In Flight: Thirty Eighth Wing
Author's Notes: Well, it took a little bit, and I won't bore you over the details of how RL continues to hound my writing time, but here it is, the 38th chapter of In Flight.
First off, as always, the review response section. Generally, a good response to Shirou's take down of Higa. Like I said, I was aiming to show Shirou at his most Magus Killer for that fight, and so far it looks like it came off believable. A few responses to specific inquiries.
Some people have been asking where I get my Nasu information. For that, I rely heavily on the Type-Moon Wiki, but I also spend a lot of my time going directly to Nasu's work. Fate/Stay Night, Tsukiumi, and perhaps most underestimated of all, Kara no Kyoukai. Seriously, some of the scenes where Touko is explaining magecraft have been the most useful for getting the nitty gritty of the Type-moon world. She was the one I got the 'magecraft is limited' tidbit from, though I can't remember which book it was off hand. Guess you'll have to read them all to find it!
Also, some people have been wondering about how squishy Shirou seems to be. For instance, they bring up how Shirou managed to face Saber Alter in the Heaven's Feel arc. In regards to that particular scene, I do have to point at the time he had Archer's arm, which seriously boosts his potential buttkickery output. However, for the most part, it's more a matter of keeping Shirou at a level where he still has to face antagonists that could genuinely overcome him. In this case, the primary factor holding him back from kicking it up a notch is that most of his fights have been happening on camera, thanks to MBI, and because of that he has to limit himself so he doesn't reveal the existence of magecraft. It's proven a good way to help keep him as a level where he's still competent in a fight, but not so overpowered that it makes the story boring.
Now that that part is over...
Okay, this chapter is a good bit shorter than I normally make them, but it is for a very good reason.
Cliffhangers of course!
No, seriously, I just really liked this spot for a cliff hanger. I could have added one more scene in, but then the ending of the chapter would end up on a less tense note, and it would effectively cut the planned reunion between Shirou, Rin, and Saber in half. I wanted to keep the reunion all in one chapter, mostly so that it'll play out more evenly, and also because then the reader would have to wait however long it takes for me to get 39 out to see the whole reunion.
I decided to be a little evil, so that the next chapter will be more satisfying. Feel free to burn effigies of me if it will help. Make sure they have Hawaiian shirts on!
Also, this chapter also plays a bit as a breather episode, giving me a chance to put some time in for Shirou and Takami to have some more interaction. What I was aiming for with those two was the continuation of the theme I introduced way back at the beginning, that just because the mother and son found each other doesn't mean that everything is going to be sunshine and puppy dogs after. They're both very different people, with very different goals and ideals. In these circumstances it's not unexpected that there would be a whole lot of tension there.
Bet you didn't see him coming, didya? He was there much for comedic relief, but also to show how how much Homura had changed over the story, as well as help remind the reader that there are normal people out there. He gets to be a contrast between what the normal citizens of Shin Tokyo are going through and what those involved with the Sekirei Plan have to deal with.
Well, mostly, I just didn't want to just put him on a bus, like how canon Sekirei did.
And with that, on to the chapter. I have a day off for once, and I'm actually going write to getting started on 39 while I still got the time and motivation.
So, as always, if you just want to give a shout out, go ahead and put up a review. If you have any serious questions, use the forum, though lately I just haven't had time to get there much. I'll do what I can to keep up with it, but sometimes you just have to prioritize how you spend your time, and so far my forum time has been the one to suffer.
And as always, dear reader, enjoy.
"The answer is no," I told Matsu stubbornly, despite the fact that she continued to lean over my shoulder helping me access the information I was looking for.
"Shiro-tan," the hacker sighed, pointing to the correct file as she did so. "Shiro-tan is the one who said that MBI is dangerous now," she reminded me, pausing. "There, now you just need to enter a password…"
"That doesn't mean Takami is dangerous too," I protested, fumbling through typing in some word. I never was too good at passwords. The only reason they ever worked on anything was that I was always surrounded by people too technologically ignorant for it to even matter. Now that I had Matsu around, I doubted even if I tried I could keep any potential passwords out of her notice for long enough to make a difference.
"Takami-tan is MBI," Matsu pointed out gently, sighing as she flopped back. "And yeah, even if she wasn't Takami-tan is definitely dangerous," she muttered, crossing her arms as she let herself sprawl backwards with a huff.
"Well," I hedged, but sighed myself, knowing she was right. Takami was a formidable woman, even the few months I had known her more than enough for me to have figured out that much. "But still, she said she wanted to meet alone," I insisted. "And that's how we're going to meet." I gave Matsu a steady look, and she sighed, rolling over to start typing at one of her keyboards. "More importantly, any movement from MBI yet?"
"Nothing yet," Matsu pouted. "Mou! Just when we need them to actually do something, they have to start being all docile!"
It had been a little over a week since the execution of Higa and his company. Over a week since open fighting started out in the East over who would claim that newly opened quarter of the city. I had predicted long ago that the deaths of the three great Ashikabi would cause enough unrest to reduce the number of Sekirei low enough to render the Sekirei Plan moot, and so far it looked like I had been spot on. Maybe it was a result of all the other sectors of the city having such scary reputation, but just about every independent Sekirei and Ashikabi left in the plan had headed that way. The fighting for who got to be number one started almost instantly.
So far, according to the reports Matsu had been making, it looked like a three way tie. The first contender was some Ashikabi named Oosumi Orihiko, with Sekirei number eighty seven, Kaho. The second possible new Ashikabi of the East was, and this surprised even me a bit, none other than Seo. If he actually did end up one of the official powers then I would have to find some way to make fun of him. It was only fair after the ribbing he used to give me. And the third potential new Ashikabi of the East was, perhaps unsurprisingly, none other than my sister Yukari herself.
"It's possible that MBI is waiting for things to stabilize first," I noted, finally starting to get to flip through the database I'd been trying to get into. "They have kept track of power structures before, even going out of their way to arrange matches between the big names. They might just be waiting so that they can be more dramatic later." My eyebrow shot up as I finally got a chance to give the data a proper look.
"That would be just like the Director," Matsu sighed, before realizing I was staring at her. Huffing proudly, she sat up, arms still folded as she puffed her chest. "Well?" she demanded expectantly. "What do you think, Shirou-tan?"
"This is amazing," I told her bluntly, meaning it. "You actually managed to do it!"
"Hmhmm!" Matsu hummed happily, looking like the cat that caught the canary. "Praise me more, Shirou-tan!"
"It actually has a search function, a roll over description, a detailed description…" I trailed off, clicking on one and finding the detailed description mostly empty. That made sense, I suppose. "Well, a spot for me to insert research notes…"
"Matsu also added a 'find similar' search engine as well," she proclaimed, and I had no choice but to whistle.
It looked like I was now officially the first magus ever to have an electronic workshop. I'm pretty sure that this right here would have been enough to get me a Sealing Designation on its own, even if I didn't already have one.
Mostly so that the stuffy archaic lords who knew even less about computers than I did would always have someone as tech support nearby.
So far the info was pretty basic, Matsu having just put in all the rune primers that had survived the fire, but it was still a fantastically complex and user friendly system compared to the old method of having to flip through hundreds of pages in order to hunt down whatever rune you were looking for.
"The full texts are in there too," Matsu went on to explain, crawling over so she could lean on my shoulder and point out some of the other features. "As well as spots to set up specific topics, and a few basic calculating tools like a spreadsheet and note pad. Matsu also added this!" She seemed really excited as she pointed out a little tab towards the top. It looked familiar, but I had no idea why. "Try it, Shirou-tan! Put in some runes!"
"Okay…" I muttered, before just briefly tapping in a few random runes I used for Ath nGabla and hitting the 'ok' button. The result made me gawk. "You… what did you do?"
"Yup!" Matsu was grinning, apparently not realizing that she had potentially changed the way runes would be studied at a fundamental level forever. "There's lots of translating software out there, and since runes are just old letters…"
"You hooked the database up to a translating search engine," I summed up, still staring. It's not like it would be a perfect match. No, runes could have a lot of different interpretations, and using runes was a lot like trying to learn a new language. But one of the hardest parts had always been learning ways that runes could interact to form concepts or ideas.
Just knowing where to start was one of the biggest stumbling blocks of any rune apprentice out there. And now I could just type in what I want, and get not only a single idea but a whole list of potential combinations?
"Matsu, you are a genius," I told her plainly, giving her a bewildered look. She at least seemed to be enjoying my awe.
"So, as a genius, if Matsu tells Shirou-tan that going to this meeting with Takami is stupid and he shouldn't do it…?" she began, and I shook my head.
"Still going, but I'll bring Akitsu and let her stay nearby," I compromised. Matsu didn't look completely happy about that, but she seemed to cave. She didn't make any more comment on where I was heading after this lesson, so I took it to mean she had given in.
Honestly, I was having way too much fun with the user contribution area of the new database. Using a wiki based software to be able to link relevant notes in mid paragraph? Genius! Who comes up with this kind of stuff?
"Alright, you can do this," I told myself, hoping that if I said it enough it would be true. "How hard can it be?"
With a deep breath, I pushed open the door to the restaurant in front of me, and went to meet my mother.
I hadn't been certain just how this meeting would happen, or even if it would happen. For all that Takami wanted to talk to me, she was still MBI and I was probably now officially 'MBI's least wanted' Ashikabi. However, it looked like Takami had either sold the idea of meeting with me officially to her higher ups, or she just ignored them and went on with it on her own. Whatever the case, after the dust had cleared enough from the destruction of the Higa Conglomerate the call had come to my cell phone, and a date had been set up.
It was easy enough to find Takami once I entered the restaurant; the white hair and lab coat stood out like a sore thumb against all the suits and fancy clothes. The whole place looked kind of high class, and I felt a little out of place in a long sleeve and jeans, but none of the staff stopped me as I made my way towards Takami. None of the staff was even trying to stop Takami from openly smoking, using a wine glass as an impromptu ashtray as she did so.
"I wish you wouldn't smoke," I told her with a sigh, taking in the half dozen butts that were already in the cup.
"I wish you wouldn't be an idiot," Takami told me flatly. "Look how that's working for me."
I winced a bit, but let the shot pass. It still set the mood for the meeting though, and I took my seat gingerly.
"I thought you were going to come alone?" Takami asked, giving the front door an open look. Akitsu was pretty obvious, just standing there directly in front of the entrance and staring in like a fetish mannequin. I had told her not to enter, but I think getting her to hide rather than just stand out front would have been one of those situations where it might be more effort than it was worth.
"My friends were a little leery of me being by myself," I admitted, using the code word that we had settled on back when I had first gotten involved in this whole debacle. "I had to compromise otherwise they would have mutinied."
"Trouble at home?" Takami gave a brief smirk at that. "Good. Maybe next time you won't get so greedy. I had thought you were smart enough not to try for a harem."
"I didn't try for it," I protested, palming my head. "It just happened! And the sad part is that it could have been bigger!"
"Oh? So there were others that someone managed to snatch out of your greedy hand?" Takami seemed to be relaxing at least, some of the tension evaporating as she teased me. I wondered if this was what it would feel like if we had been a normal family; just a mother and son meeting up for dinner, the mother catching up with the son by teasing him about his love life.
"Karasuba was reacting too, but she had other plans," I told Takami, and like that the tension ratcheted up.
"She what?" Takami demanded, crushing a cigarette into the glass and pulling another one out immediately. It reminded me of the way Homura would chain smoke when something was bothering her. "Funny, she never mentioned that before," Takami growled, and I wondered if I might have just got the Black Sekirei in trouble with her bosses.
"So how have things been, you know, at work?" I tried awkwardly, hoping to change the subject to something with a little less in the way of landmines. I nearly smacked my head afterwards when it occurred to me a second later that that topic was probably even worse.
"Well, ever since a certain someone had to go and make some overtime for me it's been a nightmare," Takami muttered. "Still, things are starting to settle down. Shouldn't be long before that idiot gets bored and finds some other way to make my life a living hell."
I wondered if 'that idiot' she was talking about was me, or someone else who went around endlessly complicating Takami's life. In the end, I figured it could go either way.
I opened my mouth to try again at a new topic, but paused as a familiar scent of power hit me: smoke and ash. I grimaced, and shot a look around the restaurant. I had told my flock that I wanted to have this meeting alone, but it looks like Homura had decided to pull a fast one. I couldn't see the former host anywhere, so at least she was being discreet, but I was still going to have words with her after this.
The distraction was enough for me to lose the momentum, and the conversation dwindled to silence. Considering that every time I tried I ended up dropping bombs, it was probably for the best. Still…
This wasn't what I wanted.
This awkward silence, this discomfort; I didn't want this type of relationship with my mother. I had never had one before, but even if it had been strange it had been good having Takami around, knowing that there was someone willing to drop whatever they were doing to answer a call, someone who would push me to finish college, to check in on me when they worried.
And now, well, this was probably going to be the last time I ever met my mother.
Takami was MBI, after all, and I was about to steal some of their most important alien artifacts, leave the city in violation of their Plan, and probably end up spending the rest of my life hiding or in a running battle with them.
So I tried to think of something, anything, that we could talk about that would make this last conversation a good one, when finally it seemed that Takami had had enough. She sighed, lighting another cigarette from the butt of the previous one, dropping the stub into the wine glass again.
"Kiritsugu Emiya," she said, and I tensed. "Internationally known assassin, the Magus Killer, the most ruthless murderer and terrorist in fifty years: that was who adopted you."
That topic definitely didn't count as one that would make this conversation a good one.
"I never tried to hide it," I reminded her softly. Somehow, I didn't think that trying to pretend ignorance here was going to help my case. "I told you who my father was the first day we met."
"Funny how you didn't…! Takami snapped starting to stand up from her seat, eyes blazing in anger, before she caught herself and sat back down. "Funny how you never mentioned exactly what your 'father' did for a living," she tried again, voice cool now as she got herself back in control. "Funny how you never mentioned what you do for a living, for that matter."
"Whatever do you mean, Takami-san?" I prompted her softly, hoping against hope that she would just let it go, we could order some overpriced fish or something, and we could have a bonding moment where we both made fun of how something so expensive could be so mediocre.
"You're an assassin, Shirou," she said flatly. She paused when I shook my head briefly. I think if she was a bit less cynical of a woman she might have had hope in her eyes, however she just looked curious about my negative response.
"I'm a mercenary," I corrected. "Mostly bounty hunting, but sometimes I'll take other jobs, if the reasons for them are right."
"Money?" Takami prompted, and again I shook my head.
"I have a moral code," I told her. "I'm pretty selective with what work I accept."
"Oh, wow," Takami deadpanned, rolling her eyes. "A killer with a heart of gold. Now that is an original concept! Quick, call a producer. Maybe I should start working on a script."
"Not gold," I told her, sighing as that really was the best response I could give. "Just steel."
"So you are an assassin then," Takami didn't quite seem to know how to respond to my correction, instead returning back to her original accusation. "My son. Raised by a killer who still remains at large and spent the last thirty years firmly stuck in the top ten internationally most wanted. It's lucky that you aren't really related to him, otherwise the breath analyzer would have linked you to one of the world's most vicious terrorists."
"Legacy of a misspent youth," I shrugged, and Takami slipped a bit, snarling as she swung at the impromptu ashtray in front of her, sending it careening off the table.
"Don't give me that lip!" she snapped, making it all the way up in her seat as she glared down at me, before finally grimacing and sinking back down. "So. Why did you come to Shin Tokyo? How did you find out about our connection? Is this all some kind of infiltration plot? Who is Kiritsugu working for?"
"Kiritsugu is dead," I told her, sighing. When someone like that disappears, it's no surprise that most of the time people rightly assume that they're just biding their time or faking their death to escape some heat. "He was buried in the graveyard outside the Kotomine parish in Fuyuki city, nearly a decade ago now." I maintained my composure, letting myself slip into battle mode a bit to help keep my cool.
It seemed that just like with Higa, Takami was starting to finally see the pieces, and even if she had found a way to make them fit, it still wasn't the real picture the puzzle was supposed to reveal.
"And no," I continued. "I had no interest in MBI, nor knowledge of any of its on goings, and quite frankly if it wasn't for two things that have come up since I came back to Japan, I wouldn't care one bit about the company. I have better things to do, most of the time."
"And those two things…" Takami prompted raising an eyebrow as she pulled a small plate over to take over for the now broken wine glass. A few of the serving staff looked like they were about to approach her, but she glared and held up her MBI identification as though it meant something. From how quickly the staff changed course to start cleaning up the ash and glass, I guess it did.
"The Sekirei and the Jinki," I said bluntly. Takami sighed, pushing back her hair and lighting a new cigarette, apparently having expected that answer. "Takami, do you have any idea just how dangerous both of those things are?"
"As dangerous as a man who'll use explosives to assassinate a CEO of a major international conglomerate before storming their facility and stealing one of them?" she grunted. "They can't be too dangerous if that man is using them on himself."
"No," I disagreed, letting the assumption that I was dabbling in the Jinki myself slide. "They're so dangerous that someone who knows enough about them to risk using them on himself felt that it would be better to assassinate a CEO and destroy his company rather than let him have one." I narrowed my eyes. "Especially after he was brazen enough to attempt to blackmail me with my own family."
"And if they're so dangerous that you have to keep them out of unscrupulous peoples' hands, just what makes you think that someone who would kill for them would be a better one to have them?" Takami just seemed tired at this point. I think she had been building up to this conversation probably since the day she had watched me walk away from the Higa building.
"That depends," I asked her. "You've been studying them for a lot longer than I have. You must know enough about them to just start handing them out," she snorted at the jibe, a not so subtle reminder that as dangerous as I am, her company was the one throwing the Jinki away like first prize medals. "Is there a safe way to destroy them completely?"
"Destroy…?" Takami shook out of her bad mood to stare at me. "What are you…?"
"Miya doesn't believe that there is one," I continued, watching my mother closely. "She thinks that even if they were destroyed, their destruction would have potential negative consequences on anyone with Sekirei DNA in them nearby in a pretty far radius, and since there are apparently a lot of those, destroying the Jinki isn't a safe plan. So far, I haven't been able to prove her wrong. Can you?"
Takami stared at me, the hand with her cigarette poised half way to her mouth. I don't think that was quite what she was expecting me to ask her. Maybe something more along the lines of 'can you help me figure them out?' or 'hey, you know how to make these things make me a god?' or something like that.
I really don't have any stock with my family. My sister thinks I'm a lecher with a slave fetish, and my mother thinks I'm a megalomaniacal assassin.
Sad part? I really can't blame either of them for coming to those conclusions. My life sucked sometimes.
Still, even if I didn't want this conversation to go like this, if I had been hoping for a friendlier final meeting, that wasn't going to happen. In the end, this had just become one more fight, but that was fine. In this fight, there might be a chance to do something I hadn't really thought possible…
There was no reason that Takami had to be my enemy, after all. In fact, if she did have some of that vast knowledge of Sekirei that MBI had accumulated, or access to any of it either in whole or in part, than if I could get her to JOIN me on my plot…
"They can be broken…" Takami muttered, staring at me so hard that if it was Musubi I would have already been laser-beamed. Slowly she took another drag on her cigarette. "Theoretically. However, if it did happen there would be consequences."
"What kind of consequences?" I pushed, leaning forward eagerly now. Could it be? Even if this hadn't been a bonding moment, if I could find some way to end the Sekirei Plan completely, to destroy the Jinki, than I could just have that bonding moment later! Maybe at a victory celebration with Takami and Yukari, maybe with some of the other oddball characters that I had gotten to know over the last few months…
"The kind that turned Miya into a widow in the first place," she stated bluntly. "Takehito was one of our best, and he had been working directly with the Jinki for a while. However, even though he thought he had figured out a way to safely start using them…" She stopped for a moment, before shaking her head, her tone unusually somber. "It was bad. Miya was lucky she never got to see it herself."
I closed my eyes, sighing. So that was it. Well, I should know better to hope by this point. Hope doesn't win battles, planning and ruthlessness did that.
I never realized that it had been the Jinki that were responsible for the death of Miya's beloved husband. I wondered if she even knew the specifics of it. If she did, I doubted she would be so calm having three of them in her home.
"I see," I finally concluded, leaning backwards, opening them as I pasted a composed expression on. "Is there anything else you can tell me?" I asked, only halfheartedly. If there was no way to destroy the Jinki safely, then my current plan was still the best and that meant I wouldn't be here much longer.
"Well," Takami began slowly, before trailing off for a moment. "There isn't anything I can tell you now, but there is a way for you to learn more…?"
"And that is?" Well, looks like I still might get a chance of getting something besides a pain in my chest from this meeting.
"I was leery at first," Takami began, still watching me carefully. "But it looks like I underestimated your character. Tell me, Shirou-kun," she paused, closed her eyes, took a deep breath, opened her eyes, and continued. "How would you like to work for MBI?"
I stared. "What?" I demanded flatly.
That I had most certainly not been expecting.
"You have one of the strongest forces in the city, besides us," Takami continued slowly. "Plus you have your… unusual upbringing," she grimaced. "You've already proven to be effective at planning and pulling off operations. All that and several of MBI's scientists have been howling to try and get you in on the research side, considering your accomplishments with certain other… dead end projects," Takami glanced at Akitsu meaningfully, reminding me that I had winged the supposedly unwingable. Yeah, that had got the attention I was aiming for. "Because of all that, the Director had approached me to approach you about coming to the company."
I was so off-guard by all this, that it actually took me a moment to realize what was happening.
Not the job offer. That was obvious. No. This was something else.
I had been so focused on trying to get Takami on my side, it never occurred to me that she might also be trying to do the exact same.
Takami was trying to recruit me! Not for MBI. No, she had said she wasn't going to do make the offer originally. But when she had changed her face after I had mentioned my desire to destroy the Jinki…
It looked like my mother might not be as complacent to MBI's plans as I had assumed. Or that she was content to just let it play off with a disgusted sneer.
If only things had been a little different, this right here could very well have been the option I had been playing the waiting game on for most of the Sekirei Plan.
Too bad I already had found an answer. And even with this new option, it didn't change the fact that the one I had found was just more likely to have a better success rate. Besides…
"I refuse," I shook my head at the chance. Takami grimaced, but pressed one anyway.
"And whys that?"
"Because MBI has done the Sekirei nothing but harm since they found them," I listed. "Because MBI obviously has some sort of higher plan or scheme going on. Because MBI is handing out potentially genocide inducing alien artifacts without any concern for the safety of humanity. Because I don't want to be around Karasuba for long periods of time," I grimaced at the thought. It was difficult enough keeping her from going on a killing spree in my presence as it was, much less if we were to be working together. "And also, I just don't like Minaka."
"All good reasons," Takami muttered, sighing as she put out her cigarette. "Especially the last one."
With that, the silence between us just grew. I couldn't really think of anything to say, that much was for sure. I'd already run out of topics which weren't littered with landmines, and there wasn't much to add even with the deliberately dangerous ones. I couldn't exactly press to try and convince her to come to my side. It would just put her in more danger. If there wasn't some way to destroy the Jinki completely than that meant that I would still have to leave at some point. If I tried to get Takami involved any further than she would either be a target when I left, or have to come with me.
Somehow, being on the run with my mother included with my alien harem just seemed a recipe for disaster.
"I need to be getting back to work," Takami finally announced, putting out the final cigarette in her chain session. I watched the last wisps of smoke rise as she got up, settling her lab coat on her shoulder as she did so. I wasn't sure if it was because she was in a bad mood, or if she was just in a rush, but she didn't say anything else before striding past me and making her way to the door where Akitsu was still patiently waiting.
"Goodbye, Mother," I told her, but it didn't look like she heard me as I used the permanent expression of farewell with her.
This was probably the last time I would ever see her, well, in person or on friendly terms, if that was the kind of terms this meeting had anyway.
It was fine though.
Takami was tough. She'd been living in MBI for years now, and she could take care of herself. Just associating with her any further could just make it harder on her when I left.
She would be fine…
Strange how just saying that over and over again really didn't seem to help as much as it used to.
It wasn't until I was outside the restaurant, Akitsu falling into step with me that I finally called Homura on her spying.
"I know you're there," I called out, ignoring the stares that I was getting. It was sad, but I was just too used to the looks Akitsu tended to get when she was out in public with me to pay much attention to a few odd looks. It didn't even embarrass me any more to be seen in the company of what could easily be mistaken for a fetish model. "Would you please come down here?"
I didn't want to make it an order, considering Homura's typical reaction to receiving orders from me and my promise to avoid doing so, but I definitely was strongly implying that refusal wasn't really a choice right now.
I was in a bad mood after that disaster of a meeting, and I wasn't so noble that I could keep from taking a bit of it out on someone who had been spying uninvited on it.
"Here, Shirou," that her voice came from behind me was a bit of a surprise. I was generally pretty aware of my surroundings, after all, and I was positive I hadn't seen her coming up on me from behind. She sounded like she knew that she was in for a lecture at least, sounding embarrassed with herself.
"What did I say about following… me…" even as I turned to lecture her I found myself trailing off, unable to not gape at what I was seeing.
"Do you have to stare?" Homura muttered, blushing to the roots of her hair as I took in her appearance.
It actually took me a second to confirm that yes, Homura really was wearing a dress.
"Homura… you…" I found myself honestly at a loss for words as I took in the knee length white sundress that the flame user was in. It was held up by thin straps, displaying her shoulders and even a bit of her cleavage, and judging from the peak of something lacy beneath one of the straps I realized that Homura had went as far as to put on a bra. She was even wearing sandals with small heels of all things.
"It wasn't my idea!" Homura snapped, still blushing as she folded her arms uncomfortably. I wondered if she realized that doing so just pushed her breasts up more, emphasizing that bit of cleavage. "It was that lascivious witch, okay? We all agreed that someone had to be nearby in case MBI tried something, but we didn't want to give ourselves away, so when Kazehana suggested that I go in disguise…" She had started speeding up as she hastily defended her new outfit, before finally she practically wailed, "I don't like this at all!"
"Uh," I finally managed to string together two thoughts, and realized that any impulse to scold her for spying had strangely died.
I couldn't help but feel she had been punished enough at this point.
"Calm down," I finally sighed, reaching out to pat her shoulder gently. Homura started taking deep breaths, though she did shiver a bit when my hand came down on bare skin. "It's alright. Just breathe, okay?"
"How do the others move in something like this?" Homura whined, glaring at the hem of her dress. "No matter how you jump you always end up showing your panties…" She froze, and it was my turn to twitch as she revealed that she had even gone so far as to wear those as well. "I didn't want to do this!" she declared again, still blushing. "It was all for the sake of the disguise! Shirou, you believe me, right?"
"I believe you, I believe you!" I quickly reassured her, holding my hands up and backing away slightly as heat started to pour off the embarrassed fire user. I had the impression that acting any other way might be too much for the beleaguered newly female alien to handle at the moment, and the last thing I wanted was to be chased down the street by an embarrassed fireball throwing extraterrestrial in a sundress.
"Good," Homura glared, still blushing before she looked away in embarrassment. She seemed to realize how much of a scene we were making at this point, and blushed harder at the way we had started to gather a crowd.
I could only imagine how it would look. A guy with two girls, one of them angry and embarrassed and the other in revealing clothes; this kind of had the earmarks of a two timer being caught by his girlfriend with the girl of lesser repute. Homura seemed to realize that too, and with growl she grabbed my arm so she could pull me away from the whispering crowd, Akitsu following after.
For a while we walked in silence, Homura focusing on getting us away from the onlookers more than anything else. I could tell that she was having trouble limiting herself to normal modes of transportation: several times I saw her look at a low outcropping or roof and tense as though she was about to jump. However, every time she did she would flinch and the hand not grabbing my arm would flutter down to pull at the skirt of her dress and she'd stop.
I was content to just walk quietly. I had a lot on my mind after the meeting with my mother, and I didn't mind the chance to gather my thoughts. However, as time went on I could see Homura giving me quick looks, the fire user nearly opening her mouth to speak a few times before she seemed to think better of it.
Finally, it looked like she gathered enough courage to breach the subject she really wanted to.
"Kiritsugu Emiya," Homura began the conversation. "Was it true, what Takami said about him?"
I sighed, before nodding my head. "Yeah. I loved my father dearly, but that didn't change what he used to do."
"So like father like son," Homura sighed. She seemed resolved, but strangely enough at the same time relieved by the revelation. "It does answer some questions," she admitted. "I'd been worried about how it was that you were so good at things like…" she shrugged uncomfortably, "like what happened with Higa, but if you were raised by a magus killer then I guess it makes sense that you would be good at that kind of thing."
"Kiritsugu wasn't a magus killer," I sighed. "He was the Magus Killer. And he never really taught me anything but the most basics of magecraft. I picked everything else up on my own." I knew that Homura didn't mean anything by it, but still, even if dad was an irredeemable killer I still felt the need to defend him.
"What do you mean?" Homura prompted, eyes narrowed as she kept a close eye on me.
"I mean that he was the first person to ever hold the title 'Magus Killer'," I explained. "He was the one who even made the title common." I shrugged, and ran my free hand through my hair as I tried to figure out how to explain just what Kiritsugu really was. "He was a freelancer," I finally decided on, "a magus that didn't join the Mage Association. His specialty was tracking down Sealing Designates, but he was also known to take on mundane jobs as well, which is why even those who don't know about magecraft like Takami still were able to recognize his name. He was famous for being able to complete any job, even the most well hidden or defended target weren't safe from him. Those who weren't associated with magecraft claimed that it was almost like magic how good he was. They started calling him the 'Magus Killer' because of that. The name stuck with the Mage Association because it was so accurate, really."
"That sounds…" Homura trailed off uncomfortably, probably not sure what to say. It was obvious that I loved my dad, so she couldn't just denounce him as a killer, but it wasn't like she could offer words of praise for someone so blood stained either. She finally settled on, "What was he like?"
"He was a man who walked the Path of the Shura," I admitted, thinking back to my brief time with Kiritsugu. "He firmly believed in saving people. But he also knew you couldn't save everyone. So in order to help the majority, he would do whatever it took, no matter what that meant to the minority." I snorted. "He probably killed hundreds, but saved thousands by doing that."
"So what happened to him then?" Homura prompted. She sounded uneasy, giving me little looks from the side as she took in the conversation.
"Well, in the end, he was approached by one of the magi families responsible for the Grail War," I sighed. "He thought it would be the way he could finally save everyone, not just the majority. He went into the Fourth War prepared to do anything to win and get his wish. He," I sighed, "he did terrible things."
Saber never did like talking about Kiritsugu. Even when I did manage to get her to talk about my father, she tended to trail off, or go silent half way through a story. Usually she would quickly change the subject, talking more about how Kiritsugu was with his wife then how he was in the war.
It was a telling sign from the noble King. Though she never did say just who he was married to either…
"And then after the war he took you in," Homura concluded, still sounding uneasy. "And taught you how to be an assass- , a Magus Killer," she stumbled as she tried to find the best word to describe me. She didn't seem happy to use the first title, and it sounded like she was starting to dislike the second one too.
"Not quite," I shook my head immediately, still wanting to defend my father, despite knowing what he was like. Even if he had been a monster, he had been gentle with me, given me a path to follow, a new life.
He had saved me, after all.
"Remember," I continued, giving Homura a gentle nudge. "In the end, the Grail was corrupted. It couldn't save anything, couldn't grant him his wish. In the end, it could only destroy." Homura's eyes widened as she remembered my explanation of the Heaven's Feel. "In the end, after everything he did, after all the terrible actions, he had to destroy the Grail. And when he did, a fire spread…"
"The fire that you were found in," Homura came to the conclusion easily enough, eyes narrowed. "Shirou, that means that the one who hurt you so much, that he…"
"Yeah," I nodded again. "After the Grail War ended, he tried to find anyone that he could save, anyone he could keep alive. He had tried so hard to save everyone, but all he had accomplished was killing so many. No matter how hard he searched he couldn't find anyone. Well, anyone but me."
I started as the sound of a clanking chain came from my left, the only warning I had before my left arm was wrapped in something soft. I realized that Akitsu had wrapped her arms around mine, the snow woman blank faced as she tried to comfort me. I wondered just how bad I looked or sounded if even Akitsu was trying to calm me down.
"It broke him," I finished the story. "He adopted me after, gave up the life of the Magus Killer, tried his best to just raise me and give me a normal life. But I didn't want a normal life by then. I begged him to teach me magecraft, and he finally gave in. He died from the wounds of the Grail War after a few years, but in those years I learned a lot from him, about how hard it is to help people, how you can't always help everyone. But it doesn't change the fact that I wanted to help people anyway."
"And now here you are, just like him," Homura muttered. "Shirou," she began, before trailing off. It looked like she really didn't know what to say.
"Not just like him," I corrected with a sigh. "If Kiritsugu was here, he would have already ended everything."
"You mean he would have already gotten the Jinki?" Homura supplied, but paused when I shook my head.
"No," I declared firmly, voice distant. "Kiritsugu wouldn't have come up with a plan like that. He would have already tracked down and killed every Sekirei, and then destroyed MBI too just to make sure." Homura gaped at me, unable to believe what I was describing. I gave her a dry smile. "Kiritsugu wouldn't have taken the chance that anyone gets the Jinki. If there was even a chance of them being used, he would have come down on them with no mercy."
"But… that," Homura began, her unease growing.
"I loved my father, but the man was a monster like that," I told her, and she shuddered.
"So why are you trying to be like him?" she demanded, exasperation and worry in her tone.
"Because I want to be a hero that saves people," I told her directly. She snorted, grimacing as she did so, most likely thinking I was being flippant.
I wasn't. It was the reason.
I wondered sometimes if ending up like Kiritsugu and Archer was the only path for those who wanted to help others. If it was the inevitable conclusion that all who struggled towards this ideal came to in the end. If after all the failures, all the hard choices, after having to make the hard decision who would get your help and be saved and who would be killed to ensure their safety it was impossible for the heart not to harden and the resolve to turn sharp.
Well, if it was, I haven't reached that point yet. I would try my best to save everyone, just like I had promised my father and Archer. I haven't given up yet. I didn't plan to give up anytime soon.
"You really aren't normal, are you Shirou," Homura didn't sound like she was asking a question, more like she was just coming to a realization. I shrugged, not really having anything I could say to that. I had warned her, after all.
Still, even as we began to drift off in silence as the conversation died, a new voice interrupted.
"Kagari-san!" It was a strangely familiar voice, once that I couldn't quite place but I sort of recognized. Even as I tried to puzzle out where I had heard it before, beside me Homura stiffened, turning white.
"Oh god, no, anyone but him," she whimpered, freezing. She palmed her head with one hand, her tone slowing down to muttering I couldn't quite make out.
"Kagari-san!" the voice was louder and closer now, "and is that Emiya-senpai too!"
Suddenly, I remembered where I had heard that voice before, just as I managed to turn around enough to make out Yasaka as he jogged towards us from down the block. I couldn't quite keep a gape from forming as I stared at him.
I had honestly completely forgotten about my tentative friend and underclassman. Did that make me a bad person?
"I didn't know you two were getting along so well," Yasaka panted as he made it to us, leaning forward to rest his hands on his knees. It looked like the host didn't really have much in the way of stamina for jogging. "And Kagari-san! Where have you been?" The host turned accusing eyes on the fire user, Homura glancing away awkwardly. "And what are you wearing! Kagari-san," he gasped, eyes flicking back and forth between Homura and me. "You mean you two are… all this time… like that…?" he began to trail off as he came to an obvious albeit wrong conclusion, and I was just about to inform him that no, we really weren't like that when he broke in again in a confused voice. "You're not Kagari."
"Uh," Homura began, blinking as she finally pulled her hand away from her face. She flushed when she realized that Yasaka was staring at the small but visible cleavage that her dress showed off. Suddenly, Homura stiffened, before nodding furiously. "Yeah," she declared. "That's correct. I'm Homura, Kagari's twin sister."
"Oh," Yasaka just nodded his head, buying the ridiculous lie as though it should be obvious. "Oh, where are my manners?" he suddenly declared, his expression changing while he casually swept a hand through his hair in practiced motion. "I'm called Yasaka," he introduced himself. "Tell me, when did a lovely young flower like yourself come to Shin Tokyo? It seems a crime that we haven't had a chance to meet yet."
Okay, again now. What?
"Oh," Homura seemed a little on edge, but she smiled politely at the other man. "I've only come to town recently, in order to be with my boyfriend, Shirou-kun."
"Ah," Yasaka sighed, though he maintained the charming smile as he gave a knowing look between Homur and I. I realized that Homura never had let go of my arm after dragging me off from the restaurant. In fact, at some point she had actually gotten closer, her arms wrapped around mine much the same way that Akitsu's were. As though prompted by the thought, Yasaka gave Akitsu a quick look as well, apparently noticing her closeness to me as well. "And you are…?"
"Ah," Akitsu began slowly, and Yasaka perked, before looking confused as Akitsu trailed off. Just when he was about to say something again, Akitsu finished, giving a small nod. "Akitsu, my master's sex slave."
Yasaka froze at that, blushing, before apparently shrugging off the ridiculous declaration. I was surprised that he was able to recover so quickly, but I guess maybe having worked in a host club might have gotten him familiar with some of the more peculiar relationships that people might form.
"Emiya-senpai is amazing," he instead shook his head, awe in his tone. "Have you ever thought about being a host?" he asked me casually, and again I blinked.
Okay. Let me see if I got this straight.
Yasaka just showed up out of nowhere, hit on Homura who he thinks is Kagari's sister and got shot down when she declared that we were dating, then the host changed targets to Akitsu who also shot him down by claiming to be my sex slave, and then the host realized that apparently I was on a date with both of them simultaneously and tried to convince me to become a host.
"You know, it's still not the most awkward day ever," I muttered softly, "but I'll be damned if it's not getting close." Homura was apparently close enough to hear me, and she snorted once, obviously suppressing a laugh at my circumstances. I gave her a dry look, before turning back to the still awed Yasaka. "I haven't seen you in a while," I greeted him, deciding to pretend the last five minutes hadn't happened as I gave him a smile. "How have you been, Yasaka-kun?"
"Oh, you know how it goes," said, reverting to his more normal speech patterns now that both the females present had been marked off the market. "I haven't seen you at the cram schools for a while, Emiya-senpai."
"Oh yeah," I nodded, blinking as I recalled what most would be students would be up to at this time of year. Even if the official cram schools, the ones that issued entrance tests, haven't reopened yet, there were still plenty of unofficial schools for the serious students to attend. "I guess my new job has been keeping me busy."
"Oh?" Yasaka fell into step with me as we began to move. It looked like he was heading to the train station that was on the route the three of us were taking, either that or he just wanted to talk for a while. "So you did get a job then? What do you do these days, Senpai?"
I pursed my lips, before shrugging. "Running counter terrorism operations against an evil international company that has brainwashed aliens to do its bidding." Still holding my arm, I felt Homura tense as she stared up at me in shock that I had actually said that. "That and repair work," I concluded. After a pause I shrugged. "Mostly the repair work at the moment."
Yasaka stared at me, before he finally started laughing. "Oh, Senpai. I'd forgotten what a weird sense of humor you have." Homura relaxed, giving a somewhat strained laugh as she glared at me from the corner of her eyes. It wasn't my fault that my life was so ridiculous that no one would believe me even if I told them straight up.
"How about you," I prompted, feeling relaxed as I chatted with my old friend. It had been so long since I had talked with anyone who wasn't swept up in the world of Magecraft or the Sekirei Plan that I had almost forgotten what it was like to have a normal conversation. Even if Yasaka could be a little weird at times, he still counted as normal. "Are you still at the host club?"
"Yeah," he perked up giving me a grin. "Ever since Kagari stopped working, I've been trying to step up! I have to work hard to keep his clients coming until he gets back!" Yasaka seemed firmly convinced that yes, someday his esteemed other Senpai would return.
"Not likely," Homura muttered, giving her changed body a dry look. She seemed more resigned than anything else about her change at this point. I remembered her confession about not really minding the change in the end, but it still made me a bit uncomfortable privately.
"Oh?" Yasaka seemed to have heard her statement despite its quiet tone, and turned quickly to give Homura a pleading look. The fire user flinched back, looking uncomfortable as Yasaka gave her a wide eyed and pouty look, begging her for more information about his idle. "Ah, Homura-chan, did your brother say anything about when he's coming back? Is he okay? He did say something about having to quit for his health."
Homura twitched at the suffix attached to her name, and gave me a pleading look. I shrugged, not really sure what to do in a situation like this. It wasn't like I could just come out and say that this was Kagari right here. I mean, yeah, I could, but I wasn't sure how to explain Homura's transgender situation without making things very awkward for everyone involved.
"Please?" Yasaka pleaded earnestly. "It's just, well, the city has changed recently, you know?" he shrugged uncomfortably. "Before, it seemed like such a good place. Now we have armed soldiers in the street, and checkpoints, and, well, I'm just really worried about him. What if he somehow got in trouble or something?"
Homura looked very uncomfortable at that, and even I felt like tugging at my collar nervously. For all Yasaka's strangeness, he was still a good guy. And he was spot on, after all. Homura was in trouble, for being associated with me, heck, even just for being what she was.
"He's alright," Homura suddenly declared, grimacing as she did so, giving me a quick look. "He's just left on a journey of self-discovery."
"He did?" Yasaka and I echoed, me blinking as the fire user suddenly spouted something so cliché even I had trouble believing she had just said it. Homura nodded, looking like she had come to a decision.
"You see, it's all because of Shirou," she added, clutching my arm as she did so. Yasaka blinked as she continued. "Kagari, he really didn't approve of our relationship. He and Shirou used to argue so much, and one day they got in a fight."
"Emiya-Senpai!" Yasaka glared at me quite fiercely as it was revealed that I had had an imaginary fight with his idol. "I didn't think you two got along, but actually attacking Kagari like that!"
"Oh no," Homura interrupted, waving one arm quickly as she did so. "It was Kagari who started it. But Shirou was very strong, and afterwards Kagari decided that it was alright for us to be together." She actually squeezed my arm at this point, though I had no idea if it was to help sell this story or just an unconscious action on her part. "Afterwards, Kagari decided that he needed to think about his life, and decided to take a trip to decide on what he wanted to do."
"Oh," Yasaka was still glaring at me, but he seemed strangely moved by Kagari's decision. "I see. Do you think," he paused, "do you think he might ever come back?"
"I don't know," Homura declared solemnly. "But if he ever does, he'll be a changed man." Okay, now I think she was actually having fun with this crock of bull. "It might be best for you to just go on, and do your best to live up to his expectations."
"Oh!" Yasaka seemed fired up for some reason, and nodded enthusiastically. By this point we had managed to make it to the station, and the host realized that it was time to split up so he could get his train and we could continue on with our walk. Ever since MBI had taken over the city it had certainly been harder to get around in a timely fashion. The MBI soldiers allowed Ashikabi on to certain trains, the ones that were confined to circuits in the city, but it never seemed a good idea to let MBI get a good idea of my moving habits. "It was nice meeting you, Homura-chan," he declared, giving a more natural goofy grin rather than his host one. "And Emiya-senpai, see you in class soon!"
I would have waved back, but with Akitsu and Homura still latched onto me the best I could do was give him a smile and a nod. As soon as he was out of sight the smile vanished.
"We're never going to see him again, are we?" Homura asked quietly, a contemplative look on her face.
"No," I admitted softly as well. As soon as MBI made a move, it would be time for us to disappear. It was probably a miracle of chance, as Musubi put it once, that that this meeting had happened in the first place. "I had honestly almost forgotten about him," I felt a little guilty admitting.
"Me too," Homura sounded like she echoed my sentiment. "Still," she continued, tone becoming resolved. "He'll be fine."
I nodded, agreeing with the statement. There were no more Sekirei to wing, so Yasaka wouldn't ever end up getting drawn into the Sekirei Plan, and with MBI keeping a careful lid on things the host would likely never even realize just what was happening in this city.
"So what was with that story?" I asked Homura, genuinely confused as to why she had come up with such a cockamamie tale of clichés. The fire user blinked, and then blushed a bit in embarrassment.
"Shut up," she grumbled at me with a sigh. "Rumors and stories like that are what the host industry run off," she explained. "Next time Yasaka has a shift he'll be able to get probably twice the tips from my old regulars. I swear, sometimes I thought that half of our customers just show up to get updates on the drama associated with the industry."
"Huh," I grunted, not sure how to take that but deciding to accept Homura's words. She was the one who had been a host herself after all. "So how long are you going to be keeping this up?" I decided to change the subject shifting my arm slightly to indicate where she was pressing it to her chest.
It was a little awkward, all things considered.
Homura blinked, taking a moment to figure out what I was referring too, before her eyes widened and she shot down to stare at where she was holding me against her. With a yelp like she was being burned she immediately threw both her arms back and hopped away from me, face red. It looks like she didn't even realize she had been touching me until I pointed it out to her.
"I," she stammered, putting her hands in front of her as she stared at them, the blush growing to a pretty impressive state. "I didn't realize… that is…" Finally it looked like she couldn't figure out what to say and just shouted, "I didn't like that at all!" before turning and leaping up to take to the roof and escape.
"Wait, Homura," I shouted, blushing as she fled, the skirt failing at giving her the normal amount of modesty that she was accustomed to. If I had any doubt about Kazehana having set this whole thing up those doubts were silenced when I got an eyeful of just what type of underwear the former host was wearing. It looked like Homura was another member of my flock that passed up on the plain white type like Musubi usually wore, instead having put on something red, satiny, and skimpy. "People can see your panties!"
"Shut up!" she shouted again, already disappearing. "You're not supposed to look!"
"Isn't that Tsukiumi's line?" I muttered, still blushing as the fire user disappeared out of sight. Beside me where she was still attached to my arm Akitsu shifted.
"Ah," she began slowly, staring after Homura. "Those were my favorite panties." She blinked slowly. "I thought I was wearing those…"
Already knowing where this was going I just pulled her along, not giving her a chance to check to see if she was wearing any underwear via direct visual confirmation.
"I swear you all do these kinds of things on purpose," I muttered, resigning myself to the long walk home. I should probably take my time to give Homura a chance to calm down after all she had been through.
It was getting close to late afternoon by the time we made it back to the neighborhood of Izumo House. By now Homura had had plenty of time to get changed and calm down, so I was willing to pick up the pace a bit. I had finally managed to finish the repairs to the dining room just yesterday, and Miya had grudgingly allowed that they were passable enough that she would stop interfering with my time in the kitchen and I was in the middle of planning dinner when I froze.
"No," I said, as though by voicing the word I could deny what I had just realized. At my side, Akitsu paused, watching me sharply. She had grudgingly released my arm part way through the walk home, and was once more in her usual spot at my left. She tensed at the suddenness of my stop.
"No, no, no," I said again, swallowing as I did so. This should be impossible. There was no logical way that this could have happened…
After the destruction of my workshop and the revelation of my magecraft I had decided that I could finally extend some basic wards around Izumo House in general. Initially I had been worried that the Sekirei living within might be able to sense the wards or disrupt them in some way. Miya in particular had never had any problems in entering my workshop despite my protections.
So far I had left stuck with my bastardized version of Ath nGabla, seeing as it was my strongest protection at the moment, but during my time teaching magecraft to Matsu I had started to experiment with a few variations and new ideas. Some of them were probably close enough to completion for me to actually attempt, including one that I had actually set up designed to give me more sensitivity to powers inside the house. It had been in the testing phase, and with so many readily available power sources in my flock I had started making some progress in being able to more accurately judge the prana of those in the field.
And right now, now that I had gotten close enough to the bounded field to be able to receive its sensory data, it revealed to me two all too familiar sources of power that were within it.
But they couldn't be here! How had they found me?
No, wait, more importantly, if those two were here, and in Izumo House…
Oh god, this could go beyond bad so fast it was seriously not funny!
"No, no, no," I chanted, and started sprinting, giving up any attempt at subtly or caution as I determined that just getting to Izumo House right now before anything happened was worth even Reinforcing myself to shave off a few seconds. Akitsu actually lagged behind for a moment, so surprised at my sudden sprint that she needed a second to judge bring her own speed up to mine.
I nearly threw the front door of Izumo House off its hinge as I slammed it open, not even bothering to remove my shoes as I just kept my mad dash to the dining room. That door also got slammed open, revealing a scene which was quite possibly out of my worst nightmares.
My entire flock was there, even Homura who was back in her more normal clothes. Matsu had her glasses off and sitting at the head of the table. Kazehana was off to the side, lounging around indolently with a glass of sake, but her eyes were sharp as knives. Tsukiumi and Musubi were both at the table themselves, the water user also glaring though the shrine girl just seemed confused by the tense atmosphere. Kuu was sitting between the two, arms folded as she gave a childish pout. Homura was standing, leaning against the wall, her earlier embarrassment already gone in the face of what was before her. Even Miya seemed tense, the landlady in the middle of placing a cup of tea down on the table when I made my entrance.
It could have been a normal scene, minus the tension everyone was showing, if it wasn't for the other two that were in the room.
"My, my, Emiya-kun," the petite women with long black hair and wearing a red long sleeve shirt, a long dark skirt, and glasses declared, her tone droll as she appeared to not have a care in the world, sipping the tea provided by Miya casually. She was kneeling casually, looking perfectly at ease despite the hard looks she was getting all around. It was only long experience with both her posture and her tone that let me see just how upset she was. "What a rude way to make an entrance."
"Indeed, Shirou," the young looking blonde girl with her hair done up in a severe bun agreed, her tone calm but strong. She was wearing a long sleeve white blouse and a long blue skirt. Whereas the other woman seemed relaxed, this woman sat with deliberate poise, back straight and with a hint of tension that seemed to give her the mixed impression of either regality, or a sword about to be drawn.
"Rin," I gasped, mouth dry as looked at my two lovers. "Saber."
"Oh," Rin tittered, "I just know I'm going to love hearing what all this is about," she waved at all the other females present, and I confirmed with a dropping stomach that I just might be about to engage in the hardest battle of the Sekirei Plan, no, that I have ever faced.
Keeping my flock and my girlfriends from killing either each other, or me.