Krieg, Chapter 1
The property Kampfer is referenced in this work. An active effort has been made to modify things so that plagiarism is avoided.
Characters are either references to fictional characters or are independently derived and hence any similarity to real persons is entirely coincidental.
The rain came down in what he guessed could be called sheets. It was thick and consistent, but not the hard insistent rain of a proper storm instead of a downpour. Although the difference was probably the lack of serious winds as much as anything.
Natsuru shook out and collapsed his umbrella after getting under the awning of his apartment building, and simply watched the rain for a while. The steady rhythm was soothing in its own way. Work for the day was done, as was his homework courtesy of a lack of particularly heavy traffic. He could always study more, but there was a lot to be said for enjoying the little things in life when they came around.
Glancing at his wrist watch Natsuru noted that it was getting late, and hence it was best to head back to his apartment. As he fitted the key into the lock he happened to look down and noticed an odd stuffed animal sitting in front of the door to his room. It looked like a tiger with a black eyepatch, only there was a pinkish strip sewn to its belly and a little plushie knife.
Maybe it was the product of someone who modified these things? He really didn't pay attention to such things, so as far as he knew it could be something from an actual official product line. Not that he understood where the interest would be either way, although it was kind of cute in its own odd way once you got past the fact it was implicitly messed up.
As far as he knew there wasn't any children or people who did such things in the apartment complex though. Bending down he picked it up, hoping to see some clue as to the identity of the owner, and found it was sitting on what was now a slightly damp note.
We are pleased to welcome you into our community, and offer you this gift to help you feel more at home.
Natsuru wasn't quite sure what to make of that other then whoever was responsible had clearly intended him to pick it up. He'd been in this particular apartment for almost a year now so it didn't make sense as some kind of house warming gift, and he couldn't think of anyone he knew who would do something like this. A quick sniff didn't reveal any unusual odors, nor did it feel like there was anything unusual when squishing it. Given how small it was that quickly ruled out the first possibility that came to his puzzled mind.
After a few more minutes of thought, and verifying there wasn't someone waiting in the eaves, he decided he might as well simply bring it in. It seemed harmless enough, and might actually lend some character to his otherwise largely bare apartment. And ultimately the simple fact was that he had better things to do then stand out here looking a gift stuffed animal in the stuffing.
Setting it on the table he went about his usual nightly routine.
Natsuru woke up feeling sick. It looked like playing with expired food was catching up to him again. Dragging himself out of bed he blearily headed to the restroom. His head felt like some big swirly thing he wasn't coherent enough to put a name to right now.
After depositing several offerings into the porcelain commode and hacking up a few times when there didn't seem to really be anything more to come up his stomach seemed to decide it might calm down enough for him to get back to sleep. Washing up he blearily noted the reflection looked weird before dragging himself back towards where his nice warm bed awaited his joyful return.
Collapsing more then laying on the bed he had the odd sensation of something bouncing on his chest in a not exactly painless fashion. He normally would have simply left it be favoring sweet, sweet sleep but it felt like some connective tissue on his chest was sore almost like what sometimes happened to his elbows, wrists, and shoulders when the manager decided a good bit of particularly heavy loads needed to be moved around. It was the feeling of tissues strained due to having to deal with unusual work.
And so he unconsciously raised a hand and started working the offending tissues a little bit to help clear things up, when his hand bumped into something. Only he felt his hand bumping into said something, through whatever said something was as well. Only there shouldn't be a something projecting from his chest like that.
Natsuru was almost willing to leave that until morning, only when he shifted posture so he could have the area resting on a pillow things just felt… weird. And then a cascade of hair fell down tickling the sides of his face and the back of his neck in the process. Which also made no sense as he'd never allowed his hair to theoretically approach such a length. Tugging at it however did not simply result in it leaving his head, as would a wig. No, it actually felt like he was trying to pull his own hair out.
Somewhat more awake thanks to all these things getting in the way of his successfully returning to sleep, Natsuru idly played with the strands for s few seconds. The whole time the feeling of which was they were legitimately attached to his head, just like whatever the other thing was. None of it was really making any sense, but he saw no particular reason to make a real issue of it. He felt comfortable enough to get back to sleep now, and had every intention of doing so.
Natsuru woke up still feeling sick, although it was at a level he believed he could manage well enough. Mussing his hair he found it to be the normal length, and so put the nights events behind him. His routine was shortened thanks to not wanting to aggravate his already unsettled stomach leading to him forgoing a breakfast consisting of much more than some fruit juice.
Natsuru stood at the bus stop, waiting as usual for the bus that would transport him to school with some time to spare. What apartments were within easy walking distance of the school were simply too expensive. On the upside sometimes he'd manage to talk to Sakura, thanks to her house being in the general area.
That simply wasn't to be today though. It looked like…
*ka-click* While technically he'd never heard the real sound it was unmistakably the sound of hammer being cocked. His mind went blank as a zillion various thoughts suddenly started fighting at once on what to do.
"It looks like you actually have your head on straight." A girl whose face was obscured by dark hair observed, before cocking her hand to one side leading to the pistol disappearing into thin air.
Natsuru simply stared more dumbfounded then before for several long minutes at the air which had moment before been occupied by a steel framed pistol.
"They didn't tell you anything did they?" She said knowingly with her head canted slightly to the side.
Natsuru simply shook his head.
She followed up with: "I imagine you're in for a surprise if you look down then." and a wink.
Natsuru wasn't sure he wanted to look and see what she was referring to, but his curiosity got the better of him. It took several minutes for him to puzzle out the existence of a black triangle with white piping, white poking out from the edges, and blue tails where there should have been a simple white dress shirt. As the clues started to come together he made a point to look up and not think about it.
"The cliff notes version is that you've just been drafted. There's nothing that says you have to kill anybody, but there will be plenty of people out to kill you. In addition to the psychos will be people motivated by the fact aggregate Kampfer kills allow you to enhance your abilities as a Kampfer and better survive."
"Why is…" He mentally refused to finish that thought.
The girl simply shrugged. "Because our mysterious sponsors say so."
The various looks and effects of the various bumps made it rather hard to deny what if he was honest with himself Natsuru already realized. The girl he'd met at the bus stop meanwhile seemed to simply fade into the background with no one taking note of her. When he'd thought to ask who she was, she'd simply told him that she was the Mouse that Roared and seemed uninterested in elaborating on that or revealing her real name.
They arrived at the stop in front of the academy in a timely fashion, and the Mouse simply walked off the bus like nothing was amiss. When Natsuru managed to sift through the crowd and also get off the bus, she was nowhere to be seen. He counseled himself that wasn't a problem although lingering thoughts about something he was trying very hard to ignore were starting to make the point that complications were imminent.
As the crowd thinned out, and indecision left him standing where he was, it revealed a girl with long white hair that had an aura of danger about her. He had the feeling she was stalking him as he started to edge towards the school in response. As the crowd thinned out enough that no one was looking their way, he felt a sudden impact drive him to the ground, and something sink into his shoulder.
Natsuru groggily came to, finding himself surrounded by desks and various other supplies in a room dimly lit by cracks in whatever was covering the windows. He was having a hard time focusing on anything in particular.
Trying to move revealed he'd been tied up, with something… that was white and stringy, and reminded him ever so much of what a spider did to insects that it caught in its web.
Not good. He tried scooting towards some stacked desks on theory it would at least buy him some time. It however was not to be as the door suddenly opened revealing the white haired girl backlit against the glaring lights in the hallway. Noting him she calmly and carefully closed the door behind her.
"I didn't expect you'd be up yet." She said with a disturbing air of casualness.
He needed to do something. Now. As if in response something seemed to well up from inside of him, and suddenly his bonds fell away crackling with fire.
"A Zauber." The white haired girl said appreciatively as she began stalking forward. He really didn't like the way she if anything simply seemed to be more eager in that vicious predatory way. She didn't seem the least bit intimidated by him and it was sapping what little confidence he had of being able to successfully defend himself.
Just as a pair of daggers suddenly materialized in her hands a voice rang out. "I can't let you do that."
The white haired girl whirled around and tried to attack with her daggers only to have them intercepted by a pair of pistols with long tubes on their ends and blood erupted from both of the white haired girl's shoulders accompanied by a weird sound. The daggers fell to the floor from nerveless fingers as the Mouse simply stepped back and steadied her aim.
"You're not really a bright one are you? The forged steel frame on these is thicker then your blades, and I just have to point at you. You on the other hand need to not only touch me, but execute a solid blow." The cold condescension was almost palpable.
The white haired girl started scooting back, blood oozing from her shoulders.
"If you want her kills here's your chance, newbie." Natsuru took a moment to realize she was talking to him. Even though she'd been ready to kill him moments before, he found the thought of killing her now repulsive. That scared pleading look of hers simply sapped away what little real motivation he had to do so.
The dark hair girl cocked her head to the side considering this before shrugging and turning her attention back towards the white haired girl. "Then consider this a warning Spider-san. If you start poaching on the newbies again I may have to punish you." Natsuru wasn't quite sure how she managed to pull off that maliciously threatening aura while keeping that sweet expression on her face the whole time, other then the finger wag and sweetly emphasizing her words might have something to do with it.
As the threat of imminent death started to wear off Natsuru found it was starting to get difficult to stand properly. Mouse slipped under one of his arms helping to stabilize him before he realized she'd actually moved.
"Sorry about the whole setting you up as bait thing." She said after they'd left the storage room behind.
That aspect of things hadn't actually occurred to him, although that was as much thanks to not really having had the time to mentally review the events as much as anything. "You set me up as bait?" He said before his brain caught up with his mouth.
"Yeah, that girl's been poaching on the newbies. She grabs them fresh off the bus and kills them to rack up kills. You hadn't unlocked your power when she nabbed you so didn't count as a kill yet. To a gamer like her racking up the kills is everything." They stopped in front of the Infirmary. "I have someone I'd like you to meet. She should come to see you shortly."
Natsuru woke up and realized that whatever poison the Spider had used on him apparently hadn't run its course, as he didn't remember actually lying down. At least his head finally felt reasonably clear, instead of like it was filled with cotton balls.
Looking around he noticed an aqua green haired girl who was dozing away while sitting next to the bed he was lying on. Or… A quick glance informed him he was fully justified in doubting his current rights to the male pronoun. Which he was going to go back to pretending wasn't happening now.
Getting up he looked around to see if there was a nurse present, only to find he was apparently alone with this girl. Sitting on the bed he debated whether to wake her up, and how to go about it. She looked so peaceful like that, he was having a hard time convincing himself he shouldn't just leave her alone. So he just sat there, and in the process let all the various mental background chatter begin to catch up with him.
In the span of maybe eight hours he had, had his world turned upside down and vigorously shaken, and… It suddenly occurred to him that if he couldn't get his body back shortly that he'd need to go to work like this and under some story of standing in for himself. While the manager would undoubtedly be fine with that, he was never going to hear the end of this. On the other hand if he was simply stuck like this it might not be that bad, ignoring that he'd have to listen to people talking about his now former self in less then complimentary ways.
Oh wait… This was a girl's body, which meant that… Not going to think about that right now. So not going to think about that.
"You have the strangest expression on your face."
Natsuru turned to the source of the voice to find that the very attractive green haired girl had apparently woken up on her own, and was looking at him curiously. "It's nothing." He sheepishly said trying to brush it off.
Her piercing green eyes seemed to see right through him, but she let it go. "I'm Hitomi Minagawa."
"Natsuru Senou." Natsuru blurted out before realizing that maybe he shouldn't have simply thrown his real name out there. The handshake was firm, and he almost felt she was trying to size up his willingness to fight her.
"Yureka said she thought we'd make a good team." She said in a manner very much in contrast with her previous severity.
"Yureka?" Natsuru said dumbly, once more before his brain caught up with him. That seemed to be happening a lot today.
Hitomi stared at him for a second, before suppressing a small giggle. "What did she call herself this time?"
"You mean Mouse?" He asked after a few seconds worth of contemplation.
Hitomi laughed some more, shaking her head before stretching out her limbs. "I don't think anyone really knows anything about her." Suddenly turning serious she raised a hand which contained what looked like a ball of lightning. "So what do you do?"
Natsuru tried to remember how he'd summoned the flames before, and actually managed to pull off a fireball… which then blew up in his face.
Hitomi was clearly trying to suppress a laugh. "You're a natural." Natsuru wasn't quite sure if that was intended as a compliment or a insult.
Seeing the expression on his face she waved him off. "Don't worry. It's still your first day."
The worst part of all this was that, due to the fact he was a orphan that was considered self sufficient, he had to go to work. Yes, in theory he had sick days, but his boss wasn't the most understanding person ever about people suddenly not showing up. As he would say "if you're not helping you're just making it harder for everyone else." Thankfully the corollary for his policy that you weren't allowed to make things harder for everyone else with consequences, was that he was very understanding and accepting of people being sent in as alternates. Who if they worked better then the person they were standing in for, he would often try to hire.
That still meant he need to think of an alternate name, as his boss wouldn't hear of there being a girl Natsuru and he didn't need to additional questions that would bring. So what could he come up with that would be close enough he wouldn't get himself in trouble for not responding to his "name?" Let's see… Natsuko? No, it wasn't quite what he was going for. Natsumi? That was even worse, way too domesticated. Natsuki? That would work.
"Hi, I'm Natsuki Senou and I'll be standing in for my cousin Natsuru." Natsuru said his most sincere voice, from behind his most sincere smile.
"Uniforms are over there." He didn't even bother to look up from whatever the paperwork was that he was working on, and instead simply pointed in the general direction of the girl's locker room. "Ayami will bring you up to speed."
As such things went that had went about as well as could be expected. It could have been worse. He could have assigned him to Megumi who he'd known since childhood, instead of Ayami who he'd said maybe ten words to in the entire time he'd worked here. Yes, that was mostly because she was a bitch he couldn't stand to be around, but under the current situation not having to answer questions he didn't believe the answer to himself was preferable to just having someone fuss at him and try to make his life hell.
Natsuru rubbed her temples. The past few hours had led to him abandoning his attempts to ignore he was currently in a very attractive female body, as people kept reminding him of that fact enough even attempting to stay in denial in principle was an exercise in futility. So yeah, her. Which hopefully was going to stay skin deep, even though he was already noticing small things in his perception that were… off.
And he did not eep. It was a very manly scream of surprise before he righteously punished the guy who'd grabbed his… her butt. All without even a hint of an eep or a girly scream.
Pulling his keys out of his skirt pocket Natsuru unlocked his door as always, and opened it to find the little stuffed tiger from before sitting there on a the heated table he kept there. He didn't remember putting it there, but whatever.
"Hey there, Tiger-san." He said waving as he began to step through the door.
"Hey, Natsuru-chan." The stuffed animal responded, while waving back.
He so did not eep as he slammed the door closed. That was something else entirely.
"Hey are you okay?" One of his neighbor's asked as they poked their head out.
"Yes, everything's just fine." Natsuru said with his best forced reassuring smile. "I was just surprised, that's all."
They seemed to debate it for a while before deciding that they had better things to do.
Natsuru sighed before opening the door again. The stuffed animal once again looking entirely inanimate except for a cup of tea steaming away that really shouldn't be there. This time he made the point to close the door behind him before continuing to the kitchen. He needed something to steady his nerves.
"I already poured you a cup of tea." That almost sounded like…
"You really know how to pick them Sakura. This guy's supposed to be a tiger?"
Sakura gave Yureka a withering glance, before putting on a pleasant face aimed in his direction. "Yureka tells me she arranged for you to have a rather stressful day. I apologize for her antics." That seemed as much aimed at Yureka as him, who seemed to be entirely unfazed by the implications thrown her way.
The two of them were sitting on the cushions around his heated table, each with their own cups of tea, despite him being certain they weren't there only seconds before.
"If you're not going to drink this can I have it?" The stuffed animal asked, casually waving a paw at him.
This was just too much. How was a stuffed animal even supposed to drink tea. "I'm losing my mind. That's it."
"I told you the stuffed animal was too much." Yureka commented as if she was talking about the weather.
"But he's so cute, if you take the time to appreciate it." Sakura said disappointedly.
Natsuru had opted to effectively hide behind the counter, where Sakura sat next to him. "I'm sorry about all this. She wasn't supposed to do anything like that."
"I got his feet wet, just like you asked." Yureka's voice came from the other side of the counter.
"You threw him off a cliff to see if he could fly." Sakura shot back.
"And he did."
Sakura closed her eyes in annoyance. "It's okay Natsuru, I'm here for you." She said while putting an arm around his shoulder.
"No, this can't be happening. People don't appear out of thin air." Sakura hugged him a little tighter in response.
"Yureka?" Sakura said with false sweetness.
"Yes?" Came the response back in an utterly casual manner.
"Why did you cover us with that cloak power of yours?" This time the malice was stopping just short of boiling over.
"Because it's fun." Again with oblivious casualness.
A ball appeared in Sakura's hand, which she tossed up behind her, and after bouncing off the ceiling there was a short exclamation of pain.
Once Natsuru, still stuck in this female form he'd been in since this morning, had pulled himself back together, which had so not involved him bawling his eyes out on the shoulder of his one and only childhood friend for half an hour, he sat down with a fresh cup of tea. The stuffed animal having apparently managed to somehow consume the cup that had been sitting in front of it.
"So it's actually moving on its own?" Natsuru finally said.
"Yes, isn't he cute?" Sakura said, like it was perfectly normal to have a stuffed animal moving on its own.
"So, why me?" Natsuru finally got up the courage to ask after delaying for several minutes.
"Because Sakura likes boys that have been turned into girls and are embarrassed about it. Twice the…" Yureka was interrupted by a red ball bouncing off her forehead, smacking into the ceiling and bouncing off the wall, and then nailing her again on the forehead where her head ended up.
Covering the scathing glare she sent Yureka's way, Sakura put on her usual civil front. "There's been an increase in psychos killing the uninvolved recently, and they chose you. It was the only way I could protect you. Making you a Kampfer marks you as a target, but at least you can fight back." Sakura idly stirred her rose hip tea, which Natsuru made sure to keep in stock for those rare times when she came over.
"I think I understand but what do you mean psychos?"
Yureka answered that one. "The Kampfer system increases aggressiveness and regenerative capabilities, in addition to somehow making it so people forget about anyone you kill. Some of those selected just start murdering people for no particular reason, we call them psychos. Then there's the gamers who are tracking to rack up kills by gaming the system one way or another.
The reality is most Kampfer end up dying to one or the other without realizing what's really going on. Those who don't are either Ace material or very good at keeping a low profile, and neither of those is a guarantee you'll actually last long.
Speaking of which, where is Hitomi?"
Natsuru shrugged. "She lives in the opposite direction."
"Who's Hitomi?" Sakura interjected shooting a look in Yureka's direction.
"Another newbie like our friend here, Lightning Zauber affinity. Given he's Fire Zauber affinity I thought they'd work well together."
Sakura looked like she was about to make an issue of it and then sighed. "I guess it can't be helped."
I felt like a change of pace so decided to add another scenario Kampfer experiment to my project inventory. If anything this should actually tend to help with regular production, as the limiting factors are not related to typing speed but puzzling out implementation which becomes easier instead of harder when working from multiple approaches.
This was partially inspired by people wanting to increase the scope of things and those who commented on the lack of more serious elements. Hence the scope has been increased, the conflict has been shifted into a realm of grey, and an effort has been made to increase the depth and sophistication of the characters. That may or may not actually work out, but hey Frizzle Motto.
The revisions mainly revolved around some minor additions, revolving around things I thought I'd already added. This draft also benefits from additional proofreading.