A town in a desolate valley, Kadary would look rather inconsequential were it not for the unusually large church on the edge of the town. The town appears to have a lot more people present in its walls than the number of houses would suggest, many of them live within the church.

    The church is The Church of Zio, and currently, there are many many zealots and fanatics inside, loyal to the madman. Be careful should you try to sneak in. One minor slip of the tongue could have a church-full of fanatics swarming on top of you.

The town of Kadary is strangely empty this evening. No fanatics roaming the streets, all of the houses are dark, save for a few welcoming candles lit in the Inn. The only other building with any light is the church, and given the muted sounds of a crowd coming from within, it wouldn't be hard to guess that is where Kadary's citizens are located.

Inside the church, the hall is packed with people in black cloaks. Anxiety and excitement fills the air. The followers aren't supposed to speak before the mass, but some can't help but whisper among themselves: Tonight is Zio's first public mass, his first official proclimation. The lower tiers of the believers knew this was coming, but only Zio's upper guard knew exactly when. But tonight is the night, and all of Kadary is here to see it, it would appear.

When in Rome...

Late evening in Kadary is still unbearable to someone who's accustomed to the warmer weather found on Motavia. Crossing the path that connects the main street with the church, her steps are fairly silent with boots crunching against the stone pavement of the village. This is someone with a purpose and yet... a touch of slowness to fully access the situation. Wearing what might pass for a Hunter's outfit, a very dark cloak has been shuffled over that as the breezes lightly catch at the material. With the hood up and covering her blonde hair, a glance is taken towards the others accompanying her as Anna keeps her voice to a bare whisper, "Looks quiet. Where do you think the people are?" Are they -all- cultists?

This night Rolf has switched to a darker blue than he might normally wear. It's said that black is a bad color for stealth: as black is darker than the surrounding night, it shows up against it. The best colors are a dark grey or blue. While there's not a whole lot Rolf can do about his hair, keeping to the shadows will keep him mostly out of danger. His steps are somewhat slow and casual, keeping to an even pace that would seem familliar with where he is to those who see him.

"Too quiet," agrees Rolf as quietly as he can. "I'm not sure I want to know, though."

He'll let Nei keep to the lookout position, as there's not much that can escape those vulcan--err--elven--err--numan ears.

How convenient, Nei didn't even have to adapt her usual disguise for this mission. She's had the long, black, hooded cloak she wears right now for a long time, to keep her appearance hidden in areas where she feared it might pose a problem. Her regular outfit is beneath, but as closely wrapped up as she makes sure to keep herself, not a hint of purple can be seen right now, except maybe for the tips of her boots when she walks.

Red eyes survey the town area from beneath the hood, wondering much the same thing. Where is everyone? Listening closely, she can soon enough tell, "There's people over in that direction... lots of them." She briefly extends a hand in the direction of the church before quickly withdrawing it again. Even when nobody else seems to be around to see her yet, she's already worried about drawing any attention to herself.

Black might stand out against the night, but a black cloak fits in perfectly well with all of Zio's followers, something that Rika was already well aware of. Not that her identity is particularly evident. Her hair is bound behind her head in conservative fashion so that its bright color is not visible when covered over by the hood of the heavy black cloak she wears. This also solves the problem of the long, black-tipped ears at the sides of her head. With all of her clothing being black already beneath the cloak, there isn't that much else to make her stand out from the crowd of Zio's followers. She doesn't walk far from the rest, anything to do with Zio tending to make her nervous.

"Yes," Rika agrees in a whisper. "They'll be in there worshiping Zio." She glances toward Rolf. "You should've worn black. They'd just think you were one of them." Then she murmurs to the group, "Are we going in, or waiting for them to come out?"

Oh, they're not coming out. The mass is about to start. The sound of an eerie organ being played begins to come from the open doors of the church. And yes, the doors are open. Zio may be evil, but he has an open-door policy. And if any potential believers need further convincing, then he has a convenient brainwashing process to take care of that.

Suffice to say, unless the interloping heroes wanted to spend a night at the Inn, they're not going to find any other townsfolk on the streets, they're all inside the church. (Even the spazzing 'Oh Zio The Holy One!' guy.)

That music. It's going to make the hairs on the back of Anna's hair rise as they begin to approach the church. She's taking point, isn't she? "We're going to have to find out what's going on." Still speaking softly, the guardian's steps are slow enough to not draw attention from the one place in the town that has lights - the inn. With one gloved hand holding the cloak tighter against her, one boot lingers at the step. Looking behind her, she asks, "They really don't worry much about appearances, do they?" If so, they'll have to split up and search. Otherwise, "We're going in regardless. Ready?" If so, they're going to see what Zio's up to. Somehow.

It's at least dark enough for someone like Rolf to quickly make up his mind. He whispers, "I'm going in, the rest of you hold steady for my signal," before dropping to a low crouch and stealthily moving for the entrance. If he can help it, he's going to take a very careful position crouched behind one of the pews in the very back row, as close to the entrance as possible.

A minute passes while Rolf determines the situation, then he motions for the rest to do their thing. He, however, will be staying right where he is for a little longer to judge the best shadowy location in the back. This is an intelligence mission, not a brawl..

Nei is at least used to trying her best to not draw any attention to herself in situations where she didn't think it would be wise. It hasn't always worked so well, but she's extra cautious tonight, for obvious reasons. The music, with all those voices, all those people... the proximity to the crowd definately only increases her nervousness. Not just for the usual reason of disliking crowds of strangers, the whole atmosphere here gives her goosebumps. Will she really be blending in well enough? She can't help but worry, despite all the preparations.

A quick nod at Anna's question, she answers with a simple whispered "Ready", though it's more like she's as ready as she'll ever be. No problem at all with letting Rolf go first to make sure everything's okay. When he gives the signal, she takes a deep breath, and proceeds inside, veering off to the right since they were supposed to spread out a bit. Just a late worshipper here, trying to still find a decent spot to watch the podium from, nothing special...

Zio has most likely seen Rika before, so even with her partial disguise, she might not fit in if it weren't for the darkness. She hangs close to the others at first, but remembering orders to split apart, she gives a nod to Anna and Rolf and tries finding a tall person to hide behind, toward the back of the crowd. If she hides her face, she might be okay.

Fortunately for Rika, crowds don't really bother her, strangers or not, as long as the people aren't staring. But, apart from her hanging behind the others, she does at least listen to Rolf. Zio is dangerous, and if he notices Rika... well, it might just be all over.

As the final 'stragglers' make their way in, the doors to the church close with a heavy thud. Probably loud enough to send chills up their spines. Luckily it had nothing to do with THEM entering, it was simply the appointed time to shut them, just a coincidence. /Really/. It's not like they're locked or anything.

A hush falls over the previously murmering crowd, it seems something's about to happen. And something does. The center platform at the end of the hall becomes the focus of attention, as the black curtain draping the back of the platform is opened. Zio steps out. At that moment, all the candles on and around the platform blow out, though there is still an eerie light cast on Zio from somewhere. The gathered crowd breaks out in an incomprehensible chanting before Zio speaks.

"Loyal believers and followers of Darkness, may the hand of Dark Force be upon you. The time you have all awaited has arrived. The humble avatar of Dark Force has returned to you to once again take up the task to cleanse the Algo star system." A brief cheer erupts from the crowd as Zio speaks. "Our time of action will soon be approaching. For now, remain resolute in our great goal, and spread the word of Zio across Motavia, and indeed, it will spread all across Videoland!"

Hey! Well, that's what Anna would say to Rolf as he goes in ahead of them. Glancing after him with a look that's part dagger-like and the rest resigned, didn't he just finish recovering from his injuries? And now he's jumping into this without any regard to what happened? If she could shake her head, the palman would. As it stands, she steps further into the church and the back pew. Yes, she took note as to where everyone else went. No, she can't do anything about that right now.

The heavy sound from the doors, the chanting and even the lights make Anna wish that she could reach for a weapon. Moreso when the people around her begin to cheer. Holding the cloak tighter against her, that chill from before clearly goes down her spine with extra to spare for her feet and head. Dark Force. Again, there's that name and the implications are dangerous. This... is not good.

Hey, he's being careful enough. Besides, he's the only guy in a group full of ladies-- he'd lose his membership in the supersecret knight organization if he didn't do the right thing. Just like if he mentioned that it exists--err.. crap. You didn't hear that, okay?

Rolf isn't as unnerved as one might expect, not until the commentary about Motavia and Algo come to pass Zio's lips. Okay, this is very disturbing. Nevertheless, he has to gather intel: best option right now is to just keep listening and be well and truly ready to sneak out when the time comes.

One foot begins to fall asleep, though, and he quietly shifts that foot to allow him to drop to the other knee for a bit. There's that Dark Force that had been mentioned before...

Nei starts as the doors suddenly close, and has to stop herself from glancing back when they do. Okay, don't panic now. Everything's still going according to plan. All she has to is stand there and look worshipper-y.

Unless... ack. Chanting. Nei figures she'd be expected to join in on that, being in between the rest of the worshippers. But, she can fake that by just moving her inclined head a bit as if she were without actually saying anything, right? Not like the presense of absense of her voice should really be noticed. When the crowd cheers though, she does join in with that, if softly. She can hardly be genuinely enthusiastic at a time like this.

So this is Zio... just looking him gives her the creeps. And he doesn't have anything very pleasant to say, either. It's like Neifirst, really, the whole 'cleansing' of life in the Algo system thing, except somehow, he's got so many people who actually seem to follow him in that. That's very disturbing, to say the least, and not something she can comprehend.

When the doors slam shut, Rika shifts a little, startled, but hopefully not enough to catch anyone's attention. When the curtain rises, she gasps. Yes, that's definitely Zio! Maybe her gasp will be taken as worshipful, as she stands among scores of Zio's followers. She tries to join in with the cheering, but not too loudly lest her voice be recognized. "Oh, great Lord Zio! Wonderful Zio!" From her position behind some taller followers, she can't really see the rest of her team even if she could risk looking for them.

But even though she's cheering along with the crowds, Rika can't help biting her lip briefly. The person next to her seems to take this as nervousness. "It's okay honey," the woman whispers. "You're new. Zio will forgive you!"

"I--okay," Rika replies before she says anything that might particularly cause her to stand out, but this entire situation has her nerves on end. What might Zio do before he finishes his "sermon?"

What indeed? Zio's not done preaching, but he's about to completely change the tone of things. "However, there are matters which must be attended to, here and now, my followers. Traitorous minds are among you, this church is not entirely safe." He raises his right hand, still clad in its gauntlet, and waves it across the crowd. "There are non-believers among you, as we speak!" This, of course, draws many gasps from the gathered zealots. "But, let their sins be cast before our lord, Dark Force, and should they repent, they may be forgiven." Maybe. His right hand continues to move across the crowd "Now, gaze upon those who would go against the word of Dark Force!"

Zio's hand points at a place in the crowd... nowhere near the gathered heroes. Almost on the other side of the gathering, the zealots all step back, away from two people whom Zio has singled out. A man and a woman, who right now look absolutely terrified with the realization that their attempt to let their doubts go unnoticed has failed. "These two would go against us, they would betray us to the petty, corrupt, governing bodies of the world for their own benefit! How does Dark Force reward such ignorance, my followers?"

One wouldn't even need to hear the answer, as the aura of malice radiating from the crowd is too strong to ignore. But for those not sensitive to such things, their words say it clearly enough. "Death!"

Rolf grits his teeth at this, facial features twitching from the stress and frustration of this situation. He's here to get intelligence, yes, but he can't exactly let Zio kill two people. Even if they aren't completely innocent, to let them die here would go against EVERYTHING Rolf believes. However, there's a massive risk to his friends by doing this.

Muscles all along his legs come to life as Rolf shifts to a more accessible position in preparation for springing to his feet. Should he? Or shouldn't he? No, he's already made his choice. He made it years ago, when he joined the government. He made it again when he joined the Palace. Rolf won't turn away from it now.

The blue-haired one turns his head toward Anna and Nei. It's difficult to whisper effectively since they're spread out, but he makes it clear that he's reaching for his sword even as he gives a quick, grim nod to his teammates, then his left hand curls up in preparation for a hopeful surprise gift to get this party started the RIGHT way: Dante-style...

Much like Rolf, Anna does think that two people's lives are more important than their recon mission. On the other hand, numerically counting? How are they going to pull this off? Taking a step back discreetly, being in the back has some advantages. One, everyone is near the front. Two, crossing towards the entry of said pew from the other side opposite of the singled out couple is simple.

That's why Anna catches the look from Rolf, instantly shifting her gaze towards Nei and then the spot where she last saw Rika. Hopefully, the other Numan is alright in the midst of this.

No matter what, it's clear that once things start happening they're going to need a way out. And fast. Holding on to one slasher in the dark shadows of her cloak, a barely perceptible nod is given in return to both as she discreetly takes another step backwards. It clearly states that she'll back them up as support and securing their exit. From another's viewpoint: Maybe it's getting too creepy for her? That already happened five minutes ago. Only once Rolf moves will she unleash her own weapon and a visible threat.

Zio. That's still going to be a problem to deal with if he blocks their way. If he doesn't, she'll be even more concerned.

Oh. no. This was definately /not/ part of the plan. People are going to be killed? Now what do they do? They can't just let that happen, but... it's four against Lots. Nei looks around fearfully to see if any of her party will give any indication of how to proceed. Spotting Rolf, it seems obvious enough that he agrees, and the method is going to be violent. She nods in understanding. Violence it is.

A deep sigh follows, as she mentally prepares herself to act in a way very unlike her. Then she begins pushing through the ranks of worshippers, shouting, "Death! Death to the infidels!", trying to make herself look particularly zealous in making sure the two get what they deserve. Of course, it's only to get closer to where the action is going to be not very long from now...

Rika isn't about to hang back and do nothing, either, not with knowledge of just how powerful, and dangerous, Zio is. Though she doesn't start in with shouting, she does begin pushing her way through the crowd, the gleam of the claws she's wearing serving as motivation for the less willing. Her expression is so grim as she makes her way toward the targets that she might as well be a zealot, herself. Except, of course, that she isn't. Not that her expression is clearly visible beneath the heavy black hood of her cloak. The whole group probably looks like a team of executioners. Better work to fit in before they grab the others and run.

Zio frowns slightly, there's a much larger commotion than he expected. His guard should be taking care of apprehending the two non-believers, all of the other zealots should know their place and keep back. Yet he notices odd, unexpected movements in the corner of his eye. He also feels a slight prickling in the back of his mind, Dark Force is trying to tell him something. Hmmm.

"Bring them forth!" Zio commands. "And Dark Force himself shall deliver his judgement upon them." Saying that, Zio raises his two hands into the air, as they both are caught aflame. Rika should recognize this, it's the beginnings of his Nightmare chant.

Rolf begins by unloading his favorite crowd-pacification technique when facing an opponent of vastly superior numbers. He raises his hand to the sky and calls out--- "GiZAN!"

It's a vacuum attack in an attempt to suck the air out of the crowd's (and hopefully Zio's as well) area, hopefully knocking them out or at LEAST stunning them. His primary goal is to break down the group momentum as well as to stop Zio from getting any further in his attempts. In any case, having played his part, all Rolf can do is hope that his teammates can take advantage of the assault to get to the innocents before all hell breaks loose.

If there are guards loyal to Zio, Anna's going to show no mercy towards them as her hands become fully visible underneath the folds of the cloak. In comparison to innocent people here, the guards are fully aware of what and who they're serving. That's if they spot and come after her. Otherwise...

Glancing over her shoulder towards the doors, Anna's eyes close for a moment before tightening her grasp on the metallic weapon. Darting her gaze towards Rolf and then any movement that indicates Rika and Nei, she silently hopes they've gotten to the couple. Taking on Zio crosses her mind, but not in this situation. Whatever he's up to as both of his hands become aflame, is a question to ask later. Either way, she wouldn't be a necessary distraction and someone has to keep the exit clear.

A more obvious sign than letting loose a technique could not have been given. Nei crosses over the rest of the way towards the action zone by means of a powerful leap, somersaulting in the air before landing. Her hood came off in the process, providing an easy view of her inhuman nature now as she turns back towards the crowd she just jumped out from. Red energy claws flash to life on her hands, which she proceeds to slash threateningly towards the zealots in front, not aiming to strike them, only to warn them to keep their distance.

This likely won't keep them at bay for very long after they recover from the initial surprise, she realises, so this is all the action she takes before falling back a bit towards the two condemned people, urging them, "Head for the doors!", then shouting to the other Numan, "Rika, please keep them safe!" And she'll be right behind them, to cover their rear.

Rika, getting to the couple a bit after Nei does, drops her hood, hoping to get Zio's attention on _her_ instead of the rest of the group. Then there are suddenly five Rikas spread out wherever there is room to stand, and every single one of them has her claws prepared for an attack. "I'm on it, Nei!" each of the five Rikas calls to her predecessor. "RUN!" they add. Clearly, Rika is intending to do the same once it's clear that the couple are safe. Meanwhile she goes about, in all five bodies, trying to attract attention solely to herself, which isn't hard, what with the long pointy ears and pink hair.

Luckily for every hero present, Zio's Nightmare chant was negated by Rolf's Gizan. Zio went and forgot to put up his Mag.Barrier FIRST, silly zealot. This causes the dark one to scowl in Rolf's direction. He doesn't recognize him, but Dark Force DOES. "Hm." He ponders, as he watches even more chaos erupt in his church. Then, he sees Rika, and smirks. "I was wondering when they would show up. How convenient." He waves his gauntlet-clad right arm at the group of heroes, and the two they were trying to protect, and announces "Kill them."

The guards begin moving in, they're not hard to tell apart from the regular zealots. Under their cloaks they wear an odd white and teal colored armor. The normal zealots all move out of the way anyway, not wanting to get in the way of Zio's guard... and also not wanting to die prematurely. This does clear the way for all the heroes to make their move, but they're going to have to act quickly, if they act at all. More and more guards seem to be pouring into the main hall from the back, soom there'll be as many as there are regular zealots.

Rolf doesn't get much choice in the matter. Nei and Rika are handling their little refugees, right? Therefore, he'd better get the escape route ready.

A downward slanted stroke creates one line through the door.. /

Another downward stroke creates another.. X

...and then a kick to the center to shatter it outwards. You've got your escape path, ladies, so now Rolf's going to take rear guard to try to protect everyone else. Complain about this being male chauvinism all you like, Rolf feels it's his responsibility to make sure the rest make it out in one piece.

Unsurprisingly, Rolf's taking what had been termed Anna's job - in her mind. So, while Nei and Rika move towards the exit with the couple? There's one slasher. Two slashers. Both finding their way within her hands after pulling the cloak and the hood from their cumbersome place. Narrowing her eyes, both weapons are released in a blur of silver towards the guards with a sideways glance towards Rolf. Token male behavior. Doesn't he know her well-enough to be aware that she's not going to let him handle this alone?

Looking towards the direction the others should be coming through at a run, Anna doesn't bother covering the firmness in her voice, "Move it!"

Nei is moving it as fast as she can! Which is actually not nearly as fast as it could be, but you couldn't expect the two refugees to be able to run as fast as Numans can. She only takes swipes at the air when someone else comes near though, determined not to hurt any people at all if she can at all manage. She's not going to leave their side, and follow them all the way through the convenient new hole in the door... but Rolf and Anna better be close behind, or she'll be back before long.

There are still five Rikas, apparently expecting the others to run first, while they taunt the guards. But that option is starting to look too dangerous, and Rika's forced to dash along after Nei and the couple. All five Rikas. In truth, the pink-haired Numan can't keep this up for much longer, but to the guards it might look like she can keep being five people forever. For the time being, though, they serve as decent cover, since each of them can swipe with her claws just as well as when there's only one. They chase after Nei, after trying briefly to hold back some of the onrushing crowd until Anna and Rolf get to them. Now that she and Nei are out with the couple, they'd better find a good hiding spot! With people likely still after them, Rika doesn't drop the splitting just yet. She'll wait until there are fewer people in pursuit. "Nei! I might have a telepipe to Aiedo, hang on! Anna, Rolf, hurry!"

As the heroes escape, Zio's guards pursue, until the order comes from Zio to halt. Once they get beyond the walls of the Church, escape is inevitible, and Zio will not have his followers engage in a fruitless pursuit. He has plenty of OTHER fruitless things for them to engage in. "The non-believers will meet their fates." Zio assures the crowd. "But for now, you have seen the faces of the enemy. It is these people who stand against us, and it is these people who will fall."

As the others flee, the zealots erupt into another chant. "Hail Dark Force!"

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