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Citizen made a hard landing in the dirt at the feet of one of the big monsters, having done some hasty calculations in his head. "Hey, waste-of-nitrates!" he called up at the huge skeleton, heedless of the size difference between them. "I just realized something!" He grabbed the giant by the phalanges and began to lift, straining the enhancements of his robotic body to their utmost. "You're not sinking in the mud, which means you're not as heavy as you look. And if whatever's holding you together can handle your weight..." With a sudden effort, he lifted the skeleton completely off the ground! "It can probably handle this!" Like a tiny tornado, he suddenly whirled around and began using the giant creature he held as a battering ram/club, smashing aside the jotun skeletons in a boney storm with a noise like an avalanche, skeletal fragments larger than his body flying everywhere. 

He kept burying himself in pieces of bone as more and more skeletons exploded, but each time he kicked his way out and resumed his methodical assault with his increasingly fall-aparty ersatz club. "Whoops!" By the time he was done, he was standing amid a huge pile of debris like so many fallen boulders, and the skeleton he'd held (along with many others) had fallen into pieces. Good thing I'm not made of flesh right now, I'd have crushed myself. "Guess you were weaker than I thought. Oh well - science still wins!" 

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Wraith had fought wolves before - both Earth versions and her own planet's nearest equivalent. She had fought hostile plants, too - the ones that hunted back home, and that thing with the horrible tree back in Claremont.

She could not recall having ever fought plant wolves, but she was game, and it was the sanest thing she'd had to go up against in a while.

She'd launched herself off the tower as soon as they'd shown up, hitting the ground with her usual disregard for heights and making a beeline toward the nearest group; she was a silver blur across the snow as she made her way over, and when she finally descended on them it was violent poetry in motion. Her assault was, really, like a dance: she was always moving, momentum carrying her scythe-tipped tendril-like arms into one wolf only to have that motion spin her off into the next.

They were as careful as she'd expect pack hunters to be, though, and when she stopped to take stock she didn't like what she saw. "We have large plant wolves," she announced over Eve's link, glancing over at the ongoing skeleton fight. "The ones that are left may split, east and west. I will take east and hope the others follow, but you may have more trouble soon if they do not."

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This is just what I need. Spectral reflections telling me I've sold out. He could have rebutted the bone-handed man's suggestion that he was putting his talents to the wrong purpose... but it had been a while, hadn't it? He was still at the Black Petal, the band hadn't played in some time, he had an art degree that had been best put to use by talking about impressionism while making espresso. So, only one thing to do about that...

"I never neglected it," Nick said, "just routed it through a different channel. But, you want me to actually make something? How about a collaboration?"

---

Temperance scanned the horizon; of course things were getting worse. The skeletons were still coming forward, and now they were joined by wolves that were trees, or vice versa. She was still aching somewhat where the skeletal giant had grabbed her; fortunately, Revenant had been there to smash it apart. She would have to buy her a coffee - if she drank coffee. 

She drew up the snow from the earth, dragging up parts of the icy sheet she'd laid out before. The snow and ice melded into large bullets, the snowballs that every neighborhood kid feared in snowball fights. Soon, the bullets were more ice than snow, with a special aerodynamic sheen. With a flick of her wrist, the orbs flew out, striking one skeleton all over. She'd had a good deal of control this time, as she managed to target the joints with such accuracy and force that the thing fell apart, clattering to the ground.

One down. So, so many more to go.

Edited by trollthumper

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Temperance's concerns proved to be more than valid as more than a dozen of the eldritch behemoths fell upon the heroes, pounding away with fists of mottled bone and sickly tinted ice. Citizen's robotic frame braced against the ground as the attacks rained down atop him, weathering the barrage as structural integrity alerts popped up one after another. Temperance and Revenant were forced back-to-back as they were surrounded, the undead lawyer taking a savage swing from one of the giant cousins that ripped her jacket with a jagged claw which the elementalist was tossed to rocky ground as her icy barriers were shattered by a pair of attacks from the groaning skeletons. Whatever was going on atop the bluff behind them they could only hope it was finished soon, before they were overwhelmed!

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Lucy wasn’t worried by the giants attack in fact she looked up at the giant skeleton and smiled.

“You really going to have to do better than than!”

Her confidence was helped by the fact that her wound had almost already heal, including the clothing she was wearing. There must be some intelligence behind the giants Lucy figured, a little too late it seemed, as they herded herself and Temperance so the surrounded them.

“I hope Kimber finishes what she’s doing soon, I don’t want to hurt to many of these guys.”

She crashed through one of the giants but she wasn’t able to work up enough momentum to take down a second, she’d have to hope that it was enough for now.

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The uniformed ghoul laughed uproariously again at Dimitri's dry rebuttal, slapping the table and nodding enthusiastically as the tea set rattled from the impact. "Haw! No illusions have you, eh? Good! Good!" The disheveled creature's beard shrank and blanched to snow white until it was a rakishly neat goatee, the rest of his features reshaping until a grinning double of Comrade Frost himself sat across from him, chest wound still leaking messily. He leaned forward conspiratorially, glancing back and forth in the void as though on the lookout for eavesdroppers. "Many roles to choose from! The blade decides if it is truly dagger or shield or plow, Dimitri, no matter what others believe." The doppelganger's eyes blazed with the same blinding white light that surrounded them. "Hone her edge."

* * *

Looming over Siobhan the warrior woman met the witch's eyes with unblinking intensity throughout her entire tirade. When she'd finished her accuser squared her shoulders, seemingly to impossibly get even larger before giving one curt nod of approval. "The fires of fury burn in you after all, little sister!" she boomed, her form rippling as she diminished in size until she was on par with Equinox, looking like a mirror image of the professor, albeit one who spent more time swinging a two-handed cudgel than a wand. The black and silver surfaces of her armor rotated to become crescent moons as she clapped Siobhan on both shoulders. "Strength, true strength, is growth. Rage against the entropy, sister. Become more, always." Familiar features were washed out by the glow pouring from her eyes as she intoned, "Nurture her rise."

* * *

The young man already looked less hollow as he gave Eric a small smile and offered the guitar to him with outstretched skeletal hands. "About time," he judged, voice growing stronger as his face filled in with colour and life until the necromancer was looking at himself sitting on the gravestone wearing a friendly smirk. "Work-life balance, that's all I ask," he continued, giving Cimitiere a light punch in the shoulder with his bony fingers. "Death is only the end if there's nobody around to remember those who've passed. When someone remembers it's a story. When someone else listens it's a song." Hopping off of the grave marker the double stretched from head to toe, raising his hands over his head. "But look who I'm telling, right?" He turned to look right at Eric, pinprick eyes swelling with white light. "Inspire her anthem."

* * *

Shrieking in its alien language the Kinigosi trashed weakly in Tarva's grip but could do nothing to stop the dagger from plunging deep into its amorphous mass. As the blade sank in the wounded warrior quieted, sharp edges smoothing as its three eyes focused on the shadow priestess' face. With a scraping sound of rust on rust its liquid metallic black bubbled like a candle melting in reverse until it held the monochromatic shape of the daughter of Nihilor. When it spoke Tarva could understand its soft, sad words. <You cannot heal with hurt, marred one,> it insisted, leaning closer despite the weapon held between them. <You cannot redeem with destruction. You must be braver. You must be better.> Raising its arms, the darkly gleaming double wrapped its arms tenderly around Tarva's bleeding shoulders as light washed over them. "Justify her trust."

* * *

Atop the bluff the towering beacons of light abruptly winked out, plunging the surrounding area in sudden dull twilight. Heroes and beasts alike paused, the battlefield preternaturally silent as they all look upward. Then, with a deafening boom of ruptured vacuum the light returned tenfold in an explosion of power that washed over them all with force enough to cloaks and coats backward, snow and dirt flung violently outward.

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The towering skeleton that had crushed Temperance's ice barrier staggered back a step and lifted a hand of tainted replacement fingers, trying to shield its lidless eyes from the searing light. Just as the shockwave of released power rumbled past it the air was split by a high pitched whistling --SHIIIIING--. The undead jotun stood unmoving for a moment before the top of its rib cage slid to the left while the bones just above its pelvis slid to the right. The skeleton collapsed noisily in a heap, sheared clean through in more than a half a dozen placed before ever even identifying its attacker.

With the gradually fading light from the bluff behind, Kimber descended slowly from on high. Gone was the shapeless reaper's cloak, replaced by a regal coat that still fluttered about her ankles with a tattered hem in her customary array of blues but was belted at the waist below dramatically flared shoulders emblazoned with a glittering ice crystal pattern that wrapped around to the top of her back. The bold capital G had moved from her chest to the buckle at her waist while the top underneath billowed out in a loose cowl neck. Reaching up with one hand to pull back the coat's low hanging hood, she revealed a face that appeared aged several years from the youthful visage she'd worn since her classmates had first met her, lips subtly fuller and cheekbones slightly higher. This wasn't a version of the girl who had survived longer before her untimely end, but a matured continuation of the Kimber they already knew.

In her opposite hand was a slender shaft of faintly luminous wood, curving in a gentle S shape. A stylized skull charm hung from one end which the other was tipped with a wicked blade longer than her arm, impossibly jet black but still gleaming reflectively. The tang was ornamented with elegantly craved ivory, etched with patterns that matched those on her coat but which seemed to shift as one looked away and then back. As the ghost swung the scythe through the air experimentally it made the whistling sound again, slicing through the air as though it wished to cleave each molecule in twain. Testing its weight judiciously, Kimber deftly reversed her grip and swept it behind her to rest horizontally against the small of her back, gripping the other end with her free hand.

She flexed slightly and there was a soft popping sound. "Aaah!" she sighed, voice just as melodic and cheerful but now more resonant, more confident. "You know I've had that crick in my back for almost twenty years?" Face splitting in a broad grin she twirled the scythe in one hand like a deadly marching band baton and pointed it toward the gathering mass of giant skeletons and massive bark-hide wolves. "Hello, boys! Who's next?"

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Blue Fox glanced up at the bluff, at Kimber specifically, and cracked a smile behind her mask.  --Not sure what it is you did, but it looks good on you,-- Eve thought to her friend her mental voice carrying a note of approval.

That was all the attention the mindwalker could spare toward the activity on the bluff; her telekinetic barrier was still under attack and through the mental link she established with the other defenders she could sense one of them needed her help.  And Eve was there for her, mentally, clearing away the daze Temperance found herself in before and bolstering her resolve.  It was a light touch, but an effective one.

Then the psychic barrier dropped and with blade in hand the masked and hooded heroine charged at the foe Wraith was engaged with, twisting and turning in such a way to leave an opening for her friend to strike.

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With the ritual having reached its explosive conclusion the oversized wolves hunched warily to the ground, growling as the shockwave washed over them. Once Ghost Girl reappeared their growls turned into save barks and howls as the pack redoubled its efforts. One group converged on Wraith, the closest target on the ground and began harrying the alien warrior in coordinated strikes. One timberwolf leapt forward with snapping jaws while another waited for the Kinigosi to shift out of the way before attacking with thorn-like claws. The remaining wolves reached the far side of the bluff and began making their way up to the top with agile jumps, moving lithely from one rocky outcropping to another with sinister intent.

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"You've got incoming on the north face," Koshiro called out to the group on the bluff, even as he moved to intercept them himself. Wheeling around in his paper airplane, he cut through the sky at top speed, his cranes speeding ahead of him and diving down to attack the wolves. Wolves proved a slightly more challenging target than skeletons; even when the paper birds made contact, they didn't always manage to do any damage. Two wolves were persuaded to break off the attack after a vicious slicing attack, but that left plenty more ready and able to continue the fight. "Big and nasty, nd strong!" 

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Floating above Temperance and Revenant's head at eye level with the horde of jotun skeleton's surrounding them, Kimber rolled the shaft of her scythe back and forth in her hands, getting a feel for its weight. "Don't suppose you fellas want to pack up and go home...?" she offered with a confident grin, practically brimming with energy. The closest of the shambling giants responded by taking a swing at her with an arm that was more sickly green ice than bone and promptly lost the limb as the phantom's weapon sheared cleanly through its elbow in a single swing. "Didn't really think so, ha!"

Surging forward through the air she brought the scythe around in a broad arc, letting its momentum carry her from one skeleton to the next, dancing through the air like an angel of death. The blade didn't seem to splinter bone or shatter ice where it passed but instead snipped the ethereal threads animating the monsters, causing them to collapse in her wake like abandoned marionettes. Within moments the menacing ring of skeletons had been reduced to a jumbled mass of femurs and vertebrae sticking out of the snow. "I could get used to this! Better go help the boys, I'll back up Wraith!" Kimber called down to the lawyer and college student before zipping off toward the Kinigosi warrior.

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Citizen erupted out of the melee of bones, trusting in Papercut's ability to make his own way free now that the latter had moved on to fighting the wolves. He didn't really know exactly what had happened over on the hill - just that evidently Kimber's plans for personal improvement had been a tremendous success. "Starting to get tired of these things!" he called, his eyes glowing red as he carved a scorching black line across one's midsection, just missing his aimed shot at the creature's spine. "Ghost Girl, I think it's time for the harvest!" He wasn't entirely sure how her weapon worked - psionic empowerment letting her tear apart whatever remaining psi-energies were holding these skeletons together. Oh well - the important thing was that it worked very well indeed, and that science would eventually solve its mysteries. 

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"I appreciate the thought, but I am fine," Wraith noted, voice - thoughts? - awfully calm for her situation. For a moment she looked like she was exactly where the wolves wanted her, surrounded and harried, but as the last tried to put a claw through her it became abundantly clear that things were not quite so simple.

The claw did indeed find purchase, sinking into metal flesh, but metal flesh did not respond to potential trauma like meat did, and the mistake would prove fatal: Wraith's body snapped open like a bear trap, the momentum of the otherwise-dangerous swipe carrying the creatures arm through her torso only to have a newly-formed toothy maw clamp shut on it. That left the wolves off-balance and surrounding an apex predator with an unfortunate reach and flexibility, long blades on scythes swinging out in a terrible dance that left their owner standing in a circle of animals that hadn't lived long enough to apply the lessons they'd learned. "I am on my way to help with the other pack and skeletons," Wraith announced, taking a moment to give her final wolf a painless end before she vaulted it and took off after the group that had gotten away from her. "And, Ghost Girl - congratulations!"

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Nick smiled at the spectral reflection of himself, now looking a lot healthier. "All right, all right," he said. "Maybe I have been a bit calcified. I've spent too long listening to the affairs of the dead and putting them to rest. And sometimes... that did mean putting them to silence." Somehow, a guitar appeared in his hand - it was his dream now just as much as it was the land's dream, so he might as well own it. It felt cold as ice, but that's what solid ectoplasm tended to do. "Let's do this."

He drew on the Fates, trying to parse out their strange sensations of time to get a more full scope of Kimber's life. He drew on years on vocal and guitar lessons, married to years of hashing it out on strings when he thought he might actually have a chance of being Johnny Cash. But most importantly, he sang of what he knew of Kimber. Of her compassion, of her warmth, and of the strength and fury she showed when someone needed to meet their reckoning.

---

Temperance, meanwhile, was busy dealing with skeletons. I can't believe I missed the big boars, she thought, calling up the ice into her hands. Yes, they could gore you, but at least they also looked kind of friendly. As the bullets lashed out, she became aware of a boreal light shining above her. At first, she thought that it was the northern lights above growing brighter, or perhaps even some fresh hell. But instead...

"Kimber?" She smiled as the ghost joined the battle, swinging her scythe through the skeletal abominations. She didn't often pick up on magic that wasn't spiritual in nature, but she could feel the raw death roiling off of the blade - and despite the fact that some part of her felt panic at such force, she couldn't help but feel happy that everything seemed to have gone right for Kimber. As she moved forward to help Papercut, she turned back to the floating ghost.

"I love the look." 

 

Edited by trollthumper

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Lucy hadn’t known exactly what to expect from the ritual and she hadn’t asked, it was enough that Kimber had asked for her help. So whilst her sudden arrival was a total surprise it wasn’t an exactly unpleasant one. She gave a grin and a wave as the cheerful ghost went off to help the others.

“I guess I’ll just finish up here whilst Kimber get’s to play with her new toy.” she spoke out loud to nobody in particular.

The moving again at speed she made her way to the one of the few remaining Jotun skeletons trying to use her speed and power to break a few more bones.

 

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"Well, eat my-" Frost began to say in wonder as he reappeared on the bluff, an instant before the ritual's magic exploded in his face and sent him hurtling down at the feet of one of the jotun hordes. By the time he'd managed to pull himself to his feet, he was standing amidst a very truncated (in more ways than one) group of skeletons. "Not YOU!" he informed the giants peevishly before he spread his hands wide and poured forth the ultimate cold of Nifleheim upon the pikers of Jotunheim in the form of a curling wash of blue-white mist, sending skeletons before him crashing to the ground in a heap of frozen fragments of gigantic bone, each nearly as large as Frost's arms. 

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As the remaining jotun skeletons converged on Ghost Girl and swiped with their massive, jagged claws their attacks passed through the phantom with as little resistance as there'd ever been, as did the shrapnel of ice and bone resulting from Frost's annoyed assault. With the shambling horrors dealt with in full Kimber circled around the far side of the bluff to come up behind the cornered pack of timberwolves, brandishing her scythe. "Bad day to be flora, fang face," she observed almost sympathetically before putting her implement to its intended use. With the light of the ritual faded and the last of the scavengers dealt with the rocky clearing resumed its preternatural quiet, the mystical equivalent of the scent after a heavy rain hanging in the air.

Floating down to a ledge near the summit of the bluff as her friends began gathering back around, Kimber whirled her weapon overhead in a blur of arcane metal. With a flash as quick as blinking the scythe disappeared and a pendant hanging from a fine chain had appeared around her neck. Her booted feet touched the ground, one sinking slightly into the snow with a soft crunch that broke the silence, then the other. Looking down at her hands without a word she took another few crunching steps to where Koshiro had landed his massive paper plane and reached out. Rather than putting her incorporeal arm through his chest this time she gave him a light shove had forced him back half a pace. With a widening grin that spread to encompass her entire face the poltergeist began to laugh, bright and loud until the sound of it filled the glade.

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"The hell?" Koshiro, who'd been braced for another round of Kimber's bizarre humor, stumbled backwards with a nearly-comical expression of astonishment. "You touched me! It worked! You look different!" In a few quick strides he covered the ground between them to scoop Kimber up into a full body hug. "Look at you, not-so-Ghost Girl!" he laughed. He set her back on her feet to examine all the changes. "And you grew up, too," he observed. "How do you feel?" 

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The rapid crunching of snow underfoot heralded the sight of Wraith charging straight at Kimber and Koshiro - a point of view normally reserved for extremely unlucky prey, and one made only slightly less concerning by the loss of her scythe-tendrils and the addition of an over-sized hand that she'd grown to snag a surprised Eve and drag her along with perhaps less warning and dignity than the psychic would have preferred.

She hit her friends surprisingly gently for a mass of metal moving that quickly, grabbing the lot of them and sweeping them off their feet in a near-crushing hug (complete with an extra pair of arms apparently grown specifically for that purpose). "<Wonderful!> You did it!" she announced, eyes turned up in what was easily a smile...even on a mouthless face. "You look good! That was very impressive."

Edited by Fox

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Nick and Equinox, the only ones left on the hill besides Tarva, heard the shadow-priestess give a startled exclamation at the sight of first Kimber's transformation, then the way she casually embraced her fellow young heroes! With her hand over her heart and another over her mouth, it was hard to read the specifics of Tarva's reaction - eyes wide and body whipcord-tight as she stared down at the scene below. 

Then the view of the scene below was cut off as a giant robot flew down out of the sky and embraced everybody in one big, hard hug - the sheer bulky size of his robotic body letting him take in the entire team in one big go. It was hard to tell with the robotic features, but Citizen sure did seem to be smiling. "We did it! Your mojo beat their mojo-" he still wasn't going to call it magic, obviously, "and you look great! Young Freedom saves the day!" 

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Nick came out of his reverie, hearing the last notes of his song fading into the winds of Jotunheim as Tarva's gasp shook him out of wherever he was. He looked down to see Kimber, much changed, somewhat older, and bearing a blade that could take down an aircraft carrier. All this was some degree of what he expected. And then she started hugging her friends...

He made his way down the hill as calmly and methodically as he could - which meant he went tumbling ass-over-teakettle into at least one snow drift. After dusting the snow off of his jacket and jeans, he carried on down to the others. "This is incredible!" he said. And he meant it - up close, he could see the power flowing off of Kimber, suffusing every mote of ectoplasm, turning it into something real and ephemeral at the same time. "I've heard tales of ghosts who've managed to corporealize for extended windows, but never with this amount of control. Kimber... you pulled it off. I knew you could."

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Lucy couldn’t be more than happy for Kimber she couldn’t think of a better person to gain all that she had today,and struggle they’d all shared today. But this was moment of triumph was for her close friend so she kept to a slight distance whilst they had their moment.


“I hope we don’t have to go through anything like this if I feel like a haircut.” she said to no one in particular “Though a change of clothes that can regenerate would be quite handy...”

She wasn’t completely serious but considering how many clothes she’d gone through something more resistant would be pretty nice.

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Equinox walked over to Kimber, and put a hand on her shoulder. "Congratulations," she smiled proudly. "That was an impressive bit of work, I don't think any of us could do better." But then a frown spread across her features.

"But I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. When you achieved corporeal form, it gives the rest of us... certain obligations." She unbuttoned her coat, reaching into it with a grim expression. "I'm sorry.

Hayley burst out of the coat and leapt onto Kimber's shoulder, then bouncing up through her hair and onto the top of her head, showering her face in raccoon licks while making happy chittering noises. "Has to happen to everyone eventually. Start carrying food, Nick does it." Siobhan shook her head, struggling to maintain her sombre expression.

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Kimber continued laughing as she hugged Koshiro back and was quickly enveloped by an unconventional sort of group hug with a happy yelp. By the time she squirmed around enough to meet Indira's three eyes her own had tears welling in the corners above a grin that looked like it was about split her face in half. "I did! I did it! You guys, thank you so, so much!" The hug broke up somewhat as the funny projectile launched herself at the poltergeist's head, sparking another bout of laughter. "Hayley!" Kimber exclaimed delightedly, grabbing the raccoon so that she could hold her in front of her face for further nuzzling. She continued to beam at all of her gathered friends, looking giddy but still more ground than she had when they'd departed from the ice rink, more comfortable in her own form.

At Lucy's dry words she hummed. "Haircut, eh? There's an idea!" Whipping her head around in an arc, her hair shimmered for a moment and reformed itself, going from the shoulder blade length it had been for as long as any of them had known her to almost startlingly short, shaved closed and coloured more darkly around the sides with a lighter blue wave of longer hair on top. "What do you think?" she asked the group, though her gave went up to the top of the bluff, her smile turning a bit coy.

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"It's like you've jumped ahead three decades in thirty minutes," Koshiro told her with a laugh, slightly wheezy as he was still trying to catch his breath from the big group hug. Some of his old teammates weren't exactly clear on the whole needing-to-breathe thing. "It looks good on you. So this power up thing," he asked, "is it permanent? Are you going to be solid from here on out, or is it just a sometimes thing?" 

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