The battlefield was, in a word, chaotic. It was not without expectation given the four--no, Five, as this applied to Rand--had effectively no experience fighting together as a team. Rand has started the fundamentals to build up to that, but Magic required study, and study required time. Time was a valuable resource they seemed to have little of. The greatest issue with using anything in conjunction was the vastly different backgrounds each Mage had. Spellcasting was not taught in some universal language. The theories and concepts could be applied in different ways, and traditions taught different perception. The disjointed nature of introductory magic was rearing its ugly head on the battlefield now.
Few other facts became evident from the first wave of assaults. The most important being that these creatures were incredibly durable. At their base level with weapons, it seemed Maria wasn't able to cut into the shells of these creatures more than making a few superficial scratches. Even the eyestalk of the creature, an obvious weak spot, was durable enough that it would need hacked at like a young tree with dull machete. Only further proving this was the fact the spores that ate through the spiders effortlessly was merely softening where it landed. Ark was still restraining himself, and what he did manage to accomplish seemed half-negated by some intrinsic magical nature of these creatures. The only saving grace in this situation is that the crabs seemed to slow down slightly, not accustomed to this type of interaction with prey.
A plan would be needed, and Rand started piecing one together. The last part necessary was simple: more information. He needed to know the upper limit of the durability of these creatures. To test this, he channeled mana through his blade, then quickly launched three quick air slashes at the creatures. These were not sonic in nature, as such would be dampened by the mute spell, but compressed air alone would give him an idea of how much force was needed to deal significant damage; and, each of his slashes were of differing potency. The first landed quickly onto the third crab in the back, placed far enough away to avoid any crossfire, and one he had a straight shot at. It did little more than knock the crab around. The second, however, hit it and carved at least an inch into its front leg, breaking off bits of spike and fling it around as shrapnel. If they could hear, it was shrieking in pain. The last would only make this wound that much more grievous as he cleaved straight through the leg of the crab, causing the appendage to fall down to the ground with a viscous tan ooze following it.
This was workable. It gave Rand a point of reference. He didn't want to have to personally cleave through all of these crabs himself--a waste of mana that might be necessary for a later rescue or target.
"New plan," Rand sent out in a similar sub-lingual message as before. "Maria and Chant, you take the current target. Chant, use your decomp to weaken its shell so that Maria can get through to it, then tear it apart," he instructed them. "Ark, Raph, follow me into the fray," he told them before leaping down onto the beach and running through the crabs like an absolute mad lad. Passing through the first two was simple enough, but the ones in the back were their targets. Once positioned precisely where he wanted, he darted around the back line using his Belldash, causing giant streams of sand to be kicked up as he darted from place to place before even explaining the rest of his plan. It resembled the beach itself being carpet bombed for a moment, but otherwise had no notable effect.
Once the two arrived, he finally explained his plan. "We're going to cook them alive. Raph, I've made copies of your chain anchor rune. I placed eight of them around the targets. I want you to create a chain net to the best of your ability using them, or basically just do whatever you can to keep them in place. Ark, you're going to unleash some raw power here. I will channel a magic circle, what you need to do is cast your lava magic directly on it. I cannot stress that part enough; you need to target the metaphysical circle, and cast on it. I know neither of these skills," Rand said, but then stopped solely to slash through an incoming pincer aimed at their location, yet again cleaving through it.
"Fuck it, you're gonna learn on the fly," he said with more hurry in his otherwise monotonous voice. With that, he firmly planted his hands down onto the ground and out from them sprang trails of light blue mana that quickly created a large glowing circle surrounding the crab in the back and encompassing about half of the largest one. He simply couldn't reach far enough for that, and keep this contained for Ark. Not with such little prep time. "Everyone, for the love of Maba, just cast your damn spells," he shot out. The assertive, nearly aggressive, nature of his words couldn't be carried over through his spell, but if it could, he would have given any DWMA drill sergeant a run for their money.
As the groups split up, chiefly to get away from one another Sage and Elly would head north, still a ways off from the spirit sources seem to remain in place with one of them producing the “feeling” that it was staring back at Elly in kind, as if its attention was on her, another detector sort perhaps? Or was it just a fluke, a funny feeling? Or was nothing felt at all? Either way they were still a fairly good way from one another, allowing the two to speak or form a plan as they pushed northwards.
Elly’s eyes narrowed a bit, even if her pleasant smile remained, walking with her hands clasped behind her back as if on a leisurely stroll. That had to be a meister, or perhaps a witch, someone with the ability to sense them, and at a distance as well. Even if they were NOTs, it appeared as though they did have a certain amount of training.
“Ah~ Voyeurs are quite annoying,” Elly suddenly commented aloud. “Well, Sage, I don’t believe I will be able to take the stealthy approach. Whoever they are, it seems they’ve picked me out, unless I’m just that paranoid.”
Sage walked alongside his meister, thinking back to the group every now and then but his focus remained on the task at hand. Everyone decided to go their own ways, and as long as everyone could pull their own weight, they should be fine.
He too had a smile on his face as they walked, his attention turning to her when he heard her comment.
Someone had picked her out? Well regardless, now they could show themselves for a bit of fun~
“Better to be paranoid than dead, hm?” He responded then added. “Besides, that just makes you special~”
Sage was ready to fight when she was. Whoever this person was, he hoped they bled good.
“Haha~ I don’t think our mentors are that extreme,” Elly replied with a chuckle. Surely if they didn’t mind killing them, they wouldn’t have had an issue putting Adrian down when he got hostile. These people were hand-picked by them too, but as Jarvis had pointed out, there were flags that this wasn’t a simple combat test. “I guess we should go see who I have the eye of.”
As the pair continued onwards the walk would be largely a peaceful one, there was the occasional obstacle here and there, climb over this, duck under that, but none of them were pressing so much as tedious. In fact this was mostly easy, though the actual obstacles were likely harder had they landed at the original sites, with this just being an afterthought, now being ran in reverse. Towards the “end” of the trail which still continued on stood a girl with blonde hair, yellow eyes, mostly dressed in black with a skirt and school or workplace formal coat worn casually with a white button up shirt and red tie, long black socks and red sneakers finished the look. Smiling at them, there was another presence the Elly could feel yet not see, close to the girl, off to her side was a carry satchel with seemingly the part inside. “Ello!” She says, waving at them. “Hey! Arlington! They’re here! You picked them out real good!” “Yes. Come to me, now.” Says the unseen male voice.
With that the girl sticks her tongue out at the pair and pulls down one eyelid with her right hand taunting them as she giggled and bounced back in the trees.
Meeting the girl face to face, Elly watched her curiously, though she was more concerned about who else was with her. While she couldn’t see them, she could tell the girl in front of her wasn’t the one that picked her out. She was a weapon, that much was clear by her soul.
Raising a hand in turn, Eloise did a little wave with her fingers. “Hello~,” She chimed back with a fair amount of nonchalance. Strangely enough, the girl darted off after commenting to her partner, leaving the satchel and part inside it. The voice didn’t give an indication of where he came from, but she could feel generally where he was, and she was certainly keeping an “eye” on the weapon girl.
“Sage,” She called in a light tone, but one that carried a commanding air to transform as she approached the satchel. If she didn’t have to waste her time fighting, that would be preferable, but there wasn’t any telling that they wouldn’t defend it or have it trapped.
They were bound to run into people eventually. The “people” being a schoolgirl with blonde hair who seemed a bit chipper regarding this assignment. Sage returned the girl’s smile, though he braced himself for just about anything that could happen. An ambush, a sudden attack from this girl, a trap. There was no way they would send a single girl to take on him and Elly, so there must have been some sort of plan. Judging by Elly’s look, she might have thought the same thing.
Though his meister greeted her, the stranger did not seem interested in talking. Instead, she taunted them and ran off, baiting them to follow. Now it definitely felt like a trap. But this Arlington person piqued his interest.
Sage’s ears perked up at the sound of Elly’s command did not go unnoticed, a surge of excitement going through him as he knew what this meant. Following his name, a flash of white had him taking the form of a silver tipped spear woven from vines and adorned by a blue gem. The weapon spun within the air before landing into Elly’s palm, ready for her to use.
Almost immediately upon arming herself, the presence of the blonde girl shifted in the trees up and behind, a keen sign of what was happening as the two signatures overlapped near enough, when suddenly from the trees a figure clothed in red, white and black was briefly glimpsed as a blur of movement to elsewhere, followed by the steady bark of gunfire lancing out to meet the two. At least he seemed a gentleman enough to allow them to arm themselves before unleashing his attack.
Elly stared, following the spiritual signatures with her eyes. As they converged, her smile narrowed. There, she hummed mentally. It was obvious they were doing the same, and given they decided to put distance, it was easy to surmise that they were a long-range pairing. As if on cue, the bullets came flying over.
Just as speedily, Elly shot forward, batting a couple bullets away while weaving out of the way of the others. Her motive was clear, as she spun Sage around and extended the rear of the spear forward to hook and pull the satchel to.
With her movement, a flurry of shots take aim at the ground before the part, in attempt to drive the Irish lancer off, though if she were determined enough it wouldn’t stop her grab, the gunman still in the brush starts to head out a bit for better aim.
Pausing a moment, Elly took note of the bullets point of impact and momentarily backed off. Perhaps they simply didn’t have a clear shot, but that gunfire looked more like it was meant for suppression or to ward her away. She didn’t presume that these NOT’s would be out to fight with killing intent, but thus far the gunman appeared rather restrained, even waiting for Sage to transform.
After her momentarily retreat, Elly took several steps forward again, this time more deliberate in her movements than swift. She kept Sage close to her as a method of repelling any incoming projectiles.
With Elly’s backing off and switching her stance, the male voice calls out as he steps into view, revolver in hand some few meters away. “I’m afraid I can’t let you have it so easily. I don’t care much about fighting our own DWMA though.” With that he opens fire, aiming center mass, he wouldn’t try to kill her if he could do it, but she would be repelling projectiles for sure as the female’s voice imminates from the weapon. “Aww, oh well, can’t be helped. Still maybe her little plan here will work out!”
“Ah, you can’t, can you?” Elly hummed, twisting the spear to intercept the bullet as she hopped back, once again amplifying her speed before dashing toward the object again, seemingly trying to scoop it up with the extended spear. “And what is my little plan then, hm?”
“You want to take it and run!” The female’s voice says as the man moves in close, using the handgun to bat back at the spear as he amplified his own speed, getting between her and the bag, while he had nothing against her plan, it was as he said; “Yeah, I have a job too.”
“Mm… Well, suppose you’re half right,” Elly mused, stepping back once again. Her posture dipped low as her right side twisted to pull the length of the spear forward while her left hand took hold of the shaft closer toward the point, aimed forward at the other pair in a ready position. However, suddenly the girl spun and twirled the polearm briefly before steadying it behind her, held horizontally, parallel with her waist. Her posture relaxed, she took some steps forward. “Still, why is it I get the feeling you’ve been trying to shoot at Sage more than me?” “Would you rather I shot at you?” With that he levels the revolver and opens fire, he was fairly sure she could defend herself or avoid, and if not it’s not like his gun was shooting real bullets, which carried pros and cons. Still it shouldn’t kill her.
Elly clicked her tongue a few times, ducking and spinning again as she weaved to the side and stepped forward some more, a few of the projectiles having knicked her during the process. “No, I can’t say that I do… Come on, you should know what I’m gettin’ at. You’re not firing real bullets and you don’t fire at me unless you believe I’m in a position to dodge ‘er parry. If I walked up to that part unarmed, are you telling me you’ll blow my brains out?” She asked, raising an upturned hand in meaningless gesture as she spoke. “Not like I want to scar that handsome face either~” “As I said, I have a job to do, but I don’t like DWMA fighting our own. I can’t let you have the part just like that, but I won’t kill you for it either.” Arlington said as Alicia laughed a bit. “He mostly does search and rescue. I don’t care much to hurt you either, but you’ll have to earn that part unless you think you can outrun or outsmart us.” With that he levels the revolver again and pulls the trigger while jumping back to gain some space.
These two surely were something, weren’t they? But Sage didn’t know whether to be glad or upset that this whole fight would at least end in a couple of cuts and bruises. Elly was handling herself just as he expected of his meister, but those two only seemed more interested in shooting at Elly’s feet and intimidating them. Boooring.
“I’m more of a combat man myself.” Sage commented. “But I don’t suppose the mentors would be very happy to find a blood bath.”
Elly nearly avoided the bullet hitting her dead center, it pinging off the middle of the spear shaft. That was a shame, though she supposed reasoning her way out of this wouldn’t work. She half thought about just dropping Sage and walking forward to take it. Given his behavior thus far, if she refused to fight, Elly didn’t think he would shoot her, regardless of his directives.
Still, that was a gamble, one that would result in a hospital stay if she was incorrect. “Yes, I suppose we will just have to knick it and run. We don’t have time to chase them around, after all,” Elly added to Sage’s comment.
Twirling the weapon a bit more in a flamboyant display, Elly suddenly spun her body, using her amplified strength to swing and cleave into a nearby tree, causing the wood to creak, lumber over, and collapse between them to act as cover. While Elly would prefer to hook the satchel and retreat, she was more relying on them advancing to keep her from doing so to hit the boy with her Soul Force.
In place of advancing or trying to get in close, the Meister points his revolver from within the cover and opens up with several quick shots; even had she gotten the bag, she would now need to carry out the escape part of her plan. “Tripwire soul. It allows me to see, or rather feel a soul, wherever it may be and the landscape around me. You cannot hide.”
Elly pouted a bit at that. She was hoping they took the bait after hearing what she said, but they probably thought that they could just take pot shots at her when she ran. However, she did have an advantage in that regard considering the type of weapon they were. “Well, that’s quite sweet of you to tell us.” Of course, the same could be said in turn.
Yanking the satchel closer to her with the end of the spear, removing the part inside and tucking it down the front of her shirt, then slinging the strap of the satchel around her. Searching for their souls, Elly placed her feet against the trunk of the fallen tree with a hand bracing against the ground before suddenly kicking off it toward the South. Seemingly, she had opted to retreat.
As Elly grabbed the part and decided to make a run for it, Arlington was hot on her trail once a little distance was gained between them, cutting off at a faster pace as he aimed to get in front of her, to get the part back, he wasn’t exactly clear on what the rules said about this or damaging the part. Not that he could chase her but so far in any case, upping his wavelength via his own partner in an attempt to cut her off. Once he got in front of her, then he could decide where to shoot.
“My, you’re a quick one, aren’t you~?” Elly cooed, though without slowing down in her advance. She had expected him to take some shots from behind and to use her Soul Perception to use their resonance as a callout for when to take cover or evasive action. Was he wary of hitting the satchel, perhaps? It would make sense, given that they could have just destroyed it before if it was allowed. Smirking a bit, she tugged on the sash to bring the bag up to her torso, holding it in front of her with her free hand.
Narrowing his eyes, he couldn’t rely solely on his soul detection, she had the part on her, what component was it anyways? If he recalled correctly the battery was with the AW team wasn’t it? Then again the focus of this test wasn’t in beating the students. Not that he would tell them that of course. If it were he wouldn’t have bothered to do this at all, though he couldn’t speak in full confidence to the other teams. Aiming his gun, he fires at her legs rather than her midsection.
Watching as their wavelengths began to spark, Elly allowed the satchel to drop to her side again, stabbing Sage into the ground to use as a sort of vaulting pole. Launching herself up from the ground, she spun slightly, bringing the spear down at the gun as she landed in a partially crouched position with one leg extended out.
Taking note of the change in situation, Arlington cross braces the revolver with his right arm to stop the spear strike as he then lowers his profile and leaps back a step to avoid what he knew would be a follow up with a sweep kick, though they were still close to one another as he repositioned to take up a better firing stance. “Hehe, she’s an interesting one.” Comes words from the revolver. “Still I wonder if she would be as kind if positions were reversed.” “...” Just a silent stare was all Arlington would give in response.
And a sweep did come, though Elly didn’t stop there as she continued the momentum in her assault. She wasn’t going to let them take easy shots at her from this range. As her extended leg cut across the grass between them, she thrust the rear of the spear at them as she turned her body, then stepped forward and spun the polearm vertically, aiming to smack the firearm from underneath. “Ye say that as if I don’t have some torn clothing from this. I’ll still be gentle though~, don’t you worry.”
“I’m just glad she’s on my side~” Sage spoke up. Elly was able to swing him around smoothly and effortlessly; much better than his last meister at least. Once they got some more practice in, he couldn’t wait to see what she’d be capable of.
“Torn clothing is better than torn flesh I would like to think.” Arlington says as he swings his gun downwards to meet the rising polearm on its way up. Not reacting to the thrust asides from a slight jump back. “Turning was the mistake in your feint. It telegraphed your intentions.” With that and the new closer position they were in, he attempts to re-engage, aiming back down with the revolver.
“Ah, is that your gambit then? Trying to tear my clothing off? In front of our weapons, too…” Elly questioned with an obviously exaggerated tone of astonishment. With a twist of her body, she yanked the satchel in front of her again as a mock shield, then leveling the spear and stabbing at the aimed gun again.
“What…” Pausing a bit at that, he frowns slightly as his weapon partner speaks up. “Watch it!” “Huh?!” With that she moved her device part to shield her once more as she stabbed out at the gun, Arlington snaps back, knocking back with his gun as he goes for another shot and a hesitant grab with his free left hand to snatch back the bag. “I’m not trying to undress you! The objective doesn’t even matter, if one of your teams fails your mentors have spares. I don’t want to hurt you, but you are leaving me very little choice.”
“Oh? Getting rough with me now~? And you say that, but look at my shirt…” Elly cooed back, pushing down at his gun hand whilst twisting her torso once again to tug the satchel back. “But if it doesn’t matter, why are you fighting this much? To us, this is a pass-fail. I don’t expect to be given the boot if we return empty-handed, but I still need to show I’m worth this opportunity, love.” “I.. Would you rather I just shot you in the head?” He says, flushed slightly from her accusation, from where they were in close he amplifies his own powers and snatches the satchel back once more as he tries raising the gun once more.
“My, so mean…” Elly commented with a pout. However, as his hand reached to grasp the bag, she suddenly leaned forward and gave the meister a peck on the cheek with a small grin. “I suppose I’ll let you have this one.” Following up on that, she jumped, placing both feet against him before kicking off with amplified strength, the sash of the satchel tearing as Elly used him as a springboard to begin her retreat, with the part still on her person.
“Wh-” Shaking his head as he knocked the dirt from his clothing and got to his own feet, he lowered his aim from the pair and looked through the bag, it seemed lighter. As his weapon partner shifted back, she grins a bit.
“Short changed you huh?”“Yes..” “Well you got a peck for the part, still shouldn’t we chase them?” With that the male shakes his head side to side. “No. Even if we caught her, I don’t want to try body searching her and I can’t bring myself to actually try and harm one of our own."
With that the weapon exhales a bit and shrugs. “One day we may not have a choice in that.”
As the distance between them increased, Elly slowed down as it became obvious they weren't giving chase. Glancing back in their direction to confirm they were staying put, the Irishwoman smiled in satisfaction. However, there were still the others to worry about, more specifically the weapons. Exhaling, she could trust that they would succeed, but that was a bit much of a gamble for Eloise.
"Let's see if we cleaned up quick enough that we can get in another round."
With the initial and disappointing results, Maria still tries her best to damage the crab before sending in her medium doll to attack, she pauses as new words came across the area, instructions from Rand who seemed to damage a few of the crabs with one level of sucess or another, though the variation made her sure he was testing them. Or rather his own ability to damage them. Giving out his own instructions for herself and Chanterelle, he wanted the toadstool witch to weaken the beast, then for Maria herself to attack. What followed were orders to the rest that need not concern her in the slightest.
For now, being in Melee distance of a giant and angry crab, Maria was putting on a dance for her life as she dodges, spun and hopped, dodging swipes and swings, or sending out her creations to distract, repel or obstruct the larger creature, looking at Chanterelle, she had no way to speak with the other, but she could make her intentions clear and work with the girl. Looking back at her, Maria does a short and complex series of motions as her book shifts into its arm bayonet form. A couple of her creations, the lancer and shield wiedling doll, followed up by the axe gathered around, waving hands with a fixed smile, as if to say "We'll keep you covered!"
For her part Maria had not left the dance of death as she continued using the other shiedler and maul doll to keep it distracting, her mana grimoire blade on the other hand was something she had yet tested. As her blade slams down upon the crab it may have felt that judging by the response, but this was no time to gloat.
Maria would immediately attack once she had some sort of information.
Before Gauss even asked to smash the skeleton once he pinned it, Sara was already swinging the lantern above her head to smash down on the skull. The skeleton’s body rattled and burned the staff Gauss held, flames licking up as its arms pushed against the concrete, leaving dents as it pushed against Gauss’ staff.
The lantern created a cave-in within the back of the cranium, but the skeleton’s head spun unnaturally on its vertebrae and looked at Sara. It continued to attempt to stand up. Any force Gauss would use to keep it down wouldn’t prevent it from getting up, as if he were an unstoppable machine.
Sara had smashed the skull across the face, and then she swung the lantern around before using that momentum to slam into the chest of the creature. The skull was in shambles, and the ribcage shattered. The fires clung to the bones before it slowly dimmed, the life force dying with it.
“Hm, they’re tougher than I thought.”Sara muttered, staring at it as it died, her head tilted as if she were analyzing something. All she could smell from her olfactory soul perception besides burning bone and fire was… Well, just that. And smoke. Her eyes were starting to water, so she pulled the gas mask over her head. The stuffy, odd smell of the gas mask and the filter clicking as she breathed in and out was quite alien and it made her shiver, but she kept herself steady.
She looked over to see Nadia and Dani were also done. She could hear the two talking, something about a plan of action on how to deal with the skeletons. Given Eva’s weapon form was the best bet against these things, Sara was now a bit stuck. Oh well, she was better at making plans on the fly.“I can smash these skellies all day and still have enough energy to keep fighting. Of course, they can still overwhelm me if there’s more.”At this point, she was just musing to herself, her eyes and ears trying to pick up any sound, any sight of anything else out of the ordinary. Just stone, flames, smoke, and burning dystopia.“I hate how this feels like a scene in a story jumping to life.”She muttered in agitation, before retreating to a fallen piece of concrete to stand upon, her eyes and ears scanning if there were any more before she would go back into the truck.
Of course, having the earth move beneath him on its own was still an alarming feeling, as if it shouldn’t be doing that. Being shotputted by the very earth itself was still a glorious feeling. If he could, he would whoop, but Rand muted them all.
He had gotten his chain long enough and the two ends became hooks as he hooked onto the chitinous armor of the creature and pulled, getting it tilting back with the aid of Ark’s earthen sucker punch. Holding onto the chain length with one hand and pulling out his book, his grimoire glowed red as the chain’s ends began to glow red, burning the shell of the crab. Though, it didn't seem like it was doing much.
While he was having a crab rodeo, he made sure to pay attention to where and what everybody else was doing as he steadied himself on the slightly vertical crab. Ark was trying to help Chanterelle but seemed to fumble his spell or the crabs had some resistance to earthen magic, Chanterelle was using spores to cripple their shells, Maria’s dolls were barely making a scratch in the armor of these things… Yeah, he wasn’t so sure what they were doing.
Rand began using wind to slice through them. Well, slice through one with wind. The first crab was knocked back and the other had a dent in its leg armor. But then he cut the leg off, so that was cool.
Then, Raphael could hear him talking in his head. Maria and Chanterelle were to fight the crab Raphael was currently on. Uh… How was he supposed to get down?
He looked down and looked a bit concerned, before seeing one of the crab’s pincers raise up. He detached the burning hooks to leave them hanging in the shell - still hot but now cooling rapidly - and lassoed the pincer with one end before jumping and swinging off. He broke a bit of the chain that began with the wrap, keeping the pincer closed for now as he landed with a roll and headed towards Ark and Rand.
‘It’s so weird, not being able to hear my footsteps- Focus… Focus…’
Due to not speaking, his thought sounded incredibly loud and he swore he had spoken it. He didn’t think the sublingual spell was at all a two-way street, so he thought his thoughts were safe. At least, with his thoughts.
He had thankfully swung off the pincer going the correct way, and he followed Rand, ducking under pincers and doing the baseball slide to avoid getting smashed or pinched. Or lose a limb.
Yeah, he wouldn’t want to lose a limb.
He then watched as Rand darted about in what seemed to be a blur? It was hard to pinpoint exactly where he was, all the sand moving as if something quick was moving underneath it instead of over it, before he stopped altogether. Then he was told they were going to cook them alive.
Just attempting to talk made his throat feel alien and odd. He did, in fact, focus on his vocal chords out of the sheer alien feeling of feeling them but not hearing the sounds they’re supposed to make.
Upon hearing there were lots of chain anchor runes, Raphael stared somewhat dumbly. Wait, how was he supposed to attach all these chains at once? Or quickly? But he wanted them to be kept in place, but he needed to speak to use his chain trap spell. He sighed mutely, getting a little miffed he couldn’t even hear himself sigh.
“Would be easier if the mute spell wasn’t on right now. I can use my chain trap spell a lot easier.”He’ll just have to learn, won't he?
Rand’s order had Raphael jumping into action though. He slid under one crab pincer as he went off towards the side, throwing his chain while holding his book. The chain snapped and broke off as soon as it hit a rune, and then another broke off and anchored with that tip being a hook…
Rinse and repeat as he dove for the other side.
He was reminded of those runes on the chains that held that anchor. Oh, if only he had such a rune right now, that would be great.
Instead, Raph used his telekinesis spell as he stood near the chains he made, two on each side. They slowly wrapped up and around the crab’s legs and arms, the chains twisting over themselves to create a tighter hold, with the hooks hooking into the spaces within the chains.
Raphael stepped back, not wanting to get hit by the lava and staying a good ways away from the magic circle.
As Dani stated her own opinions on what the enemy could be, or what it meant if Nadia was correct, as well as her own thoughts in how to be used, Nadia nods in short with a sour expression on her face. "Dani, it may not be so bad, there are other things it could be... Though who can say for sure." She says in a partial attempt to comfort the girl. "And yes, I will do such with you then as needs dictate if that is your wish. Still, for now let us watch the others, if you want a sip of my flask just ask." As Sara and Gauss got to work with Noah and Eva. A brutal contest more or less with an ineffective series of attacks on the skull and elsewhere. It largely matched with what she had seen, but was not exactly sure on. "Interesting." She said as she sat back and watch. There was no point in offering them help and she only had time to watch the final moments of the battle. Still, it was more than enough. And while she didn't think highly of her teammates, she also didn't wish to see them fail or dead.
"Poslushay!" Calling out to them she then translated roughly what she said. "Listen up!" Motioning for Dani to follow, she smiles a bit thinly and begins to speak when the two pairs noticed her. "I was unsure from my own battle but seeing the end of yours I am certain. The fire in mine went out during my sword strike to its heart as I followed up with my other attacks. Or rather where a heart would be. I am unsure just what these things are but damaging the core may be all that is needed. Meanwhile, damage to the head seemed to do little. I am unsure what effect my soul force icy will do to them alone, maybe as effective as your lamp, but we shall see. Go for where the heart would be as a goal, destroy the rest if you must. That is my advice, these things are strong, but they can be broken." Looking back at the Mentors, provided they joined them, she had little else to say, she just wanted to be led to the underground so she could run wild. Well, maybe not wild, so much as restrained. Relatively.
Directions were truly all Adrian needed. The weapon wasted no time flaring his wavelength for amplification to dart off through the trail to the direction Elly had pointed him in, due Southeast. This new objective did some to at least alleviate his frustration as he now had a focus. And, while he didn’t offer another word to his team nor wait for anyone to follow, he was at least self-aware enough to avoid exhausting himself on the travel alone. His wavelength was amplified, but well within a maintainable range that he had practiced plenty during endurance runs. He also took the time to activate his Soul Perception, and while this was an active effort, it also helped to split his attention off from the topics that had him riled up in the first place.
Ashi on the other hand had activated none of her skills, and for the most part was following Adrian quite a little ways behind with a blank expression not saying anything given the boys clear apparent tantrum responses. Though she didn't need soul perception to also make sure that her eyes and hearing were heightened enough naturally to see, or hear attacks coming in. That and currently there were no vibrations felt so nothing nearby was yet ready to strike.
"So care to share a little or do only echoes of footsteps plan to speak aloud," Ashi asked.
“Yeah,” Adrian responded. A devilish grin crept across his face that became apparent once he slowed down enough to match her pace. “Find the target, then hit them real hard,” he explained with an odd mixture of genuine intent and sarcastic tone.
Through Perception, the two souls became more apparent up ahead. The feel for them both revealed down a good distance deeper into Tahoe’s woods, past the eyes of curious squirrels, behind an array of trees, shrubbery and tall grass- there was a circle. Stone, large pieces bigger than a bear, different heights and shapes, jutted out of the ground in this rather larger clearing where not far, a stream passed through. There, on one of the massive stones one of the owner’s to the soul could be detected. Long purple hair and a white visor just over her eyes, the female balanced on the stone, like a ballerina doing a twirl. She hopped from one to the other- where just below her, the other owner of the soul stood with his arms crossed, patiently waiting.
Whatever direction they entered this new stage from, they could catch a glimpse of the piece they needed to get- sitting on a stump, at the far back of all the stones, where the stream lingered nearby.
"I see," Ashi responded, rather blank slate like in tone. So he had no intention to take this for what it was, and instead use it to get out his frustration. Though she did also note that he was in fact trying to match her casual pace which was intriguing in and of itself actions gave off a more pure directive. In her own case she was being slow to give him what he wanted first swing and distance. Yet now it seemed there was still the mentality to be close to her to a certain range. Seemed at least a minimal effort was being made on his part.
"Well we might need to tweak that," Ashi responded with a more aware effect as she could now see the objective off in the distance along with very notable people around it. Their stances spoke volumes that they were to not be taken lightly or charged foolishly. Problem was she doubted he was going to listen. For now she would just have to work off of what he did and prepare to use some of her own unique tricks.
“You know what? You may be right,” Adrian responded, although something about the tone of his voice–while entirely sincere–made it difficult to believe he actually intended on taking a considerable amount of constructive input here. As they arrived at the clearing, Adrian brought himself to a leisurely stop and looked over both of his potential targets.
“Unless someone here is hiding their soul, it looks like there are two of you and two of us,” he commented, taking the lead on this endeavor–enthusiastic as ever, but at least not so blindly headstrong that it bordered on stupidity. “I’m personally ready to swap hands, so if one of you would kindly elect yourself to be my next pincushion, Ashi here can have the other,” he told them–instructed them, really, as if his word was law in picking this fight. It was an odd mix of politeness in offering them the choice laced with a fairly significant and real threat from Adrian himself. All while at the very least setting up two one on one fights, which in his mind was the tweak Ashi intended on.
“That sounds like something you’d enjoy, don’t you think Lewie?” The girl on the stone smiled as she said it, still twirling, though her eyes did follow the two newcomers on each pass facing them.
“Huh?” Turning his head to look at the two, he rolls his shoulders, looking at the woman next to him as he smirks a bit, speaking with a hint of American Southern dialect, likely from Georgia as he stands up straight, from his lean on one of the stones. “Well, well, well. Just like the Mentors wanted, I’ve been looking forward to this, ain’t that right Gimmick? Especially for you.” He says pointing a finger right at Adrian. “Sorry about your damn luck, but I don’t much care if we do this in our teams or one on ones. The battery is right back there on the altar of this crazy site. Try running and die tired or see if you can make us leave.”
Adrian had not the patience to wait for the man to even finish his sentence. His wavelength flared. That malicious intent poured through him. That desire to cause pain. Carnage. Torture. It flowed through him with enough force to carve the grand canyon, and then some. That torrent was only channeled into raw power as he performed his Self Resonance, bursting forth with extreme speed and disregard to any form of combat etiquette. This was near his top speed, blurring even, and while it was far from that of his previous mentor, it would make a great starting point as he barrelled at the man speaking with his left hand withdrawn back only to lunge it forward as he neared to extend his spike into a thrust that utilized both this speed and his transformation in an attack. This was the start of his warpath.
Leaping down into Ashi’s path, landing just a foot short of the zombie, the Earth Shaman smiled. “Ashi, right? Let’s have a good fight!” And immediately, she struck out with an open palm, tiny little needles sprouting from her palm and fingers as she aimed a strike directly towards Ashi’s gut. Whether it hit or whether she stopped it, if those needle like thorns sunk in the effect would still occur.
“Correct, and agreed,” Ashi smiled upon the Earth Shaman who wasted no time in kickstarting the round like Adrian. Ashi in turn would bring up her right leg with her foot hooking a piece of rotted fallen tree to fit into the attackers grasp. Sudden bursts of moments like that usually indicated someone had a nasty trick, and Ashi was not going to let the first swing catch her. Jumping backwards with her photogenic memory remembering what was behind her Ashi would kick forward a smaller boulder allowing her time to rush to the right as she would watch before enacting an attack.
Which only diced the rotted root to pieces as Ginny extended the needles in her palm and swept her arm across to slice through, preparing herself for Ashi’s retaliation. Aware that in a fight of strength, she knew she was at a disadvantage- but in close quarters like this, she had surprises.
"My, my that's a rather nasty grasp you have there," Ashi feigned a worried look as she still surprisingly closed the gap with her opponent having just finished the swipe attack. Without any sign of soul wavelength Ashi got close and personal, throwing a straightforward open palm strike with her left hand.
At first glance it seemed like it would strike at her wide open shoulder blade, but the palm would prove to be a work of inertia build up as instead of her forward palm her right hand swung in an arc open palm aiming to strike her opponents attacking hand at the forearm to pin it straight into Ginny's chest with enough force to knock the wind out of a bear.
The second Ginny felt Ashi’s hand on her arm- by the time she had completed the action the AW had released several thorns across her arm, and using amplification by revving her own wavelength- managed to barely catch the window that would have led to her being completely winded. What should have left her floored, merely made her grunt from the force- but with the thorns piercing Ashi’s hand she waited right till the action was nearly complete before releasing her wavelength into the hard thorns protruding from her skin.
Ashi felt the maligned effects immediately from Ginnys effects almost like a toxin burn thankfully dulled a bit by her biological state Ashi was able to counter as she twisted her hand and shoved her attacking hands forearm forward digging her elbow straight into a clock work direction straight into Ginny’s face. The toxin, and punctures which would definitely knee buckle most instead only fueled the zombies adrenaline as she took her free hand and rammed into her own forearm delivering a secondary impact blow to Ginny’s core.
That was enough to send Ginny sprawling, a move she used her acrobatic agility to flip backwards to her hands, while bringing her left leg up in an arc, thorns from her thigh down her foot shot forward in long then needles that acted almost like a blade as she swiftly raised her leg up along with her flip to create an upwards slice.
Ashi pulled back mimicking Ginny's moment to both avoid the brutal attack, and gain distance unfortunately some of the spikes nipped at her already poisoned hand restarting the sting this time around her upper arm. While the arm still functioned it was clear a few more songs would definitely cause paralysis.
"Quite the scorpion queen you are," Ashi smiled as she ducked down before flinging her hands out like helicopter blades and spinning in a circle around the momentum recovering Ginny. In a flurry of slash Ashi attacked all around her opponents waist and down making it harder for the poison girl to counter as Ashi was moving in an unusually low angle literally using her kneecaps to act as secondary feet to help the spin.
Ginny grimaced, dodging the narrow attack but before she could even hope to retaliate- Ashi did something she’d only heard rumor of but never witnessed.
Upon a complete rotation Ashi didn't stand back up but instead burrowed down releasing a good chunk of dirt to shoot up like a smoke screen as the ground underneath trembled around the ballerina before caving in about four feet downward with Ashi coming up with both her bladed feet aiming to wreck the inner sides of the earth shamans feet.
Having already sensed there would be a ground attack the second the smokescreen went up Ginny was already in the air and descending. Yet before her feet touched ground, she did something peculiar. Her feet shifted into the thorn like bars of her cage, and slammed into the ground. Clashing with Ashi’s bladed feet transformation, sparks went flying with the contact– but Ginny, now a few inches taller because of her peculiar transformation looked down at Ashi with a grin.. It shortly followed with a laugh. “Well, that was a brilliant execution. I hadn’t expected that!” She moved immediately away from the blades as she said this- wary of any attempts Ashi could possibly make to pull her underground.
“Much obliged your not bad yourself,” Ashi chimed back with a equal smile as she went into a defensive stance with her feet falling back down to the ground right into the hole she had bursted from. The sound of digging could be heard, but it was getting further, and further… It probably wouldn’t take Ginny long to realize Ashi had used the adrenaline, and built octane of the fight to break away straight for the objective. Burrowing out of the ground like a fish swimming through water Ashi caught the equipment piece before burrowing right back down.
While one would quickly surmise a agent would bolt to the safe zone it was pretty clear she was heading back to where they had left Adrian however mid dig back Ashi bolted out of the ground with her burrow launch out making it seem like she was heading towards the safe zone. Quickly on foot though she started to head towards to see the situation with Adrain before making the call to either assist or score the goal.
With the needles rushing him and the sudden attack, Sampson looks at the other and laughs a bit, powering up as the spikes came in, matching him blow for blow in terms of wavelength power as water sprays from a sudden opening in his hand that seems to have a metal junction right at the front as the mixture turned into a slurry and then immediately into an ice beam grabbing hold of the attack and slowing it’s advance as the other moves out of the way with a casual sidestep, the opening seems to close as another opens as he removes the bandages, it seemed his weapon form was some sort of Ice maker. “Maybe you ought to cool down.” And with that his fist formed into a nozzle jet and the slurry this time is launched as a projectile, firing 100’s of dense hard cubes at Adrian. “Don’t worry none, I got plenty of attachments and a deep freezer just for you. So just, Chill.”
His opponent possessed quite significant speed. Power, too. A match blow for blow. Of course, Adrian had the distinct disadvantage of covering more distance. On a fundamental level, Adrian was not a strategist. He was a combatant. He found this out over and over again against Zari. As a fighter, perhaps even in life, Adrian was one to go with the flow. To feel things out and act accordingly. Zari beat him more often not due to not only the lack in skill, but the lack in forethought. Midori had pointed out this was a weakness of his. If Adrian had a clearer mind, perhaps he would reflect on that lesson.
But in this moment, at this time, in this little clearing, his mind was anything but clear.
Adrian stepped back after the exchange with his new adversary solely to get enough time to transform his right arm into the door of the Iron Maiden, thrusting it in front of himself to absorb the damage of the icy flurry. If his first attack did not succeed, there was no reason to believe another from the same approach would. But that did not equate to a well-thought out strategy.
“Don’t… tell me… to chill,” he muttered, taking that line far more personally than he ought to have. For so much of his life, he was told his temper and quick reactions would get the best of him. Chill out, they said. Calm down, they said. Fuck you, he said.
If spikes wouldn’t do it, Adrian had another option. Using his doorarm as a shield to the stream his opponent was unleashing, he ran forward again. Another strong, sudden burst of speed, simply blocking whatever the ice man tossed at him and relying on the indestructible nature of their weapon form. It’s what saved his opponent from being skewered earlier, after all.The gap between them that he made wasn’t huge, but it did require closing now that it was made. Running forward would do that quickly, but Adrian was hardly one to avoid a follow up attack. Once near, he dived into a slide, aiming his extended right foot at the legs of his opponent for a quick sweep, extending his reach quickly with a meter long spike protruding from the heel of his foot.
“Well now, isn’t someone bein’ all prickly.” Says Sampson as he chuckles lightly, as the heel spike went in for the hit. With that the man lowers his stance as the kick goes for his let, and while cutting himself a little for his action along his left arm he interlocks his left arm around the foot of Adrian and and lifts upwards with the leg lock in an attempt to bash the other into the ground.
“You have no idea,” Adrian responded, grinning madly as he was about to teach this man a lesson. You don’t grapple a human spikeball. Adrian withdrew the spikes from his head for the sole sake of maximizing the close range spikes he could form. If he wanted a leg lock, then a leg lock he would have–with a half dozen needles of searing pain ready to pierce his clothing and skin should he opt to truly embrace it.
As the spikes withdrew from his head, Sampson was already lifting up with his left arm, to release the hold as an annoyed grimace showed on his face. “Aw hell naw.” And with those three simple words, the ice blaster forms once more at point blank as he in kind releases a frozen flurry of cubes and shards, spikes and claws of ice, jumping back as he did so, though likely not in time to avoid the full spectrum of Adrian’s attack.
This created a conundrum. Adrian may have been battle lusted, but he wasn’t stupid. His opponent drew away before he could even make his spikes. This meant one of two things. Either the ice maker had information on him beforehand, or the mother fucker could read minds. It was about time to find out which. Adrian poured his entire soul into this next bout of Self Resonance, amplifying himself as far as he feasibly could, as much as that body had been put through the rigors of the DWMA weight rooms. It was time for another feat of pure sadism.
Sure, there were cubes and shards headed his way, but he could at least protect his head. In one fell swoop, he transformed three parts of his body–multiple partial weapon transformations being his specialty, one of the best around for that. First, a spike from his heel. Not meant for Sampson–but for the ground. Leverage to catapult the rest of his foot for the arm that was released, and only because he transformed that foot into one of the clamps from his Iron Maiden form. He fully intended on capturing the ice maker with it, using raw speed and a gravity-defying feat.
And, lastly, the only defensive transformation he could pull off. The Head of the Iron Maiden surrounding that cranium of his. The rest of his body might get pelted and cut from that ice, but his skull would be safe. All the while, withdrawing both of his arms to slam them into the ground solely to flip Sampson over, with a goal to smash him into the ground from the clamp he was hoping would latch. It was risk-reward, and if his opponent was a mind reader, he was about to find out with this double-edged blade of a tactic.
“Huh.” From what he could recall on the reports, it was said the Maiden was rather crafty. He wondered how much the other would hate being called that, but Sampson wasn’t one for some two bit tricks. To be more spot on he used three bit tricks. As he watched the other in motion, he didn’t much like that clamp going for his arm, which the only way out of it and the situation before him was to copy. Well in a point of view. Doing partial transformations to his own feet, he shot out a formation of water and began to freeze it, building a monolith beneath him in an attempt to both escape the attack and to pin Adrians feet. A question of speed, though one thing would be made clear to Adrian, this man was no mind reader, just a rather skilled jailer that had likely read up on and picked him out on purpose. Mimicking him or reacting, provoking, it was hard to say, but even he was self resonating, with a bit of a grin to his serious face.
Adrian was in a bit of a mess. Sprawled out on the ground about to be pinned under ice. He had only one move, one action, that he was sure to prevent being iced into place. A full weapon transformation. So that is what he did. Taking the full form of the Iron Maiden, forming primarily where the core of his body was–a decent distance away from the icy monolith created by Sampson, he was able to dodge the reaction.
What he was not able to do was restrain the anger. To him, it was a humiliation. To be forced to take this form he disliked so much. Not only that, to do so defensively. It was one thing to do so for the sake of capturing Shuumie, perhaps even to show someone who was curious, but it was entirely different to do so because he was pushed to the backfoot.
Just as soon as he was in the form, he was also back out of it. He hated it and only used it for that minor about of mobility needed to escape the previous sticky situation. The reality struck him then had anything he could do, just like that, so could Sampson. This ice of his gave him a stupidly effective counter to the variety of forms and shapes he could take on, and Sampson was clearly at least as good at self Resonance as him. This meant his only win condition as he saw it was to somehow capture him in the Iron Maiden form. He had tested this before. If Sampson’s weapon form was too large to fit inside Adrian, he simply wouldn’t be able to take it. That applied to virtually every weapon–if they can’t fit in a space, they can’t transform. Indestructible or not. In that regard, someone like Jarvis had an incredible advantage in close-range spaces, more so because he could still extend his shape with blood.
This realization pushed away every bit of anger that Adrian had against Sunder and Reiko, even the frustration of being sent back to a Lot and starting all over. It pushed it away because it replaced that anger with something far more important to Adrian: hate. The hate for his form. The limitations of it. The hate that he would always be limited like this, against another weapon, because he could not be wielded. The hatred that surrounded his fate as a stationary weapon. In his soul comprised of anguish and torment, the most profound torture of all was his self hate.
“You know, iceman, I hate my weapon form with a passion,” Adrian said, his head held low in an almost sullen stance. “I cannot have a partner, I cannot be wielded, all I do is cause pain… I did not ask for this,” he explained to him, his tone weak and almost pleading. “But I do ask one question… are you man enough to fight without transforming?” he asked, lifting his head and allowing his steely blue eyes to lock with those of his opponent. “This isn’t life or death, so what would it hurt to fight with our fists alone?” he added, pointing out the fact they had no reason not to create arbitrary limitations.
Listening to him from atop his icy perch and watching the other’s transformation, he chuckles a little as the ice monolith decreases in size to land back on the ground. “Well it’s not like I can be wielded either. That's what it is to be an AW. As to a partner we both did come here with one, though neither of us seem real big on teamwork.”
Then there was the final offer, or request. “What makes you think I’m that dumb?” Though looking at the two of them, he wasn’t sure why he wanted to fight at a physical disadvantage, at least unless he was stronger than he looked. This guy was the sort he wanted to fight, his reasonings for now only known to him. Flexing his shoulders a bit and popping his neck, Sampson stares for a bit, then interlocks and pops his knuckles, taking a fighter's stance.
“Fine, I’m game. Do like that witch in the colosseum though and I’ll be your huckleberry pretty damn fast, yah get me?”
“I won’t transform last minute, if that’s your expectation. I can even withhold my Pain Wavelength, if you want,” Adrian noted, outlining the situation he had intended for. If this man was willing to go through no weapon transformations, Adrian would take it. Zari had proven time and time again that skill trumped ability–at least to Adrian. The weapon took an aggressive stance, his left foot leading his body with his feet distanced wide and his torso turned toward Sampson. His hands were up and open, left hand extended just slightly further and both parallel to his torso. This was Krav Maga.
“You ready, ice man?”
“Heh. Desert fighter huh? Well I dunno, not like all of that country is sand. As to your wavelength, do what you want. I got some surprises there; Adrian "The Maiden" Hackney.”
“But shit, let's have some Southern manners here. You are fighting Sampson Lewis. Or just call me The Iceman.” Shifting into his own stance it seemed to be some form of Muay Thai with some American boxing mixed in. Fists punched out as he hopped around a bit. “Ladies first, Mister Maiden.”
With that said, Adrian started to move. Deliberate, calculated bounces of his feet in a particular pattern, a bounce forward on the left foot, following up with stabilizing it on the back right foot. In this rhythm, he made a quick approach to the newly introduced adversary in front of him. In this beginning stage, he opted not to use his self resonance. Or even wavelength amplification. This was all natural prowess from his dedicated, if not overkill, physical conditioning.
His icebreaker was simple. A half punch feint with his left hand followed by a much faster jab with his right, aiming for the right upper shoulder of Sampson. There was no other discourse about their abilities or the shit talk Sampson threw in. Just fists.
“Well now, alright, alright, alright!” Sampson says of the first exchange, noting with curiosity that the other was doing this fight as a “baseline” human, Sampson did fully intend on using wavelength amplification, but if his opponent wasn’t going to go that far there was no point in him doing the same. With both fighters seemingly agreeing on that point, Sampson raises his right knee up to intercept the false attack, even as the real jab hit his right shoulder.
It was then he noticed his own soul, or wavelength automatically reacting, the blow wasn’t all that powerful per see, but it did hurt. A pain that was being sapped away and nullified. Sampson takes a shallow breath and exhales. How did that feel to someone without a fortified soul or one that could suppress and sap away at the effects of other wavelengths like his? This was why he preferred going after the bad eggs.
With Adrian close and Sampson powering through the blow, he lets out a series of rapid jabs, aiming for the face and center of mass, no feints or tricks, just pure power and speed. Adrian cared little about the jabs or the fact his wavelength was sapped away. With his first blow at the least making contact, he followed-through with one of the basic tenets of Krav Maga. A circular elbow. He swerved around his right foot, twisting his torso and body into a following left shoulder aimed squarely at the jawline of Sampson, keeping his momentum going with movements focused primarily on his core and footwork.
As the elbow struck home, Sampson took advantage of the super inclose nature of the two and unleashed a powerful rising knee from his right towards Adrian’s left midsection, aiming for the ribs. Given his positioning, Adrian had few options to counter said knee. The best he could do was minimize the damage. Twisting back to his original stance, he spun around with his core, still taking part of the hit, but at the least avoiding broken ribs. More so, this withdrew his elbow before he could follow through with it entirely, resulting in a blow for a blow, albeit neither with their full impact.
A reset. Adrian took a step back, grinning now realizing Sampson had meant what he said when he offered to commit to the fist fight. With that devilish smirk and a fire now lit inside him again, he simply asked, “Now Iceman, isn’t this more fun?”
“It’s a living.” He says, rolling his shoulders again as he takes his stance one more, closing in with a raised knee and a flurry of punches as he advanced with them, hooking left and right, jabbing forward in alterations.
Adrian saw a flurry of unrelenting punches, and didn’t want to test if his ability to parry was as good as Zari’s. Instead, he sidestepped to his left, rolling his shoulder up and ducking his head as low and far back as possible. A few strikes would hit him, but more importantly, he would be in close to ram his own knee into Sampson’s thigh, a jackknife of raw upward force into that open muscle.
With the knee strike to his own leg, Sampson rises his leg into it to less the point of contact, and thus the damage, but given the nature of Adrian it was more than just a sting, even with his own ability. The question was what to do now with his left leg up and in close. A smile briefly passed his lips as Sampson did the most simple thing one could, he fell, backwards and with design as he swept his right leg back to carry out a rising sweep kick.
Sampson was no Zari, but he was witty in how he fought. Chances are, Sampson had the higher combat IQ here. Adrian had become plenty well acquainted with what to do in this situation, now even by instinct. Steal a page from their book. Adrian ducked down in line with the sweep to catch it, wrapping it in his armpit as far back as he could to lock the ankle in. He then let himself slide entirely to the ground as he weaved his leg over Sampson’s, locking it under his own extended leg, and shoving each as far forward as he could to try and get them hidden beneath Sampson. With that, he tightened down, clenching his legs like a lock while twisting the ankle in the opposite direction. There was no small amount of force here, Pain Wavelength or not. Adrian had no qualms going for a quick break if Sampson had no countermeasure.
So the bastard thought it would be that easy huh? Sampson thought to himself, he only had a little bit of time to react however, the ankle lock and leg twist, while comical given what most of the DWMA faced was a threat. Reacting quickly, Sampson leaned forward, planting his free foot directly underneath himself as he rose up in a kneeling crouch, forcing his other foot to now rest on the bottom, while still ankle locked he now had a commanding presence over Adrian and his risk of breaking his confined foot was now greatly lessened as he swings away with his right fist, aiming for the face of the Maiden.
He wouldn’t make it easy, so Adrian decided it was no holds barred. Adrian twisted on the ground, flipping his body over with full intention to forcibly twist Sampson back down with him. If this were proper MMA, he would resort to a grapple again, but there was no ref on this trail. He did not amplify himself, nor use any special technique. Instead, he just arched his back, gripping down as hard as he could into a twisting motion with full intention of breaking the ankle or leg somewhere with the awkward force against body dynamics.
Meanwhile, having realized she had been duped, Ginny, ran, picking up the pace closing in on the runaway zombie. For a brief moment she caught a glimpse of the grappling struggle between Sampson and Adrian and in a split second decision amplified herself- moving past Ashi in seconds- thorns spiraling across her arms and legs, thin little dots that made little spirals across the exposed skin, the ballerina’s movements made her move almost as fast as a cheetah. However the way she ran, it was at a strategic angle to also keep Ashi in her sights.
As Adrian went in for the break, Sampson resisted but felt a dislocation as suddenly a bit of pain would enter Adrian’s body, the collar activating to end this before it got worse. Adrian was already fading into unconsciousness by the time he could piece together what had happened. It seemed the Mentors or someone else was watching. He couldn’t say that for sure, but now Ginny and Ashi were here, it was a two on one, but with how his foot was, he wasn’t sure how much use he would be. Hobbling on his one good leg, it was immediately thereafter that a red flare was shot off in their direction from the treeline back at base.
“That’s it for us. Leave the part, also they got two more heading this way.”
A ways off, Elly was dashing due south using her Soul Perception to guide her towards the autonomous weapon team. Carrying Sage in weapon form with her, she doubled her efforts as she felt the dip in one soul from spirited to comatose. As she grew closer, it became more evident who went down, which reinforced her decision to attempt to rendezvous with the other two. However, as she reached the clearing they were located in, the battle seemed over nonetheless with a flare ascending in the distance. “Mm, suppose I’m not as punctual as I’d wanted to be,” She mused, eyeing the unconscious Adrian, then Ashi, then the two hurdles. “Are we done here?”
Ashi hissed at herself upon the sight playing out as Adrian took the challenge too far aiming to break his opponent's limb. Unfortunately atop of that Adrians collar cane to life shutting the boy down as Ginny out-speeds her. Knowing the likelihood of placement Ashi burrowed out skidding towards Adrain crashing him mid his fall to scope him up into a shoulder carry while one handing the objective piece. Standing up the 6 ft tall zombie gave a soft sigh mixed with a blank expression.
"I believe so. No reason to fight in these conditions as it were. Does neither side any good," Ashi responded to Elly as she still kept an eye on Ginny in case she disagreed with her partner.
"Best to finish the objective for now," Ashi mulled using her strength to start jumping away towards the goal point.
Watching the zombie hoist Adrian up, Ellie rested the length of the spear against her shoulder as the other darted off. Then, she raised a hand to give a wave of her fingers. "Sorry 'bout the foot, dear," She said with a small smile before heading off after Ashi.
The Deadly Trails
East Forest -> Tower, 11:20 Am Zari + Jarvis vs Zeke + Lazuli
The clearing ahead was made up of small stones past the dirt trail, where just on the other side of the stone path, there a Meister stood with their partner waiting. Behind him, on the other side of a passing river, sitting on a log that had been embedded into the ground, sat the piece the group needed. A transmitter.
The blue haired female transformed instantly upon seeing Zari and Jarvis nearing transformed, engulfed in red-orange light she circled her partner once and then swiftly was grabbed, grabbing the thurible and then idly allowed her weapon form to extend from the handle he held it from and drop down near the ground where it swang like a clock from side-to-side from it’s extending chain.
“Hey Zari, Jarvis.” The heterochromia eyed fellow, very much like Zosar, having one violet eye and one lighter shade color instead bordering closer to blue nodded his greeting. “Name’s Zeke, this is Lazuli. Word of advice,” he jerked his thumb behind him towards the log and the piece up ahead. “Picking that thing up with Amplification will make things harder on you.”
“Should we really be telling them that?”
Zeke shrugged at his partner’s comment. A lazy smile on his face. “Az never said we couldn’t. If they ask, I won’t mind. Not like our job is supposed to make sure they don’t get it after all. Anyway- from the looks of it, you seem like you’re in a rush, let’s get this started yeah. Lazuli. ”
“Haaaii~” And with a hiss, a gush of smoke extended from the thurible, coating the ground like frost and extending across the area in a matter of seconds.
Zeke waited, watching the two with bored interest yet a relaxed smile.
Zari hadn’t had the time to be bored. As soon as he heard the presence of two souls that made no attempts at hiding themselves, he’d been expecting a trap. His approach had been more cautious than the situation might have warranted, but he’d made two full rotations of the area before he felt certain he could not notice anything off. It was a habit he’d picked up out of paranoia a long time ago, and he was a slave to his instincts.
So when he arrived at the edge of the meadow he scanned the perimeter whilst Zeke and Lazuli spoke. His arms hung idly at his sides, and his half-closed eyes seemed almost glossed over when he finally met Zeke’s. Intimidation tactic. They may be afraid of my amplification. He idly whispered across his link to Jarvis.
“If that’s not your job, just hand over the part.” He was already in his direct state of mind, cold and straightforward. ”Avoid any injuries.”
Somehow, I doubt that’s the case… Seeing as Zari had already initiated conversation with their opponents, Jarvis didn’t feel any need to add any verbal input on his part; It wasn’t as if he had anything clever to say and Zari was pretty straightforward about what they wanted . The demon gauntlet could see the transmitter set on the other side of the river as well and his first thought actually went to the common myth that vampires couldn’t cross rivers. Surely, their opponents didn’t actually believe that? It’d be like trying to fight Jarvis by throwing garlic at him…and though Jarvis didn’t think Az’s students to be those sorts (his dormmates)…it was pretty obvious they’d done some level of research–at least enough to know their names. Pretty obvious, so I doubt I’d need to tell you, but don’t breathe in whatever that smoke is…
At least until they figured out what the Thurible could do. As an undead and as a weapon, such wasn’t a problem for Jarvis, who didn’t need to breathe, but he couldn’t say the same for his meister.
Zeke proceeded to pull out a single clove of garlic from his pocket, and then pat it as he placed it in his shirt pocket. It was an unnecessary move- but it was enough for Jarvis to at least visibly see the action.
He had yet to respond to Zari’s remark till after swapping pockets with the odd item that had been laced through necklace level material and placed in his side button up pocket.
Jarvis's soul stared. Was their oponent actually an idiot?
Zeke chuckled, patting his pocket. “Nah I’m good.” Was all he really said, then proceeded to shift his arm, grab, then throw something right in Zari’s general direction.
It was a small, rubber, bright yellow ball. Clearly visible given the color, yet it flew quickly, soared really at league pitching speed. The throw however, was clearly just a plain miss, it went right over Zari and Jarvis both, flying upwards– then suddenly dropped like an anvil, hurtling straight towards them.
It’s coming at us from straight above…
Mm. As soon as Zeke drew his arm to toss, Zari began walking towards him at an angle and already ensured he’d left the direct firing line - missed shot or not. The object crashed into the ground behind him and provided him with a backdrop of debris, but Zari kept his eyes trained on the censer dangling from his opponent.
Spear, please. Long thin tip. He whispered, and extended his arm to give ample room. “Last chance.”
Blood stretched out from the red gemstone, weaving and convulsing until it hardened into a red spear–with a long, thin tip–in the demon gauntlet’s grip. Zari’s grip. Same difference. The weapon’s soul yawned, choosing to ignore the garlic clove for now. “We wanna get this done quickly.”
"Sounds like a ‘you’ problem." And while he said that the smoke that had been stretching out around the field from the incense burner, stopped pouring. It pooled around his feet, just short of his knees, and with a shake of the thurible and a jangle of chains, the smoke thickened.
"Whenever you are," was Zeke's response in a nod to the pair approaching. But Lapis knew he meant her.
The smoke shifted as it wafted about, growing darker, then rushed towards Zari and Jarvis, rising up like a small little wave.
And now it grows darker…Can you feel where they are, Zari? It felt to Jarvis like a bit of Lazuli’s presence was everywhere with the smoke, but at the same time, the sounds of their souls and the jangling of the religious ornamant’s chains was undeniable as well. At least this wasn’t like the Anti-Undead bell.
I can hear them. His voice was noticeably annoyed. With the abilities of his opponents so far in consideration, he couldn’t think of an approach that wasn’t either a time sink or an effort, and both choices would make him late for Adrian. He took a quick step forward, dug the lower end of the spear into the dirt, and pressed off from the ground as he propelled himself above and over the smoke like a pole vaulter.
The spear spun in his hand as he vaulted a second time, adjusting his angle of approach and drawing his combat knife with his free hand. There was no wavelength amplification, no outstanding details to gather from his soul at all. He was just evaluating his opponent. No need to take a wavelength enhanced hop straight into your grave.
The smoke didn’t obscure his hearing, so he might as well use it to his own benefit. Before he even reached melee range with his opponent, Jarvis’ spear turned into a wing, and aided by a swing of Zari’s arm they displaced the air in a wide arc underneath them - sending a wall of smoke back towards Zeke and Lapis. Without skipping a beat, Zari then launched the dagger toward Zeke’s weapon arm just before he touched ground, ready to pounce again.
The smoke sent back their way moved into the path of the dagger and with a chink sank into a thin curved wall that formed from part of the smoke before dissipating into the air, dagger falling down with it.
Smoke began pouring out of the Lazuli’s weapon form once more– just in the same instant their opponent came in with a return action.
After their time together, Jarvis was beginning to see Zari’s moves before they happened, and soon his hand held a spear again. It appeared only as a flash of red as Zari shifted it in his hands and dashed forward with the point thrusting towards Zeke’s throat. His left hand hovered just by his waist, as a wayward spark signified a readied Soul Force in his palm. Eyes caught that spark, Zeke moved not away but inched only slightly forwards, his free hand also glowing. Lazuli in return with a jostle and clink, clacked back into the handle, chain disappearing as she locked back in. While Zari moved in, spear tip centerfold, Lazuli released a stream of smoke onto the spear as her meister brought his arm forwards. The force of the concentrated hiss of smoke mixed in with bits of ash, hit just below the spear’s blade, enough force that it should have had some kind of upwards effect that allowed Zeke to step past the weapon and into Zari’s direct line of approach. The openings here were blatant, but Zeke favored the free left hand that charged up his own wavelength in anticipation.
“Huh…” Jarvis felt the weight of Lazuli’s smoke, as if were the girl herself, upon his blood (weapon), shoving the dangerous parts aside as her meister stepped towards his meister. He could feel their rising wavelengths. Feel Zari’s desire for fisticuffs as well. Jarvis sighed. The solidified blood that made contact with the smoke seemed to melt, crawling along the concentrated smoke to encase Lazuli’s main body–more specifically, cover up the mouth(s) that smoke seemed to be pouring from. Tendrils of blood–that had once been a spear–stretched from the red gemstone on the back of the approaching demon gauntlet as its malleable blood re-shaped itself in an attempt to wrap the thurible in red. “I’ll try to hold Lazuli for now...don’t get hit by whatever Zeke’s forming on his left hand…”
Zeke’s eyes immediately left Zari to the shift in Jarvis control, he moved his arm back further away from the approaching tendrils, Lazuli in return doubling the hissing smoke production, then–
Don’t worry. Finally, Zari’s wavelength roared into gear. Like an inferno it flickered and grew as he engaged his amplification - now with the hoshi training from Midori in mind. The slightest shift of his forward ankle dug his foot into the dirt and countered his forward rotation.
Zeke in that instant, flicked his wrist, and tossed Lazuli away, where she sailed backwards, still spewing smoke behind him as she rocketed away from the fight.
Zari shifted his momentum the other way and in an instant he’d gone from standing upright and leading with his right side to having made a half counterclockwise rotation and crouched just under Zeke’s empowered strike with his left leg first. His own Soul Force was only ever a feint, and had crackled out long ago. Instead, the flames of his soulfire wavelength were rising in intensity as he rose with explosive force towards his opponent and rapidly swapped from a kung fu crouch stance into a violent osoto guruma against his opponent. It gave Zeke the chance to tap Zari’s forearm, just as the throw after its wind up was made and he was hurtling to the ground.
Lazuli in return had landed and was back to her normal self, the blue haired girl was jogging in their direction, keeping distance- for some weird reason as she circled, as if eyeing where she could find an opening to return to Zeke’s side.
With the grapple secured and the attempt to pull him over thwarted, Zeke just sighed. Amp so he won’t budge. Lightening himself wouldn’t really do him any good either. As Zari stood over his opponent, splayed out sidelong on the ground, with both his arms secured and pressed down, he finally felt it. The energy he was drawing from Zeke was like breathing through a straw. It seemed to actively resist being affected, but that energy that did come through, both now and when Zeke’s soul force grazed him, made him feel sluggish. For a brief moment he pondered whether it was paralyzing him - until he noticed how the ground beneath his feet seemed to give more way than it previously had.
His mass was actively increasing. As a knee jerk reaction his amplification redoubled it’s resolve, but he quickly came to notice that only made it worse. As his power was amplified and then further enhanced by energy he was stealing, so too did his body increase in weight. Quickly he swapped hands, letting go off the one Zeke had on the ground and grabbing the other firmly as leaned his right knee forward against Zeke’s ribcage. With his weight bearing down on his opponent and his arm in a vice grip, Zari straightened his back - forcing Zeke’s arm against it’s shoulder socket. His body felt like a clump of steel, and moving was actively becoming bothersome, so he took the opportunity.
”Give up or I break it.” He growled.
Pressed against the individual whose arm Zari threatened to break, Jarvis said nothing. The demon gauntlet simply waited for a response from their opponent, its attention briefly flickering to the blue haired girl lest she interfered. Ribbons of blood swayed in a threatening, almost anticipatory, manner.
There was a second of pause as Zeke considered the worth of personal safety over the exercise and then replied: “Alright sure. I give.” He wiggled his fingers, and in that moment the effect vanished off Zari. “Help me up though, since you put me down here.”
The ribbons of blood retreated back into the gemstone.
Visibly relaxing, Lazuli approached at a walk. Zari gave pause at how quickly he’d given in, fully expecting there to be more tricks up their sleeve or for this to be a subversion - but to betray the trust of honor in a place like this? And against allies? Hardly worth it.
Azariah removed his knee from Zeke and in the same movement stood up and grabbed Zeke by the hand. With a strong grip already on the back of his collar, he hauled him to his feet and even brushed a stray stain of dirt off the back of his shirt before he stepped back. It wasn’t exactly elegant or socially apt, but it was a vast improvement over his prior table manners.
”You alright?" He stated both internally and externally at the same time.
Fine…why wouldn't I be?
“I’m quite fine, that was a good match Zari. Have to say, you and him will be quite the duo.” Zeke replied as Lazuli came up beside him. Offering his hand he raised his brow. “All you need to do is take the piece back.
“Thanks…”The clawed gauntlet around Zari’s right hand glowed blue before morphing back into a stretching, yawning bloodsucker with tired-looking red eyes. Said bloodsucker slipped a pale hand into Zeke’s front shirt pocket and pulled out the garlic clove that was likely meant for him anyway. Or rather, meant to deter him. “Ah…and just so you know…garlic doesn’t do anything to me…”
As if to demonstrate, Jarvis peeled the clove before tossing it whole in his mouth, chewed, and swallowed.
He gave a nod to the pair before blood wings sprouted from the gem that appeared on his back and Jarvis lazily flew across the river to where the transmitter innocently waited on a log. He could only hope the other groups had it so easy.
Azariah eyed Zeke’s for a moment, then raised his hand for a fist bump rather than a shake. They were no longer enemies, he’d rather keep the physical touch and soul siphoning to a bare minimum. ”... you too?” He said, as if he did not know how to respond - then quickly passed his opponents. With all due respect, he didn’t have the time to save.
When he made his way up alongside Jarvis, he noticed the wavelength reverberating from the transmitter - the very same wavelength sound he recognized from Zeke. The power to increase mass. Jarvis was ahead so he offered his hand to burn the wavelength from the item before they continued on.
Fluttering above the log, the bloodsucker picked up the transmitter with both hands. “Heavy…”
Upon seeing Zari hold out his hand, Jarvis passed his meister said object with only that single word of warning. As they made contact, Jarvis once more became a gauntlet–the transmitter enclosed inside Zari’s gloved palm. Might as well carry this thing together. Jarvis could feel Zari’s wavelength burning the wavelength that surrounded the transmitter. It made the object lighter, but it also made Zari heavier as he took on the quality of the wavelength his soul consumed.
“Can you move?” The “soul” within the demon gauntlet yawned as bat-like wings of red once more formed from the crimson gemstone. “Let me know when you’re ready…”
The Meister nodded slowly. He looked back at their opponents briefly as the last of the wavelength sapped from the transmitter, melded into his own, then burned away like flesh off the bone. “... Let’s make it quick.”
"Sure, Sure" was Jarvis's lazy response.
And so, rising above the treeline, they took to the skies, flying in the direction of the tower as fast as blood wings could carry them. "I can still feel your worry for Maiden. Don't be. I told you he isn't stupid...and if their opponents are anything like Zeke and Lazuli, it shouldn't be a problem."
The 'spirit' of the assignment didn't involve assisting the other teams unless it was necessary, after all...though Jarvis simply didn't want to do more work than necessary. Their deadline was sunset. It wasn't even noon yet.
As they landed atop their final destination, Jarvis transformed back into a bloodsucker, leaving the transmitter in Zari's hands while he lounged on rooftop with his back to the tiles, his head supported in his hands, and one leg crossed atop the other. "Let's just trust them and wait. We can check on them if it looks like they are taking too long."
However, some time later, a red flare lighting the sky above one of the locations would ultimately call the game to an end.
“Ladies, do you really want to trust the word of a man that was just tossed back at you like a ragdoll?” Starwulf posed to them, quite sincerely. The scalpel felt the concept of her teeth grinding; while she had prepared to move as a team - and to deceive, perhaps, to aid in some element of surprise - their elongated motion through hard material made it impossible for her to forcefully twist the blade even with the contact before the throw. Despite the ramblings that Artem made, their mentor thought it was at least valiant to try and study an opponent. Starwulf was still unimpressed with the singular fact that it didn’t seem his student had realized the gap between them was vast enough to allow such rigid movements. “I would suggest you both arm yourselves and come at me at once, perhaps teach the dancer something,” Starwulf suggested, urging both of the others to engage themselves in the fight.
Arm herself, right. That was entirely up to Miroku at this point, because Temperance didn't mind fighting barehanded. "He has a point," Temperance spoke to Gia quietly. "Attacking head on isn't going to do us any good." Starwulf knew exactly what he was doing and severely outclassed them. Hell, he just threw a student at Temperance! If not for Artem's midair ballet, she probably would have been hit. "Attacking one on one won't help either," The woman added, her stance shifting slightly. "You better be fast."
As soon as she finished the woman charged, an apparent attempt to rush and close the distance between her and their instructor. It looked like a very head on attack, like Temperance was gearing up for a center mass blow. Just before Starwulf though, Temperance would slip slightly on the dirt. Instead of regaining her footing though, Temperance continued to fall backwards, landing on her palms to send both feet flying at his head; with the unmistakable added attack of Soul Force focused in the soles of her feet.
Miroku scoffed. She watched quietly as the Temperance girl started off at a sprint. Low form, she was aiming to rush him down. Not a bad idea. She cracked her knuckles and followed her so-called ‘Meister’, ducking to one side to flank their target. She didn’t even expect Miroku to back her up. That independence was…respectable, at the very least. As her ‘partner’ sent a strangely executed attack at the instructor’s head, Miroku approached his side, her right arm rearranging itself into the scarred metal barrel of her Weapon form. Aiming straight at the side of his center mass, she fired off a blast.
“I suppose if you’re going to handicap yourselves, so will I,” Starwulf told them, in a purely and intentionally mocking tone. He then proceeded to lift up one of his right foot and place his left arm behind his back, displaying he meant a literal handicap before either of the girls approached him. He did have to admit that these two were far more direct. Much less wasted energy than the dancer preceding them. This was more of what he preferred to see, more so something he could more adequately work with in terms of training. Bellamira snapped to attention, something cold and hard and bitter pooling in her palms as she watched them exchange blows through her sharp pinpoint of fish-eyed vision.
Not as if that greater appreciation meant he would go easy on either of them. If anything, it only fired him up to fight to engage them in a more involved manner. Miroku with her blasts did make this dangerous, though. He would have to take care of that. Dodging Temperance, on foot or not, wasn’t terribly difficult. She tried a deceptive feint, not unlike Artem, but the speed just wasn’t there and the flaring of her wavelength gave it away. Starwulf dodged by diving off the stake, following up with a quick kick from his left foot to the stake half Artem had cut off to launch it at Miroku, more specifically to absorb her blast.
From there, his reactions were a little more showy. A flare of his wavelength, just enough to let him catch his fall on the bottom half of the stake and its new ledge, then flip up and springboard back with his single hand several dozen feet to the center of the sea of stakes, away from both of his previous attackers.
“If you lot intend on being my students, then you need to learn this next part real quick. Weakness is forgivable. Breaking my rules is even forgivable. But, neglecting your teammates is something I shall not forgive,” Starwulf told them, telling them loud enough that even the four on the other side of the stakes could hear plain as day. The focus and ferocity radiating off of Starwulf as he made this declaration was intense. It was not just an edict, but a veiled threat.
Artem watched as Temperance, and Miroku tagged in for the second wave. Not planning on just standing there he started to make up the distance as Temperance missed, and Miroku showed a bit of her weapon form with an undeniable shotgun barrel arm. Starwulf made quick work of handling the attacks, but launched more effort to handle Miroku's attack with extra flare.
"He seems weary of ranged combat," Artem mumbled as he got next to Temperance more so talking to Bellamira, but left it open for Temperance. Artem blankly gave Miroku a quick glance and the half of the wood stalk her attack had annihilated. Mira was a wall of silent fury.
"Makes sense," Artem being a close quarters type understood that problem however he wasn't fooled by the fact had their mentor not had an environment to negate it he would have simply gone up another notch in overpowering them. Artem looked between the two girls before venturing an idea.
"We can try tempo'ing in a counter in follow up to Gia, and Jun play. Or try to coordinate with them while they do so," Artem flatly suggested to Temperance, Miroku, and Bellamira. It was in his opinion fair to allow them a solo drive in so that they could see what they were able to do rather than grasp at phantom ideas. Noncomprehension clouded imagined bile in Mira’s mind, but she responded tersely - Go.
Meanwhile, Gia remained where she initially stood, watching everything play out with a playful smirk painted on her face. It was like watching a cartoon. This old man really was no joke. Cooperation seemed to be the best course of action for an opponent like this, sure, but where was the fun in that? She wouldn’t bend to the rules so quickly– not yet, at least. The others would simply have to follow her lead if they wanted her cooperation within these crucial first minutes.
Calm eyes slowly drifted to the side to glance at her partner. It was finally time to test this partnership thing out. Holding onto her lazy grin, she delivered her first official order to Jun– disguising it as a simple and polite request instead of the test of authority it truly was.
“Juno, amore, can you transform for me?” She asked, her hand nonchalantly extending outwards towards the taller woman. “Looks like our party needs another set ‘a dancers.”
A feral scream escaped from Miroku's lips. Deaf to the words that had come from the instructor's own mouth, she leapt across from one stake to another with as much ease as if she were sprinting across flat ground itself, firing off blast after blast of flechettes at Starwulf.
Starwulf would only sigh as he noted that Miroku was yet again going off on her own in his blasts aimed at him. He wasn’t sure if he was more disappointed in the fact she hadn’t learned her lesson, or at in general how weak they were–emphatically more so given she was without a Meister.
“This is clearly getting nowhere,” Starwulf announced. Wavelength surged through him, although far less than was even needed for Erikk earlier. With his soul perception still active, he was perfectly capable of keeping his eyes on the group while sensing the incoming projectiles, and only further proved this by deflecting each one with his right hand as they neared him, using that wavelength he surged as a slight protective barrier from their sting.
“Miroku, calm your shit… before I introduce your face to the dirt,” Starwulf shouted, pouring out raw aggression that matched her feral scream with his own genuine frustration with this group. He didn’t need to face her or even offer any attention while she decided to leap around, his words echoed through the air with every ounce of honesty and intent that could be achieved. The feeling of being disrespected, of being cut off before they’d even started, raged through the tense connection between Artem and Bellamira.
“I’m going to level with you. All of you,” he said, explaining the situation to them. “I wanted to see some level of teamwork. You see, the other half of this group went off to the Deadly Trails to complete some combat scenario on day one, but I’ve taught plenty of students, and I’ve found that approach to be less than effective,” giving them some insight as to what the other team was doing. His point was clear to Mira - perhaps irrationally. They, as a group, were assumed to be incapable. Desynchronized. Maybe even stunted, if she and her partner sat as an example: for him, at least, it seemed more physical.
“If anything, you’re all proving why. You should be well aware this task, if it was life or death, is nigh-impossible, yet you all just come at me blindly,” he continued on. “The single individual here that even suggested teamwork decided to do so with jargon from his specialty as if any of you would by default have a Death damn idea what he was talking about,” he said, criticizing the one effort by Artem.
“I mean kudos to him for trying, but the communication just wasn’t there,” he expounded.
Then he became quite starkly serious again, his wavelength still surging through him and this time pouring out an almost sinister vibe to it–the type of raw emotion that nearly any of them with Soul Perception or merely the ability to pick up social vibes could find. The half-snarl on his face and narrowed eyes only added to this. “A team should be greater than the sum of their parts,” he informed them all, allowing that to sink in.
“The rules are changing. Sure, if you can grab one of these bandanas, you’re off the hook, but I’m creating another way to earn one. All I want you to do is tell me an element of proper team work, then demonstrate it. Even if you fail, I will award a bandana,” he explained to them, deciding this was the best way to salvage the spirit of this exercise.
And sink in it did. The scalpel’s response to their mentor’s aggression, not more than twenty paces out and snarling wrath and, worse, derision - there was no greater fury - the spooling control of her weapon form was pulled at the hands. Not unwrapping, gently, but yanking to tear away from his control. While the retreating threads of Artem’s soul writhed from her rejection, her own kept her wrapped and in form, but a scalpel at the tip of her finger twisted to cut them-
Before the weapon knew it, she was on her feet, stood with a flat line of lip and a storming facade that covered up the swimming in her head from such a moment of impulse.
Her eyes dispassionately flicked across the scene, from the partner beside her waiting for combat and maybe even surprised or pained by her decision, to the madwoman running at their mentor and the pair only beginning to transform. Her lip twisted with its own derision - but it settled, as she took one calm and even step after another toward the man, pointedly and quickly and yet not aggressively with that complete nothing expression - to stand maybe five paces in front of him. In Miroku’s way, in her own haste.
“The first tenant of teamwork,” she spat, like something dirty needed to be removed expediently from her mouth, “is commitment to a common goal. Letting us answer alone because we failed at that is a complete fucking cop-out..” She forced the muscles in her face, the sneer from the words, to relax. Tried to assume a smile. Failed, returned to neutrality again. Her eyes glimmered with wave after wave of dark resentment.
Starwulf saw that spark within this one. Bellamira, he believed. Younger, troubled sister of that soft, feely fuck Salem. He already liked her more than him, honestly; leaving her partner just to mouth off to him. That showed backbone he never saw in her brother. “Correction, Miss Ossana. I said name it, then demonstrate it. So far, all you’ve demonstrated is your command over the English language, which in your defense seems much greater than that of your partner,” he shot back at her, pointing out the slight flaw in her claim. The weapon moved closer, another two steps, a distance that would have put the pair nose-to-nose if he wasn’t almost half a foot taller than her. Something in her had paused. It mulled over his response, and it hated that he was right, that she felt stupid in the wake of something said like that in the heat of the moment. Her eyes pulled up to closely examine his face for signs of smugness. It was the smallest things she noticed, and the smallest things she hid. There was something in her mind that hoped she’d pull attention away, create some real sort of opening.
With the most flippant tone the man could feasibly muster, Starwulf simply told the now-close weapon, “You realize I’m a married man, yes, Miss Ossana? Neither my wife nor Salem would approve.” The woman’s teeth bared, indignant, and her hand rose as if she had the intention to shove him back in anger. The implication alone was enough to flush her cheeks and ignite the vitriol festering behind her self-aggrandizing actions.
Before such an alteration could be followed Artem casually wedged himself somewhat between the two turning more so to Stawulf, but respectively not giving Bella his backside. The shark toothed boy stared at their supposed mentor as if entering a staring contest where a protective shark in a daze stared down an prideful wolf. When Bella had rejected him without a word Artem had not resisted even letting her peacefully leave his fingers as she charged right on over clearly pissed at their mentor. Once she had gotten her worse he had countered placing her into a stand off which he then used to purposely derail her… and that part had been what caused Artem to react.
"Never leave your partner to sink. Stand by them even if the odds are zero to your favor," Artem mulled not to allow Starwulf to trigger his partner again, even seeming ready to strike the man if he tried. It was hard to say if this was driven by a subconscious form of emotion trying to exist. even if he had not even minutes ago been ragdolled by the behemoth of a warrior. Artem was clearly not about to allow Bella to be harmed physically or mentally without taking the majority of the hit for her. Her shoulders raised, like hackles, defensive to the intrusion as the gears in her mind visibly ground together in consideration of their mentor.
"However, I agree with my partner. Your exercise is ill formed. Expecting to force a good result from problems right out the gate was never going to give a victory," Artem shot back at the flaw in Starwulfs whole setup.
"All you have done today is laid bare what we already know. We're problematic, we get it. Only a controlling brute–”
Words hardly allowed to be finished. Starwulf had enough of this. Enough of Artem speaking. That flare in his wavelength was still active, his speed was sufficient to entirely end this rambling. Even Bella at point blank range was left with little more than a blur once Starwulf sidestepped her to make a mad dash at Artem. Her hand snapped closed in the air as he moved, a grab for one of the bandanas in Artem’s distraction to demonstrate their common goal, but the movement was too fast for her to track with the naked eye. “Then I’m a controlling brute, and your whining is a disservice to the rest of your team,” he told Artem, face-to-face, followed by a severe and brutal head smash to the man, with enough speed and force alongside the raw surprise to send the man to the ground.
“Now how about you keep quiet while the rest of the team gets a word in edgewise?” Starwulf suggested quite forcibly before eyeing back to Bella and adding, “Nice try, props for keeping your eye on the prize. But I’m not rewarding you for having a mouthy partner.”
The metered steps of the toadstool witch, backing up and spreading bile to decimate the small waves of crabs so intent at biting at her ankles, turned suddenly toward their mentor at the centre of the fray at the sudden orders. The edge of her gaze caught Raphael flying through the air to comply with his request; a sort of manic smile flickered across her face as she realized their plans were coming to fruition and that Ark was just as capable at providing support to the team as he was brutal on the field. A laugh bubbled on her lips. The pull tore at her bones; there was glee behind her eyes at the terrible destruction at her palms. As she approached the large crab that Rand had indicated, moving up beside Maria as the boys began to run at another collection of targets, her arm dipped low to the ground to scoop up a sharp stone and some sand into her palm. Maria was under fire, but the creature hadn't noticed her yet. She needed to do something. Not only to fulfill her orders, but to take the heat off of Maria, who was physically performing in a way Chanterelle could not even imagine emulating. Blades and dolls.
It was a sort of steadiness as she walked that led to the forming of a puffball in her hands, first small, but quickly surpassing the size of her fists with the rock flat against her palms blocking its back. She shifted the mushroom in her hands.. Its spout sat in front of her, and the making of spores came as soft rolling motions of the hands, slow and methodological even in the heat of combat. The witch picked up the pace, brushing past Maria, past the doll that the crab lunched down to attack-
and, here, the toadstool witch found her opening.
One of her hands grabbed onto its upper leg, hauling herself half-up onto its back, a rearing motion following that disrupted its attack. The witch struggled to hold on. She'd not expected its spiked limb to dig so sharply into her hands; the abrasion stung as badly as what foliage had whipped her hands and face on the way back from the woods. The chitin felt like jagged concrete under her hand; it could be used as a sort of knife, and was in a way, with the swinging of the animal's body as she hung on. There was nothing to do but hold focus. Her second hand, grip shaking, slammed down on its back. The puffball exploded on impact, spores pouring from its spout, and Chanterelle could only hope and pray that Maria had kept the doll back as it had been before. The spores poured down its back in waves, but not all adhered to it. She knew that they would form a thin, slippery layer where they hit the ground.
She let go of its limb. The impact stunned her on the ground, but she caught movement above her, the slamming of the other claw toward the place she had fallen as the crab turned its attention on her instead. Chanterelle willed her body forward, a roll from standing, really, a somersault through the spores on the ground that nearly coated herself in the substance that corroded the crab. She felt the strike of its impact hit the ground beside her with an echoing thump. Too close.
At the command to unite with Rand, Ark leaped down from base to beach and broke off at a run, with the assistance of his earth magic, he shot himself forward within the first three steps, and then with a spell from his grimoire that turned the manipulated sand underneath one of the crabs into a sinking quality, he launched himself with the raised leading foot coming down on a raised pillar and in a display of skill leaped over aptly the swiping pincer that cleaved the pillar he had rose in half seconds after his foot made the connection to bounce off it like a springboard.
With a sliding quality to his movement he fell in behind Raph just as the former met up with Rand, and the three were united.
Since he had no idea how Rand's spell was working, Ark didn't even bother trying to speak as Rand's instructions were given.
Cooking them alive? he merely snickered. Guess I'll get to test out my lava magic here after all.
The moment Rand was done explaining and moved to start the circle and Raph went off to form the network, Ark had already slipped the last ring off his bicep. If it was raw power they needed, then the rings would be a deterrent towards their actual goal. Gloved hands coming together, the ruins on them glowing, Ark pressed his hands together like one would when performing a prayer, and as he did so, with the rings no longer on, moved his eyes to scan the locations of each magic circle that Raph had managed to form, and found himself scowling , as the key to working his lava magic up to its full potential was also tapping into aggression.
Reddish-orange light bolted like a bullet towards the circle and the second it made contact, just as he was about to unleash his raw power, Ark felt the horrific demon of doubt sink its claws into his shoulders, a weight suddenly making him pause-- with a grimace, he forced away the intrusive thought of what might happen if he ended up using too much-- raw power was what they needed, so it was what he would give. With grit teeth, the ground that contained the magic circle burned hot white-orange with his magic as it poured into the circle construct.
The circle burned white-orange, and Ark with a cold grimace, released the build up he had created by dumping his volcanic fury into the circle before them by bringing his clapped hands from his face, to his chest. Activating his magic in tidal wave of lava energy.
Mana. Glorious mana. The lifeblood of magic itself. It swirled throughout the air in so many flavors that the confection it created was of pure delight. The complex combination of fungal and necrotic formations from Chanterelle, the finesse and precision in the control of raw mana through threads with Maria, the conjuration and metallic animations of Rapheal, and of course... the raw, unbridled power of flame and stone together in the fury of lava being channeled into that magic circle. This is what it meant to be a mage. This was the beauty that only a group of magic users could achieve. This is something that no group of Meisters or weapons would ever understand. This is what it meant to dance within the arcane flames of generations of power passed down through the lineage of the first Witches.
And, this was only the beginning.
The chains controlled by Raphael did a more than effective job at holding their target crab in place. The combination of hasty setup from Rand followed by Raph being allowed to focus on their control allowed for a more precise amount of control in their restraint. Perhaps not used to its fullest utility, but if limits were not pushed, then one could never expect to grow. And, Rand set high expectations for everyone in the group. Unfortunately, these chains were not fated for a lengthy life once Ark began his spell. The heat from the lava and compounding mana within the area would have broken most of the control Raph might have had, but that didn't matter. He did his job. He did his job, and Raph would be the one to get to watch closest as the combined efforts of himself, Rand, and Ark showed what multiple Mages working in tandem were capable of.
It was unfortunate that the air was still muted; the painful shrieks of the crab in question would have satisfyingly switched from that of a predatory sonic wail to that of dismay and primal terror.
Ark commanded a dangerous element in the form of lava. An element that required control over two entirely separate ones, both of which were natural forces capable of intense destruction on their own. Together, that was only compounded. The intense heat of his mana through his spell being channeled into the magical circle was unlike most other forms of magic, but that perhaps was due to the difficulty in controlling it. The magic circle shifted in color as Ark channeled into it, turning a bright, burning orange until it was completed. This debuted one of the more impressive skills of Rand: precise and staunch control. Once the mana poured into the magical circle, it would have been like Atlas dropping the Heaven's themselves as a relief. It also debuted the core of his plan coming to fruition.
With the circle completed, the sand itself turned into a boiling pot of molten silica that even these crabs had absolute no control over. Beyond that, once occurring, several smaller crabs much like the ones Chanterelle had dealt with earlier emerged only to be fried by the raw heat. This circle allowed for the spell to be casted precisely and more efficiently, but also with a significant bolster to its power. Some of the particulates of sand were heating hot enough to later form bits of glassy shards, a feat normally outside the range of Ark's temperature control. The spell was short-lived, less than ten seconds in duration, but that was genuinely all that was needed. Halfway through it, the crab that was targeted was already half sub-merged in this hot molten concoction and the one one outside its range had at least one of its legs slipped into the hot pool, unable to withdraw it. The crabs were being quite literally cooked alive, and quickly. The durability of their shells, their size, their strength--none of it mattered to a spell like this.
Meanwhile, Maria was easily skilled enough to dance around through the crabs, deflecting and dodging their incoming attacks. Her own skill coupled with the upgrades performed to her dolls made what might have been a daunting task into a gentle reminder of just how talented she was at her niche of puppeteering. These crabs were strong, but hardly nimble, and the only thing preventing Maria from tearing through them was that hard outer shell. Chanterelle would soon provided her the opportunity that this was the truth as the spores from her spell were capable of both thinning the shell and making it far more brittle, creating dusky spots on its chitinous exterior that even the smallest of her dolls could bash through. From there, destroying the soft innards of these large crustaceans would prove absolutely no challenge for her.
And, more importantly, the expenditure of mana for them was far less than what it was for Rand, Raph, and Ark. While the combination spell might have been a delight to witness, it was hardly as efficient or truly effective as the combination of Maria and Chant. In fact, the two could likely bring this large crab and another to the ground faster than the other three could the next larger one.
"Maria and Chant can finish the last two," Rand announced to the group. "If that large one flees, I say we let it. Best to conserve mana," Rand explained, hoping the creature would see the deaths of what was likely its family and realize staying would only result in more of the same. There was no sense in blind slaughter.
A flush of frustration erupted across Bellamira’s face, but she didn’t chase him down in his motion, didn’t go for it again as Starwulf’s forehead collided with Artem’s and sent her partner’s body crumpling to the ground. A wave of anger, soured, pure disappointment curdling the sweetened words that rose against his comment to her before. Her hand fell, slowly, down to her side. Mouthy.
That was a word she was familiar with, and a word she hated. There was nothing worse than being told your contribution had no value; even if he was derisive to the exercise it was needless, authoritarian, and out of control. Artem might as well have left as taken that. The woman knew that the hand at her side was quivering. There was nothing to do about it. Instead, her dry lips parted, meeting him eye to eye across their now enforced state. The words caught in her throat – she pushed the through, hard, flat and somewhat sarcastic-
“Oh, yeah, that was necessary.”
“Glad you agree,” Starwulf responded with equal sarcasm. Her face twisted into a sneer, lip curled, eyes narrowing against his gaze. Her shoulders hiked; tension was introduced to her posture that had no place in its architecture. “If nothing else, it ought to be my demonstration.”
Every word was enunciated independently, with clear effort, slowly and sardonically in a way that implied she would not be participating further. The hand at her side clenched into a tight fist; nails bit at her hands brutally but she kept herself under control. This was bartering, but not of the most effective kind, where everyone feels they are on equal footing. It was more the kind of intimidation that a snake attempted when faced with a hawk.
“Oh, you mean commitment to a common goal?” Starwulf responded. His eyes darted up to the left, then the right as he pondered on this thought. “Be honest. Was that really a common goal, miss Ossana? Or, more accurately, should I reward you two for your hypocrisy? Is it really in the spirit of this lesson to give you a bandana because of pure obstinance? Using that logic, I could award all six of you medals for sitting on your asses,” he explained to her, providing her insight as to why he wasn’t precisely supportive of her claim.
“I wanted to continue your exercise,” she shot back immediately, voice rising, almost to a yell. “Don’t put that on me. There was nothing shared about it. He helped me with my goal of trying to continue the exercise. Maybe he didn’t mean to, but hell, nobody- nobody-”
Her voice trailed off. “Ah, this is where your brother would probably say something like, ‘yes, Bella, this is good. Let it all out, tell me how you feel,’” Starwulf responded, this time completely redirecting attention not just to her, but the family she was from. “But I’m not Salem. I’m not soft. What I heard was you admitting your goal wasn’t shared and quite frankly nothing and no one is stopping you from continuing to go after a bandana–Miroku fought without Temperance. You have no excuse,” he said, assertively cutting into this tantrum he saw coming from her.
The lapse was just long enough for him to goad her. “There’s nothing wrong with my brother, you lunatic,” the woman snarled, “and I’m not going to take the fall for anyone else’s inaction.”
She turned on her heel, stalking toward the school, arms folding to hug her chest and head dipped to hide her blotchy face from the others with her long, loose hair. There was a hitch in her chest – something that sounded suspiciously close to a dry sob, really – embarrassingly as visible as her conflict with the mentor.
“Ah yes, walking away when things get hard,” Starwulf responded, otherwise making no effort to convince her to stay. No physical reaction of surprise or anger. His eyes perhaps flickered to the others, who seemed more interested in the soap opera playing out in front of them than the actual combat. Which, in all honesty, was fair. This was far more entertaining than dancing around those stakes dodging a bunch of uncoordinated punks. Bellamira stopped in her tracks, standing completely still to listen to his next statement.
“That’s what you do, right? To your friends, partners, the people you date–even your education, if I recall. I just didn’t expect it to be this early,” he added, calmly and dryly pointing out the facts he read in her dossier.
I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate you I hate-
There was a wild swing of motion as she whirled about again, retracing her steps in stony silence, arms sliding from her sides. The feeling roiled in her chest, almost uncontrollable. As she approached him in half the time it had taken her to walk away, her balled fist rose, rage setting in. “Want to say that again?” She asked him quietly, icily, with the same sort of nothing emotion that implied extreme self-restriction and yet was betrayed by her facade.
Starwulf only grinned at finally seeing this anger spark inside Bellamira. This was real progress. Confronting demons, even if they came in the form of mentors. “What I want, miss Ossana, is for you to give a damn about anyone other than yourself,” he responded to her with as much edge in his tone as she had, and sharper than anything he had said before. “If you can’t do that, you have no place in the DWMA,” he added, only making his comment that much more self-righteous.
It would be kind to say that she flew at him. More realistically, it was a clumsy motion, more automatic than anything – paced from his words. Shame burned in her chest. This was about her, her flaws, her selfishness. Fuck you.
She grabbed onto his shoulder, hauling herself up on it as if they were starting a ballet routine, but her other fist went for his face with the inertia of the hop and the swing of her body hanging from his collarbone. It was quick, but brutalist; nothing he couldn’t have stopped if he tried but also nothing to sneeze at in terms of demonstrated ability.
Starwulf only continued to grin as he saw this type of reaction coming from her. It was good. It meant something. It meant some level of actual investment or emotions were here, and that was better than the absolute lack thereof he had felt coming from the group prior. Even if that were untrue, even if she had been boiling up the entire time, this action only showed him the confirmation he was after.
But, that glee did not blind him. He took the punch to his face without amplification, without any form of defense against it, really. Partly, because he didn’t have to. But, also because if she was going to pour her emotions into her fists, he was going to accept that in its entirety. What he did do as a reaction was quickly lift his hand to cover the bandanas on his arm. He would take these punches with resolution, but he wasn’t about to allow that sentiment to be a free win for her.
Making contact with his face allowed for one final and perhaps most powerful statement to be made. His soul. His wavelength where the most superficial of his own emotions could be felt. And, yes, there was that odd joy he gained from seeing this emotional reaction, but there was something else. Something that had been present since nearly the beginning of this scenario. Raw and absolute disappointment.
There was a moment of pause as the woman realized she found no resistance. Tears spilled down her face; there was no physicality that prevented her from holding herself aloft from his shoulder (in fact, this kind of hold was something she was trained to do), but her hand slipped with the feeling of disappointment, tightening desperately and leaving long indents down his shoulder as she slid from his arm instead of keeping leverage above it. A few more, less resolute, punches that trailed down his chest from the apex point of the ark and left her hanging.The tips of her toes touched down to the ground.
There was another punch, toward his stomach, as she unraveled herself from the limb she’d needed for that sort of jump. At the landing of this, though, her face changed - a tightening of pain, teeth clenched, as she pulled the fist back and realized (backing off a few steps, cradling it to her chest) that it was swelling. Motherfucker.
Starwulf was a martial individual. He found that combat and violence could be just as much a form of communication as words on a page. He was also aware of the situation. He most definitely goaded her, but that only exacerbated the underlying problem–it was not the cause. This moment was merely a spotlight for not only the issues of the group, but the issues that Bellamira had struggled with for so long. That brutal attack which would have likely floored anyone else there, it wasn’t truly aimed at him. It was aimed at the parts of herself she hated.
Or so was his thought.
The futility of her onslaught was obvious. To him, probably to her, and now likely to anyone watching. She, and likely none of them even in a concerted effort, could do much to harm him. That was hardly the point. Even if she could harm him, the futility was truly found in the fact it would have done absolutely nothing to progress her forward. As a weapon, in this program, or as a person. What mattered most about this is that she did something other than walk away.
But, to him, to this brute willing to let himself act as a human punching bag for the sake of those around him, what mattered to him most is what she would do next.
“Bellamira Ossana, why do you want to be an Agent of the DWMA?” he asked her, point blank. There was no sarcasm. None of that condescending tone or wit from before. It was a serious, dry question, and it was meant to cut to the heart of this moment. After all that, why did she want to be here? He could speculate all day; perhaps it was an attempt to redeem herself, or maybe it was shame. That speculation was pointless. What she said held and said here held more weight than anything he could have come up with.
“I want to be better,” her voice wavered, anger fading, something just as volatile but more self-disparaging rising in its place. It was soft. Shamed. “Because, right now, I’m – well, I’m – I’m not fit to work with anyone. I wanted to help humanity, once.”
There was a fleeting pause. A flicker of her eyes up to him, where they had been hugging the ground before. “But I’m not sure where that went.”
“Before you can work with anyone, you need to be able to work with yourself,” Starwulf responded. He heard her, and he knew that type of self-depreciation. He had seen it in plenty of students before her. About their weakness, about their failures, about the things they felt they could not help. And, he saw her, right now a pitiful puddle of insecurity on the ground.
Starwulf looked around. Artem seemed unconscious, or at least half conscious. It was hard to tell when the man essentially couldn’t feel pain and simply laid on the ground. Gia was ready at one point to leap in, but Jun never even made it to transform amongst the chaos. Miroku, the pent up ball of rage and anger she was, didn’t intervene in this type of breakdown. Temp seemed to have joined her in that. This moment started with Artem, and was ending with Bella.
“My method of training is to face your problems directly. Head on, no-stop. Someone thought putting you under me would do exactly that, but if you’re not ready to do that, then I cannot help you,” Starwulf told her. Flatly. Still matter-of-fact in his tone, holding absolutely nothing back in terms of the blunt nature of his response. But he did kneel. He knelt down to her level, sinking himself into that sad puddle of self-hate to talk to her at her level.
“But, listen close, Miss Ossana. That doesn’t mean you cannot be helped,” he explained. His eyes were full of sincerity, had she been able to meet them. This guy who had been a sarcastic dick for a majority of this assignment, he was not without genuine empathy. He was not the stone wall of brute force he portrayed himself as. Not when the situation didn’t call for it. “It means that I am simply not fit. Honestly, that’s the case for most of the higher ranked agents–we make shit mentors sometimes,” he told her, pulling some of that blame off of her and onto him. There was a silent nod, lips pursed to stop herself from crying, but she appreciated his words just the same. It was difficult to express in the moment.
“So, get the fuck up. You’ve been so caught up in the moment, you missed someone else arriving. And, lucky you, he can probably get you the mentor you need,” he added, before nodding over in the general direction to Salem, who had been there quite some time along the riverbank with Erikk. Probably for the better, Erikk might have needed some medical attention after that slap. A low, ragged breath as her lips finally parted. Unsteady. “...okay.”
Her eyes rose to look at the figure in the distance. There was a soft sigh, a closing of the eyes that expressed her frustration with being pulled out of class again, but her hands pushed down in the dirt and she took to her feet. “Thanks,” she murmured, taking a last glance at her mentor on the ground before steps automatically began to take her to a more comfortable place.
She met with Salem halfway, back toward the DWMA as she’d been going before, and while the therapist looked concerned he said little but to greet her as they moved away from the group. The man stopped beside his sister, although she didn’t immediately notice - a turn of the head to give Starwulf a wink, and a slightly-mocking (though still friendly) salute.
Starwulf nodded back. While he still thought of the man as a fuckin’ softy in the back of his mind, there was some merit to him showing up for his sister. Though, he was sure he would get an earful later when this was brought up to Cyrus. Still, absolutely worth it.
He stood up from his sitting position as Salem and Bellamira left and first looked back over to Erikk. “Bud, would you kindly carry him,” he asked, nodding over to Artem, “to the hospital? Probably should get him checked out.” Erikk nodded back, though more agreeable and less for the sake of acknowledgement like the exchange before between Starwulf and Salem.
“As for everyone else,” he announced, “since we didn’t finish this exercise, we’ll return to it later, so the stakes stay. Any team of mine always finishes what they start–eventually,” he informed them. “And, I guess I’ll get you all lunch. Not as a reward for this exercise, but for tolerating this week’s episode of terrible cable TV melodrama,” he added, before turning around to walk back in the direction of Death City.
As Maria watched Chanterelle close into melee range, the finesse of the other was a bit lacking, it was much like her brawl with Gauss. Brutal, direct and haphazard. Still, it was effective, she would just need to watch for any blood should Chanterelle not have been wearing gloves. Still, this was not quite what she had in mind by escorting the other. Still, she would not just sit by and watch the other get stabbed for her efforts.
Recalling her creations with a hand wave, a skip and a hop as she slid back a few feet to give Chanterelle her space, watching the corrosive agent working against where on the shell it had hit the bear sized crab, Maria just as quickly dashed back into the conflict, though something was a bit odd, the smaller dolls remained behind as red lines connected to the ever present human sized creation that was now closing in, with a dash of footwork the cloaked doll with its vacant stare draws out its twin swords as it mirrored Maria with her mana blade, she from the right and the doll on the left, ducking and dashing low side by side, the connection points between the two seemed to multiply, the mana blade cuts upwards in a crescent loop as it strikes upward and into the creatures left claw, cutting it from the body as the blade circled around to do the same to a good portion of the legs on that side, the doll on the left mimics her master's form and reenacts, or rather enacts the move in kind. With the weakening provided by the toadstool witch, it was a much simpler affair.
As the pair passed through and shot out to the sides, the red wire seems to give as the beast fell, the pair then loop around, disconnecting and reconnecting as they mimic one another once more, stepping up onto the beast, they drove a pair of blades nearly side by side through the monster crab's frontal lobe in-between the eye stocks, killing it.
That left one, the question now being if it wished to fight or if it would scurry off, either way she stood ready as with a flourish of her hand and body the doll stood back-to-back with its master.
It was a new day. A new dawn. After the events that transpired within the waterside Lot of the DWMA scenic pathways, it was also time for a new approach. Team Praetorian, the team lead by Starwulf and Abyss, demonstrated an incredible bit of dysfunction that without significant change would never move forward within the Program for anyone involved. Starwulf did his best to keep things held together during the late lunch after their initial meeting, but the team was undoubtedly tumultuous. The mentor invariably dismissed the agents under him, but this was just the beginning of the efforts that would be required to get his team back on track.
Cyrus was hardly in a good mood, and the fact Salem involved himself created quite the intertwined mess to discuss. There was a slight admission that this type of chaos was quite expected, explaining this set of agents was given to the mentor duo with hopes that their status as experienced instructors would help. However, forcing together such a volatile lot truly tempted fate too much, and the fickle mistress took the bait. Blame was shifted around plenty in the initial discussion, but truly fault fell at all levels of involvement in this case. How to move forward was prioritized, and that was the focus on this conversation.
The Fate Director, quite plainly, was arguably just as perturbed by the events of this group as he was the two before it, but both of them had set precedents and created resources that would be used to help bring a new direction to this team. The first and most important realization was in that teamwork within virtually all members of this group would require an entirely different approach. It could not be forced or expected, and in that vein, radical changes were made. Bellamira Ossana would be given an extra period of reprieve and removed from the team entirely to train as a proper Autonomous Weapon under one that had previously acted as a mentor: Midori. If she was to prove problematic in pairing, then she needed to be able to at least hold her own alone. Unlike Miroku, she had little experience in that regard. For her own personal reasons, Juno was to be placed further back in the queue, and a volunteer weapon had offered to step in. The new group would only have four member as it stood, and that was intentional as it allowed an open spot for another set to be dropped in and less pressure on the group as a whole to work on more individual training.
In essence, if the members of this group weren't going to work as partners quite so easily, then the new objective was to make them the strongest individuals in the meantime. Teamwork would just have to come later.
To push this new agenda, Starwulf sent this email to the three remaining members of the original team with instructions for their next step.
Send New Email
New Email Received
Amazing Star Dojo
Team, we are to meet at 2:00PM at the Amazing Star Dojo in Northeast Death City the junction of Blair Lane and East Street. You can't miss it. It's the huge building with the Star. There are plenty of public transport options to get there. We will begin one-on-one training in my wing of the dojo.
You will meet a new addition to the team and we will undergo more individualized training from this point on. What I want each of you to do (Meister or Weapon) is to use the time between now and then to consider your strengths and weaknesses, and from that what you would like to become better at. If you want to cover your weaknesses, then I will create a program to do so. If you want to specialize in your strengths, then I will hone you like no other.
I do not care if you select any particular skill or fighting style. You may even select a new skill to work on. This may include Soul Perception, Amplification, Soul Force, a Martial Art, or even more basics such as strength training or endurance. This is your decision. We will also undergo a basic training regime for everyone involved to keep you well-rounded, but you will select the focus.
For now, the only limitation is that we will not focus on Resonance techniques or team-oriented skills. This training is about you. So, think about you. Abyss will also be present if specific weapon skills are requested as obviously I lack the genetics to provide instructions for such.
The quip from the assassin made Adrasteia roll her eyes, scoffing at the notion of someone with more freedom. The collar was a hinderance, but Adra allowed it as she personally believed she could free herself at any moment. A possibly fault belief, but that was her mentality since her break. Rules and restrictions were suggestions to her, her enjoyment and strength mattering above all else. The school was just the best way to express that freedom, sanctioned killers always putting their strength to the test. A life Adra felt drawn to.
So Midori’s comment was so preposterous that she just didn’t respond, making it to be a bad unfunny joke in her mind.
At least Zosar seemed to offer more meat for conversation, which she would get occasional glances during their descent. She wasn’t exactly up for a grand chat, so the scarce exchanges were just fine for her.
“Keep your fingers crossed, I am mad at you dumbass. I just know when to display that and when not too. We got a mission, and you have a damn water cat to pick up from my place as soon as you are free. I don’t do pets, too needy.” They complained, the weapon letting out their frustrations out into the air, not too dissimilar to her exuding her complaints to her new therapist. “The damn thing runs around at alarming speeds at midnight.”
Regardless of her complaints, she didn’t seem to hold real malice. Instead it was frustration seemingly, more fussing due to the added responsibility. But she probably is mad at Zosar, that probably isn’t a lie. Just doesn’t hate him.
At least that’s the hope.
The vehicles lined up for the weapon earned no real praise, simply seeing it as a more uncomfortable ride than a car. She wasn’t even driving so how much fun could a passenger have, or so she thought! She would climb in at the behest of Zosar, settling in and relaxing.
“These things have roll cages but don’t fucking tip us. You’ll get more hurt than me.”
As the car bobbed on its suspension from each of the meisters and weapons leaping from the back, Emmett leaned across the center console and pulled out a bright red string bag from underneath the passenger seat. With the car door already open he slipped out and slung it over his shoulder as Zelda came up to his side. He was ready to act in defense of the helicopter, but Nadia had already used the skeleton's aggressive nature to her benefit and gotten its attention away from the civilians, who promptly rose to a much safer altitude with one particularly relieved news anchor hanging from the window and waving to them thankfully. "Good." He muttered just under his breath, and reached out to gently grab at Zelda's shoulder and silently ask her to transform.
Her silvery light burst forth and glimmered like the moon reflected in water as she turned from soldier to halberd in his ready right palm. The immaculate surface of her polished frame and golden details reflected the fire from around them and nearly made it look like she was on fire, but the soothing chill that immediately filled the air around them betrayed her elemental properties. There was no need for him to interfere in the combat. Nadia was fairing well at simply outpowering the skeletons and the rest would be hard-pressed to lose against the mindless ghouls. His attention was better placed elsewhere, but the aptitude of his agents didn't pass him by. Evangeline's peculiar ability was particularly outstanding given it's exclusive properties, even if it did not serve as much more than a distraction in the fight. It seemed to Emmett that as soon as the group shut themselves up and had something to kill the teamwork was adequate. Given their recent progress in their resonation training, it was to be expected. He'd make sound minds of them yet.
His senses were on the surrounding buildings, the crackling of their support structures, the mice scurrying down into the sewers to save themselves, the faint wavelengths at the entry point far away. He sensed the wavelength-adjacent energy sputter out as Nadia gouged Dani into her opponent, the ebb and flow of Sara's and Thaddeus' wavelengths as they worked together to smash theirs. He wrinkled his nose. "They really don't leave souls behind." He pondered into the vast empty of his and Zelda's soul space. "They certainly moved with some odd programming, then."
"At ready, you can relax when you're outside the cordons." Emmett called out as he approached, bag slung over his left shoulder and Zelda nestled between his right arm and his side, with a firm grip halfway down her staff. The comment was clearly directed towards Dani, but he made no attempt to single her out with his body language. Just then, as he passed into the shadow of the burning building, a cloud of burning embers was released into the sky as something in it broke. With a groan, the front of the entire building began collapsing out towards them - but the tip of Zelda's halberd was already gently pressed against the street. A wave of ice shot out across the surface of the pavement, in an instant spanning the entire road and climbing up the crumbling facade, flash freezing all of the falling debris in place. His face was stern, but he'd not even moved his gaze from the students throughout the ordeal. "Things so often go terribly wrong in the middle of a battlefield, and we don't need crowding."
The flames of the building were severely dulled by the sudden wave of cold, and the air around the lot of them had quickly cooled to a pleasant summer's breeze at worst. Emmett pulled the halberd back from the slight growth of ice that'd formed around it on the street and held her in the crook of his arm as he retrieved his own gas mask from within his jacket. "Nadia appears to be right, I observed the same phenomena. We can't be sure, but we'll have to try the hypothesis. Gas masks!" He strapped it over his face and secured it behind his head, then gave his ear piece a couple nudges to see whether it function well with the addition of the mask. "We're close enough that we'll make it quicker by foot. On me!" It was unusual to hear Emmett giving orders, but after years at Zelda's side he no longer felt awkward giving them. Without further comment, he hopped over a crash motorbike and continued down the street at a brisk run he estimated the rest of them could keep up with.
Past the burning streets and just beyond a small treeline at the edge of a park laid the derelict old tunnel. Even predating the subway, it was part of a mostly demolished system of tunnels that used to connect the Parisians to the country side. Black trails betrayed where skeletons had once clawed their way up along the overgrown moss that lined it's stone walls, and the surrounding trees had long since been reduced to little more than smoldering stumps of charcoal. Emmett paused at the edge with a foot up on the protective railing and gave a cursory glance at their surroundings before throwing up a hand to indicate the rest of them to follow as he leapt down. The signs of combat were clear here already, as water from half-melted ice surfaces around the entrance made the ground slick and muddy. Some of the railway sleepers were busted, with the corrode metal atop it broken and bent out of place as if someone'd gotten overzealous with a massive sledge.
Yet it was not as desolate as it first appeared, as when the group reached the bottom a female figure came into view, sitting idly with a smoldering cigarette just inside the arch of the tunnel. Her wide-brimmed hat loosened a couple drops of waters as she turned her head to send them a sidelong glance. As if suddenly manifested, her soul glittered with water droplets and dust storms as she let her soul protection fade away and she stood up to greet them. Emmett let the bag slip from his shoulder to hang it his side and hurried his pace to meet her halfway. "You're the Fate agents?" Her voice was hoarse from barking orders and her eyes underlined with dark and fatigue. "Yes. Emmett James and Zelda Zemo," he flourished her blade once before putting her dull end against the ground, "acting leaders."
She stopped and let them approach her, using her index finger to raise the brim of her hat to send a look at the entourage of agents. She gave them each an analytical glance, but seemed to falter in her interest as she let out a quiet sigh and let the hat obscure her face again. "Just as well. Clémence LaRue, Two Star support witch. Keeping the backline clear for escape and patching holes in our defenses." She motioned behind herself to where at several points it seemed that the stone tunnel had its walls and floor patched with cement. "And the rest of the forward group?" Emmett asked, to which she quickly shook her head. "Didn't want to wait. Bassett said the mission was hard enough without having to worry about-" She stopped as Emmett raised his hand a gave her a meaningful look. At first she met him with surprise, but as she looked over at the agents again she frowned and nodded. "... Anyway, they moved on. I'd love to tell you where, but the underground interferes with our comms. She said, and I quote, 'they can find us by our souls, can't they', so I don't know."
There was the slightest hint of shame in her tone and she kept her gaze low, but Emmett just smiled and put a hand on her shoulder. "It's alright, you've done good. We'll figure it out." Then, just as he was about to look back at the agents, he stopped again and turned to her. "Hold on, what exactly is your mission if you don't want us on your back?" Clémence looked confused at the comment, but quickly replied. "You guys are just supposed to gather samples and scout, no?""Well yes, but how does that differ from yours?" She took a step back and flicked her focus between the lot of them. "What do you mean? Command sent us here to fight back the monster and establish a foothold!" Emmett furrowed his brow. "With one star teams?""Yes, with - !!!"
Her sentence was cut short by a sudden explosion echoing down through the darkness of the tunnel, and a warm wind accompanied by still-burning ashes and a distant flash came rushing past them, billowing their clothes in the gust. "Merde --- what the hell was that?!" She exclaimed as she held onto her hat to keep it from blowing off. Emmett held his arm in front of face to fend off the sudden heat, but peered into the darkness ahead. In the not-too-distant gloom, a series of lights had been lit, each of them approaching at an alarming speed. A good handful of flaming skeletons were alternating between shambling and suddenly lurching forward towards them, but at the back a more brightly burning figure followed. Slower, less shakily - and notably less skeletal. A humanoid shape with pitch-black skin, blazing eyes and a slack-jawed gape that approached them more with a brisk jog than mindless jolting. "And what the hell is that?" Emmett added, as Clémence's face turned just a dash paler than a moment before. "Unknown contact, look alive."
"Agents, you're up. Nadia center, Thaddeus and Sara support the flanks with your speed. Clémence is on support, and we're here to mitigate damage. Go wild."
"Adra has a point, don't be too stupid with that steering wheel," Midori responded, half-heartedly agreeing with her. "But, we are in a hurry, so you can hit that gas pedal pretty hard," he added before taking off in his own, vroom vrooming the fuck out of that chain link pen.
Once Zosar and Adra had a moment to catch up, Midori initiated the close range mics the vehicles were equipped with. A red light on the right hand of the steering wheel flickered off and on for a moment before turning green. Then, once Midori spoke, it turned orange and his voice, though slightly distorted by the speakers, came through fairly clear despite the whirring engine and flowing wind. Might be annoying for music, but it was fine for a chat back and forth.
"Quick run down on how these work. Beside the light is a button. Press it, talk, then press it again to turn it off. Green means standby, orange means receiving, and when you have it on, a second blue light will appear above that one. Used to have a heads up display, but those broke in the first few months. We can't have nice things," he explained, giving them a rundown of how it worked. And, true to the explanation, the orange light flickered back to green once it was over. This wasn't quite push to talk, more like an on-off cruise control, but that made some modicum of sense given pressing down a button like on a walkie talkie would be quite problematic to do long-term while driving.
"Alright, Zose, we're clear to discuss what's really going down," Midori went on, shifting the subject as promised to the point of this excursion and the extra steps being taken. By this time, they were long off-road and climbing through some fairly rocky terrain found in some flats between huge mounds of sand. This meant the pace was slower, but it also avoided trekking up the massive and arguably more unsafe dunes. They didn't want to send Adra flying, after all.
"We're going to pick up Eustace, then turn him back into a group of Enlighteners at an undisclosed location. In return, they're going to give me some information. See, it turns out that little stunt your buddies pulled was a lot more complex than we initially thought," Midori informed the two, fact dropping some important parameters for this upcoming exchange. "I hate to.. speak ill of your past, but the fact of the matter is that the Enlighteners are fairly small threat in general. In a world of criminals and monsters, you guys are essentially a band of petty thieves. Some call you terrorists, some say that's too much credit. I've even heard some people call your group a collective of romantics pretending to be the Thousand Thieves from Arabian Nights. They're so low on the totem pole we don't have the resources to just hunt them down and rid the world of them; else, we would've. The problem is that makes you a great target for bigger threats, and we're pretty sure that's what's happened here," Midori went on. He was being fairly critical of the group, but this was all relatively common knowledge. The only reason the Enlighteners weren't honestly considered a joke is that a few of their members were fairly reputable, or at least from reputable lineages. It was hard to gauge the power of rogues after years or decades being off the radar.
"We lost some important data during that intrusion, and Eustace knew jack shit about it. I'm not exactly permitted to explain how we got this information from corpses, but it was confirmed there were at least two double-agents within his group. One Mage, one Weapon. The whole ruse of getting you out was apparently just to steal some files. Now, obviously, this presents a problem--to both of us. The DWMA doesn't appreciate being infiltrated, and the higher ups among your friends realized that this could put a giant target on their back. The last two weeks of holding you have actually been to keep you safe; eleven assassination attempts were made on you and Eustace in that time, and a handful of kidnappings occurred to try and infiltrate rounds on your security. The point was to dissuade the Enlighteners from handing over the information from their internal investigation. They've found who they believe to be the culprits. So, in an fact of good faith, we're giving them back Eustace and they're handing over all they know--trying to stay in our good graces," Midori continued on, explaining the nuances of what had occurred and how serious this was. More importantly, this wasn't really about the Enlightners. It was about whoever was using them.
By this time, they had traveled through the flatter, rocky terrain and were coming up on a domed building with a concrete fence that was surrounded by at least a dozen runes or more. These were safehouses protected from satellite imaging and certain magical locating spells. It was also quite isolated. What Midori didn't tell Zosar was that they had made it appear as if Eustace was in fact killed, then placed here while the Enlighteners did their thing. It was easier to let them think their enemy was half-finished than it was to pour all the effort and money into keeping both him and Zosar safe--and seperate. Midori didn't add much more to the conversation before they were nearing the domed building, so he opted to simply add, "Hold on," before continuing.
He lead their caravan of two up to the concrete fence before being met by an armed guard of sorts. Obviously an agent, and in lighter colored clothes, but discerning much more was difficult. Midori stepped out of his vehicle, was patted down, then provided a flat, metallic item that acted as some form of identification. Once it was reviewed, then scanned by a handheld device that looked like some type of shelf scanner at your local mega-mart, the guard went back in and Midori walked back to the vehicle Zosar and Adra were in. He draped his arms over the top half of the cage and hung down in it fairly relaxed.
"It'll be a minute, so we can chat before Eustace gets loaded up with me," Midori told them both.
"But, the main thing here is that this act of good faith is ideally not a one time thing. We're going a step further, bud. Once we get to them, I'm under instructions to allow you to leave with them, if you want. I have no idea what they'll do to you and Eustace. I have no idea what we'll do if you stay. It's above my clearance. All I know is that if you leave, I am to train Adra as an autonomous weapon for the program," he explained, still as calm as he could be. He ducked his head down to avoid the harsher rays of the sun hitting him, so his face was shadowed. Without the wind from the ride, it was quite hot. Hot and arid, given they were out in the sandy pits of the Nevada desert. More so, Midori had just accepted the cards he was dealt. Escorting fugitives, releasing Zosar if he wanted, being little more than a glorified errand boy as it stood. It wasn't that he didn't care what happened. It was the traces of defeat in his voice that made it apparent where he stood on this matter.
He chuckled from his seat like a buffoon would. And whether that was a testament to both his partner, and their guardian basically reading the immature part of his brain to a T, was up in the air.
The notion that she could be upset with him still, did not go ignored though, Zosar merely decided to wait and see if it would be something they'd need to talk about later. He owed her that at least. There was no way he could tell her everything- it wasn't his way, but he certainly could tell her some of what happened...if she was interested.
It was hard not to snicker at her complaints though. Abbadon would be a pain. He'd never had a pet before, not like other Enlighteners had, so knowing at least Adra had been having her own form of 'fun' with the aquatic animal, was something he could not help but smile in amusement at.
Vrooming their ride forward, Zosar did heed the subtle caution of advice Adra had given, together, they sped off after Midori. His eyes flicking to the light as the speakers hummed to life and Midori's voice crackled over the wind and whirr of the engine. He listened, that sense of amused, care-free glee that he'd had earlier, fading as a more serious expression crossed Zosar's face with a subtle nod at Midori's mention of desiring to switch into the topic at large.
It'd be a lie to say Zosar listened without a degree of irritation. The Enlighteners to him, were not petty thieves- they were much more and in his eyes had done much more. It was hard to sit there and essentially hear the organization his parents had died working for, many of his friends, people he'd known growing up- being equated to nothing but small fry-- but the logistical side of him understood and knew, Midori wasn't wrong. Critically speaking, they weren't big fish in the ocean.
Even he knew that if they were, DWMA would have sent a group after them to take them out a long time ago-- and that was probably the benefit of staying out of the radar. The reason their motto was: No trace, no race, always solve every case. It was something his dad had once said when he had begun his start as a rookie under Hiroshi and other agents that had been deemed field acceptable. It was easy to avoid being caught when no one really knew you were there to begin with. After the stunt Eustice had pulled, he wondered what the Enlighteners had done or what agreements had been made before Eustice had been given the go ahead.
He knew his friend well enough to know that he wouldn't endanger the whole organization. Knew for a fact no one would allow him if he were capable of doing something so foolish in the first place. They had to have moved again- to where, he had no clue.
Even as these thoughts popped in and out of his head, Zosar still listened and followed what Midori relayed. What made his grip tense on the wheel was what Midori said next.
"The last two weeks of holding you have actually been to keep you safe; eleven assassination attempts were made on you and Eustace in that time, and a handful of kidnappings occurred to try and infiltrate rounds on your security.
He wasn't sure what to say to that- wasn't sure what to think even. So he chuckled, because it was really the only thing he could respond to do.
Life sure can be funny, when you least expect it.
As they crossed into the rocky terrains, spotting the domed building, Zosar eyed it with curiosity. His eyes however did pick up the signs of runework.
Stopping when told and then waiting, once Midori was back- Zosar listened silently to what more he had to say. Once he was done though, he was silent.
He looked at Adra...and thought: I can go back...but even if I did, it'd take years to rebuild what I was born with. The trust they had in me isn't going to just come back just because I was one of the founder's kids. And it certainly isn't going to be any better if Eustice is joining with me, not after how we ended things.
To him, it really sounded like they were just dumping him on the Enlighteners to become their problem if that's what he wanted.
"I don't think I'll be going back." He said, all while looking at her. And even as he said it, he could feel the perspiration starting to build.
Part of him felt like that was the wrong thing to say. That if Becky or Alan or any of his buddies ended up being there to meet them at the end when they did meet with whoever would be receiving Eustice, part of him felt he'd cave in- just like how he'd caved in to the DWMA agents he'd been supposed to leave behind, fend for themselves- like they did before DWMA, going out on missions with varying chances of coming back alive at all, or even whole of body or mind.
"Y'know, I ran a lot of different scenarios in my mind while I watched Lars and the others get cut down. Some, pretty dark." He explained. First time too. If his therapist was a testament to anything, Zosar, never talked about his personal feelings- rarely ever did even with the person that was supposed to be sitting there to help him. That was another reason why the link had been so fragile between him and Adra- it wasn't just because she had so little faith at the start, it was also because there had been a strong part of him that was expecting the worst to happen soon.
"One of them was, the next time I saw you, Midori," he clarified, "was that you wouldn't really want to see me again. Were basically done vouching for me. Even when you came back, those thoughts didn't entirely go away. And, Adra" he slowly looked her way, "I think we both know after my reaction earlier, I was expecting you to slap the snap off me. I" he chuckled, "would have to be pretty brain dead, to risk losing you two after the compassion you've shown me."
And he really meant that. But he also knew that if he did leave DWMA officially to go back to the Enlighteners, he'd just be setting himself up for trouble. Without the spite to back the fury as things were currently- they wouldn't fully accept him the way he was now. He knew that. And it made the realization almost a sad one. Ditching his family, for his friends.
Had things turned out differently with Midori after the incident, with Adra when they'd met, with Sara when she visited, perhaps that would have been the push he needed to just cut his losses here once and for all- but since they hadn't, he saw no reason to turn around and leave. When Eustice had shown up it had only been because he didn't want to pull his friend into his own trouble, but Eustice had done that to himself. Now, Zosar didn't feel the shackles as heavy- even if he still felt it there, it did not weigh as heavily on his mind as it had before.
With the arrival of Emmett, Nadia watched a bit detached, even as he made use of Zelda to battle the blaze and what may have been a messy situation, she could not say she found all of this comfortable. It brought back memories better left elsewhere. She was stronger for having survived, she knew about the smoke and fire and did not need to be told twice to spread out as ice overwhelmed fire and propped up the falling structure. In its own way it was impressive, but it was also what she came to expect of the three stars. It was also a reminder, compliancy was stagnation. Stagnation was death. She had to become stronger still, if she were ever to shut Cyrus up and to hold her head high, she could not just stand here. The Meister then seemed to agree with her own appraisal of the situation, which while nice, wasn't something she was about to fawn over or rub into the faces of another.
Emmett then gave his orders, she seemed to have a serious look to her face, or at least her eyes as the mask slaps back on over her face, a muffled voice responds, "Right! Dani, let's go!" At a run she keeps up with the Meister with little issue, he was slowing himself for whoever was the weakest, the slowest... Why? She could not say the idea was totally alien to her, but still...
As they went on, past even yet more destruction, she wondered what in the hell the French had been thinking, if they had been thinking at all. Still, she had a job to do, and this was not her first run in with stupidity. But as they reached the French witch and the more words came out of her mouth, Nadia lets out a muffled laugh of amusement. " Durak neschastnyi! Hahaha, ah, Pizdets, so lambs that can be sen-" (You unlucky idiot, fucked up situation.) Everyone that went down there was likely dead... Or undead rather, but maybe the situation wasn't so grim. But still to be discarded so casually, that didn't sit right. Sure, now they were just "agents" now, but they did not start out that way, the DWMA cast them aside like they had the free manpower to do so, even if Death himself had intervened on their behalf. For that alone did she stay, and as she had nowhere else to go.
It was then that a wave of heat and explosion shook the tunnel ahead of them, shaking the witch to her core, Nadia for her part immediately reacts, holding her right hand open; "DANI!" Comes the cry, already spots of heat and flame were headed for them, with one ugly sonofabitch leading, or rather... directing the charge? Either way she was already charging as she waited for the sword to enter her hand, listening to Emmett's orders. One that stated what she wanted to do anyways.
Attack. "URAAAAA!" Comes a battle cry through the muffled mask, that burned skin bastard was the number one priority, but she was not so sure she could get that far, one thing at a time as they say. And for now, there was several of those things. "Heh." Looking back at the rest she takes note of the Witch and says; "Regards from Russia, America and the DWMA! Cover me while we cover your mess! Everyone else, Follow me!" If they heard her or not, she could not say, nor did it matter too much as purified air enters the mask.
And with that she was amplifying her own power and headed headfirst into the small horde, her goal was to achieve a breakthrough and reach that charcoal bastard, or leaving an opening for the mentors if they were keen to play.
Raphael’s red and white eyes reflected the orange glow of the lava in front of him. He could see it, feel it, smell it even. This was what they were capable of. The adrenaline became a powerful drug - one that even stealing with his friends or illegal recreational drugs like crack couldn’t even compare - all that serotonin and dopamine rushing through his system. He felt unstoppable, his pride only held back by the idea that this wasn’t all him.
But ohhh, he wished it was all him. Granted, he stopped the crab to allow something as magnificent as this to happen in front of him. He had to learn how to do magic circles now.
After the show was over, he admired the glass that looked like diamond - a messy bush of clear crystal - before looking at the cooked crab. He wondered if it’s safe to eat now that it’s had a lava bath. Hearing that Maria and Chant could deal with the last bit of the crabs and said to leave the last crab alone, he decided to walk up to the one side of this crab that wasn’t covered in crystal. The crab legs were just above him, looking like tantalizing seafood just curled in the crab’s death throes above the sand it called home. Growing his chain, he threw it up, letting it wrap around the leg. He then increased the weight of the chain, the gravity and weight of the chain - and Raphael’s weight pulling it down as he jumped - cracked the leg off the crab, letting it fall to the ground and looking at the inside of the leg to see if it was cooked enough.
However, upon seeing how burnt the meat inside the leg was, he pouted his bottom lip briefly and shook his head.
The entire interaction between Emmett and this new witch was interesting. Nuanced. It was clear that the resistance he met when he tried to do anything productive upon arriving early had some type of underlying issue that Emmett was somehow able to mitigate. He wasn’t sure if it was due to the program or some international friction, but it didn’t matter. Trying to sieve through that nonsense was pointless, and Noah concurred by not putting any energy into thinking about it - letting it flow in one ear and out the other. The words that rang most through his mind were those two.
Going underground and in tight corners, Gauss speculated that he and Noah would become far less useful. As it stood now, their specific combination of abilities was hardly the most useful. Surrounded primarily by stone and dirt, magnetism was half-useless. Electricity seemed pointless on these creatures. Noah as a staff had little mass to crush those bones. For all intents and purposes, Nadia with her special Soul Force and Eva by virtue of hitting hard were far greater assets. All Gauss had done now was strategically reserve stamina, but that seemed to be a fruitless endeavor if little could be done with it.
So, to hell with conservation.
‘Noah, I believe it’s time we debuted what we practiced… before we’re underground and I can’t even spin you,’ Gauss mentioned, shooting that telepathic message to his partner. Gauss took his position, but a good few paces back from the others. With his right hand, he curled it under Noah as a staff and held him with one arm while unloading several of the metallic balls one at a time to his hand from his belt holster. He was reluctant to use them, but they were a necessary component of this next trick.
With that, he began to pour his wavelength into Noah. Just as they had practiced dozens of times before with Emmett as their guide. Gauss had his Soul Perception active and acute, taking note of the targets and each signature he could, focusing closely on the newest unknown target amongst the lot. He had his sights on them, but that was not what was most important to his goal. He had to factor in everything that Emmett had taught him. That he had reinforced.
A sound soul dwells within a sound mind and body. His mind had to be clear. No fear, no anxiety, and to reach out to Noah, he had to be doing this for the right reasons. This wasn’t to show off. This wasn’t to make a point to his sister. This wasn’t to prove anything to anyone. Gauss was sure they could do this. When he poured his wavelength into Noah, it was still, and calm, and full of surety, but most of all, it had a good intention: to help while he could. Noah, so close to his soul, could see what Gauss was worried about. How little they might add later. Expending their energy now might save them theirs, and they would likely be more useful underground. It was tactical. It was logical. It was for the better of the team, so he thought.
‘Are you ready, Noah? If we try this, I need to inform them,’ Gauss asked, preparing for what was to come and making sure the two were of the same mind when it came to this. It needed to be unanimous.
Noah felt that wavelength and he grabbed onto it like a metaphysical handshake, also giving some of his own wavelength to Gauss as reassurance and to bridge themselves closer for that sweet, sweet resonance. He felt that worry. He was worried about it, too. But he had that trademark shit-eating smirk on his face and he spoke out to Gauss, his tone just as sure as Gauss’ wavelength. ‘Hell yeah, man. Let’s rain metal ‘n’ lightnin’. Don’t worry ‘bout how much damage we can do, worry ‘bout gettin’ through one step at a time ‘n’ doin’ what we can in the now than in the future.’ The staff crackled with lightning as he began to charge up with the help of Gauss’ wavelength, focusing his attention on those metal ball bearings and waiting for them to be flung.
With their power combined, each of their respective abilities grew stronger. This was incredibly evident with the intensity of the sparks from Noah, but less so with the magnetic fields of Gauss. It wasn’t until he released the balls into the air to float, then launched each one in rapid succession at the skeletons did the raw increase in velocity make any discernible difference apparent. Each of these balls firmly planting themselves in at least one target, even if embedding themselves into bone and partial flesh to do so. And, more importantly, avoiding Sara and Nadia as much as feasibly possible.
’Step one down, man. Now let’s light’m up,’ Gauss responded, feeling the confidence that Noah fed him and bouncing it back in full support. Gauss extended the hand he had holding Noah and began spinning him in place before letting go all but entirely. This was the technique that Gauss had developed for spinning Noah as fast as possible. Magnetically. However, he still had to maintain physical connection, which he did with just the tip of his finger, making Noah effectively a propeller. To enhance this speed further, Gauss poured even more focus and effort into the endeavor, extending his left hand of his to help regulate the spin.
The result was a staff spinning until it became but a blur, sparking electricity out of the edges created by the rotation at greater and greater rates, and creating a massive arc of electricity in a flowing circle around the golden edges of the staff end. If not for the sheer danger of the voltage and control this required not to backfire, this near neon glow might have even been considered pretty. As it stood and at their level of practice, this demonstration was as nerve-wracking as it was dangerous for the fledgling partners.
’This is about the most I can handle, so blast at the unknown when you’re ready,’ Gauss told Noah. As he told Noah that within their shared Soul Space, he removed his hand from in front of the staff to reach up to his communicator to send a distinct and important message. ”Lightning incoming. Resonating now. Watch close,” he shared with them, only detracting his focus in short bursts as to maintain their state of Resonance. Still, some type of warning was absolutely necessary.
Ohhh, that energy and the thrill of being spun was addicting. It felt comparable to being on a roller coaster ride. Being spun so fast legitimately felt like the best thing since the last time he’s been at an amusement park, and that’s literally longer than a decade. When he was told to fire, he gave a hyped, elated chuckle, the lightning arcing around the duo and hitting the floor before a powerful electrical beam fired from the center of his spin. A crack and a boom permeated the air as it surrendered to the raw force of the electrical current flowing through it. This was when their combined focus was necessary. Resonating at their peak to keep this beast on its chain, the flow of electricity snaked through the air to hit the unknown target first, blasting it with no small amount of force in both the lightning and their wavelength.
Then soon what followed was the control over this lightning that neither of them had yet demonstrated to Emmett in their practice. Hopefully he wouldn’t be too pissy. Gauss quickly grasped Noah to stop the flow of electricity and spiral, but not only to end the lightning generation and subsequent drain on their reserves, but also to allow both of them to focus on the lightning that existed. Minds focused and keen, the wavelength that guided the lightning was shifted from its first target to another; the nearest ball bearing. The lightning followed, albeit weaker. Then again and again and again as far as the two could keep their concentration on the wavelength Gauss left in each metallic ball, using them as a target for Noah to conduct the lightning to.
Daniella Ethalyn - Paris, France (Rail Line) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I... appreciate it..." Dani replied to Nadia's consolation before shaking her head. "Nah... need a clear head for now."
The discovery by Nadia made things a bit easier, but the creatures were still durable otherwise. Dani only hoped this was all there was with no tricks or surprises, but she wrote that off as wishful thinking.
The comment from Emmett made Dani jump slightly, more as she still wasn't used to the direct tone and nature from him. Though, it didn't earn any backtalk, just a grumpy sigh. There was no way she could be relaxed in this situation in the first place, and the demonstration from the pair afterward, freezing everything around them near instantaneously, didn't make it easier to do so.
"We're so outa our fuckin' league..." Dani murmured, affixing her gas mask as she followed.
As they proceeded into the underground, they managed to rendezvous with at least one member of the forward team. According to the witch, she had remained behind to keep a fallback point secure. As she spoke however, Dani narrowed her eyes in annoyance, though in perhaps a surprising display of restraint, didn't retort to the woman's cut-off words.
Dani wasn't all that prideful, but she had still been a damned two-star. It kind of ticked her off being so looked down on by one-stars just because she was in FATE. She wasn't in here because she was "safe" or weak, after all.
However, that restraint dipped more as the woman spoke. The realization that the one-stars were here to actually gain territory just irritate Dani more, but more so at Command than the one-stars themselves. Throwing a bunch of one-stars in like this, even if they were desperate, was essentially a death sentence.
Dani's head jerked in the direction of the explosion, staring into the darkness as light by light flickered on. She grit her teeth from the stress as the figures became more clear.
"Fucking suicide mission...!" The Demon Sword growled, though whether she was referring to them, the one-stars, or both was not clarified.
Instead, she burst into a light and shot into Nadia's hand, taking the on her sword form with a visage shone in the reflection. Nadia was charging headfirst expecting the others to cover them, which Gauss and Noah did. She was a bit surprised they could work with some level of cohesion, but then again, this was practically a straight line with them on one end and enemies on the other.
Regardless, that took care of some of the skeletons. The black thing was a different story though. Dani didn't know what the hell it was and didn't want to find out what it could do.
"Resonance? That thing looks more held together than these fuckin' things."
The sand and debris kicked up by the buggies would be a bit loud, the roudy engines providing a consistent sound to drone in excess. The myriad of buttons and lights were of little consequence to the weapon, assuming they were driver controls… that was until they spoke with Midori’s voice and explained the indicators.
Of course any conversation she could have possibly come up with, which she wouldn’t have in the first place, would have been drowned out by the needed explanation for the mission.
Drop off of a prisoner and trade. Simple as long as you didn’t think about it and the complications. Simple for a weapon who had no ties to the organization or emotions regarding them…. Well besides the fact they caused her trouble by proximity to Zosar. In that regard, they were little more than stereotypical minor villains like Midori tried to explain them off as. Pawns in a board filled with bigger pieces. Her mind of the group would be willingly kept as simple. After all, Adrasteia was smart enough to know the less she knew about Zosar and the group the less she would worry about his possible betrayal. Less she would care if she had to fight them. Less to care about in general.
Of course as she bounced the words in her head, Zosar seemed to almost talk about the subject of his defect immediately. Prompted by Midori, of course, but no less eerie timing. As they meister spoke and looked at her as he declared his answer, she simply shrugged at him. She wanted to see the proof, and that would come. If he had any real ties she would feel it if they fought. Hopefully? It wouldn’t come to that though, the weapon not too keen on driving the buggy back herself without Zosar. That would be a hassle.
She didn’t bother to respond, making her point clear. Actions will tell her the truth. She looked at the roll cage above her, staring at it’s limited ceiling of the bare-bones cab as she spaced out.
I sure have a way of ending up with meister’s with their own issues…. Is baggage just a common thing for the lot?
The ball bearings whizzed through the air and lodged themselves in several of the approaching skeletons. Some missed their mark ever so slightly or bounced off of the unnaturally hard bone - but they still proved the path of least resistance once the lightning struck. The force with which they were launched were in and of itself enough to give the vanguard pause, but the following flow of electricity ruptured them at the edges, penetrated their bodies and arced dangerously at the old railroad tracks beneath them. The chain of lightning crackled and roared, but neither the heat nor the kinetic energy were enough to mortally wound the skeletons. The wavelength inherent within, however, disrupted the flow inside of them, causing some to flail uncontrollably and some to seize up entirely as the attack bounced through the brunt of the first wave and sent them stunned to the ground, ripe for the breaking. They were rendered harmless, if only temporarily.
The skeletons in the back were still moving quickly, and threatening to soon overtake and protect their fallen allies.