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#1 Edited by Kaede_ (519 posts) - - Show Bio

It started with a dream...

@bladebrave: @iridum: @fallen_savant: @_gaige_: @anonymous3: @ashgray:

No Caption Provided

Sunlight scattered through the trees, quietly dancing across the windswept ripples in the ponds, sparkling through little streams. It warmed the leaves and the flowers, and they reached towards it eagerly. All was peaceful and quiet, static but for the changing of the seasons - an unbroken cycle of continuity. Time passed, and red light bloomed across the horizon as the sun gave up its last caresses for the day and slipped away to bestow its gifts elsewhere. Stars seeded themselves through the darkness, and beneath their blanket crept out the first sliver of the new moon.

The sunlight was gone, and the shadows of clouds stretched across the sky, catching the burgeoning first light of the new year's night. They reached down and touched the restless trees, the wild grasses, and the palest of the orchids. Ghosts within their cradles, they stretched out their arms to the shadows and welcomed them in. Across the quiet land the shadows crept, ivy turning to darkness, bringing shade to all it touched. Beneath it, the greenery withered and faltered and died, and by the time the sun struggled upwards from the east, there was nothing left but barren land, broken trees, and dead gardens.

The remains of a withered maple tree stood in the middle, flecked by the tiny white blossoms of the orchids whose tendrils pierced its bark, tearing it slowly down as it rotted from within.

The New Year dawned, with resolution.

Kaede Mitsuri sat up carefully in bed in the cabin, looking out the window. What an odd dream. She'd been having a number of those lately. Ever since the ghost orchid had come to life in her sanctum. She knew what it was doing, the way it was focusing the shadows, the way they left bits of themselves that sank into the Arboretum and poisoned it. As tied to it as she was, how could she not be aware? And yet, she did nothing to stop them. That was not who she was, and it would have broken her to oppose them. She would not - but more, she could not, not and remain who she was. Challenging them would bring about change, it would mean putting her own interests ahead of others, it would mean provoking conflict rather than peace. That was not Kaede, and so she waited quietly and chose to let others make their own choices, offering only words and hints and encouragement. Sometimes, that was enough.

No Caption Provided

Sometimes it was not. She would have to see what it would be this time. For herself, she slipped out of bed and dressed slowly, picking up a stick to walk with on her way out and leaving the cabin behind, making her way to the circle of blight in the midst of the Arboretum where the ghost orchids grew and everything else died. Kaede stopped, and watched the circle. She did not step within it. Even so, it crept steadily closer towards her, necessitating her to take a step back to resume her stewardship.

I wonder what is going to become of today.

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#2 Posted by Fallen_Savant (214 posts) - - Show Bio

The Black Expanse

The Moor kept its own hours. In the caverns beneath the sunken sea, there was no sunrise or moonrise or starlight, only the eternal flickering of the gas lamps where they were wanted, and the darkness where they were not. In his study, Lord William Coulter pored over a treatise agitating for his attention without deserving it. The room was silent, but outside he was aware that there would be the usual scuffle of noises - dock workers going about their business, shopkeepers going about theirs, cultists praising his stewardship over them all. William Coulter kept a firm hand over his cultists. He had seen first hand what happened when they were permitted to get too many ideas of their own. That whole Washington fiasco on the surface might have been prevented with a little more diligence. Of course, had the young Emissary been a bit more diligent and a bit less insane, he might not be sitting here today in control of it all, and so he raised a glass to her absence. The girl had been useful, and he was fond of her memory for what opportunities it had afforded him, even if he had no particular affection for the girl that the memory represented.

No Caption Provided

The lamps seemed to flicker for a moment as the shadows reached out and grasped them, and a moment later William sat up a bit more directly, aware that a time had passed. What an odd dream. He hadn't intended to sleep, but it had pulled him in somehow, likely a dream that was no dream at all. The shadows he had bound to himself stirred, restless and wanton, seeking out... he was not sure what. Light to strengthen them, he thought. His sight still clouded somewhat with visions of black ivy and pale shining orchids, he rose from his chair. "Annette!"

She was not far, and appeared in the doorway as if she had been seeking him even before she called, the Lady who still refused to be his, and he treated her with a whimsical smile at the absurdity of her refusal even if he did not mention it outright. There were shadows in her eyes - a haze of sleep, and other things.

So. "You saw it, too." His gaze lingered on her, determining a course of action. "Sometime, when the shadows stir, I see a child among them. You know the one I mean." Annette's nod was confirmation without words, her eyes distant. "Good. You feel it, as I do. The stirring there. I want you to go. Take your shadow and travel the waters."

"It's inland." Her first words, soft-spoken.

William was neither impressed upon nor stopt in his course. "Inland, but there is water enough. I saw it, in the dream. Your shadow can penetrate it. Go, Annette. I want you to bring me the girl."

She half-turned, shaking her head, "Wil- Lord William. I cannot bring another through the shadow paths. You know that."

His eyes were dark, and cold. "Then bring me her corpse." The shadows were rising within him and they would not be refused. He left the room, and the manse, walking out towards the rocks where the ocean lapped against the islets in the cavern, letting the shadows bleed out into the water, beginning to call through them. They would come. They would all come. Annette would be gone soon, and if she did not bring him the girl, then he would settle the matter personally.

Japan, after all, was an island. The young Emissary had known how to deal with land, she had only been too naive and too insane to bring about the plan as it should have been. William was neither, and if he were to make an attack, it would be with planning and calculation and proper execution. The shadows had brought him power, and if they would not suffer the child of light to live, then he would see their will accomplished.

Mitsuri Arboretum

@kaede_: @the_custodian: @_gaige_: @renegade84:

No Caption Provided

Water lilies rippled as tiny disturbances caught them from beneath, the water of the pond unsettled, a dark heavy color far distant from its usual sunlit blue. The darkness gathered unto itself, and spun into a shadowy form, then sloughed itself off into the water and the ground beneath it, leaving a woman alone on the docks.

There were some that had noticed lately that there was often a strong resemblance between Annette Arquor and the late Emissary - there was some truth to it. The Emissary had adopted many of the styles of the Moor during her tenure there, and Annette... knew an advantage when she saw one. William might be the undisputed Lord of the Moor, but there were still those among the Cult of the Fallen Savant who remembered their Emissary favorably. Annette took care by manner and dress to bring those remembrances to mind. She was not yet certain if they would do her any good, but perhaps a day would come when it would matter. For now, she was a traveler without her cult, alone in a foreign land. She did not think it would matter overmuch. The peacefulness of the place stirred within her, something to guard against.

Somewhere within this place was the child she sought. Reluctantly, she stepped away from the water and onto the pathways. The sooner this was done with, the sooner she could be gone from this place above the water. She did not care for the openness of the sky and the distance from the salt of the ocean. Better to have it done with quickly, to return herself to her watery cradle - and bring the girl to her watery grave.

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#3 Posted by BladeBrave (338 posts) - - Show Bio

Nathan Gray half-woke from a very strange dream, rolling over in bed to put his arm around Saikea and forget about it until morning. Despite the way she lingered in his mind, though, the bed was empty, and his arm met only the tangled sheets as he stirred to full consciousness, wondering where she was.

Always, it was like that, and then the world came crashing down. He closed his eyes and breathed for a moment, deeply, and the rustling sounds of Ashley stirring sleepless in her crib prompted him out of his bed and over to hers, greeting her with soft sounds as she sat up and reached for him.

No Caption Provided

The echoing weirdness of the dream still haunted him, and he picked up his daughter and tried to shake them off, making his way out to the kitchen and starting a pot of coffee as a substitute for rest. The nice stuff that Rana had gotten him for Christmas, this morning. He had a feeling he was going to need something nice to get through the day. Ashley was deposited in her high chair with the distractions of a few small pieces of banana and a handful of Cheerios to throw on the floor, while he started up his computer and pulled up Unity's file system.

He just couldn't seem to get his mind off the water. Of the dark place beneath it, where Saikea had died in his arms and all the shadows she had bound to herself had bled off into the waves. Not into the waves, not really. Most of them had gone to her handmaiden, Kae- Katie. Not all of them, though. Rana, too, his hell-touched daughter, who had more than she needed to contend with already. She seemed to be at peace with hers, though, and so he said nothing about it when she and Yusha played shadow-tag together. She wasn't the only one, either. Ashley squiggled in her high chair, depositing another Cheerio on the floor with an air of great pride, and he watched the shadows dance across the tabletop between them.

The damn things were everywhere, he thought. Mostly, though... mostly, they were in the water. He could feel the pull. Feel the imminent sense of waiting. Something... something would happen, and it would be bad.

I know where they are. I've known for months. Since he'd gone after Saikea, who had been called beneath the waves by whatever mystical nonsense she'd gotten herself entangled with at the end. He'd known about the strange place beneath the waves, the way it dampened powers and amplified insanity.

And in some way, he'd always known he would have to go back. He turned his head towards the hall, knowing that Rana would be out soon - she was stirring already, although being a teen girl she often felt the need to appear presentable before emerging from her room. He stood from the table, pouring himself a cup of coffee and a half cup for her, to leave space for all the cream and sugar she'd no doubt want to dump in. Both cups he placed on the table, and he stared at the computer a moment longer, then nodded slightly to himself, and activated the Unity system.

Unity was not known for making raids... but today, he was going to make one anyway, because he had a feeling it was something that needed to be done. With their support... well, with their support, there was a chance. He would just have to see if they were willing.

And he'd have to decide what he was going to do about Ashley. She had been born beneath the waves... maybe she, too, had a right to see this through. He didn't know. But somehow it felt like she needed to be there.

@iridum: @gale_xanders: @orange_water: [@the rest of Unity].

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#4 Posted by Gale_Xanders (3189 posts) - - Show Bio

@bladebrave: @iridum@orange_water:

Gale Xanders cocked her head as information from Unity scrolled across her vision. She closed the folder she was working on and left the office in her football stadium. She made a quick trip to an elevator, entered and activated a security scan. The lift took her several floors below the so called basement to The Bunker, a complex of tunnel connected facilities below LA that she had built upon over the years. This first room was a cavernous space best described as a cave. Banks of super computers processed information against the far left wall, a series of massive curved monitors displayed data as they turned on at her arrival. Lights flickered on as she stepped out of the lift. A gleaming glass table occupied the center of the cavern, a meeting place for multiple survivors. She sent teleportation coordinates to all members of Unity. Not enough time to bounce around the network.

Where most of her technology was integrated holographic hard light systems, the Bunker was comparatively retro. Actual physical consoles and buttons replaced holographic displays and she used one of these to enter a series of additional commands that would provide security clearance for everyone else. The Bunker was meant to operate as a base of operations for when society would inevitably enter its next cycle of darkness and collapse. It was powered by an anti-matter core buried deep within the network inside of its own containment chamber should its fail safes collapse. "Open Social Collapse Armory Alpha One."

No Caption Provided

The right most wall flipped over to reveal a gleaming series of weapons, row upon row of durable, easy to clean, easy to use weapons with easily reproduced ammunition. Gone were the plasma weapons and the advanced electronics, replaced with bullets, steel and wood. She ran her fingers over an AK-47, the easiest to use, most reliable weapon on the planet. She shrugged and moved on, searching out a different weapon to use. Eventually her fingers settled on the IWI Tavor X95 and she lifted the rifle from the wall, gathered a dozen magazines and set it and the magazines on the table. Next to come off the wall was a simple rapier, followed by a fifty caliber Desert Eagle, over kill by most standards, perhaps enough against a meta.

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#5 Edited by _Gaige_ (992 posts) - - Show Bio

@kaede_: @renegade84@the_custodian@kaija@lightning_god@orange_water

Sleep was kind of a rarity in a way for the mech pilot the original shadow seemed content within the gamer it was however only so through engineering. Every night she seemed to still be at work building and constructing. She wanted to largely do it on her own so the tech to dip into space travel was taking time and building giant mechs took time for the UNKD. All the same sense the shadow merged with the gamer she sort of engineered within her sleep. In a rare instance however Lizzy this night managed to dream.

It was largely peaceful and serene the gamer thought and in a way it got the pilot asleep in her chair to smile. A rather pleasing night in a local she considered home. It seemed to be wilting though and fading as shadows spread and in the sights of particular orchids more specifically. Didn't take a genius to figure out something was wrong though not a nightmare there were signs that something was awry and foreboding. Her home was rotting away and from it the gamer woke up mind going a mile a minute by default. The shadows helped her have a level of activity even in sleep the pilot seemed to work even when asleep and so she woke up thinking to herself.

No Caption Provided

A best friends birthday was today, something was off however. Go figure in the metahuman world something might come up. They knew of someone else who had a rather messed up sixteenth birthday after all. For other friends odds were the enthusiastic gamer would of gone out of her way to cast a surprise. For Kaede though and her condition she'd decided not to do anything to much. After a shower and getting ready the pilot sent a message to the other members of her team, Kaija, Ali and Landon "We should do something for Kaede today. Know she probably doesn't want a bunch of bought gifts or extravagant parties. Sixteenth birthdays only come once though. <3" Means of transportation of course were ready to coordinate if they desired to come by. Was sometimes taxing to coordinate things when the world always demanded so much to take care of in this line of work something should come of today though.

Mixing a few caffeinated drinks together the pilot went out to greet one of her closest of friends. Her zero suit concealed under a sweater to shield some against the cold breeze. A hug came from the flanking rear, whatever was befalling Kaede led Lizzy to use a feather touch. Not unlike a year or so a go when she worried her own touch might lead to harm to herself. "Know you're a pacifist but we really should do something about this it's clearly problematic. Happy birthday by the way anything you want to do, no you know isn't an answer right?" A gift from a friend seemed to be causing a problem within the garden, Rana's to be exact, would of been nice to blame the devil for that one. Seemed more likely to be shadows though, the pilot could feel it in a way. As if this spot felt almost more comforting in it's shade despite it's ruin cast on surroundings. Wasn't long before however Unity was calling in and drones picked up on someone. Com systems came to life as well of a requested mission @bladebrave@gale_xanders"a best friend's birthday is today not sure I can join. Not to mention we may have an issue here to, investigating now." Auburn eyes turning to the youngest member of the team before shaking her head "seems like a bad call, but you're your own person want to come with." Concerned as the pilot was over safety this was her friends home and guest and her birthday one had to make their own choices.

Sisters Eye dispersed a quick portal through the doorway of slipspace for the gamer to move from one end of Mitsuri to the other. Where she could stand before someone only seen briefly near the end of Washington, but also strikingly similar to someone else the pilot met and the original owner of the shadow Lizzy had come to know. @fallen_savant"Hai, you look a lot like the other who led them never noticed that. Last one, not Saikea. Can I help you?" Mitsuri had always been a place of peace Lizzy didn't want to act ever against that notion if it could be helped. Despite such feelings in her heart though, back of her mind tucked at the idea of drawing a weapon against this woman. The shadow along the grass that belonged to Lizzy seemed to be more positioned to draw a weapon then the physical body was. The woman bore resemblance to the woman a teenager slew. Maybe it was just the shadows of the one who'd been at the heart of change Saikea's shadow, Lizzy felt almost like the woman she met on the beaches of Boracay so long ago however could have also been the unmet dead or the woman before her now. Shadows making things feel more familiar then they ought to be.

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#6 Edited by Kaija (1832 posts) - - Show Bio

@kaede_: @_gaige_: @lightning_god:

Today was a good day; at least as far as Uma knew. For all intents and purposes, it was a day off. She had gotten a full night's rest, there were no kaiju to be seen or heard of, and no angels for her to concern herself with. After a few hours of training that morning, she had spent the rest of the day just goofing off and hanging out with Ali; doing whatever they had felt like doing.

A cool breeze filled the room through the open window and carried the slightest scent of salt to remind them how close they were to the ocean. Some 90's rock that, at this point, could almost be considered classical music serenaded the couple on this quiet afternoon. Ali was sitting at the edge of her bed, fully immersed in some game where you... shoot robot dinosaurs with a bow? Kaija's eyes flickered over to the screen every once in a while, but the sheer absurdity of the game kept her from getting invested in the slightest. Even then, she wasn't much of a gamer and was moreso just happy to be able to take a day to relax and that Ali had found something that he really enjoyed. Her attention was more focused towards a souvenir that she had picked up recently.

With her head resting on a pillow and her back to the mattress, she held an unusual coin to the sky. She wasn't sure why she had kept it after its owner had fallen. It was always best to forget the dead and keep them out of mind. Yet, there she was with the relic in hand and the memory replaying in her mind. One might consider alerting the angel to her presence her greatest mistake that day but, given how she felt at that moment, speaking to him seemed to be the worst thing that she had decided to do. After all, she knew better than that.

Listening to someone's words reminds you of how human they are.

Her phone chirped as she got a text.

"We should do something for Kaede today. Know she probably doesn't want a bunch of bought gifts or extravagant parties. Sixteenth birthdays only come once though. <3"

"And she tells me this today and not a week ago," Kaija said aloud, both speaking to herself and hoping to garner Ali's attention all at once, "She's the same age as Rana, right? Well, she'll probably enjoy getting a pocket full of cash too," she sat up and looked in Ali's direction, meeting his eyes if he looked back, and continued to speak ambiguously, "It's technically not bought."


A short while later Uma, Gaige, and Ali would arrive in the Arboretum together; an envelope in the young soldier's hands with the birthday girl's name scribbled onto the front and a few hundred dollars inside. She had decided a long while ago, a few seconds after receiving Gaige's text to be exact, that if Kaede didn't find money a satisfactory gift then she would pin the blame on Lizzy for notifying her of the date... a few minutes before they were to leave for the party. The fact that it was cold hard cash that Kaede could spend anywhere and not an annoying gift card was the second argument that she had prepared, if needed.

When she took a look around, however, Uma didn't find the balloons, music, and festivities expected of a party. Much to her dismay, the young girl who had agreed to let her use the Arboretum's garden to grow her most precious flower was looking even worse off than when she had last seen her. She knew that the young girl wasn't doing well from her last visit, but she wasn't expecting to find that the girl's condition had been slowly deteriorating.

"Know you're a pacifist but we really should do something about this it's clearly problematic. Happy birthday by the way anything you want to do, no you know isn't an answer right?"

Kaija hadn't the slightest clue what was going on, and Gaige's behavior only worked to further confuse her. What did pacifism have to do with sickness? Was she even sick or just more injured then she had been when they last met? What kind of problem was she having that might require violence to fix? Without any explanation, Gaige opened another portal and left in an obvious hurry. Kaija gazed at the spot where her portal had just been after it disappeared behind her, then glanced over at Ali, then turned to Kaede and slowly approached with obvious curiosity and concern; the sixteen-year-old's gift still in her hands.

"Um... Happy Birthday, Kaede. I uh, brought you something," she explained, extending a hand to offer Kaede the envelope, "When you're on crutches, you're supposed to get better, not worse, you know?," Kaija thought to herself that perhaps, if helping Kaede required a more... hands-on approach, then maybe she could be of help. After all, life had shown her that, of all things, violence was what she was best at. But, before she could even attempt to be of assistance, she needed to have some idea of what was happening to the young girl in the first place, "What's been going on with you? Anything I can do to help?"

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#7 Edited by Lightning_God (167 posts) - - Show Bio

@kaede_: @kaija: @_gaige_:

Technology in the realm and outer world had minor differences. For example, there weren't mobile phones in the realm, but there were Computers and video games. Ali naturally enjoyed playing video games, no matter how weird they were in Kaija's opinion. For instance, this particular game had an archer, an outcast who grew up to be a protector of the land. It had an incredibly vast and open world. You could practically spend hours trying to get to the other side and not reach, this was due to difficulties of a challenging terrain and "dinosaurs" as she put it. Ali didn't have the chance to respond to a text or most of what Kaija said to him.

"It's technically not bought."

Ali turned to face her with a confused expression, "What's not bought babe, the Fire Arrows?" Because the fire arrows, they can't really be bought at this stage of gameplay, "I didn't know you played this game," He was surprised.

It took Kaija a few moments of explanation and Ali to look at the text from Lizzi to realize what was going on. He put down the controller and laughed, "I'm sure it'll be fine Uma, it's the thought that counts, not whatever you give," On this note, Ali never preferred birthdays much, not attending or ones held to mark his own. Given his family's background, there usually was an extravagant party held to honour him, one in which all the most important people of Shea were usually invited to. Mostly Ali just ran away from such scenarios, and his parents had no choice but to use Ali's twin brother to use as a substitute. Those were the fun days.

Out here on Earth, however, Ali had quickly found how social his girlfriend was. She would always drag him to parties and to meet people. At first, it was uncomfortable, but soon, Ali had grown over his fear of people. He realised how much she needed him and he did in return, and these were opportunities to familiarize himself with the world, so Ali didn't skip any of these events. "I just hope I don't run into that basket Orange Water," Ali'd come to the realization that he wasn't going to forgive the man anytime soon. Of course, he was also thankful for the guy, for being there to help Uma, but he was also furious with the guy's attempt to cause trouble for Kaija.


"Happy Birthday, young lady," Ali spoke after Kaija, smiling. Technically, he was like, 8 years older than Kaede? This made him like an older brother to Kaede, of course, Ali wasn't that close to her, but she was a friend of Lizzi so, Ali had regarded her with courtesy. "I didn't bring any gifts, but you can think of the envelope as from the both of us," He nudged against Kaija's shoulder with a laugh. "Isn't that right babe?" Ali looked around the garden, something a young girl alone shouldn't be able to handle, "Why don't you, hire a gardener for this place? You don't look well enough to be able to take care of all of this by yourself." The mention of crutches annoyed Ali. It made no sense to him at all why anyone would continue to nurture something as if it were an extension of themselves. On this note, he was neither aware of Kaede's powers, nor overly interested in figuring that out. He was just concerned with the wellbeing of a...friend. "I'm sure we can organize a fund between me, Lizzy and Uma to be able to get someone for you," Ali gestured towards Lizzy and Kaija, asking for support in the argument.

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#8 Posted by Iridum (370 posts) - - Show Bio

@kaede_: @bladebrave: @gale_xanders:

No Caption Provided

A fire burns before her within the shadows that mirror the shrine the rods extend but seem to be dragged into the room further. Only to come back her way shaped like hands and strikingly familiar in touch as they grab at the girl. Feeling far to much like the firm hand of her hero and gentle grasp of the thing she had to protect. Shadows pull her from the shrine and away from where her sword seemed to be held. Pulled her outside and surprisingly not into the chilled dawn of LA but into the night of Japan. It smelled different, felt different and as her feet touched the soil she felt a mixture of welcome and refusal. It felt wrong some how and sick.

Shadows push her this way and that, directing her until she finds a ghost. A woman seems crafted into the tree, and a small hand clutches until more like talons digging into her skin. Body hangs with head low and openings of fatal wounds. Branches groan, and eventually seem to snap, vines at first she thought seeing it from the corner of her eyes. Resting on the branches and vines though reflects something more skeletal, and eventually it feels more like she's being blanketed in spines. A firm hand tightens on her back, a feeling of cold, steel tempted to rip her open. She shouldn't of gone there, kindness of the devil wasn't kind at all. Sounds go off to counter a cicada cry and Rana is stirred from her sleep.

A quick roll to try and swipe at the phone and it's alarm results in a fall onto her face rolling off the bed. Wasn't anything new, given who she was tossing and turning in nightmares was a recurring way things played out. Back of her hand to rub her weary eyes and she finds carmine on her fingertips. Her nails having dug into her arm "damn it." Any time her dreams seemed to result in something like that she found it hard to consider as just coincidence. Hell loved to toy with her emotions it rarely went that far though. Grab her clothes for the day and a head peaks around the corner, nobody around to disturb bathroom open. A quick dash to steal the room away while the chance was provided, and then came the long routine that was a morning ritual for a sixteen year old girl with hair as long as hers who today also had a small bit of mending to take care of on her arm. Bandages carefully done and even more carefully hidden under ones sleeve, course she wouldn't lie about it she just didn't want to be a worthy or a bother.

Pajamas tucked away back into her room she grabbed Drasil and the whetstone she had to run along it's edge every morning if she wanted it to be effective on this given day. Small fox followed her every step occasionally a paw swiping at her feet in play. A snap and finger point to discarded cereal resulted in a slight glare at her in protest "Please?" A paw swatted at bare feet this time with a hint more of force still playful but had to protest. Yusha went and started cleaning all the same however, a cheerio causes the critter to flinch soon enough though its more a game then anything else. One small thing making a mess the other trying to catch it.

Amazing smelling coffee would be made better by the careful science of dumping enough cream and sugar into it that it was blasphemy to actual coffee drinkers. "Good morning" she remarked with a hug and fist bump and enough peppiness to her voice to betray fact she'd barely woken up, only after would she take a sip "thank you." She balanced the blade so that she could attend to maintenance of the weapon with one hand while making a call with the other. "Priorities first dad work can wait a minute." Her hand moving to show she was calling Kaede, voicemail or in person by herself or with the family a song was demanded.

"Kaede! Don't tell Kaede this but I heard it's her birthday. So the Graie's have a song to sing." At the very least Rana did and an occasional bark came with it in attempt. Taking it off speaker and pressing it to her ear the heterochromia hero continued. "Had a dream earlier. I'm sorry about the flower, you can remove it honest. I just wanted to do something special for you, anything I can do better than that?" She moved to look at what was being worked on with blade finished she was now focused on friends family and occasionally sipping on coffee. Her pale hand moved to cover the phone a bit so as to not disturb the other end provided she didn't just hang up do to leaving a message. "Dad please don't take Ashley down there, I don't want my sister's head messed with like mine."

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#9 Edited by Renegade84 (222 posts) - - Show Bio

@iridum: @lightning_god: @kaija: @_gaige_: @gale_xanders: @bladebrave: @fallen_savant: @kaede_:

Mitsuri Arboretum

No Caption Provided

Marie, as always, is up earlier than most of her friends. She does her regular routine of working out, practicing martial arts and meditating to keep back the cancer that plagues her body. But by the time she comes out of her daily morning meditations, something seems different. She opens her eyes and looks around. Things seem...darker. Death hangs in the air.

As Marie rises from her sitting position, she suddenly remembers it's Kaede's birthday. She smiles at the thought. Every birthday so far, Marie has always given her friend some kind of rare plant for Kaede to take care of. Honestly, Marie doesn't know what else to get her. The plant girl's tastes are different than most. At least the plants Marie gives to Kaede are always very beautiful and a few can even be used in salads to promote health and healing. Something else that Marie knows Kaede would appreciate.

Today is no different than any other birthday. Today, after Marie takes a shower and gets dressed, she finds her friend already surrounded by others. And he hugs Kaede, giving her a birthday present. A seed of a rare plant. "Happy birthday, my friend." She smiles, but then looks concerned at her friend, who looks like she's seen better days, "Are you alright, Kaede?"

Marie says hi to Ali, recognizing him from Project Unity meetings but she doesn't really know him all that well. The two rarely speak to each other, mostly due to them not knowing each other. Marie has seen Kaija around the Arboretum but the two have never spoken to each before today. So Marie offers a smile and says, "Hi. I'm Marie, one of Kaede's closest friends and I've seen you around. It's nice to finally meet you and I'm sorry it's taken this long to introduce myself."

Marie hugs her friend Lizzy, perhaps her closest friend here "Hey, Lizzy." She suddenly senses an unfamiliar presence here in the Arboretum and she doesn't know who she is. She glances around, having a very serious sense of unease. She feels as if something terrible is about to happen.

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#10 Posted by Kaede_ (519 posts) - - Show Bio

@_gaige_: @renegade84: @kaija: @lightning_god:

Kaede wasn't alone for very long when she was caught from behind. She smiled, and returned Lizzy's hug as best as she was able. "Thanks, Lizzy," she accepted, and added, "What I really want today is to spend time with my friends." That seemed like a reasonable sort of request, in her mind, and it was, as she said, what she truly wanted. Friendship was far more important than any little material things, and if people were willing to offer the gift of time, she would be more than happy with that.

Miss Kaija and Mr. Ali arrived only a little while later, and Kaede was happy to get a little more time to get to know the two of them. They seemed like nice people. Kaija handed her an envelope, which Kaede naturally protested with a "You really didn't have to-" which was met with precisely the looks it deserved from all parties, and Kaede changed her tone to a "Thank you, Kaija," instead, and tucked the envelope away for later. "And thank you, Ali, for being here," she added, deciding wisely not to comment on that little interplay between the two of them about gifts and who they were from. That sounded like the sort of thing that was better let go, or at least left for the two of them to talk about some other time.

She had to smile at his 'great idea' though, and shake her head. "The Arboretum employs thirty-eight full time gardeners, sixty part timers, and thirty-nine volunteers. They take care of all the hard work, it's all paid for out of the trust. I just do what I enjoy. It's no hardship, I promise."

Marie's arrival prevented her from having to go in to all the details about that - sometimes Kaede thought that most of the meta-community thought that she was directly responsible for the Arboretum, instead of it being a perfectly normal park like any other of the thousands of the parks in the world. Didn't people ever go to parks? Maybe they didn't have time, what with all the saving the world that they had to do. That was probably it. Hopefully some day the world would be peaceful and people like Ali and Kaija could go to parks.

"Hi, Marie," she said, accepting the tiny gift in the palm of her hand - a little seed. Kaede smiled at it, then dropped it on the ground where it belonged, where it wiggled beneath the dirt and a moment later a tiny green sprout popped up, completely indeterminate, but apparently Kaede saw something more in it. "It will be lovely, thank you."

Lizzy's attention was drawn away, and Kaede watched her disappear, closing her eyes for a moment. She knew everything that was in the Arboretum... including the newcomer. "It's okay," she said softly, to the others, as Lizzy was suddenly gone, "I trust her."

She took a cautious breath, looking around at the others. It was... time to trust them, as well. Marie she trusted - Marie she had trusted from the first. Marie had looked out for her, when Kaede was a scared little girl away from her family for the very first time, homesick and painfully shy and uncertain. She'd look out for her now. And Kaija and Ali... Kaede didn't know them as well, but they were good people.

"A while ago, something... happened."

No Caption Provided

An auspicious beginning, as stories went. And yet, it wasn't the beginning. It wasn't the beginning at all. "But... before that. A long time ago, places had meaning. I'm not very good at history, but you can see glimpses of them scattered throughout the remnants they've left behind. The Oracle at Delphi, Stonehenge... things like that. In today's world, people have a lot of power, and places aren't what they once were. Or... they aren't who they once were. The old places died off, and were forgotten into memory. The world didn't forget, though, and Mitsuri Arboretum... I think, became such a place. Sixteen years ago, it acquired a consciousness."

"...Me." She looked down, at the little seedling of Marie's, drawing what strength it could from the place, and giving back far more in trust than it asked for. "I'm not..." Real... No. She wasn't going to be negative about it. "I'm not sure quite what I am, or how it works. But... the Arboretum isn't something I take care of. It's what I am." Kaede shrugged, then continued, a little sorrowfully. "Also about sixteen years ago, a scared little girl in a very bad place figured out how to resurrect the consciousnesses of the old places. She tied one to herself, to help her get away. But... everything has a life cycle. And things aren't meant to come back when their time was done. So, when that girl brought them back, one after another, they came back wrong. Sick." She whispered the word she didn't want to: "Evil." A quiet breath, before she continued, "Shadows of what they used to be. I don't know... if she ever stopped being scared. I never met her. Maybe if I had, things would have gone differently. But she died last summer... and her gift for binding the shadow consciousnesses died with her. Since then they've been... difficult. Some of them got loose and caused problems. Some attached themselves to... to other people." She didn't mention Lizzy's name, or Rana's.

"They... um. They don't like me. For lack of a better way of putting it. I remind them of what they once were, and I wonder if maybe they think that somehow they could be what I am, if I weren't here. A while ago... I chose to let them in to the Arboretum. It was the right choice at the time, and I don't regret it. But... well. They're here now. And I can't really stop them. And that's what's wrong with me. I'm afraid..." No. She wasn't afraid, not really. It was only a turn of phrase. Kaede let it slide, then continued, "I... can't hold them off," she said, instead, "There's too many of them, and only the one of me. So, I'm storing what strength I can, and... if it's enough, maybe I'll be able to come back, when they're gone."

The end of that explanation left out a lot of details, she realized. Like, what would happen to her if it wasn't enough. What would happen to her between now and when she was able to come back. What it would mean if she wasn't. A lot of those questions were ones Kaede didn't have the answer for.

The ones she did... whatever was to become, she would face it bravely, with her friends beside her.

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#12 Posted by The_Custodian (477 posts) - - Show Bio

@_gaige_: @kaede_: @renegade84@the_custodian@kaija@lightning_god@orange_water

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The Custodian had come in just in time for Kaede to start her explanation. She listened quietly, let her friend get in everything she wanted to say and then gently pressed a small box into her hand. "This is for you, we don't really have a gift giving practice back home but I felt it was important here and it seems I was right. You've been approaching this in your own way and I love you for it Kaede, but you're doing something we've all been guilty of at one point or another. You've taken it all onto yourself. We need to figure out what the rest of us can do to drive out the shadows."

She looked around at the others and then redirected her attention to Kaede. "I think I can speak for everyone here and say you're the best of us and it would be awful of all of us not to find a way to help you when you need it, you've always been there for every stray cat and lost soul that's come here, including singular Binaries. We're here for you. We'll use everything in our power to help you deal with the shadows and come back stronger than ever...because to be honest Kaede, I'm kinda done losing siblings." Perhaps the 'sibling' label had strong meaning with anyone, but Kaede would be aware of the weight it bore when spoken by a Binary, it was a word choice The Custodian had been very deliberate in using. She knew it wouldn't slip past Kaede.

"So let's start figuring out what to do, rather than talking about you taking it all on your own." She finished.

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#13 Posted by Fallen_Savant (214 posts) - - Show Bio


The surface world was strange - too much sky, strange plants everywhere. The Moor did not grow trees in its suboceanic caverns, and Annette was looking at them judgmentally when a space opened up 'twixt two of them and deposited a young... well, a girl, anyway. Annette hesitated to call her a 'lady,' to be certain. Impudent and impatient, her intelligence was noteworthy for her analysis, but her manners were certainly not.

For someone Annette had never met, she acted far too familiar.'Never noticed that' indeed - and could the girl not speak in complete sentences as would a reasonable person and not in half-clauses like some sort of imbecile? The words, though, implied that she had some knowledge of Annette, even if Annette had no knowledge of her. Annette had been very little above the surface, which meant that their mutual appearance without proper introduction was necessarily traced to that effort on the Pacific shore. She must have been in the town, Annette surmised. The surface worlders would have shared information regarding the escapade, but she had not realized how accurate were their portrayals.

"The Emissary was an inspiration to a great many people," Annette answered the insipid statement calmly, watching the young woman before her. "At least, until an upstart child attacked her beneath the waves and tore her spine from her flesh." She smiled coolly, belying the horror of the words. Annette had not seen the action, but Lord William had been near enough to describe it, and what remained of the body had been recovered for ceremony before being released unto the ocean for finality. She was not sure whether there were a connection between that girl and this one, but in all things it seemed likely that there were at least some acquaintance.

"Friend of yours?" she inquired, sweetly.

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#14 Posted by Orange_Water (6583 posts) - - Show Bio

@iridum:@kaede_: @bladebrave: @gale_xanders:

Here I am getting ready for Kaede’s party when I suddenly get an alert through the Unity network. I still need to figure out at least my next couple of steps in the wake of that lie I was forced to live through. But I knew now I couldn’t do this alone anymore,”I’m sorry Kaede maybe later.” I pulled out my phone and would type a text to her explaining that I needed to respond to Unity first and I’ll try toget there for her party later.

I put on my armor and grabbed my daggers before it was time to teleport to headquarters. I didn’t know who else would respond but I at least hoped it was just a meeting so that I could make it to a good friends party. As always I felt dizzy after a teleport and regaining my balance I began to walk around HQ before coming across Rana, Xae and Nathan,” So what’s going on?” I would only listen for now until I knew what was going on.

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#15 Posted by _Gaige_ (992 posts) - - Show Bio

@kaija: @lightning_god: @renegade84: @the_custodian: @kaede_: @fallen_savant:

She got the impression maybe Kaija was a bit annoyed by the abrupt nature of it. However the suddenness felt like the best way to make things a surprise for the girl who otherwise wasn't exactly loud or party throwing. Kaede had always been so serene, tossing around neon lights and glitter while blasting dubstep probably wasn't desired. In fact the request for the day just seemed to be to spend time with friends. A simple smile was the response, might of teased how that sounded like what a grandparent would say. Lizzy was still older though and if she was so bold as to call Kaede old then that made Lizzy like ancient which just couldn't be allowed to be thought up. Kaija provided a gift and a laugh was the only thing to escape the gamer as Ali tried to take some credit for it, was to be expected.

After a brief hug with Marie however the engineer was off to see who it was who intruded on the place. Trying to cast a feeling about the area unbecoming of Mitsuri. A lore dump came and it was Dia who had spoken up first it had seemed. Lizzy disagreed a bit, calling one of them the best she didn't take to. They all had value and traits to them, the love was mutual though, wasn't much the gamer wouldn't do for her friends. And as a lore dump came a pain could be felt in the heart to know she was in part to blame. Nobody had been really able to hurt the shadows, magic swords and sacred weapons of hawk lords didn't seem to have an effect. On a chance the engineer tried her hand at prayer to forces unknown and deities she'd helped and it had no impact. So she gave herself to it, to let the shadow of an engineer come to know another engineer. Wanted to give it a home a place to be what it was instead of become something others wanted. Idea of it hurting a friend though was a crushing weight made more so by an inability to do much to it. She could create all the gizmos in the world but that still probably wasn't going to shake off something arcane or of some old world and concept she didn't know.

Words come her way, talk of inspiration, talk of someone Kaede's age and talk of a torn out spine. "That was revenge from one girl to another. She tried to lay Kaedriel to rest as best she could, still I'm sorry for your loss." Reality was most times even the villains and enemies were humans, they bled and felt sorrow and somewhere in Lizzy was someone who in turn would feel bad for them. Actions of Rana didn't really come as a surprise though either. "You wouldn't come here for her though."

Coral colored eyes looked to hand behind the back "any chance we can do things peacefully?" Nature of her friend and the garden's made Gaige want to try for a calm solution. In the shadows of her mind in the darkest little corner however was a desire to open fire on such an intrusion on things.

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#16 Posted by BladeBrave (338 posts) - - Show Bio

@orange_water: @gale_xanders: @iridum: @_gaige_:

@renegade84: @the_custodian: @kaede_: @fallen_savant: @kaija: @lightning_god:

Xae apparently had an entire bunker full of assault weapons. Nathan was more surprised that that came as a surprise than anything else. Of course that's a thing. He didn't comment on the weaponry presence, instead just saying "Avoid anything electronic. Electrical signals will be disrupted, relying on computer-assisted targeting is going to be a mistake. And... just... I don't know about the guns. I don't like guns." He shrugged. "Maybe I'm old fashioned, or maybe I just spend too much time in the batcave these days." Whichever it was, it probably didn't matter. He gave her a nod of concession. "I trust your judgment." He wouldn't stop her from bringing whatever loadout she thought appropriate, even if he wasn't going to take one for himself.

It wasn't long before Landon arrived, leaving them in the room with himself and Rana and not much of a plan. Landon's inquiry, as usual, was direct and to the point. Miss Leet, via com, had requested an update as well, mentioning in passing that there might be 'an issue here as well.' Nathan really wanted to hope the two weren't connected... but he'd seen the footage from Minnesota and Washington enough times that he wasn't willing to refute the idea.

"What's going on is... I'm not sure," he answered, honestly, "But something. Miss Leet, I'm really hoping that I'm wrong about what your problem is, but I have a sinking feeling that I'm not. Unless I miss my guess, I'd say Japan is looking at another Minnesota / Washington problem." And faced by a group of children...

Children, he reminded himself, who had handled a similar situation well enough in Minnesota, with only a little adult assistance from Landon and the mysterious Elite. Miss Leet had fought the things twice now. He would just have to trust her. "I need you to handle it." That was a huge responsibility to dump on a teenager. He hated to do it, but at the same time he felt it was necessary. And... "I trust you," he added, quietly. Those words had been a while in coming, certainly. He'd had quite a few words with the young heroine after her actions in Grim City, and they'd had somewhat of a rocky relationship. She'd changed, though. She'd become the hero she wanted to be, and he respected her for that. He could extend her trust to her to take command of the situation there.

His attention returned to the others in the room. "I want to take the rest of us to the Black Expanse. Those shadows don't die when you kill their bearer, they just move on somewhere else. After Kaedriel died near Washington, they'd have gone loose again, found new homes. I want to go down there and do something about them. The Black Expanse... it's strange. It negates electronics, magic, special abilities. You might have a trickle of what you're used to. What I'm hoping is that it will be the same case for whoever's got hold of the shadows down there. I believe it will be. S-" A heartbeat, a heartbreak, always. A breath, and he continued, "Saikea was able to use some of their abilities down there. But... nothing to the degree of what we've seen in Minnesota and Washington. I believe if she'd been able to unleash them fully, she would have done so. I want to go down there and eradicate the nest. As best we can."

Nathan fixed his gaze on Landon, "So if you've figured out how you killed that one in Minnesota or if anyone else has any great ideas about how to do that, this would be a really great time to speak up. And Miss Leet..." he hesitated, not certain what situation she was in, or what situation she would be willing to put herself in. He needed an answer, though. "Ask your flower girl. And don't take 'no' for an answer." She'd done something, with Landon's sword. How many times had he watched that footage? He still couldn't figure out what she'd done, but she'd done something. He had a feeling she knew more than she was letting on. Bloody stupid pacifist child.

He respected the ideal... but there was a difference between idealism and realism, and he often thought young Miss Mitsuri crossed the line, to the point of becoming more of a hindrance than an asset. He nodded to his team. "Soon as we have an answer, we're moving out, and we're going in ten minutes even if we don't."

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#17 Posted by Fallen_Savant (214 posts) - - Show Bio


@renegade84: @the_custodian: @kaede_: @fallen_savant: @kaija: @lightning_god:@orange_water: @gale_xanders: @iridum:

Annette spent a quietly reflective moment watching the young woman in front of her, giving her a slight nod of acceptance at the apology. It was more maturity than she'd expected from a surface worlder, and a young one at that. Her nod turned to one of acknowledgement at the next statement - no, Annette would not have come all the way to the surface just to chide a girl about what had happened months ago. She would not be here at all were it not for Lord William, but he ruled the Moor, and she must submit to his power.

Were it only that, perhaps, it could have been circumvented, but it was not only him who had sent her here above the water. The shadow within her dreamed that same dream, ivy and shade, the creeping orchid unbound. She could not know what it all meant, only that there was an answer, and that the answer lay within the girl in the dream. Annette wasn't sure if she called to the shadows, or they to her, but they were all bound together somehow.

She considered with gravity the question that the young woman before her posed - a peaceful resolution? It would be desirable. For all that she was, Annette took no glory in battle. Her object, though... "No," she said eventually, with genuine regret, "I feel a peaceful solution is unlikely. But I have acted the Moor's envoy before. If you will take me to the shadowchild, I will begin with diplomacy."

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#18 Posted by Gale_Xanders (3189 posts) - - Show Bio

@bladebrave: @orange_water: @gale_xanders: @iridum: @_gaige_:

Gale listened to Nathan and put a round into the Tavor's chamber, slid a magazine into place and hit the bolt release button. "There are several amendments, I happen to be a big fan of four of them." After his comment on abilities she shifted her wings to be visible and folded them on her back. She set the gun on the table, loaded her others and cocked her head as he began to connect the dots. "Like anything else that's alive the shadows hold different power levesl, the weaker ones seem to be held at bay by strongly presented...no, by active holy symbols. At first I thought it was light vs dark or good vs evil but I have another theory...one I suspect Kaede will soon confirm for us."

Gale snapped her fingers, activating the armor many thought was merely a cat suit. She pulled her goggles down over her eyes and smiled a bit. She removed a few screws from the Tavor's red dot scope and removed it entirely, flipping the iron sights up out of the rail after she did so. She placed the useless electronic scope on the table as an after thought. "Nathan, you have lead down there." She told him. "You know it better than the rest of us. I'll leave you alone about the guns but Orange Water, you need something without your powers." She glanced to Rana for a moment, then at Nathan and chose not to say anything. She's his hatchling, it's up to him.

Xae went about strapping her weapons on, including her ever present whip. "Let's try to keep casualties to a minimum, not everyone down there is a villain, many might even be simple by standers. Everyone follows Nathan's orders, no questions asked. Remember if you have to fall back, escape will not be as easy as it normally is. Stay aware of your surroundings more than usual, be aware of any possible pathways of retreat should it become necessary. Nathan, if there is anything else you can tell us about the people we may encounter that would be helpful."

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#19 Posted by _Gaige_ (992 posts) - - Show Bio

@kaija: @lightning_god: @renegade84: @kaede_: @the_custodian: @fallen_savant:

A portal opens between the gamer and near by to where the collection of people were. Size roughly of a large window, might be able to climb through it if a nerd wasn't standing in front of it. There was apart of her that wanted to trust in others to think team could fight the person here if needed that together they could keep Kaede safe. All the same however she didn't know if her friend would try to resist whatever might come from the woman before them. Or more prominently if the woman could be trusted in any capacity to begin with. Washington had been a violent ordeal there was no reason to think this might be otherwise.

"I'd rather if you start trying to stab people it'd be me so no. Hopefully this will do however." Lizzy desperate to defend all she knew and cared for didn't like the idea of leading the woman toward her friends. What might of been harder to identify was the presence of shadow. The shadow that should of been by where the mech pilot stood instead seemed to come through the portal casted on the grass before her friends. Ready to defend what the gamer seemed to hold dear, for whatever the entity was it was more looking to safeguard the shadow bearers state of mind and work space then anything emotional. It resonated as similar however in the end goal.

Pink eyes lit up as Gaige looked over her shoulder. "Kaede do you remember what you did to Landon's sword and do you think you could do it again?" Was hard to convey it in just a look, she hoped it was clear though that if someone had a weapon around for it and they could get to enchanting it or whatever like right now that would be good. "Unity want's to know." She did her best to say that part with an automatic tone, with the cadence of a Lizzy on the field rather then now in hopes of providing some cover of intention. "Also this woman seems interested in you. Personally I'd rather hand over her friends from Washington and cut off a limb to hand a shadow back then consider going anywhere with her. Would also however prefer diplomacy if possible." Both options she was already kind of considering already in hopes of safeguarding who she cared about.

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#20 Posted by Iridum (370 posts) - - Show Bio

@orange_water: @bladebrave: @gale_xanders:

The teenager favored her katana over other weapon choices far as she was concerned that was all she really needed besides maybe her hands. When robbed of power and ability she could still trust in her eyes and in her sword. The humor of course wasn't lost to her, a smile could be found at the thought of a level in trust in hell. Was true though much as they liked to torture her it wanted her alive until their terms were found and reached. However she still was a teen who liked weapons and found herself drawn to a P90. Recoil wouldn't be to much and it was light weight, a silencer a scope and grenade launcher were asigned to it more specifically though she thought it cute. With it she placed a quartet of magazines to her belt. Granted she wasn't much better then her dad and showed a reluctance to use said rifle was just a bit more willing do to voices in her head.

"That place messes with people's heads even if not opposition don't trust them, and to be honest we really didn't go into the actual town." They'd fought seemingly on the outskirts of where the black exspanse reached. Somewhere between the sea, what was known and an inky void where sanity was lost. "When it comes to fighting them reports suggests most options don't work. We've seen a lot of attacks used against them to little avail. What I would suggest and I'm sorry for how grim it sounds" she paused.

"Unless we've a weapon like Landon's, we kill the host or at least find a means to get the shadow to move on. And then get the shadow to move to someone or something isolated enough to contain. Slipspace, time cube, an alchemy jar whatever you think might do the trick." Killing wasn't a favored tactic to most and ugly but between shadows and the expanse she didn't know how many hosts wouldn't be of broken mind by now. She wasn't quite finished though, she had one other theory and choosing honesty as a characteristic she wasn't going to hold her tongue.

"If for whatever reason alchemy jars and magic swords don't work. Then I suggest letting them come to me. Enough voices and shadows in my head what's a few more? Better that then it being a burden on you guys."

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#22 Edited by Renegade84 (222 posts) - - Show Bio

@kaija: @lightning_god: @kaede_: @the_custodian: @orange_water: @bladebrave: @fallen_savant: @gale_xanders: @_gaige_: @iridum:

Marie doesn't like the sound of this mission. With shadow creatures that are practically invincible and no easily exploitable weaknesses, it sounds like a suicide mission. The prospect of killing the shadow creatures hosts also did not sit well with Marie. Iridum's idea is the best so far, but not by much. Right now, Landon is their only weapon that is capable of hurting the shadows. But he's only one man, a very dangerous man. And now that Marie knows the truth about him, a man that Marie doesn't trust very much given that he's a ruthless vigilante.

Without a word, Marie leaves and suits up in a light tri-weave body armor that also consists of an outer and inner layer made from an ultra-lightweight titanium-dipped tri-weave fiber mesh. Sandwiched in between is the MR-fluid based liquid armor system. The proprietary Smart MR-fluid hardens in response to impacts, specifically designed to provide superior shock absorption, as well as enabling greater force delivery behind counterattacks. This is just a few of the suit's capabilities, but even with all of what it provides Marie, it may not be enough against even one Shadow creature. But hopefully, it will be enough to save Marie's life. The suit also happens to look exactly like the suit she normally wears when she fights crime and it is all thanks to her adopted father, the man who calls himself Night Warden.

Marie clips on a utility belt filled with various gadgets and weapons, as well as slipping on a sword that is capable of delivering damage on different levels of frequency. She hopes that the shadows operate on some kind of frequency so that her sword can damage them. Otherwise, her sword is just a sword that can cut through almost any other material with relative ease and only just that. She hasn't had the chance to test this on a shadow creature yet, but now is as good a time as any. Like her suit, the sword is also thanks to her adopted father. Once fully outfitted, Marie returns to the meeting place in time to hear Iridum's plan.

Since Marie is going to go into a situation where her powers will be at a very low ebb, she is coming as prepared as possible. Marie wishes she had more to add. A way to damage or kill these shadow creatures, but she doesn't. She merely nods to Nathan, indicating that she's ready.

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#23 Posted by Kaede_ (519 posts) - - Show Bio

@_gaige_: @renegade84: @the_custodian: @kaede_: @fallen_savant: @kaija: @lightning_god:@orange_water: @gale_xanders: @iridum:

Kaede peered curiously over Lizzy's shoulder at the woman behind her. "Hello," she offered, without judgment, "Welcome to the Arboretum. And your friend as well." Sometimes, Kaede had referred to Lizzy's shadow as her 'friend.' While she wasn't necessarily so duplicitous as to be speaking for only the reason of tipping Lizzy off if she wasn't already aware, at the same time, she didn't shy away from phrasing it like that. The part everyone else would find ridiculous, of course, was that she genuinely meant the words, no matter how strange that seemed.

She returned her attention to Lizzy, and the question she'd asked. "I didn't do anything to Mr. Landon's sword," she answered. "He did it. I just sort of... reminded it a little." She shrugged, then sat down beside the little green sprout that had become of Marie's gift, and traced her finger in a circle around it in the dirt. Her eyes closed. She was a pacifist. And yet... and yet, there was peace, and there was letting her friends go to war unprepared. She opened her eyes again, looking at the little box in her hand that The Custodian had given her, still unopened. 'I'm kinda done losing siblings.' Kaede had understood the meaning behind the words all too well. She wasn't going to let them become meaningless. Her friends were part of who she was, and she couldn't let them go into this unaided. Not for her sake.

She folded her hands around the box, thoughtfully. "I don't think his sword would work any more. He's changed too much since then. Not that there's, um, anything wrong with that, if that's what Mr. Landon thinks is best, but... he's not the person he was, when he was the person who put himself in the sword." Maybe that didn't make the slightest bit of sense, but then again, Kaede's friends were probably used to her not making the slightest bit of sense.

"It's not about... about holiness or about powers or light or dark or anything like that. They're... they're change. That's all they are. Something that was something once, and became something else because it was brought back to a place it couldn't be and had to find something else to become. So... what works with them is different for everyone." With Mr. Landon, it had been the part of his soul that he'd been willing to pour into a blade, a piece that was irrevocably himself. With Miss Solar Hawk, who Kaede hadn't met but who had banished a shadow in Washington, it had been a token of her faith, faith in the god she served and in herself as an avatar of that god. For everyone else... for everyone else, they would have to find it themselves.

"All you really have to do is know who you are, and be yourself," Kaede said, which was... probably about as helpful as when anyone said it, ever. "...You have to be yourself really hard, though, I think." And as for what form that might take... well, she couldn't say. Some of them, who she knew well, she could guess... but even then, she wasn't going to say more. She'd said enough already. Any more, and it would be too close to breaking her vow of nonviolence... and that would mean Kaede would be changed.

No... she would have to leave it at that, and hope that it was enough.

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#24 Posted by Orange_Water (6583 posts) - - Show Bio

@iridum:@bladebrave: @gale_xanders:

I listened and watched if anything this meeting reminded me of my own meeting a couple of months ago except with Nathan he didn’t allow his paranoia to take control. Finally, this fight against the shadows that started months ago would end now that I knew where the enemy hid. “ This is a supernatural threat and if the infestation has taken hold of an entire population then we may not have the time to decide who’s innocent and who isn’t. Maybe if I didn’t try and stop the tsunami in North Cove I could have finished this infestation months ago. Ugh… I’m sorry it doesn’t matter now we have the chance with this raid to finish it and I agree with Rana, not her absorbing more entities that’s something to be avoided. But that little Ashley shouldn’t come when we’re gonna turn this Expanse into a war zone.” But if I’m facing a horde yet again weapons are needed besides my daggers maybe even one I have since discarded the fear of the weapon should at least hold them at bay for a little while.

But clearly, Xae already had weapons on her mind as she revealed her own personal armory,” Now this is how you celebrate the 2nd amendment,” as I whistled at the beautiful guns before me.” Assault rifle or SMG is the great question. What am I saying, of course, it’s gonna be a rifle,”Let’s see here I used an AK for that zombie horde in the Libyan desert and the lack of technology inside of the gun means it should work in the Expanse. But almost feel like I should go American for this fight meh… probably just overthinking it,” as I take arguably the most famous assault rifle in the world out of the armory. “ Yeah this is Nathan’s job and he has the most experience with the Expanse so he’s in charge. But there’s one other weapon I will need so I’ll be back in a couple of minutes…” I walked away for a moment preparing for another teleport to a certain hidden location in Hawaii.

No Caption Provided

This exact location in Hawaii I hoped had remained secret but I kind of hoped the locals had found their own version of “Excalibur” making a game out of pulling the sword out of the ground. But I would prefer the site remained undisturbed as I walked through the forest and clearing my mind to bypass the illusion magic. A short walk later I felt myself cross the barrier to the soon to be unmarked grave and approach my sword stuck in the ground starting to be covered by the vegetation.” I’m sorry Maoli I’m gonna need this sword back for a little while and when I come back I promise to bring something to actually mark this gravesite.” My hand wrapped around the hilt crushing the dirt clods before giving the sword a slight tug hearing the ground give way to the mighty sword with the flowers, the grass, and the dirt is no match,” Well that was a bit easier than expected,” before swinging the sword at a tree hoping to leave a cut in the tree but instead stopping on impact,” yeah it’s still weak just like when I left it here. Goodbye Maoli.” Now to teleport back to the meeting. Yeah, I’m definitely gonna be sick after this one.

My surroundings changed quickly from the forest back to the Unity HQ and as I turned my head to look at them I started to feel dizzy and my head began to throb I said," Ready when you guys are and please tell me we don't have to teleport again."

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#25 Posted by Gale_Xanders (3189 posts) - - Show Bio

@orange_water: @iridum:@bladebrave: @gale_xanders:

No Caption Provided

"Teleport my dear Landon? Oh no." She smirked.

"Computer, do be so kind as to open transit bay Alpha Sixteen." She said, directing her voice to the room at large. There was the sound of machine movement somewhere beneath their feet, something large had moved, large enough to rumble the floor beneath their feet like a tiny earthquake. "When you can't trust technology to get you out of a bad situation, you need to have a means other than teleportation to extricate yourself...which means we need a vehicle to approach an unassailable underwater city."

She smirked and lowered her goggles over her eyes. "Fortunately, I have submarine capable of Seal Team insertion operations. I also have re-breathers for those of you who can't hold your breath to save your life and swim pods for those of you who can't swim very fast."

She approached Rana and the P90 and put her hand on the top of the weapon. "Muzzle down unless you want to shoot what's in front of you, keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to use it and fire two shots center mass, one shot for the head. The 5.56 NATO round doesn't have great take down power, it's better at wounding. If you put two shots in the torso you should cripple most of what you'll encounter but don't bet on it. If it moves again, shoot it again. Never aim for anything small, if you aim for center mass and miss odds are you'll still hit something on your target. If you aim for the right nipple you'll probably go wide entirely."

She turned her attention to both Landon and Rana. "You'll note that neither of these guns is equipped with a fully automatic option, that's probably best for both of you anyway. Maintain target discipline, shoot only what you must and do not waste ammo. This is not Grand Theft Auto." Having said her piece on the weapons she started for the lift at the end of the room. "And don't shoot my submarine."

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#26 Posted by Fallen_Savant (214 posts) - - Show Bio

@_gaige_: @renegade84: @the_custodian: @kaede_: @kaija: @lightning_god:

A portal opened in the land, and Annette looked beyond the arrogant girl through it. The girl was guarding it, as if Annette truly wanted to go any farther from the water than she was already. She might not have a choice... except there was always choice. The view through the portal was curious - the shadowchild was there, yes, but others as well. More than Annette wanted to fight, alone. So, diplomacy was to be the course of action after all, it seemed.

The little girl spoke, the standard words of welcome. Annette knew them well enough, she'd offered welcomes to her household in the Moor often, and more recently to Lord William's... well. They didn't call it a throne room. That would have been impolitic. Still, she'd been there with him, to welcome others when welcome was needed, to set guests at ease, and occasionally to have them executed when that was needed. The Moor had little time for complacency.

The shadowchild was distracted. It would have been an excellent time to slit her throat, if not for all the others. Instead, Annette was forced to listen to her words. So. They aim to defeat the shadows. Of course, Lord William had known that. It must be why the shadows had grown so restless the last night - because the little girl was setting up a force to destroy them. That explained much.

Annette thought herself well-guarded against the child's attack, though. The shadow that warped within her... yes, it was a force of change, to be certain. It had changed many things about Annette, and she would not have it any other way. She smiled, and affirmed herself to it. She would become whatever was necessary, when the time was right. The child's assassination plots would not work so easily if she guarded herself against them.

She tucked the knife she carried away in her belt, spreading her hands in open gesture, a half-smile twisting her features. "Murderous little creature," she murmured an accusation in a deceptively quiet tone designed to carry all too well. "Of course you would seek to destroy your elders. How many on the surface have you twisted around your little fingers? How many come at your beck and call? You summon them with sweetness, and you bind them with your benevolence. Minions, all of them. What curious slaves you own, little princess of flowers."

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#27 Posted by Orange_Water (6583 posts) - - Show Bio

@renegade84:@iridum:@bladebrave: @gale_xanders:

Oh, thank god a submarine I didn’t even know she had one of these. Also considering that Xae according to Vai anyway was uncomfortable near the ocean I didn’t even think she would have one of these waiting to be used. I guess this just goes to show don’t underestimate the boss,” Thank God I don’t think I could stand another teleport but I think I’m gonna go find the barracks to lay down and get over the transporter sickness. Call me if you need me.”

I gave a small wave to the others before entering the submarine first and passing through several doors looking for the barracks. This was presumably not open to the public me being quite possibly one of the few outside of the military walking through here albeit with something close to seasickness. But it’s teleport sickness… how weird would that be if I got seasick. But moments later I would pass through a door that led to a bunk and I would lay down looking at the ceiling.

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#28 Posted by _Gaige_ (992 posts) - - Show Bio

@kaija: @lightning_god: @the_custodian: @bladebrave: @renegade84: @gale_xanders: @orange_water: @fallen_savant:

Lizzy set things to be carried over com voices so hopefully the confusing nonsense could at the least be heard by all in a singular go. The mech pilot lightly shaking her head "that makes about as much sense to me as me telling you about plasma batteries I'll try and keep it in mind though. Rest of you should do the same." Though she wasn't sure how much could be done with it to be honest. It was a rather abstract incorporeal thing to her and the gamer was more about science and cold steel. "I imagine coms will go dark when you're down there. So commit it to memory now that it has something to do with being you."

Problem was on her end she wasn't sure she could be to any result. In her encounter with shadows she'd shot at it with various bullets and calibers. She had used lasers and heat and calculated to try and use light or total darkness. She'd used Mjolnir and drones and slipspace. She'd tried to call on deities she'd saved and helped that maybe her faith in who she was and her commitment to heroism might do something to no avail. She'd boxed a machine and taken a shadow into herself but that didn't seem really conclusive. Perhaps she needed a new invention then to pour her soul into a creation to kill it.

Even then though what would one make, even in the brightest light there tended to be shadow. Something always got in the lights way and from that came shadow. Even as bearers seemed to die these shadows had continued. Her conviction was in science but science had failed her. Then maybe it was personal, inviting and friendly was the ticket maybe.

But that didn't seem true either though the shadow she had didn't change or die. It just helped her work. She didn't know what to do then. Eventually however she knew she should respond to the woman before her directing remarks at a friend.

"I'd like to think of myself more of a knight personally. Have the armor and everything, usually a pistol though and not a sword. Maybe I should work on that." Her hands started to tinker with Omni, there was a back up she could retrieve from her workshop if needed. So she tried to modify the pistol into a short sword as quickly as she could, focusing on placing the nodes of slipspace she had almost trademarked as part of her design to the weapons edge. "So if you want to drag a princess to a tower have to go through me. Sorry I can't trust you." She made the remark while opening the portal a bit and stepping back. With any luck helping draw the lady away from the pond she seemed to creep out of and into a position more populated with people who might fight her if need be. At the same time however a text was also sent to Nathan quick and hopefully simple.

"Just in case a dumb engineer's ideas don't work here, where was the lab Saikea used? Maybe I can find answers there at least. <3"

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#29 Posted by BladeBrave (338 posts) - - Show Bio

It was time. In all reality, it was probably past time. Unity wasn't going to get any more prepared than they were, and the sooner they moved out, the sooner they were done with all of this. Nathan made sure everyone who intended to be there got aboard the submarine. He'd wanted to bring Ashley with him, irrationally, but Rana's young wisdom and Unity's more or less unified reaction of 'are you nuts?' had made him rethink that plan, and she was safely tucked away with Auntie Vai, where hopefully she wouldn't pick up anything worse than an appreciation for motorcycles.

Once that was settled and everyone had boarded, he sat down at a computer to start feeding in coordinates that he remembered from his last excursion to the depths. They wouldn't be going to quite the same location, this time - in fact, he wanted to stay as far away from the green-glowy-crazy-making-thing as possible, for as long as was possible. His coordinates would get them close, though, and once they got closer, he figured that even if the sub's scanners didn't work, the lure of the shadows would. He could kind of feel them. He'd been able to since that whole Time Siphon debacle. He just didn't like to think about that all too much. It wasn't anything definite, but there was a sense of concentration, a sense of direction. If he were close, he thought it would be enough.

Coordinates locked in, he took the time to sort out the last few trailing questions. Or... not sort them out, in some cases. Lizzy's inquiry about Saikea's lab he decided to leave pointedly unanswered. The less people poking around there, the better, he felt. Besides, he'd gutted most of it, and the shell that remained... well, it was better just being left alone, a testament to someone he'd loved, and the time when he'd been there to love her. It wasn't a location he wanted every half-forgotten hero to start traipsing around looking for goodies. He'd also decided not to say too much to Rana about her pocket rockets. The father in him wanted to tell her that there was no way she was taking those things without a gun safety course and proper certification... but Rana wasn't just his daughter. She was a hero, and sometimes heroes did things differently. He let her be a hero, and just had to hope she'd be safe. He'd let Xae handle the crash course in weaponry, since it seemed like she knew what she was talking about.

He used the time to think about the questionable 'advice' they'd gotten from Teen Team's Tiny Twig. The damnable thing was that, to him at least, it made sense. In the streets of Mecca, he'd gotten his shadow to take the form of the woman he couldn't forget. The woman he'd once crossed half the world to get away from. Before he'd gotten caught up in all the shadowy nonsense, he'd been trying to distance himself from her, but since then, everything he'd been doing had been to draw her memory closer. It was surprising, really, that no one had bothered to comment on it... maybe they were just being polite. Or maybe he was better at pretending things were fine than he should have been. The answer, though, for him at least, was to let her go. The difficulty was going to be in making himself do it.

Not yet. He couldn't do it yet. He still wasn't sure what they were going to face down there in the depths. He wasn't going to give up a possible advantage right away. He'd have to wait until they'd figured out how to destroy the ones down there... then he'd see about his own. Maybe. Was it really hurting anything?

That, too, was a question he already knew the answer to.

Quietly, the submarine moved through the waters. By some twist of time, it seemed to take both an eternity and not nearly long enough. Nathan wondered what Raeyn would think of that, but there was absolutely no way he was going to call her up and ask. Not after the whole thing with her daughter. It just didn't seem polite, somehow. They closed in, and he moved to a more direct control of the ship, getting it straightened out in the direction he wanted it to be going. They'd gotten close enough to be inside fantastically large series of underwater caverns when the submarine's systems started pulsing, flickering in and out. Nathan gave the ship an affectionate pat like Rana did with her little varmint, and had it surfaced and stalled. It was close enough. The sub's inflatables could get them the rest of the way. Already in the distance, they could see flickering lights.

By some lucky twist of fate, they made it to the shore without being noticed by any of the fishing vessels that they could see tied to wharves in the distance, on one side of one of the islands. Nathan guided them around the back side, though, which took a little doing since his shadow-sense was apparently linear, and there was the whole manner of finding their way around the rocks. It took longer than he'd have liked, but at least it got done in quiet. Now they were alone, on a shore far too rocky and craggy to consider a beach, staring up at a house in the distance that was totally not a castle.

Nathan thought it rather looked a bit like a castle. He supposed that meant he knew where they were going. Of course. It would have been far too easy just to have to take out some random guy in a fishing boat. No, they had to storm the goddamn castle.

He just hoped his princess wasn't in a different one.

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#30 Posted by Fallen_Savant (214 posts) - - Show Bio

Mitsuri Arboretum

@the_custodian: @_gaige_: @renegade84:

The young woman stepped back through the portal, taunting, daring Annette to come through as well. She knew, it seemed, about the waters. Knew, or was making an intelligent guess - and either way, the result was the same. Annette had to decide whether she was going to step back, or whether she was going to move through the portal. Unfortunately, it was really no choice at all. Lord William's orders had been quite clear on the matter of the shadow-child, and Annette knew his temper was ironclad. If she were not going to return with the girl, she would not be returning at all, except as a corpse. He would hunt her down himself if need be. Lord William had no sympathy whatsoever for other people acting as traitors.

He reserved that right for himself.

Annette gathered her courage about her, and stepped through. The portal itself was... unexpectedly gentle. Not the roughshod dissipation of shadow over self that acted precursor to her transitions through the waters, but a mere ripple, a wave upon the sand, and then a release. Curious somehow what the surface worlders could come up with in the absence of the Moor.

She took a moment to assess the others there, mere children. Dangerous children, she knew, but children nonetheless. They ought to have been beset by a governess, not by a diplomat. Or an assassin. Annette did not think herself the latter, though. Merely an... enforcer of strictly predetermined diplomatic outcomes, so to speak. Annette glanced to the young woman with the portals, gave her a courteous nod, and began, as she had promised, with diplomacy.

"Child." As an address, it was lacking, but neither she nor William knew the name of the little one, merely its presence. "My Lord William Coulter requests your presence to attend upon him at the Moor." It was diplomatically worded, to be certain, but it was also entirely clear that the 'request' was a demand, and not to be denied.

"My name is Kaede Mitsuri," the child answered, without rising from where she was seated on the ground. Her fingers toyed with a tiny green sprout beside her. "And thank you, but I will stay here. Mr. Coulter is welcome to come talk to me if he likes though."

Annette winced, visibly, at the Mr., but she supposed it was merely another issue of the surface world that they raised their children without manners or proper appreciation of the aristocracy. She sighed, then fingered the knife tucked against her back.

"That won't work here," the little girl commented, with idle disinterest, not even looking up from her sprout. "The Arboretum prohibits violence." Her eyes did lift then, but not to Annette, rather to the others present. A warning for them, rather than Annette... intriguing. She settled her hand again, and let the shadow within her take a look around. There was a sense of power in the place, to be sure, pervasive and working in a way that Annette couldn't understand. She felt that the shadows oughtn't have been able to find purchase on it at all, and yet they did. It didn't take very long to find the reason for it, as it was right before her.

A tangle of tiny white flowers, tucked up against the trees, slowly spreading. They pulled the shadows in, and spread them throughout the Arboretum itself. Interesting. Annette stepped past the child, walking up to the tree and touching one of the little flowers. It felt no different beneath her fingers than any other flower would have. And yet... to the shadows within her it called, a beacon. Annette let her gaze drift beyond, to the area itself. Around the tangle of flowers it lay blighted, and the shadowchild, she noted, sat well outside the circle of blight. Beyond that, though, it was well-cultivated. Not wild, but tamed and orderly. Here and there, she could see the places where trees had been trimmed to allow for proper growth.

So. The place might have prohibited her from killing the child... but it could not prevent every gardener's sickle. Annette drew her knife and in swift motion, stabbed it through one of the orchids. The flower should have merely crumpled, but it sprayed, bring red droplets, and the child's gasp behind her was audible even if Annette wasn't looking at her. She gathered the shadow within her and pushed it - not against the ragged blossom, but within.

Around her, the blighted circle widened, grasses crumpling into dust and trees withering on their roots.

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#31 Posted by The_Custodian (477 posts) - - Show Bio

@fallen_savant: @_gaige_: @renegade84:

The Custodian had been patient long enough. Her friend, indeed her sibling, had requested there be no violence...so there would be none, but only because it had been asked by someone she considered as important to her as her deceased brother. Had it been anyone else, she'd be tearing apart the woman on a molecular level already. Her face was a picture of calm stoicism but it was the mask of a Binary performing their gene-forged duties...it was a lie. Below the surface, hidden away, she felt rage. Fortunately, she was a Binary first.

She watched the blood like substance and heard her friend's gasp and she acted on two distinct levels simultaneously. First, the knife. With the power to pull planets out of alignment and shift the positions of stars she reached out with gravity and sought very simply to pull the knife from the woman's hands and to her own. She had no doubt it wouldn't truly disarm her but it was the principle of the matter. The second and simultaneous action (for tearing at a knife required a minuscule amount of her power) she tagged the woman herself. She didn't know precisely what she was doing but it didn't take a rocket scientist to guess. She tapped into her graviton manipulation and sought to pull the woman off her feet and away from the flowers with just enough force to be hopefully disrupting to her plans, and perhaps deposit her on her backside. It was not violence, merely pulling someone off balance (assuming it worked) and away from what they were doing. She trusted the others to act swiftly as well.

Light glowed in the palm of her right hand, bright enough to light up a building, concentrated enough to vaporize armor. For the moment she held off with a third action, though her plans for it would not be technically violent either. Her restraint at the moment was extreme, given the circumstances and though Kaede preferred peace, she would not sit by and do absolutely nothing either. If the woman could circumvent allowances, then so could she.

There was one other thing she could do, and she did it. She sought to interpose herself between the flower and the woman focusing on it, floating above the grass and landing directly in front of the flower, a Binary wall of immortality willing to suffer for the sake of her adopted sibling. If she could not engage the women with physical violence, she could certainly get in the way, among the other attempts she was making. At a thought her clothing was suddenly replaced with her Binary uniform and, more critically, the light adapting visor that dropped in over her face.

No Caption Provided

Just in case she would need to blind her.

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#32 Edited by Gale_Xanders (3189 posts) - - Show Bio

@fallen_savant: @_gaige_: @renegade84: @the_custodian: @kaede_: @kaija: @lightning_god:

Xae followed in silence until they were looking at a not castle in the distance. Since he'd gone quiet in contemplation it seemed safe to assume this was their objective. She adjusted the rifle over her shoulder and then pulled it down to hold in one hand, barrel pointed harmlessly away to the sea. "You've got this." She told him gently. The local aura of ridiculous was interfering severely with her technology and she frowned, shutting off the armor's various systems to reduce it to simple armor and, after a moment, found a frequency through which she could actually see without immense amounts of static. Thank you multi-tiered eye implants.

Xae shifted, her armor felt heavier now without its various systems operating to make it lighter and more efficient but it would still work and feel more like a leather cat suit than the extremely intensive armor system that it was. Neural impulses barely worked when they worked at all, delaying or simply refusing commands entirely. She shut that off as well. The biggest loss was her three hundred and sixty degree vision.

Xae crouched down and worked her fingers against controls embedded in the surface of her armor at the ankles, her gun cradled across her lap. The system responses were slugging, the aura was shutting that off as well but she had enough time to turn her support and anchor systems over to manual. Never tried it on manual before. She stood again and flex her right ankle just so to and smiled with grim satisfaction at the audible crunch! as a spike shot into the ground from her boot and twisted, providing a solid anchor point beneath her feat.

She typically used the anchors for sliding or abrupt stops or to hold herself from being knocked over by immense explosions and other similar examples. The manual control did nothing but release the physical contraption that held the spike into place in her boot...an entirely mechanical process without the neuro-impulse controls. She twisted her foot to the right and made a stepping motion and the system retracted, ripping the anchor spike back up into her boot.

She then shifted her attention to her right hand, touching the armor at invisible control points, releasing mechanisms from their reliance on impulse control. She clenched her fist, released it and flexed her fingers. Mono-molecular cat claws shnicted into place at the tips of her fingers. She frowned. No power field...ah well, the claws should work on their own. Indeed they should, they were more than sharp enough to cut through even some of the most durable materials like a fish through the sea. Repeating the motion retracted the claws. She didn't need to check the sickle claws clicking against her hips, they were always manual.

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#33 Posted by Fallen_Savant (214 posts) - - Show Bio

So. They have come.

William Coulter, Lord of the Moor, sat quietly in a chair at the head of a table of polished coral. The chair beside him was empty, missing Annette Arquor, dispatched on a private excursion. He felt the absence of her presence gravely. She always had more patience for the meanderings of leadership than he did. The conversation wandered, niggling over insignificant points of what might one day become a trade agreement with the undersea nation of Atlantis, if it ever achieved the monument of exiting committee discussion.

His attention had been reasonably focused for a while, but the sense of presence had been drawing ever closer. When it touched the sphere of the shores, he pushed his chair back from the table and rose, catching the attention of his advisors. "Pardon me, gentlemen," he said, "We are under attack by a force from the surface." That statement, so calmly delivered, brought all discussion on the matter of trade to a quick halt, and immediately prompted inquiries as to whether the Moor's army should be assembled.

William shook his head, declining. "No. The nature of the attack is somewhat personal. I will not bring our army into this and have them suffer at the hands of a few fools who have some lingering issues with myself. A good leader does not use his military to deal with his own difficulties. Have them on standby, but they are not to engage in this skirmish. I want them on alert in case another nation decides to take opportunity of this distraction to attempt a takeover." He did not specifically mention the Atlanteans, but it didn't take much thought on anyone's part to understand that their current peace was tenuous at best. William did not trust King Rath not to break their agreement if it seemed to be to his advantage. The Moor's army was best spent defending its borders.

"Carry on, gentlemen," he prompted. "I will look over any amendments when possible. Notify me in the event of a war, otherwise I shall be unavailable for a time." He tapped his fingers on the coral table, for emphasis, and then departed the room. It was true that he did not intend to summon the army, but neither did he intend to go alone. There were others who had a stake in this as well. The temples of the Fallen Savant were scattered throughout the Moor, and while William himself had little use for religion other than as a convenience, it was indeed convenient that his inheritance of the shadows allowed him to lay claim to their loyalties.

They were not what they once were, to be certain. The Emissary had dispensed fragments of shadows throughout many of them, changing some into the followers she named Shadow-bearers, and others into raving monstrosities. One of William's first actions had been to put a stop to that practice. The people of the Moor were his people, and he wasn't willing to sacrifice them for the vagaries of faith. One of his soon-following actions had been to draw out what bits of shadow he could and lay to rest the ones he couldn't... including the monstrosities. They had been people, once. Their twisted corpses had burned, and their ashes had been returned to the sea. There would be no more of that, beneath his rule. Indeed with Annette's dispatch elsewhere, all the shadows that remained in the Moor now remained within William himself.

He collected those of his followers who professed interest from the nearest temple. There were some dozen of them, mostly in it for the novelty. He kept pace with the smallest of them, a girl of maybe six or seven who kept one hand in her father's beside her and the other hand wrapped around some bit of surface-world technomancy that she was apparently fond of. Most of the newer inventions from the surface world didn't work correctly due to the electric field interference in the Black Expanse, but those that relied very little on electric signals could function with relative reliability. For the most part, the denizens of the Moor disdained them like all surface world things, but they made interesting toys for youngsters who hadn't yet learned the value of their culture.

The rocky beach unfolded before him, and the people waiting there, apparently debating whether or not to bring their attack in towards his population center - precisely what William wished to avoid. He didn't need bloodthirsty surface worlders slaughtering his people. He made sure the youngest of his followers were situated on the rocks, close enough to watch history unfold, but far enough as to be out of the line of fire. A few of the adults remained with him as he walked down to meet the intruders, folding his arms casually across his chest and looking them over. Eventually, something needed to be said, and so he prompted, deliberately: "Well?"

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#34 Posted by _Gaige_ (992 posts) - - Show Bio

@renegade84: @kaede_: @fallen_savant: @the_custodian:

No Caption Provided

Her friend was hurt, damage to the roots did harm to a girl and it was all that Lizzy needed to feel free to take action. She despised seeing someone as dear as a sister hurt at the same time though a hero was sadly reactionary. They didn't kick in the villain's door before they had been villainous. Lizzy trusted her friend would endure, but she also was Lizzy. She didn't wait around, she didn't hesitate when there was something to confront she did so. A quick text and she was leaving Mitsuri or UNKD to try and lend a hand. Today she didn't even have to leave, hand to waste draw aim and fire. Squeeze of the trigger came with ease, not as noble as a sword but arguably the munition countered for that.

Lizzy hadn't taken to many lives and the few she had were haunting. She made mistakes human and fragile and she hated that. She refused to let her slow her down, she'd been told by Supra and Nathan to elevate herself in the past as well after some of her youthful mistakes. With all the ability and technology she had she had to work on care and finesse. Know when to hold back and how she felt were the lessons there. To know that maximum firepower wasn't always the way to go and that sometimes you had to let others take action. That communication was a vital part of works if she wanted to be efficient. That she had to ride through the criticism she'd learned a lot. More specifically though she knew she was a hero, didn't like calling herself one but she'd die and fight for anyone and everyone that she could and she knew how she fought. Believe in who she was.

She didn't hesitate to act, she didn't mind pulling the trigger of the gun. Omni however was not originally called the Omnigun however but Omnitool. Shape of a pistol perhaps but most days it was a wrench or screwdriver, something to help her with trying to build a weapon for peace. A counterproductive idea perhaps to call a weapon something for peace, that was the plan all the same though. To take the hits for others, shield who she could and try and use what power she might have to make the world better. She could be lethal but that wasn't her go to strategy. Her go to was slipspace a core aspect of her technology. Perhaps she held some people in them for to long when she didn't know where to send them. She was only human, all the same her primary choice of ammo wasn't a tool of war but of containment. A bullet meant to arrest someone from further inflicting harm on the world.

Omni barks and around escapes down range at over three thousand feet per second. Looking to if it made contact with the woman open up in a human sized vacuum into a white void. Not to kill or maim but just to put a woman away from the chance to harm others or be harmed by others. A shot that would be further assisted by the actions of her team mate. The mech pilot herself looking to move between Kaede and the threat just in case. Lowering her shields along the way. Meaning to try something at Kaede directly should that be possible would also be at a girl who was fragile hopefully helping tap into the protective nature of this place. And if not well that was a risk the pilot was willing to take.

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#35 Posted by Kaede_ (519 posts) - - Show Bio

@_gaige_: @the_custodian: @renegade84: @fallen_savant:

The knife plunged into the heart of the ghost orchid, piercing through all the care Kaede had poured in to it. The flower might have been focusing the shadows, might have been poisoning the Arboretum, but it had been a gift from a friend, and Kaede had loved it for what it represented. Rana... it wasn't that she couldn't help what she was, but that she had decided to be what she was, and Kaede respected her right to choose for herself. Whatever else Rana became, she was a friend first, and so Kaede had responded to the flower with tenderness as well as concern.

The Custodian stepped up and raised her hand, and the knife fell into it, released from the intruder's loosely held grasp. Gravity swirled around her, flattening the corpses of the flowers that lay around her in the blighted zone. Annette stumbled back a little, catching herself and bracing carefully as The Custodian moved between her and the orchids, a ball of light glowing in her hand.

"Don't," Kaede protested softly, a weakness in her voice as she shook her head, "The light... don't you remember?"

The shadow remembered, even if the Custodian did not. In Minnesota, the presence of intense light had only served to make the shadow there stronger, and it seemed that this followed true here as well, for the tendrils Annette had spun out darkened, thickening as they gained strength and density and bending themselves around the defender, seeking out the orchids again.

Lizzy hadn't waited long, either, taking advantage of the Custodian's interruption, she moved into position and fired her weapon. And it was still a weapon, even if the technology she used wasn't designed to be lethal, it was designed for combat. The slipspace bullet spit from the barrel of the gun, and quite simply disappeared into nothingness. The bullet was gone - but something remained. It was hard to say exactly what it was, something small, in the shape of the missing bullet, a little flicker of whiteness that sped forward from the Omni and struck the tendril of shadow where the Custodian's light had made it solid. White lightning flickered through the tendril that had been struck, burning it away into emptiness.

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#36 Posted by Fallen_Savant (214 posts) - - Show Bio

@_gaige_: @the_custodian: @renegade84: @kaede_:

Annette turned quickly to face the children after her balance had been pulled - she wasn't certain how that had worked, but it seemed to be something the black-clad girl had done, the one who'd pulled the knife. That same girl drifted between Annette and the orchids, a ball of light in her hand, and the light was incredible. Annette could feel the shadow absorb it, drawing strength. There just wasn't light like that in the Moor, and the lack of it made it hard for the shadows to be as powerful as they could. With a light like that, though, she had no problem turning her shadow into a thing of destruction.

Only, though, for a very brief moment. The other girl - the one she'd spoken to at the lake - shot at her, and the bullet that erupted from the gun struck the shadow itself, some sort of chained lightning that coursed through the solid shadow and tore it away. Annette felt it fade and flicker and die, and started, surprised. "You..." Her hand rose to her chest, the closest approximation she could find for the sudden emptiness within her. "What did you do?"

She didn't know what that little light had been, only that it had taken away the shadow that Lord Coulter had given her months ago. That he had bound to her. That he had... tied... her... to. She frowned, her gaze distant and angry for a moment. "That bastard." It had all made so much sense at the time. She'd started it all, with the gift from the crazy girl from the surface, so long ago... but Annette had always thought that she was going to be the one pulling the strings. William had co-opted the entire idea, used the betrayal of the Emissary to further his cause and take the reins of the Moor as its sole leader. And Annette, shadow-tainted, had gone along with it, because... because the shadows that had touched her had thought it was a good idea. Because they'd been influencing her, the whole time.

Because they absolutely couldn't be trusted. Because anyone tied to them couldn't be trusted... and couldn't even trust themselves. And under the shadow's influence... they would never even realize it.

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#37 Posted by _Gaige_ (992 posts) - - Show Bio

@renegade84: @the_custodian: @fallen_savant: @kaede_:

Trusting in a friend got the knife away from the opposition and helped arrest for an attack to be made against her. Light used wasn't ideal and risky it helped lure the assailant into a state of confidence though. Omni barks and a bullet vanishes little more then a small light heading towards an inky darkness. The munition connects no longer a bullet and a shower of lightning and a rather to the pilot pleasing light show the engineer found she'd put the shadow to rest. Was it rest?

Could you really kill a shadow? Kill anything in Mitsuri? It seemed gone and yet a curious mind couldn't help but be curious. Way the attacker reacted suggested a possibility of lost and confusion and a shadow in the back of her mind said that it was good. This woman had attacked her home and a friend apart of her wanted to take comfort in such suffering for having such audacity. Lizzy felt that couldn't be allowed to be her however, remember who she was. Had a dream that maybe one day all the tech and weapons wouldn't be needed as much that kindness might do things in. Was outlandish maybe to think a pacifist like approach might ever come to pass but it was just outlandish enough the gamer felt.

"You won't believe me probably, but I believed in me and this really hard." Lizzy remarked and a slight gesture to indicate her surroundings. From a place she called home, even though it still didn't have a pool and friends. "The renegade who reminds me to rebel against better judgment if it means helping others. The Custodian who reminds there's always more to clean up. A gardener who reminds me of the world worth protecting. All that saturday morning cartoon stuff."

The mech pilot took a few steps closer toward the woman now without a shadow to use. "I'm sorry that I, that we took it from you. That said what do you plan to do now? Can we help you find something less dark or do we settle for a cell as conflicts all you know?" Lizzy was furious trying to consider any option outside of striking out at this attacker, a shadow in the back of her mind gnawed at the pilot to try and find something else. Maybe let omni be a hammer instead and try bashing a skull in with improvised weapon. Design a gizmo that wasn't for harm in primary use just a device, but inside could be lethal. Lizzy resisted that though it wasn't her. They could build something later sure but they couldn't bring violence here.

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#38 Posted by Iridum (370 posts) - - Show Bio

@fallen_savant: @orange_water: @gale_xanders: @bladebrave:

No Caption Provided

On the way to the depths below the seventeen year old did her best to pass time however she could. Read a few books of Drake's knew she couldn't use them anymore but there was a fondness for them that still stuck with her. Did some homework bored out of her skull, studied the P90 submachine gun until she felt confident she could use it. Eventually though in the ride that seemed to take eternity however a bit of the hell-raising teen got to her.

She found a marker, bit the cap to remove it and then did her best job at sneaking toward Landon in rest. Trying to time it when her dad and Xae were busy. Delicate touch, handle the marker like a knife. Hell liked to tell her by examples of carving out an eye. Instead however all that came to pass was a seventeen year old etching a monocle around Landon's left eye and a carefully drawn swirling mustache. A black boot kicking a marker under a chair as if to say it surely wasn't her.

Wouldn't lie about it if asked but it helped her relax, not dwell on what she'd spent a year going through. They arrive and Rana takes no time to start walking towards the obvious. "Who builds a castle down here?" She refused to think of it as anything less, thinking of this as something fantastic and grand helped sooth what might come next she found. Anything to be closer to normal then the things that plagued her head, and eventually they came to an impasse. A gathering of people, and her senses could feel how things had been for them under the surface. A feeling of the shadows made it clear who was in charge of things here.

"Excuse us for being so unannounced shadows came, and made a lot of things happen that shouldn't be is all. There's been a lot of loss and pain sense then we'd just like to see that removed. This doesn't have to be a fight, lets just return your kingdom back to itself." They were heroes they didn't need to start a war just because of political actions the shadows raised by Saikea needed to be halted however. A bow was given before a hand left the firearm to raise in a fist lightly nudging to try and hint that the proper greeting was to pump it. "Sorry name's Rana, one of the bearers of shadow. My dad has one to and while I'm comfortable with a bit of darkness. I'd rather he not be or it spread to the rest of my friends like them and so many others." She did her best not to indicate who was who behind her however so as to not give ammunition to someone who might be combative soon. She couldn't imagine challenging their faith would go well, she still refused to lie though and give in to that side of her completely.

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#39 Posted by Fallen_Savant (214 posts) - - Show Bio

@gale_xanders: @iridum: @orange_water: @bladebrave:

William raised an eyebrow at the child. Of course he knew her. It wasn't unsurprising that she didn't recognize him... he'd looked different, at the time. "I know you, Rana. You traveled beneath the waves and killed our priestess and desecrated her corpse." He gave her a pointed smile, not necessarily begrudging her the action itself, but it was necessary for the sake of politics to appear as though he did. "And now you've made an armed invasion on a sovereign nation and... what? Threatened to depose the lawful ruler? You do realize that I am the legal head of the Moor, do you not?"

Surface worlders, he had noted, tended to ignore truth for the sake of convenience. Whether or not these people thought he should be the leader of the Moor or whether or not they agreed with his ideals in particular nonetheless did not change the fact that he was, nor did it change the fact that they had sailed an armed vessel into his waters and landed an assault force on the shores near his capitol. Somewhere in the background, there was a click from the bit of strange technology held by the little girl, no doubt recording this moment in history for posterity. Likely she was just curious about the strangers who had come to visit, but that didn't change the fact that the evidence was extant.

William spread his hands, in the place between a gesture showing that he was unarmed and a gesture of come at me, then. "So. I will decline your... let us call it a 'polite request' for the sake of diplomacy. The Moor is just fine the way it is. Now. Are you declaring war? Or would you like to test my benevolence as a leader and leave before I have you lawfully detained?"

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#40 Posted by Gale_Xanders (3189 posts) - - Show Bio

@fallen_savant: @iridum: @orange_water: @bladebrave:

Xae was unimpressed and simply raised her weapon. "The war against darkness never ended." She said simply. She made a note to thank the hatchling later for announcing the presence of the camera...and thus the concept that some other forms of technology might be coaxed into working, if carefully manipulated. "The innocence thing doesn't suit you, too obvious. Allow me to be less diplomatic, cast out the shadows and stop invading the territory of the surface world." She didn't say anything as obvious as "or die" but it was because, well, it was obvious, an implication of pointing a gun at someone was if they didn't do what you told them to, they would be shot. Xae was not one to shoot to wound.

Even as she stood there she was making trajectory calculations, simply because her technology was off didn't rob her of the ability to do advanced math on a short notice, she was a scientist with a genius level (especially for humans) intellect, the technology was faster, but her mind was fast enough. More importantly, she was calculating where to place her shots so as to avoid the bystanders. Another might hesitate to fire with a child around but no one had asked Xae when she was a hatchling if she wanted to fight in a war either. She discounted the hatchling as a target but not as a potential threat, remembering what had been said about the shadows fleeing from one form to the next. IF her shots brought him down, assuming she was made to fire them, then that would be a consideration. There was, sadly, nothing to be done about the people there, they would simply need to focus on driving the battle out of the region or perhaps more importantly, destroying the shadows before they could assume a new host.

As for the photographic evidence, she didn't much care. If it were used against them at some future date she would deal with it then. The shadow threat was real, right now, and it wasn't something she was going to ignore because it wasn't diplomatically correct or didn't figure into some complex code of Human laws decidedly designed for a species not capable of thinking past the generation it occupied, or perhaps being generous, the following one. The Tavor was among the most accurate rifles on the planet, but it's rounds were small. The 5.56 Nato round was designed to wound rather than kill and against a meta human was unlikely to do any killing at all, short of pumping all thirty shots into someone. Of course, the rifle...wasn't really there for him now, was it?

No, the rifle was for anyone else the shadows got into. For meta humans, Xae had other, more effective weapons. For now, she stayed where she was, eyes straight ahead but predatory senses completely attuned to her surroundings, just in case.

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#41 Posted by Fallen_Savant (214 posts) - - Show Bio

@_gaige_: @the_custodian: @renegade84: @kaede_:

Annette looked at the children, perhaps a little incredulously. "What do you plan to do now? Can we help you?" Those certainly weren't questions she had expected at all. She'd figured execution to be a given, and prison a best case scenario. That was how Lord William would have handled it, to be sure. "I think..." she said, slowly, as if not certain that they would even hear her out, "That what I would like to do is return to the Moor. The shadow..." she glanced down at her hand, considering, "The one I held was the one that warped the water. It let me move anywhere, so long as there was water deep enough to embody it. They all have little specialties," she added, for their benefit if they desired it. "Without it, though, I am not certain how I will return... nor what manner of welcome will await me when I arrive. My lord William is... not fond of failure."

Indeed, he was not at all fond of failure. It was entirely plausible that her execution still awaited her, that it would merely be at his hands rather than at the hands of the shore dwellers. If that is necessary, so be it. I would rather die in the Moor, beneath the waves. Not up here on the surface.

She looked back to the young lady she'd met on her emergence from the water. "Contrary to what you may believe, I am not a nursery-story villain, set on destruction of the world. I am... not so different from some of your leaders - or once, I was not. The shadows change people. They... change your thoughts. Things that you once might have spoken against seem to be good ideas. There are... many things I have done, in the last several months, that were perhaps not good ideas. I shall rectify that as I am able. Lord William will no doubt oppose me. It seems that should I return, I have a tyrant to depose."

A smile touched her features, amused. "It will be interesting."

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#42 Posted by _Gaige_ (992 posts) - - Show Bio

@renegade84: @kaede_: @the_custodian: @fallen_savant:

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"I for one belief you, they emphasize the worst of ourselves. I think if we let you return things might go back to normal, what interest would you have on societies outside of like Atlantis." Granted the pilot thought such a location was likely more a myth. "If you'll let us keep tabs on you I think I'd be comfortable with you returning to the moor." Apart of Lizzy felt a prison would be better, that she shouldn't chance it. However she had an assortment of friends going down there against someone who it sounded likely wouldn't change his ways.

A sigh escaped her as she continued. "Way it sounds Lord William won't listen to the team thats down there. Way these things go violence is probably what follows. They'll need a leader. However more information you can give on him and the bearers would be ideal. Specifically who you think might be more inclined to fight. Sorry" she knew that was a traitorous request perhaps. There was a need for trust however to be established amongst them. It was also a situation that would largely place her friends at risk to go down there and she'd rather not rush in blind. Even if she was someone to rush in.

"Well provided the rest of you feel comfortable with this. We should agree as a team, and only the ones comfortable with going into the moor go." There was a concern there in Lizzy, she felt Dia was one of there most capable in powers and recovery, what was that in a place that depowered most however. She worried about Kaede going knowing she was something the lord wanted dead. Marie had been working on martial arts with Warden, she had a bit more comfort in that idea given the area. Taking a friend who struggled at times with being a mutant into a place that would tamper with such seemed like a hell of an emotional trial. She closed her eyes briefly and reminded herself though this was still a team of heroes not just her friends she thought as family. Lizzy had to trust that they would know what they were fighting for and where they should be.

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#43 Edited by Iridum (370 posts) - - Show Bio

@gale_xanders: @fallen_savant: @orange_water: @bladebrave:

Rana agreed more then she cared to admit she didn't trust this man and his aproach got under her skin. That said she also didn't like the aproach being used, William was using a veil of the public which was dangerous for the team and more so for his own people. It was a good shield for him though and that was the point. Rana moves to put her hand against the barrel of the veteran who cared not for politics. A ordinary seventeen year old hand not going to stop a bullet but hopefully speaking to Xae and others by doing it.

The hatchling as one of them liked to put it didn't think this had to become something violent. The shadowbearrer and killer they knew her for cared about their lives. His words stung, daggers digging into her foolishness of trying to think herself a hero. Shadows and devils in her head maybe if was stupid to keep trying to be sweet and noble. Still she did her best to take the ridicule directed her way, his backlash just piled on to years of hellish put downs and a year of feeling hopeless and incapable of changing anything ravaging her body.

"I also set a fallen friend of the family to the seas in hopes she might find the woman she loved and obtain peace." Behind her glasses it was conveyed in her eyes the kill still got to her, elements of pride mixed with burden of letting her wrath get the better of her. "We're not here for an assassination though, just to lay shadows to rest. This doesn't have to escalate. The moor isn't fine, shadows led you to the surface and to needless hurt. Please don't endanger good people for a glimpse of additional power you're better without." She wasn't here to make a declaration of war she did feel though by speaking up she might be testing said benevolence.

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#44 Posted by Kaede_ (519 posts) - - Show Bio

@_gaige_: @the_custodian: @renegade84: @fallen_savant:

"I... need to stay here," Kaede answered Lizzy's indirect question softly. "I'm sorry. I don't think I can leave right now." Her eyes fell closed, her fingertips brushing the little sprout of Marie's gift. She wasn't sure how much it was right to say. How much was too much, and how much wasn't enough at all. Her fingers trembled, and she placed them quietly in her lap. She wanted so much to say something light. Something like Go save the world, less-than-sign, three. A hint of a smile touched her lips at the thought, then faded away as she opened her eyes and letting her gaze fall on one person in particular.


She held her eyes for a moment, unflinching, drawing a breath and letting it go, then taking another before she found the will to say what she needed to. "I don't think I can leave until the shadows are gone." Only then did she let her gaze slip aside, past Lizzy to where the ghost orchids grew. The one that Annette had split had bled for a moment, but now it had withered away into dust. The rest of them still appeared healthy. There were nine. She didn't think that was inconsequential.

Kaede looked down again, then closed her eyes. She didn't like what she'd told them. Didn't like putting that much pressure on her friend - and Lizzy would see it as pressure, which was fair, because that was exactly what it was. And Kaede would never ask her to kill the shadow that she'd befriended.


She'd just point out truths and let other people make the hard choices for her.

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#45 Posted by _Gaige_ (992 posts) - - Show Bio


Lizzy smiled a bit at the statement of a friend turning and taking a knee, dirt marking the navy blue flight suit of hers. Not to unlike what had become practically an accessory of her friend's own attire. Her hand looking to tighten around her friends a bit, admittedly knowing it could be the last time. Last place a girl who focused on technology needed was to go to a place that'd turn it off. She imagined Omni could only fire singular shots struggling to load a round and changing into much would be difficult for it. Her Overdrive system she felt would work, not her shields mechs or drones though she was known for. All of that risk to the neon pink knight was worth it though for Kaede.

"I'm glad honestly would rather not take the noncombatant to a place that wants her dead." An effort made to make such a remark be light in nature then it was. "Besides it's still your birthday, I imagine your other family should be stopping by sometime. Would be rude not to be here when they do." There was a hard part however that also had to be confronted. Her expression briefly fading to one more stern.

"If the shadow isn't gone in me though when I get back would you be willing to remove it for me. There's nobody we trust more for it" we, both had come to see Mitsuri like a home. The shadow somewhat going along with the idea of all of this for that reason. It was like a dog rabid but still watching it's house. "If not that's okay to, we all have to make our own choices" she finished briefly forming a heart with her hands before getting back to her feet. Granted she didn't believe it'd be okay, Lizzy might have managed to put down one shadow but turning the gun on herself to do that wasn't exactly in line with such ideals.

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#46 Posted by Renegade84 (222 posts) - - Show Bio

@kaede_: @the_custodian: @fallen_savant: @gale_xanders: @_gaige_:

As much as Marie wishes to go with Lizzy, she glances at Kaede. Then she comes up with a suggestion, "As much as I admire my friend's non-violence approach, I don't believe in letting a friend stay by herself. One of us should remain behind in case she needs to be protected. It's just a suggestion, but only if you agree to it, Kaede." She smiles at her friend, doing her level best to make her as comfortable as possible. Any one of them can stay behind to protect Kaede should she agree to such a thing but in Marie's mind, she might be the best one for the job. She's done it before.

If Kaede doesn't wish to be protected, and everyone else agrees with her, then Marie will go with Lizzy to the moor, but only if the Custodian is going as well.

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#47 Edited by Orange_Water (6583 posts) - - Show Bio

@fallen_savant: @iridum:@bladebrave: @gale_xanders:

She found a marker, bit the cap to remove it and then did her best job at sneaking toward Landon in rest. Trying to time it when her dad and Xae were busy. Delicate touch, handle the marker like a knife. Hell liked to tell her by examples of carving out an eye. Instead however all that came to pass was a seventeen year old etching a monocle around Landon's left eye and a carefully drawn swirling mustache. A black boot kicking a marker under a chair as if to say it surely wasn't her.

I slept most of the way to what was called the Sunken Moor and upon our entrance through what had been called a whirlpool but I doubt it was so simple so when we finally surfaced I got out of the bed. Although it wasn't as easy as I thought it was because my armor was weighing me down I chuckled to myself for a moment,"Of course you don't work here..." I pulled out one of my daggers and decided to test it. I couldn't exactly explain it but the connection between it and myself felt off. Usually, I wouldn't even notice it but it felt heavier than it should be but I couldn't help but wonder if the same could be said for the usual cutting ability. So I swung the dagger into the metal bed post and it almost went through without a problem. But I could feel it just that slight bit of resistance as it went through enough to make me concerned when my daggers and my sword were the only weapons besides that Hawk's amulet that could kill the shadows. Hell, that probably means that my sword was nothing more than a blunt instrument now," at least they will still fear the sword," you know after all this time I still haven't named my weapons. Maybe I should call my dagger's Shadow Bane? One becomes Shadow the other becomes Bane yeah that doesn't sound too bad.

I took off my armor and walked into the restroom and passed by a mirror looking at it for a moment. Still tired from my nap I barely noticed it at first but when I came back to the sink that was underneath the mirror I looked at it for a moment and thought about who would do this. Easy enough to figure out who would do this,"RANA!!!!!!!!!!!" Truth be told I liked the mustache but hated the monocle but it had to go so I splashed some water on my face and started wiping the marker away but as I continued to think about it I realized I had no idea how the Moor would affect my powers. It could be something minor like not being able to use the kill shots or the titans or it could be much worse with me being unable to manipulate the water here at all due to some supernatural or natural change to the local water supply. So that left me with one option my armor already contained water from our side and that I knew I could manipulate," Come along now I'm gonna need your help." The water would exit the armor right before I finished forming over my body but leaving my face exposed for now and before I left the room I grabbed my weapons. There was no chance of negotiation with the shadows only the chance of a fight and unfortunately death.

I would follow the other's outside where we were almost immediately met by someone only calling himself the sovereign ruler but I recognized him as the one who got away. The choice from just a couple months ago save the town or finish the threat. I made the wrong choice that day and I would fix it here and now. The others spoke of options Xae I knew was only lining up her shots she knew just like me there was no negotiation with the beast only killing it. Rana tried her best but now it was enough," This is your final warning to all of your citizens relinquish your shadows and I will kill them. We are only here to free you from the infection don't make us have to go farther than we want to." The water still surrounded my body but now was the time to create the ice armor giving me the protection I would need I would pull out my blunt instrument of a sword and pointed it towards this "King" I spoke the truth all I wanted to do was save them but these shadows would never allow them to see the truth if we were right about it's corrupting influence," surrender the shadows and you will be free."

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#48 Posted by Fallen_Savant (214 posts) - - Show Bio

@gale_xanders: @iridum: @orange_water: @bladebrave:

William considered the intruders. The weapon, pointed at him. The murdering child, surprisingly the voice of reason, and unsurprisingly no one listened to her. The man who threatened to separate his people from their faith so he could destroy it. And the silent one, who said nothing, but waited, tense.

He had given them enough warning, he thought. More than they deserved. Were they so set on this course of action that they were unable to see reason? Or did surface worlders just have their own particular brand of idiocy?

He spoke, but not to them. "Claire." A word, a name, and the little girl on the rock hopped down, coming to stand beside him, photographs held in her small hand. William kept a watchful eye on the invaders, ready at a moment's notice to cast his defenses should they dare attack the child. He did not think they would, though. That much decency, he hoped they still had. His hand touched the girl's head, stroking her hair gently. He took one of the photographs from the girl, a fairly decent shot of the woman with a gun pointed at him, although he rather thought he looked better from the opposite angle... no matter. The people in the photograph, and the actions, were clear. Slowly, without movement quick enough to raise alarm, he withdrew a pen from his pocket.

"On this date, the sovereign nation of the Moor came under unprovoked attack by outside forces," he read aloud, calmly, as he wrote, "Should I not survive this encounter, let this stand as evidence of their treachery. By my hand, Lord William Coulter." He capped the pen, and handed the picture back to the child, to hold with her others. He inclined his head briefly to his opponents, and patted the child's head once more. "Take your father and run along now to the docks. Have one of the merchants take you to the surface. Show that to anyone who will listen." There would, he thought, be many parties interested in that information.

He dismissed her, and she returned to the man she'd come in clinging to, who picked her up cautiously, then nodded assent and moved to carry her away. William waited half a moment, then addressed the demands that had been made. "You come down here with your weapons and your insolence, and you demand my people give up their faith and their way of life. You threaten a foreign head of state. I do not know how many laws you have broken today, but I am certain the number is not inconsequential. As for your demands: No. On behalf of my people, I refuse you. You are not welcome here. You may consider yourself forthwith banned from the Moor and all its territories. You have ten minutes in which to remove yourself, or I will have you arrested and let whatever passes for a consulate in your nation sort it out for you."