"Mmm, I must be talking with an older magic girl. You're most certainly correct. Those who are in charge are usually the ones pushing it. It helps solidify their own 'hegemony' by having an enemy to fall in line against." Striker leaned on over to see what Jinx looked at. The old tower came closer into view this time as the tram seemed to make a bend halfway around it. It shot back out towards the upper commercial region of Nasibu, where they would see more of that magic tech put into use with simple tavern boards and shop signs highlighted with a charge stone glow for clarity. The old man with them just enjoyed the ride, but the little fauxbian gave all this another look.
"And look at those signs. That's pretty cool, kind of reminds me of the big neon boards back home." She'd hop from the standing pole and cling to Jinx, trying to point out these things. Said boards were a lot simpler and humble compared to the lavish Luxian advertising, clearly not meaning to be an eyesore to anything looking in that direction. As they kept swooping past these things the fauxbian would crane her head back at the old man. They were clearing past the rest of the upper city quickly on their way to the northern edge of the forest.
"Have you been to Lux before?"
"In my youth. Impressive how much it's grown since then. Can't say I've had a good time being outside the city recently though." How old was this guy again?
"They seem to use chargestones for a lot of things. I figured sticking 'em in power plants would be their only purpose but every building seems to have it's own supply." From powered signs to glowing powdered residue, signal senders and receivers, the funny rainbow rocks were ubiquitous. Jinx already said it earlier, but relying on ONE source of product for so many things was probably a bad idea. "Maybe it'd do some good to get some solar panels hooked up. Renewable energy is no joke." Especially when little raids on the mines caused immediate shortages in the city.
"Lux used to have more of a Konatsian sounding name, Taqar I think? The people who revolted chose a foreign name to solidify their independence from the White Rose territory. Way back when, it was probably no different from Dharatan or Amylo Isle. Crazy what centuries of corporatized development can do." Now imagine if all that technology and money was being recycled into the citizen's loves rather than lining the pockets of off world moguls. It was such an easy good will point for the Novas to score during their takeover. Be the good guys for the people you rule and the bad guys for everybody else.
"Oh! Not quite. A great observation however. Most of the glow you see around these buildings are provided by the city's grid. A unique property of our energy is that even without working the material, it provides a low-powered voltage at rest. Most of that energy would be wasted if not put to something, so most in Nasibu are allotted that standing energy for lights. Even these fancy ones. The real power is pulled for things like industry, construction, and this tram. It's what keeps the city running even with some... supply difficulties." The man spoke aloud, fully trusting the two to both understand and not just spill the beans to any random person if offered a treat for it. Striker gave the majin and incredulous smirk before nudging in her side.
"Heheh... But she does bring up a good point. There are things like turbines and solar panels that work. A bit primitive but you seem to have some real estate. Put it in the treetops or something." That idea was absurd for a number of reasons, but it only got the man to laugh as the pulled to a different vacant spot for the tram. An edge to the Aster forest that was different in locale from the southern edge they came in from. The train would come to a stop and open their doors.
"I wouldn't be able to tell you both rightly. It's always probably been a fear such infrastructure would require outside trade the Kashvar aren't comfortable with right now. Let's get off this train." Striker was already bounding out before anyone else, stretching her limbs and limbering up while she waited for Jinx and the slower man with his guards.
"Lux would be the best city ever if it wasn't just the big wigs that held most the wealth. I don't think anyone would disagree with that here, Jinxie!"
Resting power. Jinx thought back to how long it took for the stones' power to integrate into her, wondering if she had simply left a few to sit and continually pulse - would she grow stronger forever? As it was now, the Majin either needed copious amounts of energy in a single meal or training. They weren't BAD options. Jinx wasn't lazy and didn't mind sparring with the Novas, and good meals were hard to come by if she was excluding people. "Takes a while for chargestones to regrow and recharge. With how many disappeared from the supply chain I can't imagine it'll be fixed anytime soon..."
Unless they wanted alternative methods. "Nothin' too primitive about suns! Those big ol' balls of gaseous plasma are what keep most species alive." Though the prospect wasn't likely if Old Man was to be believed. "Being self sufficient is cool. Y'all have the capability of reaching out and starting something up whenever you want with offworlders. Vynh is too strict and Lux let them in WAY too much, but a happy middle ground isn't impossible."
The tram gently slid to a stop, Jinx removing her face from the window and facing up at the towering white-trunked trees. "Oh boy. Our favorite place."
"Ohh yeah, we're about to have some fun." Striker does her stretching, acting like the majin did absolutely nothing bad here. The old man didn't show any sort of suspicions about her, either. So it was about time they started heading into their favorite place. The old man of course taking lead to break through the first treeline with his walking staff.
"I uhh, meant compared to how Lux usually ran their power. It stays cloudy a lot over there." Inefficient but modern. She'd reach to hold Jinx by the hand and lead her on in. Keeping pace with the older stumbling man as he seemed to, at first, walk a bit around aimlessly. Only going in a general direction outwards from the city.
"We start our journey. Our section of woods. Just follow me." Striker would show some pretty early signs of anticipation as her legs seemed to scuttle along, wanting to move a bit faster. This was to go at his pace though. She wondered if Jinx was holding on as well or if the slow, relaxed nature of the job was right up her alley.
"So, are we looking for anything exactly, or are we just following your vibes around?" They kept moving, quiet during a lot of it, but the man would smile and crane his neck back to give them both a bit of a side eye glance.
"Mmm. There's more than just power one can sense. Traces of magic, specific disturbances. They can lead you to many places."
Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn't. There was every chance that the cockroach mages would scatter the second they got a whiff of Jinx and Striker's insane Kili - battle power - and they'd be left just hunting them down. Whether it was one immensely powerful mage or a cluster of them working together, few things on Konats could present an actual challenge to the strongest of the Corps. Even fewer to two of them. "The jets of pollution and steam from the manufactories don't help their cloud problem at all!" Jinx grumbled, allowing the Critter to drag her by the hand. It seemed to be an increasingly popular mode of transportation for the two of them.
If they were to follow Old Man, this could take a while. Striker did not like things taking a while. Jinx suppressed a yawn as they ambled through the mystical woods, undisturbed by flora and fauna alike. "Magic practically permeates every surface in here. Old spells, misbegotten alchemy, teleportation, communal, even whiffs of failed necromancy if you squint and tilt your head." Jinx had a hard time making heads of tails of it. "I guess you're looking for something specific and ignoring all the other signs?"
"Pft, yeah. But like, it's part of the city." Jinx and Foki definitely knew about this stuff more than Striker, who cared only to ask for curiosity's sake and never expected anything other than simple answers. Jinx had the know-how to give even the old man a pause. Tapping his stick to the ground a few times and bobbing his head in agreement.
"Yeah. Yeah, it's something like that. Maybe we should have hired you for scouting a different sector. Leave me to do my own snooping. Tell me, have you tried scrying like this before? It does not sound like your first rodeo." He was curious as he took another turn. Lifting his hand at some thick sticker brush that was in the party's way. With a simple, subtle flash of blue the plants started to peel away and create a path for them. He'd carry on, his guards carefully batting any small snakes and critters disturbed by the movement away with little care.
"Hey, that's pretty cool. Nature Magic, I think. You just looked at it, pointed at it, and said 'move' with your head. Normally I'd just jump over the stranger things in these woods."
"Ehh, close enough. Come, there is a disturbance that leads into the ground nearby."
"Not purposefully. All this mumbo jumbo comes naturally." She was a being or pure magic - and if Jinx put her mind to it, could outdo any mortal mage no matter how old and wise they were. Not to say Foki was unskilled or Jinx actual thought that way, but it was true. "Besides, I dunno what we're even looking for. If it takes the best scryer to track this thread I doubt my out of practice butt could thread the needle with how much obnoxious noise is in the area." With that said she fully intended to leave Foki as the guide.
"Druidism is a tad different to that." Jinx murmured quietly, curious as to what other skills the elderly Kashvar had up his sleeves. "You mean these chumps are hiding in caves and dugouts? Makes sense. If I was a nefarious dark mage plotting the ruination of all things good, getting harassed by aggressive vines and monsters would probably take up an irritatingly high amount of time." Jinx moved forward, aiming to take the vanguard. "Gimmie directions. We're here for a reason, so no point in being silly and letting you wander in first." Letting the man get hurt would reflect poorly on their reputation AND paychecks.
"That's quite alright. Even if you were seasoned, as you pointed out, what we're looking for is well-masked. These mages come from some of our finest. We assume they know how to conceal themselves as we conceal Nasibu." Striker gave a head tilt at Jinx, wondering just what the difference really was. Jinx could manipulate matter and create it. The other could do much the same with just plants like that. The simple green alien assumed a very similar process and could just be called nature magic under most circumstances.
"Druidism is different from nature magic? Or is it wrong to just call it that?" Clarification could wait as the group suddenly stopped. In the middle of the forest, quiet would settle in as Foki tapped around on the ground a bit. He seemed to be looking for something, by Jinx's estimation it would be something under ground.
"Yes. The easiest way to hide while remaining close enough to an energy source. The forest is rich in other natural resources, and it's still their familiar home. The only problem is the caves could either be too obvious or branch deep into the Earth. Some say there are entire stakeouts underneath the crust of Konats. A silly notion, but tales like that probably came from somewhere." He mused as his pace slowed, and he went on looking for something in the general easy. When prompted, he'd point the two over.
"Any small entrance. There are those magically inclined who can change shape, any sort of small entrance that looks like it's from an animal is suspect." Striker was on it! Bounding in sync with Jinx as she'd not want to get any of the boys hurt either. Would look bad! Squat and closer to the ground than most Striker needn't really crouch to see anything in their search.
The more alien biomes and hostile creatures of indescribable origin that Jinx saw on Konats, the more surprised she was at the rarity of finding such a diverse planet. Places like Namek, Arcose, and previously Plant were all monolithic single-climates with only small pockets of terrain differing from the norm. It was a good thing. This world seemed like it had so much to show her, and Jinx was a sucker for adventure - even if it meant following around some slow, old, probably wise mage man through a forest full of evil mages that wanted them dead. "Nature magic is typically called Druidism, though that might just be old-fashioned. What can I say?"
Now can the tedious part. Stomping around and poking at any old dugout that they could find out of suspicion. Size-shifting entrances weren't the craziest thing anyone has ever done with a dose of too much spirit dust and a magic bender, but Jinx found it incredibly tacky nonetheless. Could be the cabal was working on a budget, so to speak, and risking excess energy making their hideout super duper fancy would only attract more prying eyes from those who knew what to look for. "I'm not seein' anything Srikes; how about you?"
"Oooooh. Alright! Cool. Fancy words, like trying to call any fancy magic person a Wizard or Witch." She summated as she started her own poking. Making quick work of ground and searching with quick scuttling. Meanwhile, the old man tapped places instead to feel any hollowness in the ground. The guards did thir best to also silently keep a look out with their eyes. Sometimes pointing out a small burrow only for the druid man to shake his head patiently.
Striker... Had found a few holes she thought could be it, but they were nothing more than dire moles trying to hide in their homes. When she got too close to the ground to look in one it's lash out, grabbing the fauxbian by the nose when she wasn't aware of her presence. Despite its best efforts, it did nothing but hold on as she rose and frowned at Jinx.
"Don't think so! Unless this is one of the suspicious imposters in disguise. Let go, bud." She'd eye the oversize shrew and quickly pluck it from her face. Holding it in place with hands at its sides as it squirmed. She ended up tossing it back toward its hole.
"Haha, you girls good over there?" He'd laugh and call over to the pair trying their best, suddenly raising his staff against some rock that made him pause. He tapped it a few more times and one of the armored guards would bend over to flip such a rock. It wasn't that big, and it was crawling with konatsian bugs, but there was a definitely depression near its center that some of these bugs helped camouflage.
Nobody could say Jinx hadn't tried. From bending down real low, sifting through piles of suspicious leaves, and kicking mounds of dirt with great vigor, the Majin was doing her best. The instructions were just a little weird. Her natural apt for sensing magic, while more potent than Foki, was terribly unrefined. The entire place stank of it. Every wild creature that LIVED in the Aster stank of it. The Kashvar had tuned into this, taking advantage of the natural shroud to make it harder to find their city - and in turn, the dark mages used the same trick to hide their own whereabouts.
To be almost insultingly blunt, Striker's existence as a Critter gave her a huge leg up. Green might not have stuck to the tribal lifestyle, but her short stature, immense speed, and keen vision helped the Fauxbian along far better than Jinx's ambling speed. Still! Even with these mighty advantages, Foki randomly tapping a rock revealed the path forward! "Don't tell me they just put a rock over a hole." Jinx's face scrunched up petulantly as she zipped to the Kashvar's side, peering at the seemingly ordinary stone. "Should I go in first? I'm probably the most durable out of all of us..."
"Heheheheh. Heheheh. They did. Fifty-Fifty on if they thought it would be more or less conspicuous under a maggot-infested rock. One of the young-uns might not have bothered when they saw." The old man gave a good cackle and pushed the tipped rock even further away from the grub-infested hole. His guards did well enough to remove the stone from the equation. His staff then got to work attracting the critter up and away from the slowly visible hole. From Striker's point of view, the man looked like he was almost just fishing them out. Turning to Jinx, she'd point down the hole and smirk.
"Well, I can't fit down that hole so maybe it's just you, miss Jinx - squeeze through everything - ie." Before she could boast about not having to go near a muddy and creature-infested hole the druid would wave at the pair and shake his head.
"Nonsense! Here." He'd raise his staff, clean it of bugs with one good tap on the ground, and in the same step raise a dull green energy over the tip of his stick. A sudden sensation of inwards force wraps around the party as the kashvar speaks some tongue lost on either (most likely). A small phrase, most likely referring to the reduced size they'd soon take. Striker and Jinx would watch as they themselves along with the other three, would shrink. Falling under the height of grass. Here, it would feel like a different forest. One with the treeline stopping where the rock had made its stand.
Ignoring the flurry of bugs that scurried away from their overturned hiding place, the depression didn't seem all that weird. After all, there was a BIG ROCK sitting there. Still, if Foki was the expert who was she to disagree? A more pungent whiff of magic assailed Jinx's senses, her tongue sticking out in vague disgust. "Eugh. It's almost rotten." Maybe THAT'S what concentrated dark magic felt like? "I guess this is the part where you shine even more, Foki!" Jinx could probably tear the earth asunder and brute force whatever sneaky spell was keeping the entrance so well hidden, but they were escorting the key - not making their own.
"Smallerizer?" Jinx muttered to herself, squinting at Foki as he chanted. The sudden shrinkage explained the weird (probably mistranslated) word choice. "Yo! Cool! I can shrink myself, but I've never tried going down this far before." It did raise a question: could Jinx simply ignore the spell and biggerifier herself to normal? She was almost tempted to try it if they weren't in the middle of a job. "We retain our full K- battle power, right?" Hopefully, Striker's natural abilities would still tick at a size this small. "Just wanna know what to expect from our tiny selves before we go jumping in."
"Mmm" The old man and his guards come out of the grass trees and into the clearing, looking around as the remaining bugs have fled the scene for them. With a deep breath through his nose, exhale, and repeat, he would nod and start heading towards the hole.
"Yes, your powered attributes should not have shifted. This is merely a change in physical appearance. if that was the concern I don't think we'd be trying this with anything less than an army. Klien, light if you will. I'll trust our friends here to take point and protect us from here on out." he referred to one of the men as they started looking down into the inclined hole. Said guard, one slightly leaner than the other, would pull out a powered torch. Striker tested this theory with a test run. Quickly circling the outer rim of this rock indent like it was nothing. Returning to Jinx in the blink of an eye and a chest beat.
"Think we're good. Come on, Jinxie, let's get down that weird bug hole. I only hope this makes the bugs stronger opponents should we run into stragglers!" With that, Striker would run on over the Foki and start her paced walk inwards. Letting the guard's light behind her guard her visual sense around at the entrance here.