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Thread: The Mercurial Star

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    「Fatalist Halophage」 Random's Avatar
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    The Mercurial Star

    The Mercurial Star
    at once the bright moon dropp'd


    This is a certain history of a certain bastion.

    Only in worlds balanced most precariously on their own edge can such a miraculous fringe be born.

    Despite the first breath from which all the world flows, despite the sphere closest to all others, despite the body and the spirit of the self-begetting; strictly speaking, this is not a tale of hydrargyrum, but of amalgams.

    The talaria will soar regardless. Once in one’s lifetime, it is a necessary thing to stand upon the earth.
    And in the sea without lees standeth the Bird of Hermes.

    ════════════

    Table of Contents

    ══════
    ──th Partition
    Spiritus Invictus
    ══════

    0
    Kingdom of Wraith
    Black Hole


    ══════
    First Partition
    east dial, Electric Town
    ══════

    1
    Indignity Chain
    Paltering From First Principles


    2
    Front Door Keys
    Rites of Entry

    Last edited by Random; February 21st, 2020 at 10:01 PM.
    Incoherency is just merely another sign that the
    Bed
    End
    Times are upon us.

  2. #2
    「Fatalist Halophage」 Random's Avatar
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    The Mercurial Star
    at once the bright moon dropp'd

    ──th Partition Spiritus Invictus
    0
    Kingdom of Wraith
    Black Hole

    A coil bound the night air in a strangling grasp. Tension swirled along the moonlight plaza, rooting feet to the ground like a fog of cement. Two lines stood opposite one another, a rank of Enforcers facing a parade of Executors.

    ─────Neither were here for the other.

    Sacraments, Mystic Codes, Conceptual Weapons. Dozens, perhaps hundreds of armaments rattled in the icy breeze. Shadows were tinged with killing intent. An overwhelming aura of hate stained everything in sight. It was not the kind of hatred that poured from mere malice. The scent on the air tonight was fear. For that reason, every single one of them knew that they would not be raising their weapons before dawn.

    The girl atop the church tower looked out into the darkness, red hair dancing in the wind.
    “──He’ll be here soon,” she said. She could practically feel the man close by. Her honeyset gaze turned back to the pale boy behind her. “You’re okay?”
    The boy silently nodded, and she responded with a gentle smile.
    “Then sit tight,” she said. “Don’t move a muscle. I’m going to end this.”
    Without so much as a moment of hesitation, she stepped off the tower and fell.

    The violet wolf snarled at the rows of warriors as it prowled into the churchyard, but the man upon its back could not have been more indifferent, white hair shining in the moonlight like silver as he looked coldly ahead. Neither the Executors nor the Enforcers were spared a glance. His stare was trained on the dark-skinned woman right in front of him who had fallen from above without so much as a token effort to hold down her blooming skirt as she landed.
    “You called, Phantom Queen?” he raised a disinterested eyebrow, dismounting the monster beside him.
    “Laine, please,” the woman insisted. “You only brought the one Daemon, did you? I’m almost hurt.”
    The man clicked his tongue in irritation. It was a snide joke indeed coming from the one who had killed the rest of them.
    “A fair exchange for all of these souls, isn’t it?” he asked, gesturing at the crowd around them.
    Laine licked her lips. “You know, it wasn’t long ago that you would have said ‘return my son to me and I will spare your life’… Look how you’ve grown, Kagan.”
    The man’s eyes narrowed. “─Blame yourself if you have regrets.
    Inada
    The Thousand-Eyed Phoenix
    would have held me back. No longer,” he stated plainly. “Now I will just kill every one of you, take my son, and take her replacement here and now.”
    “Replacement?” echoed Laine. “You’re saying you’re going to force yourself on me now? Goodness, how bold. The rain, my plain──”
    “Shut up,” groaned Kagan. “You never shut up, do you, goat woman? The boy was what she wished for. I relented. And now you have taken the last of her from me. My works will not be undone. I will not allow it.”

    Laine’s gaze hardened to diamond in an instant.

    “And I suppose you’re telling me that you’re going to do all of this knowing that I’ve already won?” she said. “My
    Numena
    Unbroken Hollow Boundary
    is completed. It has been for weeks. You know that.”
    “I know,” he said. “But if I can’t even defeat you with one thousand souls, then this was all pointless to begin with.”
    “Look at you, suddenly acting like a big boy after seventy years,” giggled Laine. “I have just one question though. Why here? Why build your foundations in Fuyuki City? You of all people would know about it, right? That the five original Holy Grail Wars were held here in this town. That ritual hasn’t even been dismantled yet. And yet here you are, enough of a bastard to rear a child here, attuning him to these spirits?”
    “───There was no special reason,” he said.
    Laine stared for a moment.
    That voice carried nothing but the sound of dashed hope.
    “Alright,” she said. “That’s enough from me.”
    Placing her feet apart, shifting into a battle stance, she met his eyes.
    “Kagan Jikan Metanovae. Your thousand murders of human beings and your fellow Magi have been heard loud and clear. As representative of the Holy Church, I will now fulfil your Sealing Designation on behalf of the Mage’s Association,” she announced.

    Kagan raised a hand.
    Speaketh I──
    “─Speaketh faster.”

    The churchyard was filled with the howling of wind, magical energy, and death.

    <person> Kagan Jikan Metanovae
    Kagan Jikan Metanovae [person]
    Gender: Male
    Age: 73 (deceased)
    Origin: [corrupted] – formerly Shading
    Element: Average One
    Alignment: Chaotic Evil
    STR EX (B)
    END EX (C)
    AGI EX (C)
    MAN EX (B)
    LUK D
    Circuit Quality: D+++
    Circuit Quantity: EX
    Circuit Composition: Normal (nervous)


    A remarkable genius of a Magus, the type that occurs once a generation. However, if one were to speak of a specific generational genius, Kagan was merely an imitation of a person who claimed that title. Gifted with unorthodox thinking and the abilities of a “perfectly average prodigy”, he set out to revitalise his bloodline. A Spiritual Evocationist who specialised in self-possession and Daemon summoning.

    The Metanovae clan has had many names, but its bloodline can be traced all the way back to the Chaldea of ancient times as one of the oldest Magus bloodlines in the world. A family that rose and fell many times over close to 3000 years, but failed to ever completely die out. The foundations utilised by their Magecraft were based in astromancy originally, and as such, a great deal of their research focused on the preservation of their craft rather than the expansion of it in response to the decline of Mystery. There is a possibility that the clan originated as a branch of the Animusphere, or perhaps vice versa, but such an event would have occurred so long ago as to be functionally meaningless now.

    Ironically, despite his talent being heralded as that which would restore the Metanovae to their former glory, he only did so by dooming them to demise. Kagan was marked with a Sealing Designation at age 60. At that time, he had already killed over one thousand people in his lifetime with the aid of his familiars. It was when he was 19 that he devised his plan to become a “living constellation”, and since that time, well over a thousand souls had already been consumed by his self - or perhaps the other way around, he did not care - including his own family.

    It was an insane course of action that appeared to most as though he was desperately striving for immortality - but while it required careful calculation and precision, Kagan actually made it work. Naturally, some of those souls began to rot before long. The problem became less about the quantity of the dead and more about the rate of killing. Needless to say, the Sealing Designation was deeply infuriating in just how much it was bound to slow him down.

    Kagan had made no shortage of enemies with his methods. While he was careful about his modus operandi to the extent that even twelve hundred murders over forty years did not quite endanger the Concealment of Mysteries, it did still garner quite a bit of anxiety from both the Holy Church and Mage’s Association. The Holy Church had already been trying to assassinate him for decades to no avail, slaughtered with ease by Kagan himself, his familiars, or, god forbid, that girl -- not realising that they were the primary source of his growth.

    Kagan had met a girl wracked with agony in his late 40s, possessed by a malevolent influence, or so was claimed by her parents. He killed them, of course, but not the girl. No, she was unlike anything he had ever seen. He tamed the agony, and allowed it to become dominant. A Daemon that was granted the Unit Designation of Inada, alarmingly close to a True Daemon. Not willing to abandon such a valuable sample, he took it with him, and it fell in love with him. Allegedly, the two of them once participated in a Holy Grail War together, but the exact details are unknown. Furthermore, perhaps as an experiment, Kagan allowed it to fulfill its wish of bearing his child, born six years after he had his own Designation imposed.

    Thirteen years of fighting on two fronts with a child in tow did not slow down Kagan anywhere near the degree that it should have done any other Magus. But that did not last long. Two years after the birth of the child, Inada was defeated and slain, leaving Kagan without his most powerful card. This meant that it was not long before he too would be Sealed, and this was clear enough to him. Waiting as long as he could, he eventually left the child to their own devices through a small fortune before going to face down the one who killed the mother of his child. For vengeance? Not impossible, but doubtful. More than anything, he had taken her death as a personal insult. He refused to be stopped. Least of all by a hero of justice.
    Last edited by Random; November 2nd, 2019 at 10:31 PM.
    Incoherency is just merely another sign that the
    Bed
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    Times are upon us.

  3. #3
    「Fatalist Halophage」 Random's Avatar
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    The Mercurial Star
    at once the bright moon dropp'd

    First Partition east dial, Electric Town
    1
    Indignity Chain
    Paltering From First Principles

    ╩╩╩╩╩╩╩╩╩╩╩╩
    Ten years later
    ╦╦╦╦╦╦╦╦╦╦╦╦


    ────────────I don’t really like public transport.
    When anyone says that to me, I generally tend to assume it’s because they don’t like being in a tube of people. Maybe they’re worried about strangers being weird or dirty. Either way, it comes across as a little snobbish.
    But I know that’s hypocritical of me, considering I have my own reasons which, as far as I’m concerned, are perfectly valid.

    For example, I don’t like relying on other people to get me from A to B. I would prefer to transport myself, even if that’s not really an option in most cases.
    I don’t really like not being able to do things on my own terms, because it means that I have to be around during times that are only slightly inconvenient enough to be objectionable, but not quite so much that it would be anything other than insufferable to actually object to it.
    At least, that’s how it is usually. But when it comes to long journeys across the country, one way or another, getting up early is inevitable. That’s one advantage that public transport has over doing it yourself in that you don’t need to worry too much about accidents, but at the same time…

    ──cuuuute───Sen-chan is cuuuuute─

    Just bringing it up brings me directly to the──

    ──Suuuuper cuuuuuuuute…!

    ───What’s the opposite of a “silver lining”?

    “Sen…” I sigh.
    “S-Sen!” answers the voice that had dragged me out of my excessively optimistic attempt to get some rest.
    “I hate to ask you to hold off on your carnal desires, but could you leave your attempts to brainwash me in my sleep until I wake up?”
    “Nyeeeh. But you’ve woken up, so can I do it now?” she presses.
    “Of course not. It’s not in my sleep if you do it while I’m awake,” I say.
    “But if I can’t do it while you’re sleeping, but I can’t do it when you’re awake, when can I do it?” she complains, giving a dejected pout worthy of a small child.
    “How should I know?” I sigh. “Figure it out yourself.”
    “Mmm… Okay, I’ll think about it…” she grumbles, and falls silent.

    My vision is hazy as I open my unadjusted eyes, settling on the sun-framed, cattishly pensive expression before me.
    “Ah, Master! Good morning,” she smiles brightly, apparently only just realising that having woken up meant that I was awake.
    I beam back. “Good morning,” I greet, “my ass! What do you think you’re doing in a public place, you…!”
    Reaching for the top of her head, I press down on a pair of fluffy things – “bedhead”, so goes our cover story – and force them back down into her hair.
    “Nyeeeeh… Master…” she protests pitifully.
    “And don’t call me Master,” I insist.

    There’s something to be said about calling someone else that so openly in the first place, but I don’t recall ever having agreed to that kind of relationship with this creature to begin with. Actually, no matter how I look at it, she just kind of decided that all on her own. If there had been some kind of summoning ritual attached, then maybe I could understand, but from where I’m standing, she just decided it at complete random…

    “Master’s being a meanie,” huffs Sen. “I bet he ate something bad.”
    Don’t make it sound like I just put random things in my mouth, you
    bakaneko
    dumb cat
    .

    “It’s something more to do with being woken up by an evil youkai,” I sigh.
    Well, whatever. What’s done is done, right?
    “Evil youkai?! Master, are you—”
    “Leave it, Sen. It won’t fly away even if you chase it, but it is useful to have around sometimes,” I relent, leaning back in my chair.
    ──A chime cuts open and then thoroughly disembowels my meagre attempts to settle back down.
    The next station is Akihabara,” comes the voice of an announcer. “Please press the button to get off the train.
    “Ah, Master! Akiba!” cries Sen, shaking my arm as if I hadn’t already heard the same words she had.
    “─Stay close, alright?” I warn. “It’s going to be chaos compared to usual out there.”
    “Yep!”
    Getting up off the seat and stretching my legs a little, I make my way over to the doors of the carriage. There were more people than I was expecting, considering it was around noon already. I suppose that’s what a big city is like though, I reason as I step onto the platform.

    ─I make it two paces. Someone bumps me from behind. I stumble forward a step and get shoved to one side, and suddenly I can’t even see in front of me anymore for all the moving bodies. I glance about, trying to get a bearing on just where the hell I ended up. In less than five seconds, I’m already lost, drowning in the stormy river of people.
    “Master!”
    Sen’s voice escapes the torrent, reaching my ears as I feel hands on my shoulders, easing me forward into a regular pace.
    “You should be careful, you know? Since you’re small,” she warns me, “so you’re easy to push around.”
    Part of me vaguely recalls a statistic that claimed most men stop growing around sixteen years of age. That makes me two years past my supposed expiry date for reaching a respectable size.
    “────Yeah,” I say, trying to hide my dejection. It’s annoying that I can’t even navigate a city on my own. “Sorry, Sen.”
    We make it down an escalator, and the crowd disperses much faster than I thought. I suppose that’s the power of everyone being in equal parts practiced and in a rush at once.
    Sen guides me with the flow of people towards the ticket gate, feeding us through quickly.

    The first thing that takes me aback is the buildings. Intellectually, it’s easy to understand that “city buildings are huge”, but even at home, I didn’t spend much time around the Shinto district – everything I needed was in Miyama, after all. The towering silver around me feels foreign and kind of amazing in its own way. Part of me is conscious how idiotic I must look to the residents here gawking at the places they work like this, but my mind keeps comparing this place to a giant computer, with people moving in and out of everything like bundles of data.
    ───I guess the nickname “Electric Town” really did a number on me after all.
    Sen is twitching all over the place besides me, likely trying to take in everything at once. Part of me briefly ponders if it was a good idea to bring her along when her senses are so sharp… Is she going to be alright?
    ──“Well, well. You got here fine after all,” comes an unfamiliar voice.
    I glance about trying to locate the source, but Sen gets there before me.
    “Ah,” she points. “Master, it’s a lady in showy clothes who isn’t wearing any pants.”
    I follow her finger to a lady in showy clothes who isn’t wearing any pants. Her white shirt sleeves billow off her wrists, blooming past her fingers, and she has a very finely embroidered waistcoat with delicate patterns of gold threat. Her boots are laced halfway up her thighs, and her short grey hair is topped with a black feather cap. It’s a fairly impressive cosplay, or so I assume. Also, I think there’s some kind of latex leotard under there, only exposed by the fact that she’s not wearing any pants.

    “Can’t you pay more attention to my hat or something?” she sighs.
    “I’m doing my best,” I say. “It’s just… Mm.”
    “Because you’re not wearing any pants,” Sen affirms helpfully.
    “Stop thinking of me as ‘the woman who isn’t wearing any pants’ before it sticks, dammit,” the woman who isn’t wearing any pants complains. “My name is Jain-Caliers. Juliet Veill de Jain-Caliers. You’d be the Kyushu kids I was warned about?”
    “Sen-chan is not a kid,” Sen pouts.
    I raise an eyebrow at the words.
    Warned, huh?
    It’s probably Onee-chan. That means that she probably had some kind of plan sending us here…
    Well, it’s really hard to tell sometimes, but I had a suspicion about it on this occasion, since she just handed us a million yen and tickets to Akihabara out of the blue with the words “you two go have fun, okay?” as though there was nothing remotely fishy about that at all. Still, Akihabara, only to meet a Magus right away… Is this a power play or something? Are we a power play?

    “──You can tell that easily, hm?” Jain-Caliers smirks. “No flies on you, little one.”
    “Well, it’s kind of obvious,” I say. “If I were in your position, I’d probably be making snide remarks and mock gasps more like ‘you noticed my eyes right away?!’ or something.”
    I suppose to anyone else it would be a bit harder, but for me, it’s actually pretty easy to spot that kind of thing. Those silver eyes of hers are Pure Eyes without a doubt. I can see them peering onto the surface of my thoughts, but it doesn’t look like they can go deeper than that. A minor degree of mind reading, huh… If this is a ploy, then that’s going to make things difficult.
    ───Without realising, I find myself giving an accusatory glare to a confused Sen.
    Ah, but that explains it.
    “Indeed,” Jain-Caliers folds her arms. “Your elder sister had the right idea to not tell you anything in advance that might incriminate her in something.”
    I wasn’t sure I liked the sound of that word.
    “Well, let’s get you up to speed. Come along. I’ll tell you why you’re here,” she said, kicking off the wall and walking over.
    ──────She’s only a little above average, but she’s still almost ten centimetres taller than me.
    “Where are we going?” I ask. There’s no point fighting when my spirit is already crushed.
    “Why, where else?” she grins. “It’s Akihabara, after all. Looking at pretty girls in cute outfits is my hobby.”

    Oh. In other words──

    ═════════════════════════════════════════════

    I’ve never been in a maid café before today, but now I can wholeheartedly say that I feel a hundred times more degenerate for being born. Onee-chan probably didn’t plan for me to end up here today, but somehow I can still see her face smugly beaming at me with a gratuitous “double peace”.

    The waitress staffed at our table places down three glasses of milk that nobody ordered before placing down plates of omelette rice, each with a personalised message written in ketchup. Mine says “please die~❤”. There are a few choice remarks about Jain-Caliers’s hat (which I agree with), some double-edged comments about Sen’s breasts (which I also agree with, ignoring the vaguely envious undertones), and a handful of jabs about my height (which are not strictly speaking unearned), and then she leaves.

    ──This is no mere maid café. This is a tsundere maid café.

    Sen ignored all of it and is drinking the milk, because of course she is.
    I think I’ll just let her remember that she’s lactose intolerant at some later point.

    Meanwhile, Jain-Caliers looks so moved that she might burst into applause, or perhaps tears of joy, at any moment.

    I want to go home.

    Putting aside the unnecessary double blow to my self-image, I clear my throat and set my mind on topic.
    “So it’s probably time we introduce ourselves properly,” I raise my hand slightly.
    Jain-Caliers gives a somewhat distracted flourish. “Go right ahead if you like.”
    “You can do it, Master!” encourages Sen enthusiastically, apparently not noticing the milk forming a white cloud over her top lip.
    Me first, I guess…
    “I’m Ren. I’m the… technically head of the Metanovae clan. I’m an astromancer and spiritual evocationist with a hobby in developing healing spells,” I say.
    The Magus across the table cocks an eyebrow skeptically. “Oho. You’re really all over the place.”
    I want to plead that I’m just a bit unconventional, but I don’t bother. She’s not exactly wrong.
    “Metanovae… Don’t you have that ridiculous Magic Crest? Don’t tell me it really is an urban legend,” she says.
    I avert my gaze. I’d rather not talk about it, but the numbness in my fingers has never stood out quite this much for a long while.
    “That’s amazing. Are you people crazy?” she scoffs.
    “I didn’t come up with it,” I muster a particularly puny protest, even by my standards.
    She chortles, then turns her gaze to the girl beside me. “And you?”
    “Sen-chan!” declares Sen.
    “Ren and Sen. Manzai, are you?” she smirks. I’m really starting to hope that she gets down to business soon, because that smug look of hers is starting to get on my nerves. “Is she your familiar, by any chance?”
    “She’s really not,” I shake my head. “I don’t really get it myself.”
    “But she does call you Master.”
    “Yeah, I noticed that.”
    “Because Master is Master,” Sen explains conclusively in a praiseworthy stunt of reasoning that could break records for the world’s smallest manmade circle.
    “I see,” nods Jain-Caliers thoughtfully, an illuminated look in her eye.
    Wait. Did she just understand what Sen was getting at there? Pantless woman, I’m begging you, teach me your secrets.

    “I,” she announces, “am Juliet Veill de Jain-Caliers, as I said before, but you may know me better as Madame Normandy.”
    Hold on, that sounds a little familiar. “I don’t recognise that full name, but Madame Normandy…”
    She chuffs slightly. “Yes, do go on.”
    “Don’t they also call you Cobalt Whimsy ove—”
    “I changed my mind. Stop going,” she narrowed her eyes, cutting me off at breakneck speed. I decide that maybe it’s best if I don’t talk over her self-introduction. “Ahem. Yes, they call me all kinds of rude things over at the Mage’s Association. We don’t get along.”
    “I thought you were part of the Association?” I say.
    “Your source is outdated. I left the Association almost a decade ago now,” she folds her arms. “That’s why I’m here in Akihabara. Or, more precisely, it’s why I founded my Chinkasha Academy here.”
    I get the general gist from the word ‘academy’ alone, but the question spills from my lips anyway. “Is that what I think it is?”
    “An academy of Magecraft independent of the Association. It’s hardly the only one in existence, but mine has the widest breadth of fields in all of Japan,” she says.
    Somehow I get the feeling that she only came to Japan specifically so that she could boast that, but she glares at me the moment I have the thought.
    “You’re cheekier than you look,” she grumbles.
    If you’re reading my mind, you don’t really have anyone to blame but yourself…
    “Anyway,” she waves away my various concerns in one masterfully fell swoop, “I struck something of a deal with your so-called elder sister for you two.”
    “I’m not interested in joining any schools, sorry,” I say, trying to make some vaguely polite gesture of refusal.
    “Worth a try,” she shrugged. “It’s not about joining up with anything. She’s offered you as a sort of… Hm, an alibi isn’t the right word. Insurance? No, aah…”
    She’s wracking her brains pretty hard for this word.
    “Collateral?” I offer.
    “Hostages,” she corrects.
    ──Oh. Great.
    “Ah, don’t pull that face,” she beams. “It’s not that bad. You help us solve a certain problem, and in exchange, I won’t try to pin it on you!”
    Wait, wait, wait, hold up…!
    “M-more than a deal, isn’t that blackmail?” I stutter.
    Her expression becomes a single iota more serious. “Well, your father did a lot of things it’s best to not discuss,” she says. “The issue in question… could well have been his doing.”

    ──I’m enlightened in the worst way possible.
    Anyone who says the words “your father” to me immediately means business.
    It seems like I got shouldered a lot of the bad blood he made, and it’s easy to ask how that’s fair, but the fact of the matter is that he was the clan I represent now. Onee-chan seriously saved me back then, making reparations on my behalf by giving away everything I was set to inherit, but it’s still possible that there are crimes that we missed. Magi don’t have a legal framework, strictly speaking, but equivalent exchange isn’t something I want to mess with in my position.
    ───But right now, Madame Normandy here is saying she’ll turn a blind eye as long as I lend a hand in clearing up whatever mess my father left behind.

    “──To put it another way, I’m indentured?” I say. “What about Sen? She has nothing to do with this.”
    I look over to her, only to find a gentle smile.
    “You’re silly, Master,” she says. “Sen-chan doesn’t want to see you in trouble, you know? It’s fine to be helped out sometimes.”
    My chest feels fuzzy just listening to her, but it still doesn’t feel fair to drag her into this when she’s not even involved.
    “I’m not your responsibility, you know,” I muster.
    “Hold that thought,” Jain-Caliers interrupts. “Before you go making any rash decisions, to cut right to the chase, it looks like you’ll be hunting Daemons.”
    “I take it back. Sen, please help me.”

    Sen’s head sways back and forth as she beams cheerfully to herself. I shove her ears back down and she yelps a bit.

    <person> Sen
    Sen [person]
    Gender: Female
    Age: Perhaps it’s best not to ask.
    Origin: Chaos
    Element: Earth
    Alignment: Lawful Neutral
    STR B+
    END B
    AGI C
    MAN D
    LUK C
    Regression Quality: D
    Regression Quantity: C
    Regression Composition: Materialised terranean phenomenon (BCE)


    A kind of dim-witted girl who follows me around. As for what exactly happened, it’s kind of a long story, so if you want to blame anyone, blame Onee-chan. Sen is characterised by an all-round gigantic presence. In terms of her magical energy, it’s unreasonably high. In terms of her voice, she’s unreasonably loud. In terms of her body, they’re unreasonably huge.

    Hm? “If her magical energy and such is so ridiculous, why is it at D”? Well, I’m not using a human scale for her. If I had to compare her to something, she’d be on the level of a high-class spirit, but she’s not really a spiritual entity. Rather, she’s something in-between a homunculus and a familiar, or so she says. I don’t really know what she is – it’s well outside my field of expertise – but she’s apparently supposed to be in possession of some sort of amazingly impressive Phantasm-class Mystery from the Age of Gods. Which is apparently why she has cat ears… Scary, but also really fishy.

    Incidentally, she says she’s not actually a cat, but a lion. I don’t really understand why the distinction is so important, but she’s really insistent on it.

    She’s difficult to manage due to being the exact type of troublesome moron who goes out of her way to get through loads of milk-based drinks whenever she forgets she’s lactose intolerant. That said, I’m not sure if she keeps calling me “Master” because she forgets I tell her not to, she’s not listening, or she’s just doing it to mock me at this point.

    Well, one way or another, she’s incredibly reliable and has a habit of pulling me out of tight spots. I suppose that’s what happens when you have power that immense, even though I’ve never seen her pull it all out. For the weak and unreliable me, she’s irreplaceable, even if I can’t pretend I don’t wish I was strong enough to take care of myself.

    Still, what’s the deal with those ears… It’s one thing in Akihabara, but if we were in a mountain village, she’d terrify the old folk. And in the first place, I’m not even sure if I’m allowed to take her into temples…
    Last edited by Random; November 2nd, 2019 at 11:04 PM.
    Incoherency is just merely another sign that the
    Bed
    End
    Times are upon us.

  4. #4
    死徒 Dead Apostle Bugs's Avatar
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    It's a bit too early to say anything concrete one way or the other, but consider me interested.

  5. #5
    The showtime RoydGolden's Avatar
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    Yeah, really curious to see where this story goes. And Sen is so cute!

  6. #6
    「Fatalist Halophage」 Random's Avatar
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    Seeing interest crop up this quickly for a mere lurker like me is really encouraging. Here's hoping that I can meet expectations.
    Quote Originally Posted by RoydGolden View Post
    And Sen is so cute!
    The brainwashing even took effect through the fourth wall... Sen-chan might have discovered a hidden talent here...
    Incoherency is just merely another sign that the
    Bed
    End
    Times are upon us.

  7. #7
    「Fatalist Halophage」 Random's Avatar
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    Going to bed in November and waking up in February. This is adulthood, huh.

    The Mercurial Star
    at once the bright moon dropp'd

    First Partition east dial, Electric Town
    2
    Front Door Keys
    Rites of Entry

    I make my way up a flight of steps and through the torii, bowing on my way through as I enter the Kanda Shrine. Sen decided to wait outside as usual. She complains that I do this every time, but one way or another, I don’t have much of a choice. Ever since the Jikan branch was founded here in Japan, we’ve had to patch holes in our Magecraft from the regional Foundations.

    After all, with the Mystery of the constellations in decline, even I’ve had to tweak the family Crest here and there. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say we’ve spent more time futureproofing our work than we have developing it over the generations. Well, Onee-chan does always say that astromancers tend to be weirdos like that, looking either too high up or too far ahead.

    Either way, those regional Foundations ended up having some pretty deep roots in Shintoist principles, so I guess that means I’ve got to cosy up to the
    kami
    spirits
    of the local land. I’m going to be setting up a Workshop around here anyway – or at least some half-baked excuse for one – so if I can ingratiate myself a bit, it’ll be much easier to make use of the leylines around here.

    If I had to guess, this place is probably connected to at least one of the leylines that governs the Ise Grand Shrine over on the other side of Mt Fuji, so my bet is that it should be nice and strong. Now I think about it, that’s in the direction of Kyushu too… Fuyuki’s leylines are excellent as well, so just maybe one of those goes through Ise to here. I hope so. It would be much easier to acclimate to the mana that I’m already used to.

    I go through the motions of purification that are practically reflex to me by this point. Most people don’t bother with the full routine; even the shrine attendants don’t care too much as long as you rinse everything you’re supposed to, but I need to go the extra mile here. I went through the entire full-body liturgy around a week ago in the first place, since it’s a monthly thing for me. I could probably get away with slacking off if my ability as a Magus wasn’t so third-rate, but as it is now, I have nothing to show for myself, so Formalcraft it is.
    ────There’s a family staring at me as I do it a few metres away. I only notice I finish, but I find myself a little uneasy straight away, my muscles stiffening up a bit as I lay the ladle down, but they actually seem kind of… surprised more than judgmental.
    I suppose it makes sense for my level of practice to be a bit out of the ordinary. The little boy in the middle seems particularly impressed, wide-eyed with an open mouth. I barely hold back a chuckle.
    “Want me to show you?” I find myself asking.

    ───So turns out the kid literally hadn’t learnt left from right yet. Or rather, it seemed like he hadn’t quite memorised which was which. Lucky for me, he had a mole on the back of his wrist, so that made things quicker in teaching him which hand to wash first.
    Hoping I left him a little wiser, I make my way over to give my offering, ringing the bell and then plucking a five-yen coin for my pocket and tossing it into the box.
    ───Bow, bow, clap, clap, bow, and out of everyone else’s way.
    It always bugs me that this much is all I can do on my first visit, but patience is also important. That said, I guess it’s not a bad idea to hang around the temple for a little while, if only so I can get a general sense of what the mana in here is like.

    “Crap, where is it…?”
    ──────A frustrated murmur reaches my ears. I glance over to a guy in what looks vaguely like a school uniform rifling through his pockets. I’d bet he came here thinking he already had change on him, but I guess actually carrying money is getting rarer in this day and age.
    Might as well lend a hand, I decide, since I came prepared anyway. Helping someone else make a proper offering isn’t exactly going to hurt my standing with the kami, probably. It might not particularly help, since it’s still not me doing it, but…
    ──Ah, who cares.
    “Hey there,” I wave lightly, making my way over to him.
    The guy looks foreign. Dark hair and big dark eyes, but light skin.
    I guess someone as bleached as me isn’t really one to judge someone’s nationality based on complexion though…
    His face is a weird mix of soft and firm, like sculpture made of butter… Is this what they call a bishounen?
    “If you’re having money troubles, maybe you could pay respects to Zenigata Heiji. He might throw something your way.”
    I attempt to break the ice a little with a stupid joke, but…
    “Maybe you should pay some respects to Tojo-chan, since you’re not cute at all,” he snapped back.
    ──────I’m not sure whether I’m hurt.
    No, in the first place, who the hell is Tojo-chan? I’m pretty goddamn sure that there’s not a kami in the solar system that goes by that name. No, wait, this is Akihabara, right? Don’t tell me that there’s some weird anime anthropomorphosis as a shrine mascot…
    My father was well-renowned for his tenacity, but I give up here and now.
    “I was actually bothering you because you seemed like you were stressing yourself out,” I sigh, offering out a five-yen coin to him.
    “Oh. Uh. Thank you,” he blinks, taking it. “Sorry. Also, uh… How do you do the bowing thing?”
    ─Yeah, that figures.
    “You’ve never done this before, huh?” I say.
    He shrugs. “My school wasn’t too happy with that, so they sent me out here to do it right away.”
    “Ah, they’re strict about this?”
    “Well, Chinkasha is a private sch─”
    “Ah, you’re one of them.”
    The bishounen’s eyes widen a bit. “I don’t know anything abo─”
    “Relax, relax,” I cut him off. “I’m a clan head, so…”
    “A clan head?” he sputters. “A little girl like you?”
    ──I feel myself wince slightly.
    “I’m a guy, and I’m a legal adult,” I grumble. “I don’t act charitable like this just so I can be put down by pretty boy otakus.”
    “Who the hell are you calling a ‘pretty boy otaku’?” he glares.
    “You come across as fairly otaku-ish when you tell someone to pray to a cutesy mascot character,” I shrug.
    “I’m not denying that! The other thing!”
    “Pretty?”
    “Boy!”

    ────I pause.
    ────────I look the creature in front of me up and down.
    ────────────”You sure?”
    “I’m sure!” cries the otaku. “Speak for yourself!”
    Did we both misgender each other simultaneously? Yeesh, talk about a first impression.
    Well, now that I actually look, it’s not like she’s not feminine. Rather, it’s just that she’s really handsome on top of that somehow. It doesn’t help that she’s clearly wearing a boy’s uniform though… As though I can deny how much it suits her, but…
    “Heh. I guess I was wrong,” she says, chuffing with pride for some reason. “You don’t need to pray to Tojo-chan at all.”
    I feel my eyebrows drooping in disappointment. “Did you just completely turn 180 degrees there…?”
    “No, it’s different. If you’re actually a guy, then it’s a solid multiplier on your cuteness.”
    “You really have no shame at all, do you?” I mutter. “So you’re telling me that instead of being a
    otoko-no-ko
    girlish boy
    , you’re actually a
    otaku-no-ko
    nerd in the shape of a girl
    ?”
    She narrows her eyes. “I get the feeling that you think you’re much cleverer than you are.”
    “Believe me, I know exactly how clever I am. If I were even close to it, you’d have laughed at least once,” I admit sheepishly. “I’ll let you be on your way. I’ve got someone outside. For the paying of respects, I’d suggest asking the priests. They’re friendly.”
    “───I’m Alexis,” she says, holding her hand out.
    I blink, taken a little aback, but I don’t really need to think twice.
    “Ren,” I nod, shaking her hand. “I might see you around.”
    “Ren, huh,” she echoes. “I just got the impression that you’re pretty easy to pick on.”
    She grins, and strolls off before I can get in a single word.

    “Easy to pick on,” I whisper indignantly as I make my way down the steps.
    How do you get to that conclusion from a name? Alright, so I might look like this, and I might be named after a flower, but it’s a cool flower. I can’t have come across as that much of a pushover, right?
    I spot a tail waving at the bottom of the stairs and immediately wince, picking up the pace to find Sen beaming into a bunch of phone cameras.
    Dragging her away from the group she’s gathered before it becomes a small crowd as politely as I can, I hide her ears again and her tail retreats under her skirt as we duck into a backstreet to try to shake off any lingering gazes.
    It’s kind of damp, and it smells weird, but whatever. The point isn’t to hang around.
    “──I warned you, people are going to think you’re a cosplayer…” I say.
    “Isn’t it fine though?” she replies. “Since if they think it’s a cosplay, nobody gets suspicious. Sen-chan doesn’t get in trouble, Master doesn’t get in trouble either.”
    “That’s not the point,” I frown. “The more people who notice, the more people can catch on. Nobody’s going to care if they don’t think anything’s up in the first place. It’s just safer to not attract attention, so please try to remember…”
    Sen pouts, but doesn’t protest. I feel like a bit of a killjoy.
    Well, it’s not like I wouldn’t be enjoying the attention in her situation, so I can kind of understand why she gets distracted. And in the first place, she does stand out a lot just in general.
    ───If a fire-breathing dragon covered in Christmas lights singing the Soviet national anthem touched down in a full-to-the-brim sport stadium with Sen riding on it, I bet most people would still manage to notice her first.
    My preferred strategy of “lying low so we can get this done fast and be out of here” probably isn’t going to go all too smoothly, is it?
    “Anyway, I’ll be going back there tonight to set up a Sadalsuud or two,” I inform her. “You probably don’t want any as usual, right?”
    “Actually…” Sen says thoughtfully, “I want to come too this time.”
    I’m sure the surprise is written all over my face. Sadalsuud are pretty much essential to setting up a framework for me to freely use the spells in my Magic Crest without worrying about draining myself immediately, so the temple is more or less the ideal place to do it as long as the spirits around it will play nice with me, but that’s the kind of thing Sen typically finds amazingly dull.
    “Master wandering around a place like this by himself isn’t a good idea, after all,” she added.
    ──Strictly speaking, she isn’t wrong, even if I hate it.
    “I don’t really need supervision,” I say.
    “But Master will definitely get lost or captured!”
    “By who?!”
    “He’ll run into a bunch of thugs at night… They’ll say ‘hey girlie, wanna come play with us?’ and before you know it he’ll be yelling ‘kyaa, kyaa’ as they force-feed him rotten three-day-old vegetables!”
    “What kind of vegetables go bad after just three days?!” I cry, only realising afterwards that she’s gone totally off the mark in her own insane fantasy.
    “Ohhh. I’m surprised that’s the only part Master has a problem with,” she muses.
    No, I have a problem with every single part of it, but are you trying to tell me you made it that ridiculous on purpose…?!
    “It’s settled. Sen-chan is coming too,” she decides, as though she’d won some kind of argument.
    I sigh internally. Sometimes you just have to accept a lost cause, I guess.
    “Alright, where to?” I ask half-heartedly.
    “Love hotel!”
    No.
    ───Alright, maybe there are a few things I prefer not to budge on.

    ═════════════════════════════════════════════

    Sen's idea ended up actually being legitimately sensible in a roundabout sort of way.
    After a few inadvertent detours, we end up at the somewhat gaudy gates of Chinkasha Academy. More than just taller than me, I'm fairly sure it would take three grown men standing on each others' shoulders to reach the top. Maybe heads. It's easier the highest part of the wall, polished brass to adorn the paper-white brickwork neatly boxing in the buildings inside. More than being cute and pristine, it's so noxiously spotless that it just comes off as suffocatingly artificial. Just looking at it reminds me of the stench of hot glue for some reason.
    ──Even Sen is unusually tense beside me.
    I lightly nudge her, and she gasps a little. “You alright?”
    “Yeah,” she mumbles. “Sen-chan just got some jeebies is all. What's the thing with this place, Master…?”
    Good question. I peer at the walls with my eye, but I only see a Bounded Field. A good one too… I probably wouldn't have noticed it if I were anyone else.
    “I guess the only thing to do is go in and find out…” I frown.
    ──No sooner do I wonder just how to knock here than the gates begin to creak and open of their own accord. There's a menacing aura permeating the air for just a second before I realise they're motorised. No cameras though… That woman was probably waiting for us. Dispelling the concerning apt image of Jain-Caliers cackling to herself over a crystal ball in a dark room, I shoot a glance at Sen.
    “We're being scryed. Behave yourself.”
    “Kaaay.”

    I take a few steps into the Bounded Field, eyes on the school building. It actually looks surprisingly normal, all things considered, two storeys tall and a lot more windows on the second floor than the first, complete with all the rigidity in its squarish form that even I've come to associate with academia. It kind of reminds me of Homurahara. The thought is surprisingly comforting.
    Watch it!
    ──A voice comes from my right. I turn in time to spot a speeding baseball. It's coming straight for my face at what I can only assume are fairly competitive speeds. That's pretty unfortunate. If I had the magical energy to spare I might have been able to evade it, but I'm not connected to the land yet. It's probably going to break my nose at least─
    ───Sen is already there, deflecting it with a light tap that's enough to send it careering off into the wall with a loud crack.
    There are five players stood around fifteen metres away, all with looks of moderate terror pasted onto their faces. I can only imagine what kind of expression Sen has right now, but I hear her snarl loud and clear.
    Who has the guts?
    Without thinking, I reflexively reach over and pat her back a bit, doing my best to soothe the hardness I feel under her skin. “Easy. It was an accident.”
    ──Judging by the relieved reactions, it looks like it worked.
    The guy with the bat, telltale signs of Reinforcement all over it, gives a wave.
    “Sorry!” he calls.
    “Nothing to worry about,” I call back to him. “Is there a visitor's reception or something?”
    “Oh, you guys,” the pitcher perks up. She points to a building across the courtyard; different to the school building, thinner and more orthodox somehow. “Just drop into the dorm. Kerrow has your key.”
    Kerrow, huh…
    Lot of western names around here. Well, it sounds western anyway. Is this place really that international?
    I offer thanks, and Sen and I make our way past. The group seems inordinately careful to make sure we’re indoors before they start swinging again.

    The lobby is quiet. There are plenty of shoes on the shelves coming in, but between the desk and lockers to one side and the couch and coffee table to the other…
    ──“Nobody home, huh…?” I muse aloud.
    “No, Master,” Sen narrows her eyes.
    Following what I can only assume to be her instincts, she inches toward the desk───

    “Hi!”

    Sen darts back a full metre as the greeting springs from the aether.
    ──Or rather, now that I look at it, the Ether. A green-haired girl is floating in front of us, having materialised out of nowhere. The sight seizes my focus, excitement welling up immediately.
    “A Guardian Spirit!”
    She beams at me. “Ah, you know?”
    I nod. “I’m a spirit-user myself.”
    “Hoho,” she nods back. “This familiar of yours doesn’t look like a spirit to me though.”
    “Sen-chan is Sen-chan,” Sen helpfully illustrates.
    “She’s not really my familiar,” I clarify. “I’m Ren.”
    “Ren and Sen?” she echoes.
    I try to force a smile. “Yeah, we, um… get that a lot.”
    She nods again, seemingly in understanding as she floats up onto the desk, folding her legs over each other. Her thick cotton tights are mismatched, on each leg, yellow and red clashing with each other even if each blends individually into her pink kimono. She looks the same height as me; a fairly regular size for a petite girl.
    “I’m Kerrow,” the Guardian introduces herself. “You must be the new arrivals that Jain-Caliers told me about. I’ve been keeping watch over your room key. Let me get it for you.”
    She hovers up off the desk, crouching down behind it. I hear her shuffling.
    “You’re Jain-Caliers’s familiar?” I ask.
    “Oh, not at all,” she shakes her head. “I’m just bound to this spot, so helping out gives me something to do.”
    ──Hm. Seems that woman and I really do have some things in common after all.

    Kerrow leads us up to our room on the second floor. It’s already lightly furnished with an armchair, dresser, and a single bed. I actually had been suspecting worse, but I’m glad I packed some futons regardless.
    ──Speaking of which…
    “Sen, if you could stand back…”
    A look of concern crosses Sen’s face, but she doesn’t say anything. She knows by now. I clear my mind and hold my arm out towards the bed. I section off the limb. The little feeling I have left in it retreats into the void.
    Access.

    ──Imagine, if you will, the most painful static you possibly can. Envisage the sensation of every single nerve you have firing to their fullest at once. Picture maximum information, the most intense and powerful feeling that your body is capable of processing, that your brain is capable of comprehending. Magic Circuits hurt, but I can only imagine that my ancestors had decided that they did not hurt enough.
    The Metanovae Magic Crest is not an ordinary one. We have never produced particularly strong Circuits as a bloodline, so a ritual was devised. Our Crest is not a physical inheritance, but a pattern sketched upon the nervous system. Because Circuits are similar to nerves, the neurons in the body are transformed into miniaturised pseudo-Magic Circuits. The procedure kills most. I was not in that category.
    When I first started using it, my body would react as though I had been burned and scarred itself. I remember screaming and crying and dreading my training.
    ──That was over a decade ago now. I’ve practiced. My natural constitution is a frail one, but by now I can largely withstand the seizures. It doesn’t mean I hate them any less. It’s like my flesh is festering with needles, rattling with razor-thin flakes of glass. My sense of touch is muffled now, but when my magical energy fires in my so-called Circuits, I feel that pain clearer than anything. Today is no exception.

    The suitcase falls out of my Imaginary Number pocket and onto the bed. My throat was shut tight, so I managed to not make a sound.
    It’s painful, but I silently thank Onee-chan for teaching me a convenient trick like that. She said that she was surprised I was able to use it, but I don’t really know enough about Imaginary Elements to know exactly what she meant by that.
    I glance over at Sen and give her a nod. She lets out a small sigh of relief.
    “I’ll set up a second futon,” I say, moving to open the suitcase.
    She cuts in my way. “A second bed? How greedy.”
    There’s a cheery smile on her face as usual, but a fiery look in her eye. I recognise this spark.
    ──There are, on occasion, times when Sen’s natural face as a
    predator
    lion
    rise to the surface.
    “Master is thinking he can escape Sen-chan that easy, hm?” she hums. “Master can only go to work after sundown, after all… What could we possibly do in the meantime…?”
    I’m sure this isn’t usually the relationship that a cat would seek out with a mouse, but I certainly feel like
    prey
    a mouse
    right now.

    <person> Ren Jikan Metanovae
    Ren Jikan Metanovae [person]
    Gender: Male
    Age: 18
    Origin: Ambiguity/Complementing
    Element: Ether/██████/“Star”
    Alignment: True Neutral
    STR D
    END C
    AGI C
    MAN E+++
    LUK E
    Circuit Quality: E-
    Circuit Quantity: EX
    Circuit Composition: Normal (nervous)


    A feminine-looking guy standing at 152cm tall despite being fully grown. That’s me. Born January 1 2001 in Japan, I live in Fuyuki City, allegedly attend Homurahara, and am in training as a Spiritual Evocationist. I have no affiliation, I like sugary things and hate relying on others, and my special skill is collecting strange things by accident.

    I’ve been through a lot of family members. My parents are dead, and my Onee-chan has sort of adopted me. She’s my legal guardian, but she’s away on business a whole lot. I’m not sure what kind of business it is, but presumably it’s to do with Magecraft. Because that means I usually live by myself, I think I’m okay at household chores, though I’ve yet to get the hang of cooking. My tastebuds are pretty dull, after all. I’m more or less used to being on my own, but on occasion, Onee-chan will take me with her or send me off somewhere by myself. This whole Akihabara thing is more or less just another “triannual quest”, so to speak. I’m no stranger to having to resolve things far from home, although this would be the first time in a proper city. It’s usually mountains and lakes, though transport like trains and boats are becoming weirdly common recently for some reason…

    I’m about as puny as I look and, speaking realistically, I guess you could comfortably sum me up as “below average” when it comes to most things. The stuff I’m bad at seriously outweigh my talents, both in number and severity. Despite being directly descended from Kagan Jikan, who singlehandedly not only demolished but devoured the entirety of both the Metanovae clan and over one thousand other people in his lifetime, my own potential is actually pretty low. My actual Magic Circuits are extremely mediocre, and the unique design of the Metanovae Crest barely makes up for that.

    I don’t think I’m particularly uninformed in Magecraft since I took the time to get some proper studies to make up for my lack of formal education. Actually, I would go as far as to say I’m a pretty good self-tutor even if practical experience is probably what did most of the work. But thanks to the low quality of my Circuits and my shallow magical energy reserves, I need to put in serious work to prop myself up in terms of potency. If I had to say there’s something I specialise in, it would be handling complexity. Although, I did take up healing Magecraft one time as a “good skill to learn”, but it turned out that I was surprisingly talented for it. Onee-chan once called it “borderline necromancy” so I think it’s safe to say it’s my strong suit, even if it’s not really present in my Crest.
    Incoherency is just merely another sign that the
    Bed
    End
    Times are upon us.

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