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The group dealing with the Cadmus island settlement plan ventured to the volcano island of Father Titan, currently being used as 'Cobra-La' by the supervillain organization Cobra, who has set up an evil lair. Surveillance was put up, and bypassing their magnetic field was possible, allowing the group to travel to and from the volcano. They discovered that Father Titan, the volcano spirit, was captured and put inside a giant robot to be used as a power source - five keystones are required to release the field barrier!


The mini-yacht piloted by Gawain speeds through the water. Bypassing patrols through quick reflexes and thinking, the group is pulling up to the volcano, to a more deserted side of the 'beach'. There is an entrance here - a strangely non-keycoded, non-guarded door that leads into the interior of the volcano. Gawain is staying with the boat, but is on-radio support. "This will lead to the Cobra obstacle course, where Major Bludd, one of the five keystone holders, is supervising. I don't know how the obstacle course works, exactly, but it's very deadly! He's the Head of Personnel, so it's where he trains his henchmen. If they fail...well, they get replaced!"

The group will enter briefly, but they have a chance for quick last questions, or just slamming through the door and avoiding door paralysis.
Gilgamesh      There is someone who *absolutely* doesn't belong on the other side of the door.

     He's stretching like an athlete. Arms go sideways over his head in a C. Arms spread out above him to reach for the ceiling, then swing down to reach for toes. Flexible as all hell. His legs spread, stretching back and forth. It's like watching a professional at the Olympics get ready to run.

     Except professionals at the Olympics don't usually wear Literally Actually Gold-Spun Tracksuits (with Literal Silver stripes down the sides). Professionals at the Olympics also usually don't wear weird, swept-winged masks with three eye-slits. Professionals at the Olympics also aren't usually radiating an aura of divine perfection.

     As the door opens, the 'athlete' raises a hand over his shoulder. "Huhuhahahaha! About time you got here! I thought I would be waiting all day!"

     He turns, one hand on his hip, one hand in front of his mask, in the most classic oujo pose ever made. "I am King Island Mask, the mysterious masked island athlete! If you intend to win this key..."


     "Then I won't stop you! I'm simply here to relax! Go ahead! Don't worry about competing with me in the slightest!"

     Well that took a turn.

     'King Island Mask' sweeps back around. "But I *suppose* if you *happen* to need some assistance, it's lucky for you that I'm here. I am also an expert at saving those athletes who put themselves in danger when they push too hard trying to equal my glory! So don't worry, mongrels! Cut loose, and have fun, just like King Island Mask! Huhuhahahahah!"
Tamamo     Tamamo arrives together with Lilian, again wearing her Safari Adventure khakis, hair tied in a high tail to stay off her nape in this island heat--though it's probably the humidity. Are jungle-exploration clothes inappropriate for an obstacle course? Maybe! But with ~~fox~~ wardrobe magic, such potential problems are fake. If she's unsure what clothing would be appropriate, an athlete who was already here should be a good model. She examines King Island Mask with care.

    "'Island Mask,' is it...? There is more than one such masked individual, yes? Albeit, I had not seen any other, eye to eye." Does she or doesn't she know this mysterious person? Her manner seems to lean toward 'unfamiliar,' but much less worried for the surprise than someone on a sneaking mission probably should be.

    "I have less experience with such physical pursuits, though some appreciation for them. Perhaps, I should say, I tend to appreciate such contests from afar. Still, there is good reason, for myself, to be here, and if I may do more than cheer others on, then I must, no?" That's right. She's here because of the volcano spirits. That'll have to serve as motive enough, rather than the thrill of sports. She does have her supporting magic, in any case.
Sierra Kereson There has to be some kind of money-making opportunity here. There just has to be! Sierra's not quite sure how she'll manage that on an obstacle course of all things, but how hard could it be?

Probably not too hard, if that unguarded door is any indication. Gawain's intel on Major Bludd has the witch stroking her chin while narrowing her eyes thoughtfully. "Sounds like a pretty big security risk... Or one that'd be a jackpot for anyone that can actually pull him into court."

She's found her plan. With stupidly big numbers swimming in her head, she nearly walks right into 'King Island Mask' in her haste to get to her next payday scheme. "King...? Oh. Oh! Right." She clears her throat, straightens out the brim of her hat, bends the tip just so, then goes right into theatrics in the form of raising the pitch of her voice to cloyingly awful levels.

"Don't think we're gonna be pushovers! Because once Em Bee sees what we can do, he won't think twice about hiring us on the spot!" Sierra tops that off with a well-practiced wink, then stares at KIM for a few seconds longer before gesturing at his attire with a cautious waggle of her finger.

Cautious not in the 'scared to offend' way, but in the 'scared to leave a mark on something expensive' kind of way. "Is... Is that real?"

Her tone in that moment is considerably less high-pitched than before.
Kotone Yamakawa Kotone Yamakawa had not expected King Island Mask to get involved in this operation. Well, it's not a bad thing to have some more help on an operation like this. At the moment Kotone is perched on the boat for the moment. She's geared up to combat but her stealth armour will let her sneak around very well should the need arise. They were looking for Major Bludd. That is one hell of a name she hoped it was an actual code name and not an actual name. How would someone get a surname like that?

"Just lovely but thanks for the heads up."

It gives her some idea about the Major's personality. She'll look to King Island mask and nods for a moment.

"I can cloak to scout ahead or even act as a distraction for the rest of you."

she does not question King Island Mask hey it's the multiverse, right?

Kotone is ready to go in.

"So lets kick the door down and get to it yeah?"
Lilian Rook     Lilian has arrived together with Tamamo, again not wearing anything remotely resembling a safari adventure ensemble, for the altogether different and somewhat questionable tone that would be associated with doing it herself.

    It isn't the same thing as last time, though, seeing as this mission is supposed to be dealing with one of the right hand men of some kind of hyper-militaristic megalomaniac micro-nationalist, and Lilian, labouring under her burden of critical thinking skills, assumes it probably won't be a bout of leisurely athletic games on the beach. She's wearing her 'academy suit', though stripped down to the barest configuration it goes to --'undercover'-- little more than textured grey and black bodysuit material with white and gold markings, theoretically unnoticeable under a full set of clothes. Motion enhancement, signal suppression, and magnetic 'pockets'. That's it.

    She hasn't even brought a basic sidearm on the boat ride. Depending on how much anyone knows about her, that could mean she has non-violent intentions, is grossly underestimating this, or grossly *over*estimating it. Their only other hint is her first response to 'King Island Mask' being:

    "Good choice. I believe I once said that they don't even bother to get me to run the course at the House of the Seven Worthies anymore."

    She's confident enough about that part that Lilian spends the landing with runestones carved from the bits of volcanic basalt she'd picked up from earlier, plying a very near and determinstic future for her route through a course she's yet to see, to a thing that she desires.
Strawberry Princess      Strawberry Princess arrives with wand in hand, attired in her full mahou regalia already- this is enemy territory; there's no sense in not wearing your raid gear! Even so, her wand isn't revved yet, its reactor lying cold and dormant for the time being. No sense in starting the five-minute timer before they've even begun!

     A hemispherical visor conceals the upper half of her face; even so, it's not hard to guess her expression when she stares in "King Island Mask's" direction, chewing the inside of her cheek thoughtfully. Something rattles around in her brain, but doesn't quite click. That voice sounds like- but no, it can't be. He's introduced himself as King Island Mask, and so King Island Mask he is.

     "It's good to meet you, Mr. Mask! I heard there's lava- magma?- so, you know, I'm glad there's a lifeguard." A brief, nervous pause. "You can save people from lava, right? I mean- it's fine if you can't! Just so I know."

     Tamamo's Safari Khakis naturally beckon to her heritage with an uneasy siren song; if only she had a pith helmet and machete to complete the outfit. "I know what you mean about sports, Miss Tamamo," she says as a cheerily awkward aside, struggling to find something to comment on besides the ancestrally mesmerizing brown. "I always catch the Olympics when they're on. ... Wouldn't your tails make you really good at balancing, though? I bet you'd be great if you tried!"

     Still, it's Lilian's side she naturally gravitates to, as long as she doesn't pick up any body language suggesting that Rook would rather be left alone to focus on her rocks. "If that means I won't get to see you run this one, I'll be sad," she says with a bright little laugh. "I was looking forward to showing off for you, too."

     Once everyone's assembled and prepared, she'll gladly be the one to open the door herself- tactically unwise, but something in her heroic nature demands it.
Gawain As King Island Mask is shown behind the door, Gawain waves. "Hello, King Island Mask! Good luck on the course!" He has zero idea who that is. Gawain doesn't contribute to the team tactics, instead, sitting in his boat and eating a ham sandwich as the group heads inside. He wishes them good luck, and then, they're on their own, besides radio input.

The interior of the volcano is hot, but not melting. There's some sort of temperature control that prevents people from getting incinerated, and even if they waved their hand over the lava (without touching it) they'd be fine. The door leads to a ramp, going up and up and up, until it deposits them in the bright magma light.

The group is on standing on something with a texture and visual similar to glass, but much more sturdy. They can see the lava bubbling underneath your feet. The entire compound is visible, the massive supervillain lair, but it seems so far out of reach - this is a HUGE volcano, unrealistically huge, and the lair is grand enough to have walkways spiralling all over.

A sensor beeps as the group come in. "NEW RECRUITS. GIVING PEPTALK." A robotic speaker blares, as the group can notice that there's a long path all the way to the nearest walkway. The glass path they're on is surrounded by short walls and railings, and it gets thicker and turns into a maze deeper in. There's a large booth at the very far-end, with people inside. An observation booth? It's up top, bulletproof glass overseeing.

After a delay, the speaker fires up. A raspy, grating voice, recognizable by those who have been here before, speaks up. "MINIONS! THIS IS YOUR SUPREME OVERLORD, COBRA COMMANDER! By stepping foot on this course, you acknowledge you will be going through the BLUDDSPORTS OBSTACLE COURSE! I expect many of you to fall into the lava and die, but those of you who can press all the switches on the course, retrieve the dangling key to the exit, and survive, are certainly good enough to do cleaning duty! Don't disappoint my observers, or they'll just release the entire glass floor and drop you in no matter where you're standing. Ahahahaha! COBRA!" The speaker dies down.

The group can make a start. Despite clearly not being Cobra, nobody tries to stop them, even as there's distantly some blurry movement inside the booth. The glass slots open up underfoot as they walk, making it a game of trying to predict which ones will open, and jumping across or shuffling feet quickly to not trip and fall in. If the group tries to just *fly* over the course, that's where it gets dicey, because laser-shooting flying drones start blasting them, but ONLY when they're leaving the 'bounds' of the course. They're weak and fightable, so flying is an Option, but it's an annoying one.

The first switch is in sight, right outside the maze of walls. It's a red button.

Gilgamesh      "I would expect nothing less!"

     King Island Mask applauds. "Huhuhahahaha! What an excellent spirit! It will serve you well in this battle! -but, you aren't competing with me. Indeed, think of me as your coach! I will encourage you to go the distance even at the cost of your own life!"

     Wait, hang on.

     "Yes. It is real." King Island Mask tugs on the sleeve slightly like he doesn't even care. "I crashed an economy to buy it." He cites a number. The number is basically in the realm of theoretical economics rather than practical. It is the kind of number that doesn't sound real to anyone, not even the ultra-wealthy. That much money being tossed around on a suit is unbelievable.

     "The gold was recovered from the lair of an elder dragon by a group of adventurers. I paid for the scales and sinews, as well, which were woven into the fibres along with crushed diamonds stolen from the crown jewels of a cursed dynasty in exile for maximum tensile strength. The silver was bought from the offering-plate of a church about to fall into despair. It, too, is woven with crushed diamonds and elder dragon sinew."

     At Tamamo, he says, "Cheerleading, also, is crucial to the success of the sportsman! Without something beautiful to support them, to raise their spirits, then their spirits fall to nothingness and ruin! Cheer with all your heart! Huhuhahah! I'll coach you in that, too!"

     Lilian gets laugh. "Then I'll look forward to seeing your strength!"

     He crosses his arms in front of him at Strawberry. "I am capable of anything! Obviously I'll save you if you fall into the lava!"

     Wow, that's the nicest he's probably ever been to *anyone*, maybe, whose name isn't either Enkidu, Rhongomyniad, or Priscilla.

     Wait, no, because this is clearly King Island Mask!

     Ha ha! Of course!

     The volcano does not provoke sweat. Sweat would make him look imperfect. King Island Mask *glistens*. His hair is slightly sparkly. His lips are slightly sparkly. He has that 'sexy athlete about to drink a bottle of water the wrong way' image to him as the Major Bludd speaks. He also has 'bored pouting lips waiting for something interesting to happen.'

     The game begins.

     King Island Mask just kind of walks forward. He doesn't run - he doesn't need to run - nor does he dodge, nor anything of the like, when it comes to the glass slots. In fact he just kind of walks as if he knew they were there all along.

     It's sure a thing to see. Even when they throw him a curve ball, it's not a curve ball - he's already accounted for it.

     Man makes it look easy, that's for damn sure.
Sierra Kereson "An entire... Just for a...?" Sierra's visibly drooling, and not at King Island Mask's hotness (at least, not yet). No, it's the number. She wants THE NUMBER. "Diamonds, too? No wonder it's so... Wait."

She snaps out of it, finally looking up at him rather than the shirt. "And it doesn't chafe at all? Or sand off your...?" She starts raising her hands, then stops abruptly and clears her throat before going right back to her previously more forcefully youthful tone. "Make sure to keep your eyes on me, then! I'll pull off maneuvers you've never seen before, guaranteed!"

After Sierra snaps out of that gold-induced daze, she takes note of Tamamo's mass of tails once Strawberry mentions them, and she tries not to stare too long. Sierra does start fiddling with her hat, though, trying to make it look just a bit taller and wider without unfloppifying it.

"That lava could be risky for all that, but don't worry. I've got just the trick if anyone gets a little too toasty!" She snaps her fingers, draws a shape in a circle in the air, then squeezes her hands together as water gushes out briefly from the gap between her palms like someone squeezing water in a pool.

"Something tells me scouting ahead might not do much just yet, but it's a good idea for later!" She chimes in after Kotone, studying Lilian briefly in passing while noting her lack of a weapon. "Stiff competition today, though... Let's see just who pulls it off in the end, then!"

After curtseying to the crowd in her full-blown witch outfit, she takes a quick swig of colorful blue juice. It doesn't stop her from sweating or hating it, but it does make it more bearable.

The course is open, and it's time for Sierra to show off. Dashing forwards into the course, she doesn't run inhumanly quickly or even fly, cleanly avoiding that potential problem. Instead, she cheats with the power of slowing down her own perception of time, letting her feel and spot those glass slots opening up underfoot with ample time to figure out how to react in a way that doesn't end her landing in the lava below.

One pops up right as she steps on it. She uses it as a springboard. Another opens up before her foot comes down. She pivots sideways to start doing a cartwheel along the glass (she's wearing shorts under that skirt). Yet another opens up in the path of her hand. She pulls her hand back to roll across the glass deftly, even if rolling partially over the gaps actually sucks a lot.

Naturally, if she can get to the button first, she's going to go for it with a overblown flourish and tip of her hat.
Tamamo     "Oh, I do have much experience in remaining poised, it is so," Tamamo says to Strawberry, followed a moment later by, "'Olympics'? I believe I may have read of this tradition." Of any particular understandings or implications of her outfit upon people of the Isles, she shows no awareness.

    Distantly, while being robocalled a 'minion,' Tamamo can make out some sort of reaction to their entrance. She's not questioning why an obstacle course was either the best or only way to reach the target, but she does feel a need to question how much time they have. "Our opponents may make some move if we tarry overlong, no? If even the dangers of lava are no such great obstacle, then haste may be permitted."

    Tamamo could perform a reading of the obstacle course itself, finding those particular secrets that gave her such a complete understanding as to avoid all the places where any other had previously failed. Without pausing for the thought, she does a quick, moderately flashy outfit-switch, seamless in the way illusion magic tends to be, from her khakis to a two-piece workout suit. (Black with thin silver stripes, prioritizing recognizable contrasts in the group color palette over individual tendencies. It's not like she could ask someone else to change, instead, and using gold and silver at this point would just be *rude*.)

    Yes, with less haste, Tamamo *could* do a reading of Fate. Instead, what she does is a bouncing hop and jump, making for the obstacle course's buttons with an easy agility wholly unlike the stately grace she prefers to emphasize in her robes, not staying in one place long enough for it to move away from her, switching direction often enough to make a predictive trap difficult against her, and aiming for those edges of platforms that would give her the easiest time shifting her footing back onto a stable surface if one should give way. It's the purely physical solution, despite what she said.

    After she has a moment, she responds to King Island Mask, musing, "Is cheerleading, too, an art? I suppose it must be, as there are those skilled in the matter, and those who are not."
Kotone Yamakawa The heat is noticeable but Kotone isn't sweating bucket not that she can anymore though she'd not want to hang around here long. She marvels a bit at this is an actual volcano lair. Like an honest to god one with magma lighting to boot. What a world this Cobra seems to be from. They get either a canned speech or something from an AI she's not sure but then comes the voice. She knows that voice that screeching chalkboard on nails voice. She listens as it finishes.

"How do they even get recruits with a process like this!?"

She muses she's got the mobility systems that she thinks she can make this. Kotone just about Blue Screen of Deaths at just how much King Island Mask's suit cost him. She'll try to not focus on that.

"It seems everyone's ready for this as we can be shall we get to it?"

She takes a more cautious approach as she'll make use of her double jump system to maneuver her way through the course as she does her best to deal with all the obstacles coming her way.

She calls out to Sierra "You got a point on the scouting, Sierra!"

" On top of the double-jumping she'll air dash as well when she needs to keep from falling, but she keeps in mind where the drones are. She does not want to engage them just yet but she does have an idea if she has to form in her head. So far things are kind of fun in a very strange way. She has no doubts about the rest of the team being able to get through this. King Island mask did say he would keep anyone from dying if they fell but she doesn't think she should press the King's graces if she needs to.
Lilian Rook     Lack of lava convection heat is a silently, immensely appreciated positive for Lilian. It saves a tremendous amount of preparation and time for her to not have to deal with an active heat syncope risk. The content of the course is . . .

    Actually, she's never particularly given any indication of what her first forays into Arx Zenith's basic physical training had looked like. Not even Tamamo. There really aren't many conclusions to be drawn from the pseudo-nostalgic displeasure writ plain, if faint, on her face while staring down through the transparent floor and into the magma sprawl.

    It's a different look than she gives the booth. "Seriously?" she all but blurts out. "Are they confident, stupid, or both? Or are they actually hoping to scalp talent? From *this* side? I've genuinely half a mind to break that open and --put them at the starting line myself." She has eyes for that observation box that are only somewhat less lethal than she has for Sierra, once she begins staring at Tamamo's tails. They are 'I will break you in half and tell everyone you fell into the lava and I mean it' eyes. They are eyes that mean it so seriously that King Island Mask can literally see it drown out the would-be flickers of paying far too much attention to his outfit and probably planning something.

    "Didn't you hear King Island Mask? You aren't competing. That is to say, he isn't competing with you, and you couldn't compete with me if your life depended on it; the only two possible states would be that I win or I let you win." She then says to Strawberry, in a very different tone, "Magma. We're technically still below ground. Everyone will know what you mean either way, though."

    When the group has collectively decided to start, Lilian first takes a very ordinary run at it. The hair-thin crystal interlace, visible in the sublayer of her wear, pulses once from the injection of her magic into its circulation, and then she takes off directly forward, drawing no particular route through the panels at all. Having already noticed the drones, she sticks to the ground for now, but the speed and power of each and every stride is enough to obviate the problem of drop-panels almost entirely, skipping over two thirds their number on raw momentum. Where one gives, a shallow pond-ripple of eerie black static expands from the contact point, and she keeps going from the swinging drop-glass as if it were still solid footing.

    It's when she reaches the high-density maze, where the walls have grown and become a labyrinth through which one can still see the button, that she tactically decides to not engage with the mechanics. The drones are the punishment for flying over it. The drones can't take the maze any faster than they can physcally fly it with a perfect route, and they'd need to be directly overhead to get a clean shot. Instead of looking for the right entrance and winding her way to the button, Lilian begins 'teleporting' in short rhythm, phasing in and out to skip through individual walls, so she can draw a straight line from her starting position, to the red switch visible through all the glass, and slam it without stopping.
Strawberry Princess      "Thank you, Mr. Mask," Strawberry says- one can't see her eyes sparkle, but it's in her voice that they've gotta be. "I'll give it my best, then! You won't be disappointed- I promise."

     Emboldened by the golden man's reassurance- and, of course, by the quiet security of the dormant wand in her hand- she takes off across the glass panels at a dead sprint, her long legs carrying her at faintly alarming speeds. Magic is for later- for now, her shoes will serve. The first few falling panels, she manages to dodge by sheer luck; the next one opens up under her foot mid-stride, leaving no time to react at all! She starts to fall forwards, plunging towards the lava below...

     But of course, her confidence was never unwarranted. For a brief moment, Strawberry is sublimely in her element; freefalling is, after all, just "flying downwards". Reaching out with both hands, she grabs the edge of the glass trapdoor as it hinges open, kicks her legs out in front of her, and uses its rotational momentum to swing herself forward underneath the glass flooring! For a split second, she's airborne and soaring parallel under the floor- then, just as anticipated, another trapdoor opens in front of her. She hits its vertical hinged-down lid feet-first as if it were a wall, bending her knees on impact, and swings her wand overhead. Its feathery white wings act like a climbing axe, 'grabbing' the ledge of the floor above and letting her finally haul herself back up to be on the right side of the transparent floor!

     Visibly exhiliarated, but not yet tiring, she continues her dead sprint towards the glass maze. Strawberry runs towards a wall, runs up the wall a few feet, and then lunges to grab the top of it as if she were about to dunk a basketball. Hauling herself up to stand on top of it, she catches her breath- and the flying laser drones draw beads on her. "Ah, shit."

     As she leaps from the top of one wall to the next, effortlessly traversing the narrow ledges, she pulls out her pistol and pre-emptively opens fire on the drones- the movement seems to impair her accuracy little. The first one gets a generous helping of bullets in it, but after seeing their fragility, she conserves ammunition: one slug per drone, delivered while in motion and barely looking back. Reloading, after all, would be a horrible pain. When they return fire on her, she dodges their aim with a deeply practiced grace: just as they've drawn a predictive bead on where she's moving, she makes an unintuitive, counterproductive, or outright improbable leap to throw them off.

     Finally, Strawberry leaps off of the final wall and lands in a three-point stance next to the button... and Lilian, who'd pressed it some time earlier. Checking back over her shoulder to ensure the drones have lost interest and sweeping the hair out of her face with her forearm, she laughs a chagrined laugh. "Okay, okay," she says, somewhat out of breath. "You got me, even with you going easy. But I'll win one of these from you for real, just you watch."
Gawain Gilgamesh never steps off a tile, somehow, based solely on the pace of his walking and his control of his body. Curious. Sierra uses acrobatic broom tricks to get to the button, as Kotone doublejumps through the course, Tamamo jumps and shimmies and repositions, and Lilian runs through before 'teleporting' through the maze of walls towards the button. Past the button, they'll notice more walls, but no other clear traps. Once they push it...

Every single floor title inside the maze disappears, right as Strawberry lands from her death-defying trapdoor stunt. The walls remain, as does the button's pedestal and slat, somehow floating in place through the powers of super-science, but to get past the rest of the walls, they'll have to jump, fly, or wall-run, or risk taking a dive. The walls are close enough that, for the time being, one could cushion themselves between two walls.

The automated voice pops in. "ONE DOWN, TWO TO GO. HAIL COBRA." Closer, now, they can clearly see several people inside the booth. One of them is a man in a military helmet, body armor, and armed with a billy club and a Mauser-style pistol, but he's not a grunt, as his left eyesocket is covered with an eyepatch. This must be Major Bludd, who seems quite interested in the group's advance.

The next array of floor tiles is up ahead, past a far gap from the walls. It has a button on it, and is guarding a big 'room' of some sorts. A long jump would be needed, or-

Jumping on one of the drones that shows up in between the floorless maze and the next button. But there's a catch.

The drones are shooting at you, to make you fall! Luckily, their numbers are heavily thinned by Strawberry's shooting, but there's still a few annoying ones.
Gilgamesh      "It is absolutely an art," King Island Mask says to Tamamo as he walks confidently through the falling traps, "Even those not gifted with beauty or talent can become successful cheerleaders with hard work, effort, and guts. Those people are even more beautiful than the ones who rest upon their gifts. After all, hard work and effort should always be rewarded more than parasites and slackers."

     He's not looking at Lilian, but he does laugh at something. It probably has nothing to do with her look in Sierra's direction. Probably. Maybe. It's hard to tell. He's not really paying much attention to anything. He quite literally makes the whole thing look effortless. Hell, one of his hands is even in his pocket, in the classic style of Some Other King Who Rules Over Powerful Inspirational People Who Features In Stories. He is very literally relaxing and taking it easy.

     He's taking it so easy, in fact, that he has time to applaud Strawberry like a judge at the Olympics. He gives that atmosphere off, too. Like he's judging everything. Like he's judging everybody's performances.

     Sierra gets a clap, too, when she flourishes. "If something is worth doing it's worth doing spectacularly," he says idly. "Even if you fail, you fail spectacularly."

     They reach the end of the first obstacle. The room is massive. It's long. There's a lot of drones for jumping off of. There's the possibility of a massive leap. King Island Mask considers how he wants to approach this as drones shoot past him, narrowly missing him with enough shots that it rapidly becomes clear that he's doing some kind of ludicrous micro-dodges.

     Ah, well. At this point he's more interested in watching the others do their thing than doing this himself. So he snaps his fingers and hops up.

     King Island Mask lands on a golden sword that comes flying straight out of nowhere. He folds his hands behind him and flies straight past the drones, occasionally hopping upwards to avoid one, or bending backwards to avoid running into one, or tilting his head or his body to evade shots. He's barely even looking at them as he flings himself across the gap on a sword like some kind of martial arts master.
Sierra Kereson Someone that's just naturally physically gifted, another that can defy physics by boosting forward in midair, a third just teleporting through goddamn everything, and a straight up pro at adapting to the situation even with laser-shooting robots.

Sierra's going to have to cheat a bit harder here. Keeping her bright-eyed smile plastered on her face despite that withering look from Lilian, she takes a time-frozen minute/regular time second to steady her nerves before grinning brightly once more upon finally catching up.

"Hey, lighten up! We're all friends here." She chimes, completely oblivious to her potentially terrible choice of words to Lilian while puffing up her chest at that praise (?) from Gilgamesh. "Right? I mean, I'd rather win, of course, but the audience deserves a bit of a show, don't you think?"

And then the floor goes out. She yelps, slows her perception to a crawl, and weighs her options. Shimmy on the wall? It'd be physically impressive, but boring. Fly around the course? There's drones coming. Fly through the course?

Screw it. She's already been beaten in one round, but maybe the second one's the charm. Pulling a slightly old dust bin out of her pouch, she groans briefly before swinging it between her legs, then taking flight with the end clacking madly behind her as she zips right at the drones. She dips sideways repeatedly, taking what looks like calculated risks and dipping over and around their shots to just narrowly avoid getting blasted right in the face to maintain the illusion of BIG SKILLS.

She's actually just slowing things down enough to make it look cool, although her predictions aren't always on the mark, and she has to bite back pain at the shots that do clip her arms or sides for the sake of showing off. Still, it does mean she has some time to punch lightning at them in passing, specifically chosen to look cool and flashy when dealing with machines!

Strangely enough, though, Sierra isn't going right for the first button. She purposely takes it slow, as if waiting for someone else to hit it first while drifting closer and maintaining a steady speed. Once someone does hit it, she accelerates for real, going right for THE ROOM and skipping those jumps entirely in an attempt to actually get there and find and hit the next first!
Tamamo     Tamamo deals with each trapdoor by quickly shifting her stance just enough to land atop a nearby tile, but while this lets her progress with minimal forethought, it does have the disadvantage of leaving her nowhere to stand should every single tile within reach of her disappear at once.

    "Oh my?" is the sound of exactly that happening, and gravity seizing onto the no-longer-bounding fox. 'Maintaining balance' being an activity that requires a position on which to balance, she begins to rotate as she falls, staring wide-eyed up and away from the lava (strictly, magma) below.

    An ornate mirror that doesn't /at all/ match the modern aesthetic of her workout gear shimmers into view below her like a hazy flame. Fully solid a moment later, Tamamo reaches over her head, gets ten-fingered contact with the mirror, and rebounds from a handstand back up into the walls-only maze, the mirror shifting downward in the air, though only slightly, as she launches off it. When her feet make contact with the wall, she keeps going, maintaining altitude through sheer momentum and 'enough' levels of energy, reaching the breathy level of 'warmed up' and staying exactly there without tiring, despite the length of this routine. Once her steps bring her enough momentum away from one wall, she just has to switch to another wall to cancel it out. Using alittle more breath, to respond to Island Mask after she gets comfortable with her pace, doesn't trouble her any more.

    "Do they try so hard for the art itself, do you suppose? To speak of work and effort in cheering, I find kindled interest in another possibility; should it be for the sake of those for whom they cheer that they seek perfection, with or without talents to aid them, that effort toward supporting another has beauty in its purpose, above those for whom any may equally take the role of 'the supported.'" That could be taken as denial of the skill's intrinsic worth, but it's 'cheering for some*one*' that takes hold of Tamamo's interest. "But then, such is outside my own experience."

    She missed that look between Lilian and Sierra. That's probably a good thing.

    And then it comes to a long gap and a forced drone fight. "Oh, dear. Now, how shall I...? To seek aid would be..." entirely against the current atmosphere of competition, ignoring the question of how that atmosphere came about, and therefore distasteful. She doesn't have much time to think about it, since it's only her constant forward momentum that's presently keeping her in the air. Performing a 'reading,' like this, wouldn't be practical. Forgoing the predictive route, she pulls out a stack of talismans from the only obvious place.

    When Tamamo reaches the end of the first maze area and just keeps going, her foot touches down on what had been empty space just prior, but now contains the tip of an enormous chunk of ice reaching all the way back to the not-really-glass wall behind her, its own gravity-defying properties making it a perfect place to anchor her new terrain. Her next leap carries her toward a drone that's just turning toward her, but freezes over before it can fire, the talisman oriented just so, linking the second impromptu icicle bridge to the first. others turn to face her, fire, and her floating mirror again proves its use in being a nigh-impassable barrier between her and danger. Other drones drop toward the lava as ice blocks before they can flank her, and Tamamo extends her bridge one more time before making a long leap for the remaining distance.
Kotone Yamakawa Kotone is doing okay so far she's not ended up in the magma, nor has anyone else. So things are going well for the team so far. Then comes the next part, she'll take a moment to look at it. She has an idea she'll start kicking off the walls, doubling jumping then air dashing. Then do the same thing again to make her crossing attempt. The drones prove to be a bit of a problem, she's shot at least once but keeps going.

She's been hurt, but the idea of magma? That is enough to keep her going. She does not want to end drowned in magma.

She catches sight of both of King Island Mask's abilities and what he does along with Sierra own manoeuvres as well, this is life-threatening sure but there is one hell of a thrill to doing this as she goes. The drones if she can find someplace to touch down for a moment? She might be able to try to hack them. For now, though it's time to just keep moving to the end of this part of the course.

"Can't stop now! o/~"
Lilian Rook     Lilian slows her roll only just long enough to address Strawberry when she comes in after. The moment she spares her is for a cautiously concerned narrowing of the eyes, and a remarkably level and well-dictated "Please. Be careful that you don't put yourself out unreasonably at a time like this. There are times and places to prove things." Then, a glance deck-wise. "And not to *them.*" There it is. The trunk of spite around which the rings of awkward care grow.

    The floor gives out. She's already at the button, so cleanly placed atop the pedestal from which the platforming section is meant to begin. A casual hop is enough to take her to the top of the nearest maze wall. Scoping out the area ahead though, she sees that the route itself shouldn't be terribly hard for anyone present if they aren't being shot at. Waiting only just long enough to check that Tamamo is still with the group (she doesn't bother look for the man in gold, already very much convinced he is currently too rich and smug to be inconvenienced in any way, those two things being their own armour class against obstacle courses), Lilian settles on hanging back for a moment, rather than continuing to push the lead.

    Glass --levitating glass, even-- is a perfect substrate to have on hand at the moment. She only even needs a steel utility knife from the boat to hack into it, using just several large painterly strokes to carve severall vertical columns of runic phrases regarding the wind and the sky and the air that holds up the firmament into the serendipitously sympathetically appropriate material, and then using a few seconds more to run her magic through her hands and into the script.

    The connected portions of maze glass shudden with the exact low-frequency moaning violence of a storm-beaten window, and then it almost seems as if the convection currents of the lava below have come back in partial force; all movement and no heat. In fact, the wind that catches the backs of the Elites surging across the magma to the second button feels surprisingly cold, familiar only to Strawberry as extremely high altitude air. It constitutes a wide, invisible 'bridge' of slipstream current, so perfectly and fortunately consistent and strong that it boosts even the smallest of jumps into swift glides, allows for viscerally intuitive steering by angling the body against it, and conveniently sends the lightweight hover drones swirling out of the main path as if tossed by stormy seas.
Strawberry Princess      Strawberry Princess finds time at the button-platform to give King Island Mask a cheery and earnest thumbs-up! If he means any condescension by his applause, she is utterly oblivious to it. Lilian's words suck that energy right back out of her, though, leaving her grimacing slightly- had she been imprudent, enjoying herself like this? "You're right," she says, near-immediately; her affect quietly shifts from the twentysomething on a friendly outing to the noble and responsible hero. "I'll take it seriously."

     When she turns her gaze to the next part of the obstacle course, utterly without the mercy of a floor, she really considers conserving her wand even further by Goomba Stomping her way across... and then decides against it, revving the wand just in time to magically juke out of the way of an incoming laser. Control rods pop out of the wand's reactor like a blossoming flower, a tinny whine fills the air, and the timer display on its side flickers to life.


     Despite her promise to take it seriously, Strawberry isn't racing straight to the second button- instead, she's using the opportunity to stunt on these poor drones as hard as possible. When she accelerates towards them at a breakneck pace, it's in a 'standing' position, eyes-in to minimize the G-forces; when she's reached a comfortable cruising velocity, she shifts seamlessly to a headfirst flight posture to shrink her forward-facing profile, letting their lasers swoosh right by her.

     Once properly in the furball and being harassed by a half-dozen laser drones at once, she starts shifting and compromising between the two philosophies in a beautifully skilled and gravity-agnostic dance. Every posture that she gracefully flows between minimizes her profile to a majority of the drones, biologically supports high-G juking in the necessary directions (never go parallel to the spine- always perpendicular), and provides a stable firing platform in the exact second she adopts it, and is then fluidly discarded for another equally-perfect stance as the situation changes. She maneuvers to use the drones as cover against each other, never allowing more than a couple of them a clear shot at a time.

     Later she uses Tamamo's ice-bridge as three-dimensional cover itself, and dips in and out of Lilian's slipstream for quick bursts of unidirectional speed- every bit of advantage is harnessed in search of the cleanest possible opening, and only then does she give them the foregone conclusion of the bullet. It's like watching the queen gobble up lesser pieces in a solved endgame.

     Almost as an afterthought, she swoops down and hits the second button with her wand mid-dogfight. Nobody else seemed in a hurry to do so.
Gawain The group, with their ice and glass shaping, their flight, wall-jumping, and sword riding, manages to press the second button, having completely cleared all but one drone, which Kotone could hack, if she wanted. There's no trap this time...except, Sierra is already in the Room as they press it.

The door closes on her. She's trapped inside a room of buzzing saws, spinning to cut into her and dissect her. There is a button in the middle of them, on the ceiling of the room, requiring a jump to reach. It's unclear if it'll turn off the saws or give her the key or how this works, and the saws are moving in to close in on her, putting on the pressure.

While the other group no doubt tries to figure out what to do while Sierra's trapped inside a death-box, the speakers light up. It is not the automated system or Cobra commander - they can see Major Bludd speaking into a microphone. "This is Major Bludd. You've done quite exceptionally. I can hear you as well as you can hear me, so feel free to reply...what have you come for? If you can get to it, I may very well give it to you!"

"If I don't beat you within an inch of your life when you inevitably try to attack me first." He taps his billy club, laughing maniacally. "Unlike that psycho at the top, however, I care little about crushing you. Increasing my ranks, gaining control - that's all I care about. Ever since he made me put in this death course, he's thinned out my rosters. Sacrificing his own troops just to spite me. Well, no matter."

"Let's see if you can reach me! Show me what you've got, heroes!"

He leans back in his chair, presses a blue button, and dispenses some CobraCola. He drinks out of the can. He seems relaxed. A man of control and confidence.

Major Bludd.
Gilgamesh      "I imagine both," King Island Mask says to Tamamo, "Both the support itself is beautiful, and the art is beautiful. I have put forth a great amount of effort into supporting the person I love, so I can say certainly that there is power there, but I have also put forth a great amount of effort into learning how to do the dances and cheers and shouts."

     The sword hits the wall. "Since I am perfect, I spend some time learning new things to be perfect at."

     "Not that I am some sort of absolutely perfect demigod, of course. Simply a perfect enthusiast of many interesting hobbies. Have you ever heard of Legos?"

     "I imagine," he says as he steps off, "That cheering for anyone is truly cheering for yourself. That it is a support of your own spirit, a bolstering of your desire to matter, to have someone look at you and acknowledge your presence. People like to think they make a difference. So cheerleading is an art that takes that and elevates it to a higher form. The idea that your actions can make a difference to others when it's important to you."

     The sword disappears as he examines his own fingernails. "In a way, it's not unlike drumming for an army. Your role is to keep morale up. Even then, though, isn't that the same way? The idea that your support has meaning taken to a higher form."

     Major Bludd wishes for them to show that they can reach him.

     King Island Mask snaps his fingers. A golden double-door appears in front of him. He pushes it open. It disappears as it closes behind him.

     The door opens behind Major Bludd.

     King Island Mask over, leans over the man, dispenses a can of CobraCola for himself. He snaps his fingers again. An enormous, that a massage throne?

     Is that a massage throne?

     Well, either way. It just falls into place next to Major's Bludd's (smaller) chair. King Island Mask drapes himself across the armrests and cracks the can of CobraCola.

     "Your obstacle course needs a great deal of work," King Island Mask says idly, "I found it entertaining, but not entertaining enough to hold my interest. Four out of ten. Above-average, but only just. I wouldn't buy it but I might rent it for the evening."
Sierra Kereson Sierra feels the wind behind her. Why is there wind in a volcano deathtrap obstacle course? She doesn't quite make the connection between that and whatever it is Lilian's doing, but it's fine because she uses that to get into the room! Said room is now shut and accosting her with a distressing number of buzz saws. She visibly freaks out for a few seconds before falling back to her usual strategy of taking it slow and plotting out a course of action.

Flying around will just take her way too close to those buzzsaws. Shooting fire at it will just burn up any oxygen she has in the room if it's sealed off. Throwing things at the button might work, but...

Hell with it. What else can she do in this situation, anyway? Reaching into her pouch, she pulls out an old broom, then flings it at the button! Unfortunately, it's too wide and unwieldy to toss, so it ends up getting chopped up by the buzzsaws and flinging splinters everywhere (complete with a flinching and briefly cowering Sierra). She reconsiders trying that again when the next thing she grabs is a glass beaker.

Plan #2: Firing an ice pellet at the button! It's too small to even push the damn thing, instead just bouncing right off on impact.

Now Sierra's sweating. As the buzzsaws draw closer, she finally figures out plan #3: Incredibly cautious flying. Holding that dust bin up, she starts floating up steadily, swinging herself from side to side with that same death-defying precision in her movements to avoid getting sliced into ribbons save for some strategic clothing damage that leaves the witch herself instact!

A keen or simply watchful eye might notice that some of those buzzsaws just pass right through Sierra when they should have left at least some kind of cut, if not carved through something.

Her dustbin, alas, isn't so intact as she's barely even holding onto a handle, by the time she reaches the button and slams her fist into it.
Gawain The button is pushed in, after several attempts. The saws stop. A slot in the ceiling opens up, and deposits a key, opening the door towards the Booth.

It also deposits poison gas inside the room. Sierra might want to be quick to escape!
Lilian Rook     Sierra is trapped in a death saw room.

    "Oh no." says Lilian, looking in. She is entirely unenthusiastic.

    "Well, she seemed confident. I'm sure she has it under control." she says. "There's no use in throwing five people into one room to press one button. Even someone like her shouldn't have any difficulty with something so simple."

    Lilian begins ignoring the death chamber. It might be theatrical faux-snubbing. It might *really not be*. It's dangerously hard to tell.

    Also, Bludd has the floor. There'd be a 'for some reason' appended, even if only mentally, but it's his stupid obstacle course so of course he has the stupid intercom; that's just common sense.

    "Attacking you first would imply that I need to mug you in order to get what I want from you." Lilian replies out loud to the speaker system, still rather precariously, if effortlessly, balanced atop a pane of vertical glass. "Though, giving it to us implies that it was ever in question that I was going to have it. Are you certain that window isn't tinted wrong?"

    "It certainly sounds as if you've given up and surrendered to a delusional maniac because he intimidates you. And it certainly seems as if he's *gotten away with* spiting you to an *extraordinary* extent. Is that how he speaks to you as well?"

    "Obviously we're here about that absurd disaster waiting to happen that the psychotic imbecile has misguidedly lokced in the attic. Ask yourself first if that's even what *you're* here for."

    However, there is one more, very important (arguably much more important) topic in play, worthy of a moment's attention. "It's a very good point. What use is there in supporting someone without believing that your support alone can make the difference? Who wants support from people who don't think it'll matter much? The sort of support people are glad to be shown is the sort that comes from somewhere that effortlessly believes it's a great gift; otherwise you're just obligated to a show of it, to pander to feelings."
Gilgamesh      King Island Mask waggles his hand back and forth. "Alright, four point one out of ten," he says, "The poison gas is an amusing double-blind. Not enough to save the overall content quality, but perhaps enough for me to extend my rental for a day or two to see what else it has to offer."
Kotone Yamakawa King Island Mask move does not anger Kotone. She laughs at what he pulls off, it's just great to hear. She'll keep going it takes a bit but she does hack the drone, maybe just as a matter of principle, she might be able to get some useful info on how cobra does its code and security protocols if she can get into it. She'll keep move she'll double jump, followed by an air dash. Even if she fails the hack she'll come in for a three-point landing then rise up and get a move on to the end.
Sierra Kereson A key! No saws! Door! Sierra finally gets to go back to the ground to collect her prize and...

There's gas. Instead of rushing directly out of the gas room, however, she takes a moment to take two containers out of her pouch. The first, filled with green liquid that she promptly chugs as a semi-current semi-pre-emptive measure to not die immediately from whatever's in that poison. The second, somewhat opaque on the bottom as she opens it up to swing it around in the poison gas to collect samples in it before corking it up.

Then she goes into the booth room and beelines it for the CobraCola. She needs a drink after all that.
Tamamo     Sierra is trapped somewhere. This is fine! She assures everyone that it's fine. She's got this. Tamamo looks on in concern, but is relieved by these assurances. If Lilian says that they don't need to get more people in there, then there's no problem. She'll just focus on other things.

    That proves a bit difficult. It wasn't just that she got a full answer to her earlier question, but something in the specifics of the answer pulls at her, and it's neither her unfamiliarity with Legos nor his suspiciously specific denial.

    "Supporting another to assert one's own value. To affect another to assert one's own existence upon the same scale, is this the root cause? It would explain much, however... however, the distinction between 'being acknowledged' and 'making a difference,' I must think upon this." She isn't clearly speaking to anyone. "Whether those priests believed they were acknowledged, I can only wonder. Was this the answer? It feels too simplistic, and yet, as theory, I cannot deny it. I can only seek to confirm it with my own experience. Would that I could be sure it is not a purely human affectation." Moving back onto present concerns takes will and effort. Lilian is right there, after all.

    And then Lilian picks up on it, so Tamamo's goes right back to forgetting that they're in a volcano for a reason. "Is this how it is? If it must be 'mine alone makes this difference,' then it again changes the picture these words paint. And yet, when a crowd cheers, is this not earnest support, itself, even drowned in facelessness? Is it the hope of being singled out, and recognized, that drives them? Or is it..." She trails off again, but must not be done thinking about it, since her attention doesn't quickly shift back.