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/qst/ - Quests

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The way is dark.

Above, the moon - crimson, enigmatic. A wan, ruddy orb, shedding a sickly light across the spires of the skyline. Your footfalls are the only sound in the stillness, slow and measured, each step punctuated by a brittle crunch of gravel.

Your breath smokes. It is cold, bitterly cold, a cold that slices through your coat and sinks into your bones. It brings with it an aching numbness, a numbness that makes the world blur at the edges like a dream.

You've left the city of light behind you, more than an hour ago. Far from the neon glow, the chatter, the charged hum of electronics and growl of engines. Here, all that remains is-

Before you, the tower looms. It is a gutted carcass, a bleak and twisted ruin - a single spire jabbing skywards, like an accusing finger towards the heavens. A skeletal framework of girders and rusted steel beams shows through half-collapsed walls, like ribs protruding through wasted skin. A single black screen - a crack spiderwebbing across the surface - flickers with white static at uneven intervals, like a cyclopean, staring eye.

It radiates despair like a fire radiates heat.

You're not sure how long this place has stood. Years, perhaps, a monument to epic and miserable failure.

Perhaps the suicides were inevitable, too. But never like this: Last week - mere *days* ago - there were five at once. Five, to climb through the maze of rebar and steps, all the way to the very top. Hours of quiet effort, and then a single step, a step out into open air-

Then all the way down.

Not much further, now.

With exquisite care, you reach into your coat, to draw forth-

[ ] A mask, set with shards of prismatic glass.
[ ] A ring, with a single gleaming stone.
[ ] A bracer of pitch-black steel.
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>[ ] A bracer of pitch-black steel.
>[ ] A bracer of pitch-black steel.
gotta have cool spy gadgets
>A bracer of pitch-black steel.
Give it to me
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The bracer is a beautiful thing. It is black steel, set with pale stones that shimmering first one color, then another, never quite settling. It is cool to the touch, without flaw - the craftsmanship speaking for itself.

It reminds you, somehow, of a shackle as you lock it in place.

When it touches your skin-

You're ready for this. You know you are. But when silver filaments reach out, like grasping claws, and dig lightly into your flesh - you tense anyway. Nausea dances a jig through your guts, forcing a wince - Your fingers curling in reflex, muscles twitching in monetary rebellion. It doesn't *hurt*, but it's deeply uncomfortable, a sensation not unlike falling asleep.

Tics of patient lightning flicker, a short, sharp jolt that courses through you faster than it takes to respond-

The air blurs. At the very edges of your vision, runes scrawl themselves into existence - they hang there, like silvery filgree, describing circles, arcing lines, spiderwebbing across the cracked earth. The latent power in them makes you feel sick, and odd colors flash behind your eyelids-

And then you feel it. The cold strength, stinging through your limbs. For an instant, you are illuminated from within - pale blue light scrawling across your limbs, geometric sigils etching themselves across your coat. You can feel the garment shift, feel it tighten, feel it seal itself around you - your vision taking on an odd tinge, as if viewed through a filter.


(BARRIER measures the strength of the mystical barrier that enhances your innate strength, speed and toughness. As you sustain damage, your BARRIER rating diminishes - When it reaches 0, the field collapses, and you lose all enhanced capabilities.)


Your fingers close, convulsively, on the weapon sheathed within your coat. It comes free with a whisper of oiled leather, warm in your hand where the bracer is cold. Not much to look at - a simple rod of the same black steel, about the length of your forearm, set with a single colorless gem.

But when you grasp it, the circuit is complete. There is a low, actinic hum, the taste of copper in your mouth as smoke-light fumes around you...

And with a twist of your will, you trigger the device.

The AZOTH rod warms. A small, round spot - smaller than the circle your thumb and forefinger might make - turns the color of old blood.

Then fresh blood.

Then open flame.

And then there *is* flame. A great gout of it, spearing forth from the hilt, leaping skywards. It lances free, painting the ground around you with the color of stars seen through a howling bonfire - Close to a meter in length, a line of searing incandescence bright enough to make your eyes water.

You nearly drop the bloody thing, as sparks rain down around you - But then the flame settles to a steady burn, writhing up the blade to the tip where it spills away into nothingness.

(AZOTH: Your weapon, the AZOTH is an enchanted artifact capable of taking on multiple forms - At present, you have access to the AZOTH's SWORD, SHIELD and ROD forms, each with different capabilities. You may switch forms twice a turn.

The full list of combinations is here: https://pastebin.com/xksA0LrT)


In the flame-light, you see it - the rune. Strange that you couldn't see it before.

It's a twisted, ugly symbol. The angles are all wrong, the flowing lines writhing like a knot of gathered pain. Something about it clenches a fist around your heart, makes your vision throb in all the colors of the spectrum. All you can see is - flashes.

There - Reaching hands, imploring.

Here - The stark, hollow lines of a bird cage.

And the eyes, staring out through the gaps-

Your gorge rises, and you have to squeeze your eyes close until the urge to vomit goes away.

[ ] It's too late to turn back down.
[ ] If you had any other choice, you wouldn't be here.
[ ] You gave your word.
[ ] What else can you do? You've come this far.
[ ] Free
>[ ] You gave your word.

> [] You gave your word.
[ ] If you had any other choice, you wouldn't be here.
>[ ] You gave your word.
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You gave your word. And without that, what are you?


That's right. This is the only way forward, now.

The AZOTH's smoking blade cleaves the air. You level the seething edge at the rune, smoke coiling around you like twists of incense.

A beat.


And then the edges of the world *blur*, as reality distorts around you. The AZOTH suddenly *gives* in your hands - a grinding, jerking movement that feels deeply and profoundly wrong. Sparks jag from the rune, seem to cluster there. And then one arches out, strikes you like a whip. Every muscles in your body contorts at once-

Stone intersecting with stone, passing through stone-

And light flashes bright, blinding you from everything.



-to pieces-


You fall. Falling, like a permanent comet - wrenched and twisted and *hurled* through buckling corridors. Down, down, ever down - plummeting through a vast space, starlight-dark and midnight-silent. There are hands, plucking at you - voices, whispering at the very edge of perception - as if all of your life is the descent, and you have a mere instant to wonder if you'll shatter when you hit-

The ground rushes up to meet you, and the impact wipes the world away.

Something about the fall completely scrambles your sense of time. Blurred, dazed images resolve in your mind - that was then, this is now, as you lie dazed but unbroken on-

Beneath you - the path. A checkerboard of black (bile) and white (enamel).

Above, on either side-

There are no words. There is nothing to give any scale. You lie on a narrow span across a black abyss, stark vortices of black and white whirling overhead. There is something hypnotic about them, something that draws the eye - The long drop calling, calling, all the way down-

Your stomach lurches. You feel disorientated, sick, all over again.


In the distance, there are sounds - like the peal of thunder. Like God playing with dice. Your fist clenches around the AZOTH's hilt, as you sway shakily to your feet...

Then you hear it. The clattering noise. A sickly lurching sound, like some vast mechanism knocked askew and left to spin. The sky overhead flickers with filthy static, as-

From either side of the bridge, they come. Staggering, giggling figures - like monochrome chessmen, deliberately asymmetrical, figures of yellowed ivory. Two of them, one on each side; Each one is a toothy jumble of thrashing limbs and needle-sharp blades, a rapier in each hand as they close in like demented automatons-

"Un deux trois!" comes the giggle - "Un deux trois!"


[ ] Free
I'm going to assume "Free" is shorthand for "write-in" and not an action in itself.
> Switch AZOTH's gem: Diamond.
> Switch AZOTH's form: Shield.
> Charge one of the chessmen, start punching.
Attack with frozen sword to slow them down since they seem to be speed focused. Then switch to frozen shield to tank and use our strength to tear them apart
(My apologies, but yes. 'Free' is for write-ins.)


They're coming right for you, moaning and chattering, the stab and clatter of their mangled limbs eerily mechanical. The speed of each thrust, each stab, is blinding, bewildering - You can't outfence that. You can't fight that. No *human* could-

The AZOTH pulses with white light, clear and cold. Your breath steams in the cold air, as icy traceries of hoarfrost skitter across the checkerboard floor. The radiance swells to engulf all else - and there is a new weight on your arm, heavy enough to make you stagger, dark spots dancing in your field of vision as your fist clenches against the grip of your shield. It's ponderous, bewilderingly heavy - but that's nothing compared to the greaves and breastplate of fuming ice that slam into place around you, the dull *thud* of their impacts like a rain of hail.

It's *cold*. Cold enough to make your teeth chatter, send numbness shooting through your muscles - But not cold enough to freeze them to nothing, to lock you in place. Some trick of magic keeps you on feet, gives you the strength to turn - with the grind of ice-on-ice - to face your attackers.

The first one lunges. It stabs. Twin rapiers spear at your throat, your heart - and the sight of the needle-pointed blades coming right at you, vanishing into hissing streaks of hissing silver light, makes you wrench around to bring your shield up-

You're too slow. Even as cold strength stings your limbs, you're nowhere near fast enough.

But maybe you don't need to be. The first blade gouges a finger's breadth of ice-chips from your gorget - the second bows when it drives against your unyielding breastplate, and splinters in bright, brittle silver shards.

Then your fist - sheathed in spikes of ice - comes around with the ponderous unstoppability of a glacier, and smashes the lurching fencer's skull into flinders.


You've never hit anyone so hard in your entire life. You *feel* mechanisms - and teeth - crunch apart beneath the singular force of the blow, feel the thing's head compress upon itself. Ivory splinters - components rupture. The chessboard knight's jaw detaches, and goes spinning out into the void, the torsion force twisting it outwards and into the long, long drop that awaits-

And then the second one cannons into you from behind. It's all over you, like a twitching spider - limbs wrapping close, like some awful automata. The rapiers jab, jab, jab, bright and silver, stabbing at you again and again - shaving fragments of ice from your fuming, freezing armor as ivory teeth chatter, clattering madly as it giggles, again and again-

"-un deux trois-"

"-un deux trois-"

BARRIER: 82% (BARRIER regenerates each turn.)

[ ] Free
Use the emerald sword to get some distance and then jump back in for an attack. As we near the enemy switch to the flame sword and slash it.

You try-

You can't *reach*-

Instead, your hand spasms on the shield's grip - the shackle of black steel catching the seething light - as the tower shield dissolves. Abruptly, like a vice unclenching, your armor whips away, as if it's never been. The absence makes you stagger - Now, those warped limbs are clenched around *you*, flashes of light flickering as your Barrier strains to hold. A silver rapier pistons at your side, in a stab-

No. Not a rapier. Each one is a hypodermic needle, more than two feet in length.

For the span of a second, the AZOTH is a simple length of black steel - but then the gem flares in it's setting. A stormfront of freezing cold blasts outwards from you, as a blade of clear, razor-sharp ice stabs outwards, lit from within by cold blue light - like a profusion of crystals grown in some secret garden, freezing spikes stab outwards in a sweeping guard-

And abruptly, the limbs clutching at you seize up. You wrench away, and there's a sharp *crack* - a sound like a rifle shot. The chess knight's arm breaks off, with the brittle *snap* of a frozen branch - when it strikes the ground, it shatters into chips of ice and cracked ivory.

It takes you a moment to pull away. Another to catch your breath, as the chessboard knight - disarmed in the most brutal expression of the term - stands stock-still, locked in place, one arm now a splintered remnant.

You raised the freezing blade in both hands. When it comes down, it shivers the flash-frozen statute into a million million pieces.


The magic that suffuses you - It gives you a sword-arm faster than lightning, makes the unfamiliar, alien weapons in your hands so light they almost swing themselves. The sensation is a dizzying one.

It does nothing for the triphammer of your pulse, the burn of adrenaline that wrenches through you.

In the distance, the thunder of impacts - blows given, blows exchanged - like the echo of someone else's war...


[ ] You never thought it'd be like this. Never.
[ ] It could be worse. Much worse.
[ ] As a matter of fact, this is actually quite exhilarating.
[ ] You can't believe you're still alive.
[ ] You've never felt more alive.
[ ] Free
>[ ] As a matter of fact, this is actually quite exhilarating.
>[ ] You never thought it'd be like this. Never.
>You can't believe you're still alive.
> Switch AZOTH's gem: Emerald
> Switch AZOTH's form: Shield
> Air-dash toward the distant combat.
I'm not terribly picky which attitude we face this with. I'll trust my fellow voters to make an interesting choice there.

> [X] You never thought it'd be like this. Never.

It's nothing like what you imagined. The impossible spaces. The appalling speed of the violence. The feel of ivory shattering beneath your fists, nothing like a skull at all-

> [X] You can't believe you're still alive.

There's a twinge in your side. Your hand goes to it, comes away bloody.

Just a gouge. It broke the skin, that's all. But another stab - another - and it could've gone *through*. And if it had-


> [X] As a matter of fact, this is actually quite exhilarating.

One thing's for sure - As dizzying as this has been, utterly outside anything you've done before - at least you won't be bored.

There's a kind of amusement in that, as you make your way forward, along the chessboard path - the one stable thing in a shifting, warping world. Your AZOTH blade glows with a cold, icy light-


A light that shades to emerald-green, as the sword shrinks away to nothing. The moan of the wind fills your ears - your feet leave the ground. It feels like the bottom has fallen out of the world - you're weightless, drifting-

No. More than that. You're *flying*.

You can *fly*. Almost.

The friendly winds swirl around you, zephyrs scudding from your heels as your legs flex and bend. The buckler on your arm is a perfect circle of swirling lines, silver chased with emeralds, so exquisitely detail it seems to *flow*, like a cyclone's whirling winds.

And then you surge forward, and the air howls with the speed of your passage.

The void at the end of the corridor is like an opening into a vast and lightless darkness. You speed across the threshold, and tiles rip free from the chessboard floor, twisting in your slipstream like a flock of panicked birds.

Another sickening lurch - reality is askew. The distortion whirls around you, and then you're falling again.

But this time, you're ready.

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The space beyond is *wrong*, fundamentally and completely. It is vast, towering upwards into infinity - set with a thousand thousand moving images within a thousand thousand frames. No two are alike: Their colors smear into an indecipherable blur as you plummet - but the winds whirl around you, vortices around your hands, gusts around your heels, and you fall down, down, down into what lies beyond-

And you see-

And you see-

What the fuck is that thing?

From a distance, it's like some abstract art piece, all arcing lines and loops and haunting brushstrokes. But it's alive. It's a thing. A he, she, or it. It has eyes. It has a million eyes, rolling in gilded sockets. Yellow irises, purple irises, orange and gold. Like gems, except for the pupils - pupils like black holes.

It is-

It is like a birdcage, a vast ornate monstrosity of bone ivory and mother-of-pearl. Adorned with mad, staring eyes. It is *moving*, ambulating on massive spider-legs, barbed and cruelly hooked, each skittering step gouging huge craters in the ground. You can see things that might be organs pulsing beneath translucent pieces of exoskeleton, or chitin, or-

It goes on forever. And it doesn't end.

The air around you ripples, shifts. The smell of ozone, of licorice and aniseed, of burnt blood and madness, is stronger now, a sour taste at the back of your throat.

But it hasn't noticed you. Not yet. Those barbed limbs lash out and strike with shattering force, turning living portraits into a whirling storm of glass shards, the gallery into a minefield. Huge columns of white marble are seized, turned into bludgeons, hurled aside like toys in the hands of a cruel child-

Oh, dear God. There are *people* down there.

They're fighting the thing.

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There - A bright flash, like the plumage of a Bird of Paradise. The eerie light catches the gleam of a butterfly's wings, bejewelled, twisting this way and that in the updraft. Then the gilded gleam of honey-blonde hair-

A girl. She alights on one of the pillars - At this range, you can't hear her, but you can see elegant features furrowed in effort, power ambling across opera-gloved fingers. Her gown is diaphanous, gossamer-thin - the kind every princess tries to imitate. It plays around her like a translucent mist, her lips moving...

Prismatic light sears from her fingers. It is like a shower of stained-glass, too bright for the eye to hold - when it strikes the Witch's vast form, multicolored explosions blossom. Ivory barbs splinter off, but her assault leaves little more than cursory damage, smoke wisping from superficial gouges in those lashing spider-limbs. Her legs coil beneath her, as she tenses to spring again-

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Another. Calm grey eyes, close-cut bangs swaying against her cheeks. Pale hands almost lost in her long sleeves, slim fingers curled around the hilt of a blade almost as long as she's tall - something lethally curved and razor-sharp. When the ebony-handled blade leaves the sheath, it is little more than a barely-visible distortion, a line of light that cleaves and cleaves and *cleaves*-

She swings, and one of the Witch's legs spasms. A huge gouge appears, and a vile ichor that smells of antiseptic and liquid smoke spews forth. But she's being driven back, too - her form flitting lithely between the columns, sprinting full-out, her kimono trailing in her wake like a monochrome banner. Always, always just a second ahead.

And you. Descending, weightless, unnoticed.

Something moves within the birdcage. There are loops of red - thread? - that curve and twine around a barely-visible figure, pale and white and lightless. Something concealed, something hidden.


[ ] Free
>Investigate the birdcage

(Unfortunately, I don't think I can stay awake much longer. But I'll finish this tomorrow, if at all possible. Good night, everyone.)
We're falling again.

Don't fight it. Guide it. Use it. Maintain (or increase!) our downward descent, and aim it towards the Witch, plummeting faster and faster, until - just before the moment of impact - throwing our shield ahead of us-
>Switch form and gem: Ruby Shield.
-and a split second after-
>Switch form and gem: Emerald Shield.
-regaining control.
Are we also a degenerate magical girl?
>implying joker quest OP would ever write a female protag

Amid the thrashing and whipping of barbed limbs, you can *see*-

It's like a caricature of a woman, something ibis-masked and white-robed. Like an optical illusion, an abstract smear given vaguely humanoid form - illuminated from within, by a numinous light of it's own. The red strings are visible, now - they loop around the figure's limbs, the figure's throat, in a way that brings to mind veins and arteries...

Another trick of the light. It has to be.


You focus. You *dive*. The vortices at your hands, the breezes tugging at your legs - they churn around you, contrails of wind twisting from your limbs as you fall and fall and *fall*-

The AZOTH flares with ruby light. The friendly winds stop, abruptly, as if they've never been - There's a sickening lurch, and it feels like the bottom drops out of your stomach. And now you're plummeting, no longer controlling your descent, both fists gripping the lion-faced shield that snarls at the Witch below - the maw wrenching open, growling, a brutal animal sound of predatory hunger.

Fuck. You can't prise your fingers away from the shield's grasp. It's your only weapon, your only tool-

But the brilliant flare of light does more than illuminate the change from flight to plummet. You're lit up like a star, for a span of a second, limned by jewelled radiance.

The blonde sees you first. She's in flight, her wings beating desperately at the air, ascending with painful slowness, frantic gaze cast over one slim shoulder as meter-long spikes smash down at the ground where she's been. There's a brilliant shimmer where she flies, like afterimages, like glittering dust - the radiance makes her wince, makes her turn, as her perfectly blue eyes go wide-


And then, casually, one limb swats her out of the air. There is a *whipcrack*, a shrill scream, and she goes flying - there's a haze of blood as one grotesquely spiked limb snatches her away, propelling her with a singular and mindless force. She slams into the far wall - portrait frames splintering - with dazing force, enough to kick up a reeling plume of stained-glass and shifting images-

"Papillon!" a shout, from the other girl - She wheels, her motions becoming less practiced, wilder. Her grace falters - Her blade cleaving great arcs from the limbs lashing at her-


The Witch gestures, impossibly graceful. The ibis-mask swings in her direction. Red threads spew forth from within the birdcage, like lethal confetti. They do not coil and twist, like actual strands - they jag out in lethally straight lines, like arrows, like harpoons.

She evades, dazzlingly fast-

Three punch through her sleeve. Two through her leg.

"Ah-!!!" A muffled shriek wrenches from her throat, all grace gone, as she's wrenched off her feet - Her gasp of agony wrenched from her throat, as she goes down. A shadow falls over her, one huge limb rising to crush her-

The AZOTH's light shines emerald, and all sound is muffled as the wind whirls around you - Your descent actually accelerating, the slipstream ripping at your coat. This time, the ibis-mask rises to look at you - And with a jolt, you realize that there's no seam between pale figure and mask.

No. Not a mask - A face.


[ ] Free.
Switch to the ice shield form and crash into the monster. Then switch to the flame sword to attack while it's stunned.

Switch to the fire sword, cut through the legs attacking the butterfly girl.


There's a sickening lurch of acceleration, as shards of ice slam into place around your form. Frost blisters the air, your buckler becoming a vast tower-shield - And now you're barreling downwards, like a rogue meteor, right towards the Witch's eyeless face.

The air fills with the jagging lines of red. You have your shield up - you curl into a ball, make yourself as small as possible as you begin to tumble, as the sound of ice splintering splits the world. You're hit, again and again - the lines of red glancing from your armor, as the cold strength stings through your limbs. The tower-shield's face is your battering ram, and you put your shoulder behind it, bracing for impact as the bars of the birdcage rear up before you-

Then comes the violent *snap*, which feels as if the entire world has been wrenched out of gravity like a fruit plucked from a bough. A foul limb - reeking of burnt blood and old bones - smashes you aside, with singular force. The brutal *crack* of your armor splintering is matched only by the rifle-shot sound of the limb smashing itself to nothing against the solid ice, cracks flawing across the surface. Ivory chips fly in every direction at once, chitin shards zipping outwards like sharpnel - one of them punches into your shoulder, deep enough to draw blood.

But you can't argue with the impact.

You land with a bone-jarring *crunch*, and tumble for thirty to forty metres in a flurry of ice. A sizable shard of carapace - splintered free - clatters and cartwheels past you, shedding fragments of itself, the cut edge razor-sharp.

On your back, half-conscious, you slide in circles and - slowly, slowly - come to a halt. There's a bitter copper taste in your mouth. You might have bitten your tongue.

But you're still alive. Every muscle aches, but you can still stand. You can move.

And your blood is up.


Light flares past you, a cone of radiant illumination. It's like a spray of jeweled glass, shot through with prismatic light - It reminds you of delicate butterfly wings, of gemstones, of...

A shadow slants over you, then past. The Witch makes the first sound you've heard, so far - Giggling laughter, high-pitched, completely mad. Shot through with snatches of song, the eyes studding the hideous cage blinking and winking in time to the sickening chorus. The insane babble of glossolalia shoots dark spots through your vision - it feels like your brain is bleeding.

"Come on-!" It's the blonde, on her feet. Her finery is ragged, one wing shorn from her back - She's limping, but she brings her hands together anyway. Something of unspeakable brightness shines between them - when she parts them with a cry, the air fills with darting butterflies. Hundreds of them, thousands - swirling and churning their way through the air, in crazed spirals. But light trails in their wake, snaking strands of it - so fine they're nearly impossible to see, but no less unbreakable for it. They're binding the Witch, circling it-

-And one hideous, barbed limb spears right at her.

"No-" A gasp of utter surprise, a spasm of malfunctioning shock, her body tensing to *move*, too late-

The leap wrenches open something in your side, in your legs. But the magma-light of the AZOTH blade sears through the air, and you bring it down in a single two-handed cleaving stroke.

The limb is huge. It ends in an ivory spike almost as long as your entire body, coming to a needle point. As broad around as your torso, it seems utterly impervious to more than surface damage, shards flawing off to reveal more within.

The lambent flame of the AZOTH blade - a continuous writhe of fire, now, an arc-welder's flare - shears right through it. The *jolt* of impact wrenches through your limbs, but only for the span of a second - It carves *down* and *through*, the edges of the cut glowing and molten. The birdcage whips back, the remaining half flexing and lashing out at the terrible wound, a high, wailing screech making you double over, glass splintering across half the frames in the gallery of moving images-

You hit the ground with a jarring thud that nearly wrenches your legs out from under you. The Barrier flickers wanly around your form, your lungs burning with the need for air as you ground the tip of the AZOTH blade - a single point of the checkerboard floor glowing molten, as the white-hot heat begins to melt through it.

A sharp hiss, an inhalation.



The blonde - Papillon - stares at you, wide-eyed. Her lips are parted - She looks stricken, her eyes a perfect and limpid blue. Despite everything, she moves with an effortless grace, as if her limp slows her not at all. Her gaze flickers across you, and she says-

"But you're m - you're a *man*-"



"Kyubey said-"


[ ] "'Kyubey?'"
[ ] "How do we kill it?"
[ ] "Is this really the time?"
[ ] "Are you all right?"
[ ] "Thanks. For saving me."
[ ] "Who *are* you?"
[ ] Free.
>[ ] "Are you all right?"
>[ ] "How do we kill it?"
The important things first.
[ ] "How do we kill it?"
>[ ] "Is this really the time?"

> [X] "Is this really the time?"

High color rises in her cheeks. She stiffens, as if you've slapped her - But the surprise clears from her eyes.

> [X] "Are you all right?"

She blinks, as if startled that someone's asked. "I-"

The butterfly wings at her back - bejeweled, gleaming - flex. Papillon glances over one slim shoulder, as if aggrieved that only one remains: there's a sound like the clear, sweet note of wind chimes, motes of green light swirling as a replacement sketches itself into existence. It's like watching a stained-glass painting take form - swirls of light, coalescing and gathering into recognizable shapes...Then solidity, as if it's always existed.

"-I think so," she says, wincing as she sets a foot - in a black-buckle shoe, with a golden clasp - down. "Just sprained, I think." Another wondering glance, through long, long lashes, at you.

> [X] "How do we kill it?"

Papillon's wings beat the air - once, then again. Her feet leave the ground, and there's a palpable gasp of relief, her expression easing now the weight's off her sprained ankle.

"There's..." she hesitates, as if searching for the words, as strands of blonde hair trail in her wake. "...If we can destroy the Witch's core, it'll die. But the cage - We haven't been able to break through. Even with..." Her eyes widen, at a belated realization.

"Yukihime, she-"


A splintering crash, from close by. Marble dust swirls in the air, gritty, choking. The Witch is off-balance, asymmetrical, lurching on the legs that remain. In the smoke - moving so fast she's a blur - you can see a figure, darting, evading, not as fast as before. The flash of steel-

"She's hurt," Papillon murmurs, anxiety - and something else? - flickering across her elegant features. The color lingers in her pale cheeks. She draws a ragged breath - Her eyes darting to you. "The Witch is *inside* the cage - If we can get past it..."

Her voice trails off, as she hovers - "We've been trying, but - we don't have anything that can punch *through*..."

Overhead, her butterflies - a glittering swarm - swirl around the Witch. It swats at them, mowing great swathes through the air - but the flock wheels and parts, flashing away at each petulant strike. Red filaments shoot forth, and each one lances a butterfly from the sky, as surely as a collector's pins.


[ ] Free
Switch to the Ruby rod and start blasting the cage.
I'll second >>1977716
It seems clear we need Ruby, and we haven't tried Rod yet. If rod somehow fails to pierce or shatter the cage, sword should melt a doorway through it. I don't see a good reason to choose one over the other, so let's go with the yet-untried one.

The flaming blade shrinks to nothing. Crimson is in the ascendance - You feel the AZOTH device warp in your hands, twisting and contorting. The ruby is a smoldering orb, that flickers with sullen inner heat.

The Witch thrashes, snared. The glittering lines woven around it creak with internal tension - they give, but do not break. It staggers, as you level the AZOTH rod directly at the ivory cage. Sparks dance in the intervening distance, as your palm tingles with energy.

A surge inside your arm. An actual surge, like a tide of hot oil pulsing from the steel bracer to your fingertips-

A line of flame sears forth. It spears across the distance, so bright it hurts your eyes, so hot it singes your hair. But by the time it strikes the Witch, the true scale is woefully revealed - It flares uselessly off the ivory bars, barely scorching the brittle material.

Papillon draws a deep breath - "You see?" she says. "We can't-"

The flame keeps going. It turns green, then blue-white.

"I think-"

There is a big, bright flash. A cudgelling boom. The rush of a shockwave. The recoil nearly wrenches the AZOTH device from your hand, and - for one dazzling moment - you see absolutely nothing. The titanic blast makes your ears ring - At some point, you've been knocked from your feet. Glass rains down, pinging from your barrier like an apocalyptic cloudburst.

The Witch has virtually disappeared behind the aftermath of the blast - You're on your knees, the world spinning around you, a sudden outrash of smoke swarming into the air. All around you, brittle fragments of chitin and pulverized bone rain down, the ground littered with shards. You gash your knee on one - a shallow cut, but it stings - as you stagger upright, leaning on the staff for support.


You didn't know it could do that. You didn't know you could do *that*.

There's a vast, ragged hole in the Witch's shell. Debris rains down from the buckled, torn gap - jagged cracks skittering across the cage's surface, integrity fatally compromised. The entire structure sags to one side, legs twitching like a half-crushed spider. Somewhere, somewhere in the back of your mind, there is a deep, lowing groan of despair-

Papillon flashes past you, as brilliant as a Bird of Paradise. For an instant, she hovers in the smoky air - for a moment, she glances back. The look on her elegant features is indecipherable - And then she's gone, darting into the churning smoke that smells of ash and burnt bones.

Your senses reel. You can barely see anything, now - Your fingers clenched around the AZOTH's haft, in a death-grip. Your ears still ring - there are glimpses through the smoke, as sound returns all at once. The ring of steel, the lethal hiss of crimson filaments, the chime and brilliant flash of begemmed fire-

You're close, now. It's almost over.


[ ] Free
Switch to Emerald Shield and go after her. This fight isn't quite over yet.

The AZOTH glows. Traceries of emerald power amble up your arm, the winds whirling around you as the light coalesces into the shimmering silver bracer. The swirling zephyr - your own personal storm - clears the space around you, as you grit your teeth, willing yourself forward. Your feet skim across the cracked and broken checkerboard tiles, the acceleration blurring the world at its edges - Your coat whips in your slipstream, as you plunge through the aftermath of destruction, surging towards the splintered structure before you.

The bitter stench of burning hangs in the air, stinging the back of your throat. You're close, now - the Witch's massive limbs twitching as the birdcage sags to one side, bound by glowing lines of unbreakable thread. You weave between them, but they're too damaged to lash out at your speeding form - Your legs flex beneath you, and you leap for the splintered gap you're blasted in the cage.


Inside, everything changes. The floor beneath you is the color of crushed velvet, shadows slanting at odd, eerie angles. There is a cloying stench - aniseed, antiseptic, and something worse, something you can't quite place. The red filaments are everywhere, a brief flight of steps reaching up to a dais - flashes of glittering light and hollow screeches splitting the air as you close in-

And a high, bubbling scream of pain.

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The smoke clears, as you surge forward - But the tableau ahead is enough to give you pause.

The Witch is a pale, numinous figure, that ibis-mask glaring with blind malice. It is a thing of angles and fluting cries, not remotely human except in the vague shape of it. From the *thing's* shoulder-blades, down the length of its contorted spine emerges two rows of curved, club-shaped bone fragments, each shattered sharp at the point. The fingertips of its outstretched right hand branches out like a bare tree, impaling Papillon through her shoulder, and into the wall.

You hear her groan against the pain, jewelled fires flickering at her fingertips as she's pinned to the bars of the cage. "Please, ah! Yukihime, *please* - Please *kill it*-"

The other girl - lithe, her sword clasped in both hands - doesn't answer. Her midnight bangs sway against her cheeks, alert violet eyes darting across the Witch's form - Waiting for the opening, the Witch's free hand shapes to a stabbing point, fingers unnaturally long, flexing with new talons.

And around you, so subtly it's nearly subliminal, there's a low hissing - Red filaments winding downwards from every direction at once, arraying themselves like a flight of arrows about to be loosened. Yukihime's focus on her target is absolute - She doesn't see it.

But you do.


[ ] Free
Emerald Sword, and make a preemptive strike at all the threads simultaneously before they're loosed. At the same time, leap to Yukihime's side.

Depending on how many threads slip past us, either switch to Ruby Sword and parry the remainder, or Diamond Shield and physically shield her if there's too many to parry.

The gem in your bracer flares with blinding emerald light-

You move between moments, now, as the shield at your wrist becomes a sword. The blade hisses out in a long, elegant curve - single-edged, razor-sharp, forged entirely from a single length of lightless steel. Vortices of wind swirl around you, as swirling streamers writhe on all sides - When you sweep the sword across, raising it to guard, they trail in its wake like a tangled swirl of razored wire, there then gone.

And you *move*. Your feet leave the ground, your slashing track slicing through the hissing filaments - They lash out at you, but the swarming blades of wind shear through them, the cut ends reeling back, recoiling like serpents, gouting that awful aniseed-and-antiseptic ichor into the steaming air. The motion is dizzyingly fast, instinctive - You're about to fall, but a faintly-glowing platform flickers into existence for the span of a second, just long enough for you to kick off, to leap again.

The blade is impossibly light, so well-balanced it could split a hair down the center. It feels like it could swing itself - An extension of your arm, moving faster than thought. Again and again, it lashes out - Shearing apart writhing filaments as they speed towards you, the severed ends coiling and thrashing against the velvety ground, like flailing limbs...

-As your leap takes you to Yukihime's side.

She half-turns to face you - one fevered glance, her sword gleaming in her hand as she makes the abrupt calculation of "not-an-enemy" - and then you feel the sleek arch of her back against yours, hear the light hitch of her breath at the momentary contact, as she says-

"Cover me."


And then there's no more time for words. Only effort.

The Witch is a distant, haunting figure - Free hand raised, in a motion full of alien grace. A single accusing finger points, a rising squall of white noise erupting from the slowly-opening maw of the ibis mask.

A moment of silence. Yukihime's hushed inhalation, as she tenses at your back - Her knuckles clenched white around the grip of her sword. The bars of the birdcage tremble, sprouting ivory thorns - Hissing red filaments rising from unraveling tapestries...

They come you at all once. A flurry. A squall.

You are slashing and striking, splintering barbed projectiles, severing lashing insect-limbs that lunge out from the ground. Crimson threads wind around your AZOTH blade, and almost wrench it from your hand - But Yukihime's sword flashes in, mirror-bright, and shears them apart in a single unfurling sweep. You repay the favor an instant later, when a spined fist - barely articulated - drives directly at her skull: A swirling tempest blasts from your sword, carves it into halves, then quarters, before your swing scatters the pieces in every direction at once.

-A momentary glimpse, of full lips peeled back from perfect teeth in a hiss of effort, the faintest blush to her cheeks-

And the Witch's fingers shoot forward, grotesquely elongated, like javelins of bone.

You've seen this trick before. You're ready for it.

The AZOTH glows with blinding white light - Slabs of ice slamming into place, interlocking - as you step into the way, your shield raised-

The Witch's talons slam into you. There is a *crunch* of impact, as bone erupts against your tower shield - Metal screeches as the face is scored, your feet pushed back, gouging deep furrows in the ground.




A rustle of fabric - A momentary weight on your shoulders - the brilliant flash of steel-

Yukihime descends, like a bird of prey. Her long sleeves trail in her wake, her sword coming across in a blindingly-fast sweep. Hunched over, encased in ice, you made the perfect springboard - Even as the foul talons of bone grind and chatter against your shield, driving you back, back-

As Yukihime's mirror-bright sword cuts the Witch's throat clean through.

The blade shears through the column of her neck without slowing, the same vile ichor spurting, gouting, in the freezing air. There's a sound right on the edge of perception - a sound more felt than heard - like the *beginnings* of a high, wailing scream...

The Witch's pale form crumples, like a puppet with strings cut. Petals of white whirl into the air, taking sudden flight like a flock of startled birds - A slow-motion collapse, dissolving as it falls, shredding apart with each passing second-

Until only the ibis mask thumps dully to the ground - scraps of something that might be flesh clinging to the insides of the grostek.

No. Not the only thing.

There's something within the tatters and scraps of cloth - Something pitch-black and silver, balanced precariously on a needle-sharp point. Scraps of white ribbon - incongruously bright - flutter from the stem.

A Grief Seed.

Your breath catches.

Yukihime kneels, as the spikes in the wall retract - As Papillon sinks to the ground, with a gasp of brittle relief. Her pale fingers curl around the Grief Seed, weighing it in her palm, her sword clasped in her other hand: There's an appraising look in her eyes, as if she's only just discovered a gem of surpassing worth...

[ ] "That's mine."
[ ] "I need that."
[ ] "Please - Give me the Grief Seed."
[ ] Free
[ ] "Please - Give me the Grief Seed."
>[ ] "Please - Give me the Grief Seed."
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Not every Witch has a Grief Seed. It's what you've heard, and you have no reason to doubt that.

Such a small thing. You can't take your eyes away from it, as Yukihime cants her head to one side, to regard you. Her lips curve in the smallest smile, her fingers clasping it to her chest, as your gaze follows that subtle movement...

There's something contemplative in those violet eyes - something thoughtful, something coy, as she says...

"-Must I?"

Fabric rustles, as Papillon sways to her feet, her hand clamped against her shoulder - She sways, unsteady on her feet, the color draining from the butterfly wings at her back. She exhales, slowly, and motes of light dance at her fingertips as she draws her hand away; You can see the ragged hole in her costume, and the smooth skin - unmarred - below...

She blushes, faintly, beneath your regard - Half-turning, to shield her shoulder from view.

"I...Thank you," she says - Her blue eyes a little disbelieving, as she takes in the devastation around her. "If you weren't here, we might've been..."

Her voice trails off, and she shakes her head. Then - "But...who are you? *What* are you?"

"Why do you need-?"

"I'll give it to you." Yukihime's voice is soft, sweet. She takes a slow step forward, one hand outstretched - the Grief Seed balanced on it's point, resting on her palm. That smile lingers, a little warmer now.

"-I'll give it you...If you tell me your name."

[ ] (To Papillon) "I can't say."
[ ] (To Papillon) "Someone who fights Witches."
[ ] (To Papillon) "I'm...not that different from you."
[ ] (To Yukihime) "I can't do that."
[ ] (To Yukihime) "...All right. That, I can tell you."
[ ] Free
[ ] (To Yukihime) "...All right. That, I can tell you."
>[ ] (To Yukihime) "...All right. That, I can tell you."
>[ ] (To Papillon) "I'm...not that different from you."
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> [X] (To Yukihime) "...All right. That, I can tell you."

Three quick steps brings her face close to yours, that arresting gaze never wavering. This close, she smells of something sweetly fragrant - lapping oils, perhaps. Scented incense. The ribbon in her hair flutters, in time to that swift, easy motion, the words this close to catching in your throat-

"...So that's your name," she murmurs - Her gaze dipping down, for the span of a second, her eyes sliding away from yours. When she looks up, she smiles - there's something playfully conspiratorial about it, as if you've told her a secret...And perhaps you have.

"Yukihime-!" Papillon sounds scandalized, as the brunette darts back - Something glittering in the air, as she flicks her wrist. Your hand comes up-

...And the Grief Seed thumps against your palm, your fingers closing convulsively over the tiny, precious gem.

"I'll remember it~!" Yukihime says - There's a lilt to her voice, her smile lingering for a moment more.

> [X] (To Papillon) "I'm...not that different from you."

"Not that different...?"

She mulls that over - Her brow furrowing, her eyes going distant. "But what does tha-"

The world trembles. There is a distant sound - A low, atonal moaning. Cracks spiderweb across the ground, as shards of ivory rain from the roof of the cage. The ceiling rumbles, the ground quaking beneath your feet..

"Papillon - We're out of time."

You back away, slowly. The AZOTH's light glows, shifting between all the colors of the rainbow, as reality grows thin and attenuated around you. The Witch is dead - The world is beginning to restore itself.

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Though you stand mere feet away, the gulf between you and the pair is impossibly vast - something that can't be gauged in mere distance. The Grief Seed tingles against your palm, as the false reality fades out...

Papillon and Yukihime become drawn, distant silhouettes - You can't hear them any longer. You can barely see them. But Yukihime raises a hand, anyway - Her lips moving, saying...


And as the swirl of prismatic colors fade, you stand amid the gutted ruin of an abandoned tower. The wan light flickers across the husk - and yet, somehow, it's reassuring. It's as if a pall has been lifted, the death-curse swept away on the wind.

It may be a trick of the light - may be your imagination - but you glimpse tatters of white silk, of petals, borne away on the breeze...

You draw a deep lungful of cool air, puffs of white cloud swirling before you. Every muscle aches.

Home, then. But first-


It's late, by the time you arrive. So late, it's almost early.

The house is in a picturesque corner of the city - like a distant corner of Paris, transported to Japan. It's ornate, baroque, strangely charming, tiny against the urban desolation that lies beyond.

Is it...?

No, a tiny light glows in a distant window.

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It takes you minutes to find a way up - moving as quietly as you can, as you part the curtains, ease yourself through the open window. The faint, golden glow of her Soul Gem is dimmed, now; A thick, clotted darkness swirls within, casting odd, flickering shadows.

There's something ominous about the gathering darkness - like storm-clouds gathering on the horizon.

She's right where you left her - Staring into the Soul Gem's depths, as if all the answers to all her questions can be found within.

She starts, at the sound your boots of your boots against the floor. She turns, too fast, a soft gasp teased from her lips, as the wheel of the chair thumps against the side of the desk, her hand coming down to grip - belatedly - the padded armrest.

She's not used to it yet. She might never be.

A melange of emotions - Surprise. Relief. Then - Guilt, and something else, something guarded.


"You're *hurt*-"

Her gaze flicks to your arm - a shallow gash showing through the rent in your coat. You didn't even feel it, back then.

[ ] "It's nothing."
[ ] "I'm home, Yume."
[ ] "It's all right. I have the Grief Seed."
[ ] "Sorry to keep you waiting."
[ ] "Were you...praying for me?"
[ ] Free
>[ ] "It's all right. I have the Grief Seed."
>[ ] "Sorry to keep you waiting."
[ ] "It's all right. I have the Grief Seed."
[ ] "Sorry to keep you waiting."

>[X] "It's all right. I have the Grief Seed."

Her eyes widen.

"You...have it-?"

Carefully, you make your fingers uncurl. You didn't let go of it the entire way, until the edges cut through your glove and into your palm. But here, now...When Yume's lips curve in a tremulous smile - A sense of deep and abiding relief courses through you.

"Can I..." She reaches for it - And you see the flicker of realization in her eyes, when her grasping hand falls short. The chair again - the wheels squeaking, as she turns it, her free hand carefully smoothening down the blanket over her legs.

Such a small thing. But it's enough to make her smile fade.

Her fingers are cool against yours, as she lifts her Soul Gem in one hand - the Grief Seed in the other. Darkness swirls, motes of it drawn forth from the Soul Gem's depths, like iron fillings to a magnet. The Grief Seed turns blacker still, the silver wire tarnishing - Corrosion in fast-forward, the lustre dimming to nothing.

The light grows brighter, still. Enough to illuminate a small room - But dark specks still dance within her Soul Gem, like a reminder of what is to come.

>[X] "Sorry to keep you waiting."

She shakes her head, no.

"No - No, it's all right."

A hand, to her chest - "After all...It's because of me. *You're* doing this because of..."

Her lips tremble, her eyes dimming. Her hand trembles against the blanket, draped over her legs.

For a moment, you think she might cry.

[ ] Free
I'm just glad that I'm able to help you
"Don't you dare feel guilty. I wouldn't do it if I didn't want to."
(My apologies, but I must turn in for now. I'll continue tomorrow.)
Oh god, this is netori, isn't it.
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> I'm just glad that I'm able to help you.

She smiles, but there's a bitter twist to her lips - As she turns her face away from you, for a long, long moment. There's something in the set of her back - the tremble to her shoulders - that's achingly vulnerable, achingly alone. As if she would shatter, like glass, if you touched her.

"Of course you are," Yume says, so softly you're not sure if you were meant to hear that.

"-Of course you are."

She draws a deep breath, her eyes squeezing shut for a moment. Her fingers, curled into white-knuckled fists, tremble against the blanket. You don't look down - even a glimpse of what's beneath, you've found, is enough to change her mood for the worse.

You don't blame her. Not really.

To be reminded of it - To not just live *through* it, but to be reminded, every moment of every day...

It's hard to live with. Harder to survive.

> "Don't you dare feel guilty. I wouldn't do it if I didn't want to."


A ragged laugh, one that might as well be a sob.

"You can't *imagine* how it feels-" She blinks hard, once then again - Her arm comes up, wiping at her eyes as if she bears a grudge. "I thought - When you didn't come back, I thought I'd *killed* you-"

Her sleek throat works, her gaze meeting yours - there's something pleading in it, something desperate and fearful and...

-And yes, guilty-

...all at once.

"You could *die*. You understand that, don't you? You could die, or you could end up - You could end up-"

[ ] "...Like you?"
[ ] "It won't happen."
[ ] "It doesn't matter. I'm not leaving you."
[ ] "I'm just trying to *help*, Yume. I just want to help."
[ ] "There has to be *something*. If you could - I don't know - if you could *wish* it away-"
[ ] "I'm tougher than I look."
[ ] "I'm not alone out there."
[ ] Free
>[ ] "It doesn't matter. I'm not leaving you."
If I lose you, what will I have left? I may as well die. So there's nothing I wouldn't give.
[ ] "I'm tougher than I look."
>[ ] "I'm tougher than I look."
>[ ] "It doesn't matter. I'm not leaving you."
>[ ] "I'm not alone out there."

"I even made some friends."
>[ ] "I'm tougher than I look."

> [X] "It doesn't matter. I'm not leaving you."

To you, the choice is as natural as breathing.

The Soul Gem's flickering light illuminates the small room - a perfect amber stone. It limns the smaller gem set in the bracer of black steel you wear, a shard carved from the original.

Your words echo, hollowly, but it wouldn't matter if someone heard.

It was only after - only after Yume's world shrank to what she could reach from the chair - that you began to understand. She was desperate, of course - Searching for the words, trying to explain who she really was, and what she needed you to do-

You can't leave her.

"I..." Yume begins. She stops - draws a deep breath, tries again. "I-"

> [X] If I lose you, what will I have left? I may as well die. So there's nothing I wouldn't give.

She stares, stricken. Her expression has shaded, subtly, to something that might be horror.

Her gaze dips down, unable to meet yours. The hand on her armrest trembles.

She reaches out - carefully, tentatively. Her fingers curl against yours, and she squeezes, with all the force she can muster.

"Don't say that," she whispers. "*Please* don't say *that*-"

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There's something infinitely vulnerable about her, in that moment. A rawness, one that hsn't quite healed. You can tell - You *know* - that more than anything, she longs to stand, to look you in the eye-

Yume manages, at least, the latter.

> [X] "I'm tougher than I look."

You make your voice confident. You make it a truth.

She shakes her head, no. "But - But you're *not*," she says, lamely. "I - I'm trying to *tell* you...You're *not* like me." Her gaze slides over your form - her eyes lingering, for a moment, on the bracer you wear...

-The Shackle. She called it the Shackle.

Her voice is lower, now. More urgent.

"I...I've never *tried* anything like this before. Lending someone my power. You *know* I can't heal you if you get hurt, or, or..."

Her words trail off, leaving the rest unsaid.


> [X] "I'm not alone out there."
> [X] "I even made some friends."


You tell her. The butterfly and the maiden - the Witch, rampaging. The blaze of jeweled light and the bright, clean sweeps of a razor-sharp sword-

Something indefinable sweeps across Yume's expression. A withdrawing, a closing-off.

"I see," she says, and her eyes narrow. Just a little.

You think you might be in trouble.

"*Two* of them? Working together? Did you...help them?"

There's a certain lilt to her voice, now. For the first time in a long while, there's color to Yume's cheeks.

For the first time in weeks, she sounds more like herself.

"-I *see*."

[ ] "...Is something wrong?"
[ ] "It's not like I could have beaten the Witch by myself."
[ ] "It's not like that."
[ ] "...Do you know them?"
[ ] "Wait. Are you...jealous?"
[ ] Free
Is this JokerOP? It is either him or someine teying to use his style.
>[ ] "It's not like I could have beaten the Witch by myself."
>[ ] "It's not like I could have beaten the Witch by myself."
>[ ] "...Is something wrong?"
>[ ] "...Do you know them?"
I like to think that we'd be super serious until we switch back from Smile Protection mode to Unbearable Teasing mode.
>[ ] "...Do you know them?"
>[ ] "...Is something wrong?"
[ ] "...Do you know them?"
[ ] "Wait. Are you...jealous?"
>[ ] "Wait. Are you...jealous?"
>"...Is something wrong?"
>"Wait. Are you...jealous?"
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> [X] "It's not like I could have beaten the Witch by myself."

"That's-" Yume's brow furrows. You're sure she's about to say something more - but then she nods, reluctantly, as she glances away, murmuring something under her breath.

You think it might be "...doesn't mean I have to *like* it-".

> [X] "...Is something wrong?"

"No," she says, with a calm that's actually quite alarming. "Why would *anything* be wrong?"

She smiles at you, sweetly - It's probably better not to press the point.

> [X] "...Do you know them?"


There's a long, long pause. Yume doesn't quite meet your eyes - You can almost see the gears in her mind turning. Trying to remember, or wondering how much to tell you? You're not sure.

"-I've...heard *of* them," she says, a trifle evasively. A soft sigh, a slump of her shoulders, lets you know exactly what she thinks about that. "...I knew there were other Puella Magi in the city, but..."

You wait, but she doesn't say anything else.

In her eyes: A flicker of something that might be pique.

> [X] "Wait. Are you...jealous?"

Yume's head snaps up. Her breath catches.

"I - I'm not!"

Her cheeks go red. Redder.

"I don't feel like *that* - At all! W, why would anyone be jealous of, of..."


Her blush creeps down her neck, her stammer catching up with her words - "There's no *way* I could be jealous of-"

Beneath your gaze - all patience, all understanding (or so you hope) - she wilts. Her voice is softer, now, almost a murmur. "...Of being able to *walk*."

She casts a bitter glance down at herself. "I...wanted to go with you. More than anything. But-"

When her eyes lock with yours, there's something lost in them, something pleading.

"...It can't be like this," Yume mutters, wringing her hands. "This - this can't be my life. What did I do wrong? What did I do that was so wrong? Why - do I have to suffer like this?"

The light within her Soul Gem flickers, as if tainted by the motes of darkness swirling within.

"Tell me - What did I do? What do I *do*?"

Her nails rake against the armrest, hard enough to draw deep furrows in the padded surface. There's something frighteningly changeable about her moods, these days - teetering from calm to the anguish that lurks within. The thing that fills every waking hour, impossible to deny.

"I know they're still there, so - *why can't I move*?"

[ ] Free
There's nothing to really say that would help. Just hug her.
Hug her.
I can't think of anything to say either, and she probably knows we don't have an answer for her. Supporting >>1993578.
Yeah, I'm with the others on this. I don't think there is a good answer. Lets hope a hug solves this.

How do we even have powers? I thought Madoka only had magical GIRLS.
It is implied that this girl is an actual magical girl but for some reason can't use her legs and thus can't fight. She is magically infusing us with powers and thus we can fight even as a guy. However we lack a few benefits that magical girls have, we still inhabit our body as normal so we feel pain normally and can't magically heal our wounds. We don't have any soul gems like magical girls because we are not one.
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If Witches have familiars, then maybe the MC is one as well...

Damn Incubators...

(The Shackle and your AZOTH contain shards from Yume's Soul Gem, allowing her to channel her power through you.)


Once - what seems like a lifetime ago - you could hold Yume to you, her body against yours, her head against your shoulder. Now, the chair's in the way. As you ease yourself to your knees, as your arms come up, she flinches, shrinking back into herself - as if she can't bear to be touched by anyone, not now.

But you persist. Your arms circle her, and she leans into you - Her hands becoming small fists against your chest, trembling minutely as her shoulders heave. For a moment, it feels like she's about to push you away...But then the dam breaks. You hear the first hard, wrenching sob, one that wracks her all the way to the core of her being-

And then she's weeping, tears tracking down her cheeks, hot against your skin. Her hands close, almost convulsively, on your arms - as if seeking some grip on reality, some way to hold *on*.

Perhaps that's all you can do. To be her anchor, her protector-

...But for how long?

You reach out. You smoothe out her hair - the once-glossy strands dry, brittle to the touch. It's an old gesture, achingly familiar.

You remember a day in the park, beneath summer. Yume, smiling, reaching up to free her hair from the ribbon that held it in a long braid-

Softly, almost a whisper-

"I want-"

"...I want it *all* to go away."

"Please - please *take it all away* - and *bring it all back*-"

You hold her until the tears stop, until the tension drains from her shoulders - until her eyes go dull, filmy. But she holds on to you as if she never means to let go, and all you can do is to let her.

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You don't know it, but she's looking past you. A point above and beyond you, where the curtains flutter in the night breeze, the moon's wan light sheeting through the windows.

Her gaze meets the ruby eyes - red, without pupil or iris - of the cat-shaped thing that noses past the drapes, a fluffy tail swaying counterpoint to the four soft paws perched on the sill.

It would be wrong to say that Kyubey is smiling - he can't help it - but he smiles all the same.



(And that's a wrap, gentlemen. I hope you had fun. This was rather different from what I usually do, and the combat system was complicated but entertaining to try.)
Was this a one shot, or are you going to continue? I quite enjoyed it.
Thanks for running, OP. Hoping to see a continuation of this some time.
I've archived the quest!

Also, seeing as our name isn't given to us outright, I have no choice but to assume MC's name is Yu.

(I'll be sure to think about it. This was pretty fun.)

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