Recent Statuses

12 mos ago
Current Language is language. Pharmakon is pharmakon. The phoneme topples the grapheme, witches ride through the night, our skulls hide secret messages on their surfaces, Smash Mouth is good after all.
1 like
3 yrs ago
"But my belief is that it's something to do with that ritual circle you've left lying about like a loaded gun in a baby's crib," he concluded.
1 like
3 yrs ago
I've returned from the depths of Hell.
3 yrs ago
Right. So. undertale’s a drug, keeps people in some sort of cycle of complacency?
3 yrs ago
What a beautiful Duwang. chew. There must be no other place as pretty as this town. This feels like a picnic.


The name's Mad Man Moon, or at least it's one of the many names I go by. I write fanfiction under another name, LeoneHaxor, and soon I shall write at least one under this one. I have GM'd a 12 player roleplay on Discord (one that I unfortunately had to put on hold, but fully intend to finish before the year is out), and have created a short demo for a blog-form fiction based on Phoenix Wright games in a free to use online PW case maker (despite the lack of custom sprites for the project, the progress I had made was well-received by the author of said work).

I'm kind of a long game kinda guy who loves to set up arsenals' worth of Chekhov's Guns, insane but slowly foreshadowed twists, and overall putting in a disturbing amount of effort when I get serious.

Most Recent Posts

No one could deny that the servants of Asengav were having a really bad day. Bad enough that Justine was assaulting the mansion head-on, but to get the local chapter of Beacon to join her party in the quest for revenge? It was getting to be almost cruel, the extent of damages to life and property alike.

Unfortunately for Mariette, her extensive defenses had another opening to exploit – right in the heart of her mansion.

Collector Delta was the first to exit the eldritch passageway, stepping out from the cooler air of Grandfather’s Catacombs into Mariette’s personal library. She appreciated how well kept it was, even in the middle of an all-out assault. Apart from the gothic aesthetic, Delta first noticed the wooden tile flooring in the room – curious enough, given that most people would use carpeting or rugs to muffle sound in such spaces, but also how it masked the bookshelves. Or, specifically, the fact that the bookshelves were actually part of the floor, almost as if that room had all been meticulously carved from a single piece of wood. Given how there was magic present throughout all of the wood in the walls, and what that implied, it was interesting to say the least.

Her ally, Scribe Xi, also took a moment to take stock of their situation. If Delta didn’t have the Third Eye, she might not have noticed her come through. After all, to the naked eye nothing was there. But her vision pierced through obfuscations to see Xi’s figure, covered entirely in bone spider’s silk. Frankly, it was simultaneously a ludicrous and vaguely hypnotic sight, the way the colors shifted along each muscle-like cord of eldritch silk. She could also see the lump over Xi’s right shoulder, where Delta’s familiar hid under the silk, boosting Xi’s magic with his proximity.

Shifting her gaze upwards, she noted the stairs towards the north wall, extending the space by a second ‘floor’ in the library, and host to more shelves filled with various tomes, manuscripts, and scrolls. All of it made for an enticing collection, but they were on a time limit. Mariette might be busy defending against an assault within and without, but Asengav would eventually notice the eldritch hole bored right into one of his strongholds. Especially since, for all intents and purposes, Grandfather counted as another Horror.

Delta looked further upwards, briefly, and frowned at what she noticed.

There were voices coming from the direction of the foyer, and Delta recognized the voice of Alicia among them. Not surprising given her rank, and multiple reports of a personal vendetta against Mariette, but it could spell trouble. Her Third Eye would cut right through their illusions.

Beacon’s team is still making their way through the mansion, Lee noted. Seems like they’re headed this way, specifically. We need to move.

Delta sent a brief thought of acknowledgement through the connection to her familiar, still frowning up at the ceiling with her Third Eye open. She quickly assessed the situation, then made her choice. Head on without me, she sent. Both of you.

Xi paused mid-stride. She couldn't see Delta, as she'd used her own magic to bend light around her, so Xi didn't bother trying to face her. What’s she doing? she asked Lee. At the speed of thought, he relayed the question to Delta.

In response, Delta simply sent the mental image of what she’d been frowning at, and let Xi connect the dots.

It didn't take long for the realization to hit. Oh.

Beacon and their allies won’t draw Mariette’s fire if they die. Delta drew her wand. The higher their numbers remain, the more Mariette will divert her forces to counteract them.

So you’re staying behind to even the odds.

Once the door opens, I’ll cast a spell on the floor, layering mirrors over the tiles. Anything standing above it will have its true form revealed in the reflection. Save for myself, at least.

Xi nodded. Give ‘em hell.

Lee smiled (or rather, sent the image of a smile). Stay safe, Anna.

Delta aimed her wand at the floor, mentally preparing the spell. Likewise.

“Connie, there’s a room beneath those stairs...”

Xi swore internally, quickly closing the distance to the other foyer door, further away from the voices and incoming footsteps.

@Ariamis@Ponn@PlatinumSkink@Crusader Lord@Majoras End@AtomicNut@Flamelord

Speedwagon'd had enough awareness to hear the turrets come to life in that hallway, but they started firing so quickly that she'd had to use her Reinforcement magic, defending herself and Joanna from the hail of projectiles. When Alicia took out the turrets that'd pinned the group down, Joanna thought she caught a strange expression in Speedwagon's eyes.

When Alicia mentioned booby traps, though, Speedwagon's attention shifted to the stairs. Speedwagon moved towards them, kneeling by the left side of the opening to inspect them more closely. Joanna decided to mirror her, taking up position on the right.

She watched as Speedwagon stared at the steps, sweeping her gaze around before fixing it on an unremarkable spot. "Look here," said Speedwagon. "There's a mark on this step, 'bout the size of a footprint. Looks like it'd have some kind of magical effect, but I don't quite know what. All I know is, we'd be wise not to step there."

Joanna looked closer as Speedwagon pointed. It was hard to see, but since she knew what to look for it merely took her a few seconds. "Do you think it's the only trap?" she asked the older girl.

Speedwagon gave the stairs another once-over. They were wide enough for two people to traverse side by side, but she couldn't spot anything else remarkable. "If there is another one, I can't tell from here," she admitted. "But it seems easily avoidable, provided you know not to step there."

I believe the term I'm looking for is "First."
Thank you for waiting.

A collaboration between @MadManMoon and @Flamelord

The first day here on the beach had come and gone. It had taken Alicia a bit after waking up to remember that she was not actually in Penrose right now, but instead some summer paradise resort where she had been brought by force.

Truth be told, she had hoped that they would wake up to find themselves home, but it was clearly not the case. She wasn’t entirely sold on Dan being behind this, but whoever was clearly still had some sort of lesson to impart to them. They would just have to make the best of it.

It turned out that that was remarkably easy to do when one awoke to the smell and sight of a full scale continental breakfast. It was unclear exactly who had prepared it, so in lieu of seeing anyone that wasn’t a dolphin here Alicia would just assume it was magic. She didn’t let that bother her, instead selecting a variety of food for her plate. Eggs, sausage, pancakes, some fruit, everything for a hearty breakfast. With how this trip looked to be going, there would be plenty of activity to burn it all off anyway.

Humming, she took her plate and a glass of orange juice to a nearby patio where she could enjoy the warm sun, the ocean air, and the coming morning as she ate. Well, this wasn’t so bad after all.

Another girl came out onto the patio area, looking it over for a good breakfast spot. Her gaze fell upon Alicia, and she paused.

“Oh,” said the newcomer. “I didn’t expect to see anyone else up this early.” She was balancing a plate of food in one hand - varied about as much as Alicia’s breakfast, though with a decent chunk of china reserved for ham slices. “Would you mind if I sat with you?”

Alicia was also not expecting anyone else to show up, but she had only just barely begun her breakfast when she shifted to look at the new arrival. “Go ahead. There’s plenty of open space,” she replied with a gesture around the immediate area.

She sampled a strawberry while the new arrival was doing that, finding it to be firm and juicy, the peak of freshness for a fruit. As she chewed on it, she observed her new companion. ”I don’t think we’ve met before,” she noted aloud, before extending an open hand. ”I’m Alicia.”

The new arrival put her plate down next to Alicia’s before accepting the handshake. “I’m Joanna,” she said, smiling. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“Likewise,” the Seraph assured her companion through the firm handshake. One it had come to an end she would return to her food, taking a sip of her orange juice. ”Enjoying the vacation, or are you paranoid about the dolphin too?”

Joanna sighed. “Honestly? D-” She abruptly coughed, and took a sip from her mug of breakfast tea. “I mean, that guy is an odd fellow, but so far he doesn’t appear malicious.” Joanna began cutting her ham into smaller pieces. “As nice as the vacation itself has been, though…”

Joanna fell silent for a moment, trying to find the right words. “It’s also started showing other sides to people. Not necessarily bad ones but,” she hesitated again. “It’s just given me a lot to think about.”

Listening to Joanna’s observation, Alicia understood and she nodded along with her. ”I feel that,” she agreed, her mind flying back to Kimble’s confession. ”Without the usual conflicts a lot of stuff is coming out that might have stayed buried otherwise.”

She looked out towards the horizon, simply appreciating the view of the sun rising over the water. One could only wonder if the people responsible for this were getting what they wanted out of it too. ”Still, I have to admit that aside from a new enemy or two, I haven’t really become friends with anyone I didn’t at least have some acquaintance with before. I guess the attacks and the end of the world stuff make Penrose seem bigger than it actually is.

Joanna took a syrupy bite of pancake, nodding. She knew the feeling pretty well. Sometimes it felt as though her entire world spanned that one city, what with how much time she and her friends spent there. Come to think of it... when was the last time she’d actually left Penrose?

Hmm. Actually, there was something else about Alicia’s response that had her wondering. ‘Haven’t become friends with anyone I didn’t have some acquaintance with before?’ Joanna swallowed. “Wait, ‘before?’ As in, before you became a magical girl?”

The question caused the Beckoner to shake her head. ”Sorry, there I meant magical girls I’d at least met in one of the previous world ending crises, before we were all yanked here,” she clarified. And her fellow Beacon members of course, but beyond that it was mostly business, with a bit of casual acquaintances (Katarina, Lily, and Amaryllis primarily)

“Ah,” Joanna said. She took a moment to eat some glazed ham, and reflect on her own relationships. “I’ve mostly been meeting people outside of those cataclysms,” Joanna noted. Speedwagon, in that cold and windy alleyway; Nina and Alice, after following them up to the rooftops; the one calling themselves “A,” right before she made it to the cathedral-

“Actually, I think we almost met before,” she remembered, a beat after she’d speared some scrambled eggs, “during one of those crises. I’d arrived to help fight off the witches, but after the Overcity Shift I had to help my patron keep her husband under control.”

It took Alicia a moment or two to remember that specific occurrence, before nodding. ”I remember that,” she confirmed before taking a bite of some crispy bacon. Regardless of what else you might say, the food here was done to perfection.

After a few moments she shot Joanna a sympathetic look. “Still, having to play go between for a personal Patron relationship? That sounds rough.”She couldn’t imagine what that must be like, as the Beckoners usually presented something of a united front to the rest of them in the organization.

“Sometimes it can be,” Joanna admitted. “Especially since we have to calm him down in the middle of that aura of anger he puts out. To be honest, I think my patron’s trying use those sessions to teach me self-control?”

She drank some more of her tea. “How is it like for you?”

”It has its ups and downs,” Alicia admitted with a shrug. Fortunately it was still the morning, with a fresh day ahead of her and relatively little to tug at her annoyance.

So she went on to explain. ”Long hours, lots of fighting monsters and patrolling, and we’re not exactly well liked around town.” Where one might think she was griping though, a warm smile soon appeared ”Still, the Beckoners are kind, understanding, supportive. Plus you’ve got a bunch of people there too who all believe in the same thing. We may have our differences sometimes, but when the chips are down I know that I can count on all of them to do the right thing and have my back. It’s a lot nicer than having to go it alone like some girls do.”

Joanna smiled, feeling the love in Alicia’s voice for Beacon shine through as radiant as the sun. And she could certainly agree that it was nice having people by your side. In combat. Philosophy. Life. Love.
Once again the English language proves inexact. “Φιλία” may be more accurate than “love.”
Her smile faltered, though, as she recalled Speedwagon’s history with Beacon. Or rather… what little she had divulged on the matter. Their Patron had hinted that one of the Beacon girls in particular had left her friend on edge, but refused to speak further on the matter. Joanna took another bite of food to steel herself.

“Yeah, I’m… I’m aware of Beacon’s reputation. My friend told me about it, not too long ago.”

The amount of food that Alicia had was slowly diminishing, almost unnoticed because of the ongoing conversation. She considered going to get some more, but decided that she wasn’t far enough along to make a decision like that.

Which was probably for the best as Joanna brought up their reputation. ”I can probably guess what they said,” she replied, voice steady. ”But we’re working on fixing that and doing better.”

Her gaze returned to the horizon and the rising sun, if only for a few moments. ”After all, we don’t exactly live up to the mission statement if we’re so willing to condemn and persecute. You know, Beacon. A model for all magical girls to strive towards. Kinda like Superman if he was a teenage girl I guess.” Her response fell off, consumed by mental musing about super heroes, comic books, and how they related to her current life.

Joanna’s smile returned, softly this time. “Well, she also said how she hopes for that. For Beacon to change that way, I mean.” Her gaze lowered to her tea, reduced to a teaspoon’s worth by this point. “Speaking of changes… how’s that girl doing? Regina Bates.”

Alicia managed to hold back something of a scowl as Regina was brought up, mostly for the sake of outward appearances. ”She’s adjusting,” the Seraph confirmed matter of factly. “It’s going to be a while before she fully settles into Beacon, or makes up for all the stuff the Bates twins did. Their actions aren’t the sort of thing you can just let bygones be bygones over.”

Joanna didn’t have Speedwagon’s level of intuition, but she’d been taught enough to notice that facial tic. “Of course,” Joanna said. “When you’ve hurt that many people, in such horrible ways… of course it’s going to be hard for people to forgive you. To be seen as redeemed. Or even be thought of as redeemable at all. In the eyes of others… and yourself. Is that what you’re getting at?”

It was odd. If Alicia didn’t know better, she would seriously suspect that Joanna was referring to her. Idly she thought of some random gibberish, just on the off chance that the girl was a mind reader and that it might earn some sort of reaction. To be safe.

”Something like that,” she agreed, fork scraping over her plate as she moved eggs back and forth. ”Still, if it was easy then it wouldn’t be worth doing. Regina just has a long way to go, magic purifying coin or not. Helping nearly destroying the world is hard to just walk off.”

Joanna certainly did not pick up on the mental smokescreen that Alicia had thrown up. A shame, really. It was actually rather well-constructed for someone of her skill level.

Joanna nodded, thoughtfully. “And even if she tried to stop it at the end, it doesn’t erase the fact that she put it into motion. It’s just the first step on that path.”

”Exactly,” Alicia agreed, at last stabbing the bit of egg that she had been toying with. It might not entirely be worth the effort, but that wasn’t really the point was it.

Still, it did occur to her that she had been talking an awful lot about herself, and not necessarily her companion. Not very fair if they were trying to make friends while on the island. ”I suspect our general priorities may be a bit different though Aside from marital counselling, what do you usually do when the world isn’t in imminent danger of destruction?”

Joanna put a hand to her chin. “Well, my age didn’t change when I became a magical girl, so I still go to the same middle school. I try to spend some of my free time giving back to the community, doing volunteer work. Otherwise, I’m going around town for my magical girl duties... patrolling nearby neighborhoods, training, doing missions for my patron, looking for-”

Blood on the ground.

A mentor, a friend, now and once again a victim.

A flock, left to mourn their shepherd.

And his voice, low but earnest, as if letting them in on an old secret.

I saw her cradling one of them, you know.

Joanna shuddered.

”Huh.” Alicia was observant enough to catch the sudden abbreviation, but she did not push on it. Just like Penny, they all had their particular hang ups. There was no burning need to know.

”That sounds a lot like what I do,” she noted. ”We’ve got some smaller branch ‘community centers’, and I like to help out with training and study sessions. You’d think that would be odd, as a college grad before I became a magical girl.”

Internally, Joanna breathed a sigh of relief. “That doesn’t seem odd at all,” she said, completely earnest. “Plenty of students go on to become teachers in some way or another.” Though she did find herself wondering what kind of ‘study sessions’ Alicia helped out with. Maybe she’d be interested in some one-on-one tutoring?

Pleased to find that Joanna didn’t think any differently of what she did on her off time, Alicia carried on. ”I suppose that’s true. Though I hadn’t considered it as an occupation back them. But as a magical girl, everyone’s got such varied circumstances, and someone needs to show the new ones the ropes. Since Beacon decided that I was worthy of being a Seraph I guess I felt a bit obligated.” She didn’t mind of course, it made her feel better about the title than how she had earned it did.

Joanna’s expression became thoughtful. She wondered why Alicia felt obligated to fill that particular role, but she decided to ask her about that later.

“I know it's been a year since I became a magical girl, but it all still feels new to me,” Joanna admitted. “I've been lucky to have my friends and my Patron teaching me about what it means to be a magical girl, but... I also know that they can't tell me everything. Not on their own.” She considered that for a moment. “It’s like you said - everyone’s got such varied circumstances, such different outlooks on life, as a magical girl or no.”

Alicia nodded along in agreement. There was nothing she could, or even wanted to, argue in that observation. ”Things always find a way of surprising you, even if you think that you know what to expect.” It certainly happened to her more often than one might expect.

Finishing off her drink, she added to that. ”Still, we’ve just got to do the best we can. Whether that’s in fighting, or having a healthy balance between being a magical girl and our regular lives.”

Joanna smiled brightly. “For whatever ‘regular’ ends up meaning to us,” she said. “And what we want ‘regular’ to become.”

“Amen to that,” the Seraph agreed. She would have saluted, if she had anything left in her glass. An imitation of the motion would have to be settled for instead. ”The hardest part is finding time to keep up with my tv shows.” Which was not entirely true, though it was something she had to work around her busier magical girl schedule.

Joanna mirrored the motion with her similarly drained teacup. “At least we’ve got on demand,” she giggled.

Well, she couldn’t argue with that. Her plate looking remarkably bare at this point, Alicia leaned forward slightly against the table, chin resting in the palm of her hand. ”I suppose tat’s true. What do you usually like to watch?”

Joanna briefly wondered if she should list off her favorite shows or the broader themes that caught her interest. She decided to go with the latter, at least for context’s sake. “I like to watch shows that celebrate humanity. Not necessarily ‘humanity’ as a species, but the concept of ‘humanity.’ Shows that aren’t afraid to show their characters as people, at their best and their worst, as well as their potential to grow. Like ‘Stargate,’ or ‘Good Omens.’” She paused for a beat. “Or ‘Once Upon a Time.’”

A hum slipped out, Alicia slowly nodding as Joanna gave some examples and listed off what she liked to see from media in general. It was surprisingly deep and insightful, at least compared to the intent with which she had asked the question.That’s what she got for leaving it open ended.

”Once Upon a Time, I think I saw a few episodes of that once,” she mused aloud. “I take it that means you’d recommend it?”

“I absolutely do.”

”Hmm, I’ll have to look into it then,” the Seraph replied, index finger tapping on the table. After a few moments she rose, carrying her plate with her. ”I think I’m going to restock a bit. You’re not going to run off on me while I’m gone, are you?”

Joanna smiled again, a little more cheeky than her previous ones. “And cut this short? Perish the thought.”

Alicia’s grin widened before giving a small nod in turn. ”Good. I’m curious to hear your opinion on some other shows.” With that she headed back to the buffet, pleased to find that in spite of the outburst from Dan it would still be a pleasant morning in paradise.

After Dan the Dolphin’s delightful dissertation, one would find the three representatives of the Archive sitting by the Beach Boutique, in a nearby shaded gazebo. It offered a clear view of the volleyball courts, but it’s not so close to the shop’s entrance for the group to be noticed by most people going to buy things.

Though frankly, the flotilla of fancy ferns and flora flapping flippantly in front of the freestanding facility might be faffing about with finding them on first glance. Fuck.

By the time the narration had the chance to catch up with them, they've already been engrossed in conversation. Better late than never, at least.

Lee sipped from his drink. "Well, there is some twink representation here. But I'm not recognizing any magical traps here so... I could fill that slot if it came down to it." Another sip, but slower this time. "Maybe Shields could do it too, if he made sure the magic formed them above the belt. Or if Magical Senpai over there can control the gender of his clones."

Lee hummed thoughtfully. "Yeah, theoretically speaking, all three guys that are present and accounted for could become magically enhanced traps."

Delta shook her head. "You wouldn't be traps if you had boobs. You'd be futanari."

"No, we wouldn't..." Lee trailed off. "...hmm. Actually, it could be possible for one of them to flub the transformation like that. But I know that I wouldn't become a futa. I'd just be giving myself boobs. I don't think I need to adopt a kitten as well just to play Keijo."

"I didn't say you had to. You're just confusing futas with hermaphrodites."

Lee looked at her over the top of his sunglasses. "They're synonyms, Anna. The things you really need to be a futanari are both sets of version-exclusive organs."

Xi sighed in exasperation. "Just call them penises and vaginas. It's not like Dan the Dolphin's going to strike us down because we're not 'keeping it family friendly.'" she gestured vaguely to the islands around them. "He's got a bunch of magical girls (and a few guys) on a set of tropical islands. I've watched enough beach episodes to know what that means."

"As a firm believer in narrative causality," Lee said, "I see your point. Correct me if I'm wrong, though, but don't beach episodes also tend to dance around the topic? Come as close as they can, but edge away just shy of being explicit?"

"Like thinly-veiled orgasm jokes," Xi deadpanned.

Lee shrugged. "Hey, I'm just getting in the mood."

"I am too. It's been a while since we've been to the beach, and I’m definitely renting a sailboat while we’re here. Still, I'm just not going to fall face first into fanservice." Xi smirked. "...if I'm going to provide any, it's gonna be on my own terms, bitch."

“Then you should be careful when we look at their stock,” Delta said. She didn’t bother gesturing towards the Boutique.

"Oh yeah, I could just see a lot of the magical items being specially geared for fanservice. Like…” Xi reached for a suitably ecchi idea. “A lotion bottle made to explode mid-splurt, guaranteeing at least one sunblock bukkake per customer."

As she was saying this, a receipt came fluttering out of the Boutique. Lee caught it in mid-air, and curiously read it. "...Swimsuit of Guaranteed Wardrobe Malfunction: 1 Gold. Purchased by one ‘Sally Shamrock.’" He raised an eyebrow. “I recognize the name - she’s a member of Beacon. Wonder who she bought that for?”

“Maybe she’s an exhibitionist?” Xi guessed. “It could be a prank gift for all I know.”

Delta looked thoughtful. "...I wonder if that would be a good investment for Keijo."

Lee shrugged. "I doubt that's her only reason, considering it costs a single gold to get one. Unless maybe you shared it with a few of your friends between rounds?"

"You know, you're right." Xi's smirk grew so wicked, you could almost hear the sound of flying monkeys in the distance. "We've only got three gold on us right now. We might as well conserve our money."

Several paces away, Bass the Legstep decided to go into the Boutique to browse. But as for what she went into get… well, that’s better left for later.

Another Placeholder For a Banner, because someone keeps forgetting they need to make the Damn Thing

Since a lot of things were happening really quickly for Speedwagon, it was high time to take a moment and take stock of everything that had happened in the past… several hours? Sitting in a hot tub with Joanna

She’d heard from her network about someone who’d seen where Chloe had went after she stopped talking to Alice, way back during that night when Tattoo had died.

She’d went to meet that person alone, since that was the one condition they had before they’d reveal what they knew, and simultaneously learned very much and very little from that conversation.

She went over to Joanna’s house for their sleepover and fell asleep.

She woke up on an island with Joanna, Nina, Alice, and several other girls that she had never met before in her life (though she actually had heard of a few of them).

She, Joanna, and Alice made the trip over inside some kind of small but surprisingly well-furnished room, one that was accessible by means of a turtle spirit that Nina summoned. One that was called Coco… Calypso? Was that it? Speedwagon would have to ask Nina if she remembered its name right, because at the present moment she was a bit preoccupied. And no, it wasn’t because she and her friends were stuck on a group of islands, along with a massive chunk of its Magical Girl population.

Right now she was still really distracted by the fact that Chloe was here with them.

Well, not literally in their hot tub or anything, but just. Here. On the same island where they were sitting.

It was a miracle that she was able to convince Miss Jo-star not to confront Chloe yet. Not that she actually would have tried to fight Chloe - Joanna didn’t think they should break Dan’s Rule about (non-Keijo) fighting, especially since Chloe seemed content to do the same. Instead, what Joanna had wanted to do was take the opportunity to get some answers but just asking her.

As much as Speedwagon wanted the truth, she knew that charging in blindly would probably convince Chloe not to tell them anything, not to mention put a target on their backs for when they weren’t in an Enforced Neutral Zone. They were still nonentities to her, after all. X factors. She had no idea that they were investigating just what the hell she was up to, or how much they knew.

But for now, all Speedwagon could do was sit in that hot tub, try to figure out a plan on how to approach this… and hopefully, try to relax a little. Because frankly? She needed to try.

Especially after she'd been told that the Archive was working with Chloe.

@Ariamis, Emily @FamishedPants, Shannon @t2wave, Rina @Rune_Alchemist,
Sophia @Crusader Lord, Katelyn @Vocab, Amaryllis @ERode

The first thing Scribe Xi saw when she woke up was Collector Delta, sleeping next to her. She was lying on a beach chair, much like the one Xi found herself on, and wearing a swimsuit that she didn’t recognize as hers.

With those black and white frills, it almost reminded her of a maid uniform.

…she was wearing one too, wasn’t she? Xi looked down at herself and saw…

It didn’t look bad on her by any means, but she was definitely going to have words with whoever changed their clothes while they were sleeping. Like ‘Which hand do you like more?’ and ‘Why yes, this billhook is very sharp. Nice of you to notice.’

She was keeping the free beachball, though.

When she looked up, Xi noticed Delta was awake, and staring right at her boobs. Very, very intently.

“Um…” Why no, Xi certainly wasn’t blushing, inwardly or otherwise. Where would you get that idea?

“The swimsuit is your uniform, but changed,” Delta said after a moment. “It’s the work of some very powerful magic. The kind that no normal magical girl could possess.” She frowned. “Its magic doesn’t share the same aura with you, either, meaning that our Patron wasn’t directly involved.” Her expression drifted over to ‘puzzled.’ “I can’t tell who or what is the source of this magic. Not with my Third Eye, at this point.”

Huh. Now that was fascinating.

…hold on. Wasn’t there something off with that?

“…these swimsuits replaced our uniforms, but we had them on while we were unconscious. Doesn’t unconsciousness cause a transformation to drop?”

“Good question.”

“Personally, my money’s on ‘wish shenanigans,’” said an all-too familiar voice. Delta rolled over onto her back, revealing her familiar in human form, who was lounging on his own beach chair.

“If someone wanted to make a beach getaway for themselves and a few other people, crafted their wish so that no one could just leave prematurely...” Lee took a sip from a much fancier glass than usual. “Well, the first thing most Magical Girls would do upon waking would be to transform anyways. Might as well cut to the chase and give them their uniforms from the get-go, especially if you’ve disabled any skills that could let them escape.” Lee swirled his drink around. “I already tried opening the usual way. No dice.”

Of course it couldn’t be that easy. “We need to get to that center island. Whoever’s giving out that prize is probably either the person who brought us here or working for them.”

“…seems the others came to that conclusion as well,” Delta said, as Sophia summoned a pirate ship from the ether. “We might as well conserve our strength.”

Xi looked around the beach for a moment, doing an internal headcount. “…where’s Beat?”

Lee sipped from his drink. “My guess is, she’s probably on the main island already.”

“What makes you say that?”

Lee simply indicated behind him with his thumb. A good distance away from Lee’s beach chair, there was a decent sized groove in the sand leading towards the shoreline. Towards the end of it, it started glinting suspiciously like glass.

“…in that case, we might as well get on that ship. Though I don’t think we’ve got that girl’s ups,” Xi noted. “Ahoy there,” she called out to Sophia. “Could you send over a longboat? We can’t exactly jump aboard.”

“To answer your question,” Delta called over to Amaryllis. “We can’t contact our Patron either. In every sense but the literal one, we seem to be in the same boat.”
Placeholder Banner


Joanna squirmed underneath of some catgirl she’d never met before, accomplishing little more than rubbing their bare flesh together.

Oh. Oh dear. Speaking of bare flesh, Joanna was certainly not wearing the pajamas she had on when she fell asleep last night. Or the underwear, for that matter. Did she even own this outfit?

Look on the bright side. If this catgirl intended anything, ah, balmier than what was happening, chances are she wouldn’t let any skin go un-bared unless she was into that sort of thing, which there is nothing wrong with whatsoever. Joanna was… reasonably sure this girl wasn’t the one who undressed her? Or redressed her, at least.

Where the hell was she, anyways? Some kind of… beach. Certainly one she didn’t recognize. Last thing she remembered was binge-watching Stargate SG1 late at night, curled up under the blankets next to…

Joanna’s eyes widened. Oh God. She was here, but where was she? She’d probably be worried sick the second she woke up. Joanna, getting up as much as this catgirl’s weight would let her, turned her head around as she started scanning this strange beach for–


“Miss Jo-star!”

There she was. What a relief! Sure, she had also been changed out of her nightclothes and left snoozing on another beach towel, but she was here and she was okay. And a little further away was… Nina? And Alice? Why were all of them SHIT

…ahem. That is to say. The sudden, explosive arrival of yet another magical girl startled Joanna.

Not… implying that she thought that any of her friends were…

…it’s high tide time for a change of perspective.


A collaboration with @Crusader Lord, set approximately one week before the Graveyard Smash

...she kept walking.

Here, in this grand parade of lifeless packaging, thousands of life-size husks hung limply within plastic bags. The quality of their creation was uncanny, as if at any moment one of these dream dolls would open their eyes and stare at her.

There was something about one of these lifeless husks that caught her attention, something she couldn't quite place. She didn't recognize this girl's figure, or her hair, or her face... and yet, she couldn't take her eyes off of this doll.

Perhaps it was the large number nine stamped on its forehead.

She walked closer to it, reaching out with her hand, and...


Joanna Fujo woke to the sound of a chirping text in her inbox.

Joanna reached into the drawer of her nightstand and took out a book with a plain brown cover. She flipped past her signature on the inside and several filled pages before she came to a blank one.

Another of those dreams... Joanna thought, taking a pencil from the table. What on earth could it have meant? And who was that girl I saw? She took a few minutes to transcribe what she'd dreamed about, while it was all still fresh in her thoughts.

Maybe I'll ask Speedwagon if she's seen someone like that before, she thought, as she finished writing down everything she could remember from her dream.

With that out of the way, she looked on top of her nightstand for her phone. It only took a few seconds to get into it and read the text waiting for her.

Look alive Miss Jo-star. We're meeting Nina and Alice again today.

Right. They were still looking for Father Grundelson's murderer, the one who'd laid waste to that street without batting an eye.

Joanna went to replace her dream journal in her nightstand, but paused. She opened her phone's camera app and took pictures of the pages she'd just written, before actually putting the journal back. It'd be a lot safer that way instead of bringing it along, especially since she used Fire magic all the time.

With that part of her morning routine done, she got up from her bed and started in on the rest of it...

Nina Kujo and Alice Honorsby


"Nina, get up already or we are going to be late to the meeting!"

Alice's voice run through the small apartment as clearly as it did...well, not every morning. It wasn't so normal for Nina to sleep in like this, body weary from the prior adventures and such that had gone on. What was more startling, at least for Nina herself, was what had occured the previous night in her dreams.

Vision...of death. The feeling like one's insides were stuck in a microwave, watching the person next to her die with a gaping hole in the chest, someone's last visions being of a specter flying into their face before it all It was like watching a series of horror movie perspective over and over and over again. Like a bad movie, but she'd felt every single death, every sensation, every bit of pain.

Even at this moment, the pale-skinned and pale-haired girl was lying in her bed, eyes barely open and her body reeling from the flashbacks from lives she'd never lived. Every bone and muscle seemed to ache like someone had taken a brick to it, but she also couldn't deny the cold sweat still clinging to her back at the time.

She knew where those people had been. At first it had been familiar, vaguely, with the other sensations being overhwleming. And while the sensations never ceased to be so, nor the second-hand emotions for that matter, eventtually the appearance of the area became clearer and clearer. That place....that damned place...the place where she'd first seen Joanna and Speedwagon with that body.

The street where it had all happened.

"Yare yare...Alice, help me out of bed," Nina said, eeking out the words weakly, her mouth dry as she looked to the doorway, just in time to see Alice walking in.

Their gaze met for just a moment of awkward silence and hesitation...before Alice continued.

"....Ugh, lemme help you up, you lazy bum. Then i'll shove some breakfast into ya and we can get going! I even have some leftovers i can heat up, i think...," Alice said, rolling her eyes and walking over to drag Nina out from on top of the bed sheets she was lying on.

No, she knew better than to argue with Nina on this. Stubborn idiot would...well, she'd go to this meeting without a doubt. That was the kind of person she is. But if she commented on it...the punch-happy girl would get agitated and complain about it all to no end until Alice stopped. She'd heard a bit the last night, however...wanted to think it was her imagination, Nina talking in her sleep like she was possessed or something.

But they'd make it. No doubt about it...


Minutes later, but not many...


The girl in question looked over at her friend, who was sitting across from her at their table outside the Pit-Stop. "Hm? What's on your mind, Joanna?"

"I was wondering if you could take a look at something for me."

Speedwagon smiled warmly. "Sure, I'd be glad to help."

"I've been keeping a dream journal since I was little, but ever since I've become a magical girl they've gotten progressively stranger. I'm seeing things in them that I'm grappling to understand..."

Speedwagon nodded and closed her eyes. "Lots of dreams are strange, Miss Jo-star. They have their own set of rules that don't always make sense to the waking mind, but they're always rooted in something in it." She opened her eyes. "It's not always obvious how at first, and sometimes the memories they draw from can only be remembered while you're asleep."

"Only while I'm asleep?" Joanna repeated.

"Memories don't just get stored in one place like books on a shelf," Speedwagon explained. "Sometimes they're never far from your thoughts, some are buried away deep within your mind and the experience is acted upon instinctually. Dreams pull their material from everything in you, trying to make as many connections between the material they got so it's harder to lose them completely."

"In that case..." Joanna pulled out a high-end smartphone from her pocket. "This is the dream I had last night, as much as I could remember of it while I woke up."

Speedwagon swiped around a few times to see how much she'd transcribed. "A few pages' worth? Looks like you got quite a bit of it down."

While Speedwagon started reading over the photographed pages, Joanna opened her backpack and pulled out a sketchpad. She flipped through the pages until she reached one in particular, showing four figures lifelessly hanging together like so many marionettes before the show. "I also drew a few of the faces I'd seen in the dream, the ones that I didn't remember seeing before. I also took pictures of them with my phone, but sometimes the photos don't capture everything."

Speedwagon nodded, a bit more grimly this time. They had a few minutes before Nina and Alice were expected to arrive, when she would have to finally face the evidence that Tattoo had left for them.

Sure enough, the expected duo of Nina and Alice could eventually be seen making their way towards the Overdrive Duo's table outside the Pit-Stop. Albeit, out of costume...but somewhat worringly as well Nina was being supported by Alice as she walked. The stoic girl's face wore the same look as it seemed to ever do most of the time, but her eyes seemed to speak to a level of tiredness beyond the scope of the normal. Like someone had beaten her to hell and back with a brick, but without any markings on her body to even indicate such a thing. Though Alice was acting seemingly as normal as usual as well, as if helping Nina like this wasn't a worrisome thing.

"Sorry we're a bit late! But...i think sleepyhead here might have had a rough night," Alice said, tonelaced with the slightest hint of worry at the end. This even as she set Nina down at the table, the pale-skinned girl moving into a proper sitting position by herself as Alice sat down next to her.

"Yare yare...," Nina muttered under her breath, semingly not happy Alice was bringing the lattermost thing least in part, but she soon looked over to Joanna and Speedwagon and let out a sigh.

Joanna returned Nina's gaze. Something in her core kept resonating with this girl, clear and pure as the sound of a tuning fork after it's been struck. And now, in this moment, Joanna Fujo realized one of the ways that fate had tied them together.

She recognized that exact look in Nina Kujo's eyes. She'd seen it in the mirror several times, after having dreams she wouldn't dare exposing Speedwagon to... at least, not yet. Certainly not when they had enough weighing on their minds as it was. Joanna's expression had shifted into one of quiet understanding and compassion. "You had terrible dreams too. Memories and thoughts you don't want to remember, but ones you can't just get rid of either."

"And here we were in the middle of discussing Joanna's," Speedwagon said. "Bizarre circumstances to find ourselves in this morning." She held up her hand, and it briefly crackled with energy. "If you'd like, I can give you enough Reinforcement magic to feel properly refreshed, like you were putting on a new pair of underwear on New Year's Day."

" bothersome," Nina muttered under her breath, frustrated at all the sudden attention before beginning to speak again,

"I'm fine, it isn't the first time this has happened. But it isn't like i dreamt of stuff i didn't want to remember.

...Try instead reliving the last few minutes of all the people who died from that attack from evil spirits. And feeling every sensation and emotion. All night long. Yare yare, becoming that useless gooddess' magical girl makes me a magnet for this stuff..."

Alice virtually rolled her eyes at her partner's stubbornness, before motioning to Speedwagon.

"Just do it to her anyways, she'll refuse unless you force it anyways. She couldn't stop you if she wanted to, much less even stop a small puppy at this point." Nina's compatriot said, some minor irritation in her voice as she regarded Nina's stubborn actions with some disdain, though the casual manner of her delivery spoke to her experience in this area when it came to Nina personally.

'It isn't like I dreamt of stuff I didn't want to remember?' Joanna pondered. Did she think I was referring to her own memories when I said that? Or did she mean that she'd rather keep ahold of those foreign memories, no matter the pain it puts her through?

My own dreams have been intense, both in their feelings and their implications... but to personally experience death so many times over the course of a single night? To have done so several times before, and yet hold on so strongly to her will?

While Joanna was lost in thought, Speedwagon didn't waste time voicing hers. "Damn. No wonder you look so terrible." Before Nina could protest, Speedwagon'd already placed her hands over Nina's. "I'd suggest for you to hold still while I do this," she said, golden magic already crackling between them.

The power of Speedwagon's spell poured out from her hands, rippling through Nina's body in alternating waves - electrifying, soothing, invigorating, relaxing, and then going through the lot once more. But rather than dissipating as soon as each wave started its way through her system, the sensations had come together in an unexpected sort of harmony, like an orchestra slowly joining together. The power sang through her body, coursing through her muscles and bones like water rushing to fill a canyon. The sensations reached a crescendo before they started gently fading, and it left Nina feeling she could even lift this rock exponentially better rested than before.

"Maybe it's Miss Jo-star rubbing off on me here, but I call that my Morning Rescue Overdrive."

"Ah....i suppose that works rather nicely. Thanks," the stubborn magical girl said, giving a minor sigh of defeat despite keeping up her usual mask, stretching her arms and body briefly after the 'Morning Rescue Overdrive' had done its work. As much as she didn't want to show it, however, it was obvious she was feeling much better physically.

"There ya go, you grump. Heh," Alice said in response, a small smile forming on her lips as she lightly shook her head in exasperation about Nina, thje one magical girl who might call limb loss a 'flesh wound' and put off medical treatment just to she can get things done. Stupidly stubborn, but more strong willed than anyone the Red Rifle herself knew at all.

But Alice looked to Joanna and Speedwagon again before speaking once more, a bit more sobered up to start into the topic at hand, "Anywho, we do have some things to talk about. Did you two find anything so far?"

Speedwagon's expression went grim. "Well, after I patched it up with my magic, I went through Tattoo's phone. The way he was holding it when he died made me think he left us some evidence about his murder." She pulled out the phone in question and unlocked it. "It took me a bit to figure out his password, but I wanted you two so we could go over what I found on it."

She navigated the menus to access the camera roll. "Just before he called us about the attack, it turns out he took a few photos of the killer. My guess is, he was going to send them to us after he finished filling us in on what was happening. Only... he wasn't able to get that far before he died."

Speedwagon sighed, and pulled up the images. "This first one is of a Magical Girl, one of those with more power on them than stitches. The second one, as you might be able to guess from the lightshow, is one of her mid-transformation. The last one..."

And as Joanna looked at that picture, she froze. No, it... it can't be...!

"...「looks like the same girl, fresh out of her costume.」"

"....This info matches up with what i observed from that night," Alice noted, giving a nod as she leaned forward on her crossed hands, staring into Speedwagon's eyes in return with a dead serious look, "And i have information of my own as well, mainly from my encounter with the girl.

Her name is Chloe.

She seems rather unhinged in some manner as well, either from an ego of sorts or maybe as the trait of a Dark Magical Girl. Considering i've been doing this longer than most of you have maybe been alive, and with all the ones i've seen before, my gut feeling is convinced the latter is the case."

Alice then leaned back once more, letting out a small sigh and glancing at Nina before looking back to the Overdrive Duo again.

"She tried to recruit me, after a bit of stretegic flirting on my part, and her patron seems to have a mental conenction to her based on her reactions at the time.

Her patron seems to have a 'plan to cleanse the world of corruption', the kind of saturday-morning cartoon villain plan that she handed out to me with the old 'are you staisfied with your life, and the crap in this world' speech. Mentioned the plans of her 'lord' as being at a high cost but wishing nothing but the best. Also something about 'letting someone she wanted slip into the Ebon Mint's clutches' to boot, though how involved that person might be with this could ultimately be nonexistent for all we know..."

"I think we caught the tail end of that conversation, when we came up onto the rooftops that night. You was too far for us to hear anything, so this is the first we heard of what you talked about. But it wasn't hard to see where she was hovering after that lightning strike... at least..."

Speedwagon looked at Joanna. "We both know my eyesight's keener than yours at a distance, and even I had trouble making out her features from that far off." In a tone without accusation, and her gaze concerned, Speedwagon asked, "You didn't recognize her from that night, did you Miss Jo-Star? You saw her somewhere else."

And in that gaze, Joanna knew. It was left unsaid, but the message couldn't be clearer.

...Speedwagon, Joanna thought. I trust your judgement.

Joanna picked up her sketchbook, still open on the image of four girls hanging together, and turned the page over a few times. The next four she passed were more detailed sketches of those girls by themselves, bizarrely lifelike ones at that, but Joanna passed over each one without comment.

She stopped when she'd reached a drawing of another hanging girl - it was the fifth page to feature a singular subject, and out of the nine sketches of different girls Joanna had briefly shown them, it was the first page whose subject matter wasn't from that first group shot.

Speedwagon looked grim. "I had a feeling that was the face you drew."

There were four details that stood out, upon a close inspection of the sketch:

There was an oddly shaded point visible over the girl's left shoulder, an act of asymmetry that looked carefully deliberate, as it was the only time in any of the sketches where a colored pencil was used.

On her left ear, there were three dots that weren't present on the right one.

On the forehead of this lifeless girl, a single number was visible behind the parting of her hair - the number 「9」.

And finally, written underneath this 「9」 were five letters, which in another context might have been considerably less concerning.

「C H L O E」

Neither the name, number, dots, or odd shoulder marking were visible in the photo. Father Grundelson, when he had taken the photo, had been off to her right where the latter two details wouldn't be visible even if they were there. And yet, it was undeniable - this was a sketch of Chloe, outside of her transformation, drawn with 「nearly flawless accuracy.」

"...Yare yare, talk about a prophetic dream. And those aren't fun to try to ignore."

"I am getting a strange feeling about this. Call it a magical girl's hunch," Alice said, after getting up and coming over to take a look at the picture again, her brows furrowed, "Who are the other figures though? Seems this Chloe...hmm...i guess the ninth in some series of people? But for what?"

Red Rifle seemed to go into a thinking kind of mood, her face focused and intent on the picture, not noticing she was a tad too close to Joanna and Speedwagon to perhaps be doing this. Even so, Nina on the other hand seemed to be resting her chin on her crossed arms on the table. A glint of curiosity and frustration was visible in her eyes despite her best attempts to maintain her usual stoicism. Perhaps she was in thought as well?

"This is like the plot of a bad anime. And it isn't like i haven't sensed the presence of a horror here in the past while either....i don't like it, yare yare."

"I'm not sure I was dreaming in anime... compared to the other things I've been dreaming about recently, I think this time I was dreaming in something more... progressive?" Joanna said it again, testing the word. "Progressive... something." She shook her head. "It sounds like I'm on the right track, but it's definitely missing another word."

"...that said." Joanna looked over at Red Rifle. "It's more like Chloe was the fifth girl that I noticed in my dream. The details aren't as clear because I sketched the other four together, as they were hanging in my dream, so you can't really see all of the details as clearly. But here," Joanna started flipping between the group shot and the four sketches that followed it. "You can see a few distinguishing features from the group image, like their hairstyles, or more of those forehead markings... and those were drawn a bit more clearly in their individual sketches."

Indeed, on closer inspection, it looked like they all had numbers stamped on their heads, along with a name. Number 12, Abigail. Number 13, Shona. Number 14, Divina. And Number 15, Tonya. Though, none of them looked like they had any purple markings on their shoulderblades, or any distinct dots on their ears like the sketch of Chloe possessed.

Speedwagon scooted back from Alice, but just a little, before she spoke up. "If there's anything to learn from Chloe's sketch, I'd wager that the rest of the names are accurate. Only half of their names, but still..."

Alice leaned back a little, before speaking up once more.

"So we've got Chloe, a magical girl who unleashed spirits to kill people the first night i and Nina got here.

A set of 4 mystery girls we have no idea about beyond their names, who might or might not be magical girls if Chloe's presence in that dream had any bearing, and seem to be on a list of progressively higher numbered individuals from that dream.

Though...on that horror note, there was a horror-related attack on the Stadium from what i heard floating around. Also i may have read that strange newspaper that seemed to pop up recently and report on such events. What was it called again? The Penrose Co-dependent?"

The magical girl shook her head briefly from side to side, as if to chase out some other odd thoughts floating around in her head. Before she could continue, however, her compatriot spoke up once more.

"I get the feeling this is all possibly connected, even if loosely, by some means. The bodies were listed in that dream in order, and the horror presence is usually never a good sign....Yare yare daze-"

In an instant, Nina transformed into her magical girl form. The now bluette girl paused for a moment after, sighing and running a hand down her face before de-transforming again. Stupid goddess had picked the first thing she said to be her magical girl incantation...

You are missing DISC 2 for this post. Come back later once it's been found.


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Several days after Soth's defeat, but not many...

To say Chloe was in a foul mood, was an understatement.

Ever since that night with Penny, she couldn’t keep it together. Needless, incessant thoughts constantly plagued her head. Beacon or her? Beacon or her? Of course, she would obviously choose her in the end. There was no way she wouldn’t...right? Chloe’s orb erratically spun, betraying the calm on her face as she waited for the Archive to show up.

Today was it. Today was the day she would finally be one step closer to her goal. They could have the dragon, do whatever they wanted to with its corpse. She just needed one tiny thing from them in return. Ah, she just wanted to kill something. But no, she couldn’t let such emotions get in the way of her work for now.

Chloe turned her gaze towards the old stone quarry. A rather claustrophobic series of caves eventually paved the way to Iesud’s hiding place. A giant, labyrinthian underground sprawl of tunnels, and once upon a time it had been quite grand, but now the once holy place had fallen, and now was going to be a grave...and her new place of residence.


This was fine. Fine.

Some of the nearby rock pulled back from a torchlit opening, one that was decidedly not part of the quarry’s tunnel systems.

Well, that was one way for Delta and Xi to make it there without being followed.

The guests of honor walked out of the eldritch opening, notably transformed. Oh? There was a third girl with the Archive girls this time – one with short brown hair, and wearing a labcoat over some kind of orange and black armor. In her left hand she carried a large briefcase, the handle of which was handcuffed to her wrist. Under that same arm she cradled a helmet that, if the color scheme was anything to go by, presumably went with the rest of the strange armor she was wearing.

Chloe was pulled out of her mildly spiraling thoughts as Delta and Xi showed up. Her gaze turned towards them, the magical orb settling down beside her head, hovering just a foot away. How did they do that? Probably something with their patron. An incredibly useful thing, to be able to pop in and out of wherever like that. Well, that was currently none of her business. For now she needed to make sure everything went as planned.

Curious though, who was the third girl?

“You girls certainly know how to get around.” Chloe quipped lightly at their appearance. “You should invite me sometime. Who's the cute little thing I haven't met yet?”

“The one in charge of the lab that’s been studying your crystal for the past few weeks,” said the new girl. Her labcoat shifted slightly in the wind to reveal the ‘λ’ symbol on her armor’s chest. “Analyst Lambda.”

“Well, a pleasure to meet you Lambda.” Despite her calm appearance, her voice was tinged with a mild bit of perhaps, irritation in her voice. “And what exactly have you learned over the course of your study, hm? I'm curious as to your thoughts on it.”

Lambda’s eyes practically shone for a moment... though it was unclear how much of that was due to sunlight glinting off of her glasses. “I’m glad you asked,” she said, before taking a deep breath. To the outside observer, it looked like Lambda was about to exude Big Exposition Energy.

Delta cut her off there, before pointedly gesturing skyward with her eyes. “If it’s all the same to you, could we have this discussion inside of the quarry?”

“Wow someone is no fun at all.” Chloe chided as Delta cut off Lambda. “But I suppose you're right. Standing out here is rather annoying.” Motioning for them to follow, Chloe led them down the slopes of the quarry towards the bottom. It was a rather well known place in Penrose, despite its somber and eerie nature. Before it closed, it was said there was a curse on the place. People working here would often suffer from bouts of anger, rage, or other such emotions, as though they had been influenced by some outside source.

Soon Chloe had lead them to a once boarded up mineshaft.

“Watch your head. The entrance is rather narrow.” True enough, the small cave system that had been carved out was just large enough for an adult male. For the most part, it all seemed natural, as though this cave had been here the entire time. Perhaps it had been, until the old workers stumbled across it. Thankfully, not long after they had been walking, the cavern opened into a small chamber.

For the most part it seemed abandoned, but several crystalline protrusions decorated the ceiling and walls, illuminating the dark interior with a pale, otherworldly light. A massive stone door of some sort was built into the opposite wall, a few feet in front of it the cavern floor gave way to smooth cut stone, obviously having been built by someone in ages past.

“Here we are, this should be good enough for now.” Chloe came to a stop in front of the door. “So, let’s get this over with, hm? I'm feeling rather impatient so hurry it up.”

“Alright, alright. Keep your pants o- no, wait, that doesn’t work when you’re wearing that,” Lambda trailed off, searching for the word. “...whatever you call that half-skirt half-thong thing. Jailbait, probably. Just keep that on for a minute while I pull out my notes.”

Lambda held her helmet out to Collector Delta. “Hold this for a minute?”

“Sure,” she said.

“So, might as well start with something that’ll get you in a better mood.” Thanks to having both hands free, Lambda made short work of the combination lock. “We’ve made a lot of progress on a new vessel for Cxatha. We call the project ‘AD A DGLGMUT.’” She retrieved a manila folder from within the briefcase.

“I'd only take it off if you helped me out of it~” Chloe flashed a rather lewd smirk, before frowning a bit. Not the time for flirty jokes. She needed to focus on the matter at hand. Chloe took the manila folder, taking a brief glance at the outside of it. Better mood? Possibly. She wasn't quite sure something could put her in a good mood unless Penny just came crashing through the wall and declared her undying love.

“I'm not even going to ask how you pronounced that.” Pulling open the folder, Chloe quickly began rifling through its contents. “How much progress, exactly?”

There were several blueprints labeled with the project name, showing various parts and angles of an imposing, thirteen foot tall automaton. Specifically, a rather buff, androgynous, humanoid automaton. Around the joints there were labels referring to something called “PASSAGALICA,” and conflicting notes about the composition of the alloy used for the majority of the body’s bulk. Some of the materials listed were just as utterly unfamiliar, particularly one very recurring one referred to as Zilvra. There were also several portions of the body that apparently were meant to have several more crystals slotted into them, and retractable armor plating over those sections.

“The crystal itself has been able to interface with, corrode, and outright commandeer a lot of the coding that’s gone into the project.” Lambda explained. “The sample itself doesn’t appear to have the processing power to run all of it at once, though. If we loaded it and the software in as it currently is, based on its current outputs... best case scenario, it would only be able to manipulate the fingers on one hand.”

“...So you want to stuff it into a mechanical body?” Chloe voiced skeptically. That was...not actually a bad idea, come to think of it. It wasn't quite what she was expecting, but it was certainly a novel idea. She had assumed using magic and such was the best way to regrow its body – but with something like this, perhaps...perhaps it could in fact, be made better than what it naturally was.

“And what exactly does that mean? Do you need a larger sample or some such?”

“Ideally speaking? We’d need several larger samples,” Lambda admitted. “Even though we found out which kinds of energy that best expedite the growth process of its neural system, as well as the one that converts energy into physical mass… our most optimistic projections predict it’ll take months before the project’s completion.”

Chloe held a hand to her chin. That was a problem. Not the time frame, no. The problem was getting a sufficiently larger crystal that could be used. Even getting one to that size was difficult. Unless she wanted to cause a large scale attack for the required energy, there was no good way to get a larger one. Doing that, was a bad idea. She didn't want to end up on some Beacon hit list just yet.

“Of course. Always with the waiting and problems.” Chloe exhaled irritably. “Nothing can ever be quite so simple, can it. Give someone everything, and then they tell you to 'wait for them'. I'm tired of waiting.” The dark magical girl grimaced, turning her gaze away from the archive girls.

“...a larger sample may be difficult.” Her gaze slowly turned towards the ornate doors. “Even those small ones took me quite a bit of time to cultivate. Skulking around and making sure I didn't get put on beacons radar was quite the difficult task.” Well, there was something they could potentially do. “...the only way to likely get one large enough...would be to take it off the dragon's body.”

Delta, who had been looking up at the massive stone door for some time, looked over at Chloe. “He’s in there, isn’t he.”

“He is. Sleeping, trying to fight off the horror eating away at him.” She glanced towards the door. ”You'll have to go in there at some point, but I can't help you once you do.”

“What exactly do you mean by that?” Xi asked. “Along the lines of ‘once we go in, he’s going to force you to attack us,’ or…?”

“Nothing so heinous. He doesn't control me, but he is still my patron, technically.” Chloe replied. “And quite the...mindless one. He'll likely attempt killing me above all else. Once he starts fighting he'll likely begin to expire, since he can't really fend off the horror if he strains himself too much. So likely he'll simply take me down with him, or attempt to.”

“Oh, good,” Xi said. “So we’d only be fighting a dragon.”

“...if Iesud thought it necessary to fight,” Delta said. She looked at Chloe with an interesting look in her eyes. “But he brought you into his service to heal him…” She gestured towards Xi and Lambda with a nod of her head. “So what if you had finally followed through on that mission?”

Chloe held a hand to her chin.

“...It's possible, but in his current state he's rather...mistrustful. Sees most humans as nothing but filth that must be cleansed. Magical entities such as yourselves are only more dangerous.” It would be a good way to ensure there was no fighting, and even better, since it would take her out of the direct line of fire.

...but if he did figure out he was being deceived, then that would be the end of anyone in the vicinity.

“If you had something that proved that you could do it, it may be easier to convince him.”

Lambda reached behind herself, and removed a white canister from her labcoat’s pocker. “Well, I did bring a small shard of the crystal you gave us, for the sake of explaining why Zilvra is so important to AD A DGLGMUT.” She carefully rotated it, revealing that it was actually transparent, filled with a strange white fluid. “There’s a second one strapped to my back. Didn’t want to risk breaching containment if you asked to study the Zilvra itself.”

“...and we could use it to contain a larger crystal.” Xi realized.

“I see...” Chloe's mouth slowly turned into a satisfied smirk. “Ah, this should do nicely then. I see no reason why he would dismiss you. If you are ready, then.” Chloe walked over to the two ancient doors, placing a hand upon it. “If you'll follow ready to talk quickly and exactly.” A small pulse of spirit magic spread from Chloe's hands along the door, the ancient patterns on it lighting up as the wave of magic passed through it.

The ancient stone doors creaked, slowly opening and allowing the travelers inside.

The cavern inside was massive. Ancient stone monoliths rose from the floor, weathered with age and time. Some seemed to be depicting ancient peoples of some sort, though the pillars were far too worn and overgrown with crystalline protrusions to really see clearly, the same that were outside, dimly illuminating the cavern with their soft, slightly off-putting glow.

In the back of the cavern, something stirred.

The ground shifted as the ancient dragon rose from its slumber, Iesud, the ancient watcher and protector flourished his wings, a gust of air running through the large chamber as it eyed the intruders with a hateful glare.

“ bring filth with you, servant.” His voice rumbled, laying his body on the ground. “What be thou purpose here?”

“They are-”

“They can speak the truth for themselves. Your words hold no weight here.” Bowing her head, Chloe ground her teeth together, motioning for Delta and the Archive girls to get on with it.

Delta stepped forwards. “Iesud. The three of us were hired by Chloe to heal her lord. According to what she’s told us, that was the reason you made her into a Magical Girl. After several weeks of study, we’ve made a breakthrough.” She looked to Lambda. “Lambda. If you will.”

“We’ve discovered a way to contain the crystals that have been feeding off of you.” She produced the smaller canister. “Inside this container is a small sample of the crystal that Chloe gave to us for study, and it’s been submerged in the raw form of a magical substance. One we call ‘Zilvra.’ Before, the crystal fed upon the emotional power of hatred and anger, inciting it in others in order to further fuel itself and its growth. But now that it’s been exposed to raw Zilvra…”

She carefully reached into the eldritch liquid with a pair of steel tongs, and removed the crystal. Where it had once been black as a moonless night, now it shone with a faint, silvery light. “Now that property has been effectively neutered.” She paused for dramatic effect. “In other words, we have a way of containing the source of your cancer.”

“So that servant of mine has finally made some progress, is that it?”For a second it seemed like this was going well. “How naive do you think I am?” The dragon slammed a claw into the earth, just shy of Lambda's face, causing a small tremor through the cavern. “A weak human serving some weaker god or force containing this where I couldn’t? Laughably implausible.” The dragons deep, gravelly voice growled, its reptilian lips seeming to curl into a snarl as it lowered its head towards Lambda. A few crystals growing off the dragon began glowing slightly.

“...Grrrggh. Yet I corruption. No affliction from that crystal. So either you speak truth, or your deception is thorough.” It raised its head up once more, its claw dragging against the ground as he returned to a natural resting position. “...Show me the process.”

“I’d be glad to,” the Analyst said. Outwardly, Lambda was holding it together remarkably well. Her hands barely trembled as she removed the larger container from behind her back, and held it in front of herself for a moment. When she opened it, the Zilvra inside was very similar in color to that of the altered crystal. “I’ll just need another sample of the crystal in order to demonstrate it.”

The dragon's head looked at his other forearm. A number of suitably sized crystals were growing from his scales. With a deep growl, the dragon placed his other claw over one of them, gripping it with his claws. With a roar of mild pain, he wrenched the entire thing from his flesh, leaving a deep gash with blackish red blood pouring from the now open wound. He tossed the red gemstone on the ground in front of Lambda.

“Have your sample.”

Lambda’s eyes practically sparkled. “Oh, this’ll do very nicely,” she said. She briefly paused as she noted all of the blood, both on the crystal and coming from the wound… but the Analyst decided to roll with it. Possibly because there was no reason for her to believe that Iesud would have ripped it out the way he had if he worried about bleeding out from a relatively small wound on his massive body.

Lambda removed another canister from her hip, retrieving a sponge. “Delta? Could you put my helmet on while I clean off this blood?”

When Lambda finished, she placed the soaked sponge back into its canister and sealed it. “There we go,” she said, her voice slightly modulated through the helmet’s comm unit. She retrieved the metal tongs once more and lifted the cleaned crystal. “Now then. Not sure how strong Magical Girl teeth are, so you might want to keep your jaws slack for this. There’s a slight chance the sonic feedback could shatter them like sugar glass.” With that, she began lowering the crystal into the Zilvra.

Within seconds of contact with the Zilvra, the crystal jerked upwards, not unlike a child who’d just tested the waters with their toes. In direct defiance of this metaphor, the Zilvra lurched up after it with a strange sound that both resonated and crackled at once, and dragged it under the surface.

The Zilvra went abruptly still, but not silent. The sound only grew clearer and louder, and then the eldritch liquid began to swirl in towards the canister’s center, into the crystal. For lack of a better description, it looked as though the Zilvra was draining into the crystal… if not for the fact that liquid of a different color was ejected during this strange spinning spectacle. A moment passed, and soon all of the liquid in the canister was just as white as that in the smaller canister. At that point, the liquid stilled once again, only this time it fell silent.

“...and there you have it. ” Lambda brandished the resulting crystal, now glowing with a soft silvery light as the Zilvra had been moments ago. “Beautiful, isn’t it?”

“...grrhhhk-” A painful sounding wheeze, accompanied by a pained, raspy rumble as the dragon watched the event unfold. “...Hrk-you seem to be truthful.” He finally replied, barely even acknowledging the wound on his body. The blood had already coagulated unnaturally fast, and seemed to be hardening? “...very well then. I accept your proposal. You rid my body of this cancer – I'll repay you with as much money as your little mortal hearts desire.”

“In that case, we’ll come back in a few days to work out the finer details of our arrangement,” Xi said, and inclined her head respectfully.

“Then leave for now.” Iesud growled. “Leave me to my rest. Succeed at your task and I shall return the favor.” He waved a claw, lowering his massive body back to the earth. “Show them the way out, servant. Return once you are ready to begin.”

“Of course.” Chloe replied coolly, motioning for the Archive girls to follow. She lead them back to the door, closing the massive structure behind her. Once she was certain Iesud no longer was watching, Chloe sighed, running a hand through her hair irritably.

“Well, I'm glad that went well – but ugh, what do I get? Nothing.” The dark magical girl growled, folding her arms and shifting her stance to put most of her weight on her right foot. “Damn it I shouldn't let that damn dragon do that...just endure it for now, Chloe. You'll get your reward soon...” Realizing she was talking to herself, she turned back to the Archive girls.

“Tch, not that you girls would care. We done here?”

“Yeah, your boss is kind of an asshole," Lambda admitted. Her body language was a lot more casual at this point. "No clue how much of that is due to having that many crystals fucking up his biochemistry, though. I'm a doctor, not... an actual doctor. And besides, I really need to get back to the lab. I have no idea how long I've got until this dragon's blood coagulates, and I'd like to try and salvage at least some of it." She looked between her fellow Archive members, and shrugged. “So… yeah, I’m ready to bounce.”

"I'll take her," Delta said, walking past Lambda back through the caverns.

Scribe Xi lingered for a moment, clearly thinking something through.

“ hell with it.” She looked over at Chloe. “You want to go get something to eat?”

“...As much as I'd enjoy a dinner with a cute girl like you, I don't think its a good idea right now.” Chloe said with a huff. She started walking, but stopped suddenly before taking even a few steps. Turning on her heels and losing the transformation, Chloe shrugged dismissively. “ know what? Why not. I've got nothing better to do anyways. So yes, lets get something to eat. You’ll be buying since you offered?~”

“Yeah, I’m buying,” Xi said, dropping her own transformation.

“Great.” Chloe hooked her arm around Xi's. “Take me to some place nice. I need something good after my past few days.”

When Delta awoke, it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Her back was sore from laying on an uneven hard surface, and she could just barely recall the events that lead to her winding up here. Regina had struck her, and then-

She didn’t know where she was. It looked like a cave, There were some rays of sunlight spilling through the cave entrance, but there weren’t any other features. Nothing but the woman leaning up against the wall. Half dragon, half human, entirely obscured by shadow. The light was only able to reveal the silhouette of the figure, but it had to be Regina.

"Hello, Annabelle." She began. "I feel like we have a few things to discuss."

“...” Delta sat up. She indulged in a moment of silence - a choice not quite as dramatic as Regina insisted on being, but an appropriate one. Since Regina insisted on throwing her name around as though that was supposed to be impressive.

“How astute of you,” Delta said, flatly.

Regina raised an eyebrow. "Are you not curious as to why I haven’t enslaved your mind?" She lowered it again. ”Or is your goal to piss me off until I do, because you’re not that far away."

“I managed to save your life. Considering how hard you were trying to throw it away, that wasn’t an easy feat. Presumably, this is your way of showing gratitude.” Delta gestured vaguely to the cave. “An audience with the Monster Queen. A rare honor.”

"Gratitude is only required if the act is selfless. You want something out of this. You didn’t save my life, you protected your objective. But I digress…" The monster queen stepped forward. ”I simply intend to give you what you want because you are not alone. Your kind will keep coming, and you are a nuisance to deal with. So what do I have to do to stop the lot of you from hunting me?"

Delta took a deep breath, and exhaled slowly. “Alright. Look. I appreciate the fact that you have used a Black Coin twice, and have twice as many mental problems as a result. But do you honestly have try so hard at being dramatic?” She shook her head. “I don’t need to hunt you. Your existence may be a curiosity, but it’s a replicable process. Your brother’s already said as much.

"My ‘brother’, if that’s what we’re calling that thing now, must have lied to you. We were brought into the world as monsters, and used a coin from there." With a grunt, Regina’s gaze broke and her eyes softened. "But it is more or less like you say. I can’t really help being like this." Regina fidgeted with her hair. "I’ve only been a magical girl for a few months. All of this confuses me. I don’t really look at myself as a queen or anything like that." She released her hair and looked back at Delta. "I’m letting you go for many reasons. I realize things only get worse when I interfere. You saved me. You have her first name.." Regina hugged herself. "She died, I know it."

Delta wasn’t entirely sure about what to say. From Regina’s point of view, she had just watched her brother die. And, despite the fact that his memory lived on in his bone spider… she wasn’t entirely wrong. It wasn’t quite Elroy - for a start, it lacked the mental mutations forced upon his mind from his Monster Boy forms - but it was as close as one could get to him under the circumstances.

As for Annabelle Irons…

Well, there just weren’t many things you can really say to someone grieving for the only two people they cared about in the world. So there was only one real option for her in this situation.

“ you... need a hug?” Delta offered.

Regina’s arms parted, like she was going to embrace Delta, but then she stopped herself. "No. Self pity is what got me here in the first place. I’m surprised you’d show me any compassion." She looked Annabelle up and down before folding her arms. "Well, if there’s nothing you need, I’ll let you go. I don’t plan on sticking around Penrose much longer."

“There is something I need,” Delta said. “A request… and an offer.”

Regina raised her eyebrow. "Oh?" She gave Delta a sideways glance. "Well, go on."

“You not only managed to mentally manipulate four active members of Beacon, not only preserving their Sparks, but using them to defend against reversing that manipulation. I would like to know the process you used to accomplish this.”

"I figured that was why your organisation was interested in me." Regina scratched the side of her neck. "But nothing good can come from that kind of power. Aside from that, I don’t think it’s something the average magical girl can do. I’m sorry, but I can’t fulfill your only request. "

“...let me guess,” Delta said. “In spite of my own thoughts on what that information could be used for, you can’t be certain of what my associates would actually do with it. And if it were used in the way you fear it might, you would probably blame yourself for whatever happens.”

Delta paused for a moment. “Either way, it doesn’t really change my feelings on this matter.” Delta looked Regina directly in the eyes.

“I’m offering you a new home.”

Regina folded her arms again. "I’m going to have to decline for now. There are some things I need to take care of on my own, and I don’t really think I’d be happy working for them. I’d tell you I think you should break away from the Archive, but I’m sure you have your reasons." Regina took a step towards Delta. "B-but I wouldn’t mind exchanging phone numbers. Just in case I change my mind later."

Delta smiled softly. “Of course.” She took out a small notepad and ballpoint pen. “Take all the time you need,” she said, as she finished writing down her phone number. After carefully removing that page, Delta handed the number to Regina.

Regina, ever so gently, pulled the paper out of Delta’s hands. "Thank you." She glanced down at the paper and then back at Delta. "Perhaps if we meet again, it will be under better circumstances." Regina shuffled backwards into the shadows and disappeared from sight.

After staring into the darkness for an appropriately dramatic interval, Delta closed her eyes and sighed. Then she turned to the cave wall, and opened a Way into the Catacombs.

Alexandra… wherever you are… hopefully that brought you some peace.

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