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Hero, Don't Kill The Demon King! Chapter 2: What Once Was is Once More

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Ilvira snapped out of her confusion in an instant when a familiar blast of ice went off, having been hit by one of those earlier. The construct she'd pummeled with Ayane was back for more, and the elf wouldn't have it stick around here, not when Lady Thesephine had important matters to solve. She weaved behind the eyeball monster to not disturb the lady's question too much, gales of magic wreathing her more ornate sword as she moved in to strike with as much force as she could. "Do not interrupt us, device! Tempest Blade!"

Ilvira moves to 29-16, equips Illansointu and attacks Construct 13 with Tempest Blade.

Edited by JakezuGD

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Marina wasn't sure what she was doing, or where she was going, but she was sure that it would be better than here. They needed to find the others, and the tremor that they felt earlier from that blast told her that they couldn't spend a lot of time here. Fortunately, her dashing seemed to pay off, as not only did she find and open door, she also found Bladen also charging his way through the door. He hadn't noticed any of them, and he was long through the door before Marina could get any words out. There was a feeling of relief knowing that Bladen was alright, and it rekindled hope that the others were going to be too. 

Lucille had just overtaken Marina when she'd also seen the crow go by. She frowned, but simultaneously released a sigh of relief. At the very least he was seemingly okay, and they were going in the same direction. Though, if anyone was going to catch up with him, it was going to be her and Villkiss. She had no idea what was waiting for them around that corner, but it would be better if they all stuck together. Even if Lucille didn't like that thought very much, it was the best option overall. Lucille took a shivering breath. She still was not doing well after feeling that intense blast of fire magic. She looked back at Marina, "I-I-I'll catch up to Bladen, and, and tell him that we're, uh, following behind." She snapped the reins, and Villkiss flew off after the crow. 

Marina realized that her previous assessment had been right. Lucille's frustration and anger from earlier had almost completely evaporated; replaced by anxiety and fear. Was it the blast? She didn't have much time to worry about it, or respond, as Lucille flew off after the crow as soon as she'd spoken up. The only thing to do was follow. 

Marina to 25, 38! 


Lucille rounded the corner, and froze, as she now had understanding of what the blast was, and the carnage that it had caused. Lucille had almost forgotten why she'd flown ahead. The blast alone was enough to be concerning, but the rubble, the burn marks... "Oh my... god..." The scene was familiar, if on a larger scale. It was just missing the bodies. The bodies and the men and women glaring at her with twisted smiles, and grotesque movements. Of course, Lucille didn't have the full scope of things. Just because there weren't bodies now didn't mean that no one had been felled by the blast. Perhaps turned directly to ash, or their bodies had been thrown out of view. Perhaps she'd find Seilan, or Nessraya. She felt like her neck was being crushed. It was suddenly hard to breathe, hard to focus on anything but the memory. She doubled over, arms wrapped around herself again. "No... No, no..." Whereas she'd managed it earlier, it was just too much to hide now. 

Lucille was off, alone, seemingly in her own world. Villkiss did the only thing she knew to do in this situation; find the nearest person. Which was the crow that Lucille had followed after, and if he didn't help, the others were following behind. Villkiss landed close to the crow with a whine. She was a very trusting horse, even if her rider was the direct opposite.

Lucille to 24, 36, May be panicking.

Edited by Mercenary on the Winds

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Bladen had been flying so fast, he had completely missed the small group of his companions. However, as he started to land, looking at the destruction in front of him, worry about his friends starting to rise in his chest, he heard something behind him, causing him to whirl around, sword drawn, only to see Lucille, seemingly chasing after him. A small part of him suddenly felt a pang of guilt, his distrust of her from earlier suddenly seeming foolish. She was human, from the enemy army, but she had chosen to fight with them.

"Lucille, I... Are there others with you?" The question slipped out before he took a closer look at the woman, seeing her panic. He froze, unsure what to do. On the one hand, she probably didn't even like him after everything he pulled earlier. Probably didn't even trust him. He wasn't even sure he trusted her really. But seeing her like this, doubled up on the back of her pegasus, seemingly trying to keep herself from falling apart... If I was in her shoes, what would I want? 

"H-hey there. Lucille. It's ok. Look at me. It's ok. We'll get out of here." Where's everyone else? She needs someone other than me and fast... "It'll be ok. We'll find everyone else. I promise." I can't make that promise. But I'm making it anyways. But what if she and I are the... No. The others are alive. They're strong. They'll be ok.

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Nisha's words did actually reach Ren a little, enough to make him slow down in his pace as he took a sigh. "...mm, fine. I don't wanna fight what's out there, I just wanna make sure she's safe..." Ayane was everything to Ren right now, there was so much going through his head. But he decided to slow his pace a little as the group entered the room and saw more allies ahead of them.

Ren moves 9, 30

--------------------

Meanwhile, Ayane kept running herself. It did mean she was separating herself from Thesephine's group, but her emotions seemed to take control of her right now. 'I have to get out...I have to...for Ren, for everyone.' She kept her pace until she just rushed through another room nearby, not terribly far from Ren and the others.

Ayane moves 16, 28

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Two warring thoughts battled for control of Lucille's mind. The real realization that the magic was gone, that this had little to do with her past, and that there was still good chance that everyone was fine. The other, more powerful, all-consuming thought was that they were gone, incinerated by a wave of flames that would surely come for her next. After all, it was only a matter of time, before the flames came for her a third time. Once for her family, second for her new home, and a thir-- 

Lucille heard a voice speaking. 'Lucille, I... are there other people with you?' The voice was familiar, yet, entirely unfamiliar. She managed to pull her face up to look at the crow. She'd half expected a look of disgust, or a smirk at her sudden weakness. She didn't find any, at least, not on the surface. There was real concern on his face, and in his voice; a far-cry from his distrust of her earlier. It was going to be okay, and a promise to find everyone else? Words that she'd never have thought would leave his mouth, and least of all, to her. She looked back to the destruction in front of her, shrinking again. She shook her head, and took a series of quick breaths to try to get herself under control. She didn't really believe what the crow was saying. He hadn't trusted her before, and that wouldn't have changed so soon. However, his words had reminded her that she'd already made a promise, and had said that she was going to catch up with the crow to tell him about the others. "Y-y-yes... The, the, hah, the others aren't f-far behind. I, I, I'm fine... I'm okay... Marina, Lavinia and Gabriela, were with me."

Suddenly Lucille couldn't really feel the cool air. The place was suddenly very warm as her embarrassment started to mount alongside the anxiety. She shrank even more to the point that the crow wouldn't have been able to hear Lucille's, "Thank you... ."  She'd never have been able to say it out loud, nor did she think she would have wanted to, but she appreciated the crow's attempt.

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Jade turned back to Seilan, a bit touched by the unexpected action. Unless she'd actually been hurt worse than she felt, maybe that's why... Sometimes it was hard to know. "Ah, thanks. Looks like nothing pressing here anymore,"  A smile and a laugh, trying to keep a positive outlook on things. "I am still concerned about how we have yet to find most of our group," though there was now a small trickle of them coming up from a door to the south that was no longer closed. "I think I'm going to push ahead, and see what I can find out."

As the zombie was wheeling down toward the door, Ren broke to his right, her left, so she switched tack and followed, that was the direction the damage had been as well, so it was a classic case of two birds, one stone. "Ren, is it just the three of you from down there then," she called out as she passed by the oni. "Our end has myself, Seilan, the General, Ember, and Nashwa. So far at least, though, I think I caught a glimpse of someone I didn't recognize. Was a little distracted by these golems at the time."

Jade moves to 14,29

Her nightmares kept her wagon rolling, and as she ended up passing Ren, she began to slow them down, to give the man a chance to catch up and converse, but as she came alongside a pillar and could see past it, another welcome sight came into view. "Ayane! How are you, are you alone?" The small red figure she had seen before was nearby, so she kept her custom pistol at the ready in case she needed it, but she was not training the sights unless and until an indication of hostility arose.

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Seilan paused for a moment, unsure if what he saw was mild surprise, or perhaps something else; but before he could puzzle it out Jade pointed out a rather more pressing concern. He slipped the staff back onto his belt as Jade took off, towards a couple of their now-visible distant allies.

"Right - let's keep moving, we still need to find a way out after we regroup with everyone else. I'll be right behind you."

It looked as if Jade was speaking to Ren. Seilan kept his eyes towards what might have passed for center of the labyrinth, looking for others. There were... voices in the distance, possibly, but given how sound seemed to echo off the vast stone walls, it was hard to know how far away they were...

Seilan to (12, 31).

Edited by mcd900

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Sollowy to 15, 29.


"Hhhhh, fuck..." Ember let out an uncharacteristic whine as she slowly rose to her feet. Never in her years had the Helhound ever run across something as terrifying as that red terror. The magic was gone now, had been gone ever since the woman had shrunk, but it was only now that Ember's legs stopped shaking enough for her to struggle to her feet. "Gods, lesson learned. Not touching anything in ancient ruins again..."

Ember to 10, 33.


"I don't owe you anything you damned bitch!" Xetketh spat at Hecate, glare still on every single eye as she ignored the miniscule medusa for the moment. "If you can't remember anything, then all the better! You can die cursing your own ignorance!" Though she talked big, she could do little more than continue to glower at the woman on the throne. Whatever had happened to her had robbed her of even the simplest Flux spell. Though, perhaps she didn't even need to raise a hand against the woman. The medusa wasn't loyal to Hecate, even willing to dispose of her if it meant freedom. She could use this. She turned ever so slightly to give the medusa the attention of her main eye while her stalks continued to glare at Hecate.

"To keep everything short in the interest of finishing before her," the venom on that word was almost tangible, "constructs overwhelm us, she's responsible for sealing my master, Miz'Githon, and myself for her own, selfish, gain..." Out of the corner of her eye she saw an attempted fireball fizzle out before it hit the throne. A few of her stalks shifted off from Hecate to follow the trajectory of it to see a red heap in a very familiar dress on the floor. A flurry of emotions swelled within her, relief, hope, worry, and refueled rage towards Hecate, all of which was visible on various eyestalks. She so very badly wanted to rush over to Miz, but she could at least do her best to turn these outsiders against her first. "Ahem. I can't speak to anything after I was sealed, but this is likely the prison where she moved us to after the act; it's not familiar to me in the least. Killing her will almost certainly take out her constructs which, if it doesn't free us altogether, will allow for an effortless escape. Now, if you'll excuse me, my master is waiting."

Her self-serving story and hypothesis given, Xetketh rushed towards Miz without regard for any of the others present. "Miz!" She shouted as she neared the heap of her that was on the ground, forgetting her full title in her relief as she stopped just in front of the red terror. "You're..." She stopped herself midsentence. The fox was right, the magic she'd felt earlier was all but gone. Miz even looked like she'd shrunk, somehow. She didn't want to say Miz was alright, not when she was so clearly distressed. "I'm here, Miz."

Xetketh to 21, 24.

Edited by Ursali

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Gabby runs to 25, 42.

As Gabriela was moving, she suddenly saw a familiar sight, which made her heart skip a beat. It was her black-winged friend himself, Bladen!

''Bladen! Y-you're okay! I w-was so worried when I came too and you were.. nowhere to be seen! Are you okay?'' 

As she said that, it didn't take her long to notice that a certain someone wasn't doing very well. Lucille seemed quite panicky after their encounter with the constructs, and it was quite a worrying sight. Gabriela's head told her to leave the pegasus knight be, but was that really okay? After a bit, Gabriela spoke up anyway. ''Lucille... I realize this situation is.. tough, and with the whole sapping thing too... don't worry about it, okay? We are a team now, and we'll protect you, just like we protect all the others. I realize that may not mean much to you, coming from me... but please, try to calm yourself. We'll get through this and out of here, okay?''

Here's hoping that wasn't too much.. and that Bladen's speech was enough to cover up Gabriela's potentially awful one.

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Susan casts Elwind!
Roll: 63,28
15 damage!
Countermagic!
Susan takes 15 damage!
Susan gains +11 exp

Dyssa engages STAB
Roll: 97,6
Critical!!
66 damage!
The construct is blown to pieces!
Requiem gains +3 kills!
[Requiem Evolves]
Tundyssa gains +17 exp, +2 lance wexp

Mmnnn... Tundyssa. I'm... Regaining my memories. We must speak after this battle, when you are safe. Unlike the usual lust for blood that accompanied the voice int eh dragon's head, this one was calmer and more stoic. Something had happened to Requiem after that last intake of mana...

Tenna moves to 2,12, heal Tundyssa
+15 exp
"D-Dyssa, you've gotta, stop using that thing so liberally... I'm having trouble k, keeping up." Despite not having taken a hit, Tenna was starting to look a little out of breath. She'd been healing Tundyssa since they fell in...

Fyl zaps the construct!
Roll: 18,40
9 damage!
The construct fires back!
Roll: 30,26
24 damage!
Fyl gains +11 exp, +1 light wexp!

Ilvira comes in swinging!
Roll: 25,92
7 damage!
The construct falls!
Ilvira gains +34, +2 sword wexp

 

Edited by Mel the DM

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The construct stood in silence before Xetketh's accusation, a clear hint of annoyance in its face, though not much else. "Hmph." It glared at the beholder as it made past, analyzing its power in silence, and trying to piece memories from the little it gave away. "Miz... Miz'Githon? Ah..." Mumbling to itself, the construct once again turned to Thesephine. "Please, do not attempt to kill me. I already said the exit must up."

For what it was worth, Xetketh did manage to rattleHecate especially after Thesephine said she was fine taking it out. It seemed to be weighing Thesephine's reaction for it's next decision.


"Eh? Ah... g-good job?" Fyl wasn't expecting Ilvira's help... in fact, he didn't remember seeing her at all, and he was pretty good with faces! "Uh... who are you?"

"I could say the same... but thanks for the save. Introductions can wait." Taking a hurried bow, Agni left, going for Thesephine's side, the most reliable person he could see... which was a sad description of their current situation. "...Demon King, our group was separated before the explosion... that, aggressive monster, was found sealed. Asami seems to know a bit about this place, too. What have you seen? And... have you seen Marina?"

Agni to (22,19)

Nearby, Taiyou observed the happenings with a sigh. "Nope, I'm too lost. Too noisy." She only figured one thing so far --that there were more constructs at their tail. "We're not going to have a good time with these coming after us... Haah. There, we're going to need to stay in good form."

Taiyou moves 1 down, uses heal on Fyl.

Edited by Xinnidy

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Taiyou does a heal!
+15 exp, +2 staff wexp

Agni showed up, giving Thesephine a moment to think, as he relayed further information. The monster being sealed and found by people she could, hopefully, trust, did give credence to her claims against this construct. Things were too dangerous to truly decide, but she had to make a choice. Agni looked a little worse for wear and Thesephine heard the sounds of combat to her right. Clearly something was coming for them all in here.

Asami turned the corner, panting as she did her best to catch up. "Thesephine! Listen, you can't trust either of these people! Ugh... That, Beholder works for Miz'Githon, and given the destruction here, she's been released. I know these names don't, mean anything to you, but... She was not someone to side with. Neither is that shadow of a monstrous human in the throne! This Hecate..." Asami didn't know how they'd managed to fall into this centuries old grudge pit, but they were here, and they had to make it out above all else. "Think carefully! Please! If we get into a fight with any of them, we might never make it out of here..."

Thesephine bit her lip, finally letting out a sigh. She glanced at the construct again. It seemed to be gaining a lot of its memories back. "Hecate," she began, repeating the name Asami had said, "I'm going to give you one chance to show us some good will and get us all out of here. If these... Whatever they are that are attacking us, if they belong to you, turn them off, and show us all the way out. If you do that, I won't use any force, and when we can see the sun again we can discuss everything like the civilized beings we are... Surely you must know how to leave, if you know that the way out is up."


"Xety...?" A familiar voice. A familiar face. Miz looked up at the visage of the one eyed Changed before her, her face collapsing from confusion into tears, as she weakly crawled into the arms of the woman, hugging her tightly. "Xety...!" She couldn't let herself cry loudly, her sobs buried against the Beholder's body, her name cried out softly and weakly. "I'm so glad... Xety! Xety... I'm not alone... My magic, it's... It's n-not working, and...! And... I thought everyone was dead! Ahhh, hhghk... Snff, hhh... Xety... I'm so glad..."

Edited by Mel the DM

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"Well, something DID happen to your magic. And in your current state, you won't vaporize anything. Regardless, you, and presumably your Hecate, are the only avenues I have to get out of this place, so you'll be dealing with me until I've accomplished that." Nessraya replied, though once again she was unanswered as the former terror surged forward... or as close as she could to surging as she was now.

At this point, it seemed obvious that their red devil was intent on continuing despite her newly lacking ability. Watching her fireball fizzle without even making contact forced a small sigh out of Nessraya. The sheer pointlessness of it all... as she trailed behind, it seemed she might finally have something promising to look forward to. Another unknown monster, this one dropping a name to the nameless. And behind her, past the target of this 'Miz' attack, presumably Hecate, were more of Nessraya's own companions. Maybe this Xety would talk.

"Miz, is it? Well, that's more than she was willing to divulge. Even after completely exhausting her magic, your friend here is being completely uncooperative. Just who ARE you people, who is that? The only thing I've been able to glean is that she appears to be named Hecate. The year is 784, that seemed to shock your friend... maybe you can tell me just how ancient you two actually are." Nessraya fired off in rapid succession, her draining patience beginning to show on her face.

Ness to 20,25

____________

Whatever had done that didn't seem threatening anymore? Nisha wasn't sure how Nashwa could tell... must have been a magic thing, but if that was true, it was the best news she had heard all day. As Jade elaborated... mostly to Ren, but the wraith was close-by enough to hear it all, even better news. More folk nearby, and despite this being the direction of their sudden big bang, no reported casualties.

"We didn't run into anyone else from our group... there was a woman who I found down here. She was trapped in a weird egg... a bit cryptic, but didn't seem the bad sort. She went the other direction though, didn't want to approach whatever did... this." Nisha gestured to the now visible destruction on the floor and walls.

"Not that I blame her. But I couldn't let Ren go in alone, so we split up." Nisha concluded, Ren at least seeming to slow down now. And with others around, things seemed a little less dire, especially as Ayane became visible around the corner, meaning her urging that Ren slow down hadn't been a mistake. 

Nisha to 13,29

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Thesephine's eyes said a lot, enough that the construct avoided her gaze. And yet, someone else came to give their two cents, someone who called it a monstrous human, claim enough for the construct to look at this accuser... and be struck with familiarity again. "Tama-!!" As instinct kicked in, metal hands came to its mouth as the words were cut off. The construct collapsed on its knees, eyes fixated on Asami. "You're not supposed... why... why are you here?" Between Miz's attack, Thesephine's doubt, and this individual having some connection to it all.

There were too many threats, it seemed to be reconsidering everything, sizing up... itself, and then the destroyed construct, struggling to regenerate itself. "I might...? Haah..." It looked one more time towards Thesephine, that cold, golden gaze fixating onto her. "If I do that, will you prevent these monsters from attacking me?" It turned towards Miz and Xetketh, its meaning clear.

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Thesephine gave a glance to the odd monsters, nodding. "They don't seem all that powerful. The lives of my allies are more important than whatever grudge is going on here... If you choose to continue between each other when we're safe, that's your problem, but I'll keep them from harming you until we're all out of here. There will be further discussion above ground..."

Asami had flinched when Hecate almost spoke the woman's name, growling. "I am NOT her, and I'm glad you caught yourself. If you know, you know better than to give her any power. Fool..."

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"...Hmm. I..." It paused, looking down to the floor again, "Further discussion above ground..." It seemed to think on that sentence for a moment. Already having its trust shaken, it seemed to assess the ways to interpret that.

"No... if they can beat the constructs, I don't want them here. Not with the prisoners running free..." Mumbling to itself, it seemed to come to a conclusion, lifting itself up. "Okay..." Pausing once more, the doll's expression was pensive. "Can I make.... hmm... I think..." Mumbling to itself, it turned towards the recently destroyed construct, looking at its pieces. "Shut down."

The machine stopped repairing itself, a quick, continuous beeping before it ceased to move.

"Hm... We will talk outside, then. I need to get the rest. And you, fox, if you are not her, then why do your bear such similarity?" The doll was sure there was a quicker way to deal with the shutdowns, but it couldn't quite remember... "...Commands. I should ask a functioning one." Mumbling, it started to make steps... cautiously, as if someone that had never walked before.

Edited by Xinnidy

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Miz showed the monster from before a glare through her tear stained eyes. "You will refer to me as Miz'Githon at the least, you wretch... Xetketh is my most trusted confidant and I will only permit her to refer to me with such a friendly moniker. Not you. Not anyone else. No matter how weak I have become... I still have my pride."

Thesephine let out a hard sigh. These were clearly powers that needed handling, but they were in no position to handle them at the moment. It seemed as though this Hecate had the power to shut down the constructs, demonstrating that quickly... "Alright... When everyone else gets here, show us the way out. I'll keep those two away from you."

"I was a part of her," was all Asami offered to Hecate, not wanting to divulge further in present company.

Map End!


It had taken a little bit, but eventually, everyone had been gathered in the central hall near the half destroyed throne of this Hecate. It wasn't everyone... It stood to reason that if they had all survived, the rest were elsewhere on the floors above. Thesephine had kept an eye on both the new monsters and the construct woman, lance at the ready if necessary. "Alright... I think, everyone on this floor is here. You can take us out whenever you're ready, Hecate."

Edited by Mel the DM

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"Miz, I..." She returned the red terror's hug, holding her tight against her body as Miz began to sniffle and cry. Though her body was fast to reciprocate the comfort Miz sought, her brain was lagging far behind. She wasn't remotely used to comforting other beings, let alone Miz herself. Finally, she constructed the words she wanted to say. "It's okay, Miz. I'm here, I'm alive... My magic's gone too, you're not alone in that either. I'm so relieved you're alright Miz..." 

As the third wheel arrived and began to spout off questions all eight of Xetketh's eyestalks turned to glare at the woman while her main eye remained focused on Miz. She opened her mouth to shut down the woman for daring to disrespect Miz, but the red terror herself beat her to it. "If you want your answers, you will address her as such, and myself as Xetketh before you think to address me as Xety; that is a privelidge only she can have." She was nearly growling at Nessraya, in no mood for such impudence from someone so ignorant. "She is the Empress of Ishtaria and I her Direct Advisor. You may also refer to me as the Founder of Dark Magic if it helps one such as you better place our rightful spot in history. You can ask that medusa over there about the wretch of a human."


As the rest of this ramshackle group eventually made their way into the throne room Xetketh had positioned herself and Miz on the outskirts. She was none too pleased that Hecate had managed to avoid death at their hands, nor did she want anyone approaching Miz while the both of them were effectively defenseless. 

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Once the group had begun to gather, Bladen had awkwardly split off from Lucille, leaving her to find comfort from someone she actually liked, and instead set off to find the person he'd been searching for from the start. He'd talked briefly with Gaby, mostly to assure her that yes, he was fine, at least physically, and he'd spotted Xalrei and seen that she was fine. But the one he was really looking for, he'd finally spotted. Asami was standing near the center of the group, beside the Demon King and... a construct? But unlike the others it didn't seem to be hostile. He hesitated for a second but finally pushed on ahead, making his way towards her. Stepping up beside her, he gave her a smile. "Good to see you're not hurt. I can't wait to get out of here. I found chests full of arms. And legs. I mean, fake ones, clearly spare parts for the constructs, but do you know what it does to someone when they think they've opened a chest full of severed limbs? Ugh." He shook his head and then paused, remembering the other things he had found. "Oh. I also found a light tome, which you or Gaby could use, but then I also found some sort of book that I didn't recognize. I'm pretty sure it's magical, but beyond that... Any ideas?" He held out the strange spellbook he had found towards the fox.

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Though still unwilling to engage at all with the group, Xetketh noticed a particularly familiar magic coming from the boy near the fox. Once he pulled out the tome she was all but certain of what it was, one of her Gespenst tomes, but she was unwilling to move closer to talk to him and try and retrieve what was hers. Instead, all nine of her eyes came to rest on him and the tome in his hands; staring intently without making any other noise.

Edited by Ursali

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More impudence. More threats, more demands. And finally, claims of some substance from the new monster. Ruler of... Ishtaria? Founder of dark magic? Then they had to have been sealed... at least two-hundred and fifty years. As far back as the Tryxyss family held notoriety enough for records to exist of them, they had been adept in the art of dark magic. A singular sigh escaped Nessraya, long and deep. Observe them for a moment, then.

___________

By the time the group had regathered... at least those present on the current floor, anyway, their pair of ancient magi had done little other than collapse in a corner. Perhaps they had cooled off somewhat from their ludicrous demands prior. If nothing else, Nessraya's patience had marginally recovered. And seeing the self-pronounced advisor gazing at Bladen with all of her myriad eyeballs, it seemed time enough to intervene.

"Right. You two. I am giving you another chance to cooperate, perhaps we can begin with not snapping over using the only names either of you had given me, hmm? Miz'Githon, Xetketh then? Or are there any other additions you would like to retroactively apply without telling me them?" Nessraya began.

"The claims you've given so far are quite bold. Ishtaria... if you are it's Empress, then your Empire is lost to history. And the founder of dark magic... it's origins, also lost to history. I can say that written record of it's use in my own family dates back over two centuries, and I'm sure some record I am unaware of dates it further, but... no, if history retained a name for it's founder, I would recognize it." 

___________

It seemed that whatever was in charge of this place, the higher ups had gotten things smoothed out to some degree. At least they weren't being attacked anymore. The unfamiliar faces had a strange feel to them, and Nisha had no way of knowing at present which of them were responsible for all of this carnage. Slinking towards the one new face she did have some sort of read on, small as it was...

"Hey, Susan." Nisha started, materializing in front of the mage. She was definitely strange, but she seemed more approachable than the rest of them, and seemed familiar. Maybe she could shed some light.

"Sorry for ditching you, earlier. Judging by what they did to this place, I can see why you weren't keen on getting close, but I couldn't well let Ren run off alone and get himself torched. You... seemed to know who they are. All of this is pretty over my head, but maybe you understand our situation here a little better."

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Ren and Ayane had their tearful reunion, but Ren made sure to give Ayane a piece of his mind before they regrouped with the others. The two oni were still together, Ren didn't seem to have much to say however. He simply turned his head to Gaby and nodded at her, just to let her know he's fine. Meanwhile, Ayane couldn't help but draw her eyes toward Lucille and Bladen with some concern. 'I feel bad for that move I did back there, but...well I only hope they understand. Should I talk to them?' Ayane struggled with the idea, she knew she'd have to deal with some backlash. Strange, Ayane didn't fear death, this was different however.

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Susan winced as she felt the blowback from her attack on the construct. She'd known it was coming, but that hadn't make it hurt any less. The healer focusing on her dragon friend instead of the mysterious stranger wasn't unexpected either. The only one Susan could trust to have her interests at heart, was Susan herself.

After that, there hadn't been any more interruptions by any further automatons. She followed along behind the group she'd ditched originally, wounded now and not willing to risk exploring too far afield looking for staircases up to the higher levels alone. That said, when she caught sight of the red devil and her pet, she did dip into a side room, though there wasn't any danger of it leading to uninhabited dead ends, as conversational voices could be heard bouncing off walls on the far side, and sure enough, slinking through that room she poked her head around the corner and saw that the room opened up into a large area beneath the foot of a throne, upon which was seated the doll-maker.

Immediately disappearing back out of sight, pressing her back up against the bit of wall there, reminiscent of a doorframe without a door, she slid down to the ground and brought her fingers to her temple. Think, Susan, think. She wasn't on good terms with either devil or doll. But it was surprising that the latter hadn't just sealed the former once again, as unceremoniously as before. Surely that meant safety for herself as well then? At the very least, there were enough newcomers she stood a reasonable chance of not being noticed if she just blended in...

A deep breath, standing tall and heading out with confidence, headed over toward a small congregation of folk on the other side of the room, the words 'You can take us out whenever ready, Hecate,' coming from her left caused a break in her stride. After a moment's hesitation, she decided the only natural response for any bystander would be to turn and look, and that had the added benefit of being able to react if she was indeed spotted and attacked. But when she pivoted that direction,

"Hey Susan," seemingly out of nowhere, the same Nisha from before, the one who had freed her, showed her face for friendly conversation. Small mercies put the other woman between her and the throne, so not all was lost, and it wasn't likely random small-talk here would be enough to catch the attention of the parties she was worried about, so there was no point running from it. Listening to the rest of the other's concerns, and request for answers, Susan shook her head with a defeated looking twist of a smile.

"I did warn you, didn't I?" the magi sighed, then followed up apologetically. "I probably should have been clearer about things, but if you were unfamiliar with the empire itself I didn't really expect naming her as Moth'Tudon Ilvales Zath'Tanaz Githon, Miss 'I am Ishtaria' herself to have made a difference. Such a mouthful... now you know why I just call her the red devil, yeah? Shorter and more descriptive." Her gaze swivelled from her conversation partner to check on the status of the topic being discussed. Still on the outskirts of the group a fair distance away. No longer actively embraced by retainer, but still as subdued looking as last Susan had seen her.

"Anyway, she's evil, or if you think that a leap too far, allow for simply incredibly self-centered and tyrannical. Ishtaria's prosperity is a byproduct of her curiousity, experiments, and aptitude rather than any focused design. But she is without a doubt powerful, the first of the Changed, and there are many who would foolishly seek to emulate her. Of course, you're free to disbelieve me, this is purely from my perspective, how she's seen through the lens of the poor and the wretched. I'm sure if you asked a wealthy subject, you'd get quite the different answer. As for what business she had with Hecate, that reclusive scholar, researcher, and doll-maker, I can only speculate, but it certainly did not end as she had hoped."

Her explanation having changed targets, so too did Susan's attention, but as she turned to look at the throne and its occupant again, something wholly unexpected jumped out at her from the periphery. It couldn't be, but yet it was. She had grown, obviously, and so her clothes were different as well. The ornament in her hair was similar in spirit only, but the hair itself, and the face it framed. Unmistakable. Her jaw dropped, a few moments of silence, and she managed a final half thought or two to Nisha, before pushing past the girl. "I'm... my sister? I have to..."

Caution now disregarded, not quite breaking into a sprint, she bumped into and muscled past one, two? individuals before closing the distance. She almost threw herself at Cosette, hugging her firmly from her left side, before loosing her grasp and sliding around to the front. "Haha, I don't... I had hoped, but never expected to see you wake. It's been years, how are you?"

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Marina rounded the corner, and true to her word, Lucille had caught up to Bladen. Though, it seemed like something was visibly wrong with Lucille now, holding herself tightly while speaking with Bladen. Marina started to move closer when she noticed that the air no longer felt as heavy as it did a moment before. Like something had changed in their immediate situation. That didn't stop Marina from holding her blade tight. Everything had just gone wrong today, and there was no way that things were just going to even out like this. Gabriela and Bladen seemed to have things handled, but... something just bothered Marina about continuing to run away from things. Lucille had helped to protect her when that machine attacked her with that Runesword, even after her sudden, and still unexplained outburst. Marina took a deep breath, before moving towards the panicked rider. 

"Gabi's right, Lucille. I didn't hear all of it... But everyone is definitely around here somewhere... Look, over there even." Marina had only barely noticed Nessraya walking through their view and into another room, while Jade seemed to pull up stopping as she saw someone else. "I just saw the general and Jade." Though she looked anything but happy, which, admittedly, was probably the default state of everyone that was down here. Marina turned to Lavinia, still gripping her sword handle tight, "Let's follow after her." 


Lucille got smaller as she heard both Gabriela, and Marina both console her. She half wanted to say why she was so out of sorts, because the girls weren't entirely hitting the mark, but how could they? How exactly were they supposed to know that she was deathly afraid of fire magic, and that his horrific scene in front of her was nothing but a reminder of events that she wished that she could forget? The other half knew that a good amount of her panic was the fear of whatever might have happened to everyone who may have been close to the blast, so their consoling was at least somewhat on the mark. That didn't stop any of it from being embarrassing. Was she going to have to deal with this every single time she took to the battlefield?

Lucille shook her head, and then nodded at Marina and Gabriela. "I'm, I'm... I'm okay... We, we should just find our..." Marina then pointed out that she had just seen Nessraya and Jade, Lucille looking up to see if she caught the general. Marina wouldn't lie like that, so Nessraya was alright. Lucille's anxiety lessened, but only slightly, and not nearly enough. Now that Lucille was focusing on something other than her thoughts, she notice that Villkiss was behaving strangely again. She was going to have to treat her to something special when they got out of here. She forced herself off Villkiss, and took her by the reins. "M-M-Marina's right... we should follow after the General... Th-Thank you both... for the. Words. I'll, I'll be fine once, hah, we link up with... more people." 




Marina was at a loss. Most everyone seemed to be present along with a red demon... person, and a being with an uncomfortable number of eyes that happened to be staring at Bladen for one reason or another. Then there was the construct in the middle of the room joined by Thesephine, and Asami. The construct in the distance seemed to be completely shut off, so things did seem to be over. 

Which meant that Marina had all the time in the world to wonder. Why had she jumped? She knew now that she likely would have been fine, but she couldn't have known that before. Yet, everything told her that she had to. She had to jump. Bladen and Ayane falling to their potential grave was reason enough, and people probably would have believed it; Lucille certainly did. Marina though, couldn't be sure that had been why. She was glad that Ayane and Bladen were both okay, but she still wasn't happy. Surely, she would get some form of scolding for running off to jump in without a plan... but maybe that had been the plan? Things were starting to pile up. Marina already had the weight of the title of Hero on her shoulders, the destruction of Vaia, and being the direct cause of their civil war. The war that pitted brother against brother, family against family, father against daughter; destroying many lives irreparably, including someone like Tali. The weight of disappointment and anger from those she'd harmed, herself included, threatened to crush her.  Maybe for a moment she'd just wanted it-- Marina shook her head. Where did that thought come from? 

She needed to focus on things at hand. It seemed like Nessraya was questioning the two newcomers curled up in the corner away from them. Thesephine and Asami seemed enough for the construct in the center, so she joined the General. "I'm... glad to see you're okay, Nessraya. Who are... they?"


Lucille's first order of action once joining everyone--and it did seem like everyone had made it--was to look for Seilan. Lucille was just done. She didn't want to be in this place anymore. She didn't want to be around so many people anymore. She was almost sure that she preferred the scorching hot wastes to this; at least she hadn't needed to worry about what the heck caused that blast, nor whether Ayane was okay. Though, if Bladen was alright, there was a good chance that she had to be as well. General Nessraya seemed to be interrogating someone, and on Lucille's immediate glance, she very quickly decided that she didn't want the knowledge right now. It was good to see that she was safe. Seilan hadn't quite come into view yet, but Lucille did hear footsteps coming towards her. Not sprinting footsteps, but certainly hurried. Perhaps Seilan had seen her, and was actually worried about her!

Lucille found herself hugged, and for a moment she felt a sense of calm. Before the person who hugged spoke up which revealed two things to Lucille. First, the person mostly definitely was not Seilan, and in fact, was a woman and someone she didn't know. Second, more important and anxiety inducing, she was speaking as if they were supposed to know one anotherLucille froze entirely as the woman slightly released her grip, and slid in front of her. Lucille didn't take note of any of her features, or anything really after the opening hug and words. She just stared at her, rapid sparks running up her arm. Lucille didn't answer, but after a moment she pulled herself away from the woman's grip, and reflexively pointing a spell at the woman, "...g-g-get away, from me. W-w-w-w-who are... you?" Her fear started to mix with her frustration at everything that was going on. She was so very tired of this place, and only get more exasperated by the minute. "W-w-what the heck do you mean that you never expected to see me wake?! Wake from what?! You're, You're... going to tell me who you are, right now. Right this second. I was mostly fine before coming down to this... I don't even know where I am!! I've had it! I've had it with this place!" Lucille's spell started to take shape in front of her, "S-s-start talking, and if you take another step towards me, I will put several s-s-spells through you, d-d-d-do you hear me?!"

Even this one moment of supposed solace was anything but. 

Edited by Mercenary on the Winds

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"So it sounds like some of ours are stuck on the upper floors, from what the oni suggested. I trust that's being taken care of?" Agni posed his remaining question to the construct, staying beside Thesephine. He still felt quite uneasy around this figured, and something about the scorched room also kept him in high alert. At the corner of his sight, however, he caught some good news at last.

"Marina! Thank goodness you're safe..." One less person to worry about... this still left Taliyah and the others.


"Haaah... what a mess." This group was quite a lot to keep track of for Fyl, who kept observing those arriving for wounds. He still had no idea who the magic swordswoman was supposed to be, but soon others came of equally incognito nature. Including the multi-eyed person that ran past them earlier, and a weird red girl. "How many of those are we taking...?" He mumbled to himself.

There was a good point eavesdropped, though, with regards to those in upper floors. Maybe I should fly up and check on them. He seemed like the best equipped for the task --as usual, and spread his wings as he looked at the ceiling for holes.


"Ayane? Are you doing fine?" Taiyou couldn't help but notice the oni's distress some, being one of the few people she'd bothered to reasonably interact in the group. "Do you have any wounds? These constructs were quite a hassle." She spoke mostly from the memories of being swatted around by an axe-wielder, and also because she'd rather just focus on the inner group of people that talked to her for now. Too much going on at once.

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