Zhuo district, Youzhou province, near Mount Wutai
When Ragna the Bloodedge finally awoke, his body throbbed in pain.
The soft sound of wind blowing in his ears did nothing to lessen the headache that drummed at his brain, nor did the cool grass on his bare back. His chest and body burned with the pain of fresh injuries, but he was functioning well enough otherwise.
The last thing he could remember was facing down the strange girl called Nu-13 at the bottom of the NOL base in Kagutsuchi, dressed in her strange blue-and white armor. He had just saved an NOL officer by the name of Noel Vermillion from being eviscerated by Nu's flying swords, and had gotten into one final battle with Nu. However, right on the cusp of victory, Nu had stabbed him and pulled him down into the Cauldron.
After that, everything went white.
Before he could think over his position in particular, his thoughts were completely interrupted by a rough male voice. "Shorty, Fatso. Let's check him for goods, then grab that sword next to him and scram."
Two voices replied, one sly and sneaky, the other slow and ponderous. "Yes, Boss."
The moment he heard those words, Ragna opened his eyes in shock, and found himself staring into a beautiful sky. Cursing under his breath, he sat up as quickly as his body would allow, glaring at the three men standing a few feet away from him.
They were dressed in odd clothes, with brown leather armor at their waists, blue sleeveless shirts, brown pants, and yellow scarves around their heads and necks. One was short and skinny looking with a weaselly face, the second was a little shorter than Ragna and had a wispy black mustache, and the third was huge, at least a good foot taller than Ragna and twice as wide. Behind them, he could see quite a few hills, and there was a mountain in the distance, though none like any he'd ever seen before. It had a thin, slim profile in comparison to the sturdy mountains that he saw most Hierarchical Cities built into, and seemed to be surrounded by foothills instead of the stiff upward climb that most mountains would have. In fact, he couldn't even see any traces of a City on that mountain in the first place—no ports, no airships, nothing. It was just there, like it was out of an old picture book or something.
There was something really strange about all of it, but he had no time to sit and figure it out.
"Any of you assholes come one step closer and I'll punch your head off your shoulders," Ragna said flatly. He clenched his black-gloved right fist. The rest of that arm was covered by black bandages that were clasped by a golden buckle just below his shoulder. It wasn't actually his real arm, but a mass of concentrated seithr called the Azure Grimoire that was acting like an artificial limb. He frowned and shook his head after a few repetitions of clenching and opening his hand; the arm as a whole still moved and felt right, but at the same time, something about it felt off. "If you tell me where the nearest Hierarchical City is, and do it quick, I won't kick the shit out of you for trying to rob me."
The thief that had spoken earlier, "Boss", spoke up again. "Hier what now? What are you talking about?" He pointed his sword directly at Ragna's face and came closer, with the other two flanking him. "Quit babbling and give over anything valuable you've got, or you're gonna die!"
Ragna grunted, then looked to his right. He saw something solid and black in the grass, and he quickly wrapped his hand around it. He got to his feet and shook his head, dislodging a few blades of grass from his wild, spiked-up white hair. The object he'd grabbed on to was the handle of a black, rectangular piece of metal with a shining white blade attached on one side and a thin red revolver cylinder running the entire length of the grip. This was Ragna's personal sword, Blood-Scythe, and as soon as he was fully on his feet, he shifted it into his preferred reverse grip.
The bandits gave Ragna a wary glance at this point; he wore no shirt, only a bell-shaped pair of pants, with a pair of belts crossing over his waist in an X, and metal-toed red boots. This exposed Ragna's slim, muscular upper-body build, as well as a number of scars and wounds, the most prominent of which was a brownish star-burst scar on his sternum that looked as if it were still healing. His eyes—the left green, the white red—glared angrily at them.
"This sword's all I've got, fellas," Ragna said. "If you want it, I'll give it to you—but you'll be bleeding like a bitch afterward!"
"Shorty" looked at Blood-Scythe and immediately went pale. "H-hey, Boss," he said, "I think we picked a bad mark this time. I don't like the look of this guy."
Boss scoffed and moved closer to Ragna, keeping his blade at the ready to attack. "What are you afraid of? It's just some shirtless guy with mismatched eyes and a giant butter knife. There are three of us and one of him!"
"Yeah, and one of me could kill fifty of you shits with his pinky finger and have enough energy to do the same to a hundred of you after that," Ragna said. He stepped toward Boss, cracking the knuckles of his left hand by clenching it into a rigid claw. "Last chance to run, boys. I'd listen to the shrimp, though, he's the one with the most sense."
Boss replied to that by snarling and glaring at Fatso. "Fatso! Pound him! I'll follow behind you!"
"You got it, Boss," Fatso replied. He took three lumbering steps toward Ragna, drawing a blade roughly the size of Blood-Scythe from a sheath on his back, and swung down with a grunt. Ragna immediately hefted Blood-Scythe upward, and blocked Fatso's strike. Then, he punched Fatso in the gut, jumped upward, and slammed Blood-Scythe's hilt into Fatso's nose; instantly, the large bandit fell onto his back, completely unconscious. Ragna landed, then cracked his neck and looked at the other two.
"Still want it?" Ragna asked, waggling around Blood-Scythe with a bored frown on his face. "You look like you don't anymore."
"Boss, we can't take him," Shorty shouted. "We gotta leave right now or we're gonna bite it! Seriously!"
Boss's response was to kick Fatso a few times. When the massive bandit woke up and stumbled to his feet, Boss immediately turned away from Ragna and ran off without saying another word. However, in their haste, they didn't notice the sound of someone else approaching them from their right side until a female voice rang out across the plains like a clear bell.
The bandits, and Ragna as well, turned to see who had spoken to them.
It was Ragna, though, that saw her first.
A young woman, probably no older than 20 or 21, was walking in their direction. She had long, black hair and sharp amber eyes. Some of her hair was off into a ponytail on the left side of her head, with a golden bangle and a pink ribbon keeping the ponytail in place, while her bangs spilled over the right side of her face. She wore a sleeveless white top with a green collar and a purple-white checkered tie. A black skirt with dark leggings—and a longer, green-gold skirt over that, as well as white sleeves detached from her suit—completed her look. In one hand, she carried a halberd, topped with the head of a dragon. A curved blade emerged from the dragon's mouth, and just below the head of the dragon, a pink cloth wrapped around the shaft of the weapon and fluttered in the wind. Ragna could tell from the way she was holding it that she knew how to use it and wouldn't hesitate to, either.
"You there," she said, continuing to step towards Ragna and the bandits with an infuriated expression. "How dare you assault the Messenger of Heaven so casually—and when he is wounded, on top of that! Truly, you are shameless indeed!"
Ragna and the bandits blinked at exactly the same time. "Messenger of Heaven?" they all asked at once.
Ignoring the puzzlement on their faces, the young woman kept walking until she stood next to Ragna. Once she was there, she shifted her halberd into her left hand, then grabbed the rear end with her right, and shifted into a stance that seemed maximized to allow explosive movement. "I will not abide this insult to the Youzhou province, nor to this man," she said, narrowing her eyes. "Prepare yourselves!"
Boss looked the girl over very carefully, then snorted. "As if a walking pair of breasts is going to scare me at all."
Shorty and Fatso immediately looked at Boss, then back at the girl. Her face was flushed red, but her brows were drawn together and her head was lowered just enough for her eyes to be veiled in shadow. "A walking pair of breasts, you say," she said slowly. Ragna took a large step to the left, not wanting to be anywhere near her when she started to swing her weapon around. Even with what little social graces he had, he knew that cracking jokes about a woman's bust was just asking for trouble, even if they were true. "Then allow this walking pair of breasts to cut your tongue out of your head!"
The moment that threat came out of her mouth, she jumped forward, bringing her halberd down in a clean vertical strike. Shrieking in fright, the bandits continued running off, except twice as fast as before; Boss in particular barely avoided having his head split open by her attack. Ragna whistled as the blade of her weapon gouged out a significant chunk of earth when it landed. She kept glaring at the backs of the fleeing bandits, but eventually let out a heavy sigh and stood up, switching back to the casual one-handed grip she'd used as she was walking over. Then, she turned to Ragna with a warm, sunny smile, though he could tell that she was looking at him with a fair amount of concern. "Your injuries aside, are you well?"
Ragna nodded, and moved Blood-Scythe behind him. The grooved metal plate on the back of one of his belts immediately locked the sword into place, and he let the handle go. "Yeah, I'm fine. Nothing a little rest won't fix." He looked at Kan'u with a raised eyebrow. "So what's all this you were saying about a Messenger of Heaven? And who the hell are you exactly?"
The flush on her cheeks overtook her whole face. "A-Ah, yes, I'm sorry, how rude of me." She bowed at the waist, then straightened up. "My family name is Kan, and my first name is U—Kan'u. My common name is Unchou. I have traveled here by the word of the oracle Kanro to greet the one that would descend from Heaven." She bowed again, but this time, more briefly. "I apologize for being so late to assist you. Might I ask your name, my lord?"
"The name's Ragna. No need for that 'my lord' crap," Ragna said. "And really, it's fine. I could've taken them if I had to, but the help's appreciated anyway." Though he was outwardly calm, inwardly he was seriously confused. He had never heard of a Youzhou province. On top of that, the bandits didn't seem to know what a Hierarchical City was, and he'd never seen plains like these while passing through the more treacherous lowland areas between the mountains where the Hierarchical Cities were built. The only way to find out was to ask. "Right, so...where the hell are we? Where's the nearest Hierarchical City?"
"This is the Zhuo district of the Youzhou province," Kan'u replied. "In the distance over there is Mount Wutai." She frowned. "I don't know what you mean when you speak of a Hierarchical City, but not far from here is a village that serves as the seat of the district."
Kan'u directed her gaze squarely at Ragna's sternum, and he looked down at the scar there when he realized that she was no longer looking him directly in the eyes. The phantom memory of being stabbed by Nu-13 briefly shot through his mind, but he ignored it as quietly as he could. The girl's face had been way too familiar for him (way too similar to Saya's face, his brain said) to be comfortable remembering it.
His thoughts then shifted to what Kan'u had just said, and his stomach churned. She's never heard of a Hierarchical City either? What the hell is going on here?
"At any rate, we should leave for the village as soon as possible, my lord," Kan'u said, drawing him out of his inadvertent reverie. "After your wounds are treated, we can discuss the matter of how to proceed."
She began to walk off, and after a moment of stunned silence, Ragna quickly moved to keep pace with her. "I already told you just to call me Ragna," he said, overtaking her and standing in front of her. "And what do you mean about 'how to proceed'? I still don't get what the hell a Messenger of Heaven is supposed to be, and I'm pretty sure that even if I did know, I'm sure as shit not it."
Kan'u stopped walking, and looked up at Ragna's face with a perplexed frown. "Kanro did say that you would not know of your purpose when you came. My apologies for not explaining it." Her expression lightened as she closed her eyes. "'A man with a red right eye and hair whiter than the driven snow shall descend from the heavens to the plains of Mount Wutai, bearing a gleaming blade. His clothes are beyond the make of mortals, and he shall be the one—the Messenger of Heaven that the people shall rally around as this war-torn era begins to move toward its end.'" She looked at Ragna again and smiled at him. "That was the oracle given by Kanro. When I heard it, I decided that I would find the Messenger and pledge myself to his service—that is to say, your service, my lord."
Ragna raised an eyebrow. Her memory had to have been pretty impressive to recite something that long off the top of her head, and she was looking at him with such conviction that she was either crazy enough to believe her own lies or completely serious about what she'd said. He would have said the latter, but frankly speaking, nothing made sense right now, and he didn't want to alienate someone that actually had some idea of what the hell was going on.
Ultimately, though, whatever he was planning on saying next was cut off by a cheerful girlish voice coming from in front of them. "Aisha!"
Kan'u jumped in surprise and turned her attention forward. A young girl with short red hair, dressed in tight navy shorts and a high-collared yellow half-jacket, was dashing toward them with a large grin on her face. Her feet were covered in navy socks that exposed the front of her feet and her heels. A red scarf with two tails was wrapped around her shoulders, and a golden ring around the collar of the sleeveless navy shirt gleamed in the sunlight. She wore red fingerless gloves, and she carried a halberd similar to Kan'u's. However, it was much less ornate, and the head of the weapon did not have a smooth, curved blade, but a zigzagging one; a cloth was tied to the shaft just below the blade, like Kan'u's, but the cloth was navy instead of pink. Ragna blinked in disbelief, as the weapon was literally twice the girl's height, yet she carried it easily.
The girl came to a stop right in front of Kan'u, and grinned, violet eyes sparkling. Strangely enough, Ragna could have sworn that the circular tiger-head hairpin in the girl's hair was smiling as well.
"Rinrin, there you are," Kan'u said. In contrast to the girl's joyfully carefree expression, Kan'u was frowning sternly. "What took you so long? The Messenger was being attacked by bandits when I found him. Were they not so weak, they might have overcome him because of his injuries."
"I'm sorry, sis," the girl replied, scratching the back of her head. "But that cute doggy distracted me, and then by the time I looked up you were already gone." She then looked in Ragna's direction, and her sheepish smile grew back into a wide one as she examined him. "Wow, it's just like old man Kanro said, Aisha! The hair, the sword, the eyes...he really is the Messenger, isn't he? And he looks really tough, too, like he can fight!"
Kan'u nodded, and her severe expression gave way to a smile. "Undoubtedly." She then turned to Ragna, and said, "You should properly introduce yourself, Rinrin."
The girl saluted and stepped back, then bowed quickly, looking back up into Ragna's face as soon as she was done. The twin brown belts at her waist shifted slightly as she did so. "Great to meetcha, big bro! My last name's Chou, and my given name is Hi—Chouhi. My common name is Yokutoku." Her smile grew wider. "But since you're going to be our lord, you can call me by my real name, Rinrin."
"And you may call me by mine, as well," Kan'u added. "From now on, please address me as Aisha."
Ragna grunted for a second as he tried to figure out what he could possibly say to make these two understand that he wasn't who they thought he was. Bah, it's no good, he thought, shaking his head. They're both totally convinced that I'm this so-called Messenger, and if I keep trying to deny it they're only gonna get more annoying. And even if I try to leave them behind, they'd probably chase me down. And I don't even know where the hell this is. He ran a hand through his hair, then shrugged. Screw it. Might as well go along with it for now. Maybe this town will have a map for me to check out and I'll be able to figure out where I am after all.
"All right then," he said to both of them. "Let's go to this village and talk some more, I guess. I kind of get what you're saying, but I don't know if that oracle of yours really knew what they were talking about if they thought I'd be the one to do this job."
"You still doubt that you are the Messenger," Kan'u said sadly. She frowned, but this time it was more an expression of soft disappointment than anger or sternness. "Why are you so uncertain of this? You match the oracle's description perfectly, and your body states that you are a seasoned warrior. I truly believe that someone like you is best suited to be the Messenger. You can most definitely change this land for the better."
Ragna sighed. "Rinrin was right when she said that I knew how to fight, but that's pretty much all I know how to do. I'm not made to be a leader and shit. I just do what I gotta do, and if people get in the way, they get out of it or get stepped on. I ain't cut out to save people."
Kan'u's frown deepened, and she took a breath before she continued speaking, her head lowered. "Please don't trod on my faith any more."
"Huh?" Ragna asked. "The hell are you talking about?"
"If you do not believe that you are the one that can complete this task, then neither I nor Rinrin will have the strength to do what must be done for the people of this land," Kan'u said, raising her head. Her eyes were clearly sad, but her face was set in a determined glare. "The conflicts have been going on for years, as the armies of Go and Gi have been massing their forces and expanding their territories. And here in this province, the Yellow Turbans are taking supplies from whoever or wherever they can so that they can challenge the emperor and the Imperial Court. If the people have no one to believe in, then this spiral will continue on, and even if Rinrin and I fight to save who we can, we aren't enough."
Ragna immediately figured out what she was trying to say. "So the Messenger is supposed to be someone for people to believe in."
Kan'u nodded, even as her lips crunched together into a trembling white line. "I know it's a tremendous responsibility. But I believe in what Kanro said about the Messenger of Heaven, because more than anything, I want to see this land find peace so that no more children have to live through the pain that I lived through. Even if the world falls back into the old pattern after I die, I want to say that I did my part to try and stop it."
The silence between the two of them stood for several moments before Ragna finally let his shoulders slump. "Fine, then. You two seriously think I can do this, don't you? Then I guess I might as well give it a shot."
Kan'u's eyes widened slightly. "Then you'll do it?"
Ragna folded his arms and winced when he accidentally rubbed the wounds on his chest and arms. "Said I was gonna, didn't I? Don't question me, damn it. Just get me patched up and I'll take the field with you guys." He patted the hilt of Blood-Scythe with a small grin that didn't quite reach his eyes. "I've got this damn thing and these scars of mine for a reason, you know?"
Kan'u let out a small laugh, then nodded her head. "Very well, my lord. Rinrin, let's move."
"Happy to, sis!" Chouhi replied.
As they walked, Ragna looked up into the sky again and let out a quiet sigh through his nose. He didn't know what was going on, nor did he know how the hell he'd gotten wherever he was. All he knew for sure was that they were relying on him to do something, and that they were more than willing to help him manage in this place, wherever it was. Maybe he would figure it out in time, but for now, he saw no harm in trying to help them while trying to get acclimated to where he was now.
And it's nice to have people believing in me just a little bit, his traitorous brain added, instead of hunting me down like a dog.
The walk back to the village itself was uneventful, but things quickly escalated once Kan'u, Chouhi, and Ragna arrived there.
The moment they approached the gates, a desolate scene greeted them. Doors were kicked down and buildings were stained with scorch marks. Corpses were strewn about in the city, lying in pools of their own blood. The only place that seemed relatively untouched was a large, tiered building that was enclosed by the wall surrounding the town; the massive black gates that protected it were untouched. With a snarled, incomprehensible curse, Ragna drew Blood-Scythe and held it ready to strike as he dashed forward. Both Kan'u and Chouhi, however, remained frozen in place, though Chouhi soon snapped out of it and followed after Ragna.
"...The Turbans," Kan'u whispered to herself, taking a few shallow steps further into the village. "They must have done this. While I was finding him, perhaps...?" She pressed a hand to her face, grinding her teeth together. "Damn! This is...this is my fault."
"Bullshit," Ragna said as he walked back toward her, stowing Blood-Scythe again. He could tell that the stony look on her face was mostly put-upon, a front to stop herself from letting her real emotions show. "Besides that, if you had been here they might have overwhelmed you. Even losers can be dangerous in numbers." He watched Chouhi go farther up the street, then sighed, wincing when the action caused his chest to burn. "The squirt thinks that anyone left is hiding out somewhere around here. Come on. We've gotta help her find 'em and figure out how we're gonna counterattack those Turban assholes."
"The people here aren't warriors, my lord." Kan'u said, slowly shaking off her malaise to look Ragna in the eye. "And after a defeat like this they may not want to even try to fight back. We'll have to convince them into it."
Ragna snorted. "Good thing I'm here then. Isn't that exactly what this Messenger of yours is supposed to do? Rally the people to kick some ass, end the war-torn era or whatever? Don't tell me you don't believe the shit you told me just a while back. If you don't believe it, you can't expect anyone else to."
Kan'u's gaze firmed as she rapped the butt of her halberd on the ground. "I very much do believe in what I told you earlier. However, I would prefer that you not dismiss my ideals so flippantly, my lord. I merely had a moment...of doubt. This village was thriving earlier today, and now...it's been reduced to this." She gestured around loosely with her free hand, and her lip trembled.
If Ragna felt more comfortable, he might have put a reassuring hand on her shoulder, but touching people had never been something he'd been big on even before he'd started toughening up. "And getting choked up isn't going to bring it back. The best you can do for the people that died is kick some Yellow Turban ass. Now, let's get going already."
Kan'u took another look around the destroyed village, then nodded and followed behind Ragna as he went after Chouhi.
As it turned out, Chouhi's intuition was correct. The building that she entered as Ragna and Kan'u followed behind her was the tavern, and a number of villagers were holed up there—sons, daughters, old and young, anyone that had managed to escape the attack. Chouhi was talking adamantly with a middle-aged man, and Ragna and Kan'u caught the tail end of the conversation as they came up behind Chouhi.
"...there were about four thousand of them," the man said to Chouhi, his shoulders slumping. "They just swooped in and hit us. Those bastards..."
Chouhi's expression was surprisingly thoughtful, though it soon enough broke into the smile that she always wore. "Well, you don't have to worry, Chief. Me, Aisha, and big bro Ragna will take care of all those Yellow Turban jerks!"
The man blinked, then looked at Ragna and Kan'u standing right behind Chouhi. "I'm guessing that you're the two that this girl was talking about," he said to them. "My name is Gan. I'm the village chief. Who are you people?"
Kan'u nodded. "I am Kan'u, and this man is Ragna, my current lord." She gave Chouhi a gentle rap on the back of the head. "This is Chouhi. As she said, we are more than happy to assist you all, but we cannot do it alone. We know that you have lost many people dear to you today, but if you are willing to fight to the bitter end, then you will triumph."
Another villager sitting in a chair, a young woman holding a child in her lap, looked up at Kan'u, a weary expression crossing her face. Her eyes were red and puffy. "We were completely defeated, though. What can the three of you do against the Turbans?"
"It's not just the three of us," Kan'u said. A faint smile graced her lips. "We have the heavens on our side, as well. In Luoyang, there has been a rumor of a white-haired Messenger from Heaven, graced with a red right eye and a large blade. He is said to be the one that can end the turmoil in these lands. I, Unchou Kan'u, swore my loyalty to this man, and so too did Chouhi. We knew that he could change this world as prophesied if we were to lend him our power."
As the villagers all looked up at her in wonder, her description made them all look over to Ragna. He returned their curious gazes with an impassive, calm frown, then took a quick glance in Kan'u's direction. She nodded once, though he saw a brief flash of guilt written all over her face, and Ragna replied by doing the same to the audience at large. A quiet buzz began to spread amongst the crowd as they looked back and forth between Ragna and each other, and Kan'u continued where she left off. "So long as you all have the desire to fight, you can claim our aid, and we will in turn fight until the Turbans are wiped out to a man. Heaven shall stand with us. You can count on that."
The murmurs grew louder, but stopped when Gan stepped up and looked Ragna straight in the eye. "Are you truly the Messenger of Heaven? Can you truly save us from this endless period of war?"
Ragna could feel Kan'u's eyes on his back, and he sighed in his mind. "I can at the very least help you pay back those Turbans for screwing with your town. But it's like she said. You gotta be thirsty to win, no matter what. Otherwise you're not gonna avenge anyone, and anything I do for you ain't gonna mean shit. The rest of it is up to you all after that."
Kan'u looked slightly mortified by Ragna's choice of words, while Chouhi just watched Ragna with a serious frown that seemed extremely misplaced on her face. Gan closed his eyes and rubbed at the stubble on his sun-marked chin, then nodded. "You seem young for a Messenger of Heaven, and you're pretty plain-spoken, but you're an honest lad. If you'll lend your power, we'll take it."
Ragna felt a dull burn sweep over his body, and he sighed to avoid flinching in pain. "Long as you're serious, yeah, I got no problem with it. Though getting some bandages for all my cuts—and a new shirt, if you can spare one—wouldn't be a bad deal either."
"Our doctor made it through all right," Gan said. "I'll have him patch you up. The Turbans said they'd be back sometime tomorrow, so you can at least rest before you attack them." The deep lines on Gan's face grew shallower as he cracked a wry smile for Ragna. "We'll pay back what they gave to us tenfold."
Ragna nodded, then looked at the rest of the villagers gathered in the tavern. He could see Kan'u smiling broadly at him, encouraging him to go on, so he cleared his throat. "I don't think we're in a position to do too much waiting, though. We got no clue when they'll hit tomorrow, or even if they'll actually hit tomorrow. We stand a better chance of kicking their asses if we jump 'em when they don't expect us to." He scratched his hair, closing his eyes for a moment, then looked to Kan'u, who was slightly shocked by the boldness of his statement. "I ain't really good with this battlefield tactics stuff, though. You think we might be able to take down 4,000 guys with what we've got on hand if we march in an hour or two?"
"If we're careful about how we engage them, we should be fine," Kan'u replied. "It will be a daunting proposition regardless. We should definitely confirm their numbers first. After that, we can counterattack effectively." She looked over at Chouhi. "Rinrin. You're the fastest one we've got here. Do you mind taking a few volunteers to go scouting?"
"Of course not, sis!" Chouhi replied, grinning wide. "Just leave it to me."
"Works for me," Ragna said. "Once we find 'em, we crush 'em. Simple as shooting fish in a barrel." He rolled his right shoulder, and looked down at Gan again. "So, about that doctor and that shirt...?"
"While Lady Chouhi's out scouting, we can get you fixed up," Gan said. "Don't worry about it."
As he said that, another middle-aged man approached from another corner of the tavern, with a roll of bandages in one hand and a pot of something foul-smelling in the other hand. His brown hair was arranged in a bun, and he wore small glasses and plain white robes.
"The doctor, I presume," Ragna said.
The man bowed. "Chen, at your service, my lord."
Ragna would have told Chen to stop calling him "my lord", but he figured that it would be a lost cause with him as much as it was with Kan'u, and shook his head. "We don't have much time. You got anything that'll keep me together for the next couple of hours?"
Chen nodded. "I'll have to rub you down with an ointment before I wrap your wounds. It'll feel a bit unpleasant at first, but between that and the bindings, the wounds will seal and your body will start to feel better than it ever has before."
Ragna arched a white eyebrow and gave the doctor a suspicious look. "How unpleasant is 'unpleasant'?"
Rather than reply directly, the doctor put the pot onto a nearby table and dipped a hand into it. When he pulled it out, a daub of yellow oil was on his fingertips. He rubbed his hands together, coating it in the ointment, then moved around to Ragna's back and rubbed it directly on the spot where Nu's last stab had come out of Ragna's body. Ragna winced more from the contact with his injury than anything else, but as soon as the doctor stopped spreading the ointment around, Ragna's body became a board before he bared his teeth and let out a roar that shook the tavern like it was in the middle of an earthquake.
"SON OF A BITCH, IT BURNS!"
After another hour or so, the painful process was finished, and Ragna had been completely bandaged up and released by Chen. Once the bandages were set, Gan gave Ragna a black Chinese-styled shirt with long sleeves and red buttons, and shortly afterward, Ragna had left the tavern with Kan'u in tow. Together, they took a walk down the main street of the ruined village, waiting for Chouhi to return with news from the scouting, but the trip was surprisingly unpleasant. Kan'u's grip on her halberd was iron-clad, and she occasionally rubbed at her ear, shooting Ragna dirty looks from the side of her eyes.
"It hurt, OK?" Ragna said after three minutes of the prolonged silence. "Like the asshole shoved me headfirst into a campfire. What did you expect me to do, smile and laugh it off?"
"You didn't need to resort to such harsh language," Kan'u said, grinding out the words from between clenched teeth. "You are the Messenger of Heaven, my lord. You must present a more dignified image to the people if you expect them to follow you!"
Ragna shrugged. "Old Gan said he liked the way I talk. Makes me more approachable, he said. And no one else seemed to mind it. Not even the kid."
Kan'u's expression could not be called anything except a pout, particularly as her cheeks were flushed and she was staring straight ahead. "If you mean Rinrin, then I should tell you that she is not easy to offend with words alone. At any rate, it is still extremely undignified. I would prefer it if the lord I chose to serve would conduct himself as such..."
The raw annoyance in her voice grated on Ragna a bit, but he knew what point she was trying to make. Still, the rebel in him didn't back down easily, and while he was kind of accepting the "Messenger of Heaven" deal because of his current circumstances, he didn't intend on letting it dictate how he handled himself and his business. "Well, newsflash. This is kind of the way I am. I didn't have time to be polite and shit back when I was blowing up Cauldrons. Wouldn't have done jack shit for me."
Kan'u blinked, and said, "What are Cauldrons?"
Her tongue tripped over the strange word, and Ragna mentally punched himself in the back of the head for even bringing them up. He hadn't even had time to figure out how the hell he was going to get back to where he belonged, anyway, much less how he'd wound up where he did.
"Nothing important," he said, kicking a rock down the sandy street. "Just a job I had to do."
The harshness of his reply made Kan'u shrink in on herself, but she quickly hid her unease from Ragna, and nodded. However, the slight stutter in her voice was too obvious, and he looked over at her just in time to see her slightly distraught expression. "I-I see."
Her visible uncertainty made Ragna wince internally, and he sighed, pressing his right palm to his face. "...Sorry. Didn't mean to snap at you. It's just...that's some really personal sh—business to get into. And if I sat and explained the whole thing to you, you'd think I was crazy."
Kan'u's stomach loosened slightly at Ragna's self-censure, and she got the courage to actually look at him again. "Personal business? Then, those Cauldrons have something to do with Heaven?"
I'd hate to be from any kind of Heaven where there are Cauldrons around, Ragna thought. Still, better change the subject. Don't wanna get into this shit right now. "...Sort of. Maybe sometime later I'll try to explain, but not right now, OK? Got too many other things to worry about."
Inwardly, Kan'u patted herself on the back for getting Ragna to agree to share a story about Heaven. Outwardly, though, she let her happiness show in a more reserved manner, simply replying with a confident smile. "As you wish."
Ragna felt something in him stir a bit at the way Kan'u's lips curved, but after a moment, he shook it off and went back to keeping his eyes forward as he walked. After a second, he said, "Aisha. Earlier in the tavern, you looked like you felt bad about something. It was right after you introduced me as the Messenger of Heaven. What was that about?"
Kan'u blinked, looked at Ragna, then squirmed a little bit, looking away from him as quickly as she had looked at him. Her previously happy expression gave way to a self-loathing frown. "Rinrin and I are the only ones that know of Kanro's oracle," she said, her voice lowering to a slight whisper. Her brows drew together, and her bottom lip pressed tightly against the top. "There is no talk of it in Luoyang at all. I lied to them for the sake of rallying them against the Turbans."
Ragna shrugged. He didn't particularly like the idea of pretending that rumors of his arrival were hot shit when they weren't, but Kan'u had been fishing for ways to raise morale. A little white lie or two wouldn't be too bad if it got their job done and kept the villagers motivated enough to fight. "What's Luoyang again?"
"The capital of the empire," Kan'u replied, chiding herself for forgetting that Ragna didn't know the lay of the land. "If people truly knew of your existence there, there might have been a mass swarming to this province to find you." She sighed. "Right now, though, people are more concerned that the Imperial Court's policies are the cause of the Yellow Turban Rebellion in the first place, so that may not have even happened. The fact of the matter is that I still manipulated the villagers' trust, even if it was for a good end."
"What's done is done," Ragna said bluntly, scratching his nose with his right hand before he put said hand into his pants pocket. "If you regret it, try to avoid doing it again. Simple as that. Though, at least you're sharp enough to understand that ends don't always justify the means."
"Of course they don't!" Kan'u retorted, a bit more sharply than she intended. Ragna stopped walking outright as her voice bounced off a few of the buildings, and after a moment, she flushed bright red and looked away, gripping her halberd even tighter. "Pardon me, my lord," she whispered. "I'm sorry for losing my temper. But it's the acceptance of that attitude that caused this issue with the Yellow Turbans in the first place. Because the Imperial Court didn't think of anything but how to make their policies benefit them and not the people, they kept on doing such intolerable things that the Turbans couldn't help but rebel." Her knuckles cracked as her hand clenched around the shaft of her halberd. "And then the Turbans forgot that purpose and began to do whatever they wanted, claiming that they were fighting against the tyranny of the court. It's disgraceful! There are just certain depths one cannot fall toward if they wish to fulfill a dream, and both the Court and the Turbans refused to remember that."
Despite himself, Ragna let out a dry, slow chuckle. Kan'u had just described the NOL to a tee, and the way she spoke so passionately about it made him wonder if perhaps she had been as personally affected by the Yellow Turban Rebellion and the Imperial Court as he had been affected by what had happened to him when he was a child. "The assholes that made those Cauldrons I mentioned are the same way. I think that maybe 'Heaven' and this place aren't quite so different as I thought."
Kan'u blinked, and almost asked what he meant, but the loud shouts of Rinrin's voice from behind them stopped that conversation short.
"Sis! Big bro! We found them!"
After another hour of prep time, the group of willing fighters began to march out to the Yellow Turban encampment, under a sky barely starting to turn orange as the sun slowly started to set. Chouhi led the way, while Ragna and Kan'u followed, walking side by side as they had in the village earlier. Chouhi's scouting trip had revealed one other vital bit of information that the villagers hadn't been able to convey at first; the Turbans' weapons were extremely low-quality, enough so that even a common spear could break them. The villagers only had so many things to make into weapons and even less actual weapons, but at the very least the Turbans did not have the advantage of superior weaponry.
"So there really were four thousand of them," Kan'u said to herself, reviewing the other information that Chouhi had given them in her head. "So long as the men stick to our strategy, then we should be fine, but any mistakes..."
Ragna shook his head, and looked over his shoulder at the villagers following them. Most were young and able-bodied enough to use a sword, but the older volunteers carried bows and arrows to fight from afar, and a lot of them were carrying axes and hastily made polearms. Some even had pitchforks or large sticks crafted into clubs. "We're gonna lose people regardless of what they do with your orders. Best we can do is make sure that as few of them die as possible while we kill the shit out of the Turbans."
Kan'u's face immediately took on a strained look the moment he said that. "My lord...must you be so blunt about it?"
"No point in pussyfooting around it," Ragna said. He reached behind him and drew Blood-Scythe with his right hand, flexing his arm a few times, then sheathed it again. As before, the Grimoire seemed to be moving fine, but now that he wasn't so distracted by his wounds or his surroundings, he could tell that something was wrong with it, and he didn't know what. Even its accelerated healing factor didn't seem to be doing much for him now. He'd have to try to activate it when he got the chance, but not while anyone from the village was watching or he'd have a hell of a time explaining why a "Messenger of Heaven" had such sinister-looking powers, much less what would happen if he accidentally sucked out a villager's soul. "This is a war. And if this is your first time killing people, then—"
"Hey, big bro, don't be so rough on Aisha," Chouhi said. Her spear was balanced casually on her shoulders, and though she didn't sound much more serious than usual, Ragna still listened to her speak, as her voice had an edge he'd never heard. "She and I both have had to go all the way with bad guys before, so we know what it's like to kill people. All she's saying is that you're gonna make everyone fight bad if you keep being such a downer."
Hearing Chouhi casually admit to killing someone in the past made Ragna's stomach turn, but he hid the reaction well. At her age, or maybe younger, he'd been through a lot worse. He didn't have any right to judge her, and for all that she'd seemed to turn out pretty decently. "A 'downer', huh?"
Chouhi nodded. "Yep. Everyone's counting on you to be the leader, big bro. A leader gets people fired up to fight super-hard. So that's what you've gotta do."
As Ragna and Chouhi talked to each other, their group came to a small hill that they easily scaled. When they came to its crest, they all saw the Yellow Turban encampment within a charge's distance; they were still far enough away that even a shout wouldn't be heard, but the moment anyone from the camp saw them, the jig would be up.
"This is it," Kan'u whispered. "The counterattack begins now." She turned to Ragna. "My lord, I think it would be prudent to address the troops one last time before we engage. Chouhi was correct earlier when she said that it is your duty to help build morale." Her lips tensed. "If nothing else, it should serve as a reminder to the people that they are not risking their lives in vain."
Ragna sighed, but nodded his understanding with a grunt, and turned to the villagers behind them. They all looked back at him with quiet expectation, their faces set into grim, resolute frowns. After a moment, he took in a short breath and began to speak as loudly as he could. "You all know what you signed yourselves up for, and you all know that some of you ain't going home today," he said. "So I ain't gonna dwell on that. What we do from here is simple." He raised his voice even louder. "If you've got a sword in your hand, kill Turbans! If you've got an arrows in your quiver, kill Turbans! And if one of them tries to kill you, do your damn best to kill them too! They wrecked your home and killed your families and friends, so they deserve no mercy! Kan'u said it back at the village, and so did I—you want us to help you win, you gotta want to win! End of story!"
The villagers let out a wordless roar of determination, and Ragna turned to Kan'u and Chouhi. The former seemed shocked, while the latter looked up at him with stars in her eyes. "It's up to you two now. Don't think they're gonna get any more motivated than that."
Kan'u nodded after a moment, schooling her face back into its usual determined frown. "Your speech was rough, but honest. Those feelings you expressed...I won't betray them, my lord. These people will have their justice."
Ragna groaned and pulled Blood-Scythe free once again, staring at the tanned tents that made up the Turbans' camp. "For the last time, call me Ragna. You saying 'my lord' over and over again feels weird."
Kan'u smiled slightly and nodded, though Ragna noted that there was a teasing twist to it. "As you wish, Lord Ragna." She then turned to the villagers again, and her face was all business. "Remember the tactics we agreed upon! Every man will attack in pairs! Archers will stand back and fire upon all stragglers that break from the Turbans' ranks!" She raised her halberd high, then pointed it at the Turbans' camp. "I, Unchou Kan'u, will use the might of this Green Dragon Crescent Blade to help you avenge those that you lost to these selfish robbers!"
"Yokutoku Chouhi and the Viper Spear are here too," Chouhi said, spinning around her spear with a sharp grin. "So, everyone, charge! Don't be scared!"
With those final words from his generals, Ragna tensed his legs, then raced down the hill. Kan'u and Chouhi followed after him, and behind them came the villagers that were armed with melee weapons, allowing the archers to stay in the rear. As the group got closer to the camp, the Yellow Turbans met them in force as a disorganized mob, and Ragna was left to charge straight into what appeared to be the largest part of the force while Kan'u went off to the left and Chouhi went off to the right. With a feral roar, Ragna swung Blood-Scythe into the nearest gathering of Yellow Turbans, then plowed on through to the next set. He then gripped Blood-Scythe's handle tighter than before and swore under his breath. Shit, nothing came out, he thought, glowering at his right hand. Guess this thing really is busted. Gonna have to watch my step now.
The roaring of another group of advancing Turbans caught his attention, and he looked up to see a group of spearmen coming his way. He grunted in annoyance and brought Blood-Scythe down again, splitting most of their spears with the single strike before moving in to crush them with a series of violent punches, kicks, and slashes with Blood-Scythe. Once the enemy laid dead or unconscious at his feet, Ragna shook his head and focused on the nearest group of Turbans, narrowing his eyes. "I'll just have to fight without the Azure. These guys are weaker than those Library idiots, and they don't have Ars Magus to help them out either. "
As he said this, though, the Turbans he targeted spotted him, and rushed him much like the last group had. Ragna set his face into a nasty grimace and got ready to move as they came closer. He could hear one of the villagers behind him shout, "Lord Ragna, watch out!"
Without hesitation, Ragna leaped forward, then dove into the enemy group with Blood-Scythe pointed downward. Anyone and everyone under him was either cut apart by Blood-Scythe as he flew into them or knocked away by the force of his landing. As the survivors retreated as hastily as they could, Ragna shouted, "So that's how you all operate, huh? Kick the shit out of all the weak people you want, but someone comes around to kick your shit in, and you run. What a shock!" He turned to the startled villagers, and said, "You ain't gonna lose to these weaklings. Get your asses in gear and go! I'm good here, so go help Chouhi and Kan'u! And remember what Kan'u said! Pair up and take them down one by one!"
The villagers soon regained their wits and nodded before doing as Ragna asked, splitting evenly to reinforce Kan'u and Chouhi. Ragna then glared at the backs of the Turbans that were trying to get away from him, and sprinted forward. As he did so, he felt a warmth seep into his right arm, and a flicker of black flame ran along his fingers and vanished. "That's more like it," he whispered. "Still don't need it yet, though. As long as the healing comes back, I'm fine."
Then, he raised his voice as he caught up to the stragglers and lashed out with Blood-Scythe.
"Outta my way, assholes!"
Elsewhere on the battlefield, Kan'u shouted and spun around her Green Dragon Blade, cutting down a group of Turbans that had attempted to surround her. She flourished the halberd once to clear the blood off of it, then looked at the status of her squad. As instructed, the villagers were taking down men one by one, and in pairs; no one seemed to have incurred any serious injuries yet, and the sight made her smile softly to herself.
"We can do this," she whispered to herself.
A loud war-cry drew her attention to her left side, where a group of villagers were ambushed and cut down by a squad of Turbans coming her way. Kan'u's smile immediately vanished, and she brandished her halberd once more, charging forward this time. A loud shout sounded behind her as she did, though, and she was surrounded by the villagers that Ragna had ordered to assist her. Kan'u gasped in shock, recognizing their faces from when they had split off into the three attacking groups in the first place, but she had no time to ask the question on her mind. Instead, she redoubled her pace and engaged the bulk of the attacking Turbans, allowing the villagers to take on the ones she wasn't keeping occupied. The Green Dragon Blade flashed out again and again, cutting the Turbans open at the chest and the stomach without remorse or pause, while the villagers took on the Turbans in pairs, either taking them down successfully or dying in the process of trying.
It took some doing, but eventually, Kan'u's squad came out victorious, albeit with its share of casualties. Once she was sure that area was clear, she turned her attention to one of the members of Ragna's former squad, trying and failing to keep the heat in her voice and her heart under control, and trying not to look down at the bodies of those that had fallen. "Why are you here? Were you not assisting Lord Ragna!? Were he at full health, it would be one thing, but his wounds have yet to mend. Why would you abandon him!?"
"M'lady Kan'u, he ordered us to go to you and to Lady Chouhi," the villager replied, wiping the sweat from his bald crown and his forehead. "He was killing five Turbans with a swing of his sword. We would have been in the way if we'd stayed."
Kan'u raised an eyebrow in confusion, and looked in the direction that the soldiers had come from. Sure enough, she saw Ragna's wild mop of white hair shining in the sunlight as he killed a Turban with a heavy vertical slash from Blood-Scythe. He then followed that with a vicious spinning kick that knocked another Turban to the ground with a sickening cracking sound. Another slash from Blood-Scythe, this time horizontal, cleaved through a set of Turbans that were trying to sneak up on him. And, though she wasn't quite sure, Kan'u thought she could see small tongues of black fire whispering up from his right hand and arm as he struck and slashed. It might have been a trick of the light, but at the same time she wasn't quite so sure about that.
"I can't believe it," she whispered. "Lord Ragna is that strong, even when injured? It's impossible." She shook her head, and turned to the villager she'd just spoken to. "My apologies. You're correct, Lord Ragna has this well in hand." She turned her attention to the main camp, and heard Chouhi's voice shout faintly over the din and the noise.
"Chouhi squad! Don't stop! If we can get their tents, we win!"
"She'll need time to finish breaking through," Kan'u said aloud. She took another look around; there were quite a few Turbans down. Those that hadn't been killed were trying to get back to the main camp, but were being cut off by infantry soldiers or being shot down by archers.
Kan'u nodded once. The villagers have already adopted the strategy I was just thinking of using. I suppose I'll just have to help them out! She raised her voice and addressed the villagers around her. "Kan'u squad! Let's assist the others! Keep the enemy from getting back to their main camp! General Chouhi's almost broken through their last line!"
The villagers around her roared, "Yes, Lady Kan'u!" and fell in behind her as she surged forward. As they advanced, she spared one last look toward Ragna, who had cleared one cache of enemies and was quickly rushing at the next. He, too, was making his way toward the camp.
Kan'u offered a quiet prayer to Heaven for his safety. She would have sent some of the men back to him just to be sure that he would remain safe, but he had made his position clear and there was no time to argue it on the battlefield. Time would be their enemy as the fight dragged on. They had to finish things with what power they had left.
In the end, the battle lasted about two and a half hours in total. The village's population of 3000 had been reduced by about 150 people in the initial raid, and of the remainder, 2000 were fighting fit. Amongst those that went to fight, another 500 were lost. However, the Turbans had sustained much worse losses. Chouhi had taken the camp, but it was not until the majority of the Turbans had been killed, roughly 3500 total, that they surrendered or fled as quickly as they could. In the end, it had been Ragna, Kan'u, and Chouhi's respective (and individually ridiculous) performances that had turned the tide in their favor.
When the villagers returned home after that long ordeal, some immediately went back into the arms of those that they'd left behind. Those that had given everything on the battlefield left a quiet void in the hearts of those that had prayed for their safe return.
Ragna stood at the door to the tavern, watching the faces of those disappointed people, and shook his head. He understood their feelings, and privately was grateful that none of them had come to yell at him or curse him for leading them into battle and causing so many to die. In particular, his skill at fighting had been more than enough to let him be left alone on the field, which had turned out to be a good thing as the battle went on. His Grimoire had slowly started to become more and more active as time had gone on, but only enough to cause a few sparks of darkness and to jump-start his self-healing as more soldiers died. Blood-Scythe had been able to pull souls in from the Turbans he killed, but no one else.
"Actually, that's weird. The Grimoire probably should have gotten some of the dead villagers, too. But it only seemed to take the people that Blood-Scythe hit. The field of effect shouldn't be so small." Ragna looked at his right hand, and concentrated on it. After a few moments, a weak, flickering black flame enveloped it, then blew out again. No matter what he did, he couldn't get more energy out of his Grimoire; it seemed to have a fixed limit that it didn't have before, and said limit was set extremely low. The only real reason he could think of for the malfunction was a lack of seithr in the environment, coupled with—or compounded by—a lack of power in the Grimoire itself. It had enough power to function—whether from souls or from seithr—but that was it, and he had no way of reading seithr levels in the air to know for sure if that was or wasn't the cause.
"Well, if everyone fights like those idiots around here then I should be fine," Ragna muttered to himself. "And even if they don't, it's a more even playing field for them anyway." He let out a sigh, and leaned his head against the door frame. "I should probably be healed up by tomorrow...find a map, figure out where the hell the closest Hierarchical City is, and get going."
Kan'u's voice caused Ragna to open his eyes and look in her direction. She was accompanied by Chouhi, Gan, and a number of other villagers. Ragna stood up straight as they approached him, and folded his arms, looking down on them with his usual scowl. "What's up?"
"I wanted to personally thank you for all that you've done," Gan said. He bowed deeply to Ragna, then raised his head. "In fact, it's precisely because of that that I have a favor to ask you. Would you please take over as our administrator?"
Ragna blinked, then raised an eyebrow. "As your what now?"
"The Imperial Court normally appoints a Grand Administrator to supervise a province and assist them in making sure that proper taxes are levied and that the people are living well," Kan'u said. "Going by why Gan was saying earlier, the administrator appointed to the Zhuo district left when the Turbans came, and took his personal detachment of troops with him."
"Look, man, it's one thing to help you guys with a fight, but I can't be an administrator or whatever," Ragna said. "All I know how to do is hit shit with a sword. I don't know anything about supervising a province or whatever. Besides that, wouldn't the Imperial Court have to approve of me, or appoint me, or something?"
Gan sighed. "Let me spell this out for you. Our old administrator left. He took his soldiers with him. We sent messengers to Luoyang, and the Court didn't send anyone to help us. Zhuo basically got thrown away to the goddamn Turbans, and the Court probably doesn't even give a damn about us any more." He shook his head. "I've been head of this village for a while, even before our administrator ran off, but I don't have it in me to try and manage a whole district. I'm too old for that nonsense." His sunken gray eyes fixed on Ragna steadily. "Either you take the spot, or we get overlooked by the Court again and again until the Turbans wipe out all of Zhuo and use our supplies and our land to keep their 'rebellion' going."
Ragna felt his stomach clench. Of all the things that he didn't want, being tied down to one place was tops on that list. He had to find a way back to Kagutsuchi, had to get back to destroying cauldrons and fighting the NOL. There was absolutely no way he could allow this to happen.
At least, that's what his head was telling him.
His heart was telling him that it would be crueler to abandon people that were begging him for help. The NOL was most certainly an evil organization, there was no denying that. Someone had to stop them, there was no denying that. But everything Ragna knew to be right was telling him that it would be wrong to overlook these people for the sake of his self-assigned revenge quest.
He stood there, conflicted, for a good while. Kan'u, Chouhi, and Gan all looked up at him, expecting an answer that he literally couldn't give. Finally, he took in and let out a slow breath, and rubbed his face with his right hand. "One day...one day, I'm going back. I got business I have to deal with back where I came from. If you can accept that, I'll be your administrator or whatever."
Gan nodded, and though Kan'u and Chouhi seemed kind of discomfited by the idea of him returning to "Heaven" one day, they eventually nodded their agreement as well.
"Then let's get started," Ragna said. "First order of business—we need the doc to look over all our injured from the fight. After that, we gotta work out how we're gonna do patrols and feed all of these people." He looked at Gan. "You've been doing this kind of thing for a while, haven't ya? You're gonna help out till we know what the hell we're doing."
"Of course, my lord," Gan replied.
Ragna sighed and squeezed his eyes shut, grunting in annoyance. "Could you not do that? My name's Ragna. R-a-g-n-a. Calling me lord and shit doesn't sit right with me."
Gan paused, then nodded. "Lord Ragna it is, then."
Ragna's response to this was to smack his head against the door frame of the tavern with a long, drawn-out groan. "I give up."
Chouhi grinned and laughed. "Better get used to it, big bro. You're the boss now and people are gonna treat you that way!"
Ragna muttered something unintelligible, and Kan'u simply looked at him with a small smile on her face. He wasn't anything like what she was expecting, but in the end he was brave enough to fight at the front like the rest of his soldiers, and caring in his own way.
Yes... Kan'u thought. Lord Ragna will change this world. And I'll help him every step of the way.
A man is given all that he needs to write his own story. Whether he succeeds or fails is left up to him.
Azure Within the Three Kingdoms
A Blazblue/Koihime Musou crossover fan fiction
Written by Zero-Sennin
Proverb 1: A Man Is Given All That He Needs To Write His Own Story
So this is my summer project.
I will be the first to admit that Koihime Musou is not a quality visual novel (Shin Koihime Musou sounds like it's better, but I can't read Japanese fluently enough to make sense out of it), and as an anime it's kind of generic to say the least, but the characters kind of stuck in my head, and eventually one thing led to another and this idea was born. It's persistent enough in my memory that I figured I'd write the whole thing and get it out of my head.
Those that have played the VN will recognize this as the setting of the first game, but I will be trying to incorporate characters introduced in Shin Koihime Musou as well. Ragna's foul language aside, I'm trying to keep this story relatively clean, so though the plot follows in the vein of the visual novel, certain aspects of the visual novel will be discarded or avoided so that this can stay a relatively clean story—the rating for this story is as high as it is because Ragna swears a lot, and because some characters still do some kind of unsavory/raunchy things, even if there is no explicit detail beyond what's necessary (*cough*Sousou*cough*). The plot points also may not resolve the way they did in the visual novel either, for certain reasons.
If I can write quickly enough, the plan is to have this finished up by the end of August. From there, I think I'll make a serious effort to get back on track with Substitute School, as that's been something people have been waiting on for a while. I'll be trying to get out one chapter every week (maybe two if I can find a comfortable pace), so please look forward to it.
Story-wise, there is a reason why Ragna's trip through the cauldron did not cause him to lose his memory. It is related to the reason that his right arm and eye still function despite the fact that his Grimoire isn't working properly. This will be addressed in-story, but not for some time yet.
At any rate, make sure to show up next week to read "Proverb 2: Strength Comes From One's Character, Not Their Size Nor Age"
See you all soon.