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[IC] EXTRA=STELLAR [Stage 1 - Meracus]

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Henrietta smiled as she got off the train "Well I'll meet up with you all at the allotted time and location but first i must visit the local church to see how fair the heresy has spread." She says with a curtsy before heading towards the church. Upon arriving at the church and looking at where the statue of the Lord should be she frowned the statue was where it was suppose to be but it was accompanied with another one standing taller because of having a head.  Noticeably twitching and gripping her case harder she goes and finds one of the priests and asks. "Excuse me but where can I find the head priest? I have some inquires to make of them."

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Julianne looted the cabins while she was still at it. A handsome number of checks were collected from the bullet-torn corpses of the birdhead goons, possibly being the money they got from "collecting donations." Certainly more than enough, though.

 

Julianne & Henrietta || Kaagan Nexus

 

As Julianne took her time appraising the lost jewelry, Henrietta was already on her way to challenge the local church.


The priests were first surprised by the new face barging into the church, and then were surprised by the fact that it was a Bramadist sister. It could only mean one thing...

 

A male priest stepped forward to greet Henrietta, but her inquisitive attitude quickly shut him down. He was not to be intimidated by this little girl acting tough, though, and so he affirmed his stance. "Is there a problem, sister?"

 

The other townspeople were still mingling among themselves, not yet noticing the scene.

 

--

 

As for Julianne, should she get around the church part, she'd find a fairly chill Foundry. Soldiers chatting while mending wounds. There weren't a lot of people in there, so one could assume that these were people who got roughed up in a fight club, or as they say, "I fell down some stairs."

 

 

Nemesis & Eleanor || Kaagan Hunting Guild Marketplace

 

Nemesis' presence wasn't greeted with animosity by the merchants and the blacksmiths working around the Guild. According to them, travelers tend to have far more class compared to the soldiers, and actually have an eye for their finest wares. This of course was segued into them trying to sell those wares. That aside, they were more than happy to chat while they introduced their best items, though it was awkward enough with Nemesis not being the friendliest man around the block. And that's where Eleanor came in, offering everyone a warm platform to talk over.

A merchant shared his story. He was a retired hunter, using that expertise in the firearm trade. "Since you're all headed for Kaagan, let me tell you a story. A few years ago, there was this new guy in the barracks. He came over to me and told me right in the face, 'If those treants in Chloropylae are so scary, why don't we just burn the whole forest down?' That idiot stormed out of my shop after not finding any incendiary rounds, but he didn't give up there. Somehow, perhaps he found an equally stupid guy, he got his hands on a flamethrower. And then he sneaked into that forest and tried to set it on fire. And oh boy, the treants got so much fuel that they grew to the size of buildings that day. The passage was completely impassable for weeks, and the officials found his body after finally putting down the overgrown Teras. And of course us hardworking citizens have to take on all the losses that came from a clogged passage. Stupidity really helps nobody!"

Meanwhile, an engineer examined Eleanor's claymore for her, repeatedly commending its craftsmanship. There were a few slightly dulled teeth but it would hardly affect its performance. He still offered to sharpen the teeth for a fairly low price, regardless.

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"Seeing beneath the mask would raise even more," Nemesis replied cryptically to Eleanor's comment. Still, he did appreciate the assistance. He hadn't been any good at dealing with people for a while, now, and didn't particularly have an interest in cultivating the talent once again. 

 

At the merchant's tale, Nemesis raised an eyebrow, an action that would probably have held more significance were it not essentially completely hidden by his attire. So the Teras around here absorbed fire, somehow? That was good to note. "So what's your favorite way of dealing with the treants, then?" Ask the question that would be the least suspicious. It paid to not be an obvious outsider, as much as he would have liked to learn more about the local Teras and the threats they posed.

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Julianne takes her place in the Nexus, positioning herself close enough to hear the conversations of the soldiers but far enough that she's not sitting right besides them. Replacing her arm would take some time, her hat some more time still, in the meantime then she may as well pick up whatever gossip she could.

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Eleanor would thank the engineer and pay the price to keep her weapon sharp - if you take care of your weapon, it'll take care of you. If you slack on that, then one day you're liable to be facing someone or something with a broken sword, and that would hardly be any fun now would it? 

 

After that was done, she returned to Nemesis to hear the conversation he was having, and she listened in. 

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Henrietta lowered her eyes at the priest gripping her case slightly tighter before taking a deep breath and loosening her grip a bit and smiling this wasn't the first time that people tried to strong arm her because her her height. "None of yet. Though that is to be decided on after my talk with the head priest. So if you would be a dear and bring me to them or them to me, it would be quite lovely and we could get things cleared up without any fuss." 

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Henrietta || Kaagan Nexus

 

The male priest's eyebrows twitched. "I-Is that so," slamming his hands together before his chest, he matched Henrietta's smile with one of his own, arguably just as forced. "Okay then. Follow me. For your own good, I hope you're aware of the customs here." With an offhanded remark, he paced to the right side of the church and knocked the door exactly four times. "Father Fidelis, a Sister has come from faraway lands to talk with you."

 

A deeper voice came from behind the door. "She may come in." With that, he quickly paced away from Henrietta.

 

The room the head priest resided in was fairly small. Bookshelves were situated in the back, with his desk at the front. As for the head priest himself, even though he was in his robes, he still gave off the feeling of a retired soldier. Perhaps it was because of that scar on his left cheek. He put down the book in his hands and waited for Henrietta to speak.

 

 

Julianne || Kaagan Nexus

 

"The fucker cheated!" A soldier slammed the repair furnace he was using with one hand. He had the other hand inside the furnace. "Yeah, yeah. They're not hearing your excuses, buddy." Another soldier spoke up, he was sitting next to the wounded one. He seemed to be just accompanying a friend, as he didn't seem to be visibly damaged.

 

"I swear to God, he snared me! It's, it's like treants! Like how they'd fuck with you in the forest by tripping you, he did the same shit in the ring! And bio-augs are banned in the club!"

 

"Woah now, hothead. The floor was made of planks. Even if he wanted to cheat, you can't make a seed sprout on a plank."

 

"Yeah but have you considered how there's soil beneath the planks? He probably pulled up a plank or two during maintenance day and planted seeds in there!"

 

"Right, right. If you're so sure, how about you show it to them? You have the bio-aug, too."

 

"The asshole would just say that someone else put it there, it wouldn't work!"

 

"... Then... You'll just have to get good. Seriously, you can't keep falling for Teras-tier tricks."

 

A sigh followed. The wounded soldier stood up, having finished his repairs. The two then took the stairs and left the Foundry.

 

 

Nemesis & Eleanor || Kaagan Hunting Guild

 

The merchant pointed to Eleanor - more specifically, her sword. "Something like the madam's chainsaw over there. Just cut them by the trunk, and they won't be able to fight back anymore. This also works when they're overgrown, to some extent. Though... This isn't how the Monolith's soldiers do it. They got their bio-augs from those treants, and they'd use the power to make them wither. It takes virtually no skill, and I hate it!" He thumped against the table before him, perhaps angered about the degrading value of huntsmanship. With a sigh, he continued, "if you're planning on using that accursed bio-aug this town's known for, though, just stay away from an overgrown treant... or you'll never leave the forest."

 

"In any case! Since you're just traveling, you should try getting around their territories if possible. Cutting into a treant really wears down a normal sword fast. Chainsaws should fare better, but still. I wouldn't want to ruin a good sword."

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Nemesis glanced down at his sword. No, he didn't want to ruin that. it wouldn't do well, anyway. "Good to know. Wasn't planning on getting any of those bio-augs; I'm ugly enough already, who knows what putting Teras bits in would do?" Something about Nemesis's tone felt forced, despite his best attempt at humor. Really, he was just trying to deflect suspicion away from the full coverage of his face. "Anyway. I don't suppose you've got a way to deal with the things from further away? I don't plan on fighting them if I can avoid it, but in my experience that sort of plan tends to not last."

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"That withering thing sounds like no fun at all. You're right, no skill to it! Why use that when you can get up close and test yourself?" Eleanor wholeheartedly agreed with the man. She took note of what he said, though - sounded like just shooting the things wouldn't work, so she would have to use her sword if they ran into any... "What's this about overgrown treants? How're they different from the normal ones?"

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"How do you do Father? I am Sister Henrietta more specifically Special Inquisitor Sister Henrietta." Henrietta smiled.  "By my title I would suspect that you know exactly why I wished to talk to you. So I won't mince words.." Henrietta took a breath before continuing "There is heresy with in your domain and if we can not come to an agreement on how to address it, I will be forced to..." she paused a moment looking for the right words. "To have more aggressive involvement in its removal." she paused giving the father a chance to speak.

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That's enough rest for now. Julianne flexes her new hand, carefully, experimentally wiggling her fingers and clenching a fist. Her quick-reel system should counter the tripping well enough. The treants themselves, that'd be more problematic, a rope spear won't do much good, nor a scimitar when it comes down to it. Well she was in th market for a new hat anyways. 

 

Head off to the marketplace, pawn off the valuables of the bandits, see if that's enough to cover the cost of a hat and weapon. 

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Henrietta || Kaagan Nexus

 

"The old men in Ierospolis hold no power here," the head priest spoke up, unfazed by the inquisitor's words. "And that's why we've pledged loyalty to the Monolith. It's a matter of practicality, dear Sister." A sharp glare struck Henrietta. "You're not allowed to be involved in this. Do leave while you still can, for I cannot guarantee that the Monolith will tolerate your hostility..." Slowly, he moved away from his desk, though he was still seated.

 

Julianne || Kaagan Hunting Guild

 

Visiting the marketplace around the hunting guild, Julianne was able to sell the bandits' junk for some quick money. The shopkeepers didn't seem to mind at all - in fact, from their enthusiasm, they were likely glad that the bastards finally got hit by karma. In the end, the money was more than enough to cover the cost of a hat and weapon.

 

Nemesis & Eleanor || Kaagan Hunting Guild

 

The merchant laughed lightly, "Well, just remember that you can't get any uglier than the Chimeras of Kaleiga. Those walking atrocities are what you get from overloading a Manavi with bio-augs."

 

He then addressed the questions. "Anyway, ranged options don't really work well unless you're throwing circular saws. Their bark's nearly seamless normally, with only a small hole leading to the heart. It's an instant-kill if you can hit it, but it can take an expert at least a minute to locate that hole up close, so it's honestly not practical. Though, on the off chance that you end up fighting an overgrown treant, more holes would open up leading to its heart, making it easier to hit, though it would take a few more shots to do the trick."

 

"That's probably the only positive thing about the overgrown treants, though. Everything else is a nightmare about them. Their bark becomes black like charcoal, yet it's even harder than before. They'll also become even more aggressive, taking control of the lesser treants around them and causing ground-splitting tremors just to corner you. Of course, having bio-augs extracted from treants would also leave you in their control, and that's why the Monolith's troops are so afraid of them."

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Well that should be enough for a weapon, question is what kind of weapon? That, Julianne felt pretty confident in her ability to figure out. She looks through the marketplace ostensibly she's window shopping, in actuality she's examining the soldiers and hunters, observing what their typical loadouts are, the ones without bioaugs anyways. If they're stationed here, it'd stand to reason their weapons should be well-suited for the typical threats.

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Nemesis was quiet, mulling over the information for a moment. Seamless bark, only one vital point to hit. Difficult to deal with, to say the least. "Don't suppose there's any toxins that work on them?" If they were some sort of plant-monster, then there had to be a way to poison them, right? "Failing that, I suppose I'll have to see what sort of other tools you have for dealing with them. I don't exactly look forward to ruining my blade trying to hack through one."

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Eleanor didn't really have other questions to ask just then - so she waited for the answer to Nemesis' question. She seemed mostly equipped to deal as it was, but that doesn't mean she had to slack off on preparation. 

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Henrietta sighed she had hoped that this holy place wasn't so far gone into heresy but it didn't seem so. "I thank you for the concern Father but you will find I am more then capable and its not needed. " She said before grabbing hold of her case. "And I had hoped you would know that not getting involved is something i can't do Father. For I am a servant of our Lord and I must see his will be done." She said as she turned to leave. "And now i bid you farewell Father for i must see our Lords will done." she said as she left the room and headed towards the heretical statue fully intent on blow it up.

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Julianne || Kaagan Hunting Guild

 

Although that much was true, the soldiers here had the primary purpose of intimidating the Kaleiga Monolith's forces just across the pass. As such, they were mostly armed with standard rifles. Taking more time to observe the soldiers, however, Julianne would notice that a small minority also had chainsaws slung over their backs, somewhat like Eleanor's weapon. That particular minority also bore a lot of similarities with the local hunters, or perhaps it was the other way around.

 

In any case, taking down treants seemed to be the job of an elite minority. The rest of the soldiers simply had to wait for them to deliver the finished products.

 

 

Henrietta || Kaagan Nexus

 

Fidelis looked at Henrietta, perplexed. What could she do, anyway? She's barely five feet, she couldn't hurt a fly!

 

And besides... To him, his god was Meracus Carone, the man who gave him a new life under his banner. Unlike in Imera, he could actually live under a roof here, and it was all thanks to him. What did Bramada give him anyway? Nothing but misery!

 

Deep breaths. Deep breaths. He had done this before. This wasn't the first time he had to deal with Ierospolis' inquisitors, and it wouldn't be the last. What was this harmless dwarf going to do against the fastest draw in Meracus? She was definitely all bark and no bite!

 

"... And so must I see my Lord's will done."

 

Though he was old, he still retained the muscle memory from his glorious past. He bolted up from his seat, drawing his handgun and firing away with amazing precision. One shot to rule them all - a bullet to the heart!

 

*Tink*

 

Oh.

 

Oh...

 

 

Nemesis & Eleanor || Kaagan Hunting Guild

 

"That would be illegal, unfortunately," the merchant frowned. "See, they don't want to get rid of the treants. They want to farm their cores to prop up their soldiers. Using toxins would work against that." He paced to the back of the shop as he spoke, "and besides, there's no one left in this town still interested in researching toxins. Including me."

 

Shuffling through his wares, he took out a dusty axe with one hand. "Well, you seem to value your blade a lot. A tailor-made chainsaw would be fairly expensive, so may I introduce to you a lesser, but cheaper alternative?"

 

He grabbed a blue rag on his way back to the storefront, and tidied the axe up swiftly. "We don't really use these anymore, but they can still serve their purpose."

 

He moved one hand to the halfway point of the handle, and the other to the far end. Then, he held down a button and twisted the handle from below, revealing a retractable section. "It can also be thrown like this. How effective it'll be will be up to your strength, though."

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Nemesis just grunted in response to the news on the toxins. Of course they were illegal; someone was profiting off of those monsters continuing to exist, and so nothing would be done about them. Typical. "Illegality does tend to have that effect." Nemesis reached for the chainsaw, and, assuming it wasn't an issue, hefted it for a moment. A bulky thing like this wasn't exactly in the man's normal repertoire, but fighting tree creatures was also not usually one of his occupations. "This should work. I don't plan on getting any closer to those things than I have to, anyway." He fished around in his pockets for a moment, seeking the requisite funds.

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A chainsaw would appear to be the best bet here. A standard one would suffice. Would for the elites anyways. It was their livelihood, it was not Julianne's however, and whatever advantage she could get, she'd take. Reach would be the easiest, something long to increase her range, needs to be flexible too, can't let it get caught on trees and branches. Oh and it needs to do more than just saw and cleave. No, it needs to break and pierce, restrain and shatter. Soldiers fight treants and threaten their opposites. Julianne's group meanwhile had an assassin on its tail. It seemed silly to think there would not be more. If she herself was planning on ambushing in this place, she'd go for heavy armor, angled to deflect chainsaws, take a saw for the treants, and something with more reach for her targets. Rationale is simple enough - if your opponent's geared for treants, then come equipped to counter the norm for that. So she needed to counter that.

 

The new weapon she commissioned was closer to a whip than a chainsaw, a flexible assembly of whirring sawing teeth good for cutting away at treants from afar and tangling up foes, all rigged together to retract and collapse into a staff-like form. No one was carrying something blunt around here, so a staff probably won't do much against a treant. But against manavi it should be more than enough to break limbs and injure through armor. In Julianne's hands at any rate.

 

Commission the weapon.

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Eleanor already had a perfectly competent weapon for the task, so she didn't need a new one - however, if Nemesis came up short she'd be willing to lend him some cash. "My sincerest thanks for all the help." she said cheerfully once everything was paid for. 

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Henrietta stopped as the bullet hit her falling harmlessly off of her. "I must admit Father a part of me had hoped you would do something like that. It makes what comes next easier." She said as she flicked her arm holding her case pulling the mini gun out. Leveling at the Father she gave him a disarming smile. "Is there anything you would like to confess before you are sent to be judged by the Lord?" she asked him giving him a moment to answer.

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Henrietta || Kaagan Nexus

 

"H-Hah..." Fidelis squeezed out a laugh as Henrietta revealed a frightening minigun, ready to smash his body into pieces. Although he had proven himself to be a bite-less dog, his limbs did not move so much as an inch in response to the drastic shift in odds. A heretic he may be, but that resolve was undeniably true. "Meracus' influence did not leave this world with Him... You won't get away with this!"

 

Smashing that trigger again for one more futile shot, the old man was ready to pay back the life that false God gave to him.

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Sighing again Henrietta spoke "I hope you find some peace when the Lord judges you." At her word her pulled the trigger of her gun tearing the Father apart. With such ugly work done she left the room with her mini gun out well her internal foundry begun to make an explosive as she made her way toward the heretical statue. She considered just blowing the whole place up so things could start anew under the true guidance of the Lord but she decided against that...for now.

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Nemesis & Eleanor || Kaagan Hunting Guild


The price was fairly cheap for a weapon. A mere 500 Tis, no more expensive than a decent piece of clothes. The merchant happily gave the axe to Nemesis. It wasn't really built for augmentation, but it could serve its purpose without it anyway.
 

"Pleasure doing business with you!"  He smiled and waved the two customers off. Maybe he was just glad to finally get rid of the outdated weapon.

 

 

Julianne || Kaagan Hunting Guild

 

The blacksmith in question was intrigued by the unique set of demands from the commission, though he seemed to get the right idea. A good weapon needed a matching price, though the money scavenged was still enough for it.

 

He passed the end result - a threaded cane - to Julianne. And just when she was about to leave...

 

 

Henrietta || Kaagan Nexus

 

A merciless barrage of bullets pinned Fidelis against the wall, and then smashed him through the wooden wall, sending his corpse arcing into the wall of a tavern. The echoes of the gunshots continued to ring. It felt satisfying, somehow.

 

The door to the Father's room was opened slightly, revealing a seam. That same priest that greeted her was there, peeking into the room to see what was going wrong. The two crossed gazes, intentionally or not, and he ran like his life depended on it.

 

And so did the townspeople, breaking into a panic as Henrietta slowly swung her way towards the statue of Divus Meracus. At that moment, she was untouchable.

 

 

Nemesis, Eleanor, & Julianne

 

Not too far away, coming from the distance of the Nexus, a familiar string of noises could be heard - Henrietta's minigun, punctuated by a wooden wall crumbling apart. Then there were screams from the same direction, followed by a few soldiers scrambling out to the streets to see what happened.

 

From their expressions, one could tell that they weren't really raring to confront whatever chaos going down in there.

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Nemesis just closed his eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath. This should have been something he saw coming. The profanity of the religious iconography bothered him on some level (though he had to admit he couldn't find the energy to care much about the temples as of late) but this was rather too much. And stupid, besides, but reason rarely played into the equation with people like that. He moved a bit behind the soldiers, doing his best to look like a concerned citizen as he approached Henrietta and the shitstorm she'd oh-so-politely decided to set up for them.

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