Standard Disclaimer: This author does not own the creative properties used in the development
of this story. Have fun figuring out which ones I've used. There are a few original characters;
those are mine.

Surgeon General's Warning:

Read at your own risk.

Kara no Kyokai - The Borderline of/to Emptiness

In the Dark Future, there is only -- Magical! Lyrical! Naruto?

Verse 26:

A Naruto AU fanfic by Tempest Dynasty

"Hooooooly crap that was awesome-yo!" Naruto cheered in his usual loud self, almost hopping
in place with his arms thrown high into the air. The light show (note: orbital strike) had been the
most awesome and frightening display of firepower he had ever seen. No video or picture could
ever convey the sheer magnitude of the weapon, and of course, being a boy, the bigger the
explosion the better. "Hot damn! Didja see that, Nanoha-chan? Wicked awesome!"

The girl in question could only give a soft hum and a half-hearted nod, her attention unfocused.

"Eh? Nanoha-chan? What's wrong?" the blonde boy asked, slightly unnerved by the girl's lack
of energy. Had something happened?

"N-nothing, Naruto-kun!" Nanoha shook her head quickly, her twintails flailing wildly. With a
small smile, she tried to divert the attention away. "I'm just… a little tired, that's all!"

Naruto was not one to doubt his friends, thus his smile grew into its usual size as his previous
energy came rushing back. Winking at her, he gave her a big thumbs up with his powerfist. "Ne,
don't worry so much, Nanoha-chan! We beat the boss and saved the city! Now we can take a

"The two of you can relax later. We still need to recover the Jewel Seeds from the beast," the
dry voice of Chrono served only the stifle the bubbling energy in Naruto, but even he had to
admit the mage was right. "Following that blast, the seeds were scattered through the city. We
will need to secure them as soon as possible, before anyone else gets to them. Scholar Scrya's
auspex should be picking them up soon."

"Err, p-pardon me, Master, but about that…" Yuuno meekly pointed at the spot where the
Behemoth once stood. The very spot where his magitech auspex had been used as a target
designator rather than scanner, and the very reason why it existed in atoms now.

Chrono sighed softly. How could have he forgotten that already? "No matter. We can find the
Jewel Seeds just as easily without the device."

"Ah, right! Nanoha-chan can do that easy!" the Daemonhost's enthusiasm rode along on that
victory high.

"As can we, but before that…" Chrono trailed off, focusing his attention instead on solely
Naruto. "Are you feeling any different? Any fatigue or tiredness? This mission has been a little
strenuous, I shall admit."

"Huh? What are you talking about?" Naruto arched a brow at the older boy. He was not used
to this sort of attention from the mage, and frankly, it made him downright uncomfortable. "I'm
feeling completely fine! I mean, I did take a nasty hit down in the sewers, but other than a bit of
an ache, I'm dandy-yo."

Does he not remember any of it? Was the memory repressed by his subconscious? The
mage was silent for only a moment, choosing his words carefully, "No… it's nothing. I just
thought the shockwave had affected you more. You were the only one still up when the lance
strike came down."

"Ahh, man! Have you no faith in me?" the little warrior thumbed his barrier jacket's breastplate.
"I've said it before! Takes a lot more than that to take Uzumaki Naruto down-yo!"

"So it seems…"

"Oh yeah! What was that beam anyway?

Chrono waved off the question, "I'll explain it after we get the Jewel Seeds colle—"

He stiffened suddenly, as did Yuuno, Nanoha, and even Naruto. They all felt it, a strange
disturbance in the air. Unlike the thoroughly unnatural energies of taint and corruption, however,
this feeling was merely… off.

"This feeling…" the blond muttered, the hair on the back on his neck rising. It was a familiar one,
this strange sensation. Yes… the last few times, the same feeling…

Had they not been looking for it, they would have completely missed a barely visible black streak
cut across the city skyline. It could've well been anything: a bird, a distant plane, even a trick of
the light. With only a blink, the streak was gone.

"Damn it all!"

A blue field exploded around Chrono, in his mind already the source of this intruder. Hesitation
would lead to the mission's failure, even after all this work – he had to act now! Leaping into the
air, he brought the head of S2U up as if to parry an invisible blow, a strike that surprisingly came
in the form of a golden scythe aimed at his head.

"Wretch!" Chrono snarled, straining to push away the energy weapon. Though he had intercepted
it, the power behind the blow was still considerable, and his opponent had an unfair amount of
leverage against him.

Assistance came from an unlikely (or perhaps, expected?) source. A great thunderclap rocked
the mage's ears as Naruto's powerfist smashed its way into their deadlock. "Oy, bitch! Don't
think I forgot what you did! Wanna finish what we started? I'll take you one-on-one!"

The black witch seemed to hesitate for a second before understanding her predicament. Her
sneak attack had failed, and this battle would hardly be to her advantage. Gathering the Jewel
Seeds could not be done! No… she had to escape! And escape she did, jetting off into the
darkened sky with barely a sign.

"Hey! Get back here!" the boy started to chase, only to be stopped by Chrono's staff.

"Uzumaki! All of you! Remember your mission; find the Jewel Seeds! I will deal with this
interloper!" Chrono shouted the order as he rocketed into the sky, a blue streak that chased
inky shadow.

Nanoha, Naruto, and Yuuno, unable to follow, could only hope things would play out well.

Seishou Auxiliary Elementary School: it was no different than any other public school complex,
even accounting for the idiosyncrasies of Japanese culture. The small campus was situated on a
large rectangular plot of land, which actually was just two square plots joined together, and
separated itself from other properties, with a white-washed wall that encompassed the premises.
The wall's purpose and function was primarily self-evident not that they could possibly stop a
determined escapee from getting out or an interloper from coming in.

A simple steel gate barred entry to the tended school grounds, with tiled footpaths that branched
off from the main avenue that lead to the main school building. Predominantly colored white and
three stories tall with windows, and for the cynics, it was liken to an insidious omen of the
claustrophobic high-rise offices that lay in the fates of many aspirant salary men, office ladies,
and never-do-well yes-men 'n' women. The gymnasium with attached outdoor pool, which also
doubled as an auditorium, was separate from the main building, situated to the left side, and had
easy access to a functional "track and field" in the back.

Being originally an all-girls school, landscaping and various human niceties like grass lawns,
bushes, trees, and flowerbeds, were lavished about the premises, perhaps more so than normal.
Not that of the aesthetics or architecture would matter in a few moments, gates and walls being
mere obstacles in the frenzy of combat. Besides, what was the point of using the front door,
when you could fly?

With a keening roar, they descended like twin shooting stars, intertwining with one another: blue
and gold. Stealth no longer mattered, and her magic color no longer hidden. Pavement was
ripped asunder in the flash of an explosion, throwing earth and smoke up into the air. Electricity
crackled as the first din died down. With a sudden crack, like screaming glass breaking, a black
clad figure flew out from the settling plume, tumbling back onto the harsh unfeeling ground,
bouncing, before rolling to a stop. Long locks of blonde seemed to glisten in the fading moonlight,
dark clouds storming in, as a broken axe head embedded with a golden gem clattered upon the
pavement by the girl witch's side.

"Sir!" a masculine voice cried out from the gem, urgently.

"B-Bar-diche, ugh, Restoration," she gasped, reaching out with a trembling gloved hand.

Glowing white hot, her device restored itself to its true form in an instant, yet grasping the handle
in her hands felt far from reassuring. Fate Testarossa, also known as TREUE, knew she had
blundered badly. The drum beats of her heart, frantic, pounded in her ears, from the fear and
excitement of fight-or-flight, primal instinct.

Greed. Greed and the desire to prove her self-worth to her dearest mother had gotten the best
of her. Five Jewel Seeds had been too much to give up, and now...

The scuff of combat boots was like the screech of a descending guillotine, driving her anxiety to
new heights, as she saw a familiar figure step out of the gloom, a crater left in his wake from their
violent arrival. There was no humor, no hesitation in his blue eyes, so certain and stern that they
drove a stake of horror into Fate's heart, for which she was glad her black visor masked her
countenance some. No, she did not quake and tremble because of the enforcer, her fear lay in
the nightmare of what if those eyes were that of Uzumaki Naruto instead.

How would he feel? What would he say to her when he saw through her ruse at last?

"So, we meet at last, face to face, Black Witch," drawled Chrono Harlaown in High Gothic,
as she struggled to her feet.

Fate grit her teeth in a sharp, almost pained mask of concentration, willing her worries to go
away. N-No, no! I must not... I must not hesitate. If I fall here, I will never be able to face
him. I must!

"Heros Sine Nōmen...Song-Two-U: Program Load."

The world shook.

"Nobody can escape as soon as the subjects enter this magic box that cannot be disturbed

Fate gasped, struggling to keep her balance, even with leaning on Bardiche. She tried to gather
and form the mana necessary to start her flight spell, only to discover that it would not stabilize.
The awesome quake was not of geological origin at all, but a spatial one, such a massive spell
that it had taken priority over the mana, robbing her of the fuel she needed to sustain her own

"Confirm the materialization coordinates, stand-by..."

The enforcer was ablaze with blue, a magic circle at his feet, growing, double in circumference,
and sprouting protrusions just like spikes to increase his surface area even more. But that was
not the frightening part... Most mages would have needed to focus a great deal of their attention
on such a huge spell, even with the assistance of an Intelligent Devices, yet that boy was—!

"Spatial Magic: Restriction Hexahedron!"

His eyes were wide open and staring right at her, as if daring Fate to make a move against him!
Arcs of lightning ignited spontaneously in a chaotic crescendo, striking the buildings and the
decorative vegetation. Trees exploded ablaze in shrapnel and fire, glass shattered, as the school
was pulverized, and the very grounds split and fractured from the twisting space. A translucent
blue rectangle appeared out of "thin air" and enclosed the entire area, dangling a keyhole in the
ceiling, almost mockingly.

"Materialize Key."

The young witch grit her teeth, again, frustrated, watching helplessly as the giant key materialized
in the space outside. Even if she had been able to fly, it was already too late.

"Set. LOCK!"

How ironic that like her own name sake, her fate was now sealed with this space. There was no
way to run, nowhere to hide; she had been forced into a confrontation all because of her emotions.
Caught, cornered into a corner like a fox; the only choice was to fight her way out as quickly as
possible and pray she could still get away, before the rest of the Imperials caught up with her...

...and Naruto-kun.

Chrono sighed inwardly, not bothering even to check his handiwork, as the altered space now
settled down. For he knew that above and around him, the spatial restriction spell was performing
exactly as it should be, with intricate patterned links joining and runes lighting up across its surfaces.
The complex, picky calculations that needed to be performed continuously for the materialization
of Restriction Hexahedron had made him hurl and cry snot out of his nose like a ninny, when he
had first attempted its use for what seemed like a life time ago.

Faced with such a challenge, he had approached the same way any other military man would:
practice, endless practice, until he could do it in his sleep, without batting an eye.

The long incantation just now was, in fact, unnecessary to him, with his level of mastery.
However, he had wanted to test the Irregular and ascertain her capabilities. Suffice to say, the
Blue Breaker was less than impressed by Rogue-01, codenamed: Black Witch. Still, if she was
going to give him a breather, he might as well use it too, and continue to observe her further
before committing himself fully to battle.

Let us see how the Irregular reacts to this, thought Chrono reached out with his free hand.

Obviously anticipating an attack, the girl witch assumed a defense stance, her black visor hissing
as a pair of glowing red photoreceptors revealed themselves. He had to give her some credit for
having the sense to have some sensible kit on her, which was good and bad. It provided a rather
sharp contrast to her entirely, well, impractical Barrier Jacket.

Chrono understood females had their vanity, as did his own gender, but did not the girl think she
was showing off a little too much skin? That miniskirt was unholy short-short! And what's with
the shear black leotard, thigh-high stockings, and the red belts?! ...the boy commander gave sigh,
this one audibly self-suffering, as his armored hand sank into the fabric of material space with a
glow, and pulled out a small bronze rod.

Mystra, I would have a heart attack if Yuuno and Nanoha-san decided to dress up in the
same provocative manner

In a way, it was good the girl was standing forty paces away him, lest she see him blush.

Down, Harlaown; down. Keep your mind on the mission. The point of that Barrier Jacket
is, obviously, to be as provocative as possible, but also give her an edge in mobility at the
expense of defense, and likely, power. Yes, she is about your age too, but that does not
mean you are allowed to go soft, before the shooting starts.

The Black Witch seethed, audibly, when he jabbed the autoinjector into a dispenser slot on his
collar, and with a crisp hiss, promptly doped him up high on "ETHER": a battle stimulant that
alleviated Linker Core fatigue and Magic Circuit stress, temporarily. His expression was tightly
control, for after years of exposure to various stims and applicators, Chrono had gotten used to
the sharp spike of pain followed by congenial relief, sometimes ecstasy if the dosage was high

Tossing the autoinjector away, wherefore it was swallowed back up by his "Item Space", he
noted that the photoreceptor on her visor's were blinking, and she had grown much more agitated
too, since a few moments ago. Chrono sensed she must have scanning capabilities built-in to
the auspex visor, which had shown a significant improvement in his condition from moment's ago.
He was good at not showing weakness but the ether intake just now had been quite necessary.

In any case, there was no time to waste for a dramatic holovid stand-off, for the seal he had put
upon the space of the elementary school would only last for an hour tops. It was high time to
begin the next phase of his plan: "Controlling the Field and Psy-Ops."

"Heros Sine Nōmen...S2U, Program Drive, stand-by..."

S2U, so that was the name of the enforcer's device, a storage device, Fate came to realize,
grudgingly. It was clear to her that as much as she was observing Chrono, he was also returning
the favor, trying to get a feel for her strength. They were like two predators circling, sizing each
other up, and Fate had never felt so unsettled in life. Unlike her encounter with Nanoha
Takamachi so many moons ago, she had had the advantage then over the clearly inexperienced
and unprepared girl. The tables had turned on her at last. Chrono Harlaown was much more
cunning and stronger, and his heart had been hardened by grim experience.

How to attack him? When to attack him? These questions Fate could not answer with certainty,
and the fact shook her. She could not afford to fall here, but it would be an uphill battle to escape
from this battle with any measure of victory. Strategy. Patience. An opportunity had to come
sooner or later; it just had too!

Hence, the blonde-haired girl watched without word, fearing that her voice would betray her
burgeoning anxiety, as he gave a verbal command and his short staff glowed, transforming into
an intricate playing card of some sort. Is he going to attack, now? the girl frowned. Her muscles
tensed up yet again in preparation for violence. The card had began to glow, as a standardized
Mid-Childan magic circle formed at his feet.

"If you plan to attack, now would be the moment, girl," Chrono spoke up, addressing her for the
first time.

Fate gaped. She was baffled, honestly, by the tone and contents of his words. The way the
enforcer spoke; the tone was stern, but intimate, the kind reserved for, well, she imagined siblings.
The girl witch felt both offended and endeared at the same time. J-Just...! Just what was he trying
to do? Embarrassing her and giving her advice like this.

I-It… it had to be a trap! Yes, that's right he was trying to deceive her!

"I will not be goaded so easily, you..." Fate struggled for a word, while trying to maintain her cool
appearance. She never had much practice actually talking down to her opponent, for it was in
stealth and surprise that she struck. To be put on the spot like this, so suddenly was...

"Whore?" the enforcer suggested, with a perfectly straight face, deadpan.

Never before in her life could Fate Testarossa ever recall herself doing a face fault. Bardiche
clattered onto the ground for which he could only protest in confusion with a "Sir?", as
embarrassment colored her skin redder than an apple. She had never felt so shamed in her entire
and it was all th-that that jerk in blue's fault! Naruto-kun was a much better gentleman than a
fraud like him!

"Oh, did I hit a nerve?"

"Y-You sc-scoundrel! R-Ruffian! I-idiot!"

"Waving a stick at me like a Neanderthal monkey woman and calling me names, won't change a
thing, girl."

"M-Monkey w-w-Woman!?" Fate's jaw dropped. Instantly, her complexion turned a boiling
hot shade of red, and she shook bodily, shook terribly! How dare he? How dare he? The
nerve of that – that...that—!

"Last chance; take it or leave it, as they say."

"Why, y-you-!"

Before she knew it, Fate saw red and she was charging headlong right at him, Bardiche flashing
with the Arc Saber spell to form an energy blade. Contrary to its name, her Intelligence Device
was not a poleaxe but a scythe! The enforcer, though, did not bat an eye at her imminent fury,
closing against him with pulse pounding step, which only served impetus to make her angrier.
Alas, it was too late to turn back at that point.

"Sir! Emergency! Emergen­-"

She had committed herself and not even Bardiche's words of warning could reach her.

"Sword Dancer ~ a Song of Storm and Fire..."

She ran at him, full tilt, and pounced, "TAH—!"

"S2U: SING!"


Suddenly, the sensation of being was robbed from her body: no taste, no smell, no touch, no
feeling... It was if she ceased to be, and all that was left was white and a keening white noise.
Her mind became a blank. Had she died? Was this it? The afterlife? An eternity of white and
noise? That was it? No. Not like this. It could not end like this! I want to survive. I want to
survive. I feel like...!

Fate Testarossa screamed, "I still want to live!"

And with those words, she came right back to life, crashing onto the hard pavement. Like deja
, the blonde-haired witch relived all the same agonies she suffered from the first "hard landing":
the loss of breath, pain and aches like pins and needles in her body, with the added benefit seeing
double and lots of bright lights in her vision. Fate tried to shake it off but the motion of moving her
head only stirred up feelings of nausea. It was probably better to take it slow, considering her
own limitations.

Closing her eyes for a bit, the girl thought she really ought to invest some time in learning some
healing spells, if not, then at least put in an add-on helmet to her Barrier Jacket for safety's sake!

"Sir! Sir!" Bardiche cried for her.

His concern made her smile in a way. Good old reliable Bardiche, such a worry wart, just like...
No. She must not think of the past now. And… and what was that awful smell? She felt burnt.
Smoke? Ugh, that was going to make things hard to breathe and see. Eek, and it was hot too!

Oh, Fate knew about the eternal conflict that the Imperials fought against the xenos and the
heretics. War was a fact of life in the dark future, so unlike what the Empress envisioned she
supposed, and it had been a part of her education growing up. Pictcasts and holovids, however,
had not prepared her to be face to face with the terrible awe of destruction.

Everything was burning, flame and smoke, crumbling into debris and twisted molten metal, like a
vision out from the apocalypse of a dying world. The enforcer --- he had done this...this terrible
thing! The school. How could he do so callously? Even if they were still displaced from ordinary
time, but had this world been settled by magi...

"Too late, the field is mine now, Black Witch," boomed a familiar voice, amplified by a harsh

It was him. That arrogant boy in blue!

Fate rose, her grip tight on Bardiche, "Your bravado does not impress me, Imperial Cur!

"Hard to breathe, is it not? Hot. Sweltering. And certainly not easy to see either, at least if you
decide to take to the air."

At his declaration, the blonde-haired witch felt a cold shiver run up her spine, and wildly, she
turned about as if taking in her surroundings for the first time. Oh, what a fool she had been!
Tricked not once but twice! There was nowhere to run, nowhere to even hide; the school
building was on fire and the front entrance had collapsed onto itself, and on the other floors
smoke came pouring out of the shattered windows from the burning rooms.

He had taken away her advantages, even her speed was now hampered, for she was forced to
come at him directly in a slim corridor of "safety". Ha! Safe. As if! The enforcer had blanketed
the avenue with swords, solid conventional things, each identical to the other that doubled
obviously as impromptu weapons and obstacles.

To make things even more unfair, Chrono Harlaown's Barrier Jacket had undergone a
transformation too. He had gone from a "plainclothes" officer to sporting fresh armor plating
over his normal garb, a higher armored collar, gauntlets, armored boots, a throat protector,
and—this one almost made Fate laugh—a codpiece. What a boy; he thought of everything!

But for all good humor, his choice of colors disturbed her. Gone was the blue and its place was
a velvet, sinuous black. Red like blood marked the "veins" through the insidious material, glowing
alive with luminescence to the beat of his Linker Core, or perhaps, his heart. A royal gold finish
adorned the armor plating and metals, in particular making his ostentatious helm stand out: a
mouthless, eyeless, curved, smooth, and oblong. There, a white porcelain angel, feminine,
beautiful, clothed in a flowing gown, with great wings outstretched in flight and wielding twin
swords adorned the face.

A caricature of the God-Empress? Fate bit the inside of her lip. It does not matter. Either way
Harlaown's changed from the person he was a minute ago. He is... He is not a man anymore.
This feeling... This dread... It's as if a predator, an animal...

Chrono Harlaown was a beast.

"Let us begin," he spoke, striding forwards. By some sorcery, his voice had become
disembodied, seemingly emanating from all directions, amongst the flame and smoke.

If there was a hell, then this must have been the reception lobby, minus the dead, thought the
witch to herself in consternation. Fate knew better this time than to rush in and play it by ear,
considering her options, as Chrono made a simple flick of his wrist, and one of the resting swords
obediently flew into his a grasp. A crack of activating energies followed, and the simple sword
was not encased in a magical "power field", at least by her reckoning, primitive but effective,
radiating a blue color.

"So, Irregular, what do you call yourself?" now, he addressed her directly, all business, yet
managing the same staid pace, as if he were just out for a casual stroll.

It infuriated Fate. "Irregular? Care to humor me with an explanation, Imperial Dog?"

"Irregular, an existence that is unable to comply with the accepted norms of society. You have
assaulted a contract mage, one of my subordinates, and are continuing to interfere in a critical
interdiction operation by the Time-Space Administration Bureau. You risk the lives of countless
humans and magi in a time of war by tampering with forces you do not understand. I would cite
the full list of charges, a long one it is, but that would eat away at the remaining forty-five minutes
I can hold you in this space."

What? Fort-five minutes only? Is he a fool? Why was he telling her this?

"Now, a name."

"Treue," Fate told him, her voice dripping with sarcasm, as she assumed a ready battle stance,
scythe flashing with a hum.

"Playing hard to get are we? Fine."

The dark clouded sky rumbled, as if a signal, and the enforcer broke into a run at less than
twenty paces away from her. Fate struck first, pressing forward an open gloved hand crying out
"Photon Lancer!": a golden magic circle glimmer into existence, unleashing a flurry of deadly
charged photon bolts. The last thing she expected was for the enforcer to continue his charge,
lifting a second sword, and begin to "carve" a path straight through the bolts, deflecting and
parrying them swiftly.

"Amateur! A low cost, dumb Fire-for-Effect Shooting spell that emphasizes neither bullet
velocity, stopping power, or the sheer volume of fire, won't even be a challenge to an Astartes
Scout with a power weapon."

Fate blushed beet red, the nerve of this… this boy! He gave with one hand and took away as
easily with the other, chastising her for her faults and pointing out how she ought to better her
sorcery. Just what was he getting at; did he not realize they were enemies?

So caught up in the storm of emotions, the girl witch virtually forgot to defend herself.

"Wake up!" Chrono barked harshly.

Startled back to the present, Fate gave a fearful yelp and leapt back, as the enforcer's swords
cleaved through her standing array, ending the Photon Lancer spell for good. Panicked, and
landing almost flatfooted, she fell back on instinct, swinging her fore foot about half circle to the
rear, and spun into a full back swing for maximum impact. Her black cloak billowed and fluttery,
a natural motion intended to bedazzle an opponent's eyes and decrease their ability to read her
movements. The black scythe and its golden edge sliced effortlessly through thin air.

I missed!? thought Fate stupefied, glimpsing a phantom of black and gold slipping underneath
into her blind spot.

"What are you looking at? I am right here!"

Too close for typical "Auto Guard" Defensive-type spells to activate, not that Bardiche had one
anyways, the stiff blow to her gut came hard and fast, her lightweight Barrier Jacket barely
softening the blunt strike at all. Attacking, perhaps mercifully, with the weight pommels of both
swords, the enforcer drove the wind right out of her. Fate's eyes bugged, an airless hack
coughing up spittle from her gaping mouth, as she felt her herself being lifted clean off the pavement
and thrown back. Now, suitably humbled so, the girl witch seriously began considering either:
A. adding more protection to her slim Barrier Jacket, or
B. sacrificing even more protection for an even faster form, to deal with prats like Chrono Harlaown!

Her vision bouncing double, and the HUD screen on her visor flashing red with text warnings
from Bardiche to take evasive action, Fate was determined not to let the boy get away for
striking her so. Adrenaline flooded her veins, with an angry defiance, her pain of no consequence
as she cried out in a coarse whisper:

"Bardiche: Blitz Rush!"

She vanished? thought Chrono, astonished, sweeping into a sudden halt, three-sixty, his swords
brandished against all comers. No, she had not; for a moment, he had seen the after images from
her sudden explosion of motion.

Overhead the dark heavens rumbled ominously, with thunder, as if in warning. The beauty of the
panoramic HUD display built into the regal helmet of his Sword Dancer Drive form, aside from
his near omniscient visual perception afforded from the various hidden sensors, was that people
could not judge his line of sight. Sifting through the myriad displays of tactile information available
to him, his technological "sixth sense", could be a touch tedious even to Chrono.

Granted, the task would have been overwhelming to an amateur, unfamiliar with the system he
had implemented in the interest of giving himself the best fighting chance possible. Magi were
closed off from the Warp, free of its influence, and devoid of any benefit ordinary humans would
have derived from it. Case in point, it had taken some time but the Blue Breaker noticed he
never had the peculiar instinctive, "gut reactions" that veteran Imperial Guardsmen, survivors of
hundreds of battles tended to get. Anywhere from a supernatural premonition of imminent
danger to even omens of their own impending deaths, it was an edge in combat he had been
denied, and had no choice but to compensate for.

At present, he was meticulously monitoring his motion tracker, while tilting his head to and fro
for a new vantage. Chrono knew the Irregular could not hide forever; he had seen to that,
erstwhile he had plenty of time to continue their "interrogation". The smoke would have
ordinarily given him away, as his Restriction Hexahedron had to allow some permeability, but
the undercover support personnel in the city were all in his pocket, covering his tracks dutifully
until his time was up. Even Yuuno, ever loyal and diligent, would have a hard time "sniffing" out
a trail, and since mages did not have a significant psychic imprint in the Warp, the Grey Knights
would not be able to interfere either.

Breaking the rules Chrono Harlaown would never do; bending the rules, however, was
permissible, an on occasion, absolutely necessary.

A sudden urgent chirp in his ears, accompanied by a pining indicator, prompted him to face to
his right. Down the avenue came twin glowing "Sickle Blades", spinning through the hot air, he
saw, the parabolic motion much like Eldar shuriken. They were of a different intensity from the
photon bolts, so he reckoned, waiting a moment before stepping off to his right in a spinning
sweep. His swords were at the ready, in anticipation if the attack was guided, though he trusted
his Barrier Jacket hold up no matter.

What Chrono was more worried about: if the attack were a diversion, the witch girl at last using
her brains, instead of relying on intimidation and brute force. Not so surprisingly, they missed him
wide, but a second volley came to greet him, making the enforcer pirouette just as gracefully back
to center. Another pair approach, now horizontal, and feeling a little showy, he vaulted over them
in a rolling cartwheel. By the next attack, a pair of diagonal "slashes", the Blue Breaker attested
the attacks were utterly worthless against him, sliding straight through the margin of safety in a
bottom gap between the sickle blades.

That aside, why could he not see the origin of the attacks? Chrono did not feel he was so
occupied dodging that he could not perceive where the blonde-haired witch ought to be standing,
"shooting" at him. Yet, she was not standing anywhere before him; a quick eye gesture to thermal
imaging in his HUD revealed no presence of conventionally-based "active stealth" camouflage,
either. Where had she gone?

The thunder rumbled louder, and the pitter-patter of rain began, much to his distaste. Down and
down it came, abruptly bursting into a full blown downpour; he would have to recalibrate the
motion tracker, if he was to continue hunting her with it. On the other hand, infrared would be
perfect, for the flames were dying, making the smoke even thicker, in the mean time.

Now, where are you my little witch? thought Chrono, surveying the burned out vegetation to the
right of the avenue. Cooling silhouettes of yellows, greens, and blues were visible to him, straight
through the smoke. There was nowhere to hide anymore, and sure enough, he saw...what the—?

"Arcus Cultus Aegeas..."

The Blue Breaker did not bother to finish his thought. He moved to throw himself into a roll on
instinct, praying his moment's hesitation had not cost him deeply, at seeing that girl's silhouette
being red hot. Against all good sense, she had hid in the flames, clearly with less than adequate
protection, judging by the result. However by exceeding his expectations, the black witch had
also bought herself the time she needed to amass the mana for her next spell.

"Photon Lancer - PHALANX SHIFT."

Lightning flashed, painting the scene white, and now, Chrono came to regret his hasty panic,
dearly so. Instead of evading, he should have hit her with a Struggle Bind! Amateur. His time
here on Mother Terra had made him soft. When the white passed, and he had finished his roll
into a crouch, a huge intimidating Mid-Childan magic circle of gold loomed overhead, from it
disgorged several large crackling golden spheres. They were gargantuan cousins of the smaller
bolts he had dispatched with ease earlier, save such a feat would be not so easy this time.

"Fire!" shrieked the girl witch, hoarsely.

And at her command, the sky of night turned into day, with a whistling crescendo, the golden
spheres hailing death, an avalanche cascade of deadly photons to match the needle storm of
pouring rain. Now, the Blue Breaker understood the fear his foes had suffered from his own
"rain of swords", so many shadows and lights falling upon him, mesmerizing the boy with the
seductive whisper of his imminent doom. The phrase "our arrows will blot out the sun" was
oddly fitting, though in his case, there was hardly the Moon or a sun in sight.

Time slowed for a moment. He was not out of options yet, for a visual confirmation of the
Irregular appeared in a small window in the corner of his HUD, detailing range and other tactile
particulars. A quick assessment made it clear she had suffered some burns and exhaustion was
setting in, particularly after the huge expenditure of energy for this spectacular spell. Of course,
with the capabilities of the Duelist form, Chrono could attempt to still double up and make a run
towards her, the only obviously safe location, as she would not risk bombarding herself as well to
kingdom come.

Unless… the girl honestly had no regard for her own life. In which case, he would be damned to
allow her to feed her own ego by dying so vainly. The question, though, was whether he should

Chrono knew he could afford to take some hits, and his odds of survival were much better in that
direction than out in the open. His defensive options were extremely limited in his present form,
and a standard Round Shield defensive-type spell was not going to make the cut against the
onslaught falling on his head. Sometimes he wondered if he was a little too clever for his own
good, making these specialized forms that could best deal with particular situations as they arise.

Then again, he was using the wrong "tool" clearly. The moment she had appeared, he knew his
objective was not to kill the witch, though the means to deliver such a grim judgment was well
within in his hands. Chrono's instincts told him that someone like the Black Witch was much too
young, their brief conversation proof of her worldly inexperience, to be the sole mastermind
behind this new front that had opened on his battlefield months ago. Back then, he had been far
from happy when Lord Shirou Takamachi's daughter recounted her attack by the rogue witch.
A day of reckoning, the Bureau mage knew was inevitable, especially because the fools were
after the Jewel Seeds, of which they must have already acquired some number.

"Output sixty-percent, execute..." murmured Chrono, beneath his breath.

Hence, he needed the Irregular alive. If it meant he would have to put the strength of his armor
to the test, in order to lull her into a false sense of triumph, then so be it. This game was already
in checkmate a long time ago...


It was with no amount of satisfaction that Fate Testarossa watched earth and man torn asunder,

the terrible rapid machine-gun staccato of noise and white flash. Clouds of debris and smoke
rose over the blanketed area, reduced, eroded, cratered, and leveled again by a full two minutes
of bombardment before the Phalanx Shift dispersed into a shower spent luminescent particles.
They glowed briefly, like fireflies, then disappeared altogether, as the din and light subsided too.

Again, thunder rumbled, almost as if in approval, and the rain continued to poor in sheets.

"Sir, Advise. Immediate. Withdrawal," Bardiche spoke up. "Devicer. Effiency. Less Than.
Forty-Five Percent."

"Wh-why... Why did he, hah, not run?" grated Fate, between ragged breaths, her singed red
countenance twisting in an uncharacteristic snarl.

Leaning on her staff for support, steam and wisps of smoke rose of her sooty form. She had
been burned in the flames; the disgusting stench of burnt blonde hair was plenty obvious, plastered
against her face and back, if her wounds were not enough proof already. The pain, especially
worse on her exposed skin: red, angry, painful, while blisters marked her arms. Bardiche's Barrier
Jacket she knew was lightweight, but to think the present design would offer her so little protection
against "the elements" was humiliating!

How was she to explain to her honorable mother the disgusting condition she was in? Shameful!

And as if to add injury to insult, the rain was hardly even soothing her wounds; the pain had
actually been worse, and it was continuing to irritate Fate to no end. Anger: if misery should love
company than a new friend was fast becoming familiar to it. Before, it had only arisen for that that
girl in white
but now, she had something new to hate.

That Boy, I won't lose to him; no; I won't lose to THEM!

"Come, Bardiche," seethed Fate, acidly, pushing off and staggering forwards to trudge through
the muck and ash.

The Intelligent Device gave no reply.

Smoke and dust soon gave way, but the heart wrenching sight of the shattered scene hardly
mattered to her, nor the broken swords and fragmented shrapnel. It was liken to a battlefield, the
dead unseen, and the swords like tombstones. The peculiar smell of ozone, nauseating, clung
heavily to the air, and yet, when all was gone, as if defiantly embracing his pride, the sanctioned
magi still stood, swords cracked, in hand.

Fate, nearly, tripped on the uneven ground, an aghast hiss escaping her lips, as her grip on
Bardiche tightened uncomfortably, white-knuckled, making the fabric of her gloves squeal. The
mere sight of him, wrecked, fragments of armor plates scattered about the ground, yet the Angel,
the white idol of a Goddess upon his helmet in pristine condition, untouched; that arrogance...!
Pissed. Her. Off.


Bardiche flashed, materializing the familiar golden scythe blade with an electric crackle. The
swing was crude and brutal, fueled by her raging cry, and instead of a clean cut as she had been
taught, it stabbed. Where there should have been an outpour of blood, the body staggering as
if in a gasp, Fate was rewarded with stone. It cracked, splinters spiderwebbing, before the soft
"caricature" crumbled into dust at her feet. The only thing that remained intact was the idol.

The girl shook, with a gasp, feeling ill and disgusted, inexplicably so. Must the insults, the
mockery of her resolve continue without end?!

"I said, 'ENOUGH'!" Fate screamed, crushing the idol beneath her heel.





What was good if not these? They did not understand. No one understood her, truly.

"Come out, loyalist dog!"

Why was happiness denied only to her?

"What do you want from me?!"

Why was she not deserving of strength and success then?

"Is it not clear, the differences, the vast gulf between us?"

Why was it this pompous boy could toy with her so easily, and bear no retribution for it?

"You are stronger than I; you think faster, further; you act quicker, with certainty, and only the
joy of the moment. Far more experienced you are, too. You are a Beast, toying with its prey
animal, and enjoying the mockery!"


"Then, I suppose it is about time we have a chat like civilized people."

This time, even with his steely voice disembodied, bombarding her from all directions, Fate felt,
knew where he was coming from. Whirling about, there she saw the Bureau Enforcer, striding
towards her, unscathed, poised as a leopard ready to pounce, with a sword in hand. Less than
twenty paces of ground separated them, and though she knew continuing their contest of sorcery
would be pointless, the least her magick could do was distract him!

Drawing a deep breath, the blonde-haired girl focused, gathering her remaining strength for one
last push. Fighting on alone with just her scythe would limit her options severely, but if it came to
that, she would fight on nevertheless. No, Fate sensed such an end would be the only way to
decide the battle: her raw mettle against that beast's superior cunning and might.

"Arcus Cultus Aegeas..."

"Ah, so you wish to demonstrate more of your abilities?"

"Bardiche: Lightning Bind!" cried Fate, the eyes on her black visor hissing open to reveal the
glowing red photoreceptors once more.

With a chiming acknowledgement of "Yes, Sir!" the black scythe did her bidding: a lit golden
magic appeared above and below the enforcer. The air ionized, and in a flashing instant,
accompanied by the crack of lightning, he was ensnared in a violent prison of electricity, binding
and shocking him in place. ...but the older mage did not show the slightest sign of discomfort?

"Methinks, this might be a poor moment to remark upon a small detail about myself," said the
Enforcer in perfectly conversational tones. Chrono Harlaown: how odd, she knew his name, and
likely she would not be able to protect her own much longer. "But, the true heart of my training,
combined with my many experiences, they produced an inevitable result, a grim science I happen
to excel at, unfortunately: the retiring of mages, our own kind."

Retiring? Is that what they called "Murder" these days on Mid-Childa? What an absurd
euphemism! It was so bad, a horrible joke, that Fate felt like laughing! Laughing at how
increasingly hopeless her situation became. But that was part of his games too, was it not?

"In any case, it is an impressive spell, but considering your novice control over it, I suspect you
are not the Spellcrafter of such a beautiful creation. Ergo, a little applied physics, heavy duty
insulation, and I can speak to you, as if we were having a pleasant conversation over tea, even
though you are out to fry and (or) electrocute me."

"Why do you keep on insisting with this farce? An amateurish bind like that cannot hold you. No.
It never did! Without even the assistance of an Intelligent Device, you have already unlocked the
bind. ...curse you. Come. Come at me!"

"As you wish: Dispel."

"Blitz Rush!"

Chrono shook his head, mentally, as he saw the girl witch disappear in a blur of a motion, almost
bleeding after images of herself. It was the same instant movement spell, just like before, and the
boy could not understand why his opponent did not see the folly of her own magick. Blitz Rush
afforded the Irregular an explosive instant of movement, but because of that same rapid velocity,
her eyes and brain would not be able to keep up, with the sudden acceleration. In essence, she
was hurtling through space blind, and would then arrive at a predetermined coordinate she had
planned to attack from, with a brief delay between arrival and strike...

The Blue Breaker spun about, his sword arm moved into a scathing slash.

...making her attacks...


...child's play to predict.

"U-Ugh, d-damn you!" the rogue witch spat at him. She snarled mightily as she struggled to
overpower his single arm. An angry chatter rose between the conflicting magical blade and the
powerfield of his solid-state sword.

"Try it again, if it would humor your wavering ego, but a trick like that will not work on an
individual with enhanced senses and experience. And most certainly not a rogue psyker."


"Would like to hear it? My assessment of you?"

The girl witch leapt back, twirling off her rear foot to spin her cape into a bedazzling flutter, not
that Chrono cared for such an obvious distraction. His eyes were only focused on the head of
the "snake", and oh, she was moving so painfully slow, the scythe slashing up and over, down
towards his shoulder. He rose to a whipping parry, the weapons meeting a violent clash, sparks
flying, but with his enhanced strength, he was barely phased at all, while the Irregular stumbled

"You and Takamachi Nanoha are of the same potential, the talent of Mystra is strong in you both.
In fact, I believe you two are of the same age, just two years younger than myself; quite the
natural born wunderkind, no? The difference is your experience and your willingness to go
through whatever lengths to achieve your goals. That child, the last thing she expected was to be
fighting another human being, when you near ended her life all those months ago."

"I should have killed her when I had the chance!"

The girl came again, stepping forwards and slashing from low to high—Fwhoosh!—aiming,
perhaps, to take off a limb, for her blow was shallow. Even if she missed, it still made a good
feint, so he calculated, purposefully stepping back just out of reach. Chrono, almost laughed,
when just as he thought, she reversed direction, blunt edge towards him, hoping to clip across
the head or face. It was all too easy to reach out and simply grab a hold of the shaft, stopping
her counterswing dead cold.

"Kill? Please, do not talk of murder, so lightly. Why, you owe your very life to her even at this
fated juncture. Had she been killed...I would be not so kind, now."

"Kindness, you say?!" the girl spat at him, outraged.

Chrono shoved her back a good fifteen paces, nearly sending her falling flat on her rear in the
increasingly slippery mud.

"'Treue' do you know the meaning of that name?"

"It will not matter once I have taken your head, or this barrier falls, whichever comes first!"

"Loyalty," spoke Chrono with genuine respect that he rarely ever gave, going as far as to salute,
with his sword. It was sentimentalism utterly unlike the Blue Breaker's characteristic
professionalism. "You are a wonderful, talented sorceress. I see a bright future ahead of you,
and that is why I cannot understand why you have committed these felon acts. This is a time of
waryou must realize, has been for over ten thousand years: your actions are not simply treason
against magi, but all of humanity."

The possibility existed, of course, that such a noble appeal to "hearts and minds" would not work,
but any answer or none at all was still information he could use. Whether Treue like it or not,
she was playing his game.

"You are young, and I cannot believe someone like you would wish to walk down this path, built
upon the corpses of billions. There is no happiness to be had from a false promise that feeds
upon the lives of others!"

At those words, then did the girl recoil away. He had her.

"What are you fighting for, Treue? Power? Happiness? Freedom? The Dark Powers are
nothing more but liars. Throwing your potential away so selfishly would be meaningless;
madness! Why? What sky do you perceive behind that mask? Can we not come to an

It was working all right. Heh, all the conditions have been cleared: victory was his!

"I ask of you, a question, then; what is more important: one life or the lives of many?"

Just as... What! Chrono froze, his mind reeling from the sudden interruption. It could not be!
How could she still have the mental strength to stand on her own. And this question, what was
she... "Eh, you... You are little lacking in common sense, are you not?"

"Humor me," shrugged the girl witch.

The Blue Breaker blushed, beet red, unseen beneath the ostentatious finery of his "pride". He
trembled, unable to grasp the absurdity that the situation had reversed; that possibly he was now
being played with; that he, Chrono Clyde Harlaown Le Fay, had been put into check?
Unbelievable. Impossible. How dare that… that Irregular!

"Of course, the right answer is the many!"

"Is that so? Then I must regret, but it appears pathetically so that I am not alone, because you
and I..."

Chrono felt a shiver run up his spine, a nerve-racking sweat breaking out across his brow and
neck, despite the optimized climate control he had deigned necessary to the design of his Barrier
Jacket. It could not be happening, for him of all people to come this far, only to...

"We are both liars!"

"What!" the Enforcer choked, as the girl witch took to the air.

So flabbergasted was he that Chrono forgot completely to defend himself from her parting "gift",
a golden sickle blade that came spinning right at him. The projectile caught him full in the chest,
his breath catching with a weak gurgle in his throat, exploding into flames, the force of which
cracked open the armor plates of his Barrier Jacket. He reeled back several steps, breathless,
before he regained his balance, ignoring the seven percent drop in his remaining armor points,
as an uncontrollable rage surged upwards, sweeping all of his cool reason aside.

"You, you... You foolish brat," Chrono cursed at the girl witch, "I am offering you a way out!
Rrrghhh, if we are the same, then you ought to understand. ...WHY?"

"But, there is a difference between us!"

"Hypocrite! Ungrateful wretch!"

"Wrong. Someone like you will never understand," she denied him, full of confidence that lacked
but moments ago. "Even though I suffer so much, I cry, I long, but… but if it is for that reason,
then there is no way I will ever fall. I cannot lose to someone who cannot love anyone!"

The situation was out of control, his control. Everything had been ruined because of a single
instant! What a failure. And now, that idiot girl and her stupidly intelligent device were preparing
to dive, careening right down at him on a proverbial suicide vector. What were they thinking?
What were they trying to prove? It did not make any sense. If he were not trying to take them
alive, they would be destroyed in a heartbeat. But, ah; what to do; what to do? Kill them?
Capture them? Save them?

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions...

"Kkkk...wh-what nonsense; madness! I, I...!" the boy raised a hand, trembling, and suddenly
attacked his own "face", grasping it violently. His helmet buckled and cracked, beneath the
pressure of his armored gauntlets. "D-Damn it all! Everything has been...dis-distorted!"

He was breaking; broken.

And lo, amidst such mental turmoil, Chrono Harlaown's "taboo" Mana Conversion Affinity
activated without his conscious thought, the body moving naturally to defend the agonizing heart.
Swords and daggers of assorted makes and sizes began to materialize in the air around him,
ghostly blue silhouettes of concentrated mana that solidified with an electric hum. Unlike other
magi, the Harlaown body did not possess an elemental affinity, but his talents lay elsewhere,
namely in "metal." Thus, the naming of his rare affinity by those few privy to the knowledge, a
fact the boy was far from proud of: "Alchemic Arms" Affinity.

Specifically a "blades"-type, he was a "killer" who could create his own weapons at will. Not
only that, each synthesized weapon possessed a magical "signature" of himself in the form of
runes, engraved into every blade. The archaic letters smoldered a dull red, a reflection of his
very condition, they provided a magi-link feedback function, primitive compared to more
commonly available guided shooting magicks, but effective. However, for all of its potential,
the affinity was not a talent the young Harlaown had put to practice, refining and mastering, but
an abandoned thing that reared its ugly head to prove its own existence.

That is why they were all black and twisted, wavering in the air, murderously, like rabid hounds
the raged against their chains.

"Sh, shoot her. Shoot her down!"

Their runes burned molten red at his command, and the blades shot off, slicing through air and
rains as effortlessly as arrows. Being magick'd swords, though, they were not inclined to obey
the rudimentary concepts of ballistics. Each had their own "pace" and velocity. Daggers danced
and flitted, like couples at a ball, pirouetting together and exchanging off to different partners.
Tumbling knives, the acrobats, jumped and twirled, faster still. The swords charged straight on,
swiftest, some snaking like snakes, others twisting into wide spirals, breaking and reforming

"...I, I do not know how to deal with this..."

Oh, she was terrified all right, anxious, and fearful, just like the time she fought the scythe-wielding
Astartes all those months ago. But things were different this time, there was much more at stake
than just the success or failure of her mission. Fate Testarossa was betting her everything on this
battle; she had to beat this boy no matter what, a renewal of her promise, her resolve. The
enormity of the moment, her stage, empowered her with an excited energy, a reckless confidence
that utterly erased her feelings of despair, and the exhaustion in her body. Here, and now, she
would make her stand!

Fate smiled, "Let's go, Bardiche!"

"Yes. Sir!"

Together, they dove straight into the oncoming symphony of blades, accompanied by the din of
thunder. Rain and wind melted into one in their rapid descent, the girl urging her device to go
faster and faster to meet the vanguard of Chrono Harlaown's deadly spell, all that separated him
from Bardiche's bite. Through the enhanced vision of her HUD, the swords and daggers were all
marked with target reticules, making them plain as day to see.

The first wave was the charging swords, fastest, but also easiest to dodge: Fate rolled to her right,
and banked sharply down to the left slipping past underneath them, for their speed sacrificed
maneuverability. Behind them came the bizarre motion of their other colleagues, slower and more
difficult to deter. They, also, the black witch met head on, opening a gap for herself by bashing the
"snakes" that got too close and rolling into the outside of the "spirals" radius.

Two down, two to go, and the ground was fast approaching. The acrobatic knives, moving
much slower, much more numerous than their fellows, but it was their movements that was
troubling. They had a tendency to tumble and twirl in place, before jumping suddenly into rapid
motion. Much too small and many for her to deal with individually, not to mention her own
depleting strength, Fate hoped Bardiche was up to the task.

"Emergency! Incoming," he cried out in alarm. "Above! Behind!"

The girl did not bother to look, for it was obvious she had assumed wrong that the swords could
not correct their vectors, quickly. But it did not matter, Fate was determined to breakthrough.

"Bardiche: Defenser - maximum output!"

"Yes. Sir!"

With an activating hum, a luminescent golden sphere of protection enveloped her, as she made
to crash straight through the knives. Predictably, they turned on her in a flash, stabbing, and with
vicious whistling thuds buffeted against her barrier. Though they could not harm her, but by
strength of numbers, they were delaying her, slowing her down. It was then, the swords struck,
a fury like thunder backlit by white lightning. Each blow was like a hammer, causing splinters
and cracks in the defenser's shell, as they were deflected off with a bass ring, dropping her

So close, Fate could see the Enforcer, nearly within her striking distance, but she had to...

Suddenly, a wicked shriek, like breaking glass, assaulted her ears, and a black bladed sword slid
dangerously close to her face. The girl witch bit back a gasp, just noticing the weapon had been
stopped at the hilt, but there was hardly a moment for relief, an ugly rapid rapport followed: she
was falling. The swords and knives combined were driving her straight into the waiting mud below!

"Warning. Barrier. Integrity. Failing."

"I know!" said Fate, as another sword came dangerously close to "kissing" her cheek. Cracks
were spider webbing rapidly across her field of vision; the defenser shell, straining with a pitiful

They were crashing, just right at the edge of the dancing daggers in orbit around Chrono Harlaown,
his last defense line. Fifty paces to go: could she make it in just one movement? What if... no,
there was no "If"; she would make it. Wait for it... Wait for it... Now!

"Bardiche: Jacket Purge!"

On command, her Barrier Jacket detonated in a flash of white, consuming the weapons in her
immediate vicinity. Like the shattering of glass, smoke and fire, an enveloping cloud, followed in
the wake of the thunderous explosion. Fate came hurtling out a tense moment later, sans cape,
as she had only enough mana left to spare to restore the critical components of her Barrier
Jacket, glowing white as they reformed. However, in her blind haste, she underestimated the
immediate threat of the dancing daggers.

Abruptly, the girl witch felt a mass catch into her face, tearing viciously with a broken crackle.
Stunned by surprise, she tumbled onto the muddy ground in a heap of limbs, gasping. Blindly Fate
groped for Bardiche in desperation, with a whimper, thinking she had been blinded. She found
him luckily enough, and struggled back up to her feet, fresh adrenaline keeping pain at bay, as she
reached up to her face that felt so cold and wet.


Fate opened her eyes. She rejoiced for she realized she had not been blinded, and she quailed for
she realized, too, with stark terror, she had been unmasked!

Thunder boomed, ominously, as the dark roiling sky flashed. Fate was aware that the flutter of the
dancing daggers had stopped, the pitter patter of rain, punctuated with a metallic ring, let her know
that she was surrounded utterly, and from above as well.

"Check...mate...," hissed a strained voice, breathing harshly.

The clatter of a sword made it plain to see who he was, but his voice, the shambling gait to which
he approached her, something was different --- wrong. No. Fate shook her head to clear herself
of such foolish doubts, and lowered her gaze, hoping to distort her countenance just a little,
anything to give him a few moments pause before recognizing her nevertheless. Right now, she
needed every edge she could get.

"...Victory, perfectly."

Why? Why had he stepped right into her striking range?

"Kill. Kill. Kill! ...once everything is broken; my pain will, I-I will!"

Her scythe flashed on high, at the ready, simultaneously as the dancing daggers began to spin,
emitting a keening noise no different from a powered saw. They began to dance, circling, a waltz
of death, tolling the imminent execution of the guilty. Be Just or Be Dead: who would survive?

"My love I give for your pain: Mother, please, watch me!"



It hurt.

Mystra, damn, it hurts!

He slipped onto the rain slick road, dying red.


Behind traffic lights, benches, and store fronts were sliced into a blissful oblivion of crashing metal
and debris. Unattended cars fell apart neatly into rows of sliced bread, before detonating into a
gun parade of flames. Everywhere he walked, they followed, a honor guard of blades: swords,
daggers, anything with a killing edge a murderer could ask for. They were all mad things, weeping
molten black metal, malformed, and screaming a horrible whining cacophony that shattered glass
and twisted metal.

"Stop screaming!" howled Chrono Harlaown against the thundering dark sky, fallen to his knees.

His memory was all kinds of jacked up. He could remember what happened in the last few
minutes of his encounter, just a scythe, a face, a flash, agony, fire and noise, and here he was
wandering through the streets: a wreck of mortality, burnt, cut, stabbed, riddled with metal
fragments still protruding from himself, bleeding! Ughhh... Calm down. Calm down!
Concentrate. He had to concentrate on healing the worst wound in his...side.

It was bad. B-Bleeding. Why could he not stop... The glowing blue Physical Heal array
plastered over the sucking wound was operating at maximum output, but even now precious
droplets of coppery red were slipping past his gauntlet-clad hand, dribbling onto the asphalt.
Damnation! Why? How deeply had he been struck?

"So cold. So Cold!"

Anger, he felt; red hot rage. He could not accept this! The proud noble drove the chipped silver
sword in his right into the road, its still operable power field igniting, driving the blade like a hot
knife to butter. He made to rise, to keep walking, and yet his strength failed him, infuriating, not
able to even stand up from one knee!

"No. No! Not like this!" the blue-haired boy ground his teeth in frustration.

Revenge. There was much bittersweet vengeance yet to be carried out on all those who had
wronged him, wronged Mother, wronged Father, and shamed the good name of his House! The
Imperials. The Inquisition. The heartless politicians and military officials. Uzumaki Naruto!
They all must, must...! That is why he could not...


Chrono fell flat on his face. He stared, wide-eyed. His magick'd sword had broken.


With a terrible death throe, the screams stopped, and all that was left --- was the rain and the
whispers of ghost, ambition.

" cold."

His tattered Barrier Jacket along with his sword disintegrated into a shower of white, sparkling,
as he was left with his blue dress uniform in its place. The invasive cold bit even deeper into his
weakening limbs, now, barely responsive, but struggling, every inch of the way, superhuman
effort, the Bureau commander righted himself once more onto one knee.

"Heh-ah ha ha ha, this is a horrible joke, if any, O Mysteries."

Seething, the boy hobbled towards the curb where a bench, with an attached small plexiglas
shelter, stood impassively. It was an agonizing effort, but it gave him the time to reflect, and think
back. What happened? Fragments. So many fragments to sort out.

"That idiot. Girl, ugh. Sp, spouting senti-mental, gah, crap at a crucial time like that, ugh...!
Unbelieve-able, the ner, nerve... But, am I, I, ghk,an idiot too? Sh, should I ha-have been...
If I had been more...honest. Then?

Blackening. His vision. Dark. Cold. Lethargy. Had to say... Warm... Keep talking. Sleep
and the spell, would stop...

"That girl and I... we are the same: liars,but... we are fighting... for the same kind of... person, eh?"

Ugh? How much time had passed? There. The Bench! Reaching out with a pained snarled, he
pulled himself up and over, to sit out of the rain. His mission... The mission... Well, it, it had not
been a complete waste had it?

"Mother... I-I know, 'tis a bad...time. But, I m-met a girl today... and I think, I h-have, hgghkk,
f-fallen in love with her, j, just a l-little."

A scythe. A face. A flash. Burgundy Red Eyes. Blonde Hair. Black. Beautiful. Courageous.

"Her name is...Fate Testarossa, heh. The looking, more... interes-ting, do\you...not…
think so..."

Daemon, my thanks to you for finding something so precious; shame, I will have to save your
reward for another day. It is just...too cold today


As that battle progressed, events of a different sort took place within the city. Elsewhere, upon a
select street, ten armored figures stood in anxious peace. The city had been cleansed thoroughly
of the parasites, the rapid deployment of the Grey Knights and Sisters of Battle instrumental in
cutting off the spread before the beasts could establish a foothold. Now, they were responding to
a strange call, a report of sorts that a high-ranking Bureau officer would be making landfall very
soon. While this information was not entirely important to the Astartes or Sororitas, it was
considered prudent of them to at least know whom is stepping upon hallowed ground.

The ship in question seemed to glide towards the planet surface, expressing a gracefulness unseen
in the rugged technology of Mankind. It was Eldar-like in elegance, almost artistic in both design
and function. As the soldiers watched on, the ship floated to the ground and seemed to touch the
ground with barely a sound. What stepped off the ship first was no real surprise to them: a green-
haired lady dressed in the blue uniform of the Time-Space Administration Bureau's dimensional
navy. The insignias on her uniform told her rank of Admiral, and the marks on her forehead spoke
of incredible magical power. Following the admiral was another woman, likely her assistant.
Brown hair, brown eyes, she was relatively unremarkable compared to her superior, but even
the most humble of soldiers could hide great power. What followed those two, however, was of
the greatest shock.

Gunmetal grey Terminator armor, the mightiest powered exoskeletal armor of the Space Marines.
These hulking brutes clomped noisily down the ship's ramp, an eclectic variety of weapons cradled
within their massive gauntlets. Powerswords, storm bolters, power fists, and stranger weapons
still; these Space Marines were not the typical Chapter… No, the very symbol upon their
shoulders proved their existence and their names, the force they represented. Quite so, they were
abnormal Space Marines.

And excommunicated traitors.

"Relictors?!" In an instant, five storm bolters, a blessed bolter, a musket, a cannon, two hand
flamers, an incinerator, and a psycannon were brought to bear upon the newly arrived, immediately
sparking a similar response. Bolters, flamers, plasma weapons, even a Chaos Kai Gun were
readied in light of this tension. Ancient foes met once again upon the deceptively peaceful lands
of this planet.

The Admiral's contempt was clear, her words thick with disdain as she addressed her so-called
welcoming committee. "Hmph. I see that you Space Marines are quick to judge as usual. Lower
your weapons, immediately. I will suffer no threat to my men."

"Speak your orders elsewhere. We do not listen to those that associate with heretics," the bold
baritone of the Grey Knight Captain was harsh in its vox-cast tone.

"You would dare to talk to me in such a manner?" the woman narrowed her eyes as the air
around her wavered, saturated with magic power.

"You would dare to believe that you hold power here? Your rank does not apply to us, Magi,"
Dinah answered this time, her golden eyes glowing with hidden power.

Tense seconds ticked by, neither groups budging. One could feel the electricity in the air, the
tension so thick not even a lascannon could pierce it. The Imperial soldiers were outnumbered by
far, but their zeal would carry them beyond the frailties of flesh; similarly, the Mages had force on
their side, but their ardor paled in comparison to Imperial fanaticism. Either side could win, or
perhaps face mutual destruction…

"Admiral Lindy Harlaown, Duchess of Le Fay in Avalon," the cool voice of Shirou Takamachi
sliced through the tension, he and his men arriving a little dirty but none worse for wear. They took
a position across from the two groups, creating a sort of triangle of force. In this way, they could
easily address all parties. Oh, and speak to them. "'Tis an honor to meet one such as you upon
my home, though you must forgive me if I am not as well prepared as I should be. Current events
have been… rather hectic. My name is Shirou Takamachi, the appointed governor of this planet."

To say Lindy was pleased at the new arrival would to be untruthful, but she did feel more apt to
speak with a governor than uncooperative Space Marines. "Ooh? So you know of me, good sir?
Then perhaps you are more suited to parley with whilst these brutes threaten my men."

"My lady, please, this is neutral territory. I will tolerate no unnecessary violence spurned by pride
from either groups," Shirou spoke smoothly, well aware of his stormtroopers around him. While
they seemed lax, the veterans were ready at a moment's notice to attack BOTH sides. "The only
side I will favor is the one who doesn't shoot."

"Is that so? I had not expect you to be so receptive of both Imperial and Bureau presences. Most
locations tend to be prejudiced towards either party depending on the assigned governor, and
considering the special situation this planet represents, I would have expected a slight bias."

"While I understand your position, Captain Gabriel is still a Captain of the Grey Knights, and
Sister Dinah is a Sister Superior Celestine. They hold significant rank, just as we. I ask that you
do not antagonize them, and I will ensure that they not break the peace either."

"By antagonize do you mean defend ourselves? We have done no crime to warrant such hostility."

"Good Duchess, please do not assume the right because you've not raised arms first. While I
care not for the squabbles between Space Marines, I do know enough that they do not simply
point bolters at people without good reason. In their eyes, at least."

"…" Gabriel remained silent, his focus centered on the group of branded heretics. It was known
that several Space Marine chapters had ties to the Mages, but for excommunicated chapters?
This information could severely damage the already strained relationship between the two galactic

"Are you of the Imperium or are you of the Mages, Lord Takamachi?" Lindy asked suddenly.

"Neither. I am of this planet, Mother Terra, and of this city, Yokohama. I seek to maintain peace,
and having two aggressive forces point bolters at each other due to fault of existence is not what
I seek here."

"I see... While I do respect your desire for a peaceful resolution, I am afraid I cannot have my men
lower their arms first."

"If neutrality can be reached, then perhaps you can have your men return to your ship? Your care
will be my responsibility, then."

"Surely you jest!" Lindy looked at Shirou with both shock and amazement. "To send my honor
guard away just to appease ten dogs of the Imperium? Perhaps you should convince me better,
good governor."

"Their very presence is the problem; surely you realize this? There's no point to negotiation in
demanding everything and give nothing in return. The Imperium's mission here does not offer them
the time to perform witch hunts – their lots are heavy enough. Please, Admiral. You need not
worry – so long as I have breath, I will not allow any harm or disrespect be levied upon you.
This, I swear."

"…" the Admiral spoke no words as she contemplated Shirou's words. She held no significant
advantage here, but to dismiss the Relictors was to show subservience and be rid of a good deal
of force. At the same time, it would spurn great favor with the governor here in addition to
showing the Imperials that they could do nothing to harm them. Also, any problems that arise
would be theirs to deal with… "Very well then. I will agree to those terms, but understand that
any breach of contract or harm upon my person or my crew will be known through the entire

"Then, Captain Gabriel, Sister Dinah, if you please?" the Rogue Trader asked politely, but not
without an underlying edge to his tone.

There was a brief moment of tense silence, the Astartes and Sororitas unmoving in the

"Stand down, Grey Knights," Gabriel ordered, his storm bolter lowering and his body shifting
into a non-aggressive stance. Immediately his team followed suit, showing little hesitation at
lowering their weapons. The Sisters of Battle mirrored these actions, their own weapons coming
down to rest.

This act alone sowed confusion amongst the excommunicated Marines – were these true Grey
Knights? That they showed obedience than zealous action? How unreal! How utterly bizarre!
These were the most devoted, the most faithful! Did they not hold hate for them? No… the hate
was most definitely there, shining brightly though their knightly helmets. Though their weapons
were down, the Grey Knights were most certainly still ready to strike in an instant. And these
Sisters! Amongst the greatest in faith, yet they too sought peace than war in the face of officially
excommunicated "heretics?"

The Relictors were shaken to their very core at this truly puzzling behavior.

Had any of the men known better, they would have noticed a subtle change in Lindy's disposition.
In some small amount, her respect for these Imperial servants grew – perhaps they were not blind
dogs after all. In a way, she had to admire their fearlessness. Now, it was her turn to reciprocate,
lest she seem the antagonist here. "Sergeant, have your men relax and return to the ship. I believe
I will be safe on my own here. These Grey Knights and Sisters of Battle have shown to hold
honor over zeal."

"As you wish, milady," a heavy voice rumbled from the heavy Terminator armor, waving a worn
Lightning Claw to his troops. Slowly, almost hesitantly, the Relictors relaxed their aggressive stance.
With similar uncertainty, they marched back onto the ship.

Nodding his approval, Shirou turned his full attention on the lady before him, "Now then, Lady
Harlaown. You came to talk?"

"Must they be here as well, Lord Takamachi?" emerald eyes flitted briefly to the ten Imperial
servants. They lingered still, watching her with suspicious eyes. Surely she did not make a mistake
by putting her trust in the governor, and by association, them.

"While I represent this planet, they represent the Imperium. As such, they are responsible for any
topic that may include them. However, they are also accountable for their actions and the
repercussions that may stem from them. As of now, they are their own entity, separate from me."

"I see. Such loyal dogs."

Amidst the two's discussion and occasional thinly-veiled insult and contempt of his group, Gabriel
remained silent. His council was not needed here, but rather his ears. He would listen, and he
would ignore the mockery, for he had no need for pride. His and his men's work was holy and
just, and the opinions of two mattered not to him. How troublesome it was to constantly bow
before these two, especially the Mages, but it was of no real frustration.

Behind the Captain, Justicar Raphael turned his head slightly and stared towards the roof of a far
off building. Something was off, here; every sense within told him that they were all being watched.
Try as he might, however, he could see nothing.

"Did you see something, brother?" came the whispered vox of Justicar Michael.

The spearman did not reply immediately, instead maintaining his gaze upon the roof. Yet in all
this time, there was not a single sign. "…No. I thought I did, but I only witness the evening sky."


"What the hell? Did he see me?" an azure-haired beauty whispered in the confines of her
powered armor.

Sheathed in a bubble light-refracting magic, the large suit of armor was similar to its Imperial
counterpart, though it eschewed protective ability for greatly enhanced speed. In comparison, this
armor was sleeker, more elegant, and in ways seemed to have Eldar influence in its design. Red in
color, the armor would set it roughly equal in height to a Space Marine, and often, just as heavily
armed as one.

One of such weapons was aimed directly at the cluster of Grey Knights, their leader, and the
supposed Imperial representative of this planet. With but a single errant twitch of her hand, the
entire group of Imperial dogs would be but a memory, and all this silly business would be done
with. Yet as she centered the crosshairs upon one particular Grey Knight, he turned his head to
stare directly at her, those electric blue visors piercing even through her scopes.

"Did he? No… he couldn't have seen me… Goddamn that was spooky," the pilot muttered once
again. When he turned his gaze away, the pilot released a breath she didn't know she was holding.
Damn…! She never did like how psykers worked…

"Lieutenant, the shuttle is returning with the Relictors inside. What is going on down there?" the
ship's communications officer tried his best to keep the worry out of his voice.

"This is Lieutenant Klan Klein. No problems here. They're just talking, that's all," she reported.

"Roger, lieutenant. Maintain overwatch."

"That's what I plan on doing. Out."

Author's Notes:

My god. I have no excuses. That's all I can say. The next chapter will be out at a far faster rate,
I promise.

Until next time.

I'll take this time to thank my beta / partner / James "Ray" Edwards. His work and assistance is
highly appreciated, and I probably wouldn't have gotten this far without him. I will also take this
moment to direct you to his current story: Mahou Shounen Enforcer Chrono! It's constantly
updated and definitely a good read.