The Battle for Her Soul

Even with Euthenia supporting her, Anyis stumbled as she landed on the surface of ACDC Net, and then once more when Magna's unconscious body hitting the ground caused a slight tremor. Her knees just quit on her at that point, causing Anyis to fall down and drag Euthenia with her. "Goddamnit Magna, how long are you going to be out for..." grumbled Anyis, who, not waiting for any help, crawled over to her SP on her hands and knees and smacked him upside the head. It was pretty puny compared to how strong Anyis usually threw a punch at Magna, obviously, but for whatever reason, that sparked the golem's core energy back to life.

"... Greetings, Mother Unit." said Magna as he turned his head to meet the Mother Unit eye to eye.

"Greetings my ass... You can sense that I'm dying...!" growled Anyis faintly, before her hand slipped, causing her to fall into Euthenia as she hurried forward to catch her sister. "Gah, so annoying... If this doesn't work out... I probably would've picked the quick death... in retrospect..."

"My apologies Mother Unit, I-" *thud* replied Magna, who didn't get very far into that thought as he tried to push himself up, only to have his arm buckle and send his heavy frame crashing back down. "... This is... impractical."

"Jeez, both of you...! Come now, don't strain yourselves, you might only make things worse~!" whimpered Euthenia, who motioned Ratatoskr over to plant a tree under Magna to push him upright finally.

"God... I'm getting lectured... by Euthenia... Make it stop..." whimpered Anyis much like her sister just did.

"Thank you, Unit Ratatoskr." acknowledged Magna as the squirrel's tree seed sprouted and lifted the golem into an upright position. His attention was diverted by a cracking noise, though, leading him to look at his own left shoulder, which developed a large seem down the side after he fell on it just a moment ago. "..." Magna never broke. This did not compute.

"Jeez, you're both falling apart... Magna literally, at that... I really hope everyone can get here quick." sighed Mill as he looked around the digital area. "Wait, is this... a crater? Since when did ACDC have a crater this big?"

"Since a few months ago..." muttered Anyis frankly.

"It sounds like you know more about that, Anyis." suggested Lilia.

"Don't worry about it... I'll explain when everyone is here..." mumbled the Navi through a bout of disorientation.

"And you'll be gone for school." noted Mill of his little sister.

"Oh, that is so not fair..." complained Lilia, who despite her genuine concern for Anyis, definitely recognized the value of this situation as an excuse to stay out of school.
Shocking people who are dying has never been a good idea, but that truth did not cross MeleeMan's mind as he and his SP smashed down onto the net in a plume of fire. His eagerness to get to Anyis and figure out what was happening was not well hidden, but worse, it was not conducive to good bedside manner. Rather than walking up respectfully, he marched forward with both arms swinging, leaving his SP to take her usual place beside Magna with one of her quick, ghost-like movements. "Dammit, Anyis! What's this about you dying? Anybody with a fist as strong as mine is not allowed to die!" he complained in an irritable bark as he moved closer, not allowing her the satisfaction of "fist stronger than mine."

He was about to stomp over and stick his face down near hers, but stopped halfway, seeing an unfamiliar woman standing nearby... and a squirrel? It looked like it might be harrassing Magna or something. Regardless, Anyis looked in pain, and there didn't seem to be anything else around (besides a crater) to be a cause of distress for her. "Are you the one that beat Anyis? I won't go easy on you just cause you've got better boobs than she does!"

"Master, I am almost positive that she's not-" his SP interjected

"Don't think smoking hot legs are going to save you either, I mean it! When you mess with Anyis, you mess with me!"

"The fact that she has not retaliated yet, coupled with the fact that Anyis is not fighting her, means that-"

"Dammit, shut up! Can't you just aside to that metal guy like you usually do?!" MeleeMan griped, angry that his attempts to be dramatic were being foiled. Still, she'd effectively made him lose his steam and he realized Euphenia wasn't attacking, so he finally calmed down.

"...MeleeMan, you haven't done anything stupid already, have you?" Rania muttered, only now pulling her attention from the television to her PET.

Crossing his arms, MeleeMan frowned deeply. Surrounded by women, as usual. Maybe they weren't as bad as he originally thought they were, but damn, if they didn't make things hard some time. "Alright, I'll drop it. But I have two things I need to know right away: one, who's that girl, and two, have you been fighting a lot lately? That second question's important, I'm not trying to be sarcastic or funny."

While MeleeMan sorted out his problems, Damascus took the time to inspect the large crack up Magna's length. It looked incredibly painful; she knew from experience that if her own blade broke, she experienced pain equal to a bone fracture. If Magna was feeling anything, it was hard to tell, due to his expression. Continuing to frown, she bent down near to him and released the bindings around herself so that she could situate her legs beneath her as she sat. "Are you in pain?" she asked, unaware of whether or not Magna knew the concept.
"Ah! Um..." gasped Euthenia as MeleeMan accused her of the attempted murder, causing the girl to look towards Anyis for some kind of guidance. Begrudgingly, Anyis just sighed and shook her head, drawing a slight giggle from her little sister as she looked back up to the larger male Navi. "Hi~! I'm Euthenia, Anyis's younger sister~" exclaimed the very green lady, without actually enlightening MeleeMan to her innocence.

"And that's... about as much as you'll get from her..." grumbled Anyis irritably and weakly, not giving much consideration to that Euthenia was effectively letting herself be used as a pillow. She figured MeleeMan would jump to some sort of conclusion, but in her foggy state of mind, Anyis had forgotten to recognize the problems with him encountering an unknown female. With that in mind, though, "The little sister... is off limits, MeleeMan... She didn't fight me, don't be... dumb..." Even her barbs were getting weak, if 'dumb' was the most she could throw at him.

Mill also was aware of the inherit flaws of calling MeleeMan for medical aid, but even prepared, he couldn't help but sigh at that interaction. "Sorry about all this, Rania. Euthenia's my little sister's Navi... and Anyis's little sister. Uh... Say hi, Lilia." explained Mill into his PET, before turning his head back towards reality and the teenage girl by his side.

"Hello." said Lilia with a quick and curt bow, before staring back into her own PET. She hadn't expected that one of these friends Mill would call would be... a girl. Lilia didn't have a problem with that, exactly, but it was just... unexpected. Her curiosity got the better of her manners, and Lilia found herself more engrossed in discovering how much there was to this friendship.

Magna, meanwhile, watched Damascus walk up to him and start questioning. Ratatoskr had taken to the new SP, and followed behind her before darting back around to the damaged golem. "I... do not feel direct pain, Unit Damascus. I am, however, aware of the extent of my damage." answered Magna, going so far as to prove his point by sticking a finger into the crack in his shoulder. "The visible damage is merely a symptom to the cause, and I am still calculating the full extent of the damage."

"Wait... you don't feel pain?" asked Mill confusedly, turning his attention to his SP. "You've noted discomfort plenty of times before."

"Just that, however, Operator. Note that I am not in a semi-paralyzed state like the Mother Unit. My systems will recognize and alert me to damages, resulting in discomfort."

"Huh... I guess, come to think of it, you've suffered some injuries that'd ruin most Navis." thought Mill aloud, remembering some of the holes that have been punched through Magna over the past several months. "... Yeah, I'm sorry."

"It is fine, Operator." said Magna quickly, deferring the Operator's concern.

"Yeah... I like how you're... sympathizing with Magna's lack of pain there, Mill... Especially since I'm... you know, wracked with pain right now...!" groaned Anyis, before clutching her head and turning back to MeleeMan. "Look... It doesn't matter if I've... been fighting lately... I'll explain when... the others get here..." she added, declaring her desire to not regale people with this story more than once.
"Look, all I'm saying is that if we could get a more permanent source of ghost data without you bleeding out your own core, I could patch you up more permanently and wouldn't have to keep adding more junk onto you. You saw what happened when Anyis used it on you. If I could just get something to stay like that..."

"We're here," Eidolon said, cutting Andrew off. Indeed they had arrived at the coordinates and were now at the edge of a large crater in ACDC net of all places.

"Holy shit," Andrew said, staring at the crater through the PET screen. "I remember that we used to hang around this network a lot when I first started operating you, but I never saw anything like this." His mind wandered back to a time when Eidolon was Arsinoe, and every day wasn't an exercise in keeping a navi that was not only falling apart, but self-destructive without even realizing it, from re-deleting herself. Before one idiot mistake had led to her deletion, and several more had restored her into a state which he could never fully repair.

"It wasn't here," Eidolon said, snapping Andrew out of it.

"I'm surprised you even remember well enough to say that," he said. "Must be recent then, though. Well, relatively speaking. That was almost four years ago that we stopped coming here."

"Maybe," Eidolon said, prompting Andrew's confusion again. Before he could ask what she meant, she was gliding toward Anyis and two more navis, along with a support program apiece. Icaro materialized behind her as she moved, gliding along as well and leaving rose petals in her wake.

"Am I late?" Eidolon asked, without any form of introduction.

Instead it was up to Icaro to give an uneasy "Hello," before remembering why they had been called here in the first place and rushing over toward Anyis. "Ah! Are you okay? Are you hurt? Don't worry, I can heal it...probably."
"Well, you know, I looked like you do once," MeleeMan responded, regaining his (relatively) passive expression of frowning deeply. "Not a girl or purple haired or anything, I mean sick and about to die. Hard to imagine, I know: my body as anything other than the perfect specimen of health and masculinity. But what I found was that I had a kind of sickness that could only be cured by fighting! You and I are pretty similar in more ways than I realized initially, so keep it in mind as a possibility."

"Was that actually what was causing your bad health? I didn't know that," Rania murmured. "Still, I doubt it's what's going on here. No navi is really that much like you. O-Oh, and hi, Lilia. I didn't know Mill had a little sister! You'd think he'd have mentioned something to me," she chuckled, hoping to keep the mood light. She wasn't very good at hiding her worry over Anyis' condition, partially because it reminded her so much of what had happened to MeleeMan earlier.

"You aren't in a position to be calling anyone little," MeleeMan told Rania, crossing his arms with a smirk to join in on the joking. The light-hearted merriment was traded out for puzzlement as two new navis- ones entirely unfamiliar to MeleeMan- showed up. "Geez, the chicks here! I'm beginning to feel out of place. Maybe I should go sit over there with Humpty Dumpty." Neither was too hard to look at, but both of them were hard to look at; that is, no matter which he picked, it seemed like he was looking right through them. "I wonder if it's some kind of glitch," he thought to himself.

In spite of the situation, he couldn't help but deepen his frown as the two girls utterly ignored him. "Lesbians" he confirmed in his mind. "But if they think they have a chance with Anyis OR her hot sister with me around, they've got another thing coming." Thus assured of his inevitable victory, MeleeMan smirked and mentally patted himself on the back while keeping otherwise quiet. "Wait, right... I've got to roll back that lesbian theory, it doesn't actually seem to hold true in practice. Well, the green one wants to heal her, so I guess they're just here as doctors?"

"No pain? Even as you lie injured, you reveal more qualities that cause me to fancy you a perfect weapon, just like myself," Damascus murmured, smiling as she attempted to give him a compliment. Of course, her smiles would never come off as anything but menacing. "In previous days, when I was grievously injured beyond the ability of my self-repair, I would look to my previous master to recover me. Of course, I think that is far beyond the ability of either the old man's granddaughter, nor her navi. I'm guessing a smith isn't what you use to recover your form regardless."
As if one crater wasn't enough, a little twinkle in the sky announced the coming of another crater. Three meteors stormed towards a location near the Navis already present, while Djinni and her two SP were standing on top of the meteors. Fire and heat blazed around them while Djinni tried to look for her fallen friend Anyis. But rather than finding Anyis, it was way easier to just spot Magna. "OK, jump!" Djinni exclaimed and an instant before the meteors would have a collision with the surface, Djinni, Szand and Oasis jumped off of the meteors while the meteors phased through the surface. "They're near, hurry up," Djinni said and picked up Oasis who gleefully enjoyed it. Holding Oasis in one arm, while Oasis kept her arms around Djinni's neck, Djinni ran towards the pillar that was Magna, quickly followed by Szand who had gotten more used to his legs than Oasis.

"Anyis!" Djinni shouted as she reached the border of the crater, immediately heading towards the scene taking place. It was obvious something big was going on as she saw MeleeMan and two female Navis she had not met before. Before turning her attention to Anyis, she looked at Euthenia and Eidolon and nodded at them. "My name is Djinni and this here is Oasis," she said, nudging at Oasis still in her arms, "She has some issues walking. And behind me is Szand."

Oasis waved at the others, obviously being used to using hands. "Oasis my name," she told them, "Was fire. Now blue." She identified MeleeMan and Anyis as familiar faces pretty quickly and was at ease quickly. And while Euthenia had a friendly enough face, Oasis wasn't too sure about what to think of Eidolon.

"Props to whoever made this crater," Szand said as he walked over to Djinni's side to get a better view of what was going on. He then noticed that, as usual, the SPs had mingled in a different place and raised a hand at Djinni. "I'm gonna check those out," he said and walked over to the group of SPs. Magna and Damascus he recognized, but then noticed a squirrel standing about too. Once he had reached the group he turned his three eyes towards the squirrel and smiled, his fangs lined up menacingly. "Hello," Szand voiced through his teeth, squatting down in front of it and holding out a hand. "So you've met tin man and danger woman already?" he began to speak with the squirrel, this time actually using his mouth to talk instead of looking scary. He then glanced over to the two he mentioned from the corner of his eyes and spoke at them. "What has happened to the big one?"

"What is going on, Anyis?" Djinni asked with genuine interest, "While it is obviously a battlefield here, there is no battle. You look terrible, but I see no enemy." Djinni was not a Navi who had ever shown skill in healing others, only inflicting harm. Why was she asked to come and help? But right as Djinni wanted to ask about this, she quickly put her empty hand to her audio receiver. "Agh!" she uttered. Her SPs quickly followed with the peculiar motion, Oasis even placing both hands over her ears.

What they were hearing was the magnificent sound of Na'im's snoring getting louder. But shortly afterwards, it stopped and was followed by the soft muttering of a man who was just waking up. "This e-mail..." Na'im's voice sounded to Djinni and her SPs, "I'm assuming you're already there..." The sounds of things getting shoved around and replaced were heard. "I need a coffee," he said and the soft sounds of footsteps were heard.

"Idiot," Szand growled to himself, aimed at Na'im, although it would've looked a bit weird for others.

"Sorry about that," Djinni said as she removed her hand from the side of her head, "We've had a bit of trouble recently. We're still kind of beat up, but we'll manage. Now tell us what is going on here."
"Okay, great, everyone got here quickly." sighed Mill heavily, his voice full of relief. He had only met Andrew the other day, and Na'im he had talked more on the chip BBS than in person, so Mill was quite happy to see both of them go out of their way to help despite that. On the flip side, Mill was entirely taking Rania's presence for granted, but it was probably best that neither he nor she realized that. "So, um... Right. I kind of panicked and just messaged everyone on my mail list, but Anyis really is in danger and I need all the help I can get. Can you explain one more time, Anyis?"

"..." Anyis's mouth was slightly open, but no words were coming out as it seemed she managed to pass out in the last few moments. Euthenia shook her sister slightly to try and wake her up, and failing that pinched her cheek until she finally did snap to. "... Fua...?" mumbled Anyis mindlessly as her eyes cracked open. Given a second to register that everyone was here, Anyis finally got her wits about her as best as she could. "Ugh... Okay, so... Unnn..." her vision drifted slowly past MeleeMan, Damascus, Eidolon, Icaro, Djinni, and those two one she didn't even recognize. She didn't think to inquire about the unknown quantities in her listless state, so Anyis just remained lying against her sister without really doing anything. "Mrrgh... No good... Euthenia, do me a favor... and explain..."

"Okay~!" nodded Euthenia, who gave her older sister a quick hug for comfort before taking a deep breath and starting. "So, like, the two of us and our brothers were made a long time ago to make the ghosts go away, but we weren't really good at it and lost our job to the nifty automated systems the Net has now~! But no one told our boss Aristotle to shut down, so he's all grumpy and making us purge ghosts still and punishes us really bad if we don't... I accidentally escaped from the boss Aristotle a few months ago, and now he's all mad and angry at Anyis and thinks it's her fault and is punishing her real bad, you know~? I wish I could just give her some flowers to make it all better, but it's not enough... Anyis needs to find Grants's core and merge with it to escape from boss Aristotle's punishment~! So, yeah, please help her~!"

"..." All those who knew better, i.e. those of the Alidine household, lacked words to respond to Euthenia's... unique summary. "Um... I'm sorry..." said Lilia finally, apologizing for her Navi.

"No, no, that was... strangely accurate, really." replied Mill after a moment of thought. "Lemme just clarify that Aristotle is an old supercomputer and not some guy, and uh... Well, she needs that Navi core in particular to patch with her own, because the only way to overwrite that connection to Aristotle is with some very similar data. Anyis could only think of one candidate, this Grants person... He qualifies because apparently he was Anyis's husband."

While that took time to sink in, Magna found himself surrounded by Damascus, Icaro, and Ratatoskr, all watching him attempt to pull his finger out of the crack in his shoulder. It was an accident, but man did he wedge it in there good. "I have not run a diagnostic to determine the appropriate repair method, as I have obstructed the area with my finger..." muttered Magna as he tugged one final time and final got it to pop out.

.. It being his arm, popped out of his shoulder socket. Magna just looked at his still jammed finger, with his entire left arm dangling off the end. "This is... unfortunate."

Noticing this, Mill could only put a palm to his face and sigh. "God, Magna's falling apart..."

"... Core's... in the crater rubble... somewhere..." mumbled Anyis finally, after having nearly passed out a second time. Given that, it sounded like it was time to start digging for her mysterious husband's core... On the bright side, it seemed like Magna had a new shovel to work with.
"Mmm..." was all Eidolon said in response to the newest arrival's comment about 'a bit of trouble'. It wasn't something she was particularly concerned about, but definitely something she could relate to.

As was Anyis's issue, but in a different way. She listened intently to Euthenia's explanation, odd as her word choice was, although she knew nothing about how to deal with it. The history lesson was all well and good, but nothing she said triggered anything in her memory. Not even ghosts, despite all but being one herself. She hoped that Andrew was taking notes, at least. He seemed to have a better memory of the time before she became Eidolon than she did, despite existing for at least twice as long as Andrew had been alive.

"Patching the core itself with another...that's what I did after you were deleted," Andrew commentated. "Although as I'm sure you remember, it didn't go too well. I guess that's why I never tried to do it again when I got better."

"You don't have to justify yourself," Eidolon said. "I am grateful to be alive, even in this state." Rare words of praise indeed, but they rang hollow with Eidolon's usual flat affect and tone. Both Andrew and Eidolon knew this, and took it for what it was.

Icaro, apparently, didn't.

"You could sound more grateful, you know," she suggested, looking up from Anyis and Magna.

"I tried," Eidolon said then, realizing she should probably be paying more attention, abruptly stopped talking and focused on what Mill was saying again...right in time for him to mention that the one whose core they were looking for was Anyis's husband.

"Husband?" she repeated blankly, as though not understanding the term.

"Um, it's a real world thing, it means-" Andrew started, but was cut off as something suddenly dawned on his navi.

"Oh no. Oh, no no no no no..."

"What? What is it?" Andrew asked. "You aren't going to tell me you were married too, are you?"

"No." Eidolon shook her head. "No, no no no..."

"Um...I think she broke again," Andrew said. "Icaro, can you do something?"

"I...don't even know what's wrong," Icaro said distractedly. Andrew couldn't exactly blame her for only giving him half of her attention, as Magna had also just ripped his arm out of his socket. What was going on, since when did anyone he knew other than Eidolon fall apart like that?

But then, just as quickly, Eidolon seemed to snap back out of it and focus again. "Right. Core now. Talk later." She glided over toward the rubble. Unlike the muscleman, who could probably just grab larger pieces and throw them out of the way, or Magna, who seemed content with...using his arm as a shovel...she didn't have any particularly reliable method of digging through the debris. So she went with what she did have. Red wires shot out of her gauntlets, embedding themselves in a larger chunk of rubble. The mass of broken netscape slowly dissolved into dust, which flowed through the wires into Eidolon's body.

...well, it would be slow work, but at least there would be less mess to deal with in the end.
MeleeMan pondered to himself that it was too bad Anyis wasn't him, or she'd probably heal right up from just a look at their new arrival's cleavage. Those boobs always helped to put him in a better mood, regardless of whether his face showed it, which it usually didn't. Keeping his frown, he nodded to Djinni and crew; he thought for a moment about asking more about the SPs, but decided it didn't really matter. "Those guys are really Damascus' crowd, not mine," he thought to himself, crossing his arms at his chest.

In the mean time, Damascus shot Szand a glare and afforded him a terribly menacing smile. "Danger woman? It's a crude name, but an appropriate one. One wants a sword to be lethal," she responded, then followed his eyes, noticing who he was speaking with. Szand and Magna she could handle, but the squirrel going to be part of the little SP gang too? As she returned her attention to Magna, she found that his arm had become detached from his body. "The fact that you continue so calmly is both inspiring and horrifying. I'm very impressed," she commented.

It certainly sounded to MeleeMan as though Anyis was experiencing something entirely different from his fiasco. "Figures! Can you imagine anyone at this gathering having ties with the Mafia?" he laughed to himself, unaware of the irony of his assumption. He allowed himself to process everything he'd just heard: the problem was with Anyis' core, they needed a similar core to fix her core, and they could get such a core if they could dig through the pile of rubble where the core of Anyis' former husband lay. Sure, that made sense.

"Former husband?!" MeleeMan suddenly realized; his eyes screwed up behind his thick visor while his mouth went into a deep grimace. "No way! Anyis used to have a husband? Damn, this has me feeling like a young gun... which sucks, cause I'm like twice her size," he thought to himself, exaggerated his height in his own mind. "On the other hand, isn't this a huge revelation? If she had a husband in the past, that means she's into men... and if she likes men, then how can she resist the manliest man of all?" he reasoned, clenching his arms in momentarily and smirking to remind himself of just how muscular he was.

And so, MeleeMan patted himself on the back about having a shot at a now heavily injured widow for a while, then returned to the matter at hand. "So you just me need to move stuff? If I'd known that when I got here, that whole pile would be gone already," the big navi scoffed, letting his arms hang at his side as he moved forward. "Hey Metalhead! Get over here," he called out towards the cluster of SPs.

"Master, please remember that Magna is injured as well. He may not be able to move over to-" Damascus started, only to be interrupted.

Shrugging his shoulders in exasperation, MeleeMan grasped one hand outward and then reeled it in, beckoning her to come over herself. "You're the Metalhead this time, okay? So anyways, you turn into a bunch of tools, right?" he asked, tapping his giant fingers impatiently after recrossing his arms.

"Weapons, master. I turn into weapons of war, not simple tools," the SP informed him, looking crosser than usual. "Don't want to dirty your hands?"

"Hey, I'm going to be using my hands regardless. But while I am, turn into a shovel and start scooping. And uh, if you can't do that, then just turn into some kind of weapon that can. A tool's a tool, right?" he asked, smirking as he worked her nerve.

"Weapons are honed for a specific purpose. I cannot become a shovel or any sort of weapon that will function as one," she growled. "I can, however, become a pick and help chip through some of the denser material."

"Why don't you use the amazing power that lets you shut up and dig?" he returned, already working on the pile of rubble using his own hands. Damascus set to work beside him, carving away at debris.

Rania leaned her head on her hand and watched, thinking the situation seemed a little less stressful now. With all of the group digging, it couldn't take very long to find that emblem. "If you see something that looks like an emblem, MeleeMan, please be careful not to break it..." she warned her navi.
"Oh, so that's what going on!" exclaimed Djinni after she heard Euthenia's explanation. Maybe it was the same wavelength or just the similarity of their intelligence, but Djinni had absolutely no issue in understanding it. Even with the following explanation of Mill, there was hardly anything new added to the information aside from the 'husband' part. But all she had to know was that she had to look for something. Everyone had their own past and everyone had their reasons for fighting, but these mattered nothing as they were all companions. Still with Oasis in her arms, Djinni looked down at her and began to speak. "You can search on your own, right?" she asked, kneeling down for Oasis to get off and onto the ground.

"Be fine!" Oasis exclaimed happily in return and raised one hand, followed by her clumsily getting out of Djinni's grip and onto the ground. Her legs shook vividly and it was obvious she had issues with standing. "Oasis do good now!" she shouted and water shot out of the bottom of her shell, onto the end of her ponytails. Large aquatic hands were formed with the water and suddenly her ponytails began to move as if they were arms. "Core core core!" she exclaimed again as she ran off, using her aquatic hands to keep her balance. At various locations she would stop and kneel down to search around while using all four of her arms to dig up dirt.

"Mill!" Djinni shouted as she looked upwards. She never knew where to look at if she was trying to address an Operator, but usually the sky was a good guess in her mind. "What does the core look like?" she asked and looked at Szand.

"Right..." he replied to Djinni's gaze. Walking over to her, he glanced over at the situation with MeleeMan and Damascus. Turning his eyes back at Djinni, he raised a hand and pointed at the two companions.

Djinni curiously looked at the location he pointed at to see the two bickering with each other. Szand stopped by Djinni's side and they turned their heads to look at each other. Anyis was in a horribly bad state, Eidolon was having a seemingly short mental breakdown and MeleeMan was being his good ol' self. Even in this scenario they couldn't help but start laughing at the two muscle-bound jokers, although Szand's was more a light-hearted chuckle while Djinni was the laughter of a fun-loving child.

But right as MeleeMan started working the dirt, Djinni got snapped back to the 'oh god Anyis' situation. "O-Okay, Szand," Djinni said, glancing over at Anyis for a short moment and then back at Szand, "You have experience with moving sand. This shouldn't be much of an issue to you."

Szand coughed as the momentary laughter had ended. "No probs," he replied and walked over to a location nobody was actively searching yet. Using the program to affect sand data, he started moving around chunks of rock and dirt as if it were air to him.

Oasis had four hands, Szand had some mastery over the surface, but what did Djinni have to actually help in this situation. She just stood around for a short moment, thinking on what to do until she just decided to get her hands dirty. But then an idea struck her. She would still get dirty hands this way, but it would be double the dirty hands! Lifting her cape to the right side, an identical clone flew out and landed in front of Djinni. "OK, Djinni," Djinni started once she released her cape, "We've got to-Actually, you know already. You're me after all!" The other Djinni simply nodded and both Djinnis tilted their bodies in a way to fly closely over the surface and dig for the core while keeping their movement up to speed. "You all know what to do when you find it, right!?" Djinni shouted at her two SPs.

"To purple!" Oasis replied, waving at Djinni with a boulder. Szand simply nodded at Djinni while he moved around the surface, rocks moving aside for him as if he was Moses.

With those things figured out, Djinni was glad there was no actual need for chips yet as Na'im's side had been rather silent. As Djinni was searching, she glanced at Anyis for a short moment when a question came to her mind. "Hey Anyis," she asked, raising her voice a bit to be sure the injured Navi could hear her, "What was this Grants guy like?"
"What does the core look like...?" repeated Mill after hearing Djinni's question. He... did not know how to answer that. The only Navi core he had ever seen was Magna's, and at the time it was just a clump of data. Were all cores like that? No... Heck, Magna's core probably wasn't even like that anymore. There was no way Mill would even be able to guess what Grants's core looked like, so Mill deferred. "Anyis, do you know what his core looks like?"

"I never... dissected him to... look and see... Idiot..." grumbled Anyis softly, her eyes only half-open as she spoke. "Do you... know what Lilia's heart... looks like?"

"What? No, of course not. That's... really horrifying to even think about..." answered Mill, before shaking his head vigorously to try and stave off the encroaching mental imagery.

"I... rest my case..." stated Anyis with a heavy sigh, before closing her eyes and in turn letting herself rest. "Mm..." she mumbled along with a slight fidget against her sister's shoulder. "Euthenia, lemme... lay down... and you can go..."

"Eh~?!" gasped Euthenia at the command. "You're in no condition to be left by yourself, Anyis~!"

"Do I... look alone... to you?" sighed Anyis, not bothering to motion to any of her allies currently engaged in digging. "Besides... Lilia needs to... go to school..."

"Oh! That's right! Lilia, jack out and get to school before you miss your first class." ordered Mill quickly.

"I was hoping you'd forgotten about that..." sighed Lilia, before ultimately complying and jacking her Navi out. "Anyis, you'd better be waiting to greet me when I get back home, alright?"

"... Mm hm..." agreed Anyis sleepily as the sister Operator and sister Navi finally left. She really didn't have the energy to care how uncomfortable the debris-filled crater was, so Anyis just laid on the ground like that without much else to say.

"..." Magna was hard at work digging through rubble, gripping his detached left arm tightly in his right and jamming its palm into the ground. It was a fairly quiet task as everyone really started focusing on it, but that lack of noise in particular is what Magna stop and take pause. "Operator. What is the Mother Unit's status?"

"She's fine, Magna. As long as you're okay, she's okay, remember?" explained Mill rationally. "Anyis is just... asleep, kind of. She's fidgeting a whole lot for it to do any good, though..." he added, watching his Navi toss and tumble on the rough ground while combating that lethal, brain-splitting headache she had. Okay, Mill really couldn't fault her for being unable to rest very well right now.

"... Understood. Operator, I submit a request for my Drill Graphic Model Override." replied Magna, wishing to expedite this search.

Mill just looked at his SP for a moment, before slapping his forehead. "Duh..." groaned Mill, only just then realizing how much more useful that would be than Magna digging up gravel with his own arm. "Here it is, just... put your arm next to Anyis, or something."

Magna complied, placing his loose arm next to the Mother Unit for safe keeping before returning to his excavation point and switching out to Drill mode. The golem's entire base swapped out in an instant for an extremely large drill, which immediately sank a foot or two into the damaged ground as all his weight pushed down onto the singular point of the drill's tip. "... Distortion in equilibrium detected. Adjusting..." muttered Magna as he realized his balance was all out of sorts with his arm missing. After taking a second to apply corrections, Magna revved his drill into high gear and went under, blasting rubble and debris aside as he proceeded underground.

With his SP recommitted to digging, his Navi effectively passed out, and his sister finally evicted to school, Mill took the chance to slump back in his desk's chair and let out a heavy sigh away from the open voicechat line. "Just what the hell..." He really hadn't had a chance to exhale since this crazy day started... and come to think of it, as Mill pulled at his collar, he didn't have a chance to change clothes either. Something didn't feel quite right about dragging all his friends along and saving Anyis in just the T-shirt and boxers he had slept in... Mill glanced over to his closet, then back to his PET and computer before getting up and covertly getting changed.

Thinking back, Mill couldn't have even imagined that finding the damaged Anyis in this crater several months ago would've turned into something like this. He couldn't even really explain why he took Anyis in other than an ego thing, since he was still trying to program then and challenged himself to fix her. Now, though... Here Mill was trying to repair Anyis a second time, but what were his motivations? "She sure is high-maintenance... What kind of Navi suffers critical damage twice in just a few months?" mumbled Mill to himself as he tugged a fresh shirt over his head to finish getting changed.

Mill sat back down at his desk to hear Djinni trying to probe Anyis for details on the mysterious Grants, but that was going to go nowhere fast. "Sorry Djinni, Anyis is out cold... With any luck, maybe we can... Huh..." explained Mill, but he had to pause after realizing... what were they going to do when they find the core? Grants was deleted by Anyis's own testament, and it's not like they could talk to a deleted Navi... except through a spirit medium, which Anyis was. Did they even need to do that, though? Anyis needed to patch the core to herself, right? Reviving him would be pretty cruel if they were just going to affix him to Anyis's core anyway...

While Mill was hopelessly trying to figure that out, Magna suddenly came on with a report. "Operator, I have located an object of interest 13.4 feet below the crater's center."

"...!" Mill almost jumped out of his seat to stare anxiously at the hole Magna had dug, before backing himself off after sensing how... weird that was worded. "When you say object of interest... It's not the core, is it?"

"It is not." confirmed Magna bluntly. "The mass and volume are inappropriate for a Navi. Shall I extract the object of interest regardless?"

"I guess." shrugged Mill, being only mildly curious as to what Magna discovered. That mild curiosity turned into alarm, however, when a giant red orb burst out of the crater. The sphere was about as big as Magna was tall, leaving the burrowed golem to just start striking it with his shoulder until it finally surfaced. The gaping hole it left behind quickly filled back in with loose gravel, and the orb settled itself back in on that nest after reaching just a foot or two up in the air at the apex of Magna's push. "Holy crap, Magna..."

"This is the object of interest, Operator." reported Magna, who popped back up himself to the side of the orb. "Its data density is very significant, but there is a compromise in its structure." With his remaining arm, Magna pointed to a rather large and deep crack running across the surface of the orb. "The scale is inappropriate for a Navi, but otherwise it does maintain characteristics similar to core data."

Mill blinked. "So, wait, this giant thing is a core, but not THE core? That's just great..." he groaned, cursing the chances of finding something so close, yet so far from what he wanted. "Hey... There's something in the crack. It's not red, at least..." noted Mill, pointing at his screen despite the fact that no one else could see him.

Magna leaned over to examine the gap closely, before straightening up and saying, "It is white, Operator. The physical structure is similar to a small Mystery Data, though I cannot yet analyze its data structure."

"Maybe that's Grants's core...? Magna, grab it." commanded Mill quickly.

"Understood, Operator." nodded Magna, who straightened out a single finger and... got nowhere. This was much like his busted shoulder earlier. "My finger is too large for this crack, Operator. I would likely not be able to withdraw it if I reached far enough for the requested object."

"We don't need your other arm popping off, that's for sure..." sighed Mill, before turning his attention to everyone else. "Could someone try and get this thing?"
"Dig faster, dammit! With the two of us both working on this, there's no way we shouldn't have found that core yet," MeleeMan grunted to his SP; he found himself experiencing an illusion whereby time seemed to be passing more quickly than it actually was, since he was so desperate to hurry up, find the core, and restore Anyis.

Damascus was barely helping, however, as she'd become distracted watching Magna's new form. "He's built like an armory as well," she murmured to herself; the pick floating mid-air seemed to shudder with pleasure, as if considering several actions. MeleeMan grabbed her out of the air, swung her under a nearby rock, and used the head of the pick to uproot a troublesome boulder.

"Head in the game, dumbass," he grumbled, throwing her back into the air so she could get to work.

As it turned out, Rania was just as distracted as Damascus was, since Mill had neglected to think of how she might react to seeing him knocking around his room in his underwear. "M-Mill, you-!" she started to exclaim, but before she could, he was off screen. "That's so indecent! Showing off your underwear when you know other people are watching! O-Or maybe he doesn't mind if I see?" she thought to herself, pressing her hand to her mouth thoughtfully. "Or maybe he just doesn't care what I think..."

With both girls thus occupied, MeleeMan continued digging fervently, although his motivations were fairly selfish themselves. Of course, before he could get any farther, Magna found what they'd been looking for... only, he couldn't get it out. MeleeMan was eager to step in, but he kept his mouth shut as he did; he didn't want anyone to go thinking "I guess we'd better look to MeleeMan when we need a delicate touch." As he started reaching, however, he realized that his own hands were too fat as well. "Dammit! Damascus, turn into a chain or something-!"

"How about I simply reach in and grab it, Master?" she asked with a critical glare, transforming back into her original form and allowing her scabbard wrap to float out around her. With little exertion, she pressed her body up against the hole and reached in her arm, then groped around for a few moments until she found the data. Easily enough, she extracted the item. "Body bulk really just gets in the way. A proper muscular form is also lean."

"Hey, turn into that big sword you like to for a sec, would you?" her master asked, keeping a stoic frown.

After a brief and insincere bow, she did so. Grunting, he grabbed her up and shoved her blade-deep into the hole in the rubble, then dusted his gloves off irritably. "Alright, I'll get this thing over to Anyis, then somebody has to show me how to put it in. Does it go in the chest? Cause uuuh..."

In the mean time, Damascus transformed back into her human form, displacing the rubble around her as she widened back out. Embarrassingly, as she tried to pull herself out, she realized that her upper body was stuck scrunched inside; her chest was far too large to get back out of the tunnel. "Would someone please grab my hips and pull me out? Do not worry about damaging me... I am made of metal," she requested, keeping her legs spread beneath her and transforming her arms into swords so that she could cut away more of the rubble around her and straighten out. "But do avoid impaling yourself on my hair."
Magna watched as Damascus retrieved Grants's core without much difficulty, eventually withdrawing the white piece of data from the red sphere. It glowed with a soft radiance and looked like it contained a white flame, but despite that the core seemed... imperfect. Individual bits of data were sporadically missing from the core's body, and the whole thing just appeared slightly decayed. This is what a dead Navi's core was like. Magna wanted to take the core himself and deliver it to the Mother Unit, but somehow he was... apprehensive.

"Oh, yeah, I guess you've never seen a core, Magna. The only uninstalled one I've ever had before is yours..." noted Mill after observing his SP's actions. He leaned in closer to his screen to get a better view of Grants's remains before adding, "Wait, is that a flame in it...? Anyis... and a Fire Navi? That's... surprising." Having not met Grants in person, Mill could only impose the impression of male Fire Navis he already had... which was basically the idea of Anyis falling for a MeleeMan. Yeah... "Uh, anyway. We've got the core, so let's just give it to Anyis and hopefully get this over with."

"Agreed, Operator. I must remind myself that my safety is also at risk, so haste in correcting the problem would be appreciated." replied Magna, after feeling a pang of... well, he didn't even know what that was other than not good. "Unit Damascus, if you-" he said, turning to his fellow SP, only to end up looking down at her feet as she was planted upside-down in the crater. MeleeMan had swept in like a gust of wind, taken the core of the man he may or may not have held a certain jealousy towards, and jammed the sword-Damascus into the ground to counter his SP's verbal jab. "..." Magna lacked the words to respond to this turn of events, and instead just listened to Unit Damascus make her plea for assistance. The golem couldn't quite grasp why the Unit Damascus changed back to her humanoid form when such an act would only make her extraction more difficult, but alas, that was ultimately only her problem, not his. With his single arm, Magna wrapped his fingers around Unit Damascus's legs, and...


Thus was the Unit Damascus lifted up to the surface, dangling upside down in the grasp of a one-armed golem as if she was a captured trophy fish. MeleeMan's trophy fish SP. With no left arm to turn the female SP upright, Magna could only slowly set her down head-first on the ground to allow her to reorient herself. He wasn't particularly concerned with the warning about her hair, for however sharp a blade her metallic hair could make, his body was, in fact, more metal. This was likely not a comfortable experience for Unit Damascus, so Magna could only pray that the Units Icaro, Oasis, and Szand did not also find themselves lanced into the ground and needing a forceful extraction like that.

Ignoring the plight he had imposed on his SP, MeleeMan made his way over to the unconscious Anyis with Grants's core in hand. "I... really don't know, honestly. Normally any modifications to a core would be done offline, but Anyis probably won't make it back if she goes offline again..." sighed Mill, responding to MeleeMan's uncertainty. "It'd probably be best to just try and wake Anyis up right here; let her figure it out... Anyis! We have the core!"

Mill's shouting really didn't do much to stir Anyis, as she already found herself being drawn back to consciousness by a... rather foul scent. It was faint, but pungent... Almost like burning sulfur... One of her eyes finally cracked open, and oh, it was MeleeMan hovering over her. "... Bad..." groaned Anyis, turning her body away from the foul odor and covering her face with her hands.

"...? Come on Anyis, we have Grants's core! This'll fix you, right?" repeated Mill, not really understanding that reaction since his PET lacked smell emulation.

Is that why MeleeMan was standing over her...? "Mm..." mumbled Anyis as she flopped back around to face MeleeMan, but even in her thoroughly crippled state, she knew she did not wanting MeleeMan dangling the last remains of her husband over her head. Thus, Anyis weakly flicked her wrist in front of her, summoning a very shoddily-constructed Boogeyman to snatch away the core from MeleeMan and drop it on her chest. She only stared at it for a few moments, though her emotions were hard to read as her mind was very foggy and her face reflected as much. Finally, she touched it with one gloved hand and gained a sense of the core's damage. "... Not enough..." whimpered Anyis, letting her head fall back onto the ground in frustration.

"...!" Mill didn't really say anything, if only because he didn't know what to say. Coming back to this issue later wasn't an option, but he really had no idea what to do right now either.

Anyis had to think... Thinking was very difficult for her right now, however. The splitting pain her head from before had dissipated into a thick mental fog, which made her lucky to even remember who MeleeMan, Djinni, and Eidolon were. Her time left... Anyis still probably had a few hours, but that's counting a period where she'd pretty much be a vegetable. Damn it, Grants always could always clear up problems like this... If only he... Ah...! This'd be dangerous to make turn out much better than Boogeyman did, but it's not like Anyis was going to be in less danger otherwise. Despite her urgency, Anyis could only slowly and weakly grasp the core of Grants in her hands, before suddenly infusing it with a strong burst of ghost data. Her vision went white as the data discharged through her, signaling Anyis's return to the realm of the unconscious as the construction of a ghost body initiated around the core...


A burst of white flame around the core and Anyis sent a blinding flash of light throughout the crater, and next thing anyone knew, there was another new body straddled atop of Anyis. He was clad in white, albeit damaged, white armor, with his tanned skin and short blonde hair visible on his helmetless head. The back of his chestplate had fire vents over his shoulder blades, but at present they could only cough up occasional red embers. A sheathed sword hung from his hip, the end of which was currently resting on Anyis's thigh. "Ugh..." he groaned, using one hand to push himself slightly off of Anyis and another to cover his face. His image was slightly fuzzy in spots, but otherwise it seemed like he was in one piece.

"... Um..." started Mill, but he really had nowhere to go after that. He could only assume Anyis suddenly resurrected Grants somehow, but still, there was a new male Navi laying on top of his unconscious, dying female Navi. This was highly awkward.

"... Okay, I'm reactivated all of a sudden..." mumbled Grants, before removing his hand from his face. "... Ah! Anyis! Hey! Come on, girl, up and at 'em!" he shouted, going so far as to pinch her cheek to try and get a response. A frown showed on Grants's face, and so he diverted his hand to press against her forehead. "Oh... this again...! It's worse than last time, though... Can I heal her with this body...?" Grants was talking to himself quite rapidly as he raised himself up to sit solely on his knees, still straddling himself over Anyis's legs and paying no heed to the large, red, helmeted man standing next to him.

"... Oh." And then Grants did notice MeleeMan. And one other young boy and several girls around them. There was also this big purple thing, though Grants wasn't quite sure why a statue was here. "... Okay then!" announced Grants, clapping his armored hands together. "Either you're all Anyis's dear new friends and are trying to help her, or you're the devious villains who put her in this sad state! Either way I need to cure her, as either that is your goal or I'll need her help to fend you off!"

That was... actually a fair point, given that he had no context on the situation. But there was really no reason to let the confusion stand. "Wait wait wait..." said Mill with a voice full of exasperation, finding it hard to keep up with this fast train of thought. "First off, I'm her Operator, and secondly, the situation is the former of what you said, not the latter."

"Oh, excellent then. Will you allow me to heal her, then? I assume that's what she wanted me for." queried Grants, looking up to the new voice of reason.

"Huh? Wait, you can completely heal her...?!" gasped Mill.

"... Ah, poor wording. No, this... this is probably not that simple, but I should be able to at least relieve the symptoms. I'll just need a moment." explained Grants, who quickly turned back to Anyis and the task at hand. He leaned back over her, put a single finger to the center of her forehead, and... set her hair ablaze with white fire.

"Whoa, hey, wait!" exclaimed Mill, having a completely fair reaction to the sudden blaze.

"It's fine." retorted Grants calmly, his attention still focused only on Anyis. The fire settled after just a moment, stabilizing into the shape of a laurel ring around her head. "This should do it... Come on Anyis, wake up!"

"... Nngh..." murmured Anyis softly, but she provided no more reaction than that.

"Hrm... It's really going for her core this time, then...? That Aristotle is so flippant..." sighed Grants, coming to understand his only recourse. "Direct application, I suppose..." he mentioned just before closing what little distance there was between his face and Anyis's and moved his hands to her cheeks. Before anyone could really react or object, Grants pressed his lips against hers and engaged in a long kiss.

"...!" was the reaction of at least Mill and Magna, the former of whom jumped out of his seat while the latter lifted his metal mass and advanced on the pair, fully ready to engage the armored aggressor in defense of the Mother Unit. Before Magna could pluck Grants off his master, though, she suddenly started moving.

"... Mm... Mmn...? Nn...!" Anyis could only making strange noises with her lips locked as they were, and she even actually blushed a little as she opened her eyes and discovered what kind of spectacle she was a part of. It didn't take much longer for Anyis to outright shove Grants off her, signaling that she was awake and in a much better state than a few minutes ago. "Goddamn... Still can't do anything in moderation, I see..." sighed Anyis as she sat up, wiping her lips off with her glove.

Kneeling in front of her, Grants just smiled through her verbal barbing. "I'm glad you're awake, Anyis." he said simply.

"... Yeah..." nodded Anyis nervously, realizing that MeleeMan and Magna were hovering over them and she was about to get all kinds of grief...
Eidolon watched as the navi called Grants was restored, becoming increasingly uncomfortable at the scene. It wasn't the knight's reaction to their presence that did it, or even the intimate moment that suddenly took place in front of her. Everything about the revived navi just struck her in a way that felt entirely wrong. And when he turned his attention fully to Anyis, everything just became worse. Something was familiar about him, and yet entirely different. Slowly, the reason for her sudden outburst only minutes before rose fully into consciousness and slid firmly to place in her mind.

There was someone. Someone she should know. He acted like she should know him at least, and although she knew that he was familiar, she couldn't place it. Distress. The missing patches in her memory had never distressed her before, but somehow the mystery navi had set it off. And there he still was, spouting his recognition in between irrational concern over her broken, almost unfamiliar state. Why did he care? Why did he know her?! Why was he looking at her like that? Why did he... She couldn't take it anymore. She reacted suddenly, and just like that he was on the ground, broken. His body was dissolving into junk data, leaving only a damaged core in his place. She hid it, before Andrew could go back to paying attention to her, and ran, ran until she collapsed, and was finally jacked out.


Eidolon's focus snapped back to reality. In front of them, Anyis seemed to have a better grip on existing. The revived navi was still there too. More immediately in front of her, though, Icaro was hovering in front of her face. All of them were looking a bit fuzzier, a bit more poorly defined than usual. It took her a second to realize that it was her own vision that was blurring.

"Mistress, are you...crying?"

"No," Eidolon responded abruptly. But Icaro removed her visor, revealing glowing inverted eyes, and ran one transparent hand over them. Immediately she could see better.

"Well, if you're not crying then you're leaking something, at least. Are you feeling okay?" she asked.

Eidolon hesitated, then finally settled on admitting the truth. ""

Andrew, meanwhile, hadn't quite moved past Grants' simple reappearance from having been nothing but a damaged core. "What?" he asked incredulously. "What?! I spent at least a month trying to figure out how to fix Arsinoe's core, had to fuse it with another navi's and patch her three more times just to put her in the damaged state she's in now, and you just did...a thing to bring this guy back, just like that?!"

Icaro backed away from Eidolon and started gesturing in a random direction hoping Andrew could see from there to calm him down. It was only when she heard something clattering from his end that she spoke. "Andrew, we can all here you in here," she said. "Calm down, you're going to upset people."

Eidolon, meanwhile, hesitantly approached Anyis, momentarily forgetting that her visor was still off or that she had been totally-not-crying a minute before. In fact, she was trying to ignore that for the moment. "Are you...feeling better?" she asked. Having not been paying full attention after Grants appeared, she had no way of knowing anything other than that she was conscious and seemed aware of her surroundings again, let alone whether or not that state would have any degree of permanence. Or, for that matter, that she was probably supposed to be teasing her for that display.
The moment the core was revealed to the others, Djinni stopped digging around and called out for her SPs to stop as well. Djinni had started to go for the core to help Anyis, but noticed MeleeMan instead who had taken the duty upon himself. It was really hard to imagine him as a 'savior' of anything other than his own pride. "Szand, Oasis," Djinni called out and beckoned them over to her. Szand just nonchalantly walked over to Djinni, while Oasis tried to run while keeping her balance with her secondary set of hands. "So now what happens..." she had asked while turning to Anyis before the whole scenario was set in motion. A new figure was revealed straddled onto Anyis, but instead of being alarmed and demanding answers Djinni was caught in memories of herself with Broadside. "There was that one time..." she thought and bit her lower lip under the veil of her facial mask.

The moment Grants had issued his claim of friends or villains, Oasis raised her hands in a cheerful pose and exclaimed, "Shiny!" But then something struck a cord about Grants' appearance and she turned to Szand, who was tanned, had blond hair and wore white clothes. "Brothers?" she asked.

"Tch," Szand retorted and knocked Oasis onto her head with his right fist, which was met by her putting her hands onto her head. "Of course not. Don't be an idiot, even if that's hard to pull off," he commented and crossed his arms. "But this guy is here from the core and he's already talking about healing her..." Szand said, after which he glanced at Djinni, "Doesn't that mean we're done here?"

Djinni, on the other hand, wasn't even registering what Szand was telling her and was just staring at Anyis' 'revival'. But more particularly she was staring at the passionate kiss between the two. "That would've been nice... With Broadside..." she thought, putting a hand over her mouth despite it being covered.

Szand quickly realized Djinni wasn't paying attention anymore and decided to look at the other object of interest. Ignoring Djinni and Oasis, he walked around the others in order to reach the red core Magna had originally dug up. "Now what are you...?" Szand asked the core curiously, thinking back of Efreet being just a core of data too.

Djinni had not seen the giant metallic Navi in a long while and she wondered if he was still active. Navis could be taken off of their virus 'fighting duties' whenever the Operator wanted after all. But as she realized she was staring a bit too much at the two, she quickly averted her eyes only to accidentally put MeleeMan in her vision. With her thoughts still on the kiss, she started to imagine herself and MeleeMan... But canceled any thought process as quick as possible.

Oasis, just like Szand, realized that their 'mistress' was off in her own dream world and ran over to Szand with her arms stretched out in order to maintain perfect balance. She was getting this 'walking thing' figured out pretty well. "Careful," Oasis said once she reached Szand, her head turned up towards the red core, "Is scary..."

"I bet it reminds you of him," Szand commented as he looked over at Oasis while keeping his third eye focused on the red core. "Maybe that white guy knows what this is... His core was found inside of it after all."

"Hahahaha!" Djinni started to laugh completely out of nowhere and hit her head from the right side with her flat hand. Getting her senses back and thinking back on what Szand had said, Djinni turned to look at Anyis again now the kiss was over. "It's good to see you awake and your usual self again," she said. Her following question, however, was not only aimed at Anyis but also Mill and Grants, "For a life-threatening situation, this was solved easily... Is this all you needed us for?"
One of Damascus' eyebrows raised as she watched the scene between Anyis and her once-killed lover unfold. "A resurrection... Even in my long period of the net, I have not seen a navi return from something as simple as a core. Not only has he returned, but he seems to be in full possession of his wits and even has the power to heal Anyis," she continued, smirking towards MeleeMan evilly. "It seems like Anyis has quite the husband."

MeleeMan watched on, at first with no emotion on his face. He turned to see the reactions of the others: Damascus with her saucy smirk, Djinni blushing girlishly, the new girl fainting or something, and Anyis lip-locking with some guy who was dead and ought to be out of the picture already. "What makes him so special?" he thought, grimacing irritably even as Anyis began to recover. "Once he's off of her, I'm going to challenge him. I'll knock the crap out of him, then they'll see who's the better man!"

The metal of his gauntlets crunched noisily as he dug his fingers into his palms. What infuriated him was not so much that Anyis' old flame seemed to have magically rekindled himself; what got to him more so was that it was almost like the situation was mocking him. What kind of perfect guy could be upstaged by a ghost to the point where every woman around him wanted a piece? Isn't that what his life was supposed to be like? The voice inside his head continued to taunt him, making him m ore and more enraged.

"Challenge him... I'm going to challenge him and pummel him into dust... I'll spread the ashes into the air and burn them with my fire! I'm going to grind his dust in my fist until it doesn't even qualify as data any more! I'm going to lay that bastard out and make him wish he'd stayed dead!"

Fire erupted from his gauntlets, nearly drowning out all nearby sounds. If it wasn't for the voice of Rania snapping him out of it, he may have fully immolated himself. "W-What's wrong? Aren't you happy to see Anyis recovering? She is recovering, isn't she?" Rania asked nervously.

MeleeMan sighed, realizing that his old Bloodhound blood must be trying to take a hold of him. Anyis was strong; a contradiction to his beliefs. Not all women liked him right off, sure. Anyis had an old husband and girls like mushy things, that much was clear. If he could learn, so could the girls! "They'll all learn what they're missing soon enough. When that time comes, I'll decide if I'm morally okay with tempting a married woman into having an affair," he thought to himself with a smirk, regaining his good humor by means of a triumphant thought. "I dunno, Mill makes it sound like it's alright," he responded to Rania with a shrug.

"Even a hothead like Anyis can have a good guy like that for a husband! It's really something. Just goes to show that you can never tell how love's going to work out," the operator sighed, enjoying the mushiness, which was right along her alley. "Imagine what their honeymoon was like! Can you imagine being on a romantic getaway with her, MeleeMan?"

Growling, her navi shoved away the thought and refused to answer. "So hey, you white knight bastard!" he grumbled, knocking one hand up and down disrespectfully against the back of Grants' armor to get his attention. "She's awake now. Is she alright? Don't get me wrong, it looked like you were going at it and using some tongue just now, but uh, swapping spit doesn't usually bring a person back to life," he inquired, crossing both arms across his chest and watching Anyis carefully from behind the wall of his visor.

"The difference between her partner and herself is remarkable," Damascus mused, still speaking basically only to Magna. "He was eager for that kiss. Maybe their wedlock was more carnal and less romantic? The sex drive of beings on the net so enabled can be unpredictable," she remarked, turning her eyes away from Magna and back towards the scene with another lusty smile.
Anyis put two fingers to the white flame laurel around her head, not out of confusion, but rather... comfort. It was hardly the first time she had felt this, but prior to a few minutes ago, Anyis had figured she'd never feel this relaxing warmth again. "I do feel better, yeah." answered Anyis, responding to Eidolon and Djinni. "Fixed altogether... not so much. This whole matter just got more complicated." As she added that, Anyis watched MeleeMan mug her husband/the complication.

The physical pounding absorbed by the back of Grants's chestplate somehow actually troubleshot the vents on his shoulder blades, as MeleeMan's last hit caused red fire to burst out and form an immaterial cape. "Oh, my cape's working? Thank you, friend." said Grants with a pearly white smile on his face as he seized MeleeMan's hand with both his own and shook it. "And I'm afraid curing her isn't quite that easy. If I could remove the trackers and bugs in her core, then I'd have done so... Hm. Anyis, dear, how long have I been dead?" Grants only then finally let go of MeleeMan's large hand to turn around and face his wife.

"Little over half a year." answered Anyis quickly, tilting her head away from Grants to avoid eye contact.

"Oh, is that all?" responded Grants, not paying much heed to the avoidance as he turned back to MeleeMan. "Well, friend, I certainly would've fixed Anyis's core more than 10 years ago if I could. Sadly, manually doing that would be like... surgery on your Operator's heart and brain at the same time, really. So many things could go wrong, and I just couldn't risk her AI like that..."

"So then how do we fix her? Anyis said we needed your core, Grants, and... well, here you are." asked Mill, trying to get some clarity on what's changed.

"My core? Is that so..." thought Grants aloud, before walking back over to Anyis and sitting down next to her. "Why'd you give me a ghost body if all you needed was my core, Anyis?"

Anyis still had her head turned away from Grants, but after a few moments she sighed, knowing there was no point in stalling the explanation. "We've... hit a snag. I thought I could fix myself by patching your core to my own, but you're just too damaged. You don't have enough data left to overwrite all of Aristotle's trackers... My head was splitting open from the upload of the AI purge and I couldn't think, so I just impulsively woke you up to clear up the symptoms. Now you're here and I'm just asking you to die a second time..."

"Ah..." was all Grants said initially, before reaching his arm around Anyis to pull her head to a rest on his shoulder. "I can only imagine what it was like, getting your life upended and turned around after I died. Knowing you, you probably kept it bottled up and never talked to anyone about it." Anyis's mouth twitched slightly at that remark, signaling that Grants hit the nail on the head. "You aren't asking me to die a second time, Anyis, only to finish what I already started. I gave my life for you, and there's no way I'm going to let that action be in vain. Make me the last ghost you'll ever have to purge, Anyis."

Anyis thought over his words for just a few moments, before a slight grin finally showed on her face as she chuckled. "Heh... I don't know how a dead man can still be so full of it. Did you already forget you're too damaged to do any good?"

"Oh, that's right! I wasn't really paying attention to that since I'm just a ghost." exclaimed Grants, taking his hand off Anyis to lightly smack his forehead. "Well, no matter. That's just one extra step. Patch up my core, then repair your core. Mine's just missing data, so we could just throw anything on there and not worry about the compatible parts disappearing."

"You say that like there's another core sitting around we can- Oh no..." groaned Anyis as she watched Grants get up and walk down into the crater's center.

"That's right, there is!" announced Grants with a smile as he slapped a hand on the giant red core. "We've got the Titan's core right here, just as ruined as mine. Put the two together, and we should have something that can fix you right up."

"Okay, wait, hold on a second." interjected Mill, having stood pat thus far to respectfully allow Anyis and Grants their moment. "You want to fuse a rampaging ghost monster to my Navi?" Red flags were going off in Mill's head, as he quickly came to the opinion that Anyis would not resist well against the impulsive desire for destruction that the Titan often exhibited during its prior summons.

"Well, bits and pieces. He'll be just as dead I as will after the fact, and honestly, a true ghost's core would probably not be that incompatible with Anyis either." explained Grants rather effectively. "There is just one problem, though..."

"Putting your cores together." noted Anyis, who got up to also walk down to the Titan's core. "Manually piecing the bits of broken core together would take days, and I really don't have that kind of time. That just leaves... Ugh." Anyis's face bent into a frustrated frown as she only just considered the idea. She had a hint in the back of her mind that it was going to come to this, but Anyis wanted to deny it as long as she possibly could've of. Left with no choice but to accept it, though, Anyis went ahead and started with preparations. "Magna, grab your arm and have Grants stick it back on. You're going to need it."

"..." Magna obeyed, but while he quietly observed, he had developed a... concern about the Unit Grants. He had nodded in response to Unit Damascus's note of how different he was from the Mother Unit, and was a bit bothered by the intimacy. It was hard to describe... Security risk? The Mother Unit lowered many defensive measures in the presence of the Unit Grants, which was highly problematic. Without a word to the Unit Grants, Magna approached him and held the detached arm up against its socket.

"You're... Anyis's SP? Great, thanks for taking care of her all this time." said Grants sincerely, before producing a plume of white flame in his hand. As much sense as it probably would've made to weld Magna's arm back on, Grants just fell back on his default healing powers and fixed the severed joint, leaving a ring of white fire around the shoulder socket.

Magna moved his arm around and flexed his fingers, testing the repair to ultimate satisfaction. There was still that crack in his shoulder, but that'd probably get repaired once the Mother Unit was restored to full functionality. "The repair task is complete, Mother Unit." announced Magna, still not addressing the Unit Grants. He probably just didn't like the poor dead guy at all.

Grants looked surprised for a split second, having had no idea Magna could actually talk, but a wide grin quickly spread across his face as he went around the golem to look back at Anyis. "Mother Unit? What's that about? Does that make me-"

"No, shut up, it doesn't." snapped Anyis briskly. She was having absolutely none of that nonsense. "Okay, everyone!" she shouted, changing the subject quickly to something actually important. "I guess thanks for coming to help me, but this isn't even close to over. Make whatever preparations you need to, because we've got a hell of a battle to do. I'm going to resurrect the Titan."

She certainly didn't mince words, at least.
Szand and Oasis noticed Grants approaching the core they had been interested in, Oasis immediately hiding behind Szand, while they listened to his explanations. "Titan..." Szand whispered to himself, "Sounds like we'll be fighting you." He then grabbed Oasis by her hand and ran back to Djinni. "Any word from Na'im yet?" he shouted on his way there.

Djinni looked upwards curiously, waiting for a reply from Na'im. But while no solid reply came, she could hear footsteps and that was enough for her to know Na'im was active and around. "He seems to be awake at least, Szand," she told him once the two SPs reached her side, "He'll be here."

"Fight?" Oasis asked as she tilted her head towards Djinni's face.

"Sounds like it," Djinni replied, "You two keep an eye out for Na'im." With those words Djinni lifted herself into the air and floated towards Anyis and Grants, but focused her attention on Grants in particular. "It sounds like you'll be departing soon again. It was nice to meet a dear friend of Anyis'. Although 'friend' might be too little of a word," Djinni said as she reached out her hand towards him for a hand shake, "We'll do our best to keep her safe."

"Not a moment of rest..." Na'im's voice sounded to Djinni, Szand and Oasis, "Got my coffee... Black as night. And as you see... We're ready to fight. Let's save another digital being."
"And you can just resurrect a gigantic monster program too?!" Andrew asked, remaining just as incredulous about the whole situation as before. "Why do I even bother. All that work and I can make a broken mess, and just like that you two can...."

"Um...Andrew?" Icaro asked. "We can still hear you."

"But...all my work..."

"Andrew. Shut up," Eidolon said irritably, gliding over toward Anyis and Grants. She still did not address Grants, and avoided looking at him as much as she could. She just felt too uncomfortable in doing so.

"Right. You're right. Sorry, I'll stop now," Andrew said. And so he did.

"Let's have it done, then," Eidolon said to Anyis. "We are ready."
MeleeMan was just about to commence pounding Grant's back until the stupid cape went back in, however long that would take, when he learned that the guy was apparently about to die anyways. The others might not have overheard, being a fair distance away and more respectful of personal space than he, but MeleeMan was clued in. To his credit, no part of him thought "yes, this guy's out of the way and I don't have to worry about him." It felt, to MeleeMan, more like he'd been deprived of a rival he'd never gotten the chance to fight. After turning his back, he stuck his hands into his pockets and sulked. "Damn."

Well, at least he was apparently going to get to fight some giant thing worthy of being described as a titan. Still, he couldn't help but be depressed... the guy in white killed the Titan before and saved Anyis, which means that, everything else aside, he was basically stronger than the Titan. The net seemed to have a funny way of making sure that the greatest events that could be never came to be for him.

"Don't worry; after I beat the ghost rocks out of this titan, I'll protect Anyis from here on out," he thought to himself. "Although, if she's stupid enough to keep fighting things that are going to require her to patch together a core later out of spare parts like Dr. Frickin' Frankenstein, there's a limit to what I'm willing to do. Navis are supposed to get strong enough that they don't need to do crap like that."

Damascus watched MeleeMan and Anyis' group, while Rania whispered to her through the PET. "Isn't there anything else to do? It's too sad to have to die again right after coming back to life," she murmured. "My grandfather knew how to manipulate your core down into that of an SP. Is there any chance we could do something like that?"

The SP shook her head slowly. "An SP won't be any easier to sustain than a navi will. That conversion is a relatively simple procedure; something like rebuilding a navi using unique cores is not even comparable," she answered bluntly. "He died serving as a shield. It's another role, the opposite of a weapon's but just as important... he's dying the commendable death of a warrior," Damascus finished, waxing poetic. "If I met my end as a weapon, I would want my last actions to be helpful to the one I entrusted my life to. I would also want to drink my fill of the enemy's blood. Since he fulfilled both conditions, I'd say that Grants has died well."

"I don't know about the girls, but I live every second of my life prepared to deliver a beatdown. Soon as this thing appears, it's going to disappear," MeleeMan responded, cracking his metal gauntlets together.