Firstly, as always, I would like to thank all those who favorite, followed or reviewed my story. Your support is really appreciated and pushes me to try harder.
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Lastly: I do not own "Campione!" or "Worm Serial".
Abasi Ubaid knew perfectly well his place in the order of things. He knew his purpose, the reason why he had been brought into this world, the same reason all those born to his clan carried since time immemorial.
He was a shadow amidst the darkness, a silent blade patiently waiting for its master's command. A shadow servant honor bond to one who walked in the light.
He had served his Lord unquestioningly since he was but a child, protecting both him and his interests, safeguarding him from all threats as he did his bidding. He had killed Mage Knights and Earth Witches without a moment's hesitation, had stood his ground against both Divine Beasts and Arcane Abominations without flinching, and even crossed blades with others whom like him dwelled in the shadows without a second thought.
Never faltering, never questioning, all for the honor of his clan and his Lord.
And yet, as he stood atop a rocky outcropping in the outskirts of Cairo, hidden away underneath several dozen spells that for all intents and purposes made him completely undetectable to both magical and mundane means, for the first time in his life Abasi found himself actually questioning if his Lord truly understood the possible consequences of what he was currently planning.
His iron will keeping his breathing nothing but a slow whisper despite his panicked feelings, ensuring not even the slightest chance of a sound that could betray his position could occur despite the fact the active sound dampening spells enshrouding him should be able to take care of it, he stared with wide eyes at the ravaged battleground upon which the two Devil Kings had done battle but moments before.
Where two demons disguising themselves as humans beings had thrown more power against each other than anything he had ever seen before.
He had heard the tales about the Eighth Campione's former battles, but hadn't personally witnessed either of them. And now, he was discovering that hearing about it, or even seeing a recording of said battles, utterly failed to convey the sheer feeling of crushing power that actually being there in person conveyed.
The near incomprehensible amount of Power both God-slayers had unleashed against each other as they vied for supremacy. As inexhaustible sand armies and pure elemental fury clashed against an impossible blade and a unbreakable body.
And it had been nothing more than a spar…
Fighting back a very uncharacteristic shudder Abasi regained control of his drifting and treacherous thoughts, locking them down securely at the back of his mind while allowing his years of training to take over and eradicate whatever doubt he had been feeling.
It was not his place to doubt his Lord. There had to be variables and facts he simply did not have access to that would shine light and validated his plans. Something that would turn what was starting to look like a very unique way of committing suicide into a viable plan.
Lord Zaliki had to know what he was doing. There was no other logical explanation.
'Right…?' A treacherous part of his mind couldn't help but question as he watched the stone gorge loudly crumble under its own weight due to the massive damage caused by the two Devil-kings' spar.
Princess Alice, the White Hime-miko, the Sage Princess, Speaker of the Witengamot, was currently feeling quite frustrated. Her long blonde hair framing her beautiful features, which were currently locked into a pout, as her green eyes stared past the window of her bedroom.
The source of her frustration and aggravation was centered upon a single individual, more specifically, a Devil-king. That by itself was hardly noteworthy; after all, she was unfortunately very well acquaintanced with feelings of frustration and exasperation caused by the antics of the Children of Pandora.
Of course, the fact it wasn't the Black Prince Alec the one currently giving her a headache was something of a novel experience. After all, sometimes her old acquaintance, and kind of a friend, acted like causing her headaches was one of his main purposes in life.
But no, this time Alec wasn't even the slightest bit involved with the source of her current headache, a source that had managed to completely scramble all her plans by herself. Despite the fact they hadn't ever even set foot in the same country at the same time, much less even seen each other.
Taylor Hebert, the Eighth Campione.
Her emerald gaze briefly passing over a series of reports that she had already all but memorized, Princess Alice pondered about the newest God-slayer. About the sudden wildcard that had appeared as if out of nowhere.
A young woman who had no official past that, nonetheless, seemed to have both an intrinsic knowledge regarding the world's underworld, and quite a few connections in some very interesting places.
Picking up a specific report, she wondered how someone like this Taylor had ever got involved with the Moonlit World, much less became a Campione. After all, most governments were kept well away from the truth about magic by their countries own Magic Associations.
So how exactly a government operative, or perhaps former operative was the right word, had gotten involved into a magical debacle of such proportions that she had ended up facing against a Heretic-god, was something she really would like to know.
And she was an operative of some organization of another, of that Alice was absolutely sure. After all, how else could one explain the fact that the Eighth Campione currently received what amounted to quite the substantial monthly stipend from the American Government itself?
It had been incredibly tricky for the Witengamot to get ahold of such information, but in the end one of their agent's, who had quite some skill with computers, had managed to narrow it down. All the way from a fiscal paradise nameless account that Taylor had accessed, through dozens of others dummy accounts, and finally back to the Pentagon itself. Unsurprisingly, he had been unable to breach the insane levels of cyber security surrounding the place, but in the end there was no need for that, the confirmation that the money was coming from there was undeniable, even if they probably would never hear about the details.
And that when added with what little else had been found by the Egyptian Mage Association regarding Taylor, both her skills and her underworld connections, made for quite the intriguing picture.
After all, it wasn't every day when a wetworks operative became a God-slayer.
'The King of the Underworld's reaction to that bit of news will also be something to behold, I bet.' She mused for a moment, wondering how the American Hero would react to the news that what basically amounted to a government assassin was now a Campione, and one that was apparently sponsored by his country at that.
But that was not the source of her irritation, no matter the fact that quite a few high ranking people were having panic attacks when confronted with said possibility. No, the source of her frustration was something else, something that had nothing to do with Taylor's past, and everything to do with her mere presence.
The fact that her carefully implemented and measured plans were now derailed beyond all recognition, that her ability to see future events had been somehow compromised.
It was not that she had lost her gift of clairvoyance; she could still gaze past the veils of the present and watch the shadowy glimpses of the future with the same ease as ever. No, the problem was that all her painstakingly made plans for the future, built upon dozens, if not hundreds, of carefully made uses of her Seer powers, were now completely useless, as the future itself drastically changed from its original course. Rendering all previous views and whatever information she may had acquired completely obsolete.
It was almost as if Taylor's very presence had completely altered the very flow of history, undeniable changing the flow of the future.
Looking at the picture of the black haired woman who was the unknowing source of her current problem, Princess Alice couldn't help but let out a half amused, half exasperated laugh.
She knew that her annoyance was actually caused by her own wounded pride more than anything else. After nearly two decades as the strongest Clairvoyant in the planet she had almost forgotten the annoyance of having another Seer mudding up her own view of the future, her own strength allowing her to simply bypass such pesky issues.
A pesky issue that now was making itself gleefully known, as a freaking Campione with apparently untapped Seer powers was suddenly placed on the playing board, her powers likely interfering with Alice's own abilities due to their raw untapped strength alone.
Campiones as a rule already made a habit of defying fate and prophecy with their mere existence, slightly mudding the waters of the future naturally. But a Clairvoyant Campione? She was probably shaking the future so severely that Alice was quite sure that if not for her own quite significant powers she would be unable to even glimpse the future right now.
The fact that the Eighth Campione probably had no idea of the mess she had caused was just icing on the cake.
Taking a deep breath she forced herself to get over her annoyance. Sure, she would basically have to restart her plans from scratch, but such things did happen, and besides, it had been quite some time since she last had a true challenge that wasn't caused by Alec's antics.
Not to mention that hubris was quite unbecoming and hardly endearing after all.
'And who knows? If her raw abilities are already this strong, it may even be interesting to see what she could do with some training.' She inwardly mused, a beaming smile on her face, her earlier mood dissipating as mist upon the dawn as she considered the possibility of perhaps taking in an apprentice.
Sadly, no matter how curious she was in regards with the newest Devil-King, she wouldn't be able to properly meet her for a while; for the undeniable fact remained that she simply could not dismiss her Spirit Body from its current mission and it was nowhere near Egypt at the moment.
After all, any action taken by the Witch Queen had to be taken seriously, analyzed and observed with the utmost caution as a matter of course.
At the very least, if Guinevere's path remained the same, she may very shortly meet Kusanagi Godou. It would be interesting to see if the rumors regarding that little lady killer held true.
Tiredly rubbing his brow, Lord Harakty wondered why exactly he had ever wanted the position of Head of the Council when he had been younger. Oh, sure, the power and prestige inherent to the position were indeed very nice benefits, but they didn't really make up for the constant headaches that sadly seemed to come as part and parcel of the job.
Especially on those rare occasions when his subordinates were being even more idiotic than normal, which, considering the level of intelligence they usually displayed, was saying something.
Lady Taylor's spar with Lord Salvatore had been witnessed nearly on its entirety by agents of the Council, the titanic clash between the two Campiones being now recorded and stored for posteriority as a pretty clear clue to all and sundry about why exactly messing with any Devil-king was nothing more nothing less than an extremely bad idea.
One would normally assume that after witnessing firsthand the two young ones throwing around enough power to casually level down the whole of Cairo, for what amounted to a friendly competition of all things, would have made Zaliki and his supporters to stop, carefully consider the situation, take a look at what they were currently doing, and then back the hell down!
But no, he simply wasn't that lucky. For his fellow council member apparently had never been gifted with this wondrous thing nearly all living beings possessed called a survival instinct.
Letting out an aggravated sigh, the leader of Egypt's Mage Association played with the idea of retirement for what felt like the hundredth time this week alone. Only the ice cold knowledge that the whole mess would probably explode magnificently the moment he did so staying his hand from doing exactly that.
Forcing back his aggravation and gathering his thoughts, eyes drifting past the letter he just received, he wondered what exactly he could do to salvage the situation.
Not only were the few facts they had been able to glimpse about Taylor Hebert painting an even more daunting picture with every few fragments of truth they managed to unravel, but this newest information clearly marked that she was not someone to cross lightly.
If not for the source of this newest information he would have dismissed it as pure whimsy, it being simply too fantastical to normally even consider. But considering that it had come from the Witengamot itself of all places, one of the largest and strongest mage organizations in the world, that was sadly not an option.
It was utterly absurd, but the chance of the British organization making such a mistake was so unfathomably low that there was no other option. The Eighth Campione was an American Government Operative, either rogue or retired but that was hardly relevant.
And as if giving someone with that kind of training the powers of a God-slayer was not enough, as a cherry on top of the cake, she was also apparently an utter prodigy in the realm of mage craft. Having mastered both wind and fire manipulation to impossible degrees in mere weeks of training.
Closing his eyes for a moment, he took in a deep breath, and then another, forcing his body to calm down as he searched for an answer. After a few moments of calm meditation he opened his eyes, determination shining from his steel grey orbs.
It was clear that any attempt at either confronting or even influencing her would not go well, someone with her background probably having plenty of experience in both fields. So that left only one approach truly still standing.
Rising from his seat he walked determinedly towards the door, each steep firm and confident. It was time to enter the game in a more direct manner.
"Yeah, you can shorten the chant if you try hard enough." Salvatore Doni cheerfully spoke as he walked down the street towards Cairo's airport, Taylor following at his side and intently listening to his every word. "It just takes more willpower and energy, oh, and the effect may be a little weaker for some reason, but if you want to, there is no reason why you need the whole chant to make an Authority work."
Following close behind the two Devil-kings alongside Andrea, Anit couldn't help but ask if a busy street was really the best place to discuss the intricacies of something as powerful as an Authority.
But then again, as she was coming to learn under the rule of the Eighth Campione, the God-slayers seemed to have a somewhat estranged relationship with normality, so perhaps she should simply accept it and move on. A decision that was apparently mimicked by her fellow minder, if the slightly resigned expression present on Andrea's face was anything to go by.
"Sure, it kinda exploded the first few times I tried it, and Andrea grumbled about it for weeks afterwards, but it worked!" The King of Swords exuberantly proclaimed, a beaming smile upon his face. An expression that was most assuredly not answered by his chaperone's.
"That harebrained idea of yours nearly ripped off your right arm the first time you tried it! Not to mention the fact it turned the sword you had been holding into an impromptu fragmentation grenade!" Andrea grumbled in annoyance, tired exasperation permeating his every word.
"It took me and a group of healers over three hours to fix you up! And the fact you refused to stay in bed afterwards certainly didn't help! I feel that any grumbling on my part afterwards was more than warranted!" He finished, a slight flush appearing upon his cheeks as he noticed both Campiones and Anit were now staring at him.
"Eh, truth be told I had kind of forgotten that." Doni said nonchalantly while rubbing the back of his head, before a tinge of sadness entered his voice, a melancholic look slowly surfacing on his features as he digested Andrea's words, his blue eyes staring straight into the horizon and a small frown taking over his features for a moment. "Man, I miss that sword."
The look Andrea was sporting was distressingly familiar to the Egyptian Mage, for she was certain that she had sported it more than once ever since meeting Taylor. Taking a step closer to the older mage she comfortingly pated him in the shoulder, receiving a tired smile in thanks for her efforts.
"Something to keep in mind the first few times then." Taylor calmly replied with a solemn nod, as if accidental explosions and risks of bodily harm were part and parcel of a normal training regimen.
'Then again, perhaps for her it is…' She inwardly bemoaned, remembering her Liege's training in regards to magic and how best to use it. After all, a few random explosions probably wouldn't be found out of place inside the crazy training regimen Taylor willingly imposed unto herself, both physical and magical.
Thinking about it, Anit found herself going back to an idea that had been pestering her for some time now, and noticing that both Taylor and Doni were still talking about chants and how to better integrate them into battle, she decided she had the time to ponder it a little further.
It was a niggling feeling that had been hounding her thoughts for some time now, but hadn't truly taken form until the fight against Doni yesterday. Though it had bothered her ever since Taylor had used one of her Authorities to grant her hyper-enhanced learning.
At first she hadn't noticed it, having been blindsided by the sheer implausibility of said Authority and the fact that the Heretic-god her Liege had first slain had another completely separate dominion, but the doubt firmly nested itself in her mind, and blossomed as Taylor used another Authority to take them to the gorge where she planned to battle her fellow Campione.
It was a single impossible fact, something that simply shouldn't be possible. But Anit knew she could not deny what she had seen and heard, and so, despite how impossible the very idea was, she had to concede that it was the truth, no matter how ludicrous it sounded.
The chant Taylor had used to activate the teleportation Authority she had used to take them to the gorge, was the very same chant she had used to activate the knowledge Authority she had gifted Anit with, and was also the very same chant she had used to empower the Egyptian mage with superhuman strength and toughness a few days before.
It was utterly ludicrous, but she couldn't deny the facts all but staring her in the face, that all completely different effects had to be caused by the very same Authority.
Oh, she knew of both Spells and Authorities that took various different forms, King Kusanagi's Ten Incarnations Authority he had acquired by defeating Verethragna was a perfect example of such. But in such situations there were always wildly different arias and chants necessary to activate each distinct aspect of the power, something Taylor's Authority clearly lacked.
'From the void I claim you! From the ether I beseech you! Come to me fragments of creation! Grant me thy blessings in my hour of need, invest me with thy might, empower me with thy graces, for I am the agent of thy will!' She thought the now familiar aria, searching for clues to what kind of god the words were referring to.
It had to be a creation god; the line talking about fragments of creation clearly indicated that. But unlike Khepri, it had to be a major god of creation in order to gift Taylor with dominion over ice, strength and knowledge, and she was sure that those dominions were only the tip of the iceberg. Especially as she suspected that the strange scream that had nullified the Italian Campione's Divine Confusion had been activated by the very same aria.
Adaptation, growth, rising to meet and overcome any obstacle, those were the focal points she had been able to identify, right alongside with the golden coloration of Taylor's avatar form.
Huffing in aggravation Anit followed the two Devil-kings into the airport. Her mind awhirl with possibilities as she considered the conundrum that was her Liege, and exactly what Heretic God she could have slain to obtain such an implausible Authority.
Of course, Taylor's earlier words about it being a parasitic, multi-dimensional, space whale were completely ignored. For even considering it would be completely ridiculous after all.
This chapter ended up being way shorter than I initially planned, but real life had others plans I'm afraid. The past month has been basically one problem after another, barely giving me any time to write. Truth be told, once or twice I seriously thought that I would be unable to finish this chapter before the month had passed.
So in the end I decided to at least post what I had already finished, instead of leaving you all hanging. Hopefully things will calm down soon and allow me to do better.
Regarding Princess Alice part in the chapter. No, Taylor is not a Seer, or at least, she isn't one without an active Thinker Shard giving her some form of precognition. Alice's assumption is a mix of the fact Pandora's guidance taking her towards Leviathan and her stumbling upon Khepri's descent making people believe her to be one, added to the fact that her suddenly being dropped on the Campione-verse, when she hadn't existed there before, completely changed the future, making Alice assume that she is a Seer whose power was boosted by becoming a Campione and is messing with her own visions.
Hope you enjoyed the chapter, please review before leaving.