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Thread: Overcount 2030 [Extraverse/Notes]

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    Overcount 2030 [Extraverse/Notes]

    When I came to, I found myself in an empty room.

    My eyes opened. Light flickered in and out of the tank, sunlight through a crumbled ceiling. Ruins of God knows what. I found myself numb and unfeeling, submerged in liquid. Cold steel was attached to my body. Apparatuses in the mouth and nose, probes along the spine. Wires along my arms. A monitor over the breast, where my heart must be. My eyes flicker open for the first time.

    Senses come on, one-by-one. I think of lights in a city, counting them as they blink on, but I can’t remember how or why. A city I don’t know. It occurs to me then. I don’t know anything at all.

    It’s cold. I shiver. It’s dark. I struggle to see. Something thumps, a slow rhythm. The beating of my heart. I hear sounds, distant, like I’m at the bottom of the sea.

    Gunshots. Boots against steel. Voices and chatter and radio static.

    An impossible memory. I can’t have felt. I can’t have seen or heard. But I remember it now; I relive that memory, a clip in repeat. Maybe it was a delusion of mine, how I’d imagined it must have been. Maybe it was a dream I’ve had, the mind writing memories now where none existed.

    A face looks at mine, through glass and amorphous ice. I look back at him. A kindly smile.

    Within this murky dream, I saw you for the first time.





    Overcount 2030

    0/Nameless


    She remembered it like yesterday, because it was.

    The girl found herself on a hospital room, or something that resembled one, anyway. Colorless walls. White sheets. The electrical humming of machinery, a low, steady rhythm. A blank curtain cut off her section of the room from the rest, and it resembled a colorless box.

    She tried to raise herself up, and winced. Her joints ground into each other like stone. Her spine ached. With difficulty, she raised a hand. Open. Close. Her movements were sluggish, as if the signalling to each digit had slowed to a crawl, as if something had blocked up the signals, flickers of electricity. She thought of clogged pipes, decades of accumulated dust and rust and rot, drawing water for the first time in years. Of course, she knew nerves didn’t work that way.

    She looked down at her arms, and saw they were bandaged.

    Falling back into her pillow, she waited. For what, she hadn’t a clue. She listened. She felt. She explored her senses for the first time in God knew how long.

    An oxygen mask covered her face, a steady, cold stream to her nose and lungs. She turned her head with difficulty, and saw a mess of medical equipment, of monitors and electrocardiographs, of numbers and charts and flickering displays she didn’t know the meaning of. She heard distant waves and cries of gulls. It was bright in here, and if she focused, she could feel a faint rhythm, the room rocking back and forth. It made her feel ill.

    She looked down, and saw a name—

    whose, I wonder—

    —that she did not recognize. A label. She trouble reading it upside down, and tried to turn her head, to get a better view. She winced as something seemed to pop in her neck. She rubbed it with her hand and felt a scar.

    She read the name, or tried, at least. She didn’t recognize the characters, four blocky things, lined up in a row. The second one had the radical for ‘water’ on its left, though she couldn’t make out much more. The third one, the only one she could make out, was the character for ‘white’.

    An unfamiliar thing. She frowned. Come to think of it, nothing here was familiar. She hadn’t the slightest clue how she got here. She tried to remember, what had happened. She failed.

    She fell back onto the bed, listening to the sound of the sea. Nothing remained in her memories but a delirious dream.


    “How is she?”

    The man frowned. He wasn’t sure why they kept asking him this, seeing as how he wasn’t the doctor, and hadn’t really a clue about medicine. Hell, if this woman was a nurse, wouldn’t she know better than him? He shrugged, and nodded towards the window, and the woman looked through, watching the girl as she laid on the bed. Her figure was slight and pale, her movements stiff. She stirred, slightly, eyes blearily taking in her surroundings. Her first movements in a long while. You didn’t have to know her story to know this just from looking at her.

    The woman clicked her tongue, and sighed. “Poor thing. The only survivor, too. But that’s not what I meant.”

    “Oh?”

    “How is she mentally. Can she speak? Hear? Think? Though I don’t suppose you’ve talked to her, yet?”

    He shook his head. “She just woke up, as you came by.”

    She laughed. “It’ll have to be you, you know.” The man frowned, but she continued. “You’re the only one here that really speaks Japanese.”

    “And Rin?”

    “—Was born in Europe.”

    She smiled apologetically. He sighed. “Will she even remember how to talk?”

    A nod. “Perhaps. AS typically affects episodic, rather than semantic, memory. Not to say that her semantic memory will be completely untouched, but the spread to the rest of the brain only happened in the later stages— spread to the brainstem, that was what killed. She was just lucky enough to get thrown into stasis beforehand.”

    “...How do we know she’s Japanese?”

    “Well, we found her in Japan.”

    “At one of Pieceman’s facilities. Considering the man’s work, she could’ve been a fly-in from China, or Korea. So how do we—”

    “Her name, Nanashi.” The nurse sighed. “Come on, what’re you afraid of?”

    He grimaced. Well, that was that. There was no talking his way out of this one, he supposed.

    He sighed, and made his way to the door. The nurse patted him on the back and smiled, as she took her leave. He wasn’t great at comforting others, but he was great, unfortunately, at making girls cry. And now, he supposed, it was that time again, for that to bite him in the ass. He took a breath and opened the door.

    The patient sat on the bed, propping herself up on a pillow. She watched a seagull perched on the windowsill. The salty breeze wafted in past it. Sunlight poured in, illuminating the colorless room to a nearly nauseatingly clean white. He frowned. Maybe not the best sight to wake up to after such a long nap, but oh well. It’s not like they could spare the budget for better decor.

    He pulled up a chair, and seated himself by the bed. Slowly, she turned to look at him. Her skin was pale, and scarred in several places. He looked at her arms, and saw marks like burns. The resuscitation had been mostly successful, but some tissue had retained damage from the cold. A part of him wondered how much of her brain tissue had been damaged by it all. That, combined with the surgery and drugs for the AS treatment, and he wondered how much of herselfremained. A part of him wondered how she’d react to it all, and another part of him dreaded it.

    But he didn’t tell her any of that. Instead, he smiled.

    “Good morning.”

    She blinked in response. Almost shocked, as if she couldn’t believe her ears. She opened her mouth to speak, but a noise— halfway between a cough and a choke and a grunt— came out instead. She looked upset at this, and he almost sighed, but managed to not let it show. He supposed her vocal cords might not have recovered yet.

    After some struggling, perhaps a minute or five of starts and stops, she managed to form words. “Hello.”

    He nodded, and spoke slowly. “Can you understand me?”

    A brief moment to process. Her speech was slow, and dull. “...Yes.”

    He looked for the label that should’ve been on her bed, but it wasn’t there. She seemed to be playing with it in her hands; slow, clumsy movements.

    “What’s your name?”

    “...I don’t know.”

    “You don’t remember?”

    She shook her head. She looked upset.

    She continued to play with the label, frowning at it as she turned it over in her hands. Her hands shook, dull clumsy movements. She wouldn’t raise her eyes, and only continued to stare at the characters. She held it up for him to read.

    “I see.” He smiled, if it would be any comfort. Tread carefully. He wasn’t keen on making anyone cry. “Good morning, then, Ms. Kishinami.”

    “...Good morning.”

    They fell silent at that. He, to consider his next move, on how to approach the subject. She, to observe the man, this familiar stranger who had entered the room. Dark skin. White hair. Faintly golden eyes. Gulls circled outside the window, the sea visible beyond that, islands on the distant horizon. To his surprise, she spoke up.

    “Where are we?”

    “The East China Sea. If that means anything to you, anyway.”

    She blinked, and nodded. He wasn’t sure if that was a nod of confirmation, or just a nod in general. He leaned forward. “I’ll cut right to the chase, then. Do you remember anything?”

    She frowned at that, her brow furrowed. Perhaps she was digging at what remained of her memories, or perhaps she couldn’t find anything at all. A shake of the head.

    Welp.

    “I’ll fill you in, then. It won’t do to dance around the subject.

    “We don’t know anything about you either, other than your medical records, and your name,” he said. “These say you were a victim of AS— Amnesia syndrome, colloquially, though the proper medical term is Grain-induced cerebral sclerosis. I suppose, from the name, you can guess what it does?”

    She nodded. He continued.

    Anterograde and retrograde. The loss of the ability to form new memories, and to retrieve old ones. A symptom of a greater problem, but the most well-known. Hence the name. Given time, the hardening of tissue would spread to the rest of the brain, resulting in death; so I’ve been told, anyway. It wasn’t treatable at the time, so you were put into stasis. This happened in around the year 2000. That’s what the records say.”

    He shifted in his seat, and leaned back. “I don’t know much of what happened after, but we found you. A treatment had already been discovered, and the operation has been a success.” He smiled. “You’re cured now.”

    “...Thank you,” she said.

    “I didn’t actually do anything.”

    She blinked. “Then why—”

    “I’m the only other one here who speaks Japanese.”

    “...Oh.”

    The man got up from his seat, turning to leave. “The organization that had ordered your preservation had long since been destroyed, though your life support managed to survive. We’ll have you with us for the moment, until we reach shore and find a sanctuary. Until then, our staff will be providing mental and physical therapy, until you can be discharged. That should be all, for the moment.” And with that, he made his way to the door.

    “—Wait.”

    He stopped.

    “Hm?”

    For a brief moment, she hesitated. “What’s your name?”

    He frowned, and decided to give the usual answer. “Nanashi.”

    As he reached for the door, she spoke.

    “...You’re lying.”

    “Huh?”

    She looked frowned, almost angry, or with as much anger a girl as exhausted as she could muster. “What kind of name is Nameless?”

    The man stared at her, mouth slightly open, and laughed. That was probably the most he’d ever heard her say. Of course. He was so used to being surrounded by non-Japanese speakers, that he had almost forgotten she might’ve been able to understand his name.

    “You’re right, it’s a pretty silly name.”

    And with that, he left.


    She learned a lot over the next few days.

    Well, not much. Two things really, but they were the only two things she knew. The first, that her name was apparently “Hakuno Kishinami”, and that people had trouble pronouncing the latter part. It didn’t feel like her name, even if it was. But she wasn’t really sure what felt like it would be her name. It was what they called her, and that was all that mattered.

    The second, that they were on a military vessel, of sorts.

    She wasn’t sure what a military vessel should have looked like, but she was still quite sure of that fact. No one told her this outright, but she could deduce that from what she had seen. Between physical therapy sessions, medical tests, psychological examinations, the works, sometimes, she found the occasion to wander about the ship on her own.

    Her condition wasn’t good enough that she could walk about on her own, but if she had a wheelchair, or her nurse with her, she could get a bit of fresh air.

    Most of the men and women she’d see in her free time wore body armor or uniforms; some with balaclavas, others with masks. They carried rifles in their hands and blades at their sides. Some had limbs that shined like metal, others had crystalline structures embedded in their skin. Here and there, someone would have strange machines attached to their bodies— to their spines, or foreheads, or projecting out of their arms.

    Among the soldiers, she would find some with strange markings on their bodies— across their arms or chests or eyes— like veins and circuitry that glowed, an eerie mechanical light. Nanashi, the strange looking man she had first met, was one of them, green lines that ran along the length of his arms, that faded in and out like a trick of the light. She had seen a few others, too, with the same condition— a blonde girl with Asian features, an old man in a dress uniform, a woman with nearly purple hair, and so on— and hadn’t talked to a single one.

    Half of her felt that she should’ve found all this strange. The other half couldn’t figure out what was strange about them.

    The lingua franca of the vessel was English. Her memories, she was told, had degraded, but she still understood snippets of English here and there, and could even speak a few phrases. She didn’t know where she picked it up. “Hello.” “Goodbye.” “Where’s the bathroom?” “Thank you.”

    Hakuno had only two conversation partners. The first, Nanashi, the only one here who could speak her tongue. The other, her nurse, who used the former as an interpreter and translator. A nice, friendly lady, who was born in Bordeaux and earned her degree at the Sorbonne. She hadn’t a clue what either of those places were, though simply smiling and nodding seemed to satisfy. The nurse’s name was Léonne, and she had trouble pronouncing her name. Léonne thought it was cute.

    Nanashi however, didn’t seem too keen on talking to her. She got the feeling that she— her very presence, really— bothered him, and he kept their conversations brief and formal. Filling her in on her physical therapy sessions, explaining the layout of the ship, the works. She didn’t have a past to talk about, and as far as she knew, neither did he.

    She didn’t know why he called himself Nanashi, but no one else seemed to find the name odd. He’d write the name with the characters, ‘seven’ and ‘will’, a disguise that should’ve been as paper-thin as a pair of Groucho glasses. She wasn’t sure what Groucho glasses were, or how she’d even remembered such a thing. But they were the first thing to pop into her mind.

    He also made her meals. They were better than she’d expected.

    It was lonely, in a way. If she knew English before, she’d remember soon enough, so they assured her. The hardening of the brain tissue caused by AS had been reversed— all it was now was a matter of if the memories and associations had survived this process, both the hardening and dehardening, and the resuscitation from stasis. Some memories were bound to have lost, anyway, but others would come back to her soon enough. She didn’t know how she felt about this. All that remained was a sense that something was lost, and that something would return.

    She could feel neither happy nor sad about it all. It was a difficult feeling to process. It was hard to care about something that was gone, if she didn’t know what even had been lost.

    It was harder to care about something that was to return, if she didn’t even know how she felt about it in the first place.

    Feeling nothing, thinking nothing, her days on the ship passed like a dream.


    “She has Circuits, you know.”

    “I know.”

    In a secluded quarter of the ship, there was a room that normally remained locked. The common soldiers knew little of what it was for, but they’d speculate, spread rumors. Confidential meetings, stores of top-secret weapons, dark secrets of the organization that owned them. That sort of thing. In reality, it was really nothing more than an empty room, with little more than a plastic table and several chairs, a room the higher ups had yet to come up with a purpose for. You could enter through the back door, which led to the one of the meeting rooms. Perhaps some day, they’d figure out what they wanted for it. But until then, it was little more than an empty room, occupied by two figures.

    A blonde woman paced back and forth, irritably speaking. A small terminal sat on the table, its projected hologram slowly rotating about its base. A man seated at a chair managed his equipment, listening all the while, polishing something in his hand.

    This was the fourth time she had brought up the topic. His eyebrow must’ve twitched. ‘Rin’— he hated calling her Rin— was persistent on this, no matter how much he tried to dodge this topic. He knew what came next, what she’d like to say.

    This Hakuno had Circuits. How, they didn’t know. Results in the database for any Kishinami bloodline all came up cold; if he had to guess, by a genetic mutation. Plausible. He’d talk about coincidences, but he wasn’t one to talk. Perhaps these dormant circuits were the behind how she, alone, survived resuscitation. The rest had died in their pods, at the Pieceman facility.

    “—ashi.”

    And what then? The obvious answer. Conscription. Resocialization. Recruit training. Getting sent to the warzones and killing fields, out of the frying pan and into the blender, all because you had an unfortunate, albeit useful, mutation. The practice was widespread, the secret of Circuits out, after that fateful day thirty years ago.

    Overcount 1999.

    It didn’t sit right with him. Not the practice itself— it was ugly, cruel, but necessary to survive. It was the new arms war, a crime all sides were guilty of, and neither side could afford to let up. No, what bothered him was the particular cruelty of this case. Here’s a girl whose wakes up after thirty years, her self and past and entire world gone without a trace, and what does she wake up to? A gun, a Code, and a veritable death sentence. And it’d be so easy, too. Little of the girl’s self remained for her to refuse, to object. She had no choice.

    He sighed. Ideally, they could at least give her a choice, or the illusion of one. A decision, to either join their cause of the return to that ordinary life of hers that had been robbed from her. Of course, if the ideal situation was possible, they wouldn’t have to—

    “—Nanashi!”

    “Huh?”

    ‘Rin’ looked angry. “Were you even listening?”

    No.

    “Yes.”

    “Then what’d I just say?”

    “Ah, well…” He put a hand to his chin. “Something about the patient—?”

    “You weren’t listening.”

    He shrugged. She sighed, and rubbed her forehead. “Come on. Take this seriously, will you?”

    “I am.”

    “Then why don’t you—”

    “—want to drag this patient into our war?”

    “...That’s not…” She frowned. “Well, yes, but that’s not what this is about.”

    “But it’s still what it is all the same, no?” He snorted. “Here’s someone who’s woken up for the first time in over thirty years, who’s lost her home and memory and everything that she could have had, who’s still a child—”

    She’s seventeen.

    “And her AS onset when she was fourteen.” His voice grew heated. He wasn’t used to this sort of anger. “She lost three years of her childhood to this thing, and thirty more years from the stasis. Her life was taken from her, and now she has it back. And now you want to take it away again?”

    “Orders from above, from the Queen herself, Nanashi. I have no say in this, and neither do you.”

    “Then why consult me?”

    “Because we need you for this.”

    “And I won’t drag a child into a war, our war, a war she doesn’t believe in—”

    “—Funny. I wouldn’t think you, of all people, would object to that.”

    He fell silent, at that. Stared.

    “I—” Her expression softened. Traces of worry. Guilt. “I’m sorry.” Her voice had quieted, now. “Look— I know how you feel.”

    He grunted.

    “But, and listen to me here, the moment she was born with Circuits, that life was taken from her. You’re right, it’s cruel for us to drag her into this, to take that life away from her again, but you know what would be crueller? To throw her out in the world, for someone else to find. She has Circuits, Nanashi. Sooner or later she’ll be found out. They would do the same as we would. Maybe even worse. So please.”

    —Please what?

    “We’re protecting her, Nanashi. This is the best she’ll get.”

    He knew what, she didn’t have to say. It’s not like the girl could reject what they made her do. Her life was at their mercy. So please what?

    “She’ll have to get surgery, again.”

    “It’s not a dangerous operation.”

    “She’ll have to be trained for all this.”

    “We have trainers to spare.”

    “...What would you have me do?”

    “Convince her.”

    And that was that. He couldn’t argue. He hadn’t even any reason to argue.

    The terminal sat on the table, quietly humming along as it worked. His eyes lingered on it. A weary sigh. “Fine.”

    She smiled. “You know, it’s not like you to be so much of a bleeding-heart.”

    He grunted, and returned to his task. This was, in the end, the most rational decision, but he still hated it all the same. He sat wordlessly, and ‘Rin’ stopped pacing. He held up the jewel he had been polishing up to a dim ceiling light, which bounced about its surface, a glimmering blood red. It spun slowly about its chain. Silence crept in, drowning distant waves.

    He spoke. “Have the reports come in?” A change of subject.

    “About what?”

    “The facility. It’s how we found the girl, anyway. Find anything?”

    She shook her head, looking irritable. “Nothing new. At least, we’ve found fragments and rough drafts of the man’s manifesto. You know the one. But none of the material itself is new, or new to us, anyway. There were signs of other things stored there— documents, hard drives, and whatnot— but they’re beyond salvaging. Damaged beyond repair, from the bombings.”

    “Has the team tried analyzing the drafts? You know. To predict his thought process, or rationale, or whatever it was you were doing?”

    She shrugged. “I suppose so. Maybe they’re working on that now. But the thought process of a dead man’s no good to us. At most, it’d give us a reason, a motive, but the virus spread mostly on its own. After his death,” she said.

    “Guessing you don’t believe in the cyber ghost theory?”

    A derisive snort. “Superstition.”

    “Said the magus.”

    “Magic’s dead. There’s only the Net for us, now. And I was never a magus, you know; at least not a real one.” He blinked, and sighed. He must’ve mixed her up with her.

    Come to think of it, this must’ve been the first time she’s admitted they were different people.

    “But really now,” she continued, “A virus of ideology doesn’t need the man himself to spread it personally. It comes with the territory. That’s how ideas are.”

    “I see. Does that refute the cyber ghost theory?”

    “No. But an explanation doesn’t need it. The cyber ghost theory just needlessly complicates the thing.” She frowned as him, her look incredulous. “You don’t… believe that rumor, right?”

    He shrugged. “There’s just the question, of who propagated the thing in the first place,” he said, getting up from seat. He pocketed the pendant. “But it’s none of my concern. It’s your specialty, not mine. I’m a soldier, not a thinker.”

    She crossed her arms. “Liar. But whatever. As long as these wars and attacks continue, it’s everyone’s concern. It’s time now. She should be done just about now.”

    He nodded, as he made his way to the door.

    “You’ll keep your word, right?”

    A grunt of affirmation. And with that, he left.

    Silence settled back into the room. Electrical equipment hummed. The girl sat herself down on the seat.

    “See? We can trust him. He’ll keep his word.”

    The image on the terminal flickered. It was shaped like an eye.

    See to it that he does.


    The man came by as she was resting in her room.

    She had finished her physical therapy for the day, and she was exhausted. Her body had been improving, however. Memories were beginning to return to her— nothing episodic, like who she was or where she came from, but her motor skills. Walking now was not as hard as it used to be. Her hand was steady enough to draw and write, again. She didn’t need a wheelchair to get around, and could manage on her own with crutches. Soon, she wouldn’t need them.

    The room wasn’t as gloomy as before. She’d found things to decorate it with, and Léonne had helped her with it. A few photos sat by the bedside. There hadn’t been much to take pictures of, out here in the middle of the sea, so she only had pictures of seagulls and sunsets to keep her company. Once, she even managed to snap a shot of what looked like a large fish, leaping out of the water.

    Her eyes settled on him, as he entered the room. She frowned. It was strange, really. It was rare for him to come by at these hours. He sat himself on the chair again, the same one he’d taken before.

    “I suppose I have something important to discuss with you.”

    She tilted her head slightly, and he continued. An ironic smile, like he had just recalled a bad joke.

    “Well, to start off, I guess you could say I’m a magus.”




    AN: Thanks, as usual, to Frosty for beta-ing. And also thanks to Dullahan, both for beta-ing too, and for developing some ideas for this premise, though they haven't really came up in detail yet. And thanks to GD for answering my F/E questions.

    If it hasn't been clear by now, this is based on the outside world of Extra, tying it in with an almost pre-Notes setting. So no Moon Cell, no Servants, no Heroic Spirits. The point of the thing is to explore the outside world in detail, with more focus on cyberpunk-ish elements, though more GitS-like than Neuromancer-like.

    "Nanashi" is a joke on Emiya being called "Mumei" in Extra/Extella.
    Last edited by Kirby; March 20th, 2017 at 07:04 PM.
    <Lian|work> lynch kirby imo


    Linger: Complete. August, 1995. I met him. A branch off Part 3. Mikiya keeps his promise to meet Azaka, and meets again with that mysterious girl he once found in the rain.
    Shinkai: Set in the Edo period. DHO-centric. As mysterious figures gather in the city, a young woman unearths the dark secrets of the Asakami family.
    The Dollkeeper: A Fate side-story. The memoirs of the last tuner of the Einzberns. A record of the end of a family.
    Overcount 2030: Extra x Notes. A girl with no memories is found by a nameless soldier, and wakes up to a world of war.

  2. #2
    Say "Grail" one more time. Leftovers's Avatar
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    The point of the thing is to explore the outside world in detail, with more focus on cyberpunk-ish elements, though more GitS-like than Neuromancer-like.
    Sounds like heaps of fun.

  3. #3
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors Alternative Ice's Avatar
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    What a coincidence, I was just thinking that it would be awesome if someone wrote a story fleshing out the world of Notes.

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    好機 Kirby's Avatar
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    1/The Queen’s War

    “...A magus?”

    “Yes.”

    She stared at him for a moment, as she tried to recall. A magus? Like what? A wizard, or magician, or something?

    “Yes, I suppose that ‘magician’ or the like would be an appropriate term.”

    Ah. Did I just think that out loud?

    Hakuno frowned at the man, taking him in. Dark skin and white hair. A tan cloak was draped over the chair. He wore body armor, dark like pitch, and a bandage on his left arm dotted with rust-colored blotches. It wasn’t there before. There was a chain around his neck, from which hung dog tags, rosaries, a blood-red jewel. She had remembered asking him about them once before, and he had replied that none of them were his.

    He didn’t look like a magician to her. Trying to remember what a “magician” entailed conjured images of sharply dressed men pulling bunnies out of top hats, or maybe sawing pretty ladies in half in boxes, who’d pop out of the thing unharmed. The man before her, however, simply looked like a worn soldier. She frowned.

    “So, you do magic tricks?”

    “I suppose so.”

    She blinked. Not the answer she’d been expecting. She put a hand to her chin, lost in thought, and came to her conclusion. “Can you do one for me, then?”

    “...What?”

    “A magic trick.”

    He stared at her. She thought his eyebrow might’ve twitched. Silently, he held on his hand, and obscured it with the cloak. With a flourish, he pulled it off. In his hand held a blade, a strange looking thing, with a broad black blade and a faint hexagonal pattern along its surface.

    “Happy?”

    “Can you do another?”

    He stared at her again, wearing a strange expression. Exasperation, or amusement, or disbelief, she didn’t know. But she didn’t understand. Magicians did magic tricks, didn’t they?

    With a sigh, he took a helmet lying around, and stuck his hand inside. From within, he drew out another sword. It was white this time.

    “...Why are they all swords?”

    “That’s my trick.”

    She felt a sinking sense of disappointment. “No flowers, or maybe bunnies?”

    “If I could do tricks like that, I’d get another job.”

    She nodded. That made sense. She didn’t know what his job was anyway, but supposed it must’ve been unpleasant.

    “Well, with that over with, I suppose I should get to the important stuff.” He hung his cloak back over his chair, and set the helmet back where he found it. She blinked. The swords were gone. He had been holding them just now, but they’d disappeared without a trace.

    “I am a magus by mutation, a specific mutation that allows one to practice these tricks we’ve shown you. Well, the long and short of it is, you have that mutation too.” He sat up a little straighter, his tone now stern, formal, the casualness in his voice now gone. “Our organization would like to extend their invitation to you, to become a magus under our wing.” He extended a hand towards her.

    She struggled with her words, she felt them form and unform in her throat. “...Why?”

    “Hm?”

    “I mean— why me?”

    “May I be blunt?” He didn’t wait for her to nod, and let go of her hand. “We need all the manpower we can get, right now.”

    “For what?”

    “For our war.”

    “...War?

    He nodded, and leaned back in his seat. “Having second thoughts?”

    “I don’t know.”

    They fell silent. Waves echoed in the distance. There weren’t any gulls this far out. From what fragmented conversations she had had with the other soldiers, they were about a day or two away from the Hangzhou Bay, though they’d spent more time out in the waters, so as to avoid detection. It hadn’t occurred to her before, why a vessel full of soldiers would be in hiding, or what all these soldiers were doing here in the first place.

    “What… what war are you fighting?”

    “Do you like stories?”

    “I’m not sure.”

    He snorted. “Well, too bad.”

    “Well, where do we begin?” He sighed. “Our war’s no war of nations, or ethnicities, or geopolitical borders. It’s a war of ideology, with no singular battlefield. Well,” he said, with an ironic smile, “I suppose the less melodramatic way to say this is that neither of us can quite agree on how the world should be run, so we’re willing to tear at each other until we get our way.”

    “But who?”

    “Them. Us. Not nations, but organizations that control them. They, the Western European Plutocracy, though their influence reaches far beyond that. The Harweys, led by The King. And us, KRONE. The last remnants of the Magus’s Association, led by The Queen.”

    Hakuno took all this in silently. Her brow was furrowed, and he laughed at that. “Well, I suppose these names don’t mean much to you, don’t they?”

    She shook her head. He continued.

    “It’s a different kind of war than the ones we’ve seen before— trench-digging, island-hopping, city-bombing, the works. For a while, it was a cold war. A war of manipulation. Currencies and economy. Resource allocation. Media blackouts. Small-scale proxy wars, in the distant corners of the world.”

    “Well, ‘was’. Something changed, no one knows what. Strings of terrorist attacks and political strife— reignited blood feuds, waves of ethnic cleansing— that came from God knows where. Looking at them individually, you’d think they’re isolated, spontaneous incidents, save for the fact that they all occurred in such short periods of time of each other. Hell, they could be. We don’t know. But everyone’s certain there’s a cause to it all, that this sudden violence couldn’t have just spontaneously appeared without rhyme or reason. We just don’t know what it is— just that it exists somewhere out there.”

    “Don’t misunderstand. Despite our cold war, the world of before was very much at peace. The Harweys sought peace above all else, and achieved it against all odds. A world of silence, stillness. Frozen technology. Surveillance states. The micromanagement of life, that not even the ruling class can escape. Stagnation, as others would call it.”

    She didn’t understand. “But why would you fight against peace?”

    He shrugged. “I guess it’s because some people just don’t like being ruled over, lorded over, handing over their lives for some peace of mind and security. An instinctual, visceral reaction of disgust at the idea. Well, I wouldn’t know. I’m no member of KRONE, but a sellsword.” He paused, then grimaced at that, though she wasn’t sure why.

    “But the real reason, they say, is that this peace is unsustainable. It was peaceful, in the sense that a barren desert or graveyard is. This world’s changing, and we must change with it; that’s what they say. It’s like sitting still in the face of an oncoming storm. Regardless, this wave of violence is a pain to both of us. To them, because it threatens the peace they’ve worked so hard to establish. To us, because we’re the ones getting blamed for it.”

    “...Wouldn’t it help you, though? Wouldn’t all this chaos destabilize the… the whatever, that you’re trying to overthrow?”

    Another shrug. “Maybe. But whatever it is we’re after, this— these massacres, these genocides, these death tolls in the hundreds of thousands— sure as hell isn’t it,” he said. “So that’s our war. Waged, on one hand, against the rulers of the world. On the other, the violence that threatens to destroy it.” The man got up, taking the cloak. “The terms are simple. Become a magus. Join us at KRONE, and fight The Queen’s war. Or don’t.”

    He silently made to leave, and she watched him. She said something, under her breath. To herself, or him?

    “I can’t…”

    “Hm?”

    I can’t what? She didn’t know. To her, it was a sudden, if not unexpected, revelation.

    She didn’t know what she thought about the war. She had no stakes in it. She had nothing to gain from it— but nothing to lose. It wasn’t that she was afraid of dying. She couldn’t even remember what it was like to live.

    But her, a soldier?

    “...I can’t fight. I don’t know how.”

    “We’re well aware,” he said.

    “We won’t send you straight to the battlefields. As you are now, you’re in no condition to fight. Despite the therapy, despite your recovery from cold sleep, your muscles, as well as portions of nervous system, have atrophied. Not too severe, but it happens. That’s the danger of cryostasis.” He nodded towards her arms, and the scars that blotted the skin. Come to think of it, her arms had been recovering more slowly than her legs. Damage from cryoprotectant malfunction, they said, ice crystals that had formed and unformed from recovery.

    “But then—”

    “KRONE will provide your training, the memory softwares and augmentations to bring you up to speed. They’ll fix up your body too, of course. That, you shouldn’t worry about.” He stood by the doorway.

    “I won’t make you choose right now. I’ll understand if you don’t want anything to do with this, I’ll negotiate to get you back to an ordinary life,” he said with a nod. “You’ll have time to think about it.”

    And with that, he left the room, leaving her alone again.



    ‘Rin’ snorted. “Sellsword.

    “That wasn’t on purpose.”

    She’d been listening in to the conversation, waiting outside the patient’s room arms crossed. Seems KRONE didn’t really trust him yet, even if they’d been working together for nearly two years.

    ‘Nearly’. They’d probably say ‘not even’.

    “Satisfied?”

    “Well, you did fine enough, I suppose. But what the hell was that, at the end?”

    He frowned. “Was what?”

    “Well, Nanashi. Will you really negotiate with us if she says no?”

    He scowled, and didn’t answer, walking a bit faster. She’d probably take that as a ‘no’.

    He made his way down the hall, brisk strides, and she followed closely behind. She was smirking, and that irritated him.

    He made his way to the decks. From here, he could see some of the recruits training at a makeshift range, live-firing rounds at boards some distance away. Mister Velvet paced to and fro behind them as they fired, watching their shots, critiquing their forms. One of the few survivors of that fateful day in London. He wondered if they’d make him the patient’s instructor.

    Nanashi kept on walking to nowhere in particular, as ‘Rin’ followed, and found himself in the hangar. Some of the workers here greeted him, as he walked down the aisles, taking in the scene. Liner Mechs lined the hall, twenty meters tall, standing sentinel on either side. Mechanics on hydraulic platforms and moving lifts worked on their bodies for maintenance, on the cannons or open cockpits, the Grain reactors in their core exposed and dormant. One of them scrubbed bloodstains off the windshield. Several of these units had been flown in recently, damaged in a skirmish in Hanoi, though they wouldn’t get properly repaired until they docked at Hangzhou— once they were in the clear, anyway.

    He got into an elevator, and ‘Rin’ stuck her hand in the way before the door closed. And like that, he found himself alone with her, with nowhere to run— or briskly walk, anyway— and nothing to fill the silence but the humming of the lift, the creak of the cables.

    She was still smirking. He sighed.

    What?

    “Oh, nothing.”

    “Don’t play coy with me. What do you want?”

    She frowned, looking almost hurt, and sighed. “Really, nothing. Nothing important, anyway.”

    “If you’re following me, you have business with me. What do you want?”

    She stared at him, as the lift fell back into silence. Eventually, she spoke up. “Why do you care so much, anyway?”

    “About what?”

    “That girl.”

    “The patient?” He snorted. “I’m not particularly thrilled about recruiting child soldiers. I have a conscience, you know.”

    “KRONE’s had younger.”

    “I didn’t have any say in that. I wasn’t around.” He rubbed his temples, hand to his head. “But now you’re dragging me right into this mess.” He glanced on over. “When I signed up for KRONE, thought you just needed a fighter.”

    “Well, times change.”

    He only snorted in response.

    No, dragging the patient into this wasn’t, by far, the worst thing he’d have to do, nor was it the worst thing he’d ever done. Hell, even if he wasn’t the one dragging her into the Queen’s war, he’d be just as guilty if he’d simply stood by and watched. He was guilty no matter the outcome— save for stopping her recruitment entirely. But even he knew what was beyond the scope of his power.

    If he succeeded, by some miracle, all that’d happen would be the kid falling into the hands of the Harweys. If he failed he’d lose whatever bargaining power he had left with KRONE.

    He looked on over, and she was smiling, if only a sad one.

    “You’re such a bleeding heart.”

    His eyebrow must’ve twitched, but if it did, she didn’t comment on it. It irritated him, but he didn’t even know. How much of the Rin he knew had survived that day? This one wasn’t her, but she was trying her damn hardest to become her. To assume her identity, her face, her name. Cyberization was already well on its way before the Clocktower’s fall.

    Did this ‘Rin’ take even the memories of the original?

    He sighed internally. He was probably being paranoid. If she’d even assumed her memories, she’d do a much better job of imitating her. In that case, he wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference. But he could.

    The elevator gate opened with a chime, arriving at whatever floor whose button he pushed— he hadn’t been paying attention, and had just pressed one at random.

    ‘Rin’ stepped out, and turned around. A little twirl.

    “Well, I had news to deliver too, but I just wanted to talk a bit first. Orders from the Queen. You’re to be the girl’s instructor.”

    A coy smile. “Congratulations, Mister Instructor-san.”



    He sat in his room, on the bed with a small terminal, a holographic image of an eye slowly rotating about its base. A voice came from the terminal, and he spoke to it.

    “Is this true?”

    “No, but good suggestion.”

    “No wai—”

    The display flickered off, and he was left alone in his room. His eyebrow twitched, probably.



    She’d agreed, in the end.

    When prompted for a reason, she’d only just shrugged her shoulders, mumbling something that could either have been “I dunno”, or “Mmmmph.”

    He sat on a bench in the hall, across from the operating room. Mister Velvet sat on the same bench, on the other far side. He had another name that no one used for him anymore. They were only casual acquaintances and rarely talked; rather, they only really knew each other through Rin, during his stint at the Clocktower, before it’d all went to hell. Friends-of-a-friend, in other words. Neither spoke to the other, and waited.

    The operation was a simple one, if he recalled correctly— basic installation of a cyberbrain, and light reparations of the damage in her arms. Minimal mechanical augmentation, he’d been told; just cell reparation, and the beginning of installing the Code into her arm. She was right-handed, if he remembered right. They’d taken cell samples a few weeks before to culture. Following the cyberbrain procedure, after she recovered and the installation was complete, they’d work on her Circuits.

    When they told her this, she just blinked. Smiled and nodded. She later confided to him that she hadn’t a clue what any of this meant, and he told her it’d be alright, the whole “there, there” treatment. And it would, if it all went as usual. The cyberbrain procedure was a basic one, one that everyone and their dog had these days.

    To be honest, the memory software installation worried him more.

    “They’re taking a while.”

    For the first time, Mister Velvet spoke up. Nanashi grunted looked on over. He’d dressed himself in a stiff black suit; a stubbed out cigar in one hand, and a magazine in the other. A gaming magazine, if the cover was to be trusted, though last month’s issue. The cover article was about a rising star Wakamesama in the pro-league, for some game he didn’t recognize. A strange sight to behold.

    “They still print magazines?”

    “In Thailand they do. Had one of the pilots pick one up for me at the last rendezvous. Not everyone can afford digital these days, especially out in this backwater,” he said, with a casual shrug. “Well, it’s nice for us, I guess. No signal out here. Can’t wait ‘till we get back to civilization.”

    “Thought you hated China.”

    “Better than the bloody Pacific, of all things.”

    Nanashi shrugged, and leaned back in his seat. He played idly with the holographic screens before him, reviewing the prospective memory softwares they’d like to install. The bulk of it was procedural memory, the standard-issue muscle memories for combat that most recruits received. How to shoot a gun, or throw a grenade, or pilot a Liner. The sort of thing. It provided a shortcut to recruit training, if you could just directly install those memories rather than having them learn them naturally. Of course, freshly installed memories required the recipient to use them to effectively integrate them into their system.

    In other words, he wasn’t off the hook for having to train the girl.

    The rest was a combination of semantic and procedural memories. Information about the world situation, of Circuits, of Code Casting and all the rest. It amused him to think of it like those little pamphlets you’d get when you opened a brand new phone— back when phones were in use, anyway— even if he knew that it was wrong.

    Most of it, however, was language memory software. English, Arabic, Spanish, and Mandarin— though the former took the bulk of the space, anyway. He doubted she’d need or even ever use the others, as English was now the lingua franca of all the world. The Harweys had made sure of that.

    He sighed. He wasn’t even sure why they’d make him review the memories they’d need to install. Maybe to occupy his time, or maybe to assure him or something. Of what, he didn’t know. He swiped his hand and dismissed the screens, and slumped into his seat.

    “Worried?” Velvet spoke up again.

    “The surgery will go fine. It’s not a hard one.”

    “Not talking about that.” He cocked his head to the other room. “They say you’ll be her instructor?”

    “Unfortunately.”

    “...Why?”

    Nanashi shrugged. “Who the hell knows.”

    A laugh like a bark. He wasn’t usually this casual. “Tough. Ever taught anyone anything before?”

    “Taught a friend how to cook, once.”

    “How’d that go?”

    “Died before it ever panned out.” He absently played with a chain in his hand. “Was pretty good at it, though.”

    Mister Velvet laughed again, and turned a page. “Tough.”

    He shrugged. Tough. He frowned at that. It should’ve been, but it’s been so easy to forget these days. Maybe he was busy, or maybe the test of time was doing it’s work. One would think, that with memories stored and saved into hard drives and external servers, that he wouldn’t forget. He couldn’t forget. They were immortalized there, into wires and signals and sheets of silicon.

    Or maybe that just made it easier to forget.

    “You know,” Velvet started up again, “Miss Tohsaka told me something about you.”

    “She says a lot of things about me.”

    “Not that one. The real one. Before London’s fall.”

    Whitened knuckles. He felt his face harden.

    He continued, either unaware or uncaring. “Told me that you were the kinda guy who’d get yourself in trouble, who’d need someone to keep you in check.” Nanashi snorted. Sounded like her, alright. How long had it been? Over a decade, since she’d disappeared? Velvet leaned forward, closing his magazine. “I don’t have any stakes in your future, but she certainly cared. So I’ll ask you. Are you sure you can handle this?”

    Probably not, no, but there wasn’t choice. But he just smiled, and replied.

    “Well, how bad could it be?”



    She woke up in a hospital bed. She told herself should’ve been used to this, but it was still disorienting to wake up. Though maybe it was because today was a different room.

    It was neither too different nor too similar; just different enough to be recognized as new, just similar enough to be familiar. Dissonant, that was the word.

    She felt bleary, and tried to gather her thoughts. This ward was Section E. She blinked at that. She didn’t know how she knew that.

    She looked around the room, and saw nurses and doctors flit about, conversing and working here and there. Unfamiliar faces. One of them noticed her, and spoke.

    “Ah, so Miss Kishinami’s awakened. How are you feeling?”

    “Oh. Fine, Doctor Martel—”

    Martel?

    Who was that?

    The man before you, he—

    —Was a stranger—

    used to work in Evocation, before moving to Policies—

    —A man she’d only just met today, only seen for the first time—

    moved onto work on the ARAY Project—

    A gasp of pain. She put her hand to her head, and only just now noticed it searing, a splitting headache. Maurice. Bouchard. Granger. Martel. She knew their names, even if they were strangers. Words and names and memories came to her that she didn’t recognize.

    This vessel is the Queen’s, the KS Pontus—

    —After Pieceman’s manifesto was discovered from the salvage missions at Neo-Tokyo—

    —Four months ago, another war broke out over after the Egypt ceasefire—

    —Digitization of the soul has its risks, one of which being viral infection of the cyberbrain—

    “—are you alright?”

    “I— I’m sorry, a glass of water please—”

    ‘A glass’?

    She’d spoken in English.

    These words that weren’t mine—

    She spoke in a language she did not understand.

    She gripped her head, as if it’d ease the pain, but it didn’t. No, that was wrong. It wasn’t just physical pain, but something else. Something in her circuited, overloaded. A gasp for air. Her breaths were short. A nurse brought her water and she took it with a muttered “Thank you”. It cooled her down, and she steadied her breathing, a hand nursing her head.

    It was only now she noticed that her head felt strange. Something hard, digging into it. Something in her hand.

    Slowly, she let go of her head, and raised her hand before her face.

    There, embedded dead center in her palm. A little nub of crystal.




    AN: Thanks, as usual, to Dullahan and Frosty for betaing.

    Of the different types of memories, procedural memories are like muscle memory, like how to ride a bike or juggle some balls, and semantic memory is information and fact recall, like the names of colors or days of the week. Episodic memory, the first type of memory that comes to mind, is recollection of events, like last summer vacation or a night out days before.

    "KRONE" is derived both from the cognate of "Crown", as well as the name Kron.
    <Lian|work> lynch kirby imo


    Linger: Complete. August, 1995. I met him. A branch off Part 3. Mikiya keeps his promise to meet Azaka, and meets again with that mysterious girl he once found in the rain.
    Shinkai: Set in the Edo period. DHO-centric. As mysterious figures gather in the city, a young woman unearths the dark secrets of the Asakami family.
    The Dollkeeper: A Fate side-story. The memoirs of the last tuner of the Einzberns. A record of the end of a family.
    Overcount 2030: Extra x Notes. A girl with no memories is found by a nameless soldier, and wakes up to a world of war.

  5. #5
    Eightfold Blessings of Smug Superiority Rafflesiac's Avatar
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    Poor Emiya, getting rused by a filthy fake.

    I forget, does Hakuno ever remember her travails on the Moon Cell or is that all gone?
    Supports:

    Quote Originally Posted by Arashi_Leonhart View Post
    canon finish apo vol 3

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    好機 Kirby's Avatar
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    To be honest, I forget. But this is mostly just assuming those memories are absent and/or gone
    <Lian|work> lynch kirby imo


    Linger: Complete. August, 1995. I met him. A branch off Part 3. Mikiya keeps his promise to meet Azaka, and meets again with that mysterious girl he once found in the rain.
    Shinkai: Set in the Edo period. DHO-centric. As mysterious figures gather in the city, a young woman unearths the dark secrets of the Asakami family.
    The Dollkeeper: A Fate side-story. The memoirs of the last tuner of the Einzberns. A record of the end of a family.
    Overcount 2030: Extra x Notes. A girl with no memories is found by a nameless soldier, and wakes up to a world of war.

  7. #7
    A mecha-loving Shotacon who plays children's card games naschyamamoto's Avatar
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    Loved that bit at the beginning, where EMIYA (I know he's Nanashi, don't care) tried to be cool and play it off like Kiritsugu did. Eventually he's just like "screw it, nevermind" and proceeds to continue in his own way.

    A lot of infodump, about the Harweys and KRONE, and some interesting takes on the 'old' and 'new' Rins along with the 'old' Waver Velvet. Judging from the conversation about 'old' Rin though, it looks like this is the original? Unless he's recalling the 'old' one's memories, that's honestly a little creepy. And that's funny too, because that sort of thinking, what's 'old' and original versus 'new' and true, is what's making EMIYA feel so off-kilter around Tohsaka II.

    Don't think I missed that mecha reference either, Kirby. I want to hear more about mechas in our grand and glorious era of 2030.

    Also that end sequence. I'm preeeetty sure brain implants aren't supposed to pop out of your forehead.


    Quote Originally Posted by Elf View Post
    There was contributing. And suggestions and . . . okay a bunch of people demanding me to write this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aiden View Post
    Well yeah, that last one always happens.

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    好機 Kirby's Avatar
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    Ah. To clarify a bit of stuff:

    1) Yeah, his name's still Emiya. Nanashi's just a sort of alias, so it's not like it's his one and only name, now.

    2) The 'old' and 'new' Rins are mainly referring to FSN and Extra versions, where despite names and appearances are separate people. So the here it's just being taken a step further and exploring the idea, mostly because if I'm writing this premise, I can't really run from Extra Rin. If the two Rins were present in the same room, one would be maybe a decade or two older than the other.

    3) Also, idk about if I worded it poorly, but in the last sequence I meant it so that the nub of crystal was embedded into her palm.

    4) The cyberbrain operation was directly inspired/lifted from Ghost in the Shell, so rather than an outright replacement or implantation, it was meant to be mostly just augmenting it with digital components.
    <Lian|work> lynch kirby imo


    Linger: Complete. August, 1995. I met him. A branch off Part 3. Mikiya keeps his promise to meet Azaka, and meets again with that mysterious girl he once found in the rain.
    Shinkai: Set in the Edo period. DHO-centric. As mysterious figures gather in the city, a young woman unearths the dark secrets of the Asakami family.
    The Dollkeeper: A Fate side-story. The memoirs of the last tuner of the Einzberns. A record of the end of a family.
    Overcount 2030: Extra x Notes. A girl with no memories is found by a nameless soldier, and wakes up to a world of war.

  9. #9
    Not actually a dragon… …yet… Draconic's Avatar
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    So the characters from EXTRA in the real world. It's an excellent concept to work with.

    What's really got me hooked though is Emiya's strained relationship with EXTRA Rin. You've done a really thorough job of making her different but only from his perspective, what with the way she's referred to as 'Rin' in all of his scenes, and the way he's always comparing the two, or focusing on the pendant whenever he talks to her. It's actually heartbreaking, and it's really well done.
    Are we to assume that EXTRAverse's Tohsaka, as you're writing her at least, is a homunculus made using Rin's body as materials? And are we going to learn more about the specifics of her death? I mean it's not too hard to assume, but it'd still have an impact.
    Where am I going?
    And why am I in this hand basket?

    Eldritch Whispers: An RP set in H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. Currently recruiting.

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    Cards Against the Nasuverse – a fanmade Cards Against Humanity expansion
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    Rule #1: Draconic has bad ideas.
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    A mecha-loving Shotacon who plays children's card games naschyamamoto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kirby View Post
    2) The 'old' and 'new' Rins are mainly referring to FSN and Extra versions, where despite names and appearances are separate people. So the here it's just being taken a step further and exploring the idea, mostly because if I'm writing this premise, I can't really run from Extra Rin. If the two Rins were present in the same room, one would be maybe a decade or two older than the other.
    Actually, I was asking about Waver, not Rin. That was probably my bad wording, not yours. lol

    Quote Originally Posted by Kirby View Post
    3) Also, idk about if I worded it poorly, but in the last sequence I meant it so that the nub of crystal was embedded into her palm.

    4) The cyberbrain operation was directly inspired/lifted from Ghost in the Shell, so rather than an outright replacement or implantation, it was meant to be mostly just augmenting it with digital components.
    That definitely clears things up for me! I'm a little bit of a fast reader, so sometimes a few words' difference doesn't impact me until I'm either a chapter ahead or rereading it the second or third time.
    Also, I've yet to see Ghost in the Shell, just haven't ever really felt like getting around to it. I know Crunchyroll added a bunch of new stuff to their catalogue, thank you Funimation, so if GoTS is there I might as well plan a night and binge it.


    Quote Originally Posted by Elf View Post
    There was contributing. And suggestions and . . . okay a bunch of people demanding me to write this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aiden View Post
    Well yeah, that last one always happens.

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    好機 Kirby's Avatar
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    Again, this is all drawn from Fate/Extra's setting, so she's simply the Rin from Fate Extra. So she's a descendant of the Tohsaka family-- I honestly forget the details, but I think a relative? Where Tokiomi had an affair abroad, and the child of that line became Extra!Rin, at least, as far as I can recall about her backstory.

    So rather, 'Rin' isn't, genetically or biologically, that same Rin from Stay Night, but is instead trying to imitate her. Emiya's speculation of her salvaging the real Rin's memories was supposed to point to part of her efforts in imitating Rin, along with her taking her name and modeling her appearance after her.

    And yes, what happened to the real Rin will get more detail later on.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by naschyamamoto View Post
    Actually, I was asking about Waver, not Rin. That was probably my bad wording, not yours. lol
    Ah. In that case, this Waver is just the same old Waver as usual, just much older now. The memories of what Rin said to him are his-- as in, not like downloaded or implanted or anything, but just normal reminiscing.

    That definitely clears things up for me! I'm a little bit of a fast reader, so sometimes a few words' difference doesn't impact me until I'm either a chapter ahead or rereading it the second or third time.
    Also, I've yet to see Ghost in the Shell, just haven't ever really felt like getting around to it. I know Crunchyroll added a bunch of new stuff to their catalogue, thank you Funimation, so if GoTS is there I might as well plan a night and binge it.
    GiTS is honestly one of my favorite anime series, but if you watch it, I mostly recommend the Stand Alone Complex seasons, and movies 1 and 2 (Innocence). I honestly haven't seen Arise or any of the others, but I haven't heard much good about them, so welp
    <Lian|work> lynch kirby imo


    Linger: Complete. August, 1995. I met him. A branch off Part 3. Mikiya keeps his promise to meet Azaka, and meets again with that mysterious girl he once found in the rain.
    Shinkai: Set in the Edo period. DHO-centric. As mysterious figures gather in the city, a young woman unearths the dark secrets of the Asakami family.
    The Dollkeeper: A Fate side-story. The memoirs of the last tuner of the Einzberns. A record of the end of a family.
    Overcount 2030: Extra x Notes. A girl with no memories is found by a nameless soldier, and wakes up to a world of war.

  12. #12
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors Alternative Ice's Avatar
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    So does all these mysterious conflicts breaking out everywhere mean that this is a world where Twice succeeded in controlling the moon cell?

  13. #13
    好機 Kirby's Avatar
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    IIRC, something similar in Extra happened even without Twice winning, where from the Moon Cell he was able to orchestrate increases in terrorist attacks and general violence just as an NPC.

    That aside, this fic is mostly operating independent of the Moon Cell. Kind of a "what-if" where the Moon Cell is never discovered or never comes into play (so as to focus on the rest of the Extra world), and so most of everything here isn't related to it. So it's something else, basically.
    <Lian|work> lynch kirby imo


    Linger: Complete. August, 1995. I met him. A branch off Part 3. Mikiya keeps his promise to meet Azaka, and meets again with that mysterious girl he once found in the rain.
    Shinkai: Set in the Edo period. DHO-centric. As mysterious figures gather in the city, a young woman unearths the dark secrets of the Asakami family.
    The Dollkeeper: A Fate side-story. The memoirs of the last tuner of the Einzberns. A record of the end of a family.
    Overcount 2030: Extra x Notes. A girl with no memories is found by a nameless soldier, and wakes up to a world of war.

  14. #14
    Jester of the Moon Cell's Sovereign Kieran's Avatar
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    Fair enough. Even without the Moon Cell, this is one of the most intriguing stories I've come across in ages. I look forward to seeing what you've got in store next.
    “Love will be cruel to who it entices — love will have its sacrifices.”

    — Carmilla Theme




    "Evil isn't the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it's a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference."

    ―Jim Butcher, Vignette

  15. #15
    好機 Kirby's Avatar
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    2/Giant’s Maw

    She’d spent the entire day in bed, or so he was told.

    According to the doctors the operation had been a success, and the cyberbrain components had been installed without complications— at least, any medical ones, as far as they could tell. They’d said she’d be ready to discharge the next day,but instead she had spent two days lying in bed, refusing meals and only getting up to go to the washroom. Whenever prompted by a nurse or a doctor, she only mumbled into her pillow, “I’m fine”, citing headaches or fatigue or something of the like. So Léonne had said, over a bottle or three of brandy.

    Nanashi opened the door to the ward. Hakuno laid on the bed, face buried in a pillow. On the desk beside her sat a glass of water, a plate of apples, and an opened blister pack of painkillers. He pulled up a chair and sat himself down, and she lifted her head slightly, peering at him blearily from behind the pillow. He took an apple from the plate, and projected a small peeling knife.

    “Mmmph.”

    “And a good afternoon to you, too.”

    She buried her face back into the pillow, and he watched her in silence. Of course, she wasn’t asleep. She hadn’t been sleeping when he entered the room, and she certainly hadn’t gone back to sleep. She hadn’t been crying, either. If anything, she looked drained.

    “Well?”

    “Mmph?”

    He sighed. “Well, what’s wrong?”

    For a while, she said nothing. He peeled the apple and watched the ward windows as medical staff passed to and fro, pushing carts of equipment, stretchers of injured soldiers. She watched them too.

    “What did they do?”

    He raised an eyebrow. She buried her face back into her pillow.

    Her voice was muffled slightly by the pillow. “...My mind’s filled with things. Names and words and ideas. Things that I don’t get, I don’t get it at all.” She looked up. “But now I do?”

    “Memories.”

    “...Huh?”

    “What they did was implant memories into you, stuff that’d bring you up to speed. Did you listen to them when they explained the procedure to you?”

    She frowned, but stayed silent.

    “I won’t get mad if you say no.”

    Slowly, she shook her head. “I mean,” she said, faintly sheepish at it all, “I tried. I just didn’t get it at all.”

    He held the knife in his right hand and the apple in the other, rotating it about its base as he slowly peeled it. “Well, think back now. Try to remember what they said. Can you understand it now?”

    From the expression of dawning realization on her face, he assumed she did. He continued.

    “There’s more to memory than just stuff like your first visit to the beach, or what you had for dinner last night. Skills and information, too, are memory.” He shrugged. “Once digitization took off, memories could be recorded, collected, copied. That’s what they planted into you.”

    “I have someone else’s memories…?”

    He shook his head. “You have artificially manufactured memories, belonging to no one in particular. Probably coded by a programmer, or compiled through piecing together relevant memories— personal components removed, at least, so all that remains is information. I don’t know. I wasn’t the one who made them.”

    “I don’t understand.”

    “Think of it this way. As you were before— ah, well, you don’t remember that much, do you? Well, you must remember something. How about this? Say you wanted to read French, but only knew Japanese. What would you have done?”

    “I… I dunno, consult a dictionary?”

    He nodded. “And say you wanted to read up on this history of, say, England?”

    “...I’d read a history textbook, or something?”

    “Exactly. You’d have to consult an external source of information, like a dictionary or encyclopedia, to look up information. What you have no is no different than that— just that information, rather than being printed on paper or on a screen, has now been downloaded into your memories proper. You should be able to recall that information like you’d learned it yourself. Rest assured, it’s only information and nothing more— no personal memories, in other words.”

    “Transferring the personal memories of one to another erodes one’s self, one’s individuality, both of the recipient and the donor— so they say, anyway. I don’t know the details; I’m no philosopher. But whatever doing that does, it’s not pretty. Almost disgusting,” he said, with a wry smile, brandishing his knife around. “You’d hear complaints about individuality and modernization and all that jazz as time goes on, but nothing really matches outright witnessing the boundaries between individuals melding, breaking down, degrading into a bizarre, amorphous we. Too dangerous to risk on you. So tell me,” he said, now leaning forward. “What do you remember?”

    “...We’re speaking in English, aren’t we?”

    He snorted. “Strange feeling, isn’t it? You can understand me perfectly now, right?”

    She nodded, and frowned to herself, lost in thought. “These names, these histories—”

    “Information downloaded into your memories. Of course, they hadn’t told you everything, but it should be sufficient.”

    “Couldn’t they have done something less… invasive?”

    “Would you rather read a brochure—”

    “—I’m sure a brochure would’ve been more pleasant—”

    “—if it were a thousand pages long?”

    She scowled, and he laughed at the look on her face. “Hey, what can I say? Really, if I just gave you the choice between reading a thousand-page document, or letting you instantly learn it, which would you rather do?” Another scowl. He shrugged. “If you’re getting the cyberbrain procedure, might as well. You know at least know the saying, ‘two birds with one stone’?”

    “Well, if I didn’t before, I at least know it now.”

    “They have idioms programed into that linguistics software?”

    “...Maybe?” Another frown, as she apparently tried to recall. “I-I’m not sure.”

    Nanashi raised an eyebrow. She spoke quietly. “I can’t tell what I used to know, or what I didn’t.”

    “It sort itself out. That’s just how they work. Maybe we should’ve taken it a bit slower, but with enough time and use, recalling from the memory archive will feel as natural as from your real ones.”

    She sat silent for a while, and he continued peeling the apple he’d neglected. She stared out the window. This one didn’t have as good a view of the sea.

    “What else did they put in me?”

    He finished peeling the apple, and tossed the scraps into a nearby bin. Holding the thing in one hand, and the peeling knife in the other, he split it down the core, and cut it into wedges. A bit rash of him to handle the knife this way, but he was confident enough in his skills with knife.

    “Presumably, the basic training softwares. Combat and equipment maintenance and the like,” he said. She looked at him quizzically. He smiled wryly. “As in, if I gave you a gun right now, you could kill a man with it.”

    She recoiled, and he laughed. “I’m joking. Well, I’m not.” He sighed. “They’re motor skills, essentially. Those, too, are memories, and can through the same principle be transferred from one individual to another. They differ in that they’re a bit harder to break in; your motor memories will feel awkward until you acclimate your body to them. So you’re not off the hook for training.”

    Faint heat pulsed in his Circuit. The knife thinned, and melded into a skewer. He speared a piece of apple. “Here. Eat.”

    “I just had something.”

    “Like hell you did. Water and painkillers don’t make a meal.”

    “I’m not hungry.”

    “It’s fruit.”

    He frowned at her, and she glared back. Faint irritation. That was good. Feeling anything was a step up, at least from that vague sense of aimlessness and sheer blankness from before.

    “...Thanks,” she said, if only a bit half-heartedly.

    “Just eat your meals. Don’t starve yourself, of all the ways in the world to sulk.”

    She turned away, muttering. “The meals here suck.”

    “—Huh?”

    “All the meals in this ward are terrible. They’re all, like, bland and boring and dry.” She sullenly nibbled at her apple, as she stared at the wall.

    He blinked. It took a second or two of silence, of her completely serious expression, to realize that she was being serious. He sighed. “If I bring you meals, will you at least eat?”

    “...Sure.”

    He left the rest of the apple slices on the plate by her bedside, and got up to leave, making his way to the door. She kept nibbling at the apples all the while.

    “Hey.”

    She called out, and he paused, just before he’d reached the door. He turned back.

    For a moment, she hesitated, looking at him with an odd expression. Frustration, or stress, but not at him or her but something else. She was hiding something; that much was clear.

    “Are you sure they didn’t put anything else in me?”

    He frowned. “What, like memories? Aside from skills and knowledge, anyway?” She nodded, and he scratched his head.

    It was worrying to think about. He thought of the magi, and what he knew about them— their mindset, their ideology, their pride. Surely, they wouldn’t. They knew the risks of that operation, that the implanting of personal memories far outweighed whatever benefits that could bring. If there were any benefits to the thing, anyway. Magi were rational, in their own strange way.

    “I’m sure they didn’t. They wouldn’t give you anything unnecessary, anyway.”

    Slowly, she nodded, and sunk back into her pillow. With that, he took his leave.

    A nurse stood waiting out in the hall, and he nodded to her as he passed. With a small bow, she re-entered the ward. By the time he’d reached the elevators, he’d received a notification. A little buzz in the interface, like a tingling in the back of his neck. One new message. Small text projected itself over his vision.

    “She says she wants yakisoba-pan.”



    Three days later, they finally docked in Hangzhou.

    Despite the archives of information they’d implanted into her memories, she wasn’t quite sure why they were here. The Harweys’ grip on East Asia was weaker than that over Europe. Here, they mostly exercised their power through trade deals and economic influence. Back in Europe, she was told, they controlled the states down to the level of government and sovereignty. Puppet states.

    On one hand, East Asia had lost much of its grip over the world, following the destruction of that fateful day thirty years ago, from which they never truly recovered. On the other, what remained ended up forming some of the most stable city-states in the continent, especially compared to the war-torn Southeast.

    That, combined with how the Harweys ruled from the other side of the globe, was a boon to KRONE. Here they could operate freely, relatively unobstructed by local governments.

    None of this meant anything to her, but she knew it now. She still wasn’t sure how to feel about it. Her mind had adjusted, as far as she could tell, to a stable balance. Telling the difference between her real memories and the implanted ones became a simple task: if she couldn’t remember how she came to know it, it was from the archive.

    As they approached the shore sometime in the middle of the night, they had ferried her indoors. She saw it from the windows, like a translucent film draped over the sky. The lights of the stars disappeared, snuffed out like candles, the vessel suddenly falling into eerie silence. The archives told her this was a large-scale Code Cast, a cloaking-type, that manipulated the flow of light and sound.

    It had told her this, but it never prepared her for what it was really like to see it in person. A stifling, claustrophobic feeling, that pounded at her eardrums and weighed on her lungs. Like they were sinking into the bottom of the sea.

    She held her breath. A blonde girl in the same room stifled her laughter.

    At some point, she’d fallen asleep. When they woke her up the nauseating pressure had gone, and they’d finished docking at the port. They exited to the lower levels of the vessel. Once she was outside she finally got a good look at the place, a massive facility that looked like it could’ve been underground. A dark ceiling loomed high overhead, held up by concrete pillars and steel beams. Faint lights like pinpricks flickered up above.

    She followed the others to the hall— Nanashi, the blonde woman, and other soldiers she didn’t recognize. As she looked back, before the automated gates shut, she saw some of the soldiers and staff, remaining on the vessel. The woman beckoned to her, and she followed their group, as the soldiers began to disperse, each heading to their own station.

    The halls were dimly lit and undecorated. After minutes of walking and uneasy silence, they came across a lift. They entered. She followed. One of the walls was see-through, a massive window of glass. She could see the lower levels, Liner Mech units lying dormant in storage. The lift hummed as it made its way up.

    From the glass, she could see the floors passing by, disappearing down below. A little blinking indicator ticked away the floors.

    B30. B29.

    B17. B16.

    —The blonde girl made conversation with Nanashi, words she couldn’t hear, who simply nodded as he listened. A large, bald man laughed and slapped him on the back—

    B10. B9.

    —A man moved to light a cigarette, until his neighbor snatched it away, and glared at her as she admonished him—

    B3.

    —Nanashi rubbed his shoulder from the impact; the man gesticulated as he spoke—

    B2.

    —A light visible from the surface.

    B1.

    For the first time, she saw a city.

    It shone. Skyscrapers like monoliths reached into the sky, connected here and there with sky bridges, elevated networks of streets, a spider’s web of beams and concrete and shining lights. The webs formed levels, cities within the city stacked one upon the other, intricately connected by foundations of steel. She craned her head looking upward, and saw no end to the thing. The lift proceeded upward, rising deeper into the web, the giant’s maw. Blotting out the lights of the stars, they filled them in with their own.

    On the horizon, she saw the outline of a crater, of cooling towers and giant rigs and lights across its surface like fluorescent moss, casting a dull golden glow over the water’s surface. The Hangzhou Power Station, so said the archives. A Grain-processing facility that powered the city, built off a minor site of impact of Overcount 1999.

    “Nice sight, isn’t it?”

    The blonde girl had snuck up on her while she’d been distracted by the city. She smiled at her. “They don’t tell you about this in the archives, do they?”

    Hakuno shook her head.

    “I’d expected as much. You’re lucky to see this view at night, you know? Honestly,” she said with a sigh, “We won’t get as much of a view where we’re going.”

    “...Where are we going??”

    “There’s business in this city to attend to.” She leaned in, scrutinizing her. “So you’re the new girl, the one that Nanashi’s taken such an interest in?”

    From over the girl’s shoulder, she saw him grimacing at that.

    “I mean— maybe?”

    Interest? Was that what it was? She couldn’t quite tell; she had nothing to compare it to.

    “What’s your name?”

    “...Hakuno.”

    The girl frowned. She looked disappointed, though at what, Hakuno hadn’t a clue.

    She straightened herself up, and puffed out her chest. “Ah. Well,” she said, extending her hand to shake, “I’m Rin. Tohsaka Rin. If what I’ve heard was true, you’re to be in our unit, now?”

    Something clicked in her archives. Tohsaka Rin. A familiar name.

    “Oh—!”

    Rin smiled at that, seemingly satisfied at that.

    Tohsaka Rin. She hadn’t recognized her at first; she looked different in the records. But she was a magus, and a researcher, one of the pioneers of research into Grain, applying Conversion theory, Mineralogy, and Jewelcraft to convert and process Grain into an energy source, both for thaumaturgical and mundane uses. In other words, the inventor of the Grain Reactor, the system that changed the face of war.

    She didn’t know what half of those words meant— at least, not without consulting even further into her archives— but even she could appreciate the weight of those accomplishments.

    She had no surviving family. She had been caught in the fall of London and went missing for a while— for years, they’d said— but evidently managed to survive.

    “Ah. You look different!”

    Something in her face flickered, a grimace or the like, though Hakuno attributed it to her imagination. “So they have files of that record, after all?”

    Hakuno nodded. Her mind flickered through the files, intaking and filtering information. The images of the woman on profile was older and sterner, with straight black hair and an enigmatic smile, like she knew something you didn’t. The woman before her was blonde, and wore her hair up, but the resemblance remained in the eyes. She paused as she came across a group photo, another familiar face registering in her mind.

    Nanashi.

    A picture from her earlier days; there, the resemblance was much closer, between then and now. It was a photo of about four, in one of the streets of what her archives said was probably London. A blonde girl with ringlets. A man with long black hair. And then, in the middle, them.

    He was smiling in this pic in a way she’d never seen before; bright, boyish, almost embarrassed, with none of the weariness or sternness he wore now. His eyes were a brighter gold here, and his skin a shade paler. Rin had an arm around him, a teasing smile. They were close.

    She looked through the properties of the files for a name, his real one. But all the names had been expunged, the captions blanked, nothing left but the image. The file showed signs of corruption.

    Rin scrutinized her, watched her as she ran through the files. When Hakuno looked up, a questioning expression, she spoke up. “Code Casting changes the body, you know.” She ran a finger through a lock of golden hair. Hakuno accepted that explanation. “You know Nanashi used to be a redhead?”

    She tried to imagine it, and failed; the image simply didn’t register in her mind. But it was something else that bothered her about the files.

    He and Rin— they didn’t seem so close anymore.

    But she only smiled and nodded, and Rin seemed satisfied.

    With some whirring and clicking, the lift ground to a halt. A bell chimed. The gates opened.

    She followed the others into the hall, which opened up into into a lobby. On the opposite end, a large glass wall, the city and its light shining off in the distance, neon signs and moving billboards. Something in the archives clicked. She muttered to herself, unconscious words.

    “I’m home.”

    Rin laughed at that.

    “Welcome home.”



    The building was technically owned by Linan Industries and their unofficially affiliated PMCs, though effectively owned by the Hangzhou Prefecture, who had made a deal with KRONE. In exchange for free reign in the region, KRONE had divested to them some of their developments and research on Grain, one of the major contributions to the Hangzhou Power Station, responsible for the city’s rapid growth into what it was today.

    They had told her, if anyone asked, that she should say she worked for Linan. She’d downloaded the requisite information into her archives.

    Hakuno had settled in nicely. They had given her her own room. It was a small thing, but relatively cozy and brightly decorated— apparently some of her squad had picked some stuff out for her— and overall a nicer affair than the hospital wards had been. Every morning, she headed down to the lower facilities, in which they trained— or more accurately, acclimated— her in her implanted skills.

    First, sparring with Nanashi, which was shorthand for him allowing her to swing at him enough until he got bored enough to pin her to the floor, rinse and repeat.

    Second, VR-training, basic simulation of combat zones, predominantly urban areas in varying stages of decay. They’d said there was a psychological aspect to this training too, to acclimate her to such stress, lest sudden exposure in the field result in trauma.

    Third, Code Casting, in which both Rin and Mister Velvet had to come over to assist. It was one of the few skills that they couldn’t implant into her memories, and had to teach from the ground up. Code Casting was too personal and variant between magi to implant.

    And so on.

    She fell into a routine, and progressed at a decent pace, her archive of memories pulling their weight in their training. Rather, instead of building up these skills from the ground up, as one would naturally do, this method allowing the implanted muscle memories integrate into her own; while at first, her body moved as if on reflex, involuntary action, theoretically her mind should adjust enough so that the movements would feel perfectly natural.

    Nanashi off-handedly mentioned that other organizations used this method to mass-produce soldiers.

    They began in the morning, and ended some time in the afternoon. After which, she had the time to herself. Free time, in other words. For lack of anything better to do, she wandered.

    Sometimes, she explored the new world— not the physical city, but the pervasive Net that had integrated itself into every inch of the world, networks of cyberbrains in constant communication— uploading, downloading, shared memories through social media and news, ads of everything from fashion to food, linked minds in discussion, in argument, a veritable torrent of flowing information— like a noise like a ringing in her skull, so much so that sometimes she found herself switching herself offline just for a moment of quiet privacy. Even with her restricted access— preventative measures imposed by KRONE to protect against leaking secrets, or cyberbrain virus infections— it was overwhelming. And yet everyone else she’d met had become acclimated to such a thing, so much so that running offline was like a deadening silence; a sensation, a staff member had described it to her, like sinking to the bottom of the sea.

    Other times, she’d wander about the facilities, making small-talk with the staff, and getting to know her squad-mates. They mostly knew her as the new girl, with the mild novelty of having woken up from thirty years of cold sleep.

    Rin was a haughty girl, who looked a bit older than she, though her real age should’ve been quite a bit older. She was generally distant and biting, and didn’t seem to like interacting with her all that much, save for when Nanashi was around, for whom she’d put on a friendly face. She liked to binge-shop.

    Blackmore was an old soldier, who spoke with an slight accent and carried about him an air of dignity. He was an agent from a Harwey-dominated nation, sent to KRONE by their queen so they could regain their sovereignty. He knew Nanashi from the wars past, but didn’t like to talk about those times, nor about him. He treated her kindly and called her “child”.

    Jain was a loudmouthed lech, and the one who’d taught her how to connect to the Net. He’d downloaded for her all his favorite movies and shows, which she’d watch back in her room, into the night. The movies told her he had a taste for violence, musicals, and cute girls.

    Sialim was a quiet one, with an air of pride and cold detachment. She rarely spoke to her, but when she did, she spoke as if she already knew what she would say.

    Velvet was a middle-aged man, the other man in the photo, whose face seemed to have been shaped into a perpetual scowl. A cloud of cigarette smoke seemed to accompany him wherever he went, and he made a hobby of watching gaming streams, complaining about them, and drinking. He was an instructor, and walked with a limp in his left leg.

    Adeline was an alcoholic.

    About two weeks had passed. Jain had the idea to take her out to the city, to get a breath of fresh air. Adeline agreed. Rin and Mister Velvet didn’t. Blackmore had stayed quietly at this, silently watching, and Sialim seemed uninterested.

    It’d be so boring here, she’d said.

    It’s too dangerous, they’d said.

    She’s not a puppy, he’d said.

    And so on, and so on.

    With that, the decision fell to Nanashi. With a sigh and shrug, he only managed out a “Fine.” For that, they’d shoved the responsibility of watching over her for protection onto him. He grumbled at this.

    Jain picked out a Friday to head out, sometime in the evening. Adeline was coming along, as was Léonne and some of her drinking buddies. Velvet too, half-heartedly grumbling all the while. Rin tagged along, if only to keep an eye on Nanashi, in case he tries anything weird, so she had said. Only Blackmore and Sialim stayed behind, as the former bid them farewell with a apologetic smile, citing his age, and the latter simply waved them off, not once looking up from her work.

    When she first saw the city, it was from a distance, a mass of steel webs adorned with lights like dew. But being in the city was a whole other experience, almost surreal. They walked on the skybridges, their entangled mass forming streets and plazas, lit not by the sun but the constant lights, the streetlamps and billboards, advertisements adorned with celebrities and traffic of the streets blaring noise from every direction.

    Hakuno looked up at a building, one segment of a skyscraper, the image of a pretty woman and a bottle of soda winking down from above, a coquettish smile. She didn’t recognize the characters on the signboard, but something in her cyberbrain flickered, a holographic image, its translated text superimposed over the unfamiliar characters— LIVEN UP YOUR SUMMER, WITH A BOTTLE OF NEX—

    When the image left her field of vision, the text faded out of her sight.

    When they’d asked her what was wrong, as she stopped dead in the street just staring at the building, she simply shook her head with a muttered ‘Nothing’.

    The streets themselves were littered with this sort of thing. Waypoints imposed themselves over her vision, ads by the entrances of restaurants and bars. If she focused on one long enough, something in her clicked, as they expanded, feeding information into her mind, of ongoing specials and happy hours and customer reviews— that, and floods of images, of grilled spiced meats on skewers, of candied fruits and home-brewed drinks, of lined up bowls of noodles and soups— libraries of photos she could explore with but a single thought. She felt a pang of hunger. It certainly didn’t help, that Nanashi had been too busy to cook for her after they’d docked.

    For the first time, she found herself in a restaurant.

    It was a noisy and crowded building, decorated with red and black lacquered pillars, and faux traditional ink paintings. Pop music blared from the speakers above, upbeat and saccharine, a bubbly backdrop to the excited chatter of the diners. Adeline waved to a friend in the crowds, and Jain eyed the woman behind the bar. Nanashi surveyed the crowds, frowning as if he were looking for someone. Rin waved one of the servers over, who nodded, and led them to a private room, a quiet place where the music and chatter of the crowds were muffled, distant. Peace and quiet. They seated themselves around a table, a waitress pouring rounds of drinks.

    They then handed her a menu, and told her to point to whatever she’d like.

    Go on, Rin’s loaded, she’ll pay for it—

    Like hell I will—

    —So the conversation had gone.

    Hot pot was house specialty; one that had made this place quite famous in this area, and a popular hangout for of students and a destination for tourists. She looked at the screens, the images animate. Pots of cheerily bubbling broth, some milky white and laden with berries and herbs and spices, others slicked bright red, nearly drowned in chilies. Cuts of meats, of lamb and beef and chicken, some sliced paper-thin, others stacked in piles of skewers. Baskets of assorted greens and mushroom, platters of tofu, meatballs and fried crullers, bowls of noodles of all kinds—

    “Er… Hakuno? You’re drooling.”

    “Don’t just say that.”

    “What, but she wa— ow!”

    She looked up from the menu, the others watching her expectantly. “Well?”

    Hakuno looked at them, and back at the menu. A short silence.

    “...Everything?”



    They didn’t, in the end, order everything, though it could’ve fooled her.

    The servers had brought in a large pot, fit into the depression in the center of the table. They taught her how it all worked: you took the raw ingredients from the platters, and cooked them in the simmering broth. Once done to your likeness, you fished them out at your leisure. The pot had a divider along the middle, split into two compartments. On one half, bone broth, savory and sweet. On the other, chili broth, alarmingly red, which seemed to have as much chilis as there was broth.

    Against her better judgement, she ate from the latter.

    She was crying, and her face was numb. The others watched on, mixed expressions of concern and amusement, as she persisted along, wolfing down food she wasn’t quite sure she could taste.

    “You know, you don’t have to eat from that one if you d—”

    “—Don’ wanna.”

    They left her alone after that.

    The room buzzed with energy, a festive atmosphere that she wasn’t quite used to. Jain and Adeline were already drunk, the former more so than the latter, laughing and teasing and offering her drinks she refused. Rin complained to Léonne about life at sea, and how much better the food was out here, as one of her friends hit on Nanashi. She could pick up snippets of their conversation, talks of days long past, of life back at France, or NGO work in the Persian Gulf. The archives told her their names, their identities, but they all felt like strangers.

    With little else to do, she focused her attention to the TV hanging in the corner, absently sipping a Coke.

    Over the noise of the others, the music and the buzz of the crowd, the sound of the news channel was drowned out, inaudible. Something in her mind flickered, and she linked up, a little sting in the back of her neck, feeding the sound directly into her head. The news anchor was a woman in a plain navy suit, her features generic but pretty, her tone even and voice soothing. Her mind slipped into a stupor.

    —seven killed, and thirty-four critically injured, in a car bombing at Kiev, police have arrested three men thought to be suspects, authorities have condemned this as a terrorist act—

    —a warm welcome to the Chancellor of Germany, as he visits London to meet with the Queen—

    —day five of protests in Libya, urging the resignation of the Prime Minister after the Osman Scandal, police have started firing upon the crowd and twelve have been confirmed dead—

    —a historic deal by NERO on Grain regulation, spearheaded by the head of Harwey Industries, he’s just arrived in Aylesbury to make a speech—

    There, in the screen. A man with the air of a king.

    He was young, almost jarringly so, as he stood at the podium, addressing a hall of grey-haired politicians and stiff-faced lobbyists. He wore his hair slicked back on one side, blonde and neat, and dressed himself in a simple suit and coat. Behind him, barely visible on the camera, a man in a black coat stood, his expression severe, silent and unmoving.

    He spoke to the crowd, an authority in his voice. It was a natural nobility, that held the crowd affixed, practically mesmerized by his words. He spoke, neither loud or bombastic, nor quiet or meek, but with an air of dignity, of absolute calm, sincerity, something that could’ve been as natural as breathing or blinking.

    “What’s with that look, eh? Did’ya fall in love, or something?” Jain drunkenly laughed, and slapped her on the back. His eyes followed her gaze; his expression soured. “Oh. This asshole.” He jabbed a thumb at the screen. “Know who this guy is?”

    If the captions didn’t tell her, her archives would have. Of course she knew.

    Leonardo B. Harwey.

    “The King.”

    He snorted. “His royal highness himself, yeah.” He turned his eyes to the screen, now attentive, no longer smiling. She followed suit.

    His speech was about a recent policy that had been passed, regarding tightening Grain processing regulations, and their projects on the North Pole. He talked of world unity and harmony, of the dangers and trials the world faced, of the steps his organization had taken to combat the world’s strife, to band together and overcome. Jain snorted. “Bullshit.”

    “He seems sincere enough.”

    “He is sincere,” Rin chimed in. “That’s probably the worst part.”

    “What’s wrong with what he’s saying?”

    “What he’s saying? Nothing, really. I’m sure peace and harmony would be lovely and all, but their idea of ‘peace’ is more a prison than a paradise.”

    Jain nodded to the screen. “Y’know what policy they’re talking about?”

    Hakuno shook her head. He continued. “Diverting funding from creating Grain processing plants in-land, to moving it to their facility in the Arctic. Their pet project, the one that made ‘em rich. ‘Say it’s because Grain’s dangerous and all, and of the risks they present to the cities, but really all they’re doing is establishing a monopoly on the thing, on both the profits and the research from the thing.”

    “But isn’t it, really?

    “Dangerous?” She nodded, and he laughed. “Of course it is! It’s toxic as hell, and volatile, but not nearly as much as they’re saying, given the proper handling. Ain’t gonna blow up any cities, if you’re aren’t dumb with it. They’re just playing on their fears of another Overcount, so they can hog all the shit for themselves.”

    She looked through her archives, and brought up memories of Grain disasters from before. Cities flattened and reduced to ash, landscapes warped into surreal, crystalline structures, the sky blanketed by a blood-red haze. These were, supposedly, from Grain reactors that went through meltdowns. Rin spoke, before she could open her mouth.

    “I know what you’re looking at, they didn’t go haywire on their own. Half of those, by the way, were sabotaged, to spread paranoia and wariness of Grain-derived energy.”

    “Then the Grain plant here—”

    “They managed to build that one because this place is far enough to avoid regulations. Their control’s not enough to completely control the industry; only enough to keep it suppressed.”

    “But why?”

    “Military tech,” Jain said. “Weapons of mass destruction, warfare on scales unprecedented. Grain’s not just an energy source, but well…” He laughed, now mirthless. “Well, ask Nanashi. He’s done tours of the Dunes, back in the heyday of Liner warfare; he knows.” But Nanashi only scowled at him from over his drink, and didn’t answer.

    Léonne piped up. “Well, at least the Harwey’s control mean there won’t be any wars like that anymore, no?”

    “Only because neither they nor we’re enough of nutjobs to want that shit again. And who else is there? Can’t have war if everyone else’s beaten into the dirt, depending on you to live.” Jain scowled at the screen, sipping on his drink. Adeline changed the channel.

    She switched to a movie, a scene of a man and woman in a room, a large hall lit by sunset. Columns stood sentinel, reaching into the ceiling. An owl perched itself by the wall. Another entered.

    —Is this to be an empathy test? Capillary dilation of the so-called blush response? Fluctuation of the pupil? Involuntary dilation of the iris.

    We call it Voight-Kampff for short.

    Mr. Deckard. Dr. Eldon Tyrell.

    Demonstrate it. I wanna see it work.

    Where’s the subject?

    I wanna see it work on a person. I want to see a negative, before I provide you with a positive.

    What’s that gonna prove?

    —Indulge me.

    They sat the lady down, and asked her questions, an antiquated device monitoring her eye. He proposed scenarios. She, responses. A calfskin wallet as a gift for her birthday. A boy, his butterfly collection, and the killing jar. A nude photo her husband hangs on the bedroom wall. A banquet, with appetizers of raw oysters, and entrees of boiled dog.

    Jain joked at that last part, that maybe we could try that out while we’re out here at Hangzhou, yeah?

    Rin slapped him across the back of his head.



    The sun had set by the time they finished.

    Adeline was only just conscious enough to mumble, and Jain had already blacked out. The former, Rin carried on her back. The latter, Nanashi carried over his shoulder, like a sack of potatoes.

    At night, the streets were even more crowded than before, food stalls set up on the sides of the roads, carts and grills, locals sitting about tables on plastic stools, chatting, drinking, eating. Even if she’d just stuffed herself full with lamb skewers and hot pot, she was starting to feel hungry again.

    Though even she knew that gorging herself would just lead to her regretting it the morning after. Even now, she had a bit of a headache.

    About halfway home, Nanashi spoke whispered something to Mister Velvet. He nodded, and Nanashi handed Jain over to him. Velvet buckled a bit under the weight. His eyebrow twitched. Nanashi bid them farewell, and signaled to Hakuno to follow. The others left in a group, leaving the two of them alone.

    “We’ll be taking a detour, for the moment. Some places to stop by, business to take care of,” he said, rubbing the back of his head. As he did so, he tapped the side of his neck. A signal. She took that as a sign to establish a private channel.

    She received a message as she did so, a little sting in the back of her head.

    Do not be alarmed. Act natural, and follow me closely.

    Go offline. We’re being followed.

    Her heart raced, cold sweat forming on her skin. She shut off her connections, the holograms and overlays disappearing from her view, a sudden jarring silence compared to the noise, the masses of the information before. No longer was she connected to the city; she found herself alone in the crowd.

    She followed him as she was told to do, as they wandered about the city, briskly weaving about the crowds of street goers, the shops and stalls. She couldn’t see his face.

    She noticed the cut connections more than ever. Their absence weighed in like silence, iron bands constricting at her lungs, pressure on her eardrums. Breathing felt difficult. Doubt and fear, unfamiliar feelings, gnawed at her mind.

    Had they been discovered?

    Were they to be attacked?

    What was going to happen to them.

    A voice snapped her out of her reverie.

    “—Hakuno.”

    She looked up, a sigh of relief.

    “Nana—”

    She paused mid-word. Before her stood an unfamiliar man, a man with auburn hair, dressed in a plain, black suit.

    As if suddenly roused from a dream, like water splashed on her head, she realized. She found herself in not the streets, but a deserted alleyway, an area unfamiliar. Piles of trashbags on one side, metal piping on the other. Several glass bottles— some broken— littered the ground. The sounds of the crowds and traffic were far off in the distance. She found herself alone with the man.

    “You’re not… who are—”

    “I apologize, Miss Kishinami, for deceiving you.”

    “Who are you?” Panic creeped in. “Where are—”

    “You caught the virus we planted. I simply used it to hack your cyberbrain. Seize your senses, lead you away here. Again, my apologies, but I don’t believe you would’ve come along if I had only asked.”

    “I— I said, who are you?” He only smiled. “Answer me!”

    He spread out his arms, a welcoming gesture. “Call me Adams, though that shouldn’t mean anything to you.” He held his smile, an unnerving thing. She’d never met someone who smiled so much. “If anything, I suppose you can call me an representative of the Harweys.”

    She reached to her leg, only to realize she was unarmed. She hadn’t taken anything with her, as they went out to see the city.

    “Woah, woah.” Adams raises his hands. “There’s no need to get violent. I’m no brute. I’m not going to hurt you. I simply brought you here to talk.”

    “...Why?”

    “Why not? We’re not here to harm you. Rather, here to help you.”

    She stayed silent at this, only glaring at him with suspicion. He continued.

    “Well, where do we begin? I suppose I should lift the lid on this whole charade. I know who took you in— KRONE, was it?” He smiled. “To put it simply: they are not what they seem to be.”

    “And they are?”

    “A terrorist organization.”

    “And what the hell’s that supposed to mean?”

    “Exactly as it sounds. Do you even know what your organization does, what they’re hiding from you? Do you think you’re anything to them, but a disposable pawn? They seek to usurp us, out of nothing but spite. Go on, ask them. What kind of world would they make to replace our own? See if they can come up with an answer.”

    She took a step back. “Did you take me here just to lecture me?”

    “I came here to make a deal with you.”

    “What do you want?”

    He outstretched a hand to her, smiling. A theatrical display. “For you to come with us.”

    The air froze. Come with them? What did that mean? If she came with them, what did she have to leave behind?

    Ideals that she didn’t understand, wars that she didn’t believe in? Squadmates she barely knew, a whole band of strangers?

    “They want you as a soldier. They’ll use you, throw you to the killing fields. But we’re not a violent bunch— we have no need for such things.”

    Betrayal. Surely, this would be considered betrayal. But it was an idea, a crime, that meant nothing to her. Nothing meant anything to her, so new everything in this world was. Would she care about betraying strangers? Should she really trust them; they, who picked her up to fight a war?

    A faded memory.

    A face looks at mine, through glass and amorphous ice. I look back at him. A kindly smile.

    If this would mean nothing to her, then why was she hesitating?

    The man’s hand was still held out to her, his expression expectant. She took one step forward. Her hand trembled.

    She turned around, and broke into a sprint.

    She didn’t know where she was. That didn’t matter for now. All she could think of was running away, running back to the others. She wasn’t sure what betraying them would mean, if it’d hurt her, or them, or if it’d even hurt at all. Did they care about her? Did she care about them? She knew neither of these things, and neither mattered to her. The thought made something in her ache, the idea of taking the man’s hand. In it, she saw pain, and so she ran.

    Tch. Would’ve been too easy, wouldn’t it, for anything to go smoothly. REND!

    A force slammed into her back, knocking the wind out of her, her vision blanking out for a moment. She tumbled down the alleyway, body impacting concrete, shards of glass littering the ground. A flicker of an image from the corner of her eye. The man stood just before her.

    He spoke words she couldn’t hear, a sigh and shake of the head. Lines that glowed traced across his body, something formed in his hand, shining and jagged.

    For the first time she could ever remember, she felt real fear.

    Arm comes down. Rushing blood. Shouting voices. Heat in my body, lancing pain through my arm. Gears click into place. Flickers of memory, neurons fire. It moves on its own.

    It all goes dark.



    She had a silly dream.

    It’s fall. The streets are littered with fallen leaves, dotted with red and gold, as she walks up the hill. She looks beside her, and there’s walks another boy, a backpack in one hand and slice of toast in the other. A wooden sword sticks out of the former.

    He talks of clubs, practice after school. What a pain, he says. Her mouth moves, she speaks words that aren’t her own, words that she doesn’t understand. She admonishes him, talks of exams and competitions and friends she doesn’t know; he smiles and laughs.

    The sky’s cloudy, and darkens a shade. Rain falls; they seek shelter under the trees. He curses himself for not bringing an umbrella, and she rummages about her bag.

    There, on the leaves. Drops of water trace their image, coalescing on their surfaces and dripping down the leaves. She flinches as one drips onto her arm.

    Raindrops on her skin. They’re warm, and sticky, and red.



    She woke up in a daze.

    She was alive, and in the alley. Her body was sore. The first thing she noticed was the blood on her arm. The second, the scent of rust and salt lingering in the air. The third, the wetness on her clothes, the dull red stains the painted the alleyway.

    Beside her, she saw the man, shards of a broken glass bottle sticking out of his eye.




    AN: Huge thanks to Dullahan and Frosty for betaing, as usual. A bit longer than my usual fare.

    Yakisoba-pan is yakisoba (pan-fried noodles) stuffed into a sandwich bun. I've never had it myself, but the thought of eating it makes me feel ill. The hot pot they had was based off of my experiences with hot pot in China. Nex was a fictional soda brand from a certain show.

    The movie that was quoted is a real one. It's also pretty famous, so it should be obvious which one that was.

    I can't remember anything else to put in here, so I'll leave it at this for now.
    <Lian|work> lynch kirby imo


    Linger: Complete. August, 1995. I met him. A branch off Part 3. Mikiya keeps his promise to meet Azaka, and meets again with that mysterious girl he once found in the rain.
    Shinkai: Set in the Edo period. DHO-centric. As mysterious figures gather in the city, a young woman unearths the dark secrets of the Asakami family.
    The Dollkeeper: A Fate side-story. The memoirs of the last tuner of the Einzberns. A record of the end of a family.
    Overcount 2030: Extra x Notes. A girl with no memories is found by a nameless soldier, and wakes up to a world of war.

  16. #16
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors Alternative Ice's Avatar
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    Good references Kirby.

    Can't wait to find out what happens next.

  17. #17
    Eightfold Blessings of Smug Superiority Rafflesiac's Avatar
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    The Harweys work fast. I wonder if Adams got tipped off when Hakuno interfaced with the news report with Leo.

    Nice to see her show more personality. Keep it up, Kirby.
    Supports:

    Quote Originally Posted by Arashi_Leonhart View Post
    canon finish apo vol 3

  18. #18
    A mecha-loving Shotacon who plays children's card games naschyamamoto's Avatar
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    Really enjoying the way this is going (and also the mentions of Grain, now that I've actually gotten around to reading Notes). Somehow I never realized this Rin is in fact a blonde, which raises a whole slew of questions. Nanashi has also been confirmed to have been, once again, walking through the closest thing he could find to hell, which is amusing in a really dark way, and Hakuno has an unexpected dark side.

    Keep up the good work!


    Quote Originally Posted by Elf View Post
    There was contributing. And suggestions and . . . okay a bunch of people demanding me to write this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aiden View Post
    Well yeah, that last one always happens.

  19. #19
    好機 Kirby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rafflesiac View Post
    The Harweys work fast. I wonder if Adams got tipped off when Hakuno interfaced with the news report with Leo.

    Nice to see her show more personality. Keep it up, Kirby.
    Yeah, tbh I don't actually have a great grasp on what actual Hakuno's personality is supposed to be, other than a) everyman/self-insert protag and b) determination, so at the moment I'm just basing it off the blank-slate thing, but played out rather than having it work as an insertion point.
    Quote Originally Posted by naschyamamoto View Post
    Really enjoying the way this is going (and also the mentions of Grain, now that I've actually gotten around to reading Notes). Somehow I never realized this Rin is in fact a blonde, which raises a whole slew of questions. Nanashi has also been confirmed to have been, once again, walking through the closest thing he could find to hell, which is amusing in a really dark way, and Hakuno has an unexpected dark side.

    Keep up the good work!
    Tbh this Rin being blonde isn't actually supposed to be spoiler-y or anything, but just based on Extra!Rin's actual appearance outside of the Moon Cell.

    <Lian|work> lynch kirby imo


    Linger: Complete. August, 1995. I met him. A branch off Part 3. Mikiya keeps his promise to meet Azaka, and meets again with that mysterious girl he once found in the rain.
    Shinkai: Set in the Edo period. DHO-centric. As mysterious figures gather in the city, a young woman unearths the dark secrets of the Asakami family.
    The Dollkeeper: A Fate side-story. The memoirs of the last tuner of the Einzberns. A record of the end of a family.
    Overcount 2030: Extra x Notes. A girl with no memories is found by a nameless soldier, and wakes up to a world of war.

  20. #20
    A mecha-loving Shotacon who plays children's card games naschyamamoto's Avatar
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    ...well. That's... interesting. For some reason I never realized that before, and it's kinda throwing me off a little, lol.


    Quote Originally Posted by Elf View Post
    There was contributing. And suggestions and . . . okay a bunch of people demanding me to write this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aiden View Post
    Well yeah, that last one always happens.

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