And here we are again, my friends! Another chapter, just in time... I think.
We got some reviews, let's get to it!
D N Works: There was a lot of things here, some mundane, some special, huh? The length of this invasion its somewhat been left vague on purpose.
KingAllen: He could; he has died before, after all... even if it was technical.
Yu Narukaze: Glad I'm capturing the characters just right! Don't worry, you should only really need context from up to the sixth singularity for the FGO side of things. If you can complete that, you'll be good.
Riajuu: Either a Shielder or a Ruler class; I think those are the two most applicable spots for him. The only other one I can think of is the Saver, but considering our only other known Saver is Buddha, I doubt he could get that far in.
Dog: Good boy!
Primo104: I have read A Certain Scientific Dark Matter, and it's kinda what inspired me more to include Kakine as a character, since there does seem to be more to him than just being power hungry, even if he doesn't show it off very often.
paeluclucas: Thanks for the support!
sawtooth44: Hey, I won't judge anyone for having some Tamamo love in their heart.
Mrcrazyman94: I won't say anything.
MythAnime: Yeah; its a massive forest full of power-houses to some extent. There are a lot of them around, and how well stuff goes is dependent on their handling.
freddy lane 1: Accelerator will make his appearance in time.
Guest (1): I'm not sure; it'd certainly be different than Touma, but considering he's someone who's had his illusions shattered, I'm not sure if Anderson would have much to say that wasn't already addressed at some point.
Anime-ted Life116: He can't have good things. And yeah; a bit of a slow one, but with more moving parts. This one might have a little bit more bite to it for you!
AkumaESPer: Keep theorizing on Kakine; his situation will be revealed eventually! Glad you liked the little bit of Tamamo and Eli, even if it was just temporary.
Guest (2) (Chapter 1): Wait and see, my friend. Wait and see.
Ultimate Warrior of Zera: Poor Touma, burned by his favorite drink. As for Imagine Breaker, if they're supernaturally created/summoned, yes, Imagine Breaker works on them. As for why the two weren't told full details... eh; slipped Romani's mind.
Mr Self-Deprecation: Potentially!
Guest (3) (Chapter 1): Maximum Roastings for everyone.
Kamijou Touma1: Yeah, Tamamo has more of a secondary role, sorry. Not so sure about the EMIYA vs Touma ideology thing, as it is somewhat implied that the EMIYA summoned is post-UBW EMIYA, who has grown more accepting of those kind of ideals.
Maxim7: I can see your point, but the situation as a bit of a Unique and tad bit unpredictable one. From what I understand, Tamamo and some other Japanese monster-legends, like Kiyohime and Shuten Douji, are somewhat close friends due to the equivalent of Online-chatting, and I think this is alluded to in Fate/Extra itself if I'm remembering correctly. I can understand on the bit of Touma's misfortune, but it's an actual character trait that needs represented; it would actually be Out of Character to not have it at least be referenced, because unlike some tropes from MC's of other series, his bad luck never goes away and can even be an important point in the plot. Besides, it's good to make it clear for something that happens later.
MrQuestionMark: I can't have bombs dropping every chapter! Need some levity every now and then! But yeah; I definitely wanted to show that some Servants are actively participating in the war, while some others have just sort of made themselves at home. You'll see another example in this chapter when it comes to tracking down Shuten Douji herself.
Sora with an S: Why do you think Medb's threats don't work? She knows she'll survive! Though it hasn't done much for their relationship because of that. Index is a fun character when she's being used as an emotional center or made actually important; I do like her a lot, but she does have a tendency to get sidelined.
tsun: Some characters are relevant, some aren't; it's the nature of stories like this, though they do serve a purpose in fleshing out the world a little. Kamisato is off being himself, and Accelerator will pop in eventually; can't have them breaking the plot hard open, you know?
CoupDeBird: Glad your able to enjoy it despite your lack of familiarity! And theoretically, the Throne could produce a Future Touma, as it defies time to an extent.
calderoneric758: Worst luck always goes to Touma. As for the Better Harem... hard to say; Touma's is larger, but they both have excellent quality girls in them.
Stitches: It sure sounds like you're enjoying the goings on!
Krysvun: I've tried my best to make things match, only when development is relevant will characterization be shifted.
Guest (4): You found the secret Dress-Code for Touma, followed right by Executive Accelerator for completing the Challenge Quest.
SilvaElda: The bigger clue is actually the line right after where you finished describing her interlude. "And Master wouldn't have to go to the front lines, but fight from somewhere safe!" That, at least to me, is her accidentally dropping her true intentions in the middle of her temper tantrum, which is what the others pick up on in that scene. I don't think she'd really drop something like that unless it was relevant to what she was trying to do, considering how mad she was. For your Ibaraki confusion, hopefully this adds a little more context, as you'll actually see some things form Shuten's point of view. My take is that while Ibaraki is very loyal to Shuten, she can also be rather childish and Naive, leading to being used by someone like Mephi, who I think she could see as something akin to a "Foreign Oni" to some extent, if that makes sense, anyway.
Markoz89: MVP stands for "Most Valuable Player." As in, the most important person in the squad, for example. And yes, theoretically, a lot of characters could potentially be recorded in the Throne of Heroes. I'll leave the rest for you to ponder!
FakerHero: Glad your having fun! As for Servant Romance... you'll see, maybe. Probably not for EMIYA though.
Issei ODR: Accelerator will appear when the time is right, because he is a broken bastard who could likely rip the whole plot apart.
13thRebels: Thanks for your kind words! Don't worry, a direct clash with the Unholy Beast Core is in the cards, and it might be sooner than you think.
Guest (5): EMIYA isn't around for any higher purpose, although if you've taken notice, he and Kakine didn't exactly get along...
Mr. X: I saw; the Foreigner Abigail Williams! And her swimsuit Variant too, I think! Sadly, she is from the Epic of Remnant side-stories, and on top of that, she is a key figure in the very last one, so her appearing in a story like this, that is after the Sixth Singularity but before the Epic of Remnant, is pretty unlikely. It's the same for Ishtar and Ereshkigal, sadly; those two appear in the Seventh Singularity, and I'm trying to not feature Servants from story-periods before they appear. As for the "Kamijou-San/Kamijou-chan," thing, I found that he does alternate between them from time to time.
Sleeping Moon 356: He does from time to time, yes. I actually had a bit of a side-thing idea for Nobu and Okita running a ramen stand, but it never really panned out, sadly. Sadly, no Mama Raikou this time around.
NERO1002: I'm leaving that one up as a mystery.
JCarrasco: Understood. Here, have another!
craytherlay: I don''t think multiple Kamijou Touma's would appear, but each death would absolutely update his standing in the Throne of Heroes. Kamijou no Touma technically was just Imagine Breaker given form, but was more or less a part of Touma and didn't technically die; I could see it being a strange Noble Phantasm of some kind, though. Elizabeth noticing Touma would be a bad thing for him, but I can't say exactly how...
Missingmoney: Aha! Someone picked up on the technical situation that has allowed Kakine to be summoned as a Servant! As for the necessary fame, being the Back-Up to Accelerator of all people, and his title as "The One Who Has Touched the Territory of God," could likely be enough. Plus, there was that whole thing that happened with Othinus... I'll just leave it at that.
YCG: Currently, I only have Kakine lined up to be a To Aru Servant. Sorry if that's disappointing.
Cat: Good cat!
Healthcare: Hey, better late than never, huh? Keep an eye on that Mutual hate-boner between Kakine and EMIYA. Glad you like the events here! Shuten is inbound, and the Maid Cafe was just a bit of fun, but there is a theme between all the Servants in the Cafe; can you figure it out? It's why Kiyohime wasn't there. And I'm especially happy that the set-up between Touma and Medb is really working out, along with the comedy. Sadly, no interlude this time, but the next one isn't that far away. I don't want to give away each one, you know? They're like fun little surprises!
And with that done, enjoy!
The goal was simple; find a certain underground fighting arena to meet up with a certain Servant: Shuten Douji: A member of the "Demon Terrorist Core."
To that end, the Archer EMIYA had been sent out of locate it while the main group ventured off to acquire the support of the Berserker-Class Servant, Sakata Kintoki. He was the apparent key to their attempt to parley with the Oni; they wanted to secure Shuten Douji's help in eliminating Mephistopheles: the crux of the group's activates. Without him, his other partner, Ibaraki Douji might be swayed away from participating in the destruction of Academy City.
Having convinced the golden Berserker to join them, he acquired them a vehicle for transport. Sometime into their trip, EMIYA had tracked them down to inform them of their destination and to join for the ride, but that proved to be a mistake.
For it was Mashu Kyrielight's first attempt at driving.
"Y-you just clipped the curb!" Ritsuka sat right behind her and was being thrown around as she put the vehicle into a sharp turn at full speed.
"S-speed limit is thirty through here, why are you going sixty!?" Kintoki rode shotgun, and he had to reach out his window and grab ahold of the roof of the van to stay in place. His seatbelt had broken off about three blocks back.
Touma called out from the rear rather desperately. "H-hey! Get off the sidewalk! There still might be people around!" He sat in the very back with Medb. Cú Chulainn had been sitting next to Ritsuka, but had since returned to spirit form upon getting a taste of Mashu's driving; something that EMIYA failed to notice as he got in. To make matters worse, EMIYA had to give directions, and thus had to remain manifested. There was no escape.
Mashu took a sharp right and floored it, causing the van to spiral out of control. All the occupants were screaming in some form as the vehicle spin with reckless abandon. It raced forward for about a good half block before slamming into the side of the curb with a sudden stop, so sudden in fact one side of the van lifted off the ground before falling back to the pavement. All four tires popped and several pieces of the vehicle went flying off as a result.
"So, this is the location?" The purple haired Kouhai asked. She actually looked rather happy, but the rest of the car told a different story.
Kintoki's arm was still flexing, nervously hanging on to the roof as if they were still moving, with distinct hand imprints left on the hood. At some point, Ritsuka's head had slammed into Mashu's seat and rendered him unconscious. EMIYA had nailed himself to his seat with swords, sacrificing parts of his outfit in the process. Touma somehow had his own seatbelt undone and wrapped around his body, and he sat there struggling to free himself. Medb was face down in Touma's lap, but the groan coming from her mouth was a sign that it was much less than a pleasurable experience that guided her head to that position.
"…Is everyone ok?" Mashu asked.
The response she received was a collective and loud "No!" The group wobbled out of the van, surprised that it was in one piece.
"Ow… my head… what happened?" Ritsuka woke up, rubbing his noggin as EMIYA had walked over to help him out of the car.
"Don't ask." The red archer simply answered.
"Oh, the things I'd give to somehow resummons myself as a Rider…" Kintoki groaned. "That was so not golden…!"
"M-Medb-Chan…" Touma stated in a nervous tone. "I-I think I'm reconsidering your offer to drive."
"Really!?" Medb lit up as if nothing had happened. There was a certain price to pay for her "services" after all.
To respond, Touma simply put both arms onto the pink haired queen's shoulders (He tied to anyway). "I don't know what would be in store for me to accept that proposition, or how good or bad it would be, but…" He trailed off as his face turned serious. "I would rather take my chances with you than her…"
Medb blinked for a moment; that reaction felt different somehow. She couldn't place it but it had an unusual feeling to it. She managed to put down the unusual sentiment running through her however as she looked over to Mashu and frowned.
It would be a victory, but…
"…Forget about it." She turned back toward the unlucky Kamijou and then reached up and ruffled Touma's spiky hair. "I'll do it for free, just this once. Anything to stop 'that' from happening again…"
"Thank you!" Touma practically cried. "You are a great queen who probably did nothing wrong ever!"
"Hey; sarcasm can only go so far before it becomes praise. Stop it." Cú materialized next to the two.
"S-says the one who bailed and left us all alone with that!" Touma cried out, holding onto Medb's body for dear life in what could only be described as a hug. Medb could only smirk and hold up a "victory" gesture towards the blue lancer.
"You're walking a dangerous path, kid."
"Alright, enough fooling around," EMIYA called out. "Despite the rough ride, she at least got us to the right spot." They exited the decapitated vehicle and stood before what looked like an office building. Or at least, what used to be one. It was clearly abandoned by this point, but due to the damage to the structure, it was hard to say if it was a victim of long-term neglect or an unfortunate causality of the calamity currently plaguing the city.
"So, this is it, huh," Kintoki stated. "Yeah, I'm feeling Servants, alright. Two or three of 'em below us."
"The 'Underground Fight Club' appears to be both figuratively and literally accurate in that case," Mashu commented. "It is likely this building had a basement of some kind that these miscreants moved in to make use of."
"Alright, so!" Kintoki clapped his hands together. "What exactly is the game plan? We doing this stealthy? Because I'm not so good at it, but I don't mind trying if you think it'll work."
"Actually," Ritsuka spoke up. "At first we'd like to try and sort things out peacefully if at all possible."
"Peacefully? With an Oni?" Kintoki raised an eyebrow.
"We have information related to their group. As a reminder, it consists of the Caster Mephistopheles, the Berserker Ibaraki Douji, and the Assassin Shuten Douji," Mashu explained. "We have word from a close confidant that Shuten wants little to nothing to do with the group, but is forced to tag along to keep an eye on Ibaraki who is being manipulated by the caster. We believe it might be possible to recruit Shuten to our side and help with a plan to entrap and eliminate Mephistopheles from their formation. Without him, Shuten would be free to pull Ibaraki away from the conflict without any bad blood or the like."
"Ah, I get it. Shuten doesn't want to blow things up but Ibaraki is being a pain in the ass," Kintoki scratched his head. "There are few things Shuten cares about, but Ibaraki is definitely one of them. In any other case I'd call you crazy, but that might work."
"We'd also like you to handle negotiations, Kintoki." Mashu added.
"W-why me!?" The golden man shouted. "C-come on, I couldn't negotiate myself out of chores when I worked under boss Raikou; what makes you think I can handle Shuten Douji like that!?"
"It's part of the plan," Ritsuka stated. "Shuten is currently panging for things she cares about, and we know you and her have a history. We've already gotten into a fight with Ibaraki, so we're already immediately distrusted. You're the only one who might have a chance of convincing her."
Kintoki frowned, trying to figure things out in his head. He crossed his arms as a few drops of sweat fell from his forehead. "S-so… if I can convince her, which I totally doubt I can, what happens exactly…?"
"We'd have a direct comrade inside enemy ranks with the possibility of setting up Mephistopheles for defeat," EMIYA stated. "If that clown can be taken out, his influence over Ibaraki and the threat he poses will be gone, Shuten can leave with her. No more Oni involved with the conflict."
The golden man crossed his arms for a moment, and then rubbed his chin with his left hand. "It is true that Oni really don't care about human warfare… Ibaraki must be taken for one hell of a ride."
"Would that be an acceptable outcome, Kintoki?" Mashu asked. Kintoki tapped his finger against his bicep and tilted his head with an unsure frown.
"I mean… Oni are Oni, but an Oni not causing any trouble aren't too bad to let roll around, I guess," He remarked. "Do you think we can pull this off?"
"I believe we can," Ritsuka stated. "We won't know until we try, but I know that we can make this work. We can take down the Demon Terrorist Core from within, just like how they're trying to destroy Academy City."
Kintoki clammed up again, but it didn't take as long for him to say something this time. "…Ah hell, why not?" He shrugged. "A day were I run into Shuten and not have to fight her is something I'd call a good day. There can't be any harm in trying, right?"
Though he said those words, he was actually just being positive. There were no guarantees that what they were going to attempt. But part of him wanted to believe that there was a situation where he didn't have to kill Shuten Douji.
"So, we're all in agreement then?" EMIYA asked.
"Pretty much. Oh, and just a heads up," Kintoki stated. "This whole place is also a super criminal den; one these Anti-Skill guys have been wanting to get sorted for a while. Could you give me a hand taking it down?"
"Seems like a fair trade to me; help us with Shuten and we'll help you shutting down this whole thing." Ritsuka agreed.
"So, it's underground, huh?" Cú walked into the building, tapping the blunt edge of his spear against the ground a few times, as if he was looking for a false floorboard. "How do we get down there exactly?"
"There are a few entrances I've discovered," EMIYA stated. "There are multiple elevators spread out everywhere on this floor, and each one has a secret panel below the actually displayed numbers. It usually takes a payout to unlock, but we have other methods."
The red archer led them around the corner to set of elevators. It was surprisingly spacious, though it was only just barely able to fit the whole group inside. Just as EMIYA said, the number pad was modified. It contained the normal floor listings, but had a grey box below it that looked like it could contain additional keys. There was a card reader attached to the box for people so inclined to access them.
"So, what's your special way in?" Mashu asked.
"This." EMIYA answered by forming a small dagger and jamming it into the side of the box and forcing it open. The lock was broken, but it did reveal that were was another button inside labeled "Basement Two." EMIYA pressed it and the elevator closed up and began to descend. It appeared as though the function to go down itself wasn't locked behind the paywall.
"Who would have thought that all that paying up did was open the box, huh?" Ritsuka tilted his head. "Surprised there wasn't an alarm…"
"There probably is a silent one, but it's not like a few armed guards can stand up to us. Only real risk is making sure you and Kamijou are unharmed." EMIYA remarked. He had a point; the ones at the front of the elevator were Cú, EMIYA, and Mashu. In other words, a perfect set of shields to take on whoever could be responding to them breaking and entering. Servants typically had little to fear from modern gunfire, but even if the conditions allowed them to be damaged, those three would be more than capable of handling it.
Ritsuka stood behind Mashu with Kintoki to his right, while Medb and Touma road in the back against the wall.
Cú began tapping his spear against the elevator cage impatiently. "Man, this is taking a bit to get us down. And was this all constructed after these attacks started happening? That's kind of impressive that they could pull a stunt like that in the middle of an invasion."
"This could have been a research lab of some kind," Touma stated. "I don't know what this building used to be, but it could have a large basement lab that ended up abandoned after the attacks hit. I think I remember hearing that such a thing can be pretty common to avoid certain factions from hearing about lab projects."
"If so, it must have been a nefarious location then," Medb commented. "If it was for people's benefit, there'd be no reason to hide it, so it stands to reason they didn't want the people to discover their little secret."
"Even the most irresponsible mages at least attempt to hide their work if they feel it could cause damage," EMIYA agreed with the pink haired queen's suggestion. "Whether it's to save their own skin or to protect people who might get caught up doesn't matter. Still, it seems like whoever might have originally held the keys has left and someone else found them under the welcome mat."
Mashu looked puzzled for a moment. "Is there any chance of their research being used by the current residents?"
"I don't know. I think its standard for staff to scrub and remove their equipment when a lab changes location though," Touma rubbed his neck. "I never really mess around with lab stuff since I'm a level 0; closest I get is the quarterly evaluation, and that's just done on site at my school. You'd have to get ahold of a level 5 if you really wanted to know; those are the ones who get constant tested and dragged around from lab to lab."
Touma tried his best to relay information, but due to his own lack of knowledge, what he said was spotty at best. However, what he said did make some sense; Level 0's would be ability-less and thus wouldn't require much lab study, while the higher levels would since their skills have something of an application. The most you'd want to keep a level 0 around for would be to compare and contrast their development with those of the higher tiers to try to discover why the level 0 didn't take to their program as well as the others did. If they could tune the program to work equally well for all those who partake, you could generate an army of super powered beings at the drop of a hat. Very useful to an autonomous government like Academy City that intended to remain independent.
But something about the explanation didn't seem right.
"I find that strange," Medb spoke up. "You appear to have a powerful ability, yet you've been regulated to the lowest class of citizen?"
"Well, I don't really give off AIM, which is necessary for an esper to use their powers," Touma remarked. "So, my ability can't really be an esper power. Even Gemstones who are somehow born with an ability give off AIM, so I can't be one of those."
"Yes, but even still, the application of your power has been thoroughly demonstrated to me," She continued. "Even if the system was that specialized, if I was in charge, I'd fake your results to ensure you were kept high on the food chain and close by. In a city full of super powered citizens, you seem to be the only one capable of handling them directly, so it seems unusual that not only would you not be charged with keeping these superhumans in check, but that you'd be reduced to the lowest class of citizen with no responsibilities to do such at all."
"…May I ask what you're implying with this, Queen Medb?" Mashu asked.
"Either this city and its government already have countermeasures in place good enough to ignore this Imagine Breaker power entirely… or this 'Esper Program' being made available to all citizens is actually just a byproduct of what those in charge of the city really wanted to accomplish with it."
"That's a scary thought," Kintoki chimed in. "These espers have abilities that have a lot of power when their level gets high; apparently freely teleporting is an automatic spot for a level 4 if that twin-tail girl I keep seeing is right. And that Railgun can pack a punch, let me tell you."
"On par with a mage?" EMIYA asked.
"Depends, but I'd say a level 4 can probably match one… but those level 5s? They can go toe to toe with Servants in the right conditions," Kintoki crossed his arms. "Beating them is another story, but competing with them is golden impressive enough if you ask me.
"Even when taking account the probable differences in strength from world to world, the ability to produce people able to compete or surpass mages is a terrifying prospect. But to think that such power would be just a byproduct? That's even worse; no matter how you slice it."
"It kind of comes back to who we think is running this city, I think," Ritsuka joined in. "Why would one of the most important figures in the occult world, Aleister Crowley, suddenly take up the route of science? Whatever happens here, he must have some kind of hand inside it, so why would he go into this route of espers…?"
"When we contact Dr. Roman next, I think I'll have him look into the man," Mashu stated. "Even if there are changes between worlds, Aleister's presence is consistent. His history might yield and answer."
"Think this super-magic guy is after something nasty? So nasty not even magic can do it, so he switched sides to try and pull it off?" Kintoki asked.
"And it sounds like this Esper Program is part of it, though we don't know how much. The only one who could might actually just be Aleister Crowley himself." EMIYA remarked.
Cú suddenly perked up. "Look alive; I think we're about to stop." Just as he said, the elevator was slowing to a stop, in preparation to let its passengers off.
"I have a recommendation," The red archer called out. "Mashu, press your shield up against the door, and everyone else get behind her. If you can't make it, get as close to the left and right walls as possible."
Mashu nodded and did what she was instructed. Slowly the doors opened, and the moment they did, gunfire rang out. No less than six men were armed to the teeth with fully automatic rifles while dressed in dark suits. Each one unloaded a blizzard of lead until their magazines ran dry into the fully occupied elevator, littering the ground around them in shell casings.
When the smoke from the gunfire cleared, all they could see was a large shield.
"What the fu-!?"
Mashu cried out as she ran forward, slamming her shield and two of the men into the wall opposite of the elevator. Two on the right moved to reload, but swords shot from the elevator and impaled their rifles with EMIYA following up with a harsh kick that launched one into the other. The two on the left managed to replenish their weapons and open fire, but Cú Chulainn leapt out and deflected each shot with skillful use of his spear until their guns ran empty for a second time.
"H-how… how did you-"
"Protection from Arrows, you bunch of lightweights." Cu remarked. He looked ready to charge ahead, but suddenly smirked.
As they were already full of fear, both thugs felt a strong grip on their shoulders as Kintoki appeared behind them.
"That was not golden," Kintoki frown and then proceeded to slam their respective heads into one another, knocking them out. He then dusted off his hands, satisfied with his work. "So, is everyone ok?"
"I believe we have avoided harm to either Master or Kamijou-san, Kintoki-san!" Mashu was happy to report.
"See? Now that's some golden news!" Kintoki grinned. "Bust up their guns and let's roll; only a matter of time before they realize their boys got taken down."
The group nodded and destroyed the thug's firearms, even going as far to steal any backup magazines they had and being sure to confiscate and holdout weapons they might have hidden under their snappy suits. Satisfied with their results, the group pressed on with the six thugs left behind and went to explore the expansive basement.
The area was mostly white, but appeared to have custom red lighting installed; probably the current owner's preference. The area looped around like a big square, they discovered. Elevator entrances were all around, likely linking up with the ones topside. There were a few lab doors that needed a keycard to enter, but none of them had anything inside when investigated so they were largely ignored; whatever was once researched here was long gone.
They eventually came across a set not too far apart from each other, with each one leading out into hallways, and unlike the others, these weren't keycard protected. The group picked one, stepped through and discovered that it led to a rather large and expansive circular room with other doors to the east and west. The center was encased in a glass dome with what used to be observatories surrounding it now delegated to customer seating. The dome contained a rather large and flat space with two people inside, likely the contestants. Several speakers were hooked up around the room and appeared to be playing some kind of music.
On the opposite end, a rather overweight man was sitting in a fancy looking seat, clashing with the scientific feel the rest of the room shared. In fact, most of the furniture in the room felt like it belonged to a bar rather than a laboratory. It was all probably brought in from the outside and used to replace whatever the lab's previous owners had in place. The man appeared to be the current owner of the location and being surrounded by armed guards supported this.
But the most important part was actually the man himself, as the room's decor seemed to match his own personal tastes. As stated, the man was extremely fat, but he still carried an odd charm around in his rotund form. There was a sharp confidence in his face, and a strangely warm smile as he observed his arena. He adjusted his corona obsidionalis briefly before moving to stand and approach the edge of his personal box. He wore a magnificent red coat with golden buttons, looking somewhat like a military uniform of some kind, with matching shoulder pads supporting such a look. His lower half was mostly covered by his extravagant top (along with his gut, obviously), but what could be seen was a white skirt with red trim, looking distinctly Roman in nature.
"…Mashu?" Ritsuka blinked. "That's Caesar, isn't it?"
"Looks that way…" Mashu shook her head disappointingly. Just because that particular Servant running something like this was in character didn't mean she liked it.
A soft beeping came from Ritsuka's wrist. Luckily, there was no way for anyone else in the room to hear it due to the musical entertainment.
"Sorry I had to step out for so long, what did I miss?" Romani spoke up. "…Is that music? I kind of like it! Where are you guys?"
"We're in an underground fight club." Ritsuka replied.
"…So, I see that I missed a lot!"
"Sorry; we tried to contact you, but the line was dead," Mashu replied. "What happened on your end, anyway?"
"It seems like our stunt with sending Archer and Lancer at the same time wreaked more havoc than we thought," Romani explained. "We had to shut down all non-essential systems related to Rayshifting in order to fix it, and that unfortunately meant communications too; it happened when you all were asleep. I thought about calling anyway and waking you up, but I figured you'd need your rest. Plus, you have proven that you don't need my guidance all the time, so I gave you a little bit more independence. We just got things back up and running."
"Well, to bring you up to speed; it's all worked out so far," Ritsuka reported. "We currently have a strategy to get Shuten Douji, one of the members of the Demon Terrorist Core, to change sides. We're here to do that and bust up the illegal fighting going on down here. They've taken over this research lab and we don't know our way around; do you think you can scan the area?"
"Got it; will do," The fluffy haired doctor commented. "Let's see… oh, that north perimeter appears to have a false wall, likely an escape route of some kind. The other pathways lead to other labs, I think. No ways out in either of them, though they do have plenty of space for hiding things."
"In that case, let's prepare to shut this place down," Ritsuka turned serious. "Archer; sabotage all of the elevators but one so we can control who enters and leaves. Lancer; can you use spirit form to phase through that false wall and trap the big guy if he tries to bolt?"
"Understood." EMIYA nodded and backed out from the group.
"You got it; leave it to me." Cú faded from sight.
"With those two pieces in place, I think we're set to shut this place down whenever we want," The Chaldea Master stated. "All that's left is to find Shuten Douji."
"Might be hard; she is an assassin. If our Rashomon and Onigashima information is correct, that unfortunately means Presence Concealment," Romani stated. "But I'm detecting two Servants in the middle of that room you're in for what it's worth. Aside from our large and in-charge roman emperor, obviously."
"Servants participating in the fight club?" Mashu appeared shocked. Indeed, in the middle there were two Heroic Spirits facing off, although at the moment they were just staring each other down.
One was a shirtless blond man covered in battle scars. His skin was a dark tan, and his arms were covered in tattoos. His hands were wrapped in bandages that appeared to be stained red with golden bracers around his wrists. His pants were black, formfitting, but otherwise unremarkable. There were two weapons bound together by a chain near him, but they were stabbed into the ground and left unused.
Suddenly, the music lowered as a voice began to speak. The man identified as Caesar began his discourse, and did so with a deep, commanding, but charismatic tone as he lifted up a microphone from the console in front of him.
"And welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to our esteemed arena; the Gula Daemonium! A place far from your typical lives bound by the concepts of law and science! Here, only strength wins the day without exception! Those in the pit fight for boundless glory, endless rewards, and of course… our entertainment!" He called out. "As your host, Gaius Julius Caesar, I am proud to introduce our current champion! The man who's legends need no introduction for those familiar with western myth, Beowulf! The slayer of Grendel himself!"
He motioned to the shirtless man as he held up an arm, causing the crowd to cheer. However, the more unusual one was actually his opponent in the ring.
It was a beautiful woman that overflowed with both charm and authority. She had deep blue eyes and long flowing purple hair with a short veil around her head blue earrings. Her main outfit is an unusual one-piece dress that covered the majority of her torso with a part cut out to reveal skin from her stomach to her chest, which was mostly exposed. The cloth of the dress went down her ankles, but did not block her legs from view, revealing red leggings that went up to her thighs. Many parts of her outfit held crosses, indicating she held a religious position.
However, as if to dispute that claim, her arms were covered in unique metal gauntlets.
"And his opponent! A self-proclaimed holy woman who prays for every foe she puts into the dirt, give our newest woman star a big round of applause! She's the woman who brought the dreaded monster Tarasque low, Saint Martha!" The tubby Roman emperor called out. The crowd began to howl and cheer again, though it appeared that this one had a lot more of a male fan base.
"Beowulf and Saint Martha got caught up in this, huh?" Ritsuka frowned.
"Seems that way," Romani chimed in. "Beowulf appears to be a Berserker, like usual, but if what I'm seeing is right, Saint Martha is dressed as a Rider, but appears to be using her Ruler spirit origin somehow."
"…Saint, huh?" Touma mused. That was a term that felt familiar to him. Images of Kanzaki Kaori and Acqua of the Back filled his mind briefly.
Was this Martha on the same tier as them?
"Now, we've had enough formalities, wouldn't you agree? Let's take a listen into just how our two opponents are faring!" Caesar pressed a button on the console and the music cut out completely, being replaced by the discussion the two Servants in the field were having. Their battlefield was flat and circular, with two doors on each end. There was little to comment about it other than its size.
The first one to speak of Beowulf.
"Well, how about that? You fought your way all the way to the top," He practically smiled. "How was it? The taste of carnage as you walked the bloody ladder to reach me?"
"Dreadful," Martha replied. "So many souls drawn in by the possibility of victory and the spoils that would bring, only to have their invariable end by your hand. You understand your blatant superiority as a Heroic Spirit, do you not?"
"Yeah, but I've been seeing these guys topside fighting; figured if I waited long enough, one of them would wander down here and then I'd get to have my real fun!" Beowulf grinned. "But then you were the one to catch on, and you fought them all! That makes you just as bad as a battle maniac like me!"
"Better they fall to my hand and have a chance to repent for their sins than have them fight and die trying to overcome you, Berserker," Martha's tone was intense. "It is just as I said; the world above is dying, yet you sit here filling your stomach with violence for your own sinful delights. Your power can save the weak! Put a stop to this mindless carnage and join me up above; even your destructive hands can bring good things to this world, Beowulf!"
"And it's just as I said, woman," The tan blond sneered. "I only obey the strongest, and when I'm the strongest, I only obey my wishes. If you want me to fight for you, then show me your superiority."
He then began to walk toward the purple haired saint.
"Though I have to say, it's hard to get fired up when fighting a woman." Beowulf frowned.
Saint Martha must not have liked that comment. This could be inferred because her next action was to clench one hand into a fist and smash it into Beowulf's face. The blow was heavy enough to launch the tan Berserker all the way to the other side of their arena, slamming into the concrete wall hard enough to destroy a large section of it, revealing metal plating being used as the area's frame.
"And Saint Martha delivers a devastating sucker punch before the round has even begun! You can practically feel the tension in the air with your bare hands, can't you!?" The Roman emperor commentated with skill. He was no stranger to presiding over events such as this, after all.
The group stared on as the scene unfolded.
"She's using metal gauntlets…" Touma blinked. "I-isn't that… unfair…?"
"And the guy has swords stabbed into the ground, ready to use whenever… guess it's an anything goes kind of match." Kintoki commented.
"The punch-saint strikes again…" Ritsuka gulped.
Beowulf managed to pull himself out of the wall rather easily, despite the heavy blow. "…That's the one free shot you're getting, lady." Beowulf remarked.
"I'll be taking as many as I please, whether you offer them or not." Martha replied. The tan Berserker grinned at that.
"Heh, I think I like you," He popped his knuckles. "Alright, let's get started then!"
"Alright! The reigning champion, Beowulf, and the upstart challenger, Saint Martha! Let's get this show on the road!" The fat Servant pressed another button on his console before returning to his throne, unleashing a powerful and loud buzzer to signal the start of the match.
Beowulf launched himself forward with a chambered fist, aiming to return the favor his opponent had already given him. Martha reeled herself back and threw a powerful straight punch into the tan Berserker to punish his sudden charge. Both fists collided, unleashing a powerful shockwave that shook the entire room, despite being several stories underground.
The two backed off, only to charge at each other again, and once more causing their respective attacks to smash into each other. What started off as a slow exchange of blows became a flurry of punches from each fighter, their attacks either meeting in the middle or being blocked by their opponent. The fury behind each fist continued to shake the room with loud shockwaves erupting from each and every impact.
Beowulf was the first one to break through the exchange, smashing a right hook into Martha's face and forcing her to take a step back. The tan Berserker attempted a follow up but was caught off-guard by a hard uppercut to his chin, sending him into the air. Martha brought her other arm for a downward punch into Beowulf's stomach, spiking him into the floor and causing him to skid backward before slamming his arms into the concrete to slow himself down.
However, rather than appear frustrated, Beowulf grinned wide. He suddenly launched himself like a bull towards the saint, slamming his head right into her stomach, launching her back and forcing her to cough out blood. The tan Berserker used the opportunity to repeatedly punch the saint, alternating heavy right and left attacks to her face while she was staggered by the surprise assault.
She regained her footing and eventually managed to one of his arms, ending his barrage. She then flipped him over her shoulder and slammed him head first into the pavement, embedding him into the ground before unleashing a flurry of blows into Beowulf's stomach and finishing her combo with a roundhouse kick to his side with enough force to eject him from the floor and send him spiraling through the air, landing on his back.
Nevertheless, Beowulf jumped right back onto his feet and ran ahead again, hungry for more. Martha was far from finished herself, as she simply waited for the rampaging Berserker to arrive.
It was going to be a long bout.
"What's their stat differences?" Ritsuka asked.
"Well… since she's using her Ruler spirit origin, Saint Martha has a B+ in strength and a B in endurance, but Beowulf has an A in both stats. However, Martha has a B in agility to Beowulf's C, and she either matches or outright surpasses him in Mana and Luck. Their Noble Phantasms are in the A-range, so their comparable," Romani explained. "Beowulf has Instinct, but lacks any formal training as he just tries to break everything with his bare hands, but Martha has access to the Jacob's Limbs skill; it's bonus only really affects divine targets, but it does give her an actual proper form of combat. It's pretty even so far, I think. About the only thing Beowulf has up on her that'd matter in a clash like this is Battle Continuation."
"…Managing Heroic Spirits sounds hard." Touma blinked.
"I'll shoulder the burden for you; the only Servant you have to keep an eye on is mostly a non-combat one, you know." Ritsuka smiled a little.
"Yes, yes! I'm really easy to take care of, I promise!" Medb chimed in.
"For some reason I feel like you're lying to me." Touma frowned. However, his gaze shifted back to the fight below after a particularly nasty clash caused a crack to appear in the dome the two Servants fought in.
The thought of saints remained in his head. Down below, he saw two Heroic Spirit fighting with everything they had, but just with their bare hands. Despite that, if he hadn't of known of Heroic Spirits beforehand, he would have just assumed that two saints from the magic side were brawling for some reason.
Maybe it was just due to how used he was to saints and how unfamiliar Servants were, but a saint and a Heroic Spirit felt comparable to one another to him. It helped him understand the difference between himself and Servants a little.
Romani interrupted not long after.
"Oh, a fourth signature just appeared," He stated. "The class is… assassin? And it's across the room, I think."
"Yeah, I see her." Kintoki remarked. He was looking into the corner of one of the seating areas, where a table had a single occupant.
It appeared to be a young girl, though her state of dress disputed that claim rather thoroughly despite her small stature. Her skin was pale and appeared to have a purple hue to it, but she was wrapped up in a cherry and lavender kimono that went to the floor. However, it was completely open, revealing her to be dressed in a black outfit that could only be described as slightly less modest than a certain blonde magic god, but still keeping the essential parts from view. She had several gourds of varying sizes attached to her person through straps, each one appearing to contain liquid.
The most notable features were details of her face, however. She had deep purple eyes that begged for attention, and short straight matching hair that went down to the base of her neck. She was a natural beauty, so much so that the horns on her head didn't stand out at first, though they were impossible to miss if one focused on them.
She had a curious smile; she had been the one to see them first. She likely had dropped her own Presence Concealment to allow herself to be discovered. She had several bottles of alcohol of varying brands around the table as well. Kintoki simply nudged his head toward her and began walking. The group followed suit, tearing their eyes away from the carnage of the match below.
"Well, what do we have here?" Shuten Douji spoke in a sensual tone. "It's exceedingly rare for you to pay me a visit and not the other way around… oh, and you brought friends! How wonderful! Are we celebrating something? I haven't forgotten your birthday, have I?"
Her smile persisted, but Kintoki stood firm.
"I'm surprised you let yourself be seen by me down here," Kintoki remarked. "Figured I'd have to tear this place apart to chase you out."
"If it's you that wishes to see me, the location does not matter," Shuten replied. "In here, out in the town, Mt. Ooe; it makes no difference to me. All that matters to me is the company." Her tone maintained an alluring tenor as she spoke. Despite her soft words, Kintoki appeared distinctly uneasy. He didn't let himself ease up for even a moment.
"…So, how is this going to go down?" The golden man asked. "I got a right mind to smash my Golden Eater into you after hearing all those rumors, but right now, it seems like we have a lot to talk about."
"Considering your company… yes we do," Shuten's smiled widened a little. "Come; pull up a chair and let us reminisce a little over some sake. That sounds nice, doesn't it?"
He shook his head. "You know I'm not doing that. You know why I'm here, so I'd rather get things sorted first."
"But that's so boring…" Shuten frowned. "Come on; let's have a little fun! Cut loose a little bit. The cow isn't here to get in our way this time. No poison in our drinks, either; we'll have all the time in the world," She leaned forward a little bit to take a drink. "If you insist though, I might be convinced if I receive a little bit of entertainment from the great Sakata Kintoki… hmm? Sound appealing?" She asked.
"…What do you want?" Kintoki crossed his arms. The purple haired Oni blinked momentarily before breaking out into a rather large grin.
"Accepting my terms outright? If I didn't know any better, I'd think you missed me," She stated. "Well, as much as I enjoy my service here, the hired help is quite dashing and skilled to boot, I grow tired of the man who controls every inch of it. It's getting so constricting… his profits grow with his waistline, and I'd be very amused to see what he's worked hard to build go up in smoke in one, grand display."
"So, if we bust up this thing, you'll cooperate?"
"I'll listen; there'll be fewer distractions anyway," Shuten responded. "After all we've been through, can't you grant my little wish of amusement…? After all, it's been so long since we've seen each other."
In response, the golden man took a deep breath, seemingly preparing himself. "Keep an eye on her. If she tries anything, whistle as loud as you can." He then turned around to face the makeshift arena, where Beowulf and Saint Martha were still duking it out. In an instant, his large axe appeared in his hand and he leapt onto the glass dome over the arena and smashed his Golden Eater into it. "Fine, if you want me to bust up this thing, then all you had to do was ask!" The glass shattered in an instant as yellow arcs of electricity shot around the room from the attack. People began to scramble towards the exit to avoid the incoming violence.
"What the hell!? I was just starting to have fun!" Beowulf howled when Kintoki landed in the ring.
"Sorry, but this shindig is over!" The golden man bellowed. "If you two want to keep fighting so bad, it's going to be up against me, got it!?"
Saint Martha (despite enjoying herself) managed to pull herself back to stand down, but Beowulf just raced ahead to challenge his new opponent. Rather than just stand by and watch however, the saint moved to help the golden interloper, as putting an end to this madness was her entire goal to begin with.
Up above, Caesar's guards were scrambling. "W-what the hell…!" One of them screeched. "T-that's one of those superhuman guys who is with Anti-Skill, right!? A-are they finally on to us!?"
"I suppose so… drat; a few matches away from the big fish. Now I have to take the long way around to procure that district wholesale," Caesar looked annoyed, but not particularly angry. "Oh well, I suppose it's time for plan B then!" He stood up.
"Plan B?" The other guard questioned.
Caesar laughed. "Indeed! I wasn't just hoarding my funds with prospective dreams of becoming a landowner in this fair city! I've snatched up quite a few abandoned facilities, not unlike this one! I had anticipated the arrival of the authorities that are not quite in-tune with the tastes of this establishment's form of entertainment. I have no less than fifteen similar buildings that we can make use of! I even acquired and exterior venue for something more musically oriented if that proved to be profitable."
The guard still looked anxious but let a smile slip. "That's our boss, huh?"
"Worry not; I do not judge you for your doubts. Such a thing is natural, after all! Now, let us make haste from this place at once!
"You got it, boss!" The first guard motioned toward the secret exit. He ran over to open the door while the other stood by to act as a deterrent for pursuit.
The moment the secret door opened however, a red spear stabbed into the side of the guard's gun, shattering it in an instant.
"You're not getting away that easily." Cú remarked as he swung his spear around, forcing the gun out of the guard's grip and flinging it toward the other, hitting him in the head and knocking him out.
"…Well now, quite the arrangement, wouldn't you think?" Caesar remarked, sill as cool-headed as ever.
"Sorry, but the party's over." Cú spun his spear around, aiming it at the portly ruler. "Give it up now and I won't have to skewer you."
"Is that so…? Quite the predicament, I must admit… but unfortunately, I have no intention of surrendering; my fortune demands it!"
The blue Lancer stabbed forward, but the Roman emperor leapt backward with surprising skill, despite his large size.
"It begrudges me to state it, but I must inform you; as I am like this, I am a Saber! Come to me, Crocea Mors!"
In an instant, a long, golden sword with a cross-shaped hilt appeared on his hand. It appeared that the great roman emperor of old had no intention of going down without a fight, since he had the power to do so. As annoying as he was, the mechanic of the man's sword, his Noble Phantasm, would be something of a problem if he happened to land a hit, and as such, Cú took on a proper stance to engage his foe. His mission was to capture Caesar, but that didn't mean he couldn't rough him up a little.
Then a Gandr came and struck the rotund ruler in the back of the head. "Who dares stab me from behind!?" He roared as he turned, only to see Ritsuka holding an aimed arm straight toward him. The attack was very far from killing the fat man, but it was more than enough to distract him.
The blue Lancer took this opportunity to thrust his spear towards the blade's hilt. With a swift motion, he forced the blade out of Caesar's hand and launched it across the room, disarming him quite efficiently. He hesitated upon losing his only weapon, turning to find Cú's red spear to now be dangerously close to his chubby throat.
"Last chance, big man." He warned.
"N-now, don't get too carried away, my good sir!" Caesar's calm and collected appearance finally began to crack. "I-I am a man of many talents and hold many deeds to property! And I am quite financially stable! Surely, we can come to some kind of agreement, can we not?"
"Sure; come with me and I won't crush your wind-pipe."
"I-is that really the best I can hope for!?"
He tried a few more times, but Cú Challain's stance remained unchanged. It seemed like it would be the fighting arena's last match after all.
Anti-Skill Personnel were now surrounded the building. They didn't have anyone to spare for any kind of raid due to their duties with defense, but taking an already subdued crime syndicate into custody was a different story. There were more guards of course, but none on par with Beowulf, the only Heroic Spirit in the arena's care. With him handled by both Kintoki and Saint Martha, they didn't stance a chance after that.
Officers were moving both illegal patrons as well as employees of the arena out of the building, although they interrogated the owner on the spot. Beowulf was soundly defeated; even if it was a close match against Martha, the addition of a second Servant sealed his fate. Caesar complied the whole time as Anti-Skill hauled him away; the only reason he followed their commands was fears of the blue Lancer following through on his threat to kill him. As much as he didn't want to be carted off like cattle, death was significantly less preferable.
Shuten Douji, however, had not moved. She still sat in her corner, occasionally drinking whatever alcoholic beverage was closest to her as though she didn't have a care in the world.
"So, you going to listen now?" Kintoki's outfit was torn and his body bruised, but otherwise he was fine. The rest of the group stood clear as the golden man approached for a second time.
She took a swig of sake, ingesting the beverage from a traditional Japanese dish, before ending with a satisfied smack of her lips.
Kintoki about fell over. "On come on! I did what you asked, didn't I!?"
"Yes, but you were already intending to do that, were you not? It's no fun if I just send you on quests you were already undertaking," Shuten answered. "Hmm… let me think of what else I could send you out on…"
"I think we're being taken for a ride…" Ritsuka commented.
"I agree." Mashu sighed.
"Give is a break, would you?" Touma spoke up. "What we're trying to do needs you! And it'll help you out with your own problems to, so can we just cut the antics and get on with things already!?"
The other two comments Shuten ignored, but not the last one. She was about to drink again but she perked up, her little horns wiggling just a bit. She then turned to face the unlucky Kamijou, standing up and proceeding to walk over to the spiky haired teen.
"…Not good…!" Kintoki immediately began to sweat as he saw the purple haired Oni waltz over to Touma. As she did so, she began to sniff, and proceeded to do so all around the spiky haired teen, as if she was a dog searching for something.
"Can I… help you?" Touma raised an eyebrow as he did his best to stay out of Shuten's way.
"Hey; hands off the merchandise or else." Medb warned, calling her whip to her hand.
"What? You can sleep around but he can't? Weren't you the one who basically made it law for anyone who shared a bed with you to not be jealous?" Cú remarked.
"Not while I'm working on him! After he's broken, he can sleep with whoever he wants all the same. But for now, I already have a hard enough time as is! And that's without competition!" Medb fired back.
"I don't think what she's doing is an Oni mating ritual, so I think you're fine." Ritsuka made a rather deadpan expression. Shuten continued to sniff around Touma for a moment or two before coming to a stop.
She stood on the unlucky Kamijou's right side, observing his right hand. She tilted her head and grabbed the limb to hold closer. The Oni was pretty strong, but her hand felt surprisingly delicate. She sniffed his hand a little, tilting her head the other direction as if she were trying to make sense of something.
Shuten reached her arm back, still careful to hold on, and grabbed ahold of one of her gourds.
"…Hey, Shuten…" Kintoki called out, but she didn't listen.
In an instant, the gourd turned into a sword.
"Hey! Shuten!" Kintoki roared and charged ahead, but Shuten had already swung.
A loud shattering sound erupted out. Touma managed to wrest his arm from her grip and swing it into Shuten's blade, Imagine Breaker causing the sword to shatter on contact. It was utterly destroyed, but the spiky haired teen's hand was perfectly intact. The boy staggered back quickly while Shuten jumped out of Kintoki's way, avoiding his tackle. Rather than retaliate however, she simply gazed at the broken sword in her hand. She swung it a few times, tilting her head in the process.
"…It won't change back," She commented. "How peculiar…"
"H-hey! What was that all about!?" Touma cried out. The purple haired Oni shrugged her shoulders and discarded the blade, finding it no longer worth her time.
"I smelled something interesting, that's all."
"T-that's all!? That's enough of an excuse to lob of someone's arm!?"
"Such is our way, but…" Shuten didn't seem bothered by the accusation. "That feeling is unusual. Not holy, like a deity… but not demonic, like an Oni… and certainly not human either."
"Alright, I tried being nice!" Kintoki held his axe over his shoulder as electricity sparked from it. "If this is how you want it to go, then-"
"There is a location to the east of here, I believe it is support to be a building related to… Satellite Communications? Is that right?" Shuten looked confused, saying an unfamiliar term.
Kintoki's shoulders drooped a little. "…Eh?" He blinked.
"I believe that's where we're going next," Shuten continued. "In a day or so when the sun sets."
"She… ended up telling us?" Ritsuka blinked.
"Silly boy. I decided I was going to when you were so thoughtful to bring Kintoki with you," Shuten giggled. "I just wanted to tease him a little bit. That's all."
"Teasing does not involve cutting off arms!" Touma shouted.
"I suppose not… oh well." She smiled and shrugged her shoulders like it was natural.
"You expect me to just be ok with this!?" He continued to protest, but Kintoki put a hand on his shoulder.
"Give it a rest. I know how you feel, but that's how Oni are. Just because she looks sweet and cute doesn't mean she's nice…" He shook his head.
"And you even got him to compliment me. My heart has been set aflutter… fufu~" Shuten giggled again.
"Still, couldn't you have picked something else to mess with me with? We're trying to make it so you and Ibaraki can get out too…" Kintoki rubbed his head.
"But if it doesn't make your heart race, then it's not worth holding above your head." Shuten remarked. "Why, it was quite obvious why you came here the moment I saw your little group walk through the front door."
"Then why the run-around!?"
"For fun, obviously," She took another swig of her booze. "Why else would I let Ibaraki go on her little rampage with that English demon? Because it'd eventually lead you to me."
Kintoki grunted and fell to one knee, realizing he had been played like a fiddle.
"Wait, wait; back up," Romani chimed in. "You mean you've been letting her do all of this just to get Sakata Kintoki's attention!?"
She grinned. "More or less… but it took you so long, my little golden boy!" She shifted her attention back to Kintoki rather quickly. "Then she went on and got all enamored with him and his fireworks; such a pain. Now if I pull her back, she'll start crying and swinging that flaming sword all across town, firing blazing fists into every man, woman and child to ease her aching heart. And that would be just horrible, don't you think?"
"Like you care about that!" Kintoki roared
"I care plenty; without people, there would be no one for us Oni to pillage, remember?" She giggled. "Besides; the clown has served his purpose, and now he can be disposed of… is what I'd like to say," For the first time, the purple haired Oni looked depressed. "That clown is very crafty; he seems like a mindless moron obsessed with death and destruction, but that's only part of him. He made sure to wrap Ibaraki right around his finger nice and tight. She wouldn't go against me willingly, but that man likes to push people into perilous life or death choices, manipulating them without anyone taking notice. As it stands now, he might be able to convince her to my disobey orders, or worse; die on purpose as a martyr and inspire her to avenge him. As much pleasure as it'd bring me to rip him asunder, I'd prefer not to do the same to Ibaraki."
"…Is that all?"
"That, and his bombs are rather annoying. I don't have too many defenses against being blown into chunks of meat. Tenacity will only get me so far, and that little cretin has done well in avoiding my assassination attempts; he always has Ibaraki at arm's length when I'm around, almost like he's daring me to rip out his bones. Having a human play with not only Ibaraki but me of all people is rather insulting. If your plan is to murder him, I'd be quite interested."
"I find it hard to believe that she'd go that far for him, manipulation or not," Kintoki crossed his arms. "She's pretty damn obsessed with you."
"Very much so, but she is also very childish and impressionable. She won't tell you, but just being nice to her and feeding her a little bit of candy every now and then will win her over for you quite easily. He's been doing quite a bit of that and then some; she loves sweets, pillaging, and praise, and he's been handing over all three like it's a discount sale. She wouldn't betray me in her right mind, but if put under emotional stress and forced to choose, she might do something in a panic she can't take back… and I very much like my head where it is, thank you."
"You're not wrong; she's basically a perpetual brat. Killing the clown might force her anger on us, though."
"And that would be any different than how we normally conduct business how, exactly?"
Kintoki grimaced. "…God damn it, you actually have a point. If it's me who does the deed, it basically becomes business as usual, huh?"
"And under business as usual, I can pull her back," She took a bottle of wine and downed it in one swig. "She'll be angry, sad even, for a few days, but a little but of the usual and he'll be gone from her mind like nothing ever happened."
Mashu blinked a few times. "You know, I feel bad for Ibaraki that she's being manipulated, but the only way to work this is even more manipulation…"
"It's either that or find someone to nuzzle their way into her heart enough to overpower his influence," Shuten rested her head on the palms of her hands. "Sorry to say, this is how it has to be. Us Heroic Spirits might just be shadows of who we were when alive, but that just means more time for us to enjoy ourselves to us Oni. I'd prefer it not cut short; agree to my terms or you'll have to handle us outright."
Kintoki rubbed his chin. "…Hey, I think this is as good as we're gonna get as deals go. Might be a pain, but going with it is about the best I can pull off."
"Her cooperation is what we're after, and we even thought that we'd have to take down Mephistopheles anyway," Ritsuka nodded. "Consider it done; we'll deal with that Caster for you."
"Very good! This calls for a toast!" The purple haired Oni smiled. "…Or at least it would; it seems that I've gone and drank all my booze. How irritating."
"Just remember your side of the deal, alright?" Kintoki warned.
"How silly for you to suggest that I'd forget. Name one time where I ever lied to you."
"I'm just covering my bases; can't ever be too careful with Oni."
"Ah, that is very true. I shall make it clear then; kill this Caster for me, and Ibaraki and I shall not interfere with this conflict a moment further. How does that sound?"
Ritsuka nodded with a slight grin. "It sounds good to me! Finally, we're making some headway!"
"Master," EMIYA appeared behind the Chaldea master. "I believe Anti-Skill has successfully put away the criminals and Saint Martha has vanished somewhere with the subdued Beowulf."
"Oh? You spoke with her, Archer?" Ritsuka asked.
"Briefly. She offered thanks and said to leave handing Beowulf to her… It's not common that I feel sorry for Berserkers, you know," EMIYA stated. "That being said, Anti-Skill will be leaving soon, and I believe that since our previous ride is a wreck, that heading back with them is our safest bet to enter safe territory."
"Huh? What happened to our van?" Mashu blinked.
"You happened to it."
"Eh!?" Mashu looked hurt. "I-I… thought I was taking good care of it…"
"If that's you taking care of it then I don't want to see what your form of neglect looks like!" Cú shouted.
Ritsuka nodded in agreement with the red Archer's suggestion. "Sounds like a plan; we need to head back and prepare for tomorrow night."
"S-senpai- Master! I-I'm not a bad driver, am I!?" Mashu asked, still focusing on the criticism.
"…To lie or speak the truth…" Ritsuka unintentionally spoke aloud. Mashu felt heartbroken and fell to her knees.
"I-I… d-didn't mean to…" She began to sniffle.
"H-hey! It's not so bad!" Romani chimed in. "Y-you only had skill because of Riding, but that's not the same as actually knowing how! If you could learn properly, I'm sure you'd be great!"
"Y-you… think so?" Mashu called out.
"I know so!" Romani did his best to comfort the teary-eyed girl.
"E-erm… s-sorry Mashu, I didn't want to hurt you, but…" Ritsuka rubbed the back of his head.
"…When I actually can drive… will you ride with me, master?" Mashu asked, the faintest tinge of a blush spreading across her face. Ritsuka was caught off guard and flushed red himself, but managed to smile.
"Sure; we'll get you all trained up and I'll even be your first passenger!" Ritsuka stated, kneeling down to hold the Shielder's hands. Cú and Emiya simply shook their heads however; no amount of training was going to help that disastrous of a case.
Meanwhile, Kintoki turned to head out ahead. "Heading off already?" Shuten called out to him, giving the golden man pause.
"Yeah, probably should…" Kintoki rubbed his neck. "I'd say to take you in, but that might make the other two or their bosses suspicious if you dropped off the map only to suddenly appear right on time."
"I suppose so, hmm…?" Shuten remarked. "Well, I best be off then as well."
She began to walk away, but Kintoki called out to her. "Hey! Stay safe, you hear me!? If you and Ibaraki want a golden escape, you need to be alive!"
Shuten paused for but a moment, before a devilish smirk broke out.
"…When you say things like that, it really does make my heart race, you know~?"
She then kept walking as if nothing had happened. The group began to pack up and get ready to leave themselves. They took the one remaining elevator up and stepped outside, everyone a little happier to be above ground again.
Touma began to walk over to the Anti-Skill vans that were still around, but Medb grabbed his arm and tugged him aside.
"Come with me," She ordered. "I said I'd give you a free ride, and I intend to fulfil that deal."
"We are talking a ride home, right? Not… erm…" Touma deadpanned but couldn't hide his blush as he scratched his cheek.
"Well, if you want~?" She winked. "But I was more thinking a personal little adventure with me on my chariot. I did agree to it, after all."
"…Eh? You made a Geas Bond for something like that?" Cú asked.
"Geas Bond…?" Touma questioned.
"A contract," The blue lancer remarked. "A binding magical contract, where if one breaks it they'll be cursed, but one can get a great amount of boons so long as its conditions are met. Pretty powerful stuff; if someone ends up being good with them, they might even be able to take the place of or override a Master's command spells."
"To answer your question, yes; I set up a Geas Bond and he agreed. I am simply fulfilling my end of the bargain," The queen looked irritated. "What's the problem?"
"But all I did was say yes and thanked her…" Touma blinked.
"That's all it'll take," Cú rubbed his head. "Medb is damn good with them; just her word is enough. Don't know what she'll get out of such a simple bond, but she can go way beyond that. And since it's just her word, I don't think your right arm is going to fly here."
Touma looked a little frightened, but the blue lancer just pat his shoulder.
"Don't worry about it; I'm just saying be careful about what you agree to with her. If you refuse, she can't force you into anything; it requires consent of both parties. Honestly, if you go about like normal you'll probably be fine."
"Would you care to not try and scare him off?" Medb remarked.
"Just giving him a full warning," Cú remarked. "Also for her chariot; sit up front. If you get run over or get in the back, you'll be trapped inside until she lets you out… or you do the deed with her."
"I had already intended to have him ride up front," Medb put her hands on her hips. "It'll be easier like that. Less chance of him breaking it with his hand, after all."
The blue lancer raised an eyebrow. "…Seriously? No tricks?" He asked.
"I can be truthful; the fact that the bond I made remains unbroken is a testament to my intent!"
"Still, all it says is that you drive for him, not anything else that'll happen after it's done…"
"If I'm riding up front, I don't have any complaints, I guess…" Touma rubbed his neck. "Though, never actually ridden a chariot before."
"Oh, you love it! Trust me; I'll show you exactly how to ride it! It might seem uncomfortable at first but once you get used to it, you'll be begging to give it another try! Here, let me set you up!" Medb smiled and pulled the spiky haired teen along.
The two walked off as she began to call out her bull-drawn chariot while the blue lancer watched.
Medb was behaving strangely… not that he especially knew her all that well prior to his demise on a personal level outside of a brief period he held her captive, but he had the distinct feeling something was off…
…But in the end, he just shrugged his shoulders and went to his Master's side.
It really wasn't any of his business.
Welcome to the bottom, my friends!
And we have our next set-up ready and waiting! Plus, a little bit of fun with a literal underground fighting Arena. That was fun, right?
A bit of a clarification on Mashu's driving; it's a reference to a certain other artificial human's driving skills. She clearly can drive, but doing so safely is a different story. As for who that character it's referencing is, I leave up to you.
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.