5635/TGSBP: Dancing with Devils

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TGSBP: Dancing with Devils
Date of Scene: 13 January 2018
Location: The Tapestry
Synopsis: The Avenger finally reveals himself, and the Hvergel royal wedding goes up in smoke. Part of The Guilty Shall Be Punished mini-plot.
Cast of Characters: 1133, John Rizzo, 1134, 1153, Reiji Arisu, Empty Tidings, Staren, 993

Dapper Avenger (1133) has posed:
The Hvergel royal wedding has been months in the planning. The palace has been opened up to guests to celebrate the wedding of Princess Maria and the foreign Prince Claudio. Security is watching, nobles are dancing and eating, and the wedding reception has just begun, the vows exchanged and the couple married.

The Paladins and the Watch are here for a specific reason: they believe that the brother of the prince, Prince Raoul II, will be assassinated by a young man named 'Marco', also known as the Avenger, for his role in a conspiracy against the royal family. While the conspiracy has been foiled, the Avenger, a known serial killer, has not.

The Paladins and any they have requested to be allowed have been given access to the gala in the role of security, as long as they don't cause too much disruption. The mark, Prince Raoul II, has just finished congratulating his brother, before heading over to get a plate of food, a glass of wine, and sit at a booth with friends. Another man soon joins them, talking casually with Raoul and drinking his own glass of wine.

This man is also the spitting image of Marco physically, even if he looks cleaner, is dressed in a fine suit, and has different body language and demeanor, more sure of himself. Gray hair, red eyes. A quick query to those spying on Marco would determine he has vanished.

John Rizzo has posed:
Over by the hors d'oeuvres, a tall, red-headed man in a rented tuxedo chews a deviled egg with a nonplussed expression on his face.

     He seems to blend in with the crowd of guests around him, looking as if he belongs here, offering the occasional nod at just the right time. He's one of those hangers-on you'll find in any group, hovering within the group without offering any input of his own save what's absolutely necessary for his social survival. No one in the group seems to particularly mind his presence. Perhaps they're not even aware of it.

     The man, who seems wholly unremarkable, is John Rizzo, making use of his vampiric powers to hide in plain sight. This red-headed face in the crowd peers out from obscurity, constantly scanning the auras in the crowd for the ever-familiar mantle of black flames he knows to be Avenger.

     It's a simple approach to a complex problem--just waiting for the problem to show up. It might be a poor approach, but he's hoping he can just stop the guy and get him to turn himself in. Hmph. The deviled eggs are delicious.

Mei Hatsume (1134) has posed:
At least one of the Paladins on the case is not going to be dressed formally for this occasion. Mei Hatsume's here as security detail, not as a party-goer, but she is at least wearing her school's blue uniform/jumpsuit with an excessive amount of belts and fanny packs!

     Also, massive boots and an odd-looking harness. She's not attempting to hide herself at all, instead standing off to the side to look from side to side to sweep the area. <<"Everything's quiet over here. Hmm... Oh, how do those taste?">> She lingers on the eggs briefly, then adjusts her goggles before peering towards the Prince...

     And then away again. <<"... One guest. Older. Well dressed.">> She mutters more quietly through the radio, purposely avoiding looking too long at the man resembling Marco.

Batou (1153) has posed:
Batou has never been a fan of large celebrations, and as his first assignment, isn't amused. Dressed up in a suit a bit too tight, he stands near the edges of the party, eyeing the perp with slight annoyance. He doesn't trust that this is the guy, but that won't stop him from taking care of things if necessary.
A large blue Tachikoma is obviously visible carefully milling about the guests, holding a tray delicately in its pronged hands to serve guests food and drink. The sight of a large tank making a disturbance amongst these stuck up nobles is the one high point of this reception for Batou.
Scanning the crowd with his thermal vision, Batou can see something odd: A cold body milling near the food. The face is wholly unremarkable, which only continues to pique Batou's interest. He decides to make his way towards this strange, hungry, and strangely hungry man.

Reiji Arisu has posed:
Well, this is already going badly. Though in a way that is at least partly expected. Marco has vanished right from under their surveillance. That's almost a sure sign that the so-called Avenger is on the move.

Where John is taking a more direct approach, the man behind this security detail is positioned somewhere else entirely. Nobody would think to watch the rafters for a legitimate special-forces operative lurking in the shadows. Or perhaps that's the first place you'd look if you were concerned. One way or another, that's where Reiji is, a lens mounted to his left eye turning and telescoping subtly towards their mark's general location.

What he sees there is... disconcerting.

<<Heads up people,>> Reiji says, <<That may be our man making his move. Stay alert. Make sure you're in position to protect the prince in case he makes a move.>>

Empty Tidings has posed:
Empty Tidings was invited. Well... as far as anyone can prove, anyway.

'Emilia Tapfer' is a young noblewoman in attendance at the party. She's the daughter of a southern Duke, and, despite her age (nearly eighteen!), unbetrothed. Rumor has it, her brother is sickly and infirm, bound to pass away any day now, and her father doesn't want someone scooping up their lands by stealing away his daughter. It has made her a prime target for the advances of many eligible bachelors so far.

It's also given her ample opportunity to socially stalk Prince Raoul II in plain sight. Lady Tapfer is a black-haired young woman in a dark blue dress, trimmed and decorated in colors of brass. She wears tiny bells on red ribbons in her long hair that makes stealth a near-impossibility and conversation-starting incredibly easy. Right now, she's passing by the booth the Prince is seated at with his mysterious friend, passing out greetings and pleasantries to those gathered nearby.

Empty Tidings inwardly hopes this devolves into an awful bloodbath. It probably won't.

Staren has posed:
    Staren tried blending in. He has a human alternate form, after all. But pretending to be a party guest attracted the wrong sort of attention. Not that Staren specifically has a problem with talking to people mistaking her for an eligible young bachelorette -- but the truths involved, and the lack of any knowledge whatsoever about the kinds of things these noble party guests like talking about, especially when it calls for gossip about people Staren doesn't know a thing about, made things double extra awkward and had her excusing herself to the powder room immediately.

    Take two: Staren emerges into the dining room again dressed as a servant. Noone notices or talks to the help except to order more food, even if that servant has cat ears and a tail. This is much better. Now, where was the suspect again...

    ...Wait, is that a TACHIKOMA?

    Staren walks up to the tank, taking one of the hor's deourves with a great big smile, which might get a look from any guests that see a servant taking food. Staren doesn't notice. "Hey! Haven't seen one of you in awhile! What's on your mind? Any fascinating philosophical insights?"

    Yeah. That happened.

    Then Reiji's radio comment gets his attention and he starts looking around for where Marco went.

John Rizzo has posed:
Having spotted Marco, identified him as Avenger, and warned the others exactly that on the radio, Rizzo focuses his perception on the prince. What's his emotional state like?

Princess Luna (993) has posed:
     Although it wasn't the purpose of the mission, Princess Luna is happy to have a chance to put on her best dress and attend a wedding. Of course, she is vigilant, but she is also talking with guests and trying to enjoy herself as well. The pony princess is wearing a crystal blue dress that sparkles gently in the light and long midnight blue gloves of a lady.

     This may seem opposite of not drawing attention...and it is. But, Luna has a method to her madness. If she draws a lot of attention, then it will make it easier to see those that are not looking at the tall equine woman and are instead looking at another royal. Perhaps as a target. And as always, the princess's ethereal mane and tail are flowing in an unseen and unfelt breeze.

     Of course, with the target already identified...well, her distraction may not be needed after all.

Batou (1153) has posed:
"Hello, fellow server, how do you do?" says the Tachikoma, whirring happily. "I've been talking with my cohorts about the ship of Theseus, and how we in our physical forms go through this type of transformation with time."

Batou, hearing over the radio and implanted comms in his brain, frowns slightly, but says nothing. Tachikomas socialize with almost anyone, but this is nothing too concerning. Yet.

Dapper Avenger (1133) has posed:
The man who sat down with Prince Raoul II is absolutely the Avenger, as Rizzo, familiar with his aura, can tell. That rage and grudge soaks into him as naturally as it does at any point. But, the man is also smiling softly, as he does a friendly handshake with the Prince - they clearly know one another. Reiji does not seem to be detected above, and can clearly hear any conversations.

As 'Emilia Tapfer' arrives, Raoul, who is in a good mood, turns to look at her, especially as she gets close. He has no ring on his finger, which probably indicates why he's interested, as the dark-haired man smiles at her and offers her a hand. "Ah, Lady Tapfer! It's a pleasure to see you. I hope you are enjoying the gala so far. I helped my brother put it together, and I'm quite happy for him and the princess." He's handsome, though his eyes are shifty, as he notices his companion, the Avenger, watching their conversation with curiosity. "Ah, ah, pardon my manners. You two have not met, have you? This is my dear friend, Baron Romano."

The Avenger stands and offers a hand as well, kissing it gently if he gets a chance. He speaks Spanish, and his voice is well-trained, careful with no edges. "It's a pleasure, Lady Tapfer. How do you enjoy the party this evening?" His eyes scan for the door, but then back to her, as if he's waiting for someone.

Regarding both the pony and the tachikoma, people find them odd, but are mostly just whispering or avoiding, or in some cases, chatting up Luna out of curiosity. The Tachikoma gets some but less, because most people are just treating it as a serving robot and nothing else. This may be better or worse.

John Rizzo has posed:
Avenger will receive a series of images, feelings. His mind will instinctively know these pangs are not the product of his own imagination, but of someone else's.

     The first image is of Avenger casting an exaggerated longsword to the side. Then, he's raising his arms and offering them to a policeman, while Prince Raoul stands behind him, unharmed. Finally, he sits in the dim light of a prison cell, while above him sunlight streams through a cross-shaped window. In this image, there is a profound sense of peace, and focusing his mind on the window and the outside world bestows a sense of hope for the future.

     Rizzo doesn't bother communicating the potential outcome of refusing to surrender. Instead, he attempts to dull Prince Raoul's happiness and turn it into anxiety. Hopefully, the rich boy will get moody and want to be by himself.

Batou (1153) has posed:
Batou keeps his distance, slowly working towards the tachikoma as he scans above the crowds, looking up at the rafters.

"Tachikoma, get ready to take to the ceiling if there's a suprise from above." he orders, keeping one hand on his hip next to his handgun.

The tachikoma clicks slightly as it surveys over the crowd from its position opposite Batou, its hands drooping down slightly as a glass slowly starts to slide down the platter.

"Yes sir, Mr. Batou. I'll keep my eye peeled!" says the tachikoma just as the glass of champagne crashes to the floor.


Mei Hatsume (1134) has posed:
Mei continues sweeping the area/posturing as her boots kick in to life beneath her, letting her slowly drift around the mingling nobles effortlessly. She's trying not to look like she has any particular destination in mind despite slowly drawing closer to the Avenger, and...

     Well, it might not need all that much acting. With so many nobles around, there's undoubtedly big opportunities to get some eyes on her inventions! She gives little dramatic kicks with her boots as she hovers along, occasionally reclining and continuing to drift along without looking worried in the slightest about faceplanting.

     Then again, the party-goers aren't really looking too closely at that curious robot server. Maybe it isn't worth putting too much effort into showing off just by floating around. Instead, she focuses on making sure her harness hoses and wires are ready to fire while inching ever closer towards the Prince and the Avenger while making token attempts to show off her gear.

     Priorities are important.

Staren has posed:
    Staren chews the or durv while the Tachikoma speaks. His eyes almost sparkle. "Oooh!" Staren looks quite interested. "Well, I think identity has to do more with continuity of memory. If I wake up in a robot body tomorrow, but I /remember/ my current life, I'm still me. Of course, as we gain new experiences, our memories and the personality we develop from them changes -- In one sense, the me of a year ago isn't quite the same person as the me of today."

    The distraction pulls a lot of his attention away from searching for Marco.

    "But friends I had a year ago are still friends with 'me'." Oh god there's more. Poor Batou. Staren rubs his chin. "Perhaps there's something to that. Sometimes, we lose friends, too. Because we've changed too much? Or they have. Perhaps we could define ourselves by our relationships?"

    Batou may wish that ANYONE would make a move. Even Avenger.

    "Oop, you dropped something. Eh, they probably have servants to get that. Maybe we're asking the wrong question. 'Am I me'? It should be, WHY do you want to know if you're you, for what purpose? Perhaps that might lead to questions that can be definitively answered..."

    Not one but TWO servants standing next to a broken champagne glass is probably getting some looks.

Reiji Arisu has posed:
Well. That's interesting. The way The Avenger is talking... There are /more/ identities he has assumed? How? He has been Marco for so much of every day, what time did he have to go and... Work his way into this prince's inner circle? And as a noble, at that? Could he have assembled such an identity in the short times he had disappeared from their observation? If so, what kind of resources does this mysterious man have access to...?

Reiji frowns, his hands resting soundlessly atop the hilt of a particular blade.

And then the Tachikoma... Does Tachikoma Things.

Reiji resists the urge to palm his face.

Quietly, he begins whispering a spell into the world. Sealing magic, ready to go at his trigger.

If this IS Marco, and if his nature is still as it is, then anti-spirit sorcery should work just fine.

Now he just needs to wait for the right time to activate it, but... Why does it seem like the Baron is waiting on something, himself?

...The other two, maybe?

<<I think he's wondering why Edda and Hardhaft aren't here.>>

Empty Tidings has posed:
Lady Tapfer is lovely, unwed and gravitating towards the royalty in the room. It's only natural he'd be interested. It is, in fact, exactly what she's counting on.

"It's lovely, Your Highness. I am honored by the invitation." She smiles beautifically. Her speech has a bit of an accent to it, as expected. It sounds somewhat German. The extremely perceptive will probably find it familiar if they've spent any time in Alberichstadt.

She offers her hand to the Prince and then the Baron in turn. She actually looks a little bit flustered when her hand is kissed. "Oh, it's -- well, it's a joy to be here, Your Lordship." Her expression turns a little embarassed. "I confess, I hardly know anyone in court, but everyone has made me feel so welcome that it... ah, I'm babbling." She looks up at the Baron. "Are you here alone, lord?"

The Prince probably won't notice the slightly oily spot where her fingers brushed his wrist. He will absolutely notice that his mouth is suddenly very dry. In another moment or two, he might start to feel... off.

That's when the poison will /really/ kick in.

Dapper Avenger (1133) has posed:
As the messages fill the Avenger, he doesn't move much. He just smiles wider, but the Baron is still the Baron. The sealing trap is made fine, while Raoul responds to Empty Tidings. "Ah, please, don't feel that way. You're fine to talk, and I'd be pleased to get to know you further." Raoul smiles, but it slowly...dims, as he pans his eyes to the door, and then to the clock. Where are they? Baron Romano frowns, but quickly breaks out of it. "Ah, yes, if you mean without a date. I am actually from a foreign world, though, so I can understand, perhaps in a different way but still, what it is like to not know many. The prince has been a good companion to me." He seems...genuine?

And then, suddenly, before the Baron can say more, Raoul collapses. He begins to bleed out of his mouth, spitting up blood, as he heaves loudly over and over. People rush to his side, as does the Avenger, who kneels down to check him...and shouts. "Doctor! We need a doctor, now!" Any attention the Tachikoma was getting, having dropped the glass and drawn attention, is gone.

Reiji Arisu has posed:
Raoul abruptly begins dying.

Nobody here is a doctor. Fortunately, one of them /is/ a priest.

Of sorts.

The Onmyoji frowns, reaching out into the flow of the five elements circulating throughout the world. He focuses, his will reaching towards the afflicted prince, narrowing down onto... whatever is responsible for this. Poison. Corruption. Magic. He searches for these things and, should he find them, discretely attempts to tear them away and reinforce the dying man's flagging lifeforce.

Damnit. Could it have been while they were sitting down?

Mei Hatsume (1134) has posed:
Did the Avenger get him already?! Tearing herself away from trying to scout out investors, Mei zips over towards the fallen prince shortly after he collapses. "Give him room, everyone!" She calls out while holding her arms out to the sides to try and keep people from getting too close. Reiji, Batou, and Rizzo are all given a wide berth to get to work, of course, but Raoul himself gets a confused look.

     Isn't he supposed to be the suspect? Shouldn't this be making things easier for him? Whatever the case is, Mei focuses her efforts on making sure the Elites have enough space to work by trying to usher nosier guests away from the center of attention.

Batou (1153) has posed:
"Ah, shit, time to act."

Batou jumps up and over the crowd with ease as he lands on top of the tachikoma, ordering the tachikoma to raise its arm and fires its machine gun, letting off several rounds above everyone's heads, destroying a chandelier in the process. &r&r "Everyone get the hell out of the banquet hall, now!" shouts Batou. "There's a murderer in your midst!"

Batou quickly aims his sidearm at the Avenger, holding him at gunpoint. "One move and you're fucking history, pal."

Empty Tidings has posed:
It's absolutely poison, Reiji. They /were/ both drinking wine. Maybe...?

"Well... well, if you insist, lord." Lady Tapfer appears to be erring on the side of politeness with the foreign Baron. "I suppose we have that much in common, then, that loneliness. It's a sad sort of connection for such a joyous day, isn't it?" She smiles a little, but there's a twinge of sadness to it. It brings it all together.

She's about to say something else when the Prince collapses. She looks suitably horrified, looking between him and the Baron, backing away with an expression that says what everyone's thinking: if it's poison, the last person to have the opportunity was the very man calling for his aid!

Well, assuming there wasn't /magic/ involved, but that would be impossible, wouldn't it?

Staren has posed:
    And suddenly the prince is down, to poison. Wait, what?! Marco already made his move?? Then why was he still hanging around?! Well, this is embarassing. He's not the only hero who didn't see Marco do it, though. Staren hurries over, but he's not actually a doctor. Apparently the prince has a teleporter on him that will get him somewhere they can treat him, if it can just be activated...

    At the same time, Batou's making a lot of noise and pointing his gun. Staren reaches a hand under his jacket, ready to draw his own weapon if this turns into a fight.

John Rizzo has posed:
The entire place is in a panic, Reiji's working his magic on the prince, and most of the eyes in the place are on that. The guy with the weird coke-bottle glasses says he's got a distraction cooking, which should be perfect for what Rizzo's got planned.

     Still hidden in plain sight, the vampire calmly coasts through the onlookers, making his way up to the spot where Reiji, the prone Raoul, and most importantly, Avenger are at. Then, Batou yells fire in the proverbial movie theater.

     To his credit, despite whatever pandemonium may come from Batou's loud exclamation, Rizzo never once breaks his leisurely pace until those around him do--to do so would be to stand out, and break the illusion.

     The shape of his tuxedo jacket is distorted by the barrel of a Colt Police Positive Special, held in such a way as to conceal the gun behind the jacket.

     When the barrel is pressed against Avenger's lower back, there can be no mistaking what it is. He reiterates the threat offered by Batou. "Grab air," he says in a low voice. "Or I squirt lead." Perhaps the conversation the two of them had was a lie--he'd proclaimed a desire to get things done without leaving a trail of bodies. Perhaps he's lying now.

Princess Luna (993) has posed:
     Princess Luna was formulating a plan, but as she considered how to best implement it...the princes has apparently already been attacked in a most devious way. Poison.

     The tall pony's eyes narrow in anger, then she makes her way over quickly. "Please, everyone step back!" she says in a rather powerful voice. The tables and dinnerware might rattle a bit, in fact. She pauses a moment as Batou makes his move, then crouches down near the fallen prince and searches out his emergency teleporter. Once she finds it, she activates it before she stands quickly and raises a hand. In a flash of pale blue and white she produces a scythe even taller than she is. The princess's formerly kind and amicable demeanor is gone and a powerful glare is aimed at the Avenger.

Dapper Avenger (1133) has posed:
Everything's falling apart, and the Avenger realizes it as the gun is played to his back, another pointed at his front, and he's surrounded. He takes a split second of not moving at all, before he stands up, straightens himself up, and puts his arms in the air. His expression is calm, his eyes are cold, and he's analyzing /everything/. "My, quite the understanding, isn't it? Or, I could say that, but that card's been played. You're too smart for that. Time to drop the act, then." Avenger rotates his head, flexing his neck muscles, before he speaks again. His accent is now English, rough, and sounds nothing like he did before.

"Well, you see, it is a misunderstanding...that the prince is dying. Must have accidentally upped the dose, the blood wasn't part of the plan, ya see? Edda and Hardhaft told me it'd be enough to make him sick, allowing me to wham him on the head, and get rid of him for long enough to set him up as they sabotage the royal family. Old political documents were being traded, but they were just gonna take the money and run." Those who have interacted with Avenger and the two might not believe this...but they're not his target, regardless.

His target's the director of intelligence, rushing forward with the police chief, who hear everything. "Now, I know you won't shoot, Abbe. But I can't say the same about the other guy...and it's too early to go behind bars. So, I'll give you a single chance. Let me walk, or I detonate the explosives in the walls and ceiling. You have one minute." Avenger calmly says, moving to take a step forward. His left hand starts to be covered in black flames...as he moves to leave, one way or another.

"Are you going to call my bluff?"

Dapper Avenger (1133) has posed:
The prince is teleported away to a Paladins base, stabilized by Reiji's healing, as Luna gets to his teleportation device. The crowd, meanwhile is panicking from the shots in the air, and also the shouting at various places and the shoving.

Batou (1153) has posed:
Batou has seen what bluffs can get you, but he's got something up his sleeve still. He chuckles softly, and lowers his weapon, dangling it off of a finger.

"Do you have the guts to do that, guy? Kill all these people? I don't believe it. But let's call it."

Batou can see the tachikoma aiming at the ceiling through his prosthetic eye, a grenade primed to volley off.

"Firing!" shouts the Tachikoma as the grenade shoots, arching above the chandeliers and hits the ceiling above the Avenger.

John Rizzo has posed:
Rizzo could pull the trigger. The rubber bullets... it'd be less harmful than a real bullet, but at this distance, pointed at Avenger's back? He doesn't know how strong the guy is. It could just tick him off... or it could cause internal bleeding and kill him just the same as any regular bullet would. He's stepping forward--now would be the time to do it, if he's gonna.

     Can he get this guy, at this range, safely, before he presses whatever button he's got hidden away...no. He can't. And it's not worth putting anyone who might still be inside at risk.

     "You really got us behind the eight ball, pal." The revolver clatters harmlessly to the floor--just before the chandelier.

     As vampires go, Rizzo certainly isn't the toughest physically. But he has his moments, and even a Malk can take more of a beating than the average joe. Rizzo dives towards Avenger, attempting to use his weight to force the other man to the ground--and take the brunt of the abuse from the chandelier.

Reiji Arisu has posed:


Reiji's will pulses out as the emergency teleporter conveys their inside man away. The trap is sprung, and so is the spell Reiji had been weaving. Chains of spirit-arresting force go to try and bind the Avenger in place. The exorcist drops out of his perch in the rafters, a barely visible blade clutched in his hands. "That was almost bad," he admits, his sword at the ready. "I didn't expect poison. In the wine, I assume? Unfortunately, I'm afraid that this scheme ends here--"



The exorcist curses and turns towards the local authorities. "Commander, get everyone out of this building," he orders, "Evacuate. I can hold him for a while, but not forever, and--"

Batou grenades the ceiling.

Reiji is glad he's not up there anymore. But that's not the problem.

"Damnit, what the hell are you doing!?" Reiji growls, focusing his will on keeping the Avenger tied down. "You'll kill us all!"

Empty Tidings has posed:
Oh, well, that's inconvenient... or especially convenient. Empty Tidings isn't quite sure which yet.

Either way, the apparent target is gone, and the Lady Tapfer is wide-eyed and shocked as the man's disguise is dropped. He starts to leave -- and she grabs at his (right) arm while he does, in that way that oozes drama and demands attention. "But --"

"-- who /are/ you? Why would you do this?!"

Inwardly, Tidings really hopes that the ceiling doesn't come down on the two of them. That would be /really/ awkward.

Staren has posed:
    Staren's hand is inside his coat. He's still not sure how this is gonna go...

    He can think of some options. Use an EMP to fry the transmitter, for instance. Unfortunately, disguising to fit in with the party meant leaving his bag of tricks at home. He could see if he can cut the guy's arms off with his beam saber, but if the guy is a skilled combatant at all, that won't happen. He's not entirely sure it's that kind of bomb, anyway. Could be some kind of magic spell that goes off with a thought.

    Batou's called the bluff, though.

    And if it's not a bluff...

    Staren pulls out his laser pistol and just keeps firing. If it's not a bluff, the only way to stop Avenger now is to kill him before he can set off the bombs.

Batou (1153) has posed:
Batou's prosthetic eyes bulge slightly as he sees almost every single person starting at the Avenger. Shit.

"This was not in my plan, everyone! You're gonna kill us all!"

Princess Luna (993) has posed:
     Princess Luna's eyes widen as she hears the threat, then her scowl deepens. "Only a coward employs such tactics..." she says as she dismisses her scythe back to the aether.

     Then the robo-tank fires at the ceiling and a multitude of debris comes crashing down. The princess reacts instinctively and her horn starts to glow brightly as she thrusts out a hand and all the falling debris...simply stops, sparkling with the same pale blue as the pony's horn. "I believe it would be advantageous to take him alive if possible!" she shouts at the people using deadly force. "And we have no way of knowing what sort of magic or device this criminal has employed as his trigger! Perhaps it has a switch to activate if he is incapacitated or killed!"

Mei Hatsume (1134) has posed:
Good news: The Prince is safe! Bad news: That lady is putting herself in danger now. Also, the ceiling may be coming down on them any second now, and there's potentially bombs all over the place while bullets, lasers, and explosions are going off all over the place.

     What the hell's Mei supposed to do in this situation?! Safety, probably. "Towards the exits, everyone! Watch your step and don't make any sudden moves, and you'll all get out of here safely!" The inventor shouts towards the crowd even as she fires one of her harness' wires at the wall past the Avenger, the spike at the end embedding itself into the wall. "And... And you too, miss! Keep your head down!" Shortly after that warning, the wire pulls Mei along at a rapid clip as she reaches out to try and pull the 'Lady Tapfer' out of the line of fire.

Dapper Avenger (1133) has posed:
Avenger's guess was accurate. There's just a smile at Batou as he calls his bluff. "Let us begin, then." Nothing appears to happen, but behind them, a grandfather clock begins to tick. It's going from 12 all the way around, at a pace where it'd return after a minute or so. But as the ceiling begins to detonate, Avenger begins to move...until Rizzo tackles him to the ground, shielding him. As Empty Tidings grabs his arm, she'd be pulled down too, but luckily, Luna prevents the debris from actually impacting them. Avenger would move again...but chains bind him in place, as he continues to speak. "Coward? Is it cowardly to make sure you succeed? To make sure you bring judgment to those who must be judged? Any trick you can use is a valid one. Cowardism is to refuse to act, not to act pragmatically." Staren begins firing laser blasts into Avenger, who uses Rizzo to block some of the blasts, taking several others which fry into his skin...but he's way more durable than he appears. He's not a normal human being.

Avenger's beginning to break through the chains, as he just grins, wildly. "I am the dark flames of hate, the grudge lit in the hearts of all. I am the enactor of vengenance, the judge of the guilty. I am the Avenger who stalks the treasonous. You accuse me of a crime I did not commit, against a man who was guilty...but not my target. You thought you outthought me, but really, you fell for a red herring. For the list was only of clues, not targets. Only to give /a/ picture, not the whole picture." The Avenger laughs, as the chains begin to snap. Still getting struck by numerous attacks and being injured, Avenger tilts his eyes up, and then snaps the chains, moving his hand to...point at the clock, right as it strikes zero. There's been enough time to get mostly everyone out, but...

"The guilty shall be punished."

Dapper Avenger (1133) has posed:
The clock ticks, ringing loudly. At this time, the walls start ticking as well. One, by one, by one, a clockwork mechanism goes off, somehow placed /inside the walls of the palace/...before it detonates. The ceiling begins to cave in, and while most people have escaped, some still need to be evacuated. Which is exactly the Avenger's plan, as he suddenly leaps upwards, high into the air, before moving to dash forward. He suddenly phases through part of the rubble, his body intangibly sliding through it, as he moves to leap forward and towards the palace doors. He's planning to escape!

"The game's not over. Can you continue to hold onto your convictions? Will you chase me, or protect them? What matters more?"

Batou (1153) has posed:
Batou curses under his breath as he hops off of the tachikoma, picking up people and hefting them with ease onto his shoulders as he commands the tachikoma to run full force into the rubble, hoping to dislodge it.

"Hell, he's getting away! I can get these people out with some help but get him! Anyone?!"

Princess Luna (993) has posed:
     For Princess Luna, it is hardly a choice. Protecting the innocent comes far before capturing the target. Luna redoubles her efforts at holding up the building. She does a good job of it, but holding up an entire building is taxing even for an alicorn. Sweat quickly appears on her brow and she flinches with each explosion as each one adds more weight to what she is holding with her telekinesis. "Nnng...p-please! Get the people to safety! Catching one villain is worth nothing if we fail to protect the people!" she exclaims as she is forced to a knee by the weight of the debris. "H-hurry!" she gasps out, her horn glowing more and more.

John Rizzo has posed:
Rizzo can take a beating, even a knife or a bullet if he has to. Lasers are a whole different story. The vampire's tuxedo is burned clean through, and his shirt quickly begins to darken with blood. Around the wound, the exposed flesh bubbles and pops. His blood can't undo that. Sluggishly, he rolls off of Avenger, leaving a trail of blood on the pristine floor.

     The vampire tumbles down the stairs, struggling to get to his feet. His gaze is directed up the stairs at the Avenger slowly breaking his bonds. There is no hatred, or malice in that gaze. But there are two things: pity, and behind it, iron determination.

     "I'm gonna protect them," says Rizzo. "With or without your help." Gritting his teeth, Rizzo forces himself to get up, rivulets of blood streaking down his abomen.

     As the tachikoma ram into the rubble, help comes, slowly shambling across the hall. While Luna holds the building up, Rizzo works with the robots to clear what debris remains, making a path for fleeing civilians like one part of a gruesome prison chain-gang. Twice during this, he nearly loses his footing--but he continues. He has to.

     Whatever Avenger is, he can't be right.

Reiji Arisu has posed:
There is no question.

There is only do.

The walls start coming down; because of course, the Avenger had ages to set up this trap. Who could have predicted bombs /in/ the walls? Reiji's eyes harden as the spirit tears through his bindings, all of that power he had sensed so many weeks ago unleashed. If he had stopped him then, if he had pulled him away then...

No. There's nothing to consider there. There's only one thing to do.

A hand goes to clasp Rizzo's shoulder. "You're running yourself ragged," Reiji says as he moves past, and takes up his place on the grotesque chaingang clearing through the rubble. "Let me give you a hand. We need to get these people out of here before the whole place comes down. Staren, help your princess and clear the air as best you can. Keep as much of that rubble from falling as possible."

"We'll take care of..." Reiji stares at the rubble and frowns. "This... mess."

Empty Tidings has posed:
The ceiling starts to come down. The Lady looks up, inhaling for what is bound to be a piercing shriek --

Most of it stops. Some still tumbles. She's fine, though. The 'Baron' breaks away. She tilts her head back... and she laughs, a quiet, uncharacteristic sound for the young noblewoman so fearful for her life.

The Avenger flees through the rubble. 'Emilia Tapfer' ceases to exist. In a land far away, a spider of silver filigree shrieks, horrified for what monstrosity it had a hand in helping conceal. A wolf amongst sheep.

There is a haze of black mist that sheds off of her as she makes her move. The blue dress vanishes. The woman's features change, becoming something more common to a maiden of the Far East; her attire turns to a robe of crimson looped in brass adornments, tinkling with bells and chimes. The small adornments to her hair stay where they were. Those, at least, were real. The mist falls to the floor with a patter like rain, flowing as ink and then dissolving into tarry shadow.

Empty Tidings of Brass and Verdigris bursts forward. She springs over the first pile of rubble effortlessly, landing on the far side. A second jump carries her up as another piece of ceiling gives way. She uses it as a springboard in mid-air, catapulting herself after the fleeing Servant.

She's not mad. She's smiling. She's just /all/ smiles, now.

Staren has posed:
    Staren's eyes widen a bit as Avenger uses Rizzo as a shield. At least Rizzo appears able to take it (Wounded and walking away from that much concentrated light is 'able to take it'). Staren feels bad, but now's not the time to stop and talk about it.

    And then the ceiling starts collapsing.

    Staren is... actually in trouble. He doesn't have most of his tricks today, he doesn't have armor to tank the ceiling or heavy weapons to blow up the pieces before they hit him. Well... maybe. He can try it... He raises his weapon towards the ceiling, already picturing how he's going to be trapped under rubble with a rapidly-failing forcefield, causing more trouble for his allies...

    And then Luna saves the day! Or at least, Staren's and several civilians' days. "Come on!" He shouts, motioning for people to run and possibly grabbing someone who's injured or too shocked or something. He adds his laser fire to trying to blow through the rubble blocking the exit or about to fall on them. "She's not my Princess." he correct Reiji.

Mei Hatsume (1134) has posed:
And things go from bad to worse. What had to have been a bluff turns out not to have been one at all, and their perp is escaping! The choice of whether to pursue or evacuate is pretty obvious to Mei, though: Avenger can be caught another time. These people need to be protected now. After releasing the Lady Tapfer and ensuring her-

    ... Wait. Didn't she just grab a person? Why is her arm so wet and gross? Where did that lady go? Where did this new lady in red come from? Did the Avenger just run /through/ the rubble?! There's simply too many questions to ask right now, and not nearly enough time to ask a single one.

     Instead, Mei shifts gears once more to focus on evacuating the civilians. Her hover boots pulse as the pink-haired student starts zipping around, catching whatever slower or elderly-looking guests she can to aid in getting them out.

     Getting them out may involve liberal use of her hover boots and grappling wires to zip up the crumbling walls instead of going out the front door. It's more flashy that way!

Dapper Avenger (1133) has posed:
As the room explodes, mostly everyone moves to help. Luna uses her telekinesis to protect several people, blocking the massive debris, allowing people still trapped inside to escape. Rizzo and the Tachikoma smash through the rubble, clearing it to allow them to continue through. Reiji assists Rizzo, wracked in guilt, while Staren helps usher people to safety. But there's a snag.

As the group moves to the entrance, there's clicks, as flames start to pour out of spitters around the area, and with the collapse, they're in all sorts of odd positions. They'll need to be dodged around to escape and get everyone out safely!

Dapper Avenger (1133) has posed:
Empty Tidings manages to chase Avenger out to one of the palace gardens, uncrowded. He notices her there, turning as he slides to a stop, one of his sleeves setting awash in dark flame. "Ah, a snake hiding amidst. Were you the one who set this all in motion? Or was it another, still in the shadows? It could not have been the Abbe. It could not have been the detective. So who could have it been? No matter." As she catapults at him, he rushes forward, moving to grab her by her arm and slam her into the ground, the flames burning into her and trying to create wounds that do not heal naturally, which seep through the skin and try and slow and poison her, trying to burn her continuously.

"If you want a fight, I will give you, and only you, a dance. Allow your sins to burn away!" Avenger shouts, as he moves for that strike. As he shouts, more flame spitters set up...creating a ring of fire around the two!

Batou (1153) has posed:
"Hey, roast beef, need a lift?" laughs Batou as the door of the tachikoma open to reveal a seat inside.

"Let's get you some help! I don't know how the hell you took so much damage from a laser shot, it's like you're a vampire or something!"

Batou focuses on the flame traps ahead, thinking about it for a moment as he jumps onto the tachikoma. "I'll just allow my good friend into the seat and ride right through, full speed. Anyone want a ride?"

Mei Hatsume (1134) has posed:
Alright, maybe it's not as easy as expected. Mei's not going to let a little fire discourage her, though, especially whe she's got some other tricks up her sleeve.

     Or harness, anyway. As she tilts one way to release a wire and pull herself from one side alone, a hose comes out of the harness to start spraying... Glue!

     ... Glue? It's some sort of really sticky water-like substance, anyway, but it'll have to do considering the circumstances. The maybe-water-maybe-glue is hosed through the air with expert marksmanship, aimed in large arcs right for the flame-spitters both to mitigate the flames and gunk up the spitters all in one go!

John Rizzo has posed:
Rizzo looks over his shoulder at Reiji. Then down at his chest, at the wounds which stubbornly refuse to heal. "You got it," he solemnly says. This isn't the time or place to be picky about who helps, and Reiji's good people besides. He /is/ running himself ragged, and that's not a good thing, especially given the likelihood there'll be...


     The word is uttered with a thin layer of distaste masking a bottomless pit of dread. Even at this distance, his primal urges try to pull him away from it. He can't afford an incident here, with so many innocents. More than that, he can't afford /another/ incident so soon after the last.

     As if sent by heaven, Mei begins suppressing the fire and Batou's... spider thing offers him a ride. Given the chance between his animal nature and the calculating precision of a robot, he'll take the latter. "Thanks for the lift." Rizzo climbs in, smearing blood on the interior. "Sorry about the upholstery there, bo." Let's hope this works...

Staren has posed:
    And now they're through! ...But the next room is full of fire traps. "Seriously?!" Did some platform game BBEG come through here!? Staren thinks for a few seconds. If he had his tools with him, there's so much he could do... but he doesn't. Damn this disguise! Just as he's decided to shoot the sprayers and hope for the best, Hatsume is on it! "Nice!" Now it's just time to get out of there! He runs towards Tachikoma. His clothing becomes a cloud of threads, then reforms into his normal outfit, and he leaps for the back of the tank's passenger compartment, firing a grapple tag from his left sleeve to help hold on. "Hey, sorry about that." He comments to Rizzo. "I'm glad you're okay."

Empty Tidings has posed:
Empty Tidings has an opportunity to strike Avenger from afar while he muses about the identity of the snake in the grass. She does not take the shot, instead letting him monologue for the scant moments he requires.

Professional courtesy.

"Of course it was I," she replies. "I had hoped it would implicate and expose you, but I could not have asked for anything quite as magnificent as the chaos that followed." She's still smiling. Empty Tidings has no reason to do otherwise. She raises her empty hands, and then lunges --!

-- practically into his grip. He snatches her out of the air and slams her into the dirt. She bounces, twisting around to face him, his flaming arm clutching her right forearm as the fire burns skin into black... stone?

The fire exposes it as it scorches away the false skin, eating away at the illusion. Her right hand, all the way to the elbow, isn't flesh and blood at all. Smooth, polished black rock is licked by black flame, tracing the intricate brass filigree that winds its way up her arm and hand like a metallic lace glove set into what passes for skin.

Her eyes glint green. Her smile turns wicked. Symbols, ancient letters wrought in green fire manifest along that black stone hand. She seems to grow, her shadow lengthening and her diminuitive height seeming to stretch upwards. She shows her teeth. "My sins? Oh, my lovely friend," sighs the Exalt, "this world hasn't the time to let that fire rage."

She attacks. Her left hand swings upwards and inward, aimed to hammer into his gut, his chest, and then snap across the arm holding her stone hand. The flesh and blood hand touches fire, and that burning, poisonous heat licks across her skin. She feels the somehow familiar pain, and the blistering flesh peels away almost instantly, replaced with glinting scales as if from some sort of deep-water fish. She's healing... but it's anything but natural.

Princess Luna (993) has posed:
     Only when all the others are out does Luna worry about herself. She starts working her way toward the more open entryway while she keeps the ceiling a ceiling and not a crushing collapsing building. Once she is sure everyone is clear from the collapse she lets the majority of the destroyed building fall, holding up only enough to form a path for her to escape.

     Once she is clear herself she lets the rest fall, then joins the others in considering how to deal with the fire. She raises her hand and her horn glows again, and a protective bubble forms around her. She could fit a few in her protective bubble if needed, but for now she just proceeds after the smart tank and its passengers. "Are any of thee in dire condition?" she asks as they start through the fire traps.

Reiji Arisu has posed:

Reiji turns his head after Rizzo's retreat into the Tachikoma. So, his kind don't like fire? Good to know for a number of reasons. The exorcist turns his face back towards the gouts of fire, a smaller blade sliding into his hands. "Chirai," he barks. Electricity suddenly erupts from the wakizashi's slender edge, crackling into a small, localized nimbus surrounding the sword.

"Fire creates Earth." How is a lightning sword somehow supposed to represent Earth? Don't worry about it. Eastern elemental theory is kind of weird like that. Regardless, the crackling arcs gobble hungrily at the tongues of flame, twining up through the incendiary clouds and up into the mechanisms responsible for releasing them. Metal overheats and fuses together, clogging active flamethrowers and constricting others. "Come on," Reiji says as he takes the vanguard, quite literally absorbing incoming firepower as they move. "Follow me and stay alert. These probably aren't the only ones he's prepared."

Dapper Avenger (1133) has posed:
Glue clogs up the flame-spitters, while the Tachikoma gets ready to slam through the rest - there's a few left, but not much, especially as a protective shield is made for people. Reiji manages to clear up most of the flames, which should allow the Tachikoma to get through...

And then there's the ticking. More explosives, which are about to detonate right behind and under the group. If any time's the time to move...it's now!

Batou (1153) has posed:
"Hold onto your hats, fellas, we're getting the hell outta here! Do the thing we practiced, Tachikoma. Engage... Drag Race Protocol."

"Roger!" Tachikoma chimes as it spins up its back wheels, then careening forward, nearly throwing Batou as he digs his fingers into the metal, bending it as Rizzo, Batou, and Staren fly forward.

Mei Hatsume (1134) has posed:
Noticing Rizzo's disdain for fire, Mei... Actually, that's pretty normal for anyone. Fire's bad for general living person survival, and Rizzo's not the only one that seems uncomfortable with all those traps. Mei opts to glide alongside the Tachikoma, spraying water this way and that to help clear their path. When she hears something about drag racing, though, the inventor drifts over towards the Tachikoma to latch onto something just in time to get pulled along for the ride!

     What or who she's latching onto is not clear.

Princess Luna (993) has posed:
     While Batou and the Tachikoma fly figuratively, Princess Luna gives her majestic wings a flap and literally flies after them. She is quite fast in flight but makes sure she stays behind the others so that when the explosives do go off she and her shield will be the first thing hit. And thanks to Mei, Reiji, and Tachikoma, it isn't even that hot.

     As she flies forward at top speed, Luna watches behind her for signs of the explosions. She is somewhat concerned that when they go off she might be propelled forward like a cannonball. To help prepare for this she flies right up behind the Tachikoma and helps push it along to try and get some more speed. "We must get out of here!"

Dapper Avenger (1133) has posed:
Most people would be scared at seeing this. Avenger's grin just distorts even more, as they seem to truly be similar types - or atleast, both insane. "A sinner and one who is proud of it. Atleast you acknowledge your guilt, which few can do." Her hit slams into his chest, sending him into the air, where he goes flying back. Mid-air, he steels himself, moving to land on his feet, before ripping off his overcoat, covered in blood from where he was struck, throwing it to the ground and sprinting forward to ram his flaming fist into her. He's strong, and his punches moves to burn like the last one.

"Why do /you/ fight me, if you are willing to poison another? What is your conviction?"

Reiji Arisu has posed:
There's only so many things ominous ticking can possibly be in the wake of someone blowing up a castle. Reiji is guessing 'more bombs' and he's pretty sure there's no way in hell that he's wrong. "Move," he calls to the others and breaks into a run. "Move! We need to get clear before the rest of this place comes down on top of us!"

John Rizzo has posed:
On the other side of Avenger's gauntlet, freedom awaits. The ride there is quick, but stressful even when protected from the brunt of things by the ingenuity of Reiji and Mei, and the integrity of the Tachikoma's hull. ...oh, it talks. And, apparently, someone out there is giving it a boost, if the weird little digital speedometer is any indication. Well--

     The moment the Tachikoma stops, Rizzo forcibly opens the hatch and hops out. That was interesting. "Alright, wise guy," he says to Batou without much actual malice. "This is where I scram out. Thanks for the lift." Reaching beneath his dress shirt, the vampire pulls out a small, silver medallion and briefly touches it to his lips, crossing himself.

     He turns forcing himself to look into the flames and the slowly rising smoke--what remains of it after Mei and Reiji's efforts, anyway. This time, he lucked out, but he needs to be able to confront his fears. And he needs answers. So, he'll knock out both birds with one stone.

     The vampire shoves his hands into his pockets and gazes at the smoldering debris before him, watching the smoke curling up into the air. As he follows it, he begins to see patterns--the underlying truths of reality unfolding before him. It might take him five minutes, it might take him nine hours, but he needs the guidance only his dark gifts can give him. Burning in his mind is one, single question, the answer to which will be found in the curtain of smoke over the dark night sky.

     Where next?

Staren has posed:
    Staren just hangs on! Hopefully the acceleration won't be fast enough to break his arm. This is... not comfortable, but he just has to hang on for a few seconds, right?

    When it's over, he drops down, and lets out a breath he didn't realize he was holding. "Thanks, everyone." He nods to Luna, Batou, and Mei. He's been saved a possible unpleasant death thrice over.

    Then he looks at the burning ruins. "Well... we saved all the people..."

Batou (1153) has posed:
Batou, too happy how successfully the run went, forgets to tell the Tachikoma to open the doors, but they warp open under brute force as Rizzo is, to be honest, slightly annoyed with the way this ride went. Impressed, but not too annoyed by the damage, he surveys how well everyone else fared.

"Not too bad, everyone," he says, smiling. "My quick thinking saved us."

Empty Tidings has posed:
"I am a Princess of Hell," Empty Tidings retorts. "What am I, if not a sinner in service to a greater design? I will not pretend I am innocent of the deplorable."

She shakes the flame off of her arm when he goes flying backwards, flexing the black stone fingers. There's a quiet grinding sound when she does it. The green fire flares momentarily, dispersing flickering licks of the Avenger's heat left behind. She looks at her other hand, frowning at the raw redness of it. Something is interfering with her own regeneration. How... inconvenient.

He discards his coat, and she smiles. He charges forward, and her teeth flash again. She meets his burning fist with her stone hand, the infernal limb catching the blazing hand with a crash. She plants her feet and slides backwards, heels scraping against the garden grass until they meet the path -- and nearly hit the flaming ring that surrounds them.

"I wanted to see you with my own eyes," she says. "I have tyrants to topple. I thought you might be useful as either a potential ally --" Her stone hand, holding his burning one, begins to squeeze. Her unnatural strength becomes immediately apparent. "-- or an example."

"Do you have a preference?" she asks, sweetly.

Dapper Avenger (1133) has posed:
The group manages to fly, ride, and skate their way forward, avoiding the explosion behind them, just barely. They've survived...and gotten a clue. In the shadows of the flame Rizzo sees a tree, with many strange branches...and the silohuette of a hanging man.

Mei Hatsume (1134) has posed:
Mei drifts forward some as the Tachikoma stops, letting go of one of the handles and doing a brief twirl for good measure. She's still got to show some of her gadgets off even after working up a sweat! "Hah... Good work, everyone! That was some impressive work before." She chuckles confidently while doing a quick head count from behind her fogged up goggles.

     Fire hating maybe-vampire? Check. Spider-tank cop? Check. Magic priest? Check. Colorful horsebird? Check. Laser guy? Check. All that's left is...

     The Avenger and the noble that chased him. "... That's most of us, then. Everyone's alive now, though, yes?"

Dapper Avenger (1133) has posed:
"I see. That's commendable, if disgusting. But are you a traitor of Heaven, princess of demons?" It's a question that's very pointed, gauging for her answer as she catches his fist and pulls them both backwards. It burns into her limb every second, as his eyes flash gold at her reaction. There's a sinister grin. "Tyrants should fall, for they betray those beneath their feet. They should fall for they do not understand their title and position. But your question requires you to answer my first. What are your convictions?" He moves to try and push his fist back into hers, but she's stronger, so instead, he pulls back to keep himself grounded, despite not trying to pull out of her grip.

"And whom do you owe loyalty? Who or what have you placed your faith and trust into, that you would not betray?"

Batou (1153) has posed:
Batou looks over the damage caused by Rizzo, frowning.

"Maybe I can hide this from the Major..." he mumbles, slowly warping the doors back closed.

Staren has posed:
    Staren looks back at Batou and the tachikoma. "She's not gonna look at the recordings from your eyes and her cameras?" He climbs the tank to examine the hatch. "If Section 9 is okay with repairs not done by their own mechanics, I can take a stab at it." He rolls up his sleeves, revealing shiny metallic wristbands which sprout small tools made of some kind of liquid metal.

John Rizzo has posed:
Peeking beneath the Lie is dangerous. Sometimes things peek back. This time, the omen couldn't have been any clearer. He knows the place the smoke points to. The author wants him to be there, though as usual his motives are a complete mystery. Perhaps he wants to test him, or simply to break him.

     Rizzo turns his back on the fire, moving past Batou and patting him on the shoulder. "You should take Staren up on that. He's aces with the gizmos." Loosening his tie, the vampire disappears around a corner and into the night. There's one, final chance for him to get through to Avenger, and he can't risk anything or anyone getting in the way out of it.

     There've been too many losses, recently--too many people dead for someone else's idea of justice. Peace needs a win. /He/ needs a win.

Batou (1153) has posed:
Batou chuckles, shaking his head. "She may very well have already hacked my eyes to see through them, but maybe she won't mind some help."

Batou steps back for Staren, beckoning him to the warped doors. "Be my guest!"

Princess Luna (993) has posed:
     Once they are free of the fiery rubble, Luna lowers her barrier. She then snorts softly at Batou. "I believe it was thy 'quick thinking' that also doomed us." she says as she tries to brush the soot and dust off her dress. She looks toward the burning palace as well, then around at the grounds. "...didst anyone see the Lady Tapfer after she abandoned her disguise?"

Staren has posed:
    Staren gets to work fixing the hinge or latch with his tools. "So I guess it's an especially unusual problem for you. Since your minds are all synced with eachother periodically, it's like..." He shakes his head. "I can't think of a metaphor that applies to wooden ships. But you're kind of like all the same person, getting a little bit different and then becoming a NEW same person. I doubt anyone but a tachikoma has experienced anything quite like it."

    Oh god he's started talking again.

    At some point, a bright-violet-haired woman in a plain, dark dress beams down and hands him his messenger bag (sensors would show she's an android) -- He slides the strap over his shoulder and pulls out a spraycan, applying nanomachines to the metal to (slowly) make the repairs that are difficult to do with tools.

Empty Tidings has posed:
The hand does not burn. The flames lick at it, but it refuses to catch. Still, they swirl around it, caressing the flesh that is attached to the bizarre appendage. It eats away at the skin above it. It starts to be replaced, built up with creeping growth like coral that piles on and burns away, again and again. She can feel the awful, poisonous heat seep into her arm, creeping towards her heart.

Burn away her sins. She wonders if it's literal. Maybe she could just...


...best not.

"I am no such thing." The green fire intensifies. It wreathes her hand in baleful luminescence, combating his own inner flame. She tightens her grip for a moment, and then flips him up off the ground, tossing him towards the far side of the ring of fire with a flick of her wrist. It's as gentle as it gets, considering, but she's clearly disengaging for the moment.

"Hell is a place made by the treacherous acts of those who thought they knew better than the architects of the world," she says. There's heat in her voice. "The rightful rulers are imprisoned therein, tortured and mutilated by the 'victors,'" she spits, spitefully, "who let all Creation crumble once they had their bloodied hands on the ill-gotten crown."

"I am Empty Tidings of Brass and Verdigris, leal servant of The Shadow of All Things, herald of The Sea That Marched Against The Flame. I /will/ cast down the scavengers that drag the world into darkness, and I /will/ restore the creators of the world back to their rightful place."

Dapper Avenger (1133) has posed:
Avenger gets flicked back, hitting the ring of flames and forcing himself forward as he gets burned. He raises his flaming hand again, regenerating his wounds as he prepares to strike again...until he hears what she has to say. "You fight traitors for the sake of your creators. You seek to bring the world to light. That's admirable. Very well, then. After I finish what I have started here, killing the traitor priest, you will have my aid." The flame traps start to turn off, one by one.

"I am the Avenger, the brilliant black flame of grudge. What do you say?"

Empty Tidings has posed:
"I say..."

The fires about her hand flicker out. Empty Tidings hurts, but not necessarily /only/ in a bad way. "...once you're done, we should have a chat about our future partnership. Mm?"

She looks back to the flames, and not the ones ringing them. "You should carry on your way. I'm sure that they'll be looking for you again soon."

Dapper Avenger (1133) has posed:
The Avenger simply nods, before turning and walking off. He disappears soon after, into a jagged black shape, before gone in the distance. All the traps are off. For now, the Avenger has won his survival. But the battle is not truly over.

He needs to kill a priest.