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/qst/ - Quests

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Welcome back one and all into a new part of our adventure.
Last night was a busy one indeed, not only did we graduate in manliness but we managed to work together (yes, even with Lady White!) and overcome a dangerous ambush. Our group remains whole and unbreakable. Now, we return to the capital... We've been away for a week and things have changed.

Previous Threads

Twitter for schedule updates

Perks and spells for our main character

Characters met by Arawn.

People from Muribel.

Bath smut
Neither daylight and time did anything to dissipate the eery fog permeating the landscape, giving the boring, arid landscape of Muribel an unearthly atmosphere. Unfortunately, it wasn't accompanied by lower temperatures. Any chill running up your spine was entirely mental, the sun continued to cast its heavy rays on top of your skull mercilessly as your group traveled the ankle-high fog that, thankfully, wasn't thick enough to obscure the ground.

''Think we oughta stop for a spell before we get into that crowd? I need to piss anyway, things'll get busy once we get closer.''

''Goodness Zhu, do you have to be so crass?'' Klesiah grimaced at her friend.

''Yeah, fuck this heat.''

''Despite tanning so nicely?'' Klesiah continued with mischief growing on her face and soul. ''Your skin could do with another week here, enduring the heat is a small price for a little exotism.''

''Really?'' The half-blind swordswoman looked genuinely interested in her friend's words. ''Think Arawn got a taste for bronze? Getting some juicy feelings outta him?''

Shereen made a strange gargled noise of disapproval. You'll never hear the end of what happened in the bath...

''Change the subject would ya?'' You growled, which only worked to make Zhu widen her grin. Thankfully, all talks stopped when your party got close enough to properly observe the big city.

Muribel capital looked almost mystical with the pale fog floating throughout its surface. From your faraway position (still a solid hour of walking) the crowd mentioned by Zhu was a sizeable mass of Mamonos concentrated the western walls of the city with a few lines spreading toward faraway entries whilst the middle gatehouse processed long lines of carts. The fog made it difficult to see the city's actual inhabitants but the mass of ships coming to port was quite the oddity, a sizeable amount had weighted anchors throughout the bay as they waited near the city port, a few were also sailing for the palace smaller wharf which couldn't be seen from your position.

There were also people lingering in the nearby farms and the road perhaps some travelers found temporary employment? Your group will soon have to mind their words.

''I think those ships belong to noble houses.'' Shereen said after taking a moment to follow your stare. ''My sister came with a big haul of slaves last week, there hasn't been any gathering of nobles for a long time so a market of Moons is the perfect excuse for people to come.'' She paused, hesitating.

''Good timing with the expedited ritual, too.'' Hildegarde commented, glaring at the ships. ''Would these nobles bring champions with them?''

''Yes... Maybe not all of them but...'' Shereen pinched her lips together and rolled a strand of hair around a furry finger. ''My mother holds martial might in high esteem so honor duels are a regular occurrence in bigger gatherings. Moons who can fight are highly coveted.''
''So the palace will have its forces bolstered as time pass.'' The maid concluded, shifting her gaze from the open sea to concentrate on the big crowd at the gates. ''And this gathering at least explain why she hasn't sent an armed contingent after us and relied on a dirty ritual, the illusion of calm need to be maintained as she prepares to kill everyone.'' Hildegarde kicked a rock, irritation managing to crack her placid mask and voice.

''We'll find a way.'' You said, stepping next to the usually placid maid. ''Now's not the time to start getting discouraged, we've got important friends to meet and we started today on a high note too.''

You wondered how intense of an anger Hildegarde must be feeling for her feelings to show so openly. Her gaze momentarily settled on you then directed itself back on the road you've traveled, toward the recently abandoned community your party left behind.


This morning, everyone but Shereen had accepted the reality that yesterday assault had taken a grim toll on innocent lives. Whilst the horror might not have any interest in anything but its target, the shades were far more chaotic in their endless thirst for souls. Their ability to phase through walls combined with the lack of sunlight didn't give you any illusions about your host fate.

Hildegarde's investigation yielded unexpected results: she found every member of the community safe from harm, holed up together inside a reinforced basement, leading to an impromptu meeting between your party and their leader.

''What happened is entirely my fault, I'm truly, truly sorry!'' Barely a minute after meeting outside the mayoral house, your little sun was already bowing before the lady-snake, starting on a weak foot.

''It isss fine.'' Responded the lamia. ''We've housed important guests one after another: always signs of disasters.''

The leader of this small community of a dozen families was an elderly lamia whose faded appearance belied an intelligent mind. Everything about this woman looked tired and worn, from her pale and scratched red-scaled lower body to a face marred by age and stress, everything gave the impression of a tired old snake but the fierce glimmer inside her brown gaze told a different story. Behind her, sitting on the resident stair, was an equally grim-faced elderly man. Lizard children and a few young centaurs peeked from the various opening of the houses and yapping dogs further hinted at the vibrant community dwelling therein.

''We remember suffering Cold Nightmares during the rebellion.'' The lady-snake continued, forked tongue peeking out of her lips. ''Packs roamed the countryside, causing endless tragedies... yessterday screams were different. Very different.''
''There was a particular creature that wanted to kill me. It's gone now, you've nothing to worry about.'' Shereen replied, finally looking at the elderly woman in the eyes. ''I think I could help your community with the damage at a later time... Though for now, I think I can help cover the damage!''

''That shalt not do.'' The snake-woman gently interrupted, shaking her head. ''Guests you came and as guests, you shall depart. Whilst tragedy has been averted, having your charity would only further beholden us to the crownsss.'' A gentle, motherly smile graced her tired old face when Shereen ears twitched in surprise. ''I remember seeing you, gentle princess, burning with fiery emotions five years ego. I do wonder if ye would have succeeded in sweeping the crowd in your words and feelings... It certainly was starting to happen before that deadly interruption.''

''Ah...'' Despite being a recluse, Shereen couldn't hide her identity.

''We knew to be vigilant when her majesty came to our abode after we housed that elven gentleman.'' The lamia continued, ignoring Shereen discomfort. ''Then a few days later was a gaggle of dangerous travelers speaking about their fallen city... then a fox arrived afterward from that same direction, we knew very well we had to be careful. I hope our instinct can be forgiven by The Blood.'' With her speech over, the lady-snake inclined her head and that soon progressed into a full, submissive bow.

''No, no, that's okay, please rise milady. You've saved your people from these shades, I... despite my blood, I wouldn't have been able to do it.'' Shereen lips pursed together and after a cursory glance backward toward your assembled party, took a decision and stepped closer.

''Do you think it would be possible for you to lead all the families here out of the country?'' That statement made the man, who'd been listening idly, jump to his feet. Thankfully, Shereen didn't look intimidated. ''This fog is no natural occurrence, my mother is doing... something dangerous, something that could end up harming your people.''

''As suspected, this phenomenon is because of The Blood...'' The lamia remained composed.

''Yeah, and, well, I dunno if you even have enough time to get away safely but...but I believe you deserve the warning.''

''Mydra...'' The man spoke and the lady-snake held up a sharp fist in response, forcing him into silent compliance.

''The Blood herself is a danger to us...?'' The lady snake sked with plenty of apprehensions but no hint of disbelief. Shereen must have confirmed doubts she'd been holding for a long time.

''I'll... We will do what we can to stop her but I dunno what will happen, it might be wise to go far from the capital... and Myrtidal, too. There's been trouble there.'' A shade of sadness came to mar your little sun lively voice.

''...Muribel truly is a dying country.''

Shortly afterward your party set out to reach the capital by noon.

Even now the last statement of that wizened lady snake kept nagging at you. You've spent two months in this country and barely experienced its troubles. The capital looked rather peaceful but that was likely an illusion born from accompanying Shereen, the fact that you had to make an ally out of a gang leader was... Unusual but not what you'd call a sign of a ''dying country''.

The city of Myrtidal had been the biggest hotbed of misery you've experienced, if it is a true mirror into the country then, perhaps, it'd be right to truly believe the final statement of that old lady... Assuming you manage to save Anais and that leads to Zerase and Ensan ambitions crumbling, where will that leave Shereen?

Without the almighty god queen, her influential firstborn, and Shereen natural authority with sharing Zerase blood, Muribel will likely devolve into regional warlords vying for powers. This could motivate the Allied Kingdoms or some southern country to try a power grab in the area... The people's misery is unlikely to stop if, somehow, your party manages to save Anais without casualties, it'll only be a good ending for you and your allies.

''Arawn?'' Shereen noticed your stare and grew a little bashful. ''What's up?''

Yesterday... Quite a few things happened. If Shereen doesn't want to remain in her country even if it's for the people's best interest, you'll bring her with you back into Throne Town and drag her into whatever trouble your lineage causes.

''Nothing.'' You answered after finishing your thoughts, giving her beautiful dark hair a gentle ruffle. ''We should take this opportunity for a little planning, I think. It wouldn't be wise to discuss how to enter the city once we reach the crowd.''

Your previous mean of escape -a tunnel dug into the wall of Marleon- wasn't reliable because it had been plugged after your escape.

''Oh yeah, it'd be better to wait for now.'' Elina suddenly spoke. You still had a hard time identifying her as the angel you knew because of her lack of wings and halo (both hidden after an intimate ritual that was little more than thirty minutes of mutual -touching- meditation). ''When I set out, Siggy told me she'd reach us with Hao by following the link intensity. You can feel them, right?''

''Yeah.' You admit, looking down to control your emotion even if that did nothing to calm your increasing heartbeat. ''A whole lot of excitement getting to me and I think Hao is happy enough to cry somewhere out there.'' You waved at the town and felt Klesiah warm hand gently grabbing yours. Your gentle knight said nothing, simple radiating empathy was enough to support you.

''She told me they'd find you and figure out a way to smuggle all of us into Marleon.''

''Nothing prevents us from being proactive.'' You retorted.

''And fucking up.'' Zhu added. ''Methink its best to stick with the plan. Angel promised to reach us back in Myrtidal and so far, your friends kept their words.''
''Then... maybe we should wait there?'' Shereen said, pointing toward a familiar area.

''Oh, that's the empty gain silo.'' From your position, it'd take only thirty minutes to reach. It was a nicely isolated place with only an abandoned farm nearby to give some impression of civilization. You couldn't see any living souls nearby

''Something special there?''

''It's where we dealt with a certain pig.'' Zhu answered her blueberry friend. ''Hell, I wouldn't say no to a little reminiscence, starting the day with a story of triumph sound pretty good!''

''What if the Pharaoh has that place under surveillance?'' Hildegarde's cold bucket of logic didn't deter Zhu's enthusiasm.

''I'd say it'd start our day on the perfect foot.'' Your comrade responded, showing the chromatic artifact jammed inside her eye. ''Besides, maybe we can capture whoever comes to kill us and get something outta em.''

Not exactly the wisest of options but, as reckless as it was, there were some truths in Zhu words. Also, somewhere isolated will make it far easier to talk openly with... your last companions.

Gods, it's only been two months, but it felt like a lifetime since you last saw Sieglinde and Hao!

>Go lose yourself in the crowd and wait for your compatriots. It'll be easier to use all the people as a blanket for your party to lose themselves in.

>Move into the grain silo, nicely isolated and protected from the harsh sun, too. Your party is also well-armed, normal people aren't allowed in Marleon. A perceptive guard could see past the disguises of your equipment and bring you problems inside the crowd...



Here are some miscellaneous information and one last choice to be taken care of later.

Mina and Ama have both retreated inside their respective anchors. The Witch needs to rest until sunset whereas the Shard wanted your party to remain inconspicuous.

Shereen Horror Mark is something that will need to be erased after a trip into the Red World. Ama is confident she can do it herself but nothing prevents you from doing it, of course. The mark itself doesn't give Zerase any influence or possibility to spy on Shereen, it's a spell purely meant to bait otherwordly horrors into consuming her soul.

Finally, Mina stands at 70% magical reserve. Before setting out for the road, your party had plenty of time to rejuvenate her completely.
Arawn = 100%
Shereen = 100%
Elina = 100%
You can pick and mix everyone's reserves to rejuvenate Mina. Since a confrontation is unlikely for the immediate future, I'm putting this detail on the backburner. It's a simple choice left for you guys, Mina at 70% magical reserve can still operate at her best.
>Move into the grain silo, nicely isolated and protected from the harsh sun, too. Your party is also well-armed, normal people aren't allowed in Marleon. A perceptive guard could see past the disguises of your equipment and bring you problems inside the crowd...

The Mark should be dealt with together once we find a more secure place to deal with things without interruption.

We should replenish Mina's reserves fully, drawing equally from those who can donate.
Damnit, gonna miss a bit of this thread because of IRL but I can make a quick post with few questions.

Ok, can't we meet them halfway in the secret passage? Didn't Fortune's folks say they'd have the blockage removed right around now? Is that grain silo within sight range of said secret passage? It was a tunnel and the exit/entrance was "out of the way" if I remember so the chance of discovery ought be minimal.

As for Mina's restoration, how much does she need in total for a full refill? As our mana reserves are at a premium we should drain only like 5 percent of ours and source the rest equally from Shereen and Klesiah. As we're only refilling 30 percent instead of 99 percent everyone should still have plenty of mystical ammo to spare, but we want ours as close to full as possible. Fusions ain't cheap and a big resonance activation could save our asses like it did against that abominations from beyond the stars.

If the tunnel option isn't feasible I can go with the silo option. Walking in the front door is our only option if that tunnel's closed and yeah, we'll be caught red handed right off the bat with that approach. Also, disguises, get them sorted. If Shereen can shapeshift or alter her hair, eye, and skin color she needs to do that now. If Ama can help her with that all the better. If we can dye or dirty up Hilde's hair with wood ash from a fire or something we do that. Hell, she's the kind that would have thought to do that herself without us prompting. She knows there's still likely an APB for a white haired human within the city walls. Thus she's on the radar along with us and Shereen. Also, if we haven't done so already, hide Elina's wings and halo. I don't know why we wouldn't have but if we got dumb we best fix that.
Oh, about that Silo, anything within observation distance? Y'know, a tower along the wall or something else besides flat plains that some asshat might be hiding behind/within? I don't think the vegetation is thick enough for a guhille suit to work but blood magic might be able to provide active camo. Can Ama give us any tips on how to detect that BS if it's a thing?
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>Ok, can't we meet them halfway in the secret passage?
You can try but the situation changed. The crowd will make it much harder to remain inconspicuous.
>Didn't Fortune's folks say they'd have the blockage removed right around now?
That was the plan, yes. Whether or not it still is remains to be seen.
>Is that grain silo within sight range of said secret passage?
>It was a tunnel and the exit/entrance was "out of the way" if I remember so the chance of discovery ought to be minimal.
Yeah, it was a tunnel that proceeded under the city walls, it didn't progress far enough to get close to the silo.

>As for Mina's restoration, how much does she need in total for a full refill?
Mina absorbs Mana from Arawn, meaning that he absorbs energy from people around him and break it into his own. She works on a simple 1=1 basis (unlike Elina who needs 3=1 for magical replenishment. This does NOT work in reverse, absorbing magic from her waste 2 points of mana.) But these are just details to worry about when situations of transfers come up.
>As our mana reserves are at a premium we should drain only like 5 percent of ours and source the rest equally from Shereen and Klesiah.
I completely forgot to put in Klesiah. Damn!
>Also, disguises, get them sorted. If Shereen can shapeshift or alter her hair, eye, and skin color she needs to do that now. If Ama can help her with that all the better. If we can dye or dirty up Hilde's hair with wood ash from a fire or something we do that. Hell, she's the kind that would have thought to do that herself without us prompting. She knows there's still likely an APB for a white haired human within the city walls.

Unfortunately, Shereen isn't skilled enough to reliably shapeshift herself so she's relying on putting on some layer of clothes and using her short stature to mask herself from people. Hildegarde took care to dirty herself in manners your described yes, and also cover herself with a traditional shawl against the sun. One would need to remove her headdress to really see her white hair.

>Also, if we haven't done so already, hide Elina's wings and halo.
Already taken care of, I mentioned it in the text.

>Oh, about that Silo, anything within observation distance?
There's an abandoned farm not too far, otherwise the place is deserted. Zhu can make a sweep to see if people are hiding, soulsight doesn't go through walls but -it does- allow her to see unusual glows of colors. If someone is, say, hiding in a wall, she'd be able to see their colors through holes.
>Can Ama give us any tips on how to detect that BS if it's a thing?
Ama is currently unavailable and will need to be actively roused by Shereen. That fight yesterday took a lot out of her!
Silo option it is.
>Zhu's Soul Vision can see through both normal and active camo
We gotta learn that spell from her somehow at some point. It really ought to be within our potential spell list and damn it it useful! I assume clothes/a ghillie suit aren't enough to block it. Need a full on wall and even then they'll need a hole to see through which screws them over regardless.

Err, any way to detect "bounded fields" as it were? Also, when can the red world purging of the mark happen and how long does it take? The sooner that mark is removed the better I'll feel.
>Err, any way to detect "bounded fields" as it were?
Not sure what you mean by that.
>Also, when can the red world purging of the mark happen and how long does it take? The sooner that mark is removed the better I'll feel.
The Hour of Lullaby will be the safest moment to do it because all Red World chaotic denizens will be asleep.
You gave the leather strap keeping your broken shield on your back a tug, tightened the dark cloths wrapped around your magitek gauntlet, and pointed at the silo to break the general indecision gripping your party. ''Zhu is right, it'll be better to wait for our friends.''

You were proud of the fact your tightened throat didn't show in your voice


Thankfully, there were no complications with settling inside the silo. Hildegarde and Zhu inspected the general area and the deserted atmosphere was no mere illusion as neither of them found anything suspicious inside and out. The place was one big empty dark room that, with Focus and lamps, revealed nothing but emptiness... and marks of your previous struggles. Scratches on the ground dotted the place like scars, holes revealed damaged from missed spells or creatures thrown away but also.

''Yep, yep pretty sure that was a portal!'' Zhu (helped by Hildegarde) found a mark that looked like burnt flesh fused with the asphalt. ''I don't think this is where I got gutted but man was it one fun afternoon. Arawn became one badass iron lord too, cooking that fat bastard from the inside out.''

''Jeez, Zhu, do you have any idea how scared I was when that... that tentacle stabbed you?''

''Hey, it's fine!'' Zhu responded to Shereen, tapping her belly. You could almost feel Klesiah grip tighten on her glaive. ''That slime did good work, maybe I've got something precious growing in there now after yesterday.''

Aaaaaaah! ''Don't say that!'' Your scream echoed throughout the silo, prompting Zhu to guffaw just as loudly whilst Shereen stared at her Moon in open-mouthed stupefaction.

''Hey, it's all good, my dude.'' Zhu said, patting her belly. ''I ain't going to sabotage your love life once your girls get here, don't worry. Just doing one last indulgence.''

So said your comrade and she began to relate the battle against Horkus, soon joined by Shereen who made sure to curtail the embellishments. However, one person wasn't listening.

Elina kept pacing back and forth, walking up and down the length of this underground silo, feeling a strange unease that, soon enough, began to infect your heart. Your friend's voices droned into background noise as you focused on analyzing this feeling you could only describe as instinct, a surge you could only attribute as paranoia. There was absolutely nothing here, Zhu could see people's souls, Hildegarde was trained to handle all kinds of otherwordly threats and Mina would have manifested if something dangerous to Klesiah soul was lurking yet... you and Elina felt unexplainable discomfort.

''Arawn?'' Klesiah imposed herself. There was no hiding your worry from her and that provoked hers. ''Elina? Something is going on?''

''Nah, it's okay. Just... feeling a bit weird. Nervous, kinda like being watched I guess but there's nothing to confirm my suspicions. Sorry Arawn, I think my mood got to you.'' Elina straightened her posture and walked next to you.
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''Actually... I remember this weird feeling before I rescued Hildegarde.'' Right, now you remember! ''In that cargo hold, something didn't feel right and that's what led me to find you.'' You finished, looking at the maid.

''Hrm... Ensan threw me in that pocket dimension, her magic then must have had something to do with souls.'' Hildegarde pinched her chin as she continued to hypothesize. The dark silo was slowly but surely beginning to feel oppressive. ''Elina was also pretty quick to be affected by Solemnval curse. Half of an angel's existence is their soul and Arawn nature must also make him sensitive to things affecting souls...''

''You trying to convince yourself our worries have merits?'' The maid scoffed at your sentence.

''...Yeah. You guys are telling me a major demon from the Red World died here. Perhaps it had some kind of effect and you're feeling it because of your natural sensitivity?''

''Make sense.'' Elina nodded at the maid. ''I suppose it doesn't matter, we're here to hunker down anyway.''

Hrm... You can agree with Hildegarde. You could simply be feeling paranoid due to your natural sensitivity to souls. Horkus died here, there's no telling what happened in the Red World... And that's why it might be tickling your sense of self-preservation. A little dread to keep away from somewhere dangerous, nothing more.

>Perhaps you can try taking a peek into the Red World yourself, see what's up.
A) Rouse Ama from her slumber and ask her to do it instead, it ought to be easier for her. (Go with her?)
Going into the Red World yourself will need a weak fusion, draining around 30% of your reserves. (You aren't in battle so Arawn can carefully measure the magic he needs).

>Continue waiting here until Sieglinde and Hao reach you. That's far more important than anything else. The upcoming reunion is what's throwing your feelings all over the place.

>Wait outside instead of this dark, oppressive place. Better to put some distance between yourself and whatever seems to be affecting your soul.

>>Perhaps you can try taking a peek into the Red World yourself, see what's up.
>Going into the Red World yourself will need a weak fusion, draining around 30% of your reserves. (You aren't in battle so Arawn can carefully measure the magic he needs).
Gonna give this around... 40 minutes of wait time. Spending that amount of mana should need more than one vote.
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Alright, might be a little premature to spend so much mana, but let's see what's happening. Listening to your instincts last time wasn't a bad idea after all...

Probably gonna be my last answer today. Getting back int the groove of writing.
Rouse Ama, have her do it/ask her what it could be. We can ask her if she'd rather us accompany her or if a trip to the red world is even necessary.
Rolled 2 (1d2)

Sudden tie. Rolling to break it.
Just to clarify, we're asking her about this first, then deciding on what to do after that. I assume she's been sleeping since last night so she *should* be just about ready to go. She's just being lazy. Bet a lot of the nine-tails are pretty darn slothful come to think of it...

Also, how far out are we from the hour of lullaby? I do believe Ama said we shouldn't ask for much help during the "day" but mere information shouldn't be too much for her before nightfall. Her going into the red world might be pushing it though so best to get her opinion first.

God I hate relying on our nemesis like this but as they say, the enemy of my enemy... until such time they are not. I sure hope Sieg and Hao aren't able to detect this level of foxy fuckery. If they find out we let Shereen cut a Faustian bargain with Ama before combat happens they're gonna flip the fuck out!
>Also, how far out are we from the hour of lullaby?
The Hour of Lullaby happens at dusk, that stretch of time where the sun has disappeared under the horizon but still cast its light in the sky. So roughly 5-6 pm but it does vary by season, country and even certain days. It's 100% dependant on the sun's position.
It's currently around 12:30 pm, you've arrived at noon near Marleon.
Do you think Ama could be looking forward to everyone else flipping out because she became a good guy now?
I'm sure that everyone thinks that she is doing all of this for some convoluted reason, and it will likely involve calling in a favor at some inopportune moment.
So she slept till noon before we rudely woke her up? Eh, if it's nothing she can just grouchily tell us as much and go back to sleep. If it's not she can tell us how to deal with it then go back to sleep. Better than going in blind if we must go after all. Could we drag a linked soul too and from that hellscape? If we must go in and deal with an issue the more the merrier. Plus Hao can also freely shift. I wonder if she's just pranking us...

I assume that yes, she would VERY much like that. Such emotions are her joy and apparent raison d'etre apart from our suffering. She's still not the good guy, just a bad guy currently allied with us against an even worse guy. Y'know, like a daemon allying with an inquisitor to screw over a bigger even worse daemon because reasons...
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''Shereen, can you rouse Ama?'' Your question cause a flutter of activity on your little sun fluffy appendages.

You also realized something obvious: the geas of tongue seems gone. You've pronounced the witch name without consequence... Little good that's doing now, but that's at least one less thing to worry about.

''Stop being so lazy!'' Shereen suddenly said loudly, breaking your trail of thoughts. She crossed her arms under her modest breasts and huffed. ''It's already past noon, we've got something to ask, so help us!''

The evil fluffy witch manifested shortly afterward, albeit only half-bodied. Like a ghost, only the upper part of her existence visibly showed itself hovering above Shereen. All nine of her tails remained of course and her bed hair made her look strangely cu-

No. No, no, stop that line of thought!

''Muuugh... What?'' She moaned lazily.
''Wake up.'' You growled a response. ''We need your expertise about something.''

You promptly explained your predicament and by the increasingly serious look on Ama face, your worries were undoubtedly warranted.

''Horkus death had a strong effect in that chaotic plane that's for sure.'' Ama began mid-yawn. ''Your assessment was right, Hildegarde, those two are much more sensitive to influence on souls because of their natural existence, though I can't tell what's happening without taking a look. One possibility is that tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of creatures are feasting on Horkus remains and your presence here is burning countless red dwellers by the seconds. Soon enough everyone might end up feeling a similar dread and get a bit hungry and tired... alternatively.'' Ama paused and looked at her empty hand, she was mimicking holding her pipe and was caught off guard by its absence. ''Mhrm. There could also be another Red Prince attracted to Horkus corpse and its presence is being felt by our sensitive souls.''

''Could you take a look?'' Your question made the pale ears of the vixen flatten.

''Sure, but I'd rather go with you or our darling execution here.'' She pointed to Hildegarde. ''Both of you are the only ones that can survive that plane. Also, since it's not the Hour of Lullaby, the Red World is dangerous, and if this body of mine shatter, there goes my help.'' Ama cleared her throat and settled backward as if sitting on a sofa.

''Actually, yeah. I'm not going alone, I can finally break up someone else plays.''

''Is it really important to know what's happening in that hellscape?'' Hildegarde asked.

''Maybe, if we know, it could give us a hint to Zerase intention.'' Klesiah answered. ''That Horkus was a primeval demon, right? And it infected Shereen. I don't believe that could have been anyone but the Pharaoh doing...''

Ama nodded silently. She said it herself when explaining Zerase ritual: that snake could have modified the ritual of apotheosis with modern application of magic, making Ama knowledge unreliable.
>Who should go with Ama in the Red World?
(Arawn/Hildegarde) Hildegarde doesn't need magic to get inside. However, she won't be able to go out without Ama. If the two are somehow separated, she'll be stranded in the Red World.

>Let go of this idea and wait for your friends. Is it wise to start investigating without them?

Ama has full control of the geas and since everyone here knows there's no enjoyment to be had with our tooth aches. Once the other girls get here though I expect it to come back with a vengeance. It's more "fun" that way. For Ama.

How much danger does she think we're all in right now? Like, could we just let this go until the hour of lullaby without any real consequences? I don't want to risk another big boss fight with an entity on par with Horkus even if we got the juice to do a full fusion with around 10-20 percent remaining and that brand new artifact adding yet more capabilities on top of last time (which we could have used Mecha Scale Elemental Cannons I think, but lacked the mana to actually do that which we would not lack now).

Then again, maybe I do. That level of power is easily enough to take out Horkus 2.0 without much of a sweat even though it'll mean we'll be out of mana until we get to rest again. If Ama can fight there at full strength during the day than it'd be us (as Gardy), Ama, and Hilde vs a Greater Daemon. It might be in charge of that potential horde though and quantity has a quality all its own...

Point is, ask Ama if we're in significant danger and how bad it could be and/or if we would want to risk a big fight in the Red World for the prospect of roasting another Greater Daemon that may or may not be on Zerase's payroll before our friends arrive. Hao would be a big help I think if she got to keep that axe around somehow...

As for why the daemon might be on Zerase's side, well, it's an obvious offer. Help her become a god, she grants the daemon a permanent incarnation/body in realspace. They all seem to want that rather badly. Just like the daemons of Chaos...
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>How much danger does she think we're all in right now?
Right now? Without going into the Red World? She summarizes the worst that could happen is growing a bit tired and hungry because everyone's souls have to consume a bit more energy to burn up the creatures lingering nearby. If a prince like Horkus made its nest here then your souls could suffer some short-term pollutions that will clear off by tonight once you get away from here. (Only real negative effect will be strengthened appetite and emotions. Something easily controlled with will.) You'd need to stay here for a few weeks to really feel strong negative effects.
>Like, could we just let this go until the hour of lullaby without any real consequences?
Yeah, but it might be difficult to come back here during the Lullaby since you'll presumably be in Marleon.
>If we would want to risk a big fight in the Red World for the prospect of roasting another Greater Daemon that may or may not be on Zerase's payroll before our friends arrive
The few Princes she knows about make the prospect of a fight in the Red World VERY dangerous despite you being fully powered up. She's rather you wait for tonight if you want to do something so monumentally reckless so she can at least try to keep you alive.

Now she could describe the three Red Princes she know about but that would tie into the choice of waiting for Sieg and Hao since it'll be enough time for them to reach you... or not.
>That pic
Who's getting that headrub? Is that what Ama wants from us right now? A fox is a type of canine/dog after all and, much as I hate to admit it, saving Shereen from that soul devouring horror makes her a "good" dog right now...

If Ama would rather us fight the worst case scenario at night I'm inclined to agree. If even Gardy at full power plus our artifact enhancements to his already formidable combat ability would have an issue with those fuckers we want to set it up so that we're at a decisive advantage if we even want to fight them at all.

Given that, I'm inclined to listen to her tales of who/what they are and what they can do both in the Red World and what might be possible if they've contracted with Zerase/a master of pearl magic.

Can we sense how close or far our other girls are or if they're in distress/danger? How are they feeling? Can we more effectively broadcast our position to them somehow? Damn it, just one little spoiler and I'm already worried sick about them!
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>Who's getting that headrub?
A cute robot. M14
>Is that what Ama wants from us right now?
Ama is very grumpy right now but hey, maybe you can treat her like a good dog and find out.
>Given that, I'm inclined to listen to her tales of who/what they are and what they can do both in the Red World and what might be possible if they've contracted with Zerase/a master of pearl magic.
One choice it is.
>Can we sense how close or far our other girls are or if they're in distress/danger?
They still feel a bit far. Otherwise, no sign of distress, though a whole lot of apprehension and nervousness is slowly affecting you.
>Can we more effectively broadcast our position to them somehow?
Already doing it by simply feeling emotions. You'd need to embrace Focus and cast a few spells to really light up but that's overdoing it.

>Have Ama explain to you and your party about the Red Princes she knows about.
I'll close votes after two hours. I'd like to start early tomorrow with writing.
I forgot to ask but they did bring in an expert on the city and we did inform them about Fortune's gang didn't we? They just need to know about that secret passage and them getting out of than back into the city should be easy. I kind of fear they may have it on lockdown to anyone who isn't a known merchant or noble. Filthy plebs and basic bitch travelers may not have the ability to freely exit the city once inside it or be unable to re-enter once they exit.

I'm kind of against casting spells right now. Pretty sure they got some kind of scanner network along the walls. They know what they did and one possibility is a massive deep strike teleportarium/portal assault. They know exactly whose corn flakes they pissed in when they kidnapped Anais and I doubt Zerase is dumb/arrogant enough to underestimate Daiyu and her earnest desire to prove to all the humies that she ain't all that bad. Making good on an alliance with gusto is a good step in that direction.

I just hope Shereen's family didn't find out who exactly we were. Arawn is hopefully a very common Elven name. Without the "Loukanous" bit to add on to it we're just another Elf. Rare, of some note, but nothing to be overmuch concerned about.

If... nope, stopping there, no ideas for you!
Oh, if the info is good I suppose we could give her a headpat. A good dog deserves treats after all and the happier she is the more effort she'll put into helping/fighting for us.

Again, I don't like making Ama happy, but her happiness gauge is now directly tied to the survival chances of our party. Thus, keep that fox happy!
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>I forgot to ask but they did bring in an expert on the city and we did inform them about Fortune's gang didn't we?
Banu remained behind. Arawn doesn't know what kind of allies Siggy has in better details, he didn't talk about it with Elina on the way.
>If... nope, stopping there, no ideas for you!
I hope Zerase kidnapped your little sister!
Huh uh. Excuses. You like the fox, I know it.
>I hope Zerase kidnapped your little sister!
Isn't that Gwendolyn the Gazer? I think Myr told us that she got turned into a monstergirl to save her life and that was her name. Still wanna touch her wriggly eye stalks, but not so sure about romancing her with that knowledge. I can only hentai so hard my dude.

No, I don't like the fox. She is our eternal tormentor and is still at the top of our "to kill" list. We're not blood/vengeance crazed idiots however. Pragmatism states we keep her happy, for now.

Once this is over she goes right back to being our hated nemesis. A nemesis that will almost certainly not just up and leave Shereen once this is done with. She finally gets to muck about in realspace after lord knows how long. She ain't gonna just give that up. Especially since she signed no contract saying that she ought to do so and because our collective despair over that situation will fill her with endless joy...
Indeed, Gwendolyn Overlord of Monsters in dwelling inside the elven forest of the Allied Kingdoms... She was pretty competent when helping you dealing with the foreign Mamonos refugees.
>Once this is over she goes right back to being our hated nemesis.
Now, now now... Nemesis yes, but hated? Naaaaah! She was fun in the bath, wasn't she?
I hope you're joking about that possible kidnapping. She did run off with a lot of productive citizens from this place if memory serves. Zerase would have a grudge to settle with her, but she's also best buddies with Tui so she should be fine if she stays close to her. Hopefully...

Like I said at the time, that was a hate fuck/BJ. Enjoyable as a form of catharsis perhaps, but not a thing we'll ever actively seek out from her again. The girls practically forced her upon us anyway!
Seem like our choice is the info dump.
>That spoiler
Your happiness is our sorrow. Why are you so giddy?

Also, if we do end up fighting another Prince/Greater Daemon Shereen's blood toxin was extremely effective against Horkus so I'd bet it'd work wonders on them as well. How much does it cost her to make a vial of it at maximum virulence? We got a few empty potion bottles so we got a container for it. Planting a knife coated with it into the skull or heart of one of those creatures ought to damn near kill it outright after a few ticks if ya catch my meaning. If we could coat and imbed a few knives all the better. We did tell Ama about that detail right?

Actually, once we're sure casting magic is OK and won't give away our position I say we have Shereen make a vial of said toxin. We don't know when it could come in handy and we got many people who can deliver it should the worst occur in our fight/negotiations with Zerase and Ensan. Us (with a fusion active), Hilde (throwing axe), and Klesiah (sword or lance). Elina maybe, but I think her halberd is a manifestation of her soul and thus the toxin may actually eat it like a potent acid eats metal so it'd actually be a bad idea to task her with delivery. Same might be said of Mina's arrows. Well, unless she can somehow make something else the "head" of the arrow without consequence to its accuracy and use.
>Also, if we do end up fighting another Prince/Greater Daemon Shereen's blood toxin was extremely effective against Horkus so I'd bet it'd work wonders on them as well. How much does it cost her to make a vial of it at maximum virulence?
You can worry about those details later. You should have a chance to plan things out.

>Actually, once we're sure casting magic is OK and won't give away our position I say we have Shereen make a vial of said toxin.
Shereen isn't at all confident about her spellcasting capabilities. The thing she used on Horkus wasn't directed on it, it was a poison to the very concept of life itself. Guy had it pretty rough, Shereen went WMD with her blood.

Still, you can see about doing that prep later. Be sure to keep it in mind.
You really like making me nervous don't you?

So the toxin was a conceptual weapon against the very concept of "life" eh? That tidbit makes me want the toxin even more as it means it'll not only nuke red world entities but your average poor living SOB as well. Sure would have been nice if we could have insta-killed that damned Minotaur back in Myrtidal with poison.

Just... make sure we don't get any on us or our friends in any way. Pretty sure that makes it a contact poison. Just it getting on someone's skin is a guaranteed death sentence!
Oh, crap, I just remembered, the reason the red world princes could fuck us up good and hard despite us being at full power.

If we actually had Gardy here and now we'd be fine, more than fine in fact. Able to curbstomp the fuckers with gusto even... but we don't. Therefore, we're still sadly vulnerable to whatever "domain" they have whereas Gardy himself would not be.

Horkus was essentially a "Keeper of Secrets" as well as a "Great Unclean One". The latter was it's direct combat ability/spell list in that regard, but the former was its actual "domain" that was its true nature that we damn near fell to. Were it not for a damn good roll and our other girls splitting that mental assault of pure and unrelenting lust and excess we'd have been rendered as a drooling... well, we all know what Slaanesh is about and yeah, that.

We *really* need to restore him ASAP. Too bad that option is likely locked behind a certain location within Throne Town...
''If Zerase can somehow use more entities like Horkus, I'd prefer avoiding confronting it before we're ready to take it down. Our fight with that pig only went our way because we ambushed him.'' You could easily tell that Elina and Klesiah were -not- at all forward with the idea of you or Hildegarde shifting into the Red World and they were glad they didn't have to argue with you to stop.

''Right, I'll be going back now.''

''No you won't.'' Ama pouted and grimaced when you stepped closer. ''You have some idea about those Red Princes, right? Share with us what you know, oh great fox of poisoned knowledge.''

''Muuuh.'' Her frustrated moan sounded like a genuine moo. ''I Gueeeesss. Discounting Horkus, I know about three others.'' Ama cleared her throat while rubbing her eyes. It's already noon you damn fox! Wake up!

A bush of tails slithered forward as she continuously failed to rub the grogginess out of her face. ''I don't feel like talking too much so I'll share a few harmless memories with you guys, better to see for yourselves anyway.''

Shereen touched one of the ephemeral tails without a hint of hesitation, prompting everyone else to do similarly. To (only a little bit) your chagrin, the sensation wasn't fluffy, her tail wasn't solid at all, the only sign of its existence was a warm temperature. Then came the usual foreign sensation seeking an entry into your mind, one you reluctantly allowed.

An image slowly coalesced into your mind's eye. You were inside a library, sitting in front of an open book illuminated by a pair of candles. The two pages showed a drawing and a small amount of writing, the little piece of art was a weird one because it showed a shadowy humanoid silhouette with a circle on top of its head -showing what looked to be a pair of sharp, feline ears- and two sharp eyes colored white. Above was the simple title of ''Pygmy.''

''What's that?'' Zhu said, interrupting the memory before you could read the book.

''The only prince I haven't seen with my own eyes.'' Ama groused. ''I don't know if it should be categorized as one, this thing is extremely elusive, and the explorer who was obsessed in finding it was convinced it was genuinely sentient. Unlike the others it doesn't seem to infect people negatively, though, I believe it can cause some kind of obsession in people by remaining somewhere for too long. That might have been the motivation for that scholar to seek it out throughout the Red World... Anyway, be a good girl and swallow your excitement for the next two alright?''

Well, that wasn't helpful, thought something so furtive would be highly difficult for Zerase to bend to her will. A shadowy entity who cause obsession huh? What a headache.

Ama tails slithered gently, sending another signal that, as always, needed your consent to shift your vision into another memory.
The familiar sight of the Red World changed your perception. The sky bright enough to hurt your eyes, the world of dark, obsidian material mixing with pores of cancerous flesh -feeding grounds- and finally were victims, far, far too many to count. Human silhouettes were prostrated throughout the plain dotted by odd buildings, each of them of female disposition and with a noticeable round belly to display obvious pregnancies, yet fleshy lines were attached to each of their stomachs in a mockery of the real thing. Hundreds of these ropes slithered like serpents toward a resting titan.

A mockery of human life rested there in the middle of this nest of twisted flesh. Wings bigger than three men wrapped around a lean body of deformed flesh. A face without eyes or noses faced downward toward an approaching, deformed fleshy silhouette and suddenly scooped it up with fat fingers, shoving the entire pregnant lady inside a jaw massive enough to make a single munch out of her.

''I told you guys, this is the source of that psychosis.'' You -no, Ama- spoke telepathically.

Regular words were almost impossible to pronounce inside the Red World, one needed a workaround for communication.

The memory ended before you saw who it is, exactly, the fox was speaking to but you -did- glimpses what looked to be dark wings...

''There was a baby boom a few years after the Great Crusade in the Allied Kingdoms.'' Ama began before anyone could ask an obvious question. ''However, one town showed a strange psychosis: mothers began to inexplicable kill their children in bouts of delusions and men would feel intense, manic joys for inexplicable reasons in the night, often leading to neglecting their families and pursue hedonistic behavior... Since I had nothing better to do at the time, I decided to investigate and that mockery of an angel is what I found.''

Ama's tail wiggled in your grasp after she cleared her throat.

''Vritra the Life-Giver.'' The vixen had a nasty smile. ''Bastard is attracted to babies, pretty sure he was created by some long-dead Pretender God to curtail humanity's reproductive potential or maybe just formed on his own in that hellhole. His existence starts to infect people's natural reproductive instinct and parental love, injecting a little too much ''joy'' into it while feasting on the souls of the defenseless. He's a smart one too, unlike Horkus, he's yet to get baited into incarnating in Mother Earth realm.''

''How did you deal with him?'' Klesiah tactfully avoided letting her anger show but it was unmistakable to you that she was boiling inside.

''Gathered the surviving Heroes and dislodged it out of that city. Wasn't easy, we had to get a little help from a tired goddess. Confronting one of the primeval demons inside the Red World is very, very dangerous... anyway let me show you guys one big mountain of trouble.''

Her ephemeral tails wiggled again and the last part of her little fantasy show began.
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The Red World uninviting landscape spread once more but the shaking ground immediately attracted your attention toward a moving mountain. Something like... a nest of mushroom was moving, each stalk bigger than the largest church you remember seeing. They towering above in the sky, enough to mask the presence of the sun and bask your position in shades. Far below in what you could only suppose to be a waistline was a bunch of featherless bird-like faces moving independently, a few settled on you... And their yellow eyes began to glow.

''Fuck, we leave now!'' One of your compatriots screamed telepathically, a certain firefox who hate to be your friend.

''In the year 135 CE (Childhood End, the era after the Great Crusade), the empire of Zen had a great harvest.'' Ama began, tails sliding out of reach. ''Yet the city of Xinyue was struck by a famine born from an unexplainable psychosis. People went through the stored grain, killing the garrison in a frenzy of violence, and shortly began to eat one another too.''

''I think I remember reading about that odd tragedy...'' Shereen said idly.

''Mmhm.'' Ama nodded. ''That fat bastard is a simple creature since it's all about gluttony. I call it The Moving Mountain. It tends to wander off after causing a tragedy so it's not -too- much of a problem but that freak of nature would be one hell of a headache if Zerase somehow managed to wrangle it.''

''W-wait. One second.'' Shereen imposed herself. ''Those tragedies could happen again in Marleon if one of those two freaks are here?''

''Yes.'' Ama blunt answer took your little sun by surprise. ''You'll begin to see odd behavior from people after a few months, but we all have far more immediate concerns, right?'' The witch yawned again. ''I'm taking a nap, see you guys soon.'' And like that, she retreated inside her anchor, the mood quickly devolved into dreadful silence.

''Ya know...'' Zhu spoke, voice echoing inside the empty underground silo. ''...Ya oughta go into that Red World once were far from here.''

Two out of three Princes were massive entities, they wouldn't be hard to see.

Damn! Having no idea about what's happening might just be worse than knowing!

>Writing reunion next, Just felt like posting this little info.
Hm, after some thinking this could be another long post. Feel free to discuss or ask stuff, I'll be on this one for a little while, need t preview a few things too.
Why do I have a feeling that rolls might be being done in the background?
Naah, I'd be fairly open about it. Rolling in the open allows me to do what I want! Or not...
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Given how down in the dumps this country is and what's about to go down if we fail... yeah, we're probably gonna have to face that damn mountain. Too bad that producing enough poison to take it out would probably fully exsanguinate Shereen given the size of the damnable thing.

I also get the feeling our other potential waifus might be coming in hot. After all, you don't pass up such juicy opportunities for potential suffering. Also, naming the current time period "Childhood End" is rather ominous. I don't know what possessed the authorities to call it that but ya don't use such terminology for "good" reasons whether consciously or subconsciously. Something very bad is going to happen independent of anyone's actions I bet.

Though it could also be a clever turn of phrase given its potential reference and what Daiyu's ultimate plan is. After all, if she has her way the time of Monsters and Mankind being separate species is coming to an end and it could be considered a happy ending for them both depending on one's view of things. A view I happen to share. Only a succubus could come up with this particular solution to the eons of enmity and slaughter between the two but hey, it'd work and granting the monsters sentience is a major gamble in and of itself. Her intent is pure at the very least...
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>Also, naming the current time period "Childhood End" is rather ominous
It nothing ominous. Those in positions of authority who survived the Great Crusade got a bit pretentious and deiced to name the new era Child Hood End as a way to demonstrate that humanity's childhood had ended after the great tragedy that was the Great Crusade. Granted, it's mostly in your neck of the wood but the allied Kingdoms and the Old World are big places.

Roughly 30% of the global population died during Damien rampage. Every culture was affected, every cities, every living soul. It really did carve a trauma into the entire races of humanity and, to a lesser extent, Monsters. Some, like the Allied Kingdoms, were hit harder than others.

Too bad Daiyu is a wee bit incompetent.
Oh, on that first subject. Err, how efficiently does holy energy convert to blood? I think holy can refill one's supply of it given how that'd be necessary to actually heal wounds and it clearly did with Adam (that was magitek bro's name right) but what's the ratio? Especially regarding Elina. She has essentially 3 times the mana capacity of a normal holy mage so she could possibly provide Shereen with quite a few pints.

Or maybe not. I do remember you saying that massive quantities of holy energy is a good way to "poison" a monstergirl. Potential complication given Daiyu's happy ending but it's not instantly toxic so we can work around that potentially. Can Shereen enchant the blood of others to make the toxin? We still have Klesiah, Elina and potentially others as technical virgins whose blood may be put to use in this endeavor...
Ouch, that's quite a hit. Black Death levels, not pretty.

Incompetence can be fixed, and fix it we shall. It's a long term goal along with permanently ending Ama's existence. I want the monstergirls to be happy and that means fixing their issue of "female only" reproduction. Every good mamono deserves a caring and loving husbando!

That can only happen if there's enough husbandos to go around. Far too many good, pure, and wonderful monstergirls are going without the joyful experience of hand holding, marriage, and family because the male to female ratio is utterly borked. Not even polygamy can fix how bad it is and that still raises the specter of extinction. We gotta fix this. For the monstergirls!
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>Err, how efficiently does holy energy convert to blood?
It's extremely efficient, though it's impossible to give exact measurements since, ultimately, each situation with healing is different. Elina would easily be able to refill someone's blood if they're at death's door.

However, refiling Shereen blood when she cast something is completely useless because her magic act as an amplifier for her blood. A relatively small cut can allow her to do outrageous things by extracting the blood out of it. A dose of holy while she's casting also run the risk of interfering with her spells; her blood would need to be replenished a few minutes after she cast something if you want to use Elina holy magic efficiently.

>Can Shereen enchant the blood of others to make the toxin?
Yup. it won't be efficient like her own though.

>We gotta fix this. For the monstergirls!
For the monstergirls! It's great to have goals! Now then, onto working on my thing... Haven't written Siggy and Hao in so long, I need to get my groove back!
>That pic
Poor Tiamat. Hope Daiyu doesn't go down that sad and tragic route.

I assume you mean efficient as in mana cost and not efficacy. We can thus serve as a battery to make a massive dose possible. This seems to be a mutual exclusive choice though. We can either go with massive amounts of blood toxin or resort to the "wipe mechanic" I mentioned last thread with the death pearls, but we won't have the collective mana reserves for both.

This leaves us with a choice of what "boss fight" we wanna face. We can insta-nuke one, but the other will remain. Either we wipe out Zerase and Ensan plus their adds, or we wipe out the Mountain. We will have to face the one we don't just nuke legit sadly. Thank the lord Shereen didn't get her soul ripped out!
Words are blurring together a little too much to make rereading easy, I think I'll post tomorrow or much later this evening.

There are gonna be a few more long posts in the future.
All this distraction gave one benefit: you completely overlooked the strengthened intensity of foreign emotions gently reaching you like an increasing tide.

''What kind of bastard feed on babies?'' Zhu growled. ''I hope we can remove that fucker.''

''Don't get overzealous.'' Hildegarde retorted gently. ''Milady Anais remain our priority... although I suspect we'll need to handle many complications. Don't get distracted, I... I could use your strength.''

Zhu looked at the maid in genuine surprise, looking a little touched. ''Hey, hey you already did have my help. I don't think we'd have made it out unscathed from that city without ya, or even yesterday.''

''I'm practicing asking for help.'' The maid said flatly, yet kept her gaze away from Zhu. ''I'll probably have to do it quite a bit today.''

''Try saying please.''

On the other side of that door, above the short flight of stairs... Maybe you should go open it yourself! Hao and Sieglinde are right there! And with that feeling gripping your heart, the door opened from the outside, causing blinding light to invade your party's dark refuge, Hildegarde and Zhu reacted with a well-honed reflex by dragging Shereen away from danger.

You couldn't fault them because the door was kicked open and a swift silhouette jumped down, landing in front of you.

''Iiiiit-guh!'' Hao's distinctive accent squeezed your heart, emotions rushed all over your body, gods damn it don't cry now Arawn! ''Stop! No no! Bad girl! Friend! We friends!''

Hildegarde had rushed toward your knight and attempting to wrestle her down but the lizard girl not only stood her ground but was slowly outmuscling the doll-like woman, by grabbing and holding onto her wrists. Hao had been quicker.

''I told you not to do that!'' Sieglinde, that was undeniably Sieglinde. She rushed down the flight of stairs and ended up jumped the last three, her thick tail hidden beneath layers of thin clothes pulled up her skirt as it eased her landing.

Your throat was so tight it felt like you were going to break something.

''Hey, still healthy?'' Elina greeted them casually, putting on hand on Hildegarde's shoulder, gently easing her away from Hao. The maid had already understood the situation and apologetically bowed.

''Y-yeah. You've all managed to get out of that city unharmed I see. Good.. great. Thank you for staying alive, everyone.'' You could almost feel Sieglinde quickened heartbeat, her face was flushed, strands of curly red hair escaped the concealment of her shawl... The big red horns curling inward toward her face made wearing it immensely awkward and that was adorable. She kept sneaking glance toward you but, alas, pragmatism steeled her heart. ''Okay, lets-''
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''One moment!'' Hao suddenly interrupted and promptly walked toward you... no, toward Klesiah who looked back in total confusion. ''Here here!'' She grabbed your knight's arm and forced it around your shoulders. ''Stay right there!'' She gently held onto Klesiah glaive and let it rest on the wall, then grabbed Sieglinde and forced her to stand next to you, also forcing her arm around your shoulders.

''Hao? What in the world are you doing?''

''Shush!'' The lizardgirl put her index on Sieglinde's lips. ''Reunion!''

She went to fetch Elina, plopping her next to the stupefied demoness... Then held Zhu and Hildegarde hands, bringing them together side by side, and finally brought the shy Shereen, putting her next to Zhu and herself. ''Done!'' Your knight proclaimed proudly, wrapping one arm around Klesiah and Shereen's shoulders. ''Nobody is missing! Proper reunion, yes it's time to do one hug! feeling the warmth of body and souls!'' Hao's voice reverberated inside the dark silo. This girl could single-handedly obliterate whatever psychosis a prince tries to impose with sheer positivity.

That kiss she took from you was well deserved.

''Ah! I like your vibe, you're as bright as your colors!'' Zhu guffawed and tightened the hug by stepping closer. All together now! To victory, good end, a good fuck, and some good stories to tell in a few years!''

Whilst not repeated word for word, the spirit was there. Your precious companions laughed and you couldn't resist a few tears from crawling out of your eyes.

Gods, it only has been two months, two short months! Hearing Sieglinde laugh and hiccup quietly, feeling Hao excitement, Elina relief, Klesiah quiet joy... It was serenity, simple, honest, paradoxical serenity.

It is all you could ever want.


''A whole lot has happened while you guys were away, I didn't expect to meet with your protector, milady...''

''There's no need for title, your majesty.'' Shereen interrupted.

''...likewise, let's stick with our names.'' Both royals nodded with shared smiles and everyone's attention went into examining the map of the city Sieglinde had brought with her.

''Banu helped our allies get on their feet quickly inside Marleon and... we met that strange woman, Fortune.''

''She didn't give you any trouble I hope?'' Shereen asked, brow creased in worry. ''I...became an ally with her on my honor, if she gave you grief then I'm responsible.''

''No, no, far from it... actually I have to take a pause here.'' Sieglinde breathed out nervously, prompting Hao to reach across the plans and tug her shoulder in support. ''I'm fine, thank you.'' Sieglinde responded with a forced smile, those two have gotten much closer during your separation.
The crawling of the large tail beneath her long skirt betrayed her nervousness. ''Don't get mad, okay?'' She whispered, red eyes peering at you nervously. ''That woman, Fortune, is my little sister, Deruella. She shapeshifted into a new identity and took part in that damnable witch game, she only had two months to establish herself in a ''supporting position'' to help you.''

Sieglinde only paused to briefly gauge everyone's reactions, her heavy breath heralded more revelations. ''Deruella and Martha were the ones who kidnapped you from Zipangu inner sanctum.''

That roused a grunt out of you.

''You see... our souls were wounded almost beyond repair, it's a wonder that we not only survived but kept our identities. With normal application of magical healing, rejuvenating our souls would have needed at least a decade: a grand scale blood ritual was needed to heal your soul, Arawn and in turn, it would heal us and the Embodiment of Love. Deruella was more than ready to do it, she had the skills and means but... such a blood ritual would have enraged everyone in Throne Town and Zipangu.'' Sieglinde cleared her throat and took a small gulp from her carried canteen.

''She struck a deal with the witch and convinced Martha to help without mentioning the details.'' Your friend finished.

''How did you find out?'' Shereen asked curiously, prompting a smug response from the redhead.

''Before leaving Zipangu I was lucky enough to have a magical talk with my aunt who told me Deruella had gathered a new follower, a slimegirl. When I saw Fortune entourage, Francine with two other -very- strong familiar combatants made me believe there was something suspicious happening. I took a gamble and it paid off.'' Nervousness quickly crept inside Sieglinde and she cast a glance your way. ''Don't be too mad, okay?'' She asked demurely.

Sieglinde -really- did not want you to hate her little sister. The feeling radiated out of her with such intense honesty, it was hard not to be influenced. She's excellent at keeping a stone face but her emotions were a constant maelstrom!

Lying here was impossible, thankfully you never made that a habit.

''If I begrudge Deruella action, it would mean regretting meeting Shereen and reuniting with Zhu and Klesiah.'' The blush that faintly spread on your little sun tanned cheeks was adorable. ''She'll help us with Anais, I hope?''

''Absolutely.'' The relief flooding Sieglinde heart was almost enough to extract a tear from you. You weren't -that- forgiving and Sieglinde felt it, but your honest intention of not carrying a grudge was exactly what she wanted to hear. ''...thanks.'' She added, clearing her throat to regain her emotional footing.

''I believe the witch game has broken because that charade wasn't supposed to be uncovered by anyone else but you.'' Sieglinde concluded, looking at you seriously.

''We don't need to worry about Ama.'' Klesiah responded in your stead. ''You'll know why soon.''
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''Okay!'' Having resolved her worry, Sieglinde redirected her attention to the map. ''I haven't revealed Deruella situation to my allies, I've been hoping of having you guys to back me up in case our Zipangu friends get a little... too excited.''

Sieglinde pointed at two peculiar spots on the map, revealing her big, deformed arms sleeked in a dark exoskeleton and claw-like hands. One was the church you previously visited, the other some house toward the eastern part of Marleon.

''We struck these two places the day you guys left before the crown princess could fully establish her authority throughout Marleon. Siegfried handled that gang leader who was earning favor from the crown.'' She tapped the eastern spot. ''While I handled the church, primarily because I heard your information first hand.''

Siegfried...? Isn't he the one responsible for crippling her soul?

''Focus.'' Sieglinde wasn't going to allow your daydreaming. ''Both operations were successful. Our friends not only annihilated the gang leadership but found a stash of dangerous weapons.''

''Pearls of powers?'' You ask, causing Sieglinde's eyebrows to shoot upward.

''Huh... You've been busy too I see.'' Goodness, if only she knew. ''Siegfried group found four workable Death Pearls. The enemy used three of them during the struggle. As for my group, we discovered something very sinister concerning the Pharaoh... practice.''

Sieglinde hesitated, Hao glanced in worry toward Shereen.

''It has to do wit the cursed village of Solemnval, doesn't it?'' Your little sun response caused a short silence as, once more, Sieglinde's expectations were overturned.

''What the hell happened inside that city...?'' The demoness mumbled but nodded. ''Guess you guys already are up with the details. That church was being overseen by a crone.''

''They're old monsters from before my mother's ascension.'' Sieglinde continued after taking a moment to gauge people's reactions. ''Evil witches one and all who have an obsession with collecting people souls. The one my group confronted eventually let slip that she was commissioned by the Pharaoh herself, her job was to select individuals whose disappearance would cause the least amount of troubles and send them in Solemnval to become useful for their lieges... and she was allowed to collect a few additional souls for her purpose.''

Shereen only shook her head with flattened ears. Yet more weight to pile onto the mountain of sins that was her mother.

''She's not going to be troubling anyone else ever again.'' Sieglinde stated confidently. ''Which leaves us with our current situation. Ensan personally took over the city's entire administration and put someone in charge before going back into the palace, Fortune dissolved her gang after our operation but did find us a new headquarter before that.''

Sieglinde tapped a large house between the city's biggest garden and the port.
''Good thing she did because the Vigil came at her folk with a vengeance but they weren't able to find anyone. Her people left the city by using the same exit you did... which is why it's an unreliable entry now.'' Sieglinde pointed at a spot between the westernmost and middle gates. ''The crowds are concentrated here, which also means the largest amount of guards. Sneaking in might be possible but I'd rather avoid the risk. Arawn being a man and you're tall stature...'' She nodded to Zhu. ''...alongside your concealed weapons is likely to arouse suspicion. The city law enforcement is inspecting all the men they find and arrest everyone with white hair. I suspect you're all on Ensan's list.''

''Good thing we didn't go into the crowd. To think I thought it was the best idea...'' Klesieh mumbled.

''No kidding. Thankfully we've got another easy means of entry and the guards are easily pliable. From what we've figured out, everyone resents the strongarming being done by the palace representatives and while those guys are incorruptible, a handful of coins goes a long way with the Vigil.'' Sieglinde refreshed her throat with another swig from her canteen.

''The Pharaoh announced the beginning of a festival a few days ago, probably a way to keep people calm because of that strange fog and that attracted the crowd you've seen. People are slowly but surely being allowed inside the city, provisions are being stored, the Vigil is trying its best to investigate without being inconspicuous to conserve the general mood of festivity going on and that's what's going to allow us to sneak inside without too much trouble. There's been rumors about some big trouble in the neighboring city of Myrtidal but it's not enough to cause any uproars.''

Sieglinde paused only long enough to point at a particular spot at the edge of the eastern wall next to the ocean. ''That boy, Naveed, told us he knew about an old smuggling trail right here. We opened it up the night before Ensan arrived and snuck a pair of rowboats in there. We'll separate into two groups and sneak back into Marleon by using them. Were at the best timetable to do it, too. The Vigil has been slow with distributing food, meaning the city attention is on that thousand-strong crowd outside.'' Sieglinde rolled up the plan and threw a small duffle bag she'd been wearing on her shoulder on the ground, out of which... dark wigs spilled out.

''We still need to mistake the guards distant eyes.'' Your oh so lovely demonic benefactor explained with a cruel smirk. ''We'll just make a temporary woman out of you, Arawn. Even got a skirt with your measurement.''

Oh, bloody hell. All of your link shared a similar feeling of smug, cruel satisfaction at your rising discomfort.

''Hold up, I think you two oughta know the details of our journey too.'' One could mix a desire to delay the inevitable and be entirely honest with your beloved friend!
Sieglinde and Hao briefly glanced at one another, your knight was the one to nod. ''I agree.'' Sieglinde stated neutrally. ''But I think it'll be best if we set out... If everything goes well, it should take us around an hour and a half to reach our Zipangu allies. Whatever you say to me, you'll have to repeat with them, also the sooner we get here the better because...''

Unease and hesitation briefly interrupted Sieglinde, her gaze settled on Hildegarde. ''...Waltier somehow snuck into the city too, I managed to convince him not to charge the palace on his own by making him inspect my soul to know I was entirely truthful about you being alive and well, Hildegarde.''

''W-Waltier is... what!?'' The doll-like maid strong voice resonated throughout the dark silo and with a sharp breath, she reigned her emotions. ''By the Mother's Mercy, how did he even get here?''

''No idea, he's been tight-lipped about that. Kreszen Prince Marshall is also with us. I... nearly forgot to tell you, sorry.''

''I hold no grudge, my lady. There's already so much on our plates...'' Hildegarde shook her head. ''All that matters now is to not make any mistakes while sneaking inside the city.''

''I think we oughta tell Siggy what we've been up to.'' Elina interrupted. ''Honestly... dumping everything out in the open might cause some genuine frictions with our Zipangu allies and we can't afford disunity now.''

''I concur.'' Klesiah added, tapping the ground with her glaive.

''Let's get in there quick. We can just talk inside a private room afterward or something yeah?'' Zhu stated, toying with her empty sword for a moment before putting it inside a bag.

''I...I think we should take the time to exchange what we know.'' Shereen added at the end.

The girls made their opinions known...

Ama cooperation is bound to cause an uproar, Sieglinde would know best in how to handle that conundrum but you should also aim to get inside the city as quickly as possible...

Naveed survival makes sneaking inside Marleon a non-problem. You would need to roll something like 1-10 on a d100 and I honestly don't feel like getting derailed by a fuck up like that.

>Take the time to explain your adventures to Sieglinde. She already told you everything she's been up to: it's only fair to reciprocate.

>Aim to get inside Marleon as quickly as possible, you can find an opportunity to talk afterward. Can't waste time!

>Aim to get inside Marleon as quickly as possible, you can find an opportunity to talk afterward. Can't waste time!
I think everything that absolutely needed to be said has already been said, everything else can wait until we are safe again .
Gonna wait 10 more minutes before beginning. That choice will have a little interim before, of course, another big update.
>They're going to dress us up like a girl
Ah yes, the Cloud Strife play. That brings me back to my childhood. I wish the girls weren't so smugly happy about it. I don't think we're all that bishie so we can't even be a good trap but, like they said, just gotta pass at a distance.

Errr, can't we talk while we're sneaking into the city? Whispers and whatnot after forewarning them that they are probably not going to like what we're gonna tell em' so they can brace for it. Y'know, Zerase's plan for apotheosis by sacrificing everyone in the country, Ama's infection of Shereen, those awakened Death Pearls, all of that.

Also, they're damn sure they weren't followed right? Sneaking in might not be an issue thanks to Naveed and company's survival but that whole "crone" business has me worried. Did they kill that bitch? If it's still up that's gonna be a big problem. Plus there could be more than one. Guess we know who was instructing Zerase on the use of pearl magic now.

Also, I seem to have called it in regards to who Fortune really was, but I didn't expect her to have cut a deal with the fluffy devil too. She and Martha now owe us free exotic bit touching privileges. They can make restitution for their sins with their bodies. Or rather, their tails, wings, and horns. Oh we are going to most thoroughly enjoy this. Sieg also still owes us as well. We are going to make up for two months of a lack of fulfilling our secondary vice. The need to touch all the exotic bits!
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>I don't think we're all that bishie so we can't even be a good trap but, like they said, just gotta pass at a distance.
Arawn only got, like, 20% bishie in him. He's a naturally rugged, broad-shouldered dude. Good thing Warrior Monsters are naturally wide too!
>Errr, can't we talk while we're sneaking into the city?
Nah. Ama and Mina will show themselves and that will make for one hell of a distraction even at a distance. Also, Hao, Hildegarde, and Sieglinde will be 100% focused on sneaking around and observing the area to distance themselves from any potential guards. Not much time to talk.
>Y'know, Zerase's plan for apotheosis by sacrificing everyone in the country, Ama's infection of Shereen, those awakened Death Pearls, all of that.
Talking about that will tie to the first option.
>Also, they're damn sure they weren't followed right?
Yeah, Zhu will make another perusal with her vision to make sure nothing funky is happening.
>Did they kill that bitch?
Sieglinde implied she did with confidence. Crone won't be a problem anymore.
>The need to touch all the exotic bits!
Touch the horns. DO IT NOW. Will Hao also enjoy the rubs?
Going with the choice I've got. One little update to make before we get to meet new people.
>That pic
I know two out of those three wonderful robogirls. Who's the one at the top?

Those two revealing themselves sounds like a time sink we can't really afford. I want to spill the beans, but I also wanna get to a safe house before the guards sort out that crowd. Gun to my head, we sneak in now and figure out how to spill the beans later as I think waiting will mean dice rolls and that's not good.

I don't think we want the Zipangu faction finding out about Ama or Shereen's nature. Much like with Ari'el, if they get that info the "obvious" solution to this whole apotheosis business will present itself to their minds and old Siggy or Waltier might just waste Shereen right then and there to be safe. Double so if they know she's Ama's anchor. This "Prince Marshall" might also do that. Who is he and what does he do?

Errr, Ama knows how to avoid detection while manifesting doesn't she? I remember us "smelling" like the witch or otherwise giving off a detectable aura whenever she was acting upon us. If the Zipangu people detect that and home in that's beans spilled that we don't want them knowing about.
She's best girl from Xenoblade 2.

>Who is he and what does he do?
The short answer is that he's Anais father and the leader of Kreszenz armed forces (still beneath the queen, of course). Guy was a foreigner who won a big deal tournament in Kreszen and married the queen shortly afterward. The fact he somehow snuck in Marleon really is unbelievable but he's here now.
Yes, he came completely unsupported.
>Errr, Ama knows how to avoid detection while manifesting doesn't she
Being inside Shereen is enough to mask her magical scent. Her soul is tied with your little sun and, since her geas of tongue is gone, her influence on you might have waned...
I've been meaning to get/play that game. It any good?

Ok, she can't be detected while within Shereen. What about when she's outside of her (i.e. manifested)? We are going to want to make the final assault/rescue attempt a night raid so we can fully utilize her but if that sets off someone's Ama alarm that's gonna make this shit extra complicated. She's a master shapeshifter so her disguise will be flawless from a visual aspect, but if she can't hide her aura that disguise will mean jack shit.

Thought the "prince marshal" and Waltier were two different people. Still, he must be quite the power house combatant if he thought he could just solo the whole damn palace.

Oh, and while we aren't going to touch the exotic bits we can interject a bit of comedy before setting out. Inform Sieg that her sisters owe us free touchies of their exotic bits and that we're looking forward to collecting on her debt as well once this is over. We have been unjustly starved of one of the primary sources of joy in our existence of continuous suffering!
It's okay. I grew bored of the combat system so I didn't finish it.
>Ok, she can't be detected while within Shereen. What about when she's outside of her (i.e. manifested)?
If she stays out for a while, then it'll be possible for someone to feel her general existence but it's a bit of longshot and Ama might know about some precaution. Remember that only the people she allowed could feel her aspect/presence. She's really good at this whole subterfuge business.
I'm gonna add that little remark for sure.
''We'll find a moment to chat.'' You added your opinion and walked toward Shereen, giving her shoulder a little tap. ''And you won't be too eager for your own good... right?'' For a moment Shereen expression was an honest blanket of confused fear. It was soon replaced with a rare show of pragmatism as she understood her intention.

''Yeah.'' She didn't need to add anything else.

''Sieglinde, one thing before we go.'' Hells, she had taken your disguise out of its bag and was thoroughly enjoying herself selecting ''proper'' clothes! Well, not going down without a fight!

''You and your sisters are going to owe me a little ''indulgence'' once everything is over.''

''Wha!?'' Sieglinde crumpled the skirt she held to you. ''Me too!? Why!?'' Good to know she knew exactly what you meant. Hell, she even flinched and turned your head when your hand approached!

''Because you're making me wear a skirt right now.'' You turned at the rest of your party, far too many of the girls were smirking. ''The world isn't fair Sieglinde, that's that.''

''Pfeh!'' Sieglinde crossed her arms under her breasts, closed her eyes, and upturned her chin. You remember this expression so perfectly it was comforting. ''Maybe for my sisters but me? Nah, in your dream pal!''

Yet, as angered as she tried to sound... the soul link betrayed the image she constructed by revealing that she wasn't against your idea. There was an increasing ink of temptation growing in the waves of her emotions.

''Right, right, let's get you changed.'' Elina grabbed the rest of your disguise.

''I'm not losing my pants!'' You growled.

''What's the point of wearing a long skirt then?'' The angel retorted, walking closer.

''Are you that excited about seeing a man hairy legs?'' That statement brought an honest grimace to her face.

''I'm gonna wait upstairs.'' Elina promptly shoved the clothes into the bag and threw it to you.

''And IIII will...''

''Wait upstairs too.'' Klesiah interrupted Zhu, throwing a territorial glare. ''You've never worn a skirt, you don't know how to help him.''

''So do you!'' Her friend retorted. ''Think I don't hear the metal parts on your pants? Women in skirts don't clangs!''

''Useless details.'' Klesiah struck the ground with her staff. Thunk.

''Mother Mercy, you people!'' Hildegarde's sudden outburst brought the shenanigans to an end. ''Be quick!''

''Heehehehehe.'' Zhu openly cackled while following her upstairs. Sieglinde and Hao stared at this amusing debacle in shared stupefaction.

''You... huh... You guys have quite the dynamic huh?''


''I tore my fucking skirt.'' You growled. Barely five minutes outside and you heard that distinctive rip... Well, at least it wasn't a bad one.
Your party had separated into two groups. You, Zhu, Hildegarde, and Hao set out ten minutes after the first one (and took different roads). The logic here was that since you and Zhu had the most conspicuous silhouettes of the party, your group had to be small to be seen as a simple group of Mamonos friends who happened to have a pair of warrior species.

That'd be the charade you'd be going for inside the city. Before that, Hao hunting skills coupled with Hildegarde sneaking training meant that you and Zhu wouldn't be bumbling buffoon once you reach the wall, the most dangerous part of this operation.

''Man, I wish I could see you in better detail. Gotta love necessity huh?'' Hildegarde and Hao were walking ahead, your darling knight doing her best to explain the coming road and where the headquarter was to Hildegarde. Her awkward language meant their discussion would take a while.

''A few laughs at my expense isn't too bad. Should teach me some humility, right?'' Your lovely party had tried and failed to conceal their laughter at your appearance, at least you managed to join in before the separation.

''Definitely.'' Zhu tapped your shoulder. ''I gotta have a serious talk now, pal. I came a bit strong with going with ya cause of that.''

The usual relaxed, predatory smirk on her face was gone, replaced by a genuinely serious countenance as she stared ahead, chromatic eye half-open toward Hao and Hildegarde.


''Aight, don't take it the wrong way. Your woman, Sieglinde?''

''She's not my woman.'' Zhu laughed at your interruption.

''Aight. Anyhow, that girl has the freakiest light I've ever seen.'' Her statement nearly made you stop walking. ''I had to control myself when she came down cause I nearly took my sword out. See, people's inner lights glows in silhouettes of their bodies and I can mostly make out people's features and physical details when I get close but it's still layered with gray powder. That woman is a fucking mutant skeleton.''

''Zhu can you... try to stay polite at least?''

She bit her bottom lips. ''Aight. Sorry.'' Then she grew silent to mind her words a little better. ''Her silhouette is different from everyone I've seen and I often saw spreads of bright reds highlighting her entire body, pulsing like a pumping heart. She didn't seem any different from everyone else though, sounded fine, her emotions did change her colors here and there it's just... I never saw someone so unique. Threw me on one hell of a loop not gonna lie.''

''I see...'' How much did Sieglinde altered Corruption affected her? ''Sieglinde had... no, has a situation that's affecting her soul. However, you can trust her like you do me and Klesiah. I'm serious Zhu, don't let that bad impression get to you. Sieglinde is a good person, the best.''

''Hrm. Best I can promise is to try my dude. I've no intention of fucking us up cause someone makes me tighten my arse in dread. She did give me a good feeling despite that.''
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''That's all I ask.'' Zhu gently tapped your shoulder.

''There's one more worry.'' She pointed toward the duo ahead on the mostly empty road. A few farmers were bringing stocks into the city.

''That girl, Hao? She's bright. Really bright''

''What? Do you know what that means?''

Zhu pursed her lips together while looking back at you. ''She ain't always been like that?''

''I remember seeing her soul when I shifted into the Red World of Throne Town and... it wasn't different in intensity compared to everyone else. Her colors were a bit somber if I remember correctly.''

''Well, shit.'' Zhu took a swig from her canteen. ''See, the rock I've got planted in that socket diminishes people's natural intensity when I get close so I don't end up staring at the sun all day, and despite that, Hao is bright enough to make it incredibly hard to stay next to her.''

''You ever saw something similar?'' You did your best to steel your heart but your worry was impossible for Hao to ignore. Your lovely, jovial knight threw a few worried glances your way, giving you thumbs up each time.

''One time.'' Zhu held out an index for emphasis. ''I was nearly killed by a Knight of the Storm not too long after I left Hecate. I won our duel but the bastard had enough in him for one last fuck you... You know the phenomena of burning up?''

''Yeah. Sometimes, people can reach an emotional zenith and burn up their souls in one last strike of defiance... Happened pretty often in the Great Crusade.''

Zhu nodded. ''That guy burnt himself up completely and if my sword wasn't what it is, he would have killed me for damn sure. His colors were just as bright as Hao's are now but... it can't be the same thing, no way would she still be functional now, let alone after the week she`s been here.''

''An extremely bright soul...'' You could only muse at this information.

''Zipangu folks are pretty good when it comes to problems with souls yeah? Maybe we can single someone out and get their vibes on this. Well, maybe not Sieglinde.''

''We'll see.'' This time you were the one to pat Zhu shoulder. ''For now, let's concentrate on sneaking inside and not fall in a random ditch.''

There's no need for interactions if you guys don't want to. Immediately confronting Hao about this information is possible but, ultimately, sneaking inside the city takes precedence. I'll start working on that text which will probably be just as long as my last update... Might take me a day or two. I'll do my best to update tomorrow.
What would confronting Hao entail? It is worrying that her soul's burning bright in the fashion of someone initiating a kamikaze attack but it could just be her being, well, her. She was/is always so bright and happy. Could also be a reaction to this fog or something the Crone may have hit her with.

As for Sieg's soul... yeah, I knew it was bad but that's really bad. We have got to get some kind of cure going for her the instant this is all over. She may have only a few weeks before she turns back into that... thing that nearly killed us all. I'd be loathe to ask but would Ama know anything about how to handle altered corruption? Could we, after we restore Gardy, just have him siphon it out through the link and incinerate it? That's a stopgap as it ain't a cure but whatever it is has seemingly progressed to the final stages or close to it. Gosh darn it I'm worried about her. If she takes a serious hit in combat...
>What would confronting Hao entail?
Straight up talking to Hao about her soul, what Zhu saw. Could be a bit distracting given what you're doing; now isn't the best time but the option is there.
>I'd be loathe to ask but would Ama know anything about how to handle altered corruption?
You'll need to use your judgment there. Shereen is with the other group so you can't ask her.
>Could we, after we restore Gardy, just have him siphon it out through the link and incinerate it?
Well... That... Hm, it's something to discuss with other people.
>Gosh darn it I'm worried about her.
She's fiiiine right now! Nothing to worry about.
>That pic
Hao/Serenity in a maid outfit heals the soul. Can't wait to get her back into one in Throne Town. Making her into one was a best idea ever.

Yeah, let's not get anyone distracted right now. Getting caught here and now would really fuck things up for us. Something to hash out once we get to a safe house where we can discuss things without too much worry.

And no, Sieg's clearly not fine at all right now! Drat, that whole year we lost could have been spent leveling up our soul magic so we could potentially cure her. Like I said, that's next on our to do list once we're done here right after we restore Gardy and our memories. Those two first because they may directly help that third objective.

We owe old Siggy a good solid gut punch for doing that to her. Make him heave/puke and probably crack a rib or two while we're at it. If he can also help cure her than we'll call it even after that. This of course comes later. We don't want to cause a diplomatic incident nor harm party cohesion at this critical juncture. We punch him at a more proper and fitting time.
Serenity fan depiction meshes so well with how I imagine Hao general attitude that I'm genuinely tempted to retroactively make our tribal warrior look like her. The general ambiance and vibe are [I]perfect[/i] with how I'm trying to show Hao.

Poor Siegfried... He's trying his best y'know?

Alright, you're voting to keep on keeping on which will probably be the general mood of the players.
I thought you said she already did, just with a few scales in places, some horns, and a dragon tail. Y'know, the "dragon girl" version of Serenity. Not bad, very cute. Still a bit worried about her but I'm sure she knows what's going on with herself. We'll have plenty of time to discuss as I think we'll be hitting the safe house around 2 p.m.

When is the hour of lullaby and nightfall? We're probably gonna want to launch the operation tonight after we clear that horror mark from Shereen. That is, unless we somehow get damn good intel that says waiting til' tomorrow gives us all better odds of success.
Hm. Hao looked different during act 1 but I supposed she got a much-needed haircut. Her hair is also naturally black instead of purple, otherwise, Hassan really is an accurate look. Her scales and tails aren't invasive so they're easy to forget, too.

>When is the hour of lullaby and nightfall?
It's been around 6-7 pm in your neck of the wood. Should always keep a look for sunfall.

Taking Naveed smuggling trail and the general success of the two operations in the capital (in no small part because of your previous efforts and Banu remaining behind) does give you the opportunity for making good planning with the folks you'll meet.
Only one answer coming later tonight I'd say. Long posting is draining!
Sneaking inside Marleon proved to be... an experience. Hiding away from a sudden caravan coming from the palace, creeping from blindspot to blindspot to dodge the guards manning the walls as the gatehouse was processing the new arrival was tense, finding the rowboat and you nearly falling out of it had Hildegarde almost throttle Zhu to stop her from laughing. Then came the trail itself leading into an abandoned part of the sewers (having to lift your skirt was another experience) that, without Hao, would have swallowed your party in its labyrinthine tunnels. Emerging into the capital was quite the relief, but having to sneak around as if you were in Myrtidal made you silently thank Sieglinde's insistence because she had been right. This current time of the day had the majority of guards busy on the southwestern side of the city. Significantly easing your progress.

Strolling in the capital in women's clothes is the kind of adventure you'd be able to laugh at in a week or two.



''That wasn't so bad, right?'' Elina was far, far too eager to tease you.

''I am -not- stepping in there looking like a buffoon.'' You responded, grabbing your skirt and tearing it right up. The thing was completely ruined anyway because the accidental tear you caused at the beginning of your adventure had slowly but surely spread wide enough for you to need to hold onto the damn thing to keep your ''decency.'' ''This is the place?''

''That it is, we have a constant lookout on the second floor, they'll be gathering in the main hall.''

The house you've reached looked similar in dimension to the depot you used as a temporary refuge in Myrtidal but much better pleasing to the eye. Being next to the coast led credence with the impression this must have been a rich home indeed, likely belonging to a noble. Placed between the park and the big port, this was a nice prime spot without any Vigil disturbance.

''The place belonged to a rich merchant in Fortune pocket.'' Sieglinde answered your silent query. ''Naveed managed to convince one of his superior to investigate the place before we established ourselves here, giving us more than enough times to plan what we have to do, especially since this is one of Marleon quietest, richest districts.'' Deruella did her homework. ''One amongst our numbers is a fluid mage so we can even use the baths. Though there's not enough room for all of us so we might have to share sleeping space.''

''Sound like a plus to me.'' Zhu commented, wiggling her eyebrows toward you. Sieglinde noticed, her suspicious look mirroring her emotions.

''How is that boy doing? Sound like he's been very busy with you guys.'' You asked before Sieglinde opened the door.
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''The crown princess invitation was a death sentence.'' Your benefactor answered quietly. ''You guys saved his entire squad, all of them are wanted now. Thankfully, we managed to leverage his position before Ensan established herself and we smuggled the mother of the two lizards sisters out of the city with the last of Fortune loyal folks, so all they have to do now is lay low and stay with us, they'll be leaving with all of us once our purpose is done. The girls mother should reach Throne Town in a few months.''

You could only stare in awe. This woman is fantastic, she truly pours her soul into solving every problem that comes her way. You've left a mess of troubles in Marleon... Everything that doesn't concern Anais is no worry at all.

''Let's get you guys to meet new folks.''


The door opened into a main hall that acted as the central hub for the entire house. One big flight of stairs led into a balcony which spread into the second floor properly where the majority of rooms were constructed. You could see the dining room with its pair of doors opened wide and stairs leading into the basement on the far end of the western wall. A truly luxurious place.

''Welcome, good to have you, friends! It's been a while, mysir Arawn! Milady Sun!'' The young man you were speaking about was the one who welcomed your party entry. He was standing on the balcony, flanked by his lady squad, all of them looking strangely winded and sweaty.

''Not only coming back alive but with one additional comrade.'' Fortune spoke next. She and all of her lieutenants were standing in the dining room almost perpendicular to the entryway, the slime girl burbled out an additional appendage on top of her head to wave. ''Good works. I prayed and weaved my best for your fortunes.'' The gorgeous woman ended, trailing a finger along the length of her transparent mask. How much did Deruella enjoy playing this role?

''Milord!'' Hildegarde promptly lowered herself on one knee after taking a few steps inside.

''Rise, Hildegarde. I know you've done everything you could, I will not begrudge you.'' A strong voice responded, metal-reinforced boots resonating slightly with his strong steps as he came out of the dining room. ''I understand now that accompanying them was the wise decision.''

Waltier Swanhil Wilhelmina, you remember him. A strong, tall, handsome man who, without his wife, projected an invasive, almost choking presence. His long brown hair was tied into a single ponytail and despite his soft word, his face wore a constant angry scowl that could only be born from the natural worry of a father. He still looked young, almost too much to have a 16 years old daughter.

In the middle of the hall stood a foreign group of not-so-unfamiliar countenance. You recognized Hadraniel immediately. Despite her lack of wings and halo, the blond woman deserved every angelic compliment you could think of and she waved gently when your eyes crossed.
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Next to her was another woman of such polar opposite that you nearly did a doubletake. Where Hadraniel was golden and shiny, this person was dark and gloomy with long, very long dark hair cascading down her body, almost clinging to it like algae. Like the Embodiment, she was an undeniable beauty despite her gloomy atmosphere, her blue eyes rivaled Klesiah in brilliance and when your gaze crossed, she gave a silent, acknowledging nod. She held onto a red spear that looked similar to a pair of intertwined snakes and a medium-sized shield was strapped on her other arm.

One step beside her was a man, a handsome one. Semi-long blond hair reached his shoulder with more than a few strands possessing wilds, natural curls. His blue gaze was piercing in a way that reminded you of Deruella or Ama's all-knowing stares without the accompanying dreariness. Well built but not broad-shouldered, his presence struck a strong impression by his stature alone.

He's Siegfried, undeniably.

Beside him was another lady. Quiet and a little short, long curly pale brown hair fell wildly almost all over her face. She sported such a neutral emotion that she might genuinely surpass Hildegarde in doll-like mannerism. ''Doll'' seemed a perfectly adequate word to describe this person, she didn't seem to display any warmth. Her odd eyes, being a pair of purple square, was the only hint at her being something other than human.

A pair of dark wings flapped nervously, leading your gaze to a towering man, the only person who'd be able to look Daiyu in the eyes without craning his neck upward.

You knew this man by reputation, his dark wings gave him away. Kyorn, one of the surviving heroes. The guy smiled broadly with a casual wave as a greeting, giving off the impression of a friendly giant. His naturally tanned skin could almost make him pass as a natural of Muribel but his white hair coupled with the distinctive elven ears robbed any chances of that. His red gaze was equally unusual.

He holds the shoulder of one last unknown lady, someone who... Looked so familiar to Shereen that everyone in your party stared in genuine disbelief. This Mamono was another Anubis and might just be a look into Shereen's future. Elegant, gorgeous, exotic... Brown skin melded into dark fur and long hair to paint a purebred beauty of Muribel.

In all honestly, you were tempted to ask if she was Shereen mother. The resemblance was that close. Is sharing the same rare race of Mamonos enough to explain this?

Next to her, you saw Banu. The old woman almost melted into the background but her expression was precious, it was this mixture of pride and relief that almost made you want to puff out your chest.

''Y-you... You're lady Mebuchednazi?'' Shereen spoke a name that'd trip your tongue flawlessly.
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''Your majesty Shereen Roshanak.'' The lady answered with a nod, her naturally grave voice giving her some distinction from your little sun. ''Whilst I cannot deny vengeance as part of my motivations for my presence here, I am thankful to witness that not all of The Blood is poisonous.''

''I...'' Shereen ears flattened as she shook her head, then her gaze directly itself backward toward your party. ''Lady Mebuchenazi was a major noble who opposed my mom long before the rebellion five years ago. Things... didn't end well.''

''I say, you two looking so similar is why you've got good hearts!'' Kyorn proclaimed joyfully, wide grin almost reaching his ears as he looked to the side, toward Waltier. ''With our numbers, we'll get your bundle of joy out of that nasty palace right quick.''

The man nodded curtly as a silent response.

''Banu...'' The woman had walked up to her little charge and patted Shereen on the shoulder.

''You've done well, your majesty. I'm sorry for betraying your expectations, truly... but I'm glad to know you've survived and accomplished so much without me.''

''I-it would have been easier if you'd been there.'' Shereen sniffled while forcing a growl, utterly failing at sounding angry. ''I don't think you'll believe what my mom has been up to...''

''That'll be something everyone wants to hear.'' Sieglinde inserted herself in the conversation, walking in front of you to stand between your party and the opposite one. ''We can proceed with our final plans after hearing everything they report.'' Zipangu folks shared a synchronized nod.

''Yeeeah, that angel dude ain't gonna be a potential headache anymore but you folks better hold onto your pants.'' Zhu commented excitedly, taking her empty sword out of its handle to wave it around. ''Zerase has been a naughty girl.''

''Before that.'' Sieglinde cleared her throat, looking toward her camouflaged sister who whispered something at the manticore. The lady proceeded to leave climb upstairs. ''I need to be honest about one last thing.''

''That so?'' Siegfried angrily remarked, brows furrowed in suspicion. Hadraniel stepped on his foot and whilst that extracted a grunt out of him, it also calmed him down.

Ignoring him, Sieglinde gestured at Fortune who soundlessly walked beside her. The luscious brown skin of the gorgeous card readers underwent an immediate change, turning a pale, creamy color. A similar phenomenon underwent the lady snake, with red scales metamorphosing into a brilliant purple and what was once naturally dark skin yielded to an increasingly pale complexion like ink spreading in clear water. The trait of their faces changed, their hair, their eyes... Deruella eventually stood before this near dozen group and promptly covered her eyes with one hand.
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''Do believe me when I saw I'm sorry, darlings. If a grudge is to be held please leave Meruse out of it, hm?'' Deruella Jawahir, the most infamous daughter of the Demon Lord, introduced herself casually. ''We're all stuck in the same mess so let's avoid rashness.''

''Scary cool!'' Hao excited comment was the only light of positiveness in the hall. Hadraniel was the only one in Zipangu group that wasn't glaring murderous dagger at the white demoness, the Felwhore.

''Scary cool indeed.'' The embodiment repeated, trying hard to defuse the situation. ''This isn't the first time, right? Don't tell me none of you had at least a doubt, no matter how unbelievable!''

''Who else could have kidnapped our guest?'' Siegfried shook his head, a dangerous expression naked on his face.

''You're Meruse Taskaros aren't you?'' Kyorn furrowed brows didn't make him look too angry.

''Former royal guard of the godforsaken country of Lescatie.'' The lamia answered, even her voice had changed, becoming a thick accent that rolled her rs a little too much here and there.

The broad manticore imposed herself, carefully maneuvering around the nervous group of Zipangu to stand beside her mistress, handing Deruella a simple silver ring atop which a piece of dull onyx had been placed as a unique decoration. Once it went around her finger, Deruella lowered her hand, allowing her tenebrous gaze to observe anyone she pleases without its hypnotic side effect. Two brilliant ruby swimming in a sea of oil... There was something oddly inviting about this demonic gaze.

It was giving you an impression similar to Zhu predatory smiles, temptations only increased with dangers.

''If anyone sees this as a betrayal then you are a complete fool.'' Waltier voice boomed with authority and he moved to stand in the middle of the room, turning his back on your party and Deruella squad to face the silent group of Zipangu. His was the demeanor of a king... but it was undeniable that a leadership crisis could potentially arise. That man, Siegfried, -is- married to Zipangu queen, putting him in the exact shoes as the Prince Marshall.

''Your reputation always precedes you, Deruella.'' Waltier continued, throwing the pale maiden an intense glare. ''But I'll take the help you give to save my daughter. That's why we're all here.''

''True enough.'' Siegfried conceded after losing a glaring contest with the angelic Embodiment crushing his hand. ''We originally came to extract his majesty Loukanos.'' He lightly bowed his head in your direction. ''I... dislike changes of plans. It always leads to bloodshed and we can't afford to spill much of ours.''

''Good thing your wife insisted on us bringing along two contingencies.'' Kyorn added, tapping the square-eyed girl shoulder whose simple reaction was to look up to him neutrally. ''You two sisters can at least promise there's not going to be any bullshit... right?''
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''Good hero, you'll soon find out that my reputation far outweighs my capabilities. Of course, I promise.'' Deruella answered smoothly, fingers interlocked together, doing her best to appear harmless. ''I've only been here for two months and all of my efforts were directed in creating, then providing, some kind of support for our dear wayward elf because I never believed he'd make such a wonderful pair with his darling Sun. The best I've done in infiltrating the palace is to bribe a few servants for dubious information about its inner working... Not exactly enough to create a miracle, wouldn't you say?''

''We wouldn't have killed Horkus without your help.'' Your statement raised quite a few eyebrows. ''Don't sell yourself short.'' You'd have liked it much more if she had actually fought back there, but the witch influence was probably handicapping her.

''Hm.'' Deruella thin, spaded tail twirled affectionately.

''Guess we can worry about details later.'' Siegfried spoke through clenched teeth. ''You can forget your position as Kin tutor.''

''Siegfried, it's okay, calm down.'' Hadraniel spoke gently, reaching behind his head to give him a strong rub. ''You always preach about wanting to avoid making mistakes out of anger, well, now's the time to commit.'' Beside him, the gothic beauty glared silent daggers at the pale menace.

A noticeably loud sigh escaped Sieglinde. Maybe she had been overly cautious in waiting until your party made it here... but given this tense atmosphere, you couldn't fault her. She threw her little sister a sharp look that must have carried quite a bit of meaning, not that Deruella seemed to care.

''Arawn, should we?'' Klesiah whispered, grabbing your metal-clad hand.

''She's getting pretty excited. Ugh.'' Shereen also whispered, grabbing your other hand. Having walked next to you with Banu in tow, the tall older woman said nothing, looking suitably confused by this exchange.

Should you imitate Sieglinde's direct approach?
>It'll be best to introduce Ama to your new allies on your term. Otherwise, the witch is going to do something stupid for fun, might as well strongarm her into showing herself when you want, instead of being taken by surprise.

>Relate your adventures to everyone here, see if you can calm spirits down before dropping the hammer. Some food, some drink... People need to calm down. You might need to give into Ama indulgence to ensure she doesn't ruin your plan.

One last important thing I need to ask.
How selective do you guys want to be when to comes to revealing your adventures? Arawn will speak broadly about everything he went through from the moment he woke up.

Of course, your bath escapade will remain a secret no matter what. He isn't -that- forward.

>Be completely honest, going far enough to reveal personal information. (Reveal Myr situation, Gwendolyn being your little sister, your encounter with Armin.)
>Whilst you're open to telling Sieglinde and Hao everything, that privilege doesn't extend to anyone else. (Keep the subjects mentioned above to yourself).
Whilst this might sound miscellaneous I still need to ask. Will you guys reveal your encounter with Armin before you went to Myrtidal? Arawn and the girls kept it to themselves to avoid rousing Ama interest and causing him undue worry in the future, should he attract Ama interest.
Completely forgot that there is always
As an option
>Relate your adventures to everyone here, see if you can calm spirits down before dropping the hammer. Some food, some drink... People need to calm down. You might need to give into Ama indulgence to ensure she doesn't ruin your plan.

Trading Ama something is probably a better choice than her wanting to get back at us.

>Whilst you're open to telling Sieglinde and Hao everything, that privilege doesn't extend to anyone else. (Keep the subjects mentioned above to yourself).

I do feel that talking about Armin And Adam with the others would be ok, and the potential of him getting dragged into foxy shenanigans seems like a good way for him to get more stories, and document history as it happens.
Unless specifically told otherwise by you guys, I would have made Adam and Leena's situations auto-include in everything you tell the group.
Wow, old Siggy really doesn't seem to like the demonic royalty it would seem. I get the collective hate towards Deru and her adjutant (they tried to screw Zipangu over but good somehow in the past I'd wager) but Sieglinde? A lingering regret at a job half finished perhaps? A visible and living millstone around his neck tying him and his foxy waifu to the whims/demands of Daiyu in order to avoid open warfare or worse? She's been trying to patch things up with all of them I thought. Why would he (or they) resent her so darn much given that?

As for indulging Ama, she wants us to delay dropping the hammer and go with the second option so she can "prank" our newfound allies somehow yes? Ama's binding to Shereen only really comes into play at the end of our tale thusfar. She could be desiring to be embellishingly dramatic and reveal to them all how she saved us all from that eldritch horror last night by popping out or speaking through Shereen like Gig does through Revya. Also, can't she read Shereen's mind now or at least tell if she's hiding things from her?

I do wonder if Armin is OK with attracting Bad Fluffy's gaze but he's a lore master. He knows all about her and what that looks and feels like and knows what precautions to take should it happen (plus I think you said Ama is innately aware of everyone who knows she's real and any designs they may have involving her). We can thus probably get away with talking about him. He was how we first found out about Solemnval if I remember correctly.

I also think we need to tell them all to *not* murder Myr if encountered Though Klesiah might just blurt that one out for us. "Please don't kill my friend" being the obvious request out of her. Wait, is that even a risk? Isn't she currently with Ari'el who's trying to get his folks out of the country right now? Can Ama summon/gate in her apostles? Also, unless Gwen is not here somehow them not knowing she's our sis would also be best. After all, you can't tell the enemy shit you don't know and if she is in Zerase's grasp we don't want her to know she's got that kind of leverage on us.
>but Sieglinde?
The animosity to Sieglinde isn't -that- strong, it's just mostly Siegfried hating bad surprise with a bit too much passion. Kyorn calmed down quickly enough.
>As for indulging Ama, she wants us to delay dropping the hammer and go with the second option so she can "prank" our newfound allies somehow yes?
I can neither confirm nor deny.
>Also, can't she read Shereen's mind now or at least tell if she's hiding things from her?
No. That kind of synchrony takes time. Remember that Klesiah anchored Mina for a whole year, there are still separations of mind. Your situation with Gardy is unique because he literally gave you his body. And, of course, you trusted him a whole lot. Shereen is giving Ama a chance, trust is much harder here.
>Wait, is that even a risk? Isn't she currently with Ari'el who's trying to get his folks out of the country right now?
Yeah, she stuck with Ari'el to avoid the geas that makes her lose her mind when she's near Arawn.
>Can Ama summon/gate in her apostles?
Not while being anchored by Shereen. If the two synchronize to a higher degree, it would be possible.

So, we have two votes for speaking about Armin, though only one solid choice so far. I'll give it another 30 minutes. I'll try to deliver another update today, though these long posts are taking a toll.
Ok then, I also vote to indulge Ama/try to calm everyone down first. They're already on edge with Deru's reveal. If we reveal Ama and then the whole Solemnval/Apotheosis by mass human/mamono sacrifice at the same time shit might go south really quick.

Also, how would Shereen go about increasing her sync ratio with Ama? The loli ghoul would be great add clear. Blue Bastard's necromancy might be of use once the bodies start piling up, and who knows who else Ama has on speed dial that could bail us out of a jam if we get into one.
>Also, how would Shereen go about increasing her sync ratio with Ama?
Time and trust, really. While there miiiight be a way to shortcut it with a blood ritual, the fundamental remains that Shereen needs to trust Ama.

I don't think we'll get more votes on this so I'll start working.

Expect the update tomorrow at the latest. Choices are likely to open up much more afterward, sorry for giving a feeling you guys were on rail!
There's not much of a rail to be honest. We have a few hours to plan and/or for shit to happen before the big things gotta go down (whether or not we assault the castle with our teams tonight, the removal of Shereen's mark, whether or not we jaunt over to the red world to see if one of those two massive princes of the red world are camping out where we wasted porky, etc).

The order in which we reveal the information we got and what information we do reveal is important, but we can work towards full reveals if we choose. This was but a choice of "where to begin" as it were. I do wonder what Ama's gonna do. She's apparently awake now and relishing whatever it is she's got planned. Excited Ama worries me, but that's better than bored or angry Ama. Excited Ama is unpredictable, but the latter two are unpredictable in ways that are only bad!

Also, it seems they all knew who/what Porky was. Betting they're wondering how the hell we killed that SOB without either divine or supreme monster backup. I don't think Deru's renowned for her combat prowess. She's strong, but not Daiyu or Embodiment strong.
>I don't think Deru's renowned for her combat prowess. She's strong, but not Daiyu or Embodiment strong.
Yeah, Deru has always been feared for her planning and talents at infiltrations, sabotage, assassinations, her charisma since she surrounds herself with strong, competent people and, of course, Blood Magic and Corruption manipulation. She's similar to Sieglinde battle-wise: On the lower end of the power curve amongst everyone here, though she uses her talents in an interesting way. You'll get a good idea about people's strength soon enough.

If mommy decides to slap her shit, she will.
Don't see why she would. She didn't do anything wrong! Well, except for deceiving Martha, cutting a deal with the Fluffy Devil, kidnapping us from Zipangu's most secure location...

Yeah, Deru's probably gonna get spanked pretty hard for all this. Hopefully we get to grope her exotic bits beforehand. They won't feel as good if they're raw, flensed, or otherwise damaged. Also, could we get a hug from her adjutant sometime down the line? Lamias do give the best hugs after all.
Goodness, aren't you greedy! That'll have to be proposed as a full choice because I will greatly enjoy writing the reactions.

As for Deruella getting hurt, don't worry. She like it.
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Two months. Constant stress. Barely anytime to indulge in sloth. No Gardy. We're leaking SAN points like a sieve at this point.

The only thing that can heal our tortured soul is the feeling of exotic bits and the warm embrace of monstergirls!

Joking aside, we don't just ask this right here and now. Maybe if it seems everyone could use a laugh or something. It'd certainly lessen tensions, though it could also drastically harm everyone's opinion of us. We would be outed as quite the degenerate if, at a time like this, *that* somehow shot to the top of our minds.

>Before we do this I wanna get hugged by the lamia.
>The fate of millions of souls and an innocent young girl hangs in the balance and that's your main concern?!
>Yes! Hug me lamia mommy!
>Everyone Facepalms hard enough to split the Earth. Gardy included.

Didn't think Deru was an M. Though given her nature she's probably both. Depends on who it is and what she's in the mood for. She is a romance option right?
You forgot
>Siegfried wants a snake hug too.
Deru swings for both teams in all way that's intended yeah. As for her being a romance option, that's a big maybe. I guess you can try, but it'll be difficult.
Oh yeah, old Siggy is just like us in this regard if I remember. Hopelessly addicted to the feeling of monstergirl exotic bits! Were it not for the bad history between us it could have probably been a source of male bonding. Oh well, maybe we can work through that bad blood once this is over. Things do really open up again once this mess is dealt with. Though our next few steps are probably pretty obvious (restore Gardy, restore memories, cure Sieglinde's illness before she turns back into an abomination).

If she turns out to be a truly good girl than she's in the running. End of the day we've only just gotten to know our prospective romantic interests. Bath incident aside, we have far too little info to make a hard choice right now. Hell, we could even try to romance Daiyu if I remember, but that locks out any of her daughters. Again, I can only hentai so hard my dude and in that case that also applies to both her and her offspring.
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Interesting statements.
Romance has been steadily progressing throughout this entire act.
I'm afraid Daiyu dry spell is doomed to continue...
Of course it has. Even for the girls who aren't even here or linked to us. Absence makes the heart grow fonder after all god I miss Vilma and Belph.

Daiyu's dry spell may not be doomed to continue either. Even if we go for one of her daughters we can still try to find her a good mate.

Problem is finding one she'd actually be into. I mean, she *might* be into us but I feel that'd take a concerted effort on our end to make that happen. She teases and jokes, but for her to get "serious" about us we'll have to work for it. Same for any other dude but I mean, how do you even get introduced in a way that's conductive to romance? She's the friggin' Demon Lord!
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Something just occurred to me. We've *really* lucked out with out little de-railings and choices it would seem.

Firstly, I don't think we were "supposed" to actually fully kill Horkus. Had it lived, Ensan would have been able to force Banu to suicide (and thus be unable to aid our allies) and Ama couldn't have been bound to Shereen (so we'd have likely died to the horror).

Had we not rescued Hilde we likely would have lost someone to Graz and his posse of fanatics. Had we not chose to run from the palace we would have lost Naveed and his crew and not had an easy way back into the city (the fact they and everyone else survived the conflict with Horkus was also exceedingly lucky). Had we killed one of Ari'el's underlings we wouldn't have been able to negotiate/ally with him and get Leena to Solemnval and also learn of the depths of Zerase's sins and ambitions (and, by extension, not had the chance to ally with Ama).

In essence, our successes have been snowballing hard, but our potential failures just as easily could have as well...
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Yep, you've got it pretty good. You guys walked the good path and made the right important choices ever since you killed off Horkus and you're starting to collect on these early successes.

Though, Having Ama inside Shereen is debatable in how ''good'' it is. Banu didn't try to go against the geas because Hildegarde was here which gave Sieglinde and Siegfried groups an excellent advantage since she, unlike Deruella, knows damn well how Ensan operates (hence why they did almost everything in one single night, they wouldn't have a better opportunity).

Going out and coming back as one full, able-bodied group is quite the accomplishment. Then you've gone and added Klesiah to your fighting force, who count as two more combatants!

To think you could have found a way to run away from Shereen, get inside Marleon, stumble on Zhu, and of course, Deruella would have found a way to help you out once she realizes you're in Marleon... At the very least, you wouldn't have the witch help by doing that.

All my pitfalls got snubbed.
Oh Ama being inside Shereen is definitely not "good" but given the enormity of what's at stake we made a similar choice to a certain Ishvalan and relented. Plus we'd burned through every ounce of goodwill we had with Shereen at that point and she wanted to gamble on Ama. Maybe we could have convinced her not to, but it would have been hard and she'd have hated us even more for it.

I'm quite sure we're going to "regret" that choice once this is over, but we're gonna regret it a hell of a lot less than failure to stop Zerase and Ensan from sacrificing everyone in this entire country to achieve apotheosis.

A failure that will spell the doom of both ourselves and all those we care about currently present. It'd also be a crippling blow to three separate nations. The "kings" of Zipangu and Kresnez, dead. Two of the Three princesses of the Jawahir Dynasty, dead. Two embodiments (we count as one) and a hero of the Great Crusade (a significant power for their respective allied nations), dead.

Ama's a type of "bad" end for us and Shereen in this act I've no doubt, but she also goes a long way towards preventing that "worst" end that pretty much spells the doom of this world and its fall into a dystopia or worse. Don't wanna spoil who/what I'm thinking of but it could get to that level of friggin' bad endings if we fail here.
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Had to take care of some irl interruption today. I'll do my best to post today, but it might happen tomorrow. Don't want to go too quick and put out something terrible.
It's Ok, we're willing to wait for quality.
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This is gonna be another long post... maybe too long. Ah well, such is the price of entering the ending stage of a long arc!

I'll aim to post in an hour.
Your good hand went on top of Shereen head to catch her attention.

''Let's move in the dining room, we haven't eaten anything since breakfast.''

Sensing your intention, Elina imposed herself to create a distraction. ''Breaking bread is the best way to alleviate some rancor. I know there's some serious history in this room but... hey one-third of it doesn't share it, so make an effort to put it on ice for our sake, okay?''

Hadraniel untangled herself from Siegfried side and nearly lept into her little sister's arms, almost sending them both on the ground.

''Listen, don't go indulging your theatrics yet.'' You took this opportunity to whisper at Shereen. Of course, she immediately understood your implications. ''In exchange, I'll... I promise to allow you one indulgence.. It better be harmless.''

Whilst Banu frowned in disapproving confusion to what was an incomprehensible conversation, Zhu dragged her into the dining room and everyone beside Naveed squad the large space, the table would be barely enough to accommodate everyone. Hadraniel was dragging an unwilling Elina into the kitchen, soon followed by Hildegarde and Hao (she was calling herself a maid-knight for some reason).

''No takeback.'' Is your little sun answer, prompting a sinking feeling in your guts.

Things will be fine... Sieglinde has been with these people for one week. She registered your apprehension with a silent, knowing look of support and soon enough your entire set of links radiated a gentle warmth...

Why even worry at all?


Explaining the entirety of your adventures in Muribel -two whole months of constantly busy days- would be taking a while, especially if you want to be a little selective in your information. Some subjects would begin a discussion, it was inevitable.

''You mean that Horkus had somehow attached itself in your soul?'' Deruella interrupted you gently to speak at Shereen. Fortune's gentle, aloof demeanor had changed into something dryer and pragmatic but the constant smirk worn by the demonic princess was enough to alleviate some pressures, the veil on her face also helped in keeping a mystical allure.

''I haven't expunged my Corruption in the last few years and... I think that crossbow bolt precipitated my bad health.'' Shereen answered carefully, grabbing her tail nervously. ''You know what happened next.''

''Mhm.'' Deruella leaned on her chair.

''Horkus... isn't that a supreme entity dwelling inside one of the parasitic reality attached to ours?'' Siegfried wondered aloud.

''Yeah.'' You answered him. ''It's one, or in this case was, a creature that tried to manifest itself by invading my and Shereen psyche and take over her body for itself. When it failed, things got physical because we were employing Teruko method of Corruption exorcism.''
Meaning it already had a body of Corruption to work with. Whilst this method made sacrifices obsolete, it sure made things dangerous... but you'd have to agree with Throne Town's disposition: better to die in this kind of battle instead of suffering tragedies without doing anything.

''You did the biggest share, darling. Mind if I take over to explain my perspective? I had to keep my charade so I got plenty of good looks at what was happening.''

Letting Deruella become the next center of attention was a relief, she was a far better orator than you'd ever hope to be! You began to gather quite a few stares when the subject of your metamorphosis was unceremoniously breached, with Zhu idle comment about ''Iron 'Man'' sticking around a little too much for your liking.

So far so good, yes, but you did notice something odd that, at least, wasn't from the folks from Zipangu. Sieglinde radiated an intense feeling of guilt when the subject of your metal body took precedence. She was quick to realize your shifted attention (and concern) and curtailed that emotion but the fact this occurred in the first place was very odd. Why? She hasn't done anything wrong.


''Ugh!'' Shereen nearly choked on her food and put a hand on her chest, between her breast.

''Are you okay?'' You asked her, interrupting your tale to hold her shoulder.

''Y-yes, I'm... I-I need the bathroom.'' Her expression was thoroughly awkward and confused, she gently scratched your forearm, trying to tell you something silently... Alas, without a soul link, deducing such intentions was impossible.

''Allow me to show you.'' The second Anubis of the room rose from her seat next to Kyorn, gently maneuvering around the table to stand beside the door, tail and fluffy ears fluttering with concealed emotions. Banu had also risen to accompany them but, after a moment of hesitation, decided to back down.

This strange malaise in Shereen occurred when you mentioned the lore keeper who informed you about Solemnval properly. The timing between mentioning his name and what just happened was... very suspicious. Could Ama be acting up?

Good thing you made her promise to stay put.

''Gotta say, those two look so similar I still need to remind myself Shereen isn't my wife wayward daughter.'' Kyorn commented during the silence that accompanied the leaving women. ''Anubis are fairly rare monsters, is it normal for two unrelated people to look so alike?''

The two demons sisters exchanged a meaningful look with Sieglinde speaking first, big clawed fingers briefly clicking on the table to translate her insistence. ''For some races, yes. Insects types with high reproductive rates share physical similarities. However, Anubis are canine-type mammals, meaning their synchrony with humanity is much more natural, such a similarity without parenthood is highly unusual.''
''Anubis are also naturally attuned to magic and always had great potential in the manipulation of their Corruption, should they be born without the gift.'' Deruella imposed herself gently, running a finger on the translucid veil she refused to remove. ''Perhaps they share a single ancestor here in Muribel.''

''Shereen mother is an Apophis.'' Sieglinde shake her head at her sister. ''Impossible.''

Apophis are some of the oldest monsters around, one of the few races that have barely been affected by Daiyu Corruption. Seen as soul descendent of the first, mythical Mother of Monsters Usha, they are a race whose birth is completely unpredictable and can, in turn, give birth to wildly different races, often spawning entirely new types of monsters altogether.

You never gave Shereen mother much thought, but her race alone is quite helpful when it comes to being worshipped as a god...

''Mhm, true.'' Deruella nods, speaking with a flutter of amusement in her tone. ''Which reminds me that her firstborn has all the traits of a trueblood demon. She looks wholly human without any deformation... Very odd for two daughters to be so different.''

''Whilst this is an interesting inquiry, let's not get sidetracked. You met with a loremaster elf you say? He knew about Solemnval?'' Siegfried imposed himself, prompting you to continue your tale.

''Arawn? Since we're about to speak about everything that happened in Myrtidal, would you mind if I and Mina speak about our perspective? It's about time.'' Klesiah reached to grab your hand before you could begin, raising many eyebrows of confusions.

You had been so worried about Ama that you genuinely forgot about Klesiah situation, having those two sharing the same body had begun to feel wholesome before you knew it and honestly, you wouldn't mind if your dear knight could keep this dear friendship with Mother Earth shard for years to come.

You knew firsthand how comforting it could be to have a precious spiritual ally who can, at times, prevent you from rushing into emotional mistakes.

''Sorry guys, we have a few secrets of our own.'' Nervous glance and suspicious stares inevitably grew throughout the crowd of Zipangu whilst Deruella looked with newfound attention. ''This one is a good one, though.''

Your blueberry knight rose to her feet with interlocked hands. Mina manifested by simply stepping out of her anchor body in a ghostly, hallucinogenic manner yet her completely rejuvenated energy allowed her to present herself naturally. Long, cascading multicolored hair, brilliant golden gaze, a gentle, motherly face. Siegfried rose to his feet in genuine stupefactions whilst everyone else, including Deruella and Sieglinde, just stared in open-mouthed stupefaction.
''Y-you're a shard...'' Siegfried stated the obvious, eyes nearly jumping out of his skull. ''...How long? Is the Mother...'' He visibly hesitated, the struggle he had with swallowing his saliva was almost audible. Beside him, Hadraniel and the somber, sinister woman put one supporting hand above his. ''Has your presence here been ordered by Mother Earth?''

''Not at all. Initially, I was investigating the disappearance of a fellow Shard in Throne Town and during that sad event, I saw my anchor struggle and fight with devotions to friends and faith in the Mother so, when she was kidnapped, I decide to follow... and with some good luck and plenty of discipline, we endured one year in the evil witch clutch.'' Mina voice was almost melodious. ''Call me Mina. It is the name Klesiah insisted on giving me.''

Kyorn let out a sharp whistle as he caught a feather falling out of his flapping wings. ''Got more surprises in store?'' It was a simple good-natured comment but you decided to hold onto it.

''Yeah, a bad one I'm afraid but we'll get to it when we explain what happened in Myrtidal.'' You plucked the pair of Awakened Pearls out of their protective pouch, gathering every stare in the room. These magical spheres were as big as your thumbs and shone from an inner light absent in regular ones. ''We had to send two peoples to Zipangu.''

''I knew about that.'' You didn't expect Siegfried answer.

''What, really?'' Kyorn glared at him. ''Didn't think about revealing that? Fucking hell man, I do like you but you can be one irritating wall sometimes.''

''Ame and Tsukiyomi are handling it. You know how long-distance communications work with soul links, I wasn't able to learn any details.'' Kyorn reaction to his friend was to grunt in disapproval.

You've had a different experience but that was likely because of Shereen blood magic providing vital support.

''Hmmhuhuhu.'' Deruella cackled excitedly.

''Children.'' Mina gently clapped her hands to gather everyone's attention, good food and drink finally began to pour in from the kitchen. One could almost mistake this atmosphere like a tavern evening. ''The Witch Game began thusly: four players needed to find Myrtidal unlucky black cat by using whatever means they had at their disposal...''

Shortly afterward, Shereen returned with Mebuchednazi behind her, your little sun was doing her best to avoid looking awkward. Her mind was not on the discussion at the table.


''...Shereen soul has been horror marked, that's why we got ambushed yesterday night. We'll need to take care of that, at least we've got one Outsider down.'' Hildegarde had taken over after your entire struggle in Myrtidal (with a little key omission) had been explained by Mina, finishing the tale that had stretched long enough for the sun to begin dimming.
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''That little girl's parents... are in there?'' Sieglinde was the first to comment after five minutes of silent munching from the crowd, diner and dessert were well and truly over, leaving only leftovers. You weren't certain why Naveed squad wasn't here, the boy was insisting on not knowing the details of what was happening here, preferring to spend time with his teammates; he came and went with his share of food.

''Indeed, indeed. I've only seen Awakened Pearls in books and one time, an elven gentleman described them to me.'' Deruella commented, rolling one of the big spheres on the table. ''How did you come across such knowledge, my dears? Mother Earth makes it a mission to extinguish places like Solemnval just so people like Zerase cannot try to reach apotheosis, how did you know about these? Alas, we had to kill our potential source of knowledge lest she robs someone's soul...''

Your exit of Solemnval had been told succinctly. ''We left to avoid confronting the evil Pharaoh where she had all the advantages'' is how Mina put it.

''I can see it in your eyes you've already figured that out.'' Deruella wore an expression of joy that, somehow, felt equally inviting and dreadful. Not a good thing to encourage, but you had to.

''Hooohohoho!'' The demoness cackled loudly. ''Huuuhuhuhu! Oooh great goodness I don't want to believe it but it IS the undeniable truth isn't it!? I've been wondering how Sieglinde was so certain of lovely Anais safety...'' Deruella long, thin, spaded tail twitched around, flexing into forming numerous hearts of various lengths. She was even rubbing her thighs together, making everyone uncomfortable. ''...Twice now you've managed to surprise me, dear Arawn, and in one year to boot. Hmm.''

''You are choosing a poor moment to get horny, Deru.'' The tall manticore interrupted her lady sternly.

''Seriously.'' Meruse agreed, sharing her compatriot spirit.

The only one that wasn't nervous at seeing Deruella happiness was the silent slime who regarded her mistress with affection.

''Aight peeps, now's not the time to do something stupid.'' Zhu imposed herself. ''It wasn't a bad idea, yesterday would have gone very differently without her so honestly, some gratitude ain't out of order here.''

''Oh fuck.'' Siegfried realized all the implications
''Her?'' Kyorn asked the obvious, his wife rose to her feet, having also puzzled together the truth.

''Me! All Evils of the World! Now repented and working for the good of all!''

A white shadow stepped out of Shereen body, growing taller and thicker in the blink of an eye. Nine white tails, two long vulpine ears, a kimono criminally open... An explosion of golden light suddenly erupted in the room.

On the opposite side, Hadraniel had embraced Focus, casting off her disguise to create a golden wall long enough to encompass the entire length of this side of her room, protecting the group. Her gorgeous white wings and halo gave her a prodigious aura.
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On your side, Elina did the same thing. Destroying the disguise you spent thirty minutes carefully crafting, her red wings and halo made her look far more natural and beautiful. A thick golden screen extended out of her hand to protect your and Deruella party from the Focus embraced mages of Zipangu. The only ones that weren't shining from inner lights were Mylen - the gothic bodyguard- , that square-eyed girl who also remained sitting without a shred of emotions and Kyorn wife Mebuchednazi.

Hao had lunged at you to try and drag you under the table but Hildegarde had been quick enough to prevent that. Deruella openly laughed as the hostility reached its paroxysm...

''Infighting is the road to perdition!'' Naveed suddenly screamed from the entrance attracted by the cacophony. ''Stop at once!''

''Let them deal with their problems, Naveed!'' The good lad was dragged away by his lady snake friend. ''This is so far above what we can do!''

''That it is, that it is. Listen to the wisdom of youth.'' Ama commented, now fully bodied. She stood behind Shereen, putting her hands on your little sun shoulders, silently showing who it is that housed her essence.

''Guys, I'm not asking you to trust her! Mother mercy, she knows I have none but even the fox has... an interest in seeing our triumph.'' You tried your best but the hostility didn't drop. The only thing that prevented Deruella party from adopting a similar attitude was the princess herself forcing them to stay put with her authority. Sieglinde looked pale, almost dying. The sheer horror she felt gave her a bout of nausea.

''More than an interest, my dears. Did any of you give your rescue attempt due reflection?''

''Bloody hell woman is that how you'll try to be friendly!?''

''Shush, Arawn.'' One white tail flicked in your direction. At least she didn't abuse the hold she had onto your soul to make you shut up.

''Of course, I have an interest in thwarting that evil Pharaoh, one of it is right here...'' She gently squeezed the silent Shereen shoulders. ''...Another here.'' She tried to caress your cheek with her tail but you dodged. ''More over here.'' Tails slithered toward Klesiah, Hildegarde, and Zhu, the only one letting the touching happen was the shut-eyed swordswoman.

''Do any of you truly believe that Ensan and Zerase aren't petty enough to slit Anais throat the moment your rescue attempt begins?'' Waltier punched Hadraniel protective screen upon hearing Ama dry delivery. ''Having three... no, two and a half angels do give you guys a chance to rescue her, true... but that'd mean busting through the roof while guessing where the darling princess is. You've all lived through a few miracles so maybe, just maybe, you'd be able to get to her quickly enough but that is one mighty gamble isn't it?''

The father was the first one to shed anger for composure as the witch word gripped his heart.
''I've had my darling Mimiru use a combination of astral and earth pearls to petrify herself and Anais in the middle of that evil princess room. Meaning, we know where Anais is and she cannot be harmed!'' Ama huffed in self-indulgent pride, two tails curled on her hips to mimic hands. ''I do want to ensure the safety of my dear little apostle and it would be such a waste for Anais potential to be wasted here, wouldn't you say?''

''You think... You believe we...?'' From the other side of the golden screen, Siegfried trembled with rage.

''Oh yes, I do believe you'll bury our history, for now, my dear son-in-law.'' A row of iced spears appeared suddenly appeared Siegfried shoulders! Then, the squared-eyed girl bolted out of her seat to tackle him on the wall.

''Ugh!? Emeth!?'' The man croaked, letting go of his spell. The girl shook her head after their eyes crossed.

''I know you so desperately want to pile on me all the trouble your wives have been having in recent years but as you can see...' She put one hand on the intimidated Shereen, another tail pointed at you. ''...I've been far too busy playing.''

''What interest could you have in milady?'' Banu spat. She was trying and failing to find an opening to get your little sun out of Ama clutches.

''How could I not fall in love with her?'' The vixen responded. ''Dear me, look at her family. Zerase is a nightmare, one of the strongest magicians of this era, instructed in the manipulation of pearls and smart enough to modernize applications of old knowledge. Apotheosis is a rather boring ambition, but she has worked diligently for this goal... One could almost wonder if Muribel was founded for this purpose! Then come Ensan, the firstborn daughter of the godly Pharaoh.'' The way Ama began to massage Shereen shoulders made it seem like she was trying to rub away the smaller girl's worries. Zipangu group slowly but surely began to settle down as the vixen continued to talk.

''...An ambitious woman who, undoubtedly, is the face of Muribel. Like this country, she projects an image of strength and shares its shaky foundations, with blood as her only loyalty. The list of her abuses and indulgences is far too long but let's say that she has a strong personality with enough ambitions to mirror her mother. Then, there is Shereen, the forgotten princess. A girl who lived her life trapped within a gilded cage, unable to see for herself the state of her country outside the walls of the capital siphoning the wealth and prosperity of everyone else... Somehow ended up opposing her family, not only that, but also becoming her mother's most dangerous opposition. All of this because somehow, someway, the poisonous womb of Zerase created a precious empathetic girl'' Taking a moment to take in a large theatric breath of narcissistic extravagance, she reopened her eyes toward Banu in a way befitting an actor on a stage. ''How could I not support such a story?''
''Arawn wasn't wasn't the only player of your game, hm?'' Deruella said toothy grin looking a little too wide for your liking.

''Isn't it absolutely precious that he not only became friendly with his slaver, but both of them became close as kin?'' Ama paused for a cackle, showing a dangerously manic expression. ''Now don't go assuming too many things you little devil, you're a little too smart for your own good and that can make you blind.''

''People, listen to me!'' Shereen slapped the table, claws slightly digging into its wooden surface. ''I know the witch does not deserve any trusts. Her existence, at least this temporary body of hers, is tied to my soul. If she truly does plan to betray us then you need only sever my head and she'd only have a few minutes to act before dissolving to nothingness!''

''Fuck that!'' Zhu yelled loudly. ''None of you better think of pulling that shit! Why the fuck would you say this bullshit!?'' This was the first time Zhu anger didn't make Shereen flinch. She glared at her moon silently, holding her ground.

''Quiet, Moon.'' Was her dry response.

''Hildegarde?'' From his side of the screen, Waltier spoke.

''My lord...'' You don't know why Hildegarde had been sitting next to Elina, but you were happy for the gesture. It made her part of your group. ''...When one has to choose between two fighting devils, it is better to go with the one you know. Whilst her reputation is well deserved and she cannot be trusted, Ama words and actions after the end of her game have yet to show lies. Without her, Shereen soul wouldn't have remained whole after that ambush we suffered yesterday.''

''...Then I'll take your help, witch.'' Waltier finished. ''And so will all of you.'' He turned to his allies, the finality in his words and glare was obvious. You are with me or against me.

''Sis...?'' Hadraniel voice was like a gentle squeak from a tiny animal.

''I'm sharing Hildegarde opinion.'' Was your angel curt response. ''I'll lower my shield. No stupid stunts, okay?''

Putting careful action to words, your angelic companion dispelled the golden protection. Her older sister followed afterward and with that, a dangerous edge of tension dissipated.

''We've worked together once, in the past.'' Kyorn glared at the white fox. ''Didn't end too badly, I guess. Fuck.'' He shook his head to look at Waltier silently, nodding to him.

''Maybe... It'll be good enough if she doesn't listen to our planning.'' Siegfried was the most reluctant out of everyone, his glare was almost feverish as he dreamed of murdering the nine-tailed kitsune. His animosity seemed worse than anything you could muster.

''I disagree.'' Deruella commented. ''Naveed said it best. Infighting is the road to perdition, I want to make good use of that fluffy head of yours, oh great Evil of the World... and darling Shereen too. You've spent your life in that palace, I'm sure you can help in ways you haven't expected.''
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''I'll... have to side with Deruella.'' Sieglinde voice sounded dry, almost hoarse, forcing her to clear her throat. ''We're about to storm the palace of a wizard preparing a mass sacrifice full of fanatics followers, what's one witch to add into this pile?''

''Guys! Guys! Stop!'' Hao spoke loudly, clapping her hands together and even slamming the table. ''What is this us against them feeling doing here!? Bad Witch want to help? Okay, she will and that's that! Deruella is a good person too, all of us came here for Arawn but now we save Anais, it's that simple!'' Her green gaze sharpened into an accusatory glare directed at everyone who looked at her. ''Bad memories are burying you all alive and destroying the road to success we've built. Stop it. Too much thinking, not enough doing!''

It really was that simple.

''You're right, Hao. I've been buried by bad memories.'' Siegfried sighed, for an instant, he looked very tired. ''Two of the three worse women I've ever met are standing right here, thinking they aren't enemies is... difficult.''

''You need to.'' Hao answered, almost chiding. ''Otherwise, we die.''

''Let's take a break.'' The tall, beautiful dark-haired woman spoke for the first time. Her voice was grave and harsh yet her expression remained composed and polite. ''Let's come back in one hour. Arawn group discovered a whole damn lot, we might honestly need to change our objective from saving Anais to outright killing the Pharaoh.'' Shereen winced at the harsh truth.

''Sounds good.'' Waltier spoke and promptly walked out, Hildegarde took a few tentative steps to follow but ultimately held herself back, the man had gone like a gust of wind.

Siegfried slapped one of his cheeks, the other was patted by the shorter brunette beside him. ''I'll get my head straight. Better to know now, I guess.''

He walked out with Emeth and Mylen, the Embodiment of Love remained behind. Poor Hadraniel looked similar to a beaten puppy as she walked near Elina. ''Elina... I'm sorry, it's not that I don't trust you! I really do! I-I... I reacted strongly.'' She glared at Ama who glowered with this disgusting smirk of satisfaction as she watched Siegfried leave. ''There's no excuse.''

''It's okay, sis.'' Your angelic companion gently held Hadraniel's arms. ''I'll need much more to get angry.''

''The Hour of Lullaby will begin once we reconvene.'' Mina informed you.

The atmosphere, slowly but surely, was starting to settle into something livable.

You've avoided the worst outcome.

''Fucking hell.'' You breathed out. ''That was tense.''

''I've heard the meeting between my mom and the Patriarch was soul-sucking.'' Deruella giggled as she spoke. ''Everyone here is reasonable.''

You'll be able to propose investigating the Red World in one hour... what should you do in the meantime?

>Go find Waltier. There's only one secret remaining: his unexplainable arrival in Muribel. He might be hard to deal with, but that's something you need to know, it could complicate your plans.

>Go find Siegfried, group. Despite being a bundle of nearly broken down nerves, he held himself together admirably. Perhaps you can help him accept Ama and Deruella presence, after all, you've been the vixen toy for a while... That should give your words some weight.

>Speak with the Embodiment of Love. Perhaps she can explain Siegfried reactions a little better, or maybe you'd like to speak about some other subject close to your heart?

>Kyorn and Mebuchednazi have remained behind. Go talk with them, maybe you can make new friends, perhaps you can talk about Muribel as a whole with the former noblewoman.

>Ama commented that she'd like to speak with you privately... although that won't be entirely possible because Deruella insisted on hearing this out, citing some excuse about untangling a potential web of lies. It is not a pressing matter. (Go with Ama, Deruella and Shereen for a private chat. You can also invite whoever else you want.)

>Remain in place and observe how people mingle around the place, maybe you'll see something interesting?


Gonna answer tomorrow. We'll be back to more regular-sized updates. This was a confrontation that needed to happen and... juggling so many people is hard!
Wow, that was a lot to take in. Worst outcome avoided eh? More compounding of choices I take it. Had we not healed Ama, Shereen lost her soul, or we had just cold opened with Ama's presence she would have eaten Ice Spikes and the whole resultant clusterfuck probably would have alerted the guards. Hard not to notice a gaggle of high powered mages, angels, and legend tier warriors going at it. At least now we know for a fact Ame is Ama's girl. She called old Siggy her "dear son-in-law" after all. Also, 2 out 3 of the worst women? Who's the third? Daiyu? Some other wretch whose skull he'd like to run through with an ice spike?

Interesting play Ama made as well. Everyone seems to think she gives a damn about her apostles and thus petrifying one along with Anais gives people a reason to trust her. After all, if this gets botched she loses her apostle. She thus has "skin in the game" on this front. Guess this is what she meant by ensuring Anais's survival. Damn did she have the other side read in regards to their plans too. This shit is why Tzeentchian villains can be so terrifying. She does have a way to reverse the petrification and restore them both to life right? Normally that'd kill someone dead especially if they get shattered. I assume it's rather hard to shatter pearl induced petrification victims or otherwise kill em' with death pearls yes?

As for the investigation of the red world, we, or at least the people going in to delete that horror mark, will check in the general direction of that silo and the palace right? We do need to confirm if one of those other Greater Daemons is lurking about potentially waiting to be summoned into realspace by Zerase. If it's there it's best if we either know it's coming or act to kill/neutralize it before the assault. Can Ama just gate/open portals in and out whomever she wants in regards to the red world? Haddy can check out the entire capital's red world with relatively little risk if she has a free way in and out I think. Though I don't think anyone should get close to the palace from the red world. I just know that infernal snake has gone full Kayneth on that shit and unlike Kerry we don't got a way to just blow it all up and bypass it all. Well, unless Ama knows how to do just that. That dimension is basically her playground I think.

As for what choice to make, I'll need to think long and hard on it but I'm kind of partial towards talking with Ama and inviting Hadraniel to come along at the moment. Of everyone here she has the best shot at getting old Siggy to be at least somewhat party cohesive with her. Might also invite our Siggy to come along as well. She's horrified by her presence, need to fix that. That guilt she felt is also worrying but now's not the time to dig into it. She withheld the details of our separation from Gardy for good reason. We'll learn of them when we restore him. What do the other choices entail?
>She does have a way to reverse the petrification and restore them both to life right? Normally that'd kill someone dead especially if they get shattered. I assume it's rather hard to shatter pearl induced petrification victims or otherwise kill em' with death pearls yes?
She'll need to personally reverse the process, you'll know the details when it comes to hashing out a plan. Anais and Mimiru are safe though, it's why she used an Astral pearl with the earth one. It's possible to dispel it or break the statues of course, but the magic has to be eroded. You have around 3 days before Zerase and work through Ama protection.
>As for the investigation of the red world, we, or at least the people going in to delete that horror mark, will check in the general direction of that silo and the palace right?
You'll be able to decide who goes, yes.
>Can Ama just gate/open portals in and out whomever she wants in regards to the red world?
No, she can drag people in there physically at night where she's fully powered or by consuming an astral pearl to temporarily restore her whole strength.
>What do the other choices entail?
Mostly a focus on meeting new people, each of them potentially important but it'll mostly be about getting to know folks.
Having Deru and Ama in the same room could be hazardous to your mental health... Or maybe they'll behave since Shereen is here.
Ama and Deru in the same room is hazardous to our mental health? How so? How and Why would Shereen's presence mollify their behavior? Maybe Ama would hold back because of her anchor but Deru? Maybe, we need to get to know her better to predict her actions. Also, it seems that surprising Deru and/or exceeding her expectations is the key to her heart, or at least, the way to get inside her panties. Seems we may yet be able to get on her route somehow if we want. Given that, we may have to take precautions once we get back to throne town. Deru strikes me as the kind of girl who knows what she wants and isn't afraid to go right for it. If she wants us (and it seems like she now does), she will find a way to get us. Probably on our knees and aiming to please her and not the other way around. If we're not careful we're gonna end up wrapped around her fingers, tail, horns and wings. It won't be us landing her route. It'll be her landing ours!

So if we nab an Astral Pearl somehow we can feed it to Ama to supercharge her temporary body and make it as if she was fully and totally incarnate in realspace for a time? Damn, I hope Mimiru got a chance to scout the place out a bit and found Zerase's stash. That'd be hella useful during the final boss fight.

Clock's ticking it would seem though. We got 3 days to pull this off or we're back to rolling dice in regards to saving Anais. That counts today I take it so we get until the day after tomorrow's night/that next day's early morning to extract her and Mimiru yes?
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>Ama and Deru in the same room is hazardous to our mental health? How so?
Oh, I was mostly kidding. These two are considered the evilest women of the era. It's one hell of a thing for them to finally meet. Unlike everyone here, they don't have much of a history so there's no real animosity outside a constant desire for intellectual dominance.
>So if we nab an Astral Pearl somehow we can feed it to Ama to supercharge her temporary body and make it as if she was fully and totally incarnate in realspace for a time?
Yes. She can also transform two death pearls into a single astral one via an alchemical process that can be reproduced magically by using a combination of blood and soul magic. Meaning Deru, Shereen and you can help her with that.

>That counts today I take it so we get until the day after tomorrow's night/that next day's early morning to extract her and Mimiru yes?
Yeah. Discounting today, you'll have two full days of prep time.
Seems we got a potential trade off in regards to prep then. After all, Zerase has to know someone's coming for her and that the Counter Force both may be a thing and that she may have set it off despite all precautions. After all, its baseline operation is to contrive coincidences such that anyone trying to pull shit like this gets royally screwed over and then some. Like, say, a party like ours assembling within her capital to kill her dead just days before she would have pulled it off.

Point is, every day we get to prepare is a day she gets as well. Though it's also a chance to screw up her prep as well if we can get the necessary intel without giving her any in regards to us somehow. After all, Mimiru and Anais are literally invincible until that timer runs out so at least that's one thing that cannot go wrong no matter what we do. Sadly, you don't give us anything in excess of what's needed to win. We've assembled *quite* a bit of power in regards to this party. We're going to need all of it if we wanna both win and maintain our no party deaths run.
Fun time ahead, no matter what, it'll be one explosive finale.

Gonna tally votes tomorrow after I wake up so make em obvious people.
>Ama commented that she'd like to speak with you privately... although that won't be entirely possible because Deruella insisted on hearing this out, citing some excuse about untangling a potential web of lies. It is not a pressing matter. (Go with Ama, Deruella and Shereen for a private chat. You can also invite whoever else you want.)
Bring Zhu; because she is fun, and Sieglinde because we need to reconnect after so long away from one another.

Also the interaction between the two of them could yet produce hijinks.

I do think the Group that should go investigate the red should be limited to those who can get themselves out accompanied by those that can survive long stretches, who hopefully won't get left behind regardless of what we find.
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Gonna take today off to rest up my brain.
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I'll still work on the update this evening, forgot to say so I'll close the votes in an hour and go with what I've got.
I can get behind this option. I wonder what Ama want's to talk about and it ain't like Deru's gonna keep the conversation secret from Sieg and Zhu's just about the only person in the party who isn't outright hostile towards the witch. She even lets her stroke her with her accursed fluff!
''Alchemy isn't popular in this country, how did you find these cold refreshments?''

''Siegfried talent allowed him to jury rig a little something for our comfort.'' Sieglinde answered the fox with a tight throat and a heavy glare. The more negativity that radiated her way, the more Ama seemed to preen. ''I'm not sure why you wanted to meet with Arawn ''intimately'' but you'll need to realize, right now, that attempting any mind games or manipulations will be an experience in futility.'' Sieglinde thick, dangerous tail twitched, the bladed end audibly scratched the stone wall behind her.

''Perhaps submitting to Daiyu wonderful daughters wouldn't be such a bad thing.'' For an instant, the vixen crossed gaze with the tenebrous eyes of Deruella Jawahir. ''Hmph, I knew you'd always be far too much trouble to be worth it.''

''My, could we start a rivalry that would last through the age?'' Deruella singsong voice belied sinister intent... or maybe it was the impression her eyes gave. Dangerously attractive, those.

Why are you so attracted to what Mamonos outright call deformities?

''Are you two gonna fuck or what?'' The room you were using was a spare bedroom and Zhu had no shame with lying down on the bed.

''Focus.'' You cleared your throat, gulping the fresh juice. Alcohol wasn't a luxury this big group of renegade could afford (most places were sold out) but they made do with funds stolen from that gang leader. What was her name again? ''Why'd you want to talk to me anyway?''

Shereen perked-up ears were the only sign she was paying attention to what was happening.

''You two have been naughty children.'' Ama began, reaching for your little sun fluffy head but a sharp growl stopped her. ''Armin, Armin... To not mention encountering such a unique man is a bad thing.''

''Really? What does he have to do with you?'' You frowned, glowered your disapproval. ''I talked with the girls to avoid mentioning him in your presence before you even anchored yourself in Shereen and I'd say as I was right, he doesn't need your attention.''

''Had he touched anyone?'' Ama question only heightened your confusion, spreading it to everyone else. You exchanged a look with Shereen and Zhu, both shaking their head.

''Hildegarde would probably have mentioned something if he had.'' Shereen commented. ''You know that man?''

''I'd be more accurate to say I've been suffering his existence.'' Ama gulped down her drink in one motion, washing off the taste of a bad subject. ''Encountering a loremaster able to explain the broad topic of Solemnval the day before having to confront that mystical place is mighty good luck wouldn't you say?''

''I kinda taught he was connected to ya.'' Zhu commented, she had changed her position to a sitting one.

''Well, well. Enough with veiled threats.'' Deruella enjoyed the irony because she ran a finger along the silk on her face. ''Be blunt.''
''Hmph, a world without sophistry isn't worth living in.'' A bundle of Ama tails flicked in annoyance. ''That man has been contaminated by an Outsider in the same era that saw Gardy emergence. The Cursed Swamp might be a unique phenomenon, similar smaller wounds have occurred quite often throughout the era of Pretenders and, thankfully, they've all been closed quickly enough to avoid breaking our reality... But that's simple history. That man, I'm afraid, is rather insane.''

''There is no more subjective word, darling.''

''Must you try tripping me at every turn? I'll have you choke on my tails if you keep this up!'' Ama huffed and stole Deruella half-emptied drink.

''Insanity could be described as simple ignorance to people's internal logic...'' She glared at the tenebrous demoness. ''This man has survived in a neurotic state for -literal- ages. Sometimes he's graced by dangerous moments of clarity that motivate him to labor for a goal, which is always destructive.''

''Sound like you have your share of history.''

''Now that's an understatement.'' Ama tails swayed as she answered you. ''He once derailed one of my games and nearly killed Tuilelaith, I had to directly intervene to keep my best friend alive. Goodness, even Mother Earth had to show up!''

''Hrm.'' Zhu grunted and didn't add anything else.

''I suspect he's the one who instructed Zerase in the ways of pearls instead of that crone.'' The witch continued.

''Really? Then... it means he was here for thirty years at least!'' Shereen nervously said. ''Banu told me the first time she saw Zerase use a pearl was before I was born.''

''Nay, I suspect he instructed your mother long before that, during a previous moment of ''clarity'' which, eventually led to my little playground. A few little sprouts of knowledge grew into dear Anais kidnapping...'' Ama growl almost sounded like a whine of annoyance. ''Too little too late I suppose.''

''That's some mighty accusation, can you be more specific about this insanity of his?'' It was difficult to shake your good impression of the elven loremaster. Maybe this is more of Ama manipulations.

''His normal state is to cause changes in people and see the results, preferably long term.'' Ama says while holding a cup with two hands. ''For example, causing a disease in a lovely grandmother and see how the family handles her inevitable death, make a woman obsess over the potential infidelity of her husband only to realize she was wrong after leaving him. Alternatively, I've seen him cure a child's deadly illness and observe the following happiness... only for a relapse to ruin things. Then cause illness in another child, only for the boy to overcome and regain his good health. His, let's say usual, mindset is to cause endless personal tragedies and witness how people react and adapt. Yet I haven't been able to pinpoint logic to it. He targets everyone, he helps, then ruins them... He comes and goes like the wind. Pure annoyance.''
''And his clearer moments has the leader of a country create a long-term ritual to sacrifice millions for apotheosis.'' Deruella concluded when Ama grew silent. ''Well, well. No wonder our fluffy darling had a stomachache after hearing that name! This man, Armin, is he perchance a gorgeous white-haired elf who seemed to enjoy putting enough feathers in his hair to give a rainbow impression?''

The look of surprises she earned were the answers she needed.

''That elf was in Zipangu for the first six months after we brought all four sleeping beauties inside its inner sanctum. The problem with everyone's souls had the two foxes invite a plethora of magical and alchemical experts and that elf came during those tumultuous months to study Zipangu old myths and eventually join his head with expert in souls to find a solution to your situation.'' She paused, casting a hard look at you then her older sister. ''He was eventually allowed inside your resting placewith supervision, of course. Now that I think about it...'' Deruella showed a strange tick: she briefly bit her little finger. ''...I saw him touch the head of Siegfried second daughter one day, in a way that made sense at the time. His firstborn, Kin, instinctively disliked him despite trying hard to change her opinion. This is why I've had him under close supervision during my stay in Zipangu. I haven't noticed anything suspicious once I had to leave for this place.''

''It is highly likely that girl has been having serious trouble with her soul lately.'' Ama directed her stares at you. ''Perhaps it's why Siegfried agreed on coming here.''

''For the week I've stayed in Zipangu, Agathe looked fine. She's a glum girl and seems to have a fascination with horrors and tragedies but she's just a kid who'll need to grow out of this phase.'' Sieglinde commented. ''That's one hell of a stretch to accuse a chance encounter of being... a primordial evil.''

''Do you truly believe elves are above cruelty, my dear?'' Ama scoffed. ''Don't look too deep into the struggles of Humanity Pretender God, Gardy mechanical hands are drenched in elven blood.''

''C-can that guy shapeshift?'' Shereen interruption also lessened the tension, allowing you to release a breath you didn't know to have.

''That man lived before the elevation of the Demonic Throne and has been contaminated by an Outsider. He's unaffected by Corruption mind-bending effect and that, in turn, makes him unable to use it. He -is- however, skilled in glamour and has far too often concealed his appearance and even outright hypnotized people in ways that should be impossible.''

''If you had seriously said that Waltier could have been an enemy..." Sieglinde shook her head and brought one of her big hands at eye-level to replaced a few red strands away. ''...Barely an hour after her arrival, the witch cast doubts on our company of allies. You truly carry perdition wherever you go.''
You looked at Zhu who, after a while, understood your silent question. ''Nah, his colors didn't look too weird to me. Don't remember much, to be honest'' She answered, prompting raised eyebrows from the demonic sisters.

''This man has a little knack.'' Ama imposed herself, regaining the momentum of the conversation. ''Only me and Arawn will remember his name and demeanor. People completely forget about him after time passes... unless they happened to be directly reminded. You've never given that elf many thoughts once he left, right? My dear tenebrous genius?''

For the very first time, Deruella looked taken aback. Her dark eyes widened in realization, which progressed into a frown and ended in a childish pout. ''Cheating'' She groaned. Ama ears twitched and her tail danced: the witch was preening.

That... is one hell of a new but what can you do about it? Ensan and Zerase are already a handful, at least you know who their teacher is.

Web weavers upon web weavers. This world could use a good forest fire.

>Breach the subject of Sieglinde and Hao unusual souls. Ama and Deruella might be the best persons to talk about this.
>a) Only mention one of them (Who?)
>Demand that Ama talk about her history with Armin. The way she piled things on him... It was as if he is the true evil of the world! How does she know he's been ''contaminated''?
>Move onto a comfortable topic. Perhaps Sieglinde can speak about her time in Zipangu?
People will reconvene after this choice.
>a) Only mention one of them (Who?)
Focus on how to go about fixing her evolved / elevated level of corruption, with the entire extended delegation here we have the best chance of convincing them to help / revert things.
Can we get a cursory opinion on them both than decide who to focus on/whose case is more immediately worrying?
Yeah. It's just possible to focus on one person more than the other and, of course, the conversation will change depending on how you go about it.
Been having a bout of bad health in the last two days but I'll still continue and update. I'll go with the votes I have after 30 more minutes.
Ok then, ask how one's soul can "brighten" to a blinding level somehow and than ask about Sieg. Specify we don't want to know about that fight with Dark Sieg and for nobody to pry into it too much.

Also, Armin is totally the avatar of not-Nyarlathotep. Calling it now.
Rolled 1 (1d2)

Unless a change in vote happens after my time limit, I'll go with the roll.
>Also, Armin is totally the avatar of not-Nyarlathotep. Calling it now.
A little premature! Do you trust the fox?
Oh I trust the fox on this one. A malevolent, chaotic actor/outsider in the guise of a "human" getting involved in our collective business...

Sounds scarily possible. Any way to break his glamor/illusions/whatever mind fuckery he's using without him knowing? Would hate to get stabbed in the back at the worst moment by evil not-Merlin.
Be on the lookout for magical manifestations and pearls shenanigans.
Alright, we'll focus on the redhead problem.
''Okay, guess we'll deal with him if we need to. Better to think he's Zerase teacher.'' Moving on from the subject was unanimous. ''Since we're here I want to talk about something that won't leave this room, okay?''

You finished your second glass nervously, glancing at Sieglinde nervously. Of course, it was impossible to hide your worry, not only was she naturally keen on your feelings but the soul link made them impossible to hide.

''I think you two have already deduced it but Zhu here can see people souls.''

''Mh?'' Your companion straightened her lazy posture when you turned to her. ''Not quite naked souls, more like... a conscious representation of em or something? Nothing about this thing was ever explained to me so honestly, I've given up trying to interpret.'' Zhu put a finger under her good eye, revealing the chromatic orb shining inside what was once an emptied socket.

''Fascinating. Martha would love to examine this.'' Deruella commented.

''She told me earlier that she saw something weird about you Sieglinde.'' The gorgeous redheaded demoness bit her lips silently, radiating stern disapproval, dread, and plenty of worries. Good thing you've gotten used to people's intense emotions.

''Still is, really.'' Zhu moved a little forward, single eye completely opened. ''I know you ain't no bad apple, Sieglinde. Arawn trust ya, so does Elina and that's fine by me but what I'm seeing does send a bad tingle up my spine.''

''I don't think it's important.'' Sieglinde cleared her throat, her tail went on another row of dangerous wall scratches. It sounded almost like metal rattling. ''What about Hao, is she okay?''

''Please tell me what you're seeing.'' Deruella did not sound friendly. Her beautiful face was showing open worry, further fueling Sieglinde dread.

''The upper half of a dark purple skeleton with blade-like arms that ends in deadly claws. She pulses with this inner red light almost like a heartbeat but far too slow to be one.'' You felt a painful pang as Sieglinde guts twisted.

''Again with hiding your health?'' Deruella spoke coldly. ''You've been deteriorating, haven't you?''

''Not at all! I've been fine Deru, damn it you didn't notice anything wrong against that crone and I -know- you've been on the lookout! Wasn't my Corruption completely expunged in Zipangu?'' Sieglinde big, dark hands scratched four dangerous lines on the wooden table. ''Arawn, damn it why did you... I'm fine, I haven't felt anything wrong, there's been more than enough stress to deal with, no need to worry about me.''

''Anything suspicious during your sleep?'' Ama question was met with open animosity but your concern was easily stifling Sieglinde anger.

''My nights have been good. Hao insisted that I sleep with her and Elina during my stay in Zipangu and Hadraniel joined us the day after, they would have noticed anything wrong. We spent most of our nights together on the boat, too.''
''What do you think, Ama?'' You decided to prompt the fox who was looking at your beloved benefactor with far too analytical eyes.

''I'll take a good, long look when we go into the Red World.'' She answered, her tails for once remained motionless. ''Altered Corruption is difficult to examine, such things only belonged to Demon Lords, and each one modified Monsters in ways that suited them.''

Shereen gasped, having finally realized what was being discussed.

''I am fine'' Sieglinde gravely announced, leaning forward to interrupt her little sister before she could speak. ''When Arawn... when you forced...''

Ah damn. Here she is hesitating, gods damn it all you do feel guilty about violating her will back in Throne Town... but you don't regret it.

''Look. Gardy took all of my altered Corruption and sealed it.'' She winced after delivering this revelation. ''He did so much more... but I won't say anything about it. What happened back in Throne Town wounded my soul so I ended up producing more of my, well, personal force. I'm still fine. What you're seeing right now Zhu is just... it's likely the form my soul has taken naturally because of my altered nature. Been living with it for 13 years.''

''Meaning you are slowly but surely turning into an Outsider...'' Ama stopped to observe Deruella, a test.

''...Or on your way to becoming a new Demon Lord.'' The tenebrous demoness passed the silent test.

''Can you think of anything to help?''

''No!'' Sieglinde spiritedly rejected your question.

''Hm... perhaps we can attempt a deep examination of her soul later today.'' Ama remarked, ignoring her. ''You are joined together in a soul link, dear Shereen can create an artificial pathway to you with Blood Magic and, with everyone consent, of course, I could take a little looksie and see what kind of wounds trouble our dear redhead. She has far too much potential to be lost to bad health!''

Realizing that open protest would do nothing, Sieglinde glared utter defiance and disapproval at anyone who looked her way.

''If you hate me so much, my dear.'' And Ama couldn't leave well enough alone. ''Get better and destroy me.''

''What about Hao?'' It was Shereen who mentioned your dear second knight. ''Is she fine, in her soul?''

''She has to be, right?'' A bucket of cold water splashed on Sieglinde ire, replaced by genuine concern. ''She's been so...'' Her voice cracked, her heart was full of warm, pure love. It was lovely enough to make you tear up. ''...vital. I haven't noticed anything wrong.''

Those two months spent together might just have made that wayward tribal girl irreplaceable in Sieglinde heart.

A knock on the door forced everyone to regain their composure. Mina gently opened the door. ''The Hour of Lullaby will be happening in ten minutes, people are reconvening.''

''Tell them we'll be a little late.'' Sieglinde forced her opinion before anyone else. With a nod, the shard silently closed the door and walked away.
>Speak the truth about Hao. It'll be a change in topic, but it's a needed discussion.
>Keep the subject on Sieglinde altered Corruption. Ama and Deruella are the best ones to explain the implications of this reality.
>Put this discussion on ice and insist on not wasting any time when it comes to the Hour of Lullaby.
Choosing more discussions won't penalize you too much when it comes to going into the Red World, so it is a fairly safe choice.
Gonna get to bed early tonight to be in better form tomorrow. This tale ain't ending!
>Put this discussion on ice and insist on not wasting any time when it comes to the Hour of Lullaby.
If we have time to spare after the recon gets done we could take a look at what we see while where there depending on who goes to do what.
How long will the discussion take? I kind of want to take Hao with us as she can move freely in and out of that hellscape but we also need to know if it's safe for her to do so. Hell, she's the type that'd go in no matter what unless we give her a damn good reason not to.

After all, if that "bright" soul is a blaring five alarm dinner bell once shifted into the Red World proper that'll wake all the horrors from their torpor we need everyone, including her, to know about that so that she *doesn't* shift in and fuck everything up.

Basically, if it won't blow a significant portion of the hour of lullaby we discuss Hao's condition.
>How long will the discussion take?
Not going to give a timetable. Won't be too long, mostly because you have other immediate concerns.
>Basically, if it won't blow a significant portion of the hour of lullaby we discuss Hao's condition.
This is one of Arawn fears so confirming it means discussing.
I quoted the wrong sentence. Meant.
>After all, if that "bright" soul is a blaring five alarm dinner bell once shifted into the Red World proper that'll wake all the horrors from their torpor we need everyone, including her, to know about that so that she *doesn't* shift in and fuck everything up.

Is one of Arawn fears.
Ok then, hard vote for discussion of Hao's condition it is. Hopefully the other anons will support me on this one. We need to know about this shit *before* we (and especially her) shift into that nightmare realm.

We almost made a huge mistake before here because we almost jumped in blind at that silo. If one of those accursed princes of that evil realm was right there we'd have gotten insta-gibbed. Let's not make that mistake with a Waifu.
If it was that much of a concern, than it might be a good idea to discuss first.
I'm going to swap since >>4727071 made a convincing argument.

Though we should don't want to take too long since we still need to hash out the goals (sweeping the old grain Silo for a larger presence, investigating and mapping out the palace in preparation for the assault and rudimentary attempts and locating Anais if we can), divide those making the trip into appropriate teams and assign them the agreed on goals, as well as maybe work out some sort of emergency procedures for if things go badly somehow, all before the hour starts since we are definitely going to run up against the clock even if things go smoothly.
I'd take a more cursory approach to all that but that's an issue for the vote after the upcoming update. The primary goal is the safe and total removal of Shereen's horror mark. All other objectives are secondary and the Silo check is quick, safe, and easy. Just get up high and look in the direction of the Silo. If it's the Mountain or the Baby Eater, well, they're really friggin' big. Big enough to see from our distance. If it's that Pigmy, well, that'll take a closer look but that's a thing for tomorrow's lullaby if we decide to take our time with our prep for the final assault.

I'd stay well away from the palace for now. Just get close enough to see if my fears are correct about it if and only if we have time. Everyone that goes in flat out needs to get out and back into realspace someplace safe before the hour ends. If they're caught on the other side when everything wakes up, well, I assume you know how bad "Death Worlds" are and how badly you don't want yourself or anyone you care about to be on one for any length of time.

Also if anyone of ours is forced to gate back in someplace unsafe they might get captured and oh man, I won't feed our GM ideas but let's just say I fear there are/know of ways to accurately unseal even the tightest of lips and we're fucked if Zerase finds out about our little party of merry proto-godslayers...
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>Had he touched anyone?
Oh, Oh holy and unremitting FUCK! I just remembered this one and checked the archive to confirm given how we've always been too damn nice and trusting for our own good. Thread staring with 417 in the archive:

>Armin said with a broad grin and, noticing your extended (unprotected) hand, gave it a firm shake.

*We* touched Armin! Willingly and in trust no less! Mention this, mention this now right after we the Hao question out of the way. Bet he put a lot of Bad Juju into making us forget this one. Fucking hell this is just like that whole incident with the inquisitor all over again. A critical detail so cleverly and expertly hidden. Well played oh suffering addicted GM, almost a master stroke. You *almost* had us all yet again!

Actually, as we mention the Hao issue we ought to recall it. Like, right after we say it the memory comes flooding back into our mind as if the ghost of Gardy told us as if it was a matter of life and death for our whole damn party (because it probably is). Perhaps with a premonition of what it meant and about to happen because of it.

Armin is allied with Zerase and wants her to succeed because it spells suffering and the potential extinction of all non-outsider life in this world. We're talking... No, won't give you ideas. I fear you know what author I'm thinking of here though...
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I might have to write longer than anticipated tomorrow.
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You fucking asshole bastard! I always said I and all the others weren't paranoid enough with you and it seems yet again I was absolutely right! You really are the GM version of Kotomine!

Hahaha, good! That's very good! I like that! Paranoid players are engaged and invested players after all. It better happen before something he's planned on occur actually goes down. I noticed well before the update was to occur. This ain't some last minute realization akin to one noticing or realizing a bad decision as it happens. We ain't "watching" ourselves making a monumentally bad decison, this is us catching ourselves collectively before we do so.

Again, I was there when we were gunning for that accursed Inquisitor. Even that incognito Angel (who was almost certainly the "Embodiment of Justice" if I remember correctly) didn't realize it until old Siggy silently spelled it out in thin ice upon the air...
Oh, and I don't think Gardy's potential genocide against the accursed elves is much of an issue for us. I mean, if they were anything like the Eldar during that long lost age I (and Arwan) probably totally friggin' get it. The "filthy Mon-keigh" didn't deserve that and well, if humanity is given over to one phrase over all others in fiction it's this: "Fuck around and find out". Fuck around with us and find out why that was the absolute worst mistake you could have made.

Also, Armin said he was camping out with an enclave of Elves and that we ought to contact him after this was over. Given this new info we need to contact the Inquisition and inform them of a rainbow haired heretic within those ranks instead. We want that fucker to have a run in with members of this setting's version of the Officio Assassinorum and/or the Ordo Malleus. That's a Greater Daemon of Tzeentch we're talking here. Kill it, kill it now before it finishes the job Daiyu inadvertently and unintentionally started!
Gonna be another long post I'm afraid. You guys weren't supposed to remember! Should be updating soonish, probably gonna be another one post/day. At least I'm feeling better.
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''I haven't lied once, you know? There's no use trying now'' You speak after a minute of awkward silence. Having nothing tangible to help Sieglinde made it... difficult to keep control of your emotions.

''So there -is- something wrong with Hao soul.'' Sieglinde said firmly, her feelings were far too resolute to be denied.

You turned to Zhu and she nodded, getting off the bed to sit on the empty spot beside you and explain the strange phenomenon she told you a few hours ago.

With better wording, of course.

''Oh dear, this is sad.'' Deruella remarked. Not to be misunderstood as some kind of cruel sarcasm, the demoness looked genuinely concerned, even a little bit angry.

''No way, she cannot be burning up so much... or at least that phenomenon must have happened recently.'' Sieglinde denial was weak, the link made it obvious that she believed you despite not wanting to. ''Me, Elina and Hao were all thoroughly investigated by the Queen-Mother of Zipangu shortly after awakening and while she did say she found a few odd quirks in our souls, she helped us heal and repair the damage though she did insist we shouldn't go into combats for least a month or two.''

''Do not look away from the truth, my dear.'' Sieglinde silently scowled at Ama when the vixen spoke. ''He described the symptoms and you must have noticed that she's been more valiant than usual in battle.''

Sieglinde bite her plush lips and shook her head when she etched yet another look with her sister. Her silent intention translated through your spiritual connection: as Hao friend, she wanted to explain this phenomenon.

That way she'd accept it.

''She's suffering from a terminal condition called The Whitening. Think of it as a long-term manifestation of someone burning up their souls.''

A simple, depressing explanation.

''It usually happens because a wound in the soul festers, exactly like what can happen to an untreated bodily injury.'' Sieglinde continues, her shaky voice hardens, so does her resolve. ''If someone keeps feeling very strong emotions, it'll cause dangerous stimulations and begin a process of... of self-destruction. What Zhu saw is exactly what it sound like: Hao soul is bright enough to ravage every Red World entity around her, and it is tremendously enhancing her capabilities.''

She pauses to observe the silent table.

''We had Kyorn with us when we confronted that crone in the church and she was just as strong as he was. It's... There's no doubt about it, it's The Whitening.''

''Indeed.'' Deruella remarked and with a glance, took over the conversation. ''Her existence is burning twice as bright and you know the end of this adage. Her memories are the first things to disappear. She must only be holding onto the most precious parts of her childhood by now. In a way, she's becoming similar to angels: her belief is bolstering her natural abilities.''
''Can it be treated?'' The hard faces of the Mamonos are more than enough answers. ''Like hell I'm going to accept this!''

''Never give up my dear, that's what makes you so precious.'' Ama greedily licked her lips, coupled with her happy smirk, the gesture was creepy. ''I can already think of something.''

''So do I.'' Deruella glared at Ama, an open challenge. ''A magical nature of soul could undeniably fuel Hao diminished one and prevent further memory loss... but it's only a stopgap and that darling will become wholly dependant on your magic to keep herself going. And, unfortunately, it's always possible that her soul will end up burning itself out no matter what... but you could stretch a one-month lifespan into, perhaps, six more.''

''Hmm... I do wonder if being in such proximity to such an overwhelming presence had a positive effect on your condition.'' Ama had thrown a potent glance of displeasure at the tenebrous demoness before shifting her attention to Sieglinde. ''People souls naturally strengthen when they rest, sleeping next to such a brilliant girl... Might have caused some good with your Corruption. Anyhow, Hao might be our best weapon when it comes to handling Red World complications.''

''I see how it is. It's a good idea to keep Hao the way she is because she's stronger than usual huh?'' Sieglinde growled, shaking her head, thick tail scraping the wall with dangerous animosity.

''We also happen to have some very potent death pearls... hm, but we've tarried here long enough. Her condition is lamentable yes, but she at least has a week or two left and that's beyond our timetable.'' The vixen rose in a flurry of white tails to bring the conversation to an end, causing unanimous dissatisfaction.


''We'll find something. You might at least be able to help her temporarily, there's also Klesiah and Elina, we are joined to you, we'll always be together now.'' Sieglinde big, dark, malevolent hand rested atop yours, sympathy mingled with worry radiating silent support. Her smile was lovely, almost motherly. Her dark hand, despite looking so malignant was comforting.

Then, when you looked toward Ama, the white fluffiness that surrounded her brought back a memory, something completely innocuous and mundane, a stray thought.

''Huh... hey Ama?'' Your voice shook, realization made your body tremble. ''I remembered when I met that elf, I shook his hand as a greeting.''

''That's right!'' Shereen gasped. ''Yeah, that happened!''

''Shit.'' Zhu swore.

Instead of answering, the tall vixen opened the door, revealing that Mina was in the process of knocking. ''Our red trip is canceled.''

Mina blinked in confusion and the fox nearly closed the door on her face. ''Actually, it'd be better if you step in and see for yourself what's happening. Your ties to Mother Earth make you trustworthy with Zipangu folks.''

''Okay...?'' Mina could only say in total confusion.
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The door closed again once the multicolored-haired divine shard stepped inside.

''Are you gonna miss that hand?'' Ama commented and the sheer icy silence she earned made it obvious what everyone thought of this bad joke. ''Alright then, don't make me suffer interruptions.''

Waiting for Mina to sit on the bed, the fox nine tails settled around her buxom waist, opening like flowers.

''We'll do a little experiment to see if there's something wrong with you. Gardy has always been immune to outside forces like diseases, hypnotism, or whatever it is Armin can do because of his state as an Outsider. Unfortunately, Horkus proved that doesn't extend to you, Arawn. You might be immune to Corruption... but not Mother Earth reality, Gardy body grant you a natural resistance to inconvenience like hypnotism. Make sense so far, yes?''

The witch held up a finger and with it, one of her tail plucked itself away from the bouquet behind her to shake.
''Do not enter the Red World''
Another finger, another tail wagged.
''Do not synchronize your soul with Gardy body''

''Wait wait!'' Ama glowered at Shereen when she ignored her warning. ''Arawn nearly died in Myrtidal when we got ambushed by that freak and his body... he turned into metal, you did that fusion back then right? Like Horkus?''

''Damnable Jabberwock.'' Ama hissed through clenched teeth.

Remembering that event was... unpleasant. Sieglinde and Hao avalanche of worry when you first described it in the dining room had been an experience.

''I don't think so. At least, it might have been a fusion but it only lasted a few seconds. It wasn't a full commitment.'' You finally find the words to speak your mind.

''And it happened a day after your encounter so, perhaps, nothing would have happened.'' Ama continued and quickly walked beside you, worming her tails all over Zhu to force the woman away. Your friend wasn't happy about this, she nearly kneed the fox in the stomach.

Damn it all this atmosphere isn't good.

''We'll do a little experiment.'' Ama grabbed your uncovered arm and slammed it on the table, rolling up your sleeve to reveal your skin. ''You don't see anything wrong, right Zhu?''

''Huh... nah? His colors are the same.'' She answered while rubbing herself through the vixen bundle of tails to stand beside her.

''I'll be retreating inside my anchor.'' She directed her red gaze toward Shereen and yourself. ''And do a little tweaking on the harmless hold I have over your soul, my dear, dear Arawn and you will let it happen. Because!'' She raised her voice, interrupting any protest. ''...A semi-conscious or sleeping state of mind allows the soul to become a little more naked. Mina, be a dear and stay behind him to make sure he doesn't faceplant and break his neck.''

''Hold on! Don't go deciding on your own, Arawn you have a say in this.'' Sieglinde slapped the table to regain some momentum. ''Will you allow that witch to do as she please?''
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You -had- to allow Ama little ritual. You were so caught up in the mood and the vixen take-charge attitude that you genuinely forgot to think about your consent!

''I'll allow it. I don't trust you, you damn vixen... but I'll allow it.''

Are you seeding the means of your destruction? This witch is so eager to help... Is she genuine? Gods above, why is this fox trying so hard? Can't afford any hesitation.

Putting action to words, Ama walked behind Shereen, grabbing her gently by the shoulders. ''So? Don't you think I'm being a good girl right now?'' That creepy remark only made Shereen grimace and soon enough the vixen form retreated inside her anchor like a bad memory.

''Sorry for all the excitement, you must be confused.'' Sieglinde remarked gently toward the silent divine shard.

''I... have an idea.'' Mina was tense and careful, impossible not to be with all this excitement. ''I've communicated with Klesiah, she's informing folks there might be some complications soon.''

''Mh?'' A moan suddenly escaped your lips. Lethargy invaded your entire body like a cold wave, beginning in your tummy and quickly radiating through your entire existence. Fatigue held you in its choking grip, a yawn nearly dislocated your jaw.

There's too much to do right now...Those two months here have been hellish.
It's going to end soon.
Hrrrrm Ama told you to sleep but you don't like it, you don't want it!
''The fuck!?''
Muribel is way too damn warm, you've done nothing but sweat since you awoke as a slave.
Right, someone is hugging you. That's why your back feels so comfortable, girls are soft. So cute. So nice.
''...can't feel nothing through your link? Nah, nah that shit ain't normal...''
How was your mom tonight? Who is your mom? She's a strong and good person, yup.


''Why is he so hard to wake up!? It's been thirty minutes!''
''Hrrrrm!'' You don't know who said that but this near scream combined with endless shaking was enough to rouse you from a damn well-deserved nap.

''Get up you log!'' That was Shereen. She grabbed your hand, the faint clicks of metal revealed that it was the one inside the magitek gauntlet and pulled you up to sit on the bed.

Sieglinde, Ama, Shereen, Mina, and Zhu were here in a room far too small for this crowd, and with their presence, your groggy mind forced out all traces of what felt like a drug-induced stupor.

''Thirty minutes?'' You asked, looking at your little sun. ''Is the Hour of Lullaby over?''

''Halfway done.'' Mina answers. Phew.

''Fox had it right. There's something wrong with your arm, dude.'' Zhu cut into the middle of the matters'' I saw something dark in your colors wriggling around half your forearm.'' She touched your skin at the midway point of your limb in the area between elbow and wrist. ''Only reason I noticed was cause I was looking for something unusual really, there was a tiny movement and after a few minutes I saw this tiny dark worm thing.''
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''I'm not feeling anything at all.'' Goosebumps erupted all over your body and your entire arm felt much, much more sensitive but that was a simple influence of your nerves failing you. You grabbed and touched your limb all over, nothing was wrong at all, no sensation, no pain, just fear-induced sensitivity.

''Okay, there's something, are you going to suggest we cut it off?''

''Yes.'' Ama answer your bad joke seriously.

''What would be so dangerous about me going into the Red World or embracing a full fusion?'' The fear and dread into your body turn cold, giving you clarity and strength. Sieglinde horror and worry are a simple echo, easily ignored. ''If Gardy is immune, so is his body. Wouldn't that parasite disintegrate once my arm change?''

''Mmhm. That could happen, it might be the logical thing to do.'' Ama sauntered next to you. Amidst all the excitement and movement in the small room, her kimono had come undone, revealing luscious dark blue silk undergarments that clung far, far too well to her inviting body.

''You aren't Gardy, Arawn. He gave you his body, but you still have roots in reality, it's why your soul links haven't disintegrated. They should be impossible to maintain with Gardy body, yet... they've been your salvation.'' Taking a gentle hold of your arm, Ama extended it forward so everyone could look at it. She touched the general area identified by Zhu where that ''dark worm'' was nesting. ''Whatever purpose that man has is here.''

Creepy. You can't afford to look away from reality.

''So, slice off my arm for a solution.''

''Arawn...'' Shereen sounded almost whiny. ''T-that's too much... Maybe we can find something that would work? That's too soon! I... we can wait to confront my mom!''

''It's okay Shereen.'' If Ama wasn't holding your limb, you'd have petted your little sun head. ''I can gamble on Gardy body exorcising this thing.''

''Or we can wait and see for now.'' Deruella, who had been silent throughout the crisis, spoke calmly. ''It might be premature to force an amputation... but it's true we can't spare time. Zerase is a headache all of her own.''

''What do you guys think?'' You ask, there is no miraculous answer.

''Slice it off.'' That is not what you expected to hear

''Wha? Zhu?'' Shereen protest immediately. ''Why?''

Your wild comrade looks taken aback by the return question and for a moment, her expressions change so often it's as if she's having an internal debate. ''Instinct.'' She settles with this single word conclusion.

''I concur with the white stalker, where are your wings by the way?'' Mina state, obviously trying to lessen the mood.

''Hidden.'' Deruella answer with forced cheer. ''Have to. Otherwise, if I stroll outside I'd forget all about them, they're serious eye-catchers.''

The general opinion was the same for everyone here. Wait and see. We can figure something out, we can help you, Arawn.

Ama and Zhu, they're the only ones who faced the harshest solutions.

Hao has a terminal soul sickness that is strengthening her body by consuming her soul and memories. The Whitening.

Sieglinde altered Corruption has altered her soul, perhaps irreversibly

Zerase is planning to sacrifice her entire country in a grand scale ritual.

Ensan is actively pursuing your party and helping her mother.

Anais is petrified with Ama favorite Apostle, giving you two days at best to prepare.

Your left arm carries a parasite that could sabotage any attempt at embracing Gardy body or going into the Red World. That thing... will eventually move forward. It'll go into your elbow, climb up into your shoulder, and then spread where? Into your heart? Into your brain?

You won't have enough time to take care of everything.

>Slice it off. [Ama insistence coupled with Zhu instincts. Are those enough to convince you?]
You will forgo your Red World visit for today.

>''Wait and see.'' [You are aware of this complication. That's good. Act on it.]
Proceed with your plan to go into the Red World? You still have thirty minutes left.
>a) Heed the witch warning and do not go yourself
>b) Tempt Fate.



Continuing tomorrow. I don't think I'll last all 20 days like last time, our thread will likely end this week.
>Slice it off. [Ama insistence coupled with Zhu instincts. Are those enough to convince you?]
A soul arm should be able to make up for the functional loss for the most part in the short term, and a more permanent replacement / Gauntlet upgrade Or possibly regrown if we can find a way could be made once we get through this, the only problem will be coming up with a way to keep it at body temp, so we don't put people off with cold hands.
Arawn is many things but a coward he is not.
Something of this importance will need more than one vote, naturally.
At this point, would we be removing the Wrist and down, below the elbow or the entire arm?

Also this is me if my ID has changed>>4728301
Roughly 2/3 of your forearm below the elbow.
So we should be able to keep the elbow.
Just got here. Which arm will need to be removed? Gauntlet or shield arm?
Shield arm.
Quick refresher. Are the soul arms strong enough to use a shield properly? And we usually project them from our back, so we would have to have it overlap our arm to imitate the one we'd be losing? Or can we just project straight from the stub?
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>Are the soul arms strong enough to use a shield properly?
Medium ones have as much strength as a regular, reinforced arm. (One single medium arm is 2% mana)
>And we usually project them from our back, so we would have to have it overlap our arm to imitate the one we'd be losing?
You could project one from the stub, you used your spine as a source point because it was far more convenient to wield them there.
Understood. Imma think on this a bit before I give an answer. I trust Zhu's instincts, but this is a big desicion that will have overarching consequences.
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Very much so, amputation is a big deal. I'll leave things open until tomorrow.
Honestly, I'm more then ok with it. My big hurdle is the potential hit to Gardy's body losing a limb, and how that would affect our fusion. Can you give any input?
Your missing arm will likely be a weak spot for medium fusion. You'll need to see what happens for yourself afterward.
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Damn you shitty internet and oh FUCK YOU ARMIN! A fucking soul parasite! Really?! Dude's tried to make us patient zero on his Plague Inc. run! Having it evolve within the body of an Embodiment like Gardy could have all kinds of nasty repercussions if it matured and got out. We and likely the whole damn world almost got fucked by totally not Old Narly. Wouldn't be the first time the Crawling Chaos fucked everyone over on a mere whim.

Ok, so if we go with the severance option we'll keep the elbow right? Can we get a quick and dirty prosthetic going? I mean, totally not Nyarlathotep is in cahoots with Zerase and Ensan and he'd say: "Oh hey, almost forgot to mention this but you might want to pay extra attention to any men missing a part of their left arm. Just sayin'."

It needs to look alright at a distance so that we don't get instantly called out by the feds if and when we go out and about. Also, can Gardy's body assimilate mechanical constructs? Might have a quick and easy fix for our arm with a full fusion activation once we're back in throne town. Belph makes an automail limb, we assimilate it, then shift back to human form. If Gardy's "body" is made whole so too will ours. If it breaks, we break as well. Double-edged logic but it might work for us here. Or we could just keep it as is. A "Guts" or "Vash" style prosthetic limb could actually be an upgrade. The flesh is weak, but the machine is eternal. Praise the Omnisiah!
Oh, and others can and will remove that horror mark on Shereen before the lullaby ends right? We absolutely cannot allow that mark to stand. Once night well and truly falls and if it's still up we're gonna have to fight another Eldritch Horror bent on om nom nomming Shereen's soul. That will be one hell of a fight and it will expose our party's position to the guards. We *cannot* let that happen now!
A weak soul arm + mid length glove(s) and long sleeves would probably hide it pretty well from a distance.
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>Ok, so if we go with the severance option we'll keep the elbow right?
>Can we get a quick and dirty prosthetic going?
Nah, nothing like that on hand.
>Also, can Gardy's body assimilate mechanical constructs?
It can absorb your Magitek gauntlet to gain its capabilities throughout his entire body. Gardy also constantly modify, readjust and outright construct new limbs when needed in battle but those modifications don't translate into Mother Earth reality.
At least so far anyway.
>Oh, and others can and will remove that horror mark on Shereen before the lullaby ends right?
People are forgetting. Even Arawn. Too much excitement. Timetable is tight.
Ama will be missing your amputation at the very least, we'll see who can do what next update.
I'm not forgetting because once more I was right about you! You would try to screw us over with that BS! "Oh yeah, you got rid of your arm and the parasite within but you forgot about Shereen's Horror Mark. Now have a rematch with three of those outsiders you fought last night!"

Arawn isn't forgetting either, it's just that this BS got sprung on us. Thank god we remembered that handshake and thank FUCK we didn't shift to the red world back at that silo! We really would have gotten instagibbed!

I'll sleep on this one but the time table is tight and we don't got the time/luxury to indulge in safety. For now I vote to Sever the arm and seal it somehow. Also, make it quick. It might realize what we're about to pull and try to squirm up our arm. We need to keep our elbow so we can have an easy prosthetic replacement made when we get back to Throne Town.
Duly noted.

Also seem to lean for a slice. If there hasn't been any change on this mindset by tomorrow 1pm, consider voting closed.
Collecting any spilt blood for Shereen might also be a good idea to, if whatever tool that gets used doesn't just cauterize the stump.
>At least so far anyway.
Damn. It would be absolutely perfect to walk around with a full Gardy arm. Swap an eye too and we can go full Big Boss.
I do love me a character covered in reminders of there past. Probably why I like Zhu so much.
Two angels make cauterizing useless, thankfully.
I'm curious then. Why would lobbing our arm off keep us from tagging along to the red world?
it probably won't able to be completed in 30 minutes and we will have to recover, since amputation isn't something people can just walk off most of the time.
The fox says it'll be a bad idea to go into the Red World with the parasite still attached to you.

Lopping off your arm won't prevent your usual shifting capabilities, you'll just be missing an arm while going there. The amputation won't allow you to go into the Red World because you're getting your arm lopped off and despite having immediate access to the best medic around, that's a big enough deal to make it impossible to go in there immediately afterward due to shock and emotions messing up your head.

Not even Gardy is made of stone.
Understandable. Tho I see it being entirely in character for Arawn to try and push both amputation and being present in the red world I feel enough of the people present could talk him down from it. Self sacrifice runs deep when you've things to protect.
Who would be going then? Ama, Hilde, Hao?
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Oh, just thought of this, but can't Mina go inside our soul and kill/rip the damn thing out of it? If it's attached to our "soul" than why does severing our arm actually get rid of it? What about a holy arrow from Mina or Zhu's sword? Can the damn thing get stabbed to death or is it like a starfish and thus if only a small part remains it will eventually fully regenerate? Could we sever the arm, rip the parasite out and kill it really quick, than re-attach it? We do have holy mages now after all.

I wanna keep the arm, but I want to get rid of the parasite more. Shouldn't take too long to bring up these options and check their viability.
I moved a little too quickly. It's entirely possible to wait on the amputation after Ama is done removing the Horror Mark.

However, the timetable is really tight so the roster is't as big as it could be.


These are the ones who can quickly shift into the Red World with Ama help and still take advantage of the 30 minutes you have left. Ama doesn't want Hao to follow due to her Whitening, it could easily interfere with everyone else perceptions by being waaaaay too bright.

>Oh, just thought of this, but can't Mina go inside our soul and kill/rip the damn thing out of it?
That's a big maybe. Nobody really knows what that worm can do so provoking a reaction by expunging it via a confrontation of souls is likely to lead into unforeseen complications. However, prepping for that is possible.
>If it's attached to our "soul" than why does severing our arm actually get rid of it?
Gardy body is preventing the worm from progressing. Its natural resistance might have forced it to make a nest near its point of entry to survive. This is Ama opinion, she has no idea what the thing can truly do or how it functions.
>What about a holy arrow from Mina or Zhu's sword? Can the damn thing get stabbed to death or is it like a starfish and thus if only a small part remains it will eventually fully regenerate?
Can't give you an answer here. Ama never tried to experiment on Armin victims, Deruella barely knew the guy and Mina has been away from Mother Earth long enough to have all her memories of him eroded. You'll have to make conclusions based on your current magical and soul knowledge.
>Could we sever the arm, rip the parasite out and kill it really quick, than re-attach it?
Holy, unfortunately, cannot reattach sliced-off bone. It can do miracles, but losing a part of oneself is something it can't replace.
>Slice it off. [Ama insistence coupled with Zhu instincts. Are those enough to convince you?]
We have to many damn maybes. Let's remove at least one.
Not going to investigate rubs me wrong. But I'm sure it'll rub Arawn more.
Ok, say we go into our soul to confront and fight the worm. Can we go full fusion within our soul? Oh wait, I remember a complication on that one. Gardy said fighting within our soul is a bad idea. It's why he didn't just attempt to kill Ama after we fused with him. He said the collateral damage to our soul would likely be fatal. Any way to prevent that?

Also, Gardy's body is preventing the worm from making progress eh? Then why is fusion a bad idea? Would that deactivate the defensive subroutine it's currently running to stop the worm? Would it allow the worm to gain more detailed knowledge about the "body" it's trying to infest more deeply and thus potentially find a way to work around it? How is it more dangerous in the red world? Is it more native to that place and thus, if we go in there, it gets home field advantage and can punch through whatever our body's doing to stop it? Can we just morph our arm into full Gardy mode and tell the gears to grind the damn thing into a fine paste, crap out the remains, and then have Ama burn them with soul fire?

In regards to Zhu's sword, well, you said that high roll against the outsider would have instagibbed the damn thing had we made Zhu take the shot. Is that sword somehow anathema to outsiders? This worm is probably one of those accursed things so it might kill it if we were to, say, "cut down the street" if ya catch my meaning. Could holy heal an arm split lengthwise but not totally severed or does Zhu's sword have a concept imbedded in it that prevents shit cut with it from healing in any way but the good ol' fashioned slow and natural way? Because if that's the case it'd be better to just lose the arm as it'd be worse than useless with that kind of injury on it.

And what about Mina? Can't she shift into and out of the red world as well? With Ama's help it shouldn't cost her too much energy. I know you said she could do it on her own, but it costs her a sizable chunk of her reserves for a round trip.

>Can we go full fusion within our soul?
Yes, though your body itself will enter its metallic state. However, by having your consciousness inside your mindscape, you won't be pressured by Mother Earth reality so your health won't suffer.
>He said the collateral damage to our soul would likely be fatal. Any way to prevent that?
Ama vs Gardy confrontation would have killed you. The worm could be different, but it is always a risk. A battle inside souls is dangerous due to the soul itself being unable to withstand the damage of a fight.
Hao got a terminal illness from a wound in her soul, after all.
>Also, Gardy's body is preventing the worm from making progress eh? Then why is fusion a bad idea?
Ama believes it is a bad idea because it could actually give it better access to your body as a whole. Could you fight it off? Maybe. It hasn't activated or done anything to you so far. Remember that the advice your getting comes from her perspective and words. I can't answer anything else.
>Is that sword somehow anathema to outsiders?
The sword was one of the most important artifacts of Zen empire, a place very, very far from here indeed... And Deruella knows about it.
Honestly, it deserves a full update to explain what it does and why it's so unbelievably potent. The short version is that it's weaponizing Holy. I'll have to think about how that info was exchanged... Hm, maybe during Arawn power nap.
>Could holy heal an arm split lengthwise but not totally severed or does Zhu's sword have a concept imbedded in it that prevents shit cut with it from healing in any way but the good ol' fashioned slow and natural way?
Zhu sword is liable to bisect your entire arm, it's unbelievably sharp. She'll also need to get in the right mindset to activate it, too. However, a cut like that can be healed, yes.
>And what about Mina? Can't she shift into and out of the red world as well? With Ama's help it shouldn't cost her too much energy.
Oooh yeah I totally forgot about her. Yeah, she counts too. I got a whole lot of things to juggle.

I'll stop form answering more questions. Making decisions based on gut feelings and incomplete information is an important part, after all.
Well, this is information we and our party should have had already anyway so thanks for answering.

I'd say ask Ama and Deru about the lengthwise cut. If they think the odds are good it'll do the job go with that option. If they say it's 50/50 or worse, well, the risk isn't worth it. Good thing we spec'd into magitek. We'll have a new project when we get back to throne town in that case. Making a new left arm.
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>If they say it's 50/50 or worse, well, the risk isn't worth it.
It's honestly a 50/50. Weaponized Holy slice directly into souls, Zhu could maybe slice off the worm but it was really, really hard for her to see it and again, she'd need to embrace a very intense rage to properly activate her sword.

A lengthwise cut would need her to roll fairly high at a penalty. Focusing for a minute, precise, scalpel level strike while enraged ain't easy.
Well fuck. Is that the activation requirement? I'm guessing only Zhu can maybe possibly see it so even if someone else can activate the blade without needing to sing praises to Khorne they'd be cutting precisely perhaps, but also totally blindly so that's an even steeper penalty to the roll.

Fuck, I hate this, I really, really hate this, but it's looking like amputation is the only real answer. We can't have that accursed worm hanging over our heads during the final confrontation or our prep time.

Will we have time to train after this? We need to get another arm added to our soul arm spell to make up for the loss of our real one. You really are sadistic y'know that? I did wonder why you made a point to mention our hand was unprotected when we shook with Armin. From now on, we always wear gloves. Special magical gloves that shield our soul from eldritch parasite infestations.

Also, Armin's now at the very top of our shit list. Once this is over we hunt him down and kill him dead. Why the fuck hasn't Ama done that herself already? She's got a powerful posse. Her apostles could probably take him. Hell, she's also probably got a ton of money too. Why not put out a hit on the fucker or start rumors and stories about a cursed rainbow haired elf whom one ought not deal with and kill on sight if able?
>Will we have time to train after this?
Ama guarantees Anais safety for the next two days. You can use that time however you see fit.
>You really are sadistic y'know that? I did wonder why you made a point to mention our hand was unprotected when we shook with Armin.
Now, now now... How could you possibly have known? Armin is the one who cheat!
>Why the fuck hasn't Ama done that herself already?
He is one elusive bastard.
>Why not put out a hit on the fucker or start rumors and stories about a cursed rainbow haired elf whom one ought not deal with and kill on sight if able?
Memories of him erode with time and trying to smear an elf is always difficult due to their protected status. Maybe Armin actually does have a genuine tangible reputation, but that will need a serious investigation.
Ama has yet to kill him because he's a ball ache to track down. Throw in that he's probably hard to kill, and has lived a long time, and you get a Monster that isn't going away too soon.
If we were in a church of Mother Earth could we have it burned from our body?
>If we were in a church of Mother Earth could we have it burned from our body?
Now that is a very, very good question. I really want to answer, but I'll refrain.
I'll give you the opinions of everyone around you.
Ama = Indecisive.
Deruella = Yes.
Mina = Yes.
Sieglinde = Yes.
Shereen = Indecisive
Zhu = Yes.
Oooh, that might be something Mina would know about. Sadly, that option, if viable, means leaving the worm alone as there ain't no churches in this entire country dedicated to big ME. That means no fusion activations or red world trips.

It also means leaving a potential major vulnerability open for exploitation during the final encounter with Zerase. The worm has likely "primed" us for some seriously nasty death pearl shenanigans. We go into that fight with it still attatched to us Zerase's gonna use a pearl to power up/activate it and that's probably a save or die roll. Worse, if we die to it it might then, well, ever seen the movie "Alien"? Yeah, that.
So those "yes" opinions. They for the choppy option or the "go to church" option?
Go to church. They believe that a place connected to Mother Earth web would be able to burn away the impurity nesting inside you. Primarily because Mina would be there.
How Quickly could we have the arm removed safely, if we end up needing to fuse because things are getting out of hand.
I don't suppose we have any access to portals do we? If we did than it'd be a quick trip with Klesiah to a cathedral in the Allied kingdoms. WE could be there and back within a few hours.

I mean, I think you said Ama can do it but it requires a deeper link with Shereen or an Astral Pearl to temporarily unlock her full power. So basically, we can keep our arm but perhaps more fully and totally damn Shereen or we can lose the arm but keep everyone relatively safe.

Also, how obvious are portals? Can they be sensed by those with magical attunement or otherwise detected through some bounded field/mystic fuckery?
Oh, and as you said we can wait until after Shereen's horror mark is expunged before a final decision is made we got the time to ask about all this. It will come afterwards however. We don't get to know it now as that mark's removal takes priority.

Also, we need to be a good distance away from Shereen when it happens. The horror mark's removal might have a backlash in the red world that could activate/awaken the parasite. We will not risk this potentiality. I'm fully paranoid now damnit!
Waltier might have a way to get around quickly and might not be applicable for our particular situation, assuming he wants to share.
It's only a manner of getting your arm sliced off. Any of the warriors in the group could do it, it`ll just be really hard to avoid going into shock due to losing a limb.

>I don't suppose we have any access to portals do we?
Zipangu folks came with 3 portal scrolls.
>I think you said Ama can do it but it requires a deeper link with Shereen or an Astral Pearl to temporarily unlock her full power.
Normally, Ama can use portal whenever she wants but being tied into Shereen hamstrung that ability into uselessness. Eventually, she'll be able to open a portal again but only if there's some good old trust happening and only after Shereen body and soul fully adapted to Ama existence.
>Also, how obvious are portals?
Very, very obvious. Though they can be deployed in surprisingly tight space since they adapt to dimensions. Still need at least a small hall, your current abode is enough to accommodate one.
>an they be sensed by those with magical attunement or otherwise detected through some bounded field/mystic fuckery?
They cannot be sensed organically but there are some alchemical portal detectors and yes, a magical detection field could get triggered by an activated portal.

>Oh, and as you said we can wait until after Shereen's horror mark is expunged before a final decision is made we got the time to ask about all this.
I was a bit quick on the trigger there, yeah. Arawn can afford to hesitate, it's essentially the wait and see option.
Forgot to add that yes, Ama could open a portal if she consumes an Astral pearl.
I think you said we can put that whole process on the fast track with a blood ritual. That is, Shereen can rapidly raise the sync ratio with Ama if we go with a ritual. We got plenty of blood virgin, angelic, and otherwise to work with here after all.

Also, the whole business with Hao reminds me of something. She's currently as strong as a legendary hero eh? Matches a description of some other art that costs one their very life in exchange for power matching or even exceeding such figures.

Granted, this wasn't activated willingly and the "active" version of it both exists and would probably allow her to actually exceed a hero's power... but then it's just like that art I mentioned. You get a few minutes/an instant of immense totally broken levels of power, then die.

We do have a soul link with her so once she's aware of what's happening to her if she isn't already and I bet she is but is smiling because she's like that and wouldn't want to worry us all overmuch and aware that we can convert our mana into soul energy for her, well, that opens things up. Like, she could go full on active with that art and not immediately keel over afterward so long as we got the mana reserves to fuel that pyre.

Could we perhaps restore her lost memories? I mean, she's been linked to us so they may exist within us as ours currently exist within the Demonic Throne. That's another restoration option. Daiyu said she couldn't protect us and deal with the danger at that time. However, once Gardy's restored, we will be Gardy within the throne instead of a weak amnesiac elf. Well, still be said elf, but with a full fusion it'd be more a contest between us as to who can better handle that Death World's bullshit!
>That is, Shereen can rapidly raise the sync ratio with Ama if we go with a ritual.
>Like, she could go full on active with that art and not immediately keel over afterward so long as we got the mana reserves to fuel that pyre.
That is assuming such a hail mary doesn't erode the very foundation that keeps a soul attached to the body. No amount of magic will fix that.
>Could we perhaps restore her lost memories?
Would you accept ''No'' as an answer? That's what Deruella and Sieglinde tell you.
I might extend the voting period, I'll see.
For now
Seems to lean for a slice. Perhaps the discussion changed a few minds.
My brain is shutting down so I'll come back tomorrow. Taking a wait-and-see approach is perfectly reasonable concerning this dilemma, Shereen Horror Mark situation and Red World investigation will happen without Arawn.
Welp, again, we can afford to wait until after the horror mark is dealt with and that's probably the option we ought to go with.

Again, we get the fuck out of here for now. Do not be near Shereen when the mark is expunged. Ask Ama real quick if that could be a concern as that's a quick yes/no answer. They are in cahoots and I believe Armin saw Shereen sans a disguise. That's all it'd take for him to calibrate that nasty surprise.

As for Hao's memories... well, there are only a few that are ultimately relevant. We call them "core" memories. They're the ones that shape your personality and pretty much all the critical aspects of what makes "you" well, you. Deru's right about the "childhood" aspect. That's a likely source of them, but not the only one. She's instinctually grasped that she's probably about out of "expendable" memories though. After this week she'll be burning those core memories and that's when it'll be very friggin' obvious that something is very, oh so very wrong with her.

If I remember her tribe fucked over her mother and she desired vengeance against them. That was how she came to possess her Artifact weapon, a lava axe. T'was her tribe's ultimate treasure, a treasure she stole because of what they did to her family before she struck out on her own.

Would have died in that blue bastard's forest of horrors had we not journeyed there during the tutorial/prologue. That's the other critical series of core memories. Us. She still remembers us. Sieg, Elina, ourselves, etc... I'm actually kind of touched. All other memories are likely burned away, but her "core" memories seem to remain for now and we are among that most critical and treasured few...

Hug her before we sleep tonight. Gently yet tightly. Convey to her how much we collectively treasure her. Poor girl, you're dying because of us. No matter what, we're going to save you from this condition!
>They came with 3 portal scrolls

Wait, as in they have 3 portal scrolls on them right the hell now? As in, they got 3 free portals they can open up at their discretion?

Ok! We have flyers in our party and Haddy probably knows exactly how to use those scrolls. In the dead of this night we and Klesiah get a free flight significantly out of bounds of the capital. Use a portal (high in the sky if that's possible) and gate next to a church. Burn away the parasite with Mina's aid (and perhaps then some as she'd also then be able to recommune with big ME herself and spill ALL the beans), then gate back and re-smuggle our asses back into the city.

That last part might be difficult though. Oh well, nothing ventured and all that. Errr, if big ME became aware of the BS Zerase's about to pull could she dispatch more shards? At that point, the counter force would fully activate and the deployment of Counter Guardians would occur.

That's a very bad thing for us and all inhabiting the capital if it works like it does in the Nasuverse but hey, details.
Such an operation will need to be discussed with Zipangu folks.
Portals were to get you out but then COMPLICATIONS happened.
I'm for waiting and seeing.
Discuss it with them then. I especially like the potential full activation of the Counter Force if Mina gets to reconvene with ME.

Likely fate of this city becoming Sodom and Gommorah 2.0 notwithstanding I like the possibility. Lots of innocents dead, but way better than the alternative humanity extinction event that Zerase's ascension to godhood might cause.

Also, that's a likely condition for Gardy's full restoration. Mina tells ME what happened and that we/Gardy are totally cool with her and her world. Thus, allowing/helping with Gardy's restoration is both good and just. We get the divine intervention likely necessary to fully restoring our bestest buddy, the parasite gets burned away, and Zerase gets fucked roughly, from behind, without lube by a proverbial barbed wire sex toy.

I can really get behind this timeline!
Oh, one big concern. Said portal scrolls. Are they pre-linked to specific destinations? If they all go back to Zipangu the "go to church" option is there, but the "round trip" is not unless we ramp up Shereen's sync ratio with a blood ritual so Ama can carry the two and make it work.
All the scrolls are linked for a one-way trip to Zipangu, yes. They all have the same destination, having three of them was the queen's insistence.
''One is far too foolish, what if you need to split up?
Two is unreliable. Something that can go wrong, will then you'll be left with one.
Three is unacceptable, but it's what we have on hand.''
Which queen? The Golden Best Girl of Old Siggy's quest or the White spawn of Ama? Tsu really was something. Thank fuck the fluffy daughteru didn't let Evil Merlin/Nyarlathotep touch her. Errr, he did get a scaly daughteru too though yes? I think I recall her mother. Athena right? Lizard girl. That daughteru got touched yes?

Oh... Oh you fucking bastard. I can totally see it now given the description you fed us in regards to Armin. Do *not* come into close proximity with her no matter what!

I won't feed you ideas as is my custom but damn you to hell I can totally see what you may have been going for. You sadistic suffering addicted ten dollar whore! What's most frustrating is that you'd have been justified! Conservation of detail is a primary and fundamental rule of storytelling. Like I said earlier, you conspicuously mentioned our hand being unprotected when we shook with Armin.

That only matters if it, well, does. It did, and it almost cost us anything from next to nothing to the fate of the entire world!
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>Which queen?
You're not getting Ame-no-uzume vibes from that statement? For shame! And there's only one queen. Tsu is the queen-mother.
>Errr, he did get a scaly daughteru too though yes?
Siegfried has two kids, Kyorn got one. They'll happily mention them once things calm down. If they ever do calm down...
>That daughteru got touched yes?
So sayeth Deruella.
>Oh... Oh you fucking bastard. I can totally see it now given the description you fed us in regards to Armin. Do *not* come into close proximity with her no matter what!
Whateeeever could you mean?
Oh, and now that I think on it the portal destination is probably right in front of whatever Queen we're talking. Daiyu is probably hovering closeby as well. She knows Siggy's there, and I bet she figures that Deru might be as well. Thus, one or two of her 3 daughters will either follow us or someone's gonna have some explaining to do!

Oooh, that's another potential work around for a round trip. Daiyu or the fluffy ones. They might have a waypoint. Portals require you to have been someplace before physically if I recall. They've all had very long lives. Borders change, empires rise and fall, but locations on a coordinate plane overlaid over a world/globe are eternal. If you've been to X/Y/Z coordinates you can open a portal to that point if you have the ability to do so.

You know what I mean by virtue of you picking up on it. Again, if we go with the "go to church in Zipangu" option we now have we run it through with old Siggy. Where is his scaly daughteru likely to be right now in Zipangu and is that far away from a church? I assume he knows how time zones work and how X-O'clock here is actually Y-A/PM over there.

That matters dude. Trust us we have no memory of our dark history with you right now. You're just another humie right now and we don't screw over random innocent humies/mamonos if we can help it. Help us help ourselves without screwing over you and yours damnit!
After some sleep, I can think with a clearer head and I've realized it's a wee bit premature to be going for amputation right away because you aren't pressed for time (for once).

The choice to finalize it will happen next, for now, we'll take care of Red World matters without Arawn being a participant... for once. And inform our allies of what happened. This is the kind of temperament Arawn has.

Thread is likely to end soon because I'm feeling the usual fatigue.
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Mental fatigue and brain fog are making me write slow, sorry about that. I have no intention of stopping until we reach a proper ending point decision-wise, I'm just gonna be slow.

Health is good, no worry here. Giving a friendly heads up.
''Guess a sized cut is in the future.'' Your chuckle isn't mirrored by anyone else, not even Ama. ''It's not so bad. We've got two angels, I won't be in any danger of bleeding out. Chop and done.''

The amount of irritation, anger, and worry radiating out of Sieglinde is more than enough to shut you up before she stomps her way in front of you. ''It's always easier for you to suffer, isn't it?'' She scowls, but there's a distinctive glimmer of sadness in her eyes. ''You're talking about amputation you stupid oaf. How can you go being a protector without your shield arm? How many times has it kept you safe throughout these two months? How many precious lives have you safeguarded with it?'' Having utterly obvious questions thrown in your face does hurt.

''It's okay, Siggy.'' That word caused a pinch of affection to spread out of her heart. Cute. ''We've got plenty of strong allies here and I can make a magical arm with my magic, I'll still lift my shield. I don't think we can afford to waste time. Rather, I don't want to.''

Your logical reasoning only manages to further sink Sieglinde expression (and opinion). ''That's not the point.'' She tells you flatly and then lets out a sharp sigh through clenched teeth. ''Let's take care of that Horror Mark business, you can do it quickly right?'' Her big hand easily overlaps yours as she directs her attention at the white vixen.

''Mmhm. Let's go.'' Ama tails flutter happily. ''I have to say, Arawn you truly are wonderfully similar to Gardy. Almost like a married couple!''

A bad joke doesn't help anyone, that witch will continue living at her pace.


''Having some hidden villain show up near the finish line to mess up everything you've done...'' Siegfried let out a bitter chuckle. ''Strike a little close to home, to be honest. One innocuous touch... Damn it I should have taken Kin seriously.''

''What's done is done, instincts alone isn't a good enough reason to be overly suspicious of a man who already came clean after a thorough investigation. Even his soul was fine!'' Hearing Deruella made him wince, but he held back his negativity. That little hour pause had done Siegfried a world of good in reinvigorating him.

''Our friends should be back soon but let's begin a discussion anyway.'' He continues, eyeing the table.

Ama, Kyorn, and Hildegarde were the ones to go into the Red World. Shereen sat by her lonesome on a sad corner of the table away from everyone else. Were she to remain grouped with the friends she belongs with, Ama wouldn't be able to do her job due to all the congregated souls (especially Hao) making it very dangerous for her to get closer.

The women you were linked with sat around you protectively. Sieglinde and Hao at your sides, Elina and Klesiah behind you, Zhu had propped her legs on the table, abandoning any notions of decency for comfort.
The only thing everyone had elected to keep silent was Hao condition. With the infestation inside your arm, you knew full well that she would easily brush aside her situation for ''more pressing matters''. You'd need to corner the lovely tribal girl to, hopefully, begin solving that problem.

The noise of ruffled clothing and metallic clicks brought your attention to Siegfried who, after a glance toward Mebuchednazi, prompted the Anubis to reach for something on her waist. They produced a midsized metal cylinder and put them on the table.

''We have another one in our baggage.'' Siegfried began. ''These three items are our first contingency, there's a portal scroll inside each of them and they lead into the very heart of Zipangu, the royal castle itself inside the middle kingdom capital.''

''Carrying these around sounds mighty dangerous.'' The blond man nodded at Klesiah remark. ''I assume you've taken proper precautions if they fall into the wrong hands?''

''Absolutely. Queen Ame-no-Uzume began mustering the army when we left and whilst I haven't been able to communicate with her every night, she's been able to gather the elite force of our kingdom and has everyone on high alert, maintaining constant vigilance in the area we've set out for the portals. If enemy forces pursue us, they'll have a bad time. That was our preparation to get you out of here quickly if we had to, Arawn.''

''Anais situation changed priorities.'' You observed.

''Yeah.'' Siegfried grew silent, all eyes inevitably glanced at the silent Waltier. The man nodded, face remaining grave.

He'll likely remain of stone until his daughter is safe. Can you blame him? He must be constantly holding back the urge to run into the palace with a blade picked from a random dead guard.

''Our second contingency consists of the boat we used to come here and this treasure here.'' Mebuchednazi brought a furred hand on the squared-eyed girl brunette's shoulder, prompting her to look up curiously and, for some reason, become fixated on the fluffy woman canine ears.

''Our boat is a prototype Magitek ship that, unfortunately, hasn't been outfitted with weapons yet. It's been modified to be able to carry impossibly heavy loads and in this case, we've stuffed it with 60 war golems. With Siegfried magical nature, Kyorn magical capabilities, and the angels boundless energy we've gotten here quickly from Zipangu.''

''Emeth can become the nexus for all the golems, allowing her to command and direct them as needed for battle.'' Siegfried occupied the brunette's empty shoulder with his hand. ''Her body is artificial but her soul isn't. Please don't think of her as an object, you'll hurt her feelings.''

Emeth showed the rare expression of tightening her lips into a fine line as she directed her intense gaze at the table. Bashful?
''War golems... I remember Belphegor having a pair of them in Throne Town, Bob and Bobby I think?'' Sieglinde silently nods to answer your question, the memory brought you a faint smile.

''Yeah, those guys are our best units and we've managed to stuff twenty of them in our hold. The rest consist of middling chassis.''

You've witnessed firsthand how brutal those things can be. Humanoids carved out of rocks is a simple concept but there's no denying its effectiveness.

''That was our solution in case getting you out of Muribel needed muscles.'' Mebuchednazi scratched deep into Emeth scalp which had the girl tilt her head in her direction. ''Kyorn once joked about ramming the ship into the palace harbor and rush inside the palace to save Anais. I'm starting to believe it's not such a dumb idea.''

''No help when it comes to handling your arm.'' Siegfried continues, his gaze turns to Mina. ''Lady Shard, are you truly confident that bringing him into a church would help?''

''Yes.'' Throughout the discussion, Mina spine had never softened. Her tone was equally gallant. ''A church connected with the Mother will allow me to reach her and since this matter concerns Outsiders... She will help. The problem, however, is that it could take me upward of 12 hours to contact her. Her web responds to threat very quickly... but it isn't so efficient when it comes to handling anything else.''

''We're already strict on time...'' The dark-haired beauty beside Siegfried murmured.

''I won't ask you to become a cripple, Arawn.'' Waltier was carefully minding his emotion, controlling himself enough to sound suitably diplomatic. ''I don't like what's being implied here. We should leave after all the efforts we took into infiltrating the capital?''

''If it is our best option, yes.'' Siegfried answer sternly. ''I'm a dad too, were not going to abandon your girl. What Zerase is doing coupled with that second sneaky freak would be more than enough reason for us to convince the queen to help us... strongarm our way into the palace itself. Ama did at least one good thing with that petrification: we know where Anais is and since she's so confident about it, we can assume she'll be safe for two days. We've also disrupted the crown princess operations here in Marleon.''

''Is it not possible to counter a portal activation?'' Waltier continues

''There has been fairly recent breakthroughs when it comes to defending against portals.'' Deruella is the one responding. ''All of them can be broken physically with a good spell or a few bodies disrupting the edges, there are also alchemical means to disrupt one at a distance although I doubt there is anything like that here in Muribel. It is possible to raise magical protections to disrupt portals, yes. Throne Town has plenty of them, Mother Earth web can be stimulated for such a purpose... but outright preventing one from forming has yet to be achieved.''
''Zerase constructed a strange web that was visible from an alternate world'' You point out. ''How dangerous do you think it is?''

''I believe opening a portal will allow the pharaoh to immediately know what's happening and extinguish it one minute after activation. That's how Throne Town protection functions. We use Mother Earth web as the basic magical infrastructure to prevent threats from the Red World from invading.''

''We in Zipangu have had some bad experiences with portals popping out where they shouldn't.'' Siegfried scowl at Deruella who looks away, busying herself by playing with her hair. ''Princess here spoke the truth. We only need to look outside to understand Zerase competence with magic, so I believe what she said.''

''It isn't impossible to outright prevent one from opening, right?''

''Theoretically, yes. It's also possible to exorcise the Cursed Swamp, nobody figured it out yet.'' Siegfried demeanor noticeably softens when he answers Hao question, at least he wasn't irritated with repeating himself.

''If we do go into Zipangu.'' Waltier shifts in his seat, taking a few moments to breathe in and out. ''How will we open a portal back here? It'll be impossible to open a path for the army, one of those scrolls won't last long enough and anyone we do leave behind will be in immense danger.''

''Ama can help.'' Mother Mercy, you don't like saying that. ''I think she can change death pearls into astral ones and then use them to open a strong portal back here since she's undeniably been all around Muribel. We not only have four pearls, but I also have two particularly strong ones, more than enough ammunition for a return trip.''

Waltier only sign of settling down is a grunt, while reluctant, he's willing to accept your logic.

''What are we supposed to do with the boat if we do return?'' Mylen ask. ''Leave it in in that cavern we found? The magical camouflage should still last a week... We'll just leave it all there and come back after our victory?''

''I'll be able to communicate with Siegfried with our link.'' Hadraniel decides to stand up as she speaks, wings flapping gently, creating a refreshing wind. ''Perhaps me, Kyorn, Mebu, and Emeth could return and coordinate with whatever strategy you guys come up in Zipangu.''

''I'll come with you, something will likely go wrong.'' Mylen words were filled with the first bout of passion you saw from her, she looked at the angel with genuine emotions.
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''Oh no you don't, you are Siegfried bodyguard.'' The Embodiment of Love responds with a giggle and walks behind the dark-haired woman to hug her tightly, her wings would have undeniably cocooned her if Siegfried wasn't obstructing one. ''Your place is beside him, always. I haven't been awake for too long, I know. I've missed you so, so much for thirteen years!'' Mylen blush had colored her entire face red, she was looking away so intensely she'd have buried her face in a wing if Hadraniel wasn't holding her back. ''So once this little business is over, I'm going to scoop you up, throw you on our bed and show you how much I've missed you. Again. Siggy will decide if I stay or not, I'll take gooood care of you till then.''

''Eaaaaagh'' Mylen plaint sounded like a dying cat. She stopped breathing when Hadraniel gave a loud, wet kiss on the cheek, the Embodiment melodious laughter resonated gently in the dining room.

Your gaze inevitably drifted toward Sieglinde, the redhead answered with a quiet ''yeah'' without needing to add anything.

That boat ride must have been awkward. For some reason, Elina was looking at you with... bone-chilling intensity.

Three silhouettes suddenly appeared in the main hall. At first, they were ill-defined, vaguely humanoid shapes that could almost be mistaken as smudges in the ether of the world. These presences quickly gained proper definition after a few seconds. Ama large silhouettes with all nine of her tails dominated their presence, Kyorn tall frame and wings were still noticeable, these two made Hildegarde's diminutive frame difficult to identity.

''Aaaand done!'' Ama announced, lifting her hands from her companion's shoulders. one blink and all three bodies had regained their usual colors and identities. ''No more nasty mark to ruin our nights.''

''That place is weird as fuck.'' Kyorn paused when he noticed Hadraniel hugging Mylen, the angel grip had strengthened when the other woman had tried to wiggle away in embarrassment.

''Hundreds upon hundreds of sleeping horrors...'' Hildegarde had already moved to sit beside Elina. ''...The capital is being choked by a phenomenon similar to Myrtidal, except much, much more voluminous.''

''You described it like a spiderweb yeah?'' Kyorn asked as he made his way to sit beside his wife. ''This one is like a ball of twine. Thick dark vines everywhere, had to squeeze myself out to actually fly up with Hild.''

''That mountainous mushroom freak was hanging out near the silo.'' Hildegarde doesn't bother embellishing. ''It looked inert, we didn't try provoking it.''

''The ocean looked fairly fine.'' Kyorn continued. ''A few vines were growing in its direction but otherwise, things were clear. Also, the west and southern horizon weren't as thickly choked compared to the capital and the road leading into the palace.''
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''The presence of the Prince of famine is suspicious indeed.'' Ama adds. ''You two missed a peculiar detail, I'll explain.'' With that remark, she grabbed the conversation momentum.

''Marleon has far too many souls for Red World entities to survive outside protected pockets there were, however, a great many creatures nonetheless. Many bird-like mutants took spots to rest throughout the less populated roofs and that, my dears, is a bad omen.'' Pausing long enough to put one hand on top of Shereen nervous hand, Ama relished the collective attention. ''Think of the regular denizens of the Red World as boars. Big, tough, very dangerous but ultimately dumb. These birds are similar to wolves, they can form packs -violent and self-destructive ones, yes- but they can still coordinate and... I've always noticed their presence in the few times I saw the baby eating prince.''

The only person not to shift on their seat uncomfortably was Hadraniel because she kept hugging Mylen.

''Now, I've never been able to catch the bastard before he initiates a crisis, and ultimately, these mutants crows are native denizens of that alternate reality. Could be nothing more than a coincidence.'' Ama began to open and close her hand quickly. ''I don't like coincidences. The ritual of Apotheosis is simple to understand: it is to gain enough power to impose one will on reality, an astronomical reinforcement of magic most basic rule. That's how it worked during the era of Pretenders, the Red World was no concern back then... I've never seen two princes near one another, too..''

Opening and closing her hand incessantly, Ama had that particular emotion you remember seeing on Sieglinde a few times. ''Missing a piece, missing a piece... Why are these phenomenons happening out there in the Red whilst the ritual is being rushed here?'' Ama wondered aloud. She was one single step away from finding an answer but ultimately couldn't.

''Hrm, frustrating.'' Deruella growled. ''Such a perfect chance, too.'' How she wanted to flaunt intellectual dominance on the big, bad, evil Wound-of-the-World.

''Thank you for taking a risk for us.'' You spoke, giving Kyorn, Hildegarde, and even Ama a thankful nod. A gesture that was quickly mirrored by everyone else. ''Better to know, we need to decide what to do...'''

You are in the closing stage of your time in Muribel, that much is obvious. This group, while ill-prepared, elected themselves to save the young princess of Kreszenz and ultimately, might move their goals to outright kill the Pharaoh. The birth of a new god is a problem for everyone.

Hao soul is burning itself out. During the Whitening, she's becoming similar to an angel: her belief strengthens her. It will also quicken her memory loss... This disease is a bitter double-edged sword.

Your left arm is infected by an unknown soul parasite planted into you by a sneaky eldritch bastard. For now, it's been unable to progress because you haven't embraced any fusion or shifted into the Red World since your encounter with Armin.

As long as it is here, going into the Red World or embracing fusion could provoke an unknown reaction.

Slicing off your arm is a solution. You've resolved yourself to it.

Going into a church of Mother Earth could potentially work, who else but the Goddess Herself can remove this taint? That would mean using a portal to return to Zipangu... There's no way to predict what will happen next.

Wouldn't leaving also means abandoning everyone in the capital to their fate? The greater country will at least be spared since the fog needs time to spread... How much of a hero do you want to be, Arawn?

The Prince of Famine is nesting where Horkus died.
His presence so close to Zerase ritual is incredibly odd. Why is it here...?
Mutants birds are also nesting throughout Marleon in great quantity, an omen of Vritra.
[Green] Marleon is being choked by a nest of vines two, if not three times as large and voluminous than the ones you saw in Myrtidal.[/green]

Amongst all this uncertainty, your small, oh so very small group, has to act and commit.

>Retreat into Zipangu. The situation has become so, so much worse than what you could have imagined.
>a) Should a group remain behind to retrieve Zipangu special boat?

>Commit with remaining in Muribel. Your party will reconvene at first light tomorrow to establish a proper strategy.
>a) Slice off your arm. Remove this crippling uncertainty.
>b) Keep the parasite while minding the handicap. It's too soon to be committing to such a drastic act...


A Tale of Monsters -The Witch Game (18)- End

If the option to slice off your arm is chosen, I will write a bonus update about it in this thread. Now is the time for you guys to think. I'll be very reserved about answering questions, you'll likely to be met with a whole lot of ''I can't tell you that''. Not the ending point I wanted, but it's a good one nonetheless.
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Aaah fuck it the broken green will stay.
Oh boy, this is gonna be a bit long...

Yet again, a lot to take in. So we know that Mountain is here and so too might Vritra. Looks like this town is getting set for a scene the likes of which birthed Slaanesh. Damn, shit just keeps getting worse and worse...

Ok, going back to Zipangu. That'll set off an alarm it seems. Zerase will know a portal got opened and about where it opened up if activated within the city. We can control where that happens though, though sneaking everyone out to where this dark mockery of ME's web is thinner might be a risk necessitating a roll. Doing it here where it's thickest might result in either a rapid or auto-failure. Though I believe you said Zerase wasn't all that familiar with portals and how they work. Or at least, that's what Ama gathered when she fought her. Of course, she might not be but Armin might and he could be by her side right now helping put the "finishing touches" on this most grand, perhaps world ending, tragedy.

Perhaps we can make fully accurate coms with Zipangu before doing anything truly drastic. We still have Shereen and us with a good amount of reserves remaining. It may take Ama's help but we could link up with Old Siggy and use him to communicate if he's linked to anyone remaining there. I don't see the lizard waifu so I bet she's still there and she'd have instant access to Ame if Siggy isn't linked to Ame directly already. If nothing else having a portal trying to be opened from both ends ought to be damned hard if not actually impossible to stop. It could make that an auto-success instead of a likely roll to see if it actually goes through. I'm sure Ama can just brute force one as well because she's Ama, but that'll take an Astral Pearl or a Blood Ritual from Shereen and that'll probably only work once. We need that for the return trip.

As for the communication with ME and Mina. Big ME would learn of both our parasite problem and the immense shit show happening here in Marleon right? I would think both would warrant her attention. This parasite could be a larval Old One. It'd likely need something like us, an embodiment tier being, to grow and mature in to get the "full effect" as it were. Hell, it could exist to hijack this whole ritual. Instead of Zerase ascending, a Great Old One gets manifested instead. I'd think the former alone would be enough for her to go full Counter Force activation mode. I don't think she want's any "competition" in the "supreme divinity" sphere if ya catch my meaning.

As for that boat, how far away is it and can it be rigged to Self-Destruct? Worst case scenario we cannot allow it to just fall into enemy hands. It's not in a place choked by the dark web is it? If it ain't the null-signature field it seems to have ought to keep it safe but hey, I like to have insurance.

Also, another consideration. The parasite is currently dormant right? It can't just move to another host if we link to them can it?
Also, As for things that don't matter as much. Didn't know Haddy swung both ways. Definite yuri subtext with Mylen going on there. Interesting. I wonder if old Siggy's harem is as much hers as his.

Also, why is Elina staring at us so intently? What's the link say about her current emotional state? How about Hao's?
>I don't see the lizard waifu so I bet she's still there and she'd have instant access to Ame if Siggy isn't linked to Ame directly already.
This is info coming from the previous quest so I won't give anything concrete, but you do not need to rely on it for any kind of good ending. I'll also put my foot down here and prevent any course of action relying on it. You gotta work with what you have here.

Siegfried said he can speak with the queen of Zipangu when he sleep, but it is difficult to do so for long, so they only stuck with very important topics.

>As for the communication with ME and Mina. Big ME would learn of both our parasite problem and the immense shit show happening here in Marleon right?
That would be the aim of Mina returning into the fold, yes.
>As for that boat, how far away is it and can it be rigged to Self-Destruct?
Oh, I totally forgot to give this info. The boat is around 6 hours to the west. It cannot self-destruct but Emeth could make all the golems rampage and break everything. Even from where you are now.
>It's not in a place choked by the dark web is it?
No, the palace is to the east and that's a big nest of vines.
>The parasite is currently dormant right? It can't just move to another host if we link to them can it?
So far it seems dormant. Your soul link has strengthened since Myrtidal and you've also made several pathways with Shereen since the handshake and there hasn't been any side effect on them.

>Also, why is Elina staring at us so intently? What's the link say about her current emotional state?
Before Ama came in with her big news, Elina felt plenty of lust.
>How about Hao's?
Throughout everything, she's been radiating a constant, soothing, serene happiness by being next to you. It is getting a bit difficult for Arawn to feel the girls feeling because all of them are so close together. But that's simple growing pain with soul links.
>I wonder if old Siggy's harem is as much hers as his.
I honestly wanted to write a heart to heart between Hadraniel and Arawn this update.
If we were to take a portal out are we able to chose who comes with us or will everyone be going with us?

I'm leaning towards heading outside the city limits, taking maybe one or two more people with us (Mina needs to go to get ME on the level, so Klesiah will be necessary, and someone who has some authority in Zipangu who can direct us where to go and deal with things while we get fixed would be a good idea.) to get the arm fixed and potential ME assistance to prevent the worst from happening and also a fast way back, since the original portal won't last long.

I feel like the best course of action would be to have the group focus on recovering Anais and let ME clean up, though there will likely be many people that would die needlessly.
So no full accuracy coms with Zipangu? Damnit, I at least wanted a short message saying: "We don't have time to explain. We're coming back and we need you to try to open and/or keep the portal open from your end. The scrolls might not be enough on their own."

I am leaning towards the return trip as it would seem stealth is not an option given that dark web and the red world juggernauts lurking just beyond the veil waiting for their chance to spring into action. At the very least my original plan of sneaky sneaky through the red world to Anais while a more frontal attack distracts the enemy seems to be a non-starter given those accursed princes and our parasite problem However, I fear that this web and potential intervention from Armin would mean the scroll portal will fail on its own *and* raise the alarm. We're collectively fucked if that happens.

As for the golem ship, I'd hate to lose it if we go back to Zipangu and thus go with the full frontal assault option. Marleon doesn't have too much of a navy right? Could Emeth set a subroutine for the golems? Y'know, kill anyone who discovers it before they can squeal to the authorities and, if it looks like the feds came in force to then start destroying everything?

Another parasite question, a portal won't awaken it will it? That's another level of potential fuckery Armin could have installed.

Well, Elina was kinda clam jammed by Ama and the rest of the girls in the bath. We were just about to... well, that. Not getting to "finish" is rather frustrating after all. Also, if we break for Zipangu won't we get to have that heart to heart with Haddy in the church?
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>If we were to take a portal out are we able to chose who comes with us or will everyone be going with us?

The default option will be for everyone to get the hell out together since opening a portal will (likely) alter Zerase. Deruella is confident with infiltrating the area around the palace (but not the place itself) but the portals scrolls do not create anything strong enough to be reliable in a conflict zone, those things will be dealt with incredibly fast, making it borderline suicidal to open one on palace ground.
Meant alert.
>That pic
Nice. Also, what's with all the pics of Elly? Who do they represent?
Could the golems be set to attack the city and try and precipitate an evacuation?
>Marleon doesn't have too much of a navy right?
Muribel navy is excellent, though fairly spread out throughout its four big coastal city. The palace is protected by plenty of warships, the capital is filled with merchants, civilians, and a few nobles vessels coming for Ensan Moon market. There's lots of movements in the water right now and that is likely to continue.
>Could Emeth set a subroutine for the golems? Y'know, kill anyone who discovers it before they can squeal to the authorities and, if it looks like the feds came in force to then start destroying everything?
An order like this is already in place, the cache of golems are guarded by two semi-independent chassis plus they've camouflaged the ship in a cavern with a piece of magitek creating a mirage.
>Another parasite question, a portal won't awaken it will it? That's another level of potential fuckery Armin could have installed.
Impossible to tell.
Oh yes, there will be plenty of time for hearts in Zipangu. I just wanted to do it in this thread, that's all.
>Nice. Also, what's with all the pics of Elly? Who do they represent?
Emeth would need to physically go near them to make this order happen.
Oh, here's another option. Is Zipangu advanced in magitek? If a nice magitek/automail prosthetic is likely waiting for us there for a quick installation than we should sever the arm before we gate out. No point in taking a risk for not a lot of reward. Or maybe it still is. How hard is it to acclimate to an artificial magitek limb? If it's hard/takes awhile we may want to chance it with the portal anyway. Likewise, if that's not an option is there any way to "regenerate" lost limbs? Alarune's or anything like that possess that power?

Can we do some kind of ritual to "seal" our arm? We'd temporarily lose the ability to use it but by essentially putting it into magical stasis we'd keep the worm from having a chance to do anything until we got to a church.

Also, Emeth looks like Elly? Nice. Now if only we had a gear for her to pilot. We could really use some mechs right about now. Big, stompy, powerful mechs for to deal with that Mountain and Vritra. Ether Drives/Engines would also be awesome, but those (along with gear/battlemech mech scale mechs) are probably at least a century away from being made a reality. Also, what old Siggy said means Emeth is a fantasy robogirl. Damn, old Siggy scorin' all the best kinds of girls. Lucky lucky bastard.

Also, this is a truly evil option but, well, a "red world rift." Could Ama open one within Marleon? It'll screw over everyone near it just like in Throne Town but hey, if we cannot gate in an army upon our return we need something to distract all those fucking guards because oh yes, they will know we are come and from where we are coming from. A swarm of red world horrors spilling out of a rift getting plopped right in front of the palace gates is a nice distraction given that. Force em' to split their attention. If multiple rifts can be opened even better. Granted, it'll spell massive collateral damage if Ama cannot slave them to her will but hey, with stakes this high sometimes ya gotta break a few eggs. At least the civies ought to be smart enough to run away once that happens.

I don't like that last option, but we will need a way to keep from just getting instantly ganked upon opening a return portal if we withdraw to Zipangu.
>Is Zipangu advanced in magitek?
Only in specific areas (mostly navy). Throne Town is much better in several other places (especially infrastructure) and the Iron City in the Allied Kingdoms is the best place for weapons.
>If a nice magitek/automail prosthetic is likely waiting for us there for a quick installation than we should sever the arm before we gate out.
You are not going to get a prosthetic in any reasonable timeframe.
>How hard is it to acclimate to an artificial magitek limb?
Take a while, though your body has adapted to the strain by now because of all your gauntlet spells.
>Likewise, if that's not an option is there any way to "regenerate" lost limbs? Alarune's or anything like that possess that power?
Alraune can regenerate lost limbs, yes. Unfortunately... Gardy body will prevent that. Also, a regeneration could take upward of a month inside an Alraune pod.
>Can we do some kind of ritual to "seal" our arm? We'd temporarily lose the ability to use it but by essentially putting it into magical stasis we'd keep the worm from having a chance to do anything until we got to a church.
No, bodies can't be sealed like that, not even with blood magic because of the natural attachment of a soul.
>Could Ama open one within Marleon?
Give her pearls and she'll go wild.
How many pearls do we have at the moment, were any recovered during our time away?
So we cannot regenerate any lost limbs? Fuck. Oh well, perhaps assimilation would be possible. The artificial limb becoming just like the natural one over time, but perhaps a bit better. Y'know, full tactile sensation and natural movement, but also far more durable. Ryougi Shiki landed one like that from Touko after her original one got, well, twisted.

Given everything that's happening our current party, strong as it is, is also still out of its collective depth. We can't take Narlathotep's Avatar, two red world princes, Zerase, Ensan, and their army by ourselves (especially since we don't have Gardy's immunity to mind fuckery anymore). I assume voting is open for the next few days but for now I vote to retreat to Zipangu and see if we can't tilt those odds a bit more in our favor. I fear we're going to need literal, direct divine intervention to get out of this one without any party deaths.

Errr, Siggy isn't so far gone that big ME would consider her an outsider is she? That's another potential problem. Mina successfully attracts the attention of the goddess, but than said goddess sees Siggy as an outsider and decides that outsiders bad and so outsider dies. Can ME open portals anywhere she damn well pleases? If she can we got a good counter to Zerase's web. One portal will get homed in on and the people using it instantly eradicated. 100 portals? Either she hits with that long shot dice roll or she turtles up.

Also, this could be why Anais is necessary for the ritual. Perhaps the outright consumption of souls via ritual is impossible in the modern world. At the very least, you couldn't do it from a great distance very easily. Ya might need a "middle man" to get the process going. Red world denizens would probably do, but then you've got the issue of herding those malicious and ravenous "kittens", belly full of souls, into an area you can sacrifice *them* and get the same effect as a soul sacrifice of old (or something else along those lines). Would be hard to do... unless you had someone like Anais and an innate blood mage to carry the two and make the whole damn thing work.
Siegfried's group assaulting the gang leader supported by Ensan uncovered 4 death pearls.
You still have the two Awakened Pearls.
Ama -can- use two death pearls to create one astral pearl.
> I assume voting is open for the next few days
Yeah, thread is over so I'll wait two days, and then I'll make a big bold post containing your choice to keep everyone on the same page.
>Errr, Siggy isn't so far gone that big ME would consider her an outsider is she?
What the goddess think is impossible to tell. Not even Mina can answer that.
>Can ME open portals anywhere she damn well pleases?
Not gonna answer what Mommy can and cannot do in details. Mina says that she can show up anywhere her web touch.
>Would be hard to do... unless you had someone like Anais and an innate blood mage to carry the two and make the whole damn thing work.
Using your head I the right way.
That's enough juice for Ama to get to full power 3 times. However, I think we wanna save the awakened ones for a trump card. Mind Virus Protocol or other shenanigains are things our enemy will not see coming.

Big ME's web does not touch the entirety of this nation clearly. You'd think she'd notice such a sizable blind spot and send people in to investigate. Why didn't she?

So I'm on the right track am I? It was just a passing idiot's consideration. Perhaps we can mention this line of thought to Ama and Deru? Sometimes, it really is just that simple. Sometimes, you need someone "dumber" than you to solve the problem and notice something "smarter" people miss because they're overthinking it.
Oh, speaking of which, said death pears seem to enable magic that's effective on/against outsiders. Could we or Ama use one to try and kill that accursed worm?
>Why didn't she?
Her web has absolutely NO presence here at all.
While it is a good thought, unfortunately, it's not the ''piece'' to give both Ama and/or Deruella the correct idea. Don`t make me write another full-sized update damn you. Choice now, thinking later!

>Could we or Ama use one to try and kill that accursed worm?
The magic will end up rotting your entire arm. Arawn is a finely tuned mixture of blood, flesh, muscles, bones, and steel in the regular world. Theoretically though, it could work.
Oh yeah, don't forget that all of the info I give you comes through the lens of the people around you.

Even if something seems wrong or implausible, you could always try and see for yourself.
So it's not the full "piece" they need but it could lead them closer to it? Like, plant a seed in their minds that might sprout into the truth if they put their heads together and think on it for a bit? Or would they need to take the time to investigate the red world with the idea in mind to stand a chance to find out the full truth?

Any tomes of forbidden knowledge in Zipangu that could be unsealed or some nutter heretic they got rotting away in a dungeon that might be coaxed to share their relevant perspective? If they're close to the answer that could be all they need.

This doesn't really require a full update or anything though. It's just a thing we could mention to get their (and everyone else's) gears turning. Time is of the essence of course, we don't have the luxury of letting them all mull it over for a few hours right now. We do have to collectively decide whether to tough it out and try stealth or retreat and come back louder than hell with a full frontal assault as once we run there is no more stealth option.

The choice must be made soon. We got 2 days and the clock's already ticking.
>So it's not the full "piece" they need but it could lead them closer to it? Like, plant a seed in their minds that might sprout into the truth if they put their heads together and think on it for a bit?
Something like that. Ama and Deru might be smart cookies, geniuses still need time to think. So even if you do happen upon the answer, It'll only manifest next thread.

Still gotta vote.

>Any tomes of forbidden knowledge in Zipangu that could be unsealed or some nutter heretic they got rotting away in a dungeon that might be coaxed to share their relevant perspective? If they're close to the answer that could be all they need.
Not exactly, no. The queens are the best source of ''heretical'' knowledge you can find. Siegfried is also the kingdom spymaster so he's pretty much numb to anything heretical. sure there are some no-nos books, but nothing too deep concerning the Red World
Ama can't refresh / extend Anais's protections using a pearl could she.
Unfortunately not, she'll need eye contact to refresh it.
Very true, and now I just thought of more gear turning fuel for them both. If they haven't considered it already, there is the apparent requirement of both Shereen as an innate blood mage and Anais and her unique blood to make the old ritual work in modern times.

It ties into the point I made earlier but it's more for them to potentially think on. What can those things do that were either hard to pull off or literally impossible in antiquity? What fun uses could they have in this modern era of magic both blood and otherwise? Another key perhaps lies in those lines of inquiry.

I also recall that Armin stated that the legendary "pyramid of blood" lies within the castle. It was where Shereen did her ritual to heal us I think and his accursed ass mentioned it on a whim. It too might be a key part of all this. Another necessary component that enables relevant shenanigans that cannot be done anywhere else perhaps?
>Retreat into Zipangu. The situation has become so, so much worse than what you could have imagined.
>a) Should a group remain behind to retrieve Zipangu special boat?
We need more help, and it's the only way we're going to get it, Ama should be able to Portal our way back here without significant preparation, either to the safehouse or somewhere on palace grounds itself to begin a lightning round, snatch and grab if we can manage it (removing the roof, or opening large holes that can be abused by our flying friends could be useful), while other will either clean up or focus on delaying reinforcements / the horde up, while ME prepares to Nuke everything, hopefully we mange to get out in time.

Have someone that can fly move the boat out into deeper water away from the coast, it should be possible to target with either the return portal or scuttled / set adrift where it may be recovered later
We have up to 3 days thanks to the petrification, probably closer to 2 now. The longer we wait, the more time there is for things to get worse, but we're not prepared.
I think we should... I can't believe I'm saying this, take the day to round up support for the assault. We can get help from ME regarding both the parasite and the attempt at apotheosis.
We can have someone open a portal on the boat with one of the scrolls. Then we can storm the city with the violence of an angry god.
Now if Ama and Deruella would stop trying to one-up each other and actually put their heads together...
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Oh, oh we're going to *make* them stop it and force them to put their heads together! We have leverage to make them do so.

Inform Deru that we need to stop this snake from achieving apotheosis if she wants her dear sister's life to be saved from whatever illness she suffers from. Also, she loves her mother yes? Who does she think is going to be one of the first targets Zerase Apotheosis is going to kill? The only way bad things don't happen to her beloved family is if she relies on Ama's knowledge of the mystics and magics of antiquity.

Inform Ama that if she doesn't want her new toys breaking on her and likely being one of the first things Zerase the god snek will aim to kill nice and slow for daring to get in her way she would do well to run her ideas past and considerations past a girl like Deru, a woman who may know more about modern magics and their applications to ritual magecraft than she does. At the very least she's dangerously smart and probably very creative and inventive. Her perspective may provide her with the key she needs to actually piece it all together.

In short, remind them of the very personal things at stake for them both. Their pride surely isn't worth more than these things is it? If not for the sake of the world, than for your own friggin' selfish reasons, get along and work through this BS before we ALL die you megalomaniacs!
I knew it, I knew you'd force me to write another update. Damn you!

I'm going to wait the two days voting period I've established and post a little blurb concerning Ama and Deruella working together, there is however one demand from the fluffy witch.

By the time of the assault, Ama demand to hold onto one Astral Pearl. She says it's to ensure Shereen's security because she's absolutely convinced Zerase will do something stupidly drastic to a member of her family going against her.
Promise her you'll convince people to let her keep one and she'll be a good girl with Deruella tomorrow.

Yes? No?
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It is my joy to stop you from inflicting suffering upon us that isn't dice related and this was one of those times.

I do not like this. We'll have to give her one anyway so she can form the return portal if such a thing cannot be done by the Fluffed ones of Zipangu or any of their court mages. Mebu is one of them yes? Can she either open portals or be used as a source for a waypoint to create one? Would one of our memories serve instead? A free coupon for a memory of her choice to be redeemed whenever and wherever she sees fit? I think we already owe her an indulgence, but we said it had to be harmless. Giving her a memory of ours could come back to bite us hard in the ass somehow so that's not the same thing.

This may all be a moot point however. If she is the only one who actually knows how to use it in any way other than a mere full mana restoration potion on the team than she ought to have it by default.

Not that we're telling her that. If that's the case we agree anyway as it then essentially cost us nothing. We do need her to make nice with Deru and if that's the only way than that's the only way. Still gotta try to weasel out of it first though. I fear she isn't wrong however. Armin likely gave her one "final" trump card to use in the event...

Oh, oh fuck. We linked with Shereen to restore Mina and the worm has proven to be subtle and elusive. Looks like the other anons wanna go to Zipangu and now I'm in agreement. Scan Shereen the instant we get there. In fact, she gets to be with us with Mina too. DAMN YOU ARMIN!!!!
>Mebu is one of them yes?
She's a Distance Corruption user(like Deruella), not a mage. No Focus for her.
>Can she either open portals or be used as a source for a waypoint to create one? Would one of our memories serve instead?
Ama is confident that she can open a portal with an Astral pearl. As for that memory question, nope.

She wants an Astral Pearl.

Thank for making me laugh. What a coincidence that SNK ended in such an ungodly awful fashion, I've been laughing so much I've grown stupid.
I would say yes, but it may potentially complicate things, we should try and at least reserve a death pearl for offensive measures is an opening presents itself to take a piece off the board early.
Ok, one more question for Ama then. She, personally, has no interest in apotheosis yes? She will be in a position to actually complete the ritual if everything goes to plan. She could just mind control Shereen, cut on Anais, and alter the target to herself. Then she's the "God of Contracts" and not the mere witch of them.

She has no desire for that ending right? Convince us that you won't do that or anything else we or our friends would consider horrible with that thing Ama, and we'll convince the others to let you have it.
> She, personally, has no interest in apotheosis yes?
She's insulted by the fact you think she'd be so boring. She's already a god anyway! Witches are much better.
She'll forgive us for our suspicions given how she's still our nemesis. Again, nothing anyone of us would consider horrible. No mind controlling Shereen, forcibly deepening her authority over our soul, placing a geis upon someone behind their back, or anything else like that.

If she won't do any of that than we can *try* to convince them. We're not the most skilled orator and there's no guarantee they even trust us! We can still try though.
Errr, the relevant death pearls are in the possession of Old Siggy's party right? Because that's why the "try" matters. If it's our girls than it's just "trust me" and they're ours.
Nay, she wants a promise. One she will hold you onto. No try, you will do.

>Errr, the relevant death pearls are in the possession of Old Siggy's party right?
Yeah, they're the ones with the four death pearls. She doesn't want to take your Awakened ones because those things are far too precious for her insurance... and they can't be turned into another type, anyway.
How the hell would we even begin to convince them? Unless my previous consideration of "She can use them in ways far more effective and better than a mere mana potion" is valid we ain't got much else to work with.

We don't trust her and Old Siggy might just hate her more than we do! To say nothing of the Zipangu fluffy ones. Tsu? I think Tsu is currently out to lunch if I remember. Immortal Sickness was it? Totally Senile or something. Not sure how to fix, but that's old Siggy's problem unless our magic can do something for it.

Ame? I don't think she much likes her mother. The curse of her lineage being a chief reason. Oh no, Ama's not a Kitsune, but a Kumiho and that matters!

Everyone else? Again, unless that consideration holds we got nothing that will convince them to trust a woman they hate. Well, not unless she and Shereen are willing to "help" us convince them. A joint effort might work, but us solo is one hell of a long shot I ain't got much confidence in.
You can figure that out next thread.

Duly noted.
Do we have an approximate window for the next thread?
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Hm... I'd honestly like to do it next week but I gotta move out of my place within two weeks so I might be too busy till then.

Keep a look on twitter. I'll aim for the 16 but if I cannot, it'll likely have to be pushed all the way toward the 26 since I'm unsure exactly when all my prep for moving will finish.
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Well, if our magic can fix Tsu than that's a hard answer to the problem. Old Siggy and all the rest of them *will* give us what we want if that's the price we're offering. Fix Tsukuyomi and get pretty much anything you want. Even Tsu would have to cave as, well, we did fix her and the price is "reasonable" one could say.

I suppose we could also promise our general services with our magecraft. Ama wasn't wrong about how words would likely fail to adequately describe the sheer size, lust, and longing of Zipangu's *boner* upon hearing of the existence of a "soul" mage and his willingness to aid them in their research. Tell a few of court mages/researchers, demonstrate we got the goods, and watch politics force the hand of even the most recalcitrant of Old Siggy's party! Pic related is the SFW version of their emotions upon learning of us and we can do.

In essence, I really, really, *really* don't like this, but we also *need* Deru and Ama to fully figure this out before we gate back to Marleon. The "truth" ought to open a path to victory that'd otherwise be closed to us. We shall... promise to secure her a pearl. Lord help her if she makes us regret this...
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Second vote in favor of a promise.
She had better start acting nice right after we make the promise and only stop once and if we fail.

Again, the one thing we don't have is time and oh yes, almost forgot that other piece of leverage. Mimiru. She really likes that little wretched ghoul does she not? Well, if you don't work with Deru and we fail because of that you may well have an exit strategy but you know who doesn't? Mimiru. Poor girl had/has absolute faith in you. Her death may be quick, but think about horrific it will be for her as she dies. Crying out for her beloved witch, the one who she thought would never fail her no matter what. Believing utterly that surely you'll save her. Talk about a tragedy.

You're a narcissistic PoS Ama, but the followers you've gathered would have dumped you the instant you ceased being useful to them, hell, never would have dealt with you in the first place if you were *that* one dimensional.

You can feel the sincerity behind our distrust and animosity can you not? We're going to do our best and we all don't have time to wait until we succeed or not. Call it a loan. We can pay you back later if we fail. Take our idiotic and ignorant queries and run them past Deru and whomever else my have a snowball's chance in hell of providing that final piece of the puzzle. Find the truth, and use it to bring us victory and the preservation of the lives and souls of everyone on "our" side.
Oh, errr, other consideration I just thought of. Shards are immune to outsider infections right? We also linked to Klesiah (to restore Mina) on the road here and Elina (after the fight with the eldritch horror and shade swarm).

That means 3 other people besides Shereen possibly in need of a scan due to exposure. Like I said, I suspect (among other things) that we are Patient Zero on Armin's new Parasite "Plague Inc." run. We want to catch this potential nasty surprise before we try anything. Big ME might have to burn out multiple corruptions. Damn you and this nasty curveball we almost didn't catch!

We'll also get to ask ME some things once Mina gets her attention right? Or will we have to basically write a letter to the goddess, have Mina deliver it, than wait for her response?
>Oh, errr, other consideration I just thought of. Shards are immune to outsider infections right? We also linked to Klesiah (to restore Mina) on the road here and Elina (after the fight with the eldritch horror and shade swarm).
Father Sky and Mother Earth see Outsiders as the greatest of threats, even Ama is a better tumor to have.
>That means 3 other people besides Shereen possibly in need of a scan due to exposure.
You and your links will likely be quarantined in the church till ME show up.
>We'll also get to ask ME some things once Mina gets her attention right?
Impossible to tell what's going to happen. Mina said she'll need 12 hours t contact ME. What happen after that? Impossible to tell...
I guess we'll find out if Mina can talk the goddess out of insta-killing Sieg then. Damnit, good thing we caught that worm but fucking hell. It's already potentially screwing up everything just by existing!

Still, my earlier concern. Ama will agree to "preemptively" make nice with Deru right? We don't got time for her theatrics or for her to simply wait for us to produce that pearl before she starts trying to actually figure this shit out instead of asserting intellectual dominance over Deru. Deru will need to be convinced to do likewise as well, but the quality of the leverage I mentioned is top tier. She loves her family, she will shelve her pride for their sakes if nothing else.

As for Ama, well, the leverage for her depends but it's actually more extensive than I thought. Killing her slow and painful isn't nearly petty enough for Zerase. She'll want Ame, her disciples, and her little puppy dead nice and slow too. Perhaps even brainwashed to hunt her down and kill her slow themselves. Or make her watch impotently as they are tortured and brainwashed into hating her. Falsely believing she sold them out to spare herself. Oh the terrible things an angry, petty god can do to you and yours. How abouts you make that impossible by shelving your pride and working with Deru eh?

Again, if all else fails she can consider it a loan. We'll owe her something we'd rather not give if we fail, but I have a feeling that was her intention all along. Hell, perhaps that's why she wants this promise. She's hoping we won't succeed so she can get what she *actually* wants from us!
The witch really is Arawn second half, isn't she? Can't stop thinking about her!
Can't stop worrying about how she might screw us all roughly from behind is more like it.

I guess you'll answer my question with that upcoming update. Again, we insist that she start playing nice with Deru and figure out the truth behind this horrific mess immediately. We don't have time for her bullshit.
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We'll see won't we? For now I'm waiting for more votes but it's looking like
We'll be going to Zipangu
Promise Ama one Astral Pearl.
Oh, I just remembered, we can feel Ama's emotions as though we have a soul link with her can't we? Did she feel "sincere" when she said it was out of concern for Shereen that she requests that pearl? How much does she actually care about her anyway? More than as just her new anchor that she probably won't leave once this is over let's be honest. It seemed like she wants us and everyone else to believe that she actually cares for Shereen as a person... In much the same sick twisted way she cares about us but hey, caring is caring.

I recall the people of Zipangu put a great deal of faith in soul links. This one is unwilling, forced upon us, and thus accursed and to be rid of at first opportunity, but it is sadly a link nonetheless. If we say we know for a fact she cares because of that might help matters.

Also, would Ama and Shereen be opposed to helping us convince them? Gotta see what all my options are of course. Though time spent helping us convince them is time not spent with Deru figuring this mess out and I'll keep saying it, we want that concession out of her immediately. She makes nice with the Felwhore now and gets her pearl later. This is a negotiation not a list of demands towards a surrendering party. Could Shereen help us while Ama hashes things out with Deru? Her view on this would also be quite relevant.

I don't suppose our leverage is enough to get her to just relent on its own is it? She wants that pearl and she knows we want her to swallow her pride and put her head together with Deru. Sadly, she is once again in the stronger position. Deru needs her knowledge as much as she needs her perspective if they both want to figure out Zerase's ultimate ends and, in so doing, perhaps disrupt, dispel, or otherwise turn the whole ritual/situation to our side's collective advantage. Too bad for us she's apparently more than willing to risk Zerase's ascension and a TPK over this matter.

I'd like to think it's really because she cares about Shereen in a legitimate manner. Something approaching how she cared about Leena, but even that was still twisted and ultimately not enough to save her. Maybe that still stings a little for her and is intent on not embarrassing herself in front of us twice in a row?
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>Oh, I just remembered, we can feel Ama's emotions as though we have a soul link with her can't we?
Not when she's joined with Shereen. Her overall influence on you seems to have weakened. It's still there but it's not the usual one-way street you could sneak into.
>Also, would Ama and Shereen be opposed to helping us convince them?
Nah, it'll be redundant. This will be a deal between Ama and Arawn with Deruella as a witness. Girls deserve some time with each other to enjoy themselves.
Probably because she's "splitting her attention" so to speak. Keeping a tight hold on two souls is harder than one I'd imagine.

Seems we're getting that concession in a way. Ama's pride wouldn't allow it to look like she was caving in because she was admitting to Deru's superiority or a desire/need for her "help" in this matter. Rather, she's giving in and requesting it only because we've made her an offer she'd be dumb to pass up. Because (and only because) her favorite toy has asked, nay, practically begged so nicely for her to do this she can and will "lower" herself to the position of Deru's subordinate/equal and bless her with the full complement of her poisoned knowledge and mystic competence to solve our party's current problems. In exchange, of course, for that most precious of items and boy oh boy are we going to regret it *hard* if we don't produce the goods.

Will we be signing a contract? I really hope not. Though, I suppose we could convince them to give it to Deru if it's a hard no in regards to handing it to bad fluffy. She'd just hand it over behind everyone's back. This is some really shady shit...
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Alright, the actions outlined here are the way to go. >>4733216

Only one person voted to leave a group behind for the vote >>4731758
Since this is risky, I'd need more support. Default option is to have everyone bug out... if the portals work of course.

Gonna post a small update concerning the deal with Ama in a day or two. I'll work slow and update twitter when it's posted.
I might actually have a chance to write characters I haven't in years. This is... a bit intimidating. Ah well, this quest -is- a fresh outlook on things. Still, I'm getting butterflies... gotta stay impartial.
Welp, as they say, a smart man knows when to run like a little bitch!

We, err, are going to try to stealthily get to someplace this dark web isn't so thick and choking before attempting to gate out right? It just seems like a bad idea to try it here where it's strongest.

Also, questioning if the portals will work... you really just have to make me worry more don't you.
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Plan is to gate out in the small hours of the morning. Doing it inside a place you control is more secure than going outside, you'll need to walk long miles before reaching someplace that isn't as thick with the web.

>Also, questioning if the portals will work... you really just have to make me worry more don't you.

Just thought of further considerations. Can Haddy or Elina use a portal scroll and could they issue protocol orders to the Golems on that ship? I think I remember that some Oni's came along too, need to look that up but I think it wasn't just the current meatbags present and the golems. Oni girls came too I think.

As for said portals, I am still worried about that potential failure/reroute chance. I assume portals aren't the same as outright teleportation and thus don't share the latter's cataclysmic malfunction outcome chances but a portal being off by X amount of meters if that variable is big enough can still fuck us all over pretty hard if our angels and Kyorn don't end up in a good enough position in the worst case.

Can we double or triple stack the scrolls (i.e. use more than one at once) to reduce or eliminate that chance? How about Ama, Deru, or anyone else present? Can they do something to ensure the portals will work as intended from our end? You said Old Siggy can communicate with Ame when he sleeps and that our attempt to gate out will happen in a few hours time. Like I said earlier, I wanted at least one order/request to get issued: "Pry that portal open from your end as well. A scroll by itself may not be enough." If we can combine the two we can probably defeat even the most ingenious or comprehensive portal countermeasures through sheer brute force.

Make sure they have an army or some damn good healers ready at the gate location ready as well. So many nasty things I'm thinking of and yet again I refuse to give you my ideas!
>Can Haddy or Elina use a portal scroll and could they issue protocol orders to the Golems on that ship?
Any mages can activate scrolls. Emeth is the only one who can interact with the golems.
>Oni girls came too I think.
Sieglinde might have said that but you can consider that a little continuity error on my part. The golems were the muscles they brought along.
>a portal being off by X amount of meters if that variable is big enough can still fuck us all over pretty hard if our angels and Kyorn don't end up in a good enough position in the worst case.
Portals are actually surprisingly secure. They can't be opened in the air because they need an anchor in the ground and in case they lead inside a wall, you'll just end up walking into a solid obstruction when trying to go through.
>Can we double or triple stack the scrolls (i.e. use more than one at once) to reduce or eliminate that chance?
The plan is to open a portal and have another one open very quickly if there's some kind of reaction. The party will thus use two scrolls, it's always possible for the protection to get baited into closing a single one.
>How about Ama, Deru, or anyone else present? Can they do something to ensure the portals will work as intended from our end?
>You said Old Siggy can communicate with Ame when he sleeps and that our attempt to gate out will happen in a few hours time. Like I said earlier, I wanted at least one order/request to get issued: "Pry that portal open from your end as well. A scroll by itself may not be enough."
Zipangu side can't do anything. They have no idea where you are precisely, so nobody can open a portal on their side.
The plan is to open it during the early morning hours, where the army is changing shifts and thus, disorganized. If the worst happens, then everyone will bug out toward the ship but that'll be an important situation to handle, of course.
>So many nasty things I'm thinking of and yet again I refuse to give you my ideas!
Please do!
So we fucked up big time by choosing to run away?

I'd actually think that Zerase would be overly paranoid herself. Some wretched ghoul managed to petrify both herself and Anais such that it'll take days to render them usable material for the ritual?

Oh, well the next move is pretty damned obvious now isn't it? Ama and her posse are gonna gate in right here next to them in short order and then gate out with them in hand. Curveball: They didn't.

As you've basically spelled out the fact that Zerase and Ensan are in the ultimate analysis remarkably unimaginative and petty (i.e. Boring in the eyes of Ama), this may well be a blindside move from their perspective. In an ultimate irony they never suspected that we'd collectively agree with the "wisdom" of Desert Punk: "A smart man/party knows when to run like a little bitch!"
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>So we fucked up big time by choosing to run away?
Only time will tell.
> In an ultimate irony they never suspected that we'd collectively agree with the "wisdom" of Desert Punk: "A smart man/party knows when to run like a little bitch!"
Alternatively, they could be busy with the final stage of the hastened ritual and can't quite concentrate on finding a bunch of annoying little rats...
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Gonna keep me worrying my brains out until next thread it seems eh? Oh well, such is your joy and prerogative.

I've also started playing "Darkest Dungeon" again and these Red Word Princes, Ama, and that cosmic horror we killed (along with that worm and the red world denizens in general) would fit right in. Might need to construct some narratives from the Ancestor to fit them. Or some introduction quotes when we encounter then.
Hm, I didn't think about it but Darkest dungeon general atmosphere is fairly comparable to the general dread cast by the more monstrous foes of the settings. Though, in this case, Mother Earth denizens are naturally more heroics so stress is easier to endure.

I'm not too good with coming up with quotes, unfortunately. The Ancestor is iconic for a reason!
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Just a head up, the next thread will be around the 26 for sure. I'm moving out of my place this Friday so I'll I can do is prep, can't commit questing time this week.
Darn, oh well, real life takes priority. We're, err... still getting that update with our little deal with Ama right?

That thing's probably gonna make me worry a whole lot more than I already am but if it nets us a good chance at gathering the whole truth behind this accursed ritual (and, by extension, opens up paths for our consideration that we can use to increase our victory/survival odds) than it was worth it.

Will try to have some quotes by then. I can actually imagine one of the pretender gods actually being like the ancestor. Red world princes/that accursed dimension in general, the continued threat from outsiders, the actual still current vulnerability ME's reality still has to them...

Hell, perhaps Armin and Ama tie into that. Old Narly and whatever Ama actually is besides a nine-tailed kumiho. Damnit, we really are going to regret this deal aren't we. It was logical, hell Gardy might have actually recommended it himself, but a deal with a devil you know is still a deal with the devil.
>We're, err... still getting that update with our little deal with Ama right?
Yeah, I'll work on it tonight. I'm just being a lazy git right now. I'm gonna add a little important last bit with Sieglinde at the end too cause I thought of it last night.
>a deal with a devil you know is still a deal with the devil.
It's a good deal.
I bet she's not gonna be happy with this one. She clearly doesn't like our self-sacrificial streak. "It's always easier if you suffer isn't it?" I believe was her quote. I fear that might be from the heart of her own experience and a key as to what actually happened with Gardy.

We damn well better be able to restore him after all this provided we survive. I have no doubt it'll cost us something precious that we'd rather like to not sacrifice if possible but if that's what it takes to restore bestest buddy than that's what it takes. So long as it isn't the soul/life of a waifu or an innocent Gardy should be cool with it. Perma-sacrificing the links or forever forsaking the restoration of our former memories are the tier of shit I'm expecting that to cost us. Not that we can't get around that potentially, but the "easy" way of doing that will likely be closed to us if we elect to revive our robo-bro.
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Robo-bro is gone...
>That spoiler
For now he is. We still have his functional memory core within us and Embodiments, as demonstrated by Haddy, have an annoying habit of not dying when they are killed. Furthermore, they can, again as demonstrated by Haddy, be "revived" if the proper measures are taken.

This of course all assumes we live through the coming tribulation. The odds of which aren't looking all that good I must say. Oh yes, the odds are that people will live through this and that we'll actually be victorious. Sadly, it's a lot like walking into a warzone. Soldiers live through them, but they also don't. Who does and who doesn't is pretty much up to the dice gods and they are remarkably impartial. All it takes is one bad roll and down we go. Same for the enemy of course. If Zerase rolls a 1 well it well and truly sucks to be her now doesn't it?
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The current party is filled with some really tough-to-kill bastards who are also pretty damn good at keeping other people alive, as much as I want it, killing people easily won't be easy (friends and foes) but I'll climb that hill when we get to it. Things can happen...

As for Hadraniel, her position was a tad special and she also had Zipangu royalty supporting her... Embodiment can die too, as demonstrated by Strife and Faith demise!
Gotta know what you're doing on that front. Killing Embodiments and gods takes a bit of intent and advanced knowledge I'd imagine. The two you mentioned would have had that going against them. Demon Lords wouldn't much like the concept of "faith" fluffing about potentially ruining their day.

The next one, well, I was there. Strife wanted to genocide all monstergirls and nobody, Old Siggy, Tsu (and her friends), and Daiyu most especially, was not about to let that happen. Plus I believe they had the Shiki Knife on their side. MEoDP/Black Barrell will kill those types of entities deader than dead. Only problem is actually landing the hit...

I think faith is actually still around if I remember, but she was killed deader than Haddy was so reviving her to the point she can act in the world again might be actually impossible now. Again, the demon lords of old would have had them at the very top of their "to kill" list and would have put quite a lot of effort into making sure that once they were down they *stayed* down forevermore.
Oh, that reminds me. Assuming we actually make it to Zipangu alive they still have that thing lying around don't they? That knife could really help us out against those Princes or any outsider Zerase summons. Gotta land the headshot but it could insta-kill em' I'd imagine.
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Faith was one of the 13 Heroes and leader of the angels reinforcement that completely halted the advance of his overwhelming army and gave Humanity the time they needed to catch their breath. Damien didn't like her, to put it mildly.

I had to revise her general situation.

You'll have to find out what happened with that artifact.
Update will come a little later because I'm writing a dream about Gardy Arawn will have. Look forward to it next thread! I'll probably make it a pastebin
A dream about Gardy eh? Why am I having a gnawing sense of unease about that one? Now that we're in close proximity with our linked girls again that could mean the equivalent of Servant dreams and, well, Sieglinde is right here...
It's a good dream, I'm sure you'll like it.
Pretty much anything "good" from your standpoint involves our suffering. I'm sure it will be of good quality, but it'll involve suffering of some kind. You've trained us a bit too well oh good GM.
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Here, have what I consider Gardy theme song. Good things can happen, too.
Alright, I'll be able to get working on that update tomorrow. Did a 4 days job in a single one, shouldn't have many interruptions left.
Just thought of this. The boat crammed full of battle golems is in an area well outside this choking dark web of malevolence that Zerase has weaved yes? If so we can probably have Ama or someone else open a portal to it with little risk upon our appointed time of return (i.e. won't need to consume an astral pearl to reliably open a portal).

Gating in next to the city will need Ama using an astral pearl to force it through I have no doubt but who says we have to be "that" loud about our intent? 2 days we got yes? First day is spent in Zipangu cleansing that astral taint from ourselves and our linked girls and gathering whatever additional resources we can, but then on day 2, the day we actually launch our operation, well...

Can Ama provide us with an hour by hour countdown until that spell of hers wears off? I also assume that it's rather difficult for Zerase and Ensan to just "move" those statues. Ama isn't dumb enough to tell us she knows where they are if she didn't actually know. That means either she can track the statues exact location or took measures to ensure that said statues could not be moved easily without killing/shattering them both.
>The boat crammed full of battle golems is in an area well outside this choking dark web of malevolence that Zerase has weaved yes?
Yes. Kyorn saw parts of the web extend well beyond his vision toward the eastern horizon of Muribel but it wasn't anything comparable to the bundle of twine that is Marleon.
>If so we can probably have Ama or someone else open a portal to it with little risk upon our appointed time of return (i.e. won't need to consume an astral pearl to reliably open a portal).
That would be an idea to ask on the island... if you make it there, of course.
>Can Ama provide us with an hour by hour countdown until that spell of hers wears off?
Unfortunately not. Her spell actually wears off in a week But she gave that two days time limit because that's how long she expects Zerase will need to dispel it. That opinion was because of yesterday ambush, the Horror Mark/Outsider combo really impressed her.
>I also assume that it's rather difficult for Zerase and Ensan to just "move" those statues.
Always possible to dig a hole around them and move the entire peace. Brute force work sometimes!
Also, I'm promising that little update Sunday. My body is hurting all over from working too hard but I oughta be good enough to work on my things.
One final consideration. If we cannot wait for Old Siggy to send that little "pry that portal open" message to Ame than can we "stack" the scrolls we have and/or have an astral pearl ready for Ama to use in the event the portal gets shut down way faster than anticipated? Provided that the ritual to create it won't set off any alarms of course. Though if it might we can put the two close together. Y'know, make the pearl as the others prepare to open the portal while somehow maxing out the power output.

Can we "boost" the power of a scroll? Our mana seems to be a universal battery for all manner of fuckery. If we fed a big chunk into a scroll it might just have an effect. Also, since we're taking yet another Faustian bargain, can Deru and Ama working together help ensure the successful activation of the portal and the keeping of it open long enough for everyone to get the hell out? We might need to think of a gate order in the worst possible case. Who goes first vs. last in the event that the portal doesn't stay open for long enough for everyone to get out. Granted, the worst case is a single file line and everyone's gonna be running if they're smart and have functional self-preservation instincts so 10 seconds tops for a full evac but hey, I'm paranoid. Err, "portal cuts" aren't a thing are they?
>One final consideration. If we cannot wait for Old Siggy to send that little "pry that portal open" message to Ame than can we "stack" the scrolls we have
Not sure what you mean here. The plan is to quickly open another portal if there's a reaction to see if the protection would only affect one portal. The last scroll is kept as security.
>/or have an astral pearl ready for Ama to use in the event the portal gets shut down way faster than anticipated?
She'd rather you commit to your promise since people are going to take away her precious pearl if the portal option work. She couldn't really help in protecting a portal, just opening one.
>Can we "boost" the power of a scroll?
Not without testing and that<s not going to happen here since things could go haywire or you'd just break one.
>Also, since we're taking yet another Faustian bargain, can Deru and Ama working together help ensure the successful activation of the portal and the keeping of it open long enough for everyone to get the hell out
No, since nobody has managed to make a workable immediate portal defense. It's possible in theory, hasn't been put into practice yet.
>Err, "portal cuts" aren't a thing are they?
Well maybe there's an artifact that could do it... But it's not possible with regular old magic.
Was wondering of Old Siggy could send Ame a quick message to pry the portal open from her end in the event that Zerase has figured out something everyone else in the world has yet to in regards to shutting down enemy portals.

Gah! This whole dark web business makes the prospect of portal failure disturbingly and worryingly likely! If only we could sneak out of the city. Errr... Banu's coming with us right? I don't think Shereen will tolerate leaving her behind. She's a mother figure for her after all and Shereen's a good girl. She won't leave her high and dry.
>Was wondering of Old Siggy could send Ame a quick message to pry the portal open from her end in the event that Zerase has figured out something everyone else in the world has yet to in regards to shutting down enemy portals.

She never went into Muribel, she can't.

>Banu's coming with us right? I don't think Shereen will tolerate leaving her behind.
Absolutely. The source of the geas is cooperating with you and Ama did say her game is over.
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Ended up making a long post, 3k words and still counting up. Technically finished but I'm not confident with rereading with my tired mind... so I'll post tomorrow. This is not me breaking my promise! I've written a biiiig piece of lovely fluff with Sieglinde, so... I'm not breaking my promise!
Tis' ok, we're willing to wait for quality. When abouts you think you'll be posting?

Fluff regarding Sieglinde? I thought this was about us cutting a deal with Ama to get her and Deruella to stop having an intellectual d*** measuring contest and instead actually work together to figure out the full truth of Zerase's plans with that ritual and everything else going on in Marleon.

But hey, if during that event something with Sieg comes up that's cool as well. I forgot about it but Sieg herself has leverage she could use on our behalf to secure Ama that pearl. Old Siggy is the reason current Siggy has a problem with her soul and why she has those oddly sexy murderous exotic bits if I recall. Sieg is probably the reason he and his lovers are actually alive right now. Cooling Daiyu off and convincing her to not genocide everyone in a 10 mile radius and *especially* to not kill the man who almost killed her? Ho boy, Old Siggy owes Sieg one hell of a debt.
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>Tis' ok, we're willing to wait for quality. When abouts you think you'll be posting?
Thinking of doing it around 3 or 4 pm.
>Fluff regarding Sieglinde?
Yep. She hasn't had any time to be alone with Arawn...
>But hey, if during that event something with Sieg comes up that's cool as well.
Mmhm, he's at least responsible for the current state of her Corruption. Feels damn bad about it, too.
Oh, oh my. Alone time with Sieg i.e. current best girl? Maybe she wanted in on the action we had back at the baths eh? Or perhaps we're about to hear a third outright love confession? Are we about to get lucky again?

So he feels bad eh? Then Sieg does indeed have the leverage necessary. It's a dick move on both our and Sieg's part but everyone's lives are literally on the line here. Success wipes away dishonor and we need Deru and Ama cooperating if we want everyone to get out of this one alive.
After neatly compiling all the available information (from Deruella confession of working with the witch to kidnap you all the way with the recent discovery of the titan of famine) the discussion ate hours so quickly that everyone realized night had fallen only when the lookout (Naveed squad) came to reveal that fact.

Talks wrapped up with agreeing to a plan that, while not unanimous, was believed to be the best course of action for the party. Retreating to Zipangu for reinforcement... was a bold move, especially since everyone that hailed from that land was convinced they would be able to assault the palace quickly due to Mina connection with Mother Earth. In the worst-case scenario, Siegfried described a grand ritual of soul that'd consume everyone memories of Marleon to create a ''rift'' to send people there... but that would best be described as a last-ditch effort.

It was at least enough promises for Waltier, the man had outright said he'd be going off into the night if he wasn't satisfied, everyone collective effort and worry for his little princess helped to keep his head clear.

All of this grim talk had left everyone mentally drained. Your friends began to mingle with Zipangu folks and Deruella ''maidens'' but the sheer weight of the situation made it difficult to be casual... although Hao wanting to follow Hadraniel when she carried Mylen up into a room managed to break a layer of ice.

Still, there was something you had to do.


''Is that so?'' Ama voice swirled, she hadn't taken a drop of alcohol yet still looked drunk. ''The olden days accepted only one ingredient: vestal sacrifice. That, my dear, is because the blood of such innocents girls was highly craved for Red denizens, they were not the animals we know today in the Red World.''

''And why, praytell, did nobody try to use different ingredients? Isn't it common sense for the blood of a sick man to attract entities attuned with this concept?'' Deruella pale brows furrowed as she glared at the white fox, she had been talking long enough to forget with keeping appearance: two tiny leathery white wings had sprouted from her temples and cutely flapped whenever she felt agitated, which was surprisingly often.

''Because demons -the actual things, not you oversexed deviants- tended to have intelligence. You see darling, Blood Magic was largely about summoning and binding infernal creatures with the occasional curses, all of it stemmed from channeling and mastering the alternate dimension we know as the Red World... back then it was still a hellhole, an organized one, but hell all the same.'' Having somehow lit up her pipe without asking fire or herbs from anybody, Ama paused to smirk at the demoness. ''Virgin blood was a drug, a currency, and force that bent reality, trying anything else would result in the entity running amok.''
After the entire group went away to retire for the night, Ama and Deruella stayed behind to argue about a subject that you grew disgusted with quickly: Blood Magic. Preparing spells in the old days was nightmarishly evil. Blood Hunters would seek out virgin girls by various means (some culture outright offered their children), keep them docile (usually with drugs). Using Blood Magic meant violently sacrificing them and channeling the energy of their death toward summoning demons or, if a more active spell was needed, create a harmful spell.

Nothing at all like what Shereen did yesterday, she'd have needed to slay a poor, innocent girl to accomplish her desperate magical trick.

You were honestly regretting remeaning behind. Ama spoke of such wanton murders with eery casualness, almost enough to nip at the edge of Deruella mental defense. The demoness kept poking holes in the old practice of Blood Magic, inserting her knowledge of modern application in a way to force the vixen to admit the obvious: modern Blood Magic wasn't inherently evil, the witch disagreed with lots of off-topic detours.

Probably for the sake of making an argument.

Those two have been at it for two hours.

''Okay, okay that's enough! I can feel my soul shrivel in agony after hearing all this disgusting garbage!'' Your savior patience had reached its end, Sieglinde was the only person to have remained with you. Her disposition toward Ama was very much in the ''forced tolerance'' zone and she'd been watching her like a hawk, especially after learning the vixen nightly reinforcement.

''Seriously.'' You agreed, the fox and the tenebrous maiden glared at one another silently. ''I've been trying to insert myself in this discussion for a while but hell, you two have been in your little world.'' Your statement roused all the women's curiosity, so you refreshed your throat with a drink, silently wishing for liquid courage.

''Assuming everything goes well tomorrow morning, I want you two to work together.'' You delivered succinctly and your metal-clad hand clicked when you hefted it to interrupt Ama protest. ''We need to figure out -how- Zerase is planning to accomplish that ritual of Apotheosis. We know she somehow modernized the old blood ritual but nobody can deduce it... despite having two, no three experts in the topic.''

''I've studied Blood Magic extensively, true.'' Sieglinde commented, sensing your intention. ''But unlike sis, I haven't put it into practice.''

''I think we have all the missing pieces... I can't put them together myself.'' You continue, ignoring the two white maiden frowns. ''Anais unusual blood, Shereen natural talent in this magic... Did the Pretender Era ever had someone like that?''

''Not to my knowledge.'' The vixen answers your quick question, her and Deruella attentions were now firmly rooted at you.
''We've got an unusual web choking Marleon in the Red World, the presence of the titan of famine and early signs of the baby eater... And before all of that, Zerase has been collecting Death Pearls by creating this ungodly conspiracy and kept it going for decades. I don't know if it's all linked, maybe one event is simply a stepping stone leading to something else but... Bah, I'm just meandering.'' Your head felt empty, today had squeezed out every ounce of intellectual thoughts you could have.

Could you concentrate on solving that mystery? Maybe, but that would mean ignoring Hao's situation, leaving all of your friends alone... You'd be far too distracted.

''It should be possible to deduce the relations between all those pieces, that's why I'd like... No, I think it'd be vital for you two to try and work together to solve this mess.'' You lean forward, gazing at the two silent rivals whose eyes strayed toward one another, causing immediate enmity. ''Please, otherwise our only plan will be to rush headlong into the palace while enduring whatever contingency Zerase has in place... People will die. Far too many.''

''Mh.'' Ama made this noise with her tails fluttering behind her. ''I do admit that it's been frustrating not being on the level of whatever it is Zerase is doing, this thick web is especially worrying... are you prepared to make a little deal, Arawn?''

''What the hell is that supposed to mean? The fact you're even allowed to gloat right now is a privilege!'' Sieglinde big hands slapped the table. Hard.

''I don't care.'' Ama dispelled Sieglinde aggression with a wave of tail, further fueling the aggression boiling inside the redhead.

''Today is a good day for you isn't it?'' Your venom held no energy. ''What do you want? You want me to share another memory with you? You've been interested in some right?''

''Tempting.'' Ama smile. ''Not this time, I want you to promise me an astral pearl or, in this case, two regular death pearls since I can purify them into a regular white one. Don't you people give me that look.'' She huffed, settling down her pipe. You'll have to remember bringing it back to Shereen. ''I want to make absolutely certain Shereen reaches the climax of this little tale and that means ensuring a little... security. Since Zerase is her natural mother, it's frighteningly likely that she could curse herself with a few peculiar blood spells and have it all transcend into her bloodline to affect our darling princess. Being a parent gives one authority over their children, isn't that a truth of the world?''

When you looked at Deruella and Sieglinde for confirmation, both nodded. ''There are a few nasty rituals that can affect entire bloodline, provided the ritualist is ready to curse themselves.'' Sieglinde commented after heaving a large sigh to calm her nerves.

''So that's a deal. Does it need to be notarized?''
''No.'' You growl, that feeling of defeat sting. ''I promise to get you the pearls you need.''

''Don't be forgetting about me, darling.'' Deruella suddenly imposed herself.

''Sis...'' Sieglinde radiated disapproval yet that only managed to make the tenebrous demoness chuckle.

''Oh, all I want is a little indulgence, that's all.'' Deruella fiddled with the ring on her third finger, red gaze looking downright ominous within the darkness of her eyes. ''Give me a baby, Arawn..''

''Pffft!'' Ama and Sieglinde made the same gargled noise, both choked on nothing else but their saliva.

What did she just say...?

''Siiiiisss!?'' Alarm and disbelief flooded out of Sieglinde and with that came realization.


''Mmmmuhuhuhuh.'' Deruella shoulders shook with her chuckle. It was a joke, of course. ''It's not a bad idea.'' It wasn't!? ''I've yet to meet a man who surprised me twice in two years, nor have I -ever- seen any man in a good relationship with all of my family. Quite the miracle, that. Then, of course, Arawn being the elven prince would mean a child by him could create genuine unity between monsters and elves, forcing mankind to calm down, our citizens will be reassured to see the royal line extended even further...''

''Deruuuu?'' The more her little sister talked, the more Sieglinde claws tightened on her horns.

''...A child isn't born in a vacuum. Mother would be overjoyed with becoming a grandma, Martha will need to get a grip and keep her indulgences to Throne Town since she'll be an aunt. There's uncle Zazawu too, remember sis? No matter how tumultuous the times were, he always settled in Throne Town when mom was close to giving birth, and apparently, he always was the third person in the world to hold our little selves. That's a tradition that should continue! I can't predict Belphegor at all and that's lovely.''

''You're being way too casual about this!'' Is Sieglinde only panicked retort. You couldn't say anything because... gods! The cold, pragmatic side of your brain could understand the logic of Deruella statements!

Oh no no no no no.

''I think dear Meruse should think about settling down. She's been following me for so very long... I want to help her build a good future for herself, I'm sure my maidens would be eager to-''

''Stop, Deru. Just... stop. You're fucking with me I know.''

Deruella stopped speaking, thankfully but her wide toothy smirk made it obvious how much she enjoyed herself.

''Get your ass to bed.'' Sieglinde growled, pointing a thumb upstairs. ''Both of you.''

''Goodness.'' Ama cleared her throat but did listen to the demoness. ''You had me fooled.''

''Mmmmh...'' Deruella purposefully waited, looking at you almost longingly.

''Out! Out!'' Sieglinde shooed her away.

And with that, you were left alone in the dining room inside a mostly empty house populated by quite a few people. Space was tight but everyone was settled comfortably enough, you'll have to sleep in the middle of... quite a few bodies.

It wasn't a bad thing at all.

''Strange timing to be feeling happy.'' Sieglinde commented, glaring at you.

''Oh huh, no wait I... I wasn't at all entertaining your sister idea.'' She probably felt the cold shiver running up your spine. ''We oughta go to bed, tomorrow will be very busy.''

''Yeah.'' Her voice broke into a croak, being reminded of reality threw a bucket of cold water on her simmering mood. ''I'm glad you're safe, Arawn.''

That whisper tugged at your heart, something gentle was slowly traveling from Sieglinde core, like a warm summer wind... It made you feel a little fluffy.

''So am I, Siggy. I've... Done the best I can.''

''Yeah.'' Sieglinde big, deformed hand reach for your arm, the infected one. Her touch sent a cascade of butterflies in your stomach. You were just about to cut it off... Knowing something nasty was dwelling in there inevitably twisted your guts. ''We'll take care of you. You've had many trials, huh?''

She's gently touching your forearm, that place with the ugly burn scar... That's right, you had a duel not too long after awakening here in Muribel to regain your Magitek gauntlet. The salamander had left a mark.

''I'm fine now.'' You will be soon, one way or another. Amputation in Zipangu should be much safer than here, at least you can expect to be drugged out of your mind and not suffer too much. If the portals don't work out... You'll manage. Zhu can make a clean cut, Elina will stop the bleeding before it gets dangerous.

''Stay still.'' Sieglinde says while getting up. Her big, deadly hand travels the length of your arm to settle on your shoulder, her second one does the same and once she settles behind you, you feel her big, thick tail rest on your legs like an obese cat. Siggy tail is thicker than Rupert entire body.

May he rest in peace.

''I understand you don't know how Mamonos function when it comes to, well, relationships.'' Bubbles of nervousness come out of her, inevitably making you wobbly. ''Stay still I said.'' She forces a giggle, managing to settle her emotion quickly. ''I'm too tired to give you something dry, comforting, and well thought. I get what Deru implied earlier with her damnable teasing.''

Your spine straighten. Of course, Deruella was joking, of bloody course, yet the dread you feel is... unlike anything you've ever felt. Is a positive dread possible? Your mind is too tired to make sense.
''You're my house, Arawn.'' You feel Sieglinde chin rest on top of your head, she holds you gently, you can feel natural weight touching your back. ''Hao is family, so are Elina and Klesiah. I've accepted them, more than that, I want them at my and your sides. Ours. Of course, I have my sisters, my mother, Belphegor too, they're family but they aren't part of my bubble.'' Her...bubble? ''I've always had the most rotten luck with men because I have never -nor will I ever start- accepting compromises.''

A long breath follows a heave of melancholy. ''I only fell in love once, to a man who taught me how to fight, it was before Deruella birth. Only further in the relationship did I learn that I was a stepping stone to his true goal: my mom. Belphegor is the one who actually caught the bastard and, well, I had to choose between her and him... and I thankfully made the right decision.'' What kind of rotten man would do that? ''My second relationship is in the history books.'' Sieglinde forced herself to chuckle. ''I convinced myself I had to marry Lescatie second prince... You had a glimpse of that before this entire fiasco.''

''Yeah.'' Indeed, you briefly saw the beginning of that nightmare when Hadraniel was hosting everyone souls.

''Mom opposed it and interrupted the proceeding. She ended up ripping out the guy throat, prompting a war between our realms.''

Gulp. You could only straighten your stance. One does not mess with Daiyu Jawahir daughters.

''Right? Mom does mom things. Then you've shown up...'' Her tail on your legs moves gently, rubbing itself on your body. ''...A man who doesn't react like Siegfried when he sees Deruella. A man who...'' Sieglinde leans forward, her breasts gently envelop your neck as she taps on your gauntlet. Ting. Ting. ''...share an interest with my second sister passion. A man who, beyond the shadow of a doubt, has no ill intent toward my mom. A man with whom I can have my bubble and my family.''

''Is that why you've always insisted we always sleep in a big group?''

Your question caused a feeling of surprise to flow out of her side of the soul link, perhaps she had lost herself in her little world.

''Maybe. I never gave it much thought, honestly. I... I like sleeping in a pile like that.'' She muttered and tightened her grip so you wouldn't turn to see her embarrassed face.

''I'm not sure what happened to Klesiah but I like how resolved she's looking now. She never once looked away when we exchanged a stare, she's got the self-confidence she lacked before Throne Town assault...'' Her tail twirled and flopped away from your legs. ''...To be honest, I'm a little disappointed I wasn't able to help with that, that blueberry must have been so cute. You've also walked in with two, maybe three other women hm?''
''Ah, that...'' You wiggle but her firm holds on your make it impossible to move. Brief flashes of yesterday's event in the bath come to mind, feeding into Sieglinde's inquisitiveness.

''No talking.'' She's surprisingly jovial. ''That, my dear Arawn, is one of the trouble when it comes to having a happy bubble because introducing more people can often make it pop, that's a nasty tragedy... But we'll avoid it.'' It sounded too good to be true but the positiveness radiating out of the lovely redheaded demoness was soothing beyond words. ''I can feel how important Shereen and Zhu are to you, Zhu also holds a special place in Klesiah and Shereen hearts. Everyone you've surrounded yourself with like each others. You're the glue holding it all together.'' She pause and, with her exhausted mind, is unable to resist a precious few second of vulnerability

''Rather than wanting my little bubble, I feel like I oughta ask those girls to let me and Hao in, Elina found her happy place by helping you in your trials inside Myrtidal.'' This whisper is followed by naked, honest fear and resolution. Siggy...

''I'm not that special.'' You have to impose yourself here. ''Sieglinde, if you talk about holding things together, you're the one who has worked harder than anyone else in making this bubble of yours a reality. You've given me and Klesiah a place to belong, you helped Vilma salvage her self-esteem after that duel with her bully... There's more to list, want me to start?''

''Do you think I would have even bothered to make friends without you, Arawn? How would it have been possible to find Hao without you? Elina and I were slowly drifting away, Teruko was picking up my slack. I can play that game too.'' Her hands left your shoulders and she stepped back, giving you the silent permission to rise out of your seat and face her.

In the deep darkness of Muribel hot night with only a simple oil lamp for light, Sieglinde looked gorgeous. Despite how tired and lethargic she felt, there was an unexplainable energy surrounding her. One of her big hands held onto a thick lock of curly red hair, bringing it under her chin. She was trying her best to appear strong and dignified but the vulnerability surrounding her was nigh irresistible.

''I... I don't really know why I brought that up, Deru was just teasing me.'' Sieglinde was insecure and didn't want to admit it. ''I'll do my best to get to know Shereen and Zhu tomorrow if fate allows, okay?''

''Sieg... Why are you acting as if you need my permission to do anything?'' Your question made her wince, her tail flicked nervously and she turned away, looking at the empty doorway.
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''Cause I want you to be my house.'' The silence of the night is what allowed you to hear this whisper. She tried her best to recenter herself by shaking her head but only ended up knocking her horn on the wall. ''Ow.'' She announced, completely deadpan. ''I-I think we can talk again tomorrow.'' Before you could say anything to keep her here, she fled, radiating a mixture of emotions intense enough to keep you up all night.


What is a proper romance? What picture, what impression does it evoke deep inside you?

Do you want a house somewhere in the forest inside a quiet village with a single lady to raise a happy family with? This is the kind of picturesque ending you'd see dwelling in the minds of anyone living inside the Allied Kingdoms. One man; one woman. Father Sky; Mother Earth. That is their culture and it is neither evil nor wrong, but can one truly call it the ''right'' way to have a relationship and a family?

You've spent plenty of time with monsters. You saw the good, the bad, the ugly... you've come to understand one undeniable truth. Monsters are naturally communal.

You haven't reached that conclusion from the fact every Mamonos are female who gives birth to daughters. Demon Lord Damien united every single race of Monsters and unleashed an event of such catastrophic violence that a new calendar was born so that no civilizations ever, ever forget it. Daiyu gave Mamonos true sentience, but this communal instinct remains... up to a point. Mamonos have their ''bubbles'' as Siggy put it. Women, nay, family with whom they will share a roof, a man, and a life with but if a new arrival tries to insert themselves inside this happy bubble, trouble will come.

Yet Sieglinde is already working past that.

Mamonos are attached to strong leaders, not countries. They hold concepts of honors and prides in high esteem, but aren't easily swayed by religion: after all, Zerase worship is lethargic at best throughout Muribel yet Ari'el spurred Mamonos into such a frenzy of revenge... Daiyu gift made them so very similar to mankind, but there are still many keys, natural differences.

For Sieglinde, a relationship with her truly is all or nothing. She might be the best person in the world when it comes to crafting compromise in politics but that will not extend into her personal life. Arawn and Hao occupy the same importance in her life... it's just that as a man, you're also a bringer of prosperity and longevity.

Criticism like ''one only has so much time'' are excuses. Seeing you happy with Elina would in turn make her happy. That's how most Mamonos function, that, perhaps, might just be a part of their culture that grew organically without too much human interference.

Yeah... Sieglinde is surprisingly straightforward, isn't she? You'll have to think long and hard about what you want. The soul link will make it impossible to lie.


Oh my, so we're got enough affection points to get on Deru's route potentially but Sieg has just up and confessed in such a sweet way! Furthermore, it seems she's insisting on the "harem" route with Her, Klesiah, Hao, Elina, Vilma, and maybe Shereen and Zhu. This is the extent of the "harem" though. No horizontal mambo with her sisters, Belph, other girls, or Daiyu. We can be friends with them, but she's gonna be both hurt and angry if we "hide the sausage" in their nethers so to speak. And as we know, if you hurt one of Daiyu's daughters it's the last mistake you'll ever make.

Though in the case of Deru we might not get a choice in the matter. Girl might pin us down or trick us with shapeshifting and flawless acting skills! Seems her route also involves a harem with her adjutants. Still want that Lamia hug. It can be platonic and pure, but I want a hug!

Oh well, questions to answer if we survive this alongside everyone else. That's when we'll have the time to tackle the thorny issue of "romance" and it seems the girls will push us to do so. They're going to want an answer to their feelings and they won't take evasive answers. We're going to have to decide and commit to that decision.

Why didn't we mention the pyramid of blood? That could be a key detail. Also, that dude Sieg first fell for. Was he gunning for Daiyu romantically or murderously? I'd think the latter but hey, some guys are weird and into a very cursed hentai tag.
She has begun walking a path a little bit away from the group, unfortunately. You'd have to meet her again to see if she's truly part of the bubble or not.

Getting involved with the Demonic Family will always be a bit messy... Siggy did outline a few things but, well, Deru is Deru. She'll be a worry for later.

>Why didn't we mention the pyramid of blood? That could be a key detail.
Oh, ops. I forgot to mention it but everyone knows it's there. It's another puzzle piece, yeah.

>Also, that dude Sieg first fell for. Was he gunning for Daiyu romantically or murderously?
He wanted Oyakodon so he could become the most important man in the world. He was after power much more than perversion.
Vilma is second best girl for me. If we do go with Sieg and her harem route we're bringing Vilma into it. The cute lich deserves happiness too! How is she walking away from the group? She get a little too into her necromancy and summoning training with Teruko? Pretty much her whole circle of friends got knocked out of commission for a year. Does she even know we're all up and about yet?

Also, the timeline of that relationship implies that Sieg's daddy was still around then. His fate's a mystery but I think he disappeared after Deru was born. Hence the aforementioned cursed tag for Sieg's first love. I have my own tragic theory as to why he did of course. He saved them from something, but nobody will ever know this and will forever think he simply abandoned them. To be hated by the ones you saved and to do it knowing that's going to be the result, now that's tragedy and heroism.

Still, going for the Oyakodon. I'd say that perversion and power were mixed in equal parts there. That's some really hardcore degenerate hentai doujin level shit. The kind of stuff on your browser history you hope nobody you know sees.
>Does she even know we're all up and about yet?
Probably. She ended up taking Zazawu offer to become a member of his Red Guard during your year of slumber and played a major role in killing the vampire that kidnapped Klesiah.

Timing and location, unfortunately, made it impossible for her to be here.

>Also, the timeline of that relationship implies that Sieg's daddy was still around then.
If a minefield does exist, it's the subject of Siggy dad. Wew.
>Still, going for the Oyakodon. I'd say that perversion and power were mixed in equal parts there
To his credit, he was pretty competent. Unfortunately for him, Belph smelled his bullshit.

Siggy relationship with men always ended poorly... maybe Arawn will be a tragic one.
Well, if you're going against a Vampire Lord it never hurts to bring a powerful necromancer to counter theirs or whatever other shenanigans elder Vampires are capable of in this setting. Plus necromancers are both the creators of and natural counter to the undead so there's that.

So she's currently on some campaign with Zazawu eh? I may be correct about how she might not even know of our collective awakening yet. I'm sure she'll come try to see us the instant she learns we're all awake now. Introverts like her don't make many friends but absolutely treasure the ones they do make. I guess Sieg is also in that category. Gotta ensure everyone lives so we don't make Vilma cry!

Siggy's only had 2 relationships it sounds like. Both ended badly, but it takes 3 to establish an actual pattern. Plus hey, third time's the charm and we're number 3! I got a good feeling about this. With her. Too bad we can't get bestest buddy's opinion on all this. He'll help us be the best dad ever no matter our choice I hope.
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>So she's currently on some campaign with Zazawu eh?
Zaza is in the Cursed Swamp, she tagged along. Daiyu, of course, is up there too. What she's doing though, nobody really know.
>Siggy's only had 2 relationships it sounds like. Both ended badly, but it takes 3 to establish an actual pattern. Plus hey, third time's the charm and we're number 3! I got a good feeling about this. With her.
Oh my, now that's cute. She's been mumbling and stumbling all over wit her feelings, maybe Arawn can be straight and simple.
>Too bad we can't get bestest buddy's opinion on all this. He'll help us be the best dad ever no matter our choice I hope.
Kids bring unity.
He'd probably tease Arawn. For now, everything is on pause to deal with Zerase... although tomorrow might be surprising!
Sweet, wholesome, innocent Christian Demon Waifu in the pic? I... didn't know I had this fetish until now. Polygamy aside, I can foresee Siggy being like that. She really is sweet and innocent deep down I think.

That they do. Once we decide on who we are going to actually romance/marry the kids will come rather quickly. The girl/girls will insist on a bun in their oven posthaste!

Errr... they won't bring jealousy in the harem route if we go for that will they? Y'know, besides the jelly all the others will feel over not being the first one to receive the blessings of a child.

And of course we're going to be straight and simple. Once we make the choice we're just going to tell her and commit to it. To her as well I hope.
>Errr... they won't bring jealousy in the harem route if we go for that will they?
Completely impossible to tell. For Siggy, she'd legit accept Elina kid as her own but would the angel think that way? Arawn slowly but surely started to get a good idea about Mamonos. Perhaps the non-Mamonos of the group have been influenced enough by the general mindset and culture of monsters to keep everything nicely harmonious. Ultimately, it'll be the duty of everyone to keep things nice and smooth, you've already had a glimpse of that with Hadraniel.

Really though, the lynchpin is Arawn disposition to all of that. Sieglinde dropped a bomb out of nowhere. Freaking Deruella I swear...

>Once we make the choice we're just going to tell her and commit to it. To her as well I hope.
At least now you know what she wants. Siggy is the type to want her cake and eat it.
More like "just as planned" by Deru. She knows her sister and teased her to push her into confessing to us. She wants her to be happy. Though, again, I do worry about her involvement in our relationships. She is anything but sweet and innocent.

She likes us, and it's looking like she's starting to want us. Once she feels that way about someone they get a choice. The easy way, or the hard way. No matter which way you pick your body/booty is already hers!
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Now now, big sis can put her in her place...
Sieglinde is the type who messes up often but not when it really counts.
Well she didn't mess up here. Such an earnest confession. I still wanted the monogamy route but if she'd be happier with the harem route, well, she's gone a long way towards convincing me. I want to make her happy and protect her smile!

Also, Deru's a conniving bitch when she wants to be. If she really wants us, she'll get us. Sieg's protests only matter if she gets there in time to stop her and she can engineer a situation where she has all the time she wants with us.

Likely without anyone suspecting a thing too. She's a hardcore tzeentchian villain. Good thing she's on our side. Or not, depending on how we perform in the upcoming mission we may just inflame her lust to irresistible levels. I wouldn't mind going on Deru's route, but I really don't want to hurt Sieg!
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Sound like quite the minefield, you don't really know for sure if Deru is serious!

She and Ama are frighteningly similar.
Yeah, except Deru is more on the "good" side whereas Ama is pure friggin' evil!

I do think she is a bit serious though. She may be just teasing her big sis now, but if her big sis isn't careful and doesn't make a move she's going to steal us right from under her! I'm betting not many men manage to even begin to rev her engine. We seem to have done so. After all, good men, like good women, are damn hard to find.

By virtue of all female births from mamono an issue we need to fix for the sake of all the poor monstergirls who will go unwed, unromanced, and without children because not enough husbandos the former are even harder to find. We are an exceedingly rare commodity on the dating market. A walking talking winning lottery ticket.

Deru loves her big sis and is giving her the first shot, but should she fail to take it or take it and miss, well, Deru and her adjutants are in need of a good man...
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Now now, Deru isn't the same person she was in the last quest. She has changed...
What if it's impossible to fix?
I'd still be wary if I were Seig. Her little sister ain't called the "Felwhore" for nothing after all.

You're rather enamored of suffering, but even you can't be so cruel as to permanently condemn billions (perhaps trillions, if humanity somehow figures out space travel and goes full space fantasy) of current and future wonderful monstergirls to eternal spinsterhood! I'm not saying the fix will be easy, but I am saying it will be worth it. Daiyu's dream isn't wrong, but it's downright cruel to leave it only half-finished!
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Yet for a Felwhore, she's been surprisingly sweet on her family. Going far enough to make a deal with Ama...
Sometimes the world is a cruel place and harsh reality need to be accepted...
We'll accept that reality when and only when we've exhausted every single potential way to fix the issue. Until then it remains a goal to work towards. Every good monstergirl deserves a loving husbando and by the gods are we going to make that possible! If the gods themselves stand in the way we need simply eliminate them or beat them into submission and force them to give us what we want! We're only asking for a minor tweek to reality at most damnit!
Yes, only a simple, harmless little tweak...
>that pic
Ominous, but we will not be dissuaded from our righteous cause. A husbando for every good mamono! Besides, that bastard is on the "to kill" list anyway. I almost want him to stand between us and the happiness of all monstergirls. It'd give us the opportunity to kill him.

Though in all honesty we're going to have to engineer the fuck out of that encounter. Taking out what amounts to the avatar of Nyarlathotep without suffering heavy losses isn't going to be easy. Lots of prep work will need to be done.

I can already think of several reasons why there's an issue and ways to solve them. Some will require the tech level of the world to advance a few tiers though. Good thing that's already in the cards.
Do reach for the moon my dear anon
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>reach for the moon
That's on the agenda as well. Secondary to the mamono issue (we're solving that one first) but triggering the Industrial Revolution and (after those things) figuring out space travel are also laudable goals we can and will work towards after the more immediate issues are solved. We're technically immortal, we got time.

Humans and many mamono races don't, but that's why and where the big advancements will likely come from. Humanity and mortal mamonos are races "on the clock" as it were. Their looming mortality drives them to levels of fervor, zeal, and mad genius that those who lack it find fascinating, shocking, and maybe a wee bit disturbing. It's a perspective, a mindset that's conductive to rapid and disruptive development in any field it finds itself in. We will need a few of those kinds of people in our skunkwork teams. Through unmatched mad genius shall we solve this worlds most pressing issues and give every good monstergirl the chance at happiness they deserve!
Can that be done while providing happiness to the people around you?
>Blueberry in a Qipao
She's putting one of those on once we get back to Throne Town. Oh my, so many, many things for the girls to try on. Bring on the wholesome fanservice!

And we can try to do that while providing happiness for everyone around us. Hence why I mentioned skunkwork teams. We can't do everything ourselves and the best project leaders know how to delegate. Plus we're a bit lazy. Having a team lessens the amount of work we must do directly ourselves. It's both practical and in accord with our primary vice!

I think Daiyu still owes us a favor as well. State funding of our endeavors shouldn't be out of bounds. I'm sure she wants to solve that issue with all female births as much as we do. She is just one woman though. A woman who must also be a leader of a major world power/nation and a good mother. She no longer has the time for the extended R&D required to fix the problem herself within any reasonable timeframe (i.e. something less than centuries). She could feed our people the relevant info and provide access to the Demonic Throne. It will likely be the lynchpin of any solution. I'm betting the damned thing isn't fully understood even by Daiyu. Fix that and we're well on our way to solving that issue.

Her main issue on that front is finding people who are trustworthy and actually want to solve that problem without any ulterior motives or a desire to otherwise fuck her over. We fit the bill. Provided we can revive Gardy, he might provide information relating to its function as well. He spent god only knows how long in there. He must have learned something about it. Our unique magic may also be the key everyone was missing. Truly, the world and Daiyu may have lucked out hard with us.
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What a wonderful ambition. Everything can start once the best snake is, alas, forced to stop her selfless ambition. To become the best ally of the Demon Lord... now that's a damning statement, especially for an elf!
Worst snake shall be killed with satisfying thoroughness once she shows Shereen how irredeemably evil she is. We'll give her that one chance Shereen wants give her. To try and help her have a "come to Jesus moment" as it were. To cease her mad ambition and atone for the many sins she has committed.

I doubt she will accept the offer though and we will thus be forced to stop her by likely killing her. I get why Ama's scared for Shereen. If the fight's going badly for her and it looks like she's gonna die she would curse Shereen (and anybody else she could in the area) by cursing herself. She's dead anyway so it ain't like she'll have to live with the negative repercussions and I'm sure Ama's right about her being unbelievably petty.

Also, how is it a damning thing for an Elf to be best buddies with the Demon Lord? Daiyu's a good girl. I mean, she screwed up a few times sure but she's otherwise a good girl!
>'Pffft!'' Ama and Sieglinde made the same gargled noise, both choked on nothing else but their saliva.
Oh yeah. There's more to foxies feelings for Arawn then having fun with a toy. Bad news for everyone else.
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>Worst snake shall be killed with satisfying thoroughness once she shows Shereen how irredeemably evil she is.
Now now, evil is a matter of perspective.
>Also, how is it a damning thing for an Elf to be best buddies with the Demon Lord? Daiyu's a good girl. I mean, she screwed up a few times sure but she's otherwise a good girl!
Because the Demon Lord is always the enemy of humanity!
>Now now, evil is a matter of perspective.
Perhaps, but wanting to sacrifice likely millions of innocents for apotheosis (as well as already sacrificing 1000+ to make a ton of death pearls) fits most any definition of evil. So does horror marking your own daughter to get her soul ripped out of her body. She's committing sin after sin and landing herself square in the "evil" category!

>Because the Demon Lord is always the enemy of humanity!
Malicious, slanderous propaganda from monodominant Inquisitors and other dim fools who cannot see the beauty of monstergirls in both body and soul. Since gaining sentience they seem to have taken quite the shine towards religion and faith in Mother Earth. I don't think the holy books are anything like the Lectitio Divinitatus (that states that anything that ain't human is a threat to be eliminated).

Not sure what Father Sky's "good book" has to say on the matter though. Anyway, *this* Demon Lord wants to be humanity's friend! Indeed, if she were to have her way the mamonos would technically *be* human! Her end goal was/is for mamonos to have human male children while the females are monstergirls. A true fusion of the species into a happy, harmonious whole. How that would work is a question we'll answer later when we solve the issue and make it a reality!
>You will be soon, one way or another. Amputation in Zipangu should be much safer than here, at least you can expect to be drugged out of your mind and not suffer too much. If the portals don't work out... You'll manage.
Just caught this. I thought we were going to try and have ME burn out the corruption in a Zipangu Cathedral if the portals work. Damnit all to hell the fact they might not has me worried sick because that sets off an alarm too. We're pretty much fucked if those portals fail!

Of course, if that falls through than yes, probably will vote to amputate. We've also got the potential issue of Shereen, Klesiah, Elina, and possibly even Mina being infected too. They will have to be scanned later as well.
>Just caught this. I thought we were going to try and have ME burn out the corruption in a Zipangu Cathedral if the portals work
Yes, this is just Arawn resolving himself to getting a chop in case the Mother Earth option doesn't pan out.
Let's hope it does work out. We like our arm and would like to keep it if at all possible.

When exactly are we going to attempt to gate out? Are there any times the portal scrolls are particularly effective? Like, if they're linked to Ame, would they grow in power before or after dawn? Does the red world have a day/night cycle that the denizens there follow? Like, are they more ravenous/active during certain times of the day?
>When exactly are we going to attempt to gate out?
In the early morning.
>Are there any times the portal scrolls are particularly effective?
>Does the red world have a day/night cycle that the denizens there follow?
Unknown. The red sky grows dimmer during the Hour of Lullaby, that's the only observable phenomenon you know.
>Like, are they more ravenous/active during certain times of the day?
Fortunately, no. They can grow extremely ravenous from stimuli caused in Mother Earth realm, otherwise, there's no reverse of the Hour of Lullaby.

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