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Thread: Matou Shinji and the Broken Chains (HP/FSN CYOA)

  1. #4561
    "But I've only accepted your offer because you looked like a decent meat shield! And now you intend to weasel out?

    Rejected."

  2. #4562
    リビングデッド Living Dead sileaf's Avatar
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    It sounds more like Elesa taking command than Shinji asking her to.
    Shinji is just a tag along.

  3. #4563
    We have accepted the self-geis, for the love of Cthulhu. If she twists the interpretation hard enough, we will be forced to be her slave, body and mind, until the end of the mission. Hypothetically, of course. We have no context on the specifics of scroll's application to wizards, but something tells me that consequences won't be pleasant anyway.

    Good thing that she is such a nice girl, and won't do that even if we continue to spectacularly fail, waste resources and endanger her life, right?
    Last edited by Malorius; August 19th, 2018 at 05:21 PM.

  4. #4564
    死徒 Dead Apostle
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    [x] Ask Elesa to take point, with Shinji and Zelkova providing support

  5. #4565
    リビングデッド Living Dead sileaf's Avatar
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    I don't like those Geass either, but it is what it is.
    I am more concerned on getting it completed and done ASAP.

    I don't think Elesa agreed because he want Shinji as meat shield.
    Part pity, part convenience.
    She is sure to be aware of Shinji's precarious standing in Britain.
    Depending on Shinji's performance, he might get job offer or smth.
    Not that he has any prospect so far and I sure hope he doesn't get obliviated afterward.

  6. #4566
    I was being facetious. Of course, the words "meat shield" in regards to Shinji have never crossed her mind. Probably.

    She was fooled by our short-termed bout of competence in the tournament and cracked Shinji's superficial "I totally don't belong to the Moonlit world, honest!" demeanor. Although, yes, probably pity too. That's kind of sad. Well, at least we aren't hunted by several factions on international level! But with Alf's hints...

    Things are bound to get only harder.

  7. #4567
    リビングデッド Living Dead sileaf's Avatar
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    Yeah, Shinji needs to start preparing for future fallout

    Having a plan set up might be best so his build doesn't go all over the place

  8. #4568
    We don't decide long term goals, sadly, only immediate choices with reaching consequences.

  9. #4569
    リビングデッド Living Dead sileaf's Avatar
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    Well, it is still possible to discuss what Shinji lacks and needs

  10. #4570
    So, our choices...

    - Assassin build

    - Demi-servant build

    - Onmyoji build

    - Wizard build

    - Alchemist build

    - Wasteful combination of them all with a low chance to accidentally reach greatness.

    Something like that.

  11. #4571
    All this talk is rather useless at the moment when he is stuck on this island. This is not the time or place to build his character sheet. Rather we are testing to the limit what we have built in the past. I think we are better off holding this talk at the end of this year, once all the chips have been place and the fallout of Championship and other events in the works have came to light. At that point we can discuss where we go from there to improve Shinji. This championship might unlock/lock routes for us to explore in the future that we cannot foresee at the moment.

    And stop trying to make Shinji into a OP powerful character that always wins. This tale is not that. He does not have to be a super juggernaut. This championship is a test of Shinji, in which he is forced to conclude that he is not at the same level of Best of the Best. That he has reached a playing field of such importance that the level of competition as grown beyond his normal means. That Shinji has to become more resourceful to squeeze out victory from its tight clutches.

    Be happy that Shinji is even in this competition and that he is at least holding his ground.

    I would like to remind both of you that Shinji has the while being under the geass sucks that it was the only way to recruit the help of Elesa so that Shinji had even a snowball chance in hell to complete Sion's mission to its fullest. We are not here for glory or to impress Elesa. We are not here to win this competition.

    We are here to get intel for the most important girl in Shinji's life, Sokaris/Sion. To find out secrets that the world has forgotten and has been lost to the ages. And to accomplish that we simply need to survive. As long as Shinji is still capable of moving forward and still breathing in this dungeon that it is a win in my book.

    And if all of this seems like he is a failure to you, that he is not powerful enough or cool enough, then I don't know what to say to you. Canon Shinji was a boy drowning in his sense of worthless, lashing out to others trying to stay afloat. That this Shinji has even reached beyond drowning at this point and has made it to land is sheer amazing to me.

    And now when he is started an impossible climb up a steep mountain and is having issues, metaphorically, you seem to think that Shinji is a failure since he is not as high as others or matching there climbing speeds. Be happy that he is still climbing at all cause there are a thousand versions of Shinji that would never had made it to land so to say.

    All that said, we do have a lot to rebuild/improve after this competition. Hopefully Shinji will be in a position to do something about it and not in jail.
    Last edited by Skull Leader; Today at 02:41 PM.

  12. #4572
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    Choice 379: [x] Ask Elesa to take point, with Shinji and Zelkova providing support




    Chapter 91. Andromedon

    “Well then, Ishmael, now that your callsign is settled, is there anything else you need to take care of before we head off?” Elesa questioned from where she was leaning against the wall. “If so, speak up. I can’t guarantee you’ll have the chance once we get to where we’re going, after all.”

    “…and how are we going to get there in this…storm?” Shinji muttered, as the sound of the rain on the stone of the structure was still intense, even muted as it was from them being deep inside.

    “The way I came, of course,” the American Champion responded, gesturing at the rune platform she’d appeared on. “There’s another one of these just inside the labyrinth.”

    The boy blinked.

    “Are you, uh…sure that’s safe?” he asked, before shutting his mouth. Of course it was safe – that was how the organizers had sent people out across the island, after all. Though… “Wait, does this mean…” Shinji’s blood ran cold as he considered the implications of what the American was saying. “You mean, these platforms, you can choose where to go using them?”

    “Essentially,” the young woman answered, confirming at the boy’s guess. “In a way, they’re like Britain’s Floo Network, though far older, and with a few other features, if you were going to make that comparison.”

    As it happened, that had been what he had thought of.

    “So…did the judges choose where we would all end up?” Shinji asked, his eyes narrowing as he tried to process this new bit of information. “Or…?”

    “No, but then I’m not sure they can,” Elesa replied, her features seeming faintly amused. “Not when what they can only use the emergency function of the network.”

    “The…emergency…” the boy stiffened. “You mean you can…” ‘…do more?’ “How?”

    “Now now, Matou, a woman has to have a few secrets,” the young woman teased, her lips curving up into smirk as the British Champion visibly twitched.

    “…in your case, I get the feeling that ‘a few’ is a serious understatement…Nyx,” Shinji said acerbically. “But fine, if that’s the way you want it, we’ll do this your way.”

    “Thank you for your permission, Ishmael,” Elesa quipped sarcastically. “Now then, I believe I was asking you a question?”

    “Uh…right,” the boy muttered.

    It occured to Shinji that the most helpful thing at this point would be information – and maybe a chance to restock his ofuda. While he had looked up what the CAS Archives had about the layout of the island and the ingredients on it, something told him that if the American Champion could use his help, the place where she was taking him might not have been covered in the journals of past champions.

    …especially since she seemed to know a few things about the island that weren’t in any in the Archives at all, like how to effectively use the teleportation platforms which studded the island.

    'Maybe its linked to that odd song - to whatever is under the island?'

    "At least tell me where we're going, would you?" he asked, shaking his head. "I…I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I mean, I appreciate the help you’ve given me, saving my life and all, but…it would be nice to have an idea of what I've gotten myself into."

    Which was a considerable understatement, even if it was true.

    The American Champion closed her eyes for a moment, as if considering his request, before nodding.

    "Well, I suppose you deserve that much," Elesa agreed with a sigh. "It isn’t as if knowing would hurt, at least. How’s this…I'll brief you, and then we'll be off, agreed?"

    "...I don't suppose I could have some time to restock my ofuda supply?" the boy hazarded, thinking that perhaps he could parley this small victory into something more. "Or maybe a night of rest?"

    But Elesa only snorted.

    "Don't push your luck, Ishmael," the blonde replied dryly. "I may not be in a hurry, but I don’t intend to just waste time either. Since the briefing will take a while, you can work on your ofuda while I talk.”

    “…fine,” Shinji conceded, moving to take a seat so he could actually work. “Any preference on what I make? I’ve already told you what I can produce, I think, so—"

    Frankly, he was expecting her to ask him for sealing or binding ofuda, since he could create those fairly quickly, or perhaps some of his flashbangs, but—

    “The corrupted water stuff, if that’s not too difficult," the American Champion responded, saying something that surprised him.

    "Corrupted...?" the Japanese boy echoed. “Why…?”

    It wasn’t that he couldn’t intentionally make corrupted ofuda, but keeping his prana from running amuck while he was purposely corrupting it was…difficult, so—

    "We're going to be facing some dangerous and powerful creatures, and I want you to have abilities that can weaken – or bypass – their defenses," the other told him. She raised her hand, idly letting sparks dance over her skin. "Much as the nuckelavee you fought eroded the defenses of your fusion form."

    The boy stilled, his lips curving downward at her mention of his encounter with the deadly creature.

    "...you know about that?" he asked quietly, before shaking his head. “How…” he began to inquire, before shaking his head. “You’ve been talking to Ramona,” Shinji noted, his voice resigned.

    “I have,” the young woman admitted. “Still, even without her filling me in, I can tell a good deal just from our surroundings, Mister Matou," she said, glancing about at the room.

    “What, do you have some kind of psychic ability?” the boy joked, but Elesa only shook her head.

    “Classified.”

    “I’ll take that as a yes,” he said dryly.

    “Good. You’re learning to read between the lines,” the American Champion quipped, her lips twisting with amusement. “In any case, if it wasn’t already obvious, we’re heading underground, into the largest of the subterranean structures on this island."

    "...underground, you say?" Shinji echoed, with something about that feeling ominous to him, even as he took out some of his onmyoudou supplies. "Why?"

    "Because that is where we have the best chance of finding well-preserved items from the Age of Gods," Elesa answered frankly, walking over to the altar and touching the stone with her lightning-wreathed hand. A moment later, she swiped her fingers across the stone, with lines of light marking the passage of her fingertips, and something…no, not just something, a translucent model of the island shimmering into existence in the middle of the grand chamber.

    “What…?”

    “Think of it as a map,” the other Champion informed him, as she explained how various points of light on the island marked the locations of the other platforms. “The entrance,” she said, pointing at a particularly bright glow at the very middle of the island, “is here. Were we to go there on foot, we would have to face the guardian of the ruins, so I suggest we don’t.”
    “The guardian…?”

    “A great wyrm,” Elesa supplied, her words shocking Shinji to the core. “A true dragon, not one of the imitations that the West give the title to today.”

    “A…great wyrm,” Shinji repeated. “Are you…are you sure?”

    Given that this place was a remnant of the Age of Gods, he supposed it was possible, but—

    “Yes. Sajyou and I confirmed it during the preliminaries,” the American replied. “I believe the Centre has some notes about it as a serpent of peculiar size.”

    “By peculiar size…”

    “At least a hundred meters long,” Elesa related. “With a body as wide as a castle tower.”

    “…holy fuck.” Such were the only words Shinji could find that he thought were reasonable for the situation. “And we have to fight that?”

    “Only if we wished to reach the doorway to the underground ruins on foot,” the American Champion explained. “Which is why we will be using a platform.”

    “Wait a minute,” the boy remarked, his mind racing furiously as he tried to remember what he’d read about the dangers of the isle. “That’s the serpent at the crossroads. The one that every potioneer has to find some way to deal with if they want to pass through the center of the island.”

    “That’s right, though they don’t all have to fight it,” Elesa told him. “Putting it to sleep temporarily with a potion works. Or distracting it by setting something on fire.”

    “Ah.”

    “In any case, it – and most of the feral creatures of the island – are only a threat aboveground,” the blonde noted. “The underground portions tend to be free of such, though they have their own dangers, as you no doubt are aware from your own explorations.”

    “I…guess,” Shinji said uncertainly. It wasn’t as if he remembered his explorations in the preliminaries, after all, but… “I’m guessing that you found me when I was somewhere underground after stumbling into some grave danger?”

    "Indeed,” the young woman confirmed. “I don’t feel like discussing the details, so let us simply say that you stumbled across an artifact that should not have been disturbed and made the mistake of disturbing it." She sniffed, shaking her head. “That you survived your encounter with it, considering your…nature, is surprising. Though I suppose I of all people shouldn’t look down on what human determination can accomplish.”

    Shinji wasn't exactly satisfied by this response but...

    "...I suppose," he allowed, taking a deep breath as he processed what she said. Apparently, he’d encountered some kind of trap and nearly gotten himself killed – which he supposed would fit his luck. "From how you’re talking…you've seen other artifacts? Where?"

    "Technically this shrine would count, but if you mean things that can be carried out, there are a number in the ruins at the center of the island," Elesa told him. "A labyrinth of great age, containing grave dangers for any who would plumb its depths. The undead. Hordes of golems. Phantasmal Beasts and more besides." She shrugged. "The first few levels are not overly difficult to overcome, but the deeper one goes, the deadlier the foes one will face.”

    “Then why are we going there, if there is so much danger?”

    The young woman glanced at him as if considering something.

    “Because there are things within that make the danger worth braving,” she stated, making the boy curious as to what she meant. “You recall the song of the isle, no doubt?"

    "I do," the boy answered, as the siren call of it remained within his mind from his brief meditations. "What of it?"

    "The source of it lies at the very bottom of the Labyrinth, I believe."

    “Huh,” Shinji grunted, taken by surprise. Something like that… "...and how do you know all this?" he demanded. "I know you have your secrets, but…none of this was in the Archives, and while I can believe you about the platforms, after seeing you…"

    The American Champion sniffed.

    "As I mentioned, the Japanese Champion and I did some exploring during the preliminaries," was the only answer he would receive. "The song grows louder, you might say, the deeper one gets.” She paused, glancing at his potions satchel. “Incidentally, it was within the labyrinth that I discovered a great patch of thaumatagoria, among other rare plants.”

    “…just growing there? Alongside monsters?”

    Somehow, Shinji wasn’t especially pleased with the idea of trying to harvest potions ingredients while under fire, but…

    “Well, there are...safe areas every now and then, some of which contain gardens of these rare resources, or healing springs,” Elesa admitted. “Usually, they can be found between floors, as it were. Still, to reach them, one must the defeat the various creatures of the labyrinth, and unravel its traps."

    "I...how would something even survive underground that long?” He wondered aloud. “I can see undead and golems, not needing sustenance, and spirits surviving off of prana, but what about creatures like chimerae? Don’t they need to eat?"

    "Well, that…I confess I am not entirely certain,” the blonde noted, with Shinji frowning. “It is possible that these creatures hibernate when none seek to challenge the great labyrinth. Or that they are not the creatures themselves, but projections of such. Animated memories."

    "Huh. That’s…such a thing…" Was that even possible? Well, he supposed that this ruin was from the Age of Gods, so it wouldn’t do to underestimate what it was capable of. "So, what’s your stake in all this? Why do you want to explore the labyrinth? It can’t be because of the rare ingredients, can it?”

    “My…benefactors asked me to investigate any oddities on this island, given its nature,” the young woman replied. “As well, like you, I have an interest in ancient artifacts.”

    “Not so you can put them in a museum, I’d wager.”

    “No. So that their properties can be studied, perhaps replicated.” She paused. “You do know that most museums only display around 2-4 percent of their collections? That much of what is done at these institutions is research, yes? Even at say…the British Museum.”

    Shinji twitched, even as he took a breath and centered himself so he could better work on his ofuda.

    Well…he couldn’t say that those at the Tower didn’t do research, certainly, given the predilections of most magi, and since he didn’t know much about how most museums operated, it wasn’t as if he could refute her.

    “And you…or they, think that exploring this…very dangerous place is worth it?”

    "Something like that, yes. There must be something below worthy of the challenge," she replied. “Or at least, that’s what I – and they – think. Honestly this is all something of a vacation to me, compared to the assignments I normally deal with.”

    “What.”

    Shinji frowned and shook his head.

    "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” Elesa quipped, with the boy finding the line familiar. Where had he heard it before? Or maybe…he’d read it?

    “…was that Shakespeare?”

    “Huh. You’re better read than I thought,” the American Champion noted, with the boy not knowing whether to feel pleased or insulted.

    “And you’re better read than you look,” Shinji remarked blandly. “Well, than you looked when you were wearing—"

    “Now now, Ishmael, please don’t assume that beautiful women don’t have a good head on their shoulders,” she murmured in what seemed to be a kind, gentle voice. “It will be the death of you.”

    The boy froze, as waves of killing intent battered him, his limbs trembling in the face of her terrible smile, before all at once, the pressure vanished and he could move again.

    “…um…so noted,” he mumbled, turning to his ofuda, concentrating on the strokes of brush on paper.

    "Anyway, if I knew for sure what the labyrinth contained, I wouldn't have to explore it, would I?" the young woman continued, walking over so she could watch him work. "Despite our talents, there was only so much the Japanese Champion and I could do in a single night, if we wanted to have time to brew a potion.” She smiled slightly. “I heard you found it useful?"

    "...I did," the boy admitted grudgingly, shaking his head as he set aside a finished ofuda. "Wouldn't be alive without it, I hear." He clenched his fist and took a deep breath. "You have supplies, I hope? Provisions?" He hesitated but… “I’m afraid I lost most of mine.”

    "I do,” the American Champion confirmed. “Provisions, equipment, and more besides. How could I not be prepared, given the danger we face, and the opportunity? After all, how often does one have the chance to discover a relic from the previous Age?"

    "...just so you know, I will need something to compensate one of my benefactors for my...replacement arm and leg," Shinji said carefully, deciding to mirror his companion’s choice of words. “I promised…them, an artifact of some sort.”

    "I'm sure we can come to an arrangement,” Elesa replied, but said no more about that topic.

    Over the next hour or so, as the boy worked, the American Champion continued to explain what she knew of the labyrinth, including what she had learned of the various types of monsters, puzzles, traps and such she had encountered, and how they could be beaten.

    "You're not as powerful as the Japanese Champion, but you have your own virtues," she said at the very end, watching as he finished up the last of a fairly sizable stack of ofuda. "Now then, if you’re about finished, we’ll be off.”

    "Where? To one of these safe points or...?"

    "To the beginning of the Labyrinth, of course," Elesa explained, with Shinji frowning. “It wouldn’t do to simply go in partway, without you having a chance to acclimate yourself to the dangers of the place.”

    The boy sighed.

    “…point,” he grunted, shaking his head. “Will I need to fuse?”

    “Well, that’s rather up to you, isn’t it?”

    And so it was.




    Sometime later, Shinji found himself standing with Elesa just inside the doorway to the ruins, with the blonde indicating that he should take point. Under the circumstances – and given the rather dire set of conditions that his partner described – the boy thought that he might as well employ fusion now.

    If nothing else, the added power it held could prove vital to his survival, if the beasts below were anywhere near as challenging as the nuckelavee was to face.

    'Not that I ended up being the one to defeat that particular foe...'

    Nevertheless, it had allowed him to survive the encounter, so without further ado, the boy closed his eyes, letting himself sink deep into his mind, opening the door between himself and the world as...

    PAIN. PAIN. PAINPAINPAINPAINPAIN!

    ​White-hot pain tore through his mind as memories, thoughts, emotions not his own flooded into him, through him, the intensity of the intrusion moderated only by the fact that another mind was joined with his, that his physical vessel was merely the core of his existence, not the totality of it, as his awareness extended into the stone, into the earth.

    And yet...

    His awareness faded as he found himself no longer touching the ground, with the radius of his perception shrinking to just the body he wore, familiar yet alien.

    Twisting. Twisting. Twisting.

    In the air, he couldn't manipulate the earth, for he was no spirit of the air. Just a hu-spirit-man hovering before...

    "Andromeda..." he whispered, seeing the beautiful woman standing before him, with all the poise and radiance of the one who outshone the nymphs of the sea.

    "That is not my name, though perhaps it is apt as a title," the woman – Andromeda – no, Elesa – replied. "The only chains I wear are those of duty, Champion."

    "I [you] [he] WE...see," the fused entity replied unsteadily, touching down once more as awareness grew and an inhuman consciousness swallowed up the others. "This one understands."

    Fusion was supposed to be a union of two entities, balance, whole, yet now there was a third, and the new mixture was fluid, chaotic, like the waves crashing on the rocks of a tidal zone. Stability came - and went - and came again, with everything in flux, as the new presence ****EUS was not, was, was not entirely compatible with the others.

    Pain. Instability was pain. A connection being made and burning out and being made once more.

    A weapon.

    A crown of...branches? Thorns...no snakes. Why snakes? Why did it have to be snakes? Hissing at the world with forked tongues, snapping viciously at the golden one yet reeling back from the scent of ozone.

    A scythe - scythe - sickle sword whose form kept shifting, shifting, shifting from one to another, whose form shifted, writhed, grew.

    He could see. He could see. He could see afterimages, or were they foreimages, for people had not yet moved. Bright shadows going in multiple directions, multiple branches, multiple

    Information. Too much information. Too much. Too much. TOO MUCH.

    "Do you want a seal? To reduce the influence of the other soul?" Androme—Elesa asked quietly, words, images, memories rushing through his mind, memories of what had been and what might be blurring the boundary of past and future as breathing grew ragged, steadied, ragged once more. He could see, he could see glory spun into a cloak, could feel the moisture in the air from the rain wrapped around him, could, could could—

    "I...I...I...can function."

    Which was true, but...

    "That wasn't what I asked. You don't seem to be used to this tripartite fusion, but then that sort of thing is not exactly common at your level," Androm—Elesa her name is ELESA GET OUT OF MY HEAD – said, not unsympathetically. "I could reinforce the seal you have. Or let you acclimate, if you think you can manage. Your current state isn't stable, though."

    This much he could feel, with everything in flux.

    “I…I can manage,” the entity grunted, stepping forward with weapon in hand as he stretched out his senses, attempting to see what he could feel using his prana.

    ‘The ground…resists my prana?’

    That wasn’t a surprise, really, as the material of the shrine had done the same, but the difficulty of sensing much through the stone was about an order of magnitude higher than even in that place.

    Still, from what he could see with his eyes, the only enemies before him seemed to be a small horde of bone golems, wielding a number of rusty weapons.

    ‘Huh. This…this is it? I expected worse.’

    From what Elesa had been saying, the boy had thought mortal peril awaited on each floor, with his opponents being something like Chimerae, Dracoliches, Basilisks, or other beasts long lost to this age. Thus, seeing a mob of perhaps a hundred fairly slow-moving skeletons was something of a letdown, even if they were all armed.

    ‘I’m in fusion. Their weapons will be no threat to me.’ And as he looked, he saw more. 'They're not coordinating with one another, not positioned to guard anything in particular...' he thought to himself.

    Satisfied with his threat assessment, he decided to give in to his instincts, as a good, solid victory was just what he needed to feel better about himself, after a tree had almost done him in.

    He tossed a disillusioned flow ofuda forward, into the very middle of the loose formation of bone golems, and when they didn’t react, shifted.

    'They don't detect magical energy,' he mused idly, as he manifested his scythe, but then there no more time for thought, as he was among them, his weapon cutting, no smashing one enemy after the next as they converged on his position.

    A hundred, had he said?

    There were more than that, but what did it matter? They couldn’t hurt him. Their weapons could not even touch him, even as his blows tore them to pieces, with fragments of bone going flying as he hacked and slashed and crushed.

    This…this was what it meant to be alive. To prove his dominance over the weak. Over these lesser constructs which sought to hinder him.

    In his veins, his blood sang, his nerves filled with liquid warmth as he destroyed one golem after the next, his scythe reaping and reaping with every movement he made.

    ‘Surround me, will you? Crowd me? That just means I’ll always have victims!’

    These...weaklings. They thought they could challenge him? They thought they could defeat a son of Zeus?!

    They were pathetic. Had he – had he not slain the youngest and most deadly of the Gorgons? Had he not killed Cetus, the monstrous whale? Had he not done feats worthy of the greatest of heroes? And these...these mere constructs sought to do him in?

    Pain. Pain. Pain.

    Pain was as nothing before his anger, and as the dull pinpricks of bone golems' weapons registered on his skin, he retaliated with a whirlwind of blows.

    'Ele—Andromeda...Andromeda is there...'

    She was watching him, her eyes on him as ever they were when he fought - he knew the sensation well, and it made the pleasure of combat even greater, memories of passion joining with his battle-fury to give him strength as he smiled, his speed redoubled.

    'Andromeda...'

    Bone crunched, shattered, flew, yet the enemy kept coming, throwing themselves on his blade-staff, on—

    Hm? Arrows? No...darts? What harm could such things do to—

    ARRGHHH!

    Pain. Pain. Pain. PAIN. PAIN.

    Fire. Fire burned through him, raced through him from dozens of pinpricks that pierced his mantle of stone as if it was not there.

    He staggered, his faulty memories supplying the name of his doom.

    The name of the acrid scent hanging in the air.

    The name of the substance smeared across the darts riddling his body.

    The golems...the golems were a distraction. A distraction for...for...

    No.

    He swung wildly, smashing aside foes, but that only made things worse, as each beat of his heart made the poison circulate faster. A poison that could bring agony even to the gods themselves. Poison born of the blood of the multi-headed ones.

    'Hydra.'

    The blood of a hydra – one of the deadliest poisons in the world. Even Heracles, the greatest hero in all—

    What. No. I. I...I am...

    GET OUT OF MY HEAD.

    His form seized up, jerked as will fought will, the inner struggle raging with more intensity than the battle outside, for the skeletons could not hope to hurt him, with their mundane weapons shattering on, shattering on—

    Stone rose up all around him, walls of earth blocking arrow-slits, crushing golems, clearing the corridor as...as...as...

    Matou Shinji screamed, falling out of fusion, his body falling to the ground, his mind falling into darkness.




    He drifted, alone through an endless void. How long he drifted, he didn't know, because in this place there was nothing. No light, no sound, no color – not even time or meaning. No mind, human or spirit, was meant to see the untainted「 」, and so being thrust headlong into it nearly drove him mad.

    Nearly.

    For then the images came, and they were even worse.

    Blood. Fire. Stone. Blood. Fire. Stone.

    A massive form that hurt to look at, pain becoming the first memory of this new incarnation. Pain as if the world itself was broken, as if his enemy were an evil-shaped 「 」he could not truly remember, that his mind refused to acknowledge.

    It...it...it...

    Jinn.

    He'd...he'd fought a Jinn.

    Where? Never in his life in Greece, had—

    'I...was not born in Greece. I am not of Greece.'

    Never in...

    The thoughts wouldn't come...

    Fire. So much fire.

    Pain. Through suffering he was made. Through suffering he was forged. In the crucible of battle did he become who he was meant to be.

    And at the end, when he lay dying, his body broken from his wounds, despite the victory he had stolen from the jaws of defeat, there was a woman...someone familiar, someone who eased his pain, soothed his fears.

    If pain was his first memory, the first thing he knew was real, she was the second, as he looked out from eyes that flickered, into a world that was...that was....

    Alien/Same/no more.

    Yet, she…she…

    Her name...

    It was important. More important than he knew, than he could describe. He knew that, but he couldn't quite remember what it was.

    Her name.

    It...it lingered just out of reach.

    It...it was...it was…

    Yet no matter how he strained, no matter how he tried, his mind could not grasp the name of the one who had saved him, whose touch had eased his pains and given him life when all that waited was death. Together, they'd given rise to an era, their union causing—

    No.

    That wasn't it. That...this wasn't...

    Gaia?

    The figure had glowed with the power of the world, august and radiant, the touch that of a human and yet...

    Andromeda...

    No. Not Andromeda. Not Ἀνδρομέδα but Ἀνδρομέδη.

    Andromedon.

    Ruler.

    Ruler of Men.

    And he, bound to her…a Servant of her will.

    All at once, he remembered.

    Invoking a command spell in a moment of desperation.

    A wish, granted in the moment before everything broke to pieces.

    Salvation born of ruin, born of...

    A smile.

    A smile from the one for whom he'd become the enemy of the world, if she so desired. For whom he would face down a power that had crippled the very gods themselves, and refuse to break.

    His power...did not come from the gods, for the gods were fallible. He was no son of Zeus, no half-blood prince of men destined to found cities and empires. He was a servant, a friend, a comrade...a titan...a titan who bore the heavens on its shoulders.

    Atlas.

    Atlasia.

    Sion Eltnam Atlasia.

    The one who had given him purpose, given him meaning, given him a reason to exist. Who had seen something in him, given him the chance to become who and what he was, if he had the strength to reach out and grasp the opportunities with his own two hands. With his own strength.

    Images flashed by him, one by one.

    The underground chambers of Hogwarts.

    The smile of a girl whose eyes were as bright as the moon.

    Fighting a shapeshifting foe in a grassy plain - and then in a frozen waste.

    Standing against a horde of rampaging spiders.

    The shocked expression on a Champion's face as he was hit by the Killing Curse.

    A Jinn. A Jinn reeling from pain – a sensation it had not felt in 14,000 years.

    A figure crouched over him with glowing palms, her prana sweet, her song resonating with the world.

    Sun-bright hair.

    Eyes the color of the sky.

    "Elesa," he whispered, as the 「 」 trembled. "Her name...was Elesa..."

    A shiver, a tremor, a quake.

    A rupture.

    Spinning, spinning, everything was spinning.

    ...and then Matou Shinji opened his eyes, looking up at the figure of Elesa Labelle, whose hand was on his...

    'My arm...'

    "Welcome back, Ishmael."

    "...Elesa," he croaked, his body - his limbs - weak, the flows of prana within him still jumbled and confused.

    "Yes, that's my name. Don't wear it out now," the model replied impishly, rising and rolling her shoulders with an audible pop.

    "What the..."

    There were...plants around him? A pool of water? Runes of all sorts, meant to restore and refresh?

    What…what was this place?

    "After you collapsed, I finished clearing the first floor, and dragged you here when I had the opportunity."

    "...here? Where is...?"

    "A chamber that opened after defeating the 'boss' golem at the end of the floor, In an interstitial space, if you will. The water here has...curative properties." She sighed, shaking her head. "Good thing too. I can do many things, it’s true, but making an antidote for hydra blood is…beyond my capabilities."

    Shinji swallowed as he heard this.

    Hydra blood...he’d…

    The darts.

    He was lucky to be alive.

    "...I don't suppose you saved any?" the boy managed.

    "The blood or the cure?" Elesa questioned.

    "...both?"

    "For the first, I managed to save one of the darts that was inside you," she replied. "For the latter...the pool is beside you," she pointed out, scooping some of the water up in her hand and letting it fall between her fingers with a splash.

    "Huh." The boy said nothing for a moment, before... "Maybe we should take some samples with—"

    "Doesn't work," she interrupted. "I tried, but the water vanishes if you leave the room, no matter how secure the container."

    Shinji grunted, trying to move his body experimentally and finding that he could at least move.

    His skin, of course, was its normal shade, and his mind was his own. Mostly.

    "Figured I'd ask," he said distantly, as he forced himself to his feet, testing his muscles, his reaction time, and all. “So what’s next, or was that it?”

    “Next?” Elesa questioned. "Next is spirits. Wraiths, mostly, though there are a few more dangerous things about. I suppose you’d call them demons.”

    Shinji grimaced.

    “Demons?”

    How was he supposed to even deal with those? His wand spells probably wouldn’t be that useful, and fusion…well, maybe he should stay out of fusion for a while.

    Speaking of which…

    ‘Zelkova, are you alright?’

    ‘I can function, Master,’ came the reply. ‘However, taking physical form would likely overtax me.’

    ‘…I’m sorry.’

    ‘It is not your fault, Master. I underestimated how…powerful the spirit would be when its essence was reunited.’

    ‘No. It is mine. If I’d managed to keep myself in check, you wouldn’t have suffered.’ The boy looked down at the font of water. ‘You have cured yourself, I hope?’

    ‘Yes. I am no longer afflicted by the toxin. However, I am still recovering. I do not believe attempting fusion would be wise at the moment, for either of us.’

    “That’s fair,” Shinji grunted, turning to the American Champion apologetically. “Sorry, Nyx, but can I ask you to take point on this one? Neither Zelkova or I are up to it at present.”

    “So long as you provide support with your ofuda, that should be fine,” Elesa responded. She smiled then, a thin, dangerous expression with little mirth in it. “After all, this is still one of the less dangerous floors, even if it isn’t as easy to deal with as the first.”

    “Easy?!” Shinji sputtered. “Hydra venom is—?”

    “Easy enough to avoid, if you can seal the vents from which the darts shoot. But for that, you’d have to use your eyes, since your ears would be numbed by the din of battle and your magical senses would be impaired by the stone.”

    “…so…I fucked up.”

    “You did,” the American Champion said, not bothering to mince words. “You saw the golems and thought they were the threat, when they were only the bait.”

    “…I see.” The boy sighed. “I’m sorry. I’ve caused you trouble.”

    "As your Japanese colleague would say, don’t apologize. Learn. Can you manage that much?”

    “Y-yes!”

    “Good.”




    Choice 380: While Elesa is dealing with a number of wraiths and such things, something emerges from the wall to deal with Matou Shinji - the straggler. Two somethings, rather, roughly humanoid, covered in what seem to be dark hooded cloaks of long ripped black cloth. What he could see of their bodies was greyish and decayed looking, and it made sounds like it was trying to suck more than air out of a room.

    The boy felt himself growing cold as these things approached, with joy, hope, life draining from the world as they drew near him.

    How does Shinji fight a pair of dementors?

    [ ] (write-in)
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

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