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|Darren|| A long, long time ago, before there was knowledge or evidence of any Multiverse, this world had plenty of fantastical creatures, spirits, monsters and stories. Many still live on today, and even those who seldom visit the mortal plane have nevertheless left their mark upon it.
Darren's research into cryptids has unearthed the temple of one such creature--the Sea Scribe Spirit. Every spring, supplicants visit the bay overlooked by the snowcapped mountain, with offerings of shells, fish and other sea creatures, hoping for blessings of physical or spiritual health.
The monastery, using the spirit's ink and their own, unique silk paper, produces powerful sealing talismans. It's allegedly been many years since the spirit visited this Earth, and so these talismans, and the materials from which they're made, have become all the more precious.
For the stated aim of writing one's true, actual, spiteful last words to dab on the descendants of some haters who tried to sanitize them, one couldn't ask for a better stationery kit.
The dark, volcanic sand of the shoreline competes with a tide-kissed carpet of snow from which hardy roots occasionally emerge. It's on this shoreline that Darren has his HUDDLE.
|Darren|| "...and that's what we know for sure," he concludes. "Now, check it--there's no floor plan available, so there's no telling where that ish is gonna be kept. The good thing is, we got options, you feel me? Strong O-Line," he continues, smiling at Hiromi, Guzma, Sarra and Staren. "Good receivers," he says, then gesturing to Okada, Ahn and presumably Lotus. "We got the talent for a sneak, a o-blitz, an RPO..."
Pressured to explain things:
THE SNEAK is a conservative play focused on gaining just enough ground to succeed. In the context of this op, it would be the ARCHETYPICAL STEALTH MISSION. Darren generally disapproves of SNEAK plays, unless the opposing defense is overwhelmingly powerful. Given that this bay is on an island off the coast of a larger country, he doubts there will be heavy resistance.
THE OFFENSIVE BLITZ is an attack from multiple angles designed to overwhelm a spread-out defense. The beefiest slabs (in this case, the combat monsters) form up on the playmaker (in this case, Darren) with a spot open to lure defenders in. Receivers (objective-grabbers) rush to fill in the hole left by the drawn-in, jebaited defense, at which point Darren will juke free and attempt to set up a receiver for a touchdown. This would, in the context of this op, be the CLASSIC DISTRACT AND GRAB.
THE RUN-PASS OPTION is a wait-and-see kind of play, that pressures defenses to set up for a straightforward attack while keeping the option open for explosive circumvention of those defenses if need-be. RPOs require a bit of foreknowledge of defensive options, and getting inside the defense's heads--so this approach would be the OL' CASE THE JOINT AND THEN GO LOUD method, involving a bit of study for, hopefully, a devastating option-select.
In the distance, the swept points of the monastery gleam faintly under rays of sunlight filtered through clouds. Play clock is ticking!
>CONSULT PLAYBOOK - ANOTHER APPROACH?
|Okada Izou|| Izou dressed up.
Oh, he didn't dress in his nice suit, or in his festival kimono, or anything like that. No, no. Izou came dressed for working. And when Izou comes dressed for working, it leaves...an impression.
A wide, deep straw hat hides the upper half of his face - save for a hole in the front through which his one visible eye blazes an arcane and eerie crimson. His hair, loosed and wild down his back, has an odd bloody tint, an ominous red. A skin-tight mask obscures the lower half of his face.
The kimono itself is tattered and bloodstained. The cloak around his shoulders is the same. A pair of black gloves hide his hands. Black socks hide his feet.
At his hip, a katana and a wakizashi.
This is the true face of the Great Manslayer, the Ghost of Tosa.
Izou is dressed for Work.
And Izou's Work is not subtle. While he's been put into the 'sneak' category the fact of the matter is that Izou's expertise is leaving corpses behind him without being noticed. As he's said before, you hire an assassin if you want it done clean; you hire a manslayer if you want to send a message.
And in a really fucked-up way this is all about sending a message.
....not to these guys, but still.
"If there's no heavy resistance I don't feel like the rest of you slowing me down, so sneaking's not really in the cards." Izou taps his finger on his katana. "I'll let someone else call the shots, but this is a vote against stealth."
|Guzma||"Gotcha. I'd say sins of the father, but it sounds like they're still perpetrating this." Guzma nods to himself. He juggles an Ultra Ball in one hand, Golisopod ready for the O-Line. But Guzma's never one to stick to one option. Who's he got for receiving...?
"We're ready!" Tupp, Rapp, and Zipp perch on top of 'borrowed' Pidgeots, big bags ready to fill with paper seals on their back.
Guzma nods. "Offensive blitz. I'll reinforce Darren. My goons will fly overhead once distracted, and drop themselves off to grab as many of these as possible. Even if we get more than we need, we can sell the rest, or save it."
|Staren|| With the incomplete mission briefing, Staren assumed they were stealing back Okada's own calligraphy tools or something. When Darren fills in the details, though, her heart sinks. Still, they're family, right? That means they won't hate her for raising an objection because of something that matters to her.
It's... not going well. No one understands.
Well... at least she can check. Maybe the monks are bad people and she's concerned for nothing. She closes her eyes, bringing up the 'sea of stars' in her mind's eye, the visualization of psychic presences. She focuses on the minds in the monestary. Reading the surface thoughts and emotions of several of them in sequence, and then looking deeper, asking a few of them Why are you the way that you are? to learn what kinds of people are at the monestary.
Also, in the process, she'll probably learn some things about the monestary's defenses, and certainly how many are inside and where (barring someone masking their mental presence, anyway...)
|Sarracenia|| It is also near this shoreline that a wooden sailing ship much like the Spanish galleons of old floats, though instead of sails it has multiple tiers of propellers. After listening to the plan, Sarracenia nods. "I'll provide some distraction." she says, then turns back to board her ship. She has come dressed for battle as well, wearing what she affectionately calls her 'battle dress': a black polished leather dress with a red breastplate and wide strips of leather for the skirt instead of one solid billowing piece, allowing freedom of movement and stylish twirling when in combat.
Once back aboard her ship, the propellers spin up and it takes to the sky again. Water cascades off of it as she flies right in toward the monastery and moves in with the ship's starboard side facing it. She pulls out a megaphone from that bottomless satchel of hers, turns it on, then addresses the monks. "Excuse me! I am Princess Sarracenia Sundew, Crown Princess of the Sundew Kingdom. I have heard tales of the marvelous silk paper and mystical ink this monastery produces and I would like to negotiate a deal for an ample supply of both."
The megaphone beeps, indicating she is done talking. And, combination distraction and possible secondary solution deployed, she waits for a response. In her airship, armed with several dozen visible cannons aimed at the monastery walls, floating only 50 or so meters away from it.
|Hiromi|| Hiromi is, anywhere she goes, the embodiment of large and in charge. Even were she physically smaller, and even with her curved, ready-to-leap posture, the size of her palpable presence would make it clear, even to those without mystical or psionic senses, that that's just what she is.
And yet, for all that power, and Darren's wholly justified positioning of her as a frontline fighter, she's just as importantly 'a wolf,' and that carries several other important traits. "Mountain-places, yes? Stone yields to Authority." There's that Significant Capital Letter. "Digging tunnels beneath seas, up mountains, find their deepest, 'safest' places first. Easy takings, then. Less fussing." She says this with the kind of confidence of one who's done exactly this play before, though it's possible that she's just naturally confident about anything involving her own powers.
"If big defenders, I'll fight them. Leaving fortresses, more ease than entering. Go in air, sea, land." Finally, she admits a drawback, "Digging slower than leaping. 'Walking pace.' Are we hurried?" Though it isn't that great of one, since her version of 'digging' doesn't require carrying out the stone with her claws. It's more like terraforming via divine miracle.
|Kukuru||It's time for a sneaking mission! Or maybe not. It's time to make an impact! Maybe. Kukuru's not really sure what the plan everyone's going to go for is, so she just shows up in her usual fare of a white and green dress with a whole lot of frills and little exposed skin, ensuring that she'll be hard to spot in...
Okay, she's not really going to have the stealth option covered here. Between the white clothing and looking like she's ready to take a nap even when Darren explains the situation, she's probably not going to be slinking around in the shadows at all here without someone to guide her. What she does have plenty of, however...
Are water bottles. She offers them to everyone in this gathering of ne'er-do-wells and others, and there's little sachets of energy drink mix should anyone need the pick me up and a flavor kick.
"I'm okay with going in loud. Or even... Um. The rope idea? Where we're pushing them into doing something first and exposing... Something or another?" She scratches her cheek lightly, nodding once at Izou's and Guzma's inclination against stealth. "Once we need to really break stuff down, I could even make someone su-uu-per big."
Kukuru puts a lot of emphasis on the uuuu part of saying 'super', complete with raising her arms over her head and waving them exaggeratedly. In doing so, she spots and hears Sarracenia opening up negotiations, and she hums pleasantly at the sight of so many cannons. "Aw, see? That's a good way to do it, too. If they know we're here, maybe they'll give it up without too much trouble."
And then Hiromi's bigness gives her an idea as she strolls right up to the Archwolf to pat her leg gently. "Oh. Oh. Hiromi. Do you wanna be bigger?"
It doesn't sound like Kukuru is joking.
|Darren|| As it turns out, the monks are not bad people. They're monks--with all of the anxieties and hopes and wants of normal people. The issue, as Guzma and Okada pointed out, is the monk part.
Tradition is a major part of their existence. This lifestyle requires dedication and sacrifice and adherence to rules. They are not going to be bargained with because the very idea of bargaining for something that precious to them is insulting, both to the sacrifices they've made to live this lifestyle, the sacrifices of the monks before them, and the dignity of the monastery and the relics themselves.
'Borrowing' the ink and scrolls is also out of the question. There are rules and stipulations, rituals that must be followed. Okada Izou does not know those rituals, and they would not teach them to him, or to those who associate with him, not only because his profession is unclean in their eyes, but because they would see him as a lingering spirit, an unnatural being with no business remaining on Earth and certainly no business touching ink and scrolls.
In other words, deception or force are the only options--because asking nicely isn't going to cut it, and there's a sense that even coercion won't. Either borrow it by force, take the originals and leave copies as Okada suggested, or take the whole thing. One other notable thing that Staren gets from her read is this: faith is not monolithic. Relics are lost and found all the time, and while people may mope for the perceived loss of such a relic, at the end of the day, these monks' belief in the benevolence of the squid spirit is not so fragile that it would shatter completely for the loss of what amounts to stuff. Priceless stuff, but stuff nonetheless.
|Darren|| Sarracenia asks 'nicely, and her bombastic approach is enough to get the elderly abbot to dodder out into the main courtyard. He makes a motion with a gnarled hand, dismissing junior monks in the process of sweeping snow.
"I never imagined in my old age to be graced by a princess," calls the old monk back up to her, with a smile that belies his anxiety. With her experience of leadership, she can tell that 'get back into the temple' gesture was about more than just having a private audience with her.
"You must understand that even a small supply of these things is a very big ask," he intones politely. "If it's sealing scrolls you need, we are of course happy to make them for you..." It's a backhanded way of asking what she's after them for, without actually asking and thereby giving the impression that the relics are for sale.
|Staren|| Staren explains her findings: "They won't negotiate. I can respect their lack of hypocracy. But... They also look down on assassins, regardless of ideals, and have an overly narrow view of what constitutes a person. ...I'm not here to teach them. And they are not poor to the point that the loss of these relics will leave them in any real suffering."
She warps in some drones and sends them up to get a view of the outside of the monastery. It's just good to have that visual for situational awareness. And then she follows Hiromi into her tunnel. "I'll keep poking at their minds. See if I can get enough visions of inside to work out the layout. At the very least, I can let you know when we're getting close to where people are so we can find someplace unoccupied to emerge."
|Darren|| Darren chuckles at Kukuru. "RPO," he gently corrects.
Okada's turning-down of the stealth idea is met with enthusiasm. "My man," says Darren to Okada, offering him a from-the-side high-five. "That's what I like to hear. Aight, Sarra and Hiromi're setting us up for an RPO. I'mma slot in as a receiver. Anybody gets into traffic, keep an eye on my route and pass it to me if I'm open. No hurry just yet," he replies to Hiromi. "We got time to setup."
Darren just... levitates into the air. As does a grouchy yeti that emerges from one of his pokeballs. The snow picks up, lowering visibility for his approach, and for the rest of your respective approaches. "Damn, Harry... you heavy." They take off--or rather, Darren takes off carrying the huge, grouchy yeti.
Hiromi, as she grows closer to the monastery, finds that her work is slightly harder than she is usually accustomed to. It isn't impossible, per se--it's more like there is another Authority here, quietly asking 'are you sure you're meant to be here?' The end result is the same, but it does definitely give the idea that someone might be aware.
While it is slower than leaping, she can at least get beneath the monastery with little issue, especially if she took Kukuru's offer of bigness. What then?
|Sarracenia|| Seeing the old monk emerge, Sarracenia descends to ground level via rope ladder, then approaches him with an amicable smile. "Actually, sealing is not too far off from what I need it for. You see, a young warrior who gave his all for his country was killed, and his last written words were tainted. I am hoping that the purity of the items produced here will help ease his troubled soul and grant him peace in his life after death."
Sarracenia tries to sound sincere, but there is definitely a bit of over-acting as she clasps her hands together in front of her chest and closes her eyes in a somber expression. And her request isn't -actually- a lie, just...a bit of omission may be involved.
She smiles gently after that, which probably looks strange to anyone who actually knows her. "And of course, I would be happy to make a large monetary donation to your worthy monastery to say thank you for the supplies. I know monks do not seek wealth, but I also know that places like this still have expenses or charitable work they like to do."
|Guzma||As everyone moves, Guzma starts up towards the monastery on-foot, Ultra Ball pocketed. He's being slow, so that Sarracenia isn't completely botched, but he's going to play distraction if they refuse. Or go inside with the monks if they accept, so that Sarracenia doesn't have to leave herself open. If there's a problem, he rushes up there immediately.
The trio are being messed up on their Pidgeots by the snow, shivering, but they start looking for a landing place on or around the monastery. Somewhere sneaky like, where they can park, put away the birds, and start hunting for relics (and other shinies that they might just poach for Guzma to impress him).
|Hiromi|| 'Digging' is what Hiromi calls it, but it's more like she pets her hands or feet on earth or stone, strikes or stomps it, and it melts away, not from the impact's force, but as a response to it. Where it flows to the side it leaves smooth, solid, dense walls. The earth is as if pressed into single blocks to every side, and the stone is sturdier than stone of its kind usually should be, without evidence of seams, even where it had been sand before she'd touched it. Following behind her presents some dangers, mostly in that she's little way to tell exactly how far above her the sea is. Water, even with ocean pressures, doesn't cause her great difficulty, but can present problems for some people, in the moments before she adjusts the direction of her dig and reseals the ceiling.
One thing Hiromi is fairly good at is judging distances by her own walking pace, which is the pace she keeps up while digging. She gets directly under the shoreline before she begins angling sharply upward, forming rough, angled stairs, and then begins working directly upward, grabbing onto ladder-like ridges in a circular shaft, when she's directly below the mountain's peak.
She grunts an acknowledgment to Staren's drone, but she'll have to find that info before she breaks up on her own for her to make use of it. Darren said they were in no hurry, but with Sarracenia already out there and making noise, Hiromi's not going to wait around long. Not when she has plenty of ways of dealing with any defenses she does find. Granted, some of her means would be more palatable to Staren's conscience than others.
But then, something begins slowing her down. That's unusual, suggesting as it does that there's a mountain or earth kami here, rather than just one of the sea. Perhaps unfortunately, resistance only ignites her interest. In looking forward to finding what might be making things harder for her, she switches from that Authority over the world-beneath, wonderfully convenient and stealthy as it is, to overwhelming, stone-crushing might. It's faster, but the repeated impacts, each reducing about a thousand cubic feet of stone to a scattering of dust, are going to be harder to ignore for everyone in the monastery above, the closer she gets to surfacing.
|Okada Izou|| Sarra goes on the total approach. Izou takes a moment to appreciate the sheer Concordy nature of his girlfriend going to 'negotiate' with guns pointed at the gates, tipping up his hat slightly so he can get a good look at the ship. Hiromi starts digging into the mountain, and Izou has to appreciate that, too, because, honestly, that's the kind of wild shit he never even knew existed in his lifetime. It's straight out of old stories about dragons sealed by swords and shit like that.
Well, now it's time for him to figure out how to do his job without killing people when his entire job for all of his life has in fact been killing people.
The snowstorm kicks up. This is, indeed, the kind of thing Izou has abused before, although usually it's cherry blossoms or falling leaves rather than snow. But it's second nature to him. In fact it's more than second nature - it's part of what he is.
Izou vanishes and goes straight up the mountain. Sarra's got their full attention, Guzma's backing her up, Hiromi and Kukuru are underground, Staren's doing...something...
He coordinates with the trio briefly. Alright, that gives him a good place to start.
Izou goes over the wall. He doesn't even land - there's enough detritus blowing about, little things like leaves and pebbles, that he can put his foot on for even a second to keep him moving. If anyone could it it'd be like watching a wireframe movie. Since nobody can, they'll just have to take Izou's word on the fact that he can do it.
Finally he hops onto one of the temple roofs. He draws his blade with a flash - a flash that cuts through the snow from the sky - and then sheathes it.
|Kukuru||With the trade option seemingly given the runaround, Kukuru determines that the only reasonable option is to start grabbing stuff. "Since they won't just give us the stuff... Okay. I'll grab stuff, then. I can fit a lot of stuff in here, you know?" She gestures at her pockets that looks much too small to fit anything more than a notepad, never mind entire scrolls or anything in the more-than-one sense.
The operation begins, and Kukuru approaches the monastery. She has a vague idea of what they're supposed to be grabbing (some kind of scrolls), but actual magical artifacts are something of an enigma to her generally. Darren did mention the RPO thing again (and ensure she actually remembers the order of the letters), so that means it's time to do some setup! In Kukuru's case, that means being a decoy.
Naturally, that means following Sarracenia and Guzma's lead. Like Guzma, she's taking it slow so as not to show their hands just yet. She even has her actual hands visible instead of those big ass claws for once, and Sarracenia's offer of a donation is followed up by Kukuru reaching into her regular-looking pockets and withdrawing...
A bag of fish! Several whole fish, even, and well over six pounds' worth in a slide-sealed freezer bag that's still mostly frozen. The fish are a little bloody, though, but that's mostly solid aside from the condensation that's sure to indicate that this could be a very easy way to get salmonella if she starts touching everything.
|Darren|| The abbot's anxiety eases slightly--though it's intermittently hard to see his face in the snowstorm caused by Darren's Abomasnow, Sarra can at least tell that the tension in his posture eases slightly. "That is most unfortunate indeed," says the old man, clutching his robes to shake off a bit of snow.
"I shall be plainly honest with you--even for a purpose as noble as that, the spirit's ink and the sacred silk paper cannot be given away. However," says the old man, "I've never seen a ship like yours, and can only imagine how far you must have come."
"Why don't you come in from the cold, Princess, and we can discuss it over tea?" He's off his guard, in other words--letting her in the front door. No deal on selling it, but you can't ask for a better distraction than 'tying up the spiritual mortal authority of the monastery.' The air in there is as warm as the decor, too.
The monk, via hanging scrolls depicting prior interactions between mortals and the squid spirit, explains that the ink represents a devotion to erudition and spiritual refinement. "A burial rite to put his spirit at ease, however--this would be well within our capabilities," he continues, pouring her a cup of tea, "And we would ask no compensation for it."
|Staren|| Staren is... surprised by sea water. She had magical air supply ready, that's SOP in underground spaces -- she's dressed in her usual outfit, sans scarf and with a black turtleneck and the 'battle labcoat' -- but flying behind Hiromi she wasn't expecting to be blasted by water. Looking like a drowned cat, she continues at a longer distance until they're above sea level again, ready to deploy something to block water with next time.
Once they ARE above the water, she flies up close to Hiromi again. "...Why are you slowing down? We're still a ways away."
Hiromi says there's... a spirit? Now, THAT'S interesting. Staren, having little else to do down here, 'looks' around for any intelligence she can sense with Phony's borrowed power that's IN the rock, and if so applies mind-reading and psychometry thereto. If she can't sense such, she tries applying Phony's psychometry to the rock itself. Or is that to the mountain as a whole? She's not sure how that'll work, but if the spirit has been an important presence here for a long time, maybe she'll learn something?
|Darren|| The trio ends up landing near Darren. "Ay, yo, check it out," he says. "Sarra got old dude to go inside." There are three buildings--the main building, largest and most central of the three, is likely where the relic is being kept, while one building looks like some sort of place where tools are kept, and the other is perhaps a dormitory. There's no 'backdoor' so to speak--but there doesn't need to be.
"While she's smoovin on 'im--" he then snickers. "Well, she's smoovin on Okada, anyway. Everybody join hands." He extends his hands. In an instant, they're inside--in a kitchen. A monk is cooking something, back turned. Darren's back is turned to the monk, and he can't see--but the trio can.
It looks like Guzma doesn't need to be a distraction -right- this minute--but he can definitely feel the rumbling from Hiromi. It might be a good idea to toss the Ultra Ball now rather than later.
|Darren|| Hiromi's digging--the harder she hits, the more she feels as though some spiritual Discord server somewhere is lighting up with :eyes: reactions. The reason why becomes apparent when she finds herself beneath the monastery.
The thing about sea creatures with tentacles is that when they want something, it's hard to pry them off of it. Under normal circumstances, this would be the lair of an earth kami, for sure--but she starts to smell something. Incense.
This would be the reason for the abbot's nervous gesture towards the junior monks. If she stops, she can hear it, too. Prayers for observance, and, if necessary, intercession.
The signs of modernity she saw further inland, elsewhere on this island, may have given the impression it's been a long time since such prayers were made, or at least, answered. But then, it's been a long time since something like the Archwolf was around to make them necessary.
The earth, with the voice of the waves, says something different--the rush and roar of tide against earth says 'if you want a fight, keep on knocking.'
|Guzma||Guzma gets up to the central entrance, and tosses the Ultra Ball. Out comes Golisopod, which suddenly starts roaring, skaddling, and moves to try and knock the door down with diamond claws. It's not going to actually break it down intentionally, but it's gonna bash on it, lure monks outside or scare them deeper inside.
The trio release off their Pidgeots, put them in Pokeballs, and join hands with Darren. They appear in the kitchen. Oh no, a monk! Luckily, he can't see them, and Darren can't see him, so there's no locking of eyes. The trio nods, and Zipp, the big guy, grabs Darren by the sleeve. Tupp and Rapp quietly look at nearby exits, and randomly picks one, moving to dash as fast as possible before they initiate battle. Hopefully this leads them to the destination! Or shinies. Shinies good.
|Sarracenia|| Sarracenia can't stop a pout from appearing on her face for a few moments as she is denied the prize, but at the kind offer she curtseys and follows the abbot inside, shivering a bit herself. "I see. While I am disappointed, I suppose I understand."
As they walk she looks at the hanging scrolls and takes in the stories. And when she notices Kukuru she can't help but stare a few moments. "Um...perhaps you should put those away. The lord of the monastery said they do not require compenstation."
As they sip tea she ponders. "Perhaps you could include a small talisman containing his desired last words in this funeral rite as an extra step to ensure his peaceful afterlife. Something we could hang on a tree near his final resting place?"
|Okada Izou|| Everything is going according to plan. Hell, it might even be going better than according to plan. Everybody's getting in place, people are coordinating on the fly - it's a big tactical operation with a lot of sides and moving levers.
And then Izou realizes that he is super fucking lost.
He's somewhere on a monastery rooftop where he thought was a good insertion point, only Sarra walked by with the old abbot so that's not a safe route, they'll be on-guard that way, so instead he thought about sneaking around to the kitchen but monasteries all look the same to him and by God he is lost as hell.
He could ask for help on the radio, but even thinking about the lost dog jokes burns his ears. An angry flush overtakes his cheeks behind the mask and hat. Nope. Nope, Izou doesn't admit that he's fucked up any operation like this. He's a professional. He'll get where he needs to be or he'll find something else interesting to take on the way.
So, as he is wont to do whenever he gets frustrated, he just draws his sword and Cuts into a wall.
Silently, and in one stroke.
|Darren|| Okada gives the signal.
Harry lifts his shaggy arms high and makes a victory hoot. The blizzard intensifies, and snow begins piling up at the entrance to the dormitory--Okada can see shadows inside. They'll have a difficult time getting out.
The yeti apparently also communicates this to Darren, somehow, as his voice rings out clearly in the minds of everyone.
That's the snap! Move!
It's Kukuru and Guzma's signal to leap into action--the trio's as well. Hiromi can reasonably guess that the same room where the incense is being burnt is where the ink and scrolls will be.
Kukuru and Sarra in particular have the abbot right where they want him--in the middle of polite conversation, perplexedly holding a bag of frozen fish like he's just been given the modern equivalent of a white elephant.
Staren senses eyes on her and on Hiromi. Big, inhuman, protective eyes, staring out from the metaphysical darkness. Aboveground, when Golisopod begins banging on the doors, she can feel the cautious curiosity turn into a glare.
A great, massive field of blue is displaced in the cold bay, as a tremendous shadow rises up from the inky depths to force it all aside. Many deep-sea creatures can't see red--which makes the Sea Scribe Spirit's crimson hue all the more appropriate. A tentacle the width of a mature oak crashes against the side of Hiromi's tunnel, causing splintering cracks that let in more seawater.
Another, blindly angling for a place to get ahold of the mountain, swipes into Okada's path. Hail pelts it, which only seems to anger the spirit more as it attempts to grab and fling Golisopod! With ginger care, yet another snakes into the tea room, blindly probing for Kukuru and Sarra, who are apparently deemed guilty by association.
It notably hasn't detected the goons, and is having trouble getting hold of anyone inside the place without trashing it. Receivers--now's your chance to make a dash for the relic! The scent of incense is overpowering now that the spirit is here in physical form, and following it through the monastery is simple enough. Sarra and Kukuru will want to deal with the abbot, though--he's awkardly, comically shouting directions for the spirit to grab them, after all!
"To the left! No, my left! What do you mean, 'what is left?' ... Well, we mortals don't have the luxury of such free movement!"
Darren takes off, only for the monk to spot him in the ruckus. "Go!" he shouts at the trio. The exit they pick happens to be the one with the strongest smell of incense. It leads them to a room with a shrine in the spirit's image, and, yes--a lacquered reliquary and bolt of sacred silk paper! There's just one problem--a handful of angry monks, ready to throw hands!
|Darren||In one stroke, Izou cuts the wall... and right into a gigantic red tentacle. Like touching a hot stove, the thing recedes. He can almost hear the 'yyowch!' This is not a spirit that's accustomed to fighting. When it retreats, however, he finds something useful--a monk, knocked out by the rapidly retreating tentacle, who'd been in the middle of some calligraphy. That is, before chaos erupted--he appears to have been on his way to protect the relic. The paper is just normal paper, the ink, equally so. But those do appear to be a nice set of brushes!|
|Hiromi|| Normally, one would run into a problem in applying 'more force' to a wall, such that they eventually need to apply so much force to continue that they might displace or break the entire building they're attempting to enter. The usual solution is to precisely apply a cutting force over just what needs removal, or to know ahead of time the load-bearing points and weaknesses that need attention.
This problem doesn't manifest for Hiromi. Her ability to turn circular areas of stone into virtually-nothing through concentrated effort, and through strikes to 'weak points' that might not exist outside her sight, is an already perfected technique with, from the demolitionist's viewpoint, no weaknesses. Something a lot sturdier than a mountain could slow her down, but still wouldn't stop her, if she really wanted through.
And then, something offers her a fight.
<Tac-Concord> 4 Hiromi says, "Defender rouses."
<Tac-Concord> 4 Hiromi says, "Go without me."
There was never any option but to accept the offer. Nothing here could make her happier. If she had any qualms about stealing from some monks for Okada's sake, they're entirely disspelled in this moment. Taking poorly guarded treasure is one thing, and allowable -- though it invites retribution of the same sort -- but a challenge given, taken, and conquered is the greatest source of legitimacy.
<Tac-Concord> 4 Hiromi says, "Place beside building walls. Outside. Direct me. When I surface, leave me."
<Tac-Concord> 4 Hiromi says, "Kukuru. Bigger claws useful, then. When surfaced."
There's no longer any need to break through directly into the monastery. Instead, Hiromi takes advantage of Staren having eyes both below and above the surface to direct herself to a spot that won't break the monastery in the process, just the ground next to it, so she can break through with a leap up into the air, gaining clearance before roaring a wordless, yet perfectly understandable challenge. She's every inch a wild monster, a worshiped but untamed kami, arriving from beneath the earth, having come here to find another monster to fight her. If her roar could be put into words, it would be a claim of dominance unfit for public broadcast.
|Guzma||Guzma takes cover as the tendrils appear, calling out commands to Golisopod. Golisopod is currently being chucked into the ocean. F.
Wait, no F. It's an aquatic creature. Golisopod harnesses inner strength, and blasts back out into the air with a water burst, claw hardening to move to swipe into the tendril and start sliding down it like a cat on a scratching post.
Meanwhile, the goons have to throw hands. The Team Skull Trio grab their Pokeballs and release, Garbodor the smelly trash bag, Salandit the beta male lizard, and Zubat, the Zubat.
"Alright, hand it over and nobody gets hurt, yo!" Tupp shouts, as they proceed to hurt these people in advance, spraying paralysis and poison at them to deplete their health bars rapidly. Rapp's Zubat is extremely precise with sonic confusion rays - she's not killing anyone ever again.
|Okada Izou|| Huh.
Izou's 'this shit is really fucking weird' sense takes a minute to catch up with him as he inspects the brushes. They're real nice. Real well-made. Good, strong hair, good make, good everything. Very good brushes. The kind of brushes people would pay a lot of money f-
"Why the fuck are there tentacles?!"
"God damn the Multiverse is weird!"
Upon realizing that he did just sort of loudly shout, Izou stows the brushes inside his kimono (he's got pockets in there - you always want pockets in a kimono) and starts making a break for it. Where? He has no idea. But he's making a break, and any tentacles he sees, he's gonna...
...what do you even do when you're attacking a giant squid? Hit it harder? Slash it more?
Questions he never expected to ask himself at any point in his life.
"Fuck it, you make sushi, right?!"
Izou skids around a corner, katana in hand, and continues charging down the hallway, presumaby to meet up with the rest of the insertion team.
|Staren|| Plans are adjusted. Staren follows Hiromi's lead, directing her to the landward-facing side of the monastery... "Thanks for the ingress." ...but before they reach the surface, SOMETHING is already coming after them. "Oh shit, it's in the tunnel!?"
Well, NOW this is a little personal! She warps in a device and, as soon as she can see sky, drops it. "Bombs away!" The waterproof explosive is NOT enough to really damage the mountain, it is just a middle finger thrown at the sea spirit to make it harder for it to come up the tunnel and maybe give that tentacle a serious boo-boo.
As for herself? Staren goes cat form and makes a beeline for Okada's presence as best she can, though she has to go around walls and things. Presumably intruding wildlife/stray pets will be pretty low on the monks' priority; She glances at the thoughts of monks as she passes to get a sense of what they think is going on, and what defenses they're expecting to show up (if any) besides the sea monster!
|Sarracenia|| When the sea creature emerges, it is perfectly in the firing lines of Sarracenia's airship. And the piranha plant crew onboard only run panicked in random directions for a few moments before a call from the captain of the ship brings them back into order. The cannons on the port side are run out, and the rapport from those few dozen guns rings out before just as many shark-faced bullets go flying through the air at the giant creature. They aren't the fastest of projectiles by any means, but when they do reach the Sea Scribe's Spirit they go off in a lovely fireworks show of destruction.
Sarracenia meanwhile yelps as a tentacle invades the room they are in. "H-hey! What is this?!" she demands as she leaps aside and pulls out her DK Hammer and swats at the tentacle. "Do not worry, Lord Monk! I will protect you!" she says as she twirls her hammer effortlessly before swinging again.
|Kukuru||"Really? Aw, okay. I was hoping they'd like it for cooking up something fresh..." Kukuru replies to Sarracenia, pausing to glance at her bag of frozen fish. "... ish stuff to cook with." She's about to put it away, too, but the abbot actually takes the bait!
That's fine, too. It won't be an even trade for what's about to happen, but it might take a small singular percentage of the sting away later. It's really good fish, after all, and it was even caught fresh by hand! Or by claw. Probably by claw, but the monks don't need to know that.
Either way, with the signal given and a big ol' tentacle trying to grab her and Sarracenia, the former gets ready to move! "Oh, wow. It's just like when..." She pauses, then snaps her fingers before turning to abbot, somehow oblivious to his attempts to direct the limb as she follows his directions absentmindedly and hops around in the directions he's indicating.
"Left like a left turn signal? Wait, but I don't drive often. I didn't bring a car, either..." She furrows her brows as she hurries over to the abbot, even linking arms with him at one point when she gets grabbed around the other arm by the tentacle.
<Tac-Concord>  Hiromi says, "Kukuru. Bigger claws useful, then. When surfaced."
<Tac-Concord>  Kukuru says, "Got-cha. I think I can manage that, mhm."
Hiromi wants bigger claws, and that's just what she'll get. "Oh! Um. Sorry, gotta go. I left my... Boots in the... Bathroom." She blurts out, clearly not trying to come up with anything convincing before opening up an ominous black and purple portal in front of her. She snaps her head forward once to just bite the shit out of that tentacle, then retreats into her portal with enough time for Sarracenia to follow should she want to!
The destination: Hiromi's position. Granted, Kukuru comes through the portal when Hiromi's still in midair, but she still manages to land safely-ish enough to move on to the actual embiggening of Hiromi's claws. It's a rather precise procedure to direct that energy into Hiromi, adding just enough in controlled amounts to make her claws bigger while still providing enough extra strength to the rest of her body that the extra mass doesn't disrupt everything else about how her body works. When all is said and done, though...
Those truly are some embiggened claws. Hiromi herself might have even grown a bit as a side effect, but it's largely concentrated on her claws. It might even be comical, if not for the fact that enlarging that which is already huge just makes them potentially more foreboding and ominous from their mere existence.
"Heeey. Hiromi. Bigger?"
|Hiromi|| While the edges of the tunnel Hiromi had made are unnaturally dense and hard, they're not to the point of being invulnerable to hits from something kraken-sized, and something with any power over stone is all the more troublesome. Even if getting out that way were still possible, as a snap tactical decision, Hiromi writes it off, rather than move to defend it. Darren asks, and she recommends the air path. The sea and undersea routes are similarly unsafe.
Embiggened Hiromi has even greater tentacle-grabbing power than usual. (The amount of power available isn't much different, but leverage and reach do make a difference in how quickly that power can be deployed to where it's needed.) Once out in the open, she doesn't even stop to look at Kukuru before reorienting on the sea, and jumping directly for the creature that reveals itself.
'Air' being unnecessary to her, operating in the water isn't all that different, so long as Hiromi has something to grab onto, and any tentacle that reaches for her is something she can grip, pull, squeeze, or slice.
By preference, however, she'd rather tie them in knots than cut them clean off. The colossal effort of pulling one through another is just the kind of thing she's built for.
|Darren|| Bombs and cannonballs are actually quite effective against the creature--not so much in terms of damage, but in terms of a giant, bookish spirit pearl-clutchingly shocked A) that mortal weapons have advanced so much in its absence and B) that they would turn those weapons against it.
The monks, Staren finds, as she moves to rejoin Izou, are in chaos--all they know is that the monastery is under some sort of attack. A good number of them are snowed in, several have been knocked out by Darren or otherwise incapacitated by the Goonzmas. But she *also* finds, scurrying as she does beneath their notice, that the spirit has more than just brute strength at its disposal, if legends are to be believed.
It's said that illustrations made with the spirit's ink may take on lives of their own--in other words, the scrolls in the tea room and elsewhere are about to start spitting out person-sized goons!
The trio's Pokemon make quick work of monks who were expecting actual fistfights and not fantastical creatures. A sealing scroll is stuck uselessly to Salandit's head, and that's about all they can do before they end up giving away the bolt of paper and reliquary by virtue of taking an L. Now it's just a matter of escaping--but with Hiromi's tunnel compromised, Sarra's ship is the next best option. The trio, Staren and Izou all meet up in an intersection.
Rushing in to stop them, flanking on all sides, are actual fishpeople with spears and staves of office, some still springing from scrolls! If Staren is quick she can halt the influx with one of her inventions. Izou and the trio, however, will have to fend off expert spear thrusts and distracting prayer stave-chimes, swung with supernatural force!
Kukuru's unconvincing response is met not with hostility or even suspicion, but abject confusion, simply because the abbot believes her to be with Sarra--and since Sarra has stuck with the Bit this whole time, *now* the abbot is in the unenviable position of trying to get the Sea Scribe Spirit to *stop* going after her.
"Stop! Stop! This one is nice! It's a misunderstanding! Yes, venerable spirit, I-- *you're* confused?! How do you think *I* feel?" Sarra's hammer smashes the tentacle and it withdraws--she can practically envision the hasty shaking and the cartoon lump that follows, plus the aching extra-red spot from Kukuru's brazen parting bite.
The group engaged with the animated paintings gets to see Darren run down the adjacent hallway, pause in front of a monk menacing him with a frying pan, drop to a quarterback's stance. He feints left, then right, then jukes a swing and stiffarms the shit out of the monk, pushing him through a paper wall and sprinting out towards the exit.
With her embiggened claws and increased strength, Hiromi can not only tie the tentacles in knots, she can actively tug the whole spirit and slam it uncomfortably against the shore, like trying to pull the ball on one of those cup-ball toys through the wooden cup by the string. The very earth shakes with these impacts, and again as the spirit finally manages to yank a knotted tentacle through a too-small hole in the tunnel, in time for--
The loch ness monster to appear in the water beside it. Nessie is far, far larger than her usual form, her neck towering above the surface of the water, her shell reinforced and surrounded by musical notation scribed in the colors of the northern lights. Her horn, much sharper than usual, jabs into the creature and the 'doink' is all but audible. The spirit's eyes tear up as it nearly jettisons itself out of the water, only for the knotted tentacle to come crashing down and bonk it on the head.
Ay! Beeline for Sarra's ship! We out!
|Guzma||Guzma starts dashing to the ship as Darren calls out, Golisopod joining him and throwing him up to it, before blasting up with a water spout itself. The trio are fleeing via Pidgeot, moving to land on top and reconceal their borrowed birds.
They're tired, but they won! Probably. Guzma points at the giant kraken all tied up. "Take that, you giant Tentacruel!"
|Staren|| Staren shouts a warning about scrolls on the radio. The Goons-mas and Okada catch a brief glimpse of her as a cat before she's bipedal again and sliding to a stop on the floor as fishmen come out of the walls! Staren hesitates for a moment -- she can't just burn the scrolls, it feels wrong! But then she has another idea, and draws the matter manipulator from her belt, and
just puts up walls of reinforced concrete over the scrolls that still have art on them, so the fishmen won't have any room to come out into! And this way, the scrolls are preserved as long as the walls are carefully removed.
|Okada Izou|| "Woah woah woah woah woah!"
Suddenly, everything's gone tits-up. The trio and Staren practically crash into the samurai (or, well, he practically runs into them), a bunch of fishpeople have barreled out of the fucking ink (!?!), and, well, once again, Izou finds himself in a situation that to him is bizarre but to everyone else is just absolutely normal.
He is once again a fish out of water.
Speaking of fish out of water, the ones directly in front of him have spears. Spears are really hard to defend against with swords. Reach, speed, style of attack - it's actually quite hard to overpower a spearman as a swordsman without some kind of actual magic.
These are ink.
They are not people.
They are ink and paper. They are nothing but ink and paper.
As soon as Izou realizes that, the visible red eye widens, and then narrows. The shadows around his face split a bit as his pearly white grin pierces through.
Considering not ten minutes ago he was saying that he's not a mad slasher...
Well, one might be forgiven for finding that claim a wee bit bullshit.
The sword flashes out of its sheathe through one fishman's head. It's a clean, simple cut, perfect in execution, made as he stepped inside the spear's reach as casually as if he was taking a stroll. The next fishman finds itself bisected as Izou passes around behind them, into the mass of monsters, split straight down the middle from a strike it didn't even have time to process.
The Ghost of Tosa wanders directly into their midsts, and laughs. It's a scary-as-hell laugh. It's hard to believe that this is the same bumbling fuckup dog that they know, that they hang out with. This is what Izou is like off his leash - an ominous white grin that glints in the shadows, a bright red eye the color of a deadly star, a blade like moonlight carving through enemies. He is indeed not an assassin - no assassin would be so flashy, would leave splatters of fish and ink across the walls like artwork. It's as if he paints masterworks of death. Imagine it with human lives - with human flesh strewn across the canvas of a hallway, with blood splattered on ceilings and walls. These false fish are merely momentary existences, but even then they leave a chill, an ominousness, a *statement*.
No assassin is so imprecise. And no assassin laughs so wildly, so delightedly, at being allowed to exercise the full greatness of his art.
And then he switches his hold on the blade from a Japanese one to a European one.
In fact it looks a hell of a lot like Lilian's stance.
In fact it looks a hell of a lot like Lilian's *style*.
He engages the fish as if wielding a longsword. Two-handed grip. Smooth strikes, cleaving down for one strike then up for the next. Flicks of the sword that somehow hold power behind them. Dance. The transition from Izou's own haphazard nonsense to this is...
It's not jarring. It's seamless. It's perfect. There's no moment where one can tell where Izou's style ended and Lilian's began - he simply swaps in the middle of fighting his way through the fishmen while Staren fiddles about with her reinforced concrete machine.
The concrete comes up.
Izou's blade snaps upwards through the skull of a fish.
Ink splatters across the concrete wall in a flower pattern - sort of. If a flower pattern was made of blood splatter.
With a flick of his wrist Izou scatters the remainder of the ink to the side. The blade is absolutely clear.
He shoulders the weapon and admires his own handiwork. His fingers go to his forehead under the straw hat. His head goes back as he starts laughing. Then he turns to Staren, ink dripping off his hat and his kimono, and walks past her.
"Hope your conscience is still clear after seeing that," he says, the grinning pearly whites shining out of his shadows. He disappears a moment later. He's undoubtedly heading for Sarra's ship the easy way.
|Sarracenia|| Sarra's ship is already deploying rope ladders by the time anyone approaches. It being a backup plan for egress was implied simply by its existence. Both Sarra and the sailors are surprised by the lack of counter attack from the sea monster, and the abbot trying to convince it that Sarra is a good one just makes things worse. As the tentacle withdraws, Sarra mmphs in annoyance. "Actually..." She sighs. "I'm afraid I have mislead you somewhat, Master Monk. While I did hope my negotiations would be fruitful, I'm afraid the need was quite dire. I have no doubt that by now my associates have liberated a modest supply of the sacred silk paper and spirit ink. I do apologize for the trouble. Here, take these as a bit of apology."
Sarracenia pulls out a small crate of green mushrooms and a generous bag of gold coins as big as a person's palm. She leaves both, then pulls out a leaf and makes a break for it. "The mushrooms should heal any physical harm to your monks or the spirit!" she calls as she applies the leaf to herself and sprouts raccoon ears and a tail in a puff of smoke. She runs out ito the open yard and sprints until she can take to the sky, then flies for her ship. "Thank you, kind Master!" she calls out before she is out of earshot.
|Kukuru||Something's been seized! Kukuru doesn't know what, but Darren's calling for the exfiltration. That's enough of a sign for Kukuru that it's time to go, and fast. Of course, being way down here while the ship is way up there wouldn't be a problem, but...
What about her allies? She's still worried about the ones that can't just fly or teleport! She knows that the ones calling forth several beasts she shouldn't eat are okay with their birds and the like, she knows that the wolf can just jump super high even without those nanite-infused boons of... Whatever it is that's given Kukuru these powers, and she knows that the cat's got enough science to jump into another dimension or something (probably) (she's not that sure).
The princess and the manslayer, however... Actually, they'll probably be okay. Kukuru sees that ship coming down, so it's probably just a matter of time either of them catch onto those ladders even if she can't actually see the latter anymore.
That means it really is time to escape! Right after Kukuru teleports back into that room where she and Sarracenia got attacked by the tentacle. She leaves a packed up lunch for the abbot, flashes him a pleasant smile, then pops right back into it and deposits herself onto the airship to start treating anyone that's injured.
If there's enough time, she'll also mend their clothes on the way back. Her own definitely need it after that kraken attack.
|Hiromi|| Hiromi knots and swings, tossing the big tentacled mass the moment she has a place to stand. To a great extent, she can cheat the need for leverage, but seawater is still outside her field of 'things she can treat as solid.' Even that she can cheat to some extent, twisting her body to create an immediate rotational force, launching her opponent clear.
Not that it turned out to be a match for her. No hunter-warrior spirit, this one. Still, it presented a challenge, and it's already enough of a mercy that she isn't biting into it.
Be grateful, she growls to it, in a way that is unavoidably comprehensible, that you challenged me and lived. Be grateful that you may surrender with less than complete submission. Be grateful for this mercy shown to your lacking spirit.
She doesn't particularly want to rule over the monks, so they'll get away with only this much. Hiromi leaves without looking back, having finished what she'd set out to do.
|Staren|| Staren's first thought is that if Okada is on your side in a fight, he can be counted on. She's put in mind of other savage warriors of the Concord, like Biteblade and Hiromi. Except... They fight like beasts. Okada fights in a way that is human. Something about the way that he moves, the way he handles that sword, and the subconsciously art-like quality to the 'blood' spatters. And he has clearly put great passion and enthusiasm into this.
Staren has seen mad people disassemble humans lives, but that was chaotic, messy, artless. Staren has seen artificial minds move with calculated precision to disable groups of targets quickly, even brutally for calculated shock value, and this isn't that either. There's an order to it, but not THAT kind of order. Art? Human purpose.
It's not hard to imagine him cutting through a horde of humans. She has seen more than enough equally-grisly sights for a human lifetime, and so it isn't THAT that stands out, but the... style? She's not sure how to word it.
Okada is someone you're glad to have on your side in a fight, and Staren can appreciate the skill of a master in his field.
That all runs through her head as he asks about her conscience. Staren tilts her head. She's known plenty of killers, hasn't she?
And then he's gone. "Hey, where'd you go? Oh right, Spirits can do that. Come on!" She motions for Guzma's team to follow if they're still staring at Okada's 'artwork' and runs after him.
|Darren|| Staren's concrete walls not only hold, but they keep the scrolls from being splattered by Izou's Acceptable Ultraviolence. There will be no more painted servants to harry your escape!
The perplexed, frustrated, exhausted abbot is given both a packed lunch and sizeable monetary compensation for being tricked by... "A tanuki. I might have guessed. Ah, well... history is full of stories like this, I suppose. Venerable spirit, are you alright? What? I can't hear you. You sound like you're far away. Are you going through a tunnel?"
It is, in fact, going through the air, because Hiromi threw it. The one or two tentacles that haven't been tied up flail wildly, and Nessie disappears from the water, returning to her pokeball as Darren (with Harry levitating in tow) flies aboard the ship.
Evidently, that gesture wasn't just wild, frantic gesticulating--a big tidal wave rises up to try and submerge the airship! But...
"Nah. MOON STONE! 20! HUT, HUT HIKE!" Harry roars as the airship creaks slightly from the added weight of literally just Stonehenge, Slabb, whose mere presence seems to fill all of you with the invisible power of the earth. Acting on this bolstered strength, Harry directs the snowstorm into a concentrated front of freezing cold, freezing the gigantic wave into a solid, glimmering crescent.
Darren lets out a whoop, as the monastery grows smaller and smaller behind you all. "That's what I'm talkin' bout!" That's step one. Step two--as Darren had said, comes soon. You've made the touchdown and the extra point. "Izou, get to writin' whenever the mood takes you, fam. It's time to spike the ball and stomp on the logo."