Gods And Great Feats
"Can't believe we're in the actual Underworld." Mordred said, for what felt like the fourth time since they'd got there.
"What do you expect, the Age of Gods never ended here, so all those places you think are just myths are physically here still." Caenis explained. "I mean, we're standing in freaking Mount Olympus itself, ain't that enough proof for you?"
"...fair." The Homunculus conceded. "Alright then! So what's next?"
"Well, I dunno what your Master wants to do, but I'd suggest that we go after Hephaestus first." Caenis suggested.
"Hephaestus?" Holmes chimed in. "My dear, as far as I am aware, the Smithing God is currently stuck within the Atlantis archipelago."
"Yeah, half of him is. The other half's being used to help create and maintain a lot of the advanced tech around here. Mast-... my former Master took me to see the Maintenance Core Temple a few times."
"Interesting… I shudder to think what sort of weapon the Olympians have in their arsenal that would allow them to cleave Hephaestus in two like they did." The great detective admitted.
"It wasn't any of the other Gods." Caenis admitted.
"Huh?" Mordred tilted her head quizzically.
"Then what, or who, is responsible?" Raikou wondered.
"They must be golden strong to pull that off!" Kintoki cut in. "Hope we don't run into 'em!"
"Might be a problem there, golden boy...he's apparently one of the emissaries for my ex-Master's benefactor." Caenis said.
"...so, he works for the Foreign God, then." Holmes confirmed. "We will likely need to face him at some point. And since it is a 'he' we are dealing with, then it must be either Father Kotomine or that Douman fellow from the India Lostbelt."
"I hope it's that fake priest!" Da Vinci's cut in, voice filtered through the comm device on Ritsuka's face, turning everyone's attention to the Master himself, who had been rather quiet and melancholy thus far. "I need to pay him back for ruining that perfectly good old body of mine!"
"We will, Da Vinci, we will." Ritsuka assured her, softly.
"Are you...are you okay, Senpai?" Mash asked, always the first to pick up something that might be bothering her Master.
"...no. No, I'm not." Ritsuka admitted. "How can I be, when we just keep losing people?"
"All the first Argonauts. Drake. D'eon. Sanson. Chiyome. Hektor. Mandricardo. Roberts. Orion. Even Jason! They're all gone just to get us this far and we've barely made a dent in the enemy!
"And now Heracles is gone, AGAIN, after everything we did just to summon him!" Ritsuka angrily kicked at the ground, aggression surging into his posture and voice. "All for this! This tiny little pocket of safety in a whole city that's out to get us! Just...how the hell are we supposed to win if we lose so many allies to even get this far!?"
Most of the Servants, minus Caenis, Lancer Alter and Caligula, all recoiled slightly at the sudden outburst...however, before any of them could try and respond, their attention was drawn to a new voice.
"Rest assured, Master, we will find a way."
The proclamation was loud and deep, reverberating around them even as the Servants of the party began to draw their weapons, turning this way and that trying to find the source...especially since it was accompanied by heavy footfalls.
"Who are you?" Mash asked.
"Yeah, friend or foe?!" Mordred called out.
"Am I really that forgettable?" The voice asked, clear humour in its tone, the footfalls sounding remarkably close now. "We were comrades in arms an hour or so ago."
In short order, the figure itself finally stepped out from behind a nearby pillar and began to approach them.
The tall, hulking physique that now retained a slight softness in the musculature. The waves of unkempt dark hair that seemed to undulate in a breeze. The bright eyes that no longer glowed a deep red or were a mass of shadow. The surprisingly gentle face, they were all instantly recognisable despite the slight changes they'd undergone...
The group's jaws quickly began descending as they realised who exactly was in front of them.
"Quite remarkable indeed…"
"Holy shit." Caenis summed up the group's reaction best. "You're-"
"Heracles!" With almost no warning, Ritsuka of all people practically tore forward and tried to hug the behemoth, who was quick to place a hand on his shoulder in lieu of a proper embrace. "You're still alive!"
"We thought you were a goner, what with goin' up against one of those Gods by yourself!" Mordred cut in.
"Of course I am, I am quite difficult to kill, you know." Heracles' smiled reassuringly down at his Master. "Not that our enemies didn't make a valiant effort."
"If I may interject, how is that you can speak?" Holmes asked. "In all our interactions in Chaldea...well, you were never capable of speech. I'm curious as to how you managed to regain your sanity."
"I think I can answer that." Caligula cut in, looking directly at Heracles himself. "You heard the song of the Love Goddess too, didn't you?"
Caligula couldn't help but smile a little at that. "It seems that her power does not agree with our madness."
"Indeed. But I'm afraid there is little time to waste with pleasantries, Master." Heracles turned back to Ritsuka. "What is our next move? I overheard something regarding Hephaestus."
"Uh, y-yeah." Rituska fumbled a bit as he disengaged from Heracles, still trying to get used to the Berserker being sane. "Apparently Hephaestus is being used to manage a lot of the advanced tech in Olympus...Kintoki, you mentioned a mech you were helping create?"
"Yeah I was!" Kintoki perked up. "We wanted to use it against the Gods, but the others were all killed before we managed to properly ready it! We got the main body all finished up, but it just needs a proper weapon! Once we get that, it'll really be GOLDEN!"
"...then we can go and get one from Hephaestus' armory. That's the plan. Then, we can use the mech to start fighting the Gods properly."
Another thought occured to Ritsuka, the Lostbelt team had also mentioned a Summoning Ritual they'd been preparing earlier on. "We can find the remaining Divine ley lines and plant the remaining summoning arrays too. That way, if we really need it, we can try and summon a Grand Servant to help out too."
"That sounds as good a plan as any...should the Dioscuri show up, you may leave them to me."
"What about the Gods themselves? If one of them shows up before we finish that mecha…" Lancer Alter commented, a touch of worry in her tone.
"If worst comes to worst, then...well, we were always planning on using it anyway-" Rituska turned to Mash. "-Mash, show them our new teeth."
"Yes, Senpai! Beginning deployment!"
Soon, Mash's augmented shield began to expand outward, unfurling a frighteningly large gun from the inner workings as the Servants watched. It was so large that Mash needed to grab it with both hands to aim it properly or even just to hold it upright so it didn't topple over. One of the capacitors acted as a replacement for the curving buttstock on a typical gun, while the other one protruded from the top and ran parallel to the main cannon.
The barrel itself was thicker than even Heracles' arm, spanning the length of five to six whole people if they were lying down. The cannon was a deep black and ringed with red lines running along the machinery, in much the same manner as Gilgamesh's strongest weapon, Ea, for those who had both met the King of Heroes and remembered that meeting.
"Woah...what a gun!" Kintoki breathed.
"I uh...kinda feel like my swords ain't gonna do much compared to that." Musashi chipped in, the samurai, for perhaps the first time in her life, looking upon a ranged weapon with a bit of envy.
"Hey Master, can i have a go on that!?" Mordred cried out excitedly.
"Uh...that's not really a good idea, Mordred." Ritsuka tried to calm her down, looking a tad uneasy at the prospect.
"Is it just me, or does that gun feel a tad...wrong to look at?" Lancer Alter asked.
"Uuuu! Uuuu!" Fran agreed.
"There is something...threatening about it, besides it being a weapon of great strength." Raikou muttered. "But I can't say what."
"Well, that might be because this weapon was designed to, in Miss Sion's own words, 'impose the notion of limited life-span into the body of near-immortal creatures and disintegrate all instances of Grain and Ether they come into contact with'." Holmes explained.
"So, this gun can kill Gods...right?" Caenis asked, looking downright excited at the prospect.
"Yes, that is why we brought it here. And that is also why you might find it dangerous to even be around." The detective continued. "One full blast from this weapon will almost assuredly kill just about anyone or anything targeted with it, as long as they possess a scrap of magical energy of some sort.
"That is why Miss Kyrielight is the one most suitable in our current party to wield it, as a mere Demi-Servant rather than a full Servant or Magus, the Black Barrel poses the least threat to her to fire...but it is still very dangerous to use, of course."
"It also uses Command Spells." Ritsuka cut in. "Which means we've only got three shots-"
"And there are three Gods here right now." Caenis interrupted, openly grinning with her eyes shining. Her visage had turned murderous, but they could tell that her hostility was not directed at anyone currently present. "You know, I was only in this to get back at my ex-Master, but NOW. Now… if you're out to really kill the Gods… then I guess I'm in for the long haul! What's the plan, boss?!"
Caught a little off guard at his former enemy's enthusiasm, Ritsuka fumbled for a moment before answering. "Well, we need to arm the mecha that Kintoki and the others started before we got here to stand a decent chance, so first things first is heading to Hepaestus and seeing about getting a weapon from the Maintenance Core Temple! Then we'll focus on hunting the Gods themselves. We won't have much of a shot at taking out the Tree of Emptiness with them still around."
"Just like that, huh? Well, what are we waiting for!?" Mordred called out.
"My blade is yours, Fujimaru-kun!" Musashi insisted.
"We'll move on your order, Master." Lancer Alter hefted Rhongomyniad, standing at attention.
"Master… will… succeed. I… know… he will!" Fran, in a rare occurrence, spoke up, brushing aside her bangs to show the determination in her gaze.
"I suppose we are all in agreement then." Holmes smiled. "The odds may be against us, Master, but you still have us at your side."
Ritsuka smiled at all of the assembled Heroic Spirits, filled with a new sense of purpose and resolve. A moment later, his attention was shifted as a very large hand laid itself gently on his shoulder.
"And I will aid Miss Kyrielight in keeping you from harm." Ritsuka looked up, meeting the gaze of Heracles, who returned his smile with a gentle one of his own. "I will show the Olympians the power that comes from wielding strength AND skill together… and I will repay my debt to you however I can."
"Alright then, let's move out!"
As the other Servants began to make their way out of the Underworld, Heracles approached Caenis and tapped her on the shoulder.
"I will stand guard once we access the armory, when you plunder it, would you bring back something for me?"
"Shouldn't be a problem, what's it you're looking for?"
"The invaders have almost reached the Divine armory! We must ho-aaagghhh!"
"Hah, think you're gonna stop us!?" Caenis snarled, swinging her trident in a wide arc to scatter the line of soldiers in front of them. "C'mon, gimmie a challenge!"
"I know you're trying to enjoy yourself, Caenis, but please remember we're on a mission here!" Mash called out from besides Ritsuka.
"Ah, comon! There's not much to worry about from these guys!" Musashi cut in, the samurai lopping off a nearby automaton's head with practiced ease with dodging retaliatory laser fire from its fellows.
"Be that as it may, we are on a mission here, so be cautious." Heracles insisted, backing up Mash's position. The Greatest Greek Hero had been assigned to the rearguard, thanks to his new sanity and resulting skill making him far, far more adept at both handling masses of opponents, even more so than he had been before, and anticipating any ambushes ahead of time.
Even now, most of the Servants in the group were still trying to get used to the new Heracles. They were all so familiar with the raging, voiceless Berserker, that the sane, skilled and thoughtful man underneath the Madness Enhancement was thoroughly disconcerting to interact with.
All too soon, the last defender had fallen, and the group came to the armory doors proper. As expected, they were tight shut and it would take some time to get through them. Luckily, the other Servants were fighting a delaying battle outside of the complex itself, buying the raiders enough time to crack their way in.
"They've locked it down tight." Caenis growled.
"I can deal with the door, but the magical wards I sense active are another matter."
"Leave it to me!" Musashi stepped forward, sheathing her katana and standing with her hands balled into fists at her side. "I've honed my body for this one strike! Nothing can withstand the power of the void!"
Caenis looked confused, Heracles looked intrigued at the swordswoman's stance, but they stepped back regardless.
Clearing her throat and narrowing her eyes, Musashi began to speak.
"Namu, Tenman Daijizai Tenjin! With my blade, I shall sever your essence! This sword is my path to the void, my very life!"
As she spoke, a large translucent figure, the Divine Figure of Kurikara, began manifesting behind her, four blades of his own carried in four arms. As Musashi's chant continued, the figure began pummelling the armory door, one strike for each arm and sword.
By the time the last strikes had landed, Musashi had drawn her own blade. Standing stock still, blade parallel to her body, the swordswoman paused for a single moment, then slashed down at the door with a yell.
The corridor was flooded with white light from the blowback of her strike.
As the light dissipated, the group could see that the armory door was partially caved in, a few magical symbols and sigils were illuminated on the door, glowing dimly as they worked desperately to keep the door's protection intact. The rest of them had been sliced clean through by Musashi's strike.
"Darn! I didn't get all of them!" Musashi griped, keeping her blade out and sighing.
"You did enough." Stomping up to the door, Heracles swung at it with his axe.
A screeching metallic clang echoed through the hall as the door shuddered under the Grecian's assault.
Once. Twice. Three times. After the fourth strike, a large gap had been torn in the door, large enough for Heracles to sheathe his axe and simply start pulling the door frames apart with his bare hands. To the Olympians' credit, it took him a couple of yanks, but their engineering quickly gave way to Demigod strength, allowing Heracles to open a hole large enough for them all to fit through comfortably.
Of course, the moment he poked his head through the hole, to check if the way was clear, was the moment a fist was flung at his face.
Heracles was sent skidding across the floor with the force of the blow, even with his arms brought up to block it. Opening his arms, he saw two very familiar figures standing in front of the door.
"Well well well. The filthy little Humans, back again!" Castor sneered, swirling his sword threateningly.
"I've been itching for a rematch with you." Pollux giggled, eyes narrowed to pinpricks and a demented smile on her face as the girl cracked her knuckles. "You won't run away from me this time."
"You bastards again…" Caenis growled, whacking her trident against her shield challengingly. "What, you didn't learn your lesson after the big guy here beat your asses last time?" Off their mildly shocked looks, the Lancer decided to keep up the bragging. "Yeah, he told us on the way here, told us how he broke your scrawny brother like a twig."
"You'll DIE for that remark, filthy traitor!" Castor snarled.
Pollux, however, was much calmer. "Ufufufu, that was last time, before we received these gifts from our Gods."
As she finished speaking, the brawler slammed her palms together, causing golden patterns to start appearing over her skin. Castor followed suit, with similar patterns appearing all over his body.
"Nanite augmentations from Lord Zeus himself." Pollux grinned savagely. "Gifts that will let us stamp you out like the insects you are."
Musashi flinched a little. She could barely handle the Dioscuri the last time she fought them, despite her peerless swordsmanship and her mastery over her 'Zero' technique. How would she keep up now?
Heracles, in his newly sane state, took pause for a moment. His maddened self would have simply charged screaming at the Dioscuri regardless of augmentations, but now he couldn't simply ignore the threat of his opponents' new enhancements. He'd need to fight a little to gauge how potent they truly were...then he could decide how best to handle them.
"Bring it on, bitch!" Caenis, in contrast to her peers, looked utterly unfazed. "I'll rip those machines right out of you and-"
"You must clear the vault." Heracles interrupted her, already shifting to a combat stance of his own. "Lady Musashi, engage Castor. Lady Kyrielight, defend our Master."
"Yes, Heracles-San!" Mash complied immediately, moving to stand between Ritsuka and the Dioscuri.
"Oi! What makes you think you can tell me what to d-" Caenis was far more belligerent and less compliant, outrage crossing her features as she started to protest.
"Our mission is more important than any personal desires. Even yours." Heracles continued. "The guards will likely attempt to extract or destroy anything they believe we can use against them. Deal with the guards and security mechanisms before that happens or our efforts will be for nothing."
Caenis growled, looking conflicted as she tightened and then relaxed her grip on her shield and trident a few times. Taking a few fortifying breaths, she made her choice.
"Ey, boss….try not to die before I get back, alright? You're...you're an okay guy, yeah? Hate to see you bite it now." With that, the Lancer broke into a sprint and headed towards the Temple entrance. Castor moved to intercept, only for Pollux to hold him back, letting Caenis vault over the duo and access the Maintenance Temple.
"What are you doing, sister?! We can't just let her-"
"It's alright, dear brother. We'll have an easier time with these fools without the traitor being among them, then we can deal with her afterwards."
"Alright then, but I want the killing blow."
With that, the Dioscuri launched themselves at Chaldea's Servants, and the battle was on.
Heracles' fist met Pollux's head on, with the impact slowing both of them to a stop while the feedback rattled the bones in their arms. Thankfully, both of their Demigod physiques and Pollux's nanite enhancements minimised the damage. Undaunted, they began to trade blows, with both fighters ignoring the shockwaves that reverberated through the corridor at their fists meeting over and over again.
"Yes! YES! Finally, an opponent who doesn't break so easily!" Pollux's manic grin was fixed in place as she spoke. "Show me your worth! Fight with everything you have, at least I can get a good fight out of you before I break you!"
In response, Heracles launched into a backflip, lashing out with an uppercut using his feet. Unfortunately, Pollux simply threw up her arms, reinforcing the limbs with Divine nanites to absorb the force of the blow. Thus, she recovered before Heracles came back down, allowing the Dioscuri twin to rush the Demigod and hit him in the chest a half dozen times before he could fully recover.
Powering through the pain of the impacts even as the nerves in his chest and ribcage screamed at him, Heracles smacked aside the next punch, wrapped his free hand around Pollux's other, incoming arm as the latter stumbled from the former's counter, and followed up by rapidly hitting her in the arm over and over again.
Despite the hurricane of blows that Heracles was able to land, with the nanites reinforcing her body, Pollux was barely injured. However, the sheer concussive force her opponent exerted with his blows stunned her for a moment. Heracles immediately took the opportunity to sweep her legs from under her and chokeslam the Dioscuro into the ground. While Pollux tried to recover from the impact, the Berserker hurled her into the air, jumped up to meet her as she came down and spin-kicked her down the corridor with surprising agility.
Pollux flipped in mid-air, ensuring that she landed feet-first, smashing apart the corridor's floor in the process as she slid to a halt, facing her opponent in a primal stance. There was almost no visible damage to her body anywhere, every injury Heracles had inflicted had been swiftly healed over by her augmented biology. That grin was still in place… only even more deranged than last time.
"Ufufufufu! You see!? Lord Zeus' gifts make us invincible!" She bragged, attacking once more.
Over on the other side of the corridor, however, Musashi was not doing as well.
Lacking both the biology of her Demigod ally and the nanite augmentations of their opponents, the sword saint found herself quite thoroughly on the defensive. It was only her strangely potent Magic Resistance Skill and her ridiculously well-honed reflexes that kept Castor from being able to injure her too badly. Nonetheless, Musashi could feel herself weakening, slowly but surely, with every clash of their blades.
It did not help that her katana was not suitable for outright blocking, forcing Musashi to parry and dodge constantly, while Castor simply swung his sword at her again and again, the enemy Servant's features twisted into savage anger even as he gazed right past her. Just from the path of his gaze, the sword saint guessed that he was glaring at Ritsuka, for whom he seemed to reserve a special enmity.
Another parry, another minor tremor up her arms from the blowback. Try as she might, Musashi could feel her feet slipping as she lost ground. She couldn't even use her Noble Phantasm, it would take far too long and her opponent would cut her down long before she finished invoking it even at minimum strength, much less using the full chant to power it up.
Agh! Much as I hate to admit it, this guy's got me completely outclassed! I gotta think of someth-
"Musashi-san! I'll help you!" Came Mash's voice as the Demi-Servant approached the duelling Servants, raising her shield and powering up her Ortinax Suit.
A dangerous gleam entered into Castor's eye at the sight of her… or rather, at the realisation that with Mash engaging him, Ritsuka himself might as well be wide open.
"Mashu, don't! Go back and protect Fuji-AGH!" Musashi's warning was cut off as Castor, in a disturbingly reckless move, simply allowed Musashi's next strike to hit him directly in the chest, the golden pattern around the wound indicating that he'd re-directed his nanite protection to absorb most of the damage.
Taking advantage of the swordswoman's distraction as she attempted to extract the sword, he grabbed her by the neck and threw her aside before charging a shocked Mash. The fact that Musashi's blade was still buried in his chest did not seem to slow Castor down very much.
Mash swung her shield in an attempt to block Castor's charge, only for him to surprise her once more by catching the shield in his hands, golden patterns forming on his palms and spider-webbing up his arms as Zeus' nanomachines went to work reinforcing his strength. Castor pushed the shield aside, causing Mash to stumble and before she could recover, he delivered a vicious knee to her chest that sent her skidding backward, following up with a flurry of sword strikes that left frighteningly deep grooves in the Ortinax suit.
Heracles attempted to move to assist, but Pollux interrupted him with an axe-kick to the head to stun him for a moment, then a nanite-reinforced palm strike that sent the Demigod flying down the corridor.
Mash, her suit sparking and cybernetic enhancements compromised, weakly swung her shield one last time.
Castor lazily sidestepped it and punched her in the chest, sending her tumbling down the corridor. She tried to pick herself up, tried to stand…
Only to flop limply down to the floor.
"MASH!" Ritsuka cried, raising his left hand as he prepared to invoke a Command Spell. It would mean one fewer uses out of the Black Barrel, their trump card, but he wasn't about to lose anyone else! Especially not someone as irreplaceable as Mash!
"By the power of this Command Spell, I order-"
His words were cut off as a hand wrapped itself around his throat and hoisted him into the air. Struggling weakly, Ritsuka found himself face-to-face with both Castor's sword and triumphant, smug smile.
"Hehehehe, what's the matter, weakling? Are you finally realising just how foolish it was to challenge the Gods of Olympus?" He taunted, kneeing Ritsuka brutally in the gut.
"Don't worry, we're not going to kill you right away… we're going to hunt down and kill all those other Servants of yours first. Then, we'll torture you, keeping you alive just long enough to see Lord Zeus' grand plans come together. Only THEN will we kill you, because only then will you understand just how much of a failure you are."
"Let him go!" Musashi, having finally recovered and with her backup blade in hand, carefully approached the Dioscuro, who turned his own blade on her with a sneer on his lips.
"I wouldn't try that if I were you, mortal."
"Or what? You'll kill Master? You already said you want him alive."
"I did." In an instant, Castor's blade shifted to Ritsuka's left arm. "...but I have to say, I'm surprised at how much damage humans can live through before expiring…"
He said nothing else, but the threat was clear enough. Musashi growled in anger, but made no other moves.
"S-senpai…" Mash had finally managed to push herself up into a kneeling position. She'd already caught sight of her Master held captive, heard Castor's threats and promises. She was desperate to protect Ritsuka… she didn't want to fail again, not now! There had to be something! Something better than her shield, anything!
A since glance at said shield gave her a grim realisation. There was something else she hadn't tried yet.
It was only the full-power Black Barrel that needed Command Spells, after all. The lesser Barrel Cannon worked just fine without them.
Assuming a firing position, Mash began the deployment sequence.
"I guess we're at a standoff then." Musashi narrowed her eyes, only to be met with a bark of laughter from Castor.
"Kuhahahaha! Oh, is that what you think!? Lady Aphrodite is on her way here right now, she'll deal with those weaklings outside, and then the full might of the Olympian army will swarm this building and deal with the rest of you! You don't stand a… a…"
He trailed off mid-boast, eyes narrowing to pinpricks and sweat erupting across his forehead as he caught sight of Mash, Barrel Cannon deployed and charging up… aiming right at him. Musashi, once she shifted her gaze, had a similar reaction. As did Pollux from a few feet away.
They were transfixed, as if they were deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car.
Castor and Pollux had seen guns before, of course, of all shapes and sizes. Aged, modern and futuristic alike, wielded as weapons by several among the veritable swarm of Heroic Spirits that had been summoned to their Lostbelt by the Counter Force, as a panicked effort to pre-emptively neutralise the greatest threat to Humanity it had detected yet: Atlas, the blooming and expansive Tree of Emptiness that was the closest to maturation and the most likely manifestation point for its sinister master.
There had been little to fear from those guns in Castor and Pollux's minds, they were fragile tools wielded by equally fragile humans, a pathetic crutch to be used by the weak. They were nothing next to Divine might.
So why…why did they hesitate now? Why did their hearts begin to beat so fast? Why did chills run up their spines? Why was it a chore to even look directly at that… that weapon? Why did it feel so wrong to look at, so threatening? Why was every one of their primal instincts, every impulse related to ensuring survival, screaming at them over and over again to drop what they were doing and RUN?
For a brief few moments, the Dioscuri felt a crushing fear. For a brief few moments, they hesitated.
It was the opening he needed.
Pollux, so deeply distracted with the threat of the Black Barrel, only noticed the grey-black blur shooting past her and barrelling towards her brother and the captive Ritsuka until it was far too late.
His golden axe already unstrapped and in hand, arm winding back to deliver the blow as he approached Castor.
"Brother, look out!" Though Pollux's yell snapped Castor to his senses, in his panic at the rapidly approaching Demigod he neglected to use his hostage as a human shield, instead holding up his sword to block or parry the incoming strike.
Pollux shot forward, drawing her own blade for the first time since the fight had started.
Heracles began the chant.
"A singular strike to fell the immortal beast… a strike that exterminates regardless of resurrection…"
He swung the axe forward with a mighty roar.
"Shooting The Hundred Heads: NINE LIVES!"
The air rippled and shimmered violently as the golden axe-head sailed towards its mark, even as the Dioscuri twins moved to block the incoming strike. In a fraction of a second, there were two more strikes heading for them.
As skilled as they were, even with Zeus' nanites enhancing them… there were simply too many incoming strikes to block fully.
Castor's grip on Ritsuka faltered as the former stumbled back, four gaping wounds torn into his body from Heracles' Noble Phantasm. Pollux, by contrast, only had one such injury, but it encumbered her just enough for Heracles to bat her away and attack Castor again.
It was an eerie repeat of his earlier match… but with himself in Musashi's shoes this time, fighting a losing battle against a superior opponent.
It was a vicious cycle. Despite Castor giving it his all, the sane Heracles' exquisite swordsmanship allowed him to land continuous minor hits on his opponent, which steadily began to add up. The more injuries he sustained, the more sluggish and encumbered Castor became, the slower his reactions got and the easier it got for Heracles to break through his guard and injure him even more.
Castor's attempts to fight back were a valiant, but ultimately doomed, effort. Even the protective and restorative power of Zeus' nanites were only delaying the inevitable by this point.
Following his furious assault, Heracles knocked Castor back with an elbow strike to the throat, which was the final straw for the bruised and battered cartilage around his trachea.
Beaten and bloody, the Dioscuro nonetheless raised his sword one last time and drew in a shaky, rattling breath, gurgling out a snarl of defiance even as blood pooled in his mouth, throat and lungs.
"The Gods… will punish you…"
"Let them try."
They charged together. They swung at each other only once.
A wet crunching sound resounded through the corridor.
Castor's body hit the floor, then began dissolving into golden light… though not without leaving a glowing metallic refuse behind.
"BROTHER, NO!" Pollux screamed, barrelling towards Heracles with tears in her eyes, her face a mask of rage and heartbreak. "I'LL KILL YOU FOR THAT! I'LL-"
Her yell was cut off by a louder, stronger yell from a third, very familiar voice.
"Soar, My Great Golden Wings: LAPITHAI CAENEUS!"
Turning their heads, those present spied the form of Caenis, leaping directly through the hole in the Temple Door even as her body transformed into a fiery bird form… just in time for her to smash headlong into Pollux and soar upwards towards the corridor's ceiling, leaving a burning contrail in her wake.
As the flames and heat began to dissipate, the Servants spied Pollux, slumped onto one knee, horrific burns covering about two-thirds of her body. The glow from the golden spiderweb patterns that denoted Zeus' nanites was as strong as ever, standing out even more against Pollux's burnt and charred flesh, still attempting to repair the crippling damage to their Host's body.
Pollux tried to stand, tried to raise her weapon. Tried to fight on despite her injuries.
She made it about a third of the way up before Musashi's sword pierced through her heart.
By the time Caenis had returned from her flight and Heracles had helped Mash to her feet, she had faded away too, with the same refuse left in her wake.
Ritsuka, still rubbing at his throat from his position on the floor, where he'd been deposited unceremoniously by Castor, found a hand reaching down for him.
"Thanks." He coughed a little as he clasped the offered hand and was levered to his feet.
"No problem, boss." Caenis cracked a triumphant grin. "You guys looked like they had it handed anyway, I just lent a hand."
"Taken care of, all we need to do now is find a sword we like the look of! I can't wait to see the looks on those bastard Gods' faces when we send that machine out using one of their own swords against them!"
"Yeah, they'll never know what hit 'em." The Master found himself agreeing with the Lancer's infectious enthusiasm, despite the bloodthirsty undertones.
"There's the spirit!" Caenis slapped him heartily on the back, before running off back into the Temple. "Let's find us a sword!"
"Senpai!" Ritsuka had barely turned around before being tackled by a distraught Mash, her Ortinax suit still sparking and damaged. "I'm sorry I couldn't protect you, Senpai!"
"It's alright Mash...it's alright." Ritsuka reassured her, the pain in his neck having faded at last. "The important thing is that we're in, we just need to get what we came for and hope that everyone outside is holding out okay too."
"I am glad that you are unharmed, Master." Heracles patted him gently on the shoulder.
"Yeah, just superficial damage is all."
"That was a spectacular rescue, Heracles-san!" Mash piped up, excitement and relief in her eyes as she turned to the sane Berserker. "I've never seen you use your Noble Phantasm like that before!"
"I doubt you would have, using my Noble Phantasm the correct way requires fine and precisely controlled movements that I'm normally not capable of in this Class." Heracles explained, before his attention was drawn to the corridor floor.
"Hmmm…" Making his way over to the former resting places of the Dioscuri, Heracles bent down and began scooping up the shiny metallic refuse released from their bodies after their deaths and evaporations.
"What's that you've got there?" Musashi asked, the swordswoman approaching with curiosity in her eyes.
"The remnants of my… father's enhancements. They seem to have survived their host's deaths. Perhaps they can be useful." Nobody missed the clear derision and hints of suppressed rage at the word 'father', nor how the Greek hero's face had contorted in disgust for the briefest of moments.
"Oi, big guy, I found us a sword but you gotta carry it! I'll carry the gear you asked for!" Caenis' voice filtered in through the ruined door, snapping the others back to attention.
"Come, there will be time for rest later." With that said, Heracles stomped off to go and help Caenis.
"Whew! I didn't think we were gonna make it there for a moment, but we pulled through!" Musashi was in high spirits as the remaining trio began to follow Heracles' path. "Feels like we can do anything with you leading us, Master!"
"Well, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, yeah?" Ritsuka advised her. "First, we get the sword back to Kintoki's mech, then we'll go from there."
In retrospect, he should have expected something would go wrong… after all, the plan they'd devised had been proceeding far too well.
They'd tried to be swift, they really did… but even though the Olympian Wave Force Glaive they'd found and 'appropriated' could be compacted tightly enough to fit comfortably onto Heracles' back, that didn't make it any lighter. Even with his Demigod-level, Madness Enhancement-boosted strength, the hulking man could only lumber along at a pace equivalent to a steady jog while lugging the glave.
Caenis had been similarly encumbered, though for a different reason. At Heracles' request, she had found and retrieved a Divine Construct bow for his later use, which she'd opted to sling over her shoulder and ferry along without complaint.
Ordinarily, the weapons were keyed to those loyal to the Olympians and only usable for them. Unfortunately for the remaining 'Authority Faction' Gods, Hephaestus was still considered to be a member of their pantheon, with Zeus neglecting to shackle the smithing God to tighter safeguards, allowing him to authorize Chaldea to remove the Divine Constructs they'd come for. As an added bonus, he and Prometheus had gladly fused the still-active Zeus nanites to Heracles himself, while 'scrubbing' as much of Zeus' influence from them as possible, essentially gifting the already powerful Berserker the equivalent power of a full Divine Spirit.
Unfortunately, things had gone downhill rather quickly after that.
Castor, as it turned out, had not been lying when he'd boasted of Aphrodite's arrival to reinforce the Olympian army. The Love Goddess' Aletheian form had just made it over the nearest line of skyscrapers as the fivesome exited the Maintenance Temple to link up with their other Servants fighting outside.
Ritsuka, taking cues from their last encounter with her as well as the 'welcoming' Chaldea had initially received courtesy of Zeus, had ordered a full retreat immediately.
It hadn't quite been enough. After all, Ritsuka was not the only one to learn… Aphrodite had been taking notes as well.
The Mecha-Goddess had been preparing her 'song' since she'd set off. By the time she'd arrived at the Maintenance Temple, it was fully charged already.
The raiding team, Ritsuka, Kintoki, Holmes and Caligula had managed to clear the blast radius before the Aletheian unleashed her attack.
The rest had not been so lucky.
Ritsuka had felt as if he were reliving Atlantis all over again, only sped up. Once again, his allies were dropping like metaphorical flies… only this time they were butchering one another in a maddened frenzy. By the time the enthralling song had worn off, only Raikou and Lancer Alter had been left alive.
They had been tired and injured… no match for the Olympian army, which had caught up to the Panhuman Servants while they were busy killing each other.
In the end, Holmes and Mash had to drag the petrified and shell-shocked Ritsuka all the way back to their new base within the city itself. With the Gods placing the entirety of Olympus on lockdown thanks to the Godbreaker Alliance's successful strike against a strategic asset, they had nearly gotten irreversibly waylaid, only to receive some unexpected help.
None of them had been expecting two of the native inhabitants, teenaged-looking twins named Adele and Makarios, to approach the remaining Servants and offer help. However, that surprise had paled in comparison to the shock that came after.
Their safe passage to the Chaldean stronghold within Olympus had been provided by a hooded figure, wordlessly beckoning the group to follow them, leading them in a swerving and zig-zagging pattern to avoid all of the Olympian patrols between them and safety.
Naturally, the group had been more than a little shocked at discovering this figure was in fact Kadoc, the Crypter of the now-denied Permafrost Empire… with the exception of Holmes, who'd seen through him almost immediately.
As the boy had explained, he'd lost faith in his faction as well as his own candidacy as a Crypter. He'd also heard tales of how brutal Daybit and Beryl's Lostbelts were, and grown suspicious of their mysterious benefactor, the Foreign God, especially given that he and his fellow Crypters were forbidden to investigate their identity in any capacity. Thus, he had resolved to provide aid to the Godbreaker Alliance and Chaldea, putting aside his past enmity to do so.
Once back at their safe haven, the remaining Servants had gotten to work fitting and connecting the now-unpacked glaive weapon to the mech's own power supply and systems.
Quite surprisingly, some of the original Servants summoned to the Singularity had been well-prepared enough to create and install AI backup copies of their minds into the mech's systems. Specifically, Edison, Tesla, Blavatsky, Raikou, Fran and Kintoki himself were the personalities engraved into the mecha, the former trio of whom came in rather handy when directing the less tech-savvy Servant in integrating the new weapon with the mech's systems.
For the briefest of moments, the Servants had dared to hope that things just might be looking up… until an echoing, booming voice thundered in their ears.
"If our enemies are hiding within the great city of Olympus… then they must be rooted out."
Before any of them could question how exactly the Olympians planned to do that, they got an answer as the voice, identified by Kintoki and the AI-Servants as Zeus himself, began speaking again.
"Demeter… level the city. Block by block. Street by street. Destroy it all to flush out our enemy."
For a few moments, nobody spoke. Then Ritsuka, panicked, turned to Kintoki.
"The mech's ready, right? You've got the new weapon all set up, right?!" The desperation was clear in his voice.
So too was the disappointment and trepidation in Kintoki's as the Berserker replied.
"Not yet… I'm sorry Master, we need more time."
Hefting his axe and the bow Caenis had retrieved for him from the Temple, Heracles turned and began stomping towards the exit to their hideout.
"Then we will buy you some. Complete your project, warrior."
"Senpai." Mash tapped Ritsuka on the shoulder. "We should prepare too, after all...this is one of the three Gods we're here to stop, right?"
"Yeah. You're right." The young man hardened his eyes. "I guess we should get what we need too."
The city was burning.
Most of the city blocks had already been reduced to naught but rubble, and what few intact blocks were left were now filled with screaming, desperate citizens. They ran. They ran for as long as possible. They tripped over themselves in their frantic attempts to get as far away as possible from the doom approaching them.
The large winged mechanical orb, similar in shape and design to that of a venus flytrap, slowly hovered forward, demolishing anything and everything in front of it, carving through the same city it… no, she, used to watch over and provide for.
"I'm sorry... I am so sorry for this, my children." The Aletheian Demeter apologised, even as she unleashed yet more waves of sonic energy to reduce the next group of buildings to rubble. If there were any survivors from her own attacks, the battalion of Olympian knights and automations with her made sure to hunt them down.
They needed to be sure, after all, that their enemies did not slip away in disguise.
"It will be fine… once the traitors have been rooted out, I can simply restore you all…"
The Mecha-Goddess' voice was thick with doubt, even as she tried to reassure herself about what she was ordered to do. She was a mother at heart, not a fighter. Not a killer…
But it was Zeus' command, and his command was absolute. It had been since the Olympiarchia, after all.
And besides, they wouldn't be gone forever! Like she'd said just now, all she needed to do was find the traitors. Yes, find and snuff them out! Once that was done, she could restore the city to how it was before. She could put everything back to normal, the buildings and people both.
It would be as if her attack never even occurred. There would be no blood on her hands after all, it would all be washed away once her task was done.
"Do you really believe that...?"
A whisper in her audio receptors. A faint image at the edge of her field of vision, but it was more than enough to halt the Goddess in her tracks, searching desperately for the person she thought she'd seen.
Persephone...? Where did you go? Why did you lea-
Her train of thought was interrupted as several large projectiles impacted against her outer hull.
Running a quick self-diagnostic and finding no major damage, Demeter turned to face the apparent new threat. All it took was a cursory scan to confirm the presence of the magical signatures she'd been ordered to eliminate.
"I've found you, invaders. And now to defeat you utterly, in the name of my beloved Persephone! Knight battalion, advance!"
"Gaaah! Just fucking go down already!" Caenis' voice pierced through the din of battle and the screams of a city under siege as the Lancer fired off another burst of high-pressure water at the Machine Goddess.
"I thought you'd neutralised her healing." Heracles joined her, firing another barrage of arrow-shaped energy bolts from his Divine Construct bow. "Yet it seems as potent as ever."
He was right, not even ten seconds after their attacks had struck home and left deep grooves in Demeter's outer chassis, the hull already began re-forming and reconstructing to reverse the damage. Even with Caenis wielding Poseidon's power and Heracles augmented by Zeus' nanites, they could barely put a lasting dent into her.
"Ah… isn't it sad? Isn't it sad? Death is so sad…" Demeter repeated for what must have been the twentieth time since the fight had started in earnest, even as she unleashed more shockwaves to churn the ground and knock her attackers back.
"Would you say something else for a change!? How often are you gonna repeat that!?" Caenis recovered quickly and moved to launch another barrage of water, only for more knights to come barrelling out of the inferno and ready their weapons. "Raaahh! I thought we killed all of you already!"
"For Olympus!" They chanted in unison.
"For Olympus?! You're BURNING IT you fucking idiot! Whatever...just die!"
As the two Divine Servants moved to engage the remaining knights, the Aletheian above them took the opportunity, now that she was unobstructed, to move forward. She'd detected a large energy source nearby...one that seemed frighteningly similar to that of her fellow Olympians.
This had to be the invaders' superweapon. Whatever it was, she needed to destroy it, and fast. From the energy readings she was sensing, their weapon was close to coming online.
A ways away, from his own position near the group's hideout, Ritsuka was fretting.
This was always intended to be a holding action until Kintoki and the AI Servants could properly ready the mech… but Demeter was advancing too fast.
In fact, she seemed to be heading right for them.
She knew there they were...he needed to make a decision.
"Mash, show them our new teeth!" He turned to the Shielder, who started at his sudden address, though she quickly grasped his meaning.
"Yes, Senpai. Deploying at your order!" Without another word, the Shielder took up a firing position as the Black Barrel Replica began emerging. Levelling it at the approaching Machine Goddess, she began charging the lesser Barrel Cannon.
Ritsuka backpedaled as the energy levels began to spike, a threatening swirl of energy building up as the Barrel Cannon hummed to life. The Ortinax's rangefinding systems soon helped Mash lock onto her target.
In a large explosion of power, the shot was released.
"AAAAGGGHHH!" Demeter cried out as the blast impacted and tore into her hull. Recoiling and reversing her course immediately, Demeter searched for the source of the shot as her self-diagnostics began reporting severe damage to large portions of her outer chassis, even reaching into some of her internal systems.
Don't panic...don't panic...this is nothing you can't heal. The Aletheian reassured herself, already feeling her self-repair systems beginning to reverse the damage. Her internals had already been fixed, even! Soon enough, her hull would be back at full integrity.
She would be fine. The city of Olympus would be fine in time. Everything would be fine…
"Do you really believe that...mother?"
This time, the voice was loud and clear...and the figure it belonged to was no longer a faint presence, but standing right in front of her.
A beautiful maiden, with fair skin and shining locks of red hair. A wreath of flowers sat atop her head, with yet more embroidered into her flowing white dress. Her hands were clasped in front of her as a sad smile bloomed on her face.
"P-Persephone?" Demeter's voice sounded so small.
"Will it really be fine, mother?" Persephone asked. "After all, you can bring these people back, but you can't bring me back, can you?"
"Wh-whatever do you mean, dear?"
"You killed me, mother." A long, bloody gash began opening on Persephone's neck as she continued, her blood staining her dress and running down her arms. "You killed me long ago."
"N-no. No! I would never harm my child!"
"You cut off my head, mother. You did it at Lord Zeus' command, remember?"
As hard as she tried to forget…the memories came flooding back.
Memories of Persephone, bound in chains and kneeling beside the corpse of Hades' terminal unit, the God himself having self-destructed a short while ago, determined not to live on as his brother's attack dog and plaything.
Memories of her own terminal self raising her scythe and swinging it at Zeus' order, even as tears poured down her cheeks.
Of taking Persephone's head and mounting it on a pike next to the head of Hades' terminal, displaying it to the exiles of Atlantis as an example of what would happen if they ever defied their Gods again.
N-n-no… no… nonononono-
P-Persephone...dear Persephone...what have I done? What have I-... PERSEPHONE!
Overwhelmed with the guilt and grief she had long since tried to suppress, Demeter began to scream.
"Get back, Lady Caenis!" Before she could lambast him for calling her a lady, Caenis was swept up into Heracles' arms as he lept far away, out of range of the sonic shockwaves blasting out of Demeter's Aletheian form, radiating from her chassis in time with the Goddess' screams of grief.
Her own remaining troops were not quite so lucky, being decimated along with the surrounding area and any unfortunate Olympian citizens still alive among the wreckage.
"Shit, she's really lost it!" The Lancer observed, her more sensitive animal ears flopping down in pain as she winced. "So what do we do now?"
"Now...we give her a GOLDEN FINISH!" A very familiar voice boomed from overhead….as an enormous mecha, looking very much like a Japanese Samurai, came rocketing in from behind them. Tearing right through the sonic shockwaves the Goddess was unleashing, it stabbed the wave force glaive in its arms right into the gap in Demeter's shell, eliciting yet another scream of pain from her and cutting off the bombardment.
"Hell yeah!" In all of one second, Caenis' frustration had flipped into frantic enthusiasm. "Come on, big guy, let's finish this Divine bitch off!"
Heracles drew back his bow, while Caenis took a crouching stance, preparing to leap. At the same time, energy began to swirl around the Lancer's feet and the Berserker's bow as they began to chant.
"Higher, higher and even higher!"
"A singular strike to fell the immortal beast…"
Caenis jumped, the orange/yellow energy coalescing around her body.
As Heracles drew his bowstring all the way back, an arrow of pure energy began to take shape within the Divine Construct.
"I can reach all the way to the sea of stars!"
"A strike that exterminates regardless of resurrection…"
Caenis' body was enveloped by a huge, fiery bird form as she soared towards Demeter.
The arrow was fully formed, shaped into what looked to be a ballista bolt as Heracles released the bowstring, his shot flying so fast it left burning contrails in its wake.
"Fly My Great Golden Wings: LAPITHAI CAENEUS!"
"Shooting The Hundred Heads: NINE LIVES!"
"YEAH! GET SOME!" Kintoki, caught up in the moment, piled on. Having pulled the glaive free, he channelled all available auxiliary power to the glaive's emitters and directed the Golden Bear Kai to swing it once again at Demeter's hull.
Caenis' flames reached the Goddess first, washing over her hull and forcing their way into the still-repairing hole in her outer shell. Demeter cried out again as the flames began burning up her insides.
Heracles' arrow reached her next, tearing right through the weakened point and ravaging her internals even further as the one hundred hits landed in very rapid succession.
Finally, Kintoki's glaive tore all the way through her and out the other side of her hull in one fluid motion.
However, even with all the damage she'd sustained, the Mecha Goddess was still standing...and what wounds they inflicted were already starting to heal over.
"Even...even damaged like this, I can still finish my mission. By my Authority as Demeter, Goddess of the Harvest, I release all of my power at once! I...I will take all of you with me!"
"Oh FUCK…" Caenis' ears flopped around her head in shock, even as she, Heracles and Kintoki all started scattering as far as they could. True Name Release was a very powerful tool even for the lowest ranked Heroic Spirit to use...there was no telling how powerful it would be when used by one of the Twelve Conceptual Pillars in her original body.
However, so engrossed was everyone else in the fight that they were blindsided entirely as Ritsuka's voice rang out across the battlefield.
"Mash, by the power of this Command Spell, I order you: fire the Black Barrel!"
A few moments ago.
"Barrel replica, emergency connection finished!"
A loud whirring clank sounded from the rooftop as the construction hit the asphalt.
"All green! Black Barrel has taken form. Dead counter round set into the gun barrel!"
A low, whining hum began to build in the background, emanating from the superweapon Mash was currently steadying in her two-handed grip.
"Observing fate of machine Goddess Demeter. Dead counter round, from paradox to truth."
"Barrel replica, instant alignment complete. Ortinax alignment rate is at 30%...50%...70...80…"
"Master! The Command Spell charge!"
"Yes." Raising his hand, Ritsuka yelled out.
"Mash, by the power of this Command Spell, I order you: fire the Black Barrel!"
The outer two prongs of the Command Spell tattoo flashed bright, then dimmed.
"Command spell charge confirmed. Spiritron chamber critical."
The low hum built into a mighty mechanical roar, with the crackle of electricity blaring alongside it as the cannon's main structure built up a critical mass of power within.
Finally, what looked to be a mass of pure dark energy shot forth from the Black Barrel's primary cannon, churning up the surrounding ground and forcing Ritsuka to backpedal rapidly lest he be caught by any flying debris.
Flying through the air at high speed, the energy trail flowing and coiling eerily all the while, it hit Demeter dead on, seeming to simply melt into the new hole it punched in her hull and leaving a glowing purple-white spot in its wake.
A few moments later, it exploded into a dark mass that blotted out everything within a five-foot radius.
A-aahh...my mind feels...I remember now.
Even as her systems began to shut down and her body fell from the sky onto the stricken city of Olympus, the Grain and Ether being driven from every inch of her by the Black Barrel's strike, Demeter felt all of her memories rushing back to her. Her mind felt clearer than it had in a long time.
Zeus...he'd manipulated her. Her and the other Gods after they… after they lost the Olympiamachia.
Yes… none of them had wanted to continue their absolute dictatorship, they'd all voted to remove themselves from complete control and allow humanity to develop on their own. They'd wanted a more equal partnership, especially her and Hestia...everyone except Zeus.
He'd disagreed with them...fought them...crushed them...used their own Authorities against them. They'd never stood a chance in the end.
He'd killed half of them, save for Hades' defiant self-destruction, and turned the rest into his slaves, little more than extensions of his will.
But now, finally… she was free.
I'm sorry, Persephone. But...we'll be together again soon enough.
Her sensors told her that there was nothing there. In fact, what they registered was a void in reality itself where there seemed to be absolutely nothing at all. And yet...she could hear a voice, a female voice, coming from the being in front of her.
Long grey-silver hair hung over her form. Her body was completely bare save for two blue markings running down her chest and stomach, with blue coverings on her lower arms and over her brow, horizontal-facing ears surrounded by white clippings, as if she was wearing a headdress.
As old as she was, as much as she'd seen, Demeter had never encountered anything or anyone like this before.
"Who are you?" She whispered.
"Tell me...do you have any regrets?" Came the being's questioning reply, ignoring the Goddess' own query entirely.
"Regrets...no. But I do have a wish. A hope."
Taking in her words, the figure then began to fade from her view, with the anomalous readings vanishing from Demeter's failing sensors.
Nevertheless, Demeter continued to speak, this time addressing the various Heroic Spirits who were approaching her crippled form.
"I hope that one day...humans and Gods can live together, can prosper together, in peace and harmony...that is all I could ask for. That my children, all of my children, can finally be happy."
Not a moment after she'd finished, voice growing weaker and quieter with every word, all the lights that ringed her form grew dim. The sparkle of the ornaments and patterns on her hull grew dull...and all remaining activity ceased.
In that moment, the Goddess Demeter died.
"I… I can't believe we managed it." Ritsuka breathed out from his vantage point, his gaze locked onto the immobile form of Demeter, now sporting a very nasty hole right through her body.
Ordinarily, he'd be celebrating at taking down one of their greatest opponents in the Lostbelt...but after her final words, he couldn't really muster up much triumph.
"Machine Goddess Demeter's fate successfully observed, Senpai."
"It's done, well done everyone."
Mash and Heracles sounded similarly subdued, though still pleased about their victory nonetheless.
"YEAH! TAKE THAT YOU DIVINE TRASH!" Caenis, on the other hand, had no such reservations, the Lancer openly jumping about in celebration with a victorious grin plastered over her face.
"Nice work boss!" Kintoki was also in high spirits, the Huge Golden Bear Kai (as he called it) coming back around to stand in front of the group as everyone reconvened, including newly-arrived Holmes, Musashi and Caligula.
"It seems we were a little too late to help." The Roman Emperor observed. "Our apologies for taking so long."
"Well, it worked out anyway, right?" Musashi assured him, flashing a cheery smile to the group.
"Well, we've defeated one of our biggest opponents in the Lostbelt, well done Master." The detective's congratulations were rather offset by the troubled look on his face, which was not overlooked by the others for long.
"What's wrong, Doc?" Musashi asked.
"Well, on the way here, I received an update from Miss Da Vinci...you remember the Beast-Class detector she and Miss Sion were working on?"
"Well, not only is it finished by now….it is also active."
The group's celebrations screeched to a halt.
Expressions of triumph and confidence immediately flipped into grim, determined frowns. Even Caenis had stopped jumping about, now readying her trident and furrowing her brow.
Ritsuka's mouth suddenly felt very dry indeed. He took a few breaths to try and steady himself, even as a cold sweat broke out on his forehead and he had to suppress the shiver that ran through his hands.
"...what?" His voice sounded so small and quiet.
"Miss De Vinci reported that the current signal is weak, but present nonetheless." Holmes continued, looking Ritsuka dead in the eyes.
"It is as we feared...there is a Beast active within the Lostbelt."