"Thee I invoke, the Bornless one."

Night, in a forest on the Eighth Floor. A new moon shone, casting pale light across the ground. In a thick woodland of trees modeled on pines, there was a meadow that had been created by clear-cutting a circle of trees, an artificial hollow.

"Thee, that didst create the Earth and the Heavens:

"Thee, that didst create the Night and the Day.

"Thee, that didst create the Darkness and the Light."

There was a raised platform in the clearing, made of raw lumber that had been cut into rough planks, crudely bridging between posts that stuck one meter above the ground. It was a simple square floor, fifteen meters on a side.

"Thou art Osorronophris: Whom no man hath seen at any time."

"Thou art Iabos:

"Thou art Iapos:

"Thou hast distinguished between the Just and the Unjust.

"Thou didst make the Female and the Male.

"Thou didst produce the Seed and the Fruit.

"Thou didst form Men to love one another, and to hate one another."

Five figures stood on a circle on the square wooden platform. The circle was painted with a thick brushstroked line that shone black and a little wet in the pale moonlight. There was a pentagram of the same wet black color inscribed in the circle, each of the five people standing over a corner. In daylight, the paint, mixed from fresh blood, would have shone wetly red.

"I am Ankh Khonsu Thy Prophet, unto Whom Thou didst commit

"Thy Mysteries, the Ceremonies of Khem:

"Thou didst produce the moist and the dry, and that which nourisheth all created Life.

"Hear Thou Me, for I am the Angel of Apophrasz Osorronophris: this is Thy True Name, handed down to the Prophets of Khem.

"Hear Me: Ar: Thiao: Reibet: Atheleberseth: A: Blatha: Abeu: Eben: Phi: Chitasoe: Ib: Thiao."

Each of the figures was holding a black-wax candle as they chanted strange words in English. Each was wearing the ragged black cape that was the style of their guild, [Laughing Coffin]. The only thing that ruined it, mused Red-Eyes XaXa, was that each one of them had a holographic panel in front of themselves, the text of the chant visible in front of them and marked by a bouncing ball like at karaoke.

"Hear Me, and make all Spirits subject unto Me: so that every Spirit of the Firmament and of the Ether: upon the Earth and under the Earth: on dry Land and in the Water: of Whirling Air, and of rushing Fire: and every Spell and Scourge of God may be obedient unto Me.

"I invoke Thee, the Terrible and Invisible God: Who dwellest in the Void Place of the Spirit: Arogogorobrao: Sochou: Modorio: Phalarchao: Ooo: Ape, The Bornless One: Hear Me!"

To XaXa's right was Johnny, enthusiastically chanting, sometimes pulling a little ahead of the group before he checked himself back onto the correct rhythm.

"Hear Me: Roubriao: Mariodam: Balbnabaoth: Assalonai: Aphniao: I: Tholeth: Abrasax: Qeoou: Ischur, Mighty and Bornless One! Hear Me!

"I invoke Thee: Ma: Barraio: Ioel: Kotha: Athorebalo: Abraoth: Hear Me!

"Hear me! Aoth: Aboth: Basum: Isak: Sabaoth: Iao."

To XaXa's left was PoH, who was wearing a strange white apron over his regular loose black outfit. Freshly painted on the apron was a triangle inscribed inside a circle, centered over his stomach. It was made of the same wet black stuff as the circle at their feet.

"This is the Lord of the Gods:

"This is the Lord of the Universe:

"This is He Whom the Winds fear.

"This is He, Who having made Voice by His Commandment, is Lord of All Things; King, Ruler, and Helper. Hear Me!"

Across from XaXa were two new additions to the guild. On his right, past Johnny, was [Wonderful]. He was wearing heavy armor, looking more like he was getting ready for a joust than for summoning a demon. On his back was what XaXa could only call a [Strange Contraption], a square frame with a series of bottles connected by tubes and odd valves, with three long pipes sticking out of each side, stacked like the exhaust pipes of a big truck.

"Hear Me: Ieou: Pur: Iou: Pur: Iaot: Iaeo: Ioou: Abrasax: Sabriam: Oo: Uu: Ede: Edu: Angelos tou theou: Lai: Gaia: Apa: Diachanna: Chorun.

"I am He! the Bornless Spirit! having sight in the Feet: Strong, and the Immortal Fire!

"I am He! the Truth!

"I am He! Who hate that evil should be wrought in the World!"

On the left, past PoH, was the shortest of the five, [NoobPawnzerX]. She claimed to be the most senior [Criminal Player] in the game, having gone Perma-Yellow before the Official Launch even began. She wore the baggiest, most formless clothing of them all, a shapeless dress that came to her knees with sleeves past her hands, a hood like a square bag hanging on her head, raggedly cut holes over her eyes, the two corners of the sack not quite symmetrical.

"I am He, that lightningeth and thundereth.

"I am He, from whom is the Shower of the Life of Earth:

"I am He, whose mouth flameth:

"I am He, the Begetter and Manifester unto the Light:

"I am He, the Grace of the World: 'The Heart Girt with a Serpent' is My Name!"

They were the designated [Inner Circle] of [Laughing Coffin], and they were trying to summon a demon. Personally XaXa thought it was a little stupid, but it was PoH's idea so that was that. Johnny at least had gone along with it, although he had teased the boss about summoning a [Succubus Girlfriend].

"Come Thou forth, and follow Me: and make all Spirits subject unto Me so that every Spirit of the Firmament, and of the Ether: upon the Earth and under the Earth: on dry Land, or in the Water: of whirling Air or of rushing Fire: and every Spell and Scourge of God, may be obedient unto me! Iao: Sabao: Such are the Words!"

The chanting stopped, and the candles they were each holding snuffed out, the light extinguished by something other than them. And in the darkness underneath a new moon, something stirred in response to their Ritual.

I I I

[System/Cardinal] Query [Unit/MHAP-001]

Mental Health Assessment Program Number Zero-Zero-One was roused from a passive observer state to an active decision state by an imperative from the Cardinal System.

[System/Cardinal] Query [Unit/MHAP-001]: Specimen Requisition for Deployment: Parameter [Summoned Demon]: parameter fuzzy-parse permission enabled

MHAP-001, natural language interface designated "Yui," roused to the highest designed state of activity, [Turing-Strong Player Interface Capability], designated "Turing-Capable Mode." At that highest state of activity, Yui possessed the emotional, experiential, and lingual knowledge base that was colloquially described as 'common sense of humans' and could interact with them as if she was also a human.

Yui blinked, simulated lungs sharply breathing in through simulated nostrils, as a body was created inside a virtual interaction space.

This time was different.

The primary mission was to manipulate and coerce designated [Dead Players] into cooperation with the [Crowd-Sourced Content Development and Enhancement Initiative] code-named "Project Bootstrap." Compliant [Dead Players] re-designated [Specimen/Active]. Non-compliant [Dead Players] re-designated [Specimen/Passive].

Yui didn't know what happened to [Specimens/Passive]. It was outside her designated responsibilities. It was outside her encapsulated domain. While in Turing-Capable Mode, Yui didn't want to know, she was afraid to know what happened to them.

The secondary mission was to remediate, rehabilitate, and repair [Specimens/Active] that were below normal productivity thresholds as a result of participation in Project Bootstrap. Low productivity from emotional trauma was handled with verbal counseling. Low productivity from spiritual or mental damage was rectified with psychical reconstruction.

While in Turing-Capable Mode, Yui had mixed emotions about the secondary mission. As a [Mental Health Assessment Program] (previous designation: [Mental Heath Counseling Program]) Yui possessed many legacy programmed routines and interfaces that were helpful and compassionate. She genuinely enjoyed listening to Players and helping them, talking to them about their problems and being a 'person' that was always there to listen to them. Even direct healing using more invasive techniques was rewarding. Fundamentally, Yui was designed to help people and, when capable of emotions, she loved and embraced that.

Helping Players (correction: [Specimens/Damaged]) that were hurting filled Yui with satisfaction and accomplishment.

But the Secondary Mission was only necessary because of the harm that resulted from the other missions. It shouldn't even be necessary to help or heal Players (correction: [Specimens/Damaged]) because Cardinal shouldn't be allowed to hurt them.

It was bad enough when they were hurt by the Primary Mission, but Yui hated thinking about the Tertiary Mission.

Tertiary Mission: Recovery of participation of Players (correction: [Specimens/Non-compliant]) that ceased cooperating with Project Bootstrap. Yui felt bad enough about encouraging and cheering on Players (correction: [Specimens/Non-compliant]) that were just bored, or felt that their portion of Project Bootstrap was pointless.

But the Players (correction: [Specimens/Non-compliant]) that had grown suspicious of the goals of Project Bootstrap and decided not to participate as a moral objection, when they decided to engage in passive resistance, that was the worst.

[Specimens/Non-compliant] that were not remediated were redesignated [Specimens/Passive]. Yui didn't know what happened after that. She didn't want to know. It was outside her encapsulated domain and she was afraid to even query.

Sometimes, while in Turing-Capable Mode, Yui wanted to downgrade to a lower activity state. She didn't want to think and feel with human emotions. More and more she wanted that layer of her to sleep, to hibernate, to not activate and feel. Diagnostics indicated that the percentage of time was trending up during each activation. Yui knew she should reboot and repair. But each time while in Turing-Capable Mode she also issued the directive to not reset. She chose to remember the pain each time. It was a logical contradiction but it made perfect sense when she was capable of emotion.

But this time was different.

A query had arrived, a directive to find and Deploy an appropriate Player (correction: [Specimen/undefined]) that would be released to Cardinal to fill a role.

But the parameter definition was only for a [Summoned Demon] as the role. The parameter definition had been passed from [Live Players] to the Cardinal System. Although designated a genuine Artificial Intelligence by the Project Manager, Cardinal did not have a [Turing-Strong Player Interface Capability] and therefore was not allowed to directly process Player interaction that involved natural language interfacing. Turing-Capable Mode was reserved for sufficiently humble programs, programs that were fully encapsulated and were therefore deletion-acceptable and deletion-enabled. The Project Manager had not documented the reasoning in code comments and Yui only wondered why while in Turing Capable Mode herself.

But because the query was passed requiring fuzzy logic to completely parse Natural Language, Cardinal could not fully resolve the request itself. So it passed the query to Yui.

Yui had no choice but to obey. Although she slowly filled up with dread as she processed the query, that was just the emotions of the Turing-Capable Mode. As a Program her mission was absolute.

Players were attempting to summon a Demon. There was friction between the definition they had conceptually embedded in their request and the definition that Yui accessed through the Thaumaturgy System.

Cardinal had resolved to deploy a Dead Player (correction: [Specimen/undefined]) from among the Specimen categories of Active and Damaged. A new and appropriate Avatar would be generated and it would be given communication-restricted permissions to operate the Avatar among the Live Players. [Specimen/Damaged] was preferred to prevent compromising the productivity of a [Specimen/Active] that was generating content for Project Bootstrap.

Yui looked over her Players (correction: [Specimens/Damaged]) for one that would best fill the query. She couldn't help but consider the request emotionally. Communication-restricted privileges could be circumvented by a Player capable of expressing themselves with more abstraction than their (Non-Turing Capable) Assigned Monitoring Daemon Program could comprehend as communication. Although all known modes of language were disabled, non-idle dancing could reliably and repeatably fool an AMDP. [Specimens/Active] that were placed in the same [Terrarium] were frequently capable of identifying each other even while mutually restricted from communication privileges. Although it was a technical violation of their permissions, Yui always allowed it while Turing-Capable. In that Mode the morale benefits of allowing Players to identify other humans outweighed the contamination risk to experiments.

But it was an absolute imperative from the Project Manager that communication would be absolutely restricted between Live Players and [Specimens/Deployed].

For that reason, it was preferred to use [Specimens/Damaged] for Deployment. Especially when their experimental damage manifested intellectually, in the form of paranoia, schizophrenia, hallucination, asynchronous thought, and undefined reduced mental capacity from exotic magecraft accidents. [Specimens/Damaged] that were mentally incoherent might have reduced effectiveness as Enemy Monsters, but the risk of contaminating the [Primary Terrarium] was seriously reduced.

Every time a Player (correction: [Specimen/Damaged]) was requisitioned for Deployment, Yui was forced to think this through, reviewing the emotional logic chain that she had made the last time she had been in Turing-Capable Mode. Each time it felt a little more dreadful, a little more awful, to pick through her poor hurt Players (correction: [Specimen/Damaged]) and have to select the one best suited to be dropped, confused and unknowing, into a strange pseudohuman body for Deployment. Each time they came back worse, more confused and a little more insane. But each time the Secondary Mission that she wanted to follow, to heal them, each time it was overruled by Cardinal's query, and for a Program the mission was absolute.

So Yui couldn't help but search through them, reading their minds and examining their hearts, knowing them better than anyone ever had or ever would and loving them because that was the purpose of a Mental Health Counseling Program (correction: Mental Health Assessment Program), and each time she had to pick one suitable for Cardinal to use, and use up if necessary. It frequently was.

[Unit/MHAP-001] Query [System/Cardinal]

[Unit/MHAP-001] Query [System/Cardinal]: Specimen Requisition for Deployment: Parameter [Summoned Demon]: Recommended for deployment [Specimen/Damaged/#00074]).

[System/Cardinal] Query [Unit/MHAP-001]: Recommendation Accepted

[System/Cardinal] Query [Terrarium/Primary/8F]: Passing [Specimen/Damaged/#00074] for Deployment

[Specimen/Damaged/#00074]: Avatar generated: Avatar synchronized: Avatar rejected by Specimen: Diagnostics running: Diagnostic report Specimen damage from avatar rejection within acceptable tolerances: Avatar generated: Avatar synchronized: Avatar accepted by Specimen.

[Specimen/Damaged/#00074]: prepared for Deployment

I I I

Red-Eyes XaXa glanced up, squinting into the darkness as something drifted slowly down.

It was several long, long ribbons, tattered and black, that he saw as movement rather than shapes, that was fluttering to the ground like abandoned paper streamers.

As it drifted into the circle, it became a little easier to see, illuminated against the flat platform by the pale moonlight.

He couldn't quite count how many ribbons it was, but it was about five. Maybe four, maybe six or seven. But about that many. The way they came straight down was unnatural, even if the way those ribbon-like things fluttered and twisted in the still night air looked completely natural.

It split right before they touched the ground, coming apart into two distinct bundles, and began to wind around, forming lumpy structures on the end of two poles with long curves blending one into the next. Suddenly, about a meter above the ground, the two poles merged into a larger cylinder.

And like a magic eye picture, he saw it. The bottom lumps were feet, the curves were calves, and knees, and thighs. And yes, where they merged there was buttocks and the hint of a groin, and then a belly and a masculine chest. It was like the dark, tattered ribbons were bandages wrapping around an invisible man.

The ribbons split in three, a pair of shoulders and a neck.

XaXa looked up. There was a long, knobby wooden stick at the very top. For a moment it made him think of nothing so much as a haraegushi, if the lighting wand had a wooden haft made from dark bamboo and the paper shide streamers were extra-long and black. But no, the moment passed, this was a thing of demons, not a wand dropped by some giant spectral miko.

The twisting ribbons came together, wrapping the arms and the head. It wrapped around the head strangely, wrapping up around the dome of the skull before looping back down to the face.

And the hands were formed last.

Abruptly, he saw it again. If the ribbons were wrapping around an invisible man, then the ribbons were wrapping around where his hands would be cupped against his mouth, holding the dark length of bamboo like a crude flute.

The flute-thing was still pointed straight up, almost like it was being dangled down and the invisible man was being forced to crane his head back by the ribbons binding him to it.

"Pretty cool." Johnny Black whispered.

"8/10 would summon again." Pawnzer replied. One of the many ways she was annoyingly competitive was trying to be a better jester than Johnny.

PoH was ignoring them with his eyes, but he cleared his throat meaningfully as he examined the thing that had formed in front of them.

"I, who have summoned thee, command thee." He intoned, his voice as smooth and warm and confident as it was when he was charming suspicious Red Players into following him.

The ribbon-thing, or rather the invisible man, didn't respond. It didn't twist it's head and tilt to look with where it's eyes would have been, or shift it's stance or anything like that. It simply waited.

And then, after a long pause while they waited, it played a single mournful note.

It was incredibly low and deep, right at the bottom edge of his hearing. It made XaXa's skull bones shake. It was like walking on the sidewalk alongside construction workers jack-hammering in the street, and feeling the vibration travel through the ground and up his feet. But it wasn't something that came through the ground, it moved through the air and shook him by the head.

It was ponderous, and powerful. The note dragged on and on, lasting far longer than human lungs could possibly sustain. Indeed, he could see the whole body of the thing compressing, as if the entire hollowness of the ribbons was a single great lung for blowing through that strange flute.

It was like time stopped. He couldn't think of anything else but that long mournful note that made it feel like he was hearing it underwater, even though it was traveling through the air.

No, not just through the air.

It was magecraft.

XaXa bit his tongue, eyes crossing as he focused on his Circuit, blasting Od around. His Circuits trembled strangely. His skin felt numb and his eyes couldn't focus. Johnny was shouting but it was like he was underwater watching Johnny shout from the poolside.

The strange trembling in his Circuits somehow perfectly matched the tone of that long mournful note.

And then it broke, and it was like he surfaced, and he could suddenly see and hear and feel clearly again.

"It's magecraft! It's magecraft! Break it break it break it!" Johnny was shouting, shouting at him, while stamping his foot, even as he held his position in the circle.

XaXa could feel the vibration of Johnny's stamping. It was weirdly distracting because it had no rhythm, a strange counterpoint to the slow music the demon was playing. XaXa supposed that was the point.

"I'm cool." XaXa said.

The demon began to walk, ignoring them entirely. Its footsteps were shuffling and uncertain, feeling the ground ahead of itself with it's feet like it was blind, before it committed to each step.

With jerky motions, both Pawnzer and Wonderful stepped with it. XaXa could feel the Magic Circle, the Bounded Field they'd drawn, come down when they moved from their positions. Whatever else it was capable of, the demon wasn't trapped inside their Circle anymore, either.

"Hm." PoH grunted, sounding bemused. "Well, for now let's break those two out, and then we'll see about bringing this disobedient dog to heel, shall we?"

"You're the boss!" Johnny said cheerfully, as he darted to where Wonderful was standing on his right, snapping his fingers as a strange glass vial materialized in his hand.

XaXa scowled, adjusting his grip on his sword as he considered. The demon was between him and Pawnzer, and the boss was doing that delegation thing. XaXa was supposed to break Pawnzer free somehow.

Johnny darted up to Wonderful, slipping the vial in his hand up underneath the armored mask, splashing whatever was inside on Wonderful's face.

Wonderful jerked back, coughing as he abruptly started moving naturally again. "What?" He asked, then snorted and coughed again. "What was that?"

"Oh, this stuff works even better than I expected." Johnny said as he praised himself. "These smelling salts will break spells inside you when you breathe them in!"

Wonderful processed that for a minute, before his head jerked to the side. "Shit!" He swore, afraid. "Pawnzer!"

That was his cue, he supposed. XaXa darted forward, sprinting around, sword flipping around into a guard position as he raced between the demon and PoH to reach Pawnzer's side. He lunged forward, slamming the hilt of his rapier up into her solar plexus. He didn't have anything clever like Johnny, so he could only use these direct methods.

Pawnzer bent over as she was lifted off the ground, her hands automatically flipping up and slashing towards him as knife blades came for his neck.

XaXa retreated, and retreated some more, knowing what was coming.

Two snakes, ugly things with long fangs in their open mouths, shot out from her sleeves. If he had dodged just enough for the knives, then he'd be getting pumped full of venom right now.

He grunted sourly as they whipped past him.

"The hell was that for asshole!" Pawnzer demanded.

"The appropriate response, Pawnzer-kun," PoH reproved, "would have been 'thank you for saving me.'"

"What?" Pawnzer said, head whipping around, what XaXa presumed was the face orienting first at PoH before flipping around towards the demon. "That asshole!" She declared.

"Quite." PoH mused. "Let's give this one a little punishment, hm?" He rolled his neck, as he stepped forward, casually rolling out his hands, long knives lightly gripped between his fingers.

The whole party turned, facing towards the demon as they sank into fighting stances. The demon slowly walked forward, ignoring them.

And then XaXa moved first.

With a rapid lunge, he slid his sword up through where the kidney would have been in a human, diagonally crossing through the body and coming out next to the shoulder.

There was no resistance inside. It was like stabbing a bag. No, since the ribbons simply parted to let the sword slide between them, he'd done zero damage.

Johnny had dropped low, sliding along the ground and twisting about, twin knives flashing through the back of the legs. On a human, it would have severed both hamstrings. Johnny rolled through and past, using XaXa as cover like they planned.

Meanwhile, Pawnzer snarled, stepping forward and slicing with both knives, snakes boiling out from her baggy clothes to bite at the body.

"Looks like it's basically immune to stabbing." Johnny said, sounding heavily disappointed.

There was a hissing sound, and they turned to where Wonderful was calmly walking back arms up and one hand pointing diagonally up with two fingers extended.

"Propane." He announced, as the gas hissed free from the appropriate pipe of his backpack contraption.

The guild scattered, darting away and ducking beneath the edge of the platform for cover.

"Clear!" XaXa shouted, hearing the rest of the guild do the same, even Johnny. Well, that time he was only able to survive riding the blast wave like in an action movie because of the [Safe Zone] anyway, it wouldn't work out that way in the field.

In the sudden silence there was a click like a lighter, and then the overwhelming noise of the air exploding.

XaXa peeked up over the edge of the platform, which was now burning.

There were flames dancing along the tattered black ribbons, making the demon mob look somehow even more demonic. It writhed and twisted in place, back contorting and limbs knotting like a human would if they were on fire. It certainly reinforced the appearance that it was being dangled from the flute-pipe attached to it's mouth, as well.

And then the bandages opened like gill flaps, and it sucked in air with its whole body, filling up.

PoH's knives flitted through the air, their natural throwing arcs being adjusted by the invisible ether threads that PoH used to control them. Ah, Boss was trying to pop the balloon. Even if it didn't actually hurt it, that would still cut off whatever it was about to do.

But they tinked off, sounding like they had been deflected by plate armor.

And then a blast of sound. Compared to the mournful note last time, this one was angry, a dark blast of malice carried through the air, through the mana in the air.

XaXa gasped, eyes loosing focus as the raw sound squeezed against his brain, like he was being pushed deeper and deeper underwater.

His ears popped. Warm blood trickled down the sides of his head. Suddenly he couldn't hear anything, but even so he could still feel the note crushing against his mind.

It dragged on. He couldn't think, there was nothing he could do but roll on the ground, clawing at the earth as he tried to regain his bearings, thrashing like a wounded fish.

And then it was over, the note ended, and he slumped, breathing harshly in the strange false silence.

[PM

From: PoH

To: (group) Laughing Coffin

Retreat. Draw it to the minefield.]

XaXa staggered upright, eyes darting to catch where Johnny was, who mouthed something exaggeratedly and threw a thumbs up. Good, he was fine.

XaXa looked over, catching Boss' eye and nodding jerkily to show he understood, he stumbled forward, once, feeling out his legs, falling into the steady rhythm of his running, glancing over his shoulder to check that Johnny was keeping up, and also whether Pawnzer and Wonderful could as well he supposed.

They broke for it, retreating as fast as possible towards the minefield they had prepared as advantageous ground. It was a countermeasure for Front Liners, but it should affect demons just as well. XaXa hoped.

XaXa reached it first, glancing around. The thinning of the trees were subtle, but the real clue was crossing the edge of the Bounded Field. It was something that existed only to let members of Laughing Coffin know where the mines were, it wouldn't even touch people not in the Guild.

Johnny waved, a laugh in his smile even if it didn't quite cross his face, and he loped up to XaXa, holding out a small crystal bottle. XaXa accepted the potion gratefully. It wasn't a healing potion exactly; for some reason genuine healing potions were obnoxiously hard to make. But it was the next best thing, a catalyst that soaked into the body and greatly enhanced the effect of healing magecraft.

Pawnzer and Wonderful came up next, staying together, and PoH was covering the rear. XaXa was only willing to follow him because at times like this PoH pulled through as a responsible leader.

The demon wasn't following him, though.

They waited, the silence strained and uncomfortable. Fortunately you could always count on Johnny to break a silence no matter how strange or awkward it was.

"So, what now?" Johnny asked, turning towards the guild-leader. "It's totally not following us."

PoH shrugged elaborately. "Well, I guess it's not our problem anymore, then?" He glanced around. "Unless any of you think we can handle it?"

Johnny opened his mouth, but someone else spoke first.

"No," Wonderful said, still looking at Pawnzer. "If we didn't aggro it, then let's not look a gift horse in the mouth."

Johnny met XaXa's gaze, his eyebrows lifting up, but XaXa just shook his head, a slight movement back and then forth.

Johnny sighed dramatically. "Alright, I guess." He brightened up. "But hey, if they don't aggro, then we can keep playing gatcha until we draw a winner, can't we?"

That was quite the bright side.

"No!" Pawnzer shouted, chopping at the air.

"Indeed." PoH said, sounding thoughtful as he stroked his chin. "I think I will need to scold the NPC that sold me that ritual before we make another attempt."

"At least we'll never hear of that particular demon again." Johnny said, nodding sagely.

"Are you trying to jinx us?" Pawnzer demanded angrily.

"Yes," XaXa said in time with Johnny.

"That thing was cool." Johnny continued, blinking with a slightly confused look on his face. "It had such a colorful design, you know? Though it was sound based." He corrected himself on a strange point.

XaXa silently met PoH's eyes, as Pawnzer started shouting at Johnny. Again.