she was pleading. “I-I’m a host, after all…”

“And I’m an uninvited guest,” Sam returned.

Emily looked dejected but she conceded, realizing Sam wasn’t going to back down.. "Oh, alright..."

Sam found it hard to look at her while she looked upset, and so glanced off to the side. "...Right. We'll be right back, don't look so down."

After saying this, the two exited the apartment and Samantha let Sakura guide her to a secluded place to speak. She crossed her arms, then eyed the tiny yakuza. "I assume you didn't just want me to get you alcohol?"

Sakura did not say much, just a mere “No.”, before her tiny body sprung into action, and dashed forward to deliver a high kick at the tall woman, aiming for the upper section of her vitals. She didn’t hold anything back. Well, if she was wrong, it was better to be safe than sorry.

Samantha was not taken by surprise judging by the explosive snap of her leg to check the kick. It probably didn't feel too great. Regardless, she took a stance by taking a small step forward with one foot, crouching only a little, and raising her back heel. If Sakura had any knowledge of martial arts, she would identify it as the active stance of Krav Maga.

She refrained from retaliating but her crimson eyes suggested she was ready to attack at any second, "Stop before you get yourself hurt."

"Mmm." Sakura, surprisingly, did not press the attack. "Yep, that was it. Sorry, I was baiting you." She relaxed her stance quite a bit. "You've killed people before, have you not, Tall-chan? Fists rarely lie about someone's… temperament." She shrugged.

“Only if I can’t help it,”

"Won't hold it against you, tho. I'm not a fucking saint, either. But be careful to not expose Emily to all of this. She is still at the age where girls think rainbow unicorn shits are cool." She scratched her head. "But I don't think you seem the sort to mouth off, anyway."

Samantha clearly was irritated at the 'test' Sakura thrust upon her. She narrowed her eyes and the warning. "They'll make anyone a magical girl if they can. But I don't have to tell you that," she stated as she returned to a more passive stance. "Mouthing off was a foolish and fatal mistake in my line of work, so I prefer to remain incognito where I am able to."

"Let's get some smokes while we are at it too. Can't really get one with Emily around, Tall-san".

She reached into a pocket, retrieving a small card. She glanced at it, and then immediately put it back. "It seems I am 21 or older tonight. But you can pay your own way, yes?"

“Of course I can.” Sakura said to herself, then quickly checking on the wallet, biting her lip and counting the meager money she had left. Umukamui wasn’t really concerned with the standards of living of her magical girls. And cheating in slot machines was near impossible because of her 9 year old body. That left handicrafts and cookie selling at times. And that wasn’t that much money. “Just hold on a second.”

She then ran towards home, once more… surely Emily could loan her a bit of money, right? Without questions… hopefully.

“Emily, could you… umm, lend me some change?” She said, in a sheepish manner. “I’ll make it up to you. I’ll even let you play with my hair.” Sakura said. Hopefully this Sam person wasn’t vindictive and would not rub this blatant sellout on her part.

Emily had been talking to Hilaria when Sakura entered. She immediately turned and looked worried at first, but she seemed relieved once she knew what Sakura wanted. But mostly at the bit about her hair. "Oh, I don't mind!" she ducked into her room for a second, and then came out with her wallet. "Um, did you need a lot, or? O-oh, and would you be up for going to the beach when you get back?"

“Beach? Uh, sure.” Sakura half acquiesced Emily’s suggestion. Well, that would be a bridge to be crossed eventually. There was no nearby beach around, so hopefully she’ll be spared the embarrassment of being seen in a girly swimsuit. “You’re a lifesaver Emily!” She said, plundering some ill-gotten gains from Emily’s wallet. Also, Hilaria seemed up to something, but she always struggled to see her face from her point of view.

Emily was too happy with Sakura's acceptance to care too much about the funds. "Thank you! Oh, if you don't mind, could you ask Sam, too? Tell her I would really appreciate it!"

“Ask Tall-san? Hm.” Sakura thought for a second. Well, it was worth a shot. Tall people had sexy legs, right? Well, she had been a he once upon a time. Still probably good looking, though. “I’ll try. See you in a while, Emily.” Sakura said, as she then once again departed, to reach out for Sam.

“Tall-san! Thanks for the wait.” She addressed Samantha. “By the way, Emily is keen to go on a beach escapade. I blame oppai baba.” She then leant forward. “She wants you to come, too.”

"She wants to go to the beach?" Sam stopped leaning on the wall she had taken to while waiting. She rubbed her hands together for some warmth. "I didn't think people liked doing that in this sort of weather. Isn't it more of a summer deal?" she asked. "I'd have to see what I'm doing on the day she wants to even if I wanted."

Sakura shrugged. “You know how these things are. You put the brain in the backseat and fuck around. But It seems Emily is keen on it. I mean, what’s the worst it could happen, that you have to apologize for not being able to come?.” Sakura pitched in. Emily had lent money, and even if she wasn’t particularly keen on this, she had to play devil’s advocate.

"I suppose." Sam started to follow the sidewalk in the direction of the nearest convenience store that was still open, assuming Sakura would follow. "But I have bad experiences with the beach. There was this dumb dolphin that forced a lot of people into his weird beach dimension and that's a big reason why Penrose is in this terrible state right now." She explained while walking. "Since Emily is apparently not new to the scene, I imagine she's aware of this. So to think she came up and asked yo---”

Samantha turned around abruptly. “...she came to you, right?”

"Well yes." Sakura replied. "And that's fucked up, man. Beach dimension hell…" she sighed. "Well at least there would be some bikini babes there I guess."

“As long as you’re using your own money and not someone else’s,” Samantha eyed Sakura for a second, then continued on her way.

The store she would lead Sakura to had nothing out of the ordinary about it. It was open and it was exactly what you would expect, and there was nobody aside from the young adult working there. Before they could get too close Sam stopped. “It’s probably better that you don’t show yourself. Should I be looking for a particular brand?”

Well, technically it was her money now. She’d just repay Emily later. “Uhuh.” She said to Samantha’s chastising. “Penrose’s Flower.” She answered. Yes, it was an awful brand, but Sakura needed to affirm her vanishing manhood once more.

"I wasn't aware Penrose had its own brand," she confessed, holding her hand out expectedly. When Sakura gave her the money, she said she'd be right back and then headed into the store.

About a minute later, Sakura would hear someone yell the word “its fake” followed by a loud thud. Samantha came out of the place shortly after at a brisk walking speed and holding a carton of cigarettes in one hand and a 12-pack in the other. She would then toss Sakura her cigarettes and continue walking, clearly in some kind of hurry. "We probably shouldn't dawdle around her for too long."

“...Did something happen?” Sakura said, as she shuffled to hide her smokes a bit better and began walking briskly. “We still need to get drinks, tho.”

"Nothing important. The cashier fell asleep while I was in there. Rough job. Unrelated to that, I probably shouldn't show my face around this place for a bit." She reached into one of her pockets and retrieved the card from earlier, casting it into a nearby storm drain. "I'll also need to talk to certain someone about their forgeries, but that can wait until later."

Samantha retrieved her phone and after some presses of the keys, turned direction. "There's a Penrose Dollar nearby that should be open if we hurry. We can get drinks there.”

“We need to work on your people’s skills, Tall-san… not that I’m good either.” Sakura sighed, as she proceeded to hurry.

Surprisingly, the visit to the other shop was pretty uneventful. Apparently the clerk wasn’t paid enough to care for fake id forgeries or underage drinking. He wasn’t asleep but he did look like his soul had been stolen or something. Rather creepy.

Both arrived with the drinks in two, as Sakura energetically opened the door.

“Oi, Emily, we’re back!” She said as she opened the door enthusiastically. It was then when her cigarettes’ packet dropped from her clothes. Her eyes bulged briefly before swiping it back to her clothes. She hoped Emily did not see that.




By the time Oros entered the kitchen, Hilaria had removed the contents of the grocery bag, and pulled some ground beef from Emily’s fridge that she herself had placed during an earlier visit. She turned to face Oros when she heard the girl enter. “Hiya~” just as she said that, Emily told them what she and the others voted for dinner. “Okie~” she acknowledged. “Did you change your mind, Oreos~?”

“I dunno.” Oros leaned on the counter. “It’s weird. Part of me is filled with regret that I failed, and feels like I should either fall on my sword, or rush out there and get to hunting.” Oros sniffed the air before turning around and resting her elbows on the counter. “But it also feels different in here, you know? Like maybe there’s more to this magical girl stuff than just fighting and banging everything. I’m feeling things that I haven’t been able to feel in a long time.” She sniffed the air. “I can even smell things. I mean I can hunt prey for miles, but I haven’t been able to smell vegetables for years!” Oros flicked her eyes off to the side. “I also get the impression that Silly there won’t let me leave. Since Em and tater tot are all occupied, might as well come in here.”

Of course it had also been a very, very long time since Oros had seen Hilaria. As durable as the knight was, Oros had seen her die too many times to think she was invincible. Even if she was more durable than most.

”So uh, you doin’ alright? The thing with Dan still working out?”

Hilaria still seemed to be pondering what to make, but her hands were gliding over the beans as if she intended on picking them up, indicating that she was probably thinking chili. “Dan~? Mm, for now, at least~” As she spoke, she decided to pull down a pot, and began retrieving other ingredients from the fridge. "Dan wants Hilaria to make people smile, though, so she's not sure if it'll last," she explained in a casual voice. She had found a couple of onions by this point and set them beside the rest of the ingredients.

”Yea, making people happy is hard.”

She didn’t really care what everyone wanted for dinner, Hilaria could eat like a horse, and so could Oros for that matter. There was no reason she couldn’t just make whatever and stay out of Hilaria’s way. Oros started to pull things out of her hammerspace to line the counter. An electric burger frier, her own cast iron cookware, the stuff was all in good shape, if well used.

”People can be unreasonable too. Like you meet a girl for the first time and they’re like ‘oh, I only date rich and powerful people.’ So you come back with a dragon’s hoard and the head of an ascendancy elite that you personally executed and YOU’RE the psychopath because you took them too literally.” She took some of the ground beef and worked it into a patty by hand, while Hilaria began chopping onions. ”Dan is also just really boring. Like what are you even working towards dude? You wanna spread smiles and such, but look at what happened to Penrose because of his bullshit? He won’t preach to ME about happiness?” She shoved the patty into the electric cooker and flipped it on. Now how did Su use to make them? Yes, she’d just cook them mostly, and then finish cooking them in the pan. Then it was just American cheese followed by a heap of bacon and mushrooms. ”Whatever, having access to the beach dimension is cool. So is the ability to pin your opponent with your tits.” She set a pan on the stove top and cranked it up to medium high.

Hilaria threw in the onions she had been chopping along with some beef she had prepared into the pot. “Mmm, Hilaria finds every patron pretty boring~ They tend to get repetitive once you’ve been with a few, even a horror. It’s all excuses, lies, hypocrisy, ignorance or,” Hilaria opened her mouth and made some noise that didn’t sound physically possible to make by a human, presumably to mock a horror. “...but Dan has good food so he’s better than most~!” she explained nonchalantly. With the stove on, Hilaria began breaking the beef up, but stole a glance at Oros’ project, before continuing. “Hilaria thinks you’re better off ignoring the people who want material items as a requirement for affection~ They’re the ones that cheat~!”

”I dunno, I think when magical girls more or less live forever, it’s less a matter of ‘if’ and more a matter of ‘when’ they will do something.” The burger had been shocked into submission, but it needed to be browned up a bit. The bacon was sizzling away in a pan, and would have the mushrooms added to it at the appropriate time. Everything needed to be ready at the same time to make the perfect burger, so that meant she had to start cooking things at the right time. She moved the patties into their own pan. ”Anyway, I don’t really care what other people do. If one of my flings wants to fling with a bunch of other people that’s cool. It’s like I always say, having sex with everyone makes you a slut, but having sex with everyone but me makes you a bitch!” She looked at Hilaria. ”I don’t think you can get screwed so long as they’ve given you a reason to provide them anything.”

Hilaria was letting the meat and chopped onions cook. She seemed pretty interested in those burgers, but then Oros said a certain word. “Shh~!” she placed a finger over Oros’ lips. “Hilaria doesn’t want Emily fainting before she eats~” she peered over at the others, and it seemed like they were too busy talking to have heard. Hilaria gave a sigh of relief as she removed the finger. “Well, Hilaria was just giving friendly advice~ But you are a bit less ignorant than she would think if you understand that such behavior is inevitable~” she complimented? “Hilaria takes it carnal pleasures are your hobby~?”

The question caused Oros to pause longer than she should have. ”Mmmm, It’s one of my hobbies.” She dumped the mushrooms in with the bacon. ”The three F’s are my hobbies: Fighting, feeding, and fucking.” Oros said that last part a bit more quietly than normal, just in case that would make Emily faint too. ”I’d still like a real damn partner though, you know? I mean being able to sate all of your desires is one thing.” Once she was satisfied with how everything had been cooked, she layered everything onto a bun. Meat patty, slice of American cheese, crispy bacon, and mushrooms that were moist and lightly battered in bacon grease. When she put the top bun on, it pressed some of the mushrooms out. With her creation done, she took a bite out of it. ”Mmmmmmm! Just like mom use to make!” She set the burger off to the side and prepared to make another one. ”How about you, Hilarious? You’ve gotta have wants aside from just eating and saving people, right? Maybe a desire to get stronger, or go on an amusement park ride?”

Before speaking, she once again eyed the burger. Her eyes seemed to light up a bit more than usual. But she addressed Oros' question. "Mmm, nope~ Hilaria's lived long enough that she probably would be the strongest magical girl~ Some people think that sounds good, but in reality, all that does is attract attention from bad people~" Hilaria explained. Her eyes moved up to Oros'. "Oh, wait~ Of course, Hilaria does care about more than food, even if she only recently realized that~ One is family, and the other..." Hilaria leaned close enough to Oros that she could see every bit of Hilaria's chest that she could while there were clothes on. The girl reached into her shirt, between her breasts, and then produced a bottle of something. "...is to repay the kindness others have shown her." It was only now that Oros could see exactly what the bottle was.

Oros blinked a few times. ”Huh?” She took a closer look at the bottle. It was familiar to her. Dan gave away this particular brand of lotion in his beach dimension. Though its significance was lost on Oros. ”Well, I dunno what I did to deserve this, but thanks, I guess?” She reached for the bottle. ”If it gets too sunny, I’ll be sure to put it on.” She reached for the bottle so that she could stash it in her hammer space.

Hilaria pulled it away. "Oh, Hilaria won't let you worry about that~ She knows how difficult it can be to reach every place~" she smiled. "On a completely unrelated note, are you a fan of the beach~?"

The gears in Oros’s head started to turn. At first, Oros thought Hilaria was just happy to be in the presence of a good burger. But it was becoming evident that it wasn’t Oros that Hilaria was trying to help out, it was Mika. And while her actions over the beach vacation varied between timelines, it wasn’t hard to picture what Mika might have done to Hilaria in this one.

Oros felt conflicted. Anyone who read this far into the RP likely knows that Oros isn’t one to shy away from any type of intimacy, and no longer being a monster girl didn’t remove that. But Hilaria wasn’t really her type. She did have that cute personality, but getting dominated by someone so thicc just wasn’t her style. Well, she might enjoy it, but she also might not enjoy it. She was a lot more sensitive now, and Hilaria looked like she lacked, erm, finesse. If only Mika had played with Emily that day.

At least Oros was stronger now. She wasn’t a monster, but her strength was on par with Hilaria’s. I mean, they were both 16, and while she wasn’t as durable, she was swifter and was confident that her ability to change shapes would let her escape anything the giant woman could muster. A confident smile crossed her face, and she picked up her burger.

”So you think you know who I am, eh?” She ate the burger in a single bite. Su always said that it was better to chew your food, but it always seemed like you got a lot more flavor when you finished off the whole thing in one bite. ”Very well, Hilarious. I consider you a worthy opponent!” She pumped her fist. ”Our battle will be legendary!” Her hand reached for one of the cast iron frying pans. That combo suggested in the patch notes looked like it might slow down Hilaria long enough to escape.

Oros had made two fatal mistakes: One was thinking that the devs ever knew how to play their games optimally. The other, of course, was assuming that Hilaria, who had been alive for millennia, wasn't skilled with her hands. It would seem that in none of her alternate timelines did she ever successfully pursue Hilaria. But back on track…

Hilaria might not have been able to keep up with Oros' speed, but she was capable of doing something a lot more effective. "Stop," she ordered. "This isn’t Hilaria’s kitchen. Please do not cause a commotion." There was a weight to these words suggesting that Oros was about to cross a line she probably shouldn't.

The pan hovered beside Hilaria’s head for a moment, trembling in Oros’s hand. But after a moment of thought, she retracted the instrument. ”Yea, that wouldn’t be very good. No point making a mess of Emily’s home. Gotta say, it’s really weird to see you acting all sensible and shit. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you like this.” She scratched her chin. ”Since you’re in a serious mood, maybe you can help me after all.” She set the frying pan back down. ”I do like going to the beach, but not if it’s empty. Having said that, it’s better than this frozen ass hole we call Penrose. So maybe we can all enjoy some sunshine on this cold, lonely night.” She looked back in the direction of the living room. ”Not to mention it’s been a while since I’ve seen Em in a bikini. Tater tot probably wouldn’t look too bad either.”

"Dan's always looking for company~" she immediately returned to the more cheerful Hilaria once it became clear the kitchen wasn't in danger. "Hilaria doesn't mind, but that depends on the others~" Hilaria moved over to see what the others were doing, only to find Emily was alone. "Did they abandon you, Emily~?" she asked.

Emily nearly hopped up. "O-oh, no! They went to get drinks, that’s all! I don't think they'll be too long!"

The ancient seemed a bit skeptical of this but soon shrugged. "Well~ Oreo wanted to know if you guys wanted to go to the beach to eat and relax~?"

Emily seemed a bit confused. "Uh, the beach? Isn't it late... and how far away is the nearest beach, anyway? Um, I'm just not sure..."

Hilaria narrowed her eyes but still smiled. "Emily, you know Hilaria's patron is Dan, yes~?"

"A-ah, wait, that's... right..." Clearly embarrassed, Emily looked away. "I-in that case, y-yeah. But only if Sakura and Samantha want to."

”Well, looks like one of them is here.” Oros figured it was probably best to let Emily handle Sakura as much as possible. She got the impression she’d say no outright if she asked her themselves.

Emily did end up asking Sakura, and also apparently giving the small girl an allowance? Hilaria didn’t care about that part, though. Instead, a moment later, Hilaria turned back to the aspiring chili and checked on it. "Sakura says yes so that only leaves one, but probably the least likely one to accept~" Hilaria turned back to Oros. "But Hilaria isn't particularly confident she'll comply~"

”Well, I’ve got a plan if she refuses.” Oros chuckled darkly. ”I know all of her weaknesses.” She resumed cooking another burger. ”We’ll just have to wait for her to get back here before I go through with it.” She froze in place while the burger zapper was doing its thing. ”Hilarious? You said that you realized your family was important to you. Was that like a real family or just your friends?”

"Thee jest?!" Hilaria broke character for a second. "O-oh, wait, Hilaria did say that, didn't she~? My, how embarrassing~” The giggle that followed sounded rather fake. She seemed to realize she wasn't able to pretend she didn't say it. "Ah, well, Hilaria guesses that part came out subconsciously. It is only her sister that she cares about~ Hilaria has no friends."

”That is… very unfortunate.” Oros threw a few more slices of mushrooms in with the sizzling bacon. ”If I can’t get Silly to come along, perhaps we can go to the beach ourselves. I would like to go back there at least one more time.”

“If you really want, Hilaria supposes she could take you~” Hilaria watched the pot of chili. It probably wouldn’t be too long before it was ready to eat. “Hilaria looks forward to seeing your strategy, though~ Sam seems like the negative Nancy sort~”

Oros did not have a response for her plus sized companion. She continued to make burgers in silence.




Everyone was seated around a fairly modest sized table, but it was stacked to the brim with goodies. Hilaria’s chili sat in the center surrounded by a hedge of burgers. It was an unusual arrangement, but those with bigger appetites would welcome the additional food items.

”Now that’s a meal.” Oros commented out loud before sitting back in her chair. ”We could say grace, but since every god we know exists I think the best thing we can do is ignore giving any of them reverence to make it fair to all of them.” Oros dipped her burger into a bowl of chili she had scooped out for herself. ”So the beach, was that something that any of you felt like going to?”

Emily was not about to let anyone else take her job as a host and so she ensured that everyone had a bowl of chili sitting before them. Hilaria, however, had scooped a little bit more into hers while Emily was busy with the others. Once Emily was done, she took a seat and got herself a bowl as well. "I'd love to hang out with you guys there, but..." she glanced at Samantha expectedly.

Sam was inspecting her bowl of chili, initially oblivious to the unspoken question. Her eyes almost seemed to glow as it scanned the food, apparently looking for something. This act seemingly irritated Hilaria, who spoke up. "Hilaria isn't the subtle type~" she informed, causing Sam to look up at her. "And it wouldn't do to keep Emily waiting~"

"Huh?" Sam's attention was now on the girl who was, somehow, still smiling. "Oh, well, the beach..." she scratched the back of her neck. "I'm not exactly a fan of it, I'll be honest. Not since... the incident."

“Uh, you mean that about being trapped with a bunch of girls with bikinis for months?” Sakura said, greedily pigging herself out on the food, and being so brazen as to attempt to steal a couple of burgers from Hilaria while she was speaking. Nobody had told her about the burgers. “I mean, It’d suck a bit. But then again seeing oppai baba in a bikini must be quite the sight.” She added. “To be fair, beaches aren’t my thing either, but I can find the freshest fish for sashimi there soo…”

On the outside, Oros looked a little blue, somber even. To the physical eye, she would look genuinely saddened by her companion’s unwillingness to partake in something like a romp on a beach. But deep inside Oros’s blackened heart was a demon, and it was grinning ear to ear. This demon did not know what playing fair was, only that it sought out victory at any cost. And with the chips as they lay, it was time for Oros to snatch up what she yearned for.

”I have to tell you something, Em.” Oros placed her hands together. ”You noticed that I look a little different, right? That’s because the magic in my body has been altered.” She closed her eyes. ”It’s been changed in such a way that I can no longer return to my home. Through purification, I have effectively been exiled from my home. There is a very real possibility that I may never return.” She used her finger to wipe a tear away from her eye. An honest to god, real tear. ”While it was not a happy place, I will not be able to return to my parent’s grave, which I try to visit on the anniversary of their death every year. I do not believe I will be able to make it back this year, or possibly any year.” With a loud snill, she slid closer to Emily. ”A-anyway, I don’t want to ruin everyone’s dinner, so I won’t speak of it again. I just wanted you to know that I’m really, really grateful we met that day. Even when I had so much, you still had room in your heart to feed me your waffle.” She pulled her into a tight hug. She looked at everyone else at the table. ”I consider each and every one of you friends. But if you guys don’t want to come to the beach for any reason, that’s understandable.” She rested her head on Emily’s shoulder. ”But I think I can be happy as long as Em is there with me.”

To nobody's surprise, Emily tearfully returned the hug. "Oh, that's so very horrible! I'm sorry to hear that! Of course, I'd love to go!" she cried. The story had seized Emily's sympathy undoubtedly. The same could not be said about Samantha or Hilaria, however, as one was busy trying to hide bloodlust towards Sakura for stealing her food and the other was busy rolling her eyes.

"A real tear-jerker." Sam scoffed, seemingly unmoved by the tale. She scooped some chili up in her spoon and ate it.

“Girl had it rough it seems.” Sakura said, as she focused on the chili. That bloodlust was much more abnormal than she had initially expected on the silly Oppai Baba and she didn’t want to risk limb for food. Nevertheless, the display the other oppai Miko was doing on Emily… she felt something was odd about this. Emily was being Emily, but Sakura couldn’t help but to remember how easy it was to get Emily to do something when acting cute. Her eyes went from Emily to the Chili bowl, to Hilaria’s burgers, to Hilaria’s other burgers, the clingy Oros and finally, Sam. “You deserve to have all our support. We will make sure that you and Emily don’t feel alone.” The tiny magical girl said.

Come on, Sam, no bikini humiliation is enough to deter us from saving this cinnamon bun from being roped in the insanity of these two! She thought herself mentally, hoping the stunted assassin would at least get the not-so-subtle hint. “Right, Sam?”

Sakura could hear Sam's expression saying, "The hell are you on about?", and the girl opened her mouth so that the other could, too. But just in that moment, she looked up to Emily, whose bottom lip had begun trembling in anticipation. Sam looked away for a moment. "I don't think..." She looked back up, greeted with the same sight. "It's not really something I..." Emily's lip trembled again. "...I suppose...I can..."

”Wooooooowwwwwww...” Oros kept one hand on Emily as she cast her eyes over Sakura and Samantha. ”Well I’m glad you two are willing to join us even if it might not be something you normally wanna do. I’ll make sure the event is extra special for everyone.” After winking at Sakura (or was it Samantha?) she turned to Hilaria. ”Don’t worry too much about the burgers, Hilarious. I can always make more. Especially if we have access to Dan’s food planet.”

Hilaria shook her head. “Hilaria doesn’t think we should rely on drugs tonight~” she declined, before resuming her meal.

"How kind of you." Sakura said, glaring daggers at the blatant hand on Emily. There was something called personal space. Her eyes rested on Sam.

I am risking a lot of embarrassment with someone I just met. And she feels under the weather. Maybe i will buy her some booze and spar with her after this… it won't be easy…

As she was eating, Samantha’s pace began to slow once she noticed Sakura was eying her again. She swallowed her food before trying to speak. “Did you need something? Oh, wait. I should probably ask:” she looked at the rest of the group. “When was this beach trip planned?”

“Huh?” Emily somehow managed to pry herself away from Oros for a moment. “Did Sakura not tell you?” Sam shook her head in response, adding a firm “no”. She held a troubled expression for a moment.

Suddenly, another voice answered. “It’s tonight~!” Hilaria spoke, having finished her portion already. Oddly, she did so without making a mess of herself. “As soon as everyone is ready, we can go~”

“...you mean right now? At this current moment?”

“Yup~”

“...at this time of day? localized entirely in this room?

“You betcha~”

She pleaded with her eyes for someone else to make sense of this as she was clearly befuddled.

Having been pried off of Emily (who she would have released her had she only asked, you degenerate) Oros leaned over to Samanta. ”Oh come on Silly! You don’t have to literally pretend to be the nickname I gave you.” Oros’s smile was a little wider than it should have been. ”What beach is there that could be sunny at this time of night that we have access to?” She scooted behind Samantha’s seat so that she could whisper into her ear. ”I know you heard me talk about Dan’s food planet. I wasn’t talking about just any Dan, Silly. Surely you know of a swimming mammal that goes by that name?”

Samantha inhaled deeply, then exhaled. That was all she did before asking, "But why?"

”Because we’re in a frozen shit hole right now, and a warm beach where everyone gets to wear a-” Oros erupted into laughter. ”You know why I want to go, but regardless of what type of person you are, I don’t see what’s so important in Penrose. Aside from a few places to eat, the place is a ghost town. ”

“You mean that place where those people get abducted, right. And you want to send Emily there. Of course you’d not tell us, because we would say no.” Sakura cut, her glare visibly sharpening. “You didn’t mention it was that place.” She said, as she eyed her chili bowl. “Fucker.” She restrained herself from punching the table. “I will go, because Emily asked of me. But Sam stays. I’m not willing to put her through that wringer. It doesn’t feel alright.” The tiny girl frowned.

”I didn’t think we were being all that subtle about it.” Oros folded her arms. ”But I think Silly is capable of making her own choices. She certainly doesn’t need a tater tot telling her what to do.” Oros took her seat. again ”Dan can’t mess up that bad twice in a row. Besides, if things did get out of hand, which they won’t, wouldn’t you rather have Silly with us?”

“It’s alright, Sakura. I appreciate your concern.” Sam gave up. “I already knew deep down, I was just holding on to the hope there was a second dolphin with a beach. I’ll go since I already said yes. I’m just not sure it’s worth it...” Sam clearly had more to say, but as if a frightening thought crossed her mind, her face went a little pale.

Emily was delighted, evidenced by the warm smile she wore. She did seem concerned by how ghastly Sam started to look. Naturally, she tried to cheer the girl up. “Oh, thank you! It’ll be worth it, I’m sure about this! You don’t have to worry about a thing!” The girl promised, even giving a small clap in excitement.

“Yeah, sure…” It didn’t seem to have much of an effect on Sam, however.

Oros would find the most giddy member of the cast looking at her gleefully. “Looks like we’ll all be there for you on the beach! Um, If you need something though, let me know.”

Not too many moments later did Hilaria stand from the table abruptly. “Wonderful~! Since we’re going, Hilaria will make the portal-” She smiled at Emily. “-outside~! So if she could have you guys bring the food with you, she’ll do the rest~” She left the apartment immediately after that, and Emily stood up in response.

“I’ll grab the pot! If you guys could bring the dishes you were using, then we’ll be set!”







The group entered through the portal and ended up at their destination. There wasn’t really anything unique about this, other than the fact that they would notice they were in their swimsuits, and of course that the weather was a lot warmer than before. Humid, too.

Hilaria was a few steps ahead of the rest of the group, gazing around the place, as if looking for someone. “Danny~? Danny~? Are you there~?” she called out. Meanwhile, Emily was looking at everyone else as they entered to make sure nobody was left behind, while Samantha, despite having gone through the portal as Emily could confirm if need be, had somehow disappeared the moment there weren’t eyes on her.

Oros stretched her arms as she walked through the portal. For those who can’t remember how she looked, or if you are reading this RP long after the URL has been corrupted, it was a white, frilly bikini. Accompanying her attention grabbing swimsuit was a larger than life sun hat, which was decorated with a pink ribbon.

Once Oros was done stretching, she looked at Emily. ”Woah! You make that swimsuit look really good Em! You might wanna think about being a model or something.” Emily’s response was to turn a little red and mumble something in embarrassment, before letting Oros turn to Sakura. ”You um, you like pink, huh, Tater tot?”

Sakura, for her part, was too busy screaming internally to gaze at the other girls in a bikini, looking at how herself had been given the most horrid pink swimsuit she had the displeasure to see. The fact that her body was far too underdeveloped to even fill it out only added insult to the injury. She had been addressed by the Oppai Miko, and after a few moments of staring at how well the other girl filled that out, she spoke.

"No. But my patron saw fit to give me pink everything to make a pun on my name. I hate that rat." Sakura said, not liking being called tot by the other girl. Rage was however, winning over the feeling of shame as she clenched her fists in defiance. She would not run away. She was going to keep tabs on Emily, and perhaps make sashimi out of the sick fuck who ruled this place.

Dan appeared shortly after Hilaria called out to the Lesser Force in a blue swirl of magic. This time he was back to wearing his sombrero. “Hilaria! How good it is to see you again!” He squeaked in joy. “And you brought new friends! How wonderful!” Dan teleported next to Sakura, and the pink-haired girl would realize he was tiny enough even for her to be taller as the being excitedly took her hand for a handshake of a kind with his fins. “My name’s Dan the Dolphin, but you can call me Dan for short! Welcome to Isla Paradiso! Now, what can I get you, miss? Maybe a strawberry milkshake? A raspberry ice cream? Oh, I know, a blueberry pie!” As he listed the items, they appeared floating behind him.

“Dolphin Sashimi with a side of shut the fuck up.” Sakura said, her irritation just growing at how the little shit who kinda remembered him to the rat, but dumber, had appeared before her. “You got any hard liquor over here?” She then said. If there was one thing that could keep her going onwards with such pink cutesy smorgasbord of a swimsuit, that thing was liquid courage.

Dan was aghast, his beak open wide and eyes popping out in cartoonist fashion. "Aah, good heavens, the vulgarity! And I thought you'd be a sweet girl with the pink palette!"

“Sakura!” Emily raised her voice, but only slightly. If it weren’t for the pot in her hands, she probably would’ve put them on her hips. “Please do not be rude to Dan! He is kind enough to let us come here.” The brown-haired girl looked at the dolphin with an apologetic expression. “I’m sorry about that, but thank you for having us!”

Dan managed to smile again despite the shock, and nodded to Emily. "I-It's fine. I sometimes forget how some of you can look much younger. Anyway, I'm happy to see you again too, Emily."

Before she decided to butt into the conversation, Hilaria could be seen looking around, perhaps searching for something. Apparently giving up, she spoke. “Danny, Hilaria made some chili and you should try some~! Oh, and somebody wanted to see you very badly~” she waved Oros down. “Didn’t you~?”

”Hmm?” Oros had set up all the cookware on a table, and had a propane cooker set up to resume heating stuff if needed. But she wasn’t tending the cooking station at the moment. She had a flood light in both hands, and was shining them directly into her shadow. ”I don’t think I ever said I wanted to see Dan specifically.” She swung the lights over to Hilaria’s shadow. ”But it is nice to hear your squeaky, cartoon voice again Dan! If only there was a way to make it come through text better, everyone could hear it!” She aimed the lights under Sakura and Dan. A broad smile came across her face as she walked over to Emily. ”But since you’re here, maybe we can play a little game…” Oros moved the light into Emily’s shadow, gradually illuminating it. ”Once we’re all accounted for.”

Some sound similar to a mix between a squelch and a groan, came from Emily’s shadow once the light was shone on it. Emerging as if made from tar, Samantha stood up now wearing her swimsuit and glared at Oros. Youre such a mea-- she cleared her throat. “--um, I’ve returned.” Sam announced. “We’re all accounted for.”

Despite initially being confused about the shadow thing, Emily perked up. “Oh, that’s great! But,” she looked at Oros. “What game are we playing?” she asked, unconsciously handing Hilaria the chili pot when the girl held out her hands. Hilaria proceeded to place it on the table as the rest figured out what they were going to do.

"Chili? Oh hi Samantha!" The dolphin-like being squeaked in surprise, followed by waving his fins to greet Samantha! "I love chili! The spiciness feels like a party in one's mouth! I can't wait to try some!" He turned to Oros when she spoke to him, and smiled. "Well yeah. It would be a lot of work to link a voice clip to every line of my text, wouldn't it?" He answered, seemingly sharing in Oros' strange perspective on the word. "I gotta say, you remind me of this one really nice catgirl. I sometimes wonder where they are now."

”I’m sure she’s continuing her misadventures with her friend. Though I’m sure your memory is in her heart somewhere.” Oros rapped her fingers on her collar bone. ”You can just call me Oros. It’s simpler that way.”

Dan then blinked, having realized something. "Oh, right! You asked for hard liquor, right?" He clapped his fins,and a glass appeared floating before Sakura. "Here you go, some hard apple cider. Don't drink it all at once, ok?"

Sakura eyed Emily before letting a frown. Or at least it would be, if her frame didn’t make it an automatically indignant pout. Sakura winced slightly at seeing Samantha. She should not have trusted any word that came from Oros’ mouth. How come Emily was led by this girl by the nose? It was painful to watch.

And there was the cider. She raised an eyebrow at the gesture, before taking the glass and fought the temptation to shower the dolphin in the beverage. Emily was right in the regard that despite these individuals pushing a lot of buttons, at least the cartoonish Lesser Force was forthcoming with his help. So she just drank it in one go, and sighed.
“Oh whatever, let’s get this over with.” She said, eyes with a tired expression.

Oros counted everyone present. Her finger jumped off their heads from a distance one at a time.

”Silly, Hilarious, Em, Tater tot, Dan, And yours truly! Why, that’s six!” She grinned and placed a hand under her chin. ”Well we could play anything! Volly ball, hot potato, cards against humanity, tug of war, but what might be an interesting game to play is… KAAAAAN JAAAAAAAM!” Without waiting long enough for anyone to react, Oros suddenly looked really flustered. ”Oh my! Don’t tell me no one’s heard of it!?!? Well, it goes something like this.”



”So yea, you just kind of take turns throwing frisbees at something that’s vaguely shaped like a 55 gallon drum, but smaller! So we could split up into three teams of two and play a few games. We’d just need to decide on teams!” Oros looked over everyone again. ”Well, since Silly, Hillarious, and Em are all controlled by the same player, they should each be on different teams.” Oros pointed at Dan. ”You’re Hillarious’s patron, so you two would be on the same team.” Her hand swung over to Sakura. ”Silly and you have both been giving me the stink eye since I showed up, so that means you two should be on the same team.” She threw her arms out to the side and walked straight towards Emily. ”Which means Em and I get to be on the same team? Isn’t this a great arrangement everyone? I know it is!”

“Only to further your own goals.” Sakura said. “Why don’t let Emily choose for once which game and whose team she wants?”

Hilaria flexed her arm. “We’ll win this, Hilaria knows it~!”

Samantha even seemed to get energetic, giving a thumbs up to the idea, but she didn’t say anything.

Dan was excited, two stars having replaced his eyes. “Kan Jam sounds awesome!” He transformed on the spot, taking the bluish-hued form of a fantastical female. “I would love to be Hilaria’s partner this time.” Her warm gaze turned towards Emily. “Unless Emily would like to play something else?”

Being put on the spot so suddenly, Emily got a little flustered. “O-oh, I’m fine just doing something we can all enjoy!” she pushed her two index fingers together, not used to this much attention. “I, um, can go with anyone, really.” Emily seemed to hesitate a little before asking, “Did you not like your pairing, Sakura?”

Sakura folded her arms. “To be fair, it would be nice to be paired with you. Never a dull moment.” Sakura added. “Just pointing it out that nothing is as clear cut as oppai miko-chan wants. Kinda pushy towards her trying to have quality time with you above everyone else’s.” The pink haired girl said. “Tall-chan’s alright by me. She seems to be more sensical than most things in this dimension-beach thing.”

“Thanks!” Sam said with a rather strange amount of glee for an assassin.

Oros wasn’t paying much mind to Sakura’s rant. Instead she was eyeing Samantha with wide open eyes. Though as time progressed, her eyes started to close again to a more neutral position.

”...Well, I don’t really appreciate attacks on my character, Tater tot. You don’t see me complaining about how much time you spend with Em. Yet all the same, I think you would take issue with a foul mouthed brat being Em’s sole room mate. Honestly, you sound like a mobster sometimes.” She spun on her heel. ”Maybe it’s too soon to all play a game together. we should get to know each other a bit better! Come on everyone, look at this!”

Oros distanced herself from everyone and pulled several large sacrificial alters out of her hammer space and lined them up side to side. ”I’m actually a photographer! Well, as a hobby. I really like taking group selfies, and the beach is one of my favorite places to do it.” A stack of papers appeared under Oros’s hand. ”Alright, let me just go through these real- whoa! That’s a spicy one, haha!” It took Oros only a few seconds to go through the stack, at which point less than half of the pictures remained. ”As I was saying, I like to go to the beach and take pictures with myself and other people. So um, here’s a few of my favorites.”

The first picture that Oros set out was a pretty standard self portrait of a couple. Oros was gleefully smiling, with one arm extending out of the frame towards the camera and another coiled around Mika’s waist. The cat girl seemed to be enjoying herself, holding two cups of fruit punch and sipping both of them through curly straws. It was also evident by the alien sky that these pictures had to have been taken in a world similar to Dan’s beach dimension.

Emily had been wearing a rather anxious expression while Sakura and Oros had a spat, but was calming down. She peered at the photos and smiled. “You really like taking pictures?” she asked. “Um, it’s a good photo! You both look so happy!”

“It is very wholesome, isn’t it?” Sam agreed, even smirking along with Emily.

Meanwhile, Hilaria had been rather quiet, but she did come to see the picture. Her expression betrayed a mild confusion and she opened her mouth to speak, yet stopped herself. As her typical smile returned, she nodded profusely. “Must have been some really good fruit punch~!”

Sam looked at the ancient weird. “You think it’s that!?” but all she saw in response was that Hilaria grinned mischievously.

Dan frowned as Oros had a change of heart, and transformed back to dolphin form. “Okay then, let’s see it...Ooh, so pretty!” He exclaimed in awe upon seeing the picture. “What a fun place! I would definitely like to visit there someday. And that fruit punch looks super delicious too! Actually, how about we all have some fruit punch together?” With a clap of his fins, coconut mugs with decorative umbrellas appeared for everyone, filled with sweet-smelling fruit mixes.
“Let’s have a toast to all of us for having gathered here for a fun day!”

“Pictures. Bleh.” Sakura grumbled as she just eyed it just to afford a minor courtesy, as the oppai Miko kept losing points in her eyes in that regard. “You call me a mobster, then decide games are not worth your time, so you shove us with pictures. You make me fucking sick.” Sakura added as she eyed the Dolphin.

“No, not for me. I’m leaving.” Sakura said, obviously feeling the exact opposite of Joy at this moment.

Oros suppressed a growl, and didn’t stop layering pictures across the alters. She did briefly stop to accept a drink from their gracious host. ”I didn’t say I wouldn’t play. I just thought we could all talk a bit before engaging in a competitive sport. No one’s stopping you from sharing your hobby, ya know?”

Most of the pictures Oros set out were largely the same. Various pictures of her posing with someone else on the beach. Her pose was almost identical in each frame. In fact, it would be conceivable that she was photoshopping herself were it not for the fact that the lighting on Oros’s features seemed to change from picture to picture. Most of the people she was posed with looked familiar, even if no one present had actually met them. The most different looking picture of the bunch was one with Lily, or at least it looked like Lily. She had her arm wrapped around Oros’s neck and had her pulled close. It must have been rather sudden, as Oros looked like she had been caught unaware, and the camera's angle was a little off.

”But hey, I’m willing to compromise.” Oros set down the last picture, but she held her hand over who it was with. In fact, Oros’s pose was even a bit different. She seemed to be using both hands to hold whoever was on the other side. ”If Tater tot isn’t going to stick around unless she plays with Em, I’ll let her play a game with her. Hell, I don’t even need to be in the first game. We can play a few times and this way everyone gets to play with everyone.” She rubbed the bridge of her nose. ”But if we’re going to do that, we’re going to need one more player.” When oros turned around, she hoisted herself onto the altar and sat down on top of the picture. ”Hey Silly.” She looked directly at Samantha. ”Wanna summon your ultra cute twin? Playing games really seems like her style, and I’m sure she’d love to join us.” The corners of Oros’s lips lifted slightly.

Ah? Eh? Sam was a deer in the headlights after Oros asked the question. Once she had recovered, she began to fidget. “Um, well, the thing is…“ Pressing her two index fingers together, she apparently struggled to find the words, casting an occasional glance at Emily, or rather, somewhere beneath Emily.

Emily until this point had just been relieved to see a compromise hopefully being considered by Sakura, while Hilaria took interest in Oros’ idea. “Twin~? Does Sammy have a sibling~?” she looked upon Sam with interest.

“Um,” Emily piped up. Even she could notice the looks Sam was giving her. “Is something the matter?” she asked, innocently.

“No! It’s, uh,” she ended up backing away from the group a few steps, a bit overwhelmed all of the sudden. “Erm, how do I say this…?” For the observant eye, it wouldn’t be hard to catch that Sam was lacking a specific trait beneath her.

Dan had observed the group silently after the toast, feeling that the tiny bit of tension hadn't fully cleared yet between the girls. “It’s okay, Sammy!” He intervened, giving her an encouraging smile. “I can get us enough players for the game.” With a clap of her fins, he created a portal, out from which plopped down a mermaid; she seemed to be sitting at a rock and basking in sunlight. “I would like to introduce you all to Neito, my friend from the sea!”
Neito seemed frightened at first, until she recognized Dan. “Oh, hello there. It is good to see you again, Dan. But, why did you-”
“Oh right, first we’ve gotta give you a makeover!”
Dan zapped her with a blue beam, and she transformed; her fish tail turned into a pair of human legs, and the fins on her head also disappeared. As a result, she transformed into a fully human girl, with no piscine qualities.
“KIAAAH!” She screamed, and stumbled backwards into the sand in a soft thud. “W-what is this? Where is my tail?”
Dan dropped down next to her and smiled. “Don’t worry, I’ll turn you back later. But now, let’s play some KAN JAM! Oros here can explain the rules to you. Hilaria, Sakura and Sammy, let’s set up the goal drum and other stuff!”

“Uh. A mermaid. Wonder if eating her will make me immortal.” Sakura said offhandedly.

”Sounds like Tater tot is interested in Tuna, Maybe she can explain the rules to her.” Oros stood up, but the picture had adhered itself to her backside. But she didn’t seem to care about that. She was far more interested in Samantha. ”You know, it’s really hard to tell if you’re Silly or not. You look just like your twin, and without your text color edited in because Dalton added it in last, I’m none the wiser. I guess you could say that you two could swap places if you wanted to. And with your aversion to being seen in a swimsuit, It would make sense if you did. ”

‘Samantha’s’ nervousness only got more pronounced. Eh?! No, no! She--erm, I would never do such a thing!

Oros stroked her chin while looking at the mini BBQ that had been set up. ”I did shine a light on everyone’s shadow, but not everything. The chili pot managed to miss my inspection. Em was still holding it, and she passed it off to Hilarious. I suppose that means your twin could be hiding in either of their shadows, if not around the BBQ area.” She pointed her flood light at Emily’s feet. ”But let’s follow your eyes and see where that gets us.”

When Emily’s shadow began to make strange noises and contort, it became clear that Oros was on to something. Emily herself, seeing yet another creepy thing in her shadow, yelped in surprise, which caused an outline of herself in flames to appear and then disappear immediately and fully illuminate where her shadow had been. “O-oh, wow!” Samantha, the real one, now appeared beside Emily, covering herself as best she could with her arms. She, naturally, didn’t seem pleased at being revealed. “Sam! Are you okay?” Emily asked genuinely, unsure what to make of the expression Sam had on.

“N-No.” After saying this, Sam would disappear spontaneously. Yet, a second later her voice could be heard from behind the other ‘Sam’, who was smiling now. “It’s still just as ridiculous as before…” she lamented.

Her double turned around to look at her. Welp, I tried. But whats the deal? You look great! Whaddya got against swimsuits? Jeez! she turned back around. Oh, uh, hello everyone! Since the ruse is up, I guess I can properly introduce myself! You can call me Shade, and Im basically Sams sister~! she hopped. Im very pleased to meet potential fans~!

Sakura’s eyes went from sourness to mild surprise upon seeing the duplicate. “A kage bunshin, huh? That’s stuff for ninja movies.” She said, attempting to prod the solidity of the new duplicate’s ...rear. She would find that it jiggled a bit, like any posterior should.

Oros lightly swatted away Sakura’s hand. ”Hey! You wanted to scramble Em’s eggs, right? Quit being so damn greedy!” She cleared her throat before looking at Shade, while the mermaid blushed profusely in the background with her hands over her mouth. ”Aid and Silly! Alright!” She clapped her hands together. ”Firstly, I gotta tell Silly that she should get used to parading around in a swimsuit. Especially if you plan on doing anything with Trixy. Also, you’re a nine outta ten babe, so there’s no reason to be shy.” With a wink, she reached behind herself. ”Also, I’d like you to sign this for me. I’ve been a pretty big fan of yours.” She pulled the picture off of her butt and handed it to Shade. ”Also, with Aid and the tuna here, we have enough players to make four teams! So Tater tot and I can play separate games without anyone feeling left out!” She placed a hand on her hip. ”This is the greatest!” Oros sipped her drink.

“T-Tuna?” Neito exclaimed in befuddlement, and Dan pat her on the shoulder. “I-It’s just a playful nickname! Anyway, let’s play!”







To the best of their abilities, the cast enjoyed their odd beach getaway. It was a nice reprieve from the harsh, cold world they came from. It didn't even seem like Sam regretted her choice of coming back here, but it would be a lie to say she entirely adjusted to being in a swimsuit. Sadly, all good things must come to an end and so they did. Slowly, things began to wind down.

Shade was busy trying to get as much socialization in as she could, and would joke around with whomever. Samantha, however, was busy waiting for a portal out of the place when Emily approached her. "Um," Emily was smiling since the start of their games, and right now was no different. "Thank you for coming, Sam! I had a lot of fun, and I really do appreciate it!"

"Hmm? Oh, well, you're welcome, I guess." Sam didn't seem to think her attendance warranted any gratitude. She rubbed an arm. "Suppose it wasn't a bad change of pace, either. I wonder if I should've called..." Sam trailed off on that thought and Emily tilted her head. "Ah, it's nothing. Anyway, good to see you enjoy yourself. I'm not sure about Sakura, but it doesn't look like anyone hated it." She noted.

Emily shook her head fervently. "It went really well, I think! I could ask Sakura later to be sure, though." The kind girl looked back at Hilaria, who was simultaneously conversing with Dan about something as well as picking up the dishes they'd brought over. "It might be rude of me to assume, but I don't think Hilaria would mind doing this again, at least. It was definitely better than the last party I went to..." Uncharacteristically, Emily's expression darkened.

"Is that so?" Samantha recalled the Rave and how things went out of control there. She imagined that was what Emily was referring to, so her poor expression was understandable. Even Sam lost her cool back then, too. "Sorry to hear that. But you know, there's this Christmas party coming up soon, have you heard about that?" Sam pulled out a magical envelope from... somewhere.

Emily nodded, retrieving her own magical envelope. "Sakura gave me an invite before, so I don't need one. Isn't she kind? Um, but thank you for asking!" she bowed politely. "So, does this mean I'll see you there?"

With the envelope unnecessary, it was stowed once more. Samantha sighed at Emily's question. "Parties really aren't my thing," she looked Emily directly in the eyes. "I can't promise anything, either. But if I can attend... I'll consider it, at least." At this time, Hilaria had finished grabbing everything she wanted. She called out to everyone and then created the portal back to Penrose.
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This was not Maura’s first time in Veronica’s interdenominational mansion. This was not her first time alone in Veronica’s interdenominational mansion. This was her first time here as Veronica’s superior.

”Thank you for meeting with me, Maura.”

Among all the red, there was a small white table between the two of them. If there was anything Maura wished to eat or drink, Veronica could pull it out of the cradle and lay it on the table before them. Veronica had given herself a glass of white wine, which she held between her fingers.

”Now that the cradle is yours, what do you plan on doing with it? What will you do next in Penrose?”

Maura hummed in thought. "For the longest time, Penrose has served as the most noteworthy hotbed for magical activity. Even now those numbers are higher than what even I anticipated." she held the side of her head in one arm. "Though it's hard not to notice the drawbacks to such numbers. Justine's attacks, Soth's ritual, the current fight with Ascendancy and our corrupted kin. Even the ambush on Mariette's mansion almost costed us more lives than what's concidered 'Just'." Maura looked back to Veronica with furrowed brows.

"Again and again, Penrose and those within are subjected to incidents such as those, which could escalate into catastrophic events that can make even a god faint. And it won't get any better so long as those self-righteous vermin, or the damned mafia keep hold on the town." She straightened herself up.

"We have to take back Penrose. Take back our home, before the worst comes to fruition..." For a moment, she appeared worried at her last statement.

”Your conviction does not suprise me, but it is always a pleasure to see regardless.” Veronica sipped her wine before setting her glass down. ”I won’t dally then. Maura, my surgery isn’t complete. I dare say that coming back before it was complete may have caused some, how shall we say, problems.” She pulled back the collar of her vest, and there was a purple gash with light glowing inside of it. ”My condition is not life threatening, but it may be if I do not soon return to Binky.” She let go of her shirt collar. ”I need to go back, and I need some of your agents to help me get there. They may not be able to return for a while.”

In all honesty, Maura wasn't surprised Veronica had to leave for awhile longer. But seeing her open wound made the necromancer even more worried. Then the topic of Maura's agents going with her came up. "Who do you need?" She didn't hesitate to ask.

”At least Tetrad.” Veronica folded her arms. ”But I would feel better if I also had Trixy or Sam with me too, as they are a bit more reliable should things go south.”

"Understood. I'll let them know, asap." Maura nodded, ready to call the three through the magicoms.

”No need to bother them now, I just wanted your blessing before I approached them myself.” Veronica nodded. ”But I’m glad it’s not a problem. Even if I’m out, Viridian will be around to keep magicoms and the cradle active for you. With your own shadow magic, you shouldn’t have much difficulty using the cradle as I have.” She extended her hand. ”Thank you, Maura. I feel safe leaving things in your hands.”

With a smile, Maura shook her hand. "Of course, I hope I can make you all proud."




Veronica didn’t exactly have the power or authority to call a cradle meeting herself. Fortunately, Silhouette, Trixy, Tetrad, and Eliza respected her enough to come to a meeting with her. It was right in the Golden Trove, as most of the girls had a room there. They had met up in the game room, which was presently vacant aside from those who arrived.

”Thank you for coming, everyone.” Veronica stood behind a pool table. ”I hope the food is to your liking. It is not something I usually partake in, but I understand pizza is a favorite of most.”

Tetrad already had a slice on a paper plate, which she held in both hands. ”Glad to see we suffered no casualties. Even better that Justine is in the bag. Or should I say space?” She chuckled darkly. ”I just regret I couldn’t be there.”

”You were doing your job, we did ours, no reason to feel bad.” Trixy was already on her third slice. She didn’t need a paper plate, she had an entire pizza box to herself, and just tossed a slice in her mouth now and again. ”Also if anyone wants pepperoni and mushroom, let me know! It’s really good!”

Sam spoke up. "Since you're offering, Trixy, I would like a piece."

”Save room for pineapple.” Tetrad grinned.

”To get to the matter at hand, I must return to the outpost, and I will need some of you to accompany me. Tetrad is coming regardless, but I would like Sam or Trixy to accompany me as well, if not both. I have already gotten Maura’s permission, I just wanted to hear your input.”

Silhouette got her hands on a plate and a piece of pizza, which she had just taken a bite of. She wiped any grease off of her lips and, of course, swallowed before she gave her piece. "Are we going to leave immediately?" Sil wondered. "I had plans with... well, it's nothing important. If our leader has given her permission, then I can depart whenever you please." Of course, given her unhidden loyalty to Veronica, it was unlikely anyone really believed that a lack of Maura's blessing would matter to Sam.

"Is there anything we need to do while you're all away?" Eliza asked, stepping over to the dart board.

”I do not believe so. If something comes up, we are all connected by the magicom network.” Veronica hadn’t eaten any of her pizza yet, but she was looking at it, cautiously.

Tetrad sighed. ”Might as well say we’re all connected by the Cradle. Or whatever Maura wants to call us now. Regardless, I’ve got nothing going.”

”Hold on!” Trixy lowered her box of pizza. ”We just got done with the mission! Are we really going to take off so soon?”

”I’m afraid my wounds are only getting worse.” Veronica’s eyes flicked over to Trixy. ”Leaving soon would be optimal. But I must stress that I don’t need everyone. Tetrad and one of you will do. If Sam has other arrangements, she can remain here for the time being.”

Despite her earlier declaration of being ready to leave as soon as Veronica wanted, Sil couldn't keep a bit of the relief from seeping into her expression at the possibility of staying behind.. "If you believe you only require two of us, then I admit I would prefer to stay here to deal with a small problem of mine."

Small problem? Is it a personal matter?" Eliza asked Sam, not looking away from the board as she started to throw darts. For every bullseye she got, she'd take a step backwards.

Samantha nodded. "It is. But I don't expect it to cause any interference with any duties I am assigned. I would prefer if we could leave it at that."

Eliza took a few extra steps back this time though, as Trixy hugged her from behind, causing her to flinch. ”This is so sad!” Her voice was cracking. ”Please set things in Penrose right, and get Betty back for us! She’s still missing!” After inhaling, she threw her arms around Samantha and started bawling. ”Don’t you die on me, Sam! Whatever you’re doing, your life isn’t worth it!”

Tetrad was there to pull the maid off of her girlfriend. ”Hey, this is Silhouette we’re talking about! No way cradle’s #1 is going to get done in by some personal drama.”

Putting down the plate she nearly dropped after Trixy's emotional outburst, Silhouette looked at Trixy. "Tetrad is right. I won't die. Now isn't the time for that anyways." she looked to Trixy, then Tetrad, and briefly Veronica when she was brought up. "Of course, that goes for you two as well. Well, there's three of you. But I can't imagine Veronica needing me to remind her of that."

”It’s true.” was all Veronica said before sampling her pizza.

Eliza sighed, and pulled Trixy into a side hug. "If I didn't want to set things right, I wouldn't be here now, would I? Don't worry, we'll handle things here and get Betty back." she reassured her.

”Eliza…” Trixy sniffled before hugging her back again. ”When we get back, we’ll celebrate! I’ve got faith in Maura and all of her girls too.”

”Oh well.” Tetrad let out a sigh before turning to Veronica. ”Mind if we take a small detour? I’d like to see someone before I leave.”

”I do not wish to walk around Penrose while the mint watches. But I will need a moment to prepare my leave.” Veronica was already working on her second slice. ”Should you have unfinished bushiness that can be taken care of on short notice, you will have time for it. But I urge you to complete it quickly. However…” Veronica looked to Trixy. ”I have something to show Trixy before we make the trip anyway.”

The maid’s eyes shot open, still embraced in Eliza’s hug. ”Huh?!”

”I just need to tell someone farewell.” Tetrad picked up a dart and casually flung it at the dart board Eliza was shooting at. Despite being a half hearted attempt, she managed to nail the twenty zone just outside of the bullseye.

"Nice shot." Eliza chuckled.

”Someone, hmmmm?” The former cradle mother shrugged. ”Seems we all have our secrets. Despite that, we can still trust each other.”

"Trust is something everyone vies for these days." Maura appeared by the pool table, pizza slice in hand. "Yet at the same time, most would rather take trust for granted, like love or hope. Regardless, it's what makes us more humane than them, no?" she smiled.

"What are you doing here? I thought you were busy." Eliza's eyebrow rose.

"Ah, just wanted to see everyone off, that's all."

”Apologies, Maura. I had only meant to throw a party with my closest agents before setting off. Had I thought you wanted to join us-”

Tetrad giggled. ”It’s weird to see Veronica acting so humble. I guess everyone has a superior at one point or another.”

”Do not forget that I’m still your superior, Tetrad.” She looked back at Maura. ”It seems Sil will be remaining with you for the time being. Tetrad and Trixy will be enough to watch over me.”

Trixy managed to hold back her tears when she wrapped her arms around her new boss. ”Boss lady.” She rested her head on her shoulder. ”It wasn’t long, but I’ll cherish the time we spent together!” Veronica only groaned at Trixy’s melodramatic behavior.

"It's alright, really!" Maura reassured Veronica with a chuckle. Her eyes widened a bit when Trixy hugged her, then she hugged back with a smile. "I'll miss you too, Trixy. Update me if anything happens, okay?" She then moved to pull Tetrad into a side-hug, ruffling her hair, then hugged Veronica as well.

"Be careful out there, okay, Ronnie?"

With Veronica and Tetrad under both of Maura’s arms, Trixy shoved the rest of her pizza (box included) before reaching out for Sil and pulling her closer. Tetrad only shrugged her shoulders before pulling Eliza into the group hug as well.

”Ronnie?” Veronica averted her eyes, still holding onto her pizza crust. ”I will. I most certainly will.”

Samantha appeared uncomfortable with the hug but didn't attempt to pull free of it. She awkwardly settled into it, instead. "Jeez, there's no reason for such a dramatic separation." A soft smile creeped onto the girl's lips.

After a moment, Maura pulled away from the hug. "Well then, I'll let you all finish up here." she moved to the nearest shadow to leave, still smiling.

With the group hug’s initiator gone, the other cradle agents slowly released each other and looked in her direction.

”She is somethin’ else!” The eyepatch kid sighed.

”Wish I got to know her better, but I’m sure we’ll meet up again later.”

Veronica watched Maura leave. After she left, she pushed the rest of the crust into her mouth. She didn’t speak again untill she finished swallowing. ”Trixy, Tetrad, we leave in twenty minutes.”

”Yes ma’am!”

Samantha chose this time to pull Trixy off to the side for a small talk, but found that she couldn't speak how she wanted. More than once, she opened her mouth as though to say something, yet stopped. Eventually, a hand rested itself upon Sam's shoulder. Partially startled, she turned her head to see who it was.

"Ah, jeez! There's no need for such a dramatic separation!" Shade chided the timorous assassin with her own words."Use your big girl speak!"

Samantha didn't seem to get upset at Shade unlike usual. Instead, she merely faced Trixy once again. "...erm..." she took a breath in. "Well, I just wanted... to remind you to be safe, is all."

”Yea, you already told me that." Trixy forced herself to smile. ”But I'm glad I'm not the only one who's concerned right now. If magicoms don't do it for you, we can always talk over web cam."

Samantha clearly liked the idea, agreeing with a nod. "We should. It also wouldn't be impossible to excerise together that way, or..." Sam stopped herself. "Well, it doesn't have to be active and boring. It'd probably be more enjoyable to watch a movie." Her eyes never left Trixy's, and there was a very faint red tint to her cheeks.

Trixy briefly looked over her shoulder, probably to make sure no one was looking too closely at them. ”Well, we’re going to spend a bit of time apart, right?" She placed her hand’s on Samantha’s shoulders. Her eyes closed part way as a toothy grin crossed her face. ”We can do all that stuff and more." Trixy’s voice got quieter as she came closer to Samantha. ”We just need to take our time."

As she gazed into Trixy's eyes, Sam reached across herself to place a hand atop the one Trixy had on her shoulder. Her eyes never wavered for a second, despite her clear embarassment. "I would enjoy that." Sam paused, took her hand off of Trixy's, looked away for a second, and then presumably pondered something before looking at Trixy once more. The little distance between the two was swiftly closed as Sam gave Trixy a quick peck on the lips.

"!" Shade was still nearby, but had been standing off to the side out of respect for the two. Of course, she wasn't able to remove herself competely and happened to catch the kiss. It clearly surprised her enough to leave her mouth open, with a small, amused grin.

"...Sorry if that was too sudden," Sam apologized, something she seemed to do quite often when she was dealing with love or emotional situations, in contrast to her otherwise aloof or curt appearance.

...So she was naturally underprepared when Trixy was unresponsive. Her eyes had massive hearts in them, and her head was hanging backwards as if she had suddenly lost the strength to hold it up. ”It was just the right amount of sudden!" She lifted her head and pulled Samantha into a hug, gently nuzzling her head against hers.

Shade wasn't the only one who had taken notice. Tetrad and Veronica were also watching. It was hard to ignore with how dramatic they were being. The gambler turned to Veronica. ”I'm not separating them this time.” She said with a wink.

Veronica seemed nonplussed, gazing at a wall clock before retrieving another slice of pizza. ”Nineteen minutes left.”
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DarkwolfX37 Yami

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I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO PUT HERE AS A BANNER!





It didn’t take long for Nuncio to get Sammy to leave the sanctuary. When he told her that someone had insisted they leave Penrose, she acted like she couldn’t be bothered. But when she heard that Nuncio had been unattended with another woman, Sammy was a bit more interested in meeting them.

Well, interest was one way of putting it.

”Sammy! Gah!”

The tiny detective practically dragged her boyfriend out of Sanctuary, pulling him by the back of his head. ”According to my deductions, the harlot is waiting for us out here.” She waved around her magnifying glass. ”Show yourself, harlot!”

Shion turned towards the couple before looking around for a moment, confused. ”... Me?” she asked, pointing to herself when she noticed nobody else around the immediate area.

Sammy looked at Shion, then at Nuncio. He gave a single nod, which caused Sammy to release him before walking towards the girl.

”Yes, I have deduced who is responsible for this ‘disruption.’ According to my sources, you are Shion, correct?” Sammy didn’t stop walking until she was a foot away from her. The detective needed to swing her head back to look Shion in the eyes. ”So what’s this about getting me to leave Penrose? There’s far too much going on to properly leave alone. The Mint, Beacon, the coins, the murders, it’s all connected somehow.”

Shion deadpanned at Sammy. Everything is connected somehow, that’s how things are. As for those things in particular… Well, I know that the Mint, or at least one of their enforcers, wants you guys out because you’re too… innocent? Weak? Something like that, and considering what might be happening soon… You’re gonna not want to be here.”

”Something’s happening?” Sammy’s pupils expanded, practically turning into saucers. ”I was not told of any happenings! You must divulge everything you know. Less my ability to solve the case go down by .015%. Unlikely to cause failure, but a statistical anomaly I will not soon ignore!” Nuncio just stood up and dusted himself.

Might be happening. And I’ll tell you, if you promise to leave ASAP. There’s not really anything that involves you in it, I think.”

Sammy, in rather dramatic fashion, spun a hundred-and-eighty degrees before slapping her hand against her own forehead. ”B-but, I cannot!” She looked over her shoulder at Shion. ”Who will solve the case if I don’t? Who, among those left in Penrose, are not in the pockets of those powerful organizations?”

”Man, I don’t even know anyone other than me now that the P.I. stopped telling me things. But if you tell me what you know, I’ll try to figure it out for you, I guess? I don’t have any resources but time anymore, but that’s a powerful one.” Shion said as she crossed her arms, somewhat upset at having admitted that she was clueless about Penrose’s goings on lately.

Sammy’s lower lip trembled. ”W-well, you don’t sound as knowledgeable as you first let on.”

”But she does sound like she’s trying to be helpful.” Nuncio coiled his arms around Sammy’s shoulders. ”Sammy, I know this case means a lot to you. You were never one to give up when it meant bringing villains to justice. But you’re not just a lone detective anymore. You’ve got Faith and myself with you. You were captured once, and Lotus was killed by some Beacon fanatic.”

”B-But-” She was trembling in Nuncio’s arms.

”You’re the only reason I haven’t fled Penrose right now. But please think of Faith. She’s already lost so much, and I really can’t look after the two of you.” He sighed. ”Look, there are unsolved mysteries all over the world. Paranormal happenings only you can get to the bottom of.” He looked at Shion. ”I know it’s hard to put your faith in others, especially strangers that you just met. But if you can’t put your faith in her, put it in me. Let her take your place here and we can all continue our adventure elsewhere. We can continue to look for Binky outside of Penrose while Shion keeps an eye around here.”

Sammy took a deep breath, sighed, and closed her eyes. ”You still love me, right?”

”I haven’t stopped thinking about you once.”

”Heheheh.” She wiped one of her eyes before looking at Shion. ”Alright, let’s hear what you have to say.”

”Alright, so… This isn’t going to sound believable, but it’s true. There’s a theory out there that with enough magic, you can create something that’ll totally upheave the magical ecosystem of patrons and magi. What I know is that, if things are going the way I hope they are, Penrose is going to become the site of the debut of one of those events. I don’t know if it’ll actually come to pass, but if it does it’s going to bring in a lot of magical beings that you won’t want to be around for, so this is going to be for the best in two ways.” Shion sighed, hoping once again that Makoto was on to something. ”Anyway, that’s what I know, so if you want me to take up this case for you, I’ll need to know what you know, too.”

”I see, well, I always knew something was afoot.” Sammy looked to either side of herself. ”Well, news about it has quieted down, but Binky was the one who made the red coins. I don’t know what his game was, but he was ‘captured’ by Beacon, and not long after they started to roll out their white coin. Coincidence? I think NOT!” She threw out her arms, and even Nuncio couldn’t contain her. ”And speaking of coincidences, is it not amusing that after the majority of Penrose’s magical girls were abducted that Penrose itself becomes the playpen of monsters? A likely excuse to send in Beacon Special forces: The Ascendancy!” She was pacing back and forth in front of Shion. ”All the while strange murder is taking place, and while investigating one such case I was abducted by Mint agents! The dead girl in question was a monster girl. Why would Mint waste their time with one of those with the Ascendancy around? Certainly there must be something big enough that it has the two of them wrapped up in it. Are they on the same side? In competition? Regardless, the two of them deal in secrets and lies.” Sammy brought a hand to her chin. ”This information about an upheaval of the food chain, it makes sense. That must be what they’re trying to control.” She stopped walking. ”…It’s just like all of Aigorost’s champions have been saying…” With a sigh, she turned to Shion. ”You are a brave woman, Shion. I might not be scared of this coming apocalypse, but I have to look out for my friends. Perhaps you have no difficulty staying because you have none, or they are elsewhere?” She hugged herself. ”It feels strange to leave here with so much undone, so much left to deduce and see, but it is as Nuncio says, there are other mysteries to take care of. Perhaps in time we will meet again.”

Shion was stunned a moment from the levy of information she received. Still… ”Yeah, you’re right. That all does seem a bit too much to be a coincidence. Though I wouldn’t call myself brave, thank you for trusting me. I’ll do my best to figure this all out, and if I do, I’ll see what I can do to get the answers to you. I don’t like half-assing things.” Shion smiled. ”Good luck out there, you two. And make sure to get… Crap, I forget her name. But there was a third I was supposed to get out of Penrose alongside you two. I’ll even escort you out if you need.”

”It was Faith.” Nuncio added simply.

”Huh?” Sammy raised an eyebrow. ”How would you know?”

The mobster shrugged his shoulders. ”Just a hunch, there are three of us right? Faith has to be number three.”

Sammy nodded. ”…Yea, that makes sense.” She and Nuncio walked away.




A sigh left faith’s lips as she waited on the park bench. It was still cold out, but Faith’s jacket was plenty to keep warm by. At least it was enough to prevent her from getting sick. The cold wasn’t something she cared for at all. She much preferred the other seasons, as you could actually see things bloom. But the now-ruined Penrose more or less looked the same regardless of the time of year. A coat of snow on ruined buildings was nothing to really get excited about.

Faith wasn’t even sure why she had to wait here. Nuncio had told her to be at this very spot, and Faith had decided to show up early to not keep everyone waiting.

“H-Hi, Faith!” Connie called as she and Mia approached. Faith nearly jumped out of her seat, until she realized who was speaking to her. “It’s r-really nice to s-see you again,” she added with a smile, while she reached into a coat pocket and retrieved a small piece of paper. “Uh, t-this is the invitation t-to that C-Christmas Party I t-texted you about,” the timid girl explained, handing the paper to Faith. “I, uh, t-thought it m-might be fun, a-and, um…” she trailed off as she fully noticed just how gloomy her friend looked.

“This goofy dolphin’s hosting it,” Mia added, in an attempt to make things a bit less awkward. “He’s got his very own beach dimension and everything. Gotta say, it’s pretty weird, but it sure beats the hell outta this place…”

“S-So, um, h-how have you b-been doing?” Connie asked, having finally summoned up the courage to voice the question she was somewhat afraid to learn the answer to.

Faith pinched the ticket between her fingers and gently pulled it from Connie’s grasp. ”It’s been a while, hasn’t it?” She examined the ticket, pulling it tight between her two hands. Despite having a more mature appearance than Connie, her fingers were comparatively small and delicate. ”I think we named Hilda Bell, didn’t we? That was fun.” A wistful smile crossed her face. ”I still miss Lotus, I’m a little disappointed with how easily Penny became queen. I hear she’s a Beacon plant, but she’s so strong no one would dare try to take her throne from her. Just as well I didn’t get involved in that I suppose. B-but it hasn’t all been bad!” She turned to Connie and made her smile as big as she possibly could. ”I made a friend, and we ate some ice cream! And you two are still here. But, well.” She looked ahead. ”I don’t think Penrose is for me.”

Connie frowned when Faith mentioned how much she still missed Lotus, and then went on to talk about someone named Penny becoming queen. Connie didn’t know anything about any of that, but it was clear to see it was something that greatly bothered Faith. There was still so much about Penrose’s magical community that was a complete mystery to Connie. Take Beacon, for instance. A lot of people had called them dangerous extremists, but other people thought of them as heroes, and the few members she had briefly met had seemed nice enough… But what was the truth? Who and what was she to believe? It was all so confusing…

Connie was shaken out of these thoughts a moment later, when Faith brightened and told them about a new friend she had made, and how they’d eaten ice cream together. That made Connie a great deal more relieved, but then…

“N-Not for you?” Connie echoed, her confusion clear in her voice. “D-Does that m-mean you’re l-leaving…?”

Faith pressed her knees together. ”Conni I-” With a huff, she lowered her head. ”The choice is not entirely my own. I know the local forests need me, but I’m ill equipped for city life. Lotus has been slain, I was nearly devoured, Cindy’s regime has been completely taken over, not to mention Beacon is looking for me, and my first friends in Penrose are urging me to leave.” She pulled on the hem of her coat. ”It feels like I’m running away, but I think it only feels like that because you two can’t come with me.”

“I-It’s okay,” Connie told Faith, while placing a trembling hand on her shoulder and giving her what she hoped was a reassuring smile. “I’ll r-really miss you, b-but I understand w-why they want you to l-leave. I-I mean, i-it’s not all t-that s-safe around here… Oh! B-But d-don’t worry about us!” she hastened to add. “T-Thanks to you, w-we’ve made a lot of n-new friends, a-and I’m getting a lot better at c-controlling my m-magic, too!”

“And don’t worry about the forests, either,” Mia added with a grin. “If anyone starts screwin’ around with ‘em, they’ll have to deal with me.

Sitting down next to Faith, Connie wrapped her up in a big hug. “You’re s-such a good person, Faith. I’m s-so glad I got the c-chance to be your friend.”

Faith let out a soft grunt as Connie embraced her. ”Well! I’m glad I got to meet you too~! And your words are reassuring, Gaia.” After returning the hug, she eased Connie back into her seat. ”I may be leaving, but I’ll still have your phone numbers. So we can stay in touch if you like.” she smiled. ”But I understand, there’s nothing quite like surviving together in a rough neck of the woods.”

“Y-Yeah! We t-totally can!” Connie agreed after Faith noted that they’d still be able to call and text each other. “A-And h-hopefully you can s-still make it to the Christmas Party,” she added. “S-Since it’s k-kinda in another d-dimension, you s-should be able to get there n-no matter where you m-move to! Oh! A-And that invitation I gave you can d-duplicate itself, so you c-can invite your other f-friends too!”
Faith looked at the ticket in her hand and, sure enough, it became two tickets with just a thought. ”Well isn’t that neat~!.” she giggled. ”I’ll see about attending. But for now, there’s still time before the others arrive. Was there something you wanted to do before I go, Connie?.”

Faith’s question caused the timid girl to frown in thought. “Umm… N-Not really…? I, uh, j-just w-wanted to invite you to the p-party and c-catch up on things…”

“How about we build some snow forts?” Mia suggested.

“T-That’s a great idea, Mia!” Connie gushed, a happy smile spreading across her face. “W-Would you like to, Faith?! I-It’ll be j-just like the day we f-first met!”

The fairy girl closed her eyes. The day they had made snow forts they were on a great plane. Just a giant sheet of snow that had only been marked by their mock battle. A white, barely used canvas that the four of them could mould into whatever they desired. They had spent a fair bit of time moulding the snow drifts into tunnels, walls, and other simple structures. Then they hurled snowballs during a snowball war afterwards. A lot of fun was had.

When she opened her eyes though, Faith didn’t see a white canvas. She saw some tall buildings, roads that had plowed away most of their snow, given this was one of the few places where vehicles could actually drive. Most of the snow was brown, some was even black. And instead of having the entire evening to themselves, they had just a few minutes. The three of them.

”We could try.” Faith stood up and walked towards a mound of snow. ”So do you have any plans after the Christmas party? Any reason why you keep trying to make friends? I imagine you’ll have quite a few before long.”

“O-Oh, um, n-not really…” Connie replied, her high spirits having been lowered a bit by Faith’s somewhat sullen demeanor. “A-And, well… B-Besides Mia, I n-never had any friends u-until just recently, s-so I just t-thought it might be n-nice to s-see if I could m-make some more… A-And I’m sure y-you’ll make l-lots of new friends, too!” she added with a smile in an effort to cheer Faith up. “I-I mean, it s-shouldn’t be any p-problem for someone as k-kind and helpful as you.”

”I’ll probably be alright.” She had pulled a large styrofoam drinking cup out of the trash and was using it to make small rooks for her fort. Once the cup was packed with snow, she’d turn it over on top of her fort and pull it away to create a base. Then she just had to use her gloved finger to shape the top like a castle. ”Seriously though, Connie! Most magical girls these days are vying to rule penrose, start some mega faction, or upset the balance of things! It’s almost an oddity that you two have such humble goals.” She looked to Mia. ”Though I suppose having a lot of friends is something like having a team. Some squad of individuals who share your ideas and are willing to fight to protect them.”

“I guess you could say that,” Mia replied as she helped Connie with her fort. “I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that Connie’s not really a typical magical girl, and the only balance my Patron cares about maintaining is the one between humanity and nature. I gotta admit, though, before Connie became a magical girl herself, I really didn’t want to have much to do with the whole thing,” she added. “I just did what Mother asked and then got back to my life as quickly as possible. But now, I’ve gotten sucked into this whole crazy community, and, yeah, it can definitely be dangerous, but seeing Connie make so many new friends has been really cool. So I got to thinkin’ maybe it’s not all that bad, y’know?” Picking up some sticks, she stuck them into the side of their fort’s tallest tower to serve as menacing spikes. “I mean, if more people can just learn to look past their differences and become friends, then maybe a lot of this place’s problems would go away. Like, there’s this one girl who calls herself ‘Magical Dream Princess’. She’s actually trying to get a member of the Ascendancy to be friends with this monster girl she knows. It’s totally nuts, but so is MDP, so it might actually work!” she added with a laugh.

The far more likely scenario was that this “magical dream princess” would be both physically and metaphorically crushed when said ascendancy member ran through her monster girl partner and she was tried and executed as some sort of criminal. But it was nice to see that Connie’s naivety might have been rubbing off on Mia a bit. She smiled to herself and placed some icicles around her tower. Though rather than making them into deadly spikes, she used them as bars for the windows and doorways. ”We can all change ourselves, Mia, but changing others is another thing entirely~!” She laid out more icicles in front of her tower to make a sort of draw bridge. ”But it’s good that you’re finding people you resonate with. Perhaps it’s that luck that drew us together in the first place.”

“Y-Yeah! T-That has to be it!” Connie agreed. “I-I mean, w-we could have run into some r-really horrible people out t-there in the w-woods, but instead, we met you! J-Just think!” she added excitedly. “I-If we d-didn’t meet you, then w-we wouldn’t have gone to the r-rave. A-And if w-we didn’t do that, t-then we would have n-never met Lily, or Emily, or M-Miss Sakura, or Ronin, or Hildebell!” she noted, using her fingers to count each new friend.

Faith sighed. It would take a long time for her to heal, but Connie’s words made her realize something. While the last few weeks had been hard for her, they hadn’t been hard for everyone. To Faith, the rave was a horrible death trap that claimed many lives, and ruined several more. But it did bring Connie and Mia in touch with other like spirits. She could at least live vicariously through Connie, just until she got her feet back under herself.

”Then I hope they bring you many more good memories!”

Faith took a step back from her fort. It wasn’t much larger than the cup she had started out with. But she could at least be proud that she made the most of the time she had been given. Hopefully her friends would do the same.

”According to my deductions…” a tiny detective leaned around a snow bank. ”…He’s not here either?”

”Sammy!” Faith turned to her pint sized friend. ”Where’s Nuncio?”

”He said he was going to meet me right here.” She thumped her foot.

”Well you’re just in time!” Faith gathered up a handful of snow. ”I was worried I’d be outnumbered in the coming war of winter~!”

”War?” Sammy lifted a hand to her hat. ”What is this war of winter? Why I have I not heard of it until now!

“Pretty sure she means a snowball fight,” Mia replied with a grin as she formed a spheroid projectile. “And I don’t think that snowbank’s gonna be of much help!” she added as she flung her snowball in a curving arc, which took it over the snowbank and onto the top of Sammy’s head. “Come on, Connie! Let’s show ‘em how it’s done!”

“O-Okay!” Connie replied, while hurriedly scooping up some snow of her own. “W-Watch out, Faith!” she warned with a laugh. “Mia’s been h-helping me practice my t-throwing! I c-can actually h-hit things now!”

”I look forward to seeing how you improved! But I won’t go easy on you!”

Sammy stepped out from behind the snow bank with a snowball wedged in the top of her oversized hat. Mia’s snowball had crushed it over her eyes. ”I appear to have been struck by a snowball, but I fear the two of you have mislabeled this bout. It is not a fight, nor is it a war...” Sammy pulled her hands out from behind her back, revealing two snowballs. ”This will be a massacre!”

They let the storm rage on. The cold never bothered them anyway.




Not even a few minutes after Shion had seen the two off did she hear a familiar voice from the shadows.

”You did well, Shion.” Vermin killer stepped out from between two buildings and adjusted his hat. ”There’s just one thing left to do.”

”If it starts with a ‘K’, I’m going to murder you. Regardless of what it is.” Shion said as she turned towards the new arrival.

The smug grin on VK’s face only grew wider. ”This might be hard to believe, but I’m not one to go back on my word, even to a former vermin. While I am something of a romantic, I can’t say I’d ever consider doing anything with you quite so uncouth. You’re reasonably attractive as well as intelligent, but falling in love with my targets is something that I’ve only done once.” When Vermin Killer reached up to adjust his hat, his form fell away from him like a fog. As the smoke cleared, Shion could see Nuncio was in his place, wearing VK’s clothes over his own. ”But to be fair, I had fallen for her before the Mint made her a target.”

”Y’know, I was sort of expecting ‘kill,’ but I’ll take the compliment. Still, that’s quite the double life you must be living.” Shion paused a moment. ”Why’d you need me to get her out if you were already a part of the group you wanted out?”

”Because there was no way I was going to get Sammy to budge. As someone who’s friends with ‘Makoto,’ I’m sure you’re aware friendships in the Mint are a rare thing. Regardless, having a successor to the case of the red coins is all Sammy needed.” He shrugged. ”And with Sammy convinced, Faith would soon follow. Perhaps my former target was a strange choice, but I’ve already told you why I selected you. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I had some admiration for my former target.” Rosa walked out of the shadows beside Nuncio and rubbed against his leg. ”I’ve decided to end my double life here. The mint has chosen to hold what I love hostage, and I refuse to work for them a second longer.” He lowered his hand onto the affectionate tiger’s head. ”Vermin Killer is not a single person though. Agent Viper has been acting as a double of sorts when I am unable to take Vermin Killer’s persona myself. Though I am the one who controls all of the animals, so you need not fear my predators any longer. We did this during the rave incident when I convinced the mint to release Sammy as a way to gamble for the dream almanac.” Nuncio’s smile faded. ”Unfortunately, I do not know much about what the mint is doing at the moment. They tell us as little as they have to. But I will answer any questions you have to the best of my ability.”

So I’m guessing the ‘Viper’ is still going to be after me. And what is this ‘dream almanac’? In fact, what actually happened at the meetup that was going around on Glimmr? I assume that’s the rave you mentioned?

”I’m unaware of what her assignments are. She was primarily paired up with me to help Violet Covington recover the dream almanac. Unfortunately, I know little about the almanac itself. The name suggests it has something to do with foretelling dreams. I know she was very interested in locating someone who was giving people nightmares. To my knowledge though, the only magical girl who can use nightmare magic in Penrose is a girl named Connie Williams. As for the event on Glimmr. That was the rave but…” Nuncio groaned. ”I don’t really know what happened? I thought Viper was going to help me get the stupid book from Mariette. From what I heard, a psychic nuke was triggered and it killed damn near every Beacon girl at the rave. Including two squadrons of Ascendancy! Then someone triggered a lightning nova that wiped out almost everyone else. It was a massacre! Cindy Ford left the rave to meet with the Cardinal and was slain, along with a few other magical girls. One of my friends were among them, and Faith almost lost her life too…” The mobster hung his head. ”But yes, Viper was the one who set things up so that the Mint could do away with Cindy Ford. They tried to kill the Cardinal too, but were unsuccessful. It’s a wonder we get anything done when we’re so eager to turn on our own.”

”Yeah, tell me about it. I’ve heard horror stories from Makoto too, but… seriously? Nearly everyone there died? Including Cindy? Glad I didn’t go, then. Sorry to hear about your friend, though.” Shion sighed before her eyes lit up. ”Wait, if Cindy is gone… I don’t suppose you know where she kept her stuff, huh? There’s a certain chest I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on, if it’s not already been snatched up by someone. I had tried half-heartedly to get it before, but she didn’t fall for it.”

”I do not personally know, unfortunately. I would think one of her surviving protege would know. Perhaps Goblina or someone like that. Alternatively, the Beacon twins Janet and Jenna were at the scene. As known mind readers, they might have gathered something from her.”

Shion thought for a moment. ”If nearly every Beacon girl and two squads of Ascendancy were wiped out, does that mean the Mint is declaring war on them, or was it someone else who did it? I guess trying to kill the Cardinal would itself be an act of war, too. I don’t exactly have an in with Beacon, so this may be a bit more difficult than I had hoped, now that I know that.”

”I believe the intention was to drive a wedge between corrupt magical girls and Beacon, like Justine did a few months prior. Unfortunately, many magical girls noticed the Mint’s involvement, so our involvement is pretty much the worst kept secret of Penrose. Cindy’s forces are now headed by a Beacon sympathiser, which has made Beacon’s position even stronger. I have no love for Veronica, but I can almost understand why she split off. Al just can’t run a tight ship.” Nuncio smirked. ”But there’s some good news for you. Beacon isn’t as united and strong as it appears on the surface. There’s quite a bit of infighting, mainly between the Penrose branch and the Ascendancy. Alicia Hayden will bark and wag her tail at the Ascendancy’s call, but others like the Beacon twins may be able to humor you. I’m a bit fuzzy on the details as it’s not part of my assignments.”

”Sounds like those twins are my best bet in all regards, then. And here I was working so hard to… Nevermind. Anyway, good luck with whatever you do next. Getting out of the Mint is hard, but a good idea.”

”It is hard to do anything alone, Shion.” Nuncio cast Vermin Killer’s coat into the air. ”But if you can make trustworthy friends, you’ll be able to accomplish quite a bit.” When the coat fell back on top of Nuncio and Rosa, the two seemed to disperse into crows. ”Don’t let Sammy down now. I still have my connections..”

Shion waved dismissively. ”I don’t plan to let anyone down.”
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Following Trouble - Few Days Later


Sitting atop the Sanctuary Penny kept her gaze outward. The damage to the building had been patched, a far cry from being fully repaired. The toxic sludge had been cleared away, though there were still parts of rubble that had been stained with it. And the damage to the lower floors had been pushed off to the side for now.

Desperately Penny wanted to be down there helping out, but for the moment she couldn’t. She was keeping watch, she didn’t expect anything else from the Mint at the moment. Nor did she expect a Monster to wonder nearby. No, she was keeping an eye out for Beacon. A feeling that she was oddly uncomfortable with.

But she had seen the tip sent into the hotline, and while she didn’t see any chatter or movement about it on Beacon’s network. She was just too on edge to let it lie. Thus here she was stretching her senses as far as she could push them, One eye on the physical world the other on the digital. With Snoopy working as an inside look in case she needed to step away to help calm the girls within.

That was how she noticed them, two unknown girls lurking near the edges of the area. They hadn’t been doing anything, at least nothing overtly magical or technological that Penny could sense, but they had been in the area long enough that it was starting to worry her. So, rather than dwelling on what it could mean. She stood up and made her way over to them, figuring that she would get her answers one way or another.

“Can I help you?” She would ask cautiously once she had gotten close enough to initiate a simple dialogue.

The purple haired one stopped and looked at the mechanical girl. They’d just kind of been wandering about without much of a destination. Surprisingly effective for drawing just the right attention. ”Maybe. Though it might be better to ask. How can we help you?”

Few responses could have raised Penny’s suspicion as quickly as the one she had received and it wasn’t so long ago that she would have outright attacked them for it either, but she already had one lucky break with that course of action tonight so she withheld that response and instead walked a bit closer her eyes narrowing slightly as she examined the two of them.

“That sounds like a loaded question” She would reply as she tracked the both of them “Do you always loiter around disaster sites and ask that?”

Both stayed relaxed even as Penny seemed suspicious. The response was not an uncommon one. The one in pink glanced around a bit. ”We’ve seen worse, but it does seem to happen that way. Just how our magic works. Someone wants or needs something and we’re guided to it.” The two take a slight bow together ”The Djinn Sisters. It’s good to meet you miss...?” They trailed off. Penny would recall Janet mentioning something about the two, though not much in the way of detail. Some searching would support their MO of appearing after events. Despite their appearances they were still something of a myth.

“Penny. Penny Asimov.” She would fill in as she processed what they said. She had looked into them before, they were connected to the White Coins and Purification Potions as far as Penny could tell. Though the how’s and why’s were harder to dig up.

Her stance would lose most of its tension as she shifted to a more relaxed one. “And I think I’ve heard of you two. Friends of mine, Janet and Jenna, had a run in or two with you I think.” She would offer up waiting to see how the Twins would react.

Sakura’s eyes sparkled a bit at the mention of the other twins. ”Oh? Quite ambitious those two were. I hope they’ve gotten good use of what they asked.” Seemed they didn’t keep tabs on those they’d granted wishes.

”So you know what we do then?” Violet asked as she raised an eyebrow.

“Not explicitly” Penny would say at length as her mind sped off working on how she might be able to take advantage of this were her assumptions correct. “But it has something to do with wishes, and the granting of them, if I’m not wrong.”

”That’s right. Don’t go telling everybody though. Makes our job a whole lot harder when everyone starts trying to find us all the time. We’d have to leave town. Can you imagine how boring that would be?” She asked rhetorically.

The pink one rolled her eyes a bit. She quickly returned her attention back to Penny. ”Considering you’re the first person we’ve seen we must be here for you. Do you have a wish you would like granted?”

If Penny was honest, and she was to herself if no one else, there were a lot of wishes she would like granted. Yet she was still hesitant to speak any of them. For a few reasons. “What limits are there on the Wish? And why are you granting them in the first place?” She would ask, as those were two of her concerns, that last one she had she wasn't sure how to ask without being insulting, as she was too well read about magic to not know of the Monkey’s Paw.

”Mostly what you would expect if you’ve watched Aladdin. Sometimes our parton vetos a wish but that’s mostly on him. As to why, well if we don’t then we get punished. I wasn’t very respectful to my patron and so we’re basically cursed to serve.”

“Disney coming in clutch” Penny would quip as she shook her head in disbelief that this was actually happening. “And something tells me that I don’t get to make all three today.” Otherwise it would seem like their profile would be much larger than it was.

“Can I talk out the wish I’m aiming for with you or do I just have to say the magic and hope for the best?” She would add, more to find out how much leeway she had in this than anything else. She knew what it was she was going to wish for, especially if Aladdin rules were in effect.

”You can talk about it, but the magic doesn’t really give us anything until the wish is actually made. And how many kind of depends on what you’re asking for. Most people make one, maybe two if it isn’t stretching it.” There was a little play with the wishes.

Penny nodded her understanding, as to her it seemed less like these two were the ones casting the magic and more the ones channeling it. So there was nothing to do but hope for the best. “Alright” She took a moment, and mimed taking a deep breath. She didn’t need to breathe, but the human action still helped center her at times.

“I Wish I had greater Awareness and Intuition, I need to know what people are after and I can’t miss the details.” She spoke clearly, and hoped, truly hoped, that adding on her explanation would assist the Wish in going the way she wanted it too.

Standing still for a moment the two girls focused on the wishes. It didn't take long before they got back confirmation and the two began to glow. Raising their hands two orbs of light formed. "Your wishes have been granted." The two orbs of light flew toward Penny's head and phased into her. The sensors in her body began to adjust and tune to better hone what she could pick up and process. She would become particularly aware of minor, almost unnoticeable clues of behavior to know when someone was lying. Some of it reached beyond what was normally perceivable, able to get a sense of ill or good intent.

As an aside, the sudden change seemed to affect some lesser quality of life functions. Namely Penny's usually tight grip on filtering seemed to falter as she was picking up on odd things online like ads and spam emails. Nothing significant of course, but it might take a month or so to retrain the blocks. Buy now.

She stayed silent for a moment as she processed the new influx of information and data. There was a lot more than just interpersonal cues and spam pings that were distracting her at the moment. Concise gravimetric reading, nearby electrical readings and metallic composition information was also streaming in, alongside a plethora of just raw data that she normally only interfaced with when she was in EoD status.

“Gah” She would say softly as she pulled in her senses so they weren’t cast out everywhere. “That’s going to take some getting used too.” Shaking her head to clear it she refocused on the two Twins.

“That’s one hell of a Spec to have.” She’d say a small smile on her face, “Thank you. So what happens now?”

The girls shrugged. ”We usually just wander off. That was two of your wishes. If you have an idea for the third then maybe we could do that one too. Up to you if you want to try.”

“Tempting” Penny would say after a few moments of contemplating it “Very tempting.” She would turn to look back at the broken down warehouse that was housing the Sanctuary at the moment. Knowing that her third wish would go to them, but the trick was knowing how to ask for it. For the moment however “I’ll pass though. Nothing against you, but I want to wait and see if anything goes wrong because of the two I’ve already asked for. I don’t want to subject them to the fallout if it can be avoided.” She would explain turning back to face the Djinn twins.

“Did have an idea I wanted to try, if you would be up for it though” Penny would offer instead. “Sorta payback, if it works. I want to try granting a wish for you.”

”I can tell you now that if you try wishing us free or something it isn’t going to work. I think the only one allowed was one that changed our appearance.” It was obvious she didn’t quite understand what Penny was insinuating.

“Nothing like that, I want to hold onto my third wish for now and I don’t think I would be strong enough either way. My magic is... unstable. Because of that I can mimic Magic I’ve seen or been targeted by for a short time afterwards.” Penny would explain with a shrug. It was exceedingly rare for Penny to offer up any explanation of how her magic worked, but this seemed like a good time for it.

“I want to try using it while I can. Thus I want to try and grant you a wish.”

Pausing for a moment they had to glance at one another and seemingly exchange thoughts. They quickly looked back at Penny. ”Uhh...how much mana do you have to expend? Wishes are really taxing in that regard.”

Penny was curious about the non-telepathy, or at least the not psychic telepathy, they seemed to share but didn’t comment on it. “My reserves tend to be on the larger side, plus I replenish my mana rapidly.” She would answer “Not saying it won’t knock me down, but I doubt it will keep me there.”

”If you say so. Well then…” One would think that someone that has granted god knows how many wishes that they would have an idea of one for themselves. They’d mostly given up on getting any though so it wasn’t something they put much thought to. Dammit what did they want?

It seemed to take the two a while to decide. There were a lot of things they could wish for, but if they didn’t pan out they would be in big trouble with their patron. There was one they thought they could get away with, something their careless wishes had done to them when first becoming magical girls. Question then being if Penny could pull it off. ”We want to be whole.”

”We wish to become one girl again.”
”We wish to become one girl again.”

They clasped each other’s hands tightly, closed their eyes, and hoped.

There was an odd moment where nothing seemed to happen but before the Djinn twins lost all hope Penny was suddenly awash in on white “Very well then” Her voice echoed with power, while her eyes blazed a frantic white, and unlike when the Twins granted wishes, it seemed like the Power was only barely contained. A wild chaotic force rather than a smooth and graceful one.

Penny simply followed the instinct that came with the magic, doing everything that she could internally to manage the massive stress the seemingly simple spell was putting on her systems.

Silently she would glide forward towards the Djinn Sisters her arms spread out, her extra limbs unfurling as she went and when she stopped in front of them she would place three limbs on each of them. One on their head, one on their shoulder and one on their hip. From there they would feel the potent magic seep into them. Similar yet, so very different as well.

One last moment to gather themselves then they would feel Penny push, and for a time they would lose track of their thoughts and how long it lasted would be impossible to tell from their point of view. Lost in the slow merger of themselves.

Then, seemingly like all at once the sensations would fade and they would hear an Echoing “Your Wish has been Granted” And when they opened their eyes it would be as one person rather than two.

Penny, true to her assumption, would stay standing for only a moment longer once she felt the surge of magic leave her. Before she dropped to sit. “Holy fuck, you weren’t kidding about being a Mana drain.” She would exclaim feeling like she was in an organic body that had run a dozen miles backwards underwater.

“You made it look easy, you know that.”

The Djinn girl shivered when she came to. It had been a long time since she’d felt a wish used on her like that, all the way at the beginning. Hugging her arms first, then lifting her hands up and feeling her face, brushing some hair out of her eyes. ”Wah, n-no way. T-that actually worked?” Penny dropping to the ground seemed to snap her out of it. She hurried over to make sure the expended girl was okay. It was a little hard to tell since she was made of metal and all. ”Well yeah. It’s what I was made for.”

Looking up Penny would see that the girl she’d formed had tan skin, long ruby red hair and midnight blue eyes. Her clothes had turned white and covered less of her than either of them before. She wore a headdress and a thin veil hung loosely over her shoulders. Lots of bracelets, gold trim, and jewelry both fixed and dangly were adorned around her.


”Are you alright? Do you need help?” Rarely did she respond to people she’d just granted for like this. Then again, few attempted to return the favor and none actually had the chance to make it happen.

Penny waved off her concern “I’ll be fine. I’m a regenerator, I’ll be good in a minute, just exhausted.” She would say taking a closer look at the girl in front of her. Before letting out a low whistle “Not sure who to thank, but you look good.” She would say with a lazy smirk before being slightly taken aback. “Seems exhaustion overwrites the brain to mouth filter still.” She would mutter to herself.

“Kinda glad I didn’t ask for your name before this, would be slightly awkward to ask for it again now” She would say quickly, hoping to move past her earlier statement. “Who do I have to thank for the new senses and the interesting magic experience?”

The girl blushed at the comment and took a second to glance at herself. After a few seconds she cracked a smile. Having recovered from the embarrassment pretty quickly she offered a hand to help Penny up. ”Ashley. Although…” She took a pinch of hair and lifted it up to look at. ”Maybe I’ll go by Ruby to stick to the hair color theme.”

Ruby wasn’t going to let Penny’s comment slip by though. It was too good to pass up. ”Oh and you should probably thank yourself. Considering you were the one granting the wish you probably shaped my appearance without realizing it. Maybe I’m your wish too.” She gave a wink and a teasing smile.

"Ha" Penny would chuckle at the teasing as she accepted the hand. Even though she hardly used the assistance, she was heavy after all and knew it. She was thankful for the banter, good way to know she hadn't stepped on any toes.

"What a wonderful wish you would be" She would tease back. She could see her influence in Ruby's new look now that she knew to look for it. The tan and hair were Penny for sure. Curves too, but she was going to spend much time looking at those.

"But something tells me that wouldn't work out too well right now." She would go on sobering slightly "You're too much of a wanderer to settle down and I've got too much responsibility to pack up and drift."

"Would love to keep in touch if you want" She would offer up. "Friends are always nice"

”Yeah, what I do makes it hard to settle down. Also people get after me eventually so we… I tend to draw trouble. I think this buys me some time though. I still can’t believe it.” She tried looking around for something reflective but there wasn’t really much around to see herself. She was somehow going to have to explain this to Mariette, Deni, and Eli. That should be interesting.

"Makes sense" Quirking an eyebrow at Ruby's glancing around it wouldn't take long before understanding dawned and Penny would pull out a phone from her storage and hold it up so that Ruby could see.

On the phone was Ruby giving a playful wink and teasing smile. The same one she had tossed at Penny when she helped her up. "Best I can do at the moment" She would say, which was true since Snoopy was still off keeping an eye on the Sanctuary.

She would lean forward and look at the tiny screen for a moment. ”Wow, you did a number on me. I’d be jealous if I wasn’t a dream girl.” Felt weird saying that, but it was true.

"Glad you approve" Penny would reply letting Ruby look for a bit longer before tucking the phone away and letting it reintegrate into her. "And for anything that you disapprove of, I'll just remind you that it was my first and likely only wish so I was winging it the best I could"

"I can send you the picture if you want, assuming that you have a phone that is." Penny was still endlessly surprised when she met someone without a phone, but always chalked it up to her own proclivities that it seemed such a necessity.

”I had to ditch the last phone I had when someone with your kind of technical skills used it to trace me. I do alright without one though.” She frowned a bit.

"I mean, fair" Penny wasn't going to admit to planning that exact thing, didn't seem like it would be received well.

"If you do end up getting one at some point" Penny would pull a thin strip of metal out from the storage compartment "Feel free to reach out" it had Penny's number on it.

She would let out a snort. "Since I've got one left, that means you've also got one. Think about wishing for an untraceable phone if we do this again." For as much as Penny did keep track of people, she knew that doing so for Ruby was likely a bad idea in the long run.

"In the meantime feel free to drop in at the Sanctuary if you want. I'll not tell anyone about this or you" It wouldn't exactly stop people from learning about Ruby, but it might give her a place to hang out for a time.

Tapping her finger against her lower lip she gave it a bit of thought. ”Maybe I’ll see if there are any side effects first. My first grantings were a little rough. Also have to see if my patron approves. We kind of undid one of the wishes I originally made that put me in this position.” She gave a weak smile. ”I might have to pass on the Sanctuary. Too many eyes on it to be safe. I’m better off out here.” Another idea popped into her head, but she hesitated.

Her excitement kept coming back every time she reminded herself that her soul had been rejoined. She kept glancing to one side or the other expecting to see Violet or Sakura but they weren’t there. Bouncing back and forth between grateful and standoffish she eventually cracked and gave Penny a hug. ”Thank you.” Sliding back the monster girl would sense she’d been given access to somewhere. ”I-If you need a place to hide you can use my dimensional home for now. It’s limited on who can enter so I’ll try and leave it open to you as long as I can. It’s usually empty unless I’m there.”

"Understandable" Penny acknowledged the worries about too many eyes with a sad nod "But know that the door is always open if you need it."

She was a bit caught off guard by the hug, normally her barriers would have stopped the attempt, they had gone down due to her expanding all of her mana reserves however, but didn't hesitate to return it.

"I- thank you doesn't feel like enough" Penny was in awe at this gift, for if anyone knew and understood the sanctity of one's home it was her. Especially with the attack on the Sanctuary still so fresh. "I'll treasure the honor as long as it lasts." She would promise sincerely.

"Just don't be surprised if you find a desktop set up in there one day. I was serious about keeping in touch."

She opened her mouth for a second to say something and then paused. She seemed to consider something before continuing. ”Uh… It won’t be able to communicate out from there.”

"Not normally, no" Penny's slow smirk was returning "But I have ways of broadcasting interdimensionally. Can't promise you'll always have internet access, but I can say that if anyone tries to trace it it will only lead them to me."

With a grin and a shake of the head Ruby was confident when she said. ”I can promise it won’t work. You’re welcome to try but I’m more comfortable with meeting in person.

”Oh yeah, I need to know your opinion on someone. The portal girl, Mariette. What do you think of her?” She put one hand on her hip.

“So it’ll just end up being a fancy pager” Penny countered, just as confident in her own skills. “A way to coordinate those in person meetups. Even if it is just to invite me to your apartment.”

Penny’s surprise at the turn of the conversation was readily apparent, “That she’d be a lot more trustworthy not working under a Horror.” Would be her initial reply. “She’s alright herself, I guess. Only talked with her once personally, but she helped out earlier when the Sanctuary was attacked. And considering what likely happened shortly before that shows that she’s not a bad person. Just that she’s got a poor setup with the Horror looming over her.”

Nodding at Penny’s assessment, Ruby smiled. ”I agree. Hopefully we took care of that horror part though.”

Wait… What That was not what Penny was expecting and her eyes narrowed, not in suspicion, but calculation. It didn't take long to come to a conclusion.

"You know Ronin, don't you." She would say more than ask. It made sense, but there were still puzzle pieces missing.

Knowing that lying wasn’t going to work here, she just shrugged a bit, knowingly. ”I know a lot of people. When the right people get wishes they’re willing to help friends of friends.” That could come off wrong and she raised her hands a bit. ”T-that’s not why I do what I do. It’s just… eh nevermind. Yeah I’ve been working with her to free Mariette. She’s my friend and I wanted to help her.” Geeze, why was that so hard to get out.

"I'm glad" Penny would say earnestly. "I only met Ronin once as well but she reached out to me hoping to get some assistance in freeing Mariette. I wasn't able to help, but I'm glad things are going in her favor." She would go on to explain "I offered a solution to Mariette when I talked to her but I could tell she wouldn't go for it herself. It's situations like hers that make me hate Horrors"

She wouldn't comment on the attempted deflection. Ruby didn't seem to have a lot of friends, and Penny wouldn't begrudge her trying to protect the ones she had.

Ruby nodded a bit. Awkward silence followed. Suddenly looking uncomfortable the djinn girl took a few steps away. ”Anyway, I should probably move on. Doesn’t do me good to sit out in the open too long.”

Penny would nod as she refocused. She drifted off during the pause, dealing with spam and what not. "I'll swing by in a few days to see how you're settling in" Turning back towards the Sanctuary she would call over her shoulder "It has been fun, and thanks again Ruby"

”I should be thanking you. I give out wishes, I never expected to get one back like this. I look forward to seeing you again.” She called back with a big smile. Penny’s sensors would lose track of the girl completely as she seemed to blink out of existence.
Hidden 1 mo ago Post by BrokenPromise
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BrokenPromise Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

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“YES! New banner is online! Too bad Reevee doesn’t get one!”

— Oros


Rites could be delayed for a while, but never wholly postponed. Reaver grunted as he made a mess of one of the assorted trees planted in one of the small green areas of Penrose, far from prying eyes. He sunk the knife of the bovine sacrifice, as he kept tossing viscera after viscera.

“Praise Odin.” He just said, as he looked at how bloody his hands were, before sighing. “Well, I guess it should do for now. Pity I can’t get human sacrifices as often, though. There’s always a downside to this kind of stuff.” He whispered to himself as he tried to find some place to clear his armor off the grime and dirt.

Fortunately, Reaver had the foresight to bring a bucket of water to the sight of the sacrifice. If he was going to fulfill a rite in secret, there was no point in walking around Penrose all covered in blood. There were enough things to be wary of like invisible sentries, scrying spells, artifacts that could see the future and past, and just nosy magical girls who would jump at the chance to “avenge’ something. Bringing his own bucket of water along reduced his chances of being detected considerably.

Though trying to do something in secret was a fool’s errand in Penrose. Regardless of the steps taken, it was difficult to fully avoid detection. Maybe some girl with beast magic would pick up the scent of blood. Maybe one had the ability to detect Mint activity in their proximity. Maybe, just maybe, they were in a collab, and being interrupted was a damn certainty.

Oros was attracted by all three. Or at least she would have been, but their player keeps forgetting Oros doesn’t have the power to sense Mint agents anymore. Though there might have been something else that lead her this way. You'll just have to keep reading to find out. Regardless, the smell of cow blood was a curious one. Cows were a rare smell in urben areas like this one.

She did not hide her presence. Oros sniffed her way into the forest before coming across the dead cow. ”Man, these modern art pieces are pretty crazy these days.”

Reaver’s head turned to face the newcomer, appraising her with an inquisitive gaze. Not too bad in the looks department. The snappy comment showed some kind of mischievous spirit, as he raised a finger, before answering.

“A good assumption, but not entirely correct. This kind of modern art is hardly modern, in fact it’s Iron Age vintage, my lady.” He said as he did not pretend to hide what he had done in the slightest. Snappy comments would have not interrupted a sacrifice ritual, so he was that willing to accomodate. “Lifeblood is a common token for those beyond mortal influence.”

”Well, I can only discern so much from the nebulous description of it. Which is probably just as well, since the Grand Magistrate thinks this Realm of Patrons is PG-13 and shit. Or I guess K-12, whatever their equivalent rating system is.” Oros pulled her blade out of her sheath and looked at it. She raised an eyebrow. ”Oh yea, I thought you looked familiar.” After letting her sword slide back into its sheath, she turned to face Reaver. At no point during this exchange did she look happy, or even pleased. ”Guess there’s no point beating around the bush. Willy, right? I’m Oros. More importantly, I'm a messenger. Are you ready to resolve your weird deal-thing with Luna?”

Reaver raised an eyebrow, and folded his arms. “I have a deal with someone called that, yes.” He said, his tone neutral. “However messengers are not part of it. I will listen, but I’m not beholden to uphold anything without proof you’re speaking on her behalf.” The knight casually stated.

”Sure thing, buddy.” Oros shoved her hands into her pockets. ”Honestly, I think this whole thing is pretty weird myself. Like this is the internet age. All she needs to do is ask for your Discord or Glimmr handle and then you guys could stay connected. Buuuuuut I’m getting a pretty fat bonus out of this, so I’m not going to ask many questions.” She blinked a few times. ”Actually, that cow smells pretty good. You’re not using it anymore, are you?”

Reaver tilted his head. “Let me ask my patron.” He said, blinking for a few seconds. “I guess a couple of choice cuts it’s not out of the question. Would help with the cleanup.” He said, while unsheathing his sword and extracting the sirloin out of the cow. “I’m going to take some for myself so here you go.” He said, as he handed the bloody choice cut to Oros. He refrained from simply asking Tetrad’s handle himself.

Messengers had to eat too. Not like he was in a hurry or something.

The hooded magical girl examined the meat she was being offered. Her nose wiggled as she sniffed the cuts, before her mouth opened and shifted into something far more akin to a wolf, if not Fenrir itself. Her maw clamped over the entire mass of meat. Naturally, Reaver’s hand was inside the beast’s mouth as well. Unlike with Balder, her fangs did not pierce his flesh.Her tongue weaved between his fingers and cleaned every scrap of meat and blood before she pulled her head back. It only took a moment for her form to return to normal. It seemed not even a smile would bring a smile to her face.

”Right, where was I?” Oros Tapped her chin. ”Yea, she wanted to save Betty. I guess you guys have her or some shit? Gotta stress that I didn’t ask too many questions.”

“Betty, huh… Doesn’t ring a bell.” Reaver said, trying his best to keep his poker face. That was some technique in all of the licking. He said, as he tore a chunk of one of the carcass’ legs and began chewing on it too. With a healthy swallow, he then cleaned his mouth.

“So She wants a certain Betty back. Hm.” Reaver answered.

”Not just any Betty back, Luna begged badly before beseeching a begger a bounty to breech a boy for a bombshell babe bequeath the title Betty Biohazard back. She’s a Cradle agent or something.” Oros seemed to be making hand gestures, but it was impossible to see them as her hands were still in her pockets. ”I can’t really tell if you’re being like, coy and shit or if you’re really oblivious. I’m not a mind reader, you know? But Veronica is, and she had a pretty good look inside Justine’s head. She’s pretty sure Justine handed Betty over to the Mint, and you happen to work for them too I guess?” Oros pulled her hands out of her pockets and folded her arms. ”So what do you think? Luna seemed to think you’d want to help.”

“Mint, huh.” Reaver said. Plausible deniability and all that. “I could help yes, but I do need proof. After all, we have never met before. And just knowing the real name is not enough. What I promised to her was a serious binding commitment. You should understand.” He said, as he folded his arms once again. “If I were to accept it, It is likely to cause trouble.”

”Hold on, I think she did give me something.” The girl reached between her breasts and presented a rare magic the gathering card. While it was rare on its own, it had more significance to that than Reaver.

Reaver took the card on his hand with a snapping movement, and stood there wide-eyed for a second. He traced with his fingers the shape, the form, the writing. Even every little dent the card had. Memories of the past flew into him. This was his most valuable card, that she had lost to the girl that had been his first crush. Once upon a time. He smiled, remembering fond memories.

“I guess that woman will be the end of me, then.” Reaver sighed, before handing the card back. “Hope she is worth all of this trouble.” He said, before handing the card back. “Man, and I was getting the whole dark knight thing going on.” He said to himself, breathing deep.

“Alright, I will stake my life on this, then. Tell her that.”

”This is not some one man crusade you’re going on, Willy.” Oros kept her hands in her pockets, making no attempt to recover the card. ”I will negotiate for Betty’s release, I just want you to set up the meeting. Maybe put in a good word for me or at least be there when they show up. I think I have something that the Mint would find worthy of their time. Though if you’re that eager to enter the halls of Valhalla, I won’t stop you. ”

“Understood.” Reaver said as he pocketed the card. He tilted his head in a thoughtful manner, before eyeing Oros up and down. Especially the legs. Maybe… She did look a bit like the type of woman he had spent company with.

“I guess, our business is complete then my lady.” He said, performing a courteous bow to Oros.

”For the moment, anyway.”

“Would it be so impertinent to ask if my lady would be available after this?”

Oros raised an eyebrow. ”For?”

“Well, you seem to have built...quite the appetite. And I would be delighted to invite you for a refreshement.”

She stared blankly at the berzerker, blinking only occasionally. After a few seconds, she closed her eyes and rolled her head from one shoulder to the other. ”I’m sorry. It’s been a very busy few days. I just tracked you down to whatever the hell this is supposed to be. We ate, discussed our objectives, and I can’t tell if this is an offer to hang or a booty call.”

“The former.” He thought it’d be rude to mention the latter.

”Oh, alright.” Her eyes trailed to the floor for a moment, then flicked back up to Reaver. ”You’re sure?”

He raised his eyebrow. “The last girl I told to step on me ran away. It’s better to start easy.”

”I wasn’t being serious. We can hang for a bit, but I don’t have a lot of time these days.” Oros pulled out her phone to look at something on it. ”Before we get too ahead of ourselves, you’ll probably need to get a hold of me at some point. So my number’s REDACTED.” She looked to Reaver again. She hadn’t smiled once since she got here ”Alright, let’s go.”

"Excellent. I know a place that serves decent drinks. Bit of a rundown area these days...follow me my lady."
Hidden 29 days ago 29 days ago Post by twave
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twave

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Shortly after the Sanctuary Attack

Back among Janet, Deni, and Eli, there was the bright flash of light, and eventually it simmered down… revealing a pair of young girls, each in an eastern-inspired outfit, one white and blue and the other pink and red. Both still with black hair, and they opened their eyes to look at one another…


The one in the blue immediately grinned and looked down on herself and then over at her sister.

‘Hey, look, Eli! We got older!’

‘… A little older, still underdeveloped, Deni,’ Eli replied with a giggle.

‘Heeeeey, I don’t remember you being as into the Japanese theme as me!’ Deni said, chuckling at the fact Eli was now also dressed eastern-style, this despite both girls being unquestionably western in ethnicity and one having the name “Elizabeth”, that’s like the most western name there is.

‘Call me inspired, a little samurai came to save me,’ Eli responded with her own little chuckle.

‘I didn’t do all the saving!’ Deni turned to Janet again, smiling happily. ‘Thank you, once again.’

‘We are in your debt,’ Eli said, doing a thankful little bow, that is totally in-line with how she’s now dressed.

‘Hey, you totally know what you’re doing, looking like that!’ Deni commented with another chuckle.

‘One can know about a subject without being absorbed by it, Deni,’ Eli replied, before once again chuckling, and now both twins were chuckling among themselves here.

‘Eli, do you think our speech should switch colours?’

‘Maybe, Deni. I kinda liked my green, but basically nothing about me is green anymore.’


While she herself had experienced using a Red Coin she hadn’t yet had the chance to see it second hand. It was moments like this she wished she had Third Eye like her sister. God that wish turned her into such a nerd. She hadn’t been entirely sure how things would turn out. Eli wasn’t the only one to change though as it seemed Deni also underwent the same process. They were very clearly twins again. ”You’re most welcome.” For now she put the unused items back in her pack. “”So now that you’re both free what do you plan to do?” She moved the bag off to the side as she waited for a response.

‘We’re going to save Mariette! However possible!’ Deni said, clutching a fist of intention, eyes on fire with determination.

‘Yeah, there’s that. Then, well, I don’t know exactly…’ Eli said, looking like she’s considering something.

Janet was curious what Eli could be considering. She could probably take a peek with her magic. For now she would leave it alone since it wasn't really her business. Leaning back in her seat she hummed a bit. "Well in that case, maybe you could stay and keep me company while I wait and see if Mariette comes along."

‘Sure! But, would she come along? I mean, I’m not out there saving her right now, and she went through a portal to some void somewhere, I’d guess,’ Deni asked, tilting her head.

‘She’s probably going to come look for me,’ Eli said.

‘She won’t know where to find you, though,’ Deni replied, a bit unsure about that point.

”Jenna left me a note to wait. So I can only assume she dropped a hint somehow.” Sadly she didn’t have much in the way of details.

‘… Mariette is not going to be happy right now. Will she be safe?’ Eli asked, looking a bit worried.

‘I’m gonna assume she has a plan. Seems like they planned for your arrival pretty well!’ Deni answered with a little grin.

The Beacon girl nodded. ”We’ve lost some of the element of surprise at this point. It’s hard to say what Mariette will do from here. I have little contact to the outside. Neither does anyone else, which was the point of choosing this place. If she does show up it is highly likely she will fight back. Your help in managing such so I can work would be appreciated. Since I’ve done it once it should be easier to break Asengav’s grip on Mariette.”

‘Hm, okay,’ Deni said, looking like she was considering something for a bit, and then grinned and shrugged. ‘Eh, may as well check what we can do now in the meantime! If I reach forward and flex my imaginary muscles…’ Deni said, Eli looking on curiously as Deni held her hands forward, and…!

… A gust of wind blew out of her hands, blowing lightly past the current residents of the room, providing a bit of temporary cold.

‘Air!’ Deni called out. ‘We’re air-specialists!’ she called, somewhat in amazement. Eli held out a hand and playfully made some wind spin around in her palm in a mini-vortex.

‘Tihi, so it would seem,’ she replied. ‘We’re still not very magically powerful, so we’ll need to consider how to best apply this.’

‘Aaaah, that sucks just a little, though,’ Deni said with a sigh. ‘I really liked being a Reinforcement specialist. Being able to heal others in a pinch, not to mention the self-empowerment and barriers that made for pretty flexible combat… I’m going to miss it.’ So she lamented.

‘Well…’ Eli looked thoughtful and slightly amused for a second, as she manifested something in her hand. ‘Maybe you won’t have to?’ she asked, as she opened her palm for Deni to see, the older twin raising her eyes a bit to look upon the Platinum Coin that Eli held in her hand. Deni gasped, and then grinned happily at her sister.

‘You mean, we could…?’ Deni asked.

‘Yes…’ Eli acknowledged. ‘Let’s get Reinforcement back, as a second specialization.’

Deni grinned so happily and skipped over to hug Eli once again, and Eli hugged around her too, looking kinda proud. ‘Eli, you’re the best…!’ Deni told, so happy.

The two got into position, holding four hands intertwined around the Platinum Coin, nodded to one another, and… the energy dispersed. The power of the Platinum Coin surged through them, making both of them gasp just the slightest. The power settled… and Eli smiled, and Deni grinned. A gust of wind was formed, and a barrier shaped around it. Walls was built around them, and a wind was built to crash against the wall and build around them, creating a little whirlwind contained within a cylinder of reinforcement barriers. Finally, they stopped all magic, and the barriers fell and a gust of wind carried through the apartment.

‘Air and Reinforcement, ey?’ Deni asked with a chuckle.

‘Never heard anything like it, huh?’ Eli responded with a giggle. The two twins giggled among themselves for a bit.

‘Alright. Let’s prepare for Mariette’s potential arrival!’ Deni said, jumping to her feet.

‘Hey, do you happen to have a broken mirror, or a whole one we can break?’ Eli asked Janet, also getting up…

Janet nodded and lifted a small broken mirror from her backpack briefly. ”I was made aware of its effects.”

‘Excellent,’ Eli nodded back. ‘So, with us looking like this, the jig’s going to be up basically immediately, so we’ll need to…’ and then they continued setting up another potential ambush.




”So you want protection from the Djinn Sisters?”

Su, Helga, and Mariette were all gathered together in Su’s office at the golden trove. Shortly after Mariette came to them, they moved to a more secluded location. One where the only prying eyes they had to worry about was those of Boteg. But the dragon did not concern himself with other magical girls much, less they had cheese. But the only thing Su had out was a plate of day old cookies, which sat on a square table for all to take and eat.

”They’re a mysterious lot, that’s for sure. I’m not sure why they would capture Eli, but I wouldn’t put it past them to do something like that either. They can be mischievous pranksters, but I don’t see them doing it for any nefarious purposes.” She stood up. ”Regardless, I’ll come with you. I’m sure Helga wouldn’t mind tagging along, if just to keep an eye on me.”
"You know I'm not letting my eyes off of you, Su."
Helga added standing next to Su, rubbing her arm as it was still sore from the Sanctuary scuffle. Su only sighed in response, but she wore a sly smile.

‘Not necessarily from the Djinn Sisters themselves…’ Mariette corrected. ‘Eli was picked up by Ronin, who’s a member of Crimson Cradle; our allies. She was an insider on the opposing side. From there, I would have just asked Veronica, but when I was in the beach dimension I thought I heard someone saying Eli was with the Djinn Sisters. Thing is, there was nobody there that could possibly have said such a thing. See, me and Eli are friends with the Djinn Sisters, but my organization can’t know or they’d seek to exploit them. So everyone involved here SHOULD be allies. Yet, having just heard this information from an unspecified impossible source that only I seemingly heard scares me. I want to go make sure the Djinn Sisters are safe, but I don’t want to do it alone. Hence, yeah,’ Mariette explained.

‘Thank you. With luck, this isn’t a trap and just… good fortune,’ she said.

”Oh, so Veronica might be involved too? That changes things.” Su folded her arms. ”I don’t think she’d ever do something to aid the Mint, but you know, she has their mind set at the very least. I think it’s smart to go to the dijin sisters first and make sure everything’s okay.” In a swirl of magic, her common clothes were replaced with her magical uniform. ”Do you know where they are?”

"And are you sure you didn't just imagine it?" Helga asked as she also transformed. "Horrors can sometimes slip up and cause scary visions and voices. I remember Father doing that occasionally when I was Justine's slave."

‘I know where to look,’ Mariette said, before probably just using Absolute Direction to see if she can find somewhere to open a portal to.

The magical sense of direction pointed the portal girl in the direction of a nearby hotel. Having been told to stay indoors when not in their Dimensional Home, they had booked a room. Despite it being late the two were up and playing a game against one another on a TV.

She didn’t start with actually entering the room. Mariette opened a smaller portal to her friends, through which to only speak through.

‘Violet, Sakura? Is this place safe?’ she began, because that was her first concern. Assuming it was, she’d follow up. ‘I have brought additional friends. They’re Su and Helga. Is that fine?’ she asked, just in case. Assuming everything was fine and the place was confirmed safe, she’d open a bigger portal for them to walk through to said room, Mariette walking through first looking a bit awkward with introducing friend-groups with one another.

The twins confirmed it was safe and fine to have the other two join. And Mariette's concerns over bringing her friends were pretty quickly brushed away. Not even bothering to pause their game they got up and gave the portal girl a hug. "You're safe! We're so glad to see you." After a few seconds they let go and took note of the other two. "... Su, you're not a little bird anymore."

Violet looked at Helga for a bit. There was at least some inclination that she'd been touched by their magic. "Hello Helga. Nice to meet you."

Helga grinned and waved back. “Sup?”

”It’s been a while. When was the last time we met, when Mariette was meeting with Lily?” Su placed a hand on her hip. ”It’s been a few months anyway. I’m trying to keep the bird thing on the down low, so I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell too many people.”

”Oh, gotcha.” She made a motion like she was zipping her mouth shut before smiling.

‘Ah… yes, I am,’ Mariette awkwardly said as she was hugged by her friends. Yeah, they’d never harm her, she concluded as she gently dared to hug them back before they went back. They exchanged a couple words with Su and Helga, and Mariette was reminded they had, in-fact, seen one another before. That time with Amber… and Deni… Mariette shook her head a little.

‘Violet, Sakura. This, uh, may sound like a strange question, but is Eli with you?’ she asked, looking rather awkward for asking.

If it weren't for the fact that the two didn't know who all else Ronin had recruited they might have been a bit surprised by the question. "Yeah. A friend brought her to us. Your place was attacked?" Sakura confirmed.

Mariette breathed out a little at the confirmation. ‘It was. But, we're fine. Justine and Beacon attacked us together, but we managed to fend them off and escape. I don't have a dimensional home anymore, but I should be fine for the time being,’ she explained. There was more to it, but… ‘This friend. Can you tell me about her?’

"We haven't seen her in a while, but she's a little samurai girl. Really cheerful. You would like her." The two girls smiled a bit. Helga leaned a bit to look behind Violet, a curious look on her face. Violet realized the game was still running and went back to put it on pause.

It was her, Mariette confirmed. ‘Ronin. She’s one of Veronica’s girls. I’m confused as to why she’d drop Eli off with you, but she’s an ally, at the very least. The dimensional home started collapsing and everyone had to evacuate, but Ronin grabbed Eli and disappeared, and I didn’t know where she went. Then a voice that could have come from nobody said somewhere close to me that Eli was with you. It was really odd. Do you have any idea of what that may have been?’ Mariette asked, seeking explanations.

Sakura rubbed her chin a bit. ”Well… I think she was working with some other girls. Maybe one of them left you a clue?” The last bit was somewhat of a guess. She actually didn’t know what had happened in Dan’s dimension so it was hard to say for sure.

Mariette tensed up a little. That was a dangerous answer. It was possible Ronin was working with a hostile third/fourth/fifth party. ‘Where is Eli right now? Why's she not here with you?’ she asked, a little concerned.

Looking a little confused for a moment, Violet answered as she came back. ”In our dimensional home you gave us. It’s safer there than in this place. We still have to do our job and it doesn’t make sense to bring her along after you were just attacked.”

Mariette nodded. Made sense. ‘Alright. Can you open a path?’ she requested.

”Sure thing.” She offered a hand to Mariette while Sakura held out her hands to Su and Helga.

Helga took a look at Su, and nodded in confirmation before taking Sakura’s hand. “Cool game you got there, by the way. Might pick one up myself.” Su also took Sakura’s hand, but remained quiet as she watched Mariette and Violet.

Mariette swallowed a bit as Violet offered a hand to her. For some reason, she found herself hesitating to take it. It felt really awkward within her, too, because Violet was her friend. Yet… ‘… I’m… I’m considering the possibility that the voice told me to go here as a trap. But that makes no sense. Nobody should know I’m friends with you but am hiding it from my companions, and as such would not bring my forces. Yet, it all feels so weird. Why would Ronin give Eli to you, not just bring her back to me? I’m worried Ronin may have been working for a third party, and Eli may be trapped, and the activation may be my presence. I… don’t want to endanger anyone here. … Is there any way you can bring her out somewhere safe, so I may inspect her?’ Mariette asked, trying to figure out a solution for her doubts.

After a moment of listening Violet put her hands on her hips. She briefly looked hurt, but sighed, this was Mariette they were talking about. Seeing her sisters frustration, Sakura spoke up. "It's alright Violet. Mariette, you know we can't go against you or Eli right? That was the point of the wishes you made. I know friends outside your circle aren't really your thing. They're not ours much either, but we wouldn't let anyone hurt you. I have Third Eye, if Ronin or someone she's working for set up a trap then I would see it. The point of our Dimensional Home is to keep people out so they can't just bring in anyone they want. We let her in because we trust her." She glanced at the others there. "How about this. I can take Su in first and she can turn the place upside down if she wants."

”If it’s of any assurance, I can certainly go in first.” Su didn’t let go of Sakura’s hand. ”I’m not worried. I doubt they would do anything with Helga standing here anyway.” She grinned.

Mariette winced a little at Violet looking hurt. She didn’t mean that. Sakura spoke, and a somewhat panicked Mariette looked over, listening to the end intently. ‘I… I know you wouldn’t, I’m just worried someone is using you… but you’re right. Third Eye… I forgot about Third Eye,’ Mariette nodded. She then looked over to Su as she said that. ‘I… I specifically didn’t suggest that because it felt like I’d be saying you’re expendable, and you aren’t… but if you would, that would make me feel a lot better,’ she said, blushing the slightest as she nods to Su.

No one was objecting at this point so Sakura let go of Helga’s hand. ”Alright then. We’ll be right back.” She smiled and waved as she and Su disappeared.

Arriving in the Djinn’s dimensional home, Su would find the space was filled with luxurious seating and lounging furniture, drapes lined the walls and window, and pillows everywhere. There was only one other figure in the room, and that was the slime girl Eli. ”Here we are.” She gestured Su to feel free to look around.

Eli’s seated in one of said lounging furniture, looking as tense as a girl comprised of slime could be, then when someone showed up she lifted her gaze and blinked with a bit of confusion at Su.

The hotel manager ignored Eli’s presence for now. She wandered over to the drapes and pushed them off to the side before looking behind them. ”No assassins here.” She pushed a pillow with her foot. ”Or here.” Su scratched her chin. ”Hmmm, I don’t think I would be able to find anything dangerous in here even if there was something to worry about.” She placed her hands together. ”But Deni has to be in here somewhere.” A massive burst of wind shot out from Su in all directions. It wasn’t strong enough to be destructive, but it was mighty enough to move every pillow and drape in sight. No one under or behind any of them. Now it was just a mess.

Eli floundered just a bit from the gust of wind that just blew through the room, gripping the place she was seated. Then, though, she peered at Su. ‘Um, Su? Are you… here to help?’ she asked, just for confirmation.

Su turned to look at Eli. ”Yes.” She said, not looking like someone who just shoved every piece of movable furniture against the wall. ”Is there something you need?”

Eli nodded, her lips spreading… into a bit of a grin. A very Deni-like grin on Eli’s face. ‘I’m right here. Just a little something to make her lower her guard,’ she said.

”This is why I was going to ignore you.” Su folded her arms. ”If Mariette asks if I saw Eli in here, what am I supposed to say?”

Sakura was scooting one of the chairs back and trying to locate the right pillows that had been scattered. She paused for a moment and looked in Deni’s direction, then at Su. ”I see Eli. And if she asks if Eli was here, then yes. She WAS here.”

Su looked away from the two magical girls and groaned. ”I know, it’s easy enough to talk around. It’s just nerve wracking trying to try to lie to her like this. She’s in pain, and even if we’re all doing what’s best for her, I’m betraying her trust.” After taking a deep breath, she looked back ahead at Deni. ”It’s good to see you, by the way. I’m glad the two of you made it out alright..”

‘Just tell her everything’s going to be alright! It’s going to be, you’ll not be lying!’ “Eli” suggested happily, kicking happily with her legs a bit. Then, at the last bit, she smiled widely again and waved to Su. ‘It was REALLY dangerous for a moment there, but it worked out! I’m happy you’re alive, too!’

”Can we have the reunion later. Su might not like it but I’m skirting on being reprimanded by my patron. I’d rather not be trapped for a hundred years or something.”

Su nodded. ”That’s fine. You can take me back now.” As quickly as she had gone, Su was brought back before Helga, Mariette, and Violet. ”I’m not going to get used to how fast that is.” Helga was slourched on a bean bag chair with a controller in her hands playing the game she noticed before Su left.
“How’d it go, Su?” She asked as she looked back at her, only to quickly return to the screen with a pout as she lost the round. Su closed her eyes and gave her head a shake. ”I turned over everything that moved, and I couldn’t find anything to worry about. If you want to see Eli, you just need to go inside.”

‘How is she…?’ Mariette asked, kind of cautiously.

”I think she’s fine.” Su shrugged her shoulders.

Mariette looked a bit worried for a second. "Think" she's fine? But, a second later she rationalized it. Eli may have just been there and Su didn't particularly pay attention to her, so she didn't know that particular part for sure. Mariette nodded a bit, and then looked to Violet. ‘Alright. Bring me to her.’

Nodding the Djinn Sisters placed their hands on the three other girls and they all transported into the extremely disheveled dimensional home. "Whoa, what a mess." She briefly inspected the space before she started fussing with some of the drapes out of sight.

Helga followed along, hands on her hips as she surveyed the place with a lifted eyebrow. “Fancy digs, but a bit..cluttered, I’d say,” she spoke in a half-mutter.

Mariette would see "Eli" there.

Mariette immediately looked over towards Eli, sitting there so dutifully on the lounging furniture, and breathed out a bit in relief.

‘Eli? Are you alright?’

‘I'm alright…’ Eli replied, and it technically wasn't a lie. She slipped off the furniture onto her legs and walked over, hugging around a surprised Mariette, who eventually took the time to hug her back.

‘I’m happy you’re alright,’ Mariette said, not detecting any traps just yet.

‘Not as happy as I am that you’re alright!’ Eli said, smiling so happily. She then breathed out a bit, with slight regret.

‘I’m genuinely sorry about this.’

Mariette was confused for a bit, before suddenly crying out at the searing pain of the broken mirror appearing. It was like the glass shards sinking into her body and tearing at her soul. Her dark tentacles were about to burst forth to protect her, except some well-placed candles around made those disperse as soon as they manifested.

Helga grunted in surprise, and bared her claws, confused by what was happening. "What the hell?"

Janet had returned, and all the precautions used to retrain Eli before came back to life. Noticing that Su and Helga were there though Janet hesitated to move any closer to the portal girl. Rather than speak what she intended she mentally communicated what she'd done for Eli. Then she requested permission. "I promise I will not harm her. May I?"

‘Go ahead,’ “Eli” confirmed.

Su nodded, wanting to end Mariette’s suffering as soon as possible.

Nodding the Beacon girl moved over to create and maintain a barrier to keep Mariette from lashing out with any other of her magic. Deni's assistance in that regard allowed her to focus more on removing the mind bending. The process was less pleasant for the girl due to the mirror, but thankfully Janet now had some experience removing the horror's touch.

Once Mariette's mind was clear a few minutes later, Janet lay the unconscious girl on a large pillow, extinguished the candles, and left briefly to dispose of the mirror. Back once again she let out a sigh of relief and took a seat. After a few seconds she gave a slight smile. "She will wake soon. The mind bending is gone but Asangav can still locate her outside this place. We'll discuss that more once she's up."

There was a moment of silence until she turned her attention to Su and Helga more directly. "It's good to see you again Su. It's been too long. Have you been doing alright?" Considering the circumstances she seemed a little too eager to exchange pleasantries. Janet did have something of a reputation for not being your typical member of Beacon though.

Su released a breath she didn’t know she was holding and stood up right. ”Janet.” she said with a tired sigh. ”Thank you for doing this for Mariette, if you did indeed do it without any strings attached.” She placed a hand on her hip. ”But I would appreciate it if you didn’t take such a cordial tone with me. You might have been under Justine’s influence when you took Amber’s life, but we’re never going to be just friends. Even if that old scar finally heals, you are still an agent of Beacon, and Helga and I are wanted by them. There’s no point in carrying on like this.”

Helga also scowled, still wary of Janet even as she attempted a friendly conversation.

Janet's demeanor deflated a bit. Why she ever expected a different response was beyond her. Undying optimism perhaps? Hard to say if that was her or the magic causing that. "I'm not sure if I should be depressed or accomplished that I've managed to piss off everyone in such a short amount of time." She would clam up after that. It would probably take her a minute or two to brush off the comment and be back to herself.

”Sure.” Su said to herself. ”Make it all about you.”

Helga glanced at Mariette, who seemed like she was sound asleep. "Man, you Beacon folks are devious." She sighed, and lowered her claws. "Still, it's for the best that she's now released from the Horror. She can make her own decisions now, and not dance to some narcissist's whims."

Deni transformed back into her normal self, which now looked a bit different than previously. A little older. A little more blue in her clothing, since having used the red coin earlier, but it was still definitely her. She’d held Mariette in place during the operation, ready to use Reinforcement magic to detain/keep her healthy. Now, after the procedure, she sighed out happily looking down on the currently passed out Mariette. ‘This… this wouldn’t have been possible without both of you,’ she said. ‘The operation wouldn’t have been possible without Janet’s support, and Mariette wouldn’t have come if it wasn’t for the trust she put in Su. Thank you… so much for helping me save her!’ Deni grinned towards them, looking really happy. She was intentionally not commenting on what she just heard the two of them talk about.

Turning her attention away from Su and Helga back to Deni, Janet nodded. "You are welcome. Do you remember the options I gave you and your sister once she woke up?"

‘Yupp! Purifying potion, White Coin or Red Coin,’ Deni replied simply. It was earlier this same day, she wouldn’t forget already.

Janet would set out two potions and a single red coin. "I will leave these with you. I won't bother with the last one since I don't think anyone here would want it anyhow." She said as she closed up her backpack.

‘Alright! Thank you!’ Deni replied happily. ‘Two potions?’ she also asked, a bit curious.

"I made them for those that weren't happy with how they were as a dark or monster girl, but didn't want to join up with Beacon. They don't do anyone any good if I keep them all." She stood up and put on her backpack. "I guess we'll catch up later." Leaving everything they should need for Mariette, Janet disappeared without any other fare.

‘An extra. Alright. Say thanks to Jenna also from us!’ Deni waved happily to Janet as she departed.

Su gave the potions a long stare. ”So that’s them?” After blinking a few times, she tightened her arms. ”I wonder if Mariette is going to have a dramatic change like you did. I wouldn’t think so, given that she’s not a monster.”

‘We used a Red Coin, so me and Eli’s appearance changed more than the potion would, but yea! It supposedly cleanses monster-things and connections to Horrors and so,’ Deni replied.A few moments later Violet and Sakura returned, swapping Janet’s spot out for Eli and bringing her back in. ”Is it done? We’re good?” Glancing around she saw Mariette resting. Looking relieved, she relaxed finally. ”Ah, finally done with that.” She flopped over on a chair.

Sakura eyed one of the potions and examined it with her Third Eye. After a bit she laughed. ”I see the Beacon twins have been making good use of their gifts.” She set it back down.

‘Indeed! Thank you so much for helping us out…!’ Deni told the twins, smiling happily to them. Eli, meanwhile, dashed over to Mariette’s side in concern, kneeling and looking on.

Some time later, the person in the bed jolted. Dark tendrils woke, from the power of the one who recently awoke, ready to lash out-

‘Wait! Mariette, you’re safe!’ Eli cried out, and the tendrils froze. Instead, Mariette lifted her head, two wide, confused eyes looking at the people present in the dimensional home, her eyepatch having fallen off.

‘You’re awake…!’ Deni said, bouncing over to sit next to Eli, and Mariette gazed in confusion at them. Her gaze then wandered to the others in the room, still confused and perhaps more than a little frightened.

Su slid a chair closer to Mariette’s side before sitting down in it. ”How do you feel?” Su’s brow was furrowed ”Your connection to your magic doesn’t seem to have faded.”

Helga was standing next to Su, a hand on the chair's backrest. "How many fingers can you count?" Her other hand held up three claws.

The Djinn Sisters watch off to the side for a bit. They felt a little bit like they'd betrayed her, even if Mariette was arguably safe and free to think for herself.

Mariette kept the confused look towards Su as she asked the questions. ‘All Janet did was remove the mind-bending. The powers and connection to Asengav remains,’ Eli explained. Deni remained smiling happily at Mariette.

‘I…’ Mariette looked even more confused at Helga and her claws. A cloud of questions filled her head. ‘What happened…?’ she asked, because she genuinely didn’t know.

Helga pouted as she lowered her hand down, unsure if what she asked went through to Mariette. She decided to wait and see how things played out.

‘Um, Mariette?’ Deni asked, and Mariette looked over at her. ‘Hi! I look a bit different now, but, I… I am Deni. I’m back. Sorry it took so long!’ Deni said, smiling so happily at a confused Mariette.

‘And, uh. I’m Eli, still. Just stopped being monster-girls…’ Eli said, waving a bit at her.

‘So, long story short, every single agent of Asengav is mind-bent to do his bidding, it wasn’t by your choice. No agent of Asengav would willingly part with the Horror. So we had to capture you. But, as a result, you’re free! Janet removed your mind-bending! I am… so happy we actually got here!’ Deni said, probably missing a couple details but looking very happy.

‘Deni…?’ Mariette asked, blinking a couple times at her. Then, yeah, Eli did not look like a slime-girl either. Neither of them did. Mariette looked over at Su and Helga again, as if asking them to confirm what she just heard.

”I didn’t believe it at first either, but who else would think of something as hair-brained as this?” Su waved her hand at Deni and Eli. The smile on her face was getting bigger. ”Though I went along with it, and it worked, so I can’t be too hard on them.” She reached for Mariette’s forehead. ”You’re free, now. Your mind is finally your own.”

Mariette stared at Su with modestly wide eyes, staying still as Su touched her forehead. Light-specialization told her that this was the truth they were saying… but Mariette didn’t really understand, so she was quiet.

‘We’re not quite done yet, though,’ Deni told, and brought over one of the potions and a Red Coin. ‘Asengav is still your patron, we’ve just removed his influence on your mind. To sever the connection completely, you need to either take this purifying potion, or use this Red Coin to alter your magic in such a way that you switch patron. Not sure how that works, but hey! It works!’ Deni explained happily.

“Hold on!” Helga interrupted. “If she does that, Asengavel or whoever was Mariette’s Horror is going to catch on immediately.” She lifted the claw on her index finger up. “I know for a fact that Horrors rely completely on the mind manipulation they place on their magical girls to keep them in line, which means they won’t check whether it’s still active or not unless they become suspicious and think something’s not right. You weren’t the only girl bound to them, right?” She asked Mariette. “I think if Mariette continued to pretend to serve them like she has before, I think she could save even more girls that way.”

”Like how we let Justine go, you mean? Just to have her revert into an even nastier killing machine?” Su’s face was almost flushed red. Anyone gifted with sight could see how she abhorred the idea. But she started to return to normal by the time she addressed Mariette again. ”You’re a smart girl, Mariette. Now that you have your free will back, you can make your next choice based on what you want. It must be hard, it’s probably been so long since you’ve had free will that you don’t know what to do with it.” She giggled nervously. ”I’m just fulfilling my end of my oath. I said I’d be here for you when you needed it. Now it’s up to you to decide where to go next.”

‘Aaaah, I’m not super enthusiastic about letting her go back to Asengav in any shape or form just yet. We JUST managed to get her here, I don’t want to risk her getting snatched back…’ Deni said, speaking directly from her own heart. Mariette, meanwhile, looked at Su as Su told about that the next choice should be hers. She was still reeling. Mariette looked down on her hands, and…

‘L… let me think about this…’ Mariette said, looking down into the bed. Her thought-process was a mess. Still, the girls seemed so excited for her being free, so she made “being free” the goal of her current thinking, and then a huge obstacle appeared. ‘Asengav… he’ll come looking for me. He’s not the kind that lets his agents get away, unless, uh,’ she looked towards Deni. ‘… unless he thinks they’re dead, anyway…’ It wasn’t a suggestion, but more of an observation. ‘I… won’t be exactly free as long as he can identify me. The potion won’t change how I look, but the coin would, but… do I even want that…?’ Mariette asked. ‘What… do I want…?’

Stepping forward, Sakura lightly touched Mariette on the arm. "Don't rush into anything you might regret. I know you're not used to this friend thing. We aren't really either, but we want you to be safe. You're safe here, stay as long as you need."

Mariette nodded to Sakura, appreciating the offer.

Su’s smile ran from her face as Mariette remained indecisive. ”Of course.” Was all Su said before patting the girl on the head. ”Don’t take too much time though. Remember that Penrose is the way it is not because of one magical girl’s evil ploy, but having most of the magical girls being forced to do nothing.” Su looked to everyone before taking hold of Helga’s hand. ”I’d like a moment of privacy, please.”

Su took Helga into one corner of the room and threw up a vacuum wall to block their conversation from being heard by the others. Such a thing was not something Su could easily maintain, but she did so for a bit. Her right arm trembled as she held it up to maintain their screen of privacy.

Helga was visibly alarmed by Su’s use of her magic. “W-What is it?”

”Don’t get upset. Boteg only told me this a few hours ago. I was hoping things would go differently here, however, it’s clear Mariette isn’t stable enough to run things in my absence.” Su closed her eyes and sighed. ”Helga, Penny was right. There are more golden dragons, and some of them live here on earth. But none of them live in Penrose. I’m sure you know what this means.” Her face became grave. ”He wants to leave as soon as possible. I just want to confirm something.” Her lower lip quivered. ”You are going to leave with me, right?”

Helga’s eyes widened, and she lips curled in surprise.
“L-Leave? Boteg is really...Well, it does make sense for him.” She held her arm and sighed, before she nodded.
“Wherever you and Boteg go, I’ll go too. We are family after all, and a family that slays together, stays together.”

All of Su’s uneasiness melted away in an instant, and her smile returned. ”I don’t know what made me think you might say anything else.” She wrapped her arms around Helga’s shoulders and pulled her into a tight hug, allowing the sound proof barrier to come down. She planted a kiss on Helga’s cheek before turning to the others. ”Well, it looks like things are settled here for the moment. If you ever want to talk, you have my number, Mariette. I hope you don’t think less of us for doing this for you.”

Su didn’t wait for a response. The two shifted out of the home immediately.

Mariette was briefly alarmed by Su keeping some kind of secret, before rationalizing that keeping some things private is fine. Mariette nodded, and when she looked up they had left. She made a small decision, and turned to the others.

‘I'd like to think about this on my own for a while, before I make any decision. Using the potions, or anything...’

‘But, but,’ Deni spoke, looking downcast. ‘You're still connected to Asengav! The big bad dimensional conqueror that used us like puppets! At least sever that connection before-’

‘Deni,’ Eli stopped her sister. ‘We just restored her free will. What's the point of that if we're just going to supplant our will in its place? We've done our part, freed her from brainwashing. The next part is hers.’

Deni clearly didn't look super-happy about this, but eventually dug into her pocket for a piece with her phone-number on it. ‘Here, don't you dare hesitate to contact us if you need us!’

Mariette looked just a bit frightened of Deni right now, but accepted the note.

Violet and Sakura would give Mariette a hug briefly. "We've blocked the others from coming back. So it's just us that can come here. Think about visiting sometime and please be careful." They weren't really as sure either way like Deni did. It wasn't their place to tell Mariette what to do.

‘Thank you…’ Mariette replied in the hug. ‘I’ll be back when I figure something out, or if I need to hide. Until then…’ she looked over to Deni. ‘I’m… very happy you’re alive. Thank you, for fighting for us,’ she said, and then she could probably Dimensional Shift herself, leaving the dimension to think.

‘Whelp, there she went. Now I’m not sure what I’ll do,’ Deni commented. ‘Hey, don’t you have a solo life to show me how it is?’ Eli asked with a giggle. ‘Oh, yeah, that! Absolutely! I’ll show you all about the Ronin lifestyle!’ Deni said, grinning widely. ‘Hmm, but what will we call me, then? Are we the Ronins, now?’ Eli pondered, smirking. ‘Can’t we just be Deni and Eli?’ Deni asked, chuckling a bit back. ‘Eeeh, we probably still don’t want Asengav’s champions to figure out who you are, or me for that matter…’ Eli said. ‘Guess we gotta work on a name, then,’ Deni said with a shrug. The two looked at one another, and then giggled together.

It all had gone rather well, all things considered.
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Having been assigned basic training in Beacon, Janet and Jenna went through without much fuss for the better part of a week. They needed things to simmer down, especially with Alicia. They weren't going to be able to avoid talking to and bringing up some potentially difficult realities though. At least one of them was something they couldn't avoid even if they wanted to. They invited their friend to join them at their house after one of the sessions specifically to talk. Eventually they managed to coax Alicia to come. After getting a little small talk the three went off to the twins room.

Janet drops onto her bed and stares at the ceiling for a little while. "Jenna told me you were mad at us after the attack on Mariette's fortress. I realize that things didn't go to plan, but I don't fully understand." She rolls on her side and looks over at Alicia. "Have we done something wrong? I thought…" She rubbed her head and sat back up. "Clearly something is wrong. If it's us then we would like to fix it."

Holding back a huff of annoyance, Alicia had joined the Twins in hanging out at their house. She had been perfectly respectful to their parents, if a bit distant to the Twins themselves. The trial had vindicated their actions, but that did not mean that she was ready to slip back into the old relationship with nary a thought. Especially not with how that clever plan of theirs had worked out.

Arriving in their bedroom, she stood at the other end of the room with her arms folded while Janet sat down on her bed. ”The point of the mission was to stop Mariette. Instead, she escaped. From my point of view it looked like you had let your feelings towards Justine keep you from carrying out the primary goal of that mission so you could get revenge, when we still needed Justine

She glanced away, a small shrug accompanying the aloof gesture. ”Now she’s being held by the Cradle, Mariette is still running free, and all that effort to set up that assault was wasted. We’re not going to have that kind of advantage ever again.” And without it, how could they stop Mariette? They had all seen how things had worked out this last time. Clearly the court did not agree, but knowing that logically did not stop her emotional response.

The two looked down. Jenna spoke up first. "I wasn't trying to disrupt the mission. I thought it was the right thing." Being the one that had caused such a mess she shrank back and fought back the urge to break down. She apparently had taken the criticism personally.

"Of anyone, I should be the most angry about Mariette. She kidnapped me from this very room and delivered me to Justine. What did she do to you?" There was some legitimate confusion there. Janet was generally a lot more geared toward logic and what have you than her sister, but she wasn't emotionless.

”I know, I know,” Alicia assured Janet with a sigh. They had had a whole trial about whether that was the case, and there wasn’t really a need to relitigate the point. Not this far along.

She felt like she had already explained her reasonings, but perhaps she was confusing that for another person. It probably didn’t hurt to repeat this information again, just so they could understand how frustrated she was right now. ”Because when we were preparing to go after Justine, she showed up and offered her help because Justine was trying to kill her. It worked out then, but she took advantage of the situation to abduct a bunch of the girls she had abducted for Justine, stole a bunch of her wealth, her books, that sort of thing.”

Alicia was forced to fight the urge to pace about the room as her emotions swelled to the surface once more. She’d considered talking to Aurelio or Serenity about it, but there was never a good time. ”Every time something big has happened, she’s been there. She’s been lurking in the shadows, growing stronger and more influential. But I seem to be the only one aside from Justine who really cared. And she can’t keep getting away with this.” Yet she had gotten away with it, once more, and seemed to be as strong as ever.

Listening closely the two waited for a while. Obviously considering what Alicia had to say. After a bit Jenna spoke up. ”I don’t think she came out so great this time. An entire dimension was destroyed with who knows what all it had. I also have reason to believe that an object they were trying to protect has gone missing. If that’s the case then she’s probably in hot water with her patron.” She was recalling some confusion she’d picked up on in Dan’s dimension.

While Alicia would concede that the destruction of the pocket dimension was something, she was not sure that it was enough to make a difference. And learning what they knew did not entirely help their situation either. ”Maybe. We don’t know for sure, and she’s proven her ability to recover in the past. Especially with all the support she got in this last fight, she’s not exactly lacking for gullible allies.” Honestly, it still dug at her every time she thought about it. How could so many ignore what was right in front of their eyes?

There was a bout of silence for a bit as they all sat with their thoughts for a while. It took some time but eventually Janet stood back up. ”We’ll figure it out. We didn’t just invite you over to stew over the mission. I would rather talk about where we are with our friendship and some things that we haven’t quite figured out how to tell anyone.” She stepped over to a small vanity and lightly poked at a glass bottle. Alicia would recognize it as the one that had held the purification potion she’d wished for. Picking it up Janet held it in her open palms.

”There aren’t that many people I really consider good friends. You especially I owe for more than one occasion. I can count on you and I don’t want to lose that. It’s one of the reasons I keep coming back. I want to try and be as transparent as I can and help with your goals. I’m worried you’re starting to see me as an enemy. If I’d been found guilty they probably would have killed my sister and I. Or if we’d somehow become Excommunicated then it might as well have been the same thing.” She stared at the object in her hands for a while.

Janet changed the subject, and Alicia did her best to leave that behind her. She needed to focus on the here and now, not what had happened in the past. She glanced at the purification potion, before her gaze returned to the girl holding it. ”It feels like ever since Cindy got stuck in your head, you haven’t trusted me.”

A finger rose to tap the side of her own head, mimicking the insertion of Cindy’s consciousness to some degree. ”Rachel left me to handle the Mariette operation. But I had to find out all of your side schemes and secret alliances in a courtroom and after the fact. If I didn’t know better, I’d think she has had a bigger influence on both of you than you’re willing to admit.” After all, it felt like there was a real connection there. One that she could not easily dismiss.

Janet would sigh and nod a bit, but also shook her head afterward. ”The secrecy had more to do with the contract she and I made. I thought it was necessary to protect Beacon’s secrets as well as my own. To an extent I believe it did because Cindy couldn’t turn around and take what she learned and give it away. By the same token it prevented me from telling you everything I wanted to. Maybe it was a mistake, maybe it could have been put together better. Whichever it was I’m not sure how much longer it, or she, is going to matter.” She set the vial down.

Alicia had some choice words for the idea that the contract had actively inhibited her sharing information in a manner that was helpful. But before she could actually say anything, she was met with Janet’s ambiguous and slightly ominous ending. ”You’re not doing more magical experiments on yourself, are you?”

”No no. If I knew how much trouble it was going to cause I might never have wished to know how to make those potions. I would rather it stop. Something we learned though, specifically with the potion I used, is the effects don’t go away. Things probably would have stayed the same for a while if it weren’t for Cindy moving the process forward. It’s kind of like the ShineSpark in that it’s just there and works, but it’s the purification magic trying to protect us. This was going to happen eventually and I could never really figure out a good time or place to say it. The magic is starting to... overpower the ShineSpark. I-I can’t...” She watched for Alicia’s response. For the first time in a while Janet looked legitimately scared. ”I can’t stop it.”

It took all the strength the Paladin had not to do a double take. She was not expecting what Janet told her, and it was ridiculous for her to believe, at least at this point. For now she opted for the simple question. ”Do you have any proof?”

”Someone with Third Eye looking closely should be able to see it. It’s only this way because it came from a wish. I know for a fact the things we made won’t have this side effect. I’m not so much worried about what it will do, more how others will react.”

Luckily for them both, Alicia had Third Eye. She didn’t answer immediately, her eyes beginning to glow as she turned it on and went for a closer look. She wasn’t sure what she was looking for, but she would probably know it when she saw it. There was the familiar warmth and glow of the ShineSpark. It didn't seem to be burning as brightly as one would expect. Gazing deeper though it looked like one of many lights in a field of stars. This would be somewhat familiar to Alicia as she'd witnessed how the potion had enveloped and changed Janet the first time.

The sight was strange, but it did seem to back up what Janet was saying. Alicia’s eyes returned to normal as she took a step back. The corner of her mouth ticked downwards as she frowned, though her anger was perhaps not as poignant as before. ”Purified of the Spark. That’s pretty ironic,” she said to herself.

Having taken a moment to appreciate that fact, she returned to the dilemma at hand. ”Do you want me to talk to the Cardinal, see if she knows anyone who might be able to help?”

Holding her breath for a bit too long, Jenna took in some air. She stepped back as well and took a seat. ”Yeah. We didn’t really think much of it at first and would figure it out later since it wasn’t really doing anything. This and the Spark aren’t necessarily opposed, it’s just… over zealous. You can ask the Cardinal. I don’t really know if she’ll have anyone that knows more about it than us though. Our wish has pretty much taught us everything there is to know about it.”

Janet had looked back at her sister while she spoke. ”I don’t want to leave Beacon, but I expect that once we’ve lost our Spark we won’t be allowed back in. If we aren’t outright Excommunicated. I doubt Rachel will believe any of this no matter what we say.” She fidgeted with her hair a bit. ”I’m… not sure what to do.”

Well, it was hardly a situation that anyone could envy. Alicia nodded along slowly, her mind already going to work on the problem. Yet if the two girls who knew purification the best did not have a solution, then what chance did she have? Better to turn to someone who might have access to more arcane knowledge. ”I’ll do that then.” You never knew, maybe Beacon had run into this sort of thing before. At the very least it would have been foolish to not try.

The mention of Rachel earned a wince. ”Yeah, I can imagine how well that will go. ‘Purifying the Spark’ is going to be hard for her to believe even if she sees it.” After all, the Spark was supposed to be Light. They’d seen it get twisted before, but never deleted. ”I’m...not sure what to do there either,’ she admitted hesitantly.

”Don’t…” There was a moment where she stopped and rolled back her thoughts. ”I’m sorry. I don’t mean to dump all these things on you. I just don’t know who else to talk to that won’t try and kill or exploit us. Don’t worry about it too much. I’ve gotten myself in a lot of this mess trying to find ways to do things not by the books so to speak. I just want to help and everyone sees it like we’re betraying them or mad scientists out to experiment on everyone. I know I wished for more potions, I didn’t expect it to fill our heads with all this magical knowledge. What else was I supposed to do with it?” This stuff had been tumbling around in her head since the wish. Some even before as she tried to hold out an olive branch. It seemed as though it was all taking a toll. Jenna tried comforting and steadying her sister with a hug.

Alicia remained in place, unmoving and just allowing Janet to vent as she lamented her situation and the problems that had resulted from it. It seemed like the nicest thing to do at the moment, So she’d let the Twins say what they needed to say, and think in the meanwhile.

”it’s fine,” she assured them both. ”I may not be an Empath, but I am supposed to be here for all of my sisters, as much as I might disagree with them. And you’ve still caused less general chaos and problems than Rachel has. Things will work out as long as you keep trying.” She wasn’t sure if she really had better advice than that, at least in the present.

After letting off a little emotion Janet dried her eyes that had filled a bit with tears. Taking in a long breath she tried relaxing again. Rather than dwell on her own downward spiral she shifted subjects slightly. ”Speaking of. Rachel wants us to make a weapon. Something that can purify others when used on them. I’m not certain we can do it like she wants. I’m kind of… Well, do you think such a thing would be good to have?” She wanted to know Alicia’s opinion on the matter. She usually was good about giving the sisters a different perspective without throwing them under the bus.

Alicia frowned, thoughtfully stroking her chin as she considered what Rachel had asked the Twins to make. As much as she might want to say one thing, the more rational part of her could not follow those words. ”Honestly, that sort of thing could have been pretty useful. We’d spare a lot of suffering if it were easier to purify people.” Without their consent if need be. But that might just be the fight with Mariette showing. Who could know for sure?

”Mm. We’ll give it our best shot then. No guarantees it’ll work though. We have to be careful not to make something someone could steal and turn into something else.” That was certainly the last thing they wanted and the biggest hurdle for sure. Removing the consent part is risky.

While Janet was understandably cautious about what they were making, Alicia remained confident. If anyone could do it, it would be them. The sooner the better, with the way that things were going. ”Nothing ventured nothing gained, I guess,” she said in turn. As much as they were pushing a line, she was not convinced that it was a line that they did not need to cross.

The mention of it being stolen did raise another concern though. ”Is Cindy going to make this an issue?” Alicia asked. Considering how it had messed with their plans already, another wrinkle like that would not be….helpful.

"Because of how we have to make it, someone would need to use a potion like we did and the weapon would act as a channel. At the moment that means only Jenna, Cindy, and I would be able to use it. I think she's banking on only us having access." She mused.

Despite what was said, Alicia could not help but note that it was not a firm answer. Still, she supposed it would have to be good enough for now. They didn’t even know if they could make a functional weapon in the first place, so Cindy getting up to tricks was a bit pre-emptive to worry about.

”Well, I guess I’ll wish you good luck then.” The sooner they got things under control in this city, the better.

Managing a weak smile the girl closed her eyes and took a slow breath. She looked tired, which was a little unusual for a genki girl. Shortly after though her appearance changed signalling Cindy was now in control. Seeing a familiar and safe place she seemed content at least. Realizing Alicia was there she straightened up a bit. ”Paladin Seraph.” She addressed the girl with her title given by Beacon.

Alicia was only slightly surprised as Janet found herself falling under the sway of Cindy once more. Despite this though, she didn’t really have anything else to say to the spectre. Unless Cindy had something to say to her of course. She’d said what she needed to. ”Cindy,” she replied with a curt nod. ”The Twins wanted to talk.I’ll get myself out of your hair now if you’d prefer.”

Considering the gesture for a couple seconds, she shook her head. "No, you are just the one I want to speak to right now." She would say rather matter of fact. "I have been observing and conversing with the twins about our arrangement. With everything that has happened it is clear that my presence puts myself and them more at risk. I wish to seek a way to separate from your friend." perhaps easier said than done. Janet's persistence, her sister, and their magic was more than she'd bargained for. There might have been some intent to exploit the girl, but it was becoming more clear that was not a war she could win.

Alicia maintained silence as Cindy laid out what she wanted, It was a sudden shift in opinion, but she had a feeling that she knew why. After all, if this potion could eliminate the Spark, what was to say that it would not seek to remove her next?

”Well, I suppose I can’t argue with that,” Alicia agreed with another nod. ””Did you just want my blessing, or do you have a plan?”

”I thought it best you should know. Penny seemed to have some idea that might be helpful. I was thinking after the twin’s training is complete I could seek her out to see what can be done.” Looking off for a moment she sighed. It was less than ideal. Everything about her existence was though.

Hearing that Penny was involved made Alicia feel at least a little better. She’d keep an eye on the twins and their carry-along persona. ”That’s good to hear. Keep me in the loop with how things go.” She didn’t want any more unpleasant surprises if she could avoid it.

”We’ll be sure to update you.” This was her first time hearing this herself. She and Cindy talked, but she didn’t realize she’d made a choice. It made her feel a lot better about the situation though. They just needed to get through this week and move forward.
Hidden 28 days ago Post by Flamelord
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Flamelord

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Shocking Encounter

Starring: ‘Magic Mike’ Aurelio
‘Fire Emblem Wizard’ Shane


In the past week or so, Penrose had been afflicted with a series of blackouts. This by itself was not entirely unusual considering what the city had suffered, but it seemed that someone knew a bit more than might otherwise be let on. They had placed a bounty, indicating that these events were the result of some sort of monster rather than failures from damage. At least entirely.

Then one day it came in that another blackout had occurred. It was evening, and the disturbance had affected a portion of the residential area of the city. While the power would come back eventually, allowing a monster to feed and grow stronger would only cause more trouble down the line.

And so two brave magical girls boys sallied forth, to put an end to this terror once and for all. Rows of modest homes, front lawns, and parked cars stretched out before them. And in the distance one could see the occasional flicker of blue electricity. Their foe, or something more mundane? There was only one way to find out

Finding and following the trail of the blackout turned out to be a pretty trivial matter for one that answered the call. Following the lines above and below ground would lead him right to the source. The call was for two however so Shane would wait for just a little bit for whomever would join him.

Shane wouldn’t have to wait very long as shortly after he arrived there would be a sudden appearance of a vibrant orb of light. It would hum with power before imploding slowly to reveal the white clad marvelous magician himself. Aurelio would take a moment to survey the area, as he always did after porting into a new place, before he regarded his compatraite for this endeavor.

“Hello there, hope I didn’t leave you waiting long?” He would ask as he tipped his hat to the other mage.

A flashy entrance if he’d ever seen one. Shane would shake his head slightly at the apology. ”Not at all. I just got a bit of a head start.” Offering a hand he would introduce himself. ”Shane. You go by Aurelio if memory serves me.” He pointed in the direction of the occasional flashes. ”Pretty sure our quarry is over that way. Might as well start heading that way.”

“Only while I’m in uniform” Aurelio would agree while he shook Shane’s hand “Glad to hear my reputation precedes me. Been stuck behind the Ascendency’s for long enough” he would add as he tucked his cane underneath his arm as he turned in the direction of the blue flashes and began walking.

“So, what do you think it is we are going to find?” he would ask conversationally. The bounties weren’t exactly held to a universal standard as far as Aurelio knew, so it was possible that some postings had different bits of information.

”Considering it says it’s a monster, and the thing is drawing in the energy, most likely it’s an elemental. Haven’t really dealt with a lightning elemental before so I’m not sure of their disposition.” He talked with his hands just a bit as they moved forward.

Moving forwards, the flashes of light would become more visible. It was a stark contrast against the dark surroundings, and owing to the evacuated state of the city most of the buildings around them were abandoned. Only occasionally would they see people peeking out through their windows to see what was going on, before taking refuge once more to wait out the blackout.

Soon they would near the place. It seemed the pulses were coming from a duplex, which was suffering some serious electrical issues. Lights flickered, music wildly varied in volume. And there was an occasional flicker of odd blue light that radiated out from the inside of the building. No doubt the monster was inside right now, gorging itself on the power of this building as well as the neighborhood around it. The very thing they had been brought to deal with.

Surveying the building Shane would nod approvingly. ”Well, the monster has some good taste in dwellings at least. I’ll take a quick look since my magic should shield me a bit should I get zapped.” She would approach and check in through the windows to get a look at what exactly they were dealing with.

Peeking through the window, Shane would be witness to quite the display as arcs of blue lightning soared through the air, jumping off of appliances and racing through wires that all but burned out the insulation and walls they were embedded in. It was a miracle the place had not caught on fire yet, and that was likely because whatever the monster was doing was keeping it from igniting until it was done.

Amidst it all sat a glowing sphere of electricity, about the size of a basketball. It bobbed and floated in the air as energy fed back into it, the only manifestation of the creature immediately apparent. More bolts of electricity struck it before stopping for several moments.

About the time confusion might start to set in, a blast of lightning shattered the window and lashed out at Shane. All that energy running through the house began to coalesce as the elemental began to take on a physical form. It now knew it had been noticed, and did not intend to go down easily.

“Seems it’s a bit shy about being caught eating” Aurelio would call out, or at least an Aurelio would call out. Looking back there were four Aurelio’s standing about where Shane had left him. All of them seemed rather relaxed as they regarded the living mass of lightning. “Don’t suppose that you can understand us can you?” A different one would ask as he approached the lightning elemental with his arms folded behind his back.

Despite getting shocked, Shane would shake it off. Cindy’s was worse anyhow. ”Apparently.” He would say simply. Looking back in the window he simply watched with a stupid grin on his face. Depending on the response there were a number of ways this could go.

Floating forward, the elemental’s physical form would appear. Blue lightning crackled and shifted in a facsimile of a dragon, glaring at the two magical boys as they made their case. A low growl issued forth before it turned and shot away, weaving around metal and conductive materials.

Aurelio would see where it went first, the elemental looming over them atop the roof of the building. It glared down at them before unleashing a blast of lightning that swept across the lawn and both of them. It gouged at the dirt, scouring and sweeping for several seconds before it came to an end.

“And behold he who lives within the motive force” Aurelio would mutter quietly as he and himselves watched the elemental solidify into the shape of a dragon. They would quickly dive out of the way before it started it’s attack. Though the one who had always walked closer wasn’t quick enough to dodge out of the way and vanished in a poof of smoke.

The three that remained all landed in a defensive crough “I’ll ask again. Can you understand us? We want to talk”

Shane stepped out of the way of the blast. Since Aurelio was trying to talk the boy would hold making any action to directly antagonize the elemental. Though he could perhaps see where this was going. ”You’re hungry yeah? I can get that. Maybe we can offer an alternative so you don’t have to come out here where people will constantly be bothering you. Does that sound good?” He would direct his words at the lightning dragon.

Another growl escaped as the magical boys dodged out of the way of the attack. Rather than answer the question posed to it, the monster would flicker and spark as it surged across to the roof of the building next more. Energy built in its maw before it fired, this time discharging an orb of energy that radiated lightning in a small area around it as it flew towards them. If it could understand or was interested in talking, it made no indication of wanting to do so.

“Right, seems we are doing this the hard way for now!” Aurelio would say, he hadn’t abandoned the talk it down strategy, but sometimes things wouldn't listen without a smack upside the head or two. With that in mind. Aurleio , Aurelio and Aurelio split off in three different directions. One Aurelio went charging straight at the Dragon looking to dodge the electro orb of pain and see if punching it in the nose would have the kind of repercussions one would expect from punching a being of live electricity.

The Second Aurelio went tearing into the house, he was a man with a plan. That plan was finding the Breaker box and flipping all of the switches. If the thing was hungry and chowing on the house’s electricity flipping the breakers should help cut it off from said food.

The third, and true, Aurleio dashed over to Shane, his cane glow a sky blue. “Time for some fun my friend” he would say as he tapped Shane on the shoulder, a feeling of simple Joy blossoming from the contact. A bit more spring in their step and a bit more gas in the tank. Always a good way to start the show.

”Yep, so much for that plan.” Rather than moving out of the way Shane took out his spell book. Opening it up to one of the early pages he would send out a bolt of lightning that would shoot through the orb and zigzag into the yard. Making that grounding connection a majority of the power behind the attack would get sucked into the earth. Enough for Shane to use his own magic to punch the orb out of existence.

He would turn to his companion. ”We need to wrangle the thing. I’m fairly certain I can Ghostbusters it in a sense.” He would tap on his book. He had something specially prepared for this. While one of the clones went to shut off the power Shane would form and lob a bolt into the distance at a visible line. Right now the creature could just jump one house to the next. It would take a few seconds, but eventually most of the nearby blocks would go dark as his attack tripped safety mechanisms to prevent damage to the infrastructure. Crews shouldn’t have much trouble resetting it later.

With the source of power gone it wouldn’t be able to keep drawing in more energy to throw at them. Neither could Shane but in this case it might not be the best idea except to potentially draw the thing in. ”Let’s see about bringing it to us.” That said he would draw out his own magic to charge the area around him.

The Aurelio going into the house would run a gauntlet of arcing electricity, sparking appliances and outlets. Eventually he would make it to the fuse box, though perhaps not entirely unharmed. This would join with Shane’s move, cutting off the power and plunging the neighborhood into darkness (more darkness than there had been already). That part of the plan had gone off without a hitch.

Unprepared for the vaulting warrior, Aurelio would find that punching a dragon made of electricity would go about as well as one might expect it to. Instant electrocution until he was sent flying back through the air. However he would part the surface long enough to see the core further down the body. That would be a good target.

The punch kept the elemental from going for Shane’s bait, though it eyed him with a hint of suspicion. Instead it darted away, crossing the street and turning to face them. The next time its breath lashed out, it was not aimed at them. Instead it curled around a nearby lightpost, coiling around it and wrenching it out of the ground before the object was thrown at the duo. It seemed to have realized that Shane was interacting with its elemental abilities, so it was trying more direct applications of force now.

“Good to know” Aurelio would say to himself as he witnessed his clone puff away as it hit the ground after it flew away from their electrified foe. So was seeing it’s core, though that didn’t need to be stated twice. “It’s core is still solidified within it, but close quarters is a no go really.”

Inside the house the clone would whip it’s brow before it dismissed itself, its job done.

He would start twirling his cane around his fingers as he spoke the simple blue turning into a prismatic steam as he did. Colors and emotions racing through his mind. Those thoughts got put on hold as he jumped over the light post thrown at him, careful not to touch the possibly electrified metal.

Once he landed his cane turned a forest green. A moment later he flicked it at the monster and a pair of brilliant green manticales would erupt out of his focus flying towards the dragon with the intent of binding it for a moment at least.

Looks like Shane was going to have to go to the elemental to get the job done. No close quarter though? "Thanks for the heads up." He would use the boost that Aurelio gave him to leap up over the light poll. He wouldn't clear the object as it went past, but he didn't need to. The thing was being manipulated with magnetism. Creating a temporary field around himself they two would repel, the light pole being driven into the ground while Shane shot out toward the elemental. Seeing the green bindings moving in he had a window.

Expecting to encounter something of this nature he had taken the time to prepare a nice little spell. It was inspired by something he did when first arriving at the rave, after another kind of lightning dragon struck. Hand to page he would channel the spell for a few seconds as he drew closer.

Tossing the tome on the ground below the elemental he would continue traveling upward over the dragon as a distraction. Back on the ground the spell would trigger and all the electricity nearby would begin to be drawn in like a vortex. Now the book itself could not hold all the energy potentially being drawn in which is why it was being discharged into the ground. It was also all the more reason to kill the local power as it made no distinction as to the source.

The monster snarled as it was caught, thrashing and sending blasts of electricity crackling into the sky as it sought to break free. The light post slammed into the ground, jutting out of it as if it had been haphazardly flipped.

Then Shane’s spell activated. Rather than wild discharges, the energy the elemental was releasing would be drawn towards the book with incandescent bursts of power. Its ‘skin’ frayed and parted, revealing the core inside. Yet the monster had its own magical energy, and it managed to slip free of the manacles that bound it in place. It did not hesitate, instead leaping from rooftop to power line to rooftop as it sought to escape. Which was more of an issue than it might appear at first, as it seemed to be heading in the general direction of a power plant. Which would be not good, if it made it to its destination.

The moment the core was open Aurelio would launch off a few basic bolts of magic from his cane. Regardless of how much damage they did would be better than nothing at this point. The moment it slipped the binding that Aurelio had placed on it he was already channeling for his next move, or two moves.

“We want to be the ones chasing it or do we want to be the ones that cut it off?” Aurelio would ask Shane even as he was twirling his cane around his fingers the colors of it shifting to red and brown. “As I can do either or both really” And he would default to doing both if it took too long to get an answer out of Shane as they were kinda on a time limit at the moment.

”I’d rather keep it here where it can’t keep drawing energy. If I can get a hold of that thing and crack that core I’m pretty sure I can take it down.” There wasn’t really time to waste as he scooped up his spell book and went after the elemental. He would rely on Aurelio to halt the monster while he readied his next spell. The creature had tried to use magnetism to throw an object. Shane knew how to do that, but there were some other potentially better options.

During the fight against the monster queen Shane had improvised a weapon from scrap. While it worked in the moment it had a number of issues that he’d been able to correct. He could definitely improve further, but to make it most effective would require building an actual weapon and he wasn’t exactly tuned to crafting magical weapons. Anyway, he would take out a small rod and place it in the crease of the book’s spine. Made of tungsten carbide and only a couple inches long it was not a particularly remarkable material in its own right. For Shane’s purposes though it worked just fine. Dense, a lousy conductor, and barely metallic it made a great projectile. More importantly it wouldn’t have issues passing through a magnetic field and wouldn’t be much use for metal users either as it was mostly ceramic. Not particularly expensive but carrying a bunch around wasn’t very practical so he had limited ammunition.

“Got it” Aurelio would reply shortly before he was overcome with an orb of white light which descended from nowhere. It would land and collapse in on itself as at the same moment another orb of light flared into life on the far side of the elemental. When the Orbs vanished A red cloaked Aurelio was standing next to Shane while a White and Brown Aurelio stood in the path of the Dragon.

The Red Aurelio would lay a hand on Shane’s shoulder and a vibrant anger would appear, simmering just underneath the electric mage's skin. “You’ve got one charge” The violently angry looking Aurelio would bite out before rushing at the fleeing monster.

On the far side of the electric creature The true Aruelio would slam his cane point first into the ground, a great flare of light was released from the point of impact before various points of light streaked outward. At points known only to the magical the points of magic would spiral upwards from the ground. And in their wake a massive cage would be formed. One that trapped the magical boys and the monster within it. The white Aruelio would then step back to the edge of the cage, his cane glowing green as he did so.

The Brown Aurelio paid no attention to his compatriots actions. He simply stalked forward with a stubborn scowl as me huttered to himself under his breath drawing strange arcane muck from his cane and fashioning it into chains that floated around him. When the dragon drew closer the Stubborn Frustration would lash out at it once again seeking to bind it where Determination had failed to hold it.

Shane would wait until the creature was halted by his partner and would send a surge of electricity across the pages. The way the magic flowed across and between the pages of the book it would accelerate the projectile and fire it off at high speed. Effectively, he’d fashioned a railgun. Not wasting any time he would charge in after to get closer.

The Elemental was not expecting the sudden cage, earning a roar from the monster as it darted around above the two clones. Lightning flashed as it struck at the dome, before trying to slam its head against the barrier directly to break through it. Erratic bolts flew through the air, drawn in from household generators, car batteries, and nearby sources of electricity to provide a further boost.

This did mean it was not prepared for the second attempt with the chain, though at the same time it had a better idea of what to do now in that situation. The crackling of its skin picked up in intensity as it channeled its energy into the magical constructs, seeking to overwhelm them.

That was when the railgun hit, punching through one side and out the other. The Elemental screeched, clearly in pain this time with a visible hole through it. It struck wildly, blasting at the clones and Shane with searing blasts of sweeping energy. Yet it was already healing, and Shane would have only a few moments to implement his attempted strike at the core before it would be out of sight again.

The cage would seemingly disperse the lighting thrown at it seamlessly. But the True Aurelio would still curse at seeing the elemental drawing in more electricity as it sought to rush the cage itself. His illusions were good, but not that good. He left Frustration to deal with keeping the dragon contained as he moved into a position where he could conjure up a barrier, to reinforce the illusion of being trapped that the cage gave off. Dark green would begin to suffuse his cane as he formed more Determination for that task. Dodging the incoming strike was easy because of that.

The brown clone, Frustration, just kept pouring out more and more of it’s arcane muck, but no longer did he care to fashion it into anything other than the muck before throwing it at the elemental above. The muck and the chains would draw both magic from the Clone and frustration from the elemental, growing stickier and sturdier as it was in turn fried away by the localized storm. Frustration was losing the fight, but slowly, and it would not give in easily. The dragon would pay for each inch of chain it destroyed.

That clone remained resolute in the face of retaliation, after all it needed to keep the creature held down.

Because Rage was still active. And it took the opportunity to unleash a roiling blade of crimson energy at the distracted Elemental. It knew where the core was, but it was telling, perhaps, of Aurelio that even at his most angry he still was seeking to end this fight without killing if he could get away with it. For he didn’t aim at the core, he aimed near it, but not at it.

The others providing the distraction he needed, Shane would launch himself at the elemental. Even if the creature would lash out at him with electricity he would just take the hit in order to close the gap. The damage he’d managed to inflict was the literal opening he needed. This particular maneuver was going to suck though. Reaching out he would slam one hand into the breach of the core. Balling his hand into a fist he would lock himself in place as the damage closed around his arm. ”Could have just listened.”

The book dropping back onto the ground the same spell from earlier would trigger. Electricity would begin to get pulled again to the book. The assault on Aurelio’s barriers would be drawn away as the spell did its job. While the shell of the core protected the elemental earlier, this time Shane had access to the main source of its power. Drawing out the electricity he would unleash it out where the spell could absorb it. Of course the amount of electricity that had to flow through him would do damage. His inherent electrical resistance and Regeneration would sustain him through the discharge.

Working in tandem, Shane and Aurelio would keep the Elemental from escaping the bonds it was trapped in long enough for them to launch their attacks. There they seemed to work at something of cross purposes though. For Aurelio struck near the core, hoping to disrupt and isolate without killing it. Meanwhile Shane went for the core itself, channeling its energy into his book.

Severed by the blade of energy, what was left of the Elemental spasmed and shook. Energy discharged through Shane as planned, striking the book and pulling power from the core. Soon itsa blue glow began to flicker and fade as its power waned with it. The large body it had constituted dissipated as well, forming around the core in a last desperate defense It burned, all but seeking to sever Shane’s hand with concentrated electricity so it could escape. If they chose to give it the opportunity to do so, of course.

Wrapping his other arm around the now basket ball sized core, Shane would hold it in place. He would pull what remained of his hand free of the shock before completely sapping away all of its energy. At this point they could crush the thing if they so chose. The spell drawing away the energy would stop as well. ”Hey hey, enough already.” He would grunt out as his regeneration would continue to heal him. ”This fight is over. I’m still open to offering you the chance to be free. Our issue here is the disruption of the city and human safely. You’ve probably been around a lot longer so I get if you don’t see it that way. Are you willing to listen to our proposal?”

Now firmly in Shane’s grasp, the core of the Elemental had lost any surrounding physical form. It pulsed erratically, its ability to shock Shane falling away as well. Eventually the pulsing slowed though, the being seemingly willing to listen. If it could understand them in the first place.

Well, that was something. He would relax a bit to try and seem less threatening. ”Alright. As enticing as the electricity humans make is, it draws attention. I can provide you with a Lightning Stone. It will give you the energy you need and you can go off wherever you want to be left alone.”

Aurelio would let out a relieved sigh at the capture of the elemental, with that sigh he would also drop his illusion and call back his clones. No need to keep them out if they were past the fighting part of this encounter.

Once he was done with that, and had caught his breath, he’d make his way over to Shane and the elemental. Storing his cane away as he went. “Here, this might help with the negotiations.” He would say shortly before placing a calm hand on both Shane and the core of the elemental. At that point the three of them would be able to feel each other's emotions, as Aurelio was doubting that the living lightning would be able to understand speech.

The assistance Aurelio provided in this avenue of dialogue was invaluable. They would be able to feel the beast's emotions, the fear, the anger, and the gnawing hunger for electricity that sustained its being. While Shane could try with words, there would always be a communication gap of sorts. This sped up the process.

It could feel the desire to help from the other two, and its emotions seemed to calm as it proved receptive to the offer. Shane just had to live up to his end of it.

”Alright then. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” He set the elemental down gently and gave it a light pat before he left to the shop. It wasn’t all that long before he returned with a Lightning Stone and presented it to the elemental. ”This should sustain you. You won’t need to cross paths with people again if you don’t want to.” How much of what he said got through he wasn’t sure. Hopefully giving it something it needed would prompt it to avoid, or at least have it leave alone, people and their homes.

It fell on Aurelio to keep the Elemental sedate and contained while Shane went to retrieve the stone. That took longer than perhaps might be desired, but he eventually returned with it in his possession.

The Elemental shifted as Shane presented the stone, little flickers of lightning reaching out from it to the stone. The object reacted, and in a blaze of blue light the Lightning Elemental was reborn in physical form. This time however it was a much smaller dragon, one that could fit in cupped hands rather than the large monstrosity it had been before. The stone had been engulfed by the Elemental, and now rested inside near its core.

Floating into the air, the dragon nodded to both Shane and Aurelio, the latter of whom could feel the warmth of its gratitude. Then it took off, shifting to something more akin to a bolt of lightning. It streaked towards the edge of town, and soon moved out of sight. Their mission had been accomplished at last.

Seeing the diminished size of the elemental was a little sad, but it would grow with time. Shane gave a little wave and let out a huff when it was out of sight. ”Could have gone better, could have gone worse. Hope it manages to stay out of trouble.”

“Agreed” Aurelio would give a nod as he too gave the parting elemental a short wave. “But at least we should be able to talk to them easier next time” He would go on to say smiling as he did.

“Still should be a while before they overwhelm that Lightning Stone.”

Shane nodded and shook Aurelio’s hand. ”Good working with you.”

“That is has” Aurelio would agree.

With the job done, the two boys went their separate ways. Whether they would see each other again in the future, only time would tell.
Hidden 28 days ago Post by twave
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twave

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As a Beacon member, most of the daytime for Janet and Jenna consisted of going to school. As a former adult classes weren't something super hard to do. The plethora of new information and how the subjects had changed was eye opening though. They always felt like a parent going back to school only to learn that they remembered very little. Still it was always a welcome break from the fighting and power plays. It was as close to normal as one got as a magical girl.

Despite that the city wasn't doing so hot, the suburbs still had a decent number of people living there. So Gregory Penrose High School didn't really suffer massively from student drop off just yet.

Today they were out sitting on the stadium bleachers of the school. Old habits died hard so even though it was just high school football, Janet and Jenna were super into the game. They had invited Hilde to join them this time and they did their best to explain what was going on. The Spirit girl was quite confused by a good deal but the excitement of the crowd was contagious and she found herself reacting with those around her. The Penrose Dragons vs the Silverburg Strikers was the game today. And thankfully it was a decent game where neither team got trounced. Ultimately the home team lost by a hair, perpetuating the rivalry further. Good thing this was just a game though.

Afterward as people were clearing out Janet and Jenna had their attention grabbed by hearing their names called. Looking around through the people leaving they spotted a girl, one of the cheerleaders, waving them down. It wasn't anyone they recognized, not that they knew everyone there but still. Making their way down the bleachers they looked down. "Hey. We're you calling us?"

The girl hopped up and slid her way through the railing to stand up by the three other girls. "Mhm. I knew I was here for a reason. You probably don't recognize me, but I wanted to thank you for your help." She would gesture them follow as she made her way down the exit under the bleachers.

The two looked confused as they followed. "Thank us? For what?" They cautiously followed, ready to transform at a moments notice if the need arose.

Lowering her voice she whispered. "Helping Mariette." they'd moved around off and away from where everyone else was headed. Once they were out of sight she skipped ahead of them and chanted. "Tell me what it is you wish." A ruby colored plume of smoke swirled around the girl and the cheerleader was replaced with a girl clad in a white belly dancer outfit. "Tada! It's us, Violet and Sakura. We found a way to be rejoined! You can call me Ruby now."

Janet and Jenna were clearly tense as they watched a magical girl transform in front of them. From the incantation, appearance, and explanation it became pretty clear who, or sort of who, they were talking to. "How did you manage…" Jenna started to ask.

Ruby waved away the question. "Don't worry about it. It's not really important. What is is making sure you're rewarded for helping us out. I don't usually like to do repeat customers like this, but I think I can make an exception." She would give a wink.

While the two twins were standing around deliberating on what to do next, Hilde raised a finger while staring confusedly. "Excuse me. What is going on exactly?"

Giving a big smile, Ruby answered. "Wishes. Once I'm done with Janet and Jenna then maybe we'll see if it's alright to give you one." Hilde gave her that "no way" kind of look and Ruby nodded slowly to confirm.

For the Beacon girls there were a number of things they could wish for. Really the list might as well have been endless. However they were in a spot. They'd managed to free both Mariette and Eli from their patron's mind bending, but only Eli had completely broken away. Alicia hadn't been completely happy finding that out. On top of that they'd had some trouble with Rachel's request. After getting a prototype weapon made they set about with a test. They were not however smiths and the spear they created cracked and broke apart after its first use. They still needed and wanted to help Beacon though. Now they needed to prove to Beacon that they were still on their side. That mostly meant winning over Rachel which was easier said than done. They had been encouraged to give it another shot, though they were pretty sure it wouldn't work. So maybe…

"We have an idea of something. Can you do weapons?" She would ask hesitantly.

Pausing for a moment Ruby gave the question a think. "You'll have to make the wish and see." Even if she considered them friends it was still fun to tease.

Jenna chuckled a bit. "Of course. Alright well… I wish we had a weapon that could purify on contact." She glanced at Janet for a second who nodded in agreement.

As usual Ruby had to await confirmation that the wish was good with her patron. But shortly she held her hands out and an orb of light formed in front of the twins. It began to grow in size as tons of magic flowed through her and into the sphere. "Your wish has been granted."

Janet and Jenna watched to see what form their wish would take. Before it would take shape though it turned translucent reveling it was hollow and empty. The confusion didn't have time to set in as the sphere suddenly expended and encompassed Janet and Jenna while shoving Ruby and Hilde back.

This of course surprised Hilda and she was thrown to the ground. Picking herself up her eyes darted to where her allies were. The two inside the bubble were glowing and cringing as whatever magic inside was flowing into them. "What is this!? What are you doing to them?" Getting to her feet she said her incantation to transform.

Ruby didn't even get up. Not yet anyway. She stared at the magic she'd unleashed with her mouth hanging open. This wasn't what she envisioned. What was… Ilum. Breaking from her confusion her eyes drifted over to Hilde who was now in her magical girl form. A stream of magic and spirits deflected off the barrier surrounding Janet and Jenna. It took a few seconds for her brain to catch up with what Third Eye was telling her. "No wait! Don't…" Hilde disappeared from the spot she was standing and teleported inside the barrier.

Immediately the Spirit girl began glowing as the magic inside began flowing into her as well. Her body wanted to seize up and she struggled to even lift her arms. Eventually though she managed to get a hand on both of her friends. She was going to get them out of there. Concentrating as best she could she activated her teleportation.

The light was intense and Ruby had to shield her eyes. It was only a matter of seconds and she'd barely had time to react. There was a loud bang and the light vanished. Jerking her arm away she looked at the now empty space where the three other girls once stood. The magical sphere wasn't there either. Leaping to her feet she whirled around looking for where they'd gone. They couldn't have gone that far. Should be able to see the blinding light somewhere at least. There was no sign though. Putting her hands to her head she began to panic. "What did you do? Ilum. Where are they?" She didn't get a response. Cursing to herself she started when she heard people coming to investigate the disturbance. Just before someone entered Ruby blinked away to the safety of her dimensional home.
Hidden 27 days ago Post by Card Captor
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Card Captor The passing through Kamen Rider

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I still say it’s crazy that there’s enough civilians left in this shithole to kidnap” Alexander grumbled from his place behind Lily on her motorcycle “Can they not even see how fucked up this place is? I mean sure, it’s getting better, but it still looks like a shithole

The two of them had accepted a bounty to discover the reason behind the mass disappearances, and were provided with a possible location of the victims. Despite having that bit of information, they still had no idea what had taken them, or how they did. But with nothing else to go on, they boarded Lily’s motorcycle and made their way to the location.

And why normals? I can’t imagine that they’re that useful for magic stuff. This just doesn’t make sense.” Alexander complained further.

Lily hummed as she drove recklessly through the city streets, not minding the occasional car that passed her.

“Oh yeah, it is pretty weird, huh?” She casually asked as she jumped off a ramp formed from the collapsed wall of a building hit by an earthquake, and landed smoothly with deployed glider wings.

“My guess it’s either someone like Mariette kidnapping people or a hungry monster. Either way, we’re gonna get to the bottom of this mystery!”

They soon arrived at the location, which seemed to be located at the very heart of the original earthquake attacks. Crumbled buildings surrounded the block, and somewhat resembled a warzone. Once Lily got off her bike, she stopped for a moment, shocked by what she was seeing.
“I’ve always seen this site from the outside, but...It was this bad, huh?”
She looked down, and saw a lone doll, half-buried in the ice and snow; it was a Pikachu plushie, with the stitching apart in some seams, and missing the nose.. She crouched down to pick it up.
“I used to have a doll just like this when I was a little girl...” She mused quietly, showing the toy to Alex.
“I lost it since then, but it was very precious to me. Have you ever had something like that as a kid, Alex?”

Alexander shook his head “I grew up in an orphanage. It wasn’t poor enough that we ever went hungry, but we didn’t have enough to spare for things like that. The closest I come to something like that was dumb little Kirby figure I bought with my first paycheck when I was 18. It was stupid, but being able to actually get something I wanted in a store felt kind of nice.” He closed his eyes and tried to focus on his Absolute Direction power, but it came of with an error “No use, my magic GPS isn’t working. I guess it’s not easy getting it to home in on strangers. We should-” He was interrupted by a crashing sound. Drawing his sword, he turned to the source of the sound, only to find just a pile of rubble that used to be a house. He paused for a second before speaking up again “Did...did that just collapse all on it’s own? Dammit, this whole place is worse than a ghetto. Let’s just find out what’s going on and get out of here.” Letting his Beast magic flare, Alexander entered his Beast Mode. With his sense of smell, Alexander was able to pick up something human smelling “I think I found something.” he said as he followed the smell to one of the larger and more intact buildings.

As the two went closer, Alex could hear with his acute senses what sounded like a bestial mobster's grunts and growls, mixed with other strange sounds. Soon enough, they saw it; a humongous ape-like creature, with shaggy black fur covering it's body and jagged teeth that popped out from grotesque gums. The monster was sitting bowlegged, seemingly staring at a broken section of the wall where scraps of metal and glass could be seen. Lily had summoned her staff in one hand, but seemed hesitant.

"So it was a monster...But wait, something's not right." As if on cue, the beast sniffed the air and turned, it's long arms lifting it up to a quadrupedal stance. It screeched upon seeing Lily, and charged at her.
"It's coming!" Lily yelled, and jumped to avoid the attack, followed by shooting a lightning bolt.

This feels too easy...’ Alexander thought to himself as he dodged out of the way of the charging beast slashed at it’s leg. Due to the creature’s own speed, and the speed of Alexander’s dodge, he wasn’t able to get a very deep cut. Getting out his wand he made a flail shaped barrier extend from it, and made sure it was long enough to whack the thing in the face, which he then proceeded to do. “Hey ugly, over here!” he taunted it as he fell back a little.

The slash to it’s leg did little to hinder the frenzied beast, as did Lily’s thunderbolt, and it continued going towards Lily at full speed. When Alex struck with the flail, it howled in pain, and countered with an elbow jab that Alex dodged by creating distance. The beast only glanced back at him for a fleeting moment before pursuing Lily again.
"Ngh! What is up with this monster?" Lily yelled as she jumped up the side of a collapsed wall in an attempt to slow down the beast, who proceeded to climb up after her, using it’s long gorilla-like arms to great effect. Lily blasted it with thunder blasts to the chest, causing the beast’s matted hair to stand from the static shock.
"It’s like it’s obsessed! Wait, huh?" That was when Lily realized what the beast was after; the plushie she was still holding in her hands.
“Here, catch!” She threw the toy towards the monster, who reached out with both arms to grab, causing it to stumble and fall back down into the rubble.

Alexander’s posture relaxed from battle ready to confusion ‘But why would it want a ratty old to-’ he suddenly tensed up, as a horrifying possability came to him “No. Please let me be wrong” He ran over to Lily, and put up a wall between them and the creature “I really hope I’m just reading into this too much” He muttered to himself as he waited for the creature to make its next move.

Lily waited with bated breath as the monster appeared, and gasped; the creature had shielded the toy from the debris, holding it in its arms like a treasure as it sat there, wailing in an eerily happy manner.
"That's one of the disappeared," Lily spoke quietly.
"But why? Who would curse them-"

"It is no curse, but a blessing."

Another girl's voice could be heard from above them, and Alex saw the source; a magical girl was standing on top of a half-toppled building.

"I simply gave her what she desired for. Now, could you please leave and stop bothering the neighbourhood?"

Lily drew her bow, and pulled the crackling string back.

"So you're behind the kidnappings! You turned them into monsters!"

"Oh no, they came along willingly." She gestured with her hand, and more beasts appeared around the ruined city block, growling and grunting but staying their distance.
"You see, they were victims of the attacks on Penrose. They lost their homes and families, the pitiful things. But I gave them salvation. I asked them if they wished to have what they lost again, and they agreed. And now they're happy, don't you see?"

Lily grit her teeth, unable to believe what she was hearing.

Well they don’t look happy to me” Alexander spoke up “You claim that they did this willingly, but how much did you actually explain to them? Did they understand what this power would turn them into, or what it would do to their minds? Because they don’t seem like their brains are running on all cylinders, if you catch my meaning

While he was talking, Alexander took the opportunity to strengthen the barrier he had already made “Just how much have their minds degraded? Can they even understand anything we’re saying? Because to me, this just looks like you used Beast magic to turn normal people into these creatures” Once the barrier was as strong as he could make it, He tried using his own Beast magic to see if he could somehow detect any kind of Beast magic on the transformed people.

Alex was correct in his assumptions as he detected Beast magic, similar in some ways to his own. But it was also different in a way he couldn't exactly tell.

"They never asked," the Beast magical girl stated coldly. "Not that they needed to in the first place. They have rejected their cruel and evil humanity, and returned back to their true place in the natural order, their very roots!" She threw her arms out.
"And once we're all one family, one happy community, there will be no more wars or acts of terror! I, Hircine, will save humanity!"

"That's not your choice to make!" Lily screamed, and let loose with a barrage of thunder arrows, only for one of the ape monsters to intercept the shots on behalf of Hircine. She sneered.

"Hmph, it seems I must remove you from our community by force." She pointed down.
"My brethren! Attack!"
The monsters bellowed and roared as they came charging in, clutching whatever piece of trash they had to wield as primitive weapons.
Lily shook her head.
"We can't kill them, Alex! They were tricked by her! They don't deserve to die."
She then jumped, and shot at the nearest beast in its feet with paralyzing arrows, causing it to fall.

Yeah, yeah, I know. The barrier in front of Alexander gave him enough time to strengthen his legs and leap high in the air. At the apex of his jump (which was about 5 stories) he created a simple barrier right beneath his feet “She’s using some kind of weird Beast magic to do this. It feels off in a way I can’t quite put my finger on. I’m not entirely sure if taking her out would fix them, but if it doesn’t, then I might be able to do something.” Alexander then started creating a large rope of chain coming from his wand, much like with the flail. But unlike with the flail, this one ended in a trapeze bar when it was halfway to the ground. “Grab on!” He yelled to Lily as he swung it in her general direction.

Lily jumped just in time to avoid an ape monster’s swing of a rebar block, and grabbed on to the trapeze bar.
"Got it!"
Then, using the momentum of the swing and an electric charge on Lily’s part, Lily launched herself straight up, towards Hircine.
"Take this!"
Lily changed her weapon to a staff and launched thunderbolt towards Hircine, who responded by having her monsters block the shots.
“Meddlesome brat!” She whistled, and three ape beasts leaped, aiming for overhead swings.
Lily flipped, deftly avoiding the first two, but was hit by the third one, smacking her clear across the city block.
"Ungh...They’re fast for their size.”
She then stood up, and yelled:
"Alex, lead them closer to her! I got a plan!"

Not sure why you want them closer to her, but okay.” Alexander jumped down to the ground, and created a small horde of clones. Said clones then grew tails out of their arms to whack the creatures, not hard enough to cause serious harm, but enough to piss them off. The real Alexander meanwhile, created a ramp barrier up to where Hircine was, and led his clones and the horde of pissed off monsters up to her.

The beasts were agitated by the clones, and roared as they took chase, stumbling over each other as they scrambled up the broken building. Hircine was furious.

“What are you doing? Go after that one, not the clones!”

"Sorry Hircine, but this monkey business is coming to an end!"

Lily took aim with her bow, and shot a single lightning arrow on the backs of each of each of the monsters as they went up; while they failed to penetrate the tough hides of the monsters, they had plenty of static electricity charged up in them, and in turn caused the monster’s fur to become charged. Once the beasts were grouped up together, she transformed the weapon to a staff, and pointed it up while screaming:

"STATIC SHOCK!"

At that moment, she activated the static charge in the monsters, and created a chain reaction of electricity, causing most of the monsters and even Hircine to be caught in the storm of electrical energy.

“Hngrhhhh!”

Hirvine shook ,and collapsed on the ground. Having lost her control on the beasts, they bellowed and fled like frightened monkeys, hiding themselves away in nearby nooks and crannies.

Lily panted, and wiped the sweat on her brow after she landed before the fallen magical girl, and pointed her staff down at her.

"Your reign of madness ends here, Hircine! Turn them back to normal!"

Hircine only giggled weakly, and managed to lift herself up to look at Lily.
"I can’t. I never learned how to do something so...Unnecessary."

Lily sighed heavily in exasperation.

"So they’re corrupted? Do we need to get them purified?"

“No, that’s not it. It requires someone skilled in Beast magic.” She glanced at Alex.
“You seem to know something about it.”

Alexander nodded “I’m a Beast magic user myself. I can’t make any promises, but I’ll see what I can do” Jumping off the ramp he made, Alexander walked over to the nearest creature “Hold them down” he ordered his clones. They jumped into action, using their tails to grapple it and hold it in place, as they pulled it to its knees. When the real Alexander reached it, he put a hand on its chest and reached in with his Beast magic “Let’s see what’s going on in here

Using his magic, Alex found out that the Beast spell used on them was a Corrupted variant of a spell to change into animal shape, powered by the target’s hopes and dreams for reclaiming what was lost. Alex could forcibly end the spell, but it would take enough magic to only allow about five or six releases out of the pack of 50 monsters. However, Alex could also use his magic to communicate, and tell the beast they can’t reclaim what they have lost, and that they must move on with their lives.

Alexander grimaced “Okay, this just got complicated. Whoever created this spell is a sadistic monster, and they probably have an extremely punchable face.” He sighed “I’m going to try something, but I’m not sure how well it’s going to work.

He took a deep breath, reached out to all of them with his Beast magic, and began to speak to them via said magic “Hey idiots, take a good long look at yourselves, at what you’ve become! I know you’re all in a lot of pain, what happened to Penrose, and you by extension was awful. But is this really any better!? You haven’t regained what you’ve lost; you’ve lost what little you had left! Turned into feral beasts for some crazy girl to boss around. The magic that turned you into this is fueled by your hopes and dreams of getting back what you lost. Fucked up, I know, and don’t worry; I promise to punch the creator of this spell in the fucking face if I ever meet them. But that means that unless you can let go, and start to move on with your lives you’ll be stuck like this; less than what you were before. So, what’s it going to be? Are you going to deal with the shittyness of life and become human again, or are you going to run from it and remain beasts?

Alex’ message carried out to the beasts like an unheard howl, carrying with it a grim but necessary ultimatum. The monsters screeched and held their ears, not wanting to hear it, but they were forced to accept the truth. And as they did, Hircine’s spell broke; the monsters transformed back into humans, now huddled together due to the cold. One of them, an older man, approached Alex, and prostrated before them, his forehead in the rubble.
“Th...Thank you! For saving us from this nightmare!”

Alexander flinched at the man on the ground in front of him “uh...sure

Lily looked on with a small smile.
"See, Hircine? You didn’t save these people. You simply extended their suffering," she spoke. Hircine sighed.

“Damn...Well, I made a mistake. So, are you going to kill me now?”

Lily shook her head.
"You learned your lesson, that’s enough for now."
However, she then glared at her.
"But if you even think about using your magic on innocent people again, I won’t be so forgiving."

Having made her intentions clear, Lily approached the group of humans.
"These people need a new home. I could call Alicia and ask if she could prepare a temporary shelter for them. What do you think, Alex?"

Alexander shrugged “I sure as hell don’t have any better ideas. Besides, Beacon is way better equipped to deal with something like this than we are. So yeah, I say go for it

Lily gave a bright smile, and took out her phone.
"Hey Alicia? I got this problem..."

While Lily was conversing over the phone, one of the humans, a small girl, shyly approached Alex, the Pokemon plushie in her hands. She held it up to him.
“I-I don’t have much, but I can give you this...For saving us.”

He froze for a moment at the sight of a little kid offering one of their few worldly possessions to him ‘Dammit, this is making me feel like a scumbag.’ he sighed “You keep it. We’re already getting something for this, and...well...I’d have trouble sleeping at night if I took your friend away when you’ve already lost so much. Actually...” a sudden idea came to him. Reaching out one hand to put on the plush toy, he tapped into his Reinforcement magic, and the toy started repairing itself before everyone’s eyes. Once it was done, he took his hand away “There, that’s better.

The little girl looked sad at first when Alex rejected her offer of taking the toy. “I-I understand...”
But then, sher eyes widened in sheer amazement as the toy glowed, fully restored.
She held it in her hands, and tears appeared in her eyes.
“Th-This is...Amazing! Thank you so much, mister! I promise to treasure it my whole life!”

Alexander let out a sigh of relief ‘Good, I didn’t fuck things up

Lily came up to them, and also smiled sweetly.
"Alicia said she’s sending some help here. But aww, that was really nice of you, Alex." She took his hand.
"I wish I had magic as cool as yours, teehee~"

He looked at her like she was an idiot “But...you do. What I can do is pretty simple as far as magic goes. You on the other hand, have not only control of lightning and all it’s smiting powers, but time itself. How is that not better than what I have?

Lily pouted.
"’That was a compliment! Besides, it really is cool!"
She then sighed, and smiled as she watched the little girl go show her restored toy to the others.
"At the end of the day, giving someone hope should be done by someone like you, Alex. You have a knack for it."

He looked at her like she had just gone crazy and started speaking in tongues “Seriously? I’m a jaded bitter asshole. How the hell do I have a knack for ‘giving people hope’? You’re the one with the right personality for it.

Once again Lily pouted, and even blew a raspberry at him.
"Geez, Alex!"
Hidden 27 days ago Post by Majoras End
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Majoras End Oyasumi~

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While it was only briefly discussed, Jenna eventually reached out to Maura through Glimmr. After some back and forth they arranged to meet at the park a couple weeks later. By then the Beacon twins hoped the heat on them would have died down a bit more. And to a degree it did. Janet however was running late it seemed. Curiously another girl came by and took a seat where they discussed. She was quite obviously a magical girl. Impossibly long white hair, icey blue eyes, and silver plates of armor. The girl sat patiently and was carrying with her a small wooden box.

Concidering her current standing in Penrose; Not to mention who decided to stay for awhile, Maura took the liberty of crafting a better disguise for when she wasn't near those she trusted. She traversed to the nearest shadow in the park and looked around for any sign of Jenna, instead seeing the white-haired girl waiting near their meeting spot. Maura did have a theory in mind, but she didn't want to prod like that.

"Waiting for someone too?" So she sat down by Kayli with a polite smile.

Looking up from the object in her lap, she turned her attention to the girl. Blinking a couple times she returned a friendly smile. "I am. I was beginning to worry I'd scared you off." She remained relaxed and seated.

Looking around, Maura glanced between Kayli and the box. "I take it you know the twins, why I'm here? I kinda owe Jenna for helping us out." she asked. For a moment, one could see her eyes return to their scarlet color. But she wouldn't let her guard down, not yet.

The girl nodded. "I know them well. One of them would have been here to meet you, Recent circumstances have made that impossible. I am their replacement, for lack of a better term. That might not be the most settling thing to hear, but unlike the twins I don't have the burden of a patron like Beacon looming over me. I've essentially taken over the tasks they have been unable to do." Moving the box forward a bit she lifted the lid to reveal Eliza's Soul Jar. "This is one of the things left to me. Cindy Ford had posession of it as I understand. I don't believe it is mine to keep so I wanted to return it to its rightful owner." The box was placed beside her on the bench.

Maura nodded. "It's understandable. Things aren't exactly safe here, but I plan on changing that soon enough." Her eyebrows rose when Kayli revealed what was in the box. She gently moved the box to her lap. "Thank you. Send Cindy my regards when you can. Now for my end of the bargain."

Maura, carrying the box, walked up to a nearby shadow. Casting a hand out, she used her new magic to open a portal to the Cradle. "I can't let Beacon or Mint know the extent of this place. Whatever you see is between us and the twins, is that okay?" she looked back to Kayli.

Rising and stepping closer Kayli nodded. "The twins only cared about Justine. Anything else is none of their concern."

The Cradle Mother smiled. "Very well." she walked through the portal, making sure Kayli was following.

Like before, it first appeared as if there was nothing but darkness. The gravity was low, and the air felt crisp. "It's a bit dark in here, hope you don't mind." If Kayli had a way to see through the dark, it'd seem Maura took some time to organize the multitude of things within the Cradle. It didn't look like she was finished though. She had even made a small mausoleum area for the bodies Veronica collected.

Having ditched her mundane disguise, Maura lead the girl to one of the more intricately designed coffins; made of ivory and golden trim. "Justine should be in here." She said, pushing the coffin open.

Producing a small amout of light from her hand, Kayli was able to follow along. Out of respect to Maura's wishes though it was only bright enough for her to see a short distance. Presented Justine, the girl knelt down a bit to have a closer look. The girl seemed frozen in time. "The potion worked wonders it seems. Hm. Might there be a way we could communicate with her? I am curious to the effects of the purification on her." Might be asking a bit much. This place seemed to be particularly good at holding things for a reason.

"From what I can tell, the magic of this place keeps stiffs like Visceral from undergoing reincarnation. Perhaps the soul is still intact as well, albeit a bit broken." Maura theorized, kneeling down next to the past vampire's body and placing a hand on her head. "Maybe I can try to communicate with her spirit, if it's sill conscious." the necromancer focused on creating a small Mental Link between the three, and using spirit magic to try and reach out to Justine.

"Spirit, can you hear me?"

”...Why...”
She could hear Justine's faint voice.
”...Leave me...be...”

Hearing that, Kayli hesitated. "...Forgive me. I wanted to know how you were. But we will leave you to rest if you would like." How exactly death and reincarnation worked with magical girls she still didn't really understand. And it was probably better that way. She, and probably Maura with her Spirit magic, could tell though that Justine was somewhere inbetween. Dead of course because she'd been killed, but also on the edge of returning likely from the magical infusion the purification brought.

”What is there...to know?” Justine responded, sounding weary.
”I have taken numerous lives...Brought misery to many more...Let me suffer in this torment...”

So the spirit persists. Maura wondered if there were more lost within the Cradle. "...Eliza had hoped you changed, even I wondered if you did. Amanda didn't know about your past misdeeds, so I can't speak for her. But after everything, after nearly corrupting Eliza, it took death to make you realize you were in the wrong?" Maura furrowed her brows. "I don't want to insinuate that it's best you remain here, your old thralls are still out there somewhere. And without your patron's influence, maybe you can help free them too. Maybe one day I'll let you go, if you turn out more valuable alive than dead." Her voice seemed to have turned somber.

This wasn't her place to impose, but she did want to know. "If you had the chance to atone, would you take up that opportunity?" It was a clear question. The point was to be sure and get a straight answer that she could glean if it was true or not.

”Hah...What a foolish...question...” Tears flowed down her cheeks.
”There is no redemption...Not for a devil like me...”
She turned away.
”But if God was so foolish...as to pardon my sins...I would gladly do whatever it takes...to be free of this pain in my heart...”

Maura thought for a moment on what to do.

"...Would you be willing to work for me then, instead?"

It seemed too bold of her to ask such a thing. But if the Cradle members were willing to take Elvira in, why not? Maura could keep a better eye on Justine that way, and if they wanted otherwise, the Cradle Mother was still a Lesser Force. She could employ the girl to work with her alone. Besides, Maura didn't trust Beacon with her, and the Mint or another Horror could attempt to make grabs at the poor girl too. Or worse, Father could try and take Justine back, making their efforts for naught.

Justine slowly turned back, and sighed.
”You would act as God? To wash away my past of crimson? To grant mercy to one...Who shan't ever receive it?”

The Cradle Mother chuckled at the comparison. "You neglect to realize who I am, who I'm meant to be. I am the Ferryman of Hades, the Fourth Horseman, the Lady of the River Styx. I am the Witch of Death; the 'Grim Reaper', and I am no god." she sighed as well. "But even I've grown weary of that namesake. After all, I'd come to realize not every soul deserves to die so...abruptly, for a lack of a better term. The concept of redemption can be argued about, but in the end, aren't you all human?" she smiled.

"If you truely desire to atone, allow Death to give you this chance." A contract appeared in her free hand.

Justine joining the Cradle wasn't quite what Kayli had in mind. Though to be fair, Justine joining anybody wasn't really either. She knew very little of what they did or how they operated. Maura at least seemed to be more open to collaborating though. A proper contract could potentially keep her out of others clutches though. Not like she could do much about it right now. The purification had clearly done its job in changing the former vampire girl's course. Confident in the twins work she would let things play out.

For a while, Justine was silent, her eyes nearly closed as they peered beyond a veil of half-life. Then she spoke.
"...Do you still hate me, Janet? Is the reason you're here...For me to ask forgiveness for what I've done to you?"

Considering Justine recognized Jenna in the other dimension, it shouldn't have been a surprise that she saw her origins now. The temptation to glance at Maura to see her reaction was strong, but at this stage it wouldn't change much. "My purpose is redemption. Whatever Janet's hate for you may have been I wish to offer compassion. Your purification was for that end."

Justine closed her eyes, and then slowly nodded. "I am sincerely sorry." She opened her eyes, and looked upon Maura. "Very well, I accept your covenant. Even if an endless hell of violence and war follows it, I shall help save others from sharing in my fate. That is all I could ask for."

Maura smiled. "Very well. Come, I shall help you both out of here. We can work out arrangements after, Justine." She carefully picked up Justine, the ornate coffin sinking down to the floor below, then guided Kayli out of the Cradle. "Although I will be keeping an eye on you at first. Mostly since I'm not sure how the others will react. Just know if you do anything to harm my other agents, there will be repercussions." Despite the warning, Maura's tone wasn't threatening. "War and violence is inevitable at this rate, but we will continue to fight against it."

Maura's words rang in Kayli's mind. It reminded her of something Penny had mentioned and wanted to discuss with Janet. Most would probably be more skeptical of Justne's intentions. They didn't understand the potion that had been used or what her Light magic told her. "I would like to be a part of this new chapter for you, Justine. Once Janet was purified herself she sought a way to give you and others the same shot at a second chance. While conflict is unavoidable at times, we have an opportunity at offering some alternative."

"Hm?" Maura looked back to Kayli. "Say, you don't have a patron at the moment, do you? Do you wish to join as well?" she asked. "I won't force you to, if you desire otherwise. We could work together without the need of a contract."

"Your offer is appreciated, but I believe my cause is better served if I refrain from aligning with anyone in an official capacity. There is bad blood between factions whether substantial or not. I am not opposed to working together though. If at all possible I would like to be able to serve as a third party to bridge some of the divides. I am well suited to it." She stopped and looked back to Maura and Justine. "I suspect you have some idea of me, but I don't believe I ever properly introduced myself. I am Kayli Devon, the Keeper of the Keys."

"It's completely understandable, trust me." Maura chuckled, opening an exit out of the Cradle. She stepped aside to let Kayli through first before following. "It'll be a pleasure working with you, Ms. Devon. Especially with your kind of abilities. I am Maura Natalie; current head of the Crimson Cradle, and of course, the Witch of Death." She'd admit, trusting Kayli like that was risky. Especially with putting off formal introductions till the last minute like that. But from what she could tell, the girl had this peculiar influence that one could let their guard down to. Something like that could prove useful, so Maura understood why she prefered to stay solo.

Justine did not resist as Maura took her from her formerly eternal resting place, resembling a porcelain doll in her pale complexion. She stared at Kayli with unmoving eyes for a while as she spoke with Maura, until she finally spoke:
"You have changed, Janet. You're no longer the weak girl that Mariette offered to me. You've grown..."
She curled up in Maura's embrace.
"...I wonder if I can change, too."

Taking a step over to Justine, Kayli gently placed a hand on the weak girl's head. She spoke with a soft tone. "I've given you everything you need to do so. All you need is to embrace it." Her words and magic encouraged Justine to accept the light the potion instilled inside her.

The portal closed behind them once they were all outside. "Thank you for meeting with me, Kayli. And for returning Eliza's soul jar to me as well." Maura nodded, sitting down on the nearest bench with Justine still in her arms; like how a mother would hold her sickly child. "Firstly I should give you a heads up, these are basically blood contracts." She held up the contract still in her hand then handed it to Justine. "I'm sure alot of us weren't aware of that fact at first. Ronnie must've liked the...'element of surprise' that goes with it, but that's not my style. Maybe if I'm feeling mischevious?" she chuckled.

"Have any questions before you sign?"

Justine nodded slowly.
"I do have one question." She looked up to the sky, and then back to Maura.
"...Father may one day come and try to reclaim me. If that were to happen...What will you do?"

"Oh, my dear. You talk as if I'm afraid of a little horror." Maura smiled. "If Father tries to take you away from us, he'll have to get through me first. And I don't go down without a fight. You can be sure on that." She patted Justine's head.

Though it was nearly imperceptible, a faint hint of a blush appeared on justine's cheeks when Maura showed affection to her.
"...Thank you. I have no other questions. I'm ready to make the covenant."
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Alexander followed the direction which Absolute Direction took him in order to find Mariette. He found her location to be very stationary. Moving towards it, he found himself in a very ordinary looking street.

There were rows of townhouses, red in color, built in wood and brick, with white details, small gardens out front. Most of the houses looked decently abandoned, but this particular one was unchanged from a normal lifestyle. A car was parked out front. Lights were on. The garden was well-cared for. Smoke was coming out the chimney. Absolute Direction said Mariette was inside.

Taking a few deep breaths, Alexander tried to calm his nerves ‘Okay, now I just have to not fuck up. Easy, right?’ he thought with a wry grin. Walking up to the front door, he raised his hand to knock, froze, lowered his hand, slapped himself in the face, and then actually knocked

It took a couple of seconds, after which he could hear the sound of someone walking up to the door and then opening it. Alexander found himself face to face with a tall, bespectacled adult man, wearing a suit, peering down at him with an exceedingly neutral expression. The man adjusted his glasses.



‘Well? How may I help you?’ he asked, 100% cool.

Crap...’ Alexander panicked, suddenly wishing he had his helmet to hide his face. “I’m ah...looking for Mariette. Is...is she here?

The man kept staring at Alexander for a short period of time… ‘Who are you? A friend of hers?’ he asked.

My name is Alexander and-” he paused ‘Shit...what exactly are we?’ he wondered. However, since he was talking to someone right now, he couldn’t take too much time thinking about that “...I’m...not actually sure what we are to each other. I mean, we know each other, but beyond that I’m not really sure.

The man kept looking at Alexander, analyzing him, before finally… ‘Perhaps you’ve come at a good time. Mariette’s in the room up the stairs and to the left. Don’t try anything,’ he said, adjusting his glasses and then turning around and walking back to the kitchen, which was to the right by the stairs, from which a sweet smell and the sound of cooking came from. He left Alexander to enter on his own.

When the strange man left, Alexander let out a sigh of relief ‘Well, so far so good.’ He followed his direction up the stairs and to the left, and after a few seconds to gather his nerves before knocking ‘I’m so out of my element here. I can’t even remember the last time I had to do something like this.

It took around four seconds, then there was a sound of movement on the other side of the door after he knocked. The steps approached the door, and it opened. The room beyond was a modestly sized bedroom with three beds, and the one who opened the door was a young, blonde, modestly normal-looking girl in glasses, staring at him with a surprised gaze and slightly open mouth.



‘Alex…?’ a confused untransformed Mariette asked.

When the girl opened the door, it occurred to Alexander that he didn’t have any idea what Mariette looked like untransformed. Fortunately, her voice was the same, so once she said his name, he was sure he had the right person “Yeah, hi. Listen, I think you know me well enough to know that...well...I’m not really good at social interactions. So if I say or do something that hurts or offends you, it’s probably just me being a dumbass. If I want to offend someone, then I make sure that there’s no confusion about it. I just thought I should get that out of the way first. Anyway, I’m...here to to talk about Lily.

Mariette stood silently for a bit, still looking a bit confused. But eventually, she nodded. ‘Alright. Come in,’ she said, walking over to sit down in one of the beds, grabbed the quilt and wrapped herself in it. She momentarily freed one hand to adjust her glasses. ‘What about her?’

If Alexander wanted to sit, there was a separate table with chairs in here as well. There were shelves with a variety of comics, movies and a TV with video games attached to it in here, but none of it looked like it had been used in quite a long time.

Taking a seat on one of the chairs “Right. So, I realize that you’re probably still upset about how that war at your old home went, and what Lily did. But-” he paused, struggling to find the right words “Look, things were getting pretty fucked up right at the end. I don’t remember a lot about what went on, mostly because of how much of a chaotic mess it was. But I do know Lily. You might have forgotten, but we came to your place to confirm if you were actually being brainwashed or not, but with a war starting right as we got there...well...we never really got the chance.

Feeling a little antsy, Alexander adjusted himself in the chair “I’m not sure what convinced her to act when she did...but I do remember seeing...I think she calls herself Ronin now, the person who told about you being brainwashed. Granted, I’m not sure how much of an expert Ronin is on brainwashing. But considering that she used to work for you, and her twin sister still works for you, I feel it’s safe to say that if she wasn’t being brainwashed at the time, then she’s probably right. I guess what I’m trying to say is; Lily wouldn’t have done that if she didn’t think it was what was best for you. Was she right? Fuck if I know, but she’s not really good at backstabbing people, she doesn’t have the right mentality for it. I get the feeling that she might act more cheerful then she actually feels, but it’s less deception and more fake it till you make it-and I’m rambling. Dammit!” Alexander cupped his face in his hands for a few seconds before turning back to Mariette “Am I making any sense here?

Mariette blinked a little as Alexander started talking, and she realized what this was about. She listened, but around the time where he mentioned that Ronin used to work for her and about Ronin’s twin sister, Mariette hung her head a bit, raising a hand out of her quilt entrapment to her mouth, because she started to giggle a little. It was just… kinda funny to her.

‘If… if you’d come and told me this just after the battle, things would have gone very differently…’ she said, still giggling a bit, because it was funny. ‘I… I’m not angry at Lily or anything. I’d have to be angry at an awful lot of people if I did…’ she said, and then… she sighed. ‘People have told me I was brainwashed, yes. They’re also saying I’m not brainwashed anymore. I don’t know. I don’t really feel any different. That’s a lie. I feel aimless and confused. I liked having a clear goal. It made everything easier. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do now…’ she said, tightening the warm duvet around her. Bunny probably sat next to her on the nightstand.

At the mention that she wasn’t angry at Lily, Alexander slouched in relief “Oh thank sweet fuck. Wait-” it was then that the rest of what she said hit him “’Not brainwashed anymore’? What happened

‘…’ Mariette kept quiet for a bit, then… ‘I really shouldn’t be talking about it. If any other of Asengav’s champions catch wind, they’ll have me recaptured and make all Ronin’s work be for nothing,’ she said, somewhat more quietly. ‘But… they caught me. Then, they did their thing, and then they told me what happens next is up to me. My choice. Because apparently everything before now was me acting according to my brainwashing. So I’m supposed to decide what to do myself now… and I find myself… completely aimless. Asengav’s still my patron, but… my mind is now my own again, apparently…’ she said, sounding less than happy about it.

Oh. That’s-” Alexander paused, not entirely sure what to say. Was it good that her mind was free, or bad that she felt aimless and was in danger of getting re-brainwashed by her patron “...well. First off, do you still want your current Patron? I mean, why did you even make a contract with him in the first place?

Mariette, who’d been looking down at the floor during what she’d said, turned her head to peer at him. She took a second to decide what to answer. ‘… Asengav saved my life. My father was a-’ she shuddered from the mere memory. ‘… not a good father. Asengav rescued me. I thought I was doing everything out of gratitude for that… but apparently not…?’ she said, the last part sounding unsure. ‘I… I don’t know…’ was her true answer if she wanted him or not.

Well that was a bust’ Alexander thought. “My Patron only gave me magic because I’m apparently the last descendant of his original worshipers. He doesn’t have any short term goals beyond killing monsters, and he seems to think I’ll accomplish his long term goals on my own, or something. He was kind of coy about that, in a sort of ‘ wink wink nudge nudge’ kind of way. So as long as I killed monsters and wasn’t evil, he didn’t really care what I did. So I didn’t really have any kind of driving goal at first either

Then he sighed, and began to talk again “I grew up in an orphanage. It wasn’t like one of those comically horrible places on TV, but I spent my childhood without any of the toys or luxuries that other kids had. So when I got magic, the first thing I did was work on fixing that. I got my own house, TV, video games, any kind of food I wanted, all that stuff. For a long time, my goal was getting to enjoy the things I never got to have as a kid. The magic part of my life was really more of a day job to be honest. So, I think it’s okay that you don’t really have any kind of driving goal right now.

He turned to look at her stuffed rabbit “You like stuffed animals right? Maybe you can start with that. Just go out and fight monsters enough to help keep the streets clean. But if you need some kind of passion to get you through life, you could try collecting stuffed toys. It doesn’t even have to be stuffed toys. Just find some kind of hobby, or thing that makes you happy, and go after that. Just because you have magic powers, doesn’t mean you have to save the world. You don’t need some grand cause to put your all behind, you can treat the whole magic thing like a simple 9-5 if that’s what works for you. But if you’re still having trouble finding something, well, I’m sure you have friends you could help you. I...know I’m not the best person to talk to about this.

Mariette looked curiously at Alexander as he spoke. She considered it, and leaned her head forward again to stare down onto the floor. ‘… Bunny’s special to me. I’m not that interested in collecting more… but I understand. I just… need to find something, I guess…’ she said, still not particularly sure.

Shit, I don’t think this is working! What do I do now!?’ Alexander panicked internally “Well, think back to before you had magic; was there anything you wanted to do, or have that your father wouldn’t allow?

‘Um…’ Mariette thought back on her very limited amount of memories from her time before she was a magical girl. They were… not pretty. ‘I wanted… to take more trips with mom. I wanted to be allowed outside the house. I wanted to… stop father from coming home?’ somehow, that didn’t sound right.

Dammit, I am not equipped for this. I barely have my own shit together!’ Alexander sighed “Okay, it’s becoming clear that I’m not the right person for you to talk to. I’m not great with people in general, and make for a pretty poor therapist. So here’s what you’re going to do; I want you to reach out to any friend you have that you can trust, and let them know what’s going on. Have them help you find a hobby or something. It sounds like your childhood might have been as shitty as mine, so you probably never got a chance to really be a kid. Well, now’s your chance. And I’m sure you know tons of girls who would love to help you have a childhood, and do girl stuff with. You just...need to reach out to them. It’s okay to ask for help when you’re feeling lost.

‘… Okay,’ Mariette nodded, albeit she wasn’t entirely sure what “having a childhood” entailed at this time. She remained wrapped in her duvet. Still… ‘Thank you, for trying.’

Not sure what else to say, Alexander nodded. He got up, and walked to the door. Right before he exited, he turned his head back her and said “Try and take care Mariette.” And then he left

Mariette didn’t do anything to stop him, and simply nodded at his words, looking a bit downcast where she remained in her bed wrapped in the covering. Alexander opened the door, and-

and there stood the man in glasses and a suit, holding a plate of pancakes.

‘Oh, are you leaving? You won’t be having pancakes with us?’ the man asked, with the same expression as before.

Yeah...no. This is way too awkward.’ Alexander thought to himself “Sorry, but I was just here for a quick visit. I already have other plans” He lied out of his ass.

‘Very well, then. Thank you, for coming to check on Mariette. It’s never happened before,’ the man said kindly with a nod, before going into Mariette’s room to place the pancakes near her bed, while Alexander probably left.

Alexander simply nodded ‘It hasn’t, huh? That’s actually kind of sad’ And with nothing else in his way, he finally left.

Admittedly, Joe left out the part where Mariette hadn’t even been here for multiple months (longer than the timeskip), so perhaps if she’d stayed with him for longer then perhaps someone would have come to check on her while she was with him, but as far as he knows, anyway.
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