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|Cantio||The sun is setting in this region of the world as most people are preparing for dinner, putting their grandparents to bed, and trying to figure out what to watch instead of talking to each other at the dinner table. The ambient music coming out of the musical city in the distance is soft, but still audible even from a distance as it lulls its citizens to another gentle night giving way to a much needed weekend. A chipper, but mildly subdued voice can also be heard wishing the citizens of Cadenza a good night, but here in the forest...
Right now, however, sleep might very well be the last thing on anybody's mind. With the location of a certain lab in hand, it's a simple enough matter to move a certain rock and uncover a certain bush to reveal the stairs hidden right in the middle of everything, leading down to a well built, but decidedly ominous facility. Cheap tiles and the lack of furniture in most of the laboratory make it hard to hide footsteps as anyone is coming in, but that goes both ways as irritated muttering can be heard coming from deeper inside the hidden laboratory.
"That's not good enough... Maybe if... No. Didn't work last time, either." Cantio's voice echoes throughout the lab as she pores over notes on a wall-mounted screen of scrolling data, pausing it occasionally to match it up with something on her tablet before scrolling again. She's absorbed in filtering through whatever it is she's looking, and she paces around every now and then to check on the creatures held behind the many reinforced glass structures within the laboratory.
Thankfully, they're not bipedal creatures, so they're (probably) not human. They're moving around like four-legged animals, fish, and birds. Most of the enclosures closer to the entrance, but the ones deeper in the lab where Cantio is working are generally occupied with these things more often than not. They're also often in pairs, one looking rather rubbery while the other looks more like an actual normal creature, if oddly colored.
One of the rubbery creatures starts getting agitated and starts slamming itself against the glass. Cantio maintains eye contact with it as another her (but in hospital scrubs) drops in from the ceiling of the enclosure. Nurse Cantio throws a loaded syringe at the creature, misses completely, then just rushes it and grabs its face with one hand while jabbing it with another syringe in the other. The Bugster settles down as does the other sickly-looking creature in the enclosure, and she retreats back into the ceiling access.
|Shotaro Hidari||For others, some might have to infiltrate the lab more loudly, but Shotaro was quite good at getting places he /shouldn't/ be. He also has a bad habit of going ahead of others and back up. Today, was such days because of what he has told Cantio. He was serious, one way or the other he'd stop her, but also save her from the path she was about to take. Hopefully, he wasn't too late on his second promise.
"It looks likes that one is a little rough, Cantio," A voice rings out as Shotaro steps out from behind another cage. He's about to look tip his hat but the Bugster animal jumps at him which causes him to skip a bit back to avoid the nick. He completes the look before staring at Cantio.
"I looked into the incident in the city with your first generation of Bugsters. Do you think these bugsters would be better if you unleashed them? The moment you lose any control, they'll go wild. More than that, people are worried about your health. Tachibana, is one such person...but your sister as well."
"There are better ways to provide safety and happiness to your people, ones that don't require you to give that up yourself. Your sister sure hasn't done that, so why do you think you have to?"
|Forte|| Inside you are two wolves.
One wolf wants to stop Cantio's viral experiments because letting that technology be used by a Concord member would be disastrous.
The other wolf wants to stop Cantio's viral experiments because it would be delicious.
... Which is a roundabout way of saying Forte is very laser focused here.
Other people are attempting physical entry - Forte attempts a digital one, trying to backtrace Cantio's IP address based on the known location, and digitally teleport right into the lab.
If he makes it - he doesn't bother with words, just with beginning his pre-battle chargeup, with an... intensity that those who're familiar with him haven't seen him embody before.
|Rita Ma|| Rita seems distant and grave on the walk over, far from her usual chatty self. As they approach the lab deep in the forest, she simply disappears, and the thin air where she used to be says: "I'll be right back. Don't worry."
There's no point in giving herself away unnecessarily. Rita, fully cloaked, slips past Cantio and deeper into the lab. On finding an enclosure out of view with a promising Bugster (or two) inside it, she ruptures the glass with her tentacles and tries to feed.
Crunch. Slither. Gulp.
She emerges back around the corner as her teammates arrive, hemming Cantio in from both sides. She's still wrapped in the disguise of an ordinary girl, but two invisible tentacles are waving and arching from her upper back, perceptible only as floating stains of rubbersuit blood.
"I still remember that day at the hospital," she says. She tries to keep her expression neutral, but it still takes on a downcast tone. "You put that drive on the table, and Mr. Haru shot it without hesitating. You were doing human experimentation for a cure, and it was still wrong then. Now you're doing it for what? To be popular? To keep your people 'safe'?"
The premature aperitif wasn't for nothing. The bugsters in the other enclosures begin to seem oddly stiff and docile.
"I wish we'd done something about you back then. You've only gotten worse."
Kamen Rider GENM, who isn't related to GENM Corp at all, pure fiction, leaned in and darkly spoke plot into Xion's ear. The hero of everyone's hearts decided, in that moment, that the matter of Bugsters - and the Action 52 - might be more complicated then she had thought.
SOONER THAN PRIOR BUT FARTHER THAN NOW:
"Wait, she's doing *what* with the Bugster virus?!"
The hidden path to the lab access is crashed through by a red column of light that resolves into a red-and-dark-green flannel shirt Xion holding a fistful of medallions in a crackling wreathe of energy that fades over a moment. Then she looks around.
"Oh, dang, where is everyone? Do I really have to be 'everyone's' hero today?"
Everyone is SNEAK!
"I guess I'll just force my way through and stop Cantio, then."
|Hibiki Tachibana|| Back in the realm of the City of Song again, Hibiki is quiet in the usual sort of way as when she has something heavy on her mind. She has a lot of reasons to be that way, but today it's specifically because of Cantio and Cantio only. A lot has happened, especially since that day at the hospital. Even so, when they run into one another for other reasons out there, she can almost pretend things are still perfectly normal. Almost.
But she can't. Especially not with Saltavi's words from back in the palace still clear in her head. So she had to come. It's time that they put a stop to this.
There's no explosive and dramatic entry this time. Having taken the now-not-so-secret entrance into the underground lab, there's no effort to try to keep the echo of her footsteps down as she follows the sounds coming from further within. Lips pursed tight, not that it can really be seen over the scarf drawn up over half her face, Hibiki is already transformed and wearing her Symphogear by the time she steps into the main room and stops a few steps inside.
Which is to say she's come clearly entirely ready to fight. But even standing there with her fists clenched up tight at her sides, she looks more sad than anything. Maybe because this is the first time she's seen her like this firsthand, down in this minimalist laboratory with all these Bugsters and soon-to-be test subjects. "...That's enough, Cantio."
"If you keep trying to shoulder this whole burden yourself, you're the one who's going to break. You think I don't know what that does to someone? ...And I can never ignore the look you have in your eyes sometimes. The citizens of Cadenza--your sister...and not just them. You know just how many people are worried about you, don't you? ...And how much it's hurting you."
"So just stop it already. I don't want to see you keep doing this to yourself, when you know it's wrong." She grimaces. "Please."
|Cantio||Cantio nearly jumps out of her skin when she hears Shotaro speaking all of a sudden, managing not to catch his approach in her bleary eyed state. "Wh...? Shotaro? How did you...?" She starts to ask, narrowing her eyes for a moment before sighing and pulling over an office chair (mesh back, but cushioned seat) to slouch in dramatically.
Actually, she might just be that tired. "Not yet. They still need training. And I still need to finish that cure. It's..." She doesn't elaborate right away, clicking her teeth once when Hibiki's brought up. When her sister is mentioned, meanwhile, Cantio leans forward while making direct eye contact with Shotaro. "Did you tell her about this?"
Hibiki arrives, and Cantio slumps back in her chair again after Saltavi is mentioned once more. "So you both...? Ehn. It's not just about giving them safety and happiness anymore. I mean, yeah, that's a big part of it, and they're... They deserve more than they have right now. They've put up with enough anxiety already, and... My sister can only do so much by herself. She's one person, too, you know?" She rubs her face, then looks towards the enclosures. "The least I can do for her and everyone else is spread out that burden. Then she won't break, and she can keep their spirits up while I focus on securing our home. If I can do that much, then..."
She doesn't say it, but her willingness to break herself in the process is pretty heavily implied right there.
Forte finds it relatively difficult to find Cantio's location remotely at first, but even a secured-ish location like this still has to be connected to something. That something is how he gets in, and he's able to get into the lab without her noticing a thing. It's only when he starts charging up that she finally notices him, mostly because of the acoustics in the lab making it pretty hard to ignore all the noise and flashing lights.
She doesn't look quite as surprised at his arrival. She might be getting used to people breaking into this supposedly secure location already. "You're here, too... Wouldn't this help you, though? This-" She gestures at the small creature and the Bugster in the same pen. "The process can convert these creatures into data, if you're just looking for a source of food." She doesn't sound nearly as enthused about that as she did explaining her actual motivations, but she also doesn't seem too torn up about the fact that she's got animals in captivity for this testing.
Xion, however, gets to cause Cantio to almost have another heart attack (or equivalent thereof) from just showing up in all her flashing lights and lumberjack-y glory without warning. She takes a moment to compose herself, only then noticing that some of the Bugsters have started becoming more docile than usual. "There's nothing to stop here, Xion. Please, just... Go. I still have a lot more work to do before I can stop. I mean, unless you can help me figure out how to develop a cure faster. That'd... That'd make it end faster, too, so...?"
Rita, meanwhile, slips inside without Cantio noticing a thing, and it's only the sound of glass breaking that she actually catches wind of something going on. It's not nearly enough to have her stop Rita from feeding on the Bugster, but it is soon enough for her to already be facing that general direction Rita's approaching from as Cantio finds herself facing people in two different directions.
"That goal hasn't changed, Rita. I still want to cure that disease and stop it from hurting more people. If I stopped now..." She inhales slowly, then reaches back to tug on her shoulder lightly before getting up from her seat. "Tell me what I should do, then. What am I supposed to tell the families of the people that died? 'Sorry, but your loved ones died for nothing because I'm giving up now, bye'?"
|Cantio||"I'm not using any more humans for this research, but it's too late to give up using what I've learned from those that died already. I owe it to all of them to find something that'll make their sacrifices worthwhile." She sounds calmer than she usually does, but there's a distinct sense of fatigue in her tone as she steps back with one hand held sideways. "If that's not good enough, then..."
Finally, Cantio turns back to the group as her sword flies to her hand, lowering it and keeping it pointed towards the ground in a side stance unlike her usual one. "You'll have to stop it yourselves, if you can. But I'm not giving up on this myself a second before that!"
|Forte||"I could take the digitizing process. You are right," says Forte. "And use it to start gorging myself upon the entire world. I won't."
He levels a hand towards Cantio, palm extended, still charging. The hand is glowing red - the reddish color you get from metal in a furnace.
"And I speak only as a kindness to you, in order to make sure the lesson you can learn here is not wasted by you mistaking my intent. I am not here to convince you or threaten you to do the right thing."
"I am here because when you set out to create monsters, all you might accomplish would be luring yet larger monsters in. I am here to take all of your research data, and all of your research subjects, and leave nothing left."
The air around Forte starts to crackle - not with electricity, but with glitches from the sheer intensity of Forte's presence and the power charge he's carrying.
"And when you go to reason with monsters - you waste your breath."
He teleports - going to pop right in front of Cantio's face, heedless of any attacks of opportunity he might incur, and tries to grab her with the glowing hand.
If it connects, it hurts, beyond the searing pain of the initial contact. It's like something intangible is getting grasped and wrenched out forcibly, like a bullet making an exit wound through the soul.
|Shotaro Hidari||Shotaro isn't surprised when others turn up, he figured it was a matter of sooner than later. Of course, talking to Cantio wasn't going to work, much to his fears. She felt she was too far gone, walked this path too far. "I didn't tell her anything, Cantio. She already knew. She wanted us to stop this before it claimed you too," Shotaro says. To which, he wonders if he was too late?
"If you want to stand back, Shotaro..." to which the detective shakes his head at the communication from Philip. "No, this is something I should finish through. Thank you, partner," he says and pulls out a PURPLE USB stick.
"Tell me Cantio, what happens when the cure becomes worse than the disease? When the cost of it takes more than the disease itself could ever? Is that a cure..?"
"What about the others who you claim to fight for. Would they stand with you for this? To watch you shatter yourself for them? Your sister is one person, these people are all one people...but it isn't about if a single person is one person, but what happens when those people sing together as one, isn't it?"
"If you can't pull yourself from this path, then I'll make good on my promise to you from before. I will make good on my promise to your sister," he says, before he pushes the button on the USB stick. On his waist, the W belt appears.
Somewhere else, but not too far away Philip was waiting to see if he needed to step in. A strange small dinosaur the size of a small cat sits on his hand. However, after a moment he lets his hand drop, and it bounces to the ground, making tiny tinny roar noises. "Well, that's our partner.." he says before the W belt appears around his waist. His hand takes out a green USB stick.
Back at the lab, the green USB stick appears in the second W slot, as the JOKER memory is inserted into the first slot. Both memories are pressed down into their slots and the belt's slots are pushed out to form the W.
Kamen Rider W stands there, scarf blowing in the wind that is formed from the transformation. One half of him is dark purple, while the other is green. Both eyes light up as they speak, and Kamen Rider points his finger towards Cantio.
"Now count up your sins!"
This causes W to break into a run towards Cantio, using the wind to give him a burst of speed to try and bypass her sword and directly take the fight to her. Shotaro is a brilliant hand-to-hand fighter, which Cantio will see firsthand as he aims to drive several punches and kicks at her, aiming to try and keep her on the defensive with that blade, instead of the reverse.
|Rita Ma|| "You... owe it to them?" Rita straightens up from her aggressive stance, seeming genuinely taken aback by the idea.
"You built a laboratory underground, hidden in a forest, kilometers from anyone else. You staffed it with nothing but copies of yourself, because you couldn't trust anyone else. You kept it secret from even your own sister."
"If it's so terrible that you have to work in secret even within your own kingdom, how could your work here ever honor anyone's memory?"
Cantio's back is turned to Rita as she faces down the larger group. But Rita herself doesn't take the opportunity to attack. Instead, one of those visible-by-bloodstains-only tentacles whips out and slams into a nearby enclosure, shattering the glass.
Rita is a queen of monsters, and having just eaten a Bugster, that fact is suddenly biologically salient to them. Every Bugster in the facility- those closest to her most strongly- is subject to a mental assault, an attempt to subjugate their wills to hers.
She is a child in need of protecting; a parent gently instructing; a leader demanding obeisance- whatever hardwired instincts they have that could compel certain courses of action are hijacked, and a few they don't have are shoved into their minds to complete the suite.
Rita mentally commands the rubbery quadrupedal Bugster in the newly-opened cell to tackle Cantio from the side. It's partly a test to see how effective her control over them is; partly a warning of worse things to come.
|Xion||Xion, fist full of medallions, stands there in jeans, a belt, a black t-shirt and a red-and-dark-green flannel shirt. The tails of her top flutter in her arrival-breeze.
A smile, like a light, wavers on Xion's lips as she listens to Cantio.
'There's nothing to stop, here, Xion.'
"I don't think that's true. You said that, but then you said you can't stop yet. You know this is wrong, don't you? Taking bodies, and lives, from people, and - at the very best - stripping them of where they are, in time, in a place."
Xion lifts her medal-gripping fist to her opposite bicep, looking away. The noirette's bangs fall over the periphery of her eyes, and her chin falls. "You're not even ready to accept the consequence of this being wrong. Not ready to stop, because if you do you *have* to admit to everyone that you needed to stop well short of this and didn't. Do you know why it gets easier, Cantio?"
Xion swings her medal-holding hand in a wide arc, casting the glinting power-treasures out in an arc. The medallions are immediately caught on a spinning force, orbiting around her like gold and silver and cardinal-metal moons.
"Alright. I'll take responsibility for it, then, and stop you. If you're begging us to stop you, so you don't have to stop yourself..."
Starlight 'shwink!'-s into her left hand in a grip-rolling wrist flourish that ends with the blade outstretched and pointing at Cantio. "I'll tell you what you can say: 'People who cared a lot came and showed me that I needed to stop, so I did.' Alright?"
Dropping from tip-outstretched to touching-the-floor, Xion reaches out with her right hand and grips a medallion depicting a red-helmeted and visored warrior with a yellow scarf. As she does, a red outline around her arm resolves into a black bodysuit-like sleeve tracing up her arm, and then a chunky Buster cannon and muzzle snapping into place. Aiming dramatically, she unleashes a flash-charged trio of charged plasma lances. They make a rather chunky 'pkoom pkoom pkoom' noise with each blast.
|Hibiki Tachibana|| "Cantio..."
Hibiki's face falls as she listens. She gets it, at least a little. Because even if she doesn't have a sister like that herself, she perfectly understands the feeling of wanting to relieve a burden off of other people. And...being on the other end of that. Everyone else shuffles in one by one, and she closes her eyes and remains silent, hanging on to each of Cantio's words, the implication she left in the air...and her standing her ground.
"...That's not spreading the burden. That would mean doing it together, sharing in the ups and the downs and leaning on each other. You're just trying to take as much of it as you can on yourself, and only putting more burden on others while you do it." When her eyes open back up they're narrowed, and her expression has shifted away from just sad and much more towards irate.
"Shotaro is right. Saltavi already knew. And I'm not going to make her have to watch her sister do this to herself. Curing the Bugster Virus doesn't have a point if you're just hurting people and yourself in an entirely different way to do it!"
"...You're not too deep in. I'll do everything I can to pull you out of it, too. Because I'm your friend!"
She's already transformed, so there's nothing stopping her from breaking out into a sprint as soon as she's braced herself. She's fought Cantio more than once before, but that stance isn't what she's experienced before. That doesn't stop Hibiki from closing in without hesitation though, making a high leap and a flip up into the air--
And then coming down metal boot first towards the other girl's face to try and kick her straight down into the floor hard enough to bounce right back up off the tiles, and into a follow-up kick before she's even hit the ground, meant to send her flying.
|Cantio||Forte explains his rationale, and Cantio actually doesn't react badly to it. She strokes her chin with her free hand, even nodding after a moment while keeping her gaze fixed on him and the ominous appearance of his hand. "I could see that happening, maybe... But that's only a maybe. I've already made progress with this research, so I'd be able to handle things if it does happen. That's why I moved everything here in the first place: so the monsters wouldn't attack the city, and then I could still use anything that comes in to keep my work going."
There's clearly a disconnect there, but it all sounds like it makes complete sense in Cantio's mind.
Forte comes in for the attack, and he latches onto Cantio's face before she can move out of the way. The surge of burning energy has her screeching at first, That leaves Forte within her own attack range, however, and she takes advantage of that opportunity to start stabbing at his arm before slashing downwards at his chest in an intentionally jerky maneuver. The reason for her adjusted stance becomes more apparent from this alone: Rather than trying to fight with a proper form and something resembling grace or even an attempt at looking heroic, she's instead going for high-efficiency and causing/mitigating as much damage as she can.
Shotaro gets a more bewildered look from Cantio. "A cure being worse than the disease means the cure's not finished yet. That's what research is for. Is... Do people in your world really believe something like that can happen?" She sounds incredulous about the notion, doubly so when he mentions her sister again. "Even if that sounds like something she'd say... She knows that things aren't always as clean as we wish they could be. She's strong enough to fight that way, but I can't! This is the only way I know, so don't try and drag her into this!"
That actually seems to get Cantio's hackles raised.
When Kamen Rider W approaches for that rush of strikes, she doesn't make much of an effort to move out of the way. Instead, she moves into that flurry of blows, turning and whirling around just enough to take his attacks against her arms and legs rather than taking any direct hits to her head or chest with impacts loud enough to echo through the lab thanks to those dramatic, but sound distorting acoustics. Like with Forte, she looks like she might actually be trying to trade blows, banking on her own durability to push through those strikes while slicing upwards to try and catch both a leg and an arm in a broad slash in an attempt to neutralize the speed difference between them.
|Cantio||"I built it here so anything lured by it wouldn't risk damaging the city." Cantio replies to Rita with a pointed stare, although she grimaces again when Saltavi is once again brought up. "I had to keep it a secret from her. She's... She's someone that's actually worthy of being called a hero. She just doesn't have the heart for harder things like this. For doing things that might hurt a few people to help many more." She swallows once, her composure cracking briefly despite the resolve being clear in her tone. "That's why I have to do it this way. Someone has to do it, and I won't let her be the one to! ... Do it."
Awkward pause aside, Cantio spots the rubbery Bugster coming right at her without warning. On the plus side, it's actually fiercely loyal to Rita thanks to her ability to pierce into its mind and those of the Bugsters around here! On the downside, the Bugsters here and the animal-esque creatures they're formed from aren't really that strong.
There's probably a good reason why Cantio specifically picked all these crappy common Pokemon as her test subjects. The rubbery racoon squirrel thing slams right into her with little more than a brief stumble, and she only spares it one brief glance before picking it up and yeeting it right at Rita followed by a quick diagonal spray of lasers from her sword. Rather than focusing those shots on any one spot, Cantio's clearly trying to limit her freedom of movement in this wide-ish space.
Xion's response, like Rita's, gets Cantio's composure to waver briefly again. "It is. It's not something I can undo after the fact. I'd like to say that I've made great strides in developing a cure, but progress has... It's been a lot slower than I'd like it to be." She admits with an uneasy grunt while straightening herself back up and settling back into her side stance. "It's moving, though, so it's just a matter of time. Then... It won't be wrong." She declares as a drone lowers itself from the ceiling mounted on a track, tapping on it a few times before waving it off. It spins around for a moment, then starts glowing as a gentle light spreads through the laboratory.
|Cantio||For everyone that isn't Cantio, wounds are mended. Aches are relieved. Bleeding is stemmed. It's not particularly strong, but it is widespread enough to be hard to ignore. It would be especially hard to ignore for the creatures that Rita ate if not for the fact that she already ate them.
It still doesn't make Xion's hard read sting any less. "B... Believe what you want. Do what you think is right. The only way we'll know who's right is seeing who's still standing after all this!" She actually takes the initiative as Xion brings up that Buster cannon, sword flicking in front of her to disperse some of those shots just so Cantio doesn't have to take the full brunt of them head on. Instead of going for a slash or stab or anything fancy, however, Cantio keeps on rushing forwards to try and shove the entire blade at Xion's center mass like she's trying to carve through an oversized strawberry.
Hibiki, like Shotaro, brings up Saltavi again. For some reason, that more than anything is still something of an upsetting topic to bring up even in this context. "She doesn't have to watch any of this. She didn't need to know about it! I mean, sure, she might have seen the first few, but..." Cantio grits her teeth while whirling around to face Hibiki, placing one hand on the bottom of her sword. "Sure, I've hurt people, but I'm done with sacrificing more of them! I just need time to finish with what I have, and then..."
She doesn't finish that thought. She doesn't know where it'll stop. Cantio's sword comes up as Hibiki closes the gap between them, and that kick slips past her guard to push Cantio down into the lab's floor. Before she can get nailed by that followup kick, however, a burst of energy from Cantio's sword propels her sideways into an awkward spin with the sword practically yanking her out of the way at the last second. She keeps moving with that spin, however, using its momentum in a broad slash/baseball bat-esque swing at her to try and catch her off guard so soon after that second kick.
|Shotaro Hidari||The sword slashes both up and down, cutting into the armor and getting dangerous-looking sparks before W goes rolling across the ground away from Cantio. Rolling to his feet, he seems to recover himself, even as the light starts soothing those wounds. The Kamen Rider faces his opponent, though the sword puts her at a distinct advantage.
Half of W lights up, "We should try using Metal here," Philip says, and the other half speaks with the same light up, "Right." This causes a new USB to be brought up, and when the button on it is pressed it says a new phrase.
JOKER is removed and metal is slammed in. Once more the spread of the belt happens, as a wind current seems to blow on a SILVER-colored armor to replace the purple side. This time, in his hands a metal rod appears, as he goes back to engage Cantio. The rod works like a staff, so when he swings, he tries to catch her blade first, before throwing off her balance, so he can strike again, aiming to slam the staff into her chest.
"You must not think much of her if you're saying that. I told you before, we didn't tell her anything. She knew, she knew, and asked us to stop you. I can tell she feels this is her fault, but it'd be too hard for her to tell you herself. That it'd hurt you for her to stop you, that she fears what's really going on here is that you'd resent her for it."
The staff comes around again, aiming to try and trip Cantio, before placing the weapon towards her face. "You can lie to us, you might even be able to lie to yourself. What are you really trying to do here? Help her, or make it so you can feel you can stand shoulder to shoulder with her? Do you think it'd do anyone a favor if the only way you could do it this way is this?"
"As for the cure being worse than the disease, it's a phrase said when the cure would do more harm than the disease would."
|Forte||"The lesson is incidental," says Forte. "I do not care about the risks you are or are not placing others in."
He gets stabbed - the stab mostly cuts through poncho, but Forte's left himself wide open with the close range teleport and <s>data drain</s> getability grapple, and with this realization he backs off a bit.
And - also, with that, the hit extracts a confession out of Forte as he floats backwards. "... I do care abou the risks, but that is not why I am here. Consuming your research data solves multiple problems - but first and foremost..."
He holds up his right hand again, the glow fading from it. "My hunger. It will not be denined. I can not stop it - nor would I, if I could. And you cannot hope to match it."
The crackle of glitches around Forte intensifies as he continues to build up power - and then he starts putting it to use. "Autonavi slot in," he intones. "BBufferhit BB, execute."
Time disjoints. It bifuricates. Trifuricates. Things get a bit weird.
|Forte||"Autonavi, slot in," he intones next. "Longsword S, execute." A long, thin blade replaces Forte's hand, extending from the wrist.
And then Forte moves in, going to the side, feinting right and then going left, trying to throw off any attempt to guard or block Cantio might put up by sheer force of finesse. There's no speed to it, and no power to it - it's as if Forte is sacrificing everything else for the sake of making this one technical hit. He even puts so much care into the strike that he might not even pierce through Cantio's armor, but it does leave him in a good position to deal with whatever counterattack Cantio might launch in response.
But - oddly enough, as he swings, it's as if this sequence of events has already played out, in some vague way, twice over - Forte going high for a powerful attack, Forte going in low for a quick attack, and the slashes of those strikes forming into existence simultaneous to the technical hit from the side, as if pulled from some alternate timeline that never happened.
And then things finally stabilize, whatever weird... time thing that happened leaving only vague memories - and three slashes in the space of one.
|Xion||Xion doesn't adjust her position, tracing Cantio's movement with the muzzle of her buster as she wordlessly walks fire against the blade.
CHOOM barks the muzzle, as Cantio's sword deflects it.
CHOOM roars the arm cannon, as the recoil from the shot lifts her aim.
CHOOM she stands, defiant, as the blade comes up, and rams through her chest, sticking in the center of her body on the thrust. She's born up, and her body slides to the hilt of the sword. Something black dribbles onto the front of Cantio's outfit, glistening like oil. Momentarily stunned, her buster shatters into red light and Starlight clatters against the floor. Xion leans against Cantio's front in that moment and sighs.
"Okay. I'm coming to save you."
Two medallions rest in her hands, which announce themselves like greebles.
MIGHTY ACTION - X!
SIGNAL BIKE - RIDER!
The orbiting medallions - missing two - are joined with an alternating set of wheels doing a blow-out model, and a collection of colorful characters on rounded-edged digital display.
With a transposing flicker, Xion - and her orbiting wheels, medallions, and screens - seperates from Cantio while she carries on her reckless use of sharp objects on other people's person. Conserving her flat-footed posture, she drops an inch to wobbling feet as she holds the wound on her stomach with the greeble-holding fists. "I'll save you with Kamen Rider's power. The power to defeat these bugsters - and shave you from the shadow of your own heart!"
Striking a pose, she dashes through the ring of characters and wheels, catching the spike-haired picture of the dark Action X in the ring.
The array of called powers collapses around Xion with an obnoxious Level UP! MACH!, her charging becoming a highly gamified spindashing accelleration that resolves into a thick wheel-shaped aura she bears down on Cantio with a Motocross Helmeted Mighty Action X in white, black, and blue.
Nearing connection with her wheel aura, she transitions into flying powered screw attack kick flurry that continues with the heavy Action Speed Force of the combined rider armor.
"Your heart is screaming for me to save you! So I'm doing it at Mach Speed!"
|Hibiki Tachibana|| Cantio's sudden spin gets Hibiki struggling to react to the sudden movement, and she can't really follow it in time - a burst from her Symphogear's skirt thrusters only sends her around in time to divert her kick towards it instead, resulting in a loud clang of metal on metal that sends the magical girl flipping backwards with a gash ripped into the mechanical boot. She lands on her feet out of the acrobatics with a slight stumble, falling back a step with a grunt before bringing her fists back up.
"...I already know you stopped using people in your experiments. That kind of hurt isn't what I'm talking about. The guards in your palace. I talked to them, when some of us went there...and that's also when we talked to Saltavi." She's not ignorant of the effect talking about her sister has. That's why it's an important part of reaching her.
"She went to your room looking for you, you know. She's the kind of person who always has energy to spare, isn't she? ...So seeing her lose it all when she realized you still weren't there hurt to see. But probably not as much as she felt herself."
Gritting her teeth, she sprints back in to not give Cantio any breathing room or create distance, knowing all about her propensity for drones...and how different this fighting style is. And, of course, so that she won't have any choice but to keep eye contact while they're face to face. She comes in low, rising up in melee range with a rising uppercut.
"You don't even know what's going to come after this, do you? Or how far you'll have to go...! If you don't know any other way to do things, that's when you're supposed to count on other people! Not tear yourself apart like this! I'm sick of seeing it! It's just like--!"
Whoever she was going to bring up is left unsaid, cut off by a shout accompanying a barrage of follow-up strikes. A rush of punches, kicks, knee strikes and elbow swings, ending with Hibiki attempting to try and grapple the other girl by her sword arm and twist it into a lock, only for an even louder shout to ring out as she tries to flip her over into a full force slam straight down onto the floor.
This time she's actually just going to embed her in it, and at the mercy of terrible things like Mighty Shion Ecks and Forte's BBlade BBlitzing.
|Rita Ma|| "Haven't you always felt like you're in your sisters' shadow? Haven't you always felt like you can't be good enough? Isn't that something you want to change?" Rita says rhetorically, her tone one of uncharacteristically sharp impatience.
The quadrupedal Bugster is flung back. Rather than Rita dodging, it stands up and immediately hurls itself in the way of the incoming sword-bolts, taking all of them to its side before collapsing. One still punches through, striking those floating blood-spatters and adding a singe to them. Rita grimaces lightly as she steps over the Bugster's corpse, still staying at a respectable distance from the melee.
"You're the one in charge. You're the one who wants to be a 'real hero', like them. If you can't find a better way, that's your fault. If you keep doing this, you'll never catch up to them!"
Throughout the facility, there's a terrible din. All of the Bugsters under Rita's sway begin to throw themselves against the walls of their enclosures in unison, a steady echoing THUNK-THUNK-THUNK of rubbery faux-flesh against glass.
"I'm sorry, Ms. Cantio. But I can't let you keep doing this. For your sake, and everyone else's."
Rita shimmers out of view, but one can audibly hear her breathe in. It's easy to ear what comes next, too: an ear-piercing scream that shatters glass with its high notes and vibrates bones with its low notes. It's sufficient to bleed ears, to blur vision; even to bruise skin if one is close enough. Xion and Hibiki might recognize the sound from a certain underwater adventure.
In its deafening aftermath, glass shatters and crumbles. Dozens of feet patter along distant hallways, rushing towards the battle. Everything's loose.
|Cantio||"Why would she...? No. She's supposed to be..." Dumber? No. Cantio's never known her sister to be a dumb person by any means. Lazy, definitely, but she wouldn't be so blind or dumb to miss all of this happening in her own home. As she's mulling over Shotaro's words, he rushes right back in with METAL's rod, and her sword clashes with the heavy staff multiple times until it strikes her dead on in the chest. She lets out a winded grunt as she staggers back, scrambling briefly to catch herself and get back into position.
"I guess... No, it's definitely both. She can't handle it all herself, and... I need to be stronger, too. Someone that can fight besides her instead of just waiting for her to clean things up for me. Someone that can save people without waiting for someone better to come along! That sort of power doesn't come free, though, so this... This is the way I have to do this!"
"And if that means I have to make you gorge on more data than you can handle, then..." Cantio's actually hitting a bit of a blank there when Forte speaks of his hunger, as she's not exactly the fastest when it comes to witty quips in the middle of fighting. This is doubly so when it comes to something she's actually feeling rather heated about, and triply so when he says something she recognizes.
Forte comes back in with a hand-mounted/hand-replacing blade, and Cantio's already on the back foot even as his attacks should make her feel more comfortable about being able to deal with such clumsy techniques. Instead of being able to just deflect it and stab him again, however, things get distorted. Unnatural. Suddenly, she's getting slashes at three times in the span of one moment, and the only thing that stops her from getting a big gaping wound in her chest is actually recognizing the effect and backing off just in time to only get partially sliced up and bloodied.
Still recoiling from Forte's attack, Xion gives Cantio little time to breathe as she slots in her medallions, transforming with all manner of overlapping noises that the purple-haired woman can't even process before she's surrounded by some kind of giant wheel aura. She doesn't have enough time to process that, either, before she's already getting the shit kicked out of her. Cantio brings up her sword and arm to defend herself from the overwhelming flurry, but her own endurance doesn't quite hold up compared to the sheer amount of kick force Xion is generating in such a short amount of time.
"Defeating Bugsters is just a... That's just fixing a symptom. That's not going to cure anyone. Destroying them just puts us back where we started, and... How far did those doctors even get with finding their own cure? If I can find a cure through this, then my own heart... I can take it!"
Cantio's brave-ish words don't hold up as well as her body does, and she can't rely on just trading blows at this rate. Her only respite comes when she moves with one of Xion's kicks and gets blasted backwards to relative safety. Alas, that relative safety isn't all that safe at all when she finds herself launched right into Hibiki's...
|Cantio||Oh no. She's talking about Saltavi more. The people back home. Even if they're not physical attacks, they're still making a visible impact on her psyche. "She...? But she's always got energy when she comes rushing into my..." Cantio trails off, gritting her teeth again as she tries to regain her composure with so many thoughts bashing around in her head.
"... Then I just have to make sure I finish this work as soon as I can. The sooner I can find a cure, the sooner this ends, and then...!" As she looks back up, Hibiki's in her face again, and she flips her sword around in an underhanded grip to make it a little easier to use it with her forearm as an extra buffer against Hibiki's blows. The blade lasts longer than Cantio's ability to defend, however, and she gets smashed right into the ground.
Getting stuck in the ground leaves her open to Rita's own rush of psychoanalysis, and each question hits her deeper than any wound could (although the wounds are mounting up rather quickly already). Each prod draws a grimace from Cantio as she tries pulling herself out, and the noise from the Bugsters trying to escape their confines goes ignored in favor of not getting the shit beat out of her by the people most definitely stronger and larger than the Bugsters she's created.
The screeching noise, coming from such close range, batters Cantio's eardrums/equivalent parts as that force just hammers her deeper into that hole both rhetorically and literally since she has yet to actually pull herself out of where Hibiki had jammed her earlier. "Gh... Tell me. Why do I have to catch up the right way?"
|Cantio||Cantio stumbles as she pulls an arm out of that mini-crater, pushing part of herself up in time to see the lab starting to come apart with the Bugsters and the Pokemon they're formed from free from their enclosures. "Everything comes at a cost. Power, money, cures... All of that's handed to some people, but it had to come from somewhere. Someone or something had to be sacrificed for it, and the greater it is, the greater the cost! Why... Why's it okay for all that to fall into someone's lap if they don't know where it came from? Why's it suddenly wrong if someone tries taking that same thing for themselves?"
Cantio's voice is hoarse as she shouts in frustration, and for a moment, she's still on the ground. "If stopping was that easy... Of course I would have. But it's not. I can't take back what I've already done, and my people might not agree with everything I do, but..." She staggers back up to her feet, her sword held in front of her while her free hand goes to her back pocket. "But even If I can't be the one they all cheer for, I can still... I can still protect them as the leader they can believe in completely!"
A strange hole opens up in the bottom of Cantio's sword as she brings her other hand out in front of her, spinning a purple plasticky thing vaguely resembling a pistol's grip around on her finger. As she stops it, a clear square pops out from the top of it. It has the Cadenza's colors, but the form doesn't look like any of the tech Cantio normally uses.
Several people here might recognize it as a Gashat.
"That power... This is the other result of my research. Henshin!"
-SPACE ATTACKER 52-
Cantio slams that plastic square'd pistol thing into the base of her sword, and all sorts of flashing lights surround her along with digitized explosions and images of floating planes with only a moderate amount of glitched out pixels in their wake. One of those futuristic planes breaks apart, then rearranges itself onto Cantio like a suit of armor that makes her vaguely resemble a futuristic space... Thing.
Within seconds, there's a clear difference in Cantio's earlier power and now. She speeds around the broken laboratory with reckless abandon, her sword splitting into multiple pieces that almost function like those very space jets that appeared with her transformation earlier. The floating pieces start barraging everyone with lasers as she zips around with her sword slicing and flicking every which way, almost exclusively targeting legs at first with afterimages that are clearly not from her being too fast to track.
Rather, the afterimages are there to make it harder to keep track of her and the drone lasers in mid-shot and mid-slash. After what feels like several seconds of this, Cantio splits into multiple copies of herself, each looking and feeling identical to the real thing as they all charge in for one more thrust followed with (what else) more lasers.
|Rita Ma|| "Gh... Tell me. Why do I have to catch up the right way?"
"Because otherwise I'll beat you and make you stop, Ms. Cantio," Rita says, fading back into visibility. She's closing the distance rapidly now, her expression set in an uncharacteristically scary look. "You're hurting your sister. You're hurting yourself. These monsters are hurting the people you claim to protect! I'm here to end this. It's up to you how much that takes."
She doesn't blink in the face of the laser barrage; her uncanny reflexes let her weave around them with a minimum of motion. Even that is a deception, though: when the clone comes in to swing its sword at her, "Rita" simply unravels into tentacles, revealed as a decoy.
The real Rita de-cloaks on the clone's unguarded side in the same eyeblink, grabs it by the face, and bashes its head into a wall repeatedly until it goes down, dematerializes, or manages to escape. Her expression is cold; her eyes wide. "I'll stop you because I'm fighting for the people who are scared of you." Slam. "Because this awful body can do things those people can't." Slam. "Because Lilian was right about you." Slam. "Because an ugly conviction like yours can't protect anything." Slam.
"And because if you aren't scared of doing the wrong thing anymore, at least you can still be scared of me."
The rumbling has finally caught up. All of Cantio's test subjects pour down the hallway like a flood, parting around Rita as if she were a rock in the middle of a river. She stands in the middle of the hallway, pointing at Cantio and her clones, and the swarm of test subjects washes over them. Individually they may be weak, but now they form a dangerous crush of bodies, driven into a frenzy beyond all reason by Rita's command.
|Forte||The problem with using copied powers is that sometimes someone recognizes the original - and has experience defending against it.
"... BB. Yes," says Forte, in response to the recognition, once the time bullshit is all done with. "In a way, in broad strokes, I am here on her request... not that that's my only reason."
"There's another lesson, from her, you could stand to learn..."
And then Cantio gives her speech.
And she transforms.
"... Or perhaps you've already learned it."
The lasers fire out - Forte takes flight, going to dodge, but finding himself harried every way he goes, taking several hits - causing his form to flicker a bit, not unlike a badly aligned VCR.
The sword switches out - Forte's back to using his glowing hand. "Well then!" The aggressive aura comes back into full force - but now there is an eagerness behind it. There's emotion behind it, now, too - and other things not normally present in Forte's usually mostly passive voice.
"Not just theory - not just research data and a batch of test subjects - but a practical product! A proof of concept!"
He clenches the glowing fist, as if visualizing grasping at something - a motion that causes a brief sizzling sound as the contact surfaces of the GETABILITY.BAT program press against each other.
"You should take pride, then - you have earned..."
And he airdashes forward, chasing after Cantio, trying to grab at her with glowing hand outstretched.
"... Everything I can throw at you and then more!"
|Shotaro Hidari||W is caught in the laser spring, even as he struggles with the damage to his legs. However, it wasn't enough, and lasers spray him from several directions, as he flies through the air and rolls along the ground. Sparks appear from each and every hit, as he finally stops. Unlike before, he's not recovering as quickly.
Horsely, Shotaro speaks from his half of W. "Because..." he says, fighting to stand. "Because the alternative will make your city cry. It is why I refuse to fight that way because I vowed to protect Futo. I vowed to stop those who would make it cry...and If I have to do that for other cities, I will."
The Metalshaft is back in his hand. "It's not just the city, but those who hold you, dear. Or would you throw all of that away for your power? Then what, was that power for? TELL ME! WHAT WAS IT ALL FOR IF YOU'RE WILLING TO THROW THEM AWAY!?"
Shotaro is incensed now, running at Cantio. The shaft is spun, firing a tornado of wind to try and keep her flight unsteady, as well as make more attacks with her sword bits more uneven. He jumps, the shaft aimed to slam down with both arms aiming to smash her down towards the ground. The shaft itself now glowing with that green energy, very much the wind that blows throughout a city.
"Even if you think you have no way back, I won't quit till I've dragged you back from that edge of despair. I refuse to let you forget the face of your sister."
|Hibiki Tachibana|| As Cantio starts pulling herself up (and she herself is fully recovering from the aftershock of Rita's ruinous screech), Hibiki tenses up and watches her carefully. The chaos of all the attacks and also that of the cells being opened up doesn't seem to be any concern to her compared to the words coming out of the other girl's mouth. 'Someone or something had to be sacrificed for it, and the greater it is, the greater the cost!'
Despite her resolve a moment ago, that gets Hibiki to wince and glance slightly away, taking in the frustration obvious in Cantio's voice. She's still struggling to find her words when the other girl's own determination leads into--a transformation!?
Hibiki doesn't have long to be awed at the new form brought about by SPACE ATTACKER 52 when Cantio begins blitzing them down. She's dealt with Cantio's drones before, but this is on another level entirely - lasers pin her down on the spot while she's trying and failing to follow afterimages, searing into the unprotected portions and bringing her down to a knee. Her attempts at rolling and scrambling out of the way only work until the clone comes in with another barrage behind it, and she's not fast enough to stop it from stabbing clean into her.
"Wanting to take that power with your own hands...even if it costs your own blood and sweat and tears...I get that. Or maybe I don't really, with how I got mine..." So she doesn't. The best Hibiki could do was grab further down the blade halfway through it stabbing in, both to stop it from digging in further and to stop her designated Cantio from retreating again will all that speed.
"But if the price for that power...is doing this to your sister, all the people you know...and most importantly yourself...!"
The magical girl uses the hold to wrench the sword out and /pull/ Cantio closer, taking one hand off to rear back as the piston in her gauntlet slots back with very clear intent. "I'll STOP you again!" And her fist comes in like a freight train to grab onto the copy's face.
And if successful, spin around on her heel to /throw/ her at the same time the piston slams back in, with the shockwave of force funneled straight into her skull while also helping throw her like a human bullet. "And then--we'll find some OTHER way!"
|Xion||The emotional energy filling the area - rolling off of each person, and smoking from the Bugster periphery monsters forms a thick smoke that parts around Xion as her spinning kicks push into Cantio's defense.
Her voice comes quiet, borne up more by vocal mixing and hushed tones sounding louder and more dramatic over the terrible ear-shattering violence of everyone.
The lights and the sounds of clashing violences.
"Alright." She mutters, a rasp at the back of her throat. "Now that you have your power-!"
Skipping between frames of injury and pressured defense, Xion's chest-decal displayed health bar loses a pip and then another, her breath caught in a fully determined sequence of buster-intercepted beams that leave thick clouds of particle effects. The others, each other, bring up their voice and ask a question. Crash their feelings and wills into Cantio's heart.
As one copied beam prisms against her blade. Starlight shines brightly.
A line of explosions occur behind her, and then in front of her, shrouding her from view as Hibiki roars her defiance, of finding another way.
Xion, white-armored and shoulder cape fluttering, appears in a Heaviness-oozing zone of gravitically controlled space, the kinetic energy rippling through her zone. Gripping her keyblade in both hands, the red energy of Power Gear surges down her arms and shines across her blade, cocked like a baseball bat.
"You found power, then. You can ask us to respect it, or you can ask us to like it."
"Don't ask both. You can't run from the price!"
Her homerun swing burns with a tireskid-arc as she swings it in to meet Hibiki's Y E E T with her keyblade
D E L E T
|Cantio||"How is that approach any different from people that just find power without caring about where it came from?" Cantio replies to Rita, not quite knowing where she is despite following her voice. "People that built their empires on the backs of other people's sacrifices, saying that their way is just only because they're strong enough to force that on other people..." Rita mentions Lilian, and Cantio's composure cracks again into an uncharacteristically angry snarl. "The Bugsters I've made have already saved more people than someone like ever would. She doesn't care about actually doing the right thing. All she cares about it is getting the last word in and making people think she's 'correct' even when it's wrong! You don't know what she did to me, so why's it okay for /her/ to do as she pleases?!"
One of the clones, caught unaware from Rita decloaking suddenly, gets slammed into a wall like... Well, someone getting their head smashed into a wall. It's not pretty, and it's not easy to look at, but it gets the job done as that weirdly sturdy clone eventually dissipates into little more than a floating cloud of pixels. All the while, the rumbling grows louder until the test subjects arrive, followingt he lead of their presumed child creature!
In total, there's probably about thirty of the Bugsters. Some of them are based on rats, squirrels, bats, and even a couple look like legged fish or sentient bushes. They're small individually, but as a whole? They're still pretty small, but there's more than enough of them to keep her tied up as they start biting into Cantio's armor and flesh recklessly.
"'In broad strokes'? If BB knows about this, then... She'd understand why I'm doing this." Cantio responds to Forte next, skidding to a stop while her clones continue zipping around all over the place and get steadily whittled down through the group's combined might. "You should understand, too. That trust she's put in us to do better than we ever could... If I just lay down and give up here, I'd be betraying everything she taught me!"
If nothing else, at least Forte seems to be slightly more receptive to Cantio's actions, even if he's still trying to beat the absolute crap out of her. When he comes in with that hand outstretched, it comes in just as she's charging towards him for another flyby (or rush since they're still below ground and flying isn't practical here).
"They... No. They won't get hurt any more by what I do. When they see what I've been able to accomplish in just a few months, then they'll understand why I had to go this far." She addresses Shotaro next, smacking an open palm against her chest while bracing her sword against her shoulder and blasting a whole mess of the rebellious Bugsters off of herself. "Even if it feels awful, even if it hurts to keep going... I can take it, if it's for their sake. If they can prosper, then..."
She doesn't sound like she's completely into it. Not like that earlier anger, anyway. W's staff comes down at the clone, and once again they engage in a battle of clashing steel against-actually, the steel shaft breaks right through that clone's sword and smashes her right into the dirt, leaving a malformed shape in the wake of that tornado-like force before it dissipates in another cloud of square-ish dust.
|Cantio||Hibiki takes the sword, and the clone grimaces at the sight of her just pulling that blade in deeper. "What are you..?! Why didn't you-" That moment of surprise is enough for Hibiki to catch the clone's face dead on, and the close-range punch of that shockwave right into her face along with the throw sends the clone spinning out of control until she's stopped by Xion's gravity well-esque POWER turns the clone into...
It's a good thing that she's just hitting a clone that turns into a pixelated cloud. It probably wouldn't look any different if it was actually Cantio getting hit by that and getting shown on a news program.
"You spoke to them, didn't you? She'd understand why. I don't want to hurt her or anyone else. But if I keep worrying about not hurting them now, then.."
Cantio's teeth grind lightly as she brushes her arm over her face, quickly finding herself facing the group alone again as her clones are taken out one by one."Later, when something worse happens, I won't be able to protect them. And then they'll be even worse off when that happens!" She practically screams that out, the frustration reaching a boiling point already.
Xion might even be able to see it coming off of her. That desperation, that frustration, that overwhelming desire. "I don't... N-no, you're right, I don't need you to like it. As long as it's enough, then..." Cantio's teeth chatter briefly as she brings that sword back to her side, once again holding it in that open, but freely maneuverable stance she had used earlier.
"I just have to make you respect it, instead. Then... Then I can take down that jerk that everyone just forgives all the times, too!"
And then Cantio's on the move again. Shaking off the Bugsters still nipping at her heels or cutting them down entirely, she leaps from place to place, bounding off the walls with her increased speed and power granted to her by Space Attacker 52. She keeps building up speed as she bounces around the destroyed laboratory, whirling her sword around to lash out as she speeds from one person to the next. Eventually, she starts just flying indoors, swooping around not unlike a (badly animated) dogfighter and blasting concentrated bursts of sound with enough force to rattle bones, never mind ear drums.
|Shotaro Hidari||Even with his control of the wind, Cantio is proving to be more of a problem. Mid-air corrections, indoor flying, and sharp dogfighting maneuvers cause the Kamen Rider trouble. He hits the ground, rolling, but this time, unlike the last, he rolls to his feet. More shots come, but this time they are deflected away. He's breathing heavily, he's hurt beyond the norm...
"Will that be your answer? Sacrificing yourself for others isn't a bad thing...it's quite heroic, but..." he says, standing up. He's barely standing, and Philip knows this but says nothing. He knows Shotaro is here because he wants to save Cantio...even if it should cost him. "But this isn't for them anymore...this is for you. This is for you and you alone, and you're drinking in all of this pain and suffering..."
"You're bearing it alone. Suffering alone, and not because of THEM but for you," He says this as he pulls the metal memory out of his belt. He pushes it into the staff itself.
METAL MAXIMUM DRIVE
"You're blind to what they're doing to support you because you can only see yourself. You've told yourself it's for them so many times, that you have lost sight of what it's doing to you. When they finally are forced to see it, what do you think they'll do? They'll despair...not because of what you've become, but because they failed to stop you."
He soars in, the wind now a hurricane around him, as it focuses on either end of the staff. He aims in, trying to catch Cantio with the staff, swinging it around and around and around. Each of the strikes speeds up W as he tries to continue driving it into you. The attack, called a memory break, trying to break through to Cantio.
Finally, the swing moves into a terribly fast one, aiming to tear at her with the power of not only the staff but the winds of Futo themselves. "Please...come back."
|Rita Ma|| Cantio's flurry of leaping attacks meet with air the first several times they target Rita. She's smarter than to fall for the classic mistake of "battle bantering while invisible"; the few times she does seem to appear, it turns out to have been a tentacle illusion all along, dissolving into ribbons the moment it's struck.
Not even Cantio's blinding speed can hit something that isn't there. But sheer density of attacks accomplishes what precision couldn't: that energy blade strikes something solid where there ought to only be thin air. Rita fades into view, wincing as she holds the blade back with the outside of her forearm. Then she can respond. "How's it different?!"
Her disguise-wrappings unravel, revealing the girl in the blue dress beneath. Her alien, cruciform right eye is glowing bright, but her expression's unchanged: impatience, frustration, a light edge of desperation. "I'm not making monsters that have hurt people! I'm not throwing everything away just to feel special!"
"If I let you profit from this-" She drops her guard, ducks under Cantio's swing narrowly, and leaps into the air with a ballerina-like twist. "You'll just do it again, won't you!" Her tentacles spin around herself like a buzzsaw in synchrony with the motion, slashing deep into concrete and leaving harsh parallel lines on armor and skin. One of them fires a spray of cyan acid at Cantio, less accurately aimed, to cover Rita's landing.
"You're a princess! You're magical! You're rich! When will you be special enough, Miss Cantio? How many more people do you have to hurt to feel good about yourself??"
|Forte||"I do not care if you lay down and give up - I am going to give you everything I have, and take away everything you have, either way!"
Forte's systems protest more than a bit as they attempt to process the glitchy code. But be it viral, buggy, or glitchy - he pulls it into himself all the same.
"And with that - Autonavi slot in!"
He doesn't need to do a henshin pose, although one would be appropriate here. Instead, he gets another voice line. "Whatever you gain, whatever you create, whatever you possess - I shall be there to take it from you! I shall be there to nip at your heels, to drain away bit of power - drop by drop - till I am sated and I surpass you! SpaceAttak C, EXECUTE!"
Forte's hand shifts again - going to match Cantio's armaments, and he continues going after her - getting into an indoor dogfight, launching his own fusillade of lasers in return fire to hers, attempting to regain ground lost...!
|Xion||"You can't." Xion speaks, as she's jet fighter passed by. The SRW attack continues, over and over, a pattern of violence that, once it stops being her turn: it simply does not become her turn again for long seconds, minutes, eternities at the speed levels most of the people in the room can reach.
So she just takes damage, cascades of sparks and fly-by explosions peppering her best efforts at meeting force to force.
"Is it--" She catches Cantio's flashing sword, luckily, upon her blade and draws the flashing space attacker digital fairy close by giving ground.
"--what you want?"
Drawing back her right fist as her left hand checks flashing space blade to silver key, the Power Gear enhanced 'Rider' just slugs Cantio across the face without any special effects at all, following the press of her fist with a quarterstep back-adjustment, and dropping her blade across Cantio in a silvery-bisecting cut that shears percieved space apart for a moment before cleaving back together re-warped into rightness.
"This? Right here? This is what you want?!"
|Hibiki Tachibana|| Panting and heaving, one hand on her wound slowly reducing its bleeding, Hibiki glances to Xion with a look of brief surprise and then something like gratefulness, only for a second before her face hardens back into a resolute expression to follow the real Cantio. She doesn't entirely register herself swallowing quietly when she hears that.
'Even if it feels awful, even if it hurts to keep going... I can take it, if it's for their sake.'
'Later, when something worse happens, I won't be able to protect them!'
"Not being able to protect them...Cantio..." Hibiki's face twists, unable - or maybe unwilling - to find the words to argue back against that. Because that'd be denying one of her own deep rooted fears. It almost looks like that takes some of the wind out of her sails for several long seconds, ruminating on her outburst towards Lilian, and 'that jerk everyone just forgives'.
"...We're not really that different..." She ends up murmuring quietly to herself, even as Cantio prepares to take off - only to tighten her fists and look back up. "...So that's just another reason I have to do my part to stop you! Saltavi understanding why isn't the same as being okay with it happening! That goes for me too! I get exactly why you want to do it all yourself! But that doesn't mean I'm going to let you! If something worse happens, I'm going to be there to HELP you, like it or NOT!"
She's dealt with Cantio's sound assaults before too, and yet they nevertheless keep her pinned and struggling to brace herself in place as the other girl darts around with rapid strikes. Especially after that hit before, it's a wonder she's staying on her feet at all. But no matter how badly she gets cut or her insides are shaken around, she keeps on her feet, gritting and wincing through it all, until--
--There's a click of a Gashat, and Hibiki abruptly lunges at Cantio during her next flyby, waiting for her opportunity. Red and blue dragon heads, with the same gamified aesthetic as Mighty Mahaa X and Space Attacker 52, slot up over her gauntlets mid-leap. There's nothing graceful about the way she tries to sock Cantio in the face right in midair with an accompanying HIT! if it manages to connect, only for the dragon's teeth to bite down firmly to try and let her grapple on.
"No amount of power you get is gonna be enough to stop me from doing it or making sure you can smile again, and you just TRY and stop me!" And with that, the crimson dragonfist comes roaring down to punch the other girl square in her center of mass. Unlike the other one, this one is going to open /up/ after smashing into her - and unleash a stream of pixelated fire point-blank to blast her into the ground before enveloping her completely in a plume of heat.
|Cantio||"For me? It's not..." How much of it is for her people? How much of it is for herself? Cantio's able to to separate out the two somewhat effectively, but it's starting to blur together in her mind. Maybe it's from all the fighting, the shouting, the sheer number of people straining her mind... Could they be right? "... Maybe some of it is. If I can become strong, though, then they don't need to keep worrying about me. That's my responsibility to do for them as... As a leader!"
Her composure's breaking again. Her voice is still hoarse, and her face is visibly streaked with tears even with the chunky gray and purple-visored helmet that is clearly there right until W's flying staff strikes hurl her around like a plane stuck in a tornado. Cracks form in the helmet, but it still holds on as she throws herself aside with another burst of energy to get some distance.
Her frustration only grows more intense as Rita responds, and the hoarseness gets audibly worse with each moment. "I'm making them from animals to study them! Then I can find out what's causing the Bugsters to spread in the first place so we can finally find a cure. Ach... Do you think I LIKE finding out it's easier to do this-"
She smacks her chest again, wincing at the impact and the bruising from getting struck in the chest so many times earlier. "-than it is to actually fix anyone? That the only medical breakthrough I've been able to make with everything I've got access to has been fu... Just some weak healing magic?! I hate it, too!"
She's really getting hoarse, and her initial attempts at looking/sounding refined earlier are all but forgotten at this point as the frustration keeps growing. The acid has her howling in pain as it hits those exposed parts of her armor (which she'll need to adjust in the future), and she has to throw that helmet off just to keep it from seeping through the cracks Shotaro had put into it earlier.
Seeing Forte copying the effects of Space Attacker 52 only makes that frustration worse. "Wha... Why? What do you even get out of this? What the hell did I ever do to you?!" Cantio takes to the sky/a couple of feet above ground level, blasting herself around to return fire while trying to get away from Forte's barrage of similarly colored blasts. It might be a bit hard to really read what's going on as they're firing at each other, but Cantio getting struck on the side and going back down to the ground is easy enough to understand.
Flying isn't really going to help her much here. Just as well, as Xion comes back into close range and forces Cantio to get ready for a close range engagement again. The question gets a deafening silence from Cantio, apparently losing the ability to even say what it is she does want clearly enough. Her movements are tired, her mind is wandering, and it takes a great deal of effort just to switch her sword into that reverse-hold to use it as a defensive tool against Xion.
|Cantio||Not that it helps much when she just gets smashed right in the face. That punch opens her up to the followup slash, throwing up a mess of dramatic sparks and explosions that are clearly indicating that the fight's drawing closer to an end. Despite that, however, Cantio still stays on her feet, taking advantage of the sword's position to prop herself up long enough to face Hibiki once more.
"Maybe... Maybe we aren't, no. How many times is this now, anyway?" Cantio laughs, but it's one of those ugly crying laughs as she's trying not to just lose it more than she alraedy is. "I can't always be the one getting helped. Just once, I want to..."
Hibiki transforms, and Cantio has to cover her eyes briefly before bracing for impact. "I want to be the one you can rely on for once!" That punch land square on Cantio's face, and she reaches up instinctively at the biting without realizing she's about to get gut punched with FIRE. The sheer amount of fire makes it hard to actually see where Cantio is for a while, but when the smoke and flames clear...
Somehow, she's still on her feet. She's barely able to stand and stumbling all over the place, but Cantio's still not on her back just yet. "This can't... It's not over yet. It's not...!"
She snaps her sword sideways, and the blade explodes outwards towards the group in a shower of countless cutting shards covering themselves in lasers. It's only a distraction, however, as the sword's handle starts making strange chiming noises while Cantio pulls the Space Attacker 52 Gashat out, then sticks it into the top of the weapon with an ominous GASHAT noise.
"If you can take this, then I'll... I'll worry about that later. Get ready! Then nobody can say I..." Cantio has to struggle not to hyperventilate as she forces even that much out, and then she starts advancing again while another blade formed entirely of flexible, eye-wateringly pink light appears from her sword's base.. Her body splits into multiple copies as the Cantios leap around the wrecked facility that once was a lab, moving past and over everyone at a rapid clip. Slashes follow each of those leaps, and the Cantios teleport to each other to even start ganging up and splitting up between targets to really make it hard to keep track of who's getting attacked when. It's not until they finally land in a semi-circle around everyone that the whole crowd finally charges in at once, slashing diagonally downwards with a dramatic explosion trailing behind them for... Some reason!
|Forte||"Do you not get it!" calls Forte as he continues going after her.
He attempts to close in, going for what he thinks is going to be the killshot...
... and gets ambushed by the multiple Cantio maneuver.
He drops to the ground, form wavering - he's at a limit. He's past a limit, really. His hunger has pushed him into this, and it's kept him through and past the point where he should have stood down. He'll be paying for it for a while. Still, though, he's assuming Cantio isn't going to open fire on him if he's just staying to watch, as long as he stays down - though he starts planning out his quick exit if need be.
"... You don't get it."
Once again his voice is as it was, the emotion and inflection leaving it.
"That's fine. I was never here to impart a lesson."
"And this outcome, in a way, also satisfies."
|Shotaro Hidari||Once more, the sparks rain down, and W is grounded. This is made worse by the explosive sword swings rain down, The explosions ard hard enough to ALMOST force the Kamen Rider to appear in the Gravel pit instead, but thankfully animation is not needed to change the scene. It DOES mean, that Shotaro does not move.
W is gone, Shotaro is face-first on the ground, groaning and near breaking. Somewhere Philip shoots up. However, through SHEER force of will, Shotaro reaches out to grab the hat that was knocked off his head. "Not yet..." he says, before standing up once more.
He shakily places it on his head, then points his hand towards Cantio. The real one, despite the fact that several fakes remain. He can't dredge up enough strength to speak. However, he does pull up a USB stick. He pushes the button, and slams it down, as JOKER is loudly audiable.
"Shotaro, stop it!" Philip screams in his ear, but Shotaro speaks at a whisper, "We can't let this continue, Philip. She's in pain, though she tries to hide it from her own heart...I have to...no we have to..."
"Enough, you're going to kill yourself...I'll take it from here," Philip says, and the Dinosaur-looking robot jumps into his hand. "We're partners right. Entrust this to me," To which Shotaro starts to speak for him to stop. However, he collapses to his knees. The robot turns into a strange USB stick, with the top a strange dino head.
Philip slams it down, with it calling out the words FANG. Pushing the Joker USB stick down, and slapping the head of the fang memory over, A wind overtakes Philip, as HE transforms into Kamen Rider W, but with extra blade parts sticking out of both Fang AND Joker side of it.
Moments later, a new W crashes through the ceiling of the lab. However, a roar does not escape its lips, as the head of the dinosaur is pressed down three times. A blade forms on its leg before it soars right at Cantio. He aims to try and kick the real Cantio into the air, before the blade of the leg seems to BITE in.
The entire Kamen Rider spins around, aiming to cleave through Cantio with the memory break. "You won't find me as kind as my partner," Half of the Kamen Rider says, the other half more out of it due to fatigue and pain. Those who know Philip can tell Philip's body is the one in control right now.
|Rita Ma|| Rita's expression is stiff and unwavering through Cantio's response. She kicks off the floor, skids backwards amid a spray of concrete shards from the force of the movement, and draws her tentacles back in to an ominous arched ready-to-strike position as she crouches down. But something else, not intended for her at all, makes her flinch.
"I can't always be the one getting helped. Just once, I want to..."
"Don't say that," Rita pleads, visibly pained. "Please, don't think like that. It's not worth it. It's never, ever worth it." She's cut off by the shrapnel-explosion; tentacles intercede as she yelps in surprise, forming a wall of ablative mass in front of her that absorbs a few shards.
The clones come next. Rita is fully unfurled into her mutant-girl true form at this point, so she's logically unable to use her tentacles' camouflage for stealth, but they can still defend her in a way. However many whips the Cantio-swarm has, Rita has more.
They transform the space around her into a blender, only slowed by the tactical necessity of avoiding allies. Noises like gunshots ring out from the seemingly empty space around her as the whickering tendrils create supersonic whip-cracks and speed into an indistinct blur.
"You could already do so much with your wealth! With your fame! With your talent! More than I ever could have as a poor refugee," Rita calls out over the shrieking din. "Things that aren't as awful as this. Things you actually believe in! Why is 'the power to hurt people' how you measure your worth?"
Wherever one of Cantio's clones attacks her, one tentacle parries, and two more retaliate. But she clearly can't keep it up forever. Fleshy tendrils fare poorly on contact with energy whips; the ones she uses for parrying smolder and burn, one of them even dropping to the floor and writhing.
So Rita breaks the status quo and darts in, closing the distance between them in an eyeblink. One of her largest tentacles grabs Cantio by the throat, shoving her up against the wall. Several smaller ones wrap around her arms, trying to immobilize her with kraken-like strength for just a moment.
From a distance, even untransformed, Rita could pass for a human girl in a blue dress. Up close she looks Other. Her remaining human skin is shot through with unnatural veins of ichthyoid corruption, a slow-spreading disease that's already taken one eye. "It's okay to be helpless! It's okay to rely on other people! I'm not a hypocrite. This was the worst thing to ever happen to me. And you have so much more to go back for!"
Rita grabs the Gashat embedded in Canto's sword, sinking her claw-like fingers into it, and tries to forcibly rip it out. Only then does she voluntarily release her grip. "I didn't want to be like this," she pants. "And you don't either. Please, Miss Cantio. Let things go back to the way they were."
|Xion||'If you can take this.'
Xion grimaces, under her mask, so fully that it carries into her shoulders. It's too much. This much power, cloned across selves and timelines - containing it, fighting it, matching it, was too much for anything, for so long.
She brings forward her blade, a single point of star-light against a massive wave of overwhelming galactic power.
A bubble-field of calm warps around the Space Invasion, points of light tesselating into the liquid-surface barrier.
Sparks leap, sympathetically, across her body. The last boxes of her HP gauge, emblazoned across her chest from the borrowed power of the purple Mighty Action X, flicker dangerously - from three, to one with a flashing second pip. The waves of overflowing, overwhelming power finally stutter and gasp down.
"That's not... how this works..." Xion pants, lifting the face-shield of her helmet as steam pours from inside. Sweaty hair comes free of a feeling-hiding mask of lenses and armor.
"You don't get to decide. That's Rita said. That's what Hibiki said. That's what Shotaro and Philip said. That's what Forte--"
Xion smirks. "Actually I think what Forte is about is letting you learn this one yourself. He can't tell you, because power doesn't listen. Power has to be told."
"So I'm telling you."
"What you said yourself."
"Later's come due. You'll worry about it *now*."
As Rita goes for the Gashat, and FangJoker Philip goes for the Memory Break strike--
Discarding her smoking keyblade, Starlight bounces once on the ground and fades back into magic. Clapping her hands and pulling apart black-and-purple lightning that expands in a sphere, Xion runs past the fallen Hibiki with her readied ball of thick gravitic energy.
She's already being gripped by kraken-like strength.
"We weathered your selfish power. You said it yourself!"
Her Demi-ball explodes on contact into a ripping mess of tearing thunder and holding power.
"We survived it, so you'll just have to stop!"
|Hibiki Tachibana|| 'I want to be the one you can rely on for once!'
Hibiki lands down as flames overtake Cantio, once again heaving for breath as the smell of burning plastic emanates from her Gashat-given gear. She's nearly falling over and grasping onto the arm she used to deliver that punch, having clearly stressed her already-injured body to have done so. Even so, she's less concerned about that and more looking at the girl rising back up with slightly widened eyes. "Cantio..."
Unfortunately, she's just not ready for what happens next. She quickly braces herself against the distracting purge, but that wasn't what she should've been worried about. Cantio copies once again fill the lab, and this time Hibiki isn't able to pull any tricks like taking the sword on purpose - slash after slash piles onto her body, and especially when several of them gang up on her, her attempts at beating them off and blockign them begin wearing down. Leaving her wide open for the finale. "Damnit--!"
That's all she gets out before the dramatic explosion temporarily washes over her, and she emerges from it seconds later flying out, burnt and smoking as her transformation dissipates in a burst of light and returns her to her normal clothes. There's some blood seeping into them from the inside, but the wounds will repair themselves to non-lethal soon enough.
Hibiki isn't paying much mind to that though, compared to trying and mostly failing to pick herself back up. "Ugh...yeah...I guess that's not a surprise. I'd be...the same way if I was in your position probably...saying the same things." She shakes her head, settling for finding a half-sitting half-laying position on the sidelines.
"...But I already know you're someone I can rely on, Cantio. When it comes down to it...I expect you to be there to help me too, whenever I need it. Especially now that..." She stops and thinks.
"...Haha. I lost track of how many times. But this time you beat me fair and square...you really did get stronger..."
|Cantio||Forte's assumptions, luckily, are correct! Despite Cantio's past record for using willing humans as sacrifices for her research and also just straight up shooting brainwashed people in the face (see reference #7317), doing the same to someone that's down and no longer presenting himself as a threat is another story entirely.
"Don't get what? I... You broke into my lab to destroy it and take everything I've worked for here away from me. You came to undo all the progress I've made in...!" Okay, she can't really come up with more progress than she's already detailed earlier: Crappy healing magic equivalent, transforming power. "...What am I supposed to 'get' about any of this?" She stares at him for several moments, almost looking as if she's reaaally thinking about it. Fortunately, her attention is grabbed by Xion as she...
Actually, she doesn't make a great case for Forte, although it doesn't sound like she tried very hard for him compared to everyone else. "Power? Told? What does that even mean? Later hasn't... You're coming after me now about the power I'm getting later?" Cantio sounds genuinely bewildered, but not for a lack of trying. It might click better later when her mind isn't so addled, but right now...
She'll have to focus on worrying about what they're bringing up against her now. She grimaces when she sees Shotaro belting out, and doubly so when he starts stumbling around further just trying to get up.
"Stay down. Please.. I don't want to hurt you any more, either." Although her sword is still drawn, she's panting heavily as her second wind quickly starts wearing out. "Just stay... Down?"
And then ANOTHER hole gets kicked into the ceiling by... W? But isn't Shotaro over there already? Cantio glances between the white and black W and Shotaro several times in succession to try and make sense of what's actually happening. It's not until he speaks up that it becomes a little clearer.
"Mister Shotaro's partner? Kh.. Then stop wasting time fighting and get him out of here already!" She shouts with that growing raspiness in her voice, coughing once before bracing herself as she hears the noise from the dinosaur head and blade forming on W's leg. She's expecting some kind of diving kick for some reason, however, and that's enough time for Xion to come in with that sphere of thunder and gravity magic that threatens to tear the Space Attacker 52 suit apart outright.
As Cantio struggles in that hold, however, she looks calmer than she has this entire time.
Without the ability to pull herself out of Xion's dark lightning sphere, W's able to launch her into the air with that devastating punt upwards. The following MEMORY BREAK kick hits her dead on as well, drawing out a long howl of pain and explosion as Cantio tumbles to the ground afterwards, rolling a few times before stopping with the armor breaking off and reverting her to her more human-ish form.
Cantio forces herself back onto her feet, it's just in time for Rita to start rushing at her. There's some confusion as Cantio tries to understand what's going on with her true form, but she shakes her head while focusing on what's being said instead of what she sees.
|Cantio||"I know it's not worth it. But... I can't control how I think. I can't just blindly believe that things'll work out without making it happen. I'm not my..."
It's probably easy enough to guess who Cantio's thinking about already. She grunts painfully as she gets slammed into the wall by the mass of tentacles. She struggles with quite a formidable amount of strength even without being in her transformed state, but its mitigated severely by the general lack of energy she has left to keep her going. Even the slight struggle stops, whenever, when she gets a closer look at Rita in that position. She opens and closes her mouth a few times to try and come up with anything to say, and then she slumps forward while the Gashat gets pulled right out of that sword.
"Why does... Someone like you even like someone like her?" She manages to utter weakly, then falls right over once Rita releases her hold. Luckily, Cantio tumbles over conveniently towards where Hibiki's resting, albeit a little more facedown and barely able to flip herself over.
"You... Really? I didn't... Take you for the type." Cantio grunts as she tries to flip herself over, but her body's too battered to even manage that much. At most, she just gets her hand to her face, partially to rub her eyes and partially to cover her face. "Of course I'd... Be around to help. Even if this was..."
Cantio rubs her face, then looks over slowly towards the everything damage. "... I got some good hits in, right? Nobody can say I didn't try... R-right? Even if I'd still rather have both." She gives Xion a vaguely knowing look at that last part, then closes her eyes as she lets fatigue and her injuries take over in favor of staying conscious any longer.
There's a distinct sense of calm now, at least, as the battle is finally over and the Bugsters in the facility have all been destroyed. Small island, forest, and sea-based Pokemon peek out from their hiding places in the rubble, having recovered quickly from their infection. They're still wary of coming out just yet with so much destruction surrounding them and the only exits being the holes in the ceiling or the hidden passageways they're not smart enough to find on their own, but they'll probably be okay eventually.
|Shotaro Hidari||"I won't because Shotaro won't give up. He'd rather push himself to death than let another person cry," Philip sighs, and you can tell he's smiling a little bit. "It's why I am here, to save the half-boiled idiot from himself." He says before unconsciousness takes Cantio. There is a lot needed to happen, but he also figures that someone should collect Cantio.
The armor of W disappears in a shattering of the suit, much like a gust of wind that had just scattered the broken pieces. Philip himself nearly collapses, instead of being forced to a knee from the strain of the transformation. Next to him, a small dinosaur-looking robot makes a tinny roar.
"I'm fine Fang, " he says to the tiny dinosaur. Taking a moment and standing up. Shotaro has managed to push himself up against a wall to at least watch. They're going to need help getting out of here. While Philip wasn't here for the whole battle, he looks remarkably frail.
That probably has everything to do with why he looks as beat up as Shotaro. "We should be going, and let either the city or the Concord come to recover theirs."
|Rita Ma|| As her tendrils unspool from around Cantio's limbs, Rita takes a few more heavy breaths. "I know," she says softly. "You're not your sister. But it's okay." As the adrenaline fades, being un-disguised like this feels more exposing, more intrusive, more wrong. The tentacles wrap around her again like a mummy's bandages, then shapeshift back into the appearance of an ordinary blonde girl.
"Why does... Someone like you even like someone like her?"
Rita glances off to the side uncomfortably. What can she even say? That she empathizes with someone struggling to be a hero despite the darkness in their heart? You can't explain that to someone on the verge of passing out.
Besides, Lilian herself said she couldn't be someone I look up to anymore.
So instead, her guilty answer is: "I don't know. I don't know what to think of her anymore."
As Cantio sleeps, Rita crunches the Gashat in her hand, then turns back to her allies with an exhausted sigh. "Thanks, Xion. Thanks, Mr. Philip. Hibiki, Forte, Mr. Hidari... you'll be okay to make it out of here, right?"