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/qst/ - Quests

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You watch the country pass by outside your window as the sedan winds down the private road. It’s an overcast day, and the greenery that lines the road seems muted.

The sedan pulls up in front of a large gate. Beyond the gate, you spy a large mansion rising up on a hill. The gate opens, and the sedan passes through.

After driving up the road, the sedan pulls into a circle drive outside the main entrance. An attendant in a black suit is waiting, and opens your car door.

You step out, straightening your jacket. You take a moment to peer up at the mansion. Three stories of large windows stare back.

“This way Mr. Beckett,” The attendant days.

You follow him up to the front door, which is opened by another attendant. You pass into a massive foyer, with a winding staircase dominating one side. You continue to follow the attendant up the stairs to the next level.

After a long hallway lined with esteemed portraits and all manner of art, the attendant stops before a pair of massive wooden doors. He turns to you, clearing his throat.

“Master Woodley is distraught at the loss of his granddaughter. While you are in there, you will likely hear the hopes and exultations of a man in great grief. Humor him, Mr. Beckett,”

You nod, then wait as the attendant opens both doors. Once they are open, the attendant steps back and motions you through.

Inside is in ornate room. A large painting and four-poster bed dominates one end. There is little else, save a few upright chairs.

“Announcing Saul Beckett,” The attendant says.

A noise is heard from inside the awning of the four poster bed. A figure appears, emerging from the curtains.

It is a man. Mathew Woodley, the esteemed banking mogul.

“Are you Mr. Beckett,” The man’s voice says, carrying harshly across the marble of the bedroom. The attendant shuts the doors.

“I am,” You answer.

“Come closer,” Woodley says, scooting to the edge of the bed and resting his hands on his knees. You do so, coming to a stop before Mr. Woodley. “Hm, yes, you look a rough sort,” Woodley says, eying you up and down. “Military eh?”

“Two tours in Iraq sir,”

“Good. And now you putter around a lumber yard hm,”

You don’t answer. The old man is right. You were moving lumber up until the day you got the call from Woodley’s office.

“I have a job for you,” Woodley says, scratching at his chin. “I had my people vet a lot of candidates. You seemed to be the one who could help me,”

“I’m not a hit man,” You say, keeping your voice and demeanor even.

“No, but you have killed since being discharged, yes? That business outside the bar?” You stiffen. You can’t help it. Mr. Woodley smiles. “Yes yes, I know all about that. It’s what led my people to believe you might be the right man for the job,” Mr. Woodley slowly gets off the bed, putting a hand to one of the posters. “I don’t need a hit man,” He says, looking you in the eye. “I need a rescuer,”
“What do you mean,”

“I’m sure you did your own research before you came. My granddaughter is missing,”

You nod your head. You heard about it in the news. “An entire class of students disappeared,” You say. “They were on a fieldtrip, then gone.”

“Bah!” Woodley says, dismissing the notion with a wave. “Not gone, taken! And I know who took them too! It was one of the fucking kids in the class!” Mr. Woodley takes several steps towards you, gripping your shoulder. “I went to the site where they disappeared. The police had to let me through, I’m too important. And I saw what they wouldn’t see! I saw where the children went!”

Mr. Woodley has a wild look in his eyes. You resist the urge to break away from his grasp. “What do you think happened to the children?” You say.

“They’re in another world! Look, see!” Mr. Woodley thrusts out his arm. His sleeve falls away to reveal several fresh scars. “I got those when I stepped through! And here!” He pulls open his shirt to reveal a stab-wound. “A fiend gave me that!”

You glance at his arm, then his chest. Finally you nod. “What are you asking me to do,”

“Go to the site where they disappeared, get past those useless police and get back my granddaughter! Take all the weapons you can!”

You hold up your hands. “Alright, here’s the deal. I’ll go investigate the site where they disappeared. Five hundred dollars. If, and I mean if I find any other leads, we’ll talk more,”

Mr. Woodley stares at you. Finally he nods, an even smile breaking out on his face. “Yes,” He says, shaking your hand. “Yes, that will be a good start,”

An hour later the sedan is dropping you off at the house you share with your mother and younger brother. It doesn’t matter that you’re 31, there are few looking to hire a war-vet with no highschool diploma. So your mother’s house is currently your own. You do pay rent, after all.

You pass inside and head upstairs to your room. You didn’t see your mother or your brother, which means both must be out. That would be a problem, as you have a DUI right now and can’t drive.

Once in your room, you shut the door and change into some comfortable but practical clothing. You take a duffle bag from the closet, then several boxes. You open the boxes to reveal rope, medical supplies and MRE’s. There’s also a metal case with an ACR bushmaster carbine, SSG 69 and a berretta
You don’t believe in whatever fantasy bullshit Mr. Woodley is spouting. But the scars on his arm, and stab wound on his chest were real enough. Something has both fangs and a bladed weapon.

After putting the weapons and gear in your duffle bag, you shoulder it and walk down the stairs. You hear noise in the kitchen and hurry to it.

In your kitchen is a black teenage girl wearing one of the weird Japanese cartoon shirts your younger brother always wears. She looks up at you from where she was leaning into the fridge.

“Who the fuck are you,” You say, adjusting the duffle bag on your shoulder.

“I’m Sadie,” The girl says, straightening up from the fridge and giving you a glance. “You must be Saul. Eric told me all about you,”

“Okay Sadie,” You say. “What the fuck are you doing in my house?”

“You mean your mom’s house?” Sadie says, shutting the fridge door. “I don’t know if you heard, but me and your brother are dating,”

You don’t respond to this information. You don’t particularly care. “Where is Eric,” You say.

“He ran with your mom to go grab something from your grandmother’s,”

“When will they be back,” Sadie shrugs, sitting at the kitchen table with a yogurt pack. You look at her, narrowing your eyes. “Can you drive,”

Sadie looks up at you from her yogurt and phone. “What?”

“Can you drive,”


You nod, fishing out your wallet. “I’ll give you twenty bucks to drive me somewhere, I got a job I gotta take care of,”

Sadie looks at you, to her yogurt, then to the twenty you hold. Finally she pockets her phone and stands. “Sure,” She says.

Together you walk out to your beat up Toyota. You toss her the keys and get in the passenger seat, resting the duffle across your lap. Sadie opens the driver side and leans in.

“Oh my god,” She says, putting a hand to her nose. “You keep your car like this?”

“I can’t drive right now, so what’s the point of cleaning it, now get in,”

Sadie does. She starts the engine, pulling the car away from the curb. She drives you as you direct her to, past the various points in town that lead out of it.

“So,” You say after a particularly long stretch of awkward silence. “You and Eric are uh,”

“Dating,” Sadie finishes for you.

“Right,” You glance at her shirt. “I uh, didn’t know black girls,”

Sadie’s eyes shoot towards you, daring you to finish.

“Well you know, like that Japanese cartoon shit,” You say.

“Let’s just turn up the radio,” Sadie says, cranking the dial.

Finally, after twenty more minutes of driving, you direct her to stop on the side of the road.
“Oh my god,” Sadie says, looking around at the forest. “Are you going to kill me,”

“Keep the car running,” You say, getting out. You reach back in and grab your duffle. “I’ll be thirty minutes tops,”

“Okay, but I want twenty more dollars!”

“Deal,” You say, walking away.

You pass through the trees, finally reaching several trunks cordoned off with police tape. You swing under them. On the other side is a clearing with a cabin. You approach is carefully, taking the duffle from your shoulder and unzipping it. You take out the Beretta, placing the magazine inside.

The steps to the cabin porch creak as you step up onto them. You pause, then when nothing stirs, you move on. The door groans as you push it inward with the barrel of your gun.

Inside is dark, save for the lines of light passing through the cracks in the wood. You stand in the cabin, noting various areas police must have gathered. The inside looks very combed-over.


“AH!” You yell, swinging around and aiming your gun.

“EEK!” Sadie says, throwing up her hands.

“GIRL,” You say, gesturing wildly. “I could have KILLED you!”

“IS THAT A GUN?” Sadie says, keeping her hands in front of her face. “WHY?”

“Because there’s,” You stop, slowly lowering your hands. “You hear that?”

“Hear what?” Sadie says.

The world spins. The world blinks. The world turns dark. You feel your soul pass through your body, and then through all of creation. You are the stares and the wind and the drop of dew on a bird’s wing.

And then, just as suddenly, you are staring up at the sky.

Sky is the wrong word. The blue is too blue. You blink, sitting up and groaning. “Oh what the fuck,” You say, slowly rubbing your eyes.

You look around. Everything looks wrong. It’s so bright, yet detailed. The colors are unbelievable, but you can smell and hear sounds as they rush past you. You glance at your hands. They’re a different shade of color, but still recognizably yours.

“OH MY GOD!” A voice screams. You turn, spotting Sadie. At least, you think it’s Sadie. Her eyes are bigger, and her face a more concise shape. She jumps several times, a large smile on her face. “FUCK! She says. “I’M IN A GODDAMNED ANIME YES!” She suddenly stops, putting a hand to her face. “OH fuck but which one? What if this is Berserk?!”

You look around, taking in the country. In the distance you see what looks like a village. In the other direction, a school. In the final direction is a city. You pick up your duffle bag full of weapons.
>Head towards the village
>Head towards the school
>Head towards the city
Head towards the open fields.
>Head towards the village

You glance out at the fourth direction, the open fields. The stalks of grain bend in the wind. It looks real enough, and yet...
You find your phone. A quick check shows no signal .You turn to the village. Civilization is the way to go. You have to find a signal.

"Something's not right," You say, glancing at Sadie. "We need to head towards that village,"

"I can literally tell you what happened," Sadie says, crossing her arms. She uncrosses them briefly to circle her finger in the air. "See all this? This is japanese animation. Anime. We're in an anime,"

"We're in a chemical induced hallucination is what we're in," You say. You unzip your duffle, checking its contents. The guns still look functional enough. You look around for the beretta, finding it a ways off on the ground. You walk over to it, picking it up and holstering it under your jacket.

"Okay, but first we need to figure out what anime this is, then we know the rules," Sadie says, putting a finger to her chin.

"No," You say, walking towards the village. "First we find a doctor and a phone,"

Sadie watches you go, then lets out a yell of frustration and follows after. "You're not listening to me!" She says, catching up. "Pretty soon we're going to run smack dab into whatever passes for evil monsters in this place. We need to know what anime so we know what we're up against!"

"Girl," You say, truding onward. "I didn't eat and shit sand for six years to be told how to deal with danger. Now we probably stumbled on a gas leak or something, my dumb ass listened to that woodley prick and went right under the police tape. Now I know better,"

"But there's probably monsters!"

The pair of you crest a hill, and the village spreads out before you. The back half rises up on a far slope. The other half lies beneath you, spreading out in a cozy ring.

"Oh," Sadie says, putting a hand to her face. "This looks nice,"

"HALT," A voice says.

You turn. Standing a ways away from you and Sadie is a young man. He's very tall, with a smirk on his face and a strange bandana around his head.

"Who are you," The smirking man says. "And what brings you to Tahao Wind Village,"

"Okay," Sadie says, her brow furrowing. "This is kind of like Naruto maybe? Or like, a rip-off version,"

"Identify yourself!" The young man says, throwing out a finger towards your chest.

"You can call me Saul," You say. "And I'm looking for a phone and a doctor,"

"We have no phones here intruder, but let me test my kijitsu against yours, and you may speak with our doctor!"

You slowly tilt your head. "The fuck you going on about boy,"

Sadie sides up to you. "He wants to fight you," She says. "Like a friendly sparring match. He's probably got ninja powers,"

You turn to her. "And what exactly does "ninja powers" mean?"

"Who knows," Sadie says, giving a small shrug. "He can probably move really fast,"

You look from Sadie, back to the young man standing in front of you.
>Decline the duel
>Accept the duel, grapple hand to hand, maybe your knife if need be
>Accept the duel, immediately start shooting

>>Accept the duel, grapple hand to hand, maybe your knife if need be
Remember the basics of CQC.

You let your bag fall from your shoulder. It lands with a thump on the the ground. "Alright," You say, rolling up the sleeves of your jacket. "What are the rules of the fight,"

The young man puts his hands on his hips, standing proudly. "We shall do as they do in the annual Village Kijitsu Tournament!"

The young man stomps once, and a ring indents in the earth around your vantage point on the hill. The young man points to the ring.

"The first to push the other out of the ring, wins!"

"Oh," You say. "That's easy,"

"Well, we won't incorporate the dying part of it," The young man says, winking.

"What's your name anime person?" Sadie says, cupping a hand to her mouth.

"I'm glad you asked," The young man says, flashing a grin. "I'm Hisho Makasi, and I'm going to be the strongest Kijitsu master in the world!"

"Sure," You say, bringing your fists in front of your face. "Just let me know when the fight starts,"

Hisho winks. "Right now old man,"

The ground underneath Hisho seems to bend, then buckle. Hiso explodes at you, his smile seeming to stretch through the air. You only have a minute to react.

You shift sideways, trying to catch Hisho as he passes. The young man is too quick however, brushing past you and sending you into the ground.

Hisho abruptly stops at the boundary ring, then turns to you. "Not bad old man," He says, brushing at his shoulder. "you're quicker than you look!"

"That's my fucking line," You say, gritting your teeth as you get to your feet. You bring up your fists. "C'mon punk, I've played dodgeball before!"

The earth bends under Hisho again. You brace yourself, planting your feet and prepping your knee. Hisho explodes towards you, and you launch forward from the ground.

You manage to time it correctly, catching Hisho and kneeing him in the stomach. Hisho squeals, spitting out blood. You cry out too, your kneecap almost shattering.

The two of you land on the ground, both howling in pain. Hisho rolls off in one direction gripping his stomach, you roll off in the other gripping your knee.

"Oh christ," Sadie says, shaking her head. "This is pathetic,"

You grunt as you slowly get to your feet. You look around, spotting Hisho as he vomits in a bush.

"You!" You say, throwing out your hand towards Hisho. "No more ninja bullshit, take me to the doctor,"

Hisho holds out a finger, finishes vomiting, then straightens up. "I've never seen kijitsu like yours," He says, wiping his mouth. "You'll have to teach me your style, so that I may be the greatest,"

"It's called Krav Maga asshole, watch a youtube video. Now take me to the doctor,"

Hisho nods. "Yes, as I promised, we'll head to the doctor,"

Hisho straightens up, then leads you and Sadie down a path into the village. "So," Hisho says. "Which of the twelve villages do you hail from strangers?"

"I assume you mean east village," You say. "In which case, fuck you, you don't need to know where I live,"
Hisho laughs. "It's okay, I'll figure out which village soon enough. Your kijitsu is strange, but I'm sure it's just a village secret style!"

"Well?" Sadie says, siding up to you and grinning. "Now do you believe we're in an anime?"

"I told you, hallucination," You say, following Hisho. "I probably just fought a homeless guy outside a safeway,"

Sadie rolls her eyes. "You'll see soon enough, this is probably Baruto or some shit,"

"Hey Hisho, who's that!"

The villagers have gathered in the windows and doorways, watching as Hisho leads you two into the village. They call out to him, and he waves back. He stops in front of a large hut with strange objects hanging from its rafters.

"Well," He says, motioning at the hut. "Here we go, our doctor, as promised,"

At the moment, two things happen. The first is a song starts up in the distance. You recognize it, some sort of rock song. The other is a shape you catch in the corner of your eye.

It's a girl, hanging at the edge of the village. She looks strange like the other occupants of the hallucination, but she's wearing modern clothes. She disappears behind a hut.

>Go in and meet the doctor
>Follow the music
>Follow the girl
>Follow the girl

Looks like a lead and we're a professional. Job comes first.

Also OP couple things:

1. Good job on the writing
2. You might wanna fix that horrible formatting
3. You may want to use a trip
>Follow the girl
>Follow the girl

"C'mon," You say to Sadie, taking off after the girl.

"Wait, what?" Sadie says, jogging after you. "I'm sorry, don't we want to see the doctor?"

Instead of answering, you break into a sprint. You round the hut, coming to a treeline that stretches out to encompasse one side of the village.

The girl you spotted is disappearing into the trees. You hasten your running, your heart pounding in your chest.

"Wait up!" Sadie calls after you.

You enter into the trees, brushing past branches and foliage. Roots and earth rise up and cause you to stumble, but you press on.

You explode into a clearing, leaves flying out from your face. You land with a grunt on one knee, gasping for air.

"Shit," A voice says.

You look up. Before you is a girl, roughly Sadie's age. She wears a heavy red hoodie, and a massive sword on her back.

"Are you," You say, gasping for air. "One of the missing kids?"

"Shit," The girl says. "I'm sorry, we're not supposed to meet like this,"

You slowly get to your feet, brushing off the last of the branches and leaves. You crack your neck, then look at the girl. "I'm looking for missing children," You say. "I know there must be a gas leak or something, but we need to get you, and any of your classmates, out of here,"

The sound of rustling is heard from a bush, then Sadie bursts through into the clearing. "Agh!" She says, wiping away the branches. "Why didn't you wait for me!"

She looks from you, to the girl in the red hoodie. "Oh wow," Sadie says. "Nice sword! How do you even lift that thing?"

"What's your name," You say, beckoning for the girl you to focus on you.

"I'm so sorry," The girl says, putting both her hands to her face. "You're not supposed to see me yet. No one is. I'm the...sixth? No, fifth captain. And that means you have to, ohhhh, how did he describe it?"

"Probably fight our way through your squad first or something, right?" Sadie says, putting a hand to her hip.

"What's going on?" You say, taking a step forward. You slowly reach out a hand. "Is someone making you do something?"

The girl breaks into tears, nodding her head violently. "He's making us be in this world! We have to be his captains of squads, and do what he says! All he does is make these different...THINGS happen, and then, MORE cartoon things happen! Horrifying things! It's awful! And I have to say these stupid lines and....."

The girl stops talking. Her eyes grow wide.

"Oh no," She says, putting a trembling hand to her mouth. "He...he heard me,"

The girl disappears, as if ripped from the spot she stood. You can hear her crashing through the woods, breaking tree limbs as she flies.

>Head after her
>Go back towards the music
>Head back towards the doctor
>Head after her

You sprint after the girl, following the trail of debris left behind by her body. Sadie takes off after you.

"Man you gotta quit taking off like this!" Sadie says. "I don't do running!"

You leap an overturned log and keep running. The duffle is slung over your back and the beretta is in your hand. You come to a lake, its waters stretching out in a calm and clear sheen of blue.

Standing on the beach of the lake is a man in several bandages and bandanas. You can hardly see his eyes through his wrappings, though he also wears a vest adorned with knives.

Sadie catches up to you, coming to a stop behind you and catching her breath. "I was serious about the running," She says. "You gotta stop that," Sadie straightens up and squints at the man on the beach. She nods, pointing at him. "Okay, see that man there? He's definitely a ninja or some other badass. You can tell cause his face is covered and he has a lot of knives. Also he has long, messy hair. That has badass all over it,"

"Yeah," You say, eyeing the man on the beach. "He look like he's gonna be a real piece of work," You cup your hand to your mouth. "Where's the girl in the red hoodie?"

"If you're talking about Captain Chitsu of the 5th Ruby Squad," the man says, shifting his stance. "Than you have a long ways to go before you even get to look at her,"

"Okay asshole," You say. "I'll bite, who are you?"

"Second Rank Ruby Squad, Marlow Lionsworth," The man says, shifting his stance again.

"Good grief," You say, checking the magazine in your beretta.

"You should be careful Saul," Sadie says, peering at the man from behind you. "He said second rank. I don't really know the rating system of this anime, but that's probably something,"

"So what's the deal," You say, meeting Marlow's gaze. "We gonna fight or something? Grapple like the other guy?"

"Oh no friend," Marlow says, smiling. "I'm going to kill you,"

>Beretta and knife, shoot till you get close then CQC
>Bushmaster carbine, take him down from range
>Pure Beretta, take him down with sure shots from the handgun
>Pure Beretta, take him down with sure shots from the handgun
Its already in our hand, taking out the carbine might just take too long.
Although I have no experience whatsoever with guns so a murrifag might wanna chime in here.
>>Pure Beretta, take him down with sure shots from the handgun
Head after her
Ignore this. I dun goofed
Pure beretta
Beretta. You're already holding it and why bother getting closer to knife nut over there.
Beretta and knife.
>pure barreta
If hes already assuming hallucination, i wonder if hed handle shadowclone bullshit.

You bring up your beretta, but the space Marlow occupied is already empty. You catch movement from the corner of your eye and swing the pistol around, firing once. The sound echoes through the woods, sending birds up from the trees.

Marlow abruptly stops, looking at you quizzically. "An X-User? Outside the school zone?"

"I don't know any of those words," You say, leveling your pistol at him. "But I'm going to give you a chance to stand down now. You're fast, but you aren't faster than the firing pin of my weapon,"

"We'll see about that," Marlow says, a wild grin spreading on his face.

"Don't do it asshole! I'm serious!"

Marlow draws two blades and explodes towards you. You let out your breath as you squeeze the trigger. Marlow spasms violently as you hit him. He hits the ground, sliding to a stop before you.

"Oh my god," Sadie says, putting her hands to her mouth. "I don't think I've ever seen an anime character just, shot like that,"

You turn to her, but before you can answer, a shape hits you from the side. You fly across the clearing, impacting against a tree and rolling off. "Fuck!" You say, coughing and gripping your ribs.

You look up and see a man standing in the middle of the clearing. He's tall, and broad. He wears strange armor buckled together by chains. Your eyes go to the ground a ways off, where your beretta lies. Your bag of gear and rifles lays near Sadie.

"Alright," You say, bracing yourself against the trunk as you stand. "Who the fuck are you,"

"Pega Maum," The man says, his voice echoing around the clearing. "First Rank Ruby Squad,"

"Oh good," You say, straightening your jacket. "Sorry about your gang member, but he came at me with a knife. Can you tell me where the girl with the red hoodie is?"

The tall man simply smirks.

"Saul!" Sadie calls. "I don't have to tell you this, but this guy is bad news! He's got badass character design all over him!"

"That doesn't mean anything!" You say, drawing your knife from your belt.

The tall man, Pega, waves his hand through the air. Earth shoots from the ground, singing towards you in clumps.

"Shit shit shit!" You say, shielding your face. The earth slams into you, sending you skidding across the ground. You lose your grip on your knife as you tumble to a stop before a stump.

The man, Pega, walks over to you, looming over your form.

"C'mon man," You say, taking deep breaths through the pain. "Let's talk this out,"

Pega raises his foot, preparing to stomp your face into the ground. A sudden sound starts up, then Pega grunts.

Pega grunts three more times, then his head seems to twist sideways. The rest of his body follows as Pega spins violently in the air. Hoshi appears above him, kicking him hard enough to send Pega flying into a trunk. The trunk splits.

"Hoshi!" Sadie says, jumping up and down and clapping. "You rescued him!"
Hoshi lands on the ground, throwing a thumbs up and grinning. "Of course I did! You guys looked like you needed help!"

Hoshi's face scrunches as three rods of dirt drill him in the cheek. Hoshi's body flies like a snapped rubber band into the closest tree.

"HOSHI!" Sadie screams.

"Well fuck girl," You say, getting on your hands and knees. "You didn't scream that loud when I was getting fucked up," You glance around the clearing.

The nearest to you is the knife, to your left. The the right, a little farther away, is the beretta. The farthest object, but still maybe attainable, is the bag with the bushmaster and the SSG in it

>Go for the knife (closest)
>Go for the beretta (fairly close)
>Go for the gear bag (you'll have to make a break for it)
>Go for the beretta (fairly close)
Fuck getting close to that guy

You scramble forward towards the beretta. Time seems to slow. Each step you press into the earth moves you closer. Pega slowly turns to you, his eyes zeroing in. Your hand reaches through the air as you dive forward. Pega raises his hand, the earth trembling around him. You land on the dirt, your fingers curling around the handle of your gun. You slowly bring it up as Pega points his hand towards you. Earth rises up, forming into spikes and rupturing towards you. The iron sights of your pistol line up with Pega's head.

You squeeze the trigger.

The dirt hits your shoulder, knocking you back and sending you spinning on the ground. You feel one of the dirt pieces start to impale you, but it suddenly loses its shapes and crumples to dust.

You steady yourself and prop yourself up. Looking around, you see Pega lying faceup. A red hole sits squarely in his forehead.

"Saul!" Sadie says, coming over to you. She drops to her knees as she tries to check you over.

"Alright alright," You say, brushing her away. "I'm fine,"

"You're really good with a gun," Sadie says, resting back on her feet as she watches you.

"Yeah," You say, getting to your feet. "Not a lotta friends means I spend my time at the range,"

"That's sad," Sadie says, getting to her feet. "You're a sad person," She suddenly remembers Hoshi and turns. "Oh shit!" She says, running over to him. "Are you okay naruto guy?"

You can't help but walk over too. The moves Hoshi was using was something different than he'd used back when he sparred with you. That peaks your curiosity, as far as a hallucination goes.

Hoshi is slowly getting to his feet. Despite his heavy injuries, he wears a happy-go lucky grin on his face. "Now that was a fight!" He says, adjusting his bandana on his head. "I didn't know you were an X-user!"

"Yeah yeah," You say, holding out your hand. "Thanks for the assist,"

Hoshi shakes it once, then you hear a noise. It's singing, drifting in from beyond the trees.

"That sounds like," Sadie says, narrowing her eyes. "Bruno Mars? I think that's a Bruno Mars song,"

"That's the girl in the red hoodie I bet," You say, reloading your beretta by your gear bag. You sigh as you slide the magazine in. You only have one more for the beretta after this. Next you walk over to where the knife lays and pick it up. You pocket it, then sling your bag over your shoulder. "Let's go Sadie,"

"Allow me to come!" Hoshi says, throwing a thumb at himself. "I've long wished to test my jititsu against one of the legendary squads!"

"I don't know man," You say, looking him up and down.

"Saul," Sadie hisses. "A moment please?"

You let her lead you to the side, where she comes around in front of you and lowers her voice. "Look man," She says. "That guy over there is probably a main character or something, or at the very least a pretty skilled ninja,"

"Yeah?" You say. "Or he's a homeless man who wandered into the gas leak with us,"
"Christ man!" Sadie says, gripping your shoulders and trying to shake you. You're a little too big for it to work. "When are you going to understand we're not hallucinating!" Sadie reaches up and grabs a branch, dragging it down in front of your face. "You see this??" She says, pointing at the leaves. "You see this texture? This detail! This is as real as it gets!"

"Fine fine," You say, brushing the branch away. "We'll take the ninja,"

"Yes!" Sadie says, clapping. She turns to Hoshi. "Welcome to the team!"

"I'll do my best!" Hoshi says, putting his hands to his hips.

"Let's go," You say, motioning the other two to follow you through the woods. The three of you step over logs and push past brush as you follow the singing. It grows louder and louder, until you come to a small pond that must feed the lake. A quaint waterfall falls from a rocky ledge into the pond.

Sitting in a boat, floating in the middle of the pond, is the girl in the red hoodie. She's singing to herself in the boat, which is not moving despite the powerful force of the waterfall behind her. Her singing dies out as she sees the three of you emerge from the clearing.

Slowly, the girl stands from the boat, then steps out into the water. She does not sink, instead resting on the surface. She takes another step towards you, then another. Each step sends a small series of circles out into the water.

You, Sadie and Hisho stop on the edge of the pond. The girl in the red hoodie stops a ways off as well, watching you.

"What's your name?" You call across the pond.

"I'm Rachel," The girl calls back. She seems as sad as when you first met her. "I'm sorry, I'm supposed to say Squad Captain Yoki of....Ruby Squad?" The girl sniffs as she takes the sword off her back. A sword that is far too large for her to normally carry. "I'm so sorry, we have to fight now,"

"Just tell me!" You shout. "You're one of the missing kids, right?"

Rachel nods as she lifts her red hood over her head. "I'm sorry," She says, leveling her sword at you.

"Fuck," You say, almost under your breath. "We can't hurt her,"

"She's obviously being controlled," Sadie says. "If that wasn't obvious. You need to figure out how to break her free,"

"Yes thank you," You say, teeth gritted. "She's clearly being coerced,"

"No no no," Sadie says, turning to you and giving you a light tap on the arm. "When are you going to start listening? No one is "coercing her" It's mind control dude, now figure out what's controlling her,"

>Send in Hisho to distract her, try and grapple her to the ground
>Go in and try and grapple her, let Hisho do as he pleases
Can we, like, not play as a retard? You're stretching it pretty thin with hallucinations and gas leak.
We better start believing magic stories
>>Go in and try and grapple her, let Hisho do as he pleases
I am assuming that the sword is anime giant, wider than the poor girl's torso.
>Shoot the sword. Either it breaks, or the sheer stopping power will weaken her for Hisho to grapple.

Rachel leaps across the water, increasing in speed until she's in front of you in the blink of an eye. You react quickly, trying to dodge, but Rachel is already bringing her massive, person-sized sword around.

Hoshi knocks you out of the way, catching Rachel's blade in-between his palms. "You'll find my kijitsu is powerful enough to protect those I love," Hoshi says.

"Oh my god," Rachel says. "I'm so sorry," She twists the blade, then uses it smash Hoshi like a baseball bat. Hoshi goes flying.

You scramble to your feet, tackling Rachel and trying to send her to the ground. Your eyes bulge in surprise as you almost dislocate your shoulder. Rachel is far heavier and denser than a girl her size should be.

"Fuck I'm sorry," Rachel says, swinging the sword again. She twists the handle so the sword's edges slice towards you.

For some reason, your instinct is to shoot the sword. Two things happen. The first is the top half of your beretta get's cleaved off. The second is that the sword jerks from Rachel's grip.

A scream fills the air. The sword twirls, embedding in the sand around the pond. Rachel grips her head, falling to her knees.

"Oh I get it," Sadie says. She points you to the sword. "Saul! It's the fucking sword! That's what's controlling her! Shoot it again!"

You wave your sliced beretta at her. "Toss me any of the rifles in the bag!" You shout back.

The sword trembles in the sand. It suddenly falls over, then starts to slide across the sand towards Rachel. It spins, heading towards her hilt first.

Rachel sees the sword approaching and screams. "Don't let it touch me!"

You toss the beretta aside and look up just as Sadie throws the SSG. You only have a moment.

You catch the gun, bringing back the hammer as you spin, then take aim and fire three times.

The sound of bullets hitting a sword is jarring, but you hear it three times. The sword cracks, then the loudest sound you've ever heard tears through the pond area.

You, Sadie and Rachel all fall to their knees. The sound finally dies down.

You're the first up, gripping the side of your head. You walk over and help up Sadie, then the two of you approach Rachel.

"Hey," Sadie says, kneeling down by Rachel. "You okay?"

Rachel looks over to the sword, then slowly nods. "Y-yes, thanks, for breaking that stupid thing,"

"No problem," You say. "Can you tell me what happened, and where the other kids are?"

"I'll tell you what fucking happened," Rachel says, sniffing. "Fucking Liam in our class somehow trapped us in one of his goddammed cartoons!"

Sadie straightens up, spins on you, and points in her finger in your face. "HA. FUCK YOU.," She turns away from you. "Told you it was an anime,"

"How," You say, staring at Rachel hard. "How the fuck could he do something like that,"

Rachel just shakes her head. "I don't know, but he has something powerful. A voice that can make things happen. I hear it sometimes, when I try and sleep,"
Hoshi appears behind you, scratching his head. "Oh nice," He says. "We got her! What are the nefarious Ruby Squad's plans for the Village?"

"Shut up," You say, scratching your chin. "I've got to think." You turn to Rachel. "Where are the other kids, and the Liam asshole you spoke of?"

Rachel wipes away one of her tears, then accepts a klenex from Sadie.

"Um," Rachel says. "They're everwhere I guess. The school, the city, and then the castle is probably where Liam is. But you'll never get to him. Not without an army or something,"

>Head to the village
>Head to the school
>Head to the city
>Head to Liams home

He will never expect us there.
Head to the village. You've got multiple fractures.

If this is some Narnia bullshit, how did Woodley get back to Earth?
>>Head to the city
>>Head to the village

"We should head to the city," You say, glancing at the split remains of your beretta. You turn to
Rachel. "This city, have you seen it?"

Rachel seems unsure of herself. "Well, yes, in passing,"

"And did it look modern?"

"Yeah, there were skyscrapers and stuff,"

"Good, that hopefully means more weapons," You say. You take your bag and slip the broken pistol inside. You take out the ACR instead, slipping it over your shoulder with the bag.

"Who are you?" Rachel says, glancing you and the gun up and down.

"I've been hired to find Mr. Woodley's granddaughter," You say. "Well, sort of. We're going to have to renegotiate rates when we get back,"

"Oh," Rachel says, crossing her arms and looking away. "Maddie. Yeah, she'll be fun to rescue I'm sure,"

"Do you know where she is?"

Rachel shrugs. "No, but I'm sure Liam's got her dressed up in something ridiculous doing something with these stupid squads of his,"

"We'll head to the city then," You say.

"Um, perhaps we could stop by my village first," Hisho says. "There's food, and you look pretty beaten up,"

Sadie nods. "Yeah, I'd have to agree Saul-man, you look like a train wreck and I kind of want to grab something to eat. You interrupted by yogurt cup,"

"Fine, village first, then city,"

"Um," Rachel says, clutching at the hem of her red hoodie. "I can come too, right?"

"Of course!" Sadie says, flashing her a smile. "You're part of our team now!"

"There is no team," You say, taking off into the woods. "Just a pissed off guy and two highschoolers,"

"And don't forget Hisho!" Hisho says, jogging after. "Soon to be the greatest Kijitsu master of the world!"

It takes a bit of traveling, but all of you eventually make it to the village. The villagers, men, women and children, gather around as you enter.

"We heard fighting!" A child exclaims.

"Is everything alright?" An older man says, coming up to Hisho.

"The dreaded Ruby Squad was operating in the woods," Hoshi announces to the crowd of villagers. "But thanks to me and my new friends, we've defeated them!"

The villagers cheer. You grunt, gripping your ribs. Sadie notices.

"Um," She says, tugging on Hoshi's sleeve. "Can we see that doctor real quick?"

Hoshi nods, then waves to the crowd. "I'll tell you all about it, but first I've got to take my new friend to the doctor!"

Rachel, Sadie, Hoshi and yourself all walk aways to the hut you stopped in front of when you first visited. Hoshi motions inside. "I'd just go in yourself, Elma can be finicky about too many people in her hut,"

You look at Sadie and Rachel. "You girls gonna be okay while I get myself wrapped up?"

Sadie nods. "Oh yeah man, don't worry about us," She throws an arm around Rachel. "We'll be okay,"

Rachel gives Sadie a sidewise glance that implies she knows nothing about the girl. You turn away and walk into the hut.
Inside there are branches and holly hanging from the rafters. A bubbling pot occupies a hearth at the far end. An old woman sits hunched over a table, intertwining reeds together into a pattern.

"Hmph," She says without turning. "Who are you,"

"Saul Beckett," You say, stopping a respectful distance from the woman. "I was hoping to have some injuries looked at,"

"Hmm, Hoshi sent you, didn't he," You nod. "Yes," The woman says, turning to you. "Only that fool boy would be bold enough to send someone to me without an appointment,"

The old woman stands, walking over to you. She looks you up and down. "Alright then, have a seat, I'll get to work on those bruises and fractures,"

You sit in silence on a stool and the woman putters around you. She strips your shirt, then applies a balm and several other ointments.

"So," You say as the woman begin brushing another paste on your skin. You're not sure how to continue. You want to ask if she realizes she's a cartoon.

"spit it out boy,"

"Well," You say, shifting on the stool. "How long has this village been around?"

"Since the time of my grandmother's grandmother's grandmother," The old woman says. She takes out gauze and begins to wrap your shoulder. "And probably before even that,"

You give up trying to inquire more. You're just going to get more fantasy bullshit.

Rachel bursts into the hut. "Mister!" She says, gripping the entrance.

"Show some respect missy!" The old woman says, putting her hands to her hips.

"It's the Sadie girl!" Rachel says. "They're doing some weird ass ritual! and she's a part of it!"

"Fuck," You say, rising from the stool. You turn to the woman. "What do you know about this?"

"Oh she's just talking about the Acolyte ceremony," The woman, putting away her balms and ointments. "To determine who will be the village Acolyte and go out into the world to represent us,"

"Oh fucking hell," You say, rushing out of the hut and following Rachel.

The two of you run to the center of the village, where all the villagers have gathered. Sadie stands on a make-shift stage, together with an old man and Hoshi. Hoshi looks crestfallen, but is doing his best to look happy. Sadie just looks bemused.

She spots you and Rachel, and waves. "Saul!" She says, cupping her mouth to call to you. "You'll never guess what happened!"

"No," You say, shoving through the crowd to reach her. "But you better explain it,"

Sadie jumps off the stage and approaches you. You emerge from the crowd and stop before her. "I just got named the Tahao Village Acolyte! That means I get to choose a kijitsu master medallion and probably gain anime powers!"

You look quizzically at Sadie, then at Hoshi. "She serious?" You say to Hoshi while pointing at Sadie.

Hoshi raises his chin. "Yes, she is the Acolyte. I had hoped it would be me, but I cannot argue with the elder spirits,"
"Shit though," Sadie says, putting her hands to her head. "I've always wanted this, but now that I have it, I don't know which medallion to pick!" She turns to you. "Your an army guy right? What kind of powers should I choose?"

You glance at a table where the medallions are laid out. It's not hard to figure out which medallion does what. There's clearly a fire-looking one, as well as what is probably something to do with water. There's also a black medallion, and a silver one

>Tell her to choose the red one
>Tell her to choose the blue one
>Tell her to choose the black one
>Tell her to choose the silver one
thanks for playing everyone, updates later after a busy day
"I dont give a fuck."
>Tell her to choose the silver one
Silver tarnishes, so it’s like a two for one! Worth more too, probably...
>Tell her to choose the blue one
pls be healing
This is the only correct answers
Gotta say i loved this quest the main character is just the right amount of funny and angry and the setting is interesting.
My only sugestion is that you would use internet images and pictures to give better context of the surroundings or characters
This is what Saul would say.
I want this to be a quest where we roleplay instead of munchkin.
Supporting >>2468444

"I don't give a fuck," You say, looking back at Sadie. "Just pick one and let's get going,"

"Ugh fine," Sadie says, turning to the table. "Your brother would appreciate this at least," She walks up to the table, perusing the medallions. The villagers wait with bated breath. Sadie turns to the old man on the stage. "I only get one, right? Because I can see the benefits of both the blue and the silver,"

The old man on the stage quickly consults with a few other villagers, than turns back to Sadie and holds up a finger.

"Dammit," Sadie says, turning back to the table. "Well, I like this silver one, but the way things are going I'm going to have to take a chance on blue and hope it's healing,"

You and Rachel watch as Sadie make up her mind. Both of you and the girl in the red hoodie seem uneasy. "Why don't you hurry up and pick one," You say.

"Blue it is!" Sadie says, holding up the medallion. The villagers cheer. Sadie turns slowly, showing off her choice, then puts it around her neck. "Huh," She says, inspecting the medal on her chest. "I don't feel different,"

"Don't worry Acolyte," Hoshi says, hopping of the stage. "Give me a couple weeks, and i'll have you become the best kijitsu master in the twelve villages!"

"That sounds nice," You say, collecting your duffle bag from Rachel. "But we're leaving, now. If you can just point us to the easiest path to the city, that'd be swell,"

Hoshi looks pained, but the expression quickly passes. "Ahh, yeah, I understand,"

Sadie comes over to you and Rachel, proudly displaying her blue medal. "I bet I can do all sorts of ninja stuff now, I can't wait till we find someone else to fight,"

"Simmer down," You say, holding up a hand. "I need to lay down some ground rules. We're getting as many of the kids as quickly as possible, with as little fighting as possible. Then we're getting the hell out of here. I want this to be easy, painless and quick,"

"Christ," Sadie says, looking at you with a raised eyebrow. "You really haven't watched any anime, have you?"

"Uhh," Hoshi says, taking a step forward and scratching the back of his neck. "I know you guys have some grand adventure planned, and well, I was thinking maybe I could come along and help you guys out?"

"Yes," Sadie says.

"No," You say at the same time. Sadie spins on you and give you a "wtf" expression.

"Dude," Sadie says. "Naruto just offered to join our party. I know you haven't played a lot of jjrpgs, but you never deny a new party member,"

You turn on Sadie, anger rising quickly. It disappears as quickly as it came, and you take some deep breaths. "Sadie," You say. "I really need you to take this a little more seriously,"

"Right back at you!" Sadie says. "Why on earth wouldn't we want him with us?"

"Because!" You say, gesturing fruitlessly at Hisho. "Because it's ridiculous! We need to get away from this cartoon shit, not collect more of it!"
"You better start accepting "cartoon shit" asshole!" Sadie shoots back. "Because whether you like it or not, we're in one!"

You and Sadie square off, staring at each other. The villagers all watch, wide-eyed, as does Hoshi.

"For what it's worth," Rachel says, speaking up and drawing both you and Sadie's gaze. Rachel clearly doesn't like the sudden attention, and pulls her hood down farther. "I think we should bring him. Liam's got, a lot of crazy stuff. I saw people with strange swords, and a giant robot or two,"

"Oh fuck yes mecha," Sadie says. "I hope it's gundam or something,"

You put a hand to your head, then finally your shoulders sag. "Fine, he can come with us to the city,"

"Yes!" Sadie says.

"Yes!" Hoshi says, high-fiving Sadie. He turns back to you. "Since you're going to the city, I should probably let you know it's a week by foot,"

"Fuck," You say.

"Buuuttttt," Hoshi says, holding up a finger. "Our village just happens to be known for raising the best rooster dragons around! C'mon, follow me to the pens!"

You look at Sadie. "The fuck is a rooster dragon?"

Sadie just smiles, following Hisho. "C'mon genius, take a guess, it's in the name,"

Sadie, you and Rachel follow Hoshi to the edge of the village. There, several large pens have been set up. Within the pens are what you can only describe as wingless dragons. They look the size of horses, with two large, powerful hind legs.

"Well I'll be damned," You say, coming up to the fence and gazing at the creatures. "Those are actual fucking dragons,"

"Oh damn this is cool," Sadie says, standing up on the fence to get a better view. Even Rachel joins her, peering through the posts.

"Here's the thing about Rooster Dragons," Hoshi says, saddling the fence. "You gotta pick one, pursue it, and hope it bonds with you. Cause otherwise," Hoshi mimes claws on his face. Sadie and Rachel seem to stiffen.

"Who wants to try first?" Hoshi says, looking at the three of you. The girls step away from the fence. You roll your eyes.

"I'll go," You say. Hoshi beckons at the corral, and you step up onto the fence to gaze at the dragons. Three catch your eye, and Hoshi notices.

"Ahh, let me tell you about them," Hoshi says. He points at the red one, the first one you noticed. "That there is Anga. She's reliable, hardy, and is probably the only rooster dragon I've ever seen that can breath fire. It's uncanny," Hoshi moves his finger to a green dragon, who seems to be sticking to the edge of the corral. "That one there is Benny. Benny's skittish, on account of being a work-dragon in the mines before they collapsed. But let me tell you, he was wasted hauling coal, cause Benny here's the fastest rooster-dragon in the twelve villages." Hoshi moves his finger to the last rooster dragon, a big black one. "That one there is Tuk. He's a fucking bastard, tough as nails, and will eat you alive. Approach at your own risk,"

>Approach Anga
>Approach Benny
>Approach Tuk
>Approach Tuk
>Approach Anga
Tuk could probably take recoil better, but be just as likely to kick us off the saddle. Hopefully we can train Anga to keep a steady gait while we fire full auto
Benny sounds fast and easy to handle.

Dammit, why didnt the old guy tell us how to get back. Fuck this cartoon garbage.

((This becoming a regular isekai except the protag has a shitty attitude. We're still hitting all the tropes.))

((How certain are we that Hoshi here isn't Liam in disguise?))
That's rather unlikely, since he didn't try to stop us from chasing Rachel
Come here tuk
>>Approach Tuk
Go for the nigger dragon

"Alright," You say, letting yourself over the fence. You land with a cloud of dust inside the corral. The Rooster Dragons notice you, some clawing at the ground, others making a strange, hollow barking noise.

You take a step forward, and the Rooster Dragons part. Tuk, the big black one, stays where he was standing.

You take another step, and Tuk's eyes slowly move towards you. "Hey there buddy," You say, your voice low and calm. "I was told you were a right bastard. Well, guess what, so am I,"

You take another step. If a Rooster Dragon was anything like a horse, you were now in range of dangerous kicking and biting. You stop, straightening up and staring at Tuk. Tuk turns fully to you, staring down at you.

The Rooster Dragon's scales are scarred, and worn. A jagged scar crosses over one eye. Tuk is slightly larger than a horse, especially in the neck area. His claws and fangs gleam in the sunlight.

"Hey," You say, still softly. Your eyes move over his scars. "You look like you seen some shit. I got scars to, but you can't really see them. I don't know what kind of fantasy nonsense that fucking highschooler put in your head, but if you're anything like me, you just want a good place to lay your head and a fucking good meal,"

Tuk snorts, clawing violently at the ground. You don't move as dirt sprays your clothes and face. Tuk bends its head down, raises it back up, and lets out a chilling growl.

You let him finish. He brings his head back down, close to yours. You feel the wind from his nostrils as he smells you.

"I hear that horses can take the measure of a man," You say, opening up your arms and barring your chest. "Well here I am Tuk, take a look, get a smell."

Tuk sniffs once more at you, spits on you, then takes off around the corral.

"ITS A CHASE!" Hoshi yells from the fence. "AFTER HIM, YOU GOTTA CATCH HIM!"

You take off sprinting around the corral after Tuk. The other Rooster Dragons cry out and claw at the ground. Tuk is fast, spinning and changing directions whenever you get too close.

"GO SAUL GO!" Sadie yells from the fence, hanging on top of it as she pumps her fist in the air. Even Rachel is standing on the fence next to her, watching wide-eyed.

Tuk uses a claw to rebound off a fence post and almost barrels you over as he zips by you. You watch him go, abruptly turning and taking off after him. You're starting to notice a pattern in the way Tuk moves.

The giant black Rooster Dragon reaches the other end of the corral and rebounds off the post again. You narrow your eyes and slow, prepping your body.

Tuk runs past you, and you lurch in his direction. The black Rooster Dragon reaches the fence post and extends a claw to rebound off it again. You throw out your hands as the dragon does so.

Tuk rebounds of the post, and you grasp onto his neck. The Rooster Dragon calls out to the sky, then starts bucking.
A cockfight, only the cocks are as big as horses.
"HOLD ON SAUL!" Sadie says, cheering loudly.

"HOLD FOR YOUR LIFE!" Hoshi adds.

You do, gripping Tuk's neck with all your might. Finally the Rooster Dragon slows, then stops. It starts to do slow circles around the corral while you cling on, snorting through its nostrils.

"Well that's something," Hoshi says, adjusting his bandana as he watches. "Didn't think anyone would ever tame Tuk,"

"It's anime," Sadie says, watching you settle on the dragon rooster. "Of course the MC is going to get the good one,"

"The what now?" Hisho says.

"Girls," You call from Tuk, brushing his neck. "Go ahead and get yourselves one, we gotta move," You turn to Hoshi. "I assume you already have one of these?"

Hoshi nods, then whistles. A shape casts a shadow from above, then a large Rooster Dragon lands, pumping it wings wildly.

"I didn't know they could fly!" Sadie says, watching Hoshi's Rooster Dragon.

"Well, mine can," Hoshi says, grinning.

An hour later, and some rather troubling attempts at taming, Sadie, you and Rachel all have Rooster Dragons. The three of you perch atop them.

You've grown comfortable with Tuk, at least a bit. He keeps trying to bite you, and any time you dismount the black Rooster Dragon will spit on you. But as far as you're concerned, it's good enough.

Hoshi sits atop his rooster dragon, facing you and the girls. He's saying goodbye to a host of villagers as they gather around his dragon.

"And you little missy," A village elder comes up to Sadie. "Don't forget, as our Alcoylyte, it is up to you to represent us in the world, doing good for our village, and bringing us back hope and prosperity,"

"I was actually hoping for more of a tournament arc," Sadie says to the elder. "Or maybe a yuri highschool romance,"

"I-I'm sorry, I don't know what that means,"

"Girls," You call from Tuk. "Let's go,"

Hoshi finishes his goodbyes, then the four of you take off on your rooster dragons. The creatures are indeed fast, taking you along a path towards the city.

"Hey," Sadie says, riding next to you and Rachel. "We're kind of like cowboys right now, huh?"

"Not really," You say, swaying in your saddle.

"Oh come on, you've got a rifle slung cross your shoulders, that's totally a cowboy thing!"

"Yeah," Rachel says, glancing over at you. "My dad loves those types of movies, you look like the stuff he's into,"

You look at yourself. You're still wearing the comfortable but functional gear you brought.

"I knew you'd see it," Sadie says, flashing a smile at Rachel. "Here, check this out, I've got the perfect song saved on my phone,"


Sadie starts to play the song and you groan. The rooster Dragons run on, sending up dust in their wake. "C'mon," You say. "We need to take this seriously,"

Rachel and Sadie can't stop laughing as the music plays from Sadie's phone.

"Oh my god!" Rachel says. "He does just look like a cowboy!"
"Whatever," You say, shifting in your saddle. "Me and Tuk don't have to take this shit,"

You and your Rooster Dragon head further up, siding up next to Hoshi. "So," You say, readjusting the reigns. "You said a week on foot, how long now?"

Hoshi looks around country side, seemingly enjoying himself very much. "Eh, couple days? We're about to come across the next of the villages, Malo Water Village. In fact, it's just over that hill!"

You look up at the hill, then your eyes narrow. You see smoke rising above it. You glance at Hoshi, but he doesn't seem to notice.

The four of you crest the hill, and Malo village stretches out before you.

The edges of the village are on fire, their huts crackling with flames. In the center are all the villagers, gathered in a tight circle. Around them are strange looking men and women, with strange looking weapons.

"What the fuck is this?" You say, glancing down at the scene.

"Thats," Rachel says, gripping at her hoody. "That's one of the squads. Like mine."

"You mean there's a highschooler down there leading them?"

"Maybe?" Rachel says. "I'm not sure, I don't think all the squads were led by actual people. There's a lot of squads, and I've only seen ten of my classmates,"

"What do we do?" Sadie says, looking down at them. "It's clearly not a good situation for the villagers."

>Ride down on Dragonback like heroes into the village
>Sneak into the village
>Go around the village, you don't have time
Sneak in. If there's a kid in there we might want to take care of that now, so let's grab a rifle and search for the most important looking bad guy there.
>Sneak into the village
File: say.jpg (21 KB, 897x355)
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look for a new quest to follow and stumble upon this with lots of text, so I scroll over the responses and see someone praise the writing


>go around, don't waste time

"We'll sneak around," You say, surveying the scene. You know a bad situation when you see one.

"What?" Sadie says, turning in her saddle towards you. "C'mon man, we gotta go down there and save them,"

You want to snap at her, but your focus is on the people moving around the village. You speak, but don't turn to the girl. "You haven't been fighting like I have. Every hit I've taken, every place I've been thrown to, I feel it. You saw me shoot and kill someone. Doesn't matter if they looked like they were out of looney toons, that man's blood was red just like yours and mine. We can play hero all we want, but that's what gets people killed. It killed them in Iraq, it kills them back home, and it will kill us here,"

"Well I just got ninja powers," Sadie says, crossing her arms. "And I'm going to go save those people like you're supposed to. I know Hoshi's with me, right?"

Hoshi nods solemnly. "We of the twelve villages always strive to help each other out,"

Sadie turns to Rachel. "Rachel? You're down to help, right?"

"Uh, well," Rachel says, her eyes darting from you to Sadie. "I can't fight or anything. And I don't want to die. Like, I really don't want to die,"

"Fine," Sadie says, turning back to you. "Then me and Hoshi will ride down and kick ass!" Sadie urges her Rooster Dragon forward, and Hoshi makes to follow.

"Fuck," You say under your breath, then louder. "Wait," Sadie pulls back on the reigns, turning to you.


You sigh. "My brother would kill me if you died, and girl, you are going to die if you ride down there like a dumbass," You dismount Tuk, who snorts and tries to bite you. "Fuck off," You say, pushing his head away. You motion for the others to get off their mounts as well.

You lead the others to tie up thier Dragon Roosters, then unsling your bag and go through it. You take out the SSG 69 and look down the scope, making minor adjustments.

"What," Sadie says, standing with Rachel and Hoshi as they watch you. "You gonna just army snipe them or something?"

"No," You say, making a final adjustment and slinging the rifle over your shoulder. "I'm not going to "army snipe" them. I'm headed down into the village, I'll scout it out, then come back and let you know what we're going to do,"

Sadie doesn't seem particularly pleased with the plan.

"Let me go with you," Hoshi says, stepping forward.

Your gut instinct is to say no. You remember though when Hoshi saved you from the big guy who threw dirt. The ninja seemed to have some moves. "Fine," You say.

"What!" Sadie says. "No fair!"

"If you die, I'm fucked," You say, turning on her. "If this bit character here dies, it's fine,"

"Hey," Hoshi says, his brow furrowing. "I don't know what "bit character" means, but I don't like the way you said it,"

"I want to come," Sadie says.

"Watch the horses," You say, gesturing at the Rooster Dragons. "We'll be back soon,"
Sadie stares at you, hard, but finally turns away from you and stalks towards the Rooster Dragons. You nod to Hoshi, and together you two slink off down the hill.

You near the edge of the village, where the first couple huts are smoldering. Their burnt remains smell of destroyed herbs and broken wood.

You and Hoshi make a wide circle around the huts, sliping between them when you find an opening. You can make out the members of the "squad" as you slip through the spaces inbetween. They're wearing all manner of blue and white armor. Some of the armor looks practical, some of the members, particularly the women, look ridiculous.

"You know anything about these people," You whisper, kneeling by a hut. You shift your ARC behind your back and ready the SSG.

"3rd Pearl Squad," Hoshi whispers back.

"Which one is the "captain","

Hoshi looks around, then points at a young man in robes and a facemask. You can tell he's highschool age.

"There you are," You say.

"So, what's the plan," A voice says.

You spin and spot Sadie and Rachel crouching behind you and Toshi. "What the fuck!" You hiss. "I told you to stay by the dragon things!"

"That was boring," Sadie says. "We were watching you sneak around the huts, and it was taking to long,"

"It's called being careful," You say, eyes narrowing. "Sadie, I understand you causing me a fucking assload of pain, but Rachel?" You turn to her. "What happened to not dying?"

Rachel looks miserable. She just shrugs. "I didn't want to be left alone,"

A voice is heard, and the four of you turn back to the center of the village. A tall woman wielding a whip stands on the back of one of the villagers. She presses into him with the heel of her boot.

"Alright you worthless rats," The woman says, her voice both alluring and hauty. "Pearl Squad is here, and we're going to make you wish you'd never set eyes on our superior forms,"

You raise the SSG, lining the woman up through your scope.

"Whoa whoa whoa," Sadie whispers. "I was serious when I asked about the plan,"

"Assuming none of them can do that ninja bullshit," You say, making a quick adjustment to the rifle. "I can probably drop everyone here but the highschooler before they figure out what's going on,"

You feel a hand grip your shoulder. It's surprisingly tight. You turn, spotting Rachel. You're about to ask her what the hell she's doing, when you see her eyes are wide with terror, or possibly hate. You turn back and look at the center of the village.

A young man in villagers' clothing stands up from the group.

"I don't think you'll be hurting anyone today," The villager says.

Rachel's grip tightens. "Who is that," You whisper, still watching the villager.

"It's fucking Liam," Rachel says, her voice low. "He's doing it. He's doing his thing. He has the squads attack people, then he goes and saves them,"
As if on cue, the woman with the whip laughs. "Fool!" She says, pointing her whip towards Liam. "You can never stand against the might of Pearl squad. Under the leadership of Captain Tyler, I, Malady Bon, 2nd rank Pearl Squad, will destroy you!"

"You can try," Liam says, throwing away his cloak. The villagers cheer.

"Well," You say, lining up Liam with your rifle. "This just got interesting,"

"You can't kill a kid!" Sadie says, grabbing your rifle barrel. You shoot her a death glare for touching your baby.

"You can try and kill him," Rachel says, her eyes narrowed as she stares at Liam. "But it won't work. One kid, my friend Zack, tried when we first got here. Liam took care of him. This fucking place is his,"

You jerk the barrel away from Sadie's grasp, and look back down the sight at Liam.

>Get the hell out of there
>Observe Liam, then leave
>Take the shot
Zack didn't have a rifle. Take the shot, it's worth a try.
>Observe Liam, then leave
Observe Liam, then leave.

Saul's a hardass but I doubt he would shoot an unarmed teenager without really good reason.

You watch Liam, your finger straying dangerously from the guard. You remind yourself he's just a kid, and resign yourself to observing through the scope.

"What is your name, interloper," The Pearl Squad woman says, scowling at Liam.

"My name is Hiro Sayan!" Liam says, letting his cloak blow away in the breeze. He draws a long sword, curved like a samurai's. "And I wouldn't advise testing your strength against mine, if I were you,"

"Bold words from a peasant," The woman says, laughing again. "But we'll see!"

She throws out her whip, which sails through the air like snapped wire. You lose sight of it in the scope, and lower your rifle.

The woman flings the whip again and again at Liam, lashing at a speech that makes the ground spit up dust. Liam seems to be dodging the whip with ease, not even bothering to parry.

"I see now I shouldn't have bothered to draw my sword," Liam says. He makes a large, dramatic show of putting it back in its sheath. "I will fight you with just the scabbard,"

"I'll rip out your tongue!" The woman screams. She draws another whip from behind her back. "You won't last against my ultimate style, Twin Rose Tornado!"

"Fucking hell," You mutter, watching as the woman begins to spin. Your eyes drift over to the "captain" of the Pearl Squad, the highschooler. He stands there, watching the fight, but doing nothing. His expression is unreadable under his mask.

The woman is spinning so fast now that her body blurs. Your jaw almost drops as you watch the woman spin like the tasmanian devil towards Liam.

Liam takes a stance in the ground, bending his knees. He holds his sword out, as if he is about to draw it. The whip tornado nears Liam, and he explodes from his spot.

A blur tears through the tornado, landing on the other side. It's Liam, crouching down and facing away. The winds slow, the whips appear, and the woman collapses. Liam straightens up and puts his sword and scabbard back in his belt. The villagers cheer.

"Shit," You mutter under your breath. "He's faster than Hoshi,"

"Yeah," Hoshi says, scratching under his bandana. "Hate to say it, but that was incredible,"

Liam turns to the remaining Pearl squad members, singling out Captain Tyler.

"I've come to stop you Pearl Squad Captain Tico," Liam says. "Face me, now!"

Instead of taking a stance, the highschooler in the mask simply stands there. A slow fog rolls through the village, enveloping Pearl Squad, its captain, Liam and the villagers. It passes as quickly as it came.

Captain Tyler and the Pearl squad are gone.

"Their power is strong," Liam says, turning to the crowd. "But I won't rest until the Devil Squads are put in the ground!" The villagers cheer, swarming Liam.

"Let's go," You say, rushing away from the hut. The others follow.

Once back on your Rooster Dragon, you take one more look at the village. You can make out Liam below, still mingling among the celebrating villagers.
You take off on your rooster dragons and hit the trail. The four of you travel in silence for awhile, the sounds of the surrounding woods filling your ears.

You're thinking, hard. The rules still don't make sense to you, but you're beginning to figure out a pattern to this world. Sadie's words are starting to convince you to treat it like a game. Not in the sense of seriousness, but in terms of mission parameters.

You glance over to Rachel, still thinking on the rules. "Rachel," You say.

She's been riding in the saddle of her Rooster Dragon, a white one with long, beautiful scales. She stares at her phone, as if service will suddenly come to it. At the mention of her name, she looks up from the blank screen and over to you.

"That fight we saw," You say. "It looked scripted. Are they?"

Rachel looks at you quizzically. "What do you mean?"

"I mean it was like we were watching a play or something. When you had the sword and were doing all the squad stuff, were you in control?"

"Kind of?" Rachel says. "I mean, I don't know how to really describe it. Those fucking squad members would always try and get you to say the right lines, and Liam would get pissy if you you weren't in character. I could control myself, mostly,"

"But the fights, like when you fought us?"

"I was honestly just swinging the sword," Rachel says, giving a small shrug. "I think the sword did most of the real work,"

You nod, still thinking.

"I would just like to remind you that you almost shot a kid," Sadie says, leaning in her saddle towards you and giving you a harsh glare.

"It's not always so easy,"

"It is actually, don't kill kids,"

"Liam's a fucking fuck," Rachel says, interrupting. "He can die,"

The four of you ride until the sun begins to set. Hoshi seems to grow anxious. "We should make camp," He says, looking around at the fading light. "S'not good to be moving about after dark,"

"Sure," You say, directing Tuk off the dirt road. Tuk snorts and tries to nip you. "Thought I told you to cut that shit out," You say, giving him and cuff and then stroking his scales.

You dismount, as do the others. You all tie your Rooster Dragons up, then set out the camp supplies.

"Alright," You say, unzipping your duffle. You pick up a water bottle and toss it to Sadie. "You're in charge of bringing water to the campsite. We need it for ourselves and the Dragons, and I hear a nearby stream,"

"Aye aye captain," Sadie says, throwing you a salute and taking off. You turn to Rachel.

"Can I get you to gather brush for a fire?"

Rachel nods.

Two hours later, a fire is roaring, the dragons are fed, and so is you and your group. You sit over by Tuk, keeping out of biting distance while you clean your two remaining guns. Your eyes glance around the camp, and notice Hoshi by the fire, and noone else. You remember now that both Sadie and Rachel trudged off in seperate directions, likely to get some needed air.
You finish cleaning your guns and put them away in your duffle. You stand, stretching.

>Go sit by the fire with Hoshi
>Go check on Sadie
>Go check on Rachel
>>Go sit by the fire with Hoshi
Go find Rachel. You need her on your side to out vote the other weirdos.
>Go check on Rachel
Sadie can probably handle herself, and Liam might attempt to recapture Rachel.

You glance at Hoshi, and feel the urge to sit your ass down and rest by the fire. But you also have a bad feeling about the girls being out in the woods.

You pass by Hoshi. "Which way did Rachel take off in again?" You say.

Hoshi is eating some sort of rolled rice cake. He pauses munching and jerks his thumb to the woods.

"I'm going to check on her, would you keep an eye out for Sadie? I know she's one of you ninja people now, but I haven't seen it work yet and I'm not sure it'll help her,"

"It'll help her, trust me," Hoshi says, swallowing his rice and winking. "But I'll keep an eye out boss,"

"Thanks," You say, taking off into the woods. The sunlight has fully faded, replaced by the brightness of a moon overhead. You know it's far brighter than anything in real life, which is helping you make your way through the woods.

You can vaguely make out a trail Rachel trudged through. After walking for almost ten minutes, you cup your mouth and prepare to shout out.

Before you do, you hear a noise.

It's two voices, speaking in distant murmurs. You crouch, approaching the direction of the voices. Finally you reach a clutch of trees, and through their twisted trunks you can make out Rachel in her red hoodie.

Standing opposite her is Liam, wearing a sort of strange cape and cloak. Behind him, an inky cloud seems to hover.

You inch closer, trying to make out their words.

"Dammit Rachel," Liam says, brushing at his hair. "You're not doing it right! You got your sword broke, you're running around with strangers who apparently broke into our realm," Liam gestures at her. "What's the deal?"

Rachel clings to herself, trying to turn away from Liam. She murmurs something.

"Speak up," Liam says.

"I said you're a fucking fuck and I hope you die. I'm not one of your captains, and I never will be. Fuck you for killing Zack!"

"Whoa," Liam says, throwing up his hands. "Whoa. I didn't kill Zack. I don't know what that was, but that's why I wanted everyone to listen to me! If you had just listened to me, we'd all be living it up like kings right now back at my castle!"

"You're fucking crazy," Rachel says, taking a step back. "Go away, I came out here to get away from this craziness, not talk to my goddammed tormentor!"

Liam turns away, as if frustrated, and does a few circles, talking to himself. The inky black cloud hovers back a ways, giving him space. Finally Liam pauses, turning to Rachel.

"I'm sorry, but I have to give your friends the brand,"

"No," Rachel says softly.

"I have to get rid of them. They might be murderers or rapists. I'm going to give you one more chance to come back with me. We can hang out, or you don't have to if you don't want to. We can just chill at my castle, it's cool,"

"NO!" Rachel screams at him, balling her fists by her sides.

Liam spins away again, clearly angry. You prepare yourself, gripping the knife in your belt.
Get ready to shank a bitch.
"Fine," Liam says, facing away from Rachel. "Have it your way,"

The black ink envelopes Liam, and he disappears. You feel a burning sensation on your wrist, and turn it over to inspect it.

A strange, celtic-like marking has appeared in your skin, like a brand. You furrow your brow, then look back up at Rachel. She's collapsed, hugging herself and sobbing.

You run over to her, stopping by her and dropping to one knee. You put a hand to her shoulder.

"Hey, hey," You say, "It's okay, everything's going to be okay,"

"I can't," Rachel says, crying out. "I can't do this anymore. I can't with this craziness, I can't I can't I can't!"

"It's going to be okay," You say, helping her up to a sitting position. "We're going to get through this."

"Hooowwwwwww," Rachel wails, beating her fists softly against her forehead. "None of this makes sense. None of this makes sense!"

You stop her fists from beating on her forhead, and then let go and stand up. You hold out your hand.

"You have me," You say. "And Sadie, who apparently knows all about this shit. And you have Hoshi too, who is a ninja,"

Rachel looks up at you, wiping the tears from her eyes. She doesn't seem to know what to say.

"Alright c'mon," You say, grasping her arm and pulling her up. "Cartoon world gets fucking cold at night apparently and I want to go back to the fire,"

The two of you walk back towards the camp. You soon spot the fire. "Oh yeah," You say. "What was Liam saying about that brand stuff?"

"Oh fuck," Rachel says, pausing and putting a hand to her mouth. "I totally forgot about that during my meltdown,"

"SAUULLLLLL!!!!!" A voice cries.

You look up and spot Sadie running full sprint towards you. "SAUL SAUL SAUL SAUL." she says, coming up to you and grabbing both of your arms. She tries to shake you, but you're too big.

"What," You say.

"Me and Hoshi have the mark from Berserk!"

"The what?"

"The mark!" Sadie says, yanking at her shirt and showing you her collerbone. The same celtic symbol rests on her neck as does your skin.

"Okay," You say. "I have it to. What does that mean?"

"It means a fuckton of demons are coming to rape us and I don't want to get raped by a horse don't let me!!!" Sadie says, gripping your shoulders and shaking you.

"Fuck!" You say, pushing Sadie away. "Nobodies getting raped by a goddammed horse!"

"Oh god," Sadie says, shaking her head. "I guessed the Liam guy was twisted, but who would guess he'd be a fan of such a terrible manga!"

"Okay, game plan," You say. Hisho has now approached as well, and the two girls circle up. "We can either fight these demons off, try and outrun them, or barricade up somewhere,"

>Stand your ground for the night in your camp
>Pack up and make a run for it for as far as you can
>Barricade up somewhere
Hold the line mission? Hold the line mission.
>Barricade up somewhere

I've seen enough horror movies to know that running for it ends in ded right off the bat.
Barricade. Let's build some traps while we're at it.
>Stand your ground for the night in your camp
Given anime strength, I can't imagine any sort of nearby structure that can't be quickly Kool-Aid man'd.

Better to make sure as many people are rested as possible, because this could take all night. Wonder if we can make Liam run out of GM points.

You look around the campsite. If you're being honest, you all could use some rest. On the other hand, the hairs on the back of your neck keep rising, and the brand on your wrist itches to hell and back.

"Sadie, you get the Dragon Roosters untied," You say. "Rachel, camp gear, Hoshi, fire,"

The three of them nod and take off in different directions. You run over to your bag, grabbing both your rifles and an ammo belt. You sling them all over your shoulder, than run over to where Sadie is yelling at Tuk.

"Hell you asshole!" Sadie says. "I'm just trying to untie you!"

"Let me," You say, brushing past her. You turn back to everyone. "Let's mount up guys, we need to find a safer place to camp," Tuk bites you, and you smack him back. He snorts once, and you jump up on him. "Hell," You mumble to yourself, checking your arm. "Fucker drew blood,"

Once Sadie, Rachel and Hoshi are on their Dragon Roosters, the four of you take off into the night. The moon is still bright, and full, lighting your way as you guide your beasts.

After a half hour of riding, almost every hair on your body is sticking on end. A quick glance at your companions riding around you shows they're equally uneasy.

You scan the horizon, then point at something you spot. "There," You say. "That looks like a house,"

The second you speak, the moon shifts colors. A red hue crawls over it, basking the countryside in an eerie orange.

"Ooohhhh," Sadie says. "That is not good,"

"C'mon!" You say, spurring Tuk onward. "Towards the house!"

The four of you kick your Dragon Roosters faster and faster across the fields. You pass clutches of tree groves, the branches swaying in a howling wind.

As you near the house, you realize it is in fact a mansion, and protected by a huge ornate wall. A circle drive is on one side, and at least a hundred luxurious carriages are standing idle. Groups of finely dressed men and women walk inside, holding costume masks to their faces. The line of partygoers enters through a large archway manned by several bulky servants in powdered wigs and masks.

"Through the gate!" You yell, urging Tuk onward.

The four of you group together as you near the gate. One of the partygoers, a woman in a large dress and a swan on her head, screams and dives for cover. More people scream and dive out of the way. The four of you blast through the archway and into the mansion grounds.

There's a pond, and fountains. Sidewalks and verandas. And lots, and lots of finely dressed people. They all stare through party masks at you and the others.

"Uuuhhh, Saul?" Sadie says. "What do we do?"

You have no idea what to do. Tuk claws at the earth, having spotted something tasty.

A man in a powdered wig, purple, black and gold coat, and a black and gold mask approaches you. He peers at your dragon beast, then up at you.
"Why, young Lord Elroy!" The man exclaims. "I haven't seen you in at least fifteen years! I heard you were a party crasher and a fiend ho ho, but I had no idea you were back in Arentia!"

"The fuck are you-"

"Haha yes!" Sadie interrupts you. "It is the loveable rapscallion, Lord Elroy!" She throws out her arms, as if presenting you.

The partygoers all look at you for a beat, then start clapping. The man who first addressed you also claps.

"What a marvelous entrance you dog!" The man says. "Come, come, get you and your people off these beasts and we'll stable them,"

"Umm, actually," Sadie says. "We were hoping to keep them. It's uh, it's a fad." Sadie turns to Rachel. "Tell the man its a fad, and all the lovely people are doing it,"

Rachel stares at Sadie, then looks to the man. "All the lovely people do it," She says without a hint of expression.

"Oh," The man says. "Well, okay, allow me to introduce myself. I am the host, Lord-"

"Yes yes," Sadie says, grabbing Rachel and pushing you forward. "Please direct us and our loveable pets to your most secure and lockable room,"

"Oh," The man says, watching you get pushed along. "Well, if you'd like to go inside,"

"Yup thank you kind host," Sadie says, rushing you along.

You shake your head, trying to focus. Tuk snorts, snagging a woman's wig as he trots behind you.

"We should go faster," Sadie says, glancing up at the red moon.

"Agreed," You say.

The four of you vault up a series of white marble steps towards the maner. More partygoers laugh and drink as the ascend and descend the steps. They cry and jump out of the way as you and the dragon roosters pass by.

Once inside, you find the foyer completely filled with more finely dressed people in masks. Their voices fill the large room, making the dragon Roosters uncomfortable.

"go go go," Sadie says, pushing you, Rachel, Toshi and the Dragon Roosters through the crowd. People laugh and cry out as the dragoon rooster caw and snatch at people's hair. Tuk eats a dog from a woman's lap.

"Man cut that shit out," You say, glancing back at the large black dragon. The creature gulps, then cocks it head.

Your group bursts through a pair of heavy double doors into a study. It's actually more of a library, and a circular one at that. It has no windows, and a winding staircase leads up to more floors.

You and Sadie shut the doors, and the Dragon Roosters drag several large desks in front of the doors with thier teeth.

"Fuck," Sadie says, sliding down against a desk. "You think this will work?"

You slide down on one side of her, and Rachel slides down on the other. Hoshi comforts the Dragon Roosters.

"I will say this guys," A voice calls out. "You picked a pretty good spot, all things considered,"

A figure jumps down from the upper levels. He lands easily on the stone in the middle of the room. It only takes you a moment to recognize him, the Captain of Pearl Squad, Tyler.
"It's 3rd Pearl Squad Captain Tyler!" Hoshi says, throwing his hands up.

"Yeah I recognize him," You say, getting to your feet. "You here to do battle with the Liam kid? Or cause me trouble?"

"Maybe I'm here to help," Captain Tyler says from under his mask.

"As I understand it, you're mind controlled,"

"And as I understand it, you've got five minutes before being overrun with very, very bad things,"

You stare at Captain Tyler. "What are you saying,"

"I've got my lines, I've got my roles, but there's nothing that says I can't visit a random mansion when I'm not onstage. In fact, I brought my whole squad here,"

Tyler points upwards, and you, Rachel and Sadie follow to where he points. On the second, third and fourth floor of the tower library, several people in white and gold armor stare back down.

Sadie gulps.

"We were just passing through," Captain Tyler says. "So here's your gamble. You accept my help, and hope to god that the God Liam doesn't notice me and tell me to attack you instead. Or you pass me up on my offer, and try and survive what I can only assume are the scariest CGI murder machines you've ever seen. What do you say?"

>Defend the study with who you have
>Accept Captain Tyler's help
>Leave the mansion, look for a new building to defend
>Accept Captain Tyler's Help, but also ask him about Liam and what weaknesses he might have that we can exploit.
There's more than one way to skin a cat and I want to know how to make the little shit bleed like a stuck pig.
>Accept Captain Tyler's help
It's probably our safest bet right now all things considered, fight anime with anime and all that. If he does betray us, well, we'd probably have to fight him later anyway.
>Accept Captain Tyler's help
>You know we freed Rachel over there. If we figure out what's being used to control you, it'll be a lot easier for the both of us.

"Well, I wouldn't talk much about freeing me with my friends up there," Tyler's mask tilts ever-so-slightly towards where his squad is positioned. "You never know who's listening. But!" Tyler claps his hands. "ROLL CALL"

The members of Pearl Squad jump down from the upper floors of the tower. They land in a neat line. "Alright," Tyler says, rubbing his hands. "The BDSM lady with the whips is Malady I think? Yeah, and the aloof looking hobo guy is Samson? Okay yeah, Samson. Small girl with the scythe is Petal and fatso is Garganta. They all have numbers and powers but I don't really care,"

"Shh," You say, holding up a finger. Everyone looks at you. "You hear that?"

"Hear what?" Sadie says.

"Exactly, the party people's voices were coming through the door. Now it's silent,"

Everyone cranes their necks as they listen for noise. None comes.

"Huh," Hisho says, putting his hands to his hips. "Wonder wha-"

A woman screams.

Her scream is followed by several others, and then howls. More people start screaming, and the sounds of overturning tables and breaking glass is heard.

"That's it then," You say, taking out your bushmaster and checking the chamber.

The screaming continues. Awful, horrible sounds follow, and more people cry out. Someone starts pounding on the door to the library, and then more people pound on it.

"LET US IN LET US IN!" A voice screams.

Rachel is curled up in a ball next to the door barricades. She's covering her ears and closing her eyes tightly. Sadie is just watching the door in horror. Everyone else looks grim, yourself included.


An awful sound, a sound that fills your head and turns your stomach, seeps through the door. Someone's scream turns to a gargle, and then the sounds of chewing start up.

"fuck fuck fuck fuck," Sadie says, slowly falling to her knees. "We did this, we brought the demons to this place,"

You run over to her and grab her shoulder with the hand that's not tightly gripping the AGS. "Get a grip Sadie," You say, doing your best to make your voice sound commanding. "They're just cartoons. They're not real,"

"Not real not real," Sadie says, a mantra to comfort herself.

The sound of chewing stops, then sniffing starts up. A nostril slides across the other side of the door, then a bone-chilling howl follows.

The howl is joined by other cries of hunger and blood-lust. A fist slams against the door, and then another. More and more fists slam into the door, buckling the wood.

"SADIE!" You yell, leveling your rifle at the door. "GET RACHEL UPSTAIRS!"

Sadie looks up at you, as if seeing you for the first time, then looks over at Rachel. The girl is still curled up in her red hoodie, covering her ears.

To her credit, Sadie scrambles to her feet and runs over to Rachel. She pulls the girl up, then starts dragging her to the staircase.

The door splinters, and long talons break through, clawing at the air.
"COME GET SOME FUCKERS" You yell, squeezing the trigger and firing off three-round bursts into the slits in the door. The creatures on the other side cry out, then the door explodes.

Dark shapes pour into the room. Slithery shapes, spikey shapes. Claws and teeth and blood red eyes. Tongues that roll and cries that stop hearts.

Your training kicks in. Group the shots. Group the shots. Group the shots. Reload.

The monsters scale the walls, crawling over bookcases and leaping off of ledges. Hisho, Captain Tyler and Pearl Squad fly around the room, engaging anything and everything. A demon from outside breaks through the ceiling, letting the red moonlight pour in.

The chaos is overwhelming. Creatures with no legs and exaggerated jaws crawl towards you, while shrieking women with snake tits dive at your head.

Group your shots, group your shots, group your shots. breath, reload.

Your world spins as an oxen with two heads and grinning mouths tackles you. It cackles as it rears up, preparing to stomp you.

The cow grunts several times, then seems to bend. It explodes away like a ball from a cannon, and Hoshi lands on the floor. He extends a hand to you.

"Holding up there?" Hoshi says, helping you up.

"This is fucking nuts," You say, ducking as another snake tit woman flies overhead.

"Yeah, but we have hope," Hoshi says, pointing upward.

You look up, spotting the hole torn in the ceiling. You can clearly see the moon through it, and notice that the red is fading from its surface.

"My guess?" Hisho says. "When the red's gone, so are the demons,"

You look around. There are more and more demons pouring in. "I hope to God you're right,"


You look up, and see Sadie fighting off two gruesome looking demon-men. They're both armed with long claws and evil smiles. Sadie seems to be employing a watery kung-fu, lashing out at the demons with brief jets of water. You look back down, and find Captain Tyler and Pearl squad on the verge of being overrun.

>You and Toshi run up to where Sadie and Rachel are, then go higher and escape out the hole in the top
>Send Hoshi up to help Sadie and Rachel, you help Pearl Squad and then head upstairs
>Go up to help Sadie and Rachel, hope Hoshi can help Pearl Squad and meet you upstairs
>>Send Hoshi up to help Sadie and Rachel, you help Pearl Squad and then head upstairs
>Send Hoshi up to help Sadie and Rachel, you help Pearl Squad and then head upstairs
I'm sure Hoshi can handle a couple of demons. Pearl Squad needs the kind of help that only bullets can provide.
>Send Hoshi up to help Sadie and Rachel, you help Pearl Squad and then head upstairs
wow, this red moon thing is a lot shorter than i thought.
This is good. OP, you have a twitter for this thing?

"Go help Sadie and Rachel!" You yell, pointing Hoshi upstairs. The ninja takes off, leaping from one object to the next as he ascends upward.

You turn to pearl squad, reloading your bushmaster. You put two fingers to your mouth, whistling loudly.

Four large, grotesque demons turn towards you. You drop all four of them with a shot between the eyes.

Or at least, you thought you did.

One of the demons takes the shot, rocks back, then splits in two, revealing strange arms and heads on long necks. The creature within the creature lunges towards you, snapping its jaws.

You steady your hands, take a breath, and slowly plug away at the extra limbs. They pop in explosions of black blood.

With the four demons down, you can now see pearl squad. The Petal girl and Samson are doing their best not to be swarmed by twisted ghoul creatures. Captain Tyler and Malady fight at least ten shrieking horned demons. Garganta is dead, impaled against the wall with several table legs.

You start with Petal and Samson, dropping several demon that are jumping them with your ACR. You swing the barrel towards Captain Tyler and Malady, but your world spins.

You hit the floor, losing your grip on your rifle and sliding across the stone. Your head slams against the floor as something lands on you. You squirm and twist, finally turning over and looking up.

A gigantic pig-creature with a meat cleaver stands over you. He's laughing hysterically as he raises the cleaver.

You rip your knife from its belt and plunge it into the pig demon's ankle. The creature screams, bringing down it's cleaver. You try and twist away under its foot, but feel the clever embed in your shoulder.

"FUCK!" You yell, twisting again and plunging the knife back into the pig's ankle. You rip it out, and plunge again, tearing as many of the tendons as you can.

The pig squeals, falling over backward. You stumble to your feet, the cleaver still wobbling in your shoulder. You readjust your grip on the knife, then fall on top of the pig demon, driving the knife into its skull. You feel the blade pass through flesh and bone, piercing the demon's skull.

The pig shudders, then stops moving. You slowly get to your feet, prying the cleaver from your shoulder as you cry in pain. Your fingers shakily search your belt, finding a quick battle patch and slapping it over the wound. It won't help much, but it will slow the bleeding.

You glance around. Petal and Samson of Pearl Squad are finishing off the last of their demons, as is Captain Tyler. You look up, and spot Hoshi and Sadie knocking several demons off the second story.

You run over and scoop up your ACR, cupping your hands to your mouth. "SIGN OFF, WHO's HURT"

Sadie and Hoshi wave from the second floor. "We're good!" Sadie says.

You look over to Pearl Squad. Captain Tyler and the others are standing around Garganta's corpse impaled in the wall.
"Sorry about your guy," You say, approaching them.

"He was an excellent warrior," Malady says, taping her whip to her shoulder.

"Fucking creepy is what he was," Captain Tyler says, turning to you. He looks you up and down, peering at you through the slits in his mask. "You've got a choice,"

"Do I?" You say, rotating your wounded shoulder.

"The Blood Moon goes through a phase of quiet, I guess you'd call it the eye of the storm or something."

You glance up, noting a white moon through the hole in the ceiling.

"You can stay here, fight me and Pearl Squad, and possibly do me like you did Rachel. But you might not win. And you might not do it in time before the next wave of demons comes. Otherwise, you can make a break for it. As captain, I'll give you a generous head start,"

You listen to Captain Tyler, trying to gauge his expression through his mask. You glance up to where the others in your group are. They peer down at you, Rachel shielding herself behind Sadie. Hoshi stands next to them.

>Stay, fight Captain Tyler and Pearl Squad
>Make a break for it
>Send Sadie and Rachel away with Hoshi, try challenging Captain Tyler to a one on one

I appreciate you guys digging this quest, @lopofthewoods is the usual QM handle I use
>>Make a break for it
Fuck this.
Wait, why can't we just heal up and get ready for the next wave?
They're technically "bad guys", and the longer they go without doing bad guy things, the greater the chance of the Big Bad taking offense to that and mind-whamming them into being properly bad.

that is some real sketchy logic, so it matches Liam's thinking perfectly.

>Make a break for it
"If I'm not back in 30 days call the president."
>Make a break for it

You meet Sadie's gaze. She's putting on a brave face, you can tell. But you know brave faces. You know what really lies underneath them.

Rachel is also clearly terrified. If you're being perfectly honest, so are you. Nothing Hadji threw at you in Iraq comes even close to what you've witnessed in the last couple hours.

"Captain Tyler," You say, your voice as calm and steady as you can make it. "I promise I'll be back for you,"

Tyler says nothing, simply nodding. You take off towards the Dragon Rooster huddled in the middle, motioning your companions to come down.

Hoshi jump down a story, as if it was the easiest thing in the world. Sadie and Rachel take the stairs. When the four of you are on your Dragon Rooster, you give Pearl Squad one last acknowledgment, then turn to Sadie and Rachel. You know what waits for them outside the study.

"Avert your eyes as best you can," You say to the girls, then spur Tuk onward.

Your Dragon Rooster leap over the splintered wood, charging into the reception room beyond. You consider yourself a hardened man. You have a certificate of PTSD to prove it. But what you see as Tuk gallops through the room turns your stomach.

The bodies are as if a painter threw them against the wall. A beautiful canvas of red and darker smears. The limbs of men and women line the floor, as does glass and spoiled food.

Thankfully, the Dragon Roosters of Hoshi's village are fast, and peel out of the reception room and back into the courtyard of the manor. This too is a gruesome scene, and you do your best to urge Tuk onward.

Once out of the mansion, the open country spreads out before you. Still leading, you urge Tuk faster, receiving an angry snort in response. You pat the side of Tuk's head as he haul's ass, reassuring the beast.

The surrounding country, bathed in moonlight, suddenly turns red.

The blood moon has resumed.

"Saul!" Sadie says, riding her Dragon Rooster up to yours. "We need to rest! Rachel's slipping off her saddle!"

You look over your shoulder. Rachel tries to straighten up, but you can tell the lack of sleep is starting to get to her. Your head snaps back forward, searching the country for some sort of refuge.

Strangely enough, you're rewarded by a spire. You gaze intently, and to your relief the spire turns out to be a church steeple.

"There!" You yell, thrusting your hand towards the church. It's a hell of a gamble, but maybe this world respects hollowed ground.

After a hill and a thicket, the Dragon Roosters sail past a wrought iron fence into the church grounds. The dragons slow, and Rachel almost falls off. Sadie catches her at the last moment.

The doors to the church burst open, and a man in a generic friar's outfit runs outside. "What is this!" The friar says, clearly in a huff. "What is this racket at this hour!"
"Sanctuary," You say, slipping off your saddle and walking over to Sadie. She gets off her Rooster Dragon, and together you help Rachel down. You ease her over to where the friar stands, hands on his hips.

"Sanctuary hmmm?" The friar says, eyeing you. "And what exactly are you running from?"

A long, chilling howl rises up in the night. It's joined by several other howls, and laughter. Sadie points out past the church fence.

"That dude," Sadie says. "Let us in your church before we're demon fucked,"

The friar stares out into the night, wide eyed. He suddenly comes to, nodding his head. "Yes yes," He says, abruptly turning and walking back towards the church. "Come, come all of you inside,"

You make to follow, and hear a snort. You turn back and see Tuk in front of the other Dragon Roosters. He jerks his head towards the surrounding darkness, as if to remind you of what's coming.

"uh, can our animals come too," You say.

The friar looks at the Dragon Roosters. "Are they housed trained?"

You turn to Tuk, beckoning for him to answer. Tuk just spits on the ground. You turn back to the friar.


Once inside, the friar shuts the doors and moves a massive beam over the latches. As soon as it's locked, you feel a sense of relief from your group.

"Is it just you here?" You say.

The friar nods. "Aye, this is my parish, and these lands and its people are my flock,"

The howls grow closer, and the laughter grows louder.

"Yeah, well, tonight we're you're flock, and I need you to pray your fucking heart out,"

The friar scratches his neck. "Uh, what exactly have you brought to my doorstep sir?"

Terrible sounds start up. Angry yelps and cries of blood lust. You walk over to one of the front windows, beckoning the friar. He joins you, peering outside.

"I know you're just a cartoon," You say. "But even you have to admit this is fucked up,"

The friar doesn't respond to your cartoon comment, instead staring in horror at the creatures standing on the other side of the church fence. Oxen, pigs and goats. Two-headed women with fangs and wings. Children dancing around holding snakes. It is as if the witch's sabbath is taking place mere feet from where you watch.

"Lord protect us," The friar says.

"That's the spirit," You answer.

The night crawls on. Rachel passes out almost immediately in a pew bench. Sadie sits next to her, seemingly shell-shocked.

Hoshi seems to be meditating in the aisle. He seems to sigh, opening his eyes and putting his head in his hands.

>Clean your guns next to Tuk for peace of mind
>Go sit down next to Sadie and check in with her
>Go check on Hoshi
>>Go check on Hoshi
If the cheery fuck is floundering then you know we're fucked
>Clean your guns next to Tuk for peace of mind

L-Lop!? Naanniiii!? Oh, what I would give for this idea to be run like Our Super World, or DLID! But that would be so unbelievably selfish of me to beg or assume such! No wonder this quest is of such quality!


>Go sit down next to Sadie and check in with her

I think she needs some reassurance.
>>Go check on Hoshi
Promise him that when we find Liam, we're going to punch his fucking lights out.

You make your way to Sadie. You don't have the strongest relationship with your brother Eric, you're over ten years apart after all. But he's your brother, and you'll be fucking damned if Sadie has a mental breakdown on your watch.

As you're making your way towards her, she falls against Rachel, clearly passing out. You nod slightly to yourself; she needed it. You turn instead to Hoshi, walking over to him.

He hears you coming, turning where he sits to face you. "Saul," He says, adopting a grin. It's slightly forced.

"Hoshi," You say, folding your legs underneath you and sitting next to him. "You doing some yoga?"

Hoshi glances at himself. "I am supposed to be centering my ki, but it seems I haven't trained hard enough."

"I'm sure it's just the night we had," You say, leaning back on your hands. You don't say anything, simply gazing at the church. Hoshi shifts, and you clear your throat. "Was that your first fight?"

Hoshi doesn't say anything for a moment. Finally he nods.

"I didn't know battles were like that," Hoshi says, quietly. "In the village, we dueled. Sometimes there was a fight that went too far. But that was always between the adults. There was the annual Kijitsu tournament as well. I always thought that would be my first real fight,"

His eyes drift to the window. The sounds of the demons can be hard. Their cries and laughter seems to mock you.

"I never thought battles would be like this," Hoshi says.

You let out a single chuckle. You can't help yourself. Here you are, talking to a cartoon, and it almost feels like you're having a moment.

"You're a warrior, aren't you," Hoshi says. "I know now you're not from the twelve villages, or the city, are you?"

"Nah," You say. "I'm from a place that you've never heard of and will never see,"

"And you are a warrior there?"

"Used to be,"

"So how did you get used to it? The violence and the, hate, of battle,"

"That?" You say, jerking your thumb towards the window. "That's...not real. Nobody is supposed to fight those things. They aren't supposed to exist. I fought men. Stubborn fucking goat farmers with long memories. It changed me,"

You pause a moment.

"I didn't want to admit it," You say, almost to yourself. "But I'm getting in too deep here. This is going to change me too if I'm not careful,"

You shake your head. You're opening up more to a fucking cartoon than you ever did to your counselor.

"Do you think we will survive this?" Hoshi says.

Your glance briefly at your duffle bag slung on Tuk's saddle. You have half a magazine in your ACR, plus an additional one. The SSG has maybe thirty more rounds.

"Yeah," You say. "We will. And when I find the boy who put us through this bullshit, I'm going to punch his fucking lights out,"

Despite the tense atmosphere and the pacing of the friar near the door, you do manage to catch a few hours of sleep. That much at least feels like Iraq.
When you open your eyes, sunlight is pouring through the windows. You straighten up from where you were leaning against the pew. Your entire body aches, especially the deep cut in your shoulder. You slowly get to your feet, stretching, then go over to Tuk. His head is leaning against a stone pillar, his tongue lolling out while he snores. You approach his saddle and rummage through your duffle, waking him up. He snorts and tries to bite you. You swat him back.

"Up and at em' soldier," You say, taking out your med kit. "We got a long day ahead of us,"

You go over to a bench and sit, peeling off your trauma patch. The cleaver cut underneath looks abused and torn. With a grimace, you apply disinfectant, then wrap it with gauze.

You walk past Hoshi, nudging him with your foot. He wakes up instantly, looks at you, and nods. You pass him, going over to where Rachel and Sadie sleep.

"Girls," You say.

Rachel's eyes open. She looks around, then seems to tear up when she realizes where she is. You don't know what to do, so you do what your CO did when things threatened to get emotional; get people moving.

"Wake her up," You say, pointing Rachel to Sadie. "Then meet me at the Dragon Roosters.

"Okay," Rachel says, then her stomach growls. "fuck I'm hungry," She says, softly.

"We'll figure it out once we're on the road," You say.

You and Hoshi begin readying the Dragon Roosters. It takes a long time for Rachel to rouse Sadie, but eventually the two of them make it over to the animals.

"Everybody ready?" You say.

"Breakfast," Sadie says, still half asleep.

The doors near the rear of the church open, and the friar enters with a platter of steaming meat and rolls. Both Rachel's and Sadie's eyes go wide. Hoshi starts salivating.

Your stomach growls. You haven't eaten since entering this fucked-up Space Jam world.

"Morning, morning," The friar says, bringing the platter over to you guys. Tuk makes to snap up a ham, but the friar moves the plate away at the last moment. He sets it on one of the pews, beckoning everyone over. "By the grace of God we have survived the night,"

"It's kind of you to feed us," You say. "Especially after we brought such trouble to your doorstep,"

"And what kind of friar would I be if I did not host the needy in their time of...well, need?"

"Oh my god thank you so much," Rachel says, grabbing a roll and and tearing off a piece.

"Itadakimasu!" Sadie says, throwing her hands together and then stuffing a piece of ham in her mouth.

After all of you eat a hearty breakfast, and the friar brings you feed to give to the Dragon Roosters, you all gather outside in the church yard on your mounts. The friar stands on the steps to see you off.

"I'm sorry Father," You say. "But I have nothing to pay you for your kindness,"

"Go in peace my friends," The friar says. "And may God protect you from what lies beyond,"
The four of you take off, spurring your dragon roosters out of the yard. The creatures kick up dust with their massive talons.

Once out in the country, you all settle into a steady pace. The sun is rising, casting the colorful fields and trees in a fine orange. It's strange to see, jarring even if you stare to long at any one object. The devil's in the details after all, and you can smell the flowers lining the side of the road.

When the sun reaches its zenith, you all break for lunch. The friar was kind enough to pack you extra bread and feed for the animals, as well as water packs. It is a strange feeling to feel indebted to something that doesn't exist.

As you're all sitting and chewing on bread, Sadie turns to you.

"So," She says, swallowing the food she was eating. "What are we doing once we reach the city?"

You finish eating yourself, washing it down with a swig from the water-skin.

"I need more weapons," You say. "Ammo, supplies. Cities also have large amounts of intel, and I'm hoping to pick up a lead on how we can get everyone out of this world,"

"Kill Liam," Rachel says softly, looking down while she eats.

"That's for the court's to decide," You say. "Once we get out of here, another way,"

The sudden sound of cries arises in the distance. Screaming and the sounds of breaking buildings. At the same time, you also hear singing in the opposite direction.

Everyone looks puzzled, both things having started simultaneously. Rachel suddenly stiffens.

"That singing sounds like Megan," she says, her eyes narrowing. "The captain of, I don't know what the hell her team is called,"

>Head towards the singing and possible Megan
>Head towards the sounds of destruction
>Split people up and investigate both <write in>
>Continue on towards the city
>>Head towards the singing and possible Megan
Don't you know; you never split the party?~
>Head towards the singing
Disregard cartoons, save hostages.
Head for the singing. The sound of destruction is probably just Liam doing his dumb hero bullshit again.

You walk over to Tuk, slowly slipping your SSG out and over your shoulder. You grab some extra mags as well. You glance back at the group, who's watching you expectantly. The sounds of destruction grow louder.

"Come on guys," You say, mounting Tuk. "Follow me,"

The four of you spur your rooster dragons to a trot. The singing is distant, carried on the wind, but still distinct. The words seem to call to you.

Over a field, through a small grove of trees and over a babbling brook, you come to a glade. In the center, sitting in a beam of sunlight, is a girl in a large victorian-looking dress and victorian-looking bonnet. She sits, her dress laid out perfectly around her, singing. The words are beautiful, and kind.

You take a step forward, then feel a hand on your wrist. You look back and see Rachel. She seems transfixed, staring at Megan, but then shakes her head and locks eyes with you.

"Careful," She says. "Liam's a fuck, but he has a way of doing things. Megan's in choir, Liam made her voice her weapon,"

A part of your brain understands Rachel's words, and you nod. You still feel fuzzy as the singing envelope you in a warm embrace. You turn towards Megan and cross the glade.

She continues singing, picking at a dandelion. When you're within a stone's throw distance, she pauses her singing, and looks up at you.

Her eyes stop you dead in your tracks. She looks at you as if you are a wonderful curiosity. Something to be explored further.

You feel a bead of sweat on your neck.

"Hello," Megan says, setting down the dandelion and straightening out the ruffles in her dress. "Did you come to hear me sing?"

"It was...beautiful,"

"Yes," Megan says, smiling. Your heart stops cold. "I love to sing, I'm so glad you like it. Would you like to hear another?"

"Yes," You say, slowly slipping into bliss. "Please,"

Megan opens her mouth, and a beautiful melody begins to emerge.

A jet of water pops her in the mouth, sending her flying back. She lands on the edge of the glade, rolling to a stop against a tree. Her dress settles around her.

You shake your head, trying to clear your thoughts. Sadie sprint past you towards Megan.

"COME ON BITCH," Sadie yells, leaping into the air. "YOUR FIGHT IS WITH ME,"

Megan whips out a long staff with a bell and rings on the end. She knocks Sadie like a baseball. Sadie slams into the dirt, crying out in pain.

"Now now," Megan says, adjusting her bonnet. "I'm just in the rightttttt mood to get angry,"

Sadie leaps up, striking a pose. "Come on then," Sadie says, beckoning Megan. "Let's dance you lolita bitch,"

Megan lashes out with her staff, and Sadie responds with a strike of her own. A jet of water erupts from a nearby tree, smacking away Megan's staff.

The girl in the dress is fast however, jumping backwards and twirling her staff.

"We don't need to fight," Megan says in a melodious voice. "I know you feel tired,"
You certainly do. Your eyes start to grow heavy, Megan's spell still holding you in its thrall.

"Yeah sorry," Sadie says. "I'm going break that staff of yours, and then break your face,"

You watch as a strange thing happens. Megan's face suddenly grows distraught.

"Please do," She whispers.

Sadie's eyes narrow in confusion. She suddenly opens her eyes wide.

"That's your control device, the staff!" Sadie balls her fist. "Hold tight girl, I'm about to fucking free you,"

In response, Megan charges Sadie. Sadie widens her stance, bringing her arms up. She lets out a deep breath, then lashes out once.

A jet of water strikes up from the ground, snapping the staff in two. Megan immediately collapses.

You come to, the fog lifting from your brain. You take an unsteady step forward, and then another. As your mind clears, you reach Sadie.

The girl is kneeling down by Megan, checking her over.

"Is she alright?" You say. You hear the sounds of Rachel and Hoshi running up behind you.

"Yeah," Sadie says, wiping sweat from her brow.

Megan sits up with the help of Sadie. "Thank you," she says, her voice now normal. "I don't even know what to say,"

"Where's the rest of your squad guys?" You say.

"Oh, they're in some village fighting Liam. I'm guessing they'll be back soon, Liam grows bored easily,"

"Well come on then," You say. "Let's get you on one of these dragon roost-"

The words are stopped by a thick, inky smoke emerging from the treeline into the glade. It slowly slips across the ground, snaking around the grass towards you.

"What in the fuck," You say, watching it.

Both Rachel and Megan look horrified.

"no no no no no" Rachel says, stumbling back.

"You realllllllyyy need to stop breaking my anchors son of Adam," A deep, echoey voice says. It emitted from the inky fog. "Every time you break an anchor, I have to build a new one,"

"no" Megan says, her eyes wide.

"Come girl, I have need of you," The inky cloud says. It envelopes her, then sucks Megan out of the glade with itself in the blink of an eye.

You all stand around in shock.

"What?" Sadie says. "What the fuck just happened?"

"That was the voice," Rachel says, falling down and clutching her legs. "That was the voice that gives Liam his power,"

"That was Liam?" You say, jerking your hands towards the woods.

"no," Rachel says, almost a whisper. "Something else,"

>Go scout out the village, see if Liam's still fighting
>Saddle up, get out, now
>Saddle up, tear ass in the direction you saw Megan disappear
>>Saddle up, tear ass in the direction you saw Megan disappear
>Saddle up, tear ass in the direction you saw Megan disappear
let's see how fast this dickhead really is
>Saddle up, tear ass in the direction you saw Megan disappear

No you fucker! Give us back our SQUEAKY TOY!

"We need to get after her, now," You say. You whistle, summoning Tuk. Or, at least trying to. He just looks at you. You roll your eyes and jog over to him, leaping up on the saddle. The rest of your companions follow suit, though Rachel seems reluctant.

"Hiyah!" You say, spurring Tuk forward.

As the Dragon Rooster is sprinting into the treeline, you swing your SSG 69 from your shoulder and do a sight check down the scope. Tuk's pace makes aiming impossible, and you have no idea what good the rifle will do against smoke.

The trees slip by. The dragon roosters continue to run. You, Hoshi and Sadie call out Maddie's name. Rachel simply clings to her Dragon Rooster, keeping her head down as she looks ahead.

After an hour of riding the Dragon Roosters, you hold up your hand, signaling the others to slow. The animals snort, breathing heavily from the exertion.

"She's gone," You say, glancing around. You've left the forest, entering a hilly area. On one of the distant hills, you can make out lights, and what appears to be a blimp or two floating above them. You turn to Rachel.

"What do you know about that thing? Where might it have taken her?"

"Below," Rachel says, staring at the back of her Dragon Rooster's neck.


Rachel nods. "I only saw it once. Sometimes." Rachel looks around. "Sometimes, Liam wants to do something, and just for a moment you can see what lies underneath all this while stuff is changing. I think that's where my sword came from,"

"How do I get below," You say.

Rachel just looks at you like you're stupid. "How should I know,"

You're tired, but you resist snapping back at her. You put your head in one hand, thinking.

"Saul," Sadie says. You glance up, looking over at her. She's staring ahead.

Captain Tyler of Pearl Squad stands at the crest of a nearby hill. Around him are Petal, Samson and Malady. He slowly comes down the hill, stopping within shouting distance.

"Tyler," you call out to him.

"Hey man," Captain Tyler calls back through his mask. "Sorry about this, but I've got orders straight from the top. "Fight you guys" until night and then let the demons rip you apart. I'm pretty sure Liam's got my Squad members set to try to kill you though. I know my body's feeling the urge too,"

You shoulder the SSG and swing out the bushmaster, switching in the full magazine. You cock it loudly.

"I'm gonna kill your cartoon puppet friends," You say. "Then I'll free you,"

>Kill cartoon members of Pearl Squad, direct Hoshi and Sadie to distract Tyler
>Kill cartoon members of Pearl Squad, direct Hoshi to distract Tyler and have Sadie help you
>Kill cartoon members, direct Sadie to distract Tyler and have Hoshi help you
>Kill cartoon members of Pearl Squad, direct Hoshi to distract Tyler and have Sadie help you
>>Kill cartoon members of Pearl Squad, direct Hoshi to distract Tyler and have Sadie help you
>>Kill cartoon members of Pearl Squad
>Direct Hoshi to distract Tyler
>Have Rachel watch for the Control Device
>Sadie gon snipe that bitch tool

"Hoshi!" You yell. "Keep the captain occupied! Sadie, help me!"

As the last syllable leaves your mouth you squeeze the trigger. Samson of Pearl Squad's head rocks back and he collapses. You swivel left to Malady, plugging her in the chest as she rears back her whip. You barrel trails to the last target, Petal.

Your finger flexes on the trigger, but doesn't squeeze. Even if she does look like one of your brother's posters, she still resembles a child.

Your hesitation only lasts a moment, but it's enough for Petal to whip around her scythe and explode towards you. You try and fall back, but aren't fast enough. Petal's weapon catches you in the gut, spinning you around and tearing out flesh.

You hit the ground, and Petal is over you, raising her scythe with a strained smile on her face. You move for your beretta, only remembering it's gone as Petal's scythe swings downward.

The girl is smashed sideways by a black and blue blur. You try and follow it, then realize it's Sadie. The girl jump-kicked Petal to the side. Now Sadie takes a stance and throws two jets of water she ripped from a nearby tree.

Petal deflects the water by spinning her scythe. You groan as you get up, clutching your stomach. It's ridiculous the cartoon child can even swing the damn thing.

You can only use one hand, the other trying to staunch the flow of blood. You clumsily pick up your ACR, then drop down to one knee to steady it on your leg.

Sadie and Petal are moving too fast for you to get a bead on the Pearl Squad member. The lack of one of your hands means any sort of scoped shot will be impossible. You glance over at Hoshi, and see he and Captain Tyler blurring together. You can hear the sounds of fists hitting fists, but both combatants are moving too fast for you to spy their individual hits.

You hear a cry and your eyes dart back to Sadie. Petal has knocked her away with the butt of her scythe, and now spins it around her in a showy fashion as she approaches Sadie. Sadie has a long, wet cut running from her chin to her ear.

You whistle, and Petal turns to you. You shoot three times, balancing the bushmaster on your leg. The first two shots miss. The third does not.

Petal collapses, screaming in pain. It is a fucking awful sound. You sprint over to her, nearly tripping, then put the barrel to her head. This time you do not hesitate.

The shot echoes through the hills. You spin to Sadie, running over to her. Her eyes are wide, and she leans to the side to try and look at Petal. You block her view.

"Don't look," You say.

"oh my god," Sadie whispers, shutting her eyes tightly. "fuck fuck fuck,"

You hear a crack, and turn to see Captain Tyler dropping his leg down on Hoshi's collapsed form. The sound of boot on flesh is heard, and Captain Tyler raises his leg again to drop it.

"Stop!" You yell.

Tyler just shakes his head, the mask wiggling. His drops his leg again, and Hoshi grunts as he takes the hit.
"I'm sorry," Tyler says, raising his leg. "I'm on the basketball team." Tyler drops his leg again, stomping Hoshi. "And Liam and I used to be friends. I guess he thought that meant I should be really powerful. I can't stop what I'm doing." Tyler's voice drops as his leg raises again. "I'm sorry,"

You grunt as you struggle over to Tyler, your hand clutching your wound. Sadie scrambles to her feet as well, and tries to throw several jets of water at Tyler. The young man sidesteps them easily.

"SAUL" Rachel says, her voice unusually loud. You look over to her. She cups her hand to her mouth. "It's the mask, break the mask!"

You drop the bushmaster and sprint towards Tyler, straining against the pain. You prepare to tackle him, but Tyler flashes before you and lands three punches to your head.

The world fades to black.

When you finally comes to, you spy blue sky. It takes a moment for your head to clear, than the memories rush back.

"fffffuuuuCCCKKK!" You yell, sitting upward. You cry out in pain, then glance down at your stomach.

Your shirt is missing, but your wound is wrapped. This puzzles you. You look up.

Sitting a few feet away from you is Rachel, Sadie, Tyler and an unknown woman. She looks older than the highschool girls, though age is impossible to tell in this world.

"Saul," Sadie says, standing. Her cut still looks fresh. "How are you feeling?"

"What happened," You grunt, trying to get up.

"Stay sitting," The woman says, her voice holding a hint of authority. She gets to her feet, walking over to you. "If your wound reopens I'll have to sew it, and I'm not doing that twice,"

"Who are you," You say, settling slowly back on your ass. It truth, it hurt too much to move right now.

"My name's Les, I'm a police officer,"

"Oh, okay," You say.

"No Saul," Sadie says. "Like an actual police officer. From our world,"

"What?" You say, your head snapping up.

Les nods. "I was one of the first responders on scene when the highschoolers disappeared. I was also there when Mr. Woodley barged through and demanded to see the scene. Long story short, we both ended up here. He got out, I didn't,"

"How," You say, then grimace as you shift. "How did Mr. Woodley get out of here,"

Les shrugs. "If I knew I'd leave too,"

You glance back at the highscoolers. Tyler doesn't have his mask on. It's the first time you've seen his face. He looks young, though again, his flesh is that of a cartoon's.

"So what happened," You say. "Where's Hoshi?"

Sadie and Tyler both look down. Rachel seems unperturbed, though she does put a reassuring hand on Tyler's shoulder.

"If you mean the karate guy," Les says. "He was dead when I got here,"

"I'm sorry," Tyler says, his voice barely audible. "I couldn't stop myself,"

You look around, then see several mounds of fresh dirt. You're quiet. The news that Hoshi is dead...does something to you. Though it shouldn't.

It shouldn't.
"So you freed Tyler and saved us, "You say, turning to officer Les. "Thank you,"

"It's fine," Les says. "We're all in this hell together. Sadie over there tells me your ex-army, trying to rescue the kids on Mr. Woodley's behalf. If that old man's not careful, he'll get everyone stuck in here,"

"Yeah, well, me and him are going to talk when I get out of here," You say, trying to clear your head and think.

>Go and try and give a peptalk(?) to the kids, get them ready to move on
>Let everyone have a moment to themselves, then move on
>Get everybody moving
>>Get everybody moving
>Let everyone have a moment to themselves, then move on
At this point, we need a base of operations. Are we in the city?
Do we need to deal with a fuckton of demons again?
If it works just like in Berserk then yeah it's going to happen again.
>Let everyone have a moment to themselves, then move on

You're about to instruct everyone to get moving, but your gaze falls on Sadie and Tyler. They don't look well. Rachel still rests her hand on Tyler's shoulder.

"How long was I out," You say, turning to Les.

"Ten, twenty minutes," the policewoman says.

You nod. You'll let the kids rest a bit. Then head out.

"So," Les says, coming over to you and sitting. "What is your plan now? Gonna keep running around, trying to rescue kids?"

"We're headed to the city," You say. "We lost one of the girls we rescued to some Lost smoke monster bullshit, but according to Rachel over there, she's probably been taken underneath the world somehow. I'm hoping the city has more guns and ammo I can get ahold of,"

Les snorts. "I've been to the city, trust me, it's got a huge wall to keep out huge monsters, and there are giant robots and people running around with giant tools called x-users." Les shakes her head. "You'd be lucky to find a .22 in that circus,"

"fuck," You say, almost to yourself. You glance around, spying your bushmaster laying a ways off. You turn back to Les. "I've got maybe ten rounds left for my acr and not many more for my other rifle. If I run out of bullets it's over,"

You suddenly remember the demons, and shake your head.

"What," Les says, raising an eyebrow.

"You probably shouldn't stick around us past nightfall," You say. "Seventy-five percent of our group has been branded. Which apparently means we get to be attacked my monsters every night,"

Les throws back her head and laughs. It's a strange, genuine laugh. The teenagers all glance over to you and Les, confused. They soon fall back to their own thoughts.

"Sorry," Les says, wiping at one of her eyes. "Sometimes you just have to laugh at how ridiculous this all is. I mean, this changes everything, right?"

"What?" You says, furrowing your brow.

"Well you know," Les gestures in the air. "This world. These people. The karate guy wasn't real, but the kids over there are torn up. I can literally feel a bite on my arm I got from a bug yesterday. It itches. Are we dreaming? In another world?"

"It's that smoke monster," You say, your voice low and distant. "Whatever that is. Devil. Alien. I don't know. It seems to be fueling this kid's fantasies. Except I just shot a cartoon child in the head not a half hour ago, and tonight we're going to be attacked by demons. So I'm getting more pissed with every passing minute." You quickly glance at Les, noting her lack of weapons. "How have you lasted so long here?"

"What, you mean four days?" Les says. "It's not that hard. I'm not going around shooting people either though,"

"They're not real people," You say, almost too quickly. "Where else have you in this world?"

"Oh, pretty much everywhere. I found a flying pod thing and used that to explore this place. It's actually a giant island, surrounded by water."

"How far out does the water go?"
Les gives you a half shrug. "There's mist if you get too far out. I heard things in it that made me turn back."

"So what else is there on the island?"

"Uhh, let's see," Les says, rubbing her temples. "There's these villages, a giant Harry Potter-looking school, the city, a castle and the pit,"

"The pit?"

Les shrugs. "In the center of this land is a mountain. On top of the mountain is a hole. A big hole mind you. It just goes down and down. There's a city built around it,"

"Made in Abyss," Sadie says, her voice rising up.

"What?" You say. Both you and Les turn to her.

"The hole. Liam clearly stole that from the anime "Made in the Abyss". The city is God Eater or AOT or some other shonen shit,"

"You know Liam well?" Les says.

"Nah, I go to a different school," Sadie says.

"She just knows about cartoons," You say. You put a hand to your head, silent for a moment. "I need weapons and a way to get these guys out of here,"

"Well," Les says. "Like I said, you probably won't find any. You might have to approach this from a different angle,"

You give her a look that clearly asks her to explain.

"Well," Les says. "It's not like there aren't weapons around here. And there are guns, just not the type you're used to. They're big, and attach to your arm. Plus all the swords and Harry Potter stuff. Your ex-military, I bet you could make it work,"

"Yeah Saul," Sadie says. "You might want to become a ninja like me, or become an x-user,"

"I don't want to become a ninja, I want hollow point rounds and a new berreta,"

Les grins, shrugging. "What can you do man"

You think for a moment. "We need to get to shelter tonight, that's our priority,"

"Oh I wouldn't worry about that," Les says. She slips something from her belt and presses it. A large, white oval floats up from behind a hill. "I can just fly you guys where ever with my pod thing. I've also got this tree house I found. It's actually more of a tiny castle in a huge tree, but it'd probably help with your demon problem, since they'll follow you where ever you go,"

"Oh thank fuck," Rachel says, resting her forehead on Tyler's shoulder. "I am not riding those fucking dragons anymore,"

>Fly to the villages, attempt to become a ninja
>Fly to the Harry Potter school, attempt to learn magic
>Fly to the City, attempt to become an x-user
>Decide on that later, go rest at Les's tree house for now
>Decide on that later, go rest at Les's tree house for now
We can do all these things if we want to, but the team should heal their wounds and newly acquired pyschological issues first
>Decide on that later, go rest at Les's tree house for now
We need to confirm that demons are a nonissue first.

Metalbending could get us bullets, if we can find a steady source of propellant. Is earthbending known to differentiate chemicals or is that more a harry potter thing?

Also, MiA. Those kids are fuuuuuucked
>>Decide on that later, go rest at Les's tree house for now

Treehouse 4 lyfe dawg

"You know," You say, glancing from the rescued students, down to your wound. "I think I'll take you up on that treehouse offer,"

"That's the spirit," Les says, getting to her feet. She extends a hand to you. You take it, grunting as you try and get to your feet. Sadie walks over, also helping you up.

"Alright alright," You say, gently pushing everyone away. "Let's get the gear and get in the pod thing,"

The white oval drifts silently down, hovering gently over the grass. A hole appears in its side, revealing a stylish and sleek interior.

"Tyler, Rachel," You say. They glance up from where they're still sitting. "We can rest in the," You pause, gesturing at the pod. "Car, but let's get the packs off the dragon roosters and get going,"

They slowly get to their feet and walk over to the Dragon Roosters. You follow them to Tuk, taking your bag off his back and patting him.

"Well Tuk," You say. "I guess this is goodbye. I'm setting you free. That's probably something I'm going to have to answer for one day, cause you're a fucking menace,"

Tuk snorts. For a moment, you almost think you see a smirk. You shake your head, slipping the reigns from his mouth. The others are doing the same to thiers.

"Are we really just leaving them here?" Sadie asks, stroking her Dragon Rooster's head.

"I mean, we can't bring them on the pod, and I don't really want them to go through another night of, what was it?"

"Rapey horse demons from berserk," Sadie says.

"Yeah, let's set them free," You say, giving Tuk one last pat. He bites you.

Once inside the pod, you watch from the large window as the craft lifts into the sky. Tuk and the other Dragon Roosters watch you go.

The pod shoots off into the distance, blazing across the countryside. Trees, fields and meadows pass underneath.

You sit yourself down in a foamy chair that looks straight out of a Star Trek movie. You glance at the students again. Sadie's in her own chair, staring at her phone that obviously won't show her anything. Rachel and Tyler share a seat, both dozing off.

You glance out the window as the craft curves in the air. Les doesn't seem to be piloting much, simply moving a joystick around at odd intervals that don't correlate with a directional or speed change. You walk up to her.

"So," You say, searching for conversation to keep you occupied. "Out of curiosity, how old are you?"

Les gives a small smile, still staring out the window while she tilts the joystick. "Kinda hard to tell when we all look like this, huh?" Les says. She brushes back her hair. "I'll let you guess,"


"Naw, guess. You, I'm going to say thirty three or something,"

You sigh. "Thirty one. You glance her up and down. "Well, you act young,"

"Oh?" Les gives you a sideways glance. "And what's that supposed to mean?"

"It means your either young or the most upbeat and cheery cop I've ever met,"
"This is just me after spending four days in a teenage boy's fantasy," Les says. "You have to stay cheery or you will literally lose your mind."

"Hm," You say. A bit of silence passes. Finally you shift. "Twenty-five,"

"No fucking way," Les says, turning fully to you.

"Was I right?"

"Fuck no," Les says, laughing. "Twenty-seven,"

The pod shifts, lowering. You glance out the window, spotting a massive tree, easily as big as a ten-story building. In its branches rests a large, oddly-shaped house with ramparts and turrets.

"Okay," You say. "I have to ask, how the hell are you steering this thing,"

"Oh," Les says. "I don't know, I just move the joystick cause it's therpetic. The craft just knows."

The pod passes down into the branches, becoming enveloped by greenery. A landing pad appears on one branch, connected to the house by a rope bridge.

"Guys," You say, glancing back.

Sadie stuffs her phone in her pocket, standing. Tyler and Rachel snap awake, then slowly extract themselves from the chair. The door to the pod opens, and you and the group follow Les outside.

"Oh wow," Sadie says, looking around. It is as if you're underneath a canopy. You're in the branches of the tree, and your view outside is obstructed by leaves. It's a pleasant feeling of safety.

Les leads you across the bridge and into the house. She kicks open the door, marching inside.

"I'm home babies!" She shouts.

Strange yelping starts up, and the sound of a hundred little feet is heard. An army of small fuzzy creatures come tearing into the hallway, swarming up Les, and congregating around the feet of you and the others.

"Shut. Up." Rachel says. bending down. "These things are so cute. Oh my god," She picks up one, and it runs up her arm. "Oh my god Tyler look at these things I'm going to cry,"

"Yeah," Les says, shaking off the fuzzy creatures. "I found them in the tree. Accidentally fed one, and that was that. But come on guys, let's go to the kitchen,"

"Yes please," Sadie says. You and the others follow Les down the hall, the creatures mobbing around you.

"You got any idea how much more daylight we have?" You say, siding up to Les.

"I'm pretty sure time passes the same here as it does in the real world," Les says. "Or at least it feels like it does. So if I had to guess, four hours?"

You lower your voice. "What are you going to do when the demons come,"

"Well," Les says. "We could fuck with them and just hover over them in the pod,"

You give her an amazed glance. "That's kinda a messed up idea. Also they have these, devil things with wings that can fly,"

"Well," Les says, emerging from the hall into the kitchen. "I've got my gun, and there's a couple swords lying around this house,"

"We'll need more than that,"

"Trust me," Les says, opening what looks like an ice box. "This house will surprise you, it can take care of itself,"
She takes out several slabs of meat and sets them on the counter. She turns to Sadie, Rachel and Tyler, who are still playing with the creatures. Les stomps her feet.

The fuzzy creatures scatter in all directions, leaving the kitchen.

"Oh noo," Les says. "My babies, I need you three to go collect them and bring them back here. Check every room,"

"On it," Rachel says, shooting out of the room. Tyler and Sadie follow. You turn to Les, giving her a questioning look. She just shrugs, turning back to the meat. "They needed something to do, you know how to cook?"

"I got twenty MRE's in my bag,"

"That's a no then, come on, help me wash vegetables while the meat thaws,"

You manage to make it through the next two hours without embarrassing yourself while you help Les prepare dinner. By the time Sadie, Rachel and Tyler return with arms full of the creatures, the kitchen smells of delicious meat and steamed vegetables. Tyler drops his creatures, his stomach growling.

"Tyler!" Rachel says. "You can't just drop them like that!"

Ten minutes later, you're all sitting at the table eating. The food is delicious. Les brings over two beers, one for her and one for you. The students watch.

"Hey..." Tyler says, looking at the beer.

"No," You and Les say at the same time.

The meal passes. Everyone seems to have forgotten the horrors of the previous day. The highschoolers start talking about a meme, laugh, then fall back into silence. You glance around the table.

This is fucking weird, but it beats demons.

>"Hey guys, I just wanted to say you're all doing a great job making it through this shit, and I'm really proud of you"
>"Guys, a moment. I'd like to offer a toast to Hoshi. I know he wasn't real, but he was real enough to help us, and that's worth something in my book"
>"How's everyone holding up? Anybody have anything they need to say?"
>"Guys, a moment. I'd like to offer a toast to Hoshi. I know he wasn't real, but he was real enough to help us, and that's worth something in my book"
Backing >>2480718
>>"How's everyone holding up? Anybody have anything they need to say?"

Going real anime protag there

You lift your beer, and Sadie does the same. Tyler looks down.

"I'm sorry guys," He says. "I'm so fucking sorry,"

You lower your glass. You're not good at this sort of thing.

"Let's still toast to him," Les says, raising her beer. "And to ourselves. We're all getting out of here,"

"I'll toast to that," Rachel says, raising her glass. The rest of you do as well.

"To Hoshi," Sadie says. "And us,"

You all take a drink, then Les launches into a story about a time she had to chase down a naked crackhead on the highway and ended up tasing his ass.

After dinner, you and the teens help Les clear the table and wash some dishes. It's a weirdly normal routine, one that seems to help everyone relax.

"Alright," Les says, drying her hands on a towel and then passing it to Sadie for her to do the same. "It's sundown outside, and I know you guys are nervous, but I just want you to know that you can pick a room and crash at any time. Or you can stay up a bit and watch the show,"

"What do you mean?" Sadie says. "Aren't we in danger? We should probably get in your pod and get out of here,"

"Nah," Les says, smiling. "I've got nice balconies poking out of the canopy all over this thing. Pick a room and see if yours has one, you'll see what I mean,"

Les walks over to the icebox and fishes out another beer. She gestures it towards you.

"No thank you," You say, walking over to your bag. You pick up the SSG 69 and sling it over your shoulder. You rustle around for the remaining ammo, slipping them into your jacket. Les may be confident in the house, but she hasn't seen what you have.

"If you kids decide to go to a balcony, stay together," You say.

"oh my god you sound like my dad," Rachel says.

"Ha!" Sadie says. "Yeah, he does doesn't he,"

"Yeah yeah," You say. You're about to turn away, but catch a glimpse of Tyler. The two of you meet eyes for a moment. The young man has a look about him that reminds you of something. It troubles you.

"Alright," Les says. "I'm going to feed my babies, then I'll probably be on the front porch. It's the lowest balcony and it'll be a good view cause it pokes out of the canopy,"

"Good," You say. "I'm going to do a quick perimeter check just to get familiar with the layout of the house, then I'll meet you down there,"

"Sir yes sir," Les says, giving you a mock salute and then walking towards the mass of furry creatures.

You readjust the SSG strap, then start your exploration of the house. The first level is huge, with a kitchen, a living room of sorts, a large but cozy dining room and several bathrooms and empty side rooms. The next level has bedrooms, the first level of a massive library that runs up part of the trunk, and a circular living area that has one wall missing for a viewing port and balcony.

The third, fourth and final levels are simply bedrooms and studies, and the upper levels of the library.
Satisfied with the mental map you've made of the interior, you head outside to begin walking the maze of bridges and walkways that circle the house and tree.

It's takes a minute, and you're moving fast because of the fading sunlight, but you do note it's a very interesting setup. Like a dream treehouse from your childhood.

On the third level, you catch sight of a figure on one of the balconies. As you near them, you see it's Tyler.

He stares out at distant plains, where darkness already holds sway. You descend the steps down to his walkway, approaching him.

Tyler hears you coming, turning to you.

"Oh," He says. "Hey,"

"Hey," You say, coming up next to him on the balcony. You look out at the distant sky. "Sunset's on the other side if you want to walk with me,"

"Uh, no, thanks, I'm good,"

You nod. You know he's not. All your buddies did this shit while you were on tour. You do it too, when well meaning friends and family try and figure out if you're one of the vets who made it back mentally okay.

"You're still fucked up about Hoshi," You say. It's a statement, not a question.

Tyler doesn't say anything, instead just staring out at the growing night. Finally he nods.

"I know he's not real. But I wanted to stop so bad. I hated not being able to. I know your friend Sadie liked him, and you talked to him like you were friends. I hate that I was forced to kill him. It's my fucking fault, even if it wasn't. I wanted to stop,"

You take the rifle from your shoulder and lean it against the railing. You put your arms on the railing, leaning over it and staring out at the plains.

"When I was in Iraq," You say, itching your nose. "I was an armorer." You glance at Tyler, and he looks back with confusion. "I was in charge of the weapons," You say. "But I also still had to patrol. I was part of a unit, all of us together,"

Tyler doesn't say anything, simply listening.

"I don't care what you saw on tv," You say. "Iraq was boring. Except for the one or three times it wasn't, and for those times it was hell,"

You don't say anything, trying to process your thoughts. You know what you want to say, but you're not sure how to say it.

"I know you're a soldier," Tyler says. "But you were fighting terrorists and ISIS. I just killed your friend. Or at least, you know,"

"I was patrolling once," You say, finding your train of thought again. "And there was this other unit in a humvee convoy going in a different direction. We were on foot, but we watched them pass. I spotted a car, and old shitty beat up thing, inching forward a few cars away from us. The longer I stared, the more sure I was that they were a suicide bomber. I got my buddy's attention, and we ended up filling the car with holes when it kept moving forward. Come to find out later it was an old woman and her husband. We killed both,"

You clear your throat. "Now, who's fault was it that the old couple died?"

Tyler doesn't say anything for a moment. Finally he looks at you.
"Nobodys, right? That's just war?"

"No," You say. "It was my fault. I made the choice. I pulled the trigger. And I'm going to live with that for the rest of my life. But," You rack your brain, trying to remember the words your therapist always used. "I'm alive, and I have to continue my life. And that means finding ways to live with myself for what I've done, especially if I can't atone for it. A single action never needs to define you,"

"So, what," Tyler says. "I just have to live with it?"

"Sure," You say, grabbing the rifle and slinging it over your shoulder. "Or see a therapist like I do. Now come on, I need to finish my rounds and I could use some company,"

>Finish the rounds, send off Tyler and join Les on the lower balcony
>Finish the rounds, gather Tyler, Sadie and Rachel, ask them to stay close and head to the lower balcony
>Finish the rounds, and continue doing them on the lower level while you send off Tyler
>Finish the rounds and continue, ask the teens to stick close to Les
>Finish the rounds, go talk to Sadie
>>Finish the rounds and continue, ask the teens to stick close to Les
As much as I want to trust Les and her KND treehouse to handle the raephorses, I just can't let the kids out of our sight when the blood moon starts. I don't think Saul would be any more willing to leave it up to chance either. These kids are our squad now.

Last thing I want to see is the winged demons doing a sneak attack and snatching one or all of them off the balcony while the adults are chilling on the front porch.
>Finish the rounds, gather Tyler, Sadie and Rachel, ask them to stay close and head to the lower balcony
>>Finish the rounds, gather Tyler, Sadie and Rachel, ask them to stay close and head to the lower balcony

switching my vote

You finish the rounds, talking a bit of basketball with Tyler. You don't know much, but enough to hold a conversation.

The balcony and house's layout is settling in your mind as you reach the lower balcony. Rachel and Sadie are both sitting around Les's chair as she talks to them, beer in hand.

"So then I told him "sir, if you think that dick is going to get you out of a ticket, allow me to write one with my baton,""

Sadie laughs, leaning back on her hands, while Rachel smiles. You approach them with Tyler in tow.

"Good, you're all here," You say. "I think I'd like us to stay together,"

"I'm telling you man," Les says, getting comfortable in her seat. "You don't have to worry about a thing,"

The last vestiges of sunlight disappear beneath the horizon. As if on cue, a full moon appears from behind a cloud cover. It's surface starts to turn red.

"Whoa," Les says. "They're really going all out with this, huh,"

"Trust me," You say, hefting your SSG and walking to the edge of the balcony. "You haven't seen anything yet,"

You view the countryside through your scope, looking for any traces of demons. Funnily enough, a full red moon casts enough light to use a scoped rifle without night optics. You dwell on this irony as the first demon appears.

The first is joined by others, emerging from a distant treeline. More and more pour out from surrounding forests, converging in the countryside and heading for the tree house.

Their numbers are uncountable.

Sadie, Rachel and Tyler come up behind you, gazing out at the scene. Even Les leaves her chair to stand next to them.

"Be honest with me officer Les," You say, slowly panning your scope across the scene. "Are you really prepared for this?"

"Well," Les says, scratching the back of her head. "This is a little more over-the-top than I was expecting, but we'll see. It's about five stories to the lowest branch."

Screeches fill the air. Winged demons, hundreds of them, congregate together above the approaching demon hoard. When the flying creatures's numbers have swelled, they burst as one towards the tree.

"Shit shit shit," You say, turning around and shepherding the kids.

"Uhp," Les says, putting a hand to your chest and stopping you. She then takes the hand and signals for you to turn back around. You do, slowly.

The winged creatures are nearly upon the tree. The sound of a thousand gears is heard, winding, clicking and locking into place. A snapping sound rings through the air, and the entire tree shakes. Thousands of wooden stakes fly into the air. They obscure the red moon briefly, then puncture hundreds of the flying demons.

You can hear the creatures' cries as they fall from the sky.

"Neat trick," You say, still staring out into the field. "How many times can you do it?"
treehouse, more like Symbol of Deforestry. The sheer volume of wooden stakes needed to keep this up all night...gotta love animeland.
"It's not me, it's the tree," Les says. "And in my three days living here I've pretty much gotten the sense that you don't mess with the tree,"

The demons are now converging around the base of the tree. They screech and cry out, climbing on top of each other to scale the tree. Their sheer numbers propels them upwards.

"Oh yuck," Les says, staring down. "These are horrifying looking demons,"

"Well shit," You say, pointing your sniper rifle directly downward as you watch the demons climb through the scope. "What did you expect?"

"I don't know, cartoon devils?"

"Nah," Sadie says, quietly. She too is at the edge, looking down. "This isn't that,"

"Yeah," You say, your voice low. "Hate to say it, but this is where it gets pretty fucking real,"

The tree shakes again, its branches swaying. Tiny black objects shake free from its limbs, falling downward.

"Oh!" Rachel says. You, her and everyone else shields their faces as the black mass falls downward past the balcony. It impacts against the demons climbing the tree and those surrounding the base.

The demons explode.

"Oh wow, exploding nuts," Sadie says. "Alright officer Les, that's pretty cool,"

"I'm telling you guys, it's the tree," Les says, grinning.

You know better. For every demon that just got pulped, two more take its place. The corpses are quickly climbed over as the demons resuming scaling the trunk.

"Okay how many more tricks does this tree have," You say. "Cause at the rate we're going they'll be up here in about twenty minutes,"

A long, low note sounds. A thin black line trails through the sky, growing bigger and bigger as it approaches. It sails in front of the red moon, revealing itself to be a colossal worm dragon with a gaping maw.

The dragon worm beats its wings fiercely as it nears the tree. The sheer size of its wings sends powerful gales raking through the tree.

The worm extends its neck, coming closer and closer to the balcony you all occupy. It's mouth could easily swallow the entire structure.

It stops, then lowers its head. Drums start up, as do horns.


"Oh fuck," Rachel says.

"Damn," Tyler says.

The dragon finishes lowering its head, revealing the top of its massive elongated body. A group of people stand atop it. They're all dress in elaborate armors and cloaks that sparkle despite a lack of sunlight.

"Rachel," You say. "Tyler, what are we dealing with,"

"I suppose you could call him Liam's only friend," Tyler says.

"Liam's a delusional loser," Rachel says. "Desmond is an honor student and a drama queen. And he doesn't have a control device,"

"Oh," You say, furrowing your brow. The idea that another of the highschoolers would be involved hadn't occurred to you.
"Hello hello," a figure says, stepping forward on the worm. They're dressed in white and gold fabrics, as well as curved and stylish armor. They take off their helmet, revealing a smooth faced highschool boy with long hair. He flashes you a smile.

"Oh fuck," You say, raising your rifle.

"Tyler, Rachel," Desmond says, giving them an exaggerated look of concern. "What are you doing up here surrounded by demons?"

"The fuck you doing here," Rachel says. "Shouldn't you be off playing swords with Liam?"

"Ehh he's building something or another," Desmond says. "I'm not needed, at least not on the stage, so tonight I have a special performance for just us! Me and my lovely trope," Desmond gestures at the proud looking men and women behind him. "Versus team retard,"

"The fuck did you just say?" Les says. "Are you kidding me right now? Are you actually participating in this?"

Desmond gives her a wtf look. "Uhh, yeah, duh bitch. Do you have any idea what "this" is? He looks from Les, to Tyler, to Rachel, to you. "What, seriously? Rachel, girl, were you not fucking paying attention? Tyler? Had your fucking dick in your ear? Well, don't let me ruin if for you, though maybe now what I'm going to do next will be more....yesss," Desmond scratches his chin, smiling. "Tyler, Rachel, I know you don't have powers, and it just wouldn't be right to fight you guys without even chances."

A woman in form-fitting armor steps forward, presenting a wrapped bundle to Desmond. The boy takes it, unwrapping it slowly. He reveals a long, thin spear. It appears to have holes in it.

Desmond rears back, launching the spear towards the balcony. It lands, quivering in the wood behind you guys.

"What," Rachel says. "You think we're going to just pick up another mind control device?"

"Oh Rachel, that's no mind control device," Desmond says, his smile growing. "Don't you recognize Megan when you see her? Now pick it up, here I come,"

>"Sadie, with me! Les, get Tyler and Rachel out of here!"
>Take everyone and run for the pod
Where would we even run? They have a giant dragon worm.

Can we distract Desmond by telling him it's troupe, not trope?
jesus christ, what the fuck

>"Sadie, with me! Les, get Tyler and Rachel out of here!"
Getting everyone in the pod together is suicide, we're just asking to get shot down and lose our fancy ship.
>"Sadie, with me! Les, get Tyler and Rachel out of here!"

You aim through the scope of your rifle. Desmond takes a single step off the side of the worm, falling straight down. He lands heavily on the porch balcony, causing a plank to split.

"Desmond was it?" You say, aiming at him through the rifle. "You're not in trouble. I know this place does things to you. It doesn't make sense. But if you're in control of your actions, you need to stand down and start helping us,"

"You know," Desmond says, walking towards you. "I don't really watch anime. Sure, I've seen a few here and there, but I'll be honest, I think they're for children."

"DESMOND," You say, your voice raising in warning.

"The stuff Liam watches, it's mostly all the same garbage. It all boils down to who can endure the most, while also being the fastest or most powerful,"

Sadie runs up beside you, and Desmond stops. He gestures at you.

"You came into this world with a gun, so you kinda broke the speed part of this place. You're the fastest thing around mister army man,"

Desmond flashes, appearing before you.

"But take away the gun," Desmond says, ripping it from your hands and tossing it away. "And you are so, so out of your league,"

He punches you once, in the stomach. You vomit blood.

"Oh fuck," Desmond says, grinning and putting a hand to his mouth. You fall in front of him. "Sorry, I know that hurts, it's just too easy,"

The tree groans. Thin lines of water begin to pour out of the trunk, twisting together and forming spindles. They erupt forward like geysers, heading straight for Desmond.

He flashes again, blinking to different spots around the deck. The water jets die down, and Desmond glances at Sadie.

"Oh, you've been around the ninja village. How'd you get a hold of one of those?"

"shut up," Sadie says, quietly, drawing her legs into an aggressive stance. "you are an irredeemable person,"

"oh don't be so dramatic," Desmond says. "It's your own fault for what happens next,"

A scream fills the air, growing louder. You're gripping your stomach, checking to see if the stitches have broken. You look up to see Rachel running forward with the spear with holes in it.

Rachel's hands and the spear blur, the gleaming point of the weapon puncturing the air a hundred times in mere moments. Desmond dodges the spearhead, dancing around as if he were doing a slow motion jig.

"My my Rachel," Desmond says, throwing back his cape to reveal a sword and scabbard. "I don't think I ever saw this side of you in Mr. Sterling's class,"

"Keep talking fucker," Rachel says. "I'm aiming for that cock holster you call a mouth,"

"Wow," Les says. She's bending over you, helping you to your feet. "Have you noticed how much these highschoolers swear? I'm trying to remember if I swore that much back in highschool,"

"You need to get serious," You say. "Give me your gun,"

"It's in my room," Les says, giving a shrug.

"My bag, get Tyler inside and grab the bushmaster,"
"Alright," Les says, getting to her feet.

Screams and cries rise up as the first dozen demons poke their heads over the sides of the balcony.

"Dammit!" You yell. "Not now!"

"Relax," Les says. She whistles loudly. "C'mere babies, mommy needs you to kill for her,"

The fuzzy creatures mob out of the treehouse, forming one large column of purple and blue fur. As they scuttle along the deck, the grow, expanding into hulking creatures with razor sharp teeth and claws.

"Wait," You say, watching the fuzzy monsters pass you. They leap onto the demons, ripping their faces off and tossing their bodies aside.

"Told you," Les says. She runs over and grabs Tyler. "C'mon, I need you inside,"

"No!" Tyler says, breaking away from Les's grip. He cups his hands. "RACHEL WHAT ARE YOU DOING!"

"Not the time man," Les says, pulling on his arm. "You can be an awkward teenager later, but this is life or death stuff,"

"GO TYLER," You yell, getting to your feet and drawing your knife. "Help us, don't hinder us!" Tyler takes a long, hard look at you, then nods. He follows Les past the stream of fuzzy creatures still pouring out of the house.

You turn back to where Sadie and Rachel are fighting Desmond. He dodges Sadie's karate and Rachel's spear with graceful spins. He hasn't drawn his sword yet, though his hand hovers over the hilt.

"DESMOND," You yell, stumbling towards him with your knife. "I've only known you for ten minutes, but you're really getting yourself into some shit boy!"

Desmond blinks again, appearing before you. "I lied," he says. "You have more than just the speed. You're just as stupid as all the main characters in anime too,"

Desmond thrusts his fists towards your stomach again, but a whistle rings out loud and true. Desmond's fist is blocked by Rachel's spear. The holes in the spear produced the whistle.

Rachel twists the weapon, bringing it around while Sadie comes in from the side. Both girl's connect with Desmond, knocking his head back and sending him flying.

The worm dragon rises slightly so Desmond hits its side and rolls back down onto the balcony. He lands on his feet, brushing back his hair from his face.

"Alright, I'll admit, I was getting worried about beating on two girls. But maybe I don't have to hold back now,"

"Don't," Sadie says. "Just stop with the stupid anime villain lines,"

"You will never understand how fun this is," Desmond says, grinning. "You will never, ever understand this feeling of power,"

"You turned Megan into a spear," Rachel says. "I'm going to kill you Desmond Jones,"

The spear begins to sing as Rachel thrusts it through the air. Her lunges grow faster and faster, the spear blurring.

Desmond draws his sword and begins to counter. The singing is joined by the sound of metal on metal, rising in pitch as both highschoolers go faster and faster.

"SAUL," a voice calls.

You turn, spotting Les. She tosses you the bushmaster, which you catch.
You cock back the hammer as you spin, aiming up to the top of the worm. The other members of Diamond Squad still stand proudly atop it.

"When are you guys gonna learn," You say, squeezing the trigger.

You move down the row of squad members, plugging all eight members in the head and chest. They fall off the worm like sacks of flours, plummeting to the ground below.

"Dammit!" Desmond says, flashing up into the air to get away from Sadie and Rachel. "Now I'm going to have to get Liam to make me a new fucking entourage,"

Rachel appears next to him, knocking him back down to the deck. The demons are now swarming on the trunk like ants, filling the air with cries and fury.

The front porch creaks, timbers beginning to split. The demons' numbers are beginning to win against the fuzzy creatures, and the deck can't support their weight.

Rachel and Desmond exchange blows, the air ringing with the spear's song and crashing metal. More timber splits, and the deck tilts.

"shit!" Sadie yells, falling backwards and rolling down the deck towards the edge.

"Sadie!" You yell, trying to make your way along the deck without falling down it.

Sadie catches herself on a splintered timber, gripping it tightly. The demons are climbing dangerously close to her. She lashes out with her free hand, catching the first couple with a jet of water. The next couple she drowns by enveloping their heads in water.

You know she can't keep it up.

You hear Rachel's scream and turn. Her hair hangs around her face. She pants heavily as she aims the spear between Desmond's eyes. She has him pinned against the railing.

"I wasn't lying when I said I would kill you," Rachel says, rearing back with the spear.

"Now now Rachel," Desmond says, a pained grin on his face. "Let's not do something we'll regret,"

>Call out for Rachel to stop, go down to Sadie, help her up
>Call out for Les to stop Rachel, go down to Sadie, help her up
>Just go for Sadie, let events unfold as they may
>Go for Sadie
>Call out for Les to kill Desmond before Rachel can

Unless Les can save Sadie. Just don't let Rachel be the poor girl to do it.
>Just go for Sadie, let events unfold as they may
Returning to the real world without all the children would be unfortunate I guess, but I'd rather not give him the chance to come back and ruin things for us. Besides, he's an asshole.
Desmond does bring up a good point. We are basically the Jagen archtype of the party. Amazingly broken at first, but by the end of this, the children are probably going to be the most adept at combat, and babysitting our sorry ass.

Which we probably shouldn't allow. Tyler having his body forced to kill a cartoon character has already shaken him up a lot. Considering what we've seen of Rachel's personality thus far, I don't know how well her psyche will be able to handle knowing that she personally killed a classmate. Best to leave the incredibly morally damning actions to those who signed up knowing full well what they were getting into, ie us and Les.

Of course, this is a hard call. No matter what, we need someone to save Sadie. But I'm honestly not sure what to do with Desmond. On the one hand he is a massive shit, experiencing a massive power fantasy, and *probably* not being subtly influenced by the Lost Cloud. On the other, killing an actual kid is a pretty hard thing to actually say we should do. Liam is one thing, since he willingly brought all these other kids here, but Desmond is just enjoying what he's got far too much. He'd need counseling, but I think he might just be as redeemable as the others.

Do we err on the side of idealism, or pragmatism, anons?
>>Just go for Sadie, let events unfold as they may

I really hope this means rachel kills him and not vice versa.
Supporting >>2482081
>I think he might just be as redeemable as the others
I'm not so sure. Liam's an asshole, but he also seems like a brainless delusional jackass. This guy is 100% aware of what's going down and is enjoying it all the same. He's a threat and he needs to die.
I'd still say Liam needs to die. If he had given any thought to anyone besides himself before making a deal with the Smoke, none of this would have happened. He's already killed Megan, and is attempting to kill us without getting his hands dirty. If anything, we should let him loose in this world without his godmode before we leave him here forever.
>Just go for Sadie, let events unfold as they may

Desmond could have stopped at any point and chose not to.
>shoot Desmond Legs/Arms and tell Rachel to save Sadie
>>Just go for Sadie, let events unfold as they may
This is some Lord of the Flies shit here.
>>Just go for Sadie, let events unfold as they may

"Les!" You yell over the sound of more splitting timber and the increasing cries of demons. You're not sure she heard you. You don't have time to call again. You drop down the slanted deck, sliding across the wood with your knife and your bushmaster. You near Sadie, then drive the knife as hard as you can into the wood. You feel blood dripping down your opened stomach wound as you position the bushmaster and fire your last three shots into the nearest demons. They slide away from where they were crawling for Sadie, falling over the bodies of their brethren and plummeting down.

One hand gripping the knife, and the other the bushmaster, you extend it towards Sadie.
"GRAB IT," You yell.

"Ah!" She yells. "Don't shoot me!"

"Dammit girl it's empty just grab it!"

Sadie reaches out for the barrel, but misses and slips. She cries as out as a demon jumps up and snags her leg.

You let go of the knife, sliding down to the post Sadie had been at moments before. You grab it, grunting, and extend the rifle again.

Sadie uses her watery karate to rip the blood from the nearest demon. It gurgles and falls away. Your eyes widen as you watch. You're sure it was a move learned in desperation.

Sadie reaches up and grabs the barrel. You scream as you pull up the gun and Sadie with one hand. Your veins bulge, every muscle in your body crying out in pain.

Sadie reaches up and grabs the post, then uses your shoulder to climb up higher. She reaches up again, grasping for the knife.

You drop the bushmaster, letting it fall and smacking a demon in the face. You pull yourself up with both hands, then, balancing on the other side of the post, boost up Sadie to the knife. She grabs it.

She looks back down at you. "I don't think I can pull you up Saul! I'm not strong enough!"

"Sadie," You say, shaking your head. "Just get up to the unbroken deck and use your water karate,"

"Oh, yeah," Sadie says. She whips out her hand, doing a figure eight in the air. Three demons below you explode, their blood shooting out of their bodies and propelling you upward. You're enveloped in the hot sticky mess until you're deposited on the deck.

You roll to the side, coughing and wiping away your face. You pull yourself to the edge, looking back down at where Sadie hangs from the knife.

"What the fuck!" You yell. Sadie smiles.

"Now you can pull me up,"

"Cheeky little shit," You say, extending your hand down. You pull Sadie up over the edge, both of you collapsing. You take a moment to breath, then remember Rachel and Desmond.

You roll over on your stomach, grimacing in pain. Propping yourself up, you slowly get to your feet and look around.

The black worm dragon still floats before the deck, as if awaiting orders before it will move. Tyler is gripping Rachel in a bear hug, her face pressed into his chest. You can tell by her shoulders she's sobbing.
Desmond leans against the rail, his face bruised and his hands handcuffed. Les stands next to him.

"Saul, Sadie," Les calls. "You alright?"

"Is he dead?" You say, approaching with Sadie in tow.

"Would he be handcuffed if he was? Rachel over there flipped around her spear and starting beating him to death. Tyler stopped her,"

"And you didn't?" You say, raising a brow.

"Not for a lack of trying," Les says, growing cross. "I made to run for her, then that Tyler kid shoots past me and tackles her. So I just handcuffed captain power trip over here,"

You kneel down in front of Desmond, turning his head towards you. You can tell he's conscious, he locks eyes with you.

"I think you learned a valuable lesson about not overplaying your hand and not being murderer," You say, your voice growing lower as you hold Desmond's chin. "But the lesson's not over yet boy,"

You point at the spear laying next to Rachel. She still presses her head into Tyler's chest as he holds her.

"Is that really Megan?"

Desmond nods, still staring at you through bruised eyes.

"Oh come now, don't pout on me," You say, letting go of Desmond's chin. "But please, do explain why you thought that was an okay thing to do," You roll up one of your sleeves, clenching your fist.

Desmond stares at you for a long moment, then glances down at the fist you're making, then back up at you.

"We have to," Desmond says. "That's how this works,"

"What do you mean you have to," Les says, getting down on one knee next to you and staring at Desmond.

"S'how it works," Desmond murmurs. "Ask Rachel and Tyler, only ten captains,"

"You're not making any sense," You say. "What do you mean only ten captains,"

"Twenty kids," Desmond says, glancing to the side. "Then we come to this world. Ten kids. Ten weapons."

"Holy fuck," Sadie says, having come up behind you at some point. "You turned ten of the teenagers into weapons? Did Liam think of that? Why the hell would you do that?"

"Take the ten weakest willed kids," Desmond says, his voice still almost a murmur. "Turn them into weapons that power this world, give them to the other ten kids,"

"That's stupid, weapons are used, they break," Sadie says. "We've been breaking them, are we breaking this world?"

Desmond nods, though he still stares to the side. "They weren't supposed to break. I don't think Beh thought they would,"

"Who's Beh?" You say.

Desmond finally meets your gaze again, and you see a tiny smirk form on the side of his mouth.

"Beh is the thing we found in the cabin. The thing Liam found. Behactk or some shit,"

"Is," You say, scratching your head. "Is there a way to reverse the turning into weapons thing?"

Desmond shrugs.

"Do, do Rachel and Tyler know their weapons were their classmates?" Sadie says, glancing over at the teens just out of earshot.

Desmond's smirk turns into a proper grin.

"Guess not, though I don't envy whichever one of you tells them,"
"That's enough," You say, you and Les standing. "I have more questions for you, but we'll get to that later,"

"Oh, I'm afraid you're out of time," Desmond says. "He's here,"

"Who," You say.

The worm dragon cries out. Its tail piece falls off, as if cleaved by an invisible blade. It's midsection fall off next, as if cut away. Finally its head splits in two, both pieces falling to the side.

The demons forming a body pyramid up the deck stop their clamoring. They watch as Liam floats over their heads, a long samurai sword dripping with blood in hand.

"I see you managed to best Captain Desmond of the Diamond Squad," Liam says, putting a hand to his chin. "I'll admit to being impressed,"

You drag desmond to his feet, gripping him by the collar.

>Ransom Desmond back in exchange for the removal of the mark
>Ransom Desmond back for information _____
>Ransom Desmond back by telling Liam you're leaving, and you'll leave Desmond when you're a safe distance away
>Ransom Desmond back in exchange for the removal of the mark
>Ransom Desmond back in exchange for the removal of the mark
This demon shit is a real drag. That said, what's stopping him from giving us the mark again as soon as he has his buddy back?
He's an "honorable protagonist". If he's really in character 100% of the time, he should leave us alone.
Kill Desmond for being a shithead.
>Lose our bargaining chip against basically the Superman / Goku / Jesus of this world
No thanks dude

You drag Desmond forward, then drop him in front of you. You look up to where Liam floats before you.

"Here's the deal," You say. "I'll give you your friend back if you remove the demon tracking devices from our bodies,"

"Oh ho," Liam says, wiping his blade with a rag. "The chance to bring the captain of Diamond squad to justice?"

"Just stop," Sadie says. "You want your friend back or not?"

"Hmm," Liam says. "You all have caused great grief in these lands, bringing ruin and destruction to its people,"

"No dude," Sadie says. "Even by the dumb rules you've set up in this world, we've just been killing evil squads and demons. Now remove the curse and and let's settle this another day,"

"Hm," Liam says, fingering the handle of his sword. "And just out of curiosity, why should I barter with villians?"

"Hey, Liam?" Les says. "Hi, we met once before when I tried to arrest you in the city,"

"Oh yes," Liam says, looking down. "That was quite interesting, if not completely unwarranted,"

"Well, I'm going to give you another chance to stop all this and return the students that are left. I promise I'll do my best to help you,"

"Don't think that I'll easily forgive you for what you've done with Megan and the others," You say. "But it would be wise to stop this while you can,"

"Megan and the others?" Liam says, looking at you, confused. "What do you mean?"

"He doesn't know," Desmond says from the ground. "I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who's actually seen how this world works,"

"Great," You say, then look back up at Liam. "So what'll it be? I'm not above hurting him in front of you,"

"There's the villain I know you were," Liam says, looking triumphant. "I will not remove the marks,"

You nod, slowly, then drag Desmond to his feet. You walk over to the railing and dangle him over the side.

"OH SHIT!" Desmond says, gripping your hand with white knuckles while his legs kick in the air. You glance back at Liam.

"Last chance," You say. "Be the hero and help your friend,"

Liam readies his sword. You relaxes your grip, and Desmond slips.


"Fine," Liam says. He waves his hand. You feel the mark leaving your body. It's a strange feeling.

"Alright," You say, throwing Desmond back onto the deck. The boy lands with a heavy thud, breathing heavily.

"Fuck you're crazy," Desmond says, slowly getting to his feet.

"Liam!" Rachel yells.

You look over to see her struggling to run towards the boy. Tyler holds her back.

"I'm going to kill both you and Desmond for what you've done!"

"Jesus Rachel," Desmond says, brushing himself off. "Calm down,"

Liam extends a hand, and Desmond floats up from the deck to his side.

"How long's this going to go on Liam," You say. "You can't stay in this world forever,"
"You have been a curse to the side of good for many days now," Liam says. "Let's settle this, two days from now, in the city. There's a tournament being held, drawing the strongest fighters from all over the land. If you can make it to the finals, I'll let you leave,"

"Oh shit," Sadie says. "Tournament arc,"

"Two more days in this hell hole?" Tyler says, shaking his head. "C'mon Liam. Desmond, fuck man, just tell him to let us go,"

Desmond shrugs. "You're in his house, you play by his rules man. I don't know what to tell you,"

"You could take responsibility for what you've done!" Tyler yells, standing. "This doesn't have to define you, but you need to atone for this!"

Tyler glances at you, as if to make sure he got the words right. You nod solemnly to him.

"The city, two days," Liam says. "Be there, or receive the mark until the day it kills you,"

"You remember this moment Liam!" Rachel says, gripping the spear tightly as she struggles against Tyler. "Remember this moment! I'll make you pay!"

Liam and Desmond disappear. The sounds of demons is strangely absent.

Your group is left in silence.

A morning fog drifts up as the sun rises. Birds call out in the distance.

Rachel collapses against Tyler, sobbing. Sadie just shakes her head and folds her legs underneath her. She puts her head in her hands and closes her eyes.

"Well," Les says, surviewing the scene. "I'd say that was an interesting night," She turns to you. "You going to accept?"

"What, the tournament?" You say. "I'm officially out of bullets,"

"Right," Les says. "I've been thinking about that. I pretty much explored everywhere in that white pod of mine, and I remember seeing at the Harry Potter place some sort of replication magic,"

"Some what now?"

Sadie raises her head, looking up at Les. "You mean we could make more bullets?"

Les shrugs. "You got any left to copy?"

You nod, slowly. You should have a magazine left with a bullet or two for the bushmaster, and you know for a fact you still have ammo for the SSG.

"But here's the deal," Les says. "You gotta have more than just the guns, cause I've seen some of the people who are probably going to be at this tournament. There's all sorts of ridiculous characters around here, and they will wipe the floor with you if you just go in there with a gun,"

"That's if Liam even allows guns in the tournament," Sadie says. "We need to get you a backup,"

She puts her hand to her chin, thinking.

"If I remember," Sadie says. "We could make you a ninja, a mage, or an x-user,"

"That's if I decide to take Liam up on his offer," You say.

"Sure," Les says. "but c'mon Saul, doesn't hurt to have a backup,"

>Visit the 12 villages, seek out a master kijitsu style
>Visit the Harry Potter school, learn a forbidden magic
>Go to the city two days early, become an X-user
>Go to the city two days early, become an X-user
It's the most logical choice if we don't want to get caught out for using a gun anyway. Maybe we could send Les and Sadie to the school to get some more bullets?
I'm not sure how much I'm buying the whole 'we shot the students polymorphed as weapons' thing.

Beh/smoke monster said he needed 'anchors' to maintain the world. Desmond says the weapons are the key, but I think its both the captains and the weapons, together. So instead of reducing one of the captains to a weapon when a weapon breaks, I'd think it would be more like equivalent exchange. Turn an uppity captain into a weapon, and turn one of the weapons back into a more manipulatable captain. Maintain the 10 to 10 ratio.
Though that brings up the question of why Rachel, Tyler, or one of the other captains haven't been turned into weapons to make up for the drop in captains and weapons. Maybe Beh can maintain the world at a reduced ratio, but too low reaches danger zone.

There is also the fact that Rachel was just *actively* using Megan, one of the newly made anchors, and didn't get mind-controlled again. Since Rachels' berserk sword was what was controlling her, but Spear!Megan didn't control her, then that makes me think the 'seals' on captains are inherently different from the weapon anchors themselves.

Not to mention it'd be pretty weird to have the weak-willed students be the artifacts that mind control the stronger-willed students.

What artifact do you think you would be turned into, anon?

>Go to the city two days early, become an X-user
It'd probably be what we are most familiar with.

And who knows, sufficiently advanced tech=magic and all that. They could have bullet replicators for their normal guns, all we gotta do is hotwire that shit and have it pump out good old fashion real-world rounds. Alternatively, we get XCOM plasma guns or gundam funnels.
Let's go to the city. If Hoshi was right, Xs might be similar to guns. I agree with sending out someone to the school for real bullets in case we need to cheat.
Gun barrels get REALLY fucking hot after firing a couple tens of bullets.

>Go to the city two days early, become an X-user
elemental bending needs creativity, and Saul is a pretty old guy for that.

Yeah, something seems fishy about "turned into weapons"
>>Visit the Harry Potter school, learn a forbidden magic

With mechs you'd think there was something that could make bullets or super guns

"Someone mentioned x-users being like big guns," You say. "So I'm going to go with what I know. Hopefully they have an internal system, and don't just run off bullshit,"

You turn to Les. "I'm going to head to the city and get that taken care of, can you go to the magic school and get me some more bullets? Copies of all the guns wouldn't hurt either. And if you can figure out a way to fix things I've got a beretta-"

"Alright," Les says, holding up her hands. "Yes, got it,"

"Maybe take Sadie with you, for protection,"

Sadie shrugs. "Sure, I wouldn't mind seeing some Little Witch Academia,"

Les glances over her shoulder at Tyler and Rachel. "What about those two?"

"I'll take them with me, hopefully the city will distract them,"

You walk over to Rachel and Tyler. Both look up at you. "You guys okay?"

Tyler looks down at Rachel, who gives a half shrug.

"Cool," You say. "We're headed to the city, I gotta find a robot gun and a Hilton hotel if they have one." You turn back to Les, who's walking inside with Sadie. "They have hotels in the city right? Or at least Motel 8's?"

"Ew," Les calls back. "Don't stay in a Motel 8 Saul, find something better,"

"I don't know anywhere better," You shout back. "That's why I'm asking you!"

"Well I wasn't looking for Motel 8's,"

"I don't mean a fucking Motel 8 specifically, I'm asking if you saw anything like hotels!"

"No I didn't see a cartoon Marriott either," Les shouts.

You cup a hand to shout back.

"Oh my god," Rachel says, standing and pushing you gently to the side. She bends back down and grabs her spear. "We're going to the city we'll figure it out there,"

She takes off towards the house, and Tyler stands up to follow. You look back at Les, who just shakes her head. You walk up to her.

"What the hell are you even going to buy rooms with anyways?" Les says.

"I don't know, my discover card? My luminox watch? My new robot gun? Who the fuck's going to say no to me when I have a robot gun?"

You pass her and walk into the house. Les follows. You all don't have much stuff, but you and your companions gather your bags and head to the landing pad. You pause at the door to the craft, turning back.

Les is at the entrance to her house, saying goodbye to the remaining fuzzy creatures. She waves to them as she walks to the pod.

"Really?" You say.

"There's nothing wrong with practicing being friendly to things," Les says, walking by you into the pod.

"Alright," You say once the pod takes off. You take your chair and turn it to face the others. "Sadie, once you and Les get to the school, book yourselves a room and catch some z's. We're going to be doing the same in the city. It's been a long night and we have some tough days ahead of us,"

Sadie holds out her hand. You look at it.

"What," You say.

"Money," She says. "Or how were you expecting us to convince Dumbledore to let us crash?"
You take out your wallet, slipping out a fifty and passing it to Sadie. She pockets it, then extends her hand again.


"I'll be lucky if fifty bucks buys me and officer Les a bunk in the Chamber of Secrets, now cough up army man, I know your moma don't charge you much in rent,"

You take out two hundred dollars and cram into Sadie's hand, leaning in close to her face. "My mother's fair but competitive rent pricing is not to be spoken of outloud, am I clear?"

"Ha," Tyler says. "Saul, no way, you still live with your mom?"

"That's probably the only reason I accepted a job to rescue your sorry ass Tyler,"

The pod shifts, and a massive city comes into view on the horizon.

"Whoa," Sadie says, standing and walking over to the window. She presses her hand to the glass, peering at the cityscape.

"Yeah," Rachel says, leaning back in her seat and throwing up her hoodie. "It's impressive, until you meet the idiots who live there,"

"Everybody's always shouting and challenging each other," Tyler says. "If you spend more than ten minutes in any one spot, you'll see a things just repeat on loop,"

"Well that's eerie," Sadie says. "Glad I get to go to the other anime,"

"The school's not much better," Les says, smiling. "Lot's of heartful lessons being acted out about friendship,"

Sadie pretends to retch, then recovers. "Nah it's cool, I can do slice-of-life,"

The cityscape grows bigger and bigger. Eventually Tyler stands, a confused expression on his face.

"Hey, Rachel," He says, walking over to the window. He joins Sadie.

"What," Rachel says, pulling her hoodie tight around her head.

"Come here and check this out,"

"Dude I don't want to see whatever dumb new robot Liam's got running around,"

"No," Tyler says, pressing his face to the window. "I'm serious, check this out,"

Rachel groans, standing. She takes off her hoodie as she approaches the window.

"Oh," She says.

"What," You say, joining them. Even Les leaves her chair and joystick, the pod steering itself.

"It's the city," Tyler says. "It's different. More,"

He pauses, unable to find the words.

"Complex," Rachel finishes. "There's shit tons more people down there, and buildings, and, it all looks kind of real. I mean, not the people and buildings, but the way the traffic's moving. Last time it was clearly just an effect,"

"Liam upgraded the city then," Sadie says. "Nice, just in time for the tournament arc,"

You share a glance with Les. You have a feeling there's more to it than that, in light of Desmond's information.

The ship touches down on what appears to be a metal tree. Instead of branches, there are landing pads, where all manner of colored pods land and take off. The pod parks itself on a pad, and the doors open.

You, Tyler and Rachel walk out of the pod. You pause at the door, looking back at Les and Sadie.

"If something goes wrong," You say. "How will you contact me?"
"Relax Saul," Les says, cracking you a grin. "Focus on your mission,"

The door slides shut, pushing you outside. You watch the pod take off, Sadie waving from the window. It zips through the sky, joining a line of other pods.

"Well?" Tyler says, looking at the metal tree and the landing pads. "What now?"

"Let's get to street level,"

It takes awhile, but you find an elevator in the metal tree that leads down to a lobby. There are all manner of people walking around the lobby. Banners hang from the massive ceiling promoting the upcoming tournament.

You walk out into the street level, then see a man smoking a cigarette. You walk up to him.

"Hey man," You say. "You know where I can find a hotel?"

"Naw man," The man says, grabbing you by the collar. He stares you in the eyes. "And I don't know how to wake up either man. I been stuck here now too long. Too long," The man lets go of you and shakes his head, walking away.

"Well fuck you too," Rachel says, watching him go. "C'mon, there's a place I can sleep somewhere around here,"

There are thousands of people walking around the streets. Most keep to themselves, but some are school groups or social outings. The babble of hundreds of unique conversations fills the downtown streets.

"This is, complex," You say, looking around. "This is like a real city,"

"Yeah," Tyler says. "This is weird,"

You find what looks like a hotel. You can't read Japanese scribbles, so you simply walk through into a narrow but elegant lobby.

"Hello," A woman says, bowing at the desk. "How may I assist you?"

>Set up Rachel, Tyler and yourself with rooms, get some sleep, then do your errands
>Set up Rachel and Tyler with rooms, go out and explore
>Set up Rachel and Tyler with rooms, go out and seek out your x-tool
>Set up Rachel and Tyler with rooms, go out and seek out your x-tool
It would be good to rest, but we don't have a lot of time.
>>Set up Rachel, Tyler and yourself with rooms, get some sleep, then do your errands
>>Set up Rachel, Tyler and yourself with rooms, get some sleep, then do your errands
none of them have actually slept yet

"Two rooms," You say. The woman smiles, looking down at a computer and typing. You watch her, slipping your wallet out of your back pocket.

"Are you here for the tournament?" The woman says, looking back up.


"How many days?"


"Sounds good! Make sure you check out all of Neo Tokyo's many attractions during your stay,"

"How much do I owe you," You say, opening your wallet.

"Why, nothing of course! All services within Neo Tokyo are provided free of charge,"

"Well fuck me," You say, putting your wallet back in your pocket. "It's a Karl Marx wetdream,"

The woman just smiles and hands you two key cards. You turn back to the teens, gesturing with your head for them to follow you.

You take the elevator up ten stories to one of the top levels. The doors open to reveal a long hallway with dark wood paneling and red carpets. One of the doors is open, and two children laugh as they lunge at each other in the frame.

You lead Tyler and Rachel down to your rooms, then hand one of the cards to Rachel.

"Your room's connected to ours," You say. "Knock if something comes up. You have six hours to sleep, then we've got to get a move on it,"

Rachel nods, taking the key card. She makes to turn to her room, but hesitates in front of Tyler. After an awkward moment they embrace, then she turns away and heads to her door.

You open your room, leading Tyler inside. It's spacious enough, with a bathroom, two beds, a huge television and a balcony.

"Nice," Tyler says, going over to one of the beds and dropping down on it. You set your bag down, then part the curtains and peer out beyond.

All of you spent the night awake back at the treehouse, and now morning sound city sounds drift up to the window. You shut the curtains, blocking out the sun, and slowly lay down on your bed, careful of your wounds. You don't even bother getting under the covers, instead intertwining your fingers across your stomach and closing your eyes.

"Hey Saul," Tyler says.

"What's up," You say, not bothering to open your eyes.

Tyler doesn't speak for a moment.

"I'm worried about Rachel," He says. He pauses again, and you hear him scratching his head. "I don't know what to do. How to help her,"

"Are you two together,"

"No, well, it's complicated. It was complicated before. She has a boyfriend in another class. But, they're not really together? And now. We've always had feelings for each other, and now, this craziness. I mean, we're probably going to die, right Saul?"

You open your eyes.

"Now what makes you say that,"

"I mean, what can we possibly do? I don't have any powers anymore. I hated not being in control, but not being able to help you guys and Rachel is even worse,"

You smile as you stare up at the ceiling. You can't help it.
"Man," You say. "Guys have been feeling powerless since caveman times. Get a gym membership,"

"I'm serious, I'm worried about her. This place is doing things to us,"

"Sure, yeah, I get that," You say. "But we're gonna get through this Tyler. You're going to get through this. And Rachel."

"But how?"

"You got me and a police officer saving your guys' asses at every turn. That's how. Now get some sleep, I was serious about giving you only six hours,"

Tyler passes out after that. You do too after setting your luminox alarm. It rings all too early, your eyes shooting open. You get up, rubbing them, then slide your legs off the sheets. Tyler is still passed out in his bed.

You take a shower, changing out of the same clothes you've worn the last couple days. You sniff the, recoiling, then toss them aside.

After a refreshing shower, you clean and dress your wounds as best you can, then do a few warmups in the room. Tyler doesn't stir. You decide to give both him and Rachel one more hour of sleep.

Finally you rouse him, than knock on the door connecting you guys' and Rachel's rooms.

"Up and at em' Rachel," You shout through the door. You hear a pillow hit the door in response. "That's fine girl," You say. "Just be ready in twenty,"

It actually takes forty minutes for both Tyler and Rachel to finally make it out of their rooms. You hurry them to the lobby, where a large pair of double doors have been opened to reveal a dining room. Several groups are already sitting and eating. You lead the teens to an empty table.

A family sits next to you. The server takes your guys' order, than leaves. The wife of the family keeps peering at you. Finally she waves, and you reluctantly look over.

"Ma'am," You say.

"Oooohhh, are you guys here for the tournament?"

"Yup," You say, sipping on your coffee and making to turn away.

"Ohh how fun! Everyone around is so excited! Have you checked out all the attractions in Neo Tokyo? All the famous ones at least?"

The woman leans over, putting a hand to her mouth. "There's the others too, off the beaten path, but you'll have to spend some time in the city before you earn those names from me!"

"Sure, thanks," You say, turning back.

"Oh, and Saul,"

You snap back, staring at the woman. She's no longer a woman, but instead Desmond, nibbling on a bagel. He winks at you.

"Can't wait to face you in the tournament,"

"The fuck," You say, rising. Your chair falls backwards, and you look at it. When you look back, the woman is a woman again. You point at the woman, turning to Tyler and Rachel. "Did you just see that shit?"

"Ignore it," Rachel says, sipping her orange juice. "He and Liam came up with that power, possessing the fake people around here. They thought it would be a good villain trick. Desmond's just fucking with you,"

"You're awfully calm about it,"

"Oh," Rachel says, setting down her glass. "I'm going to kill him. He has no idea what he's started,"
Tyler glances at her, his brow furrowing in worry.

Your meals arrive, and you all dig in. After a hearty breakfast, you finish your coffee and motion for everyone to do the same to their meals.

The teens follow you out to the lobby. You stop by the desk.

"Hey," You say, leaning on it. "Where can I find a place to get x-tools,"

The desk lady smiles, presenting a rack with city attractions. You rolls your eyes, going over to it. After a quick look, you select a pamphlet on x-users and open it. A list of maintenance shops are marked on a map.

Once outside the hotel, Tyler and Rachel follow you through the crowds filling the many pedestrian ways. Cars beep and honk as the people stream to and fro.

After some confusing twists and turns, you find the closest shop on the map. It's a small shop, wedged between a large electronics store and what looks like a bootleg McDonalds. You walk into the shop, the bell ringing as the door opens.

It's a mess. Shelves line every wall with every part imaginable. More parts hang from the ceiling on string. Blueprints and charts are tacked to every surface.

A cluttered desk occupies one end, as well as a door leading to the back rooms. A girl pokes up from behind the desk.

"Oh!" The girl says. "Customers! Grampa, we have customers!"

"What!" A voice calls from the back. "Impossible!"

"No no, really!" The girl says. She leans over the counter. "You guys are here for x-tools right?"

"Yeah," You say, approaching the counter. "What've you got,"

An older man in a workshop apron and goggles comes through the back door. He slides the goggles up on his head, peering at you and the teens.

"I'll tell you what we've got," The man says. He opens his arms. "Everything!"

"I'm here for the tournament," You say. "I need to win,"

"Oh," The old man says, sharing a look with his granddaughter. "Well, then, of course, come back with me,"

You follow the old man and girl past the desk and into the back room. Tables are laid out with what you can only assume are x-tools. They're large, bulky devices that no human could reasonably pick up.

"So," The man says, stopping at a table. He gestures down an x-tool. It's black, sleek, and shaped like an arm. You walk over to it, leaning down to inspect it. You look back up at the old man.

"May I?"

The old man nods. You pick it up, looking at it. "How does I slip it on my arm?"

"What?" The old man says. "Don't you know anything about x-users?"

You turn back to him, shaking your head.

"That is your arm!" The girl says, pointing at the black object.

"X-users don't just use x-tools," The old man says. "X-tools are a part of x-users. It's a symbiotic relationship that starts with the x-user sacrificing a piece of their body in order to replace it with an x-interface device. That particular one you old is both an interface device and an x-tool, latest model,"

"So let me get this straight," You say. "In order to use an x-tool, I have to chop off my arm?"
"Oh, well, you said you wanted to win," The old man says.

"Most x-users just give up a hand or an eye," the girl says. "Giving up an entire arm would mean you're really dedicated to this,"

You just stand there. Processing this. It's ridiculous.

"Just how powerful are x-tools," You say.

The old man grins. "Son, you have no idea of their potential,"

>Sacrifice your hand for an x-tool
>Sacrifice your eye/eyes for an x-tool
>Give a whole arm for an x-tool
>Go for broke
>Wait for Sadie and Les to return and explore other options
>Wait for Sadie and Les to return and explore other options
This is our arm. I say we go for it, since they're gonna have to believe us when we get back outside this place. I just want to know first.
>Go for broke, but keep one human eye
SOMEONE out there is gonna have a way to shut down our robot parts, and when that happens, one eye is better than no eyes.
Oooh, tough call. The bastard who hired us in the first place didn't have his minor wounds healed upon returning, so a free heal is probably not going to happen. We have no idea if cartoon matter disappears in the real world, either. So that's a fairly serious risk.

I'd say at least give an arm.
>Give a whole arm
On the fairly decent chance that a hospital in the city, healing magic, or Liam's anime godhax can restore our arm before we leave.

On the other hand, I am fairly curious what all
>Go for broke
would entail. Perhaps not fully chopping off a limb or organ, but instead meld cybernetics into our flesh? I'd rather plug some gundam funnels or doc ock backpack straight into our spine than cut off a limb.

Not quite sure what Saul would feel about transhumanism, though.
>Only keep one eye
So we're replacing our entire body but one eye, then hoping it helps us when we can't move anyway? I hope you weren't assuming we'd replace vital shit too, like our brain, our heart, our nerves, or our lungs. Otherwise we'd be dead anyway. But again, if we replace all our limbs, then somehow get shut down, we're a sitting duck anyway. All one eye would do is give Lop something to have us see before we died.
I figured "Go for Broke" would be Arm+Eyes as a sort of "all of the above" option, but if it is full body cybernetics that changes things.
both eyes, both arms
In that case, I'm specifying one eye and one arm. That just seems like a good combination to me.
Fuu.... I'm super squeamish when it comes to eye stuff. Especially surgery.

Could we get, like, an X-Leg to go with our X-arm? Superjump, rocket thruster, minigun leg, able to use THE KNEE. Legs are pretty versatile, even if they aren't 'normally' for tool usage.
>Wait for Sadie and Les to return and explore other options
Shit i am assuming all of this anime bullshit doesnt get to stay on us when we move back to the real world so losing a arm is prety brutal
>sacrifice an eye.
>come back later if we decide to add an arm too
Could we give a lung, too? What about a kidney?
If an arm is disabled, we can still finagle a brace to handle recoil for bigger guns. If a leg is disabled, you're fucked.

"Dude, Mr. Saul," Rachel says.

You hold up a finger, staring at the x-tool in front of you. This is a moment where you have to decide just how far you're willing to go to get these kids out of Wonderland. You think back to your life, highschool, the army, the drifting afterwards. What has it all led up to? What was the point of all of it? To come here? To be a hero? You don't feel like a hero. This just feels like...something familiar.

"Fuck it," You say, pacing back and forth. "Fuck it, fuck this, fuck that, fuck everything. You stop in front of the sleek, black arm. "But especially fuck that goddamned black smoke monster,"

You point at the arm, looking the old man in the eyes.

"Put it on me,"

"Whoa," Tyler says. Rachel's eyes widen. "Hey, Saul," Tyler says, stepping forward. "Man, you don't have to, you know,"

"Yeah," Rachel says, scratching her neck and looking to the side. "Like, we appreciate it-"

"This ain't about you," You say, glancing at them over your shoulder. "I'll get you out of here, don't worry. But I'm doing this for more than just fighting in a tournament,"

It's hard to put into words, but you recognize now the feelings you've felt every since you entered this world. The strangeness, the uncertainty paired with deceptive calms. The anxiety and hopes and fears.

Iraq found you again.

Maybe you never really left. Your mates gave limbs, lives and their minds. You gave up any chance of ever living a normal life outside of war. Was it fair that the others gave more? Were forced to give more?

And now. Here you are. You realize it now. It's war. You never sign on thinking you're going to lose a limb. Your life, sure, back of your mind. But limbs never. And yet, that's what always goes. That's the price you pay for doing the jobs no one else can or will do.

But especially, without question: Fuck all this cartoon bullshit and the smoke that spawned it. You're getting out of here alive, and everyone else too, even if you have to drag every goddammed person with your robot arm.

The old man nods. "Alright son, let's get you on the chair,"

"Oh fuck no I cannot watch this," Rachel says, turning away. Tyler tries to comfort her, but she briskly walks out of the back room.

"Hey uh," Tyler says, looking at you.

"Yeah," You say, walking over to a chair. "Don't you worry man, I'll be done here in a jiffy,"

"You most certainly will not!" The old man says. "Do you know how long it takes to install an interface/x-tool? Not to mention chopping off an arm?"

You put your forehead in your hand, taking a deep breath.

"There will be anesthetic right?"

"Ane-what now?" The old man says. Your eyes bulge. The old man smiles. "Sorry, bad joke, hop on the chair boy, you won't feel a thing,"
You get on the chair, slowly. You feel a prick, then look over to see the girl sticking you with a needle. She quickly takes it out, winking at you.

"So I'm about to pass out, right?"

"Naw," The old man says. "Local anesthetic, promise you won't feel a thing. Besides, I need your mind clear, you've got a couple more customizable options to pick from,"

"What do you mean?" You say, feeling your left arm go numb.

"Well, this particularly fancy model you chose is both the x-tool and the x-interface, and it supports a couple options. You can put a big blade in there, or dedicate it to an energy sword, though I'll tell you that heats up your arm pretty quickly. There's also the ranged options, which include both energy projectiles and kinetic rounds,"

"There's only room for one?"

"Ehh, for now," The old man says. "You've got to understand son, you're getting the latest model of something very, very cutting edge. Most people don't have their weapon in the limb they loose. Their x-tool is usually an extra thing that the interface allows them to wield."

"Now, give it a month or two," The girl says, slipping on a welding mask and holding up a scalpel "And I'm sure the modd scene will have made all sorts of customizable add ons,"

"You could do the shield option, though most people don't go for that one since it's hard to attack with a defensive x-tool,"

>Get the big sword option
>Get the energy blade option
>Get the energy projectile option
>Get the kinetic rounds option
>Get the shield option
I say the shield. We want something that can complement our regular gun, and who knows what kind of Captain America shit we might be able to pull off with it.
>>Get the energy projectile option

Fucks sakes, a whole fucking arm.
I hope its the non dominant one at least.
That's fair. Plus I doubt we'll be alone in these things. If the tournament is doubles +, a shield is perfect.
Either Shield or Kinetic rounds.

We are used to kinetic guns and their ways. How to compensate recoil, burst fire, and such.
While a shield will help us protect all the kids from the stupid shit they will try to do while still here. And, more importantly, to protect us from all the stupid shit we will do to save their asses. Plus shield bashing is always an option.

You think for a moment. All those options sound bizarre, but a shield would come in handy. Especially with what you've dealt with so far.

"What's type of ballistic shielding will this shield provide?" You say, your arm now completely numb. "Are we talking small calibre rounds, or something larger?"

The old man smiles, bringing out a buzz saw. "Don't you worry son, Neo Tokyo is the leader in nano-ballistic plating. And not just that. This shield will be able to stop energy and explosive damage as well,"

"We think we may even be able to install energy dispersal platting soon," The girl says.

"Asha, we most certainly will not! You and your crazy ideas, we're at least a decade away from that technology!"

"That's not true grampa, the technology is already in development, it's just the exact dispersal ration that needs to be determined!"

You haven't been listening to a word they say. You're just staring at the buzz saw the old man holds.

"Uh," You say, raising the hand that can still move. You point at the saw. "You're not going to take my arm off with that, are you?"

"Of course I am," The man says. "It's a nuDiamond blade, can cut through steel and bone as easily as a hot knife through butter. You wouldn't want me to do this any other way,"

"I mean, I would have liked for you to have knocked me out first, but I see we're well past that,"

The old man turns on the buzz saw, and you see the blade spin. You furrow your brow, suddenly wondering something.

You're not much of an imagination guy. But you learned guns and their internal systems back in the army. You have a general sense for mechanical design. And you like youtube videos where innawoods guys build stupid crazy shit.

"Hey," You say, holding up a finger. The old man turns off the buzz saw.


"The shield, is it collapsible?

"Oh, you want me to explain the finer points of this x-tool?"

"Well, when I'm not using the shield, do I put it on my back?"

"Oh oh!" The girl, Asha says, jumping up and down. "Grampa, let me explain!" The old man gestures for her to do so. She bends down in front of you, clearly excited. "So the shield will be stored in forearm and shoulder chambers throughout the arm. When your shield is in your arm, the limb will be nigh indestructible, with the exception of parts of the hand and outer casing."

The girl picks up the arm, showing it to you. "When you activate the shield, molecular agitators change the shield inside your arm from solid to liquid, and it flows out through vents in the forearm, solidifying again when it interacts with oxygen. It controls direction and shape through charging the particles with directional cilia located in the millions on the outside of the forearm vents. Too small for you to see of course,"

You only understood about a half of what she said, but you're all pretty sure it was mostly cartoon bullshit.
"So," You say. "What I want to know is, when the shield, what was it, solidifies outside my arm, is there a way we could, make it so that is spins? Like that buzzsaw?"

The old man just looks at you. "You mean, spin really, really fast?"

"You know what," You say. "I want it to be EXACTLY like that buzzsaw. With that NuDiamon stuff on the edges too,"

"That is absolutely impossible," The old man says. He crosses his arms. "There's no way it would work,"

"Yes it would grampa!" The girl says. "That's a great idea! We could actually make that kinda work if we store the NuDiamond on the outside, possible even within the cilia. It would even form a thin line of structural support,"

"Girl you are out of your mind!"

"Well, I want that," You say. "Because I feel I'm going to need more than whatever top shelf shit you keep in stock if I want to get out of here. This is all just a dream after all, and I need to start dreaming bigger than that ass Liam,"

"A NuDiamond buzzsaw shield?" The old man says. "Ridiculous, impossible!" He storms off past other tables lined with x-tools, muttering to himself.

The girl comes around to you, an excited grin on her face.

"Do you trust me?" She says.

"What? No, I just met you,"

"What if I said I could build what you're describing,"

You give her a glance out of the side of your eyes. She doesn't look any older than Rachel, younger even.

"How old are you,"

"That doesn't matter! That's what everyone's concerned about! I'm old enough! I've been helping grampa do this since I was five!" She lowers her voice, which had been growing in volume. She leans in close. "Give me a chance to prove everyone wrong. Come back tonight, at eleven. I'll have it ready and we'll do the procedure,"

"Just you," You say, pointing at her with your good arm.

"Like I said, you have to trust me. I can give you the weapon you want,"

You put your head in your hands, resisting the urge to groan. You can hear the old man muttering as he storms back in your direction.

"The hell am I supposed to do with this numb arm in the meantime?"

"I don't know," Asha says, shrugging. "Say your goodbyes?"

You roll your eyes, then hear the old man behind you. You scoot off the chair.

"So sorry," you say, stumbling forward and then righting yourself. You head to the front room of the shop. "Just remembered a very important engagement, thank you for your time sir,"

You leave hurriedly, catching Tyler and Rachel in the front of the shop. Tyler looks at you as you approach, glancing at your arm.

"Is that it?" He says. "It looks just like the old one,"

"I rescheduled my visit," You say, ushering the teens through the front door. The bell chimes as you leave.

Once outside, the busy roads and pedestrian ways of Neo Tokyo greet you. Your arm still feels numb, but you still have your right, which is the one you use anyway.

"Well," Rachel says, stretching. "I'm not sure what you're up to Mr. Saul, but I want new clothes,"
"What?" You say. "No, I need to find a phone and a number for the magic school. We need to check on Sadie and officer Les. And don't call me Mr. Saul, I'm not your fucking english teacher,"

"Well, I love hoodies," Rachel says, pulling on the hems of her red one. "But this one fucking stinks and I want more variety in my wardrobe,"

"Yeah," Tyler says, itching his arm. "I wouldn't mind some new thread either,"

>Send the teens off to go shopping, go find a phone
>Take the teens shopping, phone later
>Shopping later or whatever, take them with you to find a phone
>Take the teens shopping, phone later
something something nanoweave hoodies.
>Take the teens shopping, phone later
I would suggest sending them off while we find a phone, but having them go off alone might be a bad idea.
>Take the teens shopping, phone later

You look at your own clothes, remembering how poorly they smelled before your shower. You want to just tell the kids to keep themselves occupied, but you didn't come this far just to lose them in a shopping mall.

"Alright," You say. "Let's grab some new clothes,"

Rachel claps her hands together.

"Yes, perfect, let's go,"

She leads you and Tyler through the crowds, her head swiveling to both sides as she searches for shops. Finally she pauses, Tyler and you almost bumping into her.

"There," She says, pointing at what you can only assume is some sort of trendy boutique. "That looks like a place with my style,"

"Uh," You say, doing a quick look-around. "Maybe there's another-"

"Nope, c'mon," She says, dragging you and Tyler through the sea of people. "Mr. Saul, Tyler, we're all getting a new look,"

You cross the street and come up before the shop. A flower in ray ban sunglasses hangs over the door, giving a thumbs up.

"Lord help me," You say as Rachel drags you and Tyler inside.

There are a few young people about, and some older folks. They stand in groups of twos and threes throughout the store, holding up clothes to one another and chatting. Ambient, trendy music plays over the speakers.

"Dude there's no way Liam thought of a place like this," Tyler says, looking around. "This would give him an anxiety attack,"

"Thank god," Rachel says, making a beeline for a rack. "Tyler, you're with me. Mr. Saul, I trust you to dress yourself,"

"Yeah thanks kid," You say. You turn to the side where you spotted some pants. With any luck, they'll be functional and with deep pockets.

This is not the case. They are tight and have very small pockets. You shake your head as you put them back on the rack.

"Hi there!" A voice says. "Can I help you find something?"

"Yeah," You say, turning to a young store attendant with eager eyes. "I'm looking for some outdoors wear, something that can take a beating,"

"Well all our Jin Love jeans are made from the finest cotton denim threads, and come with a one year warranty!"

"What?" You say. "That doesn't even make sense. Why would you buy a warranty with pants? And no, not Jin Love jeans, I want outdoor pants, like you go hiking or camping in,"

"Ohhh, sorry sir," The attendant says, looking genuinely worried. "I don't think we have anything like that! But Hank Mayer just came out with new cargo shorts that I'm told are unusually durable for our fashions!"

"Cargo shorts," You say, putting a hand to your face. "Christ. Fine, get me a pair of those in size thirty-eights, and I guess your most flexible jeans,"

She nods excitedly, taking off.

"But not too loose!" You call after her. You take your hand from your face and look around. You spot Rachel excitedly holding shirts to Tyler's chest, clearly deciding on what will look best on him.
The attendant comes back with the shorts and jeans. You try them both on, then throw in a couple functional-looking t-shirts to boot. When you're all done, you stand by the counter while the attendant checks you out.

"So," You say, scanning for the teens again. "How exactly does a city with no money work?"

"Oh we all just do our part!" The attendant says, smiling.

"Yeah nice," You say. "I suppose it's about as believable as anything else around here,"

As you finish checking out, Rachel and Tyler approach the counter. They're both wearing new clothes, as well as holding several bags.

"Damn," You say to Rachel. "You move fast,"

"I know what I want and Tyler was smart enough to let me pick for him,"

Tyler and Rachel walk up to the counter and drop their bags on top of it. You can tell this will take awhile, and turn to the attendant.

"Hey if I wanted to make a phone call to that magic school, how would I do that?"

"Oh, you mean Maplelight Academy?"

"Yeah, this place where all the wizards are,"

"Why, I'm sure you could call the school directory office!"

"Nice, and where would I find that number,"

The attendant looks puzzled. "Your smartphone, right?"

"Tell you what," You say, leaning on the counter. "I'll be very, very appreciative if you look it up real quick, call it, and then give me your phone,"

"Oh, I wouldn't feel comfortable with that, but maybe I could look up the number and call it on our store phone!"

"Sure yes, do that,"

The attendant takes out a sleek-looking phone and taps away at the screen. She then leans over to the counter-phone, picking it up and dialing some numbers. She listens a beat, smiles, then hands it to you.

You take the phone and put it to your ear.

"Hello, Maplelight Academy Main office, how may I direct your call?"

"Yes hi, my name's Saul Beckett and I'm trying to get in touch with a Sadie....something, and a Les...well look, I don't know their last names, but I promise you no one else there is named Sadie or Les,"

"One moment please,"

The weirdest holding music you've ever heard starts to play. Classical, but with a weirdly asian twist. After a moment the phone picks back up.


You recognize Les's voice.

"Les," You say. "Good, that was a lot easier than I thought, did you get a room there?"

"Oh no, I actually joined the Academy, I'm a teacher now,"

"Wait, what?"

"Yeah turns out they don't just let anyone use their nice copy magic, so Sadie came up with the idea of me posing as a teaching applicant,"

"Oh course she did. You don't even know any magic,"

"Well the position was for a math teacher,"

"You know what," You say, putting your fingers to the bridge of your nose. "That's fine, it's fine. So when are you coming back,"
"Well we can come back now if you want, I pretty much spent the whole morning pumping ammo out of a magic salt mill. I also got us a couple extras of your rifles. Couldn't fix your beretta, so I copied mine. You'll have to settle for a glock now,"

"We can make do with that,"

"How did things go on your end? You got a robot gun now?"

"Not exactly," You say, trying to switch the phone to your other ear with your good arm. "We'll find out exactly what I'm going to get tonight,"

"Hm alright, so where you guys staying?"

"It's called the Blue Leaf Hotel," You say. "Try and get back here at five, we'll eat dinner there and then plan,"

"Sound like a plan, see you soon,"

You hang up the phone. Tyler and Rachel are waiting for you with their bags.

"Alright," You say. "Let's take this stuff back to the room,"

"Then what are we going to do?"

You pause. You're not sure. You've got a couple hours before your surgery, and you're in a fake but very realistic city.

>Take Tyler and Rachel and check out the Tournament Stadium
>Do some sightseeing in a tourist area
>Go off the beaten path and do some light exploring
>Go off the beaten path and do some light exploring
>Check out a different X-tool store and ask about replacing an eye.
If we're back in boolet business, some autoaim would be nice.
>Take Tyler and Rachel and check out the Tournament Stadium

See if we can't watch a match or two and figure out the rules.

We're getting our eyes replaced anyway.
While we're waiting for a couple tie-breaker votes, I just wanted to say I really appreciate you guys reading along and participating in this quest, it's been awhile since I've done a narrative one and this one's really working for me for some reason

Anyways here's a shitty trailer I made as thanks
The characters look however you imagine them in your head, I just grabbed some images from the internet. It's anime land after all
>Go off the beaten path and do some light exploring.
We'll have plenty of time to check out the stadium, not to mention it'll probably be a fairly basic, raised dias sort of stadium. Might as well make use of this time to see if anything else in this city is unnaturally realistic, or maybe run into another captain to rescue.

No problem, man. Thank *you* for running this thing. The writing is great, the story telling is really well done, and the characters are believable and enjoyable to interact with.
I've only ever read the archives of long-since-finished quests, so this being one of my first experiences actually participating in a quest is quite enjoyable.
The more narrative approach is fairly abnormal compared to what I've usually read, but its a pretty chill experience and something nice to pop in on every once and a while. Having a couple updates spread throughout the day makes it a lot less stressful to chip in on as well.
>Go off the beaten path and do some light exploring

I just catch up and I have being laughing my ass off while reading. Love your work Lop.

"Let's do some more shopping," Rachel says, seeing you pause.

"No," You say, slowly. "Let's go exploring. A little sightseeing. I want to get a better feel for this city,"

"Yeah," Tyler says, looking around. "This is way different than I remember. Not a single person here has repeated an interaction while I've been in earshot,"

"Fine," Rachel says. "We'll sightsee, but that means I get to stop into a store if I see one I like,"

"Yeah sure," You say, leading the group down the sidewalk.

Your arm is still numb, and it lays at your side. This doesn't keep you from using your right hand to push your way through the crowds.

It's no surprise that the city is covered in promotional material for the Tournament. It reminds you of the time your friend sent you pictures of Chicago before the Cubs won the world series. People everywhere discuss it as well, pointing out pictures of fighting champions that adorn large windows and bus shelters.

You find a street that looks like it will take you where you want to go, and gesture with your head for the kids to follow. They do, keeping an eye out as the crowds disappear.

After a few turns, some quaint shopping neighborhoods and a hill, the three of you come across a public park surrounded by skyscrapers. There's trees, as well as a small pond and pedestrian pathways.

"Alright," You say, checking your watch. "Let's do a lap around the park and head back,"

"What, seriously?" Tyler says, gazing at the park. "You want to go on a walk in the trees?"

"No, but it's a good chance to turn around,"

The teens shrug, and follow you as you enter the park. The paths are nice enough, as is the sound of families around the pond. If you closed your eyes, you could almost trick yourself into thinking you were back in the real world.

But no. Everyone looks like the front of your brother's DVD cases and posters and fucking figurines. No matter how well Liam got them to talk and move.

As you wind around the park, you notice Tyler and Rachel taking their time. You're walking ahead of them, but don't mind. If they're enjoying the walk, you'll let them.

You get far enough ahead of them that you decide to wait on a bench. You gaze around the park, taking in the rays of sunlight that pierce through the trees.

A man walks past your bench, and you recognize him. It was the fellow you first spotted upon entering the city, the one who was smoking cigarettes. He glances at you as he passes, and you nod at him.

"Sup man," You say, out of habit.

He turns to you.

"You real, ain't you," He says, itching his neck.


"You a real person, from the real world, right?"

You stand quickly, your eyes narrowing. "I am," You say. "Are you?"

"Yeah man," the stranger says, patting himself down and then taking out a pack of cigarettes. "Hey look man, I've been here for days and I'm running out of cigs, you got any?"
"No," You say. "How did you get here? Did you visit the cabin?"

The man shakes his head. "I fell asleep in my camp in the woods, and woke up here. I think I'm in hell, or I got bad drugs,"

"Yeah, you and me both man. Look, we're actually in a teenager's powerfantasy, but I'm going to try and get us all out. You want to come with us?"

Tyler and Rachel have now reached you. They pause, watching you talk to the stranger.

"Naw man, thanks," The stranger says, itching his neck. "I always did better on my own. But I won't forget you man. You get out of here, you don't forget me,"

"Deal," You say, extending your hand and shaking his. "My name's Saul, by the way,"

"Lewis," The man says, then turns and walks off.

"What was that about?" Tyler says, watching him go.

"Something's happening with this world," You murmur, almost to yourself. You raise your voice. "Let's go guys, Sadie and Les should be reaching the hotel soon,"

The three of you walk back, mostly in silence. As the sun sets, the families and school groups are replaced with older couples and young adults. You can hear the beginnings of a very active nightlife.

Once back at the hotel, you all check into your rooms then meet back in the lobby. As your headed for the dining room, Les and Sadie walk through the door.

"Saul!" Sadie says, smiling. "Rachel, Tyler!"

Tyler and Rachel wave, and you nod at Les. Both she and Sadie are wearing ornate, gilded robes that look like they cost a small fortune. Gold stars and moons decorate the surface.

"Wow," You say as they approach. "You really did become a magical math teacher, didn't you,"

"Not just that, but I enrolled!" Sadie says. "I'm now a witch at Maplelight Academy!"

"Wait, you're a ninja and a witch now?" You say, raising an eyebrow. "Isn't that cheating?"

"Yeah we didn't get that option," Tyler says.

Sadie shrugs. "Dunno, but it's badass. I got a spell book I'm going to study while Saul practices for the tournament,"

"Speaking of which," Les says. She extends two duffle bags. Both are slightly unzipped, revealing bundles of bushmasters, SSGs and glocks. The at least dozen guns are crammed pack with loose ammo.

"Damn," You say, looking into the bags. A kid and a mother passing by catch sight of it and hurry faster.

"Yup," Les says, trying to pass you the bags.

You take one, your left arm hanging limp. "Sorry," You say. "Only got one right now,"

"Why?" Sadie says.

"Gonna replace my arm with a buzzsaw shield,"

Both Sadie and Les stare at you, waiting for you to show some indication that you're joking. When you don't, Sadie just shakes her head.

"Jesus Saul, you sure about that?"

You nod. "Trust me guys, we're getting the fuck out of here in two days, whether Liam wants us to or not,"

The five of you retire to the dining room, where a hearty dinner is served. Les and Sadie entertain you, Rachel and Tyler with stories of the ridiculous lives and traditions the wizards and witches live.
That evening, after you've shown Les and Sadie to Rachel's room, then checked in with Tyler, you prepare to go to your x-tool appointment. You throw on some of the new clothes you've bought, then slowly slip out the door while Tyler snores.

Les is waiting in the hall.

"What's up?" She says.

"Hey," You say, your brow furrowing. "What're you doing out here?"

"Thought you could use some company for the surgery,"

You're about to wave her off, but then you remember the girl Asha and the buzzsaw.

"You know what," You say, turning to her. "That wouldn't be so bad,"

The two of you leave the lobby, walking out into a brightly lit city at night.

"Girls settle in alright?" You say as the two of you walk.

"Yeah, Sadie and Rachel talked for a bit, mostly Sadie," Les says, shoving her hands in her robe pockets.

"Yup, sounds like her,"

"They're asleep now, you can tell they haven't slept well since arriving,"

"Yeah," You say quietly. "I feel that,"

You reach the shop, which is darked and has a "closed" sign in the window.

"Uh," Les says.

"Yeah, it's a special appointment," You say. You lead Les around to the side, looking for any indication that Asha has left a way in.

You find her in the back lot, sitting on a crate of half-melted bolts. Upon seeing you and Les, she jumps excitedly off the crate and half-skips over to you.

"Good good good!" She says, stopping before you. "I'm so glad you trust me!"

"Who is this?" Les says, looking confused.

"Officer Les, meet Dr. Asha, the lead, and only surgeon on my procedure. Asha, meet Les,"

"Hi!" Asha says, taking Les's hand. "You gonna hold his hand while he gets his arm chopped off?"

"Wait, what?" Les says.

"C'mon!" Asha beckons you to follow her to the back door. "Gramps is a heavy sleeper, but we still need to get this started,"

Les gives you a "wtf" look, and you just grin. "C'mon," You say. "It's just like that one time in space jam,"

"The fuck it is," Les says, following you inside.

The back rooms are dimly lit, save for a powerful lamp hanging over a chair. It reminds you of a gruesome torture scene, and you slow.

"C'mon!" Asha beckons you to the chair. "I did it! I managed to create the weapon!"

You start walking again upon hearing this. "Really?" You say. "The spinning and the diamond edges?"

Asha nods, brimming with pride. "Yup! It's amazing! It's inspiring! You have to let me be your mechanic! It wouldn't be fair to take my baby to someone else for maintenance!"

"Whatever you say," You say, getting on the chair. "You're the one with the saw after all,"

Les comes and stands next to you, looking at the trays of surgical tools, as well as the sleek, black robot arm.

"So," Les says, looking at you. "You sure about this Saul?"

"Yeah," You say, taking a deep breath. "I'm sure,"
Asha throws on a smock, hits you with another needle of ansestic, then puts on her welding mask and picks up the buzz saw.

"Oh holy fuck," Les says, grabbing your hand. "No way is she going to use that,"

"Ahh not too tight," You say. "Which one of us is getting the surgery?"

Asha takes your arm and lays it across a moveable stand. She marks the cutting point with a marker, than turns on the saw.

Les tries to shut her eyes, then realizes you're staring at her. You're a hard man, but you're not going to fucking watch your arm fall off.

To her credit, Les keeps her eyes opens and returns your gaze. You can tell she's doing it to keep you calm.

You hear the noise of a saw going through something, then feel oddly lighter. The saw stops.

"Okay," Asha says. "The next part's gonna take awhile,"

Two hours later, and a lot of careful adjustments, Asha lets out a heavy sigh.

"That's it," She says, wiping her hands on a rag and throwing it away. She slips off her smock.

You look over at your arm. It's black, and looks heavy as hell.

"Giver her a squeeze," Asha says.

You do, and your fingers curl. It's weirdly responsive.

"Oh yes," Asha says, smiling. "Yessssss,"

Les gets up from where she was sitting. After the arm lopping, she decided to take it easy on a portable chair. She walks over to you and inspects your arm.

"Nice," She says, nodding.

You get up from the chair, sliding off it. Once standing, you flex the arm again.

"How do I activate it?" You say. "The shield I mean,"

"Intuition," Asha says. "Every x-users relationship with their x-tool is different, but you'll find it comes naturally enough with some practice,"

You look the arm over, then turn to Asha.

"Thank you, you've helped us in a way I can never repay. Apparently."

"Just let me be your mechanic," Asha says, grinning and throwing up a peace sign. "Now if you don't mind, I need to clean up here before gramps comes down in the morning,"

You and Les leave the shop, stepping out into the night air. The surrounding skyscrapers blink with lights.

"Well," Les says, looking from your arm to you. "Want to head back now?"

>Find an empty lot to practice with your arm
>Go find a place to eat
>Go back to the hotel and get some rest, wake up early to practice
>Ask if she can do an eye, since that's what we voted for before we accepted this deal.
>Go back and get some rest, then wake up early to practice.
supporting >>2488248
shit I must have miscounted the votes, my bad
>get an eye
it's so great that there's no rehab time or cooldown period between surgeries in anime land
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I hope this shit isn't permenant or at least stuff carries over into the real world. I don't want us walking out of here with no arm and a missing eye.
Don't worry about it. I honestly thought the super shield was a tradeoff for not doing an eye, but it was never mentioned. Hence why I'm asking.
You guys need to shove that arm in cryo asap. If it's preserved then we have hope of it being reattached when we get out.

"Shit," You say, looking around. "I meant to ask Asha about eye surgery, after I figured out if she could do regular surgery. Also, was I supposed to take my arm back to the hotel with me?"

"She never offered," Les says, cocking her head.

"If I keep it on ice, do you think they can reattach it when we get back to the real world?"

Les laughs, shaking her head.

"No Saul, they most certainly cannot,"

"Hm, no matter, we'll stop by sometime tomorrow and see if I can't get a new eye and maybe my old arm in a to-go box,"

You and Les begin walking back to the hotel. You don't have to talk about it, it's late. You catch Les glancing at your arm out of the corner of her eye as you the two of you get in-sight of the hotel.

"So," You say, idly working the fingers. "How are you doing? I mean, since, you know,"

"Yeah," Les says, a small smile on her face. "Cartoon world,"

She let's out a long sigh.

"ooh I don't know, I suppose I'm doing okay all things considered. I keep thinking at times it's a dream, but it can't be. My dreams would never look like this. I don't even know what this is,"

"Japanese media," You say. "My younger brother loves this shit,"

"Younger brother huh,"

"Yup, over ten years, but you know, blood is blood. You?"

"Older sister, younger brother,"

"Christ, middle child, it makes sense,"

Les shoves you playfully. "You've only known me two days mister, you don't get to make those jokes yet,"

"Yeah yeah," You say, grinning.

The two of you enter the lobby of the hotel, riding the elevator up in silence. You walk down the hall, stopping in front of your door and fishing out your key card. You hear Les inserting hers as well.

"Hey Les," You say, turning to her. She glances at you. "Thanks, for coming with. That woulda been rough alone,"

"No shit," Les says, letting out a chuckle as she opens the door. "That saw, christ,"

"Trust me, you're preaching to the choir," you say, waving goodnight as you walk into your room.

Tyler's snoring, though he snorts and rolls over as you do your best to walk quietly into the bathroom. You stand before the mirror, examining your arm, then try to take your shirt off.

As you realized back in the shop, the arm is strangely responsive. Not in the way a normal arm would be. Almost reacting to your thoughts, and complying on its own volition. You test the arm with a few more small tasks, like turning on the water faucet and using a toothbrush. Satisfied, you go to your bed, setting your watch alarm and crawling under the covers.

Sleep finds you instantly.

Your slumber is heavy, and long. You hear your alarm long before you wake up. It's consistent beeps slowly rouse you. Finally your eyes open.

You hear the shower running. You sit up, slowly, then rub your eyes. One of your eyes feels weird, and then you remember you have a new arm.
You're stunned at first, looking at the thing. Did you really go through with this? But all you have to do is clench the fist to feel some hint of latent...something. It's enough for the feelings of shock to pass.

You stand, stretching, then go over to the window. The sounds of the city outside climb up to you. It seems more busy than yesterday, more packed with people below in the streets. This makes sense, as now you can make out blimps in the sky advertising the tournament.

You hear the shower shut off and shut the curtains. Tyler comes out, toweling off his hair.

"Oh what's up Saul," Tyler says. He nods at your arm. "Dude I saw that when I woke up, looks badass,"

"Thanks," You say, twisting your wrist around.

"What are we doing today? Tournament doesn't start till tomorrow,"

It's a good question. You're going to practice, but what should Tyler do? What should any of the kids do?

"Well," You say, glancing at the teen. "You uh, mentioned yesterday you didn't like feeling powerless,"


"Well, I could teach you how to shoot," You say, throwing on a new shirt.

"What, like guns?"

"Yeah sure, why not. We've got extras now, and enough ammo for at least a week of warfare,"

"Huh," Tyler says, scratching at his hair. "I'm kinda uncomfortable around guns. I'll admit when I first met you, yours terrified me. I thought you were going to accidently plug me in the face,"

"Guns should make you uncomfortable," You say. "At least a little. They're a tool with only one purpose as far as I've come to see it; to kill. If you have one, it's because you need one,"

Tyler looks at you.

"Do I need it?"

You nod, slowly. "It's possible. I don't think this tournament is going to go like we're hoping. Liam and that Desmond guy are one thing. The smoke creature is a wild card though,"

Tyler thinks on it. Finally he nods his head. "Yeah okay, if it means protecting Rach-well, you guys. Everyone."

"Good, we'll start you on the SSG later, maybe Les can help,"

The girls are already downstairs as you and Tyler make it to the lobby. The three of them sit at a table, wiping the sleep from their faces and eating plates piled with food.

"Hell that looks good," Tyler says, reaching the table and passing it for the buffet. You just go over to the table, signaling a server for some coffee.

"Morning," you say.

"Morning Saul," Sadie say, biting into a donut.

Rachel nods, her face still clearly waking up. Les just takes a sip of her coffee.

"Arm didn't strangle you in your sleep did it?" She says.

"Not yet, gonna go practice somewhere and figure out this shield. Might take Tyler with me and teach him how to shoot,"

"Oh?" Les says, raising an eyebrow. Rachel glances up at you.

"Oh c'mon Saul," Sadie says, buttering a bagel with cream cheese. "Don't be teaching your redneck ways to others,"
"Shouldn't you be practicing magic Harry Potter? Besides, it's a fucking miracle we've made it this far, especially after those damned demons,"

Your coffee arrives, and you take a refreshing sip from it. You set the mug down.

"So, what are you girls getting up to,"

Les looks at you, then the girls. "Oh what, are we supposed to entertain ourselves?"

You shrug. "I don't even know what I'm doing. It's not like there's places I can go and practice fighting,"

"Sure there is," Sadie says, slipping a pamphlet out of her witch robe. "They had this in the lobby, it's on all the local dojos around here where you can practice. Some of them have their own signature combat styles!"

"Hm," You say, accepting the brochure. "It's a possibility,"

>Go out on the streets looking for trouble, practice that way
>Go to a Dojo, practice against some students and masters
>Find an empty lot, fuck around with your arm and maybe set up some cans for Tyler to shoot at
>Go to a Dojo, practice against some students and masters
If we're gonna be fighting in the tournament, we should expect our opponents to be at LEAST that good or better. Might as well get a feel for how the fights are going to go. We can go to an empty lot later to instruct Tyler and try out the arm functions that are a little more... lethal.
Seconding everything but the ominous tone
>Go to a Dojo, practice against some students and masters
Might as well try to train it in a controlled environment first.

And before we even consider giving the kids guns, Les and Saul need to have a nice long talk about the rules of gun safety. They need to learn how to use them, but it'd be a disgrace to our job as an armorer if we can't teach em proper.
>Go to a Dojo, practice against some students and masters
Get a feel for how they fight, but ask if they have target ranges as well.

I mean, they practice how to aim those energy cannons....right?

You glance at the brochure. When Sadie said "Dojo", you were thinking Karate Kid. The building in the pamphlet however is...different.

It's almost recognizable as a karate school. But there's also pictures of large dueling rooms and what looks like a firing range straight out of a sci-fi movie.

"Huh," You say, flipping the brochure to the back. A huge, ripped man stands behind an elderly woman with chopsticks in her hair. The woman wears a kimono and is throwing up a peace sign.
"Come train under Granny Grind," is emblazoned on the bottom.

"Granny Grind?" You say. "Is this the only Dojo?"

"No," Sadie says. "But it was the only one that looked interesting. All the others were "Master Minisoto" and "Master blah blah" and who cares. Granny Grind sounds awesome,"

"She does sound pretty metal," you say, a hint of sarcasm in your voice. You sigh, flipping the pamphlet back over and then tucking it in your jacket. "It'll be just as good as any then,"

"Well," Les says. "In that case girls, we're not going to be idle while Saul gets his ass beat. Let's go check out the tournament stadium, see if we can't get a feel for what's about to happen,"

"Yeah I'm down," Sadie says. "Bet they got some cool merch,"

Rachel shrugs as she sips on her orange juice. She sets it down. "Sure," she says, wiping her mouth.

Tyler returns with his plate of food, and the five of you continue with your breakfast. It's a fairly normal affair, until Rachel looks up at Tyler.

"Heard you're going to take up shooting," She says, staring down at a bowl of cereal and stirring its contents.

"Yeah," Tyler says, also looking down at his food. "Saul's gonna teach me,"

"You sound worried Rachel," Les says, tilting her head slightly.

"Nevermind," Rachel says, quietly.

"I've been meaning to ask this," You say, snagging an uneaten croissant off Sadie's plate. She tries to bat your hand, but you're too quick. "Are you practicing with that spear at all?"

Rachel just looks at you for a moment, then gives the smallest shrug you've ever seen.


"Maybe you should start,"

"S'not a spear," Rachel says, her voice quiet. "It's Megan,"

You decide not to push the matter, and the five of you finish your breakfast. You stand, finishing your coffee, then gesture at Tyler.

"Alright girls, meet here for dinner?"

"Yup," Les says. "Good luck,"

Once outside the hotel, you and Tyler walk around the even busier streets and walkways. Families, couples, friends and fans all congregate in streams as they move about the city.

"This is nuts," Tyler says, glancing around.

"Yeah," You say, turning the pamphlet and examining the small map. "We should be close,"

Tyler looks over, spotting a large Dojo with the words "Elite Academy"

"Is that it?" He says, pointing it out.
You glance. Is it? You look at the map, then see you've misread a direction. You turn around in the street, and see a small dojo in a tiny green lot surrounded by massive buildings.

"That's it," You say, pointing it out.

"Huh," Tyler says. "Maybe it's bigger on the inside.

It is indeed somehow bigger than the inside. You step into the tiny dojo to find a tiny lobby. But through two tiny wooden doors, you can make out a very expansive series of training rooms beyond.

The giant muscular man you saw standing behind Granny Grind in the photo is somehow wedged behind a tiny desk.

"HELLO" He says, his entire body bulging as he speaks. "WELCOME,"

"Yeah hi," You say, coming up to the desk. "I'm just got a new arm and I'm trying to learn how to use it,"

"AH HA" The man says, crossing his arms. "YOU ARE AN X USER THEN"

"Yeah," You say, briefly lifting your arm and rolling back a sleeve. "Can you teach me some moves?"

"NO" The man says, raising his chin.


"BUT GRANNY GRIND CAN," The man says. He picks up a tiny hammer, and wails it on a massive bell. The entire dojo echoes with the sounds.

When the ringing stops, you and Tyler take your hands from your ears. A curtain behind the desk parts, revealing the old woman on the brochure.


"That's enough," The woman says, shushing the man with a wave of her hand. "You need to learn volume control,"

She crosses the lobby floor and stands right in front of you. You tower over her, but somehow you feel she possesses the more powerful presence. She takes your arm without a word, inspecting it, then inspecting you with her eyes. You're forced to meet her scrutinizing gaze.

"What is your name," The woman says, turning away from you and heading towards the double doors.

"Saul Beckett,"

"And why are you here Saul Beckett?" The woman says, pausing at the doors. She still has her back turned to you however.

You think for a moment. Why are you here?

"To be the best," You say. "To beat every single person who ever existed and will exist in this goddamn world, and to get out of here,"

The woman looks back at you, a sly smile on her face.

"I'm going to break you little man," She says. "Then we'll see if you really feel that way,"

"Oh shit," Tyler says, putting a hand to his mouth to hide his laughter. "You're fucked Saul,"

"Yeah yeah," You say, following Granny Grind through the doors. "Just go find me a water bottle and a towel Tyler,"

The next couple hours are...something. You run. You stretch. You jump. You do pushups, situps, and every other bullshit exercise they made you perform in the army.

Finally, after completely an impressive one-armed handstand for Granny Grind, you drop down to your feet and stand, crossing your arms.

"Alright, enough with the exercising," You say. "Teach me how to use the arm,"
"I get all sorts in here," Granny Grind says, turning away. "You x-users are the worst, always impatient to begin down their path of destruction,"

"Won't deny it," You say, following her. "But it's a matter of saving me and my friends,"

"Oh it's always a matter of something," Granny Grind says. She stops at a door, pressing a button. It opens. She motions you through.

Once you walk into the room, the door shuts behind you. You turn, startled. Granny Grind's voice pumps over some speakers hanging from the ceiling.

"I've found that for those who want to get started, the best option is to give them exactly what they want," Granny Grind says through the speakers. "So you'll learn through trial and error. Here's the trial,"

A door opens on the far side of the room, revealing what looks like a green cyborg tiger. It roars, shaking the room. You can see its teeth are in fact syringes.

"goddamn," you say, quietly.

>Activate your shield and go in agressively, see if you can't get the buzzsaw function to work
>Use the arm shield, get in close but only to observe while you protect yourself and plan
>Completely defensive. Stay in the corner of the room, get the shield to work, outlast the tiger
>See if you can't just punch the tiger to death with your robot arm
>Use the arm shield, get in close but only to observe while you protect yourself and plan
Genki girl said that the actual activation is pretty instinctual. Hopefully raising an arm up in primal self defense is enough to trigger it. And if not, use the indistructable arm to block the tiger's jaw, like when dealing with dogs trying to bite you.

I predict getting the buzzsaw part to work will take a bit more finagling though.
>Use the arm shield, get in close but only to observe while you protect yourself and plan
>Use the arm shield, get in close but only to observe while you protect yourself and plan
>Use the arm shield, get in close but only to observe while you protect yourself and plan
check if those syringe teeth can be broken without going on the offensive.

You've dealt with wild animals before. There's a rhythm to them. The thing slowly sauntering into the room is not a wild animal.

You roll the dice however, and take off. You hold out your arm before you, like you're about to stiff-arm someone. You figure if you can't activate the shield by the time you cross the room, you can at the very least cram your metal arm into the creature's mouth.

The green robot tiger doesn't wait around. It settles back onto its haunches and pounces across the room. This gives you less than two seconds to activate your shield, which of course you don't.

Instead the tiger bites down on your metal arm, shattering its syringe-teeth. It apparently has a chainsaw tongue however, because you hear a noise start up in its mouth and feel your arm shake.

You panic, you can't help it. Even if your arm is fake, the idea of a tiger sawing into it is not something that appeals to you. The panic, a primal urge, activates something within your arm. You feel it grow later, then a second later the tiger's head explodes in a colorful viscera of blood and metal.

You stare at your arm and see a massive, gleaming black shield. You realize you must have accidentally activated the shield inside the tiger's mouth, popping its head like a cherry.

"Not bad," Granny Grind's voice says over the radio. "You say you want to be the best, so let's up the ante,"

"Uh, actually," You say, wiping tiger blood from your face. "I was thinking we could take a break, Tyler's got a water bottle and a towel hopeful for me,"

"Naw, sorry Saul," Tyler's voice pipes over the intercom. "Couldn't find any,"

"You beat one of my mecha-maulers," Granny Grind says. "Let's see you beat three,"

Three doors to the room open, and three green robot tigers slink through them.

"You gotta be fucking kidding me," You say, turning your shield to each of them. At least the weapon has remained outside your arm.

You try a few mental gymnastics to get the shield spinning. You scream words in your head, thinking fiercely on anything that might start the mechanism.

The tigers finish sizing you up, and begin to circle. You figure they're communicating with each other, because two suddenly change direction and the third pounces.

You're ready this time. You bring your shield up, catching the tiger. The thing is heavy however, sending you backwards. It tries to claw over the top of your shield.

You catch sight of the other two slowly walking around to your unprotected head on the floor. You know what they're about to do.

"Shit!" You yell, and the shield suddenly spins. Two tiger paws fly away, trailing blood through the air.

The shield is still spinning. You can feel it's edges nearly cutting the air. You get to your feet, careful to gauge how easy it is to accidentally cut of your own leg. Anytime the shield gets close to your leg, it seems to slow.

That's a good sign.
So if Saul brings it to his leg, it'll only MOSTLY be chopped off!
The tiger who's paws you sliced off is bleeding out in the corner. The other two pounce.

You whip your shield through the air. It heaves across your arm, sling-shooting into one of the tiger's heads and rocking back onto your arm. The move is so quick you don't realize what happened.

The tiger's head splits in two.

The other tackles you, swiping you with a paw. You feel it tear through your human arm.

The claw spins you, and your shield comes around the other side. It catches the tiger in the side, slicing off its leg and part of its haunch. The tiger doesn't react, instead extending its syringe teeth to bite you. You finish it off with swing of your arm.

The three cyborg tigers lie dead in the room. That makes four total.

"Alright," You say. "I think I've earned a break,"

"Those are not the words of a man who want to be the best," Granny Grind says.

"What, are you kidding me? You just sent three robot tigers with needle teeth at me!"

"And in the tournament there will be things you've never imagined! This is nothing! Now you were talking all this mess about your noble reasons, let's see you put your arm where your mouth is!"

You grow angry. You're not sure why. Granny Grind's tone and words managed to press your buttons.

"Fine," You say, gritting your teeth. "Bring it,"

Four tigers enter.

Your shield spins, blood flows. The room grows hot with the open corpses that fill it.

Five tigers enter.

Your arm grows heavy. You've been scratched in half-a-dozen places. The floor grows sticky with the blood of the creatures.

Six tigers enter.

You don't even know how much time has passed. You're up to your shins in blood, metal and fur. The shield hasn't stopped spinning in ages.

Seven tigers enter.

Is your arm even an arm? Or is it simply a tool to kill tigers. You dwell on this as you bring around the shield and decapitate a creature. One of them bites you, injecting something into your shoulder. You slice it in two. You can no longer hear the whine of your shield blade.

Eight tigers enter.

You are Shiva, bringer of death to tigers. Their heads line the room. Their blood forms a river through which you wade. Your shield is the song of their undoing.

Nine tigers enter.

You black out after that. When you come to, Tyler and Granny Grind are standing over you. Their heads block out the light above.

"Wha-" You say, moving your hand to your face. "What happened?"

"Dude," Tyler says. "That was insane,"

"You did alright," Granny Grind says, stepping away from you. "But it's not the work of the best fighter in the world,"

"Wha was in the teeth," You say, slowly sitting up. You check your arm, noting it's clean of blood.

"Oh just a little cocktail of stuff to keep you x-users from getting too cocky,"

"Ah," You say, holding your head.

"Welll," Granny Grind says. "Let's see here,"
The muscle man comes over, handing her a tablet. She taps on the tablet, seemingly reviewing something. "Your form was alright, you've clearly had some basic combat training. But you relied on the shield too much. Swinging it around and expecting it to drag you into your foes,"

"What should I have done," You say.

"X-users and x-tools are partners," Granny Grind says. "So that means sharing the roles of combat. What that means in your case is, don't run around with it held out all the time,"

"Okay," You say. You're not sure if you really got the hang of it, but you did get good at something in that room.

"Whelp, it's a start," Granny Grind says. "You've earned the right to fight me or Maji over their," She jerks her thumb at the muscles guy. "Or you can go back into the room with the tigers."

"GRANNY GRIND'S WAYS ARE MYSTERIOUS," The muscle man says, throwing a thumbs up. "BUT EFFECTIVE,"

"Spend a few more hours in that chamber," Granny Grind says. "And you'll be a machine,"

>Challenge Maji or Granny Grind to some sparring
>Train a few more hours in the Mecha-Mauler Chamber
>Go find a spot to take Tyler shooting
>Go find a spot to take Tyler shooting
>Train a few more hours in the Mecha-Mauler Chamber
We only have two days. This combined with the fact that even if we could somehow teach Tyler to shoot like we can he wouldn't do shit in an actual tournament match makes me lean more toward more tiger killing. If there's time after we can teach him, but we're gonna need to teach ourselves first if we want a shot at survival.
>Train a few more hours in the Mecha-Mauler Chamber
lets see how many neon tigers they can fit in one room

You're not sure whether to take the dojo master up on her offer. You glance at your shoulder, which is wrapped, as well as every other bruise.

"Explain exactly how similar these mecha maulers are to people I'll be fighting in the tournament,"

Granny Grind puts a hand to her chin for a moment. "Nothing alike," She says, taking the hand away. "Unless you fight a tiger,"

"But you believe this will help me,"

"The strongest steel must be broken before it's reforged,"

"Right but what if we don't have time for the reforging part,"

Granny Grind smiles.

"Then your enemies will cut themselves on your pieces,"

Of course. You sigh, slowly getting to your feet, You turn to Tyler.

"Got that towel and water bottle?"

"I found this in a vending machine," Tyler says, holding up a water bottle with crazy japanese writing on it.

You take it, nearly tearing off the cap, then finish the water bottle in three greedy gulps. You pass it back to Tyler then turn to Granny Grind.

"Put me back in the chamber," You say.

"Ha!" Granny Grind says. "Excellent, let's see how long you can go,"

When you re-enter the room, it's empty and clean. You hold out your arm, feeling the weight of its materials intertwined with your shoulder. You try to activate the shield. You feel a tremor in your hand.

"Partners huh?" You say. Did you just speak to yourself, or the arm? "Alright then," You ball your fists and adopting a boxing stance. "Let's see if we can't figure this dance out,"

Ten tigers enter.

You swear the green cyborg-creatures are slightly bigger as well. "Come on then!" You say, and your shield explodes out of your arm spinning. You glance at it in surprise, then smile. Your gaze returns to the tigers.

"Come get some,"

They do. Four of the ten tigers pounce. You whip your arm horizontally across, decapitating one and catching the next one in the side.

One of the tigers flies by you, but the other catches your x-tool arm with its claws. It doesn't do much, but you do stumble.

You back up quickly, but the rest of the tigers are pouncing. You bring up your shield and lash out with it, catching another tiger. You're about to rush forward, but remember that was exactly what you were trying before.

Instead, you brace yourself, catching the next tiger, sawing off its arms, then sliding it under the shield and flipping the creature over. Another tiger tries to claw you, but you reply with your shield and saw it in half.

The hours drag on. You've found a rhythm to your x-tool. It responds to high-emotion, reacting almost eagerly to surges in adrenaline. And fear.

This is not good of course. The man who lets himself get carried away is the one who dies on the battlefield. Level-headedness is what gets you through alive.
You do manage to work out a system. The shield seems to retract when you calm yourself, but you're determined to get it used to your combat training. You realize it's ridiculous you're treating it like a pet or a partner, but considering the world you've found yourself in, that stuff seems par for the course.

The arm without the shield does enough damage, and eventually even in your calm and focused state, you manage to draw out the shield.

After what seems an eternity, you finally pass out from being bitten too many times. You wake up back outside the room, with the muscled man staring over you.

"Oh," You say. "It happened again,"

The muscled man throws a thumbs up as he beams at you.


"Yup," You say, shielding yourself from the volume with one hand. You get up and spot Tyler leaning against one of the walls. He glances over at you.

"Oh nice, you're up," Tyler says, sliding up the wall and then propelling himself off it. He walks over to you. "That looked pretty intense man, you were really going at it,"

"Yeah, I'm not sure it helped, but I got the shield to pop out,"

Granny Grind throws open two doors dramatically, then strolls into the room.

"No student of mine has ever stayed in the mauler chamber for more than a couple rounds. They did their time, then challenged me. You however, spent an entire morning and the early afternoon destroying my whole stock of training creatures. You are an expensive student, and no master of this Dojo. I will however, bestow upon you the title of Grind Dojo Resident Creature Killer,"

She holds out a certificate, as well as a bandana. The bandana has the Grind Dojo crest, as well as the words "Predators Beware" and "The Hunters Have Become the Hunted,"

"Dude," Tyler says. "Let me get that bandana,"

"Fuck no," You say, stuffing it in your pocket. "But hold my certificate,"

You turn to Granny Grind. "I want to thank you for taking the time to teach me. It wasn't anything like I've ever experienced, but I feel more prepared than I was,"

"It is I who should be thanking you," Granny Grind says. "I'm going to make a fortune off the videos of you getting your ass handed to you by my mecha-maulers. And on the off chance you make it past the first-round in the tournament, I'll be there cheering you on,"

You and Tyler leave the Dojo. You walk over to the Old Man and Asha's X-tool shop, walking through the front door.

The bell rings.

"Hello," The old man calls from the back. He comes to the front, then scowls when he sees you.

"Oh," The old man says. "It's you. Thought you could go around my back did you? Putting ideas in my grandaughters head, I should have you arrested for trespassing!"

"Sir," You say, putting up your hands. "I meant no offense. You have to understand that there is no option but victory at this point. I would do anything for it,"
"Apparently," The old man says, his face souring further. His eyes move to your arm, and his face seems to soften. "Well, I'm sure my grand-daughter did at least a half-decent job. Bah, let me check the arm, you're not walking around with one of my products half-finished,"

You oblige, crossing the room to the counter and resting your arm on it. The Old Man takes out his spectacles and begins to examine your x-tool.

There's a bit of an awkward silence while he does it. At first you think he's about to tear into his granddaughters work, but after awhile you realize it's quite the opposite; the old man is admiring it.

Once you realize this, you can't help but adopt a small smile. "I've been having trouble activating the shield in anything but a high-emotional state," You say.

"Hm," The old man says, still surveying the arm. "Yes, you'll just have to work that out with your x-tool. They can be excitable allies,"

"I was wondering if it might be possible to get an eye prosthetic as well, or some kind of targeting system,"

"Oh? Why's that?" The old man says. He still hasn't looked up at you, instead taking out a magnifying glass and rubbing at one of your joints.

"Well I use guns extensively, and it'd be nice to hook up a range-finder or auto-targeter,"

"Hmm, firearms? They're big, but if you like em it's possible to get an aiming system. Replacing an eye can be done easily enough, but most people just go for an external targeting system after they get their intial x-interface surgery,"

The old man straightens up from your arm and reaches under the counter. He pulls out a box, revealing some kind of lense.

"Oh," Tyler says, leaning over it next to you. "I even recognize that, it's the thing Vegeta wears when he does that "over 9000" meme,"

"I don't know what you just said," You say. "But I'll take one of those for now, and come back possibly about the eye," You glance up at the man, and see he's staring at you hard. You clear your throat.

"I'm genuinely sorry, I should not have gone behind your back. However-"

"Yes yes however however," The man says, dismissing you with a wave of his hand. "No one can just do a straight apology anymore. Take the blasted thing and get on your way,"

Asha chooses that moment to come through the door from the back room. She spots you, then the old man, then slows. You can tell she and her grandfather have been butting heads.

"H-hey Saul," Asha says, her eyes darting between her grandfather and you.

"Hey Asha," You say, raising your arm. "Nice work by the way, I'm really getting the hang of it,"

Asha's pensive expression is replaced by a grin. "It's working? That's great to hear!"

"Ahem," The old man says. "I think it's time you two leave,"

"Until you need repairs of course!" Asha says, waving as you go.

You and Tyler make it back outside, and see the sun is setting. You glance at your watch and note the girls should be returning soon.
>Meet the others back at the hotel for dinner like you planned
>Skip dinner, take Tyler to go shooting somewhere
>Skip dinner, send Tyler back to the hotel and go practice a bit in an empty lot
>Skip dinner, take Tyler to go shooting somewhere
We did promise him we'd go shooting. We can just eat after.
>Meet the others back at the hotel for dinner like you planned
We need to teach Tyler a little. Enough to know gun safety, trigger discipline, and all that. But food is food
>Skip dinner, take Tyler to go shooting somewhere

"You know what," You say, looking at your watch. "We can grab dinner later, how about I show you how to handle some weapons,"

"Uh, well," Tyler says. He pauses for a moment, then just shrugs. "Sure Saul, if you think it would help,"

"I do," You say. "At least in this very specific, ridiculous situation we've found ourselves in,"

You begin walking, looking for any sign of empty lots. You're not really sure what the laws are on firing guns in city limits. You're pretty sure the mayor of Neo Tokyo has never seen a bushmaster. If you're being perfectly honest, you don't even know the proper protocol for being an x-user. Should you have registered your killer saw-shield somewhere?

You stop by a boy who's loitering on the corner. "Hey," You say. "If I wanted to go do something really, really, incredibly loud, where could I go do that so that people wouldn't be disturbed?"

The boy cocks his head, then beckons you to follow him. You follow him a ways down the street, where he points out what looks like an abandoned subway entrance that's boarded up.

"Oh, thank you," You say. "This actually works pretty well,"

You lift your robot arm and tear off a couple boards, tossing them to the side. You duck underneath into the entrance, and motion for Tyler to follow.

You look into the duffle bag full of guns Les gave you, digging through the loose bullets until you find a flashlight. You flip it on, then continue down the dingy staircase.

Once you reach the bottom, a long station stretches out before you. You walk around a bit with your flashlight, picking up bits of trash and carrying them back to a spot near the entrance. You set up the pieces of trash, two cans, a glass bottle and what looks like an old transmitter.

You then lead Tyler a ways away, where you set down the bag and lean down next to it.

"Alright man," You say, rummaging around the bag until you find one of the glocks. "First rule of using a gun, what does a gun do?"

"Uh, kill people?"

"Yup, that's what it's made for, that's what it's designed for, and given half a chance, it will do a very, very good job of it. So do not, under any circumstances, point your gun at something you don't intend to kill,"

Tyler nods, watching as you slide the magazine out of the glock and start inserting bullets. "Second rule," You say, sliding the magazine into the glock. "What's a safety?"

"It's the thing that makes the gun not fire, right?"

"Nope," You say, sliding the glock back and chambering a round. "A safety is a devices that can and will fail. Don't rely on it. Don't have your finger even close to the fucking trigger either until you're absolutely ready to fire,"

Tyler stares at the glock.

"Hey Saul, you sure I can handle this?"

"Trust me, I had little goat farmer kids younger than you firing RPG's at anything in camo, you can handle this. But, what where those three big rules I just told you?"
"Uhh, guns kill people, don't rely on the safety, don't put your finger near the trigger?"

"You got it man," You say, handing him a pair of earplugs and then the glock hilt-first. "Now, take this, handle it a bit without touching that trigger, and let me know when you're ready for the next step,"

Tyler extends his hand, taking the gun and earplugs. He inspects the gun, flips it over, then weighs it in his hands.

"Damn, it's heavier than I thought," Tyler says.

"Heavy is good, means you haven't had to shoot anything yet. Now, both hands on the hilt, bring it up and look down the sight you see near the end there,"

Tyler obeys. You can see his hand trembling to keep the gun aimed.

"Now, pistol recoil is no joke. Don't lock up your arms like you're doing. Relax. No, not that much, the pistol will fuck up your face if you do tha- there you go, yup, perfect. Now, breath in, breath out, breath in. Perfect, now when you breath out, squeeze that trigger,"

The subway station erupts with the sound of glock fire. Tyler's eyes widen as the gun trembles in his hand.

"Not bad, you fired your first gun,"

"That was, interesting," Tyler says, inspecting the glock. "Did I hit any of the targets?"

"I'll give you a thousand dollars if you did," You say, taking the glock from Tyler. "Which is to say, I'm confident you didn't. But that's fine. When we have some more time we'll set you up at a proper range and teach you how to disassemble and clean the gun,"

"And, this will, you know, help me protect Rachel?"

You give him a raised eyebrow. "What's the purpose of a gun?"

"To kill,"

"Does that sound like saving someone?"

Tyler shakes his head. "Then why are you teaching me?"

"Because as much as I hate it, killing does sometimes save people. They're thankfully rare situations, but I'll be fucked if this isn't one of them,"

You take out the magazine and put the glock back in the bag, zipping it up. You slide it over your shoulder. "C'mon, let's head back,"

The two of you leave the subway tunnel, where the kid is waiting.

"Hey kid, thanks," You say, nodding at him.

"Have fun down there Saul?" The kid says.

You pause, then slowly turn back around to face the child.

"Desmond," You say. The kid smiles.

"You excited for the tournament tomorrow? I know I am,"

"I'm sure you are," You say, adjusting the duffle on your shoulder.

"And are you an x-user now? How cute! You know you don't get to keep the arm if you leave this world, right?"

"I figured. Listen man, I've had kinda a long day. You got any other dumbshit stuff to say or can I go take a shower?"

"Saul," The kid says. "I want you to know you're going to die here, in this world. The others might make it out alive. But you're not,"

"Kid," You say, walking over to him and leaning down in his face. "The thing about writing big checks is that the bank comes to cash them one day. I'd keep your mouth shut until the tournament,"
You turn away from the kid and walk away. Tyler joins you, casting glances over his shoulder.

"Go fuck yourself Desmond," Tyler calls to him. "And tell Liam he can eat a bag of uncooked dicks,"

You give him a small fistbump, and the two of you cross the street, losing sight of the Desmond-possessed child in a crowd of tourists.

Once back at the hotel, you find Les, Sadie and Rachel already retired to their room. You knock on the door while Tyler goes into your room.

The door opens, revealing Les.

"Oh, there you are!" She says. "We were worried, how'd the training go?"

"I fought tigers," You say. "What about the stadium, see anything good?"

Les let's herself out of the room, signaling with her hand that Sadie and Rachel are lying down. She shuts the door behind her, leaving her in the hallway with you.

"Well, couple things," Les says, crossing her arms. "First, you won't be able to use guns,"

"Hm, didn't think that'd fly,"

"Second, Saul, these guys look ridiculous. I went ahead and got you registered, but I want you to know your first round is against someone known as "Bone Breaker""

"Nice," You say. "I think I can handle it, thank you though for scoping things out for me,"

>Invite Les down for some drinks in the lobby bar, loosen up before the big day tomorrow
>Go out on the town, find a hidden place to eat and clear your head
>Just eat a quick meal in the lobby, then go to sleep
>Skip dinner, take Tyler to go shooting somewhere
>>Go out on the town, find a hidden place to eat and clear your head

Maybe try to interface with our arm more?
>Go out on the town, find a hidden place to eat and clear your head
Maybe we can hide guns in the arm. Maybe we can just ignore the rules and shoot Liam, he's the one holding the powers.
As cathartic as it would be, Liam would probably catch the bullet somehow. But if he didn't, the powers would get very angry. I don't think we want that just yet.
>>Just eat a quick meal in the lobby, then go to sleep

"Whelp," You say, patting your stomach. "Think I'm gonna grab a bite to eat,"

You lean your head in the room. "Tyler you want anything? I'm going to grab food,"

"Naw I'm good, I've got a hotel menu right here,"

You straighten back into the hallway. "Yeah, think I'm going to go grab some food, what time's my first round?"

"Oh yeah, let me get you the sheet," Les says, disappearing into the girls' room. She reappears with a sheet of paper and a lanyard. "Don't lose either of these," She says, giving them to you. "First match is at nine,"

"Oof, alright, sounds good," You say. "Thanks again for doing that,"

"I want out just as much as you do," Les says, giving you a smile. "See you in the morning,"

You close your own hotel room and walk down the hall to the elevator. Once in the lobby, you breeze by the brochure rack and quickly skim it.

You decide not to bother, and instead set out into the city to try and find something quiet.

In truth, you need to think. You never really liked reflecting back in Iraq, but that's because it was exhausting and grim. This world is insanity. With rules so alien you'd be dead without Sadie.

You take a few a turns and some sidestreets, careful to keep a mental map of your route to get back. Finally you find what you're looking for, a noodle shop wedged in between a corner-grocer and a massively tall apartment complex. You can't quite put your finger on it, but it seems more normal than the others.

You walk inside. A long counter seats customers, and there are a couple booths as well. The sizzle of a frying food reaches your ears.

Your stomach growls.

You take a seat at the counter, where a grungy man about your age approaches you. At least, you think he's close to your age.

"Whatcha having," He says, slinging a washrag over his shoulder.

"Pretty nice shop you got here, reminds me of home,"

"The hell you going on about,"

"Nevermind, gimme a beer and whatever this is,"

You tap at a picture on one of the menus, and the man nods.

"Aight," He says, moving over to the kitchen door. He opens it and shouts back in a language you don't recognize. When he returns, you catch his attention by staring.


"That language," You say. "What was that?"


"As in from Laos?" You say, leaning on the counter.

"Wait, you know that country?"

"The fuck, course I do, are you real?"

The man crosses his arms, then shouts loudly back at the kitchen. The sounds of cooking pause, and another man emerges from the back.

"This is my uncle Havika, I'm Charlie. We've been stuck here for about a day now,"

"What, so you opened a noodle shop?"

"We can't leave," Charlie says, shrugging. "City is surrounded by monsters,"

"Where were you before this?"


"Same as me then," You say, furrowing your brow. "What part of Boulder,"

"Near fairview, off that exit by the hugeass school,"

"Yeah yeah, I saw that on my way to the woods,"
First Lewis, now Charlie and Havika. Something was happening. More people were finding their way into this world, either by accident, or some other reason.

"Well, there's a chance I might be getting out soon," You say. "I'm sure you're confused as hell, but this is all a dream world,"

Charlie's uncle returns to the back, and the sounds of cooking resume.

"Figured," Charlie says. "I used to play the shit outta xenoverse, this looks like all that dbz stuff,"

"Hey, you know this city doesn't use money right? Why was your uncle so keen on opening this place?"

"That's uncle for you. Wouldn't know what to do with himself if he wasn't working. And people come, strangely enough,"

"That is kinda funny. I mean, not funny, but nice,"

"So you might be getting out of here? Think we could to?"

"That's the plan," You say. Uncle Havika emerges from the back, setting a steaming bowl of beef noodles in front of you. Charlie grabs a beer from under the counter and pops the tab, setting it next to the bowl.

"Thanks guys," You say, taking a sip. "I'm fighting tomorrow if you're bored, lord knows I wouldn't want to be stuck in the place with cartoon people,"

"So these people," Charlie says, gesturing at the two other customers present. "They're not real then?"

"Hard to tell, right?" You say, shooting him a knowing look. You take another sip of your beer, than pick up your chopsticks to try the noodles. "They're pretty damn similar, that's for sure. But I suppose at the end of the day it all comes down to souls and shit,"

"Hm, yeah, guess your right," Charlie says, fishing himself out a beer and popping the top. "Hey the alcohol buzz is real enough, amirite?"

"I'll cheers to that," You say, clinking your bottle to his.

You spend the rest of the meal talking about your time spent here, about meeting the teens and Les and Lewis. Finally you give them the telephone number to your hotel room and bid them farewell.

Once back at the hotel, you quietly enter your room. After a tense moment of figuring out if your arm was water-proof, you shower, than go to bed. Your mind is awash in tomorrow's events. But meeting Charlie and his uncle helped. They seemed like good people.

But why the fuck were they here. This question haunts you as you drift into sleep.

The next morning, everyone is gathered in the lobby, eating another hearty breakfast. There is a tense energy running through the air. Every family, couple and group in the hotel dining room is discussing the tournament.

"You ready?" Sadie says, slathering some pancakes in syrup.

"Guess I am," You say, rotating your x-tool arm to loosen it up. You then use it to pick up your coffee.

Rachel groans, putting her head in her hands. "This is ridiculous. I just want to go home already,"

"Trust me," Tyler says, popping blueberries into his mouth. "Saul is ready, we're going home"

After breakfast, the five of you get the things you want to bring and set out from the hotel.
This city is chaos. Airships sail lazily through the air, dropping flyers and confetti. Banners and flags hang from every available surface. Tens of thousands of people flood through the streets, obliterating any chance of vehicles making it through.

Everyone is headed in the same direction; the Super Stadium.

After you and Les help push your group through the crowds and reach the gate, your pass gets everyone through. Inside is equally jam packed with people and vendors. An attendant motions for you all to approach a massive table marked "registration"

You wait in line a beat, then come up to the table.

"Name," A lady says, clearly bored.

"Saul Beckett,"

"Are you aware you're fighting in ten minutes?"

"I am,"

"And where is your coach," The woman says, staring at her clipboard. "Coach Hermione?"

"What?" You say, confused.

"Right here," Sadie says, pushing forward. "I'm ready,"

Sadie wears a stylish black windbreaker around her shoulders, and a weird cap on her head. She also has a lanyard like yours.

"Sadie," You say, crossing your arms. "What are you trying to pull?"

"You need a coach to participate," Sadie says, signing a piece of paper on the desk and accepting a badge. "And trust me, you want me in your corner. I'll tell you exactly what you need to do,"

You glance at Les, who seems amused.

"I'd trust her if I were you," Les says. "You need all the help you can get,"

"Yeah yeah," You say, turning back to the desk attendant. "We good?"

"Please make your way to the center ring," The attendant says. "Friends and family of the fighter may take their places in either the front row or box,"

"Front row," Tyler says.

"Box," Rachel says at the same time. They glare at each other.

"We'll figure it out," Les says, shepherding them away from the table. "Have fun you two, good luck Saul,"

You wave, then turn to Sadie. "I really hope you know what you're doing,"

She flashes a grin and throws a thumbs up. "We got this!"

The two of you walk through a long tunnel with bright light at the end. The sound of cheering is overwhelming.

You enter into the grounds of the Super Stadium.


The crowd goes nuts. You just shake your head as you and Sadie make your way to the center ring.

Waiting on the other side of the ring is a massive man. His muscles bulge out, and he wears goggles on his head. Tubes and wires circle around his shoulders, connecting something in his body to something else.

"Ah fuck," You say, coming to your side of the ring.

"No actually, this is good," Sadie says, crossing her arms as her jacket blows around her shoulders. "Big guys like that are usually easy to take down. They're all show, scary looking to allow the MC to be badass,"

"And I'm the MC?" You say, evaluating the hulking brute at the other end of the ring.
"Here's hoping," Sadie says. "Now get out there and show them who's boss,"

You take off your jacket, revealing a black wife-beater and your black robot arm. You're wearing your camo pants, and you in your finger you play with the targeting device. Since you're not yet ready to break the rules of the tournament and don't need it, you pass if off to Sadie.

>Roll 1d100 for battlefield ability. Low rolls are not detrimental to success. Rolls nearer to 100 indicate you're syncing up perfectly with your x-tool. Rolls nearer to 1 mean you are not syncing, and are both fighting in a disjointed but likely still bloody fashion
Rolled 90 (1d100)

here's hoping
Rolled 40 (1d100)

Rolled 81 (1d100)



The crowd roars. You give them a quick wave. You can't help yourself, the energy is infectious.

Bone Break puts on a gas mask and steps into the ring. You see steam trailing through the vents.

"Hey buddy," You call across the ring. "I just wanted to say, I don't really have a no-kill setting on this thing, so if you want to get out now, I'd advise it,"


Bone Breaker launches himself across the ring, beating his arms furiously as he charges you. You calm your breathing. You shield flows out of your arm, solidifying.

Bone Breaker bends his knees, erupting from a spot in the ring and sailing towards you. His fists burst into flames.

Your shield starts spinning.

"Sorry buddy," You say. You take two steps, plant your foot, and spin. The shield comes around, connecting with Bone Breaker's fist.

His hand flies through the air. Bone Breaker and you land, both falling to one knee. Breaker holds up his stump, blood gushing out. He lets out an inhuman roar through his gas mask. The crowd hushes.

Bone Breaker takes his remaining fist and burns the stump, sealing the blood loss. He gets to his feet, then ignites his whole body in flames.

The crowd erupts into cheers.

You stand as well. Your shield slows its spin as you hold it at your side.

"C'mon man," You say. "Don't do this to yourself, just take a knee,"

Bone Breaker roars, charging you. You feel the heat as he approaches.

You breathe in, but Bone Breaker suddenly leaps forward. You panic, launching out your arm. The shield slingshots off your arm, tethered by what look like black tendons. The spinning saw catches Bone Breaker in his stump-arm, sawing the rest of it off. He connects his other fist into your side, sending you flying.

You skid to a halt near the edge of the ring. You clench your teeth as you grip your side in pain. The burn stings like hell, and you know you'll have a fist imprint in the morning.

If you survive.

Bone Breaker is charging you again. You stand, calming your breathing and adopting a fighting stance.

"Alright shield," You say. "Let's do this,"

You start running, then leap as Bone Breaker leaps at you. The two of you connect, entangling in the air. Fire burns. A saw cuts. You feel the skin on your stomach turn black as you hit the ground.

"Fuck," You say, gripping yourself in pain. You quickly open your eyes and look for Bone Breaker.

He lies to the side, bleeding out from a massive wound across his chest.

"Damn," You say, holding back tears from the pain.


You slowly get up, Sadie rushing over to you.

"Wow!" She says. "That was amazing! I've never seen a fight like that! Real men, grunting and throwing fists!"
"Simmer down," You say, clutching yourself as you walk out of the ring. "How many more fights until the semi-finals,"

"Two, but the next one won't be until noon,"

"Alright then," You say. "Let's go find the others."

Les, Tyler and Rachel wave you down from the front row of the stadium. You walk up to them, but the other fans jostling you for questions and autographs forces you and the others up into a private box reserved for participants.

It's a good decision, as there's food, drink and air conditioning in the box.

"Oh thank god," Rachel says, opening up her arms and then taking a drink from tray held by a server.

You look around for some ice.

"That was a pretty brutal fight," Les says, looking at you. "Want me to go find a nurse?"

You're about to say no. You take a step forward and your stomach protests.

"Yes, thank you," You say.

Luckily there are plenty of nurses on hand in the private boxes. One checks your stomach and applies burn cream, while Les and the teens eat from the refreshments table.

You try to still the butterflies in your stomach as the day creeps by. Sadie and Tyler spend some of the time at the generous window area, watching the battles below. You just rest in a chair, accepting every glass of water a server brings your way.

Finally, noon arrives.

"Alright," Sadie says, throwing her black jacket around her shoulders. "Round two, let's go Saul,"

"Yup," You say, slowly getting to your feet. The burn cream helps. Really helps actually. You furrow your brow, pulling up your replacement shirt and checking your wounds.

They seemed to have healed. You nod your head, a small smile tugging on the corner of your mouth.

Once out of the box, you take a back staircase down to the tournament grounds. The ring stretches out before you.

On the other side stands a shortish figure in a heavy feathered cloak and a strange wooden mask. The mask is tilted up slightly, but you can't make out the features underneath.

"Shit," Sadie says, coming to a halt by the ring boundary.

"What, is the little guy in the mask supposed to be scary?"

"Yeah, check out how much effort went into his character design. He's got a mysterious master vibe going, and that's always bad news. Expect a long and painful demonstration on how his powers work that lasts at least an episode."

"I've already figured out I don't like sawing these cartoon people," You say, stepping into the ring. "So I hope he just surrenders,"

"Yeah you know that's not going to happen. Be careful Saul, and look out for annoying tricks,"


>Roll 1d100
Rolled 66 (1d100)

Huh, didn't realize this was taking place in the front range. Cool.
Rolled 44 (1d100)

Rolled 79 (1d100)


"Nasi was it?" You say, yelling across the ring. "I'll offer you the same thing I offered the other guy-"

Nasi holds a hand out to the side, and his cloak of feathers starts to shimmer. A beat later, they explode down his arm like a river, soaring through the air and sailing towards you.

You drop to one knee and bring up your arm. The shield flows out in response, solidifying into a circle.

The feathers impact against the shield. Your leg almost breaks under the force of their flow. Upon hitting the shield, they scatter to the side, the occasional one touching you and leaving delicate but deep cuts in your skin.

The leaves finish pounding into you. They lay haphazardly across the arena.

"Alright asshole!" You say, getting to your feet. "That fucking hurt!"

You charge across the ring, pressing your feet into the ground. Without his cloak, Nasi simply has a monk's robe. He lowers his wooden mask, then flashes towards you.

Your shield reacts before you do. You're thankful for it, as Nasi impacts against it with a fist that looks like it could shatter bone. Robbed of his momentum, Nasi rebounds off your shield. You're thrown back, sliding across the ground.

"SAUL!" Sadie calls. "The feathers are moving!"

"shit," You say, getting to your feet. You stumble a bit, then straighten yourself out. You check your arm, and your shield starts spinning in response. "Alright, let's finish this prick,"

The feathers gather up around Nasi, sliding up his body and then traveling back out along his arm. They launch off it, gathering in the air and then shooting towards you.

You start a slow run, building speed as you approach Nasi. You ignore the approaching feathers. Faster and faster you run, until you're almost upon your opponent.

Nasi raises his fists, preparing to punch you. You can feel the wind of the first feather upon your neck.

At the last moment you jump and spin in the air. You catch the full force of the feather swarm, exploding backwards. Your body catches Nasi's punch, but you feel his arm shatter as the feathers push you backwards through the air. You catch Nasi's body as well, both of you being driven across the ring by the feathers.

When the feathers finish ricocheting off your shield, you slowly get to your feet. You hear a noise in the air, then turn around and realise Nasi is screaming in pain. He holds up the remains of his shattered arm, as if offering it to god for healing. He tears away his mask, revealing himself to be a she, then continues screaming.

"Yeahh," You say, getting to your feet. "Match over, that sounds awful,"

You start walking towards Sadie. She looks at you grimly, shaking her head. You pause.


Sadie looks to the side, a hand on the back of her neck. Her black jacket sways in the wind around her shoulders.

"I'm sorry Saul," She says, closing her eyes. "Match isn't over until, you know,"
"What," You say, looking back at Nasi. She continues to hold her arm in the air, wailing. "No way," You say, gritting your teeth. "Fuck this. Fuck you Liam."

You start charging towards Nasi. Your gritted teeth open to let out a roar. You are angry. You hate this.

You make it quick. Nasi doesn't even realize what happens as her head separates from her body. Her body crumbles over, her head rolling off to the side.


You walk, slowly, back over to Sadie.

"C'mon," You say, passing her and ignoring her downcast gaze. "Let's go,"

The two of you exit the field, walking back up to the box. Les, Tyler and Rachel are waiting.

"Hey," Les says, walking over and handing you a bottle of water. "Everything cool?"

"Yeah," You say, taking a seat. "Let's just get to the next round,"

The next round comes, despite the growing sense of unease in your stomach. You walk back out into the stadium grounds, the cheers of the people growing louder and louder as you approach the ring. Sadie keeps pace beside you, her face covered by the brim of her black cap.

Standing on the other side of the ring is a huge figure in a massive cloak. On their face is a metal mask with wild painting, and on their back, a massive battle axe.

"Alright Sadie, what am I looking at here?"

Sadie raises the brim of her hat, a confused look on her face.

"Not sure actually, he looks impressive enough? Not many axes in anime that look like that, and unique is usually bad,"

"Fantastic," You say, stepping into the ring. The figure on the other side extends a hand, pointing at you.

"I have killed so many," The figure says. "And I will kill so many more. May I offer you a chance to escape my wrath? Would you like to ask me to spare my weapon?"

The figure sheds its cloak and takes away its mask to reveal an eight foot tiger-man in stylish threads. He unhooks the axe from his back, bringing it around.

"No way," You say, your eyes wide. You shake your head. "No way,"

"SSSSAAAAAUUUULLLL!" Tyler calls from the far-off first row. "THEE BANNDANNAAA!"

You point in the air, signaling you understand. You reach into your pocket and take out your bandanna from Grind Dojo. You tie it around your head, the words "Predators Beware" and "The Hunters Have Become the Hunted" facing outward.

"What is this?" The tiger-man says, grinning. "A challenge?"

"C'mere kitty," You say, bringing up your arm.

>Roll 1d100
Rolled 46 (1d100)

Rolled 32 (1d100)

Rolled 81 (1d100)

we eat tigers for BREAKFAST
Rolled 72 (1d100)

Tiger Axe is only a 4 star card. He ain't shit.
Don't get cocky though.

The tiger-man starts slowly turning his axe, circling it around his shoulders in a neat series of tricks. The spinning grows faster, the tiger-man's skills evident.

He suddenly releases the axe, and it spins at you like a furious bat out of hell. You throw up your arm, and your shield rushes out.

A bit too fast, it slides off your arm, kept anchored by the black tendons. The shield impacts against the axe in the air, sending both weapons careening.

You shield slams back into your arm, sending you on your ass. You look up to see the tiger-man leaping on you.

He lands on you and your shield, then starts pummeling away at the shield with his claws. Each blow feels like a hammer on your body.

Your mind is blank, you can't concentrate. The shield starts to spin, eager to nip off the tiger-man's hands.

A moment after the shield activates, the tiger-man jumps away out of range of its blades. You scramble to your feet, watching as the tiger-man holds out his arm. His axe quivers on the ground, then shoots over to his hand. He catches it, twirling it and bringing it to bear before him.

You hold out your shield in a defensive stance. You start to rush across the field like a spartan, head kept low over the brim of your shield. As you near the tiger-man, it starts to spin faster.

Your opponent brings the axe to the side, then swings it around with the force of a speeding truck. Your instincts tell you to dodge, not block, and you drop down.

You feel the air rush by as the blade passes over your head. You leap up, lashing out with the shield. The tiger-man jumps back, slamming down on your shoulder with his elbow.

You yell, falling to the ground. The tiger man claws your back, and you feel the talons dig deep into your muscles.

You lash out with your shield, catching the tiger-man in the ankle. It saws through, and your opponent collapses.

He rolls over, claws sailing through the air as he tries to deliver a finishing blow from the ground. You, on the ground as well, hold up your shield. The claws glance off it, and you roll away.

You scramble to your feet, wincing as blood turns your back wet. You stumble-run over to the tiger-man, who's trying to get to his feet.

You bash him with your shield. It's not even spinning. The tiger-man's head rocks back. You lift up your shield and slam it down on your foe's head. Once. Twice. Three times.

You cry out to the heavens, and with one final heave you bring the shield down on the tiger-man's head.

His arms twitch, and then he stops moving.


"Fucking A," You say, hobbling over to Sadie. She comes out to meet you in the ring.

"Damn, you okay?" Sadie says, tilting her black cap back. "That hit to the back looked awful,"

"Yeah, let's go find a nurse and some magical cream," You say.
You walk off the field, but several attendants usher you towards one of the main tunnels.

"What's going on," You say, holding your back. Several nurses run over, taking off your shirt and attempting to clean and dress your back while you move.

"Fuck," You say, brushing one of the nurses away as you walk. "The hell's going on?"

"You made it to the semi-finals!" An attendant says. "We need to do a quick press conference with your sponsors!"

"Yeah!" An attendants says, beckoning you to keep up as the nurses badger you. "You're a star now!"

"fuck," You say, passing under the tunnel. The cheers of the stadium follow you.

At the end of the tunnel is a massive stage where reporters and a crowd wait. They cheer as you approach. Waiting on the stage is the old man from the X-tool shop, as well as Asha. Granny Grind and her Muscle Guy are there too, as well as Charlie and his uncle Havika.

The attendants usher you onto the stage, where a podium and a female reporter with dazzling white teeth awaits.

"What are you guys doing here?" You say, glancing from the old man to charlie.

"I told you if you made it past the first round, I'd come cheer for you!" Granny Grind says, slapping you on the back. You resist the urge to howl. "Well," Granny Grind continues. "You made it to the semi-finals! This is great! Of course, naturally a rising star such as yourself needs sponsors, and Grind Dojo was only happy to oblige,"

"As was Baza's Machine and X-tool shop!" The old man says, calling it out to the crowd. "Open from eight to eight monday through friday, saturdays for special orders!"

You turn to Charlie and his uncle. "You guys been watching?"

"We came down to check it out," Charlie says. "It's bloody, nothing like I imagined. The hell is going on here?"

"Trust me, I know," You say. The female reporter motions you over to the mic.

"Well Mr. Becket," The reporter says, presenting you to the crowd. "Tell us how it feels to make it to the semi-final rounds!"

"Uh, yeah," You say, the mic picking you up in spurts. "I'm just here to get the fuck out of here, you know?"

Sadie pushes you aside, grabbing the mic. "I just want to say to all those out there who doubted us, here we are fuckers. What now?"

She points out at the crowd. "Whoever the fuck is in the semi finals beware! Saul Becket, under the wise guidance of his masterful coach, me, Sadie, or Hermione, well destroy all opponents!"

"Is that so?" A voice calls.

The crowd hushes itself, looking around wildly for the source. They part ways to reveal Desmond Jones standing there, wearing an outfit that is somehow both expensive and battle-ready.

"Oh fuck no," You say. Sadie crosses her arms and leans into the mic.

"Fuck you Desmond,"

"I'm sure," Desmond says. He turns to you. "Me and you are meeting in the semi-finals,"

"You gotta win your round first asshole," Sadie says.
Desmond smirks. "C'mon, as if I won't win. It's all a show after all. For me and Liam at least. For you, it's very real,"

You gently prod Sadie to the side, taking the mic.

"Look man, I don't know if you noticed, but they ain't fucking around here. I've had to kill my last three opponents. I'm not killing someone real,"

"Pshaw," Desmond says, dismissing the notion with his hand. "We won't let it go that far obviously. In fact, I think you'll find all your wounds are healed,"

You twist around, checking your back. The scars are already turning pink, having clearly healed. Whatever the nurses did, it worked.

"So let's just cut all the bullshit," Desmond says, smiling. "And go straight to the semi-final round between you and me,"

You stare at Desmond a beat, then grab the mic.

"Bring it punk," You say, holding out your finger. "It's on,"

The crowd cheers, dozens of camera bulbs flashing. Desmond walks out of the area, back into the tunnel towards the ring. The crowd follows. You glance at Sadie.

"Damn," She says. "I wonder what he's got up his sleeve,"

"More cartoon bullshit I'm sure," You say, walking off the stage.

"Saul, wait up!" Asha calls, running up to you. She lifts your arm, checking it over. "Has it been doing well?"

"When we get on the same page, yeah,"

"You seriously weren't messing around," Asha says, taking out a bag and handing it to Sadie. She unravels it, taking out a tiny screw driver and adjusting a bolt. "You got this and jumped right into the tournament the next day!"

"Well, thanks again for helping me out," You say.

"Happy to help," Asha says, putting the screw driver back in the bag, and then taking it from Sadie. "Grampa loves the publicity too!"

"Good to hear," You say, waving to Asha, Charlie and the others as you take off. Sadie joins you.

"Alright," She says, rubbing her hands together. "We are so, so close,"

"Yeah," You say, as the cheers of the stadium grow louder. The mouth of the tunnel rears up before you, and you step back out into the light.

The sounds of the stadium are deafening.


The stadium grows even louder. You walk over to the ring, where Desmond waits on the other side. His sword and scabbard leans by his leg.

"C'mon Desmond," You say. "Let's not do this. I don't want to beat on a kid,"

"Shame," Desmond says, drawing his blade and smiling. "Cause I'm going to enjoy the ever-loving shit out of this,"

>Roll 1d100
Rolled 92 (1d100)

Rolled 38 (1d100)

Rolled 35 (1d100)

Beat him unconscious?

Liam is there one moment, gone the next. You know what's coming.

You and your shield are one. It flows out of your arm, solidifying and spinning in the same moment.

Desmond appears, as does his blade, right in front of you. The blade is already headed towards your throat. You bring up your shield, and the spinning blade sends sparks in the air as it knocks the sword aside.

Desmond blinks backwards, seems to dance around a bit, then blinks forward again. You bring up your shield, but Desmond's blows are too fast.

Luckily, your x-tool reacts, spinning up and down, launching in every direction with its tendon harness to deflect the blade. More sparks lash out with each blow, some burning at your face.

Desmond blinks away again, brushing his hair away from his face.

"Not bad man, like the arm-style,"

"I hope you're having fun," You say, your shield slowing to a steady buzz.

"I mean, I don't see how you're not. Why don't you give this world a chance?"

"Do you even hear the words coming out of your mouth boy?"

"C'mon, it's a utopia," Desmond says, inspecting his blade and rubbing at a smudge. He looks back up at you. "Anything and everything you want,"

"Yeah, and it only costs half the people brought here getting turned into weapons,"

"Hm, well, "nothing lost" and all that,"

Desmond blinks again, and again his blows are too fast for you to keep up with. Again and again and again his blade lashes out, its point reaching mere inches from your face before your shield is able to launch itself and knock the blade away.

Desmond keeps it up, lashing down, to the side, and lunging several times in a matter of moments. He blurs, the blade causing the air to ring. The jarring sound of metal on metal punctuates the ringing, and sparks continues to burn at your face.

"AH!" You yell, thrusting yourself forward. You manage to body-check Desmond back, and he stumbles. You leap forward, kicking him in the shin. He falls back.

"Alright!" You yell, holding the spinning shield above him. "Call it off! We're done! I want the final round now!"

"Yeah yeah, sure," Desmond says, a pained smile on his face. He holds his hands in front of his chest. "You win man,"

Your shield slows, then flows back into your arm.


The stadium erupts into noise. You can almost feel the ground shake. You turn to Desmond, a scowl on your face. You put your good hand to it, relax, and then hold out your hand.

Desmond takes it, and you help him up. You knock him on the chest.

"When we get out of here, I'm putting you in a clinic,"

"Sure Saul," Desmond says, winking.

You don't like it. At all.

"Well, I must say, I'm impressed," A voice says.

You look up, spotting Liam floating down from the air. He wears billowing cloaks, as well as garments with zippers and belt buckles.
"Heh," Sadie says, coming up beside you. "He looks like a kingdom hearts loser,"

She turns to Desmond and socks him in the mouth. He stumbles back.

"Fuck!" He yells, a hateful look on his face. "I'm going to kill you you chocolate bitch!"

"Enough," Liam says, holding a hand up as he touches down on the ground, first one foot, then the other. He turns to you. "I must say Saul, I am impressed,"

"I made it to the final round," You say. "Don't tell me I have to fight you, I don't want to hear it. Let me, Sadie, Tyler, Rachel and Les out now,"

You know it's not all the kids. You plan to come back.

"Yes, it's true, that's what I said," Liam says, holding his hands out. "And I am a man of my word, but what kind of tournament would it be if you didn't at least try and fight me in a final round? You have nothing to lose after all, it's just a friendly bout before you go,"

A scream fills the air. You turn, and spot Rachel charging across the stadium ground towards the ring. She grips her spear. Les and Tyler are trying to keep up behind her.

"Sadie," You say, motioning your head towards Rachel. "Make sure she doesn't try and murder Liam or Desmond,"

"On it," Sadie says, jogging to intercept Rachel.

You turn to Liam.

"Let's do this. You and me,"


The crowd cheers as you and Liam take opposite sides of the ring. Les, Tyler and Sadie manage to calm Rachel, and your companions gather on your side.

Desmond walks over to Liam's side, standing behind him. Several groups enter the stadium grounds from the tunnel entrances. Most of the groups stop a ways in, but seven figures break away, continuing to approach the ring.

The figures stop on one side.

"Ah, see Saul," Liam says, gesturing at the arrivals. "The Captains of the Devil Squads have taken a break from villainy to witness this grand battle,"

Your eyes narrow as you scan the figures. They're all the same age as Sadie, Tyler and Rachel. Guys, girls, they all wear various costumes and wield elaborate weapons. They meet your gaze, their expressions unreadable.

All you can do is look to each one, then back at Liam.

"Enough," You say. "Let's end this. You know this world is scooping up more and more people? Random people, people like my man Lewis, and Charlie and his uncle Hi-...hi something. You really want to do this? Keep swallowing up innocents into your fantasy?"

"I'm afraid you're talking nonsense," Liam says. "The only people who get to come to my world are the people I invite. And they will be few, for my world is perfect. It will outlast the other,"

"Alright, I'm tired of this," You say, adopting a stance.

"Kick his ass Saul!" Tyler calls. Sadie and Rachel call out as well.

Liam nods, then whips his cloak to the side, revealing a long sword and scabbard. He draws the blade easily, brandishing it with a flourish.
>I'm going to kill you you chocolate bitch!

"This time on FUIC; the gang explores the grim realities of racism in the American education system."
"Show me what-"

You don't finish. Liam is in front of you, kneeing you in the stomach. You double over, spitting up blood. Liam rises up, then brings his foot down on you, slamming you into the dirt. You wheeze as dust fills your lungs.

Liam picks you, tossing you aside like a rag doll, you roll to a stop a ways away.

"SAUL!" Rachel yells, running out with Sadie and Tyler towards you.

You hold up a hand, slowly getting to your feet.

"Don't you dare!" You shout at them. "Let me finish this!"

You'll let him beat on you. You don't care. You're leaving. Today.

Liam blinks in front of you and you bring up your shield. He knocks it aside with his sword, then kicks you in the chest, sending you backwards.

You come to a stop by the edge of the ring.

"Alright alright," Liam says, sheathing his sword. "I've had my fun. A deals a deal, you get to leave,"

You slowly get to your feet, nodding.

"Arlight," You say. "Good,"

"Heh," Desmond says, stepping forward. "Sorry Liam can't allow that,"

"Huh?" Liam says, turning back at Desmond.

Desmond snaps his fingers.

Crystals erupt from the ground, enveloping Liam and growing to the size of several people. A look of shock plasters Liam's face as he lays crystallized within.

"What the fuck!" You say, spinning on Desmond. "WHAT DID YOU DO"

Desmond smiles, taking a few, lazy steps into the ring. A small fog grows behind him.

"Wellll Saul, to be honest, Liam's world is pretty nice. But Liam's too short sighted. He likes to play his games, when this world could really....be something,"

Desmond stops in the center of the ring, next to the crystal containing Liam. He knocks on it, waving at Liam. Liam doesn't respond, being crystallized. Desmond turns back to you. The cloud has now grown into a massive entity. Two eyes open up within it, staring at you.

"So me and Beh have been talking," Desmond says. "And although we can't get rid of Liam and the world he's started," Desmond smiles, winking at you. "I'll be running the show from now on. And trust me, it's gonna grow into something marvelous,"

"You son of a bitch," You say, bringing your shield up. "You absolute, irredeemable son of a goddamn bitch,"

"Oh Saul, you haven't even heard the best part," Desmond says. "I'm giving you and your stupid friends twenty-four hours to hide, then we're going to have the best game of hide and go seek you've ever seen,"

Desmond begins to rise into the air, as does Beh behind him. The crystal containing Liam does as well. The captains of the Devil Squads, the other captured high schoolers, also float up.

An explosion rings out in the stadium seating. Then another, and other. More explosions sound in the city beyond. Smoke trails into the sky. People scream.
I fucking KNEW Desmond was gonna take over as main villain. We should have killed him when we had the chance.
"I'm going to give this city to the monsters and such," Desmond calls down to you. "But if you make it out, then I'll hunt you after I've performed some important work. I think it would be a good way for me to unwind, and then I can really exact some slow revenge,"

"DESMOND!" You yell after him. "DONT DO THIS!"

"Sorry Saul, I told you, this place is your grave! It's my world now fucker, you're just living in it a few days longer!

Desmond and the others disappear into a low cloud cover. Les, Sadie, Rachel and Tyler run up to you. You all stare up at the sky.

The stadium burns. The city around you burns.

Your eyes narrow, and your fist clenches.
>End of Season 1

And that concludes the first part of Fuck Your Isekai Quest. Thanks for reading guys, you really kept me going. Stay tuned for Season 2 when this thread dies
Could Les have actually killed desmond back then?
As in, would she have been willing to? I don't think so, she doesn't strike me as the type who could go through with something like that.

As time stretches on in this world, she may feel differently
Thanks for running, looking forward to the next thread.
>There's going to be more.
Fuck yeah. Since the title didn't have a number, and you were just going by anon at that point, I figured this quest was just a one-shot. More a tongue-in-cheek one shot at that. I can only say I am pleasantly surprised, and eagerly looking forward towards the next thread.

It was kind of weird having only the OP as the only image in the thread, compared to most all other quests I've seen. They usually put a related pic on each post, and considering the references you are making, you would have a plethora of options to choose from. Is it just because you prefer to focus on the writing solely?

In terms of what just happened, I suppose it makes sense. Everyone was mentioning that the world was evolving beyond a thinly-veiled power fantasy, that the city and its populace was less like a prop set and more like a world. As much as Desmond needs to be stopped, I have to give him props as a fa/tg/uy. Taking someone's shitty setting and turning it into something beautiful is something I always give respect too, world building is hard. And of course, his ambition is admirable, if misplaced.
I appreciate your support, this was supposed to be a one shot but the story actually resonated and I want to see where we take it. As for pictures, I try to balance the line between how I see the characters and you guys do, since I rarely if ever really concentrate on descriptions. Since this is turning into a regular quest though I may throw up a map of the expanding island and maybe some nice wallpapers to set the mood in animeland
Fuck, would have been better to let rachel kill the guy

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