Disclaimer: I do not own Fate/Stay Night or Highschool DxD, or any of its characters.
I stood before her as she was slowly crumbling away.
Her gaze was curious, wondering who I was and what I wanted with her.
She didn't bother moving as I approached her, no longer capable of doing so.
I threw the vial I held at her and received a confused stare in return.
Perhaps it was a mistake, but it was one I was willing to make.
I needed allies for my goal, ones with connections.
"It should have been around here…" I muttered in annoyance as I explored the festering sewer tunnels, my nose throbbing as it tried to get used to the rancid odor once again.
"Weren't those your exact words an hour ago?" Archer commented with a shrug as he floated next to me.
My left eye twitched at that remark. "Maybe I wouldn't have gotten lost if someone didn't keep distracting me every minute!"
"Or maybe you could have avoided all of this in the first place if you actually stayed in bed instead of returning here. Most people tend to sleep after a fight like last night."
As much as I didn't want to admit it, he wasn't exactly wrong.
After the battle with Andreea, we were fortunate enough to get out of the sewers without any additional hindrances. It was also a good thing that Griselda had apparently stationed a back up medical team at the surface in case things went south down here, which sadly they did.
That being said, all three of us received proper medical attention and were out of any immediate danger. When we were properly patched up and recovered enough; Griselda suggested we each take some time off to rest up prior to the meeting before once more discussing what happens next. After that, each of us went our separate ways, all of us agreed to meet up at a certain location at noon.
My trip back to the hotel was fruitless one though. When I got back to my room I was just unable to feel at ease. I must have spent over two hours reflecting over what had happened earlier in my room without as much as bathing or even changing out of my foul smelling clothes.
I just couldn't relax… not after everything that happened mere hours ago.
"I couldn't have slept even if I wanted to, I was too worked up to do it." I replied dryly.
In spite of feeling so physically and mentally exhausted, I just couldn't calm down or allow myself to rest.
After pacing around my hotel room for roughly half an hour, I decided to look for something else to keep my mind preoccupied until the agreed upon meeting time with the others.
"So you thought that returning to the sewers where you almost got turned into a vampire's entrée was the solution. Truly your genius knows no bounds."
"More like your mouth knows no bounds." I kicked at a pebble in annoyance at his retort. In the end it was true, when I couldn't think of anything better to do to waste time, I did indeed decide to come back down here to the sewers to look around. It was also to ensure that there wasn't anything else down here that was a danger to the city above that might have been missed.
An amused laugh soon followed. "Not the first time I've been told that, though it's mostly women that do it."
"Why am I not shocked?" I rolled my eyes at him.
There was a brief pause before he started speaking again. "... You didn't get that one did you?"
"Was there something I missed?"
"No… considering it's you who I'm talking with, I should temper my expectations."
I chose to ignore him and instead turned my focus back onto the rubble and debris scattered across the floor. A minute after following its trail I arrived at my destination.
The hidden room that Andreea sent me crashing into during our fight.
After examining the location for a bit I noticed that the structure was quite damaged.
"Huh… I guess the wall eventually toppled over, not that surprising now that I think about it." I muttered to myself as I carefully began moving the debris away, keeping track of the still standing structure careful not to trigger a collapse and have several heavy stones fall on top of me.
"I agree, it was just an innocent victim of your incredibly hard head ramming its way through it."
My hand rubbed the bridge of my nose, the ache of annoyance all too present. "Must you always ruin things for me?"
"Oh I dunno, must you always get yourself half killed whenever a new enemy appears?" I refused to look his way, if his face looked anything remotely as smug as his voice sounded, I didn't want to look at it. "Try to consider that since I'm renting the back of your mind, I go out with you if you croak. So I think that gives me some liberty to complain."
As much as it annoyed me to admit, he had a valid point. "It's not like I try to get myself hurt or anything…"
"No, of course not, and yet you still get yourself into situations that would have killed a normal human a long time ago."
It's better if it's me than others.
With the entrance finally cleared I slowly slipped inside the room, taking in the sight of all the tomes and parchments scattered across the floor. After picking one of said books up and flipping a few pages through it, I couldn't help but stare in awe. "I was right, these are magical tomes."
"Congratulations, now you can put 'wanna be treasure hunter' in your resume." Strangely, I managed to endure the urge to throw the tome in my hand at his head. "Do you even understand anything written in it?"
I felt a sweat drop run down my face. "I don't have to, right now I'm simply collecting them for safe keeping, I can analyze them later."
"You really have no idea what's written in them do you?"
My right eye twitched strongly, a sigh of resignation soon following. "Yeah, I don't understand anything written in it. There I admit it, are you happy now?"
While I could physically read what was written, I couldn't make heads nor tails of what it meant. It was akin to showing a third grader a triple integral problem and asking if he understood it.
"Admitting you are wrong, progress." The older man shrugged as he scanned the room curiously. "But on a serious note, what do you plan to do with all of these things? Chances are most of them probably won't match up with your unique magical disposition."
Well I guess I didn't have to explain why I was collecting them in the first place, and he probably was correct. I won't be sure until I check all of them but if they're anything like the first one that I flipped through there's a big chance that whatever research or knowledge they possess might be incompatible with me. Sella did explain to me that my unique magical affinity severely limited me with what I can and can't learn magic wise.
If it does turn out that I have no use for them, I might as well give them to someone else that will benefit from them. "Perhaps some people back home will enjoy checking them out."
"Whatever floats your boat."
Slowly I pulled out my duffle bag and began carefully packing them. "Well, guess I'll stash them back at the hotel until I leave. Speaking of which I should probably get going, I have to meet with the others."
"... Make sure you take a shower first, I'm sure you don't want the people on the streets to assume you're homeless."
My hand stopped packing and instead pulled away at the collar of my shirt, taking a quick whiff of myself. I instantly regretted it. "Yeah... I think I will need a couple of those."
Laeticia sighed as she leaned over the counter, her overall mood being rather depressed. As for why she was like this since yesterday, it was because Shirou didn't show up to hang out.
Sure, the guy did tell her that he was in town with work and wasn't sure if his schedule would allow him to meet up with her, but she was a positive thinker by nature and hoped the Japanese youth would eventually show up.
He could've at the very least given her a call and told her he wouldn't be coming, that would have spared her of waiting for three hours in front of the cafe like an idiot.
Blue eyes quickly widened in realization.
Oh wait… she never gave him her number…
Okay, maybe she was just a tiny bit of an airhead afterall.
Still, would it have killed the guy to drop by for one lousy minute and say he wouldn't be able to hang out with her?
A long sigh escaped her lips as she stretched over the cafe counter, just how pathetic was she to get this worked up over a guy she just met?
It wasn't like she was in love or anything, she simply enjoyed the company that Shirou offered her. That and the feeling of living as a normal teenager for once in her life.
Things were completely different before she moved here, the people around her were different… she used to be different. But as the pressures of that life kept building, she had had enough.
She was tired of it all.
When Laeticia couldn't take it anymore she took whatever possessions and money she had on her and ran away without a word, leaving her old life behind.
It wasn't easy, doing a whole one eighty on your life. Leaving was a decision that left a heavy toll on her heart, but what followed after wasn't any less difficult.
Starting a new life wasn't as easy as she thought it would be. There were so many things she had to do like getting a place to stay, getting a job, and not to mention laying low.
They made it look so much easier in movies and comics.
God knows how many packs of instant food she was forced to eat for the first few months just to save a little money.
All of that being all the more difficult when you're all alone.
It was only somewhere along the line later on that she realized something, she didn't know how to interact and live as a 'normal' person. There was no problem with her communicating or anything. Hell, she even had quite the motormouth at times.
However, Laeticia simply felt that she wasn't truly connecting with normal people. No matter how much she smiled and told herself otherwise, the link just wasn't made on her side of the end. She got to meet the locals and befriend most of them, but sadly it was mostly superficial.
No matter who she met, there just wasn't any deep connection she felt from them.
That was until she met Shirou. There was something intriguing about him whenever she was close to him. An elusive sensation that drew her to him, one that she never experienced with anyone else.
And no, it wasn't physical attraction. Sure that was there too, but not the main point that truly fascinated her.
It was something else, deep inside her, she felt a pulse or an echo when she came in contact with him.
The girl looked around in the cafe and outside the window. Luckily for her, there was no one around at the moment, rush hour was over and her boss was out with work. As such she was free to lift her hand in the air and focus, a sword materializing in it the next moment.
Was perhaps Shirou a sacred gear user as well?
Her sacred gear, the Blade Blacksmith, for some reason reacted towards Shirou. This was a new and odd experience altogether, and while she had reacted to other sacred gear users in the past, this felt different.
Honestly she just didn't know, it wasn't like she was a member of the Grigori. She had neither access to their devices that could track and locate sacred gear users, their knowledge they possessed about sacred gears in general. So unless she actually asked Shirou directly if he did have one the benefit of the doubt still stands.
With how many creatures and forms of power there were in the world it was difficult sometimes to tell one from the other.
Laeticia saw things, more than other girls her age should be or were allowed to see in regards to the supernatural, but she was still only a small speck on a much bigger picture.
She sighed and dismissed the sword, allowing herself to drop back down on the counter, just as she heard the doorbell of the cafe ring. Hurray, another client... the girl felt like she should go to a cafe herself for once, rather than spend all day working in one.
"A rough day Laeticia?" A familiar voice asked in a curious tone.
The painful moan that she let out was enough to show her sour mood.
"You don't know the half of it, Shiro-" she paused, blinking a couple of times before lifting her head to be greeted by the sight of a familiar redhead. She didn't waste a beat and jumped back up. "Shirou!"
Time sure has this weird way of flying fast when you have work to do.
That being said, when I finished my trip back to the hotel and went through about three baths, I noticed that it was pretty late so I rushed over here without even properly drying my hair.
Luckily for me it was pretty warm outside so it was dried out by the time I got here.
My arrival at the cafe at the very least was without any issue, and I was surprised to find the previously lively young waitress sitting all gloomily inside.
It was a somewhat of an awkward moment when I called out to her as she seemed to jump out of her skin from the surprise.
As if the situation wasn't already going to be awkward enough from the get go, it took me some effort to force a smile, given that I broke my promise with her. "Hey… sorry I never dropped by yesterday, it was a hectic day and I didn't really have a moment to spare."
Having to tend to Rossweisse took me until noon and Loup Garou's appearance in addition to the overall search for him took me until sunset. Then by the time I was done with the whole Andreea fiasco it was already late in the night.
Whereas I expected a more negative reaction from the waitress, what I got instead was something else entirely.
"What?! No! It's no problem at all! I completely forgot about it myself!" The braided girl laughed heartily, giving me a small nudge on the shoulder. "I mean, it would have been real stupid of me to wait for you all day in front of the cafe or something like that, hahaha."
"That's… great, I guess?" For some reason I didn't buy it, she most certainly was bothered by it. But I chose not to further talk about it, especially since I still have work to do. "Anyway, I know this may be a lot to ask, but do you think it would be any trouble if some associates and I stopped by here for a bit?"
"I mean, it is a cafe, duh." Laeticia remarked as she gestured around us. "So long as you're paying, you're free to bring as many people as you want here, heck, it actually helps if you bring in more clients."
An awkward chuckle escaped my lips. "Just making sure it would be alright, the two that I'm meeting up with are a bit… let's just say they stand out a little, so I had to double check."
Her blue eyes blinked a couple of times before she replied. "I don't judge if you have gay friends, I'm all for LGBT rights."
My face was having a hard time keeping a steady smile, how she drew that conclusion of all things was beyond me. "... That's really… nice of you, ha, ha, but that's not exactly the case."
"Then what's the matter… wait, are those bandages!?" Her shriek felt like something was stabbed into my ears, the young blonde finally taking notice of the bandages around my forehead, chest, and hands. "What happened to you?!"
I sheepishly rubbed the back of my head. "... I guess you can say I got in a fight last night."
Understatement as it was, it is the truth.
Laeticia seemed to ignore me and my personal space. Immediately pulling my hands towards her to inspect them. "Did you see a doctor, should you even be out of bed like this?!"
I retracted my hands and picked up some nearby coffee mugs to show that there wasn't any reason to panic. "I'm okay really, it looks worse than it actually is, a couple nights of sleep and I will be good as new."
She didn't seem very convinced but at the very least stopped panicking. "Are you sure?"
"Would I be here standing all fine and moving about if I wasn't okay?" Somehow I was certain I was giving her a deadpan stare as I spoke.
"... I guess you have a point, just don't push yourself too hard, okay?"
"Don't worry, I won't." I replied with a reassuring smile.
A small cheeky smile followed up from the blonde French girl. "If you're fine, how about some coffee?"
"I think I should wait until the others arrive." There was a ring at the door and my eyes drifted momentarily to it, my face turning neutral as I saw who stepped inside the cafe. "Or I guess I shouldn't."
The catholic nun and the werewolf hybrid eyed me curiously.
"You sure found the cafe quick enough." I remarked to the duo. "It actually took me some time to find it again."
"Let's just say that your cologne could be felt from far away mister Emiya." The beautiful exorcist commented as she held a thumb pointed at the grey haired man besides her.
Perfume? But I wasn't wearing any… ohhh, right. Loup Garou probably knows my scent so that's why they found the place so fast, but she wasn't saying it directly so Laeticia didn't understand it.
Perhaps in hindsight it might have been a better idea to suggest a less public meeting place.
"Will it be okay if we use that table over there Laeticia?" I paused as I noticed how intensely the girl was staring at the duo, concern spread all over her face. "Laeticia?"
She seemed to be unresponsive for a few moments but eventually snapped out of it, smiling at me like nothing happened. "Oh, yes, feel free to use it."
"Are you okay?"
Her smile persisted, but I could tell it was a forced one. "I'm fine, just… noticing that you weren't joking about your friends standing out."
Perhaps there was some truth in that, but I could tell there was more to it, but ultimately chose not to delve further on it. "Yeah, hope it won't be any trouble."
"So do I." Her reply was casual enough but felt foreboding in a way. In spite of that, she still did her job as a waitress properly and warmly greeted her two new clients. "Please this way."
As I looked over at their side I noted Loup Garou seemed indifferent about all of this but the nun was a different matter. "Is something bothering you Griselda-san?"
The glare she aimed at Laeticia was quite intense, but she seemed to hide it the moment I called out to her. "Nothing to concern yourself, just admiring the decor. This is an interesting cafe you chose, mister Emiya."
"Stumbled upon it a day ago, really liked it.'' I remarked offhandedly, trying to keep the conversation going in spite of knowing there was more to this than meets the eye. "Seems private enough to go over our stuff unbothered."
"... Is that so?" The older woman smiled as we all made our way to our table and sat down.
Laeticia returned briefly to us. "Well here are some menus, if you want anything I'll be right at the counter so just wave at me."
"Sure thing." I smiled reassuringly as she left us to our own accord.
With the 'civilian' out of our hair the air around the table had changed and the three of us were ready for our meeting. "How are your wounds Griselda-san, you were probably in the worst condition out of all of us."
"The worst has passed I'd say." she replied casually, albeit a bit surprised. "Give me a few weeks and a day at the spa and I will be back at slaying the unholy and vanquishing heretics in no time."
Although the phrasing was a bit dark, it at least brought me some ease knowing that she will be fine. "... That's good to hear."
The smile that formed on her lips was quite interesting, something between amusement and teasing. "Wishing the best for your enemy is quite vexing mister Emiya."
In spite of her saying that, I couldn't quite see things her way. "... Do you still think of me like that after everything that happened?"
Griselda eyed me for a long ten seconds before she finally answered with a sigh.
"I still have doubts regarding you and your allegiances, but I'm fairly certain you are not an enemy." After another brief pause she flashed me a small yet kind smile. "... To me at the very least."
It was a strange feeling I was experiencing. Perhaps it was due to us being in constant conflict and danger last night that I didn't think too much about it.
The nun was an incredibly beautiful woman.
I suddenly felt incredibly awkward and began speaking the first thing that came to my mind. "... So, does that make us friends then?"
Her blue eyes widened staring long at me in disbelief before she let out a small chuckle. "... Let's leave it at acquaintances for now, it's best for both of us that way. You may not be a devil, but you are apparently working with them, which the church hardly approves of. Any sort of association between us would be quite problematic."
Right… I was probably a heathen or sinner in the eyes of the church for associating myself with devils. Though in hindsight, to any normal person unaware of how things work on this side, the idea of working with a 'devil' is a red flag in itself. "... I see."
"Are you two done flirting, or do I need to get you a room?" Loup Garou muttered from his seat in annoyance.
That remark made me feel a tad uncomfortable, but luckily it didn't seem to bother the female exorcist. "Tasteless remark aside, you are right. We should go over this meeting's main objectives before we further indulge ourselves in any personal discussions, any objections?"
"None from me either." I nodded as I shifted my position, resting my chin on my right hand. "So where do we go from here with everything that happened?"
"Considering all that transpired, the aftermath will be handled by the church." The older blue eyed woman began elaborating. "We may have lost the target but we did in turn manage to stop a ghoul outbreak of epic proportions, so that in itself is an accomplishment."
In spite of her saying that, I just felt like I couldn't agree with her. "... Did we really stop it though?"
"... I'm not sure, but this is how things turned out in the end." she sighed in defeat, probably feeling the same as me and not finding this operation a success at all.
"It's not the best turn of events, but if life's taught me something it's that things hardly go how you plan or expect them to turn out." She leaned back in her seat, pinching the bridge of her nose. "You were right mister Garou, we were vastly unprepared for this operation. We expected to fight a relatively strong vampire that was a potential sacred gear user, but we truly have underestimated her. "
Looking back, before I was discovered by them, Loup Garou did warn the squad of exorcists that there wasn't enough manpower for this operation… sadly his warnings fell on deaf ears.
"Not like we can do anything about it now." The Frenchman scoffed, the subtle apology made by the nun appearing to piss him off more than anything. "Plus, her awakening her balance breaker in the middle of battle was something even I did not take into consideration given the circumstances."
I couldn't help but remark on that statement. "Was it really that unexpected?"
Griselda was the one that answered my question. "Sacred gears are quite the tricky gadgets. Achieving a balance breaker from what I know requires more than simply training yourself and mastering usage of the gear itself. There are a lot of varying factors that can trigger it's balance breaker, some which are unique to each individual alone." she paused for a moment and shook her head. "We're getting off topic. If you want info on balance breakers and sacred gears, seek out the Grigori, they're the best source."
The discussion that followed was mostly us going over everything that happened last night, sharing perspectives to debate and see if there were things that we each saw and the others didn't. Pretty much pooling together all we knew to get a bigger picture of the situation.
Laeticia at one point also dropped by and took our orders.
It wasn't long before she brought them over and we each struggled to enjoy what she brought. While everything did taste good, our mood was sadly quite sour.
Especially when we tried to understand the events that followed after Andreea had disappeared.
Beaten and injured, the three of us trudged our way back to the surface. During which we would witness the most surreal sight along the way. The ghouls that we encountered would completely ignore us and instead focus on attacking other nearby ghouls.
The more I thought about it the more confused and frustrated I became. "No matter how much I tried wrapping my head around it, I just couldn't figure her out. Why would she bother to gather so many ghouls, only to then make them kill each other?"
Among the long list of questions the encounter with the vampiress had left me with, that one was most certainly one of the top ones.
It had truly baffled the three of us.
Griselda took a small sip of her tea and answered after a long sigh. "Hard to say… it was a blessing for us since we were hardly in any condition to fight the remaining hundreds of ghouls, but the question still remains as to why she did it."
True… the way I see it, we could've easily died last night if Andreea would have ordered the remaining ghouls to attack us. We were just that tired and injured, barely able to even walk let alone fight.
If her objective truly was to kill us, she had all the means to do it.
Yet… she chose to let us go and instead ordered her ghouls to kill each other.
"Maybe she just had no more need for them." I eventually muttered as my chin rested in the palm of my hand. "Messed up as it was, she tried creating this outbreak in the first place because she thought it would give her an 'answer' she desperately craved."
Momentarily her expression flashed through my mind, the blood stained look of sheer joy before she achieved her balance breaker. "Perhaps our battle had given her just the answer she sought and no longer had any reason to go through it anymore."
"She could have let them go free in the city. It would have been a perfect distraction, the ensuing chaos would have made it so we lost track of her entirely… and yet she ordered all of them to kill each other." The exorcist rubbed her temples in frustration. "Even if she did accomplish her goal and no longer had any need for her outbreak plan, getting rid of such a large force of ghouls was still an out of character choice if you ask me."
I wasn't sure if that was true. She murdered so many people and yet I couldn't truly think of her as genuinely evil or malicious.
Her mindset was messed up, there was no debate there, but it wasn't something I could simply write off as her being 'evil' and call it a day.
"We may never know what she truly wanted…'' I remarked as I stared at my untouched cup of coffee, probably lukewarm by now. "All I can hope is that she never attempts something like this again."
"... She won't." a brusque voice spoke out.
My tired eyes slowly drifted to the side and stared at him curiously.
"How can you be so sure?" I asked Loup Garou somewhat skeptical.
He simply shrugged in response. "Call it instinct."
"Well, who am I to doubt a werewolves instinct." I truly hoped he was right, we stopped Andreea last night but there's no telling if she could be stopped should she decide to do it all over again.
And if I were perfectly honest… I don't know what would happen if I faced Andreea once again.
I shook my head and tried not to think about it, shifting my attention to the catholic nun. "... You said the church will handle the aftermath, what exactly will happen?"
"First things first, cleaning the crime scene takes priority, there are a lot of undead remains down there that need to be disposed of before it attracts other troubles." She elaborated in a professional manner. "The perimeters will have to be explored and searched for anything left by the vampire, to see if she left any items of value or anything that may give some clues about anywhere she may head to or any people she was in contact with."
There was a sudden feeling of cold crawling down my back as I processed that last part. "... So basically anything left there should stay as it is until the church comes and checks it out."
"That about sums it up."
My face was struggling to maintain a neutral expression. "... I see."
"Ladies and gentlemen, our boy is officially a thief."
I wanted so badly to rebuke Archer on that remark but the worst part was that he was actually spot on. "What do you do if you find odd stuff like magic weapons or magic tomes?"
"Weapons normally would be repurposed by the church and used if deemed useful, magical tomes or other similar arcane research are usually disposed of or put under lockdown."
While I understood the weapons part, the part about the research confused me. "Why's that, seems like a waste to me?"
Griselda didn't miss a beat as she answered. "The church's doctrine deems them as pagan arts and does not encourage their study."
"... Still seems like a waste to me."
"Give it a rest kid, it's not like we will find any magic research there." Loup Garou interjected suddenly. "The vampire was many things but a sorceress she wasn't, I would have known."
… Now that he mentions it, Andreea didn't seem to display any sort of spells during our fight, she fought us using her sacred gear exclusively, she hardly even showed any of the vampiric powers her kind possessed that the nun mentioned previously.
If I take that into account, plus the fact the room where I found the tomes was blocked off. There's a good chance someone else entirely stashed them away there.
Though that may be the case, perhaps I should tell her that-
"Don't. Just don't." Archer's tone was practically screaming at how much he was against my idea."It doesn't have to do with the vampire so they're yours to keep, you never know what you could find in them.
"Is it really the right thing to do?"
The groan he made at my question was steeped in annoyance. "It's the 'obvious' thing to do. If you have that much of a guilty conscience over it, compromise. Check them out, see if there's anything in them that matters and mail them to the church when you're done."
"... Oh, fine!"
"So what happens after all of that is done?" I asked with a sigh.
"We will seal off the entrances towards those sections of the sewers, the last thing we want is for anybody to randomly stumble upon them."
"... Yeah, that would be bad." We did spend a lot of time navigating those tunnels and if someone got down there even if there wasn't anything dangerous left, it's very easy to get lost in that maze of sewer tunnels. "What about you Griselda-san, where do you go from here?"
"Given the events, I've been called back to the Vatican to report and recuperate. The cleaning and investigation will be handled by other church officials." The nun took a moment and allowed herself a long and tired sigh. "And if I'm perfectly honest, I'm not in the mood to handle any of this."
I didn't make any more comments on the matter, between the three of us currently at the table she was the one that suffered the most loss during this incident.
My eyes momentarily drifted at the other male present but was cut off before I could even say anything. "Before you ask, I'm not sure where I go from here."
That answers that I guess.
"By the way, miss, does this cafe happen to have a bathroom?" Griselda spoke rather loudly as Laeticia was cleaning a nearby table.
When I looked at the french girl she seemed rather tense for a moment before she finally answered with a smile. "Sure, first one on the right over there."
The older woman nodded and slowly got up, supporting herself on the table but her face twisted in pain. "Would you be so kind as to help me go there, my leg makes it a bit difficult to walk even short distances."
There was a heavy pause before she finally nodded. "... Okay."
For some reason I couldn't help but stare as Laeticia helped Griselda walk, feeling like there was something more here that I was missing. "What was that about?"
"Dunno, don't care." The werewolf hybrid shrugged in indifference.
Over a minute had passed as we sat at the table in silence with neither of us saying a word. I noticed the uneasiness on the Frenchman's face as he was deep in thought about something.
"Feel like talking about what's bothering you?" I stopped beating around the bush and asked him. Earning me a raised eyebrow from the man. "Look it doesn't take a genius to figure out this whole fiasco messed you up, so talking about it might help."
"And why would I do that with you of all people?" His arms crossed as he glared at me in annoyance. "Last time I checked we weren't pals."
He did say that, but I didn't back away. "No, but that doesn't mean I don't want to help you."
Pale yellow eyes rolled to the side at my remark. "You're a dumbass, helping the guy that's been dissing you this whole time."
"... So, what happened?"
There was a heavy silence at first as he stared me dead in the eyes. Eventually he let out a sigh in defeat seeing that I wouldn't leave it alone and finally spoke.
"...It's what the vampire told me after I snapped her neck." His voice was gruff and strained, eyes staring aimlessly at his hands. "I was so focused on getting back at her for what she did to my mom that I failed to notice something crucial about her."
He's teeth looked like they struggled not to bite his lips. "... I knew her."
For a moment I felt like time slowed down, my eyes widening in shock. "...What?"
"Or it's more precise to say I knew her from somewhere, but I was so blinded by rage that I didn't even realize it." He reached for the inside of his jacket and pulled out a file case, throwing it on the table. "I called in a favor last night after we got back and had these files sent over."
I slowly picked up the files and began curiously flipping through them. At first glance it seemed to be a report of some kind, tracking the activity and whereabouts of a certain family. There were pictures on each member and much to my own confusion I felt like one of the people in the pictures seemed familiar.
My hands froze when I looked at the last of the pictures, one depicting the youngest daughter of the family. At first glance she seemed like your typical girl albeit pretty, nothing in particular that made her stand out, but I knew better. There was an obvious ten years or so gap, but I could still recognize her. My mouth felt dry as I uttered my next words. "... That's Andreea."
Much to my own confusion, the werewolf shook his head. "No, her name is Elena, or at least that was her name before she changed it to Andreea."
I kept reading the files but what was written in here wasn't helping me at all. After reaching a dead end I called out to the man who apparently knew her. "... Just what is the story between you two?"
"It was my first hunt, I was brought along in an extermination of a vampire family that gathered too much attention in the city they settled in." he elaborated, maintaining a stoic expression. "It was a cut and dry mission, go in there and kill them. Of course I was there just to observe, nothing more."
"They didn't know what hit them, we went in and took them out without much issue." In spite of saying this there wasn't anything remotely prideful in his voice, quite the opposite. "The mother was first to fall, she tried to buy some time for the husband and the three kids to run away but she clearly wasn't a trained fighter. The husband didn't even get the chance to try to reach the staircase before they caught him and killed him as well. Seeing this caused the older brother to snap and try to fight back. The older sister also stepped in to help him out and buy the youngest sibling some time to run away. You can imagine how it turned out."
"... What about the youngest child?" I knew she survived, but I had to know what led to it.
"We set up a barrier the moment we got there and would have known if someone left through it. By the time everyone else was dead it was not triggered."
It didn't take long to connect the dots. "...That meant she was still in the house."
His hands tightened around the table edges. "I separated from the group and tried to find her on my own, I thought I could make myself noticed if I found the target… and I did."
"I still remember it, opening that closet door, expecting to be attacked by some bloodthirsty monster." For the first time, his eyes were filled with shame and regret. "What I saw was a terrified little girl, balling her eyes out while trying desperately to muffle her own sobbing in order not to be caught."
It wasn't wrong.
"One of the people saw me in that room and called me out, asked if the room was clear. By all means I should have shouted that I found her, maybe just move aside and let them deal with her. Even if I was getting cold feet and felt unable to deal with her the others most certainly wouldn't have had this problem. It was at that moment that I let my conscience get the better of me."
It wasn't wrong.
"I told them that there was no one there. When he left I closed the door of the closet and whispered to her, that whatever she did to stay hidden until she heard a knock on her window.
Afterwards I went out and triggered the bounded field, tricking the others to believe that she was the one that triggered it and ran away. They instantly sought after her and left me behind to keep watch over the house. When I knew that everyone was gone far enough I knocked on her window to signal her. There were no words exchanged between us. I only pointed to her to go in the other direction and she ran away."
It wasn't wrong.
"It's been so long… I actually forgot about her. Trying to act like she was dead and I never made that choice." he leaned back in his chair, neck bending up to stare at the ceiling. "I never thought that doing so would lead to all of this."
It wasn't wrong that he chose to save someone.
"... You were a kid." I remarked strongly, yet I couldn't look him in the eyes. "You chose not to kill another scared and defenseless child."
He did the right thing morally… and yet it turned out to be the wrong thing to do.
It shouldn't be wrong…
Saving someone shouldn't be wrong!
"Just because your choice may have been a mistake I don't think it was the wrong one to make." The more I spoke the harder it was becoming to keep this up, this contradiction felt like it was eating me from the inside out. "If I right now would face that choice, I would have made the same one as you did."
"Even if you know it's a gamble?" His eyes drifted at me and stared in cold disinterest. "Knowing that who you spare may become consumed by vengeance or madness and become a monster that hurts and kills others?"
"..." In spite of trying to speak up, words refused to come forward.
Perhaps I didn't have a concrete answer to give…
Or maybe I just knew there was no point in looking for one.
I suddenly questioned all that I knew.
My black and white worldview began getting twisted with each other turning into shades of grey.
With Kurosaiga I didn't have a choice. The man was so broken on the inside and sought death by battle, there was no other way it could have ended besides one of us dying that night.
With the Shahnaz, the Queen of Segrif Zepar, I did a similar gamble in question and she eventually chose to save me when she could've easily let me die.
With Andreea though… if… if last night's events would have gone slightly different and I was faced with delivering the final blow… would I do it?
Logic dictates that she had to die.
And yet, there was the smallest part of me that sympathized with her and wished she could've been saved.
"You're just as messed up as I am."
Her words lingered.
… Doubts of my own conviction began to form.
It was the sound of Loup Garou's coffee cup clicking against the plate that broke me out of my thoughts. "I guess… when you decide to spare someone you must also accept the chance of it coming back to bite you later on." He spoke with lack of energy in his voice, a deep weariness ever so present instead. "I never had to deal with this before… and I don't wish it to anyone else, cuz I'll be frank it fucking sucks."
Before I could speak up again the Frenchman picked up the files and stashed them back. A sudden shadow looming over me. "You gentlemen seem to be in a rather grim discussion, care to share?"
The glare he gave the female church warrior was probably hard to do given his current emotional state, but he managed to mask his inner turmoil from her. "Nah, I did enough mopping for a day. Don't feel like doing another round."
"As you wish." The nun could only sigh at this.
Not missing a beat he changed the subject at hand. "Do we have anything else we had to go over?"
"No, I believe we covered most of our main concerns."
With a small nod the Frenchman stood up and fixed his jacked. "Well if that's the case, I have no reason to sit around here. Got some shit to go over so I will leave you two at it."
"Don't forget about your report." she remarked with narrowed eyes. "You may not be a member of the church but you still need to make an official statement on your part."
He sighed in annoyance and nodded. "Yeah, yeah, I'll send it later."
As tired as the nuns eyes were, they softened briefly for the man who she fought alongside with. "I wish you the best of luck mister Garou."
The werewolf seemed a bit surprised by sudden words of encouragement. He grumbled something under his voice before he spoke. "I would say it was a pleasure working with you, but we both know better."
"In any case I hope next time we see each other it will be as allies again, I don't want to fight against a crazy hag like you."
If being called 'crazy hag' by him bothered the older woman, she didn't show it, though one of her eyes twitched at it.
"Also, kid." his gaze and attention finally shifted towards me. "Deliver a message for Sona for me, will you?"
I nodded and gestured to him to go on. "Tell her that the offer she made me a while back, I'll give it some thought."
While there was context missing, and I didn't know what exactly he meant by that, I accepted his request.
"I'll see that she gets it." I slowly extended my hand out to the man, hoping we could at the very least part on good terms unlike how we first met.
"You do that." His larger hand grabbed mine and we exchanged a firm handshake. The man's face was the same stoic expression he always had, but his eyes seemed less hostile compared to how they were initially. "Au revoir."
"Goodbye…" I said softly as he walked away.
After the cafe door rang Loup Garou was gone, and my mission was officially over.
With the chaos that ensued recently I actually almost forgot why I was even here in the first place. To locate and stop the werewolf from his hatred fueled vendetta.
It's hard to say whether I succeeded or failed at that last night.
If anything, things turned out this way by mere chance and I don't know where they will go from here.
As uncertain as the future regarding the man known as Loup Garou may be, one thing was for sure, the anger that blindly drove him up until now had died out. He won't be going after Andreea, not for a while at least.
A heavy sigh escaped my mouth as I looked back at the nun.
"I guess I will be on my way as well." The nun spoke as she got up from the table, wincing slightly due to her injured ankle. "The danger has passed but I still have much to go over, writing reports and making arrangements for those that fell in the line of duty."
"Wait." As busy as she made herself out to be, I still stopped her right before she started to leave. I had to know before she left. "... Are you holding out okay?"
My question didn't seem to surprise her but it did seem to affect her to some extent. Her slightly widening eyes soon turned neutral and uninterested.
Yet, her hands trembled ever so slightly. "Barely… I may appear fine and able to strike a smile but I feel that my legs will give out on me the moment I loosen my heart."
It was just as I feared.
Out of the three of us, Griselda was the one that lost the most in this altercation. She lost fifteen comrades last night, many of which may have been close to her for a number of years.
It would have been truly bizarre if she didn't show any concern for what had happened.
My knuckles turned white from how hard I was squeezing my fists.
"... It's not your fault."
She was the team leader.
For many she was the one responsible for their lives.
It wasn't that surprising that she blamed herself for their deaths.
That feeling of knowing you could have done something more, but wasn't able to.
I knew of it.
And it was excruciating.
"Perhaps it isn't… but perhaps it is." She muttered slowly as her eyes drifted off to the side.
"I accepted a long time ago that our lives can be cut short at the slightest misstep." her voice was flat and distant, blue orbs slowly gazing into mine. "It's not easy, but it is the way it is. Those left behind... have to learn to live with it. "
My fists tightened even further. "That isn't fair…"
"It isn't…" she made a cross motion with her hand and offered a silent prayer, most likely to those that have fallen. "... Nor does it become any easier to deal with. "
I offered a customary moment of silence until the nun spoke once more. "A bit of food for thought mister Emiya. Keep a close eye on those around you."
I looked at her curiously and to my confusion she was looking at me with a rather serious expression.
"I don't know what sort of deal you have with Sona Sitri and the devils side in general, but I will keep quiet about it for now. However, your abilities seem quite fascinating and may attract a lot of unwanted attention from distasteful individuals."
Her eyes narrowed dangerously at this.
"The church itself would be quite interested in a man with the ability to create weapons capable of slaying the unholy." she made sure to punctuate the point she wanted to make. "The barrage of swords you used at the end was a most fascinating technique."
A cold feeling brushed against my back as realization hit me. "... You weren't unconscious."
Andreea had knocked her out. When I was finally free again and checked her vitals she was still out cold.
"I was for a minute or so but I woke back just in time to see that impressive arsenal of swords tear apart the vampire." she elaborated with a curious glint in her eyes. "When she was gone I passed out once more."
"So I can't help but be somewhat intrigued by your powers. Especially since your powers are not the byproduct of a sacred gear."
Damn, guess the cat was out of the bag. I hoped that I could skirt the issue by saying my tracing was a sacred gear in order to avoid attracting too much attention. My main concern on this mission besides Loup Garou was staying low and not making a scene that may come back to bite me later.
It was annoying to deal with, but I had no other option at this point. "When did you figure it out?"
"Originally I considered your powers to be sacred gear based, and yet you showed that you didn't know much about sacred gears to begin with which gave me some suspicions." her eyes half closed and gave me a deadpan stare. "What convinced me was the fact that you just admitted it a minute ago."
This was one of those moments when I felt like a dumbass and wanted to slap myself. "... Talk about digging your own hole."
"It happens to everyone." Her remark wasn't ironic or anything, in fact she sounded more understanding than anything. "However you can be at ease, I'm not planning to report you."
Now that took me by surprise. "You're not?"
"I will write in my report the appearance of a mysterious third party that aided us in this operation, don't get me wrong." for a moment her eyes seemed to sparkle and she gave me a mischievous smile. "But I will omit the name and physical description of said person, after all it's very common to be disguised and not to give out your real name in our line of work."
It took me a second to take all of this in. If she truly will do as she says that means that the political aftermath that Sona feared won't take place.
I spent some time thinking about how things will turn out once word got out that I, someone working under a devil master, was secretly waltzing in the Catholic Church's territory.
The fact that the female exorcist had given me a slap on the wrist and won't reveal my identity probably just saved me from a political scandal.
I bowed my head to the woman. "Thank you, I appreciate it."
"Consider it compensation for your services." she waved her hand to gesture to me to lift my head up. "I'd also offer a monetary one, but something just tells me you're not the kind that is in it for the money."
That remark honestly made me chuckle from the irony. "It's really surprising how well you can read me."
"Hardly." The tone she cut me off with was quite odd. "You're like a book that has its cover in one language while the inside of it is in another one entirely."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"That you appear simple to understand on the surface but there is so much more hidden beneath." there was a pause as a sigh escaped her lips. "Perhaps that's why that woman appeared so fascinated by you."
"..." I didn't know why but that remark did not sit well with me.
"Well it's time I also took my leave." The nun breathed out as she got up from and straightened herself, forcing a weak smile. "Unlike our grumpy friend that left, I did find our encounter, as difficult as it was, a pleasant one. I pray we shall meet on better terms in the future."
It felt like our talk ended too soon… like there were still things we had left to talk about. But I didn't have the right nor the time to talk anymore with the beautiful nun. We both had other duties to see through.
"... I hope so Griselda-san."
Her hand was brought up and she made a cross motion with it. "May God watch over you Shirou Emiya. Goodbye."
Just as with Loup Garou she left after giving her final regards.
Once the nun was gone I rested my head on the table and let out a heavy sigh. The day just felt so damn long.
I lifted my head and looked at Laeticia with what I presumed was a curious stare. "... Do I look that way?"
"Pretty much, your eyes look like they want a very long break." She deadpanned, but there was subtle concern in her voice. "You should really go and get some sleep."
"No, if I fall asleep now I doubt I'll wake up anytime soon." I remarked as my hand eagerly rubbed my eyes to reduce the burning sensation in them if even by a bit. "My flight is in a couple of hours and I wouldn't want to miss it. I can sleep on the plane."
The tiny bit of information I just gave made her bright blue eyes lose their shine. "... Oh right, you did say you were in town only for three days."
"... I guess."
"That means you probably don't have time to hang around do you?"
There was a pause as I realized what was bothering her. Laeticia was probably hoping that we could spend some time together now that I was done with my 'work' but sadly I was also out of time. All I could now was sigh in defeat and bow my head in front of her. "... Sorry I couldn't keep my promise."
"Nah, it's okay, you warned me from the start that you won't have that much time for fun." In spite of laughing it off and trying to appear fine, I could tell that she was bothered by this. "Plus it's not like we didn't get to hang out at all, that day we spent together was the most fun I had in a long time."
… She wasn't wrong.
If I hadn't met her that day I would've focused on my mission exclusively and never really went out of my way to explore the city. Plus even if I did so, I doubt I could've visited so many places and seen so many new things the way she showed me.
A small and somewhat bitter smile spread on my face. "I also had a great time with you."
She gave me a similar smile, though her's seemed much more difficult to hold. "... I guess you need to go now, right?"
Looking over at my watch I tried not to make a worried face, I wasn't exactly late, but I didn't really have any more time left to spend here. A couple of minutes tops. "Yeah…"
Her hands wrapped around mine, small and delicate, yet I could feel a surprising number of calluses present on them. "Oh well, it was short but I'm glad I met you Shirou."
"Me too Laeticia." It was quite the bittersweet way to leave but I tried to at the very least smile.
"Oh come here!" Before I could react she pulled me into a tight bear hug, burying her face into my chest, her head smacking me a bit in the chin. She probably didn't notice that and continued speaking. "... I'm gonna miss you."
In all honesty I wasn't too sure what I was supposed to do in this kind of situation. Biding others farewell like this without knowing if I'll ever see them again was leaving me with a bitter taste in my mouth.
With nothing else coming to mind that I could think of, I simply went with the flow, wrapping my arms around her and returning the hug. In spite of how awkward it felt.
"... Same here."
"Goodbyes sure are stupid." she sighed, her head still buried in my chest.
They sure were.
In spite of barely getting to know Loup Garou and Griselda, I found it a bit hard to say goodbye the way we did.
It was really strange…
Perhaps I just never learnt to say goodbye and that's why I find it so difficult.
If I couldn't say goodbye without feeling down about it, then I had to find an alternative.
Slowly I put my hands around Laeticias shoulders and gently pushed her away, just enough so she could see my face.
"How about we don't say 'goodbye' then?" I asked the braided girl with a soft smile. "How about, 'see you later'?"
Her response wasn't immediate, the girl staring at me for a few seconds before breaking out into a loud chuckle. "... Not very likely, but I think it's nicer this way."
It wasn't much, but seeing her laugh like that made me feel a bit better about things.
"Just a sec," before I could react she dashed out over at the nearby counter. A minute later she was back and with a piece of paper in hand. "Here, call me sometimes, you know stay in touch. If you're ever in Paris again give me a heads up, we could plan something in advance next time."
I momentarily checked the paper and gazed at the phone number on it. The chances were rather slim for me visiting Paris again, but they weren't nonexistent. You didn't know where life may lead you after all. I folded the number and stashed it in my pocket, smiling at the girl that made my stay in this city be more than just a job assignment. "Sure thing."
Much to Laeticia's surprise and my own for the matter I gave her another soft hug of my own initiative. "Bye."
When I broke the embrace the girl was giving me a cheeky smile, but I could see she was forcing herself not to tear up. "Don't you mean 'see you later'?"
"Yeah, see you later Laeticia."
It wasn't the best way to give our farewells, but I believe it also wasn't the worst one.
Once I was outside I couldn't help but reflect about all of this for a bit.
She was right.
It was short, but it still stands.
Saying goodbye sure is hard.
Spending time with them, getting to know them, and being forced to leave due to circumstances.
In addition it seems that the weather decided to be rather ironic with me and started to rain.
Just great, like getting completely soaked was the last thing that I needed before I left.
As if I didn't have enough to do as it is. I still had to get back to the hotel, pack my stuff, find a way to deliver those tome's back home, and-
I have to get souvenirs for everyone back home! And I still need to get Ayako an apology gift for standing her up with the movie!
There was no time for me to spend moping around!
Laeticia stared at the rain outside the window and couldn't help but lament at how appropriate it was. Just like the turmoil in her heart.
One that wasn't caused by Shirou.
The girl was presently busy mopping the floor but her mind was barely in it, all she could do was ponder at what had happened in the bathroom earlier.
She really wasn't expecting Griselda Quarta of all people to walk in the cafe she worked in today.
Even more so she hadn't expected what went down in the bathroom either.
The moment the waitress and nun had stepped inside the bathroom, things immediately turned around. Griselda had pushed Laeticia aside and positioned herself in front of the door to cut off any escape route for the young waitress.
The beautiful woman had a complex expression present on her face, a mix between anger and bewilderment. "What are you doing here, Laeticia?"
Laeticia for one wasn't intimidated. Okay, maybe she was a little… okay maybe a lot more than a little, but she hid it well under a mask of indifference. "Earning a bit above minimum wage?"
That remark made a vein throb atop the older woman's forehead.
"I see your sense of humor hasn't disappeared as you did months ago." she said with a sharp laugh. "And of all the places you could have chosen to hide, you picked Paris? Really?"
Hiding in your hometown sounded plain stupid.
"What can I say, sometimes the most obvious place they would look for me is the best since no one would be dumb enough to do that." The French girl shrugged casually. "Also, no need to make such a fuss about it. It's not like I'm some criminal or something, I just decided to leave the church unannounced, maybe my resignation letter got lost in the mail."
Which was actually a nice idea now that she thought about it. She could have written a long colorful letter towards the church, and end it with a 'P.S. I'm leaving the church.' and add a 'P.S.S. You guys suck.' on the back.
Now she was bummed out she didn't think about it, that would have been hilarious.
Oh well, she had other stuff to deal with right now.
"We both know that's not how it works, you can't just leave whenever you want." Griselda did her best not to snarl at the girls attitude. "Last time I checked desertion was also considered a crime."
"Sure it is, why don't you call the cops on me then." Laeticia rolled her eyes as she further commented. "And what will you tell them that I deserted, an ancient secret religious organization bent on killing and protecting people from the unholy?" She took a moment and laughed at it herself. "They would think you're either crazy or lighted far too much incense."
"Is everything a joke with you girl?" Griselda unceremoniously snapped at the younger woman. Her nerves stretched to the limit, and Laeticia's blase attitude only made it worse. "You know I could easily call and inform the church that you are here."
Laeticia wasn't impressed, playing absent-mindedly with one of her golden locks. "And by the time those idiots get here I will be long gone, the only thing left will be my happy face drawn in chalk on the street sign menu."
"Or I could stop you right now and drag you back to the Vatican."
"Oh, that could happen most certainly, in most cases that is. However your leg does seem rather messed up among other things, so while I may not usually beat you in a fight Sister, I think I have a pretty good chance today."
The nuns' blue eyes narrowed coldly at her former comrade. "Is that a fact? "
"Why don't we find out? " Laeticia's arm was already outstretched and poised to create a sword.
The atmosphere around them became heavy and still, both women waiting for the other to make the first move.
Griselda didn't like to admit it but she wasn't in the best condition to fight Laeticia right now. Not only was she physically and mentally exhausted, but her injured leg did make it incredibly difficult for her to even stand let alone fight.
It was just as Laeticia said, on any other day she could have easily dealt with her but today wasn't one of those days.
And if she were perfectly honest, Griselda didn't want to fight an old comrade no matter how much she was asking for it.
With a deep breath the nun calmed herself and lowered her guard. "Look Laeticia, I had no idea you were here, and wasn't even in town to look for you in the first place. I have no intention of starting anything here."
Laeticia on her end was having a hard time buying it. "Really, because last time I checked it was your policy not to leave behind any loose ends."
Griselda wasn't sure what bothered her more. The girl's mouth or the fact that she wasn't wrong. "It isn't, but I had a rough night and am really not in the mood for anything else today."
While the older woman's words didn't completely get rid of her doubts, it did make Laeticia lower her guard. "Well this is new, you're usually the 'shoot first ask questions later' kind of girl."
Her left eye twitched ever so slightly. "You're not making this any easier."
"Right, like I can believe you will just leave me alone after finding me here."
"As hard as you may find it to believe, I do not bear any grudge against you for leaving, unlike some other members that did care for you."
"Sure, not like you ever liked me or anything." She remarked with sarcasm oozing from her voice. "I mean you were always chewing me out at each and every misstep."
Griselda wasn't going to deny that accusation. Her behavior towards Laeticia in the past wasn't what people would call kind, but she had her reasons for it. "I did it because you never took things seriously, it was always like a game to you."
The girl in question had enough and finally snapped.
"Well excuse me for not being blindly devoted like you are!" She kept her voice down so the other people in the cafe wouldn't hear her, but her tone was still sharp. "Maybe unlike the others the life of an exorcist wasn't for me! Maybe I tried to make things more bearable by trying to laugh things off! So if you want to throw me under the bus for being a damn human being instead of a zealot then just do it, I don't care!"
The older church warrior was left speechless.
What the girl said in context wasn't so shocking by itself but rather it was due to the fact it was coming from Laeticia of all people.
Since the first day that she knew the girl she was always treating everything with a carefree attitude and a smile. Never did she show any signs of distress or that she was buckling under the pressure of what the life of an exorcist demanded of her.
Then again… most of the people that crumbled underneath it all didn't typically show signs until it was too late.
She had seen it happen more than once over the years. Faith and conviction can only take one so far before they eventually break from what they see and are forced to do in this line of work.
How many of her comrades eventually broke down from all of it?
How many of them sadly chose the easy way out by putting a bullet in their head to end their suffering?
Griselda quickly realized what was the cause of all of this and felt ashamed. Assuming that she instantly figured things out about the girl without even giving Laeticia a chance to explain herself.
She really wasn't much better than the church's corrupt elements like this.
"Don't!" Laeticia wasn't going to let her finish that sentence. "... Just don't."
She didn't need any pity.
Not hers, nor anyone else's for the matter.
She chose this and she was damn proud about it.
What followed was a long and heavy silence between them. Eventually Griselda sighed in defeat, all animosity she had previously shown now gone.
"... This isn't going anywhere. " she took a moment and rubbed the bridge of her nose, after everything she went through she really needed a long rest. "You are free to believe and do whatever you want but I'm not here for you, as such I will overlook seeing you here just this once."
The girl rolled her eyes and allowed a sarcastic smile to grace her features. "My, how kind of you."
"I always cared about my comrades in arms." The nun remarked bitterly, the faces of her fallen friends flashing in her mind, forcing her to bite the inside of her lips. "Just don't give me a reason to regret this. Please Laeticia."
So that was a thing.
In all honesty she didn't know what to think.
Sure the church was a clusterfuck of self-righteous hypocrites as a whole, but not all of them deserved the middle finger.
Griselda in particular, in spite of having a ten foot stick up her ass and in desperate need for a good lay, was still a person that kept her word. If she said she won't rat her out, then she wouldn't.
Laeticia knew that from the start and honestly didn't need to keep yanking her chain like that. Not needed to yes, funny as hell, oh most certainly.
That being said she had no need to panic about the idea of church officials coming knocking on her door when she's busy in the midst of knitting dough for the pastries.
There was no need to worry… and yet she couldn't calm herself down.
She wasn't much of a believer in signs anymore, but perhaps this might have been a wake up call for her.
Paris in spite of being her hometown is still an area heavily relegated by the church and the chances of her randomly running into their officials in the street was a real possibility, hell there was a good chance someone could stop by this very cafe like Griselda did today.
She now started regretting being super popular within the church and its followers, that meant that most of its members could easily recognize her.
It also didn't help that the church would showcase her at every given moment considering who she is as a person, and the power she inherited.
Her leaving the church wasn't just a matter of losing one of many soldiers, no, when she left they lost a symbolic figure.
Griselda may have closed an eye today, but the others will not, should her location be compromised. They will not stop until they drag her back.
A long sigh followed as she stopped mopping the floor.
She really had no idea where she was heading with her life.
Maybe she should travel for a while or something.
She drained her mop as the bell of the front entrance rang, her eyes still focused on her cleaning implement. "I'm sorry sir, but we are closing right now."
"Ouch, you slam the door in front of an old friend like this, Laeticia, I'm hurt."
Laeticia's eyes went wide as she heard and recognized that voice. Slowly she lifted her head and looked at the two people that entered the cafe. While she never saw the man on the left, the one on the right was one she knew all too well, dressed in an exorcist attire, his red eyes noticeable as always due to the mop of grey hair.
"Siggy?" She slowly muttered in disbelief, the man before her giving a small wave with his hand from his side. A smile spread across her face at the sight of her old friend. The emotions of seeing him again after so long overwhelming her, making her lunge at him, tackling him to the ground. "Siggy!"
Sieg or 'Siggy' as Laeticia playfully nicknamed him, let out a pained groan as the impact to the floor was less than ideal. "Wow, easy there Laeticia, I'm not some crash test dummy to smack around." In spite of saying that he noticed that his friend had no intention of letting go of him, so he had to try a different approach. "Huh, guess you've been munching on sweets lately, you seem a little heavier than the last time we saw each other."
"How rude!" her cheeks puffed up as she let go and delivered a karate chop on the grey haired man's head. "I'll have you know that my weight is the same as always."
Plus a few pounds.
"Sure it is." Sieg rolled his eyes and chuckled lightly, slowly giving Laeticia a proper hug. "Heh, I missed you, you know."
"Same here you big oaf." The braided girl sighed and returned the hug. "Would it have killed you to call or write a letter?"
"Kinda hard to do that when you're a deserter." he remarked as he let go and got up, offering Laeticia a hand so she could follow suit. "Then again you probably know how that feels, am I right?"
She took his hand and straightened herself up, allowing herself a groan to escape. "Tell me about it, I left a couple of months after you did, I really couldn't take it anymore."
"I know what you mean, if I knew you were going to leave as well I would have asked you to come along with me when I left."
"Which you didn't, you jerk." she muttered softly, truth be told it was him leaving that was the final straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. "I was worried about you, you know that?"
His red eyes averted from his friends gaze, great now he was feeling bad for what he did. "... I know, sorry I didn't tell you, it happened so fast and out of nowhere that I didn't get to say goodbye to anyone."
"Speaking of which, why did you leave?" Her voice laced with confusion as she further inquired. "I thought you were content with where you were?"
"I would happen to be the reason for that."
Laeticia looked over on her left side and her cheeks flushed out in embarrassment, all this time she actually forgot that someone else was with her friend and she had been pretty much ignoring him.
Not good, not good at all.
She rubbed the back of her head as she tried to salvage this. "Oh, ehehe, sorry I got all emotional and forgot you were here."
Much to her own surprise, the mysterious man did not appear insulted at all. "Oh no, it was quite enjoyable to watch, it's not often that Sieg here shows his gentle side."
Sieg took some offense to that remark. "You talk like I don't have a gentle side."
"You usually don't." he commented dryly.
"Name an instance when I wasn't gentle."
"The time you broke Georg's glasses?"
"He was being a prick and tried to test out his new spell on me."
"What about the time you and Arthur got into a fight and broke our training grounds, then blamed it on Heracles?"
"Hey, Herc always breaks our training grounds with his explosions and no one complains."
"What about the time you accidentally ate Leo's pudding and blamed it on someone else?"
He paused and looked quite guilty this time. "... Okay that was a dick move on my part."
Leo's a sweet kid, he shouldn't have done that.
"Umm, Sieg, before this discussion gets any more awkward, who is this man?"
The grey haired man blinked as he realized how much they were getting sidetracked. "Oh right, Laeticia, let me introduce you to Cao Cao, I guess you can call him my new boss."
Curiously the blonde eyed the man from head to toe, he was dressed in what appeared to be some kind of school uniform. While she wasn't exactly sure, his features were clearly Asian, maybe Chinese or Korean.
Though there was something else that stuck out to her. "Cow Cow? That's a funny name."
Sieg felt a sweat drop run down his face, not liking where this was going. Luckily for him his boss was pretty chill about it.
"Cao Cao actually, named after the hero from Romance of the Three Kingdoms." He took Laeticia's hand and gave it a gentlemanly kiss. "The pleasure is all mine Miss Laeticia," his grip on her hand tightened ever so slightly. "Or would you mind if I called you Miss Jeanne?"
Her blood ran cold when he called her that name, blue eyes slowly drifting towards her old friend, giving him a betrayed look. "... You told him?"
"Nope, he discovered this all on his own, not only that but Cao Cao here is the one that located you in the first place. When I saw who he was going to recruit I just had to tag along, I couldn't miss out on seeing an old friend."
"Recruit, you say?" she rolled those words on her tongue, a foreboding feeling slowly sinking in.
Cao Cao's confident smile never left him. "Indeed, I came here to officially extend an invitation to our organization."
"And this so called organization, what exactly is its aim?"
His charming smile grew ever so slightly. "Why don't we take a seat so I can give a brief explanation?"
The following hour was spent with Cao Cao explaining all there was to know about his organization, from the recruitment requirements, to its current members, and right up all the way to their end game goal. It was an experience altogether, the man had a sort of charismatic air around him, making even the parts that appeared quite outrageous and even seemed outright crazy feel believable when coming out of his mouth.
"-and that's how I located you and why I decided to extend to you an invitation." He finally concluded his speech, taking a moment of pause before he delivered the most important question. "Now, what is your answer?"
That's what she wanted to say right now.
Truth be told, everything that Cao Cao just told her and what he offered was incredibly tempting and she felt like she would be an idiot to refuse.
And yet… there were still doubts.
Her eyes closed as she took in a deep breath, blue eyes gazing into Cao Cao's when they opened once more. "... As flattering as it is, and a bit creepy, with how you went all the way to find me and all. I will have to refuse, I just don't feel like I'm in a moment of my life to make such commitments."
There was a heavy silence at the table.
That was not the answer the two men expected.
Sieg for one wasn't happy with her answer, not one bit. "Wait Laeticia, just give it a little more thought, people like you are just what we need."
The girl felt bad about it and couldn't look at him, a part of her felt like she was betraying her old friend for refusing, but things were just too complicated at the moment. "Look Sieg, I'm not sure what I want from my life anymore. I didn't leave one organization for me to run and join another one. I'm sorry, I just need time to sort things out before I make any life altering decisions."
Sieg was ready to continue this argument, but his current leader beat him to it. "I understand."
"Eh?" Both former church members blinked in confusion to that statement.
"Why that reaction?" Cao Cao remarked while appearing quite nonchalant in spite of just being turned down. "It's clear that it is not the best moment for you to take such a decision so there's no reason for me to push the issue further."
He crossed his arms and let out a small sigh. "I for one doubt over insistence would lead to anything except making us look desperate."
Laeticia was clearly thrown out of the loop by this, people tend to be more aggressive when it comes to this kind of stuff. "I see… I'm glad you understand."
"Well if anything we did get a good snack out of it, lets go, we still have others to recruit."
"... Right." In spite of nodding, the grey haired man was clearly confused by whatever game Cao Cao was playing.
As the men got up from their seats Cao Cao took a moment and threw in one last remark. "Though I must admit what a shame it really is, it would seem that so many people with potential are either not interested or are under the patronage of the enemies of mankind." a sigh gracing his lips as he turned around to walk away. "Just like your poor little red haired friend."
Laeticia felt a cold shiver run down her back at that last part.
"Wait!" she called out to him, unease quickly building within her. "That last part, what did you mean by that?"
A smile spread all the way to his ears, but he hid it as he turned back to face her. "Nothing much, just that it's such a sad occurence when people who could stand as humanities bastions are the devil's playthings."
Not wasting any time, Cao Cao took out a small crystal globe and put it on the table right in front of Laeticia. Before she could ask about it a recording began playing within it.
The french girls blue orbs widened as she witnessed the final stand that Shirou Emiya took against the devil known as Segrif Zepar.
"Shirou…" his name suddenly felt heavy when she said it. "... Is he a-"
"Devil?" Cao Cao cut her off. "Not at all, he is very human and yet unfortunate circumstances have led him to serve under a devil master."
Laeticia took this in and yet couldn't find a reason behind this. Devils usually convert the ones that they wanted to serve under them.
"It just sickens me when I see people with so much promise get dragged into the games of devils and other supernatural threats." Cao Cao sneered as he explained this, the notion indeed leaving a sour taste in his mouth. "A bitter irony might I add, they all look down upon us as inferior beings and yet when one of us shows a modicum of potential, special talent, or ability that catches their eye they immediately seize and recruit them to their side."
He noticed that Laeticia's eyes were glued to the crystal and the recording playing on it, but he knew she was listening carefully to him.
"But I digress, you must be aware of all of this yourself, being a former exorcist and all, no use to remind you of it. While it may not mean much but this right here is one of the things that I want to change. Humans aren't pawns that each faction can pick apart and add to their collections as they please."
There was no lie or deceit in those words. Cao Cao may have been planning to sweet talk his way into convincing her to join, but everything he said was true.
"That is the message that I plan to send to all supernatural factions and pantheons, that humanity is no longer theirs for the taking and that we are from here on out declaring our stance."
He had enough.
Humanity may have grown content with how things were and simply accepted it by embracing ignorance. However if no one was ready to make a change, then he would do it with his own hands.
That was his duty as a chosen one.
As a hero of mankind.
Laeticia's fingers trembled as they reached for the crystal, slowly brushing against it, the image of Shirou almost killing himself in his desperate attempt to stop the devil noble.
There had to be something here, a deeper reason to why he was risking himself so hard for the sake of those devils.
She knew there must be one, yet she couldn't figure it out. What she did know was that it was something crucial and while she wasn't a devil herself, she knew of some of the intricacies involved with the dealings that they do.
In spite of being a custom of old times, devils do make pacts with humans. The greater the request the bigger the price that must be paid.
If any of the ones that established the contract die, usually the contract becomes invalidated unless it was specified for someone else to take over the rights. That being said, there was a very high probability whatever deal Shirou had made came at a heavy price. One where he wasn't willing to lose whatever he was getting in exchange.
Even if it killed him.
It wasn't unheard of for someone to sell his freedom and services to a devil in exchange for saving their family or a person dear to them.
As such it didn't take much more for Laeticia to be convinced.
Her head slowly raised and her blue eyes glared into Cao Cao's. "What about those that are caught in the schemes of other factions?"
"I will extend an invitation to them of course. When it comes to Shirou Emiya in particular, there's something special about him. I can't really explain it myself, but I just know he will one day become one of humanity's champions."
That wasn't just hollow praise. Shirou Emiya possessed something very intriguing, something that stirred within him sensations that he never felt before in his life.
For no one had made his sacred gear react towards them the way he did when Cao Cao saw the recording of his battle for the first time.
Laeticia took a moment and went over all of this.
She didn't know what she wanted to do with her life anymore.
That much she knew.
But… knowing that Shirou was caught up in a situation like this… that there were many others like him… and that she has the chance to tip the scales even a little and make a difference.
There really wasn't any other answer.
"What was your faction called again?"
Inwardly Cao Cao was smiling victoriously. "Miss Jeanne, bearer of the spirit of Joan of Arc, allow me to welcome you to the Hero faction."
A man whistled to himself as he made his way through the recently vandalized strip club. He read the newspapers and knew the place got messed up but seeing it in person was another story in itself.
As he walked in the bar while avoiding the broken bottles and shattered furniture, he called out to the clearly crying owner whose face was buried in the half cracked counter. "Rough night owner?"
"A total disaster sir." The owner muttered with a sob as he lifted his head. "I'm sorry but we're closed for repairs."
Last night was the worst night ever, not only did his bar get demolished he also didn't renew his insurance contract on time. Meaning the damage wouldn't be covered and that he had to pay for the repairs himself, with the money HE didn't have.
So excuse him if he wanted to spend his time sobbing in his now broken bar.
The mysterious man on the hand appeared quite jovial if the way he laughed without a care was any indication. "It's no biggie, all I want is a private dance."
If this were any other day he would have easily fulfilled his request. Plus the man was quite the fine specimen too so extra reason for him to do so. That black hair combined with those golden bangs gave him a sort of punkish look, but the neatly trimmed black goatee on the other hand gave him a sort of playboy vibe. Oh and the eyes, those alluring amethyst like eyes were sending shivers down his spine.
Why can't he meet such fine looking men on his good days?
Sadly, today was just shit. "I'm sorry, but right now our situation-"
He silenced him by presenting him a brick sized envelope. "I'm pretty generous in showing my support for your industry, among a few others of similar nature."
When the owner opened the envelope he almost choked on his tongue. There was enough there to cover all of his repair expenses, heck there would be enough left over to finally get that espresso machine the staff kept bitching about day and night.
Now any other man would have been skeptical about being offered such a large sum of cash seemingly out of nowhere, but he honestly was in no position to have any opinions at the moment. "We do have a intimate room in the back, just wait a second to call the girls and-"
The man once again cut him off. "No need for that, I want the purple haired one."
Well that was simple, he had only one purple haired woman in his staff. Which was also his top dancer.
"Oh Penelope, you have good taste sir, right this way."
"She'll be right here in a minute, if you need anything at all don't hesitate to call." The owner explained as he seated his generous client in the private room.
Truth be told he was the first one that actually used it. Private dances were much more expensive after all.
"Now have fun sir." and with that the man closed the door and left him alone.
"Well that went easy, hurray for the power of money."
Sure he could've just hypnotized the man from the start and get that over with, but like he said he did indeed hold a high respect for the industries that bring men such joy.
If he didn't offer support to strip bars in need, then who will?
The lights in the room went off and left him in the dark, immediately after a single light hit the small podium in front of his seat.
High heels echoed as the music started and the woman took the podium. The man gave a small whistle as he saw the costume she wore, he had to give credit to the tailor, those thin strings held resiliently against those impressive curves in spite of looking so frail.
Penelope grabbed the pole and used it to bend herself backwards, giving an upside down dry glare to the man that just requested her. "A bit early for going to a strip bar don't you think?"
The man to his end felt no shame in that, in fact he seemed quite proud about it. "It's never too early for a strip show."
Her eyes half closed and she pulled herself back up. "Of course it isn't."
"Oh don't be like that, we both know you also like going to strip bars on the weekends."
Penelope didn't bother to retort, she simply did a quick turn to the side, making sure to smack her foot across his face as she turned around.
"Ouch!" he winced as he felt his cheek throbbing, glaring in mild annoyance at the woman. "Was that really necessary?"
The purple haired woman was also glaring, but hers was actually intimidating and scaring the man. "That was for making me go undercover as a stripper for three months Azazel."
Azazel, the fallen angel Governor, the scapegoat of Heaven and self proclaimed evil genius was sweating bullets under the woman's intense gaze.
In his defense, he didn't do it just to be a dick, at least not entirely. "... But you always said you wanted to be a dancer."
Oh, how tempted she was to slap him across the face but she just had her manicure and wasn't going to ruin it on this idiot.
With a sigh she resumed her dance and began rubbing herself seductively against the pole which was offset by her stabbing stare. "Yes, a professional dancer, not a naked one that rubs herself against a pole for pocket change. You have no idea how insulting it feels when people throw small bills at you. "
Ouch. Azazel knew all too well that was one of the things you never do to strippers, on par with bad touches and asking them for their numbers during working hours.
At this point small talk was dangerous so he might as well get down to business. "So what did you find out?"
Her annoyance didn't vanish but it did lessen enough for her to get to the main point. "... As much as it pains me to admit, your sources were right. The information brokers you wanted finally appeared last night and I managed to secure them in the chaos that ensued."
Finally some good news.
"Did those guys give you any trouble?"
"No, they went down really easy." Penelope remarked offhandedly as she started executing the Jade move. "It was just as you said, someone is hypnotizing and using humans as glorified carrier pigeons to deliver information and goods to different underground cycles."
Azazel could only deadpan at that. "Using humans as messengers, I swear these guys never heard of phones or email."
"Which are all under our watch." Penelope added.
"Details." he shrugged and went on. "So what did you manage to find out?"
A frown graced her beautiful face as she recalled what she discovered. "From what I managed to analyze they are under special mental orders. If they are in any danger they perceive as supernatural in nature their memories of any dealings or vital information they possess gets erased."
Azazel clicked his tongue in annoyance. "Well that sucks, did you manage to get anything out of them before the delete button got pressed?"
"Not much unfortunately." she spun around the pole till she lay on the ground and crawled her way closer to Azazel, handing him a small USB drive. "But I did manage to make them cough up these files before that happened"
The bearded man ran a quick spell scanning it and noticed that the drive was magically encrypted, extra precaution he assumed.
"There are a lot of files I skimmed over, but from what I could tell we have the names and locations for some of the big shot information brokers. If you were looking for any leads about this phantom organisation you've been nagging about these past years, well you finally have an actual one for once."
The shit eating grin that formed on his face reached to his ears. "Have I ever told you you're my favorite sister?"
The stripper stopped her dance and gave Azazel a half lidded stare. "... Way to make things weird Azazel."
"Come on it's funny, plus a tad bit kinky."
Penelope facepalmed as she got off the podium and took a seat on the couch next to her so-called boss. "How the Grigori did not crumble under the leadership of a jackass like you is beyond me."
"Oh, how your words wound me." He theatrically placed his hand over his heart and mimicked pain.
"Whatever." she huffed while flipping her hair to the side. "In any case I hope this actually will get us some concrete evidence of the existence of this Khaos Brigade."
"So do I." Azazel dropped the cheerful demeanor and took on a serious tone. "If we can prove their existence it may just be the right amount of leverage to convince the angels and devils to declare peace and make an alliance."
"That's some rather optimistic thinking." It wasn't that she was against the idea, but things were just never that simple. "I have doubts it would work even if your little theories about this Khaos Brigade proves true. There's just too much bad blood between our three factions, it's a long shot if anything."
"It's the way things are. None of our sides will make peace let alone an alliance with the current state of affairs." He took a bottle of whisky from the nearby mini bar and poured both of them a glass. "The only times when enemies put aside their differences is when an even greater enemy appears that threatens all sides."
He went back to his seat after giving Penelope her glass.
"It's dumb really, I'm actually hopping that this organisation that may well become a worldwide threat actually exists so we have a shot at potential peace."
The purple haired woman stared at her glass in contemplation. "Things were so much easier back when we were in Heaven weren't they?"
Azazel rolled his eyes and let out a tired sigh. "Tell me about it, back then my biggest concern was trying to avoid falling from staring too much at Gabriel's breasts, not all this political shit fest."
That she could agree on… Gabriel's chest was 'fall' bait to whoever looked at it for too long, no matter one's fetishes or gender preferences… man she sure missed Gabriel.
"In any case a toast to a mission well done." Azazel held his glass up as he tried to lighten the mood, talking about Heaven was after all a sore spot for any of the Watchers.
"Yeah sure whatever." Their glasses clicked and both fallen angels emptied their drinks in one go. A long sigh escaping Penelope's lips as she recalled the events that transpired the previous night. "Shame I didn't get the chance to thank the kid that started the riot, it was the perfect distraction for me to knock those idiots out and put them in the back."
Azazel nodded somewhat intrigued as he poured another round. "Really now, did some kid get a bit overzealous with the drinks and make a scene?"
"Not at all, he protected a drunk girl from our targets that were planning some really nasty shit for her."
"A knight in shining armor walks in a strip bar… better remember this one." He took a light sip of his glass this time, drinks were better when you savored them after all. "You sure he wasn't out for some nookie himself?"
"Trust me, after working for you for so damn long, I can tell a horndog apart from a gentleman." her index finger was pointing at him the whole time she said this.
"Once again, you wound me dear sister." Azazel whined while faking a tear. "So, was there any exposure?"
"No, the targets were not given any magical enchantments, nor weapon's, so it looked like a regular bar fight." she took a sip of her drink, slightly frowning, whisky wasn't really among her favorites. "Though I still went and did it, secured the footage, just in case. "
"You still have the original footage?" there was an evil sparkle in his eyes. "I'm curious to see what this mysterious hero looks like."
Penelope rolled her eyes and dug her hand in between her ample bosom, pulling out another USB-drive, the Grigori label kind. "Here you go?"
When he took the USB he stared at it with a quirked eyebrow. "... Of all places, you were keeping it there?"
"... Do you see anywhere else I can stash it while wearing this?" The woman deadpanned as she pointed out to her stripper outfit, which covered even less than a provocative swimsuit would. Realization hit her as she noticed the leer that formed on Azazel's face. "No, do not answer that."
"Bummer." He pulled out his customized super phone and connected the drive to it. "Let's see what we're dealing with here."
The Governor General of the Grigori was sipping his drink when the holographic display of the events began playing. Said drink was immediately spat out when he saw just who the mysterious knight in shining armor was.
This reaction from him took the woman by surprise. "Azazel?"
"... Well I'll be."
"Something the matter?"
He kept staring at the recording and gestured to the red haired youth in it. "... I know this kid."
"Do you now?"
"He's Kiritsugu's kid."
"Seriously?!" For the first time today the woman was shocked, shoving her face closer to the hologram to get a better look at the boy, but failed to see any resemblance. "He looks nothing like him."
"Trust me, I was shoved enough pictures of him in my face to recognize him." Azazel facepalmed as memories flooded his mind of a certain white haired woman proudly showing off her kids pictures whenever she got the chance. At first it was okay, but after a while it turned to pure torture.
Realization soon dawned on Penelope and a sweat drop formed on her face. "Well… this makes things more awkward…"
"In what regard?"
"Remember when I said he saved a girl?" he nodded and she went on. "The girl that he saved was Odin's bodyguard…"
Azazel blinked a couple of times. "... The fuck?"
The purple haired woman sighed and rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Trust me I know, I didn't give it much thought since the kid didn't leak any form of magical presence so I assumed he was a normal human."
"I knew the old man of the Norse was in town but what kind shit luck did the kid have to get involved with his bodyguard of all people?"
"I blame Odin, he's just as much of an idiot and perv as you."
"I prefer to think of him as a fellow man of culture." Azazel shrugged his shoulders without a hint of shame. "Sure he's a pain in the ass most of the time, but he sure loves his boobs."
"And that right there is why I prefer women, at least they are discreet."
"Yeah, yeah, speaking of which." His signature shit eating grin was back. "Was his bodyguard hot? "
This time however she played along, remembering that silver haired beauty drinking her sorrows away at the bar. "Oh, I would have rocked her world until the bed broke if I was in the kids place last night. "
She was a pervert herself, there was no denying about it on her part, but unlike Azazel she was able to keep it in her pants until after work hours.
"So I take it the kid didn't score, sad, but understandable." His purple haired comrade did mention he had the gentleman vibe going on so he probably didn't go with her to have a one night stand at some other place. Plus there were other factors that might have been involved. "If he is as much of a prude as his dad is, I doubt he would do it on the first night with a girl, let alone a drunk one."
"I didn't know that." Her interactions with Kiritsugu Emiya were short, not enough to get a clear image of how he was in his personal life.
Azazel let out a gut wrenching sigh the more he thought about it. "Trust me that's not even the half of it, the guy would rather take a bullet to his dick than look at other women or even talk about boobs."
Sure the guy was the best at what he did but damn was he sure boring outside of work related matters.
"Sometimes I think he's inwardly screaming 'I don't cheat on my wife!' whenever I want to have some guy talk with him." he elaborated while omitting the part of him shoving a gun to his face whenever he was insistent about the matter.
In spite of sounding dumb the way Azazel presented it, she couldn't help but find it somewhat sweet. "As hard as you may find it, there are people who stay faithful to their other half."
"Yeah sure whatever." The fallen angel paused as he recalled one particular bit about Kiritsugu that sort of balanced out his prude like nature. "Though if I had a bombshell like Irisviel waiting for me at home I'd probably be more restrained myself."
Penelope opened her mouth to comment, but stopped as she recalled the woman in question.
Oh yes, Irisviel von Einzbern. She had only met her once or twice and hardly exchanged any words with her, but she damn sure left an impression on her.
Her toy collection wasn't big enough for the things she fantasized of doing to that woman.
The purple haired woman shook her head as she realized that she was starting to fantasize about the married woman again. She'd better change the subject before her panties suffered an accident. "Anyway Azazel, what do you think it means that Kiritsugu Emiya's son suddenly became involved with the supernatural in spite of him being so adamant of his family not getting mixed into our affairs?"
"That I am not sure, but it does raise an even more interesting question."
The man's eyes glowed ever so slightly, an eerily calm and all too curious look now present within them. "Well Penemue, I can't help but wonder if his presence will tip the scales in any way."
Penelope, or rather Penemue, the chief secretary and one of the original twenty Watchers, couldn't help but feel a cold pit form in her stomach.
Whenever Azazel made that face, things never turned out good.
"Achoo!" The sudden sneeze caught me by surprise and I rubbed my itching nose. "...Am I catching a cold?"
Hmm… don't think so, I never catch colds.
Man, my bad luck just won't give me a break. After everything that happened, and me rushing to be here in time for my return flight, I found out it was delayed by four hours because of bad weather conditions. Some of the other passengers were sure pissed about this. To the point they even started protesting in the airport.
As interesting as it was seeing a couple of foul mouthed middle aged women take out their frustration on an unfortunate airport security agent, it was probably best that I avoided any of that. I just wasn't in the mood for it.
That being said, I was currently wasting time just wandering around the area as I waited for my flight.
If I only knew that I was gonna spend my time like this I wouldn't have rushed to get here like a madman. At the very least I was able to accomplish all of my affairs before I got here.
All of my luggage was here, I checked out of the hotel without any sort of trouble, and somehow still managed to get souvenirs for everyone back home.
Those magic tomes I found were now being shipped to Japan via mail delivery and should arrive at my house by tomorrow. I was surprised about how fast it was but apparently when I used the card Sona gave me, it informed the people at the delivery who I was working for, and apparently they had some sort of deluxe service.
I came to a halt when I spotted a rather familiar looking set of silver hair within one of the airport lounges.
Perhaps it was me just being hopeful, the chances of her being there were extremely small, but even so I slowly approached her. When I was within hearing distance I called out to her. "Rose?"
She instantly jumped from her seat and turned around, a look of complete disbelief present on her face. "... Shirou?!"
"What are you doing here?" The two of us both said at the same time, leading to a moment of awkwardness between us.
"You first." she gestured with her hand at me.
I nodded and gave her the basic story. "Well, I'm waiting for my flight, it was delayed due to the weather."
"... Same." she replied bashfully.
"So…" I muttered somewhat unsure, not knowing what I could say or do given how I left previously. "... I see your boss isn't around."
That remark must have annoyed her quite strongly, her left eye twitching at the mere mention of her boss. "You can find that dumbass at the nearby bar ogling at the waitresses legs."
"I see…" The nod I gave in response most certainly must have seemed strained. The following minute or so the two of us just looked at each other in silence. Eventually I let out a sigh and remarked. "Well this feels awkward…"
I rubbed the back of my head and bowed my head slightly in front of her. "Sorry I ran on you like that, something came up and I couldn't stay any longer."
Much to my own surprise she didn't seem bothered by it and instead offered me an empathetic smile. "... It's okay, I know how it feels to be caught up in work and how it can affect your personal life."
My cheeks flared up a bit in spite of her saying that, but perhaps it was due to how beautiful she was when she smiled. "Still feel bad about it…"
"... That's actually quite sweet of you." she remarked with a small chuckle, her cheeks sporting a deep blush to them. "Most boys give excuses but never properly apologize."
"... So I hear." Which was true since gossip is a daily thing back at my school, always unintentionally hearing girls complaining about boys and how insensitive they can be sometimes. That being said just saying I'm sorry didn't feel right with me and I felt the need to do something more. When I checked my watch I did a quick time check in my head and steeled myself. With a small cough I got Rossweisse's attention and went on to ask her. "Say... I still have a couple of hours to spare until my plane leaves. Want to go grab a bite or something?"
Her reaction was something else entirely.
She almost jerked backwards as her face was now as red as a tomato, soft lips trembling as she asked me back. "A-A-Are you s-sure you still want to spend time with me after e-everything that happened?"
I guess that was a fair point. Our first meeting wasn't exactly what some would call ideal, and I could get behind why she felt awkward and embarrassed about it.
Still, to me it meant little. "Would I still be asking that question if it bothered me?"
Her face was still red, but she did chuckle at my little snarky reply. "I g-guess not."
Well, it was time to have a proper talk with her for once.
My main concern was that I didn't screw it up this time.
Griselda Quarta sighed and she crashed in her bed. The exhaustion pressing on her like an invisible weight.
Much to her own annoyance by the time she returned to the hotel room the rain had already done a number on her. The exorcist had cast aside her religious garb and went straight for a hot shower, she already had to deal with a busted ankle and a cold on top of that was the last thing she wanted right now.
When the shower was done she went straight to bed in a rather indecent manner, with only a towel barely covering her voluptuous body that was usually hidden by the conservative nun robes. Her still wet short blonde hair was also free of its habit restraints and was splattered over the pillow.
It may have been rather indecent to walk like this, but for one thing she was alone, and second she was so damn tired that she didn't give much a damn right now about decency.
She was just completely exhausted, physically and even more so mentally.
This mission was just so tiring… so little results… so many disappointments with herself... so many losses...
"... It's not your fault."
Those words were meant to be reassuring, but sadly they didn't do much.
Shirou Emiya is it…?
Such a mysterious child.
He is still so green with the inner workings of the supernatural world. If it were anyone else besides her, he would have been reported and investigations would be underway.
Only reason Griselda chose to close her eyes regarding him was because she felt the tiniest bit of moral obligation for him saving her during this mission.
And maybe, just maybe, she just pitied him. Not wanting to make life more difficult to a child that already appeared to have a lot on his plate to deal with as it is.
Griselda was a seasoned exorcist, she had met and fought against many devils and those that worked with them. So she had experience in dealing with them and their usual motivations. However, the young man was different from the usual bunch.
While she can't pinpoint exactly to why Shirou was working with them, she was certain it wasn't a malicious reason.
As such she had allowed him a free pass just this one time. If they shall meet once more in the future but their motivations were to clash against one another, she won't show any more mercy.
Though, she hopes it won't come to pass.
All circumstances and allegiance aside, Shirou Emiya appeared to be a good lad.
One that she didn't want to be put in the position of putting down.
Her blue orbs drifted to the sight of her ringing phone. She was half tempted just to ignore it but changed her mind the moment she saw who was calling her.
"Xenovia, it's been a while." Her mood was still down but hearing her voice did put a small smile on her face. Soft fingers tightening around the phone case as she listened to her ward's words. "I see the news of what happened has already reached the Vatican."
"No, I'm fine my dear.'' That was a blatant lie but Griselda didn't want her to worry on her behalf. "What about you, I hope you haven't caused any trouble while I was away."
The sudden silence on the other side made the nun's eyebrow twitch. "Xenovia… what did you do?"
After giving into her intimidation the girl spilled the beans, which made Griselda glad she wasn't in front of her, otherwise the nun would've been busy pinching the girls cheeks until she couldn't feel them anymore. "I swear, I'm not sure if you and Irina are friends or enemies with how the two of you start squabbling over the most asinine of reasons."
Girls these days.
Instead of fawning over cute boys like normal teenage girls, they instead argue over which of them can swing a sword harder.
Which then ended up with them ruining the courtyard decor… again...
Another case of property damage she had to deal with when she got back to headquarters, hooray for being the legal guardian to an overzealous girl.
Griselda was about to scold her ward but noticed her being unusually silent and not begging for forgiveness like she usually does.
There was a heavy silence on the other side of the phone, but it felt different from the previous one, a foreboding feeling was building inside her.
Reluctantly Xenovia began telling her.
"Wait, there's been an incident?" Slowly the nun's skin was drained of color and cold sweat ran down her back. Her phone slipping out of her weakened grip. "What…?"
This couldn't be.
Her shell shocked state was severe, the woman being completely unresponsive for several seconds before being broken out of her shock by the sound of Xenovia shouting from the phone.
One disaster after the other.
She had reached a boiling point.
This was no longer a matter of her being affected by all of this.
She was utterly pissed.
With no moment to spare she picked up the phone once more and screamed in indignation. "The Excalibur's have been stolen?!"
He hated the rain…
All the water pouring down washed away all the scents, it made him feel dull and lost.
Similar to how one felt when they lacked their glasses and saw everything in a blur, it was something like that.
A shame he didn't really have a say in the matter, not even half an hour after he left the cafe it started pouring outside like there was no tomorrow.
Loup Garou was just wandering throughout the rainy Paris without a destination in mind.
He needed some time alone to digest everything that happened and cool off.
While Shirou Emiya's words were somewhat encouraging, they didn't help in the grand scheme of things, you didn't get over issues like this with just a couple of kind words.
One needed time and reflecting.
He lifted his head and stared at the nearby lighting post. At first glance it was a normal one, identical to all the others he passed by on the way here, but there was something special about this particular one.
There was a bat on it.
He may have considered it, but the little critter unfolded it's wings and let out a shriek the moment they made eye contact.
That was not typical behavior for them.
It soon took flight and did circles around the Frenchman, trying to get his attention.
When it knew that werewolf was focused on him he quickly changed direction and fled towards the downtown area.
'It wants me to follow it.'
And so he did, trailing through whatever dark alleys and rundown areas he fled through all the way to an old hotel.
When he was in front of the bat, it made its way to the roof. It didn't take much to figure out where it wanted him to go.
He soon stood face to face with the rooftops door and glared at the handle. On any other day he would have never came here alone or unprepared like this, it was a stupid and amateur move to just rush in without making a plan. But this situation was too personal, too important to risk letting it slip through his fingers.
Pale yellow eyes were narrowed and sharp, ready for whatever twisted experience was awaiting him on the other side of that door.
He didn't even bother opening it, choosing to instead kick it open, the force ripping the door off its hinges.
It's been a rough night and vandalism was the least of his concern right now.
As he slowly made his way to the roof his eyes scanned it carefully. Immediately he spotted her on the edge of the building, sitting on the ledge without a care in the world, completely disregarding the rain that soaked her from head to toe. The noise brought her attention and she turned her head to face him, Andreea had a friendly smile as he approached her. "I'm quite surprised you actually came along, I was most certain you wouldn't ."
"Not like I had a choice…" The half werewolf muttered under his breath.
The bat that brought him here flew and sat itself on Andreea's shoulder earning a soft pat from his vampiric master. "You did a good job Greg."
When she was done rewarding her pet, crimson eyes slowly gazed into pale yellow ones. "I must say though, that burning hatred you were showing for me is all but gone, did you perhaps fall for my charms?"
"... Stop messing around." The snarl he mustered was a complex one, there was still hostility present in his tone, but there was also exhaustion, the man simply wanting this entire affair to be over. "Why are you still here after everything that happened, no scratch that, why call me here knowing who I am?!"
"... You're no fun at all. " Andreea lightly sighed. "I guess I thought the two of us could share some stories, afterall I believe both of us have questions to ask the other."
That was an understatement.
Her existence was the very proof of his foolishness and his failure. A mistake he had to correct no matter what.
By all means he should forget all of these mind games and just walk up to her and cut her head off.
That was the simple solution, and yet he still wanted to know what was the reason behind everything that she did.
Loup Garou wanted to know the monster that he created.
"... Make it quick before I change my mind."
"Men, always impatient when it comes to food and women." She hummed to herself quite jovially, but her eyes shortly turned sharp and dangerous. "I always wondered though, why was the hit on my family ordered in the first place?"
This in turn only made the werewolf scoff. "Like you didn't know, your family had been attacking innocents and drew too much attention. The pack was sent to get rid of you before you caused a major exposure."
Those were big accusations, and yet she only tilted her head when she heard them. "Is that what you were told?"
Fangs quickly became prominent in the man's mouth. "My mother would have never lied to me!"
A hum followed and the vampire pondered about it for a bit. "Perhaps she didn't… maybe she was lied to as well."
Pale yellow eyes narrowed dangerously. "What do you mean?"
"Since you brought up mothers, tell me did you ever do any background checks on mine?"
That was not something he expected to talk about in this discussion, it confused him. "Never thought there was a need, it was plain and simple, she ran away from home, got herself a human boy toy and set up her influence zone in a small rural city."
"While that isn't wrong per se, there is a lot of context missing."
For the first time since meeting her, Loup Garou caught sight of Andreea's longing expression.
It was something beautiful, yet very sad to watch.
"For one thing my mother was the daughter of the former head of the Carmilla clan, and she wasn't quite on the same page as everyone else when it came to the rules that the family had. Everything changed when she met a young ambitious medical student and they fell for each other."
She recalled that story fondly. Her mother would often tell her and her siblings how she and father met, always making her father go red in embarrassment regarding the incident. Something about his fly being open when they first met and how he never realized it until her mother pointed it out.
Not the best first impression.
Yet one couldn't deny it was a memorable one.
"Sadly he was human, and as you know interspecies relationships are taboo in many races, especially a proud one like the vampires." She didn't need to go deep into detail, it was common knowledge. From an early age her mother taught her the marginalization that half bloods faced, for they had no place on either side. Humans would look at them as abominations and vampires look at them as impure freaks. This rule applied for a majority of supernatural races, and from what Andreea could notice with how Loup Garous fists would tighten when mentioning this subject , he most certainly had experienced this as well. Sad but not surprising, it was a common occurrence, so much so that it would be more surprising to find a half blood that wasn't subjected to this kind of discrimination. "So what could they have done one may wonder. Oh they ran away together and settled down in France."
Her father would tell them about the madness that ensued on his side of the family as well. While it couldn't compare on what happened on her side, his family went pretty crazy when he left unannounced and got married without telling anyone.
"It actually worked for a long time, they got married and even had three wonderful children."
In spite of saying that and smiling fondly, they were just hollow words.
Just lingering emotions from a lost life.
Emotions she wasn't sure held any more meaning with her current self.
Loup Garou however was losing his patience and wasn't here for story telling, he wanted answers. "That's all 'cry me a river' and all, but it did not excuse your mother's binging habits. If she was truly concerned about your safety she wouldn't have been so reckless and-"
"Stop. Please stop." her smile was gone, what she felt wasn't anger, but irritation, not enjoying the notion of her mother being badmouthed, especially when there was no base to it. "From my earliest memories I drank blood, but there was never a time when I saw my mother get it for us."
Contrary to popular belief a vampire didn't require a blood only diet in order to survive. Vampires were capable of eating human food to sate their physical hunger.
It depends from vampire to vampire but most of them require only a liter of blood per month. There were even vampires who detested the taste of blood and reluctantly drank it.
Dhampires such as herself more often than naught had issues consuming it. Their human side often rejects the action, seeing it as something wrong.
Andreea though had no such issue, she quite enjoyed the taste of fresh blood, but she never binged on it as others of her kind did. Perhaps it was due to her inability to look at humans as cattle.
"It was always blood bags that my father would procure from the hospital he worked at." A chuckle escaped her lips, recalling the times she and her siblings would fight for the biggest bag and her father would always chastise them since all bags had the same amount. "My mother was many things, but a predator she wasn't, the woman was far too kind to hurt another, let alone drain them of blood."
Loup Garou took all of this and considered the facts. Truth be told he had no reason to trust anything she said, but he believed her for a moment, just for argument's sake.
He tried to take every piece and put it together, and his eyes widened when the picture began forming in his mind.
"So you are beginning to see it all put together are you not?" she trailed on and cut him off before he could speak. "If that is indeed the case, 'why was the hit made on her family?', you are probably wondering."
A memory of her finding an old photo album in the attic replayed in her mind. Her mother's panic and fear when she showed it to her and asked who the woman in one of the pictures was, and why she looked a lot like her mother.
She didn't realize it at the time, for she was far too young to understand these things. When her mother took the album away and told her never to look at it again or ask about the woman, she should have realized something was wrong.
"Let's just say grandma dearest didn't take well to my mother's betrayal, and was unable to let the grudge go." Red eyes began glowing dangerously in the dark, her sweet smile dripping with the most toxic venom. "She orchestrated everything to make it look like my mother was a threat and she had to be eliminated. Especially the brainwashed husband and the monster children she gave birth to, the very proof of her betrayal."
Realization dawned on him as he recalled everything that happened that night when they went in and eliminated them. The mother hardly knew how to fight, there was no understanding of what was going on her face, to why they were here and trying to kill them, there was only confusion and fear.
The look the father had when his wife was killed wasn't that of a brainwashed person losing its master. It was the broken expression of a man that just lost his wife.
He never questioned any of it, and he eventually forgot about it.
A deep growl that escaped slowly built up, the sound of the rain failing to muffle it.
Lashing out towards the nearest wall and punching it in frustration.
This isn't how things were supposed to go.
Their job was to kill supernatural threats! Not innocent families dammit!
As enraged as the werewolf was, Andreea couldn't help but chuckled bitterly at his display. "Oh don't beat yourself up for little old me. As much as you tell yourself that all the people that got hurt or killed on my account because you couldn't kill me, it won't change anything."
"...So what am I supposed to do?!" he snapped and turned to face her, the skin on his knuckles scraped off and a bloodied mess. "Be like you and not care about what I do and how my actions affect others?!"
"Not at all, what I'm suggesting is looking at it from a different angle." her head tilted ever so slightly, a long wet bang sticking in between her eyes. "If a doctor operates and saves the life of a criminal, is he to be held responsible for the victims that will follow. Some may argue that he is also at fault, but the man simply did the job he worked so hard to achieve."
"That analogy doesn't work here… I didn't do my job." the werewolf gritten between his teeth. "I was supposed to either kill you or call for someone else to do it."
"Which you failed..." she followed up, her eyes staring heavily at her own body. "I didn't become like this immediately you know. It was a long process of deterioration that led me where I am today. The constant questioning of why I survived while the rest of my family was killed." a small chuckle escaped her lips. "It ate at me from the inside, until I could no longer understand myself anymore."
Memories of her wandering the streets without a purpose. Forced to survive alone in this world, with no one to rely on but herself. The first victim she killed, a lustful man trying to have his way with her in spite of being just a child. She was weakened and desperately in need for blood, so much so that she couldn't even fend off a human. Perhaps it was some sort of survival instinct or maybe just her own twisted nature. She wasn't sure which, but it made her fake cooperation, letting him get close enough to her. When he was straddled over her and was ready to take his pants off she lunged for his throat, ripping off his jugular with her teeth.
As the blood gushed out in the air and the man slowly died, the panic, fear and disgust rushed in her when she looked at the corpse that lay before her.
She would tell herself that she had no choice and drink from the corpse with rivers of tears flowing, muffled apologies being made as she fed.
That was her excuse every time she was forced to do it again.
It went on and on, becoming more proficient at the job, and the burden on her heart becoming less noticeable.
Andreea eventually forgot why she even felt pity in the first place.
"It led me to seek answers from others, I wanted to understand the reasoning behind people's actions, why we make the choices that we make." One of her hands reached for her face, clawing itself around one of her eyes, pulling the skin aside to make the red orb stand out. "It made me want to dissect people on a psychological level."
So many times she tested the limits of one's mind. Subjecting them to physcial and mental torture, forcing them to endure and take part in most the depraved acts.
Breaking so many in the process.
All for the sake of finding her answer.
"It was never a love for murder or a twisted pleasure from the suffering of others." She would never deny her actions, those were her choices and she accepted them, but she never enjoyed the pain and terror she inflicted on others. It was all just a means to an end. "Just a twisted form of fascination."
"And yet no matter what I did I never got an answer." Laughter began, a strained one, that lacked any true amusement in it. "It took meeting you all over again to finally realize it. Truly, if I knew that would have been all that I needed I wouldn't have bothered ruining so many people's lives, or attempting to stage a ghoul outbreak in the city."
Her sick laughter didn't stop, it kept going without any signs of stopping, her body shaking and trembling as it went on.
It was disturbing, something was fundamentally wrong with it.
Loup Garou himself grew ever more uncomfortable the more he listened to it.
With the intention to stop it, he crossed the distance and grabbed the woman by her shoulder.
"Will you stop that and face me as you talk to-" He went silent, eyes slowly drifting at his hand. In it there was a chuck of flesh, crumbling away like dried up earth. Disbelief quickly appeared on the werewolf's face. "Your body…"
The place that he had grabbed onto was missing the chunk of flesh he held. Andreea slowly lifted herself up and faced him, taking off the piece of fabric she had wrapped around herself.
The laughter had finally stopped but an amused smile still lingered.
"Were you perhaps expecting me to be fine after everything that happened to me?" She asked rhetorically as she gestured at her body. With the exception of her face, the beautiful porcelain like skin was gone, in its place a dried earth like skin stood, several vein-like cracks spread all over her body, small fragments missing in many places. "You give me far too much credit, by all means I should have been turned to ashes on the spot after your friend impaled me with so many swords. My sacred gear was able to delay the inevitable, but that was all it could do."
In his final stand he unleashed a barrage of swords of different forms and designs at her, impaling her from so many places.
She had already suffered quite the amount of damage even before that, so there was already reason for him to doubt her surviving.
He had no idea of the true extent of her balance breaker's power. As such Loup Garou didn't write out the possibility of it managing to repair all the damage that she suffered.
A part of him in a sick and twisted way hoped she lived.
"... Why didn't you seek help?" His words were burnt out of anger, all that was left was pity.
"It was too late, by the time I got out and reformed my body it was beyond saving." She pinched a part of her collar bone and it broke off. "All I have left is a day or two at most before I become one with the earth. "
Loup Garou tried to understand her, but he just couldn't. "You're dying… and yet you're smiling like this…"
"These smiles are just a mask I crafted." Fingers slowly reached for the corners of her lips, pushing them upwards to resemble a mocking smile, cracks spreading from her neck to her face. "I haven't truly smiled ever since that night."
The man no longer knew what he wanted, making the mistake of listening to this woman and her web like words. Whether it was guilt or pity, he didn't know. In a sign of defeat he relented and gave up the guard he held up all this time.
Taking a seat next to Andreea on the edge of the building.
At this point, he decided to stop seeing her as an enemy, and just treat her as an actual person. "Why do you still hold onto it if you know it's useless at this point?"
"Because that's all I have left." Her voice was like the tired whisper of someone trying to stay awake. "I survived and kept moving forward driven by that consuming desire to understand and find an answer."
"I indulged myself in many things to make it more bearable but it all becomes dull after a while. Regardless of whether it's parties, drugs, alcohol or sex all of it turns into something that makes you feel even hollower at the end of it. And now that I finally found my answer after so many years I can't help but look back and laugh at it all." Her eyes closed and a small chuckle escaped. "I lived a long and useless life, with nothing to validate it besides the piles of corpses I stacked to get here."
"Nobody will mourn a freak like me." Red orbs opened once more, filled with tears which seemed out of place with the way she kept smiling. "Don't give me that look… we both know you wanted me dead. No matter if I die like this or by your hands it doesn't make a difference."
No matter how stoic he held himself, his body betrayed him, the hands wrapped around his knees refused to listen and kept shaking. "... I didn't want it to end like this."
That image flashed through her mind again. Of the boy that was crying when he saw her in that closet.
A foolish, yet kind child.
And now he stood once more in front of her after so many years. Older, taller, constantly scowling and in a sour mood, yet still the same deep down.
"To the very end I just can't understand people." She just couldn't understand, he should hate her, want her dead, rejoice that she is slowly dying, and yet here he was taking pity on her. As if almost regretting her imminent demise. Truly, she failed to grasp these emotions. "Hope your friend will fare better than me in that regard."
It didn't take Loup Garou long to figure he was referring to Shirou Emiya. "What do you mean?"
"I could tell, he is similar to myself, behind the mask of sanity that he wears there is something fundamentally fractured, not insane, but different, distorted." Her head slowly lifted itself up and gazed at the sky, the rain clouds beginning to clear. "A shame I couldn't have met him under different circumstances, it felt quite nice coming across someone similar to me for once."
Those amber like eyes still had so much light coming out of them despite the cracks.
"Perhaps it was because I saw similarities between us that I was so fascinated by him. That in spite of being so broken on the inside his eyes still burnt with such determination."
There was a spark deep inside that refused to go out. Something pushing him to go beyond his limits, in a way that she never could mimic.
"He may not be aware of it, or perhaps he knows it too well and denies it." It was hard to say, she herself forgot when it was exactly when she realized how broken she was. "When he will be faced with the truth, will he find the strength to move forward or get consumed by it just as I was?"
Truly a gamble worth seeing to the end.
Such a pity though.
By the time that will come to pass, it will be too late for her.
"... Too bad I won't be there to see it. I'm sure it would be a most delicious sight. "
The cracks on her face spread once more, now reaching her eyes.
At this point a punch to the face would be enough to break it apart.
"... Heh." She slowly picked herself up, careful not to shatter herself in the process. Her sense of mortality returned after so long and the conclusion. "I truly lived a useless life."
Loup Garou chose not to move, and only kept track of her with the corner of his eye. "What now?"
"I guess I'll try to live out whatever time I have left to the fullest, maybe find myself a grave somewhere nice." her shoulders shrugged, and her head tilted to the side. "Now that I think about it I never even made a gravestone for my family… guess I was too selfish to do even something so simple."
"Or you hurt too much to even look back."
"Who knows?" she chuckled lightly, this time it a more genuine one, her failure to realize something that simple in spite of having such expertise with the mind and how it works was so ironic. "Also there's no need to worry, I'm far too messed up to even walk straight let alone hurt someone else."
He already knew that.
All it would take was a good strike from him and she would shatter into pieces.
Things would finally be over, and she wouldn't have to struggle so much until her time was up.
Yet, Loup Garou chose to stand aside.
"... Goodbye… Elena."
There was a visible twitch from her upon hearing her old name.
"Elena's been dead for over ten years, all that's left is the freak born from her shattered mind." No hesitation, she knows what she is and there is nothing that could make her back to who she once was, and she accepted it. Still, being called by her old name after so long felt awfully nostalgic. "But even so… Thank you."
A pair of flesh like wings sprung out from her back, held together by a thin membrane. Loup Garou could tell she couldn't fly far with those given her condition, but it should be enough to glide all the way down.
She leaned forward and jumped, disappearing into the darkness below.
Loup Garou gave a small growl in response, till the very end she had the last word.
The rain finally went away together with her. Rays of the half-moon light illuminating the rooftop.
He sat there for an hour before he finally moved.
After everything that happened, he had things to go over. All that Andreea said made him reevaluate himself and all he did up to this point.
Unlike her, he still had many things and people left in his life.
Ones that he had been ignoring like a jerk these past months.
The werewolf took out his phone and much to his surprise it was still working giving how damp he was from the rain.
He dialed the number and waited, slowly beginning to feel skittish about it. Perhaps it would be better to do this tomorrow, it was a bit late and she was probably asleep by now and-
The voice on the other side made him get cold feet. She probably was sleeping with how groggy she seemed and must have answered without looking who called her.
Well this was gonna suck.
He took a deep breath before he spoke. "Hey… mama."
The reaction was instant.
"YOU IMBECILE!" Her enraged shriek almost left him deaf on that side. Not that he wasn't expecting it, for almost half a year he had been avoiding her calls and any pleas to come home. "WHERE ARE YOU?! ARE YOU OKAY?! WHAT KIND OF MESS DID YOU GET YOURSELF IN?!... I!... I!"
His eyes blinked in confusion as his mother was suddenly stuttering. "Mama?"
The sobbing finally became noticeable and his eyes were downcast in shame. "I… I… I was so worried… I thought I was going to lose my only son."
"I'm sorry…" he muttered tiredly, at this point it was all he could do. In his self proclaimed vendetta against Andreea he became blind to everything else around him. The thing that made him want vengeance was that Andreea crippled his mother, but he failed to notice one simple fact, and that was what his mother wanted. No one asked him to do it, nor that they wanted him to, it was a selfish wish merely to satisfy his own ego. One that he didn't realize how much pain it would cause to those that he cared for. "I'm sorry..."
He made his fair share of mistakes, but it wasn't too late to make amends.
It was time to act his age for once, he wasn't a kid anymore.
Omake: The indecisive valkyrie
When Rossweiss arrived in her hotel room she didn't bother unpacking or even exploring said room. She walked directly to the bed and allowed herself to topple over it.
It was sure was a difficult trip that's for sure, keeping track of Odin and making sure he didn't do something that would make the Norse pantheon look bad was a true challenge.
Sure, no one knew he was 'that' Odin, but information circulates so fast these days and so many factions have eyes and ears everywhere that it's just so damn hard to cover up a scandal.
Like that one time the Governor General of the Grigori invented (for reasons she just can't comprehend) a gender swap raygun and accidentally made himself a woman. It took a week before he finally found a way to reverse it.
In spite of it being information he personally tried to cover up, word still got out that Azazel was now a milf bombshell with huge boobs.
By the end of day all three factions knew it, and a lot of the men in high positions couldn't help but remark that Azazel should just stay like that since he looked way better as a woman. Something which frustrated the fallen angel to no end.
Perhaps it didn't help that Odin also sent him flowers and chocolate to mock him.
And people called Loki the biggest dick in the Norse pantheon.
Idiots aside, Rossweisse was in such a peachy mood.
Small giggling sounds were made as her face was buried deep in her pillow. It was well over a minute of giggling that she turned around to reveal a victorious smirk, her phone held up proudly for all the world to see.
She did it.
She asked for his number.
She actually did that with a guy.
And Shirou actually gave it to her.
A guy gave her his number…
A hot guy to top it all.
Oh how she just wanted to call all of the classmates that made fun of her.
'She's too uptight for any guy' they said, that 'a cheapskate like her won't ever get a guy's number' they said, that 'she'll never find a hot guy to show interest in her' they said.
Well who's laughing now!?
It was a small step in the grand scheme of things, but it was still a huge step for her.
Man she felt good with herself, so much so that she couldn't help rubbing her face against her phone.
It was a monumental task for her to ask Shirou for his number while they were hanging out in the airport, but it actually worked!
Sure, she stuttered as if her tongue was twisted and tied together, not to mention had to scream it out loud to make it be heard properly, which got both her and Shirou odd looks from the people at the airport, but it still happened.
She had his number! That was all that mattered!
All she had to do was call him.
"Wait, is it too early to call him?" her eyes snapped open and she lifted herself up from the bed, face morphed into pale panic. "Won't I seem desperate if I do it just as soon as he goes back home?
Before she knew she was up on her feet and pacing rapidly around the room. "Should I wait a few days before I text him?"
"Or should I play hard to get and let him do it?"
"Gahh!" her voice shrieked as she rolled back on the bed. "I have so many questions!"
Unbeknownst to her, the occupant of the room next to hers had heard everything, which wasn't too hard with how loudly she kept talking.
"Kids these days… " Odin sighed as he flipped the page of the latest edition of Playboy. In spite of being the all knowing father of the Aesir he still couldn't see the logic behind his attendants little breakdown.
Even Brynhilde didn't have this much trouble getting herself a man, and that story was a whole other thing entirely.
Sigh… hey guys.
Been a while, hope all of you are doing fine in these weird times.
For those wondering, I'm healthy, but this whole covid shit sure put a big wrench in my life. It sure messed up things for me both at college and at work for me.
But I think it did so for most of us.
Guess that's why this chapter took this long to get out.
Well with this the arc is finally over.
Starting the next chapter we are back to Kuoh and the canon timeline is in full throttle.
Hope I offered a proper conclusion to all the characters involved and set in motion the little things that will cause changes later on.
So Laeticia was DxD Jeanne all along, oh wow, who ever saw that coming?
In FGO news, it seems like I got some new servants on the team: Tomoe Gozen, MHX Alter, Fujino, Shiki assassin, Arjuna (first spook from him, and I love it), Proto Arthur, Saber lily, Waver (can i hear a 'HELL YEAH' from the crowd for best support), Penth, Atalante, Sieg, and Nursery. (sad i didn't get achilles… in spite of grinding so much for him… the life of a f2p player i guess).
Lets see if i can okita alter… afterwards i guess its grinding hell for skadi...
Now I would like to make an announcement.
I've given it some thought, but I finally decided.
I'm opening a pa()treon page. (sorry for the weird way of writing it, but apparently the damn site is deleting it whenever i try using the word)
Now that the killer silence is over, let me explain.
I'm not making it with the idea of 'pay to read' not at all, I hear some people have done it and I think it's a dick move.
In my case, it would mostly be to show support, and motivate me a little.
If there's anything extra that I will offer for in return for pledging it's perhaps artwork. You know fanarts of the story, pin ups, and other stuff done by me or commissioned from other artists.
So if you have some pocket change to spare give me a visit at 'patr eon dot com slash rays desk' (be sure to erase that space between each word)
And with that, I'm out.
Don't forget to review... no seriously review; I could use some constructive criticism.