Forum of the Elder Gods (Grave;Cross)


Mamono Assault Force

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His question took her by surprise. "Hmm... What a fascinating question." she replied at first, before putting her left hand on her hip and her right to cup her chin. "It's true, I believe that this world revolves around the strong and powerful ruling the weak, but a mistake often made is the idea of birthright. I just don't believe in it. If I did, I'd say to rebuild my kingdom for your sake alone, but you don't strike me as remotely able to rule at all. You look far too worthless to rule." she declared. "It's a travesty to yourself and others when you put someone into power purely because of a flimsy moral or connection. But to not want or need? I do believe you mixed your words. If it's something I care about, I obviously want it. Otherwise I wouldn't care. As for what that is..." She acted like she never got asked such a sentimental question. "Most people don't care about the who or what. In my line of experience, they usually just ask... Why." she said with a wicked smirk. "I honestly do not know what I care about. It is a burning inside my very soul. It demands power. More power, and when I get it, I shall get more power. It's that simple. It's why the demons destroyed my clan, out of jealousy for my power. They were afraid of me... And Pride... A relative of sorts to your pathetic sister at this point, that Cardinal Sin is the one who staged the attack because she didn't like me making a fool out of her. I would have been just fine if the Crow didn't intervene." she spat.

"After all, I suppose THAT is what I care about. My very own Pride. I want to be honored, respected, feared, and loved. Held in the highest regards of all mortal life. I want to be proud of everything. And that includes you." she declared. "Shame disgusts me, I wish I would never have to feel ashamed of anything. You, Grave, are the beginnings of my desire to come as close as possible to a feeling of perfection. And I think you are clear on what you desire... You want to become a family. It's such a simple wish, that despite all that's happened, and you not deserving any grace from me, I shall grant it... My Son." she declared. "I will also allow that sister of yours to be apart of it, despite how much it urks me. Since I know you... Somehow ended up liking her." She shrugged with a look of confused pity on her face. "Shall we celebrate our first chance at reunion? Come, experience the honor of being able to freely hug me, it's your privilege~" she cooed, holding her arms out in welcome to embrace.
 
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Grave's eyes widened slightly as he listened. His question might have caught his mother by suprise, but in turn she caught him off-guard with her response. The outlook she presented, in the end it was shaped by her desire, a desire she admitted to honestly. It was selfish, perhaps even amoral. But she wouldn't deny that, he suspected. That was his mother: one who sought power so that when she clawed her way to the top, she'd be held in highest esteem. Pride was what drove her, it demanded she stand above everybody else and to that end she'd spare no expense. The question was... Was he in a position to judge her for that?

Unlike his mother, the young man cared little for prestige. What he wanted was a family, a place called home, a better life than what he had suffered through so far. A dream he understood poorly, but one he was feebly grasping at nonetheless. How far was he willing to go for it? Not even a week ago he declared his willingness to go through hellish training for the sake of achieving that dream using power. Would his method be any different from hers? And he was not entirely blind to his anger and desire to lash out at those that wronged him. How far would his retribution go were he in a position of power?

Grave chuckled, a crooked half-smile appearing on his face for a moment. His mother was screwed up, but then again so was he. Would it be the right thing to do, reject her and not unleash her on the world? Perhaps. But it was really late to ask that question. And for ultimately, outside of the absolute worst case scenario, whenever he thought about the future he still envisioned her as a part of his family. If nothing else, to Cynder it was proof he did not wish to let go of her. And while he doubted they'd see eye to eye on many things, their interests were the same on certain points. Perhaps this would still work out.

"I see. I think I finally get it." Grave replied after a moment of thought, moving up the stairs as he walked towards his parent. "To be honest, I don't feel like I can promise you anything, least of all the fact you'll be completely happy with the things I might do." He admitted with a shrug. "But Hell. I think we can make this work anyway. At the very least, I think our wishes might align quite well. You want to be proud of me, and I want to be able to make a home and family here. A pointless effort if I'm not strong enough to protect them." The half-blood stated, approaching her. "One way or another, I will get there, I'll promise you that much. So... Here's to family, I guess." He chuckled, accepting his mother's invitation to embrace her.
 

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Guelimjah wore a wide smile as Grave embraced her. "That is the first manly thing I've ever heard you say. You? Make a sacrifice? I'm astonished." she admitted, with a slightly mocking tone. "But, you have also damned yourself. I expect you to work hard, child. Mostly with your hips, but if you can work in other ways, that's fine too. I am happy though, you can be a good boy after all~" she cooed, hugging him tighter... As Grave had a chance to secretly enjoy having his mother's breasts rest on his shoulders as his face was buried between them. Her breasts fit the size of a mother, they were thick and large, almost as if they still had lots of milk in them. They were soft and juicy, a pleasant experience, wiggling and bouncing with any movement he made against them.

"Alas, it is time for you to return. I assume you've had your words to speak with me about? Return to the physical world, and get me my body!" she declared. Grave felt like he'd been released, able to return to his body if he concentrated.
 
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"Mh." Grave wasn't sure whether he ought to admit it, but Guelimjah's chest was very soft indeed. Softer than he expected, really, and with how closely she embraced him he got a good feel indeed. Still, he could proudly state that he pulled his face away from them to speak with only slight reluctance. "Damned if I do, damned if I don't. There's no way out of this mess for me that doesn't involve going through Hell, one way or another." He stated with a sigh. "At least if I choose my Hell, I'll be able to choose the outcome. At least to some degree." Better to confront what was in front of him than hide. That way, he could shape his future to his liking.

Still, he could soon feel that it was indeed his time to go. "Yeah, I think this'll be enough. Wasn't quite as I expected, but far from what I feared. Still, I think it's good we talked like this." Cynder nodded. "See you soon, I guess. Depends on how difficult it'll be to get Ryu to listen to the request. Hopefully she'll be in a good mood." He mused. "Later." Concentrating, Grave willed himself to go back to his body, figuring it wouldn't be that different from changing between his male and female halves. Hopefully Club hasn't woken up and tried something stupid with it. And dragged Ziah in. Which was a possibility, all things considered.
 

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"Remember to be polite, and be very lenient to the demands that she makes. We can deal with whatever horrible ideas she'll have for me after I'm revived. Do NOT disappoint me." she declared, smirking the whole while as Grave withdrew his consciousness... To find himself no longer sitting, but on his back with the ball clutched between his hands on his stomach as the familiar white panties of Envy and the ass they clung to was in his face, rubbing against him while Club's familiar weight was on his crotch. Based on their movements, they were fighting.

"Get OFF you overbearing insect!" Envy cursed.

"Club want to sleep in Gwave's lap!" said the goblin.

"He's clearly doing something! Stop acting like an infant!"

"Envy is an en-fant!" Club retorted, her fists met with Envy's hair fists.
 
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Polite and accepting of Ryu's demands? That he could do. Grave retreated back into his body only to find himself in an... Unexpected position. For one thing, it was not the position he was in when he got drawn into the ball. For another, he now had company in the form of two troublemakers. Who were, judging by what little he could see past his sister's ass and underwear, busy fighting each other. Again. And acting like children. A herd of cats would have been easier to corral into behaving, Cynder reflected with a weary sigh. Perhaps he should have relocated first before attempting to converse with his mother.

As reluctant as he was to get in the middle of a catfight, Grave had no choice. For one thing, he was literally their field of battle. For another, he had shit to do. Finally, he didn't want them fighting at all, if possible. Thus he moved - something that'd likely be overlooked by them - then took a deep breath and once an opportunity presented itself, shouted. "Will you two GET THE HELL OFF OF ME!?" A scream like that would be much harder to overlook, not to mention likely suprising enough to get them to stop. He could explain he wasn't really mad later. Just a tad annoyed. Just a tad.
 

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"UWAH!!!" the two cried in unison, flying off of him as they were startled.

Club began. "Envy started it, Club just wanted to cuddle Gwave as he stared at a ball like a dummy!"

Envy followed up, "He was interacting with it, you primordial buffoon!"

Club just laughed. "We both know Club dunno that means!" she said as if to mock Envy.

Envy looked as if she was going to keep arguing, but Club's point was so firm that Envy seemed to literally have no reply.
 
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"I was speaking with mother, thank you very much." Grave sighed, sitting up. Pair of idiots, the two of them. Endearing idiots, to be fair. Endearing idiots he had feelings for. But still, neither of them was the kind of person he ought to leave without supervision. Blinking, the half-blood decided that perhaps Ziah could be left on her own for a while if she wasn't in Club's company. Which made him realize something else. "You know, it's scary how you two always manage to play off of each other in just the right way to escalate things even further." He noted with another sigh. "Not sure what that means yet, but this is the first time I witness something like that."

Shaking his head, Cynder got off of the bed, taking care to put the ball in a safe place while he stretched for a bit before picking it back up. "Anyway. I'm gonna have to go visit Ryu now, see what can be done about the whole mess that brought us here. Hopefully she'll be in a good mood." He noted. "I think you might be able to come along, though you'll have to behave yourselves if that's the case. Best to ask Atea if that won't cause any trouble, just in case." He stated, preparing himself for the day. As soon as he was presentable, he'd head out to find their guide.
 

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Club pumped a fist. "Club love to see strong dragon lady! Club love strong things!" she declared, looking almost ready for a fight.

Envy twisted her lips. "... If the goblin goes, I do too. Someone will need to wrap up the horny little whelp, and Persephone knows you can't."

Moving out, Atea was downstairs, having a drink from what looked like a bowl, and smelled like alcohol. She shared this with a few others, namely a kitsune and a handsome man with red hair tied back into a ponytail and a long tattoo of fox tails going down his left arm, each one colored and a different color than the other, a rainbow of tails that matched the kitsune, whose hair was an ever changing, ever shifting mass of colors, much like the world itself as they traveled it. She looked as mysterious as one would expect from an actual deity. "Ah, boy. Are you ready?" Atea said when she saw him coming down. And for the first time, Grave was not looked upon with lustful eyes from a mamono. Rather, her and the man sat close together, holding hands. His tattoo seemed to symbolize her, in a great way.
 
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"As ready as I'll ever be." Grave nodded as he walked down the stairs. The pair at the table got a curious look from him. Acquaintances? Or just other guests in the inn? Either way, the redhead and his partner were quite interesting. Judging by his matching tattoo and her apparent lack of interest in the half-blood, they were either married or could be considered such for all intents and purposes. Cynder didn't mind that at all: rather, not being looked at like a chunk of meat to be devoured was a refreshing change, particularly after last night. He gave the pair a polite nod in greeting before turning his attention back to Atea. "Is it going to be a problem if I bring Club and Ziah with me? Gods know that this might be safer for this place than the alternative."
 

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Atea hummed. "As long as they do not annoy Ryu with their shenanigans, yes. It will be fine." she declared, before standing up, and saying farewell to her two table companions, who nodded in turn. The kitsune in particular nodded at Grave with a wink. "I look forward to hearing about you in the future, young man." she cooed, as if she knew a great deal about his current situation. She also spoke like someone who was well into her years, as if Grave might as well be a child in comparison. Atea then hummed. "Grave, this is Suika, and her husband, Garret. This might be your first time seeing it, but that mark on his arm is a sign of marriage. A ritual that bonds two souls together." she explained, and Suika chuckled. "It does that, and so much more~ Garret was quite disobedient when I first found him... But it was a blessing in disguise, now I'm rather significant, and marriage has done well to quell his rebellious nature." she declared. "I doubt we will meet again, but if we do... I look forward to the circumstances I will find you in~" she said with a smile. It still lacked that predatory nature that he had become used to from most mamono. Rather now, she looked like a Lord who was curious where the insignificant nothing would grow into given time. Despite her rather pleasing tone, there was no denying both how she sounded, and how it felt to interact with her. The Strong, speaking to the Weak.

Atea, small in statue, approached Grave and wrapped her arm just above his waist. "Well, let's be off now. Doesn't hurt to get to know the locals but we have things to do." she said, encouraging him out while the kitsune didn't seem to put that much more into the thought, as if she merely was content to either see Grave vanish or come back again, and neither mattered to her.

Atea walked him out of the building, before patting his side and letting go. "Best you don't bring that youthful temper around when the elders around here say such things. Manners fade with time, as do our desires to react to the lack of such. If you do ever meet her again, you'll be on far more equal footing, so best remember not to hold a grudge just because of something the grumpy old woman said." she chuckled.
 
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Grave merely blinked as he listened to Suika speak. At this point people seemingly having an idea who or what he was before he even met them was starting to cease being a novelty. It was hardly the weirdest thing to happen in this land. The details of the contract binding those two was more of a curiosity, though he wasn't certain what to think of Garret not even speaking up. Did the kitsune have him cowed somehow, or was he reading too much into this? He'd have to do some research into those marks and things like them later, just to make sure he'd not get blindsided by one in the future. Giving the pair another nod, this time as a goodbye, he allowed Atea to lead him out, mulling over this brief encounter.

As he listened to the smaller mamono explain things to him, Cynder couldn't help but frown slightly. Soon enough, however, his expression relaxed and he let out a small sigh. "Can't say I enjoy being talked down to... But can't say I can do anything about it either right now." He admitted. "I'll keep your words in mind. Though honestly, compared to how some other people used to talk to me, this is nothing." Sure, Suika was looking down on him, but not out of hatred or loathing. It was simply a matter of power, and the gap in power between them. She was powerful, he wasn't, thus it was natural she stood above him. Her attitude was not a product of malice, but of countless years she lived as a superior being. It wasn't pleasant, and if anything only reinforced his desire to become stronger, but he could deal with this. He experienced far worse.

As they made their way to their destination, Grave turned his attention back to the more immediate problem. Specifically, the two troublemakers that were trailing behind him. Or at least, hopefully trailing behind him and not getting sidetracked or diving into a mess of some kind along the way. Club and Ziah. "When we arrive, stick close to me, alright?" He asked the two. "Unless Ryu requests a private meeting or something, let's not get separated." The closer the two of them were to him, the easier it'd be to keep them calm and not raising a fuss. Hopefully.
 

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The two nodded, Envy looking a bit nervous while Club just had an ignorant grin on her face, oblivious to the situation she was in and the depth of it as she followed Grave. Atea had a serious look on her face when she turned to look at him, before pointing at the largest building in the area. "That is her lair. You're already aware but I cannot stress enough, Ryu is a kind goddess, but once she is angered, that is it. So make no mistake in your mannerisms, otherwise you are at her mercy. And so am I for bringing you here." she said harshly, before marching onwards... Into the large building and past so many unusual women that the very unique and uncommon nature of everyone around him was somehow common:

(Music Used - Moonsoul)​

The guard at the entrance gave him a sidelong glance.

Walking through the entrance wall, Grave came into a garden, where it seemed like only one spot was snowing, and that was where a draconic woman seemed to greet him from afar.

Meanwhile, a lupine girl was giving him a longing stare.

Atea seemed keen on venturing into this snowy area, and Grave didn't have to wonder why. He could feel not just one, but two immense pressures coming from the area that was snowing in a freak of nature, hitting Grave with sensations of warmth and chill at the same time in such a way that nature was clearly being toyed with. As seemed traditional of late, each powerful presence he found trumped the last, as once again, the spot of most powerful presence he ever felt just existing nearby was now dethroned and taken by another. Though unlike the others, one of the two he felt had a unique trait: He could tell beyond a shadow of a doubt that the owner was so vastly beyond him that Atea's term Goddess was more than fitting. Though, the scene he would come upon was far from godly.

"You were right, Hatter. This change of scenery was quite welcome by all. How odd that a sudden snowfall would bring such joy?" announced the deep voice of a mature woman.

"Aye, it really sets the mood for a somber yet relaxing scene. Even madness has it's ways!" declared a jovial voice.

It would come to Grave's attention that it was no throne he would approach, or grand scene of typical splendor. It was a bench, and upon it, sat another couple of very strange, unique individuals. One of whom was tipping her hand up in greeting while the other was drinking a warm beverage that smelled like hot cocoa in the frosting wind. Grave came upon an unusual sight.

"It's Atea! With more friends!" announced the one the mature voice called Hatter. "Including a rather assertive looking boy. I'd wager you have something to say, but I wonder if he had something to think before he did?" she said with a grin, her sentence and mind seemingly running in a loop.

The dragon looked up from her cocoa, and that's when he felt it. A strange power flowing from her eyes that left his knees weak. Eyes that saw more than others, with magic woven into them to see everything. Weaves moving in ways he couldn't understand or break down into the science he could with the sand Envy taught him, showing him the mountain of difference between the trained and untrained. To such degree that her weaves moved without end... As if this expended none of her power at all. He felt like she learned everything about his biology just with her glance, but not just him, Envy seemed to feel the same way, while Club just giggled and commented about how it tickled her.

"You must be Guelimjah's child, with eyes like that." the serpent woman said to Grave. "And with Guelimjah herself on your person, of all places. I had hopped she passed away." the serpent said rather coldly. Despite her usual reactions, all he felt from the orb of his mother was pure silence. As if this dragon was the one person who could wish his mother's death, and his mother would have no rebuttal.

Atea bowed before the bench, sinking to one knee, and gripped Grave's wrist rather harshly to do the same. Whether he did or didn't, he'd hear the sound of footsteps next to him, approaching the serpent. Club walked past, and walked up to the dragon, blinking, then slowly smiled, and held her hands up. "What is that? It smells really good!" Club declared. The serpent cocked her head to the side in curiosity. "You look like you've been through a lot, little goblin, to have such a deformed soul. What a miracle you are, to still possess such innocence despite the pains you have obviously gone through. What a miracle indeed." The serpent cooed, before offering her drink unconditionally. "It is cocoa. It tastes sweet and warms the body against the cold. Would you like it?" she inquired.

Club bounced and took the drink. "Yeah!" she cheered, before guzzling the drink immediately... And giving a pained reaction. "H-hot! It's hot! Aagh!" she cried. Despite being offended by the rude goblin, all Grave saw the two women do was laugh with jovial glee at the sight of the foolish creature. Envy who was also bowing, grumbled. "Idiot nearly got us all killed..." she whispered. And of all people, Envy got the dragon's ire, who looked right at her with such a hard gaze that the pressure of which made Grave's heart sink into his stomach.

"You would do well not to whisper such things on this occasion. I am enjoying myself, and I can hear your very thoughts, Cardinal Sin of Envy. I shall not have the lowest rank of Demon Lord with the most pitiful following arrive to ruin my mood. Know your place before your curse finds a successor." the serpent declared, while Envy's eyes were wide, and her iris small from fear. Her breath trembled as the serpent rose to speak to the group.

"My name is Ryu. I am The Great Serpent. My last name is my title. You have disturbed me, and you will answer for this. For what reason have you come to speak to me, and what has you possessed that it is worth my time? Speak your part, and then I will decide what becomes of you." she declared with a booming voice of authority.
 
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Grave nodded in response to Atea's warning. Well, being respectful was his plan in the first place, though if that carefree girl felt the need to warn him, then perhaps he was underestimating the seriousness of the situation. Still, he couldn't help but admire Ryu's palace a little as he followed his guide, a testament to the mamono's power and wealth. As much as he could with so many overpowering, clashing auras surrounding him. He did his best to avoid getting distracted by the avalanche of sensory input his "third eye" was picking up. Every single person in that place was a monster among monsters and untrained as he was, the young man was utterly out of his depth.

Steeling his composure, Grave followed after Atea, past the guard that quite frankly gave him creeps. She was no simple bug, and despite her odd choice of clothing for a guard he was certain she was not someone to be trifled with. He politely responded to any greetings that were directed towards him, but made no move to otherwise disturb those that were here, focusing on his destination. An odd spot in the gardens, filled with snow. As if someone decided to defy the natural order of things. And judging by the disjointed, yet overwhelming sense of power he felt from that place, they likely did so casually, as if it was a mere afterthought. The towering, titanic presence made him shiver, and it was not a feeling he enjoyed.

Despite it's plain appearance, the place where Cynder finally saw Ryu would likely remain etched in his memory in perfect clarity for years, if he lived that long. Plain bench, plain clothing, a plain mug for a hot drink. None of that mattered in the face of the absolute power she wielded and the ease with which she commanded it, as if it was as natural as breathing. When her gaze bore into him, leaving him frozen in place, it almost managed to make him completely forget about the other mamono present. It was only the presence of insanity he felt from her that made her stand out from the background as everything else in his perception faded away for a moment, until the god-like being stopped reading his whole existence like an open book. How Club managed to not feel intimidated was beyond him. Maybe she just didn't care?

Grave didn't need much coaxing from Atea to bow before Ryu, acting pretty much in unison with his guide as his rarely exercised self-preservation instincts came to the fore. He really had to fight to keep himself from openly wincing at the cold reception he got. It did not bode well for his chances of success here. Or chances of survival for that matter. As he tried to compose himself and think of a way to handle this with minimum damage, the half-blood failed to notice what Club was doing. Only once she asked about the cocoa did he realize how brazenly she acted, a realization that nearly gave him a heart attack from how high-strung he was.

Cynder's held his breath as he watched Club interact with the two mamono on the bench. It wasn't until they laughed that he finally released it in relief. Most likely the two realized Club meant no offense: it was just the kind of person she was. Still, those remarks of Ryu stuck with him. Was she referring to the whole doppelganger mess? Or was Club hiding some serious skeletons in her closet? She never mentioned any personal demons to him that weren't related to their relationship. Should he leave it be? Should he pry? Did he even have a right to do that? Probably not. Still, it was another thing to consider. At the very least, he had to admit he could treat her better. He wasn't a very good lover to... Anyone, really.

Given his running thoughts and several near breaks, Grave couldn't help but understand why Ziah said what she did. Unfortunately, Ryu seemed nowhere near as forgiving: apparently whatever good will she had extended only towards one member of their group. Her threat made his fears return twice as strong, yet despite that he had to fight down an impulse to put himself between his sister and the woman when she uttered it. An act of utter madness and hostility, one she likely wouldn't forgive easily, and it was only the knowledge of his utter powerlessness in face of that threat that kept him in place. Given the extent of his ability, the best he could do was be as polite as he could and not act out of place. He could do nothing to hinder Ryu, but perhaps he could soothe her temper at least a bit.

As the ruler of this place declared her name and demanded they spoke, Grave braced himself. The floor was his, and given the nature of his request he was likely tap-dancing blindly between spike pits. Still, he came this far. All he could do now is be honest. "Lady Ryu." He spoke once she was done, keeping his tone respectful and maintaining his bow. "We've come here to humbly request your aid. As you've said, I am Guelimjah's son, Grave Cynder. And I came here hoping you'd be willing to produce a corporeal body for my mother." Fat chance of that happening if the hostility really ran at homicidal levels. But... Perhaps it didn't? Aside of threats, Ryu had yet to show any other signs of lethal intent. "I've been told that you are the only being capable of bringing her back whole." He bowed his head even lower. "I apologize for this brazen request and my sister's conduct, but... Please help me restore my family."
 

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Grave was the one to speak, and Atea seemed to freeze up a bit at his direct approach. Ryu was cold and radiating authority and power, until he mentioned his mother's name. Her eyes widened, and she looked at Grave as if he were insane. Or perhaps mentally challenged. Her left eye squinted, and her brow furrowed in detest. "Guelimjah? Your family? You desire me to restore that megalomaniac to reality?" she questioned with an appalled tone. "I refuse. In fact, I'm insulted! All the people she has killed, all the issues she has caused, I ought to render you infertile to ensure her bloodline is erased from existence!" she roared. "Are you so foolish that you think such a heartfelt request will make it any less insane? Or perhaps you're just an idiot being strung along by her sociopathic ways. Either way, I refuse. And I'm astonished that you, Atea, of all people, would bring these unwanted birth children before me to beg the revival of that ancient evil!" she criticized Atea, before directing her massive claw at Grave, so large that it looked easily capable of wrapping around his entire head and crushing it. "In fact, this is a good opportunity to ensure good riddance of bad rubbish. I can tell by the look in your eyes, you will seek her revival beyond my help. I will not allow you." Her claw gripped his face, and picked Grave up to his feet.

(Music Used - Old World)​

Ryu seemed to regard Grave as if he carried every sin his mother ever committed, and worse yet, as her ally. "I'm going to crush the remains of her soul, and then I'm going to castrate you, Grave Cynder. You Son of an Abomination!" she said with pure hatred.

"You will NOT harm my child!" a voice echoed through the weaves of the air, a sound resonating in Grave's mind that his ears were oblivious to, before a spark of weaves forced Ryu's claw free of Grave's face, which had painful puncture marks were her claws easily sank into flesh. Then, as Ryu went to weave, thousands of threads locked with her as Atea stepped forth, protecting Grave. "Die with him if you're going to defy me, Atea!" she scorned. While Atea wore a sad expression. "Defy you? I serve Fate before you, and I had hoped you would listen and not hold grudges, but you're still a dragon through and through. Grave, it's Fate's will that you live. I do not know what purpose you will serve, but the Crow has deemed things to be this way. Make your choice, boy." she declared, but had no intention on making that choice obvious. Then, the battle of threads that had the two staring at one another came through, and Ryu sent forth a crude wave of forth that blasted Atea backwards to slide through the snow. Immediately, she slithered forth at Grave with malicious intent. Her eyes locked onto his, as if seething for the end of his mother's legacy.

In defense, Club and Envy both attacked at once as Ryu lifted her powerful arms. Mighty fist and blond blades of hair impacted the armor of the elder dragon, but Grave only saw sparks fly off the solid case of Ryu's body. Still, they managed to stall her. As this occurred, Grave immediately began to feel his mother's energy pour into him, lifting the suffocating aura of Ryu that made his body so heavy. "I'm giving you everything I've got left, child. There is no escaping from Ryu when she is like this. If she will not do as I wish, then you must make her bow! We are both likely going to die, but you must do everything in your power to survive. Even if I fade away, you must live, my child. Carry on my legacy, beginning with the defeat of this dragon!"

Ryu was increasingly furious as she picked herself up using her serpent tail, towering over them as the pressure intensified, all manner of weaving going on that Grave's eyes couldn't keep up with. "Stand aside, my beloved people." she ordered to all the powerful mamono looking to bring ruin upon Grave and his company. "It is my fault that this boy did not die when I had the opportunity to pluck his head from his infantile shoulders." she declared.

"Die, you wretched orphans!"​
 
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"...Ah balls." Grave couldn't help but quietly summarize his opinion of the situation, wincing slightly as he felt drops of blood flow down his face from where Ryu's claws had broken his skin. He had assumed that perhaps the enmity was not that utterly horrible and went with an honest approach since he figured Ryu would detect any attempts at manipulation, lying or omission. Instead, he got... That. The first sign that shit was about to go horribly wrong were the changes in Ryu's expression and Atea's stiff posture. The words that came next merely confirmed the hunch. An oddly detached part of him wondered just what kind of history did these two have, to make the dragon react like that. The rest of him, however, was preoccupied with trying to figure out how to not die horribly.

As he felt his mother's power fill him, Cynder managed to find the strength to stand up and face his enemy, long dormant habits from his combat training awakening with a vengeance as he instantly assessed the situation. Atea, for whatever reason, was on his side. He had no idea why he of all the Chosen appeared to be so important to Cynthia - and he'd probably have to have a long talk with her someday if he survived this - but it still worked out in his favor. Kinda. At the very least, she and the others were able to stall the dragon long enough to give him precious seconds to prepare. And observe his opponent, too. From the looks of it, Ryu was simply relying on her overwhelming power to steamroll through the opposition while gunning for him first and foremost. Not like she needed much else, but if she maintained that pattern, then perhaps he could find a way to exploit that.

Of course, first he had to find a way to fight against her. Cynder knew he could not hope to match her using raw power: neither he nor his mother had enough juice, to put it simply. Even Club's insane punches did jack-shit. He could not hope to match her in speed and skill either, not at spellcasting at least. Her weaving was too rapid and too complex for him to follow properly. She'd see through his illusions in an instant, break whatever he managed to conjure as if his spells were nothing and his fire blasts would be useless. And he couldn't use raw magic force well enough to make it into a proper weapon, the incident with the cloth spirits proved that much. And being a dragon, Ryu was physically superior as well. He could not hope to match or outdo his opponent in whatever area she chose to engage him. And these were not the only issues.

Aside of the problem of fighting an enemy that was completely beyond him, Grave had to deal with the fact he was in the very seat of her power, surrounded by her loyal subjects. Going for the kill would end badly for him even if he somehow pulled it off: he'd get mobbed and torn to pieces in the aftermath. His best bet for dealing with that would be to end the battle in a way that left them unwilling to pursue vengeance. In all likelyhood, this meant he'd have to get their leader to stand down, surrender or drop the hostility, maybe even break her will to fight. Somehow. While not dying. And he'd really like to achieve that without his mother draining herself dry, too. That was not an ending to this situation that he wanted. Not after finally managing to find some common ground with her.

Bracing herself, Grave drew his sword. He had little doubt the blade wouldn't be able to contain all that magic Ryu was throwing around or penetrate her hide, but that was not why he reached for his weapon. He was being fed enough power to, hopefully, let him keep up with the raging mamono for a bit. Admittedly, he could do very little to inconvenience her, much less fight back. He could forget about outdoing her... Which left him with only one option. Namely, to rely on what was his strongest suit, his skills at swordplay, to try and manage his opponent for long enough to find a way to achieve victory. And maybe figure out what kind of choice Atea expected him to make here. For some reason, those words filled him with a sense of foreboding.

Blade in hand, Cynder assumed a defensive stance as he stared back at his foe. He couldn't strike Ryu down, trying to do so was pointless. He could not block her either, she'd simply overpower and crush him... But perhaps he could engage her by not taking the brunt of her assault directly head on. Taking a deep breath, Grave steadied himself. Reaching within his soul, he took his own power and the power his mother offered to him, channeling it through his body and sword. He didn't know how physical enhancement worked, but he figured that if he took the principles behind the combat forms he was taught by his old man and applied them to the threads flowing through him, making their flow mimic his breathing, follow his movements and replicate all the details of his techniques as he physically performed them, perhaps he could make this work. Upgrade his combat prowess with a supernatural component, improve his physical ability and grant his attacks and defense a magical nature. And if it worked as he hoped, he wouldn't even need to figure out new skills to pull it off too, just use the ones he already had had pounded into him in a new way.

Of course, not just his body was being given this treatment. The training he had gone through taught him to treat the sword as an extension of himself and Cynder was not going to forget that rule now. The weave of magic flowing from his body to the sword and back as if it were another part of him. Keeping his weapon in tune with himself, Grave braced for the inevitable clash. He would not push himself to match Ryu's power. Instead, he would fight defensively, using his training and every single scrap of magic power available to hone his senses, reflexes and movements, going for efficiency and fluid motion, trimming wasteful steps and slashes. Sword forms were designed to perform as many attacks and defenses as quickly and effectively as possible, one after another, and while he was still a bit rusty as he didn't train much after becoming a vagabond, the half-blood was pushed into a corner. He'd bring out absolutely everything he had for the sake of surviving this. And he'd parry the everloving shit out of everything Ryu threw at him.

Parrying, parrying, parrying. That was the cornerstone of the strategy Grave hoped to use, that and dodging. Use the power he was granted and combine it with his training to deflect the main force of Ryu's attacks away from him and dodge whatever couldn't be parried, using wind magic or physical enhancement - if it worked - to increase his mobility as needed. Hell, he could potentially even manouver in mid-air by timing the wind bursts well enough if need be. Just parry as much as he could and don't let the dragon push him back, don't let her hold the initiative and pressure him into oblivion. He needed to hold his ground here. Not by blocking her unstoppable strikes head-on, but by letting them blow past him. He had to be like a blade of grass in a tempest, moving with the wind and not breaking. And he needed to be efficient with his energy reserves to last long enough to either find an opening or give one of the others a chance to do so.
 

Mamono Assault Force

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Focusing on his weaves, his teachings, and the things he had learned, he found that there was something familiar about what he was doing. Club's weaves through her body that empowered her so much were so similar to what he was trying to do. Doing as he saw, Grave was able to get a taste of that power the goblin was able to use so effortlessly and without even knowing how to weave. All the time spent around her gave him countless observations to seeing those weaves, and of all times to mimic it, he perhaps chose the best. Then, his mother's voice came to him. "Listen to me, boy. If there is any point which Ryu can be defeated, it's right now, in her own home. She will not destroy the home of her people, so she will be holding back. Use the terrain to your advantage." she said quickly. Though, through all the mental talk he gave himself, the Ryu was upon him in an instant, slithering up to him in powerful and quick motions, before outright throwing her right claw at him. All he could sense coming his way was instant death. His sword rose, and Ryu gripped it... And with an intense frown, she filled it with her own weaves and scattered them in an instant as Grave was blinded by his sword suddenly shattering into a million pieces of dust. Though just as he was about to be possibly struck down, Club and Envy rushed in. Envy's hair wrapping around Ryu and Club diving in to kick Ryu's arm away, managing enough force to blow her arm away from touching Grave. Ryu suddenly gripped the hair, making Envy cry out as she tore the hair from her body with a powerful gesture, and used Envy's body like a flail to slam into Club and send them both flying.

Just then, Atea reappeared, holding both hands outwards to release a stockpile of weaves in the form of what seemed to be a pure concentrated energy blast that was released with a deep BOOM that deafened Grave's ears. As if it was fired from a cannon. It was blocked by Ryu's arm, who winced a moment. "Atea!" she growled as her green scales seemed impervious to damage. All Atea's attack seemed to do was force Ryu to block.
 
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Grave blinked, clearing his eyes before leaping back, taking care not to interrupt his enhancement. Between his training and Club's example, he had a decent idea of how to use his magic to enhance his physical abilities and he was now using it to create some distance between himself and Ryu, both to quickly assess the layout of the battlefield and come up with his next move. Though seeing Envy and Club get beaten around like that made him wince, he resisted the urge to rush in or use fire in retaliation. He needed to fight smart. Thankfully, as long as he stayed around places the dragon wouldn't want to damage or destroy, she'd not use her full power to attack him. That was perhaps the only silver lining to this whole mess.

The biggest problem the half-blood was facing at the moment, however, was his lack of a weapon. The ringing in his ears would clear and the dust from his broken sword could be wiped away, not to mention with how much power she had he could track Ryu with his third eye. However, he simply couldn't fight her bare-handed. Conjuring a weapon could help, but he couldn't simply make just anything. Still, there was something at the back of his head that made him think. He recalled the times he saw Roy fight, and while the neo-woman was an archer, the way she seemed to somehow turn her magic into a weapon of great power seemed worth copying, even if he didn't fully understand the principles behind the technique. He was already following Club's example, what was the harm in one more mimicry?

Re-establishing his stance, Grave focused. Keeping up his weaving, he once more called upon his swordsmanship to guide his spellwork. Perhaps his old man had known more than he let on, considering how easily the skills he taught were applied to magecraft. Cynder would bet on that, using them to guide his weaves as he tapped deep into his soul, calling forth a weapon. A sword born from his experience, training, nature and the instict that urged him to fight, a blade brought out straight from his soul. Though if Ryu charged him first, he'd have to delay her. Melting the snow under her to form slippery puddles, summoning rocks and hurdles beneath her to throw off her footing just as she moved and force her to waste precious second on changing directions, conjuring a cloth right in her face to throw her off, or even splashing some sleet in her eyes. Anything to delay her while he re-armed and established which parts of the combat field looked useful for either slowing down or inconveniencing his opponent. Or keeping her from going all out to avoid collateral damage.
 

Mamono Assault Force

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Grave spent his time weaving up a long winded ability, turning his soul into a living weapon. Atea meanwhile, was using massive amounts of energy to strike at Ryu with pure power. Atea's attack held Ryu there, borrowing time for Grave, before Ryu finally used some of her own weaves to reply in kind, relaying a blast that hit Atea's own and sent it right back at the small zippangu goddess. It went right through Atea, engulfing her and leaving nothing in it's wake, passing through Atea as Ryu stopped it quickly to avoid structural damage. When the light faded, Atea was no longer there. As if she had been evaporated by Ryu's power.

That was when she turned her sights to Grave, and began her steady approach, her own weaves gathering around her. The ground thawed, and she sprouted her wings to fly. A rock lifted into her way, and turned to rubble as she smashed through, turning it to dust. When he had finally created his sword, she was then looming over him on her serpent tail. The sun behind her so all he could see was her shadowy figure and her glowing, golden eyes. "Grave Cynder, son of Guelimjah. Surrender, and I will only take your life. You are all that remains of her legacy, and you are the only one who needs to die. Or do you wish for me to kill your friends as well?" she inquired, ever looming.
 
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Grave's eyes widened as he saw Atea disappear. Was she dead? He couldn't see the body anywhere... He just couldn't tell. All he could do is try to glance around with his third eye and hope to spot her magic somewhere, but she could be laying low or blasted away, so he had no real way of telling. Gritting his teeth, the half-blood gripped his freshly manifested sword tightly as he turned to confront the dragon, anger welling up in him. No more delaying. It was time to challenge this beast, one way or another.

"I refuse." The half-blood spat, feeling his blood boil with a mix of fear, rising battle excitement increasing growing wrath. "I am not my mother. Whatever she did, I don't think I deserve to die for it. Especially to someone so blinded by their rage they'll just lash out at anybody even faintly related to soothe their bruised ego." A provocation likely wasn't wise, but she was pissed and wanted him dead anyway. Better keep her attention on him and not thinking too straight. "That's what it is, isn't it? You're so hung up on the past, you can't accept whatever happened. Even you should realize killing me changes none of that. You're just making yourself feel better."

Without any further warning, Grave rushed forward. He went for a bit longer speech mostly to cover up that he was focusing energy again to release a controlled burst of force. Not to strike Ryu, but to propel himself forward, adding extra speed to the physical enhancement he was already using to dive beneath the looming monster, leaping over her tail if it swung to meet him, then spin around. Focusing power through his newly created sword, he made a two-handed slash, shaping the magic to match the edge of the weapon and become as if an extension of it, a blade of force cutting things further than the weapon's reach aimed at the dragon's back. With that done, he'd retreat again, seeking to draw Ryu into tight places where her bulk would work against her. Playing keep-away while hitting her with strikes to both test her defenses and get her attention.
 
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