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Thread: [Quest] Lost Singularity - Fimbulwinter

  1. #1441
    Flying Fairy Sunny's Avatar
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    I’ll agree with ​1. Leaving her there doesn’t seem like what he’d do in that instant, even if he can’t spare too much time on checking.

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  3. #1443
    Time to burn some dread Daneel Rush's Avatar
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    (BGM)

    “Well, well, what’re we going to do about this…”

    There’s only one person who can hear Lancer’s words, but that person cannot catch his voice amidst the relentless storm swirling around them. The ancient sovereign and the one deprived of his own body have become prisoners, trapped inside a cage in constant motion. What looks like sand, dark like the depths of outer space, rages around them, a ferocious tornado that would scour them into nothing if they allowed it.

    What holds the scouring, searing darkness at bay is Lancer’s melam, further empowered by that of his signature weapon, the thick, trunk-like long spear once enshrined in Kutha. The sickly-looking, cold-colored radiance has become an irregular, inchoate dome keeping the two men isolated from what would otherwise be their end.

    However, it is clear that the dark ‘substance’ does not need to reach Seigi Nomikata to hurt him. It is the representation of the very unraveling of his body, twisted, unmade and remade by the usurper to wield it beyond its human limitations. As the body is inextricably connected to the soul, there is no way ‘Seigi Nomikata’ would be spared from such a brutal violation of his very existence. However, the usurper clearly cares only for the physical body, to use it as it pleases.

    “Uuuh….ugh…” What’s left of ‘Seigi Nomikata’ hugs itself, not quite in pain, for he’s already far beyond the point of feeling any pain. What awareness remains in this soul only recognizes the erosion and unmaking of his very existence, represented in this metaphysical realm by his shape losing coherence and clarity, like a noisy image in an old TV.

    “Come on, you can bear with this!” encourages the Servant. “A man’s got to seize the opportunity. When there’re none, he must endure until the opportunity appears! So shape up, my man!”

    Naram-Sin pats Seigi’s back encouragingly, not thinking much of the fact that he could barely feel his hand touching anything solid. He will not show worry or consternation, for he is the emperor. He is a man who never allowed himself to show weakness. Therefore, he will just make his stand here, and endure. And wait.

    His presence here is a literal light in the darkness, and the only thing ‘Seigi’ can perceive by this point, other than himself. There is nothing aside from this man, other than darkness and oblivion. And that is why what is left of ‘Seigi Nomikata’ does not want this light to disappear along with him.

    “Just…go…please…you still can…”

    “Don’t waste energy on such worthless words.”

    “But…I’m the…only one who has to…”

    “You are not one of my soldiers, so I don’t expect you to die for my sake.”

    Make no mistake: this man was a warlord and an ancient autocrat who claimed ownership over everything in his empire, including the lives of his subjects. However, that is not everything he was, nor everything he was mythicized for. He was the kind of person who would do exactly what he is doing right now: placing his own existence on the line for a man he does not know, with absolutely no expectation of personal benefit or reward for the effort, solely because he has unilaterally decided that this is what he must do.

    Truly, he is a weirdo. But there were a lot of weirdos like him in previous eras, for a very simple reason.

    “If anything, how can I call myself a man, a hero, or a scion of the Sargonid line if I can’t even help a single person!?”

    The order of that list speaks volumes of the kind of person Naram-Sin was.

    The protective dome remains undiminished because Lancer sustains it with whatever magical energy was allowed him in this miraculous manifestation. Once that runs out, he will use his very soul and Saint Graph if necessary. Of this there is no doubt, no hesitation to be seen on that handsome face.

    “But…at this rate…”

    “Something will change!” Lancer declares, his voice the voice of conviction. “I am sure of it, so I will hold this at bay until it happens, or I never deserved my title and my realm!”

    “That’s…unreasonable…”

    At this, Naram-Sin laughs. The ability to laugh even as his very life is eroding away is the mark of a hero.

    “Listen to me, young man.”

    (BGM)

    His voice softens and deepens, showing the serenity of years not shown by his youthful body.

    “I am not what you would call the ‘historical’ Naram-Sin. I am a manifested legend, the result of centuries of oral and written tradition after my death. In my legends, I was punished because I didn’t listen to Ishtar’s advice. I went looking for a fight when she told me to stay my hand, and I ‘got my ass kicked’, as people say in your era. When I did as she told me, everything went my way.”

    Yes, that is indeed ‘the heroic legend of Naram-Sin’. To a modern, rational mind, this kind of story is…

    “That’s it. That’s the kind of lame hero I am: a cautionary tale for everybody to know better than to disobey the gods.”

    However, there is no trace on his expression of the self-deprecation in his words. Whatever he says about himself, he is in no way ashamed of who he is.

    “But here’s the thing: the gods had already left this world in my time, so there’s no way I could have had Ishtar standing by my side giving me advice, and the people who heard that story knew that. So, what use is there for a story so easily disproven?”

    The modern layman makes the mistake of looking down on the people of previous eras. After all, they were fools; ignorant, gullible sheep easily swayed into believing in invisible gods.

    “The story finds meaning and makes sense when you realize that the ‘Ishtar’ in my legend was a stand-in for a very real woman,” further explains the grinning man. “You get what I mean, right?”

    Yes, Seigi gets it. He was all too acquainted with a girl gifted with divine beauty and a bad habit of telling everybody what they lacked and how they could do better. Even at his lowest, as only dregs remain of his ravaged soul, the memory of such an exalted soul remains vivid and strong.

    “That is why ancients Mesopotamians could believe. Even if we couldn’t see them, our gods were real. We knew they were real, beyond any doubt.”

    That is why this hero, Naram-Sin the Twice-Blessed, can exist. The chosen warrior of the two goddess sisters.

    “Because Enheduanna existed, and she was all the proof we needed.”

    And that is why she was deified, and her legend engraved into eternity.

    “And it is that Enheduanna who brought me here,” Lancer finishes with an almost lackadaisical shrug. “So I have faith. In that this effort has a meaning. And you should too! Whatever it is that gives you direction and meaning when nothing else does, remember it!”

    That, indeed, is faith. It has nothing to do with religion, politics, or ideology. It is all about hope; about the things that give you the strength to keep pushing forward, even in the deepest darkness.

    “Direction…meaning…”

    The things that pushed him to follow Lancer Lily to Valparaíso. The reasons he has to preserve his life at all cost. The few precious things he has gathered and protected throughout the trials of life. That which is worth dying for, and more importantly, that which is worth living for.

    “That’s right,” Lancer speaks encouragingly. “Come on, man; you’re, how old? I’d say not even three decades, right? You’ve still got enough life in you for a dozen children!”

    The ancient king laughs heartily, even as he slowly pours away his existence in a seemingly hopeless endurance battle.


    *** ***


    Streets of Valparaíso
    Day 04
    Evening Phase – 11
    Sheer cold (-31°C/-24°F)



    Javier’s Status & Choice
    Health: Optimal
    Sustenance: Optimal
    Warmth: Good
    Stamina: Optimal
    Magic circuits active.
    (BGM)

    “Caster, I don’t know if you can hear me, but I’m listening!” I call out to the empty air as I force myself up to a kneeling position. The shock of the latest impact shook my concentration and turned off my circuits, so I have to take the extra seconds to get some fire back on me before I freeze. Throughout these seconds, Elisabeth remains unmoving. I remember how intimidating she looked in our single meeting that feels so long ago. Right now, however, she could not look any feebler and weaker.

    Alambique,” I murmur as I place my hands on her shoulders to straighten her into a supine position. After all, I want to warm her up, not set her on fire. I know enough first aid to verify that she breathes and has a pulse.

    “Hey. Elisabeth, right? You hafta wake up; you can’t stay on this cold floor…!” I call out and shake her a little, hoping that and the warmth now filling her body do the trick. As I do this, I have to keep my ears open for anything happening outside, as well as on Caster’s speech.

    “The first thing you need to understand is that this being doesn’t have a physical body in this world. It only can exist by taking another’s body. Outside of a body, it is a non-being, so it is impossible to interact with it without something like a Divine Authority. In other words, you have to defeat it while it is inside a host body.”

    Alright, so that means there’s no ‘taking it out to fight it in its true form’, because there’s no ‘true form’ in the first place. That’s…weird to think about, but whatever.

    I feel the woman next to me stirring a little, but Caster’s talking.

    “In the same way, because it has no ‘self’ in this world, it also has no power of its own. Rather, its only power is to invade a host body, and then understand it.”

    “So, it really can only use Nomikata’s abilities, right!?” I ask the air.

    “Yes!”

    Well, that confirms Caster can hear me.

    “It just so happens that its fundamental nature is highly compatible with Mister Seigi’s Origin and magecraft! That’s why it uses it so proficiently!”

    There’s no ‘it just so happens’ involved here. It obviously possessed Nomikata on purpose, considering his alternatives back then were Liria and myself. But anyway, our enemy is some sort of ancient spirit who uses Nomikata’s magecraft, but better. Which means the original plan remains viable, because I have an answer to both his nigredo and his Wind magecraft. The problem’s that ‘instant movement’ or whatever it is…

    A gasp close by steals my attention. I look down at the girl who has regained consciousness, only to find myself following her as she desperately crawls away from me until she has cornered herself in, well, the corner of the two nearest walls. One hand covers the eye normally protected by an eyepatch. The one visible eye, tho…

    “Whoa, ca-calm down,” I say, not quite sure why I’m feeling so much more nervous all of a sudden. “It’s fine…”

    My words trail off at the end there. I cannot really claim that it’s safe. Yet, it is not the noise of combat outside this building that elicit such raw terror in this girl’s single visible eye. She is like a small rodent in a cage, shrieking at the hand reaching inside to grab it.

    “Please…” She murmurs, making herself as small and unseen as possible. “…I don’t want to die…”

    …what the hell is this? It’s like…that wasn’t a general statement. She has one-sidedly decided that I am here to kill her.

    I should say something here, but Caster steals my attention once again.

    “Liria, that…is just an advanced application of nigredo. What it is attacking is the concept of ‘relative distance’! The World immediately reimposes the concept, but not fast enough to prevent it from closing the distance!”

    …so, how do we deal with that? No, it’s just magecraft, right? Magecraft acting on…what? An intangible concept. Distance is relative, but that technique affects my perception of the distance between us. But Caster said it attacked the concept itself, not my brain or something like that. I cannot begin to imagine how that works, but then again, it’s not like I can see magical energy, either.

    What he’s attacking is ‘the World’, so…if I filled the distance between us with my flame, would that work? Shit, plan or no plan, I gotta get back there to help Liria!

    “Look,” I begin, turning to the terrified girl in the corner. “Things are kind of bad out there, so…um, if you can flee by yourself, just go and do that.”

    I don’t think she’s going to die to the cold anymore, and I cannot really force her to do anything.

    “Liria, I cannot reveal its name!”

    …what? That’s…a very good point—Caster’s explained a lot, but she hasn’t revealed the name of whoever, or whatever it is we’re fighting.

    “If I speak its name out loud, my exalted lady will intervene!”


    *** ***


    Club Alemán – Sala Hamburgo, Salvador Donoso 1337, Valparaíso
    Temperate (25°C/77°F)



    (BGM)

    “Hmm…”

    With or without Caster revealing the enemy’s identity, The Maid would be hard pressed to do much of anything with two blades caressing the front and the back of her throat. At least so it seems.

    Her seemingly bored, uncaring eyes shift from Maria Westinghouse to her left, to Archer to her right, both of them with weapon-holding arms stretched in her direction. Then, she looks at the ceiling, her eyes currently denied the night sky no longer painted in blue aurora ever since Wiligut destroyed the fake Grail she put in her temple for show. Naturally, such a thing is not a limitation to the likes of her. The people around her can only begin to guess as to what she truly sees when she looks up at that ceiling.

    “…it is hard to drink like this,” she idly muses. Indeed, the swords get in the way of taking the cup of wine to her mouth.

    “You’ll live,” Maria mercilessly retorts.

    A distance away, the not-so-ordinary humans and even-less-ordinary Hexensoldaten watch the tense scene with measured trepidation.

    “You know, I can’t help but wonder why they don’t just finish her now that they’ve got her like this,” Senta muses, albeit it is kind of a stupid question whose answer she already knows. They all know.

    If they don’t kill her, it’s because they can’t. Neither Archer nor Maria know how, but they know she can get out of this position.

    “…so? What exactly is the plan here?” The Maid inquires.

    Caster’s voice reaches them too, although they are not clear as to whether this is Caster’s intention or Enheduanna’s one-sided intervention. Whatever the case, they hear her words, and therefore have identified the enemy, even if the ancient priestess won’t reveal its name. Both Maria and Archer acted before anybody could even think of speaking the name out loud, as if reading each other’s minds.

    “Girl, can you shape the name of the body stealer in your mind?” asks the mountain of a man. Maria nods.

    “Yeah, but that’s probably Ṣāltum’s nature to not give a shit about the rules. What about ya?”

    “I…can, though I must admit I have to make considerable mental effort to reject the idea of ‘Marduk’, despite never having met this entity. It appears interaction is not necessary for its identity-distortion ability.”

    Maria turns to Fiore and the others, somewhat huddled together and reveling in the warmth provided by Enheduanna’s dining hall.

    “What about you? Ahh, but don’t say it out loud.”

    Sakura shakes her head.

    “Sorry, but I still have no idea,” she admits, but that is just ignorance of ancient Mesopotamian mythology, rather than any awareness-occluding effect. On the other hand, Fiore nods confidently.

    “It is the third member of the primordial triad in the Enūma Eliš, right?”

    Not only Maria, but the two homunculus girls nod in shared agreement. With that, the sword girl turns her firm gaze upon The Maid.

    “Now, I’m gonna guess here, but you’re still stuck in Marduk mode, aren’t’cha?”

    “You guess right,” the austere woman admits. “Even with all the information provided, my mind can only conceive of the name ‘Marduk’, nonsensical as this may be.”

    This does take the other girls by surprise. Sakura almost chuckles at Fiore going into deep thought, likely working on an explanation for the apparent differences in awareness.

    “Alright then,” Maria continues. “What would you do if you knew the real name?”

    “I would use my Noble Phantasm to give it a shape I could then destroy,” The Maid nonchalantly answers, obviously unbothered by the interrogation.

    “…right.” Maria sighs. “Gotta give it to that Caster: she knows what she’s doing.”

    “Do you not want to help them?” Enheduanna then inquires, making Maria roll her eyes.

    “That’s the point Caster’s trying to make: she wants them to win without us.”

    “Their opponent is something beyond their understanding. There are very likely to die.”

    “Well, Caster’s not asking for help, so she still believes they can beat it. If all that old spirit amounts to is an overpowered version of that Nomikata guy, then it’s not an impossible challenge. So, let them fight, and let them win. Without help from gods or demons.”

    “I feel obligated to point out that my student wields the divine flame of Villarrica’s ngen, and Liria Colhuán—”

    “Aaah, you know what I meant—”
    “Liria!”

    The very clear, palpable and chilling anguish and fear in that single word engulfs the room in heavy silence, only exacerbated by the fact that they only have that single word and nothing else. After all, the one single High Priestess who can see everything that is happening in that distant street is sharing nothing. The only thing she reveals to those paying enough attention is the tension in her body, and the slightest of frowns on her lovely face. Nothing more is needed, for all the present feel the violent shaking that follows, and the barrage of debris that strikes their dining hall’s ensorcelled windows. Without Enheduanna’s previous preparations, the windows would’ve shattered, and they all would have been engulfed by this thick cloud of unknown provenance.

    Yet, even as they hear Fiore flinching and Sakura embracing her protectively—an unnecessary gesture in a building that will definitely not fall—, a question speaks loud and clear in the Hexensoldaten’s minds: if their mother can in fact free herself from the encirclement of blades, and she wants to act, then what is actually stopping her?


    *** ***




    (BGM)

    It needs not to be said, but Liria Colhuán has been fighting this whole time. A one-sided, thoroughly defensive, evasive battle; a dance against maiming by dancing air sickles, crushing by gargantuan pressure waves, and unraveling by stream, spears and whips of all-destroying dark energy. There is no expression on the ancient spirit’s inhuman face, but Liria cannot help but think it is mocking her, looking down on her, toying with her like a cat with a crippled little bird. Despite her clearly superior speed and agility, she cannot see a safe approach, and even if she gets into melee distance, then what?

    She is at a disadvantage of her own creation, for it already tried its teleportation trick on her, to which she reflexively responded by lashing out with her Left Arm of Destruction, forcing it to retreat. Unfortunately, she has no answer to his vast repertoire of ranged attacks. His attempts at throwing walking dead at him ended all too quickly, to the point that she felt bad for the people whose bodies were unmade by its nigredo.

    SO, YOU DO INTEND TO USE THAT LEFT ARM? HAVE YOU STOPPED THE PRETENTIONS OF KINDNESS, AND PROPERLY PLACED YOUR LIFE ABOVE SEIGI NOMIKATA’S?

    “God, somebody shut him up…” Liria mutters darkly, letting her superior agility keep her away from the possessing spirit’s unceasing attacks. None of her zombies have reached him, but they’ve gotten close enough. It would be trivial to defeat it, or at least cripple it, with her Noble Phantasm, but that would likely destroy Seigi Nomikata.

    And that’s why Liria still doesn’t know what Javier was thinking by bringing her along for this.

    Should I use my right arm?

    Should she aim to absorb it? The more she deals with this thing the more confident she feels that it is something she can absorb. The question of what would happen if she did absorb it remains in the open.

    Javier remains absent. She very much saw the brutal blow that sent him flying inside a building.

    Damn it, Javier, tell me you’re alright—

    CAN YOU AFFORD TO BE DISTRACTED, WHORE?

    The gust of wind aims not to hurt her, but to raise a cloud of snow and gravel and dust. Submerged in its dirty white opacity, Liria finds herself denied of sight. She only hears its slicing wind sickles flying in some other direction for whatever reason; is it attacking Javier?

    The cloud is vast, and impossible to outrun—for a human, that is.

    Small but powerful legs launch her over the rising cloud, her right hand holding to the highest window frame on a two-story residence. The cloud catches up to her in an instant, but she only needed a moment to notice the strange gap in the block of buildings in front of her.

    A missing building!? No—!

    Of course, a building did not just up and disappeared. The gigantic shadow enveloping her in darkness deeper than the frozen Valparaíso’s night tells her everything she needs to know.

    You’ve got to be fucking kidding—!

    Nobody ever said it could only unmake the distance between itself and others. And those wind sickles are sharp enough to slice concrete and steel off their foundations.

    The entire city shakes when a four-story building falls on Liria Colhuán.


    *** ***




    “Holy shit!”

    My yell hides that of the girl behind me, both of them wholly concealed by the ear-destroying rumbling outside. Any attempt at staying on my feet is a pointless effort; if anything, I almost fall on top of Elisabeth.

    “Shit, this place’s gonna collapse on us!”

    Yes, this is world-shattering violence. Cracks spread like webbing across the walls all around us, just before a rolling storm of debris floods the building. Shit, why am I just staring like a dumbass!?

    “Sorry ‘bout this!”

    Elisabeth only gasps when I pull her closer, wrapping my left arm around her—holy shit this is one slim waist—to hold her close to my side. The other hand rests flat on the ground.

    This divine power comes from the ruler of Villarrica volcano. It rules over fire and earth, and every aspect of volcanic activity. That includes seismic movement.

    “A counterwave to cancel out these tremors, come on….!”

    In front of me, all the thick debris about to pelt us disappears instantaneously, as if it had never existed. It is only chilling air that strikes us.

    “Please don’t look at me,” the girl to my left whispers. I only get to see both her hands on her lap out of the corner of my eye.

    This…must be the mysterious power of her left eye.

    It is quiet here, because we have made it quiet. I have to know what’s happening out there, what the hell caused that quaking, as if a goddamn meteor fell on the city.

    “Caster…! Caster, what the hell happened!?”
    “Liria! You have to help he—!”

    (BGM)

    I’d have thought I was hearing things, but I felt Elisabeth jump next to me. That was an honest-to-God gunshot in the distance.

    “Caster! Somebody’s attacking you!?”
    Don’t worry about me! Go to Liria!”

    “Isolde…”

    Elisabeth’s whisper activates my neurons. Right, there’s Isolde, the real one. Makes sense she’s an enemy.

    “We can’t stay here.” I feel Elisabeth’s soft voice on my ear. She’s right; my counterwave came out too late; this building took plenty of punishment and it might still collapse on us. “I’ll stop Isolde.”

    There is no decisiveness, determination or willpower in her words. She is not driven by conviction, helpfulness, or the drive to do right. She’s just…tired, and she…has come to terms with something. She looks pathetically smaller, but, in a somewhat sad way, she now looks a lot more real.

    “I have to go.” If anything, I’ve stayed here too long. “Take care, alright.”

    A wordless hum of vague assent is all I get. Unfortunately, there’s really no time to sort out this girl’s issues.

    It’s out of the frying pan into the fire. The clarity of vision inside the building ends the moment I step outside, for I set foot on a disaster zone. I am alone inside a grey cloud of dust and debris, and I almost choke as small particles of ruined architecture seep into my lungs. It is as if walking blind into a dark cave, all but inviting its voracious denizens to lunge at me.

    I need more fire.

    Status Change
    Stamina: Optimal -> Good
    The divine flame is almost like a solid object, or like Maria’s melam, the expanding blast pushing away the dust and debris. I want this flame to expand as much as possible—

    GAH! FUCK THIS FLAME!

    Yep, there’s still plenty of Isolde in there.

    If I have to guess, it tried to do his instant movement trick, but it didn’t work as planned. It can’t use its ‘elimination of distance’ on space occupied by the flame.

    DON’T GET SO FULL OF YOURSELF, HUMAN. YOU HAVE ALREADY LOST.

    It needs no prompting to clarify what it means. Its own dark emission clears out the cloud rendering everything opaque, revealing both it and its trump card.

    goddammit.

    (BGM)

    Its left hand, at least twice the size of the largest human hand I can remember, is closed around Liria’s throat. She seems conscious, but her body dangles as if lifeless, not even putting up token resistance. I clench my fists tight to keep myself from doing anything else.

    “What did you do to her.”

    IT IS SEIGI NOMIKATA’S FAILURE TO NOT SEE HOW HIS MAGECRAFT CAN EASILY BE WIELDED TO DISABLE HIS ENEMIES’ NEUROMOTOR FUNCTION.

    So, she cannot move. Perhaps she can’t even speak. But, if it was able to pull this shit on her, why not just kill her?

    “What do you want?”

    THE DIVINE FLAME, OFFERED WILLINGLY.

    It walks towards me, still holding Liria. As it steps into my flame, a raiment of darkness not unlike my Luminous Dress envelops it—nigredo holding the divine flame at bay. There’s no point in wasting magical energy spreading the flame out so far if this guy’s not gonna do the instant movement trick, so I pull it back into its previous, Luminous Dress form.

    But, the flame? I don’t even know if it’s something I can give away. And whether I can give it or not, it doesn’t take a genius to tell this guy would be up to no good with it. Furthermore, what about Nomikata? With this guy messing up his body, plus the divine flame? Overkill much?

    The body stealer in its new, overwhelming form looms well over me, at almost three meters tall. This is not an unfeeling, detached spirit—the tone of its voice, its poise and the way it walks. I can almost palpate how much this guy revels in looking down on others. It’s not like Wiligut, who believes he is entitled to everybody else’s submission. This guy is just a very intelligent bully. If I think about it, both Senta and Ortrud have a little bit of that, too. The fact they didn’t recognize themselves as humans made it easier for them to disregard the value of human life. The ultimate form of dehumanization.

    It stretches its free hand out to me, as if my decision had already been made. Rather, it assumes there is no decision to be made. It said it already, right? That ‘I’ve already lost’.

    My eyes meet Liria’s. There is nothing there; she is not even allowed the luxury of sharing her feelings through facial expressions or body language. She is a doll in this giant’s hand. Nothing from Caster, either—either she can’t, or she has no answer to give me in this kind of situation. Or perhaps she has her own plan that requires silence, but that might just be my wishful thinking.

    NOW, BOY. THE FLAME, OR THE WHORE’S LIFE. YOU ONLY NEED TO TAKE MY HAND, AND SURRENDER TO ME.

    Yeah…there’s one problem with that: I can’t stand the very idea of this guy winning. And I mean both Isolde and this ancient spirit. Neither of them cares the slightest bit about anything other than themselves. I only needed these few minutes of interaction to see that. Nothing good will come out of them having their way.

    Choice Time
    What will Javier do?

    1. Give it my hand. Let it have the flame, see how that works out for it.
    2. Give it a hand(ful of flame. To its face. To its everywhere. Just flood it with fire, and Ekhtros for good measure).
    3. Ask it to let Liria herself decide. It’s her life at stake here, after all.
    4. Write-in.


  4. #1444
    The Long-Forgotten Sight Rafflesiac's Avatar
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    What it is attacking is the concept of ‘relative distance’!
    Now there's a vintage meme. Exquisite.

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

  5. #1445
    Flying Fairy Sunny's Avatar
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    a.

    T-t-two…? I will probably end up changing this based on other votes, though, not confident and hoping for a write-in hero kyaaaaaaaaa. This is just a temporary decision to curb my worrying.
    Last edited by Sunny; June 17th, 2022 at 09:04 PM.

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  6. #1446
    So Many Ideas, So Little Time SleepMode's Avatar
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    A totally not critical juncture, nosiree.
    The Act of dozing off in the afternoon is a luxury indeed.
    Coffee would be nice, though.

    [Collection of my Servant Sheets]
    Now Revamped!

  7. #1447
    後継者 Successor zikari8's Avatar
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  8. #1448
    wwwww Spartacus's Avatar
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  9. #1449
    The Long-Forgotten Sight Rafflesiac's Avatar
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    I'm worried that if Shadowboy doesn't fix Liria before biting it that she won't wake up at all, like
    Tsuki:Re
    [Ciel if Shiki kills Noel too fast.]
    Quote Originally Posted by Arashi_Leonhart View Post
    canon finish apo vol 3

  10. #1450
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six SpoonyViking's Avatar
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    4: Write-in. Use Ekhthros to separate Mummu from Seigi while also extending Luminous Dress to cover Liria and protect her from Mummu's usage of nigredo.

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    Evil of Humanity Half-Blood Master's Avatar
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    For the sake of party unity and quorum in congress, I will vote for Spoony's 4
    Quote Originally Posted by Faux, July 20th 2019
    We gave HBM, of all people, access to a morals loosening field
    Quote Originally Posted by Faux, December 25th 2019
    Senta deserves the right to a life where she gets to choose if she's actually a Nazi
    True Rider
    A wise and beautiful woman who exudes an aura of grace. She is a sly, cunning, manipulative person who always gets what she wants, whether through trickery or ruthlessness. Her own fighting abilities are low, but she should not be trifled with. What does she ride? Men, of course!

  12. #1452
    Spoony's 4 is what I vote out of my own volition and not because of orders from the Central Committee.

  13. #1453
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors Bird of Hermes's Avatar
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    Spoony's 4, just to be cautious

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    wwwww Spartacus's Avatar
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    changing to Spoony's 4

  15. #1455
    Time to burn some dread Daneel Rush's Avatar
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    (BGM)

    Let’s go back in time a short while.

    The Caster of the Black Sun examines the walls of her sex-shop-turned-Ishtarian-temple with some wariness, currently withstanding the rumbling caused by a goddamn building dropping from the sky in the vicinity. The magical protections she imbued upon her temple allow it to endure, and even keep the cloud of dust and debris outside, but it is a close one. She might be in some real trouble if it happens again. More importantly…

    “Liria!” She promptly calls out to Javier. Her temple suffered the quake, but Liria was at the very center of it. “You have to help he—!”

    The sound of gunfire matches the rising shine of the ancient cuneiform for ‘shield’. It is an invisible force that stops the bullets aiming for her.

    “Caster! Somebody’s attacking you!?”

    “Don’t worry about me! Go to Liria!” She urges, even as her eyes set on the figure only partly visible behind the doorless frame.

    “You thought the way to strike through my defenses would be attacking from outside? Isolde, I was unaware that you thought so little of me.”

    “You’re the one who’s full of herself, if you think I give two shits about you!” The small, blonde figure shouts back from behind their cover.

    Admittedly, Caster never interacted much with the Sovereign’s not-quite-favorite—Wiligut doesn’t have people he likes, only people he can use more—, but the knowledge of their actions in the past days, and of the force acting through her, gives her a measure of an assessment of the kind of person she is dealing with.

    “No, of course you don’t. You would only care for those who are nice to you.”

    The uniformed figure darts out of their cover to pointlessly empty their magazine on Caster. It is anger, not strategy, that drives them to do so, for none of the bullets get even close to their target.



    “Don’t you fucking dare talk back to us, you worthless transvestite!” She spits out as she scowls. “What did you do!? Nothing! So don’t pretend to be some moral pillar now!”

    Caster bites her lips at the assault of sheer disgust and spite from a very bitter person.

    “Yes, on that regard you’re absolutely correct,” she admits. “I had no way to resist Wiligut’s hypnotic charisma, and I couldn’t have done anything against your eldest sister, so I did nothing to help you. I am guilty through weakness and inaction.”

    Certainly, at first glance, Isolde has plenty of reason to be resentful towards everyone and everything. Caster can understand why they accepted the primordial being as their way out; their tool of freedom and vengeance.

    However…

    “However, allow me to ask you one question.”

    Indeed, there is something that does not quite match: if Isolde hates her life so much, then…

    “Why did you allow it to keep going for so long?”

    Isolde’s brows twitch as if possessing a life of their own.

    “You’ve been carrying Mummu inside you for some time, haven’t you? Considering how intimate you were with Wiligut, you had plenty of chances to shove Mummu inside him. So, why did you wait until yesterday?”

    If anything, the twitching becomes all the more pronounced, as if shifting between two completely different faces. It is an unsettling sight, exacerbated by the growing scowl stretching and revealing rows of perfect teeth. Caster lets none of this distract her, and when Isolde pulls out a white handkerchief of all things, she is ready, drawing the correct Word with etheric light emitted by the tip of her finger.

    Gišésad
    Snare
    !”

    The light making the Word stretches and lunges at Isolde like living wires that wrap around the homunculus.

    “Again, you underestimate me, child,” Caster speaks calmly, like a wizened teacher to an unruly student. “Do you not think I’d have figured out your magecraft by now? Something compatible with Mummu’s body-stealing, and the tale of Tristan and Isolde.”

    She glances at the handkerchief now on the floor.

    “I take it that’s the white sail—wait, Javier, NO!”


    *** ***




    Javier’s Status & Choice
    Health: Optimal
    Sustenance: Optimal
    Warmth: Good
    Stamina: Good
    Magic circuits active.
    Spoiler:
    (BGM)

    This…thing, let’s call it ‘Isolde’, will not wait forever. That huge hand could crush Liria’s windpipe at any moment, or do even worse things. It just keeps harming people over and over until it gets…what does it even want? What is its endgame? Even if he kills Liria and me, won’t the Servants just gang up on it and destroy it? Is that what it wants the flame for, to fight them?

    …no matter. He’s not getting the flame. He’s not getting Liria’s life, either. Not unless it kills me first.

    Liria, Nomikata—I don’t know if this is gonna work. If it doesn’t, I’m really sorry. I’ll atone with my life if I have to.

    I look down at my left hand, clenching it as if to hold something intangible, something I don’t want to let go, no matter what. Here goes nothing, then.

    My reply is a war cry, and the eager flame lodged within my soul answers eagerly, surging out reckless and unrestrained, engulfing even the huge figure looming in front of me.

    AH—WHA—

    “Liria!” I cry as I take a step forward, commanding my Luminous Dress to stretch out to envelop her, protecting her body from my flame. As for this asshole, I’m going for Ekhtros; please, divine flame, burn this alien thing without harming Nomikata—

    YOU…ARE A FOOL.



    *** ***





    Caster, through Liria’s own familiars, can only watch Javier’s thoughtlessness in abject horror. After all, even if Luminous Dress will indeed protect Liria’s body from the divine flame, it cannot do anything about the huge hand already tightly closed around her neck. Luminous Dress prevents contact, it does not separate things already touching each other.

    She does not need to imagine it—she can see the dismay in Javier’s flame-wreathed face as the primordial spirit speaks the word of destruction and ruin.

    …NIGREDO.



    *** ***





    Time slows down to a trickle. I see everything, all too clearly, in slow-motion; my brain working in overdrive to ensure not a single moment escapes me, so that it may haunt me forever.

    I see the black energy—part miasma, part liquid—gushing out of the infinitesimal space between his hand and her neck. Growing, surging, bloating; a black, flesh-eating bacteria. Liria’s body disappears within its darkness, even as ‘Isolde’ throws her away like a useless rag. I think I hear Caster screaming all around me. I think. My ears aren’t working. My brain’s entire processing power is going to my sight.

    She’s just there, thrown away, engulfed by darkness. Consumed by it.

    My legs move. Or maybe they’ve been moving for some time, I dunno. I may be speaking—some sort of droning repetition of the same monosyllable. I swipe my arms over her fallen form, as if brushing away cobwebs instead of conceptual destruction. The flame does pretty much the whole job, removing the darkness cocooned around her body—

    “Ugh!”

    I roll on the ground, thrown away by a kick of all things. Every single rib in my chest feels brittle and screams in complaint. Coughing only sends spikes of agony that trigger flashes before my eyes.

    Status Change
    Health: Optimal -> Good
    It stands there, tall and imposing, inhuman, indescribable eyes of cosmic flame looking down on me.

    “No!” I yell, but my words mean nothing to it. With but a flick of its wrist, she is engulfed in darkness once more. It says nothing, only looking at me, wordlessly daring me to question it, to blame it. It has no facial muscles and no expression, but I can tell what it is thinking.

    ‘This is on you. Do not blame me for your failures.’

    Even now, there is only silence from her. She is being unmade, and she is not allowed to scream agony nor defiance. She is not allowed last words. She is not allowed anything.

    (BGM)

    It is too unfair. She could have started a new life. She could have found a dream of her own, and reached for it. She…believed in an idiot like me. An idiot who thought he could one-up a god.

    …sorry, Ortrud. I know I made you a promise back there before coming here, but…

    …sorry, Nomikata. I know we’re supposed to save you and all, but…right now…right now…



    I just want this bitch to BURN.

    “Get away from her, you fucker!”


    I charge. For the first time in my life, I am the one who starts a fight, charging straight at this monster. My body is wreathed in fire, flame serpents whirling around me—the ngen of Villarrica expressing itself unbidden, but who the fuck cares. There’s only the dark, looming thing in front of me, and the intolerable issue that it is not on fire.

    ALRIGHT THEN, LET’S DO IT YOUR WAY.

    It plants itself to meet me head on. It really thinks I’m a goddamn idiot.

    As if I would just charge at a three-meters-tall monster, you fucking moron.

    With the last step before entering his melee reach, the ground shakes.

    WHUH—

    That’s right, this idiot can do more than fling fireballs at you! Now eat this!

    Ekhtros!”


    The punch clad in flames strikes its midsection with explosive force that knocks the dark giant away and makes it fall to one knee. Did it work?

    YOU PIECE OF SHIT HUMAN, THAT ACTUALLY HURT.

    …yeah, I guess not. It will probably take a more sustained effort to pull of Ekhtros on this guy. As I’m thinking this, I swipe my hand over the black energy by my feet, on which Ekhtros will most definitely succeed. I don’t even want to look at her. I don’t have the time to lament anything. That can wait until after I’m done with this guy.

    “It’s gonna hurt way more from now on,” is my retort before charging a second time. It will not fall for the same trick twice, so let’s see what it pulls off—and the fucker disappeared! Shit, where’s it teleporting to, hafta expand the flame—

    “You son of a bitch!” I shout at the asshole, who is again standing next to Liria’s unmoving form. That face made not of flesh, with no feature other than glowing eyes of light and a gaping void for a mouth…is smirking. Mocking me. Treating this whole thing like a goddamn game.

    “I said get away from her!”

    No need to charge anymore, just blast it with all the flames I can muster. Concentrate it, narrow it so that Liria on the ground is spared. Rather than a massive fireball, a powerful collimation—


    Of course, the fucker just disappears, but with my flame expanded, it can’t just reappear right behind me—there you are—

    “Unngh!” I grunt as I take the kick with my open hands, meeting his Wind-propelled attack with the supernatural strength granted by the divine flame. Yeah, this isn’t gonna work out for you, bitch.

    I feel a smidgen of vindication hearing its howl of pain as it is blasted away by my explosive, volcanic flame. That was a mistake though—I attacked to hurt him; it would’ve been better to make it non-explosive, to try to get Ekhtros working.

    Focus, Javier. Let’s try at least saving Nomikata if we still can.

    YOU ARE GETTING A LITTLE TOO FULL OF YOURSELF, HUMAN.

    Of course, it cannot get back up in silence.

    YOU NEED MORE AWARENESS OF WHAT IT IS YOU ARE FIGHTING.

    “I don’t give a fuck,” I reply. “I’m getting you for what you did to Liria.”

    THE WHORE? I DID HER A FAVOR.

    That fucking son of a bitch.

    NOW, THAT FLAME OF YOURS MIGHT NOT NEED OXYGEN, BUT WHAT ABOUT YOU?

    “You already know that doesn’t work!” I exclaim, expanding the flame to eliminate whatever magical energy it wanted to use to destroy the oxygen around me. I let it rise, becoming a meters-tall blazing column to keep it from teleporting any bullshit over my head. ‘Isolde’ glances up at it, completely disinterested.

    …HNN. OH WELL.

    It then disappears, to reappear further away, hand resting on the wall of a building.

    I HAVE THINGS TO DO, SO I’LL JUST END THIS NOW. BYE, BYE, FUCKER.

    “Eh…?”

    The building disappears, and then reappears right above me. No, wait, the flame is right there, it shouldn’t work—


    *** ***




    (BGM)

    “Of course it still works, my foolish former student,” murmurs Enheduanna while the humans behind her struggle against the new set of powerful tremors. The German Club still stands, of course, protected by distance and by her magic.

    “The fuck’s going on!?” Maria demands to know, along with Garmr and Archer standing upright and unbothered by the tremors. Enheduanna has actually settled down on a chair, ever the epitome of noble elegance. “Are they alright!? Should we move out of here!?”

    “While Caster is an adept priestess and excels at understanding people, she never fought in her life. Today is effectively the first time she uses spells in a combat scenario, and her understanding of combat magic is naturally limited. Why my student would take her conjectures for fact is beyond me.”

    “That doesn’t answer any of my questions!”

    “The real question here is from where she got such a stupid idea. ‘Destruction of Relative Distance’, seriously…what a bad joke. The worst part is that she actually gave the right answer without realizing it.”

    Maria checks her surroundings. Archer and Shielder have moved closer to the humans, perhaps considering the possibility of having to evacuate the building in a rush, or protecting them from a collapsing ceiling. Fiore and Senta both lost their balance and would have fallen roughly if not supported by Sakura and Ortrud, respectively. She cannot help but worry about the people left behind at the church. At least they are way further from whatever is happening.

    Then, she stomps in front of The Maid, who vaguely glances at the hand Maria plants on her shoulder.

    “Stop monologuing and tell me what’s going on!”

    Nobody can read what’s in the ancient priestess’ mind as she glances at Maria’s fingers squeezing her shoulder. Even as the shaking continues, however, there is a measure of relief shared amongst the present when she just turns her head to look at Maria.

    “The enemy has dropped a second building, this time on my former student. Assassin has been destroyed.”

    There is no understating the impact those words have on (most of) the present. A solemn Sakura has to make a greater effort of holding a Fiore who has gone limp. Senta has a pained look on her face, and Ortrud can only shake her head.

    “Fuck…!” Maria curses in front of a thoroughly unimpressed Enheduanna.

    “Spare yourselves the pointless dismay. The situation remains very manageable.”

    Of course, that raises the question of how bad must things get before the likes of her starts to feel worried.


    *** ***


    Unfortunately for Caster, she is not Enheduanna. As well as she set up her impromptu ‘temple’, two buildings crashing from the sky are two buildings crashing from the sky. The humble little sex shop will hold, of course. The problem is that the effort necessary to keep this building from collapsing steals her attention and opens a new possibility for the other person there.

    “Oof!” Caster grunts as she is tackled and pushed to the floor. Next thing she knows, a certain somebody is bashing her head against that same floor over and over again.



    “I! Got! You! Now! You piece! Of shit!” There is madness in that voice. Madness, fury; a whole bunch of other things. “Die! Die! DIE!”

    Completely lost in her bloodlust, Isolde has forgotten a very basic thing: the Caster of the Black Sun, as it turns out, is a Servant. She cannot be killed, or even hurt, by this mundane physical action, unassisted by mystery. Yet, or perhaps because of this, Caster allows it. Because they are in her temple, and just like she noticed Isolde skulking around in the vicinity, she knows somebody else approaches. Somebody who survived the second building drop precisely by leaping into this building protected by Caster’s faithcraft.

    “Isolde.”

    (BGM)

    It is an awfully soft voice, which could match this scene any less. The left side of her face is bloodied, and her left arm dangles limply. Her single working hand covers her left eye as she limps into the room. It is obvious she was not unscathed by the disaster outside.

    Isolde (pointlessly) whacks the back of Caster’s head with the butt of their gun before glaring sheer murder at their ‘sister’.

    “You…it’s all your fault!” They all but scream. “Why didn’t it work!? I was supposed to get my wish!”

    “You…you know what happened,” Elisabeth responds, sounding a little bit confused by the question. “You were there. I’m sure you too heard her voice.”

    Isolde’s face goes through guilt, fear, disgust and back to anger in a single second.

    “Like I give a damn about some goddess at the end of the fucking universe, talking like she knows everything!”

    That…is kind of her deal, though.

    “I don’t care about her, or anybody else! I do what I want!”

    “Then why didn’t you do that earlier?” Elisabeth continues, unknowingly bringing up Caster’s earlier point. “Why didn’t you take control of the Sovereign earlier? Why…did you let him do those horrible things to you?”

    “Because Isolde needs to convince herself that ‘they are a good person’ so they can justify their own evil. Thus, they needed to accumulate enough evil deeds done to them before they felt safe enough in their victimhood to lash out in revenge.”

    It is Caster, still pinned beneath Isolde’s weight—even if she could free herself if she so wanted—, who answers instead.

    “In their mind, ‘I’m not bad for doing terrible things, because a lot of terrible things were done to me before’. That is the kind of simplistic world-view held by the second Hexensoldat—"

    “Shut up!” Isolde lashes out again, smashing Caster’s head against the floor. Elisabeth, however, can see Caster’s face, thoroughly unbothered by this violence. Elisabeth thus comes to understand that her sibling is a person whose failure has completely disconnected them from rational, intelligent thought.

    “It’s not just getting back at Wiligut,” Caster thus continues. “Utilizing
    Elisabeth
    the Cathar Grail
    , destroying Seigi Nomikata’s life—you would probably justify destroying the world because Wiligut sodomized you—”

    “What part of ‘shut the fuck up’ don’t you get, you useless bitch!” Isolde interrupts her with yet another smash. Growing fury pushes them back up on their feet, this time to stomp on Caster’s head. “You!” Again. “Only know!” And again. “How! To! Talk!”

    And again, and again, and again.

    “All you worthless Servants only know how to talk!” They continue. “Heroic Spirit my ass! Where were you all false heroes every! Single! Fucking! Night!

    There is no point in explaining that they were bound to Wiligut by the summoning ritual and by his Delusional Charisma. Of course, The Maid cannot say the same, but Caster is perhaps the last person in the world who would be able to justify that woman’s actions and decisions.

    “But the moment you got that…spirit, you had the means to fight back,” Elisabeth counters, apparently still lacking in understanding. “You didn’t need to be saved; you could’ve saved yourself, whenever you wanted. But you waited…so you could use me? Give me to his king…?”

    “Why are you whining!?” Isolde retorts. “You are a worthless doll who does nothing on her own, might as well let somebody else use you! You had no problem letting Wiligut have his way with me, so you have no problem becoming Marduk’s whore Grail, right!?”

    Caster gets to see the smallest of flinches on Elisabeth’s half-covered face. Perhaps she had already come to terms with the answer she knew before hearing it, or perhaps she’s just that used to keeping things inside, but the youngest of the Hexensoldaten takes Isolde’s scorn with sad stoicism.

    “…I…don’t want that. So, I guess I have to stop you here.”

    “Oh, so now you decide to be proactive! To get in my fucking way!”

    “Yes…” Elisabeth admits, sounding a little regretful. “…you may not like it, and it might not seem fair to you, but this is what I chose to do. So, please surrender, Isolde. Don’t make me uncover my eye.”

    Elisabeth is clearly uncomfortable with the other two’s attention, looking very much the kind of person who would rather lock herself in her bedroom and live an eternal NEET life. The light of conviction in her single visible eye is very faint, and Isolde can see that.

    “That eye…you’ve threatened the rest of us with that eye fuck-knows-how-many times, but I don’t think I ever saw you use it before today,” Isolde cockily counters. “Does it even work the way you say it does? Or is that an empty threat, and you’ve been taking us for fools this whole time?”

    The youngest of the Hexensoldaten shakes her head, hair like an obsidian waterfall swaying shaking off flakes of debris.

    “Don’t…this…m-my eye is very real, Isolde! If I move my hand, you’ll—!”

    Elisabeth cannot complete the threat because the world changes above them.

    Spoiler:
    (BGM)

    The sky is replaced with another sky; a broken sky. Even Isolde cannot seize this irreproducible chance, for they too are stunned by an event as inexplicable as it is bizarre.

    Unlike Isolde, Caster is not wasting her time. She, too, is taken aback by the surreal scene, but a strong drive—the conviction of a hero, perhaps—keeps her mind in focus. She has squeezed her left hand under her prone form, where Isolde cannot see it. Thusly she draws cuneiform wedges on the floor, to do what must be done.

    I just need a single creature still alive…! Somewhere, anywhere, a single one of Assassin’s critters; they all cannot have been destroyed in the fight…!


    *** ***




    Status Change
    Health: Good -> Stable
    I am alive. Somehow. Well, I know how, it’s just…that was too close. Way too close for comfort.

    I stand inside a dome of packed soil and stone, even now still bearing with the weight of an entire building’s wreckage. It’s amazing what a man can do when he only has a moment to figure out how to stay alive. I honestly have no idea how I came up with this. Liria rests by my feet, the two of us protected from dust microparticles choking our lungs by Luminous Dress.

    And yeah, now that I’ve had a moment to stop and think, I’ve realized.

    Why didn’t its nigredo outright obliterate her? Why is there still a body?

    With that question in mind, the answer becomes evident by looking at her arms: smooth, thin, lean, and utterly devoid of claws or insect-like fur. The person by my feet is probably a completely ordinary human being. What the asshole nigredo’d to nothingness was not Liria; it was Servant Assassin. Hell if I know why.

    More importantly, I need to know where ‘Isolde’ is, and I’ll have the earth tell me. Come on, soil of Valparaíso; if you’re on my side, then guide me to where that bastard’s standing—wait, right in front of me!?

    Something like a sword of black light slices through the dome, but I’m ready for it!

    HERE YOU ARE, DUMBASS—AGH!

    A blast of flame right on its featureless face sends it flying away, and I have to follow—we can’t fight so close to Liria’s body. It is obvious ‘Isolde’ cleared some of it to find my dome, but it is still a calm sea of debris upon which I step out, the street only barely visible beneath. This block—no, the entire section of the city closest to the sea has been thoroughly wrecked, first by Archer, then by Rider and Maria, this morning by Berserker and myself, and now by this monster. I guess that’s one less UNESCO Heritage Site on the list. But I don’t have a moment to lament the (partial) destruction of the city I call home; not as long as this asshole’s still up and standing!

    “What does it take to end you, fucker!?”

    I AM OLDER THAN TIME! I AM ENDLESS! IF ANYTHING, YOU’RE THE ONE WHO SHOULD DROP DEAD, FUCKIN’ COCKROACH!

    It makes it easier to hate this asshole, the way it speaks like a shitty-ass human, and not like the primordial being it supposed is. No matter what it looks like, and what powers it has, this ‘Isolde’ is just a piece of shit I really want out of my fucking lawn!

    “I don’t care what the fuck you are, as long as you burn! Ekhtrooosss!”

    DON’T YOU FUCKING TALK BACK TO ME, HUMAN! NIGREDO, NIGREDO, NIGREDOOOOOAAAAAGH!


    We clash, and the world arounds us explodes with fire and blackness. Flames are instantaneously consumed before they can smother my enemy, and the alchemical power is devoured before it can touch my skin. We clash, and clash, and clash, and the only casualty is our surroundings, as if after levelling the buildings of this block we wanted to clean up for new constructions. I pour out all the flame I can muster, more than I have ever unleashed, more than I believed myself capable of unleashing, but this guy matches me blow by blow, responding with a veritable tidal wave of darkness. The ground breaks around us and magma surges out of the cracks, only to be washed away by a tar-like flood of primal destruction pouring out of its inhuman form.

    Status Change
    Stamina: Good -> Stable
    Is it really impossible? Is it really that I can’t surpass its primordial power, because I’m just a human? I’m, really…goddammit, Liria, Nomikata, I’m out of ideas here—

    “Gah!”

    (BGM STOP)

    Status Change
    Health: Stable -> Poor
    While I am pouring out all of myself to unleash the flame, ‘Isolde’ still has enough to push forward and land a kick on my right side; an impact like a fucking train sending me flying into a mound of wreckage that would hurt a hell of a lot more if Luminous Dress weren’t still protecting me.

    NOW STAY THERE, FOOL. IF YOU’RE NOT INTELLIGENT ENOUGH TO DO WHAT’S BEST FOR YOU AND DROP DEAD, THEN STAY THERE AND BEAR WITNESS TO THE END OF YOUR WORLD.

    Wha…? What’s…this asshole saying—God, it fucking hurts! Did something finally break?

    It’s just…standing there…no, what’s it doing…with his right hand…?

    (BGM)

    MARDUK, KING OF ALL. TO YOU BELONGS THIS PRIVILEGE AND AUTHORITY.


    *** ***


    Seigi Nomikata needs a full ten lines. Naturally, this being is nowhere near as lacking.

    Spoiler:


    ZIZNA ZIZNA
    Philosopher’s Stone: World Egg
    It floats over its open hand, just about as large as one of Javier Lucero’s nails. The Chilean does not know why he knows, but he knows. Just by looking at it, he knows.

    Right there, within that egg, is everything.

    …no. That is not entirely correct.

    That egg can be everything. Anything. Matter, energy, even probability. That egg is that which is unshaped, and thus can be shaped into anything.

    It is a Holy Grail. It is an omnipotent stem cell. It is the unfecundated ovum from which God may be born.

    In other words, that egg is crystalized potential. That which comes before the beginning. It can be creation, it can be destruction, it may even become something nobody nowhere has ever imagined; it just needs a single, slight push.

    It is the ultimate dream of alchemy: a gateway into Akasha. The culmination of Seigi Nomikata—no, of every alchemist’s longing, given form. With a single line of speech, this thing, this ‘Isolde’, has mocked thousands of years of effort and countless generations of pursuers of the Ars magna.

    And then it cracks, splits, burst from the inside out like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, like innards spilling out of a wound in the gut. Thusly does the nail-sized egg becomes immensity; just like a crumpled piece of paper fills more of the visual field when straightened back into a flat object; just like breaking an egg and spilling its contents fills more of the plate than the whole egg.

    Spoiler:
    The diminutive philosopher’s stone unfolds and unfurls, its dimensionality reduced until it can encompass the entirety of the sky.

    “A smell like nothing I’ve smelled before,” the Herald murmurs, looking thoroughly flabbergasted by an olfactory input she cannot identify.

    “…well, that is a little bad,” muses Enheduanna, looking up at the singularity’s new skybox from the window of her dining hall.

    “Wha…what the hell is that…” Maria asks, the thought of holding The Maid at sword point utterly forgotten by such an unexpected, incomprehensible spectacle. The others too have taken to the windows, to gaze at the sight with equal parts awe and trepidation. Maria cannot help but feel a tinge of dismay at the sight of Archer, that mountain of a man, looking as lost and taken aback as herself.

    “Isn’t it obvious?” The Maid retorts, well aware that it is not. “Marduk is crafting a new texture.”

    She says it like she is describing the weather.

    “He is taking advantage that this space I created is partially detached from the Age of Man to plant a new cosmic order upon it, at least within this limited space.”

    She sighs almost melodramatically.

    “My work is meant to be an inspiration to others, yet I do not feel he is trying to flatter me with this.”

    “No, no, what’s with that bullshit?” Senta all but explodes. “Is that even possible!?”

    “Of course it is. Gods did it plenty of times, thousands of years ago. Humans do it every single day, slowly patching and repatching their texture through every single one of their actions until it elevates them or destroys them. It’s basically what I do when I use my Noble Phantasm.”

    Caring nothing for the bomb she just dropped, Enheduanna continues.

    “It remains to be seen whether, unlike my Noble Phantasm, Marduk can impose his cosmic order, and then do so permanently.”

    “So, so it’s not like a done fact, right?” Fiore asks with a slightly trembling voice. “He hasn’t completed it yet, right?”

    “Of course not; if it were that easy, I would have done it decades ago,” The Maid replies, sounding almost amused by the question.

    “No, before that; if he can do that, why even go after the Holy Grail in the first place?” Sakura asks the question already in the others’ minds.

    “For something else, I presume. Keep in mind that he can only do this because he is in this particular space, and in the body of the Nomikata heir. This, too, is but the natural extension of Nomikata’s magecraft, as wielded by a god.”

    “Screw the details, we gotta stomp that guy and put an end to this crap—!” Maria’s spirited march out of the dining hall meets a wall of golden light blocking the way out of the door.

    “You will have to ask nicely if you want to leave this room.”

    Enheduanna’s ultimatum stuns the room into complete silence. Just for a moment, tho.

    “What the actual fuck!?” The feisty American stomps all the way back to glare straight into The Maid’s eyes. “Just a while ago we were stopping you from intervening! You cannot possibly tell me you’re on that guy’s side now!”

    Enheduanna makes a point of slowly wiping the spittle off her cheek before responding.

    “Certainly, just a while ago you made your point clear that you entrusted this battle to those two humans.”

    She turns away from Maria to look at the bizarre sky.

    “This has become a battle between two ages, two universes. A spirit trying to create the ‘Age of Marduk’, against my former student, representing both Gaia and Alaya. A test of the mettle of both World and Man.”

    She turns back to Maria, facing her and the others with an expression flawless and firm.

    “He could have taken it easier and sent you to take care of it, perhaps save his strength for the Villarrica siblings, or maybe even Berserker. And perhaps it is a decision made in ignorance, but nonetheless this is the battle he chose, and it was a choice you all accepted.”

    It is now Enheduanna who challenges Maria with her stare.

    This is the stage for the culmination of Javier Lucero’s story.

    Somehow, that single sentence carries even more weight than all the bombs she has dropped thus far. Enheduanna’s words always carried the weight of truth and conviction with them, but it feels particularly strong this time. This is as it is, period. No room for questions.

    “As I see them, your options are as follows.”

    Maria’s Choice
    1. “Tell me his name, so that I may take care of it.” (Let Enheduanna handle it. Embrace the comfort of her light.)

    2. “Ask me to let you, or Archer, or Shielder go. Accept that humans cannot overcome this.” (Pick one of the Servants to handle it. Grasp victory tonight, by accepting humanity’s defeat.)

    3. “Let the humans go help their own. Let them prove they have what it takes to protect their world.” (Pick any and all among Fiore, Ortrud, Sakura, and Senta to go help Javier. Send the lambs to the slaughter. No human triumph comes without a cost.)

    4. “Or stick to your earlier conviction, and believe in the ones already giving it their all.” (Leave it to Javier and the others. Let them write the end of this chapter in glorious flame and beautiful taint. No matter the cost.)
    Maria grits her teeth, wishing above all things to curse at the unfairness of placing the burden on her. It is the woman—the priestess, the goddess—in front of her who started everything. It is because of her that they are where they are, in the circumstances they are in. She, not primordial Mummu, is the enemy of the world Ṣāltum was appointed to defeat.

    “…now this is more like it,” Maria murmurs, her toothed grin carrying no humor. “Now this is the selfishness I expect from Ishtar.”

    The others go tense, wary of the possibility of a legendary battle of the Age of Gods starting a new round right then and there. Maria does not brandish her sword, however. Instead, she takes a further step forward, as if wishing to push the other woman back with her breasts.

    “Tell me just one thing, with that all-knowing divination of yours: can they win?”

    Normally, Maria’s Servant strength would overcome The Maid by leaps and bounds. The fact Enheduanna has not been knocked back only means breast sumo is not really part of Maria’s plan.

    “That is not how it works, girl,” the priestess responds, as serene as ever. “But you really do not seem to get it. This is not about whether they can defeat Marduk or not. This is about you. About all of you.”

    She glances at the other humans in the room, including her two ‘daughters’.

    “About your faith in your friends and fellow humans. About your conviction in their ability to achieve the seemingly impossible; overcome the apparently unsurmountable.”

    It becomes Enheduanna’s turn to challenge Maria non-violently, inclining her head until their foreheads meet. Until they are the only thing the other can see.

    (BGM STOP)



    “Do you believe modern humans can become heroes, young dancer?”


    *** ***






    (BGM)

    Ah…it is kinda pretty, in a weird way.

    My body…feels light. A little numb, too. It’s not the cold, of course; I don’t feel cold. I’m just…tired. It hurts to breathe; at least one broken rib, I bet.

    …right, I hafta fight.

    …fight.

    …how?

    How do I beat…this? I can’t beat it with my fists, nor with my magic, and I definitely can’t talk it out of whatever it is planning to do. Liria…still unmoving. God, please, at least let her be still alive. She doesn’t deserve to die here.

    I…have to fight. Might as well start with getting back on my feet.

    Slowly…slowly…

    …no ideas yet. Well, that’s not true.

    The flame remains vibrant and potent within, almost eager to lash out at this cosmic asshole. Yeah, the flame is strong. I have been endowed with the touch of Villarrica’s ngen, but I am not that being. Perhaps he could defeat this fucker.

    Yeah…if I used Sthūla-Śarīra one last time, manifested the flame unrestrained, I could probably win. Maybe. But then I would…

    Ah, how selfish I am. This is when I’m supposed to make the final heroic sacrifice, right? Become a hero and save everyone, at the cost of myself. That would make for an epic finale, right?





    …do I…do I really have to die? Is that what you want, ngen? A sacrifice? I thought that was more of a cherufe thing, though. And I’m not a virgin.

    SO, THE FOOL STANDS UP. GO ON, DO YOUR WORST. IT’LL ALSO BE YOUR LAST.

    Ah, some piece of shit’s talking, I think. Dunno, I’m kind of half conscious; my brain may be filtering out worthless information.

    Anyway, gotta fight. Gotta do something. The others haven’t come; they trust me. I don’t get it, but they believe in me, in us.

    This…this might just be the most important moment in my life. Yippie, I got what I wanted: my chance to make a difference. To be somebody. To do something that may set me above the endless numbers of humanity.

    I couldn’t be any less excited. But that doesn’t change anything.

    Maria could beat this chump in a flash, but she is not here. I’m here. So, I’m the one who’s gotta fight.

    …but, how?

    My heart beats with a pulse of flame. It is warm. Inviting. It beckons me towards victory. Towards my end.

    …is that the answer? Sthūla-Śarīra?

    Javier Lucero’s Conclusion
    1. …yes. (Surrender to the flame. Seize victory at the cost of Javier Lucero’s humanity.)

    2. …no. (Oppose Mummu as a human, until the very end. No matter what shape that end takes.)

  16. #1456
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six SpoonyViking's Avatar
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    Maria's Choice: 3 - Send Ortrud and Senta to help Javier.
    Javier's Conclusion: 2.

  17. #1457
    The Long-Forgotten Sight Rafflesiac's Avatar
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    4, 2, yolo

    - - - Updated - - -

    Excellent bait on the death of Assassin btw, I thought Liria died then and there as opposed to just being a likely vegetable.
    Quote Originally Posted by Arashi_Leonhart View Post
    canon finish apo vol 3

  18. #1458
    wwwww Spartacus's Avatar
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    4, 2

  19. #1459
    So Many Ideas, So Little Time SleepMode's Avatar
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    4 & 2

    Burn bright you beanpole, this is when you’re truly perfect.
    The Act of dozing off in the afternoon is a luxury indeed.
    Coffee would be nice, though.

    [Collection of my Servant Sheets]
    Now Revamped!

  20. #1460
    4 & 2.

    While thematically it does feel like the right answer within the Nasuverse, I am also unsure whether it's fitting for Javier's progression so far (beanpole wanted to strive towards becoming a Human God !) and whether we may end up being punished for betraying the character's journey in the face of great risks. I'm not sure whether it fully makes sense for him to turn towards 'being human' at the last hour but...

    ... I am not averse to risking bad choices. :P

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