Choice 275: [x] Agree, and volunteer to take point.

Choice 276: Despite how uneasy it made him feel, if his team members were committed to this course of action, then Shinji was resolved to see it through with them. After all, they were a team, and frankly, if there was malevolent something deep within, they stood a better chance against whatever it might be together, rather than alone.

"Agreed," the boy stated. "I'll take point."

If there was one thing he was pretty confident about, it was his ability to take attacks that would kill most other people, at least in fusion form. He had no idea exactly what Ramona's shifting patterns and the spirits she'd breathed into herself let her do, though either way, it probably wasn't a good idea to let the brewer face the brunt of the danger.

'And where would my pride as a man be if I let a beautiful girl take point?' he asked himself, remembering all too well the encounter with the tanuki, and how powerless he'd felt when the creature had ambushed his party in the frozen wilds, with Rachelle Lestrange left to fight it off - only losing because she hadn't been trying to kill it. 'Besides, this time I have an idea of how dangerous it is.'

"I, ah, just hope you have something you can turn into that isn't a bird - or a whale," Shinji said to Ka'aukai.

"I do, at that," the Polynesian Champion replied mildly, as his form elongated and shifted, becoming something like a small ape with large, black eyes and long, silky hair.

"A demiguise, huh? Been a while since I've seen one of those," Ramona remarked, before shaking her head as Ka'aukai's new form faded from view to conventional senses. "Let's go."

She extended her hand, and through senses other than sight, Shinji could feel the world around them ripple and twist, as if convincing itself that they were not there, just empty air and untouched earth.

They moved together, with Shinji taking point, Ramona in the middle, and Ka'au playing rear guard, in case something saw past them. All around them, trolls shuffled and moved, not seeming to notice. There was little light inside, though for Shinji, and his comrades, the darkness wasn't exactly an issue. They all had other senses, senses which screamed at the wrongness of the place, not least because trolls here were like none they had seen before, looked different, with their forms twisted almost beyond recognition into grotesquely swollen masses of flesh, shot through with black, web-like veins running through their bodies.

'They're blind.'

The trolls had no eyes, seeming to find their way around by smell, hearing, and touch.

'Though how they deal with the incredible stench, I have no idea...'

It wasn't the stench of wild trolls - or at least, not the type of troll he was used to. It was sickly-sweet scent of blood, of dying, of death. Death clung to the walls, the ceiling, the floor of the ruins, with the bones of victims arranged here and there in "artful' stacks or things like runes. Skulls of all shapes and sizes. Long bones. Ribs. Vertebrae casually scattered across the floor.

Black blood was pooled here and there, mingling with streams of red.

There were splatters on the walls. A twisted gurgle-scream that echoed, echoed echoed through the world.

Ramona was visible straining here, her body trembling and wavering as patterns from outside - dark patterns, patterns of corruption and decay - tried to encroach on their sphere of protection.

'It's like an infection. It festers here, in the trolls. In this temple.'

Some sort of corruption of the natural order which became stronger as they moved closer to the inner sanctum, only to pause at its boundary as they felt - saw - smelled - perceived a corrosive miasma within the final chamber.

There was something inside.

Something that looked like...

'A horse?'

No, not a horse, though perhaps it would pass for one in a gibbering nightmare, with every dimension stretched beyond what should be. Yes, there was an equine head, with a gaping mouth from which the miasma flowed and a single scarlet-eye that glowed like a burning flame, but there was another head as well - a head and face that was utterly indescribable, about a meter in diameter, mounted atop something like a human torso that emerged there the tail would normally arise.

'What the hell is that thing?!'

Two of its legs, monstrous appendages that rippled with pale sinews, were broken, and it--

'Oh god. Oh god. Oh god. It has...'

It had no skin. With his senses, Shinji could see yellow veins pulsing and throbbing with black blood - the same blood which spilled out onto the floor and walls.

It was...

'This must be what corrupted the trolls...'


A terrible pressure erupted from the creature, and the ruins began to shake and tremble as--

'Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. He's calling the trolls.'

--miasma rushed out at them, with Shinji gamely interposing himself between Ramona and the onrushing darkness, feeling pain lance through him as it ate at his form, with stone and earth peeling away where it hit, leaving only pale flesh.


With a thought, the boy attempted to raise a wall of earth between him and the creature. There was resistance - more of it than he expected, between the temple liking its shape and the black blood smeared everywhere, but with a scream the boy managed to raise a barrier all the same, just in time to ward off an orb of darkness.
Behind them, the trolls charged, the thunder of the footsteps rattling the temple - only for some monstrous beast - something like a plumed serpent with claws clear as ice, and teeth that gleamed like molten steel - to lunge at them with a ferocity that set even the trolls aback, claws, teeth, and more ripping into them in a berserk frenzy.

' that Ka'au?!'

Ramona, in the small space between them, trembled as the area she is protecting from the corrosion of everything from without, shrinks to encircle just her - no longer shielding Shinji. Her hand clutched a pouch around her neck tightly, as she poured power into it in an attempt at doing something - not that Shinji could see what it was.

The barrier won't last long. Even now the darkness is eating away at it in a relentless tide.

Ka'au is fighting valiantly, but the trolls keep coming and coming. There seems to be no end to them.

In this chaos, what does Shinji do?

[ ] Join the frenzied beast that might be Ka'au in killing the trolls, while the barrier holds
[ ] Vault over the barrier and assault the monstrous 'boss' of the trolls with his scythe
[ ] See if he can use decay abilities against this monstrosity - his water ofuda must be good for something
[ ] Try to break open the ceiling - there must be a reason the monster took shelter in here
[ ] Grab Ramona and run, clearing a path - Ka'au can take care of himself
[ ] (write-in)