Keep's Castle (for DragonierMan/Nightshade's Mission)

Nightshade was enjoying his pats Escort was givig him when he felt a familiar touch grab his hand. He looked up curiously as his big sis gently pulled him away from the busty NS operative and gently walked him towards the slide. From the way the little navi's sharksuit's tail started to wag one could tell the small navi was back being massively excited about something.

Yumi followed the two with her eyes from her spot, before gracesfully lining up behind them on the way to the slides as she was called. She didn't mind playing in the water for a while. With her paws silently walking her in a slow motion she observed the split splat waddling of the other two. They clearly weren't used to webbed feet.

After a few fun rides on a couple different slides, it seemed that Nighty had a devious idea. When they approached the simple slide leading to the main pool area, the navi would whisper something to his SP, Yumi seemingly agreeing to something.

The end result would have Yumi and Nighty merging their code together again, so that the navi could use all of the SP's acquatic feature. As such, Suzume would probably be floating around the main pool with a cuddly dragon-hybrid snuggled to her chest purring happily as they drifted idly in the water.
Castille lowered her eyebrows and continued to smirk; her air of bemusement only seemed to be growing. "Right now, that daughter of mine is merely following me around like a scared puppy. If you'd rather her follow you lot around instead, be my guest and speak to her; I won't command her to do that. Perhaps her mood will improve by sliding down slides and goofing off with footsoldiers," she spoke in a droll tone, tapping her hammer up and down against her shoulder armor. "As for Keep... her plan sounds desperate. It seems that these two of my daughters find their fates inextricably tied to the Empire's now. Here's hoping they can make more of this than they have their ventures so far," the big lady sighed. "Assuming that worthless Watchtower hasn't run home already."

DragonierMan and Castille would rejoin Keep and the others, as they were wrapping up the photoshoot. "So... yes, cat?" Escort reaffirmed again, no longer writing in her notebook as her hands were occupied with patting Nightshade. Suzume and her Neo-Shogun compatriot did not appear to be very much on the same page.

"Why don't you all go have fun in the park? I'll stay here and greet my mother," Keep offered. Nightshade and Yumi would lead the way towards fun and frolic. Hopefully, Nightshade and Yumi could act as gel to pull these two together and show them how to have some proper fun.

"Hm hm hm... I will admit, if the many park-goers I see surrounding us weren't all wearing matching yellow tunics, I would have to assume that you had done well in turning this place around and generating business. After all, it doesn't matter to me what you use the castle for, so long as you make something of yourself. However, I have my suspicions that there may be a fair amount of dust swept under the carpets and knickknacks waiting to spill out from the closets," she smiled, glancing pointedly at the central pool, that, so far, was fairly empty, given that it had only recently been created.

"Not to worry, Mother. With the Empire's support, this place can become a fine amusement park for navis. We've made great strides- admittedly, just today- in terms of turning this place around. It's the sort of place anyone would want to bring their navi and that navi's, er, family," Keep answered, speaking in a fast-paced stream of words that showed her nervousness. "Acknowledging that ours is a special circumstance and that not many navis are, er, families. Which is to say, not many navis have mothers and fathers, not like you, mother, who presumably produced all of us children via-"

"I did not," Castille interrupted, smiling wider and pressing her free hand onto her daughter's shoulder. "Such a vivid imagination you have, my daughter. To think, that you have been hiding that talent for so long. Creativity is just what you need to make a thriving business... or a worthy stronghold, if you wish to return to the original plan. Although, do you have a choice? It sounds as though you've handed DragonierMan the keys to the entire castle," she noted, setting her hammer down head-first so that it stood on its own, then crossing her arms.

Keep gulped, perhaps wishing that she'd warned DraognierMan not to be quite so honest about her stakes here and the Empire's reasons for assisting with the castle. "Mutual use, yes. I'm far better at up-keeping a castle than leading an army... or serving an army," she admitted, which caused Castille to swap over to a frown. "What I mean to say is, I don't believe my talents are on the battlefield. Not like yours, mother."

"A lady should have both," Castille scolded her daughter. Smiling, she turned back to DragonierMan; something about him seemed to improve her mood. "What say you, DragonierMan? Do you think my daughter can make money with this waterpark scheme of hers? Is this a worthy use of the castle I gifted her? Or do you think it might be better to just take the whole thing out of her hands and give it to someone who would use it better?" she asked, resting one hand atop her hammer's butt. "Maybe have her crawl to you and beg for a place in it, like Watchtower would."

For her part, Keep managed not to rise to the provocation and blow up or beg, but she still looked nervous.

"My dear, half the point of a castle is to hold it. The moment you knew I was coming with the intention to take it back, you ought to have shut the gates to me and driven me out. It's a castle! That's what it's for!" she laughed into her hand, finding the whole situation hilarious. "Instead, you invite me in and show me a water park, knowing my answer will be to dismiss it and take back my holdings. Oh! But leave us not forget, before that, you allowed in the empire who would very much like to take this castle for themselves. Not just one of them- all of them! Two dragoniers, countless soldiers, as well as the rest of the bunch I briefly spotted earlier. You're so grossly outnumbered that they could lift you bodily and simply toss you out, taking this castle for themselves if they liked! Because you have no soldiers. A castle with no soldiers is worthless. Am I correct in all of this?"

"No, mother, not quite. I only invited the Empire in because I trusted them. They have yet to betray that trust, haven't they? That makes this a mutually beneficial arrangement: they've staffed my castle and I've opened it to them for their ongoing usage," Keep pointed out.

Castille grinned again, then crossed her hands behind her back, making a show of not grabbing her hammer, despite the increasingly threatening tone of the conversation. "What say you, DragonierMan? The idea is in your head now, isn't it? Would it not it be much easier to take down this whole water-park and re-outfit this place as a castle, as it was originally intended?" she offered. "I could even be persuaded to help you and the empire, if you demonstrate you're worthy of that alliance by your deeds and actions." There seemed to be some kind of riddle going on here... and there certainly didn't see to be much of a chance Castille was going to be enjoying any of the fine amusements they'd worked so hard to prepare.

Magistrate appeared next, working to get things back on task. Castille raised her eyebrows, then nodded to Magistrate. "Ah, your servant is especially well-mannered, DragonierMan. Most agreeable. Magistrate, please, lead me wherever you will. Keep, stay with us. We can table my earlier... suggestion. Give DragonierMan some time to think it over," she chuckled, re-shouldering her hammer. "Oh, should I be wearing a swimsuit?" she asked, fluttering her eyelashes teasingly. It was very hard to imagine the giant, armored woman in anything less than armor.

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The slides certainly fit the classical definition of fun, although Escort didn't really have a body for sliding; she hung over any boogie-board or raft rather ridiculously, and because of her immense weight, it seemed hard for anything inflatable to support her. By the ominous creaking noises, they were pretty lucky that the water slides didn't actually give way under her. Other than that, she seemed to be enjoying herself, although laughter didn't come naturally to her.

Perhaps the reason she wasn't laughing was that she couldn't stop watching the negotiations in the center of the water park. "Suzume, Nightshade, let's keep on our guard. I have a feeling that woman is dangerous," Escort murmured. As Escort stood from the water, with it pouring from her slick hair; as she stood up to her full height, it might occur to the others that she was nearly as tall as the warhammer-wielding lady that had entered... yet still fell short by a bit. "My apologies... I'm spoiling your fun, aren't I? I'm sorry... I've always had a bit of trouble unwinding," she sighed, squeezing out the moisture from her dark hair while making a sullen expression.

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Guillotine watched Aya's reaction with an increasingly disturbed arch of her eyebrows. She clearly hadn't been expecting laughter and certainly not so much of it. "Hmph... Careful... That is the kind of behavior that was all the rage in the Right of Operation Templar," she lectured, brushing Aya's hand off from her robe distastefully. "It is most unpleasant to imagine myself- or you, for that matter- aligning ourselves with that bunch of miscreants ever again. We must conduct ourselves with a certain dignity." Maybe Guillotine just didn't like laughter in general, or as Aya suspected, she simply didn't like her important advice being met with laughter.

The next question did seem to amuse her though, in a way, so she made a huffing noise and clutched her forehead. "The fact that I don't know the answer to your question ought to be reassurance of my commitment to the Empire and severance from the ROT," she responded in a snappy way. "But if I had to estimate, I'd doubt there are very few left in the Worst Ones. The ROT, having lost myself, WatchTower, BrainMan's direct leadership... and having Trebuchet and Domm defeated on separate occasions, assuming Domm was ever really defeated... probably lost significant momentum and bled members. If there were still Worst Ones, they were probably punished less than usual... after all, the ROT would need to look into promoting them to leadership positions. And frankly, if anyone is still left as a Worst One after all of that, they... should not be considered likely to be useful to our army, at least not in a combat capacity," she scoffed. "It does make me wonder who the direct commander of the ROT currently is. With BrainMan fragmented as he was... if nothing else, he ought to be weaker. Then again, I feel as though I overheard a mission report stating that a particularly powerful newcomer, Agony, joined the RoT. Perhaps they're not so bad off after all."

She looked out one eye for a moment, then closed both again and raised her nose into the air. "Not that I have any intention to rejoin them. They burned that bridge forever when they dared to try and trample my pride," she grunted. "At any rate, it is hard to say, regarding the Worst Ones. Some of them may feel more mad and feverish in their zeal than ever, as there is a certain element of desperation associated with the position that probably has only grown with the seeming failure of BrainMan's plan. On the other hand, others, who were not so committed to the idea and were serving only through fear, may be eager to turn leaf and join up with ours, a stronger organization," she posited, turning up one hand contemplatively. "If you should encounter any of them, feel free to try, but know this: crazed fighting is their first instinct and if they have any loyalty to the ROT, they will be eager to attack and prove their strength. They are not in a position where they will be forgiven for desertion, nor for running away."
Suzume looked irritated at Escort. "Yes cats! Do you have a problem with cats? Do you know of anything cuter than cats when dealing with posing female models? I swear to all the digital gods that if you keep going on about this as if it were a foreign concept I will cut you," she said as she brandished one of her daggers threateningly for a moment before it disappeared as quickly. "Anyways," Suzu came back to all smiles and friendship, turning one-hundred and eighty degrees around from her earlier threat, "Let's table this discussion for later and enjoy ourselves while we are here."

After many fun slides and pool shenanigans, Suzu ended up cuddling up with a merged Yumi!Shade in the shallow end of one of the pools, drifting lazily.




DragonierMan and Magistrate watched as Castille traded barbs with Keep. Eventually Castille made an offer on the location and a potential alliance. Drago thought for a moment before answering. "Before you arrived we had a similar conversation," he began. "As I stated then, the Neo-Shogunate is trying to project 'soft power' on the NET. They have been burned before when taking more direct action. Taking territory by force without gathering allies ended up getting them defeated in the past. Now, with that said we have arrived at a mutually beneficial arrangement with Ms. Keep: in exchange for the use of her castle as a stronghold in this sector, which she will retain ownership and command of, she gets the security of a military presence and workers for her projects. As a bonus since she converted this into a water park, the NS gets a boost to morale, and the ability to further project 'soft power' in the area. Yes she will not be fully independent, and able to stand completely on her own, but she is becoming a valuable ally to our cause. That is enough to warrant my protection," he explained, reaching for the hilt of his sword. "With that said, and while I would hope that you would become our ally as well, I'm issuing you a warning: you may attempt to take back this castle from Keep, but we will not give it up so easily."

Then Magi stepped up to diffuse the situation with a curtsy and some honeyed words. "That is entirely up to you," Magi stated in response to Castille's question about swimsuits. "As I said, this is a tour of the facilities. If you would feel more comfortable in a swimsuit, then by all means." With that said, Magi would begin to lead Castille and Keep away to the nearest attraction/food court/etc. leaving Drago alone. Magi would start with pointing out the facility in question and offer a brief description of its use, while attempting to nudge Keep into providing more details, and to just generally wingman for Keep as they went.

Drago released the hilt of his sword and went back the way he came, looking for Watchtower. "Watchtower are you there? We should talk," he called. If she responded, Drago would lay out the pitch he had discussed with Castille minutes earlier over Watchtower joining the NS, or at least work with Keep on the water park, and what that would entail. This would basically be a clean slate for her and a fresh start.




"Oh no doubt about that, she is dangerous," Suzume said to Escort's concerns. Though the way Suzu was acting, reclining with Yumi!Shade, she didn't seem concerned at the least. "But she probably won't try anything. She is woefully outnumbered and outgunned, and she knows it," Suzu explained with a glint in her eye. It looked like she wanted Castille to try something. "She will posture though," Suzu continued. "Puff herself up, make herself look like she is a toughy, but it will all be for showboating purposes. The important thing is she makes the impression. Simple leader-to-leader politics. I wouldn't worry about it," she concluded.




Aya frowned at the implication that her earlier comments were similar to the philosophy of the Right of Operation Templar, but continued to listen as Guillotine answered the rest of her questions. Aya arched her eyebrow at the 'crazed fighting' information. "There will always be a need for 'crazed fighters' for a long time to come," Aya finally replied. "And if poaching their talent makes them charge at us, all the better. I'd rather not have to go down any snake holes trying to flush them out for me to delete them," Aya said. "Hm, Agony huh? I wonder if I heard that name before?" Aya questioned out loud, not particularly having a photographic memory due to some viral corruption. She shrugged her shoulders as she and Guillotine were heading back into the castle, "So... have we managed to get all the ROT base locations out of you yet?" Aya asked. "It seems like we should hit them while their leadership is in disarray," Aya added.


As far as Nightshade was concerned,being a part of NS was amazing. To hell with the all political mumbo jumbo. Right now the little guy was on top of the world. You couldn't have a more relaxed guy. Well...mascot. in the end right now Nighty was looking pretty much like a slightly bigger, slighly more muscular Yumi. All thanks to his partner sharig her code with him.

Instinctively attracted towards Suzume's energy, Yumishade had claimed his big sister as companion for his pool time. With his tail wrapping around suzume's right leg for balance, the small fluffy wyvern hybrid was enjoying the slow drift in the water eyes closed and head rested on Suzume's chest.

As the floated on by, he heard suzume and Escort talk about some kind of big boss lady. Whatever that was, his big sis was right. Between her, Aya and Drago there was already an incredible show of power there. From the pats Escort had given him he could tell she was super strong too.

Besides, as long as he and Yumi were fused and he wore her as cool ninja armor he was super strong too.

"Pfft...I dare anyone to ruin my cuddle time with my big sis and attack this castle. It'd be pretty suicidal." He mumbled, squeezing hiself closer to Suzume, the hybrid evergrowing need for attention always present.

Then, as they floated on by, he heard a new voice speak about costumes. He didn't bother to open his eyes, relaxed as he was, so he merely pointed one of his wing paws towards the origin of the sound and casually stated.

"You should totally try on a shark suit. Those things are amazing to swim in. 100% cannonball it in here too. This onsen water is absolutely magnificent~"
During her Neo-Shogun career, Escort had run people over with limousines at unsafe speed, disassembled said limousines with her fists in motion, and gone toe-to-toe with some of the more dangerous foes the Empire had to face. One might then, expect, that she would be the wrong person to pick a fight with over her confusion over whether a pose was supposed to imitate a dragon or a cat. One might expect that they could find themselves on the wrong side of the "legendary fist" Dee had sold the Shogun on when she vouched for Escort's recruitment.

Instead, the subordinate just reacted by knitting her brow and bowing to Suzume. "I am sorry if I offended you, ma'am," the giant lady humbled herself, pressing one hand to her breast like a butler depiction one might see on TV. "I will try to be quicker on the uptake going forward." She adopted a blank expression again and tried to focus on their situation instead. "I wonder... I have not heard much about this 'Castille.' She appears to be a woman of means and strength. I must admit... seeing her strange appearance and large body reminded me a bit of some of our previous adversaries in the Blessers. I hope that she is unrelated." Of course, her talking about anyone else's unnaturally large body was a bit ridiculous to begin with.

She watched Nightshade with a somewhat envious looking frown, though it was unclear whether that was because he was cuddling with Suzume or because he was so unconcerned, despite the appearance of the newcomer and her threatening talk. "I apologize if I am overstepping myself, but we of the Empire must never threaten one another. For the good of your allies and our unity, please, never suggest turning your blade upon a fellow . Just as I would never raise my hand against my own ally... but I would intervene to stop such conflicts as soon as they arose, " she finished, narrowing her eyes slightly with an increasingly cold expression.

Amazingly unaffected by the tense atmosphere, Nightshade called out in response to Castille's question regarding the swimsuit...

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Perhaps surprisingly, Castille returned a pleasant smile in response to DragonierMan's warning. "Very fair, DragonierMan. If the arrangement is favorable to both parties, then who am I to butt in? Perhaps my daughter is more skilled in negotiations than I gave her credit for? Yes, yes..." she chuckled, patting the very top of Keep's tall helmet. Here, she turned to Nightshade, seeming amused by his banter. "You think so? I do not have a suit quite as neat as yours, but I can certainly change, if you recommend it."

Keep, for her part, seemed relieved that Castille's unpredictable mood had swung back to a state of satisfaction for now. She gave DragonierMan an appreciative smile, then nodded to her mother. "Please do. It will be rather difficult to enjoy the current state of the park unless you wear one," she pointed out.

A beam came down to engulf Castille briefly, then retreated, removing her extremely heavy armor (but leaving the warhammer) and leaving her in a scandalous, deep blue bikini, with a very thick chain about the waist and neck forming the waistband and halter respectively. It left very little to the imagination, showing off an oddly gray body that matched Escort's in sculpt and, almost, in bust-size. A small, white castle was printed on the lower front of the bikini, provocatively placed. The lady's hair was black and formed a very neat, shiny bowl about her head, so neat that it could be mistaken for armor. She noticed several of the men watching and stretched her arms over her head, giving them more of a show. "Hmmm... I have to wear something reinforced like this, you know? Anything less and I would pop right out," she informed DragonierMan, tugging at the halter chain about her scant bikini top. It was clearly a joke, as, while the chains wouldn't break, the fabric was still just fabric.

Keep made a brief, unhappy face, the kind any daughter might make while watching her mother flirt with younger men. "What would you like to try out first?" she inquired, eager to move on.

"Well, my daughter, I'll give you a tip: there is simply no chance that those slides would support my weight," she began with a slight chuckle.

Keep nodded, then looked to Magistrate for support. "How do you think we can entertain my mother and also keep her from breaking anything apart with her weight?" she requested, pressing one fist to her lips contemplatively.

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DragonierMan, in the mean time, had other things on his mind; he left for the entrance to seek out Watchtower. She was indeed still there, perhaps too scared to run off and face her mother's wrath later, but also too frightened to rejoin her mother. Trembling, she watched DragonierMan approach and raised her hands, as though preparing to summon her tower around herself again. She really was a one-trick pony, in that respect.

Rather than attacking, DragonierMan outlined a few plans for how Watchtower might redeem herself. "Really? You'd offer me a place in your organization?" she asked, her thin eyebrows curving into a very skeptical expression. With her nose slightly more hooked than her mothers and her unpainted lips, she didn't look particularly fetching compared to her mother or sister, no matter what expression she wore, but it was a bit worse still while she was critiquing such a gem of an offer. "I know Guillotine joined up with you all, but do you know what she's done? Or what I've done? The ROT wasn't some social club... I made a choice to menace people and try to delete them!" she warned him, clenching her teeth with trembling emotion, though it wasn't quite clear whether that was fear, self-loathing, or perhaps anger.

"I can't join the Empire, obviously. I can't imagine anyone there would receive me with open arms," Watchtower explained and shook her head, still retreating back warily if he made any attempts to approach her further. "I could work here with my sister, though... if there is anything for me to do," she grumbled, crossing her arms and inspecting the castle from a distance. "But I don't understand why you'd even offer me the option. The ROT kill other navis, for no other reason than that they're weak! Doesn't that upset you, that I involved myself with an organization like that? Or that Guillotine was in it, purely because of her disdain for navis she found distasteful? Or did she even tell you all that? Do you really think dogs change their spots in that way?"

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Guillotine shrugged at Aya's further questioning. "If that's how you see it, then feel free to track down the Worst Ones. Rooting them out ought to be a cakewalk for fighters of DragonierMan's capabilities, at any rate. They were the worst ones, after all." Raising an eyebrows, Guillotine crossed her arms and tilted her chin up again, not seeming to appreciate the implications of the question. "I am part of that selfsame 'we', I'll remind you. I offered up those locations willingly. The ROT recruitment bases run by Domm, the train routes they used to move supplies- and for... other purposes. The torture chambers. There was even a neighborhood watch in a certain Netopian district that was being used as a front for their operations, which I offered up," she explained at length.

Realizing that the empty air after she finished speaking actually betrayed a bit of hidden bad news, she turned her glare down to her feet and crossed her arms, perhaps sulking. "Most of the places were abandoned or empty, inhabited only by footsoldiers who hadn't received news from the higher-ups. Those, of course, were either taken out or taken captive, but they're such dull dastards that they were, naturally, not made privy to any sensitive information. Domm and the other remants were not found at these locations," she sighed. "Would that it had been that simple. Those scumsuckers remain on the run."
Suzume felt the conflict in Escort and smiled her sweet, disarming smile she had. "Don't worry Escort, it was a joke. I wasn't serious about actually hurting you over that. You should look up the concept of 'friendly ribbing' sometime," she said. As with everything about the dragonier women, even if they meant exactly what they said, there was always the tiniest edge of mocking smugness about it. As if they thought there was always more that was left unsaid and that most wouldn't understand their mastery over them. Real or imagined.

Suzu's ears burned at the mention of the Blessers. Her grip on Yumi!Shade tightened slightly at the thought of having to deal with yet another super-powered, mentally unstable being. "Blessers? I would hope not. Besides, if she was a Blesser, she would be ranting about something or another right now and twisting the environment to suit her brain-damaged whims." Suzu shook her head, recovering herself, and loosened her grip on Nighty. "No, I doubt we have to worry about her being a Blesser. Ha, ha," she ended with a fake, dismissive laugh. Though her eyes were a little more keen to glance towards wherever Castille was, every now and then, somewhat nervously.


Before DragonierMan could leave, Castille put on a very sexy bikini, and attempted to flirt with him some more. Drago's lizard-like brain definitely appreciated the sentiment, but he had to tear himself away. "Hmm, yes, I see," he stuttered over her modeling of the garment, trying not to gawk too much. "And you do look really good in it, but if you'll excuse me," he said as he tried to graciously bow away as best as he could. Magistrate cleared her throat as a cough into her balled fist, in order to direct Castille and Keep's attention away from the retreating dragonier and to the task at hand.

"There are a few attractions that don't require slides," Magi began, trying to stay away from the subject of a woman's weight. "Besides the carnival-style games and the main pool, outfitted with various 'play areas', the moat is outfitted for a relaxing 'Lazy River' experience. It should not be hard to find an appropriate flotation device should you wish to take a 'river trip'. What would you like to try out first?" she asked. Meanwhile, as Magi listed off the various attractions Castille could take with her weight, she tried to calculate if it was possible to reinforce an innertube or small raft with defensive signature or chip data to make it sturdy enough to support that weight. If Castille wanted to try out the 'Lazy River' moat ride, then Magi would pull Keep to the side and explain her ideas on the matter, and hopefully they could make it work.


Aya and Guillotine arrived at the gatehouse as Drago and Watchtower were in the middle of a conversation. Aya's keen hearing had been picking up a few words of the talk, as she had also been half-listening to Guillotine, so she was partly aware of the offers they were discussing. Drago nodded his head at Watchtower's idea of working with her sister Keep. "That might be for the best," he agreed. "Keep could use all the help she can get."

"You act like it isn't a common practice to try to delete your enemies out there," Aya called out to Watchtower, as Watchtower was talking about all the terrible things she and Guillotine did while within the ROT. Aya then tried to tap Guillotine with her elbow in a friendly banter-like ribbing. It was clear that Aya was making light-hearted fun of the dark fact that everyone here, and especially Aya with how she acted upon seeing Watchtower minutes earlier, was a murderous psychopath in one way or another. "If we were celibate about who we picked to join us, we'd never have any fun," Aya ended cryptically. One would think that she enjoyed the fact that the Neo-Shoguns were like some large dysfunctional family, partly made up of less-than-savory types. Or maybe she thought that the NS would go too soft without a bunch of people like them to keep them sharp.

Drago clapped his hands together to wrap up the conversation. "Well, now that we have all gathered and I don't have to hunt you guys down, I can say that we're not fully done with the mission yet. So let's head back in and finish the task set before us," he said as he started ushering everyone into the castle. Whatever happened between Aya and Drago on the bridge earlier and Watchtower's concerns, among a myriad of other things, seemed to have been swept aside as if they didn't matter anymore. The four of them would probably be heading to wherever Keep was in order to complete the mission, and dump Watchtower onto Keep for safekeeping. Even if Watchtower wasn't working directly for the NS, her assistance with this castle would benefit the organization, and that was enough for Drago.

In the meantime of all the politics, Yumishade was having the best time of his life. He was loving his pool cuddle time. He didn't really need to hold himself onto his sister much, she was making sure to kerp him close to her at all times as they floated around the water. She didn't seem to mind his tail coiled around her leg either.

What he loved most though, was her energy. It was kinda similar to Aya's, if a bit more cold than hers. It was still immense ad incredibly dark. He wondered if that was how a darkloid would feel.

Still, judging by his mantle of now darker, black scales the wyvern hybrid didn't seem to mind leeching off her sis' power a little.

He wondered if he could still trigger his dragonier armor and the cross' powers even though he was currenty sharing a body with his partner. Then again, would the armor fit a somewhat humanoid looking wyvern? Maybe the chest and legs. He doubted he could use the arm braces considerig the two massive wings protruding from his forearms and wrists.

The wyvern's ears perked up when he felt Suzume tighten her grip on him. He raised his head up from her chest and looked st her, wondering what the problem was. He turned around and looked at Escort, but the situation seemed to defuse itself, so the little hugaholic wyvern was back to hogging all of Suzume's attention.

He did give an eye at Castille though. He gave her a thumbs up, her swimsuit was cool looking. "Damn Keep. Your mom's one of those cool strong hot ones. Makes me wonder how your dad is..." He told her.

Another five minutes of complete abbandon in his big sister's arms and the wyvern's scales had completely lost their bluish grey in favour for a lucent black. Even his reds around his eyes and the tip of his wngs seemed brighter. Yumishade was soakig up on Suzume's energy like a sponge. There was a moment where Yumishade spared some of his cuddling with Escort, just to let Suzume take a breather.

Then, Aya came in. Suzume could feel Yumishade raising his head up again as he felt his sister's presence. The wyvern's core pulse, until now more or less in synch with Suzume's own quickened, denoting excitement.

"HOIIII! Aya!" Yumishade called, waving at his big sister. "Big sis! Come join us!" He called, hoping she would indeed don a sharksuit and join them inside the main pool. If she did, she would probably be unable to escape Yumishade's hugges, but she'd knew that giving the hybrid some affection would be what he desired most.
Aya blinked, turning her head towards the noisy din, and locked eyes on Yumi!Shade. He was cuddling up to Escort while they were in the large central pool with Suzume. She sighed at Guillotine. "I guess this is what girls are always going on about on the NET boards when they mention their younger brothers. So embarrassing," she ad-libbed with a shrug of her shoulders. "Well, I might as well get into the spirit of it," she said as she took out her shark-swimsuit and donned it with a flash of black and blue sparkles.

She walked to the edge of the pool and tested the temperature with her suit-clad foot. Seemingly satisfied with what she could feel, she waded a little deeper before turning around. "Come on Guilly, get the lead out and get in!" she smirked before reaching down and splashing some water at Guillotine. Aya laughed and tried goading Guillotine to chase her into the water with a few more splashes, retreating a little deeper if Guillotine chased her. Guillotine probably had a swimsuit hidden on her somewhere, either of her own design or the sharksuit given to all the NS members, even if she didn't want to participate. And Aya was dead set on hounding Guillotine, even with water balloons if she could scrounge them up, until the former ROT officer relented and joined in the park's activities.

Yumishade's eyes lit up as Aya wore her sharksuit and hopped in the pool with the rest. The wyvern was happy, but now he had a problem. On one hand, he wanted to snuggle with Aya so much. On the other, he liked the relaxed snuggles Suzume was capable of sharing with him. He was about to pout when the Yumi side of the little hybrid actually remembered a neat thing they could do.

Yumishade began squirming in the pool, until he started buffig up. Slowly,like a cell doing mitosis, a clone slowly peeled itself away from the original. It looked like a good use for all the energy the hybrid had eaten from Suzume. Even though both wyvern's coat had returned to their dull gray color, Yumishade could now both cuddle and snuggle with both his elder siblingsand feel both of their affection through Yumi's ability.

It felt kinda weird, being in two places at once, but he'dget used to it. He also didn't mind the fatigue resulting from splitting his energy in two bodies. Both Yumishades were pretty sure that as soon as they resume theur huggles with their sisters they'd be able to absorb more of their excess energy. In short, their scales would turn dark again and they'd recuperate their strength.

As such, the clone swam his way back snugglenapping onto Suzume's chest while the original quickly wrapped himself as close as possible to Aya keeping himself huggled as his sister teased guillotine into wearig the sharksuit and drop in the pool.
Escort knit her brow in a way that was either confused or perhaps just increasingly weary. "I will endeavor to be more perceptive," she responded. "That said, even if this one is a Blesser, I imagine she does not have the same illusion producing capabilities as Utopia demonstrated. That means we should be able to repel anything she can muster, given all the forces we've assembled here. Oh dear... it sounds as though I am jinxing us," she finally realized, covering her mouth with one hand.

---

The flirtatious mother of Keep and Watchtower smiled, appreciating the reaction, before leaving DragonierMan to go seek out Watchtower. "Go, if you must," she excused him, before turning back to the others. "Let us work up a sweat before we take a dip. I will challenge these games of yours. I'll pay, of course... I'm no Neo-Shogun and thus, I've made no arrangement that entitles me to a free ride." That seemed to be meant for Keep, whose attention she'd turned to. Of course, whatever she paid was probably going to be a small pittance compared to what the whole operation probably needed to pull in. It was probably more of a joke to her than anything.

"Of course. Let's try out the bottle shooting range-" Keep offered, before Castille raised one hand.

"I was thinking something more like the strength test I saw over that way," the mother chimed in, smiling sweetly as she casually threatened to destroy one of the carnival games. "I even brought my own hammer~" Keep tried to talk her into a few other games, and Magistrate may try as well, but it would all prove pointless; she seemed dead set on her decision.

Giving up, seemingly, Keep went to rejoin Nightshade and the others at the pool. "You think so? I suppose you're right. She always had a certain charisma that's hard for us children to match..." the girl sighed, taking a seat at poolside. "As for my father, well... if there was one, which I can't exactly be certain of given the nature of the net, I never met him. It was always mother and us children, as far back as I can remember," she reminisced.

The small group gabbed along with Nightshade for a bit, with Escort enjoying more snuggling and Keep watching his outfit shift between several fascinating shades.

---------------

Elsewhere, DragonierMan and Aya were encouraging Watchtower to join her sister. "True, it's very common for the ROT, but it's not among other groups, now is it? You in the empire were always tying us up and keeping us for captives, that sort of business. Beyond that, when two net beings battle, they're usually trying to eject each other, not delete one another, right? It's very different for us," Watchtower grumbled, with a sour look on her face. "We were in it to kill. Of course, more often, we simply tortured. With one of our officers carrying a whip and another carrying a stretching rack, you probably figured that out already."

Guillotine came to join them as well, though her face didn't look as welcoming to Watchtower as one might hope. She grunted irritably when Aya attempted to joke with her. "It is quite an odd lot. I'm still not fully used to it," the white-haired lady murmured, lowering her eyebrows. If she really did have the distaste for deformed or behaviorally challenged navis that she was rumored to, there was a pretty good chance that some of the Neo-Shogun's ranks set her off.

Watchtower eyed the whole group suspiciously, but it seemed she couldn't come up with anything better to do than join them, since her only other option was to run away her family later. "Alright, fine... I suppose I can't do any worse following my sister around than I was following my mother," she huffed, gathering up her skirt and walking after them. It was pretty darn difficult imagining her having fun... ever... but especially at a waterpark like this, given her stuffy nature. Guillotine raised an eyebrow to the others, then followed after her. It was a bit of an odd feeling, seeing two former ROT members wandering into a water park full of Neo-Shogun soldiers together.

-----------------

Once they joined the others, Guillotine wished she hadn't, as Aya took to the water and immediately began splashing her fancy robe with pool-water. "You pebblewit!" she complained, then scoffed a few more times with gasping "ugh" noises. "I will not forgive this indignation!" she declared, before donning her own swimsuit in a beam of light. She'd chosen not to don the sharksuit, ridiculous as she found it, and instead ended clad in a dull purple, bikini-style swimsuit, modestly designed with silver buckle clasps and made of a glistening, elastic material. It was pretty hard to ignore how closely it clung to her bodacious curves, as otherwise normal as it was. With no axe-blades, she was still lurching for Aya as fast as she could move through the water, looking more like she wanted to strangle her ally than splash her.

Watchtower lowered her eyebrows and sat next to Keep, having no desire to join in. "What are we even doing...?" she asked Keep, clutching her knees and looking lost.

"... You're right. We should probably be with mother right now," Keep gulped.

Shaking her head furiously, perhaps not wanting to rejoin their beast of a mother, Watchtower explained. "I mean, in general. Why should you have to run a water park? Why should I join a bunch of ruffians just to try to make myself as strong as mother? It's all rubbish. It makes you wonder what is the point of anything," she sighed dejectedly. It was a real buzzkill, to be sure.

"There's no need to think like that... It seems to me this day is actually going better than expected for both of us. Mother's always... dramatic... but she does seem to be enjoying herself. Maybe she's been cooped up in her stuffy castle too long and a day out among others has her giddy," Keep suggested with a smile. Watchtower, for her part, looked off in the distance with a worried expression, as if she was anticipating Castille would somehow hear the two of them banter and come back to knock some sense into them.

Frustrated at her total inability to catch Aya and now with moisture dripping from every inch of her pale white skin, Guillotine shook her silvery locks from her face and turned to DragonierMan. "You have to do something about that thrice-blasted SP of yours! She is trying to make a fool of me!" she complained loudly, in that haughty voice of hers. Groups of soldiers were gathered here and there, enjoying the show. This could certainly be an exciting destination for soldiers to come on vacation... if it was always staffed by Neo-Shogun officers in bikinis, anyway.

Keep signaled Nightshade again by waving one hand. "I think things are going swimmingly so far, Nightshade, but would you be so kind as to go and check on Castille for me? I have to think that Magistrate has her hands full, dealing with my mother alone..."

-----------------

Somehow, Magistrate had been left alone with Castille at this point, besides a few soldiers, who were interested enough in her physique and swimsuit to form a discrete circle around her. "Alright, Miss Magistrate... You and I both know I could swing and destroy this bell in an instant. To make it more exciting, I propose a handicap. What sort of devious handicap do you think you could come up with for me? I really do love a challenge," she requested, while resting her hammer's head upon the ground and two hands atop crossed near the top of the hammer's handle.
When Watchtower talked about how the ROT was different from the NS Empire in regards to ejecting vs. deleting, Aya and DragonierMan kept quiet about all the times they almost permanently deleted navis with the help of jackout suppression rope, and just nodded along. Then they all headed in and linked up with the main group, minus Castille and Magistrate. Aya immediately "attacked" Guillotine with some splashes of water, skipping away from the slower navi without much trouble, as she gave chase. Not only was Aya more sleeker and nimbler than her curvier ally, but she could stand on top of the surface of the water with Planeswalking, giving her the ability to quickly stride across the water's surface like an ice skater if Guillotine came too close. Eventually Guillotine cried out at the unfairness of the situation to Drago, who couldn't help but chuckle during the one-sided battle in the surf.

He cleared his throat and tried to look serious for a moment to appease Guillotine. "Okay Aya, that's enough. You got what you wanted, so ease it up. We are all trying to have fun here," he called out to Aya. Aya replied by coming to a stop, which gave Nightshade the opening to slink up and hug her. "Ack! What? Oh, it's you again," Aya reacted to the sudden embrace. She slowly slid down into the water so her feet touched the bottom and patted him on the back, but didn't make any movement to pull away from him, "Ugh, fine. You can hug me for awhile. You better get your money's worth while you have this chance," she said.

Suzume, finally separated from the original Nighty, stood up and headed for shore. The shadowy doppleganger he left behind clung to the SP, but didn't weigh anything, and as such didn't hamper Suzu's movement. "Got a towel?" she asked Keep. If she didn't have one available, Suzu would pull out her bag and grab her standard-issue cloak to dry off with. "Also are you the only two 'children' of Castille, or are there more of you out there?" she asked both Keep and Watchtower. While that was going on, Keep asked Nighty to go and check on Castille for her. Aya looked down at the creature which had affectionately locked itself to her body. "I think she's calling you," Aya mentioned, internally glad that the fuzzball would potentially let her go and go bother someone else.


Meanwhile Magistrate was left with Castille and a group of soldiers. Castille purposed a handicap for the 'Strength Tester' game. Magi thought for a moment and then had an idea. "Very well, Miss Castille, I suggest the following." Magistrate produced two objects in her hands. One was a blindfold and the other was chip data for a Barrier100Protection: Combined Damage of 100 HP
Accuracy: S
Description: Defensive field that prevents damage up to 100HP.
Duration: Until Destroyed
Element: Null
Special: Status Guard: This chip blocks debuffs.
Trader Rank: C
battlechip.

"I suppose someone of your power would be able to bust through this strong barrier without a problem. Though the idea would then be to do it without destroying the machine as well, while blindfolded. This would be a test of both your inner strength as well as your outer," Magi concluded. If Castille took the challenge, Magi would apply the Barrier100Protection: Combined Damage of 100 HP
Accuracy: S
Description: Defensive field that prevents damage up to 100HP.
Duration: Until Destroyed
Element: Null
Special: Status Guard: This chip blocks debuffs.
Trader Rank: C
to the machine first, letting the bubble form around it for all to see, followed by helping Castille with the blindfold. However, once Castille's eyes were covered, Magi would also touch the machine and secretly apply her own Casing signature: Magistrate's ScalesProtection: Combined Damage of 20 HP.
Accuracy: S
Description: The SP causes the target to grow a layer of armored scales that prevents damage up to 20HP.
Duration: Until destroyed.
Element: Null
Signature: Passive Casing.
to further reinforce the structural integrity of the object.

A secondary effect of this reinforcement would be that if Castille focused exclusively on the strong Barrier, without taking into account a Casing, that she would potentially fail at ringing the bell. With Castille blindfolded and probably not able to see the deception, the odds of that were still slim at best. That is unless her hammer would just cleave through both Barrier and Casing alike, similar to some of the dragoniers' own battlechips, in which case it would just dull the hit by a tiny bit more. Magi helped Castille into position. "Okay you are ready to go, Miss Castille. Good luck and strike true."


Back at the main group Drago approached Keep and Watchtower, joining Suzume to listen in on the question on whether there were more than two 'children' of Castille. After they were done asking that, Drago asked Keep directly, "Why did you want to run a water park of all things?"

Nighty in the meantime was making real sure he was hogging all of Aya's attention. He squeezed himself as close as he possibly could, snuggling with his big sis inside the pool.

Then, the little navi was called over to Keep. She was by the edge of the pool with another new face, waving at him.

Nighty looked up at Aya. Then at Keep. Then back at Aya. He did not really want to separate from his bigger sister, but the curiosity was so nagging at him...

The little navi slowly peeled himself from Aya's tonic body, Yumi defusing as well. So, while the small water wyvern remained with Aya to cuddle, the young navi, back in his original shark costume, swam all the way to Keep.

He would quickly jump in her lap, throwing his hands around her neck and give her the biggest hug of her life, forletting her have so much fun in her waterpark. He refused to let go until he had the chance to snuggle with her too, as well as give at least one hug to her sister as well.

He sat down between her legs and quietly listened to what she had to say. "Oh don't worry Keep! Big Sis Magi is super smart! She probably already figured your super hot mom out!" He stated, extremely confident.

"But If you want me to go check, I can. But before that I wanna try your armor." With his tail wagging, the young kitten seemed dead set on becoming a Keep jr. Then, leaned forward and grabbed Keep's helmet.

"And also I wanna see your face 0w0" He added, tryig to lift the heavy head piece and failing. He dropped back down in her lap.

"If you can armor me up just like you! I'll make sure your hot mom has the best time of her life today, in no time too!" He spread his arms wide for emphasis, but also in case Keep was really going to give him her armor and needed to make adjustments to fit a much smaller and sleek phisique.
Guillotine didn't exactly look pleased, even now that Aya had let up. Her dignity appeared to be pretty fragile and when it started to break down, she got even huffier than usual. For now she went back over to Keep and crossed her arms, glaring at the nearby soldiers who had assembled to watch. For their part, they all pretended to be doing something else instead.

A short ways away, Suzume struck up conversation with Keep and her sullen sister. Keep handed over a towel, bearing the image of Yumi on it; she seemed to have gotten it made very quickly as a form of merchandise. Watchtower continued to mope, while allowing her sister to answer. "Besides myself and Watchtower, there is Donjon, who keeps close at my mother's side. He is probably the closest she has to a real successor of the family business, that being maintaining mother's various holdings. There is also WallMan, who I understand works somewhere in Beach Net these days. I suppose he wanted to live on his own and do something altogether different. Beyond that there are the younger children: Drawbridge, Portcullis, and MoatMan, though calling him a man is a bit of a misnomer, as he is still a child. There is an extended family as well, though I know little of those. As for our father, well, we in the family try not to talk of him. Castile's father, ThroneMan, and his wife, Spire-"

"You could build several whole castles with our family tree. You're probably thinking it's pretty strange, having a family tree, huh?" Watchtower interrupted, still frowning. "Most navis don't. It starts at ThroneMan, basically. He thought it was disgraceful for navikind not to have a traceable lineage. Therefore, he was the first, Castille was the second. That is also part of why she wants all of us to marry off... Though, ironically, as much as she adores Donjon, he won't do much for her as far as a lineage goes," Watchtower scoffed.

Keep watched her for a while, with a silent stare that seemed to ask, "Are you providing her with a child any time soon?" but held back for the sake of politeness. The strange topic of conversation was interrupted as Nightshade surprised her with a big hug. Awkwardly, she reciprocated, thankfully without having to tone down her strength like Escort had.

Watchtower was an even more awkward high target, squirming her narrow shoulders irritably. She almost certainly would have tried to evade the hug, had it even crossed her mind that someone might want to hug her. The inability to summon her protective tower from this close range attack was perhaps the worst part. "Grrr! Yooou!" she cursed Nightshade noisily. Frankly, she did not seem the hugging type, regardless of how cushy her thick white tube dress was.

With an awkward laugh, Keep pulled him back free and placated him with another hug. "You'll have to forgive my sister," she sighed. She kept that very uncertain smile on, unsure what to make of the child calling her mom "super hot."

To her surprise, he worked on lifting her helmet off to try it on himself. "Don't you think it's sort of silly?" she laughed, amused at his efforts. "It probably isn't quite your size. But if you come back and see me some time, I'm sure we can get you one that fits," she encouraged him. Her soft, fine-tune face was a fair shade different than Castille's smirking gray one, to the point that it was hard to place them as family, any further than a slight resemblance in the nose.

Nightshade insisted, of course, so she began figuring out how to engineer him a set of armor just like hers. It was clear she was a bit of a pushover, yielding to the demands of an employee who had just held her orders against a ransom of his own. "It will take a little time... Please have patience," she urged him, using her viewscreen by twisting her body to one side, so that she wouldn't have to reach around the cat boy to use it.

In the mean time, DragonierMan returned to chat a little more. "Oh, well... I was just trying to think of something that would turn a profit and seemed easy to manage. There were probably easier choices. The visit was a bit... short notice, so I decided a bit hastily," she admitted, while busily tapping away on the viewscreen.

Soon enough, she summoned a near replica of her own armor, albeit with more normal-shaped cauldrons and a print of her castle symbol on the breastplate. The tall, oddly tower shaped helmet was the same, however. "This is the livery that my castle guards used to wear, Nightshade. Back when I had castle guards," she explained. "Will that suffice?"

---

Elsewhere, Magistrate had a laundry list of potential handicaps for Castille to try out. "Ha ha... You're just throwing on whatever you can think of, I see. Very well; I accept the challenge," she nodded, placing her hand back upon the hammer's long handle. "Someone, please assist me with the blindfold," she encouraged the others.

Before Magistrate could offer to do it herself, a shogun soldier with thick muscles and a flat-top haircut stepped forward to do it, shoving his way past others who were attempting to do the same thing. Seriously, he tied the garment around Castille's eyes, seeming to breath hard as he looked downward to her toned back and shoulders. Perhaps that was just his thing.

"Good. Is the bell all armored up? Shall I swing?" she questioned, now placing both hands together on the hammer. She quickly lifted it above her head, and in the process, smacked the living daylights out of the man behind her, who went down as though an anvil had just fallen on his head. "Whoops... Clear the area, please," she requested.

The circle around them seemed to widen a bit, while Castille brought the hammer back over her head and an especially brave soldier grabbed the earlier one's legs to drag him out of harm's way. With no restraint, the mother of the family brought her hammer down on the general area of the bell. It might be to one side a bit- she seemed unable to cheat the blindfold in that regard- but it didn't matter. The castle-shaoed hammerhead created a giant crater, then a giant shockwave, then a huge cloud of dust as it connected. Splintered wood, a bell, and several mechanical parts flew this way and that. Even a few soldiers seemed to have been blown back from the blast and found themselves ricocheting against the nearby food stalls. The sound was like a meteor impacting.

Still closeby Magistrate, the lady placed her hammer down butt first against the ground and turned her head to what would be looking at her companion, were she not blindfolded. "Did I get it?" It seemed she was heedless of two things: one, that several wooden pieces of the machine were now embedded in her rock like body at the shoulders and abdomen, and two, that the chain holding her bikini bottom had shattered, leaving the castle-printed rag barely in place and threatening to fall away at any moment. The position of her hammer would hide the front, but not the back. The dust cloud obscured a bit but the soldiers still remaining may get some excitement one it cleared.

---

"I don't like the sound of that..." Keep murmured, looking at the plume of dust in the distance with concern. "Please, hurry," she repeated to Nightshade, as she now busied herself with something else on her viewscreen. "And perhaps ask if she would be willing to abandon her hammer for the rest of the day's proceedings."

"Good luck," Watchtower scoffed, seeming to have shrunken back into her shoulders. She was probably glad she wasn't being asked to go.
Aya noticed Guillotine's fragile state and returned to shore, dragging Yumi along. She walked up in front of Guillotine and looked her in the eyes with a concerned expression. "Hey," she began. "Look, I'm sorry to have been picking on you today. I've just been a little frustrated lately and I was accidentally taking it out on you without meaning to. I'm sorry," she said as she extended a hand. "We cool?"

Suzume was not expecting there to be so many 'children' as Keep and Watchtower listed them off. She tried to make note of all the information she was given as she took the towel offered and began drying herself and her wetsuit. Assuming the shade of Yumi!Shade was still hugging to her body, kept in place by the concentration of its master, the towel would probably pass through the decoy as she went. "So... You were made with reproductive capability? That is a rare trait for Navis to have. Or do you encode aspects of yourself into a new Navi core template, like one does with SPs?" she asked clinically. "Either way, how many of you are still single? Or does mother dearest have to approve of the marriage and that hasn't happened yet?"

"We met this one Blesser named MarriageMan one time and he tried to force his strange sense of marriage aesthetics on good 'ol Master over here," she continued, adding to the conversation with a juicy story. She leaned in conspiratorially and pointed over her shoulder at Drago "See, he's kind of off-and-on with some of the Neo-Shogunate ladies, and we were at one of their cabins..."

"Suzume," DragonierMan growled in a semi-warning manner. Suzu took a moment to glance at Drago and give a sly smile, before continuing. "Anyways, we sent him packing. I heard he died later on. Apparently the Blessers are all super crazy and powerful because of some unstable program they are given by BlesserMan himself. So yeah," Suzu concluded, "That happened. I can understand what you guys have gone through to some extent."

"So how close are you to your siblings? Do you keep in touch?" she asked them, just as Yumi!Shade came in to hug the Castille sisters.




Magistrate began brushing dust and debris from her clothes as the clouds settled. She did not look amused. "While I admire your might, Miss Castille, you have failed at the task set before you," she began. "I clearly stated that the goal of this 'game' was to punch through the barrier to ring the bell, without destroying the machine. As demonstrated by the cooperation between DragonierMan and Keep, not every solution to a 'test of strength' involves a display of overwhelming power. Sometimes, the precise application of 'force with intent', is preferable."

Magi called out to any nearby NS soldiers to help clean the area, while she continued to talk with Castille. "I do not have to remind you that in administration: of ledgers, castles, or at war; one cannot simply brute force their way through to victory. Trying to do so will have you lose more often than not," she added. Magi was tactically using this somewhat predictable situation as a further lesson on how Keep made the strategically correct choice by allying herself with the Neo-Shogunate Empire. Magi also let the notion hang in the air, that Castille's 'test of strength' to her daughter Keep was not 'won' through force of arms, but in the precise application of 'force with intent'. With minimal effort Keep was able to secure her holdings without suffering potentially crippling damage in a fight over them, unlike what happened to the poor strength testing machine, which lay in ruins trying to resist a much stronger entity.

And to further Castille's humility, Magi kept quiet about the state of Castille's outfit. If anything, it might encourage the NS soldiers she called to get closer and get to work, even if they were slowed down by their potential gawking. Magi herself was not one to care about anyone but herself and the tasks she was assigned, being an administrative program first, a newly formatted woman second. So, her standards of modesty or morals was pretty non-existent beyond a clinical viewpoint. Thus, Magi would stand there and converse with Castille if she had any further topics of conversation to cover or if she wanted to continue to talk more about the subject of her lesson, as her clothing fell off. Castille was a mature enough woman and could handle the condition of her own outfits.

When Castille was ready to continue to further explore the park, Magi would escort her to the next viable attraction nearby.

Nightshade giggled happily, looking at the armor he was now wearing, tail wagging around wildly. He pushed himself up and huggled Keep's neck, not really bothered to have an intimate moment with the castle's Keep. "That means I'm your knight now. Yeah? Yeah? YEAH?!"

Nightshade hopped around in Keep's lap, all super happy and super proud. "I'll go check on your hot mom not! Knighty to the rescueeeeeeeeeeeeeeee."

And with that, he was off, the armor not stopping his bristling speed and hyperactive behavior. He quickly snapped towards Magistrate's signature, hopping right in as the "Hot Mom" exploded the stuff around. Thankfully for the people around there, Nightshade was a speedy navi. Arguably speedier than Drago too. His systems overclocked, as the little catbot tried to intercept as much shrapnel as he could, trying to protect Keep's caste from the siege.

He would not be able to catch them all, having one of the pieces lodging into his spanking new headgear. Upon noticing, he would sat on the floor and pulled it off his head.

"Aaaaaw...you ruined my helmet..." The cat navi whined, looking at his sleek black helmet now bent and scuffed with a piece of metal embedded into it. "NNNngh THAT'S IT!" He bursted, slamming the helmet into the ground and charging at Castille, making sure all her field of view was covered by his shining black armor and pouting face."

"YOU RUINED MY HELMET!!" He pointed at the damaged helmet. "I DON'T CARE WHO YOU ARE, HAMMER USE IS BANNED. NO SWINGING. NO SMASHING. NO HAMMER TIME." He listed out, counting off the do not on his hand. "NO HAMMER!!! AND I DON'T CARE YOU'RE KEEP'S HOT MOM. YOU RUINED HER STUFF SO YOU FIX IT TOO RIGHT NOW!"

Saying Nightshade was beyond pissy and livid was an understatement. He'd fight her off right then and there if he had to. She would not be allowed to swing a hammer anywhere else.
Guillotine didn't look entirely pleased by the truce, perhaps because it was causing her to reflect that she herself had been acting childishly. She accepted the handshake, but still kept her usual glare. "The only thing I want less than your mockery is your sympathy," she pointed out to Aya, remaining standoffish.

Keep blushed slightly at Aya's line of questioning, but answered regardless. "Yes, we are all made with reproductive capabilities. As you could imagine... there aren't a lot of suitors who meet the specific criteria we need from husbands or wives, that being reciprocal reproductive capabilities. Furthermore, while I suspect my mother recognizes this and is more or less happy for us to take any interest in anybody, you've seen that she is rather... offputting, to potential suitors, in other ways," she sighed. She looked to the sullen Watchtower for a moment with eyes that seemed to say, "Some of us also have other traits and hobbies that make marriage unlikely regardless." "So, among the group of us, none of us have found a committed partner yet," she finished, keeping a very straight face despite the embarrassing topic. "Though, perhaps WallMan does. We haven't heard from in a while. He was even further disconnected from the family than Watchtower."

Keep raised her eyebrows at the discussion of MarriageMan, then lowered them again, with an expression as though she found the coincidence of a second marriage focused individual too odd to ignore. That said, she was just as interested in the topic of DragonierMan's amorous adventures, but DragonierMan himself cut that one short. She was left wondering about both that and the fate of MarriageMan, plus what, if any, connection he had to her grandfather's obsession with family lineage, which her mother had partially inherited. "As for my siblings, well, I moved out here... but that doesn't seem to have broken my mother's sense of control," she sighed deeply. "It's as I've told you; Watchtower, WallMan, and I all left the nest, but the others stay close at home. I'd have to wager that Watchtower and I may have done better to stay at home ourselves... although, at first, my mother was very proud of my decision. If only I'd been able to follow through on my ambitions."

Keep turned her attention back to the less somber discussion Nightshade offered. "Yes, little friend. At least while you're here, why don't you be my knight? It's been a long time since anyone has served under my banner," she agreed. She waved as he left.

--------------------------

Castille's smile never wavered, as though she herself was a statue, but she did pause for a moment, as if considering her reaction to Magistrate's news that she'd failed the contest after all her braggadocious behavior so far. "Is that so? Perhaps I'm getting old after all," she chuckled, though such a statement was very at odds with both her appearance and her performance just now. "My memory isn't what it used to be. And I'm not terribly used to playing games like these." She closed her eyes and smiled calmly, though her words were pointed. "I suppose that this lesson of yours also serves to help you and the empire feel a little bit better about your failure to secure the net by force, isn't it? 'We've expanded much more rapidly when we didn't ruffle feathers and got along with everyone,' hm? That's one way to do it," she shrugged. With all her passive aggressive behavior, one might be tempted not to warn her she was losing her swimsuit, and indeed, Magistrate gave into that temptation. "My daughter will fit right in. She's the type who, in her failure to rally others through fear or admiration, relies on a lot of sympathy..."

As it happened, Nightshade was there to minimize the damage from the debris explosion, at least preventing too many other nearby stalls from being ruined by the larger pieces of flying wreckage. Castille seemed to have failed to notice his presence until he spoke up about his helmet. Raising one eyebrow and still smirking, she rested one hand near the top of her hammer's handle and the other fist at her newly bare hip. "Is that another new rule? A strength test with no hammer?" she joked, grinning in a teasing way that the cat boy was unlikely to appreciate. "Fix it? Despite the hammer, I'm more of an architect than a carpenter," she chuckled. It was hard to say whether her current attitude was more aggravating than it would be if she's simply been offended by Nightshade's insistence. "I already gave my daughter a castle. Now I have to give her a new strength-testing machine as well? Maybe there is an aunt she can bum one off of!"

Speaking of bums, as she turned and swung her hammer back over her shoulder, there was a brief rattle of chain as the surprisingly heavy ring around her waist dropped into the dust. Her bare bottom was on display to Nightshade and Magistrate, as well as a growing number of soldiers, as the dust began to clear. It seemed she was preoccupied with inspecting the broken bell from the strength testing machine, despite her earlier mockery. "I have a lesson for each of you as well. If you don't want your army to be bullied, you must build a stronger army. If you want a 'strength testing' machine, it must be built strong enough to withstand strength. Do you understand? If I'm adversarial, it's only because I don't want my daughter- nor you, her friends- to believe you can coast through life without sufficient strength."

One of the soldiers seemed to have suddenly come up with the idea to offer a cloak to her, so that she'd be covered and he'd win brownie points. In response, two others who'd begun to have the same thought stepped forward at the same time... until all three were tussling together. Castille looked over her shoulder, away from the broken bell, and raised one eyebrow. "Oh, but this water park has been most amusing. Being in the thick of the Neo-Shogun Army and offering you all my wisdom and guidance is ever so entertaining. And this pouty cat just begs to be bullied."

With a slight smile, she raised the bell. "This didn't do its job. But that?" she paused, dropping the bell and pointing her thumb backwards towards Nightshade. "That helmet did its job. You were protected... Perhaps my daughter's craftsmanship is meant for the castle's knights, not the castle itself. Interesting, if true," she mused. "How about it, little knight? This strength machine is garbage; there is no need to rebuild it. It should be replaced with something more practical. That helmet, on the other hand, is worth refining for further use," she suggested. Seeing that his face was still pouting, she raised her eyebrows sympathetically. "Come now... Are you not going to feel any relief until I get a spanking? I'm a little old for that, aren't I? Hm hm..." Probably a bad choice of words.

At any rate, Magistrate may note that Castille had already admitted to having been amused by the park. In a way, that meant it was a success... though, clearly, in the future that amusement would need to come without so much property destruction. She'd stopped her wanton destruction, but it was hard to say she had any remaining interest in the rides either. Maybe there was some way to urge her along in leaving her daughter be?
As Aya and Guillotine "reconciled" at the water's edge, Yumi hanging off of Aya's dripping body like a clump of seaweed the dragonier accidentally dredged up, a few feet away Suzume was listening as Keep replied to her line of questioning. "Unfulfilled ambitions huh, I know the feeling," Suzume commented while glancing over to DragonierMan and Aya. She waited for Nightshade to run off before she continued. "So... when was the last time someone 'served under your banner' and what happened to them?"


Magistrate's indifference to the shenanigans at play was wearing thin, and her facade cracking along the edges. First it was this insufferable woman who thought herself higher than Magi. If Magi wasn't a proper woman, she would have reached out and broken Castille's neck. Then to continue Magi's wild ride: Nightshade, of all people, showed up at the exact right wrong time to make things worse with his own brand of tomfoolery. Thankfully, not only did his actions not cause more problems with Castille, but the Neo-Shogunate soldiers were at least doing something productive through the whole thing. She would have to see to rewarding their diligent work later.

Magi tried to put up with everything while attempting to return to her fake "hostess" smile. "I am... glad that you had a good time," Magi said with a brief pause to articulate. She saw an out and decided to take it, while trying hard to ignore Nightshade and Castille's little bout. She would bring the tour to a quick resolution, so she wouldn't have to deal with anyone else for the day, and go seclude herself in her Hub. She walked up past Castille and Nightshade and then turned to beckon Castille back towards the main gathering at the central pool.

"You can relay your feelings to Ms. Keep before you head home." Magi would then attempt to lead Castille back to the central pool before, hopefully, the exit. Magi internally prayed that Nightshade would just behave long enough to get Castille out of their hair. Magi didn't care what he did after. He could do anything else and she would turn a blind eye, just let Castille leave quickly.


Assuming Magi succeeded at bringing Castille and Nightshade back to the central gathering, she would try to fade into the background. She was done with this whole situation. However, as she tried to fade away, she made a note at the end of her Castille dossier to try to murder her, and all of her family members that were like her, at the next available opportunity. Drago stepped forward as they showed up. "I hope the park was to your liking," he stated more than asked. "As you leave I wish you a pleasant journey on your travels. And I hope we meet again," he said. Then he waited for whatever conversations flowed at the end of this gathering, before attempting to escort her out the front door gatehouse.

Nightshade meekly walked back to the central pool all bummed out as Magi took over and tried to get Castille out of the castle. At the end of the day, his helmet had been rendered inusable.

He sat down cross legged at the edge of the pool, watching Yumi getting all kinds of cuddles from Aya and enjoying it too. Then, she would waddle off into Suzume's embrace and cuddle with her too.

He had to wonder who she preferred between the two energy wise. He would have to ask her that when they got back home.

Setting the helmet to his side Nightshade sighed, wondering what to do next and generally enjoying the warm feeling of power wearing Keep's armor
was giving him.
"Oh, well, you needn't worry; if you're imagining the dramatic death of my last sworn knight or something of that sort, I assure you, it's much less exciting. What I should say is that without a stream of funding, I couldn't afford to pay anyone who I'd hired, and I ended up letting all of the staff go," Keep sighed, smiling with some effort despite the dismal tale. "It wasn't an issue of disloyalty either, of course. Ah, imagining all of those concepts of medieval chivalry and oaths and so forth is entertaining, but my position was nothing more than an employer of employees."

----------------

Castille watched Nightshade go with an unreadable expression, setting the bell down and resting her chin on the back of one hand. Magistrate only did a little better in terms of engaging her; neither one of them really seemed to satisfying her need to impart wisdom upon others, as insufferable as that was becoming. "If I didn't know any better, I'd think you're eager to get rid of me," she chuckled dryly.

One of the Neo-Shogun soldiers finally broke free of the pack and managed to reach her, making a diver for her with his tunic unwrapped and held in both hands. As such, with his frenzied motions and his body bare aside from a fundoshi loincloth, one could hardly blame Castille for stepping to one side and allowing him to collide headfirst with the bell she'd set down a moment ago. A slapstick KAGONG noise rang out as he slumped against the stand. "What is this? Some new kind of game?" she questioned, raising one eyebrow.

In the mean time, one of the others ran forward, then another, each of them ironically eager to win brownie points with the lady they were ogling by giving her something to prevent the others from ogling. Finally, in a team effort, two of them managed to approach on two sides and press the cloth up against her wide hips. One of them went down as she clubbed him with a nonsensically powerful blow to the head, while the other one finished bringing in the loop to tie it at her hip. "Ma'am..." he huffed, then gave a quick salute. "Your bikini-" he huffed, then took two steps backward as she made as if to punch him as well.

Finally understanding, she looked down at her feet where the shambles of her swimsuit lay, then looked at the yellow tunic forming a pareo around her waist. Putting two and two together, she chuckled quietly, crossing her arms and walking past the group, which divided to let her through. While the soldiers watched from behind, Magistrate could see that the mother's face was gradually growing a deeper shade of gray around the cheeks, which might be her way of blushing. Evidently, the soldiers had all gotten a little more eye-candy than she was actually comfortable giving.

------------

Castille seemed to be in a slightly sour mood as she arrived back. It could be that she didn't like Magistrate and Nightshade's reactions to her bullying, or it could be she was still upset about being pantsless in front of everyone. "Well, it was fun enough. I'm sure you can make more of yourself doing this than you can managing a real castle, at any rate," Castille shrugged, not giving her daughter much of a thumbs up. "Watchtower, for now, you stay here and help your sister. I don't want to hear about you getting anywhere near those ROT folks again. The truly strong don't need to do something as crass as eliminating all the weak in order to prove themselves," she reminded her daughter, as if there could be any doubt.

"Yes, Mother," Watchtower answered, seeming just as eager as DragonierMan to brief so that Castille could simply leave.

"Toodleloo, for now," she finished, swishing her makeshift skirt as she walked with heavy steps towards the exit, still shouldering her massive warhammer. "DragonierMan, if one of my daughters strikes your fancy, please, do take them and make something out of them. Little cat, you must take quit sulking. Women don't like a man who pouts," she scolded, wagging one finger. It seemed she couldn't resist one last lecture.

"There's no need to worry, Nightshade," Keep reassured him, rubbing one hand over the top of his head. "I can always make you a new helmet. I'll deliver it to you the next time we meet. I'm only thankful you weren't injured..."

Castille raised one eyebrow, as if this nurturing, motherly routine was simply alien to her, then left of her own accord.

-----------------

The lazy scene around the pool continued uninterrupted, now that the guest of honor had left. The soldiers seemed much more comfortable slacking off now. The wreckage where Castille had run amok was mostly cleaned up now, including her discarded bikini bottom, which seemed to have vanished before the official clean-up effort actually began. Watchtower and Escort had gone to assist with the cleanup, leaving just Guillotine and Keep at the pool with the others.

"I know you may think that went a bit choppy, but honestly, it went as well or better than I'd expected. I'd call that a victory," Keep informed DragonierMan and Nightshade, as well as the SPs, if they were hanging around to listen. "To save you a trip back to the mission board, I've been authorized to hand over the rewards from Yasu," she continued. "... After having a somewhat uncomfortable conversation with her. I suppose I should be happy she was sympathetic with the situation, given that she expected to get a real fortress out of the deal and got an all-access water park pass instead. At any rate, here are your rewards," she finished, handing over two data packets.

((Nightshade gets: Neo-Shogun Recruitment, 6500 zenny, WaterLine1Damage: 80 + Ground Attack + Wide Attack
Accuracy: B
Description: A wall of water gushes from the ground, drowning up to 3 targets.
Duration: Once
Element: Aqua
: 80 + Ground Attack + Wide Attack (Acc: B) x1, 15 faction points, 40 bugfrags)
DragonierMan gets: 13000 zenny, DashAttack2Damage: 120 + Impact + LineAttack(5) + Movement
Accuracy: C
Description: The user charges forward at a great speed to ram a line of enemies. Hits a maximum of 5 enemies before the momentum is lost.
Duration: Once
Element: Null
Special: Direction of travel may be altered with chip, terrain, and sig use.
: 120 + Impact + LineAttack(5) + Movement (Acc: C) x1, RageClaw3Damage: 100 + Slashing (Attack) OR 50 + Impacting (Throw)
Accuracy: B / B then B
Description: Creates an impressive bear claw. Can be used to slash or throw enemies or objects.
Duration: Until Overridden/Broken. Breaks automatically after 6 uses.
Element: Null
Special: Throw: The wielder must first grab the target to be thrown, then the target is thrown in the direction/area indicated. A second check is made if against another object/enemy. Throw deals damage to both thrown object/enemy and the second object/enemy. Damage occurs at point of collision with the ground/wall/ceiling/etc. or an object/enemy, not during initial grab attempt. Objects deal their max HP in damage (instead of the chip's damage) if they hit an object/enemy, then break. If they miss, the object just takes the chip's damage. This chip has a variety of uses.
: 100 + Slashing (Attack) OR 50 + Impacting (Throw) (Acc: B / B then B) x1, 20 faction points, 110 bugfrags))

"Thank you again for your help. You're free to stay and enjoy the park if you like, but I must take my leave. There are some less fun logistical issues to take care of with this park that I've been neglecting today, so I must bid you goodbye," she finished. She gave a curtsy, lifting her armored skirt just slightly and bowing her head, before heading towards the keep nestled in the rear of the castle's walls.
With their mission complete, and that insufferable matriarch gone, Magistrate handed her contact information over to Keep before they parted ways. "If you need any further assistance-and you probably will-please contact me. I was created as an administrative program first, after all. It is what I live for... Just limit it to the technical aspects of your endeavors. I have had enough babysitting," she said. Then before anyone could stop her, or engage her further, Magi left in a beam of light. She probably was breathing a sigh of relief right now in being done with this unpleasantness.

Aya, with Yumi still draped off her like a cloak, turned to Guillotine. "I don't think apologizing when someone is wrong is a sympathy. However, if you want to settle this in another capacity... You just name the time and place," Aya said with a competitive, hungry, glint in her eye while poking her finger at Guillotine's chest. "Come Yumi, we're heading out," Aya said as he left Guillotine to her own devices and headed towards the gatehouse, with Yumi still hanging off of her. Aya would stop at the drawbridge until the rest had gathered before jacking-out.

Suzume, dried off from earlier, was sitting with Keep and Watchtower when Nightshade came over and sat down on her lap. "You hear that Nighty? Your helmet will be good as new before long," she assured the sullen warrior about Keep's promise. Though Nighty was unusually docile at the moment. "So what happened with Castille? Did you get into a fight? It seems that you both lost some clothing." she asked, with a slightly concerned look on her face.

DragonierMan accepted the rewards from Keep. "Thank you for the rewards in advance. I hope our partnership will continue to grow and flourish for the foreseeable future," he said. "My group will be heading out shortly, but Escort and Guillotine will be staying on for a little while longer... So if you'll excuse me," he stated before nodding to both Keep and Watchtower. He motioned to the rest of the dragoniers present, "Okay, pack it up! We're heading out," he called before striding towards the exit gatehouse where Aya and Yumi were waiting. Suzu nudged Nighty to stand up before heading to the exit as well. She left her hands open in case Nighty was going to grab it to hold on their way out.

Assuming nothing interrupted them on their way out, the group would jack-out on the bridge.


[DRAGONIERMAN JACK-OUT!]