A pair of tall doors opened before Shadowdancer, revealing the biggest assembly of Miho fans that Meagen had seen in her whole life. She knew some of the people here - among the more notable personnages were Integral the sexy blonde webmistress, Tohya the Miho cosplayer, Hanatoko the bartender, and Izuko, formerly of EM, still searching for his place in the world - and others, she'd probably recognize from sight except for her habit of never looking back when pursued.

The size of the crowd, and the fact that it contained visibly new alcolytes as well as familiar high-level faces, led Meagen to believe that what she was seeing was in fact the entire membership of the Church, right down to the newest minion. She reflected that the CoM was bigger than one could expect, but that it wasn't all that big. Somehow, the thought made perfect sense to her.

Shadowdancer led the way to a raised section of the assembly hall, where stood a series of stylish tall-backed chairs, almost like thrones. A hush fell over the crowd as she approached. Hoturi and Tohya excused themselves and made their way forward, taking the two seats on the far left and far right, respectively. Shadowdancer stood in front of the cantral seat, facing the assembled Mihoists, as Manta took his seat between her and Hoturi. With a nod to Meagen, the Right Hand of Miho gestured towards the empty seat.

The former Head Nurse moved forward, and stopped short. The seat was already taken.

It wasn't quite clear exactly how BGMaster, the previous head of the Church, had met his demise. It would have taken quite a powerful adversary to bring down what ammounted to the most powerful non-comedic, non-Main-Character person in Megatokyo. But he was definitely dead, along with his wife Yukiko, a good friend of Meagen's and incidentally a powerful combat EDS unit. For some reason, however, his spirit had been periodically returning to Megatokyo. Perhaps he was stubbornly refusing to leave the affairs of the Church for good (treating death as a more secure version of retirement), perhaps he had to atone for some of the deeds in his long and exciting life, perhaps he just got a kick out of haunting, as he had liked to impress and frighten people when he was alive. In any case, while his power had diminished significantly, Meagen found that he had become more annoying than she could've ever imagined.

And right now, he was sitting in the guest of honor's chair, and his grin and the more pronounced transparency of his body told her she was probably the only one who could see him.

"Uh, that's okay", she told Shadowdancer uncomfortably. "I'll, uh, just stand over here."

Shadow raised an eyebrow, but didn't comment. Turning to the awaiting crowd of Mihoists, she called out: "Minions of the Darkly Cute one, assembled here at my calling, hear me now! Our Mistress lies sleeping, stricken by a cowardly and devious attacker, who sapped away her lifeforce.

"Though she is not slain, it may take her many weeks before she regains her strenght." she paused, letting the words sink in. "But there is a way to help her. We, her faithful Church, may lend her some of our own energy. Though her power is far greater than any of us can ever weild, we are many. If each of us as we stand here gives their strenght to the cause, she will return to us even tonight."

Shadowdancer paused again, looking around at everyone assembled. Next to her, Meagen did the same, her eyes wide and her face in a rare expression of disbelief. Wether because of their leader's charisma, or their devotion to their Main Character of choice, no-one present seemed to mind the idea of giving up their energy. An overwhelming positive murmur swept the room, and Meagen caught small phrases like "sounds good" and "I'm up to that" and "when do we start?".

Shadow turned her head slightly and gave Meagen an almost imperceptible smile, then raised her hands for silence.

When she got it, she fell into a meditave stance, and concentrated. Wisps of her own energy as well as Necronomicon magic surrounded her small frame, as she chanted in some aincient language. She moved her hands, tracing a complicated pattern in the air - literally, because thin lines of light trailed behind her fingers, forming into a three-dimentional geometric design. Next, rows of small symbols began to appear in some of the planes, some of them scrolling past and out of sight, others staying in place. Finally, with one last gesture from the drow, the pattern faded out and a translusent orb about the size of a basketball faded into view. Inside, a small amount of silver fog was spinning on its axis like a miniature galaxy.

As the orb hung in mid-air where it had appeared, Shadowdancer breathed out, then sat down on the central throne. Meagen noticed her hands were shaking slightly. Finally, the leader of the Church found her voice. "This orb will drain the energy of anyone who touches it", she explained. "All those who wish to make a contribution, please step forward and place your hands on the surface." With a small nod, she indicated the nearest Minion, who promptly walked forward and up the stairs.

He looked into the orb for a second, gathering his courage, then said quietly: "For Miho-sama", and reached out.

The instant his fingers touched the surface, the orb lit up slightly. He winced instinctively, but held on as the spell slowly took his lifeforce, adding it to its contents. His breathing quickened, as if the air around him was getting thin, and drops of sweat appeared on his brow. Finally, he broke away from the orb, and bowed to Shadowdancer as well as he could with his knees shaking. She nodded, dismissing him.

And thus the procession began. Each of the Mihoists in turn stepped up, said those two words, offered as much of their energy as they felt they could spare, and then either wobbled away to rest or stayed to watch. After a while, the unfamiliar faces seemed to Meagen to be blending into the darkness of the room. One exception came when Izuko stepped up to the orb, bravely grasped it with both hands and held on until he passed out. Mahou, the dark-haired miko serving as a nurse to the CoM, even though she was actually a Piroist, caught his limp body and with the help of an assistant carried it back to the clinic, tsk'ing slightly.

She had to make several more trips like that, because emboldened by the ex-EM-worker's example, other Minions decided to give as much energy as they could before their bodies gave up on them. After the first hour, Meagen sat back in her seat in resignation, too tired to care whose ghostly lap she was occupying.

------------------------------------------

After another hour, the crowd had thinned considerably, the silvery fog was filling the sphere almost completely, and the senior Mihoists were taking their turns. Each one took more time, since they had more energy to spare. After Tohya removed her hand from the orb and wiped her brow with a white-laced sleeve, Manta and Hoturi exchanged glances, then nodded.

They stood up in unision, walked to opposite sides of the sphere, and stood at the ready, glaring at each other over the articaft. The slight change in tension woke Meagen up from a slight doze. Shadowdancer sighed and shook her head in resignation.

As if on cue, both Mihoists placed their palms on the magical device, letting their energy flow into it. Their eyes locked, each looking for signs of weakness in the other. They stood like that, first immobile, then sweating a bit, at lenght panting and shivering, neither willing to let go before the other did.

Suddenly, they both felt a slight pressure on their wrist, and their hands were gently but firmly moved away from the orb. They looked down at Shadowdancer, who smiled. "That's quite enough", she told them. With one last glare at each other, they went back to their seats.

The short drow, for her part, glanced worriedly at the silvery mist within the orb. It was almost, but not quite, full - the amount of energy in it would be enough to let Miho wake the next day, but it wasn't triggering the conversion spell yet. With a mental shrug, she prepared to trigger it manually...

...but then Meagen leaned forward, puffing at her extended finger as if she was blowing someone a kiss. A tiny blue spark floated from her finger tip and struck the orb, which responded with a melodious tone. The concentrated energy inside swirled fater for a second, then changed color to a deep purple.

Everyone present stared at Meagen in disbelief. She shrugged it off with her usual cheerful smile.

Shadowdancer took the orb carefully in both hands, dislodging it from its place. "Let us carry this energy to our lady Miho, then", she said.

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[AN: From a Star Wars quote right into a Shakespeare reference. Wow.]

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