Chapter 5

Shinji is my opponent...

Shinji is my opponent...

SHINJI IS MY OPPONENT!

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't make myself accept it. I didn't have much of a personal attachment to him... and that wasn't the reason why I was so shocked. It was shocking that the .PH managed to mess with me once again... it's making me fight someone I have no chance against.

"Master... what is the matter? Do not tell me you have feelings for this boy!"

"What are you talking about? Why would I have feelings for that idiot? I'm shocked because I'll have NO CHANCE against this guy, he's a loser, he's sleazy, but he's so strong..."

"Is this the boy you mentioned who tried to attack you yesterday?"

"Yup, he's the one."

"So the .PH has pitted us against a foe above our calibre..." Saber mused.

"Yea... so you may as well say your prayers right here and now."

"Let me through you low life worms! I demand the right to see the bulletin board before all of you!" I heard a familiar voice.

No... go away... PLEASE LEAVE!

It was childish of me to do so, but I blocked the bulletin board by stretching my hands out.

"Ayaka...? So did you figure out who your opponent is? Not like you're gonna make it or anything..."

"Yea, I did, apparently your name's not on there, I checked." Shinji moved to one side, and I moved along with him, anything to make him not see.

"What are you trying to hide from me? Maybe... you don't want me to know who my opponent is... ha! You think you can trick me, but I'm too smart for that, out of my way!" Shinji struck me across the face and I fell over, then he looked at the board. He was silent for a while and then let out a callous, taunting laugh.

"No WONDER you didn't want me to know. YOU'RE my first opponent! Ha ha! Oh what a cruel mistress fate can be! Forcing people to give up friendships in order to win, that's totally insane! We're at such different levels... with me up here and you... wherever you are, but I should congratulate you. You consider me as your friend, right Ayaka?" He started leaning towards me... was it me, or were his gestures kind of flirtatious? Come to think of it, they always were, and not in a good way at all!

"Yes, you were my friend Shinji. A demeaning, condescending, nasty friend, that is to say, not a friend at all." I said as I tried to inch away from him.

"Eh... suit yourself, I never really saw anything in an awkward chick like you, so just forget everything."

"Why do you always insist that I have had romantic feelings for you? I never had, and never will!"

"Keep telling yourself that...!"

"Why don't YOU keep telling YOURSELF that!"

"Well, none of that matters anymore. You're a master, I'm a master, and our servants are going to go all out... if you're lucky, I'll even give you some prize money."

"What prize money? And I'm pretty sure I can get Sa- err my servant to teach you a lesson! Sure she's a bitch, but she's not as horrible of a person as you are!"

Shinji placed his hands on his stomach and laughed loudly.

"HAHAHA! My you have loose lips, nearly giving away your servant's true name... or was it her class? Whatever it was, you must be more careful with the information you leak!"

I stared dumbfounded, I couldn't believe Shinji was right.

"Well, in any case, we're enemies now. I look forward to seeing the two of you in the elimination battle, and remember, don't let our former friendship hold you back!" Shinji placed a hand on my shoulder and gave me a plastic smile, then walked away.

I tried to get a grip on myself, but it was much too difficult. I was already preparing for my own death, I knew I'd never make it no matter what.

"That brute is our first opponent?!"

"Yea... and it looks like the results of this round ain't gonna be pretty..."

"Of course you would be crushed in your current state. However Master, you have a servant like me by your side, I assure you no matter how powerful his servant is, I will, as you said, teach them a lesson they will never forget!"

That's all I've got...? Again, she's attributing my success to herself and is ignoring any and all potential I might have...

"We can only teach them a lesson if we manage to make it to the arena, now let's go."

I walked to the first floor, and saw more and more masters down there, some were discussing, some were training, some were just talking, it was pretty overwhelming, as now they were no longer students, but potential enemies. As I looked around to see what the others were doing, I came across a strange sight for a place like this, a boyfriend and girlfriend looking at each other's terminals.

"Your opponent seems to be rather powerful... I think I'll give you some mana crystals as support."

"Thank you, darling! Honestly I'm glad I decided to team up with you!"

I kept observing them, I don't know why, and I think they noticed.

"Ahh, you!" the girl exclaimed when she saw me, "You're the-"

Ghost in the machine... again, everyone's calling me that without telling me what it is...

"No need to expand on that one. I've heard the name too many times and nobody's telling me the significance. I guess you're not going to either."

She looked at her boyfriend and sighed, then kept talking to me in an energetic voice,

"Well... you're Ayaka right? I'm Minami. This is Yusuke. We entered together and both made it past the prelims, as you can see."

"I didn't know you could make teams in this tournament..."

"Yup we are." Yusuke answered my question, "Maybe you should get a partner too... it'd save you a lot of work in preparation."

"Perhaps..." I was more in thought than focusing on responding to them, "I have to go now. I'll see you in a while."

"Best of luck!"

Why does nobody tell me what that nickname means? Does it have something to do with my memories? Was I really such a horrifying person in life that nobody wants to tell me? Was I so famous that everyone knows my nickname?

As I was walking to the long corridor to the Arena, I ran into HIM again... of all people.

"Going to get the triggers eh, Ayaka? Well, sucks to be you, cuz I'm going to as well. A noob like you will never be able to get them... but I'll wish you the best of luck anyway, since I'm such a nice guy."

"Yes, Shinji, because a guy who pushes people around is the epitome of kindness, right?"

"I'm doing you a favor, and if you can't understand that, well, to hell with you and your servant too!" Shinji scoffed as he made his way towards the arena door.

I just watched as he walked away, then Saber appeared before me.

"Ye gods, how immature he is. In addition, he insulted me as well, I cannot let that pass! His total lack of respect and maturity is truly disgusting, in fact, you pale in comparison!"

"Everyone pales in comparison, Saber... even you."

"Exactly, and that is why he needs to be thoroughly beaten. Now let us go, do not hinder our efforts like you did last time, everything I do must be perfect, down to the smallest detail. I will educate that vermin as to the extent of his sin against me with the blade of my sword, that I am sure!"

I, me, myself, is that all you can think about?

"Yea, yea, now let's get a move on."

I ran across the corridor and into the arena. I was greeted by the same familiar blue landscape, but then I felt a sudden chill, and a strange, sinister vibe. Soon after, my body felt like it was getting electrocuted.

"What the?!" I exclaimed as I flinched.

"Exercise caution, Master. That weakling master and his servant are nearby."

I hid in a conspicuously darker patch of the arena to make sure that Shinji would be unable to find me. Saber didn't seem to like this for some odd reason.

"How disgusting..." she murmured, her voice sounded bitter.

"Okay... now what?"

She began to pace the floor with her head in the air, circling me. She seemed to have no qualms about being caught by Shinji. in fact, she was almost waiting for him to catch us. I briefly imagined her holding up a neon sign and a megaphone and screaming, "Come and get me!"

"To cower in the shadows is only befitting of an Assassin, Master. I am here for the glory of battle, and your stealth oriented approach seems to be at odds with the reason I have entered in this tournament."

"SABER." I almost growled through my gritted teeth, "Well, excuse me for not entering for the same reason as you. As far as I'm concerned, the right way to go about things is to investigate the enemy's weak points without being seen, then use that information against them."

"Are you telling me you see no entertainment in fighting other legendary souls?"

"I don't think blindly rushing to attack and putting my life on the line is entertaining, because I don't have a sick sense of entertainment like you."

"Then why are you doing all this?"

"Why do you care?"

"Are you telling me that you only entered this tournament out of compulsion? Have you no desire other than the basic instinct to live?"

Her question struck me. Indeed, I had no reason to enter this war other than to survive. I had no memories of my past, nothing to carry with me but a name. I stood still for a moment, unable to respond. The longer I remained silent, the angrier I became...

"How deplorable... my Master is nothing more than a lifeless sack of flesh. Even the enemy is better than you, at least he is motivated by greed rather than nothing at all..."

As she spoke, my head started spinning and I began to feel feverish. My vision started to become fuzzy. I felt the fury in me slowly rising, like water on a stove, just about to boil over...

"COMPARE ME WITH THAT IDIOT WILL YOU, YOU GODDAMN WHORE!"

Only seconds later I heard footsteps that were getting louder and louder. I remained silent and still. I had yelled loud enough to give away our position to Shinji.

"Hey, Ayaka, thanks for telling us where you were hiding."

I saw Shinji with his servant. She had long and messy pink hair and blue eyes, a scar ran across her face. She wore a red coat, a belt containing two guns, and black pants. The front of her coat was wide open, as though she couldn't care less about modesty. Like Saber, she seemed kind of arrogant too.

"So THIS is your servant, eh? Wow, who could be more mismatched? But it's all good, because seeing you guys bicker is hilarious. Not only that, while you guys were fighting, I managed to obtain the trigger!"

My eyes were wide and my jaw dropped. Not only had I gotten myself in trouble due to anger, but I was also unable to get anything done.

"What's with that look? Come on! Your skills are pathetic compared to mine, don't be so harsh on yourself! And speaking of losing, let me introduce you to MY servant, who is superior to yours in every way." he gestured to his servant, who turned her nose at me.

"What was that cretin?! You say that this unrefined, gun-weilding brute is superior to me? You are worse than I had assumed, I will be sure to make you beg for my forgiveness!" Saber snarled as she was about to attack.

Shinji appeared to be stalling. His face looked uneasy and he seemed to be in a hurry, like he was about to run off to take care of something more important.

"Saber, wait." I held out my hands to stop her, "He's hiding something..."

"I've got nothing to hide!" Shinji sounded a little nervous though, "All right then! Turn her into a bullet ridden corpse whenever you feel like it!" He pointed at me, expecting his servant to attack us, but she hesitated.

"...Okay, but are you sure you're done gloating? I've found listening to your meaningless chatter quite entertaining." Her voice was shrill and grating, and she sounded like she was taunting him, "Well, I guess you both have figured out that when talking to others, my master is a social retard, right?"

"Though you are my enemy, I cannot help but agree with you." Saber replied.

"Yea, you talk sense for someone who's allied with Shinji."

Shinji looked furious, as though he couldn't take the fact that we were all ganging up against him.

"What the hell are you doing analyzing me like that?! And why are you agreeing with them? Ayaka is my enemy now, so just hurry up and make short work of her and that snobbish bitch already!"

"My you're a tough guy! I have to admit, I admire the fact that you're evil enough to give a beat down to an innocent young girl, that too a former friend. I am impressed by the darkness in your grubby little soul! Yes, I'll be expecting a reward later, do not forget..."

"Yea, yea yea. Now, get ready to lose, Ayaka!"

Shinji's servant fired a gunshot at Saber, but she blocked it with her sword. They both ran across the battlefield attacking and countering at random. Suddenly, one of Shinji's servant's attacks managed to hit, Saber flinched and fell.

"Haha! Yea, now don't hold back!"

Shinji's servant used pistols. If she used pistols, she would have taken some time to load them, in case she ran out of ammo. She appeared to be using her bullets up like crazy, so it was only a matter of time when she would leave herself open...

Sure enough, the servant was about to take the gun out of her belt when...

"Attack! Now!"

Saber ran at her and struck her down, it didn't do much damage however.

"Really? That's all you've got? Sheesh! I've seen some bad masters, but you've gotta be the worst ever!"

The servant kept firing at rapid speed, some bullets hit Saber, and some missed. This was not looking good. Though I was prepared for it, I was still in shock. Even Saber's attacks weren't dealing the kind of damage we'd hoped for.

"This doesn't look good, just stand your ground!"

"Master!"

"Do you want us to die? Then just do it!"

She used her sword as a shield to block the upcoming attacks, luckily, her sword was protective enough that it didn't do much damage. Suddenly, she broke through our defenses though, and Saber knelt down.

Suddenly, I heard a beeping noise from above, and an announcement,

"All hostilities will be terminated. Any attempt to further engage in hostility will result in a penalty. Thank you for your cooperation."

Shinji scowled and placed his hand on his forehead, "Crap... it looks like the .PH has its eye on us. Oh well, I'll take you out in the elimination battle then."

Saber returned to my side, and Shinji's servant returned to his. Saber looked tired and pretty beaten up.

"You are fast, gun-weilding harpy. You will be quite a powerful opponent once I fight you for real..."

"I'm impressed by your swordplay, but I pity you, or rather, your master's incompetence. If she had been stronger... we could go all out. This fight was rather boring, Master of Saber. Get stronger next time, that's not a request."

"Yea yea, now come on, we managed to beat them up pretty bad, so let's get out of here. I've got enough info on Ayaka's stupid servant to investigate... ah well, see you... until a week from now that is!"

Shinji ran towards the exit and disappeared. Saber and I looked at each other, we had to figure out something by now.

"Ugh... what a powerful attack..." Saber managed to say as she knelt down in fatigue, "I am at a loss. I do not know whether to thank you for giving me a fight, or to beat you silly for getting us into this situation."

I remained silent and decided to change the subject.

"Hey, remember when you told me about all those classes? I don't recall there being a class called GUNSLINGER..."

"Of course there isn't you fool! Any servant who uses a projectile weapon has to be an Archer!"

"An Archer eh? But if that was the case, she'd try to attack us from behind... something just doesn't fit..."

"...You are right, I hate to admit it, but you are right. She relies more on close combat than stealth..."

"But she's also far range, and she's fast... but she can't be a Lancer..."

"She did seem rather ruthless... so she could be an Assassin."

"Yea, but what about the whole stealth thing? Ugh! Nothing's working! Shinji would have figured out YOUR class already because you're so easy to guess! But her... I can't recall any female legendary soul who wields pistols..."

"Knowing a servant's class does not always mean you know their tactics! There are many many servants who do not follow the conventional patterns of their class, so gather as much information as you can before making an assumption!"

I paced the floor for a while. I knew now we had to focus on training and obtaining the trigger. Shinji already did so, and I didn't want to be behind. I was so apprehensive for the future and so preoccupied about whether I'd live to see the next day, much less the next round that it was a little hard to think. Plus there was Fujimura's kendo sword to worry about. However, we were short on items. Plus, we were too under-leveled to fight those bees from yesterday. So I decided to use a return crystal to go back to campus. The sun was setting, and the halls were almost empty.

I went to the cafeteria to buy more healing items and provisions, then I ran into a familiar face.

"Hey." Daisuke waved at me nonchalantly, as though we were still in school and just old friends.

What was up with this guy? Why was he trying so hard to talk to me? Did he want something from me?

"Now what?"

"What's wrong with you? Why are you so rude to everyone you meet?"

"Why are you so nice to everyone you meet? This is a war for a reason, you know."

"Stop talking to me like you know everything. You've got a lot to learn yourself."

"Besides, what's with this whole 'ghost in the machine' bullshit? What the hell does that nickname even mean?"

He frowned at me and began to walk away, but then stopped. He seemed to turn and glare at the open air. Perhaps his servant had said something.

"What do you mean, 'watch your back?' Fighting isn't allowed on campus."

His servant said something, then Daisuke frowned, but tried to keep a straight face.

"You never... stop it. You're just too paranoid for your own good."

He said something again, and Daisuke's face turned bright blue. There was malice in his expression, but he still tried to keep his cool.

"Shut up Ka-" he was about to use his true name, but quickly recovered, "...Shut up. Other masters don't need to see this."

Again, after a brief pause, Daisuke's calm and stern demeanor turned emotional and wild.

"I don't need another lecture about my ideals. I'm sick and tired of hearing your bullshit night and day. Maybe you need to reevaluate your own approach on life first and stop being so goddamn cynical about everything. When even GOD himself is against you, you KNOW there's something wrong."

Daisuke walked off in a huff. From what I could gather, Daisuke also had a poor relationship with his servant. It looked like we had something in common, but I had to avoid him for now. I didn't know what was his problem. He didn't look like he belonged here, he seemed too soft for his own good, what did he think he'd achieve by joining this war?

I noticed the sun had set and walked to the private room. Saber made her presence known while there. We ate dinner, which wasn't much, just cup noodles for the both of us, then got ready for bed. Saber looked at me like she wanted to say something.

"That boy did have a point, Master. You are very much inept, and other masters can be useful for obtaining information. Rudeness will most probably scare them off."

"That's the idea, Saber. You can't trust any of these people. I work alone, and that's final."

"I never said anything about trusting them, you could learn a lot from working with someone, though they may be your enemy."

"...I'm afraid I just can't afford to think like that."

"Master- oh never mind. You will most probably learn the hard way."

I sighed. Reasoning with Saber was probably not the best option. I laid down in my cot and proceeded to fall asleep.