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Varanim Varanim's only explanation at the beginning was "need some quiet, mommy's having her booze time now."

Thirteen raised an eyebrow, but let her be, disappearing into a nearby tavern to look for directions.

Varanim Then she settles down in a quiet spot, cut her palm, and smears an unbroken circle of blood on the stone in front of her. She does so with excruciating slowness, the whole path taking a full hour to trace, and occasionally scratches an extra character into the drying trail with her other hand as she goes.

Varanim Although she grew visibly more annoyed every time she had to speak to a person, Varanim's questions were concise and penetrating. She cut through to information about where to find Loss of Innocence in short order and without loss of architecture.

Thirteen "Ah. You are useful for something."

Thirteen "My gratitude is exceeded only by my surprise."

Varanim "And continuing that progression, my indifference."

Colapso Stygia!

Colapso Ten thousand different architectures, testament to many a millennia of nostalgia. Space warps and wefts, cannals of the immense rivers that flow from the Void being the traverses of mysterious cloaked ferrymen whose eyes burn with secrets no living being should know. In the distance the Manses of the Dual Monarchy and the Deathlords shine, greater than all of the nostalgic architectures of periods long gone.

Colapso Each one unique, of their own color, each attempting to rise higher and higher, to pierce the sky and dwarf its peers in its perfectly-built might. Crimson Ice and Rent Souls, Extinct Sentient Trees and Abyssal Waters, making even the buildings made with the crafts of Meru and Shogunate to appear bland in comparison. For Thirteen, it was like if fifteen of the great tree fought for space and attention.

Colapso Thirteen has to marvel with Varanim's ability; her questions are concise and perfect, cutting to the heart of the matter, finding trails of information where none should be, making even the most fearful give the information. And yet, Varanim herself cannot help but notice one thing - it is too easy. For one who had stolen the lions, it is like he WANTED to be found. Far, far too easy.

Colapso Following trails of prayer whisking the air towards the dual monarchs they find the place, the Web of Shattered Dreams. Its architecture is unreal, joining buildings around and accross from it all together, giving glimpses of things beyond in a criss-cross of bricks, rock, obsidian and prayer.

Colapso But like all Manses it has a door, an immense thing of extravagant Red Jade, shining like it only does in the Underworld, framed by two rent souls, male and female, crying as their beings are broken in art, tears sliding up the arch and down in the middle, all the way to the handle which shines translucent as if made of real tears. Shining even brighter on the Red Jade that flickers like fire, its illustrations always changing.

Colapso And before the Manse a boy and a girl cry, afraid to look at it, afraid to move away.

Thirteen walks up to the door and knocks twice.

LossOfInnocence The door breaks open with sparks, dramatic clouds of smoke drifting out from it. A voice that seems to come from nowhere in particular but the architectural weave echoes from within. "Come in."

Thirteen walks in, of course.

Varanim "Oh, he's not pretending to be surprised. That's a little refreshing." She follows Thirteen after an absentminded massage of her left shoulder joint.

Thirteen "It is, at least, polite."

LossOfInnocence Inside, an obsidian hall with a myriad paintings surround them. Thirteen recognizes one of them; it is Zahara and Tevezt. Another happens to portray the Thousand-Faced Man. A ghost in a bloodied wedding dress and a vacant smile greets them with a voice unlike the echo. "May I help you?"

Thirteen "Hm."

Varanim "Killing flunkies won't actually make this part faster," Varanim mentions helpfully.

Thirteen "I am Thirteen Blooming Flowers. I believe your master is expecting me."

Varanim Behind Thirteen, Varanim makes an illustrative motion with her hands while mouthing boom.

LossOfInnocence "Oh, indeed!" She bows. "You two have been waited on for too long. Please, just follow the hall, and up the stairs. In fact, I was beggining to wonder what took you so long. The others came much faster..."

Thirteen glances at the ghost, then heads in the direction indicated, idly twirling his spear.

Thirteen suddenly begins glowing even brighter as he does this.

Varanim "Which others?" says Varanim, with a profoundly skeptical expression on her face. Then she shrugs and follows Thirteen.

LossOfInnocence The woman closes the door and smiles behind her, "Oh, you will meet them inside."

LossOfInnocence Up the stairs, they get to a wide hall, lit by the starlight and prayers from the web-like ceiling... and the first thing to notice is the Magical Material strewn about. Two in Moonsilver Armor, one of them more beast than man lay fallen, little bone trees rising from them; one wielding Orichalcum, with the marks of the golden-blooded, rent from limb to limb.

LossOfInnocence And in the center... a falling, lifeless girl greets them. One of seven around his throne, three of one and four of the other... some looking like a younger, smaller Zahara. Others looking suspiciously like... Thirteen's companion. "And here I thought I had more time," the pale man with long black hair and soulsteel armor sighs, getting up as five blades, jutting from his armor, play about, "but she was NEVER going to make it, to tell the truth! W

LossOfInnocence He gets up, cleaning blood from his hand, and regards them.

LossOfInnocence "... ooh. Thirteen Bloming Flowers! Now this is my lucky day!"

LossOfInnocence (( * Weak spirits, weak bodiesssdisgusting! Nothing! Oh, forgive me." ))

Thirteen "Yes."

Thirteen "Where is the Lapis Lion? I have twenty-two other artifacts to gather in the next fifteen days, and you have placed me lamentably behind schedule."

Varanim is silent, leaning on her staff and taking in the display with flat eyes.

LossOfInnocence "The lapissshahahah.... the Lapis? Oh, oh, you poor, poor Solar!" He laughs heartily

Thirteen "If this is a prelude to informing us that you do not possess it, I feel it courteous to warn you in advance that giving us unnecessary clarifying details before apprising us as to its location will merely lead to more extensive trauma on your part."

Thirteen "If, in fact, you gave us correct directions now, we could leave without injuring you at all. I do not guarantee it, but the possibility would exist."

LossOfInnocence "... heeeh. Is that the big Solar strategist trying to be intimidating? The little Sun-Blooded did it much better. And she is not even Solar! You should feel ashamed! ASHAMED! Nothing like Zhan, no, nothing at all!" He points to her, then looks at Varanim with sad eyes. "... oh my muse. I am sorry it had to come to this! Such PERFECTION to be killed!"

Varanim Varanim's eyes drift down to Loss of Innocence. "Theater," she says in a tone of profound disgust, though she straightens and holds her staff with a certain lightness.

Thirteen "Friend of yours?"

Varanim "Why yes, he's CLEARLY my type."

LossOfInnocence "I would be heartbroken if I wasn't! But, let it not be said I was a bad host, though. You came for THIS!" He turned around, rummaging the back of his throne... and producing a lapis lazuli lion statue. Quite feline. "Beautiful, isn't it?"

LossOfInnocence The Lapis Lazuli Lion looks STRIKINGLY... mundane.

Thirteen "It is, indeed, a most impressively crafted forgery."

LossOfInnocence "Oh no, it is the real thing! More real than real! There are no possible realities more real than the reality of this real lion! Rare Real Lazuli Lions indeed, just FEEL it!" He paces to Thirteen, depositing it in his hands, "You're looking for a lie in the wrong place, but that's ok; you're pretty new to eyes!"

Varanim sighs. "You left a rumor trail a child could follow, leading here. Your taste in decor is aggressively predictable, and if you keep making that face, it's going to stick. The only happy way to end this situation is us leaving with the cat, really."

LossOfInnocence "That is, unfortunately, not an option."

LossOfInnocence Indeed, there are no DOORS to the room anymore.

Varanim Varanim looks, if possible, more tired and disgusted. "You know what the trouble with being smart is? You basically know what's going to happen. There aren't really many surprises left."

Thirteen "Perhaps now you understand the appeal of destroying buildings on your way out of them."

LossOfInnocence looks at Varanim with admiration "So smart. Indeed, the good Doctor's work is unsurpassed on you."

Varanim "It's the real cat," she says to Thirteen, "but like everyone, he's lying about something. Now," and she looks directly at Loss of Innocence, her gaze suddenly piercing, "what nonsense do you want?"

Thirteen "Then I am not particularly interested." Thirteen begins examining the walls of this room for weak points.

Varanim There's a flicker of something in her eyes at that last comment, but it vanishes in a brilliant smirk. "I'm a peach, it's true."

LossOfInnocence "You! This is all for you! For the enemies of the First and Forsaken Lion! You were not searching for a Lion of Lapis Lazuli, but to be relieved of your existences as stones in my Lord's pat..." He stops. "Oh, is it that time already?"

LossOfInnocence Different sciences. Different places to look. Never occurred to them to look for certain lay lines in the world as it moves past, and of course they would not have noticed the hidden nature of subtle charms until pointed out; thus is their way, or else they would not be as useful as they are. Not a Charm to send rumors that will bring a designated type of person... flies. honey. Catch.

LossOfInnocence Thirteen realises the intrincacies of the Charm used to draw in enemies of the First and Forsaken Lion, but misses what Varanim perceives, the markings of an Onyx Circle Necromancy Spell all around them, a Spell that does seem... about to go off. A build-up of power, closer, and closer...

LossOfInnocence ... and Thirteen realises that on the web of the building, there is a clear weak spot. Style was thought over substance in this Manse, and although said style had mystical properties, it still hid certain flaws like a point too far away from any junctions of the web, easily broken...

Varanim "Look, this is really sweet, but flowers are more subtle, just a thing for next time. Also: no means no." Then she stops, tilting her head as if hearing distant thunder. "Thirteen, if you're going to break a wall, do it now."

LossOfInnocence "... now? When the party is ABOUT to start for real? great Varanim, broken into perfection... what do you know of The White Cry?"

Thirteen flips the cat into the air, twirls his spear over his head, reversing it, and slams the butt into the weak point he has carefully identified. The Lion lands on the point and neatly balances, and he absently picks it off and eats it.

Varanim "Onyx, two hour lead time, blocks Essence renewal. Cute," Varanim says grudgingly to Loss of Innocence. Then as Thirteen strikes the wall, she claps her hands together, pulling them apart to expose a momentary snarl of necrotic Essence that hisses and tears at the fabric of the spell settling around them.

LossOfInnocence "Guess what I cast one hour, fifty-nine minutes and... fifty nine seconds as of now ago?"

LossOfInnocence As he says this Thirteen breaks down a hole in the wall! But as he does so, he feels something spreading within him, something that burns with lament, hurting him, atrophiating his limbs, hard to breathe, to see, to move...

LossOfInnocence All around them it begins to rise, the Essence, the DESPAIR...

Varanim (Scratch the last sentence of Varanim's post.)

LossOfInnocence Despair congelating on their souls, taking away any joy they might have in life, the joys of love, of fulfillment, the thrill of following your instincts or being rewarded by the greatness of the world. All gone...

Thirteen sighs, drops to one knee, and vomits out an astonishing quantity of blackened, steaming poison.

Thirteen "Something has gone wrong."

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