And here we are once again! I feel like this introduction is a tad same-ish, but that's the price of doing business, I suppose!
There should be a bit of back and forth, and a bit of action here. So here's to hoping the previous slowness is redeemed!
First though, we have some reviews!
D N Works: Shuten is Shuten, huh? And there is another battle to deal with, huh...?
calderoneric758: I didn't know their swords shared names, either. Those who would join up would likely be dependent on who is willing to join Ritsuka's, as they are pretty similar. As for who would be summoned by Touma, there are a lot of factors to consider, possibly too many to figure out... I'd think Cu is likely up there, though.
Takedo: It's an issue, I know. I think it gets less common as time goes on though, I think. I hope you enjoy what's coming next!
Mrcrazyman94: She has quite the nose, huh?
Cygfried: One could call Medb infected, but how she reacts to that infection is a story in of itself.
Guest (1) (Chapter 5): It's probably odd, but not one of the oddest things they've ever seen.
Ultimate Warrior of Zera: Glad you liked the joke! And Imagine Breaker is a curiosity, isn't it?
Issei ODR: The end-game goal for Academy City is related to Aleister Crowley's overall plan.
YCG: Touma's right arm would negate Shuten's Supernatural drunken-ness, huh?
freddy lane 1: As is the norm!
paeluclucas: I got plenty of story left to tell!
Guest (2): Glad your enjoying the series! Nice theory on Excalibur's origin in relation to Imagine Breaker!
craytherlay: Shuten knows what she's doing.
Guest (3): Martha is going to have some questions about a certain Maid Café...
KingAllen: A race where no one is safe. And yes... eventually.
BlueCore: At least he's consistent!
One-eyed Spider: Endless fear for all those involved.
Zakara: Artificial humans seem to have trouble driving, huh?
Kamijou Touma1: I think you just had your mind in the gutter, my friend...
Maxim7: Touma is pretty much just trying to be a normal person, after all. He ain't no Hero of Justice; he's not trying to save the world, he just gets involved with incidents that happen to cross his path. If nothing happened to him, he'd likely just continue his life as a normal high school student. There will be another Interlude, and sooner than you think! And as said above, Shuten is Shuten; as alluring as she is deadly!
AkumaESPer: I can't quite remember, but I thing that was Da Vinci the whole time though. Caesar had a good thing going with Beowulf until some select people busted him, huh? Hey, I won't judge you for liking Shuten! You are picking up on some of the possible inner-workings of what's happening around here... but the exact events are still rather clouded!
MrQuestionMark: I like the multiple angles myself; some are fighting the war one one of the two sides, some are just trying to live their life! The BlazBlue feeling wasn't intentional, but I can definitely see it now that you've pointed it out! Subconscious additions like that happen to me a lot. The Fate side is the main driving force for now, but it will be changed up before you know it!
TheB: Shuten, Touma doesn't need any help collecting girls!
tsun: As for why he's here right now, he rode along with the group, as he went with them. If your meaning the story as a whole, then I have to say it'd be out of character for him to not be involved in hectic incidents like this!
lokmanshirou95: And that's the joke!
Sora with an S: I like using Chaldea and company to make allusions like this, as they are outsiders looking in and can only speculate. If only a certain Detective was with them who could give them the answers they seek, huh? The small typos hurt my soul when I see them, but thanks for pointing them out! Cu is having all the nasty flashbacks, and is immediately suspicious of Medb... and with good reason.
Mr. X: The only real accurate one is likely the first, as the others barely know him. There will be some one-on-one time between Touma and Medb eventually, but only when the time is right. It is a life-or-death situation they're all in, after all!
Markoz89: There are plenty of candidates! Touma not standing out was intentional; it was more of Chaldea's show last time.
Guest (4): You'll see it eventually!
Guest (5): I'm not sure about the Wings, but Accelerator will appear. I just can't have Accelerator around all the time that much, as his skill-set breaks the whole plot wide open... Vector Change is a very powerful ability.
JCarrasco: Another one hot off the presses for you!
Windraider: Caesar was double screwed dealing with Cu; he's very on point with his goals, and cares very little about money. Touma commenting on the equivalency makes sense to me because he's now dealt with both sides of them, you know?
Missingmoney: There are more moving parts than just that, though. All the level 5's identities are public knowledge for those willing to do some digging, and there is the reverence level 5's have to take into account from Academy City's people. There's also the fact that even if Kakine isn't widely known to the general public, it is certainly known to those part of the Dark Side of Academy City. There's also the fact he'd be an important part to Accelerator's own legend, as he'd likely be inducted into the Throne should he ever die, and since the Throne registers people from past, present, and future, he'd have a good shot of being included just due to his association with Accelerator. There is a final point, but I can't go into a lot of detail without spoilers to this story; I'd look toward his post-revival state for answers on that front if you really want to figure it out before its story relevant.
Mashu's driving is a reference to both Mordred and Iri! So, you got it!
Tank Nobu: Nobu Nobu!
And with those done... enjoy!
"Man, its good to be home…" Touma remarked now that they had arrived back to his dormitory.
If their tip from Shuten Douji was right, then the next night was when they'd strike. They knew the relative time as well as the location; all that was left was to wait and hope for the best. Kintoki offered his support as well, and figured that if it was an operation to take on one of the main forces attacking the city, he might be able to get some extra support too. What kind of help was unpredictable, but it would be more than welcome to have more hands on deck.
So, their plan in motion, the group returned home for the night. Kintoki had to report back unfortunately, so they were on their own.
"How was riding shotgun in Medb's chariot, Kamijou-san?" Ritsuka asked.
"It was perfect, of course!" Medb cheerfully replied. "With me in charge, there's no way it could be anything short of a mesmerizing experience!"
Cú blinked a few times before turning his head toward the spiky haired teen. "How many times did she try feeling up your legs?"
"…Five." Touma sighed.
"She get away with any of 'em?"
"Well, I kind of let her have her fun for longer than I should have…" Touma rubbed his neck. "I was scared of my right hand slipping and destroying our ride, so…"
"He has very nice legs; solid muscle build." Medb smiled.
"So, she basically took advantage of you in a situation where you couldn't do shit? Yeah, figures; that Geas Bond sounded a little fishy." Cú shrugged.
"We can make accusations of sexual harassment later; at the moment it would be best to settle in and prepare for tomorrow." EMIYA suggested.
Romani interrupted them. "Hang on for just a second, if you would."
"Is something wrong?" Mashu asked.
"We have things just right on our side to send out a supply drop is all! Sending objects and the like is much easier than Servants or anything like that," Da Vinci chimed in this time. "We should be sending some supplies any minute now."
"What kind? You folks have some magical equipment you couldn't send over before?" Touma asked.
"Nothing that special; just some food. We'd have sent water, but I am led to believe that access to clean water isn't much of an issue at the moment."
"…Food, huh?" The spiky haired teen crossed his arms. "That reminds me, I forgot to eat yesterday."
"That's not a good thing to be admitting, Kamijou-san…" Ritsuka commented.
"You try having a black hole for a roommate on a just-barely passable income," He retorted. "I was out trying to find a place open to do some shopping because of that problem, you know…"
Medb tapped a finger against her chin. "Hmm… too bad that store was closed, huh? I was in the same boat; I've been wanting some meat for a while now."
"Hold on, do Heroic Spirits even need to eat?"
"Aside from Mashu, not really," Romani answered. "While food can be broken down into energy, it is far less efficient than receiving mana directly from an outside source, even if it's not from a master. Although they can eat if they desire, it's more about setting the mood or for pleasure than anything."
Touma tilted his head and frowned. "Yeah, eating for pleasure I can't get. I can understand seeking out food that tastes good over stuff that's bland, but that… eh, maybe it's because I can barely afford to eat at all, but just eating for the sake of eating doesn't resonate with me."
"That just means you don't have the ability to live comfortably," Medb remarked. "I suppose it's to be expected of the common folk. I remember those days back home. I miss some of those dishes… good times…"
"Really? You didn't strike me as a foodie."
"There are plenty of things you don't know about me, as there are things I don't know about you," The pink haired queen remarked. She approached the unlucky Kamijou and delicately pulled one of his arms toward her. "How about it? A room, just you and me; we can spend all night understanding each other inside and out… how does that sound?" Touma flushed red, but EMIYA just groaned.
"Can you not hit on him while we're around?" The red archer frowned.
"How can I? You lot are always by his side these days." Medb deadpanned.
"I think that's his point." Cú smirked. She glared at him and looked ready to beat the two with her whip.
"Alright, supplies should be inbound!" Da Vinci called out. The summoning circle from before began to glow before bathing the area in a brilliant flash of light. When it faded, several boxes of supplies lied within the circle, with each one containing various forms of preserved food.
"Lot of stuff here…" Touma dug through some of the boxes out of curiosity. Everything was oddly packaged, and one of the items caused a reaction from Imagine Breaker. It didn't destroy the food though, strangely enough.
"We normally have to cook in the wild, so anything that doesn't normally last long is magically sealed to contain freshness," Mashu stated. "Though I suppose this time we have access to a stove in your dormitory, so I'm a little excited!" She remarked, but then began to feel embarrassed. "I-If you'd allow us to use it, of course."
"I don't mind," He agreed. "I'm not against cooking either if that's what you want."
"You cook, Kamijou-san?" Ritsuka asked.
"Othinus is too small to do it herself, and Index breaks everything she touches if it involves the concept of 'chores.' I basically have to," Touma remarked. "But it's not like I'm complaining too much. I like cooking; it's relaxing."
"Normally Archer cooks for us if we ask." Ritsuka commented. Touma raised an eyebrow and turned to examine the red archer.
"…Why are you questioning if I can cook if a guy like that can?"
EMIYA's eye twitched as Cú struggled to contain his laughter. "And just what is that supposed to mean?" The red archer asked.
"I mean you don't seem like you… like people." Perhaps he realized what he meant far too late, but he began to trail off. Cú continued to laugh through his hand as EMIYA's face only surged with anger.
"And what makes you think that!?" He shouted.
"T-the general attitude you're displaying right now is a pretty good example!" Touma fired back. EMIYA opened his mouth to respond, but almost immediately closed it with a glare. If he responded angrily, he'd actually be proving the spiky haired teen's point. Clever bastard.
"…Let's go." He grumbled as he heaved one of the boxes over his shoulder and began to head up the stairs.
Touma looked nervous about poking the bear too much, but he felt a playful slap on his shoulder as Cú walked by.
"Anyone who can make him red in the face is fine by me. Good work, kid." He then mimicked the red archer's action and grabbed a box to take up. Mashu grabbed the third and last crate and the group began to walk up together. They stopped just outside the unlucky Kamijou's dorm room, finding the door ajar and Archer peering inside.
"Is something wrong?" Touma asked as he walked up.
"I think your room has been invaded." EMIYA suggested. Touma almost immediately scowled; if his home was broken into but not destroyed, then there was only a handful of people Touma could think of behind it.
Sadly, who the perpetrators were gave him even more of a headache.
The two were a pair of girls, definitely younger than the spiky haired teen. The older of the two had long black hair that went down her back with two strands of her bangs on the sides of her face, outlining it rather well. She kept her hair in check with a simple pink headband, and it was tied into braids but only towards the bottom, letting the rest roam free. She wore a simple white undershirt covered by a red, white, and blue jacket that sported a logo with a similarly themed miniskirt, and blue stockings that went to mid-thigh. The most notable feature with dragon tail-like item that came from under her skirt that appeared to be animated and mobile.
The second was the youngest by far, easily the youngest that Chaldea had yet to encounter in the city of science. She was a twelve year old girl with short blonde hair, shining blue eyes, and a petite figure that gave the impression she was fragile. She wore an elegant white dress and black stockings, and appeared to have a "dignified" aura about her.
Those two were sitting with Index at the center table with Othinus in front of the white nun. In the middle… was a cake. A fresh chocolate cake with vanilla frosting and cutesy sprinkles, like it was more suited for a five year old's birthday party.
"Hey! Lessar! Birdway! What the hell you two doing in my dorm eating desert!?" Touma shouted as he barged in.
"Kind of just covered it there, chief." The new blonde replied, taking a spoonful of the sugary delight and plopping it into her mouth. Touma about fell over after that.
"Don't get so bent out of shape! We saved you some! Come, come; sit next to me, lover boy!" The black haired girl remarked with a sensual tone.
"Hey! I called dibs when I picked the lock on the patio door; he's sitting over by me!" The blonde chimed in.
"S-since when is this an argument! My spot is clearly best to share!" The silver haired nun shouted.
"Jokes on all three of you; no matter where he sits, I get a seat right next to his face. Tough luck, amateurs." Othinus spoke in a rather bored tone.
All three girls attempted to repeatedly stab the tiny magic god with their cutlery, though with little success due to her small frame and agility.
"So, about that discussion we had earlier about Kamijou-san having good luck with women…" Romani stated.
"Not another word…" Touma groaned. "J-just set the food down in the kitchen and I'll handle it later."
"Food? Touma, you brought food home!?" Index immediately dropped the assault on the magic god upon the mention of more things to eat.
"We received a rather generous donation; be sure to thank them."
"Ohhhhh!" Index shifted to bowing in the blink of an eye. "T-thank you! Our empty pantry will gladly accept any offering you are willing to part with! May god bless the ground in which you walk!"
Her over the top way of showing gratitude embarrassed the spiky haired teen, making him grab his own face. "Come on, not like that!"
"Kamijou, if I may," Romani spoke up. "Do you know these two girls?"
Touma groaned. "More or less; they're magicians."
"Oh! Mages of this timeline! Interesting!" Da Vinci's voice chimed in.
"Kamijou, are those your guests?" The blonde girl in the white dress asked. "I feel something weird whenever they speak."
"So, she can detect us too…" Romani commented. "Well, maybe that's to be expected at this point. Kamijou-san, who are these two?"
"One's a pervert, the other is a cabal boss," Touma shrugged. "Pick you poison I guess."
"Hehe, don't worry lover boy. When I'm finished, you'll be a little pervert yourself…" The black haired girl licked her lips, her dragon like tail wagging happily and briefly coiling around to take the shape of a heart.
"Not in front of the guests, Lessar! In fact, not when we're alone either!" Touma shouted.
That clarified the identity of one; the older girl was Lessar. Which meant the blonde was named Birdway. Although…
"If that one is the pervert…" Ritsuka motioned towards the black haired girl. "The other one is the cabal boss then?"
"You figured it out; I'd award you points if it wasn't obvious," The blonde remarked. "Leivinia Birdway, leader of the Magic Cabal 'The Dawn Colored Sunlight,' the largest one in London. Remember it, would you?" She went back to eating cake like it was nothing special.
"T-this fragile looking girl is the leader of a magic organization!?" Romani remarked. "O-oh, wait, I forgot about Helena for a second there; she was well versed and important in the supernatural world, but looked exceptionally young for her age… yeah, that makes sense. She is probably in her mid to late fifties or something, right?"
"I'm fucking twelve you piece of shit. You want to die or something?" Leivinia looked irritated.
Having his logic destroyed and being threatened with his imitate demise shut up the fluffy haired doctor almost immediately.
"Dr. Roman did a bad…" Mashu shook her head.
"B-but I thought she looked young for her age; someone that old looking like a middle school is pretty good when it comes to aging, don't you think!?" Romani argued.
Ritsuka blinked. "From what I've noticed, when it comes to girls, just avoid the topic of age entirely. No one will be happy by the end."
As Romani wallowed in despair, Ritsuka's three Servants moved to unload their boxes of food. Mashu and Cú simply set the boxes down, but EMIYA went one-step further and began unloading the containers themselves, organizing the unlucky Kamijou's cabinets. Surprisingly, despite being mostly empty all of his cabinets were properly labeled for what went where and even had organized spice rack for easily replacement.
Even if the brat was on his shit list for earlier, he had to compliment the forethought.
Medb, on the other hand, had actually stepped forward toward the two magician girls, gunning for one specifically. She remembered the name Touma had mentioned: one girl who supposedly gave her, Queen Medb of Connacht, a run for her money when it came to seducing men, and it was something she wished to verify for herself.
Lessar appeared to recognize the intent on instinct, turning from her sexual jabs at the unlucky Kamijou to study the pink haired woman approaching her. They stood about a meter or so apart, silently looking the other over.
Not one person spoke for about a minute.
"Oh god… look at those!"
Lessar was the one who broke the silence, reaching out to lightly pat the pink haired woman's legs.
"Look at these monster thighs! Pretty thick, but not a lot of jiggle! You must have toned the hell out of these! Man, that hip game is on point too! That's so cool!"
"But of course; my legs are my pride and joy! My greatest of tools when I need to make an impression!" Medb replied. "Can I say something, though? I love your hair! The little blonde streaks frame your face perfectly! Not to mention the volume you got going on in the back; I adore that design! Do you do it yourself?"
"I'm pretty proud of it! It lets me keep it long and the braids at the bottom keep all the strands in check so it's easier to maintain!" Lessar replied. "It's basically the only way I could even think of keeping it this long in my line of work!"
The two girls quickly shifted from studying to chatting casually, an occasional giggle escaping their lips.
"So, Medb is making friends." Touma blinked.
Cú sighed. "That is not a good thing for you."
"A-anyway, sorry about that…" Romani cleared his throat. "Can I ask what you two are doing here? I might be speaking for Kamijou-san here, but I kind of doubt that the leader of an important faction would break into someone's residence just to eat cake." Romani didn't know the full scope of what Leivinia Birdway's organization was like, but considering the attached moniker of the "Largest Cabal in London," did carry some weight to it. From what he could tell, the European countries appeared to be well versed in the occult, just like their own world.
This twelve year old girl being in charge of it was a hard pill to swallow, but for now he'd play along. Even if it was true, it wouldn't be the strangest thing he'd seen, anyway.
"Well, I was waiting for Kamijou to make it back," Leivinia remarked. "With all this shit going down, I figured something interesting would have happened to him… and what do you know? I was right." She smirked.
"I feel like you know me a little too well…" Touma blinked. "Wait, so are things picking up on your end? I figured the church would want their hands all over this."
"Beats me; that's why I sent Mark to go find out," Leivinia pointed her thumb back behind her before resting her head on one hand. "Apparently around the time that this shit storm started, something nasty popped up over there. I've been keeping an eye on my sister for a while, so I haven't been back."
"A two pronged attack?" Romani mused. "A constant one to keep Academy City under pressure, and a powerful one to keep the United Kingdom from getting involved?"
"Sounds like the hologram-man has some juicy intel," Lessar chimed in. "So, want to tell us point blank? Or do we have to track you down and get rough with you?"
"T-that won't be necessary!" Romani smiled nervously. "I-If you're friends with Kamijou-san, I'm sure your very trust worthy!"
"Ok, you can believe that if you want." Touma shrugged with a deadpan expression.
"Hey; what's that supposed to mean!?" The blonde cabal boss slammed her hand on the table and stood up.
The spiky haired kept the same face as he blinked at her. "Hawaii." Leivinia opened her mouth to retort, but flushed red with embarrassment and frustration before closing her lips and sitting back down with a mild grumble.
"Don't worry about her; I won't ever lie to you, lover boy~" Lessar practically skipped over to the black haired teen and took his right arm and held it close.
"That's the part that scares me!" Touma called out trying to wrestle out of her grip. Medb saw this and waltzed over. Rather than pry the black haired girl away, however, she instead grabbed her and Touma's arm and made some manual adjustments to their posture, placing Touma's bicep firmly into Lessar's chest.
"There you go; should be nicer that way." The pink haired queen blinked.
"It does feel better! I felt like it seemed off for a while," Lessar mused. "Suppose it doesn't help that my chest isn't fully developed yet…"
"Don't worry about it; live and learn!" Medb smiled and gave a thumbs up.
"Why are you putting me into more trouble!?" Touma shouted.
"Oh, don't complain; any man would kill to have a set of cute girls on each arm," Medb hummed a little before taking the unlucky Kamijou's left. "See? Bet if we walked around downtown like this, you'd feel like a really big man with all kinds of jealous glares."
"That is not something I want!"
"Hey, before we go down this route: you willing to share? Because I've never done it before, but I don't mind experimenting a little bit." Lessar asked.
"Give me the first round when he's actually in the sack and I'll call it good. Deal?"
"Deal." The two broke from their positions to reach across the spiky haired teen's front and shake hands.
"H-hey! I didn't agree to this!" Touma shouted.
"Your consent is irrelevant." Both girls replied in unison.
"Like hell it is!"
"Toooouuummmmaaa…!" Index growled, not amused by the sight before her.
"Do you not see me struggling here!?"
"This group goes off topic a lot…" Ritsuka remarked.
"Eh; happens," Leivinia shrugged. "But to continue; what exactly do you lot know? Hmm?"
The devil was in the details, as it were. They spoke of Chaldea, Solomon, and the current circumstances facing the city. The spoke briefly about their next plan of action, but the blonde cabal boss didn't seem too enthused.
"So, nothing about where all the monsters are coming from, huh?" She spoke in a rather bored tone. It was almost like she expected something like that.
Mashu cleared her throat a little. "We know the group responsible, but not their location. We are just starting our investigation into the topic."
"We're currently targeting a different group that's responsible for destroying infrastructure to allow these beasts to run unopposed," Romani added. "The monsters are certainly a concern, but we can only put out so many fires at once."
Leivinia tapped the table briefly. "…I suppose that Academy City going down in flames would be an inconvenience."
"Inconvenience my ass; I live here!" Touma shouted.
"And you can be moved. How does a nice apartment in London sound?"
"That sounds too good to be true and you know it!"
"Could always room with me, lover boy!" Lessar had taken to rubbing herself up Touma's right arm, as per Medb's instructions on seduction.
"That sounds even worse!"
Medb tilted her head slightly. "He is a tough nut to crack, isn't he?"
"I agree, but the hardest fruits to peel always have the best juice inside!" Lessar grinned.
"I like how you used juice~" She went to hugging Touma's left.
"Well, I don't!" Touma shouted.
Cú gave the boy a sympathetic look. "Your consent became meaningless a while ago, pal…"
"Be that as it may, we have our own reasons for being here," Romani stated. "As mages of this era, I would like to ask if you'd be willing to cooperate with us. We could certainly use any assistance you could offer."
"Hmm?" Birdway went to twirling some of her blonde hair around a finger. "What's in it for me?"
"…Stopping a threat that could destroy the entire world?"
"I mean, that'll happen regardless. I'd imagine it wouldn't be long before the UK turns over whatever is happening over there and comes marching over. I keep hearing rumors that Acqua of the Back is back to full strength, and dropping him down here would fix things nice and pretty in a few hours; a day, tops."
"Wait; was he ever not at full power?" Touma blinked. He missed out on him overcharging his own body with the energies of Archangel Gabriel back in World War Three, but if what he heard was true, that was likely a non-issue.
She shrugged. "It's just a rumor for now; won't know unless they decide to release him from the Tower of London prison for something like this. I think it'd either be him or Princess Carissa, and Acqua is certainly more movable; doesn't need that 'only on British-owned land' restriction on him, for one."
"Be that as it may, I think you might be underestimating the situation, ma'am," Romani spoke up. "If this isn't resolved soon, everything will be destroyed; not just this city or even just Japan. We don't have a time table for when everything will be wiped out, but there is no reason to risk everything over pride in one's own power, right?"
Lessar blinked a few times before briefly prying herself away from the spiky haired teen. "The hologram-man has a bit of a point. Acqua could probably get through this by being his usual buff-boy-self, but there's no reason to gamble on just him, right?"
"…That is true," Leivinia offered. "Tell me; just where are you folks going next if all goes well?"
"More than likely, we'll be looking into this monster problem, which seems to be your primary interest, too. Then we'll just have one faction left to deal with and can put this entire catastrophe behind us." Romani replied.
I see…" She mused. "Tell you what; I'm trying to figure out what exactly is happening over in the United Kingdom. Since whatever that is might be of interest to you, I'll keep my ear to the floor and update you as the situation develops. For something like this, I'm not interested in getting directly involved without knowing more about what's going on."
"I suppose there is some logic there," Romani frowned. He was after more direct support. "Whatever is going on in the UK might be mirroring what's happening here."
"That might actually be a problem…" The blonde crossed her arms. "I suppose all that can be done is wait for Mark to report back. I can't seem to get through otherwise."
"I wonder if anywhere else is affected…" Touma grimaced a little. "Birdway, we'll look into what exactly is happening here and share it when we can. If something particularly nasty happens with the UK, you'll keep us posted, right?"
"That was the agreement, after all," She remarked. "But if you're so readily willing to offer an information exchange, then I suppose my hands are tied. I accept your offer; let me know how I can be of assistance."
Mashu spoke up next. "Well, we're preparing to counteract a raid tomorrow night being conducted by the group we're currently pursuing. They specialized in domestic terrorism and have been bombing the area for a while now. Their leader, a Caster by the name of Mephistopheles, seems to know quite a bit about what is happening."
"Then while I'm waiting for Mark to report back, I'll do my homework and look into these other factions for you," Leivinia stated. "I'd offer to help on the front line, but it sure looks like to me that the last thing you need right now is manpower."
"We'll take it," Ritsuka nodded. "Once these guys are handled, we'll be wanting to jump right onto the next faction, if we can."
"Then I'll be your Intel officer," Leivinia stood up. "I'm done with the cake; you can have the rest of you'd like."
"Well, it's not meat, but I also like sweets, so don't mind if I do!" Medb left Touma's side and wandered over the table to take a bite. The high-pitched squeal was the sign that she approved of the dessert. Index was enraged because she wanted the rest, though, and it started a small squabble.
The blonde shrugged, not caring one bit. "Anyway… Lessar; let's beat it and get on that trail, alright?"
"'Kay," Lessar wandered over to the door. "We'll be back before you know it, lover boy!"
"Just get out of here, would you!?" Touma shouted. After a few moments, the two girls left the dorm room, and he could only sigh. "Seriously… Birdway is one thing, but Lessar is a problem in of itself. When they're together, I just get worn out mentally…"
"I really don't envy you, Kamijou-san…" Romani could read his exasperation like a book.
"Believe me, I don't envy me either," The unlucky Kamijou rubbed his face for a moment before clapping his hands and walking into his kitchen. "Alright, So! If I'm cooking dinner, I need to know what I have to work with and what everyone wants!"
"I'm still wanting some meat!" Medb called out from the main room. While she was distracted, Index swooped in and inhaled the rest of the leftover cake, causing another rumble as the pink haired queen decided to get physical. They both had to be pulled apart from each other.
"…As much as I hate it, I have to agree with the skank. Meat sounds delicious." Othinus chimed in now that the strategy meeting was done. Medb seemed too distracted to acknowledge the insult.
Touma crossed his arms. "Well, the package my right hand messed with earlier was chicken, and we got broccoli and red bell peppers… alright! Stir-fry it is!"
"A stir-fry?" Ritsuka blinked.
"Ah, a classic," EMIYA smiled a little. "Chicken breast stir-fry, with the peppers and broccoli mixed in as the chicken cooks, so that they can absorb some of its flavor. Mixed well, and seasoned with salt, pepper, and paprika."
Touma turned on his stovetop. "I also splash in garlic and cayenne too for a little extra kick."
"That's rather interesting; that'd add some spiciness to the dish. That's something not unwelcome if it's balanced right," The red archer tilted his head. "Maybe I'll give that a shot the next time I try a chicken breast stir-fry." He put a hand to his chin to ponder as Touma got started. It didn't look like much, especially with its presentation, but when it was served to the Chaldea crew, it certainly looked good.
Others were busy chatting up, using the brief time to relax a little, but Queen Medb dove right in the moment a plate was put in front of her. One bite became two, and then four, and then seven before she knew it. She didn't know exactly how, but she literally couldn't put it down.
"Listen, I know you're all about punching things," She swallowed another bite. "But this food is amazing! Seriously! I haven't had something as good as this in ages!"
"…Really?" Touma blinked. "It's just what I use when I have it available…"
Before long, the rest of the group was digging in. EMIYA and Cú weren't particularly interested in eating, but the spiky haired teen made them a plate anyway.
"I agree! It's really, really good, Kamijou-san!" Ritsuka was the next to comment.
"Well, I'm glad that this humble bachelor's home cooking tasted that good to you!" Touma grinned. "Not used to hearing compliments; Index kind of just wolfs down anything I cook and says thanks."
"Huh, so the bottomless pit does have some manners?" Medb blinked.
"I resent that!" The silver haired shouted.
"It's delicious, Kamijou-san!" Mashu jumped in too. "You were right about the garlic and the cayenne! I thought it'd conflict with the broccoli, but it was balanced out just fine!"
"Hey; you're losing your niche, Archer!" Cú smirked and nudged EMIYA.
"…We'll see about that." He narrowed his eyes as he ate.
Touma seemed proud of himself. "It's really nothing special! Honest!" He rubbed the back of his head. "I just live on a budget, so I've figured out how to make food taste good, that's all!"
"You shut your mouth," Medb gave a stern look. "This? Right here?" She pointed to her plate, even though it was empty. "Was fantastic. You pat yourself on the back; your Queen approves!"
Touma didn't know when he became a royal subject, but honestly he was just happy about genuine praise. "Well! I made plenty since chicken doesn't keep very long, and the fact that I kinda ruined the magic seal, so I think it'd be best if you all helped yourselves!"
"In that case, would it be too much to ask for a second helping? Please?" Medb held out her dish and winked at the teen.
"Well… alright, I'll fix you a second one!" He grinned a little.
Ritsuka quickly held up his next. "Can I have more too?"
"I'd like more as well, Kamijou-san!" Mashu followed him up.
"Touma, Touma! Seconds please!" Index joined the group.
"Hold on, hold on! Me and Othinus haven't ate yet! And one at a time, would you!" The spiky haired teen fired back.
It was a strangely pleasant night in a city on the verge of destruction.
Morning came around, and the ensemble of people woke up bright and early, despite being out so late. Touma brewed coffee the group decided to partake happily. They were actually surprised when the unlucky boy stated he preferred his black with very little sweetener; such a thing was usually a trait of a more mature crowd. This wasn't entirely new, though, as Ritsuka actually held the same preference. Perhaps the new generation was starting to build a tolerance for the harsh stuff, after all.
With little else to do until nightfall, the group decided to look into the safe zone a little to try to get a feel for the city. It seemed in rather good shape compared to their foray up north, and the people they saw did well to keep in good spirits despite being surrounded on all sides. It seemed that even if death itself was perched and ready to pounce, that it'd do little to stop the daily lives of the city's citizens.
Despite that, even these people so accustomed to misfortune knew when to head inside for their safety. As the sun started to set, people started to vacate the streets and before long, it was just as empty as the night Ritsuka and Mashu first arrived. With the time quickly ticking down, the group made their way out to Anti-Skill's current HQ to meet up with Kintoki and roll out.
The satellite communications facility already had a sizeable force on site, ready to secure the building. Dusk had fully set in, with the moon beginning to become visible.
"Not a bad turn out…" Romani mused. "I don't think just a considerable troop force will do much against Servants, though."
"That's not what they're here for," Kintoki stepped out of their transport van. "Just because they're Servants doesn't mean they won't have some of these monsters running security for what they're doing, ya know?"
The good doctor hummed for a moment. "That is a good point… it would be an issue if Darius popped back up. But will it just be you supporting us, Kintoki?"
"Yeah; I have to be the one to put an axe in-between the Caster's eyes. Besides, Big Sis was looking into something and went to track someone down. Said she'd try to make it over after, but I don't think it'll be in time before this shindig starts."
"I suppose it will have to do. Although, these military troops could use some extra bulk in case things get dicey; it doesn't look good on my end."
Ritsuka tilted his head. "Why's that? Detect something?"
"Yeah; I've got five signals coming from inside the building," Romani answered. "Four of which we have on record; Mephistopheles, Ibaraki, Shuten… and if what Kamijou-san and Othinus-san have suggested, Kakine Teitoku, Academy City's number two esper."
"That guy is here?" Touma asked, receiving a nod from the doctor's hologram. "I thought this was lined up for demolition because they were done with it; why is he here…?"
"Moreover, there's one signal we haven't detected before. Judging from the make-up, it appears to be a Caster-class, but it's not one we have on record."
"Any idea where they are in the building, Dr. Roman?" Mashu questioned.
"The demolition trio are up above, close to the top floor, while the unknown Caster is actually in the basement. However, Kakine Teitoku is right inside the building on the first floor; you'll have to fight through him to proceed, and you'll have to decide whether to head up right away or take care of the basement level first."
"Well, we Servants could just scale the outside pretty easily," EMIYA remarked. "As long as we can get Kintoki up there and into the scrap to kill Mephistopheles, the others are negligible at this time."
"I suppose, though doing so undetected without an Assassin or our own Caster might be an issue…" Romani mused before an alarm started going off. "H-hold on… above you! Mana is spiking on the higher floors!"
Looking up, one could see what looked like snow falling toward the ground. Not uncommon for the time of the year, but the flakes were dropping rather fast for typical winter precipitation.
Index looked up and suddenly focused on them. " B.U.I.T.A! (Blow up in the air!)"
Suddenly, the strange snowflakes began to detonate, causing large explosions in the air above them. Unfortunately, some of the strange flakes had managed to get close to the defensive perimeter, and the detonations injured many of the on-site Anti-Skill officers. Their offensive line was cut in half right from the start.
"Mephistopheles must be bombing us from the upper levels, master!" Mashu called out, seeing another series of flakes fall.
"So, climbing is out…!" Ritsuka grimaced. "Then all we can do is charge in and beat down this Kakine guy."
"I'll stay outside and intercept his bombs," Index offered. "He's bound to try and be a little more creative now that he knows I'm here."
"In that case, I'll stay behind too. If it's supernatural in nature, my right hand can nullify his explosions," Touma stated. "Medb; can I have you reinforce these guys with some of your own troops since a lot of them just went down?"
"I suppose… not too fond on wasting my stocks on this, but it is what it is. I'll have to stay behind to command them to keep them in check; is that acceptable?" She questioned, having already drawn her knife.
Ritsuka nodded. "We'll have to make do; minimizing casualties should be one of our goals here," She then turned to the other Servants. "Mashu, Kintoki, Archer, Lancer; we're heading inside, alright?"
"Sounds like a plan to me!" Kintoki grinned a little. "I'll smash up is this newbie super flat and then we'll go right on up!"
The group split off, one focusing on countering the assault from the upper levels, while the other went to infiltrate the facility. The first floor was a typical welcome area, separated by a wall with doors on both sides, and beyond that it led out to a rather expansive lobby with staircases and elevators to the upper floors along the north and south walls, as well as a few halls and doors leading to the rest of the building's ground level. The ceiling was rather high, and the far wall opposite the entrance was adorned with a large glass window, allowing sight behind the building. There was no back entrance, however, and the window was out of reach; the facility must have been very prestigious at one point. The area was rather dark, the only real light coming from that window.
Suddenly, a streak of white broke through one of the doors on the south end and shot straight toward Ritsuka. Mashu managed to dash in the way and deflect it with her shield, but the strike shoved her back a little. EMIYA's reaction was to immediately prep and fire an arrow into the room as the unknown object retracted, causing a large explosion to blast the room apart.
After the blast, footsteps could be heard from within.
"…Cropped up again, have you?"
From behind the door, a set of six pure angel-like wings could be seen moving closer while wrapped around something. Slowly, as the wings parted, the blond boy from the other day was revealed within, completely unharmed. EMIYA clicked his tongue in irritation.
"You must be Kakine Teitoku, correct?" Mashu began.
The boy clapped, his wings fully unfurled behind him. "Someone's been doing their research! However, that leaves me with one question; if you know who the fuck you're dealing with, what are you doing here?"
"What else? To put a stop to what you're doing!"
"Ah, the ol' hero of justice routine… how annoying." He slapped his wings. Despite being a rather simple action, a rather horrific whirlwind was unleashed. Mashu had to slam her shield into the floor to hold her position, but the rest struggled to stay standing with the only one able to keep stable being Kintoki.
"Heh; is that all you got? Felt more like a gentle breeze!" The golden man called out his Golden Eater and looked ready to charge ahead.
All Kakine did was raise one wing to obscure the moon in the sky behind them. The light seemed to refract and phase through it. Rather than lose strength however, the light seemed to magnify in not only strength but also in coverage, lighting up the area as though it were day. Some of the furniture began to ignite almost instantly, as the temperature began to skyrocket to lethal levels in seconds.
"Stay behind me, master!" Mashu warned. Areas not exposed to light didn't change temperature at all, as though the heat was scared of anything not illuminated; it didn't make sense.
"Ouch! Hot, hot, hot!" Kintoki danced around, the floor being the quickest to heat up and burning his feet. "I get it, I get it! Call off the giant microwave, would ya!?"
Kakine only snickered. "What's wrong? You're the one bitching about my attack being oh so weak, so I ramped things up just for you!"
"Gah! Me and my big mouth!" Kintoki had to dive behind Mashu's shield alongside master. Part of his shirt had started to burn, even catching fire briefly.
"Hey, Archer! Got something up your sleeve!? Spend too long in this and even we'll end up burned!" Cú called out, having ducked into the welcome area behind them with him for coverage. "I'd run him through, but I can't exactly get close for my spear!"
Archer clicked his tongue behind a quickly burning piece of furniture. "What a pain; the temperature is going out of control…!" The carefully tiled floor was beginning to melt. "Just hope it'll survive…!" He then rolled out of his cover and took aim with a bow and arrow, him feeling his skin begin to fry just by the small exposure. "Hrunting!"
He released the bolt from his bow, only for one of Kakine's spare wings to deflect it. Seeing an opportunity, he used his spare appendages to try to run the red man through, only for Hrunting to suddenly come back from behind and pierce his hip. The shot was special; not only was it incredibly powerful, even having quite a bit of durability by EMIYA's standards, it was a homing attack. Once launched, it would not rest until it was destroyed or it had drawn blood.
EMIYA fired another, and the Dark Matter esper took off into the sky, releasing the area from his mass incineration. Kakine intercepted the attack this time, making sure it wouldn't be back, but this left him distracted, incentivizing Kintoki to use Mashu's shield as a foothold to leap high into the air and bring his giant axe down on top of the blond boy, sending them both careening into the ground. Once there, the golden man forced his blade down with all of his might, requiring four of Kakine's wings to successfully fend off.
"This is what you get for taking it easy on us, ya little brat!" It was a slow burn, but Kintoki's strength was starting to overpower his defenses.
Kakine scowled in frustration, but gradually began to smirk. "So, you want me to actually try, huh?"
Suddenly, the remaining two remaining wings folded around and punctured Kintoki's stomach before flinging him off into the distance, slamming hard onto his back. Ritsuka quickly reacted with a healing spell, but it'd take time before the wounds would close fully. Kakine flew up with his wings rather quickly, only to find Cú closing in.
The blue lancer thought that his target would move to block the spear, giving him an opening with the primary functionality of his spear, The Barbed Spear that Pierces with Death, for a guaranteed puncture of Kakine's heart. Unfortunately, the blond didn't take the bait and instead swung three of its wings on his right side toward him to unleash another torrent of air. Unlike before, it was focused solely on Cú Chulainn, and was entirely visible as a single blast raced straight into him before he could fully unleash his Noble Phantasm.
Cú tied to shift and block the attack with his spear, but the gust was not only more direct, but much more powerful. It blasted him back, right through the east wall and out the front door, causing him to slam into an Anti-Skill van out front hard enough to bend the entire vehicle inward and send it skidding to the other side of the street, flipping over the curb.
Seeing the whole event, Touma rushed over to him. "H-hey! You alright!?"
"…Not the worst hit I've taken, but not the best either," Cú managed to pull himself out. "That Kakine guy is tougher than he looks; whole different level of bullshit than Darius the Third. Feels more like I'm trying to fight a Caster, and a damn good one too."
"You sure you're alright though?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just a bit of a pain in the ass; I though the Caster was supposed to be in the basement. The doctor didn't say shit about this kid being one too."
"…Now that you mention it, I don't think he mentioned a class for him at all. If he knew, he would have mentioned it, right?"
"Suppose it doesn't matter now; we're just in a tough spot against this guy."
Touma looked ahead toward the hole the flying blue lancer had left behind, and then around to the rest of the area. Mephistopheles was still raining bombs down on top of them, and amidst that, there was a standing force of monsters that had sprung up from the east bearing down on them. Listening to the Anti-Skill call-outs, it seemed the beasts had dug underground far beyond the checkpoints and broke into the sewer system, using that as their primary mode of travel. Medb's Celtic soldiers were holding the line while the Anti-Skill soldiers opened fire. Powered suits were inbound, but it'd be some time before they arrived.
There were no signs of any additional Servants wandering into the fray, thankfully enough, so Medb's soldiers were likely enough to help on that front.
"Hey, Index! Medb!" He called out. "Do you think you guys can handle things out here?"
Medb actually looked like she was having a little fun. "I got these monsters on lock, don't worry your little head over them!"
"I can handle the bombs; why?" The silver haired nun looked back briefly before refocusing on another volley of explosives.
"Things are going south inside, I'm going to back them up!"
"Eh!? You can't be-!"
"No time to argue, let's go, Lancer!"
"Right behind you!" Cú was back on his feet in a flash and quickly followed the spikey haired teen back inside.
On that front, Kintoki was into the fight again, but this time Kakine kept his distance to assail him from afar to bypass the golden man's far superior strength. EMIYA did his best to keep up a ranged assault, but the blonde's wings did a fantastic job of protecting him. All the while, the Dark Matter would occasionally launch parts of his own wings at Ritsuka, forcing Mashu's hand just to keep him safe; even trying to retreat resulted on a calculated attack to keep the Chaldea master in play, seemingly so he could keep the Shielder pinned down and unable to defend her allies. That didn't stop Ritsuka from leaning around Mashu's shield to fire Gandr pocket shots though, as little as it'd do.
The only real injury inflicted was when the red Archer's Hrunting piercing his hip from behind, a normally crippling blow negated by Kakine's ability to fly with his wings.
"Shit… yeah; it's getting worse," Cú remarked. "Guy's got a pretty good standing far away and up close."
"He sure likes to play keep away, but if I can get close to him…" Touma looked down at his right hand for a moment.
"Got a plan?"
"A little one; if I can make contact with my right hand, I should be able to cancel out his power and leave him wide open. Do you have anything that could make a big distraction?"
"Yeah, it'll be dangerous as hell though; you could get caught in the blast. That alright?"
"Well, it's either that or wait to die."
"Good point," The blue lancer shifted his attention to the battle at hand for a moment. "When I launch my attack, race for him, alright?"
"Think it'll keep his attention long enough, though?"
Cú smirked. "If he doesn't have all his attention on it, he'll die for sure; he doesn't have a damn choice!"
Meanwhile, Kintoki had to back off from trying to catch Kakine out of position; he was taking too much damage with each failed strike and needed a second round of healing magecraft. EMIYA tried to keep the pressure on, but his opponent was beginning to figure out his arsenal.
"I have to say, I'm getting bored here," Kakine tilted his head. "I've heard so much about the great and mighty Chaldea, and this is the best you can do…?"
EMIYA practically growled; he was starting to get irritated. He was about to try Caladbolg when he felt a sudden spike of mana behind him. Turning to look, he saw the blue lancer down low in the welcome area with his spear over his shoulder.
He knew that stance. "Everyone! Get back and get down!"
Kintoki heard the called out and slipped behind Mashu's shield just in time to see Lancer race past him before jumping into the air, almost reaching the high ceiling. His lance shone a bright crimson, blanketing the entire area in a dark red color. Despite that, Kakine down below couldn't look more bored if he tried.
Then, he threw the lance.
Space was distorted in an instant, and no less than thirty spearheads rained down, carpet-bombing the entire area. This wasn't a strike to guarantee a strike of the target's heart, no sir. This was the Soaring Spear that Strikes with Death: An attack that couldn't be truly avoided, nor blocked, and would chase its target until it had struck its foe. Only a shield specialized against thrown spears at concept stood a chance of evading Gáe Bolg's curse.
An explosion rippled out from the combined strike of all thirty distorted spears, cracking the already melted flooring and blasting it apart. The walls fractured, and the back window was shattered in an instant. Those without proper coverage took shelter behind Mashu's shield. Once the smoke was clear, they once more saw the blond boy with his pure, white wings covering his form.
However, this time, they were stained with blood. They parted lightly, and why was understood immediately; the attack's property of not capable of being blocked was made true, as there were numerous cuts and gashes all across his body, consistent with being slashed or pierced at least thirty different times. His wings blocked the resulting explosion just fine, but the individual spear strikes they could not halt for even a moment.
Cú's spear flew back through the air, landing in its owner's hand with little fanfare. "That went better than I thought; I figured your twenty-five thousand-energy bullshit might be able to pull something off, but I guess not, eh?"
"You…!" Kakine grabbed his bloodied face briefly. "You miserable little rats dared to do this to me!?"
"Looks like it hurt his pride too. Ain't that great?" The blue lancer twirled his weapon around before aiming it at his foe; he was more than ready for round two.
The blond's rant continued. "I'm the fucking number two in this entire god damn city, you pieces of shit! I'm not going to fall by the wayside just because two-bit dregs decided they wanted to pick a fight with the one who's touched the territory of God! I'm not going to stop until I've rung Aleister Crowley's neck and the body's stopped twitching; do you hear me!?"
Ritsuka took notice of that line of dialogue. That essentially confirmed that King Solomon and Aleister Crowley weren't working together, but why would he be so focused on killing the head of the city he was from?
The blond managed to regain part of his composure. "…I don't care who you are, or how much strength you claim to have. I don't care about your goals, either; I don't give a shit. All I see are a bunch of walking corpses that haven't gotten the memo! So, I'll be the one; I'll be that unholy messenger! I'll drag this whole city down into the depths of Hell if I have to! Do you hear me!? I'll show you the fate everyone else in this accursed place gets! The fate they deserve for trying to use me as a tool!"
His mana spiked, and his wings appeared to grow in size. However, through that, Romani began to read something with the boy's body.
In that single instance, he knew what class this boy was.
The wings lashed out with reckless abandon and speed. The group moved to defend themselves, but just as suddenly as they had grown, the wings vanished.
"What… are you!?"
With the white limbs gone, they were treated to the sight of Kakine Teitoku restrained by Kamijou Touma. His right arm was wrapped around the blond's neck in a partial headlock and the hand firmly placed on his left shoulder, while the other restrained the matching arm.
"You're not killing anyone! You hear me!?" Touma roared. The blond was far stronger than he looked, likely due to his current status as a Servant; the hold wasn't going to last for long, but the spiky haired boy held on regardless.
Kakine struggled. "You god damn piece of shit…! What did you do!? What did you do to my Dark Matter, you bastard!?"
"Archer!" Ritsuka called out. EMIYA quickly drew a bow and took aim with a formed arrow, taking aim.
Without warning, a strange mechanical contraption spawned from the ground and smacked Kamijou Touma away into one of the damaged walls, causing the boy to fall with a loud thud. The sudden impact moved Kakine as well, causing the red Archer's attack to miss its intended mark of his head, but rather pierce the boy's left shoulder, launching and leaving him sprawled out on his back across the ground.
The slight jingle of metal touching metal could be heard as someone else appeared on the scene.
"Oh my; I step out to download that last scrap of data, and you've found yourself half dead? How strange."
It was a man with spiky and rather shaggy brown hair, and eyes to match, appearing rather casual despite walking into a warzone. His outfit left the middle of his chest bare, and consisted of a red middle and a black top with long, baggy sleeves, adorned with white and grey markings on the shoulders that extended down to just above the elbow. He wore a black fabric girdle that led to cloth that went down to his ankles with a yellow interior, also highlighting his oddly normal black slacks and shoes. There were two black and yellow straps across this area, and had an additional black sash tied around his waist that a set of four metal rings was attached to, which appeared to be the origin of the ringing sound as he walked.
"B-be careful! That's the Caster!" Romani warned.
The unknown Servant seemed to pick up on the doctors transmission. "I don't really see myself as one… but it appears I was put into the role regardless. I suppose it is the closest thing to what I was in life, so I suppose I'll just have to accept it."
EMIYA took aim again, only for several more mechanical contraptions to spring up obscuring his view. Only upon observation could he see that it was not a wall that was created to separate them, but rather a set of machines surrounding his entire body specifically, cutting him off from the others. He was locked in completely.
"There will be none of that, thank you," The mystery Caster stated. "Just because I can fight doesn't mean I have interest in doing so. Having an arrow lodged in my cranium is not my idea of fun; surely you can understand that, right?"
"You're wasting your breath on these bloodthirsty dogs," Though injured, Kakine was able to force himself up with the return of his own ability despite his injuries, now that he was free from Kamijou Touma's Imagine Breaker. "Did you get it?"
"Indubitably. The last reason for this building to stand is settled; I strongly suggest that, in the face of unusually insurmountable odds, we have Mephistopheles detonate his explosives."
The voice of a certain spiky haired teen rang out. "I'm not… finished with you yet…!" He was struggling to stand, but the very fact he was able to prop himself up on one broken wall behind him was noteworthy.
"…Unusual; the claw should have more than enough power behind its motions to lift ships out of the sea, let alone crush a single human," The Caster commented. "He is quite resilient. Him not knowing that he should stay out of our way though is rather irritating."
"Ignore the idiot; I'll deal with him in one attack. Whatever the hell he did to me is something we don't need to put up with." Kakine stated, reforming his wings once again.
"If you feel you are up to it despite your injuries, I won't argue. Destroy him at your leisure."
The blond did just as was suggested; sending a single wing to eviscerate the spiky haired teen. Much to his surprise, Touma swung his right arm to intercept, completely obliterating Kakine's Dark Matter. He focused on the injured teen's arm for a moment; was that they key to his power? An ability situated just in his right arm?
In that case, perhaps he'd cut it off and let the bastard bleed out, he thought.
Before he could, the entire building shook. However, it was not from any kind of explosion above them; this impact was situated right on the floor they were on. A quick search revealed that the entire back wall had been demolished, blanketing the entire area in the thick cloud of dust from the shattered concrete.
"H-hey, Romani!" Ritsuka called out. "I thought you'd call out if another Servant popped up!"
"I didn't say anything because that wasn't a Servant!" The doctor fired back. "I'm not detecting any mana at all; whatever that was did it with something that's not magecraft! There is no Servant there; I'm just seeing the life sign of a single human that was just walking around behind the building!"
A human did that? There were espers of course, but from how the doctor described it, the action took almost no effort; was whoever who did that just that powerful?
Kakine was just as confused as the rest. He could reason that it was an esper as well, perhaps a member of Judgement, but to openly cause destruction like that was very uncharacteristic of the super powered police force. Then he heard the sound: Clang, step. Clang, step. Clang, step. It was rather unusual.
It reminded him of someone walking with a metal cane-
His eyes widened. "No…! How did you of all people manage to find me…!"
The cloud of dust gradually faded at the figure stepped out, indeed walking with a cane as the blond had suspected. He couldn't mistake the snow-white hair and blood-red eyes for a second. Even the clothes the assailant wore had kept the consistency of grey and white, even if he was now sporting a winter coat.
Kakine Teitoku stared as the new arrival began to speak.
"You just don't fucking know how to stay dead, do you, third string?"
Haha! How about that for a cliffhanger!?
Got to see Kakine strut his stuff, but also show off a few vulnerabilities that has confidence had created. And of course, our next mystery Servant is here as well!
...Oh, by the by. We're not done yet. There has been quite a bit of demand for more of those, so I hope its satisfies you!
-Interlude: Stream and Steam-
"Well, how about it? Do you have it under control?"
"Don't rush me; I was just able to stop its movements! Controlling it is a bit of a ways off!"
This was the scene somewhere in the northern area of District 7. There were rumors of some of the fully automated powered suits going haywire and drifting from place to place, but most of them were left unfounded. However, on this very specific occasion, two girls managed to locate such a malfunctioning machine by pure coincidence.
Their names were Saten Ruiko and Uiharu Kazari. Uiharu actually had permission to be out and about as a member of Judgment, but her friend Saten was more or less just around for the ride. The discovery was certainly an upset to their nightly routine, though.
Fortunately, the powered suit had a wireless uplink module installed so that new orders could be delivered to it on the fly. Uiharu, a rather meek girl with very short black hair in a blue sailor school uniform with a flower-headband, was able to hack into the device and discover that its programming had been overwritten. Saten, a taller and more athletic looking girl in the same outfit but much longer hair, messed with it now that her friend had shut it down.
Saten was at least smart enough to carry a weapon with her; a metal bat. She used said weapon to poke the powered suit, which looked very much like the kind that had been sortied at the barricade Kintoki was deployed at the other day.
"It's not going to suddenly spring to life or anything, right?" She prodded its metal limbs lightly.
"Of course not. It's a robot, not a zombie," Uiharu was sitting on the sidewalk, a little bit further away than her companion by a fair margin, typing away at her laptop. "The BIOS and programming are fine, but someone went and cracked its firewall and gave it new orders. I'll try resetting it."
"Where was it going?"
"Anti-Skill HQ in the middle of the district. Don't know why; it was unarmed."
"Hmm?" Saten tilted their head. "So, someone went and jacked an unarmed powered suit and just expected it to be able to solo all of Anti-Skill, huh?"
"I don't think that's it," Uiharu remarked. "Seems more like someone was giving it some test commands, decided they were done, and sent it on a suicide mission to dispose of it. Don't know why they'd send it straight at their enemy to tip them off though; must be a moron or someone who thought it'd be funny to see Anti-Skill shoot their own equipment."
"Probably both," The flower-headband girl concluded. "Alright, I think I have all the garbage commands cleaned up. Let's get it back on its feet."
A few more keystrokes and the powered suit slowly pushed itself up. Saten instinctively backed away, but the metal armor didn't do much more than stand.
Saten whistled. "So, we have our own robo-bodyguard?"
"Not a chance; I have to report this back to HQ."
"Aww, but I wanted to keep him…"
"Powered suits are not pets!" Uiharu shouted. "I only turned it back on so we can take him back as proof that it happened!"
Saten crossed her hands behind her head. "It could at least carry us, right?"
Uiharu blinked a few times. "…Probably."
"Think they'd be mad if we used it as a ride?"
"I don't see why they would; we are stealing him back, after all."
Saten grinned, as did her partner. They weren't going to hurt their feet walking back home; not a chance. As Uiharu looked back to her laptop though, she saw a message from an unknown user on screen. It wasn't the Judgment or Anti-Skill networks, thankfully, but it was still incredibly odd that someone was able to trace her to send a message in the first place.
The username read as [XxXWantSumLovin?XxX]
And the message was as follows: "Hey! Gimmie back my robot! I had a prank planned lol!"
Uiharu visibly twitched. The perpetrator was calling her out? "Not a chance. I took back what you stole; deal with it." She spoke and sent the message before opening up some other programs on her computer to try to trace where the message was sent from.
It'd take time to decipher; it looked like the IP address had been spoofed across several different computers across the city, and a few in the outer areas in Japan. Finding which one was real was certainly doable, but would take quite a bit of work.
The unknown messenger sent another note. "Oh come on! It'll be funny; you see!"
"Not interested, go pester someone else."
"Well, ain't you a stick in the mud!"
"Insults won't help you; go away."
"Fine then, I'll just have to post the picture I got of your panties on the message boards then! See how you like that lol!"
Uiharu flushed red at the idea, and quickly began to look around. She could have sworn she and Saten were the only ones on the street. He was confused how, especially with her sitting position, how whoever this was could see under her skirt.
Why, the only things that could have that angel were the security cameras, and-
She immediately frowned. "…You wouldn't dare." She sent.
"I dare. I got at least five different angles lol! Want proof?"
"This is what I think of your stupid proof!"
She then went tapping away at her keyboard. The powered suit then raised one arm and began to repeatedly pummel its own head case in, denting the armor.
"U-Uiharu!? What are you doing!?" Saten stammered out.
"Winning an argument!" The headband girl practically growled. The mystery-man clearly got under her skin.
The rogue hacker immediately sent an angry reply. "Hey, stop it! You'll break my toy, damn it!"
"I'd rather break it than let you have it!" She furiously sent back, quickly changing tasks to continue tracking the man. Before she could finish, the signal cut out, but not before one last reply.
"Fine then! If my panty threat won't work, I'll have to do something more drastic! Don't say I didn't warn you lol!"
The powered suit suddenly froze as a loud bang came from it. A small plume of smoke rose from its interior, signaling some kind of internal damage. Its next action was to hold out its hands toward the two girls and begin a march forward.
Saten backed up a little. "H-hey… Uiharu, this isn't still about your little argument thing, right?"
"Hold on!" The girl quickly went typing away. "I can't find its wireless signal anymore! That jerk must have fried its circuitry!"
Even so, it was given one last command by the look of its approach, and it wasn't one either of them wanted to confirm. The two girls quickly began to run from the mechanical terror, only for the powered suit to give chase. It looked rather silly form the outside perspective; it lumbered around like a Frankenstein's monster stereotype, only moving just fast enough to keep the girls running to avoid the risk of whatever the machine wanted to do with its hands.
Uiharu cursed internally; the messenger was probably laughing his butt off wherever he was holed up. What a jerk.
Strangely, an odd fog appeared to be rolling in as the moved. Moreover, the temperature was growing rather exponentially, exhausting the girls further. Just what was going on in the city!? They were slowing down as a result, and that gave the powered suit just enough of an opening it needed to grab one of them.
"Uiharu!" Saten shouted as the machine grabbed her friend and hoisted her up into the air. At first it got a grip of her shirt from behind, but in a quick motion it had her right arm and left leg in its grip. Uiharu screamed and struggled, but could do very little against its strength. Saten tried her bat, but even targeting its joints couldn't do much.
However, all it really did from there was toss her into the air before grabbing her sides as she fell. Then it flipped her over so that she was hanging upside down.
"…Eh…?" Both girls blinked. The only action further was to hold the girl up high, like he was showing her off.
Unfortunately, Uiharu was wearing a skirt, so…
"T-that insufferable moron!" She screamed. "I-Is this his idea of some kind of joke!? We'll it's not funny! Not funny at all!"
"…I mean it's a little funny." Saten nervously laughed.
The headband girl was having none of it. "D-don't you get me started!" She began willing around. "Put me down! Put me down, put me down, put me down, put me down, put me down! PUT ME DOWN!"
As if to answer her prayers, a large metal mace flew through the air and smashed into the powered suit. The sudden impact caused it to drop the girl, with Saten dashing out to just barely catch her, the act caused her to drop to her knees.
"O-ow!" The freeform girl complained.
"Are you ok!?" Uiharu asked.
"I should be asking you that…" Saten let out a sigh of relief. "Who threw that thing?"
The object was a mace by the look of it, but it was absolutely gargantuan by comparison, even being larger than the powered suit that it had struck. It also had several segmented parts to it, designed to spin in different directions, and several exhaust ports towards the handle. The powered suit was able to force the device off, but its sheer size was just staggering. Just what could use that as a proper weapon?
The two girls got their answer as a figure began to become visible through the fog.
It was a large machine, and it too was bigger than the powered suit. It was tall, bulky, and gray with dark yellow accents throughout its design. Its legs and arms were massive, long, and thick, easily capable of picking up the weapon that had been thrown. Its feet were pointed, with the spikes aimed up, while its shoulders were drastically oversized with red sigils on the front of them, almost like a designer's signature. Numerous vents lined its body, spitting out a thick white mist as it moved. Its head actually looked a small bit like a large top hat with gold trimmings that lead down to what could only be assumed to be its face, even though that face was like a bright red light, glowing brighter as it approached.
Actually, referencing the top hat, the entire design seemed to be in reference to a western-style dress suit from about forty or fifty years ago, though obviously very exaggerated.
Then, the machine spoke. "Operation, uninhibited. Steam power at maximum output. Preparing for combat mode."
The strange machine then took off, seemingly propelled by the mist coming from its body to quickly close the distance between it and the powered suit. The mystery machine grabbed it by its head as it struggled against its grip. Then, it spoke again.
"My invention led to this world, and now you seek to use it against innocent people? That is unacceptable."
It then lifted the powered suit up, grabbing its arm and leg in a very similar manner to what it had done to Uiharu before. However, this new robot was far less kind, and promptly ripped the powered suit in half before discarding both halves. The upper torso of its foe still appeared to move, so it then lifted up its massive leg before bringing it down on the head case, firmly crushing it. Thankfully, it was unmanned, so nothing more than oil from its internals was spilled onto the pavement.
"…Hostile entities dealt with. Returning to normal mode." The steam coming from its body then slowly began to halt, causing the thick mist in the area to begin to disperse. It was expelling that much steam that it created such a dense fog? Then, it turned its attention to the two girls. "You two are alright, aren't you?"
Saten spoke up first. "J-just some scraped knees, big guy!"
"That's good; I was worried that it had done something much worse. The downside to my operating system is that my output can sometimes inhibit my vision. All I saw was a figure holding someone up as I heard screaming."
"T-thank you!" Uiharu spoke up. "T-thank you very much Mr… Mr…?"
"I am known as the King of Steam. That is all you need in order to address me, my dear."
"King of Steam…?" Saten tilted her head. "Still, you seem pretty nice! Polite too!"
"I try; I am an inventor, but I am also a gentleman. My appearance might be strange, but that side of me has not died. That much I can promise you. Now, I'm afraid I must bid you farewell, I have many places to be tonight. Stay safe, young ones." The machine and the man inside turned to leave, grabbing its titanic mace and slinging it over its shoulder.
Uiharu began racking her brain though; the King of Steam moniker sounded familiar to her. She wasn't the biggest history buff, but there were some important names slung around as she began her path onto computers and the like. The title "King of Steam" was often equated to one with another nickname if she remembered right…
An inventor from Europe. His other title was, "The Father of the Computer."
"…Charles… Babbage?" She called out.
The machine paused and turned, the light on its body noticeably dimmer. "…I see you are familiar with my work. My apologies that this is the form that you see; it'd likely be much more interesting to see me in person instead."
"I-its quite fine! I mean… that form of yours did save me, you know?"
"I suppose; something like this can be both a blessing and a curse. It's not so bad once you're used to it, but the lack of actual physical interaction can be a little disappointing sometimes."
"You say that like this robot is your body."
"It is, but it isn't," Babbage explained. "My real body is inside, but this machine has no natural entry or exit. Moreover, should I leave it, the device will forever break and become inoperable. Constructing another without time or materials would be difficult to say the least, so inside this iron tomb that embodies my dream, I shall remain. It might as well be my body at this point. As discussed, it has both its upsides and downsides."
Saten raised an eyebrow. "Your… dream?"
"My dream of a revolutionized world of steam, my dear," the man in the machine responded. "…Although, being called to this land at this time, I must admit; this age is quite good as well. I rather like it; hard to enjoy in such a big body though."
"Despite the fact there are monsters running around everywhere?"
"You don't need to remind me; the mist around us is a result of my output. It seems some of the creatures plaguing this fair city have taken to the sewer system, and decided to prey upon me."
"Sure seems like you won in the end though!"
"…Yes, my victory was indeed the outcome," The machine appeared to nod. "Now, if you'll excuse me-!"
"W-wait!" Uiharu shot up. "How can you be alive? And… like this? Technology of this magnitude being completely steam powered is… well, ridiculous!"
"Ah, that is a query that I cannot answer adequately," Charles once more paused. "It is simply how I arrived here. I can explain its function if you'd like, but how exactly it came to be around me is a mystery I do not have the answer to, unfortunately. As for how I arrived here… well, that I have some knowledge of, but it might be a little… confusing."
"If you'd be willing to take the time, I'd be very interested!" Uiharu nodded. "Computers are kind of my thing, and, well…"
"Yes, I am a rather large, walking steam computer. I can understand your confusion and your curiosity. I would suggest walking and talking, but my journey is far from a safe one, my dear."
"Eh, we'll be fine; I clocked one of those werewolf guys real good with this bat, you know!" Saten held out her (now dented) bat to the inventor.
"That's because you surprised him, Saten-san…" Uiharu deadpanned.
Babbage held up a hand. "I can understand that, but I cannot guarantee your safety here. I seek the head of whoever is behind manipulating these mechanical suits of armor for their own devices; I cannot idly sit and watch as my creation goes around tearing the countryside apart."
Uiharu's look shifted a little, appearing more determined. "Then I must absolutely go with you."
"We were just attacked by one, you know," Uiharu stated. "And I don't think it'll be the last time they pull something like this. You see that too, don't you?"
The machine gave the impression of scratching its chin. "It has been far from the first, I'll admit…"
"If there's something I can do to help, I'd like to. I'm very familiar with the networks in the city, and I think whoever's behind this is hiding out in a rather sophisticated facility to pull the stunt he did just now off."
"…So, you're after my aid in catching this criminal, not in the form of companionship, but in the manner of assisting with electronic systems then?"
"I do; as a member of Judgment, it's my job to help keep the peace. I can't let these people do as they please any more than you!"
Charles Babbage thought for a moment, weighing his options. On one hand, she was a small, frail girl who could easily be injured. On the other, his insight into the current electronic makeup of the city was lacking at best, and a proper assistant would be ideal.
"…What about the other girl?" He pointed to Saten.
"I'll be helping out with keeping her safe! We know you won't be around to be the hero all the time, you know?" She answered.
"And are you absolutely certain?"
"You bet; this is my home too, you know?"
Babbage was once more rendered silent, still trying to figure things out. Part of him wanted to reject the two and continue on his way; he did not intend to endanger additional lives with his personal grudge. But on the other…
…Well, he always had trouble with innocent and astute girls, damn it.
"Very well, I concede. I will accept your offer, ladies. On my pride, I shall do my best to protect you as you aid me. You have my word."
Uiharu grinned. "That's great! I have a few locations that might have what we're looking for then!"
"Then let us be off. I shall do my best to answer any questions you may have as we travel."
"I got one!" Saten beamed. "Can I ride up on your shoulder?"
"That is ill-advised."
Just then, steam vented from a segment around his armor's face.
"H-hey! That's hot! You did that on purpose!" Saten complained.
Babbage simply started walking. "How else was I to say it? The best example is the live one, after all."
"Just you wait; I'll be riding up there by the end of the night! You'll see!" Saten followed up to walk alongside him.
"That I very much doubt."
Thus, the two girls met and made a very unusual friend, and were already off on another adventure with the King of Steam.
And there we go! Another little interlude that may be relevant in the future.
There have been some people wanting another one, but this was the place I wanted it set. Basically, this one is happening at the same time as the main story. A Seperate event, but will it stay that way? We'll see.
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.