Attention all Ashikabi,

I have eight gold stars ready for those of you who shine the brightest.

The age of the gods will soon make its return! Please do your best to contain your excitement as we move into the final stages of the Sekirei Plan. New information concerning the gold stars in question and their recipients will be imminent, so keep your eyes peeled!

Lots of love,

Minaka Hiroto
Chief Executive Officer
Mid Bio Informatics



"The Japanese government continues to send aid to its capital as the tragic collapse of the city's largest hospital leaves thousands without access to medical assistance. The memorial service for those lost—"

Natsuo sighed to himself, cheek in palm, as he continued to scroll through his social media feed.

There wasn't anything else for him to do here, really. The Disciplinary Squad was just here for armed protection while the MBI cleanup crew did their thing.

He didn't peg himself as an emotional man.

Rather, the capacity for strong feelings toward anything had been sucked right out of him the day he lost the love of his life. Life was bland and he treated it as such. Nothing would elicit much more than an empty smile—or perhaps a sympathetic frown. It depended on however he was expected to react, really.

He thought so, at least.

The sight before him was awful: even with all the headway made, it was still so painfully clear that what happened here was nothing short of a massacre.

The ruins were being held together in some places and torn apart in others by a series of supports and construction equipment. Tents had been erected to supply the workers as they went back and forth from the wreckage, bringing back deformed, human-sized clumps of char as they did so.

He was supposed to be numb to it all, and yet it was enough to unsettle even him.

It had always been clear to him that something like this was in the books for MBI's Sekirei Plan. His own Sekirei were proof enough that the lot of them didn't know how to handle themselves; they'd already been slaughtering each other and ruining city infrastructure left and right up until now.

One of two things would have happened first: a stupid Sekirei kid would do something this awful by accident, or Karasuba would do it on purpose. It was by pure happenstance that the latter struck before the former.

Which wasn't to say that there wasn't still time for the former to happen.

What would Minaka do now, he wondered?

That man wasn't stupid. If someone like Natsuo could piece together the inevitability of it all, then Minaka certainly didn't make his plans banking on the fact that his superpowered aliens just so happened to be the emblematic equivalent of releasing a hundred and eight pikachus into the wild.

The Sekirei Plan would not continue despite the hospital attack. It would continue simply because that attack changed nothing to begin with.

…Or maybe that wasn't really true.

Karasuba was someone he felt he could relate to. Not because he liked her—certainly not that—but because she seemed to be just as empty as he was. When her Ashikabi came into the picture, it felt like he had lost a kindred spirit, of sorts.

It was never really that. Whereas he had grown numb, she simply never cared.

He could picture her now: walking away from this mess knowing full well that it wouldn't even be a twinkling thought at the back end of her mind come the next morning.

If this attack proved anything, it was that Emiya Shirou was doubtlessly the Ashikabi of the Black Sekirei; whatever reservations he held during their first meeting were now null and void. That woman hadn't changed in the slightest.

Even a man like Minaka couldn't account for someone like that but just because it would have been a surprise didn't mean it would have been an unwelcome one.

Natsuo stifled a sigh and rose to his feet, pocketing his phone as he did so.

He lightly tapped Benitsubasa on the knee. The girl, in her boredom, conked out on the very same truck bed he'd been using as a chair for the past while. That she was supposed to be "looking after him" was mildly amusing, but her self-imposed duties were never something that he put much stock in. It was time to get a move on, though; she'd get loud if he left her behind.

"Hey! Ichinomi!"

One of the MBI employees ran up to him while Benitsubasa slowly returned to the waking world. Natsuo could only quirk a brow. They'd pretty much left him alone all day—the field guys didn't get along with someone who had such a prestigious position at the company thrust upon him—so if they were trying to get ahold of him it was because something had happened.

"What is it?" he asked the man brusquely. It wasn't his intention to be rude; it just came out that way.

Instead of using his words, the cleanup guy gestured over his shoulder to the other two uniformed men carrying a stretcher in their direction.

"We were sweeping the area and we found… this."

That piqued the Ashikabi's curiosity. He slowly approached and his eyes widened the moment he realised what it was that they were carrying.

"This wasn't from the hospital," Natsuo remarked. The uniformed man that came to get him shook his head in confirmation.

"Nope. A few blocks down in some random storage unit. Hell, the door wasn't even locked. I'm surprised no one found it first."

Natsuo made to open one of the body bags, only for another paramedic to cut in. "Just… prepare yourself, alright? It ain't pretty."

Numb, he partially unzipped the black bag, peering into it in silence.

"Benitsubasa." His voice was strange. "Something came up; we're wrapping things up early today. I need to call Takami."


"Hey, Mutsu. What do you think the 'gold stars' are? Is it like a trophy? My Sekirei are the best of the best, after all. I made sure of it! No… That wouldn't really make sense if no one's really won anything. Oh! I suppose it's possible that…"

Mutsu tuned out Hayato entirely.

He was the boy's Sekirei, and as such, he cared for both his person and his wishes. However, in this particular moment, his ramblings about the Sekirei Plan couldn't have been any less important.

The Black Sekirei and her Ashikabi finally made their move, and it was about as bad as he could have expected it to be.

When he went off on his own to help Takami, this was why. This was what he was trying to prevent.

They failed. They weren't prepared enough. Somehow, they still managed to underestimate Karasuba and Emiya Shirou.

How that came to be, he didn't really know. Three of this game's superpowers banded together to deal with them and the end result was—

Mutsu paused.

One of them was short-sighted and duplicitous enough to engage in his own machinations amidst the bigger picture.

At least it wasn't Hayato.

As awful as it was to say, that was his only consolation. The boy didn't even know how poorly things could have ended for him had he been even the slightest bit more interested in sticking his nose where it didn't belong.

How much further could Hayato's whims take them? It served them well until now and they had plenty of Sekirei on their side as a result. Until recently, Mutsu was convinced that they had an advantage, even. With Higa being out of the picture, they should have felt confident knowing that their force was now the largest of the remaining competitors.

But Higa's forces eclipsed their own. If not in strength, then in numbers and resources. Higa was prepared and he was still ruined by Karasuba alone.

There wasn't enough fear in Hayato's heart, and Mutsu didn't want that to spell the end for them both.

"Hayato," he spoke. The boy's musings were cut short as he gave the older man his undivided attention, though with a pout that looked a touch annoyed.

"Yes, Mutsu?"

"We need allies."

Hayato blinked, visibly caught off guard.


"If we're going to fight Karasuba, I'd prefer we do it with back up. A safety net, at least."

"Why would we fight Karasuba?"

There was a moment of silence where Mutsu tried to wrap his head around what his Ashikabi just said. Did something get lost in translation here?

Hayato looked truly confused.

"Karasuba is just as much of a competitor as we are," Mutsu tried to explain slowly. "If MBI is going to be handing out rewards to successful Sekirei and Ashikabi pairs, it's almost certain that they'll—"

"No way!"

Hayato's outburst made Mutsu's jaw clamp shut.

"They're not—" the boy cut himself off mid-thought. "They're not like the rest of us. They don't count."

The Sekirei really didn't know what to say to that.

"It's bad game design," the boy remarked in a surprising calm.


Mutsu wasn't following.

The Ashikabi started pacing around the living room. He paused in front of the television, under which lay all the newest gaming consoles.

"Most multiplayer games have a few things in common," Hayato began to explain. "They have rules. They're balanced. The devs made everything a certain way so that it's the player playing the game and not the other way around. It's all structured so that everyone in the match is just as likely to win at point zero: the moment the match starts. I'm good, so as long as that chance is there, I win."

He turned to his Sekirei.

"The Sekirei Plan isn't supposed to be any different. It has rules and there's supposed to be a chance to win; I've been doing very well because of that." With clenched fists, he continued, "That Ashikabi hasn't followed the rules at all. It's just those two, right? But they're strong. He's strong. Why is an Ashikabi with only one Sekirei able to do so much? If the devs expect us to fight him to win, then it's just bad game design. Someone like that is supposed to be an extra boss, not a competitor."

With that little rant coming to an end, Mutsu kept his mouth shut and thought about it for a moment.

As a Sekirei, he understood his Ashikabi the best. Hayato wasn't an idiot, but his way of thinking was shaped by his own unique perspective on how the world worked.

That way of thinking had been supremely effective until now.

"Are you saying that they were given an advantage at the start?" Mutsu tried.

It wasn't impossible to imagine. Karasuba was always strong, but… this? There was something else. That something was related to the Ashikabi, most likely.

"I'm saying…" Hayato trailed off before grinning. He repeated, "They're not like the rest of us. They're a feature. A part of the game. Something meant to divert and control us. You're not meant to go up against Margit the Fell Omen when you've just started even if he is just there. You're meant to come back to him later on. We learned the hard way with Akitsu, after all. In a way, that's good game design, too. Something to be expected from a company like MBI."

Mutsu's eyes widened. Slowly, he began piecing together what his Ashikabi was saying.

"So then—"

"If the objective is to 'beat the competition', I don't think those two are necessarily a part of that," Hayato concluded. "But then again, that wouldn't make much sense, would it? After all, the clear condition is to 'defeat all Sekirei' and that can't be done if they're still around. That begs the question: what counts as a win, if not that? Stars… stars… Is there an Age of Stars at the end of it all?"

The Sekirei took a deep breath; his shoulders slumped as he exhaled.

In the end, this was the Ashikabi he chose to follow. Even if not all was made clear, there would still be an answer for everything.

He fell to a knee and bowed his head.

"What's next, Hayato?"

The boy hummed and tapped his chin, before his gaze fell upon the nondescript package beside him.

"At the very least, the gold stars seem to be an entry ticket to the next round," he mused. "I think we should find someone who'd be able to find out more."

"...I might know someone, Ashikabi-sama."


Seo Kaoru flicked his phone onto his bed and let out a frustrated sigh. This was the sort of message he expected of that cryptic bastard Minaka… but that didn't mean he was supposed to like it.

That man had no fucking tact. It was a damn fucking shame what happened at that hospital and yet MBI seemed to be more concerned with capitalising on this "new development" before it slipped them by.

Sekirei Number Four: Karasuba. There weren't many people that he'd call evil outright, but she was one of them.

Seo was a staunch advocate for a Sekirei's right to life. A good life. They were largely innocent and were meant for things greater than fighting to the death until they all went extinct. His girls were the sweetest people he knew—

Actually, no. That was pushing it a bit, maybe.

But he loved them dearly. That much was true.

Just as every single person killed in that explosion had someone they loved as well. Uzume and her Ashikabi included.

"'Fuck's sake…" he cursed under his breath.

He didn't care about whatever MBI wanted them to do next. He cared about the tragic and gross loss of life that MBI was trying to sweep under a rug.

Seo stood still for a moment, staring emptily at the wall of his crappy apartment before turning around and throwing on his rain jacket.

"Hibiki! Hikari!" he called out to his Sekirei, who were currently occupying the bathroom. "We're going out."


"Give us a head's up, Asshole!"

He laughed.

"I just did!"


"Fuck off!"

The Loser Ashikabi had to get his act together. For a little while, at least.


Sanada Nishi punched the concrete structure next to him so hard that it might've actually cracked a little. Not as much as his knuckles probably just did, but "a little" nonetheless.

He was crouched over his motorcycle at the bottom of an embankment, using an overhead bridge as shelter from the pouring rain. He'd been on his usual evening ride but a sudden change in weather made him take a detour; his tires were no good on wet roads.

So, he pulled out his phone to text Kuzuri, his Sekirei, and let her know that she should tell the others that he'd be back a little later. Since he wasn't one to check the news all that much, it was only thanks to a push notification that he received right at that moment that he found out about the hospital collapse.

His outburst would be a scary sight for anyone passing by, to be sure. The young man cut an imposing figure: long unkempt hair, piercing glare and all. With all the leather he was wearing right now, most would peg him as a member of a biker gang.

Not that their presumptions would be totally off or anything.

This wasn't a "don't judge a book by its cover" sort of thing; Nishi was not a "gentle" man: he was brash, loud, and sometimes a little annoying, depending on who you asked.

But he was still a human being with the capacity for empathy.

He was overcome with emotion. He didn't know any of those guys and that Higa fucker was a degenerate piece of shit, but…


His exhale was shaky as he tried to regain his composure.

A single Sekirei did all of this.

He was the sort of person that wanted to see the best in people. He had a particular soft spot for… more violent Sekirei, knowing a few of them personally.

Chiyo, Yuuna, Hatae… those three were pains in his ass more often than not. They were destructive, manipulative, and downright sadistic.

But they weren't evil. No matter how much the behaviour those three stood in direct contrast with the other half of his "flock", as they called it, no matter how much it felt like they were being absolutely terrible on purpose sometimes, no matter how much it felt like someone was spitting in his face whenever Kuzuri made sandwiches only for Yuuna to eat them all—

He was digressing.

The Black Sekirei was evil.

MBI… this whole fighting tournament thing that was going on… he didn't give a rat's ass about any of it. But this? His blood was boiling. He couldn't look the other way.

He would do something about it, he decided. Not that he knew what that "something" was.

With a scoff, he threw his leg over his bike and got ready to take off, mindless of the current road conditions. It was better to be safe than sorry when it came to motorcycles, but he was already sorry, so there wasn't time to be safe… or something. He was bad at the whole metaphor thing or whatever it was called—but that part wasn't important.

The Ashikabi of the West was ready to make his move.


Yukari huffed and puffed. Her heart was racing and she felt like she could pass out at any moment. Panic and adrenaline made for a strange combination, she thought.

With trembling steps, the girl moved past the downed, unconscious bodies of the MBI goons that were keeping her locked up in her apartment. Shiina gave her a reassuring nod, which she returned gratefully.

Holy shit.

Holy shit.

Everything had been going fine until just a little while ago. Sure, it was a pain to have her mom's guys breathing down her neck and to have her phone confiscated, but she wasn't gonna, like, knock them out over just that. That would have been such a spaz thing to do.

And then one of them got a call from her mom. Apparently, her big brother and his Sekirei—and oh yeah, he just so happened to be an Ashikabi too. Small world, right? That totally wasn't something she should have known earlier—had to be taken to the hospital at MBI.

MBI's hospital and not the actual hospital because that one—and everyone in it—exploded. That was where Minato had gotten himself hurt; how he was still alive was no small miracle if the images that her imagination was conjuring were anything to go by.

That one Ashikabi, Emiya Shirou, was responsible for all of it.

That set her off.

She wanted to kill that bastard. He did such a good job of pretending to be an innocent, well-intentioned gigachad that he caught her off guard when she tried to fight him the first time. She should have trusted her gut instincts.

She could have stopped all of this.

She—or maybe it was Shiina. Both of them? Everything that happened in the last half minute was a jumbled mess in her head—went as far as to attack the MBI guys. There were so many of them—almost a dozen, probably—so how the two of them managed to knock them out so cleanly without making a mess of things was a mystery.

The moment her hand touched the door handle, Shiina grabbed her arm. The frown didn't match that doll-like face of his at all.

"I… I'm worried. About Kuu-chan."


Yukari wanted to throw on a reassuring smile.

But she couldn't.

She understood what Shiina was thinking. She knew her brother was alive and well, but Shiina didn't know anything about Kuu-chan: where she was, how she was doing… If she were in his shoes, she'd be a wreck.

What was the priority now, though? Of course she wanted to help Shiina. She was already doing that. But… the attack was a watershed moment. That Ashikabi and his Sekirei changed things. For Minato's sake—for Kuu-chan's sake, too, wherever she was—they had to be dealt with before they could cause any more destruction.

And who could really say when they'd strike next? They were practically ticking time bombs.

Yukari steeled herself and placed a firm hand on her Sekirei's shoulder.

"We will find her, but we need to deal with this guy first. Before he causes any more trouble."

He didn't seem too happy with her answer, which made sense.

She switched tacks.

"If this Emiya Shirou and his Ashikabi are allowed to run around as they please, Kuu-chan wouldn't be safe either."

That did it. Whether it was a result of his respect for her or her own reasoning outweighing his emotions, he gave her a slight nod.

"I understand," he uttered calmly.

She pulled him into a tight hug. He was caught off guard, tensing for a moment, before allowing himself to melt into her.

A pleasant warmth attached itself to them both.

"Let's go," she whispered softly into his ear.


Slowly, they pulled apart. Just as they were about to make a move—

A knock on her door made them both jump.

They shared a look before Yukari opened the door with great caution. To their surprise, it was just a delivery man.

"Sign here please."

A digital screen was thrust toward her. She could only think to sloppily draw her signature before a package was dropped into her arms.

"Have a good—" the delivery man walked away before she could finish her sentence. ""

They both stared down at the oddly-heavy cardboard box silently for a moment. As heavy as the mood was two seconds ago, this was such a quick turnaround that it was difficult to process.

"...Did you order something?" she tried.

"No?" Shiina answered unhelpfully.

They were both in the dark, then.


Minato sat on an outdoor bench with Tohsaka-san at the park below the MBI head office; his housemate held an umbrella over their heads to shield them from the downpour. Tohsaka-san had come to visit about an hour ago, saying that worrying himself sick over his injured friends wouldn't do anyone any good, and that he needed a change in scenery.

Some part of him recalled that his mom asked him to stay put for a while, but the guards didn't seem too worried when Tohsaka-san came for him. That probably meant that it was okay to step out. If only for a little bit. He was still on MBI grounds, technically.

The young man stared down emptily at his phone. Rather, the message that Minaka had sent to him along with every other Sekirei Plan competitor, probably.

What did that man mean by "eight gold stars"? Was MBI going to be taking a more active role now? He didn't know whether that was a good or bad thing, honestly. After what happened at the hospital, some heavy-handed arbitrage could do some good. Only… they were the reason everyone was fighting to begin with. They were the problem, at the end of the day. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" only went so far when they were just as much his enemy as that man was.

Tohsaka-san leaned over to get a look at the text message. Would it have been a good idea to keep this to himself? Probably. She wasn't even a competitor.

But he didn't care anymore. Besides: it wasn't like she was completely in the dark. Tohsaka-san obviously knew more than she let on.

"How are you feeling?" Tohsaka asked him in a gentle voice. Her smile was small but comforting.


Minato's words weren't coming to him. It was difficult to think straight when every waking hour was spent toiling over the fact that he was the reason why everything went the way that it did.

He didn't know why Emiya-san and Karasuba did that but their actions were so unforgivable that asking about the whys was completely moot. There was no point in analysing what he should have noticed in retrospect.

He made a mistake and they capitalised on that. His friend was dead along with hundreds of other innocent people. His Sekirei were only spared because… because he didn't know why and even still it would be tricky to say whether some would make a full recovery.

"I'm not ready," was the answer Minato finally landed on. Tohsaka-san giggled as though he offered a light-hearted quip in return and not something just shy of an anguished cry.

"You don't have to be ready, Sahashi-kun. That would be asking a little too much of anyone, I think."

He cautiously turned his head toward her.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

One looked just as confused as the other. Tohsaka-san stared back at him with wide, blinking eyes for a moment.

"Well, you wouldn't ask a man on a crashing plane if he's ready, would you?" she offered what the boy thought was a completely unnecessary analogy. The flat glare he levelled her way was proof of that.

The woman tilted her head to the side and squinted sheepishly. Her large golden earrings jingled subtly as they swayed from side to side.

"The point I'm trying to make is…" she trailed off, lost for a moment as she tried to find the right words. "Oftentimes it's better to do something than to do nothing at all. More is lost by indecision than the wrong decision, you understand the saying? I know you're hurting, Sahashi-kun, but conviction will take you to higher places than self-pity ever will. Think carefully about what I told you: your dilemma should be concerning what action to take, not whether you'll take action at all."

She was right. He was clear minded enough to realise at least that much.

He felt bad; that didn't mean anything. What else?

Angry. He was angry. At himself. At Emiya-san.

"I need to deal with Emiya-san," he decided.

"You'll kill him?" she asked.

Minato paused.

"I… I don't know," he responded, almost immediately.


"You were right, Tohsaka-san. I'm not ready. I don't know what I'm doing." He looked at the time and stood up in front of her. "But I have to do something. Regardless of what I end up doing, the first step is the same. Even if no one got hurt, I'm not strong enough to fight Emiya-san alone. We'll get help."

A tiny smile crossed Tohsaka-san's lips.

"I see," she acknowledged. "What does this supposed 'first step' entail, then?"

He pointed his phone screen at her. On it was the message sent out by Minaka Hiroto.

"The 'eight gold stars' are going to be split between a handful of people. I don't know what MBI's plan is—or what those gold stars are going to be—but it sounds like they'll be given out to some pretty important Ashikabi. With Matsu's help, I want to meet with them before this all starts. I want to ask for their help in fighting Emiya-san and Karasuba-san."

Tohsaka-san burst out laughing.

"Your learning curve isn't the strongest, is it?" she asked mockingly. It slipped out in a fashion that was unusually mean-spirited of her.

But Minato didn't care.

"I've learned my lesson," he insisted.

"Did you?"

"We don't have to trust each other," he argued, "but I think by this point it's clear that no one will make it to the end as long as those two are at large."

The woman leaned forward. Her smile widened, though it didn't quite reach her eyes.

"It's the right move," she admitted praisingly. "I have one question, though: what makes you so sure you'll do better than the people who tried the exact same thing not too long ago?"

The haunted look in the boy's eyes was unmistakable.

"They didn't try hard enough."

Dainty fingers covered Tohsaka-san's lips. She laughed silently.



Heels tapped against a hard granite flooring as Takami marched down MBI's corridors. She moved with purpose, back straight and eyes narrowed.

"In here?" she asked Natsuo, slowing down to a stop once she reached the man standing in front of a set of double doors.

His expression was kept calm: an observation that was distressing in its own right considering the topic at hand.

"How bad are we talking?"

Natsuo searched for the right word.

"... Soup."

Ignoring the look she gave him, he made way for her. The woman quickly entered the sterilised medical room, uncaring of the appropriately-dressed lab workers giving her worried looks, only to stop short at the sight before her.

Two cadavers lay on an operating table closest to her, their innards carefully peeled open for the world to see.

"... right." Takami eventually managed. "Soup. That's alright, I wasn't planning on eating this week, anyway." She approached the table for a closer look, fighting down her disgust. "... Who are they?"

"Sekirei Number Seventy Three: Mamiji and her Ashikabi." Natsuo muttered, comparatively serene. "The pair had gone totally off the grid a while back, only to have been found this morning by the local authorities."

Takami exhaled. If MBI didn't have its hands deep in the pockets of the Shinto Teito Metropolitan Police, it could have led to a conundrum they didn't want to answer for.

Getting a closer look at the Sekirei, she grimaced. It wasn't her first time seeing a body cut open, but it was different when that body belonged to a girl that a colleague was responsible for.

Karasuba really was a monster. It wasn't the first time they had to clean up that woman's mess and unfortunately it wouldn't be the last time either.

"One heck of an autopsy," she grumbled to one of the nearby technicians. They made a strange face.

"We… didn't do this. This was how they found them."

Alarm bells went off in her head.

"What?" she snapped. That needed a little more context.

It was Natsuo who stepped in.

"We suspect vivisection was the cause of death. Everything was done with incredible precision; the bodies were preserved through means we suspect to be chemical, but the lab's having trouble identifying what it was exactly. We… we don't think Karasuba did this."

Yeah. No shit.

Takami looked over to one of the bodies brought over from last night's hospital slaughter. The man once known as Kakizaki was reduced to a rough shape of blood and gore. If someone told her that he had been mauled to death by a bear, she'd believe them.

That was done by Karasuba and she could say that with some amount of certainty.

"I don't think so either," she agreed weakly.

…But that begged the question: who was responsible for all of this? If not Karasuba, then who? Her Ashikabi? She certainly couldn't put it past Emiya Shirou, knowing as little about that man as she did, but why now? Why bother with this all of a sudden?

Her teeth were clenched so tightly that her jaw almost popped.

Still. Still! Something was still bugging her. A nagging feeling at the back of her mind told her that there was something else.

Someone else.

"Natsuo," she spoke in a commanding voice. "Take Benitsubasa and Haihane. Get to the bottom of this."

They held some parody of a staring contest for a moment before the man backed off.


They both walked out of the lab and headed their separate ways. Natsuo to go do what she asked him to and Takami to move on to the next thing on her itinerary.

This new development wasn't needed. Certainly not now when Minaka was insisting on keeping his schedule. Him moving forward with the next phase of the Sekirei Plan so soon after his kids almost bit the dust was such a cocksucker move on his part but she had long since learned that it was just the way he was. The least he could have done was tell her before sending out that message to the Ashikabi. Like he was supposed to.

And then there was the matter of the Ashikabi that MBI was keeping in their pseudo "protective custody". Two of those Ashikabi were in it as a result of nepotism, admittedly: no Sekirei belonging to either Minato or Yukari had been terminated, but as a mother, she was lording her position at the company over everyone's heads to make sure they were being kept safe after what happened at the hospital. Until she thought it would be safe to let them roam about on their own, that is.

The other three Ashikabi were being looked after because their Sekirei were murdered and MBI had reason to believe that the Black Sekirei group would want to finish the job.

It was a distressing trend: not only did they aim for a level five termination every time they encountered an opponent, but for some fucked up reason or another, the Ashikabi was never safe either. Ever. The two Ashikabi they had at hand were in the unique situation of being elsewhere while their partners were busy either getting gutted or burned to a crisp the other night.

The moment she rounded the next corner, a rushing MBI employee scrambled, nearly bumping into her before his eyes widened.


What now!?

"What is it?" she asked flatly.

"Sahashi Minato has left the hospital. We don't know—"

She grabbed him roughly by the shoulders.


"He just checked out with Homura in tow. Said he needed to settle some things back home."

"What things?! Doesn't he understand the state of things as it is?" Takami pulled her hair, incensed. "The last thing I need is for him to do something stupid and jump into the next stage where it's not needed. Get them back right now!" "

"... Ma'am, they're already halfway back towards the Izumo Inn. Unless you want us to make a big scene of it I don't think it would do much good."

Takami sighed.

She pushed off of him and turned around.

"The—most of his Sekirei are still here, at least," he stuttered out, trying to appease the woman. "Number Three and Number Nine, Number Eighty-Eight–"

"That's not important here!" Takami snarled. "Keep tabs on Minato and Homura. I want to know when they've reached Izumo Inn, and by God you'll make them stay there!"

"... there's something else." The man admitted.


At this, the man swallowed.

"Our team watching over Number One Hundred and Seven and his Ashikabi has not responded to our check-ins for a while now."

Takami froze. The man had the decency to look away.

"... it would appear that Sahashi Yukari has also escaped."

"FOR FUCK'S SAKE!" She screamed.



We're back bby.

Really sorry for the delay, though calling it a "delay" is really pushing it. It was supposed to be out in the second half of december (to coincide with the fic's anniversary, as Sherlock reminded me) but a combination of holiday season stuff and Sherlock and I needing to change things for the nth time pushed everything back many, many weeks.

Future updates for FtS shouldn't take as long, thankfully. The mini-hiatus was used to get the ball rolling on future events ahead of time. Since this is the story that most people are here for, it will return to its usual spot in my rotation.

I'd like to thank everyone on p atreon who got this chapter a while back and waited patiently for the finishing touches to be placed, and to those of you who will be voting for this chapter's illustration (the poll for which I will be opening shortly).

(Speaking of which, go check that out lol. I have pilot chapters and shorter stories on there, some of which have turned into longer fics that I've published here.)

As a note for this chapter: Yes, Elden Ring came out in 2022. This story takes place in 2020. This is an inconsistency in the timeline that I swore to avoid but alas, Sherlock insisted that it would help to get the point across.

(I'm throwing him under the bus hoping that he'll miss the author's note)

This is Sherlock with a rare cut-in on the AN: no, I absolutely won't. Also, pray that Better Call Saul wins an emmy tomorrow, y'all. Daddy's desperate.