Half a year since the last update. HALF A YEAR. Wow. This fanfic's been around for more than a year, but it's still far from being halfway done. Good grief... (/-_-; )
I won't be long. I'll try to explain some of the reasons why I haven't updated in such a long time...
First off: other things that occupy my time. Reading books and other fanfiction, checking news articles, updating my DeviantArt page, watching anime or playing video games. However, even if those really would place such a hamper on my time, they just appear a tad insignificant compared to the following.
Second: school issues. I had been a graduating student, and extra work (including the looming thought that I'm going to be in college in a few days) easily occupied my thoughts and left little to no room for creativity or motivation.
Last-and perhaps the worst reason for my agonizing period of increativity... Well, it was the fact that the future of the BRS franchise looks bleak. The Innocent Soul and Black Rock-chan manga series have both ended (and even though they had very good endings, they didn't leave much of an impression), the much-awaited US release of the Game wasn't received with as much enthusiasm as expected, the 2012 Anime was called "the worst of the year" by many sources (WHAT THE F$# &), and the Arcana app doesn't seem to be all that popular with the majority of the worldwide BRS fanbase.
Just thinking about it dampened my spirit. It was a passing word that I had simply heard at first, but when I made an entirely idiotic decision to put more thought into the notion, my motivation was shot out of the air. Not as much as an airborne bird downed by bullet, either. More like a psycho of a terrorist shot down Air Force One with the President on and left the world with jaws hanging.
Okay, maybe I was exaggerating with that one, but still; I just felt horrible.
There was very little that motivated me at that point. A lot of blood-pumpingly epic titles have been showing up lately (Attack on Titan and Pacific Rim, to name a few), but the thought that Black Rock Shooter might not get another shot at gaining the attention of popular media just lingered like an annoying, unreachable itch.
I'll be blunt: I'm someone with high standards. If a story, show, movie or whatever doesn't strum at my heartstrings, make me weep like a soap opera, leave a lingering cliffhanger, or make my blood pump with adrenalin-infused excitement out of sheer epicness, then I won't think it's good.
But then new stuff-good stuff suddenly showed up here on FF. It was as unexpected as a tap on the back, but when I turned to face it, it slapped me in the face like a slippery fish. Holy flying beef turds. FujoshiPrince's stuff was exactly the motivation I needed. I'm not a big fan of one-shots, but I found his (or hers?) to be especially entertaining. Yeah, if you're reading this, just know that I'm really, really happy you made those stories when you did.
Then there's Nicolas Crossworth with his BRS: Innocent SoulxHyperdimension Neptunia cross-over. Despite the distance these two titles share in terms of in-universe rules, he managed to place Rock, Ron, and Dead Master with Neptunia's cast in many separate scenarios and it still made sense in context. I guess it's crazy to mention a cross-over in a place where everything is strictly BRS-only, but I can't just leave out another of my reasons for having my fire set ablaze once more, can I?
Also, a special mention towards AcediaPrototype. If you're reading this, then hear me out: you likely just PM'd me for the sole reason of asking about the state this project was in, but let me go ahead and tell you that for me, that meant something. It ignited my morale knowing that there's a few people out there who still await when this story will get back on its feet. Thank you so, so much.
Well, enough with this cowsludge. Let's get this chapter started!
The mighty waves of the Pacific Ocean roared in all its briny majesty, a force of the ever-present typhoons that marred its serene name. Great walls of water toiled about with the powerful winds, with dark clouds constantly echoing rumbles of thunder powerful enough to strike fear in the hearts of beasts and men alike. Veins of white lightning flashed across the sky, leaving behind glowing trails of electricity whenever they struck the angry waters in a spectacular lightshow of pure, unbridled power.
It was often during this time of year that storms raged the greatest, and many knew of it. But despite such danger, there were others who braved the might of nature all for the sake of duty.
Audible even with the raging storm, powerful sonic booms joined the cacophony of chaos—a sign that marked crafts moving faster than the speed of sound. An entire squadron of massive jets—fighters, to be exact, zoomed above the Pacific waters in an organized V-shaped pattern. Following these fighters mere seconds later was a smaller group of much smaller aircrafts, comparatively sluggish to the preceding planes despite flying at their top speed.
The first planes were known as F-22 Raptors-extremely fast, powerful, and stealthy fighters that rained death from the skies. The second group was known as MQ-9 Reapers-unmanned crafts that acted as tools for air surveillance in the midst of battle.
After receiving the news of what was happening in the Japanese capital of Tokyo, the officials of the Kennedy had immediately dispatched these aerial units without much trouble. There were others who doubted the legitimacy of the report, wanting to ensure where the message actually came from, the exact identity of the sender, and how they managed to obtain such information in the first place.
Still, more agreed that they couldn't let this opportunity slip out of their grasp. So many of them frowned at the idea of letting "freaks" fight this war, but pride and personal opinion couldn't change one critical detail: with the way things were, having the Otherworlders on their side was the best chance they had.
As of now, it was the only chance they had.
Amidst the cacophonous buzzing of the Raptors' powerful engines, the pilots that manned the titanic aircrafts felt more than uncomfortable with the silence of radio chatter and the proverbial tension in the air. Almost all of them felt the need to question their leader's hasty commands, being sent directly into the fight without so much as a reason why.
"Why's everybody quiet as fuck?" One of the pilots spoke over their shared communications link, breaking the stupor of anybody deep in thought.
At that, small mutterings could be heard across their team, most of it being incoherent babble. A moment later, another voice spoke up that silenced the squadron. "You ask permission to use that mouth before you spit anything out, Airman."
"Give us a break, Cap," the soldier who had spoken up answered, "It sounds like a damn funeral! It's like you're all expecting a total team kill with this mission here."
"We hope for the best and prepare for the worst, soldier." The Captain of the squadron replied, his voice hinted with a growl. "Now shut the fuck up and fly straight."
"Cap," Another voice carefully cut in, "Please don't be too rough on the guy."
"I don't think your rank's high enough to start ordering me around." The Captain said, his demeanor getting more and more impatient by the second.
"Sorry sir," the same voice replied, "It's just that he's on edge; heck, we all are. We don't even know what we're up against."
"Is that a good enough reason for you to go against protocol?"
"God damn it, Cap," The first pilot spoke up again, but this time, it sounded like he was on the verge of breaking down. "I haven't had word from my wife and kids since I got called here earlier! I don't give two shits what we're up against, I just want to know they're okay!"
"And you'll get your answer," the Captain answered, "You want to see them again? Fine by me. But if you want that to happen, you make it happen. We finish what we came here for: shoot the living shit out of whatever the hell we're supposed to, and once that's done you can mosey over back home."
"Shiiit," Another of their squadron hooted, "the Cap's sure using a lot of his colorful vocabulary today."
That elicited a series of laughs among their team, easily breaking the tension. The Captain eased up a little, somewhat thankful for the sudden change in atmosphere.
"Never thought I'd see the day," another pilot said, "you've always been the stoic type, Cap."
The Captain sighed. "I'm probably just as high-strung as you boys right now."
"But seriously, do you think we should be doing this?" suggested one other pilot, "It'd be easier for us to just fly back and say that we had technical difficulties or some shit."
"We'll do what we came to do, soldier," said the Captain, "And I should remind you that the folks back at the Kennedy can hear every little word over our comlink."
"Oh, son of a bitch." the soldier swore, earning another bout of laughter out of the team.
"So Captain," the second pilot to speak up started, "Got any words for us? We risk our lives every time, but I'm thinking this is one mission where the whole team needs a little something to get us motivated."
Probably every soldier on the team agreed with him, judging from the hollers and whoops that were heard over their communications link. The Captain, knowing that denying the request would bring the squadron's spirits down, decided to announce the first agreeable thing he could come up with.
"Alright, how's this? Once we all get back, you're all free to head back to whichever place you like to call home, and I'll handle the executive earful." He paused for a second, satisfied that the team was paying very close attention, "But before that, we're getting ourselves a few beers."
"OH HELL YES!" one soldier practically yelled in excitement.
"Fun and family, baby!" exclaimed another, "Looks like Christmas is coming a few days early!"
"Alright," The Captain raised his voice, "Now that you wackos got something to look forward to, you better keep your shit together! We're all coming back home, and we're all coming back alive!"
"HOOAH!" The soldiers all exclaimed in unison, shouting out the signature battlecry of the United States Air Force.
With their minds on the fight ahead and their hearts on the rewards that awaited it, it felt like nothing could quell their determination. They didn't care what awaited them now; if it was an enemy, then it was a soldier's job to take it out-it was a trait as natural as instinct.
After all, no barrier could not be broken down by an iron will to succeed.
Genocide's normally stoic face held a small, satisfied smile that indicated a sway in his favor. The new information he received with the custom gear he used to listen in on the US Military's communications was just what he had expected. He removed the equipment from himself and set them down on the console that it was linked with and faced the eerie wisp with the level-headedness of a professional.
"President Obama has taken the bait." He said, "A squadron of fighter-class planes and air surveillance drones have been dispatched for Tokyo. It's going to take them at least fifteen minutes to arrive at the Japanese capital."
"I'm surprised they didn't bother asking where your little message came from, Genocide." It replied, "It's a wonder how easily they bought it."
"In times like these, human reasoning tends to make use of any advantage that knocks at its door," Genocide said complacently, "And to have made the order almost immediately, I can only imagine how the president of the United States is handling himself."
"Any idea what he's up to?"
Genocide's attention turned towards the one who had spoken, the same behemoth of a man who always wore a gruff face. He was standing with his large arms crossed (something that his new colleagues deduced as a habit), right by his sister who seemed to be focused on whatever was on her laptop before Genocide broke the silence.
"Judging from the units that they sent," Genocide started, "It's most likely that they intend to find our wandering brethren amongst the remains of Tokyo… and if any of them prove hostile, then they'll just have to send them burning."
"It's foolish and barbaric," The wisp said, "What alliance can they hope to create between their kind and our own if they come bearing warheads? Human diplomacy is an atrocious thing..."
"As it has been for eons," Genocide said, "There's nary a negotiation between two parties without either side carrying some… insurance of sorts."
"And as it seems, I have reason to believe that they've taken these actions for military and diplomatic purposes. Really, how long must the leaders of the world keep their people from the truth? With every nation under siege by both angels and demons alike, what will it benefit them or the people if the latter is kept in the dark about the potential powers they possess?"
"What do you propose, then?" Genocide asked.
"Let the presence of us Other Selves be known to the world," the wisp announced, "Let all know that it will not only be demons, angels, and humans that fight for the right to own this earth. The time has come for us to stop hiding in the shadows."
"A broadcast..." The blonde woman finally spoke, gaining the attention of all present. "A broadcast inserted into radio frequencies would be an effective method. But... what message do you plan on giving, anyway?"
"Of course!" The wisp exclaimed, appearing to not have heard her suggestion, "Advanced technology is one of the few good things mankind has accomplished... I want the whole world, not just the leaders within the Kennedy, to witness the battle that will surely take place!"
"Hack into the Reapers' monitoring systems?" The woman answered with the slightest hint of astonishment, "Military networks are far too secure. Such a feat would be close to impossible with all their network defenses."
"But little Deceit is rather well-versed in this field, isn't she?" the wisp said, "I'm sure this is nothing she can't handle. Where is she now?"
The question was met with an air of awkward silence. The momentary pause was broken when Genocide glared at the blonde siblings and seethed, "Still in Tokyo, isn't she?" His glower was especially focused on the female twin, who looked a tad uncomfortable under the unwanted attention.
She nodded uneasily. "I'm afraid so."
"Give her a call."
Nafhe paced along the snow-covered sidewalk rather sulkily, effortlessly twirling the massive King Saw to try and ease off her wordless frustration. The blade's smoking red aura left a trail as it spun in the air, slowly dissipating like the mist it resembled. That slowed down when Nafhe stopped whirling it around, slightly slowing her pace to glance behind her. She scowled at the sight, and proceeded to walk faster.
"Wait! P-Please slow down, Milady!" Roland wheezed.
The reason for Nafhe's irritation, including why Roland sounded like he just ran a marathon was mainly the latter's fault. In one hand he carried a backpack filled with an assortment of items Nafhe had looted from abandoned stores: game or anime CDs, snacks, comic books, figurines, a few suits (for him, to his expected chagrin), a couple other pieces of clothing that Roland deduced was for what people these days call "cosplaying," and other bits and pieces of trinkets and machinery he couldn't recognize. On his back, resting rather comfortably despite his stuttering movement was a prostrated Deathscythe.
To put things simply, Roland had miraculously managed to talk Nafhe out of butchering the already-mutilated girl and Miss Bunny-eared-hoodie wasn't so happy about it. His cruel and unusual punishment was to be Nafhe's pack mule for the duration of the Tokyo trip, something that was a lot more strenuous than those times he had to lift weights during boot camp. The pack that he carried felt twice as heavy as the girl on his back, for crying out loud!
"I don't need to slow down; you just need to walk faster!" Nafhe exclaimed angrily.
"But I can't!" Roland said, his voice rather strained, "This thing's too heavy!"
"If that's the case," Nafhe's voice was dripping with sarcasm, "why don't you just leave Deathscythe behind if she's too much for you?"
"I-I didn't mean—"
"So you'd choose her over obeying me?"
"Milady, we just went through this!" he protested, "We can't just leave her behind; besides, isn't she a friend of yours?"
"I told you a kajillion times, she's not!" Nafhe yelled, whirling around to face him. "That girl needs a helping of soap with everything she eats 'cause she's a big, BIG pottymouth!"
Roland sighed. "I still can't see how that's enough of a reason to kill her…"
"It is when I say it is," Nafhe said, shouldering the King Saw like it was nothing. "You know, I'm starting to wonder if you're even going to do good as a butler. You're barely a day into the job and you're already complaining about the little things!"
Faster than Roland could blink, the soldier's eyes widened when he felt the heavy weight of the King Saw on his forehead, accompanied with a short gust of heated air; Nafhe had swung the blade right at him and stopped exactly before it would have split his skull in two. Roland's body stiffened, his frightened gaze stuck on the sight of the golden sword.
"I can tolerate a little rebellion," Nafhe said, glaring at Roland, "but I don't like disobedience."
'Sekaaaai de ichiban ohime-sama...'
The high-pitched buzz of a handheld ringtone snapped Nafhe out of her stance and made Roland jolt in suprise. Setting the edge of the King Saw on the ground and keeping it steady, she shuffled through her clothing with her free hand for a moment before she brought out a pink cellphone. She raised an eyebrow upon seeing who was calling her, turning away from Roland and bringing the phone to her ear.
"What is it? I'm kind of in the middle of something here." Nafhe said before she paused for a moment, muffled voices being the only audible noises for an observer—Roland, especially. Whatever she was talking about with the person on the other end, he didn't know, and probably wasn't interested in.
"Eh?" Nafhe exclaimed, "Here? In Tokyo? Why didn't anyone tell me?" Again, the subject was lost on Roland, quite bemused already. "Gimme a break, this was my one chance to loot junk before somebody else beat me to it!" She paused for a moment, another series of muffled noise emanating from the phone. "Who do you think you're talking to? Of course I can do that." Another pause. "Yeah, yeah, whatevs."
Nafhe pocketed the phone away, once again turning her attention on Roland with a scowl. She looked from the soldier to the girl he was carrying, her eyes shifting back and forth for a few moments before she brought a sleeve-covered hand to her face.
"Screw it," she muttered before putting her hand back down, "I'm going to be busy with something, so I'm going to have to leave you here for a sec. But," she pointed the aforementioned hand at him, "if you get way too comfy with her, there's going to be consequences!"
Roland only stared at the raised hand (or the small protruding lump in the fabric, indicating an offending finger being pointed at him) with a slightly aggravated expression for a few seconds before he politely answered, "Understood, Milady."
Roland jumped a step back out of surprise when Nafhe suddenly impaled the King Saw right into the ground, sending small chips of concrete flying. She gave him one last glance before she leapt for the building wall beside them, another pair of large knives suddenly popping out of each sleeve and using them to latch onto the surface. She scaled its height at inhuman speed, quickly reaching the roof with the velocity and maneuverability of an animal.
Roland gawked up at the building, flabbergasted at how quickly Nafhe managed to climb up the structure within the space of a few seconds, let alone wearing something that shouldn't have given anyone an acrobatic advantage. And given how those massive sleeves didn't seem to sag over her little arms and the occasional glint under them that Roland could see whenever Nafhe raised them high enough, he was fairly certain that she kept more than just an array of huge knives hidden, which possibly meant that whatever else she carried probably weighed a lot.
He wondered how he even grew the nerve to stand up to her earlier…
"Little shit," A voice that was right behind him muttered, albeit weakly, "Like hell I'd let this tyke hit on me. I'm no pedophile…"
Roland had tensed up out of the unexpected remark, but he quickly relaxed and decided to do something stupid again. He sure did a lot of that today, especially in the face of someone who could end his life in a split-second. The bitter December cold and the looming prospect of death likely did not do his sanity any favors.
"I'm twenty-three, you know." He said with a bit of nervous humor in his tone.
"And I was already ancient way before your ancestors were little tadpoles in their daddy's ballsack." Deathscythe retorted, giving Roland an unexpected reply that he couldn't make a comeback for.
He turned his head to take a look at the current state of his "passenger," presently wearing a scowl that would have burned a hole into his skull. "Uh, hey," Roland greeted uneasily, "How do you feel?"
"Like shit." Deathscythe hissed, "Just knowing that I'm being carried around by the likes of you makes me want to puke."
"Um... do you want to get off?"
Without even giving Roland a reply, Deathscythe wriggled out of his hold, pushing him away. The rude gesture backfired when she landed painfully on her rear, making her spit a string of profanities that would have made a vulgar sailor cringe.
Roland let out a frustrated sigh. This day just kept getting worse by the hour.
Unknown to Roland, he was actually right about something: Nafhe really did have more than a bunch of knives up her sleeve.
She settled on the center of the building's roof, surveying her environment: the surrounding buildings, the quality of the air, and the state of the sky above. When she decided that this spot would do, she rolled up one of her massive sleeves with a little difficulty and revealed what they had been concealing.
Covering her arm from the wrist up to the upper arm was a series of metal plates melding into a cylindrical shape, lined with rows of large, serrated knives that were all folded back. It could easily be seen that they were made for optimum efficiency when they were to be used, any number of them able to smoothly spring into place within a moment. The pistons and hinges present on the elbow joint suggested that despite the lower armor's weight, it could still be supported by the upper arm without much technical difficulty.
Nafhe clicked on a small knob near its front, and what appeared to be a lock in front of the contraption shifted downwards, revealing the reason behind the lower armor's cylindrical shape: being a separate compartment for other items. Nafhe pulled out a small laptop along with a long, thin metal rod. She set the laptop aside, getting on one knee and setting the rod upright, the object easily standing erect against the rough concrete. She slightly bended the upper half of the rod forward, and with a twist of her wrist, overlapping plates sprung into a somewhat flat, conical shape, taking the form of a satellite dish.
After making sure the satellite dish pointed East, Nafhe fished inside of her arm compartment and pulled out a long wire, inserting it into a small jack near the base of the satellite dish and the other end into the laptop. She booted up the device, and after a few seconds a wallpaper depicting a boy-and-girl duo with blonde hair (both dressed in sailor uniforms and each sporting a microphone for some reason) popped up on the screen.
Nafhe giggled at the sight for a moment before she opened several different windows, some of them being a series of numbers and letters—all codes incomprehensible to the average person. She sported a grin when she heard a beeping sound, and after her hands practically danced over the keyboard, a series of code she had typed out opened six more windows, each one a moving image showing a quickly moving surface of water and the faint silhouette of a city skyline.
"Psssh," Nafhe scoffed smugly to herself, thinking, "The Military seriously needs to jack up their defenses or something. At this rate there'd be no network I can't sneak into."
She set the laptop down, now rolling her left sleeve up and opening its own storage compartment. She took out four more of the same metal rods, and after she set them up into satellite dishes, each pointed in different directions, she took out another set of wires and hooked them up to a small brick-shaped contraption and then into the laptop.
Another window popped up on the screen, this time completely blank. After Nafhe typed out another series of code, one set of code slowly showed up after the other, then another before the window was already filled with another wall of lines of unintelligible numbers and letters. However, from time to time, actual words would appear among the lines of gibberish text: geographical locations.
"Well World," Nafhe muttered, "Time to see what you're up against."
With everyone else already gone to take their own respective positions, Yuu and Rumiho—AKA Strength and Underworld Vulcan were sharing a rather tense moment of mutual silence.
A soft breeze gently howled in their ears as it swept over the district. Rumiho's flashy maid outfit and the scarf that Yuu had conveniently brought along were barely enough to appease the harsh cold, the latter's discomfort all too obvious from how she shivered erratically.
Akihabara was an image of utter desolation: buildings and other structures were horridly damaged beyond repair, automobiles lay sprawled like toys ravaged by a child with a tantrum, and dark tendrils of smoke stained the skyline in twisting pillars of black. The worst detail to mark the district, to the horror of anyone who would see it, was numbers of corpses of both humans and demons scattered along the streets.
Men, women and children. Demons both large and small. All lay dead on the cold, shattered concrete, all victims of a common desecrator.
The merry tune of Christmas music echoed from public speakers left intact. The sound reverberated along the district as it was always meant to, but without the smallest expression of happiness to take in the music, it felt just as dead as the cold environment. If anything, the presence of happy, nostalgic music only summed up the terrible reality that Akihabara was already lost, resembling for all the world like a song of mourning.
But there was still something else. A sound that would have been met with dread had it reached the ears of lesser beings: a steady, loud, and extremely heavy pounding of the earth in the distance, making the ground tremble with each thud.
Footsteps. Large ones. Each closer than the last.
Yuu and Rumiho lay partially concealed in the shadows provided by an alley facing a large highway. Yuu was leaning against the building wall, one of her gloved hands raised in front of her. She snapped her fingers every few seconds, staring at them with growing irritation in her glowing gaze. Her fingers gave off a small spark every once in a while, but the look in her eyes told that it was not the result she wanted. She groaned in frustration after a few moments, setting her hand back down.
She leaned the back of her head against the wall, feeling a small sense of comfort from the cold concrete. She raised her head, seeing snowflakes fall slowly from what little of the gray sky she could see with the space between two buildings. Her eyes followed one little snowflake as it slowly descended, the delicate frost instantly reduced to its liquid state and then into steam once it landed onto her waiting palm and absorbed itself into the unearthly fabric.
"Not good enough," Yuu thought to herself.
She clenched her fist shut and turned towards her companion, finding that she was not quite in similar spirits as her at the moment.
Rumiho's eyes were downcast, her eyebrows ruffled and one of her feet tapping noisily against the cement below. Her small hands held on to her weapon's handles rather tightly, her right thumb nervously prodding her vulcan's trigger like her entire life depended on it.
"What's wrong with you?" Yuu asked.
Her words elicited a surprised gasp out of Rumiho, who suddenly jerked and accidentally fired a salvo into the facing wall, causing Yuu to instantly jump out of relaxed stance. The concrete gave way, a sizeable portion of the wall collapsing from the damage.
Breathing heavily, Rumiho faced Strength and cried, "Don't scare me like that!"
"What the hell, Vulcan?" Yuu snapped in alarm, "That could've killed somebody!"
Rumiho didn't immediately give a reply. She tried to calm herself and leaned back on the wall, keeping Yuu out of her sight. Indolently, she dragged her large weapon on the ground and set the barrel down, leaning on it like some giant staff.
"There's nobody to kill anymore." She said softly. She grimaced and added, "All the people here are dead."
"And a lot more are going to be if we let Geshumaru find them." Yuu said. She leaned back on the wall and crossed her arms. "We're going to stop that thing here. We have to."
"Why?" Rumiho asked softly. "Why do we have to be the ones to do it? Why can't we leave it to someone else?" She tightened her grip on her weapon, feeling the magnitude of the task ahead of them chip away at her spirit. "I... I don't want to do this, Strength."
"It's not a matter about whether you want to do this or not," Yuu answered bluntly, "We have to because we're the only ones who can."
"But I don't want to!" Rumiho snapped, still trying her best not to look at Yuu for fear of the consequences her actions would bring. There was a telltale sign of fear and desperation in her voice, something that caught Yuu's full attention. "I… I never wanted any of this. I just wanted to spend these days with family and friends… And suddenly all these monsters show up and start killing people!"
Rumiho's voice started to break. "I… we… we managed to survive because of unification, but what then? Mayuri and Kurisu are all I have left. Everyone else… they all got killed by those damn things. And then… j-just when we thought things were going to be okay, Geshumaru shows up and slaughters those we thought we could save." She turned her head towards Yuu, tears falling from frightened eyes. "Tell me, Strength… What good is all our power if we can't even use it to protect a single human life?"
"What good will it all be if you haven't done a damn thing?" Yuu answered with a scowl.
Her answer took Rumiho by surprise. She was silent, not knowing how to respond. She had somewhat expected a consoling word, a light soothing, maybe an unreturned response; but she was bluntly given a truth she didn't want to hear.
"You want to do something good?" Yuu spoke indignantly, "You want to make up for your mistakes? You want to be a hero? Then being a pathetic wimp isn't going to pull a deus ex machina out of your ass."
A spark of anger rose in Rumiho. She wanted to send an insult or some retort back, but the unearthed fear she had always held for Strength held her back like a beast yanked by its chain. She clenched her teeth and gave her reply, not bothering to look at Yuu.
"D-Dont lump me in with someone like you..." She spoke, barely keeping her voice from breaking into a frustrated shout. "I'm no legend. I-I'm not somebody who'll ever get used to war and death. I can't have confidence like yours. Even after all these years... I-I'll never measure up to you!"
"You never will."
"I said, 'you never will.'" Yuu answered, putting harsh emphasis in her words. "We didn't go through the same shit. What we are now is basically just the result of the junk that the world throws at you. But seeing you, here and now, chickening out before the real fight's even started? I can't see you getting anywhere near my level."
At this point, Rumiho's apprehension only worsened. Putting aside her dread as best as she could, she asked, "Why are you doing this?"
When Yuu only regarded her sternly, Rumiho continued, "Why are you trying to drag me down at a time like this? I thought you wanted to win this fight!"
"Us, Vulcan." Yuu said. "I want us to win this fight."
"So I can pull you out of your funk, that's why!" Yuu cut her off, raising her voice. "Do you just plan on waltzing right into battle all preoccupied with your self-pitying garbage? Do you think you can even pull the trigger if you'd rather wet your fancy dress and run?"
Her response made Rumiho back away, immediately making her aim her colossal weapon at Yuu. The massive firearm rattled with its owner's own trembling, making her fear all too visible. "O-One wrong m-move..." Rumiho stuttered, "O-One wrong move and I'll shoot!"
"So that's how it is, Vulcan?" Yuu said, not deterred in the slightest at the prospect of death. She took a step forward, Rumiho retreating steadily with each advance. "What, do you want to screw up some more?! Go ahead, SHOOT! Kill me now, and you kill off what's left of your fancy little city!"
"SHUT UP!" Rumiho yelled, pushing her weapon forward in hopes of intimidating Yuu-a worthless effort.
Yuu fiercely grabbed her weapon by its bayonet, aiming all eight of its deadly barrels at herself. "Shoot." She said with a growl, her fiery eyes glaring at Rumiho.
The frightened girl couldn't return a gaze on par with Yuu's. Both of them held their stances for several moments, with Rumiho's nervous breathing being the only disturbance to mar the tense silence. Several more moments in, the crackling sound of static echoed in the alley walls. The disturbance had been from a two-way radio that Yuki had lent Yuu earlier as a means for communication between their teams.
Yuu took the radio from its place on her belt, speaking into the receiver. "Snowball?"
"Everything dandy over there, Shorty?" Yuki's garbled voice crackled from the speaker, "I think I just heard you yelling over something. I think there was a gunshot right at your position, too."
"It's nothing you should be worried about," Yuu replied, turning her attention on a still-tense Rumiho, "I just had a bit of an argument with Pinky over here."
After a few seconds Yuki replied, "Jeez, Shorty, do you guys really have to try and kill each other every time someone blows a fuse? Even I don't think that's civil."
Just as Yuu was about to voice a response, the distant rumbling of the earth had suddenly grown stronger, the thundering footsteps drawing ever closer. Rumiho staggered before she tried to take a more steady posture, frightfully pointing her weapon whichever way she turned. Yuu, however, stood her ground and did not show a single sign of anxiety.
"You hearing that too?" Yuki said, any trace of the earlier easiness no longer present in her tone.
"Clear as crystal, Snowball." Yuu answered.
"We'd better get ready," Yuki said, with the metallic clicking of a firearm easily audible through the radio. "You guys better prep yourselves ASAP. Yuki ou—"
"Wait." Yuu cut her off.
"Yeah? What is it?"
"Just… Take care of yourselves."
After a moment of silence, Yuki said, "Whoa, Shorty, you actually sounded worried about me."
"No, I said 'yourselves,' as in plural. I'm concerned about the two regular humans on the job."
An amused snicker could be heard from the other end. "Regular humans? Don't take me lightly, Shorty! Just 'cause you might drop World War Three on this Geshumario doesn't mean I can't pull my own weight."
"Point taken," Yuu said, "Though, I'd already be impressed if you manage to do half as much as I will."
"What you can do with those fists of yours, Shorty, I can do just as much with my guns. Twice as much, at least." The soldier ribbed back playfully. "Yuki out."
A brief crackle of static indicated the end of their transmission. Yuu pocketed the radio, turning her attention back on Rumiho. "Well?"
"What will you do now?" Yuu asked her.
"I…" Rumiho muttered, "I don't know."
"I'll give you two choices, kid." Yuu said, raising two fingers in front of her, "The first one is this: I'll let you go, and you and your buddies can get as far away as you can from here. You can wallow all you want in your regrets, you can keep on running from your shadows, you can try to live until you're tired of it all; I won't give a rat's ass what you do or what happens to you."
"Or," Yuu continued, "You can stop being sorry for yourself and try to remember why you're here in the first place. Out there is the son of a bitch who brought this hell on Akiba," she said as she raised a finger in the direction the thundering footsteps had been coming from, "Once it realizes we're in arm's reach, it won't hesitate crushing you like a cockroach. But before it gets a chance to make that happen, you'd better let all of that frustration you've been bottling in loose. You just keep on shooting. Don't ever let go of the trigger until it clicks empty. Don't let Geshumaru have the pleasure of hearing you scream."
Rumiho, too caught up within a myriad of unstable emotions, didn't notice Yuu pull her close by her clothes and knock their foreheads together. Yuu's eyes, holding an unwavering, steel-strong resolve gazed right into Rumiho's own. Despite it being too close for comfort, Rumiho's thoughts could now only focus on Yuu's next words, finding no other option but to take them in as something to hold on to for the daunting task ahead of them.
"Prove me wrong, Underworld Vulcan." Yuu said, a separate thought in her mind telling her that the mere mention of the frightened girl's name earned her every last fragment of attention she needed. "Don't be a coward who runs before the battle's begun; be the person who had the guts to point a gun in my face."
Yuu's grip on Rumiho's clothes tightened, her eyes narrowing and her voice becoming a low growl to drive her point home. "Show me what you're really made of."
Her hold loosened, and she took a step back as Rumiho grew silent again, lost in her own thoughts.
"Do you... really think we can stand a chance?" Rumiho asked softly.
"Let's see," Yuu started, counting off her fingers, "There's Gunner, with that rifle I made especially for blasting holes into anything as far as her eyes can see; there's you, with a portable vulcan gun that's useful for almost anything regarding combat; there's two jarheads on our team that may actually live up to their words and can do as much as you; and, of course, there's me." She smirked at Rumiho, "I know we stand a chance."
"There's so many ways this can go wrong." Rumiho protested, "We still have Geshumaru to worry about as well. Just one slip and things could go downhill for us!"
"You're only making an assumption." Yuu countered, "And if Geshumaru does take us by surprise, we'll worry about that when it happens. Do you think I would have bothered coming here if I knew we'd get ourselves killed? How can you focus on what we have to do-what needs to be done, when you also have to worry about how it can go wrong? You can prepare for any circumstance that flies in your way, but what good will that do you if your head's a jumbled mess of 'what ifs?'
"If there's something you have to know about me, it's that I don't back things on speculative bullshit; I place them on certainties."
"And what if something really does happen? We... We all aren't as powerful as you. What if we are all taken down, and you're the only one left standing? When all the odds have turned against you..." Rumiho hesitated to ask for a moment, but as a small, desperate piece of herself wished so much to have something to hold on to, a small fragment of hope, there was nothing else she could do but speak, and pray that she would have an answer.
"What makes you think you'll still win?"
A deafening crash exploded not too far from their position. The trembling of the ground grew even stronger, powdery snow falling from where they gathered up the sides of the adjacent buildings. From their view of the highway, the meager light from the overcast sky was suddenly blocked by the shadow of a towering figure, telling them that their battle would soon begin in a matter of moments.
Yuu turned and walked towards the highway, both of her gloves glowing a bright white. They enlarged in shape, emitting a number of whirs, clicks and clangs of metal shifting into their respective functions. As the glow dissipated and the last black metal pieces of the fabled Ogre Arms locked in place, Yuu tilted her head to give Rumiho a genuine smile, laced with the confidence and reassurance that never left her spirit.
"Simple," Yuu said, "because I'm Strength."
Well, that's that for now. I'll see you guys soon; and don't forget to leave a Review!