Chapter 11 has arrived, my friends! Not much to say here aside from the next segment!
Review response time!
Qrow454: Eventually? Probably. But I'd make the argument That since the Dragons, while able to defeat Mikoto while shifting to level 6, they didn't immediately just end the blast she was unleashing, and I would rank a Demon God at least on par with her, if not superior. That's just me though, what I was really going for with that to give an opportunity to end the fight immediately; Servants wouldn't stand around and let such a thing slip through their fingers, and they'd have no idea that the dragons would be able to finish the fight on its own, nor would there be a reason to sit back and watch when they could end the clash quicker. Sorry if it seems like I'm over explaining this here, but your not the only one raising this point, and I figured it'd be best to address it out of the gate. Thanks for reading and letting me address this!
Kamijou Touma1: Karna is a top Servant, in the same Tier as his brother Arjuna and Gilgamesh, so he is one of the most powerful Lancers around. I've been operating that the Invisible Thing and the Dragons are somewhat interchangeable, if not the same entity to at least some extent. That's me though, and I can definitely be wrong.
calderoneric758: Raikou is Mama, not Big Sis. Though Raikou is definitely an option though.
Gojira2027: Funny you should mention that...
Kim454: Sadly, no Saint George this time around. Shame, but what can you do?
Animan10: Sometimes you just got to throw people for a loop!
freddy lane 1: You're not wrong!
KingAllen: I am somewhat aware, but they do appear to be rather interchangeable in their appearances.
craytherlay: I don't want things getting too broken around here. And yes; Our little Kamijou sure does get around, huh?
Issei ODR: Nice theory about the Invisible Thing's nature; I can dig it.
D N Works: Dragons know how to punch a hole in something, even a Demon God's combat strategy. Nursery Rhyme is a fun character, huh?
Stitches: I never read those sadly, so I can't share the sentiment. Aleister seems to have started it, but why...?
Sora with an S: Sounds like you had fun! I actually kind of forgot about the Angel Dragon jumping-house... so let's say after the events of Railgun, he moped his way back to the Dragon King like a college student who just got evicted from his apartment.
FakerHero: Sorry if its a little hard, but it is worth noting that his weapons can only imagine their original counterparts only by firing them as Broken Phantasms. Sorry if it was coming off a little it offensive towards him.
Maxum7: …I actually forgot that Index hadn't known about dragons prior to this, and I've dropped the ball. I'm sorry. As for Imagine Breaker; it's more of a thing about negation speed rather than the "power" behind the attack. It is entirely possible for something to outpace its negation speed and strike through, but it is very difficult to do.
Darkdeath12: It'll be questioned, but Touma doesn't know a whole lot about it either.
MythAnime: Edmond Dantes is a power-house among power-houses; that's a bit of a mean comparison, my friend.
Anime-ted Life116: Touma sure has it rough, huh? I don't think the Dragons can use Imagine Breaker's negation; I used to think otherwise once upon a time though; its a common mistake.
Guest (1): No one expects the dragon inquisition!
tsun: Yeah; Dragons/Invisible thing either thrash things or get thrashed, and the range is pretty wide on the power scale. Touma can get pretty taunting if he feels he's in a comfortable spot.
W1rath56: Hey, thanks! That is a really huge compliment that someone with only minimal investment and still really likes it. Thank you!
Guest (2): I've explained my side of things up above in relation to the Dragons and the Invisible Thing. Actually, Accelerator's ability is perfectly valid on magic; he was able to reflect no less than three magical attacks as powerful as Gungnir from a certain blonde, and that's without his platinum wings. Accelerator can be very broken.
Mr. X: 1) It was a minor detail earlier on, but it did happen. 2) I covered the deail of Invisible Thing/Dragons vs The Demon God up above. 3) Not quite yet, but it will happen. Remember; this isn't a primary romance story.
Nox Deus: Will do! -salute-
MrQuestionMark: They're too good to not do at least once. I'm really glad you liked the part of Sabnock offering up an explanation and a proper defense to their actions, as it was a key twist to the story. But we still don't know "why" Aleister has done what he has done, do we? Have fun with Karna!
AkumaESPer: I would be lying if Carnival Phantasm wasn't at least an inspiration for that particular scene. Seems like the Aleister-mystery here might have finally stumped you! You're really good at figuring out things still though, especially with you reasoning out why the Demon God could compete with the dragons, regardless of the argument of who'd win if the full battle went to term. I hope you like how Karna and Nursery Rhyme play out!
Guest (3): His title is kinda given to him. "He who purifies god and slays demons," based on his name.
Ihaxlikenoob: Sorry that this left you disappointed. I actually had no idea about the lore dump on twitter, so I apologize. The pillars are rather powerful; Arjuna is a top Servant, with a Noble Phantasm to match, so it is a little of an unfair comparison, as it has been noted that it does take multiple Servants to take down. Regardless, I'm sorry this wasn't up to snuff for you; I hope things are better later on.
Sergio644: A lot happens to slip through my fingers when it comes to proofing... I appologize, my friend.
And with that done, enjoy!
"So, this has happened before?" Romani asked.
"Yeah… you'd be surprised how many people think they can get around my right arm by cutting it off," Touma nodded. "And well, if they do… he comes out."
They had returned to Touma's dormitory with the defeat of the Unholy Beast Core. Robin and Hector had stayed behind to deal with the remaining monsters in the district with plans to help shuttle the refugees into district 7 proper before looking into what they could tackle next. With the influx of monsters halted and their union broken, it was likely that Academy City could push out and clean up with relative ease with their superior weapons.
Touma was unconscious for about a day, but thankfully, he didn't need a blood transfusion for his anemia. Romani aided in his examination personally, giving the conclusion that allowing him to recover his lost blood naturally would be acceptable. Index did mention a certain frog-faced doctor who might have been able to heal him should it be necessary, but Romani was confident in his assessment. His true role was Chaldea's medical head, after all.
He had gotten up but wasn't quite at a hundred percent just yet. But the fact he could stand up, eat, and drink was enough to say that the good doctor was right.
But then came the flying questions, ranging from "What the hell were you thinking!?" to "What were those dragons that came flying out of your arm!?" Responding to the former, he said that stuff like that was normal for him, but that was hardly comforting at all. The latter though needed a more complex explanation.
"I'm honest; I really don't know what it is myself," Touma shrugged. "It kind of just… comes out an attacks whoever set him loose."
Romani crossed his arms. "I see… so it's an auto-defense mechanism of some kind… do you have any control over it?"
"A little, but that just amounts to being able to shut it off, honestly. I can't really manipulate it when it pops out, but I can tell them to back off, I guess."
"That is unusual…" Romani scratched his head.
"Any thoughts, doctor?" Mashu asked.
"Honestly? I don't have the foggiest clue what those things were," He sighed. "Blood rituals are certainly a thing, but that was far beyond something like that. First of all, that was absolutely not magecraft he employed, either of our side or his."
"Really? Are you sure?"
"I am; we were monitoring everything that happened. All spells and Noble Phantasms radiate mana without exception, but none of those dragons did at all. Moreover, it didn't hold the same signal that these espers have been employing for their abilities either, so it's definitely not a case of, 'Well, his arm is gone, so his true esper ability can now be unleashed!' or anything like that."
Ritsuka tilted his head, looking curious. "Could you detect anything at all? It might have been Imagine Breaker blocking your equipment."
"No; those things were not related to that ability, or at least I don't think so," Romani reclined in his chair. "Imagine Breaker shows up to us as a void of nothingness, but we absolutely detected something from those dragons. The problem is that we don't know what we were detecting."
"It probably doesn't help that this is an alternate world where not all the same rules apply…" Mashu's shoulders dropped a little.
"No kidding," He agreed. "There are some similarities between our worlds; the fact that Index's Spell Intercept functions without a hitch is proof of that. But I think this is something special to this one… I'll see if Da Vinci can make heads or tails of it, but don't expect a miracle when it comes to figuring out just what that thing is."
"That's fine," Touma sat up out of bed. "It is what it is. Sure, knowing about it would be nice, but if there's nothing known about it, there's not much that can be done."
"You being able to swallow that pill about a legion of dragons capable of rivaling one of King Solomon's Demon Gods living in your arm is both awe inspiring and horrifying at the same time…"
"Well, it's not like I can do anything about them, so why should I lose any sleep over it?"
Romani sighed. "I guess you have a point. It's not like you can carve it off and be done with them; that's what calls them out to begin with."
"See? That's what I was thinking," He looked around the room, finding his normally crowded dormitory quite barren of life aside from Mashu and Ritsuka. "Where is everyone?"
"Archer and Lancer are out scouting; we still have the other two cores to beat, after all," Ritsuka replied. "Berserker is hiding out in spirit form to reduce his mana consumption. I think Medb is actually out around town with Index though; don't know why she asked her of all people to join her for a walk."
"Those two being alone together gives me bad vibes…"
Mashu agreed quite quickly. "I believe that was Othinus' reasoning for joining them. She was intent on sitting next to you until you awoke otherwise."
"Yeah… sounds like her," Touma nodded before looking at the clock. "Around noon, huh…?"
"That's right; you slept like a rock, Kamijou-san!" Romani chimed. "Index was a little miffed she couldn't get the bed again but offering up one in another room was enough to calm her down."
"She has a habit of sleep walking though; Archer caught her trying to get back into your room a few times." Mashu added.
"Yeah; that's why I sleep in the bathtub and not just lay a futon out," Touma stood up. "She has a tendency to climb into bed with me during her sleep, wake up, realize what she's done and bite me out of embarrassment…"
Romani just shook his head. "Kamijou-san, you certainly live an… interesting life, don't you?"
"It's something… such misfortune."
"Also," Mashu grabbed something from the table. "Your phone went off while you were asleep, but we couldn't unlock it to answer."
Curious, Touma took his phone; the number was unlisted. He opened it up and called back the number, surprised that the owner picked up right away as if whomever called was waiting for him.
"About time you woke up."
Touma held the bridge of his nose. "Hi Birdway. Can I ask how you got my number?"
"Loose lips sink ships," Was all she said on the topic. "You and your new pals out and about? Need to meet with you."
"Surprised you're not kicking down the door."
"Well someone got all pissy the last time I popped in, so I figured it'd be better if you came to me instead. Besides, I got info to pass on to these heroic spirits working for the city too; kills two birds with one stone."
"And what exactly is that?"
Birdway was brief. "I just heard back from Mark about what's going on in the United Kingdom."
Not surprising the unlucky Kamijou, she picked out one of the few still existing upscale restaurants in district 7. It wasn't in the school garden, thankfully, but seeing the prices on display visibly hurt him.
"Oh! Good taste!" Medb had returned with Index and Othinus, but EMIYA and Cú Chulainn were still on duty. The silver haired nun opted to stay behind to act as a messenger for them, so the hope was that they could rendezvous later. "I certainly like the decor; you can tell these people know how to live!"
"You would enjoy needlessly excessive decorations, skank." Othinus fired.
While Medb chewed out the god of war, Ritsuka and Mashu took in the atmosphere. It was definitely more upscale than they were used to; white elaborate ensembles on the table with designer furniture all about. Even the people were dressed as if it was a grand event. There was a bit of a snootiness about them as if they were offended that the group showed up in their standard attire. It was Mashu's first exposure to the upper class, and she wasn't particularly fond of it.
Finding Leivinia wasn't hard; A teenager reserving a wide table for herself stuck out quite a bit. The waiter asked the girl about three times if they were the "kind of people she should be associating with," and the third time, the tiny cabal boss threatened to rip out his tongue if he continued to judge the people she called company, obviously annoyed by it. Lessar was with her, so she had likely been putting up with it for a while.
It did take her reaching into her dress and starting to pull her flintlock pistol out for him to take the hint to back off, though.
"So, what's this about?" Touma asked upon taking a seat. "Also, you better be paying for this; got it? I can't afford tap water here!"
Leivinia shrugged. "You make it sound like money is a problem for me," She took out a wad of bills, looking like she wanted to smack him with them. "But I suppose we should get down to business. I'll be blunt; one of these heroic spirits popped up and attacked the United Kingdom."
"That explains why they have been quiet…"
"Who attacked them?" Mashu questioned.
"I don't know that; something about some fifty-meter tall sea monster that could regenerate from blows faster than they could be inflicted."
That sounded like the Noble Phantasm of Gilles de Rais. "I see… so they were under siege of that this whole time…" Romani hummed a little. Considering that while France handed Jeanne over was indeed betrayal, it was the British who burned her alive over charges of being a witch. Thus, him striking either one made sense. In fact, it might have been him targeting whichever one was closer to where he was summoned. This also confirmed that Servants could exist outside of Academy City, meaning that the mixing was starting to reach across the globe; a bad sign indeed.
"Well, he wrecked face in the English Channel," Birdway commented. "Bad thing for him was stepping onto British soil. After that, it was curtains for his whole shitstorm."
"They let Princess Carissa out of the Tower of London, that's what," Leivinia crossed her legs. "She might just have shards of Curtana Second, but just that let her go head to head with Archangel Gabriel way back when; that little tentacle monster of his didn't stand a chance."
"I feel like you're referencing events we have no knowledge of but are still expecting us to know what you're talking about!"
Touma shivered a little. "The less spoken about British Halloween and World War Three, the better…"
Mashu was able to piece something together. "So, this princess… likely part of the British Royal family, is immensely powerful while on British soil?"
"You got it," The blonde girl smirked a little. "Carved that monster up like a turkey and took the bastard responsible into custody. Whatever happened next? I have no idea; they took him into the Tower of London and probably tortured information out of him."
Romani found the idea of Gilles de Rais willingly handing information over like that with his insanity quite impossible, although they certainly could have studied the man's spiritual makeup and learned about him that way.
"So, they repelled the invasion; what's the problem?" Touma asked.
Leivinia crossed her arms. "The problem is that they've decided to roll out and quash this whole shebang in one fell swoop. Everything remotely magical in nature is going to be eradicated without remorse, regardless of affiliation."
That line of dialogue got the doctor's attention. "Now, when you say regardless of affiliation…"
"Everything. Monsters, heroic spirits; the works. Everything is getting hit; no exceptions."
"Scorched Earth, then?" Medb asked, receiving a nod. "Damn; the Brits have really stepped up their game."
"Well, this will resolve the singularity all the same, right?" Ritsuka remarked. "If they are able to comb through and take out everything supernatural in the city, that'd include the factions and the enemy servants."
Romani shook his head. "Right now, you're a magical entity in the city."
The Chaldea master turned to argue, but then remembered the actual method they used to arrive in Academy City. By all accounts, he, Mashu, and their summoned servants would absolutely qualify as targets.
"And of course, there's still what Sabnock told us," The doctor continued. "If he's right, then just a crash and burn style removal of the opposition might be what the head of Academy City wants."
"If only we knew why he'd try something like this…" Mashu commented.
Lessar giggle a little. "I smell a story or two~ you lot have some information you haven't shared yet."
Having already revealed they knew something, Chaldea decided to tell the tale of what happened in district 19, including their encounter with Sabnock. As some of it was essential to what exactly Solomon was doing, they did have to mention the extra details they otherwise would like to keep under wraps. For there to be trust between them, there needed to be no secrets.
"So, Aleister himself is calling the shots on this shit-show, huh?" Leivinia rubbed her chin. "That definitely doesn't sound like something he'd do normally if our texts on him are accurate. What the hell is he pulling…?"
"I was kinda hoping you could tell us," Romani remarked. "As it stands; breaking into his fortress is impossible; we did a scan of it and that could only get somewhat through; it has not only protections against physical attacks on it, but also magic barriers to halt us from seeing what was inside. I find it unlikely a servant could break through on their own without being one of the Top Servants like King Gilgamesh or Arjuna."
"But that'd be the only way to get at that grail, too…" Ritsuka frowned. "Something about this still doesn't feel right."
"There is definitely something we're not seeing rolling around here. Unfortunately, the only two who know exactly what, we can't reach; King Solomon and Aleister Crowley. For all we know, this whole situation could be a defensive measure on the latter's part." Romani reasoned.
"But then why cause a situation that'll nuke both sides?" Mashu asked. "This feels like a case worthy of Sherlock Holmes…"
"Finding out what eccentric leaders know would be best suited for an eccentric detective, but it's just us here," The good doctor stated. "I think we've decided the next heroic spirit we'll send is a Caster; maybe having one there for the investigation will aid things."
"How long before you can?"
"Oh, it'll be much faster. Da Vinci is getting better at stabilizing the connection; I'd say two, three days tops."
"An improvement is an improvement," Ritsuka stated. "At least we're pretty secure when it comes to combat effectiveness, thanks to Heracles."
"That's right; it's all about rounding out the skill-set now!" Romani cheerfully agreed. "I'd imagine even that Kakine Teitoku would be hard pressed with deal with a full team like that!"
"So, this world's side of sorcery is on the warpath, and we still have two factions to deal with… along with an arrogant blond who needs to be brought down a peg or two," Medb summarized. "I think I know what we'll be doing tomorrow."
"Took out one force but don't have any other leads, huh?" Lessar questioned. "Must suck."
"Unfortunately; the sooner this is dealt with, the sooner I can tilt my priorities toward something much more constructive."
"I think I know what you mean; I've been trying to get into Kamijou's dorm after hours, but that guy with the red lance cuts me off every time."
"Oh, trust me, I know about him! He's been doing the same thing to me!"
Touma blinked. "So, you both were trying to break in while I was asleep…"
"Sadly, it seems like you've attracted some strong-willed women, Kamijou-san. My condolences." Romani bowed lightly.
"Tell me about it… such misfortune…" He lowered his head.
At that moment, the front door swung open and, to the group's surprise, Sakata Kintoki marched on in. "Alright, who threatened a waiter with a gun?"
"About time you showed up," Leivinia looked disappointed. "Couldn't you have come running sooner? It sucks I have to wave around my pistol just to get some service from Anti-Skill; talk about a pain."
"Wait, you did that on purpose!?" Mashu shouted.
"Um… yeah; what she said," Kintoki looked confused. "Could have just hit up the main site, you know."
"Tried that, they told me to bugger off. Something about, 'some rich girl who can just file a report like everyone else if someone's ran off with their wallet,' and the like. I had a good mind to tear off his dick and choke him with it." Leivinia was not sparing details in this story, airing out every individual thought.
"I… Uh…" The golden man seemed a little put off. "S-so… point is that you wanted to see me, right?"
"I have the gun to show if you don't believe me."
He shook his head. "Talk about strange ways to get attention…"
"Oh, Kintoki," Mashu spoke up. "I'm sure you've noticed the monsters have quieted down a lot, right?"
"Sure have; was that you!? Bloody golden job there!" He grinned.
"We were wondering if you had heard any rumblings about the other two factions. There's something else, but I believe Birdway-san intends to discuss it with you."
"Alright, I'll take your word for it," He nodded. "As for rumors… well, big sis is investigating something. She's due back tomorrow, I think; if she's caught wind of anything, she'd be the one to ask. I just run around and smack stuff; sorry."
"That's fine; Kamijou-san needs another day or so to recover, anyway," Romani stated. "Either way, thank you for being so forthcoming with information, Kintoki. I know being part of a police force doesn't make such a thing very easy."
"Hey; thank you for blowing up whatever hole those monsters were crawling out of! This was the first night since I got here that the checkpoints have been quiet! As far as I'm concerned, you folks are family, and there ain't no secrets between family, right? Only thing I wanna know is just how you pulled the stunt off!"
"We'd be happy to share that, but Birdway-san would like an opportunity to speak with you about something inbound to the city…"
Kintoki grinned. "Sure, sure! Let's have a big ol' story telling session!" Then he turned toward the increasingly annoyed wait-staff. "…Outside. Sorry; you did just pull a gun on some folks, yeah?"
"It's what they get for looking down on me because of my company."
With things settled, Chaldea and company left for home after their discussion with Kintoki. The golden man was a little confused, as he was a self-admitted moron, but he could tell that something screwy was happening. He invited Leivinia to speak with Hippolyta the next day, as she'd be someone with a better capability of making sense of it all.
Aside from the news from the Magic Side, there was little on the movement of the other two factions. The expectation was that they'd pick up rather quickly now that their front-line pusher was out of the picture, but it was hard to tell which would step up. The Demonic Terrorist Core was more focused on explosive ordinance than actually pushing an offensive line and the Divine Hacking Core had been strangely inactive for a while now. The one that'd move forward as their next opponent was a complete mystery.
They arrived at Touma's dorm with the smell of fresh food quite apparent, even before opening the front door.
"I smell EMIYA-san's cooking!" Ritsuka threw open the front door and marched in.
"Keep using my true name; see what happens!" The red Archer threatened. Despite how seemingly sensitive about his family name he was, Touma got the vibe that this was hardly a rare occurrence.
"Good thing you started something; we ended up getting thrown out of the restaurant we went to…"
Mashu sighed. "Leivinia Birdway pulled a gun on waiter. He was admittedly rude and nosey, but still…"
"She did strike me as the type with a great big fire in her belly," Cú remarked from a perch he had taken up on Touma's patio. "Said she was from a hot-shot magic society, right?"
"More or less," Touma remarked. "If what she said is right though, she wasn't born into royalty, but rather she fought her way to the top with her bare hands."
"At the age of twelve?" The blue lancer asked, receiving a nod. Then he whistled. "No kidding? I feel sorry for the poor bastard that tries to court her; she seems liable to kick you in the teeth before actually acknowledging you as a man, let alone one capable of handling her."
"…You're a pretty good judge of character, you know that?"
"Why do you think I said no to Medb at every opportunity?"
The aforementioned pink haired queen's brow furrowed. "Ok, that one was completely unprompted!"
"But not inaccurate." Othinus joined in.
"W-well, you know what they say? You have to be pretty close to sling playful jabs at one another!" Romani tried to be civil.
"Not a chance in hell; if she dies tomorrow, I'm throwing a feast."
"You're not helping!"
Medb looked angry but tried to take a deep breath to calm down as she rubbed her temples. "Calm yourself; she's literally smaller than the palm of your hand… you can crush her whenever you like… you needn't worry about mud being thrown by such a tiny, insignificant little bug…"
"…Uh oh, she's showing restraint," Cú remarked. "Might wanna back away from her real slow now."
From there, she clasped her hands together as if she were praying before walking over to the patio railing that Cú was sitting on. Before he could question her, she abruptly shoved him off. A loud thud from outside followed.
"…Ok! I feel better! So, what's for dinner?" She was suddenly very cheerful.
"T-that's pretty far from a reasonable reaction, you know!?" Touma fired back.
"Meh, he's survived drops taller than that when he was alive; I'm sure he's fine."
"…You know, that made me think of something," Romani thought for a moment. "In life, you pursued Cú Chulainn with fervor, yet you've only argued with him so far. Can I ask why that is? It can't just be because of your interest in Kamijou-san, could it?"
She blinked a few times before letting out a gruff sigh. "…Well, it's not like I can get anywhere with this version of Cú Chulainn. Maybe if he was younger and full of youthful energy, or if there was an Alter of him lying around, but him right now? It's the same one I encountered in life. Just getting him to look my direction positively is like pulling teeth…"
"Ah, so it's less that you're not interested, but that you know he's so disinterested that there's no way he'd say yes, even if you tried your absolute best?"
"…I am going to twist every limb of yours until they pop off, mage."
"Doctor's ability to deal with girls is right around zero…" Mashu sighed, but then noticed something off about the room's arrangement. "Where is Index? I thought she was here to relay our message to you."
EMIYA shrugged. "Taking a bath. She told us about you heading out, but after combing to the highest point I could find and surveying the area, we decided you were likely safe, especially with Heracles hiding with you."
"He even got a shot of you lot being shoved out of the place," Cú climbed back up the railing he was forced off. "Figured if it was something actually bad, our friendly Berserker would likely take care of it, you know?"
"So; what was your meeting about, anyway? That Birdway girl might be intrusive, but it does seem like she only invades Kamijou's daily life when there's a purpose behind it."
Romani nodded. "We'll cover it over dinner; it's a bit of a doozy."
The following morning arrived almost stealthily; it was a strong overcast day that'd hold until night fell upon the city. With the sky a cool gray, the winter air made itself known; perhaps the summoning pit was heating up the entire city somehow? But now that it was gone, a cold winter day had settled in. At least it wasn't going to snow.
Despite the cold, a certain someone decided on lighter attire. "Where's your coat, Medb?" Touma asked. The queen had shelved her big coat and even her furred leg warmers for the time being. This left her in an elegant mini-dress that exposed more of her legs as well as her upper arms. She retained her gloves, although now she wore knee-high boots that matched her glove's design.
"What? I felt like changing things up."
"It got colder today yet you're wearing less clothes!"
"Ah, that's the source of the confusion," Romani spoke up. "Servants, while capable of feeling temperature, aren't really affected by it. Their sense of such things goes as far as being able to tell something is 'hot or cold;' they can't really overheat or be frozen by the weather on its own."
"Really?" Touma blinked. "That's… kind of cool, actually."
"And before you ask, no; you can't use my coat." Medb strode on ahead.
"W-why not!? It's cold out here!"
"Because your right hand would destroy it."
Medb's choice was less about airing out her body, however. It was actually a thought that arose in her head after her brief stroll with Index. Her true goal for such was actually to probe for some more personal information, even if the tiny magic god got in her way. However, she was far from an inexperienced socialite; even with the tiny girl chiding her at every turn, she could learn a thing or two.
In fact, getting them all riled up was exactly her little plan. The little god only caught on to her little tactic far too late, as Index had already gotten mad. Their conversation had actually been about Index's state of dress in comparison to Othinus' own; the nun dressed very conservatively in comparison to Othinus' style of baring nearly everything she had. The goal wasn't to directly sire discourse, but rather learn from what they said in the heat of the moment.
Of course, Touma's preferences in the sense of using them as justification, came up over time. She didn't even need to ask them directly. Ironically, it was Othinus' own statement that gave the pink haired queen exactly what she wanted: the notion that the spiky haired teen preferred hers over the Index's, therefore that even if he was more romantically reserved, that he did enjoy girls who showed a lot more skin. There was the possibility that she was simply speaking her mind, but that's what this little bit was about.
She was testing that theory: Dropping her more royal and high-class attire for something a little bit more risqué and seeing the results. If it proved true, the doll-sized blonde's own words would be the catalyst for her success, and that idea amused her greatly.
"Touma," Index called out. "If magicians are about to enter the city, then…"
"No, I think you should stay home," The unlucky Kamijou argued. "If they saw you directly supporting us, it might end badly… I don't want to know how they'll react to the idea of you possibly being controlled by us."
"The grimoires locked away in her skull, if utilized, could prove devastating," Othinus agreed. "Their reaction to that realization would be swift and immediate; if it was impossible to capture you, they might try killing you to stop us from possibly using that knowledge."
"Well, sorry for being part of the bad crowd," Cú joked. "How do we intend to handle a batch of seasoned mages, master? Beating them to a pulp and not killing them might be a pain; the only one of us who has any good magic resistance is our Shielder."
"Considering mages appear to be powerful in this realm, they might be able to bypass anything less than rank-A." EMIYA added.
"That's a good question…" Ritsuka crossed his arms. "I know we can't kill them, but still…"
Mashu looked worried. "I can likely endure their blows then, but that says little for everyone else."
"Trying to negotiate would be best…" Touma curved his lips. "I have some notoriety with the United Kingdom, I guess, so I might be able to bring them to the bargaining table, but I don't know about convincing anyone entirely."
"I could give it a shot; I'm not the best negotiator though," Romani stated. "Without any clout in their community, they might overlook what I say entirely. It'd be hard to back it up without any hard evidence…"
Touma crossed his arms. "I guess all we can do is hope for the best when we meet them…"
"I'd say Queen Medb might be best, but as she's one of the entities they're trying to destroy, I don't know."
"Well, at least I'm acknowledged," The pink haired queen rolled her eyes. "If things break down, I can always offer them a little bit of My Red Mead. If any of them are men, they'll be forced to at least try it."
"Ugh, is that what we're stooping to?" Cú didn't sound pleased.
"What's wrong? Is that bad?" Touma blinked.
"Well… it'd be better than killing them, I guess. Let's just say I'd feel real sorry for any poor sod that was tricked into drinking it."
Medb looked irked. "You say that like it tastes awful! I'll prove its quality right here if I need to; it'll be the best damn mead you've ever had!"
"Pass," Cú remarked. "Nice try; I'm not becoming your love slave just to win an argument."
"…Eh, worth a shot."
Othinus deadpanned. "Are you sure we can't leave the skank at home instead?"
"As much as it pains me to say it, that Noble Phantasm she suggested might actually be useful here in case things get dicey. Plus, she has rank-B magic resistance, so she could end up being helpful in cases like that too." The good doctor reasoned.
"Pains you to say it, huh?" Medb suddenly had her whip in her hand, looking at Romani's hologram with violent intent.
"I-I-I mean it is my absolute pleasure to say it!"
Mashu shook her head. "The doctor is whipped by a woman who can't even touch him…"
Ritsuka did the same. "How sad. His experiences with women must have been subpar at best…"
"H-hey! Stop focusing on me!" Romani shouted. "L-let's get a move on, shall we? There's a certain amazon queen we need to talk to!"
Chaldea and company rolled out with Index staying behind to watch the dormitory. She had Touma's cell number, so she could call if she needed. When they arrived at the Anti-Skill headquarters, it seemed the troops were in something of a frenzy, as if they were on the verge of battle. But the summoning pit was gone, and even if it wasn't, it was in the early morning. What was going on?
"Hey!" Kintoki called out to them. "Bit of a bad time… well, actually since you lot are interested in taking these guys down, maybe it's actually perfect, but it's pretty bad for us, you dig?."
"What's happening?" Mashu questioned.
"Bad stuff; big sis is inside. If you're looking for a fight, today's a big one."
The interior's mood matched the exterior with men and women rushing about. Without knowing what was happening, they looked like chickens with their heads cut off. Many calls were coming in by the sound of things, but all the chatter combined into an intelligible mess without paying close attention to each one individually.
"Well, you lot sure picked a day to pay us a visit," Hippolyta remarked, approaching them from what could only be assumed to be her work desk. "First that blond girl, and now you. Please tell me you're up for a battle; we really can't use anyone wishy-washy like that Accelerator fellow right now."
At least Leivinia managed to send her message before things got dicey. "Sure, but we need to know what all the fuss is about first," Romani answered. "Can't exactly expect us to jump down a hole blind, right?"
"Short version? I think that Divine Hacking Core you lot were talking about finally made their move," The Amazon Queen crossed her arms. "We sent units out to secure other parts of the city to expand our boarders, but nearly all of them have dropped contact. The ones who've made it back said their mechanical support suddenly turned on them."
"That sounds like hacking to me! Are they marching here!?"
She nodded. "A lot of groups suddenly lost control of Powered Suits; only the ones operating on full manual control were spared, but everything else is gone. We're scrambling to take network connections out from what we have left, but right now, we're also trying to find some heavy ordinance that doesn't rely on a computer."
"I'm guessing they got their hands on something big?"
"Oh yeah; we sent out a fully automated unit to secure an old Anti-Skill base in the south-east to act as an additional administrative hub, but we completely lost contact. No less than thirty Powered Suits were escorting a Ten Legs down there."
A Ten Legs, better known for his model designation of HsWAV-15, was a massive tank-like vehicle operated completely via AI, large enough to fill a whole four-lane highway on its own. It had numerous armaments, but the notable ones were the series of cannons residing on top, capable of acting as long-range artillery. It was a vehicle designed for war and nothing else; Anti-Skill had only been able to secure a few of them in the hasty retreat to district 7, so even losing one hurt the force bad.
But to hear that one was taken over by an enemy and currently on route to attack was an even more horrifying prospect.
"Where is it? As long as you don't need it back, we can take care of it." Ritsuka agreed.
"Then follow me," Hippolyta started moving for the door. "That Misaka girl and her teleporting friend are already on their way to it. Considering we don't know what else could have happened, backing them up sounds like a good idea, yeah?"
Touma was confused; Mikoto and Kuroko were a solid combination who could likely handle it themselves. Of course, Hippolyta wanting to stack the deck made sense, but that wasn't what threw him off.
He was getting a really bad feeling.
"I've hacked into the security cameras across the district," A short girl stated as she tapped away on her computer.
"How much of it is left intact?" A taller one asked.
"A lot of it, actually. It seems the damage wasn't as extensive here…"
Just as she said, District 2 fared far better than some of the others. Even if it was lost like the rest, the areas closer to the pit were torn asunder much faster than those on the other side of the city, unlike this one. Some could argue that the areas in the south-west were entirely livable if one took a cautious lifestyle. It wasn't perfect, but with the city in the state that it was, there was little point in disputing it.
The taller girl crossed her arms behind her head. "We're still a long ways away from it, right?"
"About three hours away if we were to go on foot. Sadly, that looks to be our only option…"
Heavy footsteps came from behind her. "How does the district itself look by comparison to the others?" The voice was robotic but male in tone.
"It seems to be… hmm?" On one of the security feeds, the girl appeared to have spotted something. "That is… holy!"
"…You said three hours by foot, is that right?" The male sounded, seeing the same feed.
"Unfortunately, and that's assuming we don't run into any trouble from here to there."
The man with the mechanical voice thought for a moment. "…So, we must bypass the building and possible enemies that'd deter our ability travel. Understood."
The taller gran ran over. "Does that mean what I think it means!?"
"Begrudgingly… if we must make haste, then it is our only option. Come before I change my mind."
Due north of 2nd district was the 7th; the safe zone had been acting as a buffer against the invading forces from the north-east for the longest time, resulting in the area being somewhat under-occupied by creatures. Now, close to the border between the two, a different kind of invasion was inbound from the area to flip the script, and it consisted of Academy City hardware. Thirty Powered Suits armed with shotguns and grenade launchers marched forward, keeping a steady pace with their heavy ordinance: A HsWAV-15 "Ten Legs" unit. Its nickname wasn't much of a mystery with its primary mode of transportation being the massive legs surrounding its form that doubled as a thick set of armor to shield its core body.
Suddenly, a few suits up front of their march went down. Inspection led to massive glass planes, like the ones used in the high-rise buildings, suddenly appearing within their bodies; the glass wasn't stronger than their armor, but it appeared that their existence displaced components of the suits, leading to their destruction. Then one appeared in one of the Ten Legs' limbs, bringing it to a halt; the glass wasn't large enough to fully separate the leg, but it stopped regardless, as if anticipating an incoming threat.
With the front line open, the Ten Legs' was vulnerable to a close-range attack. Its cameras shifted around, focusing on the sudden appearance of two individuals.
Shirai Kuroko had a hand on the shoulder of her partner: Misaka Mikoto.
The two together were effectively a mobile cannon; even if the Ten Legs retaliated, the teleporter would move them away freely, and faster than its weapons could target. Not even the Powered Suits could catch them. Even if the arcade coins Mikoto used couldn't destroy it, at the very least they could immobilize it by knocking it onto its side or back.
However, as Mikoto pulled out her arcade coin, several slots opened around the Ten Legs' main body that its massive limbs protected. A loud high-pitched noise erupted from them, and almost immediately a massive headache shot up in the level 5's brain, almost high enough to knock her clean out. She tried to fire her railgun, but all that happened was electric sparks. She couldn't focus anywhere near enough to apply necessary theory to produce it.
"This is…!" Mikoto gritted her teeth, already appearing angry.
A voice called out to them. "An AIM Jammer, yes. I'm surprised you can withstand it to this much of a degree… although that's what the other armaments are for."
The main cannons of the Ten Legs tilted toward, taking aim at them.
"Onee-sama, if I try to teleport while an AIM Jammer is in play…!" Kuroko warned.
"I know, I know! Damn it!" Mikoto cursed; she could barely produce electricity safely in this state, a far cry from attempting magnetism as a backup option. "We need to go, now!" The two turned and ran, taking advantage of the Ten Legs' current immobility.
Even still, Mikoto was more hopping mad than frightened. That level of AIM Jammer usage was more geared for one of the esper reformatories around the city; what the hell was it doing mounted on a Ten Legs!?
The massive metal monster wasn't designed for anti-personnel combat, but that was irrelevant when it had Powered Suit support; the grenadiers took aim and opened fire, sending explosive rounds all around the two. They managed to run ahead enough to make their weapons inaccurate, but the constant ringing of explosions put them under constant stress. Moreover, if they got too far away, the long-range cannons on the Ten Legs could effectively snipe them; they had to duck into an alleyway if they wanted to escape.
The grenades kept them from this though, almost as though they were aiming more for them than the two girls. Mikoto cursed again; they were effectively being funneled into the Ten Legs' range. Even if the Aim Jammer's effectiveness dipped the farther away they were from it, due to it relying on soundwaves, it'd be a long time before they could safely teleport out of its line of fire. The two were trapped; they'd either get caught in the grenade explosions or blasted by the very thing they wanted to destroy.
Eventually, the latter would occur. The main cannons on the HsWAV-15 opened fire, unleashing a high-powered artillery shell upon the duo, resulting in a large detonation, blowing the roadway apart. The smoke gradually cleared, but there wasn't a body waiting, nor where their bloody remains either. They two suddenly vanished; did they manage to teleport? Risky to do, but it wouldn't be out of the question to at least try if every other option would result in death.
"W-where are we?" Kuroko asked. The distinct sound of a galloping horse could be heard.
"Glad I found you two!" Hippolyta remarked. The two appeared to be on horseback with the Amazon Queen, darting down an alleyway. "You alright? No shrapnel wounds?"
Mikoto shook her head. "We're fine. How did you get us out of there so fast?"
"Hah! I might not be Achilles, but Kalion here is still plenty fast!" She spoke with a laugh. "So; what was the problem? It sure seemed like you two were having trouble!"
"Someone modified the Ten Legs and equipped it with AIM Jammer; an anti-esper weapon."
"Unless you have something that can impede soundwaves, that's the situation for us."
"Alright; doesn't take a genius to figure out what it does then," Hippolyta smirked a little. "But lucky for you, I brought friends!"
The railgun looked back, appearing uneasy. "I'm not so sure that'll help…"
"Ten Legs aren't supposed to have pilots."
From afar, EMIYA had taken up a sniping post on top of a large structure. The rest of Chaldea was spread out amongst the buildings thanks to some servant positioning, just in case things went south. The Archer's goal was simple; take down the Ten Legs as quickly and with as little mana consumption as possible. Caladbolg would be a sure hit but taxing on his supply, but something like Hrunting was a different story. With such a big target, missing was basically impossible; he let the shot soar with the air, aiming for the center of mass to hopefully pierce and rupture its power core.
As Hrunting raced to make impact, several slots opened on its legs revealing red circular gems located within its framework. Each one began to glow before discharging an array of red beams to intercept the attack with apparent ease.
Mashu, who was guarding Ritsuka with Kintoki, came to a quick conclusion. "That was…!"
"Yeah, that was undoubtedly magecraft of some kind!" Romani finished.
It was likely that the machine could detect those around somehow, and had weapons capable of intercepting one of the red Archer's attacks, so it was likely it could bombard them. However, rather than attack, it remained stationary, and the Powered Suits stood on standby.
Then, he appeared standing on the Ten Legs, close to its front.
"It's the Caster who was helping Kakine!" Mashu announced.
He appeared with a small smile, looking around the area. He held his right arm to his side, a small microphone appearing from his sleeve and dropping into his palm. From there, the AIM Jammer seemed to cut out, and was instead replaced by the man's voice as he spoke into the little handheld device.
"You have done well, Chaldea," He commended. "The demise of Sabnock is a tad bit of a problem; I was enjoying my gathering of information, but with him gone, I'm afraid that the Divine Hacking Core will have to step up their game, wouldn't you agree?" He spoke but heard no response. "Come now; I know you can hear me. Go ahead; speak your mind! I promise I'll be able to hear you, even from all the way down here!"
He knew they were there, and it was likely he knew exactly where each person was, either through the Ten Legs' own equipment or due to a spell in the Caster's arsenal. Against his better judgment, Ritsuka stood up on the rooftop and addressed him directly.
"I hope you're not just here to brag about superiority or something." He spoke.
"Oh goodness, no; I just thought it would be enlightening, that's all. This will be one of the few times we'll be speaking directly, you know? I do abhor violence, after all. A necessary evil is a necessary evil, of course, but only an absolute barbarian would simply swing their mighty axe without so much as simple dialogue."
"Says the guy who took over a giant tank!" Ritsuka fired back. "Are you part of the Divine Hacking Core!?"
The Caster's smiled widened a little. "Well… yes and no. I believe the term would be an 'independent contractor,' you see. They required some assistance, I provided it. Me appearing here, you might ask? Well, it is purely for me. I wanted to see how this Ten Legs operated after my modifications."
"So, this big bastard is your fault then?"
"Indeed; Academy City is so full of knowledge, so I just had to give rigging something up myself a go; like how if you step in a candy store, you want to try every flavor. You can understand that, right? I would have much rather been the discoverer of the things this city claims ownership of… but, even the most gifted of individuals must take any route necessary to enrich their minds, even if it means swallowing one's pride."
Romani paid close attention, hoping that the Caster's words would be a clue to the Servant's identity. Right now, they knew he could employ a wide variety of tools and mechanisms for battle and seemed very interested in academia. The image was getting clear, but…
"I must admit, the Demon Gods have been rather hospitable to me. The knowledge they provide is of a different sort; I suppose I'm not really fit to be a Caster, but if I were to be summoned, that would likely be the closest thing to my role. And while I wasn't too familiar with magic in life… well, my associates have been rather accommodating in letting me study them inside and out. A battery made from a Demon God's flesh and dipped in the rich energy of this city's ley lines is quite effective at producing electrical and magical power, I've discovered."
"A demon god battery!?" Romani shouted.
"Yes indeed!" The Caster looked quite proud of myself. "Its trial run has been magnificent, wouldn't you agree?" He tapped his foot against the Ten Legs. "Of course, it'll need to be recharged eventually, but for a city of science, this place is absolutely teeming with mana. Quite an easy fix if I do say so myself."
"What is your goal here?" Mashu demanded.
"Why, to learn, of course! There's just a little bit of 'my end' of our little deal to uphold. I assure you, none of this is personal. Mixing the power of Magic and Science… is that not what Chaldea is? What's wrong with me wanting to experiment a little bit with it myself?"
"You're sending a war engine to destroy the last safe place in this city!"
The Caster shrugged. "The price of progress. This city knows plenty about that based off of what I've discovered," He held out his hands. "I did up these Powered Suits too, but they were far too easy; I almost did them in the blink of an eye! But this HsWAV-15 you see before you is much more interesting!"
If he'd messed with them both, then it was likely the Powered Suits and the Ten Legs could damage Servants. Though it was strange: It was as if he was giving secrets away on purpose. What logic was there in that?
Then the unthinkable happened; Queen Medb suddenly spawned by the Caster. Even with spirit form, the Caster should have been able to detect her. Even so, the Caster simply raised an eyebrow at her, not seeming particularly perturbed by her appearance.
"Someone who always strives to better themselves is something I can enjoy the company of," She spoke with a sheepish smile. "I have a little offer for you myself if you catch my drift."
Chaldea was beyond confused; what the hell was she trying to pull!?
"Ah, switching sides, are we?" The Caster asked. "I'm not fond of betrayal, but I suppose I can't complain when it's in my favor. Interested in a contract? Such things can very much cure my natural distrust of people."
"Oh, I agree entirely! This new chariot right here seems rather interesting, Right? It practically screams 'power' at you just by looking at it."
"I suppose this grand fortress would elevate nearly anyone's position," He laughed. "You want the Ten Legs then? Cooperation with us would likely guarantee it."
Mashu looked ready to jump onto the Ten Legs herself, but Kintoki stopped her. He nudged his head across the street to where Cú had taken up position. Despite what was happening, the blue Lancer hadn't made a move yet, despite being able to skewer either Medb or the Caster in a single run. Why was he holding back?
"Good, then this is the cause for a little celebration between you and I," She smiled and held out a glass bottle. The liquid inside was a light golden color. "Please have a drink; it's a toast to a fruitful relationship!"
The Caster didn't reply to that, but simply eyed the glass bottle. It looked like he was resisting something, but one of his hands reached for the bottle regardless. His hand was visibly trembling. Before he could fully take it into his hand, however, a bolt from the Ten Legs raced across its body it to try and strike down the queen. She was forced to abandon the Ten Legs, not willing to chance the strength of the blast.
Medb clicked her tongue. "Damn it all…!"
"You… little…!" The Caster was panting, as if released from a spell. "What the hell was that!?"
"The second primary Noble Phantasm of Queen Medb; My Red Mead: My Dear Honey Wine," Romani stated. "I see… it's what we discussed earlier. She was trying to force him to change sides!"
"So… you found me of all people worthy to serve you, Queen Medb?" The Caster held his face.
"Not really, but sometimes you just have to settle," The pink haired queen fired back. "I would have used it earlier if you didn't keep sending Berserkers at us." It would appear that the delirious state of Madness Enhancement messed with the mandatory drinking property of the use of her Noble Phantasm, likely by altering their perception in some way.
"Then… it's likely a good thing you went after me instead of someone else," The Caster regained his composure. "I hope you don't expect that to work twice…!"
"Sweetie; me offing it to you was a lapse in judgement in the first place only justified by the hunk of metal you're standing on. You're such a damn bore that I don't think I'd be able to stand you for more than a few days."
That seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back. The Powered Suits became active again, as did the Ten Legs.
"Very well; if that's how you want it," The Caster spoke. "I was going to simply leave you with my gift, but now I'm a tad aggravated, understand? That little stunt irked me, so I think I'll work out a little stress."
Cú started shouting from his position. "You idiot! You just went and made it worse!"
"What!? How!" Medb fired back. She moved to refocus on the man on the tank, only to see a beam of light flying toward her, just narrowly threading the needle in-between her legs. "…Oh, that's how."
Several mirrors had spawned around the Caster. One was aimed in a vague direction of the sun, but despite the overcast sky, it still managed to reflect light that bounced from mirror to mirror, appearing to gain strength before the beam landed on one aimed toward the Queen.
Mirrors? That was a pretty big clue to the Caster's identity, but it didn't seem as definite as a Noble Phantasm.
EMIYA tried to attack again, this time aiming for the unknown Servant, but for a second time his assault was intercepted by the tank. Red beams of light fired from the gems, shooting into the sky before arcing downward toward Chaldea and company, carpet-bombing the area. Its main cannons began to open fire on EMIYA's position, forcing him to retreat as well, and the powered suits began to roll out and attacked Medb after she had wisely opted to run, seeing as the tank's master was targeting her specifically.
The heroic spirits were quick to act, although they were put in a bad position right away. Unlike the monsters from across space and time, these machines were primarily ranged fighters. The only one with a chance of really dealing with projectiles was Cú, but he too was at a disadvantage. He could likely deal with the Powered Suits with ease, but the Ten Legs was a different story; it had no heart for it to pierce and had ranged options to intercept the Soaring Spear. Moreover, those beams of light coming from the machine's legs were deceptively powerful and accurate. Furthermore, now that the pink haired queen had withdrawn to safety, the Caster up above had changed targets, using his mirrors to send deadly waves at whatever got close like a sweeping laser cannon.
Ritsuka arrived at ground level thanks to Mashu, but enemy forces quickly set upon them. More than a few Powered Suits got in their way, but Kintoki was more than enough to knock them aside so they could keep going. They crossed the alleyway to an adjacent street, but it appeared as though that'd be a temporary measure as some of the Powered Suits were chasing after them, despite being clearly outmatched by the Berserker.
Arrows flew from across the street when they exited the alleyway, striking the machines behind them. They were simple in appearance but had enough power behind them to puncture their metal casing and disable them. Hippolyta rode up to them shortly after with Mikoto and Kuroko riding along, carrying a bow in one hand.
"Guessing things broke down, huh?" She remarked. "How bad is it?"
"Bad enough that their Archer can't touch the damn thing; it intercepts all his shots," Kintoki grumbled. "Everything there is unloading massive amounts of fire power and can probably hurt even us Servants; it's pretty rough!"
"If I had something, I could fire off that'd last long enough-!" She suddenly doubled over in pain as a high pitch sound erupted again. "But… that stuff is…!"
"The sound… is that what's hurting you?" Mashu ran over, looking concerned. Kuroko wasn't faring much better.
Hippolyta nodded. "Something is making these espers pretty worthless; they mentioned an 'Aim Jammer,' I think. My guess it's the sound."
"My Noble Phantasm is defensive, but it can't block sound, I think…"
"If what you need is range, then see if you can get them to our Archer and pull out of the sound's reach," Ritsuka stated. "He can make all kinds of stuff with his projections; he can probably make something that can endure a long-range attack."
"Good, cause if I can get set up, I can blast that Ten Legs and destroy it in one go." Mikoto breathed heavy, but carried a serious expression.
"Then we'll do what we can about that." He didn't know what Mikoto had in mind, but if she needed something hard to break, EMIYA was the person to find, especially if it'd basically one-shot the giant tank that's giving them trouble.
"I can run these girls to him, but we're going to need cover." Hippolyta stated. "You got that?"
"I do; we'll handle it." Ritsuka stated. With a nod, Hippolyta took off with the two girls to find EMIYA while the Chaldea Master turned his attention back to the ongoing battle. He did have an out; he just didn't want to call on it while she was around due to their history. Thus, with her assuredly backing off to secure their finishing attack, he ran back down the alleyway, jumping over the downed suits on his approach. "Alright, now we're in the clear! Berserker!"
A loud howl erupted as Heracles materialized back in the main street and took off toward the offensive line. The Powered Suits opened fire immediately, but their shelling only bounced off the son of Zeus' skin. Emboldened by his fellow Berserker, Kintoki decided to join him on the attack run; a couple of Berserkers could bring the thing down pretty easily provided they could dodge or otherwise deal with its weaponry.
As they ran though, the Caster jumped down from the Ten Legs to stand in their way. They ran for him, seeing an opportunity to take down the creator in a single attack run. The mystery man snapped his fingers, causing a set of elaborate scales to appear above him, larger than the man himself. Once within a certain distance, the scales suddenly flipped with a loud thump sound, like the heavy beating of a drum.
Gravity inverted around them almost immediately; the only one still standing properly was the Caster.
"W-what the hell!?" Kintoki struggled to move but found he could only slightly alter his trajectory. After a few moments he appeared to leave the area of effect and crashed right back down, landing on his head. It was a simple but effective dismissal of the two's assault.
Hercules was much more graceful; he managed to flip in the air and actually jump off of the Ten Legs' frame, careening towards the enemy Servant like a rocket. The scales disappeared, causing gravity to return to normal, but the Caster quickly jumped to the side to dodge the strike. The Berserker glared at the man as his heavy blade struck the ground, but his opponent kept a neutral expression.
The Son of Zeus turned to charge but a set of interlocking gears suddenly appeared at his side, organizing into a funnel-like shape. Despite not being connected to a line, a surge of pressurized water shot out, striking him. It wasn't enough to do damage due to his steel-like body, but the flow of water was intense enough to push the Berserker off the ground and into the air, successfully dismissing him yet again. There were scrape marks left on the pavement; he clearly had the durability and strength to withstand such an assault, but the street below his feet did not.
With Heracles launched roughly a kilometer away, Kintoki saw an opportunity. "Take thiiiiiisssss!" He leapt up behind the Caster, his axe ready. His target snapped his fingers, causing several mirrors to spawn around his body, but none to directly block his strike. Once more, they reflected light in a seemingly random pattern, but the final mirror was actually right below Kintoki and struck him. This launched him upward quite a distance, though the burns were mostly tolerable for a Servant of his caliber.
He felt that way right up until he realized that he had begun to slow down right in front of the Ten Legs' main cannon, which fired with a thunderous roar. It wasn't designed for it, but his axe took the blow and survived, but he still took damage from the explosion and was sent flying as a result.
"We still looking for a way to actually hit the tank!?" Cú called out as he deflected gunfire. "We can't exactly get close to the damn thing with its lasers and the Caster protecting it!"
"We have one; it'll just take a while to get it!" Mashu called out. She and Ritsuka had rejoined the group to properly give out commands and assist, though they found a hard fight waiting for them. The Chaldea master could do some damage to the Powered Suits with Gandr, though it was far from a single shot take down on them. Needless to say, the spell practically bounced off the Ten Legs; it was so ineffectual, that the machine knew it didn't need to try and counter it with its laser array, saving its power for things much more worth its time.
"So, this is the great Chaldea, hmm?" The Caster folded his arms together. "I have to say, you're so predictable that I barely need to try. Berserkers can only charge ahead, while your Archer and Lancer are kept honest by my modified machines. I'm a little disappointed, honestly."
"This guy is pretty smart; this is totally different than fighting those two Berserkers…!" Ritsuka gritted his teeth.
"Of course I am. As a thinking man, solving problems is my job, and you lot are quite the problem. This is the difference between preparation and just charging blindly into a fight, you fools."
"…You saw our fight with the Demon God Pillar, didn't you?"
The Caster smiled. "Oh yes; I was watching quite intently. I'm especially saddened that Robin Hood and Hector of Troy hadn't joined you. I had unique countermeasures for them too that will never see the light of day; pity."
"Son of a… Medb!" Cú called out. "Caladbolg this bastard already!"
The Pink haired queen popped her head out from a building she had dove behind. "If I use it now, I won't be able to use it on a Demon God, you know; what if there are two or something!? My two-hour cooldown is very, very strict! Besides, I'm guarding Kamijou in case those robots try anything funny!"
"Oh, for the love of- why couldn't you have been Fergus or someone else actually useful!?"
"I resent that! I am plenty useful, even if it's not especially evident right now- whoa!" She cried out as the Caster formed another set of mirrors to target her; it seemed he was still agitated at her over the whole "almost turned into a love slave," thing.
As she was hiding with Touma, the unlucky Kamijou acted. The beam was as fast as light, but he stuck out his hand into its path as if he knew it was coming. However, even while most of the attack was successfully nullified, he felt his hand quickly start to heat up and burn. Queen Medb noticed and pulled him aside now that she was safe.
"How… the hell…!?" Touma observed his hand; it was burned and burned badly. Imagine Breaker triggered, he knew it did, but it couldn't fully nullify the attack. He tested his hand by opening and closing it; the pain was excruciating, but it still worked fine.
What was that attack to pierce through Imagine Breaker like that, even if it was only partially?
"…Uh, everyone! Problem!" Medb called out. "Kamijou's right arm doesn't fully work on that Caster's light beam attack!"
"Oh? Is that so?" The unknown Servant laughed briefly. "Interesting! I figured it'd react in some way, but to somehow bypass it? That surprises even me!"
"Medb! Stop giving the opponent a tactical head's up!" Cú shouted.
She fumed. "How the hell else am I supposed to warn you!? Sign language!?"
Ritsuka bit his lip; if the Caster knew their entire skill set and had prepared accordingly, they were in a bad spot. Kintoki's battle style was akin to Heracles, and likely their enemy's strategy didn't need much adjustment to counter him. Cú was kept honest by the tank itself, which also intercepted any attacks coming from Archer on top of that. Their one way out was Hippolyta, but she was assisting with the two esper girls.
"Hold on, I got something!" Romani called out abruptly. "Another Servant is inbound to your location, coming from the east! It looks like they're flying!"
They couldn't see due to the cityscape, but something was indeed flying toward them. Something spewing out white smoke eventually came into view, although the moment it was overhead, it oriented itself downwards. It landed with a slam, breaking apart the concrete before heaving up its massive mace-like weapon. It looked like a giant robot itself, appearing far larger than the powered suits, although it was spewing out steam at a constant rate.
Mashu knew this mechanized Servant form their adventures in London. "Charles Babbage!?" But that wasn't what shocked her, no.
It was the two girls riding on his shoulders.
"Told you I'd get up on here eventually!" The one with long black hair joked.
"Stop it," Babbage sounded annoyed. "I'm already mortified; don't rub it in."
"Charles Babbage escorting a couple of girls?" Romani was puzzled for a moment. "Do I even want to ask!?"
"Don't; we don't have time," Babbage stated. "The noise was a dead giveaway to what was happening, so I arrived as soon as I was able. These two hitched a ride."
"I-I don't feel so good…" The shorter girl with flowers in her hair looked nauseous, although that could be due to the AIM Jammer. Oddly, the taller one seemed mostly fine. It was sound based, but they figured that it'd hit all espers equally… maybe it was in proportion to their level?
"…Oh? Joined the battle, have you?" The enemy Caster eyed them carefully. He saw Heracles running back from where he landed and Kintoki climbing to his feet and looking to do the same.
"It's my duty as a Servant to put an end to this," Babbage stated. "Of course, you had to go and make this personal, so don't be too surprised."
"I suppose I'm really not, I just didn't expect your arrival so soon," The Caster departed the front line, jumping back up to the main body of the Ten Legs. "You are a problem I'd rather not contend with. Do you intend to withstand my assault craft, then?"
"Until my body breaks and turns into dust!"
Ritsuka watched the exchange, noting that it seemed like the two had met before. But as he thought on how the King of Steam could have met this man, an idea struck him.
"Babbage-san!" He called out. "You produce large amounts of steam, right!?"
"I do; it is necessary for my function." The large machine responded, briefly tearing his attention away from the enemy Servant.
"Then we need you to make it! A lot of it!" He pointed toward the Ten Legs. "That big tank-thing he's controlling is using a sound weapon! If we can take it out, we'll have an opening to destroy it! Hopefully, I don't need to mention what happens to speakers when a whole lot of moisture gets into them, right!?"
Babbage eyed the Ten Legs for a moment. Speakers were indeed vulnerable to moisture; water could muffle sound quite easily, as well as fry circuity due to condensation.
"Understood," He nodded. "Uiharu, Saten; I need you to dismount."
They were a little thrown off by such candid use of their given names, not used to the western way of it, but they did as they were told and hopped off.
"Go and give them hell, big guy! We'll be here waiting for you!" Saten playfully smacked the side of Babbage's armor.
"What do you have in mind, Babbage-san?" Uiharu asked.
"It is quite simple; we need a lot of steam," He stated. "And I intend to hand over an entire world of it!"
The Ten Legs opened fire with everything it had, targeting Charles Babbage directly, necessitating Mashu to block its hard-hitting attacks with her shield. Meanwhile, Heracles and Kintoki were able to rejoin the fight at a decent capacity. The remaining Powered Suits formed a firing line, unleashing their grenades and shotgun rounds with everything they had to slow down the encroaching Servants. Cú's Protection from Arrows let him slip in without issue and start tearing through them with ease, and the rounds simply bounced off Heracles' skin. Of course, the beams of light from both the Ten Legs and Archimedes kept them on their toes, but they were foes that absolutely needed to keep at bay.
That meant it couldn't focus on Babbage anymore. The mechanical Caster took off, steam erupting from his body with such intensity that it was able to propel him through the air until he was above the Ten Legs before aiming himself straight toward it.
"Behold!" He called out. "You lump of steel; helplessly enslaved by those who use my creation for greed and evil! What you see before you is my fantasy! My ideal! My dream! This is my Dimension of Steam!"
The output of his suit jumped fourfold, propelling him like a missile straight toward the Ten Legs, slamming into it with everything he had. Due to the machines stability, despite its damage, all it did was buckle a little under the force even as its outer armor broke apart. It was unknown if he was targeting the enemy Caster or not, but the impact site was close enough that he felt the need to jump back and avoid the attack.
"…Traitor." He threw the words toward his mechanical opponent.
"So says the one who has abandoned the people he was summoned to protect!" Babbage argued.
"Oh, I wouldn't know about that," The man smiled. "It's just a matter of perspective, you see. It's a shame we couldn't see eye to eye."
Babbage internally glared; he hated to admit it, but he was in the worst possible position against this man right now; helpless should he decide to attack.
But the unknown Servant didn't.
"Well, I suppose that's a wrap on this scenario," He dusted off his hands. "I have to say, that was quite good stress relief. I feel much better after smacking that lot down below around a little."
"You meater; you're just going to run!?"
"Of course! I have no intention of going down with the ship. This was just for a little bit of fun and seeing my little Frankenstein-creation in action was quite a bit of it! Surely you of all people can understand what it means to see your babies in action, right?
The unknown Servant unfolded his arms, taking on a more serious expression.
"…You keep doing what you feel is right, enact your revenge. But know this, Charles Babbage; you are on the wrong side of this war. And that's a good way to get yourself killed."
With that, the Caster faded into spirit form, almost as if he was letting Babbage do his work on the Ten Legs. Steam continued to pour out like a waterfall, quickly blanketing the area in a thick white fog now that their primary enemy had left the battlefield proper.
The speakers on the Ten Legs gradually began to wane, as moisture began to build up on and around them due to exposure. Moreover, the fog cover was dampening the sound, reducing the AIM Jammer's effectiveness even further.
From outside the fog, a certain Railgun couldn't hear it any longer. And if it could not be heard, its influence could no longer reach her. A sword was flipped into the air; it was once a legendary blade, but this was just a humble projection; a fake of what once was. All it needed to do was hit its mark.
A bright orange light ripped through the fog and struck the Ten Legs, ripping it apart in a single blow. It could intercept EMIYA's arrows, but Misaka Mikoto's railgun traveled over three times the speed of sound. With its fire drawn and steam in use to inhibit its sensors, it didn't stand a chance of being able to intercept it. The core was struck, and the Ten Legs exploded, sending shards of metal in all directions.
With the Powered Suits able to be quickly mopped up, the battle was theirs. But their clash with the Divine Hacking Core was just getting started.
The ominous last words of the unknown enemy Servant made that clear.
Fun fact; meater is actually an old British insult. Have fun googling it.
so, the next segment has began! Uninterested in giving the group a break, the Divine Hacking Core strikes immediately! And moreover, Charles Babbage has decided to get involved personally... with a little entourage.
This part is just getting started, but it'll hit pretty hard and pretty fast once it gets going. I hope you'll stick around!
I hope you all enjoyed. Please, review at your leisure; I still enjoy feedback.
Have a good day, my friends!
ArmoredCoreNineBall, your friendly (not)robotic (not)overlord (possibly)person who occasionally writes things.