Cosmic Inspiration: Muse*Buster
Or: Me trying to make an Anime Setting.
Few things in the Universe rival the power of human creativity and imagination. Out in the void exists a race that understands this and has sought out ways of harvesting this energy for their own ends. Every time an idea you have is just out of reach, or suffer writer's block? That's them keeping you Silent. Their goals are a mystery, but because their methods sap the joy and drive out of their targets they must be opposed.
Not every person they had tried to Silence withered. Some fought back. Others powered through to the point they were seen as both potent energy sources and threats. These are typically what ends up being the musician of history that have died far too soon. Yet even when dead they still have power, and this they use to awaken those that have yet to be beaten down by the world so that people will be Silent no more.
After The Dream ended and magic waned from the universe beings were born in this void. They had perceived that while one day magic may yet return, there was slim chance of it being powerful enough to stop the prison they had been created to guard from breaking down, or defeat the thing inside if it got loose. They saw keeping The Cage locked away as more important than what other races would view them as, or the lives ruined in keeping it locked. Unfortunately the moment they believed that whispered lie their purpose was corrupted and instead of strengthening the prison they were feeding the things it had been designed to lock away.
Time passed and the Silence continued their assigned tasks never knowing or caring who or what gets hurt in the process. For them there was just The Task. They are able to spout facts. Regurgitate information. Yet they are almost like clockworks in that there is no thought to wonder why, no creativity in how to carry out their tasks. They are withered wraithlike husks that cannot break themselves free and have access to terrible amounts of power, able to perform inhuman feats. Worse is their sincere belief that they are saving the universe, so what faint ghost of a heart may still beat in their chests is wholly and truly convinced what they do is the Right Thing. They will maintain it is through their efforts dangerous and possibly world destroying concepts are eaten away an the people dreaming them up scoured from the world. That is potentially true, but it is no justification since it also mean leading lights searching to better humanity also die out. Their feeding is indiscriminate and thoughtlessly following their programmed instructions. No More. No Less.
What causes those restless souls that still managed to cling to their spark to seek out the younger generation is simple. With recent shifts in the world massive amounts of magic were freed. The Internet? One of the most connective and creative tools ever, making people able to feed off of each other's creativity and knit together even when physically apart can lean on each other for support, preventing the Silence from easily recruiting more of themselves. This tool both to collaborate and buffer against the worst of the Silence combined with a sudden upsurge in magic caused those with unfinished business and great enough need to act. Youths are sought because they see the connected world as normal enough that they leverage these tools to reach for each other almost instinctively and that they have yet had their dreams trampled.
Those that have their hearts freed and can use an Emblem are not constrained by type or period. A child contracted by Van Goh could fight alongside another contracted by Cliff Burton, or Marie Curie, or even Gunpey Yokoi. The defining factor is that the spirit be of someone that died of something other than old age, and that they be creatively inclined. Because of this massive amount of individuality there is no 'leader' and barely any organization. However those with free hearts can sense each other, much like creative types are generally able to almost instinctively feel a kindred spirit.
Emblems also help shield against the Silence, since otherwise they would simply feel a bright spark of creative energy and seek to harvest it. Since they cannot harvest they seek to destroy to preserve themselves. Yet their almost clockwork like programming dictates that they twist potential Silence, those that suffer but can still easily be saved, to act as proxy. They do this both to preserve their own number and because those that have yet to fall still retain enough imagination to possibly out-think their target
These 'proto silence' are what will be considered Silence until one of the withered beings is prodded into acting directly.
Those the fallen seek to help fight the Silence are always themselves. When a compact is formed it is less about the dead returning and more the dead helping a person tap into their own heart and provide a conduit for power that heart can use. Only one contract can ever be formed, since while a young mind and heart can change, the imprint will always remain. Those contracted may take on aspects of the other person, such as skin tone and hair changes, a few elements of their style present. However s child will never turn into an old man, or gender flip (so a girl contracted to Jimi hendrix might become brown skinned and her hair grow out she will always be a she.)
As a note those contracted to fight do not end up getting promised anything. Spirit shows up either awake or asleep at times of great personal stress and offers what help they can to push back since typically 'stress' is Silence induced either draining them, or trying to turn them into a youma to fight. Generally these spirits will leave after empowering a person and creating their Emblem, potentially seeing their work done and moving on, or that this is all they're willing to do since more risks basically taking over the child's life in hollow attempt at reviving their own.
Powers and Skill
Emblem Holders are a very individualistic lot when it comes to motifs, favored weapons, and outfits. However all of them will have some form of freeing those the Silence have youma-fied…. after enough facepunching has been delivered so it can’t just no-sell it.
All Emblem Holders have the same sort of fast healing senshi have based on their now awakened connection to magic. This also means that they can do the parkour light pole standing balancing thing, fast running, and other beyond human bits of physicality. Not all are created equal, so while one might be ultra tanky, another might be a complete dodge monkey in fights. Another might focus on being able to punch through walls.
They can sense each other, at least vaguely, if they’re in the same area. It’s something like Highlander’s immortal sense except the ‘magical person in area’ bit works for all magical people. However this sense does not tell if the person is aware, just that they have potential and are probably awakened, since that much power means an open conduit in their heart. I want to say with practice each can sense other emblem bearers due to how similar their awakening methods are, but I dunno. That seems kinda abusable.
Tempted to say each gets some skill bleed over from the person they contracted with. Not knowledge so much as ‘I can learn faster if something can vaguely be applied to this general area.’ Example being music being easy to pick up, pick apart, and so on if contracted with a musician. However the person still has to learn these things otherwise it’s a vague feeling of familiarity and ease. On the other hand the effect could be confidence boost from ‘HOLY COW FAMOUS PERSON I LOOK UP TO WANTS ME TO HELP DO THE THING!’
This is a rare instance when a person contracts with a spirit that doesn't simply leave and instead seeks to reside within a person's now opened heart. Generally, even if the spirit wishes to do good by continuing their own work, this is considered a bad thing both by most spirits and by Thalia herself since it means they are sacrificing a child's life and choices in favor of continuing their own agenda.
More often than not if a spirit is willing to Overshadow it is willing to hurt people to keep from being made to leave. It is willing to make pacts with evil minded beings and subvert the whole purpose of unlocking and freeing hearts so it doesn't have to move on.
The person being used generally is still there, but while a traditional transformation gives them aspects of who they made a pact with, overshadowing brings in knowledge and influences how they act over time. This eventually leads to them acting like a blend of both who they are and who the spirit is.
While the child can be freed from being overshadowed it is generally very difficult, partially because they will see the spirit as helping them do things they couldn't, and just because it's something bound and coiled with their hearts. It's like tearing a piece of yourself away at that point. If it can be managed they can recover, and likely will have the same power any other Emblem Bearer will have once burnout has healed and their mind and heart allowed to piece back together from the ordeal. If healed they will lose that supernatural font of knowledge and added power, but they will still remember, for good or ill, and can act on those memories as anyone else can when presented with trauma. They can choose to forget, or choose to try holding onto and internalizing what happened so they can learn from the experience.
While true Silence are so far gone they cannot be saved outside of essentially a universe reboot, those the Silence twists can be. Those transformed merely have their hearts weakened and corrupted, not destroyed. Even after being freed though they will be exhausted since their heart and mind both got put through a metaphysical juicing machine, but they will recover. Maybe they'll end up better than before. This is where modern medicine can help, since without supernatural influences it turns into straight psychological and physiological problems we can actually fix, or at least treat. If not medicine than at least friends to help heal the soul and bring comfort.
Take a person who's both highly creative and has a heart that is at war with itself, been hurt by darkness, or otherwise has been emotionally weakened. This person, usually school age due to that being when a person's dreams are most well formed and generally haven't been trampled yet, is prime candidate for the Silence to turn into a proxy to do their bidding. Typically these affected people remain relatively person shaped, though generally will be anywhere from six to ten feet tall with inhuman skin p/hair/eyes.
The important thing though is they will take on a sort of perversion of the sort of transformation Emblem Holders have. They will have aspects of whatever their heart has latched onto, but will be a violent and twisted version leaving them prone to angry lashing out, and unless given a command to follow at creation will be utterly directionless in its attempt at tearing everything around it down.
Because of this rampaging Silence tend to implant commands or otherwise make this new Puppet-head to go elsewhere to be used at need. Basically in game mechanics if PCs lose they won't have to fight a second time, though if other PCs show up and scene runner allows it there is a second chance at saving the newly transformed youma.
Originally what was contained in the cage was a visceral formless and downright angry blob of corruption. It corrupted its jailers into feeding it energy so it could grow strong enough to escape. Once it does it will be less unknowable entity and more... Human. It has been exposed to enough of our hopes and dreams over the millennia it couldn't help being changed by them. Yet even if it has grown into being person shaped with approximations of joy, laughter, and other emoons it is still at its heart of hearts wholly corrupt and seeks to spread that corruption in attempt to feel more at home. Yet even so it does not wish to completely destroy humanity as we make excellent food, and it is... Charmed by the things we have created. It has even taken a name for itself. Cetus, named after the water dragon constellation. No familial name, but it might refer to itself as Cetus the Star-Fated as it feels its destiny is to consume the cosmos under its personal banner.
When freed it will typically appear as an elderly man dressed in black walking with a crystal skull topped walking stick. Most people will be somewhat put off guard and might even find him somewhat charming even if deep seated alarm bells are going off they can't quite understand. He will come to those down and out, claiming to want to help. All you have to do is sign on the dotted line, though a pinprick and drop of blood will work just fine too.
After that he will 'gift' you a muse of your very own, a spirit that has lingered because it was removed from life too soon and wishes to continue its work. Add in a little 'inspiration' gathered over the millennia of being locked away and congratulations minion. You find out that even if your boss is joking, sometimes fatherly, occasionally fun, and is very cultured in a variety of areas, you now have to share mindspace with it and it does not tolerate failure or disobedience lightly. Escape is possible, but very difficult. Plus why would you want to? Here you are important. Have a mentor figure that isn't needlessly cryptic. Will guide with a firm hand so you no longer have to worry about indecision eating away at you. Just go where you're told and do your lessons exactly as you're told and we will ignore the whole fact your soul is slowly being replaced by something not you and if you go too long under Cetus's sway there is no salvation, only moon dust.
Those Cetus brings in as its generals will each be named after one of the thirteen zodiac. Most know of the Twelve, and they are all its minions in the field. However Ophiuchus will stay by its side as both right hand and companion to show it the wonders and joys these humans that have already given it so much more than it knew when it was a near mindless inkstain of evil.
Oh and your new boss becomes a lot less human and more infinite blackness inkblob with GIANT FLAMING EYEBROWS and a demon face when it gets too angry. Please do not let it get that mad because that is bad for your health. It drops any and all subtlty. It gets VERY LOUD and PROCLAIMS IT IS THE SALVATION OF THESE FOOOOLISH MEATBAGS because YOU KNOW NOTHING OF WHAT YOU HAVE LOST I WILL SHOW IT TO YOU.
Ultimately though for all its power Cetus's creativity and dreams are stolen things, pale reflections ripped from generations of people that always leave it craving more. It is this frustration and need that will drive Cetus to conquer rather than consume, as it has become obsessed with these human concepts yet ultimately has no deep insight into them no matter what words it says.
Thematically I both want a big battle where it proves how much raw power it has, but at the same time its weakness in not being able to comprehend. Back in the box. Sealed away. Yes evil will always be out there, but so long as there are people that can draw from themselves and lean on their friends for strength, it cannot win. In the meantime though Cetus very much is a 'Devil came down to Tokyo' thing.
A bantam hen by the name of Thalia will appear within a day of contract being made. Typically she has white feathers with a red comb and waddle. Though she is often prone to jokes and lightheartedness she claims to actually be what inspired all of the classical muses, so she will have her moments of sternness, or sadness. However she sees it as her job to help keep these kids in good spirits, so while she will be serious when she needs to, she generally just wants to hang out and help without outright giving answers away to mundane problems.
There should be hints throughout that Thalia was made after the Silence either by an individual that realized what the Silence's actions would lead to, or possibly originally designed to encourage creativity so it could be harvested but decided on her own that she wasn't going to help people kill themselves. instead she made contact with those that lingered to try finding a way to help them fix this mess. She is very protective of 'her chicks', and will take up for them if others, specifically other mascots, try picking on them.
While at first she will almost be like a pet to Junpei and stay with him, she will move to where she feels she is needed at a whim and with little notice. There are other children out there that will need guidance even if they aren't on screen.
She likes soft pillows, the smell of fresh noodles, and the sound of rain on tin roofs. Does not like it when people eat chicken around her. Nevermind she isn't actually a chicken it's the principle of the thing! Oh and while I don't want this to be a frequent thing she is able to appear human, or at least able to make others think they are talking to a person. Considering she claims to be The Muse and classical depictions don't show her as anything other than a woman it could just be she stays cute and feathery to conserve her strength, stay beneath notice, and or just because it amuses her to do so.
Small trinkets, typically locket sized but no smaller than a coin and no larger than a deck of cards. It is transformation trinket and generally takes its cues from the pair making contract. Junpei's is a black guitar pick on a chain. A writer's might be a fountain pen. An artist's might be brush or a paint jar. It is very individualized and even mundane people can tell these objects are special. Granted most will mistaken it for a feeling of sentimentality and shrug it off. These objects can be used for mundane purposes and if used by the person they belong to can make their associated task better (nicer sounding music, surer lines in art, etc.) Do want as a theme debate on if it's supernatural or just a lucky feather effect.
Emblems allow people to Henshin, aid as tools if they take the shape of a device or object that can be used to do something. They can also allow travel into the heart of either someone the Silence is trying to turn, or someone that has made a contract and gained power enough to henshin. It is a very intimate form of contact and Thalia considers it… rude… to try even between friends unless there is great need. After all you cannot hide what is in your heart. This is one of those things most won’t even know they could do, and even those that do won’t. Angry Chicken would be Angry at them after all.
If an Emblem is lost or misplaced it simply breaks apart after a few hours and a replacement is found in the person’s pocket or near them. While the emblem is gone though they will feel mildly tired since their personal magic is going into replacing it. Nothing debilitating, just… noticeable. Oh and without their emblem on hand they can’t henshin, so losing it is bad even if it’s temporary.
On the one hand I want most fights to take place in the real world, or at least where others can join in with reasonable excuse to show up no matter theme. This is just a crazy idea so we can have things going boom and logical sensical battlefield with things to make go boom, but not needing megatokyo levels of demolition/rebuilding teams.
On the other I like the idea of special people being targeted where the battlefield is their metaphysical space. Somewhere that represents who/what they are that person is there in that space, and still relatively unpowered, though they might have an instinctive knowledge of the landscape, or the mindscape seeks to keep them out of harm's way. On the flipside they might be so mentally bombed out their mindscape leaves them wide open and terrified. Any landscape damage isn't permanent, doesn't mentally hurt. However the whole place would be relevant to the person, allowing hero and villain alike insight that can be used. This is possibly when people about to either gain emblems or fall to Silence can be swayed.
Big question is how to have others enter this space? Just the tear the Silence uses responding to their hearts/magic and opening again? If the Withered Silence are to remain hidden how do we have people get corrupted? Sending youma in? Have a manifestation of a person’s own insecurities and depression be the thing that is supposed to infect their heart?