Here we go, chapter 16! Over 3/4's of the way done, baby!

Before we jump in, have some review responses!

D N Works: Kakine's situation is still quite the strange one, isn't it?

Darkdeath12: But that would have gotten Fergus' real attention at that point.

Felipe1402XZA: Fingers crossed!

Taromaru: Too bad Medb doesn't know the details, huh?

freddy lane 1: Fergus does what Fergus wants when booty is on the line.

Guest (1): YES! IT IS!

ActionTReaction: Maximum chaos! Just the way I like it! Sounds like you have a creative idea for a To Aru Servant!

Cygfried: It happens quite often...

Guest (2): The jojokes shall never die.

craytherlay: The doubt more stems form his mood and the whole "Watching someone die" in front of him.

MrQuestionMark: Alter Ego Beetle 5; coming in the Rerun event. I'm really glad the emotional side clicked with you, as it was really necessary to build these two up. Especially since Fergus is now officially a factor! Hopefully Archimedes' little plan makes sense when he finally pops it.

sawtooth44: Don't worry too much about the Blast Furnace; it's the people working under him that are the problem.

Vivista: Glad I got the balance just right!

calderoneric758: You'll just have to read through and find out!

Victoria1676: Will do! This story still has some steam in it!

Kamijou Touma1: We'll have to see. My life situation has changed and I it ahs impacted my writing ability. It's a good thing I got this one done in advance!

tsun: Wasn't really trying to be funny; Touma was pretty down because he just saw someone he could see a lot of himself in die in front of him. Kamijou Touma has never been really good with death of those around him.

G119: Someone is painting a target on their back.

Problade: Something like that; it's dependent on what he can see though.

Guest (3): Maybe, maybe not!

Maxim7: Fergus likes games, fighting, and sex. Depending on how this goes, all two are present and the third in on the line; he's going for it.

Mr. X: 1): If they ask their questions again, I'd be more than happy to answer; a lot of theme ended up lost to the void, sadly. 2) Avengers do have Self-Replenishment, but unless it's an excessively high ranking, it can't take the place of an outside source without Independent Action also being splashed in. 3) He sure is going to try! and 4) Won't spoil, but your off... if only just a little.

AkumaESPer: Medea needs more love, honestly. Its always Medea-Lily, I swear. Yup; they are engaging with the Last Core threatening the city; they're almost at the home stretch! I'm still digging your theory crafting, my friend! Kazekiri is probably just watching with the thought of, "...What is happening to my town while I can't do anything about it!?"

Missingmoney: While generally true, it does feel like there are plenty of caveats to the "A Servant is weaker than they were in life," so many that I'm starting to doubt it as a ever-present thing. Honestly, it almost feels like one of those rules designed to be broken at times, and sometimes without reason at that. Though I would like to make the argument that the closer a historical figure was in life to the general power-scale of a Servant in life, the less they are altered by being summoned as a Servant, but I'd have to do a lot of research to really have that argument carry any weight. As for Touma... yeah; he's got his work cut out for him. He's gonna need a miracle!

And now... enjoy!

"Alright… well, maybe it was a bad idea to agree to such a challenge in a city I didn't really understand…" Fergus mused as he spoke, but gradually came to a smile regardless. "Oh well! Just makes it more interesting! I have to say, he didn't look particularly strong, but clearly his legs were what I should have been observing with how fast he got away from me!" He looked around carefully, trying to find a trace of his prey. "Half an hour… I have the most distinct feeling it is going to be rather interesting!"

Across the street, Touma stuck his face out briefly from a bush, his pursuer none the wiser.

"It's a good thing I hid; if I tried to stick it out just running, he would have caught me already…!" He remarked.

Shortly after, Medb did the same.

"He's a relentless one. He won't get jealous or mad unless you betray him, but he does like bouts of sport and won't give up without a definitive defeat under his belt."

"…You caught up to me too?"

"Spirit form; walking through walls reduces travel time significantly. Imagine if you could just take a straight-line route home every day?"

"…I wish I was a Heroic Spirit."

"Hey, if you've died before, there's probably a copy of you in the Throne of Heroes. That's one lesson we picked up form that piece of shit Kakine."

"That's great and all, but that doesn't do much for me here!"

Touma pulled himself back inside as Medb did the same. Thankfully, it was a thick piece of brush. Healthy too; plenty of leaves despite the winter months. Maybe it was a specialty-bred plant that kept its foliage year-round? It certainly served them well, anyway.

"So, we need to get away from him for another twenty-five minutes…" Touma remarked. "Holy crap; he's faster than he looks though. The hundred count-down barely gave me time to get away…!"

"He is one of the most powerful heroes on the Isle of Ireland, you know. You're lucky you got this far." Medb added.

The boy frowned. "Halfway temped to just lose outright to get it over with…"

"I'd appreciate it if you didn't; I'm listed as the prize, remember? How do you think I'd feel being awarded to someone because the other player thought I wasn't worth winning!?"

"…Is this a pride thing?"

"It's a lot of things."

They were able to keep a moderately close eye on the large Irish man as he looked around. Perhaps due to Medb appearing next to the unlucky teen, he got the inkling that his target could be hiding somewhere close by and started looking through some of the shops.

"…Think if we could somehow make it back to your home that we could lose him there?" The pink haired queen questioned.

"Maybe if we could slip away from here without being noticed…" Touma eyed Fergus for a moment; he really wasn't wasting much time in the shops. As such, there wasn't much of an opportunity to sneak away undetected. "…Mind if I ask something?"


"What exactly was he asking about? Being peckish? I don't recall Heroic Spirits actually feeling hungry. Not traditional hunger, anyway."

"…When a man and a woman want to make a kid-"

"O-ok, got it," Touma held the bridge of his nose. "Great, now I feel stupid…"

"Relax; code is code for a reason. Besides, I turned him down for you. Feel some pride in that, would you?"

"Can I ask why? I'm pretty sure I'm not worth it, especially with that guy being the competition."

Medb paused for a moment. "…I'll answer your question if you'll answer mine from the restaurant. The whole 'where would you like extra fat' on my body thing."

"…Understood, I'll keep quiet."

"No, I'm serious; scratch my back and I'll scratch yours."

"Really!? Right now!?"

"This isn't even the strangest thing I've discussed with a man; no need to act squeamish."

A third voice chimed on. "Oh yes! That's quite right! I remember what you asked me when we first met! Haha; that's the closest I've gotten to turning beet red!"

The two in the bush blinked and turned, finding Fergus behind them. They were so busy arguing that they didn't notice him cross the street. Touma's face paled at the sight of him.

"Listen; I know how it is dealing with her. If you'd like me to pause the timer for a bit so you two can enjoy each other's company, I don't mind." Fergus offered.

Medb shook her head. "Oh, no, no; it's fine. Thank you."

Touma nodded. "Yeah, it's ok; sorry."

"No harm done! No harm done!" The larger man smiled wide. And then a few seconds later reached in to grab the unlucky Kamijou, only just narrowly missing as the boy scurried from the bush, moving on all fours for a time before gradually climbing to his feet for a full sprint.

"Y-you've got to be kidding me!? Why now of all times!? Such misfortune!"

"I must say!" Fergus had already caught up to him. "For a normal human, you are pretty fast!"

The large man darted for him, failing to make contact as the teen came to a sudden stop in order to turn down an alleyway. Fergus was in hot pursuit with Touma running for his left. He tried knocking over trashcans, but those were kicked aside with ease, completely incapable of slowing him down. The unlucky Kamijou even released the locks on a dumpster to cause it to roll in the man's way, and he just came out of the alleyway carrying the damn thing before throwing it down the street and resuming his chase without missing a beat.

Touma internally screamed. Was he suddenly in a Saturday morning cartoon short!? He didn't know why, but he had the distinct feeling the man was taking it easy on him; he really was thinking of this as just a friendly game, wasn't he!?

Fergus almost caught him again, but an emergency slide to try to turn put him just under the man's grip and gave him the opportunity to sprint down the sidewalk. He had almost managed to restrain the teen again shortly after, but this time he swung his arm out toward a light pole to swing around it, stretching his muscles in a very painful way but managing to evade capture regardless. Moreover, since Fergus' higher momentum kept him going, it took him longer to turn and keep up his pursuit… and it didn't help that when he tried the same, he used too much of his own strength and broke the damn thing.

"You're quite the slippery little eel!" Fergus shouted ahead, even as he quickly gained ground. "How are you able to evade me so easily just in the nick of time?"

"Y-you're not the first person to chase me up and down these streets!" Touma called back.

They continued like this for a time; with Fergus just narrowly failing to catch the unlucky Kamijou, either due to some fixture set as part of the city or him utilizing his smaller stature to outmaneuver him. Touma wasn't lying when he said he'd been chased regularly across Academy City but had never encountered someone as persistent as Fergus mac Róich. He had almost been caught at least seventeen times, and each one was closer (And felt more harmful to his general state of health) than the last.

He took a risk darting up a ramp of some kind and his legs immediately regretted it due to having to jump off at the very end. It allowed him to clear a fenced-in part of an alleyway, though, so it was a plus in the end. Fergus didn't seem interested in causing destruction in their little chase (Aside from the occasional accident here and there), so that put him ahead a little bit ahead as the man would have to clear it too. He exited the other side and turned the corner as fast as he could, opening the door to the first building he could and dove inside, slamming it shut behind him.

Panting and wiping sweat off his brow, he didn't even have time to check where he had forced his way into.

"Umm… do you mind? I know the door is unlocked, but we're preparing to open for about another half hour or so. Can't you read the sign?"

Touma looked up to see Tamamo-no-Mae looking over what seemed to be several new hires, a batch of about seven or eight girls ranging from sixteen to twenty years old, along with some more experienced staff. He must have found his way inside the maid café. He cursed himself almost immediately.

"Oh hey! It's the coffee-burn guy!" Elizabeth Bathory was sitting on the stage, kicking the air. "How're the burns? Still hurt?"

"They're… uh…" Pausing to think for a moment; after everything that had gone down, he had actually forgotten about them entirely. "…No idea. S-sorry for barging in, but I'm in a hurry! Do you mind if I hide out in here for a little bit!? I don't care if you stuff me in the oven as long as you don't turn it on!"

"…Hey, maybe it's about that heroic spirit who just entered our detection radius," Elizabeth remarked. "He could be on the run from whoever it is."

"Well, it's not Shuten or anyone I know; she always shows up when there's a show," Tamamo remarked. "I guess I don't mind…? Actually, having someone to serve directly could be good training!"

"If it means I can lie low here, I'll do whatever you want!" The unlucky Kamijou was clearly desperate, and the shrewd businesswoman known as Tamamo-no-Mae's ears perked up immediately; just then, she had the idea to make use of that quite extensively. Not only would having a live subject for her girls to serve do wonders for training, but it was getting to the point where their resident knight butler needed a helping hand too. Business was booming to say the least.

Suddenly, the kitchen door swung open, revealing Tamamo Cat. "Ok! Who wants to learn how to carry Omurice, woof?"

The blue-dressed fox woman slapped a hand to her face. "Not yet, you dingus! We're still in orientation!"

"Is everything alright?" Gawain stepped out, carrying a box of what looked like table decorations. "Oh, hello Sir Kamijou! To what do we owe the pleasure?"

"Big guy! Amazingly fast! Extraordinarily strong!" The teen could only speak in short bursts.

"Now, now; we can be very hospitable! Come on in and take a load off! We won't let anyone hurt you!" Tamamo hid her devilish intensions behind a cheerful façade and a cute smile.

Touma made his way to the customer seating area before the door swung open. "Are you in here!?" A gruff voice called out, sending a chill up the boy's spine.

"Oh, come on!" Touma groaned as Fergus held the door open, although even he was brought to a pause at the sight before him.

"So many girls in one place, hmm?" He nodded a few times. "Good taste!"

"How did you even know I was here!?

"Didn't; I just felt several Servants," He answered. "At first, I thought you were having a private get-together with Medb again, but then I popped here and… well, low and behold! At least twenty girls and only two men, counting yourself!? No wonder you chose this place!"

Elizabeth raised an eyebrow. "…Ok, makes sense why you'd be tearing ass to get away from him. Looks like he could bend steel with his pinky finger."

"Hmm… everyone here seems to be of age… except for you, oddly enough. I hope you're not part of the entertainment staff." A hand came to Fergus' chin and stroked it inquisitively as he focused on the smaller girl.

"This isn't a strip club; it's a café you doof! I sing for the enjoyment of our esteemed guests!"

"…Nope; can't see it. Can't really get into a woman singer so young and underdeveloped. I don't really see the appeal."

A sickening crack was heard as Elizabeth's head tilted sideways. She jumped down from her stage, her face a bright red, and stomped her way in front of the Celtic hero, grinding her teeth as she did so.

"Listen, I didn't mean anything negative; I just can't really get invested in little-!"

Elizabeth took a deep breath, but what came out was a devastating soundwave in earsplitting proportions, all focused in a straight line in front of her. Fergus was blasted out in an instant, landing somewhere across the street and leaving the door open; the angered girl wasn't paying enough attention to actually tell where she sent him.

"AND STAY OUT!" She slammed the door before marching back to her spot on the stage, propping herself back up and still looking more than a tad grumpy as she got comfortable again.

Tamamo simply made a deadpan look. "Seriously, Elizabeth; you can't keep doing that to our guests!"

"Piss off! He deserved it and you know it!"

"I'm not saying he didn't, I'm stating that you scare our guests each time you do! Right now is probably fine, but we really need to curb that bad habit of yours! It's Gawain's job, anyway!"

"He always escorts them off all polite-like! If they're being thrown out, it should be aggressive and make clear that their attitude isn't welcome!"

"It's called discretion you lizard!"


Tamamo cat yawned. "And they've started bickering again…"

"…Is this normal?" Touma turned to one of the girls who looked to be on the senior staff and received a sad nod in response.

The door opened again, and once more Fergus stepped inside, although he had a trashcan lid on his head. "…I do believe I touched something rather sensitive; I apologize."

"Sir, with all due respect," Gawain stepped up to him after setting his box of goods down. "You've insulted one of our staff members, and such conduct in unacceptable. I'm afraid I must ask you to leave immediately."

"Sorry; can't," The large man frowned. "Having a little contest between me and the boy. It's already pretty fun all things considered."

"That is none of my concern. If you're willing to wait a moment or two, we can send him out properly so you may resume, but-!"

It looked like a light shove, but it sent the Arthurian Knight tumbling into the backroom. Fergus was not taking no for an answer… although, at least he wasn't trying to hurt him.

"…And now my white knight butler has been sent rolling like a bowling ball," Tamamo's ears drooped. "Today is not a good day…"

"Sorry, but we'll be out of your hair shortly," Fergus stated. "Alright, fifteen minutes down, fifteen to go. How will you escape me from this room, I wonder? I'm extremely interested to see what you'll come up with!"

Touma gritted his teeth. At least this little excursion gave him a moment or two of rest. Maybe he could pivot around the large man and dart through the kitchen? It was a longshot, but it was worth trying at the very least.

An alarm went off and Tamamo Cat pushed her paw glove up to check a watch. "Oh! Three PM! Break time, woof!"

"…Three PM, you say?" Tamamo-no-Mae's ears perked up.

"Yes! You don't have a problem with my break time, do you, woof?" Cat held up her paws, causing knife-like claws to pop up from the tips.

"Nope; just double checking." She clammed up at that and crossed her hands behind her back.

Touma looked ready to run, and Fergus looked ready to do the same. Footsteps interrupted them as the sound entered from the room a certain knight had just been pushed into.

"That was incredibly rude."

A fist flew and struck the Irish Knight's face, packing enough force to send him flying from the building for a second time. Gawain had returned, this time dressed in his usual attire; a polished and beautifully decorated silver armor with black ascents and underclothes. That wasn't all; the man seemed to be positively glowing, as if he were as radiant as the sun itself. The new girls in the room's hearts seemed to skip a beat upon witnessing his visage.

"What's… happening?" Touma blinked.

"An exclusive skill to Gawain: Numeral of The Saint," Elizabeth explained in an almost bored tone. "He basically becomes an invincible hero during certain times of the day; nothing special."

"Sir Kamijou," The white knight smiled warmly. "I do not know of this contest you and this man hold, but I know this much; I certainly prefer dealing with you over him. Allow me to delay him further so that you may escape."

"T-this kinda feels like cheating…" The unlucky Kamijou

Gawain chuckled. "I suppose it does. Regardless, he has injured my honor and violated the rules of this establishment, and thus, I must punish him regardless. Sometimes, life is not fair; you might have days where you feel eternally troubled, and some eternally blessed. I hope you can consider this the latter, and escape with your head held high. Consider this proper recompense for the pain and suffering you endured with the coffee."

Touma wanted to argue, but Gawain had already taken off, a blade appearing in his hand. The sound of clashing blades quickly filled the air not long after. The spiky haired teen had to admit; this would give him the opportunity to escape, and it's not as if they outlined that outside help was barred during their little contest. Coming across Gawain when he's at his best could almost be considered-

"…Lucky…" Touma's face drooped upon that realization.

"I saw your mood drop as if the horse you bet on just lost. You ok over there?" Elizabeth called out.

"J-just fine!" He did his best to brush it off. "Listen, I know I offered, but…"

"I get it; we can do a raincheck," Tamamo sighed as she spoke and began to mumble. "…I'll have you working here by the end of the week."

"I'm sorry; what was that?"

"Nothing~" She perked right back up. "There's a back exit through the kitchen! Cat, could you please make sure that he finds is way out safely?"

"But it's my break time!" Cat fired back. "You can't make me do stuff on a break!"

"Ugh, for the love of…" Tamamo rubbed her temples. "If you do it, I'll let you take a double!"

She caved immediately. "Roger, roger, Boss-Tama!" Cat saluted. "Follow me and my adorable fluffy tail, woof!"

Touma simply nodded; he really didn't have time to wait around. He couldn't quite place it, but something wasn't right. After exiting the maid café, he raced for home as fast as he could. The repeated clang of blades could be heard for a rather long time, but the teen did his best to ignore it. He pushed on for as long as he could and got quite a distance before he ultimately had to stop to catch his breath. He was about three blocks away from his dormitory, but he just couldn't go any farther; all of his running and trying to escape Fergus had already put a dent in his stamina.

"Why the rush?" Medb suddenly formed next to him. "I saw what happened in the café; good work escaping. That was pretty lucky, huh?"

"That's the problem…" Touma took a deep breath. "All good fortune I get… is returned with equal or worse misfortune…!"

"Oh," She blinked. "…Ohhhh…" The realization hit her. "Ok, I get it. Then I should probably take you up high really quick."

"Why's that?"

"You'll see. It might be related to that 'equal or worse misfortune' thing."

She grabbed him, putting the teen on her shoulder, and jumped up to reach the top of the nearest building. It took a little doing, but Medb's high Agility stat made wall-jumping and a little bit of climbing a possibility.

When she set him down, it was hard to miss.

"…Another Demon God Pillar…!?" Touma's jaw dropped a little. "But it's so far away…!"

"I think due to the downturn in your mood, they might have gone on ahead without you," She stated. "You weren't exactly… combat ready, I guess is the nice way of putting it."

"…Even so…" Touma gritted his teeth. He wanted to make it out there, but with as far away as they were…

His hairs stood on end briefly. No; that Demon God wasn't what created his bad feeling. There was something odd; something unusual as he ran through the area that he couldn't put his finger on. A quick look from rooftop to rooftop, as well as the street below, gave him an inkling though.

"…Medb," He called out. "We're within the radius of your soldiers, right? I haven't seen any of them."

The pink haired queen put her hand to her chin. She then whistled in a code of some kind and waited. About half a minute went by, but not a single one responded.

She bit her lip. "I think they've been taken out…"

"Do you think that while Fujimaru-san and the rest went out, they came to hit us…!?"

"Those nasty little…!" Medb growled. "Shit; if they all went out, that just leaves you and me!"

"Three of them against us… two if that Shuten girl is feeling like honoring her deal."

"We shouldn't count on that; it was made with Kintoki, not us."

"…Then let's get Sakata-san!" Touma turned toward her. "You can get to the Windowless building really fast, right? You can go and bring him back! Maybe Hippolyta will come by too!"

"And where are you going during all this?"

Touma looked down the street. "Back home. I have a distinct feeling I know who is waiting for me there. And even if he wasn't, I just can't leave Index and Othinus alone right now…!"

"They're probably already…" Medb trailed off, coming to a stop as she saw him clench his fist. "Damn it all… if only Fergus wasn't off being horny; are you sure?"

"Not even a little, but I know that if I can't make it there in time, they'll…"

"Alright, I'll trust you," Medb picked him back up and jumped to ground level. "I'll go fetch backup; you make sure not to get yourself killed before I get back, alright?"

"Thank you; I have no idea how I'll be able to repay you for this!"

"Believe me; I'm keeping tabs. I'll make sure you return the favor, or my name isn't Queen Medb!"

The two went their separate ways, one to bring in backup, the other to protect someone close to him.

Both just hoped they'd make it in time.

"Another Demon God Pillar popped up where!?" Hippolyta remarked as she walked into the command tent.

"District 17, ma'am!" One of the operators called out amidst the chaos. "We're getting confirmation that there are individuals currently engaging it!"

"Are they affiliated with us?"

"No ma'am; they appear to be an independent party."

"Yeesh, it hasn't even been a week yet…" Kintoki grimaced. "This Solomon guy must be getting impatient."

"Or unlucky," Hippolyta suggested. "If it's already being fought and not by us, then Chaldea must have gotten their hands dirty. What's the condition of the district?"

"Bad ma'am; reports are coming in about fires across the area." The operator called out.

Hippolyta crossed her arms. "Damn, that'll make getting physical troops there harder…"

"Doesn't say much about us…" Kintoki shrugged. "They rolled out and beat up the first one on their own, and they thrashed the second with just a little support; I think just you and me could be enough."

"Still, there's no reason to hold back on options…" The Amazon Queen's face was as hard as stone. "…Are those Espers with Charles Babbage? Give them a call, would you?"

The operator did as she was told and started a video call on her computer. A response came right away.

"Yes, Uiharu Kazari here; is there something you need?" The flower-band girl greeted them politely.

"How is that project going on? Babbage get it up and running yet?" Hippolyta questioned.

"Oh! That!" She took a small breath. "We're still a ways off; we're going at lightning speed with his expertise and Misaka-san's ability, but we're still in the assembly phase. Honestly, I'm surprised so many units in Academy City are interchangeable… Babbage-san is having a field day!"

"Damn; so much for that… if it's not ready then…"

Kintoki frowned, but suddenly a presence became known to him that made his hair stand on end; one he knew all too well.

"Ho hum, is this where you've holed yourself up in? Kinda dry from a decor standpoint, isn't it?"

He turned, seeing the visage of one Shuten Douji. "H-hey! The hell are you doing here!?"

"Presence concealment made breaking in a breeze~"

"I asked what, not how!"

Hippolyta turned from the call, raised an eyebrow at the golden man. "…I didn't know you had a girlfriend… and one so… young…"

"She's a lot older than she looks, ok! And she's not my girlfriend, either!" He turned back toward the Oni of the hour. "Ok, seriously, the hell are you doing here!?"

"Looking for you."


"You stood me up last time, and I was very upset."

The Amazon queen blinked a few times, as did Uiharu who was still on the call. "…Listen, Kintoki; if she's what you're into, it's fine. I'm a very understanding big sister. We can help you get over this."

"Oh, we are not having this conversation right now!" Kintoki roared.

"…Well, she does look very pretty…" Uiharu stated softly. It did not go unnoticed as the Oni practically glided over to the computer.

"Oh? Oh? Oh!?" She grinned. "Who do we have here? Such a little cutie!" This made the flower-band girl blush. "Why I could just eat you up, yes I could!"

"Ok, enough of that!" Kintoki grabbed the much smaller girl by her head and pulled her back.

"You can tug and pull as much as you want; it doesn't come off anymore."

"Not what I'm after!" He turned her to face him. "You. Here. Explain. Now. Please!"

"…Well, since you said please," She smiled, not perturbed by being held by her cranium in the slightest. "I was wondering if you were still interested in our little deal from before, hmm? Getting Ibaraki to back off from this whole thing?"

"Golden straight I'm still interested!"

"Well then… the clocks a ticking! The big bad Demon God popped up, but we were sent off someplace else… a place kind of… special."

"Where to?"

Shuten grinned a little. "Oh, I can't quite remember… some place… some district… I think a boy with spiky hair lived there, but I can't quite remember. I say lived because the clown has probably blown it to bits already… but there is a chance that he didn't~"

"…Ah crap, what was that kid's name!?" Kintoki beat his own head. "Damn it all; I'm bad with names!"

"Who? The boy from the other day?" Uiharu blinked before turning back from her computer. "Hey! Misaka-san! What's your boyfriend's name!?"

The spark fest from off screen was immediate. "H-h-he's not m-my boyfriend! That idiot can suck on a road spike!"

"It's not about that though! Sakata-san needs his name!"

"His name?" Mikoto walked onto frame from off screen, grease quite apparent on her face from hard work. "Kamijou Touma; why do you need his name? Something going on?"

"We think he's become a big target; you can search his address on this Judgement Network thingy, right?"

"…Targeted by who?" Mikoto started sparking again.

"Bad lot of pieces of shit," Kintoki pointed his thumb at himself. "Don't worry; I'll be rolling out the moment we got an address. I'll pull his butt out of the fire real nice and golden like!"

"You sure that you can handle it on your own? I know the stuff he gets involved with; I'd be more than happy to help!"

"With all due respect, timing is very precarious right now," Hippolyta stated. "We need you to work on that machine with Babbage still. We're pretty sure he's being targeted, but with those friends of his, he's probably fine. Kintoki is just insurance."

"About two-hundred pounds of it." Shuten grinned, still in the large man's grip.

"…Be careful, and make sure he's fine, alright?" The Railgun relented.

Uiharu took control back and began typing away. "Let's see… got it! I'll send it over to your side now!"

An email made its way over to the PC on Hippolyta's end as well as their printer for a little bit of safe redundancy. She went over and grabbed it before walking back.

"Ok; we're going to let you lot work now, alright? Stay safe!" She smiled toward them.

"Goodbye! Good luck!" Uiharu wished them well before terminating the call.

Kintoki frowned. "Hey… are you sure lying to them like this is golden? You know Chaldea is off against the Demon God, right?"

"It'll be fine; I'm putting my best man on the job," Hippolyta pushed the paper into the golden man's chest. "You're no amazon, but you'll do just as well as one, you big lug. I'll make my way over to Chaldea while you pull that boy out of a bind, alright?"

"…You got it!" Kintoki grinned. "Shuten; you're coming with me!"

"At least carry me bridal style, would you?" She remarked, still being dragged along by her head.

"Err…" He let go of her carefully. "Sorry, it's just… you know."

"Yes, yes; the evil and vile Shuten Douji," She giggled. "This'll be fun; I've always fought with you, but never alongside you before."

"Well, first time for everything," The golden man nodded. "Alright, I'm heading out! Good luck, big sis!"

"You too! Stay safe!" Hippolyta called her horse and rode off as fast as it'd take her.

Never had his dormitory looked so foreboding. Touma swallowed his spit as he stood before the large, mostly abandoned building. All of the rooms' lights were off, aside from one: his.

He pressed on; the elevator being out was never more a pain in the ass than it was at that moment. The anticipation of whatever he'd find was killing him and having to run up the flights of stairs made it worse. Eventually, he reached his floor, a dull but intense emotion washing over him when he arrived. His body was telling him to go back on reflex; not to be safe, but so he wouldn't have to see what was waiting for him.

Kamijou Touma didn't have a choice, as much as he wanted to turn tail and run. He marched ahead, only stopping at the entrance to his room, finding the door locked. Chaldea must have closed it up when they left. His hand trembled as he took his room key and slid it into the lock, the door clicking softly as he turned it and opened the door.

Not much was amiss; no furniture was knocked over, nothing was on fire or torn up. It looked perfectly normal… or rather, mostly normal.

Index was on the ground, simply unconscious, at the head of his bed. No blood could be seen, and her chest was still rising and falling, indicating breathing. As he stepped in, he could see Othinus over by the sink, sprawled out as if she had been thrown there and didn't have the strength to push herself back up.

And then there was a clown blocking the entrance to the back patio, waiting for him.

"Why, hello there!" Mephistopheles greeted rather casually, speaking in an almost friendly tone. "Long time no see! Might I say that you have nice and humble home? Certainly better than the countryside where all there is to do is roam!"

"…Of course it's you," Touma stepped further inside. "If you were after me, you didn't need to target them at all."

"Ah, on the contrary!" The Caster held up a single finger, wagging it ever so slightly. "To get to you, I must first make use of them. Now, you might be thinking that your familiarity with them means that this is your fault, but this is not true. For if they weren't of use to me in this exact instance, I would have killed them both already. Understand? You are absolutely not the cause of their harm, but their savior from a much worse fate!"

Touma clenched a fist and started marching forward. To bring the boy to a halt, Mephistopheles tossed some of his bombs toward him. He swung his right hand to negate them, but reflexively backed up just in case any had managed to slip through.

"Now, now, now; you should stay right there. A time will come for you to move, that much a promise you, but doing so out of turn would be… unfortunate." The clown warned, shaking his head playfully.

Touma gritted his teeth, and the look seemed to make Mephistopheles grin wider.

"I must say, you are taking this far better than I had hoped! I was scared you'd be too disheartened that you'd become a perpetual mope. But I suppose you can read in-between the lines; you aren't a dope! Why, you can understand things here, and I didn't even need rope!"

"Shut the hell up!" He roared. "What do you want with me!?"

The Caster raised a single finger to his lips. "Quiet now… it is very important that you don't scream or yell," He then pointed. "You might upset your new friend!"

Touma was confused; a new friend? The sinister clown was pointing to his left arm and saw it. A mechanical bug with a segmented body made up of clicking clocks with golden little wire-like legs. It wasn't just crawling up his arm though; it was actually crawling out of it, with an incision around his right bicep. He could see the insect's body protruding from his skin, with a trail leading seemingly all the way from his back.

He was immediately frightened. When did that get there!? What is it!? And why can't he feel it moving!?

"Kamijou Touma…!" Mephistopheles grinned wide. "I would like to play a game with you…!"

Medb rode her chariot down the road as fast as she could make it go. All the while, she was racking her brain on what to do; their opponents would be Ibaraki Douji, Shuten Douji, and Mephistopheles. If fetching Kintoki removed Shuten from the roster, that still left the Berserker and the Caster, and how to handle each one was different.

She was certainly cursing her lack of combat ability right now. Caladbolg could work, but its limited nature and mass destructive capability when she used it was a problem. Could she run over Mephistopheles and go about it with her Chariot My Love Noble Phantasm? She shivered at the thought; being anywhere close to the creep made her skin crawl.

As she drove, something hit her ride hard enough to make it jostle. Had the Berserker found her? She sneered; that person was the last-

"Yo," Someone, grasping onto part of her chariot leaned over and said hello. "Long time no see, queenie."

"…Robin Hood?" Medb blinked.

"How are you doing there, lil' lady? Where's the rush?" A voice came from the other side, doing the same.

"Hector!?" Her jaw dropped in disbelief. "What are you two doing here!?"

"Got all that evacuation stuff handled and happened to be in the area," Robin answered. "What's new? You seem to be more than a little frazzled."

Her gaze drifted from one to the other a few times, her brain formulating ideas. Stratagems. Plans. She was on route to find Sakata Kintoki, but…

"…Hold on!" She called out.

"Whoa!" Hector yelped and gripped the side of the chariot, with Robin Hood doing the same, as the bulls pulling it suddenly turned, causing the rear end to swing around. They had suddenly reversed course. "What's this about!?"

"I need you. Both of you," Medb remarked. "A certain someone is in trouble, and as much as it makes me want to puke, I can't handle the rubes responsible. You two just said you're basically free agents, right?"

The Trojan lancer exchanged looks with the green Archer before responding. "…What exactly is going down?"

"The last faction is playing a very nasty game of divide and conquer, and I'd very much like to see them lose!"

"No good! His skin is basically indestructible!" Cú Chulainn called out after having his spear simply grind off Demon God Naberius' hide.

"Fool; have you even seen a furnace? Incredible heat inside a thick, iron shell! It builds, and builds, and builds, and builds… until its heat explodes out!" Naberius taunted with another array of eye beams, scorching the area.

The clash was not going as well as Chaldea would have liked. Its tactics were much more slow-paced than its brethren; it liked to force its iron-like skin and prop it up in front of its eyes to block damage, and actually was very careful not to leave itself exposed for too long when attacking. It couldn't fight back while blocking attacks, but they couldn't harm it. The entire encounter was turning into a long-term affair.

Ritsuka bit his lip. "Damn it… the big lug is going slow on purpose; it's trying to keep us from chasing after the Demonic Terrorist Core!"

"Try and defeat me, you burn. Try and run away, you burn. I'll make this clear, Chaldea; either I die or you do!" Naberius roared, opening fire upon the Chaldea Master. The wave was intercepted by Mashu's shield when she dashed in, deflecting the blast entirely.

"Are you ok!?" Mashu called out.

"Fine; we just need a way to break through his defenses… maybe attacking when he attacks?" Ritsuka reasoned. "Archer! Caster! I need to know if you can do that."

"I've been trying to, but the window of opportunity is exceptionally tight!" EMIYA answered. It was rough to attack and defend at the same time; he'd almost have to purposefully take the hit to pull it off, and to a Demon God, taking out a single eye wouldn't be much of a problem.

The one who was quiet was Medea, however. "Hey, Caster! You ok!?" Ritsuka called out.

"Just fine, just working on something," She called back. "If it helps, its method of attack is to build up heat within its own body to unleash; its defensive stratagem is an excuse to build up power as well as protect itself."

"As expected of such a powerful Caster…" Romani chimed in. "What are you working on?"

"It'll make sense; if you see me teleporting around, that's why," She replied. "Since this isn't my workshop, I need to craft this very carefully. I'm digging into the area's ley lines to help set this up."

"What are you planning?" Mashu called out.

"Can't say; it'll give the big piece of crap a warning if I do."

"You waste your time," One of Naberius' eyes focused on her. "Our skin is indestructible, our attack unmatchable; the ultimate fusion of sword and shield! None may stand against me and my impenetrable attacks and unstoppable assaults!"

Ritsuka glared. "Say that when you can actually get through my Servant's shield, you piece of crap!" He immediately ducked back behind the Shielder when the Demon God focused and opened fire upon him.

"Sticks and stones, Chaldea! Sticks and stones!"

"How about countering with that when you didn't just lose your shit over a wise crack!" Cú fired back. Naberius retaliated in kind, but the blue Lancer was able to avoid it quickly. "And your aim is trash! I don't even need protection from arrows to dodge your shit!"

"You miserable dog!" Naberius shifted attention with more of its eyes upon him and began opening fire. EMIYA tried to use the opportunity to strike at its eyes, but the beast quickly closed off its body again, making the red Archer click his tongue.

However, Ritsuka realized something rather quickly. "…Hey! The big fireball has a temper issue!"

"I do not!" The Demon God roared.

"Say that without an earth-shattering rumble, you fat sack of crap!"

Naberius' shift was immediate and hostile, unleashing a barrage of heat waves with all of the eyes. The Blast Furnace itself had an issue with getting a little too heated in battle, it would seem.

Which meant that insulting the Demon God was a good way to draw its ire and cover for Medea's secret plot.

"Oh, I see how it is," Cú chuckled. "No worries, its fine! I'd want to hide in my shell all day if I looked like that!"

"Shut up!" Naberius shifted attention almost immediately.

EMIYA was next. "Figured since you had those eyes, at least one of them would be able to shoot straight. Never seen something with so many be blind and dumb. Good thing you're not deaf, too."

"Shut up! I'll kill you! Miserable Servant trash!" A sweeping laser came for him, igniting the ground and forcing the red Archer back.

Heracles looked like he wanted to give it a go himself and did so with a smirk. "…Grou."

"HOW DARE YOU!" Naberius focused every eye it had on the Greek Berserker, and the ones that didn't went wild with a laser spray all over the area.

As long as they kept slinging insults at it, the monster wouldn't even notice the Caster as she inscribed runes across the ground. The beast still kept its pattern up, even while in a fit of rage, and as such it's body was still rather unbreakable in nature. Still, its bad temper was its ultimate weakness; if someone had an attack to overpower its heat beams as it attacked them and could fire straight into the center of its eyes fast enough, they could cause damage and avoid being hurt too if it weren't for the additional eyes.

It didn't matter though; Medea had a completely different way to deal with such a beast. After a few more moments, she suddenly shot up into the sky.

"Despair, you fool!" She called out. "We have nothing to fear from such a pathetic existence such as you!"

The Demon God shifted attention almost immediately, but quickly noticed the cowl of the Greek witch open up wide, revealing a rainbow of colors in the form of numerous magic circles underneath. Calling her staff to her side, she chanted words to a spell, causing an even larger magic circle to be projected in front of her.

"Machia Hecatia Graea!" The large layout gave birth to numerous smaller ones of a matching design, glowing a distinct purple before discharging massive beams of light. They were focused on the eyes, making Naberius think she was trying to use its anger against him directly. It chuckled, withdrawing into its shell once more. Even the mighty beams of light, more than powerful enough to annihilate a single Servant in one shot, bounced off its form, doing little more than scorch its frame just a shade darker.

"…You've wasted your time, witch!" Naberius taunted. "My defense is still impregnable! You might have figured out my cycle, but it was for naught! I can build up as much heat as I need to like this!"

"Sure you can, but I bet your pathetic beams can do little against my spells, you sack of flesh!"

"Oh!? You wish to directly compare attacks then!?" It continued to build up power, so much so that it began to glow a bright orange in-between its cracks. "Very well! I'll show you just how much power I can… huh?"

"Having a little bit of trouble?"

"What…?" It questioned. "…What did you do to me!?"

Despite having built up more power than before, its hide remained closed. A dull purple light was outlining its form, and its body appeared to be visibly struggling.

"What did I do, you ask?" Medea laughed. "It's very simple; I've sealed you away, Demon God Naberius!"

"You miserable spirit! How dare you!? Do you know what you've done to me!?"

Her plan was very simple; lure the Demon God into withdrawing into its own shell, and then trap it. She even managed to egg him on into building up even more power than usual to speed up her little plot. The spell she had inscribed was simply known as "Atlas," a powerful binding agent that locked down space in its entirety, preventing any movement within its bounds without outside interference.

She even set it up to run off the city's ley line structure, just like the Demon God itself had been. She found it amusing that the power the beast was using would end up killing it. The energy it built up was meant to be quickly expelled, not retained for long periods of time.

Its exterior body was nigh invulnerable, but its interior was a different story. Without a place to go, all that power would just tear him apart.

"You… you!" It shouted, steam starting to come from its interior. "How dare you… how dare you! How dare you kill me like this! At least stand and fight like a warrior!"

"There is no warrior in me, Demon God Naberius; all I did was set up a spell. This power is all you. With your own anger, pride, and ignorance… all you've done is kill yourself. This is what you get for calling me a witch!"

The deed was done. There was no reason to fight the Demon God any longer. Thanks to the spell, it couldn't leave the area, and with it running off the same power source, Atlas was just as strong as it. Breaking free was impossible, countering was impossible… and as such, victory was impossible.

It took time, but gradually, the representative of the Blast Furnace melted down, screaming the entire time until it seemed to accept its fate, dying to its own overwhelming power.

Ritsuka let out a sigh of relief. "So, we killed a Demon God straight up, the second one I somehow got the kill on, and the third we basically tricked into suicide. Definitely one heck of a strange adventure."

"You should be very proud of yourself," Medea landed next to him. "Three Demon Gods in one rayshift is a new record for Chaldea… at least ones we took down directly, anyway."

"Little bit disappointed that I didn't get to take a piece of him off… ah well; a win is a win." Cú remarked.

"With the last Demon God down for the count, we've just about cleared up all of Solomon's influence!" Romani cheered. "Now, all that's left is the Demon Terrorist Core and Archimedes!"

"And then we have to find a way inside the Windowless Building…" Ritsuka crossed his arms.

"I mean… yeah, but one step at a time, right?"

The sound of a galloping horse quickly came in. "Geeze; I come all this way and you already kill it!?" Hippolyta looked mad but managed to laugh it off. "I guess I'm getting slow, huh?"

"Ah! I figured you'd make your way here!" Romani smiled. "Sorry, but we just wrapped this one up. Though the destruction is another story…"

"Buildings can be rebuilt, and this point we really can't complain about results," She spoke positively but her face gradually began to frown. "…That said, if this is taken care of, there's another place we need to get you to, and fast!"

"The Demon Terrorist Core struck while we were fighting Naberius, didn't they?" Ritsuka asked.

She nodded, and the answer that followed immediately put him on edge. "They did; while you were out, it appears that they decided to strike your base of operations, Chaldea."

"Our base but… oh no!" Mashu exclaimed. "We need to get back; Medb's soldiers don't stand a chance against a Servant in a fair fight!"

"Understood, I'll prepare a Trofa spell for transport. Five minutes to get everyone over there at once; I apologize that I can't get this up faster but moving so much out when out of my workshop is a problem." The Caster got right to work with her casting. It was an improvement; it'd take at least a half hour to traverse back to the dormitory normally, so they took it gladly.

Ritsuka just hoped they'd make it in time.

"Hrm… he's taken such an interest in a human… does he have something valuable? Or does that boy just entertain him?"

Ibaraki Douji sat on top of the building across the street from Kamijou's dormitory, leaning over the edge just a hair for an extra look. Truthfully, she wanted to have a go with terrorizing the boy, but Mephistopheles insisted; saying it'd be the greatest fireworks show yet when he was done.

But she was an Oni! She was impatient! She wanted to see fireworks now! Not later!

"Ahhhh! Come on! Go boom already! I like fireworks, so go boom already and be done with it!"

"I know how you feel; I like seeing those too."

"Especially the ones that make rainbow colors!" Ibaraki cheered. Only after a few moments of self-indulgent joy did she realize that someone else spoke those words.

Robin Hood had crouched down next to her. She turned to face him, the two staring at each other for quite some time before the green Archer slapped Ibaraki's back, inadvertently pushing her off the building. There was a loud thud upon impact, and Robin looked over to see the yellow Oni face down in the pavement.

In seconds, she shot right back up with a torrent of flame, hovering in the air. "You dare lay your hands upon me, human!?"

"Sorry; saw a wasp on your back. Didn't want you to get stung."

The two stared at one another for about ten seconds before Ibaraki dashed down with her sword made of bone. Robin Hood was already in the process of dodging, flipping backward and just narrowly avoiding being cleaved in two.

Ibaraki began to laugh. "Foolish human; to lay your hands upon me is the same as signing your own death warrant! Do you have anything to say for yourself!?"

Robin Hood stood and dusted himself off, eyeing the Oni girl before him for a moment. "Yeah, I do actually. I had a dad once, you know?"

"What does a human father have to do with anything!?"

"I'm getting to it," The green Archer looked serious. "He taught me many things, but there was one thing he made absolutely sure I knew before he passed on. A special way to deal with thugs like you; ones who just go around swinging whatever they could get their hands on just for the sake of it."

He put one hand on his crossbow, and Ibaraki held up her sword. She did not know this man and had no reason to grant him mercy. He struck her, and that's all the cause she needed in order to cut him down.

But Robin Hood did not shoot an arrow.

"Run away!"

The green man took off, running as fast as he could due north, jumping from building to building as needed to keep up his pace.

Ibaraki watched him go for a good minute before chasing after him. "H-hey! Human! Get back here and face your judgment!"

"Not a chance in hell, you giant banana! Does it look like I have a death wish!? Between your disgusting horns and mannish hands, I think I'm a lot safer going this way!"

Giant banana? Disgusting horns? Mannish hands? She didn't even have the opportunity to process why he hit her in the first place as she shot off towards him.


"Y-yeesh! Your voice isn't much better!"

She outright howled in pursuit, rocketing forward with her flames acting like a jet engine. She caught up in record time, only for Robin Hood to suddenly drop down a space in-between structures and caused her to keep flying forward, slamming into a different, taller building just down the street. She had actually struck it with so much force and speed that she flew right through the concrete and metal that lined the building, skidding to a stop just as she exited it and fell onto a much shorter structure.

Her rage was building as she pushed herself up and looked over the side, seeing the green man still running down the road right in the middle. She dove for him again, only for him to sidestep the sudden attack as if he planned for it. She didn't slam into the concrete though; she smashed right into a manhole, careening right into the sewer system below. Not wanting to check if she was still around, the green Archer resumed his trip up north.

"Man… being a decoy for a Berserker is hard work," He complained. "Their plan better go off without a hitch, otherwise I'm a dead man!"

"You're a dead man anyway!"

He turned around to see Ibaraki outright grinding through the concrete, constantly grabbing for him and giving her the appearance of swimming.

Given the circumstances, he did what came naturally. "…Alright, ignore the demon trying to chase you. Just keep running; one foot after the other!"

"You! Will! Suffer! My! WRATH!" She finally ditched the concrete ground and shot around, cutting the green Archer off at a four-way intersection. "I have had enough of you, human!" She screamed right into his face.

"And I've had enough of your bad breath…"

"But I have- wait, what!?" Ibaraki panicked and breathed into the palm of her hand and sniffed to check her breath. Honestly? It just reminded her of sugar. When she looked up, the man was gone, running the same direction he had been running. "Y-you little rat!"

"I mean… hey; you fell for it!" Robin Hood fired back.

The yellow Oni shot forward again. "The only one able to prank an Oni is another Oni! And I won't let you get away with it!"

"Yeah, right!" Robin actually had the gall to turn around and run backwards. "I've gotten you… what, three, four times now!? And you haven't gotten me once!"

"Once is all I need to deal with you!" Ibaraki shot ever closer. "Pathetic coward; you can't even fight me like a man!"

"Damn right; I want to live!"

"Then why did you assault me!?"

"To lure you all the way out here!"

Ibaraki's eyes widened as she slowed down. They had entered a park without her knowing, a forested area with plenty of hiding spots, noticing the green man had also come to a stop. This was a trap the whole time!?

"M-miserable fool! I do not fear your pathetic human tactics!" She spoke while very much afraid of his pathetic human tactics. "Of course I wouldn't! I can just burn all of this down! You hear me!?"

"Want to take that chance?" Robin Hood once more gripped his crossbow, making the girl Oni flinch.

"Y-you… cheater!"

"You're damn right. How do you think us humans competed with demons!? Fighting fair and square? That's just a good way to die! But one thing more important than anything is…!"

Ibaraki put up her guard on reflex; for all she knew, there were other enemies hiding in the trees somewhere. An Assassin ambush would do her in completely if she were unprepared.

"…Is that you fell for this stunt twice."

She blinked and looked up, only to see the green man once more running away, jumping over a park fence to start running on the road again. Left dumbfounded, she actually let the man run out of her sight, only for her anger took over as she dashed out. Her temple was pulsing as she ground her teeth together, watching the man make a run for it. And to put it simply; she broke.

"GUUURRRRAAAAHHHHHHH!" She screamed as loud as she should, a surge of mana erupting from her body as she held out her right hand. "RASHOMON DAIENGI!"

She recklessly unleashed her Noble Phantasm, sending a giant flaming hand down the street like a rocket. Robin Hood got plenty of advanced warning and was able to avoid it by diving to the side, but only just barely. The retaliation really came as he was getting back up; Ibaraki flew down the street and kicked him across the face, sending him spiraling down the road, hitting the ground with a hard thud.

This was the difference between him and the Berserker; she wasn't lying when she said she only needed one hit to put an end to things. As he laid sprawled out, the yellow Oni ran over, harshly stomping on the man's chest as he rested there.

"I… have had enough games…!" She panted. Using her Noble Phantasm as a ruse to catch the man off guard was likely a bad move, but she didn't care. She reached down and grabbed the man's collar. "And… I've had enough… of you!"

"S-shit…" Robin groaned. "Small feet, big pain…!"

"There; now you understand the power of an Oni," She caught her breath. "There are few besides Shuten who could outrun me, you…!"

"Damn… and I was almost there too…"

"I am not falling for that again!"

"Alright, alright," Robin Hood raised his arms. "I give; you got me. If I had a white flag, I'd wave it."

"Good… good…" She closed her eyes for a moment. "Squirmy little man… what did you plan to achieve from this? You had no plan; you simply ran. What did you want from this Oni?"

"To get you away, and to a certain place…" Robin looked up, managing to smirk. "…But what do you know? Looks like I got it anyway."

Ibaraki raised an eyebrow, but immediately realized why. They weren't the only Servants on that street any longer. She couldn't turn in time to react to Sakata Kintoki slamming his axe into the girl. She was launched like a cannonball into a nearby building. With the deed done, Kintoki heaved his axe over his shoulder and turned to the man below him.

"…Hey, you alright?" He asked.

Robin Hood coughed a little. "I just got kicked in the face by a twelve-year-old that hits like freight train…" He tried to sit up for a moment, only to fall back down. "…If it's not obvious, I'm pretty much down for the count. That hit kicked my ass."

"Well, as long as you're still breathing, you'll probably be fine."

"My pride is in shambles; you call that living!?"

Kintoki smirked before turning his attention to where he sent Ibaraki flying. It was a perfect shot; taking full use of the girl's anger to sneak in while she was none the wiser. He felt bad having to use the green Archer as bait, but it gave him the perfect shot to end things in one go.

…Even still…

"…Well, her head is still on its shoulders," Shuten walked out of the building carrying the yellow Oni. "I was expecting the clown… oh well; what's done is done."

For some reason, Kintoki didn't have the heart to strike her down. He used the side of his axe, not the blade. He still gave it everything he had, but an Oni like Ibaraki was likely to survive and be just fine… minus a powerful headache after she woke up.

"…Alright, you got her," He said. "You both can take off now, right? Can probably feed her a story real easy?"

"More than likely," Shuten answered. "Oh? So, you're just letting us go then? Not going to try and rope me into dealing with the Caster at least?"

Kintoki shrugged. "If you want, I won't say no. I just know when it'd be asking too much, that's all. If you want to take off with her, as long as you don't cause trouble, I won't have much of a reason to chase you down, I guess. Bigger fish to fry and all that."

"Fufufu… aren't you being interesting today…?" She giggled a little. "I don't mind that side of you, boy."

"Yeah, yeah… just don't make me regret it, ok?"

"Oh, I think we'll see each other again before this is through. But trust me; I'll come to you. Ta-ta!"

She took off, darting down the street in an unusual pattern. In only a few moments, Shuten Douji was gone, and all Sakata Kintoki did was watch.

He really hoped he was doing the right thing.

"…Excuse me, but downed man in need of aid."

"S-sorry!" Kintoki grabbed one of Robin Hood's arms and pulled him up. "You sure you should be moving around though?"

"No, but it's not like lying on cold hard asphalt is going to help me either," He groaned as he was set up. "I really hope things are going well for the other two; if I just got kicked in the head for nothing, I'm beating Hector to a bloody pulp!"

"Hold on, what?"

"I was leading the brat to you, but you ended up coming to us," The green Archer managed to stand. "With her out of the picture with that other demon girl, then that just leaves a Caster behind."

Kintoki raised an eyebrow. "You think those two you're talking about will be ok?"

Robin Hood stretched a little and started walking.

"No idea, but I don't feel like waiting around to find out."

Touma couldn't tear his eyes away from the insect-clock-thing invading his body as it crawled around on his left arm. His first instinct was to try and strike it with Imagine Breaker, but Mephistopheles suddenly dashed forward, grabbing his arm, and throwing him against the wall behind him.

"No, no, no!" He remarked with a grin. "Don't decide just like that! If you move without me explaining the rules, you won't be able to live with yourself!"

"R-rules!?" Touma stammered. "I-I don't get it! What the hell is this!?"

Mephistopheles grinned and stepped back a bit. "My Noble Phantasm; Ticktock Bomb. Its activation allows me to automatically place up to five explosives into target's bodies silently and without their knowledge… but I have made it easy for you; I've only planted three."

He stepped back further, revealing Index again, who had a remarkably similar entity crawling from the unconscious nun's back.

"One," He pointed to her, before shifting focus to the kitchen. "Two," Touma managed to push himself up, and saw another wriggling over Othinus as well. "And, of course, three." Mephistopheles' grin widened significantly.

"W-what is this about!? Tell me!" The teen was getting frantic; the sight of the other two in a similar state made him panic.

"Let me put it this way; there are four of us! At max, only three will leave alive… for the minimum, only one will leave. Refuse to play, and I'll kill all three of you right now. Let's call that an objective 'bad end' for everyone involved, alright?"

Touma could only nod, sweat dropping from his brow.

"Good, because who survives this game is your decision, Kamijou Touma."


The clown laughed. This is just what he wanted! "The rules are simple! Your arm can nullify my bombs; the bomb you nullify decides who lives! Nullify yours, and the two girls will die. Nullify one of theirs, you and the remaining girl will die. Of course, you could stack up both girls' bombs on top of each other with your left and go for both at once, but in this case… well, you guessed it: you die. You'll find yours to intentionally shy away from the others, and it'd be awfully hard to hold it down with the other two when your right arm blows it apart, wouldn't it?"

"T-that's…!" He could feel his hair stand on end. There had to be a way out of this, right!? A way to stop all three from going off!?

Mephistopheles answered his prayer. "But that is only one way where three of us escape with our lives! One of Two! There is a method where not just the girls will live; where all three of you walk away happily ever after… interested?"

Kamijou Touma didn't need to answer; the look of desperation told him all he needed to know.

Oh, how he loved this part.

"It's very simple; kill me."

Touma's body felt like ice when he heard that. "…What…?"

"Yes! Kill me! Not just knock me out, no; if you do that, all three will go boom and we'll be right back where we started with the bad ending! You have to kill me, Kamijou Touma! My death will release all three of you from my Noble Phantasm's grasp!"

"I-I… don't even know how to…!"

"My spirit core," Mephistopheles giggled, tapping his chest. "Why, you could just swipe my scissors and run me through! Or cut me open and thrust your right hand into it! Whichever you prefer! As long as I die, it is perfectly valid!"

"B-but… I couldn't…!" Touma shook his head and backed up, hitting the wall. "I-I… c-can't kill you!"

"Oh, but you must! For the best-case scenario, either you die, or I do! It's kill or be killed at its finest!" He laughed loudly. "And let's put five minutes on the clock! Starting… now!" The Caster snapped his fingers, a loud incessant clicking coming from the bombs all of a sudden.

"W-what did you just do!?"

"Put a time limit up; in five minutes, the bombs will explode," Mephistopheles twisted his head sideways. "The clocks are ticking Kamijou Touma… now! Chose who lives and who dies! Or sit there and do nothing as your entire world crumbles around you!"

Touma's eyes seemed to shrink as his jaw dropped. He had to choose…?

The answer was obvious; letting the two girls die was out of the question, along with just saving himself. So… that mean he either had to end his own life, or take someone else's.

Oh, this is so much what Mephistopheles wanted! The boy's reaction was absolutely divine to witness firsthand; it was better than he expected! The way his face twisted with disgust and indecision was marvelous! Of course, he put the boy in the situation, but giving him the choice was so much more powerful than him taking charge directly! To make him decide and have to live with his choice… ohhh! It was euphoric!

"The clock is ticking! Only three minutes left! Tick tock, tick tock!" He prodded, watching the boy's face turn pale when he realized he was wasting time with his indecision, and that if he took too long, all three would die.

This is what Mephistopheles would do to people, even if this were a twist on the usual formula. With bombs placed, an example of what will happen, and undeniable proof that they were inside the target, he could force nearly anyone to do what he wanted. But of course, this was a situation beyond even that.

No matter what Kamijou Touma did, he lost. He'd either die in a blaze of glory, saving the two girls from certain doom, or he'd do the unthinkable; take a life with his own two hands. Either he'd break physically or mentally… and to be honest? Mephistopheles was fine dying like this. He'd make the boy work for it, of course, but not too much; he wants to absolutely make sure to give the impression that he did not want to die, but not put up so much of a fight that he'd fail. He had to make him take his life, not offer it to him on a silver platter.

And, as he died, Mephistopheles would be able to witness him break. His mind trying to justify what he did, fail… and then he'd see just how twisted the boy would become before he'd vanish from the world. It'd be just a glimpse, but that's all he'd need.

Once a man takes another's life, they are changed forever. This much Mephistopheles learned firsthand.

"Oooone minute! No pressure: if you're feeling parched, I can make a quick batch of tea! Though it might be cutting it close if you'd actually like to enjoy any of it."

Touma was at the end of his rope. Who does he save!? Who does he kill!? The question beat itself back and forth endlessly in his skull.

Who does he save!? Who does he kill!? Who does he save!? Who does he kill!? Who does he save!? Who does he kill!? Who does he save!? Who does he kill!? Who does he save!? Who does he kill!? Who does he save!? Who does he kill!? Who does he save!? Who does he kill!? Who does he save!? Who does he kill!? Who does he save!? Who does he kill!? Who does he save!? Who does he kill-

Thirsty seconds left; it was time to decide, or everyone would die and the clown would get the last laugh. He looked at his right hand, glanced at Othinus in the kitchen, the one he'd have to grab to disable two, and then back to Mephistopheles.

He wanted to live… but to kill in order to live… he… he…!

He decided as his eyes grew hollow and approached the sinister Caster.

The wall behind Mephistopheles collapsed, along with the patio. Two bulls and a chariot could be seen swerving inside and destroying the dorm room. Mephistopheles turned; he had a plan for this. That queen wasn't immune to his Noble Phantasm!

But he stopped dead when someone he didn't expect to see was at the helm of the vehicle. He hesitated in a brief bout of shock and was punished for it when Durindana came flying out and stabbed into his chest.

It was not Queen Medb operating her chariot; it was Hector of Troy.

"H-H-Hector…!" Touma fell to his knees.

The hero did not speak, and simply forced his blade up and ripped it through the Caster's shoulder blade, drenching the area in a sudden gush of blood.

Despite the injury, Mephistopheles tilted his head toward Kamijou Touma. Did he plan this? Was he completely had? Of course not, he had no idea of this. But still… the very thought…

It made him laugh. The possibility that he had been so thoroughly outsmarted and beaten. What would break Kamijou Touma was having to murder another person. It did not matter if it was a Heroic Spirit; he saw them as equals, after all. He'd have to do it with his own two hands; undeniable proof that he stole life from another.

But this sudden change… being killed by another, just to save this poor boy from that weight. The weight of another's life…

…To be honest, he liked that ending, too.

So, he laughed. He laughed harder than he possibly could have, even as his body faded away. Blood still stained the floor from the blow, but otherwise, the Caster known as Mephistopheles was gone.

Touma stared in disbelief, his expression not changing from the one he held when he decided to… kill. From when he decided to take a life to save another… and to save his own.

"…That was cruel," Hector finally spoke. "To make someone who loves life so have to end it… I'm sorry; I'm so deeply sorry, my friend. I got here as fast as I could but…"

The front door swung open. Medb had opted to fully hand over her chariot to Hector to sell the ruse that they had planned so even the Caster's senses would be fooled. After a brief discussion, they both came to the conclusion that Mephistopheles would likely expect the pink haired queen to step in, but he likely had no idea about Hector; even if he knew that they met, there was no way that he'd predict him flying in on Medb's chariot.

"How… is he?" She asked quietly.

"Not good… it seems like…" Hector shook his head, not wanting to say more. "I got a bit of an idea of what went down from my observation across the street…"

"…Tell me."

"It's not a good story."

"I don't care."

Hector eyed her for a moment but relented and gave the best summery of the situation. As they spoke, Touma's gaze drifted toward the ground, only his shallow breathing being audible from his body. Before long though, a soft groan could be heard.

"Ah… huh?" Index slowly pushed herself up. "What's going on…?" She turned toward the chariot and the destroyed room. "W-what happened! T-Touma! Our home has been destroyed!"

He looked up, eyeing the girl carefully. "…Index?"

"Touma?" She titled her head as if nothing had happened. The bombs were gone; there wasn't even a trace of them left, but the tone the boy used clued her in that something wasn't right about him.

What he did was simple; he forced himself up and ran over to her, abruptly hugging her as close to him as he could.

"Uwah!? T-Touma!? W-what's wrong!?" She flushed a bright red. "I-I didn't eat the last pudding cup! I swear! I just had a taste! A taste, I say!"

"Thank you…!" Touma called out, interrupting her attempts at self-defense. "Thank you… thank you… thank you… thank… you…!"

He gradually slumped down to his knees again but wouldn't let go of her. Slowly, her eyes softened, and she returned the embrace.

"…It's ok, Touma," She whispered into his ear. "It's ok; I'm here. You don't have to worry anymore." After hearing that, she didn't need to know all the full story. She was worrying him again, it seemed like. Him getting worked up and depressed over her was…

Medb grimaced at the sight, not because of any superficial reason, but rather the scene as a whole. This was something she'd be willing to do. It was dark, vile, horrible, and trampled all over everything the other person lived for… and she'd do it. In fact, she had done it before.

She thought nothing of it back then, back in her days as queen, but seeing it now, and someone she had grown somewhat attached to suffering from it, she…

Medb wandered over. She didn't join the embrace, but simply ran her fingers through the teen's spiky hair.

"…It's ok, Kamijou Touma," She spoke. "Everything is ok now. Don't worry about a thing, alright? It's over. It really is over."

It wasn't clear, but it sounded like he was crying. Whether it was relief or otherwise was unknown. "Thank you… so much… I… I…!"

His quiet sobs were all the remaining noise that were made in that room that day.

And the last core goes down!

We'll be reaching our climax rather soon, now that only two primary antagonists remain. But what exactly is their little scheme...?

I'll just leave it at that for now.

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.