Springtide Rosalia 2021 - Rosalia #10) The Eye that Cannot See

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Description: Rachel to Nago at tea time: "...true, it is almost that time again... someone will have to descend into that pit and deal with it. I cannot have it getting loose in the castle, it would disrupt the Rosalia. It is a filthy labor. Let us have a couple of our guests attend to the matter. A favor owed will be their reward, should they survive."

he offices of the Novus Orbis Librarium were a buzz the night the invitations mysteriously found their way to nearly everyone in the arcane para-military organization. One of the monster level threads that had been featured right near the top of the Bounty Boards for about as long as Corporal Kaneko had been enlisted was calling so many people out to come attend her 'party'.

Of course, the Librarium wasn't about to send everyone to the vampire's castle. It wasn't entirely clear what they would be going into and the probabilities of it being a trap were high.

Instead, specific individuals throughout the organization were selected to comply with the demands of the invitation, to press their bloodied thumb-print to the invitation as instructed to confirm intent to attend this so-called Springtide Rosalia.

Waiting for the night of the Blood Moon to arrive, Renka Kaneko, one of the selected to venture into the monster's lair, studied everything she could find out about the monster behind it all, and fortress that seems to protect her. The data files on Rachel Alucard were multiple pages long, from abduction, mind control, murder, making people into vampires, hording magical artifacts, training monster armies... The fox-eared soldier had learned that it was best to be skeptical about the info in the databases... for as much as the institution prided itself on research and accuracy, she had encountered conflicts in the wild, though she had always kept such inconsistencies to herself.

As the sun set on the night of the Blood Moon, Renka had bid farewell to her fellow soldiers and stepped outside the barracks, moving to a clear area just beyond the perimeter. She wasn't sure what to expect, but she didn't want to endanger her friends in the ranks.

She was dressed in her more formal NOL uniform, an outfit she continued to take pride in. It seemed to put people at ease when they saw it, like they knew help was at hand. As long as they weren't Darkstalkers, of course... A blue military jacket worn over a white, button up long sleeved blouse, and matching dark blue knee-length pleated skirt form most of the attire. She eschews the blue beret worn by most in her unit - in spite some efforts in the past, all of the ones tailored to fit her ears through them felt so uncomfortable and seemed to limit her hearing. But the rest is complete, down to the dark shin-high stockings and black ankle-high shoes. At her back swish two fox tails, moving back and forth as she paces a narrow rut into the ground while waiting.

Finally, at the first hints of dusk in the horizon, she vanished, caught up in a shroud of darkness blinding her to the world. A rush of wind, the sensation of being ripped across vast space, and then she's 'there'. Somewhere. Already her hand goes to the sword sheathed at her side, palm resting on the end of the grip as she looks around warily.

Eyes adjust to the heavy dark quickly and she turns to take in her surroundings. She finds herself on a stonework ledge overlooking an underground cistern. It's cool, damp, with sounds of water dripping from brick ceilings far above into pools of water below. The only light afforded are the occasional burning torch mounted to the walls around her.

Sucking in her breath, she reaches out to take one of the torches in her left hand, leaving her right free to reach for her sword if necessary, and begins to move through the dark, underground chambers.

"Well. I didn't expect sunshine and flowers at a vampire castle." she mumbles, keeping her voice soft as she realizes how easily it is to echo in here.

A bloody thumbprint and a world away was a wonderous castle among the shadows.

This strange place supposedly held at least one old friend of her master. But more importantly it may hold answers and assistances much needed to tend to the problems of Metro City Park. But Jubei was elsewhere, and the curious corridors of the castle were no friend to the navigator.

However, in many ways they were wonderful friend to the explorer. Strangeness abounds and with spaces holding a dreamlike consistency from one moment and place to the enxt, every turn brought something of curiosity.

And without recourse and recognition, curiosity bloomed amid the shades. Clio St. Jeanne was not dressed for fancy ball or formal occasion. She was, as ever, limited due to the lifestyle she lived in Jubei's orbit. Though it was through her own hand she developed the pseudo-Kaka Clan outfit that had gone from disguise to just simply what she had at hand. A violet hooded sweater, low enough to reach her knees, the hood modified with cups to hold ears that Clio doesn't have. Her chain hangs from that oversized collar and ends tied up around her waist in a false fashion statement meant to excuse her carrying the heavy arcane conduit for her magic. She isn't wearing the opaque mask, rather she has it strapped backward, looking out behind her and still semi interpreting her expression.

The light in the cistern is why she has forsaken the mask. Or rather, the lack of it. The eyes looking backward serve as a ward of sorts, or so she hopes. If she appears to look both ways, maybe the sharp fangs and red eyes will put off any potential creature of the night.

She is in the middle of idly watching, observing, exploring the undercrofts and clinking her chains in a steady rhythm when something makes her stop. She listens. Voices to travel and she thinks she may have heard something. Or, perhaps it was nothing. In either case, she takes a quiet breath and unclips the weighted end of her chain from her collar. The heavy end's many etchings spark and start to glow. A crackling fire, dark and violet at first, it brightens to a wavering, clear blue glow with the coaxing of Clio's arcane work.

With her 'lantern' to give her light, Clio walks the ways of the cistern, keeping catlike to the narrow walk. She is used to the heights and ledges of urban trodways, it's a skill that bodes well for her so far above the muck below.

The files on the castle were far less thorough than the potentially exaggerated list of crimes of its master. The best Renka could make out was that it was possible to wonder into this fortress even though it was situated in Makai. Accounts spoke of delving into dark caves only to step out into the vast Gothic complex or of exploring an earthly castle at night only to open a doorway into a gigantic corridor defying the dimensions of any Earthly palace. Every account mentioned getting lost, of finding no rhyme or reason to the twists and turns of the vampire's abode.

And they all shared one interesting detail - just as it seemed they had stumbled into an inescapable doom at the hands of lethal traps, or a stampeding horde of creatures, or falling victim to figments of nightmare, each visit to the castle ended with a shroud of darkness and safe return to someplace on Earth.

Curious pattern for a monster, Renka had mused, to whisk intruders away just prior to their inevitable demise. She hoped she didn't have to put this Lady Alucard's hospitality to to the test, herself, but nothing she is finding as she explores the narrow side-passages and slick surfaced walkways hints at any 'Springtide' or 'Rosalia', only dark, unsettling murk.

Now and then the fox-eared spelunker leans a little over the edge of a walkway, holding her torch out over the still water below, finding only a black, opaque mirror reflecting back up at her. She'll pause on occasion, closing her eyes, smelling at the air, trying to sense even the most subtle of drafts that might give clue to a way out. And every step of the way, her ears pivot, head turning this way and that, as she remains alert.

As she crosses over a narrow stone bridge between two pools of still water, a piece of the construct breaks away, falling with a splash into the dark liquid. Tense, Renka freezes, muscles ready to leap should the rest of the bridge decide its carrying days are done and it is ready to plunge eagerly into the depths below, but it seems to hold. Only after several seconds of held breath does she realize that there is still a splashing noise below, something moving through the water, long after the ripples of the original disturbance should have ended.

Still holding her breath, the Corporal slips forward to the other side of the bridge, holding her torch out over the water again, but by then things have calmed and all she sees are the last fading ripples before they too are gone.

A slow exhale and she turns to continue on. There is a door ahead, thick, and wooden. It doesn't seem to have been overcome with rot, nor do its iron braces show any sign of rust. Given the environment, she can only conclude enchanted reinforcements are the reason why it seems to have stayed off the touch of decay.

Stepping up to the door, she lifts the heavy iron bolt driven into the stone floor and leans her right shoulder against it, pushing it inward and away while holding her torch out to her side, always wary of the flames flickering too close to hair. Even at the first crack of opening, her senses detect a much larger room ahead, ears detecting the echoes pealing off more distant walls.

Maybe this is the way out?

Dark and darker still. The cerulean light of Clio St. Jeanne's flame dances on the damp stones. The must and murk lightened by the presence of the cool light, glimmering and glistering in the darkness like stars off the water. And though shadows are long in this place, it is a cool comfort for Clio. She's faced things, dark things, wicked things, terrible things that do terrible work in impressive architecture.

A memory of elves in Illyria comes to mind. Conflict against the faeries in the tower of a grand castle. Fighting alongside the eventual King of that land. She would have to tell Whitefang that this castle was better the next time she was in his neck of the woods. This one had a lot ore crypt and a lot better places to climb.

Clio smiled inwardly. Good memories helped quell the dread of the dark places.

After a turn, a twist in the path, a crank of causality makes for what feels like the third time Clio has walked down this self same path. She pauses, and she has a moment to think. And while she does, more sounds echo down the seemingly endless passageways.

A foreboding wind flickers Clio's flames. She puts on the steady, still face of an officer. She knows there are dangers here. She cannot allow her guard to drop. She might be amused at the spooky surroundings, but she knows that the invitation that brought her here wasn't solely out of kindness, sweetness and light.

She moves, faster now, following the sound of an ancient bolt and hinge. Stopping around a turn, and looking to see the backside of someone else. Someone that she begins to follow.

The very instant the door presses inwards, a rush would likely sent every instinct of Renka into overdrive. A great, wicked aura, so dark and heavy it seems to stain the fur of her ears and tails, ripples out in a rush of stale air. A sense of being prey, like a great, unseen hand were reaching out to grasp her.

Although she has dedicated her life to the eradication of evil and monsters, whatever is beyond is something else. Unnatural. Not of this world. It may have been some time since she was near something that could contend with the rage of a dragon.

The darkness itself seems thick as ink even to her kitsune eyes. A great, circular area is beyond the door; perhaps thirty meters around. Multiple circular walkways of stone and wood, wide enough for two, are set up; eight in total, linked with corded rope ladders. At the ceiling is a great, iron gate sealed and locked.

And in the center is... the thing. Even Clio, upon her approach, would feel the strange, nibbling sense of a monstrous entity gnawing the fringe of her eyes, artificially inciting fear and dread... perhaps twenty feet tall, what seems to be a great, bound mummy seethes in the middle of the room. Faded white gauze, inscribed with powerful marks to bind something within. Massive chains draw up from the ground, bolted in eight places total. Each is wrapped tightly around the figure, which seems... not humanoid, but... alive.

Twitching. Shifting. Like a cocoon on the verge of hatching. Many paper talismans are attached to it all over, but they are worn and singed. The occasional shift and adjustment rattles the massive iron, rasping like an angry snake on the cold stone beneath.


A great echo in both of the pair's heads. It is like a roar in the center of their own mind, followed by a rush of dizziness and pain. And an odd compelling, that might even make them for a split second wish to descend into the pit, and free this majestic, powerful being... one that would fade, and leave only the chill once more.

It is close to escape... and what might such a being do, were it to manage? Where would it go? And what, if anything, should be done about it? Perhaps it's a problem for Castle Alucard...

Her shoulder pressed to the door, Renka freezes for a moment. Every instinct tells her she's being watched, that something knows that she has breeched this chamber. Her heart begins to pound and an annoying, persistent scratching sound seethes in her ears yet doesn't seem to originate from any source around her. Closing her eyes, she hesitates for seconds longer, then finishes pushing the door the rest of the way in, standing in the now open entrance to the large chamber, able to take in the horrific sight.

Eyes sweep up toward the ceiling briefly before dropping back down to trace over the narrow concentric circular walkways with unsure bridges connecting them.

But then she sees it at the center. Once more, the kitsune sucks in a breath and holds it, a defense mechanism of sorts, doing away with the sound of breathing and the overpowering smell around her. She can go quite some time without the need of oxygen, her supernatural physiology capable of sustaining itself on the well of soul energy she made sure to top off before the night of this grim undertaking.

There is a fleeting thought that maybe this is where the vampire is - that fiend behind all of this. But the thought is dismissed almost immediately. As oppressively powerful as she knows the dark lords of Makai might be, this is something beyond.

And then it speaks in her mind, demanding a service from the long lived but very much mortal creature: release the writhing form from its prison. Her mind even starts to consider how it might be done - burn the talismans with foxfire, score the chains with her sword, rendering them weak and ready to break. Maybe the bolts themselves could be targeted-

Renka shakes her head, squinting her eyes shut. She will do no such thing! Forcing very idea of aiding it out from her thoughts is a conscious act of will. How easy it would be to simply do as it demanded...

Renka staggers a step further into the room. Her instincts tell her that she has to respond to this, to stop whatever would happen if it got loose. She should call in backup- no, that's... not possible, how would anyone get here? She doesn't even know where /here/ is!

She takes another step forward, foot coming to rest on the outer most circular walkway. Tails twitch as she tries to fight back nerves, glancing over the edge of the walkway to the depths below and then deciding that isn't helping matters in the slightest.

She doesn't realize until she sees the glint of steel in front of her that she has drawn her sword, right hand clasped tightly on the grip. She remembers the thought of cutting at the chains themselves-

"No," she whispers, releasing a fraction of her stored air. No, she will not be doing any releasing here. But what can she do to this thing? It will only get stronger if it gets loose, she tells herself, if she is to do something, she had better act fast.

Even if she must act alone.


A door opens. A mind shakes. Cold and creeping as the moss on the stones surrounding, the dread of this place laces its fingers with perception. An inky stain plays with the corners of Clio's vision. The ground bends and the shadows cast by her flickering firelight make for strange faces in the wet. She stops. She looks. She feels the cold edge of dread run through her breast and snake into her heart.


Movement again, as though a lifetime past, she follows the form of the one ahead of her. The fear has gripped St. Jeanne. The cold heart of dread pulls her forward. She hears whispers at the base of her neck. Phantoms not of the creature ahead per se, but of dark things yet in Clio's past. Fairy stories. The knights of yore. Heroes. Fear in the hearts of knights gone to die. Gone to destiny and grand finales. Broken on the Wheel of Fate. When there is fear, when there is dread, there is compulsion. These memories pull the girl forward.


Does she even notice the woman in front of her? The one she had followed? In some way, she must. She can see in the glowing light of her eldritch fire the uniform this girl wears. She cannot miss it. She cannot ignore it. Somewhere, in some other way of things, she is still in a similar uniform. She is here on a duty from trusted leaders, not here on volition and curiosity and the duty of a knight errant. In some other way of things, she may know others here with her. In some other way of things, this never occurs.


Thundering words in her head. Demands. And as before, a touch of perceptions. Why not release it? Rend and sunder its bindings. Breaks its chains as she had her on. Give the bastards at the NOL something real to fight instead of generating phantoms to empower themselves. Let them burn.


Clio holds. Names, faces come to mind. Noel, Mai, Makoto. Gods that line of thinking was easy, sweet, and too reasonable. But it wasn't all hers. She shakes her head. The light of the weighted end of his chain crawls over the links by way of flowing and firing through the sigils and formulae meant to bind it and direct it. She knows what she must do. Even if she has to remind herself. The words come easy, quietly, a mantra, "Dispatched in mankind's darkest hour, we are knights of the blue flame."

She repeats the words, and though it does not beat back the dread and fear, it does hone her attention to what must be.

Her eyes clear and she sees the woman already stepping inside. Swiftly, she begins to run after, to make up for ground lost while traversing inside of her own head.

There was no promise of reward, no hope for succor or affinity with this being. The demand bore deep like a cold blade, and it was that. The presumption of some powerful being. As if to be obeyed was natural, expected, those beneath it little more then insects that had best obey... this must be some aberrant, ancient being. Why is it here? How reckless must the owner be, to allow it's seals to fray to such a degree...?

~< INSECTS...! >~ the great beast intones.

A sheer, horrifying sense of worthlessness. Every insecurity, every failure, every regret would become ball and chain, trying to drag the pair down into the depths of sheer despair, at the roar of his mind-bending creature that seems able to warp the very souls of those nearby...

It moves again. More forcefully. What seem great limbs pull at the gauze... and it can be heard rippling. A ghastly sight of black and purple, flesh moist and unnatural. Another writhe, and a single chain breaks. Even weakened, the metal is thicker then a mortal blade could cut, and it seemed like a clump of spaghetti to a child...

Yet then, a new magic surges. All along the walls, ancient magic comes to life. The darkness of the chamber gives way to this subtle luminescence, and most of the negative effects of being near this horror would give way. At the very least, the crushing weight of the unknown thing's presence would no longer risk at every turn to threaten to overwhelm them...

The broken chain glows, then whips like like a snake. It wraps around the bound creature, which roars. Did it...? Like a soundless cry, a sense of sheer, aggravated rage throbbing like a splinter deep within the brain, as the ground vibrates and dust falls from the ceiling. Gauze tries to wrap about it once more.

It is breaking free, but almost as quickly as the damage is dealt to winding cloth and enchanted metal, it actively tries to bind tighter... yet it is a losing battle. Bit by bit, misshapen lumps of grotesque dark flesh begin to peek out, what seem unearthly tentacles of pink suckered flesh driving free to wrap about the chains. Great pulses of magic radiate from the massive signs and runes on the walls, the floor, the ceiling, actively trying to drain the monster...

But it's not going to be enough. Left to it's own devices, 'It' will break free. And make to escape; the grate above it, were it ripped free and tossed aside, is surely enough to fit it, and the most subtle of air currents would at least reach Renka's nose to tell that beyond, at some point, is the fresh air of freedom.

There is a brief time to speak, to prepare arms, or to the rational, mayhaps, to flee. And then, it will be upon them... but, were this beast to be sufficiently weakened, then the draining sigils and active wards would certainly renew the beast's cage... if one dared to face it.

Evil is usually a grey word. A land of morality. A human fabrication. Yet this thing would slaughter every man, woman and child it found, devour creation as much as it could, and slay hope itself... for once, at least, a conflict with zero ambiguity.

Normally, the fox's sensitive ears would pick up the most subtle of sounds in the environment of the forgotten cistern. The creak of the chain just about to snap, the rustle of dusty, scorched wards, and the press of a foot against moist stone somewhere behind her. And what her ears didn't detect, her sense of smell would be almost impossible to hide from.

But instead, the soldier's ears are filled with the sound of insects scratching at the edges of her mind, and her nose helps her not at all for as long as she keeps her breath held. Viridian eyes keep sweeping the room, taking in its dimensions, the treacherous gulfs between the circular walkways, and of the countless methods of sealing employed to keep whatever is wrapped up in the center of the room from getting loose.

Even though they aren't meant for /her/, and even though some of their potency has been lost to the eternal battle of keeping this horror contained, Renka can't help but feel a sense of trepidation around such powerful sealing relics. The soul leeching kitsune reviles them on an instinctual level. Such things have always been the bane of her kind, an edge afforded to humans to fight back against the creatures of the night. The burnt wards may not have been designed with her in mind, but she suspects she'd best not touch any of the sanctified tools of containment in this room either. Can she possibly weaken this thing while also avoiding the very things designed to suppress it?

Head ringing, the pressure builds as the entangled beast rages and she finds her feet frozen to the walkway on which she stands, right hand trembling even as she tries to keep her blade steady, left hand holding up the torch, its warmth providing little comfort against the heavy dark.

The room lights up, sigils beyond the Corporal's understanding illuminating the damp-slicked walls, and Renka begins to tremble. The torch falls from her hand to thud against the stone as her left hand joins her right in trying to hold her sword steady.

No. This is too much. She has to flee, she can't-

Through the ringing, the scratching, and the overwhelming paranoia, a voice is heard. It might originate behind her, but to Renka it seems to come from all sides.

'Dispatched in mankind's darkest hour...'

They aren't just empty words. They mean something. The uniform she proudly wears means something. The promises she made when she enlisted in the Novus Orbis Librarium means something.

Her own mouth moves, completing the testimony in unison with that voice.

"We are the nights of the blue flame..."

Along with the additional suppression of the now active spells, it's enough to steel her resolve. And as if to mirror the oath itself, a steady blue flame envelopes the blade of her slightly curved sword as nine vibrantly burning azure spheres manifest in a patternless orbit in the air behind her, casting a blue glow all around Renka.

She isn't alone. There is another of her order here. Together they can-

She turns, eyes settling on the one bearing a small cerulean orb of her own arcane making, and the NOL Corporal's jaw tenses, eyes narrowing slightly.

She had hoped for an ally but instead /she/ steps into view - once Lieutenant St. Jeanne, now associated with one of the greatest threats in the Librarium databases. The erstwhile officer now branded traitor. Why /her/ of all people?

Renka keeps both hands clamped on the grip of her sword as she pivots completely toward Clio then.

"Did you do /this/?" she challenges back, aggression in her tone but also a wary defensiveness. This human abandoned her oaths, did she not? Maybe she has something to do with the black and nauseating pink fleshed abomination breaking free of its containment too!

Renka cowls, looking conflicted for a moment - recalling her bout against this young woman's companion in that team tournament... The old cat wasn't nearly the monster she had expected. Renka shakes her head, ears pivoting briefly to try and listen for anything happening from behind her in the center of the chamber but also directing the majority of her focus on the one person who could possibly help her here.

"D-do... do you have any idea what will happen if this thing gets free!?"

The weight of emotion hammers hard in Clio St. Jeanne's chest. Failure. The word hangs. The word weighs. Heavier still than the literal chains she wears, the thoughts come quick and unfiltered. Failures to take on the responsibility of the Sacred Order. Failures to protect Noel. Failures to remain with those she loved, to be beside them, to maybe do something to stem the corruption within the very thing that framed her young life.

Failure that rings loudly. Wet tears in tearing rain. A stained uniform hat. A broken chain. Uselessly beating against the twin blades of a future king.

A flame in the night, in that moment, snuffed as simply as a candle before bed.

And then, in the darkness, luminescence grows to give hope anew. Lightness of being and a mind cleared by the magic of truth. The seals shine, the chains hold, and the realization of this thing's power is put to the cold reality; it is bound here. It can caterwaul and it can demand, and it can bring despair, but it is the prisoner of this place. Lashed in a stinking sewer.

Clio's eyes take in the light. She can see the ancient magic coming to life, binding at the creature's dripping, sloughing flesh. She has seen some of the sigils and runes. She knows derivations from these ancient equations. So much of her is pulled by curiosity bubbling to giddiness at the thought of their potential and the discoveries here.

In the movement of the chain she recognizes principles that drive her own weapon, in the sealing she can see shapes that speak to her own circle craft. This room was a discovery. This room was a practicum in and of itself. She could learn from it. She could use it.

But even the strength of the seals here wouldn't last forever. The tantrum of the bound draws Clio right back down to the immediate reality. With her heart and head put to rights by magic and mantra oath, she can get an inkling of this bound beast with some degree of clarity.

But she is not alone here, and in her moment of awestruck interest, Clio had stopped aside the fox-eared soldier. An accusatory soldier. "What?" is all Clio can muster at the question as she stares gobsmacked by the insinuation. "I didn't do any of this! I saw you walking down here and felt that thing."

She remembers this one. Even if most of her attention was on Captain Hazama. The insulting, dismissive bastard that manipulated everyone and could have killed Noel. The one that ripped the confidence from her in how easily he dispatched her, and how little he even cared of her. Injury and insult were all she knew that day. She should ask to be forgiven for her lack of noticing the woman at his side that day.

Clio looks now to the pestilent looking animus embodied and shakes her head. "I don't know what it is, but it ain't good." Obvious statement aside, Clio St. Jeanne was still an officer with the NOL. She still has that within her. And her mind starts to kick into old habits that transcend allegiances. "The seals are breaking. Back-up is not an option for me. And we cannot allow this thing to get free."

She grips the heavy clip end of her chain, the violet fire of her magic flares to life along the metal body and with her control, the metal snakes around her arm. "We need to buy time for the spell to assert itself!" she says, voice sliding to steel itself against the horrors before her. She's fought demons, fae, whatever Captain Hazama is, but nothing quite like this thing. But inside, Clio St. Jeanne knew she was a knight of the azure flame. She knew what she must do here.

Four 'limbs', or approximations of such, eventually slither free from the countless bound weaves of enchanted cloth. Each is a twined, grotesque lump of tentacles, rippling out across the dark. Each grasps one of the chains, before it twists and breaks the metal with unsettling ease. The purple-ish flesh beneath the remnants of it's prison pulses, surges, expanding outwards before with a slow, hulk-like tear, it bursts free. A towering form, the very tip of it's mass coming to perhaps thirty feet, enough to reach the third level of surrounding platforms. It is dizzying to look upon, directly; moist, glistening, like a mass of squids pressed together and causing the eyes to trace endless circuits and roundabout turns in a mad attempt to make sense of it. At it's apex is something like the crest of a cephalopod, flanked with light pink frills...

Then, a single great eye splits open upon the front of what must be it's 'head'. The world falls to darkness, and for a split second the pair would feel weightless in another world. Before the searing light of the wall-bound sigils ramps up, and reality settles back into place.

The void...? Some dark, cold, empty place... past this world. Past the Boundary. In the cracks past reality itself. This is no demon, or god... it is a Thing Beyond, born past the concept of time and space. It becomes clear that the majority of the enchantments here are to bind the weight of reality upon it, least it burst free with ease to slither off...

That huge, bloodshot eye watches the pair for some long moments, before glazing in disinterest. Yet a few chains lash up and wrap around it once more; cloth, torn to shreds, is actively seen beginning to knit back together. The beast resumes shifting and moving, but the initiative is definitely in it's favor...

It does not care about them. It wishes to be free. And it will, undoubtedly. If they stand and watch, this... beast will manage. All four massive, wound limbs rush upwards, slipping into the corroded iron rungs of the grate overhead. Twisting around, before the mass of suckers at it's base latch upon the ground. When it pulls, a protective sigil flares about the ceiling, reinforcing it...

But this creature is beyond concepts such as 'strong'. It has the might it desires, and even if just for scant moments, pulses of force begin to cause hairline cracks to appear, and the iron to quiver... even as the twisting chains and sealing fabric attempt to press back against it, only to be brushed aside with a tendril or limb.

The seals on the wall seem to be ramping up, however. The longer this beast is exposed, the more of an effect it will have... but to confront it, to try and distract it from it's escape... the weight of it's attention alone felt like it could fray one's mind.

What might it's rage cause?

Clio's reaction stops Renka's recrimination short, the fox recoiling slightly in surprise. She had certainly expected a guilty denial; or worse, a gleeful confirmation at being responsible for the weakening of the powerful magics at work within the chamber. But the accusation seems to bounce right off the ex Librarium officer and the Corporal is caught slightly off guard. She still looks unconvinced, and the wary way she keeps eying Clio rather than the oppressive horror nearby makes it clear the distrust harbored in her mind this instant.

But when Clio seems to shrug off the implied guilt and shifts her focus to what is, arguably, the more urgent matter at hand, Renka finally twists her focus from the chain-bearer to glance toward the abomination along with her. She doesn't have the young woman's gift for magic. Any understanding she has at the powers woven into the sealing chamber are instinctual or rough guesses at best. But when Clio clarifies that her situation is not unlike Renka's - that backup will not be coming - the fox-tailed swordswoman's suspicion of her seems to fade significantly.

She looks toward Clio then, her only ally against the unfathomable.

The implication is clearer now, beyond all doubt. No one else is coming. The burden of action rests on the two of them. If the human had said they needed to kill it or die trying, Renka would have known there was no hope of victory. But... weaken it a little? Is there still enough power in this cistern to contain it if they can buy time?

Clio declares that there is. And in that moment, Corporal Kaneko believes her. The young woman may have abandoned her place in the Librarium, she may be branded a traitor by some, but in that instant, the enlisted darkstalker can't help but see the officer she once was shine through.

Renka nods then, pivoting to face the purulent thing side by side with Clio. Nine foxfire spheres dance through the air behind her in a lazy arc as the kitsune grips her sword tightly in hand.

"Okay." she declares through gritted teeth. "Let's-"

The beast breaks loose, shattering chains, rendering cloth. Writhing flesh bursts forth from confinement and surges up in a writhing, pulsating, towering mass, and Renka staggers back, foot almost stepping off the circular walkway.

"I-it's too late-" she stammers just as It opens an eye and any attempt at speech or even thought is cut off in an instant.

Trying to even understand what is happening in that moment is impossible. Is she dead? Is this empty void all that exists beyond the veil? Maybe the seals that were trying so hard to suppress the beast turned their ire toward her instead?

Images flash in her mind. The horrific slaughter of humans and darkstalkers alike, caught up in violence throughout Southtown all because of one evil person's ambition. Of the mangled bodies of NOL soldiers in the street following the escape of The Hunter. Other images, not of the past but of the future to come, of ruin and mayhem, of the bodies of her fellow Librarium enlisted piled up like cordwood. Unfathomable hatred choking out all life on Earth, man and beast locked in battles to the death in their crazed, final moments before life is snuffed out.

But she is broken free of that world as the seals once more assert their effect on the chamber. Renka gasps then, finding herself back in a dizzying reality, her left hand planted over her left eye, body hunched forward, right arm trembling, tails lowered behind her legs, ears tilted forward.

A crushing loneliness steals her breath, leaving her suffocating in spite the fact she need not breath. Without even been attacked, the fox looks defeated before it even began.

But then she turns her head, uncovered right eye finding Clio. No. She isn't in this alone. There is another.

A growl rattles in her throat as she pulls her left hand away from her face and forces herself to stand up straight, planting her feet, steeling her resolve with the aid of the powerful sigils glowing all around the room.

"Right then." Renka nods towards Clio before pivoting to face the monstrosity.

"Tell me what to do."

She will trust this human. They must fight as one.

The wretched thing, the monstrous prisoner, the bound entity. From beyond the Boundary, this thing threatens the state of reality with its presence. And as it tears its way free, rising higher and higher to its towering height. Even then, it's a thing from other space. Unapproachable fathoms of space outside of things known to man. A slithering, moist mass of a thing.

But it has an eye. And, in Clio's experience with things, if something has an eye then it normally does not want something to poke that eye. It gives the former officer a lead. She may not know what it is, or how it works, but she has something to grip onto. She has something that she can hold onto. Something that she can plan around.

The chain about her own arm flares to light. She squares her stance, eyes darting here and there to the higher levels. From the corners of her eyes, she sees reality bleed. She sees death. A version of her, or something like it, a body in blue and white. Another time she is still of the NOL, the circumstances different, a what never was. Another where others are gone and she's standing, triumphant as the creature unleashes hell on a life where she no longer holds to her oaths. Possibilities, and potentials, most of which soaked with blood and ichor play out all around her.

The light flares again. Violet fire licks from the sigils on her chain. Of course she could die here. It's a reality of her lot in life. The valiant knight sacrificing. It is dark, but when all that can be shown is slaughter, there is a comfort in a dire future. Back against the wall just means you know where you stand. She even laughs, though low and thin, knowing that even if she's left that she still holds fast to herself.

She looks aside to the Darkstalker soldier. The moment of weakness. Those ears and tail don't do much to hide the emotions. Clio forces a smile, she's the officer here, she has to maintain composure. And she's made peace with a death in service to saving anything she can. Clio's quick to lean over and tap her knuckles on Renka's shoulder. "Stay alive. After this we're getting some ice cream." Silly, light, and optimistic. Keep something outside of the horror to keep focus. A reason to fight can be small or large. It just needs to be.

But there is a fight here. Clio points up. "We just need to get to to expend itself. Wear it out. Annoy and harass. Go for eyes, go for where limbs meet the main body. I doubt we'll get through the hide. Let the magic do its job, don't worry over it. Focus on sticking and move. Now soldier!"

Order given, Clio St. Jeanne, former Lieutenant of the Librarium, finds herself once more entering the fray with a soldier of her order.

COMBATSYS: Clio has started a fight here on the left meter side.

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Clio             0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: The Forgotten One has joined the fight here as a boss!

                         THE FORGOTTEN ONE                          
  [ |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| ]

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Clio             0/-------/-------|

The pair's ruminations seem inconsequential to this being. Although uncomfortable and disconcerting, foul and inhuman to the taste, smell, even eyes, the blazing brand of the seals across this sealed oubliette far under the castle protect them from the majority of this beast's presence. Personal strength matters little -- only the potency of one's soul. Clio's burning desire, and Renka's ancient convictions, are the weapon and shields that matter. People far beyond them in the martial arena might have already crumpled and been enslaved. There's a reason, after all, that Rachel sent them here... and it was not to feed a monster. An opportunity to reconnect against a common foe? Will it be so easy?

Yet time for Clio's plan to enact fades rapidly. All four flowing masses of it's arms curl tight around the grate overhead. The base of it distends and stretches outwards, great, trunk-like middle form expanding before contracting with a roar that shudders the stone and sends dust falling. Despite the amplifying circle around thick iron, it buckles majorly. Bolts bulge away.

Immediately, the metal of the grate can be seen trying to repair, to draw away. But the momentum has shifted, even as chains lash out to wrap about the thing's neck and shoulders, attempting to siphon away power, to seal it's reach to the absurd, yet too little, too lite. The time to consider is passed... in a dozen seconds, it will rip this grate open, and they will have no way to stop it from leaving.

The time for action, for defense, is now or never...!

COMBATSYS: Renka has joined the fight here on the right meter side.

                         THE FORGOTTEN ONE                          
  [ |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| ]

[\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  //////////////////////////////]
Clio             0/-------/-------|=------\-------\0            Renka

The rap to her shoulder sparks a surprised reaction from Renka as she glances to the side, eyes widened slightly, looking at Clio as if she's babbling nonsense. A cool, sweet treat was the last thing on her mind an instant ago. Even trying to imagine surviving long enough to enjoy anything after this unfathomable, let alone it being a shared treat among two who should have no business doing so in her mind. But incredulity fades, mouth slightly curling up into a friendly grin, an expression of playful warmth that even reaches the fox's green eyes.

"Nn," she nods, turning her face back toward the writhing horror, expression becoming dead sober once more, forcing herself to study it, taking in the points the once NOL officer is calling out. Connection points, eye, distract it, slow it down. The spells will work if they can buy them time.

She senses the call to action coming, her body tensing, azure flame flickering along her slightly curved sword becoming brighter. She is a weapon to be directed at a threat. She had accepted that over the course of her enlisted training and subsequent assignments. It was a purpose she could wrap her head around. She would be the shield for the unprotected, the blade for the unarmed. Lips draw back, revealing a pair of elongated canines, and a growl rattles in her throat.

Stick and move. Delay it.

'Now solder!'

"On it!"

She has already bolted forward by the time the words leave her mouth, attacking without question, without doubt for the order given.

In this instant, the Eldritch beast is ignoring them. INSECTS, it had called them, not deserving of its attention. All it cared about was the promised freedom above, a world unprepared for the horrors it would unleash the moment it got through.

Showing no doubt as to her own skill, Corporal Kaneko leaps fearlessly over the span between rings, closing in on the center of the squirming tower of flesh. Flaming sword and nine fiery spheres of foxfire leave an azure wake behind the uniformed attacker. Her target is where one of the trunk-like tentacles connects to the base as Clio had directed. Another leap forward and she gets to a closer ring. It's almost in reach now.

Mid-air, three more projections of sapphire flame burst into existence alongside her, each taking on the vague form of a slender, leaping fox, claws extended, jaws open, teeth bared, long tails of flame trailing behind.

With a shout, Renka lands as close as she can to the protrusion. Teeth clench shut as the kitsune swings her weapon down, gripping the sword with two hands. In the same instant, the three flaming foxes rush forward with her swing, targeting the point of impact. Against a normal opponent, there would hardly be a need to severe the hide to allow her piercing energy to invade her target.

But in this instant, she pours her all into trying to provide even the smallest cut to open the way for the three potent assaults of foxfire to slip through.

It might be just a prick to the titanic thing - but even insects can sting.

Heaven or Hell.

The earliest moments of a conflict, the precipice of violence, where chaos is at its most evident. This is the time and place that Clio St. Jeanne knows she thrives. Certainly she had a 'plan', but it had little in the way of moving parts. Hit here, hit quickly, is not a plan that has a great degree of complexity that can risk failure in ways outside of simply not being able to make the grade.

The magic of this place, the bindings and the seals, have to be trusted in the moment. Clio has to focus on her approach. And on keeping the morale of the NOL soldier high. And the promise, and expectation, of a post combat treat is just her way of doing that.

That it works, and the soldier is smiling and listening, is a reassurance that does more for former Lieutenant St. Jeanne than anything she has going for herself at the moment.

Clio's right arm starts a wind up. The spiked end of her chain beginning to whirl around and around and around. The sound of the heavy chain whirring through the air picks up higher as the sigils and formulae etched into the metal shift in their iridescent hue. She steps forward. The chain's spike is let flying. Formulae shift and with it so to do the metal links. Warping and lengthening from unseen source it seems as though the chain hurtles like a snake to strike at a higher ledge and latch hard into place.

A kick, a burst of held power, Clio surges into the air pulled along the length of the chain. She hurtles around, taking into the air and rolling with the links as if they were aerial silks. Her path takes her in a long arc past the bound titan. She's quickly sailing and in her passing she has nothing more physical than the nails embedded in the toe of her boots. But the tiny point of contacts are just the touch to let in the flow of burning, violet toned magic she looks to burn the beast with.

COMBATSYS: Renka successfully hits The Forgotten One with The Quality of Loyalty.

                         THE FORGOTTEN ONE                          
  [        |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| ]

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Clio             0/-------/-------|==-----\-------\0            Renka

COMBATSYS: Clio successfully hits The Forgotten One with Chain Bomber.

                         THE FORGOTTEN ONE                          
  [               ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| ]

[ \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Clio             0/-------/------=|==-----\-------\0            Renka

Even at the ferocious approach, ignited weapon at the ready and foxfire poised, Renka would still get the strange sensation that she is not worth the thing's attention. Although the reason might become apparent, the closer she gets. As if pressing through a field of molasses, approaching the beast is a lesson in mental fortitude. At some point trying to focus on striking it down, she might have to remind herself why she even tries; and resist a brief, compelling urge to drop fetal to the stone before she ever even reaches the target. Voices thrum in her ears, of people she loved, trusted, respected, for the folly of throwing her life away in such a pointless endeavor...

Yet her bright form ripples forward, before the weapon slashes down. It does not feel like flesh, what her blade connects, but stone. Her weapon briefly struggles to rake a scantly visible line upon it, before the flames thrust out and paff against it, briefly causing the insignificant wound to shimmer and nothing else.

Of course she couldn't hurt it--

But then the seals roar. Purple lightning flashes out from five points, in focal areas of the seal. It hits the spot she struck, and causes the creature to shriek. A sense of reality, of sureness, immediately flashes into Renka's surroundings. Chains ripple up with newborn vigor, encircling the beast's four limps and with a brief, distracted contest, yanking them free with a last CRANK! from the ceiling hatch.

This chamber was created to battle the horror in. The seals are not passive, clearly... and the weight of someone from the core realms striking it with will and intent will establish those laws needed to do it's binding.

Almost arduously, the beast whirls around. A simmering malice seethes from it like ink in the ocean depths, as that huge eye flashes open to stare down towards Renka in close proximity. The momentary respite of the wards vanishes like dust in a storm. A sense of countless tendrils burrowing into her mind, her soul, assessing her -- no, *tasting* her, for the first time. Acknowledging her as someone who is a threat, now. This is not the first time it has been fought here... no, it might have been countless times over the centuries or more.

When Clio approaches, it twists to take her in, too. It is a distracting thing, going through the same storm of self-denial, all while one's soul wavers under the attention. There is only her, only that eye, in a world of darkness. Feet strike into it, as if it had cared more about whatever task it was doing... not even enough force and momentum to make it move, as the energy boils beneath her boots.

Before the runes erupt, and lash out to strike where Clio touched again. A second time the best roars, and the chains surge with another bout of vigor. Regenerated binding cloth start to wrap about it's lower body, pinning it back into place. Before with a great flex, it lashes out with all four limbs in tandem. The air billows, broken chains go hurling past and rebounding near both Clio and Renka, each half their size and twice the mass.

Before the huge creature leans forward, that huge eye only a scant meter from Clio as she shifts to land after her assault. Twined limbs reach far past her, grasping the distant walls.

And then dozens, hundreds of eyes flash open all along these extremities, staring towards her in tandem. Renka would only feel a brief, nauseating ripple of dark power, as for the first time this Forgotten One's power is leveraged in true rage... to the kitsune, it is over in a heartbeat.

But Clio will witness something far worse.

*** Within the mind of Clio St. Jeanne ***

After the beast roars, Clio will sense an attack coming. Although not from the titanic cthulhu itself; instead, from behind. The sound of a rippling chain, aiming to strike her right in the back. There is no presence, no sense of another here, but once a low laugh is heard, she'd likely realize why.

"Ne, what are you doing, Ms. St. Jeanne~ Dropping your guard around your enemies...!"

Within this bubble, isolated from Renka, Clio is briefly able to live out what may be an illusion. What may be an alternate world. What may be the void ripping through, polluting the Boundary to manifest this attack. Anything she says or does at the moment, the kitsune will not be aware of... but for all intents and purposes to her, it is real. Including any potential wounds from the chain's assault...

Hazama is standing atop a couple taut stretches of Ouroboros, wearing his standard suit and long coat, one hand resting on his head. "Good job, Ms. Kaneko...!! Seems she didn't suspect a thing!" Renka, within this shadow realm, is merely standing facing the creature, neither looking nor reacting, utterly unreactive. "Do you think she's here to stop it...? No, no! This thing is doing more damage existing in this realm then it would finally leaving~ At least, to the people who matter. It may kill thousands, tens of thousands, as it left Romania, but..." Hazama frowns, feigning concern, tapping the blade of his knife against his chin.

"They've been lax in supporting the NOL. Maybe after, we can finally help them. Ah, and Ms. Kaneko..." His eyes slit open just enough to show slivers of burning green. "Make sure to kill her, when it's all done... me? I'm only intelligence! I've hardly the combative skills to help!" Then the chains retract, drawing Hazama past the burning glow of the seals, disappearing into the darkness between. "But I'll be watching, just in case even a man of my skills can find another way to help out...!"

*** The Forgotten Chamber ***

For Renka, none of this happened. Until that brief pulse of energy fades, and any potential wound on Clio violently manifests. The AWOL human would no longer see or sense Hazama, but that is not unusual, especially here... and the insidious seeds of Renka's betrayal planted deep within, whether the attack worked or not...

COMBATSYS: The Forgotten One successfully hits Clio with Hysteria.

                         THE FORGOTTEN ONE                          
  [               ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| ]

[        \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////// ]
Clio             0/-------/---====|==-----\-------\0            Renka

The two handed, overhead swing of her sword was fierce enough to harm almost any opponent Renka Kaneko had ever faced before - sharp steel, refined precision from centuries of repetition, piercing foxfire that emanates no heat yet burns deeply any foe unfortunate enough to make contact with it... and yet all of that seems to be for nothing at the moment of impact. Instead of a flesh rending strike, her sword meets a material that is unyielding to her strike yet pliable to the beast the two fight.

Growling, Renka pushes down harder, determined to leave a mark, however insignificant. Distract it, delay it, pull is attention away from the grate above.

She hadn't fought through the aura of dread to get this close only to do accomplish nothing!

And then the mechanisms of the cryptic chamber kick in once more, violet lightning bolting from the seals on the wall to augment her strike into an attack that actually registers in the cosmic awareness of the Forgotten One.

Eyes widen for a moment as she draws back, tails whipping behind her back in perfect counter motion to her own velocity to keep her balance on the precarious circular walkway. It's starting to make sense to her now. Quickly, she glances over her shoulder toward the origin point of the lightning strikes, quickly connecting the pieces in her head.

She may not be a student of magic but she has been trained in battlefield tactics... she understands the concept of artillery. Mark it with their attacks and the magnified firepower will come. The exact mechanics of the esoteric powers in play are beyond the fox spirit's comprehension, but she understands now, at least, her role to play.

But now she has it's attention, the great eye gazing down on her with a pressure that is felt on every level of her being. Her body begins to weaken, shoulders falling slightly, knees starting to bend, furred ears and tails dropping. But worse than that is the pressure on her mind, like something was gripping her very consciousness and squeezing it, pulling from it, draining her.

For a moment, she wondered if this was how those she fed off felt... of the times she had gone too far.
Maybe she deserved this. Why fight it?

Clio's strike pulls the eye's attention away and Renka gasps, staggering where she stands, rising back up straighter as the crushing pressure is shifted elsewhere for a moment. The NOL Corporal turns just in time to see those caging tentacles surge out past the old cat's student, of the hundreds of glaring eyes bursting open along their surfaces.

Teeth bared, Renka starts to move toward the nearest extended tentacle with a growl. Sliding her sword into its sheath mid-step, extinguishing the flame along its blade in the process, she flexes her fingers, each fingernail shifting slightly into a sharp tipped claws.

A dark wave of energy pulses out past her and for a moment her world seems to slow. She can see the individual blinks of the sea of eyes, the drops of water shaken loose from the damp ceilings above, the falling fragments of stone from the creature's last shake of the grate. Voices echo in her ears, of a young man telling her that her life is more valuable than to waste it here, for nothing, of a stern, gruff growl telling her to pick her battles better...

But the kitsune only grins, a fierce expression of reckless defiance as the world seems to resume its normal speed in an instant. She attacks the nearest eye-laden tentacle with frenzied claw strikes, each swing of her arm trailed by streaks of vibrant azure foxfire. Left, then right, left, right... finally she rips through the air with both arms, crossing them in front of her, a violet X cross of foxfire exploding at the center of the impact, her mane-like hair and open uniform jacket billowing out behind her from the blast of energy!

Anything to buy Clio even an instant's reprieve from the beast's baleful eyes.

Contact! A moment of elation. Emotion rippling, fear and desperation sing with the melodies of rapturous glee at hitting the damn thing from beyond. To feel the rippling of the arcane lacing the needle points of her boot scrape across the sclera. The point of time of knowing, feeling and understanding that this thing can be at the very least annoyed sparks the light within Clio St. Jeanne's chest.

She is always ready to die. She is always ready to hurt. She just wants to make this impossible thing bleed. That is enough to remind her she is alive.

She hits the wall, already curled in a clutch preparation to bolt and light out of the way when the tendrils grow taught and eyes burst open around her. She is seen. And she sees.

Reality ripples and folds in on the next. Situations shift in ways real and imagined and neither are greatly different from each other in the end. Rattling chains dance, dredged from memories and mental images. The backstabbing bastard of a figure that she knew, she knew, would come eventually. A snake in the grass rising up from the sewer in a way more poetic than Clio could articulate. But she knew it. And now as the pain blossoms from the seed of violence. She understood it.

Fates fractured or manufactured, the pain is real all the same. And so is the fall. Small frame fluttering down, weighed by chain at her arm, she crashes to the lowest ring of the cistern with a damp and unceremonious crack. And while her body in that moment is unmoving the mind races to see what it's shown.

The traitor, coaxing a traitor? Clio knows she should expect a soldier to follow orders, and Hazama is a captain. What soldier beside her turned their back on the NOL? But she wasn't a soldier, St. Jeanne always, internally, was chasing the ideals of the old knights. The old heroes. The ones broken by an unknown beast. And she sees, as she lifts bloodied brow, that Renka is still as the grave.

Clio shakes her head, she blinks through the throbbing, black encroaching visions. Kaneko didn't do this. She could, it was a reality she always knew is there. But the moment is still very dominated by the creature in the centerpiece of this room. "Fuck you, Captain. Formally," she mutters to the visions only she had seen. She grips the pointed spike of her chain and digs it against the stone surface.

Drawing the spike as a match on a strike, Clio throws her arm forward. Coiling violet flame picks up from the tip, dances in a rolling wake, and builds. Stoked by her fury in the moment, fueled by her connections to the thick flow of magic here, a wave of eldritch fire builds and turns on the great thing. If it surrounds, then she thinks she will see just how it burns.

COMBATSYS: Clio successfully hits The Forgotten One with Whipflash.

                         THE FORGOTTEN ONE                          
  [                      |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| ]

[         \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////////////////////////   ]
Clio             0/-------/---====|==-----\-------\0            Renka

COMBATSYS: The Forgotten One interrupts As a Voice in the Wild from Renka with Touch of Madness.

                         THE FORGOTTEN ONE                          
  [                       ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| ]

[         \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////         ]
Clio             0/-------/---====|======-\-------\0            Renka

The flesh heap struggles now with the bindings, tearing them off as quickly as they come. It may not seem the most overt of successes, but it is no longer able to assault the hatch up above; which seems to have mostly repaired itself, as the strength of the ancient seals continues to escalate and thrum. In the midst of such, Clio's whip roars out, and her burning fire is struck by that lightning, amplifying it to massive levels as it ripples and flows around the beast with a roar. Aggravation pulses from it; felt, more then anything, a sick and distasteful aura.

Of course, in the midst of all this, the beast barely reacted. The tentacle that the kitsune's rage has been leveraged towards shifts, before darting out with surprising speed. The very tip of the tentacle taps her directly between the eyes, before a jolt of fel power billows out. The strength and fury would leave her for a moment, as the kitsune's gaze is cast into darkness. Like a balled fist, wrapping tight around her mind.

If the human will not be manipulated by the possibility of current events so easily, then the Forgotten One will try a less subtle approach to get these ants away from him long enough to escape...

*** Within the mind of Renka ***

The scent of blood. A sheer, overwhelming disorientation. Yet her adrenaline is already flowing heavy, and the sounds of conflict surround her; that of angry humans. Zankuro had finally been stricken down, but even the smallest village has been sent into a frenzy. Wishing to purge and end the menace of demon and youkai, and all of those who might dare harbor them.

Renka is no longer standing within the cold, unnatural estate of Rachel Alucard, but within a pool of cooling blood, in a modest house. Scattered before her are the bodies of young darkstalkers; innocent ones, who had done no harm, and like Renka had been trying to learn to survive without hurting people more then needed. Even here, even in the face of a mob's rage, they tried to reason, and now they lay dead, eyes wide, blank, uncomprehending.

The sound of shouting humans is all around the groaning wooden structure, flames obfuscating the shadows beyond the windows. And laying upon the ground, back bearing countless wounds...

Chisato Yi. Beneath him is a young, whimpering kitsune kit. A man of his skill, surrendering his body to protect what many consider a monster.

Behind him, an angry, ragged peasant wielding a pitchfork, hefting it overhead. "SOMEONE WHO WOULD DEFEND A MONSTER..." roars the person, face filled with as much grief as hatred.


The pitchfork slams down, impaling both Chisato and the pup to the floor.

Before like an igniting spark, the Forgotten One superimposes all the sensations, the horror, the rage, that would have been felt as the real world snaps back.

Greatly amplifying everything she would feel, her helplessness, grief, remorse, and all of the darker instincts of a once feral creature...

*** The Forgotten Chamber ***

For a few long seconds, as Renka is free to act and still potentially disoriented with the reality of where, and when, she is, Clio stands superimposed with the murdering human over the fallen hunter and last of those he perished protecting, her senses still clouded with blood and fire and it's own attempt to magnify all the darkness within her...

Renka closes in on the extended tentacle. It would be wrong to say she assumes the creature is too distracted in turning its hundred of grotesque eyes on Clio to notice her - she isn't so naive to pretend she understands the thought processes of a creature that seems older than time itself. But she hopes that she has a window at least, to claw, slash, and burn the amorphous limb and draw more of the seal's wrath against it before it turns its focus to her!

The target of her attempted clawing whips with cord-like speed right before she gets there, snapping back on her and sending the narrow tip of the lashing flesh straight to her forehead faster than she can even see.

The darkness hits in an instant, the fox-tailed darkstalker feeling immediately lost, confused. The crushing pressure on her mind produces an audible roar as pain begins to spike deep within her being. For a moment, she is certain this will be the end of it - psyche crushed by a stray thought of the nameless fiend. For a moment her world is a sea of black stone with rings of azure foxfire swirling over its surface. Little by little, the flames diminish until extinguished...

She smells smoke. It provokes a sense of confusion. Foxfire doesn't burn like regular fire, it doesn't spew fumes into the air in the process of breaking down matter in an explosive chemical reaction with oxygen. Why is there smoke?

She looks around then, turning quickly, finding herself in a village aflame. It is familiar even though it has been so... so long since she was here. So long since this village was laid to ash. She knows immediately it can't be real, even as she begins to walk among the bodies, blood and severed heads everywhere she looks. This was... this was in the past.

Wasn't it?

With each step past a flaming hut, she begins to question. Is this the dream or is that life she thinks she remembers... of uniforms, cities, countless names and faces, all of which begin to blur together in her scattered memories.

She looks down and finds not the Librarium Blue and White she was expecting, but the simple, cotton brown kimono of a feudal village peasant, a lighter tan obi tied behind her back, an opening below the bow affords a spot for her single tail to swish at her back. The ktsune twists, pivoting to the right as a scream is heard. Through walls of fire, she sees a bat-winged creature cut down from behind by two humans with axes. Sickened, Renka turns away, searching wildly, finding her way through the maze of fire, burning huts, and dead or dying darkstalkers.

She picks up the pace, her heart racing, choking on fumes for several seconds before she remembers not to breath. The village was an easy target for a human population stirred up to violence in the interests of purging the region of anything event remotely linked to non-human influences. The drying blood of Minazuki Zankuro was not enough to assuage their wrath or put their thirst for revenge to rest...

Her stomach twists in knots, panic coursing through her nerves as she leaps over a burning wagon to get closer to her destination.

She knows it well. Even with the fence aflame in front of it, she knows the home. It was her home.

An instant later and she's inside. More bodies, the air an acrid blend of smoke and blood so strong that even without inhaling, it invades her senses and threatens to overwhelm. Shaking her head, she bursts through a shattered door, sending wood parts flying.

And that's when she comes across the scene scorched into her memories, no matter how long she lives. How did she know it would come to this before it even happened? She sees the enraged peasant raise the pitchfork, promising death to the wounded human warrior on the ground, his strong arms covered in scars of countless battles, placed between the attacker and the fledgling darkstalker.

"No!" Renka shouts, right arm extending as the farmer's weapon plunges down into the spine of her husband. "No, damn you!"

The eyes that settle on Clio are wild as the darkstalker stands, arms at her sides, fingers flexed, each tipped with a sharp claw. Tears roll down her cheeks as foxfire ripples over her trembling hands. Teeth grit, lips drawn back, she looks at Clio not as an ally in a desperate battle for survival, but as something she'd give anything to destroy.

Forgotten is the cistern, the monstrosity at her side. All she can see is a human that needs to die. All she can hear are the screams of the innocent calling out for vengeance.

She bursts toward the young woman, the only warning her cry of rage as she closes in. Once more, she eschews her sword in favor of her claws, swinging her arms with feral ferocity, each sweep augmented by a swath of azure flame.

COMBATSYS: Renka successfully hits Clio with Ashen Hearth.

                         THE FORGOTTEN ONE                          
  [                       ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| ]

[              \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////         ]
Clio             1/-------/=======|=======\-------\0            Renka

Blinding light, a wave of energy. Clio's focus is on the Beyond. Tentacular clutching and rending at its seals continues. She gives a whoop at the continuing fight. She's in pain, but the throbbing ache that pulses through her is a reminder of life. The magic here, the old seals, it's all things that she reads as continued success of the plan. Just need to keep on, to continue the fight. To press the assault and push the creature down behind the bindings. Let magic do its job and feel the flow. And with each moment, Clio St. Jeanne knows the plan is coming together.

The officer has one oversight, though, and it may cost her everything. She makes a questioning grunt when the kitsune is atop her. Claws slashing, burning, tearing away the Kaka Clan mask to fall deep and down against the stones. Ripping at her clothing, slashing furrows on her exposed arm and neck and face. It's everything to get away from, everything that Clio needs to do is to put space between them. It's only too long after being slashed wildly that Clio can get away from the kitsune, a burst of speed putting Clio to pace, and her chain acting as a grapnel to get her airborne.

Internally, Clio petulantly balks at the NOL's training being so pitiful when it comes to deceptions. Demons in an alley way, Nine's mental delving for information, the faerie offers, this damn thing; it's all a pretty common tactic that Clio's been exposed to. But she can't hold it against the kitsune. But St. Jeanne knows that the biggest thing in the room is still the most pressing concern. It isn't Renka's fault. Just a matter of facts.

Facts. Things that Clio is starting to put together. "You're bound," she mutters, speaking to an intelligence beyond herself more out of her own emotional needs than any hopes of communication, "You're struggling and you don't have time. You're even running from wherever you're from to come here. You're not so fucking tough. You're another pissant that needs other people to fight for them."

Clio swings wide on her chain, picking herself up, hyping her own confidence to a pitch. If she has to fight something solo, then she's going to have to put on a damn show of force.

"I am a knight of the blue flame!" Clio calls out, pulling on reserves of magic to throttle herself forward. Down below, she knows Renka is in her own darkness, so Clio puts it to herself to light the way. There's a shift in the hue of the magic conjured by St. Jeanne. Normally a deep violet, the flames lick and shimmer to a brilliant blue. The sigils on her chain shift and burst to motion. The chain contorts and pulls at its wielder's whims. She might not be able to hurl the great beast, but she can wrap her own chain around something and cut off its attention with a burning, blinding sear of azure flame. So that is what she aims with her wild slinging.

But Clio is alone. And she has to fight for two. So her reserves are spent and she surges forward still. A coiling chain of eldritch origin brings itself to being around her opposite are. There it flares to life and lunges outward. The arcane fire shaping in the air, twisting into a set of jaws opening, salivating flame, and snapping for the great main eye of the beast.

COMBATSYS: Clio blitzes into action and acts again!

                         THE FORGOTTEN ONE                          
  [                       ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| ]

[                \\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////         ]
Clio             0/-------/=======|=======\-------\0            Renka

COMBATSYS: The Forgotten One blocks Clio's Avernian Gate.

                         THE FORGOTTEN ONE                          
  [                          |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| ]

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////         ]
Clio             1/-------/=======|=======\-------\0            Renka

COMBATSYS: The Forgotten One overcomes Jaws of Ammut from Clio with Eye of the Void.
- Power hit! -

                         THE FORGOTTEN ONE                          
  [                         ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| ]

[                 \\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  /////////////////////         ]
Clio             1/-------/=======|=======\-------\0            Renka

The majority of the Forgotten One is being captured, once more. It cannot spare much of it's attention, speed or power for the two being here; yet, there must be a reason Rachel still sent the pair down. Martial prowess, physical power, all such things have no point against this creature. Clio's burning drive, having driven through the initial presence, itches like a mid-afternoon sun overhead. As soon as it rips an arm free of chains and cloth, more regenerate and assail it once more. Bothersome. Aggravating.

But above all things, this creature is patient. It feels no driving need to escape this time. Or the time before. Or any of the dozens of conflicts it has had. Even the stones, iron and seals are beginning to age. Eventually it will escape... that complacence, that lack of motivation, being the primary reason that it has been caged repeatedly in the dark for so very long.

But that does not mean it has no pride. When Clio's words are spoken, it freezes, in the midst of wrapping grotesque, pulsating limbs around the bindings. Long enough for a couple additional loops and shifts to grant even further progress. Renka's mind would surface from the darkness, leaving her with the realization of what took place -- and what she did. Perhaps it will grant her pause.

~< FOOL... >~ it intones, in that resonating voice. ~< YOU WISH MY ATTENTION...? YOU MAY BASK IN IT... >~

The chain rips out, capturing one of the tentacles; creating a conduit for searing strikes of the seal. Yet the Forgotten One brings up a couple tentacles, greater mass intercepting and dispersing it to lesser effect. The sealed cloth at it's lower body rips and tears as it undulates forward, shifting as the great, central eye focuses down on the human once more.

A great ripple of it's presence flashes out, and suddenly Clio is floating; cast between worlds, in the same manner that she and Renka were nearly dismissed at the onset of the fight. Her weapon flashes through endless space, until the chain maxes out and finds nothing to gain purchase.

Swirls of purple-black energy ripple out, slow and lethargic. Clio will find she can move, with surprising ease. The emptiness around her seems to harden, allowing her to kick off and move almost weightless. It is trivial to avoid or drive aside the almost subdued arcs of that dark power that seeks her out...

At first.

While Renka might have only seen Clio vanish for a second, time stretches on here... on, and on, and on. As soon as Clio disperses, deflects, or dodges, more of those slow, homing tendrils ripple out. Tens of seconds. Minutes. Tens of minutes. A relentless, exhausting battle of attrition; where she needs not fend off these assaults once, but countless times.

Perhaps despair is the ultimate threat, here. One cannot last forever. She would grow tired, even with such ease and increase in mobility. At some point, they might finally hit; and an individual tendril merely causes a mild pain, a great rush of exhaustion, a burn in her soul. It would take many to inflict any harm... but the sea of assaults appears to only grow with time...

Only then, a point of light forms before Clio. The sense of the seals, anchoring, reaching for her where she was cast. There will only be a moment, an opportunity, where she or her weapon must touch it as the near wall of dark, draining lights converges...

And she would manifest once more upon the dirty stone of the floor. Feeling like she had been gone ages, in body and soul far heavier then the mind.

COMBATSYS: The Forgotten One knocks away Clio with Eye of the Void.

                         THE FORGOTTEN ONE                          
  [                         ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| ]

[                            \\  < >  /////////////////////         ]
Clio             1/-----==/=======|=======\-------\0            Renka

Clio disengages from the hysterical kitsune, plying her skill and speed to put distance between the two of them. Left behind, Renka pants for breath, hunched forward, looking as if she had just come out on the other side of a long gauntlet of battles rather than a split second's nightmare. Hugging herself, she lifts her face to follow the young woman's swift movements through the cavernous cistern but doesn't give immediate chase.

Growling, the demands of vengeance for the innocent lives taken will not permit her to relent. There will be blood-

Blood... A cloudy awareness filters through the enraged creature's thoughts. A scent, unmistakable, fresh, heated... Her haggard breaths slow as she looks down, unfolding her arms to hold her hands up in front of her, finger tips slicked with crimson incrimination.

Human blood.

The darkstalker blinks, staggering back a step, oblivious for a moment the violent undulations of the behemoth right adjacent to her.

Realization hits with a searing pain of realization. "No..." Renka looks at her jacket where her bloodied hands had touched when she hugged them against herself a moment before, then back at her hands, shaking her head. "N-no, what have I done?"

The tears of rage that had drenched her cheeks only a moment prior now flow from anguish that pierces her soul to the core. Shaking her head, Renka falls to her knees with a soft thud, arms coming to rest against her sides as she bows her head forward, eyes closed. This is too much. Trapped in here with that thing, where the lines between reality and horrific memory blur... she can't even trust herself now. To think that it was the Librarium traitor that she doubted when she first saw her here...

It was too much to think that she could fight this this thing. Physical threats she was no stranger to - she had placed herself in harm's way so often for her her companions in the past, willing to be a shield between them and whatever darkness would harm them. But never had she faced something content to plumb the centuries of experiences she had lived to find the worst moments to entrap her in its deceptive, painful diversions?

Groaning, she slumps back to sit on her feet, her tails flat against the old stone. Listlessly and without purpose, her foxfire spheres drift absently overhead, much of their flames losing their vigor. Never had surrender seemed so enticing, the only way out-

A blue flash against the moist walkway catches her eye. Then another.

The NOL soldier blinks, lifting her face to look up as Clio's chain snaps through the air with azure defiance against the old one. The human continues to fight it, even though it's impossible, even though she bears wounds inflicted by one who purported to be her ally in this impossible struggle.

The kitsune rises to her feet, unable to take her eyes off the knight of the blue flame in her dance against the incomprehensible thing. The last fragments of the stirred memories lose their potency, slipping into the background of her thoughts - never to be forgotten, but for now, at least, not to confuse.

Her left arm lifts, wiping her sleeve across her eyes, clearing her vision further, the better to see the beacon of azure being wielded above. In the same motion, her right hand goes to her sword, sliding it free of its sheath in an instant. She has to rejoin the fight. The crushing regret for what she just did will still linger, but it can't be the reason Clio is left to fight this thing alone!

Bracing, legs tensing, one of her nine foxfire spheres surges into Renka's arms, renewing vigor there, strength to continue, even as her sword begins to burn again with flames not unlike the sapphire hue of the chainwielder's spells.

Knees bending, gripping her sword with both hands then, Renka sucks in a breath... And then she bursts into motion, leaping up from one ring to the next, a trail of vibrant blue in her wake. Mid-leap, Clio vanishes from view. She has to be okay- the human is tough, Renka knows, tough enough to resist whatever torments await. Clearly she had already done so thus far. The kitsune continues her ascent.

A split second later and she leaps into a steep arc, twisting her flaming blade into a violent slash targeting the eye of the beast itself. In the same instant she swings, another of her foxfire spheres surges into her sword, augmenting the volume of foxfire emitting, creating a giant plume of ocean blue that follows in the wake of her strike, creating a great crescent of flame that illuminates the chamber for seconds before colliding with the horror directly.

Meanwhile Renka controls her fall, twisting in the air, dropping to land on the walkway right by the exact point Clio re-appears into the present. Standing between her and the column of burbling flesh, Renka braces with her sword held in a defensive stance, facing the thing directly with the human slightly behind.

"Forgive me." the kitsune states somberly, regret in her voice.
"I lost my way."

She prepares to intercept any attempt at targeting the human she had betrayed in her own moment of weakness.

"Gather yourself... and we will finish this grim work together."

She often felt she had to face her challenges alone, that others couldn't be a part of that journey. But now she remembered how rarely she truely walked that road alone. For most of her decades of life, there had always been room for two.

"As fellow knights of the blue flame."

Even a creature from beyond that seemed so fully outside of reality, it could have pride and presence. What a thought. Even though it was massive, even though it stretched past a reality, dismissal and trash talk could anger it. And angering it means giving time for the bindings to hold. Giving time for the beast to lash itself to its own, predictable, ego. It would, in St. Jeanne's estimation, be its own worst enemy. She has no idea of the circle of time here, that things have happened before and will happen again. She knows nothing but the moment. But she knows she can keep this thing distracted long enough.

She just needs to sacrifice.


The void is peaceful really.

Flying in a sense.

The Forgotten one can have his pathetic prize. A failure of a traitor. A second-string. A squire to make the real knights shine. Jubei. Leo. The Scottish lady she can't remember the name of. Her mother, LeBlanc. She is here, in a place that is hers.

Fitting, really. After all, her life was built on stories of those better than her. She should so go into nothingness.

Despair can come. If the beast thinks the self is the sole and only purpose for being. Then certainly there is despair. But Lieutenant Clio St. Jeanne did die in a way on that field in Illyria. What now is the difference? What power is nihilistic despair in the face of existential acceptance? There is pain, but it's just the body of pain. Searing. Fiery. Stabbing and tearing. Growing and heavily rending acetabulum tear at flesh and soul alike. Ripping through time, fate, tides of consciousness and in the end, are as dark as where it all must begin.

What lands on that walkway is haggard and rent, spent and disoriented. The hand bound in its own chain draws on the stones. Her eyes don't seem to look. Just marks in red being made by skin torn fingertips scraping marks on rocks. Someone is there? Clio winces, she needs time, not some squid's puppet putting her down!

Words come, not weapons.

She blinks and something similar to vision comes to her eyes. Black ringed eyes, bruising blended with long worn makeup making a last stand at darkening a pale face, squint at Renka half in disbelief, half in a lack of sight. She slurs something wordlessly when she looks past the kitsune's ears and to the grate above. Her fingertip moves again and her head drops.

She Doesn't have it in her to give much reassurance to Renka, but she can bat uselessly, a small tap, with the hand not busy marking the floor. Clio needed her strength. She needed to pick herself up again. And the beast outclassed her. Hell, Renka probably did in a fair fight. So Clio St. Jeanne had to rely on one thing she did know.


The worn, blood-sympathetic writing finishes. Clio puts a hand on the words and laughs a wheezing, tired laugh. Her other hand raises high. Stretching to the points, still weakly clutching the spiked end of her chain. Slowly, the tips of her fingers begin to glow. Violet crackling hues dance and burn one finger at a time. And ending with the point of her chain's spike. Clio St. Jeanne has always had a knack for flames. And she had seen that violet lightning strike her wave. Now she opened herself up to the energy of the room. And St. Jeanne calls on St. Elmo's Fire to bring what she needs.

She is not despairing. She is not merely sacrificial. The pain makes it real. And right now is the most real moment of Clio St. Jeanne's young life.

COMBATSYS: Clio gathers her will.

                         THE FORGOTTEN ONE                          
  [                         ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| ]

[                           \\\  < >  //////////////////////        ]
Clio             1/=======/=======|=======\-------\0            Renka

COMBATSYS: Renka successfully hits The Forgotten One with The Lonesome Road ES.
- Power hit! -

                         THE FORGOTTEN ONE                          
  [                                  |||||||||||||||||||||||||| ]

[                           \\\  < >  //////////////////////        ]
Clio             1/=======/=======|=======\-------\1            Renka

Indeed, the pair have succeeded in one fashion; they have captured the full attention of the monstrous thing. It no longer merely attempts to brush them aside while attacking the warded grate overhead; the last cracks within the stone and malformed iron has eased away, to the point the sigils surrounding the egress have faded away. The bulk of the forgotten one is still caught in chains and wraps of cloth, but still it looms over the pair; Renka, still wrought with the mental damage, and Clio soon to manifest in near defeat, likely exhausted more then any other combative point in her life.

And then it might be clear what else is happening, here. This feast is feeding off them. A slow draw of breath inwards ruffles in firm suction, to rattle clothings and debris. There seems to be no particular change in it's chances to escape. No, they are the lowest it has ever been; at this point, the great majority of the horror's abnormal presence and manifestation seems to have retreated, to the point even looking upon it is no longer quite so... painful. It is still some unholy amalgam of tentacles that only vaguely form humanoid shape, but it feels less -- wrong. At this point, it may already be too late for it to escape...

Yet, does that mean their purpose here was not so much to fight it, as to be sacrificed to it? The beast obviously does not consider this the only opportunity it will ever have to escape. And if it has decided to assail the two before it...

This is no longer a battle to keep it from breaking free, but a desperate fight for survival.

Yet this time, Renka's assault seems much more effective. Her blade sings to life and rips into the flesh of the eyeball. There's a howl, that seems to warble the air and cause visible cracks within it, the flames striking it and making it recoil even as lashes of twisted, sealing lightning strike the core of it. The lids draw shut, concealing the central eye, and with it the heavy, freezing shadow of it's exuding spirit significantly.


In a flash, two dozen tentacles each nearly as thick as a tree trunk ripple out, flashing to either side of both Renka and Clio. The kitsune would see; it's possible to shove the renegade soldier out of the way, but... that might reduce her own defensive options considerably. Before like a net drawing down, it aims to compress and capture Renka between them. Applying terrifying pressure upon her form, before suckered coils shift to catch her at wrists and ankle, to draw each limb taut painfully before it.

Before the creature's central eye flashes open once more. When Renka's gaze meets it, her soul would feel as if it's wrenched from her body... she would suddenly be assailed with countless bits of knowledge. Most of it wild, disorienting, inscrutable... an endless stretch of darkness, with no beginning or end. A flash of light, with three strange objects settled in a rotating triforce. An expansion of brightness, into infinite, never ending, pushing away the shadow -- and something, some drops of it, falling behind. A strange, wondrous, shocking flood of knowledge, as if she sees a dozen worlds, dozen universes a second. Some vanish in black and green flames, others bloom to life, great beasts the size of mountains striding along barren land and leaving vegetation and beauty behind. Figures bowing before one, each burning with unfathomable might.

A sense of love, a sense of justice, a sense of hate. All that exists in this world, all worlds, and of those who stand high enough to watch over, control, shape those myriad destinies. Yet it seems strange, as if it loops. Nauseating deja vue, pulsing and thrumming in circles, before something goes wrong. Something *breaks*. And things begin to expand outwards once more.

That maddening perception begins to zoom out. An entire realm revealed to be a bubble, floating in a sea of silver and blue. Retreating out, showing uncountable specks floating amongst it. Then reaching the 'edge', where the great expanding light continues, sparking new realities, new dimensions, new potentials in it's wake...

Only to once more reach the darkness. Pressing into it, suffocating, dense, cold, the whole of reality, time, space, as she knows it retreating into a single speck of light... before it winks out in the distance of the dark.

Before instead, great, horrifying yellow eyes begin to snap open around her, countless in number, all beginning to whisper, erode, consume her mind and thoughts relentlessly, before her mind and soul would snap back into the chamber... before the lone eye of the Forgotten One.


COMBATSYS: The Forgotten One knocks away Renka with Glimpse of the Abyss.
~ Cruel hit! ~

                         THE FORGOTTEN ONE                          
  [                             ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| ]

[                           \\\  < >  /////////////                 ]
Clio             1/=======/=======|=======\======-\1            Renka

Renka holds her ground next to Clio, her back to the young woman, twin fox tails swaying slightly as the rest of her body remains tense and readied. The sword gripped by her two hands flickers with its azure flame, adding its glow to the seven remaining foxfire spheres maintaining their loose orbit in the space behind her shoulders and over her head.

She can't look at the human. The scent of blood is still strong on her hands. Attacking someone unaware and undeserving like that is an anathema to the code she forged with the help of others over centuries of experiences. That she did it because she was deceived is no salve for the guilt she feels.

But she can't dwell on it right now. The warrior in her knows such feelings have no place in a battle. Regret, remorse, hesitation... The foe they face together will experience none of those drawbacks. To give it the advantage is to surrender without a fight.

Maybe if they survive this, there will be time enough to consider such luxuries as a wounded conscience.

Behind her, she hears a laugh in the dark, violet flashes of arcane energy answering St. Jeanne's call. The laugh, exhausted as it may sound, is as comforting a sound as it is alien in this arcane chamber of moisture, dark magics, and timeless threat. Renka's mouth curls into a faint grin as she pants for breath even as the abomination's voice invades both their minds once more.

Tribute? Perhaps... it was hard to say exactly what motivated the powers that placed her here. But she could see the unfathomable seals doing their work, the chains lashing, marked talismans burning away and reforming as magic beyond her comprehension warred against the caged monstrosity. How many times has this happened before? Souls cast to this pit to delay this thing long enough for it to succumb to the relentless forces devoted to keeping it contained. There's no point in thinking about it, Corporal Kaneko decides. It will do no more good than dwelling on what she had done to her stalwart ally only moments before.

When the chained beast lashes out again, a storm of tentacles surging past Renka and Clio, the kitsune reacts, twisting to the left, pulling her left hand from the grip of her sword, reaching for Clio with sudden force. But this time it isn't with claws extended, or painful foxfire swirling around her finger tips. Instead she shoves the arcane chain caster hard against the shoulder, potentially sending her falling backward along the walkway in a desperate attempt to put her just out of reach as the assaulting appendages close in around the darkstalker.

One of them must be free.

There's no sign of Renka beneath the mass of crushing tentacles until the shifting flesh rearranges itself, pulling the trapped creature up by arms and legs, pulling them taut to the point of inflicting pain. The fox's sword falls from her hand as her wrist is crushed and her arm pried out from her side, the weapon clattering against the walkway, its fire extinguished before it hits the stone.

She can tell immediately that trying to pull free on strength alone is a futile effort. She can also tell that if it wanted to pull her part now that it has her, it would take a trifling portion of its strength to do so. But ineffective as it may be, she squints her eyes closed, trying to twist and turn in its grasp, enduring the pain that effort inflicts on joints stretched to their limits, on skin being pulled by strong suckers. Growling, the kitsune finally opens her eyes, glaring back toward the source of this suffering, finding its harrowing eye focused directly on her once more.

"You-" she snaps angrily before falling abruptly silent, all attempts at feeble struggle against the horror's might falling still.

In seconds, the timescape of the cosmos is laid bare to a mind unprepared and incapable of processing it. Worlds spinning out where purpose and chaos collide, only to then be consumed by vast living shadows that extend their reach across the galaxy. For a moment, the world she knows is unmade and remade time and time again, each iteration slightly different. Yet, she realizes on some deep level, she belongs to none of them but for this last one while the thing they face has touched all permutations of existence.

The piercing pain in her head amplifies as she sees time itself split, a great fork, a final reckoning averted. And in that divergence, for one iota of time, the likes of figures fleetingly recognized, the One-Eyed Twin Lotus, the vampire child-

And then it's gone, lost with the rest of the madness swirling through her overwhelmed mind as the vast scope of the All is unfurled before her, realities weaving in and out of existence, possibilities branching on each atomic variance in each molecule in creation, and with each glimpse, more and more of herself is lost to the vast unknown of it all.

By the time the vision ends and she collapses before Great Eye, there is nothing of Renka left to try and process the ominous, cryptic edict. This time when she drops to her knees, it's a motion without life, a puppet severed from its strings.

Shoulders slump, head bowed forward, limp arms dangling against each side, hands listless. The only fading signs of any energy at all are the lingering foxfire spheres. But they too begin to dwindle, becoming dim then flickering away, one at a time, until all that remains is the largest of the small swarm. Roughly the size of a soccer ball, thin, ephemeral tendrils of barely visible sapphire blue stretch from it into the back of the lifeless darkstalker even as it also begins to lose its luminance little by little.

Just as the last trace of sustaining energy seems that it too is about to lapse into nothing along with the mind of the assaulted kitsune, Renka's mouth moves, her voice soft but audible.


Fingers close as the last of the visible foxfire vanishes, its potential amelioration exhausted. She lifts her head, eyes blinking open.

"There is always hope."

Her body begins to move, jolting back up to her feet as if rebounding from the brink of oblivion with renewed zeal for life.

"So long as a single person lives to carry it on."

She searches the chamber for Clio then to make sure that the human warrior is still about. What she's about to do will risk everything, gambling her fate squarely on the mechanics of countless arcane seals far beyond her understanding. Maybe, with this desperate gambit, they can use her as a conduit to further suppress the Eldritch Outsider. All she can do now is hope. If it fails, she knows her chance of survival is close to nothing.

When she finds Clio, fixing the young woman briefly with her eyes, the NOL Corporal communicates it all with a single look: that somber acceptance of duty seen in the eyes of any foot soldier who knows their role in battle may very well be to die for the greater cause.

It is the cost of any war - the nameless soldiers who die, their bodies forming the gravel upon which progress is made. For right or wrong, order or chaos, peace or turmoil, it is a duty understood by only those who share the warrior's bond.


A maelstrom of foxfire erupts around the fox-tailed darkstalker as she whirls on the eternal invader. Legs brace, right arm drawing back at the elbow... before she literally leaps right at the Forgotten One, a blazing comet of azure flame, right arm snapping out to extend the last short distance as she devotes all of her potential to make physical contact.

And should she touch it, she would feed on it, like any other creature with any concept of life. Only, she knew full well pulling any of this thing's essence into herself would be fatal... but at the same time, it might also serve as a powerful conduit for the sealing magics to channel directly through a willing demon's body into the outsider.

A desperate option, with no knowledge of the workings of the seals and with the very palpable fear of what their energy might do to her if it flows through her, Renka Kaneko extends her arm, aiming to slam her palm right against the surface of the unfathomable one.

It is the least a Knight of the Blue Flame can do.

It's always so much more comforting when they talk.

Death, monstrous impossibility, the collapse of fate. Dire voids of emptiness. Minds unbound and sentience riven in the face of the strands of causality strung about the floor as entrails in an abattoir. These things, these butcher s of reality. These inscrutable, faceless, morally implausible beings. All of them, for all their power and capacity for destruction become understandable, become defined, become banal, when they speak.

It might thunder in hearts and split heads. It might crash over the horizon. It might whisper cold knives into the heart. But if it speaks, it becomes that much closer to home. A person's arms may be too short to box with God, but if you can get Him to lean in to whisper you might get a lick in.

The power of the room that's so far fed her magic when needed. The power called on in this desperate and tired time. Exhausted beyond measure, pushed past anything she yet has comprehended. Clio St. Jeanne is still present when the thing that is her world at this very moment stretches out before her.

And a single hand simply shoves her away.

The tremendousness of the moment crashes down around Clio. She can see it now, for what it is, this desperate struggle of life and freedom in what is tantamount to a sewer. Clio might think of how metaphorical that is later on, but for now she has very real problems ahead of her. Not the least of which is the woman that earlier attacked her has snapped herself to a more amenable reality in time to save her life.

And she watches as a second happens.

That second, that simple tick of a clock, is something she has felt before. She has an inkling of the temporally distorted hellscape that Renka must be going through. There will be time for sympathy treats later. And the incentive of such is just the petty reason Clio St. Jeanne needs to push her when the idealism of a perfect forever is quashed by the horror reality of finite existence.

The tick sounds and the fox stirs. Clio holds her breath. She sees the truth in Renka's eyes. Knights are there to stand when others cannot. Maybe not the ones that truly existed, but the ones she was taught and she was told to be. They will fight, they will die, they will be the light of hope in darkness. But to be that light, they must burn.

The ring of magic burns up as Clio rises to her feet, already picking up speed to a full tilt run. Her chain bursts to fiery life. The light streaks behind her as she sprints for the great outsider's bulk. She hurtles herself in and she readies her spike.

Light shifts on the metal links of Clio's chain. The fiery pulse that send her running thins and pools into blinding azure intensity, it crackles with the conduit power of the chambers. The formulae shift. And what Clio does is to stab from hell's heart at the behemoth from beyond.

The chain itself writhes with its own order. Arcane bindings of its own, the spell seeded in the moment of blood and maddened writing. This thing can't be choked, but it might be able to be held back and burnt enough to let Renka's power flow through it, and to the greater bindings around.

It just needs the burning ember that is Clio St. Jeanne to be the light that sparks the conflagration.

COMBATSYS: The Forgotten One endures Renka and Clio's A Knight's Pledge.

                         THE FORGOTTEN ONE                          
  [                                                  |||||||||| ]

[                           \\\  < >  ////////////////              ]
Clio             0/-------/--=====|====---\-------\0            Renka

The great mound of eldritch mass and energy looms before the pair. Both minds have been cast into places that would strain the sanity of most; snuff out weaker souls, shatter fractured minds. Yet beyond that, it does not seem the creature can effectively attack. Beyond the quaking of the soul, the throb of the head, the crushing weight of ennui and exhaustion, the injuries these two have actually been afflicted with are minimal -- even Clio, for her state, is only singed and slightly burnt from being caught for a time in the void... were these the traits needed, more then anything, to oppose this creature?

Yet as Renka hurtles herself forward, imbued chain rippling past to bite into the creature's flesh and tendrils, it's clear it had no intention of resisting. The great eye in the middle flashes open once more, as the four primary masses of it's tentacles ripple forward, almost gently poising themselves to frame the kitsune in the distance as she drives herself to touch the beast.

It is then that she will know how truly alien this creature is. Claws sink into tough flesh, but she senses... nothing. For a few moments she truly resonates with the creature, and it's clear that this is something else. It has no soul; not in the sense of something fallen, or lost. But a beast who has never possessed one, of any sort.

It is as if she grasped the toe of a giant, and the sheer scale of this creature's essence expands like endless ink. She has fed on countless sorts, touched many others, but the scale of this emptiness... it is as if it could absorb the world. It's form, it's function, is like an empty shell of a puppet. What is truly captured in this room is something far more horrific, beyond comprehension until she tries to drink from it... if it escaped these confines, these limits, it might have none. It may wish to return to the Void, yet it's egress might tear a hole across time and space, and risk the death of countless dimensions, even destabilize the very fabric and continuity of this nexus realm in terrible ways. It cannot die; it has no life to lose. It has no body to crush. It has no heart to quiet, nor brain to sever. It is antimatter, anathema to all that makes reality and time concrete, linear, and flow...

But her plan succeeds, all the same. It may go better then she hoped; as there seems no effect for the attempt on her own body, beyond an icy chill. And the wards burning brighter; with her as anchor, the arcane chains taut around, they strike with fierce, searing lightning from all directions. The beast undulates, ripples, becoming more real with the second. Heavy chains surge from the ground, grappling and crossing over it again and again. They have won, now. It will not be escaping this time. How long until it happens again, and who might deal with it then, shall continue to be a problem for unknown generations...


Suddenly a great aura of darkness flashes out to ensconce Renka. The eye pulses, glaring upon her, beginning to leverage a fraction of it's true attention. A whirling vortex assaults both her body and mind; whirls of dark energy aiming to cut and slash against clothing and skin, while her mind would feel as if an angry child began to knead and crush it. Even with this, it's clear the minute amount it can spare... it's influence is weakening. Were that not the case, this attempt might have instantly undone her. Proof of their victory, in her keeping her life whether the assault succeeds or fails.


COMBATSYS: The Forgotten One successfully hits Renka with Crushing Despair.

                         THE FORGOTTEN ONE                          
  [                                                 ||||||||||| ]

[                           \\\  < >  ///////                       ]
Clio             0/-------/--=====|=======\==-----\1            Renka

She understood.

Even as she hurtles forward, Renka hears Clio surging into action. They will strike it in unison, the living foxfire comet and chain wielding knight, inspired by stories of bygone times.

The kitsune closes in, right hand snapping out, fingers splayed, and then, as nails pierce the leathery hide of the unknowable thing, she accomplishes her goal. Without hesitation, she tries to pull from it, to draw even a small portion of it into her. It is how she's fed on so many other sentient beings in her life.

Yet in response to her effort, of her attempt to touch a soul so that she might consume a morsel of it, she finds absolute emptiness. As foxfire billows around her form, a wrath of azure flame, a soft gasp escapes her lips, emerald eyes going wide, losing their focus.

A new understand grips her, a dread chill numbing her body with its impossible ramifications. This thing doesn't live, it exists. It stands before the primal concept of life and will still stand far after the last iota of vigor bleeds form the last living thing. Perhaps something not unlike this is what created life in the first place...

The flames around her begin to wane. Every survival instinct says to pull away, to plant her foot and spring backward. Look for the door that leads to the rest of the cistern, better to wander lost in that dark maze than to be in this thing's presence any longer!

But the warrior grits her teeth, eyes finding their focus, resolving to stay... as at last the power of the ancient seals does its work through her, coursing through the darkstalker, her body a conduit for unfathomable arcane might.

And in that moment of intense contact, she realizes something further. The fleshy mass she is touching is not 'it' at all, for it cannot even be perceived. Her mind cannot grasp the thought of what it truly is, the vastness of its existence, both through space and time. That there is something even to touch at all is very likely a byproduct of the powers within this deep place, powers instilled by a nameless god to preserve reality even if for just a while longer.

Lightning rips through her yet doesn't harm her, drilling into the behemoth. The sensation is akin to being submerged in water far below freezing temperature, yet no physical harm seems to come to her. When she finally pushes away, twisting through the air to land on the nearest stone walkway, the last embers of her foxfire shroud fall away into a rain of gentle, blue motes of light.

Landing on her feet, Renka looks down to find her an inch from her toes. Smiling, she crouches to sweep it up into her right hand, oblivious to chain to her twin tails behind her back. Always before, they were covered in a solid coat of golden fur. But now the last fifth of them is tipped in pristine white. Whether it was her attempt to feed on the caged horror, or a side effect of being a living conduit for the sealing magics, she will never know.

For now, she looks back into the glaring eye. With the power of the chamber asserting itself further, it doesn't seem as alien as before. Still grotesquely large, still unsettling, but more tangible, more 'real'.

A violent pulse and the NOL soldier finds herself at the center of a maelstrom of darkness. Crushing weight, swirling energy, blades sharper than any edge yet also not entirely material sweeping past, cutting into her from every angle.

It's all she can do to bring her arms up over her face, eyes closed, as power tears at her, leaving jagged rips through the sleeves of her jacket and shirt, lancing away shreds of navy blue from her skirt, and carving an intricate pattern of gashes on her arms, legs, and torso.

She doesn't feel any of it, her consciousness weighted down, as if the being was going to drive home the magnitude of her futile resistance by brute force now, rather than forcing her mind to observe her irrelevance in the the universe.

Any defense on her part is as the reed trying to hold back the storm. And when it passes, Renka once more falls to her knees, sword rattling against stone as she leans forward, catching herself with her hands, blood seeping from so many cuts through exposed skin.

Normally she'd give such wounds no second thought. Normally, her well of energy would be actively suturing them, closing them up, repairing the damage as if it never existed, restoring the blood loss quickly enough that to call her endurance anything less than supernatural would be inaccurate.

But the well is almost empty. She could use the little that remains to try and stave off some of the damage... but instead Renka lifts her head, glaring back at the eye, lips drown back as blood seeps between her gritted teeth.

"Maybe all you say is true. But that means for eternity..."

The last of her foxfire explodes up from her back and shoulders in the form of nine small spheres that shoot upward into the dark behind her, each with its own flaming tail.

"You will always remember the two of us among the legends who stopped you."

The ascent of the spheres shifts as they curve toward the eye, swirling together into a tight formation, their tails leaving a helix pattern in the air.

"And that's good enough for me."

The foxfire spheres crash against their target, each an explosion of whispy, sapphire blue soul energy, each an anchor point for the seals to finish their eternal task.

An impossible figure. Something who dips little more than a toe into the waves of material reality and is yet still a gargantuan figure. This. . .thing has worn on souls and minds. It washes with pain and despair. It crushes with a reality that it presents as being greater than oneself. It is, predominantly psychological and emotional in its assaults; gravity has done most of the physical work.

But wounds unseen are often worse.

It does not resist. That in and of itself is frightening. Even as Clio St. Jeanne focuses the fire inside to scorch whatever she can, wherever she can. The binding is working. She knows. She feels it happening. She can damn well see it happening.

But it's still going. And with each passing moment, Clio knows she dances on a knife's edge. Consciousness is kept more through pure bull-headed stubborness. Just a keep fucking going mentality that has taken her this far. She knows, internally, that this creature is beyond ken, but shrinking it in her mind is what lets her push on. It's what's keeping her going. Even as she burns more of the candle away into aether.

She sags against her chain as she holds on for dear life to the ungulating tendrils. The masses of flesh drawn into the real from without. She cannot tell what is exhaustion and what is motion, but the time continuing brings her slowly to a more roused mental state.

And then she hears words. And then she sees the light. A few lights. It wakes her. She lifts her head and she watches the will-o'-the-wisp like spheres form and the kitsune lead again with her strike. She looks around, seeing where the power is flowing. Her mind clicks as she maths out what exactly is happening here. She can't really be here if this is going to go down like that. She shifts her position and with a brutal striking kick that leaves a streaking, burning fire in her wake, Clio St. Jeanne flips herself off and away from the creature. Her chain remaining behind, still latching, one among the countless others.

It isn't much, and as all marks in the sands of time it will be washed away, but she can hope it burns bad enough to annoy this thing for a good long while yet.

COMBATSYS: Clio successfully hits The Forgotten One with Evasive Strike.

                         THE FORGOTTEN ONE
  [                                                      |||||| ]

[                          \\\\  < >  ////////                      ]
Clio             0/-------/=======|=------\-------\0            Renka

COMBATSYS: The Forgotten One barely endures Renka's Gateway to Exile EX.

                         THE FORGOTTEN ONE
  [                                                             ]

[                          \\\\  < >  ////////                      ]
Clio             0/-------/=======|=------\-------\0            Renka


Slowly, the great being spreads out all four limbs. The eye within it's center seems to shimmer, briefly. Whirling fire flashes out, slamming into the front of the creature, from Renka's parting assault. A flash of chain ripples past. The seals begin to hum, new etchings of arcane runes rippling across the main ones. Chains lash up with renewed vigor, ensconcing wraps of cloth...

Then the malefic being roars.

The sound warbles in the air. The entire chamber seems to shake, dust falling from the ceiling. Chains shatter away from it, cloth rip away, as a swirling vortex of darkness flashes out from the center of the eye. And then in a flash, they are once more in the weightless void.


The eye flashes open, within the expanse before them. Yet it seems surreal, disorienting; because the scope of it is so hard to tell. Dominating their vision like a sun, endless whirls of motion begin to slither out in all directions. Limbs; strange tentacles, only stretching out as if great, spiral arms of galaxies. Where the light Renka saw was followed by endless realities, countless dimensions, and fresh worlds, the blackness trailing behind this motion is sickening, empty, devoid. Nothingness. Gradually, countless eyes begin to flash open, one by one, dozens, then hundreds of them, of various sizes flanking the pair in the center.

It says something, but the words cannot be understood beyond pain and confusion. Before a great flood of blackness flashes out, compressing. As if reality itself had finally cracked, broken, and begun to collapse. Then, a flash of light in the center -- Clio would be familiar, as it had been her own only escape the last time it had taken place. They could reach it, potentially... before the fel aura of the eldritch thing crashes atop...

But to touch it and succumb would be to lose part of themselves. To be tainted; corrupted; marked. With any luck, the pair will make it through the central portal unscathed... or at least, with the damage minimized.

Then, a great flash. They could collapse to the floor of the cistern; as the last tight, firm wraps of sealing cloth bind the beast up from top to bottom. Chains ripple around it, tighter and tighter, before flexing taut across ceiling and floor.

And then, gradually, the light of the seals dies away.

Leaving the gently pulsing cocoon of the creature, fully dormant, all the seals renewed to maximum strength. Only the faintest of unsettling presence can be drawn from it now... compared to when they entered, when merely touching the door threatened the mind, it, at least, is a threat they will not need worry about for long past Clio's life. Renka, though... is it possible she might some day be around when it once more breaks free?

Either way... the damage is done. What scars might the pair bear from this now, in mind as much as body...?

COMBATSYS: The Forgotten One slumbers once more.

[                          \\\\  < >  ////////                      ]
Clio             0/-------/=======|=------\-------\0            Renka

COMBATSYS: Renka blocks The Forgotten One's #Palace of the Forgotten King+#.

[                          \\\\  < >                                ]
Clio             0/-------/=======|=======\-------\0            Renka

COMBATSYS: The Forgotten One knocks away Clio with #Palace of the Forgotten King+#.
+ Epic Hit! +

[                                < >                                ]
Clio             2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|=======\-------\0            Renka

On hands and knees, Corporal Kaneko watches, holding her head up in spite the overwhelming, crushing exhaustion weighing her down. Nine fiery, azure comets with long sparkling trails of sapphire swarm together, spinning as they close in on the unguarded eye. In the moment, she is unsure of where Clio is precisely, only aware that she was with her in the final assault on the grotesque goliath from beyond.

At this point, they've done the two have done the best they can. It's up to the seals to do their job or fail.

And as her foxfire assault strikes home, pelting the eye with a simultaneous series of small sapphire explosions, it looks as if the arcane weavings of this forgotten prison have finally secured their hold. Too drained to smile at the sign of victory, too weary to make a sound of exultation, it's all the fox can do to keep upright as she watches.

Without her reservoir of soul energy to sustain her, there is no unnatural healing taking place, her bleeding wounds continuing to seep her life's blood away. The realization that even in containing this thing, it still might be too late for her to survive, is not as frightening a prospect as she might have expected.

Perhaps saving the world once before passing into its history is good enough for one life.

With waning strength, Renka thinks of looking around for Clio. Her first reflex upon seeing the young woman was hostility and suspicion... yet it's clear now that the chain wielder comported herself with the utmost in nobility and self-sacrifice to see this thing contained. She stood when others would flee, fought when others would collapse, resisted when others would despair.

Hopefully she at least will make it out of here alive.

A roar deafens her thoughts an instant later, ears blown flat back by the sonic shockwave of the beast tearing itself free, stretching large within the cistern. It speaks, the words all but impossible for the darkstalker to take in given her condition. There is no getting to her feet to deal with what comes next - nor would it have likely mattered as in the next moment, she finds her awareness removed far from the underground cage.

Once more subjected to an unfathomable vision, a sight of all creation's demise. The ruin witnessed is more than just the undoing of physical creation. Along with matter is the death of ideas, the death of knowledge, and finally, the death of self. Lost in the void at the end of all things, Renka release a resigned final breath. Maybe her personal war without end was finally reaching its conclusion, the burden of ambition, of vision, of hope lifting from her shoulders as she begins to accept nothing matters here at the universe's terminus.

The sea of eyes goes unnoticed as the kitsune is lost in thought. But then there it is - that light. Renka feels drawn toward it. What is that, so opposed to everything else she was seeing? An avenue of escape offered by the seals? A counterspell to even this terrible power?

She wills herself toward it, aware of the dark tide rushing in after her. Here, only her thoughts remain to propel her, and to fight, and resist. Through the vastness of the void she hurtles, miasmic power catching up from behind then washing over her, attempting to end the last trace of her before she can make it.

But while a moment prior, she was ready to accept the end, the spark of promised escape, of possibly living even just a little longer, is enough to push through, suffering the withering touch of destruction. She'll make it, she'll escape-

She pauses, even within the maelstrom of fel power. She won't leave without Clio! She extends her awareness, seeking the human. Not until she has Clio's hand in hers will she finally touch the light, only then will she fall to the floor of the sealing chamber, seemingly dead to the world.

COMBATSYS: Renka takes no action.

[                                <
Clio             2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|

COMBATSYS: Renka can no longer fight.

[                                <
Clio             2/<<<<<<</<<<<<<<|

And the world unfolds into light.

Infinite new worlds and realities. Each spinning on their own times. Each whirling forward. Each moving on their own path. Infinite buds of infinite flowering life and possibility. Each a causality. Each a wheel of fate turning on its own unto their inevitable end.

And then worlds collapse to darkness.

A sea of eyes. It should bring question as to what is watching. If something is seeing, then there is in some way creation. But there is no questions now. The dark closing in. There is a light. There is something. But Clio has given it all.

And as every time before, she has failed.

Failure, running, loss. Repeat beats. Repeat Awareness. She is sacrificial. That is it in and of herself. She knows she brings nothing. She accomplishes nothing. So then, as all with nothing to give, she sacrifices. She will hurt because she is never strong enough, never fast enough, never capable enough to stand on her own. That is what this darkness puts to her mind.

She drops. The ground is forgiving where inevitable black tide are not. It could dash the pain of consciousness from her. It can break the thing that cannot act. She doesn't know if she feels the fingers grabbing her hand. She does not know if it's deserved. Or if this is just another cruel, feigned attempted at propping up and keeping alive.

She has fallen into the darkness. It sees her. Comfortable with pain, with death, because it puts her past the endless string of failure that is herself. To her oath. To her friends. To her teacher. To her mother. She can hold on only in the sense of a desperate body's need for survival. But still she holds.

COMBATSYS: Clio takes no action.

COMBATSYS: Clio can no longer fight.


It might be a blessed respite for the two warriors, should their sleep be bereft of the sort of nightmares that could infect anyone who experienced what they did. Or it could be fitful, restless hours should even their dreams afford little relief from what they had just endured in the forgotten cistern beneath the ancient vampire fortress.

It would not be unthinkable to believe that there exists no end to it, that this is the nature of the afterlife, to drift helplessly through torments of the mind and soul for eternity...

But it does end. Not with any clarion alarm, not with any touch of a trusted friend or loved one, but with a slow, gradual return to a conscious state.

Upon waking, Clio and Renka would find themselves each alone in a quiet room. The decor and furnishings are regal - a luxurious bed, vaulted ceilings above and a polished hardwood floor beneath. The walls are trimmed with ornately carved wood insets and panels, and the walls adorned with framed paintings or shelves supporting small figurines, decorative weapons, or priceless vases.

The light is dim, a single lamp situated on a small stand adjacent to the large bed on which they rest provides a soft, golden ambiance within the room. A single window in one of the walls opens to a star-lit sky, the foreboding Blood Moon heavy in the horizon. A shaft of crimson moonlight angles in through the window to shine its unsettling light against the floor. From the opening, a cool breeze stirs, causing the diaphanous curtains that hang from the bed's canopy to sway gently from time to time. Voices carry on the breeze, far away and too indistinct to make out what they are saying.

Rising from their beds, both of the survivors of the depths will find their battle-tattered attire has been replaced with dazzling royal gowns of sparkling azure, perfectly tailored to fit, even with adjustments made to accommodate the twin-tailed fox. A glance out the window would reveal the two rooms to be located several stories above the castle grounds, somewhere in the more well-kept area of the massive complex. Below, a grand gathering is spread out across the courtyard and into the adjacent gardens, with humans and darkstalkers all milling about, gossiping, laughing, and partaking of the decadent feast laid out for the guests of House Alucard.

All of them blissfully unaware of the close brush with oblivion that transpired miles below their feet in the deepest reaches of the castle.

It's then that the realization might hit - everything these two went through... the trials, the crippling despair, the agony of memories dredged and twisted into weapons, the resigned resolve to do whatever it took, pay whatever price, to re-seal an incomprehensible threat... none of it would be known to the world. An entire planet in their debt, and not a single word of gratitude would be forthcoming. No songs sung, no parades through the streets, no speeches and medals given, no rewards and riches showered from an indebted populace, no epic tales retold for so many generations that they take on a life of their own and become part of the Earth's collective mythology...

They saved the world and their reward is to continue living in it along with everyone else who paid no price, suffered no loss, endured no soul crushing anguish.

The rooms have a single wooden door with a solid iron handle. It is not locked and either may depart whenever they please. It would be easy to find winding stairs down the adjoining hall that would allow them to join the festivities below should they desire. Or perhaps time alone in the isolated rooms is exactly what they need right now.

Other than book shelves and wardrobes lining the walls, there is also a large desk with writing supplies. And there in the center of the room, impossible to miss, is a small round table. On the table in each room is a letter, penned in crimson ink with a delicate, flourished script, scribed on thick parchment, and a small, slowly burning candle to provide illumination by which to read.

In Renka's room, the letter reads:

"There is no sin in leaning on the example of others to
orient your path. I will confide that I too find strength
in the precedent established by my father. Anyone who claims
to have never learned from others has had only a fool for an
instructor and I would not trust such with even being able
bring water to a boil safely.

But to change the world, it becomes necessary to stretch
beyond the limits of our predecessors, guides, and
companions. Become the inspiration others were for you.

Perhaps that was the mind of the one who commissioned the
crafting of this unique weapon. Were it not for the cruel
whimsy of fate, I am confident he would have presented it to
you himself all those years ago... I happened to discover
its resting place, but it belongs with you. In payment for
your service this night, I took it upon myself to imbue
this spear with a spell that will allow you to call it to
your grip when you need then send it away.

May it serve you well when the time comes for you to fight
-Rachel Alucard"

Leaning against the table is a metal spear five feet in length. The shaft is rich blue with polished steel rings every one foot along its length. The blunt end is adorned with a large sapphire inset in silver casing that glows with a soft, inner fire.

In Clio's room, the letter reads:

"It is one of the great tragedies of our history that the
stories of the most extraordinary knights belong to men and
women you will never hear of. Their heroic deeds were not
performed before the world but rather in secret, alone,
where no one would ever know. Their selfless acts never made
it to pen or song, their accomplishments sadly left out of
myths and legends. Yet even knowing that, bold men and women
did what needed to be done when the time came. Thanks to
them, the world continues blissfully unaware of the
sacrifices on which its foundations have been built. The old
cat you associate with is one of these unsugn heroes.

Symbollically, chains are customarily treated as symbols of
bondage or restraint, of tools of the slaver and tyrant.
Oft forgotten are the chains that support, that hold
structures together that would otherwise collapse without
their strength.

Provided is a link I hope you find suitable to include in
your next chain. In so doing, it will be imbued with the
potential of dividing the backlash of powerful magic across
multiple individuals in contact with it. The benefit of this
capacity should become evident in due time.

Thank you for your service.
-Rachel Alucard"

Next to the letter, a small metal tin and within the tin, a single metal chain link of glimmering metal. To touch it would be to feel the magic flowing within as a form of subtle warmth.

With time, the Blood Moon would wane and the fateful night of the Springtide Rosalia would come to an end. Little by little, the courtyard empties as the guests, willing other otherwise, begin to depart, either by their own means or by the same magical contrivances that brought them in the first place. A stillness would fall over the castle in the aftermath.

It would be not long after that both Clio and Renka find themselves returned home to continue their lives.

Log created on 18:12:30 06/06/2021 by Renka, and last modified on 01:39:45 07/01/2021.