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Thread: Fate/Regalia - Short Stories

  1. #21
    The Dragon of Dojima MssrNeko's Avatar
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    The Misadventures of the Ingenious Squire and his Unfortunate Master:
    Trouble in the North

    Chapter 1: Rough Start
    Diaz Estate
    It was the evening before Christmas Eve and the Diaz Estate was stirring up quite a racket. Usually the Diaz family was busy in the nearby city of Burgos, enjoying the festivities and decorations. But not for a certain Master and Servant duo. Sitting the paved driveway was an old horse-drawn sleigh. It clearly showed its age: the wood was weathered and beaten, the leather seats were rough and torn, and its paint was long since faded. In the back seat was a large bag, filled with Christmas presents. Two figures hurried from the mansion carrying wrapped parcels in their arms.

    “Come on, Squire! We have to hurry or we’ll be late again!” one of the figures yelled. The young man was wearing festive clothes, green with red trimming, with the ancestral sword of his family hanging from his waist. The young man was the heir to the Diaz family and was currently attending the academy on OLYMPUS, the floating marvel of Atlas technology. Sweat moistened his brow as he deposited the gifts onto the back of the sleigh and rushed back into his home.

    “Do not fear, Maestro. I swear on my pride as a knight that we shall not be late again!” the tall figure answered passionately. He was clad in rusty old armor, what glory it had was far gone from its current state. With his gaunt face and skinny body, it was hard to imagine that he was actually a Heroic Spirit: a Servant of the Squire Class. Despite his weak appearance, Squire places a very large gift onto the sleigh and surveys their work. “I am sure that that is all of the presents, Don Luis.”

    “Not yet.” The young Spaniard had returned with one last box. Tossing it haphazardly onto the pile he gives a sigh of relief. “Done,” Luis says wiping his forehead.

    “Maestro!” The old knight grabs the tossed box and places it securely into a suitable place. “One does not simply toss gifts with abandon, milord,” Squire reprimands. “Count yourself fortunate that this was not damaged. It would be shameful to give a broken gift to an ally and friend.”

    Luis straightens up and stretches his limbs. “Whatever. I’m just glad we can finally get going. But now that I think of it, Squire...” The old knight’s Master looks at the decrepit sleigh and its empty reins. “How exactly are we going to get to the Christmas party on this? You know, I could have easily booked us some plane tickets….”

    The gaunt knight’s jubilant smile fell. “You…You doubt my prowess, Maestro? I promised you that we would not arrive late and I meant it….I really did….” The Servant bowed his head in sadness.

    “No! No-no-no-no-no!” Luis hastily said. “I-I’m just saying….” Seeing his Servant like this always made him feel guilty. Breathing a long sigh, Luis continues, “Squire….You know full well that I do not doubt you. You’ve served me immensely over these past few months.” He smiles as he puts an encouraging hand on Squire’s shoulder. “Come on, Don. Show me what you’ve got planned.”

    Squire’s frown immediately widens into a grand smile. He pulls his Master into a strong embrace, exclaiming, “Thank you, Maestro! Thank you! Thank you!” Ignoring Luis groans of pain, the old man continues to hug his Master in his surprisingly strong arms.

    Releasing Luis, Squire gleefully runs into the nearby garden. Seconds later, he returns pushing a large trolley, covered with a heavy blanket. Stopping short of the beaten sleigh, Squire steps aside with a satisfied grin. He showcases the covered item with his hands, resembling the woman from the American game show with the giant wheel. Luis looks at it with a confused, yet amused look. “Um…..What is it?” he asks.

    “Behold, Maestro,” Squire says, barely containing his joy. “It took me several days to track these down, but I am joyful to say that I succeeded in capturing them. Feast your eyes upon these, our noble steeds!” With a flourish of his hands, the old Servant whips off the cover. “Huzzah!” he yells with glee.

    Standing on the trolley are two granite statues of reindeer, one female and one male. They are old, worn down by many years of rain and most of their features were washed away. There were signs of graffiti and wads of gum, but apparently Squire had tried his best to remove most of it off. But, the stone was chipped and cracked in several places. The male was missing an antler and one of the female’s eyes was carved out. Overall, Squire’s “noble steeds” looked anything but “noble”.

    Trying his best to hide his disappointment, Luis just smiles. “…..Wow. Th-That’s….great. A-Amazing find, Squire. Where did you find these…animals?”

    His face shining exuberantly with happiness, Squire explains how he found them. “Are they not grand, Maestro? I happened upon them purely by accident. I was journeying in the nearby castle town when I found them grazing in a snow-covered grove. The poor things were covered in filth and garbage and they were malnourished beyond all reason. So I reasoned that I should capture them and nurse them back to health for their own good. Unfortunately, they were not compliant at first, as I do not have the ability to converse with animals. But I kept at it until they accepted my help. And so I nursed them for days and now they are one hundred percent healthy. They are grateful for my aid and they are willing to help us in our venture by pulling our sleigh! Is that not grand, Maestro?” Squire scratches behind one of male’s ears as he kisses the nose of the female.

    “But, aren’t they just statu—I mean, just reindeer? How exactly are they going to get us north in time fo—“

    “They are not just reindeer, Don Luis.”

    “Oh really?”

    “Oh yes. They are descendants of the steeds who pulled the sleigh of the Yule Goat.”

    Luis’ self-restraint was slowly crumbling, but he kept his paitence. “Wha—‘Yule Goat’? What’s a goat got to do with them?”

    “Not a goat, Don. The Yule Goat. Joulupukki, who would venture from his mountainous abode for one night every year. He would demand tribute from the families living below his peaks. But, if the family had sinned then he would take their lives as payment; a warning to all evil-doers.”

    Luis rubbed his head in frustration, his restraint at its limit. “Wait, don’t tell me….These ‘reindeer’ belong to Santa Claus?”

    “No-no-no, Maestro. Weren’t you listening? They are from the Yule Goat’s breed. And besides, The Saint never rode in a sleigh.”

    “The Sai—Just who are you talking about!?”

    The old knight raised an eyebrow at his Master. “Our reindeer, of course.” Ignorant of his Master’s roar of frustration, Squire placed the palms of his hands onto the back of the statues. “Trust in me, Luis.” He closes his eyes.

    “I knew I should’ve bought the tickets! And what do we have? A broken down, piece of shit sleigh with two statues! Auuuuugh! Squire, I….I…..I…..” The rest of the rant was lost. What Luis saw next took his doubt and breath away.

    A bright golden glow of prana seeped from Squire’s fingertips, spilling down the bodies of the statues. The luminescent aura flowed through the granite, igniting the stone with flames of pure magical energy. The fire and light spread, covering the reindeer like magma flowing from a volcano. Soon, both statues were glowing with energy. Then, they exploded, giving off light like a supernova. Shielding his eyes, Luis turned away from the sudden burst of light.

    As the light dimmed away, the Spaniard put his hands down to look at his Servant. And there he was: Squire, in between the two…….

    Madre de dios,” Luis whispered.

    The statues were no more. Rather, in their places were two living, breathing reindeer. Not the cute, huggable animals that Santa Claus used for his sleigh. No, these were much different. They are huge beasts that looked like they wandered from the coldest forests from the time of antiquity, before being hunted and domesticated by humans. And Squire was in between them, caring for them like they were his own pets.

    The Spanish Magus’ was struck dumb at the development. His Servant, belonging to the Class of Squire, had turned two old statues of reindeer into the real thing.

    The old gentleman glances at his Master and smiles. “Do you see them now, Maestro? Are they not grand?”

    --------------------

    Soon the reindeer were attached to the sleigh, which was also transformed by Squire’s ability. The old sleigh now looked like it was made by Santa Claus himself. It gave off an amazing amount of prana, as did the reindeer in front as well.

    Together, Squire and Luis sat in the front seat. The Spanish magus’ was frowning, thinking on how he was acting earlier. “Squire…I’m sorry I—“ Luis started but the old Servant cut him off.

    “There is no need, Luis. I understand. You still have much to learn about the true value of things.” Squire smiled warmly at his companion. “Shall we start our journey?” he asked, holding up the reins.

    “Hold on,” Luis said. “One thing more thing.” Reaching behind their seat, he retrieved a Father Christmas cap. Taking off his Servant’s helmet, Luis snuggly placed the hat on Squire’s head. “There. Now we’re ready,” he said with a smile.

    Amused with his new headwear, Squire gave a hearty laugh. “Oho ho ho ho! Well done, Maestro. Well done, indeed.” Luis laughed, happy that the old man took his gift with good spirit.

    “Now…Let us chase that elusive mistress that is ‘Adventure’ and sally forth towards our destination. Hang on tight, Maestro. It may be rough and I do not know if I can handle these beasts.”

    “Alright Squire…Wait, wha—”

    “HUZZAH!”

    Wh-Tach!

    The reindeer sped off into the Spanish winter night at lightning speed, quickly leaving the mansion behind them. Luis’ screams of terror and Squire’s roars of happiness were lost in the wind.

    ------------

    Coming soon....
    Chapter 2: Winter is Coming

    Spoiler:

  2. #22
    The young girl silently made her way down the stone staircase. Her destination lay in the dungeons located at the very bottom. Of course, considering her position, even if she did happen to run into somebody and was caught, there still likely wouldn’t be any reason trouble. However, explaining herself would be too much trouble, and truth be told, not even she was sure of her own reasons for heading down there.

    She made it to the bottom of the staircase without any problems, and slowly entered a long passageway. At the moment, the dungeon was more or less empty, save for a single prisoner, a foreign stranger. This stranger was the person she wanted to meet, and she quickly made it over to the thick wooden door that marked the stranger’s cell. She briefly worried about the fact that the prisoner may be asleep, thus rendering her entire trip worthless, before deciding that even if the prisoner was asleep, she’d simply open the cell door and smack the prisoner until she woke up. After all, even with the cell door open, with the prisoner locked down by multiple heavy steel chains, she’d hardly be a threat.

    However, she felt like she should avoid that option if possible, so instead she quietly called out into the cell, “Are you awake?”

    Almost instantly, a voice responded. “Perhaps, perhaps. Well now, this voice certainly sounds a bit familiar. Yes, I think I know who this is. But why would the daughter of a nobleman be visiting oh this so very poor unfortunate soul during the dead of night? Or is it morning now? You know, it’s rather hard to tell from my situation.” Despite the situation, the voice sounded quite cheerful. To such an extent that the girl forgot what she was planning on saying next and instead remarked. “You seem awfully happy, considering the situation.”

    “Happy? Me? In this situation? Are you trying to imply that I am jumping for joy? But even if I were to try to jump for joy, these chains would stop me. And even there weren’t any chains, I don’t think this broken body of mine could handle the stress, or the strain of jumping.” This was certainly true, as punishment for both the crime, and for the purpose of extracting a guilty confession for the crime, the stranger was tortured. It would not be mistaken to say that currently the stranger’s body was just a collection of broken bones. However, regardless, the stranger continued her little speech. “Or perhaps, do you mean this situation? Well, which situation? If you’re talking about the big situation, in terms of the world perhaps, you’re thinking far too big. Of course, it’s likely to be on a smaller scale. Do you mean, the situation of being accused of the crime? Or do you mean the more immediate situation of you talking to me? Indeed, if it is the last one, it is something to jump in joy for, so you can feel free to jump for joy in my place.” The young girl narrowed her eyes. This certainly isn’t what she had been expecting, and this certainly isn’t how a person with a broken body should respond. Unless…

    “Do you mean to tell me you are faking your injuries?”

    “Preposterous.” The stranger instantly denied her statement. “I really am hurt, you know? If you came in here and cut me open with a knife, you could see with your own eyes that my bones really are completely broken, twisted, shattered. Among other injuries of course~ Actually, you don’t need to do that, as the people have already done so. Cut me open that is. Oh my, I thought this was going to be the end, that I was really going to die, but no, it just turned out to be a continuation of the torture.”

    “Yet, despite all that, you still sound so happy. Or are you saying that even though you’ve suffered such wounds, it doesn’t hurt.”

    “What kind of person could remain unhurt after all that? I certainly wouldn’t want to meet them. Come to think of it, I certainly wouldn’t want to be that person either. It does hurt. It hurts a lot. It hurts even now. It hurts to the point where I could cry. But enough of my personal troubles, and at the moment, I certainly have enough of those. I doubt you came all the way here to ask me about my injuries. So, what is it? Did you want to confess your love to me? Or perhaps you wanted me to confess my love to you? Although if it’s the latter, you’ll probably be in for some disappointment.” The foreign woman continued to talk in that slightly irritatingly cheerful tone of voice that made what she was saying very hard to believe.

    However, the unpleasant foreigner had a point. So the girl delivered her message. “They’ve gotten tired of waiting for your confession, so they’re just going to execute you in a few days.” This, the girl was sure, would get some reaction from the stranger, but to her surprise, all she said this time was a short “Is that so~”.

    “…is that all?”

    “Is what all?”

    “Is that all the reaction you have?”

    “What do you mean by that?”

    “You realize you’re going to die.”

    “Yes.”

    “Do you think you’re going to come back to life afterwards, or something?”

    “Come on now, child. People die when they are killed. Don’t make me point out something so obvious.”

    “Do you think you’ll escape before your day of execution?”

    “Well, I wouldn’t say it’s impossible.”

    “What do you mean by that?”

    “I don’t mean anything, and I certainly don’t have any plans to escape at the moment. But if by some quirk of fate, I did end up escaping, then if I had answered yes earlier, that would make me look like a liar, wouldn’t it? Although, now that I think about it, you asked me if I ‘thought’ I was going to escape and not if I was going to escape. As to if I’m thinking about escaping, the answer is a no.”

    “Then why?”

    “Why what?”

    “Why wouldn’t you confess your guilt to the crime? Or proclaim your innocence? Instead of just remaining silent… Weren’t you trying to avoid your execution?”

    “Why would you possibly think that?”

    “Then what other reason could you have for your silence considering you…” the girl trailed off, and she seemed to hesitate before continuing.

    “Considering I didn’t actually commit the crime? That I am completely innocent? Well now, actually perhaps I shouldn’t phrase it like that. To begin with, what exactly shall the definition of innocence be? How specific is it in this scenario? How vague is it? Are things like the ‘original sin’ taken into account? What is being judged, the course of my entire life? Ha, now that would be a story to read, although if you ask me my opinion it might be a bit long for me to just tell you. Ah, but see, this is rather rhetorical. When I say innocence, I mean with reference to the crime I have been charged and imprisoned and will be executed for. But that’s a bit boring to talk about it. Or rather, a more interesting topic has just revealed itself.”

    “…”

    “In other words, you know this fact. The reason you came down here is because of this fact. Well, there could be several reasons you know this, and because you know this, there are several reasons you came down here. But let me first cut to the core point and simply state that you’re the one responsible for this, correct?”

    “…but I didn’t expect things to turn out like this. For an innocent person to be executed…”

    “Hmm. Half true. Certainly, things didn’t occur the way you thought they would, and that’s why you’re down here. But don’t lie to yourself, and don’t make excuses for yourself. And most of all, don’t try to use fake justifications in front of other people. Regardless of whether I said I was innocent or guilty, regardless of whether I’d be executed, imprisoned indefinitely, or released, you don’t care in the slightest, do you? To say you’re down here because the thought of an innocent being executed is nothing more than a joke so I don’t hate you or judge you for your actions. But worry not, because I don’t mind in the slightest. Now let me continue my main point. Regardless of the execution, regardless of the confession, you don’t care either way. But here you are, so that brings me to the next point. You don’t care what I choose, but you do care about me choosing. In other words, this is your very own ‘human experiment’. Or would be it ‘social experiment’? ‘Society experiment’? Let’s just leave it at ‘humanity experiment’. Anyhow, it wouldn’t surprise me if you’ve performed this ‘experiment’ several times beforehand, which is somewhat surprising, considering you are a fairly young girl. Oh, and this is just an off-topic remark, but that’s really kind of a twisted personality you got there. Or rather, perhaps twisted beliefs would be a better description? Now let us return to the main point, which is the reason you’re down here is simply curiosity. Actually, come to think of it, your experiment can be likened to a ‘test’, and so by being down here, you were curious as for what reasons I refused to essentially take your ‘test’. Although, you didn’t consider the fact that it was merely coincidental, did you? I’m not saying the reason I said nothing was because of coincidence, but I’m also not saying it wasn’t. In other words, neither denying nor affirming.”

    After this long monologue from the strange prisoner, there was a period of silence.

    “…You really like listening to yourself talk, don’t you?” the girl sullenly spoke.

    Ahaha, the stranger laughed at the girl’s remark. The young girl continued in a rather annoyed tone of voice.

    “Well, since you think you know so much, then how about you answer the question you think I have? Or are you going to claim that it is simply coincidence?”

    “Regardless of whether it simple coincidence or incidence or fate or if I knew everything all along, if there is more or less behind the reasoning, I would naturally assume the you’d wish to know for the reasoning as well. After all, it’d be a bit boring otherwise, so how about I answer the questions you had about your ‘humanity experiment’ with my very own ‘humanity lecture’?”

    “Do what you want… come to think of it, what’s your name?” The girl frowned as her simple question was met with more laughter and another question.

    “What is a name?” The girl hesitated for a second and thought about it.

    “I suppose it would be what other people call you?”

    “Indeed, that’s certainly one way to define it. In other words, it is an identity. Or rather than an identity, it is the proof of identity, the nature of identity, the very core of identity. It is how the outside marks the self, and also how the inside personality recognizes itself. Now-”

    “You’re not answering the question.” The girl interrupted, getting somewhat fed up with the woman’s speech. “Just cut to the point and tell me what your name is.”

    “Well now. In other words, you can call me what you like that helps you identify me, such as ‘stranger’, or ‘prisoner’. Oh, since I’m about to give you a lecture, feel free to call me ‘teacher’.”

    “How about I call you hag?” The girl spat out, but to her increasing annoyance the stranger once again did her laugh.

    “Well, I guess I am probably older than I look, so there’s not much for me to say. Although age is an interesting thing, similar to identities. But that’s an entirely different lecture, so let’s just leave it at that, unless you’d rather switch tracks. But regardless, let us begin, the ‘humanity’ lecture, although ‘humanity’ lecture isn’t exactly correct, but it has a nice ring to it so it’s fine. Now, to start, let’s go with the basics. Just what is a human?”

    The girl frowned at this obviously simple answer. “Well, they’re like people right? Me and you, for example.”

    “So in other words, ‘humans’ are those who are members of the ‘human species’. A human is determined by their biological heritage.”

    “Well, aren’t they?”

    “I don’t think it’s a question of what, but why. Or, to elaborate, being ‘human’ is a way of thought, a system of principles, a set of beliefs. Thus, there exist those who are ‘inhuman’ despite being ‘human’. Well, I guess ‘inhuman monster’ is a bit of a romantic way to describe them, despite not conveying the full point. To further expand on the topic, there are those who are simply born missing an essential portion of themselves. There are those who are born into this world completely distorted. These are humans who have failed to become humans. Then there’s the opposite, humans who suffer some sort of damage, some sort of shock, some sort of trauma to the point where they are unable to continue being human. These are the defective products, the damaged goods, the humans who failed to stay human. Needless to say, such people are often broken in some way. Of course, I don’t think I need to add this, but that twisted thinking and belief that gave rise to your little ‘human experiment’ means you’re dangerously close to no longer qualifying for the term ‘human’. That is, if you haven’t already crossed that border.”

    “And so what about you? What type of human failure are you?”

    “Me?” The stranger gave another annoying laugh. “I’m most certainly biologically human.”

    “…” In other words, the stranger just ignored her entire definition. However, the girl couldn’t tell if it was because it was all nonsense, or if the stranger was simply dodging the question or if it was a combination of both.

    “Now returning back to the topic of ‘humans’, or rather the thinking of ‘humans’, it can be generally broken down into the classical ‘good’ and ‘evil’. It goes without saying, but humans generally don’t consider themselves to be evil. They might recognize some actions they perform to be evil, but they won’t go out of their way to perform needless evil. Therefore, humanity naturally yearns for, and tries to align itself with good.”

    “But isn’t that just a misconception? After all, the concepts of good and evil are merely illusions-”

    “’And justice certainly doesn’t exist. All there is the strong, and the weak, regardless of form.’ See, it’s because of beliefs like that you are twisted to the fringe of ‘humanity’.”

    “So what are you saying? That good and evil actually exist? That it’s not some self-satisfying excuse for the victors, the strong to lord over the weak losers?”

    “That’s exactly what I’m saying. Regardless of the laws of the strong, regardless of the thoughts of the weak, what is good and what is evil does not change. Of course, each side will regard their own side as good, and that’s local ‘good’.”

    “Then-“

    “But that doesn’t mean an absolute good does not exist. Take for example, the killing of a human by another human. This is certainly an act of ‘absolute evil’. Of course, in time, humanity has created many excuses, many reasons, many justifications for this action. ‘I will kill this person because he is an enemy.’ ‘I will kill this person in order to survive.’ ‘I will kill this person as a punishment.’ ‘I will kill, I will kill, I will kill, for this, for that, for those, for them.’ But regardless, the idea of needless killing, of meaningless killing, is still an ‘absolute evil’ to humanity. And because of this ‘absolute evil’, ‘absolute good’ must also exist. Of course, even with all these justification, excuses, and exceptions, ‘killing’ at its ‘base’ is still evil, due to its price.”

    “…the price of a life, huh? In other words, human life is priceless, so murder is evil. It may be necessary evil, but it is still evil…”

    “What? What a silly idea. The price of a life is a life. Nothing more, nothing less. A priceless object is essentially the same as a worthless object.”

    “Then why is murder evil?”

    “Why wouldn’t murder be evil? Of course, that was just an example. Mhmm, I wonder if I rephrased it as ‘destruction’ and ‘creation’, it would be better? Of course, this is the destruction of a human so it’d be evil, but the acts of ‘destruction’ and ‘creation’ by themselves are…hmmm…” The stranger sighed, and seemed to whisper to herself, “…and I don’t really think even good and evil last forever”

    “What did you just mutter?”

    “Ah, nothing, nothing, I was just digressing, getting distracted. Now let’s return back to the main lecture, I wouldn’t want to become a babbler or bearer of nonsense now. We now have on one hand good, and on the other hand evil. And from these opposites, or rather from a process connecting these two differences, justice is born, along with injustice. The punishment of evil, and the work of good, this is justice, and of course, needless to say, the opposite is injustice. Once again, I feel the need to emphasize. Similar to the way that you are close to no longer qualifying for the term ‘human’ due to your ‘human experiment’, this is also a case of evil and injustice. Disregarding my own personal case, the fact that you’ve done this before, and that people have been killed for this before, it is no different than if you yourself had executed them. In other words, you murdered them. In other words, you are a murderer. In other words, you have done evil. Well, I don’t really care whether you continue with your evil, or turn over a new leaf, or decide to seek atonement or redemption. I just thought it was only fair for me to point this out to you, as your teacher.” The stranger laughed.

    “…I’ve been thinking this for a while now, but after hearing your thoughts on justice I’m sure of it. Aren’t your notions and ideas a bit too idealistic? Your idea of justice is by far the clearest example of this. After all, in a perfect world, that may be the definition of justice, but realistically, justice is simply the rules enforced by the stronger winning side on the weaker losing side.”

    “That’s where you’re wrong. In fact, I’d go as far to say as your thoughts are the idealistic ones. Or rather, your perspective is too small. Indeed, rather than seeing the issues from the sights of ‘idealism’ and ‘realism’, it’s ‘the small picture’ and ‘the big picture’. Or rather, you’re seeing things in the here and now.”

    “Then let’s take a look at your current situation,” Said the girl, getting fed up. “Even though you didn’t commit any crime, you will be executed. Going by your definition, this is surely injustice.”

    “Of course it may be, or it may not be. See, the problem comes when you say I didn’t commit any crime. Certainly I didn’t commit the crime I was accused of, but that does not mean that I am entirely guiltless. For all you know, I am your kin. And by that I mean I may be a killer too. I may have killed many people, and therefore I may be evil. Thus, this execution is certainly justice.”

    “In other words, this is karma for your crimes?”

    “Hey now, don’t use such a serious voice. That of course, was merely a hypothetical situation.”

    “So it was a lie?”

    “Well now, regardless of whether or not it’s a lie, that doesn’t matter, does it? If it’s the truth, then this could still be seen as justice, in a rather convoluted sense of way. It could also be still seen as injustice. Of course, if I’m innocent, both of this crime and any other crimes, there isn’t anything this can be but injustice.”

    “I’ve about had it with you! You’re just talking and talking, but not saying anything. Just answer me simply! You are going to be executed for a crime you didn’t commit! Don’t you care? Don’t you feel anything at all about this injustice? Because that’s what this is, injustice, crime, a senseless killing, a meaningless murder, evil. That is what you must be thinking! Then how can you calmly continue talking to me in this so-called ‘human lecture’!”

    “…” The prisoner quietly waited for the girl’s rant to begin before replying. “It’s about acceptance.”

    “You mean like, accepting your fate, accepting your morality, accepting your death? That kind of thing?”

    “That’s only part of it. But as I said, it’s about accepting. I accepted being killed. I accepted being spared. I accepted being tortured. I accepted being healed. I accepted being hated. I accepted being loved. I accepted being targeted. I accepted being ignored. I accepted being cursed. I accepted being forgiven. I accepted being attacked. I accepted being defended. I accepted being rejected. I accepted being welcomed. I accepted being damned. I accepted being redeemed. I accepted anything and everything. Regardless of what happens to me, I’ll accept it without complaints.”

    A long silence passed as the girl thought about the stranger’s answer. “There’s a hidden meaning in those words, isn’t there?”

    The prisoner happily responded, “Perhaps there is a hidden meaning, perhaps there are several hidden meanings, or perhaps there isn’t any meaning at all. Or rather, that’s what you expect me to say isn’t it? In other words, reach your own interpretation.”

    Because it’s about accepting.
    Because it’s about accepting anything.
    Because it’s about accepting everything.
    Because the most important thing to accept is-
    Because as long as you accept-

    “…” The girl stood up and began to talk away. As she reached the end of the room, she turned once more to the prison cell, and spoke in a cold tone of voice. “I look forward to your execution, you ‘inhuman monster’.”

    “ahahahahahahaha” the prisoner laughed and laughed at the noble’s daughter’s parting remarks. “Well now, you’re last statement just isn’t accurate, is it? I guess this concludes my ‘human lecture’. Ahahahahahahaha.” But of course, by this point, the girl was too far away to hear this conclusion.

    Epilogue

    A long time had passed since the girl came to visit the prisoner, or maybe it wasn’t that long. After all, it was hard to tell with no frame of reference, but the woman was still fairly cheerful due to in her opinion, the fun discussion.

    ‘Ah perfect, this is just perfect,’ thought the stranger. ‘Imprisoned by strange people in a foreign land far from home for a crime I didn’t commit, and then executed for that same non-existent crime. Such a ridiculous death is so wonderfully fitting for someone like me. I wouldn’t mind such an ending for myself, to tell the truth. Or rather, it would be nice if my ending was like that, wouldn’t it?’

    The stranger let out a little sigh.

    ‘I’m almost tempted to just do nothing and let them execute me. I’ve experienced a lot of things, but haven’t ever died before. But it’s such a shame that dying is so… permanent. Hmmm, human bodies are sort of inconvenient like that though. Well, whatever. There might be a few different factors, but I guess I can’t die here. Or is that shouldn’t die here? Ha, whatever. After all, it doesn’t really matter; I’m just killing time.’
    <Satehi> I, satehi, thought of tentacles first for entirely inappropriate, disgusting, lewd and perverted reasons

    Honk





  3. #23
    The Dragon of Dojima MssrNeko's Avatar
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    First Impressions
    ---------
    “Tomorrow morning, Luis, I want you to be in the front garden.”
    “Why?”
    “An old friend of mine has volunteered to tutor you and he will meet you there. Promise me that you will be a good student, okay?”
    “Okay, Papa. I promise.”
    “That’s my boy. Now run along, Esperanza is done counting and is coming for you.”

    ---------

    No no no! I’m late!

    As fast as his legs could, the young child speeds through the halls. He had forgotten to set his alarm the night before and woke up an hour late. Luis just couldn’t be late for his first lesson with this new tutor. Abandoning all etiquette, he jumps down the main stairwell and crashes through the entry doors. Fresh morning air fills his lungs as he stumbles out onto the walkway. The garden was not that far from the front door…He was almost there!

    Racing past the hedges, he reaches the garden. It is small area decorated with a fountain of a male clad in armor atop a large horse. The rider brandished one of his swords at an invisible enemy while his steed was in mid gallop. Together, they were an intimidating sight to look at. Luis’ father said that the man was their ancestor and that he was a brave knight who served his country with pride. Luis loved reading his books next to this stone knight. He felt safe, as if this grey sentinel would protect him from any harm.

    Tired and breathing heavily, Luis looks around the garden. But there is no one but him; he was alone.

    Huh? D-Did I miss him? Or was he—

    “Late,” a harsh voice behind him growls.

    Luis turns around to find a dark, stern-looking man glaring at him. The man had a think dark mane of wild hair that past his shoulders. He had a long face with a menacing goatee. His dark eyes retreated into his head, casting shadows over his eye sockets. He was tall and slender, but he had a sort of powerful air around him. It was as if the man was a drawn sword, waiting to destroy anything that stood in his way. Even his wardrobe gave Luis shivers; every piece of clothing he wore was black, absorbing the light and heat of the day. Instantly, Luis is reminded of the pictures of evil men he had seen in many of his story books. Fear fills Luis’ mind as he realizes the truth of this stranger’s arrival:

    This frightening person…is his teacher.

    “Late,” he repeats. His voice is rough like sandpaper. “I arrived here at eight, awaiting my friend’s son who was to be my student. He assured me that his son would be punctual.” The man-in-black started pacing around Luis like a bird circling its prey.

    “One hour. That is how long I waited for you, boy. And not only are you late, you are ill-dressed.” Luis gazes down at his bare feet to avoid his gaze. He was still wearing his pajamas, damp with sweat from running straight from his bed. His long hair was messy and he didn’t brush his teeth.

    “I will not accept this from anyone I aim to teach. Especially not from the son of my closest friend.” His feet stop in front of Luis. “This will not happen again. Do you understand, child?”

    Luis felt like he was curling into a tiny ball underneath his teacher’s stony glare. “Y-yes,” he squeaked.

    “Speak up, boy.”

    “Y-yes,” Luis repeated louder.

    “Good.” He crosses his arms across his chest as he gazes at the quivering child. “What is your name, boy?”

    “L-Lu—”

    “Look at me, boy. My face is up here, not down there with your toes.”

    “Luis. M-my name is-is L-Luis.”

    The poor child was quaking in fear, afraid to even look at the dark man directly. His teacher raises an eyebrow and kneels down to look straight into Luis’s face. “Are you afraid of me, boy?”

    Too scared to speak, Luis settles for a small nod.

    A shadow of a smile disappears as quickly as it appears on the man’s face, his frown remaining. Straightening himself, the man brings himself to his full height. “Very well, Luis. Since you were polite enough to introduce yourself, allow me to do the same. I am Fernando Montoya and I will be your teacher from now.”

    Together, teacher and pupil stood in silence. Seconds passed before Luis broke the quiet.

    “…..Um. I-I already ha-have a-a teacher.”

    “I am aware of that, boy. But I am not that sort of teacher,” Fernando replies. He cocks his eyebrow again. “Has your father told you about me?”

    Luis shakes his head.

    Fernando sighs. “Of course he wouldn’t,” he says with annoyance. He shakes his head in disapproval.

    “Simply put, boy, I am your martial arts instructor.”

    “Ma-Martial arts?” Images of shirtless, yelling Chinese men and samurai fighting ninja flash through Luis’ mind. “Like Bruce Lee? You’re going to teach me k-kung fu?” The idea was interesting, but Luis couldn’t exactly see himself fighting like the men from the movies his father liked. Luis wanted to fight like the knights and heroes from his stories; with swords and shields, spears and bows. But, he kept that thought to himself.

    If it was possible, Fernando’s frown fell further. “Do I look like I teach Chinese martial arts, boy? No, I am here to teach you how to fight like a Spaniard. The same style your father and I learned from his father.”

    “’Fight like a Spaniard’? What do you mean?” Luis asks.

    Fernando gives another dissatisfied sigh, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I see a demonstration is needed.” Reaching behind him, Fernando brings forward a large worn bag. That looks very heavy... Luis thinks. The baggage is bulging and the items inside shift around as the bag moves, making muffled noises. The dark teacher unzips the opening and reaches inside for.....

    A paper bag? Luis felt a rush of relief, but it was tainted with a sense of anticlimax.

    Fernando opens the bag and takes out a red delicious apple. “Hungry, boy?” He offers the fruit to his student. Luis’ meekly nods; he did not eat breakfast and his stomach was threatening to growl.

    “Get ready to catch, boy.” With a flick of his wrist, the apple flies into the air.

    Swish!

    “Uwah!”

    Luis jumped back in surprise onto his butt. It was way too fast for his eyes to follow; all he saw was a flash of steel. Without anything below it, the bisected apple fell to the ground with a splat!

    “I told you to get ready, boy. You just made me waste a perfectly good apple.” Fernando reaches down into his bag and grabs a piece of cloth, wiping the apple’s juices off his sword. Luis just sits on the ground with his mouth agape. Noticing his pupil’s stare, Fernando asks, “What’s wrong, boy? Cat got your tongue?” Luis closes his mouth and gets up from the ground, his face pink with embarrassment. “It looks like we are going to have to work on your balance. Among other things….”

    Fernando sighs heavily. “We have much work to do...”

    Spoiler:

  4. #24
    King of Weak Style Verg Avesta's Avatar
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    Echoes of the Past
    #1: Not just another Morning

    [BGM]

    ”Hime-sama! I just got back from checking the grounds! Seems like nothing’s wrong!”

    The headstrong yell of the black-haired girl got the attention of the young woman sitting behind the desk. The office of the dormitory head was painted with the soft colors of the morning sun. The books that were lined neatly in the multiple shelves that covered the walls gave the room a pleasant atmosphere, one that was only topped by the one watching over it. The dormitory head of the Fujou-clan, her hair as black as ink and wearing clothes that made her truly seem like a princess… that was the form of Fujou Kurotsuchi; Elegant Imperial Painting.

    The one who had barged into the room with the force of an elephant was none other than Kurotsuchi’s advisor, Fujou Suzuka. “Sukeban of the Clan”, as she was called, Suzuka was the polar opposite of the soft-spoken dormitory head. She was brash and unpredictable, and her coarse language seemed to clash with the elegant atmosphere of the room quite magnificently.

    “That is very good, Suzuka-chan. Now, I believe there was something else I wanted you to look into, was there not?” Kurotsuchi asked from the other girl. Suzuka nodded and brought up her fist.

    “Yeah! The Half-Bloods were once again having an argument over by the academy, so I smacked them all into submission!” Suzuka said and laughed. “Those shitheads never knew what hit ‘em!”

    “Mm, I see. Though I dislike the notion that you had to resort to violence, I suppose it simply cannot be helped. After all, it seems that under the new leadership, the faction of our poor foes has started experiencing some minor troubles,” Kurotsuchi nodded and sighed. “I do hope that Mori-san can ease the tension that seems to have taken over their premises.”

    “Tch, who cares ‘bout them? They’re just bunch of beasts, after all!” Suzuka grunted, before her face was lit up by a beaming grin. “But enough of that! Let’s eat! I missed breakfast today, so I went to get some grub for us!”

    Kurotsuchi looked somewhat surprised, which amount for her to the fact that her beautiful, thin eyebrows raised a fraction of an inch. This was enough for most people to notice, however, as she tended to look like a very delicate okiku doll. Even the smallest expressions on the beautiful features of the princess of the Fujou-clan were as bright as the day.

    “Oh? Do show what you’ve purchased. I have yet to sample the foodstuff that is being sold in the Demeter Market, as my Servant is very fond of cooking,” Kurotsuchi said, curiosity tinting her voice. “I must admit, I am somewhat excited.”

    “Oh, you’re gonna love this, chief!”

    With a big laugh, Suzuka produced a plastic bag from behind her back, and plopped it to the table. Then she began rummaging through the contents, before putting two cans of coffee before the dormitory head. It was one of those mild flavors that you can see being sold in vending machines in any big city. Nothing that tasted spectacular in any way. What followed those cans was two cups of instant ramen, which Suzuka threw next to the cans looking particularly proud of herself. With interest of a sheltered princess, Kurotsuchi examined the instant food, as if she had never seen something like it before. And she probably hadn’t. After all, she had barely had any connection to the real world before moving to OLYMPUS.

    “Here ya go, princess! Two cups of my favorite ramen! Mix flavor!” Suzuka announced and grinned. Kurotsuchi looked rather unsure as to how to react to it.

    “Mix flavor… you say? Whatever does it mean?”

    “Oh, it means that they just threw stuff in there, and didn’t really care how it ended up tasting!” Suzuka answered and popped open the lids of the cups. “And that’s the real way to do it, hah!”

    While questioning expression rose to Kurotsuchi’s face, Suzuka began preparing the noodles. She threw her white jacket, adorned with black kanji that seemed to have been chosen simply because of how cool they looked (with no actual care about what they spelled out), to the sofa near the desk, and loosened the ribbon of her school uniform. With such an attire, combined with the especially long skirt she wore, Suzuka truly did seem like a delinquent. And she pretty much was one. After all, there were many times Kurotsuchi had to send formal letters of apology to other factions, when the hot-headed advisor had picked up a fight with other students, ending up in a brawl. They said that the Sukeban of the Clan could punch the living daylights out of even a homunculus.

    While humming to the beat of one or another 80’s metal band, Suzuka poured some hot water from the nearby kettle into the cups of ramen, and handed the pair of plain-looking chopsticks to Kurotsuchi, who took them with a curious face. The chopsticks she tended to use were usually only of the finest quality, adorned with pictures of ancient legends and such. These, however, were nothing of the sort; they were the color of light wood, and seemed to break if you just looked at them wrong.

    “A’ight! Three minutes are up!” Suzuka finally announced and separated her chopsticks. “Time to dig in!”

    While the delinquent ripped open the lid of the ramen and started devouring the contents, Kurotsuchi proceeded with much more caution. She carefully separated the chopsticks from each other, before peeling off the lid on her cup. She tested the ramen, which was at this point not done all the way, but could still be eaten. Kurotsuchi took some of the noodles with her chopsticks, blew softly on them to lower their temperature, before moving them elegantly into her mouth. She didn’t slurp so that the miso was sprayed everywhere like Suzuka did, but instead, ate gracefully like a true princess, never opening her mouth more than was necessary. She seemed almost like a small bird pecking the food.

    And speaking of the food she ate…

    “…I …I …I must admit that this… is not what I expected,” Kurotsuchi said after tasting the food. “How should I describe this? It is… well, I do not want to doubt your sense of taste, Suzuka-chan, but to me, this does taste rather… foul.”

    “Hahaha, damn right it does!” Suzuka laughed boisterously and suddenly caught Kurotsuchi by the shoulder, pulling the girl into sideways hug. “But that’s the point!”

    “It… it is?”

    To the surprise of the black-haired dormitory head, the rough expression on Suzuka’s face suddenly grew a bit softer. With her right hand, the girl put down the cup of ramen. Her left was wrapped around Kurotsuchi in a sisterly way, and now, as if to follow it up, the younger girl leaned against her elder. A small smile curved Kurotsuchi’s lips, as she put her hand on top of Suzuka’s head, gently petting her.

    “Yeah. It is. Because, ya know, happy stuff is all well and good, but it isn’t really memorable. It’s just what happens,” Suzuka said, staring straight ahead. “But, since this ramen we eat now tastes bad, we’ll remember that. We’ll remember that day we ate bad ramen and laughed about it. It becomes an important memory instead of just part of the flow, ya know?”

    Kurotsuchi looked a bit downcast, but her smile did not disappear, as she leaned a bit closer to Suzuka.

    “Is something the matter, Suzuka-chan?” she asked. The other girl stayed silent for a moment, before asking with a meek voice.

    “Ya aren’t going to go anywhere… right, chief?”

    Kurotsuchi answered with a brilliant smile, like the dawn outside of the room.

    “Of course not.”

  5. #25
    (A noncanon story)
    Drinking Nonsense

    Zero pulled up a seat at the sobbing basilisk. Fortunately, Rao wasn’t around. Zero was still exhausted from his fight from before, not to mention overworking his origin during the clinic he ran that Saturday. Furthermore over the last few days he had primarily spent most of his time working on construction for a project of his and was looking forward to finally being able to relax for a bit. Since his contact wasn’t around, he had been nursing rum and cola served from some reasonable good mix.

    At that moment, 4 walked into the bar. As far as reasons went, she didn’t particularly have one. Neither a reason to enter, nor a reason to not enter. But as she walked past the sobbing basilisk, she had suddenly been struck by the whim to have a drink, and as a creature of whims she obeyed. As she made her way in, she spotted a familiar face that she had seen some recently, and made her way over to Zero.

    Zero recognized the vampire who pulled up a chair next to him; it was the number of death, wasn’t it? He was a little surprised that somebody would pull up next to him at an empty bar when there were so many seats available, as the basilisk was nearly empty at the time.

    Sitting down, next to Zero, 4 remarked, “It’s kind of lonely to drink alone, isn’t it, uhmm, what was it…, Empty-san?”

    It remained a mystery for whatever reason this strange vampire decided to nickname Chiba, that is to say Zero, ‘Empty Equation’ when they had met at his clinic.

    Zero nodded to her as she settled into the stool. “It is, but I prefer it that way.”

    “Come on, don’t say that. Being lonely is lonesome, you know?”

    “Everyone is lonely. That’s just the way things are. But if you are at a bar and lonely, at least your drinks come quick. So, can I get you something?”

    “Well, if we’re at a bar, how about a drink?”

    “What do you think I was doing,” Zero replied drily, as he nodded towards his half finished drink.

    “I think you’re talking about theories on loneliness and asking me a question of course. To which question I just answered. But about your theory. I wonder… how should I respond?”

    “That’s easy, have a drink with me. That’s always the right answer. A least, a mentor of mine thought so anyway… huh.”

    “Sounds like an interesting person,” said 4 as she ordered a drink. “Or at the very least, an interesting drunk.

    Zero finished his round and nodded to the bartender to refill his glass. “Interesting? …Well, yes he was but not that trustworthy. He would steal a kiss as quickly as he would teach you something.”

    4’s drink arrived and she took a sip as she listened. “You get kissed often then, Mr. Equation?”

    “It wasn’t that often, but if he were prettier, it would rank among the better ones.”

    “Ahaha,” 4 chuckled slightly. “Well now, what a colorful question that statement raises.”

    She took another sip of her drink. Zero stirred his glass a moment, mixing the watered down ice and rum.

    “He was the type that promises you nothing and then leaves you with some kind of disease. Still, he will teach you things, if you don’t mind the pain.”

    “Rather than pain, it sounds more like he gave you his love. Love love love~” 4 sang a little tune. “Anyway, I guess that means you’ve accumulated quite a few diseases then, and more than a few interesting skills.”

    “Diseases? Maybe. You ever have that feeling where not even a thousand showers will be able to make you clean?”

    “A thousand showers. Well, I wonder,” 4 suddenly looked like she remembered unpleasant recent memory and grimaced. “Perhaps…”

    Zero noticed a rather familiar look in the vampire’s eye and shook his head knowingly. The bartender brought them another round. They were the only ones who were drinking as opposed to just nursing drinks so he was standing nearby ready to refill their orders, every on the lookout for a decent tip.

    As he sipped new drink, he spoke. “Ah, see that? I bet you know someone who is a bit like that?”

    “Well, I don’t know if it quite counts as a disease, but it’s certainly something that I would rather be rid off. Except it’s also something that I need right now as well… quite the sad series of events. I wonder if this counts as irony, or perhaps even parody? Doesn’t help that said giver has some rather nasty hobbies.” She then proceeded to drain her current glass and signal the barkeeper for a refill.

    “If you don’t mind me asking, does it have something do with… well, how should I put this, the fact that you require the use of a foot to count past 5 now?” Zero nodded at her missing limb.

    “Somewhat related, yet unrelated at the same time. Part of the issue, yet not the problem.”

    “I wonder. I have…well, at least once before, hard to hurt someone to teach them something. Well, I don’t know if you can call it someone. She was my pet.”

    “Oh? Well, I don’t know if I’m currently being hurt or being taught, but this does sound like an interesting story. Come, tell me the tale of your pet.”

    “It’s not much to say I guess. She was my cute dog. She didn’t listen at first, but all dogs are like that…well, my father didn’t approve of me keeping her. But I had never had a pet before, and she was mine, all mine.” Zero looked into his glass which was mostly ice and water now and signaled for another round.

    “Sounded like you were a strict master. So what happened to your cute pet?”

    “What happens to all first pets, I suppose? She ran away. …hmm, well enough of that. What was yours like?”

    “My what?”

    “Your disease carrier, I mean?”

    “An unpleasant person with nasty hobbies. A nasty person with unpleasant hobbies. Hmm…” 4 took a look at her refilled glass before taking another sip. “Come to think of it, that description could fit quite a lot of people I know. Or rather, have known. Perhaps have met?”

    “Hmm, but… I don’t know if yours is like mine, but… maybe that’s what makes them honest?”

    “Well, I wouldn’t know and frankly I’m not too terribly interested in the matter,” 4 replied flatly. “Besides, sooner or later, I’ll be rid of this…issue. It’s just a matter of time, in the end.”

    “You think you will? I doubt it. After all, in Olympus-“

    “Few things are eternal, my friend. Hmm…” 4 peered suspiciously at zero’s drink. “How many drinks have you had so far, anyway?”

    “5 I think. Or was it 7? They were quick to refill my cup, after all.”

    “You’re still quite lucid, aren’t you? Quite sturdy, quite the endurance. Still completely in control of yourself, despite the alcohol. You’re quite the impressive drinker, aren’t you?”

    “Drinking… hmm, well, it’s something I’ve always enjoyed. It breaks a rule. Besides… never mind. Anyway, I have to be a good drinker. My mentor is not such a person who can talk and not drink. So I have to be prepared, right? Maybe I’m just practicing. You won’t find me easy to drink under the table.”

    “Well, I suppose,” replied 4 as she motioned for the bartender to refill Zero’s glass. “Anyway, how many mentors have you had exactly? Well, I guess anybody who’ ever taught you counts as a mentor, so let’s instead ask how many significant mentors you’ve had.”

    “Hmm…” Zero thought for a few moments. “Maybe it’s a 4? Wouldn’t that be fitting, miss death.”

    “Haha. It certainly is a fun name, isn’t it? For a fun reason too. Maybe not a correct reason, but still a fun reason all the same.”

    “Heh, don’t lie. I don’t want to hear such a thing from someone who smells like death.”

    “I was sure I just took a shower before coming here too~” 4 replied in a sing-song tone.

    “1000 showers, lass.” Zero said with a smirk.

    “Perhaps quality over quantity? Although once again, it seems like something was misunderstood. Well, that’s fine. It’s more fun this way, anyhow.”

    “I’ll drink to that. If you will, shall I order us another round?”

    “By all means, don’t let me stop you.” With those words, Zero motioned towards the bartender who refilled both glasses. With a brief motion, they both raised up their glasses for a toast.

    “”Cheers””

    “Speaking of which, back onto a previous topic,” said 4 as she drank from her glass. “On the topic of quality showers over quantity. Don’t you think it’s a wonderful idea? To take one really great shower equal to a thousand normal showers? Ahaha, how about I show you sometime? How to take a really great shower?” she said in a teasing sort of voice. “Just kidding.”

    “Well, I don’t know, but I suspect the answer may be no. After all, if I were being honest, the first thing I would do is brush my teeth,” replied Zero coolly.

    “But moving away from showers and teeth, why don’t you tell me about your wonderful teachers.”

    “Well, there is my father. He wasn’t the first in line for dominance, and our line is old. But… it seems he had a gift for Command. That’s with a capital C by the way. Command. By the way, did you know your father? I suppose you had 2? Half death, as it was.”

    “Ahaha, don’t take names so literally. If it’s family, I certainly had a normal one. Well, human at lea-“

    “Ah lass, it isn’t me being too literal. I mean you must have had 2. One to make you a human and one to make you a vampire, yes?”

    “Ahaha, one to make me a human, and one to make me a vampire. That’s funny. That’s funny in a funny way.”

    Zero collected the next round of drinks from the bartender, offering a drink to 4 who gracefully accepts.

    “Just how many ways are there to be funny that aren’t funny ways?” inquired Zero.

    “Well now, I don’t really know. Could be few, could be none at all, it’s an undefined solution. Heh, that name also fits you, Mr. Empty Equation. Empty Equation, Undefined Solution.”

    “Well, did you know? You solve a problem by converting something which is undefined to zero. X = 0 is the beginning of the answer.”

    “I see, set it to zero. Or rather, reset, reduce everything to nothing. Somewhat of an extreme method, don’t you think?”

    “If you’re trying to find an answer, is anything too extreme? In the end, it’s just an equation.”

    “But a metaphor for life all the same. It depends on how far you’re willing to go… well now, this turned into something quite somber. Let’s lighten the mood.”

    “Hmm… well then, my second mentor is easily my mother. Or maybe she was my first?”

    “So your family made for the best mentors, did they? Well, can’t say that’s a new concept, but it’s a classical one. Why fix what isn’t broke, right?”

    “That’s quite right. In the end, I was quite generic. The only difference is… maybe I was a bit early. Every child tries to set their own rules and every parent tries to enforce their own rules.” Zero paused, and stared into his drink, swirling his ice cubes around a spiral in his glass. “I once tried to enforce my rule upon my mother, and she did the same to me. As is only natural, hers was superior.”

    “So you lost to your mother. Well, speaking of children and parents, did you have any siblings?”

    “No. I was told by my parents from the beginning I would be the only heir. If I lost in most places… then that alone… but I won…” Once again, Zero paused to stare into his drink for a few moments. “Anyway, miss death. My turn. What was your mother like?”

    “My mother, huh? Hmm…” This time it’s 4’s turn to stare into her glass. “It has been quite a long time. To begin, let’s clarify, but you mean the person who gave birth to the human that became me, or something along those lines, right?’

    Zero played along with 4’s attempts to stall for time. “”Well I think at the end of the day, it’s what you consider your mother. But I cannot judge what you yourself can’t, correct?”

    “Well, I suppose as far as mothers go, I have no complaints. She certainly treated me fairly, especially when compared to my more talents siblings.”

    “If you had more talented siblings, why are they not here in this wonderful paradise proved by Atlasia.” The last few words were heavy with sarcasm.

    “Well, I wonder. It could be because of this reason, or because of that reason, or perhaps because of no reasons at all.”

    “That sounds so much like something you would say… but not something these alchemists would.” Zero said as he finishes his drink and proceeds to order another one. “No… no reason is not something Atlasia agrees with, not something she would accept. My question for you, mistress death. They know why you are here. Do you?”

    “They know why I am here? That’s funny. They know why I was here, but to be honest, right now I’m just staying here to kill some time. Nothing more, nothing less.”

    “That is a strangely common reason, don’t you think? If there is one thing that puzzles me, if there is one thing that makes me suspicious, it is this. See all these masters, all these legendary souls, and yet… so few have a wish.”

    “I wonder about that. Well, I can’t speak for other people’s desires. But for some people, their wish may not be something they wish to be made public, after all.”

    “Wouldn’t that be nice? If only desire was something so easy to keep concealed.”

    “Well, the wishes of others, or lack thereof is of no concern to me. If this was another time, or even in exceptional cases, I may lend my aid to the fulfillment of one, though.”

    “So you would strive for another’s desires. Is that achieving the ambition of your Servant, paid for with your own wish? Or do you perhaps have no desire of something that will certainly not occur?”

    “Who knows? Who cares? It certainly matters not. Shall I tell you a story?”

    “A story is something to be enjoyed during drinks. I’ll sit at your campfire, tell me a tale.”

    “This story begins with a girl. A young girl. Powerless since birth. Surely a sad tale. Frail, delicate, filled with jealousy and resentment, hidden behind a mask of meekness. And one day, a demon appeared before her, and offered her a deal. Somewhat of a classic deal, the demon promised to make her wish come true for the price of a sacrifice, the sacrifice of her sole friend. Now tell me, when offered this deal, what do you think she did?”

    “Hmm. If such a thing occurred, I wonder if she could see the truth. My mentor taught me this, that there is no wish granted, except that of finding the truth. I suspect she did not and instead found a comforting lie that was not comforting at all.”

    “Perhaps. It’s certainly not my place to understand her. To begin with, I wouldn’t even want to. But for one person to sacrifice her friend without hesitation, I suppose that to that girl, she didn’t consider the other person a friend in the first place.”

    “I wonder. Do you think it could be possible that the reason she would choose to make the sacrifice is because she was sure that she was a true friend. A friend to such an extent that she would without hesitation sacrifice herself to see a friend’s wish fulfilled.”

    “Once again, it is not my place to say. But I will say this. Human relations, and human bonds, are certainly…interesting things.” 4 stared at her drink and swirled it around a few times as she reminisced. “They might only go one way. They might suddenly be reversed. Well, to continue with my story, the friend was tricked by the girl and sacrificed. At last, the girl had everything she had ever wished for. And her friend was broken, damaged, destroyed. And that might have been the end of it, if the girl hadn’t taken a delight in breaking, damaging, destroying her further friend even further. You would think that the former powerless would understand best the currently powerless. And indeed, I have seen it before, such people filled with understanding. But of course, this was the opposite, defiling another person and being rewarded because of it, doing so without penalty, without price, without guilt, without remorse, without regret. And so she left, hand-in-hand with the demon.”

    “And yet I wonder, who is it I talk to now”

    “Just an observer, and impartial watcher.”

    “I think that is not correct, or at the very least, incomplete. I believe what I speak to now was not the girl who achieved a wish, but who was destroyed that day.”

    “Hahahaha, if you wish to believe that, you are free to believe that,” said 4 with a mysterious smile, without confirming or denying. “But although it may be coincidental, or born from flawed reasoning, part of your statement is correct. At the very least, this current me is complete but incorrect. Or rather, complete but false, as opposed to those who may be incomplete but true. But regardless, this tale has not yet finished.”

    “Then let it be completed.”

    “So continue listening, my undefined solution of a friend. Upon pure chance, a wanderer stumbled across the still living corpse of the friend. This wanderer more or less understood the situation, and so what happened next, was that this wanderer spoke to the betrayed, and offered a single wish. For this wanderer was fair, and because the betrayer had her wish granted, it was only natural for the scales to balance and a wish to be offered to the betrayed. And so the broken, damaged, destroyed, and betrayed girl made her wish and the wanderer searched and found this betrayer. But not just the betrayer, but both betrayer and demon alike. And fulfilled the girl’s final desire, and from those two… took everything. Took everything until they were left with nothing, until they were beyond broken, damaged, and destroyed… Certainly a sad ending, don’t you think? Nobody wins, and everybody loses.”

    “Hmm… Do you wish for my true answer, or the answer you expect?”

    “How about both? Perhaps they might even be the same, or rather in theory they should be the same.

    Zero swirled his drink again. By now the number he had imbibed must number in the double digits.

    “Picture in your mind, that girl who gave up everything she had and yet was given up. Picture in your mind, that demon, filled with greed. Picture in your mind, a girl, who gave her last friend for desire, achieving nothing. Ahhh… wouldn’t that be wonderful? You say everyone lost. But I think… to be consumed by that level of emotion, to have that level of passion, to feel nothing but desire, even if that desire is for vengeance…” A silence spread between the two of them.

    “…that must certainly feel wonderful,” Zero almost whispered.

    4 nodded a few times. “Well, that’s certainly one way to react. You’re an interesting person, Mr. Empty.”

    “No I am not. And neither are you. That which takes cannot give, and that which kills will never create life. To arouse interest…to evoke emotion is no different than to bear child. Such a miracle will never occur, that which fails to exist will never exist. That which is a miracle will never occur… wouldn’t you agree, the number of death?”

    “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” 4 threw back her head and laughed wildly, like she had heard the funniest joke, the greatest gag, the best punch line. “HAHahahahaha… ahhh, wonderful, too wonderful, amusing, simply too amusing, so great, to the point where it’s beyond measure… haa…” 4 said, calming down. “Now then, let’s have a fair exchange. Tell me a tale, Mr. Undefined.”

    Zero nodded. “Hmm, I suppose that’s only fair. Then have you heard this truth? Understand, ye spinner of rules. Concepts are defeated by concepts. This truth is the only one that a boy can have said to have found. This is one who learns from one’s greatest defeats, and yet it is his only hope. A rule that was not obeyed does not exist, but when two rules collide, only who can reign supreme. A child was given the form of a rule that was broken. “Here now, my son. Become a strong child, and be that which I wish you to be.” …but in that same moment, another rule came to be, that a child can never defeat the parent. …but still it existed. It was a simple cry. “Here is me.” “I am not a lie.” “I exist, even if I should not.” When those rules met, there was a tiny place where they collided. And if there was any hope for salvation, it lay there. In the region where neither rule had sway… isn’t that a wonderful story? Or maybe it’s a horrible one.”

    “It’s an interesting story. A worthwhile story. A… worthy story.” 4 tilted her head to the side a bit. It seemed she was looking at the clock. “Well, it was fun drinking with you,” she said as she stood up and passed some money towards the bartender. As she turned around to go, she paused. “Ahh, here’s a short one. A short story that is. I wonder why I’m telling it now. Imagine a candle. With a moderate, controlled flame it can provide light for quite a long time. But lose that control, and increase it to an inferno, and for just the briefest of moments you can challenge the sun before the candle’s life vanishes. Say, can you remember your birth?”

    “That… that requires a birth as something which occurred. But for a candle, even if it lasted a moment, that is not in doubt. Miss death, if you are leaving, I wish you well on the way home. Yet… I think I will stay a while, and have a couple of drinks, and remember a wish that amounted to nothing, and a friend which gave everything for that nothing. Sound and fury, signifying……everything.”

    4 had remained standing there, without moving. It didn’t really seem like 4 had heard the last half of what Zero had said. Rather, in a unique and extremely rare moment, she seemed to be genuinely remembering, reflecting, and thinking about a memory from her past. “A day’s just a day, after all. Even if burned into over a century…” Suddenly, she snapped back into reality. “Ahaha, sorry about that, it’s not much of a story. But I still think it’s a story.”

    By this time, Zero had already turned back to his own drink. He raised it up high and said, “One more for the road, or maybe for the ditch,” before bring it back down, pouring the liquid into his mouth.

    “Next time, it’ll be your turn to tell a tale. I’m looking forward to it, although considering the quality of this story; it doesn’t have to be much. But anything will do.”

    “Anything? Will nothing suffice? It’s all I can offer, but it should still be enjoyable. Such is life.”

    “Nothing can be enjoyable in its own way. However, even if it’s empty and undefined, from within that void, I’m sure you can create something.” As she began to talk away from Zero, who was enjoying his last drink.

    “It was fun killing time with you, Mr. Empty Equation, Mr. Undefined Solution.” And with those words, she walked out the door and vanished into the night.

    Sitting on his stool, Zero quietly watched the vampire leave. He gave his drink another stir with the stirrer. For just a moment, the alcohol, an existence which currently had no other purpose but to kill brain cells, and the ice, a completely pointless existence which had nothing to do except to mess with temperature, swirled together, circled one another, before parting yet again.

    And in silence, Zero drank.
    <Satehi> I, satehi, thought of tentacles first for entirely inappropriate, disgusting, lewd and perverted reasons

    Honk





  6. #26
    Bad Girl Katie's Avatar
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    [Feb/Wed/04|07:00:04] <Lianru> it's ok with each stalker call I feel like we get a little closer
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    asians before testing week

  7. #27
    King of Weak Style Verg Avesta's Avatar
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    YEAR ONE


    1/5



    Sometimes, to learn of the future...

    … You must know of the past.




    The heavy footfalls of the tall young man echoed in the stairway as he dutifully climbed the impossibly long spiraling tower. The slight hurry in his pace indicated a man well aware of the consequences of being late, but even so, he still had the time to return the greetings of the students he passed on his way to the upper floors. For every “Good morning, Advisor!” he gave out a “Yeah, good morning.” It was more out of courtesy than anything else, but as serious of a person he was, he felt that he should at least give a presentable image to the other students of the dormitory, newcomers or not.

    Eventually, the young man arrived to his destination: the highest floor of the tower, one shielded by a pair of sturdy doors adorned with etchings of flowers and plant-life. He groaned internally, cracked his neck and checked that the jacket he was so proud of was without a speck of dust. Then, flicking a strand of his brown, unruly hair out of his face, he knocked on the door with powerful strikes.

    “Jack? Do come in,” a gentle voice answered from the other side. “I have been waiting for you.”

    As the young man entered, he was once again greeted by the familiar sight of the office of the Dormitory Head of the Clock Tower Faction. The bookshelves, the intricate contraptions silently humming, the collection of rare plants encased in glass cubes… it was the personal taste of the young woman sitting behind the gigantic mahogany desk smack-dab in the middle of the room.

    Roselia McKlennington, just in the process of combing her lustrous, long hair gave Jack a smile that could have melted away the winter.

    “Good morning, Jack. I presume that everything has been prepared for?” Roselia asked. “Today is a big day, after all.”

    Jack Boston, the Advisor of the Clock Tower Faction, saluted the woman before him and nodded sternly.

    “Yes, ma’am! Everything has been taken care of!” he informed her. “All that is left is for the Dormitory Heads to gather into the auditorium!”

    Roselia giggled at the stiff demeanor of her underling and put away her comb. At the same time, she offered a silent look at the latest cube of glass on her desk, silently running a finger across its surface. Her face suddenly lit up as if she had gotten an exciting idea, and the Dormitory Head turned to look at Jack once more.

    “I know this may sound strange, Jack, but… what do you think of this flower? Apparently, it is a rare mutation of the spider lily, or so I was told,” she said with a beaming smile. “This color that changes from white to blue… it is truly splendid, is it not?”

    “Yes, very, ma’am,” Jack answered, allowing a stoic smile to appear on his lips. “It was a very thoughtful gift from—“

    Faster than one could yell out “embarrassment!” Roselia had started waving her hands in panic and making unintelligible noises. In addition, her face had grown absolutely pink in shade, something Jack had to admit was a rare sight.

    “I-i-i-i-it is quite alright, no need to say anything more!” Roselia hurried to say, before coughing very matter-of-factly. “And this is not a gift of any sorts. If anything, it is a reward for the help I provided with a very troublesome situation that my friend had gotten into.”

    Jack blinked twice, before pointing at the flower with slight confusion showing on his face.

    “In other words… it is a gift from—“

    “Wawaahahahaha! W-we better hurry now, Jack, or we shall be late for the meeting!” Roselia overpowered the man with her voice. “Come now, come now!”

    Before he could even protest, Jack had been pushed out of the room by the surprisingly strong hands of Roselia. She might have been the strongest Master in OLYMPUS, but even Jack thought her specialty had not lied in brute strength. That was closer to the territory of the Burgundy Witch that kept harassing Lady Roselia for some reason or another.

    “Ukekekeke!”

    A sudden, vulgar laugh caught the attention of the two. As they had left the office, something had appeared to take Roselia’s place behind the table. Or, to be more accurate, it had plopped itself right onto the table, now stretching on it like some sort of overfed cat. The green creature directed its malicious eyes towards the two.

    “Master, Master, what’re you getting all flustered for?” creature asked with a smirk. “Everybody in the dormitory already knows ‘bout your boyfriend, so you might as well—“

    The double-doors were slammed shut faster than Jack’s eyes could perceive, shutting of Trickster’s impudent speech from their ears. Still looking like steam could rise from her ears at any given moment, Roselia turned to look at her Advisor and pointed her finger accusingly at him.

    “T-this is something to be forgotten, Jack Boston! Now, let us make haste!” Roselia half-shouted.

    “But ma’am, wasn’t that a little harsh—“

    “Immediately!”

    There were only few times that Roselia McKlennington raised her voice; and whenever she did, it was best to obey her orders immediately.

    That was what Jack Boston had learned during his year as the Advisor of the Clock Tower dormitories.


    ****



    “We are here, ma’am.”

    Having opted to take the fastest route, the two had arrived in front of the doors leading to the auditorium inside Athena Academy. The imposing size of these doors made Jack cringe in his mind as always, but it was simply his personal distaste for the architecture of the building. In other words, he could easily put aside such trivial matters.

    Besides, he had more important matters to attend to. Seeing that Roselia was now ready to enter, Jack hurried to the doors and pulled them open, ready to turn aside and let the Dormitory Head pass first.

    If only things had been that simple.

    “Opening, it’s an opening!” a high-pitched female voice yelled out.

    “Yeah, it’s a true opening!” another, very similar, shouted loudly.

    Jack grimaced at what was going to happen, and immediately threw himself to the floor. This proved to be a wise choice, as two small bodies zoomed through the airspace that had been previously occupied by his head. This human-missile double-attack had become so ingrained part of his daily life that he no wonder had even the strength to wonder the meaning behind it. For a moment, Jack saw a flurry of two heads with messy, multicolored hairs, before the assailants crash-landed perfectly into the other end of the hall. It was a catastrophe well-avoided.

    “… Jack. An explanation, please.”

    Or, perhaps not. To his growing horror, Jack saw how the two girls, twins in every sense of the word, had barreled straight into the blonde girl behind him, now clinging to her like some sort of leeches. The sharp-toothed mouths seemed to be gnawing on her head and shoulder, as these two idiots had not yet realized that their intended target had long-since evaded them, and that they were now on an express train to the danger zone.

    “Umm, you see, ma’am… this is, something, well…” Jack stuttered, trying to find a decent explanation despite feeling the beads of cold sweat running down on his face. “It, it is just a game developed by Kakra I and Kakra II! Simply a game!”

    “A game, I see…” Roselia asked, a sweet smile on her face. However, to Jack’s horror, the sweetness seemed to hide behind it a good deal of rising anger. “So it wouldn’t be held against me if I made it a ‘Game Over’ right here and now, right…?”

    “W-w-w-w-wait ma’am!” Jack almost screamed and sprung to his legs. With speed that was surprising for someone of his stature, he leapt to his liege’s side and forcefully removed the two hungry idiots from her. “Kakra I! Kakra II! Apologize immediately! That was not me you dunces assaulted!”

    “Hmh? Whazzat?” the first girl asked, now biting her thumb. “Oh… Oh! If it ain’t Sis!”

    “Ah, yay! It’s Sis!” the second girl rejoiced, throwing her arms up. “What’cha doing here?”

    “Pondering what sort of punishment should be in order for this unexplainable attack towards my person…” Roselia grunted, looking at the two with clearly tired expression.

    The twins grinned in unison, still held up in the air by Jack like he had been a mother-cat holding onto them.

    “Punishment for Jackie!” Kakra I happily exclaimed. “He started this!”

    “Yeah, yeah!” Kakra II shouted in agreement. “Jackie should be punished, he’s the bad guy!”

    As the cocked eyebrow of Roselia was aimed towards her Advisor, Jack hastily waved his hands, as if trying to dissipate any fog of doubt that momentarily made the opinion the girl had of him cloud over. Then it was the time for the hasty explanation.

    “It is not my fault, ma’am! These two dunces kept pestering me about fighting-lessons, so I agreed upon it… never thinking it might lead to them ambushing me at every corner!” The desperation was clear in the young man’s eyes. “You have to believe me, ma’am, I never intended this to have any adverse effects on you, it is just that—“

    “—Just that these two Advisors of mine are a true pain in the ass.”

    Like a crow landing from its perch, a black-haired boy floated from somewhere above the two, landing gently, and almost weightlessly, on top of Jack’s head. Then, with precise strikes, he karate-chopped the twins in their colorful heads, sending the two crashing into the floor. While the two menaces were recovering, the boy then hopped down to the floor, dusting off his black cape that had the purple emblem of Atlasia plastered all over it like a very unfashionable shield.

    “My, Mr. Al-Liever. Good morning,” Roselia greeted the boy, having regained her sunny smile. “I trust you are doing well?”

    “As well as I can with these two goofing around,” Vega Al-Liever, the Dormitory Head of the Atlas Faction, grunted. “Seriously, every day it’s the same song and dance… for once I’d wish I’d have some peace and quiet for myself.”

    “Buuuuut~!” Kakra I piped up, her head still stuck in the floor. “This is the way Veggy likes it!”

    “Riiiiight~!” Kakra II imitated her sister. “Veggy likes ‘em young as always!”

    What followed was Dormitory Head and Advisor of the Clock Tower Faction directing expressions of extreme discomfort towards Vega, who was now practically roaring in rage. Blushing like mad, the black-haired boy grabbed the twins by their heads and lifted them up, bringing their smiling faces right in front of his own, fuming one.

    “Shut up! Shut up, you fake-lolis! I don’t wanna hear it! People like you should be thrown into a cage and then shot into outer space! Wanna see me do that, huh? Huh!?” Vega bellowed. “If it weren’t for you, my life would be so much easier!”

    “Hmh? What’s up, guys? Some new sorta game? Ooh, looks fun!”

    While the charade between of the Atlas Faction might have continued longer if they had let it, the new voice that had joined the conversation drew all the attention. Having ascended the stairs after Roselia and Jack, now the group found themselves looking at a young woman with a blazing red hair and vigor unlike any other in her eyes. She was wearing a flamboyant scarf, and the slightly protruding canine-tooth she had made her look like a beast of some sort.

    Same, however, couldn’t be said about the young girl following her. She had a black hair with a single red stripe, and the look on her face was downright menacing. Still, she stuck close to the older girl in a manner not unlike of a spoiled little sister.

    “Ah, Miss Ayame and Miss Suzakushou,” Roselia greeted the two with a nod. “I have not had the pleasure of seeing you two in a while. How has life treated you?”

    “Ooh, Roselia! Yeah, I’m fit as a fiddle! Just like lil’ Suzaku over here,” Ayame returned the greeting and grinned. She then proceeded to pat the girl next to her on the back so hard she grimaced. “You could say we’re bursting with energy! Flame of the youth, as they say! Gahahaha!”

    As the rambunctious redhead continued her overbearing laughter, Jack snuck a peek at Suzakushou, still looking a little worse for wear from the overeager pat. He gave encouraging nod to her, but even though she saw it, she quickly turned her face away, the sulking expression appearing on it once more. The black-haired girl was like a bush of thorns, and Jack knew that her recent appointment as the Advisor hadn’t done her any favors. From what he had heard, she tended to lash out against everyone but Ayama for any meager excuse.

    When with her beloved “Aneki,” the girl was as meek as a kitten, on the other hand.

    “Excuse me… might I request passage? The meeting shall be starting soon, and I would like to avoid being late…”

    This time, the voice that caught everyone’s attention was like a chime of the most beautiful bell. All eyes fell upon the young woman wearing the uniform of the Athena Academy, the spider lily pattern haori on top of it being the only sign of her more personal style. Following this black-haired beauty, often called the most beautiful girl in all of OLYMPUS, was three other people.

    First came a younger-looking girl, eyes half-closed like she had still been asleep and her blue hair in a mess that was quite magnificent to behold. She was situated strictly behind-and-left to the girl in the front, announcing her position as the black-haired girl’s subordinate.

    The two coming behind her were equally of Asian origin, but the aura around them was very different. The young man was lean and tall, like a beansprout, his brown hair on a short crop. The strict look in his eyes was sharp as a knife… as was the blade he carried on his back. The woman he was guarding, however, could not have been more different. A playful, almost idiotic smile plastered all over her face, she skipped over to the group full of joy. Her monkey-tail was swishing back and forth, announcing just how excited she was. Unlike the others, her dress-code was barely below the risk-zone, what with her uniform being heavily modified to resemble the clothing often worn by martial artists of ancient China.

    “Gahaha! Kurotsuchi! You made it!” Ayama laughed and bowed her head curtly to the princess-like girl. “And little Nemue, too! You’re so grown up these days!”

    While she complimented the blue-haired girl, Ayame kept brutishly mashing her head back and forth in spectacularly failed attempt of tousling her hair. However, the vacant look on Nemue’s face told that either the girl barely felt this, or she simply had better things to do than to enter in a small-talk with the brusque Dormitory Head.

    “A fine morning to you, Ayame-san,” Kurotsuchi greeted the redhead, before bowing to the rest of the gathered group. “And to everyone else as well. ‘Tis a joy to see all of you so eager at this early hour.”

    “Some little eager than others…” Vega grunted and shot a nasty glare at the twins still dangling from his hands. “So? What’s with this odd East-Asia Choo-Choo-Train? Aren’t you a little old to be playing kindergartner games?”

    “Mr. Vega, “ Roselia quietly said and cleared her throat, causing the crow-like man to blush. “Manners.”

    “Oh, nothing as exciting as your proposition, I am afraid,” Kurotsuchi answered and smiled gently. “We simply happened to meet with Tao Zhen and Yu Fu on our way here.”

    “Indeed. Which is why I would like to ask you to refrain from such unpleasant imagery… Lord Vega,” Yu Fu, the lean young man, spoke with his lilting tone. “I do not guarantee the consequences will be most pleasant to you… Lord Vega.”

    “This upstart brat…!” Vega growled, held only back by the gentle giggle of Roselia and her hand on his shoulder.

    “Fuyu’s not a brat, you know? He’s a prooooooper gentleman!” Tao Zhen announced with a proud smile, her tail patting the boy on the head. “Plus he’s got ‘em cheeks like marshmallows, so it’s oooookay!”

    “Miss, please stop mashing up my name in a way that makes it sound like a season in Japan,” Fu Yu grunted, slightly troubled look on his face. “Also, I might have mentioned this before, but please speak properly. When you slur you sound like a child.”

    Whaaaaat? Didja know, Fuyu, dat boys find this irresistible?” Tao Zhen pouted. “I’mma on a bullet express ta Poplar Town! You should totally try this sum time!”

    “Popular Town, Miss, Popular Town,” Yu hurried to correct her and grimaced. “And I do not think I want to be popular amongst the male population any time soon.”

    “Che~! Boooooring~!” Zhen complained, before looking back at the rest of her comrades. As she did so, her face lit up as if she had just remembered something. “Oh, right! I axe-too-ally just met a total brat! An’ whaddya know, she turned outta be a pain in the tail!”

    “A… brat, you say?” Roselia asked, her eyebrows rising in curiosity. “What do you mean by that?”

    “Oh, she in dat… ya know, whatchamacallit, Youth Initial D?” Tao Zhen tilted her head.

    “Um, ma’am, I think you mean the Youth Initiative, where the Pantheon selects promising young recruits, under the age required to enter Athena Academy, and brings them to OLYMPUS for preliminary training before shipping them back to main land,” Jack said from the sidelines. “I heard that those who pass the test are granted a free pass to OLYMPUS with some special privileges… I think they have started it in preparation for the middle-school that they want to build in a few years.”

    Yeaaaah, dat thing, just dat!” Zhen clapped her hands together and flashed a corny thumbs-up to Jack. “So, ya know, I ran inta this brat one day and she ain’t lettin’ me get any peace of mind! Just lookit this pre-schooler!”

    Then, like a magician, Tao Zhen reached somewhere near her back, and pulled a red and dirty something from there, presenting it to the group of Dormitory Heads and Advisors like a particularly snot-nosed hare she had ran over with a scooter. As the confused group peered in growing confusion at the thing, it suddenly jolted alive and started squirming in the monkey-tailed girl’s grasp, throwing kicks and punches wildly around. In midst of all that flailing, she hissed and spat to the ground like an angry raccoon; an image strengthened by the booger dangling from her nostril.

    “I’m not a pre-schooler, dammit! I’m already fifteen years old! Almost fifteen years old! Don’t you dare look down on me, you gorilla of a woman! I’ll beat you up! I’ll beat you up good!” the thing screamed with a cracking voice. “Fight me fair and square and I’ll bust your ass!”

    “Ah.”

    Kurotsuchi was the first to break the confounded silence amongst the audience.

    “This… this is a girl, is it not?”

    Indeed, the thing with a clumsily cropped red hair and clothes so dirty it made her look like a street orphan, hollering curses and threats to Tao Zhen with all of her lung-power, was indeed a young girl. A particularly scrawny kid at that, the bandage over plastered over her nose giving a definite image of someone who climbed trees just fall from the very top because of her own clumsiness.

    “I got a name, you overgrown soybean!” the direction of the girl’s anger was now changed towards Kurotsuchi. “I’m Li Hong, and you better remember! When I’m free from this gorilla of a woman, I’m gonna bust your ass, too!”

    “S-soybean!?” Kurotsuchi seemed to receive something a verbal shock, freezing in a halted, shocked expression.

    “Ehehehe… soybean… toybean… beanbag…” As if activated by that bizarre insult, Fujou Nemue started muttering to herself this strange string of words. She then proceeded to rub her sleepy face happily against the Dormitory Head’s chest. “Mmm… Mmm… definitely beanbags…”

    “B-beanbags!?”

    If possible, the poor princess of the Fujou Dormitory grew even more shocked.

    “H-hey! Watch your mouth, you brat!” Jack growled and stepped forward to confront the little intruder. “Lady Kurotsuchi is the fragile flower of our school, our pride and joy! Do not dare to insult her with your dirty little mo—“

    The admonishment by the Advisor was cut short as one of the flailing punches of Li Hong connected straight with his face, catching him completely by surprise.

    “Bueeh! Take that, Flight-Jacket!” Li Hong taunted and wiggled her tongue at Jack. “You ain’t gonna stop me, I tell you!”

    “Can it, pipsqueak! I could throw you into the maw of ARES for such brutish way of behaving!” Jack shouted back, visibly angry now. The small girl only laughed mockingly at this threat.

    “Try it, try it! I’m as strong as they come! Ain’t nobody in this city that can defeat me!”

    Tao Zhen, who had been following what had happened so far with mild curiosity tilted her head and lifted Li Hong slightly higher, causing the girl to give a panicky glare into her direction. As the redheaded brat stared at her, Zhen gave a look towards the staircase, then at the girl, then at the staircase, and finally back at the girl.

    “Oh. Wanna know one thing that’s totally gonna defeat you?”

    “W-what, Peachbrain!?” Li Hong growled.

    Tao Zhen grinned innocently; too innocently for it to be nothing but a threat.

    “Inertia.”

    What followed was a masterful throw of the Athena Academy Bowling Champion as she took some speed and hurled the small girl into the stairs with a perfect arc. The sheer force with which Li Hong was thrown forward was enough to make her automatically curl into a vague ball shape, and thus, before the eyes of the group, the little girl barreled down the stairs with an incredible speed. Her echoing scream grew more and more distant, until it eventually disappeared completely, leaving behind only an awkward atmosphere.

    Tao Zhen dusted off her clothes before flashing a doofus-like smile to the rest.

    “So? We gonna go or what?”

    None in the group had strength to answer that question.


    ****



    The large doors of the auditorium slowly closed behind the group that had entered. Before them was the usual sight of the colossal auditorium, now completely transformed. Gone was the audience that usually filled more than half of it. Even the stage had retracted back into the floor to give way to the simple white expanse that now dominated the view. Combined with the large, crystal blue windows, the auditorium felt almost like it was floating in the clouds.

    … Rather ironic, considering where they were.

    In the middle of the unblemished floor was a long, sleek table, surrounded by chairs with extremely high backs, looking like they had been carved out of a single slab of marble. Currently six of these seats were empty, while eight of them had both person sitting on them, and another standing behind them in attendance. This was the traditional way the meetings between the Dormitory Heads were held: with their personal Advisors watching over their lieges, ready to assist them in any manner necessary. And, of course, the Dormitory Heads themselves around the table, discussing whatever it was currently that troubled the city they were an essential part of.

    Of those Dormitory Heads and Advisors currently in attendance on their seats were:

    A fragile-looking white woman, paler and thinner than any healthy person should have been. Her red eyes were staring straight ahead, and behind them laid the truth of her painful condition, constantly assaulting her defenseless body. Behind her was the knight with strong features and hair of similar color, his large broadsword resting against the ground with his hands on the pommel…

    —Einzbern Dormitory Head: Irillis von Einzbern, and her Advisor: Iranis von Einzcroft.

    A woman like a steel rod, her back straight as a sword and her face eternally hidden behind the metallic helmet created out of metal unknown to mankind. She was like an unmoving, regal statue, position even more heightened by the silver crown infused into her helmet. Behind her was a young woman smoking a cigarette. Her beautifully braided, golden hair clashed brutally with the pair of sleazy eyes that scanned the room with every breath she took

    —Sea of Estray Dormitory Head: Queen, and her Advisor: Teresa Hellovan.

    A man with a flowing, black hair that was like silk. The loose, almost transparent clothing he wore just emphasized the lean build of his body, one befitting of a status such as him. The purple eyes of the man momentarily glanced at the arriving group, but he quickly focused back onto the table, as if afraid to look anyone in the eye. Behind him was a man much sturdier, one with shaggy hair and small stubble of beard. His grin seemed almost ever-present, and the small sparks of lightning emerging from his fingertips faded into his pitch-black clothing.

    —Ryougi Clan Dormitory Head: Ryougi ENKAI, and his Advisor: Ryougi Raika.

    An impossibly tall woman who was more handsome than beautiful, wearing a school uniform reminiscent of a ball-gown, fitted with steel plates that offered protection. She played with a lock of her silver her, absently-mindedly biting her lip with her long fangs that were almost like those of a snake. Behind her was another woman, one very well-endowed and clear smug arrogance crowning her face. Her lustrous green hair seemed to reflect the sunlight as she played with a pair of dice on her palm to pass the time.

    —Dead Apostle Dormitory Head: Celestina Franderwelder, and her Advisor: Vanis Vandestam.

    A man with a blood-red hood thrown up so that most of his face stayed hidden. But under it, one could clearly see a bone-white mask with two burning eyes that seemed to be ablaze with some sort of inner fury not aimed towards anyone in particular. The cloak he had wrapped around himself hid most of his body well from the view. Behind him was a young woman with a short hair, most of her face hidden by a mask that hid her mouth from the view. However, her mysterious eyes that had bewitched many men were as powerful as ever, and thus she courteously averted them from everyone else.

    —Middle-Eastern Association Dormitory Head: Hubris, and his Advisor: Gluttony.

    A young man, much younger than the others gathered, suffering from a clear case of albinism. His square-rimmed glasses were riding high up his nose, enhancing his studious image. However, the priestly robes he wore over his uniform told of a different background, as did the small sphere full of strange glyphs orbiting slowly around his head. Behind him was a young woman who would have blended well with the shadows had it not been for her midnight-blue hair that glimmered like stars. Her purple eyes stared straight ahead, and her mouth was a serious line.

    —Taima Dormitory Head: Tsuchimikado Kintori, and his Advisor: Tsukirin Rakusei.

    A man with a bright smile on his face and a bright orange hair, his clear and excited eyes darted around room barely containing the excitement he felt. The scarf of multiple green colors he wore was so long that it was wrapped multiple times around his neck, and still it almost hit the floor. On his waist the man had a collection of pouches around which a sweet fragrance of herb was strong. Behind him was a very young woman, little older than a child, who was constantly dripping with water. She had wrapped a black rain-cloak around herself, but it didn’t prevent the slight glimpses of her soaked uniform. The soaked hair and the insomniac eyes told their own tale, too.

    —Chivalric Orders Dormitory Head: Somerled MacInnes, and his Advisor: Nautilus.

    A straight-backed young man with golden, curly head and a serious expression of nobility that almost screamed of a prince. His clothing, made of much finer material than those of a normal student, had been hidden under a chest-plate and a small cloak which would not have looked out-of-place if worn by an extremely wealthy Roman officer. Behind him was a gigantic young man, like an iron rampart of a castle, silently looming above his liege. He was like a siege tower with his short, dirty hair and passive, grey eyes. Even the mace he carried strapped on his back seemed like another part of him, an extra limb growing from an unusual spot.

    —Assembly of the 8th Sacrament Dormitory Head: Lorin Urbicus, and his Advisor: Paen Hotillan.

    These eight were already in their place, and now that the rest of the group took their seats, the thirteen Dormitory Heads of OLYMPUS had once again assembled. There was only one thing missing from this equation, and before this variable arrived, none of them could start the meeting. It might have been Roselia, sitting near the end of the table, who was recognized as the strongest of the lot… but it hardly meant that she was their leader. On the contrary, there was someone with abilities much better suited for such a task.

    “So…?” Tsuchimikado Kintaro finally broke the silence, leaning to the table with his elbows and supporting his head with his hands. “Does anybody know what’s up with this meeting? It’s not often we’re called here so early.”

    “I betcha it’s something great!” Somerled guffawed. “I mean, the last time we got Queenie here appointed as the Dormitory Head! And that, if anything, was a great decision!”

    The metal helmet of the person mentioned turned towards the excited Somerled.

    “Can it, Leprechaun. I did not take this position to make friends with the lot of you,” Queen grunted, the hollow ring of the helmet making her tone sound more monotone than it was.

    Somerled chuckled and made a playful gesture towards the girl.

    “Aw, shucks! Here you go again, acting all tough towards us. Everybody knows that underneath that helmet, you’re just a big ol’ softie~” he snickered, unaware of the rising danger present in the fist-clenched hands of Queen.

    “Pipe down, Somerled,” Lorin Ubicus said with an even tone and put his hand on his shoulder. “This is neither the time nor the place for your antics.”

    “Haha, sorry, sorry,” Somerled answered and scratched his cheek. “Just got a wee bit excited there.”

    “It is the norm by now, so do not fret too much about it,” Celestina quipped from the other end of the table. “As expected of you holy men, jumping to action before you even manage to form a coherent thought.”

    This snide comment made Lorin frown in dismay, but from Somerled it only prompted another burst of rapid-fire chuckle. Seeing the big grin on the boy’s face, Celestina gave a sly wink to him, which he returned in an exaggerated manner. The not-so-subtle exchange made Lorin sigh heavily as he brought his palm to his forehead.

    “But it is indeed strange,” Roselia spoke, turning the direction of the conversation back to the right tracks. “We have not had a proper meeting in a long while. I wonder what is the cause?”

    “Perhaps… perhaps s-something has happened?” Ryougi ENKAI asked, only to whimper as the meaning of his own words caught up to him. “Oh, o-oh dear… I hope that nothing has happened… I hate it when something happens…”

    “Calm down, ENKAI,” Hubris spoke out with a graveling voice and turned his gaze to the boy, who promptly attempted to make himself seem smaller. “You’re being unsightly again.”

    Awwwww, no he ain’t!” Tao Zhen giggled. “ENKAI’s just the cutest thing like dis, ain’t he, Irillis?”
    “Umm… why are you asking me that?” Irillis asked with a troubled expression and tilted her head.

    “Huh? Why else?” Ayama butted into the conversation from her side of the table. “You two are dating, ain’cha?”

    Voicing the worst kept secret in Athena Academy caused the two conspirators to let out very similar yelps as they nearly jumped out of their seats. Good-natured laughter filled the room, and suddenly the blushing couple found themselves under numerous stares ranging from teasing to warm. However, since they were waiting for the meeting to start, there was nowhere to go, and thus they had to endure the embarrassment, as much as they wanted to make a quick getaway.

    Thankfully, the rescue came in a form of a side-door opening at the other end of the auditorium. All the gazes were gathered towards the people emerging from the door. Two small figures, one even tinier than the other, walked towards the table with quite the different strides. While the one walking in the front took long, confident steps, the one behind had to jog to keep up with the pace. This smaller individual coming last, only diminutive 133cm tall, could be heard muttering angrily under her breath as the two got closer and closer to the table.

    The one coming first suddenly leaped into a jump, and somersaulted herself over the tall back of the white chair at the head of the table. She plopped down on the chair with almost lazy landing, and then proceeded to put her feet on the table as if signaling how little she cared for the formality of an event such as the meeting. Only few seconds afterwards did the other person catch up the one sitting, and she hesitantly took her place behind the chair.

    The one who stood standing was a young girl with a spiky hair, protruding canine tooth and pair of eyes that seemed to be plagued by a constant irritation. Small and radiating an aura of a person constantly annoyed, it was hard to be mistaken about the identity of this girl. She was the Advisor of the Japanese Half-Bloods Faction: Kireji.

    Or as the rest of the dorm had affectionately dubbed her: very angry little person.

    As for the person now sitting at the head of the table, wearing blue Japanese clothing that were in direct opposition with the dress-code, her blue hair descending upon her shoulders like a waterfall and her blue eyes staring at the gathered Dormitory Heads with both power and mischief in them… there was not a single person on OLYMPUS who would have not known her.

    She was the Dormitory Head of the Japanese Half-Bloods Faction: Aogami no Iratsume Hime.

    “Yo. Sorry about taking my sweet time,” Iratsume Hime said, and the rest of the Dormitory Heads greeted her with nods. “Had to drag lil’ Kireji here out of some trouble, you see.”

    “Who toldja to butt inta my business, huh?” Kireji muttered under her breath and shot her Dormitory Head a dirty look. “Ain’t no reason ta be late ‘cause of that!”

    “Well, enough about that. It’s not interesting, anyhow,” Iratsume Hime calmly ignored the protests of her girl, causing her to growl in the background like a particularly angry terrier. “But to make up for the lost time, I’ll allow skipping the usual formalities. Let’s cut straight to the heart of the matter.”

    “That being…?” Kurotsuchi asked, peering at the face of the young Dormitory Head.

    “You have probably heard that the Youth Initiative has arrived to the city a few days ago…”

    These words caused most of the group that had gathered outside avert gazes awkwardly, creating a momentary confusion amongst the table.

    “…. Well, anyways,” Iratsume Hime continued, deciding not to press the matter. “I decided to do something useful for a change, and invited their most promising member, indicated by the initial test given to them upon arrival, to spend a day with us. To be more precise, this person will be spending the next few days touring the various dormitories to see just what life in OLYMPUS means for those with great abilities. Responsibility, duty and all that good stuff… In other words, I’m being selfishly taking a kid from the boonies and dropping the whippersnapper right into the midst of the action.”

    The slightly self-deprecating words caused the rest of the Dormitory Heads to chuckle at various levels. If there was one thing they had learned about the head of the Half-Blood Dormitories it was that she never took herself too seriously. As sharp in mind as she was, and as deviously clever as she was, she always knew that there was someone out there who could make a fool out of her… and thus she covered all the bases, just in case.

    “And I suppose this person is waiting outside?” Roselia asked with a smile, a question to which Iratsume Hime answered with a nod.

    “Yeah, you got that right. Give me a moment…” the blue-haired girl turned to look back at the door through which they had arrived. “Alright! You can come on in, kiddo!”

    Once again, the side-door was flung open, but this time with far less force. Once it had opened up enough to allow passage for a small person, a figure slipped through the crack and emerged into the dim light of the auditorium. The sight of this newcomer invited various expressions of curiosity from the Dormitory Heads and Advisors gathered. All eyes were focused on the single child slowly approaching the table. However, as slow as the pace was, there was no fear in those steps. If anything, they were lazy steps.

    “Oh, now ain’t that kid cute a a button,” Ayame chuckled and grinned to Roselia, who answered with a smile.

    “Indeed. A rather beautiful child, I must admit.”

    Short, greyish blue hair. Eyes like those of a fox. A smile that was lazy, friendly and sly at the same time. In other word, a kid that was like a vulpine pup had appeared before the Dormitory Heads.

    “Let me introduce you guys to our guest,” Iratsume Hime said and grinned. “This here’s the young genius who won the prize of spending a few days with boring big-shots…”

    The kid grinned at those words.

    “… Mori Kaoru.”




    To Be Continued…

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