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/qst/ - Quests

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Welcome back one and all into a new part of our adventure. We've fought a long, exhausting battle against the last of duchess Ashtar forces. While the battle isn't completely over, you've emerged victorious with the help of unlikely allies without suffering casualties... yet. What kind of dreadful secret lies hidden beneath this ugly city?
Are you ready to find out?

Previous Threads

Twitter for schedule updates

Perks and spells for our main character

Characters met by Arawn.

People from Muribel.
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Pushing off the lady Minotaur slumped over the struggling angel wasn't difficult; your nigh-translucid magical arms did their work at a speed and reach that surprised Ari'el and he nearly lashed out at you with a slice of his blue soulsteel sword.

''Look over there, there!'' You screamed, pointing at the retreating paladin. The woman had already crossed the threshold into tunnels, only a loss of her footing and impromptu tackle into the wall made her lose some speed. ''You're the only one who can get her!''

Alas, you weren't the nimble sort and your gauntlet would need a few minutes to adjust after that malfunction. Forcing another spell and hitting the fleeing paladin might be possible but you've no idea if it'll make things worse for your weapon.

A worrying crashing noise followed by a cavernous roar from the man-beast divine shard forced you into silence, thankfully Ari'el understood the situation and ran -quickly- toward the escaping paladin, unable to fly because of his steel-like metamorphosis.

''He's got only one follower left! Girls, don't do anything stupid, keep him at bay!'' You screamed for your companions but it was far easier to say than accomplish.

''Noooone!'' Graz uttered his first audible word amidst his furious battle. ''None of them deserve salvation! This city need to rot!'' Another golden arrow went throw his torso, the multicolored shard of Mother Earth relentlessly loosed another projectile toward a hand that was about to splatter your angelic friend, allowed her to jump out of reach and slice at his flank... but a sudden swipe of his leg caught Elina by surprise and sent her crashing on the damaged ground.

Dull pain filtered into your body and Elina got up without a complaint or even a changed expression. All the abuses she suffered at the beast hands was plain torture, her armor was cracked and fractured all over, blood seeped down her face and damaged holes on her body had metal shards visibly dig into her skin. Her veins glowered ominously red, the usual bright gold reduced to nothing more than tiny shiny flakes, her exhausted magic made it impossible for her to even fly without breaking the protective shields covering Shereen and Leena! She's fighting this abominable divine beast with a severe handicap!

''Grrrag! Damnable feathered child of a dead false prophet! I've had enough! Eeeenouuugh! My honored few...Gone!'' One oversized fist caused a small crater on the ruined ground dozens of inches away from Elina but another golden arrow interrupted his movement and, despite his foggy body, seemed to strike a painful spot that caused him to fall on one knee. ''Raaa!'' He roared in defiance, unsuccessfully swatting at the small flying shard of Mother Earth.
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''My lord! We-ha!'' Klesiah moved close to you and lost her balance, she fell on one knee, avoiding an outright faceplant by holding onto your damaged shield. The wound she suffered against the paladins was a worrying one: a deep, nasty slice had been carved in the middle of her stomach, the hemorrhage stained her clothe red and slowly pooled on the ground. Not immediately life-threatening... but very worrying nonetheless, especially with Shereen holding all of the group remaining potions!

''You're in no state to even think about fighting, Klesiah!'' Your knight was tremendously worried for her two friends fighting a losing battle and you, of course, were equally worried about all three, creating a tightly woven ball of stress and emotions through the soul link that made it difficult to keep a clear head... but keep it you did, because, in the end, you had to swallow the fact that helping the girls against Graz would be futile, your best bet is to cover them at a distance but ice still gripped your gauntlet all over, flakes of snow came down constantly despite the heat, locking the mechanism with out of control magical energy.

Myr stood silently next to Klesiah, her dull gaze showing a total lack of emotions but you wished to believe something was happening somewhere deep, deep inside her tortured soul. The wound on her right shoulder made it impossible for her to get a solid grip on her tonfa and thus she decided to discard it and grip her remaining weapon solidly, ready to continue any fights.

''Hild!?'' It was your paladin who saw the maid sudden charge toward the roaring beastly shard, spittle of blood followed her scream.

''What are you doing!?'' You added, unable to do anything but step forward. Anais peerless bodyguard reached the beastly phantom and went throught his body like he was nothing more than a smoky manifestation, causing him to lose balance and miss what would have been a strike on Elina flank.

Graz acknowledged this new threat by attempting to outright crush her with one massive hand but Hildegarde held out her arms upward and lowered herself on one knee, the impact made you wince, your entire body contracted in worry... but the maid remained firm, her solid arms witstood the impact and the next instant, Elina polearm carved another ephemeral wound into Graz phantasmal body.

''Hold on, Klesiah.'' You measured your voiced and directed your attention to your knight, her pain radiated throughout your body like needles prickling your nerves. You barely heard the noise of your broken shield when you discarded it once the battle was renewed. Hildegarde sudden intervention changed the losing struggle into something a little more equal.

''Myr, can't you help me here damn it!?'' You weren't confident in your knowledge of first aid but it'll have to do.
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''I-I'll be fine my l-ugh!'' All that blood coming out of her... Damn it! The ground shook around as your comrades kept fighting -brief golden flashes hinted at Mina arrows, the beast roars trampled your knight words- and you did your best to ignore the fighting by tearing open your clothes with your mouth.

You heard a suspicious metallic noise and felt Myr presence. Her dull gaze returned no emotions but her focus remained on the squirming Klesiah and she bluntly took your makeshift bandage and applied it on her belly and forced Klesiah to lie down properly.

''Hold it... like this.'' Her voice was quiet, eerily gentle in this situation. She directed your only hand awkwardly to hold onto Klesiah bleeding stomach and force her to stop squirming. ''Staunch the flow, don't move; stay until we fetch medicines.''

The next few minutes were the longest of your life, you were tempted more than once to move toward a corner of the room but moving like this could risk grabbing Graz attention and the three girls were firmly keeping him in place but that was primarily because he was hellbent on harming them.

This... battle was more of a hunt than an actual fight. Graz was a big, mean beast and the three girls soon found a rhythm to dominate his movements; Hildegarde newfound effectiveness with her incredibly hot limbs allowed her to take the fight to him properly, Elina somehow ignored her wounds and supported the maid with the reach of her weapon and the now inhuman-looking Mina loosed arrows with pinpoint precisions, trading volume of fire for accuracy. Each of Graz attempts to grab debris or winding up a blow was met by a shot that dissipated his limb.

The fight came to an end when a long gust of wind erupted out of the tunnel, like a sea wind coming out of a rocky mouth. Ari'el had found his mark, causing Graz to lose his footing and Mina charged into him from the back, toppling his impressive beastly frame on the ground, his colored antlers smashed a column of cages wide open, turning them into debris.

''Guuuu.'' His rocky voice didn't sound in pain, the mighty shard of a tribal god you didn't know looked exhausted, spent but still defiant. ''None left...'' His body began to dissipate, growing dimmer and dimmer, flakes peeled off, darkened ashen patches of tar came to rest on the ground, prompting the nearby girls to give Graz a wider berth.

Dry Corruption, of course. Graz was a summon and, by the look of things, a collective one that was also fed by the death of his followers... yet still intrinsically tied with them. Without anchors, his spiritual body already yielded to Mother Earth soft yet implacable reality.

On the other side of the room, a familiar golden protrusion suddenly jutted out of Elina's magical protections, carving through like butter, dissipating them.
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''A curse on this land, a curse on all broken souls of this city, none of them deserve to mend; let all families remain broken to feed her perpetual well of misery! Curse on ye all living and walking on the corrupted tree of a godless prophet!'' The half-human deer-creature body disappeared midspeech, leaving behind unearthly strong echoes of ''curse'' filled with enough malice to make you shudder.

''What the hell kind of party did I miss!?''

''Zhu! Mother's Mercy you're a fine sight!'' Your faithful swordswoman companion had come out of the large doorway previously covered by Elina shields. Behind her was the armor-clad silhouette of Adam sitting on the ground and Shereen, bless her heart, was up. She and Leena peeking around Zhu to look at the battlefield and both of their faces blanched on seeing the corpses.

The gruesome wounds on the paladins made for mangled bodies.

''Girls, please we need pot-'' Elina suddenly fell. Almost like a puppet without strings, she crumpled on the ground instead of falling flat, her ruined armor and blue halberd disappeared in colored sparks that entered her body, almost obscuring her bloody clothes.

A numb, cold sensation entered your body, a sudden wave of vertigo assailed you and you maneuvered yourself away from Klesiah to sit on the ground. Taken by complete surprise, the only thing you could do is breathe in deep and reassess yourself against this sudden diseased onslaught.

''Irm...I'm fine.'' Elina growled, her wings flapped nervously and she kept opening and closing her eyes, fighting tooth and nails to keep herself conscious.

''Do not lose Focus.'' You heard Myr speak timidly. ''Dangerous wounds, too dangerous. Be still, concentrate otherwise you'll be a burden.''

''Get those potions over here!'' A strong female voice pierced through the cloud of nausea crippling your mind, you promptly slapped your face a few time and clung to the stinging pain, the sensation slowly but surely allowed you to get a better grip.

What in the world is this? It's exactly like that time you signed Ama contracts! The girl's wounds is somehow making you sick?

''Arawn! Are you okay!?'' Two warm furred hands grasped your shoulders, your gaze focuses on Shereen who looked.

''Yeah... Yeah! I wasn't hit at all, just... The links I guess, getting some growing pain.'' Your little sun let you go and you examined your hand, your gauntlet had finally resettled itself, its overburdened magical energy had dissipated.
Hildegarde stood a fair distance from Elina, looking over Zhu who had crouched at the angel level, holding onto a pair of potions, the swordswoman listened to the maid instruction and gently, yet persistently fed the angel dose of potions. Myr was taking care of Klesiah, she splashed a full half of a potion over her bloodied stomach wound and proceeded to feed your knight smaller doses that your blueberry struggled to keep down. You saw Adam slowly walking away from the entrance, his gait making it look like he was also sporting wounds you couldn't see.

''The aftermath of a battle is always the most dangerous, especially for angels.'' Ari'el had returned from his chase and stood nearby, inspecting the aftermath. His metamorphosis was gone, his many wings flapped gently, creating a gentle fresh breeze. ''I'll be adding my magic after the potions have had a chance to take effect. I do not have enough energy remaining to fully heal them both, especially Elina. Angels always stand tall against aggressions but once things settle down, that's when the danger of death looms closest.'' Thick fog began to waft out of his hand and you finally allowed yourself to calm down, if only a little.

''What about the duchess?'' You asked, getting up on your feet. The nausea and stinging pain coming from the links was bearable now, becoming a mixture of a slight fever and a toothache affecting your entire body, Shereen insisted on lending her shoulder despite being completely unable to lift you up.

Ari'el shook his head. ''Long gone. I was tempted to keep up the pursuit but there are far too many openings and to be honest, I was worried about everyone's healths.'' He gave a sheepish smile. ''Maybe we'll become enemies in the future but that doesn't mean we can't be civilized about it.''

''I can accept that. Did you know that she's supposedly going to get reinforcement soon?'' As you walked closer to the group, you noticed that your soul arms were gone. Your lapses of judgment must have dissipated them...

''Yes and I think it was a rumor she spread to help the morale of her troops.'' The vengeful angel responded. ''Ashtar might be incompetent but she's not a complete moron, as a player in Ama game, she must have known something would be happening eventually. Had she proper reinforcements on hands, she'd have gotten them into the city before the assault, especially once tensions increased... but, indeed, my people can't stay. The pharaoh is bound to respond.''

Good enough argument, though it did nothing to assuage your worries. With two girls on the ground consuming the last of your healing supplies, having another fight could be very dangerous.

Only Zhu looks in good shape and of course, yourself though your magical reserves weren't healthy.

''Are you okay?'' Ari'el asked when Adam reached your party. The man armor bore marks of his struggle against that Mamono that nearly killed you: soot and scratches dotted his odd magitek suit like scars.
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''Yeah, yeah don't worry. Been one hell of a day and its not over yet.'' Aside from looking pale and walking as if he had to continuously keep his balance, Adam looked fine.

Ari'el wasn't convinced and he extended his hand forward, engulfing your new comrade in his magical healing fog for a few seconds. Adam came out looking healthier, no more wobbly stance.

''This guy suit drinks his blood like a starved biiii-...'' Zhu, having suddenly noticed Leena small presence next to her and feeling the weight of collective disapproval, cleared her throat. ''...like a starved desert pilgrim in an oasis, yeah. I'll tell you, I'm not made for hauling heavy shtuff across long distances. Take your dose you anemic burden!''

Adam frowned but remained silent. Oh dear, friendship could be difficult with those two... but least they looked healthy.

Finally, you directed your attention at Mina. Her body had regressed into a similar shape to today's noon situation; the beautiful humanity that had changed her appearance was mostly gone, replaced with gorgeous, powerful rainbow hair and that humanoid golden shape for a face without a mouth and nose. Whilst previously equal to your height, she had regressed into a size similar to Shereen. Fighting Graz had taken an unbelievable toll but... she shard of Mother Earth remained whole, though another battle could make things very dangerous.

Now you have to think about patching things up.

Your magical reserves stand at 40%.
Shereen remains at 30% magic.

Elina and Klesiah have both entered Overcast. Similarly to last time, they will need 10% magic to avoid that crippling state.
3% of your magic =1% for Elina.
Klesiah is 1=1.

Finally, fueling Ari'el magic is possible. Elina will need a full 50% magical energy to be healed to full health, Klesiah will need 20%.
This -is- taking the potions into account.

>Concentrate on healing who you can with your reserves. (Shereen will keep her magic).

>Join together with your little sun in a temporary soul link and add her magic to your own. (This option will increase Arawn reserves to 65%, Shereen will keep enough magic to avoid Overcast)

>You know that Shereen has absolutely no confidence in her magical talent but she -is- the one who healed your crippled soul two months ago, at the very beginning of Ama game. Wouldn't all the fresh blood around help her to heal your friends? (An untested option to heal your friends carries unknown dangers but it could, in theory, allow you to keep the bulk of your magical reserves...)

Ok, you know what time it is. How bad of a time crunch are we under right now? As in, how long do we got to discuss before someone's health situation worsens beyond repair? Doesn't the battery spell convert 5 to 1 even with angels? Can we not use battery to fuel Ari'el's healing of our comrades? Also, it wouldn't cost us anything to simply ask Shereen if she can use the blood around here to heal people and what she feels her chances of success are. I mean, she did heal that one asshole that lost a limb during that time we rescued Klesiah and *almost* killed that harpy via impalement. I think healing may be the only thing she's actually good at and confident in. At least, in regards to humans and mamonos. Angels... yeah she might not know how to deal with their kind.

How is the rest of our party anyway? I am beyond relieved to see that nobody died but I need to know everyone's status. They may not be dead, but many are damned close. Also, nice comic relief with Zhu. Needed a chuckle after all that tension what with several party members almost dying. Finally, are those reinforcements actually incoming or is Ari'el right in calling BS on it?
HOLY HELL. Yeah, that's something to come back to alright. Your writing's awesome as always!
I agree with the questions and plans >>4476307 outlined. +1 to that.
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>How bad of a time crunch are we under right now? As in, how long do we got to discuss before someone's health situation worsens beyond repair?
The potions will keep the girl stable, but nowhere near good enough to get into fighting shape. You're not under any time pressure for this, nobody will die if you take your time.
>Doesn't the battery spell convert 5 to 1 even with angels?
Yeah, Battery dodges the usual cost of outright giving mana to someone
>Can we not use battery to fuel Ari'el's healing of our comrades?
Of course, you can see here
>Elina will need a full 50% magical energy to be healed to full health, Klesiah will need 20%.
This is the number the girls need -with battery- to be brought to full health. Healing is a damnably costly spell. There's a reason why Ari'el was pretty low on magic after he got you on your feet following Jab ambush.

>Also, it wouldn't cost us anything to simply ask Shereen if she can use the blood around here to heal people and what she feels her chances of success are.
Of course, but I was assuming here that you guys would understand she has no confidence at all in this matter. She'd need some encouragement and a little insistence to commit to doing a blood ritual. She'd prefer donations form actual living people instead of recently slain corpses but she -could- make something work, though again, no confidence.
>I mean, she did heal that one asshole that lost a limb during that time we rescued Klesiah and *almost* killed that harpy via impalement.
This was a purely instinctive reaction on her part. She sees Klesiah and Elina as allies, so the pressure of fucking up is ruining her confidence. Giving this info for free because Arawn is savvy enough to deduce that about his little sun.

>How is the rest of our party anyway?
Everyone is healthy beside Elina and Klesiah. Myr has a dangerous shoulder wound but Ari'el will take care of that. Zhu got a few scratches and marks but nothing serious.
Mina isn't looking good, today rejuvenation is gone so she's unlikely to have enough magical energy to handle another big fight. Otherwise, she's healthy enough.

>Finally, are those reinforcements actually incoming or is Ari'el right in calling BS on it?
He believes they are bs and that they'd have been here sooner, before the assault itself, if Ashtar had access to them. He thinks the actual response will come from the Pharaoh

Thank you! My health is doing better, finally. Not perfect though, but better so here we are.
So we don't have enough reserves to fully heal both girls then? Damnit.

Can we partially heal the girls and let the potions heal over time top off their HP? Can we ask what the potential risks are for a blood healing ritual? Does Adam got anything that might help? His suit seems to turn blood into mana. That might help.

Also, how much mana would it take to get Mina able to safely use abilities? Can't she act like a potion as well? I think you said she can do slow regen if she enters a willing target and it also works on the soul level (i.e. it'd really help an angel).
>So we don't have enough reserves to fully heal both girls then? Damnit.
Both also need roughly 10% mana to dodge Overcast.

>Can we partially heal the girls and let the potions heal over time top off their HP?
Yeah, partial healing is fine.
>Can we ask what the potential risks are for a blood healing ritual?
Various diseases could happen later, bodily rejection of the healing itself is also possible. Side effect if the ritualist isn't on point with repairing flesh, possible for pieces of foreign wills to invade the patient. However you did see for yourself how she healed up the bandits, Blood Healing is a viable option.

>Does Adam got anything that might help?
Only potions, he's out. His suit can't help anyone else.

>Also, how much mana would it take to get Mina able to safely use abilities?
30% for the barest minimum. 60% to go back to the previous level, which was 2/3 of her full strength.

>Can't she act like a potion as well?
Yes, she could retreat into Klesiah body and heal her from the inside out. This +2 potions should get Klesiah into fighting shape in around 2 hours, as opposed to tomorrow morning and she'll be able to walk around after 20 minutes. She can also help Elina but not as effectively because the angel isn't her anchor.
Elina has a 3 to 1 conversion the bad way, so to keep them both out of overcast will leave us at exactly 0 MP. Looks like Elina's gonna have to soldier on and take the hit or stay up all night and wait for our mana to recharge naturally.

Who in our party is still fully combat ready? I think we can do healing on the move once we've got them able to do that without worsening their situations. How much mana will that take/how long will it take for the potions to get them up to that point? How long will the potions take to heal Elina to the point she can enter overcast without risk of dying horribly? Did she down 2 of em' as well? How many do we got left? We should also take this opportunity to refill our canteen and empty potion bottles with blood for Shereen. Mark them somehow so we don't get em' mixed up if things go to shit yet again. How long would it take to recharge Mina to bare minimum power? Can we do it while she's in Klesiah healing her up?

I'm kind of partial towards getting this party moving and opening the way to Solemnval as soon as that's safe from a health standpoint for our critically wounded girls. A death pearl converted to mana would solve all our problems here, but I doubt it's that easy. Still, once I know who can fight I can suggest a formation.

Always remember folks, doors and corners, that's where they get ya. I wouldn't be surprised if the elite guards doubled back after ensuring their mistress's escape to keep us from opening the way. We need to beat them to that punch and avoid another fight in doing so. How long ago did they leave and about how long would it take to get from here to the outskirts of the city? Very important question that.
Hold up, I've reviewed the last thread, and the number I put there to dodge Overcast was 5%, not 10%. For consistency sake, I'll keep with my previous claim even if it throws off my numbers.

>Who in our party is still fully combat-ready?
Everyone but Elina, Myr and Klesiah.
> How much mana will that take/how long will it take for the potions to get them up to that point?
Enough healing to get them moving but not fully combat-ready?
Elina= 20%
Klesiah = 10%

The potions alone will need a full day for Elina to begin moving around, Klesiah will need 6 hours to start functioning on her own.

>How long will the potions take to heal Elina to the point she can enter overcast without risk of dying horribly?
The worst of her wounds will be healed in roughly 6 hours.
>Did she down 2 of em' as well?
>How many do we got left?
Absolutely nothing left on hands but you still got 4 more in your bags, hidden in your previous hideout.

>How long would it take to recharge Mina to bare minimum power?
Mina is already functioning on that level, she cannot recharge without having access to one of Mother Earth shrines. However, giving her 15% of your current magical energy will go a long way to keep her stable in another fight and allow her to use her bow, as she is now she can only fistfight.

> Can we do it while she's in Klesiah healing her up?

>How long ago did they leave and about how long would it take to get from here to the outskirts of the city?
They left around 20 minutes ago, Ari'el would guess that reaching the city limits would take 40 minutes after getting out, though she could be slowed down by his victorious forces.
Also, while I want to shave off my bad habit of one post/day, this situation will clearly need to extend until tomorrow for more players inputs so I'll wait to close off choices until tomorrow afternoon.
So that's 20 percent of our reserves to get them both out of overcast. Damn we gotta practice making donations to angels more efficient.

Is it safe to carry Elina and Klesiah? Full princess carry and/or soldier lending a shoulder to lean on and help em' limp along? If not, how long/much will it take to get them to that point? How long would it take to double back and grab the potions? How much to get Myr back to full combat effectiveness? Thank god it seems she legit bonded with Klesiah and thus seeing her like that kept her from going berserk when we talked to her.

So if I got this right, we got us, Adam, Zhu, Hilde, and Ari'el still able to fight with maximum-ish potential and Mina is now Melee-only. Shereen and Leena remain non-combatants. How long would charging her with 15 percent take? Could we link up with Shereen and use her reserves instead? How long would that take? Also, how much more "night" do we have remaining? Leena said she could open the way to Solemnval, but only tonight. That's gonna be a hard time limit for us.

Also, should have asked this earlier but we did fully "kill" that shard of Graz right? If so we avoided a potential bad thing Mina feared and our party can in some way call themselves godslayers. Hard to top killing a god in the badassery/metal department.
Oh, and the numbers on the healing. They counting the 5 to 1 conversion rate or not?
>Is it safe to carry Elina and Klesiah?
Yeah, after you let the potions work their magic for ten minutes, the girls won't break in your arms.
>How long would it take to double back and grab the potions?
As a group? Maybe 15 minutes, it'll take someone like Hild or Zhu barely two minutes for a quick grab on their own and that will be the default option if you want to grab your bags.
>How much to get Myr back to full combat effectiveness?
3% One potion will heal her up in 15 minutes.

Also, drinking more than two potions in a single day can lead to side effects like disorientation, heart palpitations, nausea, and vomiting. Angels can safely drink 4 potions.

>Ari'el still able to fight with maximum-ish potential
Ari'el barely has enough for another transformation, he's keeping what's left of his magic to fly around and further help his people since he'll need to make sure they don't start sacking the city.
>How long would charging her with 15 percent take?
The previous ritual took roughly 30 minutes, so it'll take that much time to give Mina some magic.
>Could we link up with Shereen and use her reserves instead?
Yes, she provided the bulk of the magic for Mina previously and can do so now.
>How long would that take?
No change from 30 minutes.
>Also, how much more "night" do we have remaining?
Nobody has any clue, unfortunately. The entire battle completely threw off everyone's sense of time and you've spent a long while fighting in the church. Zhu would say that she took around 2 hours getting here dragging Adam heavy metal ass.

>Also, should have asked this earlier but we did fully "kill" that shard of Graz right?
All of his anchors are gone and with them, his presence dissipated.
>If so we avoided a potential bad thing Mina feared and our party can in some way call themselves godslayers
You can try spinning it that way but it'd be more accurate to say you slew 1/4 of a god. Horkus might be more deserving of that title, he was a bigger menace!

Yes, Ari'el will be the instrument of healing so you'll be feeding his spell. The numbers I put forth for healing the girls account thatx5.
Meaning that a regular holy mage would have no chance of healing up Elina as she is now with his entire reserve.
Your angel got fucked up bad. It was extremely good that potions came in quick to stabilize her.
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Also to continue on the healing thing, angels heal much more effectively than most human holy mages too. (Elina is particularly skilled in that area too).

Heavy wounds!
So Elina can potentially down 2 more potions? How much faster will that make her heal?

I assume the area around the Church is deserted and that whatever fire was going on has burned itself out without collapsing the church or has already rendered it into a passable/safe ruin.

If so, we send Zhu and/or Hilde to grab the potions and our other shit if we have time. I take it that Ari'el will be leaving us soon if we don't fuel his healing spells for our girls right? Damn, I see the logic but I just know the duchess left one more nasty surprise for us. Can we feed magic to Klesiah while we do another ritual to power up Mina again? Can she still act as a scout for us in her current state? How long does Leena think it'll take us to get to the area were she can open the portal? Are we close or do we have a bit of a walk awaiting us?
Oh, and did Ari'el give Adam his blood back? As in, does he have all the pints he's supposed to now? That's basically his mana reserve.
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>How much faster will that make her heal?
She should be okay by tomorrow night without magic. Downing two more potions will also reduce the needed mana to become combat-ready to 40%.

Potions work long term while Holy is immediate, they don't combine very well because of that. (Hence why Klesiah still need a solid 20%)
>I take it that Ari'el will be leaving us soon if we don't feed his healing spells for our girls right?
He'll stick around to help with healing but yeah, he wants to go back to leading his people. He fully expects you to keep your words concerning Leena story, so he won't impede you're going to Solemnval, though he can't continue to help you in there of course. He's also going to bring Myr along to avoid her going berserk.
>Can we feed magic to Klesiah while we do another ritual to power up Mina again?
You can redirect some of your mana into her, yes.
>Can she still act as a scout for us in her current state?
>How long does Leena think it'll take us to get to the area were she can open the portal? Are we close or do we have a bit of a walk awaiting us?
Barely five minutes. The place is to the right of the tunnel, it's practically the closest next room.

Yeah, Adam is good. No longer anemic and weak from losing too much blood.
Ok then, just need a bit more info. I think it's OK to risk Hilde running up to grab our shit. Cult sees her as friendly thanks to Ari'el and we *really* need those potions.

Other than that, is the room within the tunnels or is it a door/secret passage to the side of that entrance? Either way I'm leaning towards powering up Mina again with 15 percent reserves to keep her as a flying ranged combatant. Would that take all of Shereen's or could we just take 15 out of her to get the same effect? Adam and Zhu park their ass in a defensive position if/as we do that of course. Again, there's gotta be at least one more nasty surprise.

Also, say we got Elina out of overcast. Would she be a more efficient healer than Ari'el if we fuel her? Can we fuel spell casting when someone's in overcast without risks to them? Can she heal herself with her magic?
>Other than that, is the room within the tunnels or is it a door/secret passage to the side of that entrance?
It's within the tunnel, it open into a room of its own.
>Would that take all of Shereen's or could we just take 15 out of her to get the same effect?
Thank to blood magic being so compatible with your nature, 1% of Shereen = 1% to you without any trouble. You can drain her to replenish your reserves flawlessly.
>Would she be a more efficient healer than Ari'el if we fuel her?
Yes. She's in no state to heal right now, but Elina is a much better healer than Ari'el.
>Can we fuel spell casting when someone's in overcast without risks to them?
No, the person need to get out of Overcast before making any other spell.
>Can she heal herself with her magic?
Nope. Holy doesn't affect the caster, it├Ęs by far the biggest drawback of the magic.

I'll wait until you make up your mind before establishing a greentext choice. Anyone else is free to add anything, too.
Ok then, what would it take to get Elina into a healing state? And how much does Shereen's blood toxin cost her to create? I wanna drain her a bit to power up Mina a bit but I also want her to be able to get an application off if the worst happens. Can she make it and then we store it as a poison to apply to our weapons? Also, Elina was/is bleeding right? Fresh angel blood is great for blood magic yes? Might as well collect a vial or two of it just in case if we can. Can't let resources go to waste and all.

Other than that I'm sleepy. I'll come up with something more concrete in the morning. Hopefully I'm not missing anything and if I am hope some other anon catches it.
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>Ok then, what would it take to get Elina into a healing state?
7% will safely allow her to cast.
>And how much does Shereen's blood toxin cost her to create?
The thing that poisoned Horkus? She poured a whooping 20% of her magic into a vial for Naveed to tip his arrows in.
>Can she make it and then we store it as a poison to apply to our weapons?
Yeah, it'll work in an increment of 5%
5%= weak poison
10% = medium etc
>Also, Elina was/is bleeding right?
Yeah, not anymore thank to potions.
>Fresh angel blood is great for blood magic yes?
Smart lad. It is an excellent resource.

So far one thing set in stone is to.
>Send Hildegarde/Zhu to collect your equipement.
The numbers concerning magic and how/who to heal remain to be seen.
So seven percent of our reserves or do we gotta get her up to seven (i.e. it'll take 21 percent of our reserves)?
7% of her own reserve. Getting out of Overcast range doesn't make it safe to use spells, especially for someone that is wounded.
Damnit, that'd total almost all our remaining reserves! You really, *really* want someone we like to die don't you.
All I want is for you to earn your happy ending.
You guys have gotten over all the hurdles... Nothing can stop you!
I gotta sleep now, for real this time, but do you really expect us to believe that? There's at least one more thing that's gonna fuck us over and kill us/our waifus if we don't see it coming!
Ok, I got a preliminary plan. We still send Hilde to quickly go grab our shit. Zhu and Adam just came from out there, it was deserted right? We ask Leena how long that portal will stay open once she opens it. We ask Mina what effect she thinks Solemnval will have on our critically wounded girls.

If the damn place will try to kill them once we enter it we've got major problems. If it will we gotta get them out of overcast before venturing forth. That'd be the quickest way to kill em'. Rob them of consciousness and trigger overcast and let it finish them off and turn them into death pearls. If it'll try harder than merely that we gotta heal them up a bit as well. Enough to get them able to move about. That will almost totally drain us and Shereen but we cannot risk their deaths. We've come too damn far for them to die because of a fucking passive debuff!

If Mina thinks they'll be fine and Solemnval ain't shit we power her up instead. Not a bunch, but enough to get her able to fight at range again. It doesn't take Shereen long to make the blood toxin does it? I'd still like to get them out of overcast though just to be safe. That's 20 percent to spare them both right?
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Woo, more ToM! This calls for a celebratory Blueberry Pic.
Sad that I couldn't be there for the start, but I can't afford to bargain with my shaky sleep schedule much these days.

>Join together with your little sun in a temporary soul link and add her magic to your own

Could we fuel Ari'el's healing while having joined Flows with Shereen?
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>We ask Leena how long that portal will stay open once she opens it
She honestly doesn't know for sure but it should stay open for at least ten minutes.
Not even Mina has any intelligence on what Solemnval could possibly do, getting the girls out of Overcast at the very least is what she'd say to be the wisest option.

>It doesn't take Shereen long to make the blood toxin does it?
Took her about 10 minutes last time.
>That's 20 percent to spare them both right?
They need 5% to get out of Overcast and Elina need 3x of your magic to make 1% so yup, the barest minimum is 20%.

I'm glad I made Klesiah look like Lucina.

>Could we fuel Ari'el's healing while having joined Flows with Shereen?
Yes, she can increase your overall reserves, making it 65%. I'll start writing in around 30 minutes.

So far our option is to
>Send Hidlegarde to fetch your party items.
>Add Shereen magical reserves to your own
>Get Klesiah and Elina out of Overcast (spend 20% of your magic)
Klesiah need 10% magical healing to move, Elina will be 20%. The option of joining flow with Shereen will leave Arawn at 5% mana to avoid Overcast and Shereen at 20%

The option for creating a blood toxin out of Elina blood will leave her at 10%.

I will go with this option unless someone vote otherwise.
Ok, can we "eat" death pearls to regain our mana like we did the astral without any negative repercussions? Can we, instead of making blood toxin, channel 15 percent into Mina instead? Would the toxin made from Elina's blood be especially potent? Are you going with healing the girls as well in these calculations?
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>Ok, can we "eat" death pearls to regain our mana like we did the astral without any negative repercussions?
No, Death Pearls can't be used that way. Astral Pearls are objects of pure, raw magic and physical representation of souls as a tangible object. Purple/black pearls are attuned to the concept of death, disease, necromancy etc. There was a method in the past with alchemy to transmute colored pearls into pure astral ones but nobody has the knowledge and instrument to do that here.
>Can we, instead of making blood toxin, channel 15 percent into Mina instead?
>Would the toxin made from Elina's blood be especially potent?
Shereen would believe so but it's impossible to be entirely accurate without trying because she has manipulated angel blood. In theory though, it oughta be good.
>Are you going with healing the girls as well in these calculations?
Yeah. Arawn is at 40%, Shereen is at 30% Joining glows gives you a reserve of 70%.
Both girls will need 20% to get out of Overcast.
Klesiah needs 10% healing to move on her own.
Elina need 20%
15% magic into Mina will make her combat-ready.
Shereen will transfer 5% Mana to Arawn to avoid his Overcast, leaving them both at 5%
Tier 3 measuring perk is being mighty useful huh? Make things complicated though!
Gonna start writing with the above option
Which one, charging Mina or making blood toxin?
Charging Mina.
Yeah, sounds good. We've lost our blade users so we don't got any way to apply the toxin to a hostile target and I don't think Hilde's got any throwing knives on her.
Oh, and for the love of God, when we go into that room where Leena will open the portal be paranoid eh? One of the snakes could have stayed behind in the hopes of ambushing us in there and/or it's booby trapped. Again, that bitch would leave behind one last "fuck you" for us to stumble onto.
With the battle being over and the threat of immediate death for your beloved comrades kept at bay, you allowed yourself to take enough time to properly think things through and ignore your gut instinct to pour every ounce of your magic into your angel and knight. Seeing -and feeling- their suffering genuinely broke your heart but you did your best to swallow and hopefully kill this emotion, the girls didn't need to shoulder your state of mind as another burden!

''The whole roof was aflame when we came in.'' Zhu said when you asked the maid to fetch your party provisions. ''Hall looked fine but things might get worse, be fast.''

''Don't worry, I'll be back in a minute.'' Hildegarde ran upstairs practically jumping two steps at a time... You did your best to ignore her total lack of clothes, her ability - no matter its usefulness- certainly had its drawback.

''Don't worry so much about me, my lord. Go into that accursed realm with Mina, give her some of your magic, and keep your strength. This basement is safe.''

''You know that I'm not going to listen, Klesiah.'' You growled your answer. ''I've already outlined what I want to do, I'm confident in my magical measurement. Shereen? Ari'el? Let's start right now.''

Elina was teetering on the edge of consciousness. Her head lolled lifelessly, she was struggling to keep her eyes open. Only Zhu awkward but constant ministration allowed your angel to keep her grip on reality but it was fleeting.

No lingering!

''Okay, okay!'' Shereen took your hand when you removed your gauntlet and Ari'el dutifully waited for you to touch one of his wings. While silence was impossible in this night (echoes of activity above continuously flowed down into the basement) nobody in your party said a word as you and your little sun concentrated on recreating the invisible, well-trodden path that connected your souls.

The next ten minutes were ones of careful, surgical mental precision (Hildegarde returned before the healing started, carrying all of the party bags awkwardly) where you slowly filtered magic into Ari'el soul and he proceeded to let his holy magic flow with an equal amount of care. He wasn't exactly skilled in healing matter but you could respect his intention, he tried his best but the facts were that his lack of skill in this department was definitely costing you more magic than what your friends would need.

You couldn't afford to care about that.

Elina was the first to be healed and your knight followed a few minutes afterward in a magical operation that had no fanfare or spectacle, Ari'el simply hovered his palm above one of your friend and let a constant stream of white fog flow into their bodies that slowly but surely rejuvenated them.
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Afterward came the transfer of magic. With Elina and Klesiah able to move, each of them took a turn to sit next to you and Shereen. Your angel was the first as she'd need the largest quantity of magic to enter a safe threshold and she welcomed you into her soul wholeheartedly. You didn't need to reach deep; you know how to mingle flow with one of your soul link while being simultaneously attached to your little sun (although adding an additional subject would be far, far too difficult). Elina didn't try to take more than you wanted, she simply whispered a grateful ''thank you'' when you were done and stood on her feet without wobbling, materializing her halberd.

Knowing her, if a fight were to happen, she wouldn't back down but... it's undeniable that she's still wounded and exhausted. After all, before even reaching Myrtidal, she spent an entire day flying like a madwoman to reach you and that spent the lion share of her bioenergy.

Klesiah felt constant guilt when you insisted on not only healing her but rejuvenate her beloved spiritual comrade. You honestly didn't know who was stronger between Elina, Mina, and Zhu but having an archer combined with Zhu excellent melee capabilities will greatly expand your party tactical options in case of another fight; this logic managed to assuage your blueberry but that constant spark of nigh suicidal self-sacrifice kept a poignant hold on her mood, even as she yielded to your will and logic.

Rejuvenating Mina was a rethread of today's noon ritual, albeit without completely immersing yourself inside Klesiah soul this time because of your lack of astral pearl. You welcomed both of the girls soul within your mindscape: a beautiful starry night sky, a replica of Hao gift to you as a knight. There, you transferred magic directly into Klesiah soul who, in turn, fed it into the shard who'd taken refuge inside her body.

When you were done and your perception returned into Mother Earth realm, the shard emerged out of your paladin looking considerably taller but unfortunately still lacked signs of proper humanity. Her long, gorgeous rainbow hair projected constant bioluminescence and her face remained this blank, featureless golden blanket without nose and mouth.

Before you knew it, the better parts of an hour had passed. Your and Shereen magical reserves are nearly completely exhausted, casting any spells will be dangerous.

''I wonder if she's satisfied with this.'' Ari'el mused out loud when you got up, helping Klesiah on her feet. The man had stayed until everything was done. ''This game holds two players has its winners, she always liked upsets.''
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''I'm not here to satisfy that monstrous woman. Justice is dead in this city...'' Adam cast a glance toward Leena who was as quiet as a ghost, lurking near Shereen. ''...but maybe I can help this little one. I've nothing but disproval for your methods and objective, angel. I hope you make the best of this situation, you've won tonight. Don't abuse that, this city has plenty of innocents who wants nothing to do with your cult.''

''I'll keep my word to you, Ari'el.'' You spoke after Adam, Ari'el expression softened when he looked at you and he nodded. ''There is one thing I want to make certain. If, somehow, we don't emerge out of Solemnval here and exit somewhere else, know that it wasn't my intention. I will respect my promise but it's always possible for circumstances to... complicate things.''

A quiet, genuine smile grew on his face. ''That does sound like a possible outcome. Both of us are immortals, if we don't meet tonight again then it'll be later, we have time. I do want to know the gentle cat story...'' Leena timidly looked up at him as he directed his attention to her. ''...but I've had enough tunnel vision for one night. I'll trust in your honor, Arawn.''

You've made a promise to Ari'el, one of Ama apostles. Nothing else but integrity bind you into respecting it.

''Myr!'' When the dark elf and the angel began to depart, your paladin called out at her friend. ''You take care of yourself, there's plenty of things you need to tell my lord, I'm sure of it!'' Myr did not return any expression or even acknowledged your knight, she simply walked beside her angelic companion and disappeared upstairs.


''It's safe. No traps, nobody lying in ambush. Tunnel is tight so we'll have to go in a line.''

Hildegarde had insisted on scouting after being informed about the room that concealed your objective. she took point afterward and your party pulled out lamps from your bags to keep the heavy darkness at bay. Walking the claustrophobic path was tense but, with Hildegarde at the front, you behind her, and Zhu covering the back, you were confident your party would respond against any ambush.

Nothing besides your comrades, it would seem the duchess truly did vacate the area without leaving behind a nasty surprise.

''That's a corpse!'' Adam bellowed when you entered the new, wide room. The corridor had simply opened directly into it and he pointed at a dead lamia crumpled in the corner. ''That's... the head priestess.''

''How in the world? Was she murdered by the cult when they struck out of the tunnels?'' You asked.

''We didn't inspect this room when we were scouting the church earlier.'' Klesiah added. ''Maybe... it happened before that?''
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''Bloody fuck...'' Adam growled, his heavy metal steps resonated within the small stony hall. He crouched beside the older, inert woman and caressed her face gently, closing her eyes. The lamia had been stabbed in the heart, it wasn't a pretty sight. ''...I can't say she was a good person after what Leena told me today, but she tried. I've been in this city for a month and she did care for the poor, if it weren't for her nobody would have had any alms or daily dinners.''

Leena slowly trotted beside him, her brilliant green gaze looked at the corpse with a passion that concealed conflicted emotions. ''...do you think she stopped being a coward in the end? She was there when I first saw the portal open with my parents.'' She asked softly.

''I'd like to believe that.'' Adam answered curtly and got up, carefully patting her head with one of his gauntlet-clad hand.

''This thing has to be a portal.'' Zhu statement became the new source of attention.

She stood in front of a small fountain of white smooth rock that could be mistaken as porcelain. Lines carved in the rock on the ground continued directly into the large circular wall. In it was a meticulous piece of art carved into the very rock, a picturesque village amidst rolling hills and wheat ready for the harvest.

''Blood goes here.'' Leena pointed at the fountain, walking up to it. she'll need to get a little boost to comfortably put her hands on it. ''The Great Witch told me that today and today only, my blood can open the way!''

''It's not going to reach it.'' Shereen spoke, walking beside the smaller girl. ''I can move your blood into it I guess, did she not account for that...?''

''Of course she must have!'' Leena beamed.'' If you wanna do it, then feel free!'' She promptly extended her hand toward Klesiah. ''Cut me up!''

''A-ah? I huh... I guess? I'm not exactly in the business of harming children...''

With the key of Ama game in its location, opening the way forward will not be complicated.

>Are you ready? Any last minutes preparations?

This isn't truly a choice, just making a little pause before I continue. Important things are happening!
Can't think of anything else. If Klesiah doesn't got the stomach for it either we or Hilde can do the honors. We don't need much of her blood right? Just a little nick or two to the forearm good enough or do we gotta slash her palm nice and good? We got clean bandages for afterward? Hate to see her get an infection.

So our fighting party consists of Adam, Zhu, Us (OoM), and Mina right? We still have our soul arms don't we? Also, did we gather up some fresh blood into that canteen and our empty potion bottles? Hilde or someone else ought to have done that while we were doing our magic. Just because Shereen's dry now doesn't mean we should pass up that resource.
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>So our fighting party consists of Adam, Zhu, Us (OoM), and Mina right?
>We still have our soul arms don't we?
Nope, you lost them, unfortunately. Can't keep the spell while manipulating magical flows and interacting with people souls.
>Also, did we gather up some fresh blood into that canteen and our empty potion bottles?
There wasn't much but you do have
A small amount of Elina blood inside a bottle. That's enough for one Blood Spell.

Also, this is going to undeniably be another long post, expect the answer tomorrow. I wanna break this habit but I gotta take my time, aaaah!
No more soul arms? Aww shit, well, at least we have our shield (both the looted medium and our busted heavy one) and a mace. Our body reinforcement is still holding right? We really need that or else we're combat ineffective save for being a meatshield.

Oh, we also have Hilde so that's 5 combatants if shit goes to hell again right. Us, Adam, Zhu, Mina, Hilde Can't believe I almost forgot about our naked battle maid being, well, a battle maid. Everyone else is either a non-combatant or has been rendered combat ineffective (Leena, Shereen, Elina, Klesiah).
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Looted medium shield got cut by a greatsword, so Arawn discarded it.
>Our body reinforcement is still holding right?
I can't believe I forgot about her too... well, Hild is used to it so no big deal! Although having heat resistant clothes would be mighty useful that's for sure.
At least we don't forget about her when it matters most. She would have died back there had we not rushed in to save her. She's otherwise in perfect health right? We gotta keep her alive for Anais's sake. She's family in her eyes I'd wager. Gotta reunite them for the happy end to this act to be actually happy.

She deserves a gift from us after all this though. She has truly saved our collective asses multiple times (thank Christ we convinced her to tag along). Once we meet up with Belph and Martha again we should get right on it. We will make her a comfy, flattering and fashionable maid outfit that won't burn away where it matters for the sake of decency. Maybe make it out of a magitek material that conducts heat very effectively yet is also comfortable to wear and doesn't burn. That way she could still burn enemies to a crisp while also retaining her sexy maid outfit. Normal heat protection, like tracer rounds, work both ways sadly. An outfit that merely doesn't burn would be like covering her in an oven mit. It would drastically reduce her maximum combat potential.
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>She's otherwise in perfect health right?
Yeah, Elina healed her up and she hasn't gotten wounded since. Not even Graz put a scratch on her.
For reasons.

As for that clothing though, Hildegarde's arms and legs are her weapons. They become so hot that proximity inevitably light up her entire outfit or she end up touching it a little too much during movements.

As you've seen she's kinda used to it.
Hence the need to make her an outfit out of a magical/magitek metamaterial that acts and feels like cloth but conducts heat like metal. That way she can remain decent, comfy, and fashionable *and* still roast her enemies into oblivion. I'm sure Anais would also appreciate it. Well, unless she's a bit yuri for Hilde...
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Do not dare to spread such scandalous thoughts!
Well, she was into us at that Moot so she likes dudes, but who says she can't also see the beauty in Hilde's alluring form? Y'know, kind like the deal with Shion and KOS-MOS. Shion liked dudes, but every iteration of her pet killbot got sexier and sexier for some "unknown" reason we totally know the reason...

Gonna have to get Hilde some clothes for the trip back. Sexy naked women in front of a man for hours on end ain't good for the heart or sanity!
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Well, Shion is Shion and Anais is Anais, who knows what'd she'd do if she could actually build a sentient robot...

As for clothes, remember that you lost all of your spares ones by leaving them in that tavern!
She'd act like Shion and build a super sexy robo girl killing machine to be BFFs with Hilde.

Plenty of corpses to loot and we could buy some from someone around here. We retrieved all our bags so that means we've also retrieved our phat stack of cash! Well, it's Shereen's stack technically but so long as she's in the party her stuff is our stuff! So much gold and gems, I was pretty worried about them honestly.
>Well, she was into us at that Moot
I felt that Anais was mostly teasing back then, what with Arawn being covered from head-to-toe in armor and bandages. Perhaps with a small side of political maneuvering since Gwendolyn *was* going to offer our Elf some land.
Teasing with a bit of attraction and political maneuvering. She smelled that our leper disguise was BS and given our build and our actions in her presence she could wager we were quite the potential catch in regards to being a husband. Didn't know we were the last Elven prince (unless she was well versed in that lore and recognized our name) but a close ally with Daiyu has to mean something important.

Oh, just thought about this. Sadly I don't think we can ping with the aspect without dropping focus and thus losing our reinforcement but Adam seems to have a similar ability if I remember right. Have him ping for anything before we open the portal. I doubt Bad Fluffy was merciful enough to leave another astral pearl here for the underdog players (i.e. us and Adam) but hey, worth a shot.

Also, ask if he has one too. I think Ari'el was right in that Ama probably gave each player a chance to acquire one. If we could top off here that'd be great.
''Be prepared for anything.'' You said, hefting your damaged shield. (You decided to reuse your faithful heavy shield after discarding your thoroughly useless new one).

Klesiah cut a line on Leena forearm with her sword, being extremely careful to be just deep enough for tiny droplets to start rolling down her skin. Zhu gave the small girl a boost for her to comfortably let a few drops fall onto the stone and Shereen, glowing red, didn't need to spend any magic with manipulating such an insignificant amount of blood. She gathered the few drops together and directed them toward the hole.

''Huh...?'' She stopped for a moment, fluffy ears twitching. ''Leena? Your blood is, it feels kinda weird?''

''Really?'' The smaller girl tilted her head, stopping the process of licking her wound. Klesiah proceeded to wrap the superfluous injury with a bandage.

''Hm... maybe I'm overthinking it. It feels kinda... fleeting? Yeah, as if it could disappear at any moment. Hm, no matter.'' Pointing at the small amount of blood with her index, Shereen directed this tiny amount into the fountain drain, down the carved lines that led into the ground then all the way forward into the carving...

It took a few minutes for something to occur. The stones changed, the hard wall slowly gave way to a wavery consistency that made the entire circle look similar to a faraway mirage. When Klesiah carefully sank an inch of her glaive into it, the metal was absorbed and returned without marks. Mina promptly retreated inside your paladin and with one final collective breath, your group proceeded forward, into the portal that led...

...into a picturesque village. You emerged somewhere sunny and fresh unlike the stuffy underground of Myrtidal big church. Here the grass was healthy green and high enough to reach your knees, growing amidst a disused village square with a cobblestone well at the center. Big houses, all of them ruined by nothing else but time, circled the area with many serpentine paths progressing deeper toward homes that looked to have been erected as new families came in. The portal you've used was carved into an outside wall of the village church.

Further away into the distance you saw rolling hills with more houses dotted across abandoned farms, closer was the remnant of a wooden palisade broken in parts by neglects, the wood looked rotten and weak like all the material that made the houses.

A fog had settled in. Milky white clouds floated around without impeding vision, giving the surrounding a dreamy atmosphere.

''This is... This has to be Solemnval.'' Shereen spoke everyone's mind and you couldn't help thinking about Armin.

No matter how competent and stubborn a loremaster he could be, a village like this being safeguarded by portals needing such a specific key to open wasn't going to be found by a lonesome traveler.

''Everything okay? Anybody feeling weird? How about Mina?'' You had noticed the absence of the multicolored shard.
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''She'll be staying within me.'' Klesiah said, hand on her chest. ''This place is outside Mother Earth authority, it could be dangerous if she's out and about for a while.''

''Did the big bad witch told ya to do anything once the game is won?'' Zhu stood in front of Leena, inspecting the place with her single chromatic gem for an eye.

''Mmm, no.'' The small girl shook her head. ''Maybe we wait? Entering that thing does mean the game is won! Congrats, by the way!'' She gave you and Adam a spirited but lonely clap.

You rewarded her with a headpat.

''Maybe we should walk around.'' Hildegarde proposed, persistently examining any angles for ambushes.

Her proposal was silently accepted and your party set out together to get a better grip of your surrounding. There weren't any signs of life at all in the village, everything had been abandoned for what looked to be a long, long time.

''Whoa!'' Adam yelled when his foot went through the second wooden steps leading into a house, he managed to regain his footing and stepped away from the damage. ''Guess I won't be getting a better look inside.''

After a few minutes of walking, your party walked past the palisade and into a wide opening that seemed to stretch forever. All the high grass combined with the fog made the horizon look hazy, a distance impossible to quantify. There wasn't anything nearby but grass and, of course, the small village. A thorough inspection would likely only need half an hour with your numbers.

''There's something shiny here.'' Zhu spoke before you proposed a strategy meeting. Curious, you accompanied her with Adam quickly following.

Zhu led you into what looked to be a completely random spot of the plain a few meters in front of a broken piece of wall. She pushed away the long grasses and lowered herself to one knee near a spot that looked completely random to you. ''I can't detail this outline, can you guys see anything weird?''

''A corpse.''

Someone was dead here, fused into the very soil, looking like a mere long bump of the terrain. Lying face-up, the peaceful face of a slumbering woman was the only identifiable thing, she looked asleep, nothing more.

''W-what? How? Who's this woman?'' Shereen asked something nobody could answer. Your and Adam exclamations had, of course, prompted your party to gather around.

''I see a light.'' Zhu continued and leaned forward scratching into the dirt of the dead woman's chest. ''I ain't one for defiling dead people, but you've got something, sorry lady.''

Zhu dug a hole into the body and was soon met by a small, dirty obstruction that she broke with a tight grip, the resulting snapping noise sounded like broken twigs. She carefully lowered her hand into the hole, tossed aside red grass and vines, and extracted a peculiar shiny purple pearl.

''No way. No way.'' Shereen murmured in disbelief.

''Oooh, what a treasure!'' Leena was the only one feeling positive about this.
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''There's more of them.'' Zhu continued, handing you the magical death pearl. ''Purple lights have started to pop out here and there, I can see two of em inside a house and a few more dotted throughout the horizon, the hell is this place?''

''An enclosed dimension...'' A dangerously hot force flowed into you, foreign rage emanated out of Elina with dangerous intensity as Klesiah talked. ''Has this site of power truly escaped Mother Earth and Father Sky scrutiny? Is... is this, no it -is- a cursed place for cultivating death!''

''A corpse with a necromantic pearl is enough evidence to convince me.'' Adam spoke and, for a moment, looked at his helmet, clearly tempted to slip it on. ''I haven't spent a long time in Myrtidal but Mamonos here speak of this village like a boogeyman, a place that will swallow people forever. To think it has a portal connecting it directly with the church...''

''No way, no way...'' Shereen murmured in horror, her mind was piecing together a puzzle that she did not want to complete.

The unearthly shadowy web permeating the city, the miserable situation of the people here, Leena parents being thrown in there against their wills, the term ''cultivation'' being used by the duchess who had to obey the highest of authority by making Myrtidal situation increasingly miserable...

Zerase has put the phenomenon of a bygone age to good use.

A dull, gentle noise rang from the north.
Another bell rang eastward.
Ring. Ring. Ring.
More bells, more noises, soon your party raised their weapons protectively, ushering Shereen and Leena at the center.
Ring. Ring. Ring. Clap. Clap. Clap.
Soft chimes changed into singular clapping and out of the village main path, a dreadfully, familiar silhouette walked into the open.

''Cooperation beat discord, faith trump suspicion and the lonely Black Cat unite not two but three different minds in a singular purpose.''
A tall curvaceous woman of long hair pale like the moonlight with fluffy ears atop her head and nine foxy tails spreading around her back walked out of the dead village of Solemnval, looking as impossibly beautiful as the surrounding scenery. She wore a dark, form-fitting kimono, and besides a belt holding numerous pouches around her waist, no equipment burdened her.
''My dear Leena, you truly are a magical little girl.''

Ama was here, in the flesh.

Klesiah phantom guardian suddenly appeared halfway out of her body, with golden bow and arrow in hand, the deadly golden projectile would have flown a deadly trail if it weren't...

''Ama! Ama! We've reached the good ending!'' Leena ran toward the witch, inadvertently impending Mina aim.

''What? How did she sneak out!?'' Adam wondered.

''Indeed you have my darling, you've done a wonderful job. It was scary, wasn't it? Playing a game with a completely unpredictable end?'' Ama lowered herself to Leena level, the girl shook her head.
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''I knew to accept a bad end if the evil duchess got me, I wasn't scared! Though tonight was kinda... disgusting.'' Leena stood straight and proud, looking the vixen in the eyes without flinching.

''I can imagine.'' The wich gently ruffled the little girl white hair and fetched a round piece of candy from one of her bags. ''Here, for your trouble. Chase off these bad memories with a little sweetness.'' Ama chuckled when the girl opened her mouth and indulged her stubbornness.

Your blood had turned to ice. This isn't your first meeting with Ama but this is... different, she had always been in control, an absolute authority you could do little but rebel childishly against but here in Solemnval, your tormentor was in the flesh without being able to completely shut you down at a moment notice and that somehow made her much more terrifying.

As if a mistake could be deadly, instead of resulting in mockery or bullying.

''How the f... What are you?'' Zhu impetuousness broke the aura of dread that had rooted your party.

''A simple witch.'' Answered the foxy woman. She walked beside Leena, completely disregarding the menace of Mina drawn bow. ''Here to welcome the winners of a difficult game, thank you all for helping this wonderful cat.''

''Are we entitled to a reward?'' You asked, unable to resist sarcasm from oozing out of your voice.

''Isn't saving a little girl reward enough?'' Ama retorted, tails shaking with her chuckle. ''Are you satisfied, Adam?'' She addressed the man when he opened his mouth, interrupting him before he started. ''You've stepped into another worthy cause to satisfy your mistress.''

''Aren't you a little too obsessed with keeping your promises?'' The man retorted lacking his usual spirit. ''I'll need time to process everything that happened.''

''Now now, your dear justice wasn't violated.'' Ama licked her lips, wrapping an arm around Leena shoulders as the little one stood next to her. ''Saving one innocent child is good enough, wasn't that what you claimed before coming here?''

Adam didn't answer. Today has been a massacre, a bloody battle without senses and the majority of corpses on the ground could be considered ''guilty'' but walking amongst so much death took a toll.

If she's here to talk... Then have at it.

>''Why did you make Leena the center of this game?'' (One innocent victimized little girl to bait you into caring, dragging you into getting involved with a huge mess that nearly killed two very precious companions...)

>''Why here? Why Solemnval? What is so important about this place?'' (She wanted three out of four players to come here, that was how ''winning'' was established. Why?)

>''Do you intend to do anything about Anais? She wasn't part of your game initially, right? Isn't your role as a game master to keep things ''clean''?'' (Anais is imprisoned into the very heart of the Pharaoh palace, surely the all-powerful witch of the swamp can do something about it.)

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Oh shit, oh fucking shit! Ama's here and our party is in no way capable of fighting her and winning now. She'll destroy us if we piss her off. Do not initiate hostilities and keep Bad Fluffy happy!

Alright, so we just got a death pearl yes? Any more lying around? We cannot revive the dead but their deaths and the pearls they created can be put to good use in our hands. Especially if we can transmute them into astral pearls. Pretty sure Belph has the equipment necessary in Throne Town to do it.

We seem to have time in regards to asking Ama questions. Does the order of the asking matter? Will she only answer one? Did she want Ari'el to be here too?
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>Alright, so we just got a death pearl yes?
Yeah but Arawn doesn't know how to make them work. Death pearls aren't like astral ones, they demand knowledge and/or talent in necromancy or rituals related to deaths as a concept to work. They're more specialized than Astral pearls.

>Does the order of the asking matter?
>Will she only answer one?
I'd like to proceed on a one by one basis for now instead of making another big text dump.
>Did she want Ari'el to be here too?
Who knows?
Alright, we first ask about Leena. Why her and what will become of her now? We did make a promise as well, but I'm not sure if we should volunteer that info unless she asks directly.
Alright, I'll begin in thirty minutes.
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There were more important questions to ask but as your gaze crossed with Leena brilliant, vigorous eyes you couldn't help a little smile. The girl wholeheartedly admired the evil witch of the swamp and, no matter how bad, how monstrous a person Ama was, right now you didn't have the heart to shatter Leena illusion. So you walked forward, imposing yourself before the vixen whose grin split a little open to show white teeth.

''You've been laying low all this time here, in this village huh?'' Your comment earns a shrug, all of the vixen tails fluttered about like eels. ''Why did you make Leena the center of this game? Directing me and Adam toward her is one thing but that duchess and your angel follower too? They're the ones with armies.''

''I've been wondering too.'' Leena says, moving the hard candy into a corner of her mouth. ''I'm not special, why me, Great Witch?''

''Do you truly believe there is a complicated reason my dear?'' Ama question for an answer was met by a vigorous nod. ''Oh my, seems like you believe me a little too smart! I'm only a witch darling, not some world-renowned mastermind. I like brewing my potions inside my cavernous abode, it's not often I go outside, why wouldn't I make you the most important little girl in the world? You're too precious Leena!''

''A-ah...'' The poor girl looked ready to die from embarrassment, she could only mutter squeaks.

''How many people like you are there in Myrtidal?'' The fluffy witch continued in spirited joy. ''Little girls with nothing to their name surviving and enduring inside an uncaring city, an urchin ignored by everyone and anyone that actually have to give you their attention hate you, it wasn't easy, wasn't it? Especially with that awful, awful boy...''

''There's... There others worse off.'' Leena rebuked feebly. ''Many older, sicker poor people I... I was enduring I guess?'' She clearly couldn't believe her luck: to have been chosen by the witch was unbelievable.

''You've been alone for far too long.'' Ama said firmly. ''Nobody else but you deserved to be my important girl, my dear. You've not only believed but accepted that you were absolutely nothing. Yet to survive, you entertained that rich boy delusion so that you could buy yourself food and lodgings... And now today, a duchess lost her seat and we stand inside the ugly secret of an evil, evil pharaoh. Quite the day isn't it? For someone who once was nothing?''

Leena has told you her past early today but to hear Ama herself sing her praise... Black Cat was a fitting title indeed, she's a survivor.
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''And no matter how resolved you were to accept a bad ending to tonight game...'' Ama continued. ''...You chose to trust those who you could bring you here and never once attempted to sabotage or harm them. You rejected the temptation of vengeance despite deserving it more than anyone else. That, my dear, is a choice; you choose to live. That's why you're my important little one... And also why I've labored very hard to give you a gift.''

Ama was one for theatrics. You examined your party carefully, everyone else was equally on edge but nobody had the courage -foolishness- to rouse her anger by imposing themselves.

Ama fetched something from one of her pouches. She held out a shiny purple pearl and proceeded to palm it and embraced Focus. Her veins bulged without colors, not even organic blue; magical energy traveled her body invisibly but then an ominous dark-purple color spread out of her closed hand. It traveled down her arm via veiny pathways, up her shoulder, and into her eye, disappearing completely.

''Now, my dear players. Don't sabotage yourselves after crossing the finish line.'' The witch warned your party as weapons were raised. ''I don't think you'll like my gift, Leena but... it's something you need.''

''Leena? Is that really you?''
''It is! Oh by the Father...!''

A pair had exited the nearest house. One a robust man with a long, full beard and suntanned skin, broad just about everywhere. The other was a much smaller woman that looked almost like an outright clone of Leena if it weren't for her brown hair and older, wizened face.

''W-wait no...no!'' Disbelief and sincere horror settled on poor little Leena. ''They're... they're...''

''Yes, but you -can- say goodbye now.'' Ama imposed herself, putting both of her hands on Leena cheeks. The fluffy witch lowered herself on her knees, giving her full attention. ''Good endings often carry strong emotions, my dear. You and your parents deserve a little intimacy... That's why I hoped you'd be here, in Solemnval.''

''T-this...this p-pla-place traps...'' Tears flowed fell down Leena face, sobs made it impossible for her to speak but, the courageous little girl managed to get a grip quickly and after Ama wiped her face with her sleeve, she set out timidly toward her waiting parents.

They seemed like good folks.

''You...you...'' Adam growled in rage, measuring his voice to avoid being heard by the faraway family. ''You've torn open her wound so casually and for... You damnable witch, did you make phantasm of her folks!? Are you... it's illusions! Her parents have been dead for years!'' His armor rumbled, clicking noises heralded the activations of his numerous magitek weapons.
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''Swallow your passion, oh lover of justice.'' Ama warned. Her red gaze bore into him mercilessly and all nine of her tails pointed at him like hefted spears. ''How often must I repeat it? Tonight, Leena is the most important little girl in the world and I would never dare to insult her with lies. Her parents, bless their hearts, resisted until their dying breath. They walked the length of Solemnval for an entire day and only stopped when this plane lingering curse made them unable to explore. They found a place to hide their bodies and pearls. They were not easy to find, but find them I did.''

Was it a lie? Ama would be capable of something so odious but, no matter how much you hate this damnable fluff, she has this obsession with fairness that... honestly make you believe her.

Or maybe you really, really wanted to believe her. For Leena to have one last reunion with her parents...

A fairytale end for a story authored by a witch.

''There's something else too.'' So focused were you on Ama and Leena that you only noticed Shereen walking next to you when she spoke. your little sun stopped herself from talking when Ama looked at her curiously.

Shereen had come to a conclusion that horrified her, her small body shook all over. You put your metal hand on her shoulder and her tremors stopped.

''Leena is dead, isn't she?''

For a moment, the only noise in the village were the sobs of the reunited family. Ama gaze thinned, changing into a glare that Shereen courageously shouldered. Then discomfort showed itself on the witch face and her tails began to slither around, betraying nervousness.

Or maybe it was an act.

''Her blood felt weak, not exactly dead but I never really felt something so fleeting before, so lacking in vitality. I couldn't stop thinking about her past, what she told us earlier today before this debacle.'' Shereen swallowed awkwardly and coughed, almost choking on her own saliva. ''Wasn't it yesterday that two of her tormentors ambushed her and beat her really bad? Didn't she say that she woke up fine after blacking out? If she was under your protection then fine, you'd have helped her but... Why is her blood so weak? Why was her presence so... so fleeting?''

''Because you are right, good princess. Leena died yesterday after being ambushed by that jealous pair of Mamonos who loved the wrong boy. A tragic end for a banal story of passion amongst teenagers dwelling inside a very, very ugly city; who could have known that she'd be part of something so much grander?'' Ama crossed her arms, her tails settled back around her. ''Five death pearls to keep her soul whole, one emerald of nature to animate her body and fool the mind into believing itself alive... This is not the ending I wanted, but here in Solemnval, this reunited family will soon change into purple pearls. Alas, our World Tree malleable but implacable reality will not allow dear Leena to continue living...So tonight was the only night that mattered.''
''How could you let this happen!? Shereen nearly screamed, tears of rage trickling down her face. ''Aren't you dreaded by everyone in the world? Aren't you an all-powerful witch that can withstand the might of the Demon Lord!? Haven't you survived since the time of Pretenders? Where was that competence, that wisdom yesterday!?''

''My failure deserves no excuse.'' Ama answered solemnly.

Zhu made a noise as if she was chewing on a hard piece of meat. ''So that's why that little one was purple huh?''

''Can death pearls be exorcised?'' Adam suddenly asked. ''This family deserves better than being used as fuel.''

Ama didn't answer, instead, she pointed to Klesiah who became flustered, stumbling next to Elina who glared bloody murder at the witch. The angel rage was so intense that you understood that self-preservation was the only thing holding her back: being wounded and empty of magic was enough to temper an angel spirit.

''Yes.'' Klesiah answered. If you can bring them inside a temple connected to Mother Earth web, Mina can... bring them into the goddess bosom. Having a ritual with a few clerics should also work.''

''Thanks.'' His displeasure for your knight had been completely buried, at least for now. The man gazed at the family, visibly fighting back tears. ''I swear to bring them into a cathedral of the Allied Kingdoms.''

And with his heavy words, silence fell. A tragic mood had settled on the party. You haven't known Leena for long... But you'll remember the unluckiest little girl of Myrtidal who, or one night, became the center of the world.


Choices here >>4478989 remain valid minus the Leena option.


Continuing tomorrow.
Ask about that letter that we found alongside the pearl, that ended up getting destroyed before we left the capital.
Hm, answered that won't require an elaborate answer so I'm willing to make it a free choice.
Damnit Ama, you had one fucking job and you couldn't even do that right! Letting the centerpiece of your game die is pure negligence you damned idiotic Fox!

Damnit, how long does Leena have before she turns into a pearl? We do have that promise to Ari'el to keep. Since we cannot deliver Leena to him anymore could we and Ama listen to her story and relay it to him that way? How long would that take?

Also, taking souls into the goddess's bosom. Is that a reincarnation cycle or is more akin to heaven?

How long will that take? Now we've got a time crunch in regards to Leena. Damn Bad Fluffy, only thing she seems able to do right is torment us. Even now, after so much hard work to save her it was all for naught!

She did say she labors for emotions, but why do they always have to relate to suffering!
>Since we cannot deliver Leena to him anymore could we and Ama listen to her story and relay it to him that way? How long would that take?
Her story has already been told, anon; she denied the temptation of vengeance. Leena will only turn into a pearl in Solemnval, getting her out could lead to a few complications. Though, trying to ask Ama about extending her life is a choice. One I didn't anticipate, but a valid choice nonetheless.

>Also, taking souls into the goddess's bosom. Is that a reincarnation cycle or is more akin to heaven?
Nobody knows for sure. There's no proof of the afterlife being a thing yet.

>How long will that take?
Eh, a few minutes at worst. Ama won't need to elaborate. It's why I'm willing to make it a completely free choice, that anon can vote for something else too.

>She did say she labors for emotions, but why do they always have to relate to suffering!
But this is a Good End anon! There's no suffering!
Still didn't answer how long she has before that happens. That a choice we have to commit to?

So their soul remains within the pearl until either used as fuel or exorcised. I think the last quest had a similar object. Sadly, the ego within was sacrificed to grant sentience/a soul to a Golem.

Perhaps it would be possible to do something similar with Leena and her parents Of course this time going with the route that preserves the ego. Then again, going around trying to resurrect the dead/grant people immortality as mamonos, summons, or magitek constructs doesn't sound like a good idea long term. Might also be fleeting if Big ME's reality insists that people die when they are killed and thus erodes their ego until they are rendered as dead as the world says they ought to be. The object I mentioned was unique and thus may have been a unique circumstance on this front.

The other death pearls here, I wonder if it's possible to commune with the souls within. If possible I'd like to go the Hohenheim route with a few of em'. They cannot be returned to life, but their new form can grant power to the living who would use them for noble causes. Perhaps, of course, vengeance against the Pharaoh? Pretty sure more than a few would love to be "used" to kill some false gods.

>But this is a Good End anon! There's no suffering!
Bullshit. I'm feeling bad right now. Poor Leena's literally a dead girl walking and there ain't much we can do about it! We would have taken her with us, found her a loving family, perhaps even adopt her ourselves. Now, now that will never be. She never got the chance to be truly happy after losing her parents. This is really sad man!
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>Still didn't answer how long she has before that happens. That a choice we have to commit to?

No, Ama doesn't know herself for sure, only that it will happen in a little while, but it's honestly impossible to be completely accurate here. She could expedite the process though.

>So their soul remains within the pearl until either used as fuel or exorcised. I think the last quest had a similar object.
Ah, Avina... how I miss thee. Golem waifu was worth it though. It wasn't a pearl back then but actually reincarnating a dying soul into a new body, more or less creating an entirely new, unique life. Emeth is a good girl to this day.

>Perhaps it would be possible to do something similar with Leena and her parents
This is kinda meta-knowledge so I won't accept it unless you can corner Ama in some way.

>The other death pearls here, I wonder if it's possible to commune with the souls within.
Interesting thing to ask.

>This is really sad man!
You and your party can at least remember this not-so-insignificant little girl...
So anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours then. Shit, this complicates things.

So potentially gaining the meta-knowledge for ourselves would fall under the purview of "Asking Ama if there's a way to extend Leena's life" option I take it. How long would that question take to answer?

And yes, Golem waifu was/is adorable. Still cost us someone though. Damnit, Leena was starting to grow on me. I really was considering making her our first daughteru!
>How long would that question take to answer?
If you're asking in-universe, I can't tell you. It'll be a full choice though, so I can update with it while combining this >>4479290
I'll sleep on it, but I think it's the question everyone else here wants to ask. The Leena question kind of answered the "Solemnval" question (i.e. why here). After that, I want to ask about that prophecy Fortune told us and if Ama knows anything about that and how one might pull that level of BS off.

She didn't save Leena, but she could become instrumental in saving the lives of everyone else in this country if she has the goods. I just hope she isn't going to make us pay for it somehow. I don't wanna sign any more friggin' contracts! They're bad horrible things!
>I'll sleep on it
Fair. I'll leave things open until tomorrow afternoon as usual.
>The Leena question kind of answered the "Solemnval" question (i.e. why here)
Leena certainly was a big part of it, yes.
Wait, I just remembered this. I think it was mentioned to us that the Isle of Zipangu contains the most detailed knowledge of "souls" and how they work. So we have that much knowledge ourselves. Might come into play.
>Isle of Zipangu contains the most detailed knowledge of "souls" and how they work
Zipangu is reputed to have the best knowledge in the world in matter of souls, that's what Arawn know.
>So we have that much knowledge ourselves
Not much, but yeah.
>Leena was living on borrowed this entire time
Sonovabitch. Take better care of your "game pieces" Ama.
I suggest that once we get back to Throne Town we make a small shrine for Leena and her family.

Might we ask Ama if she's kept any kind of attention on the capital's overall situation?
I personally doubt there's much she can or will do if she doesn't have any extra Apostles hanging around that area.
Alright, I think I got the question I want to ask. "Is there any way to commune with the soul within a pearl without spending it? Is there any way to prolong Leena's existence? If you don't know, would someone in Zipangu?"

The communing option is pretty important. If there is a way to give Leena a second lease on life in some form it'd be the height of selfishness and cruelty to force it on her against her will just to make us feel better. If she becomes a pearl and yet wants to either be used to waste a false god (i.e. Shereen's mom or big sis) or wants to pass on to whatever afterlife awaits by having her pearl exorcised we ought to respect that. It is, after all her soul and her life we're talking here. It's her choice, we must give her a chance to make it if possible.

After that: "One more thing. Ensan and Zerase have kidnapped Anais and intend to consume the lives of this nation for some purpose in the form of a ritual that will cause a fog to emanate from the palace and cause everyone to die in somnolence as a result. How would one go about doing that and how could we or anyone else stop it from happening? Is it possible to take the curse of this plane and spread it over an entire nation? Is it possible to seal this place away for good or lift it's curse?"

"Death comes in a cloud of somnolence" Fortune said. Solemnval's curse seems to sap your vitality until you peacefully fall asleep, then it of course drains you completely and converts your soul into a death pearl. Sounds a lot like Fortune's prophecy. I know that's a lot of questions but the first two lead into one another quite logically and if she says "yes" to question 2 than question 3 is the logical immediate follow up. If they cannot access this place or its curse, they can't spread it. We must not forget our primary mission. Save Anais and stop that damned fog from happening.
Oh, also, we got time to ask about all that right? If not I'll have to make a choice on which one's are more important to get answered.
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Hm, I think I can combine everything. Actual commitement will come later.
Well well well, Ama's being generous with the info it would seem then. I guess we earned that by "winning" her game in such a way that she found to be the least likely (i.e. we and Adam allied with Ari'el and got Leena here intact).

In other words, we've provided her with maximum entertainment and thus we've gotten her into a very, very good mood. I don't like making her happy, but if doing so saves this nation's people and Leena somehow I'll take it.
>I don't like making her happy
I dunno, a Happy Ama isn't going to act petty.
Now I dunno about you, but I don't want to know what Ama can do when she's being petty, much less angry and/or insulted.
Update coming soon, sorry for the delay. It's another big one.
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Had it been futile to bring Leena here, in Solemnval? Absolutely not. Ama unforgivable failure brought a heavy mood to the party but seeing the courageous little girl crying with her parents truly did made you feel satisfied... even if your mind kept working feverishly for any kind of solution to reject this grim reality. One job is done, another one needs doing immediately after.

''You've left me a letter inside Marleon church, I wasn't able to read it, care to share now?'' The way you change the subject is so blatant you feel almost ashamed, but this was a simple attempt to gain time, to think of something.

''Oh my, now that's sad. You only had my gift without my wishes?'' Ama laughed mischievously, her tails rumbled. ''Here.'' The vixen walked closer, one deliberate step at a time, each seconds increasing the tension amongst the girls to a near paroxysm. Shereen was too angry to be scared and stood defiant beside you, the vixen stopped in front of you, all smile and reached for your hand, holding it gently.

Had it been the usual tea room you'd have resisted but here, flesh to flesh, you indulge the witch. She brought your hand to her full, seductive lips and kissed it gently.

''That's all it was.'' She giggles, looking over your shoulder at the girls. Elina and Klesiah weren't happy.

You rolled your eyes. Of course, that'd just be her style.

''Fine, then let's move onto what I truly want to know.'' Damn fox, stop looking so smug. ''These pearls are the physical manifestation souls, aren't they? A coalescence of people's existence trapped in this cursed village?''

''Attuned with the concept of death itself with their bodies creating the cocoon for this energy.'' Ama respond. ''Otherwise, yes. The ingredients of these dark pearls are people, but do not worry. There is a small mercy in their tragedy because unless otherwise roused.'' One tail gesture at the family hugging each other. ''They sleep until their energy has been used and once that is done, they are finally free of their prisons. Such was the death pearl curse in antiquity and so it remains today.''

''Is it possible to extend Leena life? Or perhaps, would it be possible to allow her a fair chance at living?'' Ama red eyes thin into a dangerous glaring line as you speak, could it be that she's genuinely protective of the girl? ''I've heard of this land called Zipangu that is unrivaled in matters of souls. Surely there has to be something we can do... As she is now, wouldn't it be true to call Leena a ghost?''

''Hmm...'' Ama tails swish around, looking almost fuzzy. ''You truly are a man after my own heart.'' Her whisper causes Shereen to erupts in a series of coughs.
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''Extending her lifespan beyond today is possible, one astral pearl will reenergize her soul for three days.'' She holds out three fingers. ''But her body will also need to be maintained by a single emerald of nature per week, or a daily ritual of blood magic. However, nothing will prevent reality implacable truth: Leena is dead and so her soul will start to fracture, her memories will become increasingly fleeting until there's nothing left.'' Ama paused, looking at you and Shereen, the rest of your party might as well not exist.
''It is true that Zipangu has become... competent when it comes to handling souls. Your magical nature would be a dream come true for many of them my dear Arawn. Goodness, if you think you're popular with the ladies now...'' Ama cackled, indulging herself in lonesome comedy.

''She'll need a new body. I'd do it myself, but time force me into submitting to tragedy.''

''Gardy...'' His name escapes your lips and you look to your hand. Behind your flesh was a metal body or at least, something similar. Gardy, Embodiment of Protection, had been a puppet of steel in the distant past who awakened to genuine sentience because of a little girl's wish for a friend.

''Hold on!'' Adam can't control his voice and this attracts the brief attention of Leena family. They understand to stay away, it seems and the atmosphere over there makes you believe the parents are telling Leena about her situation. ''An artificial body to house a soul -is- possible!'' The man stops beside Shereen, he takes a deep breath and calms his nerves.

''My full name is Adam Hermingild. I have an older sister ten years my elder that's been cast out of my family for defecting to Zipangu during the crusade thirteen years ago. She's an alchemist who specialized in the creations of golems, and...'' He stops, pursing his lips, hesitating on something but quickly finds his bearing when he looks at Leena. ''She once tried to create an artificial soul and insert it into a body. The result was a catastrophic failure but the body itself was fine. She has to be able to help Leena!''

''My... Isn't it a wonderful thing when players cooperate?'' Ama smile. ''To reject tragedy and embrace hope? I like that. We'll have to see if our little liege accepts it.''

''Of course. In the end, the decision will belong to Leena.'' She might not have to accept this sad fate! ''Since you're open to talking, I've got plenty of things to ask. Namely, the kidnapping of Anais.'' Your words cause Hildegarde to flinch. ''She's likely part of some kind of ritual... I've heard a prophecy, a warning, about a fog of death settling over the entire country. Something that will lull people into a peaceful death... sounds like this village curse wouldn't you say?''

''Hm...'' Ama pale ears twitch, one of her tail trail toward you, teasingly rubbing your chest then she looks past your shoulder toward someone.
''I am ensuring the survival of Anais Swanhil Wilhelmina as we speak.''

''What!?'' Hildegarde can't keep her composure and step close. ''What do you mean!? How!? I won't let you toy with my lady!''

''Goodness, stoicism does you no favor. Remind me to give you some clothes after were done, dear. A beauty like you deserve to be wrapped in elegance.''

''Shut up! What do you intend to do with her majesty!?'' The only thing Hildegarde can do is hold out a fist toward the vixen.

''The pharaoh and her petty, loathsome elder daughter managed to surprise me and derail my game.'' Ama speaks with rumbling anger and wraps a strand of hair around her finger. ''They will undeniably kill her for their ritual or if rescuers come close because they are cruel, boring women. Anais is too precious a person to be wasted like this. If you have no faith in my goodwill, oh stalwart guardian...'' She grins a broad, wolfish smile. ''...then be satisfied with this: I intend to play with your princess and Muribel is not her playground.''


''Wouldn't you say our objective align? My, this truth really was worth it: you're no mannequin.''

''Stop tormenting my friend.'' You growl at the vixen and she returns a playful pouty face. ''I'm asking you if it's possible to spread the curse of this village!''

''Yes.'' Ama answer so directly that you're left speechless. ''Myrtidal isn't the only entrance to Solemnval. This beautiful place is quite big, these hills, these farms stretch on and on. A thousand people have been thrown in here and a thousand pearls have been collected.'' Shereen gag. ''The pharaoh youngest daughter is a natural blood mage, just as she wished and Anais blood attracts all manner of creatures from the red world, like a fire in the night... Countless upon countless of fuel walking right to her. With the right equipment, two death pearls make one astral. With enough astral, one can expand their mind and soul and, more importantly, synchronize with our malleable reality. All the ingredients for a powerful ritual have been gathered.''

''To what end?'' Shereen asks, forcing each words out of her mouth.

''Ascension.'' The witch answers your little sun. ''A similar ritual has been done once and a new Pretender rose into the arena of antiquity. It is impossible to predict what would happen today, magic has changed a great deal... Perhaps Zerase could become a being similar to Mother Earth, maybe she could rival the demon Lord influence, create a new Corruption. Too many ifs, the only truth is power.''

The dread gripping your heart was only a fraction of the emotions raging inside Shereen. For once, you wished your hand wasn't covered in metal when you held her shoulder in support.
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''Now, it'll be wise to think about leaving soon and close our business. The pharaoh is coming to inspect her domain, having her eyes here for a little while is going to be important, if you care about Anais that is.'' Her ears twitch as her self-satisfied smile grows into a grin.

''Guys.'' Leena emotive voice settle Ama expression into something much more polite. ''I... My parents told me that I'm... The Witch told you too?''

''Yeah.'' You answered with some sadness.

''Thank you, for everything I...''

''There might be a way for ya to keep on keeping on.'' Zhu interrupts her. The older man and woman beside Leena look at your friend in disbelief. ''Ain't nothing set in stone and no guarantee of success, but there's a way to try and give ya a second chance.''

''A second... A second chance?'' Her mother repeats.

''Really!? That's fantastic!'' Her father erupts in a small laugh, joy burning away grim resolution, he opens his wide arm and lowers himself to his knee to hold his daughter. ''Oh by the Mother! I know we... we were kinda sappy with being together forever but you can have a chance to live, Leena!''

''I-I...I'm... I don't huh?'' She'll need time to process, the poor girl was completely overwhelmed.

''I won't ask forgiveness, but I do need to impose myself here, darling. To live is to always race against time; you have to decide quickly because the world is always in motions and work to interrupt us at every turn.''

''I wanna... I wanna stay, I-I don't want to be...''

''Leena.'' Her father's big hands rest on her cheek, she can barely squint her eyes open through renewed tears. He's barely restraining himself from crying, too. ''Do you remember what I've always told you?''

''That's right.'' Her mother responds, audibly sniffing. ''Remember what your dad love to say.''

''E-end-end...'' Leena hiccup, her small hand's tugs at her dad shirt in frustration. ''Endure...Endure and grow strong.''

''That's rii-...'' His voice break, he leans forward to kiss his daughter forehead. ''Endure and grow strong. That's how you'll adapt and handle the world.''

''We'll meet again beyond the veil, Leena.'' Her mother adds, also on her knees. ''I don't want it to be soon. Your dad and I are going to wait for a hundred, two hundred years if need be but we'll meet again... Maybe you'll be able to tell me about my grandchildren!''

''I-I...Don't, I...''

Her tall, broad dad pulls her into a hug. ''It's okay little love. You want to go, but you don't wanna say it.'' Leena pale head nods and she erupts in out of control, muffled sobbings.
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''Hope is such beautiful cruelty.'' Ama murmur and turns toward your party. ''Who shall accompany the little one? I'll open a portal to give you a chance.''

One person stepped closer.

''Zhu?'' You couldn't help but ask and the swordswoman shrug.

''I can do it. Still a Moon and all so I'll come back... eventually.'' Shereen shakes her head but can't form any words.

''No, it should be me. You need to remain with your friends.'' Adam retorts gently. ''My role in this game is over I guess, if my sister truly is in Zipangu then it'll only increase my chances...''

''Well, you've got a good head with Magitek.'' Zhu reply lacks her usual sharpness. ''And my dude here love it, with how much of a shitshow the next few days are gonna be, methink you two could puzzle something out.''

''Zhu please don't go...'' Klesiah speaks and clears her throat. ''...Please?''

>Who should accompany Leena to Zipangu?

You can't have anyone else do it, but I can also take a
Choice for something unrelated if you guys want. There's not much time left before you leave Solemnval...


Continuing tomorrow.
I *knew* it! Damned felwhores intend to sacrifice this nation Anais and likely even Shereen to achieve apotheosis for themselves! I don't got a pic on this phone but oh yes, insert "pure hate" picture here.

We don't got the gear/materials to create new magitek. Send Adam, but ask if he's got anything we can borrow. We will swear to return it to him and seek him out in Zipangu once this is all over. We have much to discuss and we weren't lying about our relationship with Daiyu. If they won't give him the time of day, tell em' Elina and Arawn sent him. Don't tell or hint at who/what Elina is though. Ama doesn't need to know that.
>Send Adam, but ask if he's got anything we can borrow

You can indeed borrow a little something from him.

I'll list them only if he's chosen.
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Ah, just got home, here's a pic reflecting my feelings towards Ensan and Zerase. They don't get a chance to explain, they get the chance to die horribly and their corpses tossed into a plasma incinerator and their ashes (if there are any) scattered at a crossroads! Hopefully Shereen is of a similar mind. Even if they're family, it's damned hard to forgive killing 1000 innocents with the intent to parlay that into the killing of millions of innocents in order to attain godhood. Thank fuck us getting her out of there seems to have delayed things on their end. Innate blood mage seems to be a requirement and I'm damn sure Shereen's literally one in several million.

Also, like Ama said, our goals seem to align here. Neither of us wants Anais dead and the best way to stop that is to both ensure her rescue and ensure this ritual fails to take place.

Every fiber in my being wants to puke when I say this but we could use her he... her heaaaah... her... help. Dear lord just typing that hurt my soul. Request a meeting in dreamspace so we can hash this out when we have more time. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go hurl.
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Why are you cackling with glee? That's never a good thing for us!
Can't we sneak in through the red world? The hour of lullaby is pretty useful for that.
Possible, but it'd necessarily be a solo mission. Only we (and Hao if I remember) can freely phase between the red world and realspace. A spell to create a portal in and out of that dimension for others likely exists within Shereen's potential spell list, but I bet she doesn't know it.

We are still sadly primarily a support class right now. Fusions, the soul weapon spell, or additional magitek equipment would enable us to assume a more front line role, but we only got fusions at the moment and they eat up almost all our mana. Plus I'd bet great deals of money that Ensan and Zerase are prepared for that option and have placed custom guards, traps, and wards within the red world of the palace just to be sure.

Ama seems to have a more... complete command over that dimension than anyone else however. Thus, she could probably clear all that out without breaking much of a sweat. Again, I void my stomach at the very concept of going this route, but her...help... would be invaluable in our efforts to save Anais.
Oh, also, I assume Ama has both a spare Astral and a spare Emerald pearl to spend on Leena. She will need at least three days and a healthy "body" if the soul transfer to a Golem is to actually be successful in both the eyes of ourselves and the eyes of Ari'el.

He's going to ask where Adam and Leena went. We will respond with the fact that Leena was "Ome wa Shinderu" but we also had a way to preserve both her soul and memory despite that and that Adam is blood related to the best shot she had at a second chance on life. If he doubts our testimony he can commune with his mistress. Unless she actually wants him to kill us for some reason she'll confirm all we've told him.

Actually, now that I think on it, we have a path towards securing the loyalty and assistance of both him and his cult. Ensan and Zerase intend to sacrifice all sentient life within Muribel. That most definitely includes "his" people. He'd like to prevent that yes? If so, he'll help us save Anais. After all, best defense is a good offense and since Zerase and Ensan will seek to make an example of both him and his people, well, best beat them to the damned punch I'd say!
Supporting sending Adam and borrowing something. Only makes sense that he goes, he's the one who should have an easier time getting into contact with his sister.

*sigh* Figures that mortals rulers demanding worship from their subjects would want to become actual gods.
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Thread will resume tomorrow, I feel like resting my brain for today. Seem like Adam will be the one going with Leena.
Isn't it nice that you guys didn't accept the first option presented to you?
Like hell we were just gonna let someone we've invested so much in just die on us because Ama was a totally incompetent game master!

She does have some spare pearls to keep her going without too much loss of soul/memory right? Transferring her soul into a golem will take time and it seems after tonight her body and soul will begin to decay without that intervention. She sadly won't be able to have kids of her own in that golem body but adoption is always a thing and men of culture and taste appreciate robowaifus despite that drawback. Poor Leena deserves a chance to be happy!
>because Ama was a totally incompetent game master!
Oi, be kind. She did a great job remaining neutral!
>She does have some spare pearls to keep her going without too much loss of soul/memory right?
You'll see. Pearls of magic are hard to come by, you just happen to be in the perfect place to get death ones... Poor Leena, is she having a bad or a good day?
Storming pretty hard at my place. If I don't end up updating in an hour or two, it's because I've lost power.
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Zhu has been accompanying you the longest, everyone knew her capabilities and ultimately, this trust was the deciding factor in choosing who will accompany the sobbing little girl.

''The people of Zipangu aren't unreasonable, they tend to be a little too perfectionist in investigating whoever they find suspicious. For you to have enough time for helping our little darling, I'll give you a little something that'll make you impossible to ignore for the central kingdom's highest authority.'' Ama stepped closer to Adam and he straightened himself in response, glaring dagger at the pale fluffed witch.

She extracted a small colorless pearl out of a pouch attached to her belt. ''That is my only spare.'' Says the witch, carefully giving him the precious item. ''You have three days to find someone you can trust who can manipulate this pearl to give dear Leena more time, you'll have to figure out a way to maintain her body on your own. Blood magic is taboo on the island and I do not know if they have access to magical emeralds, so you'll have to struggle and figure out how to help her.'' Adam silently put the item into one of his protective metallic case hanging from his belt.

''You've been a good player, oh great metal man of justice.''

''I'm not satisfied.'' The man replies, his gaze shouldering the witch red eyes without faltering. ''It doesn't feel over.''

''Ufufufu.'' Ama chuckle sound imperious. ''Perhaps you ought to tell whoever imprison you that you've spoken with the mother of queen Ame-no-Uzume, combined with that pearl, you'll get all the attention you'll need... Leena continued good health is in your hands.'' Despite sounding ready for a farewell, the vixen holds out a hand toward him. ''Do give me back my precious pipe, you won't be needing it on that island.''

Adam obeyed her demand silently and Ama pocketed her item inside her kimono, giving you an uncomfortably generous view of her cleavage.

''Is it...It's you, sir?'' Enough time had passed for the small ten years old girl to regain some of her bearings. Tears continuously fell down her eyes but she had cried out the worst of her emotions on her father's chest.

''Yes. Keep calling me Adam, our role in the game is over but we've got plenty more things to do.'' He replies, walking a few feet nearer. ''I swear on my life that your daughter will have a fair chance at living.'' He continues, directing his gaze at the burly dad and the smaller mom.

''We have nothing to offer but our thanks and well wishes.'' The mother answer while putting a hand behind Leena head, gently rubbing the back of her neck.

''I don't... I don't understand.'' Leena sniffles and clear her throat, all of her words came out broken. ''Why me?''
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''I can only answer for myself.'' Adam started, holding out one of his metal-clad hands toward her. ''I want to help you because I can because I'm able to. Someone wouldn't be wrong in calling me hypocritical by focusing all of my effort toward you instead of trying to help the people of Myrtidal, maybe I had a chance to do that during my stay this month... But this is where we are now. When I see someone fall in the street, I want to help them back up. When I see thousands of people being slowly put to death in a mine, I want to help them; if you'd allow me, Leena, I'd like to help you.''

The girl had more than enough emotions to be overwhelmed. She didn't answer his monologue and kept her gaze on the ground. Her dad nodded firmly, the mother smiled sadly. Their only choice was to believe in him.

''Before you go...'' Your suggestion made you feel like one hell of a cheapskate but Adam didn't mind. With how tumultuous the coming days are going to be, he understood that he could give you one part of his arsenal.

>One regular Elemental Gauntlet attuned to lightning.
It is the same weapon you used back in Throne Town, an unmodified version of your current gauntlet.

>Gauntlet he calls Projected Will
This bulky gauntlet activates a short-lived psionic blade that can disrupt magic and go through weapons and shields to attack your opponent directly. It is a heavy modification to an inquisitorial weapon. (In mechanic term, the weapon can only be activated for a single turn and attack.)

>Fire Boots.
More of an alchemical weapon than magitek, these are actually powered by energy cubes instead of magic/his armor. Using them yourself could be awkward since you'll need to rely on Adam's stash of cubes. As you've seen today, these things can quite literally explode to give you unprecedented momentum, more regular uses would allow you to kick and create fireballs or make walls of flames with each step.

>Dwarven belt of steel.
A fully magical weapon carved with a magical dwarven rune and a fantastic utility belt. The enchantment of this item can protect your entire body for a short while (1 turn), enchant one of your items into making it much, much more durable for a while (3 turns), or create a two feet long barrier similar to a holy shield (1 turn). After activation, the belt will need 5 turns to recover.
As a fully magical item, it needs no maintenance.

I'll proceed with the continuation. I think this is a choice that can stay open for a while so unless we run into an impromptu fight, I can collect votes in the coming days to finalize the descision.
>Dwarven belt of steel.
The belt is probably the most useful, since i guess we're not likely to be one of the heavy hitters of any group we join for a while.

And gaining an understanding of how the belt works, may allow us to replicate it's effects eventually.
>Dwarven belt of steel.
All are good options. Boy was this dude equipped. I wouldn't say he's "giving" us these items though. We're borrowing them. We'll return them to him once this is all over. Maybe after we studied it a bit first though. If he wants we'll let him study our gauntlet. Fair's fair.

How many cubes go with the boots? If I remember right our first gauntlet wasn't very efficient (eg. it took a heavy mana expenditure to get a medium spell out of it). His gauntlet has that problem fixed right? Is Zhu any good at dual wielding? That other gauntlet seems to create a blade similar to Zhu's so she could use it if she's able to dual wield.

As for the belt, strength of the personal shield, range and strength of the barrier projection, can it cover a party member who is standing up, and can we use it to essentially cast "Greater Magic Shield" on our shield?
>How many cubes go with the boots?
5. You could make more if you get access to alchemical equipment. Energy cubes are one of the most basic alchemical products but they need tools that can't be carried around to be made.
>His gauntlet has that problem fixed right?
>Is Zhu any good at dual-wielding?
Not really. She's a good brawler and uses her free hand to punch or pick up stuff or momentarily dual wield but it's not her specialty.

>As for the belt, strength of the personal shield, range and strength of the barrier projection
You'll need to experiment a bit to answer those questions because there's no time for Adam to brief you on everything.
>can we use it to essentially cast "Greater Magic Shield" on our shield?
This is something you can do, yes.
So we'd need a lab to make more cubes for the boots, his lightning gauntlet is inefficient, and Zhu's not a practiced dual wielder.

I do like those boots, rocket jumping or rocket shield bash would be very nice moves to have in our arsenal but ammo economy is a problem as I doubt we'll be gaining access to an alchemical lab anytime soon (though I think we could fuel them directly if we use a full fusion).

Given all that, I think we'll be taking the belt. It plays best into our support/protector role in the party.
The time for final separation came and only the hand of her father and mother on her back convinced Leena to step forward. She courageously fought back her tears, turning halfway to look at her family.

''No matter how painful the coming days and years will be Leena, never forget that we've always, always loved you. Always will.'' Her mother is amazingly composed as she speaks, Leena father has to look away to avoid breaking down. ''Keep that truth in your heart.''

''Yup.'' Her dad cleared his throat. ''Don't stop walking, we had a chance to say goodbye s-so...'' He coughs and forces himself to laugh. ''Never give up.''

You didn't know if the intense emotions you felt were truly yours. Elina and Klesiah projected a strong, poignant sadness that made it difficult for you to keep your composure but you did if only to help your little sun from crying, poor girl was barely keeping herself whole.

''I'll open the way.'' Ama imposed herself. ''You'll need to jump quickly to prevent any rash reactions from people on the other side.'' The witch took another pearl from one of her pouch, one of peerless white. You briefly wondered why she wouldn't give it to Adam but she consumed it before you could ask.

''Leena!'' Shereen yelled, causing the girl to turn around and look at your party. ''We'll meet again! I don't know when and I don't know how but we will see each other again!'' Her tail slapped your body with her spirited yells.

''B-be careful, princess!'' The girl replied with a genuine smile. ''You're in so much more trouble than I am!''

The witch interrupted the girl's goodbyes by violently opening a portal. She somehow gripped the very ether of the world and pulled open a hole as if she tore apart a piece of fabric. With veins glowering white and a single eye turned milky smooth, Ama somehow looked pretty despite the monstrosity of her actions. The hole she created so suddenly was an ugly thing, similar to a wound instead of an actual portal.

Leena hugged her family one last time and when she turned around, her dad and mom pushed her forward to kill her hesitation. Your heart squeezed. ''Thank you, Great Witch! Thank you, mom and dad, and thank you, heroes! I'll never forget... never! Even if we fail, I'll always remember!''

With that heartfelt promise, the little one and her metal-clad guardian disappeared inside the white portal, swallowed up together in the blink of an eye, the magical manifestation went away with them.

''She will grow up into a strong girl.'' Hildegarde said gently. ''She's a survivor, I've no doubt she'll find a way to live in the coming trials.''

With their daughter gone, Leena parents looked very, very tired but they still stood defiant of their inevitable fate.

''Heroes... thank you.'' The mother joined her hands together and lowered her head.
''We've resolved ourselves to something sadder but damn if that wasn't one hell of a turnaround.'' The burly man chuckled.
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''You couldn't find any different outcome in your situation, do not feel ashamed. It is the player's duty to not be satisfied with tragedy; doing so means lacking ambition.'' Ama looked at you like a maiden in love, all smiles with incessant tail movements.

Hold on, a maiden in love? Why would you think that? Yuck!

''We'll never be able to repay you, heroes.'' The mother straightens herself and looks to her husband who nods as a response. ''But if our souls can be of use to you as we turn into these sad purple pearls, then please use us.''

''Hold on!'' Shereen steps forward. ''We can't do that! You're Leena parents, we shouldn't... we should bring you into a shrine of Mother Earth.''

''You are the youngest daughter of the Pharaoh, right?'' Shereen stiffened but the mother voice held no malice or anger. ''Thank you for being here.''

''H-huh? I haven't done anything...''

''Not going to lie, I'm thinking ugly words for your mom and sister.'' The dad spoke firmly but again, there wasn't malice or anger. ''Myrtidal is a garden of misery that ended up killing us but even at our worse moment, I never held anger against you, princess... cause honestly, nobody knew you existed. Sure there'd be rumor here and there but it was a once a year thing to remind us you were alive, you had no hand in our situation, you've got no blames on your shoulders.''

''Having you here to witness the village does gladden my heart.'' The mom continued, sincerely smiling at Shereen. ''All the deaths here has to be worth something, it has to be witnessed...''

''I doubt her motherly godliness would allow this plane to exist once she realizes it's existence.'' Ama added, one tail swishing toward Klesiah.

You remember that your paladin told you she worked particularly hard at keeping Mina a secret... but it seems there's no hiding anything from the evil witch.

''If we can help somehow, don't feel guilty. We'll just pass onto Mother Earth blossoming kindness afterward anyway, our appointment with Leena will take a long, long while.'' The dad held forward a thumb up.

Shereen couldn't look at them in the eyes, guilt rooted her on the spot. You supported her with a hand on her shoulder and, surprisingly, Zhu did the same.

''You'd say you trust these gallant heroes?'' Ama asked and her pale ears twitched when they nodded. ''Then I have a little proposition. My game might be over now but there is still a climax to attend... and I believe you two could help.'' The evil witch took a breath and explained herself. ''It is possible to awaken souls inside the death pearls for nothing else is made of living people. By doing so, once you're activated by a mage, it could be possible to synchronize with their magical nature.''

Leena's parents clearly didn't understand this part. ''So you mean we could help them?''
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''Yes, back in antiquity this method was needlessly cruel because a person's consent was irrelevant but magic has changed. There is a risk...'' The witch paused. ''Once activated, your sleep will be interrupted and you will be powerless to resist whoever uses the pearl. It would be a terrible experience indeed to be violated so thoroughly by a bad actor.''

''I'm not afraid of that.'' The dad spoke, he looked at his wife, resolute.

''We...We should still exorcise...'' Shereen murmured a protest.

The older woman motherly smile spread across her face. ''If you can, I'd like that.'' She said to your little sun. ''But the world isn't kind. I've tried so hard with my husband to shield my little girl and we were swallowed up by an uncaring fate. The good witch makes a good proposition, doesn't she?''

''I do wonder... why is it that you trust me?'' Ama suddenly asked, catching both parents off guard. ''I've a naughty reputation, don't I snatch children in the night in this part of the world?''

''I think you can guess why, good witch.'' The dad answer. ''You've helped us, you've given my little girl a chance to see us again... and now with generous heroes, she has another chance at life. She'd probably have been killed by those loathsome girls had she not become your central piece. You've given us hope while we had nothing.''

''I do not view self-serving generosity as a sin.'' The mother continued. ''Once, a rich man gave our family money. For him, it was just a way to make himself feel better but for us, it was a lifeline that allowed us to eat for two months; long enough to find employment. If your motivations are similar, good witch, then I'm satisfied. Perhaps true altruism lies in helping the many but I've never bothered with this burden.''

''Hm, I'll have to agree with the maid earlier statement. Your little girl will become a strong woman.'' Ama turns toward the rest of your party, radiating so much happiness it fuzzed her fur. ''Now, you guys should think about leaving. That portal must have rung countless alarm bells, an odious snake will come to inspect its domain.''

''My mother... she's coming here?''

''Indeed and it would be wise for you all to leave after collecting two precious pearls.'' Leena parents nodded, holding each other hands.

''I-I...no I...I've always. Listen, I need to speak to my mother! I have to!'' Shereen rebelled and stood before Ama.

''That so? You won't need to convince me, I'd like a first seat to whatever it is you want to say...'' The witch smiled, briefly disarming your little sun. ''...your friends might not agree with that. Now, the Pharaoh will undeniably increase the potency of Solemnval curse and I could protect you, darling, and my favorite player because we share such a precious bond.''

''Shut up. Not true.'' Your response only managed to make Ama chuckle.
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''Everyone else will need to exit the portal for their safety.'' The witch finished and walked toward Leena parent, joining her hands with theirs. ''Do not resist. You will feel sleepy, my will isn't going to harm you, it will be invasive and uncomfortable but the great witch of contract means you no harm. It has been my privilege to know you both, so don't be afraid... sleep. Believe in Leena and her guardian.''

''Ah...'' Shereen trembled, looked to you and Zhu, took a deep breath and straightened her spine. ''...I'll stay. I need to speak with my mom I...'' She moistened her lips took a deep breath and looked at you more than anyone else. ''I'm not asking''

''Well hey I don't mind sticking around, I'm not afraid of a cough or something. I think your mom oughta see what it means to have Moons that aren't total fuck-up.'' Zhu immediately supported her, you could almost visibly see parts of Shereen stress evaporate.

''I think you're headed for a broken heart, Shereen.'' Hildegarde spoke gently. ''It'll be better to leave, together.''

''I can't stay in this place much longer.'' Elina spoke for the first time since you've stepped inside Solemnval. She was feeling very uncomfortable, but also angry, so, so very angry. ''I'll make sure the portal stay opens.''

''I... Having to confront one parent can be awful.'' Klesiah spoke last, gentle and smiling. ''I know we haven't known each other long and I hope we can become friends after tonight but I think it'll be better if you don't speak to your mom, Shereen. Her sins are... naked enough.''

Back in Marleon palace, you've robbed Shereen of the chance to confront her older sister. Now was the turn of her mother.

According to Ama, this village is Zerase domain, things could become incredibly dangerous, especially since your party won't be able to stay.

Should you stay and support Shereen with confronting her mother, Zerase?
>No (Will forcefully pull her out of Solemnval)
You won't have another opportunity... Do you ask Ama to help you stop the pharaoh plot?
Continuing tomorrow.
Ok, this is Zerase's domain according to Ama. Shereen is the final ingredient of the ascension ritual and I'm willing to bet a few pearls can force an override of the will and make someone do something they vehemently do not want to do. That is, she can likely force Shereen to do the parts of the ritual that require an innate blood mage. It must, because it seems she took steps to ensure Shereen would be born as one and if just any old blood mage would do she'd have Ensan do it.

The main thing I'd be worried about is Zerase using a pearl on us to kill us dead or her just willing a portal to open up beneath Shereen and just porting her back to the palace where she'll override her will and commence with the ritual. Possibly both at the same time. If that happens we won't get there in time to stop it. If Ama can categorically guarantee that she can stop either of those from happening and can just gate all of us out the instant Zerase looks like she'll try anything funny I'll consider staying. Otherwise the risks are too great and we're dragging her out kicking and screaming because of that.

Zerase is willing to sacrifice millions of innocent lives for apotheosis. She is thus a hardcore sociopath for whom concepts like filial loyalty, compassion or "love" are utterly incomprehensible. There is only who is useful to them, and who is not. The instant you're in the later category, well, death is almost certain if they know they can get away with disposing of you. True demons who walk among us they are.

I also don't like this, every fiber of my being wants to puke when I say this, but we could use her...help. Ask...for her....help. Thank god my stomach's empty right now...
Yes to confrontation.
Yes to asking for help, but don't agree without knowing the price.
>If Ama can categorically guarantee that she can stop either of those from happening
Well, Ama claim she can protect you and Shereen and only you two. Whether that includes that scenario remains to be seen.

Two votes for asking ama for help, guess we'll see tomorrow if we agree with Shereen.
Can Ama swear that she can and will, without fail, gate us and Shereen out the instant Zerase makes so much as an errant twitch or blinks in such a way that merely, possibly, maybe indicates she's about to try something? Because if not I'm not risking it and we drag her ass out.

Again, Shereen is the final piece, the last thing Zerase needs to commence with the ritual. We cannot risk her falling into her hands uncontested or dying like a bitch here.

Also, don't agree to accept Ama's help without knowing the full extent of the price. I doubt she'll help us for free so the question is whether or not the price is acceptable. I don't know what she'll ask for, but I know it'll be something. This is literally dealing with the devil here, a real Faustian bargain.
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>Can Ama swear that she can and will, without fail, gate us and Shereen out the instant Zerase makes so much as an errant twitch or blinks in such a way that merely, possibly, maybe indicates she's about to try something?

No. She won't do that because Zerase is likely to be aggressive and fleeing at the first sight of trouble might as well be not bothering with the discussion at all. She -does- promise to protect you and Shereen to the best of her ability... Want a contract?

Negotiation for the help will happen later, the option here is to open the possibility first. Ama know how paranoid Arawn is.
If we're all holding hands would that prevent the portal scenario? In fact, if we have Shereen hop on our back or otherwise carry her would that prevent her from being gated out without us sticking along for the ride? Since we fully killed Porky there's no more kill switches that Zerase could activate to eliminate Shereen right? Can Ama set a waypoint outside of Solemnval that we'll get teleported to if we are dragged out of here by any means other than the portal we took to get in?

In case it isn't obvious, I am deathly afraid of Zerase just gating Shereen back to the palace to get on with the ritual. It's also a thing I'm afraid Ama would allow to happen as that'd get us real nice and desperate so she could go full Mephistopheles and get downright extortionist with the deal for her aid.
>If we're all holding hands would that prevent the portal scenario? In fact, if we have Shereen hop on our back or otherwise carry her would that prevent her from being gated out without us sticking along for the ride?
That'd definitely help. Getting gated out of nowhere is a pretty unlikely scenario though since it's impossible to make a portal near someone. Although not impossible, people cheat the laws of magic all the time after all and Solemnval isn't Mother Earth reality... though it's really close.
>Since we fully killed Porky there's no more kill switches that Zerase could activate to eliminate Shereen right?
As far as you know, yeah. Porky infested her soul pretty deeply.
>Can Ama set a waypoint outside of Solemnval that we'll get teleported to if we are dragged out of here by any means other than the portal we took to get in?
That'd be possible if you're willing to cooperate with her.
>That'd definitely help. Getting gated out of nowhere is a pretty unlikely scenario though since it's impossible to make a portal near someone. Although not impossible, people cheat the laws of magic all the time after all and Solemnval isn't Mother Earth reality... though it's really close.

Man I phrased this badly.
What I meant is that it's impossible to create a portal near/at someone in Mother Earth reality but the laws of magic can be broken, especially outside Mother Earth reality, so it's not -entirely- out of the question that such a thing could happen.
Alright, I'll sleep on this but so far I'm leaning towards running away with Shereen. Err, death pearl activations or portal openings and/or the "wind up" for those is obvious to one such as Ama yes? That'd get Zerase's shit slapped by her yes? Can a powerful enough magic user prevent a portal from opening if they're right there to stop it?
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>Err, death pearl activations or portal openings and/or the "wind up" for those is obvious to one such as Ama yes?
Nothing can get past this old fox, of couuurse.
>Can a powerful enough magic user prevent a portal from opening if they're right there to stop it?
>Nothing can get past this old fox, of couuurse.
I don't exactly trust that wording. Especially since Ama allowed Leena to die. She's proven herself incompetent when it matters the most and it most certainly does here...
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...Only because Anais was kidnapped! You're judging her too harshly!
So... Anais getting kidnapped caused Ama to redirect all her attention towards solving that problem and once she thought she had that pretty much solved in her eyes she turned her attention back to Leena only to find her freshly relegated to the past tense?

Also, about what she said about the pearls her parents are gonna turn into. Does that mean we can, if we do wish to use them and they consent, basically fulfill the role of an astral or any other kind of pearl a given mage's attunement is? Like, they'd become astral for us, blood for Shereen, holy/wind/nature for Elina, and lightning/nature for Klesiah? At the very least, they could be used to fully restore or perhaps even overcharge any of our magic user's mana reserves?
>So... Anais getting kidnapped caused Ama to redirect all her attention towards solving that problem and once she thought she had that pretty much solved in her eyes she turned her attention back to Leena only to find her freshly relegated to the past tense?

I can neither confirm nor deny. the Witch moves in mysterious ways and she's a gambler too. Dices don't always roll in your favor.

>Also, about what she said about the pearls her parents are gonna turn into. Does that mean we can, if we do wish to use them and they consent, basically fulfill the role of an astral or any other kind of pearl a given mage's attunement is? Like, they'd become astral for us, blood for Shereen, holy/wind/nature for Elina, and lightning/nature for Klesiah? At the very least, they could be used to fully restore or perhaps even overcharge any of our magic user's mana reserves?
The capabilitites of Awakened Pearls can be used similarly to astral in restoring your reserves, yes... But more importantly, they can... Hm, actually I'm unsure if I should give that info freely. I think Ama could fully instruct you on what they do if you accept her help.
Oh, I just thought of this. Since Solemnval isn't part of ME's reality than that likely means the drawbacks of a full fusion outside the red world don't apply here. That is, we don't die horribly after 10 seconds. We really need to find a way to fix that drawback somehow. Like, if we could go to 75 or so percent and essentially have Gardy themed armor with the capabilities of his body and everything else that entails. Like if he was a biometal from the Megaman verse and us the one who wields him.

We're out of mana and all so not like it matters now but if we "eat" one of Leena's parents or accept a mana transfer from Ama (gag) we could go whole hog if Zerase turns out to be as unremittingly evil as I fear she is and just tries to outright waste us if confrontation gets chosen. This damn bitch might out evil Ama or the worst stories the church tells about Daiyu and Deru and that's no mean feat!
Welp, personally I'd drag Shereen out but it seems I'd be outvoted on that regard.
>Gauntlet he calls Projected Will
As good and tempting the Dwarven Belt sounds, it's also something Arawn most likely couldn't study/learn to replicate easily.

Also, if we do try to strike a deal/contract with Ama have her name her price *on the spot*. No dallying or waiting.

I worry about that portal that we used to get into Solemnval. Elina said she'd make sure it stays open, but she's not in the best condition. I fear that Zerase could just force it closed.
I technically have also voted for the option to drag her out kicking and screaming. I know Shereen won't like us for it, but we have sworn to protect her and the risks far outweigh the rewards. I would like a confrontation mind you, but not in this scenario where Zerase holds all the damn cards, we're out of mana, and only Ama stands between us and a bad end that she has a habit of allowing to occur (i.e. she's let both us and Leena die despite being central figures in her games).

Ama will likely gamble on us distracting Zerase and we don't have the mana for a fusion activation should Zerase get violent or try to pull BS like gating Shereen back to the palace (and that's the "good" ending, far worse is possible and I don't like giving the GM ideas). Plus it might not just be her coming and the rest of our party is in favor with only Zhu dissenting.

I'm sure Shereen will get her chance to confront though. We are heading back to Marleon after this and we do fully intend to participate in the rescue mission. That will get us face to face with Ensan and Zerase and I won't be denying Shereen's desire to tag along there. At that time, we'll be in Mother Earth's domain and not hers, have mana, our party, and possibly the aid of Ama and the awakened pearls of Leena's parents. In other words, a much more even playing field.
Also, provided the soul transfer to a Golem body doesn't require a life, Adam's gonna be just fine chillin' in Zipangu. We are merely borrowing a piece of his gear. We will be returning it to him.

I'm also pretty sure he'd love to join our dev team of budding mad magitek scientists. Martha, Belph, us, and Adam (and possibly his big sis). Together, we're gonna get the magitek industrial revolution started!
Oh, in case it's ambiguous, I vote to drag Shereen out. That makes it 2 to 1 for grabbing Shereen and jumping into the portal back to Myrtidal.

Sorry little sun, but your life is more important and we cannot risk you being gated back to the palace and mind controlled into performing the ascension ritual. We will do all we can to ensure you get your confrontation later though.
So two votes for a cowardly retreat. Belt is winning in term of loot but finalizing that can wait.

I'll give Shereen choice two more hours of wait time I'd say. Woke up feeling pretty so-so, my activity today will be only one post so I'll start things later.
There is cowardice, and then there's stupidity. Confronting a well rested supreme level monster on a plane she essentially controls and thus basically qualifies as a god in when you're both out of mana and relying on the help of an untrustworthy witch to merely not fall over and die immediately if they get pissed off...

Yeah, that's dumb. Plus, again, Shereen's the last piece Zerase needs. Keeping her out of her clutches buys the innocents of Muribel and our allies more time. They are here after all and thus, if the ritual goes forward, they will be within the blast radius.
As mentioned earlier, there are much better places to confront her that what is essentially HER plane of existence. We know that people can be mind fucked into submission through magic, and Shereen is too important to the ritual for her mother not to go for that.
Also, I think I might change my mind about the belt. Maybe we should go for Projected will after all?
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Hm, as close a majority of votes as I'm going to get. Look like Arawn won't be allowed to pet some fluff any time soon.

At least you'll get some help from the beloved witch! Hohoho

I'm having an off day healthwise so it's possible that I'll end up updating tomorrow, feel free to continue debating about the loaned weapon.
Ok, so we're actually going to blatantly and vehemently defy Shereen's orders for the first time since we tried to lie to her about us being a mage yes?

Be sure to answer her rage and feelings of betrayal with our reason. She *is* undeniably the final piece Zerase needs to commence with the ascension ritual and we know full good and well that a subtle "geas" can be placed upon the unwitting that gets them to do a thing they'd vehemently oppose in hindsight even within ME's domain... As Solemnval is outside it, well, BS on that level is potentially child's play to the master of a plane.

Sorry to say this, but her mom is so demonically evil that we're frankly shocked (yet beyond thankful) that she birthed such a pure ray of innocence, empathy, and hope. She is everything her mother and elder sister aren't. This, sadly, includes confident. Say what ya will about those evil and cruel bitches, they're suicidally confident in their own plans. I mean, they're technically right about a literal "god" trumping the desires and might of both a pretender witch, a demon lord, and whatever else save perhaps for big ME herself joining in common cause with them. If Father Sky in any way dissented, well, Zerase wins and he may well prefer her to ME. Big gamble, but biggest payoff on the table as well...
>Ok, so we're actually going to blatantly and vehemently defy Shereen's orders for the first time since we tried to lie to her about us being a mage yes?

Yes, technically you also did when you left the palace but the situation was so chaotic that she forgave you. You'll see what happens.

Really wish I could have witten most of the update today but hopefully I'll do better tomorrow.
Then this OST fits for the situation as it did when Daiyu dragged us out of the Throne: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xi0M9SIaLb4&list=PLWXWbr9ex3iVqtmHSJ0OIeEnD2hOZnp2Q&index=9
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>Look like Arawn won't be allowed to pet some fluff any time soon.
Sad, but oh well. Shereen might hate Arawn for a bit, but as long as she understands why he's dragging her out of Solemnval we can put up with it.

Besides, it's not like Shereen is the only source of fluff in Arawn's life.
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After some thinking I'll be ending the thread with this next update, I gambled on your choice and put most of my plans in the confrontation with Zerase, so I'd rather continue with something better than improv on my hands. I'll be a bit busy this weekend so I think closing is wiser since I won't be able to make another update until Monday and I'd rather plan around the fallout of what's happening here. Also need to update the loot and the character chart.

Belt is looking like a majority win.

It's coming tonight no matter what, even if I have to update at midnight.
A fair gamble, but as agents of chaos it is eternally the player's prerogative to do something completely unexpected for the GM catching him flat footed.

Err, when it comes to magical items, does a full fusion break them? When we fought porky we broke our collar. Was that because we subconsciously saw it as a threat (i.e. a tool of enslavement) and thus "fixed" the problem or is that just what Gardy's real body does to magical items (i.e. disenchants them)?
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I wouldn't say it was unexpected, but yeah I could have better planned the other outcome but I was already a month overdue. No big deal, I'm thinking of making the next thread next week.

>Err, when it comes to magical items, does a full fusion break them?
Depend on the item.
>Was that because we subconsciously saw it as a threat (i.e. a tool of enslavement) and thus "fixed" the problem
This. The collar was a threat to you, so Gardy body broke it. Simple as that.

Normally, Full Fusion allows you to use magical/magitek items as if they were parts of your body and magical nature. The items are absorbed into Gardy mechanical body. Your tactical capabilities expand so much that it's impossible to list all the potential things you can do. Couple that with absolutely insane physical capabilities and...
Well Horkus was the biggest threat you faced so far and you nearly soloed him.
Sweet Jesus, if we can get rid of the drawback of dying horribly from using full fusion in realspace and kit ourselves out with a few more choice pieces of gear we could possibly solo Ama or take out a full powered deity. Not that we would actually try that of course.

We did need the help with that fight though. We got lucky that nobody died and that was partially because we brought in the raw numbers to "handle" things like his constant spewing out not-nurglings and that bunch of soul eaters. Teamwork made the dream work back there.
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Indeed, but facts are you did the lion share. There's a reason why humanity Pretender Goddess survived until the very end despite her being the weakest combat-wise.
>That spoiler.
I didn't know you were on the Ama route.
I do wonder what exactly happened to her. Whatever the final remaining gods were they obviously didn't kill bestest buddy and we know he'd rather die than fail to protect his charge. Plus he's a good guy and wouldn't have stuck around had she been a bad person.

Who knows, maybe she's not dead. Perhaps she simply lies sleeping in some unknown corner of the world or is otherwise keeping a low profile to avoid the notice of Mother Earth or other deities who would wish to kill or absorb her.

There's Tui and Belph. Ama's fluff is tainted, evil, and in no way enjoyable. However, I would debase myself and "indulge" our vice with them if it secures her aid in stopping Zerase. Otherwise her fluffy tails are for chopping and burning, not grooming and loving!
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Wha- NO that is not what I meant! I would NEVER vote for Ama flufff!

The temptation is there though. Curse my weakness for fox women!
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So the Ama route isn't dead and buried, I see she made a good impression today...
Alright time to concentrate on finishing the thread.
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If Ama use of a lofty title to describe the pharaoh held any ring of truths, then Zerase being the ''master'' of this domain of death made her incredibly dangerous, perhaps more than anything you've ever faced: an existence to rival -if not exceed- the Demon Lord herself. You've already had a taste of Daiyu capabilities and it had been nothing more than a training session... a nightmarish one.

Now, if Shereen truly is a vital part of an ascension ritual Zerase has been planning for Father knows how long... She might have a trick up her sleeve, something that could surprise the witch and allow her to kidnap your little sun. You aren't confident in Ama ''security'' somewhere outside Mother Earth reality, especially with her failure in keeping Leena alive.

Adam would undeniably have been helpful against the pharaoh, a dark though kept germinating in the back of your mind: had Leena death been part of Ama plan all along? You've witnessed first hand how much trouble the witch went through in giving the little one a ''second chance'' but how sincere is she?

''Witch.'' Thankfully her geas is suppressed here, or she's not activating it. You step closer to Ama before she can begin the ritual of transforming Leena parents into Awakened Pearls. ''I would like to propose an alliance against the pharaoh.''

''Ooooh?'' Her dangerously wolfish smile split her face in unrestrained glee. Gods, all you have to do is offer a meter and she'll...

''She's gone and derailed your game, hasn't she? Well, your help would be welcome because she's becoming a danger for the entire world, let alone her country. Let's...'' For some reason, you can't help a chuckle. This situation is so outside your expectations that you can only laugh. ''...Have a ceasefire, I suppose. A temporary alliance. One whose details were going to hash out later.''

Elina anger was difficult to deal with, it was strong enough to bury whatever emotion Klesiah was feeling but both understood the necessity and weren't surprised by your words, Shereen was the one who looked at you as if you've grown a second head.

''Hmm, my that'd be wonderfully fun my dear. Meeting all of your friends in the flesh in Marleon sounds delightful'' Ye gods! If Sieglinde doesn't pull out your spine, Zipangu folks will have your head! ''I'll give you a visit tonight my dear, as long as you hold onto this.'' She stops holding Leena's father's big hand to slowly take out her pipe, forcing you to turn your head for modesty sake. This damn vixen had no right to be this seductive!

You took the item and put it inside your bag, leaving the witch to her ritual. ''Dear maid, there will be a change of clothes outside the portal!'' Ama finished, retaking hold of the man hand. ''There's more than enough pearls here to spare for a little extravagance, don't be afraid of my gift, please.''

Now... come the hard part.
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'We shouldn't stay.'' You affirm the wish of the majority. Shereen ears flaps, looking at you in disbelief. ''If we could meet your mother outside this realm, then talking to her wouldn't be overtly suicidal, but here, in Solemnval, having a meeting inside her ''domain'' is far too dangerous. You're the last missing piece of her ritual, Shereen and...'' You pause, looking at the pearl Zhu had picked up. ''One thousand souls were thrown in here and a thousand pearls have been collected. Too dangerous.''

''I-I... Listen, I believe in the witch protection.'' Your little sun stood her ground. ''Sure she's our enemy but she wouldn't want someone else becoming a goddess right? Arawn, I want to... I need to speak with my mother, this is the best chance for me to see for myself if she's really...'' There was no if. She knew that everyone else in the entire country knew that but... she was Zerase, daughter.

Easy enough for you to say the pharaoh was irremediably evil. You could understand that Shereen still held reservations and love for her family, no matter how misguided it was.

''I understand and respect why you want to do this, Shereen, I truly do.'' Embers of anger burned inside her brilliant green eyes when you shook your head. ''We've fought ourselves to exhaustion and I -don't- trust the witch. She couldn't protect Leena, that make her incompetent.''

Ama grunted in annoyance. Could it be that you've actually struck a nerve, for the very first time?

''I haven't spoken to my mother in... years.'' Shereen shook her head, shapeshifted furred hands balling into fists. ''I didn't ask! I'm your sun, Arawn. I need to speak to my mom, I have to and, so... I'll need your help, to protect me, I'll make a deal with the witch to keep myself safe if I have to!'' Her ears flip upright, the witch ones likely followed suit.

A surge of horror made you unable to respond. That's not acceptable at all, Shereen!

''If you're that scared, Arawn, I'll take his place.'' Zhu imposed herself.

''No can do!'' Ama immediately responded. I can protect her little majesty and my darling favorite player but that certainty does not extend for any other duo.''

Zhu growled. ''Fuck sake, all these exceptions and whatever, magic is bullshit. Anyway, grab your balls Arawn, and just stay with her. I'm sure the big bad witch got more of them pearls, that snake deserves to be confronted by one of her kin that ain't no bootlicker. Remember the cat we buried?'' Shereen winced. ''Bitch didn't give a shit about that humiliation, Shereen deserves some cold truth straight from the source, no matter how bad it is.''

''I agree with you.'' You lean closer to Zhu who snarls in response. ''Anywhere but here.'' The sheer displeasure on your comrade's face made you start to wonder if she was going to punch you.

''What makes you think she'll have any other chance to speak with her mom before we meet up with our reinforcement and proceed on our merry way to commit regicide?''
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''There's no certainty you'll see me and Shereen come out of that portal.'' You respond but she doesn't back down. For Zhu, risk is a simple word; it seems that she's gotten to like Shereen over the days. you couldn't really feel angry about her bullheadedness.

Silence fell, one long enough for Ama to finish her ritual. Both parents gave your group one last farewell, looking over the discord with parental patience befitting their stature. The vixen walked toward you holding onto a pair of purple pearls glowing from an inner light strong enough to be noticeable in the eternal noon sun of Solemnval. They could work as torches in darkness.

''Do put them somewhere precious, these pearls are truly one of a kind...'' The witch moved with grace and gentleness, almost reluctant to part with them.

''Ugh!'' Elina suddenly groaned. ''This place curse... it's getting worse.'' She grunted and summoned her halberd to help herself stay upright.

You weren't feeling different, but you'll trust your angel. Discomfort and a prickling pain traveled through the link, assaulting you incessantly.

''That's it then?'' Shereen voice had no energy. ''Four against two? You'll have to carry...'' She stopped herself, realizing that her menace wasn't an effective one. ''...What am I, anyway? Nobody listens to me, nobody knows I exist, am I even a princess? I-I just... My mom is the one who taught me what I know about Blood Magic, she... maybe she's unredeemable but! But! I wanted to make sure if there was still some love left in her! There has to be some, unlike my sister, there's... something...''

''You'd best leave now.'' Ama proclaimed and extracted a pair of gems out of her pouch, two red pearls glowering like embers of a stubborn fire. ''I'll be meeting you later tonight, for now, I need to distract the pharaoh to ensure the safety of dear Anais Swanhil Wilhelmina. Goodness, saying her full name is strangely fun isn't it?''

''Could we meet, witch?'' Shereen statement made you lose your breath, you almost wanted to interrupt her but Zhu wouldn't let you.

''Of course, darling.'' Ama clapped her hands happily ''Tonight when you sleep, do so near your valiant sun with my pipe close by and I'll treat you to a relaxing tea party.'' Your group was beginning to move.

''Okay... lift me up like the burden I am.'' Shereen growled. ''Not you!'' She snapped at Hildegarde and pointed to you. ''Over your shoulder, finish my humiliation, my sun.'' Her mind had retreated into a dark, ugly place.

What could you say? Damn it! Maybe Ama can protect you both...?

''My lady.'' Klesiah lowered herself to Shereen level, having given Hildegarde temporary hold of her glaive. Seeing your gentle blueberry filled you with a faint hope; you honestly had no idea how to help your little sun.

Or if you even deserved to.
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''I know the pain of a truly irredeemable parent... and patricide.'' Shereen pointedly looked at the ground, her fluffy ears flattened. ''If you can still hold onto good memories of your mother, then I believe it's a good thing. Do not be so overzealous in confronting her, for you might just see the worst and earn an eternal heartache. We've seen the result of your mother's ambition and that, no matter what, is irredeemable. It is precisely because Arawn cares about you very much that he goes against your wishes, my lady so as his knight I shall obey him... but I shall also carry you like the princess you are. I've only seen you for half a day but I truly know, in my heart of heart, that you are worthy of this title. And you shouldn't be ashamed of your feelings for your mother, despite everything we've seen... This love is beautiful, my lady. Perhaps one of the most precious things in the world.''

Putting actions to words, Klesiah lifted Shereen gently, holding her in that distinctive intimate carry.

''Goodness, you people are adorable. Discord cannot fester, hm? I like that. Unity is one of the strongest things, you'll need it in the coming days.''

And so your group ran, leaving behind a witch to confront a pharaoh in what would undeniably become a titanic magical duel.
>A Tale of Monsters -The Witch Game- end
My birthday is on the 11 so that's why I'll be a bit busy. Updating on my birthday could be a nice gift to myself though, I do like writing... Alas, gotta show wisdom.
Now then, having a list to tally all the gains would be helpful. I'll get on it in the coming days. Poor Shereen, denied a confrontation not once but twice! She'll need some aftercare...

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Damnit, I feel like absolute dog shit right now. We did something bad to Shereen and it may have pushed *her* into cutting a deal with Ama. It was still the rational choice though. We should also tell her of our fear of a subtle geas that may have been planted within her at birth. We got slapped with one ourselves and did a bad thing after all.

I forgot the time frame between when the blue bastard mind fucked us and the event where Daiyu caught us red handed. If it was longer than a single day than we may have drawn more than one rune of passage, one that could have gone undiscovered and used in the assault which would make us partially responsible for the deaths that occurred. Well, not really but that's how we'd feel about it.

A real pity we won't get to see Ama's duel with Zerase. I bet it'd look like two epic Dark Souls bosses going at it and/or something straight outta shounen manga. I'd like her to just kill the bitch off here and now but that's probably asking a bit much. Her domain and all and then there's the juicy emotions that'll happen if Shereen gets her confrontation.

Also, I don't know if Kumihos are masters of disguise and shapeshifting like their nicer Kitsune counterparts (though those can still be dicks too). Hope she isn't brazen enough to help us without a good disguise to ensure nobody knows it's her except us. We need our allies to find out about that *after* Anais is safe. Preferably, they never find out about it but I don't think we can hide it forever.
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Oh yes, fluffed can shapeshift, it's one of their most well-known and infamous ability.
>Damnit, I feel like absolute dog shit right now.
Now now, you've avoided something risky... Poor little Shereen really can't get anything huh?
>I forgot the time frame between when the blue bastard mind fucked us and the event where Daiyu caught us red handed.
Roughly one day but the geas only got activated at night since that's when you did something suspicious.
>A real pity we won't get to see Ama's duel with Zerase. I bet it'd look like two epic Dark Souls bosses going at it and/or something straight outta shounen manga
I was fairly proud of my set piece, not gonna lie. The magic of the ancients was something alright, especially with plenty of ammunitions.
So if we stayed there's a good chance we could have seen the duel and it would have played out like a duel from the age of the pretenders?

Damn, now I almost regret leaving. Almost. We'd be holding Ama back as a bystander unable to really contribute to the fight. Zerase would definitely target us once she deduced that Ama gives a shit about us. We'd probably eat a "true magic" spell and that'd be the end of us without a full fusion activation that we didn't have the mana for.

Probably could activate it and go into overcast, but the disparity between what we had versus what'd be needed would be like dosing on hardcore Eversor Assassin combat stims. Yeah, you get to be a crazed god of melee destruction, but a very hard "save or die" roll would ensue upon dropping it assuming we even succeeded or didn't just die on the friggin' spot.
Thanks, I feel like garbage! Great thread as always!
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>So if we stayed there's a good chance we could have seen the duel and it would have played out like a duel from the age of the pretenders?
Yep, mages back then were overall weaker than present day mages... unless they had plenty of pearls. With enough of them, or with enough knowledge in how to manipulate them effectively, boy oh boy did things get out of hands.
Misery delivered with such amazing enthusiasm! I like you, anon!
Betting Ama and Zerase are essentially evenly matched then. If the duel occurred in realspace that is. As it's within Zerase's domain, well, that's why she's "distracting" that damnable snake instead of outright fighting/killing her.

Ama can't exactly win fair and square, but she can harass and annoy with just enough potential to land an actual killshot if her opponent's serpentine ass gets overconfident that it will, at the very least, require her full and undivided attention.

We're going to leverage our position once we get into Marleon though. Like I said, we are *going* to be on the primary rescue team that's charged with actually physically securing and rescuing Anais. Shereen does deserve her confrontation, and provided she doesn't sell her soul to Ama to get it before that, we will do all we can to ensure she gets it.

By the way, does Ama have Blood Magic Grimoires that don't immediately get the poor sod who opens them possessed by Eldritch Horrors and/or shatter their sanity? I'm willing to bet Shereen's about to bargain for one.

The one pertaining to red world entities and how an innate blood mage may best make use of that hellish dimension and/or how those entities can best be used to heal others is probably high on her list of things she'd like to know. After all, she sees herself as a "burden" in most all respects and, as we've seen with Anais, healing people with those almost risk free is quite possible. So either by becoming a healer or a dark summoner of horror (possibly both), she can stop being a "burden" in her own eyes.

Not the path we'd like her to journey down as we can basically assure her that we got an in with the Felwhore of Lescatie and, save for Ama, you'd be hard pressed to find a better and more knowledgeable blood mage mentor. At least Deru won't ask for your soul in exchange for her education...
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>By the way, does Ama have Blood Magic Grimoires that don't immediately get the poor sod who opens them possessed by Eldritch Horrors and/or shatter their sanity?
Mayyybe. Teaching magic isn't really done in grimoire anymore, remember your time in the college. Blood Magic is a very touchy subject to teach, too...

>At least Deru won't ask for your soul in exchange for her education...
What do you think she'd ask?
Yeah, which is why I'd bet that Grimoires are how people, especially non-mages, learn how to do it right. Hand an innate blood mage like Shereen one of those and, oh honey, you just drastically increased their power level.

For while those spells would otherwise require a gallon or two of blood, a carefully constructed magical circle, and some ritual chanting on top of other BS... Now, with an innate blood mage, all ya need is for her to have 30 or so percent of her reserves to spend on it (less if you've got a way to ensure she's got a nice fat larder of red world entities to "eat" to fuel it all) and a few pints of freshly drawn blood (of vials if we're talking the blood of virgins/angels or somesuch).

This is likely why only an innate blood mage can successfully perform/complete the ascension ritual and also why they also needed a girl like Anais. Only a full 8-12 pints of blood so irresistible to red world entities would attract enough to fuel the ritual even with a ton of death pearls and the life of the innate blood mage to carry the two and "make it work" despite the changes in regards to how magic works between now and the age of pretenders.
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The capabilities of an innate bloodmage haven't been explored at all, so you can only guess as to what Shereen can truly do. The only thing you know for now is that it synchronizes naturally with your soul magic...

On your subject of grimoires, you're off. While there are many books that help teach magical theories and some old ones were scribbled when magic functioned with pearls, a grimoire like you described would be seen as a genuine magic item if not a cursed item of immense danger. Something that would hold the recipe for many Blood Rituals is extremely dangerous knowledge of course but of little use to an innate blood mage since they can dispense with most of the needed ingredients for a ritual and would only need to make leylines.

For now you can only wonder as to how Zerase needs her daughter. Or if she needed her in the first place! Was the witch truthful?
I'm betting she was and that Shereen really is needed as she apparently took costly steps to ensure Shereen was born an innate blood mage after likely failing to ensure Ensan was one "on the cheap" despite similar preparations/expenditure of resources. This would likely also explain why Ensan hates her so much. She was supposed to be like her, yet she isn't. Projection and inferiority complexes make a truly nasty brew.

Thankfully, Zerase didn't account for nor anticipate the possibility that a girl who wields the magic of Life itself would be a supremely kind and empathetic soul. Unlike her and her firstborn, Shereen has a conscience and a deep and profound sense of empathy. A thing she likely picked up on real quick and thus implanted that geas I fear she has planted well before her tiny and newborn mind could comprehend how and why a few "innocuous" rituals could ever lead to the deaths of millions for a selfish mother's ambitions.

I mean, I can even assume Zerase's a magnanimous potential deity and that she truly intended to ascend both her daughters to a similar plane of godhood. At least, so long as she was sure Shereen wouldn't just outright side with Mother Earth. Now? Now she almost certainly would and that makes her a threat. Thus, she dies during the ascension ritual if it's actually carried out...
Miserable is my natural state! The enthusiasm is just a bonus!
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How wonderfully tragic.
Now now, put a smile on that face! Harmony is to be found in sorroe!
Tragic for Zerase and, sadly, Shereen as well. Tragic for Zerase as it means that without further steps like a subtle geas implanted at birth to force her to perform the ritual, she just won't do it as such a "weak and pathetic" soul would most certainly shirk at the prospect of sacrificing millions for the prospect of apotheosis.

Tragic for Shereen as it means that Zerase was exactly what I accuse her of being, a true and radical sociopath who only "loved" her youngest daughter insofar as she was "useful" to her plots. So long as she was useful, she was loved. The instant she was not, however, she'd be killed without a second thought. I just hope I'm wrong about that geas insofar as to Shereen's ability to resist it. She'll be right there with us during the final assault and an innate blood mage under a geas with instructions to create as many portals to/from the red world as possible... yeah, that's gonna fuck us over really gosh darn hard now isn't it.
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You haven't had any chance to actually know Zerase to ultimately, it's impossible to be sure of her personality and general stance toward Shereen. Who knows, she might actually love her little girl... she also just happens to be ambitious.

>blood mage under a geas with instructions to create as many portals to/from the red world as possible... yeah, that's gonna fuck us over really gosh darn hard now isn't it.
Well... At least you can fusion without trouble in that case
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Yeah, that'd allow us to go whole hog as in that event the veil between the red world and realspace would be so utterly fucked over that the two would essentially be one and the same.

Still not good for the rest of our party as that's exactly what happened with porky and, well, that only worked out well for us because we had quite enough cannon fodder to cancel out the worst of it.

Also, that "love" is in proportion to her ambition. She loves her exactly and only because she's the key to fulfilling her ambition. Shereeen is, like I said, a literal one in several million occurrence, and innate blood mage. The odds of a being like her becoming a thing is like getting gifted with MEoDP from a near death experience. Possible, but also so damned unlikely that only one of those is realistically possible to exist within a given era of history.

Shereen is likely the only innate blood mage in existence right now. Ironically, that likely mirrors our own status as a "soul" mage as we're probably just as if not moreso rare...
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Choosing the esoteric nature had some benefits
And drawbacks as if we didn't draw the attention of Ama to ourselves as a mere mortal without any talent for magecraft or if we were but a mere elemental mage, oh we most certainly did once it became apparent that we were a once in a millennia mage possessing said esoteric nature as juicy as "souls" as it were.

Still, gotta wonder, how well did we do here? Best end? Best end with the caveat of pissing Shereen off? Merely an OK end with us pitching solutions right down the middle and successfully hitting them in such a way as to avoid anyone dying? This is the essential end of this act/phase and thus we are due a "report" as it were :).
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I'd say it was part 1 of the end, the deal with Ama is going to matter much more now that Shereen will be in it.

As far as ending goes, everyone is alive. There's some tension but the road back to Marleon should hopefully let you clear that up...

With how the last thread ended and your relation with Ari'el taken into account, and how Leena situation panned out I'd say you've done good. I didn't really prepare a perfect or good end, all I did is set out all kinds of tools and potential situations dependig on what you did or didn't do and this is our result. This was my first attempt at a semi-open world event.

Went into Solemnval and exited with a pair of precious pearls, minus two allies (Leena count!) and you didn't allow Shereen to confront Zerase. Everybody is on edge and exhausted, but alive and you have had your very first flesh to flesh chat with Ama.
I just hope she doesn't fall for her bait. Shereen's an intelligent girl, but if Ama provides the right kind of bait she could get her to agree to a hardcore Faustian Bargain that'd really fuck us both over.

After all, I'm sadly certain that she could use an innate blood mage as a newly minted apostle. And that's just off the top of my head as to worst endings. Again, I don't want to feed you ideas beyond the obvious as to how things can always get worse...
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Shereen becoming an apostle isn't a bad ending.
Um, yeah it is as it means we'll have to kill her in the future. One of our end goals is killing Ama and there ain't no way she's going to be giving her apostles a choice in that regard. We damn near lost Vilma to that fate and she is more than cruel and evil enough to force us to lose Shereen to it as well.

After all, I think she can "gift" her apostles with something that amplifies their abilities in regards to necromancy and blood magic if I remember right. It only costs them that small, insignificant thing we like to call their very soul. Sadly, after this, Shereen might just cut that deal in the foolish belief that she can actually resist the will of the Great Witch of Contracts once she's signed such a pact. No girl, no you can't. We could, but only after fusing with an Embodiment and now that said embodiment's ego is MIA we're right back to being at the mercy of her whims...
Oh, I just thought of this. As Ama has memories she is interested in acquiring from us, so too does she from our end. Specifically, the memory of her duel with Zerase.

Magic has changed since the pretender age and Gardy wasn't able to see exactly how from within the Throne. That memory would provide us with a great deal of information in regards to Ama's combat capabilities (especially what BS power pearls enable) within our modern age.

In other words, it's critical intel we just passed up because we weren't willing to risk Shereen's capture, holding Ama back against a potentially superior foe, or otherwise screwing over the world and possibly condemning everyone to a life under the oppressive tail constriction of Zerase the god snek if the worst happened.

Said "worst end" ironically involves Ama's death of all things. If Zerase kills her here and now, well, that's actually a bad thing for the world! In most other circumstances her death's a wonderful thing, but here, specifically, it isn't. Hate to say it, but it's in everyone's best interest to ensure Ama outlives Zerase and Ensan.
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Now now, Shereen becoming an apostle doesn't mean she cannot be reasoned with. Ari'el is the living example of that!

Isn't it nice to be cooperating with the witch? She's a good person, really.
Oh yeah, they can be reasoned with, but in the event (nay certainty) that our objective becomes "Kill Ama" she's gonna command her apostles to defend her and I'd bet body parts they won't exactly be able to defy that order even if they wanted to.

Which means that our attempt to murder Ama necessarily includes murdering every single one of her apostles. This is why I was so scared of Vilma becoming one. I didn't wanna murder second best girl and now it's the prospect of having to murder best daughteru/sister/potential other waifu!

And no, Ama's a horrible horrible person. One that *can* be reasoned with fortunately however. It's still cutting a deal with a demon but hey, demons always live up to their end of the bargain. Sadly, they also never fail to collect from your end as well. They *always* get paid if ya catch my drift. Gonna have to be extra careful and put that contract under a microscope before we even think of singing the line that is dotted.
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Now now, who says your objective will be to kill Ama later on? Vilma would have been treated fairly and gently, don't worry...

Who's to say you'll be the only one signing a contract? Oooohohohoho! Or maybe there won't be any...
Well, she ain't gonna just lift her curse on us if we simply ask nicely and I don't want to figure out what the "fulfillment" of whatever this contract (that she maliciously tricked us into singing mind you) entails.

There are two solutions I can see. One, get so damned good a soul magic that we can isolate and purge whatever section it's tied to without major side effects (i.e. exorcise her and her curse from our soul). Or two, kill her. Option 2 is the option that carries the most danger, but also the least amount of potential side effects and does the whole damn world a favor in the process.

Also, kudos into baiting us into this situation. You've identified that we're going for a good guy/paragon run so far and yeah, a "good guy" will relent and do things they otherwise wouldn't even consider if it saves literally millions of lives. Though, again, that contract for her aid is going under a friggin' electron microscope. She's going to try and monkey paw us I know it. We must ensure that we prevent her fro doing so. It's going to a very, very precisely worded and thus lengthy contract. Thankfully, we speak fantasy English and it's a language up to the task...
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Just make her your wife and everyone will be happy.
Ok, so you want us to, and let me make sure I'm catching your drift here, *marry* Ama.

Why? Why would we wed our eternal tormentor? Oh god, that's gonna be the price isn't it? Please no. Please have mercy! The other girls will literally kill us and bestest buddy will riot!
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I'm afraid to ask, but why does this whole "asking Ama for help" decision and the mere specter of marrying the evilest fluffy tails in the world have you so absolutely giddy?

Do you really want us to go with the Ama route? Is she your version of best girl?
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Today is my birthday so I will fully indulge the selfish joy of playing up your insecurity and make you panic.

No. Don't look too hard into it. I do adore ama, but as you've seen with refusing to stick around to see the magic duel, I can force myself to not do something I really want if you guys decide otherwise. Marrying the witch is totally the right thing to do.
Happy Birthday then good GM.

However, I will still have to disagree. Marrying Ama is most certainly *not* the right thing to do. Though I do fear our choice to save Leena has gotten us down her "route" a bit. She most certainly liked that one a great deal as did she our proposal of an alliance. It would seem the prospect of a contract she doesn't have to maliciously trick us into signing has her giddy as well. I almost fear the answer as to how and why exactly, over all the millenia she's been in existence, we became her most cherished and favorite toy of them all.
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Ama is a risk-taker and despite getting broken once, you came back. Why wouldn't she like you?
That girl's cute. Her outfit's right on the edge of yet not quite outright lewd as well. I dig it.

Plenty of reasons to like us, but she seems to favor us over every other existence she's encountered in her long and storied life. What exactly makes us so uniquely special?
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I got suckered into Genshin Impact gacha hell.
Well, you're certainly in a very unusual position diplomatically... Maybe she's doing the godly equivalent of bullying him on the schoolground because she like him?
2D anime waifus/husbandos. Truly, an object better able to get people to part with their hard earned money has yet to be invented. It's the biggest revolution since legalized gambling (which is what a gatcha system is essentially, but with waifus) and prostitution. Is it any good or is it hardcore "pay to win" like a lot of em' are?

If tormenting us like she has been is her version of attempting romance it's no wonder she's single. That and she may only have eyes for us. Damnit Ama, if you're in love with us than why the hell do you torment us and somehow expect us to get the hint!?
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I wouldn't call it p2win yet since even a lucklet can progress with the pity characters they give you but the rates for 5* are pretty bad. Characters here are much more important than in other gacha since they're in 3D and have full movement and abilities, meaning the desire to get them is much, much more intense. Genshin is an actual arpg instead of a png simulator, so honestly, it's pretty good. But yeah, 2D waifus gambling is worse than slots. It's much, much better than Breath of the Wild at least, so exploring a cell shaded fantasy land is fun.

Try your luck during her meeting and find out!
Might check it out then. Sounds interesting and I know how gatcha systems work. Low time preference wins the day, you'll roll your waifu that's in the general pool eventually with the free rolls you get every week or so. Banner events can burn in hell though. That's just downright exploitation!

How about no? I'm going with no. I will probably offer to groom her fluffy tails. It's a horrible thing, but when weighed against the survival of our friends and the lives of millions, I'll do pretty much anything short of snu-snu, actual marriage, doing something bad to our friends, or sealing off the possibility of restoring Gardy to secure her aid.
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Fluffing the witch huh? It was an inevitability.
Damn. Now that crosses the line and actually is lewd. Even that crow's aroused. That girl's going to get a ton of doujins featuring her very soon if you catch my meaning.

Yes, but do note that it's in exchange for something we have a dire need of. Practically any other mamono need only give us a mere opportunity before we're diving right for the exotic bits and viewing the chance to indulge our fascination with them as a reward worthy of the royalty we are.

It took the fate of a nation for us to even consider debasing ourselves by showing actual tender love and care for *her* fluffy tails. Well, I think we did offer to do that for one of her "hints" but she refused stating she'd rather us enjoy them "in the flesh" and not the dreamscape tea room. So that means, at the very least, meeting her in person again and then... fluffing her fluffy tails. God I feel so dirty just thinking about it.

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