4682/Mission 2: The Forest of Death

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Mission 2: The Forest of Death
Date of Scene: 15 October 2016
Location: Tokyo-52605 <NXC>
Synopsis: Aokigahara, a dense forest at the foot of Mt. Fuji's northwest slopes, is either famous or infamous for the number of suicides which are carried out there. Some people go so far as to say that the forest is haunted by the spirits of those who die there - whether by taking their own lives, or as a result of murder.

And not all of the killers roaming Aokigahara are ghostly, or even of human origin. Ouma is scouring the Forest of Death for the second fragment of the Killing Stone, and they're calling in assistance from the Confederacy to boot; Shinra's agents can't deal with the combination alone, so they've requested Union support.

Who will find the second piece of the Killing Stone ... and who will fall in the search for it?

Cast of Characters: 707, 278, 941, 737, 985, Wo, Reina Kinney, 1056, 127, Reiji Arisu, 11, 1014
Tinyplot: Restoration of the Killing Stone

Xiaomu (707) has posed:

An almost primevally-dense forest at the northwestern foot of Mt. Fuji, long associated with deaths and with suicides, often said to be haunted.

But it's been more 'haunted' than usual lately; for the past week or two, youkai have been prowling the forest, sometimes binding ghosts to assist them, more often just chasing them away so they don't interfere with whatever the youkai are up to.

The hell of it, for Shinra, is that they know SOMEthing is going on in Aokigahara; they just don't know WHAT ... and with the other youkai disturbing the normal ghostly activities, it's difficult to even get a team in to see what's going on. According to office rumors, somebody suggested just sending in every agent they could rally to storm the forest; the idiot who suggested *THAT* was immediately suspended pending a full psychiatric and parapsychological examination, because it was a blatantly stupid notion.

But tonight, things are different.

A messenger conveyed a simple report and request to Ouma's Confederate allies: 'We found it but we'll need help getting it out.'

And the fact that a single kamaitachi was spotted fleeing Aokigahara on a beeline for the nearest warpgate was duly conveyed to Shinra, who in turn dispatched two top agents and requested Union support.

At this point, Xiaomu is standing a couple of meters inside the forest's perimeter, just off the main public trail - although Aokigahara's been closed to tourists since this mess started, and it hardly took Shinra's influence to do it (for a change).

Ouma's directing Confederates to reach the area through a different path, with youkai magic helping conceal its whereabouts; the Confederates *might* be spotted en route, but they'll be close to impossible to track them beyond a certain point.

Bramble Patch (278) has posed:
The Confederacy was asked for support. Whoever was in charge of assigning said support took 'haunted suicide forest' to heart and picked one of the best matches for the mission they could find.

Bramble Patch lives in middle of the spookiest forest in all of Equestria, one which surrounds a creepy old castle. So just being dark and haunted and full of spiritual activity is really right up her alley.

Nor is she really bothered by whatever magic guided trek it takes to meet with Ouma and get to work. Earth Ponies are made for this sort of constant activity.

Mel Brock (941) has posed:
    After their hot spring trip turned into a 'working vacation', Mel has been a little grumpy; not towards Xiaomu and Reiji, of course, but rather towards whatever malevolent force has plans and plots running to cause trouble.

    And maybe a little towards herself, too. This feels way too much like her luck kicking in.

    Nevertheless, she's here, and while the usual Marshal jumpsuit and longcoat have been replaced with something more apropos to this world, the coat is still specially-treated to be bullet- and blade-resistant, she's still got her sidearm in a concealed-carry holster, and she's still wearing that sleek limiter on her right jawline, ensuring that she'll be able to cut loose the way she usually does if need be.

    She's also jogging rather than walking, having to hoof it for a good ways thanks to the need for concealing the Firestarter-C somewhere it won't be spotted or messed with.

Vivio Takamachi (737) has posed:
    Vivio wanders up next to Xiaomu and looks deeper into the forest. She quints a little, musing, "This place looks kind of creepy..." She nods slowly, before turning to look at Xiaomu. Pause. Smile, "Oh! Hello again~ Vivio Takamachi is responding to the request for help!" Either the Union is getting desperate these days, or there's more to this eleven-year-old girl than is obvious.

Nina Windia (985) has posed:
Nina volunteered for this.

No, literally, she actually did volunteer for this whole... thing after Xiaomu's last report. She didn't necessarily expect it to mean she had to come to a place like this, but it apparently does and she's up to the task.

More or less.

Nina has actually not taken to the air for the worry that it will make her far too obvious if there's someone else in the vicinity. After all, Shinra found out about it because someone /else/ was flying around, she thinks. (Kamaitachis fly, right? Nina isn't entirely sure.)

On the ground she's as fast as anyone who doesn't do a lot of running: that is, slower than Mel, but not so slow you'd want to leave her behind and ignore her. She has thrown a cloak over her back because she has a vague idea that nonhumans are in the minority here, as far as anyone knows, given the very small amount she knows about Shinra is that it is sort of a secret service.

It doesn't help, because Nina very obviously still has wings or is the world's most deformed hunchback. The cloak is barely big enough to get over them and is more of a bedsheet. But still, she tried.

Burdened by that, Nina is picking her way up toward the meeting point. If she's armed, or indeed brought any equipment at all besides herself and whatever she's wearing, it doesn't show. She doesn't say much; this place is already kind of edging at her.

Wo has posed:
Ships can move on dry land, too, it turns out. It helps to be in a humanoid form factor. Despite this advantage in size, the Wo-class aircraft carrier is no expert in stealthy matters, so it helps to have the resident youkai more keenly attuned to concealing things on the job. Accutomed to such escort, she does not refuse it, instead sticking to the plan and paths already blazed by the enterprising beasties. She is here to add muscle to this expedition, and in the unforeseen circumstance it actually applies in a spooky forest, where abandoned tents and left-behind belongings are regular reminders of the nature of this place, her expertise. Aside from that, it's hard to imagine a more ill-fitting match than an aircraft carrier in a forest, but they'll make it work.

    For the moment, she focuses on what she can do, which is helping to scout and observation of the route. With a beckon forward of one gloved hand, the hinged maw of the symbiotic creature she wears as a hat gapes open, the whine of a turbine spinning up audible from within. After a few moments, a flight of Abyssal scout planes, a smoothly aerodynamic and black shape, save the almost human tongue and teeth, flies out and begins flying just above the tree line, before fanning out in a search pattern. They instinctively keep below radar range, even though the opposition might not be so equipped, and maneuver so as to minimize the obvious vector they were launched from. She'll also keep her passive radar tuned in, though with all the trees and the terrain itself, its range and resolution is going to be quite limited. Don't want to pay too much attention to, heh, ghost reflections.

Reina Kinney has posed:
Staring into the forest with her binoculars, Reina sighs as she puts them away and looks to Xiaomu. "I'm not seeing anything out of the ordinary just yet, but I'm ready to move out when you are. Just say the word." She narrows her eyes a little before looking into the forest again as she runs a hand through her red hair. "Ever since we got here, I've had the feeling there was something off about this place, and I was damn right too." She shakes her head and closes her eyes with another sigh before looking towards the forest again.

For a moment, she says nothing more, then she speaks again. "One thing I'm wondering, are my weapons going to work if we encounter whatever's supposedly causing this? I'm no spirit expert, but I've always believed that spiritual things can't be harmed with material weapons. That just leaves my TECHNICs, but even then I can't use those for very long before losing mental strength. What do you think?"

Camilla Ulyssa (1056) has posed:
    'We need help getting something.'
    Translation: help us punch dudes.

    It didn't take more to have Camilla onboard. Ever on the lookout for a fight, for a reason to waste mana and keep her body's balance in check. And so we find the dark gray-haired, fox-eared young woman trailing after Ouma, wearing a very large military coat like a cape, and another slightly smaller one underneath, like it's meant to be worn. Strapped around her by half a dozen belts, the large mechanical sheaths that house her blades rest behind her, under the large coat, visible regardless.

    A twitch of her nose, and she sneezes.
    "This place reeks of magic. I don't mean it stinks, either, just... it smells strong, you know? Didn't expect that. I don't hate it. New smells! I can't tell what half of these are." A glance towards the pony following along. "You smell like plants." Then ahead, in no particular direction. "And... someone smells like they might have as much magic as I do. Raw energy." Another twitch of her nose, as she turns to look at Wo. "And you smell like... water. No, that's wrong. You smell like the depths, and a bit like a ghost." Like she needed her nose to tell that.

    "Oh, I love this! It's like being in a buffet, you just don't know where to pay attention first!"

Kirikou (127) has posed:
    No haunted forest is going to scare Kirikou. Well, not TOO much anyways. Some of his friends are terrified of ghosts, but this Meister's a little too mellow for that. A bit on-edge perhaps. His Weapons don't like this place. For that matter they haven't liked a bit of anywhere they've had to go in this series of missions. But that's okay... Kilik's just explained to them that it's their job to go into these places where the earth is upset, and remove what's making it upset. So far, it's been the absolute truth.

    He trudges along, shoulders bowed under the weight of his oversize gauntlets. Judging by his stoop, they look to weigh at least a hundred or so pounds each. He trudges stolidly though, arms dangling at his sides like massive pendulums, occasionally sniffing in disdain or disgust at something unobvious.

Reiji Arisu has posed:
    Aokigahara is not a pleasant place. Hundreds of suicides over the past century have steeped the forest in the kind of raw negativity that permeates the very air. Reiji doesn't like it here- it stinks of lingering self-loathing, shattered dreams, and the broken backs of those who succumbed to the crushing pressure of family and business and the obligations of life.

And so he's here wearing a mask.

    It's a white affair decorated with red markings and sacred symbology, with a pointed nose not unlike that of a plague doctor's mask, but... not avian. Rather than looking like some kind of long-beaked bird, it's distinctly vulpine instead. A fox's mask. Reiji has little choice in styles because life is cruel and Urashima has a terrible sense of humor, but he doesn't seem too bothered.

If the last place- a hot spring- stank, then he can only imagine what Aokigahara might smell like... Especially if this is about what he thinks it is.

    "Thanks for coming, everyone," he says, somewhat muffled behind his foxy facade. "We appreciate the help." He fishes around inside a pocket and withdraws what appears to be a perfectly ordinary compass... except instead of pointing towards cardinal directions, the needle instead swivels around a series of eight trigrams. A portable feng shui compass, it seems. "Hopefully this'll point us towards any... odd spiritual energies. But stay alert regardless. They'll probably be trying to throw us off their tracks."

Metal Man (11) has posed:
So here So here was Metal Man but today he was not alone Wood Man had come along with his Brother given the enviorment.

"It's nice to see a healthy non cyber forest, Metal Man."

"It seems the humans on this world are bit better about not wrecking it."

"Not much but still better."


The two contiuned on in combat gear not seeming to be too out of place as they made for the location Ouma had given them. It's possible they might be spotted but the pair of Wily Soldiers were moving at a pretty good clip all things considered.

Xiaomu (707) has posed:

At first, there doesn't seem to be anyone from Ouma there to greet the Confederates ... but then the air itself seems to ripple, as if pulling them deeper into the woods. "You came," a voice whispers -

And then the voice has an owner, as moisture condenses out of the air and freezes into a distinctly feminine form. It's not quite a yuki-onna, but she could be mistaken for one by those not well-versed in Japanese lore of the supernatural. The ice-woman gestures, beckoning the Confederates onward, and begins picking her way through the trees. "The fragment lies within a cave, but its power here - one must be corporeal to lift it, yet it kills those who have enough flesh to permit their deaths. The first fragment, I hear, did not possess such power ..."

She pauses, looking over the Confederates. "Among you," says the icy figure, "I believe you may succeed with your lives."


Well, it certainly wasn't Xiaomu's suggestion! Even if she likes to see Reiji cosplaying (a mask totally counts!), she's not too wild about the Japanese kitsune, so Reiji's protective gear winds up balancing out to a neutral reaction from the huli jing.

The feng shui compass is definitely working, though - there's a powerful source of negative chi deeper in the forest, and it's powerful enough that the compass points the way without even wavering. Xiaomu looks uncertainly at it, then at the allies who've come to help. Then she checks the load in each of her three handguns, as well as double-checking her supply of grenades (which she's hoping not to use). "Anyone need to stop and make out your last will and testament before we go in? If so, too bad, because I don't think we've got time - Ouma probably knows exactly where it is and we haven't had the chance to map things out yet. Stay close, stay alert, don't die."

She grips her staff tightly, double-checks the compass Reiji's holding, and sets off, picking her way amongst the trees with the near-perfect silence of a ... well, of a fox stalking prey.

Kirikou (127) has posed:
    Kilik has a bit of knowledge about asian culture. Japanese are well-represented at Death Academy, mostly because they're one of the Academy's biggest supporters among his world's nations. He knows Yuki-onna, at least somewhat, but tends to prefer a rather warmer type of girl.

    "Of course we came." Kirikou says, and then looks around among the Confeds. "Hey I got the last one. Not it." he claims, spreading his gauntleted hands wide. He's not at all sure he could do something here. Sure he's resistant to a lot of things, but 'death' isn't just something you go around casually blocking with armor. Well in point of fact you do, but only when that death is caused by sharp things.

Bramble Patch (278) has posed:
Bramble Patch takes a moment to stop and -stare- at Wood Man. Mostly out of facination. A robot made partially out of wood?? That's crazy even by the standards she typically lives by being a pony from a magical brightly colored world with the occasional surprising dark twists behind the pastel palettes.

But back to the matter at hand as their contact manifests with a cool chill. "Oh, I'm sure we can come up with a way or two to deal with that." They have robots with apparently, after all.

"Or, y'know, deal with the smug so-called heroes that are eventually going to show up to try and stop us," the pony adds as she follows after the icy spirit. Who really just reminds her of a humanoid Windego. "Because you know they will."

Mel Brock (941) has posed:
    "Just so it's on the table, for the folks that don't know me, no, I can't act as any kind of psychic bad guy detector or anything," Mel says, offering this more generally to the group. Reiji and Xiaomu already know, but the others she's less familiar with in varying degrees. "My telepathy's crap, the best I can tell you is this place feels way spookier than normal. So keep your eyes and ears open, or... whatever other senses you've got." And shoving her hands in her pockets, the Marshal falls into step next to Xiaomu, perfectly content with taking up a 'meat shield' position for the rest of the group. Her barriers are pretty powerful, after all.

Nina Windia (985) has posed:
Nina meets up with the others. And then...

"If you want me to, I'll take off and orient," Nina offers. It's at least half an excuse to ditch the cloak; it really isn't comfortable to bundle up in it, though it is giving her at least some camo. Then again, her black-purple feathers aren't easy to see as more than a silhouette in darkness, either.

Then again, she thinks, flying might not be the best idea if the forest gets thick enough. You can't really see through the foliage eventually, or even really fit through it until they find a clearing...

Nina stays on the ground for the moment, though, and walks with the others. She keeps an ear out when she can't keep an eye, looking around. She /really/ doesn't like this place; she's sensitive enough to be made uncomfortable by it. She hunches down, trying to make herself smaller. It's not fear, she tells herself. It's common sense.

Vivio Takamachi (737) has posed:
    Time for things to get serious. Vivio nods her head in understand to Xiaomu, gripping her straps on her backpack a little tighter. As it's mentioned that the place hasn't been mapped out, Vivio hmms quietly then turns her head to look behind, "Chris?"

    The little plush bunny that is Vivio's Device and partner pops his head out of an opening in the backpack. Vivio continues, "Can you please go up and check things out for us?" Chris bumps his pointed arm against his head, his version of a salute, then bursts the rest of the way out of the backpack. He flies up and disappears into the thick collection of leaves.

    With her Device now off doing some scouting, Vivio begins to follow Xiaomu into the forest. She's not had any actual training or stealth or tracking or anything, but she is small and light on her feet! This means it's not too difficult for her to navigate through the thick forest without raising any particular alarms.

Wo has posed:
A glance is given to Camilla, by the carrier. It might be called quizzical, if not for the completely even and almost emotionless cast that her face usually has. After a few moments, she agrees simply, not seeming to be offended by being told what she smells like. "I was...sunk. Ma-ny decades ago," she explains. "Slept, for a while. You are, not wrong." Her speech has improved since her first emergence onto the Multiverse stage, but still has that barely strung together quality to it, on top of a subtle amount of reverb, like a typical anime monster.

    She quiets again shortly after, though she does wonder absently, at something she overheard, "Cy-ber forest?" What an odd combination of phrase. Then again, the twisted shipwrecks of her home in Iron Bottom Sound, interspersed with corals and sponges, can resemble certain surface biomes, if viewed with the right eye and ambience. Perhaps that's the kind of thing they are talking about. To Wood Man, in particular, she states matter-of-factly, perhaps by way of coming to a self-realization, "You are wear-ing, a tree..." Maybe it's some kind of camoflage for the forest.

    Any attempts at small talk are halted once proper, face-to-face contact is made. The already chilly atmosphere gains an actual chill to go with it, it seems. "Un-derstood," she remarks, thinking over those words. "As I was never tru-ly, 'alive'... Hmm, we will, see." Wood Man and, surprisingly, Metal Man are realistic enough that she doesn't really consider that they would also fit the bill for such a task. She wouldn't volunteer them, regardless. With this, she continues following, still searching the surrounding forest from the air through her scouts, either for interesting sights or the intruders Bramble Patch expects.

    "What drives surface peo-ple, to this place," she wonders? "I don't under-stand..." There's a genuine confusion in her words, but it's an open question, not to anyone in particular.

Reiji Arisu has posed:
    Reiji and Xiaomu both have kind of a bad track record with Japanese foxes. Which is really kind of strange if you think about it-- you'd think that they'd have more trouble with the Korean variety, considering the whole liver eating thing. But then, they ARE in Japan, and if there are foxes that're going to be raising hell in Japan, they're probably going to be nogitsune of some stripe.

Regardless. They have a direction.

    "Alright. Stay close, move as quickly as you can. We need to get to the target before they do, else we'll have worse than just a suicide forest to deal with," Reiji says before setting off alongside his partner. "There are ghosts here. Angry spirits anchored to the land by lingering resentment. This is a forest of curses, so be careful, and keep your eyes on us as much as possible. Don't follow foxfire."

Reina Kinney has posed:
"Last will and testament?" Reina raises an eyebrow at Xiaomu. "I trust you're only joking!" She scowls a little. "The GUARDIANS are among the most elite forces in the Gurhal System. We are trained to face danger head on and deal with it no matter how risky it might be. We never put our own lives before those of others!" A pause as Reina realizes she's going on a bit of a rant, and she shakes her head. "Er, uh, never mind. I'm ready to go." She snaps her fingers of her right hand, and a pistol materializes in her hand.

"Let's move out," Reina says as she steps into the forest, not showing the slightest hint of fear or anxiety on her face. Then again, a woman like Reina is trained not to show emotion at times. "If there's something or someone waiting for us, I'm ready for it!" Famous last words, right?

Camilla Ulyssa (1056) has posed:
    "Smug heroes tend to show up to stop smug people in general," Camilla quips, before glancing towards the Robot Masters, then towards Wo. "Hat-girl sounds like she could handle it. Or smells like, anyway. Kind of looks like she's already had a run-in with death, not to mention the ghostly smell." She was right, it turns out! Right-ish, anyway, she's not about to argue with Wo about what she is.

    "Well! Glad that's handled, because I'm not trying my luck at overpowering a superweapon fragment that kills anything that touches it." Handled in the sense she 'volunteered' Wo for the task, sure.

    Another twitch of her nose, and a glance to the side. "Ah, all those other smells are getting closer and closer now. I'm getting impatient! Are you sure we can't just make a lot of noise, we're going to get spotted sooner or later anyway." For all she suggests it the fact she doesn't just up and do it suggests it's not a question that requires an honest answer.

Metal Man (11) has posed:
Metal Man and Wood Man look to Wo for a moment humms and smirks then for a moment.

"I'm not born of flesh by how humans reason often? My brother and I are not alive but you can not debate that we are not aware." Yet they can die a Robot can be lost much like a human canbe. "Then you may be on to something Wo. I'll take a crack at it then."

He's got his pride as a Wily Robot though it may be the /death/ of him either way he just said he'd give it a shot if no one else will. Wood man meanwhile looks to Wo for a moment and gives Wo of all things a grin. He seems very relaxed for a combat robot.

Vivio Takamachi (737) has posed:
    Vivio's Device, Chris, pops his head out of the top of the trees, glancing around. He flies out all the way, flitting left and right as he searches for any signs of something unusual going on in the forest. He stops to a hover, raising a pointed arm to his head as he squints, looking out into the distance.

Wo has posed:
The Device would hear it, or sense the pressure waves in the air if that's more apt, rather than see at first. The throaty roar of a jet turbine. Considering that there's probably a no fly zone in place to go along with the limits on tourists, that is likely quite the odd sound, especially this close to natural monuments. That's when radar and then vision would see it; a sleek, black shape cruising along just above the trees, not unlike Chris, though seeming to be a craft with at least some aerodynamism. It's about a meter and a half in size, now that it's in its fully deployed state. Moreover, judging by the active radar that passes over the Device's location, and the gurgling, buzzing sound now coming from the scout's jaw as it makes a sudden turn to take a closer look, it's likely that the spot was mutual.

Vivio Takamachi (737) has posed:
    Chris blinks in surprise as he picks up on something nearby. It doesn't appear to be a bird, nor anything else one might normally find above a forest. So he goes to take a closer look, darting off in that direction. Soon enough Chris reaches the flying scout, coming to a stop a short distance away from it. The plush bunny tilts his head in wondering, then waves one of his pointed arms at it in greeting.

Camilla Ulyssa (1056) has posed:
    Vivio's cuddly Device would be able to pick up another thing; a massive font of mana, walking along. Camilla can't hide it. With each breath she takes she exhudes enough magic that someone looking for it will find it. And once they're locked onto her, she's the equivalent of using infrared goggles to look at a pot of boiling water in a freezer.
    This becomes especially obvious when Chris gets closer to attempt the world's first cuddly teddy bear to tiny abyssal plane exchange.

Bramble Patch (278) has posed:
Bramble Patch isn't creeped out by the haunted forest, and she's mostly not creeped out by Wo being.... Wo, either. Though she's probably got the right idea.

"Yeah. We've got robots to do the handling." Someone planned that right. Or it was just lucky coincidence. Either works.

But they still need to find the cave with this thing first. Or find other people looking for the cave that need to be stopped. Bramble Patch gives a sharp whistle, and after a bit of rummaging around a squirrel pokes his head out of her mane with a yawn. "Go help the little plane-things look for the creepy cave of death we're looking for." Cupule squeaks at 'death' but climbs up atop her head all the same. Adjusts his acorn cap baret with one paw, then spreads his front limbs to flare out the skin flaps and reveal that he's a flying squirrel as he jumps off the Pony and goes soaring off into the trees.

Wo has posed:
The shape resolves, upon approach, into a slightly oblate airframe, with human teeth and a tongue to match it, though no lower jaw. There is also an exhaust port on the back, which seems to be emitting a mutedly glowing vapor. For what it's worth, as it closes in, it doesn't open fire, and it doesn't seem to actually carry any weapons. Instead, it goes into a momentary holding pattern around the waving plush, that warbling and buzzing vocalization arising from it turning from curiosity to outright confusion. Should it bother radioing back about what might be natural here? It gives a final appraisal of its scouting counterpart, before breaking away and beginning to speed back above the trees, before it vanishes into the noise of the foliage outright.

    What a strange, if oddly cute, encounter.

    While engaging in tracking as well as socialization on the side, Wo suddenly turns her eyes to something unseen in the distance, placing a gloved hand to the side of her head as though concentrating on something. "...you're cer-tain? A...plush rab-bit?" She questions of the koori-onna that is leading them, "Do you have, a haunt-ed toy deployed?" Otherwise, the scouts continue scouting, now aided by a flying squirrel, which at least blends into the environment better than either Abyssal aircraft or plush Devices.

Xiaomu (707) has posed:
There's a distinct chill in the forest air as the two groups make their way through it. It's not just the coolness of autumn as it settles over the land; nor is it the cold that drifts down the slopes of Mount Fuji. Yet it's not quite the cold of death or of evil, either; while it's not wholly natural, neither is it entirely unnatural. The depths of Aokigahara are so thickly forested, the canopy of leaves and branches so dense, that they don't really warm up even in the midst of summer - and yet this cold runs deeper still than that.


The icy figure glances back at the Confederates, the side of her hand drifting past her mouth as a chuckle whispers from her lips. "As though I care whether you live or die ... ngk-!!"

And she goes rigid, additional layers of ice crystallizing around her body; another voice whispers scoldingly, Behave, Setsuka. Behave or melt. There's an imperceptible nod from the icy figure before she's released; Setsuka bows to the Confederates in contrition before moving on. There actually *is* a path now, resembling a game trail ... it seems there are some living things in these woods, after all. That is, under normal circumstances. Right now, though, the silence of Aokigahara's depths is absolute save for whatever noise the Confederates make as they traverse it.


Xiaomu glances up as Nina offers to scout from the air. "The canopy's pretty dense, but thanks for offering," she replies to Nina. Mel gets a nod - Aokigahara is creepy even to the sage fox, truth be told. Chris's appearance and departure draws a brief grin before Xiaomu faces forward, only sparing a glance at Reiji's compass before continuing on her way. "I should hope you're ready for anything, Rei*GRK!!!*"

That was a totally harmless vine, wasn't it?

It's not harmless now, though: in the blink of an eye it wrapped around the sage fox's neck and hoisted her into the air, leaving Xiaomu kicking frantically as she claws at the vegetation latched around her neck, her staff falling over with a jingle of rings only after she's been yanked up off her feet.

Vivio Takamachi (737) has posed:
    Chris scratches his head a little in confusion, watching the scout plane fly away again. Of course, he also picks up on the large magic signal in that general direction too. And decides it's probably best to report this. He turns around, darting back in the direction he came from.

    Shortly after, there's a small rustling from the trees above the Union group, before Chris flies out and down towards Vivio. He starts waving his arms, eyes opening and closing as he describes what happened before finally jabbing an arm in a direction. To anyone watching, it magically translates into, 'There was a flying craft of some kind, along with a large source of mana, in that direction!'

    Vivio nods to her Device in understanding, before looking at the others, "I guess that way is where our rivals on this mission are?" She looks at Xiaomu, wondering what the fox wants to do... And that's when she notices the moving vine, "Look out!" It's too late though!

    Vivio dashes forward, iridescent light forming around her hand as she closes the distance to Xiaomu and the deadly flora. She then jumps, swinging her hand at the vine to try and cut through it with her magic!

Reiji Arisu has posed:
Ready for anythng indeed.

Except, apparently, for the forest itself to rise up against them.

    "Xiaomu!" Reiji roars as his partner is unceremoniously hoisted up by her throat. The exorcist freezes in his tracks, stuffing the compass into one of his pockets. That hand, now free, slides with lightning speed towards his assembly of weapons. His choice is obvious.

    There's a flurry of movement and a vast, wrathful plume of flame. Reiji rebounds off a nearby tree, leaping a dozen feet into the air to intersect the strangling vine. Karin slices through the vine, leaving Xiaomu to fall back to the ground-- hopefully to where someone will catch her!

"Damnit, the forest too. We need to keep moving! If they can turn the trees on us, then we'll need to blast our way through."

Bramble Patch (278) has posed:
Bramble Patch just snorts out her nostrils, the ice spirit's proximity causing it to frost slightly. "And we could probably say the same about you, but yet we're all here -working together-, so you might want to... chill with the attitude." Starts snickering with her own bad joke. She's had to work with the likes of Gilda and THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (AND UTTERLY ANNOYING) TRIXIE, so a spirit getting a little snarky is barely enough to ruffle her tail.

It's still not 'true' self-sustained flight, but apparently Equestrian flying squirrels at least have a greater hang time. Cupule still comes to pause on a branch on occasion, looking around before launching off again. Still looking for this cave.

Bramble Patch could possibly use her powers to 'see' through the trees, but she doesn't want to risk pissing off the local spirits with her otherworldly magic. They don't need the additional animosity of mistaking the Pony for a tresspasser and coming after them too.

Mel Brock (941) has posed:
    Despite having her hands in her pockets, Mel is on general high alert. Sweeping the forest with her eyes, listening hard; she's not accustomed to a forest environment at all, but she can try. Especially in one as... oddly quiet... as Aokigahara. But even with her attention sweeping the area, she's not expecting the vine to snap up and attempt to throttle their vulpine guide. "Xiao- shit!" A split second's confusion gives way to instant, trained crisis response. It's hard to say whether it's fortunate or unfortunate, but there is one trained crisis response that Mel almost always relies on.

    Brute, destructive strength.

    A burst of telekinetic force erupts downward, a smashing blast from above to /crush/ the offending vine just as Reiji's slicing it apart. This also probably causes a crater in the ground, granted. But just as quickly, the PsiMashal moves to catch Xiaomu - curiously, doing so with her arms, rather than telekinesis. "Hey, you alright?"

    Of course, Reiji has suggested 'blast our way through'. And all that prompts from Mel is a simple, flat look. It's like telling the Kool-Aid Man all that stands in their way is a brick wall.

Nina Windia (985) has posed:
Nina didn't really want to leave the group, but she thought she'd offer, solely because she /can/ fly and most of the others cannot. As far as she knows. She nods, looking over at Chris curiously but knowing better than to try to chase after something like that. "I'll stay here," she agrees, somewhat gratefully.

This place feels... wrong to her. Nina has never been to a place like this, where she could feel it in her bones like this. She flexes her fingers, resting her thumb on the ring she's wearing.

And then - danger! A vine!

Nina leaps back, startled; her wings spread reflexively, which makes her cloak slide out of place, the great wings peeking out from underneath. She doesn't actually take off due to lack of room, though; it was just a jump, nothing more. "Xiaomu!" Nina doesn't know her well, but come on, killer vines are bad for everybody.

Nina starts to gather magic. It's actually visible around her arm, a pulsing blue-white energy that spreads from her fingertips up toward her elbow - but by the time she's formed anything useful with it, Xiaomu is free, and someone who actually has body strength is catching her. So instead Nina shifts her spell. She thrusts her hand out, the light flickering, pulsing - and releasing!

A wave of wind blasts out from her hand. It diverges into two as it parts around the rest of the group, then slams into the underbrush, pushing a good deal of it out of the way; it breaks branches, though it isn't strong enough to shatter trees. It /does/ leave a clearer path, at least, which may assist the others in clearing enough to run along.

And as an added bonus, it is both less randomly destructive and less blatantly obvious than shattering all the trees. So there's that.

Reina Kinney has posed:
Even though her focus is ahead, Reina's still listening to what Xiaomu has to say. She nods her head a little to acknowledge she hears what's being said, which is why when Xiaomu gets strangled, Reina's spun and is aiming at the vine, or at least the direction it appears to be coming from, with her gun. She's about to fire when she sees Reiji slash at it with his sword.

When Xiaomu is free again, Reina's instincts as a GUARDIANS member kick in, going to check on Xiaomu to make sure she's not badly injured or unable to breathe still. Once she's sure that Xiaomu's OK, she shakes her head as she imagines how hard Laia would be reaming her for not paying better attention. "Well, excuse me, but..." She trails off, realizing she's talking to herself.

Wo has posed:
As they move deeper into the forest, what little light filtered in through the trees grows ever scarcer, before soon it's only indirect. In this kind of situation, the Abyssal scouts won't be able to make a proper landing, and they're slowly running out of fuel. In that same wordless communication as before, Wo glances upward and then back in the direction from which they came, beckoning momentarily with her command staff. With this, the Abyssal aircraft break off their search patterns and begin heading to try and make a landing closer to the warp gate they arrived at. She'll just have to rely on her own eyes and radar for the rest of the trip, however pointless either are in the dense wood. Cupule, and Camilla's sense of smell, taking over seems like a good idea. They're getting closer to their actual objective, anyway, so a more precise search area makes sense.

    Other than that, Wo doesn't seem offended by the spirit's barely contained ill will. She's been in a similar place, not so long ago. Resentments can be a real motivator, in both positive and negative directions. The carrier will also take the non-answer as a 'no' and assume the worst, judging by the description of Chris was cute, and the Union tends to be where cute people congregate: "They know we, are here," she says, with some certainty. "--should work quick-ly." If they can get in and out without a scrap, then it's an even better victory, as much as some might be spoiling for a battle. Though if they do approach too close, it might be hard to hide their presence, with how they're the only real source of noise here.

Camilla Ulyssa (1056) has posed:
    Their guide is put in her place.
    Camilla blinks, as she had momentarily stopped paying attention at all. That must have been important! She didn't really care about her attitude, though. No, honestly, the attitude of some of her Confederate allies now and in the past bothers her much more than a guide with predictable xenophobia. Xenophobia's easy to deal with, as problems go.

    She continues walking along, looking absolutely bored. Her ears twitch, the noises of a not-so-distant battle echoing about. Her nose wiggles and she sniffs the air for a moment, picking up the now much closer scents. So many of them! Oh why couldn't they have been just a bit faster. Then she might not be bored.

    She turns to look at Wo, hoping that's a sign someone is about to burst through a wall, so to speak. "Well, you heard hat-girl, folks. Those of you who can pick up some horrible death-touch artifact, chop chop, pick up the pace! Let the rest of us handle the punching."

Xiaomu (707) has posed:

Good ol' Reiji, always coming to his partner's defense. Well, pretty much always. Except when he's the one 'attacking' her, be it in training or as a punishment for slacking off. Or making one pun too many.

But it's Mel who catches Xiaomu on the way down, and the sage fox grins wryly, "My heroes ..." She actually hugs Mel briefly, then peels the remnants of the vine off her neck and chucks them aside. Xiaomu's smile is already fading somewhat, her ears pricking up. "Think we're getting close," she stagewhispers to her allies. She shouldn't have to remind them to be careful, or be alert, or anything - not after what just happened (and how it COULD have gone). She retrieves her staff, holding the rings so they won't make any noise, and continues onwards - there's actually a clearing nearby, and the feel of the cold is even stronger ...


Setsuka inclines her head briefly to Bramble Patch, accepting the additional chiding without complaint. "We're almost there," Setsuka states as though in reply to Camilla. "My mistress will explain matters further."

And then they reach the clearing, which seems like it should be warmer given there's some actual daylight ...


Union and Confederate groups emerge on opposite sides of a clearing - not directly across, but equidistant from a third point to an imaginary triangle. That third point is marked by two things: the first is a rocky hillock, like a baby-sister mountain to majestic Fuji, with an opening like the mouth of a cave. The second thing --

Is a person.

The woman is clothed in an antiquated style of kimono, multiple layers of silk robes secured about her frame; if she has any animal features at all, they're hidden, but she looks more human than youkai. (Not that this is proof of much.) The woman's face is adorned in a similarly ancient style of courtly make-up; she could well be a member of the Heian-era imperial court, transported through time to the present day. Her expressionless gaze swings first towards the Confederates, then towards the Union - and only then do her eyes narrow slightly, betraying her emotions.

"So Shinra has led additional fools to their deaths this day," the woman intones - presumably a sorceress, given Setsuka's immediate obeisance to her. "You should already know that we are those who lie beneath, waiting ..."

Her glance flicks back to the Confederates as if expecting something.

Kirikou (127) has posed:
    This is going to get interesting fast, isn't it? Kirikou trudges into the clearing, shoulders slumped under what appears to be some massive burden. That burden probably isn't the metal gauntlets, even as big as they are... they'd have to way an awful lot to make him slump that much.

    He stops, eyeing the Union members on the far side of the clearing. Slowly a grin creeps across his face. Not a sneer, but something actually looking genuine. Things seem to have suddenly gotten better for him. He straightens, shedding apparently a massive burden, raising fists. Not to the attack, but in a sort of salute directed across the clearing.

    He knows the answer the kimono-clad woman seeks. Another kimono woman... another code phrase. Man, these youkai keep going back to the same playbook don't they? Well no matter. With 'guests' showing up, it's time to drama-fy things up a bit! "Waitin' to overthrow those who think they're above you, right?" he smirks. "Well hey, come on over and I'll throw ya!" he invites.

Mel Brock (941) has posed:
    Mel smoothly puts Xiaomu on her feet, and gives her a quick, businesslike squeeze-pat-pat of a hug. "Just doing my job, ma'am." It's just as tongue-in-cheek, but after that, she's not taking chances. The psychic smoothly reaches back and draws out Hravn, holding the long blade in her right hand while she takes her sidearm up in her left. "But yeah, let's be prepared for just about anything from here on out.

    Prepared for anything... like emerging from the treeline only to see what looks to be a group of Confederates, and what /sounds/ to be an old enemy of Reiji and Xiaomu's agency. "Don't know who you are or what your deal is, but if you think we're just some random band of misfits off the street you can roll without a fight, you're in for a nasty surprise."

Reiji Arisu has posed:
    They are indeed getting close, as if the bone-chilling temperatures weren't indication enough that Something Was Wrong. Of course, by this point in his career, Reiji sees no trouble with rushing into danger. He nods at Mel for her assistance in the DARING RESCUE of his poor bevine'd partner. "Alright, looks like we're almost to where we're going. I'm going to go around and see about setting up a flank. I'll see you all soon."

With that, Reiji nonchalantly leaps /up/ into the canopy, racing vaguely towards the source of that terrible, unsettling feeling.


    The clearing comes into view. It's a small miracle that a place like this exists in such a thick forest-- but then, perhaps that, too, is the doing of the foul spirits that haunt this place. No proper Evil Woods would be complete without a clearing perfect for atmospheric shots of a blood-red moon peeking through the clouds. The Unioneers and Confederites appear on either side of the grove, almost as if their encounter and conflict were choreographed, but...

...Where is Reiji?

Well. Xiaomu should probably know by now. There's a certain pattern that he follows-- especially given the presence of a certain landmark.

    "Because that's where we put you every damn time." A voice suddenly declares from... Above!?

    There! Atop the hill! The clouds part behind him. The wind billows through his hair! The moon's brilliant light forms a blinding halo that frames his silhouette and casts all else into its shadow! "Stop right there, witch. I figured Ouma was behind this the minute I caught a whiff of that stench." because that's almost always how it seems to turn out. "We'll end your plan right here!"



(It's Reiji. It's obviously Reiji.)

Bramble Patch (278) has posed:
A flying squirrel lands on a branch in one of the trees at the clearing's edge. Does Japan have flying squirrels? Other than that he doesn't look out of place. Save for the little acorn top on his head like a barret... And that he starts squealing up a storm at the sight of people emerging on another side of the clearing.

"For buck's sake Cupule, pipe down! You're suppose to be stealthy when you're scouting ahea--" Bramble Patch stops mid-sarcasm as she tromps past the treeline. "--Oh."

Almost immeadiately the earth pony's posture changes, lowering her head forward a bit and exhaling a snort that briefly flares her nostrils. "Figures a buncha goodie goodies would have to come shoving their noses in other's business." Beware the mad horse!

Or not, as despite her effort to look intimidating Bramble Patch still looks fairly cute as most Equestrian Ponies do.

Camilla Ulyssa (1056) has posed:
    Is that a secret password sentence or something?
    Yeah, Camilla wasn't paying attention. She should have.
    It's alright, though, she's sure someone on her side has this handled. Probably the kid with the big gloves. For her part, she just wants to rattle some skulls and get her adrenaline fix for the day. Vent some mana, make the headache go away. Find a worthy opponent, maybe. The dirt tastes -great-; try meeting someone else who's happy to get her ass kicked.

    She teleports, plain and simple. A brief flash of white, nothing unusual. She appears in front of the sorceress, arms crossed, 'cape' (it's a big ass coat worn like a cape) billowing behind her as she reappears. It's pointlessly dramatic, and looks fairly intentional on her part.

    Green eyes settle on the Union, fanged grin on her face. It's not malice, it's excitement. Her heart beats. Her blood flows, faster. Reiji makes his entrance. She seems even more psyched than before.

    "Please, spare us the speeches. There's only one way this is ending, with or without all the acting. LET'S FIGHT!"

Heaven's Armory (1014) has posed:
    Hravn has been pretty quiet, hasn't she? You'd almost think she hadn't been here up 'till now, but since swords normally don't talk at all, that's pretty much the usual.
    She's not talking much now, either. Not audibly, at least, owing to not having her human form present. The decision to keep that vulnerability out of things seems all the better when opponents(?) show up on two fronts. Calling people 'goodie goodies' is generally not something she hears from... anyone, but does lend itself toward the 'villain' role, to some extent. Mel, at least, will get to pick up that mixture of confusion and concerned curiosity, but as yet no particular desire to begin the violence.

Metal Man (11) has posed:
Metal Man is just doing his thing and eying up Setsuka with Wood Man at the answer about their mistress explaining things? Well that does make thins easier. He makes reayd to head towards the woman that has appered he bows slightly to her and pauses the clothing she's wearing? It's old, very darn old and Metal knows that much. He smirks for a moment and looks nodding as he thinks he knows what's up.

"Well lets get this over with. Shinra's such a loaded name, you know that? So don't we got a stone to lift that only one not alive can move without being killed?"

Xiaomu (707) has posed:
The sorceress inclines her head to Kirikou with a faint smirk. "Close enough .... We are Ouma," she says as if greeting them. "Our hour shall come -"

Then she turns to face the man standing atop the hill that *was* behind her. "Ah yes, the last of the Arisu clan ..." A sapling seems to sprout from the ground next to her, and she casually plucks it from the ground - not a sapling, but a *staff* conjured from the soil and the local wood. "Saya will regret missing her opportunity to kill you," the woman hisses, gripping her newly-conjured staff tightly. "But to avenge my lord father's re-sealing at your hands ... I see no reason to leave you alive for Saya's amusement." She glances towards the Confederates, tipping her head briefly back towards the Union personnel. "Slay them, and we shall resolve the question of retrieving the fragment!"

Meanwhile, Xiaomu - who was just a little too preoccupied while her partner was getting high - emerged from the forest with Mel and Hravn, and looks between the sorceress and the other bad guys. "I don't care how long it's been since you were alive, lady, but trust me, *nobody* says 'slay' any more and means it seriously." Still, the sage fox advances on the sorceress, drawing one of her handguns and attempting to form up with Reiji. A pincer maneuver's fine on paper, but she doesn't want to get Reiji in her line of fire - and presumably he has the same caution about stray shots that might hit Xiaomu. Of course, one or another of the Confederates could still jump in and mess THAT combination up.

Bramble Patch (278) has posed:
"Hey! Slay is still perfectly acceptable venacular! And sounds much more sinister than just saying she's going to beat you to a bloody pulp!" The growing a staff trick would get more praise from Bramble Patch if she wasn't already shouting back snide remarks and focusing on the matter at hand. "But I think I agree with them, ain't no time left for talking."

The pony rears up on her back legs, hoisting her front hooves up in some kind of 'arise!' gesture. The gemstone affixed in her headband starts to glow, sending out whisps of ominous green and black magic that swirls through the treeline boarding the clearing.

Being inervated with the Everfree magic causes several of the trees to pull their roots from the ground, which start to twist around like tendrils for locomotion while they rearrange several branchs into gnarly fingered arms. Several of them start shambling towards the Union forces with creaking-wood moans and groans.

"I think it's time for this forest to claim some new victims. PERSONALLY!" Followed by Bramble throwing her head back and making a gleefully twisted expression while laughing maniacly. Only thing she's missing is some dramatic thunder.

Kirikou (127) has posed:
    Kilik eyes the opponents. Reiji... annoying. While he could go for that, he's somewhat less inclined to go for guys with guns. They're not anywhere near as much fun as, say, girls with swords. Or women with swords. Or hell, anything with swords. Melee weapons are fun and sporting.

    So, holding his fists out like he were a muay thai fighter, he advances. He faces Mel, making it clear he's singling her out, giving her time to get ready, to flee, or whatever she wants. As he approaches, he slaps his fists together in a painfully-ringing clash of metal on metal. "Nothing personal." he says. "But you people got no idea what you're meddling with. But I doubt I can convince you to just let us claim what we're here for... so?" he holds out those fists for all the world like he's a boxer expecting Mel to touch gloves.

Metal Man (11) has posed:
Metal Man makes note of the name Saya, sounds like someone the Confeds should try to get to sign up but for now he'll focus on the matter at hand as he sees that there's a bunch of union here now too. "Slay? Only if you keep getting in our way."

Is Metal Serious? Who knows but Wood Man's falling back? Why? If the feds all go down someone needs to cart them all home, right? Metal Man him self is summoning his blades which appear in hand and he smirks.

"People made of meat really should think twice about fighting me. Or do any of you not have the bearings to take me on??"

Reiji Arisu has posed:

    The air suddenly seems to grow colder, which is curious, because the ominous spiritual pressure that was present until just a moment ago seems to disperse before that sudden onrushing wave of COLD. It takes only a moment to recognize that it's coming from that man on the hill.

    "Your first mistake was choosing revenge over survival," Reiji drawls, his eyes drawn into tight, scornful lines. "Your second was coming here despite knowing that we would arrive to stop you."

"Your third--"

    The exorcist vanishes in a flurry of movement. Weapons sail through the air as he rushes downward. Gunsmoke joins the gathering clouds of fog and blends as well the roiling swirls of heat, light and flame. GOLD'S heavy slugs blast downward at the Ouma agent, even as Xiaomu's own gunfire come in on an intercept course. "--Was speaking that contemptible name! FLAME CONSUMES WOOD!"

There's a flash of heat. A wave of flame. Reiji is at one side of the sorceress in one moment, and then on the opposite in the next, his crimson blade terminating its lethal stroke, "Karin," Reiji growls, holstering his handcannon just in time to catch the rack full of the /rest/ of his weapons. "Zero-Kata."

An explosion erupts behind him.

Because cool guys look away from explosions when they happen.

Mel Brock (941) has posed:
    "Yeah, I'm gonna need to see your victim-claiming permit," Mel calls out to the cackling pony. "Hravn." She whips the sword around, and then slings it around with a flourish. The attack is intended to unleash the blade's 'wind whip' cutting technique, aimed squarely at the roots of those shambling trees; first order of business is cutting down their mobility so they can't easily join the fight. She'll worry about removing their ability to attack after tha-

    Oh, the guy with the gauntlets wants to fight. "Don't need to know what I'm meddling with. Just that it's bad news." The Marshal holds her fist out as if preparing to step forwards towards Kirikou... and then with roughly zero warning, unleashes a pulse of telekinetic power. It's almost invisible - almost. Faint flickers of shimmering purple accompany the wall of kinetic force as it blasts out towards him. "Have a seat."

Heaven's Armory (1014) has posed:
    The proclamation of the 'Ouma' representative does simplify the following. Hravn transmits a 'questioning' feeling to Mel, regarding the opposing side. Known quantities? She hasn't encountered them, and any tactical knowledge would help in formulating her own suggestions.
    Mel already has an idea of what she needs done, and Hravn responds immediately to the direction of that will. Her magic flies through the air from that slash, moving like a whip, and where it touches, the thinnest possible 'cord' of air behaves as if it were an incredibly sharp and curiously sturdy solid. It doesn't precisely follow the swinging arc of the sword's blade, but is subtly aimed, so as to strike through more targets than a simple line could have.
    Those targets, of course, are the tree shamblers that Bramble conjured, right there at the roots.
    Cutting off the enemy's mobility is all well and good, but at this point, being outnumbered, Hravn's suggestion to Mel is a feeling that she should increase her own mobility. They have a few ways of doing that, using either the air magic or her own TK powers.

Camilla Ulyssa (1056) has posed:
    Camilla's teleport is on cooldown. That's what she gets for using it to shunt herself into position. Not an ideal position either; Xiaomu's coming from the wrong, Reiji from above. Coordinating against both of them sounds like a lot of work. Camilla decides that she'll let those robots hanging back handle the blonde and uptight fox lady, while she guns straight for the burly man carrying a big multi-sword sheath. Just like hers! Though hers is more mechanical, a bit bulkier. Just two blades, too.

    With a surge of incredible speed, she moves, gray hair and that cape tailing behind her. She doesn't let Reiji finish his motions. His very last strike clashes into another blade, Camilla now in front of him, one of her two swords unsheathed. The blade glows a dull blue light, magic without affinity, helping push back.

    The sorceress is still in trouble from everything that came before the final stroke, but the wave of fire washes over the fox-eared young woman instead, in large part mitigated by her clothing, though the heat makes her uncomfortable for a moment nonetheless.

    "Hey, didn't you hear me? I said LET'S FIGHT!"

    The blade's glow becomes blinding, and Camilla pushes-- her strength adapts, to match Reiji's exactly. The blade releases a blast of mana as it pushes, which'll turn into an augmented slash if Reiji fails to keep the weapons locked.

Bramble Patch (278) has posed:
The whipping winds wittle away at the wandering woods! Splinters of bark shatter off as roots are rended wrecked and boughs are broke.

Not that it seems to put a damper in Bramble Patch's spirits even as her arbor march is apparently brought to a blustery halt and the animate trees thud back to the ground, though still snarling and leering with their knothole-made faces. "Foolish human! You're just putting all the more obstacles in your own path!.. and stupid pink pony to sing some silly song about making them less scary with laughter, either. And while they may be trees..."

As Bramble makes another instructive gesture one of the trees pulls its branchs out of it's canopy of foliage and starts flinging leaf after leaf that has been magically sharped into knife like blades at Mel and her sword.

"You're the ones that should make like LEAVES and FALL!"

Kirikou (127) has posed:
    Bad news? Kirikou might agree with that, which is why he's fairly determined that HE'S the one to capture it. Or rather, the Confederacy is. The Union might lock such power away, meaning it wouldn't be able to be used. That'd surely be better than these Youkai getting it... but that's an argument he's not about to start. Let the diplomats do that. Kirikou's here to solve problems with his fists.

    The youth smiles when Mel holds out a fist, seeing it as an honorable return salute of sorts, but frowns when that surge of power lances out. He's no power-perceiver, but he doesn't need to be. This sort of attack is hardly unprecedented.
    With a frown, Kirikou steps forward, drawing his left fist up and smacking it down again with his step adding momentup to the move. There's a flare of power, yellow energy meeting purple, and a small detonation as the powers collide. Kirikou glares through the blast, drawing his right fist back. "Shocking." he says, showing teeth in what almost might be a smile. "I'm all fired up!" he adds, launching himself forward in a reckless headlong charge. Well, not entirely reckless. His head's forward, but much of his body is well-protected by those huge gauntlets which have already shown themselves to be capable of a degree of power. "Guess what? It's not the only thing here that's bad news!" he cries, closing distance and trying to go fist-to-blade with Mel and her weapon.

Mel Brock (941) has posed:
    'Never met 'em before,' Mel replies silently. 'Looks like a caster-type and a melee type. Keep me appraised if you catch the caster doing anything I miss.'

    Increased mobility is not a bad idea. The PsiMarshal's usual method is to turtle up, but with someone who can at least stand up to her telekinetics and someone who can potentially work at right angles to it, so to speak, being able to shift her position more easily is very much a good thing. Already she's focusing on potentially pulling out Hravn's solid-air platforms, but just that moment of shifted focus means- "Agh!" A couple of leaves catch her across the arm, sharp enough even to cut through the bullet-resistant fabric of her longcoat. "Oh you are just /not/ allowed to talk anymore," she replies with something close to a growl.

    Already, the psychic is ditching her sidearm, shoving it into a pocket in favor of just holding out her hand and unleashing a simple wave of telekinetic force at Bramble Patch. It's somewhere in the neighborhood of 'hit by a semi', but it's mostly fired-and-forgotten. Kilik is coming right in at her, and he'll quickly discover one thing.

    Mel is a trained fighter in general, and /has/ had sword instruction, but her bladework is amateurish. It's not how she's used to fighting. She's forced almost immediately on the defensive, barely managing to toss out any strikes of her own. Even her defense isn't the best - though it's supplemented by occasional barriers of what seems like solid air, rather than telekinetic power.

    No, the telekinesis comes without warning, from below, a sudden burst of force fired from a downstretched hand that blasts at not just Kirikou, but the ground underneath him, creating a small crater to potentially foul his footing and footwork.

Xiaomu (707) has posed:
Fire does indeed consume wood, and while the sorceress has elements at her disposal other than wood, Karin slashes through her staff like it were made of warm butter instead of relatively-green wood. Camilla's intervention ensures, at the very least, that the sorceress herself survives to escape - and her ice elemental, Setsuka, quickly assists her out of the clearing.

It's not like anybody's going to be in a position to follow them: Mel and Hravn are focused on the now-walking trees, at least until Kirikou steps in to fight Mel personally; that leaves Metal Man without a direct opponent.

At least temporarily. Xiaomu glances between Reiji and Camilla, then over at the robot master. "Reiji, you gonna need my help with this chick or shall I play with the robot over there?" Xiaomu inquires nonchalantly; she's still got her staff gripped casually in one hand, and a customized handgun held ready (sort of casually, but with proper trigger discipline nonetheless) in the other.

Heaven's Armory (1014) has posed:
    While she can't act truly independently like this, Hravn can still see, think, and react on her own--however a sword, entirely without eyes, sees, anyway. She's not fast enough to prevent those first leaves from cutting, but anything that flies through the air and has wind resistance--including stabilizing fins--is something she can do something about via lateral interference. Those first few hit, but gusts of wind from the side will catch and throw off-course many more.
    She could do more than just defend, but--Kilik is there, too, and that means defending on two fronts. The solidified curtains of air his fists impact are relatively fragile, but they're also invisible, which makes it trickier to know where to strike, and easier to just throw off his aim. Unlike the whip-sword attack earlier, these are formed without any motion from Hravn, herself. They just appear near her.

Bramble Patch (278) has posed:
After the first cuts to Mel's arm the wind interference sends the other leaf blades scattering like... well... leaves. Some things no amount of magic manipulation can change.

And then a telekinetic blast SLAMS through the tree barrier, sending chunks of wood scattering like timber being shoved in a lumber mill chipper. Which does soak up some of the force, but it's still enough to send the actual pony behind what were trees rolling across the clearing from the invisible impact. Until she finally comes to a stop sprawled out on all fours. Bramble huffs out a groan, then gets her hooves back under herself and shakes off briefly. Hmm. Looks like Kirikou has the gal with the sword occupied for a moment. Maybe if she...

With an 'aha!' Bramble reachs into a pocket of her vest and pulls out a large pepper. That almost looks like it has a moaning ghost face on it, until she takes a bite and shoves it in her mouth.

A few moments later the Pony's form flicker and fades, turning not -quite- invisible. It's like the sort of barely there translucence you see when video games don't want to be totally cheap with cloaking abilities. It still makes her really hard to see as she goes to sneak back towards the fight, to sneak up on Mel and blindside her.

Metal Man (11) has posed:
Metal Man is not fighting anyone yet, he watches as the battle plays out beween his allies and his enemies. He then zeros in on Xiaomuy as she's already fighting someone. He'll break into a run at her leaping into the ait, at the apex of his jump he'll throw a balde at her before comming in for a landing then he'll starts to dart around. "So Xiaomu I have to ask, so why does an fox spirit behave like some nerdy human 20 something?"

Is it an insult? Is he curious? It's actually the latter.

Reiji Arisu has posed:
If Reiji fails to keep the weapons locked.

    Unfortunately, or perhaps otherwise, Reiji is not a western swordsman. When his katana meets a sturider blade, he doesn't even bother trying to maintain contact. Karin's hard edge pivots a split second before contact with Camilla's blade. The katana sheds brilliant sparks as it runs along the flat of the other sword, with Reiji stepping in an acute angle to push himself past his opponent.

Camilla's shockwave ripples out from her swing, cleaves through empty air, and then topples a tree on the far side of the clearing.

    "If you want a fight, I'll give it to you," the exorcist answers with a heated snarl. His blood beats hot against his eardrums-- his heart is racing. A dangerous opponent, then. One he can't underestimate. "Xiaomu," he answers, "Fluid tactics. Engage your target, but keep an eye out for opportunities."

    "They've already retrieved one fragment. We can't let them get any more." He pivots, dancing forward for a quick series of sweeping strikes, Karin leaving a trail of billowing flame in its wake. But it's nothing more than a smokescreen. Smoke and mirrors. He sidesteps into the blaze, roaring fire and choking smoke disguising the sudden draw-and-fire of a sawed off shotgun into Camilla's flank.

Getting hit would be bad. He needs to keep moving. Keep looking for opportunities.

And as always, fight smart, not hard.

Xiaomu (707) has posed:
The rings hanging on the headpiece of Xiaomu's staff jingle merrily as she twirls the staff one-handed, and brings it up to bat Metal Man's thrown blade harmlessly away from her - and/or away from Reiji as well, but by that point, the two partners have moved away from each other and each of them now has somebody to focus on.

"How long have *you* lived so far?" is Xiaomu's immediate rejoinder, even as she re-holsters her curernt handgun - and instead pulls out a different handgun, this one white in color with a black spot on the grip. "I've been around for centuries, long enough to see a little fishing village grow into the capital of an empire, and evolve into a metropolis befitting of the modern era," she continues, leveling the Roc's Icebrand and squeezing off a couple of shots of ice-elemental bullets. She's also on the move - sidestepping further away from Camilla and Reiji, to make sure their fights don't get mixed up by accident, and getting a better line of fire on the robot.

"Anime still feels like a new thing to me, and video games even moreso - and more than that, they represent humanity's creative spark. Mortal humans can invent things that not even the wisest youkai would come up with in centuries of struggling to create something new; that's the great gift humans possess, and I love them for it."

Another two shots; two more icy bullets fly towards Metal Man as if punctuating Xiaomu's words.

Kirikou (127) has posed:
    Kirikou isn't attacking Mel with everything he's got. Oh he's not holding back or anything, just not attacking all-out. He's remaining defensive, covering himself with his Weapons rather than slugging for the fences with every attack. He's keeping Mel's attention, like any good Tank should, and doesn't need to actually dish out massive damage.

    Also, Kirikou's soul isn't being invested in his attacks, not yet. His fists are fast but they aren't yet flaming or fizzling. He's taking it easy, seemingly. That, and the invisible nudges by what he assumes to be telekinetic powers, keep him from landing any hits of consequence.

    He keeps up the pressure though, and his gauntlets are fearsome weapons of mass destruction even without soul-shredding power coursing through them. He continues to fire out jabs, trying to learn the defensive patterns, changing his rhythm to try to draw out a wind-sheared block before the punch actually fires, hopefully giving him an opening. But he totally doesn't expect the ground attack. He blocks low easily enough, shedding the force directed at his knees, but the blast still strikes the ground and craters it.

    Kirikou stumbles forward, tucking in and rolling as he does so. He doesn't try to fight against the crater, instead opting to throw himself into a diving roll, hopefully able to clear Mel before she can strike him with that sword. "You're a hole of a good fighter!" he grins, popping back up to his feet, apparently undaunted by the effective telekinetic strike.

Camilla Ulyssa (1056) has posed:
    "Good, good! Come on then, show me what you can do! Those swords look a bit flimsy, but YOU don't!" Anyone who calls Reiji flimsy is clearly blind, or used to absurdly bulky and tanky people as their standard. He dwarfs Camilla, for that matter, but at least his own experience with Xiaomu means that he knows not to take her appearance at face value. "Besides, I don't really care for all this hub hub about a superweapon, you know? I just want to fight. Get me high on pain and pressure! Bring me down if you can!"

    It's not a threat, or a taunt. It sounds unusually honest.

    The feints do their job. Camilla is distracted by the showy flames, and eats a shotgun blast to the side. She's pushed back, several feet. Her boots drag dirt with her, but she doesn't go flying. She's sturdy. Still standing. The shells hit the ground.

    They never made it past her clothes-- but what Reiji can't see, but can probably guess, is that like a bulletproof best, those clothes didn't stop the impact. Her skin's probably blue and purple under there. It can't be pleasant.

    "Oh, dirty fighting! You must be a survivor. Given your rivalry with ice ghost sorceress lady over there, I'd say you've been at this a long time. You have the edge on me, skill-wise! Well, let's spin the wheel of fate and see what we get, shall we?"

    Runes dance on the blades. Like a slot machine display, three columns spinning. They stop. The three winning runes forge themselves into the blank, dark gray and black steel.

    Her swords ping, suddenly. With a smooth, flat male voice they announce: <Your fate is sealed: multiple ice blasts.>

    She leaps for Reiji, through the smoke. A flurry of rapid slashes, clumsy but fast, strong. Each impact-- with the ground, with Reiji, with a tree or a rock-- creates an explosion of ice.

Mel Brock (941) has posed:
    Mel does not see Bramble Patch once she disappears. In this particular place, that's far too difficult. But it's not hard to surmise, with a heads-up from Hravn, that the pony has gone sneaky. With a psychic, Mel would simply resist the effect or try to brute-force push it back. But this is magic. So her choices are limited. She decides instead to take option A, 'don't be there when the sneaky pony goes after her'. Difficult with Kirikou there putting pressure on her, but not impossible; she just has to buy herself some space to get away from the brawler before he can- "Ngh!" ...slip a hit by and clip her along the side. "...dammit, what the hell am I doing?"

    The next time Kirikou swings, it's like hitting a solid wall. The air between them flickers and shimmers with faint, occasional ripples of purple light, a solid telekinetic barrier projected to buy her some breathing space. The Marshal uses it to lunge into a roll, coming out of it into a run that she tries to augment with Hravn's wind. It looks like she's making a run for the treeline... until she suddenly skids to a stop and turns around, extending her arms out to either side.


    That was two different trees. Two very large, old, thick trees. Shattering near the base and teetering over and /FLOATING/. The psychic power required to lift them alone must be immense - and she doesn't just lift them. She THROWS them, sending one flying right at Kirikou, and the other... well, she doesn't know where Bramble Patch /is/, so Mel flings it at the space where she herself used to be standing. Sideways, so it has a wider impact zone.

Heaven's Armory (1014) has posed:
    'Keeping mobile' is high on the list of things that Hravn's magic is good for, and the wind pushes Mel along at a super-Olympian pace. This lasts just long enough to get her to where she's going, incidentally sending chaotic eddies through the rest of the field to give every other combatant a dramatic breeze.
    Not having to do anything right after that means she can keep a sharper eye out, and is a lot more likely to spot almost-invisible assailants, unless something distracts or needs her power, before she does.

Metal Man (11) has posed:
Metal Man didn't expect to get Xiaomu on the fist shot but he has got her attention.

"Counting my time in the multiverse? I have lived to watch the ragged remants of broken words forge two massive empires and I'm one of the few who know how this war even started. There is no doubting the power of mankind's ability to dream. Behold myself and my kind!"

He watches the blade and shifts his body around for a moment.

"Then you are not a fool Xiaomu."

Metal is forces to dodge the ice bullets for the most part taking a few hits which does do some damage.
% "For all their creative spark? They desire a legacy to not be consumed by the sands of time like they never were. My ... crea ... my father? Wishes to leave a legacy a world where machines who have minds are no longer disposable things to be treated as you would a hammer or a saw blade. I was born of a purpose to fight that war yet? I was allowed the choice to leave and follow my own path. Some of my brothers have chosen to do so and we have left them in peace."

His own counters starts to intercept the ice bullets with his blades and he keeps bounding around. It also helped his brothers who left still sent money home so Wily could have clean money to pay the power, the water, food and medical bills.

"Do not think I hold malice to mankin. They need leaders who can ... think longer term for the sake of all."

Bramble Patch (278) has posed:
Just because Bramble Patch is invisible doesn't mean she can't see you move!... Except a side effect of the ghosting pepper is that she can't move as quickly as a fully able equine should be able to.... So chucking the tree where she was going rather than trying to catch back up to Mel's movements proves to be a fine tactic.

There's nothing visibly hit of course. But the "OOMPH" of someone being hit and gasping heavily is unmistakable.

On the downside, there's now a tree lying right there next to where the Pony gets up as the transparency fades from being hit. "Oh, so you wanna play like that, do you? Because you're the one that should be feeling..."

Bramble turns around, jerks up on her front legs, and uses the back pair to buck-kick the tree with enough force to send it rolling back towards Mel!


Kirikou (127) has posed:
    The fight is pretty fun. A sharp contrast to his appearance before the fight began, Kirikou's now moving fast and snapping off attacks with his gauntleted fists like they're weightless.

    At least, Kilik was having fun until he smacked his fist into an unexpected wall of force. The purple shimmer makes it obvious what he struck. His fist could easily enough shatter the wall, but he hadn't been expecting this kind of direct opposition. He hadn't channeled energy into his attack... hadn't shifted his Weapons into a mode that would counter such a force.

    Easy enough to fix. He draws his right hand back, then lets fly with a howling punch. While it shatters the barrier with a blast of orange-red flame, there's plenty of time for Mel to get away. Even if she'd lacked Hravn's support, she'd have gotten clear. With the speed boost, the Meister doesn't have a chance of catching up any time soon.

    Still he tries, and truth to tell Kirikou's fast as hell. Sprinting and leaping in bounds that would please a ninja, he doesn't so much go around obstacles as bounce off them, making up ground in a hurry. Only to see a tree suddenly getting larger and larger...

    "Oh ya gotta be sh...." he cries out, dropping to one knee and hammering both fists upwards in a massive clubbing motion. He's under the tree's center of mass, and his upward strike drives it past him, the trunk splitting under the devastating impact. Newton has his due however, of course. The equal and opposite force drives Kirikou down and back, his foot and knee tearing furrows into the soft earth. He pauses, looking back at the shattered tree, then looking up again, panting harshly from the exertion and pain. "Gonna take more than that to make me leaf!" he says, managing somehow to spare some breath for the pun. And with that he's up again, taking off after Mel. He doesn't NEED to beat her. He just has to hold her long enough so someone can accomplish the objective... if anyone's actually free that is!

Reiji Arisu has posed:
    Reiji has learned two things about his opponent. The first is that she apparently really, really likes to fight. A proper berserker, someone who's in it, evidently, just for the fun of it. Second, she can apparently take a close-ranged shotgun slug to the ribs and not have half her torso splattered on the ground, which either means she's invulnerable, or there's something else at play.

    Reiji makes no conclusions about their relative levels of skill. Underestimating an opponent is a critical error to make- one that can easily get him killed if he doesn't play his cards right.

    For instance, there was no way for him to anticipate that his opponent would suddenly start generating ICE EXPLOSIONS with every swing. "I do what I must," Reiji answers as he finds himself suddenly on the defensive, "I have something I must protect. If fighting dirty was all I needed to do that, I'd be dealing with a lot less stress." Forced to dodge between slashes, Reiji only finds himself blasted by waves of frost. He hisses away a scream as a too-close call sees frozen spikes penetrate his lightweight armor and dig deep into his flesh. Blood flows, dying white cloth red and draining the exorcist's face into paler and paler hues. But...

If a little blood loss-- if a few pierced muscles were enough to put him down-- he wouldn't be where he is today.

    Four swings in, the exoricst's tactic shifts. He sees something-- finds and opportunity and chases it. The positioning is right, he just needs the right tool for the job. His opponent wields ice. Earth Swallows Water. Reiji's eyes tighten as he slings his shotgun into its holster, drawing instead a smaller, deceptively delicate blade. Chirai crackles, the air around it suddenly coruscating with arcs of electrical fury. Reiji leaps INTO his opponent's swings, parrying strike-for-strike with lightning-fast sword-draws. But rather than merely push the blade aside, Reiji instead targets the points closest to Camilla's grip, forcing them both to one side or the other to avoid the threat of a crushing blow by a razor's margin. Lightning twists into the steel of her sword, seeming to swallow up the frigid magic-- and streaks down into her hands. Defense and offense all in one.

The philosophy of the eastern masters. But few stunning shocks won't do much to win the fight. He needs something more.

    Reiji swings one more time, this time pushing his weight against his short blade. Chirai responds with a crack of thunder and a wave of electrical force, pushing the swordsman back away from the storm of swings.

By the time he's landed, he's drawn... a handgun.

A very large handgun.

    Gold fires, .454 Casull slugs screaming downrange at speeds that shatter the sound barrier. One, two, four, six, each shot aimed for a vital spot. And one...

One aimed somewhere else entirely.

A single slug of heavy metal slings just to Camilla's left-- angled right for the center-mass of a particular robot master.

An opportunity found.

Xiaomu (707) has posed:
Admittedly, thinks Xiaomu, Metal Man is pretty impressive - just the fact that he's a roughly human-scale and humanoid robot with true autonomous intellect and activity, plus the way he tosses those metal blades around. No youkai would ever have managed to whip up something like that ... unless, possibly, they were working off of blueprints designed and drawn by somebody who could weave the different technologies together that are required for a full-fledged AI-driven robot. And even then, just getting the idea to actually try it in the first place could only have come from particularly gifted mortal humans.

So yeah, Xiaomu does behold Metal Man. But she's also watching for openings, keeping her other attack options in mind while she evades additional blades; she's provided enough openings for him to counterattack, he'd be the fool not to take advantage of it. Unless he's just too busy talking to look for opportunities to go back on offense.

And then a new variable is introduced to the equation: its name is Reiji, and its value is an extra bullet aimed at Metal Man. Of course Xiaomu takes advantage - actually tossing the Roc's Icebrand up into the air, and using her staff to pole-vault at the Robot Master.


Vaulting isn't all she does with her staff, either; as the sage fox flies through the air, she grasps the staff's headpiece and draws Suiren from its hidden sheath, the sword glinting in the light and dropping the temperature another couple of degrees thanks to the ice magic with which the blade was imbued. The course Xiaomu's lithe form traces through the air, and the angle at which she jumped, allow her to slash at Metal Man with the ice-magic blade - and then her body finishes another half-flip ...

And if, as intended, the icy slash conjured enough ice to encase Metal Man in it?

Then that half-flip should end with her planting her feet on the robot's ice-covered surface, and kicking off hard enough to propel them in opposite directions.

Mel Brock (941) has posed:
    Mel has gotten herself some room, and unloaded tree attacks - one of which was kicked back by Bramble Patch. That surprises the psychic. "Whoashit-!" She's focused enough on making sure Kirikou can't close that the rolling trunk comes up on her before she can properly react. The brief beginnings of a telekinetic barrier are visible, a couple faint flecks of purple light, but it's not fast enough to stop the log, and just the impact againt the barrier transfers through to Mel enough to slam her back off her feet. A second or two later, though, the tree stops, once again in her psychic grasp. "Yeah, okay, both of you are pretty damn persistent. I'm gonna have to get rough here." First, the remaining tree is flung out again, this time at the charging Kirikou.


    That wasn't two more. Or even three more. That was /several/ trees being snapped off at the base, floating into the air, and surrounding Mel in the space above and around her. Where her previous display was powerful, this verges into ridiculous territory. Needless to say, she flings them. One after another, a barrage of forestry at both fighter and mage, what must be tons upon tons of aged forest wood.

    That's not even the kicker, though. With all of them flung? Mel brings Hravn up into a two-handed grip, and starts swinging. And swinging. And /swinging/. Over and over, pushing her will through the blade to try and unleash projectiles of wind, projectiles of /sharp/ wind. To cut up the logs, to batter them around, to surprise Kirikou and Bramble Patch both... whatever good they can do, using the element of surprise.

Heaven's Armory (1014) has posed:
    The rules behind how Hravn's power is limited without her wielder's direction are something even she--or perhaps, especially she--would have trouble explaining in detail. That they are lifted to the maximum authorized level when Mel puts her full focus behind an attack is simpler to explain. So long as she isn't busy with defense--something she isn't really the best at, in the first place--Hravn can put her full attention on this, too.
    The end result of this is that every slash sends out a slashing whip of solid wind that breaks into precisely aimed blades, some aimed at Bramble position, many at Kilik, and yet more stripping branches, breaking trunks, or slapping the smaller, more manageable pieces onto better collision courses with one target or another. Computing trajectories on the fly is something she's pretty good at, too.

Camilla Ulyssa (1056) has posed:
    Reiji's strikes channel electricity, and he comes in, matching Camilla's speed. Blades clash again, and again, and again, each time louder, with a crack of thunder as ice and lightning magic mix, cancel one another, or just leave the fox-eared young woman a fair bit shocked, but not grumpy for it. Her zeal increases, each time she yelps in pain a bit. Berserker isn't right-- she's sound of mind, at least as sound as one could claim someone like her to be. Blood knight is more accurate, after a fashion.

    Then Reji breaks the skirmish. It was a rough exchange of blows for Camilla, as much as it must have been for Reiji, but she seems unhappy when he distances himself-- not angry, more sad. She was clearly enjoying it.

    Harsh return to reality when that gun opens fire. Too many rounds for her to count, make sure that they all hit her. She doesn't notice one's headed for a certain robot instead of her.

    Too busy getting hit. She flinches after each hit-- her heart, shoulders, lungs, one just below the neck. Again, her clothes endure. There's no splatter of blood, no foxgirl sent flying by an impact. Just rounds that hit the ground after crashing into her outfit. After bruising skin and muscle underneath. Breaking a rib, even. The toughtest armor in the world, if it doesn't absorb kinetics, isn't that great a deal.

    Yet, she chides. "Come on, mister. If you really can do better, do it! What's your name, anyway? I'm Camilla. This is Mars."
    <BEEP.> her swords reply.
    "He's an asshole. He can talk, you heard him earlier."

    She waits-- basic courtesy-- for Reiji to introduce himself. And... does not attack? Is she really giving him that free shot? "C'mon, c'mon! If you can knock me off my feat or force me on the defensive to avoid dying, I'll call my work here done and leave you be! How's that?"

Bramble Patch (278) has posed:
Bramble Patch has had enough of someone else barging in on her use of botanicals as a means of warfare. "Time for a log jam!" As she draws on the Everfree magic in her headband again multiple clusters of thick thorny vines sprout out of the ground around her to catch flying trees. Then turn to align the trunks like a group of soldiers ready to chuck spears.

Only for the slicing barrage of wind to hurtle through, chopping through the multiple vines instead.

The trees remain lingering in mid-air juuuust long enough for Bramble to look up as she realizes how this backfired, ears slicking back as she mutters a despondant "Oh horseapples"

And then the pile of released tree trunks falls on top of her.

Metal Man (11) has posed:
Metal Man sense of balance is inhuman as well, there just seems to be no chance for him to lose his balance. This power comes at a price, he's one of the most lighty armoured Wily Robots ever made and Reiji's shot gets more of a result than the Shinra Operative and Fox Girl Wrangler might expect. He's taken a good and noticable hit then he has to deal with Xiaomu. He knows she's quite the fighter and likely out powers him but when has that stopped him against Rock? Against the seemingly iron clad grim future of his world.

"Wait what?!"

Xiaomu is fast as him or just about and he's caught with the ice blade. Warning go off with that hit, he's got some problems due to not only the slashing damage but the cold as well. He's not down but he's been hit pretty damn hard. He seems to be breathing deeply? Odd or is he trying to cool his power plant which might be straining to deal with the damage using /air/.

"Not bad...but..."

He summoms more blades but doesn't stop as he starts to rain a storm of razor edged blades at Xiaomu and Reiji mmight get a few his way too.

Kirikou (127) has posed:
    All right this is bullshit. Sure, Kilik handled the hell out of the first tree. So she's throwing MORE? Fortunately for the Meister he's got plenty of warning. Dodging isn't really an option here. The woman's a telekinetic, and it'd be some sneaky thing for one of those to do, to turn a miss into a hit. No, Kilik has only one good option here, given his skills and the powers of his opponent.

    Fire and Thunder, fortunately, are both quite effective tools against trees in general. Well, fire and lightning at least. And fortunately for Kirikou the damage he's taken and the general skill and willingness of his opponent have heightened his fighting spirit. His fists blaze with elemental energy, and he punches tree trunks with blasts of fire and lightning backing up each strike.

    The explosions, bright and thunderous, detonate all around the youth. Mostly right in front of him. He's not cool enough to face away from these explosions though. He just batters away hundreds of pounds of withered wood per blow. It drains his soul energies considerably, but better that than that he gets pounded flat by a massive tree trunk.

    Only then, he gets caught by Hravn's attack. Invisible filaments of hardened air, when he was defending against massive and very obvious tree trunks. The tiny wind blades lash into him, shredding his sleeves and some of his chest, lacing him with a dozen tiny cuts. He's shielded, at least somewhat, by his gauntlets and by his native toughness. The gauntlets protect his vitals, so the damage is fairly superficial. It's nasty to see though, as the youth strides forward through explosions, covered in blood and shards of wood.

    "Alright, that was a good one." Kilik acknowledges, wiping one palm across his forehead, smearing it with a streak of his blood. "But you hurt my partner, so I'm gonna have to ask if you wood leave now." he adds grimly. Then his fists blaze, energy flowing between them, pale orange and actinic yellow-blue.

    With a cry of effort, Kirikou leaps into the air, bringing his glowing gauntlets down. Taking a page from Mel's own battle book he doesn't care if he hits her or not with this attack. It's a move he's used effectively many times though, not one he stole. Fire and lightning, a thunderous explosion, channeling earth-wrecking force into the ground and using THAT destructive power as his true attack.

Xiaomu (707) has posed:
The Roc's Icebrand doesn't stay in mid-air forever, of course; Aokigahara may be spooky as hell, but gravity still works here, and Xiaomu was careful not to toss her handgun at such an angle that it'd get tangled up in the branches. But she also planned on CATCHING the ice handgun - and she does so at the peak of her return arc, landing on her feet and levelling the Roc's Icebrand at Metal Man. "Sorry, that was a li*YIPE!!!*"

Cue the mini-sawblades flying at her (and Reiji); Metal Man is spamming those things at a sufficient rate (and density) of fire that even the infamously agile sage fox can't dodge them all, nor can she shoot them out of the air the way Metal was doing to some of her shots earlier. She *does* try, briefly, but one countered blade to approximately three slashes across her arms and thigh is a pretty crappy ratio. Xiaomu hunkers down to try and reduce her vulnerability, stuffing the white handgun back into her vest, then draws Suiren out of its staff-sheath once more; this time, though, she just drives the blade into the ground with a yell of, "XIAOMU BLIZZARD!!".

And with that yell, she conjures a *BIG* wall of ice, tall enough and thick enough to keep Metal Man's blades from hitting her or Reiji for a while. At least, not until Metal Man circles around one side of it or the other. And Xiaomu's deliberately not trying to cut Reiji off from Camilla - just protecting against collateral damage from the Robot Master.

"... so yeah, I didn't really answer, that was kinda rude," Xiaomu calls out from behind her improvised fortification, drawing Suiren back out of the ground and re-sheathing it. "Be nice to talk to you some more sometime, I don't get to hang with many practical immortals ... but, well. We got a piece of super-deadly relic down there and we gotta secure that. So ..." She's pulling something else out of her vest as she finishes, "No hard feelings, I hope? You're pretty tough, this shouldn't kill you."

Some people might recognize the *ping* of a grenade's spoon popping away from the grenade itself, louder than the sound of the pin being pulled loose which precedes it. And then the grenade itself is pitched over the icy barrier, aimed to land roughly where Metal Man is standing at the moment Xiaomu throws it.

Whether he's still there when it goes off is another story - but if he is, his armor's going to be tested against magically fire-enhanced explosions. Combine the sudden heating with the chill from the earlier ice magic, and .... y'know, thinking about that makes *Xiaomu* wince. She really doesn't want Metal Man dead, just gone.

Mel Brock (941) has posed:
    "Ah, shit, you're one of those 'keep getting up' types, aren't you-"

    Oh /shit/-

    This time, Mel has enough warning, barely, to get a barrier up. It's not at full strength. She can't bring all of her force into it. She can't even bring Hravn's power into it, it's just split-second telekinetic deflection. It's enough to blunt most of the attack, with the remainder still enough to blast her clear off her feet, across a good fifteen or twenty feet, and right into another tree. "WGHF-!" She drops to the ground and immediately spits up a small splatter of blood, groaning. "Son of a bitch, he was holding off this entire time... alright, okay..."

    It's a bit shaky when she gets up, but she's still getting up. "You know what? The hell with you and your puns. You ever been hit by a hundred-ton weight?"

    Both hands on Hravn, she pours all her focus into the blade, and the air in front of her hardens. Solidifies. It's the strongest barrier of pure wind she's produced thus far, and she's got her mind on it just long enough to harden the defensive wall before leaving it to Hravn. The weapon is shifted to her left hand and held to one side, while her right? Her right she lifts up, pointing her palm at the space above Kirikou.

    And then slamming it downward.

    There's no fancy dropping object. No projectile, no fancy wind tricks. Just a torrent of pure telekinetic force, faint flickers and glimmers of purple in the air, the absolute upper reach of what Mel Brock can accomplish with her limiter on. One hundred metric tons. Straight down at the Meister. At this point, she's fairly sure it won't create a messy smear of the brawler - so she's willing to stop holding back.

Reiji Arisu has posed:
    Blades rain from above. Reiji dodges, because holy shit getting hit by a buzzsaw the size of his torso would PROBABLY straight up kill him. He's aided by the relatively large distance between he and the Robot Master-- and quite possibly by Xiaomu being the priority target. He whispers a mild curse as he's forced to deflect one blade with Gold's barrel, digging a deep trench into reloading mechanism. Down to one clip of ammunition, now. But hopefully, that's all he'll need.

    Probably not, though, seeing as he just emptied a full magazine into Camilla's vitals and she's /STILL/ not on the ground. In fact, she's laughing it off. Reiji's lips draw into a thin line, then. "Alright," he breathes, "I accept. One strike."

    The world seems to go still. The roiling fury that was present just moments ago seems to boil away, leaving nothing but a still, peaceful feeling. Reiji's breaths slow, the drumbeat of his heart slows to a steady, deep throb. It's a contagious calm. An insidious tranquility. Reiji lowers into a ready stance, tucking his rack full of weapons to one side. One hand hovers near the many hilts and handles, waiting for something. Anything. Daring for a sign to interrupt the serenity of the moment.

Meikyo Shisui

He takes in a breath as another buzzsaw slings down out of the sky.

A moment passes, he does nothing. The sawblade is inches away. Centimeters, now, a moment more.

Finally, he feels the rush of air.

Ken Kon Itteki

    The sawblade slides into moist soil with a wet slap. Reiji is... Gone. Vanished. Disappeared into sudden and decisive movement. The grass is still in his wake. Once before, he was witness to this; a peerless strike, delivered by a peerless swordsman. Three blows as one, defying all the world to produce perfection. Reiji cannot hope to match that skill- he is a man who lives in harmony with nature, to violate it is against his own fundamental nature. But the focus that he once witnessed, the perfect moment of peace that preceeded the strike, THAT is something which he has learned- which he has internalized.

A moment of peace.

A moment of judgment.

A single stroke to kill a man. The weight of life. The weight of death.


    Reiji draws in the same moment that he cuts- but the blade he chooses makes no sound, it deflects no light. It is as invisible as the cruel and impartial razor of the reaper itself. Darkdrift, the Blade of the First of the Dead-- Kuroshio, the Black Current-- emerges from its sheath like the whisper of a cat's fleeting footsteps.

    He swings, drawing the blade in a flawless, diagonal cut- a strike of perfect focus. Nothing stands in Darkdrift's path- it passes through all obstacles until it meets living flesh. It's as if the blade is not even truly real until Reiji finds his target.

And then it is all TOO real.


Bramble Patch (278) has posed:
Bramble Patch does eventually manage to crawl herself out from under the pile of logs.... But all she does is wobble a bit to were Wood Man has been sitting waiting the entire time. "It rolls down stairs, alone or in pairs~" Then keels over backwards. *wump* She looks close enough to a woodland critter for him to take pity on, right?

Heaven's Armory (1014) has posed:
    Even at full power, a shield of air is brittle, but stronger for that, until the moment it breaks. Hravn holds onto that, after the bumpy ride Kilik had given the sword-wielder pair, letting Mel focus on a purely offensive tactic.

Camilla Ulyssa (1056) has posed:
    Either knock her off her feet, or force her to defend.
    Reiji must have pondered hard. Took a gamble.
    What if it didn't work?

    Camilla grins, readying herself-- not defensively, but offensively. Perhaps she intends to strike, if Reiji fails. It's a stance with no defensive qualities, an amateur's all-in.

    He stills himself. Camilla does too.

    Then in less than a moment, he is upon her. A new blade, a dangerous blade, comes out. Diagonal-- Camilla just takes a step, an inch to the right or left, it doesn't matter. To make sure the diagonal is totally contained to those heavy clothes she wears, that military uniform in several layers. She's fast, as much as Reiji. Is she going to take it?

    A spark. A voice.
    <It's going to kill you.> Mars says, simply.

    The gravity of the situation hits her. Mars, the AI of Fas Rota, her trusted weapon-- an asshole, non-cooperative. A true random number generator in personality, spiteful, seemingly always out to get you. It isn't now.

    Her hands move. Both blades cross in an X-shape, intercepting Reiji's. A fraction of a second too late-- Reiji's blade already right through her clothes, into her shoulder. Not all the way, thank god. She likes her arm staying attached. Can't regrow them.

    A wince of pain-- yet, she continues grinning. She's not mad in the slightest. Reiji wins. She underestimated him. She laughs, and pushes back, a titanic surge of mana pulsing through her blades like solar flares, not to harm Reiji, but to throw his dangerous sword (and him) away from her.

    "You figured that out fast. A deal's a deal! But come on now, at least tell me your name before I leave. I gave you mine."

Kirikou (127) has posed:
    "Keep getting back up? I don't go down in the first place!" Kilik cries out. And no, he wasn't really holding back. It might look like he was, but that's just the nature of soul power. It's possible to begin with powerful attacks, with some effort, but it's a lot easier to build them up naturally as fighting spirit naturally amps up and things begin to get serious.

    This though, this is going to utterly suck. Strong as Kirikou is, he can't stop a hundred tons of pure mental force. Even the 'impenetrable' armor of his fists couldn't take that kind of force. His soul would buckle under all that weight, and neither he nor his weapons would survive.

    He sees the attack coming though, and throws up all his strength against it. Standing tall and rigid, the first moments of the strike clash against his guard. The irresistable force versus the immovable object... this isn't. He tries. He even does a credible attempt to resist the force. It crumples his guard easily though, mastering his mostly mortal strength many times over.

    The blow may be far stronger than Kilik can resist, but the Meister's not one of the best for nothing! As his guard fails, he holds on. His will is unbreakable, moreso than his body. And he's strong enough that, rather than crumple and be crushed into paste, his body bows and he deflects the force. Not enough to let it slide past him of course. He's nowhere near that strong. But strong enough that Newton has his way once again. His strength far exceeds his mass so the net force pushes him out of the line of certain death like a watermelon seed squirting between pressed fingers.

    Straight TOWARDS Mel.

    The collision ought to be pretty epic. Kirikou's being launched fast... but there's no way he can launch himself fists-first. He just doesn't have the time for that. So he'll be hopefully pitting his mass and native toughness against that of the psy-cop. The ultimate battle of brains vs. brawn?

Mel Brock (941) has posed:
    And that's it. After getting hit so hard by Kirikou, pushing herself up to her feet and unloading a massive torrent of psychic force is just about all Mel can manage. She stumbles about a step and a half to the side, and drops to her knees with a pained groan, sincerely hoping that the last of that blast will have been enough to stop Kirikou, or she's going to be pretty damn vulnerable while she tries to gather herse-

    Mel quietly watches Kirikou go flying by.

    "...make like a tree and get out of here," she mutters, before dropping onto her ass and leaning back against the stump of one of the trees she'd used.

Metal Man (11) has posed:
The fight is getting pretty serious here he knows he's out classed just vs Xiaomu alone. Let alone with eveyrone else here. Oh there comes the ice from the Blizzard and he would end up having a veyr bad time with the ice as most of them block the majority of his shots. The grenade however is noticed he curses and is already leaping away but this has made it so he had to give up a very good firing sport vs Xiaomu. Wood Man is watching intely with a barrier sheild up of some sort, but he's not dropping into the fight.

"Your pretty up front for a fox spirit. You got to be the black sheep of your family, huh? I won't be dying here. I still have the purpose for which I was made for to finish."

What is thtbut it's clear he's damaged and if he pushes it much more he's going to be in for a bad time.

"Metal Man? The Doctor won't be happy if you come back in a KFC bucket."

Metal can see the wisdom in Wood Man's word and he's going to start to pull out.

<<Sorry I can't take any more, I'm going to lose weapons soon at this rate.>>

Reiji Arisu has posed:
    To underestimate an opponent is a very dangerous mistake to make-- especially when you're dealing with an unfamiliar foe. Reiji knows it well; life is won and lost on the edge of a sword. He can tell that Camilla is dangerous, but... The same is, apparently, not the same for Camilla.

    Reiji's blade slides through his opponent. Kuroshio's invisible blade briefly flashes with spilt blood as it emerges, but... No kill. Today isn't Camilla's day to die. But it is Reiji's day to live.

    The exorcist turns, wiping the last of the viscera from his killing sword. "You're good, too," Reiji answers, replacing the blade among its peers. "Not as unskilled as you make yourself out to be."

    "I am Reiji," he says, inclining his head... respectfully? Well, it was an honorable end to the fight, after all. "Reiji Arisu of the Shinra organization. You'll see more of me, if you keep supporting Ouma's plans-- I'm sure of it."

In a way, this is a good thing, but...

The next time, he probably won't be able to take advantage of Camilla's overconfidence. He'll need to be ready.

Bramble Patch (278) has posed:
Just make sure some Confederate remembers to pick up the Pony on their way out. Bramble Patch is still entirely out of it.

Camilla Ulyssa (1056) has posed:
    "Eheh. I'm all power, all the time, Reiji," Camilla answers with her grin, explaining, "I haven't been at this very long. Not as long as you must have. In a contest of pure swordsmanship, no superpowers involved, I think you'd kick my ass. I can fake being good by pumping my magic into going faster, being stronger. Doing really flashy and destructive stuff. I wonder if it can really be called skill, though?" Humility? It almost sounds like bait. Like she wants people to treat her like an amateur with too much power. Could be either.

    "We'll see though! I'm not really impressed, but as long as working with her gets me fights, I might just do that. Well, I'll be seeing you later!"

    She raises one sword to the sky.
    <Transfering.> her blades announce.

    And then she teleports away! Presumably, back to some Confederate holding. This is also available to Confederates who want to withdraw with her, if they'd like. It'll just extend the casting by several seconds per body, but since nobody's going to stop their retreat, it hardly matters.

Xiaomu (707) has posed:
And with that, the fight is pretty much over.

The now-unguarded cave entrance leads more 'underground' than 'in' ... but where you might expect rocky passages, natural or otherwise, the walls and floor of the cave are instead lined with thick layers of ice - making the footing far more treacherous, and making the cave itself deadly for anyone who isn't prepared.

Maybe that's what Setsuka was talking about when she said those who were corporeal enough to lift the fragment wouldn't survive?

Either way, Shinra's personnel on the scene are taking no chances. Once Xiaomu gets those cuts bandaged, she'll be helping as she can with the retrieval effort; while she's not much more resistant to ice or freezing than anyone else, keeping the fragment (once it's found) encased in a thick layer of ice avoids the problem of anybody trying to touch it directly. The rest of it is basically a matter of careful spelunking and heavy enough clothing to keep from getting frozen to death.

It's going to take a lot of hot beverages to feel normal again after being down in the cave, though ... plus the usual rest and recovery from the strenuous battle for access to the cave.