A/N: yes, it's been a while. I know. Maybe if people reviewed more…
JOIN THE NEGIMA FANFICTION THREAD AND THE 2814 DISCUSSION THREAD ON TVTROPES, WE'RE REALLY, REALLY BORED!
Also, please leave lots of reviews. And answer the poll on my user page. And wiki magic the TvTropes Page. Please?
Takamachi Nanoha of 2814
by Shadow Crystal Mage
Chapter 27: She Comes! She Comes! The Queen of the Night Sky!
Disclaimer: I own none of the characters in this story. If I did… well, this would all be canon. WARNING: MAY CAUSE HEAD EXPLOSION!
Chibi-Usa— though not so chibi anymore— had, for old time's sake, competed with her mother over who could finish off three Chocolate Overkill Omnicides before making excuses to go to the bathroom.
"Yup, she's gone," Setsuna confirmed half an hour later. "I didn't pick up anything, so it's likely she just teleported out instead of going back to the future."
Usagi scowled. "That brat! She stuck us with the bill for her ice-cream!"
"She learned her lessons well," Rei said snidely. Usagi gave her an evil look.
Gilgamesh was still trying to wrap his head around Chibi-Usa's command. "I'm supposed to associate with common mongrels?" he repeated yet again. "That's… that's…"
"Careful," Mamoru reminded mildly. "I'm a 'common mongrel'."
"With all due respect your Majesty, no," Gilgamesh said. "You are the King of Earth, and proper wielder of its might."
"Hmm…" Mamoru hummed thoughtfully. "Then if I can put up with it, so can you."
Gilgamesh twitched. "I was afraid you'd say that…" he muttered. "Gah! If your Majesty can endure it, then so must I!"
"It's not exactly something that needs to be endured," Mamoru said, fighting not to smile. "I barely even notice it."
"Besides, Gil-kun," Usagi said, ignoring Gilgamesh's twitch-and-start at the overly-familiar designation. "You told us you were summoned ten years ago! Shouldn't you be used to people by now?"
"I was busy," he muttered, not looking at her.
"Doing what?" she asked guilelessly.
At this point, the universe decided to give him a break.
An indistinct beeping sound filled the air. Everyone but Gilgamesh checked their gadgets.
"Mine," Ami said, and everyone settled down. She pulled up the Mercury Computer, and stiffened. "Oh dear. It's time."
"Oh, Trope-tan Organization the TV already?" Minako asked. She pointed dramatically. "To my house!"
"It's a message from the TSAB from Green Lantern-chan," Ami said.
"Who?" Usagi asked.
"The space wizards."
"Oh! Got it."
"It says she's found the Wolkenritter and their Mistress and needs backup," Ami read.
Haruka's hand tightened on the table's edge. The wood creaked. "Where?" she growled.
Michiru, Hotaru and Setsuna exchanged looks. "Haruka dear," Michiru said sweetly. "You wouldn't happen to be planning to get back at the Wolkenritter for how they took our… Linker Cores, was it?"
"We are perfectly capable of getting back at them ourselves," Setsuna said.
Hotaru nodded. "We can do our own ass kicking."
Haruka pouted at them, then turned to Mamoru. "Is this what it's like to be you all the time?" she asked.
"Welcome to my world," Mamoru said.
Usagi blinked in confusion. "Huh?"
Ami coughed. "So, are we going or what?"
Usagi stood up and pointed dramatically. There was a lot of that going on. "Minna-san! Henshin!"
"Hai!" the Senshi all chorused and ran out the door.
As everyone in the ice-cream parlor blinked at them, Mamoru languidly raised a hand. "Check please."
Gilgamesh stared flatly at the door the Senshi had left through, then glared at the other customers. "And these mongrels don't see anything suspicious in that?"
"Usagi just ate three Chocolate Overkill Omnicides," Mamoru said as he paid.
Gilgamesh gave that some thought. "Ah. Understandable." He glanced at the door again. "Should we hurry after them?"
"No, they'll remember they have no idea how to get to Uminari on their own eventually."
Tokyo's population is huge, and while it's not exactly as cramped as people think it is, it's still pretty hard for eleven people to find some place to transform without being seen.
"Gah!" Rei growled half an hour later. "How's a Magical Girl supposed to find a place to change around here?-!"
"Well, it IS the dinner rush," Ami pointed out. "Even the toilets are full."
"What we need is a convenient distraction…" Haruka mused.
Makoto recoiled, crossing her hands over her chest protectively. "You're not pouring water on my blouse again, Haruka!"
"Curses. Foiled again," Haruka said blandly.
Gilgamesh tilted his head, turning to stare into an alley. "Invaders…" he hissed.
Mamoru quirked an eyebrow, peering into the alley. It didn't seem like anything special. "You sure?"
"Yes," Gilgamesh said distastefully, then seemed to remember himself. "I mean, yes, your Majesty. I beg forgiveness for my impertinence."
Mamoru sighed. "Oh, this will take a while… your brother was like this too…"
Gilgamesh twitched slightly at those words. "Shall I dispose of the Invaders, your Majesty?"
Mamoru paused thoughtfully. "Actually… yes."
The sight of monsters getting their asses kicked wasn't unknown to Juuban, though said monsters tended to be shapely, pseudo-feminine things— which had led to a small fetishist community that most other nerds and otaku put down there only a few notches above furry fetishists, Twilight fans and Ishihara, mainly because some youma actually WERE hot, and the cute star-eyed one who worked at the restaurant not far from the Hino shrine was actually quite a nice girl who Sailor Mars sometimes came to visit— rather than briefcase-toting zombies who looked like salarymen from hell. People at least knew enough to run for at least a block and not enter any buildings when this happened.
The guy in gold armor was new though.
"Vile, disgusting pustule on this already blistered, gangrenous athlete's foot of a species! You defame humanity's already pathetic level with your odious existence! As the king of— er, that is, as the faithful vassal of the future king of this wretched, pathetic world, I execute you, IN THE NAME OF ENDYMION! Noble Phantasm: Gate of Babylon!"
As prototype Noble Phantasms lashed out at the hapless Invaders, Mamoru sweatdropped. "He'll… need some work," he said, before transforming with the others. No one was watching now…
Haruka rolled her eyes. "Oh, admit it. You're getting an ego rush from this."
Tuxedo Kamen thought about this and raised a hand, thumb and forefinger about an inch apart.
They all leapt up to the building they had agreed would be the meeting point, and even from all the way up there, they could hear Gilgamesh exclaiming.
"Be thankful, you pathetic wretches, to His Majesty Endymion for this rescue of your pathetic lives! That he would deign to send you any form of aid is infinitely more than you deserve! Pay tribute to him and— what do you specks think you are doing? Are you SHOOTING at me? You DARE point your pathetic, mass-produced, soulless weapons at my noble personage? I will—"
Tuxedo Kamen facepalmed. "Be right back," he said, jumping back down as the girls giggled.
There was a yelp along the lines of "My ear, my ear!" and Tuxedo Kamen crying, "We're reforming him, I'm sorry if he said anything, well, bye!" and a few moments later, the guys were back on the roof, one gloved hand tugging on one padlock-sized earring on one ear.
"For future reference, Gilgamesh-kun, while your distraction was more than adequate, we don't call the people we're trying to protect things like 'pathetic' and the like. Such name-calling is usually a hallmark of our enemies, which is why those police officers thought you were evil," Tuxedo Kamen lectured.
As Gilgamesh opened his mouth to retort, Tuxedo Kamen raised a hand. "And I don't care if you think they're just commoners. We've had this conversation before already. Now, Chibi-Usa said you had a way of getting us around?"
Gilgamesh grimaced at the interruption, clearly unused to it, but bowed, fist bumping the chest of his golden armor. "I live to serve, you Majesty," he said, and raised his hand. "Noble Phantasm: Gate of Babylon!"
The air behind him rippled, becoming slightly hazy, and from it drifted out an enormous vehicle, shining gold and emerald in the light of the setting sun. Beneath it spread emerald wings like a butterfly, shining with an aura of power. The Senshi all stared. Sailor Uranus started salivating at the sight.
"Feast your eyes upon my treasure, the Vimana!" Gilgamesh proclaimed proudly. "Fueled by quicksilver and the sun, it travels at the speed of thought, able to break the laws of physics themse—"
"It's a stripped down Vyma-class scout flier, conspicuously missing the safety canopy," Sailor Uranus said, sounding partly in a trance. "The standard pilot seat's been replaced, and the weapon mounts have been stripped, but its engines have been modified, and augmented by additional thrusters." Her knees were shaking, and there was a nearly carnal hunger in her voice.
Sailor Neptune gave her a piercing look.
Gilgamesh, meanwhile, was looking quite put upon for having his speech interrupted. A lesser man would have been pouting. "Er… yes… well…"
Tuxedo Kamen came up behind Gilgamesh. "Did you do that? The modifications?"
"Kings do not toil as menials," Gilgamesh snapped out of reflex, though he looked self-conscious, and there was a different note to his pride. It was not the pride of possession— not just— but the pride of accomplishment.
Tuxedo Kamen rolled his eyes. "Hmm… I seem to remember legends of you building city walls…" He looked up at the hovering Vimana. "Permission to come aboard, captain?"
Gilgamesh bowed. "My treasure is at your service, your Majesty…" He straightened. "Where do we fly?"
Tuxedo Kamen looked out into the horizon. "Mahora Academy."
"Can I drive?" Sailor Uranus asked.
24/12 - Mahora
"Look Mercury, it's perfectly simple," Chisame was saying into her computer with strained patience. "There's a REALLY big tree here. Under it is a stage. That's where we're waiting for you guys to pick us up."
She listened for a while, then said, "No, I'm being VERY specific! A big tree! There is no way you will NOT see it!"
"And so Chisame finds a whole new way to lose it," Haruna commented as she and the others stood a little distance away, lest they be caught in the ensuing fallout. The sky was turning purple as the sun touched the horizon, and already the lights of Mahora can come on, highlighting it's european architecture. In the area of the stage, however, all was dark, the lights distant, the closest sources the floodlights that highlighted the World Tree.
"Are you guys sure we shouldn't come along?" Yuuna said, standing with Makie, Misora, Kazumi, Natsumi, Ako, and Akira, twirling her Artifacts.
Negi nodded. "I know you girls want to help, but you haven't trained enough for something like this. I'll be able to rest easier not having to worry about you."
Misora raised hands, smiling widely. "Hey, fine with me. I don't want to risk dying the day before the dance anyway. I'm sure you guys can save the world on your own. Again."
"Coward," Yuuna said.
"Guilty," Misora chirped happily.
"I still think it's HORRIBLY unfair Nodoka gets to go and I don't," Makie pouted.
"Hey, she's Eva-qualified," Asuna said. She looked sideways at Nodoka, who was adjusting her white hood. "Besides, if we don't let her, she's just going to pop out of a bush next to the enemy and ask them their name anyway."
"I only did that once!" Nodoka protested as the others chuckled. "Once!"
"Can't Ako just give us a shot in the butt?" Yuuna asked.
The others staying behind looked at each other.
"Well, I suppose I need to train more," Makie said.
"Wouldn't want to over-use my Artifact," Ako coughed. "Might be bad."
"I get enough attempts to stick something in my butt already," Natsumi shivered.
Haruna grinned at Kotaro. "Aw, I didn't know you were into THAT sort of thing. Dawg!"
Kotaro blinked at her in confusion, then turned to a blushing Natsumi, who was fussily wrapping a white scarf around his neck, Kamen Rider style. "She's saying we're doing something dirty, isn't she?"
Natsumi, glaring at Haruna, nodded.
"But we're not?" Kotaro continued.
Natsumi's blush deepened. "No," she said.
Haruna huffed. "Oh, you're no fun."
Setsuna, meanwhile, was futilely trying to convince Konoka to stay behind. "Please be reasonable, Oujo-sama! I'm sure we'll be fine if you stay behind."
Konoka flounced huffily. She didn't usually do that, but she'd been meaning to try since she'd read the phrase last night. "Oh, Set-chan, it'll be all right. If Nodoka can go, I don't see why I can't."
"Oujo-sama!" Setsuna practically whined in protest. "Be reasonable!"
"Now, now, Set-chan, I'm just making things easy on you," Konoka said, adjusting Setsuna's nekomimi. "How will you protect me if I'm not there?"
"There's all sorts of things wrong with that logic," Yue muttered, straightening out her helmet.
"Look, IT'S A REALLY BIG TREE!" Chisame was yelling. "Yes, the one from the brochures! Yes, it's really big! LOOK, JUST LOOK FOR IT, OKAY!"
With a growl, Chisame slapped her laptop closed, making her sprites wince. "Chisama-sama is angry!" they moaned.
"Oh, shut up," she muttered. She gave Negi a sideways glare. "I'm not coming with you guys, okay?"
"I understand, Chisame-san," Negi said, pulling his gloves up his forearms. They glowed, helping him control his Magia Erebea. While having it as part of him made things easier, it put a horrific drain on his magic, and in a fight he couldn't spare the concentration to keep it in check, and while he no longer risked becoming consumed by the technique, going berserk was still a very real danger. He'd already done the experiment that proved he lost his regeneration if his magic dipped too low, and was not eager to repeat the experience. "I know you'd help if you could, but in a fight like this, it's better you stay back."
"Don't worry, Chisame-san," Chachamaru said softly, adjusting the new sensor array Hakase had made her, which coincidentally also doubled as a mask for her whole face, with an emitter to reroute her eye beams through. "We will make sure no one is harmed. Everything will be for the best."
Chisame sniffed tsunderely. "'Not worry', she says," the hacker muttered. "'For the best'. You know, it's weird you're the one making assurances like that. Sci-fi robotic conventions are taking a beating. Whatever happened to 'this does not compute, illogical'!-?"
Chachamaru never lost her reassuring smile. "Sometimes, a little faith is needed. The world does not run on computations and logic."
Chisame sighed. "Faith… Asimov was dead wrong…"
"I think the sides of this conversation got switched somehow…" Yue said, smiling slightly.
Ku sighed. "Eh! More big words-aru! Always with the philosophical talky-aru!"
"Now, Ku, while we might be satisfied with being Baka Rangers, you know not everyone thinks that way," Kaede chided, her Artifact tied around her neck, part of it pulled up over her mouth to act as a mask, her Identity Obfuscation Glasses glinting.
Ku huffed. "Get to fight scene bits already-aru!"
Chachamaru perked up, tilting her head. "Detecting sub-audible, sustained aerial disruption," she said. "87 percent probability of sonic boom." Her antennae unfolded, revealing an array of sensor rods. "Aerial vehicle detected, closing in fast. ETA, 37 seconds."
Chisame's laptop pinged. She didn't even bothering opening it, instead drawing her Artifact. "Yes, THAT tree!" she snapped at nothing in particular before making a curt severing gesture.
Soon a roaring sound cut through the air, a sustained crack that was quite obviously some kind of sonic boom. Something flew over the city at an appreciable factor above the speed of sound, the sonic boom making some people jump.
"There!" Yuuna cried, pointing as her sharp eyes made out the source. The golden vehicle was banking with physics-defying speed (the particular parts of physics that said a vehicle that size turning like that should be so much spare parts tumbling through the air, never mind anyone on it), making an absurdly tight turn to bring it back towards the World Tree.
"Ooh, pretty!" Makie, Konoka and Negi declared, eyes sparkling.
Chisame sighed. "Saviors of Mundus Magicus my callipygian backside," she muttered.
The golden vehicle slowed considerably as it approached the World Tree, circling it a few times before it once more banked sharply and made a beeline for the stage where Ala Alba stood. The wind rose, though no engine of any sort seemed to be present to cause that effect.
Figures stood upon the vehicle, many in white, one in black, another in gold. With a cry, the Sailor Senshi leapt off, falling to earth.
"GROUND!" Sailor Jupiter cried, kneeling and hugging the floor. "Sweet, sweet ground! Non-moving ground! I'll never leave you again! I love you! You look like my old sempai!"
"Infernal machine!" Sailor Venus agreed. "Bad relic from the Silver Millennium! Bad! Bad!"
"Why didn't we teleport?" Sailor Mars whimpered. "Oh WHY didn't we teleport?-!-?-!-?-!"
"I need to hurl…" Sailor Mercury said, looking green. "I thought we were going to die! Again!"
"I need a drink," Sailor Pluto said, looking near tears.
"I am never getting on another vehicle for as long as I live," Sailor Neptune muttered, on her knees.
"WHEE!" Sailor Moon and Saturn cried. "That was fun! Do it again!"
"I wanna drive next!" Sailor Uranus said.
"HELL NO!-!-!-!-!-!" the other Senshi chorused.
Ala Alba looked down at the Senshi on the ground, then up at the golden vehicle, where Tuxedo Kamen was sitting on the edge with his legs swinging over the side, then back again.
"On second thought, I really need to get a date for tomorrow's dance…" Yuuna hedged, backing away.
"…meeple…" Ako meepled.
"Oujo-sama, perhaps you should—" Setsuna tried again.
"Can I ride in front?-!" Konoka called excitedly. Setsuna sighed.
"This is SO unfair!" Makie whined. "I wanna get to ride the plane too!"
Above them, the figure in golden armor glared down, arm crossed arrogantly. "Them? These… children… are to fight with us, you Majesty?"
"HEY!" Asuna cried, glaring at him trough her mask. "Who are you calling children?-! I'll have you know I'm older than you are!"
Nodoka bowed. "H-hello again, Gilgamesh-sama. Remember us?"
He turned his gaze at her, and she wilted slightly before swallowing and straightening, meeting his eye. "Ah, yes, the book children. I am surprised to see you managed to survive the battle after I was untimely summoned away."
Ku, Yue and Haruna all glared at him, clearly remembering as well.
"Gilgamesh," Tuxedo Kamen said mildly. "Be nice. They're on our side." He nodded at Negi. "Is this everyone?"
Negi nodded, eyeing the Vimana. "Though I have no idea how we're going to get everyone to fit."
Kaede coughed, holding out her Artifact like a cape. "I believe I have the solution to that, sensei…"
Sailor Neptune knelt next to the low wooden table and sighed in contentment. "Ah! This is quite good tea… er, sorry, how should I refer to you again, gynoid-san?"
"I do not have an official moniker designation just yet," Chachamaru said, kneeling opposite the table next to the tea pot. "Karakuri-san will do."
"Then I commend you on your excellent tea, Karakuri-san," Sailor Neptune said, before taking another sip.
"May I have another?" Sailor Mercury asked.
"Me too please," Nodoka said. Setsuna and Ku also held out their cups.
Around them, most of the Senshi were sitting around with most of Ala Alba. On the edge of the wooden floor of the house, her legs swining back and forth, Konoka sulked at not being allowed to ride outside on the Vimana proper. The rest were more relieved.
"This is pretty handy," Sailor Venus commented, chewing on a stick of strawberry Pocky as she looked out over the view, such as it was. The horizon showed an idllic countryside that was completely illusory, since the inside of the Artifact only extended up to the wall of the property. That was still a lot of square footage though, and the house built on it was nice by most standards, and cozy by the rest. "When I became a Senshi, all I got was this outfit! Even Mercury-chan only got a computer."
"I know we have a pen that can disguise us," Sailor Mercury said. "I wonder what happened to it?"
"In the back of one of Moon's drawers, probably," Sailor Mars said. She'd taken off her red heels and was rubbing her feet.
"Sounds weak," Haruna said, idly sketching sauropods.
"I'll have you know it's very useful!" Sailor Venus declared.
Haruna raised an eyebrow at her.
"…" Sailor Venus sighed. "Yeah, it's pretty weak. But it was fun when we first got it!"
"I wonder how long before we reach our destination?" Asuna said, having temporarily changed out of her armor into one of Evangeline's prescribed loligoth garb. It was much more comfortable for sitting on the floor in. "Fuyuki and Uminari are pretty far from Mahora."
"Not at the speeds this thing is going," Sailor Pluto said, lying down on a futon with a towel over her eyes. "We'll be there in half an hour or so. An hour, tops."
"Can't you tell for sure?" Sailor Venus said. "I mean, can't you use your powers to see the future and time exactly when we get there so we arrive right in the nick of time?"
"I think you have me confused with someone else," Sailor Pluto said, raising a corner of her towel to eye the blonde. "I can barely tell we've got a new enemy coming our way until they're almost right on top of us, and that was when I wasn't twitchy from being on the wagon. I didn't see these Wolkenritter at all, remember. If my powers were that good, I'd be winning the lottery every week ."
Sailor Venus sighed. "Well, there goes that plan. I SO wanted to win the lottery!"
"Eat your Pocky, Venus," Sailor Pluto said, closing her eyes again.
Konoka sighed, watching an illusory cloud float overhead. "I wonder what Erebus-kun is doing…"
The Vimana did not fly at the speed of thought. This was a cross of a gross exaggeration and a misnomer. While equipped with manual controls, its standard control methodology was via a telepathic interface. So, yes, it kinda flew at the speed of thought, or at least was piloted to fly at them. It was still, however, frickin' fast.
"WHEE!" Negi, Sailor Moon, Sailor Saturn, Sailor Uranus and Kotaro all cried, their faces to the wind. "Faster! Faster!"
The Vimana didn't have much of a railing, barely a raised lip on the edge of the platform, but the five hung on to them tenaciously, childishly glee on their face. Nearer the back, in the lee of the raised control column, Tuxedo Kamen and Kaede were holding on to the relative security of the chain she'd wrapped around it, their scarf and cape flapping in the wind almost in Gilgamesh's face where he sat on the pilot throne. The once-Servant was muttering darkly about his divine treasure being used as a children's play wagon. Behind them, the sustained sonic boom they left was left in the dust, their wake making clouds writhe and billow in a line behind them.
"They seem to be enjoying themselves!" Kaede cried, voice barely audible over the roar.
Tuxedo Kamen grinned, nodding. His top hat resolutely remained on his head despite the wind, surely a Divine Mystery in itself. "It's always nice to see Sailor Saturn acting her age! She gets so serious sometimes!"
"The same is true of Erebus-kun!" Kaede cried back. "Why, I remember—"
Sailor Saturn suddenly gave a cry of surprise as her transformation unravelled around her in a burst of purple. She gasped at the sudden cold, losing her balance, no longer protected by her magic. It just seemed to have been… switched off.
"Saturn!" Sailor Uranus cried, and suddenly she was in her papa's strong, sure arms, shielding her from the wind. "What happened?"
"I…" Hotaru, just plain Hotaru, said in confusion. "I don't know…"
Without the protection of her magic, she shivered from the cold. The wind was cutting, and in the sudden gust it was as if she were naked— a line of thought that had her blushing as she realized Erebus was in attendance.
Kaede reacted quickly, leaping forward and sweeping her Artifact over Hotaru. The little girl disappeared, sent within the Artifact.
Gilgamesh tilted his head, crimson eyes curious. "Was that normal?"
"Probably not!" Kaede cried.
Kuro was making inappropriate advances at Shiro under Luvia and Rin's fuming gazes when she felt a sudden choking sensation at her neck. She stumbled back in surprise from the uncomfortable Shiro, clutching at her shirt's collar, only for the pressure to suddenly ease.
Shiro blushed. "Kuro-chan, you shouldn't–"
Kuro didn't catch the rest of his words as she suddenly lost her sense of balance, tumbling to the floor in confusion as she felt like she was being pummeled on all sides, before this also stopped abruptly. She barely managed to get off the floor when her shoulder suddenly exploded in pain.
"AH!" she cried, more surprised than hurt, clutching at the pained segment. "What the hell is going on?-!"
Then her eyes widened, and she turned to Miyu, who'd been dragged along to the house my Luvia. "Miyu… Where's Illya?"
The Magical Girl maid's eyes widened.
Kuro swore and ran upstairs. "Illya?-! Illya?-!"
They heard her feet clomping upstairs and the door to the twins'— such as they were— room. There was a clatter and a foul expletive echoed through the air. "NI!-!-!-!-!"
Saber looked up and frowned at the extremely caustic word.
Irisviel sighed and gave Saber a mournful look. "I blame you for corrupting my daughter with such course language."
Rin sniffed. "It was probably the only part of Kuro that hadn't been corrupted yet."
Kuro practically flew down the stairs, bouncing off the turning wooden landing to Sella's cries of not running around the house. "She's not upstairs, and I can't find Ruby!" she panted, taking a deep breath to steady herself. "Oh, and there was a message on the computer. Green Lantern found the Wolkenritter."
Sakura frowned in concern. "What?"
Rin straightened. "What?-!" she demanded, fingers unconsciously caressing her Command Seals.
"Yeah, they're asking for help or something," Kuro said absently. "Darn it, where the NI did she go? I need to get to her! She's in danger!"
Miyu had already drawn out Sapphire. "Can you tell us where Ruby and Illya are?" she asked the Mystic Code.
Kuro perked up. The Mystic Codes contained a mass of occasionally useful side-features. Maybe this time it could be useful for something other than a cheap gag?
Sapphire made a motion reminiscent of tilting its head in thought. "But of course, Miyu-san. Allow me to use one of my 24 secret abilities: GPS tracker!"
Rin twitched, raising an eyebrow as one of Sapphire's faces became a gridded map screen that showed Japan, with a blinking dot at one point. Every time it blinked, Sapphire went 'ping!'. "How the heck does an ancient Mystic Code have GPS?"
"Zelretch-sama was VERY forward thinking," Sapphire said. Rin's eyebrow twitched some more. "Ah, here we are." Something extended from the bottom of Sapphire, which lengthened into a large map of Japan. A caricature of Illya's face and Ruby blinked on the map. "Um, judging from their signal and the latest map I have, she and Ruby are in Uminari City."
Everyone looked at the map, Master, former-Master, Servant, and Magical Girl.
Assassin tapped his lips thoughtfully. "My keen badass Servant instincts sense a pattern emerging…"
"Gee, you think?" Lancer said sarcastically.
"NI!" Kuro swore as she put her pains together. "She's in Uminari fighting the Wolkenritter!
Rin whirled and began to stalk for the door. "Assassin! T-Rex, now! We're going to Uminari!"
Sakura sweatdropped. "Onee-chan, I don't think even a Tyrannosaurus can get to Uminari that fast..."
Rin paused. "You're right. RIDER! Can I borrow Pegasus?"
"I don't think that'll work…" Rider said as Sakura pulled out a notebook from her pocket and started rifling through it, muttering under her breath.
"Damn it!" Rin cried. "We've got Servants and Magi up the walls and not ONE of them has a way to get us to Uminari?-!"
The sonic boom that shook the neighborhood provided adequate exclamation to her words.
Everyone looked up. "Is that good or bad, you think?" Irisviel asked.
"It sounds like the sound of something dropping from supersonic," Sakura said helpfully. Everyone looked at her. "Look, I was ten years old and experimenting with Kaze-neechan's flight spells, okay! Don't judge me!"
"It must be difficult to no longer have access to that power," Luvia said sympathetically. As a magus, any magical knowledge lost was a tragedy to her.
Sakura shrugged. "It was a loan from the start. I'll muddle along as best as I can."
There was a knock on door. Leystritt answered it, and Luvia's old butler entered. "Pardon me mistress," he said, "but there is a gaudily dressed rude gentleman in an equally gaudy flying vehicle parked on our front lawn. There are several less rude individuals with them who wish to speak with you."
Miyu perked up. "Ah. I was wondering where Gilgamesh-kun went."
Saber twitched at the name. She could almost feel the blade in her hands…
Her old vendetta against the 4th Archer experienced a brief "What the hell?" moment as the group trooped over to the mansion across the street.
"PLEASE!" Sailor Uranus begged, on her knees and clutching at one of Gilgamesh's golden-armored legs. "PLEASE let me drive! I'm begging you! Just a quick spin around the planet, I swear!"
Sailor Neptune had her face buried in her gloved hand. "Dear, you are being embarrassing…"
Gilgamesh looked like he was facing a philosophical dilemma. On the one hand, he was king and thus everyone else was beneath him, and the thing touching him should be destroyed. On the other hand, he had acknowledged Endymion as his king, who acknowledged these children as his equals, meaning they were nominally above Gilgamesh (though, of course Saber wouldn't know this). It was the first of many philosophical conundrums he was just beginning to realize he might have to face.
A small masked boy raised his hand in greeting, moving off from group standing around the large golden vehicle hovering above the lawn. "Um, hello everyone. We really didn't get a chance to talk after that thing last week…"
Kuro looked him up and down and snapped her fingers. "Hey, aren't you that guy who… tip oft tongue… did you get your Linker Core drained?"
"Um, well…" he said hesitantly
"Oh my… YOU'RE NEGI SPRINGFIELD!-!-!-!-!" Irisviel cried, her hands to her cheeks.
Negi twitched as Rin and Luvia perked up like dogs on the scent. "Um, can we pretend no one said tha-—"
"NEGI-SAMA! MAKE ME PART OF YOUR HAREM!" Luvia screamed.
The tall— and very busty, Rin, Sakura, Luvia, Miyu, Kuro and Saber were self-conscious to see— ninja next to him wearing the mask and moldy old blanket chuckled. "Your popularity precedes you, sensei."
"I WILL NOT DISAPPOINT YOU!" Luvia cried again.
Negi slumped. "You know, one of the things I like about not being in the Magical World was that women don't yell that at me."
Kuro sighed. "Trace, on," she said, and used the duct tape that appeared between her hands to seal Luvia's mouth shut. "What are you doing here?" she asked as Luvia vainly tried to get the tape off without it ripping off a substantial chunk of her drill-like curls.
"Green Lantern-chan, Black Reaper-chan and Kaleido Ruby-chan found the Wolkenritter and called for help," Eternal Sailor Moon said as Tuxedo Kamen tried to mediate Gilgamesh through his moral dilemma, which consisted of prying Sailor Uranus off him and keeping Gilgamesh from being violent. "Didn't you read the message?"
Everyone shuffled nervously. "She usually takes care of the messages…" Rin grumbled.
"She has her own computer…" Shiro said.
Negi blinked. "Oh. Well, that's okay, we're here now. Um, so, will you be coming with us, or…?"
Kuro took two steps and leapt up onto the Vimana. "Let's go! We have to save my sister!"
"Mongrel! Get your feet of my treasure!" Gilgamesh cried.
Kuro glared at him. The air behind her began to ripple with the outlines of swords a hair away from becoming reality and going for his throat. "Did you just call me a bitch?-!" she demanded.
Everyone else took an involuntary step back as the air behind Gilgamesh glowed and rippled, weapons beginning to protrude. His eyes had narrowed, his slit-like pupils contracting into dagger lines…
"Knock it off, Gilgamesh," Tuxedo Kamen said. "We're under time pressure. There's no point in being king of the world if there's no world to be king of." He turned to the assorted Magi and former Servants. "Anyone who need a ride to Uminari, hop on board. We're taking anyone." He gave the golden-armored man an emphatic look. "Anyone, is that clear?"
Gilgamesh grimaced, but bowed in acquiescence. "As you command, your Majesty."
"Oh?" Saber said, raising the back of her hand to her opposite cheek in true 'evil bitch' fashion. "Is the high and mighty King of Heroes reduced to being a taxi driver for commoners?"
The first ever nerve, possibly made of GOLD, which was the prototype of all subsequent nerves before it became a famous part of someone's legend, was worked as one golden eyebrow twitched.
Iris stared at Saber, open mouthed. "Saber-chan! Are you… being bitchy?-!"
"Yes," the golden-eyed warrior said.
Iris burst into tears. "Oh, our little Saber-chan is growing up!"
"Um," Sakura said tentatively. "It doesn't look like we'll fit…"
"You know, as economy class seating goes, this is actually quite nice," Sakura commented as she knelt next to the table and sipped her tea.
"This tea is excellent, gynoid-san," Shiro waxed poetic. "Could I possibly have your recipe?"
Saber frowned, her golden eyes looking around in a predatory fashion. "Do we get an in-flight meal?"
"NO, YOU MAY NOT! NOW, WILL PEOPLE STOP ASKING ME IF THEY CAN DRIVE?-!-?-!"
"Darn…" Rider muttered.
Night had fallen as the Vimana approached Uminari city. The deck of the vehicle was nearly bare now. Sailor Uranus and Rider had been exiled to Kaede's cloak to keep them from making pests of themselves and Eternal Sailor Moon had opted to join them for some tea, leaving the ninja, Tuxedo Kamen, Negi, Kotaro, Gilgamesh and Sailor Mercury outside. The latter had stepped out to take preliminary scans as they got closer to the city, and it was by her order they hovered now, motionless almost at the city's edge.
"No doubt about it," Sailor Mercury said. "There's some kind of barrier around the city, the bay, and some of the surrounding land. It's similar to the barrier magic we've already seen, but significantly overpowered."
"Can't we break through it?" Negi asked.
Sailor Mercury shook head hesitantly. "I don't think that's a good idea. For one thing, if Green Lantern-chan is fighting in there, we might destroy the city if we take it down while she's launching an attack."
Everyone thought back to all of Green Lantern's fights they had seen and nodded agreement.
"Is there any way to get in without taking it down?" Negi asked.
Sailor Mercury shrugged. "Maybe we can ask the TSAB?"
Negi blinked. "That's an option?"
Sailor Mercury nodded, beginning to work on her computer. "Usually Green Lantern-chan or Ferret Lantern-kun serves as an intermediary, but I'll try to see if I can back-trace my last contact with them."
Kaede suddenly jerked as a head stuck itself upside down out of her cape. "Are we there yet?" Rin asked a moment before she fell out of the cape and onto her head. "Ow."
"Are you all right?" Negi asked, concerned.
As Rin was about to look up and meet Negi's gaze, Kaede subtly grabbed him, wrapped a chain around his leg and threw him off the Vimana. His scream of surprise dopplered out as Rin raised her head and blinked, looking around. Shrugging, she stuck her head back in the cloak. "We're here!" they heard her muffled voice say.
Panting, Negi swung himself back onto the Vimana. "What was that for?" he asked Kaede, looking slightly hurt.
Kaede coughed. "My apologies sensei, but now really isn't a good time for you to attract any new girls."
Negi blinked. "What?"
"Nothing, don't think about it."
Negi sighed. "Shinobi-san…"
A purple-haired head popped out of Kaede's Artifact, followed by the rest of the girl as she tumbled out of the cape. "Owie…" Sakura said, before getting back to her feet, shaking.
"Sis!" Rin cried. "Get back in there! It's dangerous out here!"
"Not very," Sakura said. "Is that the Barrier?"
"What we can see of it," Sailor Mercury said. "I'm trying to adjust my visor to filter through the dimensional distortion so I can make out what's happening inside, but no luck so far."
Sakura frowned, though it was hard to tell with the bandanna covering her mouth. She narrowed her eyes, staring intently. "Most of the city inside the barrier has been leveled. Kaleido Ruby and Ferret Lantern are keeping… Oh no…"
Everyone blinked at her. "Sis?" Rin said, a faint touch of suspicion in her voice. "You can see in? What was that 'oh no' for?"
"Kaze-neechan…" Sakura said breathily. "They're fighting Kaze-neechan!"
Rin blinked. "Who?"
"The spirit the 4th Caster had stay with me the last ten years!"
"Oh, so that's who you meant all those times…" Rin said in comprehension. "So, wait, if that's the case, why are Ruby and Ferret fighting her? Didn't she disappear with Caster?"
"I don't… I'm not sure…" Sakura said. "But it can't be good…"
Kotaro tilted his head. "Does anyone else hear a… helicopter?"
Everyone looked around. "There!" Sailor Mercury cried, pointing into the night.
It was hard to make out at first. Its matte black finish didn't reflect well, and it had no running lights. Even a supposedly stealth helicopter still makes noise, however, and soon they were able to pinpoint its source.
"Did anyone know the JSDF would be here?" Tuxedo Kamen said.
Sailor Mercury looked up form her work. "My gosh, we need to get them out of here!" she exclaimed. "They'll die!"
"That is a very negative view of the brave men and women who risk their lives to protect our country against North Rhelasia, China and kaijuu," Tuxedo Kamen said. He paused. "True, but negative."
Gilgamesh had stood up and narrowed his eyes at the helicopter. "Your Majesty," he said, his Archer-class eyes epically sharp. "Unless these mongrels have become so desperate they have begun employing female midgets to their so-called 'army', that is a child piloting that inferior machine."
Everyone looked at him in surprise, then back at the helicopter. "You're right…" Sailor Mercury said, having her visor zoom in on the cockpit. "It's… some purple-haired girl I don't know, with three other kids in the seat behind her."
Kaede frowned, reached into her Artifact, and pulled out a pair of binoculars.
Rin blinked. "Huh. So that's what that pile was for."
"Sensei," Kaede said, lowering the binoculars. "I recognize one of the girls on that helicopter. She was the one who fought the third Wolkenritter who took your core." As the black helicopter approached, the wind rose, making Sailor Mercury and Rin yelp and try to keep their skirts down against the updrafts.
"Gilgamesh, bring this thing down," Tuxedo Kamen ordered. "We need a plan, and it's kind of hard to make one from up here…"
"Hey, Fetishistic Mask Girl! Without the fetishistic mask this time!" Haruna greeted.
Kinomoto Sakura drooped slightly as Tomoyo's elegant eyebrow twitched. Meilin gave her a sideways look and Syaoran's hand began to reach for his sword. "Hooooeeee…" the Card Mistress in progress groaned.
"Sakura-san," Kaede greeted as the last of everyone trooped out of her Artifact and onto the snowy ground. "What are you doing here? Did Green Lantern-chan call you?"
Sakura blinked. "What? No. I haven't talked to Green Lantern-chan since you bought Syaoran-kun back after he was attacked."
Behind her Tomoyo merely smiled her mysterious, saintly smile © and quite definitely did NOT whistle innocently.
"Then why are you here?" Eternal Sailor Moon asked.
Sakura blushed, not meeting anyone's gaze.
Kuro sweatdropped. "That's what you want to know? No questions about the frickin' assault helicopter they rode in on?-!-?-!-?-!-?-!""
Luvia gave the copter a cursory look. "Meh, it's nothing anyone with enough money couldn't buy," the blonde said.
"Actually, I built it myself, Luviagelita-san," Tomoyo corrected politely.
Miyu gasped as Luvia reeled back. "T-tomoyo! H-how did you know it was me?-!-?"
"Ohohohohoho!" Tomoyo laughed elegantly, sending terror running up and down Syaoran's spine. "Luviagelita-san, the next time you try to deceive me with a mask, try not to do so in a dress I made for you for your last birthday."
Rin and Luvia facepalmed. "You forgot who gave you the dress?-!" Rin cried. "Why are you even wearing it?-!"
"It's the most durable one of my Kevlar-lined, ballistic plated ones!" Luvia snapped back."I wasn't expecting to run into its maker tonight!"
Rin frowned at her. "You own a Kevlar-lined, ballistic-plated dress?"
"You don't?" Luvia shot back. "Have you forgotten the first rule of being a Magi?"
"Hey, no fighting, no fighting!" Shiro cried, trying to get between them.
Asuna sighed. "Maybe we should have dragged Chisame with us just to have someone sane around to yell at us…" she muttered.
Gilgamesh twitched. "May I deal with the mongrels, your Majesty?"
"Tempting, but no," Tuxedo Kamen said. He fastidiously took off one of his gloves, raised two fingers to his lips, and blew an ear-piercing whistle. "Ahem. Ladies and gentlemen. I realize it is in the nature of many of us to bicker with one another no matter how serious the situation, but we are on a strict time limit. Mysterious as this young lady and her friends appearing here may be, we have bigger problems. We need to find a way to circumvent that barrier and stop the Wolkenritter."
The other Sakura frowned. She'd been riffling through the brown notebook she'd been carrying ever since she'd set foot on the ground. "I think the barrier spell is called 'Gefängnis der Magie'. In Ancient Belkan, it means 'Magic Prison', or close enough. It's meant to lock things in, and have them stay locked in."
Everyone stared at her.
She shrugged a tad defiantly, looking at her sister intently. "It seems I retained some of what I knew when Kaze-neechan was inside me. I've been writing it down in this journal in case I forgot."
"Who?" Asuna asked, confused.
Kuro waved a dismissive hand. "We don't have time for exposition right now! Let's just say she used to have a lot of power, and now it's gone."
The purple-haired girl coughed. "Actually…" she said, raising a finger. "Practe Biginar Ardescat!"
A flame flickered above it. The Magi stared.
Sailor Mars snorted. "Big deal. I can do that. Or is this one of those exposition-heavy things we don't have time for right now?"
"Imouto…" Rin said. "Ex–" She paused. "I'd have you explain, but I don't think we have time for that now. Give us the short version."
Sakura took a deep breath. "I believe I have retained some ability to use the 4th Caster's powers, though at reduced ease. I can only be sure of the spells I've used myself without her direct guidance, but so far I have managed to utilize her flight spell, several attack spells, and at least three Magister Magi specific abilities that would theoretically be impossible for a Magus, among others."
Many looked at her blankly. Rin sighed. "I asked for the short version, imouto."
"I can kick ass," Sakura said succinctly. "I'm not sure how long, and with what, but I can. A lot."
Rin smiled. "Now was that so hard to say?"
Beneath their feet, the ground began to rumble. Startled cries filled the air, and an unseemly number of girls tried to grab onto Negi for support, with the end result that they all fell over and he ended up buried in the center of them.
Lancer's eyebrow twitched. "Lucky bastard," he muttered. Assassin nodded agreement.
"Yes!" Sailor Mercury cried. Everyone jumped. "I've made contact with the TSAB! Beat that, Calculator! Bwahahahahahaha… ahem." She demurely coughed the end of her maniacal laughter. "This is Sailor Mercury, contacting the TSAB! TSAB, what's the situation beneath the Uminari barrier? And what was that earthquake just now?"
"That was no earthquake," the sort-of familiar feminine voice from Sailor Mercury's computer chirped as people gathered around it. "That was the strongest of the dimensional stress being caused by the Book of Darkness disrupting the barrier and leaking into the real world!"
"We need a way to get into the barrier!" Asuna yelled practically at Sailor Mercury's ear, making the bluenette wince. "Can you teleport us in or something?"
"No. We haven't had any luck deciphering the barrier's formulae either," the voice said. "Though in about fifteen seconds, that won't matter."
Everyone blinked. "Why not?" Negi asked.
"Because the barrier is going to fall apart from the inside."
The older Sakura whirled, staring intently at the barrier. "She's right. Kaze-neechan is about to use Starlight Breaker EX."
"Huh?" Shiro asked.
"That big pink ray of doom from last time."
Gilgamesh twitched and sternly fought down the impulse to roll into a fetal ball. The king was an absolute existence above such things, darn it!
"When it breaks the barrier," Sakura continued, "the entire city will be vulnerable. Thousands of people…"
It took half a second for that to sink in.
Tuxedo Kamen leapt onto the Vimana, calling for Gilgamesh to get it in the air as Kaede began collecting people into her Artifact…
"Emittam! Fulgarioa Albicans! Armationem!" Negi cast, his body becoming sheathed in a crackling white glow.
"Sakura!" Rin cried as she realized her sister wasn't coming with her into the Artifact.
"No, not you, the other one! Get over here! "
Sakura hadn't moved from where she'd stood, staring blankly down at the book in her hands. Then, decisively, she snapped it shut. "No, oneechan. I still have some power left. I intend to use it. After all, I have declared myself a Magical Girl. I must stand by my declaration!"
She held out her hands and concentrated. Light began to glow beneath her, dark-purple energy that began to slowly organize into lines, and from there into circles and symbols…
Illya ran between some bookshelves of the geometric migraine that Yuuno said was a perfect replica of some place called the Infinity Library. A green glow came from everywhere, rendering her Noble Phantasm-given ability to fade into darkness and shadow useless. Her Mantle of the Darkest Knight inert, she was staying out of direct line of sight.
There was a rumble as several construct walls of bookshelves were blasted apart, only to reform almost instantly. There was no effort or support in the constructs except to maintain their existence, no attempt at much solidity, meaning them getting destroyed cost Yuuno nothing and allowed him to quickly rebuild. Their purpose wasn't to imprison or really contain the Book, it was to disorient it and keep it relatively blind. Yuuno was subtly manipulating gravity and the spin of his giant construct to keep the Book pointed away from Arf and the girls so no stray spells struck. That left Illya with the task of attacking, using the masses of reconstructing shelves and twisted, non-traditional architecture as cover.
Her cape flew behind her like a manner as she leapt to the top of a shelf, grabbing a 'book' from it– "The Seven Firearms of Highly Effective Archaeologists"– and throwing it into the empty space in front of her. It flew up for longer than it should have– another gravity deadzone– and Illya threw one of her arm-chains through the patch, feeling it catch onto a pylon and letting her reel herself upwards as she drew a several curved metal blades from her belt. She hit the deadzone and turned, seeing an opening through the shelves, the Book outlined almost dead center of the opening, and threw. The blades spun, flying through and slamming into the Book's side, exploding on contact.
The Book turned to retaliate, but Illya was already gone, lost amidst the shelves, bizarchitecture, and optical illusions. The Book's attack tore through the deadzone, and everything behind it, for a moment revealing the devastated skyline of the inside of the barrier. Then it was gone again, the construct rebuilding almost instantly. The Book's cry of frustration echoed through the shelves.
Illya decided she like the sound of screams of frustration coming from people trying to kill her.
Suddenly, the whole construct shook slightly. Illya raised a hand to the base of one of her helm's horns, tapped a green dot. "Green Lantern?"
"GAH!" came the shrill reply. "Don't do that! You nearly gave me a heart attack!"
"What was that shake?"
"It wasn't me or the Book… hang on…" A pause. "I'm picking up dimensional stress! It's disrupting the barrier slightly, which is what you felt. I think the Book's starting its self-destruct cycle!" Another beat. "The Asura confrms my readings! We're running out of time–"
"Gather, light of the stars!
Illya jerked her head up, and she heard Yuuno do the same. "Oh, shit…" they chorused.
"I summon the light of destruction down upon my prisoners. Stars, gather, and become the light which pierces everything."
Illya turned and started running for the closest edge of the construct, seeking open air.
"Tear through everything in a blaze of light! 10… 9… 8…"
"RUN!" Yuuno cried.
"Starlight Breaker EX!"
The construct exploded in a blaze of pink, the magic tearing through the weak light and crying for the sky. The blast wave took her from behind, sending her flying through several deteriorating walls, her night-black armor managing to protect her. Then she was out of range, falling towards the ground head-first.
Blearily, she tried to use her Mantle to teleport to somewhere safer, but it was still too bright. There was nothing to throw her chains at, no more buildings below them. Gritting her teeth, she determinedly pressed the green button Yuuno had put on her helm as she fell head-first to the ground. "Illya to Yuuno-san. I need air support. Since I can't fly just now. At all."
The pink beam struck the barrier, and it shattered, reality rushing back in its place.
The top of a building appeared over Illya's head, fifty feet away. She calmly pressed the button again. "Now would be nice."
The building rushed at her head…
There was a crack of thunder and a brilliant golden flash.
Illya blinked as she found herself being cradled bridal-style by a masked, glowing boy about her age, his long hair trailing behind him like a kite's tail as he landed lightly and set her on her feet. "Are you all right miss?" he asked, smiling at her.
Some things are beyond the ability of even powerful Noble Phantasms to protect from. Illya found herself blushing at that smile. "Um, yeah, I'm fine, thank you," she nearly– didn't, but nearly– stammered out.
Illya found herself getting tackled from behind by her enthusiastic sister. "K-kuro?"
"Don't EVER do that again!" Kuro cried. Then she slammed her lips onto Illya's.
Illya found herself blushing even deeper as Kuro, without any preamble, stuck her tongue into Illya's mouth. Negi's entire face grew red, and he looked away, deeply embarrassed.
The ground shook.
Illya panted, and pushed herself away from Kuro unsteadily. "W-what did you d-do…?" she panted. "It couldn't have been that goo– er, that is…"
Kuro sniffed. "Gee, thanks," she said. "Way to insult my technique."
"Gefängnis der Magie!"
The world pulsed again, becoming seen seemingly through a film of oil on water again as a barrier was raised once more. Illya only then became aware of a roaring above her. She looked up and stared. "Isn't that… from mom's movie?"
It was a sleek, triangular vessel, made of gold and precious stones, shinning like the sun. And on it and around it stood and floated… "MINNA-SAN!"
A shining emerald light was falling from the remains of the gigantic library construct, and already several girls riding flying manta rays were heading to catch and intercept Yuuno. People leapt from the deck of the Vimana, landing on the buildings around them, the white-clad forms of the Senshi, the more esoteric wear of Ala Alba, the rather disturbingly skin-tight, fetishy clothes of the Servants, the off-the-rack garb of her fellow Magi, even her Onii-chan wearing that replica of Archer's outfit. Behind the Vimana hovered a black helicopter, bristling with weaponry.
It was Sakura who'd cast the spell, Rin's sister Sakura, floating above them all, clad in the black of the Noble Phantasm: Armor of Darkest Night, a dark purple triangular glyph glowing beneath her. "Book of Darkness!" she cried. "For putting innocents in danger!"
"For threatening our world!" Eternal Sailor Moon cried.
"For making me miss my sitcoms!" the red-headed sword-wielding Ala Alba cried. There were several hisses of outrage from the Senshi. Sailor Mercury sighed.
"WE WILL PUNISH YOU, IN THE NAME OF ALL MAHOU SHOUJO!"
Illya stared… and facepalmed.
"You couldn't think of anything better to punish her in the name of?" she said.
Kuro shrugged. "I wanted 'For the Loli', but I was outvoted."
Tohsaka Sakura (she had always been a Tohsaka in her heart, no matter what had happened) was in agony.
Her magic circuits burned with the unfamiliar feel of her own magic, for once not guided or regulated by an outside intelligence. Her skin burned as power was metabolized within her. Her chest felt on fire. The magical arts of Mid-Childa and Ancient Belka flowed through her, as did the prana of magecraft and the mana of magisterial wizardry. Her Linker Core, soul and magic circuits, all nearly unused, screamed as their virginity, for lack of a better word, was taken.
It reminded her, viscerally, of those hellish, nearly forgotten years in the midst of the crest worms. Try as Kaze-neechan might, some emotional scars from it had been burned too deeply into her heart for magic to hide. In the end, it had taken ten years of the rather bizarre therapy of a voice in her head to put it behind her, and paradoxically accept it as a part of her. And so she flashed to naked, screaming nights on the cold stone floor, surrounded by squirming, wiggling, intruding forms entering her, violating her, taking her innocence in more ways than one. On the third day, her voice had given out. And it had only gotten worse.
She felt the darkness try to take her, felt the primal fears of a child begin to overwhelm her. Just because they were childish did not mean they had no power. No, it meant they held infinitely more. She almost let it take her, almost nearly gave in, and realized she was waiting for a little, quiet voice in her head to speak to her, to give her strength. That voice was gone now, its purpose done, its power returned to the Throne of Heroes. And so Sakura felt the agony alone once more.
The difference was, now she was ready. Now, this was by choice.
Besides, she was flying. She could put up with a lot for that. The pain didn't bother her. It was the price of her choice. And it would go away in time once her body got used to magic again. For now…
Semi-familiar equations, algorithms and constants came to her as she took flight, leading the charge against the spirit of the Book of Darkness that looked so much like Kaze-neechan. It felt like instinct, in a way, something her body and soul knew how to do even if she herself didn't. She didn't think of how or why, didn't question what she could accomplish. She took it for granted, and hoped she knew what she was doing.
As fast as she was, the little kid her sister had called Negi got there first. A flicker of lightning, a crackle of thunder, and suddenly the Book of Darkness seemed surrounded on all sides by a legion of striking fists and feet, each impact coming with its own sonic boom.
The strange, red-veined black armor the Book was wearing— the same armor she had on, Sakura realized— seemed to just soak in the blows, numerous as they were, and after a second or two of disorientation it rallied, releasing a cloud of bind spells. Negi managed to dodge between the spells, weaving intricately between them. His long, trailing hair, however, was slightly less cooperative. It whipped unfortunately, catching itself on a bind and locking in place, drawing Negi short as his head whiplashed.
In less than the blink of an eye the Book retaliated, swinging backhanded and managing to catch Negi in the stomach. Negi bent over, surprised, and the Book's other hand swung to follow through.
"Shinmeiryu Ougi: Zanmaken," it intoned, going for Negi's throat.
The gold-capped end of a wooden staff slammed into its wrist, throwing the hand up and diverting it to cut through Negi's hair. Negi darted out of the way as Sailor Venus's chain snagged the Book's ankle
"No hurting my student, aru!" Ku chirped, the other end of her Artifact braced on a roof.
"Isn't that sensei's line, Yellow-chan?" Konoka sang as she knelt by Yuuno.
"No reason can't use it too, aru!"
Sailor Jupiter and Rider heaved on the heart-shaped chain, pulling at the Book and slamming it against the side of a building. "Fun fact I learned in school," Sailor Jupiter said as Rider let go. "Gold is very good at conducting electricity. Jupiter Supreme Thunder!"
The lightning flew up the chain, arcs jumping from link to link and concentrating the attack as it struck the Book. It reeled, mini-arcs crackling between plates of its armor.
"Force it down!" Kuro cried as she drew back on her bow, Hrunting cold against her cheek. "We need to beat it, fast!" She let go.
Illya's hand flashed almost too fast for the archeress to see, snagging the blade as soon as it cleared the bow. Pink lines began to vein it at Illya's touch. Kuro blinked.
"No killing…" Illya snapped at her sister and everyone in hearing range. "It did something to Green Lantern and Black Reaper. We still need to get them back."
Kuro shuddered. "You are so hot right now…" she practically purred.
Illya blushed beneath her mask. "FOCUS!" she cried, sounding much like her usual self.
"Fire!" Rin cried, throwing her jewels as the Senshi, Assassin, Miyu, Yue, Kaede, Chachamaru, Kotaro and Negi let loose with their attacks. The vicinity of the Book soon became a confused mess of spells and brilliantly colored energies.
"Did we get it?" Yuuno panted as Konoka finished treating him.
Illya swung her new sword experimentally, which was already changing to match her armor. "I doubt it's that easy…"
From the convergence of energies, black strands erupted, sharps as needles. People dodged, but rather than slamming into the various surfaces the strands turned, flexed, and pressed the attack. In the center of them was a black sphere made of shadow.
Eternal Sailor Moon's eyes went wide, and by instinct she screamed the words that were the bane and most dreaded enemy of Mahou Shoujo and ninja everywhere, hands covering her crotch and backside. "TENTACLES!"
All the girls paled.
"Me first!" cried Haruna.
Well, nearly all.
Somewhere, Takamachi Nanoha, who was both a Mahou Shoujo and a ninja, shuddered and wondered why she felt she should feel grateful.
Fate glanced at Nanoha as the girl shuddered suddenly. "Nanoha-chan? Are you all right?"
"Yeah, I'm just… for some reason, I feel very grateful and have no idea why…" Nanoha said, confused. She glanced sideways at Fate. "Are you sure about where you're going, Fate-chan?"
Fate nodded, gesturing at Alicia, who was walking in front of them and occasionally looking back and smiling at Fate. They were back in the marble halls, their footsteps loud and echoing amongst the empty fastness. "Don't worry. We're almost there," the taller blonde said. The hallway opened into a large dome. Inset beneath the dome was a large blue disk encircled by a double ring of designs. The red carpet led right to it.
Alicia pointed. "The focus point of this place is here. Unfortunately, the taint of the fake grail is too strong. Even if you break out, you wouldn't escape."
"Then… how do we get out?" Fate asked as Nanoha glanced at her.
Alicia gave her a meaningful look. "You need to free the Mistress of the Book. She's awake now, but powerless, trapped by the taint and corruption. You must combine your strength and attack the taint from within as your companions attack it from outside."
"But… how do we do that?" Fate asked.
"You need to break out of this place, imouto," Alica said. She winked. "I think you and Linith once spoke of a way it could be done."
Fate glanced at Bardiche. Alicia nodded and stepped aside, gesturing at the empty space beneath the dome.
"Fate-chan?" Nanoha said.
Fate held up a hand, doing the math in her head. It could work. If this place was the focus as Alicia said it was, then… "Bardiche, Set Up," she ordered.
As Bardiche changed form and covered Fate with her Barrier Jacket, the blonde turned towards Nanoha. "You might want to stand over here, Nanoha-chan," she said as she walked over next to Alicia. "When I collapse this place, I don't want us to get separated. Bardiche, Zamber mode!"
As the Device changed form, Alicia giggled.
Fate shot her a glance. "What?"
"Aren't you overcompensating a bit too much, Fate-chan?" Alicia snickered.
Fate flushed, but was unable to retort as Nanoha stepped next to her, looking a bit bemused. Giving Alicia a reproachful look, Fate told them both, "Step closer. I don't know how likely we are to get separated, but best not take chances."
Nanoha frowned cutely. "If that's the case…"
There was a 'click' by her feet. Fate looked down. A glowing green chain was shackled to her leg, the emerald links leading to another similar shackle on Nanoha. "Well…" the blonde said, blinking as Nanoha smiled in satisfaction. "I suppose that's one way of making sure."
Fate took a deep breath and raised Bardiche. A wide golden circle erupted beneath her feet as power crackled in the air. Lightning, or at least something lightning-like, flashed through the edges of the room, purplish-black with strange candy-cane-esque red lines. Nanoha stepped closer, standing back-to-back with Fate, her grip tightening on Raging Heart's shaft. "Hurricane Thunderclap!" Fate intoned, spreading her energy to begin the disruption process.
"Ooh, pretty…!" Alicia said, clapping and staring in bright-eyed delight.
Fate stifled a chuckle and drew Bardiche back, careful not to hit Nanoha. "Sprite Zamber!" she cried as she swung.
The world shattered, and they were swallowed by utter blackness…
Many of the Magical Girls, Negi found himself noting, had scattered in a panicked rout the moment Eternal Sailor Moon had yelled tentacles, with only a few exceptions. He wondered about that. He'd understand if it was Chisame or Nodoka– they'd had a few unpleasant encounters with such things on Mundus Magicus– but everyone? It made no sense. He'd ask, but in a flash of insight he guessed this would be one of the things he would be told not to think about.
Still, not everyone had dissolved in utter panic.
"Bellerophon!" Rider cried, she and her steed shooting across the sky like an arrow of light, leaving a sonic boom like a planet's death-scream in their wake. They dove down at the black sphere all the tentacles extruded from. Tentacles rose to meet them, ribbon-thin and sharp, stabbing and slashing at the descending Servant.
Kuro didn't let them, her enormous black bow letting fly even more enormous Ensis Exorcizanae. The swords unmade the shadows on contact, clearing the path. Rider struck, the shadow-sphere shattering at the point of impact. A barrier like a seven-petalled flower flashed, deflecting Rider into the city below with an equine scream as she tried to pull up. The force nonetheless slammed the Book of Darkness into the side of a skyscraper, and the remnants of the sphere cushioned her fall.
With a heart attack-inducing roar, a dark, blue-veined blade tore through the wall of building behind the Book, one clawed hand pulling the Book inside and slamming her into and through the floor at her feet. The force of it was enough to send the Book through the two floors below that. Two small metal balls followed, and there was a crack and flash as the flashbangs went off.
As the spirit of the Book lat there, stunned, an elegantly and overdressedly gloved hand reached over and grabbed the open Book of Darkness itself floating next to her fallen form. The silver-haired head snapped up as a chain rattled.
"Yoink," Tuxedo Kamen deadpanned as he finished wrapping the fluttering, struggling book in Enkidu. He turned and, Book tucked under his arm, threw his cane underhanded at the nearest window. The window cracked, and shattered, and he leapt through the falling shards. "Now!" he yelled to a spot of golden light above the building. Illya leapt out of her floor and dropped at him, catching him in midair before throwing the chain around her sword hand to swing them away.
High above, Gilgamesh raised one gold-armored arm, his crimson irises narrowing into slits as his eyes focused. "Noble Phantasm: Gate of Babylon!" Behind him, the air rippled before erupting in a rain of light that slammed into the building from above.
As the building was systematically leveled behind them, Illya and Tuxedo Kamen landed on another building. "The Book!" Illya demanded. "Now!"
She reached for the Book as Tuxedo Kamen drew it from his cape, but before she could touch it, the Book pulsed. "Blutiger Dolch," it intoned.
"Crap," Illya managed.
Crimson knives appeared in an ordered sphere around the Lost Logia, all pointed outward. Illya raised Hrunting in a guard position.
Beneath them, a green, rune-inscribed circle flickered into being.
The daggers flew and exploded on contact with the surface of the shield and every other surface around. That was all it had time to do before Gate of Babylon became directed at the Bibliological Lost Logia even as Yuuno, face still slightly hagard, pulled the two out of range with his ring.
Gilgamesh, standing astride the Vimana, glared murderous fury at the Book. "You dare attack his Majesty?-!" he roared. "NO ONE TOUCHES THE KING!"
The Book's pages turned, settling onto one in particular as it barely avoided the prototypes, knocked back and forth by the explosive concussion. "Flash Move." It flickered and disappeared.
"I AM AN ARCHER!" Gilgamesh declared grandiosely. "I CAN SEE YOU!" Prototypes began to tear a path across the city.
Standing upon the construct platform Yuuno had made beneath them, Illya turned to Tuxedo Kamen. "There something going on between you two?"
At the rubble of the recently leveled building some distance away, the debris shifted and a black-armored, red-veined hand thrust out of the ground, clawing its way out. More debris shifted as Soei-jutsu pushed them out of the way. As a silver-haired head finally managed to free itself, and most of their upper body, a glowing, golden-edged blade rested itself against her neck.
"Stand down," Saber said, standing behind her. The few red lines on her dark armor pulsed only slightly, and her pale, washed-out face with its flat, cold golden eyes seemed more so in Excalibur's glow. Invisible Air blew around her left gauntlet, an impromptu buckler.
"Or not," Lancer said almost cheerfully, resting Gae Bolg opposite the holy sword. "Doesn't really matter to me."
Around the Spirit of the Book, Assassin, Shiro, Negi, Kotaro, and Miyu gripped their own weapons, those who had them, ready to strike. She froze.
The debris didn't, the rubble exploding outward from beneath them, Gae Bolg and Excalibur pushed back from the force. The two were more than ready however. Lancer spun his spear defensively, deflecting the debris, while Saber ducked her head, protecting her face with her wind-shrouded arm. The others weren't so lucky. Assassin swore as he tried to shield himself with his duster. Kotaro moved to stand in front of Shiro, managing to deflect most of the debris with his claws and his own Soei-jutsu, while Shiro hastily Traced Byakuya and Kanshou and used them to deflect the rest.
Miyu and Negi reacted fastest, the former calling forth a protective sphere around her with a wave of Sapphire, the latter darting back out of range with lightning speed. The debris bounced off Miyu's shield easily, but she was unable to respond. Negi wasn't so limited.
"Jaculatio Fulgoris!!" Negi cast, lightning spears materializing around him before he launched them at the Book.
Shadows erupted from beneath the book, forming a complicated but compact sigil between the Book and the spears. "Negica Magia Erebea."
The spears slammed into the sigil, to Negi's slaw-jawed shock, and collapsed into a single ball of energy that the Book absorbed. The Book blurred as she charged at Negi, as fast as he, her fist striking at his head. Negi parried with his forearm, wincing, his foot lashing out to counterattack. It slammed hard into the dark, veined armor the Book wore, and Negi winced again, even as he parried another blow. The Book's other hand darted knife-like into his defenses, her palm slamming into his chest. Negi was thrown back, stunned but relatively unharmed. He slammed into the building across the street, slightly dizzy…
He looked down. On his chest was a small piece of metal, somehow imbedded into his skin. His hand rose to his chest…
The Book's armor exploded from her chest, a bloody, gaping wound and a hole through her heart tearing itself open as the Book spun, hand snapping up with an intoned, "Silent Wall." The invisible barrier snapped up in front of her, and the crimson spear of death slammed straight into it, its space-warping abilities unable to get it around the obstinate barrier as a concerned Shiro ran to Negi's aid.
Lancer's eyebrow twitched. "Okay, those shields of yours are getting REALLY FUCKING ANNOYING!"
"Noted," the Book said. "End. Silence Glaive–"
The Book stopped mid-cast and dodged. Silvery hair fell in long strands a small line of blood was cut on the Book's cheek.
"Not as untouchable as you seem," Saber said coldly.
A second stroke of Excalibur tore through the fluttering coattails of her Knight Armor, leaving a neat cut. The Book kicked fiercely, launching debris into Saber's face. With contemptible ease, the King of Knights swatted it out of the air.
Saber's next strike struck metal as a blaze of golden light erupted in the Book's hands, and the riposte would have taken Saber's head off had she not raised her blade. Instinct guided her hand after that as attacks suddenly came at her in a blur, metal beginning to ring loudly as Excalibur struck another weapon. Saber fought with cold precision, her feet dancing on the uneven ground. It was clearly giving her problems, ones that were exacerbated when the Book took activated its flight, removing the factor of footing. With a cry, Lancer attacked, giving Saber a strange sense of déjà vu and she wondered what it was with her and red-spear wielding Lancers. The thought was fleeting as she maneuvered to get the Book between the two of them, redoubling her efforts. Lancer let out a cry of nearly animalistic frustration as the spear slammed into an invisible barrier.
Shiro reached the fallen Negi's side. "Hey! You all right?"
Dull, blank eyes looked up at Shiro. That was all the warning he had before a shove sent him flying until his foot caught on some debris, and he slammed down hard, sprawled on his back.
A slight shadow falling over her was all the warning the Book had as Miyu fell on her from above, a short blade on Sapphire's end stabbing downwards, her movements greatly accelerated. Faced with Saber, the Book barely managed to dodge, and Miyu's blade sliced a shallow cut on the inside of the Book's right bicep. It tried to stumble back even as Miyu, inside her defenses, tried to slash at her torso. It scraped off the Book's armor, even as Saber aimed a direct decapitating slash at her head.
The spell slammed into Saber's side. It didn't really hurt her, immune as she was to most magic from this era, but the force did push her away from the Book. This gave the Book the space it needed to slash down at Miyu, who barely raised Sapphire's blade in time to guard. There was a flash of light and Sapphire gave out a cry of pain as the blade broke. The Book swung its golden blade backhanded to finish her off.
"Forzare!" Assassin cried, a blast of invisible force erupting from his staff. It slammed into the Book, knocking it back as Kotaro grabbed Miyu from where she'd been, taking her out of range.
"FINALLY!" Lancer cried, rushing the Book in a blue blur, spear flashing. No barrier met him this time, only the golden blade in the Book's hands.
Saber rolled to her feet, Excalibur raised to guard, in time to see Negi raising his hands for another spell. There was a dull, empty look in his eyes, his movements deceptively slow and lethargic, but the magic formed quite readily at his command. "Kilipl Astra–"
Negi turned his head in time for Asuna to punch him in the face. At the same time, her other hand closed over his spell, cancelling it on contact.
Asuna sighed. "Where's Yuuna and her convenient Magic Suppression bullets when you need her… Well, at least I'm not the one mind-controlled this time…"
"Where were you?-!" Kotaro demanded as Saber, no longer threatened, moved to assist Lancer.
"Hey, just because you never have to worry about unwanted penetration…" She paused as Kotaro gave her a flat look. "Oh, right, Chizu-nee… never mind then."
Negi took this opportunity to flip her off of him, sending her slamming into a wall, his seemingly weak movements holding a surprising amount of power behind them.
"Aer Capturae!" Yue cast
"Venus Love Me Chain!" Sailor Venus paralleled.
The twin spells struck Negi, locking him into place. Sailor Mercury and Eternal Sailor Moon landed lightly in front of him.
"Confirmed," Sailor Mercury said, scanning Negi. "It's a life-energy drain, the really old kind the Dark Kingdom used. The side-effect is making him vulnerable to control. Er, sorry we took so long to get back!"
Eternal Sailor Moon nodded, smiling at Negi comfortingly. "This might hurt a little… Moon Tiara Action!"
The other's, meanwhile, were trying to pin down the Book, which wasn't easy. It had taken flight, and Miyu was barely keeping it from gaining altitude. The others ran at it, trying to overtake and, using the buildings as jump-off points to pin it down. The Book was retaliating by trying to blast the buildings, but everywhere it shot, Asuna was there first, blocking it's spells with her sword and body, neutralizing them. "Surround it!" Asuna cried. "Hit it from all sides! It can't stop us all."
The other Magical Girls, Senshi and Ala Alba, were had returned from where they'd run off when Eternal Sailor Moon had screamed tentacles, blasting magic like it was going out of style. Some stood atop buildings, other shot from the ground, while some, like Valyrie Black, Sakura and Rider managed to block off the sky, keeping the book penned in. The Book dropped it's golden sword, which fell among her attackers, but it was a minor detail as she tried to avoid them…
"W-watch out!" a groggy Shiro cried as Konoka healed him. "Her sword!"
Some looked at him, confused. Luvia, the closest, turned to stare in horror at the dropped Excalibur, which was building up an ominous brilliant glow. "RUN!" she cried, backing away herself. Everyone on the ground scrambled back in panic.
A small, dark form slipped past Luvia, sliding to as stop atop the Broken Phantasm. It raised a small gloved hand. "Silent Wall," she said quietly.
The sword exploded.
The ground collapsed as all the force of the explosion was directed downward, contained by the invisible barrier. People were knocked off their feet by the shockwave, the rest stunned by the sound of the explosion. The Book, forewarned, rushed up at the fliers impeding her, a roiling sphere of power between her hands as the ground beneath her collapsed into a crater, a stench rising as the sewer pipes were breached. "Eisengeheul," she said, releasing the spell. There were cries and one whinny of surprise and pain as the flash, noise, and windstorm that exploded from it startled and disoriented them, and sent Miyu, the lightest of the group, tumbling uncontrollably. As Sakura dove to catch the girl and Rider struggled to get Pegasus back under control, the Book made for open air.
Everything not nailed down for a couple of hundred meters leapt off the ground for few seconds, knocking those just trying to stand off their feet and sending up a fine cloud of dust and not so fine cloud of debris as gravity was redistributed. The Book, however, felt the gravity around her being set to 'Overkill' as she was violently yanked to the ground by the Earth with several times its usual attractive force and an impact several times her usual weight. Assassin fell to his knees as he finished the spell, panting hard.
Everyone hastily struggled to their feet, ready for the Book to just leap out of its impact crater, probably having protected itself with yet another barrier.
Finally, someone said, "Is over…?"
Through their line of sight, a book flew, arcing up and diving down into the crater.
"Oh crap," Assassin breathed.
That was all the warning they had as prototype Noble Phantasms suddenly began to drop on them.
As people scrambled out of the way, from up above they could hear Tuxedo Kamen yelling at Gilgamesh to cease fire, just as an unearthly, terror-inducing roar echoed through the night and Illya swung from directly overhead, her Berserker cape fluttering behind her like the shadow of Death herself, the pink-veined sword in her hands no longer really recognizable as Hrunting. There was a crack as she tossed the Broken Phantasm like a grenade into the hole, terminated her swing, rolled, and started to run.
A beat later, everyone followed suit.
The crater exploded.
The spirit of the Book and Hayate both gave a start as a shattering sound filled the air, as if the world's largest window had decided to take its sweet time breaking apart. A glow began to fill the air of the formless, pastel-colored space in which they stood– hovered? Floated?– and some distance away, the world seemed to fracture and shatter, before exploding in a burst of golden light.
The spirit of the Book stared, stunned, but quickly moved to put herself between Hayate and–
Hayate boggled. "Fate-chan? Nanoha-chan? You're here! Wha– ?" She paused. "Nanoha-chan, why are you wearing Green Lantern-chan cosplay?"
Nanoha blinked, looked down at herself, reached up to her face and sighed. "Ring-chan, new parameter: unless I say otherwise, after 30 seconds, return my visor if I remove it for any reason, okay?"
Hayate stared at Fate. "What exactly were the two of you doing in those… I'm not sure if you can call those clothes, Fate-chan."
Fate sighed. Why did so many people have an issue with her Barrier Jacket? "Hayate-chan, we're here to rescue you!"
Hayate blinked, not sure what to say to that. What came out was, "Aren't you a little short to be a stormtrooper?"
The two Magical Girls gave her a blank look.
Hayate blushed. "Sorry. Knee jerk Star Wars quote. Won't happen again. How did you guys get here?"
"Indeed," the spirit of the Book said. "You had been stored in Capture Space 02 by the automated defense program. The illusion in place should have kept you from realizing you needed to escape."
Nanoha blinked. "Um, I don't think we've met, um…"
Hayate placed a hand on the spirit's forearm. "It's all right, Nanoha-chan. She's a friend. This is the true spirit of the Tome of the Night Sky, and as much a prisoner as we are."
Nanoha considered this and shrugged. "Hello, Tome of the Night Sky-san. I'm very pleased to meet you." She bowed in greeting.
"…" the spirit said eloquently. "Likewise?" she said, looking at Hayate in askance.
Hayate shrugged. That was Nanoha for you. "How did you find us?" she asked.
Fate gestured vaguely at empty air beside her, not looking at it. "It was actually thanks to her. She led me to the weak point of the Capture Space and told me how to open the path."
Hayate, Nanoha and the spirit frowned at her. "Her who, Fate-chan?" Hayate asked.
"Alicia-neechan," Fate said, gesturing again. "Oh, that's right, I haven't introduced you yet. Hayate-chan, this is my elder sister, Alicia Testa–" She turned and cut off, blinking and looking around quickly. "Alica-neechan? Where did you go?" She gave Hayate an abashed look. "She was right here. I don't understand where she would have gone."
Despite herself, Hayate leaned away from Fate slightly.
Nanoha pursed her lips and said hesitantly, "Fate-chan… there was no one there."
"Well, yes, she's not here now, butshe was a while ago," Fate said. "She led us here, remember? She told us how to break out of the Capture Space? She told us we were in a Capture Space. She was standing next to us when I used Bardiche's Zanber."
Nanoha hesitated. "Fate-chan… you did all those things. It was just the two of us in the Capture Space. When you woke me out of the illusion under the tree, we were alone."
Fate stared at her. "No… no, that can't be right… She… she was there!"
Nanoha placed her hands on Fate's shoulders. "Fate-chan, focus! We can figure this out later. Right now, we need to get out of here."
Fate shook, but she nodded, though her eyes kept darting about as if she'd find what she was looking for if she moved fast enough. "Yes. Yes, you're right… we need to concentrate on that."
The spirit of the Book shook her head. "That's impossible. The outside is completely under the control of the automated defense program, corrupted even more by the taint sealed into the Book ten years ago. I've been locked out of the system."
"Can't you… I don't know, hack back in?" Nanoha asked. "Aren't there any system back doors you can use?"
The spirit shook her head again. "Even then, cut off as I am from the abilities of the Book, I con't have the processing power to circumvent any defenses the defense program has set up. As its designation states, it was originally designed to protect the system from attack and intrusion. This specialization exceeds my own abilities as I am now."
Strangely, Nanoha smiled. "How fortunate then," she said, raising her left hand, "that we have we with us one of the most powerful processors in the whole universe."
Her Power Ring glinted in the not-light…
"Aaaaand the city is getting destroyed again," Alisa muttered, taking her fingers out of her ears. "Nanoha is enjoying herself a little too much."
"Actually, she doesn't really enjoy it," Arf said. "It's just it always seems to turn out like this."
They stood at the water's edge, the boundary of the barrier to their left as they watched the cloud of dust rising over the city. The ground had been rumbling every so often since that last pink-tinged explosion. Pillars of fire randomly dotted the empty metropolis. "They seem to be getting livelier," she commented.
Arf frowned, tilting her head. "You guys hear that?"
Alisa and Suzuka frowned, straining. Soon, they heard it too, the nearly muffled thump of an engine and what sounded like… "A helicopter?" Alisa said, confused.
From out of the night, a spotlight suddenly snapped on, bathing the area they were standing in. they shield their eyes as Arf snarled and moved to put herself in front of them, a ball of light beginning to glow in her hands. The light swung away, no longer blinding them, and allowing them to make out the form of a slick black helicopter, one obviously loaded with all sorts of explosive goodness.
"Oh, crap, it's the JSDF," Alisa said. "That means they're about to die horribly, isn't it?"
"Alisa-chan!" Suzuka rebuked. "Be nice!"
"Suzuka, they suck so much they no longer bother coming out when a giant monster steps out of the sea! People were calling it the Japan Suicide Daily Force!"
"That's a gross and unfair overgeneralization of our armed forces."
Then they had to stop and shield their eyes as the helicopter lowered itself, coming to land some yards away from them. As the engine powered down, the front-most cockpit rose, and a small figure in a tight, dark flight suit with purple accents rose and took off its helmet, letting dark purple locks come tumbling down and making Alisa wonder how the hell so much hair fit in such a small helmet. The figure waved. "Cousin Suzuka! It's me! We're here to rescue you!"
Suzuka blinked, then gasped. "Tomoyo-chan?" She began to run towards the other girl, and Alisa and Arf followed a bit more slowly.
Suzuka hugged Tomoyo as she reached the other girl. "I can't believe you're here!" she said, gawking at her cousin while the rear cockpit slid open, and three people Alisa didn't known awkwardly climbed out. "What are you doing here?"
Tomoyo laughed in that way that had always made Alisa's skin crawl. "Well, you see, this is actually a big coincidence."
"Ah!" Suzuka exclaimed, clapping her hands as she had an epiphany. "You're actually a Magical Girl too, aren't you? And you're here because Green Lantern-chan called for your help. "
"Aha ha!" Tomoyo laughed. There was more skin crawling. "Something like that. Actually, we're here to rescue you!"
"Rescue us?" Alisa said blandly. "Aren't you a bit short to be a Dark Lord of the Sith?"
To Alisa's surprise, the boy who had come out of the cockpit– why was he holding that weird board with the compass on it?– snickered, though he shot Tomoyo a cautious sideways glance. Alisa decided he was both perceptive, intelligent, and slightly suicidal.
Tomoyo turned that creepy, mysterious, saintly © smile on Alisa, who had to keep herself from stepping back. "Ah! Nice to see you again, Alisa-chan. Did you watch Star Wars recently?"
"We watched it a few days ago," Suzuka said. "I can't believe you're actually a Magical Girl, Tomoyo-chan! Why didn't you tell me?"
"Well, I'm not actually a Magical Girl," Tomoyo said. "Right now, I'm just a humble helicopter pilot. Sakura-chan is the real Magical Girl!"
Alisa stared. Had that been actual gush in Tomoyo's voice?
Suzaku blinked. "Sakura-chan? The Sakura-chan? The one you're always telling me about, the one you want to f–"
"Yes, her," Tomoyo interrupted a bit too smoothly. She clasped her hands in front of her chest, and there were stars in her eyes. "Sakura-chan is actually a super-cool Magical Girl, and she's here to help Green Lantern-chan and save the city!"
"Hoeee…. Tomoyo-chan!" the short-haired girl protested. The last girl just looked on with an amused smile.
"Someone said something about a rescue?" Alisa reminded them.
The Chinese-looking dark-haired girl grinned and extended her hand to them. "Come with us if you want to live."
In the city, a city block collapsed, and a dark form took to the air…
It was, when you go right down to it, a ridiculously simple application of a Power Ring's capabilities. After all, processing wasn't difficult. The difficulties lay in hardware limitations that prevented one from creating more powerful processors. All Nanoha would have needed to do was imagine one. Though she was aware that whatever she could imagine, it would pale in comparison to Ring-chan's actual capabilities.
"Rudimentary access established," Ring-chan and the Spirit of the Book chorused, the latter kneeling in front of Nanoha, one hand on her ring. "Functionality is limited, however. The automated defense program has blocked off key systems and is actively maintaining blockade."
"Can't we circumvent them, go around them?" Nanoha asked.
"Attempt will not succeed before dimensional rupture commences."
"What systems can we access?" Fate asked. "You said we had limited functionality. Is there any way we can make use of that?"
The spirit of the book tilted her head. "We have partial access to all Linker Core downloaded data, horology, sense input, telepathy, capture space illusions, Magic Circuit construction, Magia Erebea storage redistribution–"
"Hold it!" Nanoha said. "We have access to telepathy?"
The spirit of the Book nodded.
"We can talk to the others outside?" Nanoha pressed.
"Maybe we can ask for help!" Hayate said. "Eternal Sailor Moon-sama should be able to do something!"
Fate, who'd met Eternal Sailor Moon, wisely kept quiet for the sake of morale. Instead, she said, "What was that about the defense program maintaining an active blockade?"
"The defense program is actively maintain its defense of many major systems," the chorus said. "Such active defense will greatly slow any attempt at restoring control to the system administrator."
"But why only key systems?" Nanoha asked. "Why not all?"
"The automated defense program is limited," the spirit of the Book answered. "It is actually a very rudimentary program, incapable of higher reasoning skills or emotive abilities. It's basically an independent sub routine gone rogue, similar to a human's flight or fight reflex. While it has power, it can't spread it very far. We were able to break through the blocks it wasn't maintaining with relative ease."
"Then…" Nanoha pondered. "Could we somehow make it pay more attention somewhere else, and get it to leave those systems alone so we can sneak through and take them?"
"Feasible," the chorus came back as Ring-chan gave her opinion. "But there is the complication of the 'taint'. It maintains a direct hardware connection to all systems. Unless it is removed, it can allow the defense program to maintain control of perhaps one or two systems, making full restoration in the time remaining impossible."
"Hmm…" Hayate mused. "Can I see that Linker Core download data for a minute?"
A holographic screen appeared in front of her and Hayate quickly began to scroll down, making contemplative sounds. Suddenly, a smile broke across her face. "YES!" she cheered. "I knew it! Eternal Sailor Moon-sama can save us! We need to talk to the others, quick!"
"Book of Darkness-san, how do we access the systems?" Nanoha asked, infected by Hayate's enthusiasm.
The spirit flinched.
Nanoha paused. "Book-san?"
"I will activate the relevant systems," the spirit said, not looking at Nanoha, eyes downcast.
A hand rose to her cheek. Trying to blink back tears, the spirit looked up in Hayate's gently smiling face. "It's all right. Nanoha-chan didn't mean it. Did you Nanoha-chan?" The question held the most subtle edge.
Nanoha blinked cluelessly. "What?"
Hayate giggled. "See? She means no malice by it."
"Still…" the spirit said quietly. "For all I have caused, it is a name I deserve–"
"No!" Hayate snapped. "No, you don't! You're as trapped as any of us are! You don't deserve to be called those names, do you hear me?"
"No buts!" Hayate's tone softened, but became no less intent. "I am your mistress. You have to listen to what your mistress says."
Beneath her feet, light began to shine, and Nanoha and Fate gasped and scooted backwardly slightly as a Belkan triangle began to draw itself between the two.
"I'll give you a name," Hayate said fiercely, protectively, like she wasn't the smaller of the two. "I won't let anyone call you the 'Book of Darkness' or the 'Cursed Tome' any longer! I will never call you that! I'm your administrator. I can do this."
"Mistress…" the spirit breathed.
Hayate straightened, tall and proud, and met her gaze. Softly, she kissed the spirit on one cheek, then the other. She kissed her on the forehead and finally, softly, on the lips. "In the name of the Mistress of the Night Sky, I grant you a new name. One who supports others with strength, the tailwind of fortune, the blessed air! I dub thee…Reinforce!"
The Book of Darkness flew through the night, on the defensive now, but no less frustrating for it. The few who could fly well– Yuuno, Sakura, Rider, Miyu, Gilgamesh– had been trying to herd her out of the city and out into the bay, but she was too smart for that, keeping low and fast to frustrate those following behind on slower, less agile creations of Haruna's, barely keeping in attack range. It was hard to fly and shoot at the same time, and they missed constantly, and what didn't miss struck the Book's ever-present and annoying barriers.
Yuuno only had a split second to line up his next shot when a voice in his head suddenly cried, Um, hello? Anyone out there?
He missed, the beam from his ring hitting nothing but air and barrier. "Green Lantern?"
Yuuno-kun! Thank goodness! I'm inside the Book! Fa– er, Black Reaper-chan and the Mistress of the Book are with me! We've managed to partially hack the controls!
"The mistress of the Book woke up?" Yuuno said, transmitting broadly so everyone could hear.
Yes! Isn't it great?-! But Yuuno-kun, there's no time to explain! Everyone! Eternal Sailor Moon-sama most especially!
"Um, me?" Eternal Sailor Moon said, riding next to Tuxedo Kamen on the Vimana.
Eternal Sailor Moon-sama, I know you can't respond, but as soon as the Book in front of you stops in midair, I need you to hit it with the most powerful purifying attack you have! Everyone else, I need you to direct your magic towards this attack to boost it! Energy attacks only! Your Linker Core data says some of your attacks can combine with others to great more powerful effects, right?
"W-well, I could, but I haven't done that in years!" Eternal Sailor Moon protested, aware that people were looking at her. "I'm not sure my Starlight Honeymoon Therapy Kiss can combine with others, especially those who aren't Senshi, and the Silver Moon Crystal Power Kiss might be too powerful!"
As Gilgamesh stared at the absurdity of those names, another mental voice spoke out. Um, Eternal Sailor Moon-sama? Green Lantern-chan? Tohsaka Sakura's mental voice ventured. I believe I have the solution. Everyone! Shoot your attacks at ME!
"WHAT?-!-?-!-?-!-?-!-?-!" Rin exclaimed. "ARE YOU CRAZY?-!-?-!-?-!-?-!-?-!"
Trust me, onee-sama! One last time! Everyone, please, I don't have time to explain. Green Lantern-chan, can you stop the Book when I give you the signal?
There was a pause. We'll need ten seconds!
Sakura stopped dead on the air and rose, moving her above the others, and her Soei-jutsu began to trace complicated circular designs beneath her. "Everyone! Please, trust me! I need you power, now!"
For a heartbeat, everyone stared at their respective leaders, unsure.
Negi and Eternal Sailor Moon stared at Rin.
The elder Tohsaka let out a breath and drew her Jewels. "Hit her when she says! Maximum power!"
Everyone heard a mental voice go "Achoo!"
The shadows finished, an enormous sigil lying beneath Sakura. For a heartbeat, Negi thought it looked vaguely familiar…
"Now!" Sakura cried.
"Starlight Honeymoon Therapy Kiss!"
"Mars Flame Sniper!"
"Jupiter Oak Evolution!"
"Venus Love and Beauty Shock!"
"Space Sword Blaster!"
"Mercury Aqua Rhapsody!"
"Silence Glaive Surprise!"
"Nivis Tempestas Obscurans!"
"Thaumaturgical Jewel Throw!"
"Edelfelt Superiorly Elegant Thaumaturgical Jewel Throw!"
"Damn it, stop copying me!"
"Zanmaken Ni-no-Tachi! In Celebration Of My First Kiss With Maga Alba Oujo-sama Strike!"
"Wait, that's a real attack?"
"Sapphire Blast, Maximum Power."
"Sapphire-chan! Put more emotion into it!"
"Trace, on! Ex–"
"Kaleido Ruby Berserker Interrupting Big Brother Kick!"
"Black Archer Interrupting Saber-chan Kick!"
"It's not a dramatic enough moment yet…"
The storm of spell flew up at Sakura, who hovered, waiting. Her hand snapped out, and the shadow-design at her feet began to glow.
And Negi realized exactly where he knew it from.
"Negica!" Sakura cried. "Magia! Erebea! "
The attacks struck the circle… and collapsed into a single ball of energy.
"Sinus Magnus! Stagnet! Complexio!"
"The heck–?-!" Asuna cried. "HOW DOES SHE KNOW THAT?-!"
"You should have seen her earlier this week…" Kuro said, moving away from a glowering Saber. "She was all crazy broken…"
The power collapsed into Sakura, who raised a hand. Now, Green Lantern-chan!
Ahead of them, the Book seemed to stutter in midair.
Sakura raised her opposite hand over her head. "Night Sky Honeymoon Therapy Kiss!" Power blazed in her hand
The Book swayed drunkenly, slowed.
"Sinistra Stagnans! Unisonent!"
The Book stopped dead in the air. In Sakura's other hand, an enormous ball of energy shone. She brought her hands together. Light blazed.
"Fused Spell! Mahou! Shoujo! Ultimate! Therapy! KISS!"
The beam of pure Truth, Love and Justice shot at the Book with power greater than any Starlight Breaker that came before… and utterly destroyed the barrier in its way as it slammed into the Book like divine retribution. It let out a scream as blackness, veined in red, was blasted out of its skin, out of its armor, out of its very being, the blackness falling into the roiling sea beneath it, leaving behind only a glowing ball of light.
Sakura, her hair bleached silver, fell from the skies, unconscious…
"We are in," Ring-chan announced even as the world around them rumbled and shook. "Defense program's capabilities overwhelmed. All systems are now in administrator contro–"
The ring and its wearer faded away, and there was only Hayate and the spirit of the Book.
"Reinforce… recognized as new name," the spirit said, sounding stunned. "Administrative powers have become possible…"
Hayate smiled. "Yes…"
"However, I cannot stop the defense program from going out of control. The power that was separated from my control by the taint will rampage shortly now that it has been extracted from me."
"Don't worry. We'll do something about that. Shall we go... Reinforce?"
And for the first time since this all began, Reinforce smiled. "Yes, my mistress…"
Rider caught Sakura long before she hit the ground. "Sakura! Sakura! Answer me!"
Sakura's eyes trembled, now-crimson eyes staring blearily at Rider. "Did it work…?"
Rider nodded, her concern over her Master obvious.
Sakura closed her eyes. "Good…" she muttered, and slipped into a doze.
Everyone else, meanwhile, was staring at the still-glowing ball.
"What's happening?" Haruna asked.
"I'm inclined to say… purification on steroids from heaven," Sailor Mars said, shielding her eyes from the glow.
"Something's coming out!" Yuuno said, pointing, deep green sunglasses on his face.
From the ball of light came two forms, one of which quickly began glowing green. They slowed and stabilized in the air.
"Green Lantern-chan! Black Reaper-chan!" Eternal Sailor Moon called out.
Nanoha waved. "You did it, everyone!"
"But… what's happening now?" Shiro asked, nursing the bruise Illya's metal-booted foot had given him.
Nanoha smiled. "Healing…"
"Full activation of Administrative powers."
"I was able to slightly slow the defense program's progression before it was expelled. It will only last a few minutes, but it should give you some time before it goes berserk. Unfortunately, it is likely the 'taint' will allow it to remain fully mobile in that time."
Hayate nodded. "All right…" Around her, four small balls of light began to glow. Such innocuous things, to represent the people she loved most in the world. "That should be plenty of time." A beat. "Return Linker Cores and rebuild Guardian Knight System."
The points of light grew brighter.
Outside, four Belkan triangles began to manifest, each in a different color, glowing and orbiting around the ball of light.
"That can't be a good thing," Assassin said, leveling his staff and trying not to fall off his flying manta ray.
"No…" a sleepy voice said, Sakura barely audible over the sound of Pegasus' wings. "That's very good thing…"
"You know what it is, of course," Rin said, just the slightest bit acerbically.
Sakura nodded. Struggling to sit up, to see. "Rebirth…"
From the triangles, four figures rose, fully clothed and armed. Everyone immediately tensed.
A child's voice echoed softly through their minds. Come to me, my Knights…
The ball exploded, energy flying in opposite directions in a pillar of light. And within that pillar, at it's core, a single point of luminance resolved, a pure white Belkan triangle spinning slowly beneath it. The pillar dimmed, and only the radiance remained.
"Vita-chan!" Nanoha cried, seeing the knight floating by the light."Shamal-san!"
"Signum!" Fate called, hand tensing on Bardiche ever so slightly.
"You people!" Rin roared, reaching for her jewels.
A small tendril of shadow touched her wrist. She paused, looking back at her sister. Sakura shook her head. "Wait… please…"
Signum didn't open her eyes. "We are the guardian knights who gather before our mistress, she of the night sky."
"As long as our mistress exists, our souls will never extinguish," Shamal said.
"As long as we have life in our bodies, we will stand by each other," Zafira swore.
Vita spoke with the reverence of prayer. "We will always exist before our mistress, the Queen of the Night Sky, Yagami Hayate!"
The heads of the Magi rose. "Did I hear that right…?" Assassin said, memory flashing to the final battle fo the Holy Grail War.
Behind the Wolkenritter, the white sphere shattered, revealing a girl in a short black dress, wielding at long golden staff with a cross-shaped end. Gilgamesh began to gag upon seeing it. The end of the 4th Holy Grail war flashed before Saber's eyes.
"Hayate-chan!" Nanoha cried joyously.
The girl smiled and raised her staff. "Light of the Night Sky, come to my hand! Blessed wind, Reinforce… Set Up!"
And in Rider's arms, Sakura smiled.
Darkness began to congeal upon the golden staff, only for into erupt in rays of light. Segments of clothes began to appear on Hayate's dress. A white jacket and hat appeared on her, and her hair faded to pale blonde. Six black wings erupted from her back and she spun, posing.
The knights all turned to face her and knelt in the air, their voices solemn, worshipful, Vita most of all.
"In days of peace, in times of war,
"Protect our Queen forever more!
"The five clouds stand, we are her Knights!"
"To guard Hayate, our delight!"
"She is born," Sakura said, sounding slightly out of it. "She is born. Let the world know. Let evil tremble. Let the cry ring forth across the lands. She has come. The Destroyer of Worlds. The Hero of Justice. The Queen of the Night Sky. Regina Daemonia. She is here! Herald Program… end. Deleting…"
Then she yawned and blinked open her eyes. "Sorry, must have fallen asleep. What did I miss?"
"The birth of an Epic Spirit," Kuro said quietly. No one heard her.
Then for some reason, she and everyone else there sneezed.
Crammed in the back of Tomoyo's helicopter with Suzuka and the girl who had introduced herself as Mei Lin, Alisa glared at the light over the bay. "Darn it, why does she never introduce us to her friends! What, aren't we good enough for her?-!"
Suzuka sighed. "Alisa-chan… shut up."
Lindy stared at the scene before her, fingering the key to the Arc-En-Ciel. "Enforcer Harlaown, what's you ETA?"
"I'll be there in 3 minutes, Admiral!"
Lindy stared, at the pillars of fire rising over the city, at the people assembled nearthe light, above the enormous sphere of darkness in the water. "Please let that be soon enough," she whispered, praying for her son and daughter, praying for the strange and wonderful people of this strange and wonderful world…
Back at Fuyuki, Irisviel pouted as she chowed down on some Christmas fruit cake. "My daughters never take me anywhere," she wailed.
Kiritsugu wisely just nodded.
- To be continued...
A/N: I'm aware that the Vimana likely gets destroyed or at least heavily damaged at volume 3/episode whatever of Fate/Zero, but I believe either things return to his treasury in mint condition or he has the resources to fix it in his treasury ("Behold! I own the original vehicle repair hanger! In GOLD!"). Given this Gilgamesh's background, he'd be inclined to fix it. He's done so before, after all…
No, that wasn't from the books or anime, that was foreshadowing for later character development.
Yeah, the canon plan for saving Mundus Magicus involving Asuna going into yet ANOTHER coma isn't working for me, so it doesn't happen.
Saber has a Magic Cancel stat. I'm interpreting that as meaning nothing short of a High Ancient Negima Spell or anything less than Starlight Breaker– or Hayate– can affect her with damage. They'll push her around, but she's basically immune.
Suzuka's mother is Sonomi's sister. So yes, Suzuka is distantly related to Sakura as well.
The end is coming. Hopefully I'll be able to use the epilogue I've written soon…
Please review, C&C welcome.
Until next time, this is Shadow, signing off.