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File 165486684307.png - (732.10KB , 1000x1000 , Chapter3OpeningImageFinal.png )
1034710 No. 1034710 ID: 73aaab

Chapter 1:>>/questarch/985116
Chapter 2:>>/questarch/1007458

Discord: https://discord.com/invite/x9QHPvzhdD

Things were different before. But now, I'm going to have fun caving her head in.
79 posts omitted. Last 100 shown. Expand all images
No. 1040109 ID: 12b116

How many times are we going to have to shoot at her with no result before we figure out that bullets aren't doing anything against her? It looks like we're going to HAVE to use the sword instead of trying the same thing over and over till we get something important cut off. We need to bait her into charging again and try to get behind her. Trying to stay behind her is probably the best way to get any damage in on her. Might want to cut off her tail tip first though. Definitely toss the tar at her for now, we probably will have to blink behind her because I'm sure she knows how much of a weakness that is.
No. 1040111 ID: 15c72a

can you make a gun that shoots swords?!
No. 1040112 ID: dee951


That only works in settings with a rule of cool based narrative causality, with a very particular definition of 'cool', like bad children's animation!
No. 1040119 ID: e5709d

Make a gun-powered sword, then.
No. 1040239 ID: 15a025

Hear me out. Fuse the sniper rifle with the silk weave gauntlets.

The gauntlets alone might only be able to stop a bullet, but what kind things could we block if that was fused with the power of a sniper rifle shot, or shoot. Maybe even our shotgun? The only downside to this I can see is we might get one hell of a kickback on our shots.
No. 1040561 ID: 9dceff
Audio AstrolysisPart2_SomethingMemorable.mp3 - (5.48MB )

Title: Something Memorable (FURI)
Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpbJJmOJLz8

No. 1040562 ID: 9dceff
File 166020315955.png - (78.33KB , 1000x1000 , DramaticThinking.png )

Only a few moments before she gets her sword unstuck and starts blowing me up again.
We have to choose - NOW.

>Ha, you say that like you both know the limit of your abilities and that you've already peaked. Or that no gadget you get or gadget combo you make would ever successfully emulate whatever she's doing.
No, that's not it - I'm talking about what I have NOW. It doesn't matter if there's gadgets out there that can do what she can with the whole bullet-melty thing, when I don't have anything like that right now!

>can you make a gun that shoots swords?!
Uh, no? Swords aren't exactly good ballistic weaponry, BUT...

>Make a gun-powered sword, then.
Like I said before, I get the feeling that if I jam the sword together with the sniper rifle, I'd get something more akin to a railgun instead.

>Hear me out. Fuse the sniper rifle with the silk weave gauntlets.
...Huh. I didn't consider the gauntlets... but they ARE an option. But not one we'll need right now - the gauntlets protect me against bullets, but not explosions. We'll test it out next time.

>Use this as an opportunity to lay into her with tar and explosive knives.
I get what you're saying, but... this is an opportunity. I'm going to roll with plan Roof Drop from before, with a few caveats. The goal is to disarm her - because without her weapon - she won't be throwing out any explosions.

> Her sword is stuck in a wall. Sounds like a great opportunity to disarm her.
Yeah. Yeah, it is. Even though some of you guys are suggesting stunning her with the tar - but when we've got an opportunity like this, I'm suggesting we enact a previous plan of ours - one we've already been working toward.

>How many times are we going to have to shoot at her with no result before we figure out that bullets aren't doing anything against her?
It's kinda like with armor, really. If a shot isn't strong enough to make it through, then it'll bounce off, doing little-to-no damage at all. So I've got something of my own to propose.

Think about it. If her sword's made outta something that's immune to explosions, more explosions aren't going to break it. It's true that Astrolysis' the one who's actually immune to her own Parasignia - but her equipment is still holding up, even now. By extension, even if we broke through the barrier of hers
It's not going to work if we're just gradually increasing our firepower - we're going to max it out in one go.

We're going to go bigger.
No. 1040563 ID: 9dceff
File 166020320386.png - (370.32KB , 1194x1000 , ArginesBlazing1.png )

I breathe in and both the Creirwy D-3 and the H-ED DSTR appear in my hands. Wielding them like this, they're much too unwieldy to fire.
No. 1040564 ID: 9dceff
File 166020325507.png - (826.65KB , 1194x1000 , ArginesBlazing2.png )

But the weight of both guns in my hand remind me exactly what I'm capable of.
A grin creeps across my face.

"Ignition Complex..."
No. 1040565 ID: 9dceff
File 166020329582.png - (900.40KB , 1194x1000 , ArginesBlazing3.png )

"Guns Blazing!"
No. 1040566 ID: 9dceff
File 166020333746.png - (1.02MB , 1194x1000 , ArginesBlazing3point5psd.png )

No. 1040567 ID: 9dceff
File 166020336055.png - (911.90KB , 1200x1000 , Arginesblazing4.png )

No. 1040568 ID: 9dceff
File 166020338380.png - (491.90KB , 1200x1000 , Arginesblazing4point5.png )

No. 1040569 ID: 9dceff
File 166020342356.png - (1.04MB , 1486x1000 , ArgineSplosionAgain.png )

No. 1040570 ID: 9dceff
File 166020345613.png - (1.39MB , 1486x1000 , ArgineaphantGun.png )

>With debris scattering over the floor, a deafening roar can be heard.
>The doorway, warped by heat gives way as another blast cracks the building.
>From the flames of possibility, new solutions emerge.

>The bloom of a new crimson flower has been witnessed.

I missed this feeling.

A varnished wood stock and all - this thing's a lot more elegant than I thought it was going to be.
I'm going to call this... the Wallflower. Perfect considering that both of the gals that the composite guns come from are total recluses, right?

You don't need to tell me what to do next, either.
The blast created by my entry's probably going to do it's fair share of disorienting the brute in front of me.

>Also, please be advised. Elephant Guns and Punt Guns and similar are more like... small handheld cannons. There is a reason people don't use them, and instead tend towards emplaced and sandbag supported crew weapons at those recoil levels.

I don't have the time to set up something more! This is my chance to get a killer hit in!
No. 1040571 ID: 9dceff
File 166020351268.png - (510.81KB , 1000x1000 , argineschut.png )

I pull the trigger - and it's like a flashbang's gone off in my face. The damn ringing in my ears, the blindingly bright flash - it takes a moment before the crack of the shot even registers to me.
Then, stinging pain.
I stumble back, the kick from the Wallflower threatening to throw me back out of the room.

>The consequences of ignoring warnings provided by your own advisors.

Ah- ah shit, did I break a bone in my shoulder? I've got no clue but I can't see anything but the blast in front of me. It's so bright that it's basically a bloody flashbang when we're in a darker room like this!
No. 1040572 ID: 9dceff
File 166020353754.png - (566.98KB , 1000x1000 , BLAAAAAST.png )

>Searing heat.
>For a moment, that's all Astrolysis could feel, moments after she freed her sword.
>The blast engulfed her sense of self in that moment.
>Though she had never seen it - she knew that what she was standing in front of was like the sun itself.
>A memory crossed her mind, of when she named herself - a declaration that she would have the strength to split the skies themselves apart. But what could a blind soldier do if she could not see her target?
>But here, now?
>For the first time - she saw the sun.
No. 1040573 ID: 9dceff
File 166020357976.png - (716.78KB , 1000x1000 , ROOFSFALLING.png )

Before I'm even done recovering from the hit to my shoulder or the blinding flash, I can HEAR the cracks running through the walls of the building.
Whether it's the shrapnel, the backblast or something else - the amount of dust being kicked up is absolutely enormous.

Another cracking sound, and a rumble. This thing's going down!
I scamper back, still nursing my arm - dunno if the damn thing's been dislocated or just bruised like hell!
But I'm not giving her a free win by getting crushed under the roof!
No. 1040574 ID: 9dceff
File 166020365570.png - (970.51KB , 1000x1000 , ArgineFaceBlock.png )

The rumbling around me doesn't stop as more debris falls, throwing up plume after plume of smoke. It's like we've got a bonfire here, except much more dusty.

Agh- damn it, I can't see anything in all of this smoke, and my Blink Capacitor's still not ready! I don't even know if Astrolysis was downed by my shot, she got absolutely engulfed in the blast! So until we see her, we're not in the clear yet.
And my arm's still hurting like hell, I can barely move it.

Even if I'm out of the doorway, the sheer amount of dust and debris makes it hard to see where the hell I'm going!
No. 1040575 ID: 15c72a

If you can't see to move, then don't. Surround yourself with tar, so that if Astrolysis shows up before you can see she'll get stuck. At the very least that will give you time to blink, but I kindof want to start setting fires too, so that you can blind her with ambient heat. ...it occurs to me that giant blast might have fucked up her heat sensing anyway. Like a flashbang but for heat pits.

Can you get the map working again?
No. 1040576 ID: 398700

you're probably going to have hearing trouble for a bit after that. Focus on feeling for vibration and movement, this girl's tanky as all fuck and even that wasn't a guaranteed down yet.

It may be salient to crouch down, minimize our profile until things clear up enough to safely move.
No. 1040585 ID: 9a2966

That's one hell of a boomstick... but crouch down, then move forward through the smoke! Slither, scramble, stumble, whatever, towards where she might be!

If anything left Astrolysis distracted it has to be this. Do not waste seconds to see - seize the initiative, or she will have it, to feel and poke around for her. You can use Plug like a walking stick - have it at the ready in your offhand to feel your way forward - and at hand to attack, parry and block in case she is still able to feel or hear your approach and lashes out blindly.

You created this scene - this mess - with the intent to do a thing so don't just stand around waiting! Find her and try to disarm her while you can.

(And take shallow breaths - too much dust ain't good for ya.)
No. 1040604 ID: e5709d

The noise will keep her from hearing you set up traps. Now's your chance to mine the floor with tar and knives!

Bait her one last time. Act like you're aiming but set up a goddamn minefield. When she finally charges, Elephant Gun Jump! Keep firing through the smoke, try to bring down the roof, and don't stop until we tell you the test is over!

... Did you know elephants normally can't jump due to their sheer mass? Oh well...
No. 1040605 ID: c35acc

Wallflower used solarbeam!

...How many walls did that blast through?

Either way, the cape will reduce dust exposure if you use it to cover your mouth. Have a briar at the ready, because if she still has fight in her, you'll probably need the arm healed.

Honestly, I'd usually advise getting a fallback area full of traps, but right now you fully have the initiative. Wasting it would be foolish. Sure, she could be baiting you, but the odds of that seem low.
No. 1040646 ID: dec69d

Find an unassuming corner among the rubble and set up a defense there. Make sure to not move until you actually see movement.
No. 1040779 ID: 15a025

If you're not able to see where you're going, then staying put for now sounds like the best option. Try to listen to your surroundings and watch out for anymore falling debris.
No. 1042291 ID: 73aaab
File 166190863167.png - (885.43KB , 1000x1000 , ArgineBlinded.png )

>Start some fires.
>Surround yourself with tar.

If I surround myself with tar, all I'm going to be doing is spraying it where I can't see it - meaning more likely than not, I'll be stepping right into a puddle myself.

With all this smoke, I'm not sure a tar-fire's going to be all that effective if it's snuffed out in moments.
I'm going to try to watch her movements, or get away while I still can. I ain't sticking around to find out if the beast's down or not.

>Elephant Gun Jump!
Hate to say it, but I'm not firing that thing when I've only got one arm left. If I try to rapid fire that thing, I don't know if my gun or my shoulder would explode first!

>Can you get the map working again?
I'm only inches away from the doorway - a map's redundant at this range.

>Don't just stand around waiting! Try to disarm her while you can!
Ffffffff- I'm not going to be able to disarm anything but myself at this rate!

>If you can't see to move, then don't.
>It may be salient to crouch down, minimize our profile until things clear up enough to safely move. Feel for vibrations and movement.
Are... are you sure about this? Shouldn't I be trying to get away as soon as possible?

...Damn it, I'm going to take your word on this for once. The moment she tries running at me, I'm going to be ready for her.

My body feels stiff. Crouching only makes my arm sting more, so I stay still, watching, trying to keep my breaths shallow.

The dust starts to settle a little, and my vision clears.
No. 1042292 ID: 73aaab
File 166190865749.png - (1.03MB , 1000x1000 , CaughtOut.png )

I'm greeted with an outstretched hand, charred and burnt, soaring toward me.
She's still up!

>With monstrous physicalities - a leap is perfect for closing the distance - all without audible footsteps.

I duck out of the way, ready to form another gun and-

I'm not waiting for her to break my hand - I pop the Briarheart card, feeling the pain in my other arm subside as I go to manifest one of my revolvers and-
No. 1042293 ID: 73aaab
File 166190867392.png - (758.51KB , 1000x1000 , FaceGrab1.png )

Before I'm even able to react to her stopping my arm, the crunching pain of her fist into my chest winds me - and immediately, her other hand reaches out again, her fists moving faster than I can draw my gun.
Her hand clamps right over my mouth, gripping it like she's trying to crunch it into tiny fragments.
I try to spit out an insult, but I can barely pry my lips apart with her tightly she's grabbing my muzzle.

Her thumbclaw digs into my face, tracing a bloody line through it. I can barely feel it before she reaches for my neck and SQUEEZES.
The veins in my arm bulges out as I try to pry her arm off, but her grip's as tight as a vice!
No. 1042294 ID: 73aaab
File 166190870864.png - (0.96MB , 1000x1000 , ASnarl.png )

The scent of burned meat and fur invades my nostrils as Astrolysis leans in.
"Told you that you couldn't run forever, Wirehead. I'm gonna... make you exactly what they call you."
No. 1042295 ID: 73aaab
File 166190872758.png - (947.22KB , 1000x1000 , RAISE.png )

I gasp and choke - my arms are pulling against hers, but it's like trying to move a cement. My nails scratch and dig against her arms, but I can't even make it through the singed fabric.
It's happening again.

>As air is choked out of her lungs, scenes float to the surface of her consciousness. Of that day - of her loss to Jin-R, of her complete humiliation in front of everyone.
>Once again, she's beaten - not through a bullet, but through brutal, indifferent violence.

Why is it happening again?!

I kick out, but her grip's threatening to break my neck!


>But what help can we provide? We are but advisors. We cannot pry those fingers off her neck.
>She tries, once more, to lay out an insult. Our host produces nothing but a pained gurgle, a sound that barely registers to the brute accosting her with her bare hands.

Can't... focus...
>Pieces gather in our host's fingers, only to fall apart in a moment's weakness. Even with her training - to picture the intricate mechanisms of her weaponry in her mind as she's losing consciousness is a skill she's yet to master.
No. 1042296 ID: 73aaab
File 166190875984.png - (771.64KB , 1000x1000 , SLAM.png )

"Oi. We're not done here yet. How about I move you STRAIGHT INTO THE GROUND?"
>With a grunt, the disarmed swordmaster swings her plaything into the ground, shaking the floor around it.
>Barely recovered from her strangulation, a choked gasp rattles through our host's throat.
No. 1042298 ID: 73aaab
File 166190882399.png - (1.05MB , 1000x1000 , FACESLAM.png )

>Her vision was shaky.
>The beast was still looming over her.

Form the damn gun, you... you useless waste of... genetic material...

>Once more, a brutal hand clasps itself around her face, lifting her concussed head from the ground, a small red stain where she used to be.
No. 1042299 ID: 73aaab
File 166190885604.png - (889.06KB , 1000x1000 , Headgrasp1.png )

"Not enough for you? One more time!"
No. 1042300 ID: 73aaab
File 166190888796.png - (1.02MB , 1000x1000 , Headgrasp2.png )

>A cracking sound and a splatter, layered on top of one-another.
>To the swordmaster - she imagined a different life where that sound meant something different. Something final.
>In another time, her opponent would be gone. She would be just, her existence validated.
>But instead - the sound was sickening to the beast's keen ears.
No. 1042301 ID: 73aaab
File 166190890889.png - (1.48MB , 1000x1000 , FACESLAM2.png )

"Go to sleep, runt. Dream of that hero you wanna be."
No. 1042302 ID: 73aaab
File 166190893935.png - (0.96MB , 1017x1017 , LTSTATIC.png )

No. 1042303 ID: 73aaab
File 166190896294.png - (1.73MB , 1000x1000 , THEPAST.png )

>In a different time, two friends sat and watched the sun set in the distance.
>One was missing half her eyes - the other had none at all.

>It was a long day - and one of them had been told to pick a name.
>The blind girl, however she wracked her brain - couldn't find any name that satisfied her. She couldn't write it, she couldn't feel it. A name may as well have been dust to her. Though her friend volunteered to help her come up with ideas - their conversation soon drifted away, to the sensations around them.

>From the grass she felt beneath her paws, to the breeze that ruffled her fur - it was like she was in a different world to the facility she called home. There, people led her around - told her what to do all the time.
>Here... she could be by herself, or be with her friend.
>But there were so many questions in her mind.

>To the blind girl - she couldn't tell where the warmth outside came from, no knowledge of the big ball of burning plasma that gazed down at the little people in the lonely island below.
>"How come it feels warm outside?", she asked.
>Long before she chose to pick up a weapon - she was put in the same category as her dearest friend. Someone who needed to be taken care of, someone to be guided.

>"That's the sun. It's a star, a ball of hot gas really, really far away from us. But this one is special, because it's what makes plants grow, like the grass under our feet, or the trees that give us our favourite fruits."
>The sun. What a weird little thing to put there in the sky. Who was putting the fuel in it to keep everyone warm?
>If someone else was telling her, the blind girl would doubt the truth. But her friend - her friend was smart, even if she felt as light as a blanket whenever they went for a piggy-back ride. Even if her friend was sick, she was so smart - she told the blind girl all she knew, and even if she didn't understand, the blind girl did her best to try - and her friend was grateful.

>"I wish I could touch it. Do you think it would taste spicy?"
>New things were exciting. Whether it was a new toy, or something to stay away from - even if the blind girl was hurt by it, she loved discovering new things - of pushing her boundaries. What you could and couldn't eat, what things could and couldn't be broken... even though she couldn't see like anyone else, she loved being in this world - loved getting to know everything in it.
>Something so far away... something she couldn't touch.
>That was disappointing to the blind girl. How could she feel something so far away? It was just a blurry gradient of heat to her in the distance. How could she get to know it for herself?

>Her friend giggled. The sound made the blind girl perk her ears up. She knew laughter - but she didn't know her friend's laughter all that well.
>"You're pretty funny, you know that? What would you do if you could actually hold the sun?"

>The question prompted the blind girl to think for a moment.
>"I'd cut it in half - so you and I can both taste it, one day when I'm strong enough to do that!"

>This only made her friend laugh harder - before the laughs turned into coughs.
>Her friend did that a lot nowadays, but it was okay. After all, her friend said that it'll be over one day. As long as the blind girl could be with her friend, she didn't care too much if she was coughing or laughing.
>"I mean it! We can share the sun together, like that fruit you named yourself after!"

>There was a shakiness to how her friend responded. The blind girl couldn't see the gentle tears streaking across her friend's pale face.
>"You know... I think I have an idea for what your name should be."
No. 1042304 ID: 73aaab
File 166190900119.png - (0.96MB , 1017x1017 , LTSTATIC.png )

No. 1042305 ID: 73aaab
File 166190902620.png - (448.19KB , 1000x1000 , DiagramWorried.png )

>Numbness. Only numbness.
>The inky void breaks - only for our host to be met with the face of a concerned friend.

"A-Argine? You're awake! I... I'm glad you're okay!"

It hurts. Where am I?
Diagram's over there, so...
Ah... this is...
No. 1042306 ID: 73aaab
File 166190905430.png - (629.61KB , 1000x1000 , REST.png )

"So... I..."

How long has Diagram been watching over me?

I try sitting up, but my body feels bloody sore. It's like I've been here a month.

The realisation dawns on me:
This is my fault, isn't it?
No. 1042310 ID: 8483cf

Absolutely not. You did your best.

How long HAVE you been here, anyway?
No. 1042311 ID: bf1e49

No it's everybody else's fault for repeatedly trying to get you to do the same thing
No. 1042312 ID: 15c72a

Yes. If you had taken the deal, you could've won. Your guns and parasignia were useless; her ability perfectly counters yours.
Also you could've used the tar AND STAYED STILL. She would've gotten caught in it, and then you could've done something, instead of getting your face grabbed.
You could have also summoned Plug when she was holding your face, instead of trying to summon guns, which were proven to be useless.

You seem to have a learning disability, Argine. It will be difficult to become a hero when you can't adapt during combat without our direct advice.
No. 1042314 ID: 8893f0

Maybe... you should consider not being a hero and instead search for a better dream.
No. 1042315 ID: e5709d

I... I don't know what I'm supposed to say.

You know what the worst part is?
You could probably do more for society by progressing it from the shadows, honing your psychic powers to mass-produce emergency food and medical supplies. That's probably why they're forcing you down this path.
Except then the elite will, as usual, corrupt everything you've ever done for one-day genocide delivery and call it heroism.

You didn't have a bad ambition; you just didn't know the full consequences, while they pretend those consequences don't exist.
And you still don't get to have it.
No. 1042319 ID: 9649f0

No, we really should have told to run after the roof collapsed.
Hunkering down turned out to be the wrong choice.
No. 1042325 ID: 85ffab

Even though I opposed staying still, once fog of war hit, every action was risky, so no.

Playing defensive risked her regrouping, as well as failing to disarm her of that pesky blade, making that broken arm gambit a total waste.
Playing offensive risked, well, what happened.

Situations like that, you figure what gives the best odds, then roll the dice. When you get snake eyes, you get snake eyes.

Had we known she was still up (HOW WAS SHE NOT BELOW A TON OF DEBRIS??!?), as well as that she abandoned the blade (which was probably way outside most of our ballparks), we could have had better advice, but we had no way to know. Had we the choice, a solburst while grabbed may have helped, or it may have been futile, no way to find out now.

Worst part about this though? Sorta mad at Nickel, her close quarters advice was useless here!

Still, if you'd like to get a positive out of this, you're now very aware of your weakness at close quarters, so you can find ways to evade or mitigate said weakness.
No. 1042341 ID: 60dc15

Not really? I’m not sure charging in would have made much of a difference if she was still up and if your own and Nickel’s training couldn’t help you break the hold... well. Not much doing.

As far as I can tell the roof plan failed to do as it intended anyway - to disable her for a moment. Astrolysis has her monstrous toughness, now proven, and we now know how bad it would be to ever get in her range without a suitable countermeasure on hand.

Though... weirdly, you did seem to have disarmed her. Maybe she sacrificed her blade to split-counter your blast?

And, perhaps also, advisors of her own? I’m mildly sure when she held you that a couple of those voices weren’t ours. Orrr that could be a side effect of that thing you absorbed.

Though that might be the memories of who ‘you’ used to be. Did you dream that scene or was that just us?
No. 1042342 ID: 15c72a

We couldn't run. We had no map, Argine couldn't see where the walls were, so she was just going to stumble around and smack into things and maybe even get closer to Astrolysis. Our attempt to pin Astrolysis failed because it kicked up a stupid amount of dust and turned off the map. If it hadn't done both of those things, it would've worked. (in other words, the author screwed us over) Then after that, we lost because Argine picked the parts of our advice that worked worst together- staying put but not setting any traps. (in other words, the author screwed us over. I'm pretty sure the author decided we were going to lose as soon as we decided not to take the deal. Everything after that was Argine encouraging bad ideas and taking the worst parts of suggestions, along with a bit of godmoding on Astrolysis's side. but I also think it's clear at this point that the tournament doesn't matter. We're going to uncover some big secret about this place that's going to take over the plot and there's going to be a big confrontation that doesn't involve fighting Astrolysis again)
No. 1042343 ID: 60dc15

Choices and suggestions were made - and followed, to lesser or greater extent, which were all within reason. The final fight to come, if it comes, has been made harder, but we know more now how to counter Astrolysis. This is a setback, a disadvantage, and sometimes you end up with those. No need to be snippy - or guilty. The important thing is to learn, to grow.
No. 1042344 ID: b4f193

Partially, after all you should have the ability to improvise without our advice. Frankly, given how you did without our advice for a short period, you should probably reconsider our future removal. Disabling sure, but removal might be bad for your survival.

However, losing out on our advice at a crucial period was in no way expected.
We had options.
Summoning Plug. Slicing off her hand.
Should she have screwed with the summoning, solbursts.

Should the solburst fail, explosive knives directly to the arm would have no summoning issues, unlike Plug. Even if she kept her grip, you appear to be better at surviving explosions than hits to the head.

Probably had others, too.

Still, it is what it is, too late now.
No. 1042800 ID: 15a025

Whose at fault seems irrelevant. What is relevant is what you learned from this fight, and how you can try to adapt for when we have to fight her again in the finals.

Talk with Diagram a bit, find out about your current condition.
No. 1043138 ID: 73aaab
File 166255953206.png - (646.91KB , 1000x1000 , CHP3X01.png )

Since the moment I woke up, my skull's full of noise. I can hardly hear what Diagram's saying, I can hardly hear myself think. I don't know if I want to.

>Yes. If you had taken the deal, you could've won.
I know. I just- her smug look and - ...I blew it. I thought I could take her out in one blow and I ruined my shot. Our shot.

>You did seem to have disarmed her. Maybe she sacrificed her blade to split-counter your blast?
It didn't matter in the end, did it? She beat the hell out of me, just like when you were first injected into me.
I guess even after all these days, I haven't changed at all.

Diagram speaks up, but I don't quite hear what she says. My eyes are on her, but I’m staring straight through her. Reality isn’t registering yet. Maybe it will later, maybe that’ll be worse.

>We had options. Partially, after all you should have the ability to improvise without our advice.
I tried. I tried to solve things my way, but that just got me a broken arm, another wasted card.
And now that we've lost, I’ve got nothing to show for it - I've done nothing but embarrass myself.

>You had so many possible options when you were grabbed. Why didn't you do anything?
I... I don't have an excuse there. She grabbed me, I tried to break free - but then I felt her fingers dig into my neck, I couldn't breathe, and I… wasn't strong enough.

>Frankly, given how you did without our advice for a short period, you should probably reconsider our future removal.
I don’t know. I was told that you were going to be something that corrected my behaviour, but I feel like I've done nothing but get myself into worse and worse situations ever since.

>You seem to have a learning disability, Argine. It will be difficult to become a hero when you can't adapt during combat without our direct advice.
Believe me, I know. What the hell is wrong with me? Screaming out for you to help when I was being dangled in the air like a toy. Why didn't I do anything when I could? I used to be better than this.
No. 1043139 ID: 73aaab
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>Maybe... you should consider not being a hero and instead search for a better dream.
What else is there for me?
This is all that I know. All that I’ve ever trained to be. But… I'm not good enough. Everyone else... everyone else here has always known that. Maybe I never had any chance.
Maybe I just haven't caught up.
They always said I was too stupid to understand.

"Why, Argine?"
Diagram. She's still here.

"I'm just... hearing what the SAI have to say. You don't have to listen. I’m alright.."
She turns away, but doesn't move from where she's standing.
Under my headache, I can feel something building.

"So, this is it, then? You're just going to give up?"
Diagram's expression is... different. Have I ever seen her like that before?

I can't even talk properly anymore.

"Did Astrolysis hit you so hard that you can't think? Maybe she's right for calling you a wirehead if you're going to do nothing but cry in bed!"
Her teeth grind against each other, a small creaking noise drifting into the darkness.
Oh. So that feeling... She turned off her suppressor.

"What's the point, Diagram? I lost. Just like last time. There's..."
I trail off. This is tiring.

"What the HELL, Argine? What's wrong with you? Why aren't you fighting back?"
There's... something under that frustration, that anger of hers. Hell if I know what it is though. Her anger's vibrant. It feels like... I've never seen Diagram angry at all before.

She doesn’t get it. It’s over, I’m done.
I let myself believe that I was good enough.
I wasn’t.

You guys were right about me. I should have listened.
No. 1043140 ID: dee951

Hey. Losses suck. And some of us are upset at ourselves, and lashing out at the only one present -- you. But there's hope. Being a hero is important. Not giving up is important. You aren't broken. Wounded in body, mind, and spirit, but not BROKEN. Be the person you want to be, and be your best self! Follow your dreams!
No. 1043143 ID: e51896

Yeah, you can't win them all. Losses are just ways to learn from your mistake, and you got stronger because of it.

What I'm more upset about is how your opponents treats you with disrespect because of your losses. Not cool.

Also, don't take all the blame, a lot of it was our fault too. Really, I think there's been a lot more of us showing up here, and things are getting pretty chaotic of what we're supposed to be doing, sometimes even arguing with each other to the point where there might not be a clear sense with what we're supposed to be doing...

So I propose a way for making things a bit more orderly for us... maybe like getting a voting system programmed in us, giving us a list of some recommended options we can take from A to D or more? of course we'll still talk to you, but I think this can give us a better way to keep things in order and clearer.

Ask Diagram about altering our mode, or upgrading us, tell her about our chaotic energy, and if she can give us some sort of voting system with recommended actions in any situation in place to keep things orderly.
No. 1043144 ID: a92be4

Whose ill-fortuned advice did you take when you stood still in the dust? You were certainly not alone in making a bad call or several there. As one might, in the fog of war, but you’re well within your rights to throw some shade back here.

Take our words with a pinch of salt when we give you a hard time. We’re none of us perfect arbiters of tactics or your suitability as warrior, hero, person, just lingering perspectives. Nor are we all giving you shit.

Are you really prepared to give up everything that motivated you because, oh no, you flinched and lost one match out of three?

You have things to do other than stewing in despair and self-recrimination. For one, it’s clearly driving Diagram up the wall. You owe her a bit of strength, at least, for helping you out this far.

Up and at ‘em, soldier.
No. 1043145 ID: ff3ac5

Looks like Astrolysis didn't just break your body, but also your will. Is it merely the news of being beaten, or does she have some ability to add soul-crushing to her punches?
No. 1043147 ID: e5709d

Well, I don't know what's wrong with you. But I don't know what's wrong with this whole facility either.

The fact is: you can't stop being a loser if you stay here. The way everyone around you has acted shows that any problems you have start with them.
They humiliated you.
They experimented on you.
They act like crushing your skull is manners.
Argine, get this through your head: this facility is Fucked. Up.
Whatever justification they have to keep you here falls short of the constant abuse and violence they tried to normalize in you. Everyone you've fought so far has been, in some way or another, a basket case of PTSD or megalomania. We've seen their memories, we know what we're talking about.
They keep blaming you for the crimes of your biological mother, a mother you've never met or heard about until this week. They created you to take the blame because they can't get over the fact that she's too dead to be punished. Perhaps they can't get over the fact that they created her, genetically and mentally, in the first place.
However you get out of this facility, you need to get out, you deserve to get out.
tl;dr: perhaps the reason you never improve is because this facility is too broken to realize it doesn't want its scapegoat to improve.
No. 1043154 ID: 15c72a

Learn from your mistakes.
No. 1043159 ID: 398700

since fucking when does one failure get to win? jesus CHRIST Argine, success is built on GETTING UP after a failure! Are you so weak you let it defeat you?

So you got cocky, so you couldn't break her choke, so you couldn't this that and the other thing. You KNOW you still could have won that. The cards didn't play in our favor, we fucked up a few times, but we STILL could have won that right up until the end.

Are you really going to give up over such a narrow loss?

Get up, learn from this.
We will win next time.
No. 1043166 ID: 8a0fb8

Okay, I thought of another thing.

Argine, you ARE a good fighter. You've worked a lot on your physical strength and training and made some good moves.

I think while your fighting skills is great, what you are right now havent been taking care of is your mental health. With almost everyone in the facility putting you down all your life here, and not getting any support to get you stronger, I think it has been putting a toll on you, and you've been carrying that weight until it nearly broke you right now.

What you need is support, mental exercises and relief. Unfortunately, there aren't any therapists here... but I think the closest that comes to mind is Nanoweaver. I really think you should talk to her as soon as possible, and talk to her about the mental damage from all the abuse you've been put through from everyone all your life

It's going to be tough to talk to her about it, but believe me, you will be stronger for it.

And yeah, you also got Diagram who wants you to keep moving. So here is what I also suggest: listen to what Diagram has to say to you, talk about what you went through to give her context of what you've been going through, she'll likely understand that all the abuse you went through caused something to break from that.

And then afterwards, it is highly important to ask her if she can bring Nanoweaver over here to talk to you about your mental health.
No. 1043197 ID: 515982

Welp, I guess you should prepare your resume and see if the base cafeteria is hiring.
No. 1043199 ID: deb8aa

>get myself into worse and worse situations ever since.
>I used to be better than this.
That is concerning. Perhaps a visit to Nanoweaver for some brain scans or some therapy is in order, see how things stack up compared to before we were inserted?

>What else is there for me?
Perhaps something to give some thought, once you are in a better headspace? If only so you have a plan for when there is no fighting to be done.

>Why aren't you fighting back?
Fighting back against what, specifically? Perhaps now it is time for some answers.

You'll bounce back soon enough, Argine. You are good at that.
No. 1043201 ID: 12b116

You can't just give up after a failure. You aren't even dead. Reach up and touch diagram's ear and ask why you're not dead. Astrolysis seems to have some genuine hatred for you, why didn't she kill us?
No. 1043214 ID: 2c3366

Hello, Diagram. It's so nice to talk to you finally. Could you please give Argine some ice-cream? She probably needs some positive reinforcement right Noe, more than your further pressure.
No. 1043438 ID: 15a025

You think Urza just gave up after a loss or two? No! Burn the ashes of defeat and rise up stronger from it Argine. Mistakes were made, but you can learn and adapt from them.
No. 1043503 ID: 6abda8

>What else is there for me?
No. 1043750 ID: 73aaab
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>Hey. Losses suck. And some of us are upset at ourselves, and lashing out at the only one present -- you. But there's hope. Being a hero is important.
>Be the person you want to be, and be your best self! Follow your dreams!
Yeah. Like that's as easy as saying it.

To be a hero... the thing is that, losing is one of the worst things you can do. You can’t lose. But I guess that's why I'm not one yet.
If people are to respect me, I need to have that strength. If I don't have strength, then I may as well be worthless. That was always the kind of hero that I needed to be.
Strong, undefeatable. Someone like Urza. That's why I admired her and many other heroes from the past. They had enough respect for people to remember them.

>What I'm more upset about is how your opponents treats you with disrespect because of your losses. Not cool.
They don't treat me with respect because I haven't earned any. Losing to Astrolysis only makes that clearer.

>Looks like Astrolysis didn't just break your body, but also your will.
It wasn't just that. I... I lost just like I did ages ago, to my sister. Picked up, dangled, broken.
This time though, the only audience was you.

>Astrolysis seems to have some genuine hatred for you, why didn't she kill us?
Because she's got her own sense of honour. I guess... people just don't really die any more, not from fights like this. Astrolysis didn't need to kill me, because if I died - she wouldn't get to fight me again. I guess. She’s messed up. Maybe worse than me.

I exhale, the cold air around me making my fur stand on end.
Just, how could I? I screwed up, just failed. I let my pride get in the way, and then my skills just failed me..

>Are you really going to give up over such a narrow loss?
>Learn from your mistakes.
>Get up, learn from this.
>We will win next time.


Diagram speaks up again.
"Argine... Argine, listen to me. You shouldn't do this to yourself - you've still got two more fights. It’s not over, not until the end."

She's not wrong, none of you are, but... I don't think it's getting through my skull. My body's screaming at me to just lie down and forget about it, give up.

But I can't do that, not yet.
No. 1043751 ID: 73aaab
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>The fact is: you can't stop being a loser if you stay here. The way everyone around you has acted shows that any problems you have start with them.
...It's true. I can't stay here.
If I... if I just lie here, I won't get anywhere. Even though they told me that they were just going to let me go free… No, I don't believe them.

I don't want to be here forever.

Diagram pulls up a chair, sitting by my bedside. Her expression's different now, and I get the feeling she's sorry for shouting at me.

>You have things to do other than stewing in despair and self-recrimination. For one, it’s clearly driving Diagram up the wall. You owe her a bit of strength, at least, for helping you out this far.

Diagram... she's helped me out so much. I let her down too. I can't blame her for getting angry.
But, in spite of that, she's still supporting me. She didn't just leave in disgust at my weakness.

>Up and at ‘em, soldier.
...Roger that.

My body aches, but I try to sit up a bit straighter. Even if I screwed up, and as much as I hate it - what's done is done. You're right, I can still make a difference.
I just hope I can get strong enough to tear victory from their hands.

Diagram flicks her suppressor on again. I guess she was listening in, for a little moment.
The pounding anger fades - and I'm left with the pain in my body, unfiltered.
"Argine, they're right. This isn't the time to give up." She leans over my bed, hands in her lap.
"For me... there was something that happened a long time ago. I... I gave up on it. Gave up on pursuing it. The circumstances weren't right. And for a long time, I felt like I let someone really close to me down. That I should have done more. But..." She looks off into the darkness.
"I think, lately - I saw something that reminded me of how I felt back then. And I don't want to make the same mistake again I did back then."

I get the feeling like she's keeping something from me - but, this time... she hadn't talked to us in my head. I guess she was worried about me.

"Same with you, Argine. I think - even if you ended up losing this time, it's better that you tried - and to keep trying. Even if there's some things we can't control, or if we made bad decisions, what's important is how we adapt."

Adapt, huh? Heard the same thing in training, but I guess I never really understood. The Combat Handbook might tell you how to win, but it doesn’t include a chapter on living with defeat. I’m gonna have to get used to this feeling. It’ll be hard, going to sleep every night knowing I lost this bad. Twice. It’ll be harder to get out of bed with that on my shoulders. But if I don’t, I’m just another casualty. If I fight, and lose, at least I lose knowing I didn’t curl up and take it.
No. 1043752 ID: 73aaab
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>You'll bounce back soon enough, Argine. You are good at that.
We'll see how it goes. Can't say I'm feeling great, but I can’t say I’m dead either.
I can sort through these feelings later.

"Diagram, it's... I feel like the SAI's doing something to me. I don't quite feel like myself any more. It's like something about me's changing the longer I have them in my bloodstream.

She looks surprised. "What? But... I thought the SAI shouldn't be able to do anything like that." A dark expression crosses her face for a moment.
"But..." Her ears flop around as she shakes her head. It's kinda cute.

>Reach up and touch diagram's ear.
What? That's sudden! …maybe later.

She puts on a strained smile.
"I'll look into it Argine. But - no matter what happens, we'll figure it out, alright?"

I'm not sure I feel like myself, getting multiple head injuries probably doesn't help, but... I trust Diagram. I know that she's going to help, however she can.

>I propose a way for making things a bit more orderly for us... maybe like getting a voting system programmed in us, giving us a list of some recommended options we can take from A to D or more? Of course we'll still talk to you, but I think this can give us a better way to keep things in order and clearer.

I don't know how possible that is - I mean, it feels like the stuff housing you is unstable. Should we really be poking around in there? Feels like there's features and functionality we don't even know about, or haven't used again.
I can't deny that you've helped me out a lot, even if you make mistakes. I do too..
There's too many things we don't know about how SAIs work and I get the feeling that Diagram and Nanoweaver don't quite know everything either - but...
What Amica said about Nanoweaver...
No. 1043753 ID: 73aaab
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>And then afterwards, it is highly important to ask Diagram if she can bring Nanoweaver over here to talk to you about your mental health.

Besides the... things that Amica brought up last time, there's other reasons I don't want to talk to Nanoweaver about this.
I don't want to put that burden on her. I feel like a little brat fresh out of the Cradle whenever I do.
Besides, we just talked a few days ago - it doesn't feel right to go back to her like a crying child. I’m not gonna bother her about it.

>Why not talk to Judicium?

Wh- Judicium? I... I don't know. I guess it's not the worst idea, but - would she even want to hear me out? It's like there was two sides to her. Kindness, and callousness. It's true that she was nice to me to begin with, but... I don't know if I want to seem weak in front of her. She was one of my opponents, even if I won against her.

I don't know if I should turn to her for help or not. Isn't she one of our enemies?
No. 1043762 ID: 8deae4

>She’s messed up. Maybe worse than me.
I do wonder what was going through her head after the end of the fight. Perhaps you can ask her at a later date? Might prove interesting.

>I’m not gonna bother her about it.
I suppose we shall grieve together over this decision at a later date.

>Isn't she one of our enemies?
Did the Combat Handbook say there are only two kinds of people, Argine? Friend or Enemy?
Did your recent talk with Judicium not end on quite amicable terms? With her even delcaring you two were no longer opponents?

Find a moment to speak with Judicium, Argine. It might do you some good.
No. 1043763 ID: 12b116

The world isn't clearly separated into enemies and allies. It's a lot more complex than that. Just because somebody doesn't get along as well doesn't just make them an enemy
No. 1043769 ID: 8483cf

This is an excellent time for character growth. Fighters fight enemies well, but the best soldiers know when enemies can become, if not allies, something different.
No. 1043770 ID: 9a2966

>a hero has to be perfect, unbeatable
That's... one perspective. There's a reason you have an entire hall of heroes, though. More'n one kind.

>I let her down
You'd only let Diagram down by losing your hope and motivation, I think. Don't worry your sleep about it - and further: you didn't lose that hard. If you still doubt yourself, then go get verified just how on the ropes Astrolysis was when she got you. Where was her vaunted blade? Could she really have held up to that much more punishment if you'd been the one to catch her off guard rather than the reverse? From how you described your match with your sister, you hardly scratched her.

Astrolysis, at least, was banged up when she got you.

>Something about me's changing
Hm. Everyone changes, especially when young and learning. Technically though, you have one-and-a-half SAI in you right now. Might be the unborn SAI is doing something to you that Diagram and Nanoweaver did not intend. What do you feel in particular has changed if you try to pin it down? Did it begin yesterday, or earlier?

>aren't we enemies?
People may oppose your wishes, but that does not make them enemies per se - not in the way you imagine, at least. We know something else is going on here. The cryptic remarks and the deadline Ozone mentioned. Nanoweaver's insistence you get to have this tournament in the first place. How everyone's coy or cryptic about the past. It really must be said, many of the people here have a sort-of history with the Trace Clone you originated from - and/or a history with who you are now that seems very informed by that past.

>Visit J
Judicium already (cryptically) told you of her motivation in raising and fighting you - that she wanted to see you grow "in all the ways that matter". She does seem to treat you like your own person, even as someone to take pride in, weirdly, so in that sense going to meet her - and, well, grouse about your loss and that of your costume - makes sense. Maybe ask her if the 'growing' you're doing is heading in the right direction.

>Visit N
There's still Nickel, too. She was your opponent, but she still gave you training and a gun. Might even have things to say about how we messed up against Astrolysis, or what could have been done better. Embarrassing things no doubt, but if they cut true... well. Lessons to learn. And she did have to offer her apologies for the last training mess-up. You coming back for round two might surprise her. Given the results of your match though, you could certainly argue you want more training.

>Visit A
Astrolysis herself gave you a neat sword, and an offer to - sorta - go easy, which is worth thinking about. We can't say whether that was truly sincere - though Astrolysis doesn't really seem the type to go for petty tricks - but you did give her a run for her money despite her well-earned confidence. And you still possess Plug, so... that's a thing you owe her, in a way.

Another thing: for the final match, would your sister be inclined to let you propose a one-on-one duel against Astrolysis, like originally desired? You might be able to split them then, take care of Astrolysis first and not have to deal with both at the same time. You just... actually gotta get good enough to beat her in melee, which is where training more with Nickel might be useful. Yeah. Maybe that's a hard sell. But you could still ask Astro whether she was sincere about her offer - whether she still wants that - when you see her again.

Did you witness a scene with a younger Astrolysis and what I presume must be your sickly Trace Clone? It was a brief glimpse we got, but it seems they were indeed friends when younger. I half suspect it's a trace memory we cohered from that unborn SAI - who knows whose perspectives went into that - since that'd be the first we've seen of them so far, but it may just have been the intense encounter with Astrolysis that dragged it out. Perspective seemed to be from her end, anyway.

If you do remember, perhaps your fears about changing may not be unwarranted. It'd be a perspective shift to recall, say, being another person with any amount of clarity. Though, keep in mind - you're still the you of today. Scattered memories of the past doesn't need to change that - it can inform, but not control. Just like us Sykes, really. I hope you're getting better at filtering us when needed, by the way.

>Diagram is still here
If you care that she's stuck by you, you could offer thanks again, y'know. And hey, get the goss - anybody get up to something worth talking about while you were out?

Ah, and how long WERE you out, actually?
No. 1043792 ID: 15c72a

None of us said anything about Judicium. That was something else. Once more, an anomaly. Talking to Judicium isn't a bad idea though. She is NOT one of your enemies. All the hurt she's caused was because she was following orders. She was ordered to be strict, and so she was. You know that now. Aside from that, she obviously cares about you, and you've defeated her so she's out of the tournament. I'm sure she's still limited in what support she can give, but you can count on her to give you emotional support and guidance.

Also, I don't think we're changing you directly. Your experiences, and the revelations you're uncovering, are what's changing you. Also, the social exposure. We're talking to you, supporting you, debating with you, nudging you into trying new things. Surely at the very least, finding out that Judicium didn't betray you is helping heal some of your trauma, and that kind of healing is a transformative experience for sure.
No. 1043844 ID: dee951


Maybe the anomalies that are also giving suggestions that we aren't, are changing her more directly? Who the fuck knows!
No. 1043883 ID: 30b9f6

All we could do is inform Argine which voices are, well, anomalies... "Anoms?" - anyway, that, and which are "Sykes" and then see if they're actually helpful, or if they carry some specific agenda or whatnot. Don't like that they were throwing poor suggestions during Astrolysis' taking out of Argine, but maybe they're still coming into their own. The suggestion to talk to Judicium wasn't bad in and of itself, note.

It is what it is now unless we can get Diagram and Nanoweaver to intervene, so I don't think we should start long conversations or suggestion wars with them. That'd get annoying fast, but we might ask: Hello! Can you hear and understand us at all? Do you see the difference between your voices and ours, and that of our charge?

If so, welcome to existence, such as it is.
No. 1044045 ID: 15a025

I think talking with Judicium might be a good idea. It might be good to get some thoughts and perspectives from those outside your main friend circle.
No. 1044387 ID: 73aaab
File 166380717144.png - (465.85KB , 1000x1000 , CHP3X06.png )

>None of us said anything about Judicium.

What? Then who the hell IS saying that?

>All we could do is inform Argine which voices are, well, anomalies... "Anoms?" - anyway, that, and which are "Sykes" and then see if they're actually helpful, or if they carry some specific agenda or whatnot.

It sounded just like another normal voice to me, guys. It doesn't really matter if someone's got it out for me in your swarm or not - hell, when we first met, a good chunk of you had nothing to say but stupid shit. I don't really see the difference here.

>I'm wounded. After we've had a nice chat, even after I explained myself during the previous fight, the lot of you already forgot my presence? Not that it makes any difference - I'm just another voice in her head.

>Also, I don't think we're changing you directly. Your experiences, and the revelations you're uncovering, are what's changing you. Also, the social exposure.
>Maybe the anomalies that are also giving suggestions that we aren't, are changing her more directly?
I'm not so sure about that.
I get that parts of me ARE changing because of your influence, but that wasn't quite what I was getting at.

I meant... how there's things I shouldn't be forgetting. Feeling like I need to wait for your command. Is all of that just my own weakness, or is there something else going on?
I wouldn't know.
But it doesn't quite feel right.

>I think talking with Judicium might be a good idea.
>Did your recent talk with Judicium not end on quite amicable terms? With her even delcaring you two were no longer opponents?
>The world isn't clearly separated into enemies and allies.
>Fighters fight enemies well, but the best soldiers know when enemies can become, if not allies, something different.
>It might do you some good.

I... yeah. I can't just keep hiding, can I? And with that past scene, after I fought Judicium and found out what she actually said that day...
I don't know how I feel about her. She's technically not an opponent - hell, both Nickel and even Astrolysis, they've talked to me even when I was going to be one of their opponents.

...Even if it’s some kind of weird SAI splinter in the back of my head, I guess it's not a bad idea to talk with her anyway.
There's... something that comes to mind, something I want to talk about. I want to bring it up to her. Nothing's gonna change if I don't see her though.
Finally, I muster up my energy and fire.

"Hey Diagram..."

Diagram looks up, breaking the silence that was starting to settle between us.
"Please... can you go and talk to Judicium? Get her to meet me in four hours, at the Hall of Heroes. I want to talk to her then."

She smiles awkwardly again, standing from her seat. "O-oh! Okay, sure thing, Argine! Just hang on a sec, I'll go get her! But... are you sure you'll be fine?"

I wave it off. "I got better from being shot in the head in less time. I'll be fine, even if I'm hurting right now."
She nods, turning around.

Diagram stops, looking back.
"Could you also... get me something to eat? I'm starving."
There's a pause. "And uh, thanks for watching over me."

Finally - that unsure expression of her's gone, replaced by a genuine smile. There's a nod of acknowledgement and -
With that, Diagram's off.

...I feel like there's something on her mind as well, but unlike her, I can't see how she's feeling when she's got that suppressor of hers on.
No. 1044388 ID: 73aaab
File 166380720055.png - (690.59KB , 1000x1000 , CHP3X07ALT.png )

The bed under me's growing a little uncomfortable. I can't wait until I get out of here.
I'm left alone with my thoughts - but there's still things to take into account.

>Another thing: for the final match, would your sister be inclined to let you propose a one-on-one duel against Astrolysis, like originally desired?
Possibly. How did the saying go again? Something about counting birds from eggs? But I’m not sure how birds are supposed to grow from powder… Point is, we don't know what the situation will be until we get there. For all we know, I could screw up and lose again -
But I'm going to try my damnedest to win in all my fights.
It's... all I can do.

>Did you witness a scene with a younger Astrolysis and what I presume must be your sickly Trace Clone?

Yeah... yeah I did.
I don't know who that other person is. Never seen her around before, myself. As far as I know, Astrolysis never hung around anyone but Nickel, so that's kinda weird.
...Shit. We could have asked Diagram about this, couldn't we? She's been around since before I was born, right?
And now she's gone.

Speaking of that... other SAI, I've hidden it away in my own room. I wasn't just going to lug that thing around with me and I didn't have anywhere else to hide it.
So far, all these flashbacks, they're from the perspective of the person who I fought prior, right? But then there's additional scenes that you, Sykes, are seeing that I don't get to. I don't know what's going on, but there has to be a difference to these.

What's more... I'm thinking back to when we first met Amica. In the office.
She told us that one of the people closest to me was lying to me.
We never believed her at the time but... can I really say so confidently that she's wrong now?
Both Diagram and Nanoweaver - they do seem to be hiding something too. Amica said that she was my sister or something - but Nanoweaver never answered me about that.
Ironically, even though I was Judicium's opponent, she's been one of the people who HAS been upfront with me, later than she should have, but still.
Just what's going on in this facility?

>Would you be partial to seeing Astrolysis?
>I do wonder what was going through her head after the end of the fight.
Even if I'm left like this, it's true that she's someone who I could talk to. But what even is there for us to talk about? The best moments of getting my ass kicked?

>If you still doubt yourself, then go get verified just how on the ropes Astrolysis was when she got you.
>Where was her vaunted blade?
Hrm. I don't know what goes on in that head of hers, but... if anything, beating the tar outta each other's kind of a standard bonding exercise around here. I just don't like it when my freedom's on the line. She's not wagering anything of her own - I'm the only person with anything especially significant to lose.

>What about Nickel?
>She was your opponent, but she still gave you training and a gun.
...I've never heard her laugh, but I wouldn't be surprised if she mocks me for screwing up the literal technique she taught me, specifically to break holds made on me by larger opponents.
I feel like Nickel had to develop that technique for herself out of necessity - no matter the magic powers you have, being crushed by someone who's three times larger than you's a ridiculous disadvantage. At least guns make for an effective equalizer.

>You coming back for round two might surprise her. Given the results of your match though, you could certainly argue you want more training.
We'll consider it when I'm deciding who to target next tomorrow.


Time passes. My body aches less. Diagram got me a curvefruit when I was waiting. It'll do. I'll grab dinner for myself later, after I'm done seeing Judicium.
But I'm not going to show up looking like I was crushed under a slab of cement.
No. 1044389 ID: 73aaab
File 166380722257.png - (438.28KB , 1000x1000 , CHP3X08.png )

The bandage strips gather in the bowl of the sink, having turned maroon from the time it's been wrapped around my head.
Feels like the scent of antiseptic's gone and made a home for itself in my fur.

Flecks of dried blood float off as I comb through my fur with wet claws. There’s still a ringing in my head, but what’s more immediately apparent is just how sore everything feels.
But even if there's some lingering pain in my body, I'm not going to let that stop me.

I'm going to see this through.
No. 1044390 ID: 15c72a

>Feeling like I need to wait for your command
Okay, that's probably us. Up to you if you think that's a good thing or not. Definitely something to bring up with Judicium, since she was partially responsible for our installation.
The other possibility is that you were designed to take orders, and we're the first thing that you've accepted as tactical command. In that case, it's not that you're changing, it's that hidden parts of you are being revealed.
No. 1044391 ID: e5709d

>I can't see how she's feeling when she's got that suppressor of hers on.
You know, that's actually a good point. How much of her bubbly exterior is really her, and how much is her on suppression steroids?
Long story short, we have memories of someone, a Neumono named Luvi, whose brain was forcefully rewired so thoroughly that they became pure of heart - to the point of sociopathy.
"Isn't life in the ghetto just wonderful?!"
"I got fired, but it's okay! How may I help?"
"Lieutenant, please stop caving Mac's throat in! Let's be friends!"
People talk big about the power of politeness and positive personality, but when it comes down to it, a mind incapable of indulging inner demons is one which enables and serves other people's inner demons instead.
Also, if you ever find Luvi's 'family', please shoot those assholes. Multiple times. (They gots regen.)

>I meant... how there's things I shouldn't be forgetting. Feeling like I need to wait for your command. Is all of that just my own weakness, or is there something else going on?
Honestly, I figured it was the frequent brain damage you put yourself through that is causing all of this.
Did you know that all blunt physical trauma causes brain damage? The only way to perfectly protect your neural structure would be to ward your central nervous system against physical shockwaves - which is a buff you definitely do not have. Professional Athletes and soldiers who constantly smash into other heavy objects on a regular basis can develop serious mental illnesses even if they've never hit their head in their entire lives.
And you had the contents of your skull compromised twice. This week.

You need to take care of yourself, Argine. Tozol regeneration was naturally selected because it kept the species alive. It did not need to keep them sane.

>What do
First up, work with Plug.
Our lack of confidence on what could have been a straight-up swordfight was because of our own hours of combat training. We remember little, but there's something I've learned: if you are armed with just a standard sword with standard skills against an opponent who is physically bigger, has a higher endurance, and knows more about area-of-denial melee skills than you know about making stabs hurt, you're going to die. Repeatedly.

If we got our hands on Plug earlier, experimented with it, maybe this fight could have gone differently. We would have been more willing to unleash a sword in battle if we were certain that you knew more than 'swing and stab the long combat knife'.
No. 1044396 ID: 12b116

Make sure to thank Diagram and maybe sneak a touch of her soft velvety succulent ears
No. 1044428 ID: e51896

Deep breaths, you got this, hero.
No. 1044668 ID: 15a025

Make sure to thank Diagram for helping out.
No. 1044821 ID: 73aaab
File 166419473483.png - (554.80KB , 1000x1000 , CHP3X09.png )

>Make sure to thank Diagram later!
I will.

>Maybe sneak a touch of her soft velvety succulent ears...
...Amica's putting some weird ideas in your heads.

The walk to the Hall of Heroes from the medbay feels a bit different. But it gives me plenty of time to discuss with you, Sykes.

>Just how much of Diagram is really her, and how much of her is being suppressed?
I... hate to say it, but I don't think I actually know as much about Diagram as I once thought I did. It was only a dozen days ago or so that I found out she has a DAD at all! And now there's all this talk about her having a twin sister or whatever, I can't help but feel like I'm only genuinely getting to know her now. I don't know how that makes me feel - I thought we were fairly good friends or something - but am I really that much of a friend to her if she never chose to let me know about things as important as that until I came across something relevant?

>If we got our hands on Plug earlier, experimented with it, maybe this fight could have gone differently.
I'm sure swordfighting's going to be real useful against two people who aren't literally blind. Besides, I already know enough to make it functional - I'd rather flesh out my inventory, or develop skills that have more application - like the skills Nickel taught me that I failed to apply.

>Regeneration keeps you alive - it doesn't keep you sane.
You've got a point there but - is that really the case? Again, I really should be dead by now if things worked like they did 'in the past'. If I can literally survive getting my brain shot through and not forget anything, just what am I losing?

>There's a possibility that you were designed to take orders, and we're the first thing that you've accepted as tactical command. In that case, it's not that you're changing, it's that hidden parts of you are being revealed.
I don't like this idea. If that was the case, then what the hell happens when I DO get rid of you at the end of all of this? Am I just going to be braindead, unable to decide anything for myself? That's awful.

Argh, it's just - I'm going to take matters into my own hands.
Pushing the door open, I'm back in this familiar place. I breathe in and almost sneeze. Dustier and dustier.
Feels like I'm making more and more trips down here of late. I'm usually the one to arrange 'em though, so maybe it's just the state of things and the things I have to say to other people.

It's dark out, so I guess I've been resting for a while. Tomorrow, I'm going to have to get back to business.
What's more is - it's cold. I don't think I've been in the Hall of Heroes this late, though Judicium sitting around probably makes this place even colder. It's the kind of cold that pierces right through your fur. You can't feel it, but, when you're a Trace Clone, all of us have shorter fur. Something about not shedding too much, I don't remember the details. But it means nights like these freeze my tail off.
I pull my jacket up a bit tighter, but it doesn't do me much good. I should just get to Judicium, talk to her and go.
No. 1044822 ID: 73aaab
File 166419479609.png - (517.13KB , 1000x1000 , BenchTogether.png )

And there she is, sitting there. The air grows chillier still, like she's got her Parasignia on just in case.
I notice a case by the bench, a short distance away from where she's sitting - but she doesn't seem to acknowledge it as I walk past.

I take a seat beside her, but she seems fixated on the memorial ahead - Urza's spear. At night, the atmosphere of the hall changes - it's no longer like a sparkling memorial hall of the people who came before, but... something sadder. I don't quite know why.
"Why did you choose this place, Argine?"

There's almost a slight smile on her face. I wonder if she finds me losing amusing. But that wasn't what I was expecting for her first question. Maybe I thought she was going to poke fun at me, for actually losing.
"Because there's things I wanted to ask you about all of this. About... why everyone fights."

Whenever we start a duel in this place, we always declare our allegiance, to one thing or another. But when I fought Astrolysis, she cast that aside. I don't think I've seen anyone else do that before. And that dream I had, about her past - just who even was that other clone? Was she the one Nanoweaver brought up before, the one who I was supposed to take after?

"We all have our own meaning of what a hero is, Argine. We fight to put our ideals into reality. All of us who remain in the facility are the same - we were created to be soldiers, though what we truly idolize are heroes." Her voice floats through the lonely hall - loud enough that all the heroes can hear it, but gentle enough that she isn't shouting.

"We all follow our own ideal of a hero - how they dress, how they fight... even those of us who don't say we admire any of the given heroes, they still have their own ideal of a hero that they pursue. One of the most common reasons people become heroes is because they fight to protect others."

I snort.
"Yeah, right. What about cases like Ozone, or Astrolysis? For all I know, they may as well be crazier than I've ever been. What kind of people do they fight for?"
I say that... but as the words leave my mouth, the image of Astrolysis sitting in that grassy field alongside someone I've never known comes to mind again. Just who was that?

Judicium doesn't seem too unsettled.
"There's no contradiction there. Heroism comes in a lot of different forms, Argine. I thought you'd know, considering your own reasoning for being a hero is fairly unusual."

"Eh. No way - doing things for recognition is one of the most common reasons for being a hero out there. Why all these statues, why the medals? From what I've seen in my textbooks, a lot of the old heroes were paraded around so that the civilians would have something to believe in. How's that not recognition?"

I get the feeling like I struck a nerve - even though her expression doesn't change, Judicium's eyes... change a little. I don't think I'd have caught it, but... like I said before, it feels like there's something changing about me. I'm not sure I like it.

"Even if heroes are often associated with reputation, of good deeds... not everyone desires the spotlight. Some simply wish to live a quiet life after they've done what they have to do."

Some of this feels familiar. I'm taken back to when I first had that argument with my sister here. That felt like ages ago. With how much shit happens every day here, I'm finding it hard to actually keep track of everything.
"But what's the point of a quiet life if what you're good for is fighting? Wouldn't you lose any meaning in your life when that fighting's done?"
Maybe the solution to that is to just keep finding new places to fight in. To make yourself known. That's a long term kind of goal.

"One benefit to leading a quiet life is that you have the time to find something else that means the world to you. Something else to fight for - maybe not with guns and knives, but with new tools altogether." New tools? Something else to fight for? I can't say I can see eye to eye with her.

"I still fight for myself. But I wasn't strong enough to accomplish it... this time." Even though we've just talked through it a few hours ago, the pain of losing is still fresh. It's not going to just vanish after a snack and removing some bandages.

I remember once in class - they told us part of why we get sore after we exercise is because we're actually tearing our muscles in the process. The next day when our body repairs those tears, they come back stronger. That's how you build up strength.
Even then... I'm not sure the fact's gotten through to me yet.

"The question is what you'll do, now that you've lost."
Onto the big topics, huh.
No. 1044823 ID: 73aaab
File 166419485087.png - (718.09KB , 1000x1000 , BenchTalk.png )

I consider bringing up you and the changes to Judicium, but... she's one of the people who put you in me to begin with, even if Diagram and Nanoweaver coordinated some things behind the scenes to ensure that it would actually benefit me. I'm still not sure I have the full picture here. I hate being led around like this, but I can't show my hand now - I don't know if I CAN trust Judicium yet. So we'll keep chatting away.

"Still got two more sector bosses to go before I deal with the big one."
It's what we've already talked about before. I've got a bit more direction than before, but...

"How do you feel about all of this?" She's asking me these questions like she's trying to play therapist.

I shoot her a look. "Frustrated, of course. I'm fighting for my freedom here. Every loss I take is stacking the odds against me in the final fight. But I'm not going to lose any more."

Again, she just crosses her arms like none of this is a surprise to her. "How do you plan on doing that?"

These questions are starting to irritate me. "To change... I guess. Get better gear, plan things out more, train more..."

"You don't sound especially sure of yourself. Are you changing the right parts of yourself, Argine?"

"Hey, I was the one who invited you here. Why am I the one being interrogated?"

"You didn't specify what we were talking about. I figured this may as well be... an exchange of ideas. I'm interested in what you have to say as well, Argine."

All this, we're talking about makes me wonder: is change really something for the best? People can change for the worse, so celebrating it all the time isn't the best choice either.
I feel like there's a lot of changes that ARE happening to me, as I said earlier. Maybe it's just exposing parts of myself that I've never gotten to know until now. But it could also be something much worse, something that people like her hadn't accounted for when I got the SAI put in me to begin with.

I mean, all of you HAVE talked about what I'll be doing if- WHEN I escape this place. Like learning about medicine, or finding some other kind of thing to do besides heroing around the place. Judicium's brought it up just then too. Would I even be able to experience things like that if things keep changing around me? What if one of those changes locks me out of something I want down the line that I don't even know about yet?

I'm not quite sure what to say to her. It feels like all these questions are leading me down somewhere I'm not sure I want to go.
There's questions I don't even want to think about floating in the back of my mind and I'm not sure trusting her with it is something I want to go through with.
No. 1044827 ID: 398700

worth noting, that paralysis of choice is yet another decision you make, and it closes off perhaps the most doors of them all the longer it goes on.

Missed opportunity is an inevitability, but as sad as that is, the inverse is also true. More opportunities for change, positive and negative, will always exist so long as you let them.

All that aside, you're asking us to think for you here, which you do want to avoid. We can offer encouragements, perhaps even argue with your conclusions, but I don't think it's appropriate in this moment to answer for you.
No. 1044843 ID: e5709d

>I'm sure swordfighting's going to be real useful against two people who aren't literally blind.
Argine, most soldiers don't have magic superpowers.
You can merge your sword with guns. You can hide it in your hammerspace. You can attach supernatural mods to it.
Train. In. Swordcraft.

>Whenever we start a duel in this place, we always declare our allegiance, to one thing or another. But when I fought Astrolysis, she cast that aside.
Some people don't have an allegiance. Even to themselves.

>doing things for recognition is one of the most common reasons for being a hero out there
Eh, you're not wrong.
... But those kinds of statues may as well be hollow.

>Quiet life
Argine, some soldiers, they... they've seen too much. Made the wrong choices. Reached a breaking point. Leaped past it.
At that point, the most 'heroic' thing they can do is keep their memetic bomb-omb asses away from the public before they drag civilians into their madness.
Some kill themselves. Some need be locked in the nuthouse. And some... some become Lords.
And then we realize we should have just let the villains win.

>"The question is what you'll do, now that you've lost."
>Onto the big topics, huh.
"Failure is not an option - it is mandatory. The option is whether or not to let failure be the last thing you do."
-Maxim 70 of the [DATA CORRUPTED]

>is change really something for the best?
It's a matter of mixing change with consistence. Some things are meant to stay the same, others are meant to change.
As a paragon, it will be your job to protect the former while encouraging the latter. How you go about this is a matter of creativity.
Corruption has this horrible tendency to change that which is sacred for the purpose of halting the development of that which needs to have been something better two generations ago. It's a force that opposes the flow of change of the common majority for the sake of the elite minority.
Death is what happens when consistency xor change becomes an almighty tyrannical god in your life.
No. 1044855 ID: 8483cf
File 166424183602.png - (5.70KB , 300x300 , Goalllllll.png )

Clean, clear water flows and shifts. Stagnant water is full of toxins, gunk, and disease. Change is natural and keeps the world healthy.

Don't be afraid of change locking you out of something. If a particular goal ends up being important to you later, it'll be obvious sooner rather than later.

Think of it this way: You have a vague idea of what you need to do, and what will help. If you head in the general direction of that goal, great! You won't know what direction to go in to get straight there, but as long as you keep moving forward and adjust course each time, you're a little closer.
No. 1044862 ID: 9a2966

>after I explained myself during the previous fight
>Not that it makes any difference
I recall now. I also remember there may indeed be a difference. 'Worse to come' if heard, no? Though a conversation with Judicium hardly seems it.

If you don't feel like you really know her that well, there's an easy way to fix it: ask her more about her life when you get the chance.

Well... you know for sure Astrolysis wanted that duel. If she still does, you can bait her out into a solo match prior to the main show with your sister, but then you will have to cross blades. Getting good would be useful in that regard, at least.

>regeneration doesn't keep you sane
>is that really true?
Getting killed over and over is unlikely to be healthy for anyone's mental state, but in this case I'd say the risks are low. You're as sane as they come as far as I can see, just frustrated, at times unsure of yourself and afraid of being of no utility (you are and will be, don't worry) and in others' shadow, all pretty normal 'person trying to find their place in the world' stuff. Of course, you being or becoming unstable surely is the fear of some of those around you - harken back to what Ozone said.

As far as those people are concerned, if rather than some last-minute addition, you are instead a state-of-the-art being, the result of the process that has made literal supersoldiers, and also came to produce intelligent SAIs like Amica who could take out those supersoldiers, you might just be considered a sturdy, long-lived individual who will grow in power and potency as you come into your own... while being excessively hard to put in place, and already having evidenced instability. Worry may stem from this, regardless of the actual truths of it all.

>designed to take orders
Tosh. You managed to become an individual before we ever entered the picture, and you're asking the right questions and having concerns re: your own individuality, which is a very good way to prove you still got some. We've also noted that you hear us less when you're comfortably doing your own thing, living, chatting, not being in a tense mood or mode, so that's a promising sign.

>Unusual reason to be a Hero
Judicium may more be getting at that seeking to be a hero for recognition may not be very heroic in and of itself. It can lead to worthy heroic acts, sure, but people who ambitiously are into 'being better known and liked' might take decidedly non-heroic shortcuts to get there. Or get real mad when people don't give them the recognition they feel they deserve. It's a somewhat selfish motivation for a hero - which can still be fine, but it comes more from a place of 'for the good of me' than 'for the good that is needed'.

>hit a nerve
>I don't think I'd caught it before
So are you learning how to be empathetic or is this something else? You could just be getting to know Judicium better.

>wat do if only good at fighting
>maybe the point is to find new fights
Nothing wrong with embracing a new and worthy cause, but you could also find things to do when you're not fighting. Getting 'good' at something is usually a matter of effort invested, after all. How many things have you tried to get good at that weren't fighting or fight-adjacent?

>Is change for the best?
Changes happens and then we deal. All we can do is hope to deal well, and steer our personal transformations towards what we may hope is better.

>Not sure I can trust her
You don't have to open your heart to everyone about all that's going on - but you can peek the door, see what happens. Time is running out, after all.

>Exchange of ideas
Mention one thing you're changing is your approach to others around you. You're seeking out alternative opinions more - other perspectives, not just the SAI voices.

Tell Judy about the battle with Astrolysis - you did so for your fight against Nickel, after all, so do it again here. Describe your approach, warts and all, sans the cards that still remain your hidden ace. And ask: how would she have resisted panicking when met with an unforeseen setback? You had tools at your disposal - the gloves, Nickel's training - to make a go, but... things went the way they did.

>What else
Can Judy go more into how her power works? You know you're not gonna fight her again, it's just more... exchanging ideas. It's pretty cold here, for example - could she reverse that, using her power? You're all about descontructing and reconfiguring stuff with your own power, so it seems weird that she couldn't just opposite day it a bit if she wanted.

>What else
Tidbits you've discovered could be dropped to see how Judicium reacts to it.

- Like how there's a reason Astrolysis calls you wirehead - it's what the techs once called you that; why would they do so? Have you actually got literal wires in your head?
- Like Ozone's interest in trinkets from the past, what with that ceremonial blade you found for her; where did this stem from?
- Like how Nickel seems like she's both got it in for you and somehow not. What reason would she have to lose her cool at you?
- Like Amica's nursing a grudge against Nanoweaver, seems

And finally, there's only one person here you've hardly approached since the start and that's Mnemosyne. At this rate you might not meet her before your fight at all. Shouldn't you?
No. 1044866 ID: 15c72a

Say what you want to say.
No. 1044872 ID: dee951


Yea, I would definitely suggest you learn a few different styles of swordfighting. Or at least learn ABOUT a few, enough to synthesize your own style. Appropriate styles would be anything involving the use of the Dao, Saber, Scimitar, Messer, Cutlass, Tulwar, or Wakizashi. Any short, one handed, curved, single edged swords, to match your actual weapon.

Though it's a pity you got a short sword. To me, you feel like more of a two handed spear kind of person. Those are more a soldier's primary weapon (range is everything! range keeps you alive!), not a pistol-analog like that ludicrously small sword, and better for one on one duels besides. And a Partisan or Boar Spear (anything with lugs or side protrusions) would help keep some of these crazy people away from you. And 'two handed spearfighting' skills would transfer to fighting with a bayonet affixed to a rifle.

Though, hmmm. Maybe you could convert your sword to a Naginata/Guandao/Woldo/Sovnya/Glaive equivalent? You have a lot of weird gear abilities.
No. 1045220 ID: 15a025

We can't always make choices for you Argnie. You gotta work on building yourself up here. I think all we can really do is make suggestions and just do what your heart thinks is best.

Some topics and food for thought-
-You could show her your new sword and ask for some input about. Different ways you could train with or use it with your parasignia.

-Talk about hobbies or work trades with her. Surely there's something out there you enjoy beyond going around guns a blazing.
No. 1045246 ID: ff6659

Truly, asking for advice on how we should have tackled the Astrolysis fight and what to do when we face Judicium's colleagues would be good, though let's save it for the end of the conversation.

We should probably open by telling her how you feel our presence is changing your brain and how you are afraid our continued stay has permanent side-effects.

And we should also ask why. Why we you are being kept here. Why are afraid of you. And why they keep refusing to tell you the reason.

What reaction are they fearing from you? Outrage? Resentment? Mental breakdwn? Ask Judicium to tell you, if not why you can't be let out of the base, at least why they won't explain you the motive.
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