4508/Persona: WTWM - The Inquisitor

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Persona: WTWM - The Inquisitor
Date of Scene: 03 September 2016
Location: Alberichstadt <P:WTWM>
Synopsis: Ainsley has been taken by the Piper. A team is mobilized to enter the Cathedral of Lies to save her from her own Shadow.
Thanks to: Thanks to August for running the first scene, and to Ainsley for letting all this happen!
Cast of Characters: Janine Liberi, 165, William Pauwel, 152, 999, August Kohler, Rebecca Chambers, 513, Kotone Yamakawa, 151
Tinyplot: Persona: Were the World Mine-1

Janine Liberi has posed:
    The time has come. A temporary retreat is called to the clearing around the entry point to the Forest from the shack. The reasons why being threefold; the first is to pick up any reinforcements. The second is to pick up the pig so as to track the Piper. The third is to distribute healing potions brewed by Agatha to those wounded during the fight with the Kindly King. Janine herself chugs one to mend her bruised ribs.

    Thankfully, they do not taste as bad as one would think, considering they're made from Shadow parts. Perhaps, owing to Agatha's matronly nature, they taste like blueberry pie and fresh cookies.

    Once everyone is patched up and ready to go, it's time to return to the clearing in which the Kindly King was fought. This is made easy by the new compass provided by the Velvet Room, which points back to any previously encountered place in the Forest. There, the Pig is offered the scent of the dead rat that fell from the Piper's plasma beam wound inflicted by Will. Soon, he's snuffling at the ground and leading the way past some smashed glass trees.

    It's quite a trek from there. And to make matters worse, the closer they get, the worse the weather becomes, a heavy storm coming down on the forest. but their destination is heard before it's seen, owing to the chiming of church bells cutting through the sound of rain. Soon, their target emerges from between the trees.

    A grand cathedral stands before them, built in a bizarre style. It's all harsh angles and strange geometries, the bricks and mortar entirely monochrome. It's almost like a sketch of a cathedral somehow rendered 3D. Gargoyles leer down at them with twisted, judging expressions, like they know every dirty secret you have. The stained glass windows are also monochromatic, made up of different shades of black and white. They all depict people being tortured grievously, each one bearing a twisted, shadowy figure observing or leading the practice. Ominous pipe organ music echoes from the grand oaken adjacent doors, beckoning the party in.

    Janine turns and fixes the gathering with a fierce stare. "For once, I want this shit to be nice and neat. We go in there, save the lizard wizard, kick the shit out of the Piper and be on our merry w-oh FUCK THIS FOREST!"

    The reason behind her outburst becomes clear to anyone with eyes who look around. Shadows are massing among the treeline, moving towards them, drawn by the church bell. The Pig immediately lets out a frightened squeal and flees into the Forest... and then, White Berserker steps up, intoning that she shall hold them back while everyone saves Ainsley. What a hero.

    With that, Janine gives the heavy doors a kick, and leads everyone inside!

Ren Tanaka (165) has posed:
    Ren Tanaka has a play to rehearse...

    Now, Ren doesn't go in the Forest very much. In fact Ren doesn't ever go in the forest: his first time exploring it was also his last and only, for Reasons that relate to what Hoshi Amakasu explained to him.

    Of course when he found out that Ainsley- his good friend- had been kidnapped by a Shadow, basically any reservations Ren had disapp...

    Okay, so they didn't actually disappear. That's why anyone who gets close will probably notice that the man is, even now, putting up some small amount of unconcious essence defences against having his mind and body intruded upon.

    Of course, to get close to him you would also have to be moving where Ren is- through the trees. As he goes, the traveller seems to be quite unruffled by the storm.

That's because he's not really ruffled by anything. Anyone who looks at Ren's face will notice that he's fallen into the same stony, furious expression that he's worn before when Sakura and Tomoyo have been abducted before- the face of someone who has, having only recently settled into the idea that he can have friends, brings a frightening amount of rancor to bear when they are stolen from him.

    "I'll try and find another entrance and make a surgical insertion," he says to the others over the sound of rain- and although it does sound like a statement, he's entirely willing to listen to a better idea if someone wishes to direct him.

    When a friend is in danger saving them is always a team effort.

William Pauwel has posed:
    Last night, someone kidnapped someone right out from under Will's nose. Not someone he really knew very well- not even someone he knew at all, in fact. But there are rules among Chasers, guidelines and bylaws that build between them a mutual brotherhood that runs deeper than any guild or organization. One of those, close to the top, is to never leave a man behind.

The only time you're really allowed to is when going after them means you'd end up killing YOURSELF, too.

That's not the case today.

    Not to say that it won't be dangerous. The human mind is one among the most perilous of places- but Will has come ready. He disappeared for a moment just after the retreat, and when he returns...

    Thundering footsteps crush fallen branches beneath heavy boots of lead. The bulky silhouette of the T-45 Power Armor steps across the threshhold alongside Janine. A plasma weapon glows blue-white in one hand, a thick cable running from its back end to a bulbous backpack. "Alright," Will's voice echoes from behind the helmet's facemask, "Let's get serious."

Faruja (152) has posed:
Faruja is here, of course as part of the reinforcements. Of course he is. Ainsley's been kidnapped. The usually vocal ratpriest has been deathly silent, as have his two Black Mage companions. Only when Janine calls for the assault does he finally speak while checking his flamethrower.

"Why, Lady Liberi, I do believe I quite like this idea." He adds, before turning to his companions. Berserkers holding the line. He nods to the mages. "Support the Lady. And when all is done, burn this place to the ground and kill anything that resists us."

Then, the rat incants, and the fiery form of Ifrit springs to life beside him as they march on inside. Seems the rat's willing to start early on that whole 'burning' thing.

Emily Branford (999) has posed:
    Emily was here for all of it. The attempt on King Fatcat's life, the theft of one (1) lizardmage, and even a certain Master's borderline-treacherous choice of timing.

    She may or may not be a bit biased on that last part.

    But Emily is here yet still, and she might take just a sip of a healing potion but no more than that. Her demeanor is utter calm, controlled professionalism, more like a soldier than a butler underneath that paper-thin veneer of refinement. She walks the entire way to the clearing and the entire way back in more or less silence, unperturbed by the rain, but-

    My, but that's a lot of Shadows.

    The whip is instantly in the woman's right hand, whirled around her in an idle flourish. She moves to stand beside the church entrance, ensuring that everyone else enters before doing so herself; when Ren suggests splitting off, the blonde calls out, "Not a wise idea. We're heading into unknown territory. We shouldn't split our forces going inside, not until we've an idea what we're going into."

August Kohler has posed:
August Kohler is ready to go, with the slight issue that the spoon that he uses to summon his Persona is missing. He's procured a small shard of glass for now, but it's nowhere near a long term replacement. Wonder where that could have gone? Either way, he moves to take the potion despite not having been injured, storing it with him to save for later in case anyone needs it. They /were/ his idea! While they're at the clearing, he also grabs a hammer from the shack, just in case something goes wrong. August grimaces at the stained glass as they pass by it.

There's also a some-what new face here, atleast to most people! A small cat, about one foot tall, looking like he's sick and has been starved his entire life, with mottled fur and very elegant boots. He's carrying a giant tank cannon as if it was a sword, the Panzer Cat riding on August Kohler's shoulder because it's the comfiest place right now. "Ah, one of these giant structures that keep popping up! I've always wanted to explore one! For this, I'll help free of charge. Don't worry about the favor yet~." The Panzer Cat shifts on top of August, which leaves him kind of uncomfortable, but atleast he's not wearing that ten foot tall armor!

Rebecca Chambers has posed:
It doesn't matter what kind of situation she's going into, Rebecca always feels her duty to help out with rescue situations like this whenever she can. After all, the 'R' in 'S.T.A.R.S.' stands for rescue. To hell with the rainstorm coming down so fast that she needs to look towards to the ground for the most part and rely on where she sees the others going! At least there's no virally-infected adders coming down or Hunters trying to claw at her! She breathes a sigh of relief when she spots the cathedral and the doors opening, and she picks up the pace, trying to push forwards into the shelter until she finally finds herself inside.

Once she's inside and it's a little more dry in there, she takes a moment to run a hand through her hair, trying to wipe out some of the rain, before drawing her Beretta and loading a fresh clip into it. She didn't want to risk loading it earlier since there was a good chance the rain might have ruined the bullets if her Beretta had gotten too wet. Then she looks to the others with a look of determination on her face. "This isn't going to be easy, but I know we can do this!"

Finna (513) has posed:
Something about that phantasmal cathedral puts a chord of fear in Finna's heart, but Lunars tend to SNARL when they're angry... more or less. So she returns their twisted looks with a fierce one of her own. It's the MUSIC coming from the place that really unsettles her though... WHO is playing that and why does it rattle her bones?

    One debacle of charging and fending off shadows later, she goes bursting in through the front gates with the others!

    This leaves the foxgirl traveling next to Faruja, her blade drawn. It's not a very fancy sword, a work of mortal hands... but she's holding it as a statement to the masters of this place.

    Entering a place with one's sword drawn is kind of a declaration of war, after all.

    "I'm getting so sick of these Shadows, holy man." She asides to Faruja.

Kotone Yamakawa has posed:
When Kotone had thought about it? Ainsley had been there for her when Kotone had been a bystander and a speed bump, she's gone with Ainsley into the depths of her filth infested home city to root out the cancer before it could forever plague it's world as it did that of another earth. They had succeed in stopping it and saved Ainsley's home from more suffering but without Ainsley how would it have ended for her? She wasn't sure, so here she was once more in the Mirror Forest again wondering just what horrors are being inflicted upon her friend but there's nothing to be gained by worry, she's going to have to do what she can to help pull Ainsley out of this likely nightmare

Kotone was suited up in the light stealth armour she wore, how much of an edge it gave her with Shadows? She wasn't sure but every bit could help and if she needed to sneak about outside the forest it was still of use. She had learned from her last large scale trip in here and brought a good deal more ammo and an actual melee weapon with her. Not that it was much but it was something and the blue haired cyborg was ready.

She took a look over the assembled group some were new to her but that didn't shock her with how much her friend traveled the multiverse but the goal of everyone here seemed to be the same. Which is what the important thing was, get Ainsley out.

"All right I'm as ready as I'm ever going to be if you want me to drop some remotes, I can have them scout ahead but I'm not sure how much good that will do us in a place like this..."

Janine Liberi has posed:
    Inside the cathedral... well, it's not what you expect. It actually looks kind of like a normal cathedral. Very minimalist, with rows of pews before an altar. A symbol is emblazoned everywhere, of the head of some kind of holy staff, consisting of a spear point with three lines of unequal length perpendicular to it.

    Shadows actually occupy the pews around the party as they walk down the centre, heads bowed in reverent prayer. Mirrors fill the room, but they do not reflect everything. Only Shadows (making Panzer Cat look like he's floating in the air), Ifrit, and any Persona that gets called out. Furthermore, they depict blue skies, as opposed to the stormclouds above. There are balconies above, and a door on each side. One seems to be leading into the bell tower above... but what of the other?

    "Don't go off half-cocked!" Janine snaps at Ren right away, somehow even crankier than usual. "This place might be trapped all to hell like that last castle. Stay together, stay on your toes." To Emily, who says much the same thing, if in a politer tone, she nods.

    She gives a long look at Will's armour... and gives a slight nod of approval. "Yeah. Time to fuck 'em up." The fiery Ifrit gets an approving look, even if the rat priest looks ridiculous to her, and his declaration of burning the place down when they're done only makes her approve more.

    To Kotone, she shakes her head. "No time. We gotta find her and save her quick, this place can eat at you..." To Panzer Cat, she gives a long stare. "I'm holding you to that. No take-backs." Rebecca just inspires a tired sigh from the girl. "That makes one of us." Her glance at Finna though, that seems to say that makes two of them.

    Suddenly, the pipe organ music is joined by singing from above. It's... The Piper! Playing the pipe organ, because of course he can, that's just common sense. He sings:

Slitted eyes, burning soul
All wretches shall pay the toll
Crawling in the muck of lies
Be cleansed of those filthy ties.

She will absolve you of your sins
Through whip, through rack, through pins
Do not think her merely cruel
Even as your blood drips and pools.

She only wants best, can you see
A world free of debauchery?
So come forth, those virtue poor
And kneel before the Inquisitor.

"FUCKING PIPER!" Janine shouts up at him, actually making his fingers slip on the keys. He stands, looks over the balcony, and doffs his cap before seemingly starting to leave. "Someone get him!" she yells at the party... and then a voice echoes. Harsh and slithery, as if delivered via forked tongue. "My congregation..." it says, distinctly feminine. "Our new guests are trying to stop the gathering. They plan to violate sanctuary, to silence the bells that make our ranks grow. Kill them."

    The praying Shadows rise, massing to attack... but they're pathetic. Janine lightly slashes one with her sword and it crumbles away immediately. Easy enough to talk and fight at the same time. "Someone needs to stop the bells ringing! I dunno if those three can hold off all those Shadows forever. And we still need to find Ainsley!"

    Time to form teams folks!

Ren Tanaka (165) has posed:
Ren stays where he is. He doesn't bat an eyelid when he's yelled at; just nods briefly, a minimum of expression for both Emily and Janine.

    Ren's rarely been in cathedrals... he knows that over time, in his home, worship turned strangely from what most people would recognize as 'eastern' shrines to 'western' churches, but the gods and incarnae stayed the same.

    So at least, as he hangs upside-down from the top of the doorway to look inside, he says mostly to himself "Yes, this definitely is a church alright."

    He thinks.

    "Bells," he says, thoughtfully. Now, he knows he can't take on the big threat here: not enough experience with Mirror Forest shadows, not enough experience fighting them. And as much as it pains him, running straight to his friend's side isn't the logical choice.

    No, he needs to think about the bigger picture, and so Ren decides- "Bells."

    He whips around and onto the top of one of the opened doors, looking for the quickest route up onto a higher level. As he begins to do so, a chill runs through him- didn't he... yes, a year and two months ago. Didn't he scramble and caper into the upper levels of a building before, on a rescue?

    Well, it worked well the last time.

    Problems may get in Ren's way, but he's going up. He's going to have to push through.

        Megalomania (remix) - Grandioso
        Live a Live - 1994 & 2008

Faruja (152) has posed:
He can't help it. Finna actually puts the smallest of smiles to his face. "I dare say, then, shall we endeavor to ensure there are as few of them left as possible while we work?" The sword gets a nod. /Perfect/!

Which quickly dies as he watches the profane goings on. Thankfully he doesn't have time to really go into any priestly rants for once. The unholy Inquisitor directs the congregation, and the /real/ Inquisitor aims his weapon to spew cleansing fire into the crowd.

"Move aside! This is the Inquisition! And I bloody mean /proper/ Inquisition!" More fire gets spewed before he snaps his fingers. Himself, and Ifrit by proxy, are suddenly nearer towards the deeper parts of the facility: namely, heading for where he suspects Ainsley might be. To those working on bells and Piper!

"Faramspeed! Let not one of these Heretics live! Or what passes for it..."

Emily Branford (999) has posed:
    Though her demeanor might be calm, stepping into a den of Shadows like this sets Emily on edge; there's more to it than that, but it's a subtle reasoning that likely only Janine is in a position to grasp at. Regardless, she walks with a hint of tension, looking around at all these Shadows with some wariness until the Piper is startled and another voice sets the Shadows upon them.

    Without skipping a beat, the butler becomes a fluid, flowing whirl of movement. It's almost balletic, the way she slings the Strands of Fate around herself, the whipcrack as loud as gunfire each time it sounds. One, two, three and more, the Shadows fall around her, her movements well-suited to handling targets in any direction. It's a surprisingly effective anti-mob fighting style.

    And the entire time, the butler is looking up towards the balcony, considering her options. Finally, she declares, "Ma'am, I'll be seeing to our perpetual nuisance. He's made a loose end of himself, and if anyone's to tidy up loose ends..." That's when things get interesting. As she whips and whirls her weapon around her, it grows in length, longer and longer, until with a sudden rolling curl it snaps out and wraps around the balcony - and then hauls her upward, shortening itself to pull her right up so that she can vault the railing with a deft, well-practiced movement.

August Kohler has posed:
Well, this is certainly not a creepy cathedral at all. August, being a believer in God, entirely disapproves of this place. The Panzer Cat, being a weird Shadow who only has interest in fighting people to the death and having fun adventures, doesn't really care. He does start posing in front of the mirrors once he realizes how totally cool they are, much to August's obvious disapproval.

And there's the Piper! Panzer Cat seems to enjoy his song, because the Piper is pretty great at music. But once he starts leaving, they need to stop him; after all, what about the encore?

"Firehair, throw me!" "What?" "You heard me, throw me!"

August summons the Tin Soldier, instead, and gives an approving nod to Emily. "Let's go, Branford." And then the Tin Soldier suddenly picks up Panzer Cat, and throws him like a fastball, tank cannon first, before leaping after him. Panzer Cat lands on the balcony with catlike grace, while August wades through the Shadows around them, smashing them with his hammer, before trying to find a staircase up the balcony. Or alternatively, try to climb up it with a hammer in hand.

As the Piper starts to escape, the Panzer Cat shouts at him. "Stop right there, ratskin! We have a date...a date with DESTINY!" He swivels and waves his tanksword, before trying to whack the Piper with it.

William Pauwel has posed:
    A hall of mirrors, a spooky church, pews full of shadows, and a set of jangling bells. Organs, a flute, a jackass made of actual rats. Somewhere in here, there is a lizard in need of liberation.

Only one real choice here.

    "I'm going after our missing friend," Will says, his visor blazing to life. Data begins filtering down over his field of view, targeting reticles flickering in around each of the shadows. They're not what he's looking for, of course- but they might be in his way. "I'll take point. This thing's a little more durable than most!"

Steel is stronger than flesh, after all.

    "Come on, partner!" Will yells as a pair of treads press down around his heels. "We've got a lizard to find! Tiny servos surge to life, impossibly tight coils of superconductive material spooling powerful electromagnetic fields around miniature axles. He surges forward like some kind of MAN-SHAPED TANK, hot on Faruja's heels!

Anything that happens to get in his way might actually end up getting run over.

Or, you know, plasma'd.

Rebecca Chambers has posed:
Once Rebecca's fully settled and got a better idea of what's going on here, she's ready to move out. She tries not to notice Janine's sigh, since she can kind of sympathize with her in a way, but even moreso because it's important to be focused on the task at hand no matter what. She checks her First-Aid Kit to make sure she has healing supplies on hand in case one of her allies gets hurt (or herself, but her allies always take top priority.) After a final check of supplies and ammunition, Rebecca is ready to move out!

After a brief moment of planning mentally, Rebecca decides to take care of the awful noise that is known as the ringing of the bells. "I'll go shut the bells off," She says, albeit to no one in particular, before looking around to see if there are any exits nearby. She then spots the stairs off to the side and, with her gun drawn, runs towards them, but stops when she actually arrives at them. She looks around and then very slowly begins to proceed up them with her gun drawn, not wanting to risk drawing the attention of who or what might be up there, especially if they've got others with them. She waits to see if anyone's joining her, and if they are, they'll get a stern warning to be quiet and not try anything risky.

Kotone Yamakawa has posed:
Kotone Yamakawa understood they didn't have time for scout drones and let the issue go. After all it was an offer she had made to help them out and it turned out not to be needed. She could feel the fury from Faruja and she could not fault him. This was a man on a mission if she ever saw one, and it was good to see that their relationship was that strong that Faruja would indeed come. The Bells seem to be handled and those who have the best chance to get through too Ainsley are going after her directly but there is the matter of the one who /kidnapped her/.

"I'm going for the piper, it's time for him to pay up."

She has faith in Will and Faruja to get through to Ainsley and she cloaks her form being fairly hard to see save for faint ripples as she joins the hunt of the Piper as she said? It's time for them to pay up and she's got to catch up with August and the rest.

Finna (513) has posed:
This whole thing's starting to remind Finna of the Realm sticking its oppressive nose in her people's business. She's grimacing, loathing the Queen more and more. But... this doesn't make sense. If this realm is a reflection of the collective human subconscious, what does this say about the Queen? "Humans of this world are really weird." She murmurs under her breath. That's what it says. Either that or they have no idea what the heck this place really is!

    For a moment she ponders chasing after the Pied Piper with the others, but the tactical thinking she'd mostly cast aside after Exaltation's returning. Ainsley's the priority here. They can always run like hell and come back for the Bells...

    "Hah! Don't worry your fur off. We'll give these bastards a fitting lesson for running off with your lover." Her whole body ripples in a show of backing those words up. Muscles bulge and tighten, fur sprouts all over.... her ordinary jaw extends into a great maw... in a matter of moments, a seven-foot-tall foxwoman's standing next to Faruja, and it's a good thing her fur's thick enough to hide anything immodest because she's completely lacking clothing now. Only... still holding that now-dinky sword...

    And the snarling show of TEETH she's giving to any Shadows who look their way's quite a tough thing to overcome, unless shadows feel no fear at all. The sensation of jaws closing around one's neck is overpowering when one tries to face down this creature...

Janine Liberi has posed:

    Faruja teleports, getting himself out of the congregation, and into the dark, damp catacombs beneath. Here lies a complicated maze of corridors and cells. Each one consists of a sturdy locked door, and behind each one comes screams of the damned, Shadows being tortured in all manner of horrid ways. The rat priest actually lands in one such cell, in which two Shadows are taking turns to kick the door on an iron maiden, so that the spikes may worry the flesh of another, very fat Shadow inside. They're all too distracted to notice him, so he can probably deal with them as he likes.

    Will meanwhile, takes the more direct route of charging through the masses and reaching that other door that does, in fact, lead down. The stairs are thankfully solid stone, able to support a set of power armour. He has a clear shot to a very important-looking set of doors, bearing murals of all manner of unspeakable things. But he's all alone right now...

    As for Finna, she starts mopping up the upstairs before following the two men down. That door is a bit small for the size he reached, so she might have to shrink back down. But once the three are together, and enter those doors...


    On the second floor, Emily and Panzer Cat are the first to stand before the Piper, while August and Kotone take the stairs with the bell team, only to split off when they reach a door. The Piper says little, only sighing melodically and shaking his head.

    His foot sinks into the ground somehow, before he suddenly kicks with it! The balcony splinters and shatters from the violation of physics, sending shards of glass at them all, all while producing his normal pipe and blowing a few experimental notes into it...

    Considering how he took Ainsley, it might not be a good idea to let him launch into a song.


    Ren and Rebecca ascend the stairs, with Janine pulling up the rear to hold off any pursuing shadows. In such a narrow space with the high ground, she should do okay for a while. The top of the tower is slick with rain, which is merely the first hazard presented to the pair. The second are the bells themselves, swinging precariously and stacked high, many of them with Shadows strapped to them as an alternative torture method. The ropes suspending them are tied together in an intricate manner, dissuading any attempt to simply cut them. To do so might bring the tower-no, the whole Cathedral-crashing down.

    The third issue? Nearly every inch of the place seems to be booby-trapped with torture devices. Especially any mechanisms that might make the bells stop, arranged in such a way that it would be very hard to use them without being hurt. Can a Solar and a medic tough through it?

Emily Branford (999) has posed:
    Emily whirls her whip around her in a flourish, before starting to shift sidelong, circling cautiously. She has no clue just what the Piper will bring to a fight, but even 'expecting the unexpected', having the Shadow sink his foot into the ground and kick - shattering the balcony itself - wasn't something she was prepared for. Her speed allows her to avoid being shredded apart, but the sheer surprise of the maneuver means that even moving inhumanly fast, she can't avoid it all. Blood trickles down from a number of new wounds, but her expression doesn't change.

    "Oh no, we'll have none of /that/, now."

    While Emily trusts her own mind to remain sound even in the face of that music, she doesn't trust the same of Panzer Cat or August. So her next whip strike comes out with another burst of blinding speed, targeted with that characteristic precision of hers at the Piper's flute. She could go after his throat, but he might still be able to blow. She could hit his wrist, but that wouldn't stop him from using the other, or his foot, or some hidden appendage they don't know about. No, best to try and smash the flute itself.

Ainsley (151) has posed:
    The room they enter feels like impossible space from the first step inward. It is very, unreasonably large, with a ceiling that cannot be seen no matter how hard one peers into the darkness above. Filling the room are various tools of the Inquisition, the torture racks and work tables, but they're all pristine... not a speck of blood or rust. They seem almost 'unreal,' like they would just vanish if looked at too hard or fall out of focus when people aren't paying attention. Which is exactly what will happen, because at the end of a very long blue carpet -- the only hint of color in the whole cathedral even down here -- there is a very distracting sight.

    A figure that might be the Inquisitor they're looking for stands before them, a surprisingly tiny Shadow by comparison to all of the others they have encountered so far. She only stands at five feet tall. She wears an elongated mirrored mask with only eye holes, giving her the impression of a bird, and covering her whole body is stunningly white robes. She has a large crooked staff in her left hand that ends in a Heirophant symbol, with each of the slots of the strange faux-holy symbol filled with a blue gemstone.

    The Shadow's yellow eyes glow within the mask, slitted pupils showing the almost demonic nature of the thing under that religious outfit.

    There's Ainsley at the back of the room. Weakened by her experience, she tries to speak, but sound cannot penetrate the glass coffin she has been trapped in, at the very back of the room. The box is kept upright with chains suspended from two chains attached to the ceiling, hanging inches above the floor. She's also restrained within the coffin with shackles of her own.

    The Shadow spreads her arms, lifting the staff and greets the party.

    "Welcome, sinners! My congregation could not stop your filth from reaching this deep into our holy grounds, so you must require my cleansing. Please, confess your sinful lies, and find a place so I can get to you in due time and draw the truth from your blood."

    Her patience is mixed with an alien fury, as if not doing what she asks would set her off like a powder keg. She gestures to the torture devices that line the room, and each one seems to get more... real when she indicates it.

    It may be hard to get to her. There is a strange force that prevents approaching her, like a wall that bisects the room from end to end. Trying to charge at her would mean running face-first into the invisible wall like slamming into a glass door. She isn't attacking yet, but who knows how long that will last.

Ren Tanaka (165) has posed:
    Here's something interesting.

    Before, when this sort of thing happened, Ren was able to go straight to the problem and grapple with it himself. Or punch it in the face, more accurately. Mokuba, Jean... that worked out. Today, he's not doing that.

    And part of him thinks this is wrong. Right now, head and heart are grappling with one another a fair bit, and it's something Ren's never felt before. He thinks he's doing the right thing.

    Friendship is scary.

    He emerges out into the storm once again, hair whipping in the wind as he looks at what's going to be before him, Rebecca and Janine.

    Deep breath. He looks back at Janine and Rebecca, holding a brief conversation with the two of them... and makes a decision.

There are a lot of shadows and a lot of torture devices between the two of them. Shadows, again, Ren is not experienced with. So that's their responsibility.

    His responsibility...

    Ren places one foot on the roof tiles, and then another. Left, right. Left, right... moving along to the pulse of a heartbeat.

    And he triggers a trap.
    And then he triggers a trap.
    And then he triggers a trap.

One's a catapult with a guillotine blade on it. One's a branks made of hot metal that strikes him in the face. One's a length of studded, flailing rope.

    Keep walking. Keep going. This is something only you can do.

Faruja (152) has posed:
Will is a tankman. The sprouting treads give Faruja pause. For all of one second, but a pause nonetheless.

"Not /quite/ how I would put it, Ser, but I agree with the sentiment!" He's being polite.

Finna bulks up. He's by now used to this. "Well put!" No, he's keeping his fur thank you very much.

And then he's in a cell. Not unusual, really. Also the screaming of tortured, lost souls. For a moment, the rat has to check whether or not he's in Mullonde right now. Then he realizes how dank it is and somewhat ill maintained by his standards. Sigh.

"Bloody amateurs! Ifrit." A dismissive wave, and the large thing proceeds to try to ruin those Shadows and bust Faru out of the cell.

A room or two later, and then things improve. For a brief moment, Faruja nods in approval. At least until he notices the Shadow Inquisitor with that odd mask. And then he spies Ainsley, only the biggest of acts of will saving him from teleporting right there. Good thing, too, given the coffin and invisible force wall.

"Bah! Call thyself an Inquisitor, tell /ME/ to confess my sins? I shall hardly confess to whatever lucavi or twisted effigy you pray to, knave! Now kindly die so that I may reclaim my dearest love!" He doesn't, of course, realize that field's there. Dismissing Ifrit for the moment, he'll try to use a gravity spell to yank on a convenient rank. He knows how heavy those things are. And then hopefully try to slam it straight onto the masked Inquisitor's face! Provided the spell even gets that far!

Rebecca Chambers has posed:
Rebecca can't believe what Ren is doing. Triggering those traps on purpose? This guy must be insane! But if he wants to be insane, that's his issue, not hers. She watches as he triggers the traps, and she draws her Beretta and aims at the nearby Shadows. "Stay away from him!" She commands firmly, although she soon realizes that might be futile and that her sense of being an RPD officer is getting mixed up with reality again. She shakes her head and mentally kicks herself before realizing what she must do.

As a Shadow draws close, Rebecca opens fire on it, firing off two shots from her Beretta, hoping that the shots do some good. She doesn't know as much about Shadows as the others here might.

Kotone Yamakawa has posed:
Kotone Yamakawa could have bounded up but her weight of impact would give herself away to even someone who had issues seeing the ripples in the air that were the tell tale sign of her movement. She moves with Auguysty until they make their wya through the door and she'll splits off but it does her no good? She's going to be revealed by the shareds of wood pelting her and several sticking into or on her. Whelp there goes that plan as she goes for her SMG and makes ready to fight.

"Good keep him from making music!"

She wasn't there but susperct given what's his name is? It would be a bad idea to let him make music and now she'll hold fire not wanting to shoot Emily.

August Kohler has posed:
August dashes up the stairs after the others, while Panzer Cat disapproves of the Piper's lack of evil gloating. What sort of villain doesn't gloat? He only has a second to think about this, though, before the shards come flying. They're about to impact with the Cat's face...and he's gone, to the side, almost as if he's teleporting. But what he really is is incredibly fast, his little body capable of blurring away with a single movement.

And then the Piper goes to play his song. While Emily moves for the pipe, August is moving the Tin Soldier into a defensive position, as it casts Tarukaja, increasing the Panzer Cat's strength. The Panzer Cat gestures gratefully, before taunting the Piper. "Ratskin, you seek to flee without even chatting with us? That's just rude! Those who escape aren't true combatants! ENGARDE!"

With reinforced strength and his natural speed, the Panzer Cat dashes forward, hoping to strike the Piper right in the ribs with his giant tankcannon. Whether or not it's capable of impalement is yet to be seen.

Finna (513) has posed:
Shrink back down? Hardly. Finna's body distorts freakishly instead after a few attempts to squeeze through, as though she were momentarily composed of rubber.

    The giant fox SNEEZES uncomfortably after regarding the strange and DISTURBING tools spread across the room. She's not familiar with this stuff, but it doesn't take her too long to figure out what it could be good for. Pain. Inflicting lots of pain. Meaningless pain.

    "... Too bad for you, Inquisitor. Words like 'rules' and 'sin'... aren't in my nature!" She spits back defiantly, and probably referring to the fact that she's an agent of a Goddess who embraces the criminal element within human hearts. Among a thousand other things. Luna's weird like that.

    Better not explain that to Faruja maybe...

    "..." Her eyes fixate on Ainsley... and it gets her scowling fast. "Is facing ALL of us REALLY worth one prisoner? Oh... is having a lot of faith in your abilities, that's pride, isn't it? One of those big sins I heard about from the local temples..."

    ... yeah. She's trying to get under the Inquisitor's skin and provoke her into thoughtless action. Like crossing the barrier.

William Pauwel has posed:
    Will is in a suit of power armor. He does not care much for things like 'doors' and 'shadows that get in his way.' It's not an X-01, sure, but the T-45 is big and bulky and heavy, and Will's put treads on it. There's enough momentum there to barrel right through most anything! Including that set of BIG, IMPORTANT DOORS.

Of course, what he finds behind them... That may not be so easy to punch through.

    Will throws open the doors and charges in! And finds himself... In a place that does not make any sort of spatial sense. Will is PRETTY sure he went DOWN, and yet the room he comes into does... not appear to have a ceiling. Or really ANYTHING above it, at all. But that's not precisely the thing he's most worried about. No, that dubious title goes to the stark white, plague-masked... Inquisitor?

And then Faruja uses CRAZY MAGIC, and Finna... Finna... doesn't? Huh. More restraint than he would have thought, but that's not exactly a bad thing.

    "Uh." Will blinks, "Sinners? I'm not exactly sure where you're goin' with this, lady, but I'm not exactly the religious type. So maybe you should go ahead and elaborate? And while you're doing that--"

"How about you hand over our friend back there? Otherwise, this might just get a bit messy."

Janine Liberi has posed:

The Piper blows a few notes, only for Emily to lash at the pipe with that whip! His eyes go wide... and her whip passes right through his fingers and the pipe. But so too, do his fingers slip inside the instrument, keeping him from playing. He frowns, and works to extract them with whatever power he has...

    And then a buffed Panzer Cat slams him with that tank barrel sword. The Piper goes flying, a satisfying 'whump' escaping his Shadow lungs as he soars towards a wall... only to sink into it. Is he running? No.

    He suddenly rises up behind the invisible Kotone, rapidly playing a fast little ditty on the pipe. To Emily, August and the Cat, it doesn't seem to do anything... but he's trying to turn Kotone against her teammates, to turn her stealth against them! The music tries to envelop her mind, to make her see the Piper as Friend, and the others as Foes, to follow along with whatever he wants, forevermore...


    Ren steps forward, each one trigging another trap, and another, and another. His flesh is cut, burned, bruised... but he finally reaches a lever. Pulling it would make a bear trap clamp down on his hands, but it also makes the uppermost bells stop chiming.

    Below, they can see White Berserker and the two mages holding the doors... and the Shadows at the edge of the horde seem confused as the chimes quiet. It is working, but there are more to disable. But there are also Shadows climbing the tower now. "I got this!" Janine says to Rebecca, summoning Biancabella and blasting the stairs with wind to keep the Shadows back. "Can you deal with the climbing ones?!' There's a lot, and four sides to cover, as well as the traps one needs to pass to reach them... but could all that be turned against them perhaps?

Ainsley (151) has posed:
    "Mmm hmm hmm hmm~"

    It's an almost musical chuckle. The Inquisitor doesn't so much as blink when the rack SLAMS into the barrier with an unusual *BWONG*, the torture device actually as light as a styrofoam replica and just as durable. The shattered bits fly all over the room, and, most importantly, the Inquisitor isn't harmed.


    The Inquisitor begins her own rant.

    "Like all heathens, you never seek to understand the truth. I do not worship anything but the truth of the soul, the part that you all seek to smother under so much ugly deception. Pride? Wrath? Envy? Drivel." She reaches up to remove her mask, and the Shadow's identity is revealed. It's... Ainsley? The yellow-eyed figure is clearly Ainsley's Shadow. She tosses the mask over her shoulder with casual ease, and it shatters and fades into the air like motes of light.


    She points at Faruja. The air pressure in the room grows thicker. The room fills with horrifying RED light, and it begins to heat up. The oppressive feeling of Wrath fills an enchantment that seeks to rob them of their ability to focus, attempting to wear down their spirit.

    "Faruja Senra. Inquisitor to the Holy Church of Glabados. HAH!" She doubles over and grins derisively at him, and laughs loudly, "HAHAHAHAHA!! Hypocrit! Liar! Fraud! You let the very corruption you seek to destroy INFESSST your BELOVED Church! You spout virtues of righteousness, you believe yourself BETTER than the sinners, but you are nothing but a failure, a horrific bumbling fool that ignores the truth. The truth that sits right in front of your nose every single day. Do you feel comfortable in the Den of the Lion, Faruja?"

    And then something happens. A two-dimensional figure crawls up out of the ground, as if created by the light. It claws its way up, and then out of the barrier, the image taking the form of an enormous version of Faruja, mixed between him and some sort of bloody demon. His proportions are twisted and his eyes bleeding with the snarling fury that marrs his visage. It gurgles at them, and then SCREAMS its anger at them, and the room heats up to dangerous levels! Fire crawls up the walls, licking at their feet, and blows out from its maw in an enormous fireball!

    Behind the barrier and the twisted image of Not-Faruja, the Inquisitor's body grows and twists, distorting into the form of a giant spindly humanoid dragon-like shadow silhouette with a huge sharp-toothed grin on its face and two enormous circles of yellow light for eyes. The robes are ill-fitting now, and it needs the staff just to keep upright, the seemingly emaciated figure barely able to keep standing. It keeps laughing back there, but there's the distinct feeling that it finds nothing about this funny. It is the mad laugh of a furious, frustrated being. Its tail coils around Ainsley's prison, signifying it's possessive nature over her physical self.

Ren Tanaka (165) has posed:
    There is a problem with all of this.

    That problem is; when Ren has to engage in this course of action, his ability to react to just about anything else goes down the drain.

    It makes sense. I mean chiefly, it's the pain. He is willingly opening himself up right now to incredible pain. It doesn't register physically on his body as much as it would to any normal person but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. Everything hurts. The burning, the impacts, the cuts all hurt. Even the rain, as it washes away the blood on his face, hurts- falling so hard and fast that it stings his skin on top of everything else.

    It means he cannot concentrate on the shadows: he has to put his trust in Rebecca and Janine entirely. All he can do is walk, slowly and steadily, towards the ropes of the bells. Tunneling.

    And of course, the ropes themselves are trapped, because of course they are.

    'Now, is doing this going to pin my hand to the lever? Is that going to make getting to other bells awkward?' is what Ren is thinking. Not, as you might think, 'there's no way I can touch that I'll lose a hand'.

    Ren attempts to move his arms onto the lever such that he can move it using the crook of his elbow.


    Regardless of where his arms end up in connection to the lever, the fact remains that he can move it. And that he now has a bear trap crunching into his arm.

    In Emily's experience, if it works, you can't call what you do silly.

    With this in mind, Ren attempts to pull the bear trap open with his feet, so that he can move on to the next atrocity.

Rebecca Chambers has posed:
Rebecca nods to Janine. "Understood!" She says, shifting her focus to the climbing Shadows. It's rather interesting how fast they climb, but now is not the time for observations of things like that. She opens fire on a couple of the climbing Shadows before her gun clicks empty. "Reloading!" She calls out, ejecting the empty clip and loading a new one into her Beretta quickly.

"I've got plenty of ammunition here for everyone! So come one and come all! I'll take you all on!" Rebecca says as she continues firing on the Shadows, constantly sweeping the general area to make sure none are going to get the drop on her or her allies.

Kotone Yamakawa has posed:
Kotone Yamakawa had once had something get into her head before, it was another time another place. Something got into her head, it was with a differnt sortof power but as the music comes? Something just doesn't feel right about the music she clutches her head and says through gritted teeth.

"No...you...get out ... of my head!"

She recalls what happend when the Sectorid commander got into her head she'd /shot/ an ally with a heavy weapon had he not been a demi god? She'd not want to think about what would have happened if it had been anyone else.

She looked strained she was not taking any action and was out of action for the moment.

"Get out, GET OUT! OR I ... will make you ... eat that flute..."

Faruja (152) has posed:
Don't explain that Finna, definitely. Faru does seem approving of the provocation. Smart woman, this Lunar. He'll let her work that angle while he's trying to violently crush the cretin.

Will's barging in almost brings a smile to his face. The man does get a look though. 'Might' get messy? Faruja's here. Cleaning up and making messes simultaneously is his specialty. 'Restraint' is even less a thing for him than normal right now given the rage and concern for his love running through his veins right now. Thankfully anger is a good mask for the abject terror he's in seeing Ainsley like that.

An eye narrows as the rack proves to be that much imitation. His dislike of this place slowly turnes into outright hatred.

He doesn't get to dwell on things, though. Not as that mask is thrown away and Ainsley's twisted Shadow is shown. Red fills the area, and Faruja stumbles back in pure shock. The accusations, the naked secrets being thrown around? Horror turns to pure rage once more, and the rat slowly stands. He has to lean on his staff heavily. His mind feels hot, the pressure of Shadow-Ainsley's words burning his heart more than any flame.

"Cease your prattling! A failure!? I know the /truth/! And I shall see things through! For that is my role, and no amount of your twisted lies shall see my course changed!" They aren't lies. He knows better than anyone, but the rat can't help but deflect. Image is everything in the Church, and he's a part of it all.

His tail quivers. "I know the Lion's sins, well. You have no right to spout them, so openly, even if it is /YOU/! Leave secrets where they lay." Comes Faruja, face hardening. Could he strike now, at this form of his lover?

Thankfully Finna gives him a reason not to, and there's a far more pressing matter. His own twisted form rises, possessive. Laughing and keeping them from Ainsley. That's the last straw.

"It is...quite one thing to be lectured by a mockery of my love. But to be barred by my own sins? Hmph. Never." Somewhere, in Mullonde, a Holy Stone shines. A whisper hits Faruja's ear as if coming from his own soul. Judge. Slay. Redeem through fire and suffering.

A spell is cast, and the icey form of Shiva appears. She snaps her fingers, and an ice wall springs up to try to intercept the fireball.

He turns to the others. "Do not kill Ainsley's Shadows. Do what you will to mine, damn the consequences." He states coldly. Inwardly he's shaken. His eye is narrowed, fear filled and guilt crawling in his heart. Was shadow Ainsley right?

Emily Branford (999) has posed:
    Emily's lip curls slightly - but it had the desired effect. The Piper had to stop playing flute... for a moment. She doesn't let her guard down, though, because this doesn't seem like a retreat so much as-

    Oh dear.

    For an instant or so, the butler is prepared for an attack from Kotone. But when it doesn't come, she turns her attention to the Piper again, who is currently playing a melody on his flute... and thus, she assumes, has to remain physical or stop playing.

    It's a quick, darting movement that takes her to one side, giving her an angle on the Shadow; not one of her speed bursts, just a particularly agile shift of position. Now, the followup whipping, though, THAT comes with another burst of speed. She uses her swiftness to unload a multitude of whip strikes on the Piper and his instrument alike. The first goes straight at the flute itself, as do several others, but a few more go for the hands, the throat, and even his eyes, or what passes for them.

August Kohler has posed:
Shit, Kotone's being charmed. The Tin Soldier is moved in between her and the others, but luckily, the charm fails. Emily's moving with those rapid whipcracks again, but they need to do some serious damage, fast. August thinks...what is he good at?

"Panzer Cat, what's your personal opinion on fire?" "Wait, wha-"

The Panzer Cat has no room to protest, as the Tin Soldier's leg gun begins spraying fire all over that tankcannon. The fire wraps around the cannon, before whirling up and briefly burning the cat on the hands and face, as he almost drops his sword. He almost hisses in protest before he realizes what August is doing, and grins approvingly. And then, with his flaming tanksword, the Panzer Cat boasts. "Now then, ratskin! Burn in HECK!" The Panzer Cat dashes forward, blurring as if he's teleporting, as he whips the fire-cannon around with a thundercrack. If that hits, it's going to hurt in /several/ ways.

Janine Liberi has posed:

    Kotone's wily mind notices what the Piper is trying to do, and he seems very concerned by this. He tries playing faster, inserting more melodies to slip into her thoughts by brute force. He's basically doing the flute version of buttrock right now.

    At least until Emily lashes out hundreds of times a second with that whip. In spite of the distance, her aim is true, striking him again and again as the pipe falls from his hands. He backs away, his song broken and arms raised to try and fend off the strikes as he starts becoming intangible again.

    But not fast enough. Panzer Cat strikes a clean blow with the flaming cannon, sending him flying into a wall again. But this time, he does not slide inside, he hits is solidly and slides into a heap. For once, he actually vocalizes with a groan as he gestures... and suddenly, the second floor splits up into a series of platforms at different heights, putting himself high above everyone else to recover.


    The Shadows climbing the tower are quite easily dispatched by gunfire. All Rebecca needs to do really is hit the centre of mass and they die or fall, with the latter being preferable, since it means all the Shadows behind them also fall. But the multiple sides mean she has to move between each one to push them back, letting the other sides get a little higher each time.

    And to make matters worse, Janine is starting to get overwhelmed, sweating with the exertion of swinging her blade and blasting the mounting Shadows with winds at the same time. And Ren is way too messed up to keep trying that...

    "Hey, soldier!" she screams at Rebecca. "Fuck it, we're out of here. Try to shoot the highest rope when the bells are leaning away from the cathedral, we need to bring this whole place down!" And with that, one more blast to blow away the hordes before she's rushing for Ren. "C'mon you dumbass, we're out of here!" she yells, struggling to help him with her good arm as she heads for the edge of the tower overlooking the Cathedral roof.

    I-Is she gonna jump?

William Pauwel has posed:

    "This sounds like it's getting personal," Will mutters into his armor's mask, voice only just barely loud enough for the modulator to pick up and repeat. "I don't know what's going on between you and miss lizard, or what exactly the deal with all this... is. But this shadow or whatever y'all call it is between us and the lady."


    Fire rises all around him, sweeping up into a vast, whirling inferno. The T-45's armor glistens, firelight flickering across its broadest surfaces. But there are panels where no light shines- where it all seems to disappear into an endless, black void. He can take a little bit of heat. The Ancients knew how to build their armor, and build it strong.

    "Sorry. We're going through! MAESTRO!" Will yells, his visor cycling through a haze of colorful static before settling on a deep cyan. "Designate target and lock on," a bright outline affixes to the outside of both colossal shadows, persisting even through the smokey haze. "Filter high illumination," the flame seems to darken in Will's eyes.

    A cloud of white-blue protomatter leaps from his weapon's heart, filling the barrel with the light of a tiny newborn star. "I don't know where you get off thinking that y'all've any right to judge anyone, but I don't take too kindly to it!" Will braces his legs, the treads on his heels whirring back to life. He takes aim, armor providing a stable firing platform for Will to open up on both shadows with a steady, unceasing barrage of crackling orbs of roiling, white-hot plasma.

He's brought the heavy artillery. Might as well use it!

Finna (513) has posed:
WOW, that's quite the accusations Shadow Ainsley's leveling at Faruja! And enough to make Finna frown. She's not seen enough of his faith to be sure WHAT to make of it... other than it's quite stuffy and reminds her a bit of the Realm. But marginally better than the Immaculate Philosophy...

    The idea that it's full of hypocrites, liars, and corrupt officials doesn't really surprise her at all. Such is already her opinion of most rulers and heads of state.

    She's far more interested in the freakish summonings and transformations going on. For now though, she decides to take advantage of the room's SEEMINGLY NONEXISTENT CEILING... by growing HUMMINGBIRD WINGS. They thrum into full-speed flapping and send her skywards just in time to miss most of the fireball! Unfortunately, heat rises - and she's partially roasted with an insane wave of heat that robs air from her lungs before she can get enough altitude... she emerges from the blaze and singed, flying a bit lopsidedly... but hunting for a way around the freakish barrier!

Emily Branford (999) has posed:
    Emily comes out of her burst of speed just in time to hop to one side, giving room for Burning Boy and Cannon Cat to unleash an astounding attack. A faint expression of frustration that the Piper's starting to sink away again becomes deep satisfaction at seeing him dealt such a harsh blow before he can retreat. But then he decides to make things difficult for them, by creating a platforming puzzle.

    Different heights, large gaps - that makes things difficult. Emily's eyes dart here and there, planning, calculating; there's only so long her whip can go (though, to be fair, four and a half meters is fairly long), and getting just the right angles and swings will be rough... but fortunately, being in a church, what SHOULDN'T be rough is 'finding things to wrap the whip around and swing off of. She intends to work her way up there just as quickly as she can, using Strands of Fate as a combination hookshot and swinging rope.

Ren Tanaka (165) has posed:
    There's blood half covering some of Ren's face, as is entirely appropriate and troperiffic. That's some of the bells taken out. Okay. Good. And there are few to no traps to hinder Janine and Rebecca, so that's also good.

    What's bad? Practically everything else. Ren's not sure if they've been able to handle things fast enough, and the shadows are too relentless, and there's water in his boots. Oh well, they're good boots, they'll be fine once they dry out a little.

    He can hear fire downstairs, and there's a cacophony of voices from below, and he's a little light-headed. Literally, in fact- caste mark is out, not that it matters.

"Good idea in theory... I ... I think I can do a little more..." he says to Janine. "Have to try a little harder..."

    It's possible that the situation may be out of his control. Ren can't move faster than a speeding bullet should Rebecca choose to follow Janine.

    "Alright..." he says, subsequently. A big fat drip of water drops off of the front of his hair. Then, he looks back at the drop, then Janine the helpful dragger. "Try to land on me, or... if I go first I can ... catch you, maybe. That should work, yeah..."

Rebecca Chambers has posed:
Rebecca knows Janine is talking to her since she's the only one in the vicinity who is dressed anything like a soldier. She looks to Janine and then Ren, then back to Janine with a look of shock and disbelief on her face, but then her face resumes a normal appearance. "Understood! Just make sure you both stand clear! I can't risk any collateral damage!" Although from the way things are going, Rebecca knows she may not have much time left, so she has to act fast and quickly. So she waits for the moment that Janine specifies, and then she makes sure her aim is carefully trained before pulling the trigger.

The very same moment the gunshot rings out, Rebecca yells for Janine and Ren to, "Get outta here, now!" Then she turns to look down and sees that the only way out is down, since the stairs are swarming with Shadows. She looks to Janine and says, "Do we have any other choice but to jump?" A pause, then Rebecca sees the Shadows getting closer and she realizes that there's no other option. It's either risk being devoured (or something gruesome) by those Shadows, or risk jumping. With a gulp, followed by Rebecca making the sign of the cross on her chest, she jumps, aiming for one of the few safe-looking spots in hopes that she can land and maybe roll to avoid hurting herself. Because if she can't land properly, it's going to hurt a LOT.

Kotone Yamakawa has posed:
Kotone Yamakawa is struggling to keep some level of controlbut August has an idea int involves setting the cat on fire. She's in no condtion to protest this /at all/. She's too busy trying to not give in to become the Piper's minion possibly for the rest of her life and beyond. Thankfully Emily lashes out in time enough to get the song brokena nd Kotone's head is clear. She rises up with the SMG in hand even as the Panzer Cat is now on fire. It give her an opening, she watches as they have to start to side scroll to get to him.

"...Oh you think you are getting away after that!?"

Kotone barks before she's bounding from platform to platform and she fires several bursts from her SMG as she bound about. She can only hope the other teams are doing well but she does take time to call out.

"I owe you guys one!"

She will repay it somehow she thinks but for now the Piper is going to have a very bad day if she can make it happen.

Ainsley (151) has posed:
    Unfortunately, there is no way around the barrier. The fire engulfs everything and makes it hard to even see past the invisible wall that stands so infuriatingly between them. But... thankfully, there seems to be a solution. When Faruja and William attack the Faruja Reflection, the image wavers, and it seems to experience visible pain. Not just from the fact that they are attacking it, but by the way Faruja chooses to face it. He faces it head on, his fear making the image weaker. He struggles, but it doesn't keep him from fighting for what he believes he must do.

    And it shatters under the force of their attacks, the ice freezing it in place and the shot from William shattering the statue. The fire vanishes as if it never existed, and leaves them only with their wounds and exhaustion.

    The Inquisitor slowly stops laughing as this happens. Then she points at Finna.


    "Exalted by the moon to be nothing more than a child with the power to antagonize the world around her. You act on impulse like a beast, performing acts of mischief in a misguided attempt to show confidence, to believe you have control over an existence where control is an illusion. Hero? You are more like a narcissist, unable to accept the truth inside. You cannot hide your troubles from me, girl. Feast on the truth, Finna Snowdancer!!"

    And then a ten foot tall 'WereFox' emerges from the Cracked barrier(!), even more distorted than the last image. It's lithe and not nearly as terrifying or majestic as Finna can seem, a true representation of insecurities, if its nature is true to what the Inquisitor said. It's positively cartoonish, and when it attacks, it attacks by lunging toward them in a staggering and hard to predict gait, using slashing claws and horrible twisted jaws. It is terribly fast and strong, and it comes with an oppressive dizzying feeling of whimsy that threatens to overtake all reason, possibly making it hard to notice danger or perhaps just easier to ignore it. The Inquisitor's form, behind the Barrier, seems to have distorted along with the cracks in the barrier, as if it's enormous size was part of the illusion...

August Kohler has posed:
The Panzer Cat does not like fire, or atleast not when it hits him. He hisses once it's done, threatening the others with a wave of his sword in case that happens again, before preparing to continue to battle. Platformer shenanigans! The Tin Soldier moves to pick up the Panzer Cat again, to throw him up...

And midflight, the Panzer Cat fires that tank cannon, shooting not a shell, but an entire spray of smoke, hoping to fill the entire area.

Once the smoke has been created, he changes his trajectory midflight, hoping to bounce off the pillars and the walls and end up right behind the Piper, using his smoke as cover, and jab him in the back. The only problem with this?

The smoke is going to affect /everyone/, not just the Piper!

Faruja (152) has posed:
The fire ends, and ice shatters thanks to Will. Faruja's wounded from the attack, but he stands with dignity. Brushing off his robes, the rat narrows his eye at his shattered reflection.

"...Getting in my own bloody way. How pathetic, Faruja Senra. Stop thinking, save the girl, confess later you bloody idiot." He lambasts himself, scowling. His heart aches. But Ainsley /speaks/. The true Ainsley. He straightens. There's hope, whatever his own faults and failures.

And then the Inquisitor rounds on Finna. Faruja listens, his eye closes, and he thinks. She might not be wrong. So many things irritate Faru about Finna. But it's all good natured. Encourages the rat to loosen up. To be less stiff, to be /accepting/. Somewhere in his heart, he feels for the Lunar.

"I shall be the first to remind you, Finna Snowdancer, of your almost all-encompassing faults. Heathen. Blasphemer. Fool. Whimsical jester."

They sound so mean, so blunt. But a single finger rises.

"And, heathenry aside, the Lord loves you for those very traits. My mentor once said something. 'It takes a fool to know wisdom'. I never really understood what she meant. But, looking at you...that nature of yours uplifts spirits in strange ways. A jest here. A prod to one's sensitive side, so gentle, so caring..."

He sighs. "God love a Fool who loves those around her." He states. His eye shines, a smile on his face. No attack, but a quick Haste spell to Finna.

The pious rat who should hate her believes in the Lunar fuzzball despite all odds. Then he's caught by that charge, slammed into a presumably cardboard-esque rubber maiden. HIs robes are slashed, and he stumbles to his feet.

"Resilient little knave of a mockery...."

Janine Liberi has posed:

    The Piper catches his breath as the party is forced to navigate his platforming segment to reach him. Emily swings and leaps like a certain cybernetic commando, while Kotone just behaves like an Italian plumber. The panzer Cat creates a plume of smoke, to cover his approach! But upon reaching the highest platform... it suddenly plummets back to its original position, leaving everyone hanging in midair, with only a plummet between they and the floor.

    The Piper rises up from the reconstructed balcony, the pipe in his hands again, raised to his lips... and then a thunderous crash and gong rings through the Cathedral as bells plummet from above, ripping a hole in the walls and drowning out his song. A great hole has been opened in the walls, letting the storm in... but also opening an escape route. The Piper looks to everyone and says, "I'll remember this," before making a mad dash for it!


    Seconds earlier, Rebecca fires her single round, severing the higest rope while the bell leans away. It starts to fall, the intricate network of ropes tightening and loosening to make the other bells start to fall, while every trap in the tower goes off. The STARS member dashes to reach Ren and Janine, the latter seemingly struggling with the former, until she looks into his eyes... and uses her reflection in them to summon Biancabella, conjuring a gust of wind to blow them all off.

    The bells impact, smashing the tower to pieces and crushing all the Shadows beneath it. But, Rebecca's timing was true, and it falls away from the rest of the Cathedral, keeping everyone else safe. Using the lingering Persona, Janine creates gusts of winds to control the three's descents, landing safely on the roof.

    And yet, Janine's enslinged arm still makes a vicious 'SNAP' on impact. She screams.

Rebecca Chambers has posed:
Rebecca screams as she falls, thinking she's about to die, if not be in a LOT of pain and in the ICU for awhile. But then something catches her, almost like a wind or something. She doesn't know what entirely it is, but she finds herself landing safely on the roof. Unfortunately, her relief is abruptly ended when she hears Janine scream in pain. "Are you all right?!" She asks, running over with a First-Aid Spray can in hand. "This should numb the pain and help heal any injuries you might have sustained just now." She doesn't spray it yet, though, unless Janine gives the OK.

Emily Branford (999) has posed:
    "Oh bu-"

    Emily catches herself, both verbally and physically.

    Verbally, in that she manages to halt the profanity before it leaves her mouth. Nobody heard that. Physically, in that she slings her whip around and manages to catch some of the ornamentation on the church, halting her fall, and also swinging her down until she slams into a wall, hard. "Ghk-!" It's a solid enough impact that it takes her a second to recover. When she does, she's just in time to see the Piper escaping through the hole in the wall.

    She's too late to catch it, of course. But she's not too late to draw out her sidearm with her free hand, and unload the entire magazine into his back as he escapes.

Kotone Yamakawa has posed:
Kotone Yamakawa is now in the air as the platform vanishes under foot he shots go wild and now she's falling, she's quite heavier than a person of flesh of her build would but but that gives her an idea as she's falling. She shifts the way she's talling intenidn to come down on the Piper boot first! She figures if she can't get a good shot she's going to darn well use her mass against him, even if it misses he will get the message will he not?


William Pauwel has posed:
    Destroying that horrifying, giant rat monster thing looks like it actually cracked the barrier a little! This is good. The fact that the Inquisitor is summoning up ANOTHER giant monster is not exactly the best. Especially not when the trend seems to be that each one of the monsters is some kind of... Weird, twisted, awful version of each of THEM.

Does that mean the next one is going to be a... weird Will Monster?

    But then, Ainsley has HISTORY with each of the other two. As far as Will is aware, this is about the first time they've met! But Will can worry about that AFTER they deal with the immediate problem.

    "Each time we take one of these things down, the barrier weakens," Will says as the colossal Werefox materializes. The MAESTRO takes account of its new target, another outline appearing in the periphery of Will's vision. "Keep going. I don't know if this'll be the last one, but--!"

    "Even if it ain't!" Will levels the Solano at the new shadow. The barrel burns, shedding a frankly inordinate amount of light. "Let's just keep up the pace and deal with whatever happens! Clear firing line!" Another volley! Will contiues to be the group's most effective walking autocannon.

Finna (513) has posed:
Finna's having a hard time gaining altitude in this place. Having the breath knocked out of her's a big part of it. But then a finger's pointed her way and she feels compelled to just STOP in midair, despite all of her combat instincts telling her otherwise.

    There's fear in her eyes... they almost say, 'no, don't!'

    And for good reason.

    Throughout the rant, she drifts down towards the scorched ground, expression sour.. and cracking more by the second! All her fur's standing on end as it's drawing to a close... and the foxwoman's trembling where she stands. Where did all that bestial ferocity go?

    Stolen by the FOXBEAST that emerges, it seems. Is THAT what she might look like to others, on the inside?! The teenager from the far north backpedals several steps... then more and more... but never turns away from it. That's the one thing she won't do.

    After a few seconds of that she DIGS her clawed feet into the ground, steeling her nerves!

    And just in time - time to receive the thing full-force! She's BOWLED over and immediately on the end of a vicious furball of fighting as animals fight more than how humans fight. A bloodied frenzy of claws and teeth ripping at flesh in ways human limbs would never find useful! Howls and yowls that send hairs on end and vicious roars that send fear for one's life down the spines of anything living.

    And Finna comes out the worst from it, slapped away by a harsh claw across the front. her fur's stained crimson all over, with ribbons of flesh torn from her skin dangling everywhere. The wounds are healing just quickly enough to be noticeable, but not quickly enough...

    As they do, filmy silver light engulfs the Lunar... but that's pretty meaningless.

    The accusations are RIGHT, after all. How can she TRY to refute them when they cut so deep?

    Unlike the deeply determined Faruja, Finna falters, gasping and panting, eyes frantically scanning back and forth while her mind burns from within and heart nearly thumps out of her chest.

    "..." She bares her teeth, seething from within. Memories come to the forefront, painful moments. Her father's duel going all wrong, the infection that the best wisewoman in Tusk couldn't cure taking him away. The new family imposed on her that she didn't want. Her sister leaving to study under the wisewoman... her own departure into the Blooded Hawks, to vent her frustrations on the tribe's enemies and prove her life wasn't some little candle-flame whipping around in the winds of fate. Being Chosen at the craziest possible moment, of all but sacrificing her life to save her fellows. Using every trick in the book she could think of to lead a great and terrible beast astray, even while a blizzard robbed her off strength.

    Oh right. That's why she was Chosen.

    When did she get carried away with all of this foolishness?

    Finna's Anima wavers, then BLAZES. A great cascade of Lunar energy responding to her resolve and will to overcome this challenge. Did it just grow a little brighter? Maybe by just a hair.

    "Impulsive, misguided, childish... hah." She cracks a smile... as her flesh ripples and shrinks, all the power of the beast compressing to be barely-contained in her human form. Her ears and tail shine brighter than normal, and tatoos waver and shimmer weirdly. She's still in Warform, despite the human look...

    "You're right. ... So what? Think that's more important than why I'm HERE? Don't recall coming here for glory or control..." No, she came here to rescue an ally. Even though said ally rubs her the wrong way.

    Silvery light flickers in Finna's hands, revealing nothing more than a tiny little dagger.

    "All that stuff's... pretty true. I don't know any other way to live... but I'd better start thinking of one, huh?" She's trying to affect non-chalantness, but the truth is pretty hard to hide.

    She's trembling inside. It's everything she can do to bite back tears and wild fury. Oh this is probably not good on her Limit track, not good at all...

Finna (513) has posed:
"And you? I'm not gonna take this from a hobbling crone who's just a Shadow of a person. I'll hear it from Ainsley, but--"

    Finna leans forward and DIVES at her freakish doppleganger, body leaving weird contrails and weaving around weirdly past the thing's wild blows and under its guard. She moves like a silvery, speedy ghost, knife drawing a dozen silvery streaks over the thing's flesh!

    It seems her answer is a bit different.

Janine Liberi has posed:

    The Piper was perfectly fine with leaving things like this. Sure he had been jumped, but he did kidnap their friend so it is to be expected. But getting shot in the back and viciously kicked by a cyborg as he was taking his leave? That's just rude.

     He stumbles, and nearly falls from the edge... but suddenly, one of the nearby trees grows its glassy branch, forming a bridge for him to cross, the branch retracting as he goes. Once a safe distance away, he raises his index and middle fingers, points to his eyes, and then at Kotone, Emily, August, and Panzer Cat in turn.

    It seems they've made it personal.

    Janine winces and shakes her head, even as she sweats violently from the pain. Or is that just the rain beating down on her. "I'm fine. Him first!" she yells, indicating Ren's form. He's still got the bear trap on his arm, for one thing.

    Janine tries to get back to her feet, looking around and scowling. "We need to get back down, they might still be having trouble down there.

August Kohler has posed:
Panzer Cat falls to the ground as the platform lowers, narrowly rolling and not getting splat in the face. Well, I guess that's that, if the guy's leav- oh crap he's getting shot in the back. August looks like he'd rather kill the guy right there, but Panzer Cat shouts out, "Hey, I didn't do it!" This will save him, right. Right?

Emily Branford (999) has posed:
    Emily has but one response to the Piper.

    A rare, perfectly cheerful smile.

    Then she begins the tricky business of lowering herself down from the high spot she's ended up in. It's a few tricky swings and drops, but she manages it, brushing herself off once she gets down. The effect of 'brushing herself off', admittedly, is somewhat lessened by the fact she's bleeding through numerous holes in her coat and pants.

Ainsley (151) has posed:
    William does a great deal to blow back the horrific caricature of Finna, the thing slammed into the barrier by the shots as if it was as light as a feather and the shots had much more concussive force than they should. It tries to get back to action, it tries to fight the group that it was ordered to attack, but it's left vulnerable to the true shape of the person it was based off of. When Finna finds a truth inside of herself, the Inquisitor herself falters, because she realizes she will probably lose here. She will be destroyed.

    Finna's Reflection is sliced up, howling and writhing and then falling into motes of glass-like light, and the barrier cracks again. When it does, it reveals that the Inquisitor's true form is...

    Small. It isn't even bigger than Ainsley normally is. It's just lanky and weak and now that its illusion of confidence is gone, incredibly afraid.

    "Stop! Stop this! Can't you see the sins within you? Can't you see what it does? The pain? The agony?!"


    The Inquisitor sounds desperate... and the barrier falls apart after that in a shower of white light particles. She's vulnerable. She's in danger. She backs up away from the party, afraid for her life--

    And bumps right up into Ainsley, having pried her prison open and desperately pulled her shackles off, determined to defeat this challenge no matter what bruises and scrapes she got. The Inquistor whips around, the staff falling from her hands in a fearful fumbling. She shouts as if she's going to be attacked... and then arms go around her. The spindly creature freezes as if expecting to be clawed or bitten, wiggling, until it's clear what is really happening.

    Ainsley is hugging her Shadow.

    "It is frustrating... they can't be honest with each other the way that I can be. All we can do is endure and find another way, no matter how much it hurts. You are me, I know that. I always have. You know why we don't do this... why we don't rail against them. Their flaws are also who they are. It's part of what guides them. We need to be strong, too. I need to be strong, in my own way. So that we can use what we are to help them find their way, to protect them, even when it hurts."

    The Inquisitor sags.

    "It's okay..." Ainsley tells her.

    The Inquisitor reciprocates the hug, and then fades and seems to 'merge' into Ainsley as a flow of blue light, which seems to engulf Ainsley, momentarily ruffling her feathers and her clothing.

    And then Ainsley falls to her knees, and wheezes, so exhausted that she can't even stand. She might need to be carried out.

    Outside, a beam of light breaks the storm and shines down on the Church, the clouds not yet clearing but at least calming. No more wind. No more lightning. Just a somber grey sky.

Faruja (152) has posed:
Faruja turns away as Shadow-Ainsley and true Ainsley embrace one another. It's a personal moment. He loves her too much to not respect that. Eyes close. A sigh. The violence ends, and he walks over towards her slowly. Limping over, he falls beside Ainsley. A nod to Finna and Will in thanks.

Cane falling, he grunts as he tries to haul Ainsley upon his back. He grunts, frowning, and then sighs once more.

"I really do cause you far too much trouble, don't I, Ainsley? Forgive your idiot rodent. Come now. You need to rest, my dear. So very brave. So very brave you are. I'm so envious of that kind of self-reflection, no matter how it scarrs you."

A tap to his ear, to a radio, only after he and his allies are out of the building.

"Are any of you still alive, Inquisitorial Agents? Change of plans. Quake this place into the earth if you can. Otherwise..." A choked, despairing sigh. "Live. The Lord loves you, and you have but one. Don't throw it away."

Janine Liberi has posed:
    Within Ainley's mind, bells ring out, but not the harsh ones of this Cathedral. Gentle ringing, mixed with the clatter or carriage wheels, the rustle of branches in the breeze. There is a shape before her, a figure. One this is entirely different, and yet... it is her. A manifestation, a symbol, the cry of her soul ringing out and taking form.


                                   I AM THOU                                    
                                   THOU ART I                                  
                        FROM THE SEA OF THY SOUL, I COME                        

                 I AM URASHIMA TARO, GUEST OF THE DRAGON PALACE                

                       LET US BRAVE THIS FOREST TOGETHER                        


William Pauwel has posed:
    WELL. That certainly was... A... Thing. Will stares for a long moment as his shots tear the third shadow apart. Apparently this somehow tips the metaphysical scales to the point that Ainsley was able to... hug her shadow down?



    Whatever! Point is that they didn't have to fight some kind of bizarre Will Monster. Not that Will even really wants to think about what his very own Shadow might look like. Even if it was a fake one.

Second point of order: EVERYTHING IS COLLAPSING and everyone else is *damn tired*

    FORTUNATELY, Will hasn't actually fired the BFG, so his fusion core still has enough power to run his treads for hours yet. AND his AMAZINGLY ENHANCED STRENGTH means that he can HAUL EVERYONE OUT WITH HIM. But first-- "Hey y'all! Come on, hop on and grab hold! I've got three fourths of a tank and four treads to burn! Let's get going!"


August Kohler has posed:
Well, the fighting's over, so it's time to RIDE ON A TANK. Panzer Cat leaps on August's shoulder as they grab hold, and then proceeds to start trying to wrestle his radio away from him so he can play with it. August manages to turn off the most secure comms, but still! They can never, ever let this thing in the real world.