4647/P:WTWM - Training Excursion

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P:WTWM - Training Excursion
Date of Scene: 08 October 2016
Location: Alberichstadt <P:WTWM>
Synopsis: Die Reisende trains for their battle with the Red Woodsman, which they are horribly unprepared for. They investigate an odd keep in the Forest, and find something incredibly eerie.
Cast of Characters: August Kohler, 999, 513, Janine Liberi, 1039, William Pauwel, 1051, 915, 1040
Tinyplot: Persona: Were the World Mine-1

August Kohler has posed:

Last time, Die Reisende met the elusive Woodsman, and realized that they were entirely outclassed. In an off-the-cuff attempt to not lose track of the man-monster, August made a declaration: a duel in one month's time, which the Woodsman agreed to. However, the Woodsman could probably crush the entire group with his pinky.

So, they'll need training! Emily Branford, with her strange and mysterious history in tactics and murder, will be teaching the group inside the Mirror Forest, as she's noticed something quite interesting: while the Forest constantly changes layout, some of the structures and areas inside it that move still have the same contents. Indeed, there has been a strange fort, much like a medieval military outpost, which could be seen in the horizon quite often during excursions into the Forest, changing locations but never shape each time. It's a bit out in distance, though, through tangling paths and past the chittering of Shadows.

For now, the group will meet up in the clearing through the Shack, where the Pig naps inside a log. August Kohler is here, sitting on said log, twirling a shard of glass between his fingers carefully. He's pretty anxious, probably because if they don't get prepared for this, they're probably gonna die. Or atleast Janine will.

Emily Branford (999) has posed:
    As the group arrives, Emily is of course one of the first, but unlike usual, she is not dressed to the nines for the fanciest of butlery. No, she has left behind her coat, her glasses and her cravat, leaving her looking... well, still rather smartly dressed, but more casually so. She is also armed to the teeth - her usual assault rifle, a sidearm, and a belt with a a few different pouches, a few reloads of ammunition, and even... yes, that's a couple of grenades.

    The people who were scared of her ability to procure weaponry before are fully permitted to be even more concerned now, of course.

    Regardless, Emily stands with an expression altogether more sharp and stern than usual, looking the group over with a gaze of very critical appraisal and speaking with little of her usual formality. "Ordinarily, I would want weeks to train you in. But we don't have weeks, and in large part all of you are quite capable of keeping your head intact in a fight on your own. The part where you all fall short is teamwork, and I have a sink-or-swim exercise which should help that in at least some small part." She turns, and points to the fort with a black-gloved hand, declaring simply, "We're going to move on that structure. We're going to observe it, learn what it's for, and if it contains any sort of threat, we're going to neutralize it. But, there is a very important rule to this exercise."

    The blonde holds a finger up to her lips as if silencing, and declares, "We are not going to speak. Not one word. Not one whisper."

    Again, Emily looks over the group, explaining, "We will communicate entirely with hand signals and body language. We will watch each other at all times. Keep track of each other, move as a group. I want each of you to learn how the others operate - their tendencies in and out of a fight, the way they move, at least some shred of what they're capable of. You may scout ahead, but never move solo. Always no less than in pairs, and always be aware of everyone's location as often as possible. And, again - no speaking. That includes telepathy, magically creating sounds with illusion, or using supernatural abilities that allow your body language to say more than is humanly possible. I want you all focused on each other. I want you to be able to at least /barely/ anticipate what the others will do in a fight, and figure out how your talents and abilities best interact. Kohler, Liberi, the two of you will take the lead. I'll cover the rear."

Finna (513) has posed:
Finna bounds into the forest as her typical fox form, tail wagging. She seems to have gotten used to this horrible place and, at least, now knows that danger lies with CREATURES in the forest and not.... TYPICALLY... the entire landscape.

    But she sniffs the air. Then the ground. And bounds over towards August in a meandering path... her nose leads her to the log. She quickly puts an eye up against the log and spots who's in there... but the white fox quickly loses interest.

    She's gotten tired of teasing the pig. His silly cowardice might have grown on her, too.

    SO INSTEAD she takes advantage of August's seated position by LEAPING UP INTO HIS LAP unexpectedly and curling her body up in a circle. Apparently comfy!

    Even though she'll probably not be staying there more than ten seconds, given the scenario...

Janine Liberi has posed:
    Janine is here too! She would have come with Emily, naturally, and she just leans against a tree awaiting everyone, sword hanging loosely from her side. For all her talk about knowing she's going to die, it looks like she's lost more sleep than usual over this.

    The look of shock on her face as Emily lays out her training makes her face twist, with outrage being the core emotion. "Are you kidding me Emily?! How the hell am I supposed to use hand signs with my one hand holding a sword?! You want me to lay it down in the middle of a fight?!"

    Now, don't get Janine wrong. She knows the value of teamwork, especially after that time she and Kohler incinerated a dog together. But she is a grumpy teen eager to lash out at any perceived unfairness that disadvantages her.

Hikaru Kurosawa (1039) has posed:
    Hikaru has been torn between being concerned for the upcoming fight and reassuring Ran, who is surely even /more/ concerned, that they're not all going to die. (They might all die, but he doesn't tell her that.) He's led her here to the shack today - salmon dress shirt and grey slacks, cute cartoon cloud tie with smiley faces on the clouds as if they were people and not fluffy watersacks - and when he lays eyes on Emily, he can't help staring for a moment. She's /very/ armed. Is that... is that even legal? That might not even be legal.

    As she explains what their training exercise is for, Hikaru glances to Ran and takes a few steps away. This is an exercise for learning to communicate with everyone else, and they can /already/ read each other like a book. By the look he gives her, he clearly believes in her!! Instead, he goes to stand by some of the others. "It's okay, Janine," he says, because he has to say /something/ to try and reassure her. "We'll just have to read your body language instead. Figuring it out is the point of something like this, right?"

William Pauwel has posed:

    The young Chaser appears in his usual fashion, astride a heavy iron horse approximately half again as large as your everyday ordinary motorcycle. He's festooned with all kinds of tools, the visor on his head is aglow as it always is, and is almost certainly brimming with all kinds of useful data that is going tragically unread because Will's not actually looking at it right now.

Surely, that piece of highly precise engineering is all kinds of confused at the... Obviously magical nature of this place.

Not Will, though! Will sees a forest. He may not see the trees, but that's okay. HE HAS GUNS.


A sack full of guns.

"Hey y'all!" Will says as he arrives, wearing a big, stupid grin on his face. "I heard y'all were going to do some training, so... I brought some stuff!"

Because clearly, training how to cooperate and read one another's body language is a great time to learn how to use foreign firearms.

Millium Argent (1051) has posed:

     She rode on the back of Will's silly damn motorcycle obviously. And she's got absolutely NOTHING additional to her person. Nothing at all. Once they're here, she hops off the back and waves too. "Hiiii! ...Sorry about well, uh...this." She just gestures to all of Will and his sack of GUNS. "I TRIED to tell him it'd PROBABLY be illegal around these parts, but then he was all 'It's okay, Millium! Guns make everything better!'. And so, here we are! I hope you like guns! Cuz we've got LOTS OF GUNS! Take one for yourself, your mom, your dad, the whole family!" She exclaims, arms spread out dramatically.

     Ladies and gentlemen; the Chasers.

Ira MacNally (915) has posed:
Normally, Ira would be completely unfamiliar with this level of seriousness in operations. Except she's had a secret side job in the Murasame Zaibatsu for some time and has already been familiarzied with this level of planning. Which is why the normally loud-mouthed, boisterish Irish is going to be a bit more quiet than usual. She looms from the back of the group, glowering, although silently agreeing with that whole teamwork thing.

    She could work with her Zaibatsu team. She couldn't work with these guys so well, especially when she /fights/ with them so much.

    The large girl also seems kind of salty when Kohler and Janine are chosen to take the lead. Snorting in annoyance, she follows in the back, looking extremely nonplussed. But when Will shows up with a bunch of guns, Ira holds out both of her hands in a very obvious 'give 'em here' motion.

Ran Itoh (1040) has posed:
    Even if it's only for Hikaru's sake, Ran has been pretending. She's always told him that things will be okay, and done her best to believe it too. She knows he's sort of fibbing to her. But he means well. He's doing his best.

    So Ran will do her best too. For the both of them, and for the kids.

    It... hasn't really occurred to her to be concerned about how well-prepared Emily is. Wouldn't anybody want to have every advantage they possibly could? It makes total sense. She's just completely forgotten that grenades and assault rifles are things that people /usually/ don't have access to.

    And yet, Will's bag full of guns makes her think twice. Because who carries them around in a sack? You're supposed to have them in holsters or cases, aren't you? Has Will never seen a single movie?!

    She glances at Hikaru as he moves aside, and nods at him. She knows.

August Kohler has posed:
Well, this is certainly a challenge, as August looks down at the fox curled up on him and moves to push her off. It's a good thing August is super used to not talking to people, because of all of those many friends he ha- wait. Wait, nevermind. Instead, he'll nod to Emily, and then move over to inspect Will's bag. Guns. In Germany. Well, this is pretty crazy but they'll survive, right? He pokes through the bag for a gun, before grabbing a well-sized pistol and inspecting it, pointing it at the treeline, and then looking for the safety switch.

There's no safety switch.

"Well, let's hope we don't accidentally shoot each other?" August offers, bleakly, before moving up to the front, signalling with a thumbs up that he's stopped talking, and then to Janine that he's ready. The Pig keeps sleeping, this is none of his business.

The pathway towards the keep is incredibly dark, and /incredibly/ narrow. The chittering grows loud in there, as Shadows dash through the trees, yellow eyes poking out occasionally to scan the group. One of them pokes out a claw, moving to jab Janine as she passes by it; out of curiosity, seemingly, instead of menace. This section of the Forest seems certainly interesting so far. At the end of the path, though, the Keep's not far ahead, but there's one problem to getting to it.

A pair of wolves, chained to a glass tree, at the very end. They're guarding the way out, and they don't seem very friendly, as they sleep. They're likely Shadows, though their eyes are closed, preventing the sight of yellow eyes, and they're covered in the bones of different animals, creating trophies for the wolves. The path is narrow enough that unless someone moved through the trees, the whole group couldn't go straight down it and attack. What to do...?

Emily Branford (999) has posed:
    "As Mr. Kurosawa points out, I did also say 'body language'," Emily replies to Janine. For once, she's not budging even to her lady's ire. "In a genuine life-or-death struggle, you won't be able to put that blade down either. Others need to be able to effectively gauge what you're thinking, what you're planning, and you won't always be able to spare the breath or attention to tell them. You also need to learn how to consistently mesh your own actions with those of others, without prompting. I've seen you do it before." There's a small smile from the butler when she adds, "And I know you're a sharp young woman. Sharper than most. You'll do fine."

    She might be watching Hikaru and Ran with a little more interest right now, though. Curious.

    But Millium and Will don't seem to concern her at all. They know their weapons, and they're making sure anyone who takes the weapons at least has some shred of a clue. So she can leave that as it is. When August gives the signal, the butler replies with a faint nod, then falls back to the rear of the group. "One last reminder - I'm not necessarily calling for stealth. Do what you have to in order to finish this, just don't use your voice or any inhuman tricks of communication to do it." From the position she's taken, she can cover the group's rear, and also keep an eye on everyone's progress - something that will be necessary, as it turns out, with all the shadows flitting about.

    On the move, her pace is as fast as it needs to be to keep up, and she's spending the entire time on high, silent alert, sweeping either side of the narrow path constantly with her weapon. That lasts until they near the end, and discover a canine impediment that will be extremely difficult to circumvent. For the moment, she falls still watching the group to see how they handle it.

Finna (513) has posed:
A-ck-ack HEEEEEEY!! The fox squeak-grouches, protesting this INDIGNANT TREATMENT. Dislodging Finna's not hard, but as she hits the ground on all fours she STAAAAARES up at August with sour disappointment!


    So instead she listens carefully to Emily's mission while the group gets on the move... and cants her head at the bag Will's swinging around and--


    In a heartbeat Finna bounds over to the Chasers... and LEAPS UP. William will find himself getting cheek-licked in a heartbeat at the apex of her jump! The fox noses around in the bag and grabs a pistol between its teeth... CAREFULLY. No incidents arise from this odd way of handling a thing!

    ... And just like that the white fox pounces back into formation and proceeds to prance her way along as though having this weapon were made of gold!

    But her ears, eyes, and nose are all keenly alert, far more than they appear...

Janine Liberi has posed:
    Janine looks to Hikaru and gives the therapist a very good lesson on her body language, her face shifting into a sneer before making a terribly rude gesture with one finger. Emily's placating tone helps settle her though. "Fine, fine..."

    But then Will shows up with guns and her expression becomes one of total shock. Needless to say, she doesn't take one. That's a step she's not yet willing to take. Also, she needs her one hand occupied with her sword to summon her Persona.

    She takes point next to August and leads the party along the path. As the claw reaches out towards Janine, she ducks under it and sends a baleful glare towards its source. Once they reach the chained wolves, she curses inside her own mind and rubs her chin.

    She seems to reach an idea, as she turns and waves at everyone. Partially drawing her sword, she looks deep into the blade. Without words, it's a little harder to bring Biancabella out, but she manages. Looking back at the group, she gestures at her Persona, then points at the wolves and the tree they're chained too.

    Then she makes a spinning gesture with her finger. Lead them in a circle? Then she taps at her bandages. Wrapped around? And finally, she draws a thumb across her throat. That's an easy one.

    And finally, a kind of inquisitive half-shrug. What do you think of it?

Millium Argent (1051) has posed:
     Not being the strongest fighter here, Millium keeps to the back. She doesn't take a gun either. But's not like she's unarmed. She just has... her own means of defense. And for now, she's just going to bring up the rear, warily staring out into the trees at the peering yellow eyes. She's never seen shadows before, okay? In fact, she hasn't been apprised of anything that actually goes on here! All she knew was that there was this jerk that threw her through a wall that they all need to train to beat.

     That was simple enough for her! ...But man, this not talking thing was tough! Lips pressed into a thin line, Millium gave it her all... to hold back from speaking. This was training! Gotta train! "....." They eventually arrive at a narrow path with pair of wolves chained to a glass tree. ...Well. That certainly didn't look like fun. Look at all those bones! Janine seems to have an idea, and Millium watches, nodding along without really grasping it fully. But kinda. Somewhat.

     She crosses her arms thoughtfully looking down, and then she starts making gestures. She points down to her feet, and then brings her hands together and makes wing flapping motions. She points to herself to indicate the flapping, and then above the tree. With her other hand, she makes wild comical biting motions up at the raised hand.

     And then finally, she points all about to the others, and draws a point from them to the knashing hand. An 'explosion' follows.

     Great plan.

Ran Itoh (1040) has posed:
    Even though the only 'training' she has is from a shooting game at the mall, Ran feels confident enough in her abilities to pick out a bog-standard gun from the sack, checking it over with inexperienced hands. Even /she/ can figure out how to open the magazine and check it for ammunition!

    And because she's reminded, she finds the safety and makes sure it's on. Ran doesn't want to try to live down the embarrassment of shooting herself in the foot or something.

    She's not exactly sure how much she likes the whole not speaking thing, honestly, but Emily is right - it /will/ jumpstart their ability to communicate effectively. She looks away from Janine, lips thinning, and crosses her arms beneath her chest. It's going to be all right. She's just rude, and she'll grow out of it probably.

    God, why are all of these kids so screwed up?

    Watching Janine is a little like playing charades with a stranger. No wonder Emily wanted them to practice this. But she likes Millium's plan better, mostly because she can actually understand it. The blonde nurse nods approvingly at Millium, pointing at her for added emphasis.

    She calls Tsuki-no-Usagi out, sending it into the sky with a single leap. Ran has a somewhat-easier time of summoning without speaking than some, maybe because night time is supposed to be quiet? Or maybe because she knows who she really is...?

Ira MacNally (915) has posed:
As she moves silently, watching most of the party from the back, she seems quite capable of handling the two guns she now has-one for her, and one surrendered by Janine who can't use it anyway. She never points them at a target she doesn't want to shoot and so far, it seems like the only thing she'd shoot right now is the ground, regardless of what she might think about the other party members. She spies the two wolves as the rest of the group does...and nods.

    Those were badass shadows. They took /trophies/, how cool is that?

    She tries to interpret the gestures Janine and Millium make. She can sort of get Janine's. Lead them in a circle and kill them? Simple enough.

    Millium apparently thinks sprouting wings and dropping bombs on the wolves from above will solve their problems. Ira rubs her chin.

    She points at Janine as if to concur with the offered plan, then, holds up two fingers, one on each hand, then moves them apart, as if to suggest 'splitting up'.

William Pauwel has posed:
    Having distributed his SACKFUL OF DEATH and successfully converted these hapless schoolchildren (and associated japanese handlers) to the GUN SIDE, Will happily... doesn't actually take any of the weapons for himself. He's got his own, after all. The Solano swings happily in its holster, if such a thing were even possible for a gun. The enormous motorcycle putters down the narrow forest path, its engine sonding like some kind of snarling predator as they make their way ever onward.

Maybe it'll drive off some of the Shadows!? Who knows?

    Hopefully the siren song of a finely tuned motor doesn't violate Emily's 'no talking' rule. Not that Will speaks it, or anything, but he's definitely not just going to leave his bike sitting around where some weird tank-riding cat can just jack it! So he's taken it with him.

But then, soon...


    Will's lips press into a thin line. He fishes around to one side and snaps an... extension cord out from near the old iron horse's humming engine. He connects it to a port at the back end of his favorite gun, which quickly begins GLOWING LIKE A TINY STAR. He takes aim.


Unless someone tells him not to, or something. Otherwise, there would be a great big CHOOM just as soon as he depresses the trigger.

...Which will come as soon as he sees that everyone's in position.

He's not STUPID.

Finna (513) has posed:
The forest starts getting scary. With CREATURES growing denser and more bold, Finna puts away her playful demeanor. The fox presses its body a little closer to the ground as well as its nose, shifting from goofball immediately to the role of watchful prey and patient predator at once. Shadows, she knows you're there. be you brave enough?

    And then... there's the matter of the wolves. A dozen scenarios play out in her head as she gazes upon them, judging their likely power. Yet... wolves.

    The greatest threat in this forest is said to be a wolf, one she has never seen. Perhaps it's better to not assume they're 'merely' wolves with divine ancestry or something similar ridiculous.

    The offspring of THAT Wolf might be something quite ferocious. But then... who chained them up, and why?

    She keeps canting her head back and forth, using her nose as well. Smelling out things like their last likely meal, if possible. Looking at the ground for footprints of previous travelers or those who chained them up...

    Then she deftly and quietly leaps up onto a low-hanging branch and looks across the group for their reactions. Her tail curls around the weapon she'd been carrying in her mouth and... she seemingly stashes it somewhere. Somehow.

    Well, it's not like she doesn't have a thousand ideas of how to deal with this. But she ends up staring at Millium out of the entire group...

    The fox cants her head again, ears flattening a little. She just tilts her head... and watches, for now. While the others are worrying about the visible problem, she's observing the surroundings for any UNSEEN threats...

Hikaru Kurosawa (1039) has posed:
    Hikaru's eyes widen when William and Millum ride in on their motorcycle, with, of all things, /a sack full of guns./ Hesitantly, he steps forward to take a pistol and some ammo. He seems to know how to hold one, though certain aspects of the weapon alarm him heavily. "There really isn't a safety on this thing," he mutters to himself. "Christ."

    He makes sure to hold the pistol carefully away from the others at all times.

    Janine's lesson in body language elicits a shrug and a small smile from Hikaru, as if to say, 'sorry about that'. Once everyone settles into silence, Hikaru falls into step with the others, making their way down the path - it's almost eerie, how well he adapts to falling into something like this. He doesn't look like he was ever trained, he just seems... comfortable with it.

    When they come to the wolves, Hikaru frowns. He nods to Janine's plan - he seems to understand it - but then /Ran/ agrees with /Millum's/ and is already going ahead with that. Hikaru grimaces and points to Millium, to indicate that he's going to follow her plan too. He shifts his gun into one hand, lifting the other to stare into the silver of his bracelet. The Fox Sister finally cedes to his psychic plea and appears behind him, resting her arm on his shoulder and propping her chin up on her fist with a mysterious smirk. He's waiting for Millium to strike when -

    When William, basically.

    The Fox Sister's ears swivel back and pin back on her head briefly, should he fire. If he doesn't, they'll still be turning this way and that, listening to the sounds of the forest. Until the wolves are provoked, she and Hikaru will be monitoring the situation to see if anything else is going to be provoked. Especially by the sound of that motorcycle.

Janine Liberi has posed:
    Here she is, making a perfectly good plan and trying to work together, and some lunatic outsider comes along with one she can't even understand, and others are already jumping right in to do that one. It just reaffirms what she knows; she can't rely on anyone.

    At least Hikaru had her back though, as did Ira, who also makes a good suggestion. Which, if they're doing Millium's plan, which seems to be an aerial bombardment, which might not kill the wolves and break the tree to let them attack? Well, splitting up seems like a good idea.

And so, she shoots the Irishwoman a thumbs-up and summons Biancabella to join the aerial team, before squeezing between the trees on the left side. And considering that Will's idea of a team exercise is to just aim right at the enemy without any consideration for everyone else? Probably a good plan.

August Kohler has posed:
August watches everyone make their signals, all preparing to murder some wolves, and Will getting ready to fire a giant energy cannon. He responds to this by frowning, and is about to say something before he remembers the rules. Instead, he begins signalling.

Point to group. Point to wolves. Puts his hands together sideways and rests his head on them, closing his eyes briefly. Takes two fingers and starts having them mime walking, super slowly. Points at wolves, makes peace sign, points at trees again with the walking movement.

August is great at communication.

August Kohler has posed:
Also, one of the wolves begins stirring at the sound of an engine. Some of the Shadows move away. The one Janine shooed off flees. They might wake up!

Emily Branford (999) has posed:
    The group has made their call; Emily abides by it, shifting off to one side and bringing up her rifle, so that she's out of the way of Will's... methods. Safety off, weapon raised to her shoulder, aimed down the sights; she's ready for them to enact the plan, bracing herself to open fire as soon as the aerial bombardment begins. She's already picked the wolf on the left, as well, expecting them to be separated and resolving to follow one of the targets as soon as they do.

Finna (513) has posed:
Finna immediately freezes. The wolves waking up is enough to make the surrounding Shadows flee?

    That is NOT GOOD. Were they so terrifying and dangerous to things even when CHAINED UP? Why else would the Shadows flee so swiftly?

    Her gut instinct is to bark an alarm, but she clamps down on that. Could wake them up, and would break the exercise. She hops from tree branch to tree branch and quietly sneaks closer to the wolves.

    If it looks like they're going to stir awake...

    ... If they open their eyes...

    .... She'll dig hard and fling all kinds of dirt in them!

Millium Argent (1051) has posed:
     Millium regards August's idea, and then she stops. "....." Well shit. That's not a bad idea. MAYBE THEY WON'T EAT THEIR FACES?

     ....But she's already pitched her idea. So right now? The best she can do is try to do something during it! And so wordlessly, she activates her armlets and anklets, keeping them at a low light. And then she rises off the ground. She flies forward through the air soundlessly, and approaches the sleeping wolves. ....And then once in range, she snaps her fingers to get their attention. She's a bit higher in the air, but still close enough to be in their sights if they awaken.

     Snap snap snap! Wake up! I need your attention!

     If they actually open their eyes to look at Millium, she doesn't immediately zoom off. She stays floating right there and then makes...gestures. She points to herself, and then points past the two wolves and up the path. Then she clasps her hands together and nods.

     Can we pass? Pretty please?

     She's prepared to run, but she's gonna at least TRY August's idea first! They may need to collect Millium parts in a moment. Maybe.

William Pauwel has posed:
Will just kind of stares at Millium.

It's kind of like...

He's still charging, though, because better safe than not.

William Pauwel has posed:
(But, you know, completely nonverbally. He can't exactly talk right now. But he's still definitely giving her the biggest 'what the fuuuu' look ever

August Kohler has posed:
August looks pleased that someone is willing to try negotiation instead of going forward and punching something they know nothing about.

As Millium snaps her fingers, the wolves stir awake. They begin sniffing, before turning their sights on the group...and then to the sound above them. Their reaction? To growl. They don't lunge forward or snap. It's a warning. And for those who know anything about animal language, it means one thing.

'You're not welcome here. Go away.'

Millium Argent (1051) has posed:
     Well crap.


     Millium immediately flares up her anklets and bursts off into the air, to fly past the wolves. Maybe that'd piss them off! ...Hopefully they aren't armed with like, Mudoon or something. That'd suck.


Ira MacNally (915) has posed:
Ira palms her face with her hand, the universal sign language for 'Damnit you guys.'

August Kohler has posed:
Note: Other than the bones they're dressed in, there's similar carcasses, rather old, littered around the tree and the wolves. Additionally, the wolves look ragged, as if they haven't eaten in a very long time.

Finna (513) has posed:
Finna, who'd been about to go all kinds of fighting dirty, pauses. At a very good time. She takes a few steps back from the wolves... cants her head warily a few times...

    And digs around somewhere in her tail. Her jaws close around, and pull out---

    A few sacks. She tosses them over near the tree. They crash into a few bones, tear open--

    ALL KINDS of food hits the ground. It's not the best quality. Largely preserved travel rations like jerky, but there's a smattering of odds and ends from the Multiverse. A few slices of pizza, a loaf of white bread, a T-bone steak that's still in its packaging from a grocery store...

August Kohler has posed:
The wolves stare at Finna, ready to attack if she seems to become hostile. Instead, they sniff the air, and notice the food flying. Moving towards it, they investigate, before looking up at the fox. One of them cants his head curiously, before looking to the fort, and then to the group. Perhaps he wants to know their intentions with the fort?

And then his brother is nibbling on the pizza. Not gonna pass up free food.

Ran Itoh (1040) has posed:
    Since nobody is talking, nobody has bothered to point out to Ran that these are not, in fact, doggies.

    They are wolves.

    Once she finds out, Ran is /really/ going to feel stupid (after she stops hyperventilating).

Janine Liberi has posed:
    God damn it Millium.

    Janine sighs, and prepares to attack... but then Finna just gives them food? Are they seriously not hostile? What is this bullshit? She emerges from the trees, and looks to the dogs... before slowly putting her sword away. A gesture of nonviolence.

    But then she curls her hand into a claw and runs it down her front, like she was being attacked. At which point, out comes the sword again. 'We won't attack unless we're attacked,' seems to be the gist of it.

Hikaru Kurosawa (1039) has posed:
    Hikaru lowers his gun when the wolves take to the food; the Fox Sister is in a relaxed position behind him, not attacking. Shifting the gun to one hand, he gestures to the fort, and then to his eyes - they want to go and see - and then places his hand over his heart. They don't have bad intentions.

August Kohler has posed:
As people begin lowering their hostilies, the lead wolf moves to grab some jerky, before looking up at Janine and Hikaru. It then looks to the fort, and growls slowly, before poking the bones with a paw. It will protect this fort with deadly force.

However, it then proceeds to turn around with its jerky and start eating. The group can pass, as long as they don't threaten the fort.

The fort is old and dilapidated, but rather sizable, with a single entrance. Shadows lurk openly around it, but show zero hostile intention, as they just seem to watch. At the top of the entrance is a perch with two gargoyles; atop each is a raven with yellow eyes, both ravens staring down at the party. And then, one vanishes into thin air, while the other leaps down and stands on the perch in between both gargoyles.

The door to the fort is open. Shadows flank it, and the raven stares down at any who is going to pass forward. Its intentions are impossible to tell, however.

Janine Liberi has posed:
    Holy shit it worked.

    Janine takes point again and leads everyone past the hounds. She honestly can't believe that something out in this Forest would let them pass peaceably. She wants to talk about it... but that's against the rules.

    Which might be a good thing for everyone else, because she also wants to yell at them for that piss-poor display of teamwork. Everyone working at cross-purposes, hardly indicating any approval or disapproval of plans, just doing their own thing or jumping the gun before a consensus is reached. Internally, she decides to invite the team players over for dinner sometime, they knew what they were doing.

    To the fort gates, with more Shadows just milling around and not attacking. What is this place anyway? Most landmarks only appear when someone is taken into the mirror... is this what remains of someone that died before Die Reisende came about?

    The ravens stare down at them, and she wonders if they're the things that clawed at her. She nudges Finna, miming putting something to her mouth, the gesturing at the birds. Asking if she has anything more to feed them with.

Ira MacNally (915) has posed:
To Ira, it looks like a stiff breeze could take out the fort. Maybe the wolves should be on guard for that.

    She watches the raves as one simply vanishes while the other moves to watch everyone approach. She makes a motion at the bird, then points at both of her eyes: being watched. Though it's hard to tell if she means that she knows they're being watched or she's got an eye on the bird. Beyond that, she makes a motion suggesting that they-or at least a part of they, go forward.

    She thumps her chest firmly, as if to indicate that, hey, she's a big bad meat shield and could probably go out and tank whatever awful thing might fly their way.

Finna (513) has posed:
With the wolves allowing them to pass, Finna's body language shifts to mild subserviance - the closest thing she can manage as a fox to a wolf She's very familiar with NORMAL wolves, at least. And so she skitters off towards the fort. But after nearing the fort she springs up on her hindlegs in front of everyone, pantomimes rubbing her belly and grabbing for things but scrabbling for nothing. Another nose-dive into her tail comes up with nothing and a pitiable look at everyone else.

    Which means, she has no more food. Hopefully someone will catch on what that implies.

    She, meanwhile, is too busy studying the Raven on the roof. And perking her ears up to catch any sign of where the OTHER one got off to...

    She's less worried about the raven they can see, as before.

Millium Argent (1051) has posed:
     Millium looks back.

     Oh hey, everyone's still alive! Mission success. The power of food cannot be overlooked. She clenches her fists and nods in determination to herself. Always carry jerky and pizza and burgers and fries and... No. No don't do that.

     Millium lands onto the ground, powering off her anklets as she plods up the rest of the way to the fort. "....." She looks up at the raven curiously. And then she glances at the shadows. It's okay to go in, right? ...Right.

     She steps forward, carefully making her way in. Please don't hurt me. I think I had enough of that the last time! ...Aw, hell getting hurt is a Chaser's job.

     Let's stay behind Ira for now. She looks like she could get her face eaten and keep walking afterwards. ...That was a compliment!

August Kohler has posed:
August is pretty unsettled as the wolves refuse to eat them (but glad that they don't have to get into a fight they might be unprepared for). He's also unsettled by this atmosphere in general: a strange ruined fortress, nonhostile Shadows just standing around, a disappearaing raven. He points to everyone, and then begins flopping his thumb up and down; he's trying to tell if everyone's alright. He then jerks his thumb towards the fort: are they going in?

Emily Branford (999) has posed:
    For the time being, per her own rules, Emily is keeping her comments to herself, and her expression neutral of whatever she might have to say about their performance there. At the very least, they got by without injury. Anything more can be discussed later.

    For now, they can move on, and so they do, with the butler once again covering the entire group's six. In particular, she's watching the wolves cautiously in case they have a change of heart. Only when they stand before the keep does she lower the rifle... and stare quite warily at the raven. Something about it seems to have her more cautious than usual. But with the rest of the group moving in to scout, she will as well, closing one eye so that it's already starting to adapt to whatever darkness might be inside.

    She does give August a brief thumbs-up though, before pointing inward and nodding her head

Ran Itoh (1040) has posed:
    /WHY/ is the Mirror Forest so creepy? WHYYYYYY. As if big, chained-up doggies weren't bad enough, now there are ravens?!

    Or, raven.

    It's not until she's following the others toward the 'dogs' that she realizes it. They really aren't dogs, are they?

    Her pupils shrink to pinpricks. Hikaru will surely know what's coming next as Ran gulps in a breath, opens her mouth--

    --and slaps both hands tight over her lips, the scream that had been about to escape muffled into a tiny squeak. There's nowhere else to go--! She's just going to have to... have to...

    She knows that they'd separated on this mission for a good reason, but can't help it. She reaches out for Hikaru's hand and holds tight, fingers trembling. "..." She's scared, she's scared, why is it always /wolves/ in this /stupid forest/?!

Hikaru Kurosawa (1039) has posed:
    Hikaru keeps his gun lowered as he approaches, giving Ran a sympathetic look and taking her hand as they pass by the wolves. It's going to be okay, the look says, supported by the way he squeezes her hand supportively; they'll be okay. He leads her past the wolves and into the fort safely, and doesn't let her hand go until they're inside.

Emily Branford (999) has posed:
    As soon as she realizes there's something amiss, Emily moves up into the group, resting one hand gently on Ran's shoulder and giving it a little squeeze. She doesn't need to make any sort of gesture, really; the concern expression on her face asks 'Are you alright?' loud and clear. She might be stern as a taskmaster, but she's also not an unfeeling jerk.

August Kohler has posed:
The raven stares back at Emily. Those yellow eyes are piercing, and may produce the feeling that its staring straight at her soul. And then it opens its beak, and barely a whisper, a sound flows forward, past Emily's ears before it stops.


The raven then vanishes like the other.

William Pauwel has posed:
W-what? The negotiation actually worked? Will frowns, his face twisting into a thoroughly complicated expression. They met a pair of terrible monster animals, and... DIDN'T have to fight them? What kind of strange upside-down world is this!? IT'S LIKE SOME KIND OF BIZARRO MIRROR DIMENSION.

    Will sighs and plucks the cable from his gun, and the Solano's shrill whine slowly dies away. For now. It'll probably get used sometime soon. Regardless, he scoots on forward, his iron horse puttering and rumbling and rolling past the two wolves. But AS SOON AS HE GETS TO THE FORTRESS--


The cable's plugged back in again.

    It looks like Will really, really, really wants to shoot his gun. Maybe it's the creepy disappearing ravens. Maybe it's the fact that there's a fort full of SHADOW MONSTERS right in front of him. He looks to the others, blinking at Emily and Ira-- are they going in?

He looks to Ran, frowns and... Hands over a handkerchief?


Emily Branford (999) has posed:
    And then there is a little murmur in her ear.

    Oh boy. If anyone ever wondered what it looks like when Emily gives something a look of pure, unmitigated hostility, she's giving one to the raven. It only lasts for a second or two, but if looks could kill, the bird and the entire top half of the castle behind it would be gone.

    By the time she looks back at Ran, though, her expression is back to concern.

Ira MacNally (915) has posed:
Ira's definitely going in. And as per the rules of the 'mission', she'll accept Emily as her partner. She'll even pause briefly, glancing to Emily with concern at the look of outright hostility she expresses at the raven. It's only a very passing moment from Emily, so Ira looks away without even acting like she saw that. Ira nudges Emily and makes a nodding motion towards the dark fort entrance.

    She herself advances.

Janine Liberi has posed:
    Well, even if there's only one, looks like Finna is out. But then the other one says... something? It seems like it did, but she didn't hear anything. She's on point, and Emily is at the back, after all. As a result, she also misses the murderous look her butler wears.

    But hey, now with no birds in the way, they can enter properly. Janine places a hand on Ira's shoulder and gently pushes her to the front. If she wants to b a meat shield, Janine isn't going to tell her 'no.'

August Kohler has posed:
Well. That was even more surreal. As the bird speaks, August shudders, and is about to summon his Persona before it vanishes. He takes a deep breath, before moving in after Ira, waving a hand to the others to follow. Hopefully there's not a giant monster inside!

No, it's something entirely different. The ruin seems much more like a cross between a cathedral and a mausoleum, with a stained glass window up in the back, a bleak and eerie atmosphere, tables and pews to the side, a massive bookshelf, and dozens upon dozens of Shadows inside. But what they're doing is the odd part.

Perches line both sides of a massive black rug. Upon each perch is a Shadow, hanging from it like a bat, in a complete state of peace. Several hang by only one foot, while others hang by two, or even their torso itself. They make no movement as the group enters, but they're certainly alive.

And at the end of the rug is a perch larger than all the others, seeming more like a yew tree than a regular perch. The branch is long enough to shape the perch into a large T, and from each end of it hangs one of the ravens, upside down, on one foot. Tied to the center of the T-perch is a rope, which from closer inspection, is looped to fit a human limb, and is short yet tight enough to keep someone aloft. It would seem that this perch once housed someone. But there's something sort of wrong here.

It almost feels like this is a house of mourning.

August Kohler has posed:
The Shadows are all standard mook Shadows, the ones that aren't usually a threat in a fight (they're just blobs with masks). The place seems to have been once more of a cathedral, but the dilapidation makes it feel far more like a mausoleum. The Shadows all seem to be simultaneously in mourning and contemplation; their masks are contemplative, but tear drops mark under the eyes. The ravens do not seem hostile, nor do any of the Shadows.

Millium Argent (1051) has posed:
     Millium edges her way in after Ira, powering down SERAPH meanwhile. "......" She looks around, noting the dilapidated state of the cathedral and all of the shadows. ...ALL of the shadows. WOW. That was a lot of shadows. In fact she almost verbally said WOW, but.. She just managed to catch herself. Instead, she just... stares, and stares... and stares some more.

     And then she looks at everyone else and points curiously within. Point point. A shrug and a tilt of the head follows. 'I have no idea what the hell this is.' She points at the shadows in general and makes a talky motion with her hand. 'Do shadows talk?'

     Quoth the Raven; Millium did not pay attention outside.

Emily Branford (999) has posed:
    As the group heads inside, Emily is noticeably a touch more tense than she had been before they arrived. First wolves, now ravens that might just be malevolent, even if not actively hostile; they've very nearly completed the trifecta of iconic vampire animals. If there are any bats here-

    Okay, so those aren't bats, but they're DAMN SURE EVOCATIVE OF THEM.

    As soon as Emily Branford is in the door, she's shifting off to her left. Sweeping around the outside of the main room, a tactical movement that gives her a wide appraisal of everything in it. And oh lord, if she was tense before, she's an overtaut wire now. Steady and controlled, but with the kind of tense energy that suggets she feels herself to be in the middle of a very hostile zone. And her expression's gone... well, 'completely dead' isn't far off. It's machinelike. She's shut down pretty much anything that isn't 'tactically assess the situation and respond as needed'. Almost eerie in its own way.

    But at least she's still keeping an eye on the group. And she seems willing to stay until they've scouted it out, at least.

Finna (513) has posed:
Finna looks back at the others... Ran in particularly, the fox blinks at a few times. She hasn't neeed to LOOK to have a good idea of what's going on back there... Ran seemed so brave earlier, but now... that was fear she smelled. INTENSE fear. Though there was seemingly little danger...


    With the raven gone, the fox trots her way into the ancient building. Its resemblance to a Church interior is not lost on her, though the significance is specific to cultures far from her own. That it was a place of ceremony and gathering is obvious enough...

    She's first drawn towards the Shadows. She pokes her way closer, remaining juuuuust outside of swing-and-grab reach, and makes some funky faces at it, trying to provoke any kind of reaction!

August Kohler has posed:
The Shadows barely even flinch in reaction to Finna. But the mask changes. The contemplation turns into a frown, and the tear drops spread over more of the mask. It would seem they're not going to be much help here.

Finna (513) has posed:
Well that reaction's obvious enough. Finna slowly steps backwards and shakes her head at the depressed Shadow. Apparently, that's creepy enough that even she isn't willing to be too disrespectful in this forsaken, forgotten place and offending whatever guardian the place might have.

Hikaru Kurosawa (1039) has posed:
    The Fox Sister has since dissipated; Hikaru isn't being aggressive, gun lowered, and so his Persona isn't needed for now. The ruins are eerie, the bird's call of 'Fate' even moreso; he shoots Emily a sympathetic look, briefly, before turning back to the task at hand. He watches the hanging shadows, feeling a shudder go down his spine.

    And then they come to the yew tree. Hikaru gestures to the noose, and then taps his arm (the one holding the lowered gun, because he's not going to gesture with /that/ one.) It's a noose made for hanging in. But then he shakes his head, because he does /not/ think that going and hanging on the yew tree is going to be a good idea for anyone.

August Kohler has posed:
Emily's tensing up. August moves over to her as she does, and does his thumb up thumb down thing again, showing worry on his face. He looks over to the rest of the ruin, and shrugs, before pointing around at the various stuff. The birds, the bookcases, the table. Maybe the group should investigate?

Janine Liberi has posed:
    This place is dark, quiet, and full of melancholy. As a result, Janine feels like she's back in her bedroom.

    She walks slowly through the desolate place, approaching the tree with the noose around it. Of course, her mind leaps to a totally different conclusion about what is meant to go in it. And for all her talk about death, this is just reminding her about what's coming up in a few weeks.

    She shudders, and snaps her fingers to draw everyone's attention. Pointing to the noose, she makes a look of disgust. 'I don't like it.' Then she points to the door. Suggesting the party leave.

Ran Itoh (1040) has posed:
    Emily's kindness doesn't go unnoticed. Ran at least manages to turn her head a bit and give the butler a watery smile. She's trying! But some things are terrifying and strange, and until relatively recently she was a very normal young woman.

    With the ravens vanished and the wolves behind them, Ran feels a /little/ bit better, finally letting go of Hikaru's hand once they're inside. But the sense of relief never fully realizes, because something strange is happening here.

    They all seem so sad.

    She looks ahead to where the altar would be in a normal church and sees the noose. Takes another look at the congregation of shadows.

    They're all...

Emily Branford (999) has posed:
    The look Emily gives August is the same she's giving the entire room; cold and robotic, prepared for trouble. But there's no real directed 'hostility' in it, and her response is a simple, businesslike thumbs-up. 'I'm fine'.

    Then she taps her own chest, points her fingers at her eyes, and then points around the room. She's going to stay on watch, apparently. Whatever other people do is the group's call.

August Kohler has posed:
Those who inspect the noose will notice something clear: it could not fit a neck, only an ankle or wrist. As people approach, the ravens turn their heads towards them. They seem to be curious about the humans there. But they do nothing.

William Pauwel has posed:
    In Will's experience, places full of eerie, shadowy things that are just kind of WATCHING you aren't anything good. The Chaser follows the others in, his handgun shedding a rare corona of light into this dismal, shadowy place. It's... eerie, though. Silent like a grave, with a smell not too dissimilar. Like soft, loamy soil mixed with gravedust.

    And all of the shadows are hanging upside down, like... Bats? Corpses? It's almost like they're freshly killed buffamooses being drained of blood before the slaughter. Will's lips curl into a tight grimace as he follows the others in, his weapon at the ready. If things do go like he kind of expects, then he'll need it. But...

The noose on that tree-- it's not big enough for a neck, but...

What was /hanging/ there before? Or... What will be hanging there?


T-that noose...

Was it made for him?

Finna (513) has posed:
Having her attention drawn to the noose by Janine, and getting a clear look at it from afar... Finna's attention is more on the ravens. She leaps skyward and shapeshifts, within a second joining the flock and taking a perch on a beam a decent distance from them. A few soft caws ring out. Questioning about the tree and, by extension, the noose.

    Although able to communicate with animals, in her experiences, they frequently do not comprehend more complicated things beyond food, danger, mates, fun, light and darkness, but perhaps these ones are different.

August Kohler has posed:
The ravens respond to Finna. But not in the language of caws, but in the language of man. "It was his. But he is gone. Everyone weeps."

Finna (513) has posed:
There's a bit of a pause. Finna-raven shifts uneasily on her talons... and then her whole body, again, ripples. Another bird form's the result. A mottled light brown and dark brown pattern of feathers, two gigantic orange eyes with circular black irises... a short but sharply pointed beak, and a pair of huge feathery tufts that resemble horns.

    "Hoooooooo?" Hoots the Great Horned Owl.

August Kohler has posed:
The birds understand Finna-owl's question. And they both respond simultaneously.


And then they stop speaking. They will not respond to any further prodding. They just remain at their perch, hanging from one foot.

Janine Liberi has posed:
    Apparently everyone disagrees. Damn. Janine just busies herself in some corner of the room, looking at the bookshelves. Anything to avoid looking at the noose.

August Kohler has posed:
The books have writing on the bindings, and inside the text as well. The problem is that Janine would have absolutely no idea what language or alphabet this stuff is. A few of the books may be slightly more familiar, and have runes on the binding; the only words easily made out are 'self' and 'mind'. Otherwise, everything's gibberish.

Finna (513) has posed:
What a puzzling answer.

    The owl goes so far as to almost turn its head UPSIDE-DOWN in pure puzzlement in fact... then its feathers ruffle and bunch up. Finna-owl turns to take her leave of the two, sensing their reluctance to say anything more.

    She glides lazily down towards the book-cases, perching atop one of them and looking down at the book Janine opened!

August Kohler has posed:
August is pretty much spooked at the creepy raven and the noose. He moves up to the front of the group, and points at the door, showing concern on his face. He changes his mind; he wants to leave now.

Janine Liberi has posed:
    In the end, Janine just glares up at Finna and puts the book back, before putting a finger to the side of her head and swirling it around. Universal sign for craziness. And then she finally decides she's had enough of this creepy place. She just straight up leaves, waving at everyone on her way out. They would find her waiting outside for them though, so that's nice.

    But as they go back along the path, she gestures at someone to break the wolves' chains. They're clearly nonhostile, so they may as well be allowed to wander. Maybe they'll appreciate it.

Emily Branford (999) has posed:
    When August moves up, Emily shifts her position again, sidestepping (with her rifle trained on the Shadows the entire time) until she's beside him. She gives the rest of the group a light nod; she's in agreement with him.

Finna (513) has posed:
Universal for Janine, maybe. That means something else ENTIRELY in a few of Finna's experiences. So the owl goes UPSIDE-DOWN-HEADED AT HER TOO briefly. 'Wuh?'

    Oh well. The owl spreads her wings and takes off, quite quiet once she's airborne compared to other birds. But as she swoops near the noose... she drops a slice of bread, seemingly from nowhere, by the tree. WHY, she obviously isn't allowed to say. But she then banks hard and soars back towards the exit. As she loses momentum and lazily stalls she shifts back to fox form and transitions smoothly into a scamper... looking back at the place at the exit.

    But seeing just what Janine intends to do about the wolves... the fox shakes her head. Perhaps she understands something about them that Janine doesn't?

Ira MacNally (915) has posed:
She catches that gesture Janine makes and nods. It seemed pretty dangerous but...

    Ira moves to the wolves slowly-specifically, she moves to the trees that the chains are attached to. Drawing back, she gives a soft murmur and the Beast appears, forming up with her back to back. With simultaneous motions, each punch the glass trees that the chains are wrapped around.

August Kohler has posed:
The wolves look up, growling at Ira summons the Beast. They seem almost like they don't want their chains broken, but they won't resist beyond that. Once the chains actually break, though, they don't leave. They just reposition themselves, and continue their vigil. They've chosen this path.

August Kohler has posed:
The way through the path back to the clearing is peaceful. The curious Shadows have returned, but once again, show no harm. There will be no threats on the way back.

Ran Itoh (1040) has posed:
    She doesn't understand. Not really. Something about the tree, though, and the ravens... maybe she saw a program once? There's something there that she just can't quite remember.

    Of course, she nearly turns and flees when Ira chooses to unchain the wolves, but their absolute lack of real reaction lets her keep the tattered remains of her cool. Ran could just about scream. She's so sick of the forest!

    But hopefully they'll make it home soon, and she'll take a bath, and she'll find out what Hikaru's going to make with the wrong tofu.

Finna (513) has posed:
And there goes Ira, doing the thing Finna just cautioned against! She winces slightly, but stares curiously to see the results...

    And it is exactly as expected. She bounds forwaards and gives Janine a LOOK, eyes narrowing. 'See?'

    But the fox makes a happier face towards the wolves, as if encouraging them. To do what, exactly, isn't clear. It may just be a sign of approval from her.

Hikaru Kurosawa (1039) has posed:
    Hikaru takes Ran's hand when the wolves are freed, and doesn't let go for a while. She's okay. She's fine. It'll all be fine.

Janine Liberi has posed:
    Janine glares at Finna and gestures at all the bones around them. The remains of their last real meal. Now, at least with the chains off, they can hunt and eat. She doesn't care what they do really, it just seems cruel to leave them like that.