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/tg/ - Traditional Games

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Equipment FAQ:


Oblivion's Husk:


Player List:


Episode Guide (All credit to Watashiwa & an unknown Anon):


Yui IF scene (Adult content):


Twitter: https://twitter.com/JokerQuestOP

Recap: You are ANON, the RED JOKER. In our last installment, the grueling battle against the SMILERS concluded.

All that remains is ALURA.
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(Gentlemen, for those not up to speed: In our previous episodes, the Smilers succeeded in seizing control of the Diadem, and proceeded to bombard the city of Arcadia. Hundreds of people were incinerated in the barrage. Others were harvested by Players, or torn apart by the Cryptids unleashed from the Diadem.

You gathered a strike team of Armaros, the Thief, Daegal, Rook and Distortion Haze to infiltrate the Diadem via a teleportation portal, with the intent to sabotage it from within and stop the slaughter. Simultaneously, the survivors of the initial attack - Including a number of newly-awakened Players - staged a breakout attempt, to destroy the Shield Pylons preventing their escape from the area.

After battling your way through the Diadem, your team encountered Rust Kaiser, Calcite Arrow, Enfer, Alura Une, Bell Zephyr and Inox Fang. You defeated them, after a grueling battle - But not without cost, as Armaros was killed by Rust Kaiser and Bell Zephyr.

Alura is the last survivor of the battle. It appears that Pazuzu has stripped her of her powers and withdrawn all support, leaving her in her fragile Hyades form.

I highly advise that you read the - very brief - previous episode, as this is a direct continuation.)

> [X] "Is that all you have left, Alura?"

The smile slips off her face. Tear-streaked, her hair in disarray, she's still beautiful - objectively so. But the spite that makes her face curdle, twist upon itself - just a spasm, a moment then gone - makes her look mundane, only for an instant; like everyone else. It ruins the illusion.

"Oh, there's more. A lot more."

She turns to you, her face unhappy, but her posture provocative.

"-I can be anything you want. You know this. I can't fight you - *I* know this."


Dark almond eyes look at you, moist and miserable. Her slim fingers move to the clasps of her dress, the rounded tops of her breasts pressing up against the silken fabric.

"Come on - We both know where this is leading. I know you're going to."

"You're going to sculpt me into whatever sick punishment shape you want, and I'll crawl and debase myself, and we'll both know who has the power *then*-"

> "I'm not you."

The words hang in the air, for what seems like an eternity.

Alura's expression tightens. There is a flash of - something - in her eyes.

> "You wanted to be beautiful, didn't you Alura? Too bad that no mask can hide the ugliness behind it."

She flinches - Actually flinches. For a moment, she looks hurt, almost frightened-

And now you see what's in her eyes.


"Charming," she sneers - Her lip curling. "-Is that what you told Cybele, when she crawled into your bed?"

Her voice is soft, now. Softer.

"He'll kill you, *Joker*. Pazuzu is your death."

There is a hiss to her words, a bitter snap.

"But he's not the one you need to fear-"

Alura bites her lip, hard enough to draw blood. A bead of it traces the curve of her chin.

"-Because deep down, he's as pathetic and lonely as you. Chasing the same dead woman. Making excuses for her, again and again-"

She swallows, hard, before she chokes on her own hatred. Her bosom heaves, drawing deep breaths - Fingers curled into claws.

"-Do you even know what Naoya's doing to Mio, *right now*?"

Daegal, some distance away, stiffens - Frozen in the action of reaching for the Condemner.

There is a feverish light in Alura's eyes, almost spitting the words, flecking her full lips.

"She needed you - She *made* you her protector - and you couldn't even do that. How does it feel, Joker? How does it feel to be some miserable girl's *wet dream*-?"

[ ] Free


Hit her as hard as you can.

> "There, you see? Now you're ugly inside and out."
>How does it feel to be some miserable girl's *wet dream*-?
"I didn't know you were dreaming of me."

(Someone has a better retort? This one is kinda weak)

Shoot her in the fucking head.

"We've wasted enough time. We might still be able to rescue Mio and kill Naoya.
Sorry, Rook, but I couldn't wait for you to recover. You can have the White Joker if the opportunity comes."

That's juvenile.

I suggest we give her to Rook instead. He's been waiting for this for a long, long time.
>"We've wasted enough time. We might still be able to rescue Mio and kill Naoya.
>Sorry, Rook, but I couldn't wait for you to recover. You can have the White Joker if the opportunity comes."
You do realize this means absolutely nothing because neither Mio or Naoya are in the Diadem, right>
True, but we need the Chalice Queen Eidolon and the possible restock from the level-up.

Yeah, I guess Rook wouldn't follow us into the Black.

But we kind of need Alura's essence.

Agreeing with this, but only if Rook is still alive.
We really should end her. Either by our own hands or Rooks, or a combination. I'm partial to doing it ourselves while wielding Rooks blade as a compromise, but whatever we decide on, she needs to die.
"You bore me Alura."
"You're loved by nobody, your personality is annoying, your fake beauty only serves to create contrast with ugly you truly are and your insults don't even carry any bite."
"Pazuzu was right - there isn't a single thing in which you can compare to Hecate. To call you her shadow would even be insulting to Hecate."

Let's just end it already. It's not worth sticking around for much longer.
Really, it depends on Rook's condition.

We need to do this quickly and she should obviously die.
"Rook. This is too long overdue. She's all yours."

Let Rook have his revenge. God knows he (and Haze) have earned it.
This, a thousand times this.

> "I didn't know you were dreaming of me."

There's a sound. A sudden, awful sound. Rasping, harsh, racked with coughs.

The Thief is laughing. Half-crippled, leaning on Daegal's shoulder, his grinning skull-mask never registering the emotion, he laughs and the stares make him laugh all the harder. It is as if a dam has broken - Something about the incomprehension in Daegal's eyes, the contempt and growing fear in Alura's, he finds completely priceless.

He can't stop laughing. It's not a pleasant sound at all.

"Wha-" Haze stammers. "What's happenin-"

> "You bore me, Alura."
> "You're loved by no-one. Your personality is annoying. Your fake beauty only serves to create contrast with ugly you truly are and your insults don't even carry any bite."

Alura's lovely features twist in fury-

> "There, you see? Ugly inside and out."

Consternation flickers across her face - Your words cut deep. Her perfect nails sink into her palms, drawing tiny crescents of blood.

> "Pazuzu was right - there isn't a single thing in which you can compare to Hecate. To call you her shadow would even be insulting to Hecate."


Her throat works, as if she's fighting to get the words out. Her black tresses sway, her skin very pale - The look in her eyes is pure venom.

"-Then kill me," she hisses, low and sibilant.

Alura's midnight hair is lank, like fronds of wet seaweed. Her words seem to etch themselves into the air, as if they've been drawn in acid. You can feel her hatred, like the hot leak of lethal radiation.

"Kill me and be *damned*, Joker-!" Alura shrills - "You can kill me, and I'll laugh *while you do it*, because she'll *still be dead*! Her eyes fix on you, her lips cracking at the edges like a nightmare ogre.


Your targeting cross fills your view. It frames her face. It urges action, your finger curled around RUBICANTE's trigger.

"I," Daegal begins. He takes a step forward - Hesitates, as if he's unsure what to do. Akira's remaining arm locks tighter around his shoulders, makes him start as the laughter dies away. It seems that the world has narrowed to this small space, within the hall of broken mirrors; the Memory Towers humming, murmuring their silent song.

As if to say that this, too, shall pass.

Alura's gaze locks with yours. There's defiance in it. Frustration. An all-consuming fury. She would rip you to pieces with her bare hands - But only if she had the power. Your weapon's barrel is less than an inch from her left eye; You can imagine, vividly, the sharp report it would make. The kick of the round. The pinprick of the entry wound, the fountain of the exit.

Her breathing is slow, almost calm. Alura's lips are ever-so-slightly parted, as if aching to shape a word she can't quite intuit - But it is her eyes that say everything. The disbelief. The slow-growing horror. The realization that hell comes next.

Your finger eases from the trigger. A complex melange of emotions chase each other across her features - surprise, wariness, hope.

And then you say the only thing that can still put the fear in her.

> "Rook. This is too long overdue. She's all yours."

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>And then you say the only thing that can still put the fear in her.
>> "Rook. This is too long overdue. She's all yours."
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>>And then you say the only thing that can still put the fear in her.

>"Rook. This is too long overdue. She's all yours."

Behind you, something stirs. Behind you, a battered shape - A shape that bleeds despair the way a fire radiates heat - sways to taloned feet. There are rents in its substance - wounds taken, wounds given - the armor almost overriden with iron flesh, now, living metal that writhes and tightens, swarming with eye-blistering symbols. In every dimension, the thing that was once Rook ghosts and hardens, smoke coiling from him as if uncomfortable with solidity - tentacles of shadow bulging from his spine, the shadows that crook upon his shoulders unfurling, trailing like tattered rags in his wake.

There is very little of him left. A fragment of his mind. An echo of his soul.

But it is not only the mind that remembers how to hate.


No flickering corruption, to his voice. No echoes. None of that hateful buzzing, buzzing, buzzing. For the first time in forever, you are hearing Shuya's voice. It is almost gentle, nearly kind - A striking contrast to his raptor-helm, an image of slanted eyes and the cruel crescent of a flesh-tearing beak. When he raises his hand - His new hand, a bladed claws coated in cracked, gore-streaked steel - the talons stroke her hair with inhuman care.

Their razor-sharp points catch what little light remains.

Alura's face is a pale heart in the light, as she shivers.

"Rook-" she says. "I-"

For a moment, you think they might kiss.

>Their razor-sharp points catch what little light remains.
>Alura's face is a pale heart in the light, as she shivers.
>For a moment, you think they might kiss.
Daegal PTSD status: Acquired

He touches her. A single sabre-like protrusion presses to her lips. A hair of pressure more, and it would cut.

"I told you," Rook says, in that soft timbre. Baleful light flickers in his eyes.

I̹ ̫͖̗̜T̟͘Ó̱̳̖̥ͅL͕̲̞ͅD̲̭̦̼̣̺̦͜ ̟͇̯͘Y̠͖̯̪͈̹̕O̙Ṷ̭̙̱̘̻͇ ͕I̪̰̟ ̮́ͅW͕̣̭̯͈̦͖O̜͈͈̳̪͚̘U̞̙̯̖L̹̙̙̜D̩͙̙ ̫̱͚͙̪̗̦͜FI̬͉̕N͏͖̳̭D͜ ̜̺̺̳̼A̘̰̫̮̣̣ ͓̘̠̕W͎͚͓̠͔ÀY̨̱.͏̬̝̟

He leans forward, and-

There is a shriek. A sharp, pained cry. Alura flinches back, pulls away so sharply it hurts her - Her eyes very wide. Her throat works, and works again, making that urgent, aching sounds - Her half-scream weirdly trunctuated, a wet gurgle coming from her lips. There is incomprehension in her eyes, terror, as she tries, tries to speak...

Blood gurgles down her chin. Her gaze darts, wild - Settling on you, as if for her hope of salvation-

It slides away. To Daegal, his posture rigid with a kind of cohered horror, locked in place by his burden - Haze, who watches unblinking, his eyes glowing a steady green; One hand curled into a fist, a fist that trembles with sickly relish - the Thief, who merely stares...

...A wet, hissing whistle issues from Alura's lips. It is like no sound you have ever heard a human make, as her eyes settle at last on a tiny strip of flesh at her feet; So alien, so strange, in this place of metal and crystal.

It is her tongue.

Her hand clamps over her mouth, her eyes bright with tears of incomprehensible pain. Her entire body seems to shrink in upon itself - the swell of creeping pain, the piece-by-piece revulsion as she realizes what has been taken from her-


There is sharp, splitting *crack*. The mouth grille of Rook's helm rips apart. It tears. It is no longer a helm; It is a maw, with monstrous jaws of ceramite and bone, trails of Lachryma leaking down his armor as those ragged, tattered wings of ash sweep around Alura in an embrace-

A glimpse of her frantic eyes, a sound that might almost be "No-"

His jaws lock onto her pale neck, worrying deep, sinking home. Then he sinks forward, dragging her down beneath him, and the wet ripping *crunch* of flesh tearing, of bone breaking, echoes in the chamber. There is a hand, upthrust - shreds of meat, clinging to teeth - clots of gore as five-pointed talons punch through a trailing sleeve, into the limb beneath-

"Oh *shit*-"

"Oh Jesus God he's-"

She is still alive as Rook begins to eat her.


There are sounds, at your back. Sounds you cannot begin to imagine. Shapes, interwined. There is a glee in it, an end to restraint. The chance to gorge and gorge and to never stop, long after the act itself has lost all satisfaction.

The Memory Towers turn. They murmur. They rotate, on their own axis, casting shifting shadows across the ruin of the ground. Like shadowplay, like illusions.

There is a wailing-

A keening of need, need, distress-

Daegal looks away. He is frozen in place, an anchor for the Thief.

Haze is frozen, too. Transfixed. There is something feverish, something mad, in his gaze. It is as if the sickness that he spreads has taken root in him, too, and he must watch until the end.

A glimpse of the future.



The Thief's arm slips from Kazuya's shoulders. He grunts, as his ruined leg takes his weight. A cunning array of magnetic emitters holds the limb together, slivers of metal protruding in bright, needle-sharp spines. The Fatal Abyss is clutched in his fist - He holds it, as if he cannot bear to surrender it even at rest.

And perhaps he cannot.

The effort costs him. Dry breath rasps from his speakers.

"What do we do now, Joker?"

His voice is affectless, flat. Absent of the paroxysm of slow machine-gun laughter that seized him, a heartbeat ago.

What do we do?

[ ] "We need to push on. Find Pazuzu, and finish this."
[ ] "We won't last another fight like this. Is there anything you can do?"
[ ] "Central is just ahead. If there's some way we can just reach it..."
[ ] "Will Rook - After this, will he still...?"
[ ] "Daegal. Look away."
[ ] "Haze. Enough."
[ ] Free

>"We need to push on. Find Pazuzu, and finish this."
>"We won't last another fight like this. Is there anything you can do?"
>[ ] "We won't last another fight like this. Is there anything you can do?"
"Most of my relics are damaged and all my supplies are depleted. And I don't think any of us are faring better."

>[ ] "Will Rook - After this, will he still...?"
"Kazuya, I know how disturbing this is, but, quite frankly, it got nothing on what Alura has done up until now. You should have seen what she did to Rook and his team."

>[ ] "Haze. Enough."
>[x] "Daegal. Look away."
>[x] "Haze. Enough."
>[x] "We won't last another fight like this. Is there anything you can do?"
>[ ] "Daegal. Look away."
>[ ] "We won't last another fight like this. Is there anything you can do?"
As an aside, there are no relics lying around in the room, are there?
Or is it simply implied that we collect them after each fight?
Pretty sure there's nothing left aside from maybe Rust Kaiser's sword. Bell was liquefied, Enfer turned into a nuke, Inox was compressed into a relic and Calcite was CONSUMED. Alura only used constructs from essence, so no relics from her either.
I mostly meant Daegal's relics, which were strewn around the battlefield while he was fighting.

(We can assume Daegal's collected them. The main one is Ascalon, and it's extremely difficult for you to wield it, at any rate.)


> [X] "We need to push on. Find Pazuzu, and finish this."

A nod. Your only answer. It seems like forever, since the fight began; the wail of codebursts, the thunder of explosions. Only now, in the desolation of after, does the reality of the mission descend upon you once again.

> [X] "Will Rook - After this, will he still...?"

"-Be controllable?"

That's not what you meant.

"Maybe." The hiss of static shivers the air, as the word lingers, uncertain. The emberous glow in the Thief's eyes flicker. "With the right stimuli."

"You-" Daegal doesn't need to breath, but you hear his hydraulics whirr as his voice shakes. "-Like an animal, you mean," Kazuya says, a sick note to his voice. "Like a dog trained by beatings-"

Totenaz turns. He merely stares at Daegal, until Daegal drops his gaze.

> [X] "Daegal. Look away."

Daegal starts. In that moment, it is achingly clear that it is Kazuya beneath the armor - Kazuya, in spite of it all. He pauses, mid-step, his fists curling around Ascalon...The great sword dragging behind him, as he hoists it upright, his armor's gravimetric suspensors humming as they pick up the slack.

He wipes at his mouth-grille with his sleeve, with a brittle clash of metal-on-metal.

> "Kazuya, I know how disturbing this is, but, quite frankly, it got nothing on what Alura has done up until now. You should have seen what she did to Rook and his team."

"-I know," he says, heavily. "I know."

Another sound. This time, he doesn't flinch.

For a moment, it looks like he's about to turn away-


"You lied, Anon," he says. His voice is thick, heavy with static, as if the words curdle in his speakers. "-About Yui."

This. Also, see if any relics are available.
How is the teams status?
>"You lied, Anon," he says. His voice is thick, heavy with static, as if the words curdle in his speakers. "-About Yui."
What did we say about Yui again?
I can barely remember how this arc started.
I second this, what does he think we lied about?
We lied about her being alive, I think.

(Everyone is significantly damaged except for Daegal. Haze has also used up the last of his viral weapons, and the Thief has lost his coat and an arm. Rook is in the process of recovering - at least somewhat - from his severed limbs.)



"-I don't feel any different," Kazuya says, leadenly. "I thought - When it started...Hell, I wanted to - I told myself...'This will make it right.'"

He swallows, hard. Somewhere within him, an autoloader clunks. "After what they did - I thought I could..."

Ascalon's point bites into the ground.

"I felt *her brains come out in my hands*-" Convulsively, he wipes a gleaming gauntlet against the tattered folds of his Assault Shroud. As if he can scour them of gore. "-But now...But now they're all dead."

"And I don't feel the slightest bit different."


The Thief's voice is carefully modulated. If you listen, carefully, there is something that might almost be sympathy.

"Joker's been doing this for a hundred years. Do you think *he* feels any different?"

> [X] "Haze. Enough."

Haze starts. His head whips around - For a moment, he does not recognize you, and the vacancy in his look is an alien absence. It is as if you've caught him in an unguarded moment, something filthy, something shameful.

"But," he says. "But I - But we-"


His eyes flicker, from green to yellow. His shoulders slump.

"I just-"

Haze's voice breaks. For a moment, you think he might cry - If only he could.

"-I just wanted to *help him*-"

And there it is.

> [X] "We won't last another fight like this. Is there anything you can do?"
> [X] "Most of my relics are damaged and all my supplies are depleted. And I don't think any of us are faring better."


Your foot nudges against something - A fragment of tarnished silver. Myomer muscle, in a curve of white metal.

You lift it, turn it in your hand like an archaelogical find, as dust fumes from the surface. Memory strikes:


This belonged to Armaros.

It was his Distortion Halo. Beneath the gentle pressure of your grasp, it crumbles - wisps of ash shredding away, dissolving in the heat-driven winds.

"I had a major tether. An Embed. A Telluric Sphere."

The Thief's words are dry, as he stares down at the tattered scorch-mark that was his ragged duster. Out of it, he is a sparse figure - The curving struts of metal armor encasing his frame, like a ribcage.

"-They were in my coat."

Haze raises a hand, uncertainly. His only hand. Vials cycle, syringes extruding, hissing.

"I have...Combat drugs. Some, but I'm not sure-"

Is there anything we can *use*, *now*?

He wilts.

Then, no.

Behind you, there is a snarl. There is a crack of bone. The wailing has, at last, stopped - An abrupt, ugly end.

Despite himself, Daegal winces.

"All right," he says, heavily. "All right. Then, we'll just have to-"


A warning buzz - An electric voice coming from all around -


Pazuzu. He speaks, and the Diadem speaks with him - the murmur of Memory Towers like a rapturous chorus, an audience hanging on each and every word.




"It's *him*-"




The air shimmers. There is a racing current, crackling between the Memory Towers - An arcing, cising light that leaps from jagged point to jagged point, converging...

Reality warps. It bends, as if through a fractured lens.

Space tears. Empty light shines through.

Before you - There is a humming slice. An reality-rip.

A portal.

Through it, you see the streets of the Red World. A horizon that stretches on forever. It is tranquil, somehow - Untouched by war, cyclopean towers looming on all sides.


"Is that..." Daegal murmurs. He stares, disbelieving - "...Is that - The way *out*? It's-"


Haze takes a step forward. A single step. "It's a trick," he begins. "-It can't be *real*-"

We told him Yui is safe when we found him.

But is it? You know the Red, like the back of your own hand. What lies beyond the gate - They are roads you have walked a thousand times. Too perfect to be a mere facsimile.

The Thief glances to the side, and you share a glance. You can tell he's thinking:

*Three* of you?



Daegal's head snaps around. You hear the shallow hiss of his inhalation, the surprise.

You know what Pazuzu wants. Such a simple thing - Such a small thing. The Nihl Sphere, locked in your gauntlet - Gone cold, gone powerless, with only the faintest embers of unlight.





And there it is. The threat. There is consternation in Haze's stance, his gaze darting across the portal - then you - then Rook. He is torn between fear and hope. Fear that it is a trap: Hope that he might yet live.

"I-" Haze begins, and falters. "I-"

"-Go to hell."

Daegal draws himself to his full height. Ascalon is in his hands, his fists coiled around the hilt. His gleaming armor is streaked with dust, but unspoiled - When his hand settles on your shoulder, the circling runes and glyphs (so similar to your own) form a circuit.

"Is that all you've got?" he says - His voice firm, unwavering. "-You think I'll just *run away*?"

"When you *get to hell*, Anon's the one who's going to *put you there*."

His words smoke in the air.

"Anon - *Tell* him, man! Tell him-"

Daegal's gauntlet grips, vicing down hard.

"-*We don't run*."

[ ] Free

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>Dat Kazuya
Why is he so best? Jesus.
You know what? Mio can die for all i care, but our boy Kazuya better survive.
So, guys.
There's a portal open.
We should have some access to the Hollow Sun again.
And our satellite should work if the shield is down.

Guys, what kind of remote access did we have for the Hollow Sun again?

Also, maybe we can tell Haze to go there (via Dirac, to make it silent) and teleport help to us.

(Thief and Rook wouldn't work because the Hollow Sun defends itself against Lachryma)

Or Kazuya, because he's its real owner.

Just something to contemplate.

I think it's only for Kazu or Haze to escape.
"Haze, Rook finished what he came for. You aren't here to help me, but him. The choice is yours."

"And don't worry Pazuzu, I never intended to leave without your second eye."

This sounds like a good opportunity to have the Leukocyte shit on Pazuzu's day.
On further thinking, I say we tell Haze and Rook to go.
Haze has no more steam, Rook is completely broken and both have no more reason to be here.
They can do more by helping from outside.

OP, can we use the Teleport Homer to access relics that have been unlocked in the Hollow Sun?

Yeah, Daegal won't leave and he likely wouldn't allow Akira to go.

Yeah. Opening a portal was a pretty dumb move.
Well, time to look at the Hollow Sun again.

Ok, so we tell Haze to go with Rook and contact Natsumi and other others on our side, then unlock relics from the Hollow Sun for us.

If teleport homing them is not an option, they'll instead arm themselves up with the equipment there.
Got a few ideas if we can access the Hollow Sun, but I'll wait and see if we can do so first.
The relics that are listed:


>Handgun with a variety of effects








>super shotgun with knockback


>sniper rifle


>homing lightning gun


>disintegrator pistol



Probably more now due to research.
Implanting Caliban control would also be a good idea if we got someone into the Hollow Sun.
Since this is the calm before the final battle, can we get Hollow Sun to go into overdrive production? Gather what survivors down below, and arm them with Hollow Sun weapons and relics.
(My apologies, lost the connection. Writing now...)

> "Haze, Rook finished what he came for. You aren't here to help me, but him. The choice is yours."
> "And don't worry Pazuzu, I never intended to leave without your second eye."

The portal's light shimmers. Haze starts - Almost jumps, his head swivelling round to stare at you. His gaze darts to Rook...

Back to the portal.

"I-" he begins, thinly. "I-"

He wavers. As he pauses - Seized in a moment of indecision - you scan through the frequencies for the Leukocyte. Is there a connection, here? Deep in the heart of the Diadem, your senses questing for the vast satellite floating in umbral space, weapons armed and ready...

No connection.

Of course. It would be too easy.


The Thief catches your sharp, pointed look. He nods.

"Kazuya," he vocalizes - A low, questioning note. Daegal's optics blink-click, as he starts - "Wha...?" he begins, uncomprehending...And then his hand steals to the Arsenal Beacon strapped to his back. The lines of the Beacon glow, rivulets of neon light bleeding through the teleport homer-

He stops. Shakes his head, no.

Haze - Seized by an internal conflict - is oblivious to all of this. There is something wretched in his indecision; Something stark in the forces that push and pull at him.

"-I *don't know*-"

He stares, helplessly. At Rook, bloated with death - Just a vague shape, beneath savagely back-swept wings that bristle with blades. There are vines creeping across the emerging form, thorns - Morphic confusion. From the flesh rise mouths, like tumors, that moan and whimper and bite the air around them, before melting back under Rook's skin.

Not a bird-of-prey any longer, then. Barely coherent. Becoming something new.

"He - He can't hear me any more. I...I don't think anyone can reach him."

There's also the ability to add an Assault Shroud module, get Hellion summons for the Teleport Homer and to get the Dirge Caster for ECM now that we cannot use the radar function.
Also Advent Caster, but likely not useful.

Oh and the advanced charge circuit for the Tempest Scrander.

He looks up. Squares his shoulders - One left lopsided, by the stump of his arm.

A kind of calm settles, his eyes blinking yellow one final time-


"-I'll stay," Haze says. There is something resigned in his voice. "I - have to stay. I have to see this through," he utters, bleakly - Almost to himself, his remaining hand clenching and unclenching. "All the way...to the end."

He looks up. "Joker - If you want me to go...I'll go."

A helpless sound, almost a laugh, utterly without humor, filters through his speakers.

"Either way - *Either way* - there's nothing left, see? There's nothing..."

His voice trails off.



A pause, long enough to fill the world with silence.


[ ] Free


I think we should let Rook and Haze go. They were in this for Alura. This isn't their fight anymore.

I'd wish them well, and thank Haze for all he's done.

We need them. The more warm bodies, the better. We cannot afford to lose any more resources before the final clash.
>To Haze: "For all it's worth, I think so too. Go keep Rook company. You and Rook were here for Alura. Not Pazuzu."
If he goes outside, he can contact our allies, they can go to the Hollow Sun and arm up. And then come back.
The question is if the time frame for that is doable. Would reinforcements arrive while they are still helpful? Would they even be able to enter the Diadem directly?

If he can be of use outside, we send him outside.

Otherwise, tell him that we are glad that he's on our side. He's been a good student.
"Haze, there's still hope hidden inside the Hollow Sun. If the lachryma is stripped away, the body pulled apart and essence contained inside a new body, then Rook might still have a chance."
"Don't go searching for death because you've lost something. As long as you're alive, a possibility remains."
"It's how I've kept going since Hecate vanished."
I hate it, but you're right. I just worry that Paulus will hijack Rook, what with him being more lachryma than player, now.

(I'll point out that the Diadem is currently in flight. You are unaware whether the force of Players breached the Shield in time, before they were incinerated by the launch.)
is that true or is that just keeping him busy?
I don't think Rook can be saved anymore guys.
We either put him to use, or put him out of his misery. He's had his vengeance. It's time to rest.

Rook is fucked. He is completely breaking down. He is basically a shoggoth like Rust Kaiser now. Didn't JQOP say that they would basically have to guide him into fights like an attack dog?
We can rebuild the bodies of correctors.
The question is if the system allows us to keep the mind intact or something.

The chance is slim, though.

I wish we could somehow get Rook for cannon fodder and let Haze go. But that's unlikely.
It's more likely that Rook will become Haze's lachryma familiar.
Dammit. of all things. Why did it have to launch in the middle of our battle with Alura?

(Gentlemen, a quick confirmation: Are you asking Haze - and Rook - to stay, or requesting that they go?)
"Haze, this isn't your fight anymore.

Go out and prepare. If I fail, be ready to finish what I started."
The main point is to keep Haze from getting himself killed over stupid shit, not saving Rook.
I'm for go.
I don't trust Rook in his current state, and Haze is out of what made him useful. If Haze can't reload, just let him and his BF go.

Stay. Very tempted to let them go, but we can't win without them.

What's the point of them living through this if everyone is fucked?
"You already heard them, didn't you? Doesn't seem like I need any trickery or false promises to gather a force against you."
So am I.
(Gentlemen, I'll close voting in ten minutes.

Please note that it is very, very unlikely that Haze and Rook will be able to contribute any further support if they leave.)

Fuck, this really is the end.

> Stay

I'm not happy with either decision.
I'm switching to stay.

Let him be a bro. I hope he's doing this out of determination, not out of despair.

"I have the best student."
Let them stay.
Stay. I hate it, but it's the most pragmatic option.
Wait, aren't you telling him to leave then?
What I meant is that Although I had ideas for asking to go and be our witness of the final battle, I'm asking to stay despite the thought.
I think you're confused, staying means staying on the Diadem. Go means going through the portal.
That's a pretty dumb sentiment. Definitely not something Haze could ever do.
Stay. Haze has conviction to stay with Rook.
I find it likely that having them accompany us is a trick of some kind, like he'd be able to assume direct control of Rook.

He's an extremely poor candidate. Daegal is arguably the best one, assuming his own armor doesn't supersede it.
(Gentlemen, it appears that 'Stay' takes precedence over 'Go' by a narrow margin. My apologies for the delay - Please let me know if I miscalculated.)
I'm pretty sure 'Stay' won by a wide margin.
Goddamn this is awesome. This.
No, it really isn't.
The idea of Haze turning into a badass will be endlessly entertaining to me.
Seems like it. And no worries about the delay. You are awesome, OP.

(My apologies - I should've just said 'margin'.)


> "You already heard them, didn't you? Doesn't seem like I need any trickery or false promises to gather a force against you."
> "I have the best student."


Hard light blooms.

The cold space fills with a mechanical sussuration. There is a *rumbling*, the groan of machinery, from deep beneath your feet. There is a growing industrial murmur-

The far wall...Disassembles. The portal folds in upon itself, winks out.

Beyond - Beyond is a vast space. A long, cylindrical corridor you've passed only once before, on your way to the heart of the Diadem - To your audience with the Chalice Queen.

There is nothing to give any scale. Not even the air moves. The dots of light show small parts of a vast design, etched onto the curving walls - Hints of spirals, lines, and swirling runes.

"Where do we-?" Haze's voice echoes-


The chamber you were in - It is taking itself apart. It is breaking down, leaving only the Memory Towers behind - Spires, columns, turning serenely, far from even the memory of light. Their faint radiance illuminates the way ahead of you; It is like a path of black glass, the outlines only barely visible.

The Diadem hums. Far, far beneath you, there must be a roar of great engines - great thrusters, propelling the city skyward. Keeping it aloft, in all its vastness, torn from the ruins of Arcadia.

Daegal hesitates. "What about Roo-" he begins.

Haze does not.

"He's coming," he says, simply - Speaking the words with assurance, though he never looks back. Behind you - Behind you, you hear the rasping, twitching pace of a ragged creature, something grotesquely simian and bird at once. Shambling forward, face jerking from side-to-side as it gives canine-snuffs, hooking into the ground with bone-scythes to haul itself forward. Claws fold shut into knuckly fists, open again into raptor talons.



Fine strands cascade down the arching curve of the thing's back.

Like cables. Like weaves of shadow.

Like Alura's hair.

There is something in the distance. A massive plinth of dark glass, the extrudes from the edges of the inner walls - A sphere suspended in a sea of black. It is larger than you remember, vast; It is filled with the sound of machines.

Pazuzu is building. He is the source of the sound.

He is building his machine, his gateway to the Promised Land.

And it is vast.

You glimpse the jester figure, shrouded in black. Crowned with pagan horns. In one hand, he holds a staff - The Crux, blazing with gauss fire. It is so brilliant that it shrouds him in a nimbus of Saint Elmo's fire...But he is a speck. A tiny dot, beneath a half-dome of-


From just above this arch to the very ceiling, fifty meters above. Like the jigsaw puzzle of an insane god, it is constructed out of bodies, layered and pieces and interlaced like corpses in a massive grave; an instant later, you realize that they are not bodies, of course. Not actual corpses.

They are Players.

>Fine strands cascade down the arching curve of the thing's back.
>Like cables. Like weaves of shadow.
>Like Alura's hair.
He gained an Eidolon?
We now have a Chalice Queen Player-Corrector?

>The Crux, blazing with gauss fire
Wait, didn't we have the Crux?
don't fucking tell me he teleported all the players down there and killed them just to make us angry.
>Wait, didn't we have the Crux?
No? The Crux and Kotone's cross are entirely different things (as far as we know).
I can't help but hear this as our final battle theme music.

The Simulation Bodies are the heart of it, of course. Perhaps they were made to be. The maidens of Seisin, arrayed at the heart of it; their inner workings exposed. Pistons and gears laid bare. Bodies fusing. Amputated limbs reattached in a sickening mockery of rom. A massive interconnected network of broken anatomy.

It is a horror show. A vast depravity. It is a machine built of corpses.

"Holy shit," Daegal whispers, dread in his voice. "-It's fucking *enormous*-"

You could walk around in it. Climb up its beams. Parade along boardwalks of mechanical form.

And there is Pazuzu. The architect of this travesty. Walking on air, his eye - His single eye, his *Nihl* Eye burning with sick unlight. When he gestures, the broken components - a vast jigsaw - move into new configurations, each piece folding upon itself, slotting into the whole.

Still alive. The Players at the heart of it all - They're *still alive*.

And it is almost completely. Horribly - most horribly of all - each piece has a place. Each *fits*, as if made for it. He could not have been working at this for more than hours, for longer than it took to harvest the Players of Seisin - the immensity of it is staggering. To form each perfect component, to fit each into place-

Haze can only stare.

Now that's what I call a pinata.
Pazuzu took the idea of a Lich-skeleton-computer and twisted it to a sickening degree. Jesus.
This isn't gonna be the cliche
>The only way to stop me is to blow up the hostages!
Is it?
To be completely honest, I wouldn't mind doing it since I'm pretty sure they're already fucked beyond saving.
no, Pazuzu will try to make it cliche, but twist it into a sadistic choice scenario with death as the outcome of both choices.
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So elaborate, this construction. The cohered flicker of ray-shields, to hold them in place. Vast girder-suspensors, to prop up the sheer bulk of it. It extends beyond this dimension, the Diadem's systems opening to receive them, to hold them in a stasis embrace - Frozen, inactive, beyond time.

"It's...It's too big." Haze's voice is a dull whisper. It's - this is...It's too much. All those *people*-"


His voice comes from everywhere and nowhere at once. It is not Pazuzu's voice:

It is the voice of Pazuzu as a god.

He has been waiting for you. His tall, spare frame is more drawn than ever. His cloak of blade clinks, as he moves.

He takes you in. He takes you all in.

His gaze rests on the Thief, for a moment - On the black blade he holds. The mechanisms of his other eye cycle and counter-cycle...

And then Pazuzu's true eye focuses on you, from across the vast distance.



[ ] Free

"you chose the wrong critic to ask for a review."
"Is this supposed to help you reach your Holy Land? I can't help but feel that your goal must be as twisted as your masterpiece."
"Is there anyone here who isn't a sadistic dumbfuck?"
>"All I see is a pile of misery and a wall of *dead* bodies that need to be laid to rest. Nothing special. If you're asking for a critic, here's my review: *shoot the machine*"
Nothing would get an artist riled up more than someone who takes a piss on his self-perceived magnum opus. And Pazuzu is asking to be looked as an artist. So lets humor him. After all we are a *Joker*
"Is there any self-awareness in you left at all, Naoya (or whatever his real name is). Regardless of the craftsmanship, on some level, you must be aware of what a tiresome cliche you've become."

> "Is this supposed to help you reach your Holy Land? I can't help but feel that your goal must be as twisted as your masterpiece."





> "Is there anyone here who isn't a sadistic dumbfuck?"



"It's..." Daegal takes a staggering step forward. His voice echoes into the void. "-It's sick. It's *vile*. Jesus - *This* is what you were making? This grotesque, disgusting *thing*? You made *people* into your pieces, and, and..."

His voice trails off. The scale of the obscencity dwarfs him.

Pazuzu's eye fixes upon him. That vile, toxic light beams forth.




Pazuzu lifts his hand up before his eyes. He makes a fist.

And then - In that sense-before-sense, the speeding blur of FOREBODE - you *feel*...

An immense danger. A primal terror. In not one, but in *two* places. One intimately close - One impossibly distant. Far away. Here, and *not* here at once, too close to pinpoint.

[ ] Free

well shit. Which sense of FORBODE do we focus on? This is such a sadistic choice. The close one would involve anon, the ragtag band we have here, but what about the one in the distance?
>An immense danger. A primal terror. In not one, but in *two* places. One intimately close - One impossibly distant. Far away. Here, and *not* here at once, too close to pinpoint.
Worst case?
He's using our internal Lachryma against us. Or Rook.

The distant thing might be something in the Real or Black.

If Forebode activates, it likely means that both are immediate dangers.

Use EXEC_REND? Give our allies Fortress Mode?
Focus on the one far away, let's see what awaits.
Tell everyone to get the fuck out of dodge over the Dirac channel.
Target the one furthest away, and see if Kazuya can get the one close to us with Ascalon.
Activate EXEC_BARRIER and OMEN and start moving. The intimate danger is likely from either Thief or Rook, so move away from them or get ready to parry.
>Naoya (or whatever his real name is)
Most assume it's Fuma Sawamura.
brace ourselves and wrest control of our internal Lachryma. Rook's more beast than man so we'll need to have Haze, Daegal, of Thief hold Rook down if the latter goes berserk from Pazuzu's Lachryma manipulation.

> "Scatter!"

OMEN leaps to your hand. The edge gleams with tachyon light, as the generator kicks to life with a snarl.

Daegal is startled into action, dragging Ascalon after him - He lurches to the side, the blade's point leaving a trail of sparks as it kicks up against the ground-

Haze, too. He knows the danger. He turns to Rook, first, even as he's forced into action-

But the thing that was Rook claws the ground and snarls, head twitching with idiot fury, aching to take wing and yet *resisting*, weirdly-jointed legs folding as red eyes burn with warping light, ready to spring at Pazuzu-

Not Rook.


Then *who*-?

The thought slides into your mind, like a cold spike of ice.

The Thief has not moved.

The world trembles. Power floods the Diadem. It leaps across the circuit of bodies, refracting space like a warping lens.

There is a sterile blue light.

Something pulses.

You can hear a deep, cosmic heartbeat. You can smell neurotoxin and molecular acid. You cannot see it, but he has a sense of something uncoiling, something vast, something unholy. Something as patient as death and lethal as hatred.

You can feel it unwrapping, expanding out of a pit that’s older than all the eons, moving up through the eternal darkness and towards the light.

Moving towards you.

And as space tears itself apart - Pazuzu brings it through.

>Pazuzu gets to summon shit
>we don't
Cheating cunt.
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The Thief rasps - hisses -


The flesh of his arm - His remaining arm, his right arm - ripples. It flows. The black filth that coats it shudders off in strands, tiny mouths opening, shrilling, as his knees buckle beneath him.

"No. No. *No*-"


Because you were looking at him.

Because you sensed the threat - Intuited it - you see it first.

The Dirac Channel crackles. You need to tell them. They need to know *what they're facing*.

There is a shape, before you. Smoke roils in the air, like the incense of damned souls, the triumphant thunderclap dying away at last.

It is black bone.

It is ash.

It is smiling, forever. The idiot grin only a skull can smile. Part amused, part clenched in pain, through scorched black teeth. Eyes, staring sockets of darkness, at once mournful and hating.

It towers above you. Eight feet tall. Still, like a carved gargoyle, a looming specter of death.

"Oh, dear God-"

Haze. Daegal? Does it matter?

"-I repent all earthly sins."

Black as night. Chased with steel, giving the darkness a regal outline, a shape. Polluting the world just by standing in it. A hunger - all-consuming, terrible - as it raises its head. There are shapes, moving within it - clinging to those hollow ribs. Tiny forms, shrilling out their agony; Souls, made of fire, lost in their misery.

One hand ends in bony talons.

The other - the horror's right arm - is missing. In it's place is a welter of gore, something slick and red and pulsating, like the shadow of a limb writ large in blood.

The *name* flickers onto your HUD, your targeting sensors keening. Too late, too late.

The name of ruin.

The name of the destroyer.

The name of the End.





(Gentlemen - This looks like an appropriate time to stop. My apologies - It's extremely late for me, but I have a full workday tomorrow.

Good night and God bless - You've been a wonderful audience, and I hope to see you again soon.

The next session will likely be our last one, so don't miss it.)
Jesus Motherfucking Christ. Is this game over?
It's not like we could have won anyway.

That's just not fucking fair.
I guess we should have noticed that Pazuzu didn't directly acknowledge Thief at all, and just threw him through the portal? I don't know, I think our only chance of stopping this passed a long time ago.
We need to instantly kill him somehow.

Fuck, we always knew that the sword was bad for him.

Fuck, I just noticed PAZUZU NEVER EVER MENTIONED THIEF. He never said ANYTHING about him in the group shots.

JQOP here: To clarify, Thief is still alive. He is in possession of the Fatal Abyss and Phantom Edge's right arm.

The rest of Phantom Edge has just arrived via portal. They are separate entities.
>He is in possession of the Fatal Abyss and Phantom Edge's right arm.
>The rest of Phantom Edge has just arrived via portal. They are separate entities.
Ok, that's moderately less terrifying.

I wish Bishamon was here to help us.

Also, that archive description is ace.

>"Oh, dear God-"

>Haze. Daegal? Does it matter?

>"-I repent all earthly sins."

Mind you clarifying who the fuck is saying those lines?
So I don't know, is his weak spot the open wound where his right arm should be?
Ah. That's considerably less pants-shittingly terrifying. Thief, Haze, and Rook vs Phantom Edge, and we go toe to toe with Pazuzu. We got thia.

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