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Description: I-No has a small problem that technically sorta kinda might be arguably her fault, from a certain perspective: That Man's prized secret project, Jack-O' Valentine, is flying around the world on a rocket pumpkin eating all the candy she can find with no regard for things like 'operational secrecy' or 'the paleo diet of human suffering as traditionally eaten by her Gear ancestors.' I-No has tracked Jack-O' to a sprawling, high-end candy store, but Jack-O' has had time to set up shop with an army of mini-Gears to protect her. Can I-No correct this timeline error before Jack-O' eats enough to vomit a sugar rainbow?!


A HOODED MAN stood at an appropriately tall height to watch holographic footage the invasion of Japan with appropriately dramatic data readouts endlessly scrolling the screen.

"The time is coming. That fated day is fast approaching," said THE HOODED MAN, voice full of appropriately vague gravitas.

"And once the %[SOMETHING SOMETHING, COMPLICATED WORDS GO HERE%] is complete, we can finally move on to the next phase of our plan, just as planned. But it is imperative that we do not wake 'her' up too early......................."

Off in the distance, a great green contrail can be seen streaking through the sky, a delighted squeal following in their wake:

"WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeee i'm going so hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh~~~*"

THE HOODED MAN stared. His frown would be most severe if it could be seen, but it couldn't, so you'd just have to imagine it for yourself.

"Good grief!"

And so that's how that went.



Dylan's Candy Bar is being invaded.

The invasion began at 3:43 PM today, carried out by forces unknown. It was a blitz, taking the occupying forces unaware and ruthlessly ousting them until the entire three floors of the candy shop had been annexed to a more glorious cause. There was no mercy. There was no relent. All surrendered, or succumbed.

"J A C K - O' P O T !"

For such was the edict of Jack-O' Valentine.

Candy Commander.

(Was it hunter before? Or something else?? Or maybe it still is??? It's so hard to remember sometimes! Oh well -- internal consistency is overrated anyway, just ask--)

JACK-O' VALENTINE: CANDY SLAYER can currently be found perusing her newly conquered -- hunted -- slain -- territory. The invasion was prompt, polite and perfunctory, and largely has consisted of a surplus of delightfully dear spectral Gears swarming every single level of Dylan's Candy Bar and single-mindedly loading up on every scratch of candy they can find, driving all other customers away.

It is the bottom-most level that the commandant of these candy crushers currently concerns herself with: hanging upside down by one foot from the glowing rim of a well-spiked halos -- as all proper halos should be -- Jack-O' is currently squinting with pursed lips at a tiny kiosk at the center of the pastel horrors of this place, encircled by cannisters, each filled with a colorful shade of crushed candy until they compose a veritable and literal rainbow of flavor. The top of that kiosk boldly proclaims these to be,


to which Jack-O' currently focuses the scrutiny of her skeptical stare. A lollipop hangs limply from her upper lip as she frowns (or smiles, depending on your perspective!).

"... something about that doesn't sound right......."

"Um, ma'am?"

Jack-O' blinks. Searingly pink eyes turn to find the upside-down form of a store attendant nervously shifting in front of her.

"Oh wow, humans come in so many forms now. I didn't know you could invert!"

"Err? That's because -- nevermind. Miss, you drove off all the customers and -- are you robbing us?"

"Oh! Um. I don't know? It's kind of a complicated situation! See, I was told I need to stretch my legs a little, but to do that I need this candy, because my legs are entangled in a quantum state like the rest of me -- my memory's a bit scratchy like static but I'm prrrrrettyyyy sure my legs are inside the Backyard even right now even though they're also here?? Oh. You look confused, I guess you call it 'the Boundary' -- that's soooo weird though! Anyway, I'm here, but I'm not here, and I'm there, but I'm not there, and in order for my waveforms to be occupying the same state so I don't spontaneously stop existing as anything more than a thoughtform of pure abstract concepts I need this candy, otherwise I'll just *POOF-O* oooooOOOOOO! Aaaand also I don't have any currency and don't know what that is here really so ummmm... OH! I COULD PAY YOU IN CANDY, I'VE GOT SO MUCH OF IT NOW"

By now, the employee is already backing away. Jack-O', of course, pouts.

"Is that no good-??"

Behind her, a spectral Gear overloaded with candy just sort of collapses into the ground, crushed by confections. She fails to notice.

"Systems of trade are quite baffling......"

It's best not to dwell on whose fault this is. Fault in the grander philosophical sense, of course, because more directly Jack-O' is using her army of creepily adorable mini-Gears to gather as much sugar as possible. Big picture, it could be the UN's fault for deciding to !!INVADE JAPAN WITH MURDER ROBOTS WHAT THE FUCK!!. Or, it could be the fault of A CERTAIN MAN for trying to pull off such a complicated scheme with such a small amount of time to work with, in hopes that they wouldn't face any kind of setback. Hell, some people have even advanced the peculiar idea that it's I-No's fault.


"Heyyy, Jack-O'!" I-No calls up into the stasis pod, which is in the process of opening while flashing warning lights mounted on every available surface that is not already dedicated to the giant stenciled warning script that reads I-NO DO NOT TOUCH I'M SERIOUS.

"The double-feds are invading an entire fuckin' country! You gotta see this. I'm gonna head there to bend Rammy over my knee so you just gotta pretend to be a real live Command Gear while stickin' close to me--"


I-No has time to reflect on the terrible mistake she's made as she's pressed flat into the ground by the rocket backwash of a pumpkin-based liftoff thruster.

o/` AND TODAY o/`

Dylan's Candy Bar needs a savior.

The doors explode inward, kicked decisively by the leather zettai ryouiki-clad legs of someone whose wardrobe is fifty percent thigh-high boots. The mysterious woman called the crimson minstrel by some (no one has called her the crimson minstrel in this timeline but it still counts) steps in, the brim of her witchy hat pulled low to shadow her face. Light streams in behind her, filtering gently through the dust kicked up by her calamitous appearance.

The store is filled with musical distortion as I-No slides her guitar pick down the strings of her stunning blue lover, Marlene. She pauses, briefly, achingly, at the bottom of the strings, letting the dissonant sound ring for a blossoming moment before playing the lead line of a familiar tune.

An employee in a branded paper hat and an apron slowly slides into frame, hand and index finger already raised to interrupt.

"Ah, miss, we're technically being invaded--"

"Shut the fuck up you goddamn pimple-pocked peon before I grind your face into my bootheel and turn you into /my/ wage slave because you are ruining my leitmotif."

The employee slowly slides back out of frame.

I-No slams a power chord to finish, letting the strings vibrate to themselves as she walks further into the store, following the ant trails of the mini-Gears back to their helloweeny mistress. This isn't good. Jack-O' has had time to devour and it's her month of cosmic alignment on top of that. She's probably got way more servants spawned than normal.

I-No is prepared to see the worst when she turns the last corner and comes face to face with the queen, but the reality that makes it into the primary timeline always has its own kind of sparkle. In this case, the sparkle induces pucker.

"OI, JACK-O'," I-No shouts, thrusting her arm out to point her guitar pick accusingly at the stray woman. "Pack a fat to-go bag because I'm gonna drag you outta here by your fuckin' dimples if I have to!"

It's like something out of an old Western. You know the type (which is probably good, because Jack-O' is currently in a state where she knows intimately and also has no idea what 'Western' means besides a direction): the bad blackhat with the red hat kicks down the doors to a saloon well-dusted with the grim colors of easter and reeks with the fetid stench of sugar rushes. There's a proverbial and literal hush that rushes over the bar's patrons before they scurryingly bury themselves back into their business suitably adorable business, the excessive sound of squeaking minions filling the air with a certain sense of tension as the mysterious stranger approaches.

The pockmarked bartender doesn't want any trouble here, but the red-hatted blackhat won't have any of it. She's not here for him. She's here for her nemesis. Her friend? Her friendesis! That notorious varmint she's been hunting across the Wild, Wild West--


-- that no-good scoundrel, Jack-O' Valentine.

Candy Ranger.

The point of dramatic tension is perhaps instantly undercut by the enthusiastic way that Jack-O' waves to her hunter as if completely oblivious to the red-leathered rock-witch's intentions and reasons for being here. Her gloved hand is a flurry of upside-down motion that speaks to the damning amount of sugar the woman has probably already consumed, or maybe it's just a natural consequence of 'being Jack-O'.' Regardless, it doesn't change how she blithely ignores almost literally everything that I-No has said in order to proclaim,

"Look! I'm stretching my legs just like you said!"

And here, she even goes so far as to detach her Dorpos-bound leg from her floating halo-top so that she may flail it around demonstrably as if to just reinforce that this is all very obviously I-No's fault. Or society's. Probably society's.

That is also sends Dorpos flailing about smashing into candy and toppling over aisles in the process while he makes the sounds you could perfectly imagine a metal pumpkin making if a metal pumpkin could make sounds is no nevermind to her.

"Oh! Your theme song is sounding /so much/ better now! It's like, um, listening to a cat howl while it's clawing your at your face! So cute! <3" And in case the heart cannot be interpreted from the jubilance of her words, she even helpfully makes one with her hands. Upside down. It's the sentiment that counts.

"Sooooo..... oh! Quick question, do you think it's okay to pay with candy with candy you've stolen to pay for the candy you've stolen, or does the contradiction cancel itself out...?? Apparently these people have a real problem with it and--"

Suddenly, she stops, as if something has occurred to her. Silence falls over Dylan's Candy Bar. Every spectral Gear in the place, on every level, suddenly pauses, as if in response to some unseen, unheard command. Those on this level turn their beady, glowing green eyes on I-No, all at once. It's unsettlingly cute.

"Ah. Did you say drag me out?"

It's almost jarring, the way her voice mellows out. It's like listening to the winds whipping up a maelstrom suddenly decide they're just a spring breeze. In one moment, Jack-O' is hanging upside-down; in the next, she has flipped herself up onto the widening brim of her halo, perched cross-legged on its edge and chin resting upon a waiting palm.

"So you intend to bring me back," she muses quietly; pink eyes hood as she glances to the side; her lips tug toward a thinning line of thought. The mini-Gears start to slowly turn. "It's a reasonable desire, and the fact that you tracked me all the way down here is a little endearing. But I still have data I need to accumulate and -- you'll have to excuse me, my memories seem somewhat fractious at the moment. I need to acclimate and find some grounding or else my equilibrium might tilt towards a metaphysical uncertainty. So no. I'm afraid I can't do that yet, I-No." A smile, soft and apologetic, creases her lips. "I'm sorry. Are we at an impasse?" Her head tilts, white-red hair cascading like a waterfall toward her right. She blinks. "Im...passe?" Her pink eyes widen. And suddenly, she is smacking a fist against her palm.

"Ooo! Are we having a stand-off~?? I need a gun! Do I have a gun...? Um, hang on just a sec....."

This can only end well.

I-No narrows her eyes and bares gritted teeth at Jack-O's greeting. Shit, she's being cute again! The witch squares her stance rests her guitar pick against the G string that she isn't wearing. (That'd be the one on her guitar, faithful perverts.) All of Jack-O's flailing is making probability waves that are giving I-No a headache.

"In what universe does stretching your legs involve a goddamn squash space program?!" I-No shouts back, fangy and fierce. Such outbursts are nothing against the might of Jack-O', so I-No is forced to listen to candy economic theory while the back of her mind is dedicated to running plans on how to hurl Jack-O' straight across the country and back into one of That Man's Those Hideouts.

But --

Everything stops. I-No makes a short, confused noise, her gaze sweeping the suddenly stopped spectral servants. Her kaleidoscopic irises shift through several scintillating colors. There's another whirl of hues as I-No sharply cuts her gaze back to Jack-O' when she hears that new tone of voice.

"Tch," the witch nearly hisses. She lets the performance play out longer to see where it goes, Jack-O' flipping and perching and using way more dictionary words than previously. It's throwing I-No off, enough that she mutters under her breath while the other woman is going on:

"Do reverse concussions exist?"

And then she's back! For reasons I-No does not stop to interrogate within herself, Jack-O' going wide and perky again busts a dam in her heart and lets all the impatience come flooding out. I-No reaches up to slide her fingers along the brim of her hat, pulling it down into place once she reaches the right spot.

"You don't need a gun, sweetness," I-No says, trying on a purr that doesn't last. "All you gotta do is let me PULL YOUR FUCKING TRIGGER!"

The witch bursts forward with a swirl of wind, flying across the display area to try to flying tackle Jack-O' into something solid for a proper round of magical wrestling.

'You don't need a gun, sweetness.'

The purr doesn't last but it's a good faith effort, and one that anyone else might commend somehow. Sultry and dangerous in all the worst of ways that make a person pause.

Jack-O', not being anyone else, or sometimes anyone at all (don't ask), is instead spending her time bending over the side of her halo to wiggle her way through one of the many minion-spawning pods she's peppered this place with.

She's half-disappeared inside its voluminous depths about the time that I-No starts talking about fucking triggers, heels kicking in consternation as she issues muffled sounds of frustration.

"Oooo, this is making me SO MAD! Where is it! Where -- OH! Right! Here we go!!"

And it is JUST as the witch of discord surges forth in a smear of reds and rock that Jack-O' yanks herself out of her gurgitating vessel, spins around --

-- and dramatically points a finger-gun directly at the advancing I-No's face.

"Here's my fucking trigger~!"

And, joyfully not paying a single bit of attention to all the deep-seated double entendre that goes in to making such a statement, Jack-O' pulls her fucking trigger /herself/ with a declaration of:


A fraction of a second passes in which I-No is getting closer and closer and closer--

And glass can be heard shattering. Like it's been shot.

Which is exactly when gouts of a ROY G BIV's worth of sour sugars spray through the air on a direct trajectory for I-No's face.

Magic?! The truth is simpler than you might think!


'I need a gun!' Jack-O' had declared. And in that moment, her servants begin to scramble.

All of them mobilize as if they've been issued orders from their joyous generalissimo. One of them, closest to the ensuing stand-off, starts to slide its way over to a plastic-packaged toy of imposing proportions. The packaging reads, simply,

THE CANDY CANNON (not safe for children of any age!)

And so armed with artillery that would put most military-grade munitions to shame, packed with a sweet payload of jawbreakers wrapped up like a shrapnel shell (why would anyone ever sell this to anyone??), the servant takes aim, squints with a gritty action hero determination --


-- waits a fraction of a second--

-- and fires, straight into a kiosk audaciously declaring itself to be full of a certain, sourful sweet.


Anyway so that's the story of how I-No potentially got a faceful of PUCKER POWDER!.

It's a grim reality that immediately prefaces her imminent collision with Jack-O', currently perching herself on her pumpkiny pal. Dorpos glows with a jade shade of magical ominous, ignites in a flare of bubbling flame --

-- and with a jubilant flip, Jack-O' looks to -shove- her chained minion right into I-No's midsection as it rockets UPWARD, to send her spiraling straight into the upper level of poor Dylan's Conquered Candy Bar.

With a whole bevy of candy-armed minions waiting for her up above, and Jack-O' spiraling wildly after.

Chains, you know. That's sort of how they work. She forgets sometimes. Memory.


It's a tricky thing.

I-No blurs forward with occult swiftness! Jack-O' is distracted half-shoved into hammer space! I-No covers the distance down the pastel-horror aisle with shocking quickness, but it's still enough time for Jack-O' to slip out and rear back up to face her.

The candy commander points her fingergun. The red witch opens her mouth, teeth bared with aggressively pointy incisors. Eyes wide, mouth wider, she crosses the last few feet as if she's going to chomp down on Jack-O's entire hand in a fit of rage-induced bad ideas--

~* :3 bang :3 *~

This entire store is a titanic drain on I-No's precariously-balanced emotional resources. Everything is too bright, too saccharine, and too produced. She wanted to get in and out of here fast before the vibes thrummed into her soul and started making her get a little too ax crazy.

The glass shatters. PUCKER POWDER! explodes outward. I-No has a fraction of a second to feel a chill shoot down her front before Dylan's Candy Bar gifts unto her its most secret menu item: Dylan's Candy Moneyshot.

I-No never crashes into anything! She doesn't even have time to process the painbow bukkake before more things happen to her! Life is suffering! Jack-O's hated pumpkin pal goes blasting off again into the ceiling, carrying the witch THROUGH one floor before hitting the sturdier stuff of the second ceiling above them. Her guitar unceremoniously falls back through the hole to the first floor a moment after.

I-No hack-cough-exhales violently, spitting up a cloud of PUCKER POWDER!. She immediately attempts to suck in a new breath, which only gets more candy poison into her mucus membranes, but does at least allow her to shriek inarticulately.

The pumpkin continues to pin I-No to the ceiling, causing a series of hairline fractures to slowly creep out from behind her as the inefficient drilling method attempts to continue.

"Jack-O'," she roars over the undoubtedly cartoonish rocket noises, "I swear to whatever fucked-up Hello Kitty deity you worship I will force feed you baking chocolate until you puke if you don't TURN OFF YOUR PUMPKIN AND SUBMIT TO MY WILL!"

The sounds are like something straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon.

Dorpos might be just straight up making half of them itself. It's despicable.

Concrete and plaster powders and crumbles all around them in a pastel rain that continues all the way to the second ceiling. I-No, pinned there, is a shriek of sadistic threats as bright yellows and blues and pinks and whatever other ungodly hues dust the air surrounding them. Jack-O', as if to be a counterpoint to I-No's very core concept, is not a snarly mess.


She's just a bundle of precious squealing as she goes spinning around and around and around in a mounting build up of momentum by merit of the spin of Dorpos' angrily incompetent drilling.

Jack-O' is, in fact, just becoming an increasing smear of white and red hues beneath I-No's trapped form as the sadomazo enthusiast issues her appropriately sadomazo threats. It's a fact that makes the stark calm of the Valentine's following answer all the more striking, the serene warmth of her voice cutting in and out every time she circles wildly beneath her captor/victim/bestie-for-life (????):

"I CAN'T HEAR you over dorpos BUT I AM ASSUMING YOU ARE MAKING some manner of horrible threat. I WOULD BE HAPPY TO DO what you ask BUT UNFORTUNATELY I CAN'T; you see, i need TO BUILD UP A certain amount of centripetal acceleration BEFORE I CAN STOP and it is imperative i DON'T COMPROMISE THE CENTER OF CURVATURE -- ah, there it is."

And this is when Jack-O's pumpkin pal suddenly just -stops-. All thrust ends, and there is a moment where everything seems to just hold in blissful place for a few seconds free of insanity --


Before all that built up momentum sends Jack-O' off like a shot deeper into the unnecessarily large candy store at alarming velocities, the heavy weight of Dorpos going trailing after with every intent to leave I-No caked in sour hues of powdery pride and a small armada of mini-Gears for her troubles, lest she find a way to follow.

All of them wielding candy canes whittled expertly into various weapons, waving them menacingly.

It's so sweet a sight it's diabetes-inducing.

You'd think being slowly crushed to death would be exciting, but no, all the pastels are really killing I-No's mood! She needs candles and leather and spikes and definitely more rope--

"I'll give you something to squeal about, jackoff!" I-No continues to shout, by now having lowered her shock levels to the point where she can start kicking and punching in addition to screaming. She's not hitting anything, sure, but this is the kind of situation that requires violent wiggling. Her hat joins in the shouting match, becoming suddenly animate and making guitar distortion noises as it flaps its 'mouth.'

The witch doesn't even given the proper dramatic weight to Jack-O's warm science voice this time, instead shouting back various threats as the explanation comes out:




Everything freezes. I-No stops lashing out, both physically and verbally, as the four of them -- I-No, Jack-O', Dorpos the Pumpkin, and Dietrich the Hat -- hang there in mid air. In lavishly filmed slow motion, I-No narrows her eyes and gives the majestically-spinning Jack-O' a long-suffering look before the terror starts up again.

Jack-O' goes shooting off, taking the pumpkin with her. I-No falls, spinning around mid-air with a flick of magic so that she can land spread-legged atop the hole in the floor instead of falling through it, boots perched on opposite edges. I-No leans forward to look down at the first floor below, reaching for her guitar, which flies upward into her waiting hand.

By the time I-No looks up again, she realizes that she's been surrounded. Candy soldiers, armed to their dentist-defying teeth with peppermint puncturers. I-No, with abrupt calm, hops forward to land on more solid ground. She smiles beatifically, reaching down with faux demureness to tug her skirt back into place. Some candy dust falls from her hat, which she gamely ignores.

"Boys," she says, "or girls, or neither, I don't judge. Can't we solve this peacefully?"

The mini-Gears make tiny adorable war cries and charge in. I-No's multicolored eyes flash as her smile swells into grinning mania.


Of in the distance, as Jack-O' speeds away, she may hear a blistering assault solo accompanied by numerous baffling explosions and perhaps, if she listens closely, a roar of 'GIVE ME MY COKE, FUCKERS.' If Jack-O' hasn't been totally dominated by physics, she has some time to set up her defenses before I-No comes flying in, surfing atop her guitar. The witch weaves through aisles and hallways and cafe areas while trying to find the latest horror show.

"Come on out, halo top! Don't make me COMPROMISE YOUR CENTER OF CURVATURE!"

Bravely, did the Candy Crush Specters stand against the glam rock demon in human form. Their descendants would sing songs of this day, of the day their forefathers steeled themselves in hard candy armor, let loose their battle cries of glory, and proudly rushed into certain death within the raucous clatter of a vicious guitar sting.

Not a one of them to this day knows what their enemy's dread cry of 'GIVE ME MY COKE, FUCKERS' truly meant. But they fought for as long as they could all the same.


Gear Specters cradle the bodies of their fallen comrades as I-No flies off, surfing away for their master. It's a horrific scorched earth of bright bubbly colors and shattered candy limbs as grandly tiny Gear Soldiers limb amongst the dead.

D'aw. So cuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuute!!


*sproing~!* *sproing~!* *sproing~!*

... goes the sound of the bouncing mini-Gears that surround I-No as she flocks further in through the labyrinthine mess of bright colors and headache-inducing sugary scents that deck these halls. They don't attack -- well, some of them do, but their ankle biting (literally) is easily dismissed with a few swift kicks if necessary -- but the majority of them simply seem to gesture emphatically upwards toward the third and final level of Dylan's Violated Candy Bar, like aircraft marshals ushering in a vessel to its predestined location.

And there, I-No finds the motherlode.

This is not innuendo, and if you thought so, there's something deeply wrong with you.

Instead, of course, it refers to the veritable mini-mountains of confections that have been piled up all throughout the third tier of the Candy Bar, the nausea-inducing smells of sweetness and chocolate and processed foodstuff reaching distracting levels; this, apparently, is where all those minions have been bringing their goods, all of them working on redistributing these piles into various pods for storage. It's a necessary process, you see. Jack-O' would doubtless be happy to explain, and it would doubtless make very little sense.

Except, instead of that... Jack-O' is simply there, at the end of the road. A bar with peppermint stools that has been thoroughly debauched by the cheerful piles of teeth-rotting delights that decorate it now. She sits with calm poise, like a normal person in a sea of insanity, one long leg crossed over the other, halo (top) glimmering in its slow, golden rotation. Her eyes, lidded, her smile, subdued as it is sublime.

A lollipop cradled between her fingers like she was some sort of femme fatale carrying her ever-present cigarette.

"I didn't want it to be this way, I-No," she muses, voice quiet, contemplative. "I don't think you deserve the headache. But I've already overstayed my welcome here -- I'm starting to feel the pull between this world and the next. It's very strange, like witnessing yourself outside of yourself. A photograph that you know has to be you, and yet..." She closes her eyes, shakes her head. "... I'd like to join you and give you a proper lesson on physical laws and what a center of curvature means, but I have things I need to do still and there is no possibility in this scenario where you take me back. So, I suppose what I mean to say is..."

That lollipop taps against Jack-O's chin. Her head tilts, curious as an owl with glamorous pink eyes just as big as one.

"Ummmm, how exactly are you supposed to suck an imperative--??"

Voice once more as sugary sweet as all that mountainous confection brandished like a red cape at a bull.

I-No slows her guitar surfing as she finishes covering the second floor. She loops back around, coming up to another concentration of Gearlings. The witch tenses in preparation to do more flyby kicking -- they haven't had much success at piercing her thigh-high boots, but it's about sending a message. Yet...


I-No straightens her posture and reaches up to tilt her hat to the side. The little shits are... gesturing her onward?? I-No puts on a half-hearted scowl as she and her guitar float over to pull up alongside them.

"If any of you 4koma-looking fucks left bite marks on my boots, I'm gonna come back down here and skin you alive to make a new pair."

The witch points at her own eyes, points down at the mini-Gears, and then looks upward as her guitar floats her up through the stairwell opening.

I-No steps off her guitar as she reaches the top, floating down to the ground while her instrument continues rising until she plucks it from the air by its neck. She walks with an unhurried pace, taking the time to absorb the bizarre sight of the surprisingly organized candy ransacking. Her sense of potentials races off on different possible melodies, even if there's really only one note she can play from here.

Her gaze settles on Jack-O'. She comes to a stop a good length away, but really any distance is lunging distance when you're a witch.

Jack-O' speaks. I-No feels like she's either got the other woman cornered with no hope, or she's going to fail no matter what she does because Jack-O' already has her encore planned out. Coming into the candy fortress like this was going to end in one of those two ways. Since I-No has to wait to see which one it is, she listens.

Her cold expression softens as Jack-O' goes on. It doesn't soften with kindness, but rather bemusement. She furrows her brow, intently studying Jack-O's face. Somewhere, deep down, too deep for most people to see, there may be a spark of something like empathy.

"What are you..." she murmurs after Jack-O' falls quiet, the witch's voice just loud enough to hear. For a split second it seems like I-No is going to finish her thought, but she doesn't, because what she said is good enough.

~* :3 ummm how exactly are you supposed to suck an imperative nyaa :3 *~

I-No tilts her head down, the brim of her hat hiding her face. When she looks up again, her expression has completely changed to a wide-eyed, joyless smile.

"I'll show you, fatass," she says, her voice tense with barely-restrained manic... well, one could call it excitement, but that doesn't give credit to threatening tone inherent in I-No being excited.

"'Imperative' is the name of my special friend that I wear with a special strap and--"

With predatory decisiveness, I-No bursts forward with another howl of magically-stirred wind. IT'S THE FINAL SHOWTIME, JACK-O' VALENTINE!

Her position never really quite changes. But everything else about Jack-O' changes in an instant after that very important question is posed. If one weren't observing her as keenly as I-No, they might swear she were another person entirely. Her smile is bubbly, her eyes doe-like in quality, her body language a constantly shifting kaleidoscope of micro-motions like someone on the verge of exploding. Where once was a calm wealth of unassailable GAE is now something effervescent, like a well-shaken can of carbonated beverage waiting to be opened so it can burst.

Her leg swinging back and forth over and over, Dorpos swaying like the tick of a metronome, she pauses only as taut words grind out from between I-No's teeth. The Valentine blinks in a flutter of lashes. Her dual-toned hair swishes around her bouncily as she turns her head, and just sort of... leeeeeeeeans herself half out of her seat, to peer downward. Lips purse.

"Um. It's been too long, I think, or been too brief, maybe, so just to be sure... That's the good kind of fat, right--?"

And so this is how we approach the endgame. One, grappling with cruel bodyshaming tactics. The other --

o/` 'Imperative' is the name of my special friend that I wear with a special strap and-- o/`


With coy sheepishness (??), Jack-O flips off her barstool with a swirl of emerald magic and the snap of arms into an 'X' shape of firm denial as she goes. The subsequent handstand she lands in upon the bar's countertop is an eloquent flourish if eccentric, halo scraping the top in a shine of sparks as she blows the charging witch a kiss.

"To the victor, the spoilers! IT'S THE FINAL TIME OF OUR SHOW, I-NO I-NOES!"

Wait. Why did she say that out loud??

The reason why may well be in how she's flipping /behind/ the bar counter a second later in a haphazard spiral. As soon as she disappears behind it? Two of those magically miniature Gears come dropping down from the top of the bar, bearing buckets. Both upturn them in tandem --

-- and proceed to try to unceremoniously dump bucketfuls of melted wax lips on I-No in turn, the magically-infused paraffin wax instantly drying up as hard as cement on anything it comes in contact with. Of course, I-No might be expecting another surprise frontal assault --

-- which is why, from those candy mountains, guerilla Gears burst from their hiding places with ominous BOI-YOI-YOINGS~! of arrival and the lash of great, long, magically reinforced licorice whips they whip forth for I-No's ankles as if she were some horrifying Imperial ATAT, the magic in them meant to strengthen as well as restrict. It won't hold her forever. But Jack-O' doesn't need forever. She just needs long enough for a good headstart.

Ropes. Wax. No spikes.

That'd just be weird.



This is a critical moment. I-No, knocking over candy in a mad airdash toward Jack-O'. Jack-O', disappearing behind the counter. I-No is already angling upward so that she can clear the bar and dive down after her prey, but her keen performer's sense is tingling. There's one truth about being on stage: eventually, some dumbass is gonna try to rush it and that's when they need to get bodychecked by security.

But I-No doesn't have security. In fact, I-No is the dumbass rushing the stage. Jack-O' /definitely/ has security, which means...

The Gearlettes zoom down from their ambush point, a bucket in tow. Even with her sight of them theoretically blocked thanks to her unwieldy hat, Jack-O' may see one final, wolfish smile on the witch's face before disappearing behind the bar. When the two soldierlings dump their magical wax payloads right where I-No needs to fly, she twirls with blurring rapidity that turns her and her beloved guitar into a crimson-and-cerulean tornado.

The wax splatters in every direction but the right one, leaving I-No to land in a perfect predator perch atop the bar, which incidentally puts her about eye level with the bucketeers when you account for her heels.

"Sup," I-No whispers.

With a mighty bitch backhand, the witch slaps down both of the mini-Gears in one blow. They go spiraling off into the candy-covered distance, but almost immediately they are reinforced by the licorice whip corps. The grappling-whips make pointed lashing noises as they curl securely around the witch's ankles. I-No, while still completely free from the ankles up, abruptly shifts into a coquettish cringe as if she were bound much more extensively.

Some of the deflected, melted wax that landed on the ceiling chooses this moment to allow a single droplet to succumb to the grips of gravity. It falls directly into I-No's ludicrous cleavage situation.


The soft lighting moment passes. I-No suddenly shifts poise again, twisting and bringing one boot up enough so that she can stomp down with her heel and snap one of the licorice whips. With only one left holding her, she delivers a mighty roundhouse kick, the spin of which first jerks on the whip enough to send the holding mini-Gear hurtling toward her so that it's in range to be kicked in the face.

The whip loses its magic, slouching off her boot. I-No turns her head to glare down behind the bar, looking for sign of where Jack-O' went. If she sees nothing, she'll fly off in the direction of her first, best guess.

Dylan's Debased Candy Bar may never recover from this day. Never mind being on the verge of a confectioners deficit that most learned candy economists would call 'a perilous candy crash' -- their reputation is now thoroughly shot after today. The wax! The rope! The imperative!

Won't somebody think of the /children/?!

The answer is almost certainly not I-No, currently crushing adorable things children would doubtless love that are also children-/sized/ with extreme prejudice (brief moments of disconcerting indulgences in wax play aside, also incredibly not children-friendly), one mighty kick of boots made for stomping cracks into the thing with a discomfortingly squishy sound distinctly reminiscent of a squeeze toy being brutalized and sends it flying into the far wall, plastering against it with a CRUNCH of plaster and sending it peeling off into a crumpled heap.

The subsequent sound the fallen teeny tiny Gearling makes is disturbingly deflated.

I-No glares. But there's no big bright smile and enthusiastic wave to greet her sharp, prismatic gaze (really, with eyes like that, you'd think she'd have more appreciation for a place like this, Jack-O' decides). No; there's only empty air. Jack-O' has vanished. Gone, without a trace. Her master plan, completed. She needed a few seconds for a headstart, and she got it, and now she's probably halfway down to Portugal old South America way --




Or no. No, maybe not.

Maybe a sideways glance would reveal in fact Jack-O' Valentine is about thirty feet out from where I-No is currently perched.

Just sort of... caterpillaring across the ground in an awkward demonstration of unnerving flexibility.

The sound, courtesy of a sack of candy. Currently clenched between strong white teeth.

It's only then that Jack-O' pauses. Blinks. Eyes a flushed shade of lively pink tilt juuuuust so to peer at I-No.

"Um," begins Jack-O' eloquently. She briefly releases that sack. Smiles a big bright smile. Waves an enthusiastic wave.

"Hiiiiiiiiiii, I-Noes~"

A second passes.

"You look like you had a good time! Especially toward the end there! That's great~! Paraffin wax has a bit more of a sting at higher temperatures thanks to its higher melting point compared to other alternatives, but obviously that wasn't a problem so everything seems to have more or less worked out. Excellent data. I'm so happy for you!! Sssso I think we can call it even? Right?? Right!! And also... OH WOW LOOK AT THAT DISTRACTION~?!"

And with that, Jack-O' salutes from her position on the ground, -yanks- Dorpos to the soles of her feet, and with a cry of "Off to adventure~!" she clamps teeth around that sack of candy once more as her familiar begins to burn magical exhaust.

Not even a second later is Jack-O' blasting off through a nearby window she had positioned herself just the ideal distance from.

A window that promptly shatters into shards of glass that promptly tear that sack to pieces in a deluge of candy as she flies in her extremely haphazard path for the skies.

"oh noooooooooooooooooo there's glass everywheeeeeeeeeeeeeeere--*"

What does I-No think about brutalizing cute little Gear-chans? Let's tune our radios there for a moment:


So it's not great, let's no go back there ever again.

I-No looks down at the empty space beneath her. She stares blankly for a moment. Then, her attention slowly slides across the floor, head turning as she follows Jack-O's escape route to where she's currently trapped deep, deep in a bit. I-No tilts her head, eyes half-lidding.

The witch raises her hand to return Jack-O's wave with the least amount of energy possible. She keeps it raised as Jack-O' freaks out and clambers onto her rocket pumpkin to launch herself through a pane of shatter-resistant glass, which probably isn't great for the whole 'staying without hideous scars' goal that most people have. It's a good thing Gears are built waifu tough.

Fortunately I-No's decision to remain where she's standing on the bar means that she's not showered in glass shards, flattened by rocket backwash, and pelted with candy. She instead watches Jack-O' disappear into the sky, a smaller and smaller headache until even that speck disappears into the clouds.

I-No drops her hand. She steps down from the bar onto one of the peppermint stools, then sits back onto the countertop. Placing her guitar aside and then reaching up to remove her hat to do the same, the witch looks out upon the wretched sugary hellscape that Gears have wrought here. Chilling.

The witch reaches into her top and removes a neatly-wrapped blunt. She places it between her lips, and then snaps her fingers with her thumb brushing the unlit tip. It cherries red as I-No breathes in.

An employee in a paper hat and an apron slowly slides into frame.

"Ah, miss, marijuana products have regrettably not been legalized in New York, and this is a no smoking building--"

"I'm going to knock out your teeth, turn you upside down, and use you as a vacuum cleaner."

The employee slowly slides back out of frame.

Log created on 17:07:12 10/13/2018 by I-No, and last modified on 03:08:48 10/14/2018.