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Level: 6 (5 -> 6/60)
Location: Sandswept Sky - Al Mamoon - Obelisk Temple
Word Count: 477 (+1 EXP)


Disappointingly, Es was not yet ready to be awoken from her Illuminated stupor. The same, then, could not yet be hazarded with Azwel either, as the measure of his zeal against his sense of reason (or with it) thereafter was even less certain. What was certain, however, was that they both had a fair amount of fight left in them. Fox moved to meet Es halfway to make good on Azwel's setup, but unexpectedly moved the rest of the way on him to catch him in a punishing attack string. With the last hit, he ended up next to the arriving members of Yellow Team, who briefly provided reinforcement enough to force an advantage on Es and defeat her… had she not been warped to safety (presumably) in the midst of Azwel's flamboyantly called-out finisher.

In the implosion of vibrant crimson and azure against the golden glow of a magic teleportation circle, it didn't escape Fox that Es's disappearance wasn't the sorcerer's doing, a fact by which he seemed to be more amused than anything. Just as well. Even with a provisional alliance, Fox stood by not wanting to let the Grimleal have their way if it meant total annihilation of "the enemy". One of their own--and who knows how many others, perhaps better deserving--happened to be among them. For him, that was reason enough for what they were doing… and whatever they did from there.

After having his wounds flame-licked, the group proceeded further down into the catacombs. Besides the fact that they were in enemy territory--and clearly expected--Fox had a hard time sharing the deduction that stalling puzzles and traps awaited them, should they proceed carelessly. Tora was right about one thing for sure; they would have time to gather and recuperate, and now had a better look at their opposition against which to prepare accordingly. That was fine with him, for that went both ways. They, too, better knew what they were up against now. Their main disadvantage now lay in being at half their collective strength on unfamiliar turf.

The problem, currently, was finding which way they went. Excepting for Tora and Poppi, the latter of whom could fly and hear from Fox if needed, splitting up to try paths was obviously out, for they were already at half of their number even with the return of the Thieves and samurai. Investigative happenstance turned up a possible solution moments into their trial, prompting the remaining party to begin their search up and down for the remaining pieces of the puzzle. Fox left them to it while he stepped away to phone the other squad for an update on their progress. If they were wading into an obvious trap the way they already thought they were, it might do for both ends to know what things looked like on the other...

“Necronomicon, report!”


feat.

GM

@Lugubrious

Level: 6 (2 -> 5/60)
Location: Sandswept Sky - Al Mamoon - Obelisk Temple
Word Count: 1781 (+3 EXP)

Power: Charge Shot


Upon discovering the first telltale signs of conflict already underway after entering the monument atrium, the splinter group made ready to move in, but were slower to act. While others discussed possible routes, Fox spared no second of hesitation before leaping from the balcony in a three-step running start without a word. With two aerial traversal methods available to him--needing for only one--he would have no trouble clearing the jump (or redirecting his flight if/as necessary). Of course, not all of his team could say the same, hence their delay, but he knew he couldn’t afford to simply hang back with them to find them another way if he could better serve them by leading a head start on reinforcement. He just had to trust that they would catch up while he bought time up ahead.

It turned out they wouldn’t have far to go (but plenty to get through after an ambush), for the ongoing battle waged in the corridor just two stories down with no further rooms or halls in-between, as Fox could now plainly see. He darted forth, abruptly cutting into the middle of the action, and sliding to a stop on both feet, ducking low to the ground. His hands hovered at both sides, above his sidearm and shield each, ready to reflexively draw whichever one the situation most immediately demanded.

Having come upon a fight already well underway and thrown himself straight into the thick of it, Fox quickly learned exactly what that meant. He got only a quick glance at the temple’s third floor, broad and square in shape and bearing no features save flame-lit wall sconces and a forest-like array of archway-linked pillars throughout, before an unidentified assailant appeared before him. She moved with just about imperceptible speed, kicking up a gust of wind that tousled Fox’s fur as she paused in front of him. The stranger, a blonde girl in a fanciful dress who wielded a giant zweihander longer than she was tall, stared at him for a brief moment with blue eyes of utter blankness. “Entity not recognized. Commencing termination.”

She darted forward, swinging her blade as if it weighed nothing. No slouch in the speed department, Fox flipped back out of the way of the rebel’s sword, but noticed too late something off about the trail it left behind. The arc of blue light, darker toward the sword’s base and lighter to the tip, expanded outward to form a crescent of hard light crests, sharp enough to draw blood and then some. Es did not pause to see the results of her attack, but leaped past Fox with another crescent slash over his shoulder, then a third at his right hip, boxing him in. The next second she loomed over him a downward slash summoning a spear-like crest to impale the overeager pilot from above.

Then a blue light appeared from nowhere and slammed into Es mid-plunge. Fox caught a glimpse of Azwel, wielding a blue crystalline shield. “Forget about me?” he cried as he extended his other hand. From a spark of light a terrific double-bladed battle-axe manifested, red as crystalized blood and lit from within, and with a form of magic telekinesis he brought the axe’s head down to cleave the girl’s in two. Instead she blocked it, forced by its weight back to the ground. With her sword she slapped it aside, only to be greeted by two levitated scimitars of red and blue. Controlled by Azwel, they attacked like hornets, stinging again and again until she flung them aside with a spin sweep and lunged Azwel’s way. Her blade flashed beneath the sorcerer’s conjured shield and cut into his leg, but the azure spear that shot out from beneath the shield and sent her flying away more than paid her back for it.

She got up and disappeared behind a fallen pillar, one of many already felled by the furious duel. “Splendid!” Azwel crowed as he limped up to stand beside Fox. “We’ll take the stage together!” He summoned his twin swords and entered a ready stance, the weapons crossed over his chest. “Flush her out now, I’ll be waiting in the wings!”

Having paid in cuts and piercings for an unsolicited* taste of what Azwel had been dealing with for the likely duration of their raid, (*In fairness, Fox had intended to fight, so the instinctual assumption that he was a definitive threat on her part was circumstantially valid, even though he intended to help in a way while he was at it.), he had already begun making mental adjustments to his approach to be put into effect. Subverting her gimmick would likely be a simple matter of getting in through the gaps to stay inside of her weapon’s effective range, which was par for his usual method, so little at all would change for him if he was right. The main thing he would have to worry about was her greater mobility with which she could create and close distance as needed in little time, an advantage usually afforded to him that they had in common here.

To start, he closed on her cover with a Burst dash directly for it, intended to blow it apart, or force her out of it. Whether she took the hit or got away clean, he would chase her into the air to keep pressure on, wearing down her guard or health with airborne melee until one or both of them had to back off. Where he used kicks up-close, he answered in kind with light shots at a distance, more as a distraction or to bait out attacks than a means of offense. Long range, or arm’s reach, with no in-between: he aimed to manage that for spacing to control the pace of the fight… while considering that he wasn’t the only other one in it.

Fox’s explosive dash took a chunk out of the pillar he targeted, kicking up enough force and shrapnel to convince Es to move. Being a swordfighter, of course, the artificial human had always intended to go toe-to-toe with her opposition, and doing so meant quickly coming to terms with whatever tricks and traits Fox might offer. The two quickly ascended into the room’s limited air space, and while they exchanged blows Azwel hurried over. Fox and Es clashed at blistering speed, a flurry of limbs and gleaming arcs, with Fox a little speedier thanks to the more straightforward path of his punches and kicks versus his foe’s slashes. He landed a handful of strikes across her arms and torso, but any chance at building up enough momentum to overwhelm her was dashed by her crests. With every swing, landed or not, Es left behind more and more trails of ephemeral patterns that took just longer to fade than they did to make. The end result was an array of blades and spikes that served as defense just as much as offense, forcing Fox to constantly rethink his attack patterns lest he cut or skewer himself.

After a brief but furious moment the pair split, with Es using her blade to block Fox’s parting shots. He kicked off again the moment he landed in pursuit of her to find that she’d launched herself at him as well. She span like a vertical sawblade to unleash two wheeling slashes that Fox evaded, only to finish with a quick jab of her sword’s hilt right to Fox’s sternum. In retaliation she took a strike right to the head, only to follow through anyway into a horizontal cleave that clipped Fox as he jumped away. The results of that blow plus the ones he dealt earlier were ample proof that Es didn’t take damage like an ordinary teenage girl, either.

“Can you stand the test?!” As Fox repositioned himself Azwel moved in, and his scimitars bit into Es’ back. When she turned to face him she found a conjured axe sweep already on its way and leaped back out of its path onto the fallen pillar. Azwel’s axe appeared above her but fell far too slowly to stop her dashing his way. The sorcerer only just got his shield up in time to block a waterwheel swing, but the crescent trail prevented him using the spear he brought out along with it. In midair Es pivoted to unleash another horizontal, the crests of which formed a cross along with those of its predecessor. Azwel withstood them as best he could with his feet planted, but the great downward spike that followed him smashed him into the ground beneath his shield. He rolled away as Fox approached once more, conjured a floating shield that he crouched upon, and charged Es from the opposite side surrounded by suspended weaponry. “For the human race!”

As the two closed in Es jumped again, unleashing slash after slash to fill the air with crests and stop her enemies in their tracks. As he attacked Fox needed to not only maneuver his way past the crests, but also avoid getting accidentally impaled by Azwel’s charge. This served as yet another reminder that Fox was actually fighting not one, but two that would need to be pacified, and he wasn’t sure how much energy he would have left to manage it on his own if he made the mistake of allowing it to last.

Quicker to process their impending collision, it fell to Fox to avert it through quick evasive action. He sprang around the first vertical crest he passed, touching down by one hand to propel himself forward between two more horizontal and diagonal formations, essentially diving between them. He hit the ground once more in a foot-forward slide beneath Azwel’s surfing shield and between every jousting weapon he controlled. All the while, he opened the action on his blaster, chambered a Heart into it, and readied it once more with a sustained squeeze of the trigger to begin building energy at the lens for a more powerful shot.

Whether Es was ready to be freed or not--as a measure of damage taken--didn’t (and likely wouldn’t) show, so he was taking decisive action to wound and heal in one move on the assumption that it might work. His best indication was in his provisional ally’s condition, evidencing fatigue. He would have to wait, for Fox’s sights trained narrowly past him as soon as he stood. With a sufficient charge welled at his fingertips, he released the echo trigger to let fly an empowered, vibrant pink blast intended for Es, knowing that, success or fail, it wouldn’t end the fight either way.


Level: 5 (47 -> 53/50) LEVEL UP! ---> 6 (3 -> 6 -> 2/60)
Location: Sandswept Sky - Al Mamoon
Word Count: 1639 (+3 EXP)

(Level up pending…)


Fox held the now cleansed Sombra suspended on her heels, peering at her sharply while she came to her senses. The spared second of direct eye contact betrayed the expected mix of feelings--namely confusion and frustration in this case. The situation would not allow for a lengthy, in-depth analysis, however, as they were still all in the midst of a heated team battle. Fox was swiftly reminded of that when narrowly ducking a horizontal ring blade slash from behind. He went to the ground with his evasive motion, pulling Sombra to as he deposited her safely to the floor and rolling away to create space between, in case she should resume hostilities, but also to spare her the proximal danger of his ongoing clash with the schizophrenic swordswoman while she regained herself. Sombra shot him one more parting look before disappearing out of sight and away from the conflict once again.

Dangerously short on ways to get past Tira’s wildly swinging ring blade, and with little else in the way of getting around it, Fox quickly found himself backing up until he ran out of ground to give. The flat of her greave to his chest bounced him off the wall and into the swiping blade as it ran quickly across his front on the rebound, opening thread and hide alike. Luckily, the cut was made cleanly by the smooth edge rather than going against the ornate serrations, subtly highlighting her sadistic nature by the underlying cruelty of her method. She followed up on the cornered Fox with an unconventional multi-attack string that involved slipping the ring around her form and travelling it in circles up the length of her torso by gyrating her hips and body; a dedicated technique taking advantage of the weapon’s design.

Fox couldn’t immediately retaliate against the bizarre, pressuring maneuver, as he was more focused on flattening himself against the wall to avoid it as the ring lashed at him, its edge missing his neck and chin by an uncomfortable margin. Thankfully, the reduced range on her attack gave him just enough breathing room to realize the low opening in her guard, parry the ring with an armored boot tip to the blade’s cheek, punctuated by contact sparks and a ringing metallic report, and capitalize with a sweeping kick/tail swipe to the ankle. As she came off her feet she dropped to the floor to spin on her ring like a coin and deliver a double-leg sweep of her own to counter. Fox recovered by catching himself back on balance with a fluid handstand, complimented by a staggering scorpion kick flat toTira’s face upon rising, and followed through into backflip/bicycle kick.

While his signature/finishing move didn’t quite fully connect, it did manage to break her guard momentarily, but she managed to deftly reorient herself to catch Fox’s gun arm with the inner rim of her ring and redirect a point blank blaster shot to graze her cheek. A tandem pirouette resulted from the entwining struggle that followed, bringing them face-to-face in a tight deadlock in the space between Tira’s weapon. It was then that a verbal and visual signal of Klee’s all-out bombardment caught Fox’s attention, whereupon he bounded away from Tira with a tucking drop kick to separate them. However, he was still close enough to the blast to be affected by the concussive force of it, as he was thrown face-first into the wall and momentarily incapacitated by the impact, which was slightly more than he could say for his opponent.

Seconds passed in the silent aftermath, and Fox, bleary-eyed, made it slowly to his feet and tried to regain his bearings. Although worse off, it seemed everyone on both sides had survived, including Tira, with his help putting her out of the way of a direct impact. Moreover, he considered that he and some of the others may have gotten just a little bit lucky with the conclusive case of mass friendly fire saving them, though he would never admit or even acknowledge it.

Putting a hand to his wounded chest and pulling it away as if to draw out a Heart, he stopped for a moment to look upon the bloody print it left on the surface of his palm. Suddenly, he received an incoming call from Necronomicon informing him that the Thieves were inbound for what, to them, was simply the sight of an unknown conflict (though a safe guess on their part likely painted a good enough picture for them).

“Not a moment too soon,” Fox remarked tiredly to himself before responding. “That’s us. We’ll fill you in as soon as you get here.” Through the garage opening he could make out other figures on a slower approach, whom he soon recognized to be among the Grimleal that he had met earlier that day. “You might want to hurry,” he added in closing before taking his first steps forward to convene with his team and theirs, subtly, gingerly dropping a Friend Heart onto the unconscious blade dancer from his blood-covered hand as he passed.

Midna beat him to speaking up in persuasive deterrence of Kan-Ra’s plans to execute the rebels by outright revealing the nature of Hearts and their effects on the Gleaming, demonstrating as much along with Tora and Poppi. This seemed to pique his interest enough to refrain from killing the captives for the time being, even if it sounded like he was looking for a way to talk himself back into it. Where lied the need to “interrogate” them, after all, if they already knew everything they needed to? Unless, of course, they didn’t, and there was somehow still more to this civil war. That would have to wait, for Kan made it clear just how little time they had to make their next move, whatever that may entail. He went as far as to volunteer a conscripted rebel, apparently eager to betray upon waking and learning, to direct them accordingly.

“And what about the other one?” he inquired simply following the divulgence of one location. “Where can we find Robin?” he added more softly to his line of inquiry, narrowing don’t his focus and intent for the mission. Whether they split the group--and thus their collective strength--to go after them in unison for urgency’s sake, or took the chance on tackling them one after the other, they needed to know where both bases were before they set out. With all of their wounds freshly healed and vitality restored (to which Fox made a mental note about the Grimleal’s level of preparedness), they were all but ready to. They just needed a clear direction.

With the arrival of the Phantom Thieves they made ready to move out, but just before the last of them could get going, Fox hung back and halted Kan-Ra, isolating them so he could make his singular, critical address to him. “Just so we’re clear,” he started, before turning to face the sorcerer, making (for him, naturally) sharp eye contact. “We’re doing ALL of them this way--OUR way--no casualties!” Gesturing back to Klee and Baz with his gun arm (which he had still been holding the whole time, ready to draw a bead on any one of them if the occasion arose), he further emphasized his point, without breaking eye contact. “You won’t be doing yourselves any favors by making orphans… Believe me.” On that, Fox spoke from experience. Whether Kan took that much away was incidental. Fox still didn’t trust them, but he didn’t have to for them to know how he felt about their original plan, or to consider the consequences should they unilaterally see it through. “Make sure you and the rest of yours understand that.” With the implicit punctuation to close out his interlude address to the Grimleal lieutenant, he didn’t wait for a response before turning away to head out and catch up with the rest of the group, leaving Kan-Ra with his thoughts for the brief moment he could spare for them.

Fox, being among the more fleet of foot among Yellow Team, had little trouble at all rejoining them on the move. As they made their way, Midna fast tracked their tentative new recruit through on the makeup of the World he had just been woken up in, and their simple plan for dealing with it. With the big picture now in mind, the ex-rebel reconciled an excuse for revenge against his now former boss, assuring them of his intent to cooperate with a non-lethal approach.

“Good, because we’re not interested in your vendetta. Get revenge on your own time,” he told him before belaboring, “If we wanted anyone dead, you wouldn’t be here right now.” It wasn’t long before they came to a sudden stop on account of his personality problems in conflict with that of another--one they had already met, in fact. Apparently familiar with each other by proxy, having originated from the same world/universe, the two couldn’t help themselves engaging in a verbal dick measuring contest of comical, borderline cartoonishly villainous ego stroking, at which Fox sighed before interjecting.

“Are you two finished?” he cut in sternly, perceptibly annoyed by the delaying obtrusion. “We don’t have time for this...” At the same time, however, he noticed that the delay gave the rest of the team a chance to collaborate about the upcoming split, as well as better equip themselves. They were at a crossroads, so to speak, and they would have no better time to decide who would go where. As for how they would go about it when they got there, for one side, the other, or neither, was a matter probably best played by ear. Still, he took the time afforded to him to consider his options; to think ahead for once in his career...


Level: 5 (47 -> 48 -> 50 -> 47/50)
Location: Sandswept Sky - Al Mamoon
Word Count: 1079 (+2 EXP)


“That’s them!” To the trumpet’s call, Fox answered, promptly drawing his sidearm and getting himself and everyone else into gear. “Move!” he called, breaking into a sprint in Poppi’s guided direction, who then joined them back at ground level on the way. The commotion, perceptive over the typical activity of the bazaar (so keeping a lid on was out), led them the rest of the way to a warehouse with the garage wide open. The sustained bombardment of the entrance might have made intervention more difficult for them if not for Midna’s pets taking hits for them, for which Fox mentally thanked her as he vaulted over the creature through a plume of flame and smoke between bombings and into the warehouse proper.

Immediately, he honed in on one of the other two firearm wielders there besides himself, opening up on the cybernized rogue among them. If nothing else, Sombra now had a new target to focus on that compulsion would force her to deal with, dividing their collective attention further. The first stream of shots that hit prompted a quick escape on her end, achieved by triggering the Translocator beacon she had tossed up onto the catwalk previously.

From on high she had an advantageous angle on the intruders, even if it meant working slightly outside of her weapon’s effective range. She made use of it by returning fire on Band, Midna and Fox, the latter of whom threw up his shield in response to the first sting of bullet spray at his back. Naturally, she ceased fire at the realization that she was riddling herself with her own shots, and before Fox could tack on more damage with his own, she vanished in a starting run with a purple shimmer, buying her a moment to recuperate and reposition.

The break in engagement set Fox’s eye to darting around for other enemies to fight/allies to aid, taking potshots periodically to keep any less occupied foes from getting too comfortable. It was then he saw the exuberant ring blade wielder make a predatory move against Yoshitsune, unprovoked, while he was down, somersaulting after him with a running start and both feet together against the inner rim of her weapon to drive it down onto him like a guillotine. After squeezing off a heavier shot to disrupt her mid-flight, Fox almost beat his own shot there in a blue, ghostly rush to tilt her drop off-axis by delivering a snapping toe kick to the bottom broad of the blade itself, followed by two rising tornado kicks meant for its wielder. Only the first caught her by the chin, as she blocked the second during her recovering backflip and threaded herself through her hoop in a descending spiral kick in retaliation to knock Fox back to the floor.

He tumbled to his feet to find her on top of him with a seamless, unrelenting string of dance-like blade slashes, both horizontal and vertical, that he was to work to dodge by the skin of his snout or the hairs of his ears and tail, at one point glancing a blow against the minimal armor of his plated glove, but not without being grazed with one or two of them. Fox interrupted her routine with a distracting shot to force her on her guard and chased it with a flurry of whirling kicks to be blocked, all save for the repelling finisher to her abdomen. Swift, agile and aggressive as both fighters were, neither could find or force a wide enough opening on the other to gain ground in their exchange.

“Don’t mind me,” Sombra taunted upon re-emerging to lopside Fox and Tira’s duel with a projective keystroke from every digit of her off-hand and more submachine gun fire to chase it with. Fox found his Reflector to be locked up, and that his other abilities were somehow disabled as well, leaving him wide open to the hacker’s counteroffensive. Only after catching the first second of sustained fire for his trouble did he evasively leap aside and return fire, but hitting nothing as she found cover. Tira took advantage of the distraction to slip her weapon around his neck from behind in a choking grapple, pressing her feet to his back as she pulled away in a gymnastic maneuver and slamming him overhead. He had to scramble to recover to avoid the successive heavy slams of her ring that followed, fragments of the concrete erupting with every impact as she aggressively growled with exertion on the last strike.

With the tie broken against him, Fox was finding more trouble dealing with the fierce dancer than was typical for him, on top of dealing with the repercussions of not finishing the first fight he started. He had contended with a number of blade wielders in the past, but none of whom matched her variable, unorthodox style or sadistic fervor. The key to beating her, perhaps, lay in the observation that her style and personality visibly flipped with the changing of her stances, from jubilance to anger and back with little in between. A break came for him during Big Band’s thunderous clash with another to rock the foundations of their place of battle, lending Fox a moment to knock her away with an advancing outward crescent kick to capitalize on a break in her guard in her less defensive ‘Gloomy’ stance.

He swiftly responded to the sneaky press of a muzzle to his back by turning and swiftly deflecting Sombra’s gun arm, wrapping his own around it to lock her down in an act of basic joint manipulation to prevent her from escaping again. He then threw two knee strikes into her chest to weaken her, drew her back by her collar, pressed the lens of his blaster to her sternum, and pulled the trigger. Her eyes constricted with a gasp as she fell limply back out of his grip, but where there should have been an entry wound was instead a fading heart symbol. Fox reached out to catch her by her open hand before she could hit the ground, clasping her arm in his own. The question now was whether or not it was enough to cure her of her Gleam, for he could only work on assumption for every case. Moreover, if it worked, would she understand the gesture upon waking, and what was her next move either way? For safety, Fox mentally prepared for a negative response regardless.


Level: 5 (45 -> 47/50)
Location: Sandswept Sky - Al Mamoon
Word Count: 975 (+2 EXP)


The point wasn’t lost on Fox. He knew the towering detective had been keeping a loose tail on him. He wasn’t exactly trying to hide the fact, even if a man of his size and mass with built-in noise makers was somehow capable of doing so. Whether he trailed him to act as contingent backup or out of underlying suspicion was up to him, but either would be understandable. Even if they meant well, a seasoned investigator worth his salt couldn’t rightly be expected to fully trust some ragtags he just met.

If anything could be said for sure about him, it’s that he better knew how to play the field--and more--for what he needed. It didn’t take Band long to post up outside of a heavily trafficked locale to put his instruments to good use. It took Fox a second from the initial twitch of his ears registering jazz tones to realize what the Big man was doing. In applying his unique talents to create a more comfortable, inviting, and perhaps disarming atmosphere, he made for himself a perfect cover from which to observe the crowd as patrons and passersby came and went. Fox respected the idea such that he almost wanted to drop a tip in his hat if not for lacking in physical (or presently any) currency to do so. At any rate he had more important things to think about; namely taking advantage of the distraction provided to slip off into the cracks in the scene, and looking for anyone else who would be doing the same.




Alas, after nearly an hour of searching for conspicuous oddities among the bustle, he came up cold and dry, figuratively speaking. He ended up ducking off into a shaded alley to find a minute of respite from the midday desert heat in the midst of his thus far fruitless search for anything at all. The boredom of it was starting to get to him more than anything else (as tended to be the case), as he was left with a moment to consider what he had been doing wrong, the first and most obvious thing being working out of his element in general. Matters of the covert and any requiring greater discretion or a more discerning eye weren’t exactly his forte, as one who seldom needed to hunt down a target.

Perhaps his newest acquaintance with lifelong experience in the criminal could provide his particular insights on the case. Fox might have had a mind to contact him and ask if he only knew how to reach him. In any case, he had a feeling they wouldn’t be seeing him again until later in the day, closer to (or at) night. Hopefully, by then, he will have at least found out more than them.

Until then, he had naught else he could do but retrace his steps and reconsider his approach. It occurred to him on the trek back to the bar where he left Band that he may have stood out a little too much to anyone looking back, who didn’t want to be found. Perhaps deviating from the scene rather than immersing himself in it was the wrong move; that he was checking the wrong places in the wrong way. He was now realising that whoever he was looking for could (and may very well) have just as easily blended into the setting when given the opportunity. It was a bit late for it now, but setting aside a moment to relax--or at least appearing to--may better benefit his end of the investigation than a dedicated (ergo visible) effort. At that, he actually find a restful moment of peace by accident in pretending to try.

It seemed that moment would come slightly later, for when he made it back to the block where the Hound Pits was located, He found empty space formerly occupied by Big Band when last he saw him. Further inspection confirmed that he wasn’t inside the establishment either. A quick ask to an attentive patron/staff about the whereabouts of the one visitor they couldn’t miss would lead him vaguely in the direction he had taken off in, whereupon he happened upon the scene of a thwarted crime, thanks to Band himself, as he found out. With a small sum of convincing, Hunnigan gave him the briefest rundown of what had taken place mostly in her fortuitous absence, and pointed him in the proper direction where he could find the detective to reconvene. He thanked the office attendant for the information (what little she could assuredly provide) and went on his way.

Within the cool, misty cafe he would find not only Big Band, but the better share of the rest of the crew as well. Thus came that moment of relaxation as he joined them, pulling up a seat next to the detective. He would mildly regret reintroducing his now mist-moistened fur to the desert sun to suffer the humidity later, but it couldn’t be helped. Having grown up on an arid, desolate desert planet, and been consistently underdressed (even sleeveless) in the snow, he was never one to be openly bothered by the elements.

“I’d ask if you found anything on your end, but… I think I’ve already seen it,” he addressed to Band specifically. He tried--somewhat convincingly--to bury his frustration with coming up empty-handed beneath a bearing of forward objectivity “So what’s our play?” While the question was meant primarily for the detective, anyone with additional leads or answers was free to offer them, for which he waited and read the table. On this particular matter, he was content to let the Big man take the lead, being clearly the most experienced at it. That didn’t mean, however, that he would be getting comfortable enough to cease looking over his back for any would-be pursuers.


feat.

GM

@Lugubrious

Level: 5 (38 -> 43 -> 45/50)
Location: Sandswept Sky - Al Mamoon
Word Count: 859/1198 (+2 EXP)


While the others caught Tora up on the overall scheme and talked around the Conductor who obstructed them, Fox used the distraction to step away from the group to find an isolated area between idle/unused train cars parked in the yard. He checked his surroundings for prying eyes and to make sure he wasn’t being followed before taking a knee and mocking radio contact to summon a messenger from home.

After a couple moments, a familiar puff of smoke heralded the arrival of one of Alcamoth's correspondent moogles. The little white creature appeared with its kind's iconic, whimsical whistling noise, the pom stopped her head a-bobbing, and waved to Fox with both hands. "Hiya! So excited to be here! What can I do ya for, mister?"

“Update: We’re held up in Al Mamoon. Volatile political tensions threaten to break out into civil war. We believe Robin may be involved, and possibly in immediate danger.” His emphasis on the individual would be readily apparent in its intent to his Smash cohorts back at Alcamoth, thus further justifying the delay in their progress. “We’re looking into it on our end, but we may not have much time.” His stolidly professional tone was marked with an undertone of malaise that creeped into his voice with the thought of worst cases and the request that followed. “Ready a diplomatic relief response for the aftermath, for whatever that may look like. The people here could use the outreach either way.”

“Um...okay!” the moogle responded after a moment, more than a little overwhelmed by both the content of Fox’s request and his tone. “I’ll just tell the boss everything you told me. But, um…” She looked a little hesitant, pawing at the side of her head. “I assume that’s on the map or something, but even if it is, I don’t think the boss likes sending people to unknown areas. He’d probably ask something like, is there a good way to get there? And even if we get a team ready, it might be a long time to get to Elm...or, wherever you are. If only we had a fast-travel system…” Even as she considered the ramifications of Fox’s request, she still stayed mostly upbeat, rattling off things to be aware of in a matter-of-fact manner. “Anything else?”

Fox had, of course, failed to consider the projected cost or potential risks of his request. The more sizable party he travelled in had something of a hard time getting there already, while incurring personnel losses along the way. A smaller party of four might fare worse still. For this reason he bit his tongue on how they might get there, and abstained from relaying further instruction--on travel or rescue. “We lost four on the train here,” he told her, shaking his head to confirm a negative. “We may have to figure out a better way. Just keep them on standby until then.” No more complicated than his order was, he realized he was already asking too much, motivated expressly by a recognized need for assistance and connection, and a desire to help in any way that mattered.

“Ah…” The little creature looked crestfallen. “Can do. Will do.”

He then recalled one out of the previous orders made, incidental to their current situation or how it may further aid any further efforts on either end. “What’s the status on Naboris?” he asked plainly.

Having not handled that mission’s correspondence herself, the moogle took a moment to identify what Fox meant. “If that’s the one for bringing in the giant stone camel, I don’t think it went that well. I mean, the mercenaries found it pretty easily. It picked up a few hitchhikers or something, but that wasn’t the main issue. I don’t think they ever figured out a way to control it. So it’s just sort of standing out in the desert near the path leading to the Eryth Sea.” She scratched her head. “Maybe that’s good enough? We don’t have a place to store it anyway.”

Right… there was still that issue. He didn’t understand to begin with how Midna was able to pilot it short of subsuming its old pilot’s Spirit. They did seem to have a world of origin in common, however. Considering this for a second, he suggested, “Consult any Hylians we have at home. See if they can get it running. We’ll keep you updated on our end where we can in the meantime.”

“Okay!” The Moogle said, blissfully unaware that Zelda had been on that mission (as Fox had also neglected to ascertain). “Good luck then, and see you later. You got this, guys!” With a final cheer she left.

Fox wordlessly thanked the creature with a parting, affirmative nod before it disappeared. He took one last look around him for good measure before standing back up and heading off to rejoin the others.

He walked in on the exchange of ideas between interested party members on how to possibly track down the local rebels. To Big Band’s address of “control” he simply shook his head in amicable dismissal of presumed protest on his part; as if to say “You’re good.” “I was just going to suggest we go look for trouble, but I’m open to ideas.” Bounties and commissions then came into the conversation, about which he had compromising thoughts on their relevance to the task. “There’s a chance they may be indirectly responsible for some of these problems people are having,” he said about the listed and referenced jobs for anyone who considered taking one. “Start with those, if anything.” To Panther, who expressed understandable interest in regrouping with her own team, he added, “Could you relay to them what we’ve learned when you find them?” His question was more rhetorical than anything, as he expected she would anyway. If he was later contacted by them afterwards, he would know why.

As he made ready to leave, Fox addressed the group one more time, following Midna’s declaration of intent. “Wherever we all go we should keep ourselves small; split up and cover as much ground as we can,” he advised in endorsement of Band’s recommendation. “I’ll be seeing what I can’t find on my own.” With that, he set off at a nonchalant pace out of the marketplace, specifying not where he was going, for he didn’t entirely know himself.

He thought he might start with the ‘Paranormal Thief’, if he had a starting location to go by. He guessed that such activity would make for just the kind of chaos that would attract or be perpetrated by the anarchally-prone. Perhaps coincidentally, and unbeknownst to him, the Phantom Thieves would be coming fresh off of their run in with the culprit. He thus stood to run into them (and/or possibly Big Band, depending), provided his blind path took him in the right direction, but that would depend also on whether or not he encountered anything of interest on his way. There was no telling what he might run into wandering the city looking for its darkest, quietest corners by his lonesome, but he would be carefully looking out for any and all of it.


Level: 5 (29 -> 36 -> 38/50)
Location: Sandswept Sky - Al Mamoon; Grimleal Headquarters
Word Count: 826 (+2 EXP)


Their various businesses concluded and ongoing, the divided Yellow Team soon reconvened in the marketplace where they left off, barring appearances from Sly (expectedly) and the rest of the Phantom Thieves, absent on some unspecified account vouched for by Panther. Those who had new information shared if and as they saw fit, which Fox did. That much would suffice for options/direction. Any who cared to could go take on any one of the publicly available jobs from the board. The rest, should they not have other ideas, would be following Fox back to the palace temple to meet with the Grimleal, to get a better read of them and the situation at large.

That marked the first oddity in their rendezvous for Fox; that the Grimleal were apparently attached to a religious order rather than serving strictly as a high guard or para/military contingent, perhaps acting as all three? Far be it for Fox to care who anyone prays to, but he couldn’t help getting the immediate impression that the Vizier’s ‘elite’ troop were more of a ‘personal’ one, which he didn’t mind, of course. He knew a little something about working with the people he best liked and most trusted. The question stood of whether or not they could trust these people, and what it would speak of Validar if he put his own faith in them. No points for shared tastes in dark, chthonic motifs.

On the subject of ‘faith’, it was hard not to notice the imposing visage of the violet-lit dragon, the presumed subject of their worship. If that was what they called their ‘god’, then they might find themselves disappointed to learn that it too is likely just another slave to the Light; that far greater powers reside over the World still. Even for the theologically uninclined or uninitiated, one could no longer claim to not be a believer after everything that had happened, upon learning of it all, or having experienced it for one’s self firsthand.

The Grimleal generals were… eager to say the least. They seemed to be under the impression that the Yellow Team participants would show up ready to go right away, no questions asked. As much as that fit Fox’s usual model, this wasn’t his usual case. He knew that same eagerness for action over planning, but would not readily act on it if it chanced meaning he would be fighting the wrong people, and potentially forthe wrong people. This once, at least, he would have to--and willingly--make an exception, and more carefully consider his approach.

“Then I hate to tell you this, but you may want to temper your enthusiasm for a bit longer,” he said to the bow-wielding hare woman as a start. “Because I would like to know more. I think I speak for all of us on that,” he iterated more broadly to all three generals, gesturing referentially to the rest of the team that accompanied him. “Call me old-fashioned, but I like to actually know who I’m being hired to fight.” Midna’s following citation of war philosophy corroborated as much.

Provided his definitive participation, this would hardly be the first war Fox threw himself in the middle of, and far from the biggest. That said, stakes and morality every time secretly factored into his decision on who was worth helping and why, and thus who to take a paycheck from. He nor any he represented were just some common mercenary ilk of lax standard to be exploited by the highest bidder. In as few words and as little mounted suspicion as possible, he thought he might impress that upon them--preferably from a purely pragmatic/strategic perspective. The last thing they needed was the zealous denunciation of moral propagation to be followed with a catered preaching of morals intended to coerce them into premature action. They were there to gather information, not debate ideology; a sentiment the generals might surely agree with.

Midna obligingly laid out a short list of starting inquiries for valuable information they would want regardless. To it, Fox added, “Let’s start with where we can find them.” This, first and foremost, would be best to know. That way whatever they couldn’t learn in their meeting they could go find out for themselves, but truth be told, Fox already had every intention of going to look when they left. On that note, he also bore in mind that they boasted the distinct advantage of political anonymity and, until such time as they acted, neutrality. That the Resistance were unaware of them or their affiliations made them prime candidates for an ‘infiltration’ pitch, with the rebels of their group being even more qualified, even in the unlikely event that they could actually be used for such a ploy. The generals didn’t need to know any of that just yet anyhow, so he kept it to himself for now to gauge them and their intentions by their responses.


Level: 7 (37 -> 38/70)
Location: Edge of the Blue - Bottomless Sea
Word Count: 486 (+1 EXP)

Hat: Default
Item: Necro Smasher (Loan)


Just before the prevailing sea demon’s fastball pitch impacted with the Atomos, smashing the windshield inward into deadly shards, Hat Kid felt herself get yanked off her feet into the protective clutch of Bowser’s umbral likeness. The remaining crew were safe, but only for so long as their now worse-worn ship would stay aloft to allow for. She supposed this was the thanks they got (or perhaps what they had coming) for getting involved in a battle of two titanic monstrosities that might otherwise have been content to leave them alone, provided perhaps that they went unnoticed. What exactly was their plan anyway?

The ephemeral Koopa faded out, releasing her and Jr who promptly rushed the ship’s controls as the ship began to list lopsidedly. He seemed to immediately understand what was wrong (as did she), tossed her a wooden mallet, and ordered her to do something about it. She questioned not if she had the right tool for the job or how she was expected to make miracles happen with it. Her own ship was made of wood, so who could guess what similarly unorthodox processes went into its construction and maintenance. For all anyone else knew, mallet-smashing a faulty engine back into function was perfectly normal for her. Only she could speak to it, if she cared to at all.

“Aye, Aye!” she responded jovially to Jr, saluting with the hand that held the hammer, and readying her umbrella rearways with the other. Pointing her parasol outside, she opened it to catch a wind-ride out the door, carrying her to the back of the ship at speed, and just as quickly had to close it to ‘drop her sail’ so to speak. In a backward tumble she clamped a clawed handhold onto the lip of the still-functioning engine by the Hookshot tip of her umbrella, her save aided by the ship’s sudden, forced cessation with its encasing in anchoring golden light. This pause allowed her to drop down/swing over onto the damaged engine and begin going to work on it, which entailed simply wailing on the affected area haphazardly with the clumsy miracle bludgeoning tool she was lent.

The hastening glow holding the ship in place indicated to her that she didn’t have long to work, so she quickened her blows in kind to compensate and get as many hits in as she could before bailing from the engine with a dive onto/into the ship proper to brace for takeoff. It wouldn’t do for her to be thrown overboard with the airship’s resumed movement, even if it was still going down by then. Who would be on hand to fix it, then? With that said, she was perfectly fine hazarding a hotfix attempt while it was still moving before realizing she had some help stalling it out of nowhere, and would resign herself to another try, should her initial efforts prove insufficient.


Level: 7 (19 -> 34 -> 37/70)
Location: Edge of the Blue - Luma Pools -> Bottomless Sea
Word Count: 1264 (+3 EXP)

Hat: Default


In spite of the sounds of rescue, the following confrontation, and general chatter and activity, Hat Kid managed to peacefully nod off on the palm-shaded patch of sand she lazily occupied. Picking up zero hits on her Compass Badge told her there was nothing that currently demanded her immediate attention, and so decided she’d rather pay it to nothing other than her afforded relaxation time to rest her head. It wasn’t long until she was roused by food smells unfamiliar to her, but in their own way enticing nonetheless. She sat up and tilted her hat out of her eyes to observe the culinary activity that brought it about, then popped up onto her feet and made her way over to join the others around the fire. A feast was in order, it seemed, courtesy of Link, Cadet, the (rest of) the girls, and a new guy who happened to befriend a nearby chimp. Whatever they were serving, she wouldn’t be saying no to a free meal. (It IS free this time, right?) Shameless thoughts of repeat freeloading aside, with the contents prepared and set, she set in with the others to help herself at the proverbial ring of the dinner bell (one that Link could probably hear for some reason).

She liked the fish, but she wouldn’t say she loved it. Certainly, it was pleasant for what it was, as light a flavor as it had against a semi-crunchy, flakey, succulent texture, but something about it she hadn’t the palate to place gave off an underlying impression of “We worked with what we had.” Still, not bad overall… definitely better than what the Mafia ‘of Cooks’ could manage, which admittedly wasn’t saying much considering their food resided on an astonishingly low qualitative end of putting any partakers into an early grave. Strangely, nothing struck her as anatomically bizarre about the fish, being no more weird or alien to her than any other creature she had likely encountered (and/or tasted) in her unrecounted space travels.

This thing they called ’froot’ was another thing entirely. Her off-hand knowledge was of its exclusive use in decorative table arrangements in ornate bowls or horn-shaped baskets, the same way hamburgers were clearly furniture made by/for earthlings to sit on (a previously held myth dispelled for her back at the Hammerhead branch of Grillby’s). She was unaware until now that it also came in edible form, and was apparently enjoyable at that, going by the reactions of others. The only question that remained for her was which one to try first.

At any rate, she opted for cooked and raw bites of each for a proper sample size and reference. The hot pink one in the green-striped, less than edible shell proved better left raw, if good in its own right. Cooking it seemed to render out some of the juiciness and reduced the texture somewhat, even if it ended up enhancing the decadently sweet flavor overall. The uninitiated child’s second eager bite closer to the rind was met with a pause of displeasure at the unintended crunching sensation that hadn’t happened with the first. Put off by this, she reflexively spat out the black she had caught a mouthful of and reexamined the partially-eaten melon wedge in her hand to notice plenty more still within it. She wondered then if filtering them out as you went was part of the experience, for meticulously removing them seemed unduly laborious for the otherwise pleasurable act of consumption. She tried again, this time expecting it, sucking down each flavorful bite of watermelon and projectile spitting the seeds out in any direction--enough to quickly develop a feel for and start having fun with it. Like that, she went from working around her food to playing with it like the child she was, messy smile and all.

The golden one with the ‘prickly-but-not-really’ skin was great either way. A little less sweet, but just enough with a balanced tang--somehow moreso when grilled. To boot, when paired with a bite of fish, it made that better too! Preferable cooked, but excellent regardless. Definitely the highlight of the feast. The ‘creamy boomerangs’ were a toss-up as to whether they were better cooked or raw, but were hard not to love either way. If anything was for certain, especially after experimenting with it, they were certainly better by themselves than paired with anything else they were serving. Thankfully, they would have no shortage of them for the road.

Soon enough their recess came to an end. They re-split the party between both vessels--Hat Kid assuming a roaming post in the Atomos’ ballista bay once more--and set off downstream. The passing scenery of lush, red flora and glistening waters brought a peaceful smile to her face. Not that she didn’t normally smile by default already, but it made her feel slightly more at ease while it lasted. It didn’t take long for the colors to run with gloom and decay the closer they got to the Sea until there was naught else to behold, marking a complete turn in the child’s attitude and expression, changing at pace with the scenic transition.

For all the comfort it was worth, the abyssal black waters may as well have been a bottomless void of open air, no more welcoming than it was by feeling and appearances alone, coupled with an endlessly-spanning storm that could throw them into it with a wrong turn in any direction. Thalassophobia wasn’t quite the word. She had actually been in the Deep Sea once before--or a rift-borne imitation of it at least (which too was seemingly bottomless)--but at least it was stable, even when it was un-stable… and she couldn’t drown or anything else in it. What she found here was strikingly unnerving by comparison… to anything she had experienced up to this point. Only Vanessa had ever made her nervous like this once before.

Perhaps the most critical distinction between this and the dimensional dream reflection of the ocean and its depths as she had experienced it before was both the inherent and readily apparent realization that they weren’t alone, and they didn’t yet know what all awaited them. Sharks seemed an appropriate tone-setting opener, of which she could see more beneath the water’s practically opaque surface, and on which some seemed to place inordinate focus. What worried her more was the atmosphere itself and the foreboding promise of doubtlessly greater dangers that lie beyond; things that were bigger and much more threatening than a mere school or carnivorous fish.

Lo, she was shortly proven to be right, for they soon had back row seats to a duel of arguably mythological (or at least cinematic) caliber between two sea monsters. Bowser had the right idea… at first: Just leave them alone to fight each other and move on. Then, for no apparent reason--probably some arbitrary affront to his pride or whatever--he decided to ignore his own advisement and jumped into the water anyway, seemingly with every intention now of getting involved. Geralt, with his new upgrade, followed in after, followed by Sakura. She guessed they wouldn’t be leaving this one alone after all, but that still put her at a loss for what she, specifically, would do. "Hey!" she called tothe remaining Koopa family, joining them on the control deck and looked to them expectantly for some kind of action plan, hoping they might have a better idea, and waiting to hear it if so, before compulsively, recklessly devising and enacting one of her own on the spot.


Level: 5 (27 -> 29/50)
Location: Sandswept Sky - Hollow Heights -> Al Mamoon
Word Count: 1222 (+2 EXP)


As expected, enough of the group (all of them, fortunately) came to their senses to get going again in a timely fashion. Fox stayed off the tracks in wait for the passing train, catching the second cart by its support and swinging aboard. He spent the remainder of the trip to Al Mamoon with naught but the noise of locomotion, the passing scenic view, and his own thoughts to keep him company this time. With a single stop at a snow-water oasis to rehydrate (and thankfully no more storms to brave) on the way, that would be for the next couple of hours left of the morning. Eventually they came within view of their destination, visible out from the last few miles until reaching it, before passing around through its grand walls into the exotic, bustling, surprisingly industrious desert city. An apparent and most impressive takeaway, going by first impressions, was that an eclectic civilization such as it could thrive in a wasteland so far removed from everything (which the railroad infrastructure probably had a great deal to do with). Would that Fox’s own birthworld, Papetoon, had anything resembling...

“We’ve got it from here. Thanks!” Fox offered his parting, genuine word of gratitude to Gnorbu as he and the others began to disembark. Though he clearly didn’t speak for everyone, as far as he was interested, there wasn’t much he could do to help them reach the mountain any faster. (He wondered then, in light of that, what would have been had they followed that woman they met at the desert landing on the initial route up the mountain rather than taking an early detour.) Their mission hardly called for a tour guide, for he hadn’t planned on staying any longer than they had to. Besides, they already had someone on hand who he guessed might know the area.

“You said you were living here before...” he said to his raccoon acquaintance coming up next to him.

“I was,” he replied in short. “Can’t remember why, but… yeah.” Come to think of it, he couldn’t remember much of anything between the world lighting up in Egypt (which might explain him ending up in a desert) and the night before. Any recollection he had of the events leading up to the present were blurry for the most part. The question came to him of what he might have been doing here in the first place, or in Parnasse thereafter. Probably on the run from the law or some other self-appointed body of authority, knowing his luck and track record. He figured with enough time it would come back to him in short order.

“Anything you can tell us about this place? Anything we should know?”

With a shrug, Sly responded “You’re pretty much looking at it,” and gestured outwardly in presentory fashion to the exotic marketplace that lay just ahead. “Might take advantage of it while you’re here,” he suggested as if to politely nudging him into what the world around him had to offer while it lasted; to “live a little” as it were. Fox would politely, tacitly decline by way of silence. There was nothing he could think they might have that he wanted badly enough as to go out of his way for it, nor did he have available any personal funds to make the thought worth entertaining. That wasn’t to say, however, that there wasn’t anything of immediate interest and potential use that might ultimately be worth their time, happening upon said object of interest with their first steps off the train.

What they found within the station was, of course, another train, but heavily armored, outfitted with a number of artillery batteries, including one main cannon (with a cork in it for some reason), presumably faster, by the look of it, and… disappointingly, inoperable. That’s what the avian(?) Conductor had to tell Tora anyway; that it had somehow fallen neglectfully into disrepair. Like Tora, Fox’s attention fell on the train with interest, albeit more quietly, and minus the Nopon’s exuberance and open enthusiasm. A subtle, cocky smirk crossed his lips as he picked up on the gist of Tora’s exchange with the pseudo-bird, and dangerous thoughts began to fill his head. If the city wanted it gone as badly as Tora wanted to make it run, and could manage to make it before day’s end, Fox would more than gladly endorse such an investment. He would know exactly how to put it to good use… provided they could reach the summit with it. That much, they still needed to find out. Sly noticed this arrest of Fox’s attention and the clear expression of thoughts that went with it. He wondered if he should even ask…

Then Tora came running back to the group to issue his plan. Fox, of course, liked this plan! Still, someone had to play devil’s advocate, and this time, as with a few before, that was Poppi. She wasn’t wrong in that there were still other variables to consider, but he figured it would be worth taking care of as many ends of the issue as possible in tandem.

“We’ll take care of that!” By that, he meant he would accompany their resident royalty, their willingness permitting, to the Cowlipha’s Court to see what they could work out in regards to their mission. “Red,” as she heard her call herself, “already has business with her.” As a fellow mercenary himself, he knew she would see her hire and whoever she was with. “I’ll go with her, Midna and the Queen. See if she’ll help us.” He turned then to Tora. “Find one of us if you need anything,” he said simply, “and if we have anyone who can stand to, I think someone should stick with Tora. Help him with whatever he needs.” He looked about his group in the open call for potential volunteers. “The rest of you find what you can while you’re out, and meet back here around sundown.”

“I think I’ll leave the royalty business up to you guys,” Sly interjected. He wasn’t one keen to show his true face--the masked one--to anyone in the public eye who mattered, and would otherwise need a disguise and cover. Incidentally, he wasn’t much good at pulling that off either. “I’m… not too sure not on a ‘wanted’ list here,” he speculated, shifting his gaze around awkwardly. “I’ll see what else I can’t take care of on my end in the meantime. No promises on deadline though.” A thief, after all, did their best work at night. Shouldering his cane, he prepared to set off.

“Just be careful, then. Stay sharp, keep us posted, and try not to get yourself caught.” He ended with a lightly sardonic word of caution regarding whatever crime the thief suspected he may or may not have committed. Sly affirmed with a parting nod and casual cane salute before disappearing over the train carts with a single floating bound, and with that, the party broke off in their respective directions. For Fox, that meant finding Red and Midna, wherever they took off to. Short of finding them within the city, he would simply wait them out shortly outside of the palace proper to intercept them and accompany them in. She was bound to show up there eventually.
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