Where there is light, shadows lurk and fear reigns. Yet by the blade of knights, mankind was given hope. When the first Horrors crawled through the gate, the Makai Priests were there to hold them back. Then came the Knights, clad in brilliant armour borne of Soul Metal.
Still humans sought more, and in their endeavours, they created alchemy, homonculi, and the alchemical weapons called Busou Renkin.
However, no matter how hard humans fought in the twilight, it seemed as if the tide of enemies were never-ending. Desertrians, Witches, Noise... and yet more foes came from beyond, enemies from space, pursued by the Time-Space Administration Bureau.
The beginning was all too sudden.
The petals danced in the air and they clashed again, ruthlessly exchanging blows, white on black, surrounded by swirling flowers and rushing clouds.
"Cure Moonlight..." the black one's eye opened, vibrant yellow. "You shall die with the Heart Tree!"
Backed by the huge tree, Moonlight, clad in white and silver, raised her hand to her chest. "Protecting the Heart Tree is my destiny... Gather Up, Flower Power! Moon Tact!" From within the purple heart badge at her shoulder, she withdrew a device like a conductor's baton. "Precure Floral Power Fortissimo!" It glowed vibrant violet, tracing an 'F' into the air. Her opposite number's hand came up.
"Dark Power, Gather Up... Dark Tact." Equal and opposite, black cloaked in crimson, to contrast the white wrapped in pinks. "Dark Power Fortissimo."
Swathed in energy, the two clashed in the air, smashing into each other again and again, becoming little more than streaks against the blue sky. Then they met each other for the final time as the aura wore off, leaving them both crashing to the ground. The black one hit the ground first, falling to one knee with a growl. Moonlight almost allowed herself a smirk. Almost.
And then the actual impact of her foe's attack caught up with her and left her on her back in the dirt, her armor faded, leaving her modesty just barely preserved by the brief dress beneath it, little more than light against her body. The tall man on the sidelines, face hidden behind a steel mask, finally spoke.
"The legendary warrior, Precure, has been defeated." he intoned. "Now the Heart Tree shall wilt, and this world will belong to us, the Desert Messengers!"
The effect was instantaneous. The Heart Tree's flowers wilted and fell in a flash, turning to ash before they hit the ground. The sky around them turned from brilliant blue to inky black. Still... "The flowers have fallen, but why hasn't the tree wilted?" the man mused.
Moonlight forced herself to her feet, hair and dress whipping in the wind. "That's... that's too bad." she gasped out, beaten and battered. "Even if I fall, the Precure who protect the Heart Tree will definitely appear before you."
The black one raised her Tact, drawing fort a red flame. "Dark Forte Wave." she growled, and crashed against Moonlight for the final time. Moonlight raised her hand, holding out her Heart Seed, her proof of existence, and drew forth the power inside it to ward the attack. Behind her, the two fairies screamed and hid behind the three's roots as the shockwave rattled them. "Cure Moonlight!"
Cure Moonlight looked back, without a single regret on her face. "Shypre, Coffret! Give the Heart Perfume to the next Precure... go search for my replacement!"
"Out of the way!" Her black nemesis snarled, flapping her one wing and pushing harder.
Then Moonlight's Heart Seed cracked, and the black one's attack erupted, blotting out the battlefield in the explosion.
Dec 1, Uminari City, Sakuradai, 0635
"I guess I'll wrap up this morning's practice with some shooting control practice."
"Lyrical, Magical!" A pink circle spread out at her feet, filled with innumerable interlocking sigils. Takamachi Nanoha, nine years old, raised her small hand, conjuring forth a brilliant light. "Holy Light, come to my hand... under my guidance, reverberate throughout the sky!" she raised the light above her head and sent the empty can in her free hand hurtling skywards. "Divine Shooter, shoot!" In a flash, the light burst upwards, rapidly overtaking the can. Nanoha's brow furrowed, eyes shut. "Control..." The light curved, struck the can and juggled it into the air, over and over again. Nanoha's focus was entirely inwards; she could only just hear Raging Heart counting up from its spot on the park bench.
[XIII. XIX. XX. XXI.]
She could have kept going like this indefinitely, but that wouldn't be training. Nanoha let out a breath and increased the pace. "Accelerate...!" With her bullet moving twice as fast, it was twice as difficult to control. The clanking sound of the bullet smashing into the thrown can filled the air, threatening to distract her, and she clamped down on the notion, unwilling to let her attention waver.
Nanoha let her breath out and opened her eyes, tracking the rapidly-falling can. She swung her hand, calling the bullet nearer. "Last one...!" As the can fell level with her, the pink bullet whizzed by, smashing it towards a trash can... but it hit the rim and bounced off. Nanoha sighed. So close.
[DON'T MIND, MY MASTER]
"Thanks, Raging Heart..." she laughed self-effacingly and scooped the can up herself. "How would you grade my training today?"
[ABOUT 80 POINTS]
"I see." That wasn't a big improvement over yesterday, but it wasn't a loss, either. Maybe if she'd hit the can at a better angle... although she'd need to work on the speed of her eyes if she wanted to do that with accuracy. So much to do. Nanoha turned, viewing the sunrise from the park she'd chosen for her training. The tiredness was a constant companion, but she'd never felt at rest if she wasn't doing anything. Nearly seven... she tied Raging Heart – the little red sphere that had come to be her closest companion – around her neck and turned to leave. If she didn't hurry, she'd be late for breakfast.
Morning only threw Nanoha one curveball. Everything else was the same: her father reading the newspaper, her mother and sister making breakfast, her sister complaining about missing Yuuno... but the best thing was a new video message from Fate. Nanoha thanked her brother, only too happy to hear something from her friend... the criminal law trial she'd been involved in with the Mid-Childan courts had taken a long time, but was finally nearing its end; hopefully they could meet soon. In reality, that was what was occupying Nanoha's mind more than anything else, and it was taking a lot of willpower to keep her focus on her training – letting Raging Heart drain her Linker Core to zero while she slept to exercise it like any other organ, physical training in the mornings, image training during schoolwork... it never ended.
Nanoha checked the black ribbons that held up her auburn hair one last time before she left, making sure they were still in place. A gift from a friend. Fate...
"This isn't good." she crouched over the enforcer's limp body, frowning deeply. They weren't dead, but they were like that when she got there, even though it was her they'd been tracking down. The TSAB's special Belkan branch, with customized, noble-style uniforms and spear Devices. The problem, however, was that she didn't sense anything resembling magic from them. "What do you think, Skull Heart?"
The Jolly Roger pendant hanging around neck almost seemed to twitch. The eyes and mouth glowed golden against the black jewel it was set into. [NO MAGIC DETECTED]
"That's what I thought." the woman stood up, shook her hair back. "Earth, huh... I haven't been here since I was a kid. This is where that kid they're calling the White Devil is from, too. Probably best to not stick around for too long... but this is worrying. If something's going around draining people's Linker Cores..." she rubbed her chin. "Hm, the TSAB is going to be all over this. I'd better not eat them or I'll draw all kinds of heat... still, now I'm curious. Wanna go look?"
"You're as useful as ever." she grinned. "Alright, let's go take a look around. There's a seriously strong magical power around here... so if someone's suckin' Linker Cores dry, they'll go there." the woman turned on her heel and stalked away, coat fluttering in the wind.
Can you find it, Vita?
It's weird. It's like it's here and not here. Still, it's freakishly strong...
The red girl raised her hammer. Dressed in the loose outfit and skirt of a knight, the two stylistic remarks on the outfit were the beret, outfitted with two plush rabbit heads, and the leather twin tails than hung down from the back of the tunic. As the hammerhead fell, a crimson triangle spread at her feet, hanging in the air below her. Each point came to a circle, marked with runes at each edge. "Barrier Field, Extend."
Her hammer spoke in a guttural voice. [GEFANGNIS DER MAGIE]
The sky warped around them as the field extended, hedging out mundane folk. In reality, it was more like shifting everyone magical half a dimension over, so that they were out of phase and invisible. Vita shut her eyes and focused her search. Without the too-weak Linker Cores creating static, finding the overwhelmingly powerful magic source she'd been searching for was almost too easy. "Got it." her blue eyes came open again. "Magical reaction... it's the real thing! Let's go, Graf Eisen." she glanced at her hammer.
Even this late, Nanoha was still at her desk, finishing up her homework. There was no way it was getting done in the morning – that would interfere with her training - so even if she had to stay up late, it was getting done before bed. Raging Heart's voice snapped her out of her study.
"Hm?" Nanoha started to look up – but then the Barrier overtook her and she shot to her feet. "A Barrier? Here?" She scooped up Raging Heart, honing in on the source. "... whatever it is, it's coming closer...?" There was hesitation, but only a moment. She steeled herself and made her move. First things first was to get out of her house and away from anyone who might be hurt.
By the time she'd got far enough for her liking, she was on top of one of Uminari's many skyscrapers, looking around for her target. Where was the person behind the Barrier?
Raging Heart's warning was almost too late, but Nanoha's reflexes were like lightning, and she almost instantly targeted the gold-and-red bullet hurtling down from the sky towards her.
[HOMING BULLET] Raging Heart identified for her. Nanoha spread her legs for stability and raised her hand, calling up a magic circle as a defence. The bullet hit, grinding against it, but she could defend it... at least until another bullet, this one a girl, dropped in behind her, hammer raised. Her voice was a pure, feral, roar. "Deadly Punishment!"
Nanoha's other hand came up, blocking that attack as well – but being punished from both sides, something had to give. It wasn't her, but rather, the rooftop beneath her feet. It didn't take much – first the concrete was pounded about an inch down, and then it crumbled, ruining her footing and consequently her defence. The combined impact blew up a smokescreen, but it wasn't enough to hide Nanoha being ejected from the roof and sent tumbling headfirst to the ground below.
She didn't show even an ounce of fear. Nanoha had fallen from worse heights than this before. "Raging Heart, please!"
[STANDBY READY] The jewel around her neck glowed, the words appearing in spidery text, not etched into the surface, but rather, held inside. [SET UP]
The hammerite was forced to hold back as her target was wrapped in a brilliant pink glow. It wasn't just an aura, but almost a living thing that clung tight to her body and filled out, turning from nothing more than light to a wonderfully brilliant dress, primarily white with striking blue highlights, tied at the chest with a single red ribbon over a brief golden breastplate. The sleeves ended in almost-Renaissance styled armour that wrapped her wrists and extended up her forearms, while her hands were half-covered in fingerless gloves. Raging Heart changed, too – the jewel became the centrepiece of a golden-headed staff with a white haft; a single white wing extended from the reverse side of the staff's head.
Vita didn't give her any time, though. She raised a hand, gripping an iron ball, and flicked it up, bringing Graf Eisen to bear.
The hammer hit hard, smashing the ball down as a bullet – just like before – and struck the pink sphere Nanoha had been hovering in. Vita was about one second behind it, smashing through the smokescreen with the red hammer, but Nanoha vanished before that, making her way out of the cloud even as Vita split it in half.
"I don't remember doing anything to provoke you like this!" she called back, turning and coming to a halt on the pink wings extending from her heels, her source of flight. "Where do you come from? Why are you doing this?"
Vita ignored her and raised her hand. Yet more iron balls snapped into being, smaller this time, held between her fingers.
Nanoha snapped her hand out to the side. "If you don't tell me, how am I supposed to know?"
Had Vita not glanced back over her shoulder, just in case, the fight might have been over then. But she did, just in time to see the two pink bullets closing in on her six. When had her target set those up? She raised Graf Eisen with both hands, blocking the attack and wiping it out with a flicker of fire. Projectile attacks abandoned, Vita turned back and hurtled at Nanoha, raising her hammer high. "You little twerp!"
By the time the hammer came down, Nanoha wasn't there anymore. She moved so fast she left a silhouette in the air, leaving Vita swinging at nothing, and took advantage of the gap to bring Raging Heart properly into play. [CANNON MODE] Wrapped in pink, Raging Heart changed, going from a staff to a full fledged cannon – the head shifted, coming to a white-armored lance surrounding a golden barrel; three pink wings extended from it, two on top and one on the bottom. Below the haft, the blue armour opened up, offering a grip and trigger, which Nanoha took in her left hand, steadying the cannon with her whole body. Wrapped in magic circles from head to base, Raging Heart glowed, drawing pink lines in the air as it charged up.
"Listen..." [DIVINE] "... to me!" [BUSTER]
Even Vita couldn't block it properly. The blast was just too big and too strong – who was this girl!? - and the best she could do was deflect it to one side, where it arced and whistled off into the sky before it petered out, burning her clothes. The wind set her orange hair whipping, which was her first clue, and she let herself get distracted for a moment, just in time to see her hat falling to the floor below.
No words. Vita's voice caught in her throat somewhere between a snarl and a growl, and Nanoha flinched backwards in the air, completely involuntarily – just the glare had been enough to make her body move. Vita's hammer came up, then to the side, and another magic triangle grew beneath her feet. The head of the hammer extended, revealing a breech containing a single red-filled capsule. "Graf Eisen... Cartridge Load!"
The hammer gleamed... and smashed back together again, venting steam as the capsule was slammed into the guts of the Device. [RAKETENFORM] The hammer was wrapped in red bricks that shifted, rotated, and vanished away again into the air. When they cleared, it had changed, going from a simple hammer to a full-fledged halberd – one side had been sharpened to a point, while the other had become nothing short of a rocket engine.
Nanoha grit her teeth, ready to defend herself. This was going to be bad.
Vita's voice rung out. "Raketen...!"
Nanoha managed to dodge the first swing.
The second time, she wasn't so lucky.
The hammerhead came through the air, describing a golden arc with its rocket trail, and smashed clean through the barrier she called up, grinding against the head of her staff like a jackhammer. The look of shock on her face said it all. Nothing could have prepared her for that hit.
But, Vita wasn't done.
The impact blew Nanoha across the city block and clean through an office window. She smashed through the window, scattering glass everywhere, and bounced across the ground – but she wasn't out yet, and she scrambled to her feet, ready for the next blow in spite of the fact that Raging Heart was almost falling apart in her hands. Vita was there in the next second, merciless, and Raging Heart acted of its own accord this time.
Nanoha's barrier hadn't been enough the first time.
It wasn't this time, either.
"Break through it!"
Graf Eisen shattered the barrier and missed Nanoha's chest by less than a centimeter. Only her Barrier Jacket saved her, and even that was smashed to pieces, shattered into the air. Nanoha hit the wall and slumped down. The impact was bad. She'd hit debris from the initial attack and landed jarringly; everything below the waist just wasn't answering her right now. In spite of her blurring vision, she grit her teeth and struggled to raise Raging Heart. Vita stepped over her. Graf Eisen vented steam and discharged the spent canister, which tinkled on the ground and rolled away.
Obviously, Nanoha was defenseless. Neither attack nor defense would save her now.
Is this the end...? No...! Yuuno... Chrono... Fate!
"Oh, man, looks that's it." the coated woman watched the battle from afar. "So that's the girl they called the White Devil?"
"Come on, don't be like that." she laughed softly. "It looked like she was living a pretty carefree life. That little knight loli fighting her looks like our target, too."
She shook her head. "I'll wait. If she takes out the White Devil then that's one less threat here that the TSAB can use against me. If not, maybe I'll come down on her side... if she was here casually and not mobilized, that probably means the Belkan nobles are keeping this quiet from the TSAB as a whole, which is to my advantage. Maybe I'll even join her side."
That got another laugh out of her. It wasn't entirely pleasant. "You know me... the only reason we're even together is because I'm that way, Skull Heart. I'll take whatever I can get!"
A pure bell rang, followed by the unmistakable clash of metal on metal.
Nanoha, who had her eyes squeezed shut, looked up hopefully.
The girl she wanted so much to see stood before her, back turned, locking weapons with Vita. She felt a reassuring hand on her shoulder and turned, ever so slightly, to find the blonde boy she'd called out to smiling at her. "Sorry we're late, Nanoha."
Vita snarled and twisted Graf Eisen free, leaping back just enough to get out of immediate range of retaliation. "Your allies?"
[SCYTHE FORM] The black polearm in the girl's hands snapped to life with golden light, forming a crackling arc of energy.
Fate Testarossa's red eyes came up, merciless, and her soft, dusky voice echoed over the battlefield.