Illyria - Illyria Finale - Broken Pedestals

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Description: The arrival of the Sacred Order's commanders, Ky Kiske and Leo Whitefang, couldn't have come at a worse time for the forces in the NOL camp. Most of the Librarium's forces are on edge, or worse, and plenty have an axe to grind with the Order. As Leo Whitefang meets up at the castle, he is intercepted by Clio St. Jeanne, who wants answers.

Well this has certainly gotten out of control hasn't it.

Invading Fairy Folk, Dragon's, Gear Jail Breaks, Betrayal, war, you name it. If somebody put Leo on the spot and asked him narratively explain how he got here - dashing across the courtyard of an ancient castle at the heart of a Europe wide nexus of power, trying to desperately meet with and coordinate what remains of the Sacred Order and their allies... Well he probably couldn't explain it coherently. Likely because he barely has any idea of what's going on.

But he does know the stakes are high..and he's important enough that even if he has absolutely no idea what's happening and why..the fact that he's here means it's not only important events but that it'll turn out alright. How can it not if he intervenes? The remaining Sacred Order forces anxiously await his arrival and direction.

And so he brazenly rushes across the courtyard, swords out and gleaming and having already dealt with several sorties of the mad rush of the fae folk, much to their regret.

Leo had wanted to see the chain.

Clinking, rattling, metal against metal. Links lance through the air. At the head, a sharped spike. The spike stabs violently into the ground ahead of Leo Whitefang, burying itself into the courtyard ground. The chain pulls tightly. Runes, sigils, magical formulae light up with a violent violet glow. Bursting into spectral hued flames, the chains fall slack when their holder drops to the ground in Whitefang's path.

Things had happened. Bears, mostly. But faerie stories came to deadly and violent life. All centered on the castle. Every bit of the cursed, strange and wyrd seemed to draw toward the stone centerpiece. The hound of the NOL could smell the trouble, and she also smelled answers.

She had been searching her own way before she had seen the rushing Whitefang. She knew of the situations regarding the Sacred Order's actions. She was high enough in Guard that she knew all too well. And Clio was angry. She was betrayed. But more than anything, she was curious.

Clio St. Jeanne stands up from her skyward drop. The heavy chain lashes about her arm, wrapping and coiling with an almost living intent. Spike in one hand, pointed downward, chain stretching in front of her, wrapping her other arm in binding metal, Clio lifts her head and stares at the charging Sacred Order Knight.

The chain lights, the curiously colored flames dance and lick around the length of chain. St. Elmo's Flame glows at the steel tip of her boots. "What happened to honor?" she calls out to the dashing knight. "Why?"

For Clio. He stops. Just about anyone else would have seen the Great Knight come barreling forward with both of his arms before him, Iron Cross swords criss crossing as he entered Brynhldr stance.

But for Clio he stops, skidding to a stop with a plume of dust billowing up behind him and his great coat and mane of hair falling about him like a massive shroud.

" Lieutenant.. Clio.." he says, and then that's it. He just sort of looks at her from a distance and then finally shoulders one of the swords while letting the other tap itself against the ground infront of him, loosely toyed with by a massive hand.

"I tried to warn you." He states, "..But there was much I couldn't say. There' s much I -still- can't say. You have to trust me, that everything being done is for the greater good. The good of the world. You ask about honor? There is no greater honor then sacrifice in the name of the greater good. My reputation in your eyes is a small price to pay for doing what's right. What more answer do you need then that?"

Clio St. Jeanne's face remains still and steady in its moment of stoic rage. Her thumb runs along the length of her spike. She flicks the metal with her thumb, sparks scatter to the ground. She rolls the weight bearing arm and the metal clinks and clatters. "Good people are getting hurt," she states, "The Order broke its word."

She points the spike behind her. "I'm not here for your reputation. I'm here because people are getting hurt because of the actions of your people." She shakes her head, arm lowering, spike sliding to click against the ground.

"You really are full of yourself. Greater good? Yeah, a good so great that some Librarium thug isn't worth telling it to." She snorts, derision pouring out of her words. "The Emperor spouts the same crap. She's right, they're wrong, sacrifice for the greater good. Funny, really, how the greater good always seems to be what the big guy in the room wants."

"The -Order- broke its word?"

Leo steps forward, a faint touch aggression in his movements now, though he stops eventually, if Clio backs up defensively or no, "You -admitted- to me that you're aware of the darkness that lies at the heart of your organization but you'd sit here atop a high horse at my actions in the name of what's right in contrast to what your leadership is up to, upset because 'The Order Broke Its Word'. Are you that naive? I can forgive you for you wanting to believe in something bigger then yourself but open your eyes. You know as well as I do that the NOL is rotten at its core ."

He points his blade at her now, "We have information that the NOL had standing orders to not only recruit from within the Sacred Order during the mission, from the very beginning, but that those who refused recruitment were in danger from NOL action in the aftermath of their refusal and were not to be allowed to leave Illyria and this is not even going into the blatant manipulation, lies and damage inflicted on Rome to manipulate Dizzy into surrendering while also framing her the damages done to the city, let alone the information we have on record now regarding the intentions of the NOL with the Command Gear and -other- Gears that were in custody."

He makes a dismissive gesture at that, shouldering his weapons again but frowning dourly, "Don't talk to me about honor and word Clio. Open your damn eyes. Once we release all of the information we have to the world at large, The NOL will be lucky if it can book an international flight, much less continue its press for draconic authority."

Clio is nowhere near the height of Leo Whitefang. But she didn't back when Heidern stepped up and she isn't going to back down now. She looks up at Leo. She actually, in a small, thin-lipped, stifle way, smiles. "I know what's going on. I know all too well. Probably more than you if you can stand to perish the thought for a moment."

Her hand raises, palm out, chain hanging. She loops it back up to talk. "Hiring people out from under someone isn't against the law, even if it hurts your feelings. And until you can furnish proof of danger, as far as anyone knows, it hasn't happened. And not to pop your bubble, but blatant manipulation isn't always so blatant to the people that matter."

She looks away from Leo and pinches the bridge of her nose. "Before I was sent to the academy. Before I met my friends. Before all of this I was fighting. I went out and I fought. I fought the bad guys. I was a good little knight errant. And you know what? The world doesn't give a shit. I still had to hide. I still had to run. My eyes are open in ways yours aren't. Whatever you acted on, by the time the dust clears it won't be the NOL that has trouble getting a flight. It won't go the way your fat-headed, idealistic heart wants."

The chains fire dies out, but Clio remains resolute in front of Leo. "I don't doubt that my superiors were attempting to turn the Gears into a weapon. I can believe that. But the truth is, I cannot believe that your Order won't do the same thing. You aren't the only one involved. You charge in when you think you're right. What damage could you do with a Command Gear, Leo?"

"And therein lies the problem, Clio. Your perspective is skewed from the very onset. We're not -fighting- for possession of a Command Gear. We are fighting for a young girls right to choose how to live her life and to exist without being manipulated as a slave or the mother of a slave race at the hands of those who only see her as a tool. What damage could I do with a Command Gear? None. Because I don't own a Command Gear and nobody should. We are fighting for Dizzy's freedom same as the other Gears who were captive there, only caught while they were seeking solitude and peace away from humans."

He shakes his head at her, "I have all the proof I need. NOLs own files and personal testimony damns them. Listen, Clio. I understand your hesitation. Any given organization is made up of people. There are -good- people in NOL and The Sacred Order isn't immune to making mistakes or bad judgement calls.. but your leadership sets the tone."

He eyes her as she turns away and he shoulers his weapon, "It doesn't matter, in the big picture, what your personal efforts and beliefs are, or Colonel Mutsuki, if the people actually calling the shots are doing so with evil intent and the orders being carried out are to reinforce that intent. We have to fight that until it is changed - even if it is indeed the Sacred Order that has to hitchhike after this.. You fight until the change you want to see happen, happens. You don't give up. The world is an uncaring, cruel, cold place, Clio. But just because the world is a certain way, doesn't change what must be done."

"You don't understand," Clio says. "The world doesn't see Gears as anything but a danger, a threat, a menace. And not all of them are good people. The ones that aren't nearly destroyed a nation. I know you're in the right place. But you aren't the kind of person that's likely to be looked at and hated."

Clio rolls her chains against each other. She's agitated. The moment stretches. "You're very willing to throw your own people into hell if it'll suit your self-righteousness." Her voice is flat, steady. "Do you even consider that? I'm not talking hitch-hiking. You might be strong enough. /You/ might be mighty knight lion badass enough to take what you're about to do. But what about everyone under you? What about everyone who is willing to look out for you? What about everyone else?"

"I will fight and bleed and die for people. But I'm not about to drag them into a war because I feel justified." She looks back up to Leo. "Did you ever once wonder why, for an officer, I don't drag a unit around with me?"

"Choice, Clio, this is about choice. There's a line between people being asked to take on more then they can bear or you protecting those who are not strong enough - and you deciding -for- those who are willing to make the sacrifice on your behalf, for what is right, knowing the consequences, and yet you still refusing that as if you have the right to make that choice. That is one of the burdens of being in a position of leadership."

Leo pauses and then adds, "Each Sacred Order member has the ability of choice. At any moment they can exercise that. They can even choose to go to the NOL if that is the path they -want- to take. They can retire. But for those who do not..who -choose- to stay, who believe in our mission and our ethics, I have to honor that. That is what they joined the Sacred Order for. That is our calling as soldiers with the weight o our shoulders appropriate to our rank."

He pauses and then adds, "As to the rest? Yes..the world might very well reject Dizzy but at least she has the option to -try-. Because somebody out there might hear her, have empathy and understanding and be part of the need. But to deny her the option simply because it's hard and they may not listen at wrong."

Arms cross. Defensive posture as Clio's chains slip around her arm, across her chest from shoulder to waist, wrapping about her like a belt. "People deciding things for others is a whole lot like the way the NOL does things. I could probably hear the same thing coming from Hazama, or even Kagura."

Her head tilts back, she looks up to the skies above. She listens to the chaos running distant. She takes a deep breath and exhales upwards. "You know you already called the Librarium's hiring of your people a bad thing. So, they have a choice in that matter? Do any of us, really? What kind of choice is it when everything just pushes and pushes you to one thing or the other. Doesn't have to force. Like a tide or some shit. Just slowly pushing you into something. That really a choice? Or is it all that a person has put in front of them?"

She looks back to Leo. "And if they reject her?" her words hold a cutting edge of concern. Her eyes steady and focused, as if trying to read every muscle of Leo Whitefang to see just where he stands. "If they reject her, and she doesn't take it well. If they push. And she goes nuclear. Will you be there to put her down?"

"Clio, let's cut to the chase on this issue of choice. The NOL and SO members who commit their lives to the fight and the defense of the world are soldiers. There is no issue of ethics or wrong doing in expecting the rank and file to do their duty or to follow the leadership even if they don't necessarily have all of the facts - but I can promise you, our soldiers are in agreement with us on the reasonings and justifications for why we've done what we have done. That is not the issue here."

Leo shakes his head and gestures absently, "And those who don't agree are free to leave at any time. It's simple. As to Dizzy? It won't come to that. Do you honestly believe that the world as one monolithic entity is going to deny discussion on the rights of a being that claims itself to have free will? It'll cause controversy, discussion, debate and she -will- have enemies..but wholesale rejection from every an woman and child on the globe? -We're- not rejecting her, even now.""

Leo quiets and then says slowly, "The world is full of dangerous powerful beings. People who can fight armies to stand stills. The world warriors, the kings of fighters, sorcerers, seers, psychics and more. Any of them can individually or banning together 'go nuclear'. They don't because they are striving to move forward towards a common goal. To live. Why would Dizzy be any different?"

Leo grimaces but says, firmly, "And if they -do- threaten the world..then we have our duty to perform. You reap what you sow. But let's make sure we're not showing the back of our hands to 'push', as you say, them in that direction..."

"Not a fan of talking things out?" Clio asks, her smile doesn't carry malice or insult, almost a palpable relief in a way. "I mean, you seem to really like the way you sound sometimes."

She reaches to run her hand through her hair, pushing off her beret. Taking it into her hands and looking at the symbol resting on the front. She runs her thumb over it. Her smile turns distant and when she looks toward the sounds of conflict in the distance, she has to stop and rub the base of her eye with her knuckle. A small streak of black makeup coming off. "You're not wrong. And she does deserve a chance at a choice. They all do. Hazama, the Imperator, or someone high up is pulling shit. I don't know how much you know it, but there's this guy. Wanted. Big bounty. All because he has something that we want. Well, they pumped enough power into his dead wife to bring her back as some kind of homunculus. Had me lead her to fight him when I promised to meet him to look at the stars."

She laughs, pained, bitter, weak. "I don't even know the last time I really got to look at them without thinking about work. I went on this date and even that, I think something is wrong with that girl. But I was suspicious, and spent the whole time thinking about it. And then I wondered if it wouldn't be worse to bring her in anyways. Because I know what I do about who I work for."

"But tell me plain and tell me true, Leo Whitefang. If. IF! All of this goes to hell. Will you be there to put it back down? Will you be able to say you fucked up and you've got to punch your fuck up in the face?"

Has he really gotten that long winded? Maybe he's always been long winded or at least when he thinks matters are important, perhaps he has to work them out for himself and that leads to him talking his way through the matter. In truth there's a lot Leo doesn't understand, and doesn't' grasp. All he can do is go forward and hold true to his feelings.

But he's also very, very important and don't you forget it.

So he looks at Clio, eyes squinting at her words and then expression softening as he considers her and then her final question. In truth..if such a day comes, it probably won't be him to have to cut down the one they've risked so much for. There is another who is risking even more then Leo is.

He opens his mouth, preparing to say something else grandiose and tremendous.. and then closes it, thinks, and simply states: "Yes."

Clio St. Jeanne. Ten years old. Bleeding from the nose after trying to leap on some low rent thug's back. He lobbed her like a football. Left her in a garbage can. She took to carrying a chain after that. It was a bike chain, but a bit of metal could make a world of difference.

Lieutenant Clio St. Jeanne. Twenty years old. Wrapped in a chain of her own making. Metal can make a world of difference. She looks at Leo Whitefang. She wants him to meet Makoto Nanaya someday. She thinks they could be friends. Or at least they'll punch each other very, very hard. Which is more or less the same thing.

The stray thought makes her laugh. Puts her off balance. She loses the staring long moment she had held. But it didn't matter, Leo answered. And she nods to take in the choice that Leo has made. And what sort of choices still remain to be had.

"So," she says, looking toward the rampart walls. Looking at the surroundings. The castle. She thinks on knights and dragons and all sorts of stories she was told growing up. "If someone makes a really, really fucking stupid mistake. You up to giving her a hand for a bit?"

"'She' might not be the only one having to deal with the results of mistakes. We haven't reached the end of this crisis yet." Leo laughs ruefully but then makes a quick gesture with both of his large arms and puts away his Iron Cross swords.

"I'd be up to giving them a hand, sure. Sounds like fun. But listen.."

Leo quiets and grows more serious now, "Be careful in this place and with what you do. This place is dangerous and attracting the attention of beings that we can't understand or reason with. Whatever you have in mind or wish to do..proceed with caution. Right now, you and I have an understanding that our soldiers and some of our more hot headed leaders don't. We should work to ease tensions as best we can. What you said earlier is true. Just because we feel there are justifications to our actions, the common soldier and officer of the NOL isn't privy to the same information and tensions are high.."

"You know," Clio speaks matter-of-factly as her chain begins to light. From spike to weight, the arcane formulae etched into the metal glow violet. The metal begins to stir. It moves, slithering the spike toward Clio's lowered hand. Resting where she grips it tight. "For all that talk about big good and evil, you still worry about what your ideals might make happen."

"I like that."

Clio's chain tighten around her bare arm, covering it with a tight bundle of steel, sigils and runes glowing. "I wanted to do some good. I do. But I can't do my job anymore when all I can think of is what's going on when I close those doors. The bad ones I can put down. And you know, I think that might be more merciful than any thing I can bring in. They did it with Jubei's wife. They were probably planning on it with Dizzy. Hazama had us wasting time chasing our own tails when he was the chain man the whole time."

Clio points her spike toward Leo. "I wanted to be the azure flame. But time and again I'm put against people that are better than they are. Better than I am. I don't think I can anymore."

Clio's foot slides back, she bows herself slightly forward. Her chains clink as she bobs and sways. "Leo. Fight me."

COMBATSYS: Clio has started a fight here.

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Clio             0/-------/-------|

He had just put those iron cross swords away, but at Clio's request..he just sort of looks at her long and hard..and then once more summons those blades, growing them to their full great sword sizes and crossing them against one another as he drops down into his neutral combat stance.

"Alright Clio.." he rumbles, knowing the importance of this request and what It might mean to her sense of destiny and self worth, "I'll accept your request for a duel. Show me the determination that's in your soul."

COMBATSYS: Leo Whitefang has joined the fight here.

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Leo Whitefang    0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0             Clio

Clio has a laugh at Leo's unfortunate fate to draw out his great blades once again. "You really should look into magic sometimes. Makes it a hell of a lot easier if your weapon comes to you."

Clio closes her eyes and takes a breath. She licks her lips and lets go of that breath. This is going to hurt like a mother, she thinks as she opens her eyes.

With a blast, she launches from her start, hurling herself like a cannon ball toward Whitefang. She takes a leap, sailing through the air, turning over in a slow, near vertical sommersault. Her arms hang down toward Leo's head. The chain is stretched between her arms. The metal bursts with a violent flame as the choking tether closes in for the snap.

COMBATSYS: Leo Whitefang blocks Clio's Medium Throw.

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Leo Whitefang    0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0             Clio

Flame, sparks, and blazing surges of visible iron chi occurs as Leo brings his swords up in a parry that bats away the chain and its wielder with a ringing sound of enchanted steel against enchanted steel.

He rebounds backwards, briefly putting some distance between himself and the NOL officer before dashing forward after her in a blurring flash of oranges, golds and yellows while silver chi blazes behind his swords. The man is large but he moves rapidly, blitzing and scattering across the battlefield much like great cat's that he is named for as iron chi dances about his form furiously.

It is this chi energy that wildly cuts a blazing path of silver through the air as Leo attempts to dash right past Clio, with both swords burning with silver light, ending the assault with his back turned to her as he steps into his Brynhildr stance.

COMBATSYS: Leo Whitefang successfully hits Clio with Kaltes Gestober Erst.

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Leo Whitefang    0/-------/-----==|====---\-------\0             Clio

Rotation continues after the dive and Clio lands with a soft tap, on her feet with the agility of a cat. Just one that's smaller than Leo by a significant degree. She really hadn't expected to get him so quickly. Never seems to be the case with the bigger ones.

She twists around, shouldering her chain and catching the blazing flash of gold and orange. "Shit," she curses. "Make it hurt."

The strike lances past Clio, for a moment she feels herself held in the air by the shear air sucking force of Leo's wake. Then she catches up with physics, tumbles through the air, clattering against the ground. She arrests her sliding roll with the spike end of her chain. Stabbing it firmly into the ground so she can get back up to her feet.

She wipes her chin, grins, and skips from foot to foot. "Fast," she says, snapping froward. Her hand motion hides a subtle shift. Disconnecting her spike from the chain, she flings the sharp hunk of metal like a dagger through the air toward Leo's chest.

COMBATSYS: Leo Whitefang overcomes Spike Throw from Clio with Graviert Wurde.

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Leo Whitefang    0/-------/-----==|====---\-------\0             Clio

COMBATSYS: Leo Whitefang successfully hits Clio with Graviert Wurde.
- Power hit! -

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Leo Whitefang    0/-------/--=====|=======\==-----\1             Clio

The Sacred Order commanders reputation Is well earned. Fast, strong, nearly a berserker fighter on the field. A 'go hard or go home' type.. which means he can be prone to taking some risks..which he does as he turns about and brings his swords up in a wide arcing slash that sends a blazing gleaming 'x' shaped blast of iron chi spinning towards the incoming spike.

It ends up being a gambit that does pay off as the blast overcomes the spike and hurtles forward towards Clio, blasting up dust and trailing energy like a comet in its wake as it barrels towards the lieutenant.

"Impressive, Clio, but not enough!"

Clio's methodology is, at least in this moment, much the same as Whitefang's. She hurls herself, or things, at her opponent. Swinging her all into each strike. Sometimes, as with the spike she tossed, she does put some effort into realizing that she is not a much larger human being but a rather small one in comparison.

And of course this is when it blows up in her face. Her spike, helpless against a blast of chi energy, is wiped from the playing field. And Clio nearly with it. She tries to get out of the way, but there's a hitch in her movement. And she's smiling at Leo when she's taken by the blasting energy and hurled against a wall with a clanging thud.

"Makoto Nanaya," Clio speaks a name. She speaks more names punctuated by gulping breaths. "Noel Vermillion. Tsubaki Yayoi. Mai Natsume. Kagura Mutsuki. Kagura's personal boy. I forgot his name. They're good people. Whatever comes of all these mistakes. Remember them."

She starts to wind up her chain. The spiked end whirls around and around and around. It clicks off the rampart stones. "As for me. C'mon. Show me just how hard a big guy like you can hit someone like me." She laughs as her chain strikes the stone ground. A gout of flame raises up toward Whitefang, a tide of arcane fire.

And through that fire comes Clio herself, hurling through it with both feet out. Dropkick aiming square for Leo's chest.

COMBATSYS: Clio blitzes into action and acts again!

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Leo Whitefang    0/-------/--=====|=======\==-----\1             Clio

COMBATSYS: Leo Whitefang blocks Clio's Whipflash.

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Leo Whitefang    0/-------/-======|=======\==-----\1             Clio

COMBATSYS: Leo Whitefang blocks Clio's Strong Kick.

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Leo Whitefang    0/-------/=======|=======\===----\1             Clio

There are good people in The NOL, Clio. At least one of those names, I know. What the NOL..what you intend to serve.. it's a good thing. It's the driving forces behind it all that have created this collision course. It's not to late.."

Leo's declaration rings out as he snaps his blades up and whirl them around like a pinwheel, dissipating most of the arcane fire as it bursts around him, sending it fanning behind him and across the courtyard in a wave of brilliant colors. This enables him to see Clio an instant before she may have intended as she comes bursting through what's left of the flames and his arm lunges up to take the full brunt of her attack. The same arm then reaches forward, a large hand grasping for her ankle as his body twists to the side. The first hints of a grin that could be a fanged grin in the right lighting, occurs as he swings forward, attempting to pull her around and hurtle her roughly back towards the stoney ground.

COMBATSYS: Leo Whitefang successfully hits Clio with Medium Throw.

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Leo Whitefang    0/-------/=======|=======\======-\1             Clio

Strike, strike. The man is a wall and standing bulwark against everything Clio's throwing at him. She really shouldn't have expected any less. But the message is getting clearer with each thump against an unyielding force.

"You sound a lot different now," Clio says. She seems to stand, grabbed by Whitefang. She's looking at him when she's hurtled bodily against the ground.

Snapping, chains crashing along with the rest of her body, Clio lay on the ground in a heap of flesh and metal after Whitefang's forceful toss. "Sound like you're trying to talk someone from a ledge. You afraid for something, Whitefang?" Her voice isn't all there. And she turns around, rolling to her feet though she remains close to the ground.

The chain slips free. She looks toward Leo as the metal clatters. A circle drawn in the ground. A ring of vibrant violet flame stretches out like engulfing wings from Clio's spot on the ground. Surrounding Leo in a wall of dancing, writhing pyrelight. Another attack through the fires. Clio charging forward. But a shadow on the other side of the curtain of flame reveals a second Clio striking from a flank. A cry as a third comes down from above. A one woman riot converging on Leo's point. Part arcane illusion, part sheer speed. A rain of blows from a bleeding, battered young knight.

COMBATSYS: Leo Whitefang endures Clio's Cerberus Rush.

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Leo Whitefang    1/-----==/=======|======-\-------\0             Clio

"Is it really that different? I acknowledged this before about The NOL.." muses Leo, but he has little time to ponder over the rest of her words as her eldritch fury makes Itself known.

His body braces itself against the onslaught of her assault, shaking and wracked both externally and internally as the energy summoned by her sorcery seethes into him and the rush of blows form her high speed assault batters him backwards and into the wall of pyre fire.
It is a solid hit. A powerful series of strikes. Enough to put most down but sadly, not Leo. His body presses forward, attempting to rebound Clio from him and then instantly close the distance to respond to her last assault with one of his own.

His blades hurtle around seemingly trailing after images of their streaking swings as they rapidly blitz his opponent. The final swing literally attempting to knock her skywards, followed by a leap and another dash through with a blasting cross slashing image of chi burning through the air behind him as he drops back down towards the courtyard.

COMBATSYS: Leo Whitefang knocks away Clio with Leidenschaft Dirigent.

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Leo Whitefang    0/-------/-----==|=======\=======\1             Clio

The Wheel of Fate turns.

Choices made and paths walked. Sometimes, when walking those paths, where they lead and where they've come from begins to slip into shadows. Decisions made seem suspect. Directed by others. Controlled. Organized.

A girl left to roam freely. Head filled with stories. A fire in the dark. One that could have burned out of control. But one that may have burned hotter if stoked in different ways.

A school girl, ready to graduate. A letter on her bed. Decisions in her mind. But was someone who had been alone for so long really able to give up and leave such close friends behind?

A young woman, presented a truth of her position, and a truth of power that she had fought for, killed for. She stands in the rain, looking at a city, she makes a choice.

In Europe, that woman is battered, crashed into, hurled bodily by the force of an opponent larger and more skilled than she. She caroms off a wall, rolling along the ground. She forces herself to sit. She reclines against that wall. A line of red runs down her face, from forehead, meeting a tributary of red from her nose, and down her neck, staining the blue and white of her uniform.

Still, she smiles as she sits up, in repose, watching the man that has fought her. The pain in her body sings. It's clearer now. As she knows she can't fight more today. It's clearer now because she can see just where the weakness is.

She cannot do what she needs to do. There is diminishing hope within the light of the NOL. This provocation with the Sacred Order will be even worse for it. Tightening a noose around whatever good might come. The azure flame is out. Whatever is in its place is broken and won't be repaired by her. Not from within.

Clio St. Jeanne looks toward Leo Whitefang. She waves a hand toward the chain she left on the ground, putting her utmost into the simple gesture. "Break it."

COMBATSYS: Clio takes no action.

[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Leo Whitefang    0/-------/-----==|

COMBATSYS: Clio can no longer fight.

[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Leo Whitefang    0/-------/-----==|

There's nothing here to justify. No need for pompous self confidence or buffoonish gestures of strength and certainty. There's just two soldiers with one making a life changing and altering request of the other and Leo simply looks long and hard at Clio and says nothing. His blue eyes bore into her, as if trying to drill right through her..but he says nothing. Probably a feat considering how winded he's been throughout their entire encounter. His eyes flicker from her to the chain and then back again as if taking in the full measure of the request.

And then he strikes, chi and magic blaze through the iron crosses styled silver blades and sparks rip up through the cobble stone as he drags the swords along their length and then snaps it into the chain and then up again to try and rip the weapon asunder in a clean but incredibly powerful strike.

In the end, for its size and weight, the chain that Clio uses is merely that. The arcane etchings scoured into grant no more inherent power to the weapon than was cast into it by its original forging. The weapon cannot hold against a concerted effort from a world class fighter of Leo Whitefang's caliber. Without the pyrelight, a snake of steel cracks. The links fail and the pieces scatter only to lump heavily into the ground.

Clio watches from her spot on the ground. She watches her weapon sundered and rent. Given to her in the academy. A symbol of what she worked with for those years. What she carried around her. What she put so much of her own energy into. Now gone to the ages. A ruin within a castle somewhere in Europe.

Clio smiles.

She looks to Leo. Her eyes stare back at his. She takes a deep breath and surveys the courtyard, exhaling in a sigh. Two fingers held up for Leo, she strikes them like a match, flicking against her thumb. The violent flame burns at her fingertips before she lets it fade away.

"Chain's just a weapon. I can get a new one," she says, a relief crawling into her voice. "Might take some time to get the formulae the way I want it, though." She takes off her beret and looks at it once more before she tosses it off to the side.

She watches the hat hit the ground, keeps watching it for a pregnant moment, and then she turns her focus back to Leo. "Thanks."

"I'm sorry it came to this. I know you had a dream to fulfill. That you -have- a dream to fulfill...and that you have friends and people you respect. It was never my intention to put you into a position where you'd have to make painful choices...but I know you will be stronger for it."

Leo looks long at her, thinking things over and then turns to face her more directly, "There is still a dragon to face, Clio, and ....something else.." His words falter here, as if unsure he wishes to add more to the statement..

Then, abruptly, he asks, "What will you do now, Clio? Where will you go? What do you -want- to do?"

"Don't," Clio says, waving a hand weakly and shaking her head. "You're not the first person to get me thinking about this. And I do have friends. I do have people I can respect. I can just hope they'll eventually come to accept what I need to do."

She starts to push herself up to her feet, sucking on her teeth until she's managed to get back up and propped against the wall. Still, she's standing.

"Sorry for taking advantage of you. Putting something else on your reputation. But this being all that's left of me should keep them off my back long enough to get clear. After all, This isn't the first time I relied on shadows and confusion. I'm good at sneaking. By the time this ends, I'll be out. Who knows, maybe I'll find you in the Vatican after this is done and take you up on that offer to help someone who makes shit mistakes."

She pushes from the wall and takes a few steps forward to test herself. Finding momentary stability, she looks toward the future's instability. "I need to get better at what I do. A lot better. And I can't do that just being the soldier the NOL wants."

COMBATSYS: Leo Whitefang has ended the fight here.

"Fine.." Leo nods his head, "I understand. Let me tell you something.. in case things go -very- wrong.. you're the first and possibly only additional person outside of the Order and its close allies that know this. I guess this means I trust you and consider you in that number. The Librarium can't learn about this. It comes from someone who has the ability to see future paths and she was explicit about them not learning of this. However, I suspect Relius already knows. In fact..I think all this.." he gestures, indicating Illyria but by his demeanor and gesture more means the entire sequence of events, " in part manipulation to get us to this point.. There is a larger threat. A Unseelie Queen of unspeakable power. The faerie hosts, the dragon, the ley lines going haywire. It's her doing and it has something to do with this castle and the compound beneath it."

Leo's blades are put away once again and he stands there, straight backed arms at his sides, " We must stop this dragon but after that, I'm going to help put this Queen down before this castle is used for whatever mad ritual she has in mind. If anything happens to me...or Ky or any of the others who get involved.. I want you to know so you can be prepared to step up. I don't know when, or how exactly. You might find yourself swept up into it regardless..."

"Means a lot as someone who's pulling what I am," Clio says. "I could use being trusted."

She listens, takes in the information, nods along in a steady agreement. Relius Clover probably does know. And the Librarium can't learn much more than they already know. Not having Dizzy is one thing, but acquiring and controlling some sort of faerie queen is a whole new danger step. Once more, Clio St. Jeanne finds things around her a lot more cool if she weren't stuck in the middle of it.

Still, the woman puts on a smile and nods. "Hey, what's a fairy tale without a witch?" she asks. "I don't know where I'll end up, but if something goes wrong, then I'll be around to try and pick up the pieces. I'm already going to have a lot to be picking up, might as well add more."

She laughs, runs her hand up her face, smearing her eyeshadow, and runs her hand back through her hair. "Whenever you find some darkness, take a look around. It's not azure, but I'll still have some flame for you to follow." That sounded better in Clio's head, but she's been a little rattled recently.

Leo let's out a good natured laugh as he turns, "That probably sounded better in your head." He affirms in a relaxed and honest way while smirking mildly. "I try to leave the cool sounding statements of affirmation and heroism to Ky as much as possible. I'm not very good at them myself. Long winded, apparently."

He pauses and then nods, "You have my thanks, Clio. Do not give up and stay strong. It is needed. "

With that, he begins quickly moving, crossing the courtyard again in search of the front lines of this dangerous situation as it builds up towards its crescendo. It was for a needed purpose that he was delayed here, but they have both tarried here long enough.

Clio isn't above laughing at herself. Hand against the wall for support, she nods and has a good chuckle at her own mistakes. "I'll keep that mind when I meet him." She says when for a reason. Now is not the time to use 'if'. For much the same reason she's taking advantage of this moment of levity in a dark time. She feels she will be seeing scarce more moments like this in the days coming.

"And you're needed a lot more than I am. Don't get eaten by a dragon," she tells him, watching the knight make his rush from the courtyard.

Clio remains behind for a moment longer. She needs to clear her head and to think. The beating, the evidence left behind, all of it should put anyone off the trail. Leave her survival in doubt long enough to get to safer climes. She has so far to go and the road ahead is a terrible one. But she has allies out there, and it might be time to pay a visit to some of them.

As Clio leaves a world behind. She knows one thing for certain; come Heaven or Hell, she will be there to fight.

Log created on 23:12:05 05/11/2018 by Clio, and last modified on 23:29:59 05/12/2018.