Terrible Awful Logs

Proof of time well-spent

The Widening Gyre

When: May 4th, 2011
Where: TV World
Who: Akari Hoshi, Akatsuki Enda, Benihime Asano, Daisuke Itami (Cameo), Daiya Kagami, Kyo Enda, Mai Namikawa, Mitsuru Kirijo, Miwa Saitou, Naomi Suzuno, Rena Kinukasa, Rui Onishi, Seiichi Miyamoto, Shinsuke Kusagawa, Tatsuya Suou, Tohya Kidzuki
What: Various people for various reasons come to Kyo’s TV dungeon. What lies beyond is…

Kyo Enda [U] has posed.

Kyo’s dungeon is not initially what one might expect.

The main area inside the dungeon is a round foyer, a sterile plain room the sort of off-white color that’s easier on the eyes than stark white, but which also bears an unnerving resemblance to bone. It is entirely featureless, the walls smooth and sculpted in almost organic curves. Four doors are evenly spaced along the curve of the room, two on either side of a much larger, more ornate door directly in front of them.

From left to right, the doors read ‘ADELPHOS’ – ‘AGAPE’ – ‘PENTHOS’ – ‘PEMATOS ARCHE.’

The main door reads ‘KLEOS.’

Miwa is nowhere in sight, and none of the doors will open. With nothing else to see in the foyer, the group might wonder what to even do next once they’re gathered and prepared. The answer comes soon enough, in the click of the door farthest to the left. It eases beckoningly open of its own accord.

Sunlight and the sound of children at play pour thickly out the door. Beyond it seems to lie a school playground, its arched blue sky, endless horizons, and breezes somehow giving the sense of open-air despite the fact it’s technically inside the dungeon.

Once eyes adjust, attention is drawn to the fact there are a pair of blond twins sitting together, apart from the other children. They don’t look more than seven or eight years old.


Miwa Saitou [DS] has posed.

Moments after people enter the room, there’s the sound of hesitant footsteps in grass coming from somewhere to the right.

It’s Miwa, looking tired but otherwise no worse for the wear (save for some slightly rumpled clothing) as she approaches the group from, apparently, where she’d been lingering behind a tree. Her gaze is lowered, as if she doesn’t dare look anyone in the eye, stopping a few feet from them. She says nothing, not even a word of greeting, before glancing almost pointedly off towards the playing children.

Tohya Kidzuki [DS] has posed.

Tohya wasn’t sure /what/ to expect of a dungeon of Kyo’s, but perhaps that part of her that did considering what she might find was not expecting sterile. She was expecting bloody, brutal, angry… but not so clean.

It’s not as if this group can’t find them, really–they know enough, and Tohya, though the TV World is not her area of expertise, has Persephone to help her to search, and a pair of clip-ons for her glasses that allow her to see here in the TV World. She is wearing them… Along with the brass knuckles she slipped on after arriving at the stage. She has not commented on them; in fact, she’s been downright quiet, pointing the way here and there until they arrive, and now, here…

“…” She glances over, and then sees–the sunlight. The open door. She makes her way near there, and sees…

The twins–who she starts towards–and then stops, seeing Miwa. “…” Wait. “So you did make it,” she comments, and then looks from the twins to Akatsuki.

Akatsuki Enda [U] has posed.

Akatsuki had waited in Junes’s food court as he’d mentioned earlier for people to show up. Of course, it’s entirely possible that the group could have ditched him entirely and went into the TV on their own, and he would have never known, because one doesn’t need to go anywhere near the food court to get to the electronics department. But Tohya, at least, let him know, and now here he is with the rest of the group.
It’s honestly a lot bigger than he thought it’d be. He wonders how big Miwa thought it would be, though he makes no remark as he follows Tohya, guiding the group, to the place where Kyo has found himself.
He glances about, glasses perched on his nose, when they reach the foyer and the curve of doors. There’s no particular reaction as he reads the Greek words; instead, he merely observes, taking a quiet step forward. The door Adelphos opens of its own accord, and Akatsuki gives a soundless sigh before he obligingly enters.
The wind rustles through his hair as he simply stands in the middle, watching silently at those two small, blond children. He doesn’t even so much as glance Miwa’s way when she pokes her head out into the open, although he does privately acknowledge her presence. It’d be hard not to with Tohya remarking on it, though in fairness, with Akatsuki it’d be fairly to these days.

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

Among the group, there is one who hasn’t been reading the Darkside boards, her own life having spiraled into a bit of a turbulent mess now that she has reached the age of majority in the West. While two years shy, still, from being a legal adult in Japan, it has not stopped her more vocal and ambitious relatives across the pond from putting some plans in motion, which has forced her hand on numerous occasions – the last few weeks have been split between living in Sumaru and venturing back to London, and every visit only served to make her grow more irritable. Her most recent visit to Mai’s household had been a welcome respite from all of it.
So it should not be surprising that the moment she hears of Miwa throwing herself in a TV to save Kyo Enda, whose whereabouts, to her, remain unknown after that unfortunate incident in the local branch of Saks Fifth Avenue, her reaction had been a “WHAT?” followed by a “WHEN?” and a furious attempt to catch up on the Darkside posts, which did very little for her present state of mind and mood.
Traces of her worry and anger linger on her elfin features once she arrives at the round foyer, catching a glimpse of the named doors and the much more ornate one fixed in the middle. She is one of the first people to try each one, only to fail at every turn, which does little to stem her growing apprehension. Thankfully, before any one of her present party decides to do something drastic, the ADELPHOS door opens – the Greek word for ‘brother’ – and the surprisingly happy sounds of children playing drifts to her ears…
Miwa, tired and rumpled, but thankfully uninjured, slips out from around a tree and joins them, and that first glimpse of her softens her irritated mien into something resembling closer to relief. The shift in expressions is but a second or two, perhaps a little longer, until her lips press together in a thin, displeased line. “You couldn’t have called, Miwa?” she asks; distressingly, her tone doesn’t hold the sharp, straightforward edge the heiress generally favors when she’s in a confrontational mood. Rather, her voice is merely weary and fatigued…..and disappointed.
Glancing towards the twins, she absently tightens her gloves on her wrists; today’s excursion has found her in more practical attire – a pair of dark blue slim-cut jeans, calf-high boots, and a snug leather jacket with a hood, zipped over whatever top she has decided to wear today. Her rapier remains slung on the side of her hip.
As Tohya speaks, Naomi’s violet eyes find her best friend’s across the way….and she seems to be pointedly ignoring Akatsuki’s presence.

Mai Namikawa [K] has posed.

Urgency had a way of throwing off preparations. People going in recklessly was unfortunatly not anything new, and moving ahead a little was not terribly detrimental to Mai’s own plans and business – beyond having to call in absent for work anyway. She made a small detour to the SEES dorm to get a few people updated on the latest development – this way if she does not return there’s an information trail, and she headed to the train station with a few more able hands who were both concerned by this dossier and perhaps wanted personal payback. One such person was called, as she knew Miyamoto would both have useful skills and a willingness to fight. There’s nothing more bothersome than people who lacked the right motivation in this kind of place.

“Remember that we lack information on how he got there in the first place and cannot ignore the possibility he entered willingly – given his package, that may just be an errand he was asked to do by the Joker.” He could be pushed, for MOST people she had a tendency to assume accidental TV Entry, but with Kyo Enda? She’s going to make an exception. She sets her glasses on her nose before entering the TV, having asked Shinsuke, Mitsuru and Seiichi to go ahead first with a 3 minute interval so they would not draw unnecessary attention. Most seemed to ignore that part of the Electronics section but you can never be too careful with keeping this secret.

Landing at the stage, forming up with the rest of the gathered force and moving forth was the easy part she had to remind herself. She adjusted her backpack, tightening the two swords strapped to the sides of it before she set forth. Most people get a brief nod of greeting, in Naomi and Tohya’s case even a smile while Akatsuki gets only the briefest of eyecontacts, she’s not interested in chitchat so moving forth is fine for her.

The entrance to the area Teddie said Kyo was last seen to was a zone she’s never seen – possibly a new one, he did apparently show up on the Midnight Channel after all and there may be a correlation with the TV World expanding itself to people showing up on the regular TV. The marked doors with strange words she’s never seen before are beyond her ability to decipher their meaning, and as she was about to touch one of the walls a door opened. With nowhere else to go, what choice did they have? The shift to featureless white to a playground area was a little jarring, the brightness of the sun causing her to close her eyes to slits briefly. The sight of the only ‘adult’ sized person draws her attention after she swept the surroundings. Tohya’s comment does not alleviate the younger girl’s caution, “Are you sure it’s her and not a shapetaker Shadow?” asks Mai, left hand on the hilt of a weapon.

Mitsuru Kirijo [SEES] has posed.

Vindictively, Mitsuru Kirijo believes that Kyo Enda would be better off lost in the TV World. This is a secret selfish though that she not only keeps to herself but locked away tightly in a box along with all the other repressed feelings that she doesn’t allow herself to indulge in for more than a brief moment and that moment only when it first appears in her mind. But he took Miwa Saitou.

Mitsuru doesn’t know Miwa very well but she knows that she’s a good friend of Naomi’s and Kyo Enda’s former girlfriend. She is very aware of the latter point as the twin in question physically accosted her under those pretenses. She was rather alarmed to hear that Miwa willingly throw herself into the TV to save that man. But when she thought about it some more, she realized that it was the proper thing to do. That’s why when Mai called asking for help, Mitsuru (reluctantly) agreed to accompany her, Shinsuke and Seiichi into the TV world.

She followed Mai’s instructions, waiting her three minutes before appearing into the open forum. She’s dressed more for ease of movement rather than anything else. What one could consider a ‘skin tight’ sleeveless gray mock turtle neck, light jacket (to hide her evoker) and black slacks. As usual though, she is wearing her stiletto heeled boots beneath those slacks. Her rapier remains sheathed at her side but she unholstered her evoker the moment they stepped into the TV world.

When the door for brothers swings open, the young woman quietly follows the group. It reminds her of the dream world, the sanctuary, Naomi carved for them when she and Shinjiro were kidnaped. Her attention is in the distance on the blond twins when Miwa appears. “Saitou-san!” Her voice joins others. But she’s cautious and stays apart, just in case Mai’s suspicion is correct.

Tatsuya Suou [DS] has posed.

Luckily for everyone involved, there is nothing awkward or uncomfortable about this situation on any level.

Also among the Darkside contingent is Tatsuya Suou, who if nothing else seems approximately as social and personable as he ever does (not at all) and so the fact that he’s largely ignoring Akatsuki’s presence comes across as a lot less pointed. The stoic and generally unreadable young man, clad as usual in his typical red and black motorcycle leathers and carrying his long-handled Japanese blade, the sheath and hilt wrappings both inky black, hasn’t actually said anything to anyone the whole time, which is probably for the best.

Simply put, Tatsuya doesn’t want to /be/ here; he didn’t like the Midnight Channel the first time he was in it – the now defunct Sumaru version, to be sure, but close enough – and he likes it less now, particularly given the individual in question. He’d rather just grab Miwa and leave, letting Kyo Enda rot, but that… Might prove to be not on the table.

By the time they actually arrive, Tatsuya’s mood doesn’t seem to have changed any (one way or another) and he looks around the foyer with its doors, reddish-brown eyes studying the unfamiliar words impassively. When a door /opens/ of its own accord, there’s a quiet song of steel on steel as Tatsuya draws his sword, the gleaming silvery blade held low but ready… And he doesn’t relax any when Miwa turns up, either.

Tatsuya glances briefly at Tohya when she speaks, then at Mai, then at the apparent Miwa.

“That’s a good question,” Tatsuya agrees with Mai, heralding the apocalypse.

Shinsuke Kusagawa [SEES] has posed.

To be perfectly honest, Shinsuke had not expected to enter the TV so soon after his own ordeal. And as he has no access to the Darkside forums, he is only somewhat informed on the matter of Akatsuki’s breakdown — Kyo’s disappearance has been a fact of which he’s been entirely unaware.
Until today, that is.
Mai had asked and Shinsuke had accepted, at the time inwardly surprised at the desperation he did not feel when hearing her report of the situation. It’s /Akatsuki/, for heaven’s sakes…but while the third-year still cares for his one-time friend, the welter of rejection and subsequent advice from others has dampened loving warmth down to flickering embers. So it was when he entered the TV (voluntarily this time); he’d offered polite nods to those he didn’t know or recognised somewhat. Akatsuki, however… Much like Mai and Naomi, Shinsuke is largely ignoring the younger Enda twin — Akatsuki received a brief azure glance, and little more.
Now, one white-gloved hand traces gently along the bone-white walls of the first room, and Shinsuke peers over his silver-rimmed glasses at the door opposite him. Sunlight pours through it…
That hand leaves the wall, coming to rest instead upon the hilt of the weighty rapier at his belt. Perhaps ominously, the elegant teen is dressed all in white — white boots, white trousers, white vest, white cravat; only his shirt is black. He gleams in the false sunlight, impassively watching the twin boys play. Mai asks her question; Tatsuya responds. “Remember Kay,” Shinsuke warns the no-longer-dead girl, hearkening back to the trick his own Shadow played on those who came to rescue him. His spice-scented Resonance roils at the memory, and he snorts.

Seiichi Miyamoto [NWO] has posed.

Seiichi was waiting for a call, as the days dragged on he became more and more expentant for it. When Mai’s came by he was actually visiting the Dorm himself so getting ready? That was not much of an issue. Privately…and publicly…the musician thinks that he would be better off /dead/ in the TV world and not just lost. However then man /has/ touched something he cares about and put him in the hospital at least once. However the dissipearance of Miwa as well? It seems that someone is going to have to go in to get her. That someone is going to have to be all of them.
A trio of minuites, a trio of heartbeats. Then the musician moved in as well. Dressed black slacks and a dark shirt, his leather jacket over that. He has no envoker to conceal, but the jacket does a good job hiding the blades he keeps under it. He was /not/ watching how the sweater of Mitsuru’s fit to her form. Really. He wasn’t. He was just putting his glasses on while lokking in her direction.
After the alloted time he finds himself in the TV world as well, his eyes taking in the sights and sounds that assail him. “Well…” He murmurs mostly to himself as he steps forwards along with the rest of them, noting the ones that approve or ignore him. “…this is not exactly what I was expecting.” He adds as he reaches behind his back to rest one hand on the hilt of one of his blades. Mai makes a startingly good point as his eyes narrow. “As if this wasn’t confounding enough.” he murmurs quietly with just a slight smirk on his face as he steps up in the little group to stand at least near to Mitsuru and Mai.

Akari Hoshi [NWO] has posed.

A lot of small things led into Akari being here at the moment. Partly, it was due to her need to ask questions all the time and her concern about what Kyo would do if they accidentally ran into each other again. After all, he had already come close to killing her twice and unfortunately she had the scars to prove it. Mostly though, she is here out of concern for Seiichi. She could care less what happens to Kyo. If he stayed here forever that would be fine with her. She is very bitter about it.

After her last conversation with Seiichi she knew that Miwa would likely go in after Kyo and that if Seiichi found out about it, he would go in after her. Even though Akari knows very little about the TV world, the task of figuring out a new place doesn’t bother her and after following him and seeing Seiichi enter, she had become slightly panicked and followed after them.

She was completely unaware of the thick fog that blanketed this place though. After trying to adjust her eyes Akari finds it useless. Thankfully, a beary helpful Teddie comes to her aid. He gives her some pretty ridiculous TV World glasses which oddly enough she seems to be thrilled with. After her shock wears off he also helps in pointing her in the right direction. After no time she catches up to the group and casually sidles up next to Seiichi like it’s no big deal. Surely he wouldn’t lecture her here right? Akari’s attire is her normal Ixquic costume, complete with her huge golden sword. However, she is not wearing her masquerade mask once again.

Not knowing what they are going to come up against, Akari keeps her sword ready just in case, as she had been taught. As she looks around the sight of Miwa catches her attention. She almost waves at her but as the older girl remains silent she looks towards the two blond haired kids instead. She watches them curiously but doesn’t advance forward or seem outwardly concerned. Looking back at the group Akari takes notice of Mitsuru and Tatsuya but it’s Akatsuki’s presence that elicits a small gasp from the girl. It couldn’t be Kyo of course but she had no idea he had a twin either…

Miwa Saitou [DS] has posed.

It hadn’t been easy, reaching the dungeon. But neither–and Miwa does not realize this, having never explored /this/ TV World before–should have been quite so easy as what she’d experienced. Once she entered this room, however, she’d found she couldn’t leave. No matter how much she explored this little paradise–was this the part of Kyo she’d fallen in love with?–there was no way out. Perhaps it wasn’t the worst of places to be trapped in, but she hadn’t been able to get any rest.

They came. She’d thought–convinced herself–they wouldn’t. But they came, and they had brought with them brought people she doesn’t even know. Was it because of what she’d said and done? Or would they have done this regardless of her behavior? It’s a question she can’t answer.
Dimly aware of some of the others she knows by name–Akatsuki, Mitsuru, Akari, Seiichi–Miwa in particular can’t bear to meet Tohya or Naomi’s gazes. Her closest friends. A shallow nod meets Tohya’s comment, though she can only shake her head at Naomi’s. “My phone doesn’t… work in here,” she says, hesitantly. Missing that tone in Naomi’s voice would be impossible.
Naomi’s disappointed in her. She’s let everyone down.

Mai’s comment reaches Miwa’s ears, and the young woman stiffens, turning towards the younger girl. Only here does she look someone in the face. She looks no different from usual; her eyes are green, not gold. “N-no, I’m myself,” she’s stammered, shaking her head. A shapeshifter Shadow… did those exist? Neither can she miss Tatsuya’s sword, held at the ready as he regards her so. Heart pounding in her chest, Miwa takes a step backwards towards her tree. They wouldn’t really, would they–

Rui Onishi [K] has posed.

Hours ago, Rui had arrived to the office by order of her employer, and finding a note at her desk in his stead.

Her instructions were to find a client, a one miss Miwa Saitou, of whom Daisuke had discovered important information relating to her case. Only he was having the most unusual trouble locating her! Strangely enough, it seems the young woman had fallen right off the radar. So Miss Onishi’s directive remained simple: rendezvous with a list of friends commonly associated with Saitou, track her down, and retrieve her back to Omoikane.

Extremely simple.

Rui turned the note forwards and backwards a few times, looking for the addendum that explained why she had to take a strange pair of glasses along. But, as always, she expected nothing would ever be so straight-forward when it came to being in Itami’s employ.

And by a combination of Daisuke’s information network and her own sharp tracking skills, a peculiar addition found its way in with the group. Dressed in an immaculate business suit, with leather gloves and expensive heels, her inky hair arranged artfully like a business executive, and her face tempered in an expression of infinite blandness, the woman would have neatly bowed after any strange looks or inquiries into her strangeness, said absolutely nothing at all, and merely supplied a pre-typed message on the screen of a small PDA:

[ Good evening. I am an employee of Omoikane Investigations. I am inquiring after Saitou-san. ]

And Rui would have remained a bastion of perfect manners up until people began to walk into a TV.

She drops her jaw and nearly her PDA.

But it wouldn’t do her purpose, her raison d’etre any good to simply stop now–

Stepping through, Rui immediately regrets it, turning her head aside as she tries to parse the fog. It’s too thick to see anything. Why would anyone walk into such a thing? Unless… she remembers them…

Fumbling into her pocket, she opens her own pair graciously donated by Daisuke. Rui holds them up to her face and peers through. Her lips twitch into a frown. When, gingerly, she sets them on her face, the world opening up in all its strangeness, her frown deepens.

Benihime Asano [U] has posed.

Details are inconsequential.

It doesn’t matter how, when or why it happened, but there’s another presence among the gathered many in the Dungeon of Kyo Enda. People are here for their common reasons or purposes; someone else is here “just because.”

Well, there’s likely more to the story of Benihime Asano, but as far as anyone here–all unfamiliar faces to the young Sevens girl. But it doesn’t matter in the mind of Benihime; none of them matter except, maybe, one person here. And that person isn’t even here, anyway.

The white corridor with several doors is admirable and lovely. When all have gone about their business of going through that open door, the newly-arrived miss Asano is content to stand in the foyer of the Dungeon to start. She reads each door carefully, drinking in her newfound environment. In her chest her heart is beating fast. She has never been /inside/ before. But she is now, in this special place–and a special place of someone else.

Someone’s private thoughts, experiences, truths and, she hopes, fears.

It won’t be until after everyone /else/ has ventured through that open door that she decides it’s time. Sucking a soft breath past her lips, the silent, pale-faced young woman just steps through and into the breezy sunlight. She admires from afar, though noting the set of blonde children in the distance. Her gaze will momentarily fall upon Miwa, whom all suspect may be some silly figment of Kyo’s imagination or something–she doesn’t know, or care. Let the wolves eat the lamb.

She’ll just watch.

Kyo Enda [U] has posed.

The doors click shut once the last of the group enters. They lock.

The twins lean quietly together, two identical little boys against the world. The elder of the pair is smiling at the younger, who looks a little despondent. The elder twin’s smile falters as his brother, visibly upset, tells him something.. He leans forward and hugs his twin reassuringly, making a reply that doesn’t carry. Standing up, he trots off, leaving his little brother alone for the time being.

The other children notice that Akatsuki’s alone. After a time, a small knot of them break away and start to circle up around the little blond boy. The taunting starts, and by the time the group draws near enough to hear words, the tears are already streaking down the little boy’s face.

“What kind of stupid name is Akatsuki?” the ringleader says, kicking sand all over Akatsuki’s younger self. The action elicits laughter from his companions. “A stupid name for a stupid kid with no friends and a freakshow brother.” He steps closer, and makes as if to kick Akatsuki–

Kyo’s equally-young self comes almost out of nowhere, rushing with the silence of an animal. The kid turns only in time to expose himself to Kyo’s assault: even when only seven years old, it seems, Kyo knows how to aim where it counts. His fist catches the other boy in the throat with an ugly crunch, only a last-minute glance of the blow sparing the windpipe from being crushed, and the kid topples backward with a shriek that aborts itself in a labored gurgle. The other children cry out.

Kyo doesn’t stop. He lands atop the felled boy and draws his hand back again, a vicious look in his eyes–

And a rock hits him. Kyo tumbles back to the ground, dazed, a thin trickle of blood already seeping down from the cut left behind. He tries to get up, but another rock hits him. The rest of the kids are scooping them up and throwing them, their little faces alive with fear, malice, and hate, seeking to put Kyo down, to KEEP him down: as if they know what would happen to them if they didn’t. Perhaps they do.

“FREAK,” they yell at him. “Look what you did to him. We’re sick of you hurting us. You’re evil,” Even now, they keep their distance, as if from a rabid animal; they pitch rocks from afar, and as time goes on their assaults grow ever more lethal. Still, Kyo bites back any sign of weakness– any desire to cry.

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

With Miwa returned – though hopefully it was truly her and not her shadow – it takes a substantial amount of willpower not to take her by the arm and drag her out of the television, safe and sound, and somehow forget the fact that Kyo Enda was trapped somewhere inside. But she also remembers how this world works….leaving him in here would prove to be more dangerous than rescuing him. Mai’s brief nod is acknowledged in turn, though surprise does filter through her expression when she sees her accompanying Mitsuru Kirijo and Seiichi Miyamoto. Had the two of them….?
The quizzical look cast to Mitsuru aside, Naomi makes an effort to smile, albeit faintly at the redhead when she joins them. “I wish you didn’t have to come,” she murmurs towards the other heiress, her silver-flecked gaze falling on the equally displeased Tatsuya standing nearby. She doesn’t address him at the moment, but when another taller shadow falls over the proceedings, her head lifts to look at Seiichi right in the face…and hesitates. Her fingers twitch at her side as the instinctive temptation to slap him across the face makes itself known. It felt like a lifetime ago since she’d seen him.
Finally, she gives him a slight nod. “Miyamoto-san.”
The excuse from Miwa only causes the other girl to press her lips even more tightly together. She was certain the outside world had reception -before- the teal-haired young lady decided to jump inside a TV. But she does not linger on the issue. She shakes her head towards the rest. “If she wasn’t herself, Tohya would’ve said something by now,” she says; out of all of them, the tall, gray-eyed woman would be able to detect an anomaly if Miwa wasn’t herself.
Right?
If the next scene affects her in any way, she shows no sign – the TV world never failed to cull goosebumps from her skin, the hairs at the back of her neck to rise. A small tic pulses at the tender hinge where her jaw meets her neck once the other children start pelting stones at Kyo. Twisting on her heel, she starts to move away from the group, in order to look around; a hint perhaps, or a clue as to what may be in store for them. That, and looking into another person’s memories always made her uneasy, unnerved her in ways an outright confrontation with a demon did not.

Tohya Kidzuki [DS] has posed.

A smile is nice enough; as she gets one from Mai, Tohya returns a faint one of greeting, but it is obviously somewhat strained–she is… Well, it’s hard to say, looking at her. She really just looks angry. She does not comment any further to Miwa, for her part, not at all on Naomi’s question to her. No, instead, she shares a glance with Naomi, and then that is just that.

Mai though… Has a point. Except, “…She feels like her. In here it’s hard to say,” she admits.” A pause, and to Shinsuke, “Something you know that we don’t?”

But as Miwa looks up, and claims it, “…Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt.” For this one, at least. But then, the scene before them–

“…Started that young, huh…” Contrary to the young woman’s usual overabundance of empathy–this, she watches stone-faced. She doesn’t look away.

Akatsuki Enda [U] has posed.

Akatsuki being ignored is actually something of a relief to the youth. He said on his post to the Darkside board that he didn’t want drama, that he just wanted to get this over with, and while he may have agreed with Tohya that he’ll need work with the others to deal with Kyo–whether it’s to kill him or simply neutralize him–he doesn’t really relish trying to talk to anyone. So if Mai only barely looks at him once, if Shinsuke does much the same, if Tatsuya ignores him, if Naomi ignores him, that’s fine. A gasp draws his attention very briefly, and he glances back at Akari, who stares at him in horror.
/Oh, she must have met Kyo,/ is his only thought before he turns his regard back to the child versions of himself and his twin. Even as the others suggest that Miwa might be a fake, might be some shape-shifted Shadow set to deceive them, even as Miwa timidly protests that she’s really her, he lets that happen as it will. Even the arrival of total strangers–Benihime and Rui–doesn’t really phase him. He simply watches, quietly approaching, as if waiting.
And what he’s waiting for eventually occurs. He remembers that happening quite a few times, really–the way he would get picked on, the way Kyo would come to his ‘rescue,’ the way the other children react by attempting to stone him to death. Looking back on it now, looking *upon* it now, it makes Akatsuki wonder–why did he ever bother?

Mitsuru Kirijo [SEES] has posed.

There are some unfamiliar faces in the crowd that’s joined them in the TV world and Mitsuru isn’t entirely sure how she feels about that. She’ll keep tabs on the three relative ‘strangers’ as they go, but did note Rui’s strange penchant for communicating via PDA. What doesn’t surprise her is the fact that people are avoiding Akatsuki. She shakes her head slowly and glances at Seiichi as he moves closer.

Adjusting her horn-rimmed glasses, she glances at Naomi and returns the smile with a faint one of our own. “I wouldn’t have come if Namikawa-san hadn’t asked for the help to be honest,” she murmurs in return. “But she asked and I owe her. Besides, Kyo Enda and I have some unfinished business.” She doesn’t say anything about Seiichi’s presence though. The two girls can gossip about that (and others things) when there is more free time.

As Miwa assures them that she is herself, her hand flexes around her evoker. “I’m inclined to give her the benefit of a doubt,” she states in agreement with Tohya. But even as she’s focusing on Miwa, the actions of the young children turning on the Enda brothers catches her attention. “!!”

It started so young… But that’s rather cruel isn’t it? She approaches the children and with her most authoritative voice, speaks out. “What are you children doing?”

Tatsuya Suou [DS] has posed.

For Tatsuya, at least, Tohya’s word is enough.

When the Shinsengumi spotter confirms that it ‘feels like’ Miwa, and he assumes she would know, the tall young man clad in red relaxes almost imperceptibly, only giving half of his attention to the shadow play of Kyo and Akatsuki’s childhood, made manifest by this curious space. He raises his sword, enough to settle the back of the blade against his shoulder, where he stands not too far from Naomi. “Come on, then, Saitou,” the serious-faced college student says, not exactly unkindly but there is a certain undertone of we-are-going-to-have-a-talk-later-young-lady to his voice.

Of course, then Mitsuru goes to bust out her authority on the constructs of Kyo’s mind, which frankly causes Tatsuya to watch her in complete bewilderment.

Ojous, man.

Seiichi Miyamoto [NWO] has posed.

Seiichi’s eyes snap up as the pair of figures. The twins march across the stage and the scenes play out like some kind of terrible movie on repeat. He can’t look away from the pair of them as they play out the ancient scene. There is a tick in his own eye as he watches them. His eyes close for a moment as he breathes in a deep breath. He really /could/ have been like him. That scene played out in a very similar way in his own past, though he was the one fighting the group of bullies. He slowly forces his eyes back open once again, just in time to hear Naomi’s greeting. He can feel her stare though as his eyes open, and he looks right back towards her. His own gaze doesn’t flinch away, but it doesn’t insult either. His own cheek itches for a moment that marked one of their few meetings in the past.
A hyper-slap that breaks a nail? Not something often forgotten.
“Suzuo-san.” He nods back, his own black gaze steady. Mildly suprised that he rates a greeting though.
He sighs for a moment, but as Tohya seems satisified by the Miwa there he is inclined to go with the Spotter. His hand eases away from the blades on his back as he relaxes about…oh…a fraction of an inch. Or around about that much. Of course that tension comes /right/ back with Mitsuru goes and busts out the ojouthority. He blinks for a moment, and the look on his face is almost comically similar to Tatsuya’s.
Freeking Ojous.
“Kirijo, be careful.” He warns as he starts to step forwards as well. I mean he can’t let her get in there and then the kids turn in into gremlins on her now can he. Soon enough though there is a second distraction though as he catches a slight gasp at his side. He blinks for a moment and turns to look…down…
Pause.
“Akari?” Now he /does/ sound suprised. Quite suprised. “How did you…why…” Oh god he feels a headache coming on. “…do you need an extra pair of glasses?” He hopes someone has one.

Shinsuke Kusagawa [SEES] has posed.

Shinsuke squints slightly at Miwa as she protests, his azure eyes like chips of ice. It isn’t truly in his nature to be suspicious, but the events of his own ordeal have burnt themselves into his brain — Shadows are capable of a great deal. That, and…well, it’s not hard to discern from her body language and her faltering words just /why/ she might be in here. Why else would anyone run off on their own in this mad place?
Evil indeed is the man who has not one woman to mourn him.
Naomi’s comment and gesture toward the long-haired woman provide some measure of reassurance, however, particularly when the woman — Tohya — replies in the affirmative. A spotter, then, Shinsuke remarks to himself. He is familiar enough with the former Student Body President of Sevens to trust her opinion, and that of anyone she herself trusts. The youth lets his fingers loosen on the hilt of his blade.
Anomalous movement from the boys draws his gaze, then. Flickers of memory surface, then float away; memories of a sunlit garden, and of playgrounds, and of…bullies. Shinsuke swallows, trying and failing to dispel the sudden knotting of his stomach, unwillingly seeing himself in both boys.
SUDDENLY MITSURU
“Ah- senpai!” Shinsuke yelps, reaching out a hand in a vain attempt to keep her from stomping off and momming ferociously at the almost-certainly-not-real children. It’s a half-hearted attempt, however; he’s certain she can handle herself (she’s Mitsuru goddamn Kirijo), and her actions honestly cause a wave of relief to wash over the knots in his gut. /His/ mother never acted like that; seeing Mitsuru mom all over kids that /aren’t even real/ assuages them considerably. But it’s in his nature to fussybutler, so he fussybutlers.
LOOK HE CAN’T HELP IT OKAY

Mai Namikawa [K] has posed.

The girl in a suit was a little familiar, having seen her on a few occasions led to Mai willingly incorporating Rui in her plans and leading her toward the TV with the others of her group. She avoids explaining how she knows her, saying only “It’s alright, we could use one more pair of hands for this.” to the others before turning her attention briefly toward the mute girl, “Just stay close, be careful and…keep an open mind. It might – no, it’s definitly going to get strange.” was really the only advice Mai could offer without going in far too time-consuming depth.

The other unknown girl, well, she assumes is with the Tatsuya side of things. This may be an assumption that will be done by him as well, probably benefiting Benehime in the way of ‘not getting asked annoying questions’. Akari’s gasp draws grey eyes toward her, the small girl recognised vaguely and following where she was looking it’s not terribly hard to figure out what caused that reaction. “Yes, there’s two of them. Try not to kill this one needlessly.” is as much of an explanation as she is willing to offer.

The naiveté displayed by ‘Miwa Saitou’ makes a good impression – or at least is fairly convincing to her that this is not a Shapetaker. Granted, she’s only seen one in her entire life and has no real range of knowing how ‘lifelike’ those Shadows can really be, but this really does seem like the Sumaru girl. “No, your phone does not work because there is no signal tower linking parallel dimensions.” she says in complete seriousness, watching the girl’s movements. That weak assertion of identity, that scared look…well, she’s willing to buy it. Naomi’s point held too, at this range Tohya WOULD have noticed or felt an inconsistancy – maybe. Hopefully.

She looks toward the playground, watching a boy get to be on the recieving end of that ruthless cruelty children are so apt at wielding. She was not sure which boy that was, something those kids solve for her quite dandily. And the rescue comes in a far more brutal fashion than even Mai had expected at this age, her head reeling back slightly at the violent side that Kyo Enda seemed to have possessed for quite some time. But even that strength and fury seems to be with limits – understandably so if he had yet to awaken any powers, rocks hurt even Persona users but at that age it’s no surprise he fell. If it was any other child she would intervene, but those two? “Even this young, huh.” is what she says before moving behind Mitsuru who attempt to stop the rocktossing. She stays close in case this triggers a defense mechanism, but she’s not going to help.

Miwa Saitou [DS] has posed.

Benihime enters. Miwa’s head turns, away from Mai and Tatsuya. For what feels for her to be a long moment, Miwa stares. What was she doing here? Did that mean she had a Persona–no, how had she even known to come here?
They’re questions that Miwa doesn’t ask.

Miwa’s resonance doesn’t seem any different than normal. There’s no suggestion, again, that she’s anyone but who she appears to be.

“I am myself,” she’s murmured again, her gaze turning away. Another step back brings her closer yet to the tree, and reaching out, her fingertips scrape against the bark before her palm comes to rest solidly on the trunk. In a moment, she’ll need it. ‘Benefit of the doubt’. Inside her chest, it’s as if something has been punched in and crumpled roughly into a ball. Hunching over, her shoulders shake. Had she really lost their trust…?

Only when Tatsuya addresses her directly does her gaze lift, and, slowly, she withdraws from her safe place by the tree, following at a distance. The tableau before them plays itself out. Where at first she’s touched by the display of brotherhood, it’s vanished the moment Kyo lashes out so violently. Kids could play rough but this was too much, far too much. A rock flies. Miwa draws in a sharp panicked breath. Another rock is thrown. Then another.

“Stop it!” she’s found herself crying out, the words slipping from her lips before she’s realized it. It is the loudest she’s been since they found her.

Akari Hoshi [NWO] has posed.

The comment from Miwa that phones don’t work causes Akari to pull out her own phone from her shoulder bag. She frowns as, even though it turns on, it doesn’t actually show reception. There goes her escape plan. Well, at least the rest of them had to get out of here at some point too and surely someone had come in better prepared than she had right? She adjusts her TV World glasses which are way too big for her and are sparkly and bright red with feathers coming from the top and sides. It’s probably a good thing that she didn’t wear her mask because it’d be pretty hard to wear that and the glasses too.

Looking back at the doors as they lock, Akari shakes her head. That’s a little too cliche and not really that unexpected. What is unexpected is the way the scene plays out in front of them. The two boys and their interactions with their peers. As Mai explains Akatsuki’s presence Akari sighs. “Oh… I will try and avoid killing him.” She still looks a little concerned though. Was he anything like Kyo? Watching the scene more her face turns into that of disgust. Mostly, it’s the bullying and teasing that bothers her. She knew what that felt like. Kyo’s retaliation on the other kid, no matter how brutal, makes her think of her own brother. Though they had been years apart, he had always been quick to defend his baby sister.

After awhile of watching the scene, the youngest party member turns her gaze away from the scene, trying to focus on other things like where they were going to go. Akari silently wished that they could just take Miwa and go. She knew that it wouldn’t be that simple though. After all, Miwa came here for a reason…they all did. Her only option was to follow and deal with whatever happened. She had avoided telling Leo about what was going on, afraid that he would try and interfere, especially if he knew that she was fully intending on following him in.

As Mitsuru tries to talk to the kids, Akari’s gaze widens at her. It hadn’t ocurred to her about whether or not they could actually hear them but if she understood this place at all, it would be unlikely. Still though, she watches to see if they react.

Then Seiichi finally realizes the girl is there and she grins at him. “I followed you Sei-chan! I wasn’t going to let you come in here alone.” She frowns. Who did he think she was after all? It’s also obvious that she has glasses so to his question she points at them. “I got some from… uh… that bear guy after I fell…” She’s still pretty intrigued by Teddie.

Rui Onishi [K] has posed.

Miss Onishi, for her own part, appears to recognize Mai as well, attention snared to the girl as her attention reluctantly shifts off her odd environs.

Rui listens to her politely, hands clasped behind her back, and acknowledges her invitation with another brief, but gracious bow. Though the woman’s yellow eyes do crease a little in confusion against the warning.

What does she mean by… strange?

But the assistant duly follows along, vaguely asking herself whether to resent Daisuke for this later, her heels clicking hollowing as she heeds Mai’s word and remains relatively close. For Rui, it’s not so much the strangeness of the place but the presence of all these weapons, wielded and ready, that earns her eye. Frowning to herself, battle sense more than tripped, she’s not too sure what to make of it. Are these persons expecting combat? Why would…

Eventually, even Rui’s eyes find Miwa Saitou, recognizing the girl immediately from her clientele profile. It appears her own directive has been achieved, and the woman duly intends to step forward… only for her attention to be averted, landing on the exchange that takes place, as out-of-place children trade taunts, insults, and then rocks. And it’s not so much the woman looks upon the scene dispassionately, it’s just that her bland, faceless expression appears absent of anything, charitable or not, empathetic or never. She tilts her head a little in mote incomprehension.

Kyo Enda [U] has posed.

In a flat contradiction of the expectations that ‘talking to Kyo’s mental constructs’ is entirely futile, the kids drop their rocks and hastily break up their circle when Mitsuru approaches them– when Miwa shouts at them. Looking abashed but rebellious, they stare at the group for a moment, and then finally run off, leaving Kyo and Akatsuki alone.

The young version of Kyo, battered and bleeding, crawls to his hands and knees, visibly disoriented. He looks up at his brother, who has drawn quite close and is looking blankly down at him in turn. Akatsuki opens his mouth as if to say something–

–and then his jaw just keeps going, tearing the top of his head loose along the seam of his mouth and setting loose a single condemnation: “IT WOULD BE BETTER FOR ME IF YOU WOULD JUST DIE.”

The image of Akatsuki begins to rip itself gaudily to shreds, suiciding in bits and pieces. As it tears its own limbs free, it just keeps repeating that one phrase, the volume growing with every bit of Akatsuki that sloughs away: as if his body had been the only container dampening that declaration from ever being heard.

IT WOULD BE BETTER FOR ME IF YOU WOULD JUST DIE.
IT WOULD BE BETTER FOR ME IF YOU WOULD JUST DIE.
IT WOULD BE BETTER FOR ME IF YOU WOULD JUST DIE.

There is no end to the cacophony, no relief or solace from the bald statement made in Akatsuki’s own voice. It machineguns endlessly through the air, echoing ricochets amplifying the words until they bore into the soul– until the group can feel some small measure of the horror Kyo himself did to hear them for the first time.

The small image of child-Kyo has crumpled back into a ball, little hands clamped over his ears, cowering under the deluge of noise. He twitches like a whipped dog every time the phrase repeats. “How could he,” he sobs to himself, rocking back and forth. “How could he say that to /me/?”

The door opens behind them, allowing them to leave and return to the foyer. They probably won’t get to it before the young image of Kyo bolts straight past them and out into the main room, hands still clamped over his ears, fleeing from the truth that still echoes endlessly from wall to wall.

He won’t be there when they arrive back in the main room. As if to spite any sentiments that might be percolating through a few minds on simply taking Miwa and leaving, the entrance to the dungeon has vanished. The second door, however, AGAPE… it’s clicked an inch open.

Tohya Kidzuki [DS] has posed.

Tohya won’t be absolutely certain until she summons forth Persephone to scan–‘natural’ resonance sense only goes so far, after all–but for now, it’s enough. If Miwa turns out not to be Miwa and stabs them in the back… then that’s a risk she’s willing to take. But–wait,

‘avoid killing him’. This is what gets Tohya’s attention, as she finds her eyes catching on Akari, and recognizing that costume. That’s–“…You…” She shakes her head, after a moment. She has, now that she thinks of it, a /question/ for Akari. One she doesn’t want to bring about too much overall, and yet…

She takes a step away, then, and moves to stand closer to Akari, a few careful steps taking her there, though her eyes are still on the scene at hand. She doesn’t say much else to Miwa, at the moment. Instead, she leans down to Akari, “…I remember you,” she says. “I led the Daybreak Squad in KNOWS,” is her murmured continuation, too low for most to hear, in fact. Hopefully. “…Tell me. You being here–what’s the status of Kyo Enda, as regards the other squad?” Pause. “I can make it worth it for you to let me know, if that’s what it requires.”

And then… And then, regardless of what she’d been saying, that /noise/ fills the air, until even Tohya winces from it, stepping back at the volume and that weird emotion that echoes along with it. “Ugh…” Kyo’s… Gone. Running. And…

And…. “…” She doesn’t say anything, there–this time, there isn’t an extra condemnation of Kyo in little boy form, like there was, vaguely, before. “….Let’s follow,” she murmurs instead, and leaves this room. The entrance… Yeah, it’s gone. “Not like there’s anything else we can do.”

Akatsuki Enda [U] has posed.

‘Needlessly,’ huh? Well, that’s fine, too.
Akatsuki ignores Mai and Akari’s conversation, doesn’t even react when Akari says she’ll /try to avoid/ killing him as if this is a thing she could just happen to do by accident. He does tilt his head slightly Mitsuru’s direction when she strides forth to tell the children to /cut that out already/. They do at least scatter, and Akatsuki watches as the younger Kyo seeks approval from his alternate self–
‘IT WOULD BE BETTER FOR ME IF YOU WOULD JUST DIE.’
The words pound out of his alternate self, shredding it to pieces as they repeat over and over again, and even Akatsuki is shaken out of his dead-faced calm, if only because of the suddenness of the volume. When he gets used to it, though, even the vision of his other self shredding apart doesn’t phase him. He simply looks from it to the younger Kyo, sobbing to himself and twitching and begging to know how he could say that to /him/?
Well…
“Well, it’s true,” he murmurs.
After that, he follows the younger Kyo out of the room, and when he sees the entrance missing and AGAPE ajar, he opens it up and enters.

Benihime Asano [U] has posed.

From behind the crowd, Benihime continues to watch. While others present know one another, doubt the presence of some and remain generally here of some same cause, the burgundy-eyed young woman seems content to stand silently behind everyone, content to merely observe the scene unfolding before them from Kyo’s apparent past. That is what she presumes it to be, in any case.

Briefly the gaze of some are met, those who cast a perhaps wary glance to the out of place young woman. However, when Miwa looks to her she just offers a friend albeit tiny grin in response that otherwise says ‘nice to see you again, ex-girlfriend of Kyo Enda.’

Her attention is drawn back to the image before all as the young child rips itself apart and screams hateful words over and over and over. She flinches briefly before her expression falls flat. The words continue, not stopping, screaming endlessly.

Harsh, she thinks. A mindless shrug follows.

When the door opens the silent young woman turns on her heel and exits quietly, no acknowledgement of others, should they pass her by or eye her. She remains tight-lipped and without sound, save the click of her heels on the floor of the foyer. Another door is open, she notes, as Akatsuki–strangely ALIKE to Kyo but clearly not him?–steps through.

She smiles to herself and decides that is where she is to go next. Her heart continues to beat eagerly in her chest. She can’t wait to see what other dirty secrets lie in store.

Mai Namikawa [K] has posed.

They stopped? And they didn’t turn into Shadows either, it just goes to show this place can just keep on messing with her mind. Just when Mai thinks she has some ‘rules’ figured out, the TV World goes off and does something else. Maybe the only rule is ‘there are no rules’. She’s not going to say anything about what Mitsuru did – it was not wrong per se, and perhaps it was meant to be. Maybe a teacher did exactly what she did back then.

And then Tiny-Akatsuki speaks hurtful words that – had she heard this a week ago, she would not have believed he could be so hurtful. Instead, she looks at him again, “I guess this really is your true self, then.” is said loud enough to be heard by pretty much anyone, but by the time she looks back the small boy has become a self-mutilating THING. She takes a step back almost instantly, hand clasped on the hilt of her weapon tightly and lifting it halfway before she realizes it’s not attacking, just yelling this hurtful sentence over and over, echoing this hateful sentiment. Mai’s eyes remain opened wide and a mote of sympathy blooms for the child being told he should just die – these are words not unlike some she heard before and they resonated with a feeling she thought buried by now, she knows that pain too well and no matter how violent that BoyKyo was, such words from his own brother…

She remains behind Mitsuru for now, wiping a dust from her right eye before they move on. A slightly damp and wet dust. That’s her excuse and she’s going to stick to it.

Miwa Saitou [DS] has posed.

At Benihime’s entirely well-meaning grin, Miwa flinches her gaze away.

It’s a fortunate thing that at both this fair distance and with the much younger girl so costumed, Miwa doesn’t recognize Akari. That comment about killing would have rapidly shifted her opinion of the girl downwards. Instead, the girl’s get-up has prompted, at most thus far, mild confusion as to the indentity of yet another stranger. A friend of Seiichi’s?

Her attention elsewhere, she doesn’t notice the attention directed her way by the other mystery person who has ventured here.

Children scatter, and exhaling deeply, her shoulders slouching in a deep sigh, Miwa’s green-eyed gaze turns from boy to boy. He’d been violent, but Kyo–young Kyo–is hurt badly, badly for someone so young. Miwa takes a step forward.
And promptly recoils as Akatsuki speaks. Unwinds.

Hands fly to her ears, covering them though she can’t tear her gaze from the horror transpires before her.
She remembers those words. When they were said, and how Kyo had looked in their wake. By his own brother. She can only imagine it. By his own brother…

Young Kyo, distraught, flees the room. Hands dropping from her ears, Miwa turns, and hurries back out into the foyer. There’s nothing there. Nothing, but the door open to ‘AGAPE’. “…” Miwa’s breathed, glancing back over a shoulder to where she knows the dungeon entrance was. It’s gone. Hesitation is the order of the day.
Then, following the others, she enters through the only open door.

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

Nothing about their surroundings is forthcoming, and it may be that it is because Naomi is trying to look for something to enable her to anticipate what is to come that causes her to stiffen when Alternakatsuki’s voice fills the room, screaming at little Kyo. She makes the mistake of turning around, watching the other twin’s jaw flap….and proceed to tear himself apart before them. It would be a lie to say that the heiress is unaffected; some part of her is so entrenched in the reality that she believes him that there are some aspects of the supernatural world that she has access to that she has yet to be accustomed. She thought she has prepared herself as best she was able in order to endure the horrors that Kyo Enda’s TV world is likely to have.
She was wrong.
Blood drains out of her face. The Spencer heiress stares as Akatsuki rips himself apart, and tears himself into ribbons. She doesn’t move when the rest start to chase after Kyo, so horrified over the revelation that it hadn’t been a memory but an empty vessel that the urge to do so doesn’t take her yet. It’s difficult to determine what anchors her in her place; whether it’s the growing volume crashing in her eardrums, or the image of the blonde boy rending himself to nothing.

Mitsuru Kirijo [SEES] has posed.

The children scatter before Mitsuru’s ojouness and the young woman starts to approach the battered looking Kyo. Even if the man he is now is atrocious to her, the boy before her draws her closer. She’s about to draw close enough to try and help the boy to his feet, wondering faintly in the back of her mind if this boy is the ‘real’ Kyo.

But the child Akatsuki turns to his twin and starts to deconstruct himself. “!!!!” She makes a startled sound, backing up quickly and almost into Mai directly. By instinct, her arm raises and her evoker presses hard into the side of her temple in reaction. She’s about to pull the trigger and summon Penthesilea when rationalist kicks in and realizes that /she/ isn’t being reacted.

“Wait!” She calls out after the fleeing Kyo. Akatsuki’s childish voice continues to ring in her head. That’s harsh. Very harsh. She starts to run after him, following in the stream of people heading for the door and disappearing into the foyer and then to the other room. “Namikawa-san! Come on!”

Tatsuya Suou [DS] has posed.

Though aware in the back of his mind of the various tensions either already existing or in the process of developing among this little expedition, there’s not much Tatsuya can actually /do/ about it; he’s not one for words, for inspiring speeches that make everybody find it in themselves to work together. So, just going to have to deal with it, it seems.

The behaviour of the mental constructs is sort of fascinating, though, as the children seem to react to Mitsuru’s authoritah by fleeing, leaving them to witness what transpires next, which is to be quite frank pretty fucked up. That child form of Akatsuki tearing itself apart, the cacaphonous echo of the sort of cruelty children excel at ringing on and on, like nails on a chalkboard except the chalkboard is the interior of their respective skulls, and…

There is a very weird moment where Tatsuya Suou finds himself experiencing sympathy for Kyo Enda, which he does not like, not one little bit. The conflicts between siblings are a particular sort of thing, and while Tatsuya hasn’t hurled much in the way of hateful invective at his family over the course of their feud, there’s something about it all that puts a faint furrow to Suou’s brow, causing the corners of his mouth to turn down ever so slightly.

Naturally, though, the exit is gone – of course, of course – and their only real option is to keep going ‘forward’, or at least deeper into the construct of Kyo Enda’s subconscious, Tatsuya heading along with the others.

Shinsuke Kusagawa [SEES] has posed.

To Shinsuke’s vast surprise, the children neither ignore Mitsuru and Miwa nor warp into Shadows and attack — instead they flee, chastened and shamed, from the adults. He takes a tentative step forward, glancing briefly at the rest of the group, and frowns slightly at the strangely costumed girl’s comment. ‘I’ll try to avoid killing him.’ There is something about the absurdity of her entire /being/, perfectly encapsulated in that one sentence, that momentarily shakes Shinsuke’s assumption that she is human like the rest of them. But Seiichi (and now Tohya) appear to know her, and she’s wearing TV glasses…perhaps she’s human after all, just…there’s still something incredibly off. A sudden craving for eel distracts him, however, and Shinsuke lets the matter rest for now.
He lifts his azure gaze to the boys, now alone, and-
And those eyes widen in horror, one leather-gloved hand flying to his mouth, at the words that wrench themselves from the child-Akatsuki’s throat- at the sheer self-destruction those words cause, and at their increasing volume. Shinsuke’s throat burns, and he clutches at it; he does not realise how terrible a thing it is to sympathise with Kyo Enda, and yet he /does/. The little boy’s sobs, so achingly familiar, ring as loudly in his ears as adult-Akatsuki’s condemnation, and eventually he turns and flees the grassy hill and rent body and weeping boy. How- /how/ could you wish such a thing upon your own brother, your own twin? If Itsuka- if she-
Shinsuke turns to flee, to escape the dreadful sight, and his azure gaze falls on Naomi. “Suzuno-san,” he says, reaching out to her as his vision blurs, “don’t look at it- we’ve got to /move/-” he urges her as he leaves, not even the need of another able to stay his escape from this maddening horror. A stab of compunction ices into his gut at his cowardice, but there’s little he can do about it.
His vision clears just in time to see the word engraved into the next door.
“AGAPE.”
“Selfless love.”

Rui Onishi [K] has posed.

The small boy tears himself apart.

And Rui Onishi may be the only person there not widening her eyes, stepping back, or catching her breath against the horrific sight. The woman merely stands there aside Mai, hands still clasped at her back, watching the scene in total silence and complete patience. Her face is stoic. But it’s not so much that Rui looks bored by the sight; she appears quietly pensive, almost curious in a way.

She’s remarking mentally to herself about the amateur, uncoordinated way the child is dissembling his body.

Her original directive all but forgotten, the woman seems to spare a moment to look on Mai silently, her yellow eyes communicating the most clear of clear questions:

What is going on?

Either way, the other child dashes past, and the group seems more than partial to follow him. Rui, on the other hand, looks just a little reticent. She has a bad feeling about this.

Seiichi Miyamoto [NWO] has posed.

There is just a twitch of a smile at the mention that Akari would attept to ‘avoid killing this one’. Seiichi’s lips curving upwards as he hears that. Then a sideways look towards Tohya as she has that rather quiet conversation with Akari. A slightly raised eyebrow at that. Interesting, interesting, interesting. However he has other things to worry about soon enough as suddenly the form of Young-Akatsuki is shreadding itself. The echos of those damming words striking like a thunderbolt to his ears. His eyes squeeze shut under the assault. Like Mai there is something burried deep in him that those words find with unerring accuracy. That makes him flinch for a moment before he forces himself to recover. Goddamn metaphysical dust. He does indeed though feel a moment of sympthy there. Which is something that he never thought to feel about /Kyo/.
Damn that Kyo.
He shakes himself out of it though with a suddering breath. His eyes slide around again, away from Akari for a moment. “Suzuno-san. We need to follow.” He snaps out as he starts to turn, noting Naomi’s being rooted to the spot by the scene of a young child shreadding himself. However he turns to follow on Mitsuru’s heels as he attempts to get his own wavering emotions under control.
To do that he concentrates on Akari. There is just a touch of a sigh again as he does his best to force his voice into control. “This place is dangerous Akari, but you know that. Just…stay close alright?” He adds with a touch of a smile towards the younger girl. “And yes…you do. I can see that now, sorry this place has me a bit distracted.” He adds with a shake of his head before he blinks a moment. “…bear guy?”

Akari Hoshi [NWO] has posed.

As Mitsuru and Miwa’s interference causes the kids to run off AKari looks surprised. So they did see them? This place was so odd… like a dream that you could physically interact with. She silently wondered if they were shadows of some kind. As the twins are left alone, her thoughts again turn to whether or not Kyo and Akatsuki were alike at all. Was he as evil as Kyo?

Before she can follow though Tohya leans down to whisper something to her. She recognizes the older girl very, very vaguely but can’t remember from where. It isn’t until Tohya explains that it clicks for her. As to her question, Akari gives her a blank look. “I have no idea what you’re talking about…” Then it dawns on her and she looks back to Seiichi, “Wait…Sei-chan did Kyo work for Onii-sama?” She looks amazed by this information and couldn’t remember seeing Kyo around before but it’s probably due to her selective memory. Some things are more important than others after all like manga and kittens.

Akari turns her gaze back to the scene as the bleeding Kyo is left behind and Akatsuki approaches she fully expects him to comfort his brother but instead her interested gaze turns to horror as Akatsuki falls apart and the words ring out louder and louder. The young girl closes her eyes and covers her ears trying to drown out the sound but it’s no use.

Opening her eyes again, Akari sees the younger Kyo and for a brief second feels a small twinge of pain for him. It is short-lived though as Kyo runs past them. Akari turns to follow him, afraid of what they would see next but not so scared as to not want to continue. More than anything though, she doesn’t want to be left behind in this place and as everyone else is following she does the same. Seiichi’s comment for her to stay close to him is pretty much unecessary at this point as she was suddenly even more terrified of being separated from him and stays as close as she can.

Akari also doesn’t realize that Miwa actually wouldn’t recognize her, even without her mask.

Kyo Enda [U] has posed.

The second room is black and dank, especially after the light and air of the first. It’s almost impossible to see at first, though there are darker, thicker places in the darkness that seem like hanging objects to be avoided.

As people enter, the unaccustomed movement stirs breaths of air in the stagnant, low-ceilinged room. Eyes adjust a little, enough to discern vague shapes in the blackness. There are four objects garlanding the room, which sway and creak with a pendulous swinging weight. The clink of the chains supporting them taps a tuneless graveyard lullaby. And the smell starts… the smell of a charnel house.

Brushing against any of the objects brings the feel of cold, sleek skin, as chill as taxidermy.

Eyes are adjusted enough now to resolve the shapes into collared girls, bloodless white and staring, hanged upside-down from the ceiling in the manner of killed game: by hooks pushed through slit cuts behind the Achilles tendon. Rena’s face is discernable, and the faces of the three girls who preceded her. They’re gagged, but their eyes can follow movements, and they plead mutely for help. Miwa’s image is absent.

A contemporary version of Kyo sits beyond the hanging girls, hunched over a bathtub pushed flush against the far wall. His back is to the group, and the tub is full nearly to the brim with thick red water– that, or ‘water and something else.’ His shoulders roll slowly with the movements of his arms, as he works patiently on whatever is beneath the surface.

Abruptly, he pulls his right hand clear of the liquid, skin trailing strings of clinging red that run a little bit too viscously to just be water. The hand lifts, mostly-closed and dripping, and then slings to one side in one careless wrist-flick of a motion. Whatever was in his hand blurs into the stained bowl beside him, rocking it with a dull and soft sound of impact.

He takes no notice of the group, not at first; he simply sits in silence a few moments, head hanging, stained arm slack at his side, before slipping his hand back into the dark red water with a sigh. Maybe the room is noninteractive, and something is scheduled to happen.

Daiya Kagami [S] has posed.

The group goes through the second door once the first disappears, leaving the schoolyard virtually empty. No more Enda twins, either way.

…A second later, however, a form that definitely doesn’t belong to a seven year-old fades into view, like a chameleon returning to its natural color. The Wicked Queen, her usual black dress a snowy white while her dress incorporates what is scientifically called “the japanese ghost triangle headband”, tiptoes like a ballerina to the spot where child-Akatsuki disintegrated so shockingly, appearing to float as she does so. Impassibly, golden eyes stare at it while her taloned hand scratch her chin. “Aw, children are capable of such pure cruelty. But it /is/ true, isn’t it?” A very faint giggle.

She looks over her shoulder, though there’s no one else in sight yet. “How are you feeling, Rena-chan?” Her previous amusement aside, there’s a note of concern in her voice. Of all people, the one she came here with would probably feel a lot of emotional turmoil from this dungeon, after all.

Rena Kinukasa [S] has posed.

The ground in the previous room suddenly shifts, a set of yellow eyes peering from beneath the woodchips of the playground. A few seconds later, a large, dark-red, serpentine form rises, shaking off the debris. Scales glisten and shine, radiating a strange sensuous power akin to the Lovers Shadow that had been banished months ago.

“I almost feel sorry for him.” Rena drawls in her altered voice, still sounding of two women speaking simultaneously, the voice of one wicked and harsh while the other sounds normal. “Had I been present for these…memories back then, I would have had a very different experience with the Endas. But no, I saw something else. That deception lasted for years.”
Anyone trying to look into that bowl will see the interior of it clean and smooth-white, containing nothing. The girls can be touched, but the hooks holding them are a little too high to be reached.

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

Her name uttered, Naomi turns her head to stare blankly at Shinsuke, wondering just how he knew her name – until she realizes that he was part of Gekkoukan High School’s student council last year. Her interactions with him had been limited, but he has been nothing but cordial and his name follows in short order. “….Kusagawa-san?” she wonders, suddenly puzzling over what he was doing here. She could understand Mitsuru coming with Mai and Seiichi tagging along, but what was the white-clad fussybutler’s stake in this?
Seiichi’s comment urges her to keep moving, turning on her heel and following the tail end of the others. But -need- to follow?
They have no right to be here, Naomi decides, once she’s through the door and into the other one, already unsheathing her sword just in case, the ringing of steel against scabbard hissing along the length of the bared blade as she goes. The TV World, the Abyss of Time….not wholly the same, but similar enough to offend her sensibilities. She hated intruding in the memories of those most precious to her – she remembers the foray into Tohya’s past and then Mai’s – and if she couldn’t stand that, then it proves doubly so towards someone who she knows can’t be saved. Half of her is ready to suggest that they all leave now that they’ve found Miwa – but she knows her friend. She’ll never leave unless Kyo was safely out of the TV World, and the most logical part of her reminds her that letting him stay here will prove to be more dangerous in the long run.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t situations were always the worst of the lot.
When she makes it inside the next room, the strong stench of formaldehyde stings her nostrils; she wrinkles her nose, but she doesn’t go so far as to clamp a hand over it. When her sight adjusts to the dim light within, however, she’ll see the bodies, hanging torturously in their respective positions, but with their eyes wide and following them. Her teeth grind together within her closed lips, resisting the urge to wretch – whatever sympathy the first room could have generated within her vanishes. And even as those eyes plead to her for help, she doesn’t touch them. None of this was real. She turns towards Kyo instead, and the bathtub full of blood.

Benihime Asano [U] has posed.

Darkness.

It comes as no real surprise to Benihime as she enters with…most of the group. She’s perfectly content to be left alone to her own devices, to observe silently until the time is most right. Still, there is something distantly unnerving about the darkness, the sounds that crawl from the unknown.

When her eyes adjust there’s a sight that, frankly, startles Benihime. Girls, like hanging meat, clearly alive. She doesn’t recognize a single one; not that it would matter, she wouldn’t want to help them, anyway, she tells herself. A dim smile crosses her lips at the thought. Serves them right, most likely.

Then an image of Kyo, hunched with his back to the group. It’s about then Benihime actually looks around with a vaguely thoughtful expression, curious as to how people in the presence of him will respond. It doesn’t take a whole lot to gather what he’s doing, the red water that slimily clings to skin. His motions are noted, but Benihime does not say a word or move to be nosey. She just continues to watch from afar at that which unfolds with every passing moment. Still, in the depths of her chest, her heart beats, a little stronger than before.

Is he like..?

Naomi’s sudden movement, however, draws a vague expression of annoyance from Benihime.

Mai Namikawa [K] has posed.

Pressed to move forward by Mitsuru, her body tightens slightly as she tries to shake off these feelings for now and focus on the task. Mai looks around to make sure nobody is missing or something is sneaking up on them, and her gaze crosses with that questioning look.

“To put it simply, this dimensional space we are currently in has been built by Kyo Enda’s psyche – what hurt him the most, what deepest desires and secrets, and at the deepest point we may find him. I am oversimplifying this by ALOT but bear with me. This place is also filled with shadows who have a taste for human flesh and souls, which is why caution is best – not to mention one of them may be keeping him here.” But that’s a big maybe. At this point she has no idea WHAT to expect anymore, this felt like a TV Dungeon alright so did Kyo become trap – or did he make the most elaborate trap ever? Considering her own doubts it really is the best explanation she could offer toward Rui, hopefully it will do.

Akari’s promise not to kill Akatsuki was taken at face value. She knew what the little girl’s other ‘job’ was, which is why she knew that Akari had the ability to be lethal if she wanted to be.

The next room is darker and her lights are not accustomed to it first, causing a “Tch.” reaction before she slows her pace down. The first breath she takes leads to her hand snapping upward to pinch her nose, they went from playground to a butcher’s fridge or something? No, those meat storage rooms usually have ventilation at least…

Having nowhere to go but forward, she tries to avoid running into one of the objects she can vaguely see or the people ahead of her, but she comes to a full horrified halt once her eyes DID adjust. Her hand releases the pinched nose as it falls limply to her side, the disgusting smell nothing compared to seeing girls hanging upside down. At least she has the good sense not to scream – or maybe it’s just she can’t find the air to do so. She closes her eyes and lowers her head, a whispered mantra of “They are not real, he’s a sick bastard but they are _not_ real.” repeated twice for good measure before she can take a calmed breath again and keep moving. She’s not going to shed a second tear for his sake, and seeing him bathe in…”That is so unsanitary.” is probably not the most apt of criticism toward this. “Did he really…is this a dream of his?” One of the girls looked like Rena, and surely she would have tried to kill Kyo if he hung her by her legs and used her blood to take a bath! It had to be some wierd sick fantasy…right?

RIGHT?

Tohya Kidzuki [DS] has posed.

Wait… Akari doesn’t… know? Tohya blinks, to the younger girl, and looks to Seiichi–…of /course/, Seiichi would know–after all… “I could ask you the same,” she murmurs, and then, “Thank you,” to Akari. With that, she leaves, following the others, stopping by the door at first when Akatsuki walks in…

“Selfless love…” Tohya shakes her head, at Shinsuke’s words. “I don’t see what ‘selfless love’ has to do with anything, in a place like this. Guess you can’t trust what you see.”

Funny, that, since she cna’t see anything at first in the new room, once she enters. When she /can/ see…

Tohya’s jaw sets. “…Yeah, anybody feel that much sympathy for a guy like this?” The disgust in her voice is obvious, and it isn’t all reaction to that /smell/. “This–/this/ is what…” She shakes her head. It doesn’t matter if this can’t be interacted with. It doesn’t matter whether Kyo can’t see them. This is the point at which Tohya steps back, “Fuck this.” She doesn’t look to the bowl for much longer–she glances, but that’s all, and she instead looks to the girls here, “Even if you’re not real.. It’s true, what you represent. It’s–”

She sets to one, the closest, to remove that gag, to start with, “I don’t care if this is a trap.” A pause, and she can hear Mai, and she does add, “Doesn’t matter if it’s real. The metaphor holds up. Does anyone here really think women are more than meat to him? That /any/ person is?”

Akatsuki Enda [U] has posed.

“I guess so,” is Akatsuki’s apathetic response to Mai’s loud remark on his true nature. If he were aware that her sentiment was actually shared to some smaller or larger degree by a lot of people present, he might actually manage to get upset by the hypocritical irony of it. As it stands, only Mai–as usual–actually says aloud what many are thinking, and Akatsuki moves on.
AGAPE is dark and claustrophobic, and there is coldness and rank smell… When Akatsuki’s eyes adjust, he actually jerks back from the first of the girls, Rena, who appear to plead with them with her eyes. He settles down, though tension rides his body, and when he looks up, he sees those hooks through their Achilles tendons, well out of reach. He doesn’t see Miwa among them… but he does see Kyo rummaging through a red-filled tub.
Akatsuki stares for a long moment, before he quietly walks around to get a better look at whatever it was that his brother threw into the bowl but finding it seems to be empty. Then he goes back to watching his brother, a twitch now disturbing his formerly emotionless expression.
He only looks up when Tohya starts openly criticizing and even trying to free one of the (likely Shadow) girls, declaring that this really is what Kyo thinks of women: meat. This time, he keeps his thoughts to himself.

Daiya Kagami [S] has posed.

“Almost, but please don’t,” Daiya answers her companion in her own ethereally reverbing voice, though she remains calm and casual about it. “You’re only going to hurt yourself if you dwell on what-ifs.” Actual sound advice?! Maybe, but also a way to hopefully distract Rena from considering her history with the twins under a different perspective. It’s just no good if she forgets what she was angry about, after all. Of course, what’s in the next room may or may not make this completely moot.

She looks back at the slowly closing door. “Either way, we don’t want to lose them. I’ll bring the lead, if you don’t mind~.” She is after all a bit less conspicuous, and demonstrates this by shifting back to her near-transparent state before quietly resuming her tailing of the main group from afar.

Tatsuya Suou [DS] has posed.

As they find their way into the second room, an assault on various senses simultaneously, Tatsuya’s expression shifts subtly. Gone is the troubled look of the previous room, the confusing pang of sympathy for Kyo Enda, as it is swiftly replaced by a more comfortable and familiar disgust, which settles over Tatsuya like a well-worn sweater, providing a certain strange cushioning against the inherent horror of the room the group finds themselves in. The four hanging girls, clearly still alive despite their predicament, cause an anger reaction that is more instinct than anything else: Consciously, Tatsuya is aware that there isn’t anything they can /do/ for them, as the figures are not appreciably real by any measurement they would use. And yet…

And yet…

Reddish-brown eyes focus on the back of the room, where the familiar form of Kyo is present, doing something that is presumably horrific and which one would be better off not contemplating, but regardless of whether or not the construct of Kyo Enda can actually react to them or not, Tatsuya starts walking up towards it. Only one way to find out, right?

Miwa Saitou [DS] has posed.

The smell is one that impacts the nostrils immediately. Miwa’s hand flies to her face, but even that’s barely enough to filter the overpowering smell of blood and rot. Wandering in a short distance beyond the door’s entrance–the vanished door–Miwa turns this way and that in the dark, as she tries to make out the identity of the shapes.

She soon wishes she hadn’t. Biting back the urge to scream, she steps back as she discerns clearly the face of Rena Kinukasa… and impacts a rather solid object that had been hanging behind her. Turning reveals it for another similarly trussed girl. She remembers her. The skin, Miwa notes in that instant before she screams, had been as cold as ice.

Her gaze skims over the rest, not even daring to linger for fear she’ll spot her own face on the hanging bodies. Her heart pounding, the moment she sights Kyo, she’s unable to look away. What is he doing with in bathtub, the water’s gone all red–
Her throat feels as if it’s constricted. Miwa herself has gone stockstill, her gaze, with some effort, diverting itself towards Naomi. He… that’s not… it can’t be–

‘Nothing more than meat’, Tohya says. She’s reminded of a conversation she’d had with Kyo, where he had said he’d been forced to console himself with Mitsuru Kirijo. It hadn’t been consensual. It couldn’t have been.

Rena Kinukasa [S] has posed.

A low rumble escapes from the Shadow called Kiyohime. “You think I would feel sorry for that monster? What he did to me was unconscionable. Had he been the person he pretended to be…” she continues, cut off suddenly by Daiya’s bit on what-ifs. A better person might have been able to forgive Kyo for leading her on so thoroughly thanks to what had happened when he was younger and openly ‘himself.’

Rena has not been a better person for a very long time.

“I’ve noticed. Interesting ability there.” The dragon casually remarks before burying herself back beneath the woodchips, worming her way through the ground with ease, her nature easing the navigation of this particular environment.

Mitsuru Kirijo [SEES] has posed.

The vision of Kyo and Akatsuki’s childhood and the cries of ‘It would be better for me if you would just die’ still echo in Mitsuru’s mind and she is half tempted to start reforming her own mental image of Kyo, seeing the young man as troubled and forced into his current state rather than the disturbed sociopath she’s painted him as in her mind. She frowns faintly, hearing Mai’s words and her analysis of the TV world. ‘What hurt him the most’. Then what is his deepest desire?

She has this question in mind when she steps through into ‘AGAPE’. The darkness and the stench of the next room catches her by surprise and she wrinkles her nose. “Where..” Her eyes have not yet adjusted to the area, but she can see dim figures in the faint light. “Beef..?” She hazards a guess. But she tries to draw closer to look, hands reaching out and touching skin.

“!!!!” She makes another startled sound when she realizes that it’s a /woman/. Several women. And then she shudders, remembering her own two run ins with Kyo, especially the one during the Dark Hour. Who knows what might have happened if Seiichi hadn’t been there. Her teeth grit. Is this his ‘deepest desire’ then? She scans the room looking for Kyo himself. Or something like him and there he is, kneeling by the tub.

She is strangely familiar with the sight of blood and there is no doubt in her mind that the dark liquid he’s messing with in the tub is blood and she wonders, what’s in it. An old fairy tale comes to mind. Even if others are recoiling and reacting, she bravely steps forward with the soft ‘schtick’ of steep scraping against metal. Brandishing her rapier in one hand and her evoker in the other, she looks over her shoulder to see if people will back her up.

“The story of Bluebeard ends with his death at the hands of his wife’s brothers and friends. Is this the kind of ending that you desire?”

Rui Onishi [K] has posed.

When even in a place like this, a time like this, Mai graciously offers a running exposition, Rui keenly listens. Hands still at her back, her stride slow and measured, her eyes involuntarily turning and alerting to every unsheathing sword and movement of weapon around her (even bit of it trips her conditioning), the personal assistant duly nods her head. The mention of a name — Kyo Enda — earns a particular narrowing of her eyes. That Miss Onishi can recognize. The name of the boy Daisuke appeared to take an uncanny interest in; from what she could see, less an interest and more a tutelage.

Not even Rui can suppress her sudden frown. Does Itami have something to do with this…?

With that thought on her mind, she subsequently enters the room.

The stink of formaldehyde and flyblown meat is nauseous, and given a faceful of it, Rui neither balks nor turns her head. Her features soften slightly, the way someone mollifies in mid-reminisce. Those are smells she’d not recalled in years. Not since father…

Eventually, she lifts her head to meet eyes with the girls dangling from the swinging chains, their eyes and faces begging for something no one in the group can give them. Unhurried, unfussed by the carnage all around her, the woman appears as bland and comfortable in this room as most people are in their beds.

It’s hard to say, especially from a woman who cannot make sound–

But did Miss Onishi just sigh?

Shinsuke Kusagawa [SEES] has posed.

A moment after he enters the second room, something brushes against Shinsuke’s shoulder. Chains click above him…and the smell…
The smell of death, of bone and viscera and drying blood, meets Shinsuke’s nostrils; it is a relief after the horror of the previous room, like meeting an old friend after watching another die. Slowly, the youth pulls off a glove and reaches up to feel whatever it was that brushed against his shoulder. Cold, bloodless skin meets his own. Nose, gagged lips, eyes wide in terror. “I can no more answer for this ideal of selfless love than I could for that my own Shadow espoused,” Shinsuke replies to Tohya, sliding his glove back onto his hand as his vision adjusts to the light. “Bluebeard, then…” he says, regarding the upside-down girl with a dispassionate surgeon’s eye, then lifting his azure gaze to Kyo’s back. The fairy tale is known to him, eager as he has always been to devour any and all such stories. “What she says is true, to a point. The Shadow and its environs are you viewed as through a mirror darkly; they are truth distorted, but not explicitly untrue,” he comments further. “What sort of person, then, has-” he gently fingers the mutely screaming face of Rena Kinukasa, frowning slightly “-an abbatoir in their dungeon?” he asks.
At that, Shinsuke turns, following Tatsuya over to Kyo. There doesn’t, despite the possible-Shadow’s action, appear to be anything in the bowl, but that scarlet hue is unmistakeably blood. “Clever…the tub catches the blood…” he murmurs.
And, as for Naomi’s silent question: What is Shinsuke’s stake in this?
Understanding.

Akari Hoshi [NWO] has posed.

Entering the next room, Akari frowns at the darkness but as her eyes adjust, the noise from the chains causes her to look up. It’s not the chains though that cause her to gasp and step back into Seiichi, it’s what is attached to them. And then the smell…Akari forces back a gag and the stagnant atmosphere doesn’t make things any better and she pulls her cape around to cover her mouth and nose. She still stares at the collared bodies for a minute. She doesn’t recognize any of them but just the image causes her stomach to churn and she finally has to turn her gaze away, burying her face into Seiichi’s shoulder. “S-Sei-chan…” He may notice that she is trembling.

Unfortunately, the young girl can’t stay like that forever and it is her morbid curiosity that causes her to look back at the scene and that is when she notices Kyo and the blood water. Her face immediately scrunches up in disgust. As the scene continues to play out, Akari wishes she was anywhere but here. She doesn’t attempt to approach the girls or anything even if others do. It wasn’t that she realized what they were seeing wasn’t real so much as the fact that she is too afraid to make any sudden movements with Kyo being there. In fact, Akari moves to a position where she is almost completely behind Seiichi as Tatsuya and others approach. She wants to cry out, to tell them not to but her fear keeps her from doing so.

Seiichi Miyamoto [NWO] has posed.

“One of the smartest suggestions that was taken,” Seiichi murmurs quietly towards Tohya as they walk towards the dark room. “Was to /not/ recruit this one. No, he was never recruited.” He adds as an answer towards the both of them. However then he has more things to worry about even as his eyes begin to adjust to the new room infornt of him. Or all around him. It looks like the only way to go now /is/ forwards. He draws a sudden short breath that stings in sences with the sharp tang of the chemicles in teh room.
“Its not real.” He repeats slowly, his eyes staring in some sick kind of shock at the slaps of hanging girls. Figures he knows and reconises. “He is sick and distrubed. Howeve r this is not real. Just a manifestation of his psyche. However distrubed this is.” He shakes his head. “No. No sympthy in the least.” He agrees as he reaches behind him and draws the paired blades with a soft hiss of finely honed(and Thora forged) metal on leather.
“This is disgusting.” He adds, thankful once again for the fact that he happened to intrupt Kyo and Mitsuru that night. Very thankfull. Just the thought of seeing Mitsuru strung up like a slab of beaf like this makes Set seathe inside his mind. Speaking /of/ Mitsuru though she’s already stalking forwards. Freeking Ojous. Well he will follow, of course backing up the angry…no…furious redhead. He will stay close to her as he stalks up, shaking his head slightly at her choice of turn of phrase. “I believe that is the kind of answer he is going to get.” He murmurs quietly.
As Akari reacts though he lowers his guard just enough to hook one arm around her shoulders, letting her huddle there for a moment. “It’ll be alright. Its really not real.” He murmurs in responce to her. “Just stay on your guard, just because its not real doesn’t mean it can’t hurt you.”

Kyo Enda [U] has posed.

Kyo’s head lifts and turns abruptly, the glowing yellow of his eyes staring through his long and tangled bangs. His pupils dilate on the group in predatory focus– or rather, specifically on Tohya.

“I can hear you…” he informs, in a low silk hiss.

His gritted jaw doesn’t move, his lips don’t part– and yet that speech shivers the air, his voice violating the silence. His gaze turns towards Tatsuya and Mitsuru then, as if asking them what the fuck they think they’re going to do, before he turns his back again with a sigh and resumes work.

Frustratingly enough, there appears to be some barrier to actually touching him. The Shadow seems to be protecting itself. It’s not yet time–

“I’m only taking back what I gave to them, and what’s mine,” he argues fretfully, as people ask whether he wishes to come to the same dark end as Bluebeard. “My attentions. My hope. Attachment is not easy for me, but I /tried/. I gave them more of myself than they deserved, and when they left me they took it all away with them. Shouldn’t my attentions have been reciprocated? My effort? Where was their sacrifice for me?”

His arms move closer together and sink deeper. The water rises higher on his skin. His arms tense as if he is pulling on something that won’t quite give. Trying to yank something back out.

“I’ll have it back. Even if now, it’s just a reminder how everyone ultimately fails me. God loves all his flock, selflessly, completely, no matter how stupid, or banal, or trite they are. No matter how much they stray. But I’m not God. Who could be that perfect? I won’t do the same.”

His shoulders hunch. “You want to leave here? Get a key. Go ahead. I made a game for you. It might be inside one of them…” He glances at the hanging girls, their widening eyes, and the knives on the table against the left wall of the room. Then, his head turns, slowly tilting towards the dark red liquid sloshing around his forearms. “Or it might be here.”

The strung girls begin struggling. Anyone who wants to do any looking inside them with the business end of a knife will need help to hold them still. The alternative, of course, is to go right up side-by-side with Kyo– there’s certainly no way to edge to the opposite side of the tub– and fish around in the water with him. He doesn’t seem to intend to remove his own hands from the tub for the courtesy of whoever wants to do the searching.

“I wonder which is more repugnant to you,” he murmurs.

Tohya Kidzuki [DS] has posed.

Tohya can’t say much about Shinsuke’s dungeon, having not attended–but hearing Mitsuru speak up, and seeing the others approaching Kyo… This, at least, is something better. She does not look at Miwa–she does not say anything to Miwa, at the moment. Instead–Kyo replies. Kyo replies, and little Akari over there is petrified,and Tohya’s eyes slide directly to Kyo, as he speaks up, gray finding that strange yellow.

“Good,” she replies, flatly. And then–he speaks. He talks about it… what they ‘deserved’.

“You still don’t get it,” she says to Kyo, as the girls begin struggling–Tohya keeps her position beside one, and makes no move at all for the knives. “What does it matter how hard you tried? It doesn’t. ‘Trying’ doesn’t change a thing. What, you think the world owes you something for your efforts? You think these girls owe you anything? …You can’t ‘take back’ time, you can’t ‘take back’ attention. It is what it is. …You’re right. You’re not God. You’re not any kind of god. …You’re just a demon.”

“You can’t force people to love you.” Her eyes slip from Kyo, here, go to Miwa. “You can’t tell them what they should want, what they should decide. It’s up to them, what’s important… What, who, they choose. …Like it or not… That’s just how it is.”

“Nobody owes you anything. I’m sure not here for you. …if Akatsuki really said what he did–then you know? He was wrong.”

“It wouldn’t be better if you died. It’d be better if you’d never been born.”

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

When Miwa finds her eyes, Naomi shakes her head. “It’s what could be but it isn’t real,” she says, and regardless of her earlier disappointment, she reassures the other girl with this much – as much as the truth allows. She remains where she stands when a few others start to move towards Kyo, Tatsuya moving to get this over with, and Mitsuru with Shinsuke in tow. Hearing the other ojou’s words, she shakes her head. “You can communicate your entreaties as much as you like, but he won’t take it to heart,” she tells her friend, though she doesn’t explain her words.
‘No matter what you pathetic creatures try, I will always have a counter. Do you know WHY?’ Kyo’s voice snarls from her memories. ‘…..People hampered by emotions, and morals, and fears. That’s why I will always win, in the end. I will think of that which would never occur to you. I will do what you won’t–!!’
“The more efficient course of action would be just to incapacitate him and drag him out of here by force if that’s him,” she recommends, her eyes forward and pointedly not looking at Miwa while she says this. Her grip on her sword’s hilt tightens, rolling her shoulder back….only for Kyo to speak, words that verify that it isn’t him but something else instead.
‘I made a game for you.’
More games. What had Tatsuya said back then…?
‘You drove him off, but you did it how he wanted you to. You bested him, but you did it playing his game.’
“We either play the game or we don’t. We can wash our hands of this and leave him here, or we can play, and save someone who isn’t worth a modicum of effort. But in the end, it’s all about perspective, isn’t it? I’m not doing this for him, I’m doing this for Miwa.”
Her violet eyes find her friend’s from across the room.
“And hopefully she’ll be able to live with it.”
With that, she sheathes her sword, tossing her gloves away. Striding towards the tub, she plunges her hands into the red liquid.

Benihime Asano [U] has posed.

Meanwhile, Benihime still keeps behind most everyone, content to lay low and, naturally, draw little attention to herself. Most people here have some sort of attachment to the former Sevens president; hers is another reason entirely. Will anyone ask? Probably not; they would have, she thinks, by now.

It comes as some dim surprise to her that people do not fearfully react as she expected most would. As they speak she listens; they’re not real, she hears from a few. So what are they, then? She hasn’t a clue. All of this sort of thing is fairly new to her, and so very interesting. How could she have not found all of this sooner..?

Her attentions snap back onto Kyo (?) as he speaks. His words draw curiosity from the strange, pale-faced girl. She does not balk at him, nor scowl in contempt; she just watches impassively and listens. In her chest, her heart beats firm. Benihime’s gaze breaks only briefly to survey the gathered people. Surely they will be angry with him?

But not her.

When there is suggestion of a game, of a key, Benihime just looks aside, to the floor. She doesn’t really /care/ what goes on. She’s content to sit here and watch. When Tohya speaks up rather vehemently toward the questionable Kyo, Benihime’s expression turns a bit more visibly sour. She decides that, then and there, she hates this girl–well, more than she already despises most of the entire human race.

She catches herself biting her lip only because of the bitter taste of sharp copper in her mouth. Shaking her head, she waits to see just who will pick up a knife and carve these ‘imaginary girls’ into pieces for the sake of winning this game. It would seem that Naomi is the first. Benihime’s burgundy gaze hoods sharply.

Shinsuke Kusagawa [SEES] has posed.

Shinsuke’s head snaps up at the sudden sound of Kyo’s voice slicing through the air, juxtaposed horribly with that once-beloved face and the bloody water-soaked shirtsleeves. His fretful speech draws a frown, Shinsuke’s well-kept brows knitting over still-dispassionate eyes. “No one is perfect,” he replies, echoing his Shadow. “But it seems the mystery of ‘agape’ is revealed,” he says, looking back at Tohya. Her own speech holds his attention, which flicks from Tohya to Miwa (confirming another theory) — and then to Naomi.
Shinsuke pauses.
Then, “Suzuno-san is right.” A grimace flickers over his features, and he continues, “To ‘play the game’…”
Heart icing over out of necessity, Shinsuke strides purposefully over to the Shadow’s trove of knives and selects one with a numb hand. It were better, if this is how it must be, for one who actually knows what he’s doing to try. His willingness to do what must be done to save people, to protect them, is sometimes a sickening burden. He looks up at Akatsuki, briefly, then back to the trussed-up girls.
“The kindest mercy is a sharp scalpel.”

Tatsuya Suou [DS] has posed.

Whatever lack of normal human experience Tatsuya Suou might have had through his teenaged years as he attempted to distance himself from the rest of society, he /has/ seen enough movies to know about serial killers playing elaborate games of cat and mouse with investigators. His response to Kyo’s ‘excuse me, what the fuck are you doing?’ look is one of flat affect, Suou’s ability to project a poker face certainly one of the better ones out there, but while Tohya tries to bait Kyo, or perhaps the Shadow of Kyo, Tatsuya instead decides on a path of action–

–Just in time for Naomi to maneuver past him and do exactly what he was going to do.

“Ah,” says Tatsuya, his tone one of mild dismay, but despite that he poises to act, or react if necessary, with one hand free and the other tight on the hilt of his sword, because a) he doesn’t believe Kyo would /not/ have some horrible trick planned and b) god /dammit/, Naomi.

Akatsuki Enda [U] has posed.

Akatsuki’s expression does not change as Kyo goes into his spiel about how hard he tried and how it was all for nothing and he’s just not that nice, not that /perfect/ to tolerate these sheep. It does not change–it hardens, freezes. He hears something very similar in those words.
It sounds familiar because he remembers saying something rather similar a few days ago to the people who came for him under the bridge downtown.
“Yeah, I said it,” he tells Tohya quietly, eyes now riveted on the Shadow of his brother, “about a month ago.”
Internally, he seethes at this ‘game.’ He’s angry, actually /angry/ in a way he couldn’t summon just a few moments ago. The longer he stays here, the more it seems he cracks again. But he’s not just angry at Kyo; he’s angry at–
“This game,” he declares, “is /bullshit/. Suzuno-san, please get out of the way.”
And with that, whether she does or not, he attempts to simply kick the tub right over, to spill everything all at once–including the key, if it is in there, if Akatsuki can even manage to do anything more than stub his toe.

Miwa Saitou [DS] has posed.

“I hope… that it isn’t real,” is Miwa’s soft reply. Her gaze only darts away from Naomi when Kyo begins to speak.

Attachment isn’t easy for him, he’s said. His words stir a memory in Miwa. ‘I’ve /never/ been able to just ‘tell’ exactly how people feel. I always have to go the long way. Analyze. Dissect. Research.’
Kyo had said that to her once. And Miwa had been horrified to realize that he hadn’t been lying. He tugs at something, and she flinches away. All that he’d given her which she’d kept… what did that count?

Only Tohya cuts through that sick fog that slithers across her thoughts. Though it’s only a look turned her roommate’s way, it’s a desperately thankful one.
And she says the only thing that she can. “What you gave me, I gave you. I…” Miwa swallows. “I don’t want it back.”

Kyo. Or the girls. Miwa again finds it difficult to speak. Perhaps they’re imaginary girls. Perhaps none of this is really happening. But so repugnant is the thought to her that, heart pounding, she takes a step foward.

“I–” she starts to say, fully intent on offering herself up to attempt that alternative to murder. Naomi beats her to it. Akatsuki attempts to follow. “Naocchi, no! Akatsuki-san!” she’s cried out, shaking her head vehemently. He’s attacked Naomi before. Assaulted her. He’d nearly killed his own brother once. At least Miwa herself could be certain of what Kyo felt for her.
Love? Obsession? She didn’t know for certain, save that he’d stayed his hand against her before.

Mai Namikawa [K] has posed.

Meat? That…made an unpleasant amount of sense. Mai certainly did not feel like he saw her as another human being, she was just something he used for his own desires of revenge, she may as well have been a dog and it would not have made much difference to Kyo as long as the message had been sent. She watches him next to his bloody bath and his strange bowl, wondering what this one will do-

Wait, he answers? He’s…this Kyo is the true Kyo? Maybe? He speaks of giving as if it was a trade, really. “You make love and affection sound like economic principles, Kyo Enda.” where if you give X of yourself you get Y back, and maybe with Z interests. It might be simpler if it was like that, but that’s just not how people are. She’ll let the romantics be more aggressive in their retorts, simply as a part of her…felt he had a point. She understood what he wanted and how emotions were annoyingly complicated to understand not to mention uncontrollable in others, it was his methods however that kept her from sympathising with him a second time.

His tirade about god and his love is a little lost on her until he finishes his metaphor, how he will not love selflessly – or maybe he can’t. She does not truly care for it much, seeing the failure of others and not in himself just reminded Mai just what an ego Kyo had when they last met and still had now. She’s far more attentive when he talks of a key…

There is a bit of a smile when Tohya calls him a demon. It’s true that he had alot in common with those, in fact he perhaps would get along splendidly with them – in their bloody survival of the fittest sort of society they had. “I guess we have little in ways of alternatives.” Her ‘plan B’ card was not exactly ready, and here would be among the last places she would want to test it. She moves toward one of the girls – surprisingly AVOIDING Hanging-Rena entirely, drawing one of her swords. The Yawarakai-Te slides out gently, the hilt gripped with both hands and the blade held pointed upward. “I am sorry. You will feel nothing, if it is any consolation.” is a pretty pitiful apology for a person who is probably not even real, but on the upside, the blade that cuts incredibly well just tears upward in one strong motion. Skull, brain tissue, soft tissue, skin, bone, muscle, it may as well all be paper as the weapon moves from the first strand of hair to between the girl’s legs in a completely unhindered motion. Her mind is only applying the limit of ‘metal’, the sword will not cut anything metallic. Hopefully this ‘key’ is not organic or plastic.

She’s expecting that it’s going to make a bloody mess all the same not to mention other liquids and solids that may end up splattering on the floor as a result.

Akari Hoshi [NWO] has posed.

Even beneath Seiichi’s arm, Akari still trembles against her will. As strong as she wanted to seem her young age seems to be working against her. Trying to pull herself together, Akari nods at Seiichi. “I-I know… it’s just… I don’t understand what made him like this? Do we all have something like this inside of us?” She frowns and looks down at the ground. It seemed like the safest place to look.

The voice though causes her to look back up at him. As his gaze looks towards Mitsuru and Tatsuya, Akari fully expects something terrible to happen. Well, worse than the imagery that they are seeing now. However, nothing happens and he resumes whatever it is he is doing. Akari wants to know what is in the bloodwater. She forces herself to take a few steps forward but is still a good distance away from it and the closer she gets, the more visibly she trembles.

As she listens to his words, Akari can’t make sense of them. The wheels of her brain just don’t make the connections fast enough. It’s not until the others speak that some of the pieces fall together. As Kyo mentions the game, Akari looks up at the bodies, “Sei-chan… is this for real? Are we really going to have to…?” Her voice trails off, unable to even complete the thought out loud. She shakes her head slowly. No way was she going to touch them, or that tub, even if Seiichi said it wasn’t real. It all looked pretty real to her and that was enough.

The others seem to be a lot stronger than her though and begin moving towards the red tub and then for the hanging girls. Akari can only watch in quiet horror. She bites her lip holding back a scream. Tears pour down her face and she turns her face away from the others thinking how badly she wants to make it all stop…

Mitsuru Kirijo [SEES] has posed.

Mitsuru stands there, back straight and eyes flashing. Inside, Penthesilea is /seething/ at the sight of the women, still alive, strung up like meat, sacrifices for the slaughter. It wasn’t enough that he forced himself onto her person, but now this? Demanding that people /return/ what he gave..?! But Mitsuru Kirijo doesn’t give into that anger. Her will is strong and she’ll need that rage if things go poorly.

But even as he speaks, her grip on her weapons tighten. SEES is against Death and even if Kyo, as messed up as he is, acts in every way like he deserves it, it’s not her place to be his judge. If he committed these crimes, she has to take him back to the real world and see that he pays for it and gets the psychological help he so obviously needs.

Having morals is really really hard sometimes.

She looks to Naomi questioningly. “Entreaties..?” Her voice trails off, distracted by Kyo’s idea of a ‘game’. She watches in mute horror as her friend just goes right up and plays his game.

Motion catches the corner of her eye and she half turns to see Shinsuke picking up a scalpel and Mai neatly bisecting one of the hanging women. “!!!!!” She clamps her hand over her mouth, biting down hard on her lip to try and stop the sudden wave of nausea and distress. She chokes for a moment and then, “Namikawa-san, Kusagawa-san!” Her tone is harsh, brittle as cast iron. If no shadows appear, she will lecture them right here in front of everyone. “We do not play his game /this/ way!” Oh, there will be a reckoning when they get out of here. Even if they’re ‘fake’ constructs.

Seiichi Miyamoto [NWO] has posed.

“A game?” Seiichi growls out softly. Yes. A game. Very much like a game. He remembers how he did much the same thing. Though his own games were no where near as brutal or disgusting. No his games were tame compared to what is happening now. He shakes his head just slightly at that. “Yuo can’t have that bad, hope and attentions. It is something that is freely given to be accepted or rejected.” His voice is low and quiet though, half intended for himself and not for the man with his hands stained in blood. That gaze flickers towards Mitsuru as he says it before looking back to the figure by the tub.
For a moment though he turns to continue to cover Akari with one arm. “Don’t look.” He adds even as Mai bisects one of the hanging bodies. “Just don’t look for now. We’ll get though this soon enough.” He assures her. Then he steels his hand around the hilt of the sword before turning back towards the bathtub. “…play by his rules to play the game.” He murmurs. “I prefer to break the rules, its the fastest way to win. Mind your shoes.” He adds as he turns to slash at the outside of the tub near the waterline, hopefully cutting a hole in it to make Naomi’s job a touch easier. Of course it could not work, but he has to at least try.

Rui Onishi [K] has posed.

So much of this confuses Miss Onishi.

Not so much because these are all the trials of persons she does not know… but the play of emotion on their faces, the responses to the smell of ageing blood and the sight of apparent physiological torture… all the things Rui decrees are symptoms of humanity. All of this affects them in ways it does not and cannot affect her own self. All of this is alien and disconcerting, and trying to parse their own expressions, their reticence against doing something so inconsequential as opening bodies of their own… it’s like trying to feel out a foreign language. And Rui knows she was never meant to have her own fluency in such a thing.

She watches the Suzuno girl storm forward, her head tilting mildly after her actions, and Rui’s yellow eyes crease a little in an appraising way. She comes so close to wanting to understand all those emotions…

But the woman turns her head away, reaffecting her prim and formal stance, poised there with her eternal patience. She does nothing to suggest wanting to assist the others, perhaps having decided that doing so is a mechanism left to human beings, and tools such as themselves have to reason to act unless wielded or guided.

Then again, as her sharp eye turns on Mai, drawn to watch as the girl unsheathes a sword to open one of the struggling girls and turn her into a gaping cavity, Rui steps back artfully to let the gout of blood miss her white suit. Somewhat long-sufferingly, she shakes her head at the mess.

Shinsuke Kusagawa [SEES] has posed.

The fact that Akatsuki made a similar speech to Shinsuke is not lost on the younger teen; if anything, it impels him more strongly to be rid of this place, of the twins of the dawn. He, like Mai, is finding something gratingly sensible about the idea of economic affection, despite his overriding sense that love /does not work that way/, and that tiny discrepancy bothers him more than he can say. It has always been difficult — uncomfortable — to balance his emotional nature with his cerebral one, and even his newfound sense of balance is merely a foundation, not a panacea.
This isn’t helping.
As Akatsuki attempts to kick over the tub and Mai bisects one of Kyo’s victims, possibly scattering viscera all over the floor, Shinsuke moves to one of the other girls. “I am so sorry,” he whispers to her, heart aching as he takes her pleading face in his hands for a moment of human contact before the cutting begins. The white-clad youth runs a gloved thumb over the blade of his scalpel, eyeing it against the white leather — is it sharp enough? He didn’t bring his kit…well, it’s too late now. Lightly, the steel blade makes contact with chill skin-
And jerks backward suddenly at the sound of Mitsuru’s voice, commanding and insistent. Shinsuke blinks, raising his dispassionate gaze to his furious senpai, and gently shakes his head. “Kirijo-senpai, when you are in the realm of the supernatural, you must play by its rules,” he replies slowly. “What else would you have us do?” His tone is not defiant, merely wondering; privately, Shinsuke is hoping Mitsuru — /someone/ — will come up with a viable solution, something that doesn’t require him to bloody his hands in the name of necessity.
He trusts her.

Kyo Enda [U] has posed.

Kyo’s Shadow stares blankly at Tohya with lamplike yellow eyes as she rails how he still ‘doesn’t get it.’ As she tries to lecture and scourge him with logic that would make perfect sense to someone who wasn’t cognitively impaired in all the crucial moral ways. His reaction probably isn’t the desired one: it isn’t anger, or amusement, or insult. It’s just puzzlement. ‘You think the world owes you?’ she rails. ‘You think those girls owe you for your effort?’

“Of course,” he says, as if this were self-evident. Narcissism is, after all, one of the most common hallmarks of these types of sick minds…

His eyes darken into skepticism as she rants about what he can and can’t force. He’s seen evidence otherwise… or so he thinks. He has no true understanding of love, after all, and so to him forcing others to show him affection IS essentially ‘getting them to love him.’ He doesn’t seem surprised by her last venomous sally, either. His eyes seem to say he expected nothing else from a bitch like her.

The Shadow turns its eyes, then, watching Shinsuke as he lifts that scalpel and makes one of the two presented choices. To Mai, as she cuts straight to the heart of that same choice. The bodies split apart readily, revealing, perhaps to everyone’s relief, nothing but cleaned interiors empty of organs, resembling nothing so much as gutted deer. Kyo watches all these things, with a savage satisfaction that indicates he enjoys forcing others to behave as he would. But then Akatsuki tries to just NOT play the game– and the Shadow abruptly buckles down, his arms bracing to prevent the tub from going anywhere. Seiichi’s blade seems to glance off it as well… “You always,” he growls at his brother, “spoil my fun, Akatsuki.”

And then Naomi makes her own decisive choice, striding up beside him to push her hands into the bloody water with him. His mouth coils in a smile, his head turning to regard her so close beside him. Beneath the surface, his right hand closes abruptly on her wrist– and then, oddly enough, his touch gentles. His fingers slide over the back of her hand, and begin to slowly /guide/ it. Her fingertips slip over what feels first like flesh, and then like exposed bone, and then– like a key. He stops Naomi’s hand over it.

“I could have loved someone like you,” he whispers, before letting her go.

He stands up, already fading back into the thick shadows of the room. “We’ll see one another again soon.” And the key -will- work. It leads them back out of the room, and into the foyer… where the third door is now slightly open. No light at all escapes from beyond it.

Kyo Enda [U] has posed.

Behind the door, there is darkness. Only once the room is entered, and the door slams shut with a final-sounding thud, is there light. Flaring up suddenly like a thousand tiny suns, candles scattered across the room suddenly catch alight. The effect is blinding in the dark. It’s hard to make any distinctions within the darkness, to see anything but their light for several moments. There are circles of light, rings made of the candles, while others sit in what surely must be small alcoves in the wall. The walls themselves are black and depthless, seeming to drink up whatever candlelight spills upon them.

As eyes adjust, a pattern can be made out across the floor’s center, painted in a deep red. The innermost ring of candles traces the outer limits of the circle, the bulk of what lies within it a many-pointed star. Between the arms, strange symbols have been laid out, odd constructs of lines and circles.

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

“No?” Naomi lifts her head, fixing her sharp stare at the teal-haired girl and her patience suddenly evaporating. Her pale cheeks glow rose at her temper; unlike her Port Island counterpart, she has absolutely no qualms unleashing just a fraction of her ire. “-NO-? You of all people should’ve known what to expect COMING HERE ALONE, Miwa! But I know you, you won’t leave him here and we in turn won’t leave you! If you have a plan, if -anyone else- can think of an alternative, I’d be happy to hear it, because as uncharacteristic as it is for me, I’m -fresh out-!”
Akatsuki moves forward, and she doesn’t miss the formal address. She doesn’t respond verbally, but she does shift out of the way, closer to where Tatsuya is standing with his katana in hand, ready should the tub itself be a trap.
However, she’s unable to move far when Kyo’s hand seizes her wrist; the sudden movement causes her to jerk her elbow slightly in an effort to dislodge the sudden vise, only for his grip to remain on her limb. Gritting her teeth, she’s forced to look at him in the eye, locking gazes with him. Her eyes narrow into amaranthine slits.
“…..let go of me,” she murmurs, her voice pitched low, the warning growled from the back of her throat.
Something changes, however, feeling her hand pulled towards exposed flesh and bone, the unseen ivory ridges pricking her skin until she finds cold, hard metal biting into it. Her astonishment renders her mute for a few moments, her stare drawn towards the nauseatingly crimson fluid, and back up to Kyo’s shade at his whisper.
“…..you could have,” she tells him resolutely. “If you had a heart.”
She watches him vanish in the shadows, and with a breath, closes her fingers over the key and tears it out from the water, watching the viscous red tendrils drip and spiderweb over her hand. After a few moments, she slowly opens her fingers, the key glinting within. Meeting Tatsuya’s eyes for a moment, she turns to march back towards the door and unlatch it, to head into the next leg of their bogus journey.

Tohya Kidzuki [DS] has posed.

…About a month ago. So that’s that–Tohya nods, slightly, as Akatsuki mentions it. Naomi is already there, moving in, and Shinsuke… is talking about playing the game after all. Tohya’s expression tightens further, at that, even as–

Maybe it will fall over. And if it doesn’t, Suou is there, in case the Shadow pulls something. But then… A thankful look, out of Miwa? Surprised a little, Tohya inclines her head again, “…Goes both ways.”

But the cut, if–

“Wait–!” The cutting is already starting, and Tohya does reach out, though there’s nothing she can do to change it, at first, “We don’t need to–!”

She takes a breath, then, looking to Akari, “…” But she can’t say much of antyhing, there. Sure, she has morals of her own–but they differ, a bit. She’s learned different lessons than SEES has, in her experiences… Even if she was a part of something of their opposite number, once. Perhaps especially so.

…But of course. ‘Of course’, he says, and Tohya shakes her head. “….Yeah, I thought as much.” She’s played this game before–she seems not to feel some huge weight of despair over being brushed off… Because truthfully, he proved as much to her before. She’s seen it. But as Naomi gets the key, and he leaves…

“Of course,” she says, sighing. “It /would/ require us to deal with him, wouldn’t it? …He’s all that matters.” A pause, and then, “Let’s spoil some more ‘fun’. …Careful.” She hasn’t seen Benihime’s new change of feelings about her. Really, she only slightly recognizes the girl–not like she spent most of her time at Sevens doing things like ‘actually attending class’, or anything. No, instead… She walks on back. Naomi does her shouting… So yeah. That’s it. Now, at the foyer, “Come on. Let’s go.”

And beyond the door, as it slams shut–candles, everywhere. Circles, rings, what the… Some kind of pattern…? “What the hell? …I was just being poetic with the demon thing.”

Benihime Asano [U] has posed.

Does the world owe Kyo Enda..?

Those words stick with Benihime as she observes the goings-on around her. His response is strangely satisfying to the young Sevens student. Of course, he says. And the world does probably owe him, as it owes /her/. People are horrible, horrible monsters. All of them, monsters.

When Shinsuke and Mai seem to take to action, Benihime simply observes, her response akin to that of Rui Onishi’s; she steps away, to let gore or whatever else may fly from the bisection of one of the hanging ‘girls’. When what’s actually lay inside is revealed–nothing–Benihime’s thin black brows lift curiously.

She supposes, then, they really were fake.

“Mn.”

Her attentions snap back to Kyo as Naomi is grabbed and forced to do his bidding for the moment. Tilting her head with genuine curiosity, the taciturn girl observes, then–as the door opens thanks to Naomi’s ‘courageous’ (more like stupid) and presents an exit /back/ to the foyer–turns and patiently steps out, meeting no one’s gaze, only briefly eyeing Tohya with what SEEMS to be a seething hatred behind otherwise docile burgundy eyes. Looking ahead to the next door, she follows into the strange room.

And, upon entering, observes as she does. Flinching at the light–stark contrast to the darkness of before–Benihime steps aside, away from the door, near the wall. She studies the circle upon the floor, the deep red star, those strange symbols.

“Mn,” she offers silently, aloud, to herself. Her heart continues to beat quicker than usual. What will he present next, what darkness will he reveal..?

Tatsuya Suou [DS] has posed.

Having gotten somewhat used to the concept of actually having friends, Tatsuya is not super keen on the idea of letting them take poorly thought out risks – that is his job – despite the fact that nearly all of them seem to do it constantly, especially Miwa. Though he knows, objectively, that Naomi is a big girl who can take care of herself, the impulse to protect the small group of people he’s surrounded himself with is a powerful one. Besides, in his mind the world would more regret the loss of the Spencer heiress than it would him.

Also he knows a thing or two about Kyo’s habits with regard to touching young women, things that make his skin crawl and his hackles rise as Naomi plays along with his game, much to Kyo’s clear delight.

“Has she always been like that, Kirijo?” Tatsuya wonders of Mitsuru, as Naomi heads off on the warpath after her no doubt unsettling close encounter with Kyo Enda, the tall young man having been too keenly focused on what was happening at the tub to really notice Mitsuru’s reaction to others playing along with Enda’s game.

Moments later, though, Tatsuya heads along to the next area as well, frowning slightly at the strange symbols on the floor… Which are, ultimately, pretty much nonsense to Tatsuya.

Akatsuki Enda [U] has posed.

“The fact that you think this *is* fun,” Akatsuki snaps back to his brother’s Shadow, foot recoiling when he fails to manage to kick it over, “is what makes me want to spoil it.” He even moves forward to try to slap the Shadow away when he takes Naomi by the hand, only barely stopping himself when he realizes what he’s doing. Which “he”? Well… both, really. And the net result is a key…
He doesn’t look over at Mai or Shinsuke or the Shadow-girls they either vivisected or attempted to vivisect; instead, he gives Naomi a vaguely troubled look before he stiffly steps back, cracking his head upwards as Naomi reams into Miwa. He says nothing, and after a moment he looks away, letting her join Tatsuya to march on over to the door.
His eyes fall momentarily on Rui and Benihime, who seem to take all this in stride far more than is normal. Akatsuki frowns slightly, and keeps them in the corner of his eyes as he follows the rest out into the next room, where darkness greets them only to run away in the wake of the flare of candles, leaving only strange lines and circles behind to be their hosts.
/Odd,/ he thinks. /What does this have to do with anything…?/

Mai Namikawa [K] has posed.

Like a cat who’s just been told she just did a BAD BAD thing, Mai seems to almost shrink, her body language defensive and apologetic. “But-but…what were we to do? If I try to cut the fabric of space around us I could hit the wrong seam and we get a one-way trip to limbo!” or, if the TV World had any sense of irony, the infomercial space. Besides, she was fairly certain that no matter how legendary her weapons may be, they must have limits, and even if they can cut shields with repeated effort the ‘doors’ of the TV World may be a little too much. “I am sorry, Kirijo-sempai, but I saw no other course available.”

At least her expectations were dashed and she is not covered in gore, bile, stomach acid and so on. There is happyness to be found in small blessings, but when she looks back toward the tub area-

Naomi is elbow-deep into bloody water yelling at Miwa about the lack of choice she also sees, and Kyo has a far too big a smile about it. He’s enjoying this far too much and there’s really nothing they can do about it either. She is fairly sure it’s not Kyo’s human self at this point that is taunting them, just how commanding he behaves and how effortlessly he moves out – at least, she’s assuming it’s his Shadow. Again, the TV World had a tendency that when she thinks she understands how this place works it finds a new curveball to toss her way.

She moves toward the door as Naomi opens it, “Keep walking, Saitou-san, you will witness this debacle you forced your friends in rather than asked for their cooperation until the very end. This is your burden to bear right now.” she says while passing next to Miwa, rather than following her original instinct to hit her for her recklessness. Her weapon remains in hand for now, but kept low and away from people.

The familiar foyer is a briefly appreciated scent-less place as they move to the third door with something else she can’t understand what it says, annoyingly enough. If her phone DID work she’d probably furiously net-search those words. This new place…well, Tohya’ shouted comment about demon comparison being poetic seems to be strangely appropriate. Yet these kinds of patterns were mostly unknown to Mai, which is why she seems to be visually tracing mental lines between candles and try to figure out what’s this all for. “Did we take a wrong turn somewhere, or is he a worshipper of the dark gods on top of everything else?”

Daiya Kagami [S] has posed.

People leave, and once again, there’s someone staying behind. Daiya, still in her Poltergeist attire, steps out from behind the fake Rena suspended on that meat hook. The door the group goes through, however, starts closing behind them almost immediately. The Queen runs towards it, still tiptoeing despite her speed… and it slams shut. She lets out a small, annoyed groan. Looks like they’ll have to find another way around. Or she’ll have to tunnel down with Rena?

Either way, her golden gaze meets the hooked Rena’s empty one. “Rena-chan?” For once, she actually sounds a mite /unsettled/. Not shaken, so much as surprised and a little upset. “Did you hear what happened? I… really think you should see this.”

It’s how Kyo sees her friend, isn’t it? Daiya had never been expecting anything much different, but that won’t stop her from feeling disgusted. If Rena emerges, she’ll find the normally regal Queen with her head hung low, trickles of blood streaming down her white mask’s eyeholes. That emotion, this bitter disappointment… It tears her apart, yet it’s what keeps her alive to begin with. It feeds her. And hopefully it’ll feed Rena too, or so she hopes.

Mitsuru Kirijo [SEES] has posed.

“Even if this is the realm of the supernatural, that does not mean we have to abandon our own personal morality. He wants to drag us down to his level. There is always another way, even if we can’t see it immediately. Even if it means cutting open a seam in the time space continuum.” If that happened, at least even Kyo would be caught by surprise by that! Mitsuru has long since come to a sort of despairing resignation towards Mai’s tendencies of doing things the efficient, if brutal way but that still doesn’t make it right. She tries to take a deep breath, visibly relieved that the girl Mai cut open was nothing more than a ‘prop’.

But she doesn’t really have a good response to ‘what else’. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), Naomi answered it for her. People try to tip over the tub, but the key was in there. The outburst of rage doesn’t /quite/ take Mitsuru by surprise. All the physical carnage around her has worn that away. Instead, she turns to Tatsuya as he passes and with a resigned sigh, nods slightly. “She’s always been the willful one.”

With key in hand and Naomi blazing a trail, she follows with her sword and evoker, mentally steeling herself for whatever horrors come next even as Mai forces Miwa to march forward. She glances over at Seiichi and then Akari and then the two strange women that she’s never met before who don’t seem.. that affected by this place. Strange…

Shaking her head, she wills herself to focus at the business at hand. Even if she is not here as part of a ‘SEES’ mission, she still has to set an example for her kohai. With back straight, she enters the third room of the ‘night’ so far. Finally, something a little more familiar and less disturbing! “… A summoning circle.” Warily, she raises her evoker to her temple again and waits.

Akari Hoshi [NWO] has posed.

Seiichi’s touch is somewhat comforting and she continues to look away from everything for a few minutes, her tears finally slowing as she tries to regain some sense of composure. As Seiichi takes matters into his own hands Akari cries out, “NO SEI-CHAN, DOOOOON’T!” She runs behind him, not seeming to care that she just closed the distance between herself and Kyo. However, his efforts are in vain and she breathes a sigh of relief.

Akari notably avoids looking where the now gutted girls are hanging. Her gaze instead looking at Kyo. The past month or so of worrying about what would happen if he saw her again seem to diminish a little. Only because he doesn’t seem to want to attack. Even though she knew that something bad could still happen, the fact that he steps away and fades into the background is a relief, though his words are haunting, ‘We’ll see one another again soon.’

Looking at Naomi, Akari realizes that she has a key and, taking her place back beside Seiichi, she follows them into the next room which is pitch black. As they enter, once again the door slams behind them. Akari jumps a little but then her vision refocuses and she glances at the candles around the room. As there are no dead, hanging bodies in here the younger girl relaxes a little bit more, even moving away from Seiichi to look closer at the pattern on the ground which doesn’t seem to make much sense to her… but then Mitsuru mentions summoning circle and Akari backs off, “Are you serious Kirijo-san?” She looks back down at it from a distance, expecting something terrible to jump out at them. Something even worse than /KYO ENDA/.

Shinsuke Kusagawa [SEES] has posed.

In the end, it turns out to have been unnecessary after all. The bodies, their organs displaced and their flesh drained of blood, were devoid of the key as well as viscera. Shinsuke’s lips firm into a line. How characteristic of someone like Kyo, a narcissist and sociopath, to require interaction with himself to be “the key”, so to speak, to finding the object of their search! Regardless, Shinsuke bows his head apologetically and accepts Mitsuru’s reproach; unlike Kyo, he can accept that the actions he intended to take were distasteful in the sight of others. There is something liberating in a lack of concern for others’ scorn, but this is not the place for Shinsuke to play any sort of card and he knows it. Instead, he echoes Mai, who likewise shrinks from Mitsuru’s wrath. “I- it is as Mai-san says, senpai. I saw no other choice.” And he doesn’t have a super-awesome Joker-granted blade with which to pare reality; all he has are his hands, his skills, and necessity. Is he on Kyo’s level, then?
‘My hands are stained with blood. I see little reason to stay them now.’
Wait, wrong game.
Back on the not-Titanic, Shinsuke reaches behind him and grabs a bit of plastic off of the table bearing all the sharp, pointy implements; it turns out to be a blade cover for his scalpel, which he then pockets. Following the group out of the room, Mai and Naomi’s sharp words to Miwa echo in his mind, as do Akari’s screams. This is no place for a young girl, he reflects.
The glare of the candles in the next room blinds him for a moment, and Shinsuke squeezes his eyes shut as coruscating afterimages sear themselves into his eyelids. A star…painted in blood…and candles…
“A summoning circle…” he echoes.

Miwa Saitou [DS] has posed.

Miwa has never been a target of Naomi’s ire before. Flinching as if struck at the stare alone, she’s gone entirely rigid as Naomi lays into her verbally. “I-I just… I didn’t want you to have to do this! You shouldn’t have to…” To get close to Kyo. To put her hands in… whatever lay below the surface. She can’t even look over at her friend as she continues to plead with Naomi. “Let me do it, I should be the one who has to… to do something like that…”

From behind her is a sickening tearing sound. Mitsuru cries out, confirming her suspicions. Miwa, thankfully, does not turn around, hunching over as she clasps her hands over her mouth and nose. Even the sight of a ‘prop’ might have been a little too much for her. She retches, though there’s nothing in her stomach.

Ahead of her, as she can see through her halfclosed eyes when she lifts her head, Akatsuki and Seiichi do their best to avert Kyo’s game, to spare Naomi… to no avail.

She can’t stand here. Hands fall away, and straightening, she takes several stiff steps towards the ominous bathtub, more like a store mannequin somehow made to walk like a human. “Naocchi–Naocchi–!” It is too late for her to intervene. Naomi at least comes away with a key.

Forced them… she hadn’t meant that, but–!
But they were all trapped in here now. Who else’s fault would it be?
Shoulders shake, then sag sharply. Slowly, jerkily, she’s nodded at Mai’s words, before shutting her eyes tight and walking towards the door. She doesn’t open them until she can breathe clearly again. The next door is open…

A hand is raised as she’s just about blinded by the sudden flare of light about her. Spots dance before her eyes. “Is that…?” she’s wondered aloud, glancing at the ring and symbols, only to jerk her head up at a sound.

Footsteps are heard first. Even with the light blazing bright enough at the center of the room, shadows seem to cling to their form as they carefully step over the edge of the great circle and stride towards its center. The occluding dark slides from the figure like a cloud passes from the face of the moon, revealing them for who they are. Their gaze passes across those gathered here, before settling on one person in particular.

There’s no mistaking their form. Their hair, even their clothes are the same.

She looks exactly like Miwa, in every respect, except…

When had Miwa ever smirked?
When had Miwa ever had golden-colored eyes?

Green eyes widened as she stares at what could very nearly be her twin, Miwa doesn’t so much as make a sound. But as much as she wants to retreat, Miwa takes a step forward. The golden-eyed doppelganger’s cruel smile widens at this display, her gaze nothing short of predatory as she regards Miwa.

“Who… are you?” Miwa has asked, dreading the answer she just thinks she might receive. No, this couldn’t be happening, this wasn’t something that was possible. This wasn’t her dungeon, it was Kyo’s. Wasn’t it?

“I’m you. I’m the real you. And I know why you really came here,” the Shadow proclaims, head cocking to one side. Miwa starts, lips parting as if she’s about to cry out, but she’s not nearly fast enough.

“You came here because you still love him.”

A startled cry escapes Miwa’s lips, and she shakes her head violently. This can’t be happening, she once again screams within herself. Not in front of everyone else! If they’d been disappointed in her before, what must they think of her now? “That’s not–”

Her protests fail to make the Shadow stop.

It tsks. “You’re such a liar. Oh, you love to keep talking about how it’s over. But how you really feel is different, isn’t it?” Sighing dramatically, the Shadow shakes its head. “I’m sure you want to believe you can’t help it. But you know, it’s your fault he even fell in love with you. Don’t you remember all those spells you cast?” Slowly, the Shadow has begun to pace, back and forth across the circle’s center. “That’s right. That’s why you wanted to find your notebooks so badly. You never wanted him to know /exactly/ how low you sank. You wanted to be with him. And you still want to, don’t you?”

“I-I… that’s just not true…” Miwa’s protested weakly, seeming as if she is quite close to crumpling under the weight of these accusations. Her focus remains on the Shadow. She doesn’t dare look at anyone else. She can’t bear to see whatever reactions are etched on their faces. Her biggest fear has always been letting other people down.

The Shadow halts its pacing, regarding her in a manner that might be called ‘curiously’. Then it shakes its head. “Is that so? How about when he was attacked and injured? You took him to your father’s apartment. Did you really need to go that far?” The Shadow takes a step towards Miwa. “Or did you just want an excuse to get close to him again?”

“No…” Miwa breathes, knowing with painful certainty that she’s managed to exactly that. She’s let them down.

COMBAT: Miwa Saitou has activated Shadow Miwa.

Rena Kinukasa [S] has posed.

“I heard things.” Rena’s voice scratches out of the silence in the just-abandoned chamber. For a few seconds following, there is more silence once the last of the echos of Kiyohime-Rena’s voice has faded. Then the water in the bloodied bathtub begins to slosh and bubble.

Somehow, from the depths of the tub, Kiyohime emerges, sliding out of the rancid, tainted water. Steam hisses off the Shadow’s scales immediately after, adding the unpleasant scent of burning blood to the already unpleasant chamber air. A dog might shake themselves clean of the liquid. Rena does not attempt to.

The beast cranes her head upwards, looking at each of the girls in turn, including the remains of the one Mai slaughtered, eventually falling upon the mirror of herself there. “I know them. I watched them. One after one..” she twists, her body veering towards the walls, tiny forearms and feet suddenly digging into it. Like a lizard, she scales the side easily. “Coming to him, loving him, then being discarded. The whole time I thought they were all unworthy.” In short order she almost seems to disappear as she climbs to the too-high ceiling.

“But what happened was they saw the real him. Just as I did one day.” Reaching over, her large jaws close around the chain holding her double to the ceiling by her ankles, delicately chomping the links in half, ungently dropping the doppelganger to the floor.

Releasing her grip, she drops back to the ground with a heavy thud, part of her serpentine bulk coiling around the squirming, flopping form she just released. “This is a part of me.” Rena says, without sadness, a foreclaw moving to touch the frightened Rena’s face. “That will never change.”

Kiyohime’s jaws open far, far wider than they did before, possibly unhinged, possibly just manipulation a Shadow is capable of, so she can swallow down her other self whole.

Seiichi Miyamoto [NWO] has posed.

“Back out Akari, its alright. Nothing happened.” Seiichi urges as the door is unlocked and he nods in the direction of a possible retreat. His ineffectiveness with the tub? That bothers him very little. After all it seems that Naomi has gotten the key right there. Of course she had to play the game, which was bad enough. Then he /talked/ to her. Which was even worse than that. He even feels a touch sorry for her really. However there is little enough time for that sort of thing. No, they should be moving now. Now that the key is found and other things are done the way out is easy to see. However the way out just leads into…another room? This one full of darkne—
FLASH
Oh wait now its light. His eyes tearing up at the sudden change he blinks them clear as he shakes himself to look towards the mad pattern of candles on the ground. He nods once to Mai’s words to Miwa as well. She should at the least do this. Its is the least they can do for forcing this on the rest of them.
“With how the rest of this place looks Namikawa, I think it would be possible.” He murmurs in her question on the dark gods. “I am sure its for summoning something…” His shadow or something else. He doesn’t know yet, but the blades still rest in his hands. Ready if needed.
“She always has been indeed,” Seiichi adds towards Mitsuru. He was on the recieveng enough of that wrath more than once. Sorry not wrath. Will. Yes. Willfullness.
At Mitsuru’s words of moralities though he can’t quite help but smile slightly. Its one of the things he loves about her. That firm grasp of morals, even in the midst of all of this…mess.
He is also waiting. Prepared for something terrible to come out of that circle…what he was /not/ expecting…was a yellow eyed Miwa. That is entirely what he was not expecting. There is a blink of suprise at that. His eyes widen. “They changed the rules again. A double dungeon?” He murmurs as he turns to focus on the Shadow Miwa. Then looking back towards the real Miwa. He always wondered just /what would happen if someone just /accepted/ the shadow form. If they were just OK with that part of themselves, even if they didn’t like it. After all it really /is/ true. Isn’t it?
Even if they never seem to want to believe it.

Benihime Asano [U] has posed.

Well, that was certainly unexpected.

There are two Miwa’s now, perhaps to Benihime’s surprise and, possibly, disgust. Tilting her head absently, the girl seems vaguely perplexed at how such a thing can be. Those aren’t her eyes, she notes of the one in the center of the room. Puzzling, yet certainly fascinating. She likes where this is going.

‘The real you,’ the other Miwa boldly states. The she says that Miwa still loves him. Benihime’s lips quirk into the faintest of grins. The Shadow of herself continues to spill the truth. She used SPELLS to make him love her..?

Benihime has to struggle to bite back the huge grin that threatens to bleed across her otherwise expressionless and cold face. Oh this is MORE than she’d have hoped to learn about Kyo’s ex-girlfriend. This is far, far too delightful..!

Finally, Benihime speaks up, her voice likely quiet, possibly barely carrying to most–perhaps, save, Miwa, who is fraught with paranoia and painful realization she’s let her friends down. “So it’s true, then? That you’d forced him to love you..? My…”

Pausing briefly, the otherwise expressionless young woman flatly states, “You’re a monster.”

Tohya Kidzuki [DS] has posed.

“I’m all for the sentiment, Kirijo-san,” is Tohya’s reply, “But space-time and all that’s a lot flimsier than we give it credit for. I think that’s one thing we /should/ be careful of.” And she can’t blame Mai for that much, even if, “…Though yeah, I’m for not playing by his rules. If the supernatural who owns a realm is a jackass, then we aren’t obligated to be polite. After all… We’ve got some ‘supernatural’ of our own.”

But then… THey’re here. ‘Forced’ is right, it’s true–she’d not had as much to say to Miwa while being here, no, or maybe she, despite her anger, doesn’t really want to turn all of that ire on /her/. But then… No, there’s no mistaking it at all. Tohya would know that face msot anywhere, even witht he eyes different. And the question comes up, and… No, it shouldn’t be like this, at all.

And then, the truth comes out. Tohya, standing in one of the dark places of this room, watches, quiet, her fist tightening, some… as she hears even more about it than before. No, she cannot see what happens in the other room, but here, the Shadow pacing, watching, talking…

Tohya closes her eyes, briefly, and then the tall woman sighs, looking back to the Shadow again. “…Spells…? Wait…” You can do that? Tohya looks to the Shadow warily, for a moment–she’d been about to say something else, but Benihime’s words strike something in her. “What do you mean, spells…? It’s not like stuff like that works. It’s not like you can ‘force’ somebody to love you. …It doesn’t work that way. It’s /never/ worked that way.” And yet, there is that barest bit of uncertainty in her voice that Miwa may be able to hear. “It’s impossible. …Now get out of the way. We’re… we’re getting her out of here.”

Akari Hoshi [NWO] has posed.

Things change and Akari hears the footsteps, as her eyes focus again she suddenly realizes that there are /two/ Miwa’s and one looks visibly different from the one that she is familiar with. She looks back at Seiichi and whoever else is nearby, ” Oh my god! Why are there two of them?!” She is deeply confused. Unfortunately, no one ever explained this part of the TV to her. What was going to happen now? Were they going to have to fight this copy?

Akari looks back at the real Miwa and something happens. She has the urge to tell the older girl that it’s alright. She remembered the look that Miwa had at their last encounter and the feeling of sadness she felt for her. It had been odd since they barely knew each other but once again the feeling returns. Akari looks back at the duplicate and pulls her golden sword in front of her bracing for whatever comes next. However, it has already been a terrible night and Akari, most surprisingly, avoids doing anything rash for the time being.

Mitsuru Kirijo [SEES] has posed.

Mitsuru’s shakes her head. “I know how fragile time and space is,” she murmurs softly. She is very familiar with that, but this is not the place to discuss those kinds of metaphysics.

Another Miwa arrives on the scene and the gold eyes immediate alerts her to the presence of a Shadow. She was right for readying her evoker, but the news of using ‘love spells’ surprises her. She.. tried to use love spells on /Kyo Enda/?! That… wow.

Excuse her as she stands stunned for a moment…

Mai Namikawa [K] has posed.

There is a bit of increased guilt as Mitsuru says that even with the risks, she should have not played Kyo’s game. “Sorry.” is actually heartfelt. She really did think this was the safer if messier route. This would have gotten her hands wet with blood at worst, and she could deal with that. But back in the Summoning Chamber her reaction and facial expression basically reads as ‘Wait, what?’ at the sight of someone walking around the circle who’s…

Grey eyes look back to make sure that Miwa WAS behind her and – as Mai confirms, she is. Looking ahead again then shows –

The Gekkoukan girl sighs, and moves strangely enough to stand near Rui, occasionally glancing toward the other less known girl as Mai had no clue if Benihime was a ‘veteran’ of this place or not. “This, Onichi-san, is unfortunatly what we call the Shadow Self. In this case we have exhibit A -” A finger snaps toward Miwa and then the Other Miwa, “Saitou-san and a fragment of her self. As she arrived before us and stayed here for a while in an emotionally unstable state, she has divided, and now is being confronted by her ‘darker’ self over certain things.” She even airquotes the darker word while trying not to hit anyone with her sword.

“She would not have come here this quickly, this recklessly if she did not still have lingering feelings.” she also adds as the Shadow states why Miwa was here at all, but Mai at least says that part at a lower whisper. “This kind of denial is pretty normal, just watch us and go with the flow.”

Spells? Really? “Aaaand this means we did a dimensional shift into Saitou-san’ space then, which means these two segments merged. Doesn’t happen often.” It made more sense to see it this way then, although it’s a little disturbing to imagine Miwa begging some powers or gods for Kyo Enda to reciprocate her feelings. This clearly felt like a ‘got more than she bargained for’ deal, but to think that a part of her could not let go still after all this?

Is this true love or fear of letting go? It’s really hard to tell.

“I kind of find that difficult to believed that she ‘forced’ him without actual evidence that those spells WORK and are not complete junk.” she does say at the accusation of monstrosity. While she considered that Miwa messed up bad, she was not what she would consider a monster. “It’s not like she used forceful conditioning or brainwashing here.”

Daiya Kagami [S] has posed.

Meanwhile, in the back room…

Daiya listen impassably as Rena confronts that crude mockery of her. Even her emergence from the pool of blood goes uncommented. The Queen, as is her usual style, gives the scene all the respect and serious gravitas it deserves. Her eyes widen, however, as the dragon girl literally consumes herself. She doesn’t tear her eyes away, nor even blink at the intensely morbid scene. It’s… It’s…

“Amaziiing~!” Once Rena is done swallowing that fake, Daiya skips over, cloud of hair trailing behind her, to simply /hug/ her angry bloodstained dragon friend. Notably, even as she rubs her cheek against the dragon, not a single drop of the blood she’s drenched in seems to stain Daiya’s dress, mask or skin. “That was /seriously/ so cool! I’m glad we’re friends.” For a brief moment, there isn’t a trace of the Queen’s usual noble poise, she’s more or less literally acting like her usual perky schoolgirl self, with an expressionless mask and magic hair.

Daisuke Itami [K] has posed.

||Omoikane Investigations||

“Hello? Is anybody… even here?”

Izumo Gensai, a client of Omoikane Investigations, stands outside the door. Hanging from the interior handle is a sign reading ‘OPEN.’ He pulls his suit a little bit closer to his body, and knocks on the entrance to Daisuke Itami’s offices.

“Itami-san? Are you there? … We have a meeting scheduled for today, don’t we?”

Gensai tries the door, only to find it locked; this is the third time he has tried. He knocks a little more urgently.

“Itami-san??”

The door continues to say open.
But the offices of Omoikane Investigations are completely empty today.

“Arara, this is so unexpected!”

In a simple but well-furnished inn room, a TV crackles of life. While the glow of it is absorbed by the ambient light of the room, the image it displays – while not always completely clear – is at least focused enough that it can be made out just what it’s displaying:

A foyer of off-white. A boy and his woes. His brother’s rejection. The madness of a lover that cannot feel love. And deeper… and deeper…

“… is what I’d like to say, but I guess that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But that’s fine, that’s fine! Hyperbole is what makes a good story into an epic. Homer’s Iliad wouldn’t be nearly so compelling if Achilles was stripped away of all pretense of the fantastic and the horrific, would it~?”

The lone occupant of this particular room is a young man with hair dyed half-red, half-black. His only companions come in the form of an assemblage of chess pieces arranged on a Snakes and Ladders board; a King, now White, rests at the top of the board; the rest seem scattered haphazardly across the rest of the expanse, with the Black Queen the closest to the King. Amongst the assemblage is a single shogi piece representing the Gold General; and nearby, yet not on the gameboard itself, rests the White Queen.

There is also a steaming hot pot on the table in front of him, despite the fact that he is alone; as if he were celebrating something with close friends.

“Still, there seems to be more additions than even I thought there’d be,” says Daisuke Itami as he looks over his board scrutinizingly. He plucks up a black bishop, placing it a little further back than the rest — position-wise, it seems to correspond very closely with the place that Benihime Asano has chosen to take. “But that’s fine, really! Surprising twist additions make the story even more interesting; it’s okay if the audience is lost in the convolution as long as they’re too awed to realize it! In fact, that might suit things even better. Hmmm…”

Yet despite his interest, there seems to be some measure of detachment to it. As if some of the information broker’s thoughts lie elsewhere — or simply that he isn’t receiving the full measure of the satisfaction he thought he might.
He glances, briefly, at his teacup. His fingers twitch, as if compelled to take it… but he hesitates, and ultimately stops himself.

“… meh, whatever,” grouses the man inexplicably; a faint edge of dissatisfaction uncharacteristically rings forth from his tone, a trace of irritation underscoring it. As if to assauge himself, he begins to get to work on the meat in his hot pot — apparently his appetite not in the least disturbed by the scenes he watches unfold.

“… Still… things are getting more interesting, aren’t they?” he asks of no one in particular, as if looking for reassurance — or, perhaps, for hope. He continues to watch, plucking up a steaming hot piece of pork. It pauses, hovering just above his mouth, as Miwa’s own Shadow reveals itself.

“Ara ara,” says Daisuke Itami with a whistle appropriate for appreciating Miwa Saitou’s unfolding trauma.

“Will you discover the true cruelty of your love now, Miwa-chan~?”

His interest, at least, does not sound entirely forced now.

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

She didn’t have to do this. Naomi shakes her head at Miwa, her ire fading slightly at the look on her friend’s face. “Was I really going to let you anywhere near him after what he did?” she says quietly. She wouldn’t have – it went beyond her place as Shinsengumi’s second-in-command, that she would have to be everybody else’s protector when Tatsuya was away or not there. Miwa was one of her best friends, even after the anger and the disappointment, she would never put Miwa in that position ever again, especially when they failed so many times to intervene.
In the strange room, and much like Tatsuya and everyone else, she furrows her brows at the symbols, having not much of a learning curve when it comes to the occult; Dona would probably be able to decipher the strange configuration on the floor in her sleep….and the thought of her other friend being in these confines makes her shake her head. No, it was best that Sumaru’s premier occultist wasn’t here today. She would never subjet Dona to something like this.
Well, not willingly. IF ONLY SHE KNEW.
Miwa’s shadow manifests, her face twisted in a smirk and her eyes flashing gold. She says very little, hearing everyone else’s reactions ripple around her; Miwa’s gasp and weak protest, Tohya’s own disbelief, Benihime’s acidic verbal censure. She draws her rapier from her side again, flicking the weapon once.
“Of course you still love him, Miwa,” she tells the other girl without looking at her. “I didn’t expect you to just let go of what you felt for him, no matter the intensity of our disapproval. If you had been able to do so easily, it wouldn’t have been real. You would’ve been just as bad as he was if it had been a lie after all, if not worse.”
She glances over at the older Sumaru alumn. “The question now is what are you going to do about it? Are you just going to turn a blind ear to this? You know you can’t…not anymore. Back there, Kyo mentioned trying to get back what he lost. I don’t think he’s the only one who is. What are you going to do, Miwa?”
Her eyes then fall on Benihime. “Your inexplicable presence was more tolerable when you weren’t saying anything,” she remarks flatly. “If you’re not going to do anything constructive, hopefully you’ll at least stay out of the way. I’d hate to slap you in front of all these people.”

Tatsuya Suou [DS] has posed.

Well… This isn’t good.

Though Tatsuya hasn’t been on many Midnight Channel expeditions in the past (in fact, only one, and it was sort of a mess) he /does/ know what that ‘second Miwa with golden eyes’ thing means, and what it means is trouble. While he’s still kind of mad at Miwa for haring off like she did, this isn’t something he wants to have to sit back and see her go through. After all, it was a shared experience for both of them (and some other guy who he is not paying any attention to) what seems like forever ago, now: The venture into the Sumaru Midnight Channel, the encounter with Hideo Aratami’s Shadow, which went… Well, it would be pretty accurate to say ‘badly’. Given his own feelings of guilt over that…

“Saitou!” Tatsuya calls out. “Don’t let her get to you!” He knows a few things, here and there, about Miwa and her appreciation for matters occult, a secret that the teal-haired girl had felt comfortable enough with him to actually share. He’s not… Sure how or if Miwa can actually deal with her Shadow short of it coming to violence, but there is something frantic in the tall young man’s tone that suggests he would really like to be hit with a sudden flash of inspiration about exactly that, right now.

Shinsuke Kusagawa [SEES] has posed.

Shinsuke squints, partially against the glare and partially in order to better view the being which approaches the group — not Kyo, but the Shadow of this girl, of Miwa Saitou. Spells…/love/ spells… Suddenly, the occult environs of this room make sense; those who knew Kyo had expressed confusion about this room, but it’s not actually /his/ room at all! Privately, Shinsuke is fascinated by this aspect of the TV World — would Itsuka’s Shadow have come out in her brother’s dungeon if the circumstances had been right? — but he sets that naked fascination aside for now, particularly in the face of the nausea which has crept into his gut.
‘It’s really tiresome, the way people keep trying to force their love onto me.’
“Love…love is not something that can be forced,” Shinsuke says, voice quavering as though he’s about to be ill. “Nor compelled, nor demanded, nor bought. People are not prizes to win, not trophies to place on a mantle — /human beings are not things/!” he snaps, shaking at the news that one of his most foundational principles was so cavalierly insulted. He draws his rapier, leveling it at the Shadow — but his condemning azure gaze is reserved for Miwa, the real Miwa. “Even if witchcraft itself isn’t real, Mai-san, there is no accounting for the forces that might be called up — look at where we are! ‘Be careful what you wish for’, isn’t that how it goes?” he asks, calling to mind every tale of Faerie he ever read. “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of by men.”
Still…there /is/ the matter of ‘what the hell should we do now’ to deal with. Shinsuke hesitates, hoping those who know Miwa best will be able to sort things out…though privately he expects they’ll be plunged into some sort of combat, and sooner rather than later.

Akatsuki Enda [U] has posed.

Akatsuki isn’t surprised by the appearance of Shadow Miwa. He figured it might happen. He *is*, however, surprised that she talks of casting /spells/ on Kyo, about /forcing/ him to love her, about /still/ loving him–okay no he’s not really surprised by that last one either. The fact that she took him back to her father’s apartment after he was attacked was something he didn’t think highly of either.
And so the young man frowns over at Miwa, listening and watching but saying nothing–until Benihime steps forth and declares Miwa a monster. Really? Really? *Miwa’s* the monster? Akatsuki looks her way, but before he can decide whether or not it’s worth it to say anything, Tohya’s words cut into his thoughts–that uncertainty that belies the force of her words. He slowly tracks his eyes back her way, remembering what she’d told him a long time ago. “…..”
And, for the first time, Akatsuki actually reaches out–if hesitantly–to light a hand very softly on Tohya’s shoulders. His expression is still a bit troubled, a bit hesitant, but he does look at her before he removes his hand and frowns at Shadow Miwa and her original.
“…I don’t believe that. You can’t make Kyo do anything he doesn’t already want to do. So,” he adds Benihime’s way, “the people who don’t know what they’re talking about and are just out to stir up trouble can kindly /shut the fuck up/.”
After all, she didn’t say one peep about anything Kyo said or did, yet the moment Miwa’s Shadow popped up, instantly she’s verbally lashing her down. Akatsuki doesn’t know who she is or why she’s here, but it seems blatantly obvious to him that she’s got a wild bias here of some kind, and he’s in no mood to tolerate it. Naomi isn’t either, and Akatsuki glances her way briefly. He does *not* look over at Shinsuke, but he does listen very carefully when he snaps out his own response.

Rui Onishi [K] has posed.

And for the past while, Miss Onishi has delegated herself to the background. She is more comfortable that way. From there, she can watch others, study them, and not presume her own place to be more than what she is. If this strange place truly is a living journey into the human psyche, she has no place or part in it. Why would Daisuke even send her here–

Rui’s expression sours. Of course.

Still, she seems just as prudently committed to her silence, unspeaking and unwilling to invite herself further into the fray. Her hands stay at her back. Her presence remains demure, if not completely harmless. Rui looks and acts like someone who may have been something raised to be no more than the background decor.

So count even Miss Onishi a bit surprised when Mai finds her to speak to her, and explain all that’s taking place. Not sure of the exchange, and Miss Saitou’s strange doppelganger double, Rui listens uneasily, even if she’s not too sure of the logistics. All of this seems so over her head. But she has no time to deny it, does she?

Ultimately, Rui bows her head in a silent thank-you to Mai, her yellow eyes still averted on the crisis at hand, especially when Benihime opens her mouth to disparage the entire moment. Even though she’s forsaken her own humanity, Miss Onishi has enough social prowess — just enough — to grimace silently against that remark.

Rena Kinukasa [S] has posed.

For a few seconds, the effect of eating the double gives Kiyohime-Rena a sort of ‘pig in a python’ look, a large lump travelling down Kiyohime’s throat. Seconds pass and it slowly fades, the Shadow mass she’s made of doing strange and unspeakable things to the swallowed morsel.

Daiya latches to her out of nowhere and Rena emits a startled and undignified squeal as she’s seized and cuddled. Caught off guard, she instinctively squirms for a few seconds before relaxing.

Rumbling like a large, content cat, Rena returns the cheekrubs. Despite being a large and scaley dragon, she’s somehow oddly pleasant to touch. Continued contact will start to make it difficult to pull away though.

Miwa Saitou [DS] has posed.

Dimly aware of whispering from behind her, her shoulders tense, bunching up tightly. She can’t hear what they’re saying. It could be anything.

Of course she does, Naomi says, but it does little to bring Miwa comfort. She doesn’t even look Naomi’s way, her arms instead choosing to cross loosely over her abdomen. “I… I…” she’s uttered, struggling to get the words out. “I know… I know I can’t– I know what I have to do, but–” But she’d made up her mind before only to inexorably start to drift back again. And she hated herself for it.
If she could but uncouple those emotions and move onwards without them.

‘You’re a monster,’ Benihime says, the first thing Miwa can recall her saying tonight. Miwa’s expression creases in abject pain, and she cringes. The Shadow, meanwhile, grins, its eyes twinkling in pitiless merriment. “Oh, and you haven’t even heard the best part,” she says, nodding towards the pale-faced girl. Though whatever tale she was about to tell she holds back on for a moment, as Tohya interrupts her. “I mean exactly what I said. She’s a witch. A dabbler in the black arts,” the Shadow’s said cooly. “But you knew that already, didn’t you?” It emits a quiet ‘tch’ as Tohya, Mai and Shinsuke all make their protests, and folds its arms over its chest. It seems somewhat put out. “And intent doesn’t account for anything? Hmph.”

“You put up a pretty image for the world to see. It’s always been soooo hard being the good little daughter. It’s tough, isn’t it? But you had to.” Mutely, Miwa shakes her head. “It was the only way you could cope with how you really felt. You wanted him to die!” Miwa lets out a croaked gasp, retreating back a step as she raises both hands to cover her mouth. Eyes wide in terror, she slowly shakes her head. Hands on its hips, the Shadow appears exultant. “‘If only he had died instead of mom’, right? But I wonder, if they had traded places, would you have done to him what you did to your mother–”

The Shadow doesn’t get a chance to finish this time.

“Stop it, /stop it/! You’re not me!” Miwa screams, hands dropping to her sides to ball into fists, her eyes squeezed shut. But the Shadow only laughs.

A black haze billows in on a sudden wind that makes many of the candles gutter. Some of them die completely. The darkness tugs in around the Shadow’s form, while Miwa suddenly opens her eyes, a shocked expression on her face as she’s flung back by that very same wind. She falls across the floor without a sound and lies still.

The inky black cloud spreads out, spiraling out across the room, its edges lost for a moment against the darkness of that high ceiling. Drawing together tightly, the darkness coalesces, taking solid shape at last.
The best that can be said of the gigantic kneeling form is that it’s humanoid. Save for the thick ropey wire that binds both hands high above it, the Shadow is completely devoid of clothing or any ornamentation though its skin, a black that seems to glow like a starlit night sky, lacks any of the usual distinctions one would expect of a naked body. Where there should be a head, there instead is an odd upwards curve on the left and extending part of the way along the back, suggesting the general outline of a section of the skull. But only there is only that, and like glass, it breaks off in jagged edges.

Flesh parts a distance up an arm. And over the too-bright eye that rolls across those before the Shadow, flesh blinks. The eye’s attention is intent, focusing on each and every one as if it were somehow seeing into them.

I am a Shadow, the True Self, the voice proclaims, coming from everywhere and nowhere.

Flesh closes, as if the eye had never been.

There are points of light above, suddenly flickering into being. Perhaps they are meant to be stars, scattered up against that distant ceiling. Perhaps under any other circumstance they might be harmless, just pretty lights in a dark room. But these ‘stars’ fall. Screaming down to the floor below, glowing dust trails in their wake as they impact at random.

COMBAT: Miwa Saitou has entered Boss Mode for 11 opponents.
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Tatsuya Suou with Third Eye for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Third Eye applied to Tatsuya Suou.
COMBAT: Tatsuya Suou is Strong to: XXXX Nulls: XXXX Drains: XXXX and Repels: XXXX
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Tohya Kidzuki with Third Eye for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Third Eye applied to Tohya Kidzuki.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki is Strong to: XXXX Nulls: XXXX Drains: XXXX and Repels: XXXX
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Naomi Suzuno with Third Eye for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Third Eye applied to Naomi Suzuno.
COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno is Strong to: Strong to: XXXX Nulls: XXXX Drains: XXXX and Repels: XXXX
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Akari Hoshi with Third Eye for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Third Eye applied to Akari Hoshi.
COMBAT: Akari Hoshi is Strong to: XXXX Nulls: XXXX Drains: XXXX and Repels: XXXX
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Seiichi Miyamoto with Third Eye for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Third Eye applied to Seiichi Miyamoto.
COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto is Strong to: XXXX Nulls: XXXX Drains: XXXX and Repels: XXXX
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Rui Onishi with Third Eye for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Third Eye applied to Rui Onishi.
COMBAT: Rui Onishi is Strong to: XXXX Nulls: XXXX Drains: XXXX and Repels: XXXX
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Akatsuki Enda with Third Eye for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Third Eye applied to Akatsuki Enda.
COMBAT: Akatsuki Enda is Strong to: XXXX Nulls: XXXX Drains: XXXX and Repels: XXXX
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Mai Namikawa with Third Eye for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Third Eye applied to Mai Namikawa.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa is Strong to: XXXX Nulls: XXXX Drains: XXXX and Repels: XXXX
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Shinsuke Kusagawa with Third Eye for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Third Eye applied to Shinsuke Kusagawa.
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa is Strong to: XXXX Nulls: XXXX Drains: XXXX and Repels: XXXX
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Mitsuru Kirijo with Third Eye for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Third Eye applied to Mitsuru Kirijo.
COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo is Strong to: XXXX Nulls: XXXX Drains: XXXX and Repels: XXXX
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Benihime Asano with Third Eye for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Third Eye applied to Benihime Asano.
COMBAT: Benihime Asano is Strong to: XXXX Nulls: XXXX Drains: XXXX and Repels: XXXX
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Mai Namikawa with Bright Judgement (Critical Hit!) for 147 points of Light damage. (Light Weak!)
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Shock applied to Mai Namikawa.
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Tohya Kidzuki with Bright Judgement for 136 points of Light damage. (Light Weak!)
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Shock applied to Tohya Kidzuki.
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Shinsuke Kusagawa with Bright Judgement (Critical Hit!) for 141 points of Light damage.
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou has finished her turn.

Benihime Asano [U] has posed.

Despite the reactions–some oddly unexpected while others are certainly anticipated–Benihime’s expression remains neutral. She does not smile nor frown; she just holds her same, flat look as before, and most of the time.

She does, however, perk an ear toward Mai as she explains things to Rui. She’s learning here, too, though she’d by no means /admit/ a thing. So, this is a fragment of her true self? That doesn’t justify her actions, Benihime notes privately. This is really all her fault. But really, all this talk of dimensions, space and time…how can they NOT believe that spells could work, could make her have Kyo wrapped around her sick little lovesick finger?

She smirks a little at all the denials being slung around. Benihime’s eyes draw to a pensive close. Naomi’s snarling response and Akatsuki’s harsh words seem to do little to draw any response from the ‘mysterious’ young Sevens woman here.

Looking back to Miwa, she watches her squirm like a hooked worm in response. The Shadow earns her attention as it promises to dish up even more gossip. Naturally, Benihime listens closely. She’s a witch. Black arts. All this only just solidifies her thoughts on the matter. She is a monster. The confession about how Miwa wanted her father to die actually causes Benihime to flinch. Her expression vaguely sours. How could she…???

Again, things shift suddenly, a gust knocking Miwa back and snuffing many candles out. Naturally she responds by shielding her face, only to lower it when the coast is presumably clear. So it’s the real Miwa, then..? She looks back briefly to the felled Miwa, showing no real pity or remorse. Instead she offers a soft “mn.”

The lights which fall cause Benihime to flinch. But, regardless of how those struck fare the pale girl just does nothing but stand and watch in distant admiration of the Shadow.

Akari Hoshi [NWO] has posed.

Even if it wasn’t exactly directed towards her, Akari listens to Mai’s explanation and her confusion over everything diminishes slightly. It wasn’t logical, but since when did that matter to her? She dressed as magical girls and considered herself the reincarnated warrior Ixquic sometimes… not logical at all to most. In her head though it made sense, and sometimes that’s all that matters, right?

Akari looks to Miwa and her shadow. Unlike the others, she can’t find anything to say in response and only watches with a widened expression as everything unfolds. The real Miwa shouts and then the wind knocks out some of the candles near Akari and she finds herself practically clinging to Seiichi. As the cloud spreads and the shape takes form, the younger girl can’t believe what she is seeing. Given the events of this evening so far it’s probably quite amazing that anything can still shock her.

Light falls from above and while Akari dodges a little of it, she cannot avoid the impact of it all and she is hit. Though she is not sure what exactly is happening, she knows it’s not good, especially when others are hit with something harder. Almost against her will Pairika emerges. Seeing the angelic like persona hovering above her, Akari nods. “Help Pairika!” As she says this a bright circle forms underneath the small girl and beams of light come upward from it strengthening her.

COMBAT: Akari Hoshi hits Akari Hoshi with Mind Charge for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Mind Charge applied to Akari Hoshi.
COMBAT: Akari Hoshi has finished her turn.

Mitsuru Kirijo [SEES] has posed.

Mitsuru is.. not that familiar with Miwa, so she doesn’t have anything particularly meaningful to add. Rather, the young woman starts scanning the room for signs of Kyo Enda. What drags her attention back to the ‘present’ is the resolution of the ‘discussion’ between Miwa and Shadow Miwa. The sudden wind catches her attention and she turns to grit her teeth, tensing in preparation. Fighting Shadows. This, she is familiar with. “Namikawa-san! Kusagawa-san! This is the enemy! Take down the Shadow!”

A star explodes near her and Penthesilea urges her to fight. All of that pent up frustration and horror from earlier manifests itself now with the echoing roar of her evoker and Mitsuru’s Persona appearing from a ring of blue light, clad in steel.

COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo hits Mitsuru Kirijo with Mind Charge for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Mind Charge applied to Mitsuru Kirijo.
COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo has finished her turn.

Tohya Kidzuki [DS] has posed.

Tohya won’t argue whether Mitsuru knows it–if she says she does, then that’s that. And she has little reason to doubt Kirijo’s sincerity. In fact–well, she doesn’t have anything more at all to say to the group, not at very, gray eyes latched onto Miwa’s Shadow like she might disappear if she blinks.

And that stays the case… right up until the point at which Akatsuki reaches out, and as his hand reaches her shoulder, she turns to look at him immediately–and then the trouble she had in her expression fades, and she just nods to him, something appreciative in her face before she looks back over to Miwa again, and seems to catch her bearings.

It’s not perfect–she’s still rattled over it–but she instead takes a slight step halfway back, getting ready… just in case. Even as Akatsuki goes off on Benihime and–…Huh. Yeah.

But then, the Shadow is talking again, and sure, ‘she meant what she said’, “Yeah, I knew, but–that’s not–”

The Shadow changes, as Miwa cries out to it, and Tohya looks to Miwa as she’s flung beack before seeing–… this thing. This too-bright thing, with all of this glassy viewpoint and then it’s /gone/, and she can feel the intent all right–“What the–” Whatever she was going to say, the stars fall, and slam directly into the Sevens alumna, knocking her downward with a cry of pain as light shears completely through her defenses. “Aaah–”

She stands, then, and, “…That’s… That’s how this is going to be, is it…?”

She brings herself to her feet, “Fuck it. I… don’t want to see. The /real/ Miwa uses light, dark, and water attacks! Keep it in mind!” Then, she steps back, and a presence flashes through her mind. “…As for you… I’m not going hands-off with this one, Miwa. Don’t care if you are part of her.” A hand rises–and a blue aura appears beneath Tohya, as she calls, “Inugami!” and this time–a different Persona emerges, one that she found for the first time in the Velvet ROom… when Igor told her that her path had changed. The dog-persona rises up, and /breathes/ directly for the Shadow.

COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki has activated Inugami.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki hits Miwa Saitou with Foul Breath for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Cursed applied to Miwa Saitou.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki has recovered 3 SP.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki has finished her turn.

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

At every word the Shadow utters, Naomi hears her own teeth grinding together, forced to hear things that she would have preferred Miwa to admit to her on her own free will, rather than have some doppleganger-usurper steal the privilege and air Miwa’s dirty laundry for everyone to partake. “Miwa, don’t–!”
Her mind briefly flashes back to one of Mai’s posts in the Darkside board, something about retrieving her and making certain that she doesn’t generate a shadow of her own…
So much for that preemptive strike, she thinks to herself grimly. She’s about to make her move and strike at the entity, only for it to do it first, a blast of power lifting Miwa up from the floor and hurling her away. “MIWA!!”
She would never take back her earlier words; she wasn’t a saint, she knew every syllable she uttered was justified, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t going to leave her friend to the gallows. Sprinting to where she has fallen, Naomi slides across the floor on her knees, her fingers still clutching her sword as her arms go above the other girl’s, covering her head as stars begin to fall from the ceiling. Glittering streaks of cosmic dust trail at their wake as they punch into the floor and sear into her jacket. She keeps her head down, however, swallowing her own fright, but she doesn’t extricate herself from the unconscious college girl, and her head is bent; she can’t see the others from where she is.
Blue-white light encircles her from underneath, Ma’at spiraling into visibility, her half-pristine, half-tattered state hovering above her summoner. “Get it!” she orders her Persona, who sweeps her scepter to one side, and hurls a jagged lance of light towards the Shadow.

COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno hits Miwa Saitou with Hamaon for 0 points of Light damage. (Light Immune)
COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno has finished her turn.

Mai Namikawa [K] has posed.

“Kusagawa-san, I know that, I’m saying without any evidence that her spell did work, that accusation has no basis. Most love charms found in books or over the net are crap!” Most, not all, she knew some exceptions existed and in a way the huge quantity of crap over fact prevented misuse most of the time – or made it stupidly difficult to get a hold on the real stuff.

She smiles a little at the silent thanks she recieves from the white-suited investigator, and while some people are telling Miwa to ‘not let this get to her’, Mai had a fair idea of how this usually went. A Shadow knows the person’s darkest points, and thus knows how to strike with utmost efficiency and cruelty. For all their love and care, Miwa NEEDED to suffer right now. It’s a bit like cold syrups: It feels horrible now, but it will work on the long run. “You know you’re saying that she’s a witch to a crowd of people who really won’t set her on fire over it, right? I mean, in this circle, that’s actually kind of a useful knowledge base.” but it’s true that intent had SOME weight, “I will tell you exactly how her spell worked: She got in her head that it was functional and that Kyo Enda was growing feelings for her. As such, she grew more confident in making herself visible to him. It’s psychology, not magic.” that’s what she believed, anyway.

When the Shadow starts talking of her mother and ‘him’, she has no idea who this ‘him’ is, but she doesn’t need to as Miwa says the magic words. She covers her face with her weapon-wielding arm as a strong wind blasts around, but once it dies down and Miwa seems out of it against the wall she turns to speak to Rui again. “And by the way, Onishi-san, saying that ‘you’re not me’ to your shadow has a special effect. The denial basically makes it autonomous – which is bad as it can try to take over the person and become them, but it’s also good because…we can subdue it now without harming Saitou-san.” And that’s the end of TV World 102 for today. There will be homework, it will make you wish you were dead.

Or maybe not.

The new form taken by the Shadow is one Mai had never seen before, like all of them. It’s really always a new thing when she’s dealing with this place, and generally always pretty dangerous. The feeling of being ‘stared’ at by the eye that shows up in the arms of the beast is a little unsettling, but not as painful as the ORBITAL STRIKE of burning light she takes a moment later. It blasts her off her feet and on her back, the force of the judgement leaving her almost sizzling like bacon. “Ow.” is the first sign that she’s not taken down that easily, getting back up to one knee first and then on both her legs. “Don’t need to hear that twice…” she does say about the order she is given, before trying to shake off this wierd feeling that lingers. Her mind shifts – the Persona that comes forth amusingly enough being born of a kindness shown by Naomi but also Miwa as well. “Genbu!” she calls forth, “Barrier wall!” to protect herself and the others who seemed to have taken the brunt of that satellite cannon.

COMBAT: Mai Namikawa has activated Genbu.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa hits Mai Namikawa with Makarakarn for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Makarakarn applied to Mai Namikawa.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa hits Tohya Kidzuki with Makarakarn for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Makarakarn applied to Tohya Kidzuki.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa hits Shinsuke Kusagawa with Makarakarn for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Makarakarn applied to Shinsuke Kusagawa.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa has finished her turn.

Tatsuya Suou [DS] has posed.

With a faint sigh of resignation, Tatsuya closes his eyes. So it’s going to be like that… He might not have much experience with fighting the Shadow of a /friend/, but… It’s not like he’s going to let that stop him. Miwa is knocked away by her own manifest darkness, left lying in a heap, but there’s nothing Suou can do about that right now. Then that horrible form her Shadow takes is before them, looking /into/ them, and raining terrible power down on some. So then…

“Okay,” Tatsuya breathes out, opening his eyes and holding out his left hand as blue-green light spills out around him, a coruscating column of power as he draws on his own Persona, the green and bronze form of Vulcanus emerging from him, flames spouting from the God of Volcanoes’ shoulders and its eyes, the only visible features on its otherwise crowned head gleaming with brilliant blue light. “Do it,” Suou intones, hurtling towards Shadow Miwa as a sword wrought of flame appears in its hand, the blade seeming to grow out of the Persona’s clenched fist, a whirling line of orange-crimson light that leaves a harsh afterimage as it slashes at the dark, humanoid figure!

COMBAT: Tatsuya Suou targets Miwa Saitou with Conflagrant Wrath, but she dodges!
COMBAT: Tatsuya Suou has finished his turn.

Seiichi Miyamoto [NWO] has posed.

He was waiting for it. He was totally waiting for it. He had at least /heard/ about this sort of thing. Seiichi knew there was always something that would set thease things off. However the listing of dirty laundry by the Shadow? That gets his attetion. His eyes widen for a moment before those eyes narrow again. “Do we care if she’s a witch? No. No not really.” He drawls out before he nods once. “Emotions arn’t quite magic.” He adds with a shake of his head. He listens towards Mai though as he young woman explains things. Ah so the phrase to set it off is ‘you’re not me’ that would be good to remember in the future.
That does indeed set it off as he starts to concentrate. The light strikes him, though he does know a cure for light even as he swings his sword up. “Set.” he murmurs quietly as the shadows ripple around him. The light behind him distrorts as the God of Chaos appears, shadows whipping around the room to hide those fighting the shadow from the creatures, though mysteriously managing to leave their own sight lines just fine and open.

COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto hits Miwa Saitou with Illuzone for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Illusion applied to Miwa Saitou.
COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto has finished his turn.

Akatsuki Enda [U] has posed.

If Benihime’s response to criticism is to shut up, that’s good enough for Akatsuki, whether she’s penitent or not. He doesn’t expect her to be penitent; he just wants her to stay out of the way. Not that it ultimately matters… Miwa still rejects her Shadow, her Shadow is still becomes empowers and attacks, and Akatsuki… finds himself rather calm, all considered. No, even when he arrived, he’d felt indifferent to the prospects of entering the TV world, even though it was Kyo’s. Even for Shinsuke’s dungeon, he’d been uneasy, afraid–yet here, knowing what he would see, he felt at least some form of calm. Was experiencing what he has actually good for him somehow…?
It’s something to think about later, at least. For now, the lady of night opens her eye and focuses on all of them, declaring herself the True Self, and sending down a billion points of light down on Mai, Tohya and Shinsuke. He’d seen that look of appreciation Tohya had given back to him, and his eyes widen now as he sees her struck down. He doesn’t quite cry out, but he does drop to her side–and then she pushes herself back up. He frowns, then stands with her, looking back over at Shadow Miwa. Tohya doesn’t want to see…?
His lips thin. He hesitates momentarily, glancing about at the others fighting… Then he shakes his head a bit and focuses on the Shadow. “…Hector Custom,” he calls quietly, summoning forth his Persona in a flare of blue light and will to slash his blade towards the Shadow, electric sparks flying from the supernatural steel to potentially shock her if the attack connects.

COMBAT: Akatsuki Enda targets Miwa Saitou with Galvanic Wrath, but she dodges!
COMBAT: Akatsuki Enda has finished his turn.

Rui Onishi [K] has posed.

Rui Onishi has no place or part in this. These are the strange matters reserved for human beings. She is not human. She should not be affected–

But the woman twitches back, emotion eliciting across her face for the first time as she plays witness to the dialogue between Miwa Saitou and her shadow. The vague mention of the girl’s father, and how she wishes him dead — Rui cannot comprehend such a thing. Nor can she comprehend a human being possessing such a contrary thought. The very thing is not analogous with being a daughter… a good daughter. How could any daughter want her father dead?

How…?

Inhaling a sharp breath, Rui’s mouth draws closed… and even she seems reluctant to glance back when Mai’s voice reaches her ear once more. Confused, aggravated in her own strange way, Rui eventually looks back at the girl–

–in time to see her shot back by the volley of light. Eyes widened, her stance immediately on guard, Rui’s features finally seize with surprise and disdain at seeing Mai attacked so cleanly, her conditioning roused all the more as, one by one, the other denizens of the room invoke the same secret she’s been keeping. Persona users… every one of them?

Standing defensively, and silent as ever, Rui turns her gaze on that “eye” that fixes the room with its searing stare. She has no place. She has no part.

She should not interfere with the affairs of humans–

Rui exhales a deep, windy breath.

And behind her, the rotting, twisted form of the Fisher King unfolds, the skeletal king raising his decaying, crowned head to fix the Shadow with his pitted empty eye sockets. The Persona calls the Lance of Longinus to his hand, throwing the hulking weapon forward to try to thrust the bleeding end right at it.

COMBAT: Rui Onishi targets Miwa Saitou with Vile Assault, but she dodges!
COMBAT: Rui Onishi has finished her turn.

Shinsuke Kusagawa [SEES] has posed.

Akatsuki does not look at him when Shinsuke makes his speech. That’s fine. The youth would have said those words to his elder, once — told him that he didn’t regard him as a trophy to win, arm candy to display, the jealousy of dozens of girls as sweet as his boyfriend’s lips- but it doesn’t matter now, none of it matters. That bridge is burnt, the fires of love weak embers clinging to a damp torch.
‘Nothing’s ill-spent that teaches you something, though I’d find somebody to spend your attention on that’d trample on it less.’
Yes.
Shinsuke studiously ignores the rest of the distractions — Benihime and the angry responses to her — in favor of directing his attention back at Mai. “You’re right, you’re right,” he replies, exasperation limning his tone. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she’d found something that worked, though, but how hard /is/ it to make a sociopath love you when you offer yourself to him as a willing victim?” he wonders aloud.
And then Miwa and the Shadow bicker back and forth again, spilling more dark secrets. Shinsuke’s gut twists for the 938459893th time tonight at the thought that someone might prefer mother to father- and then- he doesn’t want to know what the ‘then’ is. She denies it, and the Shadow blows her back as it’s empowered into its own being through her denial. Mitsuru’s voice breaks through the wail of black wind — “Got it, Kirijo-senpai!” Shinsuke cries, latching onto duty. She is right, this is a Shadow; this, /this/ is something he can do. Procedure, protocol, duty, /necessity/. Not even the odd, violating feeling of the Shadow’s scan will stop them-
But being blasted with a thousand tiny supernovas totally will, as Shinsuke is quick to discover. He cries out as the Shadow’s attack knocks him, Mai, and Tohya off their feet, and he slams painfully into the hard ground. “Nngh…” he growls, jamming the tip of his rapier into the ground in an attempt to lever himself upright. Mai recovers, though, and drops a barrier on him while the rest of the group powers up or attacks the Shadow, which seems obscenely dodgy. Tohya’s words- “Ngh. Water, darkness, light. Good to know,” he grunts.
Dragging himself to his feet, Shinsuke’s hand reaches for his Evoker- but a whisper in his mind causes him to withdraw his hand. Come to think, he doesn’t feel the way he used to — and that knowledge gives him courage. “Kay!” he cries, holding out a leather-gloved hand. A ring of muted blue light appears at his feet, shattering suddenly into luminous shards of spectral glass and flaring out brightly as the Seneschal appears above him. Kay’s eyes blaze bright azure in his dark helm, but his form is solid, no longer dissolving into shadow. The Persona places its darkly gleaming gauntlet on Shinsuke’s shoulder briefly, and the atmosphere around the teen crackles with contained energy. Then, his task performed, Kay vanishes completely.
How fascinating…

Shinsuke Kusagawa stands back up!
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa hits Shinsuke Kusagawa with Mind Charge for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Mind Charge applied to Shinsuke Kusagawa.
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa has finished his turn.

<Pose Tracker> Miwa Saitou [DS] has posed.

Miwa, the real Miwa, doesn’t move. It’s uncertain whether she can hear anything that’s going on around her or not. Though, as Naomi will be able to discern, she’s breathing, a slight catch as stars plummet from the heavens suggesting, perhaps, that she’s sleeping. That’s she’s experiencing a very bad dream. But for all the will that Naomi sinks into her spell, it impacts that apparent embodiment of a moonless night without even a suggestion that it has done a thing.

You don’t want to see My truth…? You’re just like her, always always shrinking away from reality… the Shadow murmurs in those uncanny tones as Tohya states her refusal to scan it. Though it trembles as Tohya makes her move, giving the impression of a breathed out and pained sigh as the dog god invokes a curse upon it. Though it’s hard to say how illusions affect something that has no eyes–that normally has no eyes–the Shadow sags against the wire that keeps it bound to the far distant ceiling. Quite likely, it’s having some kind of effect, addling its ability to aim in some small way.

Wrath born of fire and lightning both are directed towards the Shadow. It doesn’t move. It doesn’t seem like it can move. But fingers flex outwards, and a barrier of intertwined light and shadow materializes into being before the Shadow, absorbing those attacks and leaving the Shadow utterly unscathed.

Where there is light, there is darkness. A quickly thickening haze falls across the room, broken up only a sudden hiss of gas up from the painted floor below. The lights seem to die, the darkness dragging coldly across any exposed skin and threatening to penetrate with its chill down to the very bones. Some will find themselves the targets of a foul gas, flooding up from parts unknown. What lies beneath this room…?

And in the middle of the tumultous darkness, flesh tears apart with a sickening noise high on the Shadow’s chest, revealing a large eye. It swivels, seeming for all the world to only be held in place by the Shadow’s skin alone, and focusing on Seiichi, its pupil dilates widely. From within it, light flares, beaming outwards.

COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Mitsuru Kirijo with Dark Verdict for 98 points of Dark damage.
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Benihime Asano with Dark Verdict for 48 points of Dark damage. (Dark Strong)
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Rui Onishi with Dark Verdict (Critical Hit!) for 153 points of Dark damage.
COMBAT: Rui Onishi has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Freeze applied to Rui Onishi.
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Tatsuya Suou with Dark Verdict for 105 points of Dark damage.
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou targets Akatsuki Enda with Dark Verdict, but he dodges!
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Naomi Suzuno with Dark Verdict for 144 points of Dark damage. (Dark Weak!)
COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Freeze applied to Naomi Suzuno.
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Mitsuru Kirijo with Virus Breath for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Minor Weaken applied to Mitsuru Kirijo.
COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo takes 87 damage from the Low Weaken effect!
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Akari Hoshi with Virus Breath for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Minor Weaken applied to Akari Hoshi.
COMBAT: Akari Hoshi takes 86 damage from the Low Weaken effect!
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Akatsuki Enda with Virus Breath for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Poison Minor Weaken applied to Akatsuki Enda.
COMBAT: Akatsuki Enda takes 90 damage from the Low Weaken effect!
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Mai Namikawa with Virus Breath for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Minor Weaken applied to Miwa Saitou.
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou takes 63 damage from the Low Weaken effect!
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Tohya Kidzuki with Virus Breath for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Poison Minor Weaken applied to Miwa Saitou.
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou takes 63 damage from the Low Weaken effect!
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Shinsuke Kusagawa with Virus Breath for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Poison Minor Weaken applied to Miwa Saitou.
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou takes 63 damage from the Low Weaken effect!
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Seiichi Miyamoto with Illuminating Gaze (Critical Hit!) for 173 points of Light damage. (Light Weak!)
COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Burn applied to Seiichi Miyamoto.
COMBAT: You receive 25 points of damage from your ongoing Poison effect.
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou has finished her turn.

Tohya Kidzuki [DS] has posed.

Psychology, not magic. Well, that’s something, anyway–Mai’s explanations to Rui are actually a very helpful refresher to Tohya, too, whose experience with this strange realm is limited, and had its basis in a certain Takahisa Kandori’s insights and missions. But then–well, Mai’s barrier actually gives her a very solid feeling of security, and she replies, “Appreciate it!”

She doesn’t explain, to Akatsuki, though he’s standing with her, what she meant–instead, she nods his way. “Let’s do this.”

And then, well, the Shadow responds in those strange tones, and Tohya replies, “…No, not this kind. If I want to know Miwa’s ‘truth’, I’ll ask her myself. I won’t rely on /you/ to tell me for her. Not like this.”

Beneath…? Who knows? Tohya doesn’t–but she knows that Mai’s barrier just protected her from the worst of whatever that was. She shakes her head, looking at all this /devastation/ running out, and… “Keep at it!” She looks to Akatsuki, “Let’s shield people as best we can. I’ll get Kirijo-san. …There’s too much left to do in here to let people fall.” And at that, Tohya /does/ move, rushing out and standing right in front of the (not quite so tall) leader of SEES. “You’ll be better at bringing her down than I will, anyway,” she comments. Despite that, she closes her eyes–and Inugami reappears, with a flash of lighting and a crack of thunder.

COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki hits Miwa Saitou with Zionga for 65 points of Elec damage.
COMBAT: Shock applied to Miwa Saitou.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki has recovered 3 SP.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki has finished her turn.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki is now covering Mitsuru Kirijo.

Akari Hoshi [NWO] has posed.

Oh god. The dark gas permeates Akari’s skin it feels like and she is considerably weakened. It drains her energy and the young girl moves backwards. As Seiichi is hit, she freaks out. “Sei-chan!!” Akari looks back to him briefly but soon her gaze turns back towards the shadow. The eye does nothing to intimidate her and she can only thing of one thing. KILLING the freaking thing!

Akari looks up to her persona, “Pairika! Garudyne!” A wind starts to gust from Pairika’s wings and it grows stronger and stronger until small cyclones are formed all around the shadow. As they move and rotate around her, they slowly close in at the same time trying to take in the shadow with them.

COMBAT: Akari Hoshi hits Miwa Saitou with Garudyne for 172 points of Wind damage.
COMBAT: Akari Hoshi has finished her turn.

Mai Namikawa [K] has posed.

So she was one of them too. While she was unsure if Rui was a Persona-user or not, she trusted Daisuke would not send someone who would get KILLED in here. Perhaps Mai had too much faith in that wierd guy, but so far he hadn’t really dissapointed her – he only took her money that one time, but otherwise had been relatively dependable. To see that big skeletal king…

It’s probable the mute investigator did not expect someone to look at her summoned being with a ‘this one is AWESOME’ sparkles in their eyes, but considering the one she herself had a decaying undead lord is pretty damn cool. “Onishi-san!” she does shout in alarm when Rui ends up targetted, but if she used the barrier field again Mai knew she’ll be too exhausted to do much else after…

Plus, she can feel her own barrier breaking – not after performing it’s duty of course, but it’s still gone and she’s vulnerable again. “Hannya!” she calls forth instead, the masked demon materialising in a shower of broken glass. She points at Naomi and at Rui with her sword, the oni nodding once and slamming her oversized bloody-red hands against the ground, dark energies flowing toward the two girls and empowering Mai as well, forming a different sort of barrier. It’s not reflective, but it’s still strong and should dampen incoming attacks a little.

It’s kind of odd to take defensive roles once in a while, but it’s not a bad feeling. “Your truth is only a fragment of reality, you do not hold all of it.” she does say to the Shadow, while beginning to move toward midrange as her supportive magical talents are pretty much out at this point and she’s planning to shift to offense.

COMBAT: Mai Namikawa has activated Hannya Custom.
Tohya Kidzuki (Tohya) pages: I do hope Mitsuru isn’t going for a Bufudyne
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa hits Mai Namikawa with Marakukaja for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Defense Up! applied to Mai Namikawa.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa hits Naomi Suzuno with Marakukaja for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Defense Up! applied to Naomi Suzuno.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa hits Rui Onishi with Marakukaja for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Defense Up! applied to Rui Onishi.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa has regenerated 11 points of damage.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa has finished her turn.

Benihime Asano [U] has posed.

“It’s like…” Benihime’s words fall off, lost to the sudden flurry of motion around her. People with these ‘things’ within them, these images of deities and creatures, all making assault upon the large, shadowy creature at the room’s center. Why would they fight the truth? Shouldn’t they be taking out their aggressions on the /source/ of this? On the supposedly ‘real’ Miwa, unconscious on the floor? Cut the head of the beast, as they say.

But it’s like the stories she loses herself in. Fairy tales, of monsters and villains and creatures.

This world…she thinks she can grow to like it in some way, especially if it brings out the truth in people. The sick, twisted realities that people struggle so hard to bury. Here, they can’t /hide/ from that. Here, they are weak to fight the truth.

The large figure ushers up foul darkness from…wherever, if anywhere, causing the pale-faced girl to gag and cough. It’s attacking /her/? Really? Why? She didn’t DO anything to it. If anything she’s its damn cheerleader here. Kill ’em all, rah rah rah.

But as much fun as it is to see Miwa’s dark secrets exposed, there’s more interest for her here in the likes of her ex-boyfriend, if he really IS here. Why the hell would she come here for this girl’s sake, anyway?

“I’m not having fun anymore,” the pale-faced Benihime decides quietly aloud, whether anyone hears it or not. “I’m through with you.” Time to chew you up and spit you out.

A blue haze shimmers around the girl, and from her back springs a pure white, alabaster red-eyed young woman embracing a pulsing red and black sphere. Darkness trails behind its back, like struggling tendrils; they’re easily overlooked.

Lifting her hand, Benihime stretches it out to the inky black, writhing darkness of Miwa.

“Get out of my sight,” she flatly states, her words brimming with venom. The figure, her Persona, moves its hands upon the sphere and, with a sudden pulsing and flicker, a freezing ice threatens to consume the dark Shadow of Miwa.

COMBAT: Benihime Asano hits Miwa Saitou with Bufudyne for 92 points of healing. (Ice Absorb)
COMBAT: Benihime Asano has finished her turn.

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

Whatever has happened didn’t seem to affect her too much, but this is hardly Naomi’s first rodeo – already she feels something wrong applied to her even as Mai, Tohya and Shinsuke take the brunt of the first wave. “Tohya…” she breathes, once more wondering what the spotter was doing in the front lines. She was used to her at the back, but it isn’t only Miwa that has changed lately…
She pushes herself up, palm braced on the ground and her stare fixing on the Shadow standing in the middle of the circle. As foul gas from -underneath- the ground starts to filter upwards, she can’t help but furrow her brows. “….there’s….” What in the world could be below them? she doesn’t have a chance to reflect on it, because then an -eye- appears right above Miwa’s chest, flesh shredding to ribbons in an effort to make room for it, and then…
It attacks. She only has time to shove her friend’s unconscious body away from her, the petite girl’s frame sliding, hopefully, out of the range of danger. She only has time to stagger to her feet when she’s engulfed by a dark wave. Ma’at writhes in agony. Pain explodes through her, scorching fiery paths through her synapses and tearing at whatever defenses she has asunder, and when the wave finally breaks apart, she takes a step forward before she collapses, the world tilting sideways and her cheek slamming into the floor. Strength drains out of her body.
It hurt so much she can’t breathe.
Mai’s Hannya is called upon to assist, only briefly catching an extra layer of protection sheathed over her. “Ma’at…” she chokes, curling a fist into the floor. The Persona attacks, light for lightning, leaping out from the top of her scepter and bearing towards the Shadow, focused at the eye rolling disconcertingly around her chest.

Naomi Suzuno stands back up!
COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno hits Miwa Saitou with Ziodyne for 87 points of Elec damage.
COMBAT: Shock applied to Miwa Saitou.
COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno has finished her turn.

Akatsuki Enda [U] has posed.

Akatsuki can’t say anything about those dark secrets that Miwa’s Shadow spilled. Whether it was last month or in their childhood, he told his brother it would’ve been better for him if he were dead. If Miwa has issues with her family, Akatsuki won’t give her shit for that.
His attack seems ineffective, along with a few others, Tatsuya’s included. Akatsuki glances over towards his former roommate, before looking back up at the great and terrible Shadow. The lights die, and the dark comes rising… Akatsuki manages to suffer through that stoically, but guarding against it means he lowers his guard as soon as it seems it’s passed, leaving him open for the gas that follows. It sears into his lungs, and he stumbles, coughing violently and wetly as he begins to feel green around the gills. However much he grimaces, though, he still concentrates to call up Hector again.
The Custom Persona appears once more in a flare of blue light, and this time his blade is a lightning bolt, aimed to sear up towards Shadow Miwa and perhaps tire her. The others are hurt, especially Naomi, and he twitches her way, but…

COMBAT: Akatsuki Enda hits Miwa Saitou with Sophrosyne for 58 points of Elec damage.
COMBAT: Exhaustion applied to Miwa Saitou.
COMBAT: Akatsuki Enda has finished his turn.

Tatsuya Suou [DS] has posed.
“Naomi!!” Tatsuya shouts, as the heiress gets savaged by Shadow Miwa’s attack, despite his earlier resolution to remember that she was a big girl who can take care of herself. Look, this is a tense situation, okay??

This seems to dismay Tatsuya far more than the fact that he himself gets blasted by the Shadow’s dark energy, staggering him and causing Vulcanus to wink out briefly. Giving up not really being part of Tatsuya Suou’s personality, the red-clad young man grits his teeth and calls out his Persona again, Vulcanus emerging. He still has options of course, there are plenty of things he can do.

But sometimes you gotta fall back on old favourites.

“Eat this!!” Tatsuya instructs Shadow Miwa, which is highly impolite but he’s getting caught up in the moment, as at his will Vulcanus hurls a massive wave of fire at the Shadow, hoping to accomplish with overwhelming force what precision and finesse could not.

COMBAT: Tatsuya Suou hits Miwa Saitou with Agidyne for 83 points of Fire damage.
COMBAT: Burn applied to Miwa Saitou.
COMBAT: Tatsuya Suou has finished his turn.

Shinsuke Kusagawa [SEES] has posed.

Shinsuke owes Mai a home-cooked meal, or at least a nice night out, for that timely Makarakarn — it’s the reason he (and Tohya and Mai herself) are not currently poisoned, among other things. He gets the feeling the barrier shouldn’t have prevented the sickening cloud from reaching him, but anything is possible in the malleable reality of the TV World. Small blessings!
The feeling of not being in the throes of dissolution, of not worrying that he’s about to lose control and be subsumed into his Persona, is a headier euphoria than he’s ever felt, but Shinsuke tamps it down for now. Priorities. Instead, as the static Shadow’s chest rips asunder to reveal a horrid swiveling eye, the white-clad teen takes stock of the situation. Tohya appears to have been correct even without the scan; that odd girl’s column of ice seems to have served only to invigorate the Shadow, and Shinsuke’s lips purse at the sight. His azure gaze falls across the rest of the front line, surveying the damage the Shadow’s choking clouds of darkness caused, and it comes to rest on Naomi. Well then.
Stepping across to the heiress, Shinsuke inclines his head. “Don’t mind me, Suzuno-san,” he says with a slight smile, angling his body between hers and the Shadow’s fixed form. Once again that ring of glass explodes outward at his feet, calling up Kay — who, with palpable glee, flings a column of flame directly at that horrid eye. It is no larger than the one Vulcanus brought forth, but it crackles with bluish electricity; if it hits, it will have a decidedly increased effect- !!

COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa hits Miwa Saitou with Agidyne (Critical Hit!) for 258 points of Fire damage.
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Burn applied to Miwa Saitou.
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa has finished his turn.
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa is now covering Naomi Suzuno.

Mitsuru Kirijo [SEES] has posed.

The elements slams right into Mitsuru, causing her to stumble backwards and she winces in pain from it. She drops her rapier and her new hand reaches up to touch her chest. “Nnn…” And that’s when the cold fog creeps into the room, penetrating through her clothing and skin and into her bones. The Kirijo Heiress shivers. Cold she can handle but this is different. This isn’t the cold from ice or simply a winter chill. It’s different. It’s like death.

But they have to keep moving forward. She leans down to pick up her sword just as Tohya moves in front of her and declares that she’ll cover her. “Wha-.” Her phrasing is off and then she smiles faintly. “I see.” She is capable of taking care of herself, but she’s also used to fighting with Shinjiro in these types of battles. While Tohya Kidzuki is no 6’1 college delinquent, she will not let the young woman’s effort be in vain. “Very well then Kidzuki-san! Keep up!”

The Red haired ojou shifts her grip on her rapier and for a moment it feels like Penthesilea is lending her all her power and all the strength that comes from being an Amazon. She runs forward, even weakened as she is by the earlier attacks, weaving and dodging between the powerful spells being slung at Shadow. Her aim is the revealing eye even as it lasers Seiichi. It’s an opening. She has to take it.

“For SEES!” She shouts as she practically launches herself off the ground with rapier first to slam into Shadow Miwa and summersaulting. She lands a second time, driving her weight into her stiletto boots and kicking off again to put distance (and Tohya) between herself and the Shadow.

COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo hits Miwa Saitou with Out Of My Way (Critical Hit!) for 266 points of Slash damage.
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Enervation applied to Miwa Saitou.
COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo has finished her turn.

Seiichi Miyamoto [NWO] has posed.

The shadows whirlig around Seiichi part under the gaze of that one bright eye. His own eyes widen for a moment under that gaze, and then his form dissipears under the assault of that bright and burning eye. When his form comes back into focus? He is smokin’. Litterally smokin’. Steam boils away from his chest and shoulder as he staggers for a moment. The leather jacket he wears has boiled away from the wound, leaving the blistered skin under it revealed. He looses more clothes that way dammit! However it looks like the pain in his shoulder is more evident than the worry about his clothes. He staggers down to one knee under the assault of light before he looks up to see many of his friends seem rather damaged as well.
With a hiss of pain he forces himself back to his fhaky feat, though this might just cost him quite a bit later. For now with the adrenline he can at least continue to function. Espicially when he can see both Mitsuru and Akari smarting from the next assault. “Protect her well, Kidzuki.” He murmurs as Mitsuru races forwards and he staggers back to his feet. Set appears again, this time as a distraction slinging twin blades of wind towards the Shadow. In an attempt to at least distract it from the attaccks. That staggering at least takes him nearer to Akari and Mitsuru, placing himself infront of the little NWOite as he does his damn best to maintain his feet.
So he’s prone to bad judgement in trying to block for people here. Thats about typical for him. He would be infront of Mitsuru if Tohya hadn’t already done that.

Seiichi Miyamoto stands back up!
COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto hits Miwa Saitou with Garudyne for 96 points of Wind damage.
COMBAT: Dizzy applied to Miwa Saitou.
COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto has finished his turn.
COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto is now covering Akari Hoshi.

Rui Onishi [K] has posed.

Miss Onishi alerts quickly to Mai’s warning yell, head turned, her guard raised–

–but she’s simply not fast enough. The Fisher King brushes out of existence like vapourized flesh, scattering off into the darkness as it reaches out to consume Rui in turn, slapping her petite body down to the dust. Her eyes widen, but she has no voice with which to yell or even cringe out in pain, accepting the agony as it circuits her body. It’s something new, pain that does not accompany the opening and unwinding of her own body — a pain father did not prepare her for —

…no, she did not prepare herself for. A fault of her own weakness and by her own doing.

Her hands flex closed, the woman panting soundlessly before she can feel a small reprieve to the pain… thanks to Mai.

The stakes have been raised. Rui has no obligation to fight. No obligation to protect any of these people. But she has an obligation to survive this to resume her duty.

The pain sharpening her senses, steeling her, Miss Onishi determines to take the more direct approach. She only hopes her expensive shoes are worth the money.

Because Rui is using them for all they’re worth, cutting forward through the darkness and striding a low line as her yellow eyes fix on the Shadow. For an instant, Miss Kirijo may feel the brush of another person aside her, though the assistant’s own subtle, shadowy attack possesses no such bravado. Just one push of her legs, a swift step up, and turning her left arm up at the Shadow. And from out of the woman’s sleeve, a cable-driven blade of a kyoketsu-shoge tries to slam straight into that eye.

Rui Onishi stands back up!
COMBAT: Rui Onishi hits Miwa Saitou with Dal Niente for 91 points of Pierce damage.
COMBAT: Acc/Dodge Down! Defense Down! applied to Miwa Saitou.
COMBAT: Rui Onishi has finished her turn.

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

Somewhere across the way, she hears her name being shouted just before Tatsuya is hit by the same dark wave. Somewhere to the side, Akatsuki twitches towards her. It was like he never tried to leave…
“Tatsuy…..Akatsu….”
Her fingers tightening into a fist, Naomi wills herself to get up, and is largely able to do so. A booted heel rests on the ground, the point of her sword braced on the floor. She hunches over the hilt, her pain-glazed eyes finding the familiar white-clad figure of Gekkoukan’s student council treasurer. “…hah…” Her lips twitch upwards in a faint smile. “….you make a dashing shield, Kusugawa-san. I’ll oblige you….just this once.”
Ma’at disappears – she’s learned her lesson for now, instead a new entity coalesces near Naomi, tapping into her strongest bond. “I’ll leave it to you, Vairocana. Do your worst.”
And it does, or at least attempts to, the new Persona hurling a burning gout of energy towards Shadow Miwa, dovetailing Shinsuke’s own attack.

COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno has activated Vairocana.
COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno hits Miwa Saitou with Freila for 61 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno has finished her turn.

Miwa Saitou [DS] has posed.

Perhaps the Shadow concedes, to Mai’s comment, But it is still one that has been discarded out of fear.

Do you really think she’ll tell you? She kept this much from you, why not hide the rest? Things that are at odds can never become whole the voiceless Shadow’s said to Tohya. Though that sudden zot of lightning from the young woman sends it cringing backwards, pulling hard againts its bonds as electricity runs across its form. It hangs there, vulnerable, providing Ixquic, who had bundled up her power earlier, with just the opening she needs. The Shadow doesn’t have a chance to try to negate the spell used against it. With what can only be pain suggested by that way in which it moves, it struggles to haul itself up as the cyclone that tears across it. Arms tense, and it hangs there, only finally managing to return itself upright.

It receives a bolstering from an unlikely place.

Though the Shadow had certainly found an ally in Benihime before, it doesn’t seem as if it’s decided to be friends. Perhaps like this, all it can do is destroy. But it doesn’t mean it doesn’t ‘appreciate’ her spell. A wash of ice flies towards the Shadow, but it doesn’t twitch in pain, or seem as if it’s had any impact except to allow it to pull itself up that much straighter. Thank you it’s echoed in a tone that carries with it a mocking weight.
Though it’s mockery that it should treasure. Ma’at’s bolt hits, and just as before, sends the Shadow reeling back in a spasm. It’s joined by another bolt, from Hector himself, that leaves the Shadow sagging against its bonds, suggesting that if it had the breath to sigh wearily with, it very well would. Mercifully, the real Miwa seems unscathed by the Shadow’s earlier fury, continuing to lie there as if locked into an endless dream.

Though Vulcanus’ fire burns it, leaving sections of faintly luminous flesh darkened with burns, it has hauled itself up once again. The eye hasn’t seen fit to vanish, tracking movements in a manner that yet suggests it’s having a little difficulty with this. A familiar thickening black mist streams out from the darkness of the ceiling above, drawing around Tatsuya Suou and threatening to sap the very life from him.

Fire is echoed by fire. This, powered by his earlier strategy, throws the Shadow back in the wake of the fiery explosion upon its flesh. It doesn’t just hang from the wire. It dangles, its body struggling and failing to pull itself up. Despite its predicament, the eye flashes, a bolt of light the inverse twin of that drawn down upon Tatsuya directed Shinsuke’s way.

But while it can attack, it can’t defend itself. It certainly can’t defend itself from Mitsuru’s angry assault, its back arching what can only (or at least one hopes) be pain. Muscles beneath skin spasm, as if it were trying its utmost right itself.
It isn’t nearly fast enough. Rui, propelling herself upwards, lauches a blade deep into that enormous eye. The Shadow screams wordlessly, a sound made all the worse for the fact that it comes from no mouth though it echoes against the depthless walls. Black blood oozes from the ruined eye. And in the sort of retaliation that can only come from pain, the floor below Rui cracks. Unless she’s fast, she’ll find herself caught in a high-pressure upwards torrent.

With great difficulty, the injured Shadow finally slips its legs around, finally manages to lift itself into a seated position. Wind again buffets it; hunching against Set’s fury, it doesn’t see–can it see?–the ball of nuclear fury that Naomi directs its way. It doesn’t stand a chance of defending against it.

But though it’s been hurt, the Shadow, clearly, isn’t yet finished. ‘Stars’ again rain down upon some of those present, less disciminatingly than before. But for Akari, the world is about to become very unpleasant. She may, in fact, have the sense that the world about her has vanished entirely. It’s gone entirely black. Here in the void, there is nothing. No sound, no light, no touch. Just the sensation of drifting–of being inexorably dragged towards something great. Something capable of tearing apart matter.

COMBAT: Miwa Saitou targets Tatsuya Suou with Mudoon, but he dodges!
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Shinsuke Kusagawa with Hamaon (Critical Hit!) for 0 points of Light damage.
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Weaken applied to Shinsuke Kusagawa.
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa takes 117 damage from the Weaken effect!
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Rui Onishi with Aquadyne for 56 points of Ice damage. (Ice Strong)
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Benihime Asano with Bright Judgement (Critical Hit!) for 129 points of Light damage. (Light Weak!)
COMBAT: Benihime Asano has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Shock applied to Benihime Asano.
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou targets Akatsuki Enda with Bright Judgement, but he dodges!
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Shinsuke Kusagawa with Bright Judgement (Critical Hit!) for 127 points of Light damage.
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Shock applied to Shinsuke Kusagawa.
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa has been knocked out!
COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto tries to take the attack for Akari Hoshi, but fails!
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou hits Akari Hoshi with Cloak of Night (Critical Hit!) for 175 points of Dark damage.
COMBAT: Akari Hoshi has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou has finished her turn.

Shinsuke Kusagawa [SEES] has posed.

Secretary, actually, though he currently holds neither position as Gekkoukan is in the middle of Student Council elections /as we speak/. Or something.
Shinsuke chuckles softly at Naomi’s reply, and he salutes her with one white-gloved hand. “You do me too much credit, Suzuno-san,” he says, his wry smile brilliantly backlit by the explosion of fire and radiation that briefly envelops the Shadow due to their attacks. The explosion also brilliantly backlights Mitsuru planting a boot in the Shadow’s ass (face, eyeball, whatever) and the strangely silent woman’s destruction of that horrid eye, curving Shinsuke’s smile into a proper grin at the sight of so much successful devastation. The Shadow appears to be on the ropes, it can’t be long now-
And then Shinsuke’s world quickly goes to hell.
Taking extreme exception to the gouts of fire launched at it, the sidereal Shadow calls upon its mastery of light and dark in retribution. While Tatsuya manages to dodge the darkness that threatens to envelop him, Shinsuke is not so fortunate; the blinding light slams into his chest, knocking him back a step as its radiance fills his flesh and threatens to rend it asunder. He stands his ground, though, unwilling to abandon his duties to Mitsuru and Naomi at the behest of his seared nerves and aching muscles.
It’s the sudden profusion of tiny supernovas which finally strips Shinsuke of the last vestiges of his endurance, sacrificed in the name of shielding Naomi. After all, he is here only to gain an understanding of Kyo, and thereby of Akatsuki; Naomi is clearly a dear friend of Miwa’s, and cannot be allowed to fall here. Priorities.
Shinsuke’s rapier falls to the ground with a clatter, and he cries out in pain as stars quite literally explode in his eyes. “Ah- forgive me, Suzuno-san,” he manages before he crumples into a heap alongside his sword, the pain arcing along his nerves fading rapidly into numbness. The darkness that overtakes him is a welcome reprieve from ‘all the light all of it’, though his final thought as he slips into unconsciousness is that he failed both ojous, the stab of guilt that accompanies it his last conscious sensation.

Akari Hoshi [NWO] has posed.

As Seiichi moves to protect Akari she tries to move out from behind him. “D-don’t…I am fine Sei-chan!” Mostly, she is terrified that he is going to take a brutal attack for her. and considering he already had taken a lot of damage it could be devastating. She moves enough that she is blasted my Shadow Miwa’s darkness attack.

The world seems is disappear and Akari opens her mouth in a silent scream. All she can sense is pain and the darkness and the feeling that something really terrible is happening or is going to happn. The group may still be there but the young girl cannot see them anymore. The attack only lasts a few seconds but it seems like an eternity and when it’s finally over Akari opens her eyes and crumples to the ground. She can’t feel anything for awhile.

Despite her state, or maybe because of it, Pairika fades away and soon Belphegor emerges. Even though he can’t offer any healing to Akari he focuses on Shadow Miwa. Without any warning he moves towards the shadow in an attempt to hurt the shadow with his /fists/.

Akari Hoshi stands back up!
COMBAT: Akari Hoshi hits Miwa Saitou with Gigantic Fist for 65 points of Strike damage.
COMBAT: Akari Hoshi has finished her turn.

Akatsuki Enda [U] has posed.

Akatsuki’s teeth grind together as, distantly, he hears Naomi call part of his name, as she does Tatsuya who called her name earlier. Shinsuke moves to protect her while assaulting the Shadow, and for a moment, Akatsuki reflects on how ineffective his attacks are compared to most of the others’s. Is attacking really the only way…? He’s never been fond of attacking others… Hasn’t he just been convincing himself that he has no options? Seeing Naomi again like this reminds him of that time–
‘There were plenty of options–you just refused to entertain them!’ ‘You wouldn’t have even told anybody if I hadn’t found out on my own, would you?’ ‘Don’t you understand how important you are to all of us?’ ‘You’re irreplaceable. To all of us… Can’t you rely on us, just a little more?’
Akatsuki grits his teeth. Yes–he said all of those things to Naomi, didn’t he? He wonders, how much must she have wanted to grab and shake him, too?
The Shadow is assaulted ferociously, but it’s still not done yet. It pours down more starlight, breaking like waves against those below. Akatsuki manages to avoid the cascades of searing illumination, but he sees others aren’t quite so lucky–including Shinsuke, who is crushed beneath it.
Dark amber eyes widen as noise chokes in his throat, and Akatsuki realizes something.
The truth is, even if he tried to distance himself, he can’t just ignore something that happens right in front of his face, can he? That was the whole reason he awoke to his Persona in the first place. And while perhaps being Hector to Kyo’s Achilles has brought him misfortune, that’s not the only role he can take, is it?
“…Mithra!” he calls, concentrating on another Persona from the depths of his soul–from his bond with Naomi, no less–to rise forth in a sea of blue. The Persona roars, a different kind of shining illumination showering over Shinsuke… and healing him back into consciousness.
Akatsuki doesn’t try to go over to Shinsuke’s side–it would be shameless of him to try that now–but he does actually look fully and directly at both him and Naomi for the first time now, eyebrows knit with that familiar concern.
A second later, though, the effects of the poisonous gas from earlier once again take their toll, and Akatsuki stumbles another step, clutching a hand at his throat as he resists the urge to gag.

COMBAT: Akatsuki Enda has activated Mithra.
Akatsuki Enda stands back up!
COMBAT: Akatsuki Enda hits Shinsuke Kusagawa with Recarm for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Recarm applied to Shinsuke Kusagawa.
COMBAT: Akatsuki Enda has finished his turn.

Benihime Asano [U] has posed.

“Thank…you?” Benihime quietly mumbles to herself, clearly perplexed by the creature’s response. The behavior shortly after the ice crawls over its body makes it evident it did nothing–and actually seemed to help it. Were she not mildly agitated at the fact it attacked her previously she might have winked back or something. Either way, Benihime just purses her lips a little tighter.

Everyone else is forgotten, at least for the moment. Before she can slip a hand into the inner breast of her white suit jacket she wears a hail of burning light descends upon her. It burns and stings, causing the pale young woman to yelp before she’s brought to her knees. She has never felt pain like /this/ before. Sure, physical pain, but–

Clearly ice is a bad idea. Once more the ivory female figure and orb returns as Benihime struggles to get back onto her feet. Lifting a pale hand once again she gestures at the large Shadow, and in turn the white figure shifts its hands upon the sphere, conjuring biting, localized gale-force winds to slice relentlessly at whatever it can manage to bite.

“You’re not fun anymore.”

COMBAT: Benihime Asano hits Miwa Saitou with Garudyne for 76 points of Wind damage.
COMBAT: Benihime Asano has finished her turn.

Tohya Kidzuki [DS] has posed.

Like death–All the more reason to keep her away from it. It’s true, Tohya is definitely not Shinjiro… but a 5’9″ ex-delinquent will have to do, since she’s who’s here. And–keep up? “All right, on it!” And, to her surprise, she finds herself running off after Mitsuru, and in the process, only half-hearing Seiichi. She manages to keep up all right–though it’s more work than she was expecting. …It’s pretty much /only/ because of the extra hours she’s been putting in at the gum, though, given all those athletics of hers.

The Shadow’s words, though, at first prompt just a glare out of Tohya, and then, almost as an afterthought, “…Whatever. She doesn’t want to tell me, that’s her business.” And so, as everything continues to go to hell–fire and lightning and darkness everywhere–Tohya takes up something /other/ than trying to talk to the Shadow, at least for a moment, and watches for an opening. Of course–here… She was hardly expecting to be /fighting/ Miwa’s Shadow of all things, and then here she is–but there’s something much… much better about actually /doing/ something about it, instead of hiding in the back, waiting for everyone /else/ to handle it.

So, instead–

“Here!” She closes her eyes, and brings forth a different Persona–this time, one a bit… brighter, than before, at least, and Parvati showers green healing upon a few of those in need of it.

COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki has activated Parvati.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki hits Mitsuru Kirijo with Mediarama (Critical Hit!) for 131 points of healing.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki hits Akari Hoshi with Mediarama (Critical Hit!) for 131 points of healing.
COMBAT: Energy applied to Akari Hoshi.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki hits Shinsuke Kusagawa with Mediarama for 87 points of healing.
COMBAT: Energy applied to Shinsuke Kusagawa.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki has finished her turn.

Rui Onishi [K] has posed.

Ichor oozes out of the punctured eye, drooling down the cable of Miss Onishi’s weapon.

Most people would spare a moment to cringe a little in disgust. Rui just looks as bland as ever.

Landing back to her feet with a click of her heels, her eyes half-hood, and with a wrench of her arm, calmly pulls her weapon free from the Shadow’s bleeding eye. Called back on its retractable cable, the bladed kyoketsu-shoge disappears back up into the woman’s left sleeve. Her hand flexes its gloved fingers in silent denouement.

But it’s not over, as the very ground begins to shudder beneath Rui’s expensive heels, her stance widening defensively as she glances downward in unmasked surprise. Her eyes narrow. A corner of her mouth tics.

And, with no preamble, the woman throws herself to one side, escaping by hairs the heart of the torrent. Instead of being propelled upwards, she catches the periphery which flings her uselessly away, hitting the ground with a bruising crack of her vertebrae and shoulder. Her body skids to a halt. Widening her eyes, Rui huffs out a dizzied exhale.

And she flips off her back back to her feet, bracing her body with one hand down on the ground. She lifts her head… and behind her, the Fisher King unfolds back into existence, his skeletal hands clicking like scissors as he lifts his decaying face back on the Shadow. Blood oozes from his eternal wound, but it doesn’t seem to hurt his glasgow smile, formed from the way the flesh has rotted away from his grinning teeth. He pulls a second weapon, a rusted, dulled, broken sword, which he pulls down on a swift, cleaving arc.

COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa has activated Kay.
COMBAT: Rui Onishi hits Miwa Saitou with Zan-ei for 75 points of Slash damage.
COMBAT: Rui Onishi has finished her turn.

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

The next volley of attacks sends Naomi taking a few steps back, crossing the blade defensively in front of her in readiness. Vairocana coalesces into being again, moving past her just as Shinsuke takes the brunt of the strike meant for her – completely caught offguard by his intent to be her shield. She had anticipated that he would merely buy her time before leaving her to her own devices, but it appears that chivalry isn’t wholly dead in the modern world.
“Kusagawa-san,” she breathes, lifting her sword from the floor and moving towards the fallen fussybutler, only for Akatsuki to get to him first, crouching next to him – of course they would know each other, having come from the same school. Having fallen and returned to a righted position around the same space, she’s forced to look Akatsuki in the eye, those handsome features writ in concern before it twists as the gas gets to him, choking into his breath. Lifting her head, her gaze trails over to the middle of the esoteric symbol etched on the ground, where Miwa stands, the macabre eye on her chest rolling around imperiously.
Her teeth clamp together tightly, her lips parting to reveal a sliver of those pearlined edges. “Tch….”
Fingers clutching her rapier tightly, she glances to the younger Enda twin. “Take care of him,” she tells Akatsuki, forcing herself on her feet. Seeing the poisonous mist part on one side, she dashes through it, lowering her shoulder as she attempts to buy both Akatsuki and Shinsuke some time even as Rui attacks the Shadow….and once she’s clear…
She bum-rushes Shadow Miwa from her blind side, aiming low in an effort to knock her off her feet and onto the floor. If successful, her fingers twist her blade up and around in an effort to drive the point down in the center of that revolving eye.

COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno hits Miwa Saitou with Pierce Attack – Rapier (Critical Hit!) for 26 points of Pierce damage.
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno has finished her turn.

Mitsuru Kirijo [SEES] has posed.

Mitsuru lands on her feet with an ease that comes years of practice with fighting in heels. Her lips are pressed into a determined line as she surveys the battle for a brief moment, getting a mental bead on everyone’s location. They’re hitting fast and hard against this Shadow but she has some reservation about going ‘all out’. They still have to find Kyo and if they have to face /his/ shadow too. But this particular Shadow is so powerful that they can’t afford not to give the fight their all. Dilemma. She only hopes that there will be a moment to catch their breath and find some reprieve.

She raises her arm, protecting her face from the onslaught of wind, nimbly moving about to dodge the rain of ‘stars’ as well. She hisses and then watches Shinsuke crumble. “Kusagawa-san!” But there is Akatsuki moving to get him back up. They have to hold here and as powerful as Penthesilea is, Mitsuru realizes that she will be of no use against /this/ particular Shadow.

But that doesn’t mean she can’t be useful in other places. The light of Parvati falls over her, suffusing with the blue light of her own Aura when her evoker goes off. Penthesilea rises again, this time looming at Rui. The short dagger in her left hand thrusts forward, stabbing into the girl and channeling mystical energes meant to heal not harm.

COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo hits Rui Onishi with Diarahan (Critical Hit!) for 200 points of healing.
COMBAT: Energy applied to Rui Onishi.
COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo has finished her turn.

Mai Namikawa [K] has posed.
“Well, better a witch than a bitch, or a bitchwitch.” is perhaps a completely innappropriate humor moment in the middle of battle against a monstrous entity with eyes where eyes should not be, but when inspiration strikes, can you really hold it back? She had little else to say regarding what the Miwa Darker Fragment retorted, they fire barrage after barrage and it’s still standing, annoyingly so. Tohya said something about element strengths earlier, which is why she’s not reaching for some of Hannya’s own magic – no sense exhausting herself to no effect.

There is a moment of pause as Mitsuru yells – a battlecry coming from the normally so calm lady is kind of a rarity, and to see her assault by going toe to toe is equally unusual. She sees Shinsuke move to try and protect Naomi – ending up the receptor of much aggression and fury, a brief look of worry flashing on the young girl’s face as he falters. This one was no pushover, time to go on the offense…her eyes harden, it’s not revenge for the dead, but a little payback for the fallen boy is totally fair game.

The sword is gripped with both hands, and Mai moves in for a thrusting strike immediatly after Naomi, intending to use the very same wound to the ‘eyesocket’, pushing her weapon deeper and cutting her way out as brutally as possible.

COMBAT: Mai Namikawa hits Miwa Saitou with Cruel Attack for 81 points of Pierce damage.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa has regenerated 11 points of damage.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa has finished her turn.

Tatsuya Suou [DS] has posed.

On the upside, fire certainly managed to accomplish something.

On the downside, possibly not enough??

Avoiding the dark power of Shadow Miwa in the nick of time, Suou hits the ground rolling over one shoulder before getting his feet back under him, heavy-soled boots clomping loudly against the ground as he ends up in a low crouch. Clearly, everyone else sees the importance of stopping the Shadow as quickly as possible, given the punishment its been able to dish out so far, so…

Tatsuya lets out a slow breath, a faint metallic echo in the air as he holds the long handle of Kotorimaru with both hands, and at the end of the breath, he springs out of his crouch like a sprinter.

Fast movement is something Tatsuya Suou has always been pretty good at – it’s probably not surprising that someone as avoidant as him would be good at running – sparks flying as the chiseled tip of the blade drags briefly along the floor of the Shadow’s chamber, before Tatsuya’s posture shifts, the blade held roughly perpendicular behind him, until he gets close enough to Shadow Miwa to fully unfurl, swinging his sword in a wide shining arc that aims to cut right /through/ the dark Shadow-figure.

On the upside, he’s not going for the eyesocket too?

COMBAT: Tatsuya Suou hits Miwa Saitou with Inexplicable Iaijutsu (Critical Hit!) for 47 points of Slash damage.
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Major Weaken applied to Miwa Saitou.
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou takes 148 damage from the High Weaken effect!
COMBAT: Miwa Saitou has been knocked out!
COMBAT: Tatsuya Suou has finished his turn.

<Pose Tracker> Miwa Saitou [DS] has posed.

Light falls, and not all escape it this time. If the Shadow takes any notice of the damage it has wrought, it certainly doesn’t show it.

From out of nowhere, a demon emerges to give the Shadow the old one-two. Shifting towards Belphegor as he rushes it, the Shadow’s fingers move in an apparent attempt to conjure up a defensive barrier, but either it’s not enough, or not fast enough. Fists collide with flesh, the force of sending the Shadow rocking backwards.

A shudder marks Rui tugging that blade free. Shadow or not, it has the same sensitivities as most living things–the eyes are vulnerable.
Others tend to their comrades. Benihime has another goal in mind. Again, there’s the suggestion that the Shadow is attempting to absorb those attacks directed its way, and again it fails. Winds bite sharply into its body, and it shifts, its body tense like one in pain. It’s then that Rui strikes, the blade of the Fisher King tearing across the Shadow’s body diagonally, leaving a deep rend that weeps black blood behind. If it could hiss out a pained gasp, its body suggests, if that chest could rise and fall in panting breaths, it would.
Not good enough the unearthly echoes seethe, and something not yet entirely extinguished within its ruined eye begins to gleam–

Naomi, approaching from another direction while the Shadow attention focuses on Rui and Benihime both, sinks her rapier in deep, black ooze welling up around the thin blade as the Shadow screams again. Neither is she the only one to attempt to so disarm that aspect of the Shadow. Mai follows suit, the blade not only plunging deep but tearing across the ruined organ. The word ‘scream’, as the Shadow convulses in agony, doesn’t do the sound it emits justice.

In this state it can’t see, let alone sense, the approach of Tatsuya Suou. He’s too close for it to be able to do a thing the moment it realizes his proximity… and his intent. No–
One bright flash of the blade is all it takes; the Shadow is cut right through, the bottom half falling to the floor in a spray of inky black blood. It and the blood quickly start to fade out. What little remains of the Shadow hangs from its bonds, thrashing in its dying throes. It seems to fold in upon itself, winnowing down in a spray of dark mist into something smaller.

Legs sprawled out to one side, the Shadow braces itself upon the remains of the magic circle with its arms, its head bowed as it drags ragged breaths.

On the floor, Miwa blinks, stirring slowly against the cold floor. It’s hard to move. She feels tired, like she’s been asleep for a long time. Pulling herself up, she gradually is able to get back on her feet to take those few slow steps towards her Shadow, taking particular care to not disturb the boundaries of the circle. She kneels before it. “I think I… understand now.” she’s says as the Shadow raises its head to look at her.

It had been like a dream, but she’d seen and felt all of what had just happened, from the moment the Shadow transformed. “I thought something was wrong with me… I thought having such contradictory thoughts and feelings made me a bad person. I didn’t… want to be someone like that. So that’s why I kept them to myself for so long. I wanted to pretend they didn’t exist.”

“But that’s wrong, isn’t it? You are me, a part of me.” A hand is extended towards the Shadow.

Kyo Enda [U] has posed.

Something starts to pattern in the darkness behind Miwa’s Shadow. A shape stitches out of the shadows, and then attains a corporeal form. A glimmer of gilt precedes the sudden flare of a pair of intense yellow eyes.

Kyo’s Shadow leans out of the dark and softly slips an open metal collar against the back of Shadow Miwa’s neck. The device clicks shut about her throat.

Shadow Kyo leans back again, and the rattle of the chain attached to that collar announces that the lead is being drawn taut. “I should thank all of you for weakening her for me,” he remarks, before receding back into the blackness– and pulling her with him.

The both of them disappear seamlessly into the artificial night.

Benihime Asano [U] has posed.

And then, in a blink of an eye, it’s all over.

Lowering her arm, Benihime just watches as everyone else assaults the giant Shadow, unleashing attack after attack until the thing is cut in half. It’s felled now, struggling to move like some pathetic insect. The shades of a sadistic smile begin to blossom upon her lips–

That is until Miwa wakes back up and speaks. Snapping her mouth shut and pursing her lips tightly, the burgundy-eyed girl just slowly turns her attention back onto the source of her troubles. Miwa Saitou. She kept her feelings because she didn’t want to acknowledge them or bring light to them. How pathetic, Benihime mulls.

But before anything more can happen another figure comes into being and captures the Shadow self of Miwa. This causes the once-frustrated Benihime to smile slightly, a gentle gesture as Kyo takes the other Miwa into darkness. Drawing her eyes to a thoughtful, patient close, the young woman–without a single word to anyone–turns and moves toward the exit…toward the final room waiting for everyone.

This time, Benihime hopes, things will flow a bit more smoothly for her.

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

Her shoulders rise and fall, Naomi leaning into her sword as she tries to get her bearings. Standing a bit of a distance away, she had moved before Tatsuya hit the shadow with his katana, completing its defeat with a final stroke. An eye closing at a pained wince, she straightens up, glancing over at Mai and the Shinsengumi leader. With a small smile, her hand lifts in a thumbs-up….
That brief window of levity, however, shuts accordingly when Miwa makes recovering noises on the side of the room, and starts speaking with her Shadow, a hand extending a hand to what remained of it. The determined, slightly triumphant expression fades slowly, and she’s about to move to where the teal-haired girl is when…
“Enda!” She doesn’t have any other name to call him, his predatory golden eyes staring at them as he rises from nowhere and clips a collar around Shadow Miwa’s neck….and even as Naomi forces herself to move forward, it is too late…both Shadows vanish into the darkness. The urge to exclaim and curse in frustration at the sight of it is almost overwhelming…..almost.
She takes a deep breath. “This isn’t over yet,” she says in one breath, wordlessly commanding Vairacona to retreat, the gold-yellow tinge around her shifting colors to her usual iridescent blue and white. Ma’at reappears, her wings unfurling, her scepter pointed to those in her immediate vicinity; Mai, Tatsuya, and Miwa.

COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno hits Miwa Saitou with Diarahan (Critical Hit!) for 157 points of healing.
COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno has finished her turn.

Mitsuru Kirijo [SEES] has posed.

Mitsuru breathes a sigh of relief when the attacks pile on the Shadow and there is a faint look of admiration when Tatsuya simply /cleaves/ the Shadow in half. Impressive. It’s rare for her to see such skill but it’s not completely unexpected. The young woman takes a step back, her breathing a little easier than before and relieved as Miwa herself appears.

Her rapier rips upwards as the darkness takes shape. Another shadow. She’s preparing herself for a strike when he does something… disturbingly unexpected. The Miwa Shadow gets collared and dragged away. “We have to follow,” she states with some distaste. “And bring this to an end once and for all.”

Holstering her evoker for a moment, she reaches into the packet of her trousers to pull out a square of cloth. As she moves towards the exit and the next room, she is cleaning off her sword.

Akari Hoshi [NWO] has posed.

Akari finally rises back to her feet as Tohya’s healing washes over her. “Thank you!” She waves towards the older girl and picks up her sword again. “Bel-chan, good job!” She smiles at the demon who nods before disappearing. Then she looks back over to where Seiichi is. She hadn’t realized that he was hit by the darkness too. Even as the shadow is taken down, everything seems to stop for her and she runs over to him, crouching down beside him, “Onii-chan…” Her lips quiver and she fights back tears. “S-Someone help him… please.” Her voice is low and pleading.

Before anything else happens though Miwa is talking to her shadow and Akari watches from the floor near Seiichi. But then another figure appears and Akari recoils back from Shadow Kyo. As he collars and then takes the shadow away, the younger girl shakes her head. “Why would he-?” Her comment cuts off as Kyo once again disappears into the darkness.

Tohya Kidzuki [DS] has posed.

And that’s that–at least, for here. It’s true, though, that they still have to deal with /Kyo/, after this–so they can’t let up their guards. So, as Miwa starts to say about it…. Well, later–except–

Tohya sees Kyo show up, and take the Shdaow, and steps forward, “Wait!” But obviously, he doesn’t. She doesn’t comment all that much on Tatsuya’s… uhh, skill. INstead, “Yeah… Nothing for it.” She looks over to Akari, then–help Seiichi…? Well, of course, there’ll be–“Don’t worry, we’ll…” She shakes her head, “Yeah. Make sure you’re ready, everybody. …Here.” And just in case, she brings out Parvati again, to heal some of those here–including… a certain person just asked for it.

COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki hits Akatsuki Enda with Mediarama for 86 points of healing.
COMBAT: Energy applied to Akatsuki Enda.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki hits Seiichi Miyamoto with Mediarama for 84 points of healing.
COMBAT: Energy applied to Seiichi Miyamoto.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki hits Shinsuke Kusagawa with Mediarama for 86 points of healing.
COMBAT: Energy applied to Shinsuke Kusagawa.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki has finished her turn.

Rui Onishi [K] has posed.

And once more, the Fisher King bows his crowned head and fades off into nothingness.

Rui lifts her own head, breathing hard against her own injuries, blinking her eyes to focus them. It’s then her body falls into the shadow of Penthesilea, the woman alerted by the Persona to meet its eyes briefly. She’s not sure what to expect — especially when it thrusts forward at her to bury a dagger into her side.

The woman balks, lips parted in surprise, trying to defend herself against it. The weapon slides into her, and even more unexpectantly, where she’s always expected pain, agony… instead she finds relief.

Strength returns to the woman as she elicits out a surprised, shuddering breath, looking down at her body as the lingering exhaustion and pain fades like old memories from her skin. She looks down at her gloved hands, flexes them once, and with a grateful incline of her head, slowly rises back to her heels.

It’s about then Tatsuya Suou is striking the death blow on the Shadow, and Rui half-steps back when, apparently out of nowhere, the familiar Shadow of Kyo Enda returns to thank them all for making his job easier, collaring and capturing it back to his tethers. Miss Onishi’s own face is a vague mixture of confusion and uncertainty, a shallow frown smudged across her mouth, but ultimately she appears more dismayed by the watermarks and stain of black blood swathing up her suit’s left arm. She brushes fussily at it. It’s a cashmere blend.

It doesn’t look good.

Miwa Saitou [DS] has posed.

Miwa reaches for her Shadow. The Shadow doesn’t get a chance to reach back.

Perhaps sensing his approach, the Shadow had stiffened, had started to try to get to its feet. Miwa glances up then, and freezes light prey that has spotted the predator, her lips parting in alarm. Escape for the Shadow isn’t possible. The collar snaps around its neck instead, and with an alarmed and sharply cut-off cry, it’s spirited away.

“Kyo–” Miwa’s gasped, finally finding the voice to speak with. He’s gone, then, and she scrambles to her feet, glancing about herself to try to find out where he’s gone.

Her heart is pounding.
The fear isn’t just ‘her’ own.

At least the exhaustion is brushed away by Naomi’s spell. While her expression is taut with worry, she glances at her friend, her expression grateful. “Thank you…”

“I… I need to get my Shadow back,” she’s said, her gaze falling on the door. It doesn’t seem possible that someone could leave without a piece of themselves. What would happen without it…?

She starts to walk towards the door.

Tatsuya Suou [DS] has posed.
As usual, Tatsuya seems alarmingly impassive about carving through something with that bright steel blade, whether it’s his friend’s Shadow, or an alternate reality Maki’s neck, or certain Kyo Endas’ torsos. As the Shadow starts to come apart, its combat form dissipating and the appearance of Miwa’s doppleganger startring to return, Tatsuya stands there, unflinchingly, flicking his sword off to one side to clear the Shadow’s ichor off of the blade, even though it might well be dissipating on its own.

Everything seems to be going well, as Miwa starts to accept her Shadow, and others start to relax, but then /Kyo’s/ Shadow pops up like a particularly unpleasant jack in the box, gets rather overtly kinky with Shadow Miwa, and drags her off into the darkness. For a long moment, Tatsuya stands there, once again completely bewildered by the sorts of things that go on when a person’s subconscious is writ large and given its own space to play with.

This is pretty fucked up.

“Yeah,” Tatsuya agrees with Miwa. “I guess you do. Let’s go,” the tall young man says, turning to also head towards the door.

Mai Namikawa [K] has posed.

There are people who enjoy screams, and unfortunatly she’s not one of them. There was a troubled time where Mai enjoyed dealing pain to others, maybe if she had not grown out of it this would be music to her ears rather than a painful cacophonic agonyyell. Her face twists faintly as she pulls her weapon out of the wound, shifting stance and watching for signs of the next barrage-

That never comes, as Tatsuya bisects it once and for all, now that it was getting too weak to defend itself. The sword is lowered as the need for it lessens, and she watches Miwa move toward the shapechanging Shadow as it returns to a more humanoid form. Her acceptance of her own feelings – even as they defied logic, it should hopefully see the two parts of Miwa Saitou back into one.

If it wasn’t for that DASTARDLY Kyo Enda, kidnapping the princess – erm, Shadow right from under their noses. “What?” Mai unfortunatly was not seeing this coming at all, and by the time she reaches to fire an attack it’s already outside her visual line, and she may as well fire blindly into walls.

“Crap.” is the understatement of how the situation just turned. “Well this is a first. But why would-”

Mai cuts her own sentence off, you can almost see the gears in her head turning, putting pieces together diligently and the look on her face going from ‘processing’ to ‘complete horror’. She looks around, assessing the wounds and readyness status of the people around her to conclude: Not good. “We need to move. Now.” she says, trying to keep her voice under control but something clearly has her rattled. “Time is our enemy if we don’t want Saitou-san to…let’s just move.” She swings her blade once to send the gunk splattering on the floor. “Yes, yes you do.” she replies to Miwa’s assessment of necessity. “You’re not at full strength, don’t take unnecessary risks.” is perhaps surprisingly kind considering the harsh words she had for the Sumaru girl earlier.

Shinsuke Kusagawa [SEES] has posed.

Shinsuke awakens with a start, blinking rapidly as the luminescent contrails of Mithra’s spell dissipate before his eyes. He gasps, aching lungs drinking in ozone-charged air without heed for the fire still racing along his ribs, the desperation unconscious. Had he died? No- just knocked out, he… His eyes widen as Shinsuke remembers he’d been shielding Naomi- is she…? He shoves himself to a sitting position, looking up; azure eyes meet amethyst for the briefest moment before Naomi rushes off with a vengeance. Good, she’s alright.
Leave it to the bearer of Kay to prove that chivalry yet lives.
Shinsuke’s gaze flickers to the side, then, and finds Akatsuki’s. He- the white-clad youth places a hand to his chest, and his fingers curl slightly. Still holding Akatsuki’s amber gaze, Shinsuke nods once.
And then time returns to normal, and Akatsuki doubles over coughing as Tohya calls healing down upon Shinsuke and Mitsuru calls out to him and Tatsuya just up and iaijutsus the Shadow, resulting in a coruscating explosion. “I’m fine, Kirijo-senpai!” Shinsuke calls out as he takes up his sword and leaps back to his feet, voice carrying over the fading sounds of battle. Rushing over to Naomi, he fusses, “Ah, sorry, Suzuno-san, I hope you weren’t too inconvenienced there!” He doesn’t believe service is his only purpose anymore, but he’ll never quite be able to defeat the impulse to fuss over ojous.
Or princes, in Akatsuki’s case. Hector was fated to die at Achilles’ hand, but there is a reason he was accounted one of the Nine Worthies — a reason he and not Achilles was held up as a model of knightly and royal ideals, of courage and of heroism. “Sweet-tempered knight,” as one Arthurian tale named him. One day, maybe Akatsuki will realise he is more than a victim.
Or so Shinsuke hopes.
Speaking of Shinsuke, his position gives him a front-row seat to Kyo’s Shadow’s abduction of Miwa’s Shadow. He gasps; she has to take it into herself, or- Miwa announces she has to go find it, and the group agrees. “Let us hurry,” Shinsuke replies, sheathing his blade and summoning Kay for one last burst of healing. He offers Tohya a grin and thumbs-up as she sends even more healing his way, and he makes his way out of the candlelit room with the rest.
As he goes, he wonders at the silent woman’s Persona. Kay had reacted rather strongly to it…

Shinsuke Kusagawa stands back up!
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa hits Shinsuke Kusagawa with Diarama for 114 points of healing.
COMBAT: Energy applied to Shinsuke Kusagawa.
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa has finished his turn.

Akatsuki Enda [U] has posed.

Shinsuke awakens, catches Akatsuki’s eyes, and nods–and for the split-second before Akatsuki dissolves into a coughing fit, something in his handsome features softens.
Then the moment passes, and Shadow Miwa shrieks an unearthly, inhuman shriek, and Akatsuki grinds his teeth together even as he forces himself back upright to stay, if not /right/ next to Shinsuke, close to him in deference to Naomi’s request that he watch over him. Tatsuya ends the battle by cleaving the Shadow in half. That poison’s still lingering in his system, weakening him, and so when Miwa reaches out to her Shadow–and then Shadow Kyo comes, collars her, and drags her into the darkness–Akatsuki can do nothing but stand there.
His eyes narrow slightly. He can feel, in his exhaustion both physical and mental, his heart closing like before, locking guilt and frustration out and leaving inside only an irritation at his brother’s antics, and he finds it strangely relieving–certainly easier to function in. Surprising? Yes, but Akatsuki’s lack of experience with the TV world works to his advantage; why *shouldn’t* Shadow Kyo be able to do that? This is *his* world, after all.
He looks up as Akari begs them to help Seiichi, and he looks down at the fallen pianist with a slight frown. Fortunately, Tohya’s on top of that, and shares the love with him too. He shuts his eyes and sighs wetly against it, the poison still not quite out of his system, and mouths a ‘thank you’ Tohya’s way before he looks over at Naomi and the others as they hurry for the next door, including Miwa. It seems like she’s all right for now, but…
“Yes,” is the only word of agreement he has for everyone saying they’ve got to hurry up and settle things. His eyes are on Mai’s back in particular for a moment before he hurries to join the others.

Seiichi Miyamoto [NWO] has posed.

Getting clipped by that darkness spell was’t /quite/ as bad as getting hit with the light beam but it had still thrown Seiichi aside with rather brutal force to leave him bleeding on the ground. He still moves though, albit weakly. One hand starts to brace himself slightly as he bleeds from the scorched marks on his chest and arm. “I’ll…” His voice weak and a touch pained. “…I’m fine Akari. I’m not dying yet. Not to this one. I won’t give him the satisfaction.” He adds as he awkwardly pats the little NWOite on the arm as he attempts to slowly get back to his feet. His world is a mass of pain as he slowly forces his eyes open to watch the confrontation between Miwa-Shadow and Kyo. His own eyes widen at the sudden trapping of the Shadow. There is a moment of suprise that registers there, then that moment of suprise passes into disgust and concern as he realises what kidnapping a piece of Miwa’s /soul/ might mean.
Espicially in the hands of someone light Kyo.
He hisses in pain once again as he forces himself back to his feet, only to have a wash of green healing energy spash over him. Pained muscles relax and the burns settle into something less than a mass of hurt. There is again a flicker of suprise in his eyes when he looks towards the source of that healing. He wasn’t expecting Tohya to do that. Not to him at least. However there /is/ a nod of thanks towards her before he speaks again. “See. I’m fine Akari.” He murmurs as he struggles back to his feet and strips off the remains of the leather jacket to drop it on the ground. The thing is mostly useless anyway by now. He crouches for a moment to snatch up his blades once again as he turns and starts to follow the others. “Yes, moving quickly would be for the best.” He agrees as he starts to follow. Moving quickly is possibily the only option if they want to get Miwa out without any further mental or physical damage.

Kyo Enda [U] has posed.

The fourth set of doors open on… a small observation area beside an impassable wall of glass. Beyond that glass is a small, comforting-looking room, normally furnished with a chair, a writing desk, a few decorations and innocuous comforts, and a ticking wall clock– but empty of any people save Kyo. The doors click shut behind them, and they’re left to watch the boy.

Kyo sits in the chair for a few minutes. He glances every so often– with increasing frequency– at the far wall opposite him, which seems like a backlit screen in that the silhouettes of people walking past can be seen through it. There is one small window in this wall, and every so often the body of a person darkens it for half an instant.

No one stops to look in. No one even stops long enough for Kyo to recognize them, or call for them.

There is no sense of danger to the group, no indication that this Kyo even knows they’re there. The long, idyllic silence is restful after the screams and chaos of the previous rooms, and after a while it might almost come to seem a welcome reprieve. It’s as if the dungeon is on pause. It’s certainly an opportunity for the group to heal up and recover after their ordeal.

This waiting peacefulness does not appear to have the same effect on Kyo. It seems to visibly infect him like a disease. As time passes and the party’s nerves unwind, Kyo only seems to grow more upset and distraught with the solace and boredom.

A fidget starts in his hands. He controls it, glances spasmodically back towards the window and the faceless passerby, and frowns as if upset no one is paying him any mind. He gets up, moves to the window, and stands staring as countless people walk by without giving him a thought.

The minutes tick past. The boredom starts to get unbearable. Kyo picks up the table, puts it elsewhere, then moments later puts it back in its original place. He looks back at the window. He looks at the clock. He bows his head, and remains still a long few minutes more.

Then, he picks up the desk and breaks it against the far wall, the one that separates the world and all its normal people from him. The sudden stimulus might jolt more than one member of the group, but Kyo…? The temporary look of relief on his face to see SOMETHING happen is pitiful. Papers scatter from a drawer, and he rushes over as if hoping they will provide him some game to play.

They’re blank. The maddening silence begins to infect his eyes again. Minutes tick past, each one seemingly a torment.

He looks at the clock again, and then walks over and rips it from the wall. He uses the sparking electricity from a snapped wire to start a fire in one of the curtains. His expression eases again as the flames distract him, the stimulation providing him with visible relief from the agony of doing nothing. But when the fire threatens to abate, threatens to leave him inert in a still room again… Kyo cracks.

He tears the remaining curtain from the window, throwing it in, throwing in the blank sheets of paper from the desk, throwing in anything he can reach. He is so intent on keeping himself diverted that he takes no notice of the destruction he enacts… or the destruction he may inadvertently bring on himself.

The door clicks open softly. The group is permitted to leave the sight of Kyo frenziedly destroying the room behind them.

Tohya Kidzuki [DS] has posed.

Tohya is a little too impatient at the moment to fully appreciate the rest, but the chance to recover, refocus, that, at least, is good. She’s still concerned, though–she’s not familiar enough with the TV to know much about the taking of someone else’s Shadow, but she has a bad feeling about it, either way. And then, there’s… This room. This room, that has Tohya stopping to watch, as Kyo goes on, ignored, /alone/, peaceful… and sees how much it seems to bother him.

Okay, maybe she can appreciate the silence a little. Being able to get away… That’s not so bad, after all.

When, finally, the door opens, Tohya stays to watch, a moment, the room being destroyed, under the force of what looks like… random action. “…Yeah, let’s end it,” she murmurs, and then heads towards the now-open door.

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

The next room is yet another room, with another image of Kyo – unlike the others, this is less macabre, save for the fact that he is literally setting things on fire around himself to keep himself from doing….what? Having largely recovered from the earlier battle, the stare that falls on the moving image, even as the red-gold flames lick over plaster and the drapes, is a much calmer one than a few moments earlier.
Naomi wordlessly assesses his movements, but this is brief – there was no point to it, after all, no manner of logical thinking would be able to predict the next step, much less the next five.
So, she pivots on her heel, quietly following after Tohya once she declares that she’s time to end it. She couldn’t agree more….but she’s also inwardly bracing herself for what lies beyond.
Because nothing is ever that simple.

Benihime Asano [U] has posed.

Upon entering the room, and perfectly content to remain quiet and otherwise out of mind for the moment, Benihime Asano takes in her surroundings. She finds herself curious to see what torture Kyo has put upon himself in this mysterious place, isolated from everyone as he sits, alone, in a dull room. How very anticlimactic, she muses privately.

Things, however, get more curious as the minutes tick away. He moves and fidgets. He stirs restlessly. And then, not surprisingly, he begins to break things, a desperate quest to find comfort here. Benihime tilts her head to one side as the seconds tick onward. He begins to tear it all apart.

That’s all she needed to know. A smile edges over her mouth.

“Hmn, hmn~, moving on~,” the girl quietly sing-songs to herself, a newfound spring in her step, however discreet it may be as she turns to leave once again. Yes, Benihime is enjoying herself quite a lot now.

Akatsuki Enda [U] has posed.

When Akatsuki first steps into the silent, quiet room where Kyo sits, ignored and alone, at first he can’t relax; he’s too tense, too busy expecting *something* to start happening. When it becomes apparent that nothing will, he begins to relax, lets himself rest, lets himself enjoy the healing… and then starts watching his brother.
As Kyo grows increasingly more agitated, Akatsuki merely watches. When he rushes over to the window, when he scatters the paper, when he rips out the alarm clock and sets the drapes on fire and wrecks the room, Akatsuki merely watches. His expression doesn’t seem to change, but… his hands squeeze more tightly together. He doesn’t move until after the door clicks open again, and even then, it takes a moment before he finally gets to his feet and silently leaves, eyes shootly briefly towards Benihime as she happens to sing-song within earshot.

Mitsuru Kirijo [SEES] has posed.

From darkness and chaos to… Mitsuru, tense and ready for war, stumbles into a quiet and peaceful room with Kyo looking bored as hell. She breathes out in relief. It looks like they will have a chance to get a breath of air, some reprieve. It’s not like they can go anywhere until that door unlocks anyway so she moves forward, looking at Shinsuke’s injuries and aiding Penthselia’s own healing to his wounds before seeing to Seiichi as well. While others wait, she sees and tends to what injuries she can before rising to her feet.

There’s a pause and then she reaches into her coat pocket. From it emerges a small can of cold tea and there’s the satisfying sound of a the can opening. She takes a long drink from the can, feeling relieved and invigorated at the same time. Kyo, in the background, is setting things on fire and tearing things apart and while it bothers her a little, he’s not showing any signs of seeing /them/. So she lets it go and waits until the door clicks open and it’s once again back into the breach.

Her eyebrow arches at Benihime’s reaction to all this. Interesting… disturbing. Kyo’s new friend?

Miwa Saitou [DS] has posed.

She feels less tired than she had, but at the same time, she’s not only missing a part of herself, but that very same part had been subjected to the full brunt of the power her friends (and their allies) could bring to bear. “Yes… I know,” she’s agreed, her head bobbing in a shallow nod.

Shehe has an awareness that something is missing. Thankfully they’re not so long parted–that or Kyo hasn’t gone far with the Shadow-=that its absence seems, to her, to be doing her harm yet. But even if it’s a part of herself that she’d denied for so long, every part of a whole is important. She wants it back–no, she /needs/ it back.

Retreating into the foyer reveals that the last door is ajar. It has to be past here. There’s nothing left but this. Stepping over the threshold, Miwa braces herself for what might lie beyond it.

She take a breath. It’s–
An observation room. “Kyo…?” she’s uttered, her gaze falling upon the sole occupant of a room that, to her and especially now, seems calming and inviting. She had barely slept the last night. She’s exhausted mentally and physically after confronting her Shadow. Even just a minute. In her rush perhaps it’s all she can spare, but even just a minute is enough.
But what part of Kyo is a place like this…? His calm had only come when she’d managed to placate him. It never lasted.

He doesn’t, she notices with sudden shock, appear to be enjoying his stay in this room.

In fact, as she watches, he begins to destroy the room about him, even setting a curtain aflame. “…” she’s breathed, her worried expression growing baffled.

There’s no way she can see to get an answer. Nor does she have the time to linger here. The fear hasn’t faded…
And it’s not her own, not precisely.

Glancing at Naomi and Tohya as they silently stride towards the door, Miwa follows.

Akari Hoshi [NWO] has posed.

Akari wasn’t sure if she was even capable of healing but regardless, she knew that, at the moment, she had no persona’s that could heal anyway so unfortunately it would be up to the others to take care of that. Tohya does just that and the girl looks back to Tohya and offers quiet, “Thank you.” As Seiichi stands back up, the girl wraps an arm around him. “Are you /sure/ you’re okay?” She was so worried.

As Mai explains that they need to hurry, her expression falls again, “Where are we going to go though?” As she asks that the next set of doors becomes apparent and Akari walks towards them. As they enter into the next room she looks around at the images in front of them. The silence was somewhat welcome but also extremely unnerving. She bounces a little with impatience at this little scene. Though she is actually grateful for the small break as her wounds continue to mend and she feels stronger and more clarity than before.

Watching Kyo react to this scene was a little weird and the sudden outbursts cause her to jump. She thinks that he basically just looks like a human time bomb that is ready to explode. Her thoughts aren’t far off when he just starts destroying everything in the room. As the next door opens, Akari gladly heads out though the fear of what’s to come keeps her from straying too far from the others.

Tatsuya Suou [DS] has posed.

There was definitely a time in Tatsuya’s life where the idea of a place where nobody would bother him at all, where the meddling and interference and unwanted attention from other people would not exist. Even now, long after he’s begun to open up and admit the existence of other people into his life, the idea holds a certain appeal. Where others, but Kyo Enda most especially, would see boredom and torture, Tatsuya sees the opportunity to have a long, relaxing nap whenever he might feel like it, where he could do as he likes without anyone nagging him… Even if what he wants to do is nothing at all, which seems to be the primary option available in Kyo Enda’s private hell.

A small smile curves at the corners of Tatsuya’s mouth, though it’s wistful and far away, as if thinking what he would be doing instead in that particular circumstance. As Kyo proceeds to freak the fudge out all over the room, though, his expression drifts lazily down into a thoughtful frown, until whatever force is behind the doors finally allows them to leave.

Shinsuke Kusagawa [SEES] has posed.

The next room…is peaceful enough, a much-deserved reprieve from the last. It appears to be an observation room in a hospital of some sort, as far as Shinsuke can tell; a psych ward, essentially. Other rooms would have beds, restraints… The white-clad youth frowns. For one who views life as a series of puzzles, the worst- the most terrifying thing- /this/ is boredom. Like Sherlock Holmes, who required either the constant stimulation of a case or the ‘exaltation’ of cocaine to prevent his ‘mental engine’ from wracking itself into ruin, but… Shinsuke shakes his head. Kyo is more like an animal exhibiting stress behaviors than anything, especially given the panicked way he’s going about it.
Oh- Shinsuke glances up and sees Mitsuru coming over to check his injuries; obediently, he endures her critical eye and her momming until she declares herself satisfied. The door opens…
As Shinsuke steps through it, heels clicking on the tile floor, he reaches up and squeezes Akatsuki’s shoulder, gently.

Mai Namikawa [K] has posed.

The thumbs up from Naomi is returned if a little late by a similar gesture, but it’s clear Mai is pretty worried now about this turn of events. She does find it surprising that this place even had a seemingly comfortable room, one she can sit down for a moment and breathe, since there’s no visible other door right now she figures SOMETHING needs to happen first. Maybe.

She does take a moment however to move closer to the recently graduated Sumaru girl, “So…” she inches close enough to whisper, “That girl that’s with us, not the quiet one, the one that called Saitou-san a monster…she’s not with you guys?” She had assumed as much but given how Naomi spoke to her this question felt appropriate now, and if Naomi herself did not know her and Mai did not either then who did she come with, if anyone?

That’s pretty much the only question she asks before Kyo begins to move furniture around, then move it again, then stare everywhere. She never pictured him as the fidgety type but there’s really no denying his behavior now – or this memory of him? She wonders what lies behind the window yet dares not approach, last thing she wanted was to check if this was the Shadow toying with them again.

The sudden destructive act toward the desk does surprise her, the sword held at ready again as she grows uncertain as to what to expect. But he looks happy about this? And then frustrated again? And then it’s the clock’s turn as Mai lowers her sword again with a look of complete horror at what he was doing. “He’s…” words just fail her as to how messed up this looks. Arson for what? Why?! And when she hears a click of a door again, the Gekkoukan girl is in QUITE a hurry to get away from this bizarre outbursts before he starts setting THEM on fire or something. There’s no need to comment on his mental state being off, she knew this already but seeing it like this was disturbing all the same. “That was…” what was the word? “Something.” as she can’t even find a word to properly describe what she just saw. Her eyes speak volumes anyway.

Seiichi Miyamoto [NWO] has posed.

Well at least there isn’t bloody women strung up on the ceiling from this room. Seiichi moves into the room carefully, as if waiting for some monster to leap from the windows. Possibily the desk to animate and fly at them. Hell demonic ducks might just APPEAR and attempt to eat their faces. Who knows. Its Kyo’s dream. Anything can and possibily would happen. Howver as nothing happens as the minuites drag on? He seems to slowly relax. Slowly and carefully. Mitsuru coming over to tend to the wounds he has left helps with that. “Thank you,” He offers to her quietly, reaching out to touch her arm just lightly. More to assure himself that she was still real than anything else. He turns his attention back to Kyo as he slowly goes mad.
“Locking him in a box by himself /would/ be the worst torture anyone could do to him.” He murmurs quietly as he watches the tick gets worse. The mad /need/ to do something. Anything. When he starts destroying things though he nods half to himself as he turns to start to follow the rest. “I’m fine Akari, I’m sure.” He adds towards the smaller girl, the smile one of assurance. He said that he wouldn’t leave her at least didn’t he. However as he slips out of the room with the rest his pauses to remember an old adage. What was that saying again? ‘The calm before the storm’ wasn’t it? He has a feeling thats just what it was.

Rui Onishi [K] has posed.

In her usual, customary manner, Rui follows the group at her own measured pace. Partially because she prefers to remain off by her lonesome (just because she’s decreed to help them, it does not allow her to partake in the psychology of a young man… this is a place for human beings), and be the stoic weapon she pledged to remain, and partially because she can’t smooth down her own battle sense, and she needs to remain alert, needs to take up the rear against the possibility of more surprise attacks.

She’s also still frowning at her ruined sleeve. She thinks she’s made the stain worse.

Ultimately, following the others leads Miss Onishi into that room as well, her left arm held a little stiffly, on guard, as she watches the proceedings of that room. She’s only had minimal interactions with the young man, Kyo Enda. He’d never struck her as anything but a formal, well-executed employee. Except for that one, strange time…

But she watches, allowing even her conditioning to mollify slightly in the silence and respite, all of these darkened, intimate moments a remedy for her gentle nature. That is, until it self-destructs.

Rui doesn’t hitch backward. There is not an ounce of judgment in her passive, patient features. Her eyelids half-hood serenely as distant firelight highlights orange and yellow against her dusky skin. She watches.

Kyo Enda [U] has posed.

The last door, the largest one set right in the middle of the entryway, reads KLEOS; it opens on a long hall towards what is presumably the final room. It’s overlooked by a pair of distinct figures that face one another far overhead. What can only be a representation of Kyo and Akatsuki’s mother, Mana, emerges from the left wall like a carving from the prow of a ship. The woman’s image is defaced with hate: her throat slit wide open to silence her, and her eyes removed. An image of Kyo’s father faces her from the other wall. The man’s head is twisted around 180 degrees, ensuring he never sees his wife– or anything else in front of him.

An image of Akatsuki appears beside his mother, expression blank with indifference. On the other side, beside his father, hangs an image of Kyo: quite literally. The limp body dangles from the end of its looped rope, turning slowly in some phantom breeze. After all, all it took was a few moments’ of strangulation, just as they were born– just a little bit of brain damage– to make Kyo what he is now…

Just beyond these images, the left wall of the hall alcoves off into a little scene cut from Kyo and Akatsuki’s childhood home. The wall opens up into a cutaway of the kitchen– one that looks as if it was hastily abandoned in the midst of preparation, in favor of some greater concern. A fish lies slowly defrosting on the counter, red-stained water running out of its slit belly, but nothing else has been taken out.

All the doors leading out of the kitchen and deeper into the house stand open and black. Voices drift from those doors, one mature, one a child’s, though the owners cannot be seen.

I know what you do to those animals. The other kids. I know what you do to /Akatsuki/. You need help.
I don’t– it’s just a game. We’re just playing.
Kids don’t play that way. I should have seen this earlier. I should have admitted to myself my son was abnormal. No, I’m getting you help. But in the meantime you need to be separated from Akatsuki–
/No!/

The wail carries a note of desperation. The crash of something overturning echoes through the house, and Mana Enda /screams/ a high, panicked note…

A little further along, in an alcove on the right side of the hall, Kyo can be seen kneeling over what looks like the body of Akatsuki, but which in reality is just a killed kotodama clone. He’s holding a lighter, and his intent to burn the thing and dispose of it seems clear; but actually doing the deed seems to be another thing entirely. He brings the lighter close– but then his gaze strays to the familiar loved face, and he stops. He slowly recoils again.

He sits in indecision a moment, before he puts the lighter away and just looks at his brother’s reproduced face. “Why won’t you come back?” he asks.

The way into the last chamber is clear.

Benihime Asano [U] has posed.

Let them talk; Benihime just does what she does, regardless of their hushed whispers or conspiratorial tones. She’s here for reasons she’d never tell them. And really, what does it matter? She /helped/ them, didn’t she? Not that she /wanted/ to, but hey, they should at least appreciate it.

There’s a ghost of a smile on her lips as she enters the last room, KLEOS. Awaiting them is that long stretch of hall, disfigured persons carved in the high ceilings. She pauses briefly to admire the scene, the defaced female and the twisted head of the man. Who they are to Kyo remains uncertain to Benihime. There’s an image of Akatsuki, Kyo’s apparent twin, and a hanging Kyo. Interesting. Intriguing!

The walk brings Benihime to the kitchen, and into what is clearly a conversation between a child and his mother. The conversation turns volatile in a split-second. Benihime blinks once, slowly, before she looks away with an impassive expression. It doesn’t seem to affect her. She seems interested in just moving onward.

Another image, another bit of Kyo’s past. The situation may be touching for some; to Benihime it’s just another facet of Kyo Enda she’s privy to. The smile on her mouth remains as she ventures forth, into the last chamber that awaits them all.

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

“An inconvenience? I’m just relieved that you’re alright,” the former Sevens president tells Shinsuke simply. “…and….thank you, for your assistance earlier.”
As the rest start walking to whatever their path leads them next, Naomi, cognizant of someone joining her side, slows down, the clicking of her bootheels on the ground lagging behind the rest. Glancing at the rest as they continue to press forward, her raven-haired head shakes back and forth; a nonverbal and negative response to Mai’s query. “She just showed up,” she tells her friend softly in hushed tones, albeit she looks straight ahead. “….at first I assumed she was with the rest of the Gekkoukan team but it doesn’t look to be the case. I could say the same for the other one…” There’s a small sideways nudge of her head towards Rui’s direction. “But I think I recall seeing her in the black and white ball a few weeks ago and Irie-san was speaking with her. I’d try and cheat if you were curious, but I can’t….read her very well from here. And especially not in this place.”
She stops speaking, however, once they enter the main door. The twisted features of the carved faces of Akatsuki and Kyo’s parents are the first thing she sees, followed by the unmistakeable, faint trace of copper, rust and brine….. her head turns as she walks past Kyo’s limp body hanging suspended in the air like a wind chime stripped from the rest of its brethren and left neglected, devoid of tune. There is no other reaction, save for the slight tightening of the lines of her face.
The smell is stronger once they walk past the cut-out alcove of the Endas’ childhood home, where the slab of fish remains bleeding and largely unprepared on the counter. Mana’s voice filters out from the other end, followed by a conversation and a sudden scream. Her steps quicken at that, expecting to view disaster at the moment something crashes and someone screams, only to be confronted by the stomach-turning sight of Kyo hunched over the limp, lifeless Akatsuki clone, flopped bonelessly on the ground and nothing more than an empty vessel akin to a discarded cicada shell.
She comes away from the sight feeling two things acutely; the slightest shred of pity, of sympathy….singleminded devotion was something she was intimately familiar with, after all, and disgust that he would go so far as to create copies of his brother to impress his suffocating intentions upon. She follows the rest to the room beyond.

Tohya Kidzuki [DS] has posed.

The images… The wording, KLEOS, is again meaningless to Tohya, though the figures–those make more sense… and cause Tohya’s jaw to set, again. Her eyes, of course, stay on Mana’s representation at first, though she looks to the other images, as well, seeing some weird image of Kyo after Akatsuki, and…. Well.

She shakes her head, arms crossed, and then walks on, seeing the scene of… A fish, sure. She doesn’t bother thinking much of it, instead watching Kyo and the voice–well, hearing, rather, these voices, as… a game… Someone tried to help, then. And the images… This is strange, to say the least, this body of ‘Akatsuki’, and a frown pretty much makes its way onto her face and just flat doesn’t leave. Ultimately… SHe just heads to the end. THe last chamber’s ahead, and she doesn’t plan to waste any more time. “Try not to let it get to you.”

Akatsuki Enda [U] has posed.

Akatsuki moves towards the door, tensing slightly as he feels a hand on his shoulder. He turns, eyes slightly, to see Shinsuke standing there, and for a moment, he’s simply frozen…
Before he relaxes and gives him a slight nod. “Thank you,” he murmurs. “And… I’m sorry.”
That relaxation vanishes once they reach the next room, KLEOS, and Akatsuki sees the reliefs of his family as Kyo views them. Neither of their parents are surprising, though they do make Akatsuki dig his nails into his palms (in particular, he has to force himself not to reach out to the vandalized relief of his mother, and simply stares at it sharp-eyed before moving on), and even Akatsuki’s own relief isn’t surprising given how the younger twin knows how much his older brother wishes he’d just love him best, but even so–the vision of Kyo himself hanged and turning very faintly in an unfelt breeze. Akatsuki stares it down for a moment before he moves on.
He ignores the fish defrosting on the counter to stand before one of those doors, listening to the voices. He wasn’t there in the room at the time, but his mom had told him about it, and he *does* very clearly remember the sounds of those screams, how swiftly he’d sprinted towards the source of it, terror palpitating through his veins…
Deep breath, deep breath. Akatsuki holds it together, and even remains as such when he reaches the final alcove, staring down at Kyo cradling the wrecked Kotodama clone of himself, trying to burn it but unable to bring himself to.
‘Why won’t you come back?’ Kyo wonders.
Akatsuki merely turns away and walks onward. He hears Tohya’s words, but… for now, he doesn’t speak.

Akari Hoshi [NWO] has posed.

As they enter the next room, Akari reaches out beside her to find Seiichi’s hand. She steps inside and watches the woman appear but quickly looks away from image. Not again, she thinks. It all feels like a bad dream that she can’t wake up from. She looks towards where the hanging Kyo is slowly moving.

Akari wants to continue forward though, to get this over with as soon as possible and she walks down the hall into the kitchen. The fish doesn’t really bother her so much and she just quickly walks through the door leading out of the kitchen. There are more voices and Akari can only listen and try and make as much sense of the words as she can.

The desperate wail causes her to look with concern towards the source and then, the woman who appears to be the mother, screams and Akari shrinks back at the sight of Kyo leaning over Akatsuki. “H-He killed him?” She looks back to the real Akatsuki, searching his face for the kind of reaction seeing his own brother doing this would bring. As the older boy doesn’t speak or really indicate much of an epxression Akari sighs and moves towards the next room.

Miwa Saitou [DS] has posed.

She had never known their mother. She had only met their father a scant few times, and even then only in passing. He worked late, he was often away–Miwa knew how that story went and had thought nothing more of it. Even when things had changed, she’d had no reason to seek Enda Sr. out.
But there she stands, recognizing the one bust and guessing at the identity of the other, horrified.

Another picture. Kyo hangs from a tree. Miwa again pauses. Did he want to die…? It’s the only meaning she can glean from this image.

Another, and it’s a domestic scene. Voices filter in; Miwa takes a step to listen more closely and stiffens at what she catches. ‘Those animals’…?

A scream rings out. “What happened–” she gasps. Reflexively, Miwa takes a step towards the image only for the to shift. Instead of a doorway, she’s left to stare at something she never wanted to see again. Memories that had been forcefully buried rise up, and she turns away, her eyes squeezed shut. A hand covers her mouth and nose. ‘Try not to let it get to you’ is unfortunately not enough against the tide of remembered horror and panic.

Hurried steps take her towards the far door.

Mitsuru Kirijo [SEES] has posed.

Based on the horrors of the second room, Mitsuru is sadly no longer particularly shocked by the further horror left for them in this TV world. Shock fatigue perhaps? Or simply her mind is refusing to process further horrors for the sake of sanity. She merely looks forward and strides forward as well. The touch from Seiichi earlier was helpful. It helped ground her.

She glances briefly at the reliefs of the Enda family, frowning slightly at the various way they’re all presented. And then she forces the mental image out of her mind and marches forward into the kitchen. It’s empty but in a rather chaotic state. An accident? She slips forward, ignoring the mess. It’s not her home and there is an ill feeling in the air.

Voices in the background. An incident? She tries to make her way towards the voices, to see what’s going on. Her steps quicken at the sound of the scream, flashes of her own mother appearing in her mind.

But what she gets in the end is Kyo End hunched over the body of his brother. Her pale face grows paler. Fratricide. But one from obsession. She is torn about this one. She understands, even sympathizes with his sentiment. Giving the one person you love most absolutely everything but at what cost does that obsession come..? It makes her think and her thoughts drive her to the next room.

Tatsuya Suou [DS] has posed.

In sharp contrast to the peace and quiet of the previous room, this slog backwards into Kyo’s past once again, into the sort of environment that helped to shape him into what he is now – along with, of course, a few inherent factors – is more trying on the already weary individuals who’ve ventured into this particular horror dimension.

Tatsuya, being Tatsuya, doesn’t let it show that most would notice, but there is a deeper frown than before tugging down the corners of his mouth as he moves along with the others, his sword resting far too casually against his shoulder. He recognises, at least, the figure of Akatsuki and Kyo’s mother, and it’s rather troubling to see her other son’s view of her. Sighing faintly, Tatsuya does his best to wall away his own sense of pity for Kyo Enda, of all people, a seemingly out of place reaction that already manifested once before during this expedition.

There’s no time to let any of this get to you, Tatsuya reminds himself silently, in agreement with Tohya’s statement, though his footsteps quicken slightly on the way to the next door…

Rui Onishi [K] has posed.

If there has been something constant about the strange, unusual presence of Miss Rui Onishi, it has been her complete and total disaffect.

The dungeon has been a slaughterhouse of its own, relishing in the display and desecration of the human body, the parade of it being opened in ways it shouldn’t, turned in directions limbs and bones were never meant to go, and with faces gutted and twisted to make expressions only visited in nightmares.

And for all of it, Rui has barely twitched an eyelash. Barely ruffled a feather. The most attention she’s paid any of the depravity is what it’s left on her suit sleeve.

It may be that this woman is either inured to such a thing, or she simply does not care. She turns from the fourth room in her placid manner, her expression about as vivid and welcoming as fresh drywall. Even as Naomi discreetly mentions her mysterious presence, the woman appears neither to notice nor care. Arms eventually at her back once more, she continues patiently onward. She enters the fifth and final room in turn, eyes half-lidded as her heels click against the hardwood. The macabre pictures do not even draw her eye.

The group determinedly passes the wretched sight of Kyo Enda cradling the body of his perfect likeness, lit by the flickering, embery light of the fire with which he determines to burn it. And it is there, for the first time, a sharp, broken, voiceless sound escapes the throat of Miss Onishi.

Rui’s eyes are wide and watering. Her skin is pale and bloodless. Her gloved right hand is clapped over her mouth where it trembles. Her chest is moving as she takes in frentic shallow breaths. The rest of her is shaking.

The strange part is she’s looking at the fish.

It’s belly–

Her stomach turns and lurches. She coughs out a thick, airy choke. And bowing her head, squeezing shut her eyes, she races to catch up with the rest.

Shinsuke Kusagawa [SEES] has posed.

“It’s no trouble, Suzuno-san. You’re quite welcome,” he replies with a warm smile. Akatsuki receives a brief, conflicted azure glance, then another wordless nod, and Shinsuke ducks through the door.
A house, then, is the final chamber. All these rooms have been scenes from Kyo’s life, more or less, instead of some fanciful allegory on the level of the Court of Dreams and the Hedge — does he lack imagination? Can he only see in shades of black and white, literal and immutable? Shinsuke frowns up at the mutilated figure of Mana Enda, a woman he recognises from a night over a year ago; their father, then…and each parent took one twin-
A knot of nausea begins coiling in his gut. He…Kyo was taken by their father, then. As…as was Shinsuke. Memories flicker through the Gekkoukan student’s mind like pages in a flip-book, the passage of each draining a speck of color from his face until it is nearly as white as his clothing. Is he…is /he/ like Kyo, then…? A shaking hand brushes numb fingertips over his vest, feeling the outline of the scalpel in the pocket beneath. He…
He takes in the tableaux in chilly silence, rain-scented Resonance roiling painfully. If you can’t be safe in your own home, with your own family- He despises Kurumi Mizuhara, but he would never, /never/-
Shinsuke’s heels click the more rapidly on the floor, suddenly intensely intent on the portal ahead.

Seiichi Miyamoto [NWO] has posed.

Ah, it always comes down to the parents. Seiichi says little as he steps across the threshold into the new room. However he does at least take Akari’s hand. His own grip strong and firm. He might not be the best at comfort most times, however he is at least trying. After all he /did/ accept her as the little sister he never had didn’t he? He takes that moment to steady himself as he walks into the newest room of horror. After the last? No. He doesn’t seem as affected as some here might be. Not shocked at the least. They /are/ walking though Kyo’s psyche. Dead fish and hanging Kyos are far from the worst he could belive they had in store.
The scream and the voices bring a suprised look to his face for only a moment. His mother? He killed her? That…shouldn’t suprise him. Espicially if she threatened to take his brother away. He understands obsession to an extent. Possibily not to /that/ extent, but he does understand. Obsession. Love. Madness. He has the experiance of finding them all intertwined. However Akari’s voice draws him back to the present and away from his own darker spiral of thoughts. “He didn’t.” He says quietly. “He wished duplicates into existance…its…a very long story.” A pause again. “Whe should continue. There is not use staying.” He adds as he starts to march towards the next room once more, though there is a pause and a curious look towards Rui. He doesn’t know her but she seems…rather…effected by this scene. He opens his mouth to ask what the problem is but…
Zoom.
There she goes, so he just shakes his head slightly as he turgs Akari forwards. “We shouldn’t fal behind.”

Mai Namikawa [K] has posed.

Kleos, yet another name that she has no clue what it means. Definitly checking on a search engine later…

“Never saw her in my life.” Mai says in all simplicity, “Onishi-san met up with us, she was here to help retrieve Saitou-san but I really thought that other girl was with your group.” which meant she’s here of her own voalition? She didn’t SOUND like a friend of Miwa, which made figuring out her angle a little more complex. Something to check later.

What lies behind this door is a pretty tame looking household considering the decoration that was around it, something she considered in poor taste but par for Kyo Enda’ psyche by now. Was it any surprise to anyone he had no love for his parents? Kyo’s own appearance however is a little disturbing, “Why was he hanged?” she can’t help but to ask once they are inside, even if it’s uncertain in her mind if she wanted an answer.

The question may not be relevant for long as she hears a woman’s voice, his mother who speaks of separation. This may explain a thing or two, even without knowing how long apart they were. The yell encourages her to move a little faster…

She might have prefered not to, at the sight of the dead-looking Akatsuki she can’t help but to look at the other one. “Eeeh?” is basically her not quite understanding how there’s two of them. She moves along resuming her usual position of rearguard, even as the sight of the two brothers leaves Mai a little creeped out. “Are you alright?” she asks toward Rui, it felt easier to worry about the wellbeing of someone else than stare at this scene. “I am sorry if you had not expected sights like this, but…it is not uncommon here.” Of course what disturbed the mute girl and the assumption Mai made are WORLDS apart, but concern is concern.

<Pose Tracker> Kyo Enda [U] has posed.

The last chamber of the dungeon is a long, sweeping rectangle of a room, imposing and echoing and vast in the same sense throne rooms are vast. A straight walk leads from the door to the raised dais at the far end of the room, passing between sentinel columns that rise in even rows on either side. The room beyond these columns is badly lit and mostly left in shadow… and the dais, which should have a throne resting upon it, is empty save for a familiar shape standing where the imperial chair should be– and Miwa’s Shadow, now back to its Miwa shape, tethered to the wall behind him by her collar and long chain.

A pair of yellow eyes glow brilliantly from the figure’s face. It’s Kyo’s Shadow. Kyo himself should be here as well… but for the immediate moment he’s nowhere to be seen.

The Shadow beckons for the group to come closer, eyes gleaming. His extended arm drops back to his side afterwards, his stance relaxes… and then a bit of something thick and red strings viscously down from above and settles into a large spot on his right shoulder.

Another, larger splash of dark red impacts the Shadow on its chest and drools in a splatter down his front.

Eyes naturally follow the strings of fleshy red up from the Shadow, up to the ceiling, where the uprooted throne has been set. It is upside-down, and it is occupied by Kyo, who is by all appearances semi-conscious, his dull yellow eyes half-open. He is kept inert by the fact the throne is not a throne so much as an arrangement of sharp pointed metal, all of which is applied to the task of impaling him in place.

The inverted chair is a steel trap that has scissored shut its thousand blades. Pinioned in place, as upended as the imperial chair, Kyo’s head lolls, his blond hair dangling freely. Blood courses down his body, into his hair, and drips down from its ends. The Shadow stands right where he can enjoy the warm rain.

I told you we’d see each other again soon… he says.

Shadow Kyo tilts his head, steps back a few paces, and glances up. The blades retract back into the throne with a clash of steel, and Kyo falls like a corpse. He hits the floor on his side, and it’s a while before he coughs blood and struggles to get up. Rising on an elbow, he twists to try to push upright, his free hand trying to find traction beneath all the blood-slick stone; His tenuous balance slips in the warm liquid, and he falls back onto his front. He seems to give up and lies still, stewing in his own blood. The Shadow circles him where he’s fallen. “Go away,” Kyo finally says, in a wisp of a voice. “I don’t want you.”

Why not? I’m you. You think I’m bad? You are too… exactly as bad as everyone has always told you you were. You thought everyone else was wrong. You thought you were the only one made right. But that wasn’t it, was it? It was you all along. You were the freak. You were the monster. -You- were made wrong. You didn’t get the things normal people are supposed to get. Normal people HATE what you are, and you were stupid enough to reveal exactly what that is. Didn’t I tell you to hide? Didn’t I tell you to fake? You’ll be alone now. Your defect–

“I’m– not defective,” Kyo gasps out. “I– was always– ahead of– everyone–”

Ahead in what? The Shadow steps one leg past Kyo and, standing over him, leans down to press both hands into Kyo’s back, shoving him into the floor. Kyo chokes in his own blood. You lost everything, didn’t you? All because you’re different. And as long as you’re different, you’ll never have what you want. You and every other defect that was born just like you. Did you think you were special? The world has formulas to diagnose people like you. You saw them. You looked it up…

You’re sick. Sick and wrong in the same exact way thousands of other people were. There’s nothing superior about what you are. And you were stupid, wanting people to take you for what you were, not wanting to have to hide or change to fool the normals. Thinking you’d find someone who’d know exactly what you were and still stay with you. So much for that! Even Miwa didn’t stick around, in the end.

The Shadow leans even further down over its shuddering owner. It smiles, the same way that Snake must have smiled under the Tree. Face it. Let ME help you be exactly what you are. What you should be. With me, you won’t make any of those stupid mistakes…

Tohya Kidzuki [DS] has posed.

Some kind of throne chamber…? Sure, it doesn’t seem to have a throne, but it seems about what this is, all the same–and Tohya’s expression remains more or less unreadable save for something like disdain, as she looks around it and identifies it for what it seems to be. Right up until… THey reach far enough in, to see Miwa’s Shadow, and then Kyo’s Shadow, as well.

Blood…? Tohya /does/ look on up, only to see Kyo present, and blinks in surprise. “What the–” This is not what she expected. At all. It’s–

As Kyo falls, the tall woman’s eyes are latched onto the scene, flicking between Kyo, the Shadow, and Miwa’s Shadow, but otherwise remaining, gray irsies then as she takes in the scene despite the gore. And as they talk…

WEll, there’s ‘feeling’ of some kind, anyway, what she’d once tried to provke him him just to see him act like a /person/, but.. There’s something dangerous, here. Very, very dangerous. And there’s nothing she’s sure of that she can say to avert it, either, whatever that nameless thing is. ‘Ahead of’… ‘Better than’…

And this… /thing/, wants to make him /better/ at it?

She knows enough, though–her arms cross, and she finally does glance to the side, taking up a position by a column, silent.

Benihime Asano [U] has posed.

At the end of the journey lies resolution. All stories must have an ending, right?

With a thin, ghostly smile on her pale face, Benihime drinks in the mythical environs with some odd sense of awe and fascination. Just like a story, she thinks. Just like a fairy tale, where the wicked king wreaks havoc upon the lands he governs, upon those he governs. Like Miwa Saitou.

Eyes drift to the captive Shadow of Miwa, to whom she offers a puzzled expression. Her attentions are drawn to the figure as it beckons all to draw in. The dark fluid is noted, but ignored; she focuses on the illuminated gaze of image of what seems to be Kyo Enda.

She looks up, however, eventually realizing that above is another Kyo, and he’s pincushioned above in the ceiling. When the Shadow speaks, Benihime looks back, eyes eager and attentive. She does not flinch as Kyo–the real one–suddenly violates her image by falling like a sack of potatoes to the ground, hitting with a heavy, wet thud. She just watches the exchange, breath held behind tightly pursed lips. Her hearts is pounding again…

Will he accept this ‘Shadow’ of himself, Benihime wonders. She knows the outcome will end with people protesting; she’s already seen it once. The very thought draws a vague expression of annoyance upon her face. He was faking it? Sounds familiar. There’s nothing wrong with /that/.

Smirking faintly to herself, Benihime’s burgundy eyes hood just slightly. She stays oddly silent for once, not quick to seize the moment and troll more. Not yet, at least. This is quality television.

Akatsuki Enda [U] has posed.

Overhearing Seiichi explain to Akari what was going on in that tableau with Kyo holding the Kotodama twin, Akatsuki actually stops and turns to him in surprise, at about the same that Mai stares at him questioningly. He glances down at her, lips pursing briefly, before he looks back over at Seiichi.
“…what he said,” he tells Mai curtly, before turning forward. Well, Seiichi *was* there when they went to rescue Miwa; it’s not surprising that he’d know. “After Mom and I moved away after Kyo tried to kill her, Kyo used Kotodama to try to bring me back. But all he got were Shadow approximations that he ‘killed’ but couldn’t destroy outright. He kept them underneath the house, in a little room.” His fingers squeeze into his palm again, and although his tone seems outwardly calm, there is a faint tremor that belies it. “He showed them to me, one day. To prove how much he missed me. I hinted at it once or twice on the SEES boards.”
For now, Akatsuki says no more on the matter, and the group heads into the last chamber. Shadow Miwa is chained there, and so is Shadow Kyo, though free… and standing under a crimson rain. Knowing what he will see, dreading it, and looking up anyway, Akatsuki freezes as he sees his twin brother impaled to the ceiling in a throne by his own Shadow before the blades retract and Kyo falls in a wet THUMP. Even now he can manage to feel horror, though it’s a sort of sickened, fascinated horror, but Akatsuki only stands, bearing silent witness to the interplay between the two halves of his twin brother’s soul.
Defective… Abnormal… Wrong… Not even special in his twistedness. Akatsuki’s lips thin and his eyes hood, but he doesn’t try to interrupt, doesn’t react beyond that–until his Shadow declares that he’ll HELP him, that he’ll make him be the way he OUGHT to be, and Akatsuki’s hackles rise. Even now, though, the younger twin doesn’t try to interfere, even if he *does* at least remain up front and center.

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

Their two objectives lie in the other end of the room. Naomi’s stare falls on the collared Shadow Miwa first, and then Kyo’s shadow, who greets them cordially even as more crimson splatters on him from above. Slowly, her head cranes back, eyes fixing upwards at the twisted chair fixed on the ceiling, impaling the person they are supposed to save and letting the crimson rain dribble downwards. She looks away once the spines retract, sending the much weakened Enda twin on the ground below.
The Shadow’s words are hard to ignore, and once he’s finished, she takes a few steps forward. “You did,” she confirms belatedly, at his earlier words of greeting – that the group proved him right in that they were going to see each other again.
“We meet again, but not because I want to save him. I certainly can’t speak for the others, but I came all this way to look you in the eye again for other reasons…Miwa’s only part of it.”
She shifts her hand, letting her rapier press against one side of her leg. “Do you have anything else to say to the rest of us? To speak frankly, I’m all for getting on with it. No more delays.”
We either get them back or suffer the consequences.

Mitsuru Kirijo [SEES] has posed.

‘Such an active imagination,’ Mitsuru thinks rather unkindly to herself. And the cross feeling gets shoved down and locked into her box. Her heels echo on the stone floor of the throne room and the sound of her rapier being drawn echos with the taps. Her head is held high, her expression carefully blank. Again, the ice armor she wears to protect herself from the world and the horrors.

In the distances, the thing they came to hunt down. Kyo Enda. Or at least his shadow. Her eyes flick to the wall where Shadow Miwa’s strung up and then something falling from the ceiling. Her eyes squint and she looks up, sucking in an near inaudible breath at the pitiful sight the real Kyo being hung up and impaled. “…” He might be a monster but not even he deserves that. Shadows always make things worse.

She winces at the sound of Kyo’s very injured body hitting the floor hard and then even more at the words she hears the Shadow saying. ‘Shut up’ she wants to scream but doesn’t. Instead, she steps forward even as others stay silent to watch. Kyo might be a terrible human being but he needs help, not.. not this.

Her arm raises, the grip on her rapier shifting quickly and she throws the sharp aerodynamic weapon with all the strength in her arm. “As Naomi said, we’re done with you. Your game is over now Shadow. Kyo Enda needs help and not yours. We’ll be taking him back from you.”

Mitsuru Kirijo has finally hit her limit.

Akari Hoshi [NWO] has posed.

Akari nods at Seiichi’s explanation though it may not make complete sense to her. At least not until Akatsuki speaks up. She goes cold at his words, “He just kept-” Her voice fades off and she can’t even bring herself to say the words but imagining it in her head causes her to look away from the older boy and sigh heavily. How could anyone be so evil, she thinks to herself… and for Akatsuki to have /seen/ it…

Trying to push back the thought they continue into the long room, Akari remains tense and after passing the columns she can see Shadow Miwa tied up and chained and whole again. It’s unsettling but most of this place had been for her and she knows they have no choice but to continue through this place of horror. As the shadow beckons them forward, Akari doesn’t make a move until the others do, /if/ they do but from what she’s seen so far, they probably wouldn’t hesitate.

As the red drops fall onto Shadow Kyo, it’s only then that Akari’s eyes turn upwards and she notices Kyo up there. She wrinkles her face, as much as she hated Kyo before this, seeing him tortured like this causes unwelcome emotion to rise up within her. She looks back down, whispering, “Kyo….” No sooner do the words escape her then Kyo’s body falls to the ground.

There is no movement on her part to help him, though she actually does take a small step forward towards the coughing Kyo. She freezes in place as the exchange between them plays out. There is nothing that she can say, nothing that she can do but to watch for now and she hates that. As much as she wants to just go all out against the shadow, Akari doesn’t want to mess things up either.

Mai Namikawa [K] has posed.

Seiichi’s explanation brings a soft ‘ah’, from her, but it’s not that reassuring that Kyo wished doubles and killed them like this. It remains quite high on the creepy-meter. The continued explanation from Akatsuki himself is helpful, but still disturbing.
The next chamber – Mai will be thankful to discover is finally the last as she sees it’s throne-like nature, more importantly with Miwa’s Shadow attached to the wall. Even if it wasn’t the last, it’s not like Kyo or his shadow would let them leave with her without some sort of fight anyway, they’d come to them…

It however is unnecessary, plus it’s no surprise that the Miwashadow is not alone. Yet with only two people here she has to wonder where’s the ‘owner’ of the Shadow itself, or is there no more Human-like Kyo Enda? Is he truly fully possessed or something – drips? Crimson drips?

She looks up as anyone would when seeing something like this, a look of surprise and disgust marring the young girl’s face at the sight of an impaled man. Even for all her dislike of him, that’s a bit much. No words come to this, she can’t call the Shadow a monster when he’s just a sum of the parts. There is a wince however as Kyo falls down painfully, he’s alive – his Shadow would not kill him yet, but he’s clearly been abused. Her original theory that he walked in here willingly is quite gone by now.

Mai listens in silence as the Shadow explains just how Kyo is not like most people, and not in a good way. That his ego was wrong in thinking he was ‘better’. She has no sympathy toward him and what verbal beating he’s taking from his Shadow, frankly it’s one he deserved. UNFORTUNATLY, it’s not like the Shadow wants him to be a functioning member of society, he justs wants him to do it better and more stealthily. Not a very appealing formula. Will Kyo even accept such an offer? Given how she’s lifting her weapon to a ready posture once more it’s clear what Mai is expecting…

Shinsuke Kusagawa [SEES] has posed.

Oh god, it’s just like his own dungeon, too. Except…except the one on the throne in the Court of Dreams wasn’t Shinsuke or his Shadow but-
Shinsuke’s gaze flickers to Akatsuki as the group comes to a halt in front of the throneless dais. The blank face of that doppelganger, lit by sunny flame, floats in the white-clad teen’s memory. Obsessive love… Shinsuke’s stomach knots itself a few more times. ‘Why won’t you come back?’ How many times did he whimper that to an image of Itsuka, cradled in his hands like a holy icon, desperate to see her again? He no longer feels the desperation he once did, thanks to his own ordeal…but…/would/ he have, if he had known…?
It is Akatsuki’s voice which brings him back to himself — Akatsuki’s voice and the patter of blood on stone, on cloth and flesh. The reek of it hangs thick in the air, blood and iron penetrating the bubble of cinnamon and clove with which Shinsuke has wreathed himself in his distress. So…that’s the secret, then…that’s why.
Kyo’s body slams down upon the dais, and the Shadow speaks — the Shadow of a sociopath, of one fundamentally broken. Even after all he’s witnessed, Shinsuke cannot help but yield to the compassion that trickles into his breast. “Suzuno-san and Kirijo-senpai are right,” he says evenly, willing his voice to remain calm. “This is no place for any human, not even one such as he.” The Shadow is the Self viewed as through a mirror darkly… The white-clad youth draws his blade, leather-gloved hand tightening on the hilt. “Release him to us, or end this masque and show us your true monstrousness that we might /take/ him — and Saitou-san — from you,” he says, well-kept brows knitting into a frown. He knows the very thought might provoke the possessive, obsessed Shadow — so much the better, if it gets them out of here faster.

Tatsuya Suou [DS] has posed.

Now that they’ve finally come to what, he assumes, is the end of things, Tatsuya feels a curious sensation; it’s not quite apprehension, and it’s not quite excitement, but it’s lurking somewhere between the two in the pit of his stomach, a desire to get things over with in the sense of ‘this horrible trip into the subconscious of a horrible and slightly pitiful monster’ mingling with a desire to get things over with in the context of ‘ever having to deal with Kyo ever’.

Well, a guy can dream.

As the situation unfolds in front of them, rather bloodily all things considered, Tatsuya’s expression becomes more set, his reddish-brown eyes more intent. He eases his sword off of his shoulder, holding it ready at his side, as he steps up alongside Naomi. If Tatsuya had anything verbal to add to the proceedings – seems unlikely, but hey you never know – he never gets the opportunity to /do/ so, because Mitsuru Kirijo has clearly had enough, and Red is getting /violent/.

Which Tatsuya is pretty sure will pan out well.

Miwa Saitou [DS] has posed.

The sense of something missing within her, as the door is approached and opened, subsides. There’s a very good reason for this, as is shown by the first thing Miwa sees. Her own Shadow is chained to the far wall. It paws at the chain about her neck. “That’s–” she’s started to say, even taking a few steps foward before she notices that there is another figure standing the room. Drawing herself up short, Miwa stops, sucking in a breath. She’s this close to her own Shadow, and yet so far.

Something red falls. Red rain?
Recalling the second door, her mind supplies her with a better descriptor: blood. Slowly, Miwa’s green-eyed gaze lifts to the ceiling. This room had seemed like an audience chamber like in stories, except it was missing one thing.
And there it is. There, impaled to that perilous seat, is also Kyo. Both hands rise to her mouth as Miwa bites back the sudden urge to scream. Even if she felt nothing for him, even if he was just another person–had his Shadow just killed him?!

Kyo Enda is released from his imprisonment violently, falling with a sound that causes Miwa to squeeze her eyes shut and wrench her gaze away. Only slowly does she look back, does she see that no, he’s not dead. He’s perhaps as badly injured as the night he’d given her that phone call, but he’s not dead. One of her feet slides forward before her.

“Kyo–” she’s called out, desperation entering her expression. If what her Shadow told her was the truth she hadn’t wanted to hear, then this, too, must be…
Her gaze tears from him, turning to the Shadow. “Let him go,” she’s said, her hands balling into fists. If they just took him from here, what would happen? …She doesn’t even know what her allies would do to Kyo after they left. They might just decide enough is enough and finish it. Like Tatsuya had once said.
But better an uncertain fate than a certain one. He /will/ die if they leave–if they could leave.

But that Shadow makes an offer to Kyo. Miwa’s eyes widen in alarm. Power? Was that possible? A chill crawls its slow path down her spine regardless. “Don’t! Don’t do that!”

While some gathered here do as Miwa does and attempt to speak to the Kyo’s Shadow, one person in particular takes a different tack entirely. “Kirijo-san–” Miwa’s gasped, as the SEES Commander makes her intentions very clear indeed. Taking a breath, Miwa attempts to steady herself. What’s going to happen next is…

Seiichi Miyamoto [NWO] has posed.

Seiichi’s breath hisses though his teath as he sees that throne and Kyo. Kyo of the yellow eyes. That is something he does know about, yellow eyes mean shadows. Right? Yes. Right. He frowns though just slightly as he notes the shadow and the rain of viscus red. Blood. The smell hits his nostrils for a moment, coppery tang and all. His eyes slide up the trail those red strands leave to behold Kyo, pinned there with the vicious precision of needles though a moth. Then the shadow moves and the form of the real Kyo crashes weakly to the ground.
When the Shadow starts to speak though he frowns for a moment. The cutting words, the laughing manner. He again /nearly/ feels sorry for Kyo. However…more than that. He is worried, and angry. Make him ‘better’? He does not need to be /better/ at that. Not when it took all thease people here to hunt him down. He does not need to be better at killing. Better at the damage he can do to people. He needs to be ended. He needs to be stopped. Seiichi expects him to accept the offer, the danger here though is clear enough.
“Enough,” He says as he quietly steps up next to the furious redheaded Ojou. “This ends now, your game is over.” He personally only came to see Mitsuru safe. To see Miwa safe. Kyo’s saftey has no importance to him. There is a slight glance at Mitsuru though because…safe him? Help him? After what he’s done to her? Her forgiveness is nigh boundless.
Also angryMits is hot.
Not that he’s thinking that right now as dark eyes slide back towards Kyo and his double. His blades hiss out once more and dangle from his hand. “As Suzuo-san said. This should end now.”
And then Mitsuru lets fly with the rapier. Oh yes. This should totally end well.

Rui Onishi [K] has posed.

It takes Miss Onishi far too many moments to center herself, to hold back the tears, to not evacuate her last meal in a horrific wretch.

Her insides twist cruelly.

Fortunately, Mai’s voice at her shoulder is a fortunate distraction, pulling Rui’s face toward the younger girl. In that moment, the woman looks everything she simply has not been for the past night, looking gutted, tortured, and horrified. She stares on her with wide, silent eyes. Then, as if sharply remembering herself, she swallows tensely and twitches her head in a shaky but emphatic nod. She couples it with a short, polite bow to gratefully ward off any further inquiries on her person.

She needs to hold it together…

…Just in time to walk into the third act of this entire danse macabre.

Rui’s eyes follow the rest up, way up upon the inverted throne, and her nerves already frayed, she stares upon it in askance, and if wanting to ask silently with her gaze alone what this is all for, what this all should mean, and if this is some facet of humanity–

–is it for the best she’s forsaken hers?

She twitches a little when the body drops like dead meat.

The ensuing conversation disorients and disturbs the woman, who, at the back of her mind thinks herself parasitic to be watching and listening to Kyo Enda fight with his Shadow. She thinks that this is something never meant for others to see. It’s far too intimate. It’s like clawing into the thoughts of a man’s head. Is any part of this right? At all?

Daisuke Itami [K] has posed.

“Sometimes gambles don’t turn out the way you expect them to. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean losses. Of course, no reasonable person expects to win a gamble. That’s why gambling is so great. You go in with the expectation of loss, and then delude yourself into believing you might have a chance. Sometimes out of greed. Sometimes out of addiction.

“… Sometimes out of necessity.
“And it’s the ones who think it’s necessary who make the most interesting gambles of all.”

Daisuke Itami sits in the comfort of a room at the Amagi Inn. His hot pot has, by now, been finished; the empty pot now neatly resides on a countertop.

The teacup lies broken a few feet away from where Daisuke sits, the full contents of it splattered messily across hardwood flooring.

All that occupies his table now is his simple game board, the pieces having been progressively rearranged: the Black Bishop has transitioned further up, closer to the would-be “prize” at the end. The Gold General hovers in between, but seems bound towards a snake rather than a ladder. The rest hover at around their same locations, save for a White Knight that seems to now hover in the middle, when it once stood towards the back.

Perhaps the most prominent piece of all, though, is the Black Queen, now positioned just before a ladder leading directly to the White King at the end… and a snake that will transition her that much further back.

“But it’s not even the delusion that’s satisfying. It’s when something altogether different occurs. You might hit the jackpot… or maybe some completely anomolous fluke occurs that leaves you in a much worse position than if you had simply ‘lost’ your bet. That’s why gambles are so great. Because you’re gambling on pure uncertainty~.”

Dark brown eyes lift towards the television screen. A cold, distant smile traces a serpentine path across Daisuke’s lips as Kyo Enda’s Shadow whisks away with Miwa’s — as the group discovers deeper and deeper layers of the youth’s psyche. His eyes focus briefly on Benihime Asano’s skipping form.

“Arara, Benicchi, you look like you’re enjoying yourself,” he muses; he doesn’t even look as he transitions the Black Bishop further up the game board… letting it hover one grid away from a snake’s gaping maw. “But you should be careful, you know. Quality epics are fun, especially when they’re personal…
“… but it’s never all that fun when you realize you may just have been looking in a mirror all this time, is it~?”

His hand transitions, towards the Golden General. “Ru-chan’s probably figured out at least something by now, right? But that’s okay, too. Growing girls need plenty of learning experiences in their life to realize what their place in the world should be. I wonder if you realize it yet, Ru-chan~? ‘If even this twisted thing can be a human being… what does that mean for /me/?'”

Ultimately, he leaves the odd-man-out shogi piece alone (after he has a good laugh at the expense of Rui’s fish-related trauma and reminds himself to thank her for giving him some enjoyment for the evening). Instead, his index finger settles on the Queen, almost impatiently fidgeting it between the ladder and the snake. At that very moment, Kyo Enda falls from his bloody throne of spikes into a crumpled lump before his own Shadow, bleeding fresh desperation and denial.

“Wow,” muses the information broker, “I’ve heard of martyr complexes, but don’t you think you’re taking your symbolism a little too far, Endachin?”
… Silence. Air expels from Itami’s lungs in a forlorn and exhasperated sigh.

“Well, whatever. I guess this is your show now, after all! Even though it seems our special guest hasn’t decided to try to enter the spotlight yet, and even though everything up until now has been a fun little diversion, ultimately sideshows are just that, aren’t they? So…
“… will your gamble pay off now, Endachin? Or…
“… will you be so kind as to show me what your unexpected outcome might be~?”

Kyo Enda [U] has posed.

The Shadow’s head lifts slightly as people address him. His lamplike eyes glow. Anything to say to you? the Shadow replies, surprisingly soft-spoken in his velvet speech. You seem to have very little to say to me. As you’re all in such a hurry, why don’t we– His hand presses the back of Kyo’s neck, and his mouth coils a smile around his next word. –expedite.

Mitsuru’s rapier slams into his shoulder. He rocks back slightly, but is not dislodged from his owner. No, he says, as Mitsuru and Shinsuke claim they’ll take Kyo back. It’s my turn now.

Kyo lies where he’s fallen. He makes no move, no indication he’s heard anything besides his Shadow’s scourging words. He’s not special. He’s not anything that will ever have what normal people do. He’s just…

“I’m a monster…?” Kyo asks, as if this is genuine news to him. The Shadow loses its form– sending Mitsuru’s rapier clattering to the floor– turns to a cloud of blackness, and blankets him. Is he one…? But then, he already knows the answer to that, doesn’t he? Everyone present has told it to him at least once. Now the last person who must tell it to him is himself.

“…Then I’m a monster.” His eyes fix with hatred on all the people who have taken his loved ones from him; and then, they turn to Miwa with a very different expression as she addresses him. “And I want–”

The blackness responds to his unspoken answer. It wraps him and starts to take a form. It shifts and twists, warping, spreading to double its size. Triple it. A feline shape starts to emerge, and those who saw Kyo’s nascent Shadow all those weeks ago would know the earliest of anyone what final form will be taken.

The shape twists into a pair of joined lions, shadow and darkness trailing from their manes and sweeping from the ends of their tails. They roll together as if magnetically bonded, restless and never still, twisting over and under and -through- one another– but always touching. They never part fully from one another, even for a moment. Four eyes flame yellow from the dark faces, regard the group, and then the Shadow merges together: the pair evidently capable of temporarily sliding together to form a single larger body.

The leonine Shadow turns towards Miwa’s Shadow. It does not speak, and so it is impossible to tell whether what it does next is mere Shadow instinct or a volitional covetousness. Massive jaws scissor open, unsheathing an armory of gleaming teeth, to bite through the steel chain and free Miwa’s Shadow from the wall–

–and then his jaws, still open, turn back and widen, closing over the top half of Miwa’s spent Shadow and muffling off her shriek inside his throat.

His jaws crunch together until his teeth meet somewhere inside her waist. Something thick and black– not really blood, but perhaps the Shadow equivalent of it– streams down what of her remains visible.

The lurid sight isn’t a sight for long, fortunately– or unfortunately. Kyo’s Shadow lifts his head with the predatory jerk of a large animal bolting prey, and parts his jaws to let her slip down, visibly swallowing the smaller Shadow intact with a merciful lack of further mangling. Yet having her Shadow eaten still can’t be very healthy for Miwa herself–

Or for the group that has to deal with the result.

COMBAT: Kyo Enda has activated Shadow Kyo.

Miwa Saitou [DS] has posed.

The rapier strikes home, but there’s no retaliation from the Shadow. Yes, in fact what happens next is not what Miwa anticipated at all.

“No!” comes her horrified shriek. “Don’t accept, you can’t–”

He does.
He changes, his flesh warping into that of a large cat. A lion. No, that’s not right, Miwa’s thought, her heartbeat accelerating, a sensation again not entirely her own. Two lions, bound together, pulling as if to separate and but not quite finding the strength. And that is what turns towards her Shadow. Frees it. And–

Miwa has gone completely rigid, green eyes wide and staring. It should hurt. There should be some bond between her and that piece of her psyche.
But it’s terror that winds about her entirely instead as ‘Kyo’ swallows, her heart racing at pace that even in all the fear-prone young woman’s life, it has never yet reached. This is mortal terror, fear in its purest state as life tries to avoid its end and fails.

Without foundations, a house can’t stand. The same is true for the mind. Everything collapses.

Eyes unfixed, Miwa sways before falling inelegantly forward, hitting the ground like a sack of potatoes. Her eyes are still open. She’s still breathing. But no one is home.

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

And the two worst-case scenarios that could possibly happen in the TV Dungeon occur. Kyo accepts his Shadow…and consume Miwa’s own.
There is no scream, no outraged exclamation or battle cry. There’s no call to get Miwa to safety, having enough trust on those with her to secure the girl and push her aside while hell is unleashed in the current chamber by both sides. When Naomi lunges forward, the moment Kyo’s shadow swallows Miwa’s, she’s already moving before her friend hits the ground, her sword in hand and desperation stitched through every bone and sinew. Within her mind, her environs collapse within themselves, chunks of clunky debris falling around a single tunnel that she has to punch through in order to get something done.
It can’t end like this.
She has no plan, no brilliant strategy – she would freely admit that her burning hatred for Kyo Enda was also largely stemmed around the fact that she can barely think around him when the circumstances were dire; a skill that she normally excelled in until now. All that’s left is that same, singleminded devotion that she glimpsed on Kyo’s own face while he tried to light his twin’s lifeless shell on fire.
She leaps, landing crouched on top of the dais and she dashes forward again, throwing herself down on her knees and her blade angled forward as she slides through the thick, copious sheet of blood underneath her, scarlet spraying at her wake and her jeans cutting a streak through it. The rapier flashes forward, in an attempt to spear the beast from underneath his jaw and through its snout….and if successful, she’ll brutally twist and rip the blade in an effort to split its muzzle.
There was no time. She doesn’t even know if neutralizing the shadow will work in saving her friend, but she has to try….even if she has to split its belly open and yank Miwa’s shadow’s remains out herself!

COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno hits Kyo Enda with Pierce Attack – Rapier for 18 points of Pierce damage.
COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno has finished her turn.
COMBAT: Akari Hoshi has activated Belphegor.

Tohya Kidzuki [DS] has posed.

No, Tohya doesn’t have very much to say to Kyo’s Shadow, or to Kyo–she didn’t come here for him. She said as much, before–she’s called him a monster, to his face, more than once, and believes it–if anything is ‘human’ about him, it isn’t something it seems she’s interested in, after all that’s happened. But what actually happens…

It meets that nameless apprehension she had, to be sure, but to see him change–she’s seen something like it, once. He wants–he wants…

Tohya’s eyes go wide as the Shadow goes for the other Shadow, “Wait–!” And Miwa just collapses. “Miwa!” She’s just… out. Gone. “What did you do!?” she demands, and as Mitsuru’s already attacked–

She takes a breath, closing her eyes. “…Akatsuki.” She nods, at that, and then adopts a more battle-ready stance. “Let’s go.” She doesn’t know if anything can fix what’s happened–not in the least. She doesn’t even know what ‘it’ is, for that matter. But… “Persona,” she intones, her voice low, tight with–/something/, anyway, and Inugami comes again. What worked once… Might work again.

At least as a start.

COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki has activated Inugami.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki hits Kyo Enda with Foul Breath for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Cursed applied to Kyo Enda.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki has recovered 3 SP.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki has finished her turn.

Akari Hoshi [NWO] has posed.

As the shadow takes it’s form, Akari watches in quiet amazement at it’s appearance. She seems genuinely impressed by it. Then her eyes turn towards the shadowed form of Miwa and she actually anticipates what’s coming next and looks away as the shadow bites through the chains and swallows the shadow. She doesn’t look up at the sight at all but neither does she move back seemingly knowing what they’re going to have to do.

Finally looking back at Miwa, she sees the girl fall over and moves towards her, “Miwa-san…” She bends down and even though the girl is breathing, there is no reaction from her. Akari is hit by a wave of anger and hatred towards Kyo and his shadow. It can’t end like this! They won’t let it right? She gets up and takes place near Seiichi again, “Can we murder this thing now?”

It’s funny that she even bothers asking permission because no sooner does she do that then her eyes close and Pairika is summoned up. When her eyes open again she looks towards the lion shadow but then pauses. Pairika fades from view and Belphegor emerges instead. The younger girl seems to have a change of plans and the demon puts a wall in front of himself, covering Akari, Seiichi and maybe Tohya as well.

COMBAT: Akari Hoshi hits Akari Hoshi with Tetrakarn for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Tetrakarn applied to Akari Hoshi.
COMBAT: Akari Hoshi hits Tohya Kidzuki with Tetrakarn for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Tetrakarn applied to Tohya Kidzuki.
COMBAT: Akari Hoshi hits Seiichi Miyamoto with Tetrakarn for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Tetrakarn applied to Seiichi Miyamoto.
COMBAT: Akari Hoshi has finished her turn.

Seiichi Miyamoto [NWO] has posed.

‘Don’t do it you idiot!’ Part of Seiichi wants to scream. The musician can see how this ends. Like a trainwreck coming head on. Standing on the tracks as the engine barrels closer. Before he can shout, before anyone can stop it though its over. It is done. The bargin is struck and made and the black Shadow raises as it consumes Kyo’s form. Well he /was/ wondering what happened if they accepted the shadow of themselves. It seems that /they/ become the shadow if they do. This is an excellent reason to never do so.
All that flies from his mind as soon as it happens though, because of what the creature did next.
“Yes Akari,” Seiichi intones with a perfectly calm voice. “We can murder this thing now.” He adds as his own anger rises. It just /ate/ Miwa’s shadow. The slight form of the poor girl falling forwards into the floor like a puppet with her strings cut. His eyes darken as the shadows ripple around him. Murder the outer, and rip Miwa’s form from its cooling shadow corpse if they have too.
Of course. There is also the fact that he has a sneeking suspicion that if they do /not/ murder this thing right now? Well they are never going to be leaving this place. It will tear them all limb from limb, well it will tear some of them apart. Others will have more inventive ends.
With that fully in mind he concentrates for a moment as the massive form of Set raises from behind him, stepping soundlessly from the shadows to launch blasts of burning desert winds to scour the hide off what Kyo just became.

COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto hits Kyo Enda with Garudyne for 90 points of Wind damage.
COMBAT: Dizzy applied to Kyo Enda.
COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto has finished his turn.

Benihime Asano [U] has posed.

Well…

This has become /very interesting/ all of a sudden.

Unlike before, when Miwa denied her true nature and, as result, caused the creature to warp and twist into some strange, warped image of her insides, Kyo…accepts his Shadow. He accepts the fact that he is damaged, diseased and broken, that he’s some kind of monster, incapable of being accepted by anyone. Her heart skips a beat in that moment. Could it really be..? Is that someone else..?

Her gaze rips from the scene as people begin to argue with the Shadow and Kyo. She looks genuinely confused; why would they intervene? They seemed so ready to spit at him all for the sake of this…girl, this witch who cursed him to this fate. They’d rather accept /her/ than some genuinely troubled person like Kyo. Someone like–

When Benihime looks back Kyo has become feline in nature, a giant shadowy cat that looms over the gathered lot. Within seconds it turns on Miwa and devours her whole, causing the /real/ Miwa to seemingly collapse and go unresponsive. /That/ draws a smirk over her mouth. What did he do?

“Isn’t that what she wanted?” Benihime wonders quietly. “To be with him, always and forever?” Looking aside with what seems to be a sad frown upon her pale lips, she adds softly, “Now she’s with him, together. Just like she wanted all this time.”

Looking back up, Benihime’s eyes fix on the large lion. There’s a pitied look upon her pale face as she stands there, holding her ground. She is by no means willing to help…anyone. Why should she? They just see him as some kind of deranged monster. But really…what did he do that’s so terrible, if such is his nature?

Mai Namikawa [K] has posed.

“We will be able to leave this hell soon.” It’s not much to say, but she was trying to be supportive a bit given this was the first time she had ever seen Rui so expressive of a feeling that was not ‘annoyance’ toward someone. She may not know Daisuke’ silent business partner much but that woman came to help Miwa, paid or not for it it’s a gesture that won’t be forgotten.

From a logical perspective, his choice makes sense. He has nothing to lose and everything to gain from this deal, there was a small force very DISPLEASED with him only a few meters away but she still felt a little saddened that someone could truly be so irredeemable. “And so he accepts his darker self fully…” she says, taking a few steps closer and making no move to strike as Mitsuru did. “Mi-ah, Seichii-san, this is…” that shape was nothing like Achilles but she had seen it before. Briefly, little more than a glimpse before it fled. What it does next however is something she feared would happen, “Shit!” is like stating the obvious, a glance behind confirms what she feared. “She isn’t dead – but she WILL be if he finishes digesting her Shadow! Strike hard but be careful, we are dealing with an Augmented Possessed here! Don’t hold back because it sure won’t!” She may have just made up the term, but really, Kyo was a pioneer in the domain. Shadow possession + Joker pact is a completely new fusion of two powers and one Mai is very unhappy to see.

Not as unhappy as seeing Naomi head in close to stab it, which seems a bit foolish considering all those sharp teeth and claws it had. She moves to assist in striking at the beast up close, moving after to offer protection as best as she could to her friend. “Naomi, strike it from midrange – we won’t get a shot at cutting it open until it’s somewhat exhausted, the thickness of it’s hide will lessen the more we wound it elsewhere – work to create the opportunity first!” much of that was theory more than practice, but Mai expected it to be VERY defensive of it’s newly eaten meal as it tried to ‘have’ Miwa for himself forever. “It will take him some time to assimilate her, trust me. It’s…not the first time I see something like this.” even if the last time was not a person’ Shadow, she hoped the complexity of an individual would make the process longer.

COMBAT: Mai Namikawa hits Kyo Enda with Almighty Attack – Juuchi Yosamu for 58 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa has regenerated 11 points of damage.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa has finished her turn.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa is now covering Naomi Suzuno.

Shinsuke Kusagawa [SEES] has posed.

Upon reflection, Shinsuke realises that it was probably inevitable that the Shadow would pull something like this. One well-kept eyebrow twitches slightly as the Shadow turns its lurid gaze upon Mitsuru and him, finally placing a proprietary hand on Kyo while flat /ignoring/ that rapier in its shoulder. And then, it discorporates…and…
Shinsuke’s throat tightens as Kyo accepts what he is, no longer making any attempt at or pretense of humanity. He could have been helped, but…
As Kyo takes on his new form, human flesh stretching and melting into golden fur and ivory fangs, Shinsuke glances at Mitsuru. It’s a Shadow now, SEES defeats Shadows. Further…Shinsuke’s own black-and-white mentality surfaces briefly in order to click Kyo’s status over from “person” to “not-person”. He has thrown off his humanity of his own volition, despite the entreaties of those around him, those who would help him-
There’s no saving him now.
And especially not after it straight-up devours Miwa’s Shadow, provoking a gasp from the white-suited teen. Thaaaaat can’t be good, not with what he knows from his research and from field experience. “Kirijo-senpai!” Shinsuke calls to Mitsuru. “Saitou-san-!!” He’s not sure, but is this comatose state…?
As the team springs into action, Shinsuke elects to go with the strategy that worked earlier. At his feet explodes into being the ring of bluish glass, summoning Kay; the Seneschal brushes Shinsuke’s shoulder with his slender blade, and the air around the teen crackles with energy.

COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa hits Shinsuke Kusagawa with Mind Charge for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Mind Charge applied to Shinsuke Kusagawa.
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa has finished his turn.

Mitsuru Kirijo [SEES] has posed.

With her eyes flashing, Mitsuru prepares herself for the expected retaliation. For the Shadow to attack them but what happens is completely beyond her current expectations. Kyo merges with his shadow, transforming into a monster like Miwa did earlier. But then he turned and /ate/ Shadow Miwa in two easy bites. “Wha-.” Comes her response, backing up nearly into Seiichi.

That’s not right. She frowns and then she hears a second thud of flesh hitting floor followed by Tohya’s cries. Her head turns. It was Miwa Saitou. She knew these TV Shadows were somehow connected to a person’s psyche but she wasn’t entirely sure how. There’s something familiar about all of this. She moves swiftly over to the young woman and turns her over so she’s on her back. “Saitou-san?” she murmurs, low enough to be heard (hopefully) over the din of battle, even as she reaches to pull open the girl’s eyelids and look at the pupils for signs of dilation.

When she gets little response, she frowns. What are Shadows..? In this world, they appear to be the dark manifestations of an individual’s psyche. Like Persona but darker and more unruly. But Miwa’s shadow was just devoured by an- and then suddenly things click. “!!!” Oh no.

Her head snaps upwards towards the fevered pitch of battle as Akari asks if they can ‘murder’ the thing. “NO!” Her cry is loud and hopefully audible. “We can’t destroy the Shadow!” It might already be too late for Miwa but… “We have to defeat it! Try and make it regurgitate Saitou-san’s Shadow somehow! But we can’t kill it! Saitou-san has the Apathy Syndrome! If we destroy both Shadows, Saitou-san and Enda-san may never recover!”

She watches others start attacking and a part of her hopes that the Shadow!Kyo is as resilliant as Shadow!Miwa was. Her eyes close and she hears Shinjiro’s voice in the back of her mind gruffly telling her that if she ever needed help, she could count on him. With his voice, Penthesilea fades and another presence fills that void. She raises her evoker to her head while still kneeling by Miwa’s side. A masked king with sword in one hand and book in the other looms over the two of them. The book opens and the king gives his blessing

COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo has activated Solomon.
COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo hits Tatsuya Suou with Matarukaja for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Atk/MAtk Up! applied to Tatsuya Suou.
COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo hits Mai Namikawa with Matarukaja for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Atk/MAtk Up! applied to Mai Namikawa.
COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo hits Rui Onishi with Matarukaja for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Atk/MAtk Up! applied to Rui Onishi.
COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo has recovered 4 SP.
COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo has finished her turn.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa is now covering Naomi Suzuno.

Rui Onishi [K] has posed.
This is a place meant only for human beings. If this is everything that the girl, Mai, explained… then this is the descent into a man’s soul.

Perhaps she was never meant to understand. Perhaps she was never meant to have seen the things that lay in wait in a human being’s heart. By all definition, these depraved sights and horrors are the products of humanity. They call him a monster. But he’s not a monster… not at all.

He’s the same as all of them. The descent into his mind must be the same for all the human beings here. Yet they deny it…

Why couldn’t they understand even when she does?

She’s not the one who’s even supposed to belong.

Rui looks down at the stain on her sleeve.

Then, in one abrupt, smooth movement, shucks the suit jacket free of her body. Eyes sharpening, expression darkening, she pulls her blouse sleeve down her left arm to expose her skin to the elbow, exposing the strange weapon that latches around her arm in a hundred leather and steel buckles, an invention of her father that houses her prized weapon.

Lunging forward, still as silent as ever, Rui joins the others who have decidedly taken the direct approach, shifting her weight to the balls of her feet as she slides by her toes through the greasy pool of blood. Coming in beside Naomi, the woman extends her left arm — as she feels a strange sensation christian her body — steeling enough to release her kyoketsu-shoge with a snap of the cable at the belly of the beast. She tries to pierce it, again and again, and hook it like a fish on the line. If it connects, she snaps one heel down to anchor, pulling back…

…trying to tether the Shadow long enough for the others to get at it.

COMBAT: Rui Onishi hits Kyo Enda with Dal Niente for 85 points of Pierce damage.
COMBAT: Acc/Dodge Down! applied to Kyo Enda.
COMBAT: Rui Onishi has finished her turn.

Tatsuya Suou [DS] has posed.
Sometimes, self-awareness doesn’t turn out how everyone else would prefer.

In fact, sometimes it causes some really bad things, like right now. Tatsuya is caught completely off guard by what happens, as Kyo accepts his Shadow in the worst way possible, willingly becoming a monster right before the very eyes of the assembled expedition. In the process, the Shadow becomes not only a violation of whatever humanity Kyo once had, but also of a particular piece of imagery close to Tatsuya’s heart: A lion, a symbol of pride and strength, of courage and nobility, twisted into a feral beast right then and there.

And then that beast does something even worse, as it turns and devours Miwa’s Shadow in a horrific display right in front of the group, which Tatsuya can’t imagine is a positive experience for Miwa to watch happen, and as he turns to look towards the teal-haired girl, who collapses, eyes blank, in a reaction that becomes retroactively obvious. If a Shadow really is a core part of you, then without it, what are you?

“Saitou!!” Tatsuya shouts, panic and anger mingling in his voice. This is his fault. As hard as he tried, he couldn’t protect her… How can he protect anybody? Everything he said to her, all those times he tried to help her to stand up for herself… Did they cause this? Did he push her towards this end result? Trying to trust in her, to let her grow to handle her own problems… Was that a mistake?

Sooner or later, a voice seems to remind him, you’ll let everyone down. Or they’ll let you down. So before that happens…

As Mitsuru’s power settles over him, bolstering his strength, Tatsuya’s reddish-brown eyes snap towards Kyo, fierce intensity burning in them, his gaze as palpable as a slap in the face as his lips pull back from his teeth. So often, Tatsuya Suou seems calm, aloof. Untouchable. Right now, he does not. Right now, Tatsuya is overtly, clearly, overhwelmingly furious.

KYO ENDA!!!” Tatsuya roars, long legged strides carrying the red-clad young man in a loping charge, bright blade flashing as Kotorimaru swings, not looking to open the beast’s belly, but going for a neck. Whatever light it is that’s reflecting off of the long razor-sharp blade likewise glints off of Suou’s silvery belt buckle, emphasising the lion rampant engraved on the metal. Kyo wants lions?

Tatsuya will give him a lion.

COMBAT: Tatsuya Suou hits Kyo Enda with Slash Attack – Kotorimaru for 0 points of Slash damage. (Slash Strong)
COMBAT: Kyo Enda reflects Tatsuya Suou’s attack for 38 damage!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda blocks Tatsuya Suou’s attack!
COMBAT: Tatsuya Suou has finished his turn.

Akatsuki Enda [U] has posed.

Akatsuki wishes he could be shocked by any of this. But in the end, for better or worse, for as poorly as he understood Kyo, he knows his brother best out of anyone in this room, perhaps even Miwa. Kyo always wanted company. He always wanted to be praised, and never understood why nearly hospitalizing another boy earned him scoldings and terror instead. He never understood why what he did was wrong, and only bothered to try to manipulate those around him. If his Shadow tells him he’ll make him better, he won’t let him make those old mistakes anymore–
But for as much as Akatsuki is unsurprised by Kyo accepting his Shadow and letting it take over him, letting it transform into a leonine creature, he does NOT expect it to devour Shadow Miwa in two swift bites. His eyes fly wide at the sight of it, while nearby, Miwa slumps into a vegetative state, staring into forever. Mitsuru calls for them NOT to destroy the Shadows, to try to make Kyo regurgitate Miwa’s, that if they do neither Kyo nor Miwa will ever recover. Akatsuki doubts Kyo will recover at this point regardless, but while he might not be happy with Miwa, it’s not like he hasn’t done a lot of stupid things lately himself.
“All right!” he calls Mitsuru’s way, calling forth Hector Custom to once again claim priority in his soul and surge forth in a flare of azure light. It’s a forward motion now, and as Hector appears above him, Akatsuki pauses, glancing over at Tohya, tuning out Benihime, pausing only slightly at Tatsuya’s rare (but completely understandable) show of rage. “…Yeah,” he agrees, nodding once to her before he calls Hector Custom forth to slash his blade in towards Kyo’s monstrous new form, now tethered down thanks to Rui’s help, with crackles of lightning. Electrifying, isn’t it?

COMBAT: Akatsuki Enda has activated Hector Custom.
COMBAT: Akatsuki Enda hits Kyo Enda with Sophrosyne for 0 points of Elec damage.
COMBAT: Exhaustion applied to Akatsuki Enda.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda reflects Akatsuki Enda’s attack for 58 damage!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda blocks Akatsuki Enda’s attack!
COMBAT: Akatsuki Enda has finished his turn.

Kyo Enda [U] has posed.

The Shadow emits an aborted snarl of pain as the rapier sinks into his jaw and twists. For a satisfying moment, Naomi gets the pleasure of seeing her blade split that jaw into two– but then, the thing seems to grin at her. The head splits along the divide she’s created… and reforms back into two heads. One head, the one closer to her, pushes forward, into her space, and licks its teeth as if to inform her it enjoyed the taste of her friend. Is -still- enjoying her, point of fact–

The Shadow shakes, the ripple translating down its body and dividing it back into its double-lion state: though it can’t as easily shake off Tohya’s spell, nor Seiichi’s scouring winds. It doesn’t seem to expect pain from Mai’s blade– and so when the sword actually cuts deeply, it jerks away from the blade. Rui’s tethering weapon sinks deeply into it as well, repeatedly… and then anchors. The thing resists her, digging all eight of its paws.

It recoils briefly, its hide bloodied in places, tenses– and lashes out, a pair of paws raking towards Naomi, Mai, and Rui with blinding speed. Some may recoil in time to miss the claws entirely. Some may recoil and only suffer a graze. Some may not make it in time at all…

There’s an odd canceling energy that accompanies that swipe of claws, too… one that ripples outwards. Should it touch Tatsuya, Mai, or Rui, would strip away the benefit Mitsuru conferred. Useless, it seethes, Futile. You never learn…

It whirls immediately afterwards, and pounces forward, ripping itself heedlessly off Rui’s tether, all four of its forepaws impaling their wicked claws towards Tatsuya as the enraged Shinsengumi leader rushes it. One paw swats the blade, smashes it down– another rakes out, striking with enough force to send him reeling back.

And then it turns, slinking straight beneath Akatsuki’s strike and then lunging to leap high over the heads of those in melee range. It comes down near Akatsuki, punishing him with a retaliatory swipe of its claws, seeking to pin him down. Jaws open, seeking to crunch around Akatsuki with fangs large enough the act is more blunt force than anything else.

COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Kyo Enda with Power Charge for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Power Charge applied to Kyo Enda.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa tries to take the attack for Naomi Suzuno, but fails!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda targets Mai Namikawa with Guillotine Fake, but she dodges!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Naomi Suzuno with Guillotine Fake for 124 points of Slash damage.
COMBAT: Minor Weaken applied to Naomi Suzuno.
COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno takes 87 damage from the Low Weaken effect!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda targets Rui Onishi with Guillotine Fake, but she dodges!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Tatsuya Suou with Dekaja for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Dekaja applied to Tatsuya Suou.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Mai Namikawa with Dekaja for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Dekaja applied to Mai Namikawa.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Rui Onishi with Dekaja for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Dekaja applied to Rui Onishi.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Kyo Enda with Power Charge for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Power Charge applied to Kyo Enda.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Akatsuki Enda with Shieldbreaker for 177 points of Strike damage.
COMBAT: Panic applied to Akatsuki Enda.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Kyo Enda with Power Charge for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Power Charge applied to Kyo Enda.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Akatsuki Enda with Primal Force for 205 points of Pierce damage.
COMBAT: Akatsuki Enda has been knocked out!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda has finished his turn.

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

Advice and strategy are thrown at her from both sides – which does absolutely nothing for Naomi’s temper or her desperate attempts to stop the shadow from digesting Miwa further. Mitsuru’s remarks from somewhere at the back gets her childhood friend an incredulous look; HOW were they going to convince the thing to vomit Miwa’s shadow out? “…..Mitsuru…” she gasps breathlessly, ripping her blade away from the beast and sliding behind Mai as she moves to watch her back. “….as always when it comes to such things, I defer to your considerable expertise, but -how-? Unless we…”
Whatever she is about to say is cut off when a new shadow falls close to her.
“….it’s you…” the heiress breathes when Rui silently joins her and Mai on the dais in an effort to anchor the beast down somehow, or split it asunder, and for a moment it looks like the woman’s cables hold. But the head reforms into two, and Naomi recoils in disgust as it snaps its jaws close to her….resulting in the young woman cocking back a fist in an attempt to -punch- the muzzle closest to her. “Give her back!” she shouts, re-crossing her blade in front of her as the beast manages to rip itself away from Rui’s cables. Tatsuya’s enraged shout echoes within her ears; she’s never heard him so outrightly angry before.
She’s prevented from seeing it, however, when the leonine shadow barrels towards herself and her female brethren. It manages to sweep past Mai, claws digging into her jacket and the downward drag of the heavy paw tearing an entire side of leather and a fourth of cashmere top underneath, snapping a bra-strap in twain and gouging dark-red fissures down the length of a pale, slender arm. She’s shoved off the dais, falling off the edge and sprawling painfully on her side….she does, however, manage to keep a grip on her sword.
She lifts her head, just in time to see it turn its attentions towards Tatsuya and Akatsuki getting knocked out. “NO!” If she had already lost Miwa…
Attack mid-range.
Defeat it, but don’t kill it.
Have it regurgitate Miwa’s shadow somehow…
“…it just ate…” she breathes, scrambling back up and nearly slipping under all the blood, vermillion streaks spiderwebbed and splattered over one exposed side and dripping from her arm. “….what happens when you punch someone…who just ate..”
“Mitsuru!” she calls out across the way. “We can try blunt force trauma focused on the abdomen….even if we don’t get it to do what you say, we can weaken it that way to get close!”
Getting back on her feet, she swipes her blade to the side, Ma’at re-enveloped to the back of her mind. Darkness ripples out around her, laced with red. The shadowy form of a small blonde girl manifests in her Persona’s place. “Attack, Alice,” she breathes, the Persona calling up a blast of darkness and unleashing it straight towards Kyo’s shadow and into its midsection as it rears up over Akatsuki in an effort to pin him to the ground.

COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno has activated Alice.
COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno hits Kyo Enda with Mudo for 0 points of Dark damage. (Dark Immune)
COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno has finished her turn.

Akari Hoshi [NWO] has posed.

Mitsuru’s response to her question causes the younger girl to look over at her. She is about to ask ‘why not?’ when Mitsuru explains why. She nods, “Well… okay. I can do that too.” Akari smiles a little towards the older girl and refocuses on the lion shadow, as the others make their own moves to attack it.

The retaliation of the shadow against Mai and the others causes Akari to recoil just a little. Even though she is partially protected by the shield around herself, Seiichi and Tohya she is still afraid of what else this thing was capable of. It seems so much worse than Kyo, considering it /ate/ Miwa. Well, her shadow but still just the idea of it…

Then Akatsuki is chomped on by the lion Akari cries out, “Nooooo! Stop! Why are you doing this?!” She looks angrily back at the shadow but doesn’t physically attack it yet, intent on trying to make things easier for them, if that was even possible.

COMBAT: Akari Hoshi hits Kyo Enda with Marakunda for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Defense Down! applied to Kyo Enda.
COMBAT: Akari Hoshi has finished her turn.

Seiichi Miyamoto [NWO] has posed.

Suddenly Mitsuru. One hand reaches out to catcch the Ojou’s shoulder as she backs towards him to steady her. Then his eyes widen as she speaks. What is this? No murder? Of course then comes the reason and Seiichi bites back a curse. “Correction. No murder till /after/ we make him spit up Miwa’s Shadow.” Of course /how/ to do that which murder is the hard question right there. He can’t let this happen without at least trying to save Miwa. He owes her more than that much. Again the shadows respond to Seiichi’s call as he calls upon Set to answer. Those shadows ruch forwards at his gesture, streaming from the outstreatched hands of his Persona to wrap the four eyes of the mighty lion in darkness, to give his companions more fighting room.
The fury of the creatures attack makes his eyes widen as he witnesses it, even as he steps forwards to stand next to Mitsuru after his assault of shadows. “How do we get it to give its meal up?” He hisses…when…Naomi has an idea. There is a sharp nod then, that is a suprisingly simple idea…even as the thing simply seems to absorb or reflect attacks leveld against it. “Go, try.” He tells Mitsuru even as he concentrates on letting Set’s shadows attempt to steal the creatures sight. “I’ll keep it blind!” He assure her as he concentrates. His dark eyes blaze as he concentrates. “And if that doesn’t work then we will just have to cut it open to get her out.” He murmurs under his breath as eyes flicker around to note just who did and didn’t get smashed that last assault. His eyes land on the mangled from of Akatsuki, but at the moment he can’t spare time for that. Its a lion, if it is free to do as it pleases then they all may be dead.

COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto hits Kyo Enda with Illuzone for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Illusion applied to Kyo Enda.
COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto has finished his turn.

Benihime Asano [U] has posed.

The scene unfolds quickly; a flurry of flashing steel, magic and gore sets the stage for a vicious battle between ‘good’ and ‘evil.’ But really…are the lines here so well defined? Benihime Asano does not think so. The people here are fools. Utter fools.

Watching with a pitiful look upon her face, the burgundy-eyed girl just seems at a loss. She does not dare attack the beast formerly known as ‘Kyo Enda,’ for she sympathizes greatly with the monstrosity. On the other hand, she does not wish to attack the people attacking /him/, because that would turn a great number of already-suspicious people on her.

“Hum,” she exhales in a near-whisper, her tone a dimly frustrated ones.

Without a care the girl wanders aimlessly, hardly flinching amidst the clash of steel and…whatever else is being flung. She walks patiently toward the buckled Miwa, pausing briefly to cast a glance to Mitsuru at her side and, possibly, Seiichi nearby. Her gaze smoothly falls shortly after upon the blue-haired young woman.

Then she crouches, knees buckled as she rests her elbows upon them. Propping her pale face in her hands, she just stares evenly into Miwa’s blank, seemingly lifeless gaze. She says nothing for the moment. Benihime just silently /stares/ into that empty gaze.

Without warning the girl tilts her head to one side and offers a small, sincere sort of smile.

“Miwa-chan, I know we don’t know each other /that/ well, and I know you probably can’t hear me,” she quietly speaks to the ‘unconscious’ young woman. “But I hope that, somewhere in there,” Lifting a hand, she pokes the other woman in the forehead lightly. “You are aware. Look,”

Leaning close, she cuddles up next to Miwa and touches her face, moving it gingerly to look right at the monstrosity that is now Kyo Enda. “Oh, look what you’ve done. Your friends are fighting for you. Some might get really hurt, but they’re going to kill your boyfriend. But, oh, I’m sorry, ex-boyfriend.” Nuzzling her cheek softly, the girl smiles and she closes her eyes.

“They’re going to kill him for your sake. So then what, I wonder? Will your friends still love you after all you’ve put them through? Or will they hate your guts? It looks like your selfish tricks have backfired on you, Mi~wa~chan~,”

Opening her eyes, Benihime’s burgundy gaze stares at the scene before them, her head peeling back from Miwa as she begins to pull away with a Cheshire’s smile. “You’re going to lose everything and there’s nothing you can do about it, is there? It was nice to see you break. It’s been a real eye-opener.”

Yeah, Mitsuru’s probably going to get pissed but Benihime doesn’t seem the sort to really care…and doesn’t really /know/ her, so…

Rui Onishi [K] has posed.

Wrapping her knuckles in the cable, Miss Onishi hoists against the double-lion, pulling back as it lashes and tears and struggles against her line. Belying her small body is an astounding strength, and even as her heels skid against the slippery, bloody floor, she reefs back, holding it still against further movement.

The expression on her face is cold and dead. But there’s something changed in Rui’s yellow eyes.

They’ve sharpened.

They turn in the moment Naomi speaks to her. The woman just replies her with a single, silent bow of her head.

Then the Shadow beast rears on them. Rui has no voice with what to alert others; her eyes widen, and reflexively, her body twists to escape the first swipe. Her spine rebows back in an angle human bones should not twist to duck the second reach of those claws. Turning as the Shadow rips off her blade, Rui calls it back to her arm with a sharp retract of the cable, ducking to a crouch as her eyes avert. She looks back and forth, sizing up the other group, those who fall from the Shadow’s attack, and–

–she can feel some of that new strength fall off her body. What was–

No time.

It appears they want to retrieve the piece of Miss Saitou from its stomach. But if father taught her anything in her life…

It is always easier to open up dead things.

Humans should not possess this sort of insane fearlessness, and for that reason Rui is not human, as she pulls herself up to push straight at the Shadow. With an skidding slide of her bloodied shoes, she tries to SLAM elbow and shoulder against one of its two heads, her right arm twisted to try to hook her fingers into one of its eyes to hang on. And still with that patient, vacant expression across her face, Rui wields the blade of her kyoketsu-shoge and tries to push it into one of its two throats.

COMBAT: Rui Onishi hits Kyo Enda with Vile Assault for 80 points of Pierce damage.
COMBAT: Rui Onishi has finished her turn.

Tohya Kidzuki [DS] has posed.

Murder isn’t her favorite term for it, no. But as Akari’s close enough for her to hear, “…Yeah. Yeah, you can.” It shouldn’t be that much a surprise, to hear her talk that way. But–wait. Cna’t destroy…?

Apathy Syndrome? /Here/? But what does that even–

…Wait…

Whatver it might have been, Tatsuya is shouting, then, /shouting/ of all things, and Rui–she doesn’t know her, but hey–is up there helping. It’s true, though–Tohya simply doesn’t accept Kyo, anymore, as one of them. But these claws are moving, all right–And hitting, to say the least–“No–!”

Not that she can hear quiet words said softly or anything. No, that’s purely for Akatsuki who just got hit even harder than most. So–blunt force. All right. She can start there. Persephone reappears, this time, and brings with her a sudden rumbling, as the ground itself rises up against a /certain lionthings/.

COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki has activated Persephone.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki hits Kyo Enda with Magnadyne for 68 points of Earth damage.
COMBAT: Stone applied to Kyo Enda.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki has finished her turn.

Shinsuke Kusagawa [SEES] has posed.

It’s like the Questing Beast in a way, Shinsuke realises idly amidst the roiling, seething carnage of combat. Kyo’s Shadow is a maelstrom of fur and fang, two essential, complimentary natures — slick predator and maneating monster — joined as one in a disquietingly impervious form. Lions ‘yoked by violence together,’ as Dr. Johnson once said of metaphysical poetry.
Ugh, this is no time for literary diversions.
Shinsuke ducks as the Shadow leaps off of the dais and slams into Akatsuki, rending and tearing with its massive jaws, and something snaps inside him. It’s too similar to his own dungeon- But he’s evaded its attacks, focusing as it is on those who hurt Kyo the most, and thus is in a good position to offer healing — /after/ he’s discharged his doubled attack. The failure of several physical strikes further convinces Shinsuke that calling upon his magical prowess is /best plan/.
He’ll…deal with Akatsuki’s mangled body later. But at least the younger Enda doesn’t seem to be trying to get himself killed this time around.
Rushing up behind Akari, Shinsuke summons Kay in another burst of bluish glass. Rui’s father is right; it’s easier to eviscerate dead things. The Seneschal bursts into being once more, azure-lined black cape billowing out, and flicks his wrist forth to call down a column of flame that crackles with energy and will /hopefully/ not hit Rui or Akatsuki.
Apathy Syndrome…if that’s true, there’s only one way to fix this.

COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa hits Kyo Enda with Agidyne for 173 points of Fire damage.
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa has finished his turn.

Mitsuru Kirijo [SEES] has posed.

Mitsuru sits crouched in the back, standing over Miwa’s body and surveying the battle from her vantage point. She bites her lower lip, watching Kyo shake off some attacks but absorbing others. Her own rapier is somewhat too far away. She’ll have to support everyone from here.

She tries to arrange Miwa, making her comfortable, and then she rises to her feet. Tucking her hair behind her ear, she seems to think. Naomi has a good question. How do you make a Shadow cough up something it ate. She thinks. When Koromaru was once accidently fed a piece of chocolate, the vet told them to try and make him swallow some hydrogen peroxide. That’s out of the question. Then what..?

There is no other way then. It’s a Shadow. Presumably it could survive… well, blunt force trauma might work. That’s actually a better sounding idea. “If the trauma doesn’t work, try to cut open the stomach! It should survive that kind of blow! I’ll support you!”

Her eyes widen as the beast simply /devours/ Akatsuki. Even if Akatsuki had reacted.. in such a manner.. The young woman grits her teeth, about to resummon Penthesilea when one of the two unknown women simply brushes past her. “What are you..?” She turns quickly towards Benihime. “…” She looks behind her at others attacking Kyo and then at this strange woman talking to Miwa. Who is she? “You!” She replies, sounding annoyed and upset.

“I don’t know who you are or why you are here but stay away from Saitou-san. If you are here to help Kyo Enda then help us defeat his Shadow. Otherwise, stay out of our way. I will not allow any more harm to come upon Saitou-san.” The tone of her voice reads ‘or else’, even as she presses the muzzle of her evoker into her temple. If this was any other situation, one might wonder how pointing a gun at yourself might make someone regret their action.

The better question would be why is she defending Miwa, despite all the trouble her relationship with Kyo has caused. But even without looking behind her, she can hear the sound of battle and fires her Evoker anyway. Penthesilea appears and with a double sweep of her arms, a magical blizzard forms and condenses around Shadow!Kyo.

COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo has activated Penthesilea Custom.
COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo hits Kyo Enda with Bufudyne for 0 points of Ice damage. (Ice Immune)
COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo has finished her turn.

Mai Namikawa [K] has posed.

It’s coming warned a part of her mind, instinct doing most of the rest. The problem with trying to protect someone while trying not to take hits yourself is – you can only do one of the two against larger targets. Claws of that size are not exactly in the ‘easy to parry’ category and he moved FAST, leaving Mai with avoidance as her better bet to avoid harm. She cannot however avoid AND protect Naomi – that realization coming in AFTER she lept backward, the look of alarm in her eyes unfortunatly doing nothing to aid her friend. The second claw swipe misses again, but that very boon she felt from Mitsuru is sliced away. “Damnit…” she didn’t even get a chance to use it too, alas.

Seeing the twinhead-lion strike back so quickly as to deflect attacks from some of the others is worrysome in itself, it’s big, bad, willing to kill them AND skillful enough. And it bites at Akatsuki-

Even for all the animosity she felt as he set her past feelings of friendship and what lingered of a crush on fire, she did not wish for this. “No!” she echoes even if it’s not particularly useful to do so, he looked in a bad enough shape that it’s probable he heard nothing. Naomi’s plan is an interesting alternative, “Either he vomits or we cut open his stomach when an opportunity arises, as long as we get enough fragments of her Shadow to reassemble it to a point it can be healed whole.” is her reply, both seemed equally viable. Seeing Shinsuke open fire (literally) and heating up the skin of the beast, she yells “Kirijo-Sempai! Ice it!” before glancing behind and frowning at the wierd ‘girltalk’ moment the unknown girl seemed to have taken with the catatonic Miwa. “HEY! NEWCOMER, FIGHT ALREADY! YOU WILL DIE IF WE FALL!” she yells even louder, clearly annoyed by this laissez-faire attitude displayed by Benihime. If she does not, Mai may just consider getting a ‘meat shield’ in the most literal of senses. She would do so immediatly if she even heard half of what was said.

The Yawarakai-Te scrapes faintly against the ground, causing sparks on contact as the teenager uses that and her own flame of anger to ignite a different power. “Pyro Jack, come on!” as an adorable pumpkin faced Jack with a wizard hat and cloak appears, fire burning inside the head to illuminate the mouth and eyesockets. She waits for the ice to cool off the skin before –

Well shit. That doesn’t seem very effective. She still goes through with her plan, “Barrage!” she calls forth, and the Jack throws his little dinky lantern in the air, the device exploding and causing a brief rain of fire on the leonid-shadow.

COMBAT: Mai Namikawa has activated Pyro Jack.
Mai Namikawa stands back up!
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa hits Kyo Enda with Dynamic Agilao for 85 points of Fire damage.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa has finished her turn.

Akatsuki Enda [U] has posed.

Shadow-Possessed Kyo is /fast/. Maybe it’s his viciousness that now no longer hesitates for anything, but it’s more than even Akatsuki expects. Perhaps if the lion’s scales hadn’t repelled Hector’s electric assault, bouncing it back at him, he’d have been able to react in time–
But no; Shadow Kyo SLAPS him with a paw, knocking him to the floor, and before Akatsuki can even try to defend himself, he closes his jaws around him.
*CRRUNCH.*
Akatsuki drops, unconcious and bleeding heavily around his shoulders and face. His clothes have been shredded, and his face has all but been sliced open in a pair of consecutive lines on either face… His bones have been crunched underneath as well. While his neck hasn’t been snapped and his skull is still intact, he’s experienced some severe physical trauma (and really, psychological trauma as well). He won’t wake up for a while, and certainly not without prompt healing–or at the very /least/, someone getting Kyo away from him.

Tatsuya Suou [DS] has posed.

The terrible power of Kyo in his current form is nothing to scoff at – not that he was ever anything less than deadly dangerous – as Tatsuya discovers firsthand. His attack is deflected for all of its fury, the slash of the Shadow’s claws knocking him back and away even as the more mystical elements of its power strips away the additional strength conferred by Mitsuru Kirijo.

But, giving up isn’t something Tatsuya does /normally/. When he’s as furious as he is right now…

“You’re pathetic, Kyo Enda,” Tatsuya intones, fury putting a steel in his voice that isn’t there normally. The savaging Akatsuki receives is troubling, for all that Tatsuya has washed his hands of his former roommate, simply because he’s not so far gone that he can’t feel sympathy for another human being when they get mauled by a Shadow double lion. “All you can do is destroy. Everything /you/ do is useless, and futile… And the moment you’re confronted with that thought, you surrender, you give up.”

It’s unusual for Tatsuya to exhibit much venom at all, but right now he has a bit more to let dribble out.

“I guess you and your brother aren’t as different as I thought.”

For a moment, Suou’s eyes seem to glow with a blue-green light, one that matches the cascade of energy that forms around him as the red-clad young man straightens up, his gaze fixed intently on Kyo as if he were, at this moment, the only thing that existed in the world. Maybe Kyo will finally get some satisfaction from this: Everyone’s giving him all the attention he could possibly want.

Tatsuya’s left hand thrusts forward, violently, as the familiar form of his Persona erupts out of him, fire raging between its palms. “Vulcanus!!” Suou calls, and the God of Volcanoes releases that massive, furious flame, hoping to roast the leonine beast alive with the intense heat.

COMBAT: Tatsuya Suou hits Kyo Enda with Agidyne for 85 points of Fire damage.
COMBAT: Tatsuya Suou has finished his turn.

Kyo Enda [U] has posed.

The thing’s jaws hinge open when Naomi tries to shout her advice about blunt force to its belly. Something like laughter escapes from between its scissored teeth, as her darkness simply falls off its flanks like water. You think that will work?! its flanged voice mocks, the weird echoes twisting it into something unrecognizable. Hitting me like that? You’d hurt HER before you ever hurt me!

The Shadow seems a little less able to just shrug off Akari and Seiichi’s hampering magic, however. They disorient it long enough for Rui to swing up onto one of its heads– by a hand jammed into its socket. The thing howls in enraged agony– a howl which cuts off into a bloody choke as the blade finds its throat. It thrashes its head, trying to shake her loose, distracted enough that Tohya’s magic slams straight into its belly.

It reels back, panting– but malignant still. Oh, that hurt her… it whispers, amused, speech falling out of its parted jaw. She’s definitely squirming now–

Shinsuke, Mai, and Tatsuya’s blasts of fire cut it off, perhaps mercifully. It reels back, slinking with its heads low, blood dropping from the side of its face where Rui tore loose an eye. You think this is surrender…? it growls.

Its heads lower even further, snarling– and a blast of water cannons from above, arrowing down to slam towards Tatsuya, Mai, and Tohya. Darkness rises around Tohya, Akari, and Seiichi a moment afterwards, a scything, enervating darkness. Those abilities are familiar… very familiar, in fact. They don’t belong to Kyo. Seems the processing is proceeding apace–

The Shadow rushes back into action, lunging into the back row in an attempt to claw Mitsuru, Shinsuke, and Rui wide open with repeated swipes from its claws. Mitsuru’s ice flows off its black body without effect. It doesn’t linger, either, whirling immediately afterwards to zero in on Tatsuya.

YOU TELL ME IF THIS IS SURRENDER. Its jaws gape, trying to snap closed on Tatsuya the same way it did on Akatsuki.

COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Tatsuya Suou with Maraquadyne (Critical Hit!) for 103 points of Ice damage. (Ice Weak!)
COMBAT: Tatsuya Suou has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Soak applied to Tatsuya Suou.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda targets Mai Namikawa with Maraquadyne, but she dodges!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Tohya Kidzuki with Maraquadyne (Critical Hit!) for 87 points of Ice damage.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Soak applied to Tohya Kidzuki.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda targets Akari Hoshi with Mamudoon, but she dodges!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Tohya Kidzuki with Mamudoon for 0 points of Dark damage. (Dark Strong)
COMBAT: Weaken applied to Tohya Kidzuki.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki takes 118 damage from the Weaken effect!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda targets Seiichi Miyamoto with Mamudoon, but he dodges!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Tatsuya Suou with Primal Force for 126 points of Pierce damage.
COMBAT: Tatsuya Suou has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Kyo Enda with Power Charge for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Power Charge applied to Kyo Enda.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki tries to take the attack for Mitsuru Kirijo, but fails!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Mitsuru Kirijo with Arrow Rain for 151 points of Pierce damage.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Shinsuke Kusagawa with Arrow Rain for 146 points of Pierce damage.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Rui Onishi with Arrow Rain for 162 points of Pierce damage.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda has finished his turn.

Tohya Kidzuki [DS] has posed.

On the bright side–the Shadow is almost /helpful/ with its bragging… But less so, as it keeps talking about ‘her’, and outright taunting them. Surrender, though–sure. It’s true. And–and then there’s darkness, there, and even her ability to withstand that particulra element doesn’t do her much good, as she’s slammed backwards first by the water and then by the darkness, inhaling sharply in an effort to catch her bearings. But she doesn’t give herself very long, since–

“Akatsuki!” He’s down, and likely to only get /worse/–so as she gets back to her feet, this time, she rushes over, and brings out Parvati again, “Yeah, it’s surrender. If you’d wanted to surprise us, maybe you should’ve tried to actually act like a /person/, instead of just admitting what you are. Now–careful!” Parvati’s healing washes over Naomi, Tatsuya–and Akatsuki, most specifically.

COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki has activated Parvati.
Tohya Kidzuki stands back up!
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki hits Tatsuya Suou with Mediarama for 66 points of healing.
COMBAT: Energy applied to Tatsuya Suou.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki hits Akatsuki Enda with Mediarama for 87 points of healing.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki hits Naomi Suzuno with Mediarama for 84 points of healing.
COMBAT: Energy applied to Naomi Suzuno.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki has finished her turn.

Akari Hoshi [NWO] has posed.

As Akari is near Seiichi and Mitsuru, she can hear the words that Benihime utters and her anger gets directed at the other girl for a minute. She walks over to her and actually bends down to try and push her away from Miwa. “What the hell is your problem? Aren’t you going to /help/ us?!” All the anger and frustration and emotional turmoil the young girl has experienced since entering this place seems to be directed at Benihime.

Akari doesn’t even seem bothered by the idea that she has no idea who Benihime is or if she would attack her out of spite. She turns her back on the girl, her red cape whipping around, as she looks back towards the lion. This happens right as the darkness starts to comsume the younger girl. However, whether it was her anger, the shield or something else, it doesn’t seem to affect her and she dismisses Belphegor and summons up Pairika, “Go Pairika!”

Once again the wind blows and churns up mini cyclones around the shadow lion. They rotate threateningly around it, and maybe if they’re lucky enough the wind will knock the shadow down a notch.

COMBAT: Akari Hoshi has activated Pairika.
Akari Hoshi stands back up!
COMBAT: Akari Hoshi hits Kyo Enda with Garudyne for 96 points of Wind damage.
COMBAT: Dizzy applied to Kyo Enda.
COMBAT: Akari Hoshi has finished her turn.

Shinsuke Kusagawa [SEES] has posed.

“I would say that giving in to your bestial urges and accepting your Shadow is, in fact, a form of surrender,” Shinsuke snaps, not batting an eye (haw haw) at the new horrific injuries which have been inflicted upon the leonine Shadow. The stench of burnt fur and ichor hangs in the air, though, and Shinsuke wrinkles his nose. “Further, I rather think that you’re bluffing about Saitou-san. She’s your possession, isn’t she? Your most /prized/ possession? You wouldn’t let her come to harm, even though you’re at the same time willing to make use of her abilities.” He sneers. “Stop /hiding/ behind her,” he says, voice dripping venom.
Azure eyes flick over to Tatsuya, judging his condition. “Kay!” Shinsuke calls out, evoking the Seneschal; once again the glassy ring bursts at his feet, releasing the darkly-gleaming Persona into reality. Kay raises his empty left hand, bringing effervescent healing down upon the Shinsengumi leader — but in the back of Shinsuke’s mind, Kay points out that /he/ can only heal one at a time, and Akatsuki needs more…
It might be best to contemplate a new set of tactics.

COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa has activated Kay.
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa hits Tatsuya Suou with Diarama for 90 points of healing.
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa has finished his turn.

Mai Namikawa [K] has posed.

Hostage behavior. Not unexpected, still poor taste. “Keep at it!” yells Mai as the new form of Kyo Enda taunts them about harming Miwa. “If we don’t get her out she is DEFINITLY DEAD! Her Shadow does not need to be fully intact, do not hesitate!” She ripped Aki out of a monstrous form of Pandora once and while the circumstances were vastly different, inaction over action will surely doom Miwa.

The blast of water from above gets cut by her sword into two distinct pieces, the slash cutting and yet not popping the ‘bubbles’ of water, impossibly splitting into halves what should have just been torn open and splashed all over the Gekkoukan girl, instead they separate and crash to her sides. She doesn’t even seem bothered or surprised by this either, like this was all as planned. Others don’t seem to fare as well, and she bites her lower lip. To continue attacking or support those in need? There was once a time where she would not have given such a question more than a moment’s thought. Now? She depended on others more, she cared more, and she did not want them dying on her watch. “Genbu!”

The Chinese Beast God manifests itself in a roar and a wave of water behind it, but it is not sending such force against the Kyobeast, instead doing that same technique she used against Miwa’s own shadow. “Barrier wall!”

If someone had told her a week ago she would use magic to protect the Shinsengumi leader, she might have laughed at how implausible that would sound. In the heat of battle however, her disagreements with his methodology and attitude were a foolish reason to withhold aid, they had a common cause and goal today, it was enough. Her hand then points toward Tohya Kidzuki, someone else who used to be on her ‘push down some stairs’ shortlist many months ago and Naomi last. She didn’t really need a specific reason to extend her power toward her.

COMBAT: Mai Namikawa has activated Genbu.
Mai Namikawa stands back up!
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa hits Tatsuya Suou with Makarakarn for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Makarakarn applied to Tatsuya Suou.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa hits Tohya Kidzuki with Makarakarn for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Makarakarn applied to Tohya Kidzuki.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa hits Naomi Suzuno with Makarakarn for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Makarakarn applied to Naomi Suzuno.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa has finished her turn.

Mitsuru Kirijo [SEES] has posed.

With her back turned to Kyo and staring straight at Benihime, she doesn’t quite notice Kyo coming up behind her. All that noise’s been going on this entire time after all; not until he’s almost upon her. She turns, just in time to see him shrug off her ice like it was nothing moments before the terrible claws rake across her chest. She cries out in pain from this, blood soaking her gray turtleneck with blood from three deep parallel cuts.

She reaches across her chest, wincing in pain and feeling the warmth of her blood covering her hand. Her head is bowed and she’s ignoring Benihime now. Time is running out and they have to stop the creature. “Penthesilea!” She shouts the name of her persona and she appears with another firing of her evoker.

This is her time of vengence now. Her time to take vengence against the ‘man’ that violated her. “I’ll create an opening!” Mitsuru shouts. The Persona makes a soundless cry as she dives straight for Shadow Kyo, both blades coming together and down into an overhanded strike. “Ice Break!”

COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo hits Kyo Enda with Ice Break for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Ice Break applied to Kyo Enda.
COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo has finished her turn.

Benihime Asano [U] has posed.

Mitsuru’s shout falls upon deaf ears; as long as she isn’t outright trying to slap the hell out of her, why should she bother acknowledging the woman? Benihime just smiles to herself, content to ignore the fiery redhead barking at her. Stay away, she demands. Help them defeat the Shadow! Stay out of their way. Even Mai’s screaming and Akari’s anger doesn’t seem to affect the odd young woman at Miwa’s side. She’s pushed, but doesn’t really do anything more than rock, the get back to where she was with a put-upon sigh.

What actually piques Benihime’s interest is the ‘gun’ that is pushed to her temple. She hopes, briefly, she’s going to just shoot herself. She’s disappointed when her Persona pops out of her head. She tilts her head slightly as the icy blast seems to have little effect upon the large, black lion-like Shadow. She sheepishly grins to herself.

And, yes, she’s still sitting comfortably next to Miwa like they’re best of friends. Really, what are they going to do? Stop fighting Kyo to turn on someone who is at least in appearance human? She hasn’t /done/ anything to warrant the business end of someone’s Persona. Yet, anyway.

“I wonder if you really will remember all of this, Miwa-chan,” Benihime wonders, drawing her legs up as she sits properly, giving them a hug. She smiles dimly, a gesture of admiration for the monstrosity that wreaks utter havoc upon those that dare try to stop its rampage. “I wonder…were you better off before all of this? I would think so; at least your embarrassing secrets wouldn’t be known to your friends.”

Lulling her head to one side, Benihime’s expression seems dull and listless as she softly sighs. “How terrible.” She feigns a shudder. “But I’m sure they’ll forgive /you/. Him? Probably not.” She pauses, exhaling once more before she says, “But that is okay. I do. I like him a lot. Do you think he’d love me too if I cast a spell on him, Miwa-chan?”

Another pause, followed by a soft laugh.

“I wouldn’t do anything like that. I’m not a monster.” Leaning to one side, she rests her shoulder against Miwa’s limp body. “Say, Miwa-chan,” she wonders, blinking slowly as she watches the fight. “I really have enjoyed your company. It is nice to have had this opportunity to talk with you.” The air around Benihime shimmers in that tell-tale fashion, a ripple of blue tinged with crimson. Once more the young woman’s ‘other self’ emerges, clutching closely to the sphere that pulses red and black like some twisted eye.

“I hope we become best friends, Miwa-chan~” And to show her newfound friend her devotion to this hope she leans in and offers a kiss upon her cheek. The figure above flinches, three inky black tendrils with vibrant crimson lines erupt, twitching in pain. Something happens, but it’s impossible to tell /what/. The spot where she pecked the girl on her cheek seems to leave a mark.

Then, in the blink of an eye, the young woman merrily hops to her feet.

“Good luck, everyone,” she offers to those near her–well, Mitsuru and Akari– in the sweetest of tones. “Remember that man is the cruelest animal.” Her head tips to one side as she smiles. The figure behind her stretches a hand out, the writhing black tendrils at her back twitching painfully again…and from the sphere bleeds a thick, choking black smog that obscures the area around her.

When it fades, Benihime is nowhere to be seen.

COMBAT: Benihime Asano hits Mitsuru Kirijo with Anima Freeze for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Exhaustion applied to Mitsuru Kirijo.
COMBAT: Benihime Asano hits Akari Hoshi with Anima Freeze for 0 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Benihime Asano has finished her turn.

Tatsuya Suou [DS] has posed.

There’s not much Tatsuya can do to defend himself against Kyo’s overwhelming power; the blast of water shatters the red-clad young man’s defenses entirely, Vulcanus vanishing abruptly and leaving Suou himself staggering, catastrophically vulnerable as he ends up with Kyo’s Shadow form /biting/ him, sharp teeth cutting through the tough leather of his jacket, the shirt underneath, and into his flesh. Blood, as red as the leather Tatsuya wears, runs freely from the wounds, but Tatsuya… Tatsuya doesn’t let himself cry out, his teeth gritting instead.

“Yes,” Tatsuya growls out in response, his reddish-brown eyes locked on whichever of Kyo’s he can find despite his current condition. “This is weakness, surrender. You’re a slave to your base urges, Kyo Enda, a puppet.” Of all the things that could happen now, Suou actually starts to laugh, a raspy coughing chuckle that carries only the most rueful of bitter mirth in it.

“You get why it’s funny, right?” the Shinsengumi leader wonders. “You’ve become just like Rena Kinukasa. You’re exactly the same as her.”

Fighting to push himself free, to open Kyo’s jaws enough to escape, Tatsuya feels the soothing, healing power of multiple Personae wash over him, the reinforcing shield from Mai Namikawa, and the words shouted by Mitsuru echo in the back of his head. Okay, why not, right? Turning his focus inwards, Tatsuya does something he does pretty rarely. He draws on a power other than Vulcanus. It’s a strength he draws from his friends, from Naomi and from Miwa, even from Daiya Kagami and Dona Kimura, and then Tatsuya’s voice raises in a clarion call, echoing Mai’s.

“GENBU!!”

The form of the God of the North, the black tortoise locked in endless battle and copulation with a serpent, a force of creation and destruction all at once, erupts out of Tatsuya in turn…

And drops a huge jagged block of ice on Kyo’s Shadow form.

COMBAT: Tatsuya Suou has activated Genbu.
Tatsuya Suou stands back up!
COMBAT: Tatsuya Suou hits Kyo Enda with Bufudyne for 82 points of Ice damage.
COMBAT: Tatsuya Suou has finished his turn.

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

Mitsuru shouts back from across the room, the Spencer heiress nodding grimly. “Understood, but we have to weaken it first!” The creature’s taunting earns her a grit of her teeth: “You’ve said enough! If I have to take your head off to retrieve her, so be it, and you can spend the rest of your life in the outside world drooling into a bucket!”
Rui remains on the dais however, doing her best to carve the leonine shadow to pieces as much as she can; she can barely see her form with how fast she moves, the wicked edges of her weapon glinting faintly whenever light licks off them in just the right angle – it was both horrific in its brutality and beautiful in its grace and symmetry. She may not have the seconds to spare to wonder just who she is, but once they’ve returned…
All thoughts tear out of her head, however, when after the last volley of attacks, Tatsuya bears the brunt of the shadow’s fury. There’s no time to shout out his name in warning; it’s already too late. What she does instead is ignore her injuries, desperation and fury fueling the fire – Tohya’s healing and Mai’s protection only serves to push herself in that direction even harder, hurdling over chunks of debris and puddles of blood to get to where he is. Miwa was in limbo, Akatsuki was down and watching the beast tear into Tatsuya was akin to being shoved through a thick sheet of ice and her head gripped and held underneath the surface of an icy lake; her limbs grow numb and somewhere inside, she suffocates.
Alice pouts when she is commanded to disappear, replaced yet again by the blue-white glow that encircles the ground underneath her feet…..and doesn’t stop, its sapphirine edges slowly swallowed by the growing intensity of the surrounding illumination. Her eyes flash, the silver-flecked irises disappearing into the increasing brightness around her sockets as Ma’at raises her scepter upwards. A similar ring starts to open up above the shadow-beast’s head, lancing a thick beam of light down into its skull while it’s pinned down by the block of ice.

COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno has activated Ma’at Custom.
COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno hits Kyo Enda with Heaven’s Gate for 24 points of Light damage. (Light Strong)
COMBAT: Minor Weaken applied to Kyo Enda.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda takes 91 damage from the Low Weaken effect!
COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno has finished her turn.

Seiichi Miyamoto [NWO] has posed.

The darkness raises around him and Seiichi is obscured from view by those clinging shadows. Shadows like that is something that he is familiar enough with however and when he steps from the darkness he seems none the worse for wear, the lack of light banished by the shimmering form of Titania standing behind him. Power flows from the red-haired Persona into Seiichi before the agile musician moves forwards, his power enhanced by a gift of Persona he steps from the darkness just in time to see massive claws rip into the redhead whose gift it was to give. His eyes widen in sudden concern at the damage done by those wicked claws. Again that hissed curse as he changes his corse, moving quickly over towards the the now wounded Ojou. “Akari.” He calls out. “Can you keep that thing slowed and distracted?” He adds as he builds up for the next attack, sliding to stand for a moment infront of Mitsuru. At least until /someone/ attempts to heal her. Or them. Or lots of people.
Because they totally might need this.
His eyes widen though as Benihime and her very distrubing persona make an appearance. “Look out!” But its too late now isn’t it and once again he seems to be too slow. Well not again, he can at least take a hit or two for some of the people he cares about. Those eyes turn as he notes the odd girl is now going, not having the luxury or time to worry about anything like that right now. Not when Kyos are really trying very hard to kill them.

COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto has activated Titania.
COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto hits Seiichi Miyamoto with Mind Charge for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Mind Charge applied to Seiichi Miyamoto.
COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto has finished his turn.
COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto is now covering Mitsuru Kirijo.

Rui Onishi [K] has posed.

Miss Onishi’s gloved fingers thrust right into the eye socket.

And with a fearlessness of the truly suicidal, she kicks one leg up, tightens her hand down, and takes a temporary saddle on one of the beast’s two heads.

With the pronged blade barbed deep into one of the Shadow’s two throats, Rui pulls the cable to loop around its top jaw, pulling a temporary reins to try to steer it like some demented steed. As others pull back to unleash attacks on the Shadow, she pulls and rips sharply on her weapon, trying to pull the head to one direction and expose the body, trying to guide it to keep its vulnerable parts open, trying to merely distract it long enough to allow everyone a chance to get close.

The emotion does not even register on Miss Onishi’s own face. Even with her own face so close to its howling jaws, her features are temperate as a spring day. Her yellow eyes are calm and gentle.

Even when those claws reach for her.

There’s a punishment for recklessness, and it comes in the form of those talons splitting deep grooves down Rui’s back, her white blouse torn open and already darkening with blood. It tears the flesh down her right arm and hacks up her side, and with one final swat, the woman is shucked free, leaving her own swathe of blood as she skids off the Shadow to land in a hamburgered heap. The blade of her weapon loosens out of its one throat, clattering to the ground as it stretches uselessly across the ground by its long cable.

Finally, Miss Onishi’s eyes fly open, and she resurrects with a sick, wet cough of blood. Pulling up to one arm, cringling soundlessly against her pain, she turns her stare back on the Shadow. Her jaw grits–

And taking a page from Miss Suzuno’s own book (appreciative of the girl for giving her this idea), Rui returns savagely to recoil one arm and try to SLAM her fist straight at one of the beast’s two mouths. Hissing soundlessly, she follows-up with a sharp twist and hook of her leg, bringing her heel down to try to drive the Shadow’s double-head down to the dirt, and with both wringing fists, KEEP it there for the precious moments others need–

COMBAT: Rui Onishi hits Kyo Enda with Cell Breaker for 26 points of Strike damage. (Strike Strong)
COMBAT: Enervation applied to Kyo Enda.
COMBAT: Rui Onishi has finished her turn.

Kyo Enda [U] has posed.

For a short moment, Shadow Kyo and Tatsuya see eye to eye: its left eye is near enough the Shinsengumi leader can watch its feline pupil focus on him. Its jaws locked around Tatsuya’s body, it has very little choice but to listen to exactly what Tatsuya wants to tell him. The comment very visibly strikes home. Rage darkens that eye, and those jaws start to compress painfully–

And then that block of ice slams into his back, Mitsuru having stripped away one of his defenses. Its jaws open reflexively in pain, releasing Tatsuya, and it tries to retreat. Rui catches its heads and holds it, though– not long, but long enough for Naomi’s lancing stab of light to hit home.

Pairika’s winds batter the Shadow violently, forcing it to brace its paws. Claws dig furrows in the stone of the floor. Mitsuru’s retaliation strips away one of its defenses, but it evinces no particular worry. In fact, it makes little to no expression at all to the anger and venom slung at it.

There’s something feral about its three remaining eyes. It doesn’t look in the mood to talk anymore. It only looks in the mood for one thing.

And its eyes are all focused on Tatsuya. You shouldn’t have said that.

The Shadow pounces, crossing the distance in a blink. It spreads its ire along the way– raking out at people as it rushes past– but its obvious aim is Tatsuya. It lunges to slam Tatsuya back into the wall beyond the dais.

Should it catch Tatsuya, its paws will plant on Tatsuya’s chest, pinning him in place, and it’s going to start slowly extending all sixteen of its ten-inch claws… which naturally only have one place to go.

COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Kyo Enda with Power Charge for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Power Charge applied to Kyo Enda.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda targets Mai Namikawa with Arrow Rain, but she dodges!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Naomi Suzuno with Arrow Rain for 142 points of Pierce damage.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Rui Onishi with Arrow Rain for 125 points of Pierce damage.
COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto tries to take the attack for Mitsuru Kirijo, but fails!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda targets Mitsuru Kirijo with Guillotine Fake, but she dodges!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Mai Namikawa with Guillotine Fake for 34 points of Slash damage.
COMBAT: Minor Weaken applied to Mai Namikawa.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa takes 92 damage from the Low Weaken effect!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Shinsuke Kusagawa with Guillotine Fake for 38 points of Slash damage.
COMBAT: Minor Weaken applied to Shinsuke Kusagawa.
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa takes 87 damage from the Low Weaken effect!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Kyo Enda with Power Charge for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Power Charge applied to Kyo Enda.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Tatsuya Suou with Primal Force for 192 points of Pierce damage.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda has finished his turn.

Akari Hoshi [NWO] has posed.

Benihime doesn’t even seem at all phased by Akari’s attempt to knock her back. Seething with anger she starts to say something else but the older girl just walks away. The attack that is thrown at her and Mitsuru doesn’t affect her but still fuels her anger even more. ‘Bitch!’ She mutters under her breath before looking back to Seiichi and Mitsuru, “Who is she anyway? Do you guys know her?” Secretly, Akari hopes that Kyo’s dungeon provides all sorts of hell for her if she tries to leave. After all, they were all laying their lives on the line to save Kyo and Miwa and she was seemingly making a game out of it.

For now though, Akari can’t do anything about it except to turn her anger towards the lion shadow and the reason for them being her. With Seiichi’s question, Akari nods. “I can do that Onii-chan!” At least she /hopes/ that she can. Even though she’s not terribly confident of her next move, she still tries!

From beneath the shadow comes a ring of bright white light. It grows bigger and bigger until the shadow is completely encompassed in it. If nothing else, maybe it will distract the shadow enough for the others to cause some serious pain.

COMBAT: Akari Hoshi hits Kyo Enda with Hama for 0 points of Light damage. (Light Strong)
COMBAT: Minor Weaken applied to Kyo Enda.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda takes 92 damage from the Low Weaken effect!
COMBAT: Akari Hoshi has finished her turn.

Tohya Kidzuki [DS] has posed.

Tohya, meanwhile, from her position–well no. No, there’s not all that much she /can/ do at the moment, compared to a lot of the others. But, there might be just enough… It’s done talking, and the tall young woman is fine with that. Especially since she’s spared the brunt of its attacks, this time.

…Even if.. that girl is gone? What even happened over there???

“Hey, asshole!” She rushes over, in fact, from where she was before–but first, she switches the presence in her mind… and makes use of what she /can/, anyway. “Hey! Asshole!” She takes a breath, and lifts ahand–as a purple-green energy descends over Tatsuya, while, a moment later–well it won’t do damage, but her momentum as she keeps going is an attempt to get the thing /off/ of Tatsuya, and closer to her, instead.

COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki has activated Persephone.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki hits Tatsuya Suou with Signs of Love for 51 points of healing.
COMBAT: Energy Patra Critical Rate Up! Defense Up! applied to Tatsuya Suou.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki has finished her turn.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki is now covering Tatsuya Suou.

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

Blood sprays once more when claws rake down her other side, the fine dusting of scarlet dripping onto the ground when the beast swoops past her. After a moment, she’s spun, left slightly disoriented by the sudden dash and the large amount of pain dispensed on her person. She staggers forward, using her sword as a brace. But when she realizes who the target is, however, panic seizes her insides….and even more so when Tohya decides to plant herself between Tatsuya and the beast.
She charges, up the abandoned dais, leaping onto the platform and putting in as much speed as she can, and once she reaches the edge…
She -leaps-, springing from it and doing her best to level the point of her blade deep into the back of one of its heads. “GET OFF HIM!” Fury and panic sharpen her tone, her face so pale from fright it’s practically bloodless; should she be successful, Ma’at points her scepter again, a thick bolt of crackling lightning erupting from the edge and towards the end of her blade, where it would hopefully charge through the metal and into the Shadow’s body.

COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno hits Kyo Enda with Ziodyne for 86 points of Elec damage.
COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno has finished her turn.

Mitsuru Kirijo [SEES] has posed.

With her back turned, Mitsuru isn’t paying attention to Benihime. She’s so busy focusing on what’s in front of her that it isn’t until the young woman wishes them all ‘good luck’ that Mitsuru suddenly turns. “Wha-.” Her words get cut off and her vision is obscured by the thick poisonous fog the other woman oozes out. She coughs violently in response but it does no permanent damage. By the time it clears though, Benihime is gone. “Where.” She shakes her head at Akari’s question over who she is. “I don’t know… a friend of Enda-san’s perhaps?”

Turning, she watches Seiichi move in front of her to take whatever’s incoming towards her. While he doesn’t quite manage to make it in time to take the Shadow’s claws for her, Seiichi’s warning was enough to alert Mitsuru and she leaps backwards, just barely out of range of those deadly claws. She grits her teeth. As much as she wants to try and /not/ kill the Shadow, she is starting to wonder if it’s even possible. The beast seems near unstoppable. “FREEZE!” She shouts, Penthesilea gathering her power and unleashing another barrage of ice upon the Shadow.

Mitsuru Kirijo stands back up!
COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo hits Kyo Enda with Bufudyne for 107 points of Ice damage.
COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo has finished her turn.

Akari Hoshi [NWO] has posed.

Akari looks at Mitsuru with a curious expression, “Are you serious? That doesn’t make sense though. If she’s a friend of one of them…” She frowns, “…how could she just /leave/?” It makes Akari wonder if anyone could really be trusted if that were really the case. Even if Mitsuru was just speculating, just the possibility of it being accurate really seems to bother her.

Mai Namikawa [K] has posed.

In all her time, this was the first she’d ever seen someone try to Rodeo-ride a Shadow to calm it down. Rui’s insane stunt is in part why Mai does not notice Benihime’s withdrawal from the battlefield, she will no doubt notice later but right now, it’s a little too chaotic. She’s trying to wrestle Kyo down even with all those teeth and raking claws, it’s kind of impressive – she would never have pinned the mute woman to be so selflessly brave. It was giving them openings after all.

Above. comes a warning from within, and Mai looks up to see a volley of arrows. Her eyes close to slits, her pupils leaking an inky black liquid and turning her eyes obsidian briefly as her doppelganger provided targetting analysis. Her sword dances above, cutting the projectiles that would risk hitting her and only them – although this does leave Kyo an easy opening to cut her with his claws, inflicting a sharp gash on her right flank. It hurts more than just the cut, she’s not entirely sure why…

She can’t protect others more than she really did, not very efficiently anyway. The last attempt to help in that sense was nullified and FAST, making a second one feel rather futile. She holds on to Genbu for the time being, the strength and stalwart steel defenses of the tortoise god somewhat comforting against the savagery displayed by the leonid Shadow. “Genbu!” she calls forth again, but this time as Mitsuru opened his defenses, she’s going to use that. She does not call out a spell name, simply pointing the tip of her weapon toward him as the North God roars and fires a bolt of freezing force from the mouth, trying to hit at an angle no one else would risk being struck.

Mai Namikawa stands back up!
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa hits Kyo Enda with Bufudyne (Critical Hit!) for 121 points of Ice damage.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Freeze applied to Kyo Enda.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa has finished her turn.

Seiichi Miyamoto [NWO] has posed.

“I have no idea who that was, but I don’t think I like her very much.” Seiichi retorts towards Akari at the question. There is a moment of sick worry as he notes the claws slide past his guard and then thankfully enough they miss the tender flesh of the Ojou he’s /trying/ to protect. He draws in a breath, breathing a silent prayer of thanks to whatever kami actually might /like/ him before letting his eyes turn back towards the target. “Akari,” Seiichi warns as he lets his view swing back forwards. “Eyes on the target!” He reminds her even as once again Set steps forwards from the depths of his mind. He doesn’t want to see the young NWOite hurt anymore than he wants to see Mitsuru damamged. However he keeps in his position infront of Mitsuru. He might be a TERRIBLE tank, but he can at least take one hit or two.
“Set. Rip him open.” He murmurs quietly as the Persona seems to smile viciously as it raises its arms again. Those scouring winds whirl around the gods fists before he slings them forwards like a pair of scything blades to fly towards the creature, intending on at the very least assisting the rest of the elemental assaults to knock the angry Shadow free of its prey.
Even if that prey doesn’t like him much. No one really deserves to be topped by Kyo.

COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto has activated Set.
COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto hits Kyo Enda with Garudyne for 173 points of Wind damage.
COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto has finished his turn.

Tatsuya Suou [DS] has posed.

In all fairness, Tatsuya pretty much literally asked for this.

Baiting Kyo Enda under any circumstances almost certainly qualifies as an incredibly terrible idea, and right now it’s worse by an order of magnitude. So, one might wonder, why did Suou do it in the first place? Was he hoping that a realisation of how far he had sunk would somehow cause Kyo to stay his hand, by stirring the battered hulk of his pride into action? Or was Tatsuya just lashing out, his fury overwhelming him with the simple desire to work out his recent frustrations, his sense of betrayal at Akatsuki’s actions, and his white-hot anger at what’s happened to Miwa by hurting Kyo in the same way he seems so fond of hurting others?

“Ghhhh,” says Tatsuya, so at least his vicious invective has stopped, but as the pain builds he becomes aware of everything else that’s going on. Naomi, injured, but overlooking her own situation out of her frantic fear for his wellbeing. And then Tohya’s erudite attempts to get Kyo’s attention, coupled with her power washing over him, filling him with strength and helping him find his center. Though he can’t overpower Kyo like this, he can use Tohya’s help to wriggle out from against the wall, shoving himself free of the extending claws which, incidentally, hurts like you would not believe.

Tatsuya stumbles and nearly falls, blood streaming down his front, but no. No. No more. His bloody-handed grip tightens on the hilt of Kotorimaru, until he’s holding the weapon with both hands, properly, he lunges forward with a roar, sweeping his katana in a wide, vicious arc, once again trying to take one of those leonine heads. It didn’t work last time, sure, but… Tatsuya Suou can be pretty stubborn sometimes.

COMBAT: Tatsuya Suou targets Kyo Enda with Inexplicable Iaijutsu, but he dodges!
COMBAT: Tatsuya Suou has finished his turn.

Rui Onishi [K] has posed.

Another smash of those claws sends the petite Miss Onishi skidding away, rolling to a bloody, dead heap across the ground. All her effort has earned her are another matching set of gouges drawn deeply across her body. The human body is not formed to bear that sort of direct slaughter. She should be finished at this point. She should not be moving.

Her index finger twitches, followed by the hand, the leather glove half-torn off Rui’s flexing knuckles. Her eyes open, the world returning to them bleary and half-fogged, and her stomach turns as she spits up another mouthful of blood. Breathing hitchedly, the woman pulls herself up, moving mechanically with the unconscious, cerebellar response of a body that has spent its entire life rising, again and again, from all forms of pain and mutilation. Her back bows as she half-stoops under the weight of her agony, blood pooling from her body.

Rui turns her head to see the beast catch Tatsuya Suou under its claws, no doubt to spread his innards across the room. It makes her remember that eel of so many years ago.

Why would she remember that…?

Her head twitches, eyes registering Naomi’s reckless stunt as she drives, aimed like a missile, down on the beast’s head.

Rui’s lips move. But it’s hard to say, with a mute, if she’d ever, would ever, voice a curse.

And from a woman whom can barely move… returns that kyoketsu-shoge, as she slips in to try to SLAM it into the double-headed lion’s second throat in a perfect mirror of her initial attack, Rui stepping up and twisting the cable to try to catch into the monster’s jaws and around its teeth. And like a horse’s bit, she again tries to rein it violently to one side and PULL back with all her strength, coordinating with Mai and Miss Suzuno to try to wrench the Shadow off of Suou.

COMBAT: Rui Onishi hits Kyo Enda with Slash Attack – Kyoketsu Shoge for 0 points of Slash damage. (Slash Strong)
COMBAT: Kyo Enda reflects Rui Onishi’s attack for 32 damage!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda blocks Rui Onishi’s attack!
COMBAT: Rui Onishi has been knocked out!
COMBAT: Rui Onishi has finished her turn.

Shinsuke Kusagawa [SEES] has posed.

New tactics, yes-
The Shadow thrashes about in its fury, spraying dark blood across the marble chamber as it bucks Rui off, slinging her away. It seems to ignore the rest of the attacks that come for it, favoring instead that ominous snarl. Shinsuke winces at the sight of Tatsuya bleeding, rent from so many wounds, blood frothing around the holes in his jacket — ones which conceal deep punctures in his lungs, no doubt. More healing- Shinsuke takes a mental accounting of what he has to hand, though the pain from the arrows which had previously sliced through his flesh is admittedly somewhat distracting-
As is the talon which rakes guillotine-like across his throat, the leonine Shadow blazing past toward the dais and raking everyone in its path. Shinsuke gurgles, white-gloved hands leaping at his throat to stem the sudden crimson spray, his loosed rapier clattering to the floor. Pain-glazed eyes lift to the dais, where Tatsuya has just ripped himself free of the Shadow amid Naomi’s frantic beatdown and Rui-
Now! Do it now!
Azure eyes widen at the sight of Rui’s fall, but it seems Kay is faster. Shinsuke concentrates, and for the first time ever Kay steps back to allow a new presence to fill his master’s mind. “Come forth!” Shinsuke cries, the azure ring at his feet exploding upward as he evokes not the darkly gleaming Seneschal but an azure-and-cobalt-robed maiden whose beautifully-adorned black hair streams to her dainty feet. Tianxian Niang Niang, gleaned from Shinsuke’s friendship with Fuuka, raises one long-nailed hand and calls a luminous sphere down upon the fallen secretary. Her task complete, her blue lips curve in a gentle smile as she disappears.

COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa has activated Tianxian Niang Niang.
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa hits Rui Onishi with Recarm for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Recarm applied to Rui Onishi.
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa has finished his turn.

Kyo Enda [U] has posed.

Oh… they didn’t like that, did they? Worried about Tatsuya, are they–

Temporarily, the Shadow is blinded by Akari’s surge of light, its paws burned sufficiently by the ring that it recoils back a few paces. It ignores Tohya’s attempts at insult, seeming to think the surging lightning and sudden weight of Naomi upon the back of its neck– the blasts of Mitsuru and Mai’s piercing ice– are more immediately worrying. It spasms, blood coursing down its torn black hide, claws retracting and allowing Tatsuya to rip himself off them and pull away.

Seiichi’s surge of wind pushes the Shadow back across the dais, ripping another bloody slash down its flank; with a rabid snarl, it sends a surging bolt of half-frozen water straight back at Miyamoto. But it seems all too happy to retreat backwards afterwards, flinching back to avoid the scoring swipe of Tatsuya’s blade. Kyo remembers the bite of that edge very well.

And then Rui tries to slip in close to push her blade into its throat again. The Shadow remembers the move. It recoils, letting her weapon cut the air– and then one set of jaws snaps forward and closes around her throat, crunching down. With a flick of its head and a release of its jaws, it tries to hurl her into the nearest wall with bone-breaking force.

It recoils even further, lashing out at Seiichi, Akari, and Mai with more surges of water stolen from Miwa’s Shadow. The increasing strength and regularity of its use of Shadow Miwa’s magic seems to bode ill. Shadow Kyo’s recoiling behavior, its swift slink around the fringes of the room, certainly seem to suggest that it’s considering simply leaping past the group and escaping to some dark corner of its own dungeon, where it might have a few minutes to digest in peace.

But none of this really solves the problem of the angry Naomi still clinging at the back of its neck, does it? Too many people have thought they’d be cute and try to ride it, in fact. /Well/–

The Shadow warps abruptly beneath Naomi. It starts to twitch and flow back together, the twin lions merging into a single form yet again. As the sum of its mass concentrates in one body instead of two, Naomi suddenly finds herself quite a bit further from the ground–

The Shadow’s body slopes suddenly under her, trying to force her to slide back and out of that spot just between its shoulderblades which it cannot reach. Its head twists around immediately afterwards, eyes focusing on her for a few moments the same way a cat marks a very annoying mouse.

It lunges moments later, jaws wide open, intent on sending Naomi the same way as Shadow Miwa. From her vantage point, Naomi has a too-close view of the sight bearing down on her: gleaming fangs the length of her arm, a rasped tongue flattened down to allow her to slide past, and– beyond both– the black pit of a throat that’s already opening to pull her body down.

COMBAT: Kyo Enda targets Seiichi Miyamoto with Fear Torrent, but he dodges!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Akari Hoshi with Maraquadyne for 57 points of Ice damage.
COMBAT: Soak applied to Akari Hoshi.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Mai Namikawa with Maraquadyne (Critical Hit!) for 41 points of Ice damage. (Ice Strong)
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda targets Seiichi Miyamoto with Maraquadyne, but he dodges!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda targets Rui Onishi with Shieldbreaker, but she dodges!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda targets Naomi Suzuno with Primal Force, but she dodges!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda has finished his turn.

Mitsuru Kirijo [SEES] has posed.

Mitsuru makes a slight face in response to Seiichi’s comment about not liking Benihime very much. “I have to agree,” she murmurs in her assent. But there are more things to worry about than that woman. Kyo’s on a rampage and he seems nearly unstoppable. All the attacks on him seem to just drive him further on in anger.

Judging by the state of everyone, no one really appears to be in tip top shape. Naomi is clinging to him and the mute young woman has fallen, only to be picked up (thankfully) by Shinsuke. She frowns. If the pace keeps up, everyone will fall before they can save anyone. With that thought in mind, a chain within her soul rattles.

Once again Penthesilea fades, the war like queen being replaced by another, more gentle presence. When her evoker fires again, an asian looking woman appears, her face shrouded by a curtain made of jade beads that chime softly. Light suffuses the area, falling upon a handful of individuals to grant them a moment’s reprieve.

COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo has activated Tianxian Niang Niang.
COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo hits Naomi Suzuno with Mediarama for 99 points of healing.
COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo hits Shinsuke Kusagawa with Mediarama for 98 points of healing.
COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo hits Rui Onishi with Mediarama for 94 points of healing.
COMBAT: Energy applied to Rui Onishi.
COMBAT: Mitsuru Kirijo has finished her turn.

Shinsuke Kusagawa [SEES] has posed.

They’re really, uh, taking a beating, aren’t they. ;;; Shinsuke’s lips part in shock at the sight of the Shadow roiling beneath Naomi, attempting to swallow her whole-
But he exhales as its attempt proves vain, and the heiress evades that terrible maw. Azure eyes flicker over toward Rui as Mitsuru summons up the same Persona Shinsuke had called upon, bringing healing down upon her, Naomi, and himself. “Ah- thanks, senpai!” Shinsuke calls out to her, rushing closer to the dais in order to echo Mitsuru’s spell with one of his own. This iteration of Tianxian bears opaque blue jade in her headdress, but is recognisable as the same Persona — and has the same spells. She appears above him once more, her celestial robe fluttering gently, and waves a blue-nailed white hand at those front-liners who require the most healing.
Shinsuke bites his lip and bends down to pick up his sword as she dissipates. /Can/ they succeed…?

COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa has activated Tianxian Niang Niang.
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa hits Tatsuya Suou with Mediarama (Critical Hit!) for 167 points of healing.
COMBAT: Energy applied to Tatsuya Suou.
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa hits Naomi Suzuno with Mediarama for 96 points of healing.
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa hits Rui Onishi with Mediarama for 96 points of healing.
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa has finished his turn.

Akari Hoshi [NWO] has posed.

As the waves of water come towards her Akari forgets about Benihime’s ‘betrayal’ for now. She tries to avoid the damage but it hits her, knocking her back towards Seiichi. “Stupid shadow…” she breathes out. Unfortunately, Belphegor’s shield only protects against so much it seems.

She looks back to Seiichi, still dripping wet from the water but as he looks okay she turns back towards the shadows. Since her light attack had worked Akari feels a little more confident and she looks towards Pairika again. Without even uttering a word a force begins to encompass the shadow. There is not much visually to see, but provided it hits, the shadow would definitely feel it.

COMBAT: Akari Hoshi has activated Pairika.
COMBAT: Akari Hoshi hits Kyo Enda with Zanma for 64 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Akari Hoshi has finished her turn.

Mai Namikawa [K] has posed.

“Let go!” she wasn’t entirely unappreciative of Tatsuya’s continued efforts of keeping Kyo focused on him – whatever he said CLEARLY pissed him off, but it won’t do them much good if he joins the Akatsuki-pile of mauled people. The returned water volley for her icy blast causes Mai to try and block, but the pressure is too strong and she falls down. Her breath hisses in her mouth as she rubs her posterior for a moment but she wastes little time getting back up. He’s behaving angrier by the second – frantic even, but if they continue to hamper him they might get that one opening for a surgical strike either to cut open his belly or punch it hard enough to induce vomiting. There was also option 3 to try and force a gag reflex but who in their right mind would shove an arm in his maw?

Don’t answer that.

The fact it can split in two is a little unnerving, a dangerous skill to say the least. Now that they remerged however it did make it easier to pick where to aim, “KIDZUKI!” she shouts, her own inner balance shifting as Hannya returns to the forefront of her mind. “I’LL PIN IT! GROUND SPIKE HIS STOMACH!” she was unsure if at this point it would hold long enough but he had to be somewhat exhausted too, they sure were after all. If his Hide is slow enough at mending itself that they can start poking holes in it, they can hopefully retrieve Miwa’ Shadow soon. “Hannya!” she summons forth, the Oni materializing in a shower of broken glass and a furious howl. A ball of magical force begins to gather in it’s oversized hand that she throws like a curve baseball, yet even to the most amateur of amateurs at trajectory calculating it’s clear Mai is shooting too high. “Gravity…”

Both the summoner and Persona lift their fists toward the sky, slamming their hands against the groound as the sphere would be passing over the leonid Shadow. “CRUSHER!” would reveal the true nature of the attack, a gravity field meant to slam against the ground with high force and make it difficult to move…if she can catch him before he moves.

COMBAT: Mai Namikawa has activated Hannya Custom.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa hits Kyo Enda with Gryva (Critical Hit!) for 68 points of Almighty damage.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Stone applied to Kyo Enda.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa has regenerated 11 points of damage.
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa has finished her turn.

Tohya Kidzuki [DS] has posed.

If one method doesn’t work, just try another. Tohya doesn’t let a thing like ‘Kyo is a jerk, even as a monster’ stop her–if Naomi gets the focus and has to do the dodging–and of course, she’s able–then either way, Tatsuya is getting a reprieve. “You all right?” she calls to Naomi, then, and eyes for another opening–she’s stepping back, at this point, though not too far back. They’re definitely getting hit hard–but… Well, is that a surprise? For all the things she’d say against Kyo, ‘weak in combat’ has never been one of them. …Just not talking about shoving arms in, as instead–

Mai shouts, and the instructions are taken to heart, “On it!” She takes a breath, and gathers up some focus, waiting, just as Persephone appears, the Iron Queen levelling her gaze down at the paired/single lion(s). “Persona!”

And, as Mai’s gravity field smashes into being, the ground beneath the shadow /erupts/, aiming to pin it between both.

COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki has activated Persephone.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki hits Kyo Enda with Magnadyne (Critical Hit!) for 138 points of Earth damage.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Stone applied to Kyo Enda.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki has finished her turn.

Seiichi Miyamoto [NWO] has posed.

Well. It seems he’s got the things attention. There is a smirk on his face as Seiichi notes the wounds that appear on the thing, even as he attempts to stay close to Mitsuru. His blades snap up as he deflects the spear of ice directed towards him back and away from the assembled group. “Hopefully she won’t show up again later.” He adds calmly in the direction of the leader of SEES as he takes quick stock of those that are arrays against the rampaging from of Kyo.
None of them look all that great.
Again he has other things to worry over, and the water comes flying towards him in a torrent. A moment of concentration as his eyes narrow, and then the black-garbed and burnt musician is moving once again. He rolls to the side, the water shooting past him after he makes sure that Mitsuru is /not/ there behind him to splatter harmlessly behind him. He comes up to one knee as the subtle pressure of a Persona summon surrounds him. This time its not Set that steps from the shadows, but the willowy form of Titania as the elven maiden raises one hand and strands of brilliant emerald energy flow from her elegant fingers towards Mitsuru as Seiichi reclaims his position near her once again. There is a glance towards Akari and the rest as well as he stands, though thankfully it seems that though hurt the little girl is still mobile.

COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto has activated Titania.
COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto hits Mitsuru Kirijo with Diarama for 88 points of healing.
COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto has finished his turn.
COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto is now covering Mitsuru Kirijo.

Rui Onishi [K] has posed.

Her hands falter off the cable of her weapon.

And it’s all Rui has to just freeze on the spot, widen her eyes, and lose her breath as she comes momentarily eye-to-eye against one head of the double-monster. It’s almost as those flaring amber eyes have hypnotized her into place.

It moves. Breaking from the spell, so does she, the kyoketsu-shoge blade forsaken as she lifts one arm to ward against that monstrous bite. The woman falters immediately, her heels scraping against the bloodied ground, her body failing her. It’s the last bit of pain she can take. She can’t hold the Shadow off any longer. It may as well… She wasn’t strong enough…

Until something ineffable touches her, mystical, newfound strength soundly slapping Miss Onishi straight across the face. The pain’s receded. Her She gasps anew, unsure of where it came from, but grateful all the same. And just as sure not to waste such a miracle.

Instead of sealing around her throat, mangling her trachea and delicate vertebrae, she lets those teeth sink into her right forearm, bracing with just enough strength and pulling out with her other hand to keep those jaws from closing over her throat. Her teeth grit against the pressure. Her arms shudder and tremble. But Rui’s eyes are wide and fixed and sharp as daggers, and as the monster savagely twists its head to knock her away, she glides with the momentum, her shoes skidding as she catches the wall with one determined click of her heel.

She’s not finished yet.

Watching as the Shadow lion mutates itself, turning its head back on Naomi to try to pull the girl down its throat… Rui’s eyes narrow, and ever so silent, she kicks off the wall and back into action. And leaping, she tries to ricochet off the shoulder of the beast to return straight back for its head, as Rui reintroduces herself with the blade of her weapon slammed down for for the other eye. Her yellow eyes focus straight on Miss Suzuno. And her other, mangled arm reaches forward, wordless but insistent, to try to weave her fingers with the heiress’, and with a sharp twist of her shoulder, give her the propelling lift to flip up over those jaws…

COMBAT: Rui Onishi hits Kyo Enda with Vile Assault for 129 points of Pierce damage.
COMBAT: Rui Onishi has finished her turn.

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

Blood slickens the grip of her blade; energy crackles around her when Ma’at’s lightning strike hits home, a blast of eyeball-searing ligh. She could feel Kandori’s sword thrum and vibrate in her fingers, its end and edge punched clean through the shadow-beast from behind.
She doesn’t have time to recover when the dark leonine form suddenly rises up, arching and sloping its back in an effort not to dislodge her, but push her away from its protruding shoulderblades. She slides suddenly towards the middle of its back, black ichor pouring from the wound she leaves behind as she slams into the tailbone, miraculously keeping a grip on her weapon though she nearly loses it on the side. The foggy edges of her vision catch the head moving to loom over her, the tendons along its neck pulse visibly as it lunges. Fear courses through her, its icy fingers clawing down her spine and shredding nerve endings along its wake, rendering her paralyzed as its maw starts to close around her. Adrenaline pours by the bucketloads into her bloodstream, setting fire to every cell, her stiff body feeling frozen and aflame all at once. Dimly, in a disembodied and disjointed way, she wonders why the sensation is so terribly, palpably, potently familiar….until she remembers.
This was how the body felt when it knows it’s going to die.
She doesn’t think; there’s simply no time to do it. Her arm, so heavy moments ago, lifts by way of miracle, providence, or herculean will – that shocked moment lasts only a few seconds from the one breath she takes in order to move. Wicked steel slams in between the gap between two front teeth, her arm folding in order to brace her palm against the base. Her grip strains at keeping the much stronger head away from her, biting back a scream as steel whines painfully while it twists, slowly folding against the pressure; ironically, it’s only due Kandori’s prowess in smithing and whatever absurd powers he wielded that the blade doesn’t manage to snap outright.
Wide-eyed, she stares within the gaping maw, the rolling tongue struggling to reach her and pull her in…the putrid, foul-smelling darkness beyond it. Her heart jackhammers into her ribcage, desperate to escape the situation and run away, leaving its hapless owner behind.
“I said….GET…OFF…HIM…!” Her palm splits against her blade, the scent of copper, rust, shadow-blood and breath stinging her nose – all the while, her other senses are ringing with someone’s potent and determined intention. She looks up just as the metal is crumpling, and lets go, letting the length of the metal shatter. She doesn’t hesitate when she reaches for the mysterious Miss Onishi’s hand, and does not let out a lick of protest as she throws her up and over the monster’s head, and for the briefest of instances, she was throwing herself out of a plane yet again.
Invigorating green energy envelopes her as she spirals in the air, applied by Mitsuru’s and Shinsuke’s good graces. Mai’s shouting registers somewhere below followed by Tohya’s affirmative – it is enough for another entity to burst forth from her unconsciousness the moment she hears her younger friend’s voice. “SEKER!” Somehow, she knows its name instantly, the earth spirit flickering into being and hurling a large rock spike. In her descent down, Naomi slams her heel into the top, driving her weight down in an effort to increase its speed in an effort to plow the jagged thing right into the Shadow’s glowing gilded eye. Fury twists her porcelain features.
“I’m alright!” she calls back to Tohya and for the benefit of Rui as well, her gaze meeting the latter’s for a second or two. Whether she strikes true or not, she falls off the rock outcropping.

COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno has activated Seker.
COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno hits Kyo Enda with Magnadyne for 101 points of Earth damage.
COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno has recovered 3 SP.
COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno has finished her turn.

Tatsuya Suou [DS] has posed.

Teeth gritting, Tatsuya lets out a quiet ‘tch’ of annoyance as Kyo is able to avoid that savage slash, focused with a singleminded intensity – even through all the pain of getting perforated – on trying to take the Shadow-possessed young man out of action. There is, perhaps, a certain sense of relief in that it puts enough space between himself and the Shadow that the efforts of others are able to draw Kyo’s attention, but that relief is tiny, and transitory, and voiced at what seems to be an extremely great distance from Suou’s current thoughts.

He’s not really one to let others make sacrifices in his place.

Fresh, soothing energy washes over him, as Shinsuke brings the healing power of a Persona to bear, but aside from the way it eases his movements, and stops the flow of blood, Tatsuya hardly seems to notice. Exhaling slowly, Tatsuya brings Vulcanus to the forefront again, that cascade of light pouring out around him as the green and bronze figure emerges once more, Tatsuya’s other self unmarred despite the punishment his flesh and blood form has endured.

“Go!!” shouts the red-clad Shinsengumi leader as, once again, Vulcanus unleashes a massive blast of searing flame at the perverted leonine form of Kyo Enda.

COMBAT: Tatsuya Suou has activated Vulcanus.

COMBAT: Tatsuya Suou hits Kyo Enda with Agidyne for 107 points of Fire damage.
COMBAT: Tatsuya Suou has finished his turn.

Akatsuki Enda [U] has posed.

Akatsuki twitches, the healing light Tohya bestows upon him returning him to consciousness. Whether this is a blessing or not is questionable, however, given that he’s still bleeding heavily from his head wounds, and when he picks himself up, he can *feel* flaps of his skin hanging away from his face. He stares up blurrily at the battle still ensuing, then touches his face very carefully.
The skin sort of jostles against his fingers.
Perhaps it’s because of his recent experiences; perhaps he’s just lost too much blood. But it doesn’t really faze Akatsuki very much. He just thinks, ‘Oh, I’m bleeding a lot, I ought to fix that,’ and wobbles unsteadily to his feet. There is still a part of him that thinks, perhaps he ought to move away from the others, let nature take its course…
…but for Tohya, at least, he half-consciously calls forth the Persona that his bond with her, before her fundamental change, once gave him. In a flash of blue light, Undine appears above him and showers down healing light…
Then Akatsuki slumps back down again, still bleeding around his neck and face, but at least *probably* not in danger of losing his life. With Undine’s power, too, he’ll gradually regain his strength as well… Though that, at least, is a happy side effect rather than something Akatsuki consciously thought through. He’s not quite in a good place right now.

COMBAT: Akatsuki Enda has activated Undine.
COMBAT: Akatsuki Enda hits Akatsuki Enda with Diarama for 81 points of healing.
COMBAT: Akatsuki Enda has regenerated 11 points of damage.
COMBAT: Akatsuki Enda has finished his turn.

Kyo Enda [U] has posed.

Shadow Kyo howls a frustrated note as its jaws close on nothing but a sword… Naomi making an escape with the aid of Rui. They leave their marks as they pass, each taking an eye in showers of black ichor. The world goes dark for the Shadow, even when it fissions back into its double form: all four eyes are punctured ruins, each cascading strings of what passes for blood.

It turns wildly, still trying to adjust to the sudden lack of sight. The adjustment isn’t quick enough.

It starts with the press of Akari’s spell. The Shadow wavers, its heads turning, black Shadow-blood still drooling from its sightless eyes: up until Tatsuya’s blast of fire catches it full in its faces and sears the wounds shut. It’s left easy prey for Mai’s gravity field, its limbs buckling as it’s shoved down towards the ground– and the spearing pillar of earth that Tohya calls up to slam into its belly. The wind hisses out of it between its vicious teeth–

–and, fainter, from within it, can be heard a muffled scream. That -was- quite a hard hit.

It breathes shallowly. A growl starts in the back of its throat, a constant seething sound, loud as an engine, that settles into the bones. It sniffs, heads swinging, tracking by scent, and choking water starts to rise from the floor, seeking to entangle and drown certain of the group. Swathing darkness clutches at others, seeking to smother them.

The Shadow leaps forward under the cover of the darkness it’s called up. It crosses the room in a skimming rush, aiming to leave no one unscathed by its claws in its passing. It’s running, some might realize sooner than others, for the door at the far end of the hall.

He just wants–

COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Kyo Enda with Power Charge for 0 points of healing.
COMBAT: Power Charge applied to Kyo Enda.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Mai Namikawa with Arrow Rain for 73 points of Pierce damage. (Pierce Strong)
COMBAT: Mai Namikawa has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda targets Seiichi Miyamoto with Arrow Rain, but he dodges!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Rui Onishi with Arrow Rain for 0 points of Pierce damage.
COMBAT: Rui Onishi reflects Kyo Enda’s attack for 146 damage!
COMBAT: Rui Onishi blocks Kyo Enda’s attack!
COMBAT: Seiichi Miyamoto takes the attack for Mitsuru Kirijo!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Seiichi Miyamoto with Mamudoon for 0 points of Dark damage.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda targets Akari Hoshi with Mamudoon, but she dodges!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Shinsuke Kusagawa with Mamudoon for 0 points of Dark damage.
COMBAT: Weaken applied to Shinsuke Kusagawa.
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa takes 118 damage from the Weaken effect!
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki takes the attack for Tatsuya Suou!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Tohya Kidzuki with Maraquadyne (Critical Hit!) for 0 points of Ice damage.
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Tohya Kidzuki reflects Kyo Enda’s attack for 78 Ice damage!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Naomi Suzuno with Maraquadyne (Critical Hit!) for 0 points of Ice damage.
COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno has been Knocked Down!
COMBAT: Naomi Suzuno reflects Kyo Enda’s attack for 98 Ice damage!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda hits Seiichi Miyamoto with Maraquadyne for 65 points of Ice damage.
COMBAT: Kyo Enda has been knocked out!
COMBAT: Kyo Enda has finished his turn.

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

For someone she has never met, the mysterious Miss Onishi seems to be able to improvise her movements to the flow of hers; this can’t be her first time in the trenches. Even as the earthen spike drives into one of the shadow’s eyes, Rui’s own attack takes out the other. Blinded now, hopefully they’re able to buy some advantage – all in all, it was a fair trade for Kandori’s sword.
‘I’ll need a new one,’ is the distant thought.
It’s moving again, not to attack, but to escape….with Miwa’s shadow still being digested. “NO!” Naomi cries, breaking out in a dead run. She’s not as fast as Tatsuya or Mai, whom she knows spends almost every morning running, but with the boon given to her by Shinsuke and Mitsuru, she’s able to move at a quick clip, and without a sword to weigh her own, she can concetrate even more on what’s going on around her. Another volley of attacks meant to hinder and impede them shower over the rest of them. A gush of ice and water twists towards her direction.
She has no time to dodge.
She digs her weight on her heels, skidding across the floor with her arms coming up to shield her head and face. Her Persona immediately comes to her defense, enveloping her with a barrier that slams into the incoming attack and sends it back to the caster. She’s pushed off her legs, however, at the force of it, knocked backwards and down, thrown on her side, but it’s enough to pound back towards the retreating Shadow….and join the rest of the other incoming ones threatening to engulf the retreating Kyo.
She pushes herself up to a seated position, palms braced on the floor and her violet eyes wide. She looks a little stunned, a little disoriented. What was that? What did she just do? Whatever it was, she’s never done it before.

Kyo Enda [U] has posed.

Refracting spells catch its limbs, and as it passes, people strike out to bleed it even more. It stumbles, nearly sags, and then regroups some last surge of strength to run blindly over the last stretch of distance.

It stumbles again, and this time it doesn’t recover. It strikes the floor, skids, and collapses about ten feet short of the door.

It’s too far away to see clearly what’s happening, but the rising clouds of darkness seem to indicate the Shadow is dissipating away.

Drawing closer will reveal Kyo– just Kyo, his Shadow momentarily beaten into total remission– half-conscious, some dazed hint of awareness glinting dully under his half-lidded eyes. There is, at first, no sign of Miwa’s Shadow… up until one looks about ten feet to Kyo’s right, off in the deep shadows between the columns of the room.

Akari Hoshi [NWO] has posed.

Akari doesn’t say anything but she’s pretty impressed with Naomi right now. She hadn’t even realized exactly what was happening before still distracted enough by Benihime’s abrupt departure. As the group continues to attack she only hopes that they are making some kind of progress against this thing. It doesn’t show quite yet but she is getting tired. She wasn’t used to the oppresive atmosphere of the TV world or a lot of combat like this.

As the shadow shoves darkness towards them Akari sees it fast enough that moves away from the attack trying to avoid as much of the damage as possible. Thankfully, it seems to miss her entirely, and just cause she can, Akari sticks out her tongue at the shadow and then turns to Seiichi to make sure that he was okay again. She sure seems really worried about his well-being… maybe even moreso than her own.

As the shadow starts to dissipate Akari’s expression turns from a smile into one of concern, “Miwa…” She doesn’t go over to where Miwa’s shadow is but rather bends down to look at the real deal. “Miwa-san…” The young girl shakes her shoulder gently. “Wake up… it’s over!” Unfortunately, she doesn’t see a reaction and looks up at Mitsuru and Seiichi. “I-Is she going to be okay?”

Tohya Kidzuki [DS] has posed.

Leaping into the path of the torrent sent for Tatsuya–she knows full well how he usually does with Water and the like–Tohya relies on the barrier that’s still active in order to protect her from it. It’s not so much reckless… though she’d have done it regardless, considering how hard he’d been hit before. It slams into her, certainly, but the barrier is protective… and whatever else he may have unleashed is lost in that reflection, of her and of others.

And then… That’s… It’s gone. And Kyo, there, is on the ground, where Tohya watches him, standing not all that far–she glances around, to see if she can’t find a certain other Shadow, but…

She’s not willing to take her eyes off Kyo yet. Not for long. “…Everybody all right?”

Tohya Kidzuki [DS] has posed.

Leaping into the path of the torrent sent for Tatsuya–she knows full well how he usually does with Water and the like–Tohya relies on the barrier that’s still active in order to protect her from it. It’s not so much reckless… though she’d have done it regardless, considering how hard he’d been hit before. It slams into her, certainly, but the barrier is protective… and whatever else he may have unleashed is lost in that reflection, of her and of others.

And then… That’s… It’s gone. And Kyo, there, is on the ground, where Tohya watches him, standing not all that far–she glances around, to see if she can’t find a certain other Shadow, but…

She’s not willing to take her eyes off Kyo yet. Not for long. “…Everybody all right?” She’s missed all the details of Akatsuki–she just knows that she saw him stand up, which was a relief on its own.

Miwa Saitou [DS] has posed.

Shadows demonstrate an amazing ability to regenerate. It probably helps that, technically, they don’t have organs.

It stands carefully, a little shaky on its feet. Rolling its shoulders in the manner of one who has been cramped for too long, it glances at the others. A slow, perhaps grateful nod follows.

It vanishes, fading out into the finest black haze, then not even that.

Miwa exhales in a deep sigh, but otherwise does not move. Akari’s attempts to awaken her meet with no success; the young woman is still comatose. For psychic damage this severe, it might take time to recover fully.

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

For someone she has never met, the mysterious Miss Onishi seems to be able to improvise her movements to the flow of hers; this can’t be her first time in the trenches. Even as the earthen spike drives into one of the shadow’s eyes, Rui’s own attack takes out the other. Blinded now, hopefully they’re able to buy some advantage – all in all, it was a fair trade for Kandori’s sword.
‘I’ll need a new one,’ is the distant thought.
It’s moving again, not to attack, but to escape….with Miwa’s shadow still being digested. “NO!” Naomi cries, breaking out in a dead run. She’s not as fast as Tatsuya or Mai, whom she knows spends almost every morning running, but with the boon given to her by Shinsuke and Mitsuru, she’s able to move at a quick clip, and without a sword to weigh her own, she can concetrate even more on what’s going on around her. Another volley of attacks meant to hinder and impede them shower over the rest of them. A gush of ice and water twists towards her direction.
She has no time to dodge.
She digs her weight on her heels, skidding across the floor with her arms coming up to shield her head and face. Her Persona immediately comes to her defense, enveloping her with a barrier that slams into the incoming attack and sends it back to the caster. She’s pushed off her legs, however, at the force of it, knocked backwards and down, thrown on her side, but it’s enough to pound back towards the retreating Shadow….and join the rest of the other incoming ones threatening to engulf the retreating Kyo.
She pushes herself up to a seated position, palms braced on the floor and her violet eyes wide. She looks a little stunned, a little disoriented. What was that? What did she just do? Whatever it was, she’s never done it before.
After a moment, she stands up slowly, tugging on the remains of her jacket to cover her half-bared side. Moving towards where Kyo lies, she stands by Tohya’s side, staring down at his prone body dispassionately, the dark form fading to reveal him the way she is accustomed to seeing him.
‘That’s why I will always win, in the end,’ Kyo’s memory voice snarls again. ‘I will think of that which would never occur to you. I will do what you won’t–!!’
Her fist balls at her side. It would be so easy, so easy to step forward, put her boot into his neck, apply pressure and give her ankle a twist and break it.
‘I will do what you won’t–!!!’
Liftng her eyes, she watches Miwa’s shadow nod to the rest before it vanishes. Her jaw ticks faintly on the side of her neck, taking a deep breath and releasing the grip of her fingers into her palm.
“I think so,” she finally replies to her best friend, giving her a faint smile and turning to see Akari tend to Miwa. “How is she?” she calls out across the way.

Rui Onishi [K] has posed.

With a dexterity that belies all of her bland glances and bored, sleepy manner, Rui rips back her blade with a gout of blood, tenses her legs, and flips back off the head of the beast. She lands neatly by the heels of her shoes, their stilettos glancing and grinding across the bloodsoaked ground. Stomped to a halt, she pulls back her weapon, the cable winding back into the mechanism buckled around her arm. The blade hooks back into place.

And widening her stance, the secretary of Omoikane Investigations waits.

The monster rails forward at the lot of them. Blinded, bloodthirsty, it charges by sound and smell.

And without a pause, glance, or single sound, Rui charges forward to meet it. It appears she’s had enough, by the way her head bows, by the way her eyes narrow, by the way she unlatches the kyoketsu-shoge back to her hand with a finalizing click. And as the Shadow lion charges past, trying to score and rend her with its claws, Miss Onishi simply folds herself under the swiping blow, collapsing into a slide under the barrelling beast as her blade rips up to rend it along the moving inside seam of its legs. It charges and stumbles overhead, and she reappears from under it, skidding until her shoulder meets dirt.

Rui grinds to a halt. She glances over her shoulder in time to see it take blows from the others, stumble more, crash, go down, and then… disappear.

It seems like it’s over.

The blade clatters out of Miss Onishi’s hand. Still half-sprawled across the ground, she lets her head thunk back in dizzy relief, hair spreading in a messy wing.

She sighs.

Mitsuru Kirijo [SEES] has posed.

Mitsuru exhales a brief sigh as she sees people picking themselves up and feeling Titania’s magic work through her system, knitting together the deep wound across her chest. She was in time. They were in time. She doesn’t quite let go of Tianxian just yet though. She holds onto the goddess in case her healing powers are needed again. The Shadow’s lost a lot of it’s earlier focus, dropping to pure animalistic rage. That is easier to combat, if more difficult to simply tank.

She remains in the back, watching the other unload, body tensing in preparation as he slinks away and then pounces forward. For a moment, her vision is once again clouded and she can’t see anything… She blinks but the affects wear off quickly, quickly enough that she can see final blows and finally the Shadow falling, dissipating, in defeat.

As she returns her attention back to Miwa, she catches sight of the other Shadow moving and smiles at sadly at Akari. “It is still a bit too early to tell if she will be alright Hoshi-san but…” She looks up at Naomi when she asks to see how she is and the heiress moves to pick up the other young woman off the ground by looping an arm around her neck and rising to her feet. “We have to get her to medical attention quickly. Tatsumi Memorial will be the best place to take her. They are well versed in looking after those with the Apathy Syndrome and considering Saitou-san’s psyche… I think being under the care of doctors who are also familiar with Persona Users will be helpful.”

She sounds rather authoritative on this matter. “She’ll have the best care. That I can guarantee. If we were in time, she will wake up on her own. Only time will tell now.” As for Kyo..? She pauses and looks over her shoulder at the fallen twin. “It might.. be best to take him in with us as well. We have.. equipment and sedatives that will hopefully keep him under control.”

Akari Hoshi [NWO] has posed.

She didn’t see Miwa’s shadow vanish but hears the sigh from the girl. Akari glances back down at Miwa and since she doesn’t get an additional reaction, the younger girl takes off her cape and places it over her. Hearing Naomi’s question, Akari slightly waves over towards her, echoing Mitsuru’s comments. “She needs help.” Akari stays seated near the older girl waiting for the others to tell her what they needed to do to get out of here. Her exhaustion seems to be starting to show finally or maybe it’s just relief that things seem to be over for now.

Mai Namikawa [K] has posed.

Her combination idea worked, and Naomi unexpectedly added herself to it. More the merrier as they say, as most people maintain the barrage save those who could mend the ones worst off. Mai was thankful for their diligence in a field where she was kind of bad at, seeing Rui mended meant she won’t need to drag her back in a terrible shape to Daisuke Itami with apologies, with a little more they should be able to corner him and end th-

“Hey-gah!” he’s fleeing, he had his fill, and he’s FAST. His clipping blow punches her hard in the sides, sending her flying off balance and on her posterior AGAIN, this was getting redundant and annoying. But the barrage of magic bouncing back mixed with the brutal retaliation courtesy of tonight’s silent lady, bashing him hard enough to halt his retreat. “Phew…” she exhales as he finally stops moving, “Fell for my trap.” was…well, not entirely true, he probably just forgot about it. He had been good at avoiding it when more conscious and rational in his brutality, but maybe in his haste he had forgotten. It worked out kind of well.

She lifts herself back up again, wincing at the pain as she checks her side for anything broken, thankfully it seemed bruised more than anything else. Seeing Miwa move again was a relief, but it’s at this point that she asks an obvious: “Where’d the newbie go? Because if she went off to get herself lost, I’m writing her off completely…” too much ground to cover, too many possibilities, and frankly anyone who retreats willingly not out of fear and on their own deserved whatever happened to them.

She goes to check on the fallen guy, wondering if he’s ‘better’ or maybe dead. Accidental Kyo death would not be something she would weep on right now. She could walk up to him, cut his head off before someone had a time to catch her, one movement and it would end once and for all. It would be terrifyingly EASY too.

But no, not like this. If he is to die, it will be with his eyes staring at the executioner. Instead she moves toward the fallen investigator, figuring the others will take care of Miwa. “Are you alright, Onishi-san? It was…difficult, but thank you for your help. It was not unneeded.”

Akatsuki Enda [U] has posed.

Akatsuki stares hazily as his brother’s Shadow, now eyeless, attempts to charge out of the room, but can’t–quite–make it. He stares as it vapors away, leaving behind Kyo’s form, relinquishing Miwa’s Shadow. He stares as that Shadow gives the group a nod and fades into black mist. He stares as Miwa continues to fail to awaken.
The battle voer, Akatsuki stumbles over to a nearby wall, not far from Kyo, and sags his back against the wall and slides down to the floor. He touches his face again, and his entire hand comes away bloody; he can only imagine how grisly he must look, but he’s far too tired to contemplate it, so he doesn’t.
The younger Enda twin simply watches the others, counting how many take a good, long, hard look at his brother largely for the sake of it.

COMBAT: Akatsuki Enda has regenerated 11 points of damage.
COMBAT: Akatsuki Enda has finished his turn.

Seiichi Miyamoto [NWO] has posed.

Attack after attack comes flying from the monster before them. Arrows first, and though Seiichi is worried about others it is the flight of arrows that garner his attention right off the bat. His blades snap up, and then a shift of shadows singles Set’s return for a moment as the Persona sweeps his staff in a long arc over his head, shattering the incoming attack before it can contact Seiichi and then dissipearing in a puff of shadows once again. Then he can worry about other attacks, specificly one directed towards Mitsuru. The arcing darkness he leaps infront of, his own blades cleaving into the darkness to dissipate it before it can hurt either of them. Breathing hard he is a touch too slow for the last attack, and the torrent strikes him in the chest and he staggers backwards for a moment. Soaked and chilled but otherwide unharmed.
He looks up once again though to see Kyo…starting to fall. Starting to fall from his own overconfidence it seems. He forces himself to stand though as he shakes off the momentary damage. It /is/ over. That is one thing he seems to realise at least. Slowly the weapons are slid away. He listens quietly to the others talk before he slowly nods. “I think if we get her attention, she will pull though.” He adds as he walks over slowly towards Mitsuru and Akari. “Let me take her? Everyone else is hurt worse than I am.” He asks of the heiress, and its true. Apart from the small hurt of the dripping magical spray he seems mostly in one piece.
He nods once towards Mai though. “Your trap and his own foolishness.” He adds before after a moment he draws a breath. He doesn’t quite trust himself to answer on the subject of Kyo. The bastard should be left here. However that is an argument to have later, not right now when they are on a time limit. It would be so very easy though. Just leave him here. No trace. No body. The thought is very attractive.

Shinsuke Kusagawa [SEES] has posed.

The Shadow’s blind, thrashing attempts to flee are gut-wrenching to watch — the thought that it might actually escape with Miwa’s Shadow too horrifying to contemplate. Shinsuke winces and clutches at his burning throat, Naomi’s aching desperation wrenching at his heart. They’ve /got/ to stop th-
Out of the corner of his eye, Shinsuke catches a glimpse of shredded, mauled Akatsuki stumbling to his feet. He turns-
And is promptly enveloped in a shroud of darkness, shed by the leonine Shadow in its death throes. The white-clad youth cries out, falling to his knees as he’s so immediately and forcibly stripped of a large portion of his remaining endurance. He doesn’t feel as close to death as Naomi did, but he nevertheless experiences once again the odd dual sensation of synapses so numb they burn. Fingers close convulsively on the hilt of his rapier, and he chokes…
When the darkness dissipates, however, a most welcome sight meets Shinsuke’s azure eyes: Kyo, prone and no longer Shadowformed, with the rest of the group hovering over him and Miwa. He limps over to Mitsuru in time to hear her assessment of the situation, casting his gaze down at the fallen elder twin. His white-gloved hand tightens again on his rapier, the knuckles beneath the leather equally pale as a thought flickers to mind. It would be so easy…just think of it as euthanasia…
“…You’re right, Kirijo-senpai,” Shinsuke says, voice gravid with finality. With a sigh, he replaces his rapier in its scabbard and walks away from the group, approaching Akatsuki. Bending down slightly, back and legs creaking in protest, he brushes gentle fingers across the elder boy’s ragged wounds. “Let’s get you out of here,” he says softly, biting back bitterness. At his feet, the azure ring of summoning bursts outward into spectral blue glass, and black-haired Tianxian appears once more to shower them both with effervescent healing.

COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa hits Akatsuki Enda with Mediarama for 93 points of healing.
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa hits Shinsuke Kusagawa with Mediarama for 98 points of healing.
COMBAT: Energy applied to Shinsuke Kusagawa.
COMBAT: Shinsuke Kusagawa has finished his turn.

Tatsuya Suou [DS] has posed.

Honestly, that’s one of the last things Tatsuya ever expected to see, as Tohya jumps in front of him, intercepting the watery blast from Kyo’s Shadow. A momentary look of bewilderment crosses the tall young man’s features, but luckily that brief shock doesn’t put him in a dangerous situation, as the group is finally able to put a stop to Kyo’s Shadow-possessed rampage. For now, anyway.

Letting out a heavy exhalation, Tatsuya lets his sword arm fall to his side, but otherwise he doesn’t allow himself to relax, instead moving over towards where Miwa is being carried by Mitsuru Kirijo, casting a dark look at Seiichi when the pianist offers to carry her. So much for fighting Kyo being a bonding experience, helping them to overcome their interpersonal differences, huh?

“Anywhere you’re taking Saitou, I’m going too,” Tatsuya says, and despite his injured state his voice is steady, few traces of his earlier furious anger still apparent… But, ‘few’ isn’t ‘none’.

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

She looks up when Mitsuru identifies the hospital that Miwa was going to be brought; knowing certain bits and pieces of the Kirijo legacy, it’s easy for her to trust her fellow ojou to account for the hospital’s expertise in…special cases. “I’ll accompany you to the hospital,” she tells her childhood friend quietly. “And I’ll send for some clothes – I’m certain Father will understand if I don’t come home this evening. And…I’ll call Miwa’s father. I hope your staff won’t object, Mitsuru.” Hospitals, after all, have concerned friends and relatives staying there all the time, and she’s too shaken by the entire episode to just leave Miwa in a room by herself….or with her father. Something else might happen.
She glances over to where Rui is crouched by Mai, her expression gentling. “I’ll have her admitted as well, she looks injured. I’ll have her medical bills forward to my address.” She doesn’t know Rui Onishi, can’t even guess as to her name, and can only remember brief glimpses of her during that emotionally disastrous charity ball. But she was there to extend a hand to her, she wasn’t not about to extend the same courtesy.
Moving over to where Rui and Mai are, she clears her throat, gently touching Mai on the shoulder and squeezing. Her silver-flecked eyes fall on Rui, her hand dropping from her side to extend it to the investigator in a wordless invitation, so she can help her up.
“I apologize for not having asked for your name earlier,” she says. “My name is Naomi Suzuno….thank you very much, for your assistance. We’re about to head to a hospital, I think we should take you there as well.”
A small, but tired smile tugs up the corners of her mouth. “I won’t forget this.”

Daiya Kagami [S] has posed.

For those at home wondering, going through a TV dungeon when it won’t see you as an intruder is a bit like visiting a museum after closing time, or a Disneyland attraction with the music and animatronics all switched off. It’s quite the experience!

But anyway.

The storm has passed, finally, but nothing is quite over just yet. While most people are busy looking after Miwa, those paying mind to the fallen Kyo will be the first to spot a new appearance. Most people present will recognize the black-haired ponytailed girl that just stepped out of the shadows and in front of him to face the rest of the group, a hand on her hip and a tiny smile on her face. Others will wonder why, exactly, what appears to be a fashion model in a black-and-white gothic lolita outfit (Akatsuki will recognize the one he got her for Christmas) is doing here!

Hm, where to start. She clears her throat loudly, clapping twice to hopefully get everyone’s attention. “Um, hello everyone!” If she was better prepared there would be a mike in her hands and a spotlight shining on her right now, but alas! “I’ve got to apologize for just barging in like this, but I’m sure even if I had asked nicely, we wouldn’t have been allowed to come help.” We?

She gestures at Kyo behind him, then puts her hands together as in prayer, taking a single step forward and leaving one leg in the air. “So while I’m /sure/ some of you must be thinking very hard about whether to leave Kyo-kun here, end this once and for all or have him detained, there’s a good friend of mine who has some unresolved issues with this boy.” A pause. “…and to tell the truth, I’ve been having a /very/ bad week, and I think I can trace most of my problems back to him in some way or another. So with your permission, I’d like my friend and I to bring him back with us to have a little chat.” She looks at the group in turn, though not stopping to anyone in particular– not even Akatsuki. Now might be a good time to ask if she’s completely out of her mind! And while stopping her by force may be an option, the fact that everyone here is battle-weary to some degree might not make this the best of prospects.

…especially considering that, as hinted, she didn’t come here alone.

Rena Kinukasa [S] has posed.

We indeed.

The door to the chamber is roughly shoved open as a large form noses her way in. Immediately, the overwhelming sensation certain people might recognize as the Lovers Shadow fills the room. In fact, there had been the slightest sensation of this nearby for a while now but given how focused everyone was upon the crises of Shadow Kyo, it had likely gone unnoticed. To the astute, such as certain spotters present tonight, while it does seem like the Lovers on the surface, the actual Shadow is much weaker.

Of course, the form halfway looming in the doorway would be far more recognizable as Kiyohime, or the draconic Shadow commonly associated with Rena Kinukasa. Her gaze doesn’t linger on anyone in particular here, especially since she knew who exactly was in this room. She had been watching them all the whole time while in here and knew at least eighty percent of those here would come at her given the chance. Fortunately, they did just fight two extremely strong Shadows so picking a fight with yet another may not be their immediate course of action.

On the other hand, Rena did not want to take any chances. Her sinuous body snakes out to the fallen form of Kyo, whom she noses until he rolls over onto his face. “We’re going to have words~” Rena purrs, a hungry look in her eyes. Her jaws loll open and for a terrifying moment, it looks like she’s going to devour the Enda twin.

She may be struggling against this urge, in fact, but instead she clamps her teeth around the back of Kyo’s shirt and hauls him into the air, lifting him like a mother lion would lift her cub.

Mitsuru Kirijo [SEES] has posed.

Mitsuru is exhausted by when Seiichi offers to take Miwa, she looks at him for a long moment and then quietly nods, letting the pianist take the girl off her hands. She turns her head to look at Tatsuya and then Naomi as the two of them insist to go to the hospital as well. “Of course. You may not be able to stay indefinitely but you are certainly welcome to come. I’ll see if we can get them to allow you stay the night at the very least. Calling her father would be a good thing as well.” She smiles at the two of them, “She’s lucky to have friends like you.”

The young woman is about to move to pick her her rapier when she feels a heavy presence and then Daiya appearing in the room. She hasn’t dropped her evoker yet and her lip curls, not in a kind way. “Stay away from him.” There is the faint hint of warning in her voice when Kiyohime looms overhead as well. Another Shadow? They already defeated Miwa and Kyo’s… How many did he lock in here?!

Her eyes widen as the massive dragon/snake leans in and picks up Kyo by his collar. “Wait! We can’t let you have him! He needs help!” She steps forward. “Give him back!”

Tohya Kidzuki [DS] has posed.

Unepxected or not, Tohya totally did it! And, as she stands over Kyo–unwilling to do otherwise–well that’s when she happens to notice a presence approaching, and then–Wiat, Daiya? What on earth is Daiya doing–

“What are you–” She was thinking about what to do about Kyo, certainly, but Daiya’s having a… bad… week? She’s certainly still here, even as Daiya comes on up, “Are you crazy?” She doesn’t move. Perhaps she doesn’t expect Daiya to actually strike out at her, or something. And certain spotters… weren’t around, actually, for the Lovers, but a powerful Shadow emerging out of nowehre is something she can certainly sense, all right.

And then Rena is just outright taking Kyo for this, “Hey–what do you think you’…” She pauses, at that. She stops. She thinks about it.

Tohya steps back out of Rena’s way, and spreads her hands. “…Just one question first.” Pause. “When you’re done talking, what do you plan to do with him?”

Really… is there any reason that she /should/ stop them? “And Kagami-san–…are you sure you want to be doing things like this?”

Rui Onishi [K] has posed.

There may be four or fives times in Miss Rui Onishi’s entire life when she’d dare let others catch her in so undignified a moment.

This is one of them. She’d just finished trying to wrangle and butcher a monster lion. She’ll allow herself this much.

Eventually, the woman picks herself up off the dirt to sit, feeling the adrenaline dispell out of her veins as her wounds pulse deep, aching pain. She looks up at down at her arms, and where puncture holes in her side darken her blouse with blood. Pulling the gloves off her hands, she examines her fingers… until Mai’s familiar voice touches her ears.

Rui glances up, battered, bloody, and worse for wear, but finding some measure of control to hold herself together. For all her reckless, wild stunts and lethal movements, she’s back to her nondescript manner, watching the girl with her bland yellow eyes. The question appears to draw a strange expression of surprise across her face, but she duly bows her head in a nod, unsmiling but still uncommonly polite. The slant of her eyes seems to suggest that she appreciates the compliment, and the courtesy… in her own, silent way.

A moment later, Miss Suzuno cuts in, Rui’s gaze turned at the familiar sight of the heiress — looking markedly different from that moment when she’d swept her overhead and out of the belly of the beast. Now the tables have turned, with Naomi’s turn now to extend a hand.

Rui’s lips part briefly, and the woman appears almost shy in that moment… before she ultimately gives into her pains, exhaustion, and this strange, strange moment, reaching up to accept the proffered hand. Steeling her legs, she lets the heiress help pull her bleeding, aching body back up to its feet, already moving her free hand to press down against one of her deeper wounds to support it.

But, almost owlishly, the mute just stares helplessly back at all of Naomi’s kind words, the look on her face like someone who’s never been offered such a thing in her entire life. Rui doesn’t really know what to do.

So she just blushes awkwardly across her cheeks.

And then, almost to her great relief… something occurs at their backs. Two new figures arrive, neither of which Rui can recognize — are they human? shadows? — to the dismay and outcry of the others collected. Rui’s face is a perfect picture of confusion. Unsure of how to react, she simply grits her jaw and raises her guard once more, appearing poised to attack or defend if she must.

Seiichi Miyamoto [NWO] has posed.

Seiichi nods once as he takes the limp form of Miwa from Mitsuru. He’s carried her like this before, of course back then he was the one /doing/ this to people. He sees that look from Tatsuya. That is something he deserves at the very least so there is little in the way of reaction to it all. Instead he simply turns to cradle Miwa gently and follow Mitsuru. Or at least that /was/ the plan.
The plan that is suddenly derailed.
Derailed by the apparence of two familiar figures. A pair of blasts from the past as it were. His eyes widen though there isn’t much more he can do with his arms full of Miwa. “Be careful with thease two.” He murmurs quietly towards Mitsuru…though she is already yelling and moving off.
Dammit.
“What is the use of taking that one?” He asks of the massive dragon. “Unless you feel like torturing him yourself.”

Akatsuki Enda [U] has posed.

Shinsuke approaches Akatsuki, touches him gently despite the gore marring his features, suggests that they get out of there. He nods once, docile, not quite yet moving to get up until after that rain of healing energy showers down. He begins to pick himself up…
And then Daiya and Rena, ex-girlfriends of the Enda twins, let themselves in.
“Daiya…?” he murmurs, staring at her. If she doesn’t look his way, that’s pretty understandable; the way he is right now, he might not be recognizable. But then Rena snakes in and, after looking for a heart-stopping moment like she might simply /eat/ him, picks up Kyo’s prone form–
–and Akatsuki finds himself wondering if maybe this isn’t all right, whatever else Mitsuru says. Part of him is terribly shocked by this, but the rest of him is simply staring at Daiya and remembering all the times she declared she wished Kyo were simply gone.
“Kinukasa-san always did want Kyo to love her, but didn’t like what she saw underneath his surface,” he remarks to Seiichi, still sounding slightly out of it. “Maybe now she’ll be less picky since they’re both Shadow-Possessed.” He tilts his bloody gaze towards Daiya. “What *are* you going to do with him, Daiya?” he asks, echoing Tohya.

Shinsuke Kusagawa [SEES] has posed.

The sudden intrusion of an unsettlingly familiar presence into his awareness yanks Shinsuke’s attention away from Akatsuki and onto-

“Don’t move,” Shinsuke says to Akatsuki, voice low, azure eyes on Daiya and Rena. His heels click purposefully as he strides across the marble, hot rain-scented Resonance roiling, advancing on the girl and her dragon with blade in hand. To look at him, he’s just as wrecked as many of the other team members; the crimson of his blood stark against his death-white clothes, though, might be beautiful in the eyes of the Stregites.
“Kirijo-senpai,” he says quietly, “it’s the Lovers Shadow.” Or, more precisely, ‘the Shadow that was with the Lovers Shadow’, since the Lovers Shadow was, uh, basically a giant heart with used condoms for wings. “And…” Shinsuke recalls one day on the roof of Kasugayama, fighting some cartoonish enemy alongside an anachronistically-dressed boy who insisted this girl- Daiya- was /his/ girlfriend.

Now /really/ isn’t the time to reevaluate his belief that Akatsuki was too good for Daiya.
Shinsuke’s eyes narrow into azure slits as Kiyohime scruffs Kyo in an absurd parody of the lion he had been but moments before. Akatsuki’s voice at his side surprises him, and he sneaks a glance at the other boy who apparently doesn’t know how to listen!! The younger Enda’s explanation makes sense, however, and while Shinsuke doesn’t echo it, neither does he lower his blade. Personally he could care less if they decided to rip him apart like frenzied maenads, but there is always the possibility they could nurse him back to health…

Mai Namikawa [K] has posed.

The squeeze causes a sharp inhale before Mai tries to smile a little back, but it’s a tired look. She’s not exactly doing too hot at this point, standing but exhausted, her magical ability as dry as the desert and her body feeling heavy as the adrenaline fades. “She is Rui Onishi, of Omoikane Investigations.” she introduces, simply as she knew Rui would not be capable of doing so herself. “She has a vocal impediment.” was the politically correct term for this, right?

The moment that showed even the cold investigator can get a little flustered gets interrupted by a voice that only sounded vaguely familiar given how long it had been since she last heard it. Mai’s feelings toward Kagami had simmered down by a lack of contact, cold water thrown on top as her own feelings for said Kagami’s boyfriend were properly dimembered and drowned. Unfortunatly just setting her eyes on the wierdly dressed Daiya revived part of that flame almost instantly, those looks, that smile, that attitude. She almosts wants to refuse whatever she’s asking right off the bat out of SPITE, but she’s too tired to fight effectively and they probably knew that. Why did they show up only now if not to take advantage of the job being done and those who did it too exhausted to fight?

Daiya is asking…permission? That does briefly abate her jealousy, enough that she listens. They want to bring him? A friend? The familiar dragon causes a look of alarm to cross the gekkoukan girl’s face at first but then she begins to think about it, she speaks of words and it leaves her thoughtful. “Huh. How…karmic.” is her conclusion, “I don’t care, but if you take him he’s your responsability. Take him on his walks and make sure he does not bite anyone.” that insult from the left field is just some leftover bitterness from her own Kyo experience. Even the barb that had crossed her mind regarding Akatsuki’ ‘success’ at killing his own brother alone didn’t even feel worth slinging anymore, she wanted to leave this place and rest more than anything else.

Tatsuya Suou [DS] has posed.

If anything, Tatsuya’s expression darkens further when Mitsuru hands Miwa’s unconscious form off to Seiichi, the tension that had left him after the apparent defeat of Kyo Enda now returning in force, his right hand, the one carrying his sword, lifting… And then settling the blunt back of the blade against his shoulder. He doesn’t waste time with warnings, or reminders of obvious things like how he’s watching the pianist, but the fact of the matter is that he has a perfectly justifiable (and objectively morally correct) grudge against Miyamoto, and trusts him approximately as far as he could throw a semi truck.

Still, it’s probably not a good time to give in to anger again and lash out at Seiichi, particularly since he’s carrying Miwa at the moment, but the fact that Tatsuya dislikes this turn of events is physically palpable.

As is the force of his glare as his attention remains fixed on the pianist.

BUT THEN, SUDDENLY

Tatsuya’s attention is wrenched away from Seiichi by the arrival of Daiya Kagami, which is actually higher on the list of things he wouldn’t have expected than Tohya’s earlier move to defend him from Kyo’s attack, and he gets an extremely sinking feeling about all of this, particularly after the ‘conversation’ he had with Akatsuki when the other young man moved out of the apartment. After what he said about Daiya, and…

…then it gets worse, when Kiyohime turns up, the situation seems ripe to deteriorate rapidly. “Kagami, Kinukasa,” Tatsuya calls out, his deep voice carrying easily. “Whatever you’ve got planned, don’t do it. Just stop, right now.”

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

When she curls her fingers around Rui’s fingers, they hold onto them securely, the woman pushing to her feet. The heiress moves to take up one side, and hopefully Mai will take the other considering she is nearby. Somewhat curious as to why the other woman has not said anything (though the Spencer heiress doesn’t seem to have lost her talent in getting people to blush), she dismisses the thought; she was probably exhausted and her injuries didn’t look insignificant. If she were in her present state, she wouldn’t be speaking either. Mai, however, helpfully supplies her name. “….well met, Onishi-san,” she tells the older woman,
And so, she starts moving towards where Mitsuru is, glancing up to her other friend once she’s handed off Miwa’s unconscious form to Seiichi. There’s a steady, level glance affixed onto his features once she’s within the fringes of her friends’ cluster, but she doesn’t address him verbally. Her expression, however, is devoid of censure – proof positive that Naomi may be equipped with the ability to let go of her legendary grudges after all, or she’s just too tired to take offense to his presence as usual…..that, and there’s the fact that Mitsuru is with him, making an absent note to catch up with her childhood friend in the process.
To Mitsuru, she nods, her smile growing. “Well, it isn’t as if I was about to build an apartment complex next to the hospital. By the time I get the proper permits, Miwa will be out of the hospital.” It’s an optimistic way to look at it. “We won’t be in the way. I just want to make sure that no threats really are forthcoming…besides, Miwa would do the same if any of us were in her present position.”
And then, the lady and the dragon arrive.
The Spencer heiress stares incredulously when Daiya Kagami appears in a goth lolita outfit, followed by a slithering Shadow Rena, who has managed to pick up their hard-won prize (that nobody really wants) by the collar. As always, Mitsuru takes charge….and whatever exhaustion suddenly burns away when her temper stirs once again, having very little patience left.
“I don’t know how you’re involved exactly, Kagami,” Naomi remarks sharply. “But we came all of this way to get Enda back for Miwa, not to hand him over to the -other- ex-girlfriend. I’m sure once Miwa wakes up she’ll have a few things to say to him, but it would behoove certain scaly harridans to -wait their turn-.”

Rena Kinukasa [S] has posed.

It’s fairly telling when her own appearance merits a lot less wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then again, Rena hadn’t been nearly as horrible as Kyo has lately-in fact, she’s been rather quiet. What has the woman been up to lately?

(College and a job actually. She was also pretty sad when she heard about Nagisa.)

Most of those here, Mai and Akatsuki included (!) seem content to just allow her to abscond with Kyo. Unsurprisingly, though, there are objections and even a question. At Mitsuru’s advance, she straightens a little more so Kyo dangles high above the her reach. “That depends.” Even though Kiyohime has her jaws shut around Kyo, her voice still sounds “normal.” “On how our talk goes. Under certain circumstances, I may just dump him on your doorstep, Kirijo.”

A strange noise comes from Rena now, a wheezing, chittering sound that turns out is the laughter of her two discordant voices, “Oh Suzuno, after all that happened tonight, I think that girl has had more than her fill of Kyo Enda.” A smirk crawls up one side of her toothy mouth, a glance given in Tatsuya’s direction, “And I bet there are people here that would agree with me on that notion.”

Tatsuya objects deeply, even addressing her by name. “I need this to happen, Tatsuya-san.” the dragon rumbles, “You know what happened. I need this.” Though everyone knows what happened now if they listened to Akatsuki just then. In a flurry of movement, the dragoness suddenly slips backwards, out through the door to the previous room.

Daiya Kagami [S] has posed.

To Daiya’s surprise, almost everyone is rather wise about this, either not seeing much downside to what she and Rena are doing, or realizing that trying to fight them right now would likely be suicide.

Though Tohya’s question, echoed by Akatsuki, is a natural one! “We won’t kill him,” she starts, then glances at the body hanging from Kiyohime’s jaw. “And once we’re done with him… We won’t release him to go prey on more girls again, that’s for sure.” As for the rest? Well, she can’t make any promises. Chances are no one here really wants to know. She offers Mitsuru a token nod even if she doesn’t respond, though, at the very least acknowledging her plea. At least it makes one obvious place to drop him off to.

Shinsuke and Mai approach, though if either gets too close they’ll get themselves a faceful of telekinesis, so at least keeping a safe distance is wise of them. Daiya, while keeping an eye on them, doesn’t move from her rather casual pose. And while she and Mai may at times have a relationship best described as “Itchy and Scratchy”… she actually laughs at that one. “All right, we’ll make sure of that!”

Naomi offers some actual opposition, to which, now, Daiya looks a little annoyed. “Yeah, well,” she tosses her head to the side before continuing, eloquently, “finders keepers!” She sticks her tongue out. Tatsuya urges them to stop, and while his concern is touching… Daiya actually seems a bit hurt! “Tatsuya-kun, I thought you /trusted/ me!” She shakes her head.

But with no further objections (all right, some of the gang may in fact still have some, but), she turns around. “So if that’s all, we’ll be showing ourselves the way out. Don’t worry about us! Have a nice day, everyone~!” And after a few unnecessarily strutful steps through the large door, she snaps her fingers, and while it has mostly broken off its hinges, said door slams shut behind the two Shadow girls.

Akari Hoshi [NWO] has posed.

Akari looks back as everyone is talking with Daiya and Rena and while bits and pieces of everything make sense to her most of it is lost. However, for a brief minute the younger girl finally realizes that she has seen Daiya before. It seems like a long time ago when actually it really wasn’t. She finally speaks again, this time directly to Daiya, “You can take him. I don’t really care.” As far as them not releasing him, Akari seems skeptical that they could have that much control but hopefully he wouldn’t be of concern to her anymore. Of course, Kyo’s attacks weren’t because of her anyway…they were because of her association with Seiichi. She was sure that Leo would blame Seiichi for all of this and resolves herself not to tell him anything…no matter what. She actually waves to Daiya as they leave.

Mitsuru Kirijo [SEES] has posed.

MItsuru’s lips draw into a thin line as both girls ‘assure’ her that they plan on just having a ‘chat’ with the young man and then there’s the ‘threat’ of dumping him on her doorstep. She doesn’t like this idea though. Not in the slightest. But she’s not terribly familiar with Rena nor Daiya, so when Naomi steps up to her side, she feels a little relieved to be backed up and also by Tatsuya.

She doesn’t agree with letting Miwa see Kyo quite so soon after recovery though. They have to be introduced carefully. Like Betta fish.

But all of that becomes a mote point as Rena slithers away and Daiya follows shortly after. “!!! Wait!” She starts to chase after them but she’s wounded and exhausted and they’re just too fast. “…” Her eyes cast down to the ground. That’s a bit of a blow to her ego… “I suppose that’s that then. We’ll have to track those two done late but we still have Saitou-san.” She smiles faintly at Naomi, “I understand your sentiments. I will make the necessary arrangements.”

With that, she becomes walking with determination towards the exit! She’ll send out her thanks to Rui later when she has a moment to think. Benihime also goes on the alert list as well.

Naomi Suzuno [DS] has posed.

Amethystine eyes narrow, long, thick lashes darkening her irises so thoroughly the silvery flecks can be seen sharding each iris; tiny galaxies, as Akatsuki once written about them before. Despite the fact that she has not left Rui’s side, still supporting the other woman and holding her up as best as she’s able, her lips part, the ivory edges of her teeth visible and making themselves known from the dewy, coral seam. Naomi has no love for Kyo; anyone would be able to determine that by looking at her face, can be gleaned from the tumultuous encounters she’s had with him. But Mitsuru said her piece, and loyal to the marrow of her bones, she backs up the redhaired ojou and her unconscious teal-haired friend unflinchingly. “That’s for her to decide, and you can ask her yourself once she wakes up, but not before,” she murmurs. So when Daiya contributes oh-so-helpfully with her counterargument, she actually takes a step forward. “Then give him up. By your own words, who found him gets to keep him, and -we- found him,” she retorts.
And, adding more fuel to the fire, when Rena directs her entreaties to Tatsuya and hints that he actually knows more about it, her ire merely intensifies. Her cheeks light up slowly, rose overtaking those well-formed cheekbones.
It isn’t in her nature to give up, but she is exhausted and deep down, she already knows her behavior had already strayed towards her acceptable limits when surrounded by people. Instead, she pivots her heel, her back to the rest, and while those same stirrings of fury scorch through bone and sinew, she closes her eyes and mentally counts downwards. This does not help, but it at least keeps her preoccupied.
Glancing over at Mitsuru, she gives her a quiet nod, and follows, hopefully with Rui in tow. For all of her passionate nature, she has clearly taken a care to support her with the most delicate of touches.

Mai Namikawa [K] has posed.

Well, if she can lend a hand to help, even in her fatigued state Mai is not so rude as to refuse. Her footing however subtly shifts to anchor herself better, in her best of states she could pull someone like Rui with little effort and using armstrength alone but she’s hardly there right now “Thank you again.” she says toward the older woman, her opinion of the investigation bureau had been good so far but now it went up a few notches. She had no idea who asked them to help Miwa but why fuss over those details?

Naomi’s objection to Kyo’s taking causes her to lift an eyebrow. “We did?” is probably something Mai could have done without saying out loud. “I came all this way because there was a possibility he was…” her eyes wander back toward the two Kyonappers, “You know what, I will save the explanation for later. But it was not for the sake of Saitou-san’s love.” if anything it was quite the opposite.

She watches Mitsuru pursue briefly, as she was too tired and well aware of it to give any form of chase Mai does not even bother to try. “Let it go.” she suggest, “If they let him live and go freely, he will show up again, he’s too…persistant. If they let him live and dump him at Kirijo-sempai’s doorstep then he can be contained and she can visit him with a few centimeters of bulletproof glass between them. If they do not let him live…”

She swings her sword faintly to dispose of the messy ichor that stained the blade, sheathing it afterwards. “Then nothing of value will be lost.” whatever outcome came, they can deal with it there and then.

Tohya Kidzuki [DS] has posed.

“The only reason I had any interest in getting Kyo back was just in case he got out of here more powerful than before, or spooked the people in Inaba by showing up as a corpse.” Tohya states it bluntly and firmly, agreeing more or less with Mai.

They leave, and… “Pretty much. It’s out of our hands for now. Unless you want to go track them down–and if you do, that’s your business. If it’s what you feel is right, good luck with it.” but, is left unspoken, she has little inclination to do the same. She instead looks about to the others, and… moves over to Akatsuki, then. “Hey…” And this is the point at which she will make sure that he is /non-dead/ and everything, after she reaches him. Either way, she’ll leave with him. Even if… Well. One thing didn’t happen after all.

Seiichi Miyamoto [NWO] has posed.

“Kirijo,” Seiichi murmurs as she seems to vibrate with pent up ARRGH at the pair of Stregites. “We need to get Saitou to saftey, as well as the rest of us. We are not in the best of health. They have the advantage. I do not believe they will kill him.” Hurt him? Oh yeah. Sure. Alot possibily. Not kill though. He pauses though, stepping closer to whisper something else to the red-head before his eyes fix on Rena’s form as it slithers away. There is a faint stiring of guilt there…but…um. Yeah lets not bring that up. That night was a long time ago.
Tatsuya’s dissiproval is felt as a palpable thing, and Seiichi’s dark eyes turn towards the younger man for a moment. There is a compleatly neutral look here. He’s not /trying/ to provoke a fight or anything else before his attention swings back towards Mai and her words. He nods once towards thim, again in whole hearted agreement with the mildly harsh statements. “Let it go. Right now we just need to get out of here.” A glance over towards Akari. “Right?” He adds towards the young NWOite before he looks back towards everyone else. “We are on a time limit are we not?”

Tatsuya Suou [DS] has posed.
Though in this case Tatsuya /is/ supporting Mitsuru, their motives are… Likely pretty different. Suou isn’t entirely sure what to think about Kyo Enda anymore, or what they /should/ do with him at this point, but what he is entirely sure of is that he doesn’t want Rena or Daiya to do anything to make their situations worse. He’s not exactly an expert on their situation, naturally, but to him it seems pretty intuitive that ‘doing awful things to Kyo out of hatred and a desire for revenge’ would not be conducive to Rena’s rehabilitation.

Tatsuya’s brow furrows at Daiya’s apparent hurt over his ‘lack of trust’, and Rena’s entreaty that she ‘needs this’, but as they depart Tatsuya does offer one last: “Stop–!” only to have his shout punctuated by the slamming door.

“/Shit/,” Tatsuya mutters harshly under his breath.

Still, if they’re going they’re going, and the sooner the better in Tatsuya’s mind, the tall young man turning to leave along with Mitsuru and Naomi, making sure to nudge Seiichi’s shoulder when he slows to look back. The statement is clear: He’s watching you, Miyamoto, and keep moving.

Akatsuki Enda [U] has posed.

For all that Shinsuke tells Akatsuki to stand back, and for all that Akatsuki is not all that upset at the prospect of his brother getting victimized, he does at least want his questions answered. Daiya and Rena’s answer will satisfy him for now–later, he will wonder what role the two women might have had in Kyo appearing in the TV in the /first/ place, but for now, it simply doesn’t occur to him–and he nods once, letting anyone else who wants to argue and chase after them do so as he takes a step back. He shuts his eyes at Mai’s commentary on the situation. Nothing of value, huh…
They open again when Tohya comes up by his side. He looks over at her, and if Tohya can look his slashed-up face without flinching, so much the better. He’s not in danger of dying, but he definitely needs a visit to the hospital. It’d… probably be best to take him to Inaba Municipal before transferring him to anywhere else, though Akatsuki is not going to resist anything anyone wants to do to him at this point.

Shinsuke Kusagawa [SEES] has posed.

Shinsuke merely snorts as the Shadow girls make their entreaties and their assurances, Kiyohime lifting her head and holding Kyo’s body out of reach. But it’s not worth lying to himself; honestly, he doesn’t have the energy left at this point to care /what/ the two snipish, passive-aggressive beastwomen do to Akatsuki’s brother. Even so, though he isn’t willing to place /too/ much trust in the word of a Shadow, Daiya’s promise is good enough for Shinsuke. “I expect the Kirijo Group’s supernatural R&D department might find some use for him, in that event,” the blood-drenched teen murmurs in accord with Mai. He’s too tired to worry about explicit precision re: the Group, but he’s pretty sure they /do/ have a department like that. So…yeah.
The girls make their incongruously cheerful exit, and exhaustion settles deep into Shinsuke’s bones. He’s been through an absurd amount over the past two weeks, and adrenaline and worry have prevented it from really hitting him until now. But he can’t rest yet, not with…
“Let’s get the hell out of here,” he says wearily, taking Akatsuki by the elbow. Hospital time.

Daisuke Itami [K] has posed.

“So that was your gamble, huh, Endachin?

“‘The half will always try to become a whole, no matter what it needs to seek out to complete itself.’ How poetic~.”

A wistful sigh fills the stale air of a simple room in the Amagi Inn. It is soon followed by a soft but somehow frantic hum that escapes the lips of its lone occupant: one Daisuke Itami, hovering almost expectantly over the kitchen area of his occupancy. Though the steady, accompanying hum of an active microwave implies he is busy preparing something, his attention is still upon the TV as he leans forward, rests elbows on the countertop, and props his chin upon his palm like a giggling schoolgirl eagerly awaiting fresh gossip.

It’s a look that is all the more enhanced with the bloom of a radiant smile the moment that Kyo’s Shadow falls. Radiant, but expectant — like someone watching the end of their favorite movie for the twentieth time.

“It’s too bad, but I guess that’s as far as your gamble can take you. The House always wins, Endachin. So? Has your delusion faded yet? I hope you’re relishing in that unsavory reality now that you know you’ll never actually get to be ‘whole.’ How does it feel, I wonder? Are you full of despair? Are the emotions you’re feeling overwhelming you while you fester in defeat? I bet you can’t even make heads or tails of what you’re feeling right now, can you? Well? Can you tell me~?”

Daisuke waits almost expectantly, as if Kyo Enda could actually answer him while unconscious and nothing more than an image on a TV screen.

“Aaaah, I’m so jealous~!”

Heaving yet another sigh, this one more labored yet somehow wry — as if he just, perhaps, unintentionally hit one of his own nerves — Daisuke Itami’s attention is ripped away from the TV screen with the sound of a ding. He turns, opens up the microwave door, removes the contents. With a hollowly happy hum, the information broker pivots around once more. He strides across the room, back to his sofa (along the way, he also ‘accidentally’ steps on the broken teacup with his shoe-clad feet (because he is rude), shattering it even further with an expression that can only be described as ‘satisfied); it is about the time that he reaches his board game that he turns his attention back to the television screen…

… just in time to see Daiya Kagami and her draconic friend whisk Kyo Enda’s broken body away.

“… Oya oya~,” breathes out Daisuke Itami around a mouthful of a Hot Pocket.

Steak and cheddar, of course.

It’s about a few seconds after this that Daisuke registers the fact that molten cheese is scalding the top of his mouth.

“Ittttt-t-t-t-t-tt!!!”

It is only after a series of curses and Daisuke Itami exaggeratingly sucking in cool air (being sure, of course, to protect his hot pocket) that something dawns upon the man. Daiya and… the other’s name was… Rena? Rena… Kidzuki…?

“… hahahahahaha! Ara ara, I knew I was right all along making this decision! Ah, Daiyan, you’ve exceeded my expectations and more!! You’re wonderful! A wonderfully vindictive human being! And not one without your own secrets and futile hopes, are you~?” Full of unbridled enthusiasm now, Itami literally /hops/ to his game board, landing only a few inches off from simply ramming himself into the coffee table it rests on. His smile bright and full of expectation and anxiousness, the red-and-black-haired man stretches out a hand, snatching up a piece away from the game board.

“Aaaaah, the grudge of a woman really is kind of scary, isn’t it? It’ll be a little problematic for me if you do any permanant damage to poor Endachin, but I guess you ought to have your well-earned prize for your own gamble for now! Enjoy, enjoy! But, Daiyan…
“… you should really be more careful. That sort of saying really is a double-edged sword, after all; scorn breeds scorn, and a woman scorned by a scorned woman is doubly scary, don’t you think~?”

Daisuke pauses here; as if about to say something but striking an unpleasant memory, Itami’s smile fades a fraction. He places a hand on the Black Queen.

“… Or that’s what I’d like to say, but the truth is, the main heroine is sort of a meek girl, isn’t she? That’s fine, though. After all, this is just the prelude. And unfortunately…” He moves the piece up towards the end of the board, up the final ladder. Finally the Queen rests with the White King… until Daisuke snatches it away, and replaces it with a new piece: the White Queen.

“… sometimes our gambles end up with prizes we never really thought of or wanted. Miwa-chan, I’m so curious, so I hope you can indulge me…”

Unceremoniously, Daisuke flicks aside the White King. It strikes the surface of the TV screen and rebounds off with a pathetic clatter as the information broker strolls towards the door, grabbing his long, tweed jacket on his way out. He takes one final look at the remains of his tea cup, frowns, bites down on his hot pocket, and opens the door.

“… I’d really like to push your limits just a little~ bit~ more~. After all… won’t it be interesting, to see what happens to the timid mouse backed into the corner called ‘vengeance’~?”

SLAM~!

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