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Thread: [Quest] Lost Singularity - Fimbulwinter

  1. #1501
    So Many Ideas, So Little Time SleepMode's Avatar
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    Can't backstep now.
    The Act of dozing off in the afternoon is a luxury indeed.
    Coffee would be nice, though.

    [Collection of my Servant Sheets]
    Now Revamped!

  2. #1502
    Time to burn some dread Daneel Rush's Avatar
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    A Building to the East of the Parish, Valparaíso
    Uttercold (-46°C/-50.8°F)




    Character Status
    Health: Stable
    Sustenance: Stable
    Warmth: Optimal
    Stamina: Optimal
    Regression Level 3

    Magic circuits active.
    Elisabeth shakes her head hurriedly, her single-eyed face displaying utmost alarm.

    “No! No!” She exclaims, quickly waving her arms in front of her body, both in negation and to keep us away. “It’s not like that! Isolde didn’t…do anything to me…”

    “But they said something to you,” Marco insists, looking very much the intimidating man his appearance normally projects. “They convinced you to do something.”

    “Elisabeth,” I then add, taking a step closer—

    “Please don’t get any closer!” Elisabeth cries out like a tiny bird caught in my hand. She tries to inch even further away, but the wall behind her prevents this. “I can’t…please, you make things harder for me…”

    She makes a rather contrite expression, as if embarrassed by what she is about to say.

    “…you’re a ‘hero’, after all.”

    I’ve been called many things in my life, but this has to top the idiot meter.

    “…what?”

    If I can read Marco Ahrens’ face correctly, he might have a better grasp of this absurdity.

    “You…are trying to tap into the part of you that is Pyrene.”

    Elisabeth nods.

    “Even if she didn’t have any great power, her existence itself is a powerful, lasting mystery in my body. I thought…I could gain something from that. Perhaps help in some way.”

    “And the reason you can’t stand close to Javier here is because…?”

    “…because Pyrene still longs for her beloved hero.” She squirms uncomfortably on her spot. “Mr. Javier displayed heroic qualities yesterday, so now that I’ve internalized Pyrene’s mystery, umm…”

    “Alright.” Marco raises a single, open hand. “Say no more. We get it.”

    We do? Um, yeah, I guess we do, but, damn. This is awkward—

    (BGM)

    “What was that!?” Elisabeth is the first to vocally react to the…whatever that sound from far behind us was. Like…pressurized air bursting out of a hole, but somehow lower-pitched.

    “That came from the church…” Marco points out, and I think my heart stops for a moment.

    “Wha—the werewolves!?”

    “No, how would they slip past the rest of us, or even why?” Marco counters. “I don’t think the Fourth Reich even knows we’ve been staying at the church.”

    “If they didn’t know, they definitely do now!” Elisabeth states. “I think everybody heard that!”

    “Right…” Marco glances at the two of us, clearly working something out in his head. “We have to split. We don’t get a full view from that balcony; look for other windows pointing north and south. We need to see those werewolves coming.”

    “Right,” I pretty much mumble, finding no reason to argue against the idea. Elisabeth and I slip out of this apartment, glancing at each other before splitting up.

    Choice
    What direction does Javier choose to scout? (Elisabeth will automatically go in the opposite direction.)


    1. North, towards the sea.
    2. South, towards the top of the hills.
    3. Do something else (Write-in).




    *** ***

    Av. Aquiles Ramírez, Cerro Florida, Valparaíso
    Uttercold (-46°C/-50.8°F)



    (BGM)

    Tense stillness. The edge of fury.

    The swordswoman and the hound stand together, looking uphill at the immense obstacle in their way. Archer Is not merely a man; he is warrior king at the pinnacle of physical and martial prowess. His techniques remain unknown and mysterious, but his power is obvious and unquestionable.

    “Shielder…can I really leave this to you?”

    “Hnn.”

    “B-But, I don’t think he’ll just let me run past him anyway, so in the end we might just have to—”

    “You think too much.”

    Maria flinches. It may be the first time she catches a hint of irritation from the hound. Glancing at the Herald’s profile, Maria catches his half-open mouth, exhaling white puffs as he grits vicious teeth that do not belong to an ordinary human. He truly looks like a beast in the brink of lashing out at the nearest threat.

    “Just follow me,” he commands. “I won’t let him hurt you.”

    Maria stammers for a bit as she is not quite prepared for Shielder just charging straight at the distant Archer.

    “Wha—wait!”

    Of course, neither Shielder nor Archer wait. A barrage of powerful arrows suddenly appears, already set in a trajectory of utter destruction. At the same time, the Herald roars, and the sheer might of his voice knocks the large projectiles midflight, scattering them like toothpicks. This lets Shielder close in to melee range…except that he promptly leaps back right after, then ducks, then leaps to the side.

    It is a strange scene. Archer only follows Shielder with his body, turning his own to always face the hound, but his hands wield no weapons and he does not attack. However, the Herald is most definitely fighting against something. He dodges, and he crosses his arms in front of his face and torso, and he grunts as if receiving impacts. He is fighting an invisible enemy.

    “Don’t tell me…!”

    To test her hypothesis, Maria takes a single step forward.

    Garmr roars, and several dozen arrows, each as long as a sword, appear out of thin air, already scattered away by the hound’s ferocity.

    It’s not some sort of magic firing those arrows!

    Shielder leaps back, and he keeps leaping again and again, dodging arrows and swatting away the ones he can’t dodge, but there are just too many, and he gasps when one pierces his right thigh and a second goes through his body just to the left of his bellybutton.

    “Shielder!”

    “Why didn’t you follow me!?” The hound of Hel growls at the girl, unflinchingly pulling out the arrows and breaking them in his hands. He does not look any worse for wear.

    “He has invisible arms!” Maria exclaims. “He has invisible arms, and invisible weapons! The arrows only become visible after he fires them!”

    “…yes?”

    Maria recognizes the quintessential ‘why are you stating the obvious?’ face.

    “You can see them!?”

    “I can smell them.”

    Archer, of course, has stopped his attack once again, crossing his arms and watching them with their stone stare from uphill. Maria reassesses the hound’s unbothered stance, clearly unsurprised by Archer’s mysterious abilities.

    “Wait, you know who he is!?”

    “Of course.”

    Maria almost facepalms.

    “Fuck, this is one of those ‘we didn’t ask’ moments, is it?”

    The Herald of Fimbulwinter is not a Servant in a Holy Grail War. He was summoned by the Planet, which also provides him with all the knowledge he needs.

    “You alright?” Maria then asks, looking at the piercing wounds now adorning Shielder’s body.

    “Yeah,” the hound answers gruffly. “But I’ll be better when you’re not around.”

    “A strange thing for a Shielder to say, but okay.”

    Maria regards the hound one more time—one last time. He wants to help; he wants to fight. He wants to open the path for her meeting with destiny. He wants her to trust him.

    “Shielder, it’s not just beating him; it’s making sure he doesn’t hurt anybody else.”

    “He can’t do that if he’s dead,” Garmr declares with a blood-chilling certainty. “Let’s go.”

    “Right.”

    This time, they charge together, Maria one step behind the hound. Again, Archer releasing a barrage of arrows. Again, Shielder howls and stops them in midflight. This time, however, Archer has prepared a second volley. Maria doesn’t need to say anything; the hound kneels down and lets her jump off his back to release a powerful slash clad in magical energy like liquid gold that intercepts and blows away the barrage.

    Garmr charges again, seemingly even faster, and he grabs something right in front of Archer. Then, a whole lot of somethings grab him and pull him off the ground.

    “I have you now, hound.”

    “Shielder!”

    However, there is nary a trace of worry in Shielder’s face.

    “No, I have you, Archer.”

    Maria can only see the sheer alarm in Archer’s face when Garmr flexes his muscles and pulls at the many invisible arms holding it.

    “Guh…!” The ancient warrior king has no time for words. This is the modifier that grants Garmr a burst of strength when fighting an opponent invading his chosen territory.

    “You will! Not! MOVE!”

    Archer is the one holding Shielder, but it is Archer who finds himself held in place by sheer physical strength. Of course, the obvious solution is to let go, and the hound of Hel knows that too.

    “Got you!” Shielder exclaims the moment he feels less arms grabbing his body. An even greater burst of tremendous strength pulls Archer’s entire body towards him, and the fierce guard dog closes his terrible jaws on the nape of Archer’s neck. The huge man howls in pain right before slamming his very visible knee on Garmr’s gut, making him release his bite as he gasps out in pain.

    “Shielder!” Maria calls again, and it is with bloodshot eyes that Shielder responds.

    “Go!” He insists. “Run! Fight! And win!”

    Gritting her teeth, Maria lets go of her desire to help Shielder and dashes forward. She can see Archer beginning to turn in her direction, readying an unknown number of invisible arms to intercept her, but Garmr roars and pulls the larger male in the opposite direction. The last she sees of them both is Garmr grabbing Archer’s torso and pushing him down, the two fighters rolling downhill and out of sight.

    Hating the heart-clenching certainty that she will see neither again, Maria shakes her head to recenter herself and takes off. There’re still some ways to go before reaching the ziggurat. Just because Archer is out of the way, she cannot assume it will be a smooth trip the rest of the way.


    *** ***


    Outside the Parroquia San Luis Gonzaga, Valparaíso
    Uttercold (-46°C/-50.8°F)



    (BGM)

    Isolde is a genius. This should be obvious to anybody who dwells for even a moment on how little time it takes them to adapt to whatever body they possess, with all the nuances of their magecraft. They did not just unmake the wall of the parish house; they unmade it into a cloud of concrete and brick dust that the frigid winds of frozen Valparaíso would blow inside, right into Sakura’s face.

    Isolde and Isolde-in-the-body-of-Seigi-Nomikata use the cloud of dust to conceal their escape from the building, quickly running eastward across the street. Even the advantage provided by the hill’s slope does not let Isolde match Seigi’s height, but that is a non-issue as Seigi themselves grab Isolde by her uniform and pulls them close so that their foreheads are touching.

    “You know what to do!” Isolde-Seigi exclaims, eyes brimming with obvious worry. “Don’t you fucking dare get yourself killed!”

    Isolde lets go, and the Isolde still in the original body darts off and disappears in the narrow streets of Cerro Alegre. Isolde then turns back towards the church, and they do it just in time to catch the utterly unexpected sight of a thick steel chain crawling on the street in a straight line towards them, right before it leaps at them in a manner most inexplicable. Isolde dodges it easily, of course. They then notice Fiore Forvedge at the southernmost corner of the parish house, hand outstretched and held still by the other hand grasping her wrist. The former mage shows an expression of badly restrained pain. Isolde has learned enough about this group of individuals to understand what just happened.

    “Eulyphis…!”

    While the majority of Valparaíso’s population still rests inside prisons of magical ice, the same cannot be said of the city’s animals. The great freezing claimed thousands of pets and local wildlife. In other words, the frozen city is a veritable motherlode of materials for anybody who dabbles in spiritual evocation.

    The fact that she can rig a simple tool out of an object that was not specifically crafted as a mystic code meant to house a spirit—after a decade without magic circuits, even—is everything Isolde needs to know they are facing a genius to even surpass their own. There is no room for further admiration, however, as Sakura charges through the dust straight at them. The bejeweled gloves in her hands glow a soft, luminous threat.

    Nigre…”

    Hölle!” Sakura exclaims when Isolde lowers their stance and brings their hands to the ground. The burst of flames from red gem on her right hand, meant to blow away the next cloud of vapor and dust she expects Isolde to unleash, only heats the air between them. Sakura tries to counter her own forward momentum, but she is already in Isolde’s trap.

    Isolde quickly assumed Sakura’s gloves would in some way counter their nigredo-based obfuscation, and used the appearance of casting that spell as a diversion. Instead, they pull themselves back up, Seigi Nomikata’s right hand delivering an open-palm thrust straight at Sakura’s solar plexus.

    Pneumaktónos.”

    The spear fist technique Seigi Nomikata has developed as an anti-mage technique, inspired by the merciless countermagic wielded by a certain girl close to Lily and STRIFE. An advanced application of nigredo, touched by the Wind-element affinity to disperse the target’s internal flows. It is not only Sakura’s magical energy that simply fades away; she loses her breath, and for a brief instant her blood and the biochemical and electrical flows throughout her body become deathly still.

    Sakura falls like a lifeless puppet—the effect will last for less than a second; the time it takes her body, soul, and circuits to reassert themselves. That is all the time Isolde needs to turn around and run away. Fiore does nothing to stop them; the scrounged-up tools she has haphazardly assembled are aimed to counter werewolves, not Seigi Nomikata. The steel chain was a spur-of-the-moment thing.

    “What are you doing, Isolde!?” She calls out instead.

    “Surviving!” Isolde’s last word before leaving the two women’s sight.

    “Stop, Sakura!” Fiore then calls out to the woman already rising back to her feet, ready to chase. “We don’t know where the enemy is. They might’ve heard the destruction of that wall, and your flame burst! Father Scherer and the others are the priority!”

    It is not only the possibility of the enemies pinpointing their location; the big hole in the wall lets a lot more of the subzero wind into the building. If anything, the viability of the Jesuit parish house as a base is now in question. Even with the heat generated by their magic circuits, their nostrils ache as they take in the extremely cold air, and opening their mouths to speak immediately results in a spike of pain. Fiore hurries to wrap her scarf properly again, no longer needing to loosen it for the proper vocalizations necessary for her spellcasting.

    “Besides, isn’t it weird?” Fiore continues as she reaches Sakura and grabs her arm, lightly tugging it back towards the building. “We can see Mr. Nomikata’s body is completely healed; I would hope his mental state is restored as well, if Isolde’s magecraft is as good as their siblings made it out to be. It’s one thing when a spirit like Mummu does it, but Isolde’s ‘possession’ is a form of dual physical-mental interference.”

    Sakura nods in realization.

    “…Seigi should be able to reject it.”

    And indeed, Isolde of Brittany is having a conversation of sorts of their own, as they dash in a different direction than their other half.

    Nomikata, I’m in your body, and I know what you can do. I know you can kick me out whenever you want. But I’m begging you here: please, let me use you, just for a bit longer!


    *** ***


    Streets of Cerro Cárcel, Valparaíso
    Uttercold (-46°C/-50.8°F)



    (BGM)

    Unlike Javier’s group, Senta is too far to hear the ruckus all the way back at the church. She leans against the front wall of one of many two-story buildings dotting this part of the city; a black spot in a world of cold, light colors.

    Her attention is currently split between the Feuerbälle hovering at the top of the hills and the conspicuous absence of werewolves. The large drones split, one flying further south and away, while the other two fly downhill, vaguely in her direction but still very far.

    …Garmr is taking on Archer alone.

    There is a bitterness to the thought, and Senta hates herself for fearing for her…well, she is Garmr’s mana provider, but it is hard to think of him as her Servant. He protected her, but his loyalty belongs to somebody else.

    Assuming there’s somebody in New Asgard watching through the Feuerbälle, how does that person communicate with the werewolves? Can they even talk to each other at all? Who is the one controlling the Feuerbälle, Hilde or Wiligut? And whoever it is, where is the other one?

    Questions, questions, and more questions.

    The werewolves are a problem, but if I want to catch Hilde’s attention, then my priority are the drones.

    Ortrud could shoot them down, but that would reveal her current role as a sniper. That is why Senta once again takes to the streets, her sole intention to be noticed by the Feuerbälle. Her circuits are active at all times, not only to fuel the uniform that keeps her warm in the ungodly weather, but to have a spell ready to fire at the first sight of a threat.

    My job is to keep Hilde away from the others. Even if it’s the last thing I do.


    *** ***


    A Room in Hotel Gloria, Serrano 501, Valparaíso

    Uttercold (-46°C/-50.8°F)



    (BGM)

    “Things got complicated at the church, huh,” Liria gloomily comments on the audiovisual input she gets from the familiars she left behind at their base. It is unfortunate, but she cannot afford to return just yet. Should an enemy slip close enough to the civilians, the best she can do is deploy some walking dead as cannon fodder for now. And speaking of cannon fodder…

    “Ah, found you~”

    The werewolves’ bellicose nature (programming?) pushes them to retaliate viciously when attacked. While they could have fled her scouting zombies to maintain their stealth, things change when Liria sends them charging straight at the lycanthropes. It comes at the cost of innocent Valpo corpses being torn apart, but Liria has now located the stealthy wolf commandos. A part of her wishes she were the kind of person who would feel burdened by the tragedies of complete strangers.

    No trace of Berserker, though. Seems like he’s still skulking underground.

    The next step is using other zombies to inform Javier and the others. Liria’s mind goes over her units deployed throughout the frozen hills of shattered Valparaíso, identifying the ones closest to her allies. She does all that while looking down at a bed inside Hotel Garden, and the half-frozen corpse resting there. Liria does not know what piercing weapon was used, but the sheer number of stab wounds is impressive in the most disturbing way.

    “Vicious little girl, aren’t you, Magda…?”

    Diego’s face is frozen in utmost shock. He died before he could feel anger or fear; he just looks like he cannot process what is happening in front of him…or rather on top of him, based on the trajectory implied by the stab wounds. Looking down at him, Liria sees only hatred. A massive cauldron of hatred that simmered for years, finally boiling and spilling out. Now, the question is: does Maria Magdalena Vyhmeister have the means to turn that hatred into a deluge that swallows this entire city?

    Liria suspects she does. She cannot guess how she would do it, but her assessment of Maria Magdalena is ‘a girl with a plan’. The problem is that her familiars attuned to perceive all living things still fail to find the girl. Maria Magdalena is wreathed in the legend of a goddess eluding her violent divine spouse. Liria doesn’t know enough about magecraft to figure out the workings of the spell: does it conceal her from those predisposed to be hostile towards her? No, that would not let her hide from her vermin familiars. It cannot be a flawless spell, though.

    “So…what’s my next move here?” Liria murmurs, even as the vermin slip into the holes Magda brutally dug into her brother’s body.

    Another Choice
    So, what is Liria’s next move?

    1. Go back to the church.
    2. Hunt down some werewolves.
    3. Stay in the area until María Magdalena makes a move.
    4. Write-in.


  3. #1503
    Persona rajvir's Avatar
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    Surprised to see no votes yet, just got the time to read this today.

    Guess I might as well vote here.

    2. - South, towards the top of the hills.

    3. Stay in the area until María Magdalena makes a move.


    Honestly wasn't completely certain on the directions, but it seems like the hills would give us more to work with.

    But more importantly Maria seems like a far bigger threat than the Werewolves especially since Liria actually has far more information to work with right now.

  4. #1504
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six SpoonyViking's Avatar
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    What direction does Javier choose to scout? 2. South, towards the top of the hills.
    So, what is Liria’s next move? 3. Stay in the area until María Magdalena makes a move.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by rajvir View Post
    Surprised to see no votes yet, just got the time to read this today.
    People have been discussing the alternatives in the server.

    - - - Updated - - -

    I'm not happy with having Liria just wait for Magdalena's move, but that's probably still better than having her retreat, and it's not like I can think of a clever workaround for Maria's obfuscation spell.

  5. #1505
    Flying Fairy Sunny's Avatar
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    Mm... I'll concur with those for now.

    I don't actually like the idea of Liria staying in that area at all (given it's where she was led, which feels... suspicious?), but I don't have a great idea for a write-in under the circumstances either. She's already reporting the werewolves' location to the others and she said herself she can't afford to head back to the church yet.

    But for now I'll go with both of the above.

    Tense though, kya.

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  6. #1506
    +1 to Spoony, for pretty much the same reasons as Sunny. The situation does feel like it would call for a clever write-up, but I can't say I have any idea that feels clever enough and not at more risks of potentially shooting ourselves in the foot as we're approaching the climax.

    For all of the people we have to 'command' at the moment, the number of potentially hidden threats is doing a good job at keeping our options (feel like they are) constrained.

  7. #1507
    Time to burn some dread Daneel Rush's Avatar
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    A Building to the East of the Parish, Valparaíso
    Uttercold (-47°C/-52.6°F)




    Character Status
    Health: Stable
    Sustenance: Stable
    Warmth: Optimal
    Stamina: Optimal
    Regression Level 3

    Magic circuits active.
    (BGM)

    I cannot see it, but I can feel the aftershocks of tremendous violence as my eyes look southward through the window of a different apartment. They are still way uphill, further than even the Costa Mirador building Archer once used as his sniping spot, but I can feel something like thundering drums out of control. That is the intensity of a battle between Servants.

    Even further uphill, all the way at the top, I can see some small flying thing buzzing about. It is a strange silhouette even from a distance, though, so I guess it’s not one of those drones used for aerial photography—can those even fly in this cold? Anyway, what are those, and why are they over there?

    “Javier.”

    I almost jump off the window; that’s how startled I am by the thoroughly inhuman voice that calls out my name from behind. My brain shuts off and restarts, needing some time for the right neurons to fire and remind me who that voice belongs to—a broken set of vocal cords that no longer should be able to speak.

    “Watching from multiple angles. I guess that makes sense.”

    “Liria,” I call out to the half-frozen corpse approaching me—a pitiful old man looking like he would’ve starved to death without the great freeze. “Where the hell did you go?”

    “María Magdalena was aiming for you, so I intervened.”

    It’s…not nearly as shocking to hear as it perhaps should be.

    “I see…so she hates me after all.”

    “Don’t be so full of yourself,” Liria retorts with the vague approximation to amusement the corpse can barely manage. “That girl hates everyone and everything. But let me deal with that; I came to update you on everything else.”

    I guess I really don’t have the time to argue.

    “Alright, let’s hear it.”

    “Maria and Garmr split; the dog is taking on Archer by himself. Maria is on her way to The Maid’s temple or whatever.”

    So they went with that in the end…

    “Alright…what about those flying things?”

    “Those are called ‘fireballs’ if I remember right. I think Maria also called them ‘foo fighters’. Anyway, the Nazis are probably using those to scout, but it seems both Berserker and the elder sister are either still underground or hiding really fucking well.”

    “Hmm…well, looking at it positively, that gives us time to deal with the werewolves…”

    Of course I stop talking. For some idiotic reason, I look at the zombie to make sure it sees what I’m seeing. Out there, darting eastward like a nervous little hare, there is a person who very much should not be there.



    “Right, I was getting to that,” the zombie says. “Isolde took over Nomikata’s body and they fled the church. That’s the explosion you heard earlier.”

    “Again!?”

    I worked so hard to free that guy!

    “But where is she—uh, where are they going…?” Zombie-Liria muses, hawkish dead eyes following the little homunculus hurrying away from us. “On that direction…they might stumble into Senta—”

    For a moment, it feels like the entire city shook. A chilling, heart-stopping thrum of energy spreading throughout the hills, like an advance warning of an incoming earthquake. And then, a different sound. A sound I recognize, although I’d rather not.

    “Liria,” I call to the zombie that has gone, well, deathly still. “Why is the ocean ice breaking?”


    *** ***


    “Reina Victoria” Funicular Station, Cerro Alegre, Valparaíso
    Uttercold (-47°C/-52.6°F)


    (BGM)

    Valparaíso’s hillside funicular, an integral part of the city’s public transport network, is the city’s pride. Dating from 1902, it offers spectacular panoramic views of the city while facilitating uphill movement. It is rather a shame, then, that in the year 2015, the “Queen Victoria Square” adjacent to the station is a barren, untidy mess. It is a questionable blessing that the cruel cold and the snow have scoured away the thick scrub and weeds—not that it matters much in a city virtually destroyed.

    Of course, there is no hiding in the exposed Victoria Square. Someone who is not quite Seigi Nomikata right now lurks inside the funicular station, surrounding by prisons of ice housing the hapless people caught there at the time of the great freezing.



    Isolde can tell there are not as many prisons as there should be. The funicular is convenient for the aged population, which were the most likely to be completely drained and killed before Human God Enheduanna reversed the flow of vital energy and granted the imprisoned Valpos a new lease on life. They pay the scantest of glances at the group of teenagers, and at the mother frozen while reaching for her small daughter, probably trying to envelop her in a protective embrace as the temperature rapidly dropped.

    “Well, it’s not like I can afford to care for these people.”

    They lay low, making sure they cannot be seen from outside by any scouting Wehrwölfe or Feuerbälle.

    “Alright, now, how do I move these pieces to my benefit…?” They ponder, assessing what they know about the units deployed in the battlefield that is ruined Valparaíso.

    “Oh, don’t give me that attitude, Nomikata,” they amusedly snark at the true owner of that body. “If you really wanted to get your body back, you’d just do it. I mean, you have that Thumos spell, don’t’cha?”

    They roll their eyes.

    “Yes, of course I know about that; I’m Isolde of Brittany. I’m not just possessing your body; I’m claiming your identity. That includes your knowledge and your memories. I know everything you have in this brain of yours. I mean, I’m using it right now.”

    Their wicked smile softens just a little.

    “Yes, that includes your shitty past. See, that’s why I’m the callous person you say I am; if I let my heart be touched by the sob story of every single person I possess, I’d go fuckin’ insane. I mean, at least your dad didn’t fuck you in the ass. Just sayin’.”

    Isolde chuckles at a reaction only they witness.

    “Hey, I’m not the healing Isolde.”

    Confident that there are no enemies in the vicinity, Seigi-Isolde relaxes just a little.

    “Man, you really shouldn’t have come here,” they then say. “I mean, I get why you came—some dumbass sense of loyalty to your teacher, but following that Lily here was such a dumb idea,” they scold, applying a strange emphasis to each word at the end. “But whatever, what’s done is done. Just…when I leave your body, man…do your best to stay alive. For fuck’s sake, man, you’ve got a family waiting for you. You have a daughter!”

    Isolde shakes their head.

    “You hafta make sure she doesn’t grow a loser like our Elisabeth.”

    Isolde manages to keep the snort inside her mouth.

    “And I think I don’t have to tell you this after your bad experience with Mummu, but if you really care about that daughter of yours, stay the fuck away from this business from now on.”

    They click their tongue, grimacing as if they had slipped a bitter candy in their mouth.

    “If you thought Mummu was bad, you really don’t want to meet his king.”

    All hint of scorn, disdain, sass and mockery are gone from their voice.

    Marduk is bad news. I don’t know how the Association is gonna deal with that guy. Honestly, I don’t want to meet the person who can take on that guy.”

    “Alright, since that one was a freebie, let me give you a real piece of advice. That spell you’re working on, your personal Rubedo…are you sure you wanna go down that path? Isn’t that a little too close to what your shitty dad was aiming for? No, rather, you probably didn’t notice because you were, you know, falling apart and all that, but your plan is dangerously similar to what that guy Javier—”

    (BGM)

    A tremendous rumbling spreads throughout the hills of Valparaíso, startling Isolde and forcing their thoughts back into their mind. The rumbling is followed by a far more unusual, and proportionally more ominous sound.

    “That’s…the ocean ice is breaking—oh, fuck no.”

    They think of jumping to their feet to look in the direction of the coast, but only for an instant before thinking better. They don’t want to see it. They don’t want the visual confirmation of their utmost fear.

    “We’re fucked. We’re so fucked. There are no words in the English language to describe how fucked we are.”

    Their thoughts go to Isolde in their one true body, somewhere else in this frozen city.

    “Damn it, Isolde; you better lay low and stay low, no matter what!”



    *** ***



    Streets of Cerro San Juan de Dios, Valparaíso
    Uttercold (-47°C/-52.6°F)



    Senta is lucky the rumbling and cracking of ice hides her loud cursing. Catching herself, she jumps through the nearest broken window into a family home, trusting the fact she is uphill from the werewolves will hide her scent from them.

    It was Liria in the end—her zombie to be precise—who guided her to the nearest enemies. Liria has located six Wehrwölfe, split into two groups of three. The other group currently heading towards Cerro Concepción through a route much closer to the coast, bordering the ruins of Valparaíso’s Cemetery No. 1. It is in fact the same route Javier and the others used to flee Berserker at the end of their encounter yesterday. Senta could try to chase after them, but not before dealing with these three.

    “But what the hell is that—the ice is breaking?”

    She would have climb on a rooftop to get a decent view of the sea. For now, however, she is probably better off focusing on the werewolves in the vicinity. The longer she lets them walk free, the likelier they get the chance to attack the others. Senta has to stop them. It is her responsibility to stop them.

    I created you. I know what you can do better than anybody else. And with the magecraft I received from Caster, I am the most suited to put you down.

    Forcing herself to ignore the unpleasant, squeezing feeling deep inside she now confidently calls “fear”, Senta steadies her breath and prepares herself to use magecraft. Not too far, not too close—their senses are very carefully tweaked, so they might catch the activation of her circuits if she doesn’t keep at least this distance. This makes ambushing them very difficult, but that was never her plan.

    She will face her unwilling “children” head on.


    *** ***


    Hotel Garden Rooftop, Serrano 501, Valparaíso
    Uttercold (-47°C/-52.6°F)



    “You have got…to be kidding me…”

    From atop a building three blocks away from the sea, Liria has a good, wide view of the harborside promenade and the sea beyond. She can see it break from within; from beneath; from below. She can see the next shape of this tragedy emerging like a triumphant effigy of ruination.

    Its sheer size alone is enough to weaken the knees and wrap the city on a carpet of sheer terror, but it is more than that. Even Liria, ignorant of all things magical, can feel it. This thing exudes mystery. It is wreathed in it, that is how ancient it is. It is a thing of a time before time, older than the Planet itself. The same could be said of the others, but this one is special, if only because of what it is.

    The apex of mystery and mythology, embodying the primal fears of mankind’s hominid ancestors. The incarnation of horror, tragedy, disaster, and futility. There is no choice but to fear it.

    The Final Spawn
    “How the hell…seriously…?”

    What brings a whole new dimension of madness to this scene is that the serpent’s first action upon leaving the chilling waters is to coil protectively around the lone figure standing on Errázuriz Avenue.



    María Magdalena Vyhmeister pats its gargantuan head like this incarnation of terror is just a mere pet.

    “…how the fuck am I supposed to beat that?”


    *** ***


    Warning!

    This is a Locked Save Point.

    If your quest reaches a Dead End, it may only resume from this point.


    *** ***


    Approaching Valparaíso Prison Complex
    Uttercold (-47°C/-52.6°F)




    “Fucking hell, I forgot the Bašmu.”

    That she did. The first and only time she saw it, it swallowed Hans Kammler’s corpse whole.

    “Damn it, was it always that large?” Maria muses on its building-size length, very noticeable even from the opposite end of Valparaíso’s metropolitan area.

    “Yes, yes it was,” replies the Servant whose power she wields.

    Maria Westinghouse does not fear the Bašmu. She knows very well the power she holds; Tiamat’s spawn is a dire opponent, but not one she cannot defeat. But that’s just herself. Thinking of what that monstrosity can do to anybody else makes her body tremble out of control.

    “Liria…Liria can’t beat that thing, right?”

    “Probably not. Its mystery is as old and potent as it can be; way older than hers. Older mystery doesn’t always win, but…”

    Druj Nasu is not especially powerful, nor does she have any special countermeasures against magical beasts like that Archer and his anti-monster advantage.

    “That woman’s cursed flame will not even soften a Bašmu’s scales. Of course, that is just an objective assessment. I cannot see the future.”

    Maria grits her teeth. She is so close. Enheduanna’s temple is just right over there, on the next hill. She is the only one who can face her. But…what can the others do against a thing like that? The Bašmu is nothing like the scorpion-man or the bull-man—its very breath is deathly poison; its mouth can swallow them all whole in a single gulp.

    Liria can probably outrun the thing, and she might even be able to withstand its venom, but can she kill it? Can any of them?

    “What…do I do? Ṣāltum, what am I supposed to do!?”

    “Idiot girl, you’re always asking the wrong question.”

    Maria’s anguished face twists and turns from the eastward direction of Cerro Colorado to the distant sea shore and back. The Bašmu is a serious threat; if left undeterred, it will kill everyone. But, can can afford to leave Enheduanna undisturbed for any longer?

    “What do you want to do, idiot girl!?”

    Choice Time
    So, what does Maria want to do?

    1. Keep going. Trust the others to deal with the serpent. Her target is Enheduanna.
    2. Turn back. There’s no point in defeating Enheduanna if everybody’s dead at the end.
    3. Write-in.



    *** ***



    A Building to the East of the Parish, Valparaíso
    Uttercold (-47°C/-52.6°F)



    Character Status
    Health: Stable
    Sustenance: Stable
    Warmth: Optimal
    Stamina: Optimal
    Regression Level 3

    Magic circuits active.
    The sound of ice cracking and splitting open is frightfully thunderous. No ice breaker would make this sound.

    “Lira, what’s going on!?”

    The zombie won’t look at me with its murky, dead eyes.

    “…you don’t need to worry about that. You’ve got other things to think about.”

    Oh, fuck that, Liria. You really think that’ll fly by me?

    “Elisabeth!” I shout out at the person who should be looking towards the sea. “Is everything alright!? What’s going on over there!?”

    Marco might be mad at me for being so loud and maybe making myself heard by the werewolves, but whatever.

    “Elisabeth!” I insist after the lack of response. I know she can hear me; the rumbling already stopped.

    “She won’t answer.”

    Even I can tell I’m not making the kindest face when I look back at the walking corpse. It looks like it’s sighing, but it didn’t really breathe, so no sound comes out of its mouth until it speaks properly.

    “She’s not here anymore. She left at about the same time the rumbling started.”

    “Oh, come on…where did she…?”

    “Last I checked, she seems to be going in towards the coast. I mean, she just left; she hasn’t made it that far.”

    I’m this close to sinking my face in my hands—I’m not the hair-pulling type. But seriously, what the hell’s going on? We haven’t done shit, but it already feels like everything’s falling apart!

    No.

    Take a deep breath, Javier Lucero. Everything ends the moment you give up and stop thinking.

    “Liria, go help Marco find the werewolves. You know where they are, right?”

    “Six of them, yes, but…Javier, what are you gonna do?”

    …yeah, I guess that is the question, huh.

    Choice Time
    What is Javier going to do?

    1. Stay his ground, and keep his eyes set southwards until he catches sight of the enemy.
    2. Go after Isolde; that one cannot be up to anything good.
    3. Go after Elisabeth, find out what the hell she is thinking.
    4. Join Marco and have the walking dead guide them towards the nearest werewolves.
    5. Write-in.


  8. #1508
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six SpoonyViking's Avatar
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    Maria's choice:
    1. Keep going after Enheduanna.

    Javier's choice:
    5. Write-in: Let Marco know you're abandoning your post, then go after Magda and deal with her together with Liria.

  9. #1509
    Persona rajvir's Avatar
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    Honestly agree with at least attempting to go after Magda, we even just saved so in the worst case scenario we can recover.

    Plus if nothing else we'll get a Spark's High Ending which should be a great read should we all die here.

    Honestly the roughest part is just Maria choosing to pick 1.

    Because we just ended it going what do you want to do?

    It feels almost wrong for her not to be doubling back if she's truly following her heart at that moment.

    Maria's choice:
    1. Keep going after Enheduanna.

    Javier's choice:
    5. Write-in: Let Marco know you're abandoning your post, then go after Magda and deal with her together with Liria.
    Last edited by rajvir; August 19th, 2023 at 11:49 AM.

  10. #1510
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six SpoonyViking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rajvir View Post
    It feels almost wrong for her not to be doubling back if she's truly following her heart at that moment.
    I don't disagree, but you know that if we give Enheduanna time, or Maria is forced to fight more enemies before Enheduanna, then at best Maria is going to die even if she successfully stops Enheduanna.

  11. #1511
    Persona rajvir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpoonyViking View Post
    I don't disagree, but you know that if we give Enheduanna time, or Maria is forced to fight more enemies before Enheduanna, then at best Maria is going to die even if she successfully stops Enheduanna.
    Which is why I still voted 1 in the end, it's just rough because of the heart line.

    Overall it's certainly a good writing decision of Daniel that I'm hesitating to pick what I genuinely believe is the right decision.

    I think if the build up had been different, I might have still voted for 2, but I'd have only done that if I genuinely believed that Javier and Maria could actually overcome even Enheduanna preptime together, aka Avalon or some equivalent.

    But since we aren't in that route, I just don't believe he'll be of meaningful help, and the decision to get the better end absolutely requires 1.

  12. #1512
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six SpoonyViking's Avatar
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    Saltum's last line almost made me change my mind, but then I hit the cognitive dissonance in which Maria didn't stay behind to save the Herald, but would go back to save the others.
    "Sorry, doggy, but you're expendable." XD

  13. #1513
    So Many Ideas, So Little Time SleepMode's Avatar
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    Maria's choice:
    1. Keep going after Enheduanna.

    Javier's choice:
    1. Stay his ground, and keep his eyes set southwards until he catches sight of the enemy.

    Following one's heart is important, but not to the detriment of backing out of past resolutions. Keep the course, do not look back.
    The Act of dozing off in the afternoon is a luxury indeed.
    Coffee would be nice, though.

    [Collection of my Servant Sheets]
    Now Revamped!

  14. #1514
    Flying Fairy Sunny's Avatar
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    2. Turn back. There’s no point in defeating Enheduanna if everybody’s dead at the end.

    While it’s true time and Maria’s remaining stamina are concerns… I don’t think facing her with a discordant heart is a good idea, either. The Shielder choice was one thing - that was respecting his choice and trusting in his assurance, and while it hurts, it can be moved past.

    But this is proceeding onward despite a horrid surprise, while having no assurances anyone can deal with it, with the possible exception of whatever Elisabeth is heading to the coast for.

    …Which may be something good, but Maria and Saver have no way of knowing that. If she goes forward, I don’t think it’ll be with the right frame of mind to dance, nevermind win. So I do think the choice is to do what she wants to…

    ….I’m less sure on the other one so I’ll abstain for now while I think about it.
    Last edited by Sunny; August 21st, 2023 at 03:57 PM.

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  15. #1515
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six SpoonyViking's Avatar
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    Hmm... That's a good point.
    I'm keeping the write-in for now, though!

    Changing my choices to:

    Maria's choice:
    2. Turn back. There’s no point in defeating Enheduanna if everybody’s dead at the end.

    Javier's choice:
    5. Write-in: Let Marco know you're abandoning your post, then go after Magda and deal with her together with Liria.

  16. #1516
    Late to the battle here but I'll go with 2. / 5. (Spoony's Write-in).

    Sunny's argument for turning back is convincing, and I'll be lying if I said I don't hope it could influence Herald's battle for the better somehow :P And Javier going to deal with Magda at Liria's side feels satisfying enough: it's not like their relationship will ever be what Liria hoped for, but it feels like Javier having a shot at 'properly' dealing with his best would only do him some good.

  17. #1517
    Time to burn some dread Daneel Rush's Avatar
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    Streets of Cerro Florida, Valparaíso
    Uttercold (-47°C/-52.6°F)



    (BGM)

    Garmr’s anthropomorphic appearance in no way keeps him from releasing feral growls as both he and Archer roll and stumble down the slope. Archer needs a moment to reassert himself and shake away the white in his eyes, but quickly enough he sets his many arms on Garmr, slamming and pummeling even as they keep rolling down the scrub-filled hill.

    Of course, they are still in a city, so it is only a matter of moments until they crash into a wall, opening a hole much larger than the size of their bodies would suggest. Garmr finds himself pinned between Archer’s powerful bulk and a bed beneath, but only until he pulls his knees against his chest and kicks Archer straight into the ceiling.

    Shielder rolls backwards before at least a dozen arrows stab the bed, and he then just grabs the bedframe and roars with sheer fury as he uses it to ram Archer through the house’s ceiling. Even this does not stop the barrage of arrows the size of swords, and the hound quickly dashes away and back outside, sometimes pushing straight through walls to dodge the unrelenting assault.

    Shielder hears Archer landing on a nearby rooftop, and quickly grabs the nearest large object—a car—and throws it in the way of the next barrage. Running into the nearest house, he ignores the arrows piercing and tearing down the walls and rooms to run straight out of a window and inside the house on whose rooftop Archer stands.

    “Tch.” Archer clicks his tongue. The predictive element of his Clairvoyance does not work on the short term—it is not meant for combat, but to receive insight on likely threats to himself and his realm. That is why he does not see it coming when Garmr’s arms break through the ceiling, grab his ankles, and pull him down through that very ceiling.

    Archer doesn’t even get to think of using his many arms before Shielder straight decks him on the face. When he does get to use his arms, Garmr roars, his fury a shockwave that throws Archer through the wall behind him and into the street. The hound charges right after, well aware that this is his only viable strategy. Archer’s attacks hurt him far more than his hurt Archer.

    His sight is suddenly covered by snow thrown at his face, but it doesn’t make a difference. It is his nose that guides him and tells him to pull back and away the onslaught from literally hundreds of invisible arms.

    Garmr growls, unsure of how to approach this veritable phalanx of limbs, when a distant rumble echoes throughout the city. The shattering ice transmits the impression of size, immensity even. Garmr was aware of this scent the whole time, but now it surges strongly, potently, pungently. Archer, too, seems to put aside the thought of battling Shielder to gaze at the distant sea for a moment. Then he stares straight at the hound, and the two mighty Servants speak without words.

    Like that, they set off, their duel to the death put on hold for a while.



    *** ***


    Streets of Cerro San Juan de Dios, Valparaíso
    Uttercold (-47°C/-52.6°F)



    (BGM)

    “Fuck, I’m such a loser!” Senta all but yells at herself, her voice nonetheless drowned by the staccato of gunfire. The corner of a single-story home is her cover, but now she’s opened herself to be pincered from multiple directions.

    She had a plan, really. It was a good plan; a great plan, even. She just had to use that spell to deal with the gunfire, and then that other spell would’ve taken out the werewolves like a tidal wave that would have swept them away into oblivion. It would’ve been awesome.

    But then they turned around the moment they heard her footsteps — or smelled her? —, and as soon as she saw the guns aimed straight at her, Senta just dove for cover like a terrified rat.

    “Aargh!” Senta groans, her hands scrambling her hair as she can’t bear with her own failure. “I’m really not cut out for this, after all!”

    Just because you know many ways to take a person’s life, that does not make you a fighter.

    “Shit, what now, what now, I—I’ve gotta…!”

    Senta’s attempt at thinking is broken by the regular gunfire. She knows one keeps her from jumping back out to attack, but are the others still there, or are they already moving to get her from another side? In that case, she might not have time for two spells.

    “Then I end this now,” she declares to herself as she beckons the familiar feeling like chillingly cold water in her veins, that unsettling dichotomy of chill and warmth enveloping her body as her magic circuits get to work.


    *** ***


    Near the Port of Valparaíso
    Uttercold (-47°C/-52.6°F)




    Liria Colhuán lands on the rooftop of the Valparaíso dock workers’ union building, a three-story structure that also holds private apartments. It is hard to keep her face straight as the proximity gives her a full assessment of the sheer immensity of the primordial serpent. The Bašmu fills the world not only with its bulk that makes the concrete surrender beneath it, but with its deep, stinging, acrid stench. It hissing is a low-pitched hum that makes Liria’s body vibrate. Its head is large enough to swallow whole at least half a dozen Lirias in a single gulp.

    “How did you even pull this off, girl?” she cannot keep herself from asking. Of course, as in all their exchanges, they speak in their native Spanish.



    Maria Magdalena Vyhmeister flings her loose hair behind her ear, looking up at the Servant with beaming confidence.

    “The Vyhmeister blood and magecraft is the strongest in the world.”

    Liria holds back the snort.

    “Gotta give it to you: you’re a hell of a bullshitter. Well, you’ve had years of practice, right?”

    The humor and good cheer in Magda’s face disappears like it never existed in the first place. A lovely face now marred by a deep bitterness and disgust.

    “And what makes you so special that you can see through it, Fiura-spawn?”

    “You know, calling me ‘vástago de la Fiura’ makes it sound cooler rather than anything else,” Liria jokes, fairly mindful of the mild stirring of the colossal serpent. “Girl, I was a child prostitute. I’ve met all sorts of people, like you can’t imagine. To my eyes, you’re just a walking joke.”

    She gestures at the immense Bašmu.

    “A joke with a big pet, but a joke nevertheless.”

    “Like I care for the opinions of a whore,” Magda then declares. “Even worse, a dead whore.”

    (BGM)

    It is only distance that keeps Liria outside of the Bašmu’s mouth.

    So fast!

    Lira’s coolness disappears the moment the immense beast bites straight through the building and into the space she occupied just a moment ago. Rolling backwards on what remains of the rooftop, she hurries to get back on her feet to leap to the next building right before the serpent lashes out again.

    Really fucking fast!

    The Bašmu does not chase. Instead, it unleashes a cloud of sickly green mist that erodes and breaks apart all concrete, brick, glass and metal it meets in its path. Liria thinks it’s over the moment the mist reaches her, but she is surprised to find herself unaffected, her skin remaining beautiful and unblemished.

    It’s not acid; it’s poison!

    A toxin so potent that it destroys even inanimate matter. However, even it cannot tarnish the embodiment of pollution’s Incorruptible Body.

    The spawn of Tiamat hisses, its face unable to express surprise at Liria’s lack of melting and decomposing. The lull does not last long enough for Liria’s comfort—the pursuit begins anew.

    It’s faster than me, so…!

    Assassin darts through windows, somersaulting and dashing through apartments and hallways the Bašmu then barrels through with no concern for the buildings’ integrity. It still expels its cursed poison, and Liria does not have the time even to send her prayers to its victims—both icy prisons and the bodies within molten into hissing sludge.

    Liria would love to scream a trail of expletives as she flees, but she is not allowed even that much; every single cell of her body is focused on the single, supreme priority that is survival. The monster is gigantic, and it moves at superhuman speed, crushing and breaking through buildings like they’re Jenga towers. If her speed drops for even an instant, she’ll end up in its gut.

    Away…gotta get it…away from that bitch!

    María Magdalena has found herself a tremendous guard dog, but if the dog is sent to chase after a hare, it cannot protect its master.

    Anybody else, come here quickly! Before this thing…!



    *** ***


    A Building to the East of the Parish, Valparaíso
    Uttercold (-47°C/-52.6°F)



    Character Status
    Health: Stable
    Sustenance: Stable
    Warmth: Optimal
    Stamina: Optimal
    Regression Level 3

    Magic circuits active.
    The zombie has gone silent. Deathly still, even. Liria is currently in a situation in which she cannot afford to split her attention with her zombies.

    The corpse doesn’t follow me as I leave this apartment to make the short walk back to where Marco sands watch, and we almost stumble on each other as he too storms out of his apartment. Our eyes meet, equally surprised, but no words are exchanged before both of us hurry towards the stairs.



    “I heard that rumbling,” he begins. “Got anything on that? I didn’t hear Elisabeth—”

    “She’s gone,” I tell him. “She left the moment we split. I’m worried she might be trying to do something stupid. And Liria’s also in trouble; she had one of her zombies with me, but it’s gone inert; I’m worried about her.”

    Marco responds with only the barest of grunts.

    “I saw something moving outside. Moving uphills, towards Plaza Bismarck—could be werewolves, could be something else. You might have been able to see them from your spot, so I was gonna check on you…I think I’m going to investigate.”

    He looks at me, and again, it really feels like we don’t even need to talk. I guess he’s just good at reading people.

    “Elisabeth has one of my guns, so it’s not like she’s defenseless,” is all he says as we near the ground floor and the main entrance.

    “Will you be alright?”

    At this, Marco does scoff.

    “Worry about yourself, Javier.”

    The guy just slaps my shoulder and storms off into the chilling outdoors, quickly disappearing round the corner. He just left like that…we might not even see each other ever again. It’s like…is that what it means to be a soldier, a fighter?

    No time to philosophize, anyway. My inner flame warms my breath enough for it to not condense the moment it leaves my body. I’m gonna look like a little choo-choo train as I hurry downhill.

    Goddammit Liria, Elisabeth; don’t you dare die on me before I get there!



    *** ***



    Near Valparaíso Prison Complex
    Uttercold (-47°C/-52.6°F)



    (BGM)

    “Why…am I even thinking about this?”

    Maria’s lips tremble, a hand of misery squeezing her heart until her face twists into a mask of emotional agony.

    “Why am I even questioning myself!? If they’re in trouble, then I have to help them!”

    “You’ll be tiring yourself before facing our real enemy.”

    “That doesn’t change what I have to do!”

    Maria grits her teeth and lowers her stance almost like a professional athlete ready to set off on a run. Of course, she’s not a runner. Unlike Javier Lucero currently running down the hills of Valparaíso at a reasonable, ordinary human speed, Maria Westinghouse is a living star.

    A comet of blazing melam leaves a golden trail in the sky over Valparaíso as she covers one-third of the distance to the coast—about one kilometer—in a single leap. She lands on a humble two-story home, a simple thing with Eternit roofing and poorly-maintained wooden planks for walls, which collapses under the veritable meteor that strikes it. Maria does not mind this, nor does she mind the cloud of concrete and wood dust that engulfs her as she prepares her next mighty leap—

    “Stop right there, girl.”

    The two’s powerful landing blows the dust away, establishing the three-way standoff…not really.



    The hound of Hel sniffs the air in the direction of the coast. His expression is unusually severe when he turns to stare at Maria.



    “There is no need for Clairvoyance to know you would do this, reckless girl.”

    The words suggest criticism, but there is only a knowing smile Archer’s rough face. A somewhat childish “I knew you’d do this” look. However, he promptly frowns and turns to his (former?) opponent.

    “Why’re you still here?”

    Garmr seems torn, struggling with a choice. In the end, Garmr jumps right at Maria, holding her shoulders before all but slamming his face on hers. Maria can only make a face as the hound wearing the guise of his Master rubs his face against hers.

    “You’re a good person!” Shielder declares after pulling his face away. “I wish Master had met a person like you!”

    Again, that torn expression, like he really doesn’t know what to do next. It is nothing surprising—why expect a guard dog to hold expertise in the nuances of expression and emotion?

    “Uuu…be strong! Bye-bye!”

    And with that, he leaps away, disappearing in an instant as it rushes to its next battlefield.

    “Wha…?” Maria still needs a few moments to catch up with her surroundings. “Wha…you two, are you…?”

    “What’s so surprising?” Archer responds, turning his back to the girl to gaze in the direction Garmr left. “That thing is a threat that does not belong to this world, and we’re Heroic Spirits. It is only natural that we would fight it. I would not deserve the throne of the new world if I let that serpent kill some of my fine subjects.”

    Maria blinks, wondering just why the thought indeed never even crossed her mind. She just…

    “…I just had to do it. The right thing.”

    Archer is just standing there with his arms crossed, but Maria can see past the serene image. The muscles of his shoulders, flanks and back are strained to the maximum, bulging to a degree just a step short of grotesque. She can imagine an unknown number of arms holding an unknown number of massive bows, all of them slowly being pulled to fire those awful arrows the size of longswords.

    “Girl, your heart is in the right place; I will not question that,” Archer continues, not caring that he’s turned his back to her. “However, you can only let your emotions push you so far. A wise warrior knows to choose the right battles. As someone who died after making precisely that mistake, I deem myself specially qualified to say this.”

    “Gah!” Maria gasps and brings her hands to her face to protect her eyes from the gusts of wind released by the myriad arrows released at once. They fly off far beyond her sight, tracing beautiful parabolas in the iridescent sky.

    Remember what has been entrusted to you. It pains me to admit it, but Enheduanna probably has countermeasures in place against me. You cannot protect them all from everything, so make sure to protect them from the things only you can protect them.”

    He grunts.

    “Hmm. Tough scales. As expected from a Divine Beast. I will need a more concentrated barrage from a closer distance.”

    Archer then begins to walk away, only turning his gaze to offer his profile to the much smaller Maria.

    “Leave the serpent to us. Leave the dregs of the Fourth Reich to the Judge appointed by the native gods, and the rest of his allies. Go fight your own battle.”

    Maria watches him walk away, his pace far more sedate than Shielder’s, as he has no need to travel all the way to the coast. She takes a deep breath. Certainly, she can trust Archer and Shielder to handle the Bašmu; she wouldn’t be able to do any better, really. However…

    “Archer!” She calls out to the departing back. “What happens after you kill the Bašmu!?”

    “Then the hound and I will fight to the death, of course. As it must be.”

    Nothing more needs to be said. Maria can somehow tell that Archer will speak no more, even if she calls out to him again. This conversation is over. All conversation is over. Both Shielder and Archer are ready for battle. Perhaps…she was not ready enough before this very moment.

    “So, this is the wisdom of a villain. Or is it the wisdom of a failure? Perhaps it is both.”

    “I can’t do everything…I don’t have to do everything,” Maria whispers to herself, not minding Saver’s inner monologue. “There’s only one thing I have to do.”

    Instead, she turns her back to the coast, setting her young gaze on the hills she just came from.

    The Bašmu aside, can Javier and the others defeat Berserker and Brünnhilde? Can they defeat the Werwölfe and whatever else the Fourth Reich might still have in stock?

    “They can!” Maria declares, swinging her dark blade high and to the side. A sharp blade of golden energy slices through a cone-shaped drone, the debris of its explosion raining over the slope of Cerro Colorado.

    I believe they can.

    “And sometimes faith is all you need.”

    Maria frowns, even as she smiles.

    “Weird words from a demon.”

    “What are you saying, idiot girl? I am an instrument of faith.”

    Her own voice grunts inside her mind by no volition of her own.

    “You still don’t know why I bear the Saver class, after all.”



    *** ***



    Near the Port of Valparaíso
    Uttercold (-47°C/-52.6°F)



    (BGM)

    Every single building the Bašmu tramples is one less shield at Assassin’s disposal, so she makes the most of every single one of them, jumping through hallways and windows level by level, making the gargantuan beast crash through the same structure multiple times. Even a delay of a fraction of a second is meaningful in a battle like this.

    It is no small relief, then, when the sniper’s barrage strikes the Bašmu; a veritable rain of blades descending upon the beast like a meteor shower. She does not bother feeling disheartened at the same of the sword-sized arrows uselessly bouncing off the divine beast’s tough scales; she just cares about putting some distance between herself and the Bašmu, and letting her Presence Concealment do the rest. Will this give her the time she needs—

    Like hell it will!

    The Bašmu cares not for the arrows that fail to hurt it, and continues its pursuit of the target it can see—the target its master wants dead. Its mouth opens wide, showing it can devour her and entire buses in a single gulp. The scent of its acrid venom seeps out of the open maw—Liria’s Incorruptible Body preventing it from irritating her eyes.

    Liria’s heart aches in her chest, pumping faster than it ever has. She slips into the narrow space between two buildings, and the Bašmu chases, ramming through the walls of both structures like a bully tearing down sand castles. It might seem pointless, but Liria sees the opportunity, and she leaps her way up, bouncing between opposite walls towards the rooftop and beyond. When the Bašmu tries to slither its way upwards after her, the two buildings whose ground floor it broke through collapse on top of it. Liria leapt off the collapsing rooftop on time, landing on the adjacent street to watch her work.

    Should I try my Noble—

    All thoughts of switching to the offensive end when the immense serpent bursts out of the rubble, its hissing somehow projecting the feeling of irritation. Its viperine eyes gleam with inhuman luster, focused on Liria’s proportionally diminutive form like they could hypnotize her.

    Shit… Liria grits her teeth. It’s so fast and tough I can’t even hide from it…!

    And then a much larger meteor hits the Bašmu’s face, sending it tumbling and rolling on yet another building, the broken Valparaíso shaking under its immense bulk.

    “I’ll fight this one, demon!”



    Never has Liria felt gladder to see the scary hound. Shielder wastes not another second with her, charging forward like a rabid beast right as the Bašmu emerges from the rubble, maw wide open to swallow this new threat.

    “Watch out for the poi—”

    Liria mentally scolds herself. This is a guardian beast from an ancient mythology. Why would such a creature ever need her advice?

    When the Bašmu reels back to unleash its venomous breath, Garmr closes in and slides under its head.

    That goddamn dog is faster than me!

    That is correct, at least one the ground. Assassin is the one with wings.

    An upwards palm thrust shuts the Bašmu’s mouth close, pressurized venom bursting out of its nostrils into the sky. Liria doesn’t have the luxury to stay there and watch—she is Assassin, so she flees and hides while she expands her senses to tap into her deployed familiars. The whole time she was busy fleeing for her life, she lost track of everything happening all over the city. Where is everybody, and what are they—

    “Shit!”

    Even without having to flee from a primordial serpent, Liria’s heartbeat cannot calm down.

    Where the fuck is everybody!?

    She jumps from corpse to corpse in the time between breaths, desperately looking for the closest ally that is not currently fighting a divine beast. Not just that; she needs to understand the enemy’s current movements in real time.

    “This is…shit!”

    Liria sets off, leaving behind the fearsome threnody of the clash of hound and serpent. Even as she moves, she also commands her familiars to direct the corpses they inhabit to reach as many of her allies as fast as they can.

    They need to know that the conditions of this battle have changed—a major actor has stepped onto the field.



    *** ***



    Streets of Cerro San Juan de Dios, Valparaíso
    Uttercold (-47°C/-52.6°F)



    “Know the cries of the fallen.
    Know the outrage of the victims.
    Know the regrets of the plunderers.”

    Senta cannot let the staccato of gunfire striking her cover distract her from her recitation.

    “Know the blood spilled.
    Know the tears shed.
    Know the lives culled.”

    It is hard to block out the world when the possibility of werewolves walking around the corner to gun her down grows ever more imminent, but such is the challenge she must face as a mage right now. If she cannot do it, she’ll fail and die anyway, so there is no choice but to try and to succeed.

    “The dead never forget.
    The dead never let go.”

    This is the magecraft she gained from Caster’s superlative storytelling. Sîn-lēqi-unninni wrote Senta a story, and by doing so, she entirely redefined her spellcraft, reaching further into the inspiration for her name—the heroine of Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman”.

    A squeezing feeling of chilling dread strikes Senta’s chest; too aware she is that power does not come without a price. As she feels her magic circuits connecting with the foundation by Caster laid out for her and only her, Senta renews her conviction.

    She has already gained so much more than she deserves. She longs for even more, and dreams of a wondrous future…but she’s ready to accept anything.

    Senta has already experienced the joy of being human. Aspiring to even more would be too much greed.

    “Damn you, Javier, for turning me into this…” Accursed words spoken with a bitter smile, as things that have no place in this world surge from the very ground around her—effigies of spiritronic ectoplasm, spiritual automata, lingering remnants of souls long departed.

    If Liria Colhuán will use the bodies of Valparaíso’s dead, then Senta will use their spirits—or what’s left of them.


    When the werewolves finally close in on Senta, guns ready to shoot her down, a veritable swarm of ghosts falls upon them like an all-mowing deluge of resentment. Senta doesn’t even need to move—through her, the wraiths know the werewolves belong to the faction responsible for their deaths, and wholeheartedly discharge all their regret with utmost violence.

    And it is not just those slain by the dire Fimbulwinter. The werewolves were once the city’s most violent criminals, after all.

    Senta has become the medium for the common people’s retribution. The Werwölfe fire their guns, and they harm the wraiths as effectively as they would harm Servants, but they are only three, and the ghosts are many.

    Never in her short life did Senta ever expect to know a werewolf’s screams of terror. There is indeed no predicting life’s experiences both wondrous and baleful.

    (BGM)

    As the screams mixed with haphazard gunfire fade into the heavy silence of death, Senta shudders as she looks up at the “surviving” wraiths. They too look at her, unliving, unmaterial glowing orbs instead of eyes fixated on her, incapable of displaying either gratitude or compassion. Senta grits her teeth and closes her eyes.

    The ghosts all pounce on her, even more desperately than they did the werewolves. They do not attack her, or even touch her; every single one of them merely sinks within her body acting as the gateway to their final, eternal rest. Their duty concluded, their attachment to this world settled, they depart, and each departure takes away a little bit of Senta as well.

    She shakes and spasms on the spot with every invading wraith, knowing better than to stand up before bearing through the side-effect of her potent magic—the price that must be paid. The world becomes faint, her vision spins around her, and a heavy dizziness threatens to claim her consciousness, but she endures.

    “Not yet…” She whines, clutching her head as if that could fix her struggling sense of balance. “I’m not…done protecting them yet…!”

    She feels anemic, but the world stops spinning, so she deems it a good time to stand up. There should be at most nine Werwölfe left. If they’re also split in teams of three, that means casting this spell three more times, plus one additional time when the time comes to face Brünnhilde once and for all.

    “Four more times…” She says to herself as she sets off with unsteady footsteps. “Just…four more times…”

    “What was that?”

    A grotesque call in a voice that should not be able to even be generated. The zombie stands a distance away, about twice as far as the werewolf corpses now perpetually frozen in terror. It speaks rapidly, its voice coming out of half-rotten, half-frozen vocal cords a garbling, gurgling rasp almost too hard to understand.

    “Senta, what was that magic!?”

    “The others…” Senta responds. “The other Werwölfe…take me to them…”

    This somehow reminds Liria of the real reason she commanded this walking corpse to find the homunculus girl.

    “We have a bigger problem, Senta! He’s finally shown up, and you’re the closest! If you stay here, he’ll reach you very soon!”



    *** ***



    Corner of Av. Elias and Subida Caracoles, Near the “Reina Victoria” Funicular Station, Cerro Alegre, Valparaíso
    Uttercold (-47°C/-52.6°F)



    Character Status
    Health: Stable
    Sustenance: Stable
    Warmth: Optimal
    Stamina: Optimal
    Regression Level 3

    Magic circuits active.
    “Berserker!”

    That’s the greeting Liria uses when she lands right in front of me, her Servant strength sufficient to stop from crashing on her, sending us both barreling downhill. The girl that just disappeared on us before the day started is now right here in front of me.

    “Liria!? I thought you were in trouble! And then Archer—”

    “Berserker!” she repeats, and I finally catch it this time. “He showed up, and he’s about to meet Senta!”

    Choice Time!
    Javier has many options now.

    1. Ask Liria where Berserker is, and then hurry there by himself. It’s not as fast as a Servant, but the flame can make him very fast.
    2. Have Liria carry him to Berserker’s location. She can give him the details on the way.
    3. Ask for the details without moving from the spot, then decide what to do next.
    4. Have Liria carry him downhill to the port area to look for María Magdalena.
    5. Have Liria help him find Elisabeth.
    6. Write-in.



    Quest Master's Note: Voting will end on October 6th.
    Last edited by Daneel Rush; September 30th, 2023 at 11:24 AM.

  18. #1518
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six SpoonyViking's Avatar
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    2.

  19. #1519
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    2 seems reasonable to me as well currently.

    Also it very much looks like Keep going after Enheduanna would have been the wrong choice to make, mainly because it was a "forced" choice, in that Maria is going to be fighting her regardless without tiring herself.

    But this way she was able to far better resolve her heart, and we shouldn't underestimate Shielder fully acknowledging her as a good person or Archer's advice, it could easily be the thing that helps swing the ending to a more positive one.

    Glad the other vote won in this case.
    Last edited by rajvir; Today at 10:45 AM. Reason: typo correction

  20. #1520
    2.

    More a vote by default than anything if I'm being honest, I may not have the right perspective on this but I pretty much see every other option as leading to nowhere good or just to nowhere at all.

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