Team Lombax’s “Tower Hideout” - E2
“... I have absolutely no idea what these creatures even are,” Umbris noted to Gabriel as the two of them continued their guard of the tower, with Umbris surveying the surrounding area through the windows.
“They aren’t Duel Monsters, I would imagine,” Gabriel mused, manning the table upon which the cards used to fortify the tower lay. “They still have that “feel”, though, like they’re a part of a card game that’s similar to Duel Monsters.” ”Yoo-Hoo…!”
“Another card game…?” Umbris repeated as a thought occurred to him. “... heh, right, of course. Sometimes I seem to forget that other card games would exist outside of our shared universe.” He returned his attention to his surveying, yet still continued the conversation: “I wonder how these things would translate to the Duel Monsters card game.” ”YOO-HOO…!!”
“I’m sure it wouldn’t take too much effort,” Gabriel replied, “at least as far as Type and Attributes are concerned. Effects might not be as straightforward, though. As far as the two games actually interacting as they each are, though… well, I suppose we may see soon enough--”
“WHAT, ZURKON!?” Umbris and Gabriel yelled in irritated unison.
“Oh, nothing important,” Mr. Zurkon sassed back, “Mr. Zurkon just thought you nerds would like to do something about thIS STUPID ALIEN THAT’S ATTACKING MR. ZURKON!!”
“Wut?” Gabriel and Umbris rushed toward the nearest window through which Mr. Zurkon was last heard, and yelped in shock upon seeing the gigantic eldritch creature--taller than the tower they were currently sheltered in--currently ambushing Mr. Zurkon. “THE HELL IS THAT THING SUPPOSED TO BE?!?!”
“Mr. Zurkon knows what it is supposed to be: DEAD!!” the Synthenoid declared as he began to open fire on the creature approaching him.
Girls’ Night Out
Bayonetta, Jeanne and Atsuko - Heading through F2“Seriously, girlfriend, you really need to get some better transportation,”
Jeanne blurted out to Atsuko as they and Bayonetta made their way through F2, with Atsuko being carried around in the palm of Madama Butterfly’s hand. “That wheelchair of yours was never gonna cut it in this setting.”“Just so long as I’m not riding on your motorcycle again, I’m good,”
At this Jeanne couldn’t stop herself from exasperatedly scoffing while rolling her eyes. “Oh, please, just because you couldn’t handle just one ride with me--”“--AND! And you had me drive the damn thing, too, just so you could do your own thing--”“And THAT is your issue?!”“My issue was that you expected me to operate the damned thing when I don’t even have FEET!”“Ladies, calm thy tits,”
Bayonetta sassily interrupted the bickering. “I’m sure we can come to a sensible decision without resorting to spanking each other over past details.”“Oh, c’mon, just a little spanking,”
Jeanne half-jokingly begged.“I don’t think we have much time to continue debating anyways,”
Atsuko interjected worriedly, pointing her normal hand in the direction of the giant eldritch being that was threatening Team Lombax’s tower.“Oh, for fuck’s sake,”
Jeanne groaned, as if the appearance of this creature wasn’t anything more serious than a minor nuisance. “Looks like one of us will have to go back and help the boys with that thing, Cereza.”“And the other will need to take care of Atsuko, lest the Leviathan tries anything funny,”
Bayonetta concluded with a weary sigh, pinching the bridge of her nose.“... hey, actually,”
Atsuko chimed in after a brief thought as she addressed Bayonetta, “you still have that motorcycle that Foster lent to you? The transforming one?”“As a matter of fact...,”
Bayonetta uttered as she snapped her fingers, summoning a portal out of which the Duel Runner/Fire Elemental/Knight Caledfwlch rolled out with a rumble of his engine.“Yes, that’s perfect!”
Atsuko beamed happily. “Caledwlch can drive himself around with me in one of his sidecars, and he can transform into a mecha if he needs to do any fighting--”“--oh, I see how it is, little MISS,”
Jeanne snapped, now (acting) incensed. “You’d rather not deal with me and my “crazy driving”, yet you’d take Mr. Fire Crotch over there for a spin in a heartbeat, is that it?! Well, FUCK you, you hurtful bitch, I never…!”
Jeanne retorted “furiously” before turning away from the others, crocodile tears shimmering from her eyes.“... Jeanne, I can sorta see through that act of yours,”
Atsuko flatly pointed out, though she was somewhat amused. “Still, aside from the points I already mentioned… Caledwlch was my mother’s Duel Runner, as well as one of her most trusted allies….”“Worry not, fair maidens, for I shall defend young Atsuko with all my being,”
Caledwlch assured the Umbra Witches. “She shall be safe in my capable hands… metaphorically or otherwise.”
Jeanne couldn’t help but to roll her eyes with a scoff, though she wasn’t offended at all at this point. “Fine, I know when I’m defeated,”
she relented with a dramatic shrug.“You had best do all you can to protect Atsuko then, Calewlch,”
Bayonetta chimed in as she adjusted her glasses. “If not, you’ll catch Hell for it, from the two of us AND the ghost of Atsuko’s mummy, I’m sure.”“Don’t worry, girls, Caledwlch has this covered,”
Atsuko reassured the Umbra Witches as Madama Butterfly placed her gently into one of Caledwlch’s sidecars. “Both of you go ahead and help the boys--”“No-no, can’t do that,”
Bayonetta wagged her finger at that, “you still need some supervision, my dear, so I’ll be sticking with you. Jeanne--”“--got it, Cereza,”
Jeanne replied as she mounted Angel Slayer, revving up its engine. “Do be careful in case the Leviathan pulls any tricks on you.
” With that, she drove off back towards the tower.
Back at Team Lombax’s “Tower Hideout”“... welp, so much for “holding his fire”,"
Gabriel sighed as he and Umbris watched Mr. Zurkon begin taking on the eldritch creature on his own, firing off some rounds from his blaster while weaving in and out of the monster’s swipes, though they seem to be just piercing the creature’s skin without any regard or acknowledgement to the rounds hitting. As it moved closer and closer, the ground it walked over shifted rapidly between a dulled rainbow and grey, like the life was being sucked right out of the land itself. Those more intuned with magical energy would find that such energy was fluctuating, weakening, then changing to something...unfamiliar.“Doesn’t look like he’s having much effect against it, though,”
Umbris noted, trying to analyze the fight as best he could to discern the creature’s strengths and weaknesses (if it had any other the latter at all, that is). “Not to mention the commotion seems to be attracting those other monsters to our location,”
he added as he noticed the smaller beings beginning to draw closer to the fight, and by extension, the tower as well.“Something needs to be done about this, though, and fast,”
Gabriel uttered with worry, now noticing the rippling effect being made by the larger creature’s advance. He wasn’t entirely sure why
, but he knew that the advance had to cease before it could reach the tower. But first… “Umbris, quickly,”
Gabriel ordered, “can you gleam into what each of the smaller creatures are named?”“Huh? Why’re you interested in their names?”
Umbris asked in confusion.“I have an idea of how to deal with them all at once, but I have to know that they all have the same name for it to work,”
Gabriel explained.“”Same name”... … oh, now I get it,”
Umbris nodded, quickly understanding the intention. “Alright, lemme just focus on them real quick, then….”
The Neo-Spacian began to focus directly on one of the smaller creatures, attempting to peer into its very being in order to gain knowledge of its name. As Umbris tried to focus, he would find his attention splitting, as if seeing through all of the smaller beings’ points of view at once, confirming their interconnectivity. He could also feel the presence of...something corrosive being part of these beings that wasn’t supposed to be there. He had to move fast before being affected by whatever that was. Either way...these connected creatures gave off a strange emotion, as if they were Souls that were Faultless in this endeavour. “S… Souls… Faultless… Eldrazi… … “Souls of the Faultless”...! That’s their name!”
Umbris yelped as he pulled himself out of his focus. “I mean, it’s either that or “Souls of the Eldrazi”, but they all have that as their base title!”“Then this should work!”
Gabriel exclaimed excitedly as he flipped to a page in Alexander’s card binder, and quickly pulled out one of its cards. “I Summon in Defense Position: “Kotodama”!”
Outside the tower, a humanoid being was called forth, its pitch black skin covered from head-to-toe in bronze-colored runes. Its long, scarlet ponytail blew in the wind as its crimson eyes flashed
, before letting out a long, piercing shriek that echoed through the area. “Kotodama’s ability prevents more than one card with the same name from being on the field at the same time,”
Gabriel spoke up above the monster’s screaming, “which means that all of these Souls of the Faultless will vanish from the area!”
… … …
… … …
… … …“... … uhm… am I… missing something…?”
Gabriel spoke up after roughly a minute passed by without any changes to the area.“... oh, fuck me sideways with Terris’ drill,”
Umbris uttered with shame, realization hitting him like a punch from Obelisk the Tormentor. “When I was observing them, I could sense that they were all interconnected somehow… and now I know why that is: they’re all the same monster!”“What?!”
Gabriel gasped in shock.“Yeah, they’re like Exiled Forces and whatnot,”
Umbris, currently making an indent in his face with his palm. “They’re a large group of individuals that make up a single card--of course they wouldn’t be affected by Kotodama.”“So all you did was succeed in making the ears of anyone in the vicinity bleed from your monster’s screaming,”
Mr. Zurkon sassed. “Congratulations, stupid luchador and panther.”“HEY--!!”
A loud shrilling cry echoed from the largest of the distorted creatures summoned during this fight, the Heralded Eldrazi raising a large hand before balling up into a fist and slamming it into the tower, the vibrations causing Gabriel and Umbris to stumble and fall, with the luchador landing right on top of the Neo-Spacian (“OW, THE FUCK!!”
yelped Umbris). Those taking part in Alexander’s “seance”, however, merely swayed a bit before returning to their original positions, their trance completely unbroken by the disturbance.“... soooo,”
Gabriel groaned as he and Umbris pulled themselves back to their feet, “got any other ideas?
”“Just one: keep reinforcing the tower,”
Umbris declared as he quickly prepared his own Deck of cards. “I’m gonna head out and help Mr. Zurk--AACK!!”
And right on cue, the tower shook once again as another impact was made. This time, there was the faint sound of a crack as well. “That doesn’t sound good,”
Gabriel quietly uttered as he quickly rummaged through the binder for a way to make any repairs to the tower. “We better act quickly, otherwise--”
The thunderous sound of another heavy impact rang through the air, but this time the tower did not shake. Peering out the window, Umbris and Gabriel saw the reason: Madama Styx, fully summoned, was now clashing against the Heralded Eldrazi with a punch of her own. “Cheers, loves, the cavalry's here!”
Jeanne called out from atop Madama Styx’s left shoulder.“Jeanne, aren’t you French, though?”
Umbris sassed.“What’s that supposed to mean?!”
Jeanne hissed back.
The Heralded Eldrazi, focused on the being now in its eyeless face, focused itself upon the demoness before attempting to grab her with a single large clawed hand. “Excuse you, no-one said you could TOUCH!”
Jeanne declared as Madama Styx knocked the Heralded Eldrazi’s hand away with a strong backhanded fist. The moment she connected with the Eldrazi, however, she felt a little of her magical energy leave her, through the hand in question and into the monster. It only happened during the impact, but it was just enough to notice. “What in-- what just happened?”
Jeanne blurted in confusion, sensing the slight loss of energy.“Life...magic...it is food for us…”
the Souls around them would say, almost in response. “We consume and reform, the colors of magic returned to their natural shifting state.”“... shit, so we can’t make direct contact with any of them…!”
Umbris cursed.“... so, wait, if they can drain what they make contact with…,”
Gabriel mused as he remembered the rippling effect he saw from earlier, “... does that mean the very land, too…?!”“Then obviously,”
Mr Zurkon rudely interrupted, “the best option to dealing with these stupid aliens is to attack from afar!”“Then from afar it is!”
Jeanne replied as she threw one of her handgun up through a portal above her; seconds later, a larger portal appeared above Madama Styx, from which fell a much larger version of the same handgun into the Demoness’ hand. “Now, eat this, you motherfucker!”
Quickly stepping back, Madama Styx fired her handgun straight at the Heralded Eldrazi’s face.
Well, a hole was left behind going clear through its head...but the scary part was the fact that it kept going, moving as if no such action had happened, making another attempt to grab the demoness with its elongated limbs.“DRAINING SHIELD!”
Umbris called out as he threw a Trap Card towards Madama Styx, conjuring a bizarre shield that equipped itself to the Demoness’ free arm; taking the hint, Madama Styx quickly moved her shield arm to block the Eldrazi’s hand, the energy from that strike being absorbed by the shield and transferred to Madama Styx, greatly invigorating the Demoness. “Wait… holy shit, that’s a lot!!”
Umbris blurted out upon sensing just how much
energy Styx had absorbed. “That creature, it’s really that strong…??!!”“Then we’ll need to try and remove as much of its strength as possible,”
Gabriel decided after using a few “Castle Walls” to reinforce the tower’s structure. “It may take me a while, though, so keep that thing busy until then!”
Right on cue, yet another strike on the tower, this time towards the base, with both of its large claws held together into a single balled-up fist before connecting. A slight slant could be felt in the tower now as well, which is likely a cause for alarm. The Heralded Eldrazi seemed unfocused on what it was supposed to do, since it only interacted with Madama Styx when she started to face it. Gabriel took note of this, and decided to take advantage of this fact. “If it wants something to focus on, I’ll just give it something to focus on!”
Pages in the card binder fluttering wildly in his search, the luchador pulled out the two cards needed for his plan: a “Marshmallon” which he quickly Summoned in Defense Position, and a “Ring of Magnetism” that was likewise equipped immediately to the squishy pink blob. “Marshmallon can’t be destroyed by battle, and the Ring of Magnetism equipped to it will ensure that the giant can assault only Marshmallon! Meaning that while it’s focused on attack something that it can’t kill by battle, Madama Styx and Zurkon can assault it without confrontation.”“... no offense, Gabriel, but that’s just boring as all fuck,”
Jeanne grumbled with dissatisfaction.“Mr. Zurkon agrees,”
agreed Mr. Zurkon.
… … …
… … …
… … …... Ratchet…... hey, Ratch….... oh, for Tyndarion’s sake, boy, wake up!“Hrk…!”
Ratchet snorted with a start as he finally came to, his eyes fluttering as they adjusted to the dimly lit area he now found himself to be in, no longer within the tower they had been in before and a slightly sharp pain on his cheek. “... how long was I out…?”
Ratchet asked groggily to Alexander, Clank and Red, all of whom were gathered around him.“Literally just a minute. Sheesh, you’re a rather heavy sleeper, huh, kiddo?”
Alexander mused as he shook his head.“You have no idea, Alexander,”
Clank replied shaking his own head as he shot a knowing, squinty look at the young lombax.“Well, he’s up now, at least,”
Red chimed in, “so now we can all begin our “Grand Tour” of Alister’s Soul Room… … which, I might caution, is… how do you say, a tad untidy.”“... uhh, Red,”
Ratchet replied as he got a better look at their surroundings, “I’m pretty sure that this is much more than just “a tad”.”
(“I’m aware boy, I was merely being facetious.”
Within Alister’s Soul Room, the Rescue Team were surrounded by the horde of Altisters, all frozen in place, each stuck in a pose expressing anguish, confusion, resignation, sadness, (self-)anger… occasionally, an Altister would appear to briefly glitch, flinching for a fraction of a second as a fragment of a scream, yell or sob escaped their gaping mouth before returning to their original pose. “... what are these things?”
Ratchet asked apprehensively, quite put-off by the sight. “These guys… they can’t all be Alister… can they?”“From my understanding, no, not really,”
Red explained. “They’re more like constructs, recorded and created whenever Alister died in another timeline. Time has repeated again and again, and each failure became a new “Altister” while Alister began again at the beginning of this entire farce. Different possibilities have taken place, and thus different Alisters were born. That is the gist of it, is it not Alex?”“Pretty close, yeah,”
Alexander confirmed. “They’re like programs, but each with their own personality and sentience. Really, REALLY sophisticated A.I., you could say. But now…,”
Alex added with concern and uncertainty in his tone, “... now, something’s not only happened to Al, but the Altisters as well. What… what did Isamy do to Alister… to have caused this?”“She revealed to him an inconvenient truth.”
The group flinched at the sound of a deep voice that had addressed them. The owner of that voice approached them, the ornate, royal armor adorning his large frame giving off a faint golden gleam while his violet cape ruffled slightly behind him. “... sorry for disturbing you all,”
the figure, Aligore Azimurr, uttered sheepishly with a faint, sad smile, his weary eyes filled with apology.“... woof,”
Red quietly blurted out before clearing his throat immediately after to cover the fact. “Ahem, apology accepted.”“It’s fine, Your… Majesty?”
Alexander replied in a forgiving gesture slightly muddled by his confusion. “You… don’t seem like the other Altisters here, assuming you even are one. I mean, you are related to Alister in some way, right?”“That is correct, Alex,”
Aligore answered, the smile he gave this time being much more easygoing. “I am, by virtue of being a SOUL--and a fusion of two SOULs, at that--not an Altister at all, though half of me is still Alister; the other half is that of the Monster King, Asgore Dreemurr.”“... so, that would make you… “Aligore Azimurr”?”
Ratchet slowly guessed--this was, of course, the first time Ratchet, Clank, Alex and Red have met the SOUL Fusion personally.“Yes! Yes, my dear boy, you got it!”
Aligore beamed joyously. “Oh, but enough about me--”
“--INDEED, CEASE WITH THIS NEEDLESS SEGUE,” I.T. angrily(?) snapped at Aligore as he suddenly appeared behind him, causing the General King to yelp in shock. “WE HAVE FAR MORE PRESSING MATTERS TO DEAL WITH.”“Nice to see you again too, I.T.,”
I.T. Azimuth sighed wearily in response, removing his thick-framed glasses. “I do apologize, but we haven’t much time for pleasantries and introductions” he noted, his tone becoming noticeably more organic. “Time is of the essence, and unless we all hurry, Alister’s will soon run out.”“Wouldn’t know what that is like”
Red uttered under his breath. “I take it the girl’s little proclamation was a bit more damaging to Alister’s psyche than we expected?”
the dragon elder figured.
“Very much so, yes,” I.T. nodded. “You see, this “inconvenient truth” that Aligore mentioned is not so much “inconvenient” as it is “near-mind-shattering”--”“Well then what is it?!”
Ratchet blurted impatiently.
“... I was getting to that,” I.T. calmly retorted, stowing his glasses away inside his parka. “Alister is here today due to a number of factors, the most damning of all so far being… that he was turned into a Distortion by Isamy herself, as a means of prolonging his life beyond the Great Clock Incident.”“... an-and what’s that supposed to mean, exactly?”
Ratchet implored, very much confused.
“As you know, the Distortions created by Isamy Maximus are the reason that the Multiverse has been collapsing. And if Alister was indeed made into a Distortion himself, then… … … ….” I.T. trailed off, his uncharacteristically prolonged silence made all the more unsettling by the pained look in his glowing yellow eyes. “Then… it means… … that the Time Loops that Alister has been stuck in... have been disrupting not only the dimensions… but Time itself…!”
Team Lombax stood in utter dismay, jaws dropped, eyes widened, at this revelation. “... as the number of Time Loops increased,” I.T. continued, his voice now hollow with despair, “each subsequent iteration of the Origin War became more… varied. And not just the conditions and properties of the Origin War itself, but all who became involved as well, within each iteration--be it the variety of the participants or the participants themselves, oftentimes both.”“... so, the Time Loops end up randomizing a lot of factors, is what you’re saying. Aside from Isamy, the factions, and Alister being involved, that is,”
Alexander calmly surmised.
“Exactly,” I.T. nodded. “But more than that, it was finding out the truth itself that brought such a crushing despair upon Alister… as well as most of the Altisters. We… we tried so hard to fix time, to keep it from becoming worse… to think that our collective actions have caused what we had hoped to prevent….”“... a moment for an inquiry, Mr. I.T.,”
Clank asked politely. “You say that “most of the Altisters” fell into despair--I would assume that is the reason why they all seem to be frozen in place. But, what of you? How have you retained your autonomy despite clearly being gripped by despair yourself?”
I.T. took a brief pause to let out a short breath, almost a small chuckle, as a faint, genuine smile crossed his lips. “As keenly observant as ever, Clank. I had always admired that about you….
“As Alexander had hypothesized, we Altisters are highly sophisticated, sentient A.I.. Due to the nature of how the Alister that gave rise to me had died in that timeline, I myself am far more self-aware of my being an A.I., and as such have made various… adjustments to myself to safeguard myself as much as possible from various threats, both external and... internal.”“So you backed yourself up so you could reboot after the crash?”
Red guessed. “Frequently, I would imagine.”
“That is correct. Though I was not entirely immune to falling to despair, I was still acutely aware of what was happening to all of us as I worked to put myself back together….” I.T. paused once more as he glanced down at his trembling palms. “... but, just barely.
“... still, having recovered myself,” I.T. continued, hiding his still-shaking hands in his pockets, “I began the procedure of rebooting other Altisters whom I hoped could help in bringing Alister back to his senses….”
I.T. turned his head to his right, with Team Lombax following his gaze to a pair of active Altisters a few yards away from them, both of whom Alexander managed to recognize: the leather-adorned Zayon, who held a thick, heavy-looking scrapbook in his arms; and another Altister wearing a pink argyle sweater vest, who went by the moniker of--“MOONY?!”
Alexander exclaimed in shock, causing the aforementioned Altisters to give a startled flinch at his loud declaration. “You restarted him, out of all the Altisters you could have picked?!”
he questioned of I.T..
“It’s fine,” I.T. insisted calmly. “Moony’s prior behaviour is no longer present since the purging of Adrastos’ influence from Alister’s soul--Kaden made sure of that himself.”
(Red coughed awkwardly and turned his attention away from the conversation momentarily to hide his look of shame.)“So, he’s no longer nucking futs?”
“That’s right.”“... even so, then, for what purpose have you restored him?”
Alexander pressed. “I mean, surely, you would’ve know of any other options.”
“He’s… necessary,” I.T. hastily replied, yet seemed to stumble halfway through his answer. The instant he did, he quickly averted his eyes from the sharp glare of suspicion Alexander shot his way.“Whatever, can we just get to wherever Alister is now?”
Ratchet interrupted impatiently. “The sooner we get him out of this mess--”“--that won’t be easy, Ratchet,”
Red interjected, “as we have no idea what sort of mental defenses that he would have put up, especially in his current mental state,”
he mused while catching Zayon’s eye. “We don’t even know what else could be active within his psyche, what horrible thing could have awoken after breaking down, much like how Adrastos became active in my own mind when the Dark Gems and the Orichalcos took me over. Alister has seen a lot of terrors in his lifetime I am certain, so who knows which of his inner demons and how many of them have begun to roam free.”
“Reid’s right--w-wait, I meant “Red’s right”,” I.T. stammered, looking immediately flustered over his slip-up. “Guh, what’s happening to me....?”“Well, I mean, it’s not like you’re wrong, “sweetheart”,”
Red smirked a smirk shared by Zayon, who had stepped closer to overhear the conversation. “But I would imagine backing yourself up wouldn’t be a conventional process when there is so much, ahem, junk data that might have been backed up as well,”
the dragon remarked while scowling at Moony.“Either way,”
Zayon spoke up as he positioned the thick book underneath his left arm, “we really do need to be careful around here, but also work with a mixture of caution and haste, if we’re to have any hope of getting Alister out of this mess--”“--so, no one’s going to answer my question, then? Is that it?”
Alexander insisted, a stern expression on his face that was both calm and (increasingly) furious at the same time.“A-Alex…?”
stammered Zayon.♫”Alexander’s Suspicions”♫ (“Almost Hell Heaven”/New Danganronpa V3 OST)
Alexander’s glare was focused squarely on the three Altisters before him, scrutinizing them all down to their very being. “I would very much appreciate that the three of you quit jerking us around,”
he requested as calmly as possible. “Alister’s life is at stake here, and it’s true that the sooner we take care of what’s going on here the sooner we can get him his help… but we need to know what’s going on with everything here--that our rescue mission hasn’t been compromised even before we got here, and that we can give ALL of you our trust,”
he explained with emphasis on each point, his gaze settling firmly on Moony as he expressed the last point. “So, I will ask again, and I expect one of you to tell me the damned truth or so help m--!”
“--that’s why I’m here,” Moony calmly interjected, Alexander blinking with surprise and confusion at the Altister’s earnest response. “To reveal the truth behind my involvement in his whole ordeal… that is why I’ve been restored,” he explained, a pained, remorseful expression on his face.“Wh…?”
Alexander uttered, taken aback as he had anticipated at least a delayed answer to his inquiry. “W-Wait, what do you mean--?"
Alexander cut himself off as he and the others noticed a sound coming from nearby, as if someone were… crying? “What’s that?”
Ratchet cautiously whispered.“Sounds like a sad child,”
Red surmised, curiously stroking at his chin. “... don’t tell me there was a timeloop in which Alister--if not everyone else--was regressed to--?”
“--no, there was no timeline that would be described as “Origin War Babies”, please perish that thought,” I.T. bluntly rebuked.“Then what’s with that sound? Who’s making it?”
Ratchet wondered.“I can think of only one…,”
Alexander uttered slowly as he and the others began looking about for the source of the sound. They didn’t spend much time searching, as Alexander quickly caught sight of the source: the scribble-like form of Too-Dee, sobbing in a fetal position a few yards away from the group. “... Too-Dee--?”“HOLD IT RIGHT THERE, ALEX,”
Ratchet, Clank, Red, Aligore and the active Altisters called out in unison before the concerned Alexander could take more than two steps towards the crying Altister.“W-Wha--?!”
Alex stuttered, almost losing his balance from his sudden halt.“Didn’t you just get done voicing your concern about this rescue mission being compromised?”
Red explained.“And yet you seem to have already forgotten that discussion as your caring nature quickly clouded your better judgment,”
Clank surmised as he shook his head.“Besides,”
Ratchet joined in, “I.T. never said anything about rebooting that Altister, did he?”“You’re… you’re right,”
Alexander uttered, hastily backstepping to his original position.
“But then… what--or who--caused Too-Dee to awaken…?” Moony mused slowly, glancing over at I.T. in hopes of an answer.“... … despair…,”
Aligore quietly uttered in calm, ominous realization. “Recall Too-Dee’s origins; before his death, Too-Dee’s Alister was turned into one of LERNA’s familiars by her Sea of Despair…,”
the General King explained, taking a pause to shiver slightly from the memory of his own experience with the Sea of Despair. “... Alister’s own despair may be awakening Too-Dee’s latent nature as a Witch’s Familiar… … but there’s… something else I am sensing… from the outside….”
Aligore paused again, this time to look up towards the “sky”. “Something… stirring… also waiting to reawaken….”“The Great Leviathan?!”
Ratchet blurted out in horror, with Red also now on edge.“No…,”
Aligore answered as he lowered his head again, a look of clear dread in his eyes. “... LERNA.”“Bu-But HOW?!”
Ratchet exclaimed in horror. “I thought she was destroyed back in the Desert Seth!!”“And yet her Grief Seed still remains?”
Aligore questioned. “I would assume that the girl named “Lydia” was the one who ultimately defeated her, and acquired the Grief Seed afterwards… … that poor girl…,”
he slowly segued, a horrible memory playing through his mind, “... t’would seem that her conflict with the Witch continues even in this timeline… … you see, in my timeline, shortly after I became who I am now, Lydia… sacrificed herself by fusing with LERNA directly, creating a Witch/Magical Girl Hybrid that called itself Ultimatum, the Witch of Endings. She wasn’t exactly in her right mind, and the conflict between the two resulted in them self-terminating out of sheer self-hatred during the Sphere Forest debacle, taking a good deal of the planet with it. Though it terrifies me to say it, it could be possible that this might be happening in this timeline as well! Although, I genuinely wonder what despair could be causing LERNA to reawaken. I do not believe Lydia to be close enough to Alister for LERNA to feed off his despair, so, logically, that would only mean….”“... that LERNA... is feeding off Lydia’s own despair…!”
Alexander realized. “But what could cause that much despair to awaken such an evil Witch?”
The group suddenly tensed up upon hearing a new sound coming from Too-Dee’s general area: a soft, somewhat disturbed giggling, intermixed with the sobbing from before. The giggling was slowly becoming more prominent, much to the group’s increasing anxiety. “Tee-hee-hee… so much… dees-peaw…,” Too-Dee twittered almost gleefully in his child-like voice. “The gurw, the gurw! So sad! So sad at aww her bye bye fwiends and bye bye famiwy. So sad, bye bye. So sad, mistwess feeds. Mistwess awaken soon, and Too Dee can come home! Dees-peaw takes gurw, dees-peaw takes you aww! Too-Dee take you too! Too-Dee… is… dees-peaw!”
“Too-Dee,” I.T. uttered, no longer bothering to uphold his stoic veneer, his voice showing a clear tone of fear, “you can’t succumb to your original urges, you have to--!”
“--have to what, exactly… I.T.?” Too-Dee interjected, his voice suddenly switching to a more familiar, yet icy tone… that of Alister’s. “What does the former Agent of the Mother Reaper hope to convey to “Poow Widdle Too-Dee”? To deny my very nature? Or did you honestly think that your little “reprogramming” would keep me from becoming what I was meant to be? What I truly
AM?!” Too-Dee cut himself off to childishly giggle at I.T.’s mortified look. “Aww, boo-hoo, guess that
faiwed, huh?!” he taunted in his childlike voice again. “But weawwy, what did you expect when Awistuh is feewing so much dewectable dees-PYA-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-AHH
The errant Too-Dee’s papery fur frizzled slightly, before he keeled over into a paper roll, either KOed, or possibly deactivated. The group looked at Red, the dragon’s hand still outstretched from carving a vicious Shock symbol in the air. “Oh, don’t look at me like that,”
he said grumpily. “I’m a former villain here, and he was talking a little too much for my liking. It’s not noble, but get the psycho when they monologue, and you won’t have to deal with what comes next; usually two to four different forms and no breaks in between. I speak from experience here after all, as I believe a few others,”
he added with a seering eye at I.T..
I.T. heaved a sigh, though not one of relief. “Well, we should thank our lucky stars that one of us didn’t leave their Genre Savviness at the door… or forget it momentarily, ALEXANDER
.”“Oh, c’mon, what’d’ya want from me?”
Alexander huffed. “I can’t exactly “deny my own nature” of being a “bleeding heart”, right?”
he questioned, glancing between I.T. and Ratchet.
“In any event, Red did succeed in shortening this hassle… somewhat,” I.T. declared.“What do you mean, “somewhat”?”
Red huffily question.
“What I mean,” I.T. explained, “is that all you did was cut Too-Dee’s “psycho monologue” short and dispatched of just one
of his multiple forms. The good news, if you could call it that, is that he only has one other form left… his true form.”“Which is…?”
Red, Ratchet and Alexander questioned in unison.
“The form he had... at the time of his original self’s destruction,” I.T. confessed, casting a cautious glance at the singed and ruffled paper form on the floor. “His… Witch Form--”
I.T. stumbled out of the way as Alexander and Red launched a barrage of various elemental spells at Too-Dee’s crumpled form, desperate to eliminate any trace of the Troy from being able to arise as its true self. They did not cease until a full minute had passed, slightly winded from their vigorous endeavor as they looked upon their handiwork: a pile of ash where Too-Dee once lay. “I… really didn’t like having to do that,”
Alexander confessed between pants, “but… at least… Too-Dee won’t have to--”“You make it sound like it’s over,”
Alexander sighed in response. “Knowing my luck… yeah, I think you have a point.”
What occurred next played out almost like a scene from a Slasher flick: the group recoiled and shrieked in terror as they witnessed a single, stick figure-like arm suddenly burst out from within the ash pile, its clawed fingers curled around what looked like a sketchy, cut-out version of Alister’s pocket watch. A deranged, high-pitched cackling echoed from the pile as the pocket watch began to transform (or rather, crumple itself up) into a form reminiscent of a Grief Seed, before a darkly technicolored mass erupted from the ash pile, knocking the group backwards and off their feet. Out of this dark mass a figure arose, adorned in heavy, ornate armor that was jagged at the shoulders and sides of the helmet, and gripped in its hand was a two-ended trident, with two prongs on each end. The aforementioned helmet hid the figure’s face (unless, of course, it was
its face), but the group could tell that it was now staring them down with contempt and malice.“I commend your effort to be rid of me before my proper reawakening,”
the Witch addressed the group before him, his Alister-like voice echoing from within his helmet, “however much for naught it may have been. Now, though, you shall all face the might of Gaius, High Knight of LERNA and Witch of Second Chances.”“It was worth a try,”
Red sighed wearily.“So much for sequence breaking,”
Alexander joined in sighing.“... mine’s better,”
Aligore scoffed at Gaius’ weapon.“Of all things, that’s what you choose to address, dude?”
Ratchet retorted.“Why not?”
Gaius condescendingly laughed at Aligore. “Now now, Your Highness, don’t you recall? It’s not the weapon that matters, but how you use it! And you shall all soon see how I use all at my disposal to dispose of you--!”
“Oh, zip it,” I.T. snapped, completely done with this whole debacle. “Aligore, you assist the others in fighting the Witch while I provide support from the sidelines. I’m sure I need not remind you all to be quick about this, either,” he added as he placed his glasses back on. “TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE, AFTER ALL.”(♫ “Fight Against Gaius” ♫ / “NEW T.A.”, New Danganronpa V3)“Come to me!”
Gaius called out as he snapped his fingers, conjuring a trio of faceless, Too-Dee-like Troys to his side, each armed with a spear in hand.“Not sure what you hope to accomplish with those things, but suit yourself!”
Ratchet taunted as he lobbed an Incendiary Grenade at Gaius. To the young lombax’s surprise and irritation, one of Gaius’ Troys jumped in the way of the Grenade’s trajectory, getting itself blown up and reduced to ashes, the Familiar having served its purpose of aiding its master. “Oh great, lemme guess--”
“--the Troys will be taking hits for Gaius while there is even one still active,” I.T. chimed in. “To have a chance at getting to him, you must first either destroy them, or knock them down with a critical hit or by exploiting their weakness.”“And you didn’t bother telling us this beforehand WHY?!”
“You need to press “L1” for my analysis,” I.T. answered flatly.“HOW IN THE HELL--?!”“Nevermind that, Ratchet,”
Alexander interjected. “I.T., would you analyze one of the Troy for us?”
“Certainly,” I.T. complied, his eyes flashing green as he focused his gaze on one of the Troy. “... weak against Electric attacks. Remember to make use of that… oh, and you’ll be able to chain a second attack if you Down an enemy or hit an enemy’s weakness.”“Again, something that would’ve been nice to know AHEAD OF TIME!”
Ratchet chided.“Still, it helps,”
Alexander nodded as he gestured the shape of a lightning bolt with a rapier in his hand. “Thundaga!”
Several bolts of lightning fell from above, striking not just one Troy, but every (remaining) Troy at the same time. Annoyingly, the two Troys still managed to block the attack from hitting Gaius, but nonetheless, they were Downed for the turn, much to Gaius’ own displeasure. “Okay, the pawns are gone, now we move in for the king, right?”
Red (one of nature’s natural sandbox and free-roaming players) figured.
“The pawns won’t be able to protect him for the moment, so yes, Red,” I.T. confirmed, “the King is now yours to “crown”.”“Splendid~”
Red purred with mirthful glee. “Now, anything we should know about before proceeding? I’m “pressing L1”, by the way, if that needed clarifying.”
“Gaius has no weaknesses, if that’s what you were hoping to know,” I.T. replied. “Although he does has a resistance against Gun attacks. Yes, that is despite having no armor around his chest. Ironic, is it not?”“Well, that resistance has no effect on me, then,”
Red shrugged.“Actually, Red, I do believe it’s still my turn,”
Alexander interjected matter-of-fact, “but don’t worry, I’m not about to steal your thunder. In fact, I’m about to boost all our thunder!”
Waving and flicking his rapier through the air like a baton, Alexander conducted an unseen orchestra to perform the “Army’s March”, boosting the entire team’s attack power for the next three turns.“Well, you certainly don’t skip a BEAT, do you Alex?”
Red quipped as he cast a multi-hit Shock Spell, striking Gaius and his Downed Troys simultaneously, the Familiars disintegrating with a collective gargled shriek. “And now you’ve lost your meatshields, Gaius,”
the Dragon Elder taunted, much to the Witch’s irritance.“My turn, now,”
Aligore declared as he accessed his Menu:
[ FIGHT] [❤️ ACT] [ ITEM] [ MERCY]
* CHECK * BURN
* TEA TIME * RALLY
* FUSION ❤️ SPECIAL
A fire ignited within the palm of Aligore’s right hand, which the General King raised high above his head. “Embers waltz like windswept blossoms…!” he recited as he snapped the fingers of his raised hand. A second later, Gaius was assaulted by a fiery energy that erupted before him like a flower in bloom, leaving a cascade of petal-like embers surrounding his area that would inflict damage to Gaius (and any Troys he may summon again) after every action they take for the next three turns.
With the Rescue Team’s turns done, it was now Gaius’ time for payback; he began by summoning forth four new Troys to fight by his side and/or be his meatshields. He then took a second turn immediately afterwards (“Hey…!” Ratchet protested) to boost his group’s Defense with Grief Seed Shell (Marakukaja). And then proceeded to take a third turn (“EXCUSE YOU!!!” Ratchet protested harder) in order to throw his trident, Comet Strike-style, at Ratchet. The trident’s shaft bounced off the top of the lombax’s head, disorienting him and dealing a decent amount of damage, but otherwise Ratchet was relatively fine. Due to having taken 3 turns, however, Gaius had taken some additional burn damage from Aligore’s “Waltzing Windswept Ember Blossoms”. (“... seriously? That’s the name you come up with?” Red cheekily scoffed at Aligore, making the General King blush with embarrassment.)
The four Troys, collectively, made their own attacks at once (mostly to save time writing the damned sequence): two of them threw their spears at the Group, damaging Red and Ratchet (the former having the spear bounce of his scales, the latter getting grazed), one dealing a Bufula attack against Alexander (yet not having much effect on him), and the last one… just lollygagging.
“... okay, show of hands,” Ratchet chimed in as he raised his own hand. “Who else here thinks that we can do this fight with the turn-based nonsense?”
“I agree,” Clank replied, raising his arm. “This is already proving to be a waste of time.”
“Same here, admittedly,” Alexander responded likewise.
“Aye,” Red sighed.
“... the Alister in me agrees,” Aligore said almost relentingly.
“I also concur,” I.T. replied.
“We’re not even part of this fight, and we agree,” Zayon chimed in as he and Moony both raised their hands.
“... … … …” Though Gaius was eerily silent at first, the group could help but find it amusing when even he and his Troys raised their hands.
“Then it’s unanimous,” I.T. declared as he tapped a few symbols on his control panel, “we will disengage the Turn-Based Combat aspect of this fight. Proceed as normal.”
No longer restricted to turns, the combatants got to work immediately, with Aligore deflecting the barrage of spears thrown by the Troys with his Trident Wrench, Ratchet having his own WrenchGun blasts deflected by Gaius’s own trident, and Alex and Red hanging back and preparing Spells to support the Team and deal with the Troys, respectively.