A Nightmare in Tokyo Part Two


The Dreamstalker returns, in search of new victims.

Date: 2016-05-14
Pose Count: 44
Fiore 2016-05-14 23:18:02 41464
It's a lovely spring afternoon, school has just let out for the weekend, and the only things more enticing than the balmy weather and sunny skies are the unbeatable bargains at the Masato Sanjouin Department Store!

(The complaints of nausea and fatigue after buying anything have decreased by 75% since February, they are proud to say.)

Not everyone is an outdoor person, even in the beauty of spring, and thus the mall finds itself quite well-populated this Saturday. Families bustle in and out of stores that boast outrageous sales, girls and boys both flock to the various clothing outlets, all of which stock bizarrely high-end fashion for a department store. By far the most crowded, however, is the central food court -- for what can draw the stressed teenager like the offer of good junk food and a place to hang out with friends?

Only those with a sense for magic will feel the familiar itch of discomfort as they look across the tables full of students. Slumped shoulders and half-lidded eyes are not a rare sight here, but in this sea of faces, there are so many...something is clearly wrong.

Those without magic will learn of this wrongness soon enough, for somewhere between the paranoid, twitchy glances of the students and the general rumble of the crowds, the artificial light of the food court splits and gives way to a black, moonless night, dead trees springing from the tile and twisting into being where chairs and tables used to be.

Someone screams in the distance, one of the bleary-eyed students bolts, and the crowd of dozens scatters as surely as rabbits turned loose from their warren. Too many for a single hunter -- but that is no trouble.

He only needs one to claim victory today.
Hinote Kagari 2016-05-14 23:33:34 41465
Hinote Kagari has invited Runealy Waldia out for a little run around because sometimes you just gotta grab your friends and burn away stress with the glory that is 'stuffing your face with the cheapest of junk junkity junk'. In this case, it meant going to a food court in a mall and finding the fast food place.

Also, he wanted to talk about things. He was waiting in the line slightly ahead of Runealy. "So.." he says. "I think we need to kind of find that girl again. Somethings wrong. Considering something like a demon came after, she might be being chased." he frowns. "I hope we can figure that out." he says as he rubs a hand across the back of his head.

"Oh. Right. Um. I helped Akashimaru the other day." he says. "She's having to deal with something called a-- dream hunter? dream eater? Right now. I offered to help. So. If there's any problems.. she'll call." he says. "And-- if I have questions, I know how to contact her. The thing, seems to make some sort of...."

Then the world begins to twist. The lights go away. Weird dead tress spring up... "...weird... dead...tree....forest....." a pause. "Like this one." he says. He frowns as he sort of tenses his right fist, the one with his relic bracelet on. He utters his transformation phrase. "To protect justice, I am Guardian Hino."

Armor. Cape. Sword. Rapid succession. No fanfiful flourish. He doesn't need to tell Runealy to get ready. It's pretty obvious.

Then he brandishes!----

His Phone!---

Text! Seishi and Hokuto: 'I think this thing might had just appeared at the Sanjouin Mall. I have Rune with me.'
Runealy Waldia 2016-05-14 23:43:07 41466
Rune was actually quite interested in this mall visit Hinote asked her along for, planning to check out local fashions after the food court visit... but she will not get that far. Not with crowds acting odd, then screaming. Her first guess is "...a Witch?", though this is quickly proven wrong.

Hinote has other topics to bring up quickly. "I've been looking for her, but no luck so far. And... Akashimaru?" Of course Rune remembers her, thoughts immediately flashing to how the dream-protecting samurai has done so much for their homeworld. "She told me a little about those. We'll have to help with that, no question about it!"

The topic is dropped after that, as she sees the same problems her friend and knight does. "Summoning Princess' Tiara!" Jeweled headwear appears in one hand, "The Line of Succession..." It's passed to the other, which brings it to her head in the same motion. "Transform!"

A flash of red light engulfs her, and when it fades Runealy is in full magical garb and wand ready in hand. "It's a little hard to see like this, but... I'm going to get upstairs and see if that helps. I'll back you up!"

Her boot wings light up, their silvery glow hurling her over a handrail and on to the second floor. The princess is tense, looking every which way to figure out where the threat may be coming from.
Seishi Tamashige 2016-05-14 23:47:13 41467
The really dumb thing is, Seishi only suggested this as a place she and Hokuto could meet because the burger joint here is really good. "Seriously," she's saying as the two of them stand in line, "you'd think a mall food court would just have cheap chain restaurants, but they make the burgers fresh here and everything. And they have vanilla Coke!" Glancing back to the other girl, she cracks a wry smile. "My one weakness."

Strictly speaking, she'd contacted Hokuto to fill her in more on the Eater of Dreams and the plans she and Shiori had concocted for dealing with the dream-stalker. But that, she'd decided resolutely, could at least wait until they had their food--

Too bad the enemy had other plans.

Seishi snaps to sudden alert as the nightmare forest overruns the mall and the screaming starts. She's barely had a chance to do more than swear under her breath and begin reaching up when her phone buzzes in her pocket. "Oh for - if that's my father, I swear..."

Now is not the time to be checking her texts, but through the gloom of the dark forest, the light of Runealy's transformation shines like a beacon. With no further hesitation, Seishi reaches to yank the red ribbon from her hair: "Twist the cord of fate!"

The red cord moves around her, and in the next instant it's Akashimaru who raises her voice to call out across what had been the mall food court. "Princess!"
Ariel Theodore 2016-05-14 23:50:03 41468
    Good junk food and a place to be with friends. These are all enticingly well and good, but there is one girl who has a problem. Okay the truth of the matter is Ariel has multiple problems at the moment. The tiny fifth grader, for one, lacks cash. It is one of many problems shared by Tokyo's secret park-dwelling unicorn population- of which she is probably the only one; or one of a very small few; if there are others hiding out there that she is unaware of. Her stomach does not so much growl as it makes a soft noise of concerned reminder to feed, as the child stares forlornly with golden topaz eyes at a chocolate bar through a glass case. The little foreign girl is probably getting many stares for this reason.
    Or perhaps it could be the absolutely gigantic dog, that followed her into the department store, in spite of any rules that may be in place. Ariel rather dislikes lying directly but the truth is, at this point... Lucky practically IS a service dog, due to... Her other problem.
    The child looks weary-- no she looks haggard; utterly destroyed and near dead on her feet to the point that she has one arm around the hound's neck to keep herself steady.
    Her grades have been suffering. Her ability to be social with her peers took a blow. She's turned somewhat reticent.
    Because she has not slept well in two weeks.
    Even denizens born of dreams need their rest, she is no different. And she almost completely misses the slight twinge of that wrong feeling hanging in the air, her thoughts singularly focused on the chocolate bar so close and yet so far from her reach. But then, as though having heard a bang or some shatter of glass, she bolts upright, forgetting to keep up her disguise and allowing loppy ears to prick up like antennae, she goes as still as a doe, her dog beginning to growl low and throaty. Adrenaline kicks in instantly as the mall is replaced with a terrible and dark wood at night- a nightmare dragged forth into reality.
    "O-oh... It's. It's that one again. He's back." She murmurs, without thinking.
    Reaching for the star-shaped pendant around her neck, she makes to transform. And nothing happens, because she has grapped the tab of a zipper instead. There's a long moment of nothing happening before she realizes her mistake, grabs the right accessory, and changes into her armor and true form in a silvery flare of gentle light.
Hokuto Minase 2016-05-14 23:51:25 41469
"Sure, Sempai, I'd be glad to meet you there. Sanjouin mall? Sure." Hokuto can't really call it a date. It's not like they're, oh, going for dinner and dancing and a movie, or what not. It's business. But she still dresses up nice for it, with a sharp pair of black slacks instead of her usual shorts, and a violet blouse with pink sakura petals around the trim.

And then, half an hour later, she's standing with Seishi in line at the burger stand, anticipating Oniony Beefy Goodness. "Vanilla Coke, hhmmm? I suppose I ought to try it at least once." Another convert to the joys of flavored cola!

And they were only minutes from being able to place their orders when the bad guys decide to RUIN THE DAY.

Welp. They're going to have to RUE the day, it seems!

Hokuto doesn't hesitate any more than Seishi, a pair of ofuda tossed into the air from her hand, the inked characters glowing and expanding as they flow back over her to leave her nice outfit changed into the red and white miko's garb she favors for combat.

"This. Will. Not. Stand."
Kazuo Takeba 2016-05-14 23:54:12 41470
Some things are unwritten obligations. When there is trouble, when it's widespread and subtle and hard to perceive just where it might manifest ... you protect those you owe, first. Family, for instance. Friends. After that, the most vulnerable; children, the sick. After that -- places where people gather. And if those place have connections with friends or family, well, all the better.

Which is why Kazuo Takeba is haunting a place owned by Masato Sanjouin, and hunting for signs of tampering with energy in the place. Not that anyone else sees anything but a too-tall teenager with hair cut too short and gone white too young. Someone who hasn't been drawn down by whatever is affecting the students at the table. Someone who is looking sharply around before the light changes --

Dead trees.

What the hell is with buildings and plants this week.

A subdued glow crackles across his body, and a moment later, Guardian Hino is not the only youth in a cape. Most of the others are scattering. Kunzite moves against the current, trying to see if there's something they're running from --

Until Akashimaru calls out the single word he does, and his attention is pulled sharply in her direction. Too bad he's reflexively looking for the wrong person. Though the glow haunting the Princess who's here is close enough to the colors he's thinking of...
Fiore 2016-05-15 00:30:04 41471
It isn't long before all traces of normalcy vanish, the distorted world of the Nightmare overtaking and erasing the food court from view. Princess Runealy will find that the handrail she aimed herself towards disappears as she approaches it, becoming instead the gnarled, interlocking branches of a forest canopy stripped of its leaves. There's no question about it. Something has taken them away from the reality they've known, and there is nowhere now to hide.

But there is space to run, over the brambles and thorns and in between closely grown trees. And many of the students have already done so.

The main clearing where the bulk of the food court's tables used to be is total chaos. Seishou, Seiyou, Verone, Infinity, a rainbow of plaids and blazers; male and female; elementary, middle, and high. It seems no one was spared in this mass hunt, and as many bodies cling together in well-established cliques as do run off into the darkness, trying to find some way out of the waking dream they've been caught up in. One thing the observant will note, however: those staying put, scanning the forest with terrified eyes and falling to their knees with their friends, do not bear any kind of mark upon them. This is new to them. This is frightening.

For those with the three glowing red slashes on their body, those with the tired eyes and dead expressions, this is all too familiar. And they do not waste time cowering. A growl rumbles like thunder in the clearing, and six students dash away into the night, with all the grace of prey pursued to the limits of its energy.

Ariel, one of the marked, may feel compelled to do the same. For the growling is close, and she knows its source firsthand.

Nothing makes to attack -- yet -- but those who have seen the Dreamstalker may recognize the moving shadow at the edge of their vision, darting in between trees, two flashes of red that fade in and out of sight. The hunter is here, there is no doubt.

"Boast all you like," comes a growl from the darkness. "You can't save them all."
Runealy Waldia 2016-05-15 00:51:08 41472
Rune's attention perks as Akashimaru calls out to her. "I'm here! Not sure what's going on, but Hino and I are both here!" Ariel's light gets a quick look as well, as the princess isn't sure what to make of her condition just yet... but she does remember Ariel's efforts to reach out to her in that encounter with Beryl. She's not immediately sure what to make of Kunzite, though.

She's also not ENTIRELY sure what to think of the terrain changing, other than to realize she doesn't want to land on it. Legs pumping forward, she reverses course to fall back toward Hino and join him. The princess continues to look all around, confused as she only vaguely understands what's going on... and that taunt from the dark is odd. Alarming.

She takes aim at the direction she heard it... and if, and ONLY if she can't see anyone in the way of her shot, Runealy opens fire. In such a case, she will launch a single orb from her wand; it splits apart into a wide spray of emerald magic-sparkles in mid-air! She's hoping for 'peppering' its general area, hoping for some result. Rune isn't so aggressive as to fire if this is clearly going to hurt bystanders, though.

Regardless of which, she has a quick question for Hino: "Do you know anything about this, at all?"
Hinote Kagari 2016-05-15 00:56:04 41473
Guardian Hino looks to Runealy, "Right you go----"

And then there's no upstairs. "Watch out!" he calls out. Maybe she'll land in a tree, he figures. That's how he traveled last time. She frowns. "Princess! Are you okay?" regardless, he makes sure before he turns back around and draws his sword and then----

Thrum. Three glowing clawmarks on his side he sort of winces and grabs at his side a moment. "Sonafa..." he mutters lowly. "Did that thing hitting me last time...."

....

Nrg, no time to worry about it now. People need protecting. "Boasting." he calls out. "There's a difference between boasting and calling out a fact. You will not have any of these people!" he calls out to the darkness.

He looks towards Kunzite and purses his lips, he looks over to the other more familar ones. "Akashimaru!" he calls out and then looks at Hokuto and blinks. "And--uh. I forget your name, I'm sorry, but hello again!" he calls out, He also regardles Ariel over there a moment when he nrgs.

"Okay. How do we draw tall dark and broody out?" he mutters to the others.

"Don't exactly feel like egging this guy on is gonna get us anywhere." he says as he turns around and begins towards the right somewhere near a group of tables that some people are hiding under. Stay near them. He figures. Right there, where he is.

"Someone needs to go after the runners, if I recall. I'll keep here to make sure others are safe."
Ariel Theodore 2016-05-15 01:18:10 41475
    Ariel's breath slows, as the nightmare drags itself fully into reality, replacing the mall wholesale with the dark and foreboding gloom of such treacherous woods at night. She does not realize it at first, until the small whine from her huge dog at her side helps wake her up just a bit.
    She's holding onto Lucky too tightly.
    "Mn... Sorry, Lucky." Mumbled groggily, as she fumbles to climb onto her hound's back, like a mount. But as she takes ahold of all that shaggy, glowing fur, she suddenly halts.
    The feeling is one like she had felt before only once in her life. A feeling she had hoped she would never experience again. One she had come face to face with in the cold reaches of the north pole.
    That feeling is terror.
    Gold eyes dart left and right for a moment, loppy ears pricking right up, before she goes completely still and silent. The others run. She remains locked in place like a statue, as every one of her instincts tells her to leap off her mount's back and flee into the bleak woods, but she stills herself. With shaking hands she grips Lucky's scruff tighter as she whispers a quiet litany to herself...
    "I have been hunted with bells and banners in my time... The only way to hunt me is to make the chase so wondrous that I would come near to see it..."
    This is repeated once, twice, three times before she takes a breath. She's still exhausted, but the urge to flee is briefly staved off. Knowing full well it could kick back in at any moment, she urges Lucky to bring her over to the others. Akashimaru she recognizes of course. As well as Hino AND Runealy. It matters not which she approaches, or who responds first.
    "... I... Can try and draw him out, maybe."
Seishi Tamashige 2016-05-15 01:20:41 41476
People scatter, runners taking off in multiple directions. The enemy taunts them from the darkness, a barely-seen phantom beyond the trees. Too much going on. For a moment Akashimaru looks around her, wide-eyed. "More than one...?" She had no idea that was even possible.

Dismay and confusion stall her into inactivity only for bare seconds before an indignant anger surges up to take their place. Orienting on that glint of red eyes in the darkness, she yanks the Shinken from its place tucked into her belt. "I can if I end you!" she bellows, voice ringing between the barren trees.

Chase more than one hare and you'll lose them all. That should go for the dreamstalker as well - no matter how many dreamers there are on the run, he can only chase one at a time.

...Right?

She's a heartbeat from leaping into a sprint - but at Ariel's words, she checks herself, looks toward the unicorn girl in a startled doubletake. At first, no answer comes. For the second time, Seishi hesitates, this time conflicted.

But then she nods, mouth setting into a grim line.

"All right," she says quietly. "If you think you can, we'll cover you."
Hokuto Minase 2016-05-15 01:22:36 41477
Hokuto winces. "Boasting, eh? I'll give you boasting, you little rat." She reaches behind her, unfurling the cloth that wraps her bow, and sets the string in place. "I'm sure you remember this, little rat."

She glares at wherever she sees movement in the shadows, though she notices the departure of the six runners. "Suzu."

The pixie-like shikigami comes to life, arising from her hairpin, and flits off to follow after them, hopefully to pick out the core victim.

She nocks an ofuda to her bow, and draws back the fiery arrow it becomes. "Cover you we will," she agrees, holding herself ready to fire if the beast should appear.
Kazuo Takeba 2016-05-15 01:28:27 41479
Akashimaru. That's a name that Kunzite's heard -- and the one who called for a princess. Not Moon, or he'd have heard her voice by now. Doesn't matter. She seems to know what she's doing. The tall, pale figure orients on her, silent; glances to the one she's speaking to --

All right. Yes. He doesn't know what's going on, or where they are, or what any of the symbols in play mean. But this is definitely his fight, too. He draws back toward Akashimaru and Hokuto, watching for movement in the shadows, and lifting his hands. No idea what they're fighting. But something will come, sooner or later.
Fiore 2016-05-15 02:04:46 41481
"End me?"

The reply comes from nowhere and everywhere around the clearing -- well, everywhere, it seems, except the area where Runealy fired her attack. The green orbs pepper the treeline, harmless to both friend and foe, showering sparks of light as they land and temporarily illuminating the otherwise suffocating darkness of the Nightmare. But perhaps it is not for the best: in the light, fleeting as it is, one can see the shapes molded into the bark, as though the trees sprang up and enclosed them in wood. The shapes of human faces, terrified and frozen in silent screams.

"End me?"

This time, the words are followed by a rumbling laugh, a moment of silence -- and then the sound of claws bared, fabric torn, and girls shrieking.

Standing before three girls, who all now bear the ragged mark of his handiwork, is the Dreamstalker. He locks his eyes on Akashimaru, raising his monstrous hands to lick away the blood that stains them.

"You can't."

And he's barely said this before his black form collapses on itself, roiling and reforming into three wolf-men at disparate edges of the clearing, all standing before the conspicuous tracks of the runners. They look in tandem over their shoulders, at the fighters who have gathered to disrupt the hunt, before letting out a blood-curdling howl and darting off into the night. As long as the prey believes he is inescapable -- he will be.

Hinote and Ariel will feel the wet breath of the monster against their necks, impossibly, from nothing, as well as a snarl against their ears. Run, it says. Run -- or you're next.

Meanwhile, Suzu's search has borne some fruit. The Nightmare is vast, vast enough to accomodate six hunted and dozens of bystanders, but it stems from the terror of only one. A blonde girl, perhaps twelve years old, crashes clumsily through the underbrush, the mark on her shoulder shining through even the fabric of her shirt. The air seems especially charged and real around her, the crushed brambles knitting themselves ever thicker in the path ahead.
Runealy Waldia 2016-05-15 02:13:21 41482
Rune pays close attention to what Hino has to say; he clearly knows more about this situation than she does. "I'll stay close, but... what just happened!? Nothing hit you just now that I saw, but you're...?" She saw him clutch that odd wound. Then Ariel rides over to join them, and Runealy raises an eye in doubt. "'Bait', basically? I'm okay with it, but how will you do that? I'd like to know before you go off doing it, so we can at least..."

...Akashimaru and Hokuto beat her to completing that idea, and so Rune just reinforces it with a nod; they'll keep an eye out for Ariel in that case.

She also has a quick question for Kunzite: "Who are you? Are you on our side?" Her tone isn't hostile, just cautious; she has little idea about his identity.

Then she sees the effects of her shot... she didn't achieve much, but she revealed a lot and in some ways she regrets it; the brief look provided by her sparkle-blast is rather shocking and draws a startled gasp.

The Dreamstalker's arrival jars her away from that visual, though. Splitting into three separate forms is also rather novel - in a bad way - to her. "It can transform, and make copies of itself!?" How do you deal with that?

'Try, at the very least' is the conclusion she reaches. Rune sprints off after one of the wolf-men, her wand lashing out with thin red rays every so often. Any one shot from this won't be particularly powerful, but she's able to keep up a fairly good barrage of them and hopes to use this to slow her chosen foe down. "Hino, can you keep up with me? Maybe your fire can light up this area?"
Ariel Theodore 2016-05-15 02:24:26 41485
    This is a bad idea. No this is quite possibly the worst idea Ariel has had in all her life. It could maybe even be her least, but exhausted as she is, there's no fight in the child. Even if she wasn't on the verge of total exhaustion, there would be no fight from her, she'd just try to find an alternate means to resolve the conflict. But right now, that alternate means is one, very simple option.
    She puts her utmost faith in others.
    Heavy-lidded topaz eyes lock gaze with Akashimaru. Even beat-tired, those clear eyes say more than any words. Ariel is certain everyone will pull through. At least that is her hop.
    "Okay... I'm going." She says, climbing off Lucky's back, musch to the hound's confusion. He noses at her side, as she dismisses her armor in another flash that leaves her in a light tunic. It affords her no protection in the least.
    The fact that the voice comes from everywhere does not help her in the LEAST as she takes a few hesitant steps to place herself out in the open. No cover. Nowhere to hide. Nowhere to go. And the further she distances herself from the others, the more she seems to wilt and shrink; until that hot, steamy, breath gusts against the soft, pale, skin at the nape of her neck.
    "... Bells and banners... Bells and banners..." She keeps whispering to herself. This is a bad dream. A unicorn would not run from something with no glory, and least of all, not in a bad dream, as she drops to her knees. A perfect display of helplessness. "The only way to hunt me was to make the chase so wondrous that I would come near to see it..." She whispers, her sleep-addled mind recalling what her mother had told her next, in that old fairy tale.
    And even so I was never once captured.
    Ariel falls silent and still, presenting herself as perfect and completely vulnerable prey.
Hinote Kagari 2016-05-15 02:28:17 41486
Guardian Hino sort of frowns. "That thing nicked me last time I fought it..." he mutters. "Must be something else..." he frowns a little. Why didn't he notice it last time? He has been sleeping a little restlessly recently but...

Would it get worse?

He shakes it off-- and then that thing... it's like. It's like it's /talking in his head/. Yeah okay. He'll need to talk to Seishi when this is over. Something is going wrong. Very wrong. He does his best to resist this feeling of utter dread he's dealing with now, mainly because Runealy is here. He has to help the Princess and Seishi. Right.

He raises his hands. "Right..." he says, his hand alighting in flame. He goes to throw it at the nearest tree but then--- faces. ugh.

Is it safe to light them on fire now? Surely that's just to scare, right? Nrg-- instead he just makes the own fire in his hand burn brighter. He's trying to light the area up higher as he holds his sword up with his other hand.

"I need something to light. Don't trust the trees..." he mutters to Runealy and over to Akashimaru.

"As perfect as they look. This thing made them." he spits.

He turns around to talk to the beast. "You'll have to make me leave, if that's what you desire, beast." he calls out.
Hokuto Minase 2016-05-15 02:31:34 41487
"There's no such thing as can't," Hokuto calls. She's just grown more determined than ever to end the threat of this creature. She turns briefly to meet Akashimaru's eyes, and nods. It's time to fight.

One hand holding the bow, with the ofuda-fire-arrow against the string, she makes a series of mudras with the other. "Ban, Un, Taraku, Kiriku, Aku!"

With each word the arrow glows brighter, and finally she draws it back to unleash it at one of the werewolves. "Gogyou fuuin!"

The sealing-arrow flies straight at the beast, ready to bind it in place and cut off its strength. "You say I cannot end you, wolf? I say, dawn always rises!"
Seishi Tamashige 2016-05-15 02:47:47 41489
The pale shape moving at the edge of her vision draws Akashimaru's attention long enough for her to glance Kunzite's way, and reaction flashes across her face as her her eyes focus on him. Not quite recognition, but something close, a little more uncertain - a jolt of something she doesn't have time to puzzle through just now.

The enemy has shown himself.

The sound of screams has her full attention immediately. Nor does the samurai girl stand still as the dreamstalker is licking his claws. No, even as he's taunting her, taunting them all, Akashimaru is shifting her stance. A flick of her right hand tosses the closed tessen upward for the left to snatch out of the air; freed, her fingers close on nothing a draw back a crimson bowstring where none was before. Red light flashes out from the Shinken in an arc, becomes a bow, and a heavy black arrow manifests out of thin air to settle against the string before she lets it loose--

--too late. The arrow whistles through the space where the black figure of the dreamstalker stood only a bare instant after he has separated into three.

Seishi feels the bottom drop out of her stomach as she realizes just what they are up against.

"Son of a bitch," she hisses in desperate frustration. The bow bursts into red sparks, becomes a tessen again. "They're not trees," she answers Hino without looking, snapping the Shinken open and passing it back to her main hand with swift, sharp movements. The words spill out of her, fast and agitated. "Not just trees. They're stolen dreams, and these people are next if they don't snap out of it and stop running--"

Too many targets all moving in different directions, and Ariel's vulnerable, trusting them to protect her - Akashimaru looks around her, bright eyes searching for inspiration, for something, until her gaze falls on Kunzite again.

Can't be helped. "Whatever happens, don't let him get her!" A sweep of the metal fan points toward Ariel; it's less an order than a plea. Without waiting for an answer, she gathers herself and springs, catching a branch to swing herself up to a higher vantage, keeping Ariel in sight.

The forest of stolen dreams hides the dreamstalker's victims from her sight, there's no getting above it for a clearer view, but this will have to do. Bracing both sandaled feet on the branch she's on, she draws in a breath and shouts at the top of her voice, ringing with every bit of conviction she can manage. "You're running from a nightmare!" she bellows. "It can only hurt you if you let it!"

A running figure tears through the brush between the trees a dozen yards from her perch. Akashimaru draws back her tessen, red light glinting from the metal slats of the fan. "San-kyo-sen!"

The fan sweeps out in a broad arc, and a gust of wind follows, a wind that pushes back against the nightmare and sends a flurry of incongruously pristine white napkins from the mall's food court scattering amidst the trees.
Kazuo Takeba 2016-05-15 03:03:19 41491
"Kunzite. And yes." The words he gives to answer Runealy are curt more out of necessity than intent; there's no time for involved explanations, for sorting out identities and bona fides. So he follows up that yes with evidence, lifting a hand with fingers spread. Rune's after one of the wolf-men, Hokuto launching a glowing arrow at the second; Kunzite lifts a hand, fingers spread, and a clear, bright pink energy crackles like lightning after the third figure darting away. The attack is plainly not a color that any nightmare would have anything to do with.

The attack is also not what he's focusing on; he keeps Ariel in his field of vision, keeps his other hand free, ready to call up a dome of shadow to defend her. She hasn't seen him, before. But he's seen her. And he owes it to her to try to make sure she has no reason to weep again.
Fiore 2016-05-15 03:46:56 41495
Even in dreams, shadows are shadows, and light is light -- one easily banishes the other. Hanabi's arrow, pulsing with purifying magic, and Kunzite's energy, rejecting the Nightmare's darkness with alien color and brightness, both find their targets easily and without resistance. The wolf-men collapse into the same smoky formlessness as before; obscured almost completely by distance, the silhouettes of the runners also collapse, the mark of the beast fizzling into nothing as the Dreamstalker's hold on them dissipates.

That...was easy.

Too easy?

Yes. Much too easy. Blown as if by an unseen gale, the incorporeal wolves rush in their trails of smoke past the miko and the Shitennou, engulfing them briefly in the darkness and bloodlust of the hunt, howling against their ears.

And then they are on opposite ends of the clearing again, galloping on all fours after two of the unpursued runners, utterly unworried at the loss they faced.

Hinote's fistfuls of flame light the forest well, enough for him and Runealy to see the path of the third Dreamstalker, enough to see the high school boy he was chasing after fall in an unconscious heap on the ground -- and enough to see why. Poor little Ariel's distraction has worked all too well; sitting there, defenseless, with only her mantra for protection...she makes a tempting target, even for a wolf who lives for the chase.

The Dreamstalker comes to a stop, crimson eyes turning to look at the unicorn girl dead on. He flares his nostrils at the scent of her fear. Crouches forward. Bares his fangs. Even without the magic of his mark, it is a sight to invoke the basest horror a human can experience.

Hinote's injury burns like a brand, filling his every sense with the need to run, to get away. But Ariel's instincts have long given up hope of escape -- now, her body freezes still, in the vain hope that the predator might assume an unmoving creature is a dead one. Flight or freeze. The Dreamstalker's spell does not allow his prey to fight.

Fortunately, spells can be broken.

In the corner of the Nightmare where the illusion is thickest, Akashimaru's shout echoes across the canopy, reaching the ears of the blonde girl who has run the fastest, feeding the Dreamstalker his strength with every panicked step. She slows -- turns her eyes up at the falling napkins -- comes to a stop as she spies the figure in the trees above her. What...?

"A...nightmare?" she repeats, reaching up to catch one of the curious things. "Really?" Her eyes still glisten with fear, but the tension in the air lessens a fraction, and some of the thorns along the ground twitch and retract into nothingness. This is the dreamer, that much is certain. This is the Dreamstalker's truest believer.
Hinote Kagari 2016-05-15 04:01:05 41496
Guardian Hino is glad he had the foresight to not light captured dreams on fire suddenly. Well at least light 'magical face trees' on fire without thought. That's a small penace though. That wound begins to visibly burn again. Burn it does. He winces--- because he doesn't have a free hand to grab it right now--- instead--- he calls out and spreads that fire out-- not toward's the trees- but catching those napkins that Seishi throws everywhere. They're useful. They're something to light up that are not the trees!

Then he grabs the wound. Dammit...

That overwhelming opression. it wants him to run. He doesn't want to run away. He's clearly fighting this thing as best as he can, mentally and it's really taking all his concentration and abilty. That's saying-- he's not able to do much else.

So how much more useful does that make him right now?

"T..this thing is...." is all he can mutter.

"GET OUT OF MY HEAD!" he finally calls out. Yup. That's it for now.

Runealy, or someone else, is gonna need to pickup his slack it seems!
Runealy Waldia 2016-05-15 04:07:28 41497
It hit Hino last time? Rune makes a guess, "Some kind of poison, then?" His insights on the trees are obeyed quite well: "Got it, won't get near them. The ones I saw earlier were scary enough!" That's her first reaction, but Akashimaru has some interesting information to add. Information that Rune thinks she has heard before in her own nightmares, ones of her own making... ones Akashimaru nonetheless tried to help with. "'Only if you let it...' huh... trees out of stolen dreams, so /this/ is what you were warning me about when we first met?"

It makes some sense, now. A little. It's still scary and bizarre, but at least she understands a bit of it. Kunzite's confirmation is all the princess needs for his allegiance right now: "Alright, I'll trust that. Thank you!"

Then Hino's wound flares up again, and this startles Rune. She hurriedly looks to him, trying to figure out what's happening. "Your head? What's going on?" This causes her to break off her pursuit, opting to stick by Hino and try to figure out his problem.

Her left hand glows in a gold light, one she tries to press to Hino. It's a basic manifestation of healing energy, something she had previously lost while nearly consumed by darkness several months ago... but it appears to be back now, and she's trying to use it to help him. "Talk to me, Hino! I'm here, we'll figure this out!"
Hokuto Minase 2016-05-15 04:08:53 41498
Suzumebachi has been following the blonde ever since the little spirit picked her out of the crowd. Mostly staying hidden, like the ninja she's patterned off of (Bleach fans will note she looks an awful lot like a certain Onmitsukido Captain), now she's come into full view, hovering in front of the girl and gesturing at her with a gleaming brass blade.

"That's right, girl! Would you be seeing something like me anywhere but in a dream? And dreams can't hurt you!"

Hokuto, meanwhile, is finding her own proof that dreams most certainly can hurt. The wolf's passage leaves her shuddering and moaning in pain, clutching the bow to her gut as her entire body screams at her to run and leap and dig her claws into flesh....

No. NO. That is not who I am! I reject you, Wolf, I reject your temptations and your hunger!

She can almost feel the claws pushing through the skin of her fingertips, the ancient youkai blood stirring with the wolf's passage...

If the girl will let her, Suzumebachi perches on the blonde's shoulder. "I'll be your little knight, little lady. Tonight my blade will defend you!"

Hokuto, meanwhile, fumbles desperately for an ofuda, spilling some, then finally getting hold of one from her pouch. Her own blood smears on the paper as she draws a crude pentagram. "My... will... is the - " she cuts off with a sharp gasp, her inner struggle wavering, then continues - "is the stronger!"

The ofuda is pressed to her chest, directly above her heart, and she slumps to her knees... sweat-soaked and trembling, but her soul is her own.
Seishi Tamashige 2016-05-15 04:17:49 41499
From her vantage amidst the branches, Akashimaru can barely see more than a suggestion of the blonde girl through the shadows and the obscuring tangle of trees and thorns. That voice reaches her ears all the same, though, and she calls back at full voice, encouraning, insistent.

"You can take control! Take away its power!" She can hear the cries of distress and determination from Hino and Hokuto - her allies, struggling - and when she shouts again it's for them as well. "You're not alone!"

Then she turns, snapping the tessen closed at her side and raising it over her head as she fixes her entire attention on the dark figure that's staring Ariel down with its predatory eyes. "Come," she says, "the light that shatters the darkness--"

Gathering herself, she springs from the branch to come plunging down toward the Dreamstalker, tessen trailing a crimson glow like the radiance of dawn. "--Nightmare Breaker!"
Ariel Theodore 2016-05-15 04:24:10 41500
    Ariel's instincts say many things. To flee. To run, hide. To fight back, now that she is cornered.
    She does none of these things; merely curling on herself into a small ball and waiting, as the dreamstalker looms, sapping away her will to even engage in any of those basic self preservational acts. Her breathing stills as she repeats to herself over and over in her head, that age old litany from a time long long gone. She did what she said she would do. She drew out the beast. Fighting the Dreamstalker was never her intention. Fighting was never her strong suit. This was all done for the sake of someone else having a shot at striking down the nightmare feind.
    It is a baleful howl that suddenly pierces the waking nightmare, Ariel's hound glowing to life with a brilliant starlight glow. The girl's trust is boundless, and this is why she remains right where she is, no matter what terror is forced on her, as Akashimaru strikes out, taking aim for the Dreamstalker, Lucky darts in, grabbing Ariel by the scruff to drag her aside and leave the nightmare without easy prey-- and to face down Nightmare Breaker alone.
Kazuo Takeba 2016-05-15 04:29:06 41502
That bloodlust finds a warm place in the marrow of Kunzite's bones, like the companionship of an old but vicious friend. It doesn't matter. His targets aren't his own choice; he's his prince's man, Endymion's monster, and he knows just enough about who these people are to know what his prince would have him do.

Even if the savage little smile that he's taken on is one that might stir a little more of Akashimaru's not-quite-memory, and not in a pleasant way.

It is not an attack. He's taking his cues from Akashimaru, and the thing that she attacks, she does so by dropping into battle herself; he doesn't know the patterns of her fight, and he doesn't risk her by trying to back her up. He does what she told him to do, instead.

When Lucky drags Ariel out of the way, darkness flickers and flocks around him, boiling up into a sphere that moves with the two of them; something that blocks the nightmare, but not Lucky's starlight. Something more wholesome than the twisted space around them, and that leaves no room for the Dreamstalker's own darkness or the wolf-creatures' smoke to drive into.

That 'easy prey' has any number of protectors, tonight.
Fiore 2016-05-15 05:25:38 41511
The mark of the Dreamstalker is a wound and a poison both; it is the perfect target for healing magic. Slowly, at the touch of his princess, Guardian Hino will feel the oppressive fear recede, beaten back by his will and the purifying light. The dream thief will have no more hold on him tonight -- he will neither have hold of Hanabi, who sacrificed her own blood to keep him out of her mind.

Kunzite resists and sacrifices nothing, but a beast has lived in him before, and he cannot be overcome.

Without thought, the defenders of dreams come together in note-perfect execution. Ariel's hound scoops her up just as the Dreamstalker lunges for her with open jaws -- Kunzite's shadows fence the creature in, cutting off his escape -- and the radiant beams of dawn are brought to bear on this avatar of night.

Akashimaru's strike lands truly, and with her belief and her tessen, the Nightmare is broken.

Before their eyes, the ominous scene of the forest shatters and falls apart like glass, great swaths of canopy fading into flatness before breaking against the light of reality. The Dreamstalker is not spared this; in fact, he is rent apart further, almost ground into dust by the force of her blow and scattered to the unseen wind, this time not to accost anyone with his animal nature.

But something is still wrong. Across the clearing -- the food court, it keeps shifting back and forth -- the night is still moonless and the air is still stale.

Not all Nightmares fade with the dawn.

The blonde girl stares at her hands, blind to the freedom blossoming only yards from her, her eyes misted over with terror even as the benevolent fairy whispers encouragement from her shoulder.

"...you're wrong," she says. "No one can protect me. I am alone."

Brambles twist up around her legs, digging their thorny teeth into her skin and holding her in place. The napkin, the anchor of reality, curls in on itself and blackens, until she's holding some diseased leaf fallen from the trees. Behind her, the Dreamstalker looms, twice as tall as any have ever seen him and claws outstretched for her throat--

"And I give up."

--everything is thrown into stark relief as the wolf claims his prey.

Something incorporeal and silver drips from his jaws as he gazes from Nightmare to reality, staring down the fighters who thought they had won this day. The girl lies unconscious at his feet, no visible wounds except her half-lidded, dull eyes and the scars of the mark burned into her neck. His lips twitch outward in some bestial attempt at a smile, mocking and self-satisfied.

Then, in a blink, he and his Nightmare are gone, and the dreamer dreams no more.
Seishi Tamashige 2016-05-15 05:45:14 41514
As the Nightmare goes to pieces around her, Akashimaru straightens out of the crouch of her landing still surrounded by the red sunrise glow from her weapon. For just a moment, her dark eyes blaze with a fierce satisfaction--

But the Nightmare is not over yet.

"NO!" Too late, the cry bursts from her throat. Too late, she snaps back her tessen and hurls it at the Dreamstalker; it spins through empty air, its target already gone with his stolen dreams.

"Damn it!" In the incongruous normalcy of the mall food court, the girl in the scarlet samurai garb drops to her knees, drives her fist down against the floor. "Damn it!" Heedless of what attention she might be drawing now that the mall is itself again, she roars after the vanished dream-stealer. "Wash your neck and wait, you bastard! The next time I find you, I'll have your goddamn head!"
Hinote Kagari 2016-05-15 05:46:52 41516
Guardian Hino is too busy trying to fight this thing mentally, and even worse he's /losing/ the fight. "Don't worry about me!" he spits out. "G--get on the...." and then the food court dissapears. But not because this thing was defeated- but because someone gave up.

Well. That's unpleasent and horrible and not how anyone probably wanted this particularly situation to be resolved. "Dammit..." he mutters.

He sort of blinks and--- did that thing go away. He blinks and taps where the mark was. "I'm not... what? That thing was in my head. Or something. I dunno. It's gone now." he says with a miserable sigh. "Like it was trying to get me to cower...run..." he mutters. He shakes his head and looks around. "Akashimaru! Is there a way to track these things?" he asks grimly.
Hokuto Minase 2016-05-15 05:54:03 41519
Suzumebachi flits away from the girl, her blade slashing out at nowhere in particular. Feeling her mistress' pain and panic, and the disappearance (apparently) of the spirit pursuing the girl, she turns to hurry back to Hokuto's side.

With considerable effort, the girl in miko's garb srtaightens, the spent prayer-slip falling away as she bends to pick up her bow. "Gods of Ice and Darkness," she mutters, "That hurt."

The worst part? It didn't, quite, exactly hurt. Part of her still longs for it, even while she does her best to reject it. Another slip is set against the bow's string as she stares into the girl's eyes...

"No," she whispers, her heart racing as she draws back the string. "Show yourself!"
Kazuo Takeba 2016-05-15 05:54:20 41520
Not quite all of the darkness goes away at once; it's several seconds before Kunzite is confident enough that the creature is gone, and lets the shield around Ariel and Lucky dissipate. He doesn't have answers for Hino, or solutions for Akashimaru. But he listens.
Seishi Tamashige 2016-05-15 06:16:01 41522
It takes Akashimaru a bit before she has herself under control enough to acknowledge Hino's question, and even then she's nearly shaking with the effort as she pushes herself back up onto her feet.

"Maybe." The word falls heavily; her face as she looks over to Hino is grim, and her eyes smolder with barely-contained fury. "But not right now, or from here."

Her hand closes into a fist at her side, yanks back against the red cord that's suddenly there in her grip. It brings the tessen clattering back across the floor to her hand. "He's stolen a lot of dreams. The only good news is, he hasn't passed them on to be eaten yet."

'Yet' is never a very encouraging thing to hear.
Hinote Kagari 2016-05-15 06:39:06 41526
Guardian Hino frowns as he slides his sword away a moment. He sighs and shakes his head as he rubs a hand through his hair as he frowns over to Hokuto and Kunzite. "Are you going to be okay?" he asks to Hokuto. He looks to Kunzite. "Kunzite. Was it? My name's Guardian Hino. Just Hino will work." he says. He frowns a little as he takes a deep breath.

"Right. So. Did you guys get my text, or are you here by happenstance like me and Runealy were?" he asks softly. "We came to eat, really." he says. "..and talk about this situation." he frowns.

"Don't worry. We'll help. No one's alone here." he says softly. "That isn't even a question. You need help. We're here!" he says. Though he doesn't smile.

This isn't really something to smile about.
Hokuto Minase 2016-05-15 07:09:05 41529
The monster is gone, but the girl is - unsatisfied. With an angry snarl, Hokuto whirls away from the dreamnapped girl to release her arrow into the air, where it dissipates as it finds nothing to strike.

"Blasted thing," she mutters. "Fool girl. All you had to do was hold on for one more minute...." Her fists clench, and it's only when she hears a creak of wood from the pressure on her bow that she notices it. She forces herself to relax, and slides the peachwood bow-staff back into its place on her back.

"Sempai," she asks, turning to Akashimaru. "Is there anything we an do for her? If we can truly defeat this, this thing, will she recover what was taken?"

After a moment, she finally seems to take notice of the others present, and nods to Hino. "I was just meeting Sempai for lunch," she tells him. "Hokuto Minase. Pleasure to meet you."
Kazuo Takeba 2016-05-15 07:11:33 41530
"I was here hunting trouble. But not this kind." Kunzite's answer to Hino proves, in short, that he can speak more than two syllables at a time.

He takes a moment to glance around, to be certain that the people trying to pick up the shattered wreckage of their former peace of mind are neither panicking too visibly nor so calm that the store's security is yet trying to make the little group their priority. Then his attention comes back to Hokuto, to Akashimaru.

"I owe you," he says bluntly to the woman who's never seen him before. "If you need more help with this, you have it."
Seishi Tamashige 2016-05-15 07:31:10 41532
Akashimaru breathes out, shoulders sagging. "--Just dumb luck," she agrees after Hokuto's explanation of their presence. "I didn't even get a chance to check your message."

Then she's looking back to Hokuto, dipping her head in the slightest nod. "As long as he holds the dreams he's stolen," she says, "they'll return to where they belong when he's defeated. At least, that's what I was told." A moment's pause; the corners of her mouth tighten. "If he gives them to his master, it's over. They'll be devoured."

When Kunzite speaks, her eyes snap towards him, and the look that crosses her face is the same as the one she gave him when she first noticed him here - almost-recognition, the trace of uncertainty that says she's not sure if she's seen him before or not. But the words 'I owe you' somehow click the last piece into place. "You were with Tuxedo Kamen," she says, not quite a question. "Thank you."
Hinote Kagari 2016-05-15 07:55:00 41534
Guardian Hino frowns. "We'll stop it." he says matter of factly. "I'm glad that, whatever that thing did to me seems to be gone." he says as he rubs a hand across his side. "I'm kind of getting annoyed with being controlled like that." he says with a grimace. Then Tuxedo Kamen is brought up and his eyes slide back over to Kunzite.

"Oh, you know Tuxedo Kamen!" he says. "...how is he doing I?..." he pauses. "I kind of suck at keeping up with people right now. There's some crises going on for me and my friends, and the Princess takes priority until she says otherwise." he says curtly.

"I should still text him though." he says with a soft sigh and shakes his head.
Hokuto Minase 2016-05-15 08:00:16 41535
Hokuto seems to relax a little at Akashimaru's reply. "Good, good. Then all we have to do is hunt this thing down and kill it." There's a fierceness to her tone, that was absent earlier. Perhaps still riding the adrenaline rush.

She turns, offering Kunzite a thin smile. "A pleasure to meet you," she says. She's never met Tuxedo Kamen, but she's heard of him - who hasn't? - so she lets the rest of it fly over her head.

It's Hino's mention of being controlled that catches her attention. "What was that?" she asks, her head whipping around to focus on him. "Did it mark you, or something?"
Kazuo Takeba 2016-05-15 08:05:20 41536
"I was," Kunzite agrees to Akashimaru. "I am again. He's told me what you did for him. He's not in a state to be of much help himself, but it would be my pleasure to stand in his place."

That more or less answers Hino's question, after a fashion. Kunzite inclines his head to the other member of the fraternity of capes present; it's his manner rather than anything else that conveys an 'as she ought' to Hino's statement about the Princess taking priority. "Don't be surprised if it takes him time to respond. He's spending a good deal of time in places that don't get reception."

Hokuto does not get a smile in answer. This is both unsurprising, and given the nature of the smile Kunzite did show earlier, probably a good thing. He bows to her slightly, instead, and settles to listening again as her attention's drawn elsewhere.
Seishi Tamashige 2016-05-15 08:25:56 41537
The samurai girl's brow furrows in concern, both at what Kunzite says about Tuxedo Kamen and - more immediately - Hino's comment. The latter distracts her from asking about the former. Something to remember for later - though 'later' has a way of piling up fast, all of a sudden.

"Akahana - an ally of mine - thought of a way that we might be able to track that thing down," she puts in, glancing to each of the others as she speaks. "We don't know yet if it'll work, but if it does... we'll be glad for any help."
Hinote Kagari 2016-05-15 08:29:40 41538
Guardian Hino nods. "Yeah, I think it did. The last time we fought." he frowns. "It...seems to be gone? I dunno." he says with a sigh. "I'll have Runealy check me out, see what she can't find out anything , make sure I'm not still 'poisioned'." he says.

He looks back to Kunzite. "Okay." he says. "We owe Tuxedo Kamen, too as much as we do Akashimaru here." he says softly. "So it seems we all owe each other!" he says with a wry smirk. Just a moment at least.

"Regardless. I'm going to see Princess Runealy home." he says turning around. She's probably moved on ahead in worry already or probably seeing to anyone near by.

"Remember. You need help. Call or text." he reminds Akashimaru. "And if you track this thing down, let us know." he says with a soft matter of fact nod.
Hokuto Minase 2016-05-15 08:54:16 41539
Hokuto stalks back over to Seishi, and nods. "Good, then. The sooner the better. That poor girl..."

She shakes head head, now. And then she's returned to Akashimaru's side, and her miko costume fades out, back into the nice clothes she wore to go to lunch.

"I'm in, whatever it takes."

And hopefully, now they can get their lunch.