I'll be honest. I'm just so tired of everything right now.
"That was quite a storm." Steel sighed as he looked up from the parchment in front of him. The storm clouds were now gone from Mt. Olympus; the others had done it.
"It always is." He shrugged as he continued to transcribe his message to Aux. Laura continued to press though.
"You sure you don't want to say goodbye in person?" Steel tried very hard to refrain from sighing again.
"It would be a waste of time; they'd ask questions we don't have time to answer. Besides, they've probably already been whisked off to the next job anyway." He shrugged again. Leaving them had been a hard decision, but he decided that in his current state he was just a liability to them. He needed to recover, and going with Laura meant he could do that. Besides, she needed his help.
"Well, if that's the case, then just how are you planning on getting that to them?" The ex-pirate stood with her hand on her hip, a skeptical look being sent his way. Steel couldn't help but smirk in response.
"Oh, don't you worry about that. They'll get it." Finishing the letter, Steel rolled up the parchment and tied it shut with a ribbon. Holding the scroll in his hands, he focused intently on Aux. Not that he knew much about the SoS de facto leader, but . . . he was the de facto leader, so it should go to him. In a puff of smoke and a flash of light, the letter vanished from his claws. Laura shook her head.
"If you keep using up your energy like that, you're gonna drop dead before we even make it back to your 'garden.'"
"Then we had best get moving." Steel formed a steeple with his hands, giving a considering looks to the sunlit world beyond the ships railings. "You go make sure the crew is ready to sail, and I'll worry about getting it where it needs to go."
"Right. . ." Despite voicing her confirmation, Laura didn't look away from the horizon either. The look on her face was morose, it was almost certain that she had moved on from his issues to thinking of the problems she had developed over the course of the days events. This time Steel couldn't suppress another sigh as he placed on hand on her shoulder. She gave him a questioning glance.
"We're gonna get Henri back." This time she smirked, returning to the confident and self assured persona he had come to associate with her so far.
"Right. Just be sure to keep up your end of the bargain, wolf boy." She gave a dismissive wave of her hand as she walked away, leaving him alone at the railing. . . or so he had thought.
"Mr. Hope?' He turned to see the young witch, Judy, if he recalled correctly, looking up at him. He hadn't talked to her since they had met, what with him and Laura trying to keep her and Henri safe at the time. He tilted his head to the side, his ears pulled down in confusion.
"Yes?" She smiled up at him brightly, swinging her broom around in a playful manner. Steel could tell this was a cheerful one.
"I just wanted to thank you for being a friend to Miss Laura: I think she really needed it!" Steel's didn't quite process her words at first, but once he did he couldn't help the slow smile that spread across his face, nor the slight wag in his tail.
"Don't mention it kiddo. If I'm honest, I think I really needed it too." Judy's own smile grew even bigger, and Steel couldn't help but think about how refreshing it was to not be covered up like usual. Everyone on board knew about him and none were unnerved by him. The nervous feeling of needing to hide just wasn't there. Before too long, the ship had set sail, and Steel found himself standing near the bow, keyblade at the ready. It shone with a brilliant energy, as he opened up a portal to the lanes between. Steel turned back to look at Olympus one last time.
"So long, SoS. See you again. . ." As they crossed through the portal, he took out the vial of ink that Mortimer had given him with promises of power. He thumbed it with consideration before looking towards the side railings with determination. With a powerful throw, the vial of ink plummeted into the depths of the ocean between as the ship sailed into the stars.
Steel has left the party.
Steel's eyes opened groggily as he slowly came to awareness. He had been moved out of the street to lean up against a wall and the person who had come to his aid was standing in the entrance to the alley. What exactly they were watching for, he had no clue. He didn't seem to be missing any of his personal effects, so perhaps they were standing guard or looking for something.
He made to get up, not even bothering to hide the sounds of the groaning and shifting that escaped him. The other presence quickly turned to him, and Steel was able to see them clearly for the first time.
"You're Awake!" The woman's tone was both concerned and somewhat exasperated. He supposed that was to be expected, considering that he, a clearly very ill stranger in need of aid, had insisted on not getting a healer. Claiming that it would do no help likely wouldn't have calmed her at all. Still, she had seemingly respected his wish. Not that it had prevented her from grumbling about it. No amount of concern could seem to still her tongue as she complained throughout the entire process of helping him to his feet. "Stupid kids; always... blue... have to babysit them all." He didn't catch everything she mumbled to herself, but it seemed she was no stranger to having to assist strangers down on their luck. He found himself smiling in spite of the situation.
"I'm really sorry to have taken your time, Miss...?" The woman, dressed mostly in red, eyed him with a critical demeanor. He had a feeling he might be in for a scolding in the near future.
"Now what are you doing out on the streets in your condition kid? You in some kind of trouble?"
Steel continued to stagger through the streets, his condition worsening quite suddenly. He was barely managing to weave through the crowd. He desperately began searching for an out of the way spot, but that was complicated by his blurred vision. It was strange how suddenly all these symptoms had set on, but it was hardly as if it hadn't been coming. Ever since Zootopia when that penguin shot him with that formula. The chemicals had mixed with his own unstable genetics in ways that were even more volatile than he had initially thought. At the rate things were going...
Even just putting the thought into proper words made him feel as if had been cursed with a heavy burden: A horrible feeling for someone who was already distressingly ill. He stumbled to the ground, feeling uncomfortably vulnerable in a city whose residents were likely far from benign. He hurried to his feet, trying to get out of the street, only to bump into a blur of red and yellow.
"Hey! Watch where you're- Oh man, are you alright kid?" Steel wiped sweat from his brow as he tried to answer the concerned voice, but he could only gasp as he found himself incredibly short of breath. "Hold on, don't move: I'll go get a healer." He shook his head, grabbing their wrist as they turned to leave. "No... no healer... it... it won't... help..." With a sharp pain in his stomach and a brief coughing spell, Steel fell back to the ground. He heard the faint sound of the voice telling him to stay with them as the world around him faded to black.
Spoiler: Conqueror's Respite (Cont.)
“Aura is gone too.”
Steel’s entire body went still, his blood ran cold.
“She left not long after you did… Just up and vanished the same way. I couldn’t tell you why."
The silence returned with a vengeance. There was too much to process for Steel to respond properly. He found himself staring at the island in the distance, getting more and more drenched as he stood idly in the pouring rain.
"Sors?" Gale's voice sounded from behind him, and Steel found himself turning his head ever so slightly in acknowledgement. However, both of them remained silent for awhile longer. Eventually Steel let out an exasperated, or perhaps stressed, sort of sigh. He turned back to his siblings, looking at him concerned from their spot on the beach.
"Winter, Gale... I want you to head home." Both of them made noises of distress, clearly intending to argue. He headed that off quickly enough though. "If this illusion mirrors the state of things back home, than Griffon needs your help. Heck, maybe they need help more now than they ever have before...given for admittedly loose definitions of 'before.'"
"So what are you going to do?" Winter's no nonsense tone was matched by a scolding glare. He shrugged in return.
"Where else?" He turned back to look at the Edge. "Someone has to look for Aura." He asserted. "...And it's not really like we're safe if all this goes sour either. Might as well stay to help."
"So we're just supposed to leave you alone?" Steel couldn't help but let out a quiet sort of laugh.
"What makes you think I'll be alone? Or did you simply not notice our traveling companions this whole time?" Steel found himself oddly comforted by the glare that his sister sent him. It was just so... well... 'normal' was the only term he could think to describe it. Now that he thinks on it, it's been awhile since he was around people he was really comfortable with... even if they had actually been with him the whole time. The Artisian couldn't help but smile. Gale, for his part, looked more concerned than either his brother or sister at the moment.
"Are you sure you'll be okay?" There was a brief silence as the eldest stared at his singularity of a younger brother with an uneasy gaze to meet Steel's own pensive one.
"I'll be fine." Steel eventually responded, reassuring them with a smile.
STEEL HAS LEFT THE PARTY.
As most of the group walked off, Steel waved to the remaining Castur and Kaida before heading off towards the markets by himself. He kept his hood up the entire time, not sure how long he would go before he randomly changed again, or what he might turn into if he did. Honestly, it probably would be best to go to someplace more private, but in their line of work...
Steel snorted as he realized that 'private' was a completely alien concept at this point. Heck, the one time he was alone he had immediately been approached by one of their enemies. That thought brought to mind the vial still safely padded away in his jacket. He still wasn't quite sure what to think of that whole encounter to be perfectly honest. He didn't really figure he could trust Mortimer for anything, and after what had happened in Zootopia he didn't feel like he would want anymore suspicious fluids in his system. With how well that had gone over, Steel was figuring he would sooner toss himself off the nearest cliff. Actually they would probably be forced to do that at some point in the near future, if they hadn't already. Honestly, almost everything that had happened since he joined was something of a blur. Though, he knew part of what was to blame for that.
He winced as another wave of pain washed over him, but he continued to weave through the crowd.
Steel raised his eyebrows at Ananta's comment.
"Oh, so everyone who has ever owned a mask is the same, are they? I'll just go let Aux know that we're the same person now." He smirked as he continued. "I'm sure once that's cleared up we can take Marx to go pick up Vanitas and Nequa to start a cult together. What do you think of 'the Masked Circle?' Has a certain ring to it don't you think? Of course we should also make sure anyone else nearby who's worn a mask at some point doesn't get left out, so we'll have to check if there are any other prospective members in the group before we go."
Since his hood was up, he didn't even bother mentioning that he was pretty darn human looking at the moment... or was he? Oh well.
“Yeah.” Steel deadpanned as they abruptly found themselves in an entirely different world. “That seems about par for the course.” Pulling up his hood, Steel gave a dismissive wave to Balthier as he exited the ship. “Enjoy your new compass then.” As far as he was concerned, Balthier wasn’t any better than Jack had been: He had admitted to being a bounty hunter, and their own groups’ mixed reactions and supposed tall tales had only seemed to leave the man thinking they were crazy, and probably that they were pirates. If Balthier thought it would make him some extra coin, why wouldn’t he turn in a bunch of mad pirates? Deal or no? In fact the man had already sounded like he had been searching for some kind of excuse to not go all the way with his end of the bargain, and Steel had almost laughed when he had been interrupted with a random inter-space worm-hole. He wasn’t sticking around to give Balthier the same chance they had given Jack.
No sooner than they had set foot on dry land though then immediately meeting a local, who also just happened to be the Greek Lord of the Dead. Couldn’t they get a break? Maybe a vacation would be too much to ask for, but a good nights’ sleep in a fancy hotel with plenty of food and a bit of time to indulge in their hobbies would do them all wonders, he was sure.
Hades left them alone without too much trouble. He did however, leave behind some unwelcome gifts. Just the sight of them gave him a splitting headache… an unusually strong one. He felt it pulse through him and instinctively grabbed at his forehead. For a moment he thought he felt scales, but when the pain was gone and he looked at his hand, it was that of a normal human. When had he changed from canine anyway? Frowning in a thoughtful manner, a viscous pool of dread began to form in his stomach. He pushed his concerns aside for the moment though, more concerned about the immediate consequences of something Hades had said. It was unlikely anyone had noticed his minor episode anyway.
“A one way ticket, huh? I don’t suppose he’s particularly concerned with whether or not we can leave.” It smelled like a trap to him, and getting trapped in the underworld of all places seemed like a terrible way to move forward.
Steel Attacks Tentacle 1 Twice
Steel honestly wasn't sure what to say. As often as he was he just stood by and stayed quiet, the last thing he expected was for the enemy to lend him a sympathetic ear. He would be lying if he said that the whole thing didn't bother him. Mortimer wanted to know what Steel wanted, but... could he really tell him that? How could he be sure such knowledge wouldn't be used against him. And then there were Mortimers words of 'selling up the river.' Steel scowled and clenched a fist.
"What makes you so sure?"
Steel was ashamed to say that he was at a loss. Honestly, this felt surprisingly left field. He had been running on autopilot for a long time now, really. He mostly just moved from one problem to the next with the rest of the team, and he didn't even see a need for him to be there most of the time. This was a bit of a monkey wrench in his half-awake thinking, and he couldn't help but stare at the mouse before him. Glancing briefly at the ink splatters on the ground, having no small relation to what Mortimer had said, Steel's unfortunately dumbfounded response was merely:
"You want me?"
Upon realizing exactly who the newcomer was, Steel promptly began glaring at him. He sighed.
"Oh well enough I suppose." He placed his head in his hands as he contemplated how long this would take to devolve into a fight over the latest magical mcguffin. He did question the means of his enemies greeting of course. He wasn't sure he had ever said a word to Mortimer, so he couldn't fathom why the mouse personally knew him by name. This probably couldn't mean anything good. "Perhaps a few too many patterns in my life, but I'm still here. Now what pray tell, did you want?"
The party's arrival was met with a tall suave man pointing a gun at them. He seemed to be under the impression that they were pirates... not that the fact they sailed up on a pirate ship helped... or the fact that three out of the four of them were dressed as pirates, and he himself was dressed unusually enough that he could probably be considered one. It wasn't just their physical appearance that was working against them though. Marx' lie and Luna's immediate refusal to go along with it was bad enough, but then Luna had to loudly and angrily deny any association with pirates.
Why nobody could just remain calm when these things happened escaped him.
Nevertheless, it seemed to go over well enough for the man, Balthier, and he stopped pointing guns and started making deals. Now Marx could think whatever he wanted, but it seemed clear to Steel that Jack had already betrayed them and had probably never planned to do anything for them in the first place; there was no need to honor such a deal. To that end, he was personally not interested in making any more deals with two faced individuals, and bounty hunters weren't usually all that much better than pirates. Even if Balthier intended to keep the deal, Steel couldn't say he was all that interested in nabbing a cut.
"It's Steel, and we aren't interested in munny." He supposed that they could use the munny to buy a ship, but he still wasn't too keen on making any more deals with whoever happened to be standing around. For his part, Balthier seemed far more interested in trying to find out what Steel was. If he was to answer, he would have to honestly admit to not being sure what to say anymore. Sure he knew what he used to be. That was an entirely different timeline, though. He hadn't come into the world the same way as then, and even if he had his 'species' was more of a title. Thing was, everyone who shared it was just as genetically unique. Still, it was what he already had, and there wasn't as if it had any other meaning in this new multiverse.
"I'm an Artisian." he muttered flatly as he pondered the unusual position of being the standout member of the group. In theory, his appearance was bizarre even for some of these locales, and it should be a common occurrence. In practice not so much.
"Right..." Steel muttered as he slashed at a few buccaneers that had strayed a bit too close. Seeing he wasn't going to get any sort of response from his apparently busy teammates, Steel summoned a dark purple sphere of energy to crush his opponents. Most of them got away, but the Graviga did manage to subdue two hapless abominations that quickly fell to his keyblade.
Pirates Defeated: 2
Pirates Remaining: 16
EXP Total: 50
"Right..." Steel muttered as Gilgamesh fled into inter-space carrying a hypocritical squid on his head. "I suppose it's time for clean up again." He rolled his eyes as the pirates of the Dutchman began to surround them. Not waiting for the enemy to take the initiative, he rushed into the crowd as he summoned his weapon. Ducking under the swipe of a sword, he bashed one of the monstrous pirates in the stomach and knocked the wind out of them. He then brought his the hilt of his weapon up to his opponents face. While the creature clutched at its pained nose, Steel grabbed it by the neck and sent out the pulsing electrical tendrils of a Thundaga spell. The surprisingly pleasant smell of cooked seafood emanated from his writhing victim, and Steel felt both simultaneously disgusted... and like he could go for some sushi.
"So how about that Captain Sparrow?" Steel shouted to his comrades as he chose another victim and ran to behead them. "Real piece of work, leaving us to fight a random horde... " A carcinoid head rolled. "Like always." He muttered.
Pirates Defeated: 2
Pirates Remaining: 18
EXP Total: 37
Steel cut to the chase, rather disinclined to sit around on this slag head with a self important pile of cartilage.
"Your associate there took a comrade of ours." He deadpanned as he pointed to Gligamesh. "I think you'll find the person in that chest isn't "dead nor dying" either. Simply put, we would like our friend back." There was no way that this was going to work. If Gilgamesh was on Davy Jones' ship than he had some kind of hand in whatever twisted scheme was going down. Still, the faster that was established the faster they could get on with things.
"Of course." Steel muttered as Gilgamesh continued his shenanigans in the background. "That's such a big difference. I feel so silly."
When all was said and done, Gilgamesh escaped with Luna, and now they had to add saving her to the list of things they were questing for. Of course, the princess was no pushover, so hopefully she'd make the job easier for them. They followed Captain Jack to his ship, the 'Black Pearl' and watched him shout loudly for a 'Mr. Gibbs.'
"Well, onto the high seas for more adventure I suppose..."
Steel was feeling rather tired of adventure if he was honest.
Chrys followed Chrono's lead and began destroying the other mechs. She had no doubt that they had more holed up somewhere, but at least it got rid of the more immediate threats. As it was, all she could do now was her best, until something went wrong. Than she would have to see what she could salvage.
Steel, having been a relatively humorless mood lately, elected to roll his eyes. Stepping past the pirate captain whom was lamenting their opponents advantage.
"It's great that you're on a first name basis with Buece and all, but if you guys are all buddy, than why are you trying to take our friend?" He was being rhetorical of course. "No, wait, let me guess: You've been approached by a mysterious and shadowy organization who has promised to give you a keyblade if you did their bidding with it."
Chrys made a show of nodding along with Gladio's plan. She doubted it would be even half as easy as he made it out to be. There would be a fight ahead of them even if it was only the... whatchama... corp... in their way. As it was they would have to put up with the chasers as well as the goons of the organization whose name she couldn't be bothered to remember. Her former allies had been quiet so far, but it couldn't stay that way for much longer. A clash was inevitable, and there was no way this raid was going down without a hitch. Still, it wasn't as if there was much she could do about it.
"Ready to move out whenever."
Though Tinarah momentarily had trouble, she rather handily disabled the warmech, allowing Chrys to leap towards the target and pry open the cockpit. Though her offensive magic was virtually non-existent, the first tear blizzard spell that she knew was enough to allow her to frost over the pilots helmet. She punched through the weakened material before delivering a hook that knocked the driver out cold. From there it was a simple matter to toss them to the side and hop in to the formerly occupied magitek device. A quick scan of the controls allowed her to put together how to use some of the more basic features, and the armor was closed and started before too long. In all honesty, the controls were surprisingly simple, and she was able to put together a rough idea of how the weapons functioned as well.
They had what they came for, so it was time to head to the rendezvous point.