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

Prelude:>>/questarch/970260
Chapter 1:>>/questarch/985116
Chapter 2:>>/questarch/1007458
Discussion:>>/questdis/133296
Wiki:https://tgchan.org/wiki/Last_Trace

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

Things were different before. But now, I'm going to have fun caving her head in.
Expand all images
>>
No. 1034711 ID: 73aaab
File 165486687646.png - (402.71KB , 1000x1000 , ch301altaltalt.png )
1034711

...
>The lone soldier marches grimly onward.
>Day after day, week after week, no answers were ever given. But now there's change. The SAI, Amica and the prototype, the corpse she was handed last night.
>Even though she had wanted it for so long - having grasped that difference herself, she found nothing but a bitter taste in her mouth.
>>
No. 1034712 ID: 73aaab
File 165486689515.png - (181.63KB , 1000x1000 , Chapter3Map.png )
1034712

...It's time again, isn't it?
I was... a little worried that whatever happened last night knocked you out of my system for good. Would've had an excuse to sneak away if the Weave Nexus wasn't on full lockdown.
But if we're going to fight, I'd rather have some backup than nothing at all.

I know there's... probably a lot to think about, with what happened last night. But we have to focus on what's ahead of me first.

And so I've got to fight Astrolysis, the so-called Foundry Sector Boss. We didn't exactly get that much gear to use against her, but - this fight's going to be straightforward. I've gotten more skilled - more equipped than I when I had first fought Astrolysis in front of you Sykes.
We do have a primitive floorplan of the area that we can use. Given how it was just a blueprint for the shape of the sector, it probably won't give us much information on what the area actually contains besides the general shape.

...I know there's a lot we haven't accounted for. Her Parasignia, how she fights, what her weaknesses are... but we have to bite the bullet and go in, as prepared as we can be.

We didn't get any standard-issue equipment or sub-items that'll help us out here, so I don't have to list 'em.
Whatever Astrolysis' fighting style is, she's a melee combatant of some sort - she can't aim at all. As such, it's probably a good idea if we stay outside of the rooms where we have the advantage.

My current equipment:
Twin Revolvers - The Sound and The Fury
Shotgun - The Creirwy D-3
Sniper Rifle - Prototype H-ED DSTR
Auxiliary Melee - Silkweave Gauntlets



Deck of the Storyteller:
2 Solburst
3 Frozeneye
3 Breezecycle
2 Briarspirit
2 Voidsplit
4 Echoscribe

If I forget anything or get a number wrong, let me know. It's hard keeping track of everything on me, you know. Part of why I like having my Parasignia is not having to count my ammunition.
>>
No. 1034714 ID: 73aaab
File 165486701957.png - (778.96KB , 1500x1000 , ch302.png )
1034714

And here's my gadgets - you know how the drill goes, yeah? Pick some main gadgets, cram the others in the main ones to give 'em extra properties. That's how we get the show on the road.

Oh, almost forgot to mention - I got a bundle of clothes this morning. Apparently you lot made them for me? That's... weirdly nice of you. But I guess Judicium had to actually put whatever crazy designs you've got into reality, huh.
Still, I appreciate it - I'll put it on while you guys figure things out.

Gadgets:
Barrier Generator - Projected Forcefield.
Beam Unit - Long-ranged Beam Attack.
Explosive Discs (3) - Throwable plastic explosives.
Pitch Prefect - Wrist-mounted tar launcher.
Blink Capacitor - Short-ranged teleportation and intangibility.
Blade Printer - Aerodynamic disposable knife creation.

Alright, Sykes - let's figure out a loadout using all of this info.
Any recommendations?
>>
No. 1034717 ID: e5709d

Here's the gist of what we learned on our intel review:
This hellhole is not a 'hero factory', it is a Psionics laboratory. They stopped caring about winning the war and obsessed over developing the perfect brainwasher. Good thing that didn't work out. I think.
The two main explanations for why you are all biologically born female are (A)females develop psionics better or something, or (B) someone sabotaged all the male test samples to slow this project to a crawl.
Testemillion became a Machiavellian sociopath due to the war. He got the other project leaders to put a memetic self-destruct in your minds, in case any of you went rouge. The trigger has to do with murdering innocents or betraying allies, or some other war crime.
One of the base's captains was a royal princess. You might want to find her.
Diagram may be a clone of her older sister - apparently, she had Banshee's Grasp. We don't know if she made it.

>>1034712
First off, I'm setting up a challenge for you; try to beat your next opponent without using more than three cards. The fact that you're permanently sacrificing magical artifacts to pass a test is something I am extremely uncomfortable with; even if this is the most important test of your life, the admins are going to look at your conspicuous spending and indirectly grade you by shredding their letters of recommendation. Nobody will trust you with shiny objects if you vore them like aspirin.
>Opponent is a dedicated melee specialist
Hm... that's too good to be true. She's a veteran. She's trained with Nickel. She'll have traps or a drone rig to compensate for ranged attackers. And since you don't have any melee supports beyond your own gauntlets, her best bet is to find ways to outsmart or bypass your defenses and just get in for a spine-breaker 'bear hug'.

>>1034714
My favorite part of our prep sessions; let's customize this Transistor!

General Teleportation For OMGWTFBBQ
* Blink Capacitor
** Barrier Generator
** Beam Unit
You need an exit strategy. If you get cornered in this fight, Astro will take a chunk of your health before you can disengage and can pursue like a killer from then on. You need a few GTFO charges to reset your position. Increase the BC's range so you can teleport across the entire sector and add a barrier so you can bypass any traps in your way.

Torgue's Butterblade Dispenser
* Blade Printer
** Explosive Discs
This is the kind of toaster you'd expect Mister Torgue Flexington to store his knives in. Why does he keep his knives in his toaster? "Why do you not have a grenade launcher?" You'll get less explosive damage from your blades, but you can spam them or make near-unlimited explosive traps. Which can detonate...

* Pitch Perfect
And be sure to spread some goopy cheer. She'll expect you to soup this gadget up with mods to pin her down. Don't fall for it.
>>
No. 1034719 ID: e51896

Oh good. The glitches stopped.

Yeah, when you grabbed that gift from Amicia, our visual got glitched up a bit, making it a little hard to see. maybe we got damaged somehow.

but just to make sure, can you hear us alright? I W̴a̷n̸t̵ ̸t̶o̸ ̵m̷a̷k̴e̷ ̸sure our audio didn't get damaged either.
>>
No. 1034811 ID: c1b6b2

The classic Pitch-Perfect/Explosive Discs burning tar projectiles could help a lot against her heat sense.

Same goes for Beam Unit/Barrier Generator for heat-emanating force fields.

Unless there is a better combination that could throw her off in that fashion.


Before the battle begins, allow us some words of encouragement:

Uhm... what's important is to participate!
>>
No. 1034814 ID: 273c18

>>1034714
Here are the tags again:
Beam Unit - Focusing, Energizing, Pinpointing
Explosive Disc - Explosive, Volatile, Destructive
Barrier Generator - Reflective, Protective, Repelling
Pitch Prefect - Slowing, Sticky, Congealing
Blink Capacitor - Displacing, Replacing, Intangible
Blade Printer - Replicating, Cutting, Aerodynamic

>>1034717
I like this loadout, tbh. We need a strong teleport because we are going to have a lot of trouble keeping away from her, having defense-piercing explosives is a no-brainer, and spreading tar (burning or not) is a great strategy against a melee opponent.

We can ignite the tar with the exploding blades!
>>
No. 1035014 ID: 73aaab
File 165525732724.png - (356.33KB , 1000x1000 , FoundryRoom.png )
1035014

>Oh good, the glitches stopped!
Yeah... that thing.
Something still feels different after that. Maybe it's just me. I haven't seen any glitches on my part, but I'll have to keep it in mind.

>Change can be imperceptible. Like cracking a geode - sometimes it is necessary to damage something to uncover the secrets within.

>Intel Review
Huh? Just what kind of things are you seeing while you're not around?
From the sound of it, I guess you're talking about the past Project Leaders. I don't know much about them and I guess the classes about them weren't especially interesting so I'm not sure I'm actually understanding everything you're talking about.
Given that there's only one woman in the Project Leads, you're talking about Leeza, right? Never heard anything about her being a princess sort - and I don't actually know what happened to her, considering she's left her stuff in the locker last we went looking. I'd have to ask Ozone about it, which isn't exactly something I want to do.
All of this... greater stuff, I'm going to have to consider it later. For now, I've got a Sector Boss to defeat. We'll review it when I've got time to look into it.


>Try beating Astrolysis without using more than three cards.
Are you kidding? What's the point of having these things if I don't actually use all of them? I get saving a few for the next fight, but resources are meant to be spent. I'll try, but if I lose because I didn't use enough of 'em, it's on you.


Alright, let's take a look here...

From the suggestions you've provided, I'll be taking this loadout:

Blink Capacitor, with Barrier Generator and Beam Unit integrated into it.
With some quick tests, the effects are clear - when I teleport in to an area, it ends up creating a short-lived barrier around me that means I won't be surprised by anything unpleasant. And the Beam Unit slotted in there means that the teleport's fairly quick to use - so I don't have to wait around all too much.
The Beam Unit's effect doesn't really improve the Blink Capacitor's range however, so we'll still be operating within a similar range as before.

The Blade Printer simply has the Explosive Discs in it so they become timed-detonation knives. No matter how good Astrolysis' defenses are, a point-blank explosion'll do a lot of damage to anything.
I didn't think it would've been this easy getting sticky bombs of a sort, but hey, this'll help teach that beast who's the real boss around here!

Finally, I take the Pitch Prefect (you guys do realize it's Prefect, not Perfect?) since the tar'll help slow Astrolysis down. It would actually be nice to mod it a bit more, but I just don't have the gadgets for this.

Still - with this loadout? I'm sure I've got a good chance behind me of succeeding. So it's go time.

Getting the new gear on - I think it feels pretty good. Easy to move in. Haven't really had a change of clothes in a long time so.... thanks. I don't think I've gotten a present like THIS before.

>Once, heat flowed forth from the doorways leading in and out of the foundry, the war machine fuelled through the production of weapons and equipment.
>Though it lays dormant, the only war machines left are the people who dwell in the facility itself.

Pwah. Feels like a layer of dust's starting to settle now that nobody's around any more. No need to make more weapons on a bigger scale - nowadays all of the new stuff being put together's what you can do yourself. We're lucky there's still enough parts lying around to do stuff with.

And there, in the middle of the Sector... there she is.
Astrolysis... she's all by herself.
She's got a wrapped thing at her side - is that a weapon?

She's all armored up. Guess she's as serious as me.
I warily approach, but she doesn't need to see me to feel me coming.
>>
No. 1035015 ID: 73aaab
File 165525738537.png - (957.31KB , 1000x1000 , AstroKneeling.png )
1035015

And there she is.
That bundle by her side. Is that a sword, or a club? It's so big, I'm not sure which it is.
"Yo. Wirehead. So we're doing this, huh?"
It's strange seeing her so calm. Like a sleeping monster.
There's not much desire for smalltalk between us. I guess, in spite of everything, we're on a similar wavelength when it comes to beating the tar out of someone.
I stay a safe distance away, ready to get my guns out at any moment. But first, there's a lot of other stuff to sort through.

"Yeah. We are. You got the weapon for me, like you promised?"
I don't forget what I'm owed.

"Yeah. Right here, take it."
She reaches behind and kicks something over to me - it's long, but - it's not even in a case. It's a leather sheath of some kind.
>>
No. 1035018 ID: 73aaab
File 165525751860.png - (765.58KB , 1000x1000 , swordpickup.png )
1035018

I go to pick it up and...
This is... a sword?!

I look up at her.
"I thought you were making me a gun?"

"Did I say that? All I remember's you begging for a weapon made by me. And so I made the thing I'm best at making."

I turn the thing over and back in my hands. It's certainly something - if anything, it is well-made.
Swords... can't say I find the appeal in them, given that guns are so much better in the kinds of engagements we're familiar with, but melee weapon training was included early on in our curriculums as cadets. I can use this thing as competently as anyone else.

"Alright, fine, I'll take it. How'd you make it anyway?"

"Had an idea or two in mind. Took some inspiration from a friend."
I wonder who it is?
"You make this yourself?"

"Yeah. Got a little bit of help, but making it's something I learned from the best."
The metal shines under the light. Interesting colour.
Hard to believe that she put this together mostly by herself though.
>>
No. 1035019 ID: 73aaab
File 165525753176.png - (506.29KB , 1000x1000 , plugacquired.png )
1035019

Holding it up to the light - this thing's... it feels right holding it.
A few practice swings, and it's like the sword's already an extension of my arm.
"So... what's it called?"

"Plug."

"The Plug?"

"No, just Plug."

...Somehow I feel like she's telling me to go stick this in an electrical outlet.
"Go on, do your whole magic thing to the sword - I can wait a few more minutes."

I glare at her as I disassemble the sword - but the construction of the sword is fairly simple. Good quality, too. Maybe it's because of how simple its construction is, but I think I can manifest it faster than my other weapons.
Feh. I'm tempted to rename this thing, but that doesn't feel right to me - a name's like a mark you put on the weapons you create, right? I didn't make this, and it would be wrong for me to just rename it, even if it's got a weird one.

Not sure what's going to happen if I start using Guns Blazing to combine my other gear with it - it's been a long time since I've had a sword of this quality.
>>
No. 1035020 ID: 73aaab
File 165525755810.png - (524.86KB , 1000x1000 , AstroChoice.png )
1035020

The sword's finally been integrated, so I take a step back.
My revolvers reappear in my hands, but Astrolysis stops me.

"Wait. Before anything else..."

"You've got to make a choice."
I leer.
"A choice? This isn't the cafeteria line, Astrolysis."

Her grin continues.
"Hey, I like my fights like my meals - on time, and prepared to my tastes."

Her armor jangles as she makes a quick flourish. Two options, huh?
"Here's the deal - we can fight each other the cowards' way."
She spits. "Using Parasignias, running and hiding as you try to plink away at me with those peashooters of yours from a distance. The way you probably thought you were going to fight me."

"Or. We can do this the way that these tournaments were MEANT to be fought. Two soldiers, two living weapons armed with nothing but blades and sticks, trying to maul each other."
She's proposing that I fight her in her area of specialty? Get real!

"Yeah? And what's in it for me? My Parasignia's specced for modification of gadgets and weaponry. Why the hell should I agree to your conditions when I'm going to be at a big disadvantage up close?"

She shrugs. "Feh. You can keep your little toy gadgets if you want. I just want to enjoy myself, not chase you in circles as you gradually wear yourself out."
Oh, like you're not going to be the one who's eating facefuls of bullets each time we run around.

"Point is - I want you to fight me with the weapon I just made for you. And if you're not going to agree..."
She leers, showing all her teeth in that signature smile of hers.
"...I'm not going to hold anything back. You'll regret it."

>The rebel stares the behemoth before her down, pondering the possibilities. A duel for the ages, an echo of a past neither know for themselves.
"Don't give me that look. You think I'd really sabotage the best opportunity I have at having a good fight? You can fight however you want, wirehead. But if you're listening to those little voices in your head, then you'd better hope that they give you a decision that you're going to be happy with. "

"What about the sword? Does it still count if I jam something else into it?"
She shrugs. Awfully casual about all this for someone who's setting the rules.
"Eh. You sure you can keep your guns jammed inside a perfectly good sword that long? Still a sword in my book, even if it's got pieces glued on to it."

So, the question is... whether or not I actually take her offer.
I can fight her with just my gadgets and that new sword, or I can actually go at her with my full kit.
Pssh. I mean, she has to be kidding, right? Why the hell would I fight her with just a sword?
>>
No. 1035021 ID: e51896

do it for honor
>>
No. 1035023 ID: e5709d

>>1035014
Strange, I could smell a fortune cookie or something while you were talking about the glitches clearing up...
No really, and I don't know what that was about.

>>1035015
>Blade or Bludgeon
Tanto Markings, rectangular guard, it's wearing a scarf... pretty sure that's a blade. Since it's a long-ass weapon and she covered it in cloth instead of a scabbard, I infer this is probably an Odachi - Lightweight Greatsword, if you can believe those exist.
Their low durability and lower optimization for high-quality materials makes them ineffective in heated fights... when the wielder doesn't have powers. She has powers. This is going to suck. Expect strong, faster-than-average long-range strikes. And according to the datalogs, swordplay schools use Odachi like fast-flying hammers, so expect downward strikes.
Or maybe she just chose this because she thinks you're going to charge like a rabid animal - apparently these were made to cut down tamed beasts.

>>1035018
Dang. Still, we have some blueprints for modernized swords. I told you about Trick Weapons, right?

>>1035019
I dub thee... The Linker Sword!
... It's a joke. You do NOT want to choose The Baiter.

>>1035020
I get the feeling that she's purposely trying to hold back just so beating you up will be sweeter.
But don't take the deal. You don't have secret melee training, and she's physically stronger than you. A straight fight is suicide.
We'll just have to push you to your strategic limits on this one.
>>
No. 1035024 ID: a53150

>The rebel stares the behemoth before her down, pondering the possibilities. A duel for the ages, an echo of a past neither know for themselves.
I'm sorry, who are you again and why are you butting in to say this stuff?




Honor duels are meant to b fought in equal terms. Same weapons, same fighting style, and the one who is most skilled or talented wins.

But I leave it up to you, Argine, do you want to win abbiding to the rules of the duel or abbiding to its spirit?
>>
No. 1035026 ID: 273c18

I think this deal is to your advantage. Considering Nickel's bullets got multiplied, I'd say Astrolysis can clone herself. Force multiplication AND defense multiplication-- you won't be able to win a fight against five of her. You just won't.

Ask her what happens if someone breaks the deal once it's taken. What's stopping her from changing her mind halfway through the fight?
>>
No. 1035058 ID: 5bc683

Heh. She's actually playing into your personality a bit here. So play into hers.
"We could always spar later. Besides, how could I pass up a chance to fight you at full strength? Even better, how could I pass up a chance to beat you at full strength?"
>>
No. 1035179 ID: 73aaab
File 165543284142.png - (539.40KB , 1000x1000 , ArginePush.png )
1035179

>Who are you again?
Uh... you sure you're thinking right, Syke?
>Consider me a spectator. I've been here all along, much like you have. The host cannot hear me - and we should hope that she cannot. For when she can - that's a sign of worse things to come.

I ain't hearing anyone else you're talking to. Whatever, moving on.

>Honor duels are meant to b fought in equal terms. Same weapons, same fighting style, and the one who is most skilled or talented wins.
If this was fist-fighting, I think I would be given a couple of handicaps, given how much larger Astrolysis is compared to me.

>You don't have secret melee training, and she's physically stronger than you. A straight fight is suicide.
>We'll just have to push you to your strategic limits on this one.

Actually, I DO have secret melee training. With Nickel, remember?

Break and Blood Circle - respectively, it lets me escape grapples with people larger than me, getting to a safer distance, and lets me take less hits because I'm better at dodging and weaving than I was before.
You're still right though - Astrolysis is at far more of an advantage when at these ranges. I can't take this choice, regardless of how 'honourable' it is.

>Ask her for more details.
"So what happens if one of us breaks the rules after we agree to it?"

"Can't talk for you, but I don't have any other gear I'm planning to use. If you break the rules, then I'll just go all out, like I said."

Feh. She's not exactly being very specific about it at all, is she?

>I think this deal is to your advantage.
I'm not so sure it is.

>Heh. She's actually playing into your personality a bit here. So play into hers.
Time to see how she'd respond to this -
"We could always spar later, if that's what you really want. But we don't get to go full force often - why should I pass you up on that? Better than that - what's better than me beating you at full power, with everything I've got?"

This gets her thinking for a bit - not that she has much going on in that cake-shaped head of hers.
"You really think you can do this, huh?"

She shakes her head, that stupid grin of hers plastered over her face.
"Your funeral. I gave you a choice."

I continue to stare at her, watching for her next move.
"We gonna do the pledge?"
The words are still etched into my mind.

"No."

No? First time I've ever heard that.
"Stop clinging onto the past, Argine. We ain't living there. I'm going to be destroying you now, not years ago!"

"Yeah? And how do you expect us to do things if we're not looking at what past heroes have done?"

"It's easy."
She takes a step forward and I raise my guns in response.

"We do things OUR OWN WAY!"
It's like a blur -
I'm knocked back, and there's a throbbing pain in my chest.
How can she move so fast?!
>>
No. 1035180 ID: 73aaab
File 165543286202.png - (698.17KB , 1000x1000 , ArginePushed.png )
1035180

I grunt as I push myself off the ground.

"The hell happened to the idea of honor and ceremony?", I shout as she kneels back down like she didn't just shove me a meter away.

"You really think I'M the sort to care about that kind of thing? I'm here for a fight, not talking. You turned down the offer, after I made such a nice sword for you too!"

I'm trying to recover, but wherever she hit me - I feel pretty damn disoriented.

"So, what do you want, Argine? Are you really just fighting to be... some kind of hero? Didn't think you were serious."

I grit my teeth. Now she's asking?
"That's damn right. Me, when I'm getting the hell out of here, I'm going to be a hero. Someday, people are going to look up to me - respect me, because there'll be nobody who can stop me."

My revolver's gone - I can try to reform it, but - if needs be, I can go and re-manifest the sword - it's simple, so getting it back together should be faster than my revolvers.

She laughs, and a chill runs down my spine.
>>
No. 1035184 ID: 73aaab
File CompressedAstroFinalIntro.mp4 - (17.53MB )
1035184

(Compressed Videofile attached)
Youtube Link & Full Resolution:
https://youtu.be/nunx2v4WVpI
>>
No. 1035185 ID: 73aaab
File 165543343401.png - (105.99KB , 1000x1000 , FoundryMap01.png )
1035185

>[HOST ENGAGED IN ACTIVE COMBAT. BOOTING SPECIAL FUNCTIONALITY]
>[SAI PROTOTYPE COMBAT PROTOCOLS INITIATED – ENGAGING TRI-A TACTICAL PROFILE]
>[DISPLAYING STATISTICAL INTERFACE - INCREASING PROCESSOR SPEED]
>[RELATIVE TIME DILATION: 100:1]
>[RENDERING SAI-ASSISTANCE DIALOG – DISPLAYING]

>Assessment Phase initialized. Displaying environmental data.

>Relevant data to current opponent rendering...
>[SB-ASTROLYSIS]

>Parasignia Classification: ???
>Preferred Weapon archetype: Bladed (Longswords)

>Potential Weaknesses (Subject to change):
>- Blind - alternative sense of sights in use. Can be exploited.
>- Aggressive - can be baited into attacks.
>- Blade can be disarmed, lowering reach and firepower.


Ghh- what the hell!
Just as I was trying to get a breather.
Options, now!
>>
No. 1035190 ID: 273c18

>>1035185
Blink into a room, use Pitch Prefect to goop up the entrance she's most likely to use. Either hit her with your sword as she's slowed, or use an explosive knife.
Actually, you should prefer to use any tools that boost your Parasignia's charge. You probably won't be able to win without that big burst of damage.

Hmm, you seem pretty decent at blocking with that sword, so maybe you could use its quickdraw advantage to do that with it? You need to get better at manifesting it into your hand... you had to pick it off the ground back there.
>>
No. 1035193 ID: 8483cf

Bait her into attacking and try to tire her out. Buy time!
>>
No. 1035202 ID: e5709d

Hold off on using Blink, or she'll figure out how to subvert it quickly - especially since she's a blind warrior. Save it for a moment when you can cash in on a major sneak attack.

Instead, ask if whoever blinded her stuck their sausages into her eye holes, or if she overcompensates for being a simp to princess jut-out-your-juggling-chainsaws.

Run like hell and squirt brown juice behind you.

This is intentionally offensive. If Astrolysis is reading Argine's thoughts with hypertelepathy, let's creep her out and get her to show a tell of disgust.
>>
No. 1035580 ID: 462c22

I'm going for this strategy.
Bait her into a tar-smeared chokehold and shoot her full of holes.
>>
No. 1035586 ID: 73aaab
File 165581577407.png - (597.64KB , 1000x1000 , ArgineRunning.png )
1035586

Even from blocking one swing, my arms feel sorer than they should. What kind of force is she putting behind her attacks?
I turn to run, but I can feel the burning edge of the blade bearing down on me.

>Blink into a room!

I can't blink through solid material!
But I can use it to get some distance!

With a quick swipe of the hand, I activate the Blink Capacitor, teleporting back and into a safe distance. But a quick glance behind me, and Astrolysis is ALREADY sprinting full force towards me, her sword at the ready.
If I were to fire the Pitch Prefect at her now, I'd have to slow down a bit, and that's even MORE liable to get me caught.

>Hold off on using Blink, or she'll figure out how to subvert it quickly.
Too late for that! If I didn't use it, she probably would've cut me in half!
I'm not sure how 'seeing' a blink would look like from her perspective, but I don't have the time to just play around and find out.

I keep running toward the nearest room, but Astrolysis' speed means that she's gaining on me.
Not much time before she's going to try and thrust that thing through my chest!
>>
No. 1035587 ID: 73aaab
File 165581578949.png - (491.19KB , 1000x1000 , closedadoor.png )
1035587

I duck inside the room, slamming the 'lock' button.
The doors slam closed and I quickly survey my surroundings, taking a breather.


From the looks of it, this specific room seems to be full of boxes of building materials.

There's boxes of nails, some cans of paint and adhesive tape rolls. Maybe I could go and create a diversion using them? But I won't be able to beat Astrolysis just from running around all day.

>Actually, you should prefer to use any tools that boost your Parasignia's charge. You probably won't be able to win without that big burst of damage.
Good suggestion, but - she hasn't actually USED her Parasignia properly yet, not from the looks of it! I'm going to have to play keepaway as she tires herself out, or at least I figure out WHAT she can do!
So that means ideally, we'd try to -
>>
No. 1035588 ID: 73aaab
File 165581580782.png - (592.87KB , 1000x1000 , closedadoorPENETRATE.png )
1035588

There's a sickening crack as her heated blade penetrates through the door.
A muffled shout from behind the thick metal greets me.
"Playing hide and seek, wirehead? I thought you weren't a coward, that you were going to push me over and keep walkin' forwards?"

And there's THAT again. Damn it, I feel like I need to respond to all of that - running her bloody mouth, dissing how I live my life!
She's trying to psyche me out like that - and I hate it.

I can hear her grunting from the other side - whatever the door's made of, it's going to buy me some time at very least.
>>
No. 1035589 ID: 73aaab
File 165581584030.png - (90.59KB , 1000x1000 , FoundryMap02.png )
1035589

She's trying to pry the doors open - I've got only a few seconds to come up with something against her - but unless I can turn the flow of battle against her, I'm not going to win this fight.
Being indoors is NOT a good situation - normally, her sword would get caught on the shelves and furniture of the room, but with how that thing gouged a crack into the concrete floor? Yeah, I think that thing's going to go through objects like butter.

A few options come to me -

1. I can try to gum up her sword using the Pitch Prefect's tar while it's stuck in the door. This should buy me some time to reposition elsewhere and try to gain an advantage.

2. I could probably fashion a quick trap out of the materials in this room, but you're going to have to give me the best choice out of what we've got - with paint, nails and tape.

3. I could try to argue with her about what she said before the fight started - trying to buy some time for me to slip out the back as she's explaining what the hell she even means.

4. Maybe you've got an idea that I haven't thought of yet?


Whatever it is, we're going to have to move fast - that door doesn't look like it's going to last much longer!
>>
No. 1035590 ID: e5709d

>>1035586
>I can't blink through solid material!
YOU CAN'T WHAT?!
That would have been nice to remember five minutes ago!

>>1035588
Oh wait, problem solved. This idiot will poke enough holes to induce tryptophobia. Port through those.

>Damn it, I feel like I need to respond to all of that
Mouth shut, eyes open, improvise with what you've got.

For now, grab as much stuff as you can from this room and bug out. I have an idea, but we don't have the time.
>>
No. 1035593 ID: e5709d

Oh right, and hide an explosive knife in the nails.
>>
No. 1035666 ID: 798908

>>1035588
Is there a source of water or something nearby? I imagine that sword would quickly become a hindrance if steam became a factor. Even if she's blind, a significant enough amount of steam and mist should obscure most extra senses.

There should be big water pipes around, foundries use a lot of it.

Use that to slow them down, we may have to resort to a LOT of collateral damage here.
>>
No. 1035673 ID: c5322d

If any of that paint is spray paint, it sure would make your explosive knives more explosive.
Otherwise, nails would make good improvised caltrops.

Though if you really want to go big, why not blow that sword of hers to pieces with your knives?

>>1035666
That's be worse for Argine you dope, she can't shoot what she can't see!
>>
No. 1035675 ID: e35782

>>1035673
Quick clarification:
Tape explosive knives to her blade.
>>
No. 1035680 ID: c1d4af

Let's use the Pitch Per-

*sigh*

the Pitch Prefect on the door and floor, it will give us time to prepare some projectiles to throw at her while she tries to move past the tar.

We should also use the Barrier Generator to ram her out of the way so we can leave the room.
>>
No. 1035697 ID: 30b9f6

>>1035184
Mmm. Hell of a thing going down here. Astrolysis, whatever you hope to get out of this: may it be more than you expected - and twice as funny.

>Another plan
Pull out Plug and a Voidsplit card. Argine, no matter who you are and what you want, you can take Astrolysis' point and impale her with it. Make her have to acknowledge that you drew first blood, just the way she wanted, in the way she wanted it... when she supposedly wasn't even holding back.

>Edge against the edge
Brush the 'unlock' button just as Astro's blade slices through. Yes, it slices unnaturally, but the molecular dividing effect must run along the edge itself, not the whole thing. Just make sure the blade is such that the movement of the door can yank it.

>Singular moment of awe
Activate the card, spend your next act lunging out the opening door, using Plug to draw first blood (however bad a blow you can deliver) and from there - second action - dodge/parry Astro's inevitable counterstrike, kick or elbow. She's a melee monster with blind-sense, I refuse to believe she won't have an interrupt on the way no matter how fast you go. If for whatever reason she does not - draw blood again, but do not be tempted for a third blow. You need your third act to be your getaway.

>Strike and disappear
Run past her and scatter her feet and your line of retreat with explosive knives on short timer. Use those explosions to shift yourself around in directions you weren't going before; make her have to guess where you're headed - make YOURSELF guess where you're headed so she can't read your body language. Even if Astro powers through it all and picks the right way to follow, at least you'll have dinged her or slowed her down.

>Breathing room
Make for another room, another door, and set up a similar-seeming situation. It is only AFTER drawing first blood that you should use Astrolysis' easily riled aggression against her. Maybe with a pitch prefect trap for her to step into. Just don't pop your back against a wall or door - she's not been showing you the full extent of her sensory capabilities - or her wall-busting ones either. I will damn well bet on that.
>>
No. 1035698 ID: 30b9f6

>>1035697
Ugh, and if you wanted to be dead boring you could instead use those three acts to sticky her stuck with the Prefect, step back and fill her and her zone full of quick-timed explosive knives and THEN run like heck and hope she doesn't manage to somehow avoid the 'splosions and stay on your tail.

If it works, I dare say that'd make her flaming mad too - especially if the pitch lights from all them 'sploses.
>>
No. 1036463 ID: 73aaab
File 165651029772.png - (382.11KB , 1000x1000 , AstroSwordStuck.png )
1036463

>That would have been nice to remember five minutes ago!
WHAT DO YOU MEAN, REMEMBER? I TOLD YOU THAT IT CAN'T TELEPORT ME THROUGH SOLID WALLS BEFORE!


>Find big water pipes, that should slow her down!

Good idea, but there's no pipes in THIS specific room. If we find one, you bet I'm going to use it to my advantage.
Too much of it'll make it harder for me to shoot her, but with enough... I imagine she'd have a tough time figuring out where I am, since I think she 'sees' through heat-detection.

>Tape explosive knives to her blade.
And how to you expect me to do that without my fingers getting chopped off to begin with?

>We should also use the Barrier Generator to ram her out of the way so we can leave the room.
Newsflash, the Barrier Generator's in the Blink Capacitor so that I get shielded when I warp somewhere. Which, incidentally, is still briefly on cooldown, but it should be ready again real soon.


>Brush the unlock button just as Astro's blade slices through.
That'll do it!
The metallic creaking around me grows louder as her sword gradually cleaves it open, Astrolysis chuckling to herself on the other side.

"You got any presents for me, Argine? I'm DYING TO GET SOME!"
I slam the button, right as she's ready to retrieve her sword.
I wince as a horrible grinding noise comes from the door mechanism, now that Astrolysis' sword is caught in the gap.
From the combined force of the door trying to close and the sword trying to cut a big enough hole for it to slide back out - it's stuck for now.
>>
No. 1036464 ID: 73aaab
File 165651038568.png - (822.97KB , 1000x1000 , RGSlash.png )
1036464

>Make her have to acknowledge that you drew first blood, just the way she wanted, in the way she wanted it...
Probably too late for changing the rules, but...
Time to put the plan in action.

I draw from the deck - the very card I wanted appearing in my fingertips.
One Voidsplit card has been consumed.
I'm down to my last Voidsplit card. Whether it's in this fight or in the future, you'd BETTER make sure it's used for the right reasons.
Time slows down, and for a moment, it feels like every moment I'm experiencing is as clear as day.

And so I strike.

I run in, sword at the ready - and swing.

Another metal scrape -
She's wearing armor under that robe of hers!
Plug - whatever the hell it's made out of - STILL gouges a cut through the plating, though it feels like I'm grinding it against concrete.

I expected her to yell in anger, but instead, her laughter chases after me as I quickly step back, still empowered by the card's magic.
"Using your sword? Too late to go back now, wirehead!"

She's got a point. Still - I can't believe how well the damn thing cuts.

Time for step two.
>>
No. 1036465 ID: 73aaab
File 165651042475.png - (321.55KB , 1000x1000 , RGKnifethrow.png )
1036465

A safe distance away, the next instant I leap back after the strike, I manifest the Blade Printer.
One, two, three.
I gather the blades in my hand, feeling the air rush past me as I'm carried backward by my initial jump.

I only need one arm to throw these.
The aerodynamic blades sail out, the glowing tips a reminder that - these things aren't just a practical joke of a weapon any more.
>>
No. 1036466 ID: 73aaab
File 165651049065.png - (695.90KB , 1000x1000 , ArgineSplosion.png )
1036466

And there's the blast.
Feels like I get one of these every fight, but I ain't complaining. I'm starting to really like riding the aftershocks of these things, but i'm careful to land on my feet.

I don't bother watching the smoke clear as I make my escape, but her voice's as loud as usual.
There's a coughing, and a growl.
"What the hell was that?"

Keep guessing, big girl.
>>
No. 1036467 ID: 73aaab
File 165651055015.png - (101.70KB , 1000x1000 , FoundryMap03.png )
1036467

I've secured some breathing room for myself - Astrolysis is going to be a LITTLE dazed after that onslaught, right? There's another room above me that seems to be where a lot of the material in-flow exists. Not that we're going to be able to get molten steel or something since there's none of that, but at VERY LEAST, water should be piping through it perfectly.


But I've got a few options for movement here -
1. - I can maneuvre into the next room with the water pipes, in hopes of making use of them against Astrolysis. Her heated edge means that the steam will help disrupt her blindsense, and I could potentially use it as an opportunity for an offensive play.

2. - I instead, go out back into the open and try to use my head start to deal damage to her with my ranged weapons. While the pipes are an option, being stuck indoors with nowhere to run - especially if I get caught by a locked door and I don't have my shotgun out to blast it down - I'm going to be in a pretty bad situation.

3. - Maybe there's another route? Going up on top of a building is possible but these things aren't suited for climbing - I'd have to blink up there. While Astrolysis wouldn't be able to attack me immediately, I have a feeling like she'd be able to do something crazy like using her sword to climb, or being able to actually jump up there. That'll leave me stuck, and it's high up enough that I'd probably get hurt if I tried to jump off.

4. - Something else I haven't thought of yet.

What's the best option?
>>
No. 1036531 ID: 3c6a01

>And how to you expect me to do that without my fingers getting chopped off to begin with?
Probably should have elaborated. Oh well. Still, the insult is too clever to go to waste...
Ever slapped a flat strip of tape to a wall? Like that, except there's a knife on the flat piece of tape, and instead of a wall, it's the blunt side of a blade.
Seriously, it's a sword Argine. Just like your brain, there's a large section that's not sharp. Little late now, though.

Either way, go for the open area, you'll have room to dodge and places to fall back to.
>>
No. 1036539 ID: 8aba56

>>1036531
Er... replace "blunt side" with "flat side"
>>
No. 1036544 ID: 273c18

I'm predicting that if you get in a hot steamy room she'll either refuse to stay there (negating your advantage) or start using her parasignia. In an enclosed space, you don't want any surprises like that. After you find out what her parasignia does, then the steamy room becomes a good idea.

Go out in the open. Don't try to shoot her with bullets, instead see if you can hit her with Pitch Prefect to slow her down, or start covering the floor with it. In the open, you can use your blink to retreat if necessary, like to the other locations you said would be useful.
>>
No. 1036577 ID: e5709d

>Blindness means she doesn't realize those are exploding knives
I have an idea. Her 'echosight' might be a superior form of alternate vision, but it isn't vision. She probably doesn't 'visualize' trajectories so much as witness them in interpolated motion. Which means...
Throw the knives into the walls so they form a path, but take a wildly different one. A standard soldier would see that they stick out in a way and deduce that they're being misled. Astrolysis is literally blind; she'll notice the explosives by echolocation but won't realize they're all planted so that they clearly form a path. She'll think she just needs to follow the knives to catch up to you, and then BOOM.
>>
No. 1038028 ID: 73aaab
File 165775938807.png - (624.83KB , 1000x1000 , arginerockshooter.png )
1038028

>Either way, go for the open area, you'll have room to dodge and places to fall back to.
>Go out in the open.

You got it. Staying out's important if we don't know what Astrolysis can do yet.

>In the open, you can use your blink to retreat if necessary, like to the other locations you said would be useful.
Still gotta be aware of the cooldown, but the Beam Unit being slotted into it makes it far more useful in these circumstances. It's still not quite ready yet.

>Don't try to shoot her with bullets, instead see if you can hit her with Pitch Prefect to slow her down, or start covering the floor with it.

For now, I only need two shots - while the Pitch Prefect has a finite amount of ammo, I'm not going to worry about it just yet.

Even without slotting any other gadgets into it, the burst shot modification I made before means it's going to be spreading out real well.
Astrolysis won't see it coming, literally.
>>
No. 1038029 ID: 73aaab
File 165775942115.png - (770.14KB , 1000x1000 , ArgineShowdown.png )
1038029

I stand out in the open, pulling out the HED-DSTR and taking aim.

From the smoking doorway, I watch her emerge, her armor a little misshapen from the heat.

"Nice trick, Wirehead. When I'm done with you, they'll have to scrape you off the walls."

The Prototype isn't exactly a rapid-fire weapon, so I'm going to take my sweet time aiming this thing. If I miss... then it's gonna be a while. Even if I've optimized it so I can fire it while standing, this thing creates so much heat that I can't reload it even WITH my Parasignia, and it would take longer to reform it if the gun jams or breaks.
>>
No. 1038030 ID: 73aaab
File 165775944452.png - (867.97KB , 1000x1000 , AstroParaStart.png )
1038030

Wait. She stopped?
She stopped before the tar pools, before she stepped in.

Even if she didn't fall for it -
Now's my chance.
I take the shot - and it's like a lightning strike.
A crack sounds through the empty Foundry.

>Like the strike of a hammer against the anvil.

The gun's recoil hammers into my arms and I wince - this thing's NOT easy to deal with.


I lower the gun, and...
The bullet had no effect?!

Astrolysis growls, shouting to me.
"If that's all you have up your sleeve, you're dead!"

I look around, trying to figure out what just happened - and I can see the burnt remains of the round I fired, dropped down to her feet.
She's got an effect just like the Solburst cards I have! My shots can't get through right now!

But instead of rushing forward and into the trap I've splattered over the ground, she lifts her sword, tracing her fingers over the flat end.
"I gave you a chance, but you just had to go and make this fight boring. Nothing but running, hiding, and more running. Where's the fun in any of this?"

There's more important things than fun.
"Like I said, I gave you a choice. So we'll do things the hard way."
>>
No. 1038031 ID: 73aaab
File 165775946389.png - (808.90KB , 1000x1000 , AstroWindupWithIcon.png )
1038031

She raises her sword above her head, a glow gathering around her sword.

>[PARASIGNIA ACTIVATION DETECTED]


Damn it, I need to get out of here before she does it! The Blink Capacitor's still on cooldown!

I make a break for it, running for cover away from her.
>>
No. 1038032 ID: 73aaab
File 165775949111.png - (1.97MB , 1400x1220 , AstrolysisSwingFlipped.png )
1038032

"I'll engrave my story ON YOUR CORPSE! CELESTIS CATACLYSMICA!"
Even though I can't see it - I feel it.
She swings her sword, and...

Fire. Lots of it.
A cracking shockwave travels through the foundry.

I turn to see what's happening behind me, and -
It's an explosion. Her Parasignia creates EXPLOSIONS.
The tar that I had placed before, it too, catches fire, popping and crackling as it seeps into the cracks before it too, creates another blast.

The heat feels like it's burning my fur off!
I- I can't dodge an attack THIS huge!
>>
No. 1038033 ID: 73aaab
File 165775951087.png - (1.22MB , 1000x1000 , ArgineSplodedAgain.png )
1038033

>>
No. 1038034 ID: 73aaab
File 165775953176.png - (748.94KB , 1000x1000 , ArgineCratered.png )
1038034

>A most sonorous slam sounds out as the soldier is sent soaring into a slew of supplies.
>Boxes of unforged material cascade down around the soldier. Unforged bullets surrounding an unfired weapon.
>For a second, she wasn't sure she was alive. But the stings and pains of her body anchor her to reality.
>She's still well into the fight. In times long past - fights would end even more quickly, whether through bullets or bruises.
>Perhaps she should thank the universe, for making things more accomodating for her reckless ambitions?

Agh.... ow.
What the hell was that? How the hell does her Parasignia work like that?

Breathe in...
There's a stinging in my back, but it probably won't be worse than some bruising - ain't like I've got broken bones down in there.

Okay, so, we've learned SOMETHING about Astrolysis' Parasignia:
She creates bloody EXPLOSIONS by cutting things.
Those cracks in the floor - a sword can't cut into concrete like that normally, right? So her Parasignia seems to be increasing the effect of cutting edges, to the point where they create explosions?

...I'm not sure if that's how it works, but my sword didn't break when we had clashed earlier. Does that mean it's somehow immune to her effect, or is it because being integrated into my Parasignia makes it resistant?

Fah. But the question is how I'm supposed to approach Astrolysis like that?
Even if I still actually HAD the Barrier Generator to block it with - I'm not sure it could even handle more than one or two of those blasts at all!

Gh... she knocked me INTO one of the sector's rooms. I don't think I'd want to stick around - you know what happens when explosions happen indoors, right? All that explosive force and hot air has to go somewhere. Makes it extra-deadly.

I can't play keepaway forever, so what's the plan? She's going to start using her Signia to blow me up if I just stay here.
Maybe... we have to disarm Astrolysis somehow. If her Parasignia occurs through cutting things - if she can't cut anything, then that means we've removed her main form of protection, AND her main way of attacking me.

The question is... HOW we go about doing that, while making sure I'm not blown to pieces?
>>
No. 1038041 ID: 15c72a

Ah, her parasignia is the concept of "splitting". She is the master of cutting, even atoms! Cut atoms tend to explode, Argine... and because it's "splitting", Nickel's pseudosignia allowed her to "split" her shots. A different interpretation of the concept. The bullet protection... I'm not sure how that happens. It's like she's using a stronger version of Judicium's power, which is just cheating. Also, it didn't protect her from your knives? ...I don't get it.

It's weird that the Blink Capacitor is still on cooldown. It's been kindof a while since you last used it? Oh well. Bait her into using that attack again, and use the Blink Capacitor to GET CLOSER. Remember, it creates a shield around you, which will give you an opening to try the disarm, since that's what you want to do. Perhaps Plug can cut her arms or hands enough to make her drop it, or you can use your explosive knives in the same way?

Why did you use the Pitch Prefect on the ground instead of directly on her like I suggested? And you tried to shoot her despite me advising not to do that?
>>
No. 1038116 ID: 8299f0

...With a power like that, it's surprising she's not damaged by the back-blast of the initial slice...
However, we've just learned it has limitations that could be put to good use.
First, it follows the ground, seemingly in a straight line without going up a wall. Otherwise, the wall would have blasted you towards her, rather than you going through the wall. Which means being on top of a ceiling will limit her ability to hit you with the parasig. She could attempt to collapse the room to put an end to that safety, but that'd probably hurt her too since collapses usually have a zone of collateral damage.
Second, the range is limited, otherwise it would have kept following you into the room, and you'd be *way* worse off. Stay far away as you have the ability to.

Say, if you'd like to defeat her in the most humiliating way, you could fool her into defeating herself. With a power that destructive, all you'd have to do is get her into a room, and get her to hit a load-bearing wall. Her own power would cause the room to collapse on her head! Of course, the issue is how to do so without being in the room when it collapses.
Oh wait, better idea. Lure her into a pool of Pitch Prefect and goad her into using the parasig. She'll cause the Pitch to explode! Just make sure the teleport's cooldown is done so you can actually dodge.

Say, where's the tacmap?
>>
No. 1038120 ID: 15c72a

>>1038116
>lure her into hitting pitch with it
She just did. Totally ineffective, because she's cheating somehow.
>>
No. 1038128 ID: 8fd6c0

>>1038120
...Seems I can't even give you partial credit on that response.
She was not standing *in* the pitch when she used her parasig. One look at the 5th image makes that clear, even if the text was ambiguous. Point blank explosions may differ from ones at a distance. Of course, given that there was no description of the pitch explosion's effect on the hostile, only a description of the explosion itself, the blast wave may have had effects that simply went unnoticed. Especially since the only thing we're sure her defense had an effect on was the round fired, which undoubtedly differs greatly from an explosion and its blast wave.
>>
No. 1038131 ID: 9a2966

>Say, where's the tacmap?
Looks like the structure to the right on the previous map is our most likely location. No corner door evident where it should be, so Argine's dodge must've brought her towards the right, then she got knocked through the whole dang wall by the blast. Unless I'm misreading the perspective here.

>Through a wall
>ain't like I've got broken bones down in there
You might be sturdy, but wall vs meat is not a fight typically won. You could have fractures all over whole dang body, so I'd argue to pop a Briarspirit for the health recovery so you can move properly again, but you be the judge of that - take a moment to actually assess - as we haven't got great analytics of your bodily state.

>I can't dodge a blast this large
Of course you can - it's a cone-shaped strike, right? You just need to be closer to the source so it'd be easier to sidestep - heck, you might even manage it mid-range if you're lucky and can feint out her strike. Long range you're straight screwed unless you've got a Blink ready. Behind a wall you might even be screwed - at least you'd want to hide behind crates to take on shrapnel or have a barrier up in case she takes down something load-bearing and the roof caves in... hm.

>Celestis Cataclysmica
That is, by the way, a spectacular ace for a melee monster in a semi-enclosed space like this. That coupled with her little bullet-eating trick. But... there should be ways to counter both. Nor should we presume she can keep doing this forever. Like most things, there's probably a recharge period, a limited time of effect or a limited number of charges available to her. Same goes for her Solburst-like aura - at some point it's gotta fade.

>Next move?
Probe her a bit. Swap to the Sound & The Fury. Pummel her with rapid fire pistol shots as you try to keep to a mid-to-close distance and circle her - mainly to see if you can spend that solburst thing or see if it has any fluctuations in effect. You do need to be light on your feet for that sort of a direct challenge though, hence the recommendation for the Briarspirit's healing effect (though on second thought, maybe the barrier effect would be better, in case that helps with the heat aura). Also, with S&F you could if need be gunkata her if she chooses to close the range. You also have Break and Blood Circle to get away again in that case.

>Keep her riled
Continue with the smack talk, since you don't mind her knowing where you are at present. Anything like this may do:

"So that's it? Your epic tale is starting to sound like a buncha hot air, 'sis."

"Doesn't look like your parasignia can quite cut it. Or did I need to step into it? Was that what you wanted, trying to get me into a swordfight with that up your sleeve?"

"You keep talking about fun, but remind me again - why should I play things YOUR WAY? If I need to run and hide - I will. If I need to stand and fight - I will. If you say we can do things OUR OWN WAY - I AGREE! But I sure as heck don't need to do things YOURS. Unless you think you can MAKE ME?"

>The plan
>disarm her
>take down something load-beating
More long-term, if you can position yourself so that one of her Celestis strikes will take out one of the structures' walls (the partially destroyed one already might be best), maybe you can then goad her into a melee fight in the half-deconstructed building, then use explosive knives to drop the roof on her. THEN you move to disarm her as she's blast-vaporizing the roof or trying to dig out of the rubble. If you can get your hands on her blade, taking it and Blinking away sounds like the way to go, honestly. Puts some immediate distance between you again... plus if her heat aura's on you don't want to be too close too long.
>>
No. 1038133 ID: 9a2966

>>1038131
It would, incidentally, be way funnier if you made her drop the roof on herself, but that'd mean fighting her in an even more enclosed space.
>>
No. 1038180 ID: cf96b6

Seems we are going to need to fight her with something of lesser speed, like the knives or melee.
Taunting her into attacking you directly, then Blinking behind her (or at least to an angle she can't reach you and makes it less obvious you just used a gadget to evade her), might be the best idea.
Go for the arms with your sword, maybe?
>>
No. 1038569 ID: 73aaab
File 165823199680.png - (117.66KB , 1000x1000 , FoundryMap04.png )
1038569

>Hey, where's the tacmap?
Ah, damn, you're right.
I breathe in, trying to focus... and there it is. Guess the blast knocked me a bit dizzy, but I think I have to be actively trying to seek out the map to access it. Remember how it went when I got locked in by Ozone? Same deal there, it popped up when I was trying to get out.


>Why did you use the Pitch Prefect on the ground instead of directly on her like I suggested? And you tried to shoot her despite me advising not to do that?
Hey, I had a chance to set up a trap for her in advance, as well as checking whether she could actually see those tar pools or not. We got info from it - she doesn't seem like she does!

>You got knocked through a wall?
I didn't get knocked through a wall, the door was open to this room. Seems like someone didn't actually take care of her Sector like she was supposed to!
Saved me the pain of having to slam right into a steel door, so I can't complain.

Now that she's used her Parasignia - I can too. And with more weapons than before! Plenty of combinations.
But don't forget that these things are give-and-take! If I use it ineffectually, she'll be refuelled and ready to keep hitting me with bloody huge explosions!


>Astrolysis doesn't seem immune to explosions.
But her sword IS, considering that thing's what makes her Parasignia work.
Considering this, the previous idea we had of sticking explosive knives to the sword wouldn't have broken it at all. I still think that our best bet is getting rid of her sword somehow, because that severely limits her combat effectiveness against me.

>Maybe Plug can force her to drop the sword?
I'm not sure she'd ever actually drop that thing - her pain tolerance is probably something intense, and I wouldn't even be surprised if she glued the sword to her hand.

>Drop the roof on her!
If Diagram or Judicium were here, they'd be lecturing me about the risks of casual explosive use.
BUT THEY AREN'T SO LET'S SEE WHAT'S GONNA HAPPEN ANYWAY!

I don't have another plan that's as effective for immobilizing her, so we've got to give this a proper shot.
>>
No. 1038570 ID: 73aaab
File 165823202031.png - (869.72KB , 1000x1000 , Arginethonking.png )
1038570

First, let's do some quick thinking on what her Parasignia's shown to do so far. At least the whole planning thing means I can sort my thoughts out a bit more quickly, but we don't have all the time in the world.

She can somehow get rid of or nullify the effectiveness of bullets that go toward her - but I'm not sure what extent she can do it yet. It's probably worth testing it out further.

>It's like she's using a stronger version of Judicium's power, which is just cheating. Also, it didn't protect her from your knives? ...I don't get it.

Let's think about this point a bit more. There's no way she literally just has a better version of what Judicium has, right? Their elements are also the opposite of each other - she deals with explosions, Judicium freezes things. Hot and cold.
Judicium, the way her Parasignia works is through SLOWING projectiles coming towards them until they have no more momentum. Literal freezing, right?

Astrolysis though - when I fired that shot, the round was burned to a crisp, basically slag. Which means that something hot, like an explosion, pushed it back and also made it lose momentum. Same end result, different means.
But - it didn't stop the knives. Which means: there's a size cap on the projectiles she CAN stop, which I don't think Judicium would have.
Feh. Of course the only melee fighter in the whole facility ALSO happens to have an ability that lets her nullify her most glaring weakness.
I... don't think it's from her main Parasignia since I didn't see any big explosions. While I said it worked similar to the Solburst cards, the Solburst is still like a big explosive wave - I didn't see anything like that from it.
That means it has to be a Psuedosignia of some kind, right? Which means it has to be the one associated with Nickel's. But how the hell does invisibility do anything to bullets?

I don't have the time to think that out fully, I'll leave that to you, Sykes.
I've got a new plan to put into action.
>>
No. 1038571 ID: 73aaab
File 165823204165.png - (1.12MB , 1000x1000 , ArgineTaunting.png )
1038571

With my two guns in hand, I'm ready to put things into action.
I laugh, loud enough that the brute can hear it.
"Hah! Nice Parasignia, chump! Looks like it didn't quite cut it, did it? Ain't got any broken bones here, so it looks like you still can't aim, even if you're a sword! Ha ha ha ha!"

That last part definitely seems to have pissed her off, as she's already walking toward me.
"Oh? Taking a stroll? I thought this was a fight, not a sight-seeing tour. Not that you'd be able to see anything!"

Not my best material, but I'm coming up with a lot of this on the spot.
Astrolysis hefts her sword onto her shoulder, with seemingly no worry about the heated edge being close to her body, nor whatever threat I could pose to her.

"You call that trash talk? You run your mouth like how you fight!"

...The hell's that supposed to mean?
In response, I take a shot or two - but, without even lifting her sword, the bullets drop down, reduced to a flaming lump.

...She's coming closer. But my Blink Capacitor's off cooldown now, so I can hop back whenever I need to.

Instead of coming at me with a strike though, she stops, sneering.
"You really think I'll follow you in there, Wirehead? No wonder why you have that name. Come on then - you've got your little peashooters. I thought you were going to keep scurrying around and poking me like a chump."

...She's not biting.
But she's not advancing any further either.
I don't like this - I feel like if I continue to stand here, she's going to just start swinging - and I think having to deal with an explosion indoors is the exact opposite of what we want right now.
>>
No. 1038572 ID: 73aaab
File 165823205989.png - (95.94KB , 1000x1000 , FoundryMap05.png )
1038572

She's closed the distance. I don't have much time to make a decision, but if she's not going into the room so we can collapse the roof on her, we're going to need another plan.
The explosive knives alone probably aren't enough to break the walls, and she'd see it coming from a mile away if I start out like that.

I'm starting to figure out what the hell Astrolysis is doing with that Parasignia of hers to protect herself from my attacks.
Given that she doesn't seem to actually need to swing her sword to protect herself, something automatic's happening that we can't see. That would line up with Nickel's Parasignia being tied to invisibility, yeah? So Astrolysis has some kind of invisible protective force around her, I think. Question is how we're getting past that...


So, a few options come to mind right now -
1. - Using the Pitch Prefect to push the offense. Last time, I wasn't able to shoot at Astrolysis directly since I was setting up a trap - this time, I can try again, especially since she's got her guard down a little.
2. - Switching to the Creirwy and seeing just how resilient her defenses are. As it's multiple pellets, it does mean there's a chance she can't block all of it, or it could be blown away by an invisible shockwave.
3. - Maybe something else comes to mind? Not sure if there is a way to bait her into the room or not, but I can't just sit here and eat more explosions to the face.


Remember, I can make use of my Parasignia right now!
If you're going to suggest using it, give me a weapon combination out of two of the ones I already have and tell me what the plan is. A shiny new weapon means nothing if I can't actually get anything out of it!
It could make for an effective followup for whatever plan we've got cooked up as well, since then we can really hammer her with lead when her defenses are down or negated.
>>
No. 1038573 ID: e5709d

Remember the Elephant Gun I talked about yesterday? Make one now.
Combine your shotgun and sniper rifle. Choose Slug Shells for ammo. Those have enough mass and size to overcome the heatshield.

I remember now. Heat-based mecha was annoying to pilot, but I remember. Do not take any frontal melee opportunities, no matter how stunned Astrolysis looks. If she's using a Scorch kit, she can temporarily set up a hand-held shield with a temperature akin to magma. Keep flanking her, and do not give her enough time to set up gas traps, or power through them so she can't detonate in time.
>>
No. 1038606 ID: 15c72a

>>1038570
>size limit on projectiles
If only you had a rocket launcher. Or shotgun slugs, those might be big enough. Hmm, can you combine the rifle with your shotgun to produce a bigger bullet?

I considered using echoscribe but I don't think either the flash grenade or the holo-cloak would do anything against astrolysis. You COULD use it to get a single-use Explosive Disc though? That could allow you to blow up the room.

Gooping her up directly with Pitch Prefect seems like a good idea. Then when you hit her with more knives it'll do extra damage! The goop might potentially make it harder for her to use her sword, too.

OH, I bet her shield doesn't prevent point-blank shots. If you can stun her with a Solburst then you can get in and unload directly into her face.
>>
No. 1038687 ID: ffa1c0

...So she's effectively immune to firearms and explosions at a distance? Sounds like it beats the pants off of solburst, getting yourself an equivalent would do wonders for survivability in general.

Either way, while the sword may be immune to point-blank explosives (whatever it's made of, get yourself armor made of that material!), the sword's user would probably at least be hurt by them, so covering her in pitch would be a good tactic if the pitch goes through her defense. Even if she realizes the threat, she either has to take the hit to attack outside of close range or not use her parasig, which is nothing but good. Downsides are she may take the hit if she's sure she has a way to finish you off, and that you only have so much pitch to use.

Slighty concerning is her tactics now. She's not rapid firing her parasig at your location, not dashing to melee, she's just slowly closing the distance. However, that may just be because she has nothing else to do while her parasig reloads.

So for now, toss explosive knives followed by heading for the door at the opposite side. Distance is your best ally here.

Overall, despite her aces, you've still got the edge, especially if you avoid parasig usage to maximize her reload and avoid close quarters.
She attempts to close the distance? LOL RUN AND KNIFE SPAMMING
She uses her parasig? LOL PITCH AND BARRIER TP
Perhaps it's a bit dull to just whittle away, but the more you bore her, the more likely she is to give up.
>>
No. 1038721 ID: 36784c

You once mentioned that the little holes on the end of Astrolysis’ snout allow her to sense heat and she has an innate sense of echolocation. This means that it would be impossible to sneak up on her just by turning the lights off.

However, I’m guessing large amounts of heat and lots of noise will disorient her and make it harder for her to “see”. You know what causes large amounts of heat and causes lots of noise? Explosions.

Now, I’m not saying you should try to sneak up behind her, that’s a bad idea when she’s got a stinger on her tail that could stab you. But what I am saying is that creating explosions will give you an opportunity to get away from her if you need it.

Also……
>>1038571
>the bullets drop down, reduced to a flaming lump.
Seems to be the opposite of the ice queen, Judicium. Instead of freezing your projectiles, Astrolysis is somehow melting your projectiles.
>>
No. 1038722 ID: 15c72a

>>1038721
Yeah they're melting, but just melting a bullet won't *stop* it, if they were just melting then they'd continue forwards and splatter Astrolysis with slag. So it's melting it AND stopping it.
Huh. An invisible force that stops things while heating them up? Sounds like friction.
>>
No. 1038755 ID: 9a2966

>>1038721
>>1038722
Argine speculated on this - if it's not just melting, but some manner of invisible explosive counterforce, much like the Celestis strike.

>petty trash talk
So she says, but making light of her melee prowess did seem to get a rise. She's felt the sting of something there before.

>"I thought you were going to keep scurrying around and poking me like a chump."
Perhaps the chump pitying the champ will bite her harder. Words to that effect, at least.

Think about it. While she's a superb melee fighter, Astrolysis has a deadly serious handicap in a future that's all but given up on the kind of close quarters battles she seems to prefer. Before Parasignia - heck, maybe after - war was all about ranged firepower. Even if Astrolysis has her 'signias now, previously 'scurrying around' and 'poking her' until she was done for was the strategy to nope out of her medieval gimmick. Given volume of lethal fire, distances guns can be effective at and the likely limited range of whatever blindsenses she's got... Astrolysis is kind of terrible modern soldier material, at her base.

That badass 'I fight to kill,' comment hides a bitter truth - in a modern war she'd probably get killed just trying to get TO the fight. The 'signias make her somewhat more viable for assault actions, but even so. Even still. No matter how hard she trained - how badass her magic swordswings, her armour and her shield...

Would this battle maniac ever have been fielded in the way she'd wish?

She might have stopped caring - war's over, she'll never have that chance anyway - but I suspect the question has a sting to it and may be part of why she's all 'fuck da rules, I make my own'. Why she - rather literally - overthrew the last Sector Boss of the Armoury and got the people here to make her the cool shit she needed to be equipped to do her thing - and why she tried to tempt you into making this a straight melee by offering you Plug and the deal.

It was the only way she could get the sort of battle she really wants.

It's speculation, but Astrolysis comes a teensy bit off as the last knight, the old warrior in a new age, striving to keep themselves relevant still and prove that their way isn't outmoded - or maybe just wanting to prove that she's not all that handicapped after all, when all things are equal (and in a ranged battle they never could be). So yes, if she doesn't want to come closer - poke her with pity and see what kind of fire that lights.

>If I just stand here she might just start swiping explosions again
If that damages the building then this could serve Plan Roof Drop. If need be, use Blink to escape her next Celestis and put yourself in cover by the crates inside the building. Obviously her senses will tell her you've popped back in there, but it won't necessarily give her much details if you rummage around and make noise doing shit, right? She'll just know where you at and making a racket. Probably be wary all the same, now.

>Hidden Demolition
Pop a few crates, dump out crap to make them light enough to be throwable - and at the same time, dump a bunch of timed explosive knives in one or more crates - and then throw crates at Astrolysis when she comes in after you. Those would be big solid objects you could use to test the strength of her explode-melty counterforce - or rather, that's what you'd be trying to look like you'd be doing, when instead that's a distraction to your real goal of making more load-bearing shit go boom. All you need to do is 'fumble' the toss of the explosive knife-crate to where it needs to go.

And if she swipes at it anyway, well, at least you blew her up again. Inside a building you're also inside of. Hm. Maybe save a crate or two for cover? Anyway, if you do lure her in, you might still need something extra to really send that roof tumbling - and you might want to do that at range.

>Possible Weapon combo
An idea. Combine Plug and H-ED DSTR to form a new attack - Cutting Rain - a slicing shot combining the arc of a swordslice with the range and power of a sniper rifle. Is this possible? I dunno, you tell me, it's your 'signia - I just feel something like that COULD probably take a chunk out of something load-bearing. If Astrolysis' armour was like concrete to Plug, actual concrete might be like soft butter to this. Ah, but H-ED DSTR is still on cooldown, right? Maybe you need to delay this until it's ready. Or your other guns could substitute.

>If Astrolysis won't take the bait
She knows you pulled an ambush on her the last time she went through a door, so put yourself in crate cover so you can retreat in either direction in case she just blows more building apart - or cuts through the wall. You mainly want to maneuver so that you can lure her under whatever part of the building's become unstable. Heck, you could still have an explosion go off to reduce structural integrity and just pretend you thought she would've rushed in like an idiot after you - just so long as you can get her in position later.
>>
No. 1039465 ID: 73aaab
File 165905745234.png - (252.47KB , 1000x1000 , ArgineThinking2.png )
1039465

The standoff between me and the blind brute continues - I think she knows that I can teleport, so she seems to be holding off for now.

>...So she's effectively immune to firearms and explosions at a distance? Sounds like it beats the pants off of solburst, getting yourself an equivalent would do wonders for survivability in general.

Yeah, sure, let me just twist myself into knots to go and gain that kind of ability. Parasignias are finnicky like that - I'm not going to be able to get an equivalent just because I want to have that kind of power, and I'm pretty sure whatever kind of shields this place can produce won't ever live up to THAT kind of defensive potential. I guess we should consider the deck an extension of what I CAN do - versatility's the name of the game.

>Can you stun her with a Solburst?
Given that it's supposed to be something that works off of light and heat... maybe?

I don't think it'll have the same effect on her that a flashbang would have on a normal soldier though - I'm guessing that it's only going to look like everything's all white for a moment, but not actually 'stun' her because she doesn't have eyes that can be hurt to begin with.

And as for weapon choices...
There's a bit of a split on this then - Elephant Gun or something a little... different. Combining Plug and the H-ED DSTR to make some kinda... sword sniper rifle thing. I've actually got no idea what this'll turn into, since I don't think I've actually had access to a sword AND a sniper rifle of this power at the same time.
...What's an elephant, anyway? Must be pretty big if we're putting a shotgun and a sniper rifle together.

I won't use it now, but these two options have the greatest chance of doing something worth my time.

Speculating on what Astrolysis' powers can do is one thing, but I'm going to take action.

>Pop a few crates, dump out crap to make them light enough to be throwable - and at the same time, dump a bunch of timed explosive knives in one or more crates - and then throw crates at Astrolysis when she comes in after you. Those would be big solid objects you could use to test the strength of her explode-melty counterforce (when actually, it's a distraction to make Plan Roof Drop happen.

This ain't a bad plan, but I feel like moving into the room to start cramming things into a box comes off far too suspicious for Astrolysis not to take a move yet. I'll keep this idea in mind for later.
>>
No. 1039466 ID: 73aaab
File 165905749081.png - (953.73KB , 1000x1000 , pointnlaughgine.png )
1039466

>Would this battle maniac ever have been fielded in the way she'd wish?
Good question. Astrolysis talks about how 'things were different before', when people couldn't survive shots to the head. If that's the case, someone like her would be way worse off - a severed finger or two probably couldn't be reattached so easily either, right?

We would have been able to plink her down so much earlier if she didn't have stuff like her Pseudosignia protecting her!


Hm. Gives me some ideas for more insults, actually.

"I feel sorry for you, Astrolysis. You really think you're some kind of fighter? Some badass? You said it yourself - back in a different time, people couldn't just take a shot to the head. And you? You're a blind melee combatant in a world where everyone uses guns. You may as well have been cannon fodder!"

She drops her sword down, the edge cutting a gouge into the floor again.
"Keep talking, Wirehead, I'll separate your head from your body."

Hahaha~
She looks mad.

Once she's in range, I'll ready the Pitch Prefect to try and hose her down.

"No wonder why you asked me not to use my Parasignia! It's because you can't fight at all without yours, because little things like BULLETS make you completely useless! Ha ha ha ha ha!"

Before I can continue the stream of insults, Astrolysis shouts at me.
"Enough!"

Wait. The hell is she doing?
>>
No. 1039467 ID: 73aaab
File 165905751453.png - (812.75KB , 1000x1000 , AstrolysisBoomJump.png )
1039467

Another explosion - this time, centered ON her.
"Thought you were the only one who could do this trick? Nickel told me alllllllll about it!"

SHE'S FLYING TOWARD ME!
>>
No. 1039468 ID: 73aaab
File 165905753778.png - (778.04KB , 1000x1000 , ArgineTeleport.png )
1039468

I barely manage to dodge out of the way as she thrusts her blade, causing me to expend the charge on the Blink Capacitor in the process.


She slams against the wall, her sword driving deep into the foundation. What the hell is that sword made of? Cracks are running all along the wall - so Plan Roof Drop can still happen.
I'm still only inches away from a monster with a sword that's nearly as long as I'm tall, so that's just great.
>>
No. 1039469 ID: 73aaab
File 165905757431.png - (115.33KB , 1000x1000 , FoundryMap06.png )
1039469

Okay, that's bad, really bad - while outside, she can explosive jump, just like me. What the hell? I thought she wasn't immune to explosions!
...Ah, shit. I think I slept through the class about this, but... I think there's something about how Parasignias protect the user against their own abilities? Isn't that why Judicium is fine even at lower temperatures?

So instead of being able to just whittle Astrolysis down over time, she's now flying at me. This day's just getting better and better, isn't it? But she still isn't immune to MY explosive knives, so she's not invulnerable.

Question is what I can do to deal with her now - she’s much closer in distance than I’d like, and the Blink Capacitor only took me away enough to dodge the attack, which means it’s back on cooldown. I can't just stand here and wait for her to cut me in half!
>>
No. 1039470 ID: e5709d

>>1039465
>What's an elephant, anyway? Must be pretty big if we're putting a shotgun and a sniper rifle together.
YES.

Remember, she literally cannot see you blinking.
Too bad your charge is out, because here's the plan:
Slam the door, then blink to the other doorway and sneak your way out of this mess. Repeat multiple times.
Once she catches on and pays more attention to your footsteps, go crazy with sound. Plug your ears and fire your loudest noisemakers. Keep insulting her, add her screams of rage to the cacophony. The more noise you can make, the less she can detect her surroundings.
If you can deafen her, this fight is as good as won.
>>
No. 1039479 ID: 15c72a

She's stuck, now's the best time to load her down with tar. After that, when you get a chance, you can hit her with explosive knives again for a BIG BOOM.
>>
No. 1039513 ID: 34dd50

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. The recoil may be injurious, evek if you are correctly braced. People have been knocked over and broken their backs due to recoil from various 'extreme' novelty guns that tend to not be used in military contexts for lots of good reasons. I don't know what you'll do with this knowledge, but good luck. Also an elephant is a quadrupedal land mammal with the mass of a small armored vehicle. Maybe 6 tons or so? Though the word 'ton' means lots of different things in different contexts...
>>
No. 1039518 ID: 118a4e

>let me just twist myself into knots to go and gain that kind of ability
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. Very pessimistic for a person with abilities that break known laws of physics.

>she can explosive jump
Of course, the caveat is she has no ability to change course. Perfect if you have a trap set up behind yourself that she cannot see.

>Question is what I can do to deal with her now
Options:
1) Her sword is stuck in a wall. Sounds like a great opportunity to disarm her, quite literally if need be. Her hands will regrow... or at least it seems they should.
2) How many explosive knives can you throw into her exposed back (or head or arms) before she gets her sword free? Once she does, you're right next to a door to escape.
3) Get a holocloak with echoscribe, toss it to a random wall. Have it insult her in creative ways. Smirk as she gets stuck in wall two. However, if this would require prerecording, nevermind.
4) Fire pitch at the corners of the room you're inside. Hit her with pitch too, if you feel it'd help. Goad her into parasigging. Perhaps use your parasig to do extra damage and assure hers is ready to be used. Once you detect she's activating, escape. Laugh as her parasig and the secondary pitch explosions get the roof to fall on her head.
5) Pop a void, combine the previous options however you feel.
>>
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

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

>>1040111

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 )
1040561

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

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

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!

>ARGINE
>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 )
1040563

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 )
1040564

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 )
1040565

"Guns Blazing!"
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No. 1040566 ID: 9dceff
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1040566

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No. 1040567 ID: 9dceff
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1040567

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No. 1040568 ID: 9dceff
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1040568

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No. 1040569 ID: 9dceff
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1040569

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No. 1040570 ID: 9dceff
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1040570

>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!
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No. 1040571 ID: 9dceff
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1040571

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!
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No. 1040572 ID: 9dceff
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1040572

>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.
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No. 1040573 ID: 9dceff
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1040573

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!
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No. 1040574 ID: 9dceff
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1040574

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!
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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?
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No. 1040576 ID: 398700

>>1040574
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.
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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.)
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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...
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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.
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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.
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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.
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No. 1042291 ID: 73aaab
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1042291

>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.
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No. 1042292 ID: 73aaab
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1042292

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-

She, SHE GRABBED MY HAND! Did she just JUMP AT ME?
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-
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No. 1042293 ID: 73aaab
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1042293

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!
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No. 1042294 ID: 73aaab
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1042294

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."
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No. 1042295 ID: 73aaab
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1042295

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!

Help me! HELP ME! HELP ME, DAMN IT!

>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.
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No. 1042296 ID: 73aaab
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1042296

"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.
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No. 1042298 ID: 73aaab
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1042298

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

Form...
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.
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No. 1042299 ID: 73aaab
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1042299

"Not enough for you? One more time!"
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No. 1042300 ID: 73aaab
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1042300

>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.
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No. 1042301 ID: 73aaab
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1042301

"Go to sleep, runt. Dream of that hero you wanna be."
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No. 1042302 ID: 73aaab
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1042302

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No. 1042303 ID: 73aaab
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1042303

>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."
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No. 1042304 ID: 73aaab
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1042304

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No. 1042305 ID: 73aaab
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1042305

>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...
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No. 1042306 ID: 73aaab
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1042306

"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?
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No. 1042310 ID: 8483cf

Absolutely not. You did your best.

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

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

>>1042306
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.
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No. 1042314 ID: 8893f0

Maybe... you should consider not being a hero and instead search for a better dream.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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No. 1042341 ID: 60dc15

>>1042306
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?
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No. 1042342 ID: 15c72a

>>1042319
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)
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No. 1042343 ID: 60dc15

>>1042342
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.
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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.
ლ(•`益´•)ლ
We had options.
>>1042312
Summoning Plug. Slicing off her hand.
>>1042325
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.
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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.
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No. 1043138 ID: 73aaab
File 166255953206.png - (646.91KB , 1000x1000 , CHP3X01.png )
1043138

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.
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No. 1043139 ID: 73aaab
File 166255956684.png - (459.88KB , 1000x1000 , CHP3X02.png )
1043139

>Maybe... you should consider not being a hero and instead search for a better dream.
I...
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.
Haha.
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..."
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.
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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!
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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

>>1043139
Learn from your mistakes.
>>
No. 1043159 ID: 398700

>>1043139
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?
Villainy?
>>
No. 1043750 ID: 73aaab
File 166315790080.png - (1.51MB , 1000x1000 , CHP3X03.png )
1043750

>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
File 166315791845.png - (783.93KB , 1000x1000 , CHP3X04.png )
1043751

>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
File 166315794063.png - (685.90KB , 1000x1000 , CHP3X05.png )
1043752

>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...
Amica.
What Amica said about Nanoweaver...
>>
No. 1043753 ID: 73aaab
File 166315796087.png - (218.84KB , 1000x1000 , CHP3X05point5.png )
1043753

>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

>>1043753
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.

>dreams
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

>>1043753
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

>>1043792

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

>>1043844
>anomalies
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 )
1044387

>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.

"Wait."
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 )
1044388

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.
Astrolysis...
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 )
1044389

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

>>1044387
>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

>>1044387
>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 )
1044821

>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 )
1044822

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.

"Hey."
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."

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 )
1044823

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."

She...
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

>>1044823
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 )
1044855

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.

>Diagram
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.

>swordfighting
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

>>1044862

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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