Insanity vs. Sanity
The entire building shook, and Jason's eyes widened as he stopped for a moment, craning his head back the way they came. Olivia and Mary stopped as well, looking at him curiously.
"Master...are you alright?" Oliva inquired, her liquid-blue eyes gazing intently at him. "You've stopped."
Jason's eyes focused on the path they just came from. "Yeah...I'm fine..." He turned, keeping a firm grip on Mina. "Let's keep moving." They resumed running, but Jason's thoughts were preoccupied. "Iris..."
"Are you even Iris Lavra anymore?" Zinzolin looked at Iris with an expression of uncertainty. "Iris was nothing like this... a maddened beast of war....I can't even feel the purity you had. The warmth that drew everyone to you. Where did that go?"
Iris wasn't here at the moment. It was established far before; from the moment that Zinzolin had shown Iris those recordings, Iris had lost conciousness- and a beast, far more vicious and brutal than one would expect had possessed her. "Iris" snarled like a wild beast, letting out a roar which released a sonic boom, devastating the area around the two before it leapt forward towards him at high speeds, its claw extended outwards as to gouge his throat out with ease.
However, his barrier held fast, and Iris, even with her current strength, was repelled by it's force. Zinzolin's expression seemed to be one of pity. "Is she even able to think in that form? Or is this all pure instinct, an animal now? Either way...I think I need to tread carefully..." He extended a hand, and small holes opened in his barrier, sending out a flurry of ropes that shot at Iris to try and bind her, as the holes in the barrier closed themselves once more.
Magical energy flowed from Iris' body as the ropes were deflected; causing a slight disturbance in magical energy before Iris shot forward like a bullet, arms forward in their claw form as to try and tear something off of Zinzolin in immense fury. Screaming and howling like a wild beast, the Iris of now was like a berserker of legend; nigh-invulnerable, immensely powerful, feeling no pain.
Zinzolin winced as the woman beat at his barrier. Whatever it was made of, the thing was durable to say the least, but he knew that even his barrier had it's limits. If this cracked, he'd be left with simply the screen shields, which would be useless once this woman got behind him. "I have to keep her away!" He inhaled for a moment, and suddenly let out a loud shriek, a wail that sent shockwaves throughout the entire area, shattering glass and stone alike. The wail itself was strong enough to create wind currents aimed purely at Iris, to push her way with the sheer force of his voice.
Iris was indeed pushed back; being attacked by such a force of sonic waves did blow her away- sending the beast toppling over. "Iris" caught herself mid-fall; her claws scraping against the iron that composed the building; leaving marks as she slid to a halt. Letting out a bestial roar, it seemed that Zinzolin did indeed inflict damage upon the beast; in fact, he was the first person to ever do so. Magical energy charged within "Iris"'s claws, as she thrust her hands forward to release a powerful beam of pure magical energy, piercing through the air as it shot towards Zinzolin with extreme force.
"Shit!" Zinzolin braced for impact as the beam collided with the barrier, slamming hard. "What is this!? Pure magical energy!?" He heard a large cracking noise. "It can't be!"
"Do you even have a plan of action?" Tyrone asked the woman. He had gotten over his shell shock from her sheer display of power. "You seem so confident in your ability to do something, but do you have a plan at all?" This question was coming from the man whose general method of dealing with problems was "smash them".
Giselle snarked, "It's simple. We kill the- oh wait, I have a better solution." Withdrawing a silver ring from her pocket that had a clock-face upon it, she scanned it over her belt before slipping it on her finger. "Now, we get out of here via a wormhole. It's that simple. The Time Ring...well, it's pretty self-explanatory."
"He meant a plan to deal with Crux, not how we get out of here." Wendy groaned. "Just get on with it."
Giselle sighed. "Do you ever shut up? I just wish you would stop commenting on EVERYTHING I do. You are literally an oxygen thief." She opened a wormhole, dragging the others with her.
Erza put her hand around Giselle's shoulder. "I think you and I will get along very well."
"Don't touch me."
Wendy tried not to think about how literal her insult actually was as they were transported back into the original dimension. She looked back at where they had come from, thinking about the fact that she had just come from a Time Lock. It appeared those seven years weren't wasted at all.
As they exited the portal, time surged forward as they returned to the normal era. Once everyone had stepped out, Giselle closed the wormhole. Honestly she was tempted to close the wormhole on Wendy- pay the arrogant little witch back for being a bitch for the sake of it. At least, that's what she thought. "Now, we're all out. So, let's see. I have a plan for this. So, I need to get close enough to turn Crux back with my Mind Ring. Once I'm in close proximity and I can beat him, then I can restore him back to normal."
Giselle twirled her lavender hair in thought. "Now, y'see, since as a Lunarian, I can't fight much, I do have something else. Long ago, there was this girl who Hikari got along with. She was really powerful. And she wasn't bad on the eyes either. However, at the end of the day, she decided that no, she wasn't gonna be a pawn to anyone. She just packed up and walked away. She got a happy ending. Nobody can touch her and that man anymore- they're beyond tools to be manipulated."
Erza asked, "What's your point?"
"My point is we gon' open up cold storage in my shack where I prepared a clone of her 31 years ago, and then Hikari will be won over easier."
Wendy's eye twitched for a moment. "A clone....? You cloned someone?" She walked over to Giselle, glaring at her with something resembling disgust, and, even a little bit of hate. "And then you simply left the clone in a stasis tank for three decades? Do I have this right?"
"Oooh, somebody's rump's rustled." Giselle smirked. "Ever think of getting an attitude adjustment? Anyway, I do suppose that I'mma drop this now. No use in pissing a stupid little kid off. Anyway, I'm just like that Eediot in a sense. I've got plans, and you're gonna deal with 'em, whether or not they're ethical. And hey, at least I can admit my damn mistakes. Hell, this whole thing is my fault. To put it simply to you, yes, yes I did clone somebody. And if you have any problems with it, you can familiarize yourself with the left-hand evacuation proceedure."
Chelia placed her hand on Wendy's shoulder. "Try not to get mad, alright? Rude or not, it's still help. A pinch is still a chance, no matter how bad it looks. Calm down, alright?"
Wendy's teeth were grinding as she cast her friend a look. However, she did manage to regain some semblance of control. "Chelia....I'm stand down only because you yourself are so calm about it." Her eyes drifted back to Giselle, who she now hated entirely. Perhaps she should start S.P.C.W., the Society for the Promotion of Clone Welfare.
Makoto sighed. "Um...Giselle-san...sorry for my comrade. We'll abide by your plan of action."
Giselle continued to laugh. "Cut the damn attitude and I may give a single flip about your opinions. Right now let me warn you hun, the number of flips I give are none." She took a deep breath. "Anyway." Giselle withdrew the Time Ring once more; scanning it over her belt before slipping it on her finger.
"Y'see I've got two rings. One just teleports me. The other can take a lotta people with me. Normally I'd want to stay away from you dopes as much as possible but I guess I gotta take you with me. Now come on, run like gold metal sprinters at the Grand Magic Games For The Disadvantaged." She opened a portal, dragging everyone with her.
As the wormhole closed while Giselle and others stepped out of it. "Well, here we are." The area in front of them...it was rather chilly in there. As in, it was below zero in temperature. The whole corridor and room were pained in a very subtle light-blue; aligned to the sides were white pods- additionally, at the very end of the laboratory was a bigger capsule. Essentially, they were egg-shaped pods made of crystal-like glass tinted white with white flower petal-like structures on the bottom. "...You have no idea how much those cost."
"You have no idea how much I do not want to know." Wendy retorted. "Let's just get this over with." She shuddered, her breath visible. "Your laboratory makes me sick."
Giselle chuckled. "Ahaha, you crack me up. Anyway. right at the end there. That's the one we want." It seemed that whenever she took even a single step, her bones cracked. "Yes, I'm old, get over it. It stopped being funny 45 minutes ago." As she walked towards the final pod, she pulled a container of pills out of her front pocket, downing them like they were wine.
"Whoa, you do drugs?" Erza was more interested in illegal substances than any clones.
"It's to keep me awake, dammit. I'm not a friggin' junkie."
Wendy snorted, and Makoto looked at her. "Um...Wendy, I may be wrong, but are you sure you're not just mad at the Guild Master? You were grumbling ea-" Wendy immediately shoved a hand over her mouth, slightly red. "N-no! There's no way I'm mad at that idiot for leaving me out!" She suddenly averted everyone's gazes, realising she'd gotten quite specific in her denial.
Giselle continued to laugh. "Ahahaha, you guys really are funny. In a stupid way." After a few more minutes, they reached the pod at the end; right about now Giselle was pissed at how badly she designed the whole lab. "Now, behold, SCIENCE!"
Acorns of Pain
Zinzolin was quite sure his ears were not deceiving him. What he'd heard was the sound of his barrier cracking. What sort of power did this demon woman have? However, the time for thinking was not now, and Zinzolin once again let out a very loud shriek, the shock-waves of sound neutralizing this energy beam. Wasting no time, he suddenly began to emit a frequency well above the range of human hearing — however, to ear as sensitive as Iris', the noise would be petrifying.
Iris, however, shrugged it off- though it was deafening, she trudged forward, completely defending against the technique as she used her fists as a conduit for her negative emotions, before punching the ground; this caused several helixes of dark emotions to spike up from the ground, erupting loudly with a notable sound—they then solidifed into a jail-shape; twisting like membranes, the shield swung around, returning the frequency back upon Zinzolin as the shield dissipated, enabling Iris to run forward, fist out once more.
"Dammit!" Zinzolin was at a loss for action. "She feels no pain, or at the very least, ignores it. Perfect defence. Perfece offence. Utterly incapable of reason. The perfect killing machine. I may have my work cut out for me..." He actually decided to move, jumping back, his barrier moving with him as Iris' physical blow hit naught but air. He couldn't risk another blow to this barrier. If he had any intention of surviving what was coming next, that is. "Sound magic is pointless...even several Hindenburg abilities are not stopping her. If there is no reason in her head, a mental assault through Archive is also pointless. I suppose all that's left is that."
Iris stopped in her tracks- charging magical energy within her fist, she suddenly used magical energy- which she gathered at her feet to accelerate forward all of a sudden, boosting towards Zinzolin- her eyes covered by her bangs, though crimson still shone through. She put all of her strength into her right fist, aiming to finish him for good this time.
Zinzolin charged forward as if to meet Iris, however, the instant her fist came into contact with his barrier, he slid to the right and continued to run. "Follow me!" He called back, noticing just the graze of her fist had cracked his barrier. "She's insane!"
Once again, Zinzolin was right about that. Iris's magical energy charged on her feet, producing a burst of energy which accelerated her to great speeds- skating forth, she chased after Zinzolin with insane, blood-shot eyes.
Zinzolin accelerated, and it was quite obvious where he was headed. Within minutes, after a frantic chase that demolished most of the hallway, he cleared the exit, leaping into the sky as he gained a bit of distance from Iris, who had not yet made it out.
"Now..." He landed on the ground and extended his hand, focusing his energy into a larger-than-average sphere, around the size of a beach ball, before forcibly compressing it to the size of a marble. The ground sunk under him, creating a large crater the size of his barrier. He then cast the sphere into the air, where it rose, floating a little bit above the vision of anyone exiting the castle — of course this would include Iris Lavra.
The moment that she escaped from the building, "Iris" did nothing; as she merely stopped in her tracks, waiting for Zinzolin's attack to strike. The scarlet in her eyes burned bright as she merely stared up at Zinzolin, as if to taunt him wordlessly.
"I pity Jason for what he's going to have to deal with when this is over, Iris." Zinzolin's eyes had a hint of sadness in them as the sphere lowered itself between them. "Hindenburg - Toll Stern." He snapped his finger, a trigger which registered with the sphere as it suddenly expanded without notice, triggering a violent, white explosion that enveloped both himself, Iris, and even a good portion of the Council building, in it's blinding white destruction.
The entire building shook as Jason and the girls were ascending to a higher level, and a blinding flash came in through the available windows. Despite his better judgement, however, Jason persisted in running, waving off Mary's questions about the light itself. "Iris...what are you doing!?"
As the explosion itself died down, Zinzolin heard cracking and shattering as his barrier was finally rent asunder by his own technique. He, however, was unharmed. He waited for the light to finally clear, so he could see the corpse of Iris Lavra for himself.
As the dust settled, Zinzolin was in for a quite a shock. As expected, everything wasn't reverted to zero. "Iris" was merely standing still, completely unharmed. With a vicious roar leaving her mouth, magical energy charged upon her body, ready to deliver the final blow.
Zinzolin was speechless. His smug feeling that he had not moments ago was gone. "She's...still standing..." And with that thought, he suddenly just slumped to the ground. He didn't have anything left. That technique had utilised the majority of his magical power, and he couldn't erect another barrier. He cast a look up at the sky, waiting for Iris to deliver the finishing blow. "I wonder what it would have been like to stay with him...in that guild of theirs?"
Iris shot forward like a bullet- grabbing Zinzolin by the neck. The black wings explosively burst out. An unexplainable and invisible power burst from Iris' hand and assaulted Zinzolin Bifrost.
His body left Iris' hand, shot through the area at terrifying speed, tore through the air, cut across the sky at dozens of times the speed of sound. He moved so quickly that he turned to plasma and left behind an orange afterimage.
It was not necessary to check to see if he was dead.
As Iris' demonic glow faded, it seemed that all of those bestial features she possessed retracted into her body instantly- blood spewed from those ports on her body quickly. The pain of transforming, losing her mind, and violently reverting back to her normal form was too much to bear- as Iris' eyes slowly closed. Slumping onto the ground, Iris Lavra fell unconcious.
"Well well well...." As if walking straight out of the air itself, Mr. E appeared, clad once more in his baboonskin cloak, as he looked at Iris' fallen form from the eye holes in the mask. "It would appear even the living weapon has it's limits. However, you will do just fine." He swept the cloak over Iris, as if drawing her in, before disappearing himself, leaving nothing but the scorched, barren landscape behind.
DAY BREAK II
As Giselle put her hand upon the flower-shaped pod, it scanned her handprint. The pod shone a brilliant white momentarily- as it slowly opened, like the budding of a flower by a piece of the glass in the shape of a flower petal folding down.
What emerged from the pod was a girl with dark purple hair and pupils which are coloured dark blue on the top half and a mix of pink and pale yellow on the bottom half. Her skin appeared so white and smooth that it appeared almost like she was made of porcelain. Her facial features were very child-like; along with a beautiful figure—moderately large breasts, long, slender legs, and a shapely rear. While dressed normally, her hair was tied back using a butterfly-shaped hair accessory.
"Wake up, we've got shit to do." Giselle jabbed her lightly.
Wendy's body stiffined at this, repressing an urge to slaughter Giselle by focusing her attention on the girl instead. She was certainly beautiful...in fact, if she had to swallow a bit of ego, she would admit this girl's looks outstripped the lot of them by far—certainly Giselle with her pallid complexion and baggy eyes. Wendy actually found herself mesmerised for a moment, and walked a bit closer to the stasis tank.
Giselle tapped Tsuruko on the head a few times. "...Ello, ello? Earth to Cloney? Tsuruclone, Fakerko?" She waved her hands in front of Tsurukos blinking eyes, trying to get a response from her. After a few minutes, Giselle just kicked her in the shins.
Still no response. It seemed that there was a gaze in her eyes that showed unknown intentions- instead of Giselle helping Tsuruko out of the pod, the clone silently walked out, its magical aura surging as if it sensed a hostile presece.
Wendy, however, was still slightly mesmerised with this new presence. Besides Chelia, and the numerous brainless copies they had slaughtered seven years prior, this was something new. Someone different. A clone like her and Chelia. She couldn't help but be drawn to this person, however, she didn't want to speak. She felt that speaking right now would ruin this, something she considered to be a very strange, but beautiful moment.
Tsuruko itself said absolutely nothing; as its eyes scanned the room. Everything was below zero degrees celcius in here- and to be honest, what she felt was nothing at all. Noticing how irksome Wendy looked- and how she could be a dangerous variable, Tsuruko's magical aura extended and turned to an orange sheen; while it worked as an extension of herself, lashing at Wendy like a whip violently.
"Whoa!" Wendy immediately leaned backwards, doding the lashing magical energy before pressing her hands to the ground and flipping backwards, skidding along the ground and casting her eyes towards Tsuruko again. "What the...what was that?"
Giselle snarked, "Tsuruclone is showing that she's better than you." Straightening her glasses; she responded in a more serious manner. "Ahahahaha, guess I didn't explain properly. I seemed to have screwed up a bit on the calibrations here. Tsuruclone here seems to see you as an enemy, and wants to eliminate you. Oh, don't worry though. She's only at 1/3rd of her power and I haven't given her any of her rings yet so you should be capable of handling her."
"You know....something about your smug attitude is really rubbing me the wrong way." Wendy grumbled, before settling into what looked like combat stance. Attractive or otherwise, this girl was now a threat. She'd try and put her down without hurting her.
Makoto looked at Chelia. "Um...should we...?"
Chelia rubbed her head. "Yeah, let's see if blue can take purple down. So, it's indigo."
Erza smacked her in the back of the head. "Do you even listen to yourself talk?"
"I could ask you the same thing." Chelia retorted; the two were about to do battle when Giselle used a ring to emit a specific frequency that assaulted their ears.
"Shut up, you two. Let's just see what "blue" here can do."
Tsuruko focused on Wendy, while also not really caring about her presence, noting in her head that her magical power was so tiny compared to her own; even in her weakened state. Even though Tsuruko had no weapon, she formed a powerful looking broadsword from magic, aiming it towards Wendy as if she were prepared to battle.
Wendy reached behind her ear, withdrawing the Ruyi Jingu Bang, using the broad middle to block the oncoming blade. "I can't help but feel she's looking down at me. Those gold eyes simply say I'm not good enough!" She pushed against Tsuruko's blae. "Concieted little...!" She forced the woman back, before thrusting the staff forward, extending it at great speed to pierce her by the clothes to the wall.
Tsuruko however, dodged effortlessly; quickly leaping over Wendy's strike, as Tsuruko was balancing perfectly on the haft of her staff, with her eyes obscured by her bangs. At that moment, light gathered and roared around her blade, as white feathers surrounded the blade.
"Lucifer's..." Tsuruko's eyes sharpened, focusing on her opponent as the white feathers converged, before immediately hardening. "HAMMER!!"
Giselle yelled as she shoved Chelia down, "HIT THE DECK!"
A loud *BOOM!* echoed throughout the air, as Tsuruko unleashed a spinning, cross-shaped blast of feathers point-blank towards Wendy.
"Contract!" With surprising speed, the staff contract, before Wendy swung it upwards to meet Tsuruko's attack. The reflexes this girl must have were impressive. "Expand!" On her mental order, she gripped the staff with both arms as it expanded to the size of a large pillar, and she utislised the flatside of the staff's tip to counter the blow, proving it to be durable as it absorbed the impact, however, the force caused the ground itself to crack and break. Glaring at Tsuruko, Wendy quickly inhaled a large amount of air, swallowing it and mixing it with her magic. "Sky Dragon's Roar!" Wendy exhaled, releasing a massive tonrado of wind at very close range.
Tsuruko aimed her sword towards Wendy quickly, catching the tornado on the sword while spinning around, returning it to sender. Swinging around, Tsuruko charged ambient magical energy upon the sword forged from aura. Suddenly, Tsuruko accumulated magical energy into her weapon and body, momentarily injecting an arbitrary vector that gave her an exceptional boost of her abilities by instantaneously releasing the magical energy to reinforce herself in the form of a jet blast of magical power- boosting her reflexes and speed beyond their limits, charging towards Wendy with her sword, aiming to pin her to the wall.
"Vernier!" Without missing a single beat, Wendy created an aura of wind that caused a light blue glow, before becoming immersed in a vivid blue magical aura. If her opponent would increase their abilities, she, a natural buffer, would as well. As Tsuruko closed in, Wendy bent her legs, focusing strength in them as she made a wide and very fast leap into the air, visibly flying within the aura of Vernier, before rebounding in mid-air, flying like a rocket towards the girl. "Sky Dragon's Bullet!" Wendy inhaled air quickly, mixing it with magic and, without a word, released a compressed ball of air that sped towards Tsuruko, aiming for the legs. Her goal was to disable her.
Tsuruko quickly leaped over Wendy's attack with her immense reflexes- in fact, she had reacted far before Wendy had shot the Sky Dragon's Bullet spell- vanishing in a golden shimmer of light. In all cases, it would appear that Tsuruko would have dissapeared completely out of sight. Reappearing into the eyes of everyone, Tsuruko was standing on the ceiling; charging up and extending a pillar of energy from her blade, swinging it towards Wendy in a brutal forward thrust, shooting towards her in a lightning-quick blast of pure energy which would no doubt cause massive damage.
"I'm beginning to think Wendy's at a disadvantage here..." Momoko looked worried as she watched this exchange. This woman seemed...terribly strong actually. Like the creation of some person intent on having the best thing. Then again, from what she'd heard about Jason, he also seemed like that.
"Arms x Armor x Vernier!" Wendy took a stance, calling out the names of both her three buffer spells, creating a powerful surging aura of beautiful mixing colour. These lights worked like charms, enhacing Wendy's offensive and defensive capabilities, as well as her speed, which, due to the previous Vernier, was now a twofold increase. Wendy then made a large leap, moving as a blur, rocketing upward towards Tsuruko's attack, before dodging, pushing off in mid-air, her enhanced speed serving well as the blast flew past her. She felt the heat, but nothing more, and then it exploded as it hit the ground. Wendy, however, had no time to watch as she pushed off yet again, appearing close to Tsuruko's side. "Sky Dragon's Wind Cutter!" Foregoing her weapon in this instant, Wendy gathered wind at her fingertips, before swinging them forward in an arc, releasing a large blast of wind that appeared more like ripples, traveling towards Tsuruko at high speeds.
Tsuruko herself was struck head on by Wendy's attack- though it did shred her clothes just a little and did cut her up a fair bit, but otherwise, it seemed that the skin of a replication of a half-Lunarian super-soldier was amazingly tough; but yes, Wendy's attack did indeed do some damage. Swinging her created sword forward to dissipate the slight ringing pain, Tsuruko aimed forward at Wendy, kicking off with a *BANG* as to shoot forward like a bullet, aiming head-first towards her.
Wendy braced herself, and she simply stopped moving. As if she realised something, she allowed Tsuruko's head to clash straight into her, using her large chest and enhanced durability to soften the blow, essentially using her breasts to catch Tsuruko, and the girl seemed to stop as Wendy placed a hand on the girl's head, forcing her face further in. Wendy, wincing, decided now was the best time to speak. "Tsuruko...you've got to stop attacking me. We woke you up so you could help us save Hikari. This fit of anger...it's just impeding us from rescuing that person."
The duplicate of Tsuruko Sejren suddenly came back to its senses- blinking for a few moments, Tsuruko Sejren looked up, shoving itself from Wendy as it broke away, turning to Giselle as it frantically ran over. "Wait, Hikari's in danger!?"
Giselle nodded calmly. "Eyup. She's gone kinda nutso."
"We join these guys and save her. I'm gonna leave when she's fixed, but you, well, I can't really make you do anything. It's your life, so it's up to you." Giselle was actually rather...nice to her creations.
Wendy seemed a little miffed. "I guess she didn't take well to them." She grumbled in her head, and then cast a look at Giselle, rather surprised that she was kind to Tsuruko. "You....you might not be..." She gently scratched her cheek with her fingertip, looking away from Giselle. "...you might not be too bad."
Makomo chuckled. "Yay, we're all making nice!"
Giselle tipped her non-existent hat to Wendy. "You too, now. You seemed to have calmed down a bit. Now that you're not in maximum over-bitch...Or is it? Eh, I can't tell with you, "blue"."
Chelia asked, "So you're not really a crabby middle-aged lady?"
Upon hearing the words "middle-aged lady", Giselle swung around as Chelia tasted Giselle's foot. "I'll have you know I stopped aging at 24. Now, we're all settled down?" Giselle poked Tsuruko's cheek questionably.
"Yes, I guess so." The copy of Tsuruko Sejren was still shaking her head in confusion.
"Ah, don't worry, your power should be back in a few hours. Though I gotta go find your rings; I crafted some counterfeits for you."
"I'd question what these rings do, but...I'd actually rather not." Wendy shuddered, and looked at Tsuruko. "You're strong enough without items, I'm rather...scared to see what you can do with them."
Giselle snapped her fingers- summoning a silver ring with a heart-shaped symbol upon it into her hands. "Eh, you can do a lotta things. You just gotta be creative. So if you're a total idiot, then not much. It's like a magic for intellectuals."
"I assume we're all prepared." Wendy punched her fist into her open palm. "Now! Let's go find Jason!"
The sound of flickering flame in a dark building. On a couch rested the figure of Iris Lavra, alive but unconcious, covered by a sheet. However, she was quickly stirring, and sat up, shoving the blanket off herself to look around.
"Ahh...so good to see you're awake." Mr. E, having discarded his cloak now, stepped out of the shadows. "Welcome back to the World of the Living, Iris Lavra."