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|Hiromi|| Everyone who follows the directions given should already know why they're here, putting aside the existential side of that question. Hiromi, known as the Archwolf, has directed those coming to a mountain inside of her own territory, one of a great number situated on this large island. Large enough, in fact, that misty gray prevents one from seeing the coastline from here, past which is the Great Ocean.
It's hard to define just where a mountain begins, and where one is still in the foothills. This place is rocky, full of steep cliffs, with rivers far below, yet plants still grow in any place where soil could possibly find a place to collect. That becomes less true as one would gets higher, and the air gets colder and thinner. The shift is gradual, and then all at once, there is 'a mountain.' It towers high above, piercing the higher cloud layer, while the valleys below are blocked from sight by another. There is only the mountain.
There is a suggestion of paths, though these are all uncertain. Others have climbed here before, leaving only small signs of where picks might have struck, or rocks may have worn smooth from holding ropes. One might find a way directly up the side, or by going around the right or left and gradually rising so long as those faint paths hold, or even by taking up directly into the air.
There are few dangers at this point, the only ones present being fully resolvable with ordinary countermeasures, but the wind, cold, and poor visibility rapidly become an issue the higher one gets, especially if one neglects to take advantage of those crevices that allow the most wind-protected paths up the cliffs.
|Phasewalker|| There's a sonic boom that echoes through the hills. Somewhere, a one-man sci-fi jet enters the atmosphere, having entered the general area from a suitable warp gate. It travels to the appointed place at speeds that are frankly unsafe, weaving between various hills at far too low an altitude, scaring the wildlife and indicating the person inside might have a death wish or might just be completely insane. It comes dangerously close to clipping a wing a couple times, a harbinger of what is to come.
The plane slams into the mountain at speeds that vaporize it and send dust, rubble and plane debris flying in all directions. It showers down the side of the mountain and echoes with a deafening BOOOOOOM!! throughout the area. It is the least subtle thing most living creatures will ever see or imagine.
Ainkli can be spotted a little further up the mountain with his computer pad out, taking a picture of the plane as it crashes and explodes. He had, during travel, taken out his compad and teleported further up the mountain so he could take a cinematic shot of a plane crashing, but only teleported out mere moments before it would crash. Once he's satisfied with the footage/pictures he's recorded, he puts the compad away in his hand-mounted pocket dimension with a little digitized effect and a 'vwoop!', then looks up the mountain and begins climbing it in small teleportation jumps, a short span at a time.
He has a smile on his face. His inner moron has been appeased.
|Arcadia||A cat is going to be a cat. Even if that cat is technically only like 2/3rds cat.
"Ugh, climbing. Why do we have to climb, I could just fly up there and be done with it," Arcadia grumbles. Even though, to the surprised of no one, she has little trouble with actually climbing. Her claws are designed for it, maybe even moreso than for being weapons, to allow her to get into places in dungeons too restrictive for flight. Sharp hooked claws have little difficulty digging into the stone, meaning she doesn't have to spend the extra time looking specifically for hand and foot holds. Just watch out for loose spots (and really it's not like she has any worry about falling). So up she goes, wings folded against her back so the winds don't catch them to yank her loose, and tail swishing and swaying to help keep her balance.
Despite her grousing she does realize her rocketing up there abruptly had a high chance of starting the monsterous bird of prey and causing it to do something they might regret. So feline kvetching aside, she's going along with the climbing.
And then some other idiot crashes a plane into the mountainside. Ears slick back at the noise. "Someone's going to get killed with a stunt like that!" Guardian mentality kicks in, and Arcadia picks up the pace. To the point that it looks less like climbing and more like she's running on all fours up the side of the mountain!
|Gareth||After hearing about the kidnapped people on the mountain and Hiromi's involvement in the matter, the seventh knight of the Round Table has made it her mission to intervene! The jousting master can even be heard approaching the mountain at high speeds, the telltale clack of horse hooves indicating that she's opted to just charge right up the mountainside. So what if horses aren't meant to climb mountains?
With the power of overconfidence on her side, Gareth's dumb enough to give it a try. "A flashy entrance... But is that really the best way to reassure any captives awaiting our rescue if they think you've died already?" The knight calls out to Phasewalker as her horse swerves underneath falling plane debris, galloping onwards and rearing back to let Gareth leap off of it once the path becomes too narrow for even her level of stupidity to continue.
"It's not about the destination, ma'am! It's about the journey! Or... Something like that!" She calls out to Arcadia next, settling into a comfortable jogging pace even while wearing a full suit of armor.
|Undivided Queens|| For once, Isahane appears without Seilatiya at her side. Though the Empress had complained that it's been forever since the War Queen had taken her out on a hunting trip, Isahane had made the frankly wise decision that anything Hiromi wants to hunt is probably too much for her.
The sheer height of the mountain, impressed on her upon arrival, reinforces that thought for her. "This would be far familiar of home, were it not for the cold and grey." she thinks out loud. "A chill instead of blazing heat is no matter, but that thick air will make it difficult to see our prey until it is dangerously late, should it swoop down upon us."
Isahane's twelve-faced floating runecipher summons her Steel Dragon set onto her body with a skipped-transformation-sequence flash of iridescent light that joins all the requisite pieces of armour together in the space of a second. This time, it comes with a suitably gigantic, solid metal masakari-style axe, which she carries with one gauntlet under the hook of the blade by her side, and what looks like an equally oversized, almost cannon-like cast steel tanegashima in the other. The one thing she does wish for, were Seilatiya here, would be some scorching sunny weather instead of this.
"Speed is of the essence, but you all should learn to respect the mountain. That kind of presumptious haste will result in misfortune, even if you think nothing of that freezing wind just yet." is her general advice. She herself is flying on bone white and swirled red wings grown from her back, but here and there, already carving steps, covers, side nooks, blinds, and other preparations along the most usable path, both to minimize the elements, and to create a useful fallback point should they actually be attacked from above.
|Shotaro Hidari||Shotaro arrives as close to the mountain as he can on the bike, only stopping it once he can't get any closer. On his head was a black fedora, and despite the wind stays perfectly on his head. He holds the cap anyway, trying to get a good feel for the area before he takes a toy-like cell phone and flips it up. "Philip, any ideas?"
Back at the detective agency, a tall lanky man with various disheveled clothing holds a book in his hand as he looks through the eyes of the deployed beetle. He seems to take a moment to think before speaking, "Bikes aren't going to do it, and flying is going to be dangerous because of the birds. Lunar is going to help you out when things start going sheer."
"Lunar...right," Shotaro says with a sort of grim determination, "Just not to let your grim face freeze like that," Philip quips over the line. To which Shotaro is about to say something before throwing his hands up. In his hand, he draws out what looks like a USB stick. Back at the detective agency, so does Philip.
"Let's do this," They say in unison. Shotaro puts a button on the dark purple memory, as something says 'Joker.' Philip does the same, as his says 'Cyclone'. A belt appears over Shotaro and Philip's waist. The green memory appears on Shotaro's belt before the purple one comes down.
The armor seems to be blown on by wind, before spreading out. The green and purple colors of Kamen Rider W have split down the middle, with large red eyes. Oddly, when they talk either one side or the other lights up.
Kamen Rider W (or Double if that's too much to say) is already running up the side of the hill, taking whatever path that Philip can point out.
|Staren||Minutes ago, at the base of another mountain:
Staren beams down, struggling to hold a humanoid robot several inches taller than she is.
"So, you want me to come along on a quest up a *different* mountain, when you haven't even finished this one yet?"
Staren turns to see floating behind her a male, pallete-swapped version of herself. The labcoat is black, the scarf is red, the hair is darker red, the skin is almost ashenly pale, and the eyes... have glowing red, undifferentiated sclera and irises. His hair, instead of the sort of wild semi-unkemptness Staren once had, kind of forms wavey tendrils at the ends. (They move around more, as if there's wind, the more emotional he gets.) Staren smiles and opens her mouth but is cut off, "Yes, the wonderful thing about talking to yourself is you don't have to explain your train of thought." He 'sits' in the air, crossing his legs and tapping his chin. "So why do you think this is a good idea? ...Yes, I know. Indulge me, it's vision quest ghost shit."
"This feels like it's going to be a similar kind of trial. It just feels right, that since you haven't gotten to go the rest of the way up the Mountain with me, that you get to do this."
"I'm always with you, but, I know what you mean." He nods, then holds up his hands and wiggles fingers dramatically. "My mysterious ghost senses say it's appropriate, so I'll do it."
Staren's eyes widen. "You have mysterious ghost senses?" But instead of an answer, her other self just flies into the robot, which takes on his appearance.
Two riders approach the mountain on hovercycle. Staren is clad in a sort of cold weather gear, though rather than going full snowsuit, she's got a replica Old American Empire G-1 flight jacket and pants that attempt to comprimise on armor, insulation, and flexibility. Her hiking boots are a bit thicker and better-insulated than usual, and she's got thin, black leathery gloves that are probably some superscience material to insulate and be that thin. Fluffy ice-blue earmuffs (which do not cover her ears), a cap fitted for her ears, and a long sea-green scarf -- the cold weather kind rather than the hero kind -- complete the outfit.
Dark Staren, currently inhabiting a robot, doesn't bother with a changed look.
Eventually the hovercycle comes to a point where the path that can be followed if they stay on the ground stops. Staren parks it for a moment as they look up at the rising ahead. "You know how badly I want to just fly to the top, but the vision quest ghost in me is very strongly insisting that defeats the point."
Before Staren can reply, Ainkli crashes into the mountain. The Starens stare, open-mouthed. And then Isahane just flies past, shaping the path to make it even easier. "...Okay. /Maybe/ this is just a mountain." Dark Staren shrugs. The two exchange looks.
Staren takes a deep breath. And then she starts moving as fast as she can without straight-up flying -- although still more like a platform protagonist than a hiker; Thrusters in her boots let her make very high leaps and air-dash, a grappling gun built into her left sleeve pulls her up to cliffs and swings from branch to branch.
Her doppelganger, meanwhile, just floats along behind, here more for companionship than to actually race to the top ahead of her. "Ah, I see. Despite all that, you're hedging your bets in case this IS some sort of quest deal that's gonna smack down the flyers any second. But is it truly caution? Or are you just afraid you're not strong enough?" "Dude, what the heck?!" "Oh, sorry! It's... y'know. Ghost psychoanalysis bullshit. Also, I'm kind of annoyed they're getting ahead of us, and you know how we get when we're frustrated." "Yeah..."
|Hiromi|| Ainkli's ship does startle the wildlife, and makes a big mess. Between the ship and the mountain, it's the mountain that survives, but that's with rocks and debris falling far, far down. That won't cause a problem for him, being already higher up. Or at least, it shouldn't. There's probably a perfectly rational explanation for why the narrow supporting surfaces to which he's teleporting keep crumbling under him before he's even had a chance to find another target, stones tumbling and earth slipping. The clouds and sheer surface limit visibility for getting further up or around, though it's somewhat easier to backtrack.
Arcadia, Gareth, and Kamen Rider W all opt for going straight up. It's straightforward, and momentum can keep one going even if a particular grip begins to crumble beneath foot or claw, but this gets more difficult the further they go. Sudden gusts of wind hit as if in a great storm, threatening to throw them both off, here on the outer, unprotected surface. Wings, and anything that gives a greater side profile, are a detriment here, as well as anything vulnerable to the chill. Soon, they must also contend with stones slicked with either past rain or the present mist.
The situation isn't that different for Staren, though that cold-weather and climbing gear were certainly good ideas.
Isahane has an easier time up the same, for giving herself cover, though nothing immediately comes down to attack. Instead, it's the maze-like path up she must contend with, giving the impression that one can make it up in relative safety, only for the higher clouds to eventually reveal a dead-end, tempting one out into the same problems as those going straight up are facing. It's only an illusion that there is an easy path at all, rather than a choice of trading one danger for another. And yet, there are the signs that others have gone this way, guiding one on. Whether they made it to the top is unclear.
There are sounds from higher up, the cries of hunting birds, though nothing grand enough to consider related to such a monster as would carry off a pair of humans. Not unless it has quite the small and shrill sound for its size. If they've already taken flight, they can't be easily spotted from here. Little but mists and earth can be smelled, either, little as there is up this high that would allow anything to grow in soil.
|Phasewalker|| Nah, he isn't going to back-track. Ainkli tumbles, he staggers, he twists his ankle, and at one point the Phasewalker finds himself sliding belly-first down a hill and getting hit by rocks a few times as he tries to find a good spot to teleport to. He'd get wicked road rash from the inclines if it weren't for his sci-fi outfit and his telekinetic armor, but he is definitely much more bruised than he should be. And yet he keeps trying to teleport UP the mountain, one small jaunt at a time, ignorant of the shaky footing... or perhaps going onto the shaky footing on purpose just for the thrill of it.
Yeah, definitely the latter.
He can be heard cackling in the distance, even through the pain. He's having a good day.
|Shotaro Hidari||The wind and the lack of a good grip are going to be a problem here! Kamen Rider W is tossed from one grip! This is bad! He turns, however, and a cycle of wind kicks up from underneath him to slow the fall and hit the side of the cliff able to drag along it. He uses the burst of wind again to jump to where he was at.
Some sparks are visible from the collision, but Double is still climbing up with full force. Hanging onto one edge he can feel his grip slip, but a burst of jump speed from cyclone gets him onto a better area. "I think we're going to need some better ideas going up Philip." says one side of the face.
"Heat would counter the slippery slope we're on, but it's slower. I suggest using Lunar," to which Shotaro seems to agree. The gree memory is removed, and another USB stick is held in his hands, yellow instead of green.
This unfamiliar voice seems to come from the memories themselves, but it is followed by a guitar riff. Where from? Don't worry about it. What IS important now is that half of Double is now yellow instead of green. This time, the arm of the yellow side seems to throw itself up, grabbing a ledge farther up and flinging himself up like a rubber band snapping forward.
The birds above are there, but that's the future Double's problem!
|Arcadia||High altitude mountain winds. This is -exactly- why Arcadia kept her wings folded against her back, so they wouldn't catch any sudden air currents and rip her free of the mountainside. Instead she digs in tightly with her claws and hunches down against the stone to reduce her profile even farther. Though the wind still whips through her hair, sidebangs flicking about.
The daredevil is not to be so easily deterred though. "Hmph. Fine. I was playing along... but if the mountain isn't going to play nice, then neither am I" Her magitech visor glimmers into being over her eyes, scanning farther up the mountainside. Marks several points across the rock surface.
Several of her magitech bits are brought in, and sent hurtling at those points. Their long narrow shapes pierce through the winds easily and with a chorus of *thunk thunk thunk* imbed their points into the rocks, sinking deep past the slick and frosty surfaces.
This gives Arcadia something to launch up and grab onto, using as hand and food holds other than the damp stones, to keep propelling herself farther up the mountain!
|Gareth||"Another fellow transforming hero? And a flying warrior as well! And... Robots!" Gareth sounds enthused enough as she pulls herself up the mountain, clinging onto the stone outcroppings for dear life whenever the winds pick up. Her teeth chatter the longer she gets pelted with wind and also more wind, but the stones banging on her helmet are loud enough to keep her from even thinking about taking a break.
When she hears the birds, however, Gareth's climbing becomes more enthusiastic and hurried. "Who knows how long those people have up there...? Ah. Fret not! We are coming for you!" She calls up towards the peak, yelling without quite screaming or going at full volume. She needs to maintain good climbing form and a steady pace, after all, and that necessitates proper breathing control as she hoists herself further and further up the mountain!
She doesn't look or sound winded in the slightest, either. Even if climbing steep mountains isn't Gareth's specialty, toughing it out and adapting to rapidly changing conditions by leaping from handhold to handhold certainly is! Sort of. "And if the Wolf is at the top... We're sure to be in for a real challenge even after this climb. Don't burn yourselves out too quickly, comrades! I have faith that you'll endure this!"
|Undivided Queens|| Though Isahane's going is comparatively slower at the start, she is a lifelong veteran of harsh environments like these. Despite her immense power, she knows better than to casually fuck with nature out of sheer confidence or carelessness. A million and one things can happen mountain climbing other than 'just dropping dead', which she spent most of her upbringing learning about.
"If you make that kind of haste, you will quickly fall behind again. Daring the mountain like that, because it was easy at first, is how city-lives fall, freeze, become trapped, lost, and die." she attempts to warn through the radio. "You use one tenth of your strength at the first tenth of the journey, half of your strength at the halfway, and all of you strength in the last tenth of the journey. That early speed will turn to vapour beneath you otherwise."
A dead end is fine for Isahane at this point. She was intent on making her own way from the start. As an Ilenjeh who uses all the finest attributes of the blood-codes within her, she'd used human wisdom to get this far because it was the best adaptation. Now comes those belonging to other creatures of the earth.
Putting away her wings, knowing just how much the wind will catch them and how much warmth it will leech from all that surface area. Using the free back space, she holsters both giant weapons, and then removes her gauntlets with a partial detransform flash, flexing her fingers and warping the knuckle down into long and thick blade-like claws, with an oddly gritty, mineral sheen to them, despite ostensibly being organic. At the same time, the toes of her boots vanish as well, but it's more the structure beneath that extends slightly, rather than sprouting more claws.
The purpose is pretty clear. Agile and practiced leaps, swift and mighty to remain in the wind for as little as possible, carry Isahane up the rough side with the uncanny balance of a mountain goat, using her stone and dirt-crushing claws to anchor herself and swing her momentum further, occasionally moving diagonally to weave around inconvenient outcroppings, then using them to move even further. She doesn't really attempt to walk, instead adapting her legs slightly for toeholds and narrow shelves, and hands for making handholds where there are none, which then *become* toeholds as she advances.
|Staren|| The gloves and grapple are made of high-tech material that's somewhat better at gripping surfaces even when wet. The clothes are warm in themselves, but also have wires and gems sewn into them which, when Staren pushes a little magic energy through, provide additional protection from the elements.
Even so, her hand slips just as she's almost to the top of a vertical section, and as she frantically looks for another handhold, she can feel her other hand slipping... it's less than a second, but it FEELS like several as her brain tries to home in on a solution. She starts to fall, looking shocked and confused...
She looks up, wide-eyed, into the smiling face of the Ghost, who saw what was happening and flew over to catch her. He speaks more softly this time, "I know how it is. You were so focused on solving the problem without flying, you forgot you have a flight spell in there just in case. It's... it's like Persephone said. It's alright." She's not blushing, it's the cold reddening her cheeks! And then his. "Um, well." He sets her down at the top of the cliff, where a convenient boulder blocks the wind.
Staren takes a moment, while there, to blow her nose and then catch her breath. The sound of the wind howls around them. "...Aside from the risk of falling, and the time pressure, this almost isn't so bad. I could sit here listening to the wind, relax, read a book... the air smells nice..." Arms folded, Dark Staren nods. "Mh. Always did like that sound..." He turns and looks down the mountain, at the forest they've already climbed partway above. "Maybe that's why people normally climb mountains, when there isn't some quest?" Staren sort of nods and shrugs as if to answer 'maybe', and has a couple of sips of hot tea from a thermos. She starts to reflexively offer it to her traveling companion before remembering: robot. They both give a short chuckle, and she packs it away and they move on.
it fucken WIMDY. Staren crosses a relatively flat section -- although there's still rough, rocky terrain on the 'don't step wrong and twist your ankle' scale -- and it's soon all she can do to trudge on. The Ghost lands behind her and has a bit less trouble on account of being denser than he looks. Eventually it gets so bad that Staren stops, kneels, and activates a spell circuit in her boots that increases grip. She looks back and holds out a hand for her other self, and they trudge against the wind together. Which is all well and good until they come to...
A crevasse. It's still so windy that flight won't help here! Staren looks across, spying places where outcroppings block wind, scraggly trees reach out of the rocks as grappling points, and plans an approach. And this time, she activates protective and backup spells FIRST, the Ghost nodding approvingly, before she leaps out over the crevasse and begins a complex series of grapples and dashes before oh, fuck. She comes up thiiiiis short of grabbing the other side, and tumbles down -- thankfully, flight slows her fall and defensive buffs keep her from cracking her skull, but it still hurts.
Dark Staren makes his way down. "You know what? The hell with the mountain." He takes the matter manipulator off her belt and starts digging an upward tunnel to bypass the rest of this windy section, reaching over one time to aim her arm at the wall ahead -- she takes the meaning, and fires the disintigrating particle beams hidden in THAT sleeve to help blast through the rock a bit faster.
|Hiromi|| Ainkli's getting a workout. It's not just full-body, to keep from falling down, but that continual psychic effort, plus a test of visual acuity to find his way up. Still, up he goes. Arcadia starts putting in her own pitons, which doesn't make the wind any less of a problem -- the faster and higher she goes, the harder it is -- but it does let her make better progress. The same goes for Double, minus the minor defacement, with those leaps carrying him up into the air. It's probably best not to look down, anyway.
Gareth makes steady progress with enthusiastic determination, though the stretch of mountain still to go continues to be a test for it. Isahane is much in her element, after transforming to adapt directly to the situation at hand, and her advice is just as relevant as she'd expect, proving that, another world though it may be, her experiences did prepare her for this. Staren finds that there are spots along the path up, at least when out of the wind, that are merely peaceful, if cold. The air is remarkably clean, if thin. At least, there might have been some degree of peace, if this climb hadn't started with an explosion, and it weren't for the birds.
They look like crows, more than anything, though far too large, and with long, trailing tailfeathers. At more than ten feet of wingspan, those claws and beaks are proportionately that much more dangerous.
Most of all, the problem is that they come down out of the clouds in rapid dives, aiming at those climbing, with a good chance of striking mid-leap, unless extraordinary care is taken to keep close to cover. They don't need to do anything but twist mid-air and strike with their talons, with only a little chance of piercing serious armor, but a much better chance of knocking someone down the cliff. Staying still on the cliff would make it easier to avoid getting knocked off, but also easier to spot and target with their beaks and talons, and one must keep going to reach the top.
It isn't that much farther, now. Above a lip, and then down the other side into an extraordinarily high-altitude caldera, out of the wind. There's a lake in the center, at the first to reach it will find.
Digging up through the mountain means not having to deal with the birds. Instead, Staren, and Dark Staren, find that the tunnel shakes and rumbles, as if about to cave in at any moment. They're either very unlucky, significantly less careful than they thought they were being, or some unknown factor is involved. It takes a great deal of work just to keep anything stable. They could keep going up this way, or trade it for the risk the birds represent.
One of the black birds stops at the entrance to the tunnel, looks in, then flies off again.
|Arcadia||When the big ugly birds divebomb the scene, Arcadia decides she's had enough of 'playing along' with the scenerio now that there is a real threat getting involved. She pushes off from the stone surface, dropping below the arc of the bird's dive with a few seconds to spare from getting shredded by wicked beak and talons
A moment after her own wings spread, magitech arrays in the pylon 'feathers' lighting up, as do the thrusters in the back and warskirt of her armor to suspend her in the air with little difficulty. She was made for the intense speeds of the Line after all, some screaming harsh wind isn't really that much of a deterrent, she was just going with the mountain climbing theme until it no longer suited their chances of success.
"Keep going! I'll deal with this." Arcadia would honestly rather fight in her element, anyways. She extracts her bits from the mountainside. They return, rotate around her a few times, then spread out again and arrange themselves at different angles. Glyphed arcane rings briefly spiral around her arms, then Arcadia holds them out and the energy rings collapse down, igniting like fire. Several options scroll through her HUD until the one she wants comes up.
Arcadia fires a large ball of fire from each hand, as several more fire from her magitec bits. As if the projectiles coming from different directions wasn't enough, each one explodes into a scattering of smaller and faster moving cluster bombs that will explode again on impact, and send even more bits of ember shrapnel flying about! Those birds are going to have very little room to maneuver in to try and attack anyone now!
Arcadia played along, now you get to play along with her game. Her game being BULLET HELL.
|Shotaro Hidari||The top at last!
"What a workout.." Half of Double says while the other half speaks up, "Not out of the workout phase yet!" just before a beak and a pair of claws from birds come down to try and eat him. The claw was good at pinning him, but he managed to move around just narrowly avoiding the beak that was trying to get to the meaty center in the center of a Double Roll.
Struggling with the grapple, Double's purple side is reaching for a new Gaia memory and pulling Joker out. The new memory is Blue, and when pressed says the phrase 'Trigger'. It's slammed down into the belt before being activated. The plates recolor like being sandblasted on before a guitar string shouts out.
A kick aims to try and dislodge the bird before Double rolls back and points a new weapon. A handheld gun points out, like balls of blue and yellow energy fire out. The blue balls are more direct, firing in a straight line, while the yellow ones arch out and attack from different angles, homing in on the various birds.
He starts moving, trying to look for the missing people while firing various blasts at birds to keep them off. Killing them is pointless, getting the people off is the goal. Animals are smart enough to know when and when not something is too spicy to keep trying to eat...he hopes these ones follow the same suit.
|Gareth||Gareth's nemesis appears once more: BIRDS. Although she's a fast fighter and more than capable of leaping to strike at things far above her vertically, doing so while climbing a cliff is another matter entirely. She can't exactly stick to cover while making her way up, so she's limited to just bracing for impact each time she can guess when they're about to come in based on the sounds of their wings flapping and any squawking or other terrible noises they might be making.
"We mean you no harm, young ones! I... Think you're young ones, anyway? Or are you the parents?" Gareth speaks aloud, partially to herself and partially to the birds on the off chance they might actually understand her. "... Either way! We're only here to rescue some people you may have mistaken for a meal! If you want to fight, then wait until we're at least up there so we can do it properly!"
Regardless, Gareth focuses primarily on just climbing her happy ass up there, tossing herself up every now and then to try and throw the birds off her climbing pattern. It seems to work to an extent, too, as their dive-bombing techniques aren't enough to get the knight to lose her grip or her footing! They do leave some dents in her armor, though, and she is looking a little tired from having to pause and brace every now and then, but...
She gets up there! Eventually. Letting out a relieved sigh as she does, Gareth backs away from the edge while stretching her arms out and letting out a hearty laugh. "That's part of the way done! And now..."
She turns towards the birds as her lance and shield materialize in each hand. "Come! I'll take you on directly as promised!" A blue glow appears around the base of her lance as she braces herself on the ground this time, eventually culminating in a burst of magical energy flying right for those birds!
It's still not that powerful, but it's the first time she's been able to really try hitting anything all day.
|Undivided Queens|| Isahane's progress towards the caldera is swift and inexorable. The monstrous beasts of the mountainside from the western frontierlands of her home are hers to call upon, as well as a skilled mountain hunter's upbringing. When the wildlife begins attacking, she merely switches her method of ascent from predominantly using her hands for momentum, to using those almost gyroscopically balanced mountaineering leaps commong to cliffside herbivores, bringing her wings back just for 'powered jumps' using them, here and there.
It's to free up her hands (human fingers once more, on her right) to grab that tanegashima cannon, like a smoothbore shotgun for someone twice her height, as if it were a sawed-off, and use one of the few Imperial inventions she really likes to keep them at bay. Despite the superficial resemblance, the 'fuse' is a glowing mote of magic like a pilot light, which slots into an engraved crystal when the hammer is fired, creating a massive blast of energetic sparks from the bore, and unleashing a huge wall of glowing birdshot --well, it's buckshot at that size-- at each of the crow monsters, meant to catch several at a time.
She uses her still-clawed hand to stay on the move, firing when she releases the mountainside so that the recoil itself enhances her speed from point to point. The talons that come close are deflected with mightly swings of her free arm and the butt of the weapon, kicking up minor armour sparks, but certainly at no risk of dislodging her. Once she reaches the lip of the cliff, she vaults over, wing-assist dives down, and slides roughly to a halt down the slope, flipping the break action of the cannon, pulling out a glowing-hot crystal rod, and inserting another one in its place, snapping it closed again with a flick of her wrist.
She draws in a deep breath now, sheltered from the wind, hoping to smell, or even taste, their quarry on the air; or at least the captives.
|Phasewalker|| There's no apparent sign of Phasewalker wanting to stop racing up the mountain. Even as the cold nips at his body, even as the rocks crumble beneath him, or the rain beats down on him. He looks like a man trying to climb a mountain with no experience or skill, only the ability to teleport to bypass having to actually grab any cliff faces. It doesn't look pretty. He has nicks, scratches, abrasions, and he is exhausted... and one of his eyes is bloodshot, because he's been using too much psychic effort, and it's getting close to him exceeding capacity. And then the FUCKING BIRDS show up.
He gets knocked off the cliff, tumbles for a second, and catches himself by teleporting to a previous spot, landing in a knelt posture and his nerves screaming from the panic. He touches his face, feeling a small scratch there. "... hahaha..."
Ainkli teleports back up to where he got knocked down, and clears the path to the top of the caldera, and peers down into the expanse to the bottom... and instead of teleporting down, he jumps down and kinda slides down the mountain side, using his telekinesis to skate down the mountain and shove obstacles aside on the way down to the bottom, or adjust friction to slow or speed himself up on the way. He ignores the smell of his shoes burning from rubbing against the stone on the way down.
"WOO!" he hoots as he goes.
|Staren|| Staren's other side takes rash action. Staren goes along with it. Someone calls him out on the radio... Staren tries to support him. He's dealing with a lot of pent-up hurt from her past, and by nature of what he is, gives into it, reacts to it, even more easily than she does, feels anything touching on it more rawly than she does. At least, on a good day. The Ghost of Maslow Peak is, partly, the climber after one too many bad days...
It doesn't have to be a metaphor for anything. She can just show this side of herself the support and kindness that she's been shown... that she's let some in the Concord show her.
Still. The constant rumblings and falling rocks lead to her having to remind him to keep putting up supports. They get shoddy as his impatience grows but, luckily, hold for now. Spying the bird snooping at the entrance he lashes out with a bolt of telekinetic force. "FUCK the mountain!"
After the radio conversation, they tunnel straight up. Bright sky shining down. Wind howls in the distance, but doesn't blow into the hole -- there's a moment of calm, here.
Still scowling, Dark Staren shapes a ladder into the rock, while Staren sits and tweaks the beam cannons in her right sleeve to adjust the cooldown safety; As cold as it is here, they can be fired more often. And then she stands up and hugs him.
"Hh--?" "You're enough. You're alright. You remember me hearing it, but you didn't get to hear her say it. All your anger and frustration, it comes from wanting to do good and hating when you fall short. Or... or stupid toxic masculinity shit we thought we had to do. Or trying and failing to protect ourself from being hurt more. But we're the same person. We knew that, even when we knew people would treat us differently. And that means..." She lets go and steps back. "Everything going right for me? Friends, being trusted with resources, not driving everyone quite so crazy, the family of the Concord...?" She pokes him in the chest with a finger. "You deserve it, too. You earned it, too."
She smiles up at him. "Remember that, when we re-merge, okay? Everything I get... how I'm being treated... it's not just for the part of me that's not you. It's for all of us." He just stares back, wordlessly, but comprehending. She steps forward to hug him again. "I remember how badly we needed a hug, the past couple of years, and there was no one to give it. So here. Because of the Mountain, /I/ can give us a hug." He slowly embraces her back. "And that goes for all the hugs I get from now on. They're for you too." He nods.
The moment passes. They let go, and look up, and are both relieved no one was watching that (at least, they hope.) And they climb out onto the surface. The final cliff is ahead. One more climb...
There are birds. GIANT birds. Giant, killer crows. That's okay. Staren's used to fighting big monsters, right?
The two Starens are in sync. Not only are her implants wirelessly networked with the robot body to share vision and tactical data, but they think of the same plans, the same strategies without having to communicate. Birds come for them... he deters them with blasts of telekinetic force and lightning, magitech built into the body, buying her time to climb. They gang up on him to stop it? He puts up a forcefield while she blasts the grouped-up birds with missiles. They come for her? He helps her brace against the cliff so they can both focus on weapons fire.
They're almost at the top. The birds take a scattered formation and sweep close to the cliff, flying sideways, talons out. Weapons fire can't get ALL of them... Dark Staren flies towards her, holding out his hand. She conjures a flashbang grenade, and they both know when to turn their heads so only the birds are blinded as she kicks off the wall with those thruster boots, and they grab eachother's forearms and he swings her around and around and then lets go, FLINGing her up into the air, and over the lip at last!
|Hiromi|| Shotaro's thoughts prove to be correct. Once he starts hitting the birds back, they're less inclined to bother him, being far from suicidal in their pursuit of food. Once people climb over the edge (which leads to a long downward tumble toward the lake) they move back away, focusing only on those easier targets who are still climbing up.
Gareth discovers the same. They might be a problem on the way down, but aren't hassling anyone who's made it up, insteaed veering off before she can hit more than one, just screeching indignantly at her for fighting back.
Sliding, rather than tumbling, also works, as Ainkli finds in reaching the the shoreline around the lake. There's a fair amount of plant growth here, though it's just grasses. Some bushes. Nothing really woody. There is wood, but it's piled in the form of broken logs off to one side, forming a high, messy wall of roughly interlocking, partially stripped, fallen trees.
While Arcadia hasn't yet reached the top, neither is she 'climbing' any longer, and she only has to fight for awhile before the birds she hasn't hit give up on her. Some fall with burning wings, others hit the cliffs and hop away, but she now has the outer airspace. That was only a matter of time, though it really is unpleasant being up here without special protections, even for someone built for flight.
Isahane, though her ascent is by the more complicated method of climbing plus timed recoil plus powered leaps, has an easier time of it otherwise, in that sticking that close to the mountain offers some protection from the diving birds. Glowing buckshot works well, on top of the birds that aren't already mid-dive being startled by the sound. They complain noisily at her, but as before, leave her alone once it's clear they can't make her fall.
No one is watching Staren at that moment, as the one giant crow(?) had already flown off. They get back up out of the unusually dangerous and hasty tunnel, which may be expected to not be safe by the time anyone returns to it. Dealing with the birds while in sync like that proves to be highly effective, especially as they only really need to prove they're not even slightly worth going after. It's a little harder when the ones that had been going after Shotaro and Gareth veer back around for them, but that's only temporary difficulty, while Arcadia and Isahane are still firing.
And so, everyone arrives at the caldera. Despite being so high up, it's a lot more pleasant here.
|Hiromi|| The nature of the pile of logs is soon revealed, the trees serving as the twigs that make the nest, as massive wings rise above it. Its upper side, little of which can be seen while standing by the shore of the lake, is dark, but beneath that it is a misty gray, extending even to the underside of its beak, in which can be seen rows of teeth. It leaps to the edge of the nest and, with a second raise of its wings and a second leap, takes into the air. The sky here is comparatively clear, no clouds blocking out the sun, the wind taking one only above the caldera's walls.
One may as well call the bird a roc, even if it matches no version of that particular bird recorded, for it does not introduce itself. In the size of its talons, at least, it's a matching myth. An elephant would be carried off without issue. In fact, numerous animals can be heard from inside the nest, prey previously captured.
One of those animals is a man, who has climbed the logs to reach to show his weather-beaten face. He waves, frantically, shouting, "Please, help!" He looks hale enough to get out on his own, if perhaps ill-equipped to survive the long way down.
And then the roc descends, striking, the beat of its wings as it brakes its fall cracking with the sound of thunder, its legs lifting it impossibly quickly, and coming down on its prey with force to match.
|Gareth||With the birds pushed away for the time being, Gareth can take a moment to enjoy the view and help anyone else up that might need a hand for the last stretch of climbing. "We're here! Catch your breaths, everybody, and then we can find our captives and bring them home!" She chimes in eagerly, still clanking along in her armor as she starts to move again for that lake sooner rather than later.
Hearing the animals and the voice of a person calling for help in addition to seeing the giant flying beast ascending, however, has Gareth once again getting into a defensive stance as she materializes her shield out of the ether. "We're here! Keep your head down while we handle this!" She calls out to the man and slaps her lance against the front of her shield to try drawing the roc's attention on the way down.
"Come, huge thing! Let's see how strong my shield is against someone your size!" Gareth issues her challenge, and she braces herself in position as the roc descends. Even though it might be large enough to eat her whole, she still manages to slam her shield into its beak, contesting it's force with her own. As she does so, she starts jabbing its face (or mostly beak) with her lance, peppering it with the occasional burst of mana while trying to punch that lance tip right into it forcefully.
|Phasewalker|| Phasewalker is not going to engage the giant birds. His body is bruised and he's hella exhausted, he's not really in the mood to engage in prolonged fisticuffs with enormous death beasts when the goal is so plainly in view. So this would be the moment where he attempts to cheat... just after he recovers from nearly getting his skull crushed by a tumble backward from his footing. Those wings...! He squints through the wind, and tries to teleport to the nest itself, close enough to the guy yelling for help.
He glances in the nest, to see if the other one of the two hapless fellows is in there, and holds out his hand to the guy. "Please consent to teleportation," he tells the panicked guy, while his own nose drips from blood from cracking his face against the mountainside a couple times earlier. "I'll get you out of here post-haste."
If he manages it, he'll zot the guy to a safe point nearer to the base of the mountain, then teleport back in search of the second guy. If he doesn't consent to teleportation, though, PW is going to have further problems.
|Arcadia||With the remaining aerial threats smart enough to get the heck out of dodge Arcadia recalls her magitec bits and lowers down to the caldera to join everyone else. As usual for her she doesn't actually touch the ground, instead remaining hoving just above the surface. For her it's to be able to jump into motion quickly.
It proves to be a misjudgement though as the gigantic bird takes off from it's nest, and then comes down thunderously towards the mountain again. Beating wings whip up the wind even more, which catchs the sphinx before she can recalibrate her stance. Which sends her tumbling away... though thankfully it's into the water, which is a less painful impact than crashing into one of the sides of the crater.
Water gurgles a bit, then erupts like a small gyser as Arcadia shoots back out of it. Water streaks down her wings and armor to flick off the edges. Though despite the mishap she's smiling. In that uneasy way all cats do when they go into hunter mode. "Finally! The true boss appears!" With a growl she thrusts out one arm towards the Roc, crystals imbeded in her forearm guards gleaming as rings of arcane energy spin out around her arm almost like the turbines in a generator building up power. "Astral Laser!" A burst of energy erupts from her palm and hurtles towards the giant avian. It's not one of her strongest attacks, but it is one of the more efficient and accurate.
|Shotaro Hidari||The TEETH BIRD descends.
"That is horrifying," says one half of Double, to which the other half speaks up, "That...really is impossible." The Kamen Rider rolls, trying to avoid the direct strike of the giant bird, but manages to only escape the direct strike. The wind manages to carry Double along, throwing him into some rocks. Back on his feet, the yellow and blue Kamen Rider looks up.
There is the person in the nest, getting to him comes first. Thankfully, someone can teleport. Which, cool, that saves them a whole lot of trouble. The gun in W's hand comes up again, as he considers just where to put the shots.
Another barrage of yellow balls flies out, this time aiming to stream around the bird. They come from all sorts of different directions, aiming for a weak point. Old injury? Weakness in the bones? Something!
|Staren|| Staren is flung up over the lip of the caldera and lands adroitly. With her long hair and scarf, it looks really cool. She turns to look back at the amazing view from up here. Taking it in as she takes a couple of breaths, puffs of fog forming in front of her mouth. As Dark Staren floats up to stand alongside her, she comments, "It's just not the same as a computer-generated landscape... And knowing I earned it, conquered the challenges of everything I see below... It kinda adds something beyond just being a pretty view, you know?"
"Is that why people climb mountains? It still seems like too much of a pain to do as a hobby, but I guess once in a long while it could be okay."
For a couple of seconds, they stand there, looking over the distant landscape.
Four ears perk up and two catpeople turn at once. There's barely any time to react. Staren dodges with enhanced speed, Dark Staren matches her, staying close enough to project his forcefield around the two of them, which the roc's massive talons graze with enough force to slam them down into the rocky surface of the caldera, the forcefield cracked as they bounce before deactivating, Dark Staren setting a Staren slightly shaken by the impact down.
She starts activating more defensive and mobility spells. He holds out a hand towards the roc and zaps a bolt of lightning, although this one is more flash and noise as he tries to make the bird balk, while he reaches into Staren's bag and pulls out... a rocket pistol? "Why aren't you carrying a ton of heavy weapons anymore?!" Of course, he already knows the answer is because she can now warp in things, and didn't think her double would need to grab supplies while she was distracted. He fires all four shots at the bird anyway, but warheads this size won't do much more than annoy it.
|Undivided Queens|| Isahane needs only take a glimpse at the bird's plumage to know what's up. "Countershading. So this beast is one that belongs just here. Even for its size, there should be a limit to its range like that, but . . ." Well, even if she somehow couldn't hear the din of captured animals, her other senses had told her already. "Her hatchlings aren't done yet. Good."
Once Phasewalker is off, she gets the idea of what exactly he's up to straight away. That makes it their problem to deal with-- No, she was already here for the hunt, more than anything. It's good that someone else can take that problem off her mind. She needs to focus. She *wants* to focus.
And it just so happens that absurdly gigantic and supermassively strong enemies are actually her forte. Tossing her weapons to the side, Isahane's gauntlets reappear, and she widens her stance into something passingly resembling 'judo-like', her eyes not only fixed on the talons, but the irises themselves subtly morphing keep better track. When she detects the floor of the monstrous bird's dive, she ducks so low that she almost flattens herself against the ground, strikes the opposing talon from beneath, slides one arm along it, braces the outer curve on the inside of both armoured shoulders, and *heaves* it away in a single, flowing motion that *still* manages to crack the ground all around her, as if the force had gone through a lightning rod.
She knows the bird of prey will have to gain altitude and wheel back around again, so she uses that time to apparently switch armours. Hundreds of pounds of gunmetal grey plating dematerializes off of her in dozens of pieces, replaced in rapid succession by slimmer, more aerodynamic sections of silver, snapped together like bits of a machine. When she brings a pair of wings back, they're twice her size, the snow white frame carrying a deep violet span covered in thin gold ripples. The spinning and glowing runecipher brings her a replacement weapon, in the form of a relatively narrow single-edged sword, even longer than both of her previous weapons combined. There's even a black glass kind of visor in the helmet.
She takes off after the bird, fully adapted for aerial combat now, tripling the airspeed she had earlier, and definitely having the edge in maneuverability at least. She tails the giant bird with the common sense of any aerial fighter knowing the rear arc is the safest.
|Hiromi|| Phasewalker gets to the top of the messy log wall that serves as the high edge of the nest. The man almost stumbles off on seeing him up close, yelling "A monst--!" before correcting himself, on realizing the giant lizard man is also wearing strange clothing, to "A foreigner!"
Unfortunately, he does not consent, though he's quick to point out the reason. "No, I can't leave without grandma! I promised!" He points emphatically at the bottom of the nest nearest the wall, where a bundled-up figure huddles. She looks up, squinting into the glare, revealing the face of a woman far less likely to survive any conventional trip down, even with aid.
The man may be persuaded to let her go first, but will only immediately give consent if the two go together.
The rest of the nest contains, mostly, sheep and goats. Some of them didn't survive the trip up, though most have. Some are in shock, while others are panicking. There's also a bear, but it's quite definitely dead.
Outside, things are significantly more dangerous. Gareth is proving difficult to crack open, but the roc doesn't just give up. Its beak is much too large to grab just the limb of someone the size of a human, so it's more like her entire lance arm that it tries to bite down on and crack open on its next pass, almost ignoring her simultaneous attempts to bash or stab it. Its tongue, too, looks to be edged with teeth.
This isn't a dragon, so it can't have a reverse scale, but Kamen Rider W finds something just as useful. Marks of old injury, where feathers had regrown but slightly off. Its subtle, but its reaction isn't, causing obvious and severe pain, from its loud, deafening screeching. It leaps back up, but doesn't quite take to the air, instead simply slamming one claw down on his position.
Staren was right in that those weapons wouldn't be much more than an annoyance, though it's amplified from following onto W's and Arcadia's attacks. A certain kind of perceptive, like an analytical computer, would note the unnatural force of the wind that follows from a single beat of its wings, not carrying it far back, but whipping into hurricane force at both Starens and Arcadia, threatening to both bash them against the rocks and bounce them up and over the edge of the mountain.
As it rises for another pass, Isahane goes to meet it. There are definite limits to the maneuverability of something that massive, on only a pair of wings, and it's only by near-halting itself in the air that it's able to turn to meet her. It doesn't care if it drops through the air in the process of striking her with wings and talons, knowing a single beat will raise it up again.
|Phasewalker|| That's not optimal. Phasewalker frowns at the guy as he staggers away from him, but glances outside and frowns again as he keeps an eye out for errant wingbeats that might hit him with a gust of wind. He responds quickly this time, vanishing and reappearing before both of the trapped figures. His hands reach out to the both of them, and he turns his gaze back to them as he regains his senses, and spends a second reinforcing his general heroic air and shoving down his manic adrenaline junkie. That inclination has been appeased for now, so it's easier to deal with.
"Please come with me if you want to live. I can teleport all of us to a safe place away from here and the monsters."
His hands hold out for both of them. If they take his hands and consciously consent, he'll whisk them away, or at least try to before the bird or these animals can interrupt his attempt.
|Hiromi||Phasewalker gets no more trouble after this point. The man is all too happy to get back down, lift his granny's hand up, and extend both his right and her left toward the still-unnerving, big, foreign lizard. Wearing some Westerner fashion, no doubt, but that kind of thing is forgivable, under the circumstances. They'd be just fine past the foothills, where it's close to a road, but they'll be temporarily just fine at the base of the mountain, too.|
|Arcadia||Two can play at this game! The turbines that are part of her augmented wings rumble loudly as she engages them to shift the air around herself as well and form a barrier of cyclonic motion around herself. Which does work as far as holding back the powerful winds.
Unfortunately the hurricane gale of the Roc starts to rip up debris from the crater around them as well. And the wind barrier is not as well suited against physical projectiles. Several rocks and chunks of discarded wood pelt her, leaving her armor banged up and cracked by the time it's over.
Several data streams flicker across her magitek HUD, but they all come up as the same lack of information. This Roc does not match any sort of creature registered as such in any of Argo Alexadria's databases, so there's no finding any quickly exploitable weaknesses that way. "Ffff." She grumbles as she grabs a shard of stone and pulls it free. "I guess it's time for the tried and true." More gratuitous firepower? You damn well better believe it.
She deploys her bits again, this time in formation around herself. They open fire in sprays of magic lasers, magic missiles and sonic pulses in a wide volley since her target is pretty big.
But the real show is when Arcadia puts her glowing hands together, and unleashes a large stream of energy that unlike the rest of the barrage is directly aimed at the monsterous bird!
|Shotaro Hidari||The claw comes down, the ground shatters and the Kamen Rider takes the full brunt. It was a risk.
A moment before the attack.
"Shotaro, get me behind the bird," says half of W, to which the other half speaks, "Not going to be easy partner, but I'll get you there."
W falls, however, when things were looking over, the yellow arm of Luna whips out, wrapping around the leg of the teeth bird, and drags W up into an arc. This gives the angle Philip needs for his shot. The blue USB device is taken out and inserted into the gun the two are using. 'Trigger, maximum drive' calls out a voice from the USB.
As he arcs, W aims the gun with both hands. A sound akin to something charging up sounds, getting higher pitched indicating the higher charge. The weapon is pointed down, before firing. Blue and yellow shots rain down aiming to shower the bird.
They arc in a pattern. Each one aiming to hit that old injury. Each one exploding as they hit. This ends with W hitting the ground, rolling, and looking much worse for ware.
|Gareth||Not one to shy away from a challenge, Gareth continues to contend with the roc even as it tries to clamp down on her lance arm. Seeing it coming for that arm in mid-stab, she fires off a small explosion of mana from the side of her lance. That ends up swinging her and the lance sideways just in time to narrowly avoid getting clamped by its closing beak, although there's a noticeable shearing metal as that toothy tongue grinds across the surface of her shield in that spin.
"Wah... Close one! But I'm afraid I'm not for eating!" Gareth moves with the momentum of her lance-boosted spin, swinging herself and her gear around for a big golf swing that winds up going extremely wide as the flying thing takes to the sky again. Staggering off balance briefly, the knight grunts in disapproval as she momentarily struggles to figure out how to chase the thing. After she pauses to watch Kamen Rider W's and Staren's shots, however, she realizes...
Her lance can shoot stuff, too. "Good idea! If it thinks it can get away, then... That's actually fine! But it probably won't, so take cover and hide your presence if you can!" Gareth remains in clear and open(ish) space as she takes aim with her lance, pausing again to watch Isahane fighting it at close range. "Amazing! But be careful, ma'am. Your armor is... Where did you get your armor?"
She does actually start shooting at the roc after a while, though, scattering bright mana-lasers at and around the roc to try and keep its attention on her. She's staying in place, too, deliberately to make herself a more appealing target.
|Staren|| IT FUCKEN WIMDY. AGAIN.
But Staren is prepared for this! She activates the same spell as before, boots sticking in place -- and to her and the rest of her clothes -- with supernatural force! She warps in a pair of power-armor scale boots that attach to her dark half and deploy pylons in the rock to hold him steady. "This is... exactly what you always tried to be prepared for! An enemy like this, when we weren't ready... There was something to your way after all!"
Something like a rifle with a massive bore is warped into Dark Staren's hands -- he just starts firing missiles until the magazine is empty, warheads designed to use an explosive to weaken armor on impact allowing for an incendiary kinetic penetrator to push inside. This should hurt! Staren, for her part, warps in an M72 LAW knockoff with the same warhead type, expanding the launch tube and firing it from her shoulder before letting the empty tube blow away.
"Sure, I'm right THIS time, but how many MORE times did I make us unhappy?! Look at how we're living now... however this goes, you better not become me again! That's MY job!" Staren flashes him a smile. "Aww..." "Heck, you're doing this thing where you want to know why stuff works for other people? Maybe you can figure out when THIS works, and be ready for it without sabotaging yourself..." He flashes a smile back.
|Undivided Queens|| "For a giant animal, this beast is strangely skilled in aerial combat." Isahane wonders out loud, struck with some measure of appreciation for her quarry beyond its size. After all, that is much the point of a hunt. "How many duels must it have won to seize this mountain? To live to such a massive size, and still mate." She watches carefully its reaction to Shotaro's attack. That proves the answer must be 'a lot'.
Isahane considers her options for only a blink. It's too tall to climb over, the wings are clearly weapons judging by its wind attack on Staren so banking is an even worse choice, diving will miss her attack run, and turning back will still get her hit; slowing down will get her hit even worse. So she speeds up. She knows what a hawk looks like when rearing back to strike with its talons. She knows why birds of prey have their eyes where they are, and how they judge distance, even if she doesn't have the words for 'binocular vision'. When it has her distance and speed and starts to attack, she suddenly contracts the former and increases the latter, and crashes right into those outstretched claws before they gain any momentum.
Even if Isahane is much smaller, she's still very fast and wearing a lot of armour. The shower of sparks that flies from the impact looks for a moment like she might have just eaten it, but instead, she's put one hand against the blunt spine of that super long and heavy sword, crashed into the talons with the edge, used both her own wings to roll sharply to the right, and ideally cause the giant bird to at least twist with her sudden, high-speed and off-center tumble; that is, twisting it around in the air by its feet such that its back is to the barrage of attacks from the ground.
It takes her more than just one beat to correct herself after that, but it doesn't take long for Isahane to soar upwards back out of freefall and put herself on the opposite side of the lasers, lasers, and more lasers, with the beast's gigantic body as cover. There is no lower face guard on this armour either. That's so she can snap her wings wide to stall her height, draw back her head, fill her lungs with motes of energy drawn out of the air, and unleash a tremendous sheet of blue-hot flame with her breath, fanning out uncontrollably and reaching hundreds of square meters across. Weakpoints or no, it's covered in feathers, and thus flammable.
|Hiromi|| W isn't immediately spotted, and that means his target is slow to respond to the attack, giving ample time to pound those old wounds with all the firepower he can muster. The scattered fire from Arcadia may not be strong enough to do much to that bulk on its own, but her focused attack is. Freed from teeth (false), Gareth joins with lance lasers. Staren fires missile after warped-in missile.
Before considering how those strike, one must consider the relative positions of the combatants in the air. The 'roc,' whatever it truly is, is certainly old, and has done much in securing this forbidding place for its nest. If Hiromi kept her passing promise, then this is among the largest-grown of these creatures she's seen, to better serve as a quarry to curious friends. Growth, one would usually expect, takes time, and survival grants experience.
It's fought others in the air, but Isahane's experience doesn't lose to it, put here in practice. Dragging it around, the freefall isn't enough to consider a hazard on its own, at this height. Even leaping from those cliffs would give one plenty of time to consider options on the way down. But the timing is well-done, allowing beams from multiple source, arcing blue and yellow shots, and penetrating rockets, all well positionined to exploit the weakness W first spotted. And on the other side, blue flames. Well-insulated against the freezing winds, its feathers lack any such protection against heat of that level. They burn, though its mass does provide a defense, here, in that its innards can only cook slowly, where they are not shaved away and melted.
It falls from the sky, impacting the lake in a great cloud of steam and falling rain. It rises bloodied, burned, and partly broken, with colors marred and symmetry gone, more monstrous than before. It attacks, then, with the desperation of one that merely refuses to die, though it would be only by some miracle for these wounds to heal in a century's time. Though unable to soar, its legs are no less powerful for burning away what life it has remaining in this final struggle.
Even a man-eating monster has its own reasons, for why it cannot lose.
|Shotaro Hidari||The bird's desperate struggles were powerful. Unfortunately, for W, the force breaks through every last defense he can muster. Shooting rocks to try and get in the way, leaping overstrikes. Running up the side of a larger rock.
The beak catches the Kamen rider, and after bouncing across the ground hard the transformation breaks. Shotaro rolls, heavily hurt across the dirt, barely able to get onto his feet from the blow.
|Arcadia||Arcadia felt the drain of engaging that assault, but pumps fists in the air all the same as the roc crashes into the lake. "Whoo! Quick get some more fire on it so it can boil to de--" She's interrupted by the monster rising from the depths as giant monsters tend to do, still alive despite it's horrid state of affairs. "--Damn it."
Then a monsterous burnt wing slams down on her, pounding Arcadia into the ground hard. The wing pulls back, and slams down again!... this time audible as it hits something. When it pulls back, one can see the flickering remenant of some kind of shield saving the sphinx from being completely hammered down. The protective wards of her armor manage to stave off being totally annihilated at least. It takes a few more frantic slams before she finally manages to engage some of her hyperglass thrusters and extract herself from the immeadiate physical range.
"It's not completely cooked..." Elemental energies crackle as she manages to draw them together, compressing it into an ovoid shape "Let's finish that!"
The projectile is launched hurtling towards the Roc. "Thermobaric Burster!" It's no surprise that the fiery shot explodes... The surprise that the pressure wave of the explosion rapidly vibrates molecules to the point that the very air around the target -- the roc in this case -- is superheated to the point that it too is almost on fire!
|Gareth||As promised, Gareth stands steadfast in the face of the roc, following it towards the lake as it descends from the skies in a burning and bloodied mass. There's a slight pang of guilt at what appears to be the imminent death of such a powerful and grand creature, but she pushes it back as she reminds herself to why she had come to this mountain in the first place.
"Let's end this. This creature should not be made to suffer any longer, and we have a duty to bring these people home!" Pulling her visor down over her face, Gareth once again charges right for the giant bird beast, lance braced against the side of her shield while the shield is raised in front of her to defend her in that sprint. The roc's beak comes forward, and the knight makes no move to evade.
It's a pure contest of strength and endurance, and the roc's beak finds purchase around Gareth as it bites down on her whole. Her armor creaks and her body buckles from the pressure, but it's not enough to break through Gareth's armor or bring her to her knees despite the pain from straining her arms for so long. She forces her shield further through the sides of its beak to keep it from closing fully around her, withstanding that mighty bite as her lance glows with mana coursing through it once again.
"You fought well." She thrusts her lance in as deeply as it will go, and the tip of her lance detonates in a point blank blast of mana. With the blast, she keeps shoving the lance in further, followed by more blasts, followed by more shoving to try and pierce right into the creature's skull to give it something vaguely resembling a...
Maybe not painless or peaceful, but at least a quick-ish end.
|Undivided Queens|| When the super-giant 'roc' plummets, Isahane chases with it, not willing nor stupid enough to hover around in the air and watch it disappear into a giant cloud of obscuring ~~smoke~~ steam. With her smaller profile and greater density, she could simply tuck those wings in, angle down, and catch up very quickly, but instead, the gold ripple patterns on the deep violet wingspan glitter with light, and she streaks straight downwards fast enough to leave a glowing trail and a visible 'airboost wave'.
The silver of the ultra long sword catches that light, and shows exactly where her huge, arcing cuts spiral around the roc's charred mass, looping all the way around it mid-fall and breaking off only moments before impact with the lake's surface and the inevitable geyser of scalding steam pressure.
She lands with a hefty lithobraking crunch, armour flashing on and off her to rapidly swap back to the much heavier, more root-balanced steel suit, though she keeps the same sword in hand, no doubt realizing how necessary its length will be. From there, her intent is plainly to engage in the ground fight. No doubt she could easily end things with no risk to herself by just staying high up and raining more breath attacks on the beast, but she insists on being right in the way, in hand to hand combat with something a hundred times her size.
"Come then! Pity that it is we could not meet one to one, I would still see a worthy end to this hunt! Make your last moments proud ones!" She is now yelling at the roc. Extremely loudly. While charging headfirst into its rampage.
And yet it seems like she knows what she's doing. If anything, she seems like she knows what she's doing, in melee combat with a giant monster specifically. She can somehow wave around a twelve foot sword like a katana, amplified to extremes of leverage capable of parrying and clashing with the roc's talons, and extremes of range capable of pursuing and slashing through its legs and stomach with long, advancing leaps. Even in all that armour, she can dive and roll to the side where crushing blows come down, or leap backwards with wing assisted jumps where it charges, only to then counter them by bracing the sword like a pike against a horse and skewer its chest.
She catches its attacking weight on her weapon's length and shifts its momentum around. She approaches with lightning fast zigzag motions to deceive its eyes and avoid its beak. She passes under it to hack through its legs, delivers massive uppercuts to split its ribs. She slides herself under a particularly vicious stomp, readies a counter stance, pushes its talons five feet to one side and herself five feet to the other with the same sound of metal, and launches herself into a gigantic super jump to plunge the whole length as deep as it can go into its vitals.
|Hiromi|| The roc falls. This could have been done more easily, if slowly. It could have been allowed to burn out that last of its life on its own. Instead, bringing the fight right to it, Isahane and Gareth face all its rage and desperation head on, with Arcadia's support from at range. It can hardly move after Gareth's lance punches in, and Isahane pushes out its footing, and has no way to avoid that final strike to its vitals. There's no longer any way for it to keep moving, no last dreg of power to call on, no way to make up for the failing of the body with sheer will. Its life fades, moments after it falls, its last breath being drawn out so slowly only for its great size, as if the knowledge that it is truly dead must take time to travel from the point its heart was pierced.
The two humans who were rescued are no longer here to speak on the matter, and the livestock have no words to give. Shotaro might need help. The way down is long, without a teleporter, though there is an expansive land to fly over, for those who like such things. The winds here do not reach easily into the caldera, though they are cold and harsh not far off, outside any shelter.
|Arcadia||Arcadia taps the side of her headpiece, visor flashing briefly as it scans the creature one last time. "This lifeform's profile shall be added to the proper zoological and xenobiological databases to ensure preparedness should of of it's kind become a threat in the future." Her wings spread open, and despite various damages she's got enough propulsion to lift off the ground. The hyperglass arrays make more than enough kinetic force to make up for the damaged systems. "I need to return to base for repairs. Before lingering damages start to compromise biomech subsystems."|
|Gareth||The battle is over, and GAreth can finally relax. Withdrawing her lance, both it and her shield dematerialize as she steps away from the giant's beak to survey the damage. "That's that, then... Good work, everyone!" The knight taps on her shoulder with a loud clang, then glances around slowly. With the humans rescued and taken aside, that leaves her to zero in on Shotaro.
"Whoa! Are you alright, Double?" she hurries over to him, offering a gauntlet-clad hand to help him onto his feet. If needed, she'll offer a shoulder, and if that's not enough, she'll just haul him over her shoulder for the trek back down. Luckily, she's got a horse somewhere further down to make it easier later!
Before leaving, however, she does turn back to Isahane. "Let us know if you need a hand with its children!" Arcadia and Staren, meanwhile, get utterly confused looks from Gareth thanks to all those science words they're using.
|Shotaro Hidari||Shotaro takes the hand back to his feet, grabbing his hat and placing it on his head. "Thanks," he manages and takes the shoulder. He's a bit banged up but thankfully the suit protected him from anything life-threatening.
"Just, Shotaro, right now," he comments. Cat's out of the bag, but he wasn't doing a good job of hiding it anyway.
|Staren|| The Starens discuss whether this battle actually needs to be finished. The bird STOMPS. The Starens whether it, Dark Staren having patches of metal show up through his skin, and Staren being beaten and bruised even through magic defenses that at least prevent her from breaking bones or being too beat up to move. Ultimately, they spend the last moments of the battle with Dark Staren trying to hold the roc off while Staren designs something, then she deploys smoke and drones to target-assist while warping in some kind of massive one-shot railgun that Dark Staren needs all of his robot strength, and the stabilization pylon boots from earlier, just to aim and fire. The shell probably makes an impressive explosion!
And then... Some back-and-forth radio chatter ends with Staren dropping to her knees at the edge of the caldera, still not over the incident with the nullborn after realizing she didn't even CONSIDER that the rocs might be people, whether they were or not. She, uh... she may need a moment.