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RP: YSS Kaiyō Mission 26 pt. III: Haru Kaze

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Head in the Stars
Staff Member
🌸 FM of Yamatai
🎖️ Game Master
17日 1月 YE 45
Kessica Prime
Planet Surface
Redan City

Day was only just breaking in the sky, creating a splitting of oranges and pinks in the pale blue of fading twilight. The mass of troops that had overridden Kohan had taken to the air, piercing the dawn as steadily as the sun was on the far eastern horizon. Mornings were warmer as they neared the equator on Kessica's only major continent. It was no coincidence that Uesureya's capital was down in this more temperate location, rather in the snowy beachhead the task force had landed on.

Hoshi had called William Sanders' berserker group to advance into Redan from the outpost, but they and Aiko's group were a little further back than her own. She flew quickly over the suburbs and residential areas splitting the outposts and towns from their major city. Interspersed between homes were sap green thickets of timber. In long golden rods through the trees, the new day's light splashed across the meadows and pasturage that had been retained on Kessica. The infrastructure made it obvious that Uesu had built up a planet that was a beloved home to many of his Nekovalkryja before it had been taken by the Mishhuvurthyar.

The sprawl of suburbs slowly built up until the buildings were less residential. Redan's city proper had a lot of sprawling outer streets. Filled with mercantile shops within its outer districts, Hoshi couldn't help but notice that there were too many ways in for the Mishhuvurthyar to fortify all of them. But far ahead of her, the road beneath the shops became choked with vehicles. She went towards the Eastern coast rather than take the straight shot from Kohan to Redan.

"William, take to the Western edge. We'll convene at my approximate position," Hoshi comm'd back to the Nepleslian captain. His cheeky reply earlier had given her a smile. To her own troops from the more Eastern Kohan, she had them follow the path she had taken to slip into the city's outer edges.

Once close enough and within the sprawling outer streets, scouts went ahead, clearing the path and choosing the best streets to prowl down and set up fortifications. Her own push into the city thus slowed as small pockets of enemies needed to be put down as they advanced in, meaning Aiko and William's units had time to catch up.

Further back William and his Berserkers were on the march. Those who were too wounded to move on were held back at the captured outpost with a small occupying force. "Roger, Berserkers taking the western edge and meet at your position." He called back over the command channel.

"Alright boys, that was the easy part! Now we have a city to liberate. Let's raise some hell! Berserkers charge!" At William's warcry, the advancing Nepleslians raced forward, jump packs engaging and launching the ID-SOLs skyward towards their assigned AO.

After she and her legionary had mopped up the lingering Mishhuvurthyar defenders at Kohan's shuttle port, Aiko led her band of Natarian Grenadiers toward Redan City next. They flew low under the forest's canopy in the greenbelts and woods between the city and its outlying boroughs, darting between the birch trees at breakneck speeds in the power armors they wore. Soon, the princess and soldiers who followed her found themselves rushing up against Redan's outskirts as the trees increasingly gave way to taller and more numerous buildings where they had only been scattered hamlets mere seconds before.

Aiko hit her Kirie's airbrakes hard and initiated reverse thrust to slow down, swiftly kicking her legs out in front of her to halt the big armor's rocketing advance. She touched down near a hedgerow that rimmed one of Redan's encircling thoroughfares, and the legionary assigned to her command followed suit without question to take up positions in the irrigation ditch that lay underneath the towering shrubbery. Rei and Mao, as always, remained right by Aiko's side.

"My units have reached the city's northern edge 800 meters to your west," Aiko reported up the chain-of-command, which was only really Hoshi for this battle. "Everything is quiet here. Awaiting your order."

"Converge on these coordinates," Hoshi comm'd to Aiko, directing her to just outside of Kessica Fields Starport on the other side of the downtown area. The shop-filled streets all had a central fountain area and Hoshi had sent Aiko to take it from the flank.

The city had exploded with life in the last few minutes at the day's beginning. Anti-aircraft weapons deeply entrenched in the starport fired off potshots at the rising of the Nepleslian berserkers as they gravitated close to the place Hoshi had settled into.

"Everyone go to ground!" William ordered as flak exploded all around them. His suit took a hit which knocked him out of the sky. He cursed as he was flung down towards the ground, only just stopping his uncontrolled decent as he neared the ground.

"Status report. Who's not dead?" He called, as he and the other's around him got to cover. His unit had sustained some casualties from the AA but it could have been worse. "Alright, form up and move towards Hoshi's position. I'm setting an altitude limit for the duration of the fight. Stay below the hard deck." He ordered as they got moving again.

"All triple 7 units, be advised. Heavy AA presence around the starport. Watch your asses on the approach." The Nepleslian captain advised over the command channels.

Hoshi kept her attention on William's group until they had fallen to safety. There was a bit of skirmishing on the ground and Hoshi had to take potshots on peeking armored NMX soldiers. She was shooting towards the Southwest and when she spoke her attention in that direction made it obvious that was where they were headed.

"These streets pool out into a central fountain area we need to secure. The next three blocks will take clearing by us while Aiko wraps around on the fountain from the North," the Taisa said to William. "Once we're there, we can have radio in to our air support for Kessica Starport."

William approached Hoshi as his troops moved in to assist the others in securing their immediate surroundings. "Any chance we can just use a kinetic strike and wipe them out? I do love a good fireworks show..." William asked, only half joking.

Without waiting for a reply, he looked back to Hoshi. "We will take point, just give us good fire support."

"What do you think the Kaiyō's doing?! Starports can be rebuilt better than ever." Hoshi said with a gleam in her eye. "We're to maintain the city's landmarks, though. We'll get a show if we put on a good one ourselves." While she was speaking to William, she had given orders to the Nekovalkyrja behind her and the scouts ahead. Hoshi, like them, took up aerial positions within the confines of the downtown city's tall buildings. The captain's gauss rifle on her shoulder loosed rounds while she pulled her revolver from her dorsal pack.

The Mishhuvurthyar forces that had pulled away from Kohan had fortified amongst the city of Redan. Though the scouts had taken down those in the side streets as easy work, the downtown's central area was bulwarked.

The next three blocks were difficult to see the end of as vehicles, armors, and shielding all prevented the attack, let alone visibility. Where there were aetheric weapon platforms, durandium shielding was placed before them. Gauss volleys spewed from them as flayer tankettes ran along the buildings, taking high angles from which to fire their energy cannons before ducking behind buildings once more. A line of Reaper armors stood shoulder to shoulder at the upcoming intersection, weapons focused on one of the star army's own tanks that was trundling up from the Eastern corridor.

William nodded then look back towards his troops. "Alright. This is what we do best, close quarters fighting." With his mindware, he brought up an overlay of the city and began assigning fireteams to each streets. "Check your HUDs for assignments. We move out in 5! Give em hell!" The Berserkers cheered and broke of into their groupings, reviewing their routes.

"Here's where my forces are going." Captain Sanders moved back to Hoshi and pushed his map overlay to her HUD as well.
Kessica Prime
Planet Surface
Redan City

From her position only a half mile away, Aiko gave the signal for those troops now following her to advance from their quiet spot along the city's outskirts. Across the tree-lined boulevard before them, a wall of glassy high-rises lay dark and silent even as the blocks beyond lit up from street to sky with a storm of Mishhuvurthyar weapons fire aimed to stop the Yamataian and Uesureyan forces closing in around them. All at once, the line of Nekovalkyrja legionary began popping up and out of their grassy ditch.

"Keep our Mindy armors up high and to the rooftops," Aiko ordered, relaying Hoshi's rendezvous coordinates to all platoon leads in her vicinity. Alongside the order came map updates directly from the CIES within Aiko's imposing Kirie Thought Armor. "We will proceed through these blocks. Send all available Keiko on the ground by way of these two streets. Once we arrive to the objective area we will make contact and hit these fiends from the side while Taiyou-taisa and our Nepleslian contingent conduct their assault."

Without delay, the squads near Aiko received the new information and hastily spread out like they'd been told. Many dozens of Mindy 4 armors rocketed up to rooftops and began to proceed as the Keiko grenadiers for which Legion 777 earned part of its name strode mightily over sidewalks and asphalt roads on the ground. Although the Keiko were extremely agile machines, only second to the princess' Kirie in reaction potential, Aiko put them to use clearing the downtown's avenues on their route rather than as air support like she normally would. Their extra durability would help them should any Mishhuvurthyar be hiding low, and give them the staying power to pinpoint enemy positions for the legion's more numerous Mindy troops — and that quickness would doubly allow the Keiko armors to make a fast exit should some enemy ambush seem too overwhelming to hold.

For her part, Princess Aiko went up high and remained with the bulk of her force heading toward the rooftops. While taking the street paths with her fellow Thought Armors seemed like quite a joy, her sense of duty as an officer stayed Aiko's compulsion to join one of the spearheads below. She needed to remain able to react should anything happen, and would nonetheless swoop in should any fight occur before reaching their destination.

Between the looming towers of the cityscape were Aiko's legionary soldiers and herself. On the surface, there was not much else save for the two blocks that marked their path to their destination. With the early morning sun having crested the horizon, the mirrored buildings reflected its golden rays like lighthouses piercing through the fog of daybreak. Along the ground, the blue of dusk clung where sunshine had not yet reached. Though shell bursts and aether explosions on accompanying streets could be heard, the footfalls of the ground-based Keiko seemed to be the loudest noise on the first block they tread along.

In the distance they could see the fortifications around their destination more clearly. There was even a temporary outpost building constructed on the street just outside of it, between Aiko's legionary and the fountain. To any battle-hardened soldier, though, it would seem too quiet on this small stretch.

Senses alert, one of the Keiko-clad Nekovalkyrja was at a wide angle and spotted a color that didn't fit in. Ten paces ahead of them and just in front of the next intersection, there was an accent of hot pink belonging to a Ripper armor positioned behind an upturned trolley car. The tramcar lay on its side, obfuscating the formation of enemies behind it. Even infrared showed hazy.

"Ketsurui-shosa," hissed the grenadier over comms. "Enemy spotted!" The position of the enemy contact was so close that this legionary could only guess that they were primed to strike at any moment.

No sooner had the Keiko trooper prompted her than Aiko brought up a visual feed from the grenadier's armor, her command uplink pulling live data from the other Thought Armor directly into her Kirie's own HUD. Seeing what her comrade below had spotted, Aiko cross-referenced her position and the new enemy obstacle on the map at the speed of a Nekovalkyrja's digital mind and diverted her course to assist. Ketsurui-shosa may have been a senior officer leading this sector of Yamataian troops, but she was nonetheless the brave Princess Aiko on top of that and so made her move to assist without question.

"Squad, with me!" she ordered on a channel to the five Mindy soldiers most immediately nearby, standing beside an enormous HVAC assembly atop the apartment building's roof they'd been crossing when the Keiko's call came from below. The enemy contact information had been shared with all troops in the vicinity, too, who would know to cover them while continuing to advance across the rooftops toward the rally point Hoshi had assigned them.

And with that Aiko leapt off and into the urban valley beneath her, swooping down the broadway to attack the hiding Ripper armors with guns blazing as she went. Both shoulder mounted gauss cannons barked out their hefty slugs toward the trolley and its waiting ambushers while the forearm weapons on Aiko's Kirie were set to blade mode so that she could slice into whatever remained when she landed.

The Mishhu armors behind the trolley had been prepped to surprise attack the Keiko on the ground when weapons fire hit them. They at first lunged out from behind their cover, shooting at those Keiko that had first noticed them. There were seven stocky armors of Mishhuvurthyar design whose palms shone bright with the scalar projectors they pointed at the grenadiers on the ground. Meanwhile, their suits' targeting systems swiveled the gauss rifles on their shoulders pointedly at those flying above them. They were likely unaware of the threat which came from above, giving Aiko and her five comrades an upperhand while the ground grenadiers took up the fight against them more than readily.

What that meant was that Aiko's critical jab at the Rippers caught them half-unaware as they momentarily focused their attack in the wrong direction. The princess' own gauss rifles shredded into the first enemy she could see. Its armor spasmed before falling, indicating that Ripper armor was the more cost-effective version with no shielding. The second and third got less of a spray of the gauss, still able to shoot onto the proceeding Keiko.

Aiko would land her Kirie feet first onto the dead Ripper, which caused its lifeless but still intact structure to buckle and fold. As the fallen Mishhuvurthyar's bio-mechanical innards squeezed and oozed out under the weight of the Yamataian mini mecha, the princess pounced at another just when its four beady oculars turned to see her Kirie's own glowing blue eyes looking back at it. Believing that it had the upper hand, the Mishhuvurthyar brain-slave pilot had its Ripper growl a guttoral "HU HU HU" warcry out from its ugly maw.

But its confidence was misplaced, for as the Ripper extended the barbed blade from its right arm's shield-like structure and raised it high to strike, turning to face the Ketsurui Princess in battle, Aiko had already sliced her own ten foot energy sword first through its groin and severed the Ripper from its footing at the waist. The beast before her staggered and attempted to swing its blade anyway, causing its top half to topple over unceremoniously from the momentum it had built up in its arm. Soon flailing on the ground, Aiko was quick to plunge the immaterial sword projecting from her armor's right forearm through her enemy's back. Within, the brain-slave popped and sent a spray of viscera and Mishhu blood across the front of Aiko's Kirie when she removed her blade.

"Hitori mo nogasuna!" Aiko bellowed both over local comms and via her armor's external speakers so the Mishhuvurthyar could hear, too, commanding her comrades in Yamataigo to not let even a single enemy escape their wrath.

The five Mindy accompanying Aiko — and two ever-present samurai yojimbo — made their combat landings among the enemy nest and let out a unified kiai shout in response, as did the Keiko squad who had first encountered these Rippers, and began attacking as their shout echoed down the streets and joined with the symphony of warfare that now filled Redan.
Kessica Prime
Planet Surface

Redan City

William watched the progress of Aiko's group as they got underway. "Well, I guess it's time to roll." Striding forward, he opened his comm to his company. "Go time. Don't let them show you up. If the Princess's unit gets more kills, you all have extra PT when we are done."

The Cyclops armors all leapt forward and over the enemy barricades, closing the distance to melee range. William joined them, tearing into the Mishhuvurthyar lines. Unfortunately, the Nepleslian Captain didn't have any fancy tricks to pull this time. All they could do was push through the meat grinder as quickly as they could.

Many of the Task Force's units on these streets were primed by Taisa Taiyou to launch just after the Nepleslians did. Hoshi watched the Neko and Uesureyans funnel into the street ahead behind the Berserkers. Her eyes caught a storefront at the bottom of the tall city building, derelict now, that had once been a ramen shop for Uesureyans. Another's tile overhang looked quaint in its callback to traditional Yamataian roofing.

The simplicity of her desire to have the Uesureyans that once ate at these shops and lived in this city return to it once more spurred Taiyou Hoshi to pull her tactical rifle from its sleeve and snap in the foregrip. The chromed rifle's scope interlocked with her AIES as she steadied her shot on the waves of enemies hurtling towards the Berserkers.

Rippers and Reaper armors were alongside Flayer tankettes a smattering of NMX Neko in flak vests doing their best. The first armor piercing sabot was guided to the blocky head of a Ripper before Hoshi snapped to the next armor and propelling a bullet into its head, then a third. The third didn't fall as easily as the first two had and she switched her ammunition over to aetheric incendiary before punching a hole in the shields and armor with it.

From her high vantage, Hoshi could see the Berserkers and Neko alike were falling, too, though. The Yamataian captain took a moment to steady her vision on William Sanders and took a shot at a Reaper about to be on his flank.

This wasn't going well. His people as well as the Nekos were falling as quickly as they took out the Mishhuvurthyar. William drove his sword through one combatant, only to watch as another Reaper closed in. Luckily a shot hit them, giving the Captain an opening to drive his claws into the Reaper. He didn't even have time to thank Hoshi before more were on them.

Dmitri called over their private comms. "This isn't looking great boss."

William cursed as he took another Mishhu down with railgun fire. "I'm aware, but we don't have a choice. Keep pushing!" He ordered. He hated it, knowingly throwing his people into the meat grinder. However it was that or lose the advantage they had already sacrificed so much for. William lead the charge forward. If they were going to hell, the least he could do was suffer with them.

The tankettes were crawling along the buildings and using the vantage point to their advantage, causing some of the damage below. Hoshi steadied her shot, aiming at one that was more forward and directly over the Nepleslian Berserkers. She was about to shoot into the brain slave's compartment when she put two and two together, realizing it would land on her allies when it fell. She swiveled her vision, using her AIES to pinpoint another even further up that could fall on the armors that shot at her troops from a distance.

With another incendiary round, she shot into the mass of the flayer. One shot, then another for good measure before she tracked to the next target, felling them both. They toppled against the glass buildings, then ricocheted downwards towards Hoshi and William's waiting enemies. At least four squads were mangled or dead due to their fallen tankette comrades, now. Hoshi hoped that the path was now a little more cleared for them.

The Berserkers kept fighting through the melee, which seemed to be unending. Kill one and two more took their place. The tankettes were also becoming a problem, dropping fire from above them. William cursed, "Give me something to work with here!" He said to himself as he slashed through another Mishhuvurthyar.

It was at that moment that Hoshi blasted the rear tankette. He saw as it began to fall. The Mishhu were so engrossed with trying to kill his people that they didn't even see the armor falling until it was too late.

Many of the ID-SOLs whooped and cheered as the enemy position was crushed. "Don't waste this opportunity! Go!!!" The captain ordered. He and the Cyclops armors all lept into the air and landed on the tankette hull. Turning back they repeated Hoshi's feat and began firing into the other tankettes that were directly over the Mishhu lines.

William sent the targeting data to the other squads. "Drop the tankettes! They make quite the mess when they fall."

With the tankettes dropping, they began to act more offensively, avoiding fire and sustaining their own lives and those of their ally troops below. But the lines had been torn enough and there was a short-lived chaos in the space between the task force and their destination at the center of downtown beyond. Rays of early morning sunlight glinted off of the buildings in a harsh glare, on her position. Despite the intense light, through hooded eyes Hoshi could see how the rows and rows of Rippers, Reapers, and NMX Nekovalkyrja that had once been were now segmented and scrambling like ants whose scent trail had been muddied with a new smell.

"Push through!" Hoshi directed with a resounding howl. The Kaiyō captain herself propelled forward, teleporting to grapple the distance between huge buildings before rapidly volleying her gauss shoulder cannon into enemy lines between command and the frenzied troop lines.

When the Mishhuvurthyar lines broke, there was a change in the Nepleslians. The retreating enemy units were quickly pursued by William's forces. "Leave none standing!" William called again as he cut through a retreating Ripper.

The Berserkers cut down anyone they were able to catch. Those they couldn't were shot with accurate railgun salvos. It felt just like when the Berserkers had led the outpost defenders into their trap. A warcry was taken up by the Nepleslians once more, as they cut their way through the remaining defenders.

"We are almost there!" Yuri called. "Better hurry up, boss." He taunted, his squad rushing ahead trying to beat the other Berserker squads.

For their own part, the Yamataian and Uesureyan forces had been sparring with the flanking Mishhuvurthyar or those that the Berserkers did not fell. But with the vibrant pulsing of battle before them, their own voices swelled in Yamataian orders and Uesureyan warcries alike in thunderous. They surged behind their brother's in arms, widening their weapon's fire to focus on armors before them before clipping into them with long, heavy strokes of their melee weapons.

Their joint effort had gotten them through the first two blocks and then some. From her closer vantage point and between shots at anything that moved above the enemy, Hoshi could see the fortifications at the end of this last block.

"There are several tankettes on the ground at the end of this block along with armors and what looks like..." Hoshi couldn't discern what else was there and she zoomed in with her AIES, scrutinizing the equipment. "And scalar mines! Watch where you walk, soldiers!" She herself had already begun trying to take shots at those she could see, but she had limited time. Detonating the scalar mines in the next few seconds as the surge of armors approached could inhibit friendly armors and hurt their wearers.

"Avoid ground-based mines," Hoshi said. "Repeat, advise all soldiers to avoid ground-based scalar mines between us and destination." She took a moment to hold her fire, surveying the surging forces and to wonder if she had led everyone into a trap.

The charging Berserkers were moving to fast to stop when the mines were spotted. William cursed. "Go airborne! Stay under the altitude restriction." He ordered. The first line of troops leapt into the air and over the mines, the next group doing the same.

William flew behind the others, firing down at the mines as he passed. "Once you are past the mines, land again. We are almost to the rendezvous point."

Behind him were a group of legionaries in their Keiko as they drew on their sublight engines to push just high enough to be away from the mines and yet low enough to not be struck down by the anti-aircraft guns of Kessica Starport. As they did, the fountain came into view with its ornately carved four tiers and water that glowed with the early morning light. Ripples of dark water formed with the shocks of weaponfire around it. There were enemies and fortifications far to the sides of the fountain, but not so many to make the heart of any of those task force sink.

"We have been fighting valiantly alongside an ID-SOL and his Nepleslians," Asami called over comms. "Would you have believed it, sisters?!"

No one voice rang out but the Yamataian's giggles were like a chorus interspersed with the Uesureyan's "EEYAAAAAAAAO!!" warcries.

William smiled at Asami's ribbing. "Watch it furballs." He warned, except there was no heat to it.

As he landed, he took stock of the enemy defenses. "Nothing we can't handle. How do you want to play this Asami?" He asked as they all took cover together.

The former samurai laughed further. It was a hearty, full laugh unlike what he had ever heard from Rei.

"We have to clear the enemy of where they've burrowed in there," Asami spat, much less said. "I'm no expert at warfare. What say you, Taisa Taiyou?"

"Confirmed," Taiyou Hoshi said. "Let's take to that side where they've tucked in underneath the building's overhang. It's the street which Ketsurui-shosa's bound to come from, we want it clear for her, yeah?!"

"Works for me." He looked at the buildings, then smirked. "I have an awful idea." William added.

Turning to Asami he pointed towards the enemy position. "I'm gonna need a diversion. I'll leave you with Yuri and Dmitri. Cause a lot of noise please." He then turned to Hoshi. "If I were to say, crash through the walls of that building over there and get behind the enemy fortifications, how mad would you be?" He asked already signaling his troops to prep for a breach.

"We've got your back! Just make sure it works!!" Captain Hoshi clenched her teeth as she thought of the worst case scenario and the Nepleslian version of ST. She added, "I don't think I'm mentally prepared to pull your brain spider of your head if it doesn't." Hoshi did the same for some of the Nekovalkyrja, having them position to pounce alongside William's men or provide fire support.

William's forces split once more. Half of them followed Dmitri and Yuri and the other half moved with William's group. They lined up against one of the walls, two ID-SOLs standing on the opposite side of the street ready to crash through the wall.

Meanwhile, Asami had rallied her squad alongside Yuri and Dmitri to begin strafing in and out of the line of sight of the distant anti-aircraft guns. They took some hits, but so did the buildings behind them. Chunks of glass and metal flung from the buildings in short bursts that did indeed cause a lot of noise and upheaval.

William gave Hoshi a thumbs up, moving to his squads position. He looked to the two breachers. "Corporals, there's a wall in the way. Take it down." The captain ordered.

The two breachers roared their battle cry and charged at full speed, firing their railguns to soften up the wall. With a mighty boom, they were through the wall. The rest followed through the new openings. After sweeping the buildings interior, they lined up once more.

William opened his comm to the command channel. "Team 1, breach breach breach!" The entire line of ID-SOLs blasted through the wall and directly into the enemy's fortifications. Nekovalkyrja surged behind them at the breach, too, supported by those like Hoshi who, from further away, took sniper shots that tore through the sound barrier at any unlucky enemy. Between the breachers and Hoshi, the salvos were being shot at the joint forces of Nepleslians and Legionaries caused concussive outbursts that sent piles of rubble cascading down.

"Berserkers! Let's go to work!!!" William called as he stabbed a Ripper through the gut.
City Center

Behind the upturned trolley, the Mishhuvurthyar’s advantage of surprise had been curbed by the Yamataians’ keenness. Ketsurui Aiko’s compelling call to not let one of the enemies escape rung in the minds of her two samurai and other five companions as they fought beside to her. The princess’ Kirie had been the first to become adorned with the blood of the enemy. But soon even her yojimbo, Rei, had received a dousing of the vulgar viscera with a sweeping motion from the downing of one more of the seven Rippers.

Outnumbered no more, the Kirie-clad princess and her samurai absconded from their pile of dead enemies. They were moving on to the central destination just after the walls of the building burst with Berserkers and railgun fire. As William burst into the Mishhuvurthyar command center, some starships launched from the nearby Kessica starport. Their engines drowned out the sound of ground warfare only momentarily as they spiraled off into the distance.

“Scouts found the underground installation of the starport runs all the way to under the fountain,” Hoshi called in to the princess and William. “We need to find an access terminal to shut down the anti-aircraft so that the Kaiyō and her sister ship can give us a fireworks show like William-kun wants!”

The tasks before them seemed easy enough, especially when buoyed by the successes they had accomplished already in the lengthening day. But before they could celebrate the comfort of their future triumph, the NMX began backing away from the trodden grassy and stone paths around the city center’s fountain. No installation had been set around the still waters of the tiered water feature and why became clear as the Uesu-made geyser began turning, rotating along with the plot around it where enemy forces had just moved from.

After the parcel of land had finished rotating, what was in its place were hulking Mishhu, too big to be anything but the newly Enhanced Mishhu. There had to be five of them, but the eyes were drawn to what they surrounded. Towering above the already hulking Mishhuvurthyar armors was a oblong flesh-colored structure, shining and polished. It was shaped like a carved wooden egg with smooth rivers of pink Mishhuvurthyar technology hewn throughout its indentations that glittered and glowed fuchsia intermittently.

The Mishhuvurthyar in their armors began spreading out in a diamond formation. Their attacks were with aether weaponry mounted on their orange and green shells and in splaying tentacles while the egg stayed in the center of where the fountain used to be. Neko and Nepleslians once again started falling around them.

Taisa Hoshi announced to all her forces, “Defensive positions!”

“We have to get underground.” Hoshi opened a channel to her compatriots William and Aiko again.
Central Fountain

No sooner had Aiko arrived at the city center with her troops did the five Enhanced Type Mishhu rise from where the fountain rotated and receded down into the earth by way of whatever hidden machinery motivated its change. Those legionary who'd accompanied the princess were quick to join the battle now that they'd come upon where the main fighting was, quickly taking up defensive positions when Hoshi's command trickled down through their officers and NCOs. With Rei and Mao on hand nearby, Aiko witnessed the Enhanced Types (and the ovular incubator they guarded) with grave concern the likes of which made her feel sick to her stomach even within her armor's pilot pod. One of these new beasts had been enough of a match for her during their first battle on Kessica, and she knew they'd been just as mighty a challenge for Hoshi and William to fight when they'd faced the same.

Now there were five of the creatures ominously protecting something else that promised to be equally as horrible.

But Aiko was a warrior. A soldier, too, but trained from birth by the Ketsurui Samurai to be fearless in matters of both war and peace. These new Mishhuvurthyar terrors had yet to best her or the Rikugun Legion that carried her name as inspiration, and the princess trusted Task Force 282's SAINT contingent had already begun to unfurl the secrets that afforded their enemy's new forms their daunting power. To see her comrades already begin to fall — Nekovalkyrja from Uesureya and Yamatai and their Nepleslian brothers alike — stifled the ill revulsion these monsters prompted in her and replaced it with fury.

The princess would not be able to hide behind the decorative marble wall where she'd taken cover for much longer.

"Yes, Taisa!" Aiko reported, agreeing with Hoshi's assessment. She peered up through her Kirie's oculars to regard the defaced alabaster statue of a Nekovalkyrja whose elegance had once blessed this spot, the sight making her grow even more determined to crush this strongpoint their enemy had so graciously offered to them. "Would you have us go around these fiends so that the legion may grind them down, or is your plan to go through?"
Central Fountain

"Tear into those that stand in the way of our objective!" Hoshi called in response to her XO's query. "Cut down what you can so that our brothers and sisters are not left alone with these hateful invaders!"

With the battle opening up from the narrow lanes of streets and into the larger open downtown center, Nekovalkyrja and Berserkers had taken to the air. The Taisa no longer had clean lines of sight on the enemy like she did for her earlier ranged attacks so she closed in on the princess' position. Hoshi stopped dozens of meters short of the marble statue, hovering in the air nearby for only the moment it took to fire a gauss volley from her right shoulder at the Mishhuvurthyar taking up the rear. With a jump from her teleporter, she was in a different position altogether, far from her own troops and behind even the looming oval and the formation of enhanced Mishhuvurthyar, where she raised her rifle and released an explosive incendiary round at the small section of fleshy mass between the Mishhu's chitin and where its tentacles flopped in its gravity-manipulated waltz towards her troops. As she suspected, a waterfall of flesh-colored sand fell from the wound. She squinted and could see in the instant how the bullet hole had healed. The enemy Mishhuvurthyar had barely even faltered in its floating progression, but it had barely.

After another teleport to behind the vandalized marble statue, Hoshi swapped her tactical rifle for her Kaiyō sword, pressing it against her armor's hardpoint. Her teleporter's cooldown time was hastened by her armor's capacitor, but that now could use a charge of its own.

"As I suspected, more of the same horrid beasts." Hoshi said breathlessly to Aiko after her multi-stage approach. "Advise a Taisa in besting them, Aiko-sama."
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Central Fountain

The princess' acknowledgement of Hoshi's command came only a moment after it'd been given when Aiko's Thought Armor launched from its cover and into the fray. Aiko had been so anxious to join the fight that her advance upon the nearest Enhanced Type — the one that Hoshi had already landed a few shots upon — seemed more like a reflexive jolt than a conscious decision when her Kirie's mechanical body pounced forward in a blur as if it was her own. Its jagged crimson-on-white livery flashed through the air like a red lightning bolt while she loosed a volley of mini-missiles from both pods on her armor's calves.

The flurry of streaking stingers contained among them mostly Ke-M12-W3301-SLAMM projectiles fitted with incendiary warheads, just as Hoshi had already used, alongside a few more Shaped Electron Charged Ordinance type rockets. Fiery heat had helped her fell the first Enhanced Type she'd met, so she intended to achieve the same with perhaps a less extreme explosive yield than was used last time. Explosive tips had been specially fit to her SLAMMs to give her even the smallest advantage against the new Mishhuvurthyar evolutions present on Kessica Prime. The electronic disrupting missiles were only launched for good measure; perhaps there was some chance these abominations held within them bio-electric components that encouraged their regenerative abilities. If nothing else, they might at least damage the targeting systems for those guns the Enhanced Types had mounted upon their grotesque shelled backs.

"All available Thought Armors fire on my target!" Aiko called on an open channel to the legionary nearby. She added the pink aetheric fury from both of her forearm weapons' continuous beams to her attack as she went, showing her Keiko grenadier comrades what weapon to use by example. "We will bring it down!"

Lashing out with its terrible mass of tentacled might as Aiko closed in, the Enhanced Mishhu in her sights reached and whipped with its gnarly appendages in an effort to stop her. Some of the monster's arms were already rooted and erupted up through the ground, forcing the princess in her Kirie to dodge and weave through their pillars of flesh that tried to entrap the charging Ketsurui. And despite their threat, Aiko dove lower, skimming just over the ground's surface with a plume of dust billowing in her wake while she weaved past her enemy's attempts to end her by tentacle or by gunfire.

When her Kirie passed under the flailing beast she'd chosen to square off against, Aiko switched her forearm weapons to blade mode and severed all of its tentacles in one swipe. The Mishhu's otherworldly howl reverberated though her big armor's Yamataium shell to tickle her flesh as she lay curled motionless inside its pilot pod's soft embrace. This small victory was only momentary, though, as the fleshy sand-like substance that poured from every cut off trunk of an arm found its detached mate and fused together with a web of disgusting ichor that made each tentacle whole again.

Still, the point of Aiko's slash had been achieved. Those split seconds of healing were all she needed to pass by it and join Hoshi while the legionary focused their fire. It was perhaps more dangerous here within the circle of Enhanced Types and near to their strange egg, but the Kaiyo's captain had made it clear she aimed to pass them up and move into those structures that existed beneath the city center. But regardless of the danger, Aiko felt most at ease here in the midst of it all instead of cowering behind some wall as her fellows took all of the risk. She counted herself lucky, for now — not to mention confident in her skill utilizing the Kirie's insane reflexes — that the Mishhu nor any of its friends had yet struck her armor.

"Where is Wil?" Aiko asked on the communications channel shared with him and Hoshi, both in eagerness to fight beside him again and (just a little) to taunt him into cutting through to join them faster.
Central Fountain

William and the soldiers all around him had been fighting hard to route the defenders from their fortified position. He and the Berserkers cut down the defenders one after another until it seemed like they were in retreat. However, that was only the start of William's problems. At Hoshi and Aiko's warning, he looked back at the fountain to find not one, not two, but FIVE enhanced Mishhu. He was still for only a moment, but with the captain's mindwear the moment was stretched out into what felt like minutes.

The first several of which were filled with cursing. It had taken both William and Hoshi to down just one of the monsters. Now they had five to deal with. If the ID-SOL had his way, this whole city would have been a smoking crater.

Once he had got his annoyance out of the way, he looked back to the Mishhu in question. Hoshi was right, they needed to get underground to disable the AA batteries. In the spare time he had left, he assigned every soldier in his command a target. "Targets have been designated. All units engage with extreme prejudice."

The Berserkers all around the square turned to the Enhanced Types and engaged. At Aiko's question, he turned towards the two of them and launched himself forward. As he did he passed under one of the enhanced types, leaving an incendiary grenade where he had been just moments before. It exploded, leaving burning residue all over the Mishhu's underside as he passed.

"I was a little busy." He finally replied as he landed next to Hoshi and Aiko.
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Central Square

"He moves with the slow confidence of command, ne?" Hoshi quipped lightly about William to the thee of them.

More seriously, she said, "So it's by ice or fire, huh?" Hoshi was thinking about Aiko's approach and how the grenadiers were following by the Ketsurui's example with incendiary rounds. William and Hoshi had been able to slow its regenerative healing with the snow on the mountainside, piling it onto the creature. The Kaiyō captain lamented their position far from Yamatai. Had this been closer to home, the whippersnappers at SAINT would have created a gun that froze the enemy overnight for the fight today. But the task force was deep in foreign territory and didn't have such privileges. Hoshi directed some of the forces on the street she and William had come down to start picking out flamethrowers from the Mindy accessories in the forward post there.

Aiko's cunning use of explosive charges was catching on. With the legionaries, Beserkers, and now Hoshi honing in on Aiko's targeted Enhanced, the brute had evidently been slowed. by the onslaught. Favoring defensive strikes of the barely working guns mounted on its shell, it was employing its self-healing abilities rather than advancing with its brethren.

The other four Enhanced had moved past the central square that had turned over and were instigating chaos among the command post that William had previously breached as well as the road that Hoshi and he had cleared, which had been set up with the task force's forward operating bases. Almost as soon as the last of the four had cleared away from the central area, the ground beneath Hoshi's hovering armor shifted, almost imperceptibly. It would have seemed like a natural consequence of the battle around them if not for the flip the square had done in the minutes prior.

"Group," Hoshi called to the Yamataian and Nepleslian. "Now's our chance for below!"
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William rolled his eyes at Hoshi's comment. "I wish. Does it ever get easier?" He asked, firing at the enhanced Aiko was focused on.

As they moved away, the Nepleslian Captain opened the command channel once more. "Keep those big bastards busy! Heat weapons if you got them if not, just blow them up! Squad 1 and 2 with me. You just got picked for tunnel rat duty!"

Two fireteams broke off from the engagement and joined William. "Come on, let's get moving so we can level this damn place." He said to Aiko and Hoshi.
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Conversely to William's order, Aiko didn't ask for any legionary to come with them. Whether the structures below would present an easier fight or a harder one was not her concern, so she did not take even a moment to calculate how many soldiers should come with them. Plenty of brave Nekovalkyrja from Uesureya and Yamatai would die with their Nepleslian allies topside. Hoshi, Aiko, and William's small number would have to be enough for whatever awaited them when the fountain flipped back and deposited them underground.

For better or for worse, they would need to finish the mission while their friends struggled back against the abominable Mishhuvurthyar juggernauts arrayed against their forces.

"That's always the plan, Wil!" the princess agreed from within her Kirie, its arms still outstretched and pointed at the Enhanced Type she'd targeted moments earlier. There was where her aim would stay until she couldn't see the beast anymore, focusing the pink aetheric beams that spat from her armor's wrists without any hesitation. Such was the intensity of all the aether fire pinning the Enchanced Type coming from Aiko and her Keiko-clad grenadiers that the entire plaza remained bathed in a bright neon hue as the machinery beneath the Kaiyō's trio of heroes began to rumble.

"Ready, Taisa!"
Central Square

The Keiko and Kirie's concentrated fire lit up the targeted Mishhuvurthyar. But it also illuminated the sickly strange outlines of its brethren as they turned around. From her vantage point, Hoshi could see them turn towards the egg and where she was congregating with Aiko and the Berserkers. Hoshi moved between them the Enhanced Mishhuvurthyar, whose tentacles that were not in the ground or otherwise occupied locked together, forming a chain. The captain used all of her capacitor's energy bank and directed it to her shield projector as she stood before them, noticing that Aiko's samurai had taken the que and done similar, pivoting their shoulder-mounted Zesuaium shields.

Before anything more could happen, Squads 1 and 2 that had been moving in froze in their advance to William along with the Uesureyans and Yamatain Neko in the same area. The only movement was the crashing of those that had been mid-air falling to the ground and the thunking sounds of their armor on the stones and hard earth of the fountain's outer walkways. That small portion of the battlefield had been frozen in place.

Satisfied, the Mishhuvurthyar unlocked their spiked tentacles. Some turned away to continue their advance on the task forces still standing. One or two continued to take shots at the shields Hoshi and the samurai had erected. Almost unrecognizable as an enemy was the Mishhu Aiko's grenadiers had been firing on. It was pile of warped tentacles that were singed and splattered underneath bent metal of the guns and chitin. It felt like a bitter battle to have won in the face of what had just happened.

The fountain had begun flipping, revolving to again have the fountain replace them. It was their only opportunity to get underground where the controls to the starport were.

Hoshi looked back dimly at her own people's armor, some frozen in battlestances and firing while those further raced forward. She did not know who would live or die. She felt selfish to believe her presence alongside her other two compatriots could make much of a difference. But the fear was genuine, so she put aside the fears of narcissism and felt sense of foreboding for her compatriots above ground.


The bright sunlight of early morning had been replaced by dim fluorescents that seemed faraway and ruddy. Whether that was the hue of the bulbs themselves or just the ambient color present was hard to tell as the cavernous walls were fleshy and red like blood. Though five of them had started upside-down on the ceiling, they could use thrusters to right themselves. The egg stayed in its position on the ceiling like a sconce light or like a strange creature's brood, glowing bright fuchsia colors along its rivers of carved inlets.

"Let's look around for controls or hallways," Hoshi looked about alongside the M7 samurai armor-clad Rei. The room was made for floating and there was a sort of layered depth to it, as if on the edges of every wall one could slip further in and find another room. What would normally be considered the floor looked more like a gastrointestinal tract than anything solid. Creatures scittered around along them, sometimes stopping to suck up a juice being secreted from the already sticky, wet red walls and floor.

But what caught everyone's attention was a sound from above as the large carved egg above began hatching.
Redan City

Suspended from what was now the ceiling underneath the fountain topside, that grotesque Mishhuvurthyar egg pulsed with its fuchsia energies flowing through thick subcutaneous arteries that webbed around its sickly brown hide. The rhythm of its pump seemed to quicken with each beat, strobing the chamber in which Aiko and her friends now found themselves with a pinkish neon glow so similar to the aetheric hellfire unleashed on the one dead Enhanced Type Mishhu on the plaza above.

A disgusting ripping, churning sound echoed throughout the underground, too, as bits of the egg's umbral skin sloughed off bit-by-bit and fell to the ground whereupon it rapidly melted into pools of fleshy sand and was absorbed into the living walls that regulated these tunnels like an organism and gave life to the egg itself. As the egg's meat fell away, only a luminous white surface and those rivulets of magenta remained. And a shadow within, seen with each pulsating beat of vitae that fed the being cocooned inside.

"This structure is feeding on the aether," Aiko warned gravely, her Kirie's CIES sensor suite showing massive energy readouts that flowed from the bio-mechanical halls and into the egg. She felt its presence, too, as did the samurai Rei and Mao who had faced the terrible beast in their initial battle on Kessica Prime. "If we leave, this Nightmare will follow us. But we might still manage to complete our mission before it attempts to slay us."

When Aiko said it, a chill ran down her spine and heralded a choir of whispering laughter that penetrated psionic signal protections and into all of their minds. To the Nightmare, it was clear there would be no attempts to slay the Yamataian champions. Only victory where it had failed before.

Even safe in her own pilot pod's warmth, the Nightmare's haunting presence made the princess ill. That she had not noticed earlier when they had first seen the egg was a small wonder, but could be chalked up to the passions of war. Now that Aiko, Hoshi, William, and the two samurai were alone with it, though, Aiko already knew they were in its clutches.

So fast was its progress in hatching that almost all of the woody brown skin that once wrapped the egg had fallen away, leaving only the pearly translucence of its thin shell throbbing above them. Then the egg's rythmatic convulsions ceased and its pink veins darkened along with the white glow that illuminated from within. The fleshy chamber was darker now, and even the dim reddish bioluminescence that kept it lit for the little worker bugs seemed to fade.

Mao turned in the fading light, readying her katana in a high guard that oriented its edge toward the ceiling and stretched out from beside her power armor's cheek.

"It is among us!" the younger samurai declared. Her voice, eager in anticipation for another duel, broke the reigning silence.

Another whisper of laughter crept in all of their heads as the egg, now abyssally black, radiated a prismatic spectrum in waves around it before it finally cracked. Without further warning, the Kaiyō's heroes were washed in pink light again, this time accompanied by the shock of aether and scalar energy blasting them off their feet and toward the walls. Bubbling, flowing muscle tugged at all their backs when they impacted, trying to swallow each of their power armors like organic quicksand.

Where the egg had been, the Nightmare's gargantuan Mishhuvurthyar-Nekovalkyrjan form now hovered. In each of its hands it held swirling orbs of fuchsia energy, and its bundles of thin tentacles spilled down and hung writhing in the air like a ragged, ghastly cape.

Aiko only had a few moments to feel concern for her frozen allies above. All told, the Nightmare's appearance had happened in mere seconds. Now, faced with this devil again, she could only think to fight and survive.
Redan City

This was bad...

William was still reeling from his squads being frozen to the spot as they rushed his way. Yet, he had no time to dwell on the potential loss of life.

They had bigger problems to deal with now.

Before he knew it, his body had been flung into the wall. Instead of sliding down, the damn thing was trying to eat him and his armor whole. He dumped all of his suit's power into the thrusters. He was going to get out. He was going to turn this place into a crater. Most importantly, he was going to beat that Nightmare's stupid grin off its stupid face.

There was a brilliant flare of light emanating from William's back as every single thrusters fired with angry orange light.

Once he got an arm free, he wasted no time in stabbing his clawed fist down into the wall, adding his own immense strength to the power of the thrusters.
Redan City
Underground (Mishhuvurthyar Chamber)

Hoshi wanted to reply to Aiko. She wanted to move beyond the layered walls of this chamber and find the controls. She wanted to support her ship, the YSS Kaiyō II, in destroying the enemy controlled starport above ground.

But what Hoshi wanted did not come to pass. Instead, the room darkened and her body was flung out of her control and against the wall. Mao's words rung true in her ears. It was among them, standing between them and their mission's success. Hoshi's long-range weaponry wouldn't be effective in this Mishhuvurthyar room, as large as it was. The captain's armor capacitor was still charging from having shielded the attack on the Enhanced Mishhuvurthyar above so she couldn't teleport into the Nightmare's close range. So, her right hand went to her dorsal pack to pull out her revolver and load in a heavy cartridge while her left's forearm weaponry shot into the fleshy wall that gripped her, loosening its hold on her Mindy.

Feeling her freedom, she steadied her aim to the Nightmare. For a moment, Hoshi considered calling out some command but there was no need. On the battlefields of today and in the days leading up to it, she was a Taisa commanding troops. Now she was surrounded by the best warriors she knew with minds of expert tacticians. She would rely on their instincts and for the enemy to show some weakness, lest they lose it all at their final hour.

The color of the bright green plasma blast was in sickly contrast with the fuchsia light that ebbed from the enemy and bathed the room. She pressed into the trigger again and again with well-placed shots, thankful for the armor she wore as the condensed plasma being released from the cartridge would have kicked back her diminutive body if unarmored. The captain racked her brain for how Aiko had defeated this ghastly apparition, fighting against the knowledge that it had escaped before. Hoshi held onto the hope that it would offer them the simple freedom of escape today. They had come too far and she would not let her optimism break now.
Redan City
Underground Mishhuvurthyar Chamber

A high pitched tone vibrated through the Mishhuvurthyar base as Aiko, William, and Hoshi struggled to free themselves from the living tomb alongside their Ketsurui Samurai companions. Like the chorus of ten thousand cicadas dialed up five octaves higher, it pierced into their minds while the walls slapped and groped at their armored bodies in the wake of the Nightmare's initial burst. Their suits' sound filtering equipment cut through it quickly enough, denying the whine access to their ears (or in Aiko's case the part of her digital brain that processed sound through her Kirie's Immersion System). But the imprint of what they'd heard still persisted, burrowing into their brains for a few moments longer as the Psionic Signal Controllers that shielded them buffered against whatever the Nightmare — or this animate installation itself — was unleashing.

The first heavy plasma shot from Hoshi's 38 Special was intercepted midair by a counterattack from the Nightmare. It had thrown one of its churning beads of aetherfire straightaway, sending it to catch Hoshi's attack, which would have otherwise surely have found its mark owing to the captain's sharp aim. Then the sickeningly beautiful beast tore through the air like a comet, its body a corrupted abomination of Ningyo Heiki biology whose tentacles trailed behind it fluidly as if it were an octopus expertly navigating the dark depths of its home. And an inky blackness surrounded it, too, as it sent away its second glowing orb of fuscia energy in Hoshi's direction to suppress that bark coming from the little Taisa's revolver.

Meanwhile, William's assault upon the living Mishhuvurthyar structure proved immediately successful. With the immense thruster power and raw physical strength provided by his Nepleslian Cyclops Armor laid atop his own ID-SOL physiology, he was able to rip himself away from the fleshy walls that gripped around and tried to swallow him whole. A collection of thick tendrils that had sprouted from the organic bulkheads tried in vain to keep him down, squirming and grabbing at anywhere on his armor they could even as they detached from their roots as he escaped envelopment. Chunky viscera and fluid covered his Cyclops now, some bubbling and burned into its armor plates from the heat of his claw and thrusters, having exploded from the wall when he departed its embrace.

Across the chamber, Aiko in her Kirie pulled against the surface where she'd been flung. At first, her Thought Armor's arms and legs strained against the wrapping Mishhuvurthyar skin that lapped up around her. The Kirie's brawn would ultimately win out once its limbs had some separation from the wall's nibbling flesh, its servos able to wrest Aiko and her compact mecha's body away from being engulfed into the base's innards. She commanded her big power armor suit to fly, blasting off and toward the soaring Nightmare with reckless abandon.

Aiko's sense of terror had become fury. Her experience against it before only fueled that rage. Even knowing the Nightmare's touch could scour her body with aether or psionic energy or whatever perverse mightiness it was possessed with did not stop the princess now as she raced behind this Mishhuvurthyar nemesis with her Kirie's right gauntlet outstretched in an attempt to snatch it by its tentacled tail.

Some few meters to William's left, the Nepleslian could see Mao and Rei wrestling to get free less easily as he and Hoshi had. Their Sarah M7 power armors seemed half submerged for a moment, only for the samurai dyad to swim up through the devouring quagmire. Somehow, they managed to crawl out and then across the floor for a step or two before standing.

But no sooner had the duo regained their footing than the walls behind them lashed out, this time much farther than the simple reaction that their impacting bodies had elicited. Again with tentacles — and now joined by two pairs of thin humanoid arms — the umber-and-red walls of flesh sought to take Rei and Mao as their prey. Both samurai, their Eihei bodies gifted with preternatural agility and senses even greater than most Nekovalkyrja like Hoshi or Aiko, managed to avoid being caught. The appendages that chased them demanded their attention, though, as they kept extending out. First only arms, and then shoulders and breasts and legs that lurched out from the wall with a jerky deliberateness.

Swiftly born fully into the world, these newest forms of evil had heads, too. With pointy, naked Nekovalkyrja ears and no hair atop their bald scalps they looked as disgusting as the Mishhuvurthyar base itself did. Their wet, blank faces tilted and craned as if to look around and then peered directly at Rei and Mao from plain visages that were crisscrossed with red, purple, and blue veins.

Rei and Mao readied their blades, and just when they did the terrible ones who now faced them blinked open to reveal familiar eyes that matched each samurai's in violation of everything those two warriors stood for. From the flesh-beasts' hands sprouted sinew and muscle that warped to create weapons for these twins of Mao and Rei, who took up mirroring stances with a newfound grace that echoed with the telltale signs of a samurai's training.

The wall behind them reached out with another arm as more new sisters clawed their way up to join the fight.
Redan City

As William burst forth from the living wall, he activated his god's eye system. With it, he had two seconds of warning before he was going to get hit. It didn't seem like much, but in a battle two seconds was a lifetime. He could see everyone else break free, including Rei and Mao. He could also see they could use a hand...

Despite the warrior William had become, he was still a momma's boy at heart. However, he knew he couldn't waste too much time. Hoshi and Aiko would need his strength to take down the Nightmare. Its damn psychic attack was getting annoying, so to block it out, he picked the loudest and bass-thumping Aethersperm song he could find and began playing at max volume.

Changing course mid-air, William plowed through the nearest group of abominations targeting the samurai duo. His claws rent through the newly grown flesh amalgamations. A tornado of flesh and snew rained down around the pair. In a split second, he had his head turned to Rei. "Make it count, Mom!" He yelled as he flew past. Hopefully, it was enough of an opening for them to ready themselves.

With that done, he could focus on the task at hand. Killing the Nightmare. With a defiant roar and Aethersperm pounding in his ears, he launched himself directly at the target of all his hate.
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Redan City
Underground Mishhuvurthyar Chamber

Rei's instinct was to throw her crackling blade of aether forward at the marionette playing at being Nekovalkyrja. Nay, playing at being her. But her wizened years let her see that action through in her digital mind's eye, watching the macabre thing parry her ceaselessly in an endless dance with death. It was futile. But a samurai knew there was always a way to win. And a samurai Rei was.

"Our blades are twins in victory," Rei spoke to her junior yojimbo's mind, lest her words be drowned out by the blasting of Nepleslian sound coming from her former kohai. Next to her newest protégé, Rei hoped Mao would follow her lead, as if they were practicing a kata together in the Kaiyō's dojo. Except here they needed no mirror to see their own forms. Their attackers would do that for them.

Her adoptive son's assistance meant there was a moment for stancing up and little else. Rei stroked the air near their lookalikes with the crackling aether of her sword. The saber's true thrust was meant for the dimpled flesh below them, though, as she melted the webbing below them into sizzling beef. She pulled her saber back up through the air, cutting at a section of the wall where Nekovalkyrja bodies crawled out, towards them both. Her backup thrusters on her calves aided in driving the swing of her blade as it crackled through sinewy corruption. With a deft block and a raising of her leg, she thought perhaps she would remember this moveset to practice later with Aiko, too. She let her AIES track the princess momentarily, contented somehow in the princess' autonomy as she sidled behind the even more deadly threat above. It was a far cry from many years before.

Hoshi's shots had hit. Only, they had hit the aetherfire the terrible thing had flung. There had to be some way that they had not tried to rid their path of this foul beast. But if they were to test everything that didn't work first, the task force's battle would be lost above before they won down here. There was no time to test new theories.

The Taisa could see her attack had provoked the calamity's ire while its swarm of tentacles fluidly glided through the Mishhuvurthyar chamber towards her. It was a jarring display that the Nightmare was playing on her home court, comfortable and happy to toy with them in these seized lands. Hoshi was peripherally aware of Aiko flanking the beast behind while William roared at it from below. She unloaded another three shots of the heavy cartridges, firing first at her head, then more irregularly at her belly, up to her shoulder, then down again at the mass of her crazed tentacles as they loped around. The intent was less to hit all parts of her body, but more to make it difficult for the creature to parry every single shot, random as they were, all while charging.

Hoshi's left hand had again been working simultaneously as it loosed her Kaiyo sword from her waist. The thrum of it was comforting as she knew she would again be engaging a Mishhuvurthyar in close quarters. Dauntlessly, she prepared for something even worse than the broken shoulder from her last encounter with one days before.
Redan City
Underground Mishhuvurthyar Chamber

The entire chamber around the Kaiyō's heroes quaked and rumbled as they fought against this new type of Nightmare. Whatever fierce brawling still occurred on the city streets above raged on and sent its explosive shockwaves into their subterranean arena, causing the grotesque biological geometry of the Mishhuvurthyar construction to rain down humid sheets of unknown fluid onto the fighters with each concussion. It was hot and loud and hellish down here in captured Redan's abominable stomach, and were it not for the power armors they wore, Aiko, Hoshi, William, and their samurai companions would feel the full force of the atmosphere's thickness try to digest them as they made war.

With William having felled the first two clones and Rei's subsequent assault on the walls where more tried to emerge, the advance of those Mishhu doppelgängers seemed to halt. But unknown to Rei and Mao beside her, their biological imprint spread through the base's guts like a taint. At her right foot, Rei would soon feel something grab around it — an arm that held her strongly, pulling more of its body up from the high flesh-shelf where they stood along the cavernous chamber's edge.

A whole pile of biomass fell onto Mao's shoulders, and she quickly realized it was another double of her same as the one William had only just killed. The thing hugged around her neck and cuddled its flat, bloodshot face against her Sarah M7 armor's helmet as its body tried to meld in between the suit's protective shell as if it were a fluid. Horrified by its attempts to infiltrate her armor but no less composed, the younger samurai activated her teleportation module and re-appeared some three meters away. Immediately, the copycat Nekovalkyrja attaching itself to her disintegrated into red mist on both ends of the short jump, unprotected from the physics bending relocation technology's flashbang effect as it was torn apart molecule-by-molecule. Then, not skipping a beat, Mao jetted her armor back toward Rei and began slicing at the onslaught of clones still generating from the walls.

"Our blades are twins in victory," Rei had said but a few moments ago.

"They shall feast well before resting today, Sensei!" Mao replied, lopping the head off of a perverse version of Rei that approached the older warrior from behind. Much blood still remained to be drawn until either samurai's blades could return to their sheaths.

So focused had Hoshi been on the task of shooting the charging Nightmare again that she neglected to pay any mind to the second of the beast's fuchsia fireballs. It hit the captain in her hand that was presently drawing her Kaiyo sword, impacting right where the weapon's tsuba crossguard met her hand. It filled Hoshi's fingers with electrifying heat and forced her to drop it as the sword's zesuaium blade absorbed the aetherfire and exploded, cracking it cleanly into two shards that spiraled away and embedded in the fleshy walls nearby.

Though her prized sword was shattered, Hoshi was lucky beyond luck to still have her hand. The Kaiyo sword had not been able to strike at the pink captain's foes today but nonetheless was her shield instead.

Hoshi's decision to ignore the Nightmare's attack and continue firing her revolver at it — whether the decision was a misguided overestimation of her durability or some measure of calculated defiance — provided some sliver of advantage, though. The Nightmare's extraordinary reflexes that were more than a match for even Rei and Mao's Eihei physiology allowed it to dodge Hoshi's expert shots, and only nearly, but caused the monster's serpentine slither through the air to slow. Just enough of a moment for Ketsurui Aiko to catch it.

One of the heavy plasma bolts from Hoshi's pistol singed through the Nightmare's silvery metallic grey hair, and it shrieked with the same immediacy of a wild animal getting stabbed more so than like any wounded soldier that Hoshi, William or Aiko had ever heard.

When the tips of her Kirie's fingers touched the Nightmare's trailing tentacles, Aiko motivated the Thought Armor's form to reach further and push harder with its thrusters as if she was stretching out her own strong Nekovalkyrja body to the limits of her muscular capability. Of course, this had no impact on her Kirie's technological limitations. But the moment its Immersion System told Aiko's mind that the Nightmare was in reach, she promptly tightened her grip as second nature and tugged hard at the tentacles now in her grasp. Its momentum kept going even though Aiko had the beast in her hands now, and the princess could feel it bounce stiffly as the Nightmare's ligaments quickly hit their limits.

Aiko knew William was below despite the frantic bloodlust that the Nightmare's deep fright had instilled in her. In her clutches, the monstrosity's entire body began to glow, heating up with its aetheric fury again. Its hands burned brighter too, readying themselves to burn the Ketsurui princess like it had the first time they'd met.

"So eager for my touch?" the Nightmare cooed into Aiko's mind, the physical contact allowing it to break through the protections afforded by her Kirie's Psionic Signal Controller. "Tsk tsk tsk tsk. Even a bitch shouldn't take pleasure in such sensations."

Already, Aiko's arm that had been scourged by the Nightmare's past caress began to burn. She acted quickly, though, swinging the devil around by its tentacles while it laughed. The Nightmare seemed to care little for Aiko's merry-go-round treatment, cackling in a way so very disobedient to its present situation as it surged whatever psionic or aetheric power it used into Aiko through the Kirie's fists clenched around its tentacles. The fiery magenta aura had begun to extend over Aiko's mecha suit, too, creeping across its armored panels and singing the princess inside.

Until Aiko slammed its body into William's raised Cyclops claw as he leapt up through the chamber.

For a moment, the Nightmare fell silent. It was not clear if the beast was dead or simply stunned. Its fuschia energies subsided leaving only its chalky skin and the bits of deep blood red armor lifeless where it'd been stricken. William hovered in the center of the cavernous hall where he'd caught the Nightmare. The massive Nerimium spikes extended out from his hulking armor's left forearm and through the Nightmare's torso, and William held the creature there in its daze for an eternity snapshotted in his, Hoshi's, and Aiko's minds.

And then there was bedlam.

The Nightmare began flailing and shrieking again. Its tentacles whipped out of Aiko's grip with irresistible force and then slammed her Kirie clear across the underground chamber they'd made their battlefield. As the princess' big power armor crashed against the wall and bounced away from its sinewy architecture, the fiend's entire body that had been silenced only moments ago erupted as a magenta balefire with gouts of the unnatural flame pouring from its babbling mouth. Simultaneously, the regenerative flesh-sand fell down atop William from where his claws had penetrated, and the Nightmare's appendages — both its arms and toothy-tipped tentacles — ripped at his armor and helmet as the frenzied foe pulled itself closer down the blades that impaled it.
Redan City
Underground Mishhuvurthyar Chamber

This was bad...

William was originally filled with relief as the nightmare was thrown onto his claws. The relief was quickly replaced with shock as it redoubled its effort to kill them. It's flesh burned at his armor, seeping into joints and burning through the armor. It was also burning through his helmet and getting into the collar and burning through there too.

The Nepleslian howled out in agony as the the melted armor and flesh began to burn his skin. He could tell his arms weren't going to last long.

He did his best to block out the pain. With both hand shoved into the monsters body he couldn't move without risking it getting away. The best he could do was hold it down so the others could kill it.

He pushed his shoulder mounted railgun to point straight up at the Nightmare and began firing high velocity rounds straight into its body. "Kill this thing!" William called out to Aiko and Hoshi. If they didn't hurry, his arms might literally fall off.
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