5647/TGSBP: Absolution

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TGSBP: Absolution
Date of Scene: 20 January 2018
Location: The Tapestry
Synopsis: The final confrontation with the Avenger in Hvergel comes to a head. Finale of The Guilty Shall Be Punished mini-plot.
Cast of Characters: Dapper Avenger, 1011, Princess Luna, Reiji Arisu, 1153, 1134, Xiaomu


Dapper Avenger has posed:
The sun is setting, the light fading. It'd be a beautiful sight from the top of a hill, a memorable night, but this one will only have tragedy.

The Avenger is moving fast. Wearing hat, coat, and scarf, In each hand is a man being dragged along, the priest Edda and the banker Hardhaft. The smoking transfer vehicle is already far behind him, and the police won't be able to catch up in time. The punishment awaits.

He's heading straight for the front doors of the Church of Yggdrasil, determination in those blood-red eyes. The cold eyes of a killer, a man who has committed enough sins that this is just a drop in the bucket. To the man blocking his way, he lifts up Hardhaft, who squeals. "Allow me inside, or I'll kill him now. If you allow me in, you have time to save him. If you do not, you won't. The choice is yours." The Avenger speaks English, his cadence rough but not overly, like that of a young sailor or soldier. "They cannot be burned without a pyre, after all. They cannot be shown that they are damned, not in the streets like this. You understand you have no choice, don't you, Abbe?"

Whether or not Avenger gets through via words, he moves to /shove/ himself through the door, tearing through the wooden walls if necessary, using Hardhaft as his instrument. He's getting inside that church. If he must, his traps inside will assist him in forcing his way in. Any second now, the news will be breaking, the important part. And everything will click into gear.

There will be no absolution for the guilty.

John Rizzo (1011) has posed:
-EVENING OF THE WEDDING BOMBING-

     Rizzo shambles his way through the city streets, stopping only once he reaches the Church of Yggdrasil. The vampire looks up at the winding branches of the symbolic 'world tree,' from which the dead body of Josiah Vermond once swayed at the end of a rope. Though it's long since been removed, the vision of the tree is still marred in his memory by the slowly swaying corpse.

     He makes an impromptu haven of the place, hiding beneath the floorboards during the day and waiting for Avenger's return each evening.

-PRESENTLY-

     When Avenger finally arrives, he'll find Rizzo standing in the aisle, waiting for him. A glance is given towards Edda and Hardhaft, His hands stuffed into his pockets and a tired frown on his face. The floorboards creak as he approaches the Servant, as if bearing not just his weight, but the weight of his thoughts. With but two feet between them, Rizzo's frown worsens, and he gives a deep, tired sigh.

     "Can't do that, bo," he says on the matter of stepping aside. "Lemme put you wise. I've been waiting you out. I haven't eaten, except to heal this." He touches a hand to the pale, exposed skin beneath the holes in his shirt, which now serve as the only evidence Staren's lasers ever touched him.

     Rizzo nods towards the church's double doors. "Any second now, they're gonna come through those doors with a mind to hang you from that tree outside. So, you got two options."

     "You can let these two bums go," says the vampire with a nod towards Edda and Hardhaft, "...catch the red-eye carriage outta town and leave all the eye-for-an-eye jazz behind. I'll tell 'em you slipped the noose. You get to start a new life, learn to live without that hole in your heart. Or..."

     "You can stay and fight. But if you stay, I stay. And that means no fire for your sinners--unless you want to let the Other Guy out." Rizzo taps the side of his head, indicating just who he means. "He's an animal, he's hungry, he's chewing at the cage. You throw fire into the mix, he might just break out--have himself a snack on the way to whatever ditch he'll hide in. Only, he doesn't care whether his food's innocent or not." Rizzo's disappointed frown turns into a bitter smile, and he makes a horizontal gesture with both hands, as if pitching a newspaper headline.

     "Mother of Three Exsanguinated in Senseless Attack." He looks upwards briefly, picturing the newspaper, and when his eyes return to Avenger, he gives a little shrug. "Of course, you could try and off these two the old fashioned way, no fire... but then I'd have to stop you."

     Rizzo glances to the double doors, then crosses his arms. "So now, it's /your/ conviction on trial. My soul's in your hands. What's it gonna be? Your salvation, or your vengeance? Clock's ticking, pal." The vampire holds up a pale hand, rolling the sleeve of his tuxedo up to reveal a wristwatch, tapping against it with a finger.

Princess Luna has posed:
     The setting sun is just the sort of sky that brings out another denizen of the night, and her long shadow is cast over the Avenger from the broken doorway as he faces down Rizzo. "Thou hast my assurances that either murderous course of action shalt be followed by thine own destruction, Avenger." says the silhouetted figure. In this light, with the setting sun at her back, all that can be made out from inside the church are her glowing blue eyes, the shine of her scythe, and the flow of her ethereal mane and tail. "It would be wise for thee to simply release these people and accept the offer. Mister Rizzo knew thy destination, and we are hardly the only ones with whom thou shalt have to contend."

Reiji Arisu has posed:
Rizzo isn't the only one spending his evening in the city of Hvergel tonight. There's a job left unfinished, a criminal left unpunished, and a pair of deaths to avenge. There was no helping it; the uproar over the palace's collapse was impossible to appease without releasing the two so-called 'collaborators' into local custody. And now look what has come of it: Two dead in the streets. Escaped prisoners. Chaos.

But not entirely unplanned for.

Faster than any law enforcement ever aught to be able to pursue, a figure appears in the shadow of the chapel's steeple. A red jacket, a rack full of weapons in his left hand, a lit cigarette smoldering at his lips, casting his face into sharp contrast against the surrounding darkness. "One way or another, this madness ends tonight. I strongly suggest that you surrender peacefully, or else we will have to take you in by force."

The cigarette flares, a thin puff of smoke wafting from around the exorcist's lips. "Quadruple-homicide, conspiracy to kill a state diplomat, escaping arrest, destruction of public property, kidnapping... Given what we'd seen at the palace, I'd wager that you made ample preparations in the church as well. That's just the beginning, too. You've got quite the rap sheet. I don't think we can just let you go so easily, Avenger."

Batou (1153) has posed:
Tachikoma rolls up to the church a minute after The Avenger, peering around the door, eyes focusing on The Avenger and Rizzo. Tachikoma waves at Luna, eyes spinning as Batou, with his therm-optic camoflage engaged, watches from the outside through the stained glass at the scene unfolding.

"Target sighted, Rizzo also in visual range. Head in Tachikoma, make a ruckus with Luna."

"Roger!" Tachikoma quips, walking in beside Luna. "Avenger, you are under arrest," states Tachikoma, opening its claws, machine guns primed. "Lay down the civilians and I won't light you up!"

At that moment, Batou shatters the stained glass, hopping through the debris as it falls.

Mei Hatsume (1134) has posed:
A pink-haired inventor is here, too! She's rappelling down from the roof from the wires on her harness while carrying a pair of... Pistols? No, they've got bright orange tips on them, so they couldn't possibly be standard handguns.

     MAybe one day. For now, though, she's armed with some tasers and watching the Avenger closely despite not being anywhere near him just yet. "Drop those two and nobody has to get hurt! You don't have a chance of escaping, so just make things easier for yourself and turn yourself in!"

Xiaomu has posed:
If the multiple ultimatums (ultimata?) aren't enough to bring the Dapper Avenger to a halt - or, well, even if they are - then a gunshot or two should do the trick.

Oh, not THROUGH him. Xiaomu's not quite that gauche, especially when her allies are being pretty dramatic in their own rights. Instead, two bullets strike the floor in front of his feet. One of them is just an ordinary bullet of a fairly common size/caliber/etc.

The second bullet is the one that leaves a layer of ice on the ground around where it struck, practically on top of the first (mundane) bullet. It's not enough of an ice slick to leave him slipping or falling unless the Avenger just massively botched an Agility check, but it adds weight to the warning shots.

"Just in case you're thinking about doing this the hard way," Xiaomu comments from her perch in the rafters, "I really, *really* don't think you're ready for the hard way. Not now. Not in the next ten years. But definitely, *definitely*, not now."

The foxgirl's eyes ... may or may not actually be glowing. You'd have to look pretty hard to even tell for sure, really.

Dapper Avenger has posed:
The Avenger listens to Rizzo, not budging. He's almost like a statue in how coldly he stands there, as Hardhaft squirms, while Edda prays under his breath, almost resigned to his fate. The Avenger actually appears to maybe be thinking it over, as he takes a step forward to Rizzo. "You always disagreed with how I saw things, Abbe. You always wanted me to be better. But we are different men, now." Hardhaft is lifted up, and Avenger is about to speak again, when the Paladins arrive. One by one, they surround him, causing Avenger's face to warp into a frown. "You arrive early. Too early to see him burn for his crimes. Ah, but I must correct you - I did not conspire to kill a state diplomat. That was a misunderstanding." He does not dispute any of the rest.

Xiaomu's bullets cause Avenger to stare down, briefly, but he doesn't move. Instead, that frowns begins to warp to a grin, as the men are held up. "You underestimate me because you have numbers, or because I've been holding back. No matter. You ask, Abbe, if I am convicted. I am always convicted. My goal has not changed...but I will give the man to you. I will let you have him."

Avenger suddenly sends Hardhaft flying towards Rizzo, throwing him forward. His grip doesn't loosen on Edda...and then he raises his left hand, the now-empty one. "If you are a beast, then I will awaken it!" His hand lights up with those dark flames, as Avenger snaps his fingers. Something starts to click on the rafters up above, and then suddenly, a mine detonates. Xiaomu has about a moment to not get sent falling from the collapsing rafter, before Avenger suddenly moves flying at Reiji, moving to grip him with the flames and burn into his flesh. His wounds burn painfully, and are difficult to heal - the damage sustains for a bit, as well. After that, he twists on his foot, sending Edda flying at Mei briefly before moving to grab him by the scruff again and punch her in the gut with the flames, and spin again to kick Luna with the fire.

The Tachikoma, meanwhile, have to deal with a click of their own. Several slots on the wall across from them open, before spears start flying at the Tachikoma's armor, moving to knock it back - they're not the best against a machine, but they're still pretty sturdy.

"Come, now. Let's test your convictions." Avenger states to no one in particular.

Boss OST: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rr9AVYDEeMQ&t=11s

Princess Luna has posed:
     Princess Luna looks around as the others make their appearances, then blinks as the Tachikoma moves in beside her. She gives the spider tank a pat like one might a noble beast, then looks to Avenger again as he speaks. The kick pushes Luna back a bit and leaves her smoldering, but rather than striking back her horn glows and with her telekinetic might she tries to pull Edda free of Avenger's grasp. "Thou asked me last we met if it is cowardly to do anything necessary to accomplish thy task! My answer is...yes! Release this man and face us on proper terms, cowardly snake! If the truth is as thou hast said, then they will face justice at the hands of the law! Not a serial killer using vigilantism as his excuse to indulge his own twisted desires!"

     Edda is surrounded by the pale blue glow that is also surrounding Luna's horn, and a tug of war no doubt ensues. Hopefully it will give others an opening to get to Avenger.

Mei Hatsume (1134) has posed:
"Hmhmhm... I didn't think you'd give up easily, no. We gave you a chance!" Mei boasts as she finishes lowering herself, bringing her tasers back up to try and draw a bead on Avenger. Doing so is easier said than done, though, with the distraction from the detonating mine and his use of Edda and Hardhaft as weaponry keeping her from taking the shot.

     That gives Avenger the chance he needs to make the first attack. Even with her reflexes and the harness' hydraulic bars popping out to augment her evasion attempt, that punch still manages to knock her back several feet and put a sizable scorch on her uniform, and the inventor clambers back not unlike a two-legged spider trying to regain its balance.

     "Gh...! You're a fast one. Then... Let's see if you can deal with this!" Grinning defiantly and wincing for a moment, Mei leans forward as two hoses sprout from the harness on her hips. They take aim around Avenger rather than at him to spray a clear, sticky goop at the ground to try and limit his mobility!

Xiaomu has posed:
Dammit, Xiaomu was just about ready to do a dramatic leap down to the main floor, hurling herself away from an incipient trap going off is TOTALLY incompatible with looking cool and landing awesomely like she and Reiji have practiced so often. Then again, getting blown to a crisp by the bad guy's previously-rigged explosives looks a lot less cool than escaping the blast, even if escaping leads to an uninspiring faceplant next to your partner - so Xiaomu's ready to accept the faceplant.

Not that she faceplants. She squeezes off a couple of ice-elemental shots to try and stifle the fire in the rafters, then alights in a crouch next to Reiji - or at least, where Reiji was standing before the Dapper Avenger tried to introduce Reiji to spontaneous combustion.

Whether Reiji managed to escape an impromptu rendition of Disco Inferno or not, Xiaomu's next move is to aim at Dapper Avenger and start pulling her triggers, the sound of gunshots as swift as an old typewriter, printing up a personalized ticket to Bullet Hell.

Batou (1153) has posed:
Tachikoma is knocked forward from the spears as the mine detonates overhead one eye on Xiaomu, the others on Luna and the Avenger. Tachikoma takes some dents as the spears bounce off it's hull, but remains mostly unphased.

Batou sprints forward, avoiding the rafters coming down with relatve ease. "Tachikoma, take one of the targets and get them the hell out of here!"

"Got it Mr. Batou," Tachikoma quips over the radio, turning to adress Luna. "If you can, float Edda to me. I can hold them and keep them safe."

Batou sprints up to Rizzo, his camo still engaged with his arms outstretched. "Rizzo, I'm right beside you, hand me Hardhaft and take care of that bastard."

Reiji Arisu has posed:
"Underestimate you? No. We were just hoping that you would be reasonable. Unfortunately, it seems that due diligence was unnecessary at this juncture." Reiji spits his cigarette into the ground, smothering its embers with the heel of his boot. "We made our attempt to settle this peacefully, now there's nothing holding us back. Come on. Let's see what you've got."

The answer: Fire and fury. Unnatural, black flames surge around the strange wanderer. They burn not on air, but on something... Else. Hatred, rage, angst, vengeance. The flame the Avenger wields is as unnatural as it comes--

But his mistake was in alerting Reiji to his hostility. A prepared blade does not shatter so easily. Flame fills the Exorcist's world, swallowing him in darkness... Which abruptly breaks as hungry arcs of lightning surge through the clouds. A small, agile blade sweeps rapidly through the haze, consuming ever more fire with every one of those split-second slashes. "Chirai," Reiji orders. "Thunder with all the might of your namesake."

Luna makes her move. Reiji rolls back, landing deftly next to his partner as dark embers swirl over patches of burnt but not breached skin. "Xiaomu, I've got your back."

Another slash. That accumulated energy surges forward, leaping into a great, blinding wave that seems to swallow up the fox's shots... And, just as it had consumed the flame, Chirai's energy is devoured by the enchanted steel of that bullet storm, transforming each one into a supernaturally potent, shining slug. "Earth" Reiji murmurs, "Carries Metal."

John Rizzo (1011) has posed:
Rizzo has gone without food for several days now, the evenings spent only on ritualistic prayer. The shove is met with only a reproachful glare, but the fire... that's seen as an attack. Not by Rizzo. But by all the animal urges of the human psyche, amplified to such atrocious extent that vampires the world over give it such weight as to approach personification. They call these urges 'the Beast.'

     A scarlet spray splashes upon Avenger, Batou, and especially Rizzo as Hardhaft's body crumples to the ground. His face lands in Mei's glue, a rapidly growing pool of blood attempting to mingle with the substance beneath it. The wound in his neck is like a grotesque envelope slid roughly open.

     To Batou, Rizzo appears especially pale--but the splash of color reveals him to be, in this moment, not a man, but a creature. One with eyes that burn like lanterns from behind a bloodied, stone-faced mask. That creature has no qualms about frightening its allies, no worries for pacifism--as the cyborg will see. Rizzo dips forward with unnatural speed, forcing himself upon Avenger with the grace of a desert predator. Fangs are out--and they're headed for Avenger's throat.

Dapper Avenger has posed:
Avenger narrows his eyes at Luna, as he begins tug-o-waring over Edda. "You are naive as I once was. The law is nothing on its own. It is corrupt, and cannot be trusted for punishment and vengeance. It harms the innocent more than it does the guilty, because it is the guilty." His face twists into a snarl. "Therefore I am vengeance! I am the wrathful flames of God! The black flames of justice that cleanse the stains from the world, that purify!"

Avenger, however, ends up losing his grip on Edda as the combination attack slams into him, unable to move because of the glue trapping his feet. The bullets rip into his coat, drawing red blood. It's increased as Reiji's blades cut into him, cutting open his face. Avenger staggers back incredibly slowly, wincing, and is distracted long enough for Rizzo to come up behind him, clamping around his neck and drinking his blood. It's very filling, tasting slightly but not very different than most humans, that magic zest in it. However, Avenger refuses to get drained. "Abbe, you have become the monster you pledged to never be. Have you betrayed your convictions? Have you betrayed your faith? What say you, if you can even speak? TALK TO ME!"

Avenger suddenly breaks out into a maniacial laugh, as his outfit starts to warp. Black flames cover over it, forcing into a cloak over his suit coat, and white flashing orbs surround him - they don't do anything physically, but are clearly sparking off of him. Avenger slams his eyes close, before suddenly ripping them open again, gold eyes burning brightly, practically flaming orange. Avenger moves, forcing all his strength to try and rip Rizzo - a stronger man - off him and send him staggering towards Reiji, attempting to weaponize the vampire.

Then, slowly burning through the glue, Avenger's wounds begin to heal. Slowly, the slashes on his face begin to repair themselves, as do the ones on his torso, though he's still showing signs of difficulty moving, despite not showing any signs of pain whatsoever. Pointing to the ceiling, Avenger speaks. "Burn in the fires of hell!"

Anyone with supernatural hearing can tell, and then anyone who can smell smoke. Fire sprayers click on all around the church, setting the wooden building aflame. It starts to catch on fire...slowly, it's going to engulf the entire church. "Vladimir Edda is damned! You know of his crime, you investigated him, but they never convicted him! They had no evidence to, due to coincidences! A girl worked for him, and she found that he was corrupt, stealing from the tills. So he lured her into a trap, set his church on fire, and left her to burn! The man framed it on a lightning storm, and has only gotten more powerful in her loss. The evidence is being distributed as we speak." It's true - anyone on the outside working for them would be able to confirm that papers are being handed out, both proving that Edda has stolen from at minimum his current church, and without much proof, strongly blaming him for the murder of a woman named Astrid, who was Father Edda's assistant - her death as an accident being a coverup.

Edda actually seems horrified, at this point. He tries to muster up the will to scream. "No! I d-didn't! I did not kill her! It was an accident!" He sounds strongly guilty about /something/, from how ragged he is.

With the fire starting in the church, Avenger finally burns through the glue, and moves forward to strike. He slams his fists into Mei, before moving to send her flying painfully at Xiaomu. Avenger then proceeds to launch himself at Reiji, moving to try and burn him again, striking his chest, while his other hand moves to slam into Luna. The spear-throwers are replaced with more flamethrowers, which begin to let off into the tachikoma and Batou, trying to burn them up.

Avenger leaps upwards, and then finally moves to slam boot first into Reiji again, no flames. "What is your conviction, Reiji Arisu? What do you fight for?!"

Batou (1153) has posed:
"Thank you, Luna! We'll take care of this guy!" Tachikoma says, backing out to the courtyard in the front of the church. Another volley of bullets fly from Tachikoma's hands as it aims for Avenger.

Batou's optic camoflage shudders off as the body quickly goes cold underfoot, warm blood pooling out on his thermals as he sees Rizzo leap at Avenger, stepping back in suprise at the swiftness of the kill.

He pulls his shotgun off his back, aiming for Avenger and Rizzo with little grace, planning on hitting them both. "Not much of a do-gooder, huh Rizzo?" Batou spits out as he lets a round go off at them both, but only managing to hit Avenger.

"Avenger, I don't give a damn if he stole money. Right now I wouldn't even care if Edda killed his own mother! What I care about is to see those who call themselves righteous punished," Batou shouts, his jacket catching on fire as he rips it off, letting another round hit the Avenger.

"So much pain and suffering has been excused with the disgusting thought that the 'means justify the ends'. Thankfully I can say I'm not perfect. But Avenger, you can't say that. You're no god anyone should listen to. And I'll send you to hell myself if I have to."

Princess Luna has posed:
     When she sees what Rizzo has done, Princess Luna is stunned. It takes her a few moments, but her teeth grit and her hands clench. "What hast thou done?!" she bellows in a voice that shakes the burning church. She almost forgets that she is trying to free Edda! They will have to deal with Rizzo after Avenger is taken care of...

     As Luna hears the accusation and sees Edda's reactions, her eyes narrow. But, with Edda free she starts to hand him over to Tachikoma before she is hit again by a fearsome punch laced with that magical fire. The princess cries out as the blow catches her in the belly and leaves a burning wound. But, she has Edda and so leaps back with a powerful flap of her wings, carrying him outside since the spider tank is covered in fire. "I shall return once I have delivered Edda to the proper authorities!" she says

     Before leveling a cold glare at Edda. "If there is any truth to what he says...you will be very fortunate not to face such a fire." she says quietly to him as she carries him away, leaving a trail of smoke from her singed feathers, fur, and dress. Not to mention the dark flames that stubbornly continue to burn.

Xiaomu has posed:
An irritated grimace crosses Xiaomu's face as Dapper Avenger keeps moving all over the freakin' place; she has to be a little more selective with her gunfire - even with Reiji's support and his elemental sorcery boosting her bullets' impacts, if not ESPECIALLY with the boost to her firepower, she doesn't want to put unnecessary holes in her allies. Or the architecture, for that matter - which the self-proclaimed Avenger clearly does not care about, given he's trying to light more of it on fire with those traps.

And then the bullets stop entirely, mostly because getting an ally thrown in your face is a great impediment to proper targeting, never mind actually keeping your aim on whatever you want to shoot. The maneuver is fast, brutal, and catches the sage fox almost entirely off-guard, leaving her sprawled underneath Mei Hatsume's body for a brief but critical moment.

She doesn't stay down any longer than it takes to help get Hatsume off of her, and more importantly, back to her own feet; in the next instant, Xiaomu flips back to her feet, pistols stashed inside her vest once again, and then simply LEAPS at Dapper Avenger, her staff back in hand (wherever it was the previous moment) - and for good measure, Xiaomu actually *draws* Suiren, the straight, single-edged blade hissing clear of the staff's hidden scabbard, ring-bearing headpiece now serving as a hilt.

She's not being too picky about where she stabs, as long as it's 'Dapper Avenger' and not one of her allies - or Reiji, especially in particular! - and if her blade pierces his body, Metal will be accompanied by a very large dose of ice magic, close enough to Water to benefit from the elemental amplification.

"Somebody so bathed in his own sense of righteousness that he loses sight of the division between Heaven and Hell has no right to ask my partner about his convictions," Xiaomu hisses, "especially if you're only asking so you can call him out on them being fake. So LET GO OF MY PARTNER!!!" she finishes in an abrupt yell -

And then vaults away, yanking her sword back out of Dapper Avenger while she's pushing off. If her stab DID strike home, he likely has some ice crystals stabbing into him along the blade's path ... that's not going to be pleasant, and might seriously hinder his movements along that part of his body. (Or, admittedly, the ice magic might not have done THAT much extra damage. But to those who are paying attention, Xiaomu has seemingly stopped caring about taking this guy alive ...)

Mei Hatsume (1134) has posed:
Did Rizzo just rip out Hardhaft's throat? That was... Rather gruesome. Mei's eyes actually go visibly wider at that, and she's stunned for a moment as her brain tries to process what's just happened. Seeing an already dead corpse is considerably different from seeing someone bleeding out in front of her, and that shock makes it all too easy for the Avenger to strike at her. Mei goes flying right for Xiaomu, and she only barely manages to retract her bars in time so as to not accidentally stab her ally!

     "They... Did they really try to cover it up that much?" Clutching her side and trying to fight off the pain, Mei keeps low to the ground as she tries to get her bearings straight. Edda's words don't inpsire much confidence in his innocence, either, and at least for a moment? She can't really blame the Avenger for doing what he's doing.

     As Avenger shouts at Edda and Batou shouts back, however, something starts to click for the hero in training. Standing up is an issue, but she's still able to bring her tasers up to take aim at Avenger once more with an intense stare. "... He's right. You can't just take the law into your own hands. If the people upholding the law aren't doing their jobs, then we replace them with people who do!" She shouts as well, sounding quite confident of herself even as she's starting to topple over from the pain.

     And the the tasers fire, long wires launching right for the Avenger. "Tch... If you act as the judge and the jury, then nobody will feel safe when you become the corrupt people you tried to replace!"

Reiji Arisu has posed:
So, this is his true form. The devil himself, standing in all his glory against the backdrop of a burning church. Malevolent flames dance in his eyes and surge to and fro at his beck and call. Yes, truly, this spirit must be...

Satan...!

No. Not especially. Reiji doesn't hold any fear in his heart for that literal western devil. What he does express is horror and frustration as Izzo undergoes a truly dark metamorphoses indeed. "Damnit. Hardhaft--" He growls, shaking his head. Focus. Here and now.

"So what, exactly?" Reiji snarls at the Avenger's condemnation. "Is that like your 'proof' that you and he were co-conspirators? Regardless of even that, so what if he IS guilty of murder? If that is truly the case, then he will be tried and punished as is prescribed by law. Otherwise, punishment means nothing. Simply the whims of an angry spirit."

"Do you think you are the only one of your kind we have fought in the past?" Reiji questions as the Avenger's fist smashes into his chest. He drives his shortblade into the earth, arresting his flight and swallowing more of those lingering flames before he can go tumbling back. "You claim to seek justice, but all you are doing, Spirit of Vengeance, is quenching your own fury in the blood of the guilty and the innocent alike. Or was that palace you set to explode somehow meant to kill only the guilty? Punish your own damned self first."

"You ask of my conviction?" Reiji stands, tearing the still-smoldering fabric of his jacket away. "I am Reiji Arisu of Shinra. I am sworn to serve and protect. Innocence. Guilt. These aren't things I get to decide on. But evil? I know evil when I see it. Evil is tearing lives apart for some asinine, self-righteous goal."

There's a soft clatter of steel as one blade is sheathed. "Evil is causing suffering in the blind pursuit of one's own interests."

His hand is hovering over his weapons, poised and ready to strike. "Evil puts countless lives at risk for the sake of their own vendettas. These things and more, I will not abide!"

"You ask of my covnictions?" Reiji snarls as Xiaomu strikes. He ducks, suddenly darting forward as the ice and water surge all around him. With a swift jump, he kicks over a pillar of ice and rides it up over the cresting wave of frost. Reiji roars, striking with lightning speed. He draws...

A blade that no flames can touch.

A blade that can strike through all walls...!

"I am one who spends his life to protect all those who live in peace and harmony with this world! DARKDRIFT--!" Reiji slashes. There is no sound, only the sensation of a blade ripping through flesh.

John Rizzo (1011) has posed:
Avenger's appeals are made. They are trivial concerns--dumb things. Human things. The Beast wants what it wants--this is its first taste of human blood in decades. He is hard to shake--especially without his morality getting in the way. But unlike Avenger, his legend is weak; he's no Caine or Methuselah. With enough force mustered, Rizzo is thrown off of the servant. His flailing body flies towards Reiji, threatening to bowl the exorcist over if he doesn't evade.

     Whether Reiji dodges or not, though, Avenger will be there attacking. Rizzo isn't aware of this when he hits the ground, be it because of Reiji's dexterous evasion or otherwise. In fact, he's not been aware of much at all, save for base animal instinct. That instinct tells him the church is on fire. Whatever meal could've been gotten here is not worth the risk of death. Fire is death. Fire is death. Fire is death. Fire is death.

     The vampire scrambles to his hands and knees, crawling out of the church with unsettling speed. His posture straightens and rises slightly, more resembling some primate than a spider, and he runs on all fours out the church doors. So focused is this creature on flight from the fire that it doesn't notice the Tachikoma outside.

     The vampire slams with full force into the Tachikoma, and, overcome with animal fright, begins beating his fists upon the drone's metal surface in an effort to frighten it off.

Batou (1153) has posed:
Tachikoma lets out a frightened yelp as Rizzo runs with frightening speed from the church, and topples onto its side, easily overcome by the suprise and force of the punches, leaving sizable dents in the hull. "A-ahhh! Mr. Batou! Help!"

Reiji Arisu has posed:
Reiji, fortunately, was already in the middle of his deft charge through the waves of Xiaomu's frigid magic. A good thing, too; being bowled into by a blood-crazed, bestial vampire would be... A problem. He has no desire to be exsanguinated tonight.

Dapper Avenger has posed:
"You take my words wrong. I am not righteous, only wielding the flames of God. I am not divine. I am vengeance in the form of a Heroic Spirit! That is all I am and ever will be!" Avenger suddenly flies forward as Luna moves to take Edda away, but is attacked by Xiaomu, who stabs him in the gut, freezing the wound from the inside. If Avenger could feel pain, he'd be screaming. "Heaven and hell are two sides of the same coin. I use the flames of Hell to burn away the guilty! I do not call out on convictions being fake just to do so, for they must be tested thoroughly!"

The tazers fire into Avenger, who pauses from the sudden misfiring of nerves which leads him staggering backwards. "How many will you replace? All of them? Until there are none left? Naivety is a virtue of the innocent, but can you call yourself innocent? I am not corruption. I am the black flames of grudge."

Reiji moves to stab Avenger. As he does, Avenger quips back at him. "That is the only punishment that matters. You cannot change from your crimes. The law is nothing but words. Innocent man have had their lives destroyed by it. Few men in this world now are innocent." Avenger leaps forward to smash his fist into Reiji's face as Reiji's blade tears through him, starting to carve through his flesh. "Innocent is a word that has almost lost all meaning! What you consider innocent are men with malice in their heart! The people there who all died were selfish and corrupt. Only cared about lining their own pockets!"

The blood soaks Reiji's blade, as Avenger has to pull himself off it. The blood mixes with the pool below, as the wound tries to heal but does so slowly. It's not a fatal wound...but it's bad. And Luna's escaping.

"Peace, harmony! And you let murderers survive! How does that match with your convictions? How does that work with what you do?" Avenger suddenly moves to clear Reiji's head and meld through the wall of the church, dematerializing and going through it, before moving to try and land straight on Luna and dig into her with a flaming foot. The church is truly starting to burn, and the walls are catching aflame. Soon, it'll crumble into nothing.

Batou (1153) has posed:
Goddamn supernatural entities. Nevermind, just save the damn priest.

Batou sprints out of the church as it burns ever more fiercly, reaching the toppled Tachikoma and laughing. "Fridge got you pretty good, huh?" Batou chuckles. Tachikoma wiggles its legs uselessly in protest. "H-hey! He's really fast, and mean! Look at those dents on my hull!" Tachikoma whines. "Don't worry about him," Batou says, looking at the claw marks on the bottom of Tachikoma. "Something tells me he won't be running after our guy. More animal than person..." He muses for a moment, then hops over the Tachikoma and grabs it on the side, uprighting it with ease.

"Alright, enough lying around, time to chase after that Heroic Spirit, or whatever the hell he calls himself."

Tachikoma opens the doors as Batou hops inside, and speeds off after Luna and Avenger.

Mei Hatsume (1134) has posed:
If that's what it takes, then yes!" Mei boasts confidently, biting back another cringe another sharp pain in her gut. Just how hard did she take Avenger's hit before? Making a mental note to get that checked out later, she brings the hoses back up from her harness while slowly staggering back to her feet.

     "Even if your heart was in the right place, getting revenge-crazy just means other people will get revenge-crazy! And if they do that, then they'll be too busy to see what's really important. They won't be able to see my work!"

     Priorities.

     Also, the church being on fire. That is a pretty important priority at the moment, especially since there's still people inside. Mei starts hosing down the way to the entrance, clearing a path for those inside to get out of their without burning themselves up!

Reiji Arisu has posed:
"ALL men have malice in their hearts," Reiji snarls as Avenger's fist finds purchase, snapping the exorcist's head backwards... But he presses in, though the flames burn at his flesh, though his teeth lacerate his cheek, he draws his blade away to prepare another strike. "What man doesn't? Who hasn't done something, anything, that they regret, that they feel guilt for? Mercy, discipline, forgiveness, these are all the ways we fight back against that inner darkness. How does it match my convictions? Simple!"

Reiji curses as the avenger retreats through the church wall... Only to suddenly open fire on him with a barrage of punishing gunfire. Shotgun and handcannot roar as one, blasting a hole straight through the wall with rounds designed to slay spirits and shatter demonic power. They smash through stone and plaster just as well. Reiji leaps, crossing his arms over his head to barrel through himself and lands, rolling into a sprint to continue his pursuit. "I will bring them to be judged! They will serve their sentence! If they resist, if nothing is to be done, /then/ I will do what I must to protect myself, but if we ran around killing or arresting everyone for just /considering/ an evil action, we'd be no better than tyrants!"

"Innocents suffer by law. Criminals are punished by law. No system is perfect. Nobody is perfect. But to do the best we can, to do all that can be done to protect the peace of people's lives, so that they don't /have/ to turn to those dark urges...!" Reiji charges, his electric blade unsheathed again, seeking this time to plunge deep into the Avenger's back. Should he connect, Chirai would roar, sending a surge of pure electric chaos through the nerve bundles that drive his body! "That is what we do!"

Princess Luna has posed:
     Princess Luna was certainly not expecting to be pounced in flight by the Dapper Avenger! She lets out a scream of pain as she is caught squarely in the center of her back by the sudden attack. The impact drives her downward, and she has only a second to send out a powerful burst of telekinetic energy to try and throw Avenger off.

     She then curls herself around Edda as best she can, her majestic wings serving as his shield as they plummet toward the ground. She crashes on her back and cries out, then slides to a stop. Edda is freed from her grip as she lies there stunned for a few moments, those dark flames practically covering her. She stands slowly, panting from pain and exhaustion. "If thy goal is to repay in blood every wrong ever committed, then is thy intent to destroy every being on this world? Who wouldst thou avenge then? What happens when thou art the only guilty party alive? Shalt thou become thy own judge, jury, and executioner?" she says.

     Her horn glows again, and this time a bright, nearly blinding light. "Thou art a plague upon the multiverse, if those are thy beliefs. And plagues must be dealt with swiftly." she says. Her wings spread wide, then she fires a beam of pure energy at the Dapper Avenger. "I shall not allow thee to harm anyone else!!" she shouts in a voice that rattles the ground as she sustains the beam for several seconds, bathing the entire area in the pale blue light of her magic.

John Rizzo (1011) has posed:
Having knocked the Tachikoma over, or perhaps realizing there's nothing living to kill, appears to have satisfied Rizzo's animal fright, at least for the moment. By the time Batou makes it outside, the only clue to the vampire's whereabouts is a peculiar sound. A metallic, low-pitched sound rapidly increasing in frequency. It's the sound of a manhole cover rattling shut, which Batou can see through Tachikoma's camera as he pursues Avenger.

     In the sewer, the vampire scurries into the darkness, and keeps running, as if the fire were right at his heels. Were he still alive, his heart might be beating in his chest--but as is, his is simply a dead, cold body propelled through the shadows by sheer primal terror. After several minutes of flight, he stops. The darkness and the water trickling past him are his only companions in the sewer, save the occasional squeaking of a rat.

     The only break in the shadows lies ahead, moonlight streaming in from above. There is no longer a creature in the sewer--but the man in its place knows exactly what's been done. He knows, and yet forces himself to rise, to stand once again on two feet and face it. The vampire stands before the light cast upon the water, and looks at the slim, visible portion of his reflection.

     Two stormcloud eyes look at him, the sole specks of white and grey in a field of drying red. Two new streaks of crimson well up in those eyes, slowly drifting down Rizzo's face. Looking his sin in the eyes, John collapses, his back up against the wall, and weeps, burying his face in his hands. Long ago, he swore he'd never be the reason someone else died--and yet, he keeps breaking that promise. What good is he if he can't even save himself?

Xiaomu has posed:
"Do you even understand why you mortals have courts and magistrates and trials?" Xiaomu grumbles at the Avenger, circling in search of a suitable opening, the crackle of flames and the acrid scent of smoke filtering quickly into her senses. She wants to do what she can to fight the fire, but frankly, all the ice she can conjure would barely be enough to slow the fire's spread. "I mean, *I* know this one and I'm *not* a human, I've just been around long enough to see ... Laws are a mortal creation. Justice, more often than not, is defined by mortals. Even if you look to the gods to lay your laws down for you, those laws are still administered by human men, sometimes women. I've been around to see empires fall and democracies rise, whole nations collapse to rebuild themselves under newly-constituted governments. Those laws *change*. The essential goals may not change, but the words and the implementations *do* - evolving towards greater enlightenment, most of the time."

An opening: Suiren flashes from the staff's sheath once more, long enough to try and slice through one of Avenger's hamstrings, aiming to cripple him.

"And because human beings can be *wrong*," she continues. "You see a crime committed, a sin that nobody is about to call the sinner to account for. But what if you didn't see what you THOUGHT you saw? What if there were, in fact, reasons for what you call out as treason?"

Another opening, thanks to Reiji's strike; Xiaomu attempts to capitalize with another slash of her own, and maybe it'll let Reiji make even better use of that opening *he* was exploiting.

"Your laws exist for a mortal reason. Your *courts* exist for a mortal reason. They aren't perfect, they never will be, but what price do you pay for taking the law into your own hands?"

"You call yourself a 'heroic spirit' ... I question both parts, now. Heroic is debatable. Spirit ..." She pauses, sniffing at the air, her nose wrinkling at the added smell of smoke from the spreading fires. ".... that part I'll give you," she adds grudgingly. "Still awfully human underneath, still thinking like a mortal in the worst ways."

Dapper Avenger has posed:
"My goal? My goal is to make a world where the innocent can live in peace. The guilty do not need to die unless they interfere with this or threaten the innocent, they only need be punished. But traitors...they can not be redeemed. They must burn! They are the /true/ plague!" It is very clear that Avenger seems to have deep-rooted issues with betrayal, as he responds. "I do not need to explain myself to you further. Now, GIVE HIM TO ME!" He's snarling.

The electric blade slams through Avenger's back, forcing him to a stop. He doesn't die, but he doesn't move, either. This allows Luna's energy beam to slam into him, and Xiaomu's blade to cut into his leg. He slips off the blade, barely able to walk...and focuses immediately to strike at Edda. He charges at Edda, moving to fire off flames at him, but all it takes is a block to stop it, because Avenger knows he cannot fight any further. He can wait. He can wait and hope that Edda will die.

As such, if the group focuses on getting Edda out of there...Avenger moves to escape. He starts running, waits several seconds to see what they do, and then leaps into the air. He's gone, even if pursued, and he has wounds to nurse, magic to take. He won't be at full fighting potential in quite some time.

Batou (1153) has posed:
Upon hearing Rizzo turning himself in, Batou comes to a stop, Tachikoma rolling back to the manhole cover. Next to the display in the Tachikoma, are a pair of handcuffs, shining brand new, unused. He sighs, thinking for a moment, then responding. "Alright, I'm coming for you Rizzo."

Batou steps out of the Tachikoma and lifts the manhole cover, peering inside, turning on his flashlight. Taking out his sidearm, he hops down into the sewer, making sure to avoid the muck. Footsteps run in one direction. Batou follows them, running along the sewer. "Rizzo, identify yourself, dead bodies don't have heat signatures."

Princess Luna has posed:
     Without hesitation, Princess Luna places herself in front of the flames and brings up her shield again. The pale blue surrounds her in a translucent bubble, and she grits her teeth as she tries to hold it. But, weakened as she is the shield shatters and she is engulfed once again. She cries out and stumbles back before falling to a knee. "I...sh-shall not...allow thee...to harm him...even if...he is guilty..." she pants out, her voice full of conviction and her eyes full of determination. "He shall face the justice of the people for what he has done, if he has indeed done anything and this was not all manufactured to satisfy thy dark bloodlust."

     Her words come through gritted teeth as those magical flames burn away at her. Were she not an alicorn she might have succumbed to them already. As it is, she whimpers or yelps every now and then as she burns.

     Once it is clear Dapper Avenger is gone, Luna looks over at Reiji and Xiaomu. "Nnng...I d-do not suppose either of thee possesses water conjuring powers? I am not sure these flames will even respond to them, but...." She wobbles unsteadily under the painful burning and ends up collapsing to the ground.

Xiaomu has posed:
If Xiaomu had to try to quantify this Avenger, she'd be thinking 'ghost' in terms of his behavior. Very physical, to be sure, but acting like a ghost in how closely tied his mind is to the ways of mortal laws and mortal morality.

That said, though, saving mortal lives (particularly in the face of immortal shenanigans) takes priority over exterminating a threat, so she'll be helping get Edda out safely. If laying down ice to create a cooler path will help, she can absolutely put her focus on that - although she's being just as careful not to make it so slippery that anyone's going to fall and go sliding out by accident. (Do it on purpose if you have to; at least that way it'll be a controlled departure!)

John Rizzo (1011) has posed:
"I'm here."

     It comes echoing back to Batou after a moment. The moonlight that illuminates the entrance beneath the manhole cover also illuminates Rizzo, once he steps into sight. He refuses to make eye contact with Batou (such that anyone can). Other than that, he allows the cyborg to cuff him with no fight or struggle on his part.

     Hardhaft's family will very possibly want justice for this, assuming he has any. He wouldn't rob them of that chance--not after his own arrogance caused the death of Hardhaft. At least, that's what he thinks at first. Perhaps he's trapped. If he'd have ran, would the others have been able to split their attention enough to save both men? Or would Avenger have killed both right away? No matter what he does, the force that torments him seeks to prove his quest for redemption a waste of time, and to prove his forgiving nature wrong. Today was supposed to have been a win.

     Instead, it was the biggest failure in several decades.

Reiji Arisu has posed:
The Avenger escapes. That's the least of Reiji's concerns right now. There's a bloody mess that used to be a man still burning away in the middle of a church and a culprit with major PTSD and also some kind of moon horse who is also on fire. "I got it," Reiji says, gesturing his ELECTRIC SWORD at the fires. "Just hold still."

What does lightning do?

Apparently, it eats fire.

He sighs, shaking his head at this... This whole mess. "Now then. Vladimir Edda. I don't think I need to tell you that you're under arrest, do I?"

Princess Luna has posed:
     With the flames extinguished finally, Luna slowly gets up again. She will certainly have to spend some time in a burn ward after this. And she will need a new dress. But, dress shopping is fun so that at least won't be so bad. "Thank thee." she says to Reiji once she is on her hooves. "...I do hope this town has a good fire department." she says, looking back at the church. She just watches it for a while, thinking about all that happend and much like Rizzo wondering how she could have saved Hardhaft. There had to have been a way she missed. Of course, at least part of the blame goes to Rizzo...but she knows all too well what it is like to have a monster inside you.

Dapper Avenger has posed:
Later discovery and interrogation would cause Edda to confess. While he didn't start the fire, the girl had been trapped - and he let her die. The last week of events has led him to pretty much thinking prison is a safer place than not prison, and he's absolutely going to have trauma.