The DVA System

 /=====================( - Mikage-cho E - Fort Junes - )======================\ 
|                                                                              |
|      The inside does not look much more amazing than the outside. Wooden     |
| boards are nailed together and put over floor that has been roughly swept    |
| for dirt and debris and small bits of...don't ask. At least the floor's      |
| mostly even. Windows have been boarded up, or have suitably large piles of   |
| things that you don't see anything crawling in any time soon. There is       |
| cheery bright paint on the wall indicating that a particular corner of the   |
| one-room building is 'The Inn'. Parts of the floor have painted circles      |
| with 'Place Bed Here' on the inside; perhaps it is just a floor now, but     |
| one day it will have a functioning mattress to sleep on, should one be       |
| scrounged or purloined. The other side of the room has a series of desks     |
| and tables aligned to make a counter for a shopkeeper to stand behind.       |
| There appear to be things for sale, the basic foods and necessities          |
| required to survive in the harsh East Side of Mikage-Cho. It isn't great,    |
| but it's all we got right now...                                             |
|                                                                              |
|      BUT WAIT!                                                               |
|                                                                              |
|      The dreams of others have been made manifest here as well; An           |
| additional room exists in Fort Junes; a basic 'Kitchen' off to the side.     |
| It's a side room, with a table for chopping, and a 'grill', made up of cut   |
| layers of chain link fence put up atop stacks of brick over a fire. It's     |
| hardly gourmet, but any cooking stand in a storm.                            |
|                                                                              |
| Fort Junes - Ace of Trump                                                    |
|                        |
|                                                                              |
|===============================( - Players - )================================|
| Chie Satonaka [KDA] <Tomoe Gozen>     Tohru Adachi [NWO] <Magatsu Izanagi>   |
| Yukiko Amagi [KDA] <Konohana Sakuya>  Souji Seta [KDA] <Izanagi>             |
|===============================( - Objects - )================================|
| Slurpee Machine                      Fishtank                                |
| Note Left by Thora                   PLACE BED HERE                          |
|================================( - Exits - )=================================|
| Exit <E>:                Mikage-cho - East Side                              |

There was a huge answering grin on Yukiko's face as Chie bounds into the room. "Chie! Do you want a slurpee?" she asks, setting her chipped mug down to pick up a styrofoam cup. Lowering her voice somewhat, as if sharing a secret to the room in general, she says, "I think we're all sharing a drink before we go fight to the death or something." Souji is who she glances towards next, the Amagi heir saying, "I understand. I mean, there's... all sorts of strange things here. It's a wonder we all survived as long as we did, with all the tricks and things this place plays upon us," Yukiko says.

It was Adachi that she looks to next, a smile touching her features belatedly. He was always so kind and considerate, Adachi-san was. Certainly, he was a little goofy a lot of times, but hey, that was kinda, well... yeah. She wasn't paying too much attention with the daemon plow thing.

"How do you feel about that, Chie-san? Would you want to be a member of the police force? Like a detective or something, like Dojima-san?" she asks, canting her head a touch to one side.

"Ahahaha..." Chie laughs, nervously, and then coughs into her fist, and proceeds to pretend that whole thing with Katsuragi didn't happen.

Chie is going to step on her foot /so hard/. "Y-yeah, I was...uhm. It's good to--no, I guess it's not good, uhm." Cough again.

But she grins eagerly when she sees Yukiko, and just brushes past the topic entirely, darting over to her friend and stopping short of tackling her to the ground in a hug, because there's people here and also Yukiko wouldn't want her fresh clothes to get all dirty from the grund, so Chie just hops over, instead. And looks at the slurpee machine with something bordering on total, head-splitting befuddlement. (she has this look often.) " still having trouble believing it really exists," she says, dumbly. She tilts her head. Staaaaaa--"Oh! uh, police?"

Her face darkens a shade. She takes a slow breath, and says, "Nah, I don't think that's for me."

"Yeah, I know," Souji looks once more to the Slurpee machine, "at first I thought it was a trap, but it seems to work perfectly fine. You really should have at least one before we go." He doesn't seem to mention the possibility that their endeavors tonight may fail. That just wasn't good for the mood and would probably work against them.

He looks to Chie and smirks, "Well, you still have your whole life ahead of you to decide." He gives a glance to Yukiko. He meant that to her, too. Not that he'd say such openly.

He sips a bit of his own slurpee, now wondering about his own future. He never really considered it. Fortunately, it doesn't long before his midn drifts back to the task at hand. They won't have a future if Japan gets nuked because this bubble stays up.

Oh, Satonaka. Always good for a laugh. :]

As for the demon plow, well. He's just a normal ol' fumbles, trying to get along in a world full of horrifying monsters. A little stress relief never hurt a guy, right? And it's not like those demons were ~people~. Adachi smiles back at Yukiko, and then laughs when she asks Chie if she'd like to be a police detective.

"Really? Why not?" he asks then, blinking his eyes wide. Adachi has a pretty good idea why not; it's not like she's a big fan of Dojima-san's, and whatever she was beating the hell out of Katsuragi for probably cemented it pretty hard.

Beyond that, though, Adachi likewise drinks his slurpee, watching the others--Souji in particular. His silver hair all of a sudden reminds him of... hrn.

Fumiya hasn't spent much time at Fort Junes, not until recently. Fortunately for him he had a good long talk with Thora and it cleared the air a little. He still has a lot on his mind, but it's not keeping him down as much. As such his face, while carrying his usual upbeat expression, is a little less weary today. He's not even wearing the same ripped and dirty clothes he's kept on, having picked up replacements on the West Side that match his usual wardrobe as much as possible (the shirt is closer to red than pink). His shotgun is gone too, so no more Evil Dead jokes.

As he hears voices he looks inside, and the people gathered around the Slurpie Machine. "Oh hey." He says with a bit of a sheepish wave. "I thought I heard someone. How's it going you guys?"

He almost winces at his attempt to make small talk. 'How's it going' indeed. Just trapped in this freakin' city as always. With a sigh he rubs the back of his head. "It's, uh, going down tonight, right? From what I've heard, anyway, I've been a little out of the loop this past week.."

For better or for worse, Yukiko still hadn't heard the news about Katsuragi. The reaction of her friend, however, told a fair bit. Yukiko seemingly deflates a little bit, blinking her eyes quickly. "Oh," she says in a likewise deflated tone, her expression a little stunned. "Well, umn, yeah. What Souji said," Yukiko says, suddenly seeming a touch awkward. Plucking up her mug of slurpee again, she cradles it in both hands, letting her eyes drift over the others.

Yukiko was taking her life into her own hands - not that anyone knew about that yet, (although Chie might have had a few hints or two before Yukiko disappeared from the world.) But then Fumiya arrives, "Watanabe-san, hello! We're having a slurpee before the final fight," Yukiko says, raising her mug to indicate such to Fumiya. "So yes, I believe you are correct."

"It /looks/ good," Chie says, just dropping the topic entirely. "Uhhh," she says, looking at the thing with some wonder. "Gosh, and here I thought bringing changes of clothes and some sodas meant I was thinking ahead..." Chie has not yet realized that soda is a stupid thing to bring to people in a survival situation, but it turns out they didn't actually need water anyway.

She finally grabs a cup and goes for Blueberry, because she had to pick /something/, and there wasn't a meat-flavored one. "Ahh--" she says, to Adachi's question. "That's..."

She just falls quiet, awkwardly.

And then Fumiya shows up, and Chie blinks at him, stupidly.

Chie hasn't actually been here until about two days ago, incidentally. ", he's here too. I mean, uhm...hi?"

"Ah, Watanabe san." Souji turns promptly to Fumiy as he enters, giving a casual nod as he answers, "Fine, for now anyway. We're just making preparations for our operation." Yes, preparations. Nevermind the fact that there is a slurpee in just about everyone's hand.

He looks to the other three before sipping from his slurpee once more, surprised to see that he's almost already finished with it. Turning his silvery eyes to the machine curiously, he spots the peculiar butterly. Butterflies were symbols of hope and dreams. How fitting. He can't help but smile a bit.

"Oh, Watanabe-kun." Adachi looks over at the kid with parents-and-attention issues, before taking another thoughtful sip of his slurpee. How's it going, indeed. "What Amagi-san and Souji-kun said," he chimes in. "You want one too? They're pretty good."

Adachi likewise hasn't been around too terribly much ever since they opened up the pathway between the two halves of the city--not that he was around all that much before it, either--but he's managed to keep fairly informed. He *is* a detective. Thus when the butterfly flutters past and lands on the slurpee machine, his dark eyes track it in mild surprise. Huh. He hasn't seen one of those in... a while? It's hard to keep track of time in this place, he's found. However, while Souji thinks of the butterfly as a symbol of hopes and dreams, Adachi just recalls its symbolism as the souls of the dead. How fitting.

Chie's awkwardness--kind of odd, in Adachi's opinion--reclaims his attention, though, and he blinks at her almost politely, waiting for her to say something. She, of course, doesn't, because of /Fumiya/. "There's a *lot* of people here," he supplies.

Fumiya nods at Yukiko. "Right, so I guess we're all getting psyched up huh? It's all 'do or die' and stuff--- oh hey, Slurpees." His attention abruptly turns to the machine which he apparently just noticed. He reeeeeaaaaally hasn't hung around the Fort much. "Sweet, does it have Green Apple?"

Fumiya actually didn't give a second thought to Chie being here since he hasn't been keeping a tally of who got sucked into hell along with everyone else. As far as he knows she was always here. Fixing his bright green Slurpee, he shrugs. "Uh, yeah. I've just been... erm, out a lot is all."

The butterfly gets, well, an odd glance. Fumiya doesn't understand the significance, besides it being a butterfly. He only thinks it odd because he really hasn't seen much of anything like that in this city, besides the more disgusting insects. Still, he shrugs, and starts absent-mindedly eating his Slurpee.

"Well I guess it's time to give it our all." He sighs, not out of fear that they can't do it, but part of him deep inside almost dreads going back to the 'real world' after all this. It's weird. But despite that feeling, he's also anxious to get out of this place. "Well I, for one, know I'm not going to spend another day in this city, one way or another. And I--- aahhkk..." He nearly drops his Slurpee as his right hand darts up to the side of his head, as if he had a sudden headache.

"...Brainfreeze... brainfreeze..."

Protip: Don't swallow too much Slurpee at once.

Of all the weird things to happen down here to Yukiko - a butterfly was downright normal. As opposed to contemplating the significance of the butterfly - Yukiko's eyes track it because it was simply pretty. The smile that comes unto her face reflects these thoughts, the girl still cradling her mug of slurpee. She was... actually kinda surprised there wasn't a meat-flavoured slurpee - one suspects that the daemons would love that kinda flavour.

"It has all kinds of flavours, Watanabe-san," Yukiko says, pulling a hand away from her mug to scratch at the tip of her nose. Right when Fumiya starts to brainfreeze. Ever helpful, Yukiko looks towards him with concern. "Um... I hear that if you put your tongue against the roof of your mouth, that'll stop... er... help brainfreeze," she says. Pause.

Bringing up a hand to tug a bit on one of the strands of her own long hair, she looks towards Chie, and bites her lower lip. "Yes - there's a lot of people we know here... I guess it was a bigger problem than we first thought," she says.

Chie, being somewhat flighty, sticks her finger out in the general direction of the butterfly, murmuring, "Man, a thing like that, out here...? Hey, little guy." She tips her head out it. "In a place like this, you'd think it'd be shooting death ray eyes, or something, huh?" She laughs at her own joke, and turns around, sucking at some of her slurpee with no class whatsoever, at all, ever.

"One last for the road, huh?" she murmurs, leaning up against the wall, and holds her glass up in a motion she saw in a movie once. "I'll see you guys later. Whatever happens...we'll get through this. We're all here together. Nothing can stop us now!"

 /================( - Mikage-cho W - Captain Rebellion HQ - )=================\ 
|      The year is 2099.                                                       |
|      Deep, deep underground lies the heart of humanity's last stand against  |
| the Drakon Empire... the headquarters of the Secret Rebellion!! Metallic     |
| corridors are lined with the latest in gratuitious technology, with devices  |
| that don't do anything and monitors that display completely meaningless but  |
| still vital information.                                                     |
|      The nerve center of this facility is, of course, the massive command    |
| room, where the Secret Rebellion's best and brightest spend their days       |
| frantically operating complex control panels. In the middle of it stands a   |
| large statue of the Rebellion's leader, Captain R (or as everyone calls him  |
| here, Captain Rebellion), standing with his arms crossed, as a constant      |
| reminder to always be as awesome as you could possibly be.                   |
|      Other highlights of the secret base include the hypergravity training   |
| room, transforming vehicle hangar and very futuristic living quarters. In    |
| case of emergency, the base is rigged to sound a very annoying alarm and     |
| lock up while still providing highly entertaining venues for improbable      |
| combat.                                                                      |
|      Demons often seem quite preoccupied with assaulting the base. It's as   |
| if they're looking for something...                                          |
|===============================( - Players - )================================|
| Aigis [SEES] <Palladion>              Minako Arisato [U] <Eurydice>          |
| Hideo Aratami [S] <Galahad>           Philemon [A] <Daigan>                  |
| Himeru Namikawa [DS] <Hannya>         Hinata Itoh [SEES] <Skuld>             |
| Itsuka Mizuhara [SEES] <Lorelei>      Shiki Ichimonji [SEES] <Pyro Granny>   |
|===============================( - Objects - )================================|
| Path to DVA                                                                  |
|================================( - Exits - )=================================|
| Out <O>:                 Mikage-cho - West Side                              |

This is it. The final battle of this mess, at least for the people interested in saving Shiki and putting an end to this DVA mess once and for all. Using the teleporter beacon set up by the F-Force 5 earlier last week, they can now make their way further into the base! It seems that, much like Tartarus, its architecture isn't exactly... set in stone, which is both a blessing and a curse for our heroes.

Now, whose bright idea was it to bring a ten year-old to the raid? Either way, Ikki has come along with the group. He's raided St. Hermellin's lockers for sports equipment, and now he's decked out like any good low-level Shin Megami Tensei protagonist! ...It's actually kind of adorable. And unlike /some/ other people, he's still dressed light enough to be able to dodge things. He may not be able to defend himself, but at least he can /protect/ himself. He wears a quietly determined expression as he follows the group!

Either way, the raiding party, which has presumably split up from another team on the way, now makes its way towards the command room. There are still demons, dead ends and lots of stairs, but it's nothing that will stop our intrepid heroes, is it? At least little Ikki doesn't complain about all the climbing involved. And they soon, after three hours of boring and frustrating dungeon-crawling, they enter the command room, nerve center of the Secret Rebellion...

Those who saw the command room before will find that it's been redecorated a bit. For starters, the lights have been dimmed considerably, while the computer terminals now have menacing-looking /spikes/ in them. Overseeing the whole room, Dark O has installed a massive, overlordly command chair. The large statue of Captain R in the center remains, but /someone/ has seen fit to draw a mustache on it. Classy! It's completely empty right now, though.

The massive viewscreen flickers on. On it appears a pair of faceless shadows on a white background. The one on the left has a billowing cloak, while the other has a mane of long, flowing hair. The voice of Shiki Ichimonji speaks up. "Once upon a time, there were two brothers. They were one and the same, but they fought all the time."

"We have to be brave."
"We have to be realistic."
"There's always a light at the end of the tunnel."
"We could get hurt if we go any further."
"We must defend the ones we love."
"No sacrifice is too big to reach our goals."
"This is an adventure."
"This is a nightmare."
"We must never falter."
"We're sick and tired of this shit."

"Since the two were one and the same, they realized that they wouldn't get anything done if they didn't agree to keep things simple. A young boy came along and set up a simple rule for them." A smaller shape appears between the two, and the same voice speaks up, but with a higher, younger-sounding pitch.

"In this world, the hero shall always triumph over the villain."

The brother with the cloak shrinks down as the one with the hair steps over to start stomping on him. "The villaineous brother hated that rule. Whenever he'd speak up, the other would push him back where he couldn't be heard. That way, the hero would seem like one who has no fear, one nothing can stop. But both brothers knew they weren't invincible. They knew they were breaking ap--"

Suddenly, the entire screen goes black as it shatters from the center, sending large shards of glass flying everywhere. From the hole opened flies out a dark shape, making a perfect landing in front of the massive Captain R statue. The new arrival rises up to its full height, grinning to all those assembled.


Dark O speaks up. "Welcome again, everyone. Now you know my dream. My wish is to break the rule governing this place and create a world without heroes and villains. One I'll rule over as I rightfully deserve. Isn't it beautiful? But right now, I'm still the hero, and there's only one thing that'll allow me to break the rule. It's called the DVA system! And if you get to it before I or little Aki gets to it, you'll deny me my dream forever. Isn't that horrible?" His face warps into a mask of sick rage. "Isn't that /horrible/, you VILLAINS?!"

Itsuka is dressed for battle, too. The uniform of the school that they've made their base; her old favorite pair of red-and-black sneakers; the purple coat that calls to mind the identical garment that Shinjiro wears; the red SEES armband. And most importantly, more even than the axe that she wields of the Evoker holstered at her side, one treasured memento of the one she's here to save:

A little bookmark, singed, and tucked carefully away. Shiki brought it back to her, once. She hasn't forgotten.

The dungeon crawl is over, and the landscape of the command room completely different. Her eyes, though, are rivted to the control screen as that familiar voice rings out, telling a story that she already knows. The players are just different, that's all. She is silent the entire time, even as Ikki appears on the screen, and then it all shatters.

Itsuka throws her hands up to shield herself from the glass, only lowering them when Dark O speaks, right in front of the group. Break the rule....Aki....The rage. But none of that is what matters.

The purple-haired girl speaks up, quietly, and a little sad. "...Dark O...You don't understand. This isn't what Shiki wants. He told me. ...Life just isn't that simple." Lifting her axe, she points it towards him. "I don't want to fight you."

Every superhero has their costume. A hairpin, a gift so that an older sister would always be with her. A dented black baseball bat, the power which she will pierce the heavens. A now well-worn #51 Mariners jersey, the proof that nothing ever is impossible. The red armband in which she holds the faith of her friends and teammates. And the evoker with which she'll summon her sword and shield, the personification of her hope and faith.

She wasn't as decked out as Captain R, but this centerfielder thought she looked her best regardless.

The girl takes her position beside Itsuka, bat heroically hefted over a shoulder as she watches the display with lidded eyes. So that was how it was, huh. She should've picked it up sooner, if only she had known Shiki better... But that's why she's here, isn't it?

Likewise, she shields herself from flying glass, eyeing the new entrant for a long moment before staring back at the busted monitor. Still with the flashy eye for the entrance. Her dimples form in a small grin. "The story's told, now its time for the final battle, huh?"

The bat swings about, pointing directly at Dark O. "I said your destiny was your own to make. But not if its going to trample anyone else's! Your dream is the wrong one, Dark O! I made a promise, but I also know who I am! With my friends, my bat, and Shiki's strength, we'll put a stop to this evil plan of yours!"

And with that, she folds her arms defiantly into... The Pose.

autographs available after batting practice

"And then I'm going to hug you so hard."

Fumiya arrives not too far behind the others. It's been a bit of a mess these past two weeks. Kind of useless really. Thora managed to finally snap him out of his funk, and while his disposition isn't as dreary, he's finally changed into a decent set of clothes, and he no longer has his shotgun, he still isn't quite back to the normal upbeat Fumiya. That'll take time. But, at least for now, he's able to focus on what needs to be done; and there's /a lot/ that needs to be done, apparently.

There's much on their plate, but Fumiya is willing to let all the 'fate of the world' stuff in the hands of others. He headed to Rebellion HQ for personal reasons. As they make their climb up Fumiya fights the demons that stand in their way with just a bit more skill than he used to. About the only good thing that came from his self-imposed isolation from any allies in Mikage-cho was some necessary fighting expereince. He no longer flinches as frequently, he can attack horrible creators without hesitating. About the only thing that still stalls him for a moment is when he faces human-like demons. But he doesn't hesitate for long, he has a job to do.

When the arrive at the Command Center, he listens to Shiki's story. "Two brothers, huh?" Fumiya ponders. Probably not like his situation, but something about it strikes a chord. He looks around at everyone that's gathered, his eyes resting on Itsuka for a moment longer. Yeah, she's probably worried sick by now. As DARK O ends his speech Fumiya just throws him a disgusted look. "Knock it off, you freak. We don't care about that crap." Cracking his knuckles, he prepares himself for the brawl that's bound to break out. He might not get the significance of the story of the two brothers, he doesn't even know who Dark O is having never paid much attention to Shiki's manga (Sorry Shiki!) but he has more important things on his mind.

"We're just here to get our pal back. So stand down or we'll /make you/."

The trek had been tiring. They had split off from the main group, for better or worse, when the readings placed the command center in a direction that differed from where the DVA device was believed to be in. From a purely strategic perspective, both were objectives: Seizing the command room would allow the deactivation of the defensive measures, or their subversion against the remaining enemy demons. And the second reason...the enemy leader was probably here.

The metal vambrace's weight was all but forgotten now. Her arms were used to the familiar armor, Himeru was actually not looking forward to the idea of parting with them once they would no longer be necessary. For now however, they and the bloodcovered wooden sword were her tools, and they would see one more battle at the least.

Ikki's presence was not a surprise. She wanted him here, for better or worse. He was a part of this, she knew. And as the screens begin playing, the story of the faceless shadows told in Shiki's voice make her throat tighten. All this, the product of a boy who in his innocence wanted a 'good story', in a way. Yet it had turned into tragedy once you start adding the fact these are not simply two dimensional written characters that were constricted to roles of hero and villain.

And then Dark O appears, her eyes twitch as a metal-covered right forearm is raised to protect eyes and face against glass should it reach that far. As he starts going about his dream, Hime can ALMOST agree with him until the point he appoints himself as ruler. She listens in silence, but once the 'Hero' finishes, she laughs. It's not a laugh of mirth, of joy, but one of cruel amusement.

"You claim to be sick of it, to want a world without being so easily marked, and yet your very first desire puts you RIGHT BACK in that very same loathsome role. Oh, you're so bound in what you hate that to leave that twisted just can't do it. You can't let go."

The wooden sword is kept tip down, as the blackhaired girl takes a few steps forward. Itsuka did not wish to fight, fair enough. "If you walk down that path, your name will be known as Dark Overlord till the end of time. Is that your wish? You've been in the darkness so long, you want to paint yourself as the Hero and everything else as the Villain. Unless you let go of your _hate_, you're going to repeat the cycle." She likely could use a kinder tone, be smoother with her words, but she was not so optimistic about the prospect of a fight. His words made it too clear to her that he was trapped in his own black and white views and WOULD have to be subdued to see reason, and if a fight is to be waged, then better to have his rage focused on herself. Itsuka suffered enough for one week of getting 'undivided attention'.

"And another thing, really, what do the R and O TRULY stand for in your names? It's been annoying me all week." There's no pose, no name caption. It's not her sort of thing. She does however take a step forward, against her Previous Formation Orders. She did not like to have to disobey, but the melee line would be her place this time.

While the associated forces of Justice and Bashing In Dark O's Skull charge through the main entrance of the command center, a singluar form floats through the corridors of Rebellion HQ. Security cameras along the wall of the center fade into white static one after another with his progress then fade back in as it retreats down other corridors, making it impossible to see just who or what is whiting out the security feed.

Its progress is slow but steady, and if one were to turn their attention from the miscellaneous justice speeches being given to Dark O they might notice as it stops at one camera... the camera pointed at one of the secondary entrances of the command center. A pool of dark goo begins to seep in from underneath said door but it doesn't appear to be malicious just yet. Just... puddling.

"Are you his shadow?" Aigis asks, one of the last people to actually arrive. She's a busy robot, she had to deliver snorkels and shit. Very important stuff. She doesn't get a super fancy title--possibly because her alt is running a boss battle--but more likely because she's far too serious a robot to just have random titles appear under her name. She idly kicks away the 'AIGIS - EMERGENCY ANTI SHADOW WEAPON (totally awesome)' sign that tried to sneak by her.

"I have been assigned to the rescue of Shiki Ichimonji. Whether I have to be a villain or not, this mission will be accomplished."

Ikki cowers as the glass shards fly all around, hiding behind the rest of the group for protection. "I... I'm not scared!" He looks around, trying to locate some good place to hide in case there ends up being a battle.

The "Hero" chuckles at Itsuka's plea before shouting out in response. "What does it matter what Shiki wants? I'm my own person! No one else will get in my way! You won't, the Captain won't, and certainly not..." He suddenly goes silent, his gaze fixing on Ikki for a split-second. "...Tch."

Hinata's bravado gets a similar amused reaction. "Suit yourself, then! If you're as /strong/ as you claim to be, then I'd love to see it. But remember that right now, I still hold the title of hero! As long as you stand here, you're only just a wannabe!"

Himeru dares to counter his words. He squints at her. "I only have to play by the rules because I have no choice. Don't you understand? This cycle is getting broken one way or another. Either I wipe out this world and build a new one where I can be free to be as good or evil as I want to be, or you show me you can break the rule yourself. Isn't that exciting?" He certainly does seem excited!

Aigis has him back to amusement, however. "Your stubbornness is almost endearing. It's /adorable/, in a way, how simple you can still keep things. I kind of envy you, you know!" He winks.

And then comes Fumiya's turn. "It's all right, the time for speechmaking is over. That said, I'm glad that I won't just be fighting..." A disdainful look to the rest assembled. "...women and children. But enough talk. HAVE AT YOU!" He snaps his fingers. "GAWAIN!"

The statue of Captain R rumbles in the background, quickly starting to show cracks. And soon, the stone starts crumbling apart, raising a large cloud of dust. The rumbling becomes louder and louder, culminating in a mighty crash!... and soon, the dust clears. In the statue's place stands an obsidian black suit of armor, about six meters tall, one that might be chillingly familiar to some of those present. "Behold! Black Gawain, the Secret Rebellion's most powerful weapon! And now, it's mine to wield and /mine alone/!"

Dark O jumps into the air but does not go down, hovering above the ground with a large, unsettling grin. He floats over backward in the machine's direction, fading into it as if it were made out of water. The robot's eyes light up crimson red, and immediately, it starts moving in a decidingly human-like way. While Gawain's weapon of choice is the poleaxe, this one instead draws from a sheat at its hilt, revealing an oversized, glowing katana not at all unlike the one the evil nemesis normally wields. "Let's get this started, then! COME AND GET ME!"

And before anyone knows what hit them, the entire room glows in a blinding, searing flash of light! When they can see again, the knight armor is already flying around, choosing a target to antagonize first. "You! Show me that courage you're so /proud/ of!" Aaaand the first target of his blade is Hinata.

COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji has summoned the Persona Black Gawain to Slot 2.
COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji has entered Boss Mode for 6 opponents.
COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji misses Aigis with his Mosaic Light attack.
COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji hits Hinata Itoh with his Mosaic Light attack.
COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji hits you with his Mosaic Light attack.
COMBAT: You have taken 12 points of Light damage.
COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji hits Itsuka Mizuhara with his Mosaic Light attack.
COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji hits Himeru Namikawa with his Mosaic Light attack.
COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji hits Hinata Itoh with his Cleave attack.
COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji has finished their turn.

And this is how it's going to be. Itsuka doesn't have to look back, or to the side, to know that her friends are with her. Hinata, Hope; Himeru, Strength. ..And she isn't the only one who has a stake in this fight Even Fumiya, who she doesn't really know, cares about him. Now, she can understand that, instead of charging off blindly to find him, having nothing more to offer than her devotion. This time, it's going to be different.

She doesn't notice the black ooze

Aigis's cool assessment strikes a chord in her, though. 'No matter what it takes', right? She's said that before. (And is indeed a totally awesome robot.) She doesn't say anything at first, just watching Dark O refuse the chance at peace, and..bringing out that terrible weapon. The familiarity brings a cold feeling to her stomach, and the hesitation returns. Can she really fight him? can she..He calls for Gawain, and the light pierces through the room, bringing a sudden, sharp pain.

She can. Itsuka realizes, now, that to save Shiki, she can't keep anything in reserve. Steadying herself again, she looks toward Dark O, her face settling into a hard expression. Nothing will stop her. /Nothing/.

"...If that's how it has to be, Dark O, then I won't hold back." Itsuka slips her Evoker out of its holster, setting it against her temple in one smooth motion, honed by months of practice. The motion opens her coat, letting it billow out behind her in the sudden wind, as her golden-brown eyes hone in. "Don't underestimate me."

Itsuka Mizuhara

"I'd die for Shikkun." With a loud shot, she pulls her trigger, calling forth the essence of her bond with Hinata. Darana appears in a spinning flash, with a big smile and a hearty demeanor. One muscled hand reaches out--and a dim glow will appear beneath the foul villain

COMBAT: Itsuka Mizuhara misses Shiki Ichimonji with her Makakunda attack.

She had assumed as such. There was no negotiating, no logic between them and a man like this. Too different, they could not come to any understanding. "Good thing I never cared much for such stupid rules..." mumbled Himeru to herself, before turning her gaze to Aigis. She heard that the robotic SEES member had found her way here, and backup was definitly not unwanted. "Aigis-san, we don't know for certain if Dark O's survival is mandatory for Ichimonji-san's return, we should avoid fatal blows if possible unless we can be absolutely sure."

Big if, she wasn't sure holding back would be possible against such an enemy. Moreso as he calls out a familiar name, and a black armor she saw before. "Well, crap." is her assessment. No choice now, as a wave of searing light washes ovver her. It burns, a little. When her eyesight refocuses, Hinata is beset and attacked by the Dark One himself. Huh, maybe his name was Dark One? Damnit, she wants to knoooow! His jab about women and children drew no ire from her anyway, go ahead, underestimate them. By all means do.

"Ikki, find some cover!" she barks out, eyes and senses too focused on the Black Knight and Dark One to notice the puddle forming at a distance. Her feet spring, sending her into a dashing charge. He's attacking Hinata, and his flank was open. Besides, if he's going to underestimate her and her wooden blade, Himeru had absolutely no guilt in trying to strike with a hard swing to make him regret it.

COMBAT: Himeru Namikawa hits Shiki Ichimonji with her Strike - Bokken attack.

She had hoped for more, at the least from SEES. No Yuuka, no Shiori (of course), but no Minato-senpai? They do have Aigis-senpai, and the silly grins Hina has showed just how appreciative she is to have her around. She really missed her favorite android! They do have Himeru and even Fumiya who hasn't been getting odd looks everytime he says 'Hinata-babe'. 'Itsuka-babe' may be another matter entirely.

"A wannabe?" If she could self-Agilao herself, now would so be this very minute. "You /really/ don't know me, do you?" The screens are flickering, but that must be a glitch or the base rebelling against Dark O or something. Her attention is momentarily diverted to Ikki, and a glance is stolen towards Itsuka first before glowering back at...

... Dark Gawain. "Um, I'll get back to you on that, Aigis-senpai." The bat is swung about again, she's in her ready stance and suddenly she's not seeing anything. "Ahh!" So /that's/ why Shiki carried goggles. Ray-bans may need to be her next equipment upgrade. This fact is driven more home when there's a flash of black, a cry from Skuld, and a sword is driven into her side. Only by the grace of her Persona is she not losing vital organs. Its now her turn to cry out, but its a very short one.

"You /dare/ question /my/ courage!?" She can see a moving shadow now, that's all she needs. Its not a fastball she's chasing here. Hinata is up in the air right after Gawain, bat reeling back with all the fury of a thousand burning valkyries. She had been waiting for a more appropriate time to unleash the line, but the hell with it. He's mocking her. This can not stand. The full force of her power is brought in a familiar swing straight for the helmet.


COMBAT: Hinata Itoh misses Shiki Ichimonji with her Strike Attack - Baseball Bat attack.

Aigis says, "Okay." pretty simply. She doesn't really mind Shiki having a darkside, who doesn't at this rate? But the Shiki SEES does have is a solid leader. Sure, he's not a SMART one but he makes up for it in other aspects. They really can't afford to lose a dedicated, ethical, and nontraumatized member of the team, really.

"Palladion." She says neutrally, the persona flickering into being above her head--as barriers of light shimmer around her comrades.

"Give Shiki a chance." She says.

COMBAT: Aigis hits Aigis with her Marakukaja attack.
COMBAT: Aigis hits Hinata Itoh with her Marakukaja attack.
COMBAT: Aigis hits you with her Marakukaja attack.
COMBAT: Aigis hits Itsuka Mizuhara with her Marakukaja attack.
COMBAT: Aigis hits Himeru Namikawa with her Marakukaja attack.

The dark pool seeping beneath the secondary entrance recedes when Black Gawain fills the room with light then begins to boil violently. Moments pass as it grows and thrashes against the door, which begins to twist and be forced open, a bright beam of light shining through the crack for a few moments before it's wrenched open, filling the room with blinding light once again for a few moments, quite possibly whiting out Black Gawain's sensors just as it did the headquarters' security cameras.

When it fades a familiar figure stands just inside of the door. Black hair falling over shining golden eyes glare at the giant robot as a brilliant halo shines behind his head. He wears a Seven Sisters uniform with the shirt untucked and his green tie undone. At his feet is a pool of liquid shadow which bubbles and flares erratically, trying to claw it's way up his knees. His appearance here may be a bit of a shock to those familiar with him, both because of his very presense in Mikage-cho and because of the transformation he's undergone since his last appearance.



"You are not the savior this world needs," the champion of Strega declares to Dark O as he lifts several feet into the air on a pillar of liquid shadow that engulfs his legs. He gives the rest of the assembled rescue team a cursory look, catches sight of Itsuka and clicks his tongue once with annoyance. It figures she would be here when he learned about Captain Rebellion and Dark O from the demons in the city. His fight isn't with her or SEES today, though, so hopefully they'll appreciate the aid in dealing with this... false hero.

COMBAT: Hideo Aratami hits Shiki Ichimonji with his Hama attack.

Fumiya may not know Itsuka all that well either, but he has a fair idea of why she's here. He saw enough at the SEBEC Lobby, as well as his first trip seeing Rebellion HQ, and tonight to get the picture. Shiki means a lot to this babe and Fumiya, wannabe romantic lug that he is, isn't going see her get hurt if he can help it.

"We ain't gonna let you die, babe, not tonight anyway. We're draggin' his ass out of here safely." Fumiya comments, trying his best to be reassuring. He needs to work on that. Speaking of which. "Take cover, kiddo." He says to Ikki. "We'll handle this, so just try not to get hurt."

Now he turns to Dark O, letting a smirk creep back on his face. After the last two weeks this kind of combat and banter was just a little cathartic. "So you want to have a big ol' fight, get to be the center of attention, and prove your point to the world. Yeah, I get that." Fumiya shakes his head. "I also know it's bullcrap, you're full of it and you know it. This won't accomplish anything besides getting yourself beaten to the ground."

Fumiya dashes towards the dark Persona, for now relying on his good ol' fists to do the talking. Going straight for a punch in the face may not be the smartest move, but since when has Fumiya ever backed down from a bad idea. However the attack turns out, Fumiya quickly puts some distance between him and Dark O. "You're just hiding behind all this philosophical stuff as an excuse to do what you want anyway!"

Oh hey, thanks for the buff Aigis-babe. Fumiya nods quickly at the robot as he only just now noticed she got here.

COMBAT: You have missed Shiki Ichimonji with your Strike Attack - Gloves attack.

Ikki follows Himeru and Fumiya's commands and finds some cover. There's a bunch of consoles about! As long as he can hide behind some, he should be fine, right? So he does that. Leaving the actual room would probably be too risky. His head peeks out, watching the fight warily. Don't lose, everyone!

"Touching!" Dark O's voice echoes, full of irony, from within the mechanical armor as Itsuka makes her speech. "But all right! Show me, too, the form of your courage!" He cackles maniacally, echoing his former nemesis' catchphrase, probably not realizing how significant it was to the real Shiki. The machine is whizzing about the room willy-nilly, however, and the pool of light forming behind it somehow doesn't take "hold".

And now, Hinata is quoting something Shiki would recognize, but Dark O definitely doesn't! A small barrier of light shimmers in front of the baseball bat swung right for the machine's head, blocking it just in the nick of time. Fumiya's fist, a mere second later, meets the same barrier. "Hahaha! Maybe I /do/ just want to do whatever I want!!" They won't learn, will they?! While its pilot laughs in defiance, its guard is lowered long enough for its flank to be chipped into by Himeru's bokken strike. It's not much, but her getting a strike in seems to rile him up enough. "--you little /bitch/!" The katana is swung in her direction, a precision strike against her vital organs. The "hero" is taking no prisoners.

And then the Knight of Sevens appears, in a flash that gets the electronics in the entire room going wild for a bit, up to and including Black Gawain itself. The damage is short-lasting, however. Well, that's a new face, not one the manga character recognizes. "More people to the party, eh? Sure, why not!" And the newcomer makes himself a new target of the crazed Dark O and his mighty blade, flying in his direction!

COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji misses Himeru Namikawa with his Cleave attack.
COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji misses Hideo Aratami with his Scathing Blow attack.

Himeru's right, but Itsuka can't afford to think about what fighting Dark O would do. She already has to block out that face, that voice, the memories. ...It's not so hard, when he's perverting Gawain like that. Gawain, her brave knight, who's saved her and who she's saved. She doesn't mind Shiki having a dark side, either. ...After all, he's the one who taught her that that's alright.

She couldn't react before, when he was attacking Hinata, but she sure can now. "Get him, Hinata!" And Ikki's already being handled, while Himeru moves smoothly into position, just like always. She remembers what she'd told her, last night, in that text message. She doesn't plan to search for those instructions.

"Thanks!" She calls this out to Fumiya, a little smile tugging at the corner of her lips. Is she ever this alive? And did he just call her babe? He is /so cool/. Itsuka is light on her feet now, ready as she's ever been. ....Even when Hideo pops up.

"H-hideo-kun!?" She stares a second in disbelief as he mentions what the 'world' needs. But Dark O is already moving again, and he tells her to show him the form of her courage. The form..."You're damned right I will! And when I'm through with you, you'll wish you were /half/ the man he is!"

And her friends are in the fighting, alright. Dark O has a lot to say, but Itsuka is waiting for her moment, and she finds it--right as he's attacking two people who are important to her. "...Don't you DARE touch them!"

This time, she closes her eyes, focusing just a moment to call out her true power. Her eyes snap open, and with another flash, Lorelei appears--and the ground cracks.

COMBAT: Itsuka Mizuhara hits Shiki Ichimonji with her Terazi attack.

Deflected by a shield! Offspeed pitches never come with those! Hinata lands deftly, if very much frowning. "Nice trick," she grunts. Itsuka's words are not lost in the shuffle, her teammate is spared another glance though this one comes with a smirk. "Nobody's dying today, Itsuka-chan!" Not even Dark O and Ikki if she can help it!

A new contestant appears! The centerfielder stares as she draws her evoker, she's seen this guy before? Only he wasn't as holy/creepy/both, and there's that definite aura of something wrong. A true Shadow. And this one is on their side? She won't chalk it up to Itoh luck, but... yeah, definitely lucky~!

"Right, Itsuka-chan!" The Evoker's to her head, eyes locked on Gawain. "No, you won't. Because you know full well you have no chance of winning. The hero always triumphs over the villain!"

Click. Bang. From the blue mist, a flying horse emerges to slash at the black armor. "And you know you're no hero, Dark O!"

COMBAT: Hinata Itoh misses Shiki Ichimonji with her Zan-ei attack.

Yeah, given the size difference, she's not parrying or trying to block that. If he was on foot she might have tried, but as a Giant War Armor? No thanks. Himeru watches the shoulders rather than the sword, and as he slashes she already knew the motion he was engaging himself into. Running TOWARD the direction of the strike, her knees bend and she nimbly flips over the blade with an ease she didn't even know she had, which she didn't about twenty seconds ago before Aigis' enhanced their endurance. That sort of athletic leap normally was a little harder than this. "That's _MISS_ bitch to you!" she teases.

The young man who showed up? Never saw him before. Itsuka sounds like she knows him, something to ask about later maybe. "Hannya!" she yells out, calling forth the masked demon Persona. Normally it would be howling and itching to dash and attack, but it seems cautious perhaps due to feeling her mistress' own caution. "Damnation."

The ogre-sized demoness howls as she tries to do an open palm punch to the very center of Black Gawain' chest. Yet it would do no harm, only stain the chest with blood. "I curse you, Dark O, to be the least effective dumbest comical villain for the next CENTURY!"

Does she have the power to do such a specific curse? Not really, but Hime was actively trying to get under his skin a little. Unless the spell is resisted, the blood would take the form of crimson kanji saying 'Mid-Boss'. Wierd.

COMBAT: Himeru Namikawa hits Shiki Ichimonji with her Curse attack.

Aigis is left relatively alone. Donnie Dark-O seems to be having some trouble with Himeru and Hideo. Wait, Hideo? No, Aigis reflects, don't take him out now. It's just, well, it's just inefficient. If he wants to help save Shiki, maybe he'll get that spine he was looking for. It's good for everyone that he's helping, she thinks. At least for now.

But Aigis has the offensive to worry about right now. She summons Palladion again, who flings itself towards DArk-O's robot, swinging its blade outward in a wide arc!

"Fumiya-San. I am glad to see you are safe as well." She says.

COMBAT: Aigis misses Shiki Ichimonji with her Brave Blade attack.

"Hmph!" Hideo grunts as Black Gawain's blade comes in his direction. It's not the first time he's had to face this Arthurian although it was in a different form last time... still, the tricks are the same if if the combatents have evolved. The boy raises one of his hands and a wave of oily black shadow rises up in front of the boy, a bloody red cross emblazoned on the front. The blade sinks into the shadow, keeping its controller safe from harm.

The Knight of Sevens closes his hand into a fist and the shadow tightens around the blade, attempting to wrestle control of it from the Black Knight. "What happened to the boy who was so sure of his purpose, so dedicated that he would throw his life away for it?" Hideo asks half-heartedly. He pulls his arm back then punches it forward, the shadow shield drawing back and lancing forward in kind... hopefully with Black Gawain's sword in tow so that it can stab the mecha with its own weapon.

Itsuka recognizes the Shadow-possessed boy and calls out his name. Something deep within his soul begins to writhe as he hears his name called out but he's swift in quelling it. Hideo only has room in his heart for one purpose, and so long as he's in this strange world that is to be its only hero. There's no room for Itsuka OR Dark O in his ideal world.

COMBAT: Hideo Aratami misses Shiki Ichimonji with his Fatal End attack.

Swing and a miss. Fumiya doesn't spend much time fretting over the failed attack, though he's finding his first attacks in these fights to miss more often than not, and quickly decides on what to do next.

Though he does a bit of a double-take when Hideo arrives. It's been ages since he's seen the guy, and Fumiya's left with the sinking feeling that he /probably/ missed a few things here. But, if he's here to help he won't dwell on it. He'll just have to find out what Hideo's deal is later.

"You're a hypocrite." Fumiya says to Dark O. "This ain't about heroes and villains, you're just out for yourself. And I bet you want us to try and label you a villain so you keep justifying this crap." Snapping his fingers, Murugan appears, the four-armed war god steadying himself on his peacock mount, before charging at his opponent thrusting his lances forward.

"But being out for yourself doesn't necessarily make you a villain. It just makes you a jackass!"

COMBAT: You hit Shiki Ichimonji with your Cruel Attack attack.

Dark O's mighty blade is not making /nearly/ enough damage! And not only that, but now that little Shadow punk is trying to wrest it away from him?! The writhing shadows actually do manage to get ahold of it for a brief moment, but the machine's pilot is swift-- even the powerful Drakon blade, in the wrong hands, is nothing against its shield of light! The mighty machine, which is not the Secret Rebellion's secret weapon for nothing, the simply grabs it by its blade, forcefully taking back what belongs to its master. "Your name is /written on this blade/ from now on!", the demented "hero" spits out.

But now, Black Gawain is getting assaulted from all directions. Now the ground's splitting open underneath it, keeping the machine's legs encased in earth and metal for a brief moment! This short time is enough to allow Murugan's spear to strike true, apparently impaling some important component in the process, judging by the sparks the machine emits. The black knight, however, does raise a hand to parry the Pegasus' /and/ Palladion's blades with nothing but the two of its clawed, gloved fists before it frees itself.

--but wait, now? ... ... .../MID-BOSS/?

Dark O's face isn't visible right now, but the group can rest assured that his mouth is curled up into a demented rictus. "M-MID-BOSS?!" Damn it. Such humiliation!! Why is he failing?! He's the hero, he should be winning! That's the rule! That's the rule, dammit! What could possibly make--

The psychopath's eyes land on the massive, ominous-looking command chair at the end of the room. "It's this chair, isn't it? It's waaaay too evil-looking. ..."

"This chair is an eyesore."

And as soon as he says it, Black Gawain has one of its legs in hand, wielding it as a highly improbable weapon.

"this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair this chair"

He pants, loudly, the chair now broken into individual splinters. If /anyone/ was in his way as it happened, then /it really sucks to be them/, doesn't it?

It doesn't take very long for him to return to his senses, however, seeming to realize again that there are, you know, /other people in the room/. "All right, now that it's gone, I'll just /wipe you all out/! Witness my awesome power!"

And there's another one of those massive flashes of light bathing the room. Computer consoles explode, the ruined screen behind shatters into even more shards. After the sickeningly loud sound, the entire room falls into an eerie silence for a moment, only broken up by the sound of Ikki sobbing softly, wherever he is.

COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji hits Himeru Namikawa with his This Chair attack.
COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji hits Aigis with his Mosaic Light attack.
COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji hits Hinata Itoh with his Mosaic Light attack.
COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji hits Hideo Aratami with his Mosaic Light attack.
COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji hits you with his Mosaic Light attack.
COMBAT: You have taken 26 points of Light damage.
COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji hits Itsuka Mizuhara with his Mosaic Light attack.
COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji hits Himeru Namikawa with his Mosaic Light attack.

MORE LIGHT! But Palladion is a tough customer. It soaks up the damage pretty readily. Light magic, she thinks, it might be pretty foolish to try--but on the OTHER hand, she thinks, she better use hew new weapon. It'll open herself up to pain, she's pretty certain, but she sees that Shiki has decided to focus on a couple individuals rather than--

No, she thinks, the more they are hurt, the harder the next phase of the operation will be. She is willing to open herself up for their sake.

"Switching Personas." She says simply, her essence shifting as she changes to another mask.

"Persona." She says, "Come out... ALICE!"

What. Wait what?!

The little girl appears above Aigis's head, she looks just like the demon from before, "I am thou, and thou art me. We're a happy family!~"

"Er, no." Aigis says, "Just--weaken his defenses...!"

"Don't be mean! Oh well! Time to play, Mr. Dark-O!" She singsongs, black winds ripping around the robot's frame--!

COMBAT: Aigis hits Shiki Ichimonji with her Dark Break attack.

Right! Nobody's dying today, that's for sure. Itsuka gives a firm nod to Hinata across the battlefield, making no argument about it. It's not just dramatics, no, but this is going to be better than that. Even if she still doesn't think she's much of a hero, she doesn't have to be, here. ...Because life isn't as easy as all that.

And Himeru's curse is...well, actually, they could arrange that. Being not much of a game player, she kind of misses why the kanji would say what they do, but it's kind of charming anyway, isn't it? This time, too, she doesn't shout for Hideo to pay attention to her, as he reaches out to Shiki again. Itsuka knew that deep down, he really cared. And she's being proven right.

Fumiya's last comment makes her skip a step, though, hearing about how it wold just make somebody a jackass. And...that's just it. That's the way.

Itsuka thinks it out as Dark O just goes /crazy/ on that chair, chanting like a madman. And he kind of is. She gets it, really. And as he turns out to focus, to talk about wiping them all out..Itsuka shuts her eyes against that painful light, staggering back, only protected by Aigis's power. But she won't give up.

"Cry if you want, Dark O. See...I'm a lot like you. I guess that's why I let myself think that you were him, for a while. So lean on me a little. I still want to help." Lorelei reappears, and the chain trailing off into the distance rattles against the ground. She puts out a hand, beckoning him..but it's going to be a life force that comes out.

Alice comes out, her name called by Aigis, and Itsuka freezes in place, staring wide-eyed. "Wh-what.."

COMBAT: Itsuka Mizuhara hits Shiki Ichimonji with her Spirit Drain attack.

"I told you. I'm not one for rules, Mid-Boss-kun~" is said in derisive cheer. But in retrospective, Himeru should not have stayed THIS close, because the chair just bats her brutally into a wall! "Agh!" is about the sound of the air knocked out of her lungs, and the wave of light doesn't help. That kind of stung. "Ow."

Still, with a little effort and using her bokken as a makeshift cane, it does not take her long to get back to her feet. No permanant injuries, nothing felt broken. "Too bad you broke it, you're a better chairman than a swordsman." she jests further, even if it's a HORRIBLE pun she really thought it was a funny one. The sound of Ikki crying isn't lost on her, but she can't go to him and try and comfort him right now. Not at this time.

Still, his assault was pretty painful. Painful enough she could swear she saw That Creepy Little Girl again. That can't be right. Did Hime get a concussion? Lacking simple means to recover her strength, she does however have some options.

" will probably taste /horrible/, but, rip a chunk of his soul off." she asks, causing the demonic Persona to materialise, forming a vacuum of mystical energies from the gap in the mouth of the mask. Seems she had a similar idea to Itsuka.

COMBAT: Himeru Namikawa misses Shiki Ichimonji with her Soul Consumption attack.

While the chair is busily being demolished for its sins against fashion, Hinata first turns to Fumiya and ponders for a moment. Her words are lost with the sudden curse. Her teammate really can do that? A beat. No, that's just silly. All Himere can do is just call ghost people from her head and wield a perpetually bloody bokken. "... I'm glad I'm on your side."

This apparently upset Dark O greatly for there is more light. The centerfielder shields herself, but it still hurts. She just never thought it would be her on the receiving end of holy light. Yet she still stands, trying to refind her confident grin through all the pain and sobbing. No, that's not her sobbing. "Ikki!" she shouts over the chaos, "C'mon, we need you to be strong! You can do it!" The evoker is to her head as she races over to rejoin Itsuka's side. "I'm here to help too, but I'm not helping any jerkass! You're gonna have to learn how to be nicer the hard way! SKULD!"

The norn arises, the opening of her arms beckoning a firestorm upon Gawain. The next time they're going to have to plan these things better, Hina has a rather direct aversion to darkness!

COMBAT: Hinata Itoh hits Shiki Ichimonji with her Agilao attack.

The painful light washes over Fumiya again, and the youth winces. That one stung a lot more, but it's still at the point where he can shove it out of his mind. Some of the wounds he got over the week fighting in Mikage-cho ache a lot more than this.

"You really are clueless." Fumiya sighs. Dark O's tantrum on the chair is a spectacle, but it doesn't do much to make the beast seem all that threatening. "This world you want, where there are no heroes or villains? We're already in it." A pause. "Well, no, I guess that's not quite right. There's plenty of evil bastards out there, and good folks who only want the best. But when it comes right down to it everyone is the hero of their own story. Me, you, Thora-babe, /Kandori/," He pauses again. Well, he /assumes/ Kandori is the hero in his own story, who knows how that mind works. "The point is that despite all the good and bad done in the world, you'll never be able to hammer out who is a 'hero' or 'villain' like in the storybooks. So you don't even know what you're trying to get rid of!"

Murugan re-appears and raises the lower pair of arms, causing a small inferno to erupt around Dark O. "But in the end trying to convince you of this is pointless too. We're just here to get Shiki back. That makes us the heroes to us, and the villains to you. We'll just let the victors decide what's what."

COMBAT: You hit Shiki Ichimonji with your Agilao attack.

Considering Shadow Hideo has a GIANT GLOWING HALO floating around his head at all times, massive flashes of light aren't exactly the most effective warding tools. He blinks the light out of his eyes and is none the worse for the wear.

Hearing Itsuka compare herself to Shiki, even just a shadowy facet of his personality, bothers the Knight of Sevens at some level. He's fought with Shiki before, learned how the boy thinks and acts, and respects him in a strange way for having a belief that drives him so strongly. Itsuka is antithetical to that in his mind and if there's a part of Shiki that is anything like the girl he wants to cut it out here and now.

"There's more to being a champion than stylish seating," Hideo says dramatically, not recognizing how incredbly dorky the line sounds. He raises his hand once more to summon another pillar of greasy black ooze from the shadows curling around his legs. With a gesture towards Black Gawain the shadow rockets forward like a fire house, pounding the machine's frame with amazing force and leaving the tainted waters to seep into any cracks and gaps it can find to wreak havoc on the internals.

COMBAT: Hideo Aratami misses Shiki Ichimonji with his Seven of Grails attack.

Alice is pretty predictable. She does one thing, and she does it very, very, very, very well. Other than that, well, she is kind of a one trick pony. Aigis is lucky Dark O is more concerned with emotions than strict combat technique. Aigis still has a ways to go before she fully has mastery over this Persona. "Yaay!" she says, "did you hear that we're heroes~!" She says.

"um." Aigis says.
"So let's kill him!"
"No, we can't kill him!"
"Die for--wait what?"
"Grievously injure him." Aigis says, "But do not kill. I will provide coordinates."
"But I wanna play forever--"
"Do not worry, I will not die, I can spend as much time with you as you'd like--but do not harm him."

Alice doesn't seem to recognize Itsuka, because she's just a Persona--not the actual demon that Itsuka went up against before. But that doesn't mean it doesn't have similar capabilities.

alice spins around aigis's head once, before performing a curtsy--

--several playing card monsters fall from the sky, plummeting down towards Dark-O's machine!

And then the Persona vanishes. Like any other Persona summoned via Evoker.

COMBAT: Aigis critically hits Shiki Ichimonji with her Die For Me! attack.

Himeru's excellent quip and terrible pun kind of just go right through Itsuka, staring as she is at where Alice appeared. She wishes she'd brought Hua Po into her mind after all, in that moment, not only for the tactics but for a moment of support. She knew it would be harder to fight Dark O that way, but....

Hinata rushes to her side, talking about helping, and the co-leader of the Eclipse Squad nods, a little numbly. Seeing Skuld, being so close to Hinata...she can feel that hope again. It starts to shake loose the sudden terror that had come over her. She doesn't say anything, but she straightens her shoulders again. She's ready. "...Gawain doesn't suit you, Dark O."

The armor has disappeared, all of a sudden, leaving Itsuka to stare into nothing Wait, what--? The voice comes back, right behind her, but there's no time to turn. Itsuka feels the sword go straight through her, gasping for air a moment later. "I--" Few other words come out, but she slips off of the sword, falling to the ground. Poison. "You...promised you'd..." It hurts, and the pain is making it hard to think.

Itsuka grits her teeth, though, in the face of that laughter, as Ikki makes his grand speech...A heart. Everyone does, and all of this is part of him. But, not like this. Not...Itsuka drops her Evoker, her hand slipping downward toward her other weapon, the axe that, for her, began all of this. The axe that cut Shiki. Even Alice's presence doesn't make that matter less.

"You hit wrong, Dark O...I'm not the hero." Her blood drips onto the ground, onto the blade as, with effort, she speaks. Itsuka looks up his way, a flash of determination in her eyes. "My name is Itsuka! And I love you!' Her axe swirls into motion, power gathered around it in an instant as she goes for a deep cut.

COMBAT: Itsuka Mizuhara misses Shiki Ichimonji with her Rhine on the Rocks attack.

The flames ignite Dark O, and Hinata's smirk dissolves. This isn't something to be enjoyed, she's hurting him. Even if he needs it, its still painful and she really didn't want to hurt him as much as knock out that suit of armor hey where did they go.

With one sickening sound, everything freezes. "ITSUKA-CHAN!" oh god no she can't i promised everyone it can't be that powerful what if it is i promised no time evoker now "S-SKULD!"

The valkyrie arises, arms spreading wide yet again to bestow her blessings upon the stricken girl. Hinata was already by her friend's side, now she's on the ground trying to prop her up. "H-Hold on, we'll take care of this, don't..."

For some reason, her fears start to fade. Attention falls on the little boy now, standing up and holding himself tall. A part of her feels proud, only to be overcome by the feeling that she knew he could do this all along. Of course he could. "I think you should listen to him, Dark O," Hinata starts to smile. "Ikki's the bravest one of us here. You could even say... he's amazing."

COMBAT: Hinata Itoh hits Itsuka Mizuhara with her Recarm attack.

"Tch." Hannya was either too far, or her magical power was too weak to drain energy out of a suit of armor. Not terribly surprising, she never fancied herself as much of a mage. But then, the war machine just vanishes. "Huh?"

His voice is heard again, and when Himeru turns to see it's to also notice Itsuka has been stabbed from behind. Her voice felt dry, no, entirely MISSING right now as she stares, speechless. For a moment, she forgets her friend is a Persona user and a resilient one. She forgets that such wounds can be healed. Such things happen when fears are becoming reality.

All Himeru sees is her best and dearest friend impaled. Muscles tense, her right middle and index finger twitching uncontrollably as her head lowers itself to look at the ground. His laughter, his incessant, annoying, hatefilled laughter echoes through her ears and won't STOP. Even if it does stop, she still hears it.

Her right hand snaps to her face, thumb and index grabbing forehead tightly. The twitching turned into occasional full body shaking, before the hand whips off Himeru's face. The mask of calm has fallen off, her eyes filled with intense disdain.

"The one person who believed that you could still be a hero, that you could be redeemed and you do this to her. You MORONIC QUARTER-BOSS!." she howls, uncaring to the fact Itsuka may forgive him, before breaking into a forward run. The blood on the bokken swirls faster and faster, covering the entire surface of the weapon. "Hannya!" she bellows mid-dash, the Persona materialising and running along with the young girl. Yet the summoned being does not attack, placing a deformed hand on Himeru' left shoulder and dissipating, causing the blood becoming black and filled with the darkness of the Persona. Perhaps the darkness of the young girl's heart as well. (No, not really, that's just emo. It's all magic.)

The tip of the blade grows in size, the blade as a whole grows in length, the 'wood' attribute no longer appropriate. The sword could, no WOULD (hopefully) pierce metal before the entire 'darkness' blade formed around the wooden weapon shoot forth through the gap formed.

COMBAT: Himeru Namikawa hits Shiki Ichimonji with her Vile Assault attack.

Hideo's expression is impassive when the machine teleports out of the path of his shadow wave. It's alright, attacks miss, there'll be plenty of other opportunities to mercilessly slaughter him for the glory of Nyx. His head turns to track Black Gawain's movement, an easy task considering Dark O announces his presense behind Itsuka.

'I trusted you for a second' the dark one says. So has he seen through Itsuka's lies as well or is it just the mad ravings of a shadow? Hideo can't be certain-- if this is a manifestation of Shiki's heart then there must be some degree of truth in the statement.

Either way, when the giant robot moves to impale the girl Hideo once called a friend that voice in the back of his head begins to rage once again. Even as his Shadow convinces him that nothing in the world matters, even as Hideo proclaims that his only purpose in the world is working toward the advent of Nyx, something about that damned girl touched Hideo in a way he never wanted and yet can't fight against.

The Knight of Sevens lowers on his column of darkness to ground level, grabbing a splintered chunk of the command chair. Black smoke pours out of his hand, wrapping around the makeshift weapon, refining it into something more appropriate: a large blade made of darkness and yet glowing with the holy light of Galahad. A piece of what was once Dark O's right to command purified (or would it be tainted) into a weapon of Hideo's own righteous power.

The Shadow-possessed boy's golden eyes turn towards Black Gawain, sees the girl impaled, sees her fall to the ground in a pool of blood. Hears her words about Shiki's promise. Listens as even after that she declares her love for the boy... the boy whose Shadow just rejected her, who is trying to kill her even now.

Something throbs deep within the Knight's heart, something he thought he had locked away forever.

It hurts.

The halo around Hideo's head flares once again and anger soaks his words as he hurls himself through the air, the Shadows that engulf his lower half giving him the appearance of a striking cobra, flying over Itsuka's head and inadvertantly splashing her with a wave of the viscous black shadow-goo that trails behind him. "WHAT GIVES YOU THE RIGHT!?" he snarls at Dark O. He throws himself as hard as he can at the giant robot, trying to knock it into one of the walls of the command center, swinging his blade again and again. "SHE WAS MINE AND YOU TOOK HER! WHAT GIVES YOU THE RIGHT TO REJECT HER NOW!?"

COMBAT: Hideo Aratami hits Shiki Ichimonji with his Heaven's Sword attack.
COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji has been knocked out!
COMBAT: Hideo Aratami hits Itsuka Mizuhara with his Still Waters attack.

"Alright fine, I'm not getting through to you." Admittedly, Fumiya's not all that good at explaining himself, especially when trying to debate philosophy with someone like Dark O. So he just stops. It's obvious this fight won't be over until they beat him senseless anyway. "Let's just stop screwing around, then."

Fumiya almost immediately regrets saying that, as a moment later Itsuka is impaled.


Fumiya just deadpans. There isn't any anger in Fumiya's voice, at first, just a lot of disbelief. That was a low blow, nothing that came from Shiki could do that, right? Anger does build up pretty quickly, though, Fumiya has enough chivalry in him to be set off after seeing a babe hurt like that. Ikki and Hinata's actions calm him a little, especially once he sees Itsuka still willing to fight, but there's no way he's letting that dirty attack slide. The others present got the 'righteous fury' thing down, they know Itsuka better so he'll let them speak their peace on the matter. Fumiya's just going to let his actions speak for himself.

"Tear him a new one, Murugan." Fumiya commands, sending his Persona racing towards Dark O. Murugan charges, set to impale his target again, but this time with a lot more speed and ferocity.

COMBAT: You hit Shiki Ichimonji with your Primal Force attack.
COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji has been knocked out!

The comical card soldiers that rain down on the machine strike true. The robot seems to have great difficulty moving, smoke coming out of its joints since Ikki made his brave little speech. "Y-you!! The hero, the villain and the narrator, wasn't it?! That's what any story needs! And now you decided that now I had to lose! I hate you! I hate you and your childish games! I HATE YOOOOOU!" He continues screaming after this, but it's only an unintelligible cry of pain that follows.

And then Murugan pierces through the armor of the weakened machine, while Himeru's magical darkness slices into it like the magical metal was made out of butter. "This... can't be... I was the hero, dammit... My plan... My world... No..." The machine is still somehow standing, but...

Then comes Hideo, with his wild proclaimations. "...What?" What is he even talking about? Who's that guy to begin with? Who's Itsuka?! Why can't he even remember her! She sounds so important! Before he can ponder this further, the wave and the blade hits him, not sending the heavy machine anywhere, but still seeming to do the trick.

Itsuka's own declaration of love followed by a rather familiar attack... does not strike the machine. Not because it dodged, but because Hideo's last strike was enough to make it explode into a million obsidian shards, dissipating into whisps of smoke a second later. Crawling in the puddle of cursed mud, he pouds the floor with his fists, looking up at Itsuka. "Love! That doesn't even mean anything to me! Don't you get it?! I'm not even a person! I'm just a villain! All I can do is hurt others!" Throughout all the mud, it's hard to tell, but... is he... crying?

Ikki steps forward, having regained his bearings. "Dark O... I... I think there's something I can do to help." He steps in front of the villain, takes a deep breath, and...

"Ghost Helper... THE END!!" A massive flash of light erupts over Ikki. A large humanoid shape flies out of it. One with bulging muscles, a futuristic red and yellow jacket, a mane of flowing red hair and a mask-like pair of "techno-goggles..."


As the Captain steps out of the portal, he raises a hand to his face. The techno-goggles, with a metallic sound, clatter to the ground. Perhaps to no one's suprise at this point, the Captain now looks like a teenage boy, one bearing Shiki Ichimonji's determined face. He looks around to the people assembled for a second and shouts out. "Everyone... I'm sorry for all the grief I've caused you, but thanks to Ikki, I've found my answer." He clenches his fist. "Let's show Dark O and Aki they can also find theirs, and save everyone while we're at it!"

The resurrected hero puts a hand on the sobbing Dark O's shoulder. "Ikki and I will handle him. You all." He turns to the rest of the group again. "This fight's not over. Find the DVA system, and put an end to this once and for all. We'll catch up to you later." He points to one of the exits. "Go! And show them the form of your courage!"

COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji misses Aigis with his The Hero Returns attack.
COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji hits Hideo Aratami with his The Hero Returns attack.
COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji hits Itsuka Mizuhara with his The Hero Returns attack.
COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji hits Himeru Namikawa with his The Hero Returns attack.
COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji hits Aigis with his The Hero Returns attack.
COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji hits you with his The Hero Returns attack.
COMBAT: Shiki Ichimonji hits Hinata Itoh with his The Hero Returns attack.

Her friends are fighting, still,Hinata supporting her from where she can't get up on the ground. Her strike misses, and Itsuka lets her axe fall again to the ground, even as her friend's voice reaches her like a light in the growing darkness. The healing energy washes over her, and Itsuka glances up to Hinata with a dazed nod. "It's..yeah." The pain is lessened, the fire flowing through her veins gone, even as Himeru rushes out in her defense and Fumiya--that really cool guy--calls out again. Itsuka is sure Aigis is out there, somewhere, but what about...?

Hideo flies over her, the castoffs of his attack bringing a renewed hurt, and the strength she'd had from her robot friend is gone. But, wounds don't matter. ...He's..In disbelief, the SEES member looks over, wondering at the fact that the Shadow-possessed boy just said what he did. She knew it. But...she keeps her focus, this time. With all these friends.

The hero, the narrator, the villain...Itsuka's eyes lock on to Dark O as he shouts, seeing him in the mud. He's crying...And she smiles. There's no trace of resentment over the wound he gave her. "..That's not true, Dark O. It's not true." He can do so much more than that, and Ikki comes out, and the flash of light, and then--

He's back. Tears gather in Itsuka's eyes, and she nods up at the face of Shiki. She knows it's not him, but...Seeing him like this, it means something. "Captain..." She pauses, as she picks up her weapons and gets her feet.

"I don't have to show them the form of my courage. When we get there...They'll all see it." Itsuka takes off running into the base, heading for the DVA.

There's a nice, satisfying explosion when Dark O is defeated. That felt good. Fumiya stays silent as Shiki has his little moment with himself... or his characters, or.... well, honestly, Fumiya really doesn't get what's going on here anymore bit it seems like they win.

Go team heroes.

Fumiya hangs around just long enough to make sure Itsuka isn't in any danger, what with being impaled and all, and quickly heads forward with everyone else to put an end to things.

Though he does pause for just a moment to say to Shiki "We gotta talk when all this crap is over with man." If only so Shiki can explain all these weird characters to him. If he's in the mood to do so anyway.

"Alright." Fumiya announces, deciding to thrust himself in the spotlight for just a moment. "It's been two goddamned weeks in this place and I've had just about enough of it. We're going back to the real world /tonight/. Let's do this!"

Aigis falls flat on her butt, breathing out her mouth. That last attack--really took a lot out of her. She doesn't really truly have the proper control for that persona, she thinks, she should be sure to use it sparingly. She swaps back to Palladion, silently, and takes a breather.

"I will guard the real." She says, almost as if her alt was running the other room. "Save Shiki." She looks towards the various members of Team Eclipse and decides to offer some parting words herself.

"You're all relatively new members of SEES." She says, "But consider yourselves veteran members now." She bobs her head, twice. "You've done well--and I believe you all have the right attitude for the organization--and to beat the trials ahead. I am...proud to serve alongside friends and comrades such as yourself."

There will be a time for 'what the hells' with Itsuka and Hideo later. The instant she sees Dark O lying on the ground, she's up and racing for him. She said she was going to do something and she's going to do it even if she has to protect the villain from Hideo's and Himeru's rage!

Only she's beaten to it by Ikki. The centerfielder stops right next to them, eyes widening as the little boy summons his own 'ghost helper'. It took her long enough to figure it out, but she knew it even before the goggles fell off. "Its- it really is you. It was you. I'm- I'm sorry I left. And... I told Dark O what I was going to do so I hope you don't mind."

One arm extends for the 'villain', the other for Ikki, and both are taken in for a big hug. "I believe in all of you," she whispers before standing back. "Don't worry, you know the form of my courage," she grins with a twirl of her bat. "I have heavens to pierce with my baseball bat! C'mon, everyone! Let's save the day together!" And she's off and running after Itsuka.

Only she pauses to glance back at Aigis. ".. T-Thank you, Aigis-senpai! We won't let SEES down!" A tug at her armband, her smile broadens, and she's even faster out the door.

This world is fundamentally broken. It has to be, for Itsuka to love Shiki. Hideo can think of no other reason such a thing could happen-- after all, it's all the same, isn't it? The Shadow attacks, says he doesn't care, tries to kill her, and then... what? What's the difference here? Why does the villain get the girl?

Fujimori-san was right. This world should be left to rot-- no, better than that, it should be destroyed. Utterly annihilated. What did that man say yesterday? That this strange Luanrvale was some girl's dream? Then the answer is clear: kill the girl, kill the world.

The appearance of Captain R and Itsuka's teary-eyed reaction to him only cements Hideo's resolve. He growls unintelligibly at this new, second form of Shiki and races out the door on a wave of noxious black water. The assembled SEES members may want to watch their step on the way out, it stays kind of slippery for about a minute before dissolving into black smoke and disappearing.

Breathing heavily, Himeru worked to regain her calm and control. He was broken, he had fallen, it was /enough/. The bitter hatred of what he did was not easily excused, but she would have to. Dark O just looked so damn pitiful that any further harm would be something she would eventually regret. Destroying his war machine had been was broken, and so was the pilot.

At the sight of Ikki growing up, picking up those goggles, all she can think is 'finally'. She was unsure if Ikki had to fuse with a Shiki in the machine for this to finally be over or with Dark O too, or whatever but at least her hunch that he was vital to the equation proved to be good. "Sorry we took so long..." It was almost done, it was so close...

Itsuka's friend, well, his shout pretty easily made it clear what his angle was now. She doesn't know his name, or why he uses the powers of a Shadow, but he's definitly special. Where did he go however? Maybe he went on ahead.

Hinata took care of making sure Itsu will be alright, a good thing. A firm nod is her response to Fumiya's proclamation of ending it. "One way or another, this ends. We will see you once we are done, Aigis-san."

Path to DVA

"--He's using me." Aki agrees. "But I'm using him too. We both know it. I love Daddy." but where IS 'daddy'. Perhaps he's sipping a martini, too busy to help destroy the world. This is probably a good thing for you guys, another raid boss might result in party wipes. Minagi slams her fist into Aki's face, smacking her into the explosion. This really hurts. It seems the fight has entered its brutality stage. No more toys. Just you and the little deity. You've beaten the Snow Queen, but this is her domain. Can you manage it?

Shiori tries to heal herself like Yosuke. Souji supplements her healing and some words of wisdom. "I'm not. They don't want me. You heard the rabbit." Could Dr. Fuzzles be the white rabbit?! "I'm not one of them. If I was, why would they reject me?"

"Cause... It's cause we're the fakest one out there."

The scene shifts again, to Ritsue and Maki in the hospital. This one is REALLY recent. Kali seizes the opportunity to carve gashes in Aki's face, scarring up her body with several bloody injuries. They're not healing themselves. Her power is draining. She is going to have to end this quickly.

"Then do you accept this?" Aki asks of Ritsue, "The whole time we were together. Maki was so happy. Even as she was suffering, she knew--she knew you had it worse than she did. Schadenfreude, that's the word right? She was so happy to have found someone who could be more miserable than her! Maybe that isn't ALL she was thinking, but do you accept that she was thinking that? Even as much as she felt for you--part of her was glad, is that FINE?"

Time freezes again but everybody can hear her anyway. "It was no place to bring you. You got off lucky. I hate you for that. I... It doesn't matter if you're right--they reject me. It doesn't matter if you don't--convince HER."

A box appears before Aki. It looks like a normal box, more or less, but it's pulsing with a strange dark energy. Aki struggles to open the terrible manifestation. It doesn't seem very dangerous as she pries at it, it takes her almost the full five seconds of timestop.

But she pries it open at the last second, an eruption of BAD MOJO, sharp things, sins, hate, psychic feelings of rage, all the terrible things that have been said to Maki, all the terrible things Maki has said to others, all the bad thoughts, all the bad thoughts of this world, the hidden lies that people keep to themselves and never say. Maki had always been perceptive of these things.

And now she's sharing with you. How lucky.

Shiori, Minagi, Souji, and Ritsue bear the worst brunt of it as Aki supplies her own terrible magic to supplement her furious assault.

Sounds like a good time for /b/ackup.

COMBAT: Maki Sonomura hits Souji Seta with her Pandora's Box attack.
COMBAT: Maki Sonomura misses Chie Satonaka with her Pandora's Box attack.
COMBAT: Maki Sonomura misses Yukiko Amagi with her Pandora's Box attack.
COMBAT: Maki Sonomura hits Shiori Hibiki with her Pandora's Box attack.
COMBAT: Maki Sonomura hits Minagi Shimizu with her Pandora's Box attack.
COMBAT: Maki Sonomura hits Arisa Shiratori with her Pandora's Box attack.
COMBAT: Maki Sonomura hits Ritsue Tetsumoto with her Pandora's Box attack.
COMBAT: Maki Sonomura misses Souji Seta with her Through The Looking Glass attack.
COMBAT: Maki Sonomura misses Shiori Hibiki with her Through The Looking Glass attack.
COMBAT: Maki Sonomura hits Minagi Shimizu with her Through The Looking Glass attack.
COMBAT: Maki Sonomura hits Ritsue Tetsumoto with her Through The Looking Glass attack.

"Looks like we came at a good time!"

In the cafeteria doorway she stands, striking the pose she had, what, it couldn't have been that long ago. Arms folded, lips curled into a smirk, perhaps an air vent blowing through her ponytail and the trailing edge of her baseball jersey.

Now batting for the fate of the world, #51, Hinata Itoh!

"C'mon, are you gonna let her keep you down? The world's ridin' on us, y'know!" She stands there, bat at her shoulder, head lifted high. "How many friends have you rescued from the TV? How many Shadows have you taken out of Tartarus? We've survived this long, we can do it again!" Is she glowing? Yes, actually, she is, a golden glow that strikes all of the original team that may be in dire need of a boost. A glow that brings more energy to fight on, more spirit to overcome any odds. "C'mon, let's kick reason to the curb! We're the saviors of the world! We're not going to let some little girl destroy /our/ world?"

Remembering her reaction to Masumi's little speech, Hina locks eyes straight on Aki as she finishes her speech. "Just who the hell does she think we are, anyways?"

COMBAT: Hinata Itoh hits Souji Seta with her Never Say Die attack.
COMBAT: Hinata Itoh hits Chie Satonaka with her Never Say Die attack.
COMBAT: Hinata Itoh hits Yukiko Amagi with her Never Say Die attack.
COMBAT: Hinata Itoh hits Shiori Hibiki with her Never Say Die attack.
COMBAT: Hinata Itoh hits Minagi Shimizu with her Never Say Die attack.
COMBAT: Hinata Itoh hits Arisa Shiratori with her Never Say Die attack.
COMBAT: Hinata Itoh hits Ritsue Tetsumoto with her Never Say Die attack.

As Anise answers him, he grips his blade tighter. Vanity, arrogance, a twisted view of success. All of this was her and more. Why would such a person harbor such a sick affection for him, anyway? He doesn't attack yet, but he's running out of words to pacify her with. When she fires however, all things change.

As the arrow strikes Yukiko down, wonding her possibly severely, he looks back to Anise with nothing but pure anger. He was trusted to protect her as he was everyone else. This foreigner had attacked him before; he didn't mind that. He spared her. This time, however, she blatantly spits in the face of his mercy -and- tries to kill one of his dearest friend. For her, he only has two shouted words, "You BITCH!"

As Chie moves in for her assault and kicks Anise with the rage of a thousand suns, Souji calls out his Persona once more.

"Izanagi, Let's DO THIS!"

Wherever Anise lands after his friend's most violent punt, Izanagi would be waiting, ready to throw down his spear to impale Anise. The silver-haired youth would then follow up with a furious, unrelenting flurry of slashes.

He only looks up when Aki unleashes her little box. Before long, it opens and the young man is wracked by all the evils of the world. Nothing like a harsh reminder who the real threat is here, huh?

COMBAT: Souji Seta hits Anise Thompson with his All-Out Attack attack.

Backup has arrived. Itsuka, bloody but still up and moving, is rushing from the path back in the base, her Evoker gripped in one hand and her axe in the other. That purple coat Mai made her moves out behind her. She's a girl on a mission--and Aigis just promoted her. And all the other things...They're something to think about.

But not now. Missing Aki's crazy theatrics, Itsuka is going to be one of the first onto the scene from the new group, and though she doesn't quite know what's going on yet...there's Aki, right there, in the middle of--a hospital cafeteria? Well, not to worry about that, it's time for /hot-blooded action/!

Right after Hinata's speech, Itsuka glances her friend's way with a big smile...that fades to see people fighting each other, instead of Aki. She doesn't much want to fight Aki, either, but it seems like there's not much choice.

"Aki! We'll help you find your answer! I promise!" She brings forth that resolve, staring down the little girl...And shoots her Evoker, calling forth Lorelei, who spins to face down the goddess with her red eyes. "...But first, you have to stop this!" The Persona sings. The inspiration is left for her friend; Itsuka's just calling Aki to focus on her, instead.

COMBAT: Itsuka Mizuhara hits Maki Sonomura with her Song of Lorelei attack.

Ritsue can see that conversation now - part of her tastes that lunch set again, which seems to have been years ago, though merely a few weeks as the real calendar flies. She was pitying me, she thinks. She was glad someone had it worse than her.

Something shifts coldly in her stomach. A little girl, a -

- a sad, lonely little girl, she thinks. Stuck in that hospital. As Ritsue lands from her gashing strike, flicking the blood away, she doesn't answer instantly. She straightens up instead, brushing back her bangs. "Yeah," she says. "It's fine. Maki didn't infect me. It wasn't nice - and if she'd said it aloud I'd have --"

That's when the attack comes. Fuck! Ritsue thinks, even as the wave of power washes over her; it rips into her skin, her eyes squeezing shut as she tries desperately to move and avoid it. Move and -

Her arm raises partway, a shard of hatred and sin carving a gash in her thumb but not flying right into her eye.

She feels weak and sagging, even if there is still that hot core forwards inside of her. The arrival, unlooked for, of Hinata among others makes her goggle for a moment, but then she puts one hand in her pocket and --

Slips out of time.
She doesn't move, though. Externally nothing obvious happens. Well, except for the people she talks to; when the compact's magic ceases, they will remember what she /just/ said, if not when she actually said it.

"Hey, kids," this first to Souji and Chie. "You're giving her what she wants. She wants to die with your eyes on her... stop fuckin' around, huh? Break her arms or something and let's finish this shit up."

Her head turns then towards Aki.

"I was saying... I would've gotten pissed off if she'd said it. But what lives in your heart... you don't control what moves in there, do you? Even if you nail every door shut. If I made her feel better - I'm glad I did."

In the still flow of time she tilts her head down slightly. "If you keep fighting you might kill us all. Or we might kill you. But we don't want to - we don't hate Aki. Maki, you, are being used by someone else. That man's our enemy - and so is that system."
She feels her lungs ache. Apparently time stopping has side effects. "So -- is all this suffering worth it? Does it make anything better? It's like a wheel going around and around, but the big secret is how easy it is to just put your hand on that wheel and stop it. I won't say it doesn't hurt. But it only hurts once, then never aga -"

"in," Ritsue says as she looks suddenly breathless.

Minagi's gaze turns from the boss to look at Anise...

That was probably a mistake.

The box came out, and before Minagi's gaze could turn back, the hatred...the suffering...the pure NEGITIVEITY in one little girl was released at point blank on Minagi at once. It was overwhelming, painful...Minagi couldn't even see Anise was like she was suddenly unimportant due to their being a god like figure kicking their asses. Minagi's body was thrown like a ragdoll into a wall, hitting it with a sickening thud and rolling onto the god. Slowly, standing up, Minagi coughs, but luckily no blood came out.

Minagi still doesn't get angry, she stands, slowly, bracing herself. "Do you think this is going to stop us?" she says, softly, "From stopping you...or saving Maki? You think this darkness is all that uncommon?" She says, her face obscured for just a moment. You haven't killed anyone yet!

Then, of the people that saved her from her own personal darkness releases the light, and Minagi looks up. "H-hinata!" she cries out, surprised. "Ooo...that makes my insides feel better." She says, throwing off the negitivity. "PERSONA! FINAL STRIKE!" she calls out, pointing towards Aki. "If you won't give up these thoughts! Then we'll just have to show you how serious we are! NOTHING WILL STOP US!"

COMBAT: Minagi Shimizu hits Maki Sonomura with her Primal Force attack.

Running toward the DVA System do-do-do-dooo. Hoping not to get turned into fine paste da-da-da-daaaa. Well, how bad could it possibly be really? The majority of the assault team had gone that way, and it had been a while too. It was probably all over alrea-


"Huh. I guess they ran into a bit of a snag." mused Himeru, letting Hinata and Itsuka go ahead first. "Um, technically, this is their own world, Itoh-chan. We're the invading force." she points out, not terribly loudly but pointed out all the same. Eyes sweep to see the people there, trying to assess their status and what was needed to be done essencially. Little Aki is seen, for better or worse. Anise is getting the anger of Souji, so the archer girl probably did something foolish. Her problem.

She watches Itsuka and Hinata rush forward, emboldened by their success against Dark O perhaps. Where they go to attack, Hime watches. Assesses the situation. She listens, unwilling to commit to the fight simply because others have.

The wooden weapon is lowered to the ground for now, the bloodied bokken not yet needed. They need to get to the system, and she can sort of guess Aki is trying to bar the way? But why? Ritsue's questions are something she would want to hear the answer before considering her own actions. She didn't see her lips move though, did Rits-san become PSYCHIC?

Shiori fell to her knees once again, as the box was opened and Bad Stuff was released.

This was... familiar. What Aki was saying was familiar. All the little bad thoughts and nasty emotions, bottled up tight, kept away from the face presented to the world, hidden behind the mask.

The world changed again, to another illusion, of some sort of cafeteria, and Shiori glanced around blearily. Where was this place? It didn't look familiar. Had she ended up in this cafeteria somehow and spaced out? No, this was just an illusion, it wasn't real, it wasn't /real/...

What /was/ real? What everyone else saw, or what was inside? If you never took off the mask, would the mask become yourself?

But... Shiori had faced this before. She had seen the cost of conforming to the mask, and so when Aki added her own brand of magic to the assault by the box, she let it wash over her, protected by...

... her Persona, Pheme, shielding Shiori with her wings, enduring, and slamming some of the magic back towards its source, even as both Persona and user faltered in pain...

More illusions. Was that Hinata? And Itsuka? And... no, they had to be illusions, they couldn't be here.

So tired.

COMBAT: Shiori Hibiki hits Maki Sonomura with her Bewilder attack.

Under normal circumstances there would be an overwhleming presense that fills everyone's minds as Hideo Aratami approaches, but considering the entire party is in the belly of the beast right now and Aki herself is here his own obnoxiously loud Shadow aura is more than likely drowned out.

Instead, the first sign that the group fighting to save Lunarvale will get that there's a rogue Shadow on the loose in Rebellion HQ is when it SHOWS UP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROOM. Hideo Aratami bursts in through one of the cafeteria's entrances in all of his Shadow-possessed glory: a gleaming halo shining piously around his head while a pool of oily darkness at his feet crawls up his legs and tries to engulf him. His golden eyes scan the room, trying to figure out which is the girl who needs to be savaged to destroy Mikage-cho.

The one holding Pandora's box seems like as good a bet as any. This is a world dominated by demons and shadows, or so it seems to Hideo, so the wave of intensively negative feelings radiating off of the girl and her box make her as bright a beacon as the one floating around his head.

He snarls with rage as he blasts across the room on a wave of the same oily fluid that threatens to consume his lower body. A chunk of metal in his hand, stolen from Dark O's command chair, is raised over his head as he prapares to mindlessly beat the little girl, projecting all of his frustration over Itsuka onto the child.

Really, Shadow-possessed are not the best cavalry to have supporting you.

COMBAT: Hideo Aratami hits Maki Sonomura with his Strike Attack - Staffs attack.

Fumiya is not far behind Hinata and friends, and only stalls a moment to take in what he's seeing. Thora told him that they needed everyone's help to beat this, and despite just being another face on the front lines, Fumiya doesn't feel a bit of irritation. Months ago that would have infuriated him, but there's bigger things going on here than his ego. He's just here to do what he can!

He's quick to spot the faces he recognizes, though, and speaks up before getting a good look at their condition. "Yukiko-babe, Chie-babe, sorry we're late! Shiki's... uh... Darko guy held us up a bit."

Oh crap, speaking of which, Fumiya spins around as Itsuka immediately jumps into attack mode. "Take it easy, Itsuka-babe. I ain't gonna say anything like you should stay out of it and leave it to us, but don't go overboard yeah?" He very nearly mentions the terrible wound she suffered, but kept himself from doing so at the last minute. No need to let Aki think his concern is anything more than thick-headed chivalry, she doesn't need to know she's specifically hurt.

"Alright, so... hey, I got nothing to add here. Except that these past two weeks have been one crazy ride and I'm more than ready to get off, and I'm also more than ready to force you to stop it." Fumiya snaps his fingers, sending Murugan after Aki. "You're outnumbered now, so just give it up!" Murugan dashes towards Aki, flaming lances ready to strike.

COMBAT: You have missed Maki Sonomura with your Heat Wave attack.

Anise uses the truth to layer manipulations on top of manipulations. Anise prides herself on being able to be honest because it is an exceptionally difficult thing to be when you want to get other people to do things. 'The truth I say isn't the truth you hear', after all. And it is days like these that a small part of Anise wishes that she just wasn't so very good at what she does, because it brings her physical pain.

Then she tells that small part to get stuffed.

The only reason that Anise's chest is not cleaved cleanly through by Chie's almighty toe is because of the way that Alecto descends upon Anise. Wrapping her bladed wings about her like a protective cacoon, there is that moment where time seems to stand still, wherein Anise can see that foot as if it wasn't really moving at all. The knowledge dawns on her. It is not 'this will suck'. It is not, 'I shouldn't have done that'. It is 'It worked, now Aki may be able to win'. Because she knows that Chie is the start. There will be others.

The impact sends Anise, Alecto, and all flying down the corridor out of control. She hits the back wall hard enough to be pasted against it in defiance of gravity for a full fifteen seconds, giving Souji all the time that he needs to prepare and rush her. Souji lays into her, over and over again while Izanagi's spear pins her to the wall itself. The wall behind Anise becomes slick with her blood and the continual slashes just send more of the stuff scattering across the floor. After Souji finally stops, Anise's head just lulls backwards and she drools blood while her eyes just attempt to lock onto Souji's.

"So... that's what was needed for you to finally take me seriously... ha... ha h-" Anise hurks, and vomits a mixure of her breakfast and blood on Souji's feet. Anise doesn't bother to wipe her mouth. "As far as calculated risks go... that wasn't s-so bad, you know?" The archer's brows furrow and she says with genuine confusion, "But what are you so angry about?"

Anise slips a leg upwards against the wall and inhales. She counts inwardly, cycling breathes and then suddenly rips herself free of Izanagi's spear. It is not a pretty sight to behold. She half runs, half lopes down the hallway, selecting her targets on the fly. She's not going to last like this, she knows. But if Aki is to stand a chance, then she herself must not. There are two ways to take this; as extreme loyalty to a cause or as a dangerously cavalier attitude with one's own life.


With this mighty shout, Alecto roars back into being, twirling around in a pirouette above Anise. Barbs and blades leap off of her wings, flinging outwards in multiple directions. Anise doesn't aim at people so much as in their vague direction. It's suprisingly effective in some cases, and not at all in others.

COMBAT: Anise Thompson misses Souji Seta with her Arrow Rain attack.
COMBAT: Anise Thompson hits Chie Satonaka with her Arrow Rain attack.
COMBAT: Anise Thompson hits Yukiko Amagi with her Arrow Rain attack.
COMBAT: Anise Thompson hits Arisa Shiratori with her Arrow Rain attack.
COMBAT: Chie Satonaka hits Anise Thompson with her Counter counterattack.

Aki's talking. Chie's not even listening. Someone attacked Yukiko. Someone ATTACKED /YUKIKO/, right in front of her. Sure, they left her alone, but Chie had just...

Her princess is in trouble. Her princess is afraid. And her princess is--

Tomoe shouts out in her heart. Chie's body can't move. So this is----this is the kind of /creature/ they're dealing with? She can't move, it's's like time really is frozen. Five horrible seconds while the only thing she can think on, act with, is the scream of Tomoe in her heart.

Chie spins away from Anise in the middle of her followthrough on punting her clear across the room, and lunges across the distance between her and Yukiko, leaping that gap in a blink with the power of Tomoe. They're coming - that miasma of fury, of sorrow, of bitterness and greed, and Chie plants herself on her knee, tired from running across the whole damn room every three seconds. But she looks up, her fingers resting on the rims of her glasses, and yells, "PROTECT US, TOMOE!"

Tomoe bursts out of her body, a shining guardian in yellow and black, and darts forward /INTO/ the mass, her naginata flailing and with quick, precision strikes, slices through bad feelings of hate and loneliness with a scythe of the heart, Chie gritting her teeth and hoping to hell this wasn't the stupidest thing she's ever done. The yelly sweary lady is right, she thinks. All that bitch wants is--

Attention, she thinks, as she yells out from an arrow slamming her in the shoulder. Of course it wasn't over. She shoves to her feet. Tomoe is busy with parrying hate with a sword, the arrows are Chie's problem. Sadly she is not as good at it as Tomoe is - she arcs forward with her feet, hopping back and forth quickly. One stabs her in the side, but she yanks it out, and then two more are coming and she whips her feet in the air, kicking them both with dangerously close to poor timing. She backflips, lands on her hands, spikes two more arrows back into the air, then somersalts again and in midair snaps another handful from the sky, and while she's still tumbling, she spins another foot through the air and yells "Come here! TOMOE!"

The apparition sparks and vanishes from where it is as the onslaught from Pandora's Box ends, and Tomoe bursts out of Chie's soul, and shoots forward like a rocket, swinging her naginata hard, the sheer force of the swing sending the arrows rocketing toward Anise.

Less than a tenth of a second after they get there, Tomoe apears, and swings her heat naginata upward, sheering the archer toward the sky, then following up, racing after to spin around and KNOCK her into Aki, and the Samurai Bride blurs again --

And if all goes well, finishes it up by spiking the two right into the ground, hard enough to dig a shallow crater.

COMBAT: Chie Satonaka hits Maki Sonomura with her Rampage attack.
COMBAT: Chie Satonaka hits Anise Thompson with her Rampage attack.

A flood of sin and hate flowing over the world - and again, Yukiko finds herself spared from Maki's box of horrors. She really couldn't say what saved her; she felt the passing of knives go by her head, the waves of emotional anger, of misery, as if they were present right beside her - but it found no purchase in her heart and mind. There was a fuzzy feeling of disconnection threatening to seep into Yukiko's mind from the aftereffects of Anise's vital shot, and her clothes still were damp with her own blood - a slick look to it showing that she was still bleeding around the arrow embedded into her chest, if far more slowly, her life away.

Pale, shivering from shock and otherwise, Yukiko moves to rise to a stand anyways. "D... don't kill her!" she calls out weakly after Chie and Souji both, at the same moment that those further arrows from Alecto cut into her. Fumiya's arrival does draw her attention that way, and Yukiko lifts a hand to clasp around the arrow sticking from her. A smile of sorts, plays across her lips, and Yukiko glances towards Chie again, drawing a hand up to brush the locks of hair from her eyes. It... felt good to have a friend like Chie, it really did. All her friends here, Fumiya, Souji, Chie - it was the fate of Japan that they were fighting for, and Hinata's speech only cements that in her mind. It would be so easy to just rest for a while, but all her friends were fighting.

She should too.

Again pushing herself up to her feet, Yukiko wets her lips with her tongue, a pale look to her features. "You - have to stop this, Maki. It's hurting everyone, and even you...!" It sounded lame even in her own ears. Yukiko had no idea what to say to the girl, she really didn't even know her. "But if you will not stop - we will have to help stop you...!" Yukiko says, a certain fire rising in her resonance as Konohana Sakuya appears, and again, fire arcs towards the girl.

COMBAT: Yukiko Amagi hits Maki Sonomura with her Agidyne attack.

Arisa is knocked back by the explosion of hate pressed into Pandora's Box, each shard of hatred cutting into her skin and drawing blood. But when she looks up, instead of being relieved to see the 'calvary' (so to speak), she blinks. Then, she looks horrified as Minagi and then, the calvary, come in, understandably facing off against Aki. Hideo, however, takes the cake. "Aki! You've got to stop this! What's the use of dying here?! I don't care what part you are- You're still Maki!" She just looks lost, almost smaller as she collapses back, looking akin to the little crying girl in the hologram that was showing eariler.

She had failed. She may have convinced Mai (or maybe not?) but there was another self, one she hadn't managed to meet, that wasn't convinced. For her, it feels like a failure of major proportions, as if it was her *job*. And really, it was. "If you're angry, why not just use it on me?!? I'd understand it!" So much for 'fight against the foe' and almighty words like before. "You saw it, didn't you?! What I did on that bridge?! It wasn't like my *life* was threatened. No one *hurt* me. All it took was just a lot of words, a lot of pranks, *things*. Meanwhile, you were suffering on your own, back in Lunarvale..."

Then time freezes, thankfully, because of Ritsue. Words come to Arisa in a rush, barely comprehendible, but still... useful. In a way that Ritsue might not realize. "..... You're right, Ritsue-san..." The woman may not hear it, as she takes up her spear. "... I change my mind. Taking your anger won't make things better, Aki- if I have to defeat you here to be able to spend time with whole you again... I'll do it I'll meet you in the world outside- we'll have lunch under Agastya Tree, we'll catch up..." She raises her naginata. "If I have to come back here to make things better, I will! I'll find that third self!"

Charging, she cries out, revolving her naginata against Aki's form. She'll change it, no matter what it takes.

COMBAT: Arisa Shiratori hits Maki Sonomura with her Take My Revolution attack.

"Dark-O's failed...?" Aki asks, startled by Hinata's dramatic entry--and her allies following. Part of Aki wants to just give up and die, or something else. She's not sure.

Chie and Yukiko team up, igniting Aki on fire and then slamming her with a body. Oh, it's Anise. How terrible. Aki steadies her comrade, though whether this is a selfish desire of wanting someone to keep fighting for her, or because she's seriously losing, well--it's a mystery.

Pandora's box closes up and vanishes. Some of you might've seen a small glimpse of light inside that box, but it's gone for the moment. The assault has ended on her part.

Fumiya slams into Aki's shielding, as does Shiori's magic-- but Minagi hits it with a powerful strike, shattering it. She can't win, Aki realizes. She has to win. If she doesn't win, she won't get saved.

Itsuka starts singing. She doesn't want to hurt Itsuka. She likes Itsuka. Stop, she thinks, stop. Souji is shouting at Anise, but to her--it feels like he's calling her-- she doesn't like it, even if it's true.

Hideo smacks her upside the head. Aki says, "Strega..?" She asks, "Where is he...where's takaya... help me takaya..."

"I'll stop you any--"

Arisa slams her naginata through Aki, impaling her across the instrument. It's not a very pleasant thing to look at. Aki seems stricken--not destroyed, her eyes widening in pain. All the same, she doesn't seem pissed by it--she's angry. She's hurt. She starts crying.

"Arisa-Chan..." She says. "I..."

She slumps against Arisa's body, Ritsue's words hitting her. Using that power... just to talk to her. What the hell is she thinking? She's such an idiot, she thinks. Why is she doing that? Just to talk to her?

"You still...want to help..." She stammers, "I..." she looks up at the screens, the one which Dark-O used to taunt the party.

"Do you-- Maki, please...accept me."

Nothing comes on. As her power dies away, a second resonance is filling the room. A voice begs, 'Stay away!'.

Aki hangs her head. "Never... ever... But...thank you. Thank you, for this...moment."

She vanishes in a flash of darkness--with Anise.

The way is clear to save the world.

There are some really weird things going on, here. Ritsue...time...what? Itsuka's faint resonance sense tells her that this is a place of power, somehow, or just a lot of power is here, and she can hear Ritsue's voice out of somewhere. A wheel.

Himeru is behind her, cautious as usual it would seem, and Hideo's appearane up ahead draws her eyes, but Fumiya's words to her...she smiles over at him, giving him a nod. "Thanks...I'll be careful. I have to stay alive, anyway." What he says means a lot to her, and in all the chaos, she adds, "I never caught your name." She does /not/ hit him for calling her -babe. It's actually kind of nice, if weird. ...Not that it means anything. She already has somebody. And Hideo, but he doesn't count, right?

Itsuka feels for Aki, as she's over there, and she just looks so lost, doesn't she? The crying Aki makes the SEES member step forward, holding out a hand A second resonance....What? But that's not...that's not al of it.

"Aki..." Itsuka calls out as the girl disappears. "..It'll be okay, wherever you are. It will." Itsuka, though, sees the way clearly. She runs, as fast as she can run.

He's there.

Souji rushes out of the way of the arrows. After how painful they were last time, he wasn't looking forward to being struck again. Pursuing Anise, he's about to deliver another strike to her when he hears Ritsue's words. She was right. As dear as his friend was to him, the fate of the world did indeed matter more than some petty vengeance. She had another point, though. The foreign archeress would need to dealth with somehow.

Fortunately, Tomoe helps in the process of killing two nihilistic birds with one stone by taking Anise on a painful flight for Aki. The arrival of reinforcements helping to defeat her was, of course, a welcome sight. Wait, is one of them a Shadow Possessed? No matter. There are bigger problems at hand.

Or were there? As Aki's anger ends and she disperses with Anise, a bittersweet expression upon his face. "Aki," he calls out gently, "if you can hear me, I'm sorry."

He takes a moment to catch his breath and regain a look of confidence before tuning his attention to the others. "Is everyone alright? The DVA should be just ahead! We take care of that and we make sure this nightmare never happens again."

Minagi watches...

She feels sad, but she knows that there was no other way. It is sad that this was the only path. Of course, she looks sideways at Hideo, considering just attacking him to try and distract him. Maybe if he does something, she thought, but for now...

Minagi runs towards the way to save this world, not that she would know WHAT to do...

Ritsue doesn't know what she's doing, she's just winging it. Ironically this may work better when you have an ill defined, dreamy mandate.

She breathes in and out regularly. All of this, she thinks, recalling her own words about karma, just a few moments ago. Is it...

She swallows once. Her mouth feels dry again, which is actually kind of familiar. The surreal violence and arrival of the others is almost a blur. On some level, she feels exhausted; suddenly and decisively drained. She wants them to stay away; the girl in there is lonely but scared as well.

All I wanted to do, Ritsue Tetsumoto thinks as she fumbles into her pocket, looking at the far end of the holographic chamber, is to make music that stirred people's hearts - made them happy. She draws the thing out.

The light sparkles on the surface of the small mirror of the compact.

Maybe, Ritsue thinks, it's already ending. Oh well: "No, man. Not unless he's there." The sparkle on the compact's surface clusters for a moment, then bursts out again with another of those momentary radiances of a thousand suns:

"Erusaer Tsymmom."

The doorway parts, and perhaps something else behind it, and ahead of it. Ritsue walks forwards, wiping sweat from her forehead as she goes. "Maybe this is just from stopping time," she mutters, to nobody in particular."

By the time that Anise('s body) smashes into Aki courtesy of Chie, she is less a person and more of a 'sack of meat'. She isn't even concious anymore by the time she hits the ground. But three things are for certain as she disappears into the darkness.

1) Bitch be crazy.

2) Bitch has/had a pair.

3) Anise is not going to be happy when she wakes up.

She had her bat in one hand, her evoker in the other. She was ready for anything Aki would throw at them. She was tough, she was going to be ornery, but this was one fight that...

... she didn't exactly have to fight. "Aki!" Even if it was Arisa defending everyone, she couldn't help it. Aki didn't deserve this, she didn't deserve the pain. The little girl calls out, and then vanishes.

Hina stands there for a moment. She catches a sniffle. "I'm sorry I didn't come fast enough, Aki, but... I hope you get my invite. The Lucky 7 will always be open for all of you, and so will my heart."

One rub of her eye, and she's off after Itsuka. "C'mon, everyone! Last one to the DVA System buys the slushies!"

"Fumiya." He says to Itsuka. He chuckles lightly to himself when he realizes that the thought of someone /not/ knowing his name no longer bugs him. At least, not like it used to. Besides, Itsuka's had a /tad/ much on her plate lately, it's cool.

When Aki vanishes, Fumiya just frowns. "That seemed too easy... well, even though we arrived late. Stay on your toes everyone, we dunno what else might get thrown at us..." Looking ahead to where everyone seems to think this 'DVA' is, he shrugs. "Just for the record I have no idea what needs to be done here so... if it's not wanton destruction of some huge power source resulting in a sweet explosion I'll just let the super-tech savvy people do their thing."

He still quickly heads to the DVA System, though. Because A) He wants to see it, and B) Like hell he's buying slushies!

Someone else can save the world. All Shiori wanted to do was go to sleep.

Maybe she can join Wataru, and then she can keep talking at him, try to convince him to come back, come back to the real world, everything's better here, except for the hurting and aching and deep, heart-rending pain...

Wait, that was /precisely/ what she wasn't supposed to do. She had to remain conscious, because going to sleep here and now would mean Bad Things. Quite a lot of bad things, really.

She had to live. For Yuuka, for Wataru, for everyone she had, against all expectations, managed to make some sort of connection with, for better or for worse.

And certainly for Aki, because despite how much Shiori /hated/ that little girl, she was damn well not going to die until she could make sure Wataru's wish came true, for Aki to finally be accepted, to /belong/.

Shiori dragged herself to her feet, yet again. Everyone else was heading towards the DVA System. Probably no way for Shiori to catch up to them, and she didn't feel like bothering anyway.

She needed someone to lean on, just for a moment, for support, until she got her strength back. Someone she trusted enough to-

Shiori hobbled over to Souji, a questioning look on her face. What's the plan now, leader? How do we stop the DVA System?

Hey, it's that boy again! The one who likes Itsuka but has Shadow issues. She won't question why he's helping right now, probably has her reasons.

Himeru observes for the time being. She had chosen to witness rather than assault, witness Anise do something horribly painful looking for the sake of...for what, really? No idea. But it must have been a strong belief, a purpose, something. She doesn't know. Aki however is recieving the full brunt of the assaults. This, she realises, makes her sad. One girl fighting against so many, she wondered how lonely that must feel. She didn't look angry or cocky or anything that would befit an angry goddess, perhaps it was the look on Aki's face that made Hime feel this sadness.

But she isn't dead. Gone, but hopefully will survive. Anise seems to have been swallowed by the power of teleportation too, maybe. The Gekkoukan student lost track of that archer girl, and she knows her eyesight isn't that tired to do such a foolish mistake.

Hinata's exhuberance causes her to frown, gaze momentarily turned toward the newly opened path thanks to Ritsue. "Itoh-chan, this isn't a race. Go with caution." she calls out, bloody sword on her shoulder as something in her mind feels not quite right. Her eyes trail again on that angry young man who seems to have a thing for Itsuka, something's itching in her memory-

'Allowing anyone to reach the DVA system will affect change'

Pieces fit together, scenarios envisioned: Not good. "Sorry, Itsu." is mumbled under her breath, before the blood on the weapon accelerates and swirls. "Hannya!"

The Persona materialises, the wooden weapon pointed at the young man. "STRIKE!" is the command, causing the masked demon to rush forward to quite plainly punch him in the ribs. Nothing fancy. She's no mindreader, nor is she a Seer, but she knew what had to be done. "Everyone! Go! NOW!" she yells rather than try to explain as she runs to position herself in a way that would cut off Hideo from the newly opened path.

COMBAT: Himeru Namikawa hits Hideo Aratami with her Kill Rush attack.

Chie is appeased by the sight of Aki exploding, and taking turbobitch with her.

Didn't she recognize that punk? No matter. Chie sighs, and slumps over toward Yukiko as everyone starts running. She offers her shoulder, saying, "C'mon. We've got one last push to make, Yukiko." She gives the girl a sad, tense little smile. "We're not done yet. When we are...when we're out of here, we can rest."

A pause, as everyone runs. " want me to carry you? I'm totally not buying slushies for a hundred people."

And finally, Ritsue's compact guides the group to their destination... They run past several doors marked with original names like "LABORATORY #7" and the such... and finally, they reach... LABORATORY X.

The large, metallic doors slide open.

He's here.

More accurately, as people will see when they enter, /they're/ here. Inside a futuristic-looking machine-- don't think about it too hard, it's probably the form the thing takes in this base or something --sleep peacefully two teenagers. Shiki Ichimonji is inside a glass tube facing the door, exactly as he was left two weeks ago. This meants torn clothes, some still bloodied, but there are no obvious wounds left on him. ...Oh, aside from a sizeable scar on the skin over his sternum. That one's new.

On the other side, facing away from the door in a similar glass coffin, hooked up to a series of tubes and wires, is Maki Sonomura. The real deal, this time... Hopefully.

Now, the question is... how do you get them out? Chances are it won't be as simple as breaking the machine, will it?

Before anyone can ponder this any further however, Screens flicker on around the room, displaying some sort of security camera footage. The room displayed is very similar to the one the group is inside of, but inside it, Net, hacker of the Secret Rebellion, can be seen typing at a large console. Captain R, arms crossed, can be seen standing behind him. The only thing visible is his back.

"There's no doubt, Captain. The machine is projecting some sort of reality-altering field. The boy's is smaller, but it seems to be interfering with the girl's somehow."
"Does that include...?"
"...Yes, even us."
"The Rebel... and the one those kids are looking for... Must be that boy, then."
"Yeah. But waking him up might end the projection, which means... ... What do we do, Captain?"

"And if they ask, what do we tell them?"
"Nothing. We haven't seen the boy, do you hear me?"
"...Captain, why?"

There's a long silence.

"Because sometimes, even heroes fear death."

The two Secret Rebellion members suddenly turn to the side, as if seeing something.

"Oh my god! How long have you been here?"

A small child's voice chimes in from offscreen.

"...Heroes don't lie. Heroes aren't afraid of anything, and... and... HEROES DON'T CRY!"

The screens flicker off.

Hideo would probably have kept wailing with that chunk of chair if not for Aki and Anise disappearing. As it stands he hangs there for a moment panting, looking for all intents and purposes like some sort of deranged serpentine Jesus the way he's lifted slightly off the ground by his shadow. She mentioned Takaya, she wanted Takaya... that's weird. But it's also unerlated to the fact that Mikage-cho /still exists/ and that bothers Shadow Hideo on a fundamental level.

The door is open. Hinata beckons for them to go and finish... whatever it is that needs to be finished, and the twisted hero is more than willing to do his part to 'save' Lunarvale by breaking what needs to be broken. He's about to rush away to lay the Shadow-berserked smackdown on whatever is at the end of the rabbit hole when...

He's punched clean out of his blob of tainted water. The boy tumbles across the floor of the danger room and impacts the far wall with a crunch, Hideo's previous perch splashing to the ground and dissolving in a thick cloud of greasy, black smoke. "...get out of my way!" he growls at Himeru and her ogre, his attention entirely diverted by the suddenly assault. You've gotta love instincts for being so darn exploitable sometimes.

The Shadow-possessed boy rushes at his aggressor, black smoke pouring out of his hands, congealing into the same oily substance as before in his hands. He throws a hand out and the liquid leaps off in a torrent, trying to knock the girl down and maybe drown her a little.

COMBAT: Hideo Aratami misses Himeru Namikawa with his Aqua attack.

Yukiko manages to smile towards Chie as her friend comes closer, waving off the offer of help. "Carrying me would be..." Yukiko begins, a tired little laugh leaving her. Reaching up her hand to Chie's shoulder, Yukiko squeezes softly there, leaning heavily upon her friend. "Let's get there, together, Chie?" Yukiko says, glancing towards her again.

"A little while longer, then," she says, biting upon her lower lip and glancing towards the entryway everyone was rushing towards. "You were... uh... very cool, Chie," Yukiko says, hobbling along with her friend down the entryway. "...thank you."

They can save the world, but at what cost? When Arisa beared her naginata finally towards Aki, she felt she was on the right side. The right decision.

She begins to doubt herself when she sees the results. A crying, hurt little Maki, rejected and alone, pained. "....." Arisa's body shakes at Aki's look. ".... Aki.... chan...." Arisa's naginata is released from the girl's hands, now allowed to stay in Aki's body. "Onee-san..." When Aki slumps against her, Arisa kneels down and holds her in a tight hug. "I'm sorry... I'm so sorry..."

Did she do the right thing? She thought it was for the best. So why does she...?

When Aki disappears and the naginata clatters to the ground, Arisa kneels over like a pocket knife, beginning to sob quietly.

Olrun prods her, inside her head. Go. Go. Get up. Don't cry. Go. The words become a mantra, forcing Arisa to her feet and stumbling forward into the room, behind everyone else. "...."

Maki. The real one. "....." The rest seems to fade out for her, words barely comprehending. The other... That guy... He's responsible for Captain Rebellion?

"It's all a facade." Another voice pipes in. "Even Shiki... even Shiki has these sides to him. He is so cool--I thought he was unbeatable. He could work on his art, but--his confidence..."

The voice apparently belongs to a bunny, which appears on its own television screen--no wait, the white rabbit in a doctor's outfit, behind him--a familiar face interposed--clearly Maki's face, but there's a Mask on it too.

"Philemon. I dreamt of him. He told me that we all wear masks. My masks are so hideous... but I wondered if maybe--maybe my face was it."

The Tubed Maki is stirring.

Dr. Fuzzles vanishes, the masked Maki remaining on the television screen. "You've seen so much of me...of us. Why do you keep insisting--That you accept me? Or us?"

"How can I accept her?" True Maki says. "It's so scary. You--you know shit about me I didn't even know myself! So stop...stop looking at me. Arisa--stop...Ritsue--stop... please. Go away--"

They're all coming. Himeru stayed back to guard the way, but Itsuka doesn't stop. She gives her friend a nod, not really comprehending, and keeps on going. Through the labs, through anything at all, until she reaches what she's looking for Who she's looking for. The doors slide open, and Itsuka rushes inside, only stopping once she looks around and sees. ...Two people. Maki...But Shiki! "SHIKI!" With a cry, Itsuka runs up to the glass case, placing her hand on it, looking over those torn clothes and that...that scar....

That scar that she put there.

The screens turn on, and Itsuka, not sure yet how she's going to get him out, looks around. (Can't just chop it, really, he's doing somehing!) So many things...And the story of what Ikki told her he'd seen finally plays out before her eyes. She can only stare a moment, and then the screens do flicker right back off, and the SEES member turns to face the tubes again.

Maki, too...Itsuka puts her hand against the glass one moer time, and doesn't bring it down. "Heroes can cry...It's okay...I came for you. Please...Please wake up..." She keeps her eyes open, but it's hard to see through the blur. She finally found him. "I missed you...I know you were doing something important here, you wanted to help her..."

And Maki is talking, the Tubed one there and then she's appeared on the screen. Masks...hearing about something... "It's okay. I'm here for you, too." She doesn't understand the rabbit, but..."You picked well with him, you know? He's got a dark side, but that doesn't mean I don't still care about him. ..So..." What now?

Souji looks to Shiori uncertainly, but says, "Well, there are people connected to the DVA. If we figured out how to disconnect them safely, this all should end, I think." He really didn't know, but he was using the magical powers of common sense. The sound of fighting, however, promptly draws his attention away.

The Inaban was for the most part resonance-deaf, though he could tell without a doubt that Hideo's form was that of a Shadow Possessed. Himeru was engaging him, and he wasn't about to object. It probably was a bad idea for something like that to get close to the machine. "If you're sure," he nods firmly to the Gekkoukan first year, "Thank you, and be careful."

He begins to move along with the others, turning his attention to Chie and the now carried Yukiko, "I'm glad you two are alright. I'm sorry. I should have been more careful dealing with her." Souji's expression was faintly rueful. Even though she was a turbobitch, he couldn't help but feel responsible for that mess.

As the monitors flicker on, Souji doesn't watch, but he does listen. Could it be that Shiki was the second manipulator of the DVA that Kandori mentioned? He stops to watch as he hears Maki's familiar voice. "We all have these sides within ourselves," Souji speaks calmly, "and they all seem like the most hideous beings in the world to us. Yet, we cannot change them until we accept them. I don't, we don't, think any less of you after seeing Aki, or any other part of you. We're all like that in some ways." He should know. He goes through stuff like that at around a monthly basis or so.

Ritsue lets herself be faintly miserable on the way in. These kids shouldn't be here, she thinks. Some of them are going to die. The odds are some of them /have/ died and she just didn't see it, and she doesn't know how well the compact would work. She's on the last dregs anyway. Why do /they/ have to eat this shit? Even the evil ones.

Like the one Himeru engaged.

As she comes into the chamber, the tubes are almost unsurprising - it makes sense for a dream of this kind. She turns to regard the figure on the television screen, and for a moment, a word - philemon? - crosses her mind. But...

Whoever that is, this is Maki, now. Her arms fold them, raising up to her forehead, and partly covering her eyes... but despite this, she smiles. Gently. "Our own faces are a big mysterious mask unless we have a mirror to look in."

She breathes in then out, once. "... or something. Maki - it's scary, but everything is, if you look for something to get scared about, you know? All we want to do here, all of us - RIGHT?" General address there, "is to help you, so you can get out of there."

Chie's tired too. Yukiko leans against her shoulder, and Chie slings an arm around her back, supporting her in turn. "C'mon," she says, picking up the pace a little. "We can't be last to the save-the-world party, right?"

She charges down the halls. Yukiko's with her. It doesn't matter if they stack a dozen Gigas' on top of each other and call it the Doom Tower - Yukiko's here with her. Leader's fighting. Everyone's here. But there's thing, isn't there? And it might be one thing Chie is wholly unequipped to help with. Aki was right about one thing; Maki had largely vanished from Chie's life, after that day. But maybe that's OK?

They show up in time to watch Captain R's broadcast. And then she shows up, too - Maki, broadcasting from...somewhere, maybe here, this place no longer needs to obey anyone's rules.

"Shiki-san," she breathes, seeing him in the tube. "And Sonomura-san. God, is that what this whole thing is? Some kind of..."

She shakes her head, brain full of fuzz. "It's like the TV all over again. So this is what's at the heart of it."

She doesn't address Maki. What could she even say? She staggers forward, trying to see through the crowd - worried, but not sure what to do with it.

She was the fastest sprinter on the baseball team, and a good one on the track team. Hinata, however, seems to be tagging behind Itsuka the whole way in. Even if Himeru's words were true, there wasn't anything left that was going to stop SEES from making it to Shiki. Kandori himself would be facing the wrong end of a baseball bat if he tried stopping them. They were almost there. For Itsuka and Shiki - for the world - she had to make it.

As fate would have it, there was nothing in the way. Hina comes to a skidding stop as they make it inside. "Shiki!" He's right there. She almost has half a mind to race up and hug his casing. "Itsuka-chan, we- uh-" He's not alone either. "Maki?" Ah, thank you, Net for the timely explanation. "W-Whoa."

Hina catches her fellow valkyrie's pause, but her teammates needs her more. She's right there again, putting her hand on the tube alongside the other girl's. "I think he knows, Itsuka-chan. In fact, I know he knows. He'll be here soon enough, don't worry."

Hinata faces the nearest screen with knitted brows at first. Great, they really were in Wonderland all along. Only it wasn't a rabbit. "Maki." Her tone is solid and unwavering. "Itsuka-chan's right, you really did find a true hero in Shiki. He was there with me when I faced down my greatest nightmare: The Shadow of my Nee-chan. My sister means more to me than anything in the world, and what she said... they still hurt."

"But I still accepted hers." Her head raises, her smile only broadening. "I accepted hers, and I've accepted Shinjiro-senpai's, and I don't care who has what ugly side they want to hide. I don't care!" She really doesn't if her confidence is any indication. "There's still someone special in you, Maki, someone who adores Shiki's work and loves angstya trees and toy mice and has a little teddie they love! I can accept you for what you are, and what you can be! I... I believe in you too, Maki!"

Minagi listens...

She is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but she knows enough of what is going on to understand.

"Maki. We all have these sides to ourselves. Darker things that we hide, it doesn't make you makes you...a person. You know my history...I am hardly in a position to judge, but I am willing to help...that is why we are here isn't it? So come on." Minagi says.

"Also, Shiki is pretty cool, I guess. I mean, Captain R was basicly the best guy ever."

All those voices around him... Inside the tube, Shiki stirs.

There are a few new arrivals in the room where DVA is located. Standing in the doorframe, behind everyone else, a mysterious trio pushes their way in... It's Captain R, Dark O and Ikki! The former two are both unmasked, and eerily enough for those who haven't seen them yet, they both share Shiki Ichimonji's face. That guy's EVERYWHERE.

Captain R, now apparently back from the dead, is helping the bloodied Dark O walk in while ten year-old Ikki walks forward and puts his hands on the glass. "Wooooah, it's him! Hey, you can be my Big Bro!"

But something else comes on TV, and he looks up to the screen with the masked Maki on it. He points. "Hey, I want to help you too! You can be my Big Sis! You're not alone, you know!"

The other two Shikis walk further behind him. Captain R speaks up. "But first, let's reunite with him." His nemesis, now suddenly seeming a lot... friendlier, chimes in. "Yeah, we're about ready to be a happy family again." He casts a glance to the Captain. "...Tch, you really are an amazing guy, aren't you?" Ikki nods. "Right! Wake up, Big Bro!"

The young boy puts his hands against the glass again. A second later, the three shapes suddenly vanish, as if fading away into the mist.

Shiki's eyes open. The glass tube slides apart, freeing him.

Hazily, mouth agape, he looks at the people assembled around him. ...Some familiar, some he'd never seen, some he'd never met but now felt like he knew a lot better... And friends, too. That's important. He blinks a few times, his eyes finally landing on Itsuka. He opens his mouth further, speaking for the first time in two weeks, voice weak.

"...what's with the hair?"

Minagi Shimizu interupts the pose order to be sassy, "She had a moment of teenage rebelliousness."

In spite of the fact that it hurt a little to laugh still, Yukiko laughs anyways, a peal of laughter as she moves with Chie after the rest. "No - none of us should be," Yukiko says, glancing significantly from Chie towards Souji. "You did the best you could, with what you had, senpai. Can we really... ow, do much better?" Yukiko says, still leaning upon Chie.

One would suspect that the arrow wound that Anise had inflicted would put a damper on the Amagi heir's day, and well... it did, but still. Yukiko couldn't be happier. Chie would fight for her, and so would Souji - Yukiko couldn't let them down, not for a single second.

Upon arriving at the broadcast area, Yukiko's own face grows puzzled, her brow furrowing a fair bit. "I think we were right before - it /is/ just like the TV world..." Yukiko says in a quieter voice, mostly to Chie and Souji. For the most part, however, the Amagi heir remains silent, just watching the event play out. One hopes that she wouldn't have to fight again.

That's right. Everyone...there's so much here, and it's nothing that has to hold anyone back. Itsuka wishes that Maki could be happy, too, but for right now...

Itsuka keeps looking at the glass, giving Hinata a nod without really looking at her. She hears the voices of Shiki from behind, though, glancing down at Ikki with a final smile. "...Thank you..." She's so glad that all of them are alright, even if...Reuniting.

Shiki opens his eyes, and comes out of the glass. he gets a second to look around, too, and then he asks Itsuka that silly, silly little question that makes her smile. "It um. It was for a costume. ...But, I don't need it anymore." Her weapons clatter back to the floor, and she moves forward to wrap Shiki in the best hug she can manage.

"I missed you so much..." She is going to just flat-out cry on him whether he likes it or not. There is little else that she can actually find the words to say.

"I hurt other people. I made them scared." Maki murmurs. She reaches for the mask and removes it, tears falling down from her eyes. "I'm so sorry... The DVA System is out of control--I thought--thought it could help. I thought we could all live in a dream world and be happy...but you wouldn't be happy that way, would you?"

The TV shuts off, The tube Maki is in opens. She sits up, rubbing at her eyes. She's still hooked up to the thing.

"TV world...?" She asks, "...I remember...being in there once, we left Thora inside but she must've gotten out. That was Aki--me..." She shakes her head, "This is just like that isn't it...?"

She curls up, hugs her legs, and says, "Shiki-San. Thank you. I'm really sorry for putting you through this." She smiles, "I... I really like your manga. It's so stupid." She seems to mean it, and she turns her gaze to Arisa, Ritsue, and Souji.

"The DVA System is out of control--and I'll...I'll help you guys out, okay? It'll be fine. If I just--leave it here, I have to take responsibility for what I've done and make sure nobody can use this again."

She lowers her head, "So--Thank you. Thank you for finding me. I'll--I'll come by the Lucky Seven, just like I promised and--"

They've returned! Hinata spins about to watch the happy family enter, eyes widening. It would've been a little unsettling to see Dark O genuinely happy and not psychotically happy, but she had an inkling of what was coming next. Its what's preventing her from asking them what took them so long.

There is a moment, however, where her hopeful gaze falters. It was hard to let go of them, especially Ikki and Dark O. "Goodbye," she whispers as the little one places his hands on the tube. It really wasn't, however, was it.

She can be patient. Itsuka's waited two weeks for this, she deserves first dibs. Hinata stands there, watching watery eyed as she silently counts to herself: One one thousand two one thousand three one thousand screw it ten one thousand. "SHIKI!" One clatter of bat and evoker and a near flying tackle and the reunited pair are now a reunited trio beneath a giant blue '51'.

Oops. "M-Maki!" She's not letting go of her friends, but she can't help but to smile tearfully at the girl as well. "Its- Its OK! You can come by anytime, even the Dark Hour!" Now if you'll excuse her, she has friends to bury her face into again.

Just go away. Don't look at her.

"... No."

Arisa's lips set firmly. "You need to accept her. She's a part of you as much as anyone else. She's the part that housed everything you disliked, but she also housed a part who defended me when I couldn't defend myself. She's not perfect, but... neither am I." She reaches towards the screen. "Come back to us.... oneesan...." tears stain her cheeks. "I came to help you, but I can't wake you myself..."

"If no one else will, I'll accept you. Just as long as you accept yourself. The good and the bad. It's not about who's good or who's bad. It's about trying to do the right thing."

When the tube opens, Arisa turns. "Maki-san!" She looks at her sempai, hesitant to hug her in case it would hurt her through all the tubes. "Onee-san..." She frowns. "Are you going to do this all yourself? That's not fair!"

Ritsue breathes in and out and glances at the others, pausing perhaps for a moment at Arisa, and then the cluster of people from the hick town.

Then she crouches down near the curled-up Maki, resting her ass on her heels again for a moment. "Oi, Maki," she says. "You don't have to do it. Let them get you out of here. Tell me where the guts of it are." She thumps her chest with one fist gently. "I'll take it out."

Minagi gives the hugging bunch a smile... However, Minagi turns her gaze towards....

Minagi isn't sure what to say here. "Taking it all on yourself is the same as running away Maki. What can we do to help to try and make this machine start working again? Does it take a wrench? I heard Kandori saying something about hitting things with a wrench once." She says, half serious.

Minagi frowns again... and looks at Rituse, "I can help with that too."

Souji nods to Chie and Yukiko as they reassure him, then turns his attention promptly to the tube Maki is in as she's released.

"Ma-er, Sonomura-san," he finally gets it in his head that he should be adressing her formally. As she explains what she'll do to help, Souji nods with a smile, "Thank you, but you don't need to bear all the burden yourself. Is there anything more we can do to help you? I can't help but feel like we owe it to you somehow." He looks to Ritsue at her suggestion, then back to Maki, "If that would work, then that would be great, yes."

The DVA System, finally exposed. Shiki and Maki inside, dreaming... awakening.

Maybe in another time, Shiori would have had a flash of insight that would have pieced everything that had happened together, a puzzle finally completed and presented for inspection, everything fitting into place.

But for now, she simply stood back and watched, wobbling slightly from the lack of anything to hold on to for support.

She watched the reunions and rejoicing and reminiscing and everyone hugging each other and apologizing and being friends and all she could think about was the boy lying quietly in Fort Junes, and how everything that had happened here had led to that.

Everyone else was saying the things that should be said: accept yourself. Everyone has their own masks, their own darker sides, their own lighter parts. Shiori, oddly silent, could have added nothing more.

And the demolishing of the DVA System, something which the others, with far more skill at this sort of thing, could do better than her. She wasn't needed, not yet, not now.

A smile, or at least an attempt at one, particularly if anyone looked her way. It /was/ a time for celebration, right? Everything was over, or nearly so. The good guys won... right? Things would go back to normal... right?

So tired.

"It is," she says, toward Yukiko. "And that means...well, there's only one thing that can help it now, and it looks like a lot of these people know her better than we do."

Then Shiki appears, three times, and Chie mumbles, "/Why/ am I surprised?" as the truth of the matter becomes plain. She waves vaguely at Shiki as he staggers back to life, but what is there to say? Most of this happened while she was outside, so all she can do is smile and support Yukiko, murmuring, "I'll be OK."

Maki speaks. A dream world, where everyone can be happy. The TV World. Oh, Aki threw Thora in? ... ...mmmmmmmayyyyyyyyyybe not letting Thora in on that one...

But, even halfway wrapped around Yukiko, and the other the same, Chie manages a tired frown. There' Maki just telling them to /leave/? No, there's..

"I think we're past the part where I know what's going on," she laughs to Yukiko. "All this head stuff."

Shiki's grasp on reality isn't really the best right now. Imagine remaining in bed for two weeks straight, all the while having a really messed-up, nonstop dream seen from a bunch of different perspectives in which crazy crap constantly happens that you can barely control and your friends are there and you've got senses you never knew you had and you just brought a sentient being into existence woah and this chair this chair and and and and and

And Shiki is hugged! There's a weak smile on his face as he regains his bearings. It's slowly coming back to him, in bits and pieces, what's going on right now. Weakly, he hugs back. "Tsuka... Missed you too... Sort of... I was there... It's weird... We both kept our promises, right...?" He said he'd always come back, and she said she wouldn't leave him. So does that count? It seems it does for him.

And the hug turns into a friendpile! Woah! "H... Hinata-san..." Haruka's gone back into his brain, now. He doesn't mind the hug's upgrade to group hug, though!

And then Maki speaks up... Wait, Maki? His head jerks in her direction, although he doesn't break away-- he might not really have a chance to anyway, considering those whose grasp he currently is in. "...Maki-san! It's okay, it really is, I... Thanks." It's been forever since he actually met Maki, but now it's almost as if he knew the girl better than anyone else. He did, almost literally, share a piece of her mind, after all.

That's okay, there'll be time for a lot of explanations and things to talk about later. A lot of them. Huge amounts. Itsuka instead just holds onto Shiki, that 'sort of' making her pause for just a second before she relaxes and understands. "...We did. I think so, too, Shikkun. And..." Oh. He was there. Itsuka is glad she's not looking his way for a minute. "When you're feeling better, I think we need to talk. There's a lot to say."

And then Hinata, too! She's more careful now not to hurt Shiki, of course, but she's able to ocus on a few other things now, too. She turns to face Maki. "...Yeah. He came here to help you, and that means that I'll do whatever you need. ...It's okay, you know?" Though it seems like Ritsue might just have it covered. "...Alone?" They were just talking to Maki about that, weren't they? Well. More hugs. She is basically not going to let go.

"You're so sweet." Maki says, "But--you can't just hit the thing and expect it to go off. That just made things worse--it will would Dr. Nikolai say--he'd say that it probably would, um, rewrite reality so hitting it made it more powerful. It doesn't need me in it to break things."

She focuses on Arisa. "But--it does need me to fix things, as best I can." She smiles again, "It's not by myself. You guys are with me. And once I can stop it for good, I'll meet up with you, so..."

She looks into Arisa's eyes. "Thank you. Thank you for saving me." She reaches to her chest and withdraws her own (real) compact and she puts it into Arisa's hands. "I'm gonna pick that up later." She tells her, "Sister--"

Mai flickers into being near Shiki, just for a moment. "Shiki--Thank you... and I'm sorry! You're the coolest!" She hugs him, briefly--but then she vanishes.

And so does the DVA system--with Maki, but she seems happy.

Why wouldn't she be? A bunch of people went through hell AND STILL told her she was awesome and worth accepting and that even her bad parts were okay. It's not every day, or every person who does that sort of thing for you.

And even though she remains with DVA, for now, she seems freer than ever, as if an enormous burden has been lifted off her shoulders. Perhaps, now, she is starting to see her true mind.

And she has to live up to the expectations of being a better person, now more than ever.

"See you--soon." She promises.

"I've been here a while, and well... I think I have a little idea what's going on - but we... won, I... um... think," Yukiko tells Chie, nibbling upon her lower lip. A fair amount of sympathy touches her eyes as Maki speaks, Yukiko bringing up a hand to scratch the side of her neck.

"I think it'll be okay too, Chie," Yukiko says, managing to push up to straighten herself so that she didn't need Chie's arm to stay upright at that. "We're going to destroy the DVA system, and then we'll get to go back home again," Yukiko says, a trace of hope present in her voice.

Ritsue breathes in through her nose.

"You guys are ballsy," she says, looking momentarily over her shoulder, towards the ground. "But you've got fifty or sixty years to lose. I have, like, two." She breathes in. "I -

She looks at Maki then as she speaks up, blinking a few times. "...."

Her brow furrows in astonishment even as she rises up to her feet again.

"You'd better," she says, a little faltering in her tone. Her arms fold in front of her, instead of going into her pockets. Her eyes narrow slightly, and then she looks firmly downwards at the ground.

She's intruding, isn't she? Hinata gives her friends a squeeze before standing up and wiping away an eye. "We all missed you, but, uh, I think you 'n Itsuka-chan need to catch up a little~" They'll need a little alone time now, and a lot of alone time later. She knows full well about not letting go. Just talk to Ran and Akatsuki after they get back.

For now, she's about to rejoin Maki when suddenly Mai's there. "Yeah, he is amazing, uh." Wait, how'd she get back if she was with Maki and hey where's Maki. "... Yeah! We'll be waiting!"

Souji smiles warmly to Maki, nodding to her promise to visit the Lucky 7 and himself proposing, "Hey, if you can find the time and can make it out all the way there, why not drop by Inaba sometime? It may not seem like the most interesting place, but there are a few fun places we could show you." He looks almost expectingly to Yukiko and Chie as he says that.

"...I'll be there eating the slushies!" Minagi says, and looks towards Ritsue. "Technically, by all rights, I should be dead, so what's chancing fate again." she replies evenly towards her. Looking at Hinata, she shrugged... "So...what now? Do we wait? Can we finally go home?

There is a fundamental shift in the nature of Mikage-Cho. A slow unravelling of something held at an incredible intensity for far too long. On one side, a wounded girl finally comes to terms with herself with the help of the person she hated most and her friends. On the other, The DVA System is secured, and vanishes into the mist. As this happens, glittering lights begin to rise around those present. Lights coealse and then engulf, obscuring all sight and washing away thought.

There is a feeling of travel, melding and motion, as Mikage-Cho melts away around you, vansihing like a dream at the verge of awakening....

And suddenly you awaken, lying on the ground around a massive, ancient tree in the city of Lunarvale, the gnarled boles etched with ancient insignias and initials. The gleaming purple foliage of an Augustus Tree shades you from the sunlight as you and your friends look up at the freed Lunarvale, the barrier gone and the sky bright and sunny above you.