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RP: YSS Kaiyō Mission 28: Akuma

Despite Aiko's demonstrations that she would not be felled, the Mishhuvurthyar was still putting its full effort into downing the Ketsurui. From the distance now between them, it shot with its secondary aether gun at her brazen stance with its severed appendage. Hoshi, too, fired on it now but that didn't slow or stop the creature in the slightest as it tore into the darkness with hot blasts of pink aether.

“We have to kite this thing up a few floors to daylight." Hoshi said to her team's comms, "We'll give the ship a good look at it from there, understood?”
 
From her elevated position in the air, Molli had a perfect view of the Princess's bold standoff with the Enhanced. Though everything Molli knew about her XO's capabilities should have let her know that the Princess had this, and quite handily at that, Molli's eyes widened in fear; her breathing accelerated with the panicked beating of her heart. "Y'Highness, wait...!" Molli's voice was barely a whisper, unlikely to be audible over the chaos of battle and the grotesque screams that pierced the squad's skulls.

For several moments, Molli was frozen, unable to avert her eyes as Aiko launched herself at the Enhanced. When its tentacles enveloped the Princess, Molli was overcome with clarity of mind and purpose; a single thought pierced the veil and lifted the fog of terror that clouded her ability to act: Not again. It wasn't going to hurt anyone else today; this son of a bitch was going to hell empty-handed.

After handing off her pistol to a kalamari arm, Molli personally drew the aether katana that she'd failed to utilize before. With her wings flaring full of aether energy, the Nepleslian bore down on the Enhanced from on high, her helmet's visor piercing the darkness and pinpointing its position. She'd planned to cut Aiko free, but, as expected, the XO was more than capable of doing it herself, and the sight of the imposing Kirie defiantly decreeing the Misshu's fate in the Princess's imposing voice was nothing short of beautiful. Inspiring, even.

Aiko didn't need help getting free, but Molli wasn't prepared to leave all the work luring the Enhanced to her. Using the Enhanced's hatred against it, Molli's rapid ascent shifted to a brazen attempt to slice the Enhanced's remaining gun with her aether blade and leave a passing cut near its eyes as a taunting gesture. Every part of the Nepleslian was focused on executing the plan flawlessly, lest she squander the second chance her arm had bought against it. The thought was terrifying, but Molli was more determined to help her new family than she was to die.

The Princess's inspiring presence didn't hurt either.
 
William clicked back his acknowledgement of Hoshi's orders, and watched as Aiko began taking on the advanced in CQB. Looking up through the floating trees he noted the stray beams of light through the red canopy.

Hoshi's newest order, to kite the Mishhu up to the ceiling, seemed a daunting task at firs, but the begin of a plan started to form in the captain's mind. It was a stupid plan... but it would work.

He was in motion not a second later, skating around the opposite side that Molli had began attacking from. "I have a plan, but I'm going to need everyone's help to pull it off. Molli and Aiko you're with me. Everyone else, blast a path through those trees!" He ordered as he slid in behind the mishhu and stabbed both his clawed hands into the back of the monter. Firing his thrusters, he launched himself out into the central opening holding the Mishhu over his head as it thrashed and it's tentacles whipped about trying to skewer him. "Aiko... Molli... help me lift this fat bastard!" He grunted as he began flying upwards towards the roof.
 
The fire team moved in closer to engage the Mishhuvurthyar, much to the chagrin of the Science Officer. Recognizing the hazard her relentless fire posed to her comrades now entwined in close quarters with the enemy, she ceased her barrage, though as she did her attention momentarily captured by the grim spectacle of alien viscera pooling beneath them.

With a quiet resolve, she set parameters for her drones: to hover within 30 to 50 meters from their target, above in an arc of 75 degrees, their focus on its many slender limbs rather than its heart, maintaining a distance of 2 meters from one another, and to cease fire and reacquire if a friendly strayed into their targeting aperture. In manual mode she was almost certain to cause friendly fire incidents, however with this rule set the drones would be able to shoot around those in close combat and hinder the Mishhu’s counter attacks. Where as many would be annoyed to leave the combat to the machine, Morgana had a slight grin under her helmet.

This adjustment offered her the opportunity to pursue her scientific endeavors amidst the turmoil. Morgana moved with purpose through the debris, her presence minimized to a shadow slipping beneath the giant adversary. She secured a significant sample with the assurance of her power-armored grip, retreating to the relative safety of cover to prepare her findings for transport.

With a mindful caution borne of knowledge of the Mishhuvurthyar's notorious bio engineering, the Minkan, meticulously processed the specimen. As the battle's roar continued unabated above, she clinically segmented the sample for containment, each piece encapsulated within a hazardous materials vial to defend against potential threats hidden within their flesh.
 
Floating above them were those reddish trees whose leaves were filtering down frantically each time the building was blasted by an assault. They were placed centrally like the stature Molli had toppled was with a large basin like a bonsai would have for the soil they grew from and were between them and the rooftop above. As William pointed them out, he speared the beast and brought it to his back, making the weaponry Molli had sliced off topple with a resounding clash agains the ground. But the behemoth was the size of a van and buckled his Cyclop's legs under its weight even as he took off foot by inching foot towards the central hollow. Even the one he had killed and brought down from the mountain on Kessica had to be piled on his and Hoshi's backs, not his alone. This one flatly refused to be hauled off like the dead, though, and phased through William and into the floor below.

The captain was patched in to the Aingealians, "Lumiv of House Aros, might I ask for you to speak with our diplomatic liaison and Yamataian royalty, Ketsurui Aiko. Aiko-chusa, this is Nebel's head of the mobilized aid division ready to speak with you." Whether Lumiv really was ready was up for debate, one which Hoshi would not be having. She could hear Aiko and the Mishhuvurthyar was out of sight for now; that was enough for the captain.
 
Even afforded with a Kirie's unbridled reflexes combined with Aiko's computer brain that could together coordinate the big armor's movements at the speed of thought, the princess could only watch as William charged in to grab their colossal foe. And by the time Aiko was herself jolting back toward the Enhanced, having leapt from her place a few meters away, it had already phased away to escape his grasp and disappeared into the ground to the spire's level below.

Of course, Aiko was glad to see both Molli and William dive into the fray with her. To have one's example followed in battle was a great joy for the Mistress-Taisho's daughter who'd been born and raised to lead soldiers into war. Still, the happy sensation flowing from the back of her skull that tingled down Aiko's spine only served as a counter to the feeling of dread that shot up from pit of her stomach when she saw her Nepleslian friend crumple under the grand Mishhuvurthyar's colossal weight. But it was this balance that kept Aiko steady in a fight, and both emotions served to drive her forward until her mission was complete.

"Hoshi said to tempt it away, Wil!" Aiko shot, grabbing his Cyclops by somewhere behind its neck where her Kirie's left gauntlet could hold as she rocketed past him and then upward toward the trees above. She then let him go a dozen-or-so meters up, letting him freefall until the point at which he chose to activate his Breakthrough Armor's powerful thrusters to follow. "Our advantage now is that the beast wants us more than we want it. Let us keep that edge so we both attain a second kill of its kind to our names."

So, confident the Enhanced Mishhu would return to find them, Aiko did not fret its disappearance after William's brave attack. That he'd spooked it off — or perhaps that Molli had given it pause after fully robbing it of its aether weaponry — was a boon she would not squander, especially after being ordered to talk with some alien general in the middle of a fight.

"Yamatai is not an enemy of the Aingelians in this fight," Aiko said over the newly opened comm channel, doing all she could to take the vicious battle-borne edge out of her voice. Because the consequences of failure for the Kaiyō's armor team were already deadly, stuck as they were between a Mishhuvurthyar infestation force and the angry defenders of a far-off world, Aiko chose her next words without hesitation.

"I am transmitting our friend-or-foe identification information to you now," the princess declared to Lumiv of House Aros. "We have chased these Mishhuvurthyar creatures infecting your planet across the stars to defeat them wherever they go. Please join us in defending Nebel together. We will need your strength to destroy their most powerful weapons just as you will need our knowledge to find them."
 
In the muted moments that followed, the crew were surrounded only with the sharp lilt of Aiko’s last words to the Aingeleans and the alien woman’s succinct acknowledgement that followed.

Suddenly, Muyomi’s barrier module activated around Hildr, a soft teal illumination that formed more than a semicircle around the patient. Muyomi hadn’t yet fully covered herself, though. As a dozen tentacle slapped at the defense, one had gotten through as it phased up from the ground and Muyomi yelped helplessly when it wrapped around her and pulled.

A dozen feet away, aether explosions tore through the room’s flooring, sending chunks of black marble and concrete into the air as Hoshi shot her LATR. The team got a hostile marked on their HUD by the captain just as she had loosed her high explosive incendiaries from her rifle, following the Mishhuvurthyar with her double rails and chipping into its chitinous armor as it skated along the flooring. Every fourth shot of hers hit it as it was bobbing and weaving away from the inner hollow the group had been fighting in. Muyomi was dragged into its tendrils as it raced, mostly phased in the flooring, to the outer wall of the building.

Their minds received the message: “Stop them from targeting my NMX Nekovalkyrja and I’ll stop killing yours.” It was much more restrained and diplomatic than the same Mishhu had been only seconds ago, and it explained further: “There are one million Mishhuvurthyar Nekovalkyrja on this planet. SPARE THEM.”

Just as the Mishhuvurthyar burst through one of the many openings in the building that the clouds were filtering in through, the medic’s armor flopped on the floor. It was discarded like trash, crumpled up like a can and punctured in the middle. Her AIES reported her as dead. The Mishhu had popped a dark cloud that tunneled down into the purple clouds as he had left the building.

“Tell them to stand down then!!” Hoshi bellowed as she raced towards the medic at the edge of the aperture of the building. Muyomi’s armor had started leaking orangish pink goo.

“Aiko, work that out with the Aingeleans.” Hoshi ordered. She couldn't believe she was negotiating with a Mishhuvurthyar, but its desperate plea had felt organic and in a strange way, believable.

“Molli on point with everyone else after the Enhanced. Kite it to the roof! William, help Hildr back up. Your suit can’t fly so go up clear the top of the building for our rendezvous with Kaiyō. Morgana, figure out what happened to Muyomi and if she can be saved. If not, collect samples.” Hoshi’s orders took a more subdued tone as she spoke to the scientist, already grieving Muyomi even as the Kaiyo had started reconstructing the medic in a hemosynthetic tube just miles away.
 
Molli was ready to help William lift the Enhanced, even if she thought getting so close to a horrific monster that could shred through armor like paper was a terrible idea. Unfortunately, the Enhanced wasn't in the mood to be lifted to its doom, but at least it phased through Will without dragging him along, too. Deep in her heart, beneath Molli's hatred for that creature, the Nepleslian hoped it wouldn't rear its ugly head again. She followed the Princess upwards, swerving past the foliage on her way back to the rest of the squad.

In this lull after their harrowing encounter, Molli had time to think about the Aingelians and how they spat in the face of Yamatai's generosity. "Manky toffers..." Molli grumbled through open comms, "Wish we could give 'em a tour of those bleedin' meat wagons. See if they still want th'squids around after that," A slum-born Nep like Molli couldn't understand the politics around her, nor did she particularly want to.

What followed after felt too fast to react to; a flurry of motion, followed by the familiar yelp of one of their own. Muyomi was pulled away, and Molli could only stare in shock as one of their own was devoured by a mass of tentacles. All that remained from the attack was an empty husk of ruined armor that Molli couldn't tear her eyes from.

That could've been me, Molli thought, as white noise drowned out the chaotic symphony of battle around her. Her breathing was all that could break the inaudible droning pounding at Molli's ears until another voice stabbed into her mind again. Somehow, its serenity felt worse than the discordant screeching that had assaulted them, and a stream of bile formed in the back of Molli's throat as she processed what it was asking of them.

It wanted to be spared? After everything its kind had done? After what it had forced them all to see on that ship?

Molli sheathed her blade before grabbing her pistol with a grip that would've dented steel. She shook fury as she prepared to follow Hoshi's commands. "Steamin' pile o'drit's scared," Molli hissed, "S'why don't we jus' kill 'em all? They're monsters!" There wasn't a scenario in her mind where these millions of Mishhu didn't meet their ends at the business end of their gun barrels and the tips of their swords.

They'd desecrated too much to deserve mercy.
 
The diagnostic systems in William's suit began to blare their noisy consternation at what he was putting it through. He was reading an imminent failure warning in the suit's hydraulics, and his muscles screamed in pain from the strain. Despite this, he took step after step towards the central chamber; all the while, the advanced thrashed about on his embedded claws.

Then, a cold chill ran through the ID-SOL's spine as the advanced began to phase through him and down through the floor, causing his breath to catch in his throat and his heart began to race. All he could hear was the rapid beating of his heart in his ears. As it finally passed into the floor, William dropped to his knees and sucked in a lungful of air. Just as his hearing returned, he felt a hand grasp the collar of his suit. He initially began to resist but finally realized it was Aiko. Acquiescing, he allowed his friend to haul him up. "Yeah, I heard her." He replied tiredly. Reading through his systems again, he found multiple damaged systems, including his suit's thrusters. He let loose a slew of curses, all in perfect Yamataigo.

As he was dropped, the captain engaged the cyclop's PPG and launched himself towards Hildr, landing a mere few feet from her. "Let's go, kid. Time to leave this hell hole." He said, lifting the battered suit carefully. Holding her in one arm and thermal lance in the other, he began the hike back up to the roof, using the PPG to leap from floor to floor.

"I understand, Molli. But live to fight another day and all that." He said, feeling her frustration, especially after the loss of Muyomi. If it were up to him, the Fang would be in orbit at this very moment, dropping kinetic warheads on every NMX in sight. Yet, they needed to get the wounded off this crappy planet, so he kept climbing.
 
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Hildr's eyes blinked open under her mask, dazed and numb, only dimly aware of the battle still raging around her and her fellows as she struggled to regain her bearings. There had been an explosion, she remembered, she had taken a good hit to her armor that had blown her out of the air and sent her plummeting to the ground. Weakly, the neko turned her head and tried to focus on the blurry forms of Muyomi and Aratani fussing over her, repairing some damage to her armor that she wasn't quite registering yet. She didn't recognize the locale at first, but as the haze of shock lifted from her senses she realized they must be inside the spire.

With a cough, Hildr tried to lift herself up from her prone position and immediately wished that she hadn't. She let out a cry as pain shot down her right side, the warnings from the suit interface indicating damage to her armor around the hip and upper thigh, along with several other minor areas of damage and injury. Gritting her teeth, the neko slowly raised herself up on her hands so she could see the extent of the damage, hissing out a curse as she saw the burnt and buckled rent in the armor along her side and leg. Even as she looked on with a morbid fascination, she saw Muyomi apply hemosynth patch to the armor and feeling the wash of nanomachines covering the damage.

"Thanks, Muyomi," Hildr said with forced lightness as she looked up at the other neko, though her voice was edged with pain. Grunting, she forced herself into a sitting position and took stock. The bad news: the missile pod on her right leg was missing, leaving her with only enough for a salvo or two on the left side. The good news: somehow she had held onto her SMG, a small miracle that. Her blades and her sylph pack were also intact, the drones having fallen outside the spire where she had landed, too. Small miracles, she supposed.

As Hildr made the thought to summon her drones back to her, the flaring of the barrier around her made her start and whip her head around as tentacles descended and slapped at the barrier. She watched with horror as the tendrils grabbed Muyomi outside the protective envelope of the shield and dragged her away. A howl of rage and pain tore from her lips as she brought her SMG to bear and let loose with a rain of fire at the tentacles, aiming at the points where they sprouted from the floor. Her eyes widened in horror as they phased out of the building, leaving behind the pieces of the neko's armor like a broken toy's discarded parts.

"Mu...Muyomi..." Hildr mutted, shocked at the sudden loss. She didn't really even register the mental message, nor her own pain anymore, as she heaved herself to her feet and began to limp toward the broken armor, only to be stopped as William landed next to her and started to bundle her away.

"W-wait, we have to check...to see if she...if Muyomi is," Hildr pleaded, but her surge of energy already began to recede, and pain returned to her side and her heart. In the end, she did her best to assist William with climbing toward the roof, only tearing her gaze away from where Muyomi's armor rested once it had passed fully out of view.
 
Nestled within the Kirie's pilot pod, Aiko's body fast asleep while her digital brain dreamed of the war waged by her mechanical form, the princess' jaw clenched so tightly that she could hear the high-pitched whine of tinnitus overwhelm her Immersion System's connection. Peio Muyomi had been aboard the vessels named Kaiyō just as long Aiko herself, assigned in that initial batch of crewmembers to the original Plumeria-class launched in YE 38. To witness the medic's first death stung Aiko deeply, and she could further feel her shoulders—already curled in the fetal position required to pilot a Thought Armor—tuck inward toward the sucking emptiness beneath her sternum when she saw her longtime comrade's life signs turn black on the command monitoring display.

Aiko's red-and-white Kirie was immediately a crimson bolt thundering down from the sky as she diverted its course from her position highest above the others. Had only the rest of the team been able to respond to Hoshi's orders more quickly then maybe Muyomi would still breathe alongside them now. But that ability to phase and endure in combat was the danger these new Enhanced Mishhuvurthyar posed even beyond the hazards posed by their Advanced-Type predecessors. That its psionic voice could pierce their PSCs, too, was a perilous threat. At least it lacked the psychic fortitude to affect them in those horrifying ways a Nightmare Type Mishhu might.

Through the Enhanced's haunted pleading directly into the armor team's minds, Aiko kept on track her bloody charge back to attack the monster. She had no patience for such cowardice, nor the desire to reason out what it was saying in that moment. Like William before her, Aiko was consumed with an urge to mangle the beast directly with her forearm weapon's sword and her fists themselves. Rip into its flesh with her teeth if a Kirie had them. All the princess knew then was that the Enhanced had sucked Muyomi out from inside her own Mindy.

But Hoshi's cool-headed order halted Aiko immediately. The princess swung her Kirie's legs out from where they trailed behind it in her lightning strike dash to follow her Mishhuvurthyar prey. There she stopped, allowing Molli to take point and the others to chase it while keeping her CIES' weapon sights trained down to where the Enhanced had slipped off to again. Had Aiko been in a Mindy or unarmored, the rest of the crew there might have heard a rare "tch" click in annoyance from the princess' fair lips, but such undignified utterances were otherwise muffled by the insulation her Kirie provided.

"Lumiv of House Aros," Aiko growled, addressing the Aingelian leader again with more throatiness to her elegant voice than usual. She had to think quickly, now, for it would be quite a mouthful to explain the situation. "My Empire's property is being held by our foes."

Which was entirely true. All Nekovalkyrja created by the NMX belonged to Yamatai, and the unlucky NH-29 thralls were often repatriated to the Star Empire after the Second Mishhu War.

"The Mishhuvurthyar fiends have realized their folly in pursuing their struggle in the face of your mighty Mobilized Aid Division, and have agreed to cease fire if your ships do as well," Aiko explained. Her digitally projected voice had mellowed to its typically husky allure by then, though she still felt the pang of Muyomi's loss in her core. "As before, we are at your mercy. And so it seems is our mutual enemy. These are lifesign patterns that match a biological weapon used by my military, the Star Army," Aiko continued, explaining Nekovalkyrja existence as she sent Lumiv's command ship data on how to biologically identify NH-29s with common sensors. "We will remove these million-odd soldiers without bloodshed once the fighting ends."

The princess remained thirsty for the lives of her foes, even those NMX Neko she was negotiating for now, and was eager for the moment in which the Enhanced's devious ploy fell apart as the lie Aiko craved it would be. Until then, however, she carried out Hoshi's command and fulfilled her duties as a scion of the Yamatai Star Empire's ruling clan. Anything else would be failure.
 
Morgana finished up securing the samples, giving them a small amount of Hemosynth to keep them healthy before sealing the vials in a hard case. She then looked up in awe at what she was hearing. The science officer had read battle reports and papers, and never once had she heard a Mishhuvurthyar surrender.

Her feelings were in accord with those others who would rather keep fighting, though far colder. What she, or her fellows back at SARA, could do with a living specimen far out stripped what could do with samples, and the damage she could inflict on their kind could extend far beyond the consequences of this battle.

Then something hit the floor with a wet thud and her eyes were drawn towards the source. Muyomi’s IFF was highlighted on her suits visor and its life signs had flat lined. The Science officer was already in the air, shooting over before Hoshi had given the command and she came to a kneel beside the broken Neko. The peach coloured liquid gave her pause as she reached out for Muyomi’s medical kit, and she quickly checked the status of her suit’s seals before beginning her work. First thing out was the Bio Monitor which she linked to the suit’s internal monitoring system, then was her own Science Pad scanning in structural mode.

Neko bodies were resilient, and if the high Gs hadn’t liquefied Muyomi’s internals there might be a chance, to if not save her then buy enough time to create and ST image of her mind.
 
Punching through the clouds, Molli made a hole in them next to the one the Enhanced had created when it had descended.It had left the building as if jumping from it, going straight down. She could follow the trail the enemy had left behind as the clouds had come in thick as they slowly swept against the combat zone. It had hung close to the building and the tunnel it had freshly created clung close to the building like it had been skating along it, towards some lower destination.

Morgana could see the armor had been punched into just like Molli's arm had been earlier. Only this time, it had hit the organic inner parts of Muyomi rather than a cybernetic joint. Through the holes in the torso, there should have been skin peaking through, but there wasn't. There was no brain to scan and no body to autopsy, just a pool of orange liquid slowly leaking out of the indentations in the Mindy.

"Big ask," Lumiv said over crackling comms. "We're going to have to sit down and discuss just exactly what this infestation happens to be. For now, I'll work on it." It sounded like pulling her people back would take some coordination.

Hoshi had felt a pang of guilt at seeing the fearsome Crimson Oni of the Bellflower Empire as the Kuvexians knew her reigned in. She was more than happy to back her XO up, providing ranged support while Aiko was able to pivot from the duties of a diplomat to those of one of the empire's only Kirie pilots—and the best at that.

"Molli's paving the way, Aiko-san!! Get in there and get it in position!" With a quick yell, the captain shot a powerful salvo through the room and out the egress. The LATR ammo shot into the clouds somewhere in the vaporous mass and a battlepod exploded just before it could shoot a missile of its own into their position.

Like a jumping spider or a bouncing comet of light, William made it up one, two, then four and five sets of floors. Passing the now almost leafless tree, he was out of sight to those that had hung back like Aiko and Hoshi. Soon he was almost to the top of the building where his and Hildr's visuals picked up two advanced and a slew of NMX Neko. They weren't waiting for them but firing at the Aingelean defenses. In a pocket of cloudlessness, the Kaiyo's blue nacelles caught William's attention—almost like his longtime home was gleaming out to just him to spur him on and give him hope for the fight to come.
 
As Molli shot out of the tower on blazing wings, she recalled what the Nekos at training said about being driven by emotion in battle: 'Hating or fearing your enemy is fine, but those feelings should keep you focused on accomplishing your mission. ' As the Nepleslian descended down the looping tunnel her quarry had created, she found that the anger and hatred in her heart had melted away any sense of hesitation or doubt. The Enhanced had taken too much from them today, Muyomi was going to be the last victim to suffer its grotesque wrath -- Molli would do her part to ensure that.

Hugging close to the spire's exterior, Molli blazed a trail of aether through the cloudy tunnel at velocities that left little room for mistake. A twitch in the wrong direction, a strong gust of wind that she didn't adjust to, and even the Mindy wouldn't save her from becoming a bloody smear on the rocky wall. Clasping her arm and legs tightly, Molli kept her form as razor-thin as possible to enhance her speed and shear her silhouette into a form that wouldn't shift from the direction she wanted to go. It was the posture of a professional air biker racer who knew that a sharpened point punched through the wind more efficiently than a blunt edge.

That's all this was -- another race. The Enhanced wasn't anything more significant than another contender, and Molli knew its will to survive wouldn't overcome her wish to overtake it. The further she descended, the more the clouds battered the edge of her vision, making the Nepleslian's ears pop. It was close; Molli could feel the strength of the wind lessen -- she was slipstreaming.

Raw instinct drove Molli's movements; she only had seconds to act. Drawing her aether blade, she had to hold it upward as she pulled down below the ugly shape that was fleeing before her. Momentum and power embraced each other as Molli's blade pierced the Enhanced's flesh, carving a grisly, jagged line through its belly. The soldier pulled up so the creature could feel the heat of her Mindy's aether, and then she cut a new path upwards towards the roof of the spire.

The interaction lasted less than a second, but Molli hoped the message was clear to that Enhanced: I just hurt you and doubt you can do anything about it. If it was as vile and prideful as she was betting it was, Molli had to hope she could keep her spot in first place.
 
All of the persuasive calm was gone from the Mishhuvurthyar's voice and the clanging tones of the Umbral language danced noxiously in Molli's mind.

Ỳ̸̘̪̒́̓Ő̷͙̼̆̈́U̷͎̰̠̤͗̾̇̿ ̵͚̬̥̊̀̿D̸̳͋O̷͕͔̣̣͌̀̄̚ ̶̢̰̲̥͐͐N̸̳̤̓̈O̸̺͆̌̔ͅŢ̷̰̯͂͗͘ ̸̱̰͊̀L̷̼͂̉͘̚I̶̞̖̥͌S̷̛͈̠̊̚T̵̻̜̼͑E̵̅͒͜N̶̤̺̿̎
̸̱̀̊̔N̶̝̬̖̈́͂͝ͅO̷̽͜R̸̤̈͋ ̵̝̘̩̋͂̔͐D̴̬̐̂Ō̶̳̥̙͒̂̀͜ ̴̢͙͍͓̅̕̚Y̴̳̒̉O̴̮͙̊Ư̵̬̈̒ ̵̰̟͗̋̌͒L̶̬̱̙̙̃͂E̸̝̺̠̻͊̿̚͠A̴̪͇͎̾̉R̷̡̝̳͂N̶̗̬̄̈ ̶̖͍͘

With the same undisclosed frustration Aiko had shown Hoshi when the captain had called the princess to diplomacy with the Aingeleans, the Mishhuvurthyar gave up on its descent with an annoyed flick of its tentacles. The loping ropes of flesh turned inward to smother its leaking aether saber wound. Whether it had been seeking some destination below or not, it phased from its course to Molli's position above it, goaded by her attack. But she was faster than it thought and it was meters below her, not on top of her like it had planned. It continued flying after her and the beast's vexation grew, but so did their tentacles as they extended far in front of itself. It was ready to grab onto Molli and show her exactly what it had been attempting aboard its starship and what had happened to Muyomi firsthand.
 
As William lept from floor to floor, he looked down at Hildr with his red monoeye. "She's gone, I'm sorry." He replied, a pang of sadness touching his voice. "But, I must get you out of here and back to the ship. How bad's the pain?" He asked, trying to keep the soldier talking.

He could see the Kaiyo high above, but there was no way to get there with just the PPG. Clearing the opening to the roof, the ID-SOL found his drop pod and moved behind it to shield Hildr and himself from incoming fire.

When the advanced came back, a wave of anger bubbled in his throat. He wanted nothing more than to make the monster bleed. Yet he knew that he had a more important job at the moment. "Boss, Berserker Actual. I have one wounded behind the drop pod. Ready for evac once you get down here." He called, looping Aiko and Hoshi into the message so they knew where he and their injured trooper were.
 
Charging down an Enhanced with a sword; a familiar scene, and one Molli thought she'd ever repeat. This time was different, she'd learned from Aiko's example and came to a simple conclusion: if you're going to do something ill-advised, do it with a plan. Maybe that was why the Enhanced wasn't ripping her apart, but with it wasn't for lack of trying. Even with near-maximum output to the Mindy's wings turning her into a blurry shape on her ascent, Molli had a feeling that losing even a little speed would end badly.

Learned y'ent invincible, Molli thought back, hoping the Enhanced could read her thoughts. Kent even die wiv the fellas on y'ship. Bet you di'n't even care. Monster.

The creature was too big and bulky to fly into a slipstream, Molli reasoned, but she didn't know enough to say that with absolute certainty. Far above her, Molli spied another opening, and she made sure to exchange her sword for a shotgun just as she swerved hard into it.

The Mindy helped calculate the right moments to turn, but Molli's reflexes still had to do most of the heavy lifting to keep her from smashing into the many staircases and statues lining the statue's interior. The manuevering was her attempt to surprise the Enhanced, and as she boosted back outside to continue her ascent, Molli hoped she'd tricked it into phasing into the building.
 
Spurred on by Hoshi's new orders to help get their Enhanced Type nemesis into position, Aiko's Kirie darted back into action. Using Molli's AIES signal to find where she needed to be, the princess jetted forward toward one of the spire's interior walls with both of her little mecha's arms outstretched in front of her. From the weapons mounted just behind her suit's balled fists Aiko sprayed a hail of aetheric machine gun fire at a rate of 500 pulses per second, weakening the concrete composite in the scant moments before her Kirie impacted it and drove through. She maintained this tunneling strategy straight to where Molli was dueling with their phasing Mishhuvurthyar enemy as it chased the Nepleslian girl higher and higher toward the spire's lofty pinnacles.

Though Molli had fooled the beast back inside, Aiko aimed directly for the Enhanced's behemoth form when she saw it. It'd only rematerialized from its phase state a breath before, immediately reaching out through the hole through which Molli had slipped out into the open air in an attempt to wrap Molli up with its mass of thick tentacles each the diameter of a healthy pine tree.

Upon spying her prey, Aiko hadn't much time to decide on her course of action. But the command she'd been given by the Kaiyō's captain combined with the prior communication Hoshi'd sent to the ship's MEGAMI was clear enough for the Nekovalkyrja warrior. That this abominable knave had so quickly attacked her crewmates again after pleading for mercy helped to fuel Aiko's battle drive now; these Mishhuvurthyar were indeed all cut from the same treacherous cloth and—at least in these bloodthirsty moments—justified why the Star Army was tasked with chasing down every one of their kind to the ends of the universe.

So the princess barreled her massive suit of power armor to intercept the Enhanced, refusing to slow any of the momentum she'd built up to try and push the monstrosity back out into the atmosphere outside. It was only that forward speed and the suit's weight shouldered into the Enhanced by which Aiko made her move, refraining from using her energy swords out of wariness for getting tangled up and sucked into the thrice damned Mishhuvurthyar's regenerating body. If she made it outside and through the spire's exterior wall, Aiko planned to separate from the Enhanced as soon as she could so that Boss and the Kaiyō II could have a clean shot.
 
"No can do," Asuka's voice responded to William. "We're holding for Hoshi's mark."

But it seemed that the acting captain's words were not fully true. For as soon as Aiko's Kirie shot out of the building with the Enhanced attached, the Kaiyō had moved almost imperceptibly to target not the roof but the princess and her formidable foe. As Aiko jettisoned away from it and towards the building, she could see in that moment it swiveling to face her, likely about to phase to her and grapple her armor in its deadly clutches once more. Her eyes were closed as they were within her Kirie's pod, but through the Kirie she could see that decision forming just a moment too late as her starship twinkled overhead again, this time for her. That sparkle turned into a white hot beam of aether that rapidly pulsed out from the nose of the YSS Kaiyō II and the main aether array cut through the fabric of space and time and the Enhanced Mishhuvurthyar enemy alike. There were no guts nor sandy Mishhu hemosynth left over, just an empty rod that the puffy clouds passed around instead of through.

The captain responded on all comms, "I think we got the bastard." Her jaw had dropped moderately as she was looking out the window, having tracked the Mishhu through her LATR scope. Molli had seen it, too. The Ketsurui tackled the Mishhuvurthyar with all of her force into the airspace the Nepleslian had just been racing the Mishhuvurthyar in. Then the moment they had disconnected, the Mishhu was obliterated in a deific burst of white light.

"Boss fired prematurely captain," Asuka called in to just Hoshi.

"Whatever happened to starships listening to their captains? What happened to my mark on the roof?" Hoshi asked.

"I could not simply ignore the maneuver Aiko was telegraphing." Boss responded, but Hoshi didn't have time to tell the MEGAMI what she thought of that.

"Yamataians," came the voice of Lumiv. The Aingelian woman was speaking up in their comms. "We've ceased firing on designated targets and have eradicated all other hostiles in our vicinity."

"We thank you. We'll need to call in additional support to retrieve them off planet. That way we can let you have your new home as it should be." Hoshi was unwilling to tell them they had already killed the Mishhu that had asked that of them. "Your help and cooperation is deeply appreciated."

"No bother." Lumiv said simply. "My people will have no dealings with scourge of the earth or a planet salted by such. We will start again with something more befitting our concept of purity in a system unmarred and unknown to these vermin."

"You're abandoning Nebel?" Hoshi asked, incredulous. "We'll talk more later. For now, we have unfriendlies to clear for critically injured."

Where William and Hildr were holed up behind his drop pod with several advanced looming in on his position, the Kaiyo could now freely descend, shooting out with its simpler turrets on the Advanced. Its stern cargo ramp opened and William was able to get Hildr inside easily while the starship further descended to Aiko's position, letting her, Molli, and Hoshi board. Lower it went where the team pulled in Muyomi's armor with Morgana and Isuke.

With the away team back aboard, the ship sailed through the lilac clouds of Nebel, touring the planet they had just saved from Mishhuvurthyar. Their mission had spanned hours, taking them from the sickly Ghullfrashirv Escort all the way down to the planet's towering spire and the underground Mishhuvurthyar facility below it, but there wasn't a second during it that they had given up hope or relented in the face of their equally tenacious enemy.

Even if the victory was pyrrhic with injuries, a crewmen's death, and the Aingelians wanting to abandon Nebel after working for years on it, it still felt satisfying for many of them to have won the battle. Not all of the fights within that battle had been easy or even definitively won, but their unyielding resistance had helped them triumph in their mission. For many of the new crew, it had been their first mission and a successful one at that. Hoshi ecstatically patted down the backs of those that had recently come aboard, pride swelling in her heart and soul as she delighted in knowing she had not just won one battle, but gained an amazing crew to do so with again and again into the future.
 
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