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Thread: Calling Card (Psyren x FSN - Nasuverse)

  1. #141
    Quote Originally Posted by warellis View Post
    Sion Eltnam Atlasia? The plot thickens even more~.
    The plot has grown even more thicker~~~.
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  2. #142
    Not always a dragon Draconic's Avatar
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    Wait, hold on a second…

    Holy smokes, IT’S ALIVE! Thank god.
    Likes attention, shiny objects, and... a ball of yarn?

    I joined two years too late...
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    That makes me think of Rin as a loan shark.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hymn of Ragnarok View Post
    Admittedly, she'd probably be the hottest loan shark you'll ever meet. She'd probably make you smile as she sucked you dry.


    Oh dear, that doesn't sound like yuri at all.
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    Not with that attitude.

  3. #143
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    Interlude 3 - Sion Eltnam Atlasia

    There was a building that had yet to fall within the skeleton of a city that had been toppled by the Sandworm.

    It still held three solid walls, one of which had a hollowed out opening that was once a door facing the center of the city. The fourth had been eroded by the decaying winds that had constantly blown against it. No different than how it rotted wood, weathered stone, and rusted steel that were exposed to it as well.

    There, sitting in the corner with her back against the wall, was a young woman. Her untamed purple hair obscured her face like a curtain as she held her lithe hand out. That allowed the near-invisible microfiber to wind itself back into the bracelet that served to house it.

    Her name was Sion Eltnam Atlasia. She was the last of the Eltnam name. And the last who bore the title of Vice-Director within the Atlas Academy.

    Atlas had been an assembly of intellectuals, one of the three branches of the Mage’s Association. Predating even the Clock Tower, the alchemists within had dedicated themselves to seeking out an optimal future for humanity. To that end, they acted to prevent the end of the world foretold by the first Director long ago.

    They had failed in their duties.

    And, as of now, she was the last of the Alchemist of Atlas.

    I accounted for the probability of him resisting, but the fact that his PSI would allow him to forcibly disconnect the Etherlite was...” Her hoarse, yet soft voice trailed off as she assessed additional factors and their potential outcomes into her mind.

    Memory Partitioning, the dividing of the mind into several rooms to perform different thought processes with equal devotion to a singular solution, combined with Thought Acceleration, the ability run those thought processes at an accelerated rate, meant she could take in and process data at a speed that was largely unmatched. She’d seen hundreds of ways the events of the battle could go and used that to move his body optimally to do so—going so far as to remove the limitations on it briefly, so as to maximize the chances of his survival.

    Then he went and forcibly ejected her Etherlite, which had been connected to his central nervous system. That was the equivalent of tearing out a part of his body and should have fried both the nerves and the body itself inside out from being disconnected while it was still functioning. The fact that he had been alive at the end to be taken back was a small mercy, but the fact that the damage would transfer over to his real body meant that he’d be dead or invalid within minutes at best.

    At least under normal circumstances.

    “There’s a capable healer who can regenerate limbs, including nerves,” she told herself after arriving to the conclusion upon analyzing the addition information she’d assessed from his mind. “After a very short readjustment and rehabilitation period, he should be mobile and fighting fit. But the prospect of his cooperation, and that of his allies, is also minimal.”

    The plan had been simple: To avoid a reoccurrence of what happened the last time she’d encountered the Drifters, as well as avoid being discovered by the Homunculi, she would remain hidden and then would leave a set of prepared thought processes in his mind, allowing him to draw the conclusions and contact the version of herself that still existed in the past. A black-box within his mind that would serve as a time capsule with her knowledge from the future. From there the timeline would branch—creating a timeline where these occurrences never came about.

    She sighed as the Etherlite finished recoiling itself around her wrist, having taken in the data from her surroundings to ensure that she was alone. “There’s no other choice then. I have enough data on his behavior and thought process to go off for the next time he returns. It’ll be a little rough and the emulation might not be perfect, but as long as I can keep his PSI capable of reacting then depriving him of his freedom is a small sacrifice compared to the outcome.”

    In truth, that should have been her goal from the start. She could have rewritten his mind and thoughts so that he would have done what she desired. It would have taken time to do so manually as she would have to guide the process, but with what she knew now it should be possible to have a program carry it out almost instantly.

    Sion… If you go that far then it’ll undermine the very principles that you had taken up to this point. It would be cutting another string tethering you to your humanity.’

    The warning came from the data stored within two of the remaining partitions of her mind. Her first friend and the only companion she had left in the world, Riesbyfe Stridberg, Knight of the Shield. Though her body had fallen in battle long ago, her information had been swallowed up during that event and she remained there until Sion had managed to take ownership of it during a special Summer in Misaki Town.

    “I know that.” She curled up as though she felt a chill through the cloak and white uniform she’d stolen from a Homunculus, resting her head against her knees. “But I’m almost out of time, Ries. I was out of time the moment that last group arrived and I… I…”

    She trailed off as she recalled the gravest sin she’d committed as both an Alchemist and Human.

    Bitten by her ancestor, Zepia Eltnam, who had become a Dead Apostle Ancestor, Sion was also a Dead Apostle in the making. Ever since that night she had always been walking on a tightrope over a bottomless pit that was drowning in her vampiric urges and giving way to insanity. One slip was all it’d take and she’d tumble down with no way to climb back up.

    Yet, she’d managed to hold out in her attempt to find a way to cure vampirism. For three years she had struggled in seeking out a cure and hunting down Zepia alone. There was no help, with her only able to flee from the Church and Atlas on borrowed time.

    Then she ran across him.

    He was the first person who’d extended a hand to her willingly after three years. To give her the encouragement to seek the aid of others. He’d changed her for the better, helping her put an end to the Night of Wallachia and bringing the vampiric urges to a stage where she could repress them. He’d given her the possibility of securing a new future and returned a fallen friend to her.

    Yet, all she could do as she bid farewell to that person was to make a promise to come to his aid whenever he’d needed to.

    And she couldn’t even keep that promise when the world as they knew it ended.

    Her ancestor had told her in his final moments. Of why he’d become a vampire. One of the 27 Dead Apostle Ancestors. It was because he had beheld the answer to what awaited the humanity in the future.

    It was a future of nothing but destruction that was upon them, and like a curse of destiny it was something that couldn’t be changed.

    He wasn’t the only one who reached that conclusion. Ever since the first Director of Atlas came to the conclusion that the world would end, every Alchemist who’d worked towards trying to avoid it came to reach that same conclusion that the future was a dead end. No matter how many times they thought about, no matter how many simulations they ran, no matter how many countermeasures they tried to put into place to avoid the foreseen outcome, the future only grew worse—the time table was only sped up.

    Yet, they persisted. Time and again they tried to avert that future, challenging fate for the sake of humanity. They challenged it until they were eventually driven into madness and insanity, or took their own life.

    Atlas was known as a Den of Madness for this reason.

    Zepia warned her that as one who bore the name of Atlasia, she too would fall into despair and give into madness to try and escape it. Her vampiric nature would take hold as she realized there was no hope, and she would drown in blood at that moment. Then, in taking in its dark taste and indulging in the revelry that was to be a Dead Apostle, she would truly be his successor.

    She pitied him at his last moment, but she told herself that she would never become him. She would find a way to cure her condition and then find a new hope for humanity. Yet, when she first gazed upon the ash-colored sky that stopped the light of the sun from touching the ground, she understood in that moment exactly what he’d felt.

    It was the end of the world that hadn’t been foreseen. An irregularity that hadn’t occurred in any of their simulations, bringing about a new end that hadn’t been accounted for. They had no measures against it.

    Even so, she searched for clues. For information. The more information she had, the more confidence she would be in finding a way to save what was left of humanity and the world. She held onto that hope to drive off the all-consuming despair, banking on the satisfaction that was to be human when overcoming an obstacle to slake her thirst.

    Her search left her scouring the globe for years. Hundreds of thousands of calculations. Experimentation on everything that she could with limited equipment, constantly being hounded by the artificial creatures known as the Taboo and the ones pulling their strings with only Ries to watch her back. The others who would be her allies—Atlas, the Mage’s Association, even him—had perished on the Day of Rebirth.

    But, as Sion searched for clues and found none, hope waned. She grew desperate to figure out what had caused this. So she took a calculated risk and tried to infiltrate one of the towers that had been erected in this land—in his home country. They were the only structures that were left unaffected by the changes, made of an alloy that could somehow weather the erosion that befell everything else beneath the ashen sky.

    She’d barely made it out alive, but she did obtain just enough information to know what was happening. Enough to know the Age of Man was over, and it was too late to avert it. As things stood, within another five years there wouldn’t be anything left of the world as it was on both a physical and conceptual level.

    The fact that there wouldn’t even be a record to show that humanity existed was what truly threatened to break her.

    Everything died in the end. But to die and leave no record of your existence for those that were to come was a true tragedy. Yet, that was what was occurring beneath her own two feet. The moment she’d reached that conclusion, there was only two things left for her:

    Death as a Human or Madness as a Vampire.

    It was only then, as she was on the verge falling off that fine line towards one side or the other, that a hand reached out to her once more.

    His name was Tatsumi.

    He claimed to have come from the past with his allies to save the future. A virtuous spirit like him, carrying hope for a future that hadn’t fallen. A light in the darkness of despair that even if this timeline would be lost, the past could be changed so that another branch in the tree of time could sprout.

    Then they were attacked again.

    And she’d snuffed out that light in the aftermath.

    We need to keep moving. They’ll be after us soon enough, and you’re almost out of rounds for the Barrel Replica.’

    As she began to walk again, Sion resolved herself to see things through to remain sane. She had done the unforgivable with Tatsumi and sacrificed the others that came with him. Her body’s state as a vampire while her spirit was barely tethered to what was left to her humanity were proof of that. But if she managed to get that knowledge back to the past then that was enough.

    She would have fulfilled her duties as a member of Atlas. There would be another chance to change the reality of the future. Another chance to see her promise to Shiki carried out by her past-self. And then…

    And then salvation would come for her.
    Last edited by Twi; January 23rd, 2018 at 06:49 AM.
    Yet the burden shall be shared by two entwined, from which the sword will part from the body and be bestowed upon the vassal to sacrifice themselves and cleave through space and time.

    Mark upon this unworthy flesh the emblem of the sacrifice, the vassal whose death shall bring forth victory through the fields of steel and blood!

    The oath is laid here. We are the ones who represent all the good within the pure lands, and we are the ones who judge what is evil within the pure lands. Thou, Seven Heavens clad in three mere words of unequal power, shall emerge from the spiral of control, O keeper of the balance—!


  4. #144
    Am i correct in reading the parts "gravest sin she’d committed as both an Alchemist and Human", "And she’d snuffed out that light in the aftermath" alongside Tastu's injury as her becoming a vampire?
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  5. #145
    Author of Mages Twi's Avatar
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    As a human, she had made a promise to herself to change from how she was thanks to Shiki, but she assessed how hopeless the situation was and directly manipulated his teammates to throw themselves at the enemy to give them time to escape. As an Alchemist, she's supposed to do whatever it takes to secure a future for humanity. When she tore out his throat in a moment of weakness as a vampire due to her injuries, she'd essentially snuffed out one of the things that could have stopped that future. She threw away one for the other only to end up accomplishing nothing and now she's on a timer.

    I should also mention that this follows the Melty Blood Manga.
    Yet the burden shall be shared by two entwined, from which the sword will part from the body and be bestowed upon the vassal to sacrifice themselves and cleave through space and time.

    Mark upon this unworthy flesh the emblem of the sacrifice, the vassal whose death shall bring forth victory through the fields of steel and blood!

    The oath is laid here. We are the ones who represent all the good within the pure lands, and we are the ones who judge what is evil within the pure lands. Thou, Seven Heavens clad in three mere words of unequal power, shall emerge from the spiral of control, O keeper of the balance—!


  6. #146
    So she did feed on Tatsu and her sin as an Alchemist is that she not only failed to accomplish anything to save the future, but in doing so actually stopped the things that could have.
    ... ... ...I've always wondered if Magi ever realize how self destructive their "no sacrifice is too great" mind set really is. Sion here followed it to the T with using Tatsu's friends as shields and not only accomplished absolutely nothing but also shot her...Magi objective in the foot by doing it. How many other such sacrifices made by Magi have not only done the same or was just not necessary? Like that guy who was Medea's original Master in the second UBW anime? Not only did he sacrifice kids, completely destroying himself as a human to allow him to use them, but Medea made a better way to make them without the need for kids that he could use in a few days. Can't help but wonder if he could have done the same.
    Last edited by shounen jump; January 23rd, 2018 at 12:49 PM.
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  7. #147
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    In her defense, the circumstances weren't ideal and she'd suffered what would have been fatal wounds if she hadn't fed when she did. Buying her time so she could put that black-box into Tatsumi's head and then have Nemesis Q cart him back was fine from a strictly utilitarian point of view since she managed to get away with him. The nature of the attack had led them all being injured and Tatsumi was the only one capable of flight to escape with, albeit a decision that she as a human and friend to Shiki who values life due to how fragile it is was resent. So she removed their limiters and basically guided all of their thoughts towards fighting to the death so that they could escape. Tatsumi's teammates died, but the one who'd attacked her was injured enough that he's still recovering from that beating and why the Life-Propagation was the one in the city instead of the Outriders.

    Her mistake as a member of Atlas was not being able to have Ries stop her the moment she's snapped and thus killing her only link to the past right before he was pulled back. If she'd attacked him even a minute earlier then Tatsumi wouldn't have woken up at all to see his sister and died there, tipping the rest off.
    Yet the burden shall be shared by two entwined, from which the sword will part from the body and be bestowed upon the vassal to sacrifice themselves and cleave through space and time.

    Mark upon this unworthy flesh the emblem of the sacrifice, the vassal whose death shall bring forth victory through the fields of steel and blood!

    The oath is laid here. We are the ones who represent all the good within the pure lands, and we are the ones who judge what is evil within the pure lands. Thou, Seven Heavens clad in three mere words of unequal power, shall emerge from the spiral of control, O keeper of the balance—!


  8. #148
    Fair point. I mean people have done stupid/horrible things when extremely tired and/or hungry. From what i understand the...Hunger is like that on a good day. Add the injuries to that and... And i can see how desperate she would be and i honestly can't say i wouldn't be at least tempted.
    On the other hand had she is planning on doing worse on Shinji, when all she would have to do is just talk to Ayako or Gatou...
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  9. #149
    Author of Mages Twi's Avatar
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    I'm working on the next chapter this month. Here's what I have so far:
    Spoiler:

    I struggle to walk with Sakura as we headed to the school the next day since my body was still adjusting to having my nervous system regrown. I couldn’t stay at the Temple any longer after I’d woken up. Not without drawing suspicion from Sakura.

    So, after school was over, Ayako brought her to pick me up, after getting the details of the story she’d been told. We were hashing out the final details of the Training Camp for the Archery Club when I’d taken a bad fall on the mountain. They were keeping me to see if there was any serious damage done since I insisted that I didn’t want to go to the hospital.

    It was shoddy, to be honest. But given my previous experiences with hospitals it served well enough to stop her from asking questions. And there were no nightmares, thankfully. I attribute that to the fact that there seemed to be some overlap with having my soul displaced and then reintegrated.

    “Are you sure you don’t want to stay at home, Nii-san?” Sakura asks.

    “It’s a half-day today, so I may as well make the effort.”

    The classes will end before Noon, so it’s not that I’ll have to stay for long. And, since the Drifters that are still active in Fuyuki all attend this school, it’d be an inconspicuous meeting place this morning before classes to meet up and hash out what we’ll be being doing with the newcomers.

    Once that’s out of the way, it’s back home. I need all the time I can get to work out how to deal with the issue of the body-jacker. Considering how many bodies the Old Worm stole to preserve his life, he had to have something I can use to counteract what happened before.

    “Then, please don’t push yourself too hard,” Sakura pleads with me. “You haven’t been well lately, and I’m worried about you.”

    “…You should be more worried about yourself. The Training Camp is the last thing Ayako and I will do as the leaders of the Archery Club. The rest is on your shoulders like it should have been, so you’ll have to assert yourself. I expect you can do that much by now, right?”

    She nodded. “Yes. I’ll do my best, so please don’t worry.”

    The talk tapered off there until we made it to the school and found Ayako leaning against the wall next to the entrance. She was looking off to the side with her bag behind her, drinking from a can in her other hand. Once she noticed us coming, she straightened up.

    “Good Morning, Mitsuzuri-senpai.” Sakura says, giving a slight bow in greeting.

    “Morning, Sakura. Shinji. Are you feeling well this morning?” | ‘How is your body doing?’

    “Shouldn’t you be opening up the club.” I shrug as Sakura exchanges pleasantries with her. | ‘I’m not doing anything physical today.’

    “I let my brother handle that.” | ‘Head to the rooftop then. I’ll send the others up when they get here.’

    I take that as cue to move and then leave Sakura and Ayako to talk as I enter the building and climb up the stairs up the rooftop. The door is unlocked when I get there, no doubt due to the Student President. There’s also a desk with some of the energy bars and canned drinks waiting for us.

    I didn’t know how long it’ll be until the others get here, so I don’t bother waiting. I grab a canned coffee and then stand over by the fences, resting my back against it with a sigh. Then I pop it open and drink while getting my thoughts together.

    I need some way of dealing with that body-snatcher before we get called to the future again. But I don’t understand enough about it to make any specific countermeasures. And I can’t just rely in my PSI to do what happened like before.

    It was pure luck I made it back in time to be healed, since the damage was linked to my brain. The brain is the anchor-point of the soul, so if that gets severely damaged then next time I may not be so fortunate. The Old Worm probably had some way of getting around that, but I don’t have that luxury.

    I look down to my empty hand as I take a sip from the can. I’ve been feeling that energy permeating me in the future in the present, thrumming beneath my skin. It wasn’t as strong of a sensation as it was in the future, but I can notice it much more clearly than before. If this is what they meant by PSI getting stronger then I should think it’ll be less strenuous to come up with something to help me out for the next time.

    No one makes a puppet out of me. Never again.

    Then there was the matter of the Einzbern being involved. Even if the other Taboo were shoddier looking, their homunculi were distinct in appearance. It was safe to assume they had a hand in that, but what did they gain from turning the future into that state?

    The door to the rooftop opens with a loud sound before I can think of a reason. The loud-mouth of the Track Trio, Makidera, emerges and looks towards me before turning back and saying, “See, he’s fine, Yukicchi!”

    The mousy one, Saegusa, then comes out onto the rooftop while flanked by the stuck-up one, Himuro. She gives me a polite bow while Makidera goes straight for the table with the refreshments. “Good morning, Matou-kun.”

    “Morning.” I straighten up, setting one hand in my pocket and brushing against the calling card there. “They said you all made it back, but you skipped school on Friday while I was out.”

    “It was insisted that that we remain for observation at the hospital before we were released yesterday evening,” Himuro explains. “The doctors labeled exhaustion as the likely cause when there were no more changes, barring the nose-bleeds.”

    “Those hacks even suggested that we quit the Track Club before they let us go,” Makidera says while in the midst of tearing open an energy bar. “Like that’s going to solve anything when it isn’t even the problem.”

    Himuro pushes her glasses up slightly. “Even if that’s the case, I suspect that we’ll be asked to remain on the sidelines for our own safety for a while. The number of deaths so far from seemingly similar cases around the world will have made the people weary, and so to avoid accountability on the school’s part they’ll have to minimize the risk of it happening again.”

    “But that’s not fair,” she whines and then points to me. “He and Mitsuzuri get to remain in their club and they have an archery competition coming up! Why should we get benched when they don’t?”

    “That can’t be helped since you passed out right after practice and can’t explain the situation without being killed.” I say, struggling not to bring my hand to my head at her petulant problem. Has she forgotten that her life is in danger? “If it’s any consolation, Mitsuzuri and I have basically retired from leading the Archery Club as of today to make time for this issue under the excuse that my deteriorating health and her studies have been piling up, so it’s not like we’re getting one ahead of you.”

    “Umm… are you actually okay, Matou-kun?” Saegusa asks me as she approaches slowly. “When that hole appeared in the building and we looked out of it, we saw you lying on the ground and bleeding while Gotou-san was trying to wake you up.”

    That must’ve been right after he’d killed the homunculus but before Ayako’s shot finished off the worm. From what I heard, he’d developed some kind of Burst that caused crystals to burst from the bones in his arms and formed a shell. I didn’t press for details then since I had my own issues, but it was probably something similar to what I did in that he wanted to accomplish something, and his PSI just filled in the blanks.

    “I’m not fully back to normal yet, but other than I’m fine,” I look away, not meeting her eyes. I really didn’t like to be pitied and I could feel it coming off her stare. “But what about you? Were you able to put your family’s worries at ease?”

    “Oh… umm, I was actually surprised when I woke up to find my brothers all around me crying when I woke up,” she answers after some thought. “Though Kouta said he was more upset about dinner, so now I owe him a double day on both that and breakfast, his eyes were the reddest.”

    “Well, a child wouldn’t be honest with their feelings. But why were you surprised to find that they’d be worried? You basically take care of them when your parents can’t so, isn’t it natural that they would be happy to see you’re well now?”

    “I… guess I didn’t really think of it that.” She looks to the ground while wearing a somewhat soft frown. “I was always worried about them, so I didn’t really take the time to think about how they’d feel if something happened to me. Just that I wouldn’t be able to take care of them.”

    “You only really think about things like that when you’re in a position to lose everything.” Hindsight was cruel in that way. I couldn’t guess what regrets she had when she was holding onto her friend, facing the Hound while the other was being carted away. But ultimately it was purely by chance we ran into her in time.

    Considering how her frown deepened, she knew that as well. “We… have to go back there at some point, don’t we?”

    “Unfortunately,” I tell her with a shrug. “Until we change the future, or we reduce our count to zero, we’ll have to go when we’re called. It’s unfair, but there’s nothing we can do about it except get ready for the challenges we encounter.”

    There’s a lull in the atmosphere after that. A moment of clarity as the reminder clicks into place. Even if they’ve returned to this age of peace, they will be called back to that time of strife. What happened before can happen again—capture and death.

    Makidera finishes stuffing her face with the energy bar and then clears her throat, puffing out her chest pridefully. “Don’t worry so much, Yukicchi. Once I unlock my power, I’ll protect you. I mean, if Matou can become so tough after only one trip then imagine just of fearsome the Black Panther of Homura will be.”
    Yet the burden shall be shared by two entwined, from which the sword will part from the body and be bestowed upon the vassal to sacrifice themselves and cleave through space and time.

    Mark upon this unworthy flesh the emblem of the sacrifice, the vassal whose death shall bring forth victory through the fields of steel and blood!

    The oath is laid here. We are the ones who represent all the good within the pure lands, and we are the ones who judge what is evil within the pure lands. Thou, Seven Heavens clad in three mere words of unequal power, shall emerge from the spiral of control, O keeper of the balance—!


  10. #150
    Shinji's not going to take what Makidera said well is he?
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  11. #151
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    He doesn't take anything she says seriously to begin with, as long as she makes herself useful fighting in front while he's on the rear lines. He has less of a chance of dying that way, and as he told Saegusa last time, survival is what matters.
    Yet the burden shall be shared by two entwined, from which the sword will part from the body and be bestowed upon the vassal to sacrifice themselves and cleave through space and time.

    Mark upon this unworthy flesh the emblem of the sacrifice, the vassal whose death shall bring forth victory through the fields of steel and blood!

    The oath is laid here. We are the ones who represent all the good within the pure lands, and we are the ones who judge what is evil within the pure lands. Thou, Seven Heavens clad in three mere words of unequal power, shall emerge from the spiral of control, O keeper of the balance—!


  12. #152
    I can't tell if that's a sign of his growth as a person to not be set off from every little thing, or how little he thinks of her, or if he's just use to her character.
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  13. #153
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    He typically ignored the Track Trio from what I can tell. And while he might get a snipe or two in now that they aren't in imminent danger (i.e. like he did during the trip to the bar with Issei and Gotou), he does kind of need them alive for Ayako's mental well-being and meat shields. Ideally since they could possibly plug in the gaping hole in their current formation.
    Yet the burden shall be shared by two entwined, from which the sword will part from the body and be bestowed upon the vassal to sacrifice themselves and cleave through space and time.

    Mark upon this unworthy flesh the emblem of the sacrifice, the vassal whose death shall bring forth victory through the fields of steel and blood!

    The oath is laid here. We are the ones who represent all the good within the pure lands, and we are the ones who judge what is evil within the pure lands. Thou, Seven Heavens clad in three mere words of unequal power, shall emerge from the spiral of control, O keeper of the balance—!


  14. #154
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    Chapter 18

    “Are you really okay, Nii-san?”


    The question coming from Sakura grates on my mind. Part of it stems from not wanting to repeat myself for the third time today. But the other part stems from the fact that walking such a short distance shouldn’t be so difficult.


    Ayako brought Sakura to pick me up yesterday after school. She had been told we were hashing out the final details of the Training Camp for the Archery Club when I’d taken a bad fall on the mountain and they were keeping me to see if there was any serious damage done, since I insisted that I didn’t want to go to the hospital. The shoddy lie meant that I couldn’t stay any longer without drawing suspicion, so we went home.


    Now it was the day afterwards and, while I can move better than before, walking fast just isn’t happening.


    Sakura’s slowing herself down to keep pace with me. Another form of pity that I’m not fond of and she knows it. But it’s like she just can’t help it, so here we were.


    “The lingering pain will pass in a few days and I’ll be able to move fine again, so stop worrying,” I tell her.


    “But you shouldn’t be putting this kind of stress on yourself just to attend a half-day.”


    She’s right. Or she would be under normal circumstances where I wouldn’t have made the effort. But, because the rest of the active Drifters in Fuyuki are attending school today, it makes for the most convenient meeting place for us. And, once school ended, I could head right back home to focus on finding a means of dealing with the more important issues—like finding the Einzberns.


    I don’t know what why they played a part in the end of the world, but those were their homunculi. Since they’ve been involved with the Holy Grail War from the beginning, there’s no way the Old Worm didn’t have ample information on them. Once I pinned down a location, I’d send the Veterans to go deal with them.


    And once we killed them in this time period, they’d cease to be a problem in the future. If we were lucky, it would be just the thing to save the world—breaking our contracts and setting us free.


    The thought of being done with all of this was enough to make me smile until I noticed Sakura still staring at me.


    “Sakura, you should be more worried about yourself. Arranging this Training Camp is the last thing Mitsuzuri and I will do as the leaders of the Archery Club. The rest is on your shoulders like it should have been, so you’ll have to assert yourself. You can do that much by now, right?”


    Her expression falters at having the discussion become about her instead of me. But she schools her features and nods resolutely. “Yes. I’ll do my best, so please don’t worry about me.”


    The talking tapers off there until we make it to the school minutes later. Out of all of the students walking about, Ayako stands out. She’s waiting against the wall next to the entrance with her eyes closed and her head leaning back. Did she fall asleep on her feet?


    You shouldn’t sleep in front of the school.


    Her eyes snap open at the wake-up call and she addresses us. “Morning, Sakura. Shinji. Are you both doing well?”


    “Nii-san is still having a little trouble moving his body, but other than that we’re both well,” Sakura says, giving her a slight bow in greeting. “Thank you for watching after him until now, Mitsuzuri-senpai.”


    “If I’d been a little more careful it wouldn’t have come to that, so it was the least I could do for him.” Her eyes shift to me and a telepathic message follows. ‘I was speaking with Issei about something important. Head to the rooftop and I’ll explain it later with the others.


    Got it.’ I turn to Sakura briefly as I walk past them. “I’m not doing anything physical today, so you two’ll have to handle opening up the club.”


    “Have a good day, Nii-san.”


    Shinji… about Gai…


    I stop and look over my shoulder in Ayako’s direction. ‘What about him?


    He’s been a lot more reserved after what happened. To save you, he ended up having to kill one of the Soldier Taboo and he took it pretty badly.


    From what I heard, he developed a Burst that caused a layer of crystalline material to jut up from the bones in his arms and form a shell around them as he crushed the Homunculus’ skull. It was desperation act. He wanted to accomplish something, and his PSI just filled in the blanks.


    He does realize they would have killed us if he didn’t, right?


    …It’s easy to say that, but….’ There’s an undercurrent of melancholy as she trails off. ‘Look, I’m just letting you know so that you don’t set him off by accident. We talked to him about it when we got back from the future, and he said he just needs to have some time to come to terms with it.


    Fine. I won’t say anything to him.’ I wouldn’t really be able to relate to him on the problem anyways since I had no issue with killing anything that tried to kill me. Better to leave it to the people who can do that. ‘Anything else?


    The Trio will be coming back after missing school yesterday, so—


    Right. Right. Be nice to them too.’ I start to walk again into the building and climb the stairs until I get to the rooftop entrance. Past the door I find six chairs and desks facing one another, arranged for us to take a seat and converse. Energy bars and canned drinks on top of each of them makes for a poor substitute for breakfast, but it’s better than nothing to start the day.


    I take a seat on the left side and lean against the backrest while staring up at the sky, trying to get my thoughts together. We have a reprieve for now, during which we needed to train the Track Trio. But I also need some way of dealing with that body-snatcher before we get called to the future again.


    Last time she managed to connect directly to my central nervous system, taking over my body and tampering with my memories without me knowing. I can’t presume that I’d be able to detect her the next time. And I can’t just rely on my PSI to reject the connection like before.


    It was pure luck I made it back in time to be healed when the damage was linked to my brain. The brain acts as the anchor-point of the soul. I don’t know how our souls get shunted into the future, but if the brain gets severely damaged then it’s over.


    Likewise, I didn’t understand enough about the method she used to develop a countermeasure. If it was a Trance or Mental Interference ability, I could probably find some way to shield myself from it. But only if I could detect it coming.


    I raise my hand to the sky and just look at it. I can still feel some of that energy permeating me like in the future. Thrumming beneath my skin mildly compared to when in the future. If this is what they meant by PSI getting stronger over multiple trips, then it’ll be less strenuous to come up with something to help me out for the next time.


    No one will make a puppet out of me. Never again.


    THUMP!!



    The door to the rooftop opens with a loud sound. It causes me to fall out of my seat in surprise, leaving me to hit the rooftop with a painful crash. I suck in a sharp breath before glaring daggers at the one responsible.


    Makidera’s face cringes for a moment before she looks away, rubbing the back of her head sheepishly. “Ah, sorry about that.”


    Remembering Ayako’s request, I force myself to breath out slowly and vent my agitation harmlessly as I get back to my feet. “Just take a seat.”


    She hurries over to the other side, wisely putting distance between us while Saegusa comes out next. Her soft, brown eyes pass on a silent apology as she follows the first one to the other side of the table. Himuro is the last, giving me a slight nod in greeting as she takes her place between the two.


    I return to my seat opposite Saegusa and grab the can of coffee on the desk. I need the caffeine to deal with the loud-mouth this early in the morning. Unfortunately, the milky taste ruins the coffee entirely and leaves me even more agitated as the uptight one starts a conversation.


    “First, let me offer my gratitude for aiding us in that situation,” she states. “Had you and the others not been there, it’s very likely none of us would have woken up in the hospital. There is likely nothing we can do to repay that debt, but we shall make an effort if it is reasonably possible.”


    “I’ll just ask you take this matter seriously so that you can keep surviving from here on. Otherwise it wouldn’t have been any different than if we left you to die there. Aside from that, I trust there weren’t any complications when you woke in the hospital, were there?”


    “There were minor tests to try and grasp what happened to us after we all denied having done anything other than attend our club before we fell unconscious. Ultimately, the doctors labeled exhaustion as the likely cause since there were no more physical changes and made rather generic recommendations to prevent it in the future.”


    “Those hacks even suggested that we quit,” Makidera loudly complains amid tearing open an energy bar. “Like that’s going to solve anything when it isn’t even the problem.”


    “You know you’ll still probably be asked to sit on the sidelines. If not retire, right?”


    I thought it was obvious, but it seems she didn’t expect it from the look of surprise that blossomed on her face. “Wait, what?”


    “You passed out after a practice in the locker room on the same day that more than a few hundred died from similar cases around the whole of Japan, and people who have recovered from said passing out in the past have either committed suicide or died at a later date, despite not having any sort of commonality between them. The fact that the cause is still unknown has left people scrambling for answers, and since we can’t give them the truth without dying they’re not going to get them.”


    “So the school will have to attempt to avoid accountability by minimizing the risk of it happening again.” Himuro nods in agreement. “Yes, I suspect before the day is done our club sponsor will be having words with us. Even if they didn’t, the matter of our survival means that we’d have to cut down or retire from the club in order to properly train our abilities.”


    Indignant at having to give up something she’s worked hard for over the last few years, Makidera leaps up and points to me. “But that’s not fair! He and Mitsuzuri get to remain in their club, so why should we get benched when they don’t?”


    “Our circumstances are different enough that it doesn’t even apply.” I’d been suffering from sleep deprivation and was manhandled by Ayako’s brother, while she wasn’t even on the school grounds when it happened. “If it’s any consolation, Mitsuzuri and I have basically retired from leading the Archery Club as of today under the excuse that my deteriorating health and her studies have been piling up. So, we’re in the same situation.”


    She visibly looks somewhat relieved until Himuro gives her a subtle tap with her elbow that passes along the message that it’s not a good thing. She then clears her throat and tries to play it off. “Y-Yeah, it sucks for all of us.”


    I tamper down on my urge call her out on being petulant. Partly because Ayako ask that I play nice today and partly because I had the feeling this was her way of trying to cope. After all, she was the closest of these three to dying and one of her ties to normalcy was taken away from her. Misery loves company.


    So I move the conversation away from her and turn my attention to the last of the three. “Were you able to put your family’s worries at ease, Saegusa?”


    “Oh… umm… I think so.” She fidgets a bit while gathering her thoughts. “I was actually surprised when I woke up to find my brothers all around me crying. Kouta said he was more upset about dinner and now I owed him a double day on both that and breakfast, but his eyes were the reddest.”


    “Well, a child wouldn’t be honest with their feelings. But why were you surprised to find that they’d be worried? You basically take care of them when your parents can’t, so isn’t it natural that they would be happy to see you’re doing well now?”


    “I was always worried about them, so I didn’t really take the time to think about how they’d feel if something happened to me. Just that I wouldn’t be able to take care of them if I was gone.” She looks to the desk while wearing a somewhat soft frown. “But… there’s still a chance that’ll happen the next time, isn’t there?”


    I don’t sugarcoat my answer. “Until we change the future, or we reduce our count to zero, we’ll have to go when we’re called. The best we can do is make it so that you have the best chance possible of returning so that they don’t have to experience that sort of worry or pain anytime soon. It’s unfair, but there’s nothing we can do about it right now.”


    There’s a lull of silence at that. What happened before can happen again, and if they’re not up to the challenge then they’ll die. I won’t try to soften that fact because it’s the reality of the situation.


    In an effort to raise the mood that I’d intentionally crushed down, Makidera puffs out her chest and says, “Don’t worry so much, Yukicchi. Just leave all the fighting to me and we’ll clear it in no time. I mean, if even Matou can become so tough after only one trip, then imagine just how much stronger we’ll be too?”


    I’m pretty sure those words were just meant to be for Saegusa’s sake rather than insulting me, but that’s three strikes in less than five minutes. If I don’t get back at her somehow now it’d rankle me for the rest of the day. “Then you can take my place fighting the next time we get there.”


    A short-lived look of pure shock dawns on her face. “Huh?”


    “I’m not suited for the frontlines to begin with, so if someone more qualified steps up then I can focus more on a supporting role and handle the logistics to make sure everything goes smoothly. Mitsuzuri will probably be a bit harsh in her training to get you up to par in short order, but anything short of death can be healed away by the Student President easily enough.”


    The way her body stiffens despite her effort to hide her nervousness gives away her façade, but her pride won’t let her back out so easily. “S-sure, leave it to me!”


    “Excellent.” The way I see it, either she’ll fulfill the role suitable enough or die trying.


    Himuro politely clears her throat before I can savor the moment though and pulls out her calling card out. “Can you show us how many points were deducted now?”


    I pull out my own from my pocket and press it to my forehead. “Do like this and that’ll be enough.”


    The other two pull their cards out to copy Himuro as she does so. Her eyes slightly broaden before she pulls it away from her head, no doubt experiencing the same sensation I did my first time. Then her brows compress as she bears witness to the corner of the card eroding into black and the number appears.


    “Mine’s Forty-nine,” Makidera states with a frown while looking over to the other two. No doubt they had the same count. Then she looks over to me with an expectant glance, wordlessly pressing me for an answer.


    “Forty-two. I lost five in this trip and three in my first trip.”


    If I had to guess, losing five points was probably because of the nature of the mission. It started out as a Recruitment Mission, or at least it appeared to before it turned into an Extermination Mission. Not to mention we learned of Atlasia, who likely has the key to unraveling what brought that future about.


    If anything, I think that we should have lost more points given everything that happened. But, for now, I’ll take what I can get.


    Unfortunately, Makidera’s petulant side rears its ugly head again in the wake of the information. “Why did you lose more than us for your first trip?”


    “Because Gotou and I had been given the task of escorting Mitsuzuri to the checkpoint after she ended up too exhausted to fight our first trip, whereas you three only barely managed to survive until we found you. It couldn’t be helped given how you and the other survivors didn’t know anything and weren’t capable of fighting back, but that difference between our circumstances still applies.”


    She doesn’t look all that pleased at the explanation, but it’s the reality of the situation in the end.


    Gai’s here now, so we’re coming up.’


    The telepathic message from Ayako rings in my head. Theirs too judging from the reactions it caused. They’re not exactly used to having a voice other than their own in their heads, despite the explanation that I gave them in the future, so they’re a lot less calm about it and it takes them a minute to settle down.


    That’s when the door opens and Gai steps out of the entrance first. He takes in the sight of all of us until his eyes meet mine. It makes him pause in place for a moment. Then he takes a breath and steps over towards my side of the table.


    Ayako follows behind him, sparing him a sympathetic look before her expression shifts to one more amicable as she meets the gazes of the Track Trio and shuts the door. “Sorry for taking up your morning like this, but it’s important that we meet up when we can now. More so considering the circumstances aren’t better to start your training this afternoon.”


    I… don’t like the sound of that. “Did something come up?”


    “Issei and his brother will be heading up further north once school ends to discuss things with the Veteran I mentioned having worked Tatsumi’s group in the past. That means we won’t be able to use the temple or have someone who can heal us until they get back, while Neko’s place is on the other side of the city.”


    Oh, come on. I could understand the Monk leaving, but the other had more use to us here since he provided us with a place to train, a method of getting there discreetly, and the ability to heal if any of us got injured. “Do both need to go right now?”


    “If the circumstances were a bit different, no. But some of the people we saved got in contact with us, and we can’t have a situation like with Tatsumi and the others dying without any of us being aware. So Issei is going to use his power to set up a network and try to keep the peace between his brother and Ryougi-san, since the talk yesterday over the phone didn’t go so well.”


    I can only see a handful of the people we saved following up with the training, so I don’t have much hope for a new wave of Drifters to help us out. But, if there’s an issue between the Veterans then that’ll be problematic. They’re the most experienced ones and the most important assets we have to deal with external threats.


    “Do you suspect it’ll turn violent?” Himuro asks, inserting herself into the conversation in an effort to mine for more information.


    Ayako crosses her arms and closes her eyes in thought for a moment. “Mmm… I don’t think it’ll get that far with Issei there. Supposedly the two have an easier time understanding one another and he has a level head. But if she’s the one there instead, it’ll be troublesome.”


    “There are two of them?”


    “No, I mean his other half,” she clarifies. “I never witnessed the change myself but from how Neko put it, Kaname Ryougi is two people in a single body and their specialty with PSI changes depending on which personality is in charge. The male personality specializes in Rise and Burst but is incapable of using Trance. The female personality specializes in Trance and Burst but is incapable of using Rise.”


    “A split-personality?” Himuro brings her hand to her chin in thought. “From what you’ve told the three of us in the future about PSI, the power uses the brain in order to process and manifest the abilities. If there’s a preexisting mental disorder, I suppose it shouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility that such things could also affect how their power is expressed.”


    I don’t discount the possibility either. Some magi do develop dual personalities to help them blend into society better or use magecraft in different ways. But that’s usually a form of self-hypnosis, not an actual disorder.


    Ayako continues on regardless. “Whether he had it before he got there or suffered a breakdown afterwards isn’t something I know, but the male personality is the one they interact with the most and he doesn’t really help past teaching basics.”


    It sounds to me like he’s apathetic to the situation of others because they’re not his problem, which is understandable under normal circumstances. But, since we need the survivors to pad out our numbers or these trips to the future will keep happening more frequently for our group, that’s going to have to be dealt with. “And what about the other one?”


    “Terrifying enough that they feel the need to send two Veterans instead of just one,” she states. “Through a combination of Trance and Burst, she basically makes whatever illusions she projects into the target happen in real life. So, in theory, she can pretty much kill anyone she wants to with a thought.”


    I don’t buy it. You can’t just wish someone dead and make it happen. There’s a system to these things, even if we can’t see it. Most likely this Ryougi person lied about her PSI’s true nature in order to conceal its weakness.


    Even so, Himuro seems intrigued by the prospect. “Could it be some form of psychosomatic hallucination?”


    Makidera holds up her hand to stall her from going further. “Hold on. A psycho-what now?”


    “It’s when the brain believes something is happening to the body and that gets reflected. I’ve heard about an experiment where something similar happened with people who were allergic to poison ivy being blindfolded. One arm was rubbed with an ordinary leaf and told it was the poison ivy, while the other arm was rubbed with the actual plant and told it was harmless. Most of them ended up breaking out in rashes on the arm that was rubbed with the harmless leaf instead.”


    “Maybe,” Ayako states. “Maybe, but the mechanics of her PSI is secondary to how she uses it. According to the others, when the male personality does the fighting he uses Rise to raise his physical abilities while wielding a sword and then Burst to fire it off as an extension of his swing, hitting their cores for a clean kill. But when they faced the Soldier Taboo, she’d come out and use that her PSI to torture them slowly with a smile on her face, rather than destroying them off right off the bat.”


    The information unsettles the others to an extent, but I can think of a pragmatic reason for the torture while they stew on it. Most likely it’s conditional on using Trance to project the hallucination and using the brain’s response to have the Burst make it a reality. That limits it to the Homunculus, since they’re capable of actual thought and human understanding, and the act of building up is a means of strengthening the effect of her PSI until she can kill with a thought.


    Or she could just like relishing the act of killing something that looks human. Or both. They’re not mutually-exclusive.


    Either way, Himuro doesn’t accept the information without scrutiny and makes it known. “Are you certain that information isn’t being exaggerated by biases?”


    “Well, there might be some, since its clear Neko and the others don’t exactly like how hands-off he is,” Ayako concedes. “But I don’t think they’d lie given the seriousness of the situation, so I’m taking the warning seriously and passing it along.”


    “Umm… c-can we change the subject?” Saegusa asks, a slight tremor in her voice. This is clearly not how she saw this morning’s discussion going and now she’s uncomfortable.


    “I guess we did get a little off-topic in how it directly affects us,” Ayako admits. “Anyway, since they’re gone we need to address the issue of where we’re going to be teaching you until they get back on Monday evening, so…”


    Her eyes turn to me as she trails off. Then she smiles in a way that tells me I won’t like what’s coming next.


    “Shinji, you don’t mind if we use your place this afternoon, do you?”
    Last edited by Twi; April 8th, 2018 at 11:46 AM.
    Yet the burden shall be shared by two entwined, from which the sword will part from the body and be bestowed upon the vassal to sacrifice themselves and cleave through space and time.

    Mark upon this unworthy flesh the emblem of the sacrifice, the vassal whose death shall bring forth victory through the fields of steel and blood!

    The oath is laid here. We are the ones who represent all the good within the pure lands, and we are the ones who judge what is evil within the pure lands. Thou, Seven Heavens clad in three mere words of unequal power, shall emerge from the spiral of control, O keeper of the balance—!


  15. #155
    Just to be clear we're talking about the Shiki from Garden Of Sinners, right?
    For those writers looking for new story ideas visit my account: https://www.fanfiction.net/u/6347453/FateOnline. There are dozens of challenges there waiting to be picked up.

  16. #156
    Author of Mages Twi's Avatar
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    No, she has a brother that couldn't develop a second personality and was exiled from the family.
    Yet the burden shall be shared by two entwined, from which the sword will part from the body and be bestowed upon the vassal to sacrifice themselves and cleave through space and time.

    Mark upon this unworthy flesh the emblem of the sacrifice, the vassal whose death shall bring forth victory through the fields of steel and blood!

    The oath is laid here. We are the ones who represent all the good within the pure lands, and we are the ones who judge what is evil within the pure lands. Thou, Seven Heavens clad in three mere words of unequal power, shall emerge from the spiral of control, O keeper of the balance—!


  17. #157
    So in this world he got a split personality and is now a Psi user?
    I love when a author does little curve balls like that. It's like adding ketchup to a burger; gives it more flavor, while still keeping the original taste.
    For those writers looking for new story ideas visit my account: https://www.fanfiction.net/u/6347453/FateOnline. There are dozens of challenges there waiting to be picked up.

  18. #158
    Author of Mages Twi's Avatar
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    He couldn't develop a second personality naturally, but his PSI led to something like it. Think Sakurako and Abyss from Psyren.
    Yet the burden shall be shared by two entwined, from which the sword will part from the body and be bestowed upon the vassal to sacrifice themselves and cleave through space and time.

    Mark upon this unworthy flesh the emblem of the sacrifice, the vassal whose death shall bring forth victory through the fields of steel and blood!

    The oath is laid here. We are the ones who represent all the good within the pure lands, and we are the ones who judge what is evil within the pure lands. Thou, Seven Heavens clad in three mere words of unequal power, shall emerge from the spiral of control, O keeper of the balance—!


  19. #159
    Quote Originally Posted by Twi View Post
    He couldn't develop a second personality naturally, but his PSI led to something like it. Think Sakurako and Abyss from Psyren.
    So he got even more badass from Psi then he ever did being a member of his Clan? Wonder what his family thinks of that.
    ...Am I the only one worried/exited about Lio being a Psi user.
    For those writers looking for new story ideas visit my account: https://www.fanfiction.net/u/6347453/FateOnline. There are dozens of challenges there waiting to be picked up.

  20. #160
    Author of Mages Twi's Avatar
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    I'm back to working on this for the month. I've got about 1200 words done so far. Currently working on this story this month. About 1200 words done:

    Currently working on this story this month. About 1200 words done:

    Spoiler:

    “Why my place specifically?” I ask the obvious question for clarity. If I’m going to tell them I don’t want them there, I need a plausible reason for it and so it’d be better to get all the facts first.

    Ayako counts off her fingers. “Well, your place is also as big as Tohsaka’s—”

    I can’t help but correct her. “Bigger.”

    “—bigger than Tohsaka’s, it’s closer, and we don’t have to worry about being over seen if it’s done while your sister is heading the Archery Club’s practice. That means we’ll have hours to ourselves to both train them up and discuss things without the risk of being overheard while the Temple is off-limits with the brothers gone and without heading all the way out to Neko’s place.”

    ...Well, she’s not wrong. The manor can easily fit all of us inside and with the Old Worm long dead we can practice in private for the most part. And the additional time could prove beneficial, given we don’t know when we’ll be pulled back into the future. That and I’m sure it’d be thrown back in my face that I was acting hypocritical when I was telling them to make sacrifices when it comes to training to preserve their own lives.

    If I had a little time then I could make sure that the place was suitable. We no longer had the housekeeper that took care of the place, but Sakura cleaned it not too long ago. The only thing to do would be to make sure that there wasn’t anything left out that could expose us and to keep them out of the underground room and the library.

    The underground room would honestly be the best possible place for training if I didn’t feel like explaining why we had a room that was deeper than the manor was tall and there were chains hanging from the walls. The library held a lot of magecraft text and references that might help them advance in some aspect, if not for the fact that they don’t know the depths of the world they’re stepping into. Both of those rooms needed a key to open up, but they could get around that with PSI if they were so inclined.

    I sit forward, resting my elbows on my desk and folding my hands in front of my mouth. If there’s no getting out of it then I might as well dictate the rules. “There are a few conditions before I can say yes.”

    “Name them.”

    “First, we need to run it by Sakura. We don’t know how long it’ll take, and I don’t want her walking in while we have them tied to a chair and gagged like you had us.”

    Makidera nearly chokes on her snack with a look of shock on her face. In contrast, Saegusa’s eyes are cast down at the table while there’s a red blush painting her face. Between them, Himuro is staring with a raised brow.

    “It makes more sense in context,” Ayako states, giving me a slight glare. “And next time try to phrase that better, Shinji.”

    I shrug before pointing to our newest trio. “Anyway, you and I will tell her that we’re doing a study session at my home. Since these three and I missed yesterday, we can spin it that you decided to hold the session because you doesn’t want me to fail out due to my falling grades and extended the offer to the rest of you as well.”

    Whether or not Sakura trusted me to be alone with them… honestly didn’t matter. If I said I was doing it, then it would get done with or without her consent. But having Mitsuzuri vouch that it was her idea and she’d keep me in line should ease some concerns.

    To be safe, I’ll also have Emiya let her go to his place when she’s done. He doesn’t say ‘No’ very often and I can convince him easily enough. That should cover our immediate problems with being discovered, as well as provide us with alibis and give us ample time.

    “Second, no one is allowed to wander around besides the areas I tell them to. I am a private person by nature and there are some things that need to stay private. If anyone violates that, no matter who they are, then whatever goodwill I’ve shown will disappear and everyone leaves. Understood?”

    Consent is given to varying degrees. Good enough.

    I make the third and final one. “The third is that we divide up the training into rotations between the three of us. Since we are absent a healer, we can't risk anyone overexerting themselves in any one field. Likewise, we don't have the time to be so broad as we were last time, so I think it'd be best if each of us take one of them and teach them in one field in specific for two hours to see if they mesh.”

    Ayako closes her eyes and tilts her head in thought as she sips her drink. Then she nods. “Okay, no harm in that. You’ll obviously be the one to handle Trance, so that leaves Burst to me and Rise to Gotou.”

    I shake my head. “I want you to handle Rise and Gotou to handle Burst.”

    He stiffens at that. “Why me?”

    “Because, it’s the field where they’re more likely to strain themselves and we have no healer at present if they get hurt. Mitsuzuri has more experience and will be able to keep an eye on them. Besides, you caught on Burst faster than I did and will be able to look at it from a newcomer’s perspective easier than she can.”

    “I… guess that makes sense.”

    “Then it’s agreed.” I steeple my fingers and look at the girls. Regardless of what ability she gains, Saegusa’s a liability due to how meek she is. I think the others will agree with me that she’s probably better suited to a supporting role. Besides, her learning Trance will benefit me directly by taking some of the workload off with six people.

    Then there’s Himuro. She seems smart enough to realize what’s at stake and probably will be able to work things out on her own, judging by her inquiries. I don’t think she’ll need nearly as much handholding, so better to pair her up with Gotou first. A student who’ll be quicker on the uptake will help warm him up for the others as a first-time instructor.

    And, well, he likes her for some reason. So if I reward him by allowing him to spend time with her, it might help him get over his issues quicker. If not… well, I tried.

    As for Makidera… I did say I was going to get my revenge. Besides, she may be all talk, but her competitive nature with Ayako and her firsthand experience with being helpless will serve as good motivation. So, it’s not just me being petty.

    A bead of sweat rolls down Makidera’s brow. “Why are smiling that while looking at me?”

    “No reason at all.” I stand up. “Mitsuzuri, you know how to get to my place right?”

    She nods. “Yeah, it’s at the rear of the same neighborhood as Tohsaka’s place.”

    “I’ll need about an hour to get the place ready once we clear things with Sakura. Once these three handle the matter of their club attendance and notify their parents so the alibi sticks, have them pick up take-out or something and then bring them by.”

    Yet the burden shall be shared by two entwined, from which the sword will part from the body and be bestowed upon the vassal to sacrifice themselves and cleave through space and time.

    Mark upon this unworthy flesh the emblem of the sacrifice, the vassal whose death shall bring forth victory through the fields of steel and blood!

    The oath is laid here. We are the ones who represent all the good within the pure lands, and we are the ones who judge what is evil within the pure lands. Thou, Seven Heavens clad in three mere words of unequal power, shall emerge from the spiral of control, O keeper of the balance—!


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